An American soldier stationed at a military base at Reykjavik, Iceland (UN forces?) somehow gets transported back to early settlement times.

He is taken in by a local Norse family and, realising he's stuck there for life, takes up with (and marries?) a local woman.

Then, for some reason he gets into a fight with a man from another family and, perhaps accidentally or perhaps because of his military skills, the other man is killed.

The MC does as he would have back in the USA and takes off. The dead man's family track him down. When they catch up with him he learns the irony of his actions.

By Icelandic law of the time, if he had owned up when the man died and taken the consequences he would have simply had to pay the family blood-money.

However, because he ran, he was as good as saying the death was murder and dishonourable so now the family would have to kill him.

Although I realise it's not very sci-fi apart from the time travel setup, I'm pretty sure I read this in a sci-fi anthology 1970s-1980s.

1 Answer 1


This is the Poul Anderson story "The Man Who Came Early" (1956), first published in F&SF, June 1956 and subsequently in many anthologies.

The story is related not by the American (Sergeant Gerald Roberts), but by his potential father-in-law (Ospak Ulfsson of Hillstead) to a visiting Christian missionary. Ulfsson took Roberts in when he was found, and allowed his daughter Thorgunna to fall in love with Roberts. But another man, Ketill, was jealous and challenged Roberts; Roberts was on the verge of being killed when he pulled out his gun and shot Ketill. Ulfsson said it was an evil deed, but was willing to gift Roberts the money to pay weregild until Ketill's father said it would lead to a feud between their families, so Ulfsson said Roberts had to leave. Roberts didn't understand that he could wait until formal judgment was passed at midsummer and he had time to find a way out of Iceland. Instead he fled, which made him immediately outlaw and he was hunted down by Ketill's family.

You can read the story at the Internet Archive.

  • 3
    That is for sure it and I think everyone who likes time travel as a sub-genre should read this carefully-thought-out story.
    – releseabe
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 22:10
  • @Cris: This story was my first thought on seeing the title in HNQ, but I couldn't immediately remember the title and author. I just remembered that I'd listened to the audiobook of it within the past couple years. So yeah, kudos to DavidW for the quick answer. Commented Oct 8, 2022 at 13:17
  • Yes, that's definitely the story I read. A clever little tale about cultural misunderstanding Commented Oct 8, 2022 at 18:08
  • @PotatoCrisp BTW, if you want to read the opposite, there's a romance novel series about time traveling viking navy SEALs by Sandra Hill. Though considering it's a romance series, it's definitely an entirely different category of books.
    – Nzall
    Commented Oct 8, 2022 at 20:38
  • here'sa link to that series amazon.com/dp/…
    – FlaStorm32
    Commented Oct 9, 2022 at 2:25

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