Ketils Saga Hængs

The story of Ketil hæng (salmon) is one of the Old Norse sagas known as fornaldarsögur (stories of early times or legendary sagas). Ketil's saga is brief. The hero is born and raised on the island of Hrafnista, which lies across from Ramsdal in northern Norway. As a child he shows no promise, spending his time lying by the fire. Very soon, however, he shows his anxious father what he can do by killing an aggressive neighbour and then a dragon that haunts the northern part of the island. Years of poor crops cause Ketil to go on fishing expeditions in various fjords where he runs into man-eating giants and hideous troll women. He soon earns a reputation for exterminating these creatures. The high point of the saga is Ketil's expidition to Finnmark, where he befriends the sorcerer Brúni and makes love to his daughter, the giantess Hrafnhild. On his way home, Ketil encounters and kills Gusi, Brúnis brother and king of the Finns, and obtains thereby Gusi's three magic arrows, the Gusisnautar, which become an heirloom among the men of his family. Hrafnhild later bears him a son, Grímr lod-inkinni (hairy cheek), but because of the opposition of his family, Ketil is unable to live with her. He marries another woman, by whom he has a daughter, and swears an oath that his daughter will never have to marry against her will. The second part of the saga covers various duels between Ketil and his daughter's rejected suitors as well as armed encounters with troll women and with an outlaw. Ketil dies of old age at Hrafnista, leaving his property to Grímr lod-inkinni.

The sagas of Ketil and Grímr as they have survived were probably written early in the fourteenth century, and may have been put together only to provide ancestors for Örvar-Oddr (Arrow-Odd), the far more famous protagonist of Örvar-Odd's saga . It must be pointed out, however, that Ketil and Grímr are mentioned as men of Hrafnista and ancestors of early settlers of Iceland by the Icelandic Book of Settlements (Landnámabók) and by the genealogists in Egil's Saga Skallagrímssonar. Their stories must therefore have existed in oral tradition long before they were put down in writing.

Source: Dictionary of the Middle Ages 7; American Council of Learned Societies.

Last update
26 December 1998
Kettle Genealogy
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