In ancient times there was a main road from Njardvik to Borgar-fjordur. The road passed over a very steep mountain, sloping down to the sea. Very few people used the road, for a monster that was half man, half beast, had settled on it. After nightfall it used to destroy so many travellers that the way in the end was considered impossible to travel over at night. The creature hid itself in a rocky gulf on the sea-side of the mountains. As people passed during the day, a strange rattling was heard among the stones at the bottom.
Once, in autumn, a certain man stopped at a farm in the neighbourhood. It was late in the evening, but he had in mind to cross the steep mountain regardless of it. The farmer and his family tried to talk him out of it, telling of the dangerous creature on that stretch of the road, but it was in vain. The traveller started off with the brash words, "As long as I fear nothing, nothing can possibly harm me."
When he came to the gulf, he met with the monster and at once attacked it. They had a long and fearful struggle together. In their fight they came together to the verge of a precipice. The man hurled the monster over it.
He got to Njardvik that night as he had had in mind, but he was black and blue with his struggle. But after keeping bed for a month he recovered and forgot his bruises in the glory of having rid the country of the fearful monster, for the sea-monster was never seen after it had been so thoroughly defeated by a human being.
There once was a well-off farmer and his wife. They had only one son. He was the darling of his parents and lived with them until he was sixteen.
That summer two of the neighbouring farmers came to the man, and asked him to let his son go with them to the North-country and work as a day-labourer like them. That might give him a chance of winning fame and renown, they said. At first farmer was unwilling to let his son go, but since the boy wanted it also, the farmer permitted it at last.
After the time had passed, when lambs were taken from the ewes, the neighbours wanted to get away toward the North country. The farmer now began equipping his son for the journey, and gave him good provisions; amongst them was the smoked carcass of one wether.
The lad bade farewell to his parents, and they wished him well on his journey. Off he started with the neighbours.
To get up north there were many mountains and highlands to cross. When they had journeyed for two days, they halted and pitched their tent. When this was done, the two neighbours agreed to take to themselves all the provisions of the young man. So they did. They left him only the thighs of the wether.
The boy was amazed, but they were two and grown-up, and he was not any of that, so had to put up with it. When the two rascals had taken their stolen meals, they lay down to sleep, but the lad could enjoy neither his meals nor his sleep, for he was sorely put out by his companions.
After some while a brown dog came to the tent. After it had snuffed all round it, it lifted up the door of the tent with its nose. The boy threw the thigh which he had left of the carcass, to the dog. The dog snapped it up, ran away with it, and disappeared.
When the lad had been awake for some time, feeling sad, he went went out of the tent to look after the horses. They were grazing close by.
Then he saw a big man coming towards him, followed by the brown dog. The stranger greeted him kindly, and asked him different questions. The lad answered them modestly and wisely. At last he told the stranger all about himself, and chiefly how matters stood just now with him.
The stranger then offered the youth to give him day-labour with him, and the lad gladly accepted. He took his horses, saddled and loaded them, and went away with the stranger, without bidding farewell to his thieving companions. They were asleep in the tent.
That day and the following night they travelled together in a direction straight across the common road, and the stranger proved to be a nimble walker. At last they came to a little cottage in a valley. There were beautiful grounds and meadows round the cottage, but it seemed as if fog covered all the view in the distance.
When they arrived at the place, a young and beautiful maiden stood outside. She came towards them and welcomed the man as if he were her father. The man now showed the young man to a storehouse where a bed was made ready for him to sleep in, and he told his daughter at the same time to bring refreshment for the youth and to wait on him carefully.
The young man went to bed and slept soundly through the night. Next morning the elder man came to him and told he had decided on what work to give him to do in the summer. The young man got up as quickly as he could, and went out with the other, who showed him large meadows, flat and thickly grown with grass, and told he was to finish mowing before people came to search for their sheep in the walks and wilds in the area.
The youth thought the work was much too much for him to do before the autumn set it, that it by far beyond what he was able to. However, the man gave him a scythe and a handle that were both good, and asked his daughter to rake up the hay after him. The father then strongly warned the youth not to show any curiosity about the ways of his household.
The farmer's son stayed and cut grass every workday, and slept in the storehouse at night. In all this time he saw no one but the old man, his daughter and the dog in the place. He cut the grass and the girl raked the hay, but he noticed that as soon as the grass was cut and had been raked, it was gone.
"That's strange," he thought, and found his lonely life rather strange too, but not altogether uninteresting. Before the time appointed, he had finished his work, and the old man came to him and looked glad. He thanked him for his summer-work, and said,
"Now it is time for you to go home, if you won't be left behind by your companions. They slept all the summer in the tent until two weeks back, when they woke up and went to the North. There they got no labour, for the summer was nearly over, and now they are on their way southward again."
He then handed the young man his summer-wages: two big casks of butter. Besides these, he gave the youth two old wethers and ample provisions for the journey. After this he brought to him his horses, and a comely grey one of his own besides.
"This old horse," he said, "will carry your loads of butter, and I myself will leady you to the place where we first met."
When they were ready to start, the old man brought to the farmer's son a horn, and asked him to drink.
The youth took a draught from it and felt that his strength suddenly increased. Then the old man bade him wrestle with him. When they had wrestled a short while, the young man got the worst of it. On this, the old man told him to take another draught from the horn. Then they should try another wrestling. The farmer's son did as the other bade him, and now he wrestled a great deal better than after the first draught. Having taken a third draught, the youth wrestled long and powerfully with his old friend.
Now the old man said: "Two strong men will hardly overcome you now, if you should have to grapple with such men on your journey."
Then the youth took leave of the old man's daughter, kissed her goodbye, and mounted his own horse, leading the loaded grey horse, by the reins. The old man walked by his side, and the brown dog was driving the wethers before them.
When they came to the place where they had first met first, the old man took his leave, letting his horse carry the loads on before, and the dog drive the wethers. He asked the young man to day-labour for him the next summer too, and the lad was willing. Then they agreed to meet again next year where they were now standing, and then they bade farewell.
When the young man had gone on his way for a while he met his old companions as they were going southwards with small luck and meagre wages. They welcomed him, and thinking he had brought back a great deal, asked him where he had been through the summer.
"It matters little to you," he said.
Then they said he must share his wages with them. But he was not prepared to do that, he said.
"Let strength decide the matter," they said.
"I feel fine about that. It gives me a good chance to pay you back for the mean looting earlier this summer," he retorted.
They all got down from their horses. The two ruffians thought it would be easy to take all his wages for themselves. But he caught each of them by the hand and hurled them a long way off. They hurt themselves so badly that that it was not easy for them to get on their feet again, and they did not think to grapple with him again. So the young man continued his journey unmolested. When he came home, he let free the grey horse, and off it went, followed by the brown dog.
His parents were very glad to see him return from his labour, and so richly rewarded, and all were amazed at the size and full growth of the wethers he brought with him. He told but little about his travels, or where he had dwelt during the summer.
The next winter he spent at home with his parents, and the earlier part of the summee.
At the same time as on the year before, he went away and got to the appointed place in right time. There he met his former master, and they welcomed each other well. He went with his master to the cottage, where everything was as the year before. He could see no one else but the old man's daughter, who welcomed the young man heartily, as did the brown dog.
When the youth had rested a little, the old man gave him his scythe again and showed him the fields he would have to mow in the same space of time as last summer. But the fields were now very much larger than before.
The youth began his work and cut the grass all the summer, and the old man's daughter raked, and the hay disappeared as before, when it had been raked. This summer he finished his work a week earlier than he had done last summer.
As the farmer's son sat in the storehouse, the old man came to him and thanked him for his summer work again. The man also said he wondered how quickly he had succeeded although he had spent many an hour in talking with the damsel. He added that he saw clearly that working together was not irksome to any of them.
The farmer's son did not deny it.
The old man said he had done well in trying not to spy anything of the home-matters, however strange he might find the whole way of life at this farm. He went to tell he had, frankly, many servants at home, and had had twelve daughters by his wife. Eleven of them were already married in that valley, and lived on the eleven farms there. But his youngest daughter was unmarried. He would give her in marriage to the youth if they both wished it. The young happily agreed, and so did the girl.
Now the old man took forth from his pocket a glass and bade him look into it. Through it the youth saw a great and beautiful valley of twelve farms, and many people engaged in haymaking too. He also saw herds of cattle scattered over the pasture, and large flocks of sheep, and he saw too, that many people were engaged in haymaking at the old man's own farm. But as soon as he moved the glass from his eye, he could not see the farms, pastures, animals and people in it, and the valley looked as before.
The next day, the farmer's son prepared for his journey home with his bride. The old man equipped them well. He gave them sixteen wethers of the best kind. The dog was to drive them home for them. Besides these, the father loaded the grey horse with costly things and said he would guide them a part of the way.
They started off, all three together, till they came to a halting place. There the old man said he would return, but they should have the dog and the horse with them, for these animals would be sure to find their way home again.
The old man took a loving leave of them with a fatherly kiss, wishing them all luck and happiness. After this he left them, and the youth went homewards with his bride, the horse carrying the costly loads, and the dog driving the fine wethers before them.
When they arrived, the horse and dog went back tho the girl's father. The young couple was gladly welcomed by his parents.