Pengolodh (s.c) (pengolodh_sc) wrote,
Pengolodh (s.c)
pengolodh_sc

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Holmgang

Just posting this to have it available. This is a quote from Cormac's Saga, as given in Ian Peirce's book Swords of the Viking Age (The Boydell Press, 2002). A somewhat different version can be read here.

A cloak was spread under their feet. Bersi said 'You Kormac, challenged me to Holmganga; but instead of it I offer you Einvigi. You are young and inexperienced, and at Holmganga there are difficult rules, but none whatever at Einvigi!' Kormac answered 'I shan't fight better at Einvigi, and I'll risk it, and be on equal footing with you in everything.' 'You shall have your way, then,' said Bersi.

This was the Holmganga law: that the cloak should be ten feet from one end to the other, with loops should be put pegs with a head at the top. These were called Tjosnur. Then three squares, their sides each a foot beyond the other, must be marked round the cloak. Outside the squares must be placed four poles called Hoslur (hazel poles). It was called a Hazelled Field when it was prepared thus. Each man must have three shields, and when these were made useless he must stand upon the cloak, even if he had moved out of it before, and defend himself with his weapons.

He who had been challenged must strike first. If either was wounded so that blood came upon the cloak he was not obliged to fight any longer. If either stepped with one of his feet outside the hazel poles he was held to have retreated; if he stepped outside with both feet he was held to have fled. One man was to hold the shield before each of the combatants. The one who received the most wounds was to pay a Holmslausn (indemnity for being released from the fight) of three marks of silver.

Thorgils held the shield for his brother, and Thord Arnidsaron that of Berso, who struck the first blow and cleft Kormac's shield. Kormac struck at Bersi in the same way. Each of them spoiled three shields for the other. Then Kormac had to strike; he struck, and Bersi parried with Hviting. Skofnung cut off its point, and it fell on Kormac's hand and wounded him in the thumb, whose joint was rent so that blood fell on the cloak. Thereupon the others intervened and did not want them to go on fighting. Kormac said, 'It's not much of a victory Bersi has got from my accident, though we part now.'
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