The Theft of Helgi Hrannarsson's Two Trees

There was a steep hill in the western quarter, known by the locals as Jvánsknoll, where the streams Par and Sip nay did meet but ran around each side. A man named Vincent Lisson lived there, although his friends called him Vin. He was handsome and his cheeks had rugged contours but he grew no beard. His wife, a woman of fair complexion and of lithe form, was called Nastya. Many people, especially the kin of his wife, came to see Vin at his hearth for counsel as he was learned in all matters related to the law.

One day his wife made a request: "Will you not build a bridge over the stream, so my kin coming, you might gleam?"

Vin agreed to build the bridge.

He set about this task, enlisting the help of his brother, Ván. The best shipbuilder in Iceland, Ván lifted stones every day and had designed more than thirty sterns. The two brothers cut oak wood from the grove beyond the south stream. Trees there were said to be grown from shards of Freyr's Skíðblaðnir, the greatest of ships. That land had belonged to Tómas though he had lost it in a legal settlement.

During construction, a pauper was walking by near one end of the bridge's erection. He asked Vin what they were doing to which Vin explained, by motioning toward the wood they had cut with an ax. The pauper seemed disinterested and asked for bread, which Nastya gladly provided at the hearth.

Tómas who lived north of both rivers spent his days making wooden wares at his farm. Later, the pauper stopped by Tómas's hearth. Tómas said: "What have you to offer in exchange for freshly baked bread?" The pauper responded, "No bodily help, for I am crippled as well as poor, but I have seen something near the hearth of Jvánsknoll..." The pauper ogled the bread. Both stood still. Then Tómas tossed it at his face,


The pauper grasped for the bread bumping up against his shuttered eyelids. "Your neighbor builds a bridge over the south stream! Odd, no?" And with that, Tómas headed down toward the south and the Lisson's new bridge.

Ván stood atop the completed bridge, repeatedly running his hands over the smooth timber. The knots wrought out of the wood traced a gentle curve over the water from the south bank to the north. He followed this line with his steady gaze until he saw a figure arrive at the northern shore.

"From where have you gotten the wood for this bridge?" Tómas asked.

"In that plot." Ván nodded toward the oak stumps.

Tómas pointed to the stumps with his own ax, "And, did you brother know that this land was taken from me and once belonged to me? And the trees there were planted by my father's father from the shards of Freyr's ship when it splintered?"

"Without good counsel, much more than a wooded plot would have been surrendered by you."

Tómas stomped his way across the bridge. Ván did nothing to stop him. He started chopping at trees in the vale. His ax struck with each bite so fierce that the sound carried up Jvánsknoll, interrupting Vincent while he was reading. When Vincent arrived at the bridge, Tómas wanted to cross, dragging two large logs behind him. Vin stood with Ván on the bridge and said:

"I would have counseled you not to chop wood here, on another man's land."

"Would I have followed your counsel, I would carry two logs less than I do now, in addition to the rest of the grove!" responded Tómas.

"You may not cross!" responded Vincent.

"Then I will float them!"

At that, Tómas dragged the logs into the stream and crossed it by swimming. He hauled them all the way back to his home, leaving two enormous tracks behind in the dirt.

Vin and Ván commuted immediately to the homestead of Helgi Hrannarsson, Nastya's brother, whose plot of trees this was.


At Helgi's home, the two brothers recounted what happened while Helgi looked into the hearth, flames licking the sides of the stones black. The little blaze cast a large square shadow behind Helgi, he was well set along the shoulders and had yet to be defeated in feats of strength across the whole of the southwest. He had fifteen strong fighting men in his house and could muster more.

"If we take three men with us to Tómas, we will end this problem," said Helgi.

"In force, this drama will escalate... Tómas or someone will petition the Aronssons," responded Vin.

"A fight may best be avoided, and yet still it may be so," said Ván.

"Perhaps," Vin said drawing out his words, staring at the fire, "there is another way."

Vin and Ván sent messengers to all the farms to spread the word not to purchase any woodcraft from Tómas. Still, some bought his wares. And whenever Tómas carved something from his wood and sold it the brothers would trace its whereabouts and burn it.

First, they visited Hárbarð, the ferryman who had purchased an oar from Tómas.

"I have grown fond of this oar. It pushes my boat as the wind does with a gale. For what reason would you buy it?"

"I was made with stolen wood, but I can promise you no other ferryman will ever use it," responded Vincent.

They gave him ten silver pieces for his trouble, before setting the oar alight and burning it.

Then they visited Laura, a well-known seeress in the woods who brewed tinctures and remedies in a large cauldron. She had bought a giant wooden ladle from Tómas.

"I have grown fond of this ladle; it can stir the whole pot but remains as light as a feather! What will you do with it?"

"We will destroy it, cast it into the fire," said Vincent.

"I will not sell it," said Laura.

Ván gripped the ladle. When she resisted, he plied her fingers from the handle and took it, dripping, from the cauldron. He snapped the ladle into two parts and threw both into the fire where they incinerated. They left her ten silver pieces.

Then the brothers visited Snorri the skald who lived up Halmar's gulch in the foothills of the mountains. Next to his home, was a separate structure functioning as a study. Tómas fashioned a door for this study. When Snorri would sit down to write, he would shut the door firm and tight.

"This door keeps out the world so that I might make another one," he said, tapping a bit of parchment so that it made a dim flapping noise. "If you take it, I lose not one fine craft, but two! You kill those worlds that otherwise might have been."

"Ván could carve you a new door, sounder than this, from the hull of a ship!" said Vincent

Snorri shook his head.

At this, both brothers advanced. Snorri tried to stand in front of the open door to defend it, while Vincent went toward the hinges. Ván tried to hold the simmering skald, but Snorri unsheathed a small dagger. He swiped twice, surprising Ván with his speed and agility. Ván swung the blunt end of his ax just once and gashed Snorri's right ear. Snorri dropped his dagger but made no sound. Bleeding, he retreated inside the study, propping himself up against the wall. He stared at the ground for a short while, before soaking up the blood with his parchment. Then, he watched the brothers unhinge the door and carry it away. He told no one but his wife.

In a small pouch on the threshold where the door had stood the brothers left him ten pieces of silver.

This door they did not burn but had disassembled into planks and set aside.

"How many oars, ladles, and doors must we snatch from helpless people?" said Ván.

And so they sent a messenger to find Tómas, "Helgi Hrannarsson was inclined to overlook your transgression. He might continue to overlook it but you must stop selling goods made with his wood." Tómas heard about the brothers snatching his goods and agreed not to sell anything else forged with the wood. Some time passed, and the brothers were content; Tómas sold no more items.