Thursday, October 18, 2007


Heimskringla - I

The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway
Snorri Sturlson
Originally written in Old Norse, app. 1225 A.D., by the poet and
historian Snorri Sturlson.
This electronic edition was edited, proofed, and prepared by
Douglas B. Killings (DeTroyes@AOL.COM), April 1996.
The "Heimskringla" of Snorri Sturlason is a collection of sagas
concerning the various rulers of Norway, from about A.D. 850 to
the year A.D. 1177.
The Sagas covered in this work are the following:
1. Halfdan the Black Saga
2. Harald Harfager's Saga
3. Hakon the Good's Saga
4. Saga of King Harald Grafeld and of Earl Hakon Son of Sigurd
5. King Olaf Trygvason's Saga
6. Saga of Olaf Haraldson (St. Olaf)
7. Saga of Magnus the Good
8. Saga of Harald Hardrade
9. Saga of Olaf Kyrre
10. Magnus Barefoot's Saga
11. Saga of Sigurd the Crusader and His Brothers Eystein and Olaf
12. Saga of Magnus the Blind and of Harald Gille
13. Saga of Sigurd, Inge, and Eystein, the Sons of Harald
14. Saga of Hakon Herdebreid ("Hakon the Broad-Shouldered")
15. Magnus Erlingson's Saga
While scholars and historians continue to debate the historical
accuracy of Sturlason's work, the "Heimskringla" is still
considered an important original source for information on the
Viking Age, a period which Sturlason covers almost in its
In this book I have had old stories written down, as I have heard
them told by intelligent people, concerning chiefs who have have
held dominion in the northern countries, and who spoke the Danish
tongue; and also concerning some of their family branches,
according to what has been told me. Some of this is found in
ancient family registers, in which the pedigrees of kings and
other personages of high birth are reckoned up, and part is
written down after old songs and ballads which our forefathers
had for their amusement. Now, although we cannot just say what
truth there may be in these, yet we have the certainty that old
and wise men held them to be true.
Thjodolf of Hvin was the skald of Harald Harfager, and he
composed a poem for King Rognvald the Mountain-high, which is
called "Ynglingatal." This Rognvald was a son of Olaf
Geirstadalf, the brother of King Halfdan the Black. In this
poem thirty of his forefathers are reckoned up, and the death and
burial-place of each are given. He begins with Fjolner, a son of
Yngvefrey, whom the Swedes, long after his time, worshipped and
sacrificed to, and from whom the race or family of the Ynglings
take their name.
Eyvind Skaldaspiller also reckoned up the ancestors of Earl Hakon
the Great in a poem called "Haleygjatal", composed about Hakon;
and therein he mentions Saeming, a son of Yngvefrey, and he
likewise tells of the death and funeral rites of each. The lives
and times of the Yngling race were written from Thjodolf's
relation enlarged afterwards by the accounts of intelligent
As to funeral rites, the earliest age is called the Age of
Burning; because all the dead were consumed by fire, and over
their ashes were raised standing stones. But after Frey was
buried under a cairn at Upsala, many chiefs raised cairns, as
commonly as stones, to the memory of their relatives.
The Age of Cairns began properly in Denmark after Dan Milkillate
had raised for himself a burial cairn, and ordered that he should
be buried in it on his death, with his royal ornaments and
armour, his horse and saddle-furniture, and other valuable goods;
and many of his descendants followed his example. But the
burning of the dead continued, long after that time, to be the
custom of the Swedes and Northmen. Iceland was occupied in the
time that Harald Harfager was the King of Norway. There were
skalds in Harald's court whose poems the people know by heart
even at the present day, together with all the songs about the
kings who have ruled in Norway since his time; and we rest the
foundations of our story principally upon the songs which were
sung in the presence of the chiefs themselves or of their sons,
and take all to be true that is found in such poems about their
feats and battles: for although it be the fashion with skalds to
praise most those in whose presence they are standing, yet no one
would dare to relete to a chief what he, and all those who heard
it, knew to be a false and imaginary, not a true account of his
deeds; because that would be mockery, not praise.
The priest Are Frode (the learned), a son of Thorgils the son of
Geller, was the first man in this country who wrote down in the
Norse language narratives of events both old and new. In the
beginning of his book he wrote principally about the first
settlements in Iceland, the laws and government, and next of the
lagmen, and how long each had administered the law; and he
reckoned the years at first, until the time when Christianity was
introduced into Iceland, and afterwards reckoned from that to his
own times. To this he added many other subjects, such as the
lives and times of kings of Norway and Denmark, and also of
England; beside accounts of great events which have taken place
in this country itself. His narratives are considered by many
men of knowledge to be the most remarkable of all; because he was
a man of good understanding, and so old that his birth was as far
back as the year after Harald Sigurdson's fall. He wrote, as he
himself says, the lives and times of the kings of Norway from the
report of Od Kolson, a grandson of Hal of Sida. Od again took
his information from Thorgeir Afradskol, who was an intelligent
man, and so old that when Earl Hakon the Great was killed he was
dwelling at Nidarnes -- the same place at which King Olaf
Trygvason afterwards laid the foundation of the merchant town of
Nidaros (i.e., Throndhjem) which is now there. The priest Are
came, when seven years old, to Haukadal to Hal Thorarinson, and
was there fourteen years. Hal was a man of great knowledge and
of excellent memory; and he could even remember being baptized,
when he was three years old, by the priest Thanghrand, the year
before Christianity was established by law in Iceland. Are was
twelve years of age when Bishop Isleif died, and at his death
eighty years had elapsed since the fall of Olaf Trygvason. Hal
died nine years later than Bishop Isleif, and had attained nearly
the age of ninety-four years. Hal had traded between the two
countries, and had enjoyed intercourse with King Olaf the Saint,
by which he had gained greatly in reputation, and he had become
well acquainted with the kingdom of Norway. He had fixed his
residence in Haukadal when he was thirty years of age, and he had
dwelt there sixty-four years, as Are tells us. Teit, a son of
Bishop Isleif, was fostered in the house of Hal at Haukadal, and
afterwards dwelt there himself. He taught Are the priest, and
gave him information about many circumstances which Are
afterwards wrote down. Are also got many a piece of information
from Thurid, a daughter of the gode Snorre. She was wise and
intelligent, and remembered her father Snorre, who was nearly
thirty-five years of age when Christianity was introduced into
Iceland, and died a year after King Olaf the Saint's fall. So it
is not wonderful that Are the priest had good information about
ancient events both here in Iceland, and abroad, being a man
anxious for information, intelligent and of excellent memory, and
having besides learned much from old intelligent persons. But
the songs seem to me most reliable if they are sung correctly,
and judiciously interpreted.
Of this saga there are other versions found in "Fagrskinna" and
in "Flateyjarbok". The "Flateyjarbok" version is to a great
extent a copy of Snorre. The story about Halfdan's dream is
found both in "Fagrskinna" and in "Flateyjarbok". The
probability is that both Snorre and the author of "Fagrskinna"
must have transcribed the same original text. -- Ed.
Halfdan was a year old when his father was killed, and his mother
Asa set off immediately with him westwards to Agder, and set
herself there in the kingdom which her father Harald had
possessed. Halfdan grew up there, and soon became stout and
strong; and, by reason of his black hair, was called Halfdan the
Black. When he was eighteen years old he took his kingdom in
Agder, and went immediately to Vestfold, where he divided that
kingdom, as before related, with his brother Olaf. The same
autumn he went with an army to Vingulmark against King Gandalf.
They had many battles, and sometimes one, sometimes the other
gained the victory; but at last they agreed that Halfdan should
have half of Vingulmark, as his father Gudrod had had it before.
Then King Halfdan proceeded to Raumarike, and subdued it. King
Sigtryg, son of King Eystein, who then had his residence in
Hedemark, and who had subdued Raumarike before, having heard of
this, came out with his army against King Halfdan, and there was
great battle, in which King Halfdan was victorious; and just as
King Sigtryg and his troops were turning about to fly, an arrow
struck him under the left arm, and he fell dead. Halfdan then
laid the whole of Raumarike under his power. King Eystein's
second son, King Sigtryg's brother, was also called Eystein, and
was then king in Hedemark. As soon as Halfdan had returned to
Vestfold, King Eystein went out with his army to Raumarike, and
laid the whole country in subjection to him
When King Halfdan heard of these disturbances in Raumarike, he
again gathered his army together; and went out against King
Eystein. A battle took place between them, and Halfdan gained
the victory, and Eystein fled up to Hedemark, pursued by Halfdan.
Another battle took place, in which Halfdan was again victorious;
and Eystein fled northwards, up into the Dales to the herse
Gudbrand. There he was strengthened with new people, and in
winter he went towards Hedemark, and met Halfdan the Black upon a
large island which lies in the Mjosen lake. There a great battle
was fought, and many people on both sides were slain, but Halfdan
won the victory. There fell Guthorm, the son of the herse
Gudbrand, who was one of the finest men in the Uplands. Then
Eystein fled north up the valley, and sent his relation Halvard
Skalk to King Halfdan to beg for peace. On consideration of their
relationship, King Halfdan gave King Eystein half of Hedemark,
which he and his relations had held before; but kept to himself
Thoten, and the district called Land. He likewise appropriated
to himself Hadeland, and thus became a mighty king.
Halfdan the Black got a wife called Ragnhild, a daughter of
Harald Gulskeg (Goldbeard), who was a king in Sogn. They had a
son, to whom Harald gave his own name; and the boy was brought up
in Sogn, by his mother's father, King Harald. Now when this
Harald had lived out his days nearly, and was become weak, having
no son, he gave his dominions to his daughter's son Harald, and
gave him his title of king; and he died soon after. The same
winter his daughter Ragnhild died; and the following spring the
young Harald fell sick and died at ten years of age. As soon as
Halfdan the Black heard of his son's death, he took the road
northwards to Sogn with a great force, and was well received. He
claimed the heritage and dominion after his son; and no
opposition being made, he took the whole kingdom. Earl Atle
Mjove (the Slender), who was a friend of King Halfdan, came to
him from Gaular; and the king set him over the Sogn district, to
judge in the country according to the country's laws, and collect
scat upon the king's account. Thereafter King Halfdan proceeded
to his kingdom in the Uplands.
In autumn, King Halfdan proceeded to Vingulmark. One night when
he was there in guest quarters, it happened that about midnight a
man came to him who had been on the watch on horseback, and told
him a war force was come near to the house. The king instantly
got up, ordered his men to arm themselves, and went out of the
house and drew them up in battle order. At the same moment,
Gandalf's sons, Hysing and Helsing, made their appearance with a
large army. There was a great battle; but Halfdan being
overpowered by the numbers of people fled to the forest, leaving
many of his men on this spot. His foster-father, Olver Spake
(the Wise), fell here. The people now came in swarms to King
Halfdan, and he advanced to seek Gandalf's sons. They met at
Eid, near Lake Oieren, and fought there. Hysing and Helsing
fell, and their brother Hake saved himself by flight. King
Halfdan then took possession of the whole of Vingulmark, and Hake
fled to Alfheimar.
Sigurd Hjort was the name of a king in Ringerike, who was stouter
and stronger than any other man, and his equal could not be seen
for a handsome appearance. His father was Helge Hvasse (the
Sharp); and his mother was Aslaug, a daughter of Sigurd the wormeyed,
who again was a son of Ragnar Lodbrok. It is told of
Sigurd that when he was only twelve years old he killed in single
combat the berserk Hildebrand, and eleven others of his comrades;
and many are the deeds of manhood told of him in a long saga
about his feats. Sigurd had two children, one of whom was a
daughter, called Ragnhild, then twenty years of age, and an
excellent brisk girl. Her brother Guthorm was a youth. It is
related in regard to Sigurd's death that he had a custom of
riding out quite alone in the uninhabited forest to hunt the wild
beasts that are hurtful to man, and he was always very eager at
this sport. One day he rode out into the forest as usual, and
when he had ridden a long way he came out at a piece of cleared
land near to Hadeland. There the berserk Hake came against him
with thirty men, and they fought. Sigurd Hjort fell there, after
killing twelve of Hake's men; and Hake himself lost one hand, and
had three other wounds. Then Hake and his men rode to Sigurd's
house, where they took his daughter Ragnhild and her brother
Guthorm, and carried them, with much property and valuable
articles, home to Hadeland, where Hake had many great farms. He
ordered a feast to be prepared, intending to hold his wedding
with Ragnhild; but the time passed on account of his wounds,
which healed slowly; and the berserk Hake of Hadeland had to keep
his bed, on account of his wounds, all the autumn and beginning
of winter. Now King Halfdan was in Hedemark at the Yule
entertainments when he heard this news; and one morning early,
when the king was dressed, he called to him Harek Gand, and told
him to go over to Hadeland, and bring him Ragnhild, Sigurd
Hjort's daughter. Harek got ready with a hundred men, and made
his journey so that they came over the lake to Hake's house in
the grey of the morning, and beset all the doors and stairs of
the places where the house-servants slept. Then they broke into
the sleeping-room where Hake slept, took Ragnhild, with her
brother Guthorm, and all the goods that were there, and set fire
to the house-servants' place, and burnt all the people in it.
Then they covered over a magnificent waggon, placed Ragnhild and
Guthorm in it, and drove down upon the ice. Hake got up and went
after them a while; but when he came to the ice on the lake, he
turned his sword-hilt to the ground and let himself fall upon the
point, so that the sword went through him. He was buried under a
mound on the banks of the lake. When King Halfdan, who was very
quick of sight, saw the party returning over the frozen lake, and
with a covered waggon, he knew that their errand was accomplished
according to his desire. Thereupon he ordered the tables to be
set out, and sent people all round in the neighbourhood to invite
plenty of guests; and the same day there was a good feast which
was also Halfdan's marriage-feast with Ragnhild, who became a
great queen. Ragnhild's mother was Thorny, a daughter of
Klakharald king in Jutland, and a sister of Thrye Dannebod who
was married to the Danish king, Gorm the Old, who then ruled over
the Danish dominions.
Ragnhild, who was wise and intelligent, dreamt great dreams. She
dreamt, for one, that she was standing out in her herb-garden,
and she took a thorn out of her shift; but while she was holding
the thorn in her hand it grew so that it became a great tree, one
end of which struck itself down into the earth, and it became
firmly rooted; and the other end of the tree raised itself so
high in the air that she could scarcely see over it, and it
became also wonderfully thick. The under part of the tree was
red with blood, but the stem upwards was beautifully green and
the branches white as snow. There were many and great limbs to
the tree, some high up, others low down; and so vast were the
tree's branches that they seemed to her to cover all Norway, and
even much more.
King Halfdan never had dreams, which appeared to him an
extraordinary circumstance; and he told it to a man called
Thorleif Spake (the Wise), and asked him what his advice was
about it. Thorleif said that what he himself did, when he wanted
to have any revelation by dream, was to take his sleep in a
swine-sty, and then it never failed that he had dreams. The king
did so, and the following dream was revealed to him. He thought
he had the most beautiful hair, which was all in ringlets; some
so long as to fall upon the ground, some reaching to the middle
of his legs, some to his knees, some to his loins or the middle
of his sides, some to his neck, and some were only as knots
springing from his head. These ringlets were of various colours;
but one ringlet surpassed all the others in beauty, lustre, and
size. This dream he told to Thorleif, who interpreted it thus:
-- There should be a great posterity from him, and his
descendants should rule over countries with great, but not all
with equally great, honour; but one of his race should be more
celebrated than all the others. It was the opinion of people
that this ringlet betokened King Olaf the Saint.
King Halfdan was a wise man, a man of truth and uprightness --
who made laws, observed them himself, and obliged others to
observe them. And that violence should not come in place of the
laws, he himself fixed the number of criminal acts in law, and
the compensations, mulcts, or penalties, for each case, according
to every one's birth and dignity (1).
Queen Ragnhild gave birth to a son, and water was poured over
him, and the name of Harald given him, and he soon grew stout and
remarkably handsome. As he grew up he became very expert at all
feats, and showed also a good understanding. He was much beloved
by his mother, but less so by his father.
(1) The penalty, compensation, or manbod for every injury, due
the party injured, or to his family and next of kin if the
injury was the death or premeditated murder of the party,
appears to have been fixed for every rank and condition,
from the murder of the king down to the maiming or beating a
man's cattle or his slave. A man for whom no compensation
was due was a dishonored person, or an outlaw. It appears
to have been optional with the injured party, or his kin if
he had been killed, to take the mulct or compensation, or to
refuse it, and wait for an opportunity of taking vengeance
for the injury on the party who inflicted it, or on his kin.
A part of each mulct or compensation was due to the king;
and, these fines or penalties appear to have constituted a
great proportion of the king's revenues, and to have been
settled in the Things held in every district for
administering the law with the lagman. -- L.
King Halfdan was at a Yule-feast in Hadeland, where a wonderful
thing happened one Yule evening. When the great number of guests
assembled were going to sit down to table, all the meat and all
the ale disappeared from the table. The king sat alone very
confused in mind; all the others set off, each to his home, in
consternation. That the king might come to some certainty about
what had occasioned this event, he ordered a Fin to be seized who
was particularly knowing, and tried to force him to disclose the
truth; but however much he tortured the man, he got nothing out
of him. The Fin sought help particularly from Harald, the king's
son, and Harald begged for mercy for him, but in vain. Then
Harald let him escape against the king's will, and accompanied
the man himself. On their journey they came to a place where the
man's chief had a great feast, and it appears they were well
received there. When they had been there until spring, the chief
said, "Thy father took it much amiss that in winter I took some
provisions from him, -- now I will repay it to thee by a joyful
piece of news: thy father is dead; and now thou shalt return
home, and take possession of the whole kingdom which he had, and
with it thou shalt lay the whole kingdom of Norway under thee."
Halfdan the Black was driving from a feast in Hadeland, and it so
happened that his road lay over the lake called Rand. It was in
spring, and there was a great thaw. They drove across the bight
called Rykinsvik, where in winter there had been a pond broken in
the ice for cattle to drink at, and where the dung had fallen
upon the ice the thaw had eaten it into holes. Now as the king
drove over it the ice broke, and King Halfdan and many with him
perished. He was then forty years old. He had been one of the
most fortunate kings in respect of good seasons. The people
thought so much of him, that when his death was known and his
body was floated to Ringerike to bury it there, the people of
most consequence from Raumarike, Vestfold, and Hedemark came to
meet it. All desired to take the body with them to bury it in
their own district, and they thought that those who got it would
have good crops to expect. At last it was agreed to divide the
body into four parts. The head was laid in a mound at Stein in
Ringerike, and each of the others took his part home and laid it
in a mound; and these have since been called Halfdan's Mounds.
Harald (1) was but ten years old when he succeeded his father
(Halfdan the Black). He became a stout, strong, and comely man,
and withal prudent and manly. His mother's brother, Guthorm, was
leader of the hird, at the head of the government, and commander
(`hertogi') of the army. After Halfdan the Black's death, many
chiefs coveted the dominions he had left. Among these King
Gandalf was the first; then Hogne and Frode, sons of Eystein,
king of Hedemark; and also Hogne Karuson came from Ringerike.
Hake, the son of Gandalf, began with an expedition of 300 men
against Vestfold, marched by the main road through some valleys,
and expected to come suddenly upon King Harald; while his father
Gandalf sat at home with his army, and prepared to cross over the
fiord into Vestfold. When Duke Guthorm heard of this he gathered
an army, and marched up the country with King Harald against
Hake. They met in a valley, in which they fought a great battle,
and King Harald was victorious; and there fell King Hake and most
of his people. The place has since been called Hakadale. Then
King Harald and Duke Guthorm turned back, but they found King
Gandalf had come to Vestfold. The two armies marched against
each other, and met, and had a great battle; and it ended in King
Gandalf flying, after leaving most of his men dead on the spot,
and in that state he came back to his kingdom. Now when the sons
of King Eystein in Hedemark heard the news, they expected the war
would come upon them, and they sent a message to Hogne Karuson
and to Herse Gudbrand, and appointed a meeting with them at
Ringsaker in Hedemark.
(1) The first twenty chapters of this saga refer to Harald's
youth and his conquest of Norway. This portion of the saga
is of great importance to the Icelanders, as the settlement
of their Isle was a result of Harald's wars. The second
part of the saga (chaps. 21-46) treats of the disputes
between Harald's sons, of the jarls of Orkney, and of the
jarls of More. With this saga we enter the domain of
history. -- Ed.
After the battle King Harald and Guthorm turned back, and went
with all the men they could gather through the forests towards
the Uplands. They found out where the Upland kings had appointed
their meeting-place, and came there about the time of midnight,
without the watchmen observing them until their army was before
the door of the house in which Hogne Karuson was, as well as that
in which Gudbrand slept. They set fire to both houses; but King
Eystein's two sons slipped out with their men, and fought for a
while, until both Hogne and Frode fell. After the fall of these
four chiefs, King Harald, by his relation Guthorm's success and
powers, subdued Hedemark, Ringerike, Gudbrandsdal, Hadeland,
Thoten, Raumarike, and the whole northern part of Vingulmark.
King Harald and Guthorm had thereafter war with King Gandalf, and
fought several battles with him; and in the last of them King
Gandalf was slain, and King Harald took the whole of his kingdom
as far south as the river Raum.
King Harald sent his men to a girl called Gyda, daughter of King
Eirik of Hordaland, who was brought up as foster-child in the
house of a great bonde in Valdres. The king wanted her for his
concubine; for she was a remarkably handsome girl, but of high
spirit withal. Now when the messengers came there, and delivered
their errand to the girl, she answered, that she would not throw
herself away even to take a king for her husband, who had no
greater kingdom to rule over than a few districts. "And
methinks," said she, "it is wonderful that no king here in Norway
will make the whole country subject to him, in the same way as
Gorm the Old did in Denmark, or Eirik at Upsala." The messengers
thought her answer was dreadfully haughty, and asked what she
thought would come of such an answer; for Harald was so mighty a
man, that his invitation was good enough for her. But although
she had replied to their errand differently from what they
wished, they saw no chance, on this occasion, of taking her with
them against her will; so they prepared to return. When they
were ready, and the people followed them out, Gyda said to the
messengers, "Now tell to King Harald these my words. I will only
agree to be his 1awful wife upon the condition that he shall
first, for my sake, subject to himself the whole of Norway, so
that he may rule over that kingdom as freely and fully as King
Eirik over the Swedish dominions, or King Gorm over Denmark; for
only then, methinks, can he be called the king of a people."
Now came the messengers back to King Harald, bringing him the
words of the girl, and saying she was so bold and foolish that
she well deserved that the king should send a greater troop of
people for her, and inflict on her some disgrace. Then answered
the king, "This girl has not spoken or done so much amiss that
she should be punished, but rather she should be thanked for her
words. She has reminded me," said he, "of something which it
appears to me wonderful I did not think of before. And now,"
added he, "I make the solemn vow, and take God to witness, who
made me and rules over all things, that never shall I clip or
comb my hair until I have subdued the whole of Norway, with scat
(1), and duties, and domains; or if not, have died in the
attempt." Guthorm thanked the king warmly for his vow; adding,
that it was royal work to fulfil royal words.
(1) Scat was a land-tax, paid to the king in money, malt, meal,
or flesh-meat, from all lands, and was adjudged by the Thing
to each king upon his accession, and being proposed and
accepted as king.
After this the two relations gather together a great force, and
prepare for an expedition to the Uplands, and northwards up the
valley (Gudbrandsdal), and north over Dovrefjeld; and when the
king came down to the inhabited land he ordered all the men to be
killed, and everything wide around to be delivered to the flames.
And when the people came to know this, they fled every one where
he could; some down the country to Orkadal, some to Gaulardal,
some to the forests. But some begged for peace, and obtained it,
on condition of joining the king and becoming his men. He met no
opposition until he came to Orkadal. There a crowd of people had
assembled, and he had his first battle with a king called
Gryting. Harald won the victory, and King Gryting was made
prisoner, and most of his people killed. He took service himself
under the king, and swore fidelity to him. Thereafer all the
people in Orkadal district went under King Harald, and became his
King Harald made this law over all the lands he conquered, that
all the udal property should belong to him; and that the bondes,
both great and small, should pay him land dues for their
possessions. Over every district he set an earl to judge
according to the law of the land and to justice, and also to
collect the land dues and the fines; and for this each earl
received a third part of the dues, and services, and fines, for
the support of his table and other expenses. Each earl had under
him four or more herses, each of whom had an estate of twenty
marks yearly income bestowed on him and was bound to support
twenty men-at-arms, and the earl sixty men, at their own
expenses. The king had increased the land dues and burdens so
much, that each of his earls had greater power and income than
the kings had before; and when that became known at Throndhjem,
many great men joined the king and took his service.
It is told that Earl Hakon Grjotgardson came to King Harald from
Yrjar, and brought a great crowd of men to his service. Then
King Harald went into Gaulardal, and had a great battle, in which
he slew two kings, and conquered their dominions; and these were
Gaulardal district and Strind district. He gave Earl Hakon
Strind district to rule over as earl. King Harald then proceeded
to Stjoradal, and had a third battle, in which he gained the
victory, and took that district also. There upon the Throndhjem
people assembled, and four kings met together with their troops.
The one ruled over Veradal, the second over Skaun, third over the
Sparbyggja district, and the fourth over Eyin Idre (Inderoen);
and this latter had also Eyna district. These four kings marched
with their men against King Harald, but he won the battle; and
some of these kings fell, and some fled. In all, King Harald
fought at the least eight battles, and slew eight kings, in the
Throndhjem district, and laid the whole of it under him.
North in Naumudal were two brothers, kings, -- Herlaug and
Hrollaug; and they had been for three summers raising a mound or
tomb of stone and lime and of wood. Just as the work was
finished, the brothers got the news that King Harald was coming
upon them with his army. Then King Herlaug had a great quantity
of meat and drink brought into the mound, and went into it
himself, with eleven companions, and ordered the mound to be
covered up. King Hrollaug, on the contrary, went upon the summit
of the mound, on which the kings were wont to sit, and made a
throne to be erected, upon which he seated himself. Then he
ordered feather-beds to be laid upon the bench below, on which
the earls were wont to be seated, and threw himself down from his
high seat or throne into the earl's seat, giving himself the
title of earl. Now Hrollaug went to meet King Harald, gave up to
him his whole kingdom, offered to enter into his service, and
told him his whole proceeding. Then took King Harald a sword,
fastened it to Hrollaug's belt, bound a shield to his neck, and
made him thereupon an earl, and led him to his earl's seat; and
therewith gave him the district Naumudal, and set him as earl
over it ((A.D. 866)). (1)
(1) Before writing was in general use, this symbolical way of
performing all important legal acts appears to have entered
into the jurisprudence of all savage nations; and according
to Gibbon, chap. 44, "the jurisprudence of the first Romans
exhibited the scenes of a pantomime; the words were adapted
to the gestures, and the slightest error or neglect in the
forms of proceeding was sufficient to annul the substance of
the fairest claims." -- Ed.
King Harald then returned to Throndhjem, where he dwelt during
the winter, and always afterwards called it his home. He fixed
here his head residence, which is called Lade. This winter he
took to wife Asa, a daughter of Earl Hakon Grjotgardson, who then
stood in great favour and honour with the king. In spring the
king fitted out his ships. In winter he had caused a great
frigate (a dragon) to be built, and had it fitted-out in the most
splendid way, and brought his house-troops and his berserks on
board. The forecastle men were picked men, for they had the
king's banner. From the stem to the mid-hold was called rausn,
or the fore-defence; and there were the berserks. Such men only
were received into King Harald's house-troop as were remarkable
for strength, courage, and all kinds of dexterity; and they alone
got place in his ship, for he had a good choice of house-troops
from the best men of every district. King Harald had a great
army, many large ships, and many men of might followed him.
Hornklofe, in his poem called "Glymdrapa", tells of this; and
also that King Harald had a battle with the people of Orkadal, at
Opdal forest, before he went upon this expedition.
"O'er the broad heath the bowstrings twang,
While high in air the arrows sang.
The iron shower drives to flight
The foeman from the bloody fight.
The warder of great Odin's shrine,
The fair-haired son of Odin's line,
Raises the voice which gives the cheer,
First in the track of wolf or bear.
His master voice drives them along
To Hel -- a destined, trembling throng;
And Nokve's ship, with glancing sides,
Must fly to the wild ocean's tides. --
Must fly before the king who leads
Norse axe-men on their ocean steeds."
King Harald moved out with his army from Throndhjem, and went
southwards to More. Hunthiof was the name of the king who ruled
over the district of More. Solve Klofe was the name of his son,
and both were great warriors. King Nokve, who ruled over
Raumsdal, was the brother of Solve's mother. Those chiefs
gathered a great force when they heard of King Harald, and came
against him. They met at Solskel, and there was a great battle,
which was gained by King Harald (A.D. 867). Hornklofe tells of
this battle: --
"Thus did the hero known to fame,
The leader of the shields, whose name
Strikes every heart with dire dismay,
Launch forth his war-ships to the fray.
Two kings he fought; but little strife
Was needed to cut short their life.
A clang of arms by the sea-shore, --
And the shields' sound was heard no more."
The two kings were slain, but Solve escaped by flight; and King
Harald laid both districts under his power. He stayed here long
in summer to establish law and order for the country people, and
set men to rule them, and keep them faithful to him; and in
autumn he prepared to return northwards to Throndhjem. Ragnvald
Earl of More, a son of Eystein Glumra, had the summer before
become one of Harald's men; and the king set him as chief over
these two districts, North More and Raumsdal; strengthened him
both with men of might and bondes, and gave him the help of
ships to defend the coast against enemies. He was called
Ragnvald the Mighty, or the Wise; and people say both names
suited him well. King Harald came back to Throndhjem about
The following spring (A.D. 868) King Harald raised a great force
in Throndhjem, and gave out that he would proceed to South More.
Solve Klofe had passed the winter in his ships of war, plundering
in North More, and had killed many of King Harald's men;
pillaging some places, burning others, and making great ravage;
but sometimes he had been, during the winter, with his friend
King Arnvid in South More. Now when he heard that King Harald
was come with ships and a great army, he gathered people, and was
strong in men-at-arms; for many thought they had to take
vengeance of King Harald. Solve Klofe went southwards to
Firdafylke (the Fjord district), which King Audbjorn ruled over,
to ask him to help, and join his force to King Arnvid's and his
own. "For," said he, "it is now clear that we all have but one
course to take; and that is to rise, all as one man, against King
Harald, for we have strength enough, and fate must decide the
victory; for as to the other condition of becoming his servants,
that is no condition for us, who are not less noble than Harald.
My father thought it better to fall in battle for his kingdom,
than to go willingly into King Harald's service, or not to abide
the chance of weapons like the Naumudal kings." King Solve's
speech was such that King Audbjorn promised his help, and
gathered a great force together and went with it to King Arnvid,
and they had a great army. Now, they got news that King Harald
was come from the north, and they met within Solskel. And it was
the custom to lash the ships together, stem to stem; so it was
done now. King Harald laid his ship against King Arnvid's, and
there was the sharpest fight, and many men fell on both sides.
At last King Harald was raging with anger, and went forward to
the fore-deck, and slew so dreadfully that all the forecastle men
of Arnvid's ship were driven aft of the mast, and some fell.
Thereupon Harald boarded the ship, and King Arnvid's men tried to
save themselves by flight, and he himself was slain in his ship.
King Audbjorn also fell; but Solve fled. So says Hornklofe: --
"Against the hero's shield in vain
The arrow-storm fierce pours its rain.
The king stands on the blood-stained deck,
Trampling on many a stout foe's neck;
And high above the dinning stound
Of helm and axe, and ringing sound
Of blade and shield, and raven's cry,
Is heard his shout of `Victory!'"
Of King Harald's men, fell his earls Asgaut and Asbjorn, together
with his brothers-in-law, Grjotgard and Herlaug, the sons of Earl
Hakon of Lade. Solve became afterwards a great sea-king, and
often did great damage in King Harald's dominions.
After this battle (A.D. 868) King Harald subdued South More; but
Vemund, King Audbjorn's brother, still had Firdafylke. It was
now late in harvest, and King Harald's men gave him the counsel
not to proceed south-wards round Stad. Then King Harald set Earl
Ragnvald over South and North More and also Raumsdal, and he had
many people about him. King Harald returned to Throndhjem. The
same winter (A.D. 869) Ragnvald went over Eid, and southwards to
the Fjord district. There he heard news of King Vemund, and came
by night to a place called Naustdal, where King Vemund was living
in guest-quarters. Earl Ragnvald surrounded the house in which
they were quartered, and burnt the king in it, together with
ninety men. The came Berdlukare to Earl Ragnvald with a complete
armed long-ship, and they both returned to More. The earl took
all the ships Vemund had, and all the goods he could get hold of.
Berdlukare proceeded north to Throndhjem to King Harald, and
became his man; and dreadful berserk he was.
The following spring (A.D. 869) King Harald went southwards with
his fleet along the coast, and subdued Firdafylke. Then he
sailed eastward along the land until he came to Vik; but he left
Earl Hakon Grjotgardson behind, and set him over the Fjord
district. Earl Hakon sent word to Earl Atle Mjove that he should
leave Sogn district, and be earl over Gaular district, as he had
been before, alleging that King Harald had given Sogn district to
him. Earl Atle sent word that he would keep both Sogn district
and Gaular district, until he met King Harald. The two earls
quarreled about this so long, that both gathered troops. They
met at Fialar, in Stavanger fiord, and had a great battle, in
which Earl Hakon fell, and Earl Atle got a mortal wound, and his
men carried him to the island of Atley, where he died. So says
Eyvind Skaldaspiller: --
"He who stood a rooted oak,
Unshaken by the swordsman's stroke,
Amidst the whiz of arrows slain,
Has fallen upon Fjalar's plain.
There, by the ocean's rocky shore,
The waves are stained with the red gore
Of stout Earl Hakon Grjotgard's son,
And of brave warriors many a one."
King Harald came with his fleet eastward to Viken and landed at
Tunsberg, which was then a trading town. He had then been four
years in Throndhjem, and in all that time had not been in Viken.
Here he heard the news that Eirik Eymundson, king of Sweden, had
laid under him Vermaland, and was taking scat or land-tax from
all the forest settlers; and also that he called the whole
country north to Svinasund, and west along the sea, West
Gautland; and which altogether he reckoned to his kingdom, and
took land-tax from it. Over this country he had set an earl, by
name Hrane Gauzke, who had the earldom between Svinasund and the
Gaut river, and was a mighty earl. And it was told to King
Harald that the Swedish king said he would not rest until he had
as great a kingdom in Viken as Sigurd Hring, or his son Ragnar
Lodbrok, had possessed; and that was Raumarike and Vestfold, all
the way to the isle Grenmar, and also Vingulmark, and all that
lay south of it. In all these districts many chiefs, and many
other people, had given obedience to the Swedish king. King
Harald was very angry at this, and summoned the bondes to a Thing
at Fold, where he laid an accusation against them for treason
towards him. Some bondes defended themselves from the
accusation, some paid fines, some were punished. He went thus
through the whole district during the summer, and in harvest he
did the same in Raumarike, and laid the two districts under his
power. Towards winter he heard that Eirik king of Sweden was,
with his court, going about in Vermaland in guest-quarters.
King Harald takes his way across the Eid forest eastward, and
comes out in Vermaland, where he also orders feasts to be
prepared for himself. There was a man by name Ake, who was the
greatest of the bondes of Vermaland, very rich, and at that time
very aged. He sent men to King Harald, and invited him to a
feast, and the king promised to come on the day appointed. Ake
invited also King Eirik to a feast, and appointed the same day.
Ake had a great feasting hall, but it was old; and he made a new
hall, not less than the old one, and had it ornamented in the
most splendid way. The new hall he had hung with new hangings,
but the old had only its old ornaments. Now when the kings came
to the feast, King Eirik with his court was taken into the old
hall; but Harald with his followers into the new. The same
difference was in all the table furniture, and King Eirik and his
men had the old-fashioned vessels and horns, but all gilded and
splendid; while King Harald and his men had entirely new vessels
and horns adorned with gold, all with carved figures, and shining
like glass; and both companies had the best of liquor. Ake the
bonde had formerly been King Halfdan the Black s man. Now when
daylight came, and the feast was quite ended, and the kings made
themselves ready for their journey, and the horses were saddled,
came Ake before King Harald, leading in his hand his son Ubbe, a
boy of twelve years of age, and said, "If the goodwill I have
shown to thee, sire, in my feast, be worth thy friendship, show
it hereafter to my son. I give him to thee now for thy service."
The king thanked him with many agreeable words for his friendly
entertainment, and promised him his full friendship in return.
Then Ake brought out great presents, which he gave to the king,
and they gave each other thereafter the parting kiss. Ake went
next to the Swedish king, who was dressed and ready for the road,
but not in the best humour. Ake gave to him also good and
valuable gifts; but the king answered only with few words, and
mounted his horse. Ake followed the king on the road and talked
with him. The road led through a wood which was near to the
house; and when Ake came to the wood, the king said to him, "How
was it that thou madest such a difference between me and King
Harald as to give him the best of everything, although thou
knowest thou art my man?" "I think" answered Ake, "that there
failed in it nothing, king, either to you or to your attendants,
in friendly entertainment at this feast. But that all the
utensils for your drinking were old, was because you are now old;
but King Harald is in the bloom of youth, and therefore I gave
him the new things. And as to my being thy man, thou art just as
much my man." On this the king out with his sword, and gave Ake
his deathwound. King Harald was ready now also to mount his
horse, and desired that Ake should be called. The people went to
seek him; and some ran up the road that King Eirik had taken, and
found Ake there dead. They came back, and told the news to King
Harald, and he bids his men to be up, and avenge Ake the bonde.
And away rode he and his men the way King Eirik had taken, until
they came in sight of each other. Each for himself rode as hard
as he could, until Eirik came into the wood which divides
Gautland and Vermaland. There King Harald wheels about, and
returns to Vermaland, and lays the country under him, and kills
King Eirik's men wheresoever he can find them. In winter King
Harald returned to Raumarike, and dwelt there a while.
King Harald went out in winter to his ships at Tunsberg, rigged
them, and sailed away eastward over the fiord, and subjected all
Vingulmark to his dominion. All winter he was out with his
ships, and marauded in Ranrike; so says Thorbjorn Hornklofe: --
"The Norseman's king is on the sea,
Tho' bitter wintry cold it be. --
On the wild waves his Yule keeps he.
When our brisk king can get his way,
He'll no more by the fireside stay
Than the young sun; he makes us play
The game of the bright sun-god Frey.
But the soft Swede loves well the fire
The well-stuffed couch, the doway glove,
And from the hearth-seat will not move."
The Gautlanders gathered people together all over the country.
In spring, when the ice was breaking up, the Gautlanders drove
stakes into the Gaut river to hinder King Harald with his ships
from coming to the land. But King Harald laid his ships
alongside the stakes, and plundered the country, and burnt all
around; so says Horn klofe: --
"The king who finds a dainty feast,
For battle-bird and prowling beast,
Has won in war the southern land
That lies along the ocean's strand.
The leader of the helmets, he
Who leads his ships o'er the dark sea,
Harald, whose high-rigged masts appear
Like antlered fronts of the wild deer,
Has laid his ships close alongside
Of the foe's piles with daring pride."
Afterwards the Gautlanders came down to the strand with a great
army, and gave battle to King Harald, and great was the fall of
men. But it was King Harald who gained the day. Thus says
Hornklofe: --
"Whistles the battle-axe in its swing
O'er head the whizzing javelins sing,
Helmet and shield and hauberk ring;
The air-song of the lance is loud,
The arrows pipe in darkening cloud;
Through helm and mail the foemen feel
The blue edge of our king's good steel
Who can withstand our gallant king?
The Gautland men their flight must wing."
King Harald went far and wide through Gautland, and many were the
battles he fought there on both sides of the river, and in
general he was victorious. In one of these battles fell Hrane
Gauzke; and then the king took his whole land north of the river
and west of the Veneren, and also Vermaland. And after he turned
back there-from, he set Duke Guthorm as chief to defend the
country, and left a great force with him. King Harald himself
went first to the Uplands, where he remained a while, and then
proceeded northwards over the Dovrefjeld to Throndhjem, where he
dwelt for a long time. Harald began to have children. By Asa he
had four sons. The eldest was Guthorm. Halfdan the Black and
Halfdan the White were twins. Sigfrod was the fourth. They were
all brought up in Throndhjem with all honour.
News came in from the south land that the people of Hordaland and
Rogaland, Agder and Thelemark, were gathering, and bringing
together ships and weapons, and a great body of men. The leaders
of this were Eirik king of Hordaland; Sulke king of Rogaland, and
his brother Earl Sote: Kjotve the Rich, king of Agder, and his
son Thor Haklang; and from Thelemark two brothers, Hroald Hryg
and Had the Hard. Now when Harald got certain news of this, he
assembled his forces, set his ships on the water, made himself
ready with his men, and set out southwards along the coast,
gathering many people from every district. King Eirik heard of
this when he same south of Stad; and having assembled all the men
he could expect, he proceeded southwards to meet the force which
he knew was coming to his help from the east. The whole met
together north of Jadar, and went into Hafersfjord, where King
Harald was waiting with his forces. A great battle began, which
was both hard and long; but at last King Harald gained the day.
There King Eirik fell, and King Sulke, with his brother Earl
Sote. Thor Haklang, who was a great berserk, had laid his ship
against King Harald's, and there was above all measure a
desperate attack, until Thor Haklang fell, and his whole ship was
cleared of men. Then King Kjotve fled to a little isle outside,
on which there was a good place of strength. Thereafter all his
men fled, some to their ships, some up to the land; and the
latter ran southwards over the country of Jadar. So says
Hornklofe, viz.: --
"Has the news reached you? -- have you heard
Of the great fight at Hafersfjord,
Between our noble king brave Harald
And King Kjotve rich in gold?
The foeman came from out the East,
Keen for the fray as for a feast.
A gallant sight it was to see
Their fleet sweep o'er the dark-blue sea:
Each war-ship, with its threatening throat
Of dragon fierce or ravenous brute (1)
Grim gaping from the prow; its wales
Glittering with burnished shields, (2) like scales
Its crew of udal men of war,
Whose snow-white targets shone from far
And many a mailed spearman stout
From the West countries round about,
English and Scotch, a foreign host,
And swordamen from the far French coast.
And as the foemen's ships drew near,
The dreadful din you well might hear
Savage berserks roaring mad,
And champions fierce in wolf-skins clad, (3)
Howling like wolves; and clanking jar
Of many a mail-clad man of war.
Thus the foe came; but our brave king
Taught them to fly as fast again.
For when he saw their force come o'er,
He launched his war-ships from the shore.
On the deep sea he launched his fleet
And boldly rowed the foe to meet.
Fierce was the shock, and loud the clang
Of shields, until the fierce Haklang,
The foeman's famous berserk, fell.
Then from our men burst forth the yell
Of victory, and the King of Gold
Could not withstand our Harald bold,
But fled before his flaky locks
For shelter to the island rocks.
All in the bottom of the ships
The wounded lay, in ghastly heaps;
Backs up and faces down they lay
Under the row-seats stowed away;
And many a warrior's shield, I ween
Might on the warrior's back be seen,
To shield him as he fled amain
From the fierce stone-storm's pelting rain.
The mountain-folk, as I've heard say,
Ne'er stopped as they ran from the fray,
Till they had crossed the Jadar sea,
And reached their homes -- so keen each soul
To drown his fright in the mead bowl."
(1) The war-ships were called dragons, from being decorated with
the head of a dragon, serpent, or other wild animal; and the
word "draco" was adopted in the Latin of the Middle Ages to
denote a ship of war of the larger class. The snekke was
the cutter or smaller war-ship. -- L.
(2) The shields were hung over the side-rails of the ships. --
(3) The wolf-skin pelts were nearly as good as armour against
the sword.
After this battle King Harald met no opposition in Norway, for
all his opponents and greatest enemies were cut off. But some,
and they were a great multitude, fled out of the country, and
thereby great districts were peopled. Jemtaland and
Helsingjaland were peopled then, although some Norwegians had
already set up their habitation there. In the discontent that
King Harald seized on the lands of Norway, the out-countries of
Iceland and the Farey Isles were discovered and peopled. The
Northmen had also a great resort to Hjaltland (Shetland Isles)
and many men left Norway, flying the country on account of King
Harald, and went on viking cruises into the West sea. In winter
they were in the Orkney Islands and Hebrides; but marauded in
summer in Norway, and did great damage. Many, however, were the
mighty men who took service under King Harald, and became his
men, and dwelt in the land with him.
When King Harald had now become sole king over all Norway, he
remembered what that proud girl had said to him; so he sent men
to her, and had her brought to him, and took her to his bed. And
these were their children: Alof -- she was the eldest; then was
their son Hrorek; then Sigtryg, Frode, and Thorgils. King Harald
had many wives and many children. Among them he had one wife,
who was called Ragnhild the Mighty, a daughter of King Eirik,
from Jutland; and by her he had a son, Eirik Blood-axe. He was
also married to Svanhild, a daughter of Earl Eystein; and their
sons were Olaf Geirstadaalf, Bjorn and Ragnar Rykkil. Lastly,
King Harald married Ashild, a daughter of Hring Dagson, up in
Ringerike; and their children were, Dag, Hring, Gudrod Skiria,
and Ingigerd. It is told that King Harald put away nine wives
when he married Ragnhild the Mighty. So says Hornklofe: --
"Harald, of noblest race the head,
A Danish wife took to his bed;
And out of doors nine wives he thrust, --
The mothers of the princes first.
Who 'mong Holmrygians hold command,
And those who rule in Hordaland.
And then he packed from out the place
The children born of Holge's race."
King Harald's children were all fostered and brought up by their
relations on the mother's side. Guthorm the Duke had poured
water over King Harald's eldest son and had given him his own
name. He set the child upon his knee, and was his foster-father,
and took him with himself eastward to Viken, and there he was
brought up in the house of Guthorm. Guthorm ruled the whole land
in Viken and the Uplands, when King Harald was absent.
King Harald heard that the vikings, who were in the West sea in
winter, plundered far and wide in the middle part of Norway; and
therefore every summer he made an expedition to search the isles
and out-skerries (1) on the coast. Wheresoever the vikings heard
of him they all took to flight, and most of them out into the
open ocean. At last the king grew weary of this work, and
therefore one summer he sailed with his fleet right out into the
West sea. First he came to Hjaltland (Shetland), and he slew all
the vikings who could not save themselves by flight. Then King
Harald sailed southwards, to the Orkney Islands, and cleared them
all of vikings. Thereafter he proceeded to the Sudreys
(Hebrides), plundered there, and slew many vikings who formerly
had had men-at-arms under them. Many a battle was fought, and
King Harald was always victorious. He then plundered far and
wide in Scotland itself, and had a battle there. When he was
come westward as far as the Isle of Man, the report of his
exploits on the land had gone before him; for all the inhabitants
had fled over to Scotland, and the island was left entirely bare
both of people and goods, so that King Harald and his men made no
booty when they landed. So says Hornklofe: --
"The wise, the noble king, great
Whose hand so freely scatters gold,
Led many a northern shield to war
Against the town upon the shore.
The wolves soon gathered on the sand
Of that sea-shore; for Harald's hand
The Scottish army drove away,
And on the coast left wolves a prey."
In this war fell Ivar, a son of Ragnvald, Earl of More; and King
Harald gave Ragnvald, as a compensation for the loss, the Orkney
and Shetland isles, when he sailed from the West; but Ragnvald
immediately gave both these countries to his brother Sigurd, who
remained behind them; and King Harald, before sailing eastward,
gave Sigurd the earldom of them. Thorstein the Red, a son of
Olaf the White and of Aud the Wealthy, entered into partnership
with him; and after plundering in Scotland, they subdued
Caithness and Sutherland, as far as Ekkjalsbakke. Earl Sigurd
killed Melbridge Tooth, a Scotch earl, and hung his head to his
stirrup-leather; but the calf of his leg were scratched by the
teeth, which were sticking out from the head, and the wound
caused inflammation in his leg, of which the earl died, and he
was laid in a mound at Ekkjalsbakke. His son Guthorm ruled over
these countries for about a year thereafter, and died without
children. Many vikings, both Danes and Northmen, set themselves
down then in those countries.
(1) Skerries are the uninhabited dry or halt-tide rocks of a
coast. -- L.
After King Harald had subdued the whole land, he was one day at
a feast in More, given by Earl Ragnvald. Then King Harald went
into a bath, and had his hair dressed. Earl Ragnvald now cut his
hair, which had been uncut and uncombed for ten years; and
therefore the king had been called Lufa (i.e., with rough matted
hair). But then Earl Ragnvald gave him the distinguishing name
-- Harald Harfager (i.e., fair hair); and all who saw him agreed
that there was the greatest truth in the surname, for he had the
most beautiful and abundant head of hair.
Earl Ragnvald was King Harald's dearest friend, and the king had
the greatest regard for him. He was married to Hild, a daughter
of Rolf Nefia, and their sons were Rolf and Thorer. Earl
Ragnvald had also three sons by concubines, -- the one called
Hallad, the second Einar, the third Hrollaug; and all three were
grown men when their brothers born in marriage were still
children Rolf became a great viking, and was of so stout a growth
that no horse could carry him, and wheresoever he went he must go
on foot; and therefore he was called Rolf Ganger. He plundered
much in the East sea. One summer, as he was coming from the
eastward on a viking's expedition to the coast of Viken, he
landed there and made a cattle foray. As King Harald happened,
just at that time, to be in Viken, he heard of it, and was in a
great rage; for he had forbid, by the greatest punishment, the
plundering within the bounds of the country. The king assembled
a Thing, and had Rolf declared an outlaw over all Norway. When
Rolf's mother, Hild heard of it she hastened to the king, and
entreated peace for Rolf; but the king was so enraged that here
entreaty was of no avail. Then Hild spake these lines: --
"Think'st thou, King Harald, in thy anger,
To drive away my brave Rolf Ganger
Like a mad wolf, from out the land?
Why, Harald, raise thy mighty hand?
Why banish Nefia's gallant name-son,
The brother of brave udal-men?
Why is thy cruelty so fell?
Bethink thee, monarch, it is ill
With such a wolf at wolf to play,
Who, driven to the wild woods away
May make the king's best deer his prey."
Rolf Ganger went afterwards over sea to the West to the Hebrides,
or Sudreys; and at last farther west to Valland, where he
plundered and subdued for himself a great earldom, which he
peopled with Northmen, from which that land is called Normandy.
Rolf Ganger's son was William, father to Richard, and grandfather
to another Richard, who was the father of Robert Longspear, and
grandfather of William the Bastard, from whom all the following
English kings are descended. From Rolf Ganger also are descended
the earls in Normandy. Queen Ragnhild the Mighty lived three
years after she came to Norway; and, after her death, her son and
King Harald's was taken to the herse Thorer Hroaldson, and Eirik
was fostered by him.
King Harald, one winter, went about in guest-quarters in the
Uplands, and had ordered a Christmas feast to be prepared for him
at the farm Thoptar. On Christmas eve came Svase to the door,
just as the king went to table, and sent a message to the king to
ask if he would go out with him. The king was angry at such a
message, and the man who had brought it in took out with him a
reply of the king's displeasure. But Svase, notwithstanding,
desired that his message should be delivered a second time;
adding to it, that he was the Fin whose hut the king had promised
to visit, and which stood on the other side of the ridge. Now
the king went out, and promised to go with him, and went over the
ridge to his hut, although some of his men dissuaded him. There
stood Snaefrid, the daughter of Svase, a most beautiful girl; and
she filled a cup of mead for the king. But he took hold both of
the cup and of her hand. Immediately it was as if a hot fire
went through his body; and he wanted that very night to take her
to his bed. But Svase said that should not be unless by main
force, if he did not first make her his lawful wife. Now King
Harald made Snaefrid his lawful wife, and loved her so
passionately that he forgot his kingdom, and all that belonged to
his high dignity. They had four sons: the one was Sigurd Hrise;
the others Halfdan Haleg, Gudrod Ljome and Ragnvald Rettilbeine.
Thereafter Snaefrid died; but her corpse never changed, but was
as fresh and red as when she lived. The king sat always beside
her, and thought she would come to life again. And so it went on
for three years that he was sorrowing over her death, and the
people over his delusion. At last Thorleif the Wise succeeded,
by his prudence, in curing him of his delusion by accosting him
thus: -- "It is nowise wonderful, king, that thou grievest over
so beautiful and noble a wife, and bestowest costly coverlets and
beds of down on her corpse, as she desired; but these honours
fall short of what is due, as she still lies in the same clothes.
It would be more suitable to raise her, and change her dress."
As soon as the body was raised in the bed all sorts of corruption
and foul smells came from it, and it was necessary in all haste
to gather a pile of wood and burn it; but before this could be
done the body turned blue, and worms, toads, newts, paddocks, and
all sorts of ugly reptiles came out of it, and it sank into
ashes. Now the king came to his understanding again, threw the
madness out of his mind, and after that day ruled his kingdom as
before. He was strengthened and made joyful by his subjects, and
his subjects by him and the country by both.
After King Harald had experienced the cunning of the Fin woman,
he was so angry that he drove from him the sons he had with her,
and would not suffer them before his eyes. But one of them,
Gudrod Ljome, went to his foster-father Thjodolf of Hvin, and
asked him to go to the king, who was then in the Uplands; for
Thjodolf was a great friend of the king. And so they went, and
came to the king's house late in the evening, and sat down
together unnoticed near the door. The king walked up and down
the floor casting his eye along the benches; for he had a feast
in the house, and the mead was just mixed. The king then
murmured out these lines: --
"Tell me, ye aged gray-haired heroes,
Who have come here to seek repose,
Wherefore must I so many keep
Of such a set, who, one and all,
Right dearly love their souls to steep,
From morn till night, in the mead-bowl?"
Then Thjodolf replies: --
"A certain wealthy chief, I think,
Would gladly have had more to drink
With him, upon one bloody day,
When crowns were cracked in our sword-play."
Thjodolf then took off his hat, and the king recognised him, and
gave him a friendly reception. Thjodolf then begged the king not
to cast off his sons; "for they would with great pleasure have
taken a better family descent upon the mother's side, if the king
had given it to them." The king assented, and told him to take
Gudrod with him as formerly; and he sent Halfdan and Sigurd to
Ringerike, and Ragnvald to Hadaland, and all was done as the king
ordered. They grew up to be very clever men, very expert in all
exercises. In these times King Harald sat in peace in the land,
and the land enjoyed quietness and good crops.
When Earl Ragnvald in More heard of the death of his brother Earl
Sigurd, and that the vikings were in possession of the country,
he sent his son Hallad westward, who took the title of earl to
begin with, and had many men-at-arms with him. When he arrived
at the Orkney Islands, he established himself in the country; but
both in harvest, winter, and spring, the vikings cruised about
the isles plundering the headlands, and committing depredations
on the coast. Then Earl Hallad grew tired of the business,
resigned his earldom, took up again his rights as an allodial
owner, and afterwards returned eastward into Norway. When Earl
Ragnvald heard of this he was ill pleased with Hallad, and said
his son were very unlike their ancestors. Then said Einar, "I
have enjoyed but little honour among you, and have little
affection here to lose: now if you will give me force enough, I
will go west to the islands, and promise you what at any rate
will please you -- that you shall never see me again." Earl
Ragnvald replied, that he would be glad if he never came back;
"For there is little hope," said he, "that thou will ever be an
honour to thy friends, as all thy kin on thy mother's side are
born slaves." Earl Ragnvald gave Einar a vessel completely
equipped, and he sailed with it into the West sea in harvest.
When he came to the Orkney Isles, two vikings, Thorer Treskeg and
Kalf Skurfa, were in his way with two vessels. He attacked them
instantly, gained the battle, and slew the two vikings. Then
this was sung: --
"Then gave he Treskeg to the trolls,
Torfeinar slew Skurfa."
He was called Torfeinar, because he cut peat for fuel, there
being no firewood, as in Orkney there are no woods. He
afterwards was earl over the islands, and was a mighty man. He
was ugly, and blind of an eye, yet very sharp-sighted withal.
Duke Guthorm dwelt principally at Tunsberg, and governed the
whole of Viken when the king was not there. He defended the
land, which, at that time, was much plundered by the vikings.
There were disturbances also up in Gautland as long as King Eirik
Eymundson lived; but he died when King Harald Harfager had been
ten years king of all Norway.
After Eirik, his son Bjorn was king of Svithjod for fifty years.
He was father of Eirik the Victorious, and of Olaf the father of
Styrbjorn. Guthorm died on a bed of sickness at Tunsberg, and
King Harald gave his son Guthorm the government of that part of
his dominions and made him chief of it.
When King Harald was forty years of age many of his sons were
well advanced, and indeed they all came early to strength and
manhood. And now they began to take it ill that the king would
not give them any part of the kingdom, but put earls into every
district; for they thought earls were of inferior birth to them.
Then Halfdan Haleg and Gudrod Ljome set off one spring with a
great force, and came suddenly upon Earl Ragnvald, earl of More,
and surrounded the house in which he was, and burnt him and sixty
men in it. Thereafter Halfdan took three long-ships, and fitted
them out, and sailed into the West sea; but Gudrod set himself
down in the land which Ragnvald formerly had. Now when King
Harald heard this he set out with a great force against Gudrod,
who had no other way left but to surrender, and he was sent to
Agder. King Harald then set Earl Ragnvald's son Thorer over
More, and gave him his daughter Alof, called Arbot, in marriage.
Earl Thorer, called the Silent, got the same territory his father
Earl Ragnvald had possessed.
Halfdan Haleg came very unexpectedly to Orkney, and Earl Einar
immediately fled; but came back soon after about harvest time,
unnoticed by Halfdan. They met and after a short battle Halfdan
fled the same night. Einar and his men lay all night without
tents, and when it was light in the morning they searched the
whole island and killed every man they could lay hold of. Then
Einar said "What is that I see upon the isle of Rinansey? Is it
a man or a bird? Sometimes it raises itself up, and sometimes
lies down again." They went to it, and found it was Halfdan
Haleg, and took him prisoner.
Earl Einar sang the following song the evening before he went
into this battle: --
"Where is the spear of Hrollaug? where
Is stout Rolf Ganger's bloody spear!
I see them not; yet never fear,
For Einar will not vengeance spare
Against his father's murderers, though
Hrollaug and Rolf are somewhat slow,
And silent Thorer sits add dreams
At home, beside the mead-bowl's streams."
Thereafter Earl Einar went up to Halfdan, and cut a spread eagle
upon his back, by striking his sword through his back into his
belly, dividing his ribs from the backbone down to his loins, and
tearing out his lungs; and so Halfdan was killed. Einar then
sang: --
"For Ragnvald's death my sword is red:
Of vengeance it cannot be said
That Einar's share is left unsped.
So now, brave boys, let's raise a mound, --
Heap stones and gravel on the ground
O'er Halfdan's corpse: this is the way
We Norsemen our scat duties pay."
Then Earl Einar took possession of the Orkney Isles as before.
Now when these tidings came to Norway, Halfdan's brothers took it
much to heart, and thought that his death demanded vengeance; and
many were of the same opinion. When Einar heard this, he sang:
"Many a stout udal-man, I know,
Has cause to wish my head laid low;
And many an angry udal knife
Would gladly drink of Eina's life.
But ere they lay Earl Einar low, --
Ere this stout heart betrays its cause,
Full many a heart will writhe, we know,
In the wolf's fangs, or eagle's claws."
King Harald now ordered a levy, and gathered a great force, with
which he proceeded westward to Orkney; and when Earl Einar heard
that King Harald was come, he fled over to Caithness. He made
the following verses on this occasion: --
"Many a bearded man must roam,
An exile from his house and home,
For cow or horse; but Halfdan's gore
Is red on Rinansey's wild shore.
A nobler deed -- on Harald's shield
The arm of one who ne'er will yield
Has left a scar. Let peasants dread
The vengeance of the Norsemen's head:
I reck not of his wrath, but sing,
`Do thy worst! -- I defy thee, king! --'"
Men and messages, however, passed between the king and the earl,
and at last it came to a conference; and when they met the earl
submitted the case altogether to the king's decision, and the
king condemned the earl Einar and the Orkney people to pay a fine
of sixty marks of gold. As the bondes thought this was too heavy
for them to pay, the earl offered to pay the whole if they would
surrender their udal lands to him. This they all agreed to do:
the poor because they had but little pieces of land; the rich
because they could redeem their udal rights again when they
liked. Thus the earl paid the whole fine to the king, who
returned in harvest to Norway. The earls for a long time
afterwards possessed all the udal lands in Orkney, until Sigurd
son of Hlodver gave back the udal rights.
While King Harald's son Guthorm had the defence of Viken, he
sailed outside of the islands on the coast, and came in by one
of the mouths of the tributaries of the Gaut river. When he lay
there Solve Klofe came upon him, and immediately gave him battle,
and Guthorm fell. Halfdan the White and Halfdan the Black went
out on an expedition, and plundered in the East sea, and had a
battle in Eistland, where Halfdan the White fell.
Eirik, Harald's son, was fostered in the house of the herse
Thorer, son of Hroald, in the Fjord district. He was the most
beloved and honoured by King Harald of all his sons. When Eirik
was twelve years old, King Harald gave him five long-ships, with
which he went on an expedition, -- first in the Baltic; then
southwards to Denmark, Friesland, and Saxland; on which
expedition he passed four years. He then sailed out into the
West sea and plundered in Scotland, Bretland, Ireland, and
Valland, and passed four years more in this way. Then he sailed
north to Finmark, and all the way to Bjarmaland, where he had
many a battle, and won many a victory. When he came back to
Finmark, his men found a girl in a Lapland hut, whose equal for
beauty they never had seen. She said her name was Gunhild, and
that her father dwelt in Halogaland, and was called Ozur Tote.
"I am here," she said, "to learn sorcery from two of the most
knowing Fins in all Finmark, who are now out hunting. They both
want me in marriage. They are so skilful that they can hunt out
traces either upon the frozen or the thawed earth, like dogs; and
they can run so swiftly on skees that neither man nor beast can
come near them in speed. They hit whatever they take aim at, and
thus kill every man who comes near them. When they are angry the
very earth turns away in terror, and whatever living thing they
look upon then falls dead. Now ye must not come in their way;
but I will hide you here in the hut, and ye must try to get them
killed." They agreed to it, and she hid them, and then took a
leather bag, in which they thought there were ashes which she
took in her hand, and strewed both outside and inside of the hut.
Shortly after the Fins came home, and asked who had been there;
and she answered, "Nobody has been here." "That is wonderful,"
said they, "we followed the traces close to the hut, and can find
none after that." Then they kindled a fire, and made ready their
meat, and Gunhild prepared her bed. It had so happened that
Gunhild had slept the three nights before, but the Fins had
watched the one upon the other, being jealous of each other.
"Now," she said to the Fins, "come here, and lie down one on each
side of me." On which they were very glad to do so. She laid an
arm round the neck of each and they went to sleep directly. She
roused them up; but they fell to sleep again instantly, and so
soundly the she scarcely could waken them. She even raised them
up in the bed, and still they slept. Thereupon she too two great
seal-skin bags, and put their heads in them, and tied them fast
under their arms; and then she gave a wink to the king~s men.
They run forth with their weapons, kill the two Fins, and drag
them out of the hut. That same night came such a dreadful
thunder-storm that the could not stir. Next morning they came to
the ship, taking Gunhild with them, and presented her to Eirik.
Eirik and his followers then sailed southwards to Halogaland and
he sent word to Ozur Tote, the girl's father, to meet him. Eirik
said he would take his daughter in marriage, to which Ozur Tote
consented, and Eirik took Gunhild and went southwards with her
(A.D. 922).
When King Harald was fifty years of age many of his sons were
grown up, and some were dead. Many of them committed acts of
great violence in the country, and were in discord among
themselves. They drove some of the king's earls out of their
properties, and even killed some of them. Then the king called
together a numerous Thing in the south part of the country, and
summoned to it all the people of the Uplands. At this Thing he
gave to all his sons the title of king, and made a law that his
descendants in the male line should each succeed to the kingly
title and dignity; but his descendants by the female side only to
that of earl. And he divided the country among them thus: --
Vingulmark, Raumarike, Vestfold and Thelamark, he bestowed on
Olaf, Bjorn, Sigtryg, Frode, and Thorgils. Hedemark and
Gudbrandsdal he gave to Dag, Hring, and Ragnar. To Snaefrid's
sons he gave Ringerike, Hadeland, Thoten, and the lands thereto
belonging. His son Guthorm, as before mentioned, he had set over
the country from Glommen to Svinasund and Ranrike. He had set
him to defend the country to the East, as before has been
written. King Harald himself generally dwelt in the middle of
the country, and Hrorek and Gudrod were generally with his court,
and had great estates in Hordaland and in Sogn. King Eirik was
also with his father King Harald; and the king loved and regarded
him the most of all his sons, and gave him Halogaland and North
More, and Raumsdal. North in Throndhjem he gave Halfdan the
Black, Halfdan the White, and Sigrod land to rule over. In each
of these districts he gave his sons the one half of his revenues,
together with the right to sit on a high-seat, -- a step higher
than earls, but a step lower than his own high-seat. His king's
seat each of his sons wanted for himself after his death, but he
himself destined it for Eirik. The Throndhjem people wanted
Halfdan the Black to succeed to it. The people of Viken, and the
Uplands, wanted those under whom they lived. And thereupon new
quarrels arose among the brothers; and because they thought their
dominions too little, they drove about in piratical expeditions.
In this way, as before related, Guthorm fell at the mouth of the
Gaut river, slain by Solve Klofe; upon which Olaf took the
kingdom he had possessed. Halfdan the White fell in Eistland,
Halfdan Haleg in Orkney. King Harald gave ships of war to
Thorgils and Frode, with which they went westward on a viking
cruise, and plundered in Scotland, Ireland, and Bretland. They
were the first of the Northmen who took Dublin. It is said that
Frode got poisoned drink there; but Thorgils was a long time king
over Dublin, until he fell into a snare of the Irish, and was
Eirik Blood-axe expected to be head king over all his brothers
and King Harald intended he should be so; and the father and son
lived long together. Ragnvald Rettilbeine governed Hadaland, and
allowed himself to be instructed in the arts of witchcraft, and
became an area warlock. Now King Harald was a hater of all
witchcraft. There was a warlock in Hordaland called Vitgeir; and
when the king sent a message to him that he should give up his
art of witchcraft, he replied in this verse: --
"The danger surely is not great
From wizards born of mean estate,
When Harald's son in Hadeland,
King Ragnvald, to the art lays hand."
But when King Harald heard this, King Eirik Blood-axe went by his
orders to the Uplands, and came to Hadeland and burned his
brother Ragnvald in a house, along with eighty other warlocks;
which work was much praised.
Gudrod Ljome was in winter on a friendly visit to his fosterfather
Thjodolf in Hvin, and had a well-manned ship, with which
he wanted to go north to Rogaland. It was blowing a heavy storm
at the time; but Gudrod was bent on sailing, and would not
consent to wait. Thjodolf sang thus: --
"Wait, Gudrod, till the storm is past, --
Loose not thy long-ship while the blast
Howls over-head so furiously, --
Trust not thy long-ship to the sea, --
Loose not thy long-ship from the shore;
Hark to the ocean's angry roar!
See how the very stones are tost
By raging waves high on the coast!
Stay, Gudrod, till the tempest's o'er --
Deep runs the sea off the Jadar's shore."
Gudrod set off in spite of what Thjodolf could say: and when they
came off the Jadar the vessel sunk with them, and all on board
were lost.
King Harald's son, Bjorn, ruled over Vestfold at that time, and
generally lived at Tunsberg, and went but little on war
expeditions. Tunsberg at that time was much frequented by
merchant vessels, both from Viken and the north country, and also
from the south, from Denmark, and Saxland. King Bjorn had also
merchant ships on voyages to other lands, by which he procured
for himself costly articles, and such things as he thought
needful; and therefore his brothers called him Farman (the
Seaman), and Kaupman (the Chapman). Bjorn was a man of sense and
understanding, and promised to become a good ruler. He made a
good and suitable marriage, and had a son by his wife, who was
named Gudrod. Eirik Blood-axe came from his Baltic cruise with
ships of war, and a great force, and required his brother Bjorn
to deliver to him King Harald's share of the scat and incomes of
Vestfold. But it had always been the custom before, that Bjorn
himself either delivered the money into the king's hands, or sent
men of his own with it; and therefore he would continue with the
old custom, and would not deliver the money. Eirik again wanted
provisions, tents, and liquor. The brothers quarrelled about
this; but Eirik got nothing and left the town. Bjorn went also
out of the town towards evening up to Saeheim. In the night
Eirik came back after Bjorn, and came to Saeheim just as Bjorn
and his men were seated at table drinking. Eirik surrounded the
house in which they were; but Bjorn with his men went out and
fought. Bjorn, and many men with him, fell. Eirik, on the other
hand, got a great booty, and proceeded northwards. But this work
was taken very ill by the people of Viken, and Eirik was much
disliked for it; and the report went that King Olaf would avenge
his brother Bjorn, whenever opportunity offered. King Bjorn lies
in the mound of Farmanshaug at Saeheim.
King Eirik went in winter northwards to More, and was at a feast
in Solve, within the point Agdanes; and when Halfdan the Black
heard of it he set out with his men, and surrounded the house in
which they were. Eirik slept in a room which stood detached by
itself, and he escaped into the forest with four others; but
Halfdan and his men burnt the main house, with all the people who
were in it. With this news Eirik came to King Harald, who was
very wroth at it, and assembled a great force against the
Throndhjem people. When Halfdan the Black heard this he levied
ships and men, so that he had a great force, and proceeded with
it to Stad, within Thorsbjerg. King Harald lay with his men at
Reinsletta. Now people went between them, and among others a
clever man called Guthorm Sindre, who was then in Halfdan the
Black's army, but had been formerly in the service of King
Harald, and was a great friend of both. Guthorm was a great
skald, and had once composed a song both about the father and the
son, for which they had offered him a reward. But he would take
nothing; but only asked that, some day or other, they should
grant him any request he should make, which they promised to do.
Now he presented himself to King Harald, brought words of peace
between them, and made the request to them both that they shou1d
be reconciled. So highly did the king esteem him, that in
consequence of his request they were reconciled. Many other able
men promoted this business as well as he; and it was so settled
that Halfdan should retain the whole of his kingdom as he had it
before, and should let his brother Eirik sit in peace. After
this event Jorun, the skald-maid, composed some verses in
"Sendibit" ("The Biting Message"): --
"I know that Harald Fairhair
Knew the dark deed of Halfdan.
To Harald Halfdan seemed
Angry and cruel."
Earl Hakon Grjotgardson of Hlader had the whole rule over
Throndhjem when King Harald was anywhere away in the country; and
Hakon stood higher with the king than any in the country of
Throndhjem. After Hakon's death his son Sigurd succeeded to his
power in Throndhjem, and was the earl, and had his mansion at
Hlader. King Harald's sons, Halfdan the Black and Sigrod, who
had been before in the house of his father Earl Hakon, continued
to be brought up in his house. The sons of Harald and Sigurd
were about the same age. Earl Sigurd was one of the wisest men
of his time, and married Bergljot, a daughter of Earl Thorer the
Silent; and her mother was Alof Arbot, a daughter of Harald
Harfager. When King Harald began to grow old he generally dwelt
on some of his great farms in Hordaland; namely, Alreksstader or
Saeheim, Fitjar, Utstein, or Ogvaldsnes in the island Kormt.
When Harald was seventy years of age he begat a son with a girl
called Thora Mosterstang, because her family came from Moster.
She was descended from good people, being connected with Kare
(Aslakson) of Hordaland; and was moreover a very stout and
remarkably handsome girl. She was called the king's servantgirl;
for at that time many were subject to service to the
king who were of good birth, both men and women. Then it was the
custom, with people of consideration, to choose with great care
the man who should pour water over their children, and give them
a name. Now when the time came that Thora, who was then at
Moster, expected her confinement, she would to King Harald, who
was then living at Saeheim; and she went northwards in a ship
belonging to Earl Sigurd. They lay at night close to the land;
and there Thora brought forth a child upon the land, up among the
rocks, close to the ship's gangway, and it was a man child. Earl
Sigurd poured water over him, and called him Hakon, after his own
father, Hakon earl of Hlader. The boy soon grew handsome, large
in size, and very like his father King Harald. King Harald let
him follow his mother, and they were both in the king's house as
long as he was an infant.
At this time a king called Aethelstan had taken the Kingdom of
England. He was called victorious and faithful. He sent men to
Norway to King Harald, with the errand that the messengers should
present him with a sword, with the hilt and handle gilt, and also
the whole sheath adorned with gold and silver, and set with
precious jewels. The ambassador presented the sword-hilt to the
king, saying, "Here is a sword which King Athelstan sends thee,
with the request that thou wilt accept it." The king took the
sword by the handle; whereupon the ambassador said, "Now thou
hast taken the sword according to our king's desire, and
therefore art thou his subject as thou hast taken his sword."
King Harald saw now that this was an insult, for he would be
subject to no man. But he remembered it was his rule, whenever
anything raised his anger, to collect himself, and let his
passion run off, and then take the matter into consideration
coolly. Now he did so, and consulted his friends, who all gave
him the advice to let the ambassadors, in the first place, go
home in safety.
The following summer King Harald sent a ship westward to England,
and gave the command of it to Hauk Habrok. He was a great
warrior, and very dear to the king. Into his hands he gave his
son Hakon. Hank proceeded westward tn England, and found King
Athelstan in London, where there was just at the time a great
feast and entertainment. When they came to the hall, Hauk told
his men how they should conduct themselves; namely, that he who
went first in should go last out, and all should stand in a row
at the table, at equal distance from each other; and each should
have his sword at his left side, but should fasten his cloak so
that his sword should not be seen. Then they went into the hall,
thirty in number. Hauk went up to the king and saluted him, and
the king bade him welcome. Then Hauk took the child Hakon, and
set it on the king's knee. The king looks at the boy, and asks
Hauk what the meaning of this is. Hauk replies, "Herald the king
bids thee foster his servant-girl's child." The king was in
great anger, and seized a sword which lay beside him, and drew
it, as if he was going to kill the child. Hauk says, "Thou hast
borne him on thy knee, and thou canst murder him if thou wilt;
but thou wilt not make an end of all King Harald's sons by so
doing." On that Hauk went out with all his men, and took the way
direct to his ship, and put to sea, -- for they were ready, --
and came back to King Harald. The king was highly pleased with
this; for it is the common observation of all people, that the
man who fosters another's children is of less consideration than
the other. From these transactions between the two kings, it
appears that each wanted to be held greater than the other; but
in truth there was no injury, to the dignity of either, for each
was the upper king in his own kingdom till his dying day.
King Athelstan had Hakon baptized, and brought up in the right
faith, and in good habits, and all sorts of good manners, and he
loved Hakon above all his relations; and Hakon was beloved by all
men. He was henceforth called Athelstan's foster-son. He was an
accomplished skald, and he was larger, stronger and more
beautiful than other men; he was a man of understanding and
eloquence, and also a good Christian. King Athelstan gave Hakon
a sword, of which the hilt and handle were gold, and the blade
still better; for with it Hakon cut down a mill-stone to the
centre eye, and the sword thereafter was called the Quernbite
(1). Better sword never came into Norway, and Hakon carried it
to his dying day.
(1) Quern is the name of the small hand mill-stones still found
in use among the cottars in Orkney, Shetland, and the
Hebrides. This sword is mentioned in the Younger Edda.
There were many excellent swords in the olden time, and many
of them had proper names.
When King Harald was eighty years of age (A.D. 930) he became
very heavy, and unable to travel through the country, or do the
business of a king. Then he brought his son Eirik to his
high-seat, and gave him the power and command over the whole
land. Now when King Harald's other sons heard this, King Halfdan
the Black also took a king's high-seat, and took all Throndhjem
land, with the consent of all the people, under his rule as upper
king. After the death of Bjorn the Chapman, his brother Olaf
took the command over Vestfold, and took Bjorn's son, Gudrod, as
his foster-child. Olaf's son was called Trygve; and the two
foster-brothers were about the same age, and were hopeful and
clever. Trygve, especially, was remarkable as a stout and strong
man. Now when the people of Viken heard that those of Hordaland
had taken Eirik as upper king, they did the same, and made Olaf
the upper king in Viken, which kingdom he retained. Eirik did
not like this at all. Two years after this, Halfdan the Black
died suddenly at a feast in Throndhjem and the general report was
that Gunhild had bribed a witch to give him a death-drink.
Thereafter the Throndhjem people took Sigrod to be their king.
King Harald lived three years after he gave Eirik the supreme
authority over his kingdom, and lived mostly on his great farms
which he possessed, some in Rogaland, and some in Hordaland.
Eirik and Gunhild had a son on whom King Harald poured water, and
gave him his own name, and the promise that he should be king
after his father Eirik. King Harald married most of his
daughters within the country to his earls, and from them many
great families are descended. Harald died on a bed of sickness
in Hogaland (A.D. 933), and was buried under a mound at Haugar in
Karmtsund. In Haugesund is a church, now standing; and not far
from the churchyard, at the north-west side, is King Harald
Harfager's mound; but his grave-stone stands west of the church,
and is thirteen feet and a half high, and two ells broad. One
stone was set at head and one at the feet; on the top lay the
slab, and below on both sides were laid small stones. The grave,
mound, and stone, are there to the present day. Harald Harfager
was, according to the report of men~of knowledge, or remarkably
handsome appearance, great and strong, and very generous and
affable to his men. He was a great warrior in his youth; and
people think that this was foretold by his mother's dream before
his birth, as the lowest part of the tree she dreamt of was red
as blood. The stem again was green and beautiful, which
betokened his flourishing kingdom; and that the tree was white at
the top showed that he should reach a grey-haired old age. The
branches and twigs showed forth his posterity, spread over the
whole land; for of his race, ever since. Norway has always had
King Eirik took all the revenues (A.D. 934), which the king had
in the middle of the country, the next winter after King Harald's
decease. But Olaf took all the revenues eastward in Viken, and
their brother Sigrod all that of the Throndhjem country. Eirik
was very ill pleased with this; and the report went that he would
attempt with force to get the sole sovereignty over the country,
in the same way as his father had given it to him. Now when Olaf
and Sigrod heard this, messengers passed between them; and after
appointing a meeting place, Sigrod went eastward in spring to
Viken, and he and his brother Olaf met at Tunsberg, and remained
there a while. The same spring (A.D. 934), King Eirik levied a
great force, and ships and steered towards Viken. He got such a
strong steady gale that he sailed night and day, and came faster
than the news of him. When he came to Tunsberg, Olaf and Sigrod,
with their forces, went out of the town a little eastward to a
ridge, where they drew up their men in battle order; but as Eirik
had many more men he won the battle. Both brothers, Olaf and
Sigrod, fell there; and both their grave-mounds are upon the
ridge where they fell. Then King Eirik went through Viken, and
subdued it, and remained far into summer. Gudrod and Trygve fled
to the Uplands. Eirik was a stout handsome man, strong, and very
manly, -- a great and fortunate man of war; but bad-minded,
gruff, unfriendly, and silent. Gunhild, his wife, was the most
beautiful of women, -- clever, with much knowledge, and lively;
but a very false person, and very cruel in disposition. The
children of King Eirik and Gunhild were, Gamle, the oldest; then
Guthorm, Harald, Ragnfrod, Ragnhild, Erling, Gudrod, and Sigurd
Sleva. All were handsome, and of manly appearance (1).
(1) Of Eirik, his wife, and children, see the following sagas.
Of Eirik Blood-axe's five years' reign Snorre has no separate
saga. He appears not to have been beloved by the people and his
queen Gunhild seems to have had a bad influence on him.
Other accounts of Hakon may be found in "Fagrskinna" (chaps.
25-34), "Agrip", "Historia", "Norvegiae", and in "Thjodrek"
(chap. 4).
The reader is also referred to "Saxo", "Egla", "Laxdaela",
"Kormaks Saga", "Gisle Surssons Saga", "Halfred's Saga",
"Floamanna Saga", "Viga Glum's Saga", and to "Landnamabok".
Skald mentioned in this Saga are: -- Glum Geirason, Thord
Sjarekson, Guthorm Sindre, Kormak Ogmundson, and Eyvind
Skaldaspiller. In the "Egla" are found many poems belonging to
this epoch by Egil Skallagrimson.
In "Fagrskinna" is found a poem (not given by Snorre) which
Gunhild (his wife) had made on King Eirik after his death,
telling how Odin welcomed him to Valhal. The author or skald who
composed it is not known, but it is considered to be one of the
gems of old Norse poetry, and we here quote it in Vigfusson's
translation in his "Corpus Poeticum", vol. i. pp. 260, 261.
Gudbrand Vigfusson has filled up a few gaps from "Hakonarmat",
the poem at the end of this Saga. We have changed Vigfusson's
orthography of names, and brought them into harmony with the
spelling used in this work: -- Ed.
"Odin wakes in the morning and cries, as he opens his eyes, with
his dream still fresh in his mind: -- `What dreams are these? I
thought I arose before daybreak to make Valhal ready for a host
of slain. I woke up the host of the chosen. I bade them ride up
to strew the benches, and to till up the beer-vats, and I bade
valkyries to bear the wine, as if a king were coming. I look for
the coming of some noble chiefs from the earth, wherefore my
heart is glad.'
"Brage, Odin's counsellor, now wakes, as a great din is heard
without, and calls out: -- `What is that thundering? as if a
thousand men or some great host were tramping on -- the walls and
the benches are creaking withal -- as if Balder was coming back
to the ball of Odin?'
"Odin answers: -- `Surely thou speakest foolishly, good Brage,
although thou art very wise. It thunders for Eirik the king,
that is coming to the hall of Odin.'
"Then turning to his heroes, he cries: -- `Sigmund and Sinfjotle,
rise in haste and go forth to meet the prince! Bid him in if it
be Eirik, for it is he whom I look for.'
"Sigmund answers: -- `Why lookest thou more for Eirik, the king,
to Odin's hall, than for other kings?'
"Odin answers: -- `Because he has reddened his brand, and borne
his bloody sword in many a land.'
"Quoth Sigmund: -- `Why didst thou rob him, the chosen king of
victory then, seeing thou thoughtest him so brave?'
"Odin answered: -- `Because it is not surely to be known, when
the grey wolf shall come upon the seat of the god.'
SECOND SCENE. -- Without Valhal.
Sigmund and Sinfjotle go outside the hall and meet Eirik.
"Quoth Sigmund: -- `Hail to thee, Eirik, be welcome here, and
come into the hall, thou gallant king! Now I will ask thee, what
kings are these that follow thee from the clash of the sword
"Eirik answers: -- `They are five kings; I will tell thee all
their names; I myself am the sixth (the names followed in the
song, whereof the rest is lost.)
"Fagrskinna" says "Hakonarmal" was the model of this poem.
Hakon, Athelstan's foster-son, was in England at the time (A.D.
934) he heard of his father King Harald's death, and he
immediately made himself ready to depart. King Athelstan gave
him men, and a choice of good ships, and fitted him out for his
journey most excellently. In harvest time he came to Norway,
where he heard of the death of his brothers, and that King Eirik
was then in Viken. Then Hakon sailed northwards to Throndhjem,
where he went to Sigurd earl of Hlader who was the ablest man in
Norway. He gave Hakon a good reception; and they made a league
with each other, by which Hakon promised great power to Sigurd if
he was made king. They assembled then a numerous Thing, and
Sigurd the earl recommended Hakon's cause to the Thing, and
proposed him to the bondes as king. Then Hakon himself stood up
and spoke; and the people said to each other, two and two, as
they heard him, "Herald Harfager is come again, grown and young."
The beginning of Hakon's speech was, that he offered himself to
the bondes as king, and desired from them the title of king, and
aid and forces to defend the kingdom. He promised, on the other
hand, to make all the bondes udal-holders, and give every man
udal rights to the land he lived on. This speech met such joyful
applause, that the whole public cried and shouted that they would
take him to be king. And so it was that the Throndhjem people
took Hakon, who was then fifteen years old, for king; and he took
a court or bodyguard, and servants, and proceeded through the
country. The news reached the Uplands that the people in
Throndhjem had taken to themselves a king, who in every respect
was like King Harald Harfager, -- with the difference, that
Harald had made all the people of the land vassals, and unfree;
but this Hakon wished well to every man, and offered the bondes
to give them their udal rights again, which Harald had taken from
them. All were rejoiced at this news, and it passed from mouth
to mouth, -- it flew, like fire in dry grass, through the whole
land, and eastward to the land's end. Many bondes came from the
Uplands to meet King Hakon. Some sent messengers, some tokens;
and all to the same effect -- that his men they would be: and the
king received all thankfully.
Early in winter (935), the king went to the Uplands, and summoned
the people to a Thing; and there streamed all to him who could
come. He was proclaimed king at every Thing; and then he
proceeded eastward to Viken, where his brother's sons, Trygve and
Gudrod, and many others, came unto him, and complained of the
sorrow and evil his brother Eirik had wrought. The hatred to
King Eirik grew more and more, the more liking all men took to
King Hakon; and they got more boldness to say what they thought.
King Hakon gave Trygve and Gudrod the title of kings, and the
dominions which King Harald had bestowed on their fathers.
Trygve got Ranrike and Vingulmark, and Gudrod, Vestfold; but as
they were young, and in the years of childhood, he appointed able
men to rule the land for them. He gave them the country on the
same conditions as it had been given before, -- that they should
have half of the scat and revenues with him. Towards spring King
Hakon returned north, over the Uplands, to Throndhjem.
King Hakon, early in spring, collected a great army at
Throndhjem, and fitted out ships. The people of Viken also had a
great force on foot, and intended to join Hakon. King Eirik also
levied people in the middle of the country; but it went badly
with him to gather people, for the leading men left him, and went
over to Hakon. As he saw himself not nearly strong enough to
oppose Hakon, he sailed (A.D. 935) out to the West sea with such
men as would follow him. He first sailed to Orkney, and took
many people with him from that country; and then went south
towards England, plundering in Scotland, and in the north parts
of England, wherever he could land. Athelstan, the king of
England, sent a message to Eirik, offering him dominions under
him in England; saying that King Harald his father was a good
friend of King Athelstan, and therefore he would do kindly
towards his sons. Messengers passed between the two kings; and
it came to an agreement that King Eirik should take
Northumberland as a fief from King Athelstan, and which land he
should defend against the Danes or other vikings. Eirik should
let himself be baptized, together with his wife and children, and
all the people who had followed him. Eirik accepted this offer,
and was baptized, and adopted the right faith. Northumberland is
called a fifth part of England. Eirik had his residence at York,
where Lodbrok's sons, it was said, had formerly been, and
Northumberland was principally inhabited by Northmen. Since
Lodbrok's sons had taken the country, Danes and Northmen often
plundered there, when the power of the land was out of their
hands. Many names of places in the country are Norwegian; as
Grimsby, Haukfliot, and many others.
King Eirik had many people about him, for he kept many Northmen
who had come with him from the East; and also many of his friends
had joined him from Norway. But as he had little land, he went
on a cruise every summer, and plundered in Scotland, the
Hebrides, Ireland, and Bretland, by which he gathered property.
King Athelstan died on a sick bed, after a reign of fourteen
years, eight weeds, and three days. After him his brother
Jatmund was king of England, and he was no friend to the
Northmen. King Eirik, also, was in no great favour with him; and
the word went about that King Jatmund would set another chief
over Northumberland. Now when King Eirik heard this, he set off
on a viking cruise to the westward; and from the Orkneys took
with him the Earls Arnkel and Erlend, the sons of Earl Torfeinar.
Then he sailed to the Hebrides, where there were many vikings and
troop-kings, who joined their men to his. With all this force he
steered to Ireland first, where he took with him all the men he
could, and then to Bretland, and plundered; and sailed thereafter
south to England, and marauded there as elsewhere. The people
fled before him wherever he appeared. As King Eirik was a bold
warrior, and had a great force, he trusted so much to his people
that he penetrated far inland in the country, following and
plundering the fugitives. King Jatmund had set a king, who was
called Olaf, to defend the land; and he gathered an innumerable
mass of people, with whom he marched against King Eirik. A
dreadfu1 battle ensued, in which many Englishmen fell; but for
one who fell came three in his place out of the country behind,
and when evening came on the loss of men turned on the side of
the Northmen, and many people fell. Towards the end of the day,
King Eirik and five kings with him fell. Three of them were
Guthorm and his two sons, Ivar and Harek: there fell, also,
Sigurd and Ragnvald; and with them Torfeinar's two sons, Arnkel
and Erlend. Besides these, there was a great slaughter of
Northmen; and those who escaped went to Northumberland, and
brought the news to Gunhild and her sons (A.D. 941).
When Gunhild and her sons knew for certain that King Eirik had
fallen, after having plundered the land of the King of England,
they thought there was no peace to be expected for them; and they
made themselves ready to depart from Northumberland, with all the
ships King Eirik had left, and all the men who would go with
them. They took also all the loose property, and goods which
they had gathered partly as taxes in England, partly as booty on
their expeditions. With their army they first steered northward
to Orkney, where Thorfin Hausakljufer was earl, a son of
Torfeinar, and took up their station there for a time. Eirik's
sons subdued these islands and Hjaltland, took scat for
themselves, and staid there all the winter; but went on viking
cruises in summer to the West, and plundered in Scotland and
Ireland. About this Glum Geirason sings: --
"The hero who knows well to ride
The sea-horse o'er the foamingtide, --
He who in boyhood wild rode o'er
The seaman's horse to Skanea's shore.
And showed the Danes his galley's bow,
Right nobly scours the ocean now.
On Scotland's coast he lights the brand
Of flaming war; with conquering hand
Drives many a Scottish warrior tall
To the bright seats in Odin's hall.
The fire-spark, by the fiend of war
Fanned to a flame, soon spreads afar.
Crowds trembling fly, -- the southern foes
Fall thick beneath the hero's blows:
The hero's blade drips red with gore,
Staining the green sward on the shore."
When King Eirik had left the country, King Hakon, Athelstan's
foster-son, subdued the whole of Norway. The first winter (A.D.
936) he visited the western parts, and then went north, and
settled in Throndhjem. But as no peace could be reasonably
looked for so long as King Eirik with his forces could come to
Norway from the West sea, he set himself with his men-at-arms in
the middle of the country, -- in the Fjord district, or in Sogn,
or Hordaland, or Rogaland. Hakon placed Sigurd earl of Hlader
over the whole Throradhjem district, as he and his father had
before had it under Harald Harfager. When King Hakon heard of
his brother Eirik's death, and also that his sons had no footing
in England, he thought there was not much to fear from them, and
he went with his troops one summer eastward to Viken. At that
time the Danes plundered often in Viken, and wrought much evil
there; but when they heard that King Hakon was come with a great
army, they got out of the way, to Halland; and those who were
nearest to King Hakon went out to sea, and over to Jotland
(Jutland). When the king heard of this, he sailed after them
with all his army. On arriving in Jutland he plundered all
round; and when the country people heard of it, they assembled in
a great body, and determined to defend their land, and fight.
There was a great battle; and King Hakon fought so boldly, that
he went forward before his banner without helmet or coat of mail.
King Hakon won the victory, and drove the fugitives far up the
country. So says Guthorm Sindre, in his song of Hakon: --
"Furrowing the deep-blue sea with oars,
The king pursues to Jutland's shores.
They met; and in the battle storm
Of clashing shields, full many a form
Of goodly warrior on the plain,
Full many a corpse by Hakon slain,
Glutted the ravens, who from far,
Scenting the banquet-feast of war,
Came in black flocks to Jutland's plains
To drink the blood-wine from the veins."
Then Hakon steered southwards with his fleet to seek the vikings,
and so on to Sealand. He rowed with two cutters into the
Eyrarsund, where he found eleven viking ships, and instantly
attacked them. It ended in his gaining the victory, and clearing
the viking ships of all their men. So says Guthorm Sindre: --
"Hakon the Brave, whose skill all know
To bend in battle storm the bow,
Rushed o'er the waves to Sealand's tongue,
His two war-ships with gilt shields hung,
And cleared the decks with his blue sword
That rules the fate of war, on board
Eleven ships of the Vindland men. --
Famous is Hakon's name since then."
Thereafter King Hakon carried war far and wide in Sealand;
plundering some, slaying others, taking some prisoners of war,
taking ransom from others, and all without opposition. Then
Hakon proceeded along the coast of Skane, pillaging everywhere,
levying taxes and ransome from the country, and killing all
vikings, both Danish and Vindish. He then went eastwards to the
district of Gautland, marauded there, and took great ransom from
the country. So says Guthorm Sindre: --
"Hakon, who midst the battle shock
Stands like a firmly-rooted oak,
Subdued all Sealand with the sword:
From Vindland vikings the sea-bord
Of Scania swept; and, with the shield
Of Odin clad, made Gautland yield
A ransom of the ruddy gold,
Which Hakon to his war-men bold
Gave with free hand, who in his feud
Against the arrow-storm had stood."
King Hakon returned back in autumn with his army and an immense
booty; and remained all the winter (A.D. 946) in Viken to defend
it against the Danes and Gautlanders, if they should attack it.
In the same winter King Trygve Olafson returned from a viking
cruise in the West sea, having before ravaged in Ireland and
Scotland. In spring (A.D. 946) King Hakon went north, and set
his brother's son, King Trygve, over Viken to defend that country
against enemies. He gave him also in property all that he could
reconquer of the country in Denmark, which the summer before
King Hakon had subjected to payment of scat to him. So says
Guthorm: --
"King Hakon, whose sharp sword dyes red
The bright steel cap on many a head,
Has set a warrior brave and stout
The foreign foeman to keep out, --
To keep that green land safe from war
Which black Night bore to dwarf Annar (1).
For many a carle whose trade's to wield
The battle-axe, and swing the shield,
On the swan's ocean-skates has come,
In white-winged ships, across the foam, --
Across the sea, from far Ireland,
To war against the Norseman's land."
(1) The dwarf Annar was the husband of Night, and Earth was
their daughter. -- L.
King Harald Gormson ruled over Denmark at that time. He took it
much amiss that King Hakon had made war in his dominions, and the
report went that he would take revenge; but this did not take
place so soon. When Gunhild and her sons heard there was enmity
between Denmark and Norway, they began to turn their course from
the West. They married King Eirik's daughter, Ragnhild, to
Arnfin, a son of Thorfin Hausakljufer; and as soon as Eirik's
sons went away, Thorfin took the earldom again over the Orkney
Islands. Gamle Eirikson was somewhat older than the other
brothers, but still he was not a grown man. When Gunhild and her
sons came from the westward to Denmark, they were well received
by King Harald. He gave them great fiefs in his kingdom, so that
they could maintain themselves and their men very well. He also
took Harald Eirikson to be his foster-son, set him on his knee,
and thereafter he was brought up at the Danish king's court.
Some of Eirik's sons went out on viking expeditions as soon as
they were old enough, and gathered property, ravaging all around
in the East sea. They grew up quickly to be handsome men, and
far beyond their years in strength and perfection. Glum Geirason
tells of one of them in the Grafeld song: --
"I've heard that, on the Eastland coast,
Great victories were won and lost.
The king, whose hand is ever graced
With gift to skald, his banner placed
On, and still on; while, midst the play
Of swords, sung sharp his good sword's sway
As strong in arm as free of gold,
He thinn'd the ranks of warriors bold."
Then Eirik's sons turned northwards with their troops to Viken
and marauded there; but King Trygve kept troops on foot with
which he met them, and they had many a battle, in which the
victory was sometimes on one side, and sometimes on the other.
Sometimes Eirik's sons plundered in Viken, and sometimes Trygve
in Sealand and Halland.
As long as Hakon was king in Norway, there was good peace between
the bondes and merchants; so that none did harm either to the
life or goods of the other. Good seasons also there were, both
by sea and land. King Hakon was of a remarkably cheerful
disposition, clever in words, and very condescending. He was a
man of great understanding also, and bestowed attention on lawgiving.
He gave out the Gula-thing's laws on the advice of
Thorleif Spake (the Wise); also the Frosta-thing's laws on the
advice of Earl Sigurd, and of other Throndhjem men of wisdom.
Eidsiva-thing laws were first established in the country by
Halfdan the Black, as has before been written.
King Hakon kept Yule at Throndhjem, and Earl Sigurd had made a
feast for him at Hlader. The night of the first day of Yule the
earl's wife, Bergljot, was brought to bed of a boy-child, which
afterwards King Hakon poured water over, and gave him his own
name. The boy grew up, and became in his day a mighty and able
man, and was earl after his father, who was King Hakon's dearest
Eystein, a king of the Uplands, whom some called the Great, and
some the Bad, once on a time made war in Throndhjem, and subdued
Eyna district and Sparbyggia district, and set his own son Onund
over them; but the Throndhjem people killed him. Then King
Eystein made another inroad into Throndhjem, and ravaged the land
far and wide, and subdued it. He then offered the people either
his slave, who was called Thorer Faxe, or his dog, whose name was
Saur, to be their king. They preferred the dog, as they thought
they would sooner get rid of him. Now the dog was, by
witchcraft, gifted with three men's wisdom; and when he barked,
he spoke one word and barked two. A collar and chain of gold and
silver were made for him, and his courtiers carried him on their
shoulders when the weather or ways were foul. A throne was
erected for him, and he sat upon a high place, as kings are used
to sit. He dwelt on Eyin Idre (Idre Isle), and had his mansion
in a place now called Saurshaug. It is told that the occasion of
his death was that the wolves one day broke into his fold, and
his courtiers stirred him up to defend his cattle; but when he
ran down from his mound, and attacked the wolves, they tore him
into pieces. Many other extraordinary things were done by this
King Eystein against the Throndhjem people, and in consequence of
this persecution and trouble, many chiefs and people fled and
left their udal properties.
Ketil Jamte, a son of Earl Onund of Sparabu, went eastward across
the mountain ridge, and with him a great multitude, who took all
their farm-stock and goods with them. They cleared the woods,
and established large farms, and settled the country afterwards
called Jamtaland. Thorer Helsing, Ketil's grandson, on account
of a murder, ran away from Jamtaland and fled eastward through
the forest, and settled there. Many people followed, and that
country, which extends eastward down to the seacoast, was called
Helsingjaland; and its eastern parts are inhabited by Swedes.
Now when Harald Harfager took possession of the whole country
many people fled before him, both people of Throndhjem and of
Naumudal districts; and thus new settlers came to Jamtaland, and
some all the way to Helsingjaland. The Helsingjaland people
travelled into Svithiod for their merchandise, and thus became
altogether subjects of that country. The Jamtaland people,
again, were in a manner between the two countries; and nobody
cared about them, until Hakon entered into friendly intercourse
with Jamtaland, and made friends of the more powerful people.
Then they resorted to him, and promised him obedience and payment
of taxes, and became his subjects; for they saw nothing but what
was good in him, and being of Norwegian race they would rather
stand under his royal authority than under the king of Sweden:
and he gave them laws, and rights to their land. All the people
of Helsingjaland did the same, -- that is, all who were of
Norwegian race, from the other side of the great mountain ridge.
King Hakon was a good Christian when he came to Norway; but as
the whole country was heathen, with much heathenish sacrifice,
and as many great people, as well as the favour of the common
people, were to be conciliated, he resolved to practice his
Christianity in private. But he kept Sundays, and the Friday
fasts, and some token of the greatest holy-days. He made a law
that the festival of Yule should begin at the same time as
Christian people held it, and that every man, under penalty,
should brew a meal of malt into ale, and therewith keep the Yule
holy as long as it lasted. Before him, the beginning of Yule, or
the slaughter night, was the night of mid-winter (Dec. 14), and
Yule was kept for three days thereafter. It was his intent, as
soon as he had set himself fast in the land, and had subjected
the whole to his power, to introduce Christianity. He went to
work first by enticing to Christianity the men who were dearest
to him; and many, out of friendship to him, allowed themselves to
be baptized, and some laid aside sacrifices. He dwelt long in
the Throndhjem district, for the strength of the country lay
there; and when he thought that, by the support of some powerful
people there, he could set up Christianity he sent a message to
England for a bishop and other teachers; and when they arrived in
Norway, Hakon made it known that he would proclaim Christianity
over all the land. The people of More and Raumsdal referred the
matter to the people of Throndhjem. King Hakon then had several
churches consecrated, and put priests into them; and when he came
to Throndhjem he summoned the bondes to a Thing, and invited them
to accept Christianity. They gave an answer to the effect that
they would defer the matter until the Frosta-thing, at which
there would be men from every district of the Throndhjem country,
and then they would give their determination upon this difficult
Sigurd, earl of Hlader, was one of the greatest men for
sacrifices, and so had Hakon his father been; and Sigurd always
presided on account of the king at all the festivals of sacrifice
in the Throndhjem country. It was an old custom, that when there
was to be sacrifice all the bondes should come to the spot where
the temple stood and bring with them all that they required while
the festival of the sacrifice lasted. To this festival all the
men brought ale with them; and all kinds of cattle, as well as
horses, were slaughtered, and all the blood that came from them
was called "hlaut", and the vessels in which it was collected
were called hlaut-vessels. Hlaut-staves were made, like
sprinkling brushes, with which the whole of the altars and the
temple walls, both outside and inside, were sprinkled over, and
also the people were sprinkled with the blood; but the flesh was
boiled into savoury meat for those present. The fire was in the
middle of the floor of the temple, and over it hung the kettles,
and the full goblets were handed across the fire; and he who made
the feast, and was a chief, blessed the full goblets, and all the
meat of the sacrifice. And first Odin's goblet was emptied for
victory and power to his king; thereafter, Niord's and Freyja's
goblets for peace and a good season. Then it was the custom of
many to empty the brage-goblet (1); and then the guests emptied a
goblet to the memory of departed friends, called the remembrance
goblet. Sigurd the earl was an open-handed man, who did what was
very much celebrated; namely, he made a great sacrifice festival
at Hlader of which he paid all the expenses. Kormak Ogmundson
sings of it in his ballad of Sigurd: --
"Of cup or platter need has none
The guest who seeks the generous one, --
Sigurd the Generous, who can trace
His lineage from the giant race;
For Sigurd's hand is bounteous, free, --
The guardian of the temples he.
He loves the gods, his liberal hand
Scatters his sword's gains o'er the land-"
(1) The brage-goblet, over which vows were made. -- L.
King Hakon came to the Frosta-thing, at which a vast multitude of
people were assembled. And when the Thing was seated, the king
spoke to the people, and began his speech with saying, -- it was
his message and entreaty to the bondes and householding men, both
great and small, and to the whole public in general, young and
old, rich and poor, women as well as men, that they should all
allow themselves to be baptized, and should believe in one God,
and in Christ the son of Mary and refrain from all sacrifices and
heathen gods; and should keep holy the seventh day, and abstain
from all work on it, and keep a fast on the seventh day. As soon
as the king had proposed this to the bondes, great was the murmur
and noise among the crowd. They complained that the king wanted
to take their labour and their old faith from them, and the land
could not be cultivated in that way. The labouring men and
slaves thought that they could not work if they did not get meat;
and they said it was the character of King Hakon, and his father,
and all the family, to be generous enough with their money, but
sparing with their diet. Asbjorn of Medalhus in the Gaulardal
stood up, and answered thus to the king's proposal: --
"We bondes, King Hakon, when we elected thee to be our king, and
got back our udal rights at the Thing held in Throndhjem, thought
we had got into heaven; but now we don't know whether we have
really got back our freedom, or whether thou wishest to make
vassa1s of us again by this extraordinary proposal that we should
abandon the ancient faith which our fathers and forefathers have
held from the oldest times, in the times when the dead were
burnt, as well as since that they are laid under mounds, and
which, although they were braver than the people of our days, has
served us as a faith to the present time. We have also held thee
so dear, that we have allowed thee to rule and give law and right
to all the country. And even now we bondes will unanimously hold
by the law which thou givest us here in the Frosta-thing, and to
which we have also given our assent; and we will follow thee, and
have thee for our king, as long as there is a living man among us
bondes here in this Thing assembled. But thou, king, must use
some moderation towards us, and only require from us such things
as we can obey thee in, and are not impossible for us. If,
however, thou wilt take up this matter with a high hand, and wilt
try thy power and strength against us, we bondes have resolved
among ourselves to part with thee, and to take to ourselves some
other chief, who will so conduct himself towards us that we can
freely and safely enjoy that faith that suits our own
inclinations. Now, king, thou must choose one or other of these
conditions before the Thing is ended."
The bondes gave loud applause to this speech, and said it
expressed their will, and they would stand or fall by what had
been spoken. When silence was again restored, Earl Sigurd said,
"It is King Hakon's will to give way to you, the bondes, and
never to separate himself from your friendship." The bondes
replied, that it was their desire that the king should offer a
sacrifice for peace and a good year, as his father was want to
do; and thereupon the noise and tumult ceased, and the Thing was
concluded. Earl Sigurd spoke to the king afterwards, and advised
him not to refuse altogether to do as the people desired, saying
there was nothing else for it but to give way to the will of the
bondes; "for it is, as thou hast heard thyself, the will and
earnest desire of the head-people, as well as of the multitude.
Hereafter we may find a good way to manage it." And in this
resolution the king and earl agreed (A.D. 950).
The harvest thereafter, towards the winter season, there was a
festival of sacrifice at Hlader, and the king came to it. It had
always been his custom before, when he was present at a place
where there was sacrifice, to take his meals in a little house by
himself, or with some few of his men; but the bondes grumbled
that he did not seat himself in his high-seat at these the most
joyous of the meetings of the people. The earl said that the
king should do so this time. The king accordingly sat upon his
high-seat. Now when the first full goblet was filled, Earl
Sigurd spoke some words over it, blessed it in Odin's name, and
drank to the king out of the horn; and the king then took it, and
made the sign of the cross over it. Then said Kar of Gryting,
"What does the king mean by doing so? Will he not sacrifice?"
Earl Sigurd replies, "The king is doing what all of you do, who
trust to your power and strength. He is blessing the full goblet
in the name of Thor, by making the sign of his hammer over it
before he drinks it." On this there was quietness for the
evening. The next day, when the people sat down to table, the
bondes pressed the king strongly to eat of horse-flesh (1); and
as he would on no account do so, they wanted him to drink of the
soup; and as he would not do this, they insisted he should at
least taste the gravy; and on his refusal they were going to lay
hands on him. Earl Sigurd came and made peace among them, by
asking the king to hold his mouth over the handle of the kettle,
upon which the fat smoke of the boiled horse-flesh had settled
itself; and the king first laid a linen cloth over the handle,
and then gaped over it, and returned to the high-seat; but
neither party was satisfied with this.
(1) This eating of horse-flesh at these religious festivals was
considered the most direct proof of paganism in the
following times, and was punished by death or mutilation by
Saint Olaf. It was a ceremony apparently commemorative of
their Asiatic origin and ancestors.
The winter thereafter the king prepared a Yule feast in More, and
eight chiefs resolved with each other to meet at it. Four of
them were from without the Throndhjem district -- namely, Kar of
Gryting, Asbjorn of Medalhus, Thorberg of Varnes, and Orm from
Ljoxa; and from the Throndhjem district, Botolf of Olvishaug,
Narfe of Staf in Veradal, Thrand Hak from Egg, and Thorer Skeg
from Husaby in Eyin Idre. These eight men bound themselves, the
four first to root out Christianity in Norway, and the four
others to oblige the king to offer sacrifice to the gods. The
four first went in four ships southwards to More, and killed
three priests, and burnt three churches, and then they returned.
Now, when King Hakon and Earl Sigurd came to More with their
court, the bondes assembled in great numbers; and immediately, on
the first day of the feast, the bondes insisted hard with the
king that he should offer sacrifice, and threatened him with
violence if he refused. Earl Sigurd tried to make peace between
them, and brought it so far that the king took some bits of
horse-liver, and emptied all the goblets the bondes filled for
him without the sign of the cross; but as soon as the feast was
over, the king and the earl returned to Hlader. The king was
very ill pleased, and made himself ready to leave Throndhjem
forthwith with all his people; saying that the next time he came
to Throndhjem, he would come with such strength of men-at-arms
that he would repay the bondes for their enmity towards him.
Earl Sigurd entreated the king not to take it amiss of the
bondes; adding, that it was not wise to threaten them, or to make
war upon the people within the country, and especially in the
Throndhjem district, where the strength of the land lay; but the
king was so enraged that he would not listen to a word from
anybody. He went out from Throndhjem, and proceeded south to
More, where he remained the rest of the winter, and on to the
spring season (A.D. 950); and when summer came he assembled men,
and the report was that he intended with this army to attack the
Throndhjem people.
But just as the king had embarked with a great force of troops,
the news was brought him from the south of the country, that
King Eirik's sons had come from Denmark to Viken and had driven
King Trygve Olafson from his ships at Sotanes, and then had
plundered far and wide around in Viken, and that many had
submitted to them. Now when King Hakon heard this news, he
thought that help was needed; and he sent word to Earl Sigurd,
and to the other chiefs from whom he could expect help, to hasten
to his assistance. Sigurd the earl came accordingly with a great
body of men, among whom were all the Throndhjem people who had
set upon him the hardest to offer sacrifice; and all made their
peace with the king, by the earl's persuasion. Now King Hakon
sailed south along the coast; and when he came south as far as
Stad, he heard that Eirik's sons were come to North Agder. Then
they advanced against each other, and met at Kormt. Both parties
left their ships there, and gave battle at Ogvaldsnes. Both
parties had a great force, and it was a great battle. King Hakon
went forward bravely, and King Guthorm Eirikson met him with his
troop, and they exchanged blows with each other. Guthorm fell,
and his standard was cut down. Many people fell around him. The
army of Eirik's sons then took flight to their ships and rowed
away with the loss of many a man. So says Guthorm Sindre: --
"The king's voice waked the silent host
Who slept beside the wild sea-coast,
And bade the song of spear and sword
Over the battle plain be heard.
Where heroes' shields the loudest rang,
Where loudest was the sword-blade's clang,
By the sea-shore at Kormt Sound,
Hakon felled Guthorm to the ground."
Now King Hakon returned to his ships, and pursued Gunhild's sons.
And both parties sailed all they could sail, until they came to
East Adger, from whence Eirik's sons set out to sea, and
southwards for Jutland (A.D. 950). Guthorm Sindre speaks of it
in his song: --
"And Guthorm's brothers too, who know
So skilfully to bend the bow,
The conquering hand must also feel
Of Hakon, god of the bright steel, --
The sun-god, whose bright rays, that dart
Flame-like, are swords that pierce the heart.
Well I remember how the King
Hakon, the battle's life and spring,
O'er the wide ocean cleared away
Eirik's brave sons. They durst not stay,
But round their ships' sides hung their shields
And fled across the blue sea-fields."
King Hakon returned then northwards to Norway, but Eirik's sons
remained a long time in Denmark.
King Hakon after this battle made a law, that all inhabited land
over the whole country along the sea-coast, and as far back from
it as the salmon swims up in the rivers, should be divided into
ship-raths according to the districts; and it was fixed by law
how many ships there should be from each district, and how great
each should be, when the whole people were called out on service.
For this outfit the whole inhabitants should be bound whenever a
foreign army came to the country. With this came also the order
that beacons should be erected upon the hills, so that every man
could see from the one to the other; and it is told that a
war-signal could thus be given in seven days, from the most
southerly beacon to the most northerly Thing-seat in Halogaland
Eirik's sons plundered much on the Baltic coasts and sometimes,
as before related, in Norway; but so long as Hakon ruled over
Norway there was in general good peace, and good seasons, and he
was the most beloved of kings. When Hakon had reigned about
twenty years in Norway (A.D. 954), Eirik's sons came from Denmark
with a powerful army, of which a great part consisted of the
people who had followed them on their expeditions; but a still
greater army of Danes had been placed at their disposal by King
Harald Gormson. They sailed with a fair wind from Vendil, and
came to Agder; and then sailed northwards, night and day, along
the coast. But the beacons were not fired, because it had been
usual to look for them lighted from the east onwards, and nobody
had observed them from the east coast; and besides King Hakon had
set heavy penalties for giving false alarm, by lighting the
beacons without occasion. The reason of this was, that ships of
war and vikings cruised about and plundered among the outlying
islands, and the country people took them for Eirik's sons, and
lighted the beacons, and set the whole country in trouble and
dread of war. Sometimes, no doubt, the sons of Eirik were there;
but having only their own troops, and no Danish army with them,
they returned to Denmark; and sometimes these were other vikings.
King Hakon was very angry at this, because it cost both trouble
and money to no purpose. The bondes also suffered by these false
alarms when they were given uselessly; and thus it happened that
no news of this expedition of Eirik's sons circulated through the
land until they had come as far north as Ulfasund, where they lay
for seven days. Then spies set off across Eid and northwards to
More. King Hakon was at that time in the island Frede, in North
More, at a place called Birkistrand, where he had a dwellinghouse,
and had no troops with him, only his bodyguard or court,
and the neighbouring bondes he had invited to his house.
The spies came to King Hakon, and told him that Eirik's sons,
with a great army, lay just to the south of Stad. Then he called
together the most understanding of the men about him, and asked
their opinion, whether he should fight with Eirik's sons,
although they had such a great multitude with them, or should set
off northwards to gather together more men. Now there was a
bonde there, by name Egil Ulserk, who was a very old man, but in
former days had been strong and stout beyond most men, and a
hardy man-at-arms withal, having long carried King Harald
Harfager's banner. Egil answered thus to the king's speech, --
"I was in several battles with thy father Harald the king, and he
gave battle sometimes with many, sometimes with few people; but
he always came off with victory. Never did I hear him ask
counsel of his friends whether he should fly -- and neither shalt
thou get any such counsel from us, king; but as we know we have a
brave leader, thou shalt get a trusty following from us." Many
others agreed with this speech, and the king himself declared he
was most inclined to fight with such strength as they could
gather. It was so determined. The king split up a war-arrow,
which he sent off in all directions, and by that token a number
of men was collected in all haste. Then said Egil Ulserk, -- "At
one time the peace had lasted so long I was afraid I might come
to die the death of old age (1), within doors upon a bed of
straw, although I would rather fall in battle following my chief.
And now it may so turn out in the end as I wished it to be."
(1) In all the sagas of this pagan time, the dying on a bed of
sickness is mentioned as a kind of derogatory end of a man
of any celebrity. -- L.
Eirik's sons sailed northwards around Stad; as soon as the wind
suited; and when they had passed it, and heard where King Hakon
was, they sailed to meet him. King Hakon had nine ships, with
which he lay under Fredarberg in Feeysund; and Eirik's sons had
twenty ships, with which they brought up on the south side of the
same cape, in Feeysund. King Hakon sent them a message, asking
them to go upon the land; and telling them that he had hedged in
with hazel boughs a place of combat at Rastarkalf, where there is
a flat large field, at the foot of a long and rather low ridge.
Then Eirik's sons left their ships, and went northwards over the
neck of land within Fredarberg, and onward to Rastarkalf. Then
Egil asked King Hakon to give him ten men with ten banners, and
the king did so. Then Egil went with his men under the ridge;
but King Hakon went out upon the open field with his army, and
set up his banner, and drew up his army, saying, "Let us draw up
in a long line, that they may not surround us, as they have the
most men." And so it was done; and there was a severe battle,
and a very sharp attack. Then Egil Ulserk set up the ten banners
he had with him, and placed the men who carried them so that they
should go as near the summit of the ridge as possible, and
leaving a space between each of them. They went so near the
summit that the banners could be seen over it, and moved on as if
they were coming behind the army of Eirik's sons. Now when the
men who stood uppermost in the line of the troops of Eirik's sons
saw so many flying banners advancing high over the edge of the
ridge, they supposed a great force must be following, who would
come behind their army, and between them and their ships. They
made each other acquainted with what was going on in a loud
shout, and the whole took to flight; and when the king saw it,
they fled with the rest. King Hakon now pushes on briskly with
his people, pursuing the flying, and killing many.
When Gamle Eirikson came up the ridge of the hill he turned
round, and he observed that not more people were following than
his men had been engaged with already, and he saw it was but a
stratagem of war; so he ordered the war-horns to be blown, his
banner to be set up, and he put his men in battle order. On
this, all his Northmen stood, and turned with him, but the Danes
fled to the ships; and when King Hakon and his men came thither,
there was again sharp conflict; but now Hakon had most people.
At last the Eirik's sons' force fled, and took the road south
about the hill; but a part of their army retreated upon the hill
southwards, followed by King Hakon. There is a flat field east
of the ridge which runs westward along the range of hills, and is
bounded on its west side by a steep ridge. Gamle's men retreated
towards this ground; but Hakon followed so closely that he killed
some, and others ran west over the ridge, and were killed on that
side of it. King Hakon did not part with them till the last man
of them was killed.
Gamle Eirikson fled from the ridge down upon the plain to the
south of the hill. There he turned himself again, and waited
until more people gathered to him. All his brothers, and many
troops of their men, assembled there. Egil Ulserk was in front,
and in advance of Hakon's men, and made a stout attack. He and
King Gamle exchanged blows with each other, and King Gamle got a
grievous wound; but Egil fell, and many people with him. Then
came Hakon the king with the troops which had followed him, and a
new battle began. King Hakon pushed on, cutting down men on both
sides of him, and killing the one upon the top of the other. So
sings Guthorm Sindre: --
"Scared by the sharp sword's singing sound,
Brandished in air, the foe gave ground.
The boldest warrior cannot stand
Before King Hakon's conqueringhand;
And the king's banner ever dies
Where the spear-forests thickest rise.
Altho' the king had gained of old
Enough of Freyja's tears of gold (1),
He spared himself no more than tho'
He'd had no well-filled purse to show."
When Eirik's sons saw their men falling all round, they turned
and fled to their ships; but those who had sought the ships
before had pushed off some of them from the land, while some of
them were still hauled up and on the strand. Now the sons of
Eirik and their men plunged into the sea, and betook themselves
to swimming. Gamle Eirikson was drowned; but the other sons of
Eirik reached their ships, and set sail with what men remained.
They steered southwards to Denmark, where they stopped a while,
very ill satisfied with their expedition.
(1) Freyja's husband was Od; and her tears, when she wept at the
long absence of her husband, were tears of gold. Od's
wife's tears is the skald's expression here for gold --
understood, no doubt, as readily as any allusion to Plutus
would convey the equivalent meaning in modern poetry. -- L.
King Hakon took all the ships of the sons of Eirik that had been
left upon the strand, and had them drawn quite up, and brought on
the land. Then he ordered that Egil Ulserk, and all the men of
his army who had fallen, should be laid in the ships, and covered
entirely over with earth and stones. King Hakon made many of the
ships to be drawn up to the field of battle, and the hillocks
over them are to be seen to the present day a little to the south
of Fredarberg. At the time when King Hakon was killed, when Glum
Geirason, in his song, boasted of King Hakon's fall, Eyvind
Skaldaspiller composed these verses on this battle: --
"Our dauntless king with Gamle's gore
Sprinkled his bright sword o'er and o'er:
Sprinkled the gag that holds the mouth
Of the fell demon Fenriswolf (1).
Proud swelled our warriors' hearts when he
Drove Eirik's sons out to the sea,
With all their Guatland host: but now
Our warriors weep -- Hakon lies low!"
High standing stones mark Egil Uslerk s grave.
(1) The Fenriswolf. one of the children of Loke. begotten with a
giantess, was chained to a rock, and gagged by a sword
placed in his mouth, to prevent him devouring mankind.
Fenriswolf's gag is a skaldic expression for a sword. -- L.
When King Hakon, Athelstan's foster-son, had been king for
twenty-six years after his brother Eirik had left the country, it
happened (A.D. 960) that he was at a feast in Hordaland in the
house at Fitjar on the island Stord, and he had with him at the
feast his court and many of the peasants. And just as the king
was seated at the supper-table, his watchmen who were outside
observed many ships coming sailing along from the south, and not
very far from the island. Now, said the one to the other, they
should inform the king that they thought an armed force was
coming against them; but none thought it advisable to be the
bearer of an alarm of war to the king, as he had set heavy
penalties on those who raised such alarms falsely, yet they
thought it unsuitable that the king should remain in ignorance of
what they saw. Then one of them went into the room and asked
Eyvind Finson to come out as fast as possible, for it was very
needful. Eyvind immediately came out and went to where he could
see the ships, and saw directly that a great army was on the way;
and he returned in all haste into the room, and, placing himself
before the kind, said, "Short is the hour for acting, and long
the hour for feasting." The king cast his eyes upon him, and
said, "What now is in the way?" Eyvind said --
"Up king! the avengers are at hand!
Eirik's bold sons approach the land!
The Judgment of the sword they crave
Against their foe. Thy wrath I brave;
Tho' well I know 'tis no light thing
To bring war-tidings to the king
And tell him 'tis no time to rest.
Up! gird your armour to your breast:
Thy honour's dearer than my life;
Therefore I say, up to the strife!"
Then said the king, "Thou art too brave a fellow, Eyvind, to
bring us any false alarm of war." The others all said it was a
true report. The king ordered the tables to be removed, and then
he went out to look at the ships; and when it could be clearly
seen that these were ships of war, the king asked his men what
resolution they should take -- whether to give battle with the
men they had, or go on board ship and sail away northwards along
the land. "For it is easy to see," said he, "that we must now
fight against a much greater force than we ever had against us
before; although we thought just the same the last time we fought
against Gunhild's sons." No one was in a hurry to give an answer
to the king; but at last Eyvind replied to the king's speech: --
"Thou who in the battle-plain
Hast often poured the sharp spear-rain!
Ill it beseems our warriors brave
To fly upon the ocean wave:
To fly upon the blue wave north,
When Harald from the south comes forth,
With many a ship riding in pride
Upon the foaming ocean-tide;
With many a ship and southern viking, --
Let us take shield in hand, brave king!"
The king replied, "Thy counsel, Eyvind, is manly, and after my
own heart; but I will hear the opinion of others upon this
matter." Now as the king's men thought they discerned what way
the king was inclined to take, they answered that they would
rather fall bravely and like men, than fly before the Danes;
adding, that they had often gained the victory against greater
odds of numbers. The king thanked them for their resolution, and
bade them arm themselves; and all the men did so. The king put
on his armour, and girded on his sword Kvernbit, and put a gilt
helmet upon his head, and took a spear (Kesja) in his hand, and a
shield by his side. He then drew up his courtmen and the bondes
in one body, and set up his banner.
After Gamle's death King Harald, Eirik's son, was the chief of
the brothers, and he had a great army with him from Denmark. In
their army were also their mother's brothers, -- Eyvind Skreyja,
and Alf Askman, both strong and able men, and great man slayers.
The sons of Eirik brought up with their ships off the island, and
it is said that their force was not less than six to one, -- so
much stronger in men were Eirik's sons.
When King Hakon had drawn up his men, it is told of him that he
threw off his armour before the battle began. So sings Eyvind
Skaldaspiller, in Hakmarmal: --
"They found Blorn's brother bold
Under his banner as of old,
Ready for battle. Foes advance, --
The front rank raise the shining lance:
And now begins the bloody fray!
Now! now begins Hild's wild play!
Our noble king, whose name strikes fear
Into each Danish heart, -- whose spear
Has single-handed spilt the blood
Of many a Danish noble, -- stood
Beneath his helmet's eagle wing
Amidst his guards; but the brave king
Scorned to wear armour, while his men
Bared naked breasts against the rain
Of spear and arrow, his breast-plate rung
Against the stones; and, blithe and gay,
He rushed into the thickest fray.
With golden helm, and naked breast,
Brave Hakon played at slaughter's feast."
King Hakon selected willingly such men for his guard or court-men
as were distinguished for their strength and bravery, as his
father King Harald also used to do; and among these was Thoralf
Skolmson the Strong, who went on one side of the king. He had
helmet and shield, spear and sword; and his sword was called by
the name of Footbreadth. It was said that Thoralf and King Hakon
were equal in strength. Thord Sjarekson speaks of it in the poem
he composed concerning Thoralf: --
"The king's men went with merry words
To the sharp clash of shields and flame swords,
When these wild rovers of the sea
At Fitlar fought. Stout Thoralf he
Next to the Northmen's hero came,
Scattering wide round the battle flame
For in the storm of shields not one
Ventured like him with brave Hakon."
When both lines met there was a hard combat, and much bloodshed.
The combatants threw their spears and then drew their swords.
Then King Hakon, and Thoralf with him, went in advance of the
banner, cutting down on both sides of them. So says Eyvind
Skaldaspiller: --
"The body-coats of naked steel,
The woven iron coats of mail,
Like water fly before the swing
Of Hakon's sword -- the champion-king.
About each Gotland war-man's head
Helm splits, like ice beneath the tread,
Cloven by the axe or sharp swordblade,
The brave king, foremost in the fight,
Dyes crimson-red the spotless white
Of his bright shield with foemen's gore. --
Amidst the battle's wild uproar,
Wild pealing round from shore to shore."
King Hakon was very conspicuous among other men, and also when
the sun shone his helmet glanced, and thereby many weapons were
directed at him. Then Eyvind Finson took a hat and put it over
the king's helmet. Now Eyvind Skreyja called out, "Does the king
of the Norsemen hide himself, or has he fled? Where is now the
golden helmet?" Then Eyvind, and his brother Alf with him,
pushed on like fools or madmen. King Hakon shouted to Eyvind,
"Come on as thou art coming, and thou shalt find the king of the
Norsemen." So says Eyvind Skaldaspiller: --
"The raiser of the storm of shields,
The conqueror in battle fields, --
Hakon the brave, the warrior's friend,
Who scatters gold with liberal hand,
Heard Skreyja's taunt, and saw him rush,
Amidst the sharp spears' thickest push,
And loudly shouted in reply --
`If thou wilt for the victory try,
The Norseman's king thou soon shall find!
Hold onwards, friend! Hast thou a mind!"
It was also but a short space of time before Eyvind did come up
swinging his sword, and made a cut at the king; but Thoralf
thrust his shield so hard against Eyvind that he tottered with
the shock. Now the king takes his sword Kvernbit with both
hands, and hewed Eyvind through helm and head, and clove him down
to the shoulders. Thoralf also slew Alf Askman. So says Eyvind
Skaldaspiller: --
"With both his hands the gallant king
Swung round his sword, and to the chin
Clove Eyvind down: his faithless mail
Against it could no more avail,
Than the thin plank against the shock
When the ship's side beats on the rock.
By his bright sword with golden haft
Thro' helm, and head, and hair, was cleft
The Danish champion; and amain,
With terror smitten, fled his men."
After this fall of the two brothers, King Hakon pressed on so
hard that all men gave way before his assault. Now fear came
over the army of Eirik's sons, and the men began to fly; and King
Hakon, who was at the head of his men, pressed on the flying, and
hewed down oft and hard. Then flew an arrow, one of the kind
called "flein", into Hakon's arm, into the muscles below the
shoulder; and it is said by many people that Gunhild's shoe-boy,
whose name was Kisping, ran out and forwards amidst the confusion
of arms, called out "Make room for the king-killer," and shot
King Hakon with the flein. Others again say that nobody could
tell who shot the king, which is indeed the most likely; for
spears, arrows, and all kinds of missiles flew as thick as a
snow-drift. Many of the people of Eirik's sons were killed, both
on the field of battle and on the way to the ships, and also on
the strand, and many threw themselves into the water. Many also,
among whom were Eirik's sons, got on board their ships, and rowed
away as fast as they could, and Hakon's men after them. So says
Thord Sjarekson: --
"The wolf. the murderer, and the thief,
Fled from before the people's chief:
Few breakers of the peace grew old
Under the Northmen's king so bold.
When gallant Hakon lost his life
Black was the day, and dire the strife.
It was bad work for Gunhild's sons,
Leading their pack of Hungry Danes
From out the south, to have to fly,
And many a bonde leave to die,
Leaning his heavy wounded head
On the oar-bench for feather-bed.
Thoralf was nearest to the side
Of gallant Hakon in the tide
Of battle; his the sword that best
Carved out the raven's bloody feast:
Amidst the heaps of foemen slain
He was named bravest on the plain."
When King Hakon came out to his ship he had his wound bound up;
but the blood ran from it so much and so constantly, that it
could not be stopped; and when the day was drawing to an end his
strength began to leave him. Then he told his men that he wanted
to go northwards to his house at Alreksstader; but when he came
north, as far as Hakonarhella Hill, they put in towards the land,
for by this time the king was almost lifeless. Then he called
his friends around him, and told them what he wished to be done
with regard to his kingdom. He had only one child, a daughter,
called Thora, and had no son. Now he told them to send a message
to Eirik's sons, that they should be kings over the country; but
asked them to hold his friends in respect and honour. "And if
fate," added he, "should prolong my life, I will, at any rate,
leave the country, and go to a Christian land, and do penance for
what I have done against God; but should I die in heathen land,
give me any burial you think fit." Shortly afterwards Hakon
expired, at the little hill on the shore-side at which he was
born. So great was the sorrow over Hakon's death, that he was
lamented both by friends and enemies; and they said that never
again would Norway see such a king. His friends removed his body
to Saeheim, in North Hordaland, and made a great mound, in which
they laid the king in full armour and in his best clothes, but
with no other goods. They spoke over his grave, as heathen
people are used to do, and wished him in Valhal. Eyvind
Skaldaspiller composed a poem on the death of King Hakon, and on
how well he was received in Valhal. The poem is called
"Hakonarmal": --
"In Odin's hall an empty place
Stands for a king of Yngve's race;
`Go, my valkyries,' Odin said,
`Go forth, my angels of the dead,
Gondul and Skogul, to the plain
Drenched with the battle's bloody rain,
And to the dying Hakon tell,
Here in Valhal shall he dwell.'
"At Stord, so late a lonely shore,
Was heard the battle's wild uproar;
The lightning of the flashing sword
Burned fiercely at the shore of Stord.
From levelled halberd and spearhead
Life-blood was dropping fast and red;
And the keen arrows' biting sleet
Upon the shore at Stord fast beat.
"Upon the thundering cloud of shield
Flashed bright the sword-storm o'er the field;
And on the plate-mail rattled loud
The arrow-shower's rushing cloud,
In Odin's tempest-weather, there
Swift whistling through the angry air;
And the spear-torrents swept away
Ranks of brave men from light of day.
"With batter'd shield, and blood-smear'd sword
Slits one beside the shore of Stord,
With armour crushed and gashed sits he,
A grim and ghastly sight to see;
And round about in sorrow stand
The warriors of his gallant band:
Because the king of Dags' old race
In Odin's hall must fill a place.
"Then up spake Gondul, standing near
Resting upon her long ash spear, --
`Hakon! the gods' cause prospers well,
And thou in Odin's halls shalt dwell!'
The king beside the shore of Stord
The speech of the valkyrie heard,
Who sat there on his coal-black steed,
With shield on arm and helm on head.
"Thoughtful, said Hakon, `Tell me why
Ruler of battles, victory
Is so dealt out on Stord's red plain?
Have we not well deserved to gain?'
`And is it not as well dealt out?'
Said Gondul. `Hearest thou not the shout?
The field is cleared -- the foemen run --
The day is ours -- the battle won!'
"Then Skogul said, `My coal-black steed,
Home to the gods I now must speed,
To their green home, to tell the tiding
That Hakon's self is thither riding.'
To Hermod and to Brage then
Said Odin, `Here, the first of men,
Brave Hakon comes, the Norsemen's king, --
Go forth, my welcome to him bring.'
"Fresh from the battle-field came in,
Dripping with blood, the Norsemen'a king.
`Methinks,' said he, great Odin's will
Is harsh, and bodes me further ill;
Thy son from off the field to-day
From victory to snatch away!'
But Odin said, `Be thine the joy
Valhal gives, my own brave boy!'
"And Brage said, `Eight brothers here
Welcome thee to Valhal's cheer,
To drain the cup, or fights repeat
Where Hakon Eirik's earls beat.'
Quoth the stout king, 'And shall my gear,
Helm, sword, and mail-coat, axe and spear,
Be still at hand! 'Tis good to hold
Fast by our trusty friends of old.'
"Well was it seen that Hakon still
Had saved the temples from all ill (1);
For the whole council of the gods
Welcomed the king to their abodes.
Happy the day when men are born
Like Hakon, who all base things scorn. --
Win from the brave and honoured name,
And die amidst an endless fame.
"Sooner shall Fenriswolf devour
The race of man from shore to shore,
Than such a grace to kingly crown
As gallant Hakon want renown.
Life, land, friends, riches, all will fly,
And we in slavery shall sigh.
But Hakon in the blessed abodes
For ever lives with the bright gods."
(1) Hakon, although a Christian, appears to have favoured the
old religion, and spared the temples of Odin, and therefore
a place in Valhal is assigned him. -- L.
This saga might be called Gunhild's Saga, as she is the chief
person in it. The reign of King Harald and Earl Hakon is more
fully described in the next saga, that is, Olaf Trygvason's.
Other literature on this epoch:
"Agrip" (chap. 8), "Historia Norvegia", (p. 12), "Thjodrek"
(chap. 5), "Saxo" (pp. 479-482), "Egla" (chaps. 81, 82),
"Floamanna" (chap. 12), "Fareyinga" (chaps. 2, 4, 10), "Halfred's
Saga" (chap. 2), "Hord Grimkelsons Saga" (chaps. 13, 18),
"Kormak" (chaps. 19-27), "Laxdaela" (chaps. 19-21), "Njala"
(chaps, 3-6).
The skalds of this saga are: -- Glum Geirason, Kormak Agmundson,
Eyvind Skaldaspiller, and Einar Helgason Skalaglam.
When King Hakon was killed, the sons of Eirik took the
sovereignty of Norway. Harald, who was the oldest of the living
brothers, was over them in dignity. Their mother Gunhild, who
was called the King-mother, mixed herself much in the affairs of
the country. There were many chiefs in the land at that time.
There was Trygve Olafson in the Eastland, Gudrod Bjornson in
Vestfold, Sigurd earl of Hlader in the Throndhjem land; but
Gunhild's sons held the middle of the country the first winter.
There went messages and ambassadors between Gunhild's sons and
Trygve and Gudrod, and all was settled upon the footing that they
should hold from Gunhild's sons the same part of the country
which they formerly had held under King Hakon. A man called Glum
Geirason, who was King Harald's skald, and was a very brave man,
made this song upon King Hakon's death: --
"Gamle is avenged by Harald!
Great is thy deed, thou champion bold!
The rumour of it came to me
In distant lands beyond the sea,
How Harald gave King Hakon's blood
To Odin's ravens for their food."
This song was much favoured. When Eyvind Finson heard of it he
composed the song which was given before, viz.: --
"Our dauntless king with Gamle's gore
Sprinkled his bright sword o'er and o'er," &c.
This song also was much favoured, and was spread widely abroad;
and when King Harald came to hear of it, he laid a charge against
Evyind affecting his life; but friends made up the quarrel, on
the condition that Eyvind should in future be Harald's skald, as
he had formerly been King Hakon's. There was also some
relationship between them, as Gunhild, Eyvind's mother, was a
daughter of Earl Halfdan, and her mother was Ingibjorg, a
daughter of Harald Harfager. Thereafter Eyvind made a song about
King Harald: --
"Guardian of Norway, well we know
Thy heart failed not when from the bow
The piercing arrow-hail sharp rang
On shield and breast-plate, and the clang
Of sword resounded in the press
Of battle, like the splitting ice;
For Harald, wild wolf of the wood,
Must drink his fill of foeman's blood."
Gunhild's sons resided mostly in the middle of the country, for
they did not think it safe for them to dwell among the people of
Throndhjem or of Viken, where King Hakon's best friends lived;
and also in both places there were many powerful men. Proposals
of agreement then passed between Gunhild~s sons and Earl Sigurd,
or they got no scat from the Throndhjem country; and at last an
agreement was concluded between the kings and the earl, and
confirmed by oath. Earl Sigurd was to get the same power in the
Throndhjem land which he had possessed under King Hakon, and on
that they considered themselves at peace. All Gunhild's sons had
the character of being penurious; and it was said they hid their
money in the ground. Eyvind Skaldaspiller made a song about
this: --
"Main-mast of battle! Harald bold!
In Hakon's days the skald wore gold
Upon his falcon's seat; he wore
Rolf Krake's seed, the yellow ore
Sown by him as he fled away,
The avenger Adils' speed to stay.
The gold crop grows upon the plain;
But Frode's girls so gay (1) in vain
Grind out the golden meal, while those
Who rule o'er Norway's realm like foes,
In mother earth's old bosom hide
The wealth which Hakon far and wide
Scattered with generous hand: the sun
Shone in the days of that great one,
On the gold band of Fulla's brow,(2)
On gold-ringed hands that bend the bow,
On the skald's hand; but of the ray
Of bright gold, glancing like the spray
Of sun-lit waves, no skald now sings --
Buried are golden chains and rings."
Now when King Harald heard this song, he sent a message to Eyvind
to come to him, and when Eyvind came made a charge against him of
being unfaithful. "And it ill becomes thee," said the king, "to
be my enemy, as thou hast entered into my service." Eyvind then
made these verses: --
"One lord I had before thee, Harald!
One dear-loved lord! Now am I old,
And do not wish to change again, --
To that loved lord, through strife and pain,
Faithful I stood; still true to Hakon, --
To my good king, and him alone.
But now I'm old and useless grown,
My hands are empty, wealth is flown;
I am but fir for a short space
In thy court-hall to fill a place."
But King Harald forced Eyvind to submit himself to his clemency.
Eyvind had a great gold ring, which was called Molde, that had
been dug up out of the earth long since. This ring the King said
he must have as the mulet for the offence; and there was no help
for it. Then Eyvind sang: --
"I go across the ocean-foam,
Swift skating to my Iceland home
Upon the ocean-skates, fast driven
By gales by Thurse's witch fire given.
For from the falcon-bearing hand
Harald has plucked the gold snake band
My father wore -- by lawless might
Has taken what is mine by right."
Eyvind went home; but it is not told that he ever came near the
king again.
(1) Menja and Fenja were strong girls of the giant race, whom
Frode bought in Sweden to grind gold and good luck to him;
and their meal means gold. -- L.
(2) Fulla was one of Frig's attendants, who wore a gold band on
the forehead, and the figure means gold, -- that the sun
shone on gold rings on the hands of the skalds in Hakon's
days. -- L.
Gunhild's sons embraced Christianity in England, as told before;
but when they came to rule over Norway they made no progress in
spreading Christianity -- only they pulled down the temples of
the idols, and cast away the sacrifices where they had it in
their power, and raised great animosity by doing so. The good
crops of the country were soon wasted in their days, because
there were many kings, and each had his court about him. They
had therefore great expenses, and were very greedy. Besides,
they only observed those laws of King Hakon which suited
themselves. They were, however, all of them remarkably handsome
men -- stout, strong, and expert in all exercises. So says Glum
Geirason, in the verses he composed about Harald, Gunhild's son:
"The foeman's terror, Harald bold,
Had gained enough of yellow gold;
Had Heimdal's teeth (1) enough in store,
And understood twelve arts or more."
The brothers sometimes went out on expeditions together, and
sometimes each on his own account. They were fierce, but brave
and active; and great warriors, and very successful.
(1) Heimdal was one of the gods, whose horse was called Goldtop;
and the horse's teeth were of gold.
Gunhild the King-mother, and her sons, often met, and talked
together upon the government of the country. Once Gunhild asked
her sons what they intended to do with their kingdom of
Throndhjem. "Ye have the title of king, as your forefathers had
before you; but ye have little land or people, and there are many
to divide with. In the East, at Viken, there are Trygve and
Gudrod; and they have some right, from relationship, to their
governments. There is besides Earl Sigurd ruling over the whole
Throndhjem country; and no reason can I see why ye let so large a
kingdom be ruled by an earl, and not by yourselves. It appears
wonderful to me that ye go every summer upon viking cruises
against other lands, and allow an earl within the country to take
your father's heritage from you. Your grandfather, whose name
you bear, King Harald, thought it but a small matter to take an
earl's life and land when he subdued all Norway, and held it
under him to old age."
Harald replied, "It is not so easy, mother, to cut off Earl
Sigurd as to slay a kid or a calf. Earl Sigurd is of high birth,
powerful in relations, popular, and prudent; and I think if the
Throndhjem people knew for certain there was enmity between us,
they would all take his side, and we could expect only evil from
them. I don't think it would be safe for any of us brothers to
fall into the hands of the Throndhjem people."
Then said Gunhild, "We shall go to work another way, and not put
ourselves forward. Harald and Erling shall come in harvest to
North More, and there I shall meet you, and we shall consult
together what is to be done." This was done.
Earl Sigurd had a brother called Grjotgard, who was much younger,
and much less respected; in fact, was held in no title of honour.
He had many people, however, about him, and in summer went on
viking cruises, and gathered to himself property. Now King
Harald sent messengers to Throndhjem with offers of friendship,
and with presents. The messengers declared that King Harald was
willing to be on the same friendly terms with the earl that King
Hakon had been; adding, that they wished the earl to come to King
Harald, that their friendship might be put on a firm footing.
The Earl Sigurd received well the king's messengers and friendly
message, but said that on account of his many affairs he could
not come to the king. He sent many friendly gifts, and many glad
and grateful words to the king, in return for his friendship.
With this reply the messengers set off, and went to Grjotgard,
for whom they had the same message, and brought him good
presents, and offered him King Harald's friendship, and invited
him to visit the king. Grjotgard promised to come and at the
appointed time he paid a visit to King Harald and Gunhild, and
was received in the most friendly manner. They treated him on
the most intimate footing, so that Grjotgard had access to their
private consultations and secret councils. At last the
conversation, by an understanding between the king and queen, was
turned upon Earl Sigurd; and they spoke to Grjotgard about the
earl having kept him so long in obscurity, and asked him if he
would not join the king's brothers in an attack on the earl. If
he would join with them, the king promised Grjotgard that he
should be his earl, and have the same government that Sigurd had.
It came so far that a secret agreement was made between them,
that Grjotgard should spy out the most favourable opportunity of
attacking by surprise Earl Sigurd, and should give King Harald
notice of it. After this agreement Grjotgard returned home with
many good presents from the king.
Earl Sigurd went in harvest into Stjoradal to guest-quarters, and
from thence went to Oglo to a feast. The earl usually had many
people about him, for he did not trust the king; but now, after
friendly messages had passed between the king and him, he had no
great following of people with him. Then Grjotgard sent word to
the king that he could never expect a better opportunity to fall
upon Earl Sigurd; and immediately, that very evening, Harald and
Erling sailed into Throndhjem fjord with several ships and many
people. They sailed all night by starlight, and Grjotgard came
out to meet them. Late in the night they came to Oglo, where
Earl Sigurd was at the feast, and set fire to the house; and
burnt the house, the earl, and all his men. As soon as it was
daylight, they set out through the fjord, and south to More,
where they remained a long time.
Hakon, the son of Earl Sigurd, was up in the interior of the
Throndhjem country when he heard this news. Great was the tumult
through all the Throndhjem land, and every vessel that could swim
was put into the water; and as soon as the people were gathered
together they took Earl Sigurd's son Hakon to be their earl and
the leader of the troops, and the whole body steered out of
Throndhjem fjord. When Gunhild's sons heard of this, they set
off southwards to Raumsdal and South More; and both parties kept
eye on each other by their spies. Earl Sigurd was killed two
years after the fall of King Hakon (A.D. 962). So says Eyvind
Skaldaspiller in the "Haleygjatal": --
"At Oglo. as I've heard, Earl Sigurd
Was burnt to death by Norway's lord, --
Sigurd, who once on Hadding's grave
A feast to Odin's ravens gave.
In Oglo's hall, amidst the feast,
When bowls went round and ale flowed fast,
He perished: Harald lit the fire
Which burnt to death the son of Tyr."
Earl Hakan, with the help of his friends, maintained himself in
the Throndhjem country for three years; and during that time
(A.D. 963-965) Gunhild's sons got no revenues from it. Hakon had
many a battle with Gunhild's sons, and many a man lost his life
on both sides. Of this Einar Skalaglam speaks in his lay, called
"Vellekla," which he composed about Earl Hakon: --
"The sharp bow-shooter on the sea
Spread wide his fleet, for well loved he
The battle storm: well loved the earl
His battle-banner to unfurl,
O'er the well-trampled battle-field
He raised the red-moon of his shield;
And often dared King Eirik's son
To try the fray with the Earl Hakon."
And he also says-
"Who is the man who'll dare to say
That Sigurd's son avoids the fray?
He gluts the raven -- he ne'er fears
The arrow's song or flight of spears,
With thundering sword he storms in war,
As Odin dreadful; or from far
He makes the arrow-shower fly
To swell the sail of victory.
The victory was dearly bought,
And many a viking-fight was fought
Before the swinger of the sword
Was of the eastern country lord."
And Einar tells also how Earl Hakon avenged his father's
murderer: --
"I praise the man, my hero he,
Who in his good ship roves the sea,
Like bird of prey, intent to win
Red vengeance for his slaughtered kin.
From his blue sword the iron rain
That freezes life poured down amain
On him who took his father's life,
On him and his men in the strife.
To Odin many a soul was driven, --
To Odin many a rich gift given.
Loud raged the storm on battle-field --
Axe rang on helm, and sword on shield."
The friends on both sides at last laid themselves between, and
brought proposals of peace; for the bondes suffered by this
strife and war in the land. At last it was brought to this, by
the advice of prudent men, that Earl Hakon should have the same
power in the Throndhjem land which his father Earl Sigurd had
enjoyed; and the kings, on the other hand, should have the same
dominion as King Hakon had: and this agreement was settled with
the fullest promises of fidelity to it. Afterwards a great
friendship arose between Earl Hakon and Gunhild, although they
sometimes attempted to deceive each other. And thus matters
stood for three years longer (A.D. 966-968), in which time Earl
Hakon sat quietly in his dominions.
King Hakon had generally his seat in Hordaland and Rogaland, and
also his brothers; but very often, also, they went to Hardanger.
One summer it happened that a vessel came from Iceland belonging
to Icelanders, and loaded with skins and peltry. They sailed to
Hardanger, where they heard the greatest number of people
assembled; but when the folks came to deal with them, nobody
would buy their skins. Then the steersman went to King Harald,
whom he had been acquainted with before, and complained of his
ill luck. The king promised to visit him, and did so. King
Harald was very condescending, and full of fun. He came with a
fully manned boat, looked at the skins, and then said to the
steersman, "Wilt thou give me a present of one of these grayskins?"
"Willingly," said the steersman, "if it were ever so
many." On this the king wrapped himself up in a gray-skin, and
went back to his boat; but before they rowed away from the ship,
every man in his suite bought such another skin as the king wore
for himself. In a few days so many people came to buy skins,
that not half of them could be served with what they wanted; and
thereafter the king was called Harald Grafeld (Grayskin).
Earl Hakon came one winter to the Uplands to a feast, and it so
happened that he had intercourse with a girl of mean birth. Some
time after the girl had to prepare for her confinement, and she
bore a child, a boy, who had water poured on him, and was named
Eirik. The mother carried the boy to Earl Hakon, and said that
he was the father. The earl placed him to be brought up with a
man called Thorleif the Wise, who dwelt in Medaldal, and was a
rich and powerful man, and a great friend of the earl. Eirik
gave hopes very early that he would become an able man, was
handsome in countenance, and stout and strong for a child; but
the earl did not pay much attention to him. The earl himself was
one of the handsomest men in countenance, -- not tall, but very
strong, and well practised in all kinds of exercises; and witha1
prudent, of good understanding, and a deadly man at arms.
It happened one harvest (A.D. 962) that Earl Hakon, on a journey
in the Uplands, came to Hedemark; and King Trygve Olafson and
King Gudrod Bjornson met him there, and Dale-Gudbrand also came
to the meeting. They had agreed to meet, and they talked
together long by themselves; but so much only was known of their
business, that they were to be friends of each other. They
parted, and each went home to his own kingdom. Gunhild and her
sons came to hear of this meeting, and they suspected it must
have been to lay a treasonable plot against the kings; and they
often talked of this among themselves. When spring (A.D. 963)
began to set in, King Harald and his brother King Gudrod
proclaimed that they were to make a viking cruise, as usual,
either in the West sea, or the Baltic. The people accordingly
assembled, launched the ships into the sea, and made themselves
ready to sail. When they were drinking the farewell ale, -- and
they drank bravely, -- much and many things were talked over at
the drink-table, and, among other things, were comparisons
between different men, and at last between the kings themselves.
One said that King Harald excelled his brothers by far, and in
every way. On this King Gudrod was very angry, and said that he
was in no respect behind Harald, and was ready to prove it.
Instantly both parties were so inflamed that they challenged each
other to battle, and ran to their arms. But some of the guests
who were less drunk, and had more understanding, came between
them, and quieted them; and each went to his ship, but nobody
expected that they would all sail together. Gudrod sailed east
ward along the land, and Harald went out to sea, saying he would
go to the westward; but when he came outside of the islands he
steered east along the coast, outside of the rocks and isles.
Gudrod, again, sailed inside, through the usual channel, to
Viken, and eastwards to Folden. He then sent a message to King
Trygve to meet him, that they might make a cruise together in
summer in the Baltic to plunder. Trygve accepted willingly, and
as a friend, the invitation; and as heard King Gudrod had but few
people with him, he came to meet him with a single boat. They
met at Veggen, to the east of Sotanes; but just as they were come
to the meeting place, Gudrod's men ran up and killed King Trygve
and twelve men. He lies buried at a place called Trygve's Cairn
(A.D. 963).
King Harald sailed far outside of the rocks and isles; but set
his course to Viken, and came in the night-time to Tunsberg, and
heard that Gudrod Bjornson was at a feast a little way up the
country. Then King Harald set out immediately with his
followers, came in the night, and surrounded the house. King
Gudrod Bjornson went out with his people; but after a short
resistance he fell, and many men with him. Then King Harald
joined his brother King Gudrod, and they subdued all Viken.
King Gudrod Bjornson had made a good and suitable marriage, and
had by his wife a son called Harald, who had been sent to be
fostered to Grenland to a lenderman called Hroe the White.
Hroe's son, called Hrane Vidforle (the Far-travelled), was
Harald's foster-brother, and about the same age. After his
father Gudrod's fall, Harald, who was called Grenske, fled to the
Uplands, and with him his foster-brother Hrane, and a few people.
Harald staid a while there among his relations; but as Eirik's
sons sought after every man who interfered with them, and
especially those who might oppose them, Harald Grenske's friends
and relations advised him to leave the country. Harald therefore
went eastward into Svithjod, and sought shipmates, that he might
enter into company with those who went out a cruising to gather
property. Harald became in this way a remarkably able man.
There was a man in Svithjod at that time called Toste, one of the
most powerful and clever in the land among those who had no high
name or dignity; and he was a great warrior, who had been often
in battle, and was therefore called Skoglar-Toste. Harald
Grenske came into his company, and cruised with Toste in summer;
and wherever Harald came he was well thought of by every one. In
the winter Harald, after passing two years in the Uplands, took
up his abode with Toste, and lived five years with him. Toste
had a daughter, who was both young and handsome, but she was
proud and high-minded. She was called Sigrid, and was afterwards
married to the Swedish king, Eirik the Victorious, and had a son
by him, called Olaf the Swede, who was afterwards king of
Svithjod. King Eirik died in a sick-bed at Upsala ten years
after the death of Styrbjorn.
Gunhild's sons levied a great army in Viken (A.D. 963), and
sailed along the land northwards, collecting people and ships on
the way out of every district. They then made known their
intent, to proceed northwards with their army against Earl Hakon
in Throndhjem. When Earl Hakon heard this news, he also
collected men, and fitted out ships; and when he heard what an
overwhelming force Gunhild's sons had with them, he steered south
with his fleet to More, pillaging wherever he came, and killing
many people. He then sent the whole of the bonde army back to
Throndhjem; but he himself, with his men-at-arms, proceeded by
both the districts of More and Raumsdal, and had his spies out to
the south of Stad to spy the army of Gunhild's sons; and when he
heard they were come into the Fjords, and were waiting for a fair
wind to sail northwards round Stad, Earl Hakon set out to sea
from the north side of Stad, so far that his sails could not be
seen from the land, and then sailed eastward on a line with the
coast, and came to Denmark, from whence he sailed into the
Baltic, and pillaged there during the summer. Gunhild's sons
conducted their army north to Throndhjem, and remained there the
whole summer collecting the scat and duties. But when summer was
advanced they left Sigurd Slefa and Gudron behind; and the other
brothers returned eastward with the levied army they had taken up
in summer.
Earl Hakon, towards harvest (A.D. 963), sailed into the Bothnian
Gulf to Helsingjaland, drew his ships up there on the beach, and
took the land-ways through Helsingjaland and Jamtaland, and so
eastwards round the dividing ridge (the Kjol, or keel of the
country), and down into the Throndhjem district. Many people
streamed towards him, and he fitted out ships. When the sons of
Gunhild heard of this they got on board their ships, and sailed
out of the Fjord; and Earl Hakon came to his seat at Hlader, and
remained there all winter. The sons of Gunhild, on the other
hand, occupied More; and they and the earl attacked each other in
turns, killing each other's people. Earl Hakon kept his dominions
of Throndhjem, and was there generally in the winter; but in
summer he sometimes went to Helsingjaland, where he went on board
of his ships and sailed with them down into the Baltic, and
plundered there; and sometimes he remained in Throndhjem, and
kept an army on foot, so that Gunhild's sons could get no hold
northwards of Stad.
One summer Harald Grayskin with his troops went north to
Bjarmaland, where be forayed, and fought a great battle with the
inhabitants on the banks of the Vina (Dwina). King Harald gained
the victory, killed many people, plundered and wasted and burned
far and wide in the land, and made enormous booty. Glum Geirason
tells of it thus: --
"I saw the hero Harald chase
With bloody sword Bjarme's race:
They fly before him through the night,
All by their burning city's light.
On Dwina's bank, at Harald's word,
Arose the storm of spear and sword.
In such a wild war-cruise as this,
Great would he be who could bring peace."
King Sigurd Slefa came to the Herse Klyp's house. Klyp was a son
of Thord, and a grandson of Hordakare, and was a man of power and
great family. He was not at home; but his wife Alof give a good
reception to the king, and made a great feast at which there was
much drinking. Alof was a daughter of Asbjorn, and sister to
Jarnskegge, north in Yrjar. Asbjorn's brother was called
Hreidar, who was father to Styrkar, whose son was Eindride,
father of Einar Tambaskielfer. In the night the king went to bed
to Alof against her will, and then set out on his journey. The
harvest thereafter, King Harald and his brother King Sigurd Slefa
went to Vors, and summoned the bondes to a Thing. There the
bondes fell on them, and would have killed them, but they escaped
and took different roads. King Harald went to Hardanger, but
King Sigurd to Alrekstader. Now when the Herse Klyp heard of
this, he and his relations assembled to attack the king; and
Vemund Volubrjot (1) was chief of their troop. Now when they
came to the house they attacked the king, and Herse Klyp, it is
said, ran him through with his sword and killed him; but
instantly Klyp was killed on the spot by Erling Gamle (A.D. 965).
(1) Volubrjotr. -- Literally "the one who breaks the vala", that
is, breaks the skulls of witches.
King Harald Grafeld and his brother King Gudrod gathered together
a great army in the east country, with which they set out
northwards to Throndhjem (A.D. 968). When Earl Hakon heard of it
he collected men, and set out to More, where he plundered. There
his father's brother, Grjotgard, had the command and defence of
the country on account of Gunhild's sons, and he assembled an
army by order of the kings. Earl Hakon advanced to meet him, and
gave him battle; and there fell Grjotgard and two other earls,
and many a man besides. So says Einar Skalaglam: --
"The helm-crown'd Hakon, brave as stout,
Again has put his foes to rout.
The bowl runs o'er with Odin's mead, (1)
That fires the skald when mighty deed
Has to be sung. Earl Hakon's sword,
In single combat, as I've heard,
Three sons of earls from this one fray
To dwell with Odin drove away." (2)
Thereafter Earl Hakon went out to sea, and sailed outside the
coast, and came to Denmark. He went to the Danish King, Harald
Gormson, and was well received by him, and staid with him all
winter (A.D. 969). At that time there was also with the Danish
king a man called Harald, a son of Knut Gormson, and a brother's
son of King Harald. He was lately come home from a long viking
cruise, on which he had gathered great riches, and therefore he
was called Gold Harald. He thought he had a good chance of
coming to the Danish kingdom.
(1) Odin's mead, called Bodn, was the blood or mead the sons of
Brage, the god of poets, drank to inspire them. -- L.
(2) To dwell with Odin, -- viz. slew them. -- L.
King Harald Grafeld and his brothers proceeded northwards to
Throndhjem, where they met no opposition. They levied the
scat-duties, and all other revenues, and laid heavy penalties
upon the bondes; for the kings had for a long time received but
little income from Throndhjem, because Earl Hakon was there with
many troops, and was at variance with these kings. In autumn
(A.D. 968) King Harald went south with the greater part of the
men-at-arms, but King Erlin remained behind with his men. He
raised great contributions from the bondes, and pressed severely
on them; at which the bondes murmured greatly, and submitted to
their losses with impatience. In winter they gathered together
in a great force to go against King Erling, just as he was at a
feast; and they gave battle to him, and he with the most of his
men fell (A.D. 969).
While Gunhild's sons reigned in Norway the seasons were always
bad, and the longer they reigned the worse were the crops; and
the bondes laid the blame on them. They were very greedy, and
used the bondes harshly. It came at length to be so bad that
fish, as well as corn, were wanting. In Halogaland there was the
greatest famine and distress; for scarcely any corn grew, and
even snow was lying, and the cattle were bound in the byres (1)
all over the country until midsummer. Eyvind Skaldaspiller
describes it in his poem, as he came outside of his house and
found a thick snowdrift at that season: --
"Tis midsummer, yet deep snows rest
On Odin's mother's frozen breast:
Like Laplanders, our cattle-kind
In stall or stable we must bind."
(1) Byres = gards or farms.
Eyvind composed a poem about the people of Iceland, for which
they rewarded him by each bonde giving him three silver pennies,
of full weight and white in the fracture. And when the silver
was brought together at the Althing, the people resolved to have
it purified, and made into a row of clasps; and after the
workmanship of the silver was paid, the row of clasps was valued
at fifty marks. This they sent to Eyvind; but Eyvind was obliged
to separate the clasps from each other, and sell them to buy food
for his household. But the same spring a shoal of herrings set
in upon the fishing ground beyond the coast-side, and Eyvind
manned a ship's boat with his house servants and cottars, and
rowed to where the herrings were come, and sang: --
"Now let the steed of ocean bound
O'er the North Sea with dashing sound:
Let nimble tern and screaming gull
Fly round and round -- our net is full.
Fain would I know if Fortune sends
A like provision to my friends.
Welcome provision 'tis, I wot,
That the whale drives to our cook's pot."
So entirely were his movable goods exhausted, that he was obliged
to sell his arrows to buy herrings, or other meat for his table:
"Our arms and ornaments of gold
To buy us food we gladly sold:
The arrows of the bow gave we
For the bright arrows of the sea." (1)
(1) Herrings, from their swift darting along, are called the
arrows of the sea.
Hitherto the narrative has been more or less fragmentary. With
Olaf Trygvason's Saga reliable history begins, and the narration
is full and connected. The story of Hakon the earl is
incorporated in this saga.
Accounts of Olaf Trygvason may be found in Od the Monk's
legendary saga, in parts of "Agrip", "Historia Norvegiae", and in
Thjodrek. Icelandic works on this epoch are:
"Egla", "Eyrbyggja", "Finboga", "Floamanna", "Faereyinga",
"Hallfredar Saga", "Havardar Saga", "Are's Islendinga-bok",
"Kristni Saga", "Laxdaela", "Ljosvetninga", "Njala",
"Orkneyinga", "Viga Glums Saga", and "Viga Styrs Saga".
The skalds quoted are: Glum Geirason, Eyvind Finson,
Skaldaspiller, Einar Skalaglam, Tind Halkelson, Eyjolf Dadaskald,
Hallarstein, Halfred Vandraedaskald, Haldor Ukristne, Skule
Thorsteinson, and Thord Kolbeinson.
King Trygve Olafson had married a wife who was called Astrid.
She was a daughter of Eirik Bjodaskalle, a great man, who dwelt
at Oprustader. But after Trygve's death (A.D. 963) Astrid fled,
and privately took with her all the loose property she could.
Her foster-father, Thorolf Lusarskeg, followed her, and never
left her; and others of her faithful followers spied about to
discover her enemies, and where they were. Astrid was pregnant
with a child of King Trygve, and she went to a lake, and
concealed herself in a holm or small island in it with a few men.
Here her child was born, and it was a boy; and water was poured
over it, and it was called Olaf after the grandfather. Astrid
remained all summer here in concealment; but when the nights
became dark, and the day began to shorten and the weather to be
cold, she was obliged to take to the land, along with Thorolf and
a few other men. They did not seek for houses unless in the
night-time, when they came to them secretly; and they spoke to
nobody. One evening, towards dark, they came to Oprustader,
where Astrid's father Eirik dwelt, and privately sent a man to
Eirik to tell him; and Eirik took them to an out-house, and
spread a table for them with the best of food. When Astrid had
been here a short time her travelling attendants left her, and
none remained, behind with her but two servant girls, her child
Olaf, Thorolf Lusarskeg, and his son Thorgils, who was six years
old; and they remained all winter (A.D. 964).
After Trygve Olafson's murder, Harald Grafeld and his brother
Gudrod went to the farm which he owned; but Astrid was gone, and
they could learn no tidings of her. A loose report came to their
ears that she was pregnant to King Trygve; but they soon went
away northwards, as before related. As soon as they met their
mother Gunhild they told her all that had taken place. She
inquired particularly about Astrid, and they told her the report
they had heard; but as Gunhild's sons the same harvest and winter
after had bickerings with Earl Hakon, as before related, they did
not seek after Astrid and her son that winter.
The spring after (A.D. 964) Gunhild sent spies to the Uplands,
and all the way down to Viken, to spy what they could about
Astrid; and her men came back, and could only tell her that
Astrid must be with her father Eirik, and it was probable was
bringing up her infant, the son of Trygve. Then Gunhild, without
delay, sent off men well furnished with arms and horses, and in
all a troop of thirty; and as their leader she sent a particular
friend of her own, a powerful man called Hakon. Her orders were
to go to Oprustader, to Eirik, and take King Trygve's son from
thence, and bring the child to her; and with these orders the men
went out. Now when they were come to the neighbourhood of
Oprustader, some of Eirik's friends observed the troop of
travellers, and about the close of the day brought him word of
their approach. Eirik immediately, in the night, made
preparation for Astrid's flight, gave her good guides, and send
her away eastward to Svithjod, to his good friend Hakon Gamle,
who was a powerful man there. Long before day they departed, and
towards evening they reached a domain called Skaun. Here they
saw a large mansion, towards which they went, and begged a
night's lodging. For the sake of concealment they were clad in
mean clothing. There dwelt here a bonde called Bjorn
Eiterkveisa, who was very rich, but very inhospitable. He drove
them away; and therefore, towards dark, they went to another
domain close by that was called Vidar. Thorstein was the name of
the bonde; and he gave them lodging, and took good care of them,
so that they slept well, and were well entertained. Early that
morning Gunhild's men had come to Oprustader, and inquired for
Astrid and her son. As Eirik told them she was not there, they
searched the whole house, and remained till late in the day
before they got any news of Astrid. Then they rode after her the
way she had taken, and late at night they came to Bjorn
Eiterkveisa in Skaun, and took up their quarters there. Hakon
asked Bjorn if he knew anything about Astrid, and he said some
people had been there in the evening wanting lodgings; "but I
drove them away, and I suppose they have gone to some of the
neighbouring houses." Thorstein's labourer was coming from the
forest, having left his work at nightfall, and called in at
Bjorn's house because it was in his way; and finding there were
guests come to the house, and learning their business, he comes
to Thorstein and tells him of it. As about a third part of the
night was still remaining, Thorstein wakens his guests and orders
them in an angry voice to go about their business; but as soon as
they were out of the house upon the road, Thorstein tells them
that Gunhild's messengers were at Bjorn's house, and are upon the
trace of them. They entreat of him to help them, and he gave
them a guide and some provisions. He conducted them through a
forest to a lake, in which there was an islet overgrown with
reeds. They waded out to the islet, and hid themselves among the
reeds. Early in the morning Hakon rode away from Bjorn's into
the township, and wherever he came he asked after Astrid; and
when he came to Thorstein's he asked if she had been there. He
said that some people had been there; but as soon as it was
daylight they had set off again, eastwards, to the forest. Hakon
made Thorstein go along with them, as he knew all the roads and
hiding-places. Thorstein went with them; but when they were come
into the woods, he led them right across the way Astrid had
taken. They went about and about the whole day to no purpose, as
they could find no trace of her, so they turned back to tell
Gunhild the end of their travel. Astrid and her friends
proceeded on their journey, and came to Svithjod, to Hakon Gamle
(the Old), where she and her son remained a long time, and had
friendly welcome.
When Gunhild, the mother of the kings, heard that Astrid and her
son Olaf were in the kingdom of Svithjod, she again sent Hakon,
with a good attendance, eastward, to Eirik king of Sweden, with
presents and messages of friendship. The ambassadors were well
received and well treated. Hakon, after a time, disclosed his
errand to the king, saying that Gunhild had sent him with the
request that the king would assist him in getting hold of Olaf
Trygvason, to conduct him to Norway, where Gunhild would bring
him up. The king gave Hakon people with him, and he rode with
them to Hakon the Old, where Hakon desired, with many friendly
expressions, that Olaf should go with him. Hakon the Old
returned a friendly answer, saying that it depended entirely upon
Olaf's mother. But Astrid would on no account listen to the
proposal; and the messengers had to return as they came, and to
tell King Eirik how the matter stood. The ambassadors then
prepared to return home, and asked the king for some assistance
to take the boy, whether Hakon the Old would or not. The king
gave them again some attendants; and when they came to Hakon the
Old, they again asked for the boy, and on his refusal to deliver
him they used high words and threatened violence. But one of the
slaves, Buste by name, attacked Hakon, and was going to kill him;
and they barely escaped from the thralls without a cudgelling,
and proceeded home to Norway to tell Gunhild their ill success,
and that they had only seen Olaf.
Astrid had a brother called Sigurd, a son of Eirik Bjodaskalle,
who had long been abroad in Gardarike (Russia) with King
Valdemar, and was there in great consideration. Astrid had now a
great inclination to travel to her brother there. Hakon the Old
gave her good attendants, and what was needful for the journey,
and she set out with some merchants. She had then been two years
(A.D. 965-966) with Hakon the Old, and Olaf was three years of
age. As they sailed out into the Baltic, they were captured by
vikings of Eistland, who made booty both of the people and goods,
killing some, and dividing others as slaves. Olaf was separated
from his mother, and an Eistland man called Klerkon got him as
his share along with Thorolf and Thorgils. Klerkon thought that
Thorolf was too old for a slave, and that there was not much work
to be got out of him, so he killed him; but took the boys with
him, and sold them to a man called Klerk for a stout and good
ram. A third man, called Reas, bought Olaf for a good cloak.
Reas had a wife called Rekon, and a son by her whose name was
Rekone. Olaf was long with them, was treated well, and was much
beloved by the people. Olaf was six years in Eistland in this
banishment (A.D. 987-972).
Sigurd, the son of Eirik (Astrid's brother), came into Eistland
from Novgorod, on King Valdemar's business to collect the king's
taxes and rents. Sigurd came as a man of consequence, with many
followers and great magnificence. In the market-place he
happened to observe a remarkably handsome boy; and as he could
distinguish that he was a foreigner, he asked him his name and
family. He answered him, that his name was Olaf; that he was a
son of Trygve Olafson; and Astrid, a daughter of Eirik
Bjodaskalle, was his mother. Then Sigurd knew that the boy was
his sister's son, and asked him how he came there. Olaf told him
minutely all his adventures, and Sigurd told him to follow him to
the peasant Reas. When he came there he bought both the boys,
Olaf and Thorgils, and took them with him to Holmgard. But, for
the first, he made nothing known of Olaf's relationship to him,
but treated him well.
Olaf Trygvason was one day in the market-place, where there was a
great number of people. He recognized Klerkon again, who had
killed his foster-father Thorolf Lusarskeg. Olaf had a little
axe in his hand, and with it he clove Klerkon's skull down to the
brain, and ran home to his lodging, and told his friend Sigurd
what he had done. Sigurd immediately took Olaf to Queen
Allogia's house, told her what had happened, and begged her to
protect the boy. She replied, that the boy appeared far too
comely to allow him to be slain; and she ordered her people to be
drawn out fully armed. In Holmgard the sacredness of peace is so
respected, that it is law there to slay whoever puts a man to
death except by judgment of law; and, according to this law and
usage, the whole people stormed and sought after the boy. It was
reported that he was in the Queen's house, and that there was a
number of armed men there. When this was told to the king, he
went there with his people, but would allow no bloodshed. It was
settled at last in peace, that the king should name the fine for
the murder; and the queen paid it. Olaf remained afterwards with
the queen, and was much beloved. It is a law at Holmgard, that
no man of royal descent shall stay there without the king's
permission. Sigurd therefore told the queen of what family Olaf
was, and for what reason he had come to Russia; namely, that he
could not remain with safety in his own country: and begged her
to speak to the king about it. She did so, and begged the king
to help a king's son whose fate had been so hard; and in
consequence of her entreaty the king promised to assist him, and
accordingly he received Olaf into his court, and treated him
nobly, and as a king's son. Olaf was nine years old when he came
to Russia, and he remained nine years more (A.D. 978-981) with
King Valdemar. Olaf was the handsomest of men, very stout and
strong, and in all bodily exercises he excelled every Northman
that ever was heard of.
Earl Hakon, Sigurd's son, was with the Danish king, Harald
Gormson, the winter after he had fled from Norway before
Gunhild's sons. During the winter (A.D. 969) the earl had so
much care and sorrow that he took to bed, and passed many
sleepless nights, and ate and drank no more than was needful to
support his strength. Then he sent a private message to his
friends north in Throndhjem, and proposed to them that they
should kill King Erling, if they had an opportunity; adding, that
he would come to them in summer. The same winter the Throndhjem
people accordingly, as before related, killed King Erling. There
was great friendship between Earl Hakon and Gold Harald, and
Harald told Hakon all his intentions. He told him that he was
tired of a ship-life, and wanted to settle on the land; and asked
Hakon if he thought his brother King Harald would agree to divide
the kingdom with him if he asked it. "I think," replied Hakon,
"that the Danish king would not deny thy right; but the best way
to know is to speak to the king himself. I know for certain so
much, that you will not get a kingdom if you don't ask for it."
Soon after this conversation Gold Harald spoke to the king about
the matter, in the presence of many great men who were friends to
both; and Gold Harald asked King Harald to divide the kingdom
with him in two equal parts, to which his royal birth and the
custom of the Danish monarchy gave him right. The king was
highly incensed at this demand, and said that no man had asked
his father Gorm to be king over half of Denmark, nor yet his
grandfather King Hordaknut, or Sigurd Orm, or Ragnar Lodbrok; and
he was so exasperated and angry, that nobody ventured to speak of
it to him.
Gold Harald was now worse off than before; for he had got no
kingdom, and had got the king's anger by proposing it. He went
as usual to his friend Hakon, and complained to him of his fate,
and asked for good advice, and if he could help him to get his
share of the kingdom; saying that he would rather try force, and
the chance of war, than give it up.
Hakon advised him not to speak to any man so that this should be
known; "for," said he, "it concerns thy life: and rather consider
with thyself what thou art man enough to undertake; for to
accomplish such a purpose requires a bold and firm man, who will
neither stick at good nor evil to do that which is intended; for
to take up great resolutions, and then to lay them aside, would
only end in dishonour."
Go1d Harald replies -- "I will so carry on what I begin, that I
will not hesitate to kill Harald with my own hands, if I can come
thereby to the kingdom he denies me, and which is mine by right."
And so they separated.
Now King Harald comes also to Earl Hakon, and tells him the
demand on his kingdom which Gold Harald had made, and also his
answer, and that he would upon no account consent to diminish his
kingdom. "And if Gold Harald persists in his demand, I will have
no hesitation in having him killed; for I will not trust him if
he does not renounce it."
The earl answered, -- "My thoughts are, that Harald has carried
his demand so far that he cannot now let it drop, and I expect
nothing but war in the land; and that he will be able to gather a
great force, because his father was so beloved. And then it
would be a great enormity if you were to kill your relation; for,
as things now stand, all men would say that he was innocent. But
I am far from saying, or advising, that you should make yourself
a smaller king than your father Gorm was, who in many ways
enlarged, but never diminished his kingdom."
The king replies, -- "What then is your advice, -- if I am
neither to divide my kingdom, nor to get rid of my fright and
"Let us meet again in a few days," said Earl Hakon, "and I will
then have considered the matter well, and will give you my advice
upon it."
The king then went away with his people.
Earl Hakon had now great reflection, and many opinions to weigh,
and he let only very few be in the house with him. In a few days
King Harald came again to the earl to speak with him, and ask if
he had yet considered fully the matter they had been talking of.
"I have," said the earl, "considered it night and day ever since,
and find it most advisable that you retain and rule over the
whole of your kingdom just as your father left it; but that you
obtain for your relation Harald another kingdom, that he also may
enjoy honour and dignity."
"What kind of kingdom is that," said the king, "which I can give
to Harald, that I may possess Denmark entire?"
"It is Norway," said the earl. "The kings who are there are
oppressive to the people of the country, so that every man is
against them who has tax or service to pay."
The king replies, -- "Norway is a large country, and the people
fierce, and not good to attack with a foreign army. We found
that sufficiently when Hakon defended that country; for we lost
many people, and gained no victory. Besides, Harald the son of
Eirik is my foster-son, and has sat on my knee."
The earl answers, "I have long known that you have helped
Gunhild's sons with your force, and a bad return you have got for
it; but we shall get at Norway much more easily than by fighting
for it with all the Danish force. Send a message to your fosterson
Harald, Eirik's son, and offer him the lands and fiefs which
Gunhild's sons held before in Denmark. Appoint him a meeting,
and Gold Harald will soon conquer for himself a kingdom in Norway
from Harald Grafeld."
The king replies, that it would be called a bad business to
deceive his own foster-son.
"The Danes," answered the earl, "will rather say that it was
better to kill a Norwegian viking than a Danish, and your own
brother's son."
They spoke so long over the matter, that they agreed on it.
Thereafter Gold Harald had a conference with Earl Hakon; and the
earl told him he had now advanced his business so far, that there
was hope a kingdom might stand open for him in Norway. "We can
then continue," said he, "our ancient friendship, and I can be of
the greatest use to you in Norway. Take first that kingdom.
King Harald is now very old, and has but one son, and cares but
little about him, as he is but the son of a concubine."
The Earl talked so long to Gold Harald that the project pleased
him well; and the king, the earl, and Gold Harald often talked
over the business together. The Danish king then sent messengers
north to Norway to Harald Grafeld, and fitted them out
magnificently for their journey. They were well received by
Harald. The messengers told him that Earl Hakon was in Denmark,
but was lying dangerously sick, and almost out of his senses.
They then delivered from Harald, the Danish king, the invitation
to Harald Grafeld, his foster-son, to come to him and receive
investiture of the fiefs he and his brothers before him had
formerly held in Denmark; and appointing a meeting in Jutland.
Harald Grafeld laid the matter before his mother and other
friends. Their opinions were divided. Some thought that the
expedition was not without its danger, on account of the men with
whom they had to deal; but the most were in haste to begin the
journey, for at that time there was such a famine in Norway that
the kings could scarcely feed their men-at-arms; and on this
account the Fjord, on which the kings resided, usually got the
name of Hardanger (Hardacre). In Denmark, on the other hand,
there had been tolerably good crops; so that people thought that
if King Harald got fiefs, and something to rule over there they
would get some assistance. It was therefore concluded, before
the messengers returned, that Harald should travel to Denmark to
the Danish king in summer, and accept the conditions King Harald
Harald Grafeld went to Denmark in the summer (A.D. 969) with
three long-ships; and Herse Arinbjorn, from the Fjord district,
commanded one of them. King Harald sailed from Viken over to
Limfjord in Jutland, and landed at the narrow neck of land where
the Danish king was expected. Now when Gold Harald heard of
this, he sailed there with nine ships which he had fitted out
before for a viking cruise. Earl Hakon had also his war force on
foot; namely, twelve large ships, all ready, with which he
proposed to make an expedition. When Gold Harald had departed
Earl Hakon says to the king, "Now I don't know if we are not
sailing on an expedition, and yet are to pay the penalty of not
having joined it. Gold Harald may kill Harald Grafeld, and get
the kingdom of Norway; but you must not think he will be true to
you, although you do help him to so much power, for he told me in
winter that he would take your life if he could find opportunity
to do so. Now I will win Norway for you, and kill Gold Harald,
if you will promise me a good condition under you. I will be
your earl; swear an oath of fidelity to you, and, with your help,
conquer all Norway for you; hold the country under your rule; pay
you the scat and taxes; and you will be a greater king than your
father, as you will have two kingdoms under you." The king and
the earl agreed upon this, and Hakon set off to seek Gold Harald.
Gold Harald came to the neck of land at Limfjord, and immediately
challenged Harald Grafeld to battle; and although Harald had
fewer men, he went immediately on the land, prepared for battle,
and drew up his troops. Before the lines came together Harald
Grafeld urged on his men, and told them to draw their swords. He
himself advanced the foremost of the troop, hewing down on each
side. So says Glum Geirason, in Grafeld's lay: --
"Brave were thy words in battlefield,
Thou stainer of the snow-white shield! --
Thou gallant war-god! With thy voice
Thou couldst the dying man rejoice:
The cheer of Harald could impart
Courage and life to every heart.
While swinging high the blood-smeared sword,
By arm and voice we knew our lord."
There fell Harald Grafeld. So says Glum Geirason: --
"On Limfjord's strand, by the tide's flow,
Stern Fate has laid King Harald low;
The gallant viking-cruiser -- he
Who loved the isle-encircling sea.
The generous ruler of the land
Fell at the narrow Limfjord strand.
Enticed by Hakon's cunning speech
To his death-bed on Limfjord's beach."
The most of King Harald's men fell with him. There also fell
Herse Arinbjorn.
This happened fifteen years after the death of Hakon, Athelstan's
foster-son, and thirteen years after that of Sigurd earl of
Hlader. The priest Are Frode says that Earl Hakon was thirteen
years earl over his father's dominions in Throndhjem district
before the fall of Harald Grafeld; but, for the last six years of
Harald Grafeld's life, Are Frode says the Earl Hakon and
Gunhild's sons fought against each other, and drove each other
out of the land by turns.
Soon after Harald Grafeld's fall, Earl Hakon came up to Gold
Harald, and the earl immediately gave battle to Harald. Hakon
gained the victory, and Harald was made prisoner; but Hakon had
him immediately hanged on a gallows. Hakon then went to the
Danish king, and no doubt easily settled with him for the killing
his relative Gold Harald.
Soon after King Harald Gormson ordered a levy of men over all his
kingdom, and sailed with 600 ships (1). There were with him Earl
Hakon, Harald Grenske, a son of King Gudrod, and many other great
men who had fled from their udal estates in Norway on account of
Gunhild's sons. The Danish king sailed with his fleet from the
south to Viken, where all the people of the country surrendered
to him. When he came to Tunsberg swarms of people joined him;
and King Harald gave to Earl Hakon the command of all the men who
came to him in Norway, and gave him the government over Rogaland,
Hordaland, Sogn, Fjord-district, South More, Raumsdal, and North
More. These seven districts gave King Harald to Earl Hakon to
rule over, with the same rights as Harald Harfager gave with them
to his sons; only with the difference, that Hakon should there,
as well as in Throndhjem, have the king's land-estates and landtax,
and use the king's money and goods according to his
necessities whenever there was war in the country. King Harald
also gave Harald Grenske Vingulmark, Vestfold, and Agder all the
way to Lidandisnes (the Naze), together with the title of king;
and let him have these dominions with the same rights as his
family in former times had held them, and as Harald Harfager had
given with them to his sons. Harald Grenske was then eighteen
years old, and he became afterwards a celebrated man. Harald
king of Denmark returned home thereafter with all his army.
(1) i.e., 720 ships, as they were counted by long hundreds,
Earl Hakon proceeded northwards along the coast with his force;
and when Gunhild and her sons got the tidings they proceeded to
gather troops, but were ill off for men. Then they took the same
resolution as before, to sail out to sea with such men as would
follow them away to the westward (A.D. 969). They came first to
the Orkney Islands, and remained there a while. There were in
Orkney then the Earls Hlodver. Arnfid, Ljot, and Skule, the sons
of Thorfin Hausakljufer.
Earl Hakon now brought all the country under him, and remained
all winter (A.D. 970) in Throndhjem. Einar Skalaglam speaks of
his conquests in "Vellekla": --
"Norway's great watchman, Harald, now
May bind the silk snood on his brow --
Seven provinces he seized. The realm
Prospers with Hakon at the helm."
As Hakon the earl proceeded this summer along the coast
subjecting all the people to him, he ordered that over all his
dominions the temples and sacrifices should be restored, and
continued as of old. So it is said in the "Vellekla": --
"Hakon the earl, so good and wise,
Let all the ancient temples rise; --
Thor's temples raised with fostering hand
That had been ruined through the land.
His valiant champions, who were slain
On battle-fields across the main,
To Thor, the thunder-god, may tell
How for the gods all turns out well.
The hardy warrior now once more
Offers the sacrifice of gore;
The shield-bearer in Loke's game
Invokes once more great Odin's name.
The green earth gladly yields her store,
As she was wont in days of yore,
Since the brave breaker of the spears
The holy shrines again uprears.
The earl has conquered with strong hand
All that lies north of Viken land:
In battle storm, and iron rain
Hakon spreads wide his sword's domain."
The first winter that Hakon ruled over Norway the herrings set in
everywhere through the fjords to the land, and the seasons
ripened to a good crop all that had been sown. The people,
therefore, laid in seed for the next year, and got their lands
sowed, and had hope of good times.
King Ragnfred and King Gudrod, both sons of Gunhild and Eirik,
were now the only sons of Gunhild remaining in life. So says
Glum Geirason in Grafeld's lay: --
"When in the battle's bloody strife
The sword took noble Harald's life,
Half of my fortunes with him fell:
But his two brothers, I know well,
My loss would soon repair, should they
Again in Norway bear the sway,
And to their promises should stand,
If they return to rule the land."
Ragnfred began his course in the spring after he had been a year
in the Orkney Islands. He sailed from thence to Norway, and had
with him fine troops, and large ships. When he came to Norway he
learnt that Earl Hakon was in Throndhjem; therefore he steered
northwards around Stad, and plundered in South More. Some people
submitted to him; for it often happens, when parties of armed men
scour over a country, that those who are nearest the danger seek
help where they think it may be expected. As soon as Earl Hakon
heard the news of disturbance in More, he fitted out ships, sent
the war-token through the land, made ready in all haste, and
proceeded out of the fjord. He had no difficulty in assembling
men. Ragnfred and Earl Hakon met at the north corner of More;
and Hakon, who had most men, but fewer ships, began the battle.
The combat was severe, but heaviest on Hakon's side; and as the
custom then was, they fought bow to bow, and there was a current
in the sound which drove all the ships in upon the land. The
earl ordered to row with the oars to the land where landing
seemed easiest. When the ships were all grounded, the earl with
all his men left them, and drew them up so far that the enemy
might not launch them down again, and then drew up his men on a
grass-field, and challenged Ragnfred to land. Ragnfred and his
men laid their vessels in along the land, and they shot at each
other a long time; but upon the land Ragnfred would not venture:
and so they separated. Ragnfred sailed with his fleet southwards
around Stad; for he was much afraid the whole forces of the
country would swarm around Hakon. Hakon, on his part, was not
inclined to try again a battle, for he thought the difference
between their ships in size was too great; so in harvest he went
north to Throndhjem, and staid there all winter (A.D. 971). King
Ragnfred consequently had all the country south of Stad at his
mercy; namely, Fjord district, Hordaland, Sogn, Rogaland; and he
had many people about him all winter. When spring approached he
ordered out the people and collected a large force. By going
about the districts he got many men, ships, and warlike stores
sent as he required.
Towards spring Earl Hakon ordered out all the men north in the
country; and got many people from Halogaland and Naumudal; so
that from Bryda to Stad he had men from all the sea-coast.
People flocked to him from all the Throndhjem district and from
Raumsdal. It was said for certain that he had men from four
great districts, and that seven earls followed him, and a
matchless number of men. So it is said in the "Vellekla": --
"Hakon, defender of the land,
Armed in the North his warrior-band
To Sogn's old shore his force he led,
And from all quarters thither sped
War-ships and men; and haste was made
By the young god of the sword-blade,
The hero-viking of the wave,
His wide domain from foes to save.
With shining keels seven kings sailed on
To meet this raven-feeding one.
When the clash came, the stunning sound
Was heard in Norway's farthest bound;
And sea-borne corpses, floating far,
Brought round the Naze news from the war."
Earl Hakon sailed then with his fleet southwards around Stad; and
when he heard that King Ragnfred with his army had gone towards
Sogn, he turned there also with his men to meet him: and there
Ragnfred and Hakon met. Hakon came to the land with his ships,
marked out a battle-field with hazel branches for King Ragnfred,
and took ground for his own men in it. So it is told in the
"Vellekla": --
"In the fierce battle Ragnfred then
Met the grim foe of Vindland men;
And many a hero of great name
Fell in the sharp sword's bloody game.
The wielder of fell Narve's weapon,
The conquering hero, valiant Hakon
Had laid his war-ships on the strand,
And ranged his warriors on the land."
There was a great battle; but Earl Hakon, having by far the most
people, gained the victory. It took place on the Thinganes,
where Sogn and Hordaland meet.
King Rangfred fled to his ships, after 300 of his men had fallen.
So it is said in the "Vellekla":-
"Sharp was the battle-strife, I ween, --
Deadly and close it must have been,
Before, upon the bloody plain,
Three hundred corpses of the slain
Were stretched for the black raven's prey;
And when the conquerors took their way
To the sea-shore, they had to tread
O'er piled-up heaps of foemen dead."
After this battle King Ragnfred fled from Norway; but Earl Hakon
restored peace to the country, and allowed the great army which
had followed him in summer to return home to the north country,
and he himself remained in the south that harvest and winter
(A.D. 972).
Earl Hakon married a girl called Thora, a daughter of the
powerful Skage Skoptason, and very beautiful she was. They had
two sons, Svein and Heming, and a daughter called Bergljot who
was afterwards married to Einar Tambaskielfer. Earl Hakon was
much addicted to women, and had many children; among others a
daughter Ragnhild, whom he married to Skopte Skagason, a brother
of Thora. The Earl loved Thora so much that he held Thora's
family in higher respect than any other people, and Skopte his
brother-in-law in particular; and he gave him many great fiefs in
More. Whenever they were on a cruise together, Skopte must lay
his ship nearest to the earl's, and no other ship was allowed to
come in between.
One summer that Earl Hakon was on a cruise, there was a ship with
him of which Thorleif Spake (the Wise) was steersman. In it was
also Eirik, Earl Hakon's son, then about ten or eleven years old.
Now in the evenings, as they came into harbour, Eirik would not
allow any ship but his to lie nearest to the earl's. But when
they came to the south, to More, they met Skopte the earl's
brother-in-law, with a well-manned ship; and as they rowed
towards the fleet, Skopte called out that Thorleif should move
out of the harbour to make room for him, and should go to the
roadstead. Eirik in haste took up the matter, and ordered Skopte
to go himself to the roadstead. When Earl Hakon heard that his
son thought himself too great to give place to Skopte, he called
to them immediately that they should haul out from their berth,
threatening them with chastisement if they did not. When
Thorleif heard this, he ordered his men to slip their land-cable,
and they did so; and Skopte laid his vessel next to the earl's as
he used to do. When they came together, Skopte brought the earl
all the news he had gathered, and the earl communicated to Skopte
all the news he had heard; and Skopte was therefore called
Tidindaskopte (the Newsman Skopte). The winter after (A.D. 973)
Eirik was with his foster-father Thorleif, and early in spring he
gathered a crew of followers, and Thorleif gave him a boat of
fifteen benches of rowers, with ship furniture, tents, and ship
provisions; and Eirik set out from the fjord, and southwards to
More. Tidindaskopte happened also to be going with a fully
manned boat of fifteen rowers' benches from one of his farms to
another, and Eirik went against him to have a battle. Skopte was
slain, but Eirik granted life to those of his men who were still
on their legs. So says Eyjolf Dadaskald in the "Banda Lay": --
"At eve the youth went out
To meet the warrior stout --
To meet stout Skopte -- he
Whose war-ship roves the sea
Like force was on each side,
But in the whirling tide
The young wolf Eirik slew
Skopte, and all his crew
And he was a gallant one,
Dear to the Earl Hakon.
Up, youth of steel-hard breast --
No time hast thou to rest!
Thy ocean wings spread wide --
Speed o'er the foaming tide!
Speed on -- speed on thy way!
For here thou canst not stay."
Eirik sailed along the land and came to Denmark, and went to King
Harald Gormson, and staid with him all winter (A.D. 974). In
spring the Danish king sent him north to Norway, and gave him an
earldom, and the government of Vingulmark and Raumarike, on the
same terms as the small scat-paying kings had formerly held these
domains. So says Eyjolf Dadaskald: --
"South through ocean's spray
His dragon flew away
To Gormson's hall renowned.
Where the bowl goes bravely round.
And the Danish king did place
This youth of noble race
Where, shield and sword in hand,
He would aye defend his land."
Eirik became afterwards a great chief.
All this time Olaf Trygvason was in Gardarike (Russia), and
highly esteemed by King Valdemar, and beloved by the queen. King
Valdemar made him chief over the men-at-arms whom he sent out to
defend the land. So says Hallarsteid-
"The hater of the niggard band,
The chief who loves the Northman's land,
Was only twelve years old when he
His Russian war-ships put to sea.
The wain that ploughs the sea was then
Loaded with war-gear by his men --
With swords, and spears, and helms: and deep
Out to the sea his good ships sweep."
Olaf had several battles, and was lucky as a leader of troops.
He himself kept a great many men-at-arms at his own expense out
of the pay the king gave him. Olaf was very generous to his men,
and therefore very popular. But then it came to pass, what so
often happens when a foreigner is raised to higher power and
dignity than men of the country, that many envied him because he
was so favoured by the king, and also not less so by the queen.
They hinted to the king that he should take care not to make Olaf
too powerful, -- "for such a man may be dangerous to you, if he
were to allow himself to be used for the purpose of doing you or
your kingdom harm; for he is extremely expert in all exercises
and feats, and very popular. We do not, indeed, know what it is
he can have to talk of so often with the queen." It was then the
custom among great monarchs that the queen should have half of
the court attendants, and she supported them at her own expense
out of the scat and revenue provided for her for that purpose.
It was so also at the court of King Valdemar that the queen had
an attendance as large as the king, and they vied with each other
about the finest men, each wanting to have such in their own
service. It so fell out that the king listened to such speeches,
and became somewhat silent and blunt towards Olaf. When Olaf
observed this, he told it to the queen; and also that he had a
great desire to travel to the Northern land, where his family
formerly had power and kingdoms, and where it was most likely he
would advance himself. The queen wished him a prosperous
journey, and said he would be found a brave man wherever he might
be. Olaf then made ready, went on board, and set out to sea in
the Baltic.
As he was coming from the east he made the island of
Borgundarholm (Bornholm), where he landed and plundered. The
country people hastened down to the strand, and gave him battle;
but Olaf gained the victory, and a large booty.
While Olaf lay at Borgundarholm there came on bad weather, storm,
and a heavy sea, so that his ships could not lie there; and he
sailed southwards under Vindland, where they found a good
harbour. They conducted themselves very peacefully, and remained
some time. In Vindland there was then a king called Burizleif,
who had three daughters, -- Geira, Gunhild, and Astrid. The
king's daughter Geira had the power and government in that part
where Olaf and his people landed, and Dixen was the name of the
man who most usually advised Queen Geira. Now when they heard
that unknown people were came to the country, who were of
distinguished appearance, and conducted themselves peaceably,
Dixen repaired to them with a message from Queen Geira, inviting
the strangers to take up their winter abode with her; for the
summer was almost spent, and the weather was severe and stormy.
Now when Dixen came to the place he soon saw that the leader was
a distinguished man, both from family and personal appearance,
and he told Olaf the queen's invitation with the most kindly
message. Olaf willingly accepted the invitation, and went in
harvest (A.D. 982) to Queen Geira. They liked each other
exceedingly, and Olaf courted Queen Geira; and it was so settled
that Olaf married her the same winter, and was ruler, along
with Queen Geira, over her dominions. Halfred Vandredaskald
tells of these matters in the lay he composed about King Olaf: --
"Why should the deeds the hero did
In Bornholm and the East he hid?
His deadly weapon Olaf bold
Dyed red: why should not this be told?"
Earl Hakon ruled over Norway, and paid no scat; because the
Danish king gave him all the scat revenue that belonged to the
king in Norway, for the expense and trouble he had in defending
the country against Gunhild's sons.
The Emperor Otta (Otto) was at that time in the Saxon country,
and sent a message to King Harald, the Danish king, that he must
take on the true faith and be baptized, he and all his people
whom he ruled; "otherwise," says the emperor, "we will march
against him with an army." The Danish king ordered the land
defence to be fitted out, Danavirke (1) (the Danish wall) to be
well fortified, and his ships of war rigged out. He sent a
message also to Earl Hakon in Norway to come to him early in
spring, and with as many men as he could possibly raise. In
spring (A.D. 975) Earl Hakon levied an army over the whole
country which was very numerous, and with it he sailed to meet
the Danish king. The king received him in the most honourable
manner. Many other chiefs also joined the Danish king with their
men, so that he had gathered a very large army.
(1) Danavirke. The Danish work was a wall of earth, stones, and
wood, with a deep ditch in front, and a castle at every
hundred fathoms, between the rivers Eider and Slien,
constructed by Harald Blatand (Bluetooth) to oppose the
progress of Charlemagne. Some traces of it still exist.
-- L.
Olaf Trygvason had been all winter (A.D. 980) in Vindland, as
before related, and went the same winter to the baronies in
Vindland which had formerly been under Queen Geira, but had
withdrawn themselves from obedience and payment of taxes. There
Olaf made war, killed many people, burnt out others, took much
property, and laid all of them under subjection to him, and then
went back to his castle. Early in spring Olaf rigged out his
ships and set off to sea. He sailed to Skane and made a landing.
The people of the country assembled, and gave him battle; but
King Olaf conquered, and made a great booty. He then sailed
eastward to the island of Gotland, where he captured a merchant
vessel belonging to the people of Jamtaland. They made a brave
defence; but the end of it was that Olaf cleared the deck, killed
many of the men, and took all the goods. He had a third battle
in Gotland, in which he also gained the victory, and made a great
booty. So says Halfred Vandredaskald: --
"The king, so fierce in battle-fray,
First made the Vindland men give way:
The Gotlanders must tremble next;
And Scania's shores are sorely vexed
By the sharp pelting arrow shower
The hero and his warriors pour;
And then the Jamtaland men must fly,
Scared by his well-known battle-cry."
The Emperor Otta assembled a great army from Saxland, Frakland,
Frisland, and Vindland. King Burizleif followed him with a large
army, and in it was his son-in-law, Olaf Trygvason. The emperor
had a great body of horsemen, and still greater of foot people,
and a great army from Holstein. Harald, the Danish king, sent
Earl Hakon with the army of Northmen that followed him southwards
to Danavirke, to defend his kingdom on that side. So it is told
in the "Vellekla": --
"Over the foaming salt sea spray
The Norse sea-horses took their way,
Racing across the ocean-plain
Southwards to Denmark's green domain.
The gallant chief of Hordaland
Sat at the helm with steady hand,
In casque and shield, his men to bring
From Dovre to his friend the king.
He steered his war-ships o'er the wave
To help the Danish king to save
Mordalf, who, with a gallant band
Was hastening from the Jutes' wild land,
Across the forest frontier rude,
With toil and pain through the thick wood.
Glad was the Danish king, I trow,
When he saw Hakon's galley's prow.
The monarch straightway gave command
To Hakon, with a steel-clad band,
To man the Dane-work's rampart stout,
And keep the foreign foemen out."
The Emperor Otta came with his army from the south to Danavirke,
but Earl Hakon defended the rampart with his men. The Dane-work
(Danavirke) was constructed in this way: -- Two fjords run into
the land, one on each side; and in the farthest bight of these
fjords the Danes had made a great wall of stone, turf, and
timber, and dug a deep and broad ditch in front of it, and had
also built a castle over each gate of it. There was a hard
battle there, of which the "Vellekla" speaks: --
"Thick the storm of arrows flew,
Loud was the din, black was the view
Of close array of shield and spear
Of Vind, and Frank, and Saxon there.
But little recked our gallant men;
And loud the cry might be heard then
Of Norway's brave sea-roving son --
'On 'gainst the foe! On! Lead us on!"
Earl Hakon drew up his people in ranks upon all the gate-towers
of the wall, but the greater part of them he kept marching along
the wall to make a defence wheresoever an attack was threatened.
Many of the emperor's people fell without making any impression
on the fortification, so the emperor turned back without farther
attempt at an assault on it. So it is said in the "Vellekla": --
"They who the eagle's feast provide
In ranked line fought side by side,
'Gainst lines of war-men under shields\
Close packed together on the fields,
Earl Hakon drive by daring deeds
The Saxons to their ocean-steeds;
And the young hero saves from fall
The Danavirke -- the people's wall."
After this battle Earl Hakon went back to his ships, and intended
to sail home to Norway; but he did not get a favourable wind, and
lay for some time outside at Limafjord.
The Emperor Otta turned back with his troops to Slesvik,
collected his ships of war, and crossed the fjord of Sle into
Jutland. As soon as the Danish king heard of this he marched his
army against him, and there was a battle, in which the emperor at
last got the victory. The Danish king fled to Limafjord and took
refuge in the island Marsey. By the help of mediators who went
between the king and the emperor, a truce and a meeting between
them were agreed on. The Emperor Otta and the Danish king met
upon Marsey. There Bishop Poppo instructed King Harald in the
holy faith; he bore red hot irons in his hands, and exhibited his
unscorched hands to the king. Thereafter King Harald allowed
himself to be baptized, and also the whole Danish army. King
Harald, while he was in Marsey, had sent a message to Hakon that
he should come to his succour; and the earl had just reached the
island when the king had received baptism. The king sends word
to the earl to come to him, and when they met the king forced the
earl to allow himself also to be baptized. So Earl Hakon and all
the men who were with him were baptized; and the king gave them
priests and other learned men with them, and ordered that the
earl should make all the people in Norway be baptized. On that
they separated; and the earl went out to sea, there to wait for a
When a wind came with which he thought he could get clear out to
sea, he put all the learned men on shore again, and set off to
the ocean; but as the wind came round to the south-west, and at
last to west, he sailed eastward, out through Eyrarsund, ravaging
the land on both sides. He then sailed eastward along Skane,
plundering the country wherever he came. When he got east to the
skerries of East Gautland, he ran in and landed, and made a great
blood-sacrifice. There came two ravens flying which croaked
loudly; and now, thought the earl, the blood-offering has been
accepted by Odin, and he thought good luck would be with him any
day he liked to go to battle. Then he set fire to his ships,
landed his men, and went over all the country with armed hand.
Earl Ottar, who ruled over Gautland, came against him, and they
held a great battle with each other; but Earl Hakon gained the
day, and Earl Ottar and a great part of his men were killed.
Earl Hakon now drove with fire and sword over both the Gautlands,
until he came into Norway; and then he proceeded by land all the
way north to Throndhjem. The "Vellekla" tells about this: --
"On the silent battle-field,
In viking garb, with axe and shield,
The warrior, striding o'er the slain,
Asks of the gods `What days will gain?'
Two ravens, flying from the east,
Come croaking to the bloody feast:
The warrior knows what they foreshow --
The days when Gautland blood will flow.
A viking-feast Earl Hakon kept,
The land with viking fury swept,
Harrying the land far from the shore
Where foray ne'er was known before.
Leaving the barren cold coast side,
He raged through Gautland far and wide, --
Led many a gold-decked viking shield
O'er many a peaceful inland field.
Bodies on bodies Odin found
Heaped high upon each battle ground:
The moor, as if by witchcraft's power,
Grows green, enriched by bloody shower.
No wonder that the gods delight
To give such luck in every fight
To Hakon's men -- for he restores
Their temples on our Norway shores."
The Emperor Otta went back to his kingdom in the Saxon land, and
parted in friendship with the Danish king. It is said that the
Emperor Otta stood godfather to Svein, King Harald's son, and
gave him his name; so that he was baptized Otta Svein. King
Harald held fast by his Christianity to his dying day.
King Burizleif went to Vindland, and his son-in-law King Olaf
went with him. This battle is related also by Halfred
Vandredaskald in his song on Olaf: --
"He who through the foaming surges
His white-winged ocean-coursers urges,
Hewed from the Danes, in armour dressed,
The iron bark off mail-clad breast."
Olaf Trygvason was three years in Vindland (A.D. 982-984) when
Geira his queen fell sick, and she died of her illness. Olaf
felt his loss so great that he had no pleasure in Vindland after
it. He provided himself, therefore, with warships, and went out
again a plundering, and plundered first in Frisland, next in
Saxland, and then all the way to Flaemingjaland (Flanders). So
says Halfred Vandredaskald: --
"Olaf's broad axe of shining steel
For the shy wolf left many a meal.
The ill-shaped Saxon corpses lay
Heaped up, the witch-wife's horses' (1) prey.
She rides by night: at pools of blood.
Where Frisland men in daylight stood,
Her horses slake their thirst, and fly
On to the field where Flemings lie.
The raven-friend in Odin's dress --
Olaf, who foes can well repress,
Left Flemish flesh for many a meal
With his broad axe of shining steel."
(1) Ravens were the witches' horses. -- L.
Thereafter Olaf Trygvason sailed to England, and ravaged wide
around in the land. He sailed all the way north to
Northumberland, where he plundered; and thence to Scotland,
where he marauded far and wide. Then he went to the Hebrides,
where he fought some battles; and then southwards to Man, where
he also fought. He ravaged far around in Ireland, and thence
steered to Bretland, which he laid waste with fire and sword, and
all the district called Cumberland. He sailed westward from
thence to Valland, and marauded there. When he left the west,
intending to sail to England, he came to the islands called the
Scilly Isles, lying westward from England in the ocean. Thus
tells Halfred Vandraskald of these events: --
The brave young king, who ne'er retreats,
The Englishman in England beats.
Death through Northumberland is spread
From battleaxe and broad spearhead.
Through Scotland with his spears he rides;
To Man his glancing ships he guides:
Feeding the wolves where'er he came,
The young king drove a bloody game.
The gallant bowmen in the isles
Slew foemen, who lay heaped in piles.
The Irish fled at Olaf's name --
Fled from a young king seeking fame.
In Bretland, and in Cumberland,
People against him could not stand:
Thick on the fields their corpses lay,
To ravens and howling wolves a prey."
Olaf Trygvason had been four years on this cruise (A.D. 985-988),
from the time he left Vindland till he came to the Scilly
While Olaf Trygvason lay in the Scilly Isles he heard of a seer,
or fortune-teller, on the islands, who could tell beforehand
things not yet done, and what he foretold many believed was
really fulfilled. Olaf became curious to try this man's gift of
prophecy. He therefore sent one of his men, who was the
handsomest and strongest, clothed him magnificently, and bade him
say he was the king; for Olaf was known in all countries as
handsomer, stronger, and braver than all others, although, after
he had left Russia, he retained no more of his name than that he
was called Ole, and was Russian. Now when the messenger came to
the fortune-teller, and gave himself out for the king, he got the
answer, "Thou art not the king, but I advise thee to be faithful
to thy king." And more he would not say to that man. The man
returned, and told Olaf, and his desire to meet the fortuneteller
was increased; and now he had no doubt of his being really
a fortune-teller. Olaf repaired himself to him, and, entering
into conversation, asked him if he could foresee how it would go
with him with regard to his kingdom, or of any other fortune he
was to have. The hermit replies in a holy spirit of prophecy,
"Thou wilt become a renowned king, and do celebrated deeds. Many
men wilt thou bring to faith and baptism, and both to thy own and
others' good; and that thou mayst have no doubt of the truth of
this answer, listen to these tokens: When thou comest to thy
ships many of thy people will conspire against thee, and then a
battle will follow in which many of thy men will fall, and thou
wilt be wounded almost to death, and carried upon a shield to thy
ship; yet after seven days thou shalt be well of thy wounds, and
immediately thou shalt let thyself be baptized." Soon after Olaf
went down to his ships, where he met some mutineers and people
who would destroy him and his men. A fight took place, and the
result was what the hermit had predicted, that Olaf was wounded,
and carried upon a shield to his ship, and that his wound was
healed in seven days. Then Olaf perceived that the man had
spoken truth, that he was a true fortune-teller, and had the gift
of prophecy. Olaf went once more to the hermit, and asked
particularly how he came to have such wisdom in foreseeing things
to be. The hermit replied, that the Christian God himself let
him know all that he desired; and he brought before Olaf many
great proofs of the power of the Almighty. In consequence of
this encouragement Olaf agreed to let himself be baptized, and he
and all his followers were baptized forthwith. He remained here
a long time, took the true faith, and got with him priests and
other learned men.
In autumn (A.D. 988) Olaf sailed from Scilly to England, where he
put into a harbour, but proceeded in a friendly way; for England
was Christian, and he himself had become Christian. At this time
a summons to a Thing went through the country, that all men
should come to hold a Thing. Now when the Thing was assembled a
queen called Gyda came to it, a sister of Olaf Kvaran, who was
king of Dublin in Ireland. She had been married to a great earl
in England, and after his death she was at the head of his
dominions. In her territory there was a man called Alfvine, who
was a great champion and single-combat man. He had paid his
addresses to her; but she gave for answer, that she herself would
choose whom of the men in her dominions she would take in
marriage; and on that account the Thing was assembled, that she
might choose a husband. Alfvine came there dressed out in his
best clothes, and there were many well-dressed men at the
meeting. Olaf had come there also; but had on his bad-weather
clothes, and a coarse over-garment, and stood with his people
apart from the rest of the crowd. Gyda went round and looked at
each, to see if any appeared to her a suitable man. Now when she
came to where Olaf stood she looked at him straight in the face,
and asked "what sort of man he was?"
He said, "I am called Ole; and I am a stranger here."
Gyda replies, "Wilt thou have me if I choose thee?"
"I will not say no to that," answered he; and he asked what her
name was, and her family, and descent.
"I am called Gyda," said she; "and am daughter of the king of
Ireland, and was married in this country to an earl who ruled
over this territory. Since his death I have ruled over it, and
many have courted me, but none to whom I would choose to be
She was a young and handsome woman. They afterwards talked over
the matter together, and agreed, and Olaf and Gyda were
Alfvine was very ill pleased with this. It was the custom then
in England, if two strove for anything, to settle the matter by
single combat (1); and now Alfvine challenges Olaf Trygvason to
fight about this business. The time and place for the combat
were settled, and that each should have twelve men with him.
When they met, Olaf told his men to do exactly as they saw him
do. He had a large axe; and when Alfvine was going to cut at him
with his sword he hewed away the sword out of his hand, and with
the next blow struck down Alfvine himself. He then bound him
fast. It went in the same way with all Alfvine's men. They were
beaten down, bound, and carried to Olaf's lodging. Thereupon he
ordered Alfvine to quit the country, and never appear in it
again; and Olaf took all his property. Olaf in this way got Gyda
in marriage, and lived sometimes in England, and sometimes in
(1) Holm-gang: so called because the combatants went to a holm
or uninhabited isle to fight in Norway. -- L.
While Olaf was in Ireland he was once on an expedition which went
by sea. As they required to make a foray for provisions on the
coast, some of his men landed, and drove down a large herd of
cattle to the strand. Now a peasant came up, and entreated Olaf
to give him back the cows that belonged to him. Olaf told him to
take his cows, if he could distinguish them; "but don't delay our
march." The peasant had with him a large house-dog, which he put
in among the herd of cattle, in which many hundred head of beasts
were driven together. The dog ran into the herd, and drove out
exactly the number which the peasant had said he wanted; and all
were marked with the same mark, which showed that the dog knew
the right beasts, and was very sagacious. Olaf then asked the
peasant if he would sell him the dog. "I would rather give him
to you," said the peasant. Olaf immediately presented him with a
gold ring in return, and promised him his friendship in future.
This dog was called Vige, and was the very best of dogs, and Olaf
owned him long afterwards.
The Danish king, Harald Gormson, heard that Earl Hakon had thrown
off Christianity, and had plundered far and wide in the Danish
land. The Danish king levied an army, with which he went to
Norway; and when he came to the country which Earl Hakon had to
rule over he laid waste the whole land, and came with his fleet
to some islands called Solunder. Only five houses were left
standing in Laeradal; but all the people fled up to the
mountains, and into the forest, taking with them all the moveable
goods they could carry with them. Then the Danish king proposed
to sail with his fleet to Iceland, to avenge the mockery and
scorn all the Icelanders had shown towards him; for they had made
a law in Iceland, that they should make as many lampoons against
the Danish king as there were headlands in his country; and the
reason was, because a vessel which belonged to certain Icelanders
was stranded in Denmark, and the Danes took all the property, and
called it wreck. One of the king's bailiffs called Birger was to
blame for this; but the lampoons were made against both. In the
lampoons were the following lines: --
"The gallant Harald in the field
Between his legs lets drop his shield;
Into a pony he was changed.
And kicked his shield, and safely ranged.
And Birger, he who dwells in halls
For safety built with four stone walls,
That these might be a worthy pair,
Was changed into a pony mare."
King Harald told a warlock to hie to Iceland in some altered
shape, and to try what he could learn there to tell him: and he
set out in the shape of a whale. And when he came near to the
land he went to the west side of Iceland, north around the land,
where he saw all the mountains and hills full of guardianspirits,
some great, some small. When he came to Vapnafjord he
went in towards the land, intending to go on shore; but a huge
dragon rushed down the dale against him with a train of serpents,
paddocks, and toads, that blew poison towards him. Then he
turned to go westward around the land as far as Eyjafjord, and he
went into the fjord. Then a bird flew against him, which was so
great that its wings stretched over the mountains on either side
of the fjord, and many birds, great and small, with it. Then he
swam farther west, and then south into Breidafjord. When he came
into the fjord a large grey bull ran against him, wading into the
sea, and bellowing fearfully, and he was followed by a crowd of
land-spirits. From thence he went round by Reykjanes, and wanted
to land at Vikarsskeid, but there came down a hill-giant against
him with an iron staff in his hands. He was a head higher than
the mountains, and many other giants followed him. He then swam
eastward along the land, and there was nothing to see, he said,
but sand and vast deserts, and, without the skerries, highbreaking
surf; and the ocean between the countries was so wide
that a long-ship could not cross it. At that time Brodhelge
dwelt in Vapnafjord, Eyjolf Valgerdson in Eyjafjord, Thord Geller
in Breidafjord, and Thorod Gode in Olfus. Then the Danish king
turned about with his fleet, and sailed back to Denmark.
Hakon the earl settled habitations again in the country that had
been laid waste, and paid no scat as long as he lived to Denmark.
Svein, King Harald's son, who afterwards was called Tjuguskeg
(forked beard), asked his father King Harald for a part of his
kingdom; but now, as before, Harald would not listen to dividing
the Danish dominions, and giving him a kingdom. Svein collected
ships of war, and gave out that he was going on a viking cruise;
but when all his men were assembled, and the Jomsborg viking
Palnatoke had come to his assistance he ran into Sealand to
Isafjord, where his father had been for some time with his ships
ready to proceed on an expedition. Svein instantly gave battle,
and the combat was severe. So many people flew to assist King
Harald, that Svein was overpowered by numbers, and fled. But
King Harald received a wound which ended in his death: and Svein
was chosen King of Denmark. At this time Sigvalde was earl over
Jomsborg in Vindland. He was a son of King Strutharald, who had
ruled over Skane. Heming, and Thorkel the Tall, were Sigvalde's
brothers. Bue the Thick from Bornholm, and Sigurd his brother,
were also chiefs among the Jomsborg vikings: and also Vagn, a son
of Ake and Thorgunna, and a sister's son of Bue and Sigurd. Earl
Sigvalde had taken King Svein prisoner, and carried him to
Vindland, to Jomsborg, where he had forced him to make peace with
Burizleif, the king of the Vinds, and to take him as the peacemaker
between them. Earl Sigvalde was married to Astrid, a
daughter of King Burizleif; and told King Svein that if he did
not accept of his terms, he would deliver him into the hands of
the Vinds. The king knew that they would torture him to death,
and therefore agreed to accept the earl's mediation. The earl
delivered this judgment between them -- that King Svein should
marry Gunhild, King Burizleif's daughter; and King Burizleif
again Thyre, a daughter of Harald, and King Svein's sister; but
that each party should retain their own dominions, and there
should be peace between the countries. Then King Svein returned
home to Denmark with his wife Gunhild. Their sons were Harald
and Knut (Canute) the Great. At that time the Danes threatened
much to bring an army into Norway against Earl Hakon.
King Svein made a magnificent feast, to which he invited all the
chiefs in his dominions; for he would give the succession-feast,
or the heirship-ale, after his father Harald. A short time
before, Strutharald in Skane, and Vesete in Bornholm, father to
Bue the Thick and to Sigurd, had died; and King Svein sent word
to the Jomsborg vikings that Earl Sigvalde and Bue, and their
brothers, should come to him, and drink the funeral-ale for their
fathers in the same feast the king was giving. The Jomsborg
vikings came to the festival with their bravest men, forty ships
of them from Vindland, and twenty ships from Skane. Great was
the multitude of people assembled. The first day of the feast,
before King Svein went up into his father's high-seat, he drank
the bowl to his father's memory, and made the solemn vow, that
before three winters were past he would go over with his army to
England, and either kill King Adalrad (Ethelred), or chase him
out of the country. This heirship bowl all who were at the feast
drank. Thereafter for the chiefs of the Jomsborg vikings was
filled and drunk the largest horn to be found, and of the
strongest drink. When that bowl was emptied, all men drank
Christ's health; and again the fullest measure and the strongest
drink were handed to the Jomsborg vikings. The third bowl was to
the memory of Saint Michael, which was drunk by all. Thereafter
Earl Sigvalde emptied a remembrance bowl to his father's honour,
and made the solemn vow, that before three winters came to an end
he would go to Norway, and either kill Earl Hakon, or chase him
out of the country. Thereupon Thorkel the Tall, his brother,
made a solemn vow to follow his brother Sigvalde to Norway, and
not flinch from the battle so long as Sigvalde would fight there.
Then Bue the Thick vowed to follow them to Norway, and not flinch
so long as the other Jomsborg vikings fought. At last Vagn
Akason vowed that he would go with them to Norway, and not return
until he had slain Thorkel Leira, and gone to bed to his daughter
Ingebjorg without her friends' consent. Many other chiefs made
solemn vows about different things. Thus was the heirship-ale
drunk that day, but the next morning, when the Jomsborg vikings
had slept off their drink, they thought they had spoken more than
enough. They held a meeting to consult how they should proceed
with their undertaking, and they determined to fit out as
speedily as possible for the expedition; and without delay ships
and men-at-arms were prepared, and the news spread quickly.
When Earl Eirik, the son of Hakon, who at that time was in
Raumarike, heard the tidings, he immediately gathered troops, and
went to the Uplands, and thence over the mountains to Throndhjem,
and joined his father Earl Hakon. Thord Kolbeinson speaks of
this in the lay of Eirik: --
"News from the south are flying round;
The bonde comes with look profound,
Bad news of bloody battles bringing,
Of steel-clad men, of weapons ringing.
I hear that in the Danish land
Long-sided ships slide down the strand,
And, floating with the rising tide,
The ocean-coursers soon will ride."
The earls Hakon and Eirik had war-arrows split up and sent round
the Throndhjem country; and despatched messages to both the
Mores, North More and South More, and to Raumsdal, and also north
to Naumudal and Halogaland. They summoned all the country to
provide both men and ships. So it is said in Eirik's lay:
"The skald must now a war-song raise,
The gallant active youth must praise,
Who o'er the ocean's field spreads forth
Ships, cutters, boats, from the far north.
His mighty fleet comes sailing by, --
The people run to see them glide,
Mast after mast, by the coast-side."
Earl Hakon set out immediately to the south, to More, to
reconnoitre and gather people; and Earl Eirik gathered an army
from the north to follow.
The Jomsborg vikings assembled their fleet in Limafjord, from
whence they went to sea with sixty sail of vessels. When they
came under the coast of Agder, they steered northwards to
Rogaland with their fleet, and began to plunder when they came
into the earl's territory; and so they sailed north along the
coast, plundering and burning. A man, by name Geirmund, sailed
in a light boat with a few men northwards to More, and there he
fell in with Earl Hakon, stood before his dinner table, and told
the earl the tidings of an army from Denmark having come to the
south end of the land. The earl asked if he had any certainty of
it. Then Geirmund stretched forth one arm, from which the hand
was cut off, and said, "Here is the token that the enemy is in
the land." Then the earl questioned him particularly about this
army. Geirmund says it consists of Jomsborg vikings, who have
killed many people, and plundered all around. "And hastily and
hotly they pushed on," says he "and I expect it will not be long
before they are upon you." On this the earl rode into every
fjord, going in along the one side of the land and out at the
other, collecting men; and thus he drove along night and day. He
sent spies out upon the upper ridges, and also southwards into
the Fjords; and he proceeded north to meet Eirik with his men.
This appears from Eirik's lay: --
"The earl, well skilled in war to speed
O'er the wild wave the viking-steed,
Now launched the high stems from the shore,
Which death to Sigvalde's vikings bore.
Rollers beneath the ships' keels crash,
Oar-blades loud in the grey sea splash,
And they who give the ravens food
Row fearless through the curling flood."
Eirik hastened southwards with his forces the shortest way he
Earl Sigvalde steered with his fleet northwards around Stad, and
came to the land at the Herey Isles. Although the vikings fell
in with the country people, the people never told the truth about
what the earl was doing; and the vikings went on pillaging and
laying waste. They laid to their vessels at the outer end of Hod
Island, landed, plundered, and drove both men and cattle down to
the ships, killing all the men able to bear arms.
As they were going back to their ships, came a bonde, walking
near to Bue's troop, who said to them, "Ye are not doing like
true warriors, to be driving cows and calves down to the strand,
while ye should be giving chase to the bear, since ye are coming
near to the bear's den."
"What says the old man?" asked some. "Can he tell us anything
about Earl Hakon?"
The peasant replies, "The earl went yesterday into the
Hjorundarfjord with one or two ships, certainly not more than
three, and then he had no news about you."
Bue ran now with his people in all haste down to the ships,
leaving all the booty behind. Bue said, "Let us avail ourselves
now of this news we have got of the earl, and be the first to the
victory." When they came to their ships they rode off from the
land. Earl Sigvalde called to them, and asked what they were
about. They replied, "The earl is in the fjord;" on which Earl
Sigvalde with the whole fleet set off, and rowed north about the
island Hod.
The earls Hakon and Eirik lay in Halkelsvik, where all their
forces were assembled. They had 150 ships, and they had heard
that the Jomsborg vikings had come in from sea, and lay at the
island Hod; and they, in consequence, rowed out to seek them.
When they reached a place called Hjorungavag they met each other,
and both sides drew up their ships in line for an attack. Earl
Sigvalde's banner was displayed in the midst of his army, and
right against it Earl Hakon arranged his force for attack. Earl
Sigvalde himself had 20 ships, but Earl Hakon had 60. In Earl's
army were these chiefs, -- Thorer Hjort from Halogaland, and
Styrkar from Gimsar. In the wing of the opposite array of the
Jomsborg vikings was Bue the Thick, and his brother Sigurd, with
20 ships. Against him Earl Eirik laid himself with 60 ships; and
with him were these chiefs, -- Gudbrand Hvite from the Uplands,
and Thorkel Leira from Viken. In the other wing of the Jomsborg
vikings' array was Vagn Akason with 20 ships; and against him
stood Svein the son of Hakon, in whose division was Skegge of
Yrjar at Uphaug, and Rognvald of Aervik at Stad, with 60 ships.
It is told in the Eirik's lay thus: --
"The bonde's ships along the coast
Sailed on to meet the foemen's host;
The stout earl's ships, with eagle flight,
Rushed on the Danes in bloody fight.
The Danish ships, of court-men full,
Were cleared of men, -- and many a hull
Was driving empty on the main,
With the warm corpses of the slain."
Eyvind Skaldaspiller says also in the "Haleygja-tal": --
"Twas at the peep of day, --
Our brave earl led the way;
His ocean horses bounding --
His war-horns loudly sounding!
No joyful morn arose
For Yngve Frey's base foes
These Christian island-men
Wished themselves home again."
Then the fleets came together, and one of the sharpest of
conflicts began. Many fell on both sides, but the most by far on
Hakon's side; for the Jomsborg vikings fought desperately,
sharply, and murderously, and shot right through the shields. So
many spears were thrown against Earl Hakon that his armour was
altogether split asunder, and he threw it off. So says Tind
Halkelson: --
"The ring-linked coat of strongest mail
Could not withstand the iron hail,
Though sewed with care and elbow bent,
By Norn (1), on its strength intent.
The fire of battle raged around, --
Odin's steel shirt flew all unbound!
The earl his ring-mail from him flung,
Its steel rings on the wet deck rung;
Part of it fell into the sea, --
A part was kept, a proof to be
How sharp and thick the arrow-flight
Among the sea-steeds in this fight."
(1) Norn, one of the Fates, stands here for women, whose
business it was to sew the rings of iron upon the cloth
which made these ring-mail coats or shirts. The needles,
although some of them were of gold, appear to have been
without eyes, and used like shoemaker's awls. -- L.
The Jomsborg vikings had larger and higher-sided ships; and both
parties fought desperately. Vagn Akason laid his ship on board
of Svein Earl Hakon's son's ship, and Svein allowed his ship to
give way, and was on the point of flying. Then Earl Eirik came
up, and laid his ship alongside of Vagn, and then Vagn gave way,
and the ships came to lie in the same position as before.
Thereupon Eirik goes to the other wing, which had gone back a
little, and Bue had cut the ropes, intending to pursue them.
Then Eirik laid himself, board to board, alongside of Bue's ship,
and there was a severe combat hand to hand. Two or three of
Eirik's ships then laid themselves upon Bue's single vessel. A
thunder-storm came on at this moment, and such a heavy hail-storm
that every hailstone weighed a pennyweight. The Earl Sigvalde
cut his cable, turned his ship round, and took flight. Vagn
Akason called to him not to fly; but as Earl Sigvalde paid no
attention to what he said, Vagn threw his spear at him, and hit
the man at the helm. Earl Sigvalde rowed away with 35 ships,
leaving 25 of his fleet behind.
Then Earl Hakon laid his ship on the other side of Bue's ship,
and now came heavy blows on Bue's men. Vigfus, a son of
Vigaglum, took up an anvil with a sharp end, which lay upon
the deck, and on which a man had welded the hilt to his sword
just before, and being a very strong man cast the anvil with both
hands at the head of Aslak Holmskalle, and the end of it went
into his brains. Before this no weapon could wound this Aslak,
who was Bue's foster-brother, and forecastle commander, although
he could wound right and left. Another man among the strongest
and bravest was Havard Hoggande. In this attack Eirik's men
boarded Bue's ship, and went aft to the quarter-deck where Bue
stood. There Thorstein Midlang cut at Bue across his nose, so
that the nosepiece of his helmet was cut in two, and he got a
great wound; but Bue, in turn, cut at Thorstein's side, so that
the sword cut the man through. Then Bue lifted up two chests
full of gold, and called aloud, "Overboard all Bue s men," and
threw himself overboard with his two chests. Many of his people
sprang overboard with him. Some fell in the ship, for it was of
no use to call for quarter. Bue's ship was cleared of people
from stem to stern, and afterwards all the others, the one after
the other.
Earl Eirik then laid himself alongside of Vagn's ship, and there
was a brave defence; but at last this ship too was cleared, and
Vagn and thirty men were taken prisoners, and bound, and brought
to land. Then came up Thorkel Leira, and said, "Thou madest a
solemn vow, Vagn, to kill me, but now it seems more likely that I
will kill thee." Vagn and his men sat all upon a log of wood
together. Thorkel had an axe in his hands, with which he cut
at him who sat outmost on the log. Vagn and the other prisoners
were bound so that a rope was fastened on their feet, but they
had their hands free. One of them said, "I will stick this
cloak-pin that I have in my hand into the earth, if it be so that
I know anything, after my head is cut off." His head was cut
off, but the cloak-pin fell from his hand. There sat also a very
handsome man with long hair, who twisted his hair over his head,
put out his neck, and said, "Don't make my hair bloody." A man
took the hair in his hands and held it fast. Thorkel hewed with
his axe; but the viking twitched his head so strongly that he who
was holding his hair fell forwards, and the axe cut off both his
hands, and stuck fast in the earth. Then Earl Eirik came up, and
asked, "Who is that handsome man?"
He replies, "I am called Sigurd, and am Bue's son. But are all
the Jomsborg vikings dead?"
Eirik says, "Thou art certainly Boe's son. Wilt thou now take
life and peace?"
"That depends," says he, "upon who it is that offers it."
"He offers who has the power to do it -- Earl Eirik."
"That will I," says he, "from his hands." And now the rope was
loosened from him.
Then said Thorkel Leira, "Although thou should give all these men
life and peace, earl, Vagn Akason shall never come from this with
life." And he ran at him with uplifted axe; but the viking
Skarde swung himself in the rope, and let himself fall just
before Thorkel's feet, so that Thorkel ell over him, and Vagn
caught the axe and gave Thorkel a death-wound. Then said the
earl, "Vagn, wilt thou accept life?"
"That I will," says he, "if you give it to all of us."
"Loose them from the rope," said the earl, and it was done.
Eighteen were killed, and twelve got their lives.
Earl Hakon, and many with him, were sitting upon a piece of wood,
and a bow-string twanged from Bue's ship, and the arrow struck
Gissur from Valders, who was sitting next the earl, and was
clothed splendidly. Thereupon the people went on board, and
found Havard Hoggande standing on his knees at the ship's
railing, for his feet had been cut off (1), and he had a bow in
his hand. When they came on board the ship Havard asked, "Who
fell by that shaft?"
They answered, "A man called Gissur."
"Then my luck was less than I thought," said he.
"Great enough was the misfortune," replied they; "but thou shalt
not make it greater." And they killed him on the spot.
The dead were then ransacked, and the booty brought all together
to be divided; and there were twenty-five ships of the Jomsborg
vikings in the booty. So says Tind:
"Many a viking's body lay
Dead on the deck this bloody day,
Before they cut their sun-dried ropes,
And in quick flight put all their hopes.
He whom the ravens know afar
Cleared five-and-twenty ships of war:
A proof that in the furious fight
None can withstand the Norsemen's might."
Then the army dispersed. Earl Hakon went to Throndhjem, and was
much displeased that Earl Eirik had given quarter to Vagn Akason.
It was said that at this battle Earl Hakon had sacrificed for
victory his son, young Erling, to the gods; and instantly came
the hailstorm, and the defeat and slaughter of the Jomsborg
Earl Eirik went to the Uplands, and eastward by that route to his
own kingdom, taking Vagn Akason with him. Earl Eirik married
Vagn to Ingebjorg, a daughter of Thorkel Leira, and gave him a
good ship of war and all belonging to it, and a crew; and they
parted the best of friends. Then Vagn went home south to
Denmark, and became afterwards a man of great consideration, and
many great people are descended from him.
(1) This traditionary tale of a warrior fighting on his knees
after his legs were cut off, appears to have been a popular
idea among the Northmen, and is related by their descendants
in the ballad o Chevy Chase. -- L.
Harald Grenske, as before related, was king in Vestfold, and was
married to Asta, a daughter of Gudbrand Kula. One summer (A.D.
994) Harald Grenske made an expedition to the Baltic to gather
property, and he came to Svithjod. Olaf the Swede was king
there, a son of Eirik the Victorious, and Sigrid, a daughter of
Skoglartoste. Sigrid was then a widow, and had many and great
estates in Svithjod. When she heard that her foster-brother was
come to the country a short distance from her, she sent men to
him to invite him to a feast. He did not neglect the invitation,
but came to her with a great attendance of his followers, and was
received in the most friendly way. He and the queen sat in the
high-seat, and drank together towards the evening, and all his
men were entertained in the most hospitable manner. At night,
when the king went to rest, a bed was put up for him with a
hanging of fine linen around it, and with costly bedclothes; but
in the lodging-house there were few men. When the king was
undressed, and had gone to bed, the queen came to him, filled a
bowl herself for him to drink, and was very gay, and pressed to
drink. The king was drunk above measure, and, indeed, so were
they both. Then he slept, and the queen went away, and laid
herself down also. Sigrid was a woman of the greatest
understanding, and clever in many things. In the morning there
was also the most excellent entertainment; but then it went on as
usual when people have drunk too much, that next day they take
care not to exceed. The queen was very gay, and she and the king
talked of many things with each other; among other things she
valued her property, and the dominions she had in Svithjod, as
nothing less than his property in Norway. With that observation
the king was nowise pleased, and he found no pleasure in anything
after that, but made himself ready for his journey in an ill
humor. On the other hand, the queen was remarkably gay, and made
him many presents, and followed him out to the road. Now Harald
returned about harvest to Norway, and was at home all winter; but
was very silent and cast down. In summer he went once more to
the Baltic with his ships, and steered to Svithjod. He sent a
message to Queen Sigrid that he wished to have a meeting with her
and she rode down to meet him. They talked together and he soon
brought out the proposal that she should marry him. She replied,
that this was foolish talk for him, who was so well married
already that he might think himself well off. Harald says, "Asta
is a good and clever woman; but she is not so well born as I am."
Sigrid replies, "It may be that thou art of higher birth, but I
think she is now pregnant with both your fortunes." They
exchanged but few words more before the queen rode away. King
Harald was now depressed in mind, and prepared himself again to
ride up the country to meet Queen Sigrid. Many of his people
dissuaded him; but nevertheless he set off with a great
attendance, and came to the house in which the queen dwelt. The
same evening came another king, called Vissavald, from Gardarike
(Russia), likewise to pay his addresses to Queen Sigrid. Lodging
was given to both the kings, and to all their people, in a great
old room of an out-building, and all the furniture was of the
same character; but there was no want of drink in the evening,
and that so strong that all were drunk, and the watch, both
inside and outside, fell fast asleep. Then Queen Sigrid ordered
an attack on them in the night, both with fire and sword. The
house was burnt, with all who were in it and those who slipped
out were put to the sword. Sigrid said that she would make these
small kings tired of coming to court her. She was afterwards
called Sigrid the Haughty (Storrada).
This happened the winter after the battle of the Jomsborg vikings
at Hjorungavag. When Harald went up the country after Sigrid, he
left Hrane behind with the ships to look after the men. Now when
Hrane heard that Harald was cut off, he returned to Norway the
shortest way he could, and told the news. He repaired first to
Asta, and related to her all that had happened on the journey,
and also on what errand Harald had visited Queen Sigrid. When
Asta got these tidings she set off directly to her father in the
Uplands, who received her well; but both were enraged at the
design which had been laid in Svithjod, and that King Harald had
intended to set her in a single condition. In summer (A.D. 995)
Asta, Gudbrand's daughter, was confined, and had a boy child, who
had water poured over him, and was called Olaf. Hrane himself
poured water over him, and the child was brought up at first in
the house of Gudbrand and his mother Asta.
Earl Hakon ruled over the whole outer part of Norway that lies on
the sea, and had thus sixteen districts under his sway. The
arrangement introduced by Harald Harfager, that there should be
an earl in each district, was afterward continued for a long
time; and thus Earl Hakon had sixteen earls under him. So says
the "Vellekla": --
"Who before has ever known
Sixteen earls subdued by one?
Who has seen all Norway's land
Conquered by one brave hero's hand?
It will be long in memory held,
How Hakon ruled by sword and shield.
When tales at the viking's mast go round,
His praise will every mouth resound."
While Earl Hakon ruled over Norway there were good crops in the
land, and peace was well preserved in the country among the
bondes. The Earl, for the greater part of his lifetime, was
therefore much beloved by the bondes; but it happened, in the
longer course of time, that the earl became very intemperate in
his intercourse with women, and even carried it so far that he
made the daughters of people of consideration be carried away and
brought home to him; and after keeping them a week or two as
concubines, he sent them home. He drew upon himself the
indignation of me relations of these girls; and the bondes began
to murmur loudly, as the Throndhjem people have the custom of
doing when anything goes against their judgment.
Earl Hakon, in the mean time, hears some whisper that to the
westward, over the Norh sea, was a man called Ole, who was
looked upon as a king. From the conversation of some people, he
fell upon the suspicion that he must be of the royal race of
Norway. It was, indeed, said that this Ole was from Russia; but
the earl had heard that Trygve Olafson had had a son called Olaf,
who in his infancy had gone east to Gardarike, and had been
brought up by King Valdemar. The earl had carefully inquired
about this man, and had his suspicion that he must be the same
person who had now come to these western countries. The earl had
a very good friend called Thorer Klakka, who had been long upon
viking expeditions, sometimes also upon merchant voyages; so that
he was well acquainted all around. This Thorer Earl Hakon sends
over the North sea, and told him to make a merchant voyage to
Dublin, many were in the habit of doing, and carefully to
discover who this Ole was. Provided he got any certainty that he
was Olaf Trygvason, or any other of the Norwegian royal race,
then Thorer should endeavor to ensnare him by some deceit, and
bring him into the earl's power.
On this Thorer sails westward to Ireland, and hears that Ole is
in Dublin with his wife's father King Olaf Kvaran. Thorer, who
was a plausible man, immediately got acquainted with Ole; and as
they often met, and had long conversations together, Ole began to
inquire about news from Norway, and above all of the Upland kings
and great people, -- which of them were in life, and what
dominations they now had. He asked also about Earl Hakon, and if
he was much liked in the country. Thorer replies, that the earl
is such a powerful man that no one dares to speak otherwise than
he would like; but that comes from there being nobody else in the
country to look to. "Yet, to say the truth, I know it to be the
mind of many brave men, and of whole communities, that they would
much rather see a king of Harald Harfager's race come to the
kingdom. But we know of no one suited for this, especially now
that it is proved how vain every attack on Earl Hakon must be."
As they often talked together in the same strain, Olaf disclosed
to Thorer his name and family, and asked him his opinion, and
whether he thought the bondes would take him for their king if he
were to appear in Norway. Thorer encouraged him very eagerly to
the enterprise, and praised him and his talents highly. Then
Olaf's inclination to go to the heritage of his ancestors became
strong. Olaf sailed accordingly, accompanied by Thorer, with
five ships; first to the Hebrides, and from thence to the
Orkneys. At that time Earl Sigurd, Hlodver's son, lay in
Osmundswall, in the island South Ronaldsa, with a ship of war, on
his way to Caithness. Just at the same time Olaf was sailing
with his fleet from the westward to the islands, and ran into the
same harbour, because Pentland Firth was not to be passed at that
tide. When the king was informed that the earl was there, he
made him be called; and when the earl came on board to speak with
the king, after a few words only had passed between them, the
king says the earl must allow himself to be baptized, and all the
people of the country also, or he should be put to death
directly; and he assured the earl he would lay waste the islands
with fire and sword, if the people did not adopt Christianity.
In the position the earl found himself, he preferred becoming
Christian, and he and all who were with him were baptized.
Afterwards the earl took an oath to the king, went into his
service, and gave him his son, whose name was Hvelp (Whelp), or
Hunde (Dog), as an hostage; and the king took Hvelp to Norway
with him. Thereafter Olaf went out to sea to the eastward, and
made the land at Morster Island, where he first touched the
ground of Norway. He had high mass sung in a tent, and
afterwards on the spot a church was built. Thorer Klakka said
now to the king, that the best plan for him would be not to make
it known who he was, or to let any report about him get abroad;
but to seek out Earl Hakon as fast as possible and fall upon him
by surprise. King Olaf did so, sailing northward day and night,
when wind permitted, and did not let the people of the country
know who it was that was sailing in such haste. When he came
north to Agdanes, he heard that the earl was in the fjord, and
was in discord with the bondes. On hearing this, Thorer saw that
things were going in a very different way from what he expected;
for after the battle with the Jomsborg vikings all men in Norway
were the most sincere friends of the earl on account of the
victory he had gained, and of the peace and security he had given
to the country; and now it unfortunately turns out that a great
chief has come to the country at a time when the bondes are in
arms against the earl.
Earl Hakon was at a feast in Medalhus in Gaulardal and his ships
lay out by Viggja. There was a powerful bonde, by name Orm
Lyrgja, who dwelt in Bunes, who had a wife called Gudrun, a
daughter of Bergthor of Lundar. She was called the Lundasol; for
she was the most-beautiful of women. The earl sent his slaves to
Orm, with the errand that they should bring Orm's wife, Gudrun,
to the earl. The thralls tell their errand, and Orm bids them
first seat themselves to supper; but before they had done eating,
many people from the neighbourhood, to whom Orm had sent notice,
had gathered together: and now Orm declared he would not send
Gudrun with the messengers. Gudrun told the thralls to tell the
earl that she would not come to him, unless he sent Thora of
Rimul after her. Thora was a woman of great influence, and one
of the earl's best beloved. The thralls say that they will come
another time, and both the bonde and his wife would be made to
repent of it; and they departed with many threats. Orm, on the
other hand, sent out a message-token to all the neighbouring
country, and with it the message to attack Earl Hakon with
weapons and kill him. He sent also a message to Haldor in
Skerdingsstedja, who also sent out his message-token. A short
time before, the earl had taken away the wife of a man called
Brynjolf, and there had very nearly been an insurrection about
that business. Having now again got this message-token, the
people made a general revolt, and set out all to Medalhus. When
the earl heard of this, he left the house with his followers, and
concealed himself in a deep glen, now called Jarlsdal (Earl's
Dale). Later in the day, the earl got news of the bondes' army.
They had beset all the roads; but believed the earl had escaped
to his ships, which his son Erlend, a remarkably handsome and
hopeful young man, had the command of. When night came the earl
dispersed his people, and ordered them to go through the forest
roads into Orkadal; "for nobody will molest you," said he, "when
I am not with you. Send a message to Erlend to sail out of the
fjord, and meet me in More. In the mean time I will conceal
myself from the bondes." Then the earl went his way with one
thrall or slave, called Kark, attending him. There was ice upon
the Gaul (the river of Gaulardal), and the earl drove his horse
upon it, and left his coat lying upon the ice. They then went to
a hole, since called Jarlshella (the Earl's Hole), where they
slept. When Kark awoke he told his dream, -- that a black
threatening mad had come into the hole, and was angry that people
should have entered it; and that the man had said, "Ulle is
dead." The earl said that his son Erlend must be killed. Kark
slept again and was again disturbed in his sleep; and when he
awoke he told his dream, -- that the same man had again appeared
to him, and bade him tell the earl that all the sounds were
closed. From this dream the earl began to suspect that it
betokened a short life to him. They stood up, and went to the
house of Rimul. The earl now sends Kark to Thora, and begs of
her to come secretly to him. She did so and received the earl
kindly and he begged her to conceal him for a few nights until
the army of the bondes had dispersed. "Here about my house,"
said she, "you will be hunted after, both inside and outside; for
many know that I would willingly help you if I can. There is but
one place about the house where they could never expect to find
such a man as you, and that is the swine-stye." When they came
there the earl said, "Well, let it be made ready for us; as to
save our life is the first and foremost concern." The slave dug
a great hole in it, bore away the earth that he dug out, and laid
wood over it. Thora brought the tidings to the earl that Olaf
Trygvason had come from sea into the fjord, and had killed his
son Erlend. Then the earl and Kark both went into the hole.
Thora covered it with wood, and threw earth and dung over it, and
drove the swine upon the top of it. The swine-style was under a
great stone.
Olaf Trygvason came from sea into the fjord with five long-ships,
and Erlend, Hakon's son, rowed towards him with three ships.
When the vessels came near to each other, Erlend suspected they
might be enemies, and turned towards the land. When Olaf and his
followers saw long-ships coming in haste out of the fjord, and
rowing towards them, they thought Earl Hakon must be here; and
they put out all oars to follow them. As soon as Erlend and his
ships got near the land they rowed aground instantly, jumped
overboard, and took to the land; but at the same instant Olaf's
ship came up with them. Olaf saw a remarkably handsome man
swimming in the water, and laid hold of a tiller and threw it at
him. The tiller struck Erlend, the son of Hakon the earl, on the
head, and clove it to the brain; and there left Erlend his life.
Olaf and his people killed many; but some escaped, and some were
made prisoners, and got life and freedom that they might go and
tell what had happened. They learned then that the bondes had
driven away Earl Hakon, and that he had fled, and his troops were
all dispersed.
The bondes then met Olaf, to the joy of both, and they made an
agreement together. The bondes took Olaf to be their king, and
resolved, one and all, to seek out Earl Hakon. They went up
Gaulardal; for it seemed to them likely that if the earl was
concealed in any house it must be at Rimul, for Thora was his
dearest friend in that valley. They come up, therefore, and
search everywhere, outside and inside the house, but could not
find him. Then Olaf held a House Thing (trusting), or council
out in the yard, and stood upon a great stone which lay beside
the swine-stye, and made a speech to the people, in which he
promised to enrich the man with rewards and honours who should
kill the earl. This speech was heard by the earl and the thrall
Kark. They had a light in their room.
"Why art thou so pale," says the earl, "and now again black as
earth? Thou hast not the intention to betray me?"
"By no means," replies Kark.
"We were born on the same night," says the earl, "and the time
will be short between our deaths."
King Olaf went away in the evening. When night came the earl
kept himself awake but Kark slept, and was disturbed in his
sleep. The earl woke him, and asked him "what he was dreaming
He answered, "I was at Hlader and Olaf Trygvason was laying a
gold ring about my neck."
The earl says, "It will be a red ring Olaf will lay about thy
neck if he catches thee. Take care of that! From me thou shalt
enjoy all that is good, therefore betray me not."
They then kept themselves awake both; the one, as it were,
watching upon the other. But towards day the earl suddenly
dropped asleep; but his sleep was so unquiet that he drew his
heels under him, and raised his neck, as if going to rise, and
screamed dreadfully high. On this Kark, dreadfully alarmed, drew
a large knife out of his belt, stuck it in the earl's throat, and
cut it across, and killed Earl Hakon. Then Kark cut off the
earl's head, and ran away. Late in the day he came to Hlader,
where he delivered the earl's head to King Olaf, and told all
these circumstances of his own and Earl Hakon's doings. Olaf had
him taken out and beheaded.
King Olaf, and a vast number of bondes with him, then went out to
Nidarholm, and had with him the heads of Earl Hakon and Kark.
This holm was used then for a place of execution of thieves and
ill-doers, and there stood a gallows on it. He had the heads of
the earl and of Kark hung upon it, and the whole army of the
bondes cast stones at them, screaming and shouting that the one
worthless fellow had followed the other. They then sent up to
Gaulardal for the earl's dead body. So great was the enmity of
the Throndhjem people against Earl Hakon, that no man could
venture to call him by any other name than Hakon the Bad; and he
was so called long after those days. Yet, sooth to say of Earl
Hakon, he was in many respects fitted to be a chief: first,
because he was descended from a high race; then because he had
understanding and knowledge to direct a government; also manly
courage in battle to gain victories, and good luck in killing his
enemies. So says Thorleif Raudfeldson: --
"In Norway's land was never known
A braver earl than the brave Hakon.
At sea, beneath the clear moon's light,
No braver man e'er sought to fight.
Nine kings to Odin's wide domain
Were sent, by Hakon's right hand slain!
So well the raven-flocks were fed --
So well the wolves were filled with dead!"
Earl Hakon was very generous; but the greatest misfortunes
attended even such a chief at the end of his days: and the great
cause of this was that the time was come when heathen sacrifices
and idolatrous worship were doomed to fall, and the holy faith
and good customs to come in their place.
Olaf Trvgvason was chosen at Throndhjem by the General Thing to
be the king over the whole country, as Harald Harfager had been.
The whole public and the people throughout all the land would
listen to nothing else than that Olaf Trygvason should be king.
Then Olaf went round the whole country, and brought it under his
rule, and all the people of Norway gave in their submission; and
also the chiefs in the Uplands and in Viken, who before had held
their lands as fiefs from the Danish king, now became King Olaf's
men, and held their hands from him. He went thus through the
whole country during the first winter (A.D. 996) and the
following summer. Earl Eirik, the son of Earl Hakon, his brother
Svein, and their friends and relations, fled out of the country,
and went east to Sweden to King Olaf the Swede, who gave them a
good reception. So says Thord Kolbeinson: --
"O thou whom bad men drove away,
After the bondes by foul play,
Took Hakon's life! Fate will pursue
These bloody wolves, and make them rue.
When the host came from out the West,
Like some tall stately war-ship's mast,
I saw the son of Trygve stand,
Surveying proud his native land."
And again, --
"Eirik has more upon his mind,
Against the new Norse king designed,
Than by his words he seems to show --
And truly it may well be so.
Stubborn and stiff are Throndhjem men,
But Throndhjem's earl may come again;
In Swedish land he knows no rest --
Fierce wrath is gathering in his breast."
Lodin was the name of a man from Viken who was rich and of good
family. He went often on merchant voyages, and sometimes on
viking cruises. It happened one summer that he went on a
merchant voyage with much merchandise in a ship of his own. He
directed his course first to Eistland, and was there at a market
in summer. To the place at which the market was held many
merchant goods were brought, and also many thralls or slaves for
sale. There Lodin saw a woman who was to be sold as a slave: and
on looking at her he knew her to be Astrid Eirik's daughter, who
had been married to King Trygve. But now she was altogether
unlike what she had been when he last saw her; for now she was
pale, meagre in countenance, and ill clad. He went up to her,
and asked her how matters stood with her. She replied, "It is
heavy to be told; for I have been sold as a slave, and now again
I am brought here for sale." After speaking together a little
Astrid knew him, and begged him to buy her; and bring her home to
her friends. "On this condition," said he, "I will bring thee
home tn Norway, that thou wilt marry me." Now as Astrid stood in
great need, and moreover knew that Lodin was a man of high birth,
rich, and brave, she promised to do so for her ransom. Lodin
accordingly bought Astrid, took her home to Norway with him, and
married her with her friends' consent. Their children were
Thorkel Nefia, Ingerid, and Ingegerd. Ingebjorg and Astrid were
daughters of Astrid by King Trygve. Eirik Bjodaskalle's sons
were Sigird, Karlshofud, Jostein, and Thorkel Dydril, who were
all rich and brave people who had estates east in the country.
In Viken in the east dwelt two brothers, rich and of good
descent; one called Thorgeir, and the other Hyrning; and they
married Lodin and Astrid's daughters, Ingerid and Ingegerd.
When Harald Gormson, king of Denmark, had adopted Christianity,
he sent a message over all his kingdom that all people should be
baptized, and converted to the true faith. He himself followed
his message, and used power and violence where nothing else would
do. He sent two earls, Urguthrjot and Brimilskjar, with many
people to Norway, to proclaim Christianity there. In Viken,
which stood directly under the king's power, this succeeded, and
many were baptized of the country folk. But when Svein Forkedbeard,
immediately after his father King Harald's death, went out
on war expeditions in Saxland, Frisland, and at last in England,
the Northmen who had taken up Christianity returned back to
heathen sacrifices, just as before; and the people in the north
of the country did the same. But now that Olaf Trygvason was
king of Norway, he remained long during the summer (A.D. 996) in
Viken, where many of his relatives and some of his brothers-inlaw
were settled, and also many who had been great friends of his
father; so that he was received with the greatest affection.
Olaf called together his mother's brothers, his stepfather Lodin,
and his brothers-in-law Thorgeir and Hyrning, to speak with them,
and to disclose with the greatest care the business which he
desired they themselves should approve of, and support with all
their power; namely, the proclaiming Christianity over all his
kingdom. He would, he declared, either bring it to this, that
all Norway should be Christian, or die. "I shall make you all,"
said he, "great and mighty men in promoting this work; for I
trust to you most, as blood relations or brothers-in-law." All
agreed to do what he asked, and to follow him in what he desired.
King Olaf immediately made it known to the public that he
recommended Christianity to all the people in his kingdom, which
message was well received and approved of by those who had before
given him their promise; and these being the most powerful among
the people assembled, the others followed their example, and
all the inhabitants of the east part of Viken allowed themselves
to be baptized. The king then went to the north part of Viken
and invited every man to accept Christianity; and those who
opposed him he punished severely, killing some, mutilating
others, and driving some into banishment. At length he brought
it so far, that all the kingdom which his father King Trvgve had
ruled over, and also that of his relation Harald Grenske,
accepted of Christianity; and during that summer (A.D. 996) and
the following winter (A.D. 997) all Viken was made Christian.
Early in spring (A.D. 997) King Olaf set out from Viken with a
great force northwards to Agder, and proclaimed that every man
should be baptized. And thus the people received Christianity,
for nobody dared oppose the king's will, wheresoever he came. In
Hordaland, however, were many bold and great men of Hordakare's
race. He, namely, had left four sons, -- the first Thorleif
Spake; the second, Ogmund, father of Thorolf Skialg, who was
father of Erling of Sole; the third was Thord father of the Herse
Klyp who killed King Sigurd Slefa, Gunhild's son; and lastly,
Olmod, father of Askel, whose son was Aslak Fitjaskalle; and that
family branch was the greatest and most considered in Hordaland.
Now when this family heard the bad tidings, that the king was
coming along the country from the eastward with a great force,
and was breaking the ancient law of the people, and imposing
punishment and hard conditions on all who opposed him, the
relatives appointed a meeting to take counsel with each other,
for they knew the king would come down upon them at once: and
they all resolved to appear in force at the Gula-Thing, there to
hold a conference with King Olaf Trygvason.
When King Olaf came to Rogaland, he immediately summoned the
people to a Thing; and when the bondes received the messagetoken
for a Thing, they assembled in great numbers well armed.
After they had come together, they resolved to choose three men,
the best speakers of the whole, who should answer King Olaf, and
argue with the king; and especially should decline to accept of
anything against the old law, even if the king should require it
of them. Now when the bondes came to the Thing, and the Thing
was formed, King Olaf arose, and at first spoke good-humoredly to
the people; but they observed he wanted them to accept
Christianity, with all his fine words: and in the conclusion he
let them know that those who should speak against him, and not
submit to his proposal, must expect his displeasure and
punishment, and all the ill that it was in his power to inflict.
When he had ended his speech, one of the bondes stood up, who was
considered the most eloquent, and who had been chosen as the
first who should reply to King Olaf. But when he would begin to
speak such a cough seized him, and such a difficulty of
breathing, that he could not bring out a word, and had to sit
down again. Then another bonde stood up, resolved not to let an
answer be wanting, although it had gone so ill with the former:
but he stammered so that he could not get a word uttered, and all
present set up a laughter, amid which the bonde sat down again.
And now the third stood up to make a speech against King Olaf's;
but when he began he became so hoarse and husky in his throat,
that nobody could hear a word he said, and he also had to sit
down. There was none of the bondes now to speak against the
king, and as nobody answered him there was no opposition; and it
came to this, that all agreed to what the king had proposed. All
the people of the Thing accordingly were baptized before the
Thing was dissolved.
King Olaf went with his men-at-arms to the Gula-Thing; for the
bondes had sent him word that they would reply there to his
speech. When both parties had come to the Thing, the king
desired first to have a conference with the chief people of the
country; and when the meeting was numerous the king set forth his
errand, -- that he desired them, according to his proposal, to
allow themselves to be baptized. Then said Olmod the Old, "We
relations have considered together this matter, and have come to
one resolution. If thou thinkest, king, to force us who are
related together to such things as to break our old law, or to
bring us under thyself by any sort of violence, then will we
stand against thee with all our might: and be the victory to him
to whom fate ordains it. But if thou, king, wilt advance our
relations' fortunes, then thou shalt have leave to do as thou
desirest, and we will all serve thee with zeal in thy purpose."
The king replies, "What do you propose for obtaining this
Then answers Olmod, "The first is, that thou wilt give thy sister
Astrid in marriage to Erling Skjalgson, our relation, whom we
look upon as the most hopeful young man in all Norway."
King Olaf replied, that this marriage appeared to him also very
suitable; "as Erling is a man of good birth, and a good-looking
man in appearance: but Astrid herself must answer to this
Thereupon the king spoke to his sister. She said, "It is but of
little use that I am a king's sister, and a king~s daughter, if I
must marry a man who has no high dignity or office. I will
rather wait a few years for a better match." Thus ended this
King Olaf took a falcon that belonged to Astrid, plucked off all
its feathers, and then sent it to her. Then said Astrid, "Angry
is my brother." And she stood up, and went to the king, who
received her kindly, and she said that she left it to the king to
determine her marriage. "I think," said the king, "that I must
have power enough in this land to raise any man I please to high
dignity." Then the king ordered Olmod and Erling to be called
to a conference, and all their relations; and the marriage was
determined upon, and Astrid betrothed to Erling. Thereafter the
king held the Thing, and recommended Christianity to the bondes;
and as Olmod, and Erling, and all their relations, took upon
themselves the most active part in forwarding the king's desire,
nobody dared to speak against it; and all the people were
baptized, and adopted Christianity.
Erling Skjalgson had his wedding in summer, and a great many
people were assembled at it. King Olaf was also there, and
offered Erling an earldom. Erling replied thus: "All my
relations have been herses only, and I will take no higher title
than they have; but this I will accept from thee, king, that thou
makest me the greatest of that title in the country." The king
consented; and at his departure the king invested his brother-in
law Erling with all the land north of the Sognefjord, and east to
the Lidandisnes, on the same terms as Harald Harfager had given
land to his sons, as before related.
The same harvest King Olaf summoned the bondes to a Thing of the
four districts at Dragseid, in Stad: and there the people from
Sogn, the Fjord-districts, South More, and Raumsdal, were
summoned to meet. King Olaf came there with a great many people
who had followed him from the eastward, and also with those who
had joined him from Rogaland and Hordaland. When the king came
to the Thing, he proposed to them there, as elsewhere,
Christianity; and as the king had such a powerful host with him,
they were frightened. The king offered them two conditions, --
either to accept Christianity, or to fight. But the bondes saw
they were in no condition to fight the king, and resolved,
therefore, that all the people should agree to be baptized. The
king proceeded afterwards to North More, and baptized all that
district. He then sailed to Hlader, in Throndhjem; had the
temple there razed to the ground; took all the ornaments and all
property out of the temple, and from the gods in it; and among
other things the great gold ring which Earl Hakon had ordered to
be made, and which hung in the door of the temple; and then had
the temple burnt. But when the bondes heard of this, they sent
out a war-arrow as a token through the whole district, ordering
out a warlike force, and intended to meet the king with it. In
the meantime King Olaf sailed with a war force out of the fjord
along the coast northward, intending to proceed to Halogaland,
and baptize there. When he came north to Bjarnaurar, he heard
from Halogaland that a force was assembled there to defend the
country against the king. The chiefs of this force were Harek of
Thjotta, Thorer Hjort from Vagar, and Eyvind Kinrifa. Now when
King Olaf heard this, he turned about and sailed southwards along
the land; and when he got south of Stad proceeded at his leisure,
and came early in winter (A.D. 998) all the way east to Viken.
Queen Sigrid in Svithjod, who had for surname the Haughty, sat in
her mansion, and during the same winter messengers went between
King Olaf and Sigrid to propose his courtship to her, and she had
no objection; and the matter was fully and fast resolved upon.
Thereupon King Olaf sent to Queen Sigrid the great gold ring he
had taken from the temple door of Hlader, which was considered a
distinguished ornament. The meeting for concluding the business
was appointed to be in spring on the frontier, at the Gaut river.
Now the ring which King Olaf had sent Queen Sigrid was highly
prized by all men; yet the queen's gold-smiths, two brothers, who
took the ring in their hands, and weighed it, spoke quietly to
each other about it, and in a manner that made the queen call
them to her, and ask "what they smiled at?" But they would not
say a word, and she commanded them to say what it was they had
discovered. Then they said the ring is false. Upon this she
ordered the ring to be broken into pieces, and it was found to be
copper inside. Then the queen was enraged, and said that Olaf
would deceive her in more ways than this one. In the same year
(A.D. 998) King Olaf went into Ringenke, and there the people
also were baptized.
Asta, the daughter of Gudbrand, soon after the fall of Harald
Grenske married again a man who was called Sigurd Syr, who was a
king in Ringerike. Sigurd was a son of Halfdan, and grandson of
Sigurd Hrise, who was a son of Harald Harfager. Olaf, the son of
Asta and Harald Grenske, lived with Asta, and was brought up from
childhood in the house of his stepfather, Sigurd Syr. Now when
King Olaf Trygvason came to Ringerike to spread Christianity,
Sigurd Syr and his wife allowed themselves to be baptized, along
with Olaf her son; and Olaf Trygvason was godfather to Olaf, the
stepson of Harald Grenske. Olaf was then three years old. Olaf
returned from thence to Viken, where he remained all winter. He
had now been three years king in Norway (A.D. 998).
Early in spring (A.D. 998) King Olaf went eastwards to
Konungahella to the meeting with Queen Sigrid; and when they met
the business was considered about which the winter before they
had held communication, namely, their marriage; and the business
seemed likely to be concluded. But when Olaf insisted that
Sigrid should let herself be baptized, she answered thus: -- "I
must not part from the faith which I have held, and my
forefathers before me; and, on the other hand, I shall make no
objection to your believing in the god that pleases you best."
Then King Olaf was enraged, and answered in a passion, "Why
should I care to have thee, an old faded woman, and a heathen
jade?" and therewith struck her in the face with his glove which
he held in his hands, rose up, and they parted. Sigrid said,
"This may some day be thy death." The king set off to Viken, the
queen to Svithjod.
Then the king proceeded to Tunsberg, and held a Thing, at which
he declared in a speech that all the men of whom it should be
known to a certainty that they dealt with evil spirits, or in
witchcraft, or were sorcerers, should be banished forth of the
land. Thereafter the king had all the neighborhood ransacked
after such people, and called them all before him; and when they
were brought to the Thing there was a man among them called
Eyvind Kelda, a grandson of Ragnvald Rettilbeine, Harald
Harfager's son. Eyvind was a sorcerer, and particularly knowing
in witchcraft. The king let all these men be seated in one room,
which was well adorned, and made a great feast for them, and gave
them strong drink in plenty. Now when they were all very drunk,
he ordered the house be set on fire, and it and all the people
within it were consumed, all but Eyvind Kelda, who contrived to
escape by the smoke-hole in the roof. And when he had got a long
way off, he met some people on the road going to the king, and he
told them to tell the king that Eyvind Kelda had slipped away
from the fire, and would never come again in King Olaf's power,
but would carry on his arts of witchcraft as much as ever. When
the people came to the king with such a message from Eyvind, the
king was ill pleased that Eyvind had escaped death.
When spring (A.D. 998) came King Olaf went out to Viken, and was
on visits to his great farms. He sent notice over all Viken that
he would call out an army in summer, and proceed to the north
parts of the country. Then he went north to Agder; and when
Easter was approaching he took the road to Rogaland with 300
(=360) men, and came on Easter evening north to Ogvaldsnes, in
Kormt Island, where an Easter feast was prepared for him. That
same night came Eyvind Kelda to the island with a well-manned
long-ship, of which the whole crew consisted of sorcerers and
other dealers with evil spirits. Eyvind went from his ship to
the land with his followers, and there they played many of their
pranks of witchcraft. Eyvind clothed them with caps of darkness,
and so thick a mist that the king and his men could see nothing
of them; but when they came near to the house at Ogvaldsnes, it
became clear day. Then it went differently from what Eyvind had
intended: for now there came just such a darkness over him and
his comrades in witchcraft as they had made before, so that they
could see no more from their eyes than from the back of their
heads but went round and round in a circle upon the island. When
the king's watchman saw them going about, without knowing what
people these were, they told the king. Thereupon he rose up with
his people, put on his clothes, and when he saw Eyvind with his
men wandering about he ordered his men to arm, and examine what
folk these were. The king's men discovered it was Eyvind, took
him and all his company prisoners, and brought them to the king.
Eyvind now told all he had done on his journey. Then the king
ordered these all to be taken out to a skerry which was under
water in flood tide, and there to be left bound. Eyvind and all
with him left their lives on this rock, and the skerry is still
called Skrattasker.
It is related that once on a time King Olaf was at a feast at
this Ogvaldsnes, and one eventide there came to him an old man
very gifted in words, and with a broad-brimmed hat upon his head.
He was one-eyed, and had something to tell of every land. He
entered into conversation with the king; and as the king found
much pleasure in the guest's speech, he asked him concerning many
things, to which the guest gave good answers: and the king sat up
late in the evening. Among other things, the king asked him if
he knew who the Ogvald had been who had given his name both to
the ness and to the house. The guest replied, that this Ogvald
was a king, and a very valiant man, and that he made great
sacrifices to a cow which he had with him wherever he went, and
considered it good for his health to drink her milk. This same
King Ogvald had a battle with a king called Varin, in which
battle Ogvald fell. He was buried under a mound close to the
house; "and there stands his stone over him, and close to it his
cow also is laid." Such and many other things, and ancient
events, the king inquired after. Now, when the king had sat late
into the night, the bishop reminded him that it was time to go to
bed, and the king did so. But after the king was undressed, and
had laid himself in bed, the guest sat upon the foot-stool before
the bed, and still spoke long with the king; for after one tale
was ended, he still wanted a new one. Then the bishop observed
to the king, it was time to go to sleep, and the king did so; and
the guest went out. Soon after the king awoke, asked for the
guest, and ordered him to be called, but the guest was not to be
found. The morning after, the king ordered his cook and cellarmaster
to be called, and asked if any strange person had been
with them. They said, that as they were making ready the meat a
man came to them, and observed that they were cooking very poor
meat for the king's table; whereupon he gave them two thick and
fat pieces of beef, which they boiled with the rest of the meat.
Then the king ordered that all the meat should be thrown away,
and said this man can be no other than the Odin whom the heathens
have so long worshipped; and added, "but Odin shall not deceive
King Olaf collected a great army in the east of the country
towards summer, and sailed with it north to Nidaros in the
Throndhjem country. From thence he sent a message-token over all
the fjord, calling the people of eight different districts to a
Thing; but the bondes changed the Thing-token into a war-token;
and called together all men, free and unfree, in all the
Throndhjem land. Now when the king met the Thing, the whole
people came fully armed. After the Thing was seated, the king
spoke, and invited them to adopt Christianity; but he had only
spoken a short time when the bondes called out to him to be
silent, or they would attack him and drive him away. "We did
so," said they, "with Hakon foster-son of Athelstan, when he
brought us the same message, and we held him in quite as much
respect as we hold thee." When King Olaf saw how incensed the
bondes were, and that they had such a war force that he could
make no resistance, he turned his speech as if he would give way
to the bondes, and said, "I wish only to be in a good
understanding with you as of old; and I will come to where ye
hold your greatest sacrifice-festival, and see your customs, and
thereafter we shall consider which to hold by." And in this all
agreed; and as the king spoke mildly and friendly with the
bondes, their answer was appeased, and their conference with the
king went off peacefully. At the close of it a midsummer
sacrifice was fixed to take place in Maeren, and all chiefs and
great bondes to attend it as usual. The king was to be at it.
There was a great bonde called Skegge, and sometimes Jarnskegge,
or Iron Beard, who dwelt in Uphaug in Yrjar. He spoke first at
the Thing to Olaf; and was the foremost man of the bondes in
speaking against Christianity. The Thing was concluded in this
way for that time, -- the bondes returned home, and the king went
to Hlader.
King Olaf lay with his ships in the river Nid, and had thirty
vessels, which were manned with many brave people; but the king
himself was often at Hlader, with his court attendants. As the
time now was approaching at which the sacrifices should be made
at Maeren, the king prepared a great feast at Hlader, and sent a
message to the districts of Strind, Gaulardal, and out to
Orkadal, to invite the chiefs and other great bondes. When the
feast was ready, and the chiefs assembled, there was a handsome
entertainment the first evening, at which plenty of liquor went
round. and the guests were made very drunk. The night after they
all slept in peace. The following morning, when the king was
dressed, he had the early mass sung before him; and when the mass
was over, ordered to sound the trumpets for a House Thing: upon
which all his men left the ships to come up to the Thing. When
the Thing was seated, the king stood up, and spoke thus: "We held
a Thing at Frosta, and there I invited the bondes to allow
themselves to be baptized; but they, on the other hand, invited
me to offer sacrifice to their gods, as King Hakon, Athelstan's
foster-son, had done; and thereafter it was agreed upon between
us that we should meet at Maerin, and there make a great
sacrifice. Now if I, along with you, shall turn again to making
sacrifice, then will I make the greatest of sacrifices that are
in use; and I will sacrifice men. But I will not select slaves
or malefactors for this, but will take the greatest men only to
be offered to the gods; and for this I select Orm Lygra of
Medalhus, Styrkar of Gimsar, Kar of Gryting, Asbjorn Thorbergson
of Varnes, Orm of Lyxa, Haldor of Skerdingsstedja;" and besides
these he named five others of the principal men. All these, he
said, he would offer in sacrifice to the gods for peace and a
fruitful season; and ordered them to be laid hold of immediately.
Now when the bondes saw that they were not strong enough to make
head against the king, they asked for peace, and submitted wholly
to the king's pleasure. So it was settled that all the bondes
who had come there should be baptized, and should take an oath to
the king to hold by the right faith, and to renounce sacrifice to
the gods. The king then kept all these men as hostages who came
to his feast, until they sent him their sons, brothers, or other
near relations.
King Olaf went in with all his forces into the Throndhjem
country; and when he came to Maeren all among the chiefs of the
Throndhjem people who were most opposed to Christianity were
assembled, and had with them all the great bondes who had before
made sacrifice at that place. There was thus a greater multitude
of bondes than there had been at the Frosta-Thing. Now the king
let the people be summoned to the Thing, where both parties met
armed; and when the Thing was seated the king made a speech, in
which he told the people to go over to Christianity. Jarnskegge
replies on the part of the bondes, and says that the will of the
bondes is now, as formerly, that the king should not break their
laws. "We want, king," said he, "that thou shouldst offer
sacrifice, as other kings before thee have done." All the bondes
applauded his speech with a loud shout, and said they would have
all things according to what Skegge said. Then the king said he
would go into the temple of their gods with them, and see what
the practices were when they sacrificed. The bondes thought well
of this proceeding, and both parties went to the temple.
Now King Olaf entered into the temple with some few of his men
and a few bondes; and when the king came to where their gods
were, Thor, as the most considered among their gods, sat there
adorned with gold and silver. The king lifted up his gold-inlaid
axe which he carried in his hands, and struck Thor so that the
image rolled down from its seat. Then the king's men turned to
and threw down all the gods from their seats; and while the king
was in the temple, Jarnskegge was killed outside of the temple
doors, and the king's men did it. When the king came forth out
of the temple he offered the bondes two conditions, -- that all
should accept of Christianity forthwith, or that they should
fight with him. But as Skegge was killed, there was no leader in
the bondes' army to raise the banner against King Olaf; so they
took the other condition, to surrender to the king's will and
obey his order. Then King Olaf had all the people present
baptized, and took hostages from them for their remaining true to
Christianity; and he sent his men round to every district, and no
man in the Throndhjem country opposed Christianity, but all
people took baptism.
King Olaf with his people went out to Nidaros, and made houses on
the flat side of the river Nid, which he raised to be a merchant
town, and gave people ground to build houses upon. The king's
house he had built just opposite Skipakrok; and he transported
thither, in harvest, all that was necessary for his winter
residence, and had many people about him there.
King Olaf appointed a meeting with the relations of Jarnskegge,
and offered them the compensation or penalty for his bloodshed;
for there were many bold men who had an interest in that
business. Jarnskegge had a daughter called Gudrun; and at last
it was agreed upon between the parties that the king should take
her in marriage. When the wedding day came King Olaf and Gudrun
went to bed together. As soon as Gudrun, the first night they
lay together, thought the king was asleep, she drew a knife, with
which she intended to run him through; but the king saw it, took
the knife from her, got out of bed, and went to his men, and told
them what had happened. Gudrun also took her clothes, and went
away along with all her men who had followed her thither. Gudrun
never came into the king's bed again.
The same autumn (A.D. 998) King Olaf laid the keel of a great
long-ship out on the strand at the river Nid. It was a snekkja;
and he employed many carpenters upon her, so that early in winter
the vessel was ready. It had thirty benches for rowers, was high
in stem and stern, but was not broad. The king called this ship
Tranen (the Crane). After Jarnskegge's death his body was
carried to Yrjar, and lies there in the Skegge mound on Austrat.
When King Olaf Trygvason had been two years king of Norway (A.D.
997), there was a Saxon priest in his house who was called
Thangbrand, a passionate, ungovernable man, and a great manslayer;
but he was a good scholar, and a clever man. The king
would not have him in his house upon account of his misdeeds; but
gave him the errand to go to Iceland, and bring that land to the
Christian faith. The king gave him a merchant vessel: and, as
far as we know of this voyage of his, he landed first in Iceland
at Austfjord in the southern Alptfjord, and passed the winter in
the house of Hal of Sida. Thangbrand proclaimed Christianity in
Iceland, and on his persuasion Hal and all his house people, and
many other chiefs, allowed themselves to be baptized; but there
were many more who spoke against it. Thorvald Veile and
Veterlide the skald composed a satire about Thangbrand; but he
killed them both outright. Thangbrand was two years in Iceland,
and was the death of three men before he left it.
There was a man called Sigurd, and another called Hauk, both of
Halogaland, who often made merchant voyages. One summer (A.D.
998) they had made a voyage westward to England; and when they
came back to Norway they sailed northwards along the coast, and
at North More they met King Olaf's people. When it was told the
king that some Halogaland people were come who were heathen, he
ordered the steersmen to be brought to him, and he asked them if
they would consent to be baptized; to which they replied, no.
The king spoke with them in many ways, but to no purpose. He
then threatened them with death and torture: but they would not
allow themselves to be moved. He then had them laid in irons,
and kept them in chains in his house for some time, and often
conversed with them, but in vain. At last one night they
disappeared, without any man being able to conjecture how they
got away. But about harvest they came north to Harek of Thjotta,
who received them kindly, and with whom they stopped all winter
(A.D. 999), and were hospitably entertained.
It happened one good-weather day in spring (A.D. 999) that Harek
was at home in his house with only few people, and time hung
heavy on his hands. Sigurd asked him if he would row a little
for amusement. Harek was willing; and they went to the shore,
and drew down a six-oared skiff; and Sigurd took the mast and
rigging belonging to the boat out of the boat-house, for they
often used to sail when they went for amusement on the water.
Harek went out into the boat to hang the rudder. The brothers
Sigurd and Hauk, who were very strong men, were fully armed, as
they were used to go about at home among the peasants. Before
they went out to the boat they threw into her some butter-kits
and a bread-chest, and carried between them a great keg of ale.
When they had rowed a short way from the island the brothers
hoisted the sail, while Harek was seated at the helm; and they
sailed away from the island. Then the two brothers went aft to
where Harek the bonde was sitting; and Sigurd says to him, "Now
thou must choose one of these conditions, -- first, that we
brothers direct this voyage; or, if not, that we bind thee fast
and take the command; or, third, that we kill thee." Harek saw
how matters stood with him. As a single man, he was not better
than one of those brothers, even if he had been as well armed; so
it appeared to him wisest to let them determine the course to
steer, and bound himself by oath to abide by this condition. On
this Sigurd took the helm, and steered south along the land, the
brothers taking particular care that they did not encounter
people. The wind was very favourable; and they held on sailing
along until they came south to Throndhjem and to Nidaros, where
they found the king. Then the king called Harek to him, and in a
conference desired him to be baptized. Harek made objections;
and although the king and Harek talked over it many times,
sometimes in the presence of other people, and sometimes alone,
they could not agree upon it. At last the king says to Harek,
"Now thou mayst return home, and I will do thee no injury; partly
because we are related together, and partly that thou mayst not
have it to say that I caught thee by a trick: but know for
certain that I intend to come north next summer to visit you
Halogalanders, and ye shall then see if I am not able to punish
those who reject Christianity." Harek was well pleased to get
away as fast as he could. King Olaf gave Harek a good boat of
ten or twelve pair of oars, and let it be fitted out with the
best of everything needful; and besides he gave Harek thirty men,
all lads of mettle, and well appointed.
Harek of Thjotta went away from the town as fast as he could; but
Hauk and Sigurd remained in the king's house, and both took
baptism. Harek pursued his voyage until he came to Thjotta. He
sent immediately a message to his friend Eyvind Kinrifa, with the
word that he had been with King Olaf; but would not let himself
be cowed down to accept Christianity. The message at the same
time informed him that King Olaf intended coming to the north in
summer against them, and they must be at their posts to defend
themselves; it also begged Eyvind to come and visit him, the
sooner the better. When this message was delivered to Eyvind, he
saw how very necessary it was to devise some counsel to avoid
falling into the king's hands. He set out, therefore, in a light
vessel with a few hands as fast as he could. When he came to
Thjotta he was received by Harek in the most friendly way, and
they immediately entered into conversation with each other behind
the house. When they had spoken together but a short time, King
Olaf's men, who had secretly followed Harek to the north, came
up, and took Eyvind prisoner, and carried him away to their ship.
They did not halt on their voyage until they came to Throndhjem,
and presented themselves to King Olaf at Nidaros. Then Eyvind
was brought up to a conference with the king, who asked him to
allow himself to be baptized, like other people; but Eyvind
decidedly answered he would not. The king still, with persuasive
words, urged him to accept Christianity, and both he and the
bishop used many suitable arguments; but Eyvind would not allow
himself to be moved. The king offered him gifts and great fiefs,
but Eyvind refused all. Then the king threatened him with
tortures and death, but Eyvind was steadfast. Then the king
ordered a pan of glowing coals to be placed upon Eyvind's belly,
which burst asunder. Eyvind cried, "Take away the pan, and I
will say something before I die," which also was done. The king
said, "Wilt thou now, Eyvind, believe in Christ?" "No," said
Eyvind, "I can take no baptism; for I am an evil spirit put into
a man's body by the sorcery of Fins because in no other way could
my father and mother have a child." With that died Eyvind, who
had been one of the greatest sorcerers.
The spring after (A.D. 999) King Olaf fitted out and manned his
ships, and commanded himself his ship the Crane. He had many and
smart people with him; and when he was ready, he sailed
northwards with his fleet past Bryda, and to Halogaland.
Wheresoever he came to the land, or to the islands, he held a
Thing, and told the people to accept the right faith, and to be
baptized. No man dared to say anything against it, and the whole
country he passed through was made Christian. King Olaf was a
guest in the house of Harek of Thjotta, who was baptized with all
his people. At parting the king gave Harek good presents; and he
entered into the king's service, and got fiefs, and the
privileges of lendsman from the king.
There was a bonde, by name Raud the Strong, who dwelt in Godey
in Salten fjord. Raud was a very rich man, who had many house
servants; and likewise was a powerful man, who had many Fins in
his service when he wanted them. Raud was a great idolater, and
very skillful in witchcraft, and was a great friend of Thorer
Hjort, before spoken of. Both were great chiefs. Now when they
heard that King Olaf was coming with a great force from the south
to Halogaland, they gathered together an army, ordered out ships,
and they too had a great force on foot. Raud had a large ship
with a gilded head formed like a dragon, which ship had thirty
rowing benches, and even for that kind of ship was very large.
Thorer Hjort had also a large ship. These men sailed southwards
with their ships against King Olaf, and as soon as they met gave
battle. A great battle there was, and a great fall of men; but
principally on the side of the Halogalanders, whose ships were
cleared of men, so that a great terror came upon them. Raud
rode with his dragon out to sea, and set sail. Raud had always a
fair wind wheresoever he wished to sail, which came from his arts
of witchcraft; and, to make a short story, he came home to Godey.
Thorer Hjort fled from the ships up to the land: but King Olaf
landed people, followed those who fled, and killed them. Usually
the king was the foremost in such skirmishes, and was so now.
When the king saw where Thorer Hjort, who was quicker on foot
than any man, was running to, he ran after him with his dog Vige.
The king said, "Vige! Vige! Catch the deer." Vige ran straight
in upon him; on which Thorer halted, and the king threw a spear
at him. Thorer struck with his sword at the dog, and gave him a
great wound; but at the same moment the king's spear flew under
Thorer's arm, and went through and through him, and came out at
his other-side. There Thorer left his life; but Vige was carried
to the ships.
King Olaf gave life and freedom to all the men who asked it and
agreed to become Christian. King Olaf sailed with his fleet
northwards along the coast, and baptized all the people among
whom he came; and when he came north to Salten fjord, he intended
to sail into it to look for Raud, but a dreadful tempest and
storm was raging in the fjord. They lay there a whole week, in
which the same weather was raging within the fjord, while without
there was a fine brisk wind only, fair for proceeding north along
the land. Then the king continued his voyage north to Omd, where
all the people submitted to Christianity. Then the king turned
about and sailed to the south again; but when he came to the
north side of Salten fjord, the same tempest was blowing, and the
sea ran high out from the fjord, and the same kind of storm
prevailed for several days while the king was lying there. Then
the king applied to Bishop Sigurd, and asked him if he knew any
counsel about it; and the bishop said he would try if God would
give him power to conquer these arts of the Devil.
Bishop Sigurd took all his mass robes and went forward to the bow
of the king's ship; ordered tapers to be lighted, and incense to
be brought out. Then he set the crucifix upon the stem of the
vessel, read the Evangelist and many prayers, besprinkled the
whole ship with holy water, and then ordered the ship-tent to be
stowed away, and to row into the fjord. The king ordered all the
other ships to follow him. Now when all was ready on board the
Crane to row, she went into the fjord without the rowers finding
any wind; and the sea was curled about their keel track like as
in a calm, so quiet and still was the water; yet on each side of
them the waves were lashing up so high that they hid the sight of
the mountains. And so the one ship followed the other in the
smooth sea track; and they proceeded this way the whole day and
night, until they reached Godey. Now when they came to Raud's
house his great ship, the dragon, was afloat close to the land.
King Olaf went up to the house immediately with his people; made
an attack on the loft in which Raud was sleeping, and broke it
open. The men rushed in: Raud was taken and bound, and of the
people with him some were killed and some made prisoners. Then
the king's men went to a lodging in which Raud's house servants
slept, and killed some, bound others, and beat others. Then the
king ordered Raud to be brought before him, and offered him
baptism. "And," says the king, "I will not take thy property
from thee, but rather be thy friend, if thou wilt make thyself
worthy to be so." Raud exclaimed with all his might against the
proposal, saying he would never believe in Christ, and making his
scoff of God. Then the king was wroth, and said Raud should die
the worst of deaths. And the king ordered him to be bound to a
beam of wood, with his face uppermost, and a round pin of wood
set between his teeth to force his mouth open. Then the king
ordered an adder to be stuck into the mouth of him; but the
serpent would not go into his mouth, but shrunk back when Raud
breathed against it. Now the king ordered a hollow branch of an
angelica root to be stuck into Raud's mouth; others say the king
put his horn into his mouth, and forced the serpent to go in by
holding a red-hot iron before the opening. So the serpent crept
into the mouth of Raud and down his throat, and gnawed its way
out of his side; and thus Raud perished. King Olaf took here
much gold and silver, and other property of weapons, and many
sorts of precious effects; and all the men who were with Raud he
either had baptized, or if they refused had them killed or
tortured. Then the king took the dragonship which Raud had
owned, and steered it himself; for it was a much larger and
handsomer vessel than the Crane. In front it had a dragon's
head, and aft a crook, which turned up, and ended with the figure
of the dragon's tail. The carved work on each side of the stem
and stern was gilded. This ship the king called the Serpent.
When the sails were hoisted they represented, as it were, the
dragon's wings; and the ship was the handsomest in all Norway.
The islands on which Raud dwelt were called Gylling and Haering;
but the whole islands together were called Godey Isles, and the
current between the isles and the mainland the Godey Stream.
King Olaf baptized the whole people of the fjord, and then sailed
southwards along the land; and on this voyage happened much and
various things, which are set down in tales and sagas, -- namely,
how witches and evil spirits tormented his men, and sometimes
himself; but we will rather write about what occurred when King
Olaf made Norway Christian, or in the other countries in which he
advanced Christianity. The same autumn Olaf with his fleet
returned to Throndhjem, and landed at Nidaros, where he took up
his winter abode. What I am now going to write about concerns
the Icelanders.
Kjartan Olafson, a son's son of Hoskuld, and a daughter's son of
Egil Skallagrimson, came the same autumn (A.D. 999) from Iceland
to Nidaros, and he was considered to be the most agreeable and
hopeful man of any born in Iceland. There was also Haldor, a son
of Gudmund of Modruveller; and Kolbein, a son of Thord, Frey's
gode, and a brother's son of Brennuflose; together with Sverting,
a son of the gode Runolf. All these were heathens; and besides
them there were many more, -- some men of power, others common
men of no property. There came also from Iceland considerable
people, who, by Thangbrand's help, had been made Christians;
namely, Gissur the white, a son of Teit Ketilbjornson; and his
mother was Alof, daughter of herse Bodvar, who was the son of
Vikingakare. Bodvar's brother was Sigurd, father of Eirik
Bjodaskalle, whose daughter Astrid was King Olaf's mother.
Hjalte Skeggjason was the name of another Iceland man, who was
married to Vilborg, Gissur the White's daughter. Hjalte was also
a Christian; and King Olaf was very friendly to his relations
Gissur and Hjalte, who live with him. But the Iceland men who
directed the ships, and were heathens, tried to sail away as soon
as the king came to the town of Nidaros, for they were told the
king forced all men to become Christians; but the wind came stiff
against them, and drove them back to Nidarholm. They who
directed the ships were Thorarin Nefjulson, the skald Halfred
Ottarson, Brand the Generous, and Thorleik, Brand's son. It was
told the king that there were Icelanders with ships there, and
all were heathen, and wanted to fly from a meeting with the king.
Then the king sent them a message forbidding them to sail, and
ordering them to bring their ships up to the town, which they
did, but without discharging the cargoes. (They carried on their
dealings and held a market at the king's pier. In spring they
tried three times to slip away, but never succeeded; so they
continued lying at the king's pier. It happened one fine day
that many set out to swim for amusement, and among them was a man
who distinguished himself above the others in all bodily
exercises. Kjartan challenged Halfred Vandredaskald to try
himself in swimming against this man, but he declined it. "Then
will I make a trial," said Kjartan, casting off his clothes, and
springing into the water. Then he set after the man, seizes hold
of his foot, and dives with him under water. They come up again,
and without speaking a word dive again, and are much longer under
water than the first time. They come up again, and without
saying a word dive a third time, until Kjartan thought it was
time to come up again, which, however, he could in no way
accomplish, which showed sufficiently the difference in their
strength. They were under water so long that Kjartan was almost
drowned. They then came up, and swam to land. This Northman
asked what the Icelander's name was. Kjartan tells his name.
He says, "Thou art a good swimmer; but art thou expert also in
other exercises?"
Kjartan replied, that such expertness was of no great value.
The Northman asks, "Why dost thou not inquire of me such things
as I have asked thee about?"
Kjartan replies, "It is all one to me who thou art, or what thy
name is."
"Then will I," says he, "tell thee: I am Olaf Trygvason."
He asked Kjartan much about Iceland, which he answered generally,
and wanted to withdraw as hastily as he could; but the king said,
"Here is a cloak which I will give thee, Kjartan." And Kjartan
took the cloak with many thanks.)" (1)
(1) The part included in parenthesis is not found in the
original text of "Heimskringla", but taken from "Codex
When Michaelmas came, the king had high mass sung with great
splendour. The Icelanders went there, listening to the fine
singing and the sound of the bells; and when they came back to
their ships every man told his opinion of the Christian man's
worship. Kjartan expressed his pleasure at it, but most of the
others scoffed at it; and it went according to the proverb, "the
king had many ears," for this was told to the king. He sent
immediately that very day a message to Kjartan to come to him.
Kjartan went with some men, and the king received him kindly.
Kjartan was a very stout and handsome man, and of ready and
agreeable speech. After the king and Kjartan had conversed a
little, the king asked him to adopt Christianity. Kjartan
replies, that he would not say no to that, if he thereby obtained
the king's friendship; and as the king promised him the fullest
friendship, they were soon agreed. The next day Kjartan was
baptized, together with his relation Bolle Thorlakson, and all
their fellow-travelers. Kjartan and Bolle were the king's guests
as long as they were in their white baptismal clothes, and the
king had much kindness for them. Wherever they came they were
looked upon as people of distinction.
As King Olaf one day was walking in the street some men met him,
and he who went the foremost saluted the king. The king asked
the man his name, and he called himself Halfred.
"Art thou the skald?" said the king.
"I can compose poetry," replied he.
"Wilt thou then adopt Christianity, and come into my service?"
asked the king.
"If I am baptized," replies he, "it must be on one condition, --
that thou thyself art my godfather; for no other will I have."
The king replies, "That I will do." And Halfred was baptized,
the king holding him during the baptism.
Afterwards the king said, "Wilt thou enter into my service?"
Halfred replied, "I was formerly in Earl Hakon's court; but now I
will neither enter into thine nor into any other service, unless
thou promise me it shall never be my lot to be driven away from
"It has been reported to me," said the king, "that thou are
neither so prudent nor so obedient as to fulfil my commands."
"In that case," replied Halfred, "put me to death."
"Thou art a skald who composes difficulties," says the king; "but
into my service, Halfred, thou shalt be received."
Halfred says, "if I am to be named the composer of difficulties,
what cost thou give me, king, on my name-day?"
The king gave him a sword without a scabbard, and said, "Now
compose me a song upon this sword, and let the word sword be in
every line of the strophe." Halfred sang thus:
"This sword of swords is my reward.
For him who knows to wield a sword,
And with his sword to serve his lord,
Yet wants a sword, his lot is hard.
I would I had my good lord's leave
For this good sword a sheath to choose:
I'm worth three swords when men use,
But for the sword-sheath now I grieve."
Then the king gave him the scabbard, observing that the word
sword was wanting in one line of his strophe. "But there instead
are three swords in one of the lines," says Halfred. "That is
true," replies the king. -- Out of Halfred's lays we have taken
the most of the true and faithful accounts that are here related
about Olaf Trygvason.
The same harvest (A.D. 999) Thangbrand the priest came back from
Iceland to King Olaf, and told the ill success of his journey;
namely, that the Icelanders had made lampoons about him; and that
some even sought to kill him, and there was little hope of that
country ever being made Christian. King Olaf was so enraged at
this, that he ordered all the Icelanders to be assembled by sound
of horn, and was going to kill all who were in the town, but
Kjartan, Gissur, and Hjalte, with the other Icelanders who had
become Christians, went to him, and said, "King, thou must not
fail from thy word -- that however much any man may irritate
thee, thou wilt forgive him if he turn from heathenism and become
Christian. All the Icelanders here are willing to be baptized;
and through them we may find means to bring Christianity into
Iceland: for there are many amongst them, sons of considerable
people in Iceland, whose friends can advance the cause; but the
priest Thangbrand proceeded there as he did here in the court,
with violence and manslaughter, and such conduct the people there
would not submit to." The king harkened to those remonstrances;
and all the Iceland men who were there were baptized.
King Olaf was more expert in all exercises than any man in Norway
whose memory is preserved to us in sagas; and he was stronger and
more agile than most men, and many stories are written down about
it. One is that he ascended the Smalsarhorn, and fixed his
shield upon the very peak. Another is, that one of his followers
had climbed up the peak after him, until he came to where he
could neither get up nor down; but the king came to his help,
climbed up to him, took him under his arm, and bore him to the
flat ground. King Olaf could run across the oars outside of the
vessel while his men were rowing the Serpent. He could play with
three daggers, so that one was always in the air, and he took the
one falling by the handle. He could walk all round upon the
ship's rails, could strike and cut equally well with both hands,
and could cast two spears at once. King Olaf was a very merry
frolicsome man; gay and social; was very violent in all respects;
was very generous; was very finical in his dress, but in battle
he exceeded all in bravery. He was distinguished for cruelty
when he was enraged, and tortured many of his enemies. Some he
burnt in fire; some he had torn in pieces by mad dogs; some he
had mutilated, or cast down from high precipices. On this
account his friends were attached to him warmly, and his enemies
feared him greatly; and thus he made such a fortunate advance in
his undertakings, for some obeyed his will out of the friendliest
zeal, and others out of dread.
Leif, a son of Eirik the Red, who first settled in Greenland,
came this summer (A.D. 999) from Greenland to Norway; and as he
met King Olaf he adopted Christianity, and passed the winter
(A.D. 1000) with the king.
Gudrod, a son of Eirik Bloodaxe and Gunhild, had been ravaging in
the west countries ever since he fled from Norway before the Earl
Hakon. But the summer before mentioned (A.D. 999), where King
Olaf Trygvason had ruled four years over Norway, Gudrod came to
the country, and had many ships of war with him. He had sailed
from England; and when he thought himself near to the Norway
coast, he steered south along the land, to the quarter where it
was least likely King Olaf would be. Gudrod sailed in this way
south to Viken; and as soon as he came to the land he began to
plunder, to subject the people to him, and to demand that they
should accept of him as king. Now as the country people saw that
a great army was come upon them, they desired peace and terms.
They offered King Gudrod to send a Thing-message over all the
country, and to accept of him at the Thing as king, rather than
suffer from his army; but they desired delay until a fixed day,
while the token of the Thing's assembling was going round through
the land. The king demanded maintenance during the time this
delay lasted. The bondes preferred entertaining the king as a
guest, by turns, as long as he required it; and the king accepted
of the proposal to go about with some of his men as a guest from
place to place in the land, while others of his men remained to
guard the ships. When King Olaf's relations, Hyrning and
Thorgeir, heard of this, they gathered men, fitted out ships, and
went northwards to Viken. They came in the night with their men
to a place at which King Gudrod was living as a guest, and
attacked him with fire and weapons; and there King Gudrod fell,
and most of his followers. Of those who were with his ships some
were killed, some slipped away and fled to great distances; and
now were all the sons of Eirik and Gunhild dead.
The winter after, King Olaf came from Halogaland (A.D. 1000), he
had a great vessel built at Hladhamrar, which was larger than any
ship in the country, and of which the beam-knees are still to be
seen. The length of keel that rested upon the grass was seventyfour
ells. Thorberg Skafhog was the man's name who was the
master-builder of the ship; but there were many others besides,
-- some to fell wood, some to shape it, some to make nails, some
to carry timber; and all that was used was of the best. The ship
was both long and broad and high-sided, and strongly timbered.
While they were planking the ship, it happened that Thorberg had
to go home to his farm upon some urgent business; and as he
remained there a long time, the ship was planked up on both sides
when he came back. In the evening the king went out, and
Thorberg with him, to see how the vessel looked, and everybody
said that never was seen so large and so beautiful a ship of
war. Then the king returned to the town. Early next morning the
king returns again to the ship, and Thorberg with him. The
carpenters were there before them, but all were standing idle
with their arms across. The king asked, "what was the matter?"
They said the ship was destroyed; for somebody had gone from,
stem to stern, and cut one deep notch after the other down the
one side of the planking. When the king came nearer he saw it
was so, and said, with an oath, "The man shall die who has thus
destroyed the vessel out of envy, if he can be discovered, and I
shall bestow a great reward on whoever finds him out."
"I can tell you, king," said Thorberg, "who has done this piece
of work." --
"I don't think," replies the king, "that any one is so likely to
find it out as thou art."
Thorberg says, "I will tell you, king, who did it. I did it
The king says, "Thou must restore it all to the same condition as
before, or thy life shall pay for it."
Then Thorberg went and chipped the planks until the deep notches
were all smoothed and made even with the rest; and the king and
all present declared that the ship was much handsomer on the side
of the hull which Thorberg, had chipped, and bade him shape the
other side in the same way; and gave him great thanks for the
improvement. Afterwards Thorberg was the master builder of the
ship until she was entirely finished. The ship was a dragon,
built after the one the king had captured in Halogaland; but this
ship was far larger, and more carefully put together in all her
parts. The king called this ship Serpent the Long, and the
other Serpent the Short. The long Serpent had thirty-four
benches for rowers. The head and the arched tail were both gilt,
and the bulwarks were as high as in sea-going ships. This ship
was the best and most costly ship ever made in Norway.
Earl Eirik, the son of Earl Hakon, and his brothers, with many
other valiant men their relations, had left the country after
Earl Hakon's fall. Earl Eirik went eastwards to Svithjod, to
Olaf, the Swedish king, and he and his people were well received.
King Olaf gave the earl peace and freedom in the land, and great
fiefs; so that he could support himself and his men well. Thord
Kolbeinson speaks of this in the verses before given. Many
people who fled from the country on account of King Olaf
Trygvason came out of Norway to Earl Eirik; and the earl resolved
to fit out ships and go a-cruising, in order to get property for
himself and his people. First he steered to Gotland, and lay
there long in summer watching for merchant vessels sailing
towards the land, or for vikings. Sometimes he landed and
ravaged all round upon the sea-coasts. So it is told in the
"Banda-drapa": --
"Eirik, as we have lately heard,
Has waked the song of shield and sword --
Has waked the slumbering storm of shields
Upon the vikings' water-fields:
From Gotland's lonely shore has gone
Far up the land, and battles won:
And o'er the sea his name is spread,
To friends a shield, to foes a dread."
Afterwards Earl Eirik sailed south to Vindland, and at Stauren
found some viking ships, and gave them battle. Eirik gained the
victory, and slew the vikings. So it is told in the "Bandadrapa":
"Earl Eirik, he who stoutly wields
The battle-axe in storm of shields,
With his long ships surprised the foe
At Stauren, and their strength laid low
Many a corpse floats round the shore;
The strand with dead is studded o'er:
The raven tears their sea-bleached skins --
The land thrives well when Eirik wins."
Earl Eirik sailed back to Sweden in autumn, and staid there all
winter (A.D. 997); but in the spring fitted out his war force
again, and sailed up the Baltic. When he came to Valdemar's
dominions he began to plunder and kill the inhabitants, and burn
the dwellings everywhere as he came along, and to lay waste the
country. He came to Aldeigiuburg, and besieged it until he took
the castle; and he killed many people, broke down and burned the
castle, and then carried destruction all around far and wide in
Gardarike. So it is told in the "Banda-drapa": --
"The generous earl, brave and bold,
Who scatters his bright shining gold,
Eirik with fire-scattering hand,
Wasted the Russian monarch's land, --
With arrow-shower, and storm of war,
Wasted the land of Valdemar.
Aldeiga burns, and Eirik's might
Scours through all Russia by its light."
Earl Eirik was five years in all on this foray; and when he
returned from Gardarike he ravaged all Adalsysla and Eysysla, and
took there four viking ships from the Danes and killed every man
on board. So it is told in the "Banda-drapa": --
"Among the isles flies round the word,
That Eirik's blood-devouring sword
Has flashed like fire in the sound,
And wasted all the land around.
And Eirik too, the bold in fight,
Has broken down the robber-might
Of four great vikings, and has slain
All of the crew -- nor spared one Dane.
In Gautland he has seized the town,
In Syssels harried up and down;
And all the people in dismay
Fled to the forests far away.
By land or sea, in field or wave,
What can withstand this earl brave?
All fly before his fiery hand --
God save the earl, and keep the land."
When Eirik had been a year in Sweden he went over to Denmark
(A.D. 996) to King Svein Tjuguskeg, the Danish king, and courted
his daughter Gyda. The proposal was accepted, and Earl Eirik
married Gyda; and a year after (A.D. 997) they had a son, who was
called Hakon. Earl Eirik was in the winter in Denmark, or
sometimes in Sweden; but in summer he went a-cruising.
The Danish king, Svein Tjuguskeg, was married to Gunhild, a
daughter of Burizleif, king of the Vinds. But in the times we
have just been speaking of it happened that Queen Gunhild fell
sick and died. Soon after King Svein married Sigrid the Haughty,
a daughter of Skoglartoste, and mother of the Swedish king Olaf;
and by means of this relationship there was great friendship
between the kings and Earl Eirik, Hakon's son.
Burizleif, the king of the Vinds, complained to his relation Earl
Sigvalde, that the agreement was broken which Sigvalde had made
between King Svein and King Burizleif, by which Burizleif was to
get in marriage Thyre, Harald's daughter, a sister of King Svein:
but that marriage had not proceeded, for Thyre had given positive
no to the proposal to marry her to an old and heathen king.
"Now," said King Burizleif to Earl Sigvalde, "I must have the
promise fulfilled." And he told Earl Sigvalde to go to Denmark,
and bring him Thyre as his queen. Earl Sigvalde loses no time,
but goes to King Svein of Denmark, explains to him the case; and
brings it so far by his persuasion, that the king delivered his
sister Thyre into his hands. With her went some female
attendants, and her foster-father, by name Ozur Agason, a man of
great power, and some other people. In the agreement between the
king and the earl, it was settled that Thyre should have in
property the possessions which Queen Gunhild had enjoyed in
Vindland, besides other great properties as bride-gifts. Thyre
wept sorely, and went very unwillingly. When the earl came to
Vindland, Burizleif held his wedding with Queen Thyre, and
received her in marriage; bus as long as she was among heathens
she would neither eat nor drink with them, and this lasted for
seven days.
It happened one night that Queen Thyre and Ozur ran away in the
dark, and into the woods, and, to be short in our story, came at
last to Denmark. But here Thyre did not dare to remain, knowing
that if her brother King Svein heard of her, he would send her
back directly to Vindland. She went on, therefore, secretly to
Norway, and never stayed her journey until she fell in with King
Olaf, by whom she was kindly received. Thyre related to the king
her sorrows, and entreated his advice in her need, and protection
in his kingdom. Thyre was a well-spoken woman, and the king had
pleasure in her conversation. He saw she was a handsome woman,
and it came into his mind that she would be a good match; so he
turns the conversation that way, and asks if she will marry him.
Now, as she saw that her situation was such that she could not
help herself, and considered what a luck it was for her to marry
so celebrated a man, she bade him to dispose himself of her hand
and fate; and, after nearer conversation, King Olaf took Thyre in
marriage. This wedding was held in harvest after the king
returned from Halogaland (A.D. 999), and King Olaf and Queen
Thyre remained all winter (A.D. 1000) at Nidaros.
The following spring Queen Thyre complained often to King Olaf,
and wept bitterly over it, that she who had so great property in
Vindland had no goods or possessions here in the country that
were suitable for a queen; and sometimes she would entreat the
king with fine words to get her property restored to her, and
saying that King Burizleif was so great a friend of King Olaf
that he would not deny King Olaf anything if they were to meet.
But when King Olaf's friends heard of such speeches, they
dissuaded him from any such expedition. It is related at the
king one day early in spring was walking in the street, and met a
man in the market with many, and, for that early season,
remarkably large angelica roots. The king took a great stalk of
the angelica in his hand, and went home to Queen Thyre's lodging.
Thyre sat in her room weeping as the king came in. The king
said, "Set here, queen, is a great angelica stalk, which I give
thee." She threw it away, and said, "A greater present Harald
Gormson gave to my mother; and he was not afraid to go out of the
land and take his own. That was shown when he came here to
Norway, and laid waste the greater part of the land, and seized
on all the scat and revenues; and thou darest not go across the
Danish dominions for this brother of mine, King Svein." As she
spoke thus, King Olaf sprang up, and answered with loud oath,
"Never did I fear thy brother King Svein; and if we meet he shall
give way before me!"
Soon after the king convoked a Thing in the town, and proclaimed
to all the public, that in summer would go abroad upon an
expedition out of the country, and would raise both ships and men
from every district; and at the same time fixed how many ships
would have from the whole Throndhjem fjord. Then he sent his
message-token south and north, both along the sea-coast and up in
the interior of the country, to let an army be gathered. The
king ordered the Long Serpent to be put into the water, along
with all his other ships both small and great. He himself
steered the Long Serpent. When the crews were taken out for the
ships, they were so carefully selected that no man on board the
Long Serpent was older than sixty or younger than twenty years,
and all were men distinguished for strength and courage. Those
who were Olaf's bodyguard were in particular chosen men, both of
the natives and of foreigners, and the boldest and strongest.
Ulf the Red was the name of the man who bore King Olaf's banner,
and was in the forecastle of the Long Serpent; and with him was
Kolbjorn the marshal, Thorstein Uxafot, and Vikar of Tiundaland,
a brother of Arnliot Gelline. By the bulkhead next the
forecastle were Vak Raumason from Gaut River, Berse the Strong,
An Skyte from Jamtaland, Thrand the Strong from Thelamork, and
his brother Uthyrmer. Besides these were, of Halogaland men,
Thrand Skjalge and Ogmund Sande, Hlodver Lange from Saltvik, and
Harek Hvasse; together with these Throndhjem men -- Ketil the
High, Thorfin Eisle, Havard and his brothers from Orkadal. The
following were in the fore-hold: Bjorn from Studla, Bork from the
fjords. Thorgrim Thjodolfson from Hvin, Asbjorn and Orm, Thord
from Njardarlog, Thorstein the White from Oprustadar, Arnor from
More, Halstein and Hauk from the Fjord district, Eyvind Snak,
Bergthor Bestil, Halkel from Fialer, Olaf Dreng, Arnfin from
Sogn, Sigurd Bild, Einar from Hordaland, and Fin, and Ketil from
Rogaland and Grjotgard the Brisk. The following were in the hold
next the mast: Einar Tambaskelfer, who was not reckoned as fully
experienced, being only eighteen years old; Thorstein Hlifarson,
Thorolf, Ivar Smetta, and Orm Skogarnef. Many other valiant men
were in the Serpent, although we cannot tell all their names. In
every half division of the hold were eight men, and each and all
chosen men; and in the fore-hold were thirty men. It was a
common saying among people, that the Long Serpent's crew was as
distinguished for bravery, strength, and daring, among other men,
as the Long Serpent was distinguished among other ships. Thorkel
Nefja, the king's brother, commanded the Short Serpent; and
Thorkel Dydril and Jostein, the king's mother's brothers, had the
Crane; and both these ships were well manned. King Olaf had
eleven large ships from Throndhjem, besides vessels with twenty
rowers' benches, smaller vessels, and provision-vessels.
When King Olaf had nearly rigged out his fleet in Nidaros, he
appointed men over the Throndhjem country in all districts and
communities. He also sent to Iceland Gissur the White and Hjalte
Skeggjason, to proclaim Christianity there; and sent with them a
priest called Thormod, along with several men in holy orders.
But he retained with him, as hostages, four Icelanders whom he
thought the most important; namely, Kjartan Olafson, Haldor
Gudmundson, Kolbein Thordson, and Sverting Runolfson. Of Gissur
and Hjalte's progress, it is related that they came to Iceland
before the Althing, and went to the Thing; and in that Thing
Christianity was introduced by law into Iceland, and in the
course of the summer all the people were baptized (A.D. 1000).
The same spring King Olaf also sent Leif Eirikson (A.D. 1000) to
Greenland to proclaim Christianity there, and Leif went there
that summer. In the ocean he took up the crew of a ship which
had been lost, and who were clinging to the wreck. He also found
Vinland the Good; arrived about harvest in Greenland; and had
with him for it a priest and other teachers, with whom he went to
Brattahild to lodge with his father Eirik. People called him
afterwards Leif the Lucky: but his father Eirik said that his
luck and ill luck balanced each other; for if Leif had saved a
wreck in the ocean, he had brought a hurtful person with him to
Greenland, and that was the priest.
The winter after King Olaf had baptized Halogaland, he and Queen
Thyre were in Nidaros; and the summer before Queen Thyre had
brought King Olaf a boy child, which was both stout and
promising, and was called Harald, after its mother's father. The
king and queen loved the infant exceedingly, and rejoiced in the
hope that it would grow up and inherit after its father; but it
lived barely a year after its birth, which both took much to
heart. In that winter were many Icelanders and other clever men
in King Olaf's house, as before related. His sister Ingebjorg,
Trygve's daughter, King Olaf's sister, was also at the court at
that time. She was beautiful in appearance, modest and frank
with the people, had a steady manly judgment, and was beloved of
all. She was very fond of the Icelanders who were there, but
most of Kjartan Olafson, for he had been longer than the others
in the king's house; and he found it always amusing to converse
with her, for she had both understanding and cleverness in talk.
The king was always gay and full of mirth in his intercourse with
people; and often asked about the manners of the great men and
chiefs in the neighbouring countries, when strangers from Denmark
or Sweden came to see him. The summer before Halfred
Vandredaskald had come from Gautland, where he had been with Earl
Ragnvald, Ulf's son, who had lately come to the government of
West Gautland. Ulf, Ragnvald's father, was a brother of Sigurd
the Haughty; so that King Olaf the Swede and Earl Ragnvald were
brother's and sister's children. Halfred told Olaf many things
about the earl: he said he was an able chief, excellently fitted
for governing, generous with money, brave and steady in
friendship. Halfred said also the earl desired much the
friendship of King Olaf, and had spoken of making court
Ingebjorg, Trygve's daughter. The same winter came ambassadors
from Gautland, and fell in with King Olaf in the north, in
Nidaros, and brought the message which Halfred had spoken of, --
that the earl desired to be King Olaf's entire friend, and wished
to become his brother-in-law by obtaining his sister Ingebjorg in
marriage. Therewith the ambassadors laid before the king
sufficient tokens in proof that in reality they came from the
earl on this errand. The king listened with approbation to their
speech; but said that Ingebjorg must determine on his assent to
the marriage. The king then talked to his sister about the
matter, and asked her opinion about it. She answered to this
effect, -- "I have been with you for some time, and you have
shown brotherly care and tender respect for me ever since you
came to the country. I will agree therefore to your proposal
about my marriage, provided that you do not marry me to a heathen
man." The king said it should be as she wished. The king then
spoke to the ambassadors; and it was settled before they
departed that in summer Earl Ragnvald should meet the king in the
east parts of the country, to enter into the fullest friendship
with each other, and when they met they would settle about the
marriage. With this reply the earl's messengers went westward,
and King Olaf remained all winter in Nidaros in great splendour,
and with many people about him.
King Olaf proceeded in summer with his ships and men southwards
along the land (and past Stad. With him were Queen Thyre and
Ingebjorg, Trygveis daughter, the king's sister). Many of his
friends also joined him, and other persons of consequence who had
prepared themselves to travel with the king. The first man among
these was his brother-in-law, Erling Skjalgson, who had with him
a large ship of thirty benches of rowers, and which was in every
respect well equipt. His brothers-in-law Hyrning and Thorgeir
also joined him, each of whom for himself steered a large vessel;
and many other powerful men besides followed him. (With all this
war-force he sailed southwards along the land; but when he came
south as far as Rogaland he stopped there, for Erling Skjalgson
had prepared for him a splendid feast at Sole. There Earl
Ragnvald, Ulf's son, from Gautland, came to meet the king, and to
settle the business which had been proposed ;n winter in the
messages between them, namely, the marriage with Ingebjorg the
king's sister. Olaf received him kindly; and when the matter
came to be spoken of, the king said he would keep his word, and
marry his sister Ingebjorg to him, provided he would accept the
true faith, and make all his subjects he ruled over in his land
be baptized; The earl agreed to this, and he and all his
followers were baptized. Now was the feast enlarged that Erling
had prepared, for the earl held his wedding there with Ingebjorg
the king's sister. King Olaf had now married off all his
sisters. The earl, with Ingebjorg, set out on his way home; and
the king sent learned men with him to baptize the people in
Gautland, and to teach them the right faith and morals. The king
and the earl parted in the greatest friendship.)
(After his sister Ingebjorg's wedding, the king made ready in all
haste to leave the country with his army, which was both great
and made up of fine men.) When he left the land and sailed
southwards he had sixty ships of war, with which he sailed past
Denmark, and in through the Sound, and on to Vindland. He
appointed a meeting with King Burizleif; and when the kings met,
they spoke about the property which King Olaf demanded, and the
conference went off peaceably, as a good account was given of the
properties which King Olaf thought himself entitled to there. He
passed here much of the summer, and found many of his old
The Danish king, Svein Tjuguskeg, was married, as before related,
to Sigrid the Haughty. Sigrid was King Olaf Trygvason's greatest
enemy; the cause of which, as before said, was that King Olaf had
broken off with her, and had struck her in the face. She urged
King Svein much to give battle to King Olaf Trygvason; saying
that he had reason enough, as Olaf had married his sister Thyre
without his leave, "and that your predecessors would not have
submitted to." Such persuasions Sigrid had often in her mouth;
and at last she brought it so far that Svein resolved firmly on
doing so. Early in spring King Svein sent messengers eastward
into Svithjod, to his son-in-law Olaf, the Swedish king, and to
Earl Eirik; and informed them that King Olaf of Norway was
levying men for an expedition, and intended in summer to go to
Vindland. To this news the Danish king added an invitation to
the Swedish king and Earl Eirik to meet King Svein with an army,
so that all together they might make an attack; on King Olaf
Trygvason. The Swedish king and Earl Eirik were ready enough for
this, and immediately assembled a great fleet and an army through
all Svithjod, with which they sailed southwards to Denmark, and
arrived there after King Olaf Trygvason had sailed to the
eastward. Haldor the Unchristian tells of this in his lay on
Earl Eirik: --
"The king-subduer raised a host
Of warriors on the Swedish coast.
The brave went southwards to the fight,
Who love the sword-storm's gleaming light;
The brave, who fill the wild wolf's mouth,
Followed bold Eirik to the south;
The brave, who sport in blood -- each one
With the bold earl to sea is gone."
The Swedish king and Earl Eirik sailed to meet the Danish king,
and they had all, when together, an immense force.
At the same time that king Svein sent a message to Svithjod for
an army, he sent Earl Sigvalde to Vindland to spy out King Olaf
Trygvason's proceedings, and to bring it about by cunning devices
that King Svein and King Olaf should fall in with each other. So
Sigvalde sets out to go to Vindland. First, he came to Jomsborg,
and then he sought out King Olaf Trygvason. There was much
friendship in their conversation, and the earl got himself into
great favour with the king. Astrid, the Earl's wife, King
Burizleif's daughter, was a great friend of King Olaf Trygvason,
particularly on account of the connection which had been between
them when Olaf was married to her sister Geira. Earl Sigvalde
was a prudent, ready-minded man; and as he had got a voice in
King Olaf's council, he put him off much from sailing homewards,
finding various reasons for delay. Olaf's people were in the
highest degree dissatisfied with this; for the men were anxious
to get home, and they lay ready to sail, waiting only for a wind.
At last Earl Sigvalde got a secret message from Denmark that the
Swedish king's army was arrived from the east, and that Earl
Eirik's also was ready; and that all these chiefs had resolved to
sail eastwards to Vindland, and wait for King Olaf at an island
which is called Svold. They also desired the earl to contrive
matters so that they should meet King Olaf there.
There came first a flying report to Vindland that the Danish
king, Svein, had fitted out an army; and it was soon whispered
that he intended to attack King Olaf. But Earl Sigvalde says to
King Olaf, "It never can be King Svein's intention to venture
with the Danish force alone, to give battle to thee with such a
powerful army; but if thou hast any suspicion that evil is on
foot, I will follow thee with my force (at that time it was
considered a great matter to have Jomsborg vikings with an army),
and I will give thee eleven well-manned ships." The king
accepted this offer; and as the light breeze of wind that came
was favourable, he ordered the ships to get under weigh, and the
war-horns to sound the departure. The sails were hoisted and all
the small vessels, sailing fastest, got out to sea before the
others. The earl, who sailed nearest to the king's ship, called
to those on board to tell the king to sail in his keel-track:
"For I know where the water is deepest between the islands and in
the sounds, and these large ships require the deepest." Then the
earl sailed first with his eleven ships, and the king followed
with his large ships, also eleven in number; but the whole of the
rest of the fleet sailed out to sea. Now when Earl Sigvalde came
sailing close under the island Svold, a skiff rowed out to inform
the earl that the Danish king's army was lying in the harbour
before them. Then the earl ordered the sails of his vessels to
be struck, and they rowed in under the island. Haldor the
Unchristian says: --
"From out the south bold Trygve's son
With one-and-seventy ships came on,
To dye his sword in bloody fight,
Against the Danish foeman's might.
But the false earl the king betrayed;
And treacherous Sigvalde, it is said,
Deserted from King Olaf's fleet,
And basely fled, the Danes to meet."
It is said here that King Olaf and Earl Sigvalde had seventy sail
of vessels: and one more, when they sailed from the south.
The Danish King Svein, the Swedish King Olaf, and Earl Eirik,
were there with all their forces (1000). The weather being fine
and clear sunshine, all these chiefs, with a great suite, went
out on the isle to see the vessels sailing out at sea, and many
of them crowded together; and they saw among them one large and
glancing ship. The two kings said, "That is a large and very
beautiful vessel: that will be the Long Serpent."
Earl Eirik replied, "That is not the Long Serpent." And he was
right; for it was the ship belonging to Eindride of Gimsar.
Soon after they saw another vessel coming sailing along much
larger than the first; then says King Svein, "Olaf Trygvason must
be afraid, for he does not venture to sail with the figure-head
of the dragon upon his ship."
Says Earl Eirik, "That is not the king's ship yet; for I know
that ship by the coloured stripes of cloth in her sail. That is
Erling Skialgson's. Let him sail; for it is the better for us
that the ship is away from Olaf's fleet, so well equipt as she
Soon after they saw and knew Earl Sigvalde's ships, which turned
in and laid themselves under the island. Then they saw three
ships coming along under sail, and one of them very large. King
Svein ordered his men to go to their ships, "for there comes the
Long Serpent."
Earl Eirik says, "Many other great and stately vessels have they
besides the Long Serpent. Let us wait a little."
Then said many, "Earl Eirik will not fight and avenge his father;
and it is a great shame that it should be told that we lay here
with so great a force, and allowed King Olaf to sail out to sea
before our eyes."
But when they had spoken thus for a short time, they saw four
ships coming sailing along, of which one had a large dragon-head
richly gilt. Then King Svein stood up and said, "That dragon
shall carry me this evening high, for I shall steer it."
Then said many, "The Long Serpent is indeed a wonderfully large
and beautiful vessel, and it shows a great mind to have built
such a ship."
Earl Eirik said so loud that several persons heard him, "If King
Olaf had no ether vessels but only that one, King Svein would
never take it from him with the Danish force alone."
Thereafter all the people rushed on board their ships, took down
the tents, and in all haste made ready for battle.
While the chiefs were speaking among themselves as above related,
they saw three very large ships coming sailing along, and at last
after them a fourth, and that was the Long Serpent. Of the large
ships which had gone before, and which they had taken for the
Long Serpent, the first was the Crane; the one after that was the
Short Serpent; and when they really, saw the Long Serpent, all
knew, and nobody had a word to say against it, that it must be
Olaf Trygvason who was sailing in such a vessel; and they went to
their ships to arm for the fight.
An agreement had been concluded among the chiefs, King Svein,
King Olaf the Swede, and Earl Eirik, that they should divide
Norway among them in three parts, in case they succeeded against
Olaf Trygvason; but that he of the chiefs who should first board
the Serpent should have her, and all the booty found in her, and
each should have the ships he cleared for himself. Earl Eirik
had a large ship of war which he used upon his viking
expeditions; and there was an iron beard or comb above on both
sides of the stem, and below it a thick iron plate as broad as
the combs, which went down quite to the gunnel.
When Earl Sigvalde with his vessels rowed in under the island,
Thorkel Dydril of the Crane, and the other ship commanders who
sailed with him, saw that he turned his ships towards the isle,
and thereupon let fall the sails, and rowed after him, calling
out, and asking why he sailed that way. The Earl answered, that
he was waiting for king Olaf, as he feared there were enemies in
the water. They lay upon their oars until Thorkel Nefia came up
with the Short Serpent and the three ships which followed him.
When they told them the same they too struck sail, and let the
ships drive, waiting for king Olaf. But when the king sailed in
towards the isle, the whole enemies' fleet came rowing within
them out to the Sound. When they saw this they begged the king
to hold on his way, and not risk battle with so great a force.
The king replied, high on the quarter-deck where he stood,
"Strike the sails; never shall men of mine think of flight. I
never fled from battle. Let God dispose of my life, but flight I
shall never take." It was done as the king commanded. Halfred
tells of it thus: --
"And far and wide the saying bold
Of the brave warrior shall be told.
The king, in many a fray well tried,
To his brave champions round him cried,
`My men shall never learn from me
From the dark weapon-cloud to flee.'
Nor were the brave words spoken then
Forgotten by his faithful men."
King Olaf ordered the war-horns to sound for all his ships to
close up to each other. The king's ship lay in the middle of the
line, and on one side lay the Little Serpent, and on the other
the Crane; and as they made fast the stems together (1), the Long
Serpent's stem and the short Serpent's were made fast together;
but when the king saw it he called out to his men, and ordered
them to lay the larger ship more in advance, so that its stern
should not lie so far behind in the fleet.
Then says Ulf the Red, "If the Long Serpent is to lie as much
more ahead of the other ships as she is longer than them, we
shall have hard work of it here on the forecastle."
The king replies, "I did not think I had a forecastle man afraid
as well as red."
Says Ulf, "Defend thou the quarterdeck as I shall the
The king had a bow in his hands, and laid an arrow on the string,
and aimed at Ulf.
Ulf said, "Shoot another way, king, where it is more needful: my
work is thy gain."
(1) The mode of fighting in sea battles appears, from this and
many other descriptions, to have been for each party to bind
together the stems and sterns of their own ships, forming
them thus into a compact body as soon aa the fleets came
within fighting distance, or within spears' throw. They
appear to have fought principally from the forecastles; and
to have used grappling irons for dragging a vessel out of
the line, or within boarding distance. -- L.
King Olaf stood on the Serpent's quarterdeck, high over the
others. He had a gilt shield, and a helmet inlaid with gold;
over his armour he had a short red coat, and was easy to be
distinguished from other men. When King Olaf saw that the
scattered forces of the enemy gathered themselves together under
the banners of their ships, he asked, "Who is the chief of the
force right opposite to us?"
He was answered, that it was King Svein with the Danish army.
The king replies, "We are not afraid of these soft Danes, for
there is no bravery in them; but who are the troops on the right
of the Danes?"
He was answered, that it was King Olaf with the Swedish forces.
"Better it were," says King Olaf, "for these Swedes to be sitting
at home killing their sacrifices, than to be venturing under our
weapons from the Long Serpent. But who owns the large ships on
the larboard side of the Danes?"
"That is Earl Eirik Hakonson," say they.
The king replies, "He, methinks, has good reason for meeting us;
and we may expect the sharpest conflict with these men, for they
are Norsemen like ourselves."
The kings now laid out their oars, and prepared to attack (A.D.
1000). King Svein laid his ship against the Long Serpent.
Outside of him Olaf the Swede laid himself, and set his ship's
stern against the outermost ship of King Olaf's line; and on the
other side lay Earl Eirik. Then a hard combat began. Earl
Sigvalde held back with the oars on his ships, and did not join
the fray. So says Skule Thorsteinson, who at that time was with
Earl Eirik: --
"I followed Sigvalde in my youth,
And gallant Eirik, and in truth
The' now I am grown stiff and old,
In the spear-song I once was bold.
Where arrows whistled on the shore
Of Svold fjord my shield I bore,
And stood amidst the loudest clash
When swords on shields made fearful crash."
And Halfred also sings thus: --
"In truth I think the gallant king,
Midst such a foemen's gathering,
Would be the better of some score
Of his tight Throndhjem lads, or more;
For many a chief has run away,
And left our brave king in the fray,
Two great kings' power to withstand,
And one great earl's, with his small band,
The king who dares such mighty deed
A hero for his skald would need."
This battle was one of the severest told of, and many were the
people slain. The forecastle men of the Long Serpent, the Little
Serpent, and the Crane, threw grapplings and stem chains into
King Svein's ship, and used their weapons well against the people
standing below them, for they cleared the decks of all the ships
they could lay fast hold of; and King Svein, and all the men who
escaped, fled to other vessels, and laid themselves out of
bow-shot. It went with this force just as King Olaf Trygvason
had foreseen. Then King Olaf the Swede laid himself in their
place; but when he came near the great ships it went with him as
with them, for he lost many men and some ships, and was obliged
to get away. But Earl Eirik laid his ship side by side with the
outermost of King Olaf's ships, thinned it of men, cut the
cables, and let it drive. Then he laid alongside of the next,
and fought until he had cleared it of men also. Now all the
people who were in the smaller ships began to run into the
larger, and the earl cut them loose as fast as he cleared them of
men. The Danes and Swedes laid themselves now out of shooting
distance all around Olaf's ship; but Earl Eirik lay always close
alongside of the ships, and used hid swords and battle-axes, and
as fast as people fell in his vessel others, Danes and Swedes,
came in their place. So says Haldor, the Unchristian: --
"Sharp was the clang of shield and sword,
And shrill the song of spears on board,
And whistling arrows thickly flew
Against the Serpent's gallant crew.
And still fresh foemen, it is said,
Earl Eirik to her long side led;
Whole armies of his Danes and Swedes,
Wielding on high their blue sword-blades."
Then the fight became most severe, and many people fell. But at
last it came to this, that all King Olaf Trygvason's ships were
cleared of men except the Long Serpent, on board of which all who
could still carry their arms were gathered. Then Earl Eirik lay
with his ship by the side of the Serpent, and the fight went on
with battle-axe and sword. So says Haldor: --
"Hard pressed on every side by foes,
The Serpent reels beneath the blows;
Crash go the shields around the bow!
Breast-plates and breasts pierced thro' and thro!
In the sword-storm the Holm beside,
The earl's ship lay alongside
The king's Long Serpent of the sea --
Fate gave the earl the victory."
Earl Eirik was in the forehold of his ship, where a cover of
shields (1) had been set up. In the fight, both hewing weapons,
sword, and axe, and the thrust of spears had been used; and all
that could be used as weapon for casting was cast. Some used
bows, some threw spears with the hand. So many weapons were cast
into the Serpent, and so thick flew spears and arrows, that the
shields could scarcely receive them, for on all sides the Serpent
was surrounded by war-ships. Then King Olaf's men became so mad
with rage, that they ran on board of the enemies ships, to get at
the people with stroke of sword and kill them; but many did not
lay themselves so near the Serpent, in order to escape the close
encounter with battle-axe or sword; and thus the most of Olaf's
men went overboard and sank under their weapons, thinking they
were fighting on plain ground. So says Halfred: --
"The daring lads shrink not from death; --
O'erboard they leap, and sink beneath
The Serpent's keel: all armed they leap,
And down they sink five fathoms deep.
The foe was daunted at the cheers;
The king, who still the Serpent steers,
In such a strait -- beset with foes --
Wanted but some more lads like those."
(1) Both in land and sea fights the commanders appear to have
been protected from missile weapons, -- stones, arrows,
spears, -- by a shieldburg: that is, by a party of men
bearing shields surrounding them in such a way that the
shields were a parapet, covering those within the circle.
The Romans had a similar military arrangement of shields in
sieges -- the testudo. -- L.
Einar Tambarskelver, one of the sharpest of bowshooters, stood by
the mast, and shot with his bow. Einar shot an arrow at Earl
Eirik, which hit the tiller end just above the earl's head so
hard that it entered the wood up to the arrow-shaft. The earl
looked that way, and asked if they knew who had shot; and at the
same moment another arrow flew between his hand and his side, and
into the stuffing of the chief's stool, so that the barb stood
far out on the other side. Then said the earl to a man called
Fin, -- but some say he was of Fin (Laplander) race, and was a
superior archer, -- "Shoot that tall man by the mast." Fin shot;
and the arrow hit the middle of Einar's bow just at the moment
that Einar was drawing it, and the bow was split in two parts.
"What is that."cried King Olaf, "that broke with such a noise?"
"Norway, king, from thy hands," cried Einar.
"No! not quite so much as that," says the king; "take my bow,
and shoot," flinging the bow to him.
Einar took the bow, and drew it over the head of the arrow. "Too
weak, too weak," said he, "for the bow of a mighty king!" and,
throwing the bow aside, he took sword and shield, and fought
The king stood on the gangways of the Long Serpent. and shot the
greater part of the day; sometimes with the bow, sometimes with
the spear, and always throwing two spears at once. He looked
down over the ship's sides, and saw that his men struck briskly
with their swords, and yet wounded but seldom. Then he called
aloud, "Why do ye strike so gently that ye seldom cut?" One
among the people answered, "The swords are blunt and full of
notches." Then the king went down into the forehold, opened the
chest under the throne, and took out many sharp swords, which he
handed to his men; but as he stretched down his right hand with
them, some observed that blood was running down under his steel
glove, but no one knew where he was wounded.
Desperate was the defence in the Serpent, and there was the
heaviest destruction of men done by the forecastle crew, and
those of the forehold, for in both places the men were chosen
men, and the ship was highest, but in the middle of the ship the
people were thinned. Now when Earl Eirik saw there were but few
people remaining beside the ship's mast, he determined to board;
and he entered the Serpent with four others. Then came Hyrning,
the king's brother-in-law, and some others against him, and there
was the most severe combat; and at last the earl was forced to
leap back on board his own ship again, and some who had
accompanied him were killed, and others wounded. Thord
Kolbeinson alludes to this: --
"On Odin's deck, all wet with blood,
The helm-adorned hero stood;
And gallant Hyrning honour gained,
Clearing all round with sword deep stained.
The high mountain peaks shall fall,
Ere men forget this to recall."
Now the fight became hot indeed, and many men fell on board the
Serpent; and the men on board of her began to be thinned off, and
the defence to be weaker. The earl resolved to board the Serpent
again, and again he met with a warm reception. When the
forecastle men of the Serpent saw what he was doing, they went
aft and made a desperate fight; but so many men of the Serpent
had fallen, that the ship's sides were in many places quite bare
of defenders; and the earl's men poured in all around into the
vessel, and all the men who were still able to defend the ship
crowded aft to the king, and arrayed themselves for his defence.
So says Haldor the Unchristian: --
"Eirik cheers on his men, --
`On to the charge again!'
The gallant few
Of Olaf's crew
Must refuge take
On the quarter-deck.
Around the king
They stand in ring;
Their shields enclose
The king from foes,
And the few who still remain
Fight madly, but in vain.
Eirik cheers on his men --
`On to the charge again!'"
Kolbjorn the marshal, who had on clothes and arms like the kings,
and was a remarkably stout and handsome man, went up to king on
the quarter-deck. The battle was still going on fiercely even in
the forehold (1). But as many of the earl's men had now got into
the Serpent as could find room, and his ships lay all round her,
and few were the people left in the Serpent for defence against
so great a force; and in a short time most of the Serpent's men
fell, brave and stout though they were. King Olaf and Kolbjorn
the marshal both sprang overboard, each on his own side of the
ship; but the earl's men had laid out boats around the Serpent,
and killed those who leaped overboard. Now when the king had
sprung overboard, they tried to seize him with their hands, and
bring him to Earl Eirik; but King Olaf threw his shield over his
head, and sank beneath the waters. Kolbjorn held his shield
behind him to protect himself from the spears cast at him from
the ships which lay round the Serpent, and he fell so upon his
shield that it came under him, so that he could not sink so
quickly. He was thus taken and brought into a boat, and they
supposed he was the king. He was brought before the earl; and
when the earl saw it was Kolbjorn, and not the king, he gave him
his life. At the same moment all of King Olaf's men who were in
life sprang overboard from the Serpent; and Thorkel Nefia, the
king's brother, was the last of all the men who sprang overboard.
It is thus told concerning the king by Halfred: --
"The Serpent and the Crane
Lay wrecks upon the main.
On his sword he cast a glance, --
With it he saw no chance.
To his marshal, who of yore
Many a war-chance had come o'er,
He spoke a word -- then drew in breath,
And sprang to his deep-sea death."
(1) From the occasional descriptions of vessels in this and
other battles, it may be inferred that even the Long
Serpent, described in the 95tb chapter as of 150 feet of
keel was only docked fore and aft; the thirty-four benches
for rowers occupying the open area in the middle, and
probably gangways running along the side for communicating
from the quarter-deck to the forcastle. -- L.
Earl Sigvalde. as before related, came from Vindland, in company
with King Olaf, with ten ships; but the eleventh ship was manned
with the men of Astrid, the king's daughter, the wife of Earl
Sigvalde. Now when King Olaf sprang overboard, the whole army
raised a shout of victory; and then Earl Sigvalde and his men put
their oars in the water and rowed towards the battle. Haldor the
Unchristian tells of it thus: --
"Then first the Vindland vessels came
Into the fight with little fame;
The fight still lingered on the wave,
Tho' hope was gone with Olaf brave.
War, like a full-fed ravenous beast,
Still oped her grim jaws for the feast.
The few who stood now quickly fled,
When the shout told -- `Olaf is dead!'"
But the Vindland cutter, in which Astrid's men were, rowed back
to Vindland; and the report went immediately abroad and was told
by many, that King Olaf had cast off his coat-of-mail under
water, and had swum, diving under the longships, until he came to
the Vindland cutter, and that Astrid's men had conveyed him to
Vindland: and many tales have been made since about the
adventures of Olaf the king. Halfred speaks thus about it: --
"Does Olaf live? or is he dead?
Has he the hungry ravens fed?
I scarcely know what I should say,
For many tell the tale each way.
This I can say, nor fear to lie,
That he was wounded grievously --
So wounded in this bloody strife,
He scarce could come away with life."
But however this may have been, King Olaf Trygvason never came
back again to his kingdom of Norway. Halfred Vandredaskald
speaks also thus about it:
"The witness who reports this thing
Of Trygvason, our gallant king,
Once served the king, and truth should tell,
For Olaf hated lies like hell.
If Olaf 'scaped from this sword-thing,
Worse fate, I fear, befel our king
Than people guess, or e'er can know,
For he was hemm'd in by the foe.
From the far east some news is rife
Of king sore wounded saving life;
His death, too sure, leaves me no care
For cobweb rumours in the air.
It never was the will of fate
That Olaf from such perilous strait
Should 'scape with life! this truth may grieve --
`What people wish they soon believe.'"
By this victory Earl Eirik Hakonson became owner of the Long
Serpent, and made a great booty besides; and he steered the
Serpent from the battle. So says Haldor: --
"Olaf, with glittering helmet crowned,
Had steered the Serpent through the Sound;
And people dressed their boats, and cheered
As Olaf's fleet in splendour steered.
But the descendent of great Heming,
Whose race tells many a gallant sea-king,
His blue sword in red life-blood stained,
And bravely Olaf's long ship gained."
Svein, a son of Earl Hakon, and Earl Eirik's brother, was engaged
at this time to marry Holmfrid, a daughter of King Olaf the
Swedish king. Now when Svein the Danish king, Olaf the Swedish
king, and Earl Eirik divided the kingdom of Norway between them,
King Olaf got four districts in the Throndhjem country, and also
the districts of More and Raumsdal; and in the east part of the
land he got Ranrike, from the Gaut river to Svinasund. Olaf gave
these dominions into Earl Svein's hands, on the same conditions
as the sub kings or earls had held them formerly from the upperking
of the country. Earl Eirik got four districts in the
Throndhjem country, and Halogaland, Naumudal, the Fjord
districts, Sogn, Hordaland, Rogaland, and North Agder, all the
way to the Naze. So says Thord Kolbeinson: --
"All chiefs within our land
On Eirik's side now stand:
Erling alone, I know
Remains Earl Eirik's foe.
All praise our generous earl, --
He gives, and is no churl:
All men are well content
Fate such a chief has sent.
From Veiga to Agder they,
Well pleased, the earl obey;
And all will by him stand,
To guard the Norsemen's land.
And now the news is spread
That mighty Svein is dead,
And luck is gone from those
Who were the Norsemen's foes."
The Danish king Svein retained Viken as he had held it before,
but he gave Raumarike and Hedemark to Earl Eirik. Svein Hakonson
got the title of earl from Olaf the Swedish king. Svein was one
of the handsomest men ever seen. The earls Eirik and Svein both
allowed themselves to be baptized, and took up the true faith;
but as long as they ruled in Norway they allowed every one to do
as he pleased in holding by his Christianity. But, on the other
hand, they held fast by the old laws, and all the old rights and
customs of the land, and were excellent men and good rulers.
Earl Eirik had most to say of the two brothers in all matters of
Olaf Haraldson the Saint's Saga is the longest, the most
important, and the most finished of all the sagas in
"Heimskringla". The life of Olaf will be found treated more or
less freely in "Agrip", in "Historia Norvegiae", in "Thjodrek the
Monk", in the legendary saga, and in "Fagrskinna". Other old
Norse literature relating to this epoch:
Are's "Islendingabok", "Landnama", "Kristni Saga", "Biskupasogur",
"Njala", "Gunlaugs Saga", "Ormstungu", "Bjarnar Saga
Hitdaelakappa", "Hallfredar Thattr Vandraedaskalde", "Eyrbyggia",
"Viga Styrs Saga", "Laxdaela", "Fostbraedra", "Gretla",
"Liosvetninga", "Faereyinga", "Orkneyinga".
Olaf Haraldson was born 995, went as a viking at the age of
twelve, 1007; visited England, one summer and three winters,
1009-1012; in France two summers and one winter, 1012-1013;
spent the winter in Normandy, 1014; returned to Norway and was
recognized as King, April 3, 1015; fled from Norway the winter
of 1028-1029; fell at Stiklestad, July 29 (or August 31), 1030.
Skalds quoted in this saga are: -- Ottar Svarte, Sigvat Skald,
Thord Kolbeinson, Berse Torfason, Brynjolf, Arnor Jarlaskald,
Thord Siarekson, Harek, Thorarin Loftunga, Halvard Hareksblese,
Bjarne Gulbraskald, Jokul Bardson, Thormod Kolbrunarskald,
Gissur, Thorfin Mun, Hofgardaref.
(1) King Olaf the Saint reigned from about the year 1015 to
1030. The death of King Olaf Trygvason was in the year
1000: and Earl Eirik held the government for the Danish and
Swedish kings about fifteen years. -- L.
Olaf, Harald Grenske's son, was brought up by his stepfather
Sigurd Syr and his mother Asta. Hrane the Far-travelled lived in
the house of Asta, and fostered this Olaf Haraldson. Olaf came
early to manhood, was handsome in countenance, middle-sized in
growth, and was even when very young of good understanding and
ready speech. Sigurd his stepfather was a careful householder,
who kept his people closely to their work, and often went about
himself to inspect his corn-rigs and meadowland, the cattle, and
also the smith-work, or whatsoever his people had on hand to do.
It happened one day that King Sigurd wanted to ride from home,
but there was nobody about the house; so he told his stepson Olaf
to saddle his horse. Olaf went to the goats' pen, took out the
he-goat that was the largest, led him forth, and put the king's
saddle on him, and then went in and told King Sigurd he had
saddled his riding horse. Now when King Sigurd came out and saw
what Olaf had done, he said "It is easy to see that thou wilt
little regard my orders; and thy mother will think it right that
I order thee to do nothing that is against thy own inclination.
I see well enough that we are of different dispositions, and that
thou art far more proud than I am." Olaf answered little, but
went his way laughing.
When Olaf Haraldson grew up he was not tall, but middle-sized in
height, although very thick, and of good strength. He had light
brown hair, and a broad face, which was white and red. He had
particularly fine eyes, which were beautiful and piercing, so
that one was afraid to look him in the face when he was angry.
Olaf was very expert in all bodily exercises, understood well to
handle his bow, and was distinguished particularly in throwing
his spear by hand: he was a great swimmer, and very handy, and
very exact and knowing in all kinds of smithwork, whether he
himself or others made the thing. He was distinct and acute in
conversation, and was soon perfect in understanding and strength.
He was beloved by his friends and acquaintances, eager in his
amusements, and one who always liked to be the first, as it was
suitable he should be from his birth and dignity. He was called
Olaf the Great.
Olaf Haraldson was twelve years old when he, for the first time,
went on board a ship of war (A.D. 1007). His mother Asta got
Hrane, who was called the foster-father of kings, to command a
ship of war and take Olaf under his charge; for Hrane had often
been on war expeditions. When Olaf in this way got a ship and
men, the crew gave him the title of king; for it was the custom
that those commanders of troops who were of kingly descent, on
going out upon a viking cruise, received the title of king
immediately although they had no land or kingdom. Hrane sat at
the helm; and some say that Olaf himself was but a common rower,
although he was king of the men-at-arms. They steered east along
the land, and came first to Denmark. So says Ottar Svarte, in
his lay which he made about King Olaf: --
"Young was the king when from his home
He first began in ships to roam,
His ocean-steed to ride
To Denmark o'er the tide.
Well exercised art thou in truth --
In manhood's earnest work, brave youth!
Out from the distant north
Mighty hast thou come forth."
Towards autumn he sailed eastward to the Swedish dominions, and
there harried and burnt all the country round; for he thought he
had good cause of hostility against the Swedes, as they killed
his father Harald. Ottar Svarte says distinctly that he came
from the east, out by way of Denmark: --
"Thy ship from shore to shore,
With many a well-plied car,
Across the Baltic foam is dancing. --
Shields, and spears, and helms glancing!
Hoist high the swelling sail
To catch the freshening gale!
There's food for the raven-flight
Where thy sail-winged ship shall light;
Thy landing-tread
The people dread;
And the wolf howls for a feast
On the shore-side in the east."
The same autumn Olaf had his first battle at Sotasker, which lies
in the Swedish skerry circle. He fought there with some vikings,
whose leader was Sote. Olaf had much fewer men, but his ships
were larger, and he had his ships between some blind rocks, which
made it difficult for the vikings to get alongside; and Olaf's
men threw grappling irons into the ships which came nearest, drew
them up to their own vessels, and cleared them of men. The
vikings took to flight after losing many men. Sigvat the skald
tells of this fight in the lay in which he reckons up King Olaf's
battles: --
"They launch his ship where waves are foaming --
To the sea shore
Both mast and oar,
And sent his o'er the seas a-roaming.
Where did the sea-king first draw blood?
In the battle shock
At Sote's rock;
The wolves howl over their fresh food."
King Olaf steered thereafter eastwards to Svithjod, and into the
Lag (the Maelar lake), and ravaged the land on both sides. He
sailed all the way up to Sigtuna, and laid his ships close to the
old Sigtuna. The Swedes say the stone-heaps are still to be seen
which Olaf had laid under the ends of the gangways from the shore
to the ships. When autumn was advanced, Olaf Haraldson heard
that Olaf the Swedish king was assembling an army, and also that
he had laid iron chains across Stoksund (the channel between the
Maelar lake and the sea), and had laid troops there; for the
Swedish king thought that Olaf Haraldson would be kept in there
till frost came, and he thought little of Olaf's force knowing he
had but few people. Now when King Olaf Haraldson came to
Stoksund he could not get through, as there was a castle west of
the sound, and men-at-arms lay on the south; and he heard that
the Swedish king was come there with a great army and many ships.
He therefore dug a canal across the flat land Agnafit out to the
sea. Over all Svithjod all the running waters fall into the
Maelar lake; but the only outlet of it to the sea is so small
that many rivers are wider, and when much rain or snow falls the
water rushes in a great cataract out by Stoksund, and the lake
rises high and floods the land. It fell heavy rain just at this
time; and as the canal was dug out to the sea, the water and
stream rushed into it. Then Olaf had all the rudders unshipped
and hoisted all sail aloft. It was blowing a strong breeze
astern, and they steered with their oars, and the ships came in a
rush over all the shallows, and got into the sea without any
damage. Now went the Swedes to their king, Olaf, and told him
that Olaf the Great had slipped out to sea; on which the king was
enraged against those who should have watched that Olaf did not
get away. This passage has since been called King's Sound; but
large vessels cannot pass through it, unless the waters are very
high. Some relate that the Swedes were aware that Olaf had cut
across the tongue of land, and that the water was falling out
that way; and they flocked to it with the intention to hinder
Olaf from getting away, but the water undermined the banks on
each side so that they fell in with the people, and many were
drowned: but the Swedes contradict this as a false report, and
deny the loss of people. The king sailed to Gotland in harvest,
and prepared to plunder; but the Gotlanders assembled, and sent
men to the king, offering him a scat. The king found this would
suit him, and he received the scat, and remained there all
winter. So says Ottar Svarte: --
"Thou seaman-prince! thy men are paid:
The scat on Gotlanders is laid;
Young man or old
To our seamen bold
Must pay, to save his head:
The Yngling princes fled,
Eysvssel people bled;
Who can't defend the wealth they have
Must die, or share with the rover brave."
It is related here that King Olaf, when spring set in, sailed
east to Eysyssel, and landed and plundered; the Eysyssel men came
down to the strand and grave him battle. King Olaf gained the
victory, pursued those who fled, and laid waste the land with
fire and sword. It is told that when King Olaf first came to
Eysvssel they offered him scat, and when the scat was to be
brought down to the strand the king came to meet it with an armed
force, and that was not what the bondes there expected; for they
had brought no scat, but only their weapons with which they
fought against the king, as before related. So says Sigvat the
skald: --
"With much deceit and bustle
To the heath of Eysyssel
The bondes brought the king,
To get scat at their weapon-thing.
But Olaf was too wise
To be taken by surprise;
Their legs scarce bore them off
O'er the common test enough."
After this they sailed to Finland and plundered there, and went
up the country. All the people fled to the forest, and they had
emptied their houses of all household goods. The king went far
up the country, and through some woods, and came to some
dwellings in a valley called Herdaler, -- where, however, they
made but small booty, and saw no people; and as it was getting
late in the day, the king turned back to his ships. Now when
they came into the woods again people rushed upon them from all
quarters, and made a severe attack. The king told his men to
cover themselves with their shields, but before they got out of
the woods he lost many people, and many were wounded; but at
last, late in the evening, he got to the ships. The Finlanders
conjured up in the night, by their witchcraft, a dreadful storm
and bad weather on the sea; but the king ordered the anchors to
be weighed and sail hoisted, and beat off all night to the
outside of the land. The king's luck prevailed more than the
Finlanders' witchcraft; for he had the luck to beat round the
Balagard's side in the night. and so got out to sea. But the
Finnish army proceeded on land, making the same progress as the
king made with his ships. So says Sigvat: --
"The third fight was at Herdaler, where
The men of Finland met in war
The hero of the royal race,
With ringing sword-blades face to face.
Off Balagard's shore the waves
Ran hollow; but the sea-king saves
His hard-pressed ship, and gains the lee
Of the east coast through the wild sea."
King Olaf sailed from thence to Denmark, where he met Thorkel the
Tall, brother of Earl Sigvalde, and went into partnership with
him; for he was just ready to set out on a cruise. They sailed
southwards to the Jutland coast, to a place called Sudervik,
where they overcame many viking ships. The vikings, who usually
have many people to command, give themselves the title of kings,
although they have no lands to rule over. King Olaf went into
battle with them, and it was severe; but King Olaf gained the
victory, and a great booty. So says Sigvat: --
"Hark! hark! The war-shout
Through Sudervik rings,
And the vikings bring out
To fight the two kings.
Great honour, I'm told,
Won these vikings so bold:
But their bold fight was vain,
For the two brave kings gain."
King Olaf sailed from thence south to Friesland, and lay under
the strand of Kinlima in dreadful weather. The king landed with
his men; but the people of the country rode down to the strand
against them, and he fought them. So says Sigvat: --
"Under Kinlima's cliff,
This battle is the fifth.
The brave sea-rovers stand
All on the glittering sand;
And down the horsemen ride
To the edge of the rippling tide:
But Olaf taught the peasant band
To know the weight of a viking's hand."
The king sailed from thence westward to England. It was then the
case that the Danish king, Svein Forked Beard, was at that time
in England with a Danish army, and had been fixed there for some
time, and had seized upon King Ethelred's kingdom. The Danes had
spread themselves so widely over England, that it was come so far
that King Ethelred had departed from the country, and had gone
south to Valland. The same autumn that King Olaf came to
England, it happened that King Svein died suddenly in the night
in his bed; and it is said by Englishmen that Edmund the Saint
killed him, in the same way that the holy Mercurius had killed
the apostate Julian. When Ethelred, the king of the English,
heard this in Flanders, he returned directly to England; and no
sooner was he come back, than he sent an invitation to all the
men who would enter into his pay, to join him in recovering the
country. Then many people flocked to him; and among others, came
King Olaf with a great troop of Northmen to his aid. They
steered first to London, and sailed into the Thames with their
fleet; but the Danes had a castle within. On the other side of
the river is a great trading place, which is called Sudvirke.
There the Danes had raised a great work, dug large ditches, and
within had built a bulwark of stone, timber, and turf, where they
had stationed a strong army. King Ethelred ordered a great
assault; but the Danes defended themselves bravely, and King
Ethelred could make nothing of it. Between the castle and
Southwark (Sudvirke) there was a bridge, so broad that two
wagons could pass each other upon it. On the bridge were raised
barricades, both towers and wooden parapets, in the direction of
the river, which were nearly breast high; and under the bridge
were piles driven into the bottom of the river. Now when the
attack was made the troops stood on the bridge everywhere, and
defended themselves. King Ethelred was very anxious to get
possession of the bridge, and he called together all the chiefs
to consult how they should get the bridge broken down. Then said
King Olaf he would attempt to lay his fleet alongside of it, if
the other ships would do the same. It was then determined in
this council that they should lay their war forces under the
bridge; and each made himself ready with ships and men.
King Olaf ordered great platforms of floating wood to be tied
together with hazel bands, and for this he took down old houses;
and with these, as a roof, he covered over his ships so widely,
that it reached over the ships' sides. Under this screen he set
pillars so high and stout, that there both was room for swinging
their swords, and the roofs were strong enough to withstand the
stones cast down upon them. Now when the fleet and men were
ready, they rode up along the river; but when they came near the
bridge, there were cast down upon them so many stones and missile
weapons, such as arrows and spears, that neither helmet nor
shield could hold out against it; and the ships themselves were
so greatly damaged, that many retreated out of it. But King
Olaf, and the Northmen's fleet with him, rowed quite up under the
bridge, laid their cables around the piles which supported it,
and then rowed off with all the ships as hard as they could down
the stream. The piles were thus shaken in the bottom, and were
loosened under the bridge. Now as the armed troops stood thick
of men upon the bridge, and there were likewise many heaps of
stones and other weapons upon it, and the piles under it being
loosened and broken, the bridge gave way; and a great part of the
men upon it fell into the river, and all the ethers fled, some
into the castle, some into Southwark. Thereafter Southwark was
stormed and taken. Now when the people in the castle saw that
the river Thames was mastered, and that they could not hinder the
passage of ships up into the country, they became afraid,
surrendered the tower, and took Ethelred to be their king. So
says Ottar Svarte: --
"London Bridge is broken down. --
Gold is won, and bright renown.
Shields resounding,
War-horns sounding,
Hild is shouting in the din!
Arrows singing,
Mail-coats ringing --
Odin makes our Olaf win!"
And he also composed these: --
"King Ethelred has found a friend:
Brave Olaf will his throne defend --
In bloody fight
Maintain his right,
Win back his land
With blood-red hand,
And Edmund's son upon his throne replace --
Edmund, the star of every royal race!"
Sigvat also relates as follows: --
"At London Bridge stout Olaf gave
Odin's law to his war-men brave --
`To win or die!'
And their foemen fly.
Some by the dyke-side refuge gain --
Some in their tents on Southwark plain!
The sixth attack
Brought victory back."
King Olaf passed all the winter with King Ethelred, and had a
great battle at Hringmara Heath in Ulfkel's land, the domain
which Ulfkel Snilling at that time held; and here again the king
was victorious. So says Sigvat the skald: --
"To Ulfkel's land came Olaf bold,
A seventh sword-thing he would hold.
The race of Ella filled the plain --
Few of them slept at home again!
Hringmara heath
Was a bed of death:
Harfager's heir
Dealt slaughter there."
And Ottar sings of this battle thus: --
"From Hringmara field
The chime of war,
Sword striking shield,
Rings from afar.
The living fly;
The dead piled high
The moor enrich;
Red runs the ditch."
The country far around was then brought in subjection to King
Ethelred: but the Thingmen (1) and the Danes held many castles,
besides a great part of the country.
(1) Thing-men were hired men-at-arms; called Thing-men probably
from being men above the class of thralls or unfree men, and
entitled to appear at Things, as being udal-born to land at
King Olaf was commander of all the forces when they went against
Canterbury; and they fought there until they took the town,
killing many people and burning the castle. So says Ottar
Svarte: --
"All in the grey of morn
Broad Canterbury's forced.
Black smoke from house-roofs borne
Hides fire that does its worst;
And many a man laid low
By the battle-axe's blow,
Waked by the Norsemen's cries,
Scarce had time to rub his eyes."
Sigvat reckons this King Olaf's eighth battle: --
"Of this eighth battle I can tell
How it was fought, and what befell,
The castle tower
With all his power
He could not take,
Nor would forsake.
The Perthmen fought,
Nor quarter sought;
By death or flight
They left the fight.
Olaf could not this earl stout
From Canterbury quite drive out."
At this time King Olaf was entrusted with the whole land defence
of England, and he sailed round the land with his ships of War.
He laid his ships at land at Nyjamoda, where the troops of the
Thingmen were, and gave them battle and gained the victory. So
says Sigvat the skald: --
"The youthful king stained red the hair
Of Angeln men, and dyed his spear
At Newport in their hearts' dark blood:
And where the Danes the thickest stood --
Where the shrill storm round Olaf's head
Of spear and arrow thickest fled.
There thickest lay the Thingmen dead!
Nine battles now of Olaf bold,
Battle by battle, I have told."
King Olaf then scoured all over the country, taking scat of the
people and plundering where it was refused. So says Ottar: --
"The English race could not resist thee,
With money thou madest them assist thee;
Unsparingly thou madest them pay
A scat to thee in every way;
Money, if money could be got --
Goods, cattle, household gear, if not.
Thy gathered spoil, borne to the strand,
Was the best wealth of English land."
Olaf remained here for three years (A.D. 1010-1012).
The third year King Ethelred died, and his sons Edmund and Edward
took the government (A.D. 1012). Then Olaf sailed southwards out
to sea, and had a battle at Hringsfjord, and took a castle
situated at Holar, where vikings resorted, and burnt the castle.
So says Sigvat the skald: --
"Of the tenth battle now I tell,
Where it was fought, and what befell.
Up on the hill in Hringsfjord fair
A robber nest hung in the air:
The people followed our brave chief,
And razed the tower of the viking thief.
Such rock and tower, such roosting-place,
Was ne'er since held by the roving race."
Then King Olaf proceeded westwards to Grislupollar, and fought
there with vikings at Williamsby; and there also King Olaf gained
the victory. So says Sigvat: --
"The eleventh battle now I tell,
Where it was fought, and what befell.
At Grislupol our young fir's name
O'ertopped the forest trees in fame:
Brave Olaf's name -- nought else was heard
But Olaf's name, and arm, and sword.
Of three great earls, I have heard say,
His sword crushed helm and head that day."
Next he fought westward on Fetlafjord, as Sigvat tells: --
"The twelfth fight was at Fetlafjord,
Where Olaf's honour-seeking sword
Gave the wild wolf's devouring teeth
A feast of warriors doomed to death."
From thence King Olaf sailed southwards to Seljupollar, where he
had a battle. He took there a castle called Gunvaldsborg, which
was very large and old. He also made prisoner the earl who ruled
over the castle and who was called Geirfin. After a conference
with the men of the castle, he laid a scat upon the town and
earl, as ransom, of twelve thousand gold shillings: which was
also paid by those on whom it was imposed. So says Sigvat: --
"The thirteenth battle now I tell,
Where it was fought, and what befell.
In Seljupol was fought the fray,
And many did not survive the day.
The king went early to the shore,
To Gunvaldsborg's old castle-tower;
And a rich earl was taken there,
Whose name was Geridin, I am sure."
Thereafter King Olaf steered with his fleet westward to Karlsar,
and tarried there and had a fight. And while King Olaf was lying
in Karlsa river waiting a wind, and intending to sail up to
Norvasund, and then on to the land of Jerusalem, he dreamt a
remarkable dream -- that there came to him a great and important
man, but of a terrible appearance withal, who spoke to him, and
told him to give up his purpose of proceeding to that land.
"Return back to thy udal, for thou shalt be king over Norway for
ever." He interpreted this dream to mean that he should be king
over the country, and his posterity after him for a long time.
After this appearance to him he turned about, and came to Poitou,
where he plundered and burnt a merchant town called Varrande. Of
this Ottar speaks: --
"Our young king, blythe and gay,
Is foremost in the fray:
Poitou he plunders, Tuskland burns, --
He fights and wins where'er he turns."
And also Sigvat says: --
"The Norsemen's king is on his cruise,
His blue steel staining,
Rich booty gaining,
And all men trembling at the news.
The Norsemen's kings up on the Loire:
Rich Partheney
In ashes lay;
Far inland reached the Norsemen's spear."
King Olaf had been two summers and one winter in the west in
Valland on this cruise; and thirteen years had now passed since
the fall of King Olaf Trygvason. During this time earls had
ruled over Norway; first Hakon's sons Eirik and Svein, and
afterwards Eirik's sons Hakon and Svein. Hakon was a sister's
son of King Canute, the son of Svein. During this time there
were two earls in Valland, William and Robert; their father was
Richard earl of Rouen. They ruled over Normandy. Their sister
was Queen Emma, whom the English king Ethelred had married; and
their sons were Edmund, Edward the Good, Edwy, and Edgar.
Richard the earl of Rouen was a son of Richard the son of William
Long Spear, who was the son of Rolf Ganger, the earl who first
conquered Normandy; and he again was a son of Ragnvald the
Mighty, earl of More, as before related. From Rolf Ganger are
descended the earls of Rouen, who have long reckoned themselves
of kin to the chiefs in Norway, and hold them in such respect
that they always were the greatest friends of the Northmen; and
every Northman found a friendly country in Normandy, if he
required it. To Normandy King Olaf came in autumn (A.D. 1013),
and remained all winter (A.D. 1014) in the river Seine in good
peace and quiet.
After Olaf Trygvason's fall, Earl Eirik gave peace to Einar
Tambaskelfer, the son of Eindride Styrkarson; and Einar went
north with the earl to Norway. It is said that Einar was the
strongest man and the best archer that ever was in Norway. His
shooting was sharp beyond all others; for with a blunt arrow he
shot through a raw, soft ox-hide, hanging over a beam. He was
better than any man at running on snow-shoes, was a great man
at all exercises, was of high family, and rich. The earls Eirik
and Svein married their sister Bergliot to Einar. Their son was
named Eindride. The earls gave Einar great fiefs in Orkadal, so
that he was one of the most powerful and able men in the
Throndhjem country, and was also a great friend of the earls, and
a great support and aid to them.
When Olaf Trygvason ruled over Norway, he gave his brother-in-law
Erling half of the land scat, and royal revenues between the Naze
and Sogn. His other sister he married to the Earl Ragnvald
Ulfson, who long ruled over West Gautland. Ragnvald's father,
Ulf, was a brother of Sigrid the Haughty, the mother of Olaf the
Swedish king. Earl Eirik was ill pleased that Erling Skialgson
had so large a dominion, and he took to himself all the king's
estates, which King Olaf had given to Erling. But Erling levied,
as before, all the land scat in Rogaland; and thus the
inhabitants had often to pay him the land scat, otherwise he laid
waste their land. The earl made little of the business, for no
bailiff of his could live there, and the earl could only come
there in guest-quarters, when he had a great many people with
him. So says Sigvat: --
"Olaf the king
Thought the bonde Erling
A man who would grace
His own royal race.
One sister the king
Gave the bonde Erling;
And one to an earl,
And she saved him in peril."
Earl Eirik did not venture to fight with Erling, because he had
very powerful and very many friends, and was himself rich and
popular, and kept always as many retainers about him as if he
held a king's court. Erling vas often out in summer on
plundering expeditions, and procured for himself means of living;
for he continued his usual way of high and splendid living,
although now he had fewer and less convenient fiefs than in the
time of his brother-in-law King Olaf Trygvason. Erling was one
of the handsomest, largest, and strongest men; a better warrior
than any other; and in all exercises he was like King Olaf
himself. He was, besides, a man of understanding, jealous in
everything he undertook, and a deadly man at arms. Sigvat talks
thus of him: --
"No earl or baron, young or old,
Match with this bonde brave can hold.
Mild was brave Erling, all men say,
When not engaged in bloody fray:
His courage he kept hid until
The fight began, then foremost still
Erling was seen in war's wild game,
And famous still is Erling's name."
It was a common saying among the people, that Erling had been the
most valiant who ever held lands under a king in Norway. Erlings
and Astrid s children were these -- Aslak, Skialg, Sigurd, Lodin,
Thorer, and Ragnhild, who was married to Thorberg Arnason.
Erling had always with him ninety free-born men or more, and both
winter and summer it was the custom in his house to drink at the
mid-day meal according to a measure (1), but at the night meal
there was no measure in drinking. When the earl was in the
neighbourhood he had 200 (2) men or more. He never went to sea
with less than a fully-manned ship of twenty benches of rowers.
Erling had also a ship of thirty-two benches of rowers, which was
besides, very large for that size. and which he used in viking
cruises, or on an expedition; and in it there were 200 men at the
very least.
(1) There were silver-studs in a row from the rim to the bottom
of the drinking born or cup; and as it went round each drank
till the stud appeared above the liquor. This was drinking
by measure. -- L.
(2) I.e., 240.
Erling had always at home on his farm thirty slaves, besides
other serving-people. He gave his slaves a certain day's work;
but after it he gave them leisure, and leave that each should
work in the twilight and at night for himself, and as he pleased.
He gave them arable land to sow corn in, and let them apply their
crops to their own use. He laid upon each a certain quantity of
labour to work themselves free by doing it; and there were many
who bought their freedom in this way in one year, or in the
second year, and all who had any luck could make themselves free
within three years. With this money he bought other slaves: and
to some of his freed people he showed how to work in the herringfishery,
to others he showed some useful handicraft; and some
cleared his outfields and set up houses. He helped all to
When Earl Eirik had ruled over Norway for twelve years. there
came a message to him from his brother-in-law King Canute, the
Danish king, that he should go with him on an expedition westward
to England; for Eirik was very celebrated for his campaigns, as
he had gained the victory in the two hardest engagements which
had ever been fought in the north countries. The one was that in
which the Earls Hakon and Eirik fought with the Jomsborg vikings;
the other that in which Earl Eirik fought with King Olaf
Trygvason. Thord Kolbeinson speaks of this: --
"A song of praise
Again I raise.
To the earl bold
The word is told,
That Knut the Brave
His aid would crave;
The earl, I knew,
To friend stands true."
The earl would not sleep upon the message of the king, but sailed
immediately out of the country, leaving behind his son Earl Hakon
to take care of Norway; and, as he was but seventeen years of
age, Einar Tambaskelfer was to be at his hand to rule the country
for him.
Eirik met King Canute in England, and was with him when he took
the castle of London. Earl Eirik had a battle also to the
westward of the castle of London, and killed Ulfkel Snilling. So
says Thord Kolbeinson: --
"West of London town we passed,
And our ocean-steeds made fast,
And a bloody fight begin,
Eng1and's lands to lose or win.
Blue sword and shining spear
Laid Ulfkel's dead corpse there,
Our Thingmen hear the war-shower sounding
Our grey arrows from their shields rebounding."
Earl Eirik was a winter in England, and had many battles there.
The following autumn he intended to make a pilgrimage to Rome,
but he died in England of a bloody flux.
King Canute came to England the summer that King Ethelred died,
and had many battles with Ethelred's sons, in which the victory
was sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other. Then King
Canute took Queen Emma in marriage; and their children were
Harald, Hardacanute, and Gunhild. King Canute then made an
agreement with King Edmund, that each of them should have a half
of England. In the same month Henry Strion murdered King Edmund.
King Canute then drove all Ethelred's sons out of England. So
says Sigvat: --
"Now all the sons of Ethelred
Were either fallen, or had fled:
Some slain by Canute, -- some they say,
To save their lives had run away."
King Ethelred's sons came to Rouen in Valland from England, to
their mother's brother, the same summer that King Olaf Haraldson
came from the west from his viking cruise, and they were all
during the winter in Normandy together. They made an agreement
with each other that King Olaf should have Northumberland, if
they could succeed in taking England from the Danes. Therefore
about harvest, Olaf sent his foster-father Hrane to England to
collect men-at-arms; and Ethelred's sons sent tokens to their
friends and relations with him. King Olaf, besides, gave him
much money with him to attract people to them. Hrane was all
winter in England, and got promises from many powerful men of
fidelity, as the people of the country would rather have native
kings over them; but the Danish power had become so great in
England, that all the people were brought under their dominion.
In spring (A.D. 1014) King Olaf and King Ethelred's sons set out
together to the west, and came to a place in England called
Jungufurda, where they landed with their army and moved forward
against the castle. Many men were there who had promised them
their aid. They took the castle; and killed many people. Now
when King Canute's men heard of this they assembled an army, and
were soon in such force that Ethelred's sons could not stand
against it; and they saw no other way left but to return to
Rouen. Then King Olaf separated from them, and would not go back
to Valland, but sailed northwards along England, all the way to
Northumberland, where he put into a haven at a place called
Valde; and in a battle there with the townspeople and merchants
he gained the victory, and a great booty.
King Olaf left his long-ships there behind, but made ready two
ships of burden; and had with him 220 men in them, well-armed,
and chosen people. He sailed out to sea northwards in harvest,
but encountered a tremendous storm and they were in danger of
being lost; but as they had a chosen crew, and the king s luck
with them, all went on well. So says Ottar: --
"Olaf, great stem of kings, is brave --
Bold in the fight, bold on the wave.
No thought of fear
Thy heart comes near.
Undaunted, 'midst the roaring flood,
Firm at his post each shipman stood;
And thy two ships stout
The gale stood out."
And further he says: --
"Thou able chief! with thy fearless crew
Thou meetest, with skill and courage true,
The wild sea's wrath
On thy ocean path.
Though waves mast-high were breaking round.
Thou findest the middle of Norway's ground,
With helm in hand
On Saela's strand."
It is related here that King Olaf came from the sea to the very
middle of Norway; and the isle is called Saela where they landed,
and is outside of Stad. King Olaf said he thought it must be a
lucky day for them, since they had landed at Saela in Norway; and
observed it was a good omen that it so happened. As they were
going up in the isle, the king slipped with one foot in a place
where there was clay, but supported himself with the other foot.
Then said he "The king falls." "Nay," replies Hrane, "thou didst
not fall, king, but set fast foot in the soil." The king laughed
thereat, and said, "It may be so if God will." They went down
again thereafter to their ships, and sailed to Ulfasund, where
they heard that Earl Hakon was south in Sogn, and was expected
north as soon as wind allowed with a single ship.
King Olaf steered his ships within the ordinary ships' course
when he came abreast of Fjaler district, and ran into
Saudungssund. There he laid his two vessels one on each side of
the sound. with a thick cable between them. At the same moment
Hakon, Earl Eirik's son, came rowing into the sound with a manned
ship; and as they thought these were but two merchant-vessels
that were lying in the sound, they rowed between them. Then Olaf
and his men draw the cable up right under Hakon's ship's keel and
wind it up with the capstan. As soon as the vessel's course was
stopped her stern was lifted up, and her bow plunged down; so
that the water came in at her fore-end and over both sides, and
she upset. King Olaf's people took Earl Hakon and all his men
whom they could get hold of out of the water, and made them
prisoners; but some they killed with stones and other weapons,
and some were drowned. So says Ottar: --
"The black ravens wade
In the blood from thy blade.
Young Hakon so gay,
With his ship, is thy prey:
His ship, with its gear,
Thou hast ta'en; and art here,
Thy forefather's land
From the earl to demand."
Earl Hakon was led up to the king's ship. He was the handsomest
man that could be seen. He had long hair, as fine as silk, bound
about his bead with a gold ornament.
When he sat down in the fore-hold, the king said to him, "It is
not false what is said of your family, that ye are handsome
people to look at; but now your luck has deserted you."
Hakon the earl replied, "It has always been the case that success
is changeable; and there is no luck in the matter. It has gone
with your family as with mine, to have by turns the better lot.
I am little beyond childhood in years; and at any rate we could
not have defended ourselves, as we did not expect any attack on
the way. It may turn out better with us another time."
Then said King Olaf, "Dost thou not apprehend that thou art in
that condition that, hereafter, there can be neither victory nor
defeat for thee?"
The earl replies, "That is what thou only canst determine, king,
according to thy pleasure."
Olaf says, "What wilt thou give me, earl, if for this time I let
thee go, whole and unhurt?"
The earl asks what he would take.
"Nothing," says the king, "except that thou shalt leave the
country, give up thy kingdom, and take an oath that thou shalt
never go into battle against me."
The earl answered, that he would do so. And now Earl Hakon took
the oath that he would never fight against Olaf, or seek to
defend Norway against him, or attack him; and King Olaf thereupon
gave him and all his men life and peace. The earl got back the
ship which had brought him there, and he and his men rowed their
way. Thus says Sigvat of him: --
"In old Saudungs sound
The king Earl Hakon found,
Who little thought that there
A foeman was so near.
The best and fairest youth
Earl Hakon was in truth,
That speaks the Danish tongue,
And of the race of great Hakon."
After this (A.D. 1014) the earl made ready as fast as possible to
leave the country and sail over to England. He met King Canute,
his mother's brother, there, and told him all that had taken
place between him and King Olaf. King Canute received him
remarkably well, placed him in his court in his own house, and
gave him great power in his kingdom. Earl Hakon dwelt a long
time with King Canute. During the time Svein and Hakon ruled
over Norway, a reconciliation with Erling Skialgson was effected,
and secured by Aslak, Erling's son, marrying Gunhild, Earl
Svein's daughter; and the father and son, Erling and Aslak,
retained all the fiefs which King Olaf Trygvason had given to
Erling. Thus Erling became a firm friend of the earl's, and
their mutual friendship was confirmed by oath.
King Olaf went now eastward along the land, holding Things with
the bondes all over the country. Many went willingly with him;
but some, who were Earl Svein's friends or relations, spoke
against him. Therefore King Olaf sailed in all haste eastward to
Viken; went in there with his ships; set them on the land; and
proceeded up the country, in order to meet his stepfather, Sigurd
Syr. When he came to Vestfold he was received in a friendly way
by many who had been his father's friends or acquaintances; and
also there and in Folden were many of his family. In autumn
(A.D. 1014) he proceeded up the country to his stepfather King
Sigurd's, and came there one day very early. As Olaf was coming
near to the house, some of the servants ran beforehand to the
house, and into the room. Olaf's mother, Asta, was sitting in
the room, and around her some of her girls. When the servants
told her of King Olaf's approach, and that he might soon be
expected, Asta stood up directly, and ordered the men and girls
to put everything in the best order. She ordered four girls to
bring out all that belonged to the decoration of the room and put
it in order with hangings and benches. Two fellows brought straw
for the floor, two brought forward four-cornered tables and the
drinking-jugs, two bore out victuals and placed the meat on the
table, two she sent away from the house to procure in the
greatest haste all that was needed, and two carried in the ale;
and all the other serving men and girls went outside of the
house. Messengers went to seek King Sigurd wherever he might be,
and brought to him his dress-clothes, and his horse with gilt
saddle, and his bridle, which was gilt and set with precious
stones. Four men she sent off to the four quarters of the
country to invite all the great people to a feast, which she
prepared as a rejoicing for her son's return. All who were
before in the house she made to dress themselves with the best
they had, and lent clothes to those who had none suitable.
King Sigurd Syr was standing in his corn-field when the
messengers came to him and brought him the news, and also told
him all that Asta was doing at home in the house. He had many
people on his farm. Some were then shearing corn, some bound it
together, some drove it to the building, some unloaded it and put
it in stack or barn; but the king, and two men with him, went
sometimes into the field, sometimes to the place where the corn
was put into the barn. His dress, it is told, was this: -- he
had a blue kirtle and blue breeches; shoes which were laced about
the legs; a grey cloak, and a grey wide-brimmed hat; a veil
before his face; a staff in his hand with a gilt-silver head on
it and a silver ring around it. Of Sigurd's living and
disposition it is related that he was a very gain-making man who
attended carefully to his cattle and husbandry, and managed his
housekeeping himself. He was nowise given to pomp, and was
rather taciturn. But he was a man of the best understanding in
Norway, and also excessively wealthy in movable property.
Peaceful he was, and nowise haughty. His wife Asta was generous
and high-minded. Their children were, Guthorm, the eldest; then
Gunhild; the next Halfdan, Ingerid, and Harald. The messengers
said to Sigurd, "Asta told us to bring thee word how much it lay
at her heart that thou shouldst on this occasion comport thyself
in the fashion of great men, and show a disposition more akin to
Harald Harfager's race than to thy mother's father's, Hrane Thinnose,
or Earl Nereid the Old, although they too were very wise
men." The king replies, "The news ye bring me is weighty, and ye
bring it forward in great heat. Already before now Asta has been
taken up much with people who were not so near to her; and I see
she is still of the same disposition. She takes this up with
great warmth; but can she lead her son out of the business with
the same splendour she is leading him into it? If it is to
proceed so methinks they who mix themselves up in it regard
little property or life. For this man, King Olaf, goes against a
great superiority of power; and the wrath of the Danish and
Swedish kings lies at the foot of his determination, if he
ventures to go against them."
When the king had said this he sat down, and made them take off
his shoes, and put corduvan boots on, to which he bound his gold
spurs. Then he put off his cloak and coat, and dressed himself
in his finest clothes, with a scarlet cloak over all; girded on
his sword, set a gilded helmet upon his head, and mounted his
horse. He sent his labouring people out to the neighbourhood,
and gathered to him thirty well-clothed men, and rode home with
them. As they rode up to the house, and were near the room, they
saw on the other side of the house the banners of Olaf coming
waving; and there was he himself, with about 100 men all well
equipped. People were gathered over all upon the house-tops.
King Sigurd immediately saluted his stepson from horseback in a
friendly way, and invited him and his men to come in and drink a
cup with him. Asta, on the contrary, went up and kissed her son,
and invited him to stay with her; and land, and people, and all
the good she could do for him stood at his service. King Olaf
thanked her kindly for her invitation. Then she took him by the
hand, and led him into the room to the high-seat. King Sigurd
got men to take charge of their clothes, and give their horses
corn; and then he himself went to his high-seat, and the feast
was made with the greatest splendour.
King Olaf had not been long here before he one day called his
stepfather King Sigurd, his mother Asta, and his foster-father
Hrane to a conference and consultation. Olaf began thus: "It has
so happened," said he, "as is well known to you, that I have
returned to this country after a very long sojourn in foreign
parts, during all which time I and my men have had nothing for
our support but what we captured in war, for which we have often
hazarded both life and soul: for many an innocent man have we
deprived of his property, and some of their lives; and foreigners
are now sitting in the possessions which my father, his father,
and their forefathers for a long series of generations owned, and
to which I have udal right. They have not been content with
this, but have taken to themselves also the properties of all our
relations who are descended from Harald Harfager. To some they
have left little, to others nothing at all. Now I will disclose
to you what I have long concealed in my own mind, that I intend
to take the heritage of my forefathers; but I will not wait upon
the Danish or Swedish king to supplicate the least thing from
them, although they for the time call that their property which
was Harald Harfager's heritage. To say the truth, I intend
rather to seek my patrimony with battle-axe and sword, and that
with the help of all my friends and relations, and of those who
in this business will take my side. And in this matter I will so
lay hand to the work that one of two things shall happen, --
either I shall lay all this kingdom under my rule which they got
into their hands by the slaughter of my kinsman Olaf Trygvason,
or I shall fall here upon my inheritance in the land of my
fathers. Now I expect of thee, Sigurd, my stepfather, as well as
other men here in the country who have udal right of succession
to the kingdom, according to the law made by King Harald
Harfager, that nothing shall be of such importance to you as to
prevent you from throwing off the disgrace from our family of
being slow at supporting the man who comes forward to raise up
again our race. But whether ye show any manhood in this affair
or not, I know the inclination of the people well, -- that all
want to be free from the slavery of foreign masters, and will
give aid and strength to the attempt. I have not proposed this
matter to any before thee, because I know thou art a man of
understanding, and can best judge how this my purpose shall be
brought forward in the beginning, and whether we shall, in all
quietness, talk about it to a few persons, or instantly declare
it to the people at large. I have already shown my teeth by
taking prisoner the Earl Hakon, who has now left the country, and
given me, under oath, the part of the kingdom which he had
before; and I think it will be easier to have Earl Svein alone to
deal with, than if both were defending the country against us."
King Sigurd answers, "It is no small affair, King Olaf, thou hast
in thy mind; and thy purpose comes more, methinks, from hasty
pride than from prudence. But it may be there is a wide
difference between my humble ways and the high thoughts thou
hast; for whilst yet in thy childhood thou wast full always of
ambition and desire of command, and now thou art experienced in
battles, and hast formed thyself upon the manner of foreign
chiefs. I know therefore well, that as thou hast taken this into
thy head, it is useless to dissuade thee from it; and also it is
not to be denied that it goes to the heart of all who have
courage in them, that the whole Harfager race and kingdom should
go to the ground. But I will not bind myself by any promise,
before I know the views and intentions of other Upland kings; but
thou hast done well in letting me know thy purpose, before
declaring it publicly to the people. I will promise thee,
however, my interest with the kings, and other chiefs, and
country people; and also, King Olaf, all my property stands to
thy aid, and to strengthen thee. But we will only produce the
matter to the community so soon as we see some progress, and
expect some strength to this undertaking; for thou canst easily
perceive that it is a daring measure to enter into strife with
Olaf the Swedish king, and Canute, who is king both of Denmark
and England; and thou requirest great support under thee, if it
is to succeed. It is not unlikely, in my opinion, that thou wilt
get good support from the people, as the commonalty always loves
what is new; and it went so before, when Olaf Trygvason came here
to the country, that all rejoiced at it, although he did not long
enjoy the kingdom."
When the consultation had proceeded so far, Asta took up the
word. "For my part, my son, I am rejoiced at thy arrival, but
much more at thy advancing thy honour. I will spare nothing for
that purpose that stands in my power, although it be but little
help that can be expected from me. But if a choice could be
made, I would rather that thou shouldst be the supreme king of
Norway, even if thou shouldst not sit longer in thy kingdom than
Olaf Trygvason did, than that thou shouldst not be a greater king
than Sigurd Syr is, and die the death of old age." With this the
conference closed. King Olaf remained here a while with all his
men. King Sigurd entertained them, day about, the one day with
fish and milk, the other day with flesh-meat and ale.
At that time there were many kings in the Uplands who had
districts to rule over, and the most of them were descended from
Harald Harfager. In Hedemark two brothers ruled -- Hrorek and
Ring; in Gudbrandsdal, Gudrod; and there was also a king in
Raumarike; and one had Hadaland and Thoten; and in Valders also
there was a king. With these district-kings Sigurd had a meeting
up in Hadaland, and Olaf Haraldson also met with them. To these
district-kings whom Sigurd had assembled he set forth his stepson
Olaf's purpose, and asked their aid, both of men and in counsel
and consent; and represented to them how necessary it was to cast
off the yoke which the Danes and Swedes had laid upon them. He
said that there was now a man before them who could head such an
enterprise; and he recounted the many brave actions which Olaf
had achieved upon his war-expeditions.
Then King Hrorek says, "True it is that Harald Harfager's kingdom
has gone to decay, none of his race being supreme king over
Norway. But the people here in the country have experienced many
things. When King Hakon, Athelstan's foster-son, was king, all
were content; but when Gunhild's sons ruled over the country, all
were so weary of their tyranny and injustice that they would
rather have foreign men as kings, and be themselves more their
own rulers; for the foreign kings were usually abroad and cared
little about the customs of the people if the scat they laid on
the country was paid. When enmity arose between the Danish king
Harald and Earl Hakon, the Jomsborg vikings made an expedition
against Norway; then the whole people arose, and threw the
hostilities from themselves; and thereafter the people encouraged
Earl Hakon to keep the country, and defend it with sword and
spear against the Danish king. But when he had set himself fast
in the kingdom with the help of the people, he became so hard and
overbearing towards the country-folks, that they would no longer
suffer him. The Throndhjem people killed him, and raised to the
kingly power Olaf Trygvason, who was of the udal succession to
the kingdom, and in all respects well fitted to be a chief. The
whole country's desire was to make him supreme king, and raise
again the kingdom which Harald Harfager had made for himself.
But when King Olaf thought himself quite firmly seated in his
kingdom, no man could rule his own concerns for him. With us
small kings he was so unreasonable, as to take to himself not
only all the scat and duties which Harald Harfager had levied
from us, but a great deal more. The people at last had so little
freedom under him, that it was not allowed to every man to
believe in what god he pleased. Now since he has been taken away
we have kept friendly with the Danish king; have received great
help from him when we have had any occasion for it; and have been
allowed to rule ourselves, and live in peace and quiet in the
inland country, and without any overburden. I am therefore
content that things be as they are, for I do not see what better
rights I am to enjoy by one of my relations ruling over the
country; and if I am to be no better off, I will take no part in
the affair."
Then said King Ring, his brother, "I will also declare my opinion
that it is better for me, if I hold the same power and property
as now, that my relative is king over Norway, rather than a
foreign chief, so that our family may again raise its head in the
land. It is, besides, my opinion about this man Olaf, that his
fate and luck must determine whether he is to obtain the kingdom
or not; and if he succeed in making himself supreme king, then he
will be the best off who has best deserved his friendship. At
present he has in no respect greater power than any of us; nay,
indeed, he has less; as we have lands and kingdoms to rule over,
and he has nothing, and we are equally entitled by the udal right
to the kingdom as he is himself. Now, if we will be his men,
give him our aid, allow him to take the highest dignity in the
country, and stand by him with our strength, how should he not
reward us well, and hold it in remembrance to our great
advantage, if he be the honourable man I believe him to be, and
all say he is? Therefore let us join the adventure, say I, and
bind ourselves in friendship with him."
Then the others, one after the other, stood up and spoke; and the
conclusion was, that the most of them determined to enter into a
league with King Olaf. He promised them his perfect friendship,
and that he would hold by and improve the country's laws and
rights, if he became supreme king of Norway. This league was
confirmed by oath.
Thereafter the kings summoned a Thing, and there King Olaf set
forth this determination to all the people, and his demand on the
kingly power. He desires that the bondes should receive him as
king; and promises, on the other hand, to allow them to retain
their ancient laws, and to defend the land from foreign masters
and chiefs. On this point he spoke well, and long; and he got
great praise for his speech. Then the kings rose and spoke, the
one after the other, and supported his cause, and this message to
the people. At last it came to this, that King Olaf was
proclaimed king over the whole country, and the kingdom adjudged
to him according to law in the Uplands (A.D. 1014).
King Olaf began immediately his progress through the country,
appointing feasts before him wherever there were royal farms.
First he travelled round in Hadaland, and then he proceeded north
to Gudbrandsdal. And now it went as King Sigurd Syr had
foretold, that people streamed to him from all quarters; and he
did not appear to have need for half of them, for he had nearly
300 men. But the entertainments bespoken did not half serve; for
it had been the custom that kings went about in guest-quarters in
the Uplands with 60 or 70 men only, and never with more than 100
men. The king therefore hastened over the country, only stopping
one night at the same place. When he came north to Dovrefield,
he arranged his journey so that he came over the mountain and
down upon the north side of it, and then came to Opdal, where he
remained all night. Afterwards he proceeded through Opdal
forest, and came out at Medaldal, where he proclaimed a Thing,
and summoned the bondes to meet him at it. The king made a
speech to the Thing, and asked the bondes to accept him as king;
and promised, on his part, the laws and rights which King Olaf
Trygvason had offered them. The bondes had no strength to make
opposition to the king; so the result was that they received him
as king, and confirmed it by oath: but they sent word to Orkadal
and Skaun of all that they knew concerning Olaf's proceedings.
Einar Tambaskelfer had a farm and house at Husaby in Skaun; and
now when he got news of Olaf's proceedings, he immediately split
up a war-arrow, and sent it out as a token to the four quarters
-- north, south, east, west, -- to call together all free and
unfree men in full equipment of war: therewith the message, that
they were to defend the land against King Olaf. The messagestick
went to Orkadal, and thence to Gaulardal, where the whole
war-force was to assemble.
King Olaf proceeded with his men down into Orkadal, and advanced
in peace and with all gentleness; but when he came to Griotar he
met the assembled bondes, amounting to more than 700 men. Then
the king arrayed his army, for he thought the bondes were to give
battle. When the bondes saw this, they also began to put their
men in order; but it went on very slowly, for they had not agreed
beforehand who among them should be commander. Now when King
Olaf saw there was confusion among the bondes, he sent to them
Thorer Gudbrandson; and when he came he told them King Olaf did
not want to fight them, but named twelve of the ablest men in
their flock of people, who were desired to come to King Olaf.
The bondes agreed to this; and the twelve men went over a rising
ground which is there, and came to the place where the king's
army stood in array. The king said to them, "Ye bondes have done
well to give me an opportunity to speak with you, for now I will
explain to you my errand here to the Throndhjem country. First I
must tell you, what ye already must have heard, that Earl Hakon
and I met in summer; and the issue of our meeting was, that he
gave me the whole kingdom he possessed in the Throndhjem country,
which, as ye know, consists of Orkadal, Gaulardal, Strind, and
Eyna district. As a proof of this, I have here with me the very
men who were present, and saw the earl's and my own hands given
upon it, and heard the word and oath, and witnessed the agreement
the earl made with me. Now I offer you peace and law, the same
as King Olaf Trygvason offered before me."
The king spoke well, and long; and ended by proposing to the
bondes two conditions -- either to go into his service and be
subject to him, or to fight him. Thereupon the twelve bondes
went back to their people, and told the issue of their errand,
and considered with the people what they should resolve upon.
Although they discussed the matter backwards and forwards for a
while, they preferred at last to submit to the king; and it was
confirmed by the oath of the bondes. The king now proceeded on
his journey, and the bondes made feasts for him. The king then
proceeded to the sea-coast, and got ships; and among others he
got a long-ship of twenty benches of rowers from Gunnar of
Gelmin; another ship of twenty benches he got from Loden of
Viggia; and three ships of twenty benches from the farm of Angrar
on the ness which farm Earl Hakon had possessed, but a steward
managed it for him, by name Bard White. The king had, besides,
four or five boats; and with these vessels he went in all haste
into the fjord of Throndhjem.
Earl Svein was at that time far up in the Throndhjem fjord at
Steinker, which at that time was a merchant town, and was there
preparing for the yule festival (A.D. 1015). When Einar
Tambaskelfer heard that the Orkadal people had submitted to King
Olaf, he sent men to Earl Svein to bring him the tidings. They
went first to Nidaros, and took a rowing-boat which belonged to
Einar, with which they went out into the fjord, and came one day
late in the evening to Steinker, where they brought to the earl
the news about all King Olaf's proceedings. The earl owned a
long-ship, which was lying afloat and rigged just outside the
town: and immediately, in the evening, he ordered all his movable
goods, his people's clothes, and also meat and drink, as much as
the vessel could carry, to be put on board, rowed immediately out
in the night-time, and came with daybreak to Skarnsund. There he
saw King Olaf rowing in with his fleet into the fjord. The earl
turned towards the land within Masarvik, where there was a thick
wood, and lay so near the rocks that the leaves and branches hung
over the vessel. They cut down some large trees, which they laid
over the quarter on the sea-side, so that the ship could not be
seen for leaves, especially as it was scarcely clear daylight
when the king came rowing past them. The weather was calm, and
the king rowed in among the islands; and when the king's fleet
was out of sight the earl rowed out of the fjord, and on to
Frosta, where his kingdom lay, and there he landed.
Earl Svein sent men out to Gaulardal to his brother-in-law, Einar
Tambaskelfer; and when Einar came the earl told him how it had
been with him and King Olaf, and that now he would assemble men
to go out against King Olaf, and fight him.
Einar answers, "We should go to work cautiously, and find out
what King Olaf intends doing; and not let him hear anything
concerning us but that we are quiet. It may happen that if he
hears nothing about our assembling people, he may sit quietly
where he is in Steinker all the Yule; for there is plenty
prepared for him for the Yule feast: but if he hears we are
assembling men, he will set right out of the fjord with his
vessels, and we shall not get hold of him." Einar's advice was
taken; and the earl went to Stjoradal, into guest-quarters among
the bondes.
When King Olaf came to Steinker he collected all the meat
prepared for the Yule feast, and made it be put on board,
procured some transport vessels, took meat and drink with him,
and got ready to sail as fast as possible, and went out all the
way to Nidaros. Here King Olaf Trygvason had laid the foundation
of a merchant town, and had built a king's house: but before that
Nidaros was only a single house, as before related. When Earl
Eirik came to the country, he applied all his attention to his
house of Lade, where his father had had his main residence, and
he neglected the houses which Olaf had erected at the Nid; so
that some were fallen down, and those which stood were scarcely
habitable. King Olaf went now with his ships up the Nid, made
all the houses to be put in order directly that were still
standing, and built anew those that had fallen down, and employed
in this work a great many people. Then he had all the meat and
drink brought on shore to the houses, and prepared to hold Yule
there; so Earl Svein and Einar had to fall upon some other plan.
There was an Iceland man called Thord Sigvaldaskald, who had been
long with Earl Sigvalde, and afterwards with the earl's brother,
Thorkel the Tall; but after the earl's death Thord had become a
merchant. He met King Olaf on his viking cruise in the west, and
entered into his service, and followed him afterwards. He was
with the king when the incidents above related took place. Thord
had a son called Sigvat fostered in the house of Thorkel at
Apavatn, in Iceland. When he was nearly a grown man he went out
of the country with some merchants; and the ship came in autumn
to the Throndhjem country, and the crew lodged in the hered
(district). The same winter King Olaf came to Throndhjem, as
just now related by us. Now when Sigvat heard that his father
Thord was with the king, he went to him, and stayed a while with
him. Sigvat was a good skald at an early age. He made a lay in
honour of King Olaf, and asked the king to listen to it. The
king said he did not want poems composed about him, and said he
did not understand the skald's craft. Then Sigvat sang: --
"Rider of dark-blue ocean's steeds!
Allow one skald to sing thy deeds;
And listen to the song of one
Who can sing well, if any can.
For should the king despise all others,
And show no favour to my brothers,
Yet I may all men's favour claim,
Who sing, still of our great king's fame."
King Olaf gave Sigvat as a reward for his verse a gold ring that
weighed half a mark, and Sigvat was made one of King Olaf's
court-men. Then Sigvat sang: --
"I willingly receive this sword --
By land or sea, on shore, on board,
I trust that I shall ever be
Worthy the sword received from thee.
A faithful follower thou hast bound --
A generous master I have found;
Master and servant both have made
Just what best suits them by this trade."
Earl Svein had, according to custom, taken one half of the
harbour-dues from the Iceland ship-traders about autumn (A.D.
1014); for the Earls Eirik and Hakon had always taken one half of
these and all other revenues in the Throndhjem country. Now when
King Olaf came there, he sent his men to demand that half of the
tax from the Iceland traders; and they went up to the king's
house and asked Sigvat to help them. He went to the king, and
sang: --
"My prayer, I trust, will not be vain --
No gold by it have I to gain:
All that the king himself here wins
Is not red gold, but a few skins.
it is not right that these poor men
Their harbour-dues should pay again.
That they paid once I know is true;
Remit, great king, what scarce is due."
Earl Svein and Einar Tambaskelfer gathered a large armed force,
with which they came by the upper road into Gaulardal, and so
down to Nidaros, with nearly 2000 men. King Olaf's men were out
upon the Gaular ridge, and had a guard on horseback. They became
aware that a force was coming down the Gaulardal, and they
brought word of it to the king about midnight. The king got up
immediately, ordered the people to be wakened, and they went on
board of the ships, bearing all their clothes and arms on board,
and all that they could take with them, and then rowed out of the
river. Then came the earl's men to the town at the same moment,
took all the Christmas provision, and set fire to the houses.
King Olaf went out of the fjord down to Orkadal, and there landed
the men from their ships. From Orkadal they went up to the
mountains, and over the mountains eastwards into Gudbrandsdal.
In the lines composed about Kleng Brusason, it is said that Earl
Eirik burned the town of Nidaros: --
"The king's half-finished hall,
Rafters, root, and all,
Is burned down by the river's side;
The flame spreads o'er the city wide."
King Olaf went southwards through Gudbrandsdal, and thence out to
Hedemark. In the depth of winter (A.D. 1015) he went about in
guest-quarters; but when spring returned he collected men, and
went to Viken. He had with him many people from Hedemark, whom
the kings had given him; and also many powerful people from among
the bondes joined him, among whom Ketil Kalf from Ringanes. He
had also people from Raumarike. His stepfather, Sigurd Syr, gave
him the help also of a great body of men. They went down from
thence to the coast, and made ready to put to sea from Viken.
The fleet, which was manned with many fine fellows, went out then
to Tunsberg.
After Yule (A.D. 1015) Earl Svein gathers all the men of the
Throndhjem country, proclaims a levy for an expedition, and fits
out ships. At that time there were in the Throndhjem country a
great number of lendermen; and many of them were so powerful and
well-born, that they descended from earls, or even from the royal
race, which in a short course of generations reckoned to Harald
Harfager, and they were also very rich. These lendermen were of
great help to the kings or earls who ruled the land; for it was
as if the lenderman had the bonde-people of each district in his
power. Earl Svein being a good friend of the lendermen, it was
easy for him to collect people. His brother-in-law, Einar
Tambaskelfer, was on his side, and with him many other lendermen;
and among them many, both lendermen and bondes, who the winter
before had taken the oath of fidelity to King Olaf. When they
were ready for sea they went directly out of the fjord, steering
south along the land, and drawing men from every district. When
they came farther south, abreast of Rogaland, Erling Skialgson
came to meet them, with many people and many lendermen with him.
Now they steered eastward with their whole fleet to Viken, and
Earl Svein ran in there towards the end of Easter. The earl
steered his fleet to Grenmar, and ran into Nesjar (A.D. 1015).
King Olaf steered his fleet out from Viken, until the two fleets
were not far from each other, and they got news of each other the
Saturday before Palm Sunday. King Olaf himself had a ship called
the Carl's Head, on the bow of which a king's head was carved
out, and he himself had carved it. This head was used long after
in Norway on ships which kings steered themselves.
As soon as day dawned on Sunday morning, King Olaf got up, put on
his clothes, went to the land, and ordered to sound the signal
for the whole army to come on shore. Then he made a speech to
the troops, and told the whole assembly that he had heard there
was but a short distance between them and Earl Svein. "Now,"
said he, "we shall make ready; for it can be but a short time
until we meet. Let the people arm, and every man be at the post
that has been appointed him, so that all may be ready when I
order the signal to sound for casting off from the land. Then
let us row off at once; and so that none go on before the rest of
the ships, and none lag behind when I row out of the harbour: for
we cannot tell if we shall find the earl where he was lying, or
if he has come out to meet us. When we do meet, and the battle
begins, let people be alert to bring all our ships in close
order, and ready to bind them together. Let us spare ourselves
in the beginning, and take care of our weapons, that we do not
cast them into the sea, or shoot them away in the air to no
purpose. But when the fight becomes hot and the ships are bound
together, then let each man show what is in him of manly spirit."
King Olaf had in his ship 100 men armed in coats of ring-mail,
and in foreign helmets. The most of his men had white shields,
on which the holy cross was gilt; but some had painted it in blue
or red. He had also had the cross painted in front on all the
helmets, in a pale colour. He had a white banner on which was a
serpent figured. He ordered a mass to be read before him, went
on board ship, and ordered his people to refresh themselves with
meat and drink. He then ordered the war-horns to sound to
battle, to leave the harbour, and row off to seek the earl. Now
when they came to the harbour where the earl had lain, the earl's
men were armed, and beginning to row out of the harbour; but when
they saw the king's fleet coming they began to bind the ships
together, to set up their banners, and to make ready for the
fight. When King Olaf saw this he hastened the rowing, laid his
ship alongside the earl's, and the battle began. So says Sigvat
the skald: --
"Boldly the king did then pursue
Earl Svein, nor let him out of view.
The blood ran down the reindeer's flank
Of each sea-king -- his vessel's plank.
Nor did the earl's stout warriors spare
In battle-brunt the sword and spear.
Earl Svein his ships of war pushed on,
And lashed their stout stems one to one."
It is said that King Olaf brought his ships into battle while
Svein was still lying in the harbour. Sigvat the skald was
himself in the fight; and in summer, just after the battle, he
composed a lay, which is called the "Nesjar Song", in which he
tells particularly the circumstances: --
"In the fierce fight 'tis known how near
The scorner of the ice-cold spear
Laid the Charles' head the earl on board,
All eastward of the Agder fjord."
Then was the conflict exceedingly sharp, and it was long before
it could be seen how it was to go in the end. Many fell on both
sides, and many were the wounded. So says Sigvat: --
"No urging did the earl require,
Midst spear and sword -- the battle's fire;
No urging did the brave king need
The ravens in this shield-storm to feed.
Of limb-lopping enough was there,
And ghastly wounds of sword and spear.
Never, I think, was rougher play
Than both the armies had that day."
The earl had most men, but the king had a chosen crew in his
ship, who had followed him in all his wars; and, besides, they
were so excellently equipped, as before related, that each man
had a coat of ring-mail, so that he could not be wounded. So
says Sigvat: --
"Our lads, broad-shouldered, tall, and hale,
Drew on their cold shirts of ring-mail.
Soon sword on sword was shrilly ringing,
And in the air the spears were singing.
Under our helms we hid our hair,
For thick flew arrows through the air.
Right glad was I our gallant crew,
Steel-clad from head to foot, to view."
When the men began to fall on board the earl's ships, and many
appeared wounded, so that the sides of the vessels were but
thinly beset with men, the crew of King Olaf prepared to board.
Their banner was brought up to the ship that was nearest the
earl's, and the king himself followed the banner. So says
Sigvat: --
"`On with the king!' his banners waving:
`On with the king!' the spears he's braving!
`On, steel-clad men! and storm the deck,
Slippery with blood and strewed with wreck.
A different work ye have to share,
His banner in war-storm to bear,
From your fair girl's, who round the hall
Brings the full mead-bowl to us all.'"
Now was the severest fighting. Many of Svein's men fell, and
some sprang overboard. So says Sigvat: --
"Into the ship our brave lads spring, --
On shield and helm their red blades ring;
The air resounds with stroke on stroke, --
The shields are cleft, the helms are broke.
The wounded bonde o'er the side
Falls shrieking in the blood-stained tide --
The deck is cleared with wild uproar --
The dead crew float about the shore."
And also these lines: --
"The shields we brought from home were white,
Now they are red-stained in the fight:
This work was fit for those who wore
Ringed coats-of-mail their breasts before.
Where for the foe blunted the best sword
I saw our young king climb on board.
He stormed the first; we followed him --
The war-birds now in blood may swim."
Now defeat began to come down upon the earl's men. The king's
men pressed upon the earl's ship and entered it; but when the
earl saw how it was going, he called out to his forecastle-men to
cut the cables and cast the ship loose, which they did. Then the
king's men threw grapplings over the timber heads of the ship,
and so held her fast to their own; but the earl ordered the
timber heads to be cut away, which was done. So says Sigvat: --
"The earl, his noble ship to save,
To cut the posts loud order gave.
The ship escaped: our greedy eyes
Had looked on her as a clear prize.
The earl escaped; but ere he fled
We feasted Odin's fowls with dead: --
With many a goodly corpse that floated
Round our ship's stern his birds were bloated."
Einar Tambaskelfer had laid his ship right alongside the earl's.
They threw an anchor over the bows of the earl's ship, and thus
towed her away, and they slipped out of the fjord together.
Thereafter the whole of the earl's fleet took to flight, and
rowed out of the fjord. The skald Berse Torfason was on the
forecastle of the earl's ship; and as it was gliding past the
king's fleet, King Olaf called out to him -- for he knew Berse,
who was distinguished as a remarkably handsome man, always well
equipped in clothes and arms -- "Farewell, Berse!" He replied,
"Farewell, king!" So says Berse himself, in a poem he composed
when he fell into King Olaf's power, and was laid in prison and
in fetters on board a ship: --
"Olaf the Brave
A `farewell' gave,
(No time was there to parley long,)
To me who knows the art of song.
The skald was fain
`Farewell' again
In the same terms back to send --
The rule in arms to foe or friend.
Earl Svein's distress
I well can guess,
When flight he was compelled to take:
His fortunes I will ne'er forsake,
Though I lie here
In chains a year,
In thy great vessel all forlorn,
To crouch to thee I still will scorn:
I still will say,
No milder sway
Than from thy foe this land e'er knew:
To him, my early friend, I'm true."
Now some of the earl's men fled up the country, some surrendered
at discretion; but Svein and his followers rowed out of the
fjord, and the chiefs laid their vessels together to talk with
each other, for the earl wanted counsel from his lendermen.
Erling Skialgson advised that they should sail north, collect
people, and fight King Olaf again; but as they had lost many
people, the most were of opinion that the earl should leave the
country, and repair to his brother-in-law the Swedish King, and
strengthen himself there with men. Einar Tambaskelfer approved
also of that advice, as they had no power to hold battle against
Olaf. So they discharged their fleet. The earl sailed across
Folden, and with him Einar Tambaskelfer. Erling Skialgson again,
and likewise many other lendermen who would not abandon their
udal possessions, went north to their homes; and Erling had many
people that summer about him.
When King Olaf and his men saw that the earl had gathered his
ships together, Sigurd Syr was in haste for pursuing the earl,
and letting steel decide their cause. But King Olaf replies,
that he would first see what the earl intended doing -- whether
he would keep his force together or discharge his fleet. Sigurd
Syr said, "It is for thee, king, to command; but," he adds, "I
fear, from thy disposition and wilfulness, that thou wilt some
day be betrayed by trusting to those great people, for they are
accustomed of old to bid defiance to their sovereigns." There
was no attack made, for it was soon seen that the earl's fleet
was dispersing. Then King Olaf ransacked the slain, and remained
there some days to divide the booty. At that time Sigvat made
these verses: --
"The tale I tell is true
To their homes returned but few
Of Svein's men who came to meet
King Olaf's gallant fleet.
From the North these warmen came
To try the bloody game, --
On the waves their corpses borne
Show the game that Sunday morn.
The Throndhjem girls so fair
Their jeers, I think, will spare,
For the king's force was but small
That emptied Throndhjem's hall.
But if they will have their jeer,
They may ask their sweethearts dear,
Why they have returned shorn
Who went to shear that Sunday morn."
And also these: --
"Now will the king's power rise,
For the Upland men still prize
The king who o'er the sea
Steers to bloody victory.
Earl Svein! thou now wilt know
That our lads can make blood flow --
That the Hedemarkers hale
Can do more than tap good ale."
King Olaf gave his stepfather King Sigurd Syr, and the other
chiefs who had assisted him, handsome presents at parting. He
gave Ketil of Ringanes a yacht of fifteen benches of rowers,
which Ketil brought up the Raum river and into the Mjosen lake.
King Olaf sent spies out to trace the earl's doings (A.D. 1015);
and when he found that the earl had left the country he sailed
out west, and to Viken, where many people came to him. At the
Thing there he was taken as king, and so he proceeded all the way
to the Naze; and when he heard that Erling Skialgson had gathered
a large force, he did not tarry in North Agder, but sailed with a
steady fair wind to the Throndhjem country; for there it appeared
to him was the greatest strength of the land, if he could subdue
it for himself while the earl was abroad. When Olaf came to
Throndhjem there was no opposition, and he was elected there to
be king. In harvest (A.D. 1015) he took his seat in the town of
Nidaros, and collected the needful winter provision (A.D. 1016).
He built a king's house, and raised Clement's church on the spot
on which it now stands. He parcelled out building ground, which
he gave to bondes, merchants, or others who he thought would
build. There he sat down with many men-at-arms around him; for
he put no great confidence in the Throndhjem people, if the earl
should return to the country. The people of the interior of the
Throndhjem country showed this clearly, for he got no land-scat
from them.
Earl Svein went first to Svithjod to his brother-in-law Olaf the
Swedish king, told him all that had happened between him and Olaf
the Thick, and asked his advice about what he should now
undertake. The king said that the earl should stay with him if
he liked, and get such a portion of his kingdom to rule over as
should seem to him sufficient; "or otherwise," says he, "I will
give thee help of forces to conquer the country again from Olaf."
The earl chose the latter; for all those among his men who had
great possessions in Norway, which was the case with many who
were with him, were anxious to get back; and in the council they
held about this, it was resolved that in winter they should take
the land-way over Helsingjaland and Jamtaland, and so down into
the Throndhjem land; for the earl reckoned most upon the faithful
help and strength of the Throndhjem people of the interior as
soon as he should appear there. In the meantime, however, it was
determined to take a cruise in summer in the Baltic to gather
Earl Svein went eastward with his forces to Russia, and passed
the summer (A.D. 1015) in marauding there; but on the approach of
autumn returned with his ships to Svithjod. There he fell into a
sickness, which proved fatal. After the earl's death some of the
people who had followed him remained in Svithjod; others went to
Helsingjaland, thence to Jamtaland, and so from the east over the
dividing ridge of the country to the Throndhjem district, where
they told all that had happened upon their journey: and thus the
truth of Earl Svein's death was known (A.D. 1016).
Einar Tambaskelfer, and the people who had followed him went in
winter to the Swedish king, and were received in a friendly
manner. There were also among them many who had followed the
earl. The Swedish king took it much amiss that Olaf the Thick
had set himself down in his scat-lands, and driven the earl out
of them, and therefore he threatened the king with his heaviest
vengeance when opportunity offered. He said that Olaf ought not
to have had the presumption to take the dominions which the earl
had held of him; and all the Swedish king's men agreed with him.
But the Throndhjem people, when they heard for certain that the
earl was dead. and could not be expected back to Norway, turned
all to obedience to King Olaf. Many came from the interior of
the Throndhjem country, and became King Olaf's men; others sent
word and tokens that they would service him. Then, in autumn, he
went into the interior of Throndhjem, and held Things with the
bondes, and was received as king in each district. He returned
to Nidaros, and brought there all the king's scat and revenue,
and had his winter-seat provided there (A.D. 1016).
King Olaf built a king's house in Nidaros, and in it was a large
room for his court, with doors at both ends. The king's highseat
was in the middle of the room; and within sat his courtbishop,
Grimkel, and next him his other priests; without them sat
his counsellors; and in the other high-seat opposite to the king
sat his marshal, Bjorn, and next to him his pursuivants. When
people of importance came to him, they also had a seat of honour.
The ale was drunk by the fire-light. He divided the service
among his men after the fashion of other kings. He had in his
house sixty court-men and thirty pursuivants; and to them he gave
pay and certain regulations. He had also thirty house-servants
to do the needful work about the house, and procure what was
required. He had, besides, many slaves. At the house were many
outbuildings, in which the court-men slept. There was also a
large room, in which the king held his court-meetings.
It was King Olaf's custom to rise betimes in the morning, put on
his clothes, wash his hands, and then go to the church and hear
the matins and morning mass. Thereafter he went to the Thingmeeting,
to bring people to agreement with each other, or to talk
of one or the other matter that appeared to him necessary. He
invited to him great and small who were known to be men of
understanding. He often made them recite to him the laws which
Hakon Athelstan's foster-son had made for Throndhjem; and after
considering them with those men of understanding, he ordered laws
adding to or taking from those established before. But Christian
privileges he settled according to the advice of Bishop Grimbel
and other learned priests; and bent his whole mind to uprooting
heathenism, and old customs which he thought contrary to
Christianity. And he succeeded so far that the bondes accepted
of the laws which the king proposed. So says Sigvat: --
"The king, who at the helm guides
His warlike ship through clashing tides,
Now gives one law for all the land --
A heavenly law, which long will stand."
King Olaf was a good and very gentle man, of little speech, and
open-handed although greedy of money. Sigvat the skald, as
before related, was in King Olaf's house, and several Iceland
men. The king asked particularly how Christianity was observed
in Iceland, and it appeared to him to be very far from where it
ought to be; for, as to observing Christian practices, it was
told the king that it was permitted there to eat horse-flesh, to
expose infants as heathens do, besides many other things contrary
to Christianity. They also told the king about many principal
men who were then in Iceland. Skapte Thorodson was then the
lagman of the country. He inquired also of those who were best
acquainted with it about the state of people in other distant
countries; and his inquiries turned principally on how
Christianity was observed in the Orkney, Shetland, and Farey
Islands: and, as far as he could learn, it was far from being as
he could have wished. Such conversation was usually carried on
by him; or else he spoke about the laws and rights of the
The same winter (A.D. 1016) came messengers from the Swedish
king, Olaf the Swede, out of Svithjod: and their leaders were two
brothers, Thorgaut Skarde and Asgaut the bailiff; and they, had
twenty-four men with them, when they came from the eastward, over
the ridge of the country down into Veradal, they summoned a Thing
of the bondes, talked to them, and demanded of them scat and
duties upon account of the king of Sweden. But the bondes, after
consulting with each other, determined only to pay the scat which
the Swedish king required in so far as King Olaf required none
upon his account, but refused to pay scat to both. The
messengers proceeded farther down the valley; but received at
every Thing they held the same answer, and no money. They went
forward to Skaun, held a Thing there, and demanded scat; but it
went there as before. Then they came to Stjoradal, and summoned
a Thing, but the bondes would not come to it. Now the messengers
saw that their business was a failure; and Thorgaut proposed that
they should turn about, and go eastward again. "I do not think,"
says Asgaut, "that we have performed the king's errand unless we
go to King Olaf the Thick, since the bondes refer the matter to
him." He was their commander; so they proceeded to the town
(Nidaros), and took lodging there. The day after they presented
themselves to the king, just as he was seated at table, saluted
him, and said they came with a message of the Swedish king. The
king told them to come to him next day. Next day the king,
having heard mass, went to his Thing-house, ordered the
messengers of the Swedish king to be called, and told them to
produce their message. Then Thorgaut spoke, and told first what
his errand was, and next how the Throndhjem people of the
interior had replied to it; and asked the king's decision on the
business, that they might know what result their errand there was
to have. The king answers, "While the earls ruled over the
country, it was not to be wondered at if the country people
thought themselves bound to obey them, as they were at least of
the royal race of the kingdom. But it would have been more just
if those earls had given assistance and service to the kings who
had a right to the country, rather than to foreign kings, or to
stir up opposition to their lawful kings, depriving them of their
land and kingdom. With regard to Olaf the Swede, who calls
himself entitled to the kingdom of Norway, I, who in fact am so
entitled, can see no ground for his claim; but well remember the
skaith and damage we have suffered from him and his relations."
Then says Asgaut. "It is not wonderful that thou art called Olaf
the Thick, seeing thou answerest so haughtily to such a prince's
message, and canst not see clearly how heavy the king's wrath
will be for thee to support, as many have experienced who had
greater strength than thou appearest to have. But if thou
wishest to keep hold of thy kingdom, it will be best for thee to
come to the king, and be his man; and we shall beg him to give
thee this kingdom in fief under him."
The king replies with all gentleness, "I will give thee an
advice, Asgaut, in return. Go back to the east again to thy
king, and tell him that early in spring I will make myself ready,
and will proceed eastward to the ancient frontier that divided
formerly the kingdom of the kings of Norway from Sweden. There
he may come if he likes, that we may conclude a peace with each
other; and each of us will retain the kingdom to which he is
Now the messengers turned back to their lodging, and prepared for
their departure, and the king went to table. The messengers came
back soon after to the king's house; but the doorkeepers saw it,
and reported it to the king, who told them not to let the
messengers in. "I will not speak with them," said he. Then the
messengers went off, and Thorgaut said he would now return home
with his men; but Asgaut insisted still that he would go forward
with the king's errand: so they separated. Thorgaut proceeded
accordingly through Strind; but Asgaut went into Gaulardal and
Orkadal, and intended proceeding southwards to More, to deliver
his king's message. When King Olaf came to the knowledge of this
he sent out his pursuivants after them, who found them at the
ness in Stein, bound their hands behind their backs, and led them
down to the point called Gaularas, where they raised a gallows,
and hanged them so that they could be seen by those who travelled
the usual sea-way out of the fjord. Thorgaut heard this news
before he had travelled far on his way home through the
Throndhjem country; and he hastened on his journey until he came
to the Swedish king, and told him how it had gone with them. The
king was highly enraged when he heard the account of it; and he
had no lack of high words.
The spring thereafter (A.D. 1016) King Olaf Haraldson calls out
an army from the Throndhjem land, and makes ready to proceed
eastward. Some of the Iceland traders were then ready to sail
from Norway. With them King Olaf sent word and token to Hjalte
Skeggjason, and summoned him to come to him, and at the same time
sent a verbal message to Skapte the lagman, and other men who
principally took part in the lawgiving of Iceland, to take out of
the law whatever appeared contrary to Christianity. He sent,
besides, a message of friendship to the people in general. The
king then proceeded southwards himself along the coast, stopping
at every district, and holding Things with the bondes; and in
each Thing he ordered the Christian law to be read, together with
the message of salvation thereunto belonging, and with which many
ill customs and much heathenism were swept away at once among the
common people: for the earls had kept well the old laws and
rights of the country; but with respect to keeping Christianity,
they had allowed every man to do as he liked. It was thus come
so far that the people were baptized in the most places on the
sea-coast, but the most of them were ignorant of Christian law.
In the upper ends of the valleys, and in the habitations among
the mountains, the greater part of the people were heathen; for
when the common man is left to himself, the faith he has been
taught in his childhood is that which has the strongest hold over
his inclination. But the king threatened the most violent
proceedings against great or small, who, after the king's
message, would not adopt Christianity. In the meantime Olaf was
proclaimed king in every Law Thing in the country, and no man
spoke against him. While he lay in Karmtsund messengers went
between him and Erling Skjalgson, who endeavoured to make peace
between them; and the meeting was appointed in Whitings Isle.
When they met they spoke with each other about agreement
together; but Erling found something else than he expected in the
conversation: for when he insisted on having all the fiefs which
Olaf Trygvason, and afterwards the Earls Svein and Hakon, had
given him, and on that condition would be his man and dutiful
friend, the king answered, "It appears to me, Erling, that it
would be no bad bargain for thee to get as great fiefs from me
for thy aid and friendship as thou hadst from Earl Eirik, a man
who had done thee the greatest injury by the bloodshed of thy
men; but even if I let thee remain the greatest lenderman in
Norway, I will bestow my fiefs according to my own will, and not
act as if ye lendermen had udal right to my ancestor's heritage,
and I was obliged to buy your services with manifold rewards."
Erling had no disposition to sue for even the smallest thing; and
he saw that the king was not easily dealt with. He saw also that
he had only two conditions before him: the one was to make no
agreement with the king, and stand by the consequences; the other
to leave it entirely to the king's pleasure. Although it was
much against his inclination, he chose the latter, and merely
said to the king, "The service will be the most useful to thee
which I give with a free will." And thus their conference ended.
Erling's relations and friends came to him afterwards, and
advised him to give way, and proceed with more prudence and less
pride. "Thou wilt still," they said, "be the most important and
most respected lenderman in Norway, both on account of thy own
and thy relations' abilities and great wealth." Erling found
that this was prudent advice, and that they who gave it did so
with a good intention, and he followed it accordingly. Erling
went into the king's service on such conditions as the king
himself should determine and please. Thereafter they separated
in some shape reconciled, and Olaf went his way eastward along
the coast (A.D. 1016).
As soon as it was reported that Olaf had come to Viken, the Danes
who had offices under the Danish king set off for Denmark,
without waiting for King Olaf. But King Olaf sailed in along
Viken, holding Things with the bondes. All the people of the
country submitted to him, and thereafter he took all the king's
taxes, and remained the summer (A.D. 1016) in Viken. He then
sailed east from Tunsberg across the fjord, and all the way east
to Svinasund. There the Swedish king's dominions begin, and he
had set officers over this country; namely, Eilif Gautske over
the north part, and Hroe Skialge over the east part, all the way
to the Gaut river. Hroe had family friends on both sides of the
river, and also great farms on Hising Island, and was besides a
mighty and very rich man. Eilif was also of great family, and
very wealthy. Now when King Olaf came to Ranrike he summoned the
people to a Thing, and all who dwelt on the sea-coast or in the
out-islands came to him. Now when the Thing was seated the
king's marshal, Bjorn, held a speech to them, in which he told
the bondes to receive Olaf as their king, in the same way as had
been done in all other parts of Norway. Then stood up a bold
bonde by name Brynjolf Ulfalde, and said, "We bondes know where
the division-boundaries between the Norway and Danish and Swedish
kings' lands have stood by rights in old times; namely, that the
Gaut river divided their lands between the Vener lake and the
sea; but towards the north the forests until Eid forest, and from
thence the ridge of the country all north to Finmark. We know,
also, that by turns they have made inroads upon each other's
territories, and that the Swedes have long had power all the way
to Svinasund. But, sooth to say, I know that it is the
inclination of many rather to serve the king of Norway, but they
dare not; for the Swedish king's dominions surround us, both
eastward, southwards, and also up the country; and besides, it
may be expected that the king of Norway must soon go to the
north, where the strength of his kingdom lies, and then we have
no power to withstand the Gautlanders. Now it is for the king to
give us good counsel, for we have great desire to be his men."
After the Thing, in the evening, Brynjolf was in the king's tent,
and the day after likewise, and they had much private
conversation together. Then the king proceeded eastwards along
Viken. Now when Eilif heard of his arrival, he sent out spies to
discover what he was about; but he himself, with thirty men, kept
himself high up in the habitations among the hills, where he had
gathered together bondes. Many of the bondes came to King Olaf,
but some sent friendly messages to him. People went between King
Olaf and Eilif, and they entreated each separately to hold a
Thing-meeting between themselves, and make peace in one way or
another. They told Eilif that they might expect violent
treatment from King Olaf if they opposed his orders; but promised
Eilif he should not want men. It was determined that they should
come down from the high country, and hold a thing with the bondes
and the king. King Olaf thereupon sent the chief of his
pursuivants, Thorer Lange, with six men, to Brynjolf. They were
equipped with their coats-of-mail under their cloaks, and their
hats over their helmets. The following day the bondes came in
crowds down with Eilif; and in his suite was Brynjolf, and with
him Thorer. The king laid his ships close to a rocky knoll that
stuck out into the sea, and upon it the king went with his
people, and sat down. Below was a flat field, on which the
bondes' force was; but Eilif's men were drawn up, forming a
shield-fence before him. Bjorn the marshal spoke long and
cleverly upon the king's account, and when he sat down Eilif
arose to speak; but at the same moment Thorer Lange rose, drew
his sword, and struck Eilif on the neck, so that his head flew
off. Then the whole bonde-force started up; but the Gautland men
set off in full flight and Thorer with his people killed several
of them. Now when the crowd was settled again, and the noise
over the king stood up, and told the bondes to seat themselves.
They did so, and then much was spoken. The end of it was that
they submitted to the king, and promised fidelity to him; and he,
on the other hand, promised not to desert them, but to remain at
hand until the discord between him and the Swedish Olaf was
settled in one way or other. King Olaf then brought the whole
northern district under his power, and went in summer eastward as
far as the Gaut river, and got all the king's scat among the
islands. But when summer (A.D. 1016) was drawing towards an end
he returned north to Viken, and sailed up the Raum river to a
waterfall called Sarp. On the north side of the fall, a point of
land juts out into the river. There the king ordered a rampart
to be built right across the ness, of stone, turf, and wood, and
a ditch to be dug in front of it; so that it was a large earthen
fort or burgh, which he made a merchant town of. He had a king's
house put up, and ordered the building of Mary church. He also
laid out plans for other houses, and got people to build on them.
In harvest (A.D. 1016) he let everything be gathered there that
was useful for his winter residence (A.D. 1017), and sat there
with a great many people, and the rest he quartered in the
neighbouring districts. The king prohibited all exports from
Viken to Gautland of herrings and salt, which the Gautland people
could ill do without. This year the king held a great Yule
feast, to which he invited many great bondes.
There was a man called Eyvind Urarhorn, who was a great man, of
high birth, who had his descent from the East Agder country.
Every summer he went out on a viking cruise, sometimes to the
West sea, sometimes to the Baltic, sometimes south to Flanders,
and had a well-armed cutter (snekkia) of twenty benches of
rowers. He had been also at Nesjar, and given his aid to the
king; and when they separated the king promised him his favour,
and Eyvind, again, promised to come to the king's aid whenever he
was required. This winter (A.D. 1017) Eyvind was at the Yule
feast of the king, and received goodly gifts from him. Brynjolf
Ulfalde was also with the king, and he received a Yule present
from the king of a gold-mounted sword, and also a farm called
Vettaland, which is a very large head-farm of the district.
Brynjolf composed a song about these gifts, of which the refrain
was --
"The song-famed hero to my hand
Gave a good sword, and Vettaland."
The king afterwards gave him the title of Lenderman, and Brynjolf
was ever after the king's greatest friend.
This winter (A.D. 1017) Thrand White from Throndhjem went east to
Jamtaland, to take up scat upon account of King Olaf. But when
he had collected the scat he was surprised by men of the Swedish
king, who killed him and his men, twelve in all, and brought the
scat to the Swedish king. King Olaf was very ill-pleased when he
heard this news.
King Olaf made Christian law to be proclaimed in Viken, in the
same way as in the North country. It succeeded well, because the
people of Viken were better acquainted with the Christian customs
than the people in the north; for, both winter and summer, there
were many merchants in Viken, both Danish and Saxon. The people
of Viken, also, had much trading intercourse with England, and
Saxony, and Flanders, and Denmark; and some had been on viking
expeditions, and had had their winter abode in Christian lands.
About spring-time (A.D. 1017) King Olaf sent a message that
Eyvind Urarhorn should come to him; and they spake together in
private for a long time. Thereafter Eyvind made himself ready
for a viking cruise. He sailed south towards Viken, and brought
up at the Eikreys Isles without Hising Isle. There he heard that
Hroe Skialge had gone northwards towards Ordost, and had there
made a levy of men and goods on account of the Swedish king, and
was expected from the north. Eyvind rowed in by Haugasund, and
Hroe came rowing from the north, and they met in the sound and
fought. Hroe fell there, with nearly thirty men; and Eyvind took
all the goods Hroe had with him. Eyvind then proceeded to the
Baltic, and was all summer on a viking cruise.
There was a man called Gudleik Gerske, who came originally from
Agder. He was a great merchant, who went far and wide by sea,
was very rich, and drove a trade with various countries. He
often went east to Gardarike (Russia), and therefore was called
Gudleik Gerske (the Russian). This spring (A.D. 1017) Gudleik
fitted out his ship, and intended to go east in summer to Russia.
King Olaf sent a message to him that he wanted to speak to him;
and when Gudleik came to the king he told him he would go in
partnership with him, and told him to purchase some costly
articles which were difficult to be had in this country. Gudleik
said that it should be according to the king's desire. The king
ordered as much money to be delivered to Gudleik as he thought
sufficient, and then Gudleik set out for the Baltic. They lay in
a sound in Gotland; and there it happened, as it often does, that
people cannot keep their own secrets, and the people of the
country came to know that in this ship was Olaf the Thick's
partner. Gudleik went in summer eastwards to Novgorod, where he
bought fine and costly clothes, which he intended for the king as
a state dress; and also precious furs, and remarkably splendid
table utensils. In autumn (A.D. 1017), as Gudleik was returning
from the east, he met a contrary wind, and lay for a long time at
the island Eyland. There came Thorgaut Skarde, who in autumn had
heard of Gudleik's course, in a long-ship against him, and gave
him battle. They fought long, and Gudleik and his people
defended themselves for a long time; but the numbers against them
were great, and Gudleik and many of his ship's crew fell, and a
great many of them were wounded. Thorgaut took all their goods,
and King Olaf's, and he and his comrades divided the booty among
them equally; but he said the Swedish king ought to have the
precious articles of King Olaf, as these, he said, should be
considered as part of the scat due to him from Norway.
Thereafter Thorgaut proceeded east to Svithjod. These tidings
were soon known; and as Eyvind Urarhorn came soon after to
Eyland, he heard the news, and sailed east after Thorgaut and his
troop, and overtook them among the Swedish isles on the coast,
and gave battle. There Thorgaut and the most of his men were
killed, and the rest sprang overboard. Eyvind took all the goods
and all the costly articles of King Olaf which they had captured
from Gudleik, and went with these back to Norway in autumn, and
delivered to King Olaf his precious wares. The king thanked him
in the most friendly way for his proceeding, and promised him
anew his favour and friendship. At this time Olaf had been three
years king over Norway (A.D. 1015-1017).
The same summer (A.D. 1017) King Olaf ordered a levy, and went
out eastwards to the Gaut river, where he lay a great part of the
summer. Messages were passing between King Olaf, Earl Ragnvald,
and the earl's wife, Ingebjorg, the daughter of Trygve. She was
very zealous about giving King Olaf of Norway every kind of help,
and made it a matter of her deepest interest. For this there
were two causes. She had a great friendship for King Olaf; and
also she could never forget that the Swedish king had been one at
the death of her brother, Olaf Trygvason; and also that he, on
that account only, had any presence to rule over Norway. The
earl, by her persuasion, turned much towards friendship with King
Olaf; and it proceeded so far that the earl and the king
appointed a meeting, and met at the Gaut river. They talked
together of many things, but especially of the Norwegian and
Swedish kings' relations with each other; both agreeing, as was
the truth also, that it was the greatest loss, both to the people
of Viken and of Gautland, that there was no peace for trade
between the two countries; and at last both agreed upon a peace,
and still-stand of arms between them until next summer; and they
parted with mutual gifts and friendly speeches.
The king thereupon returned north to Viken, and had all the royal
revenues up to the Gaut river; and all the people of the country
there had submitted to him. King Olaf the Swede had so great a
hatred of Olaf Haraldson, that no man dared to call him by his
right name in the king's hearing. They called him the thick man;
and never named him without some hard by-name.
The bondes in Viken spoke with each other about there being
nothing for it but that the kings should make peace and a league
with each other, and insisted upon it that they were badly used
by the kings going to war; but nobody was so bold as to bring
these murmurs before the king. At last they begged Bjorn the
marshal to bring this matter before the king, and entreat him to
send messengers to the Swedish king to offer peace on his side.
Bjorn was disinclined to do this, and put it off from himself
with excuses; but on the entreaties of many of his friends, he
promised at last to speak of it to the king; but declared, at the
same time, that he knew it would be taken very ill by the king to
propose that he should give way in anything to the Swedish king.
The same summer (A.D. 1017) Hjalte Skeggjason came over to Norway
from Iceland, according to the message sent him by King Olaf, and
went directly to the king. He was well received by the king, who
told him to lodge in his house, and gave him a seat beside Bjorn
the marshal, and Hjalte became his comrade at table. There was
good-fellowship immediately between them.
Once, when King Olaf had assembled the people and bondes to
consult upon the good of the country, Bjorn the marshal said,
"What think you, king, of the strife that is between the Swedish
king and you? Many people have fallen on both sides, without its
being at all more determined than before what each of you shall
have of the kingdom. You have now been sitting in Viken one
winter and two summers, and the whole country to the north is
lying behind your back unseen; and the men who have property or
udal rights in the north are weary of sitting here. Now it is
the wish of the lendermen, of your other people, and of the
bondes that this should come to an end. There is now a truce,
agreement, and peace with the earl, and the West Gautland people
who are nearest to us; and it appears to the people it would be
best that you sent messengers to the Swedish king to offer a
reconciliation on your side; and, without doubt, many who are
about the Swedish king will support the proposal, for it is a
common gain for those who dwell in both countries, both here and
there." This speech of Bjorn's received great applause.
Then the king said, "It is fair, Bjorn, that the advice thou hast
given should be carried out by thyself. Thou shalt undertake
this embassy thyself, and enjoy the good of it, if thou hast
advised well; and if it involve any man in danger, thou hast
involved thyself in it. Moreover, it belongs to thy office to
declare to the multitude what I wish to have told." Then the
king stood up, went to the church, and had high mass sung before
him; and thereafter went to table.
The following day Hjalte said to Bjorn, "Why art thou so
melancholy, man? Art thou sick, or art thou angry at any one?"
Bjorn tells Hjalte his conversation with the king, and says it is
a very dangerous errand.
Hjalte says, "It is their lot who follow kings that they enjoy
high honours, and are more respected than other men, but stand
often in danger of their lives: and they must understand how to
bear both parts of their lot. The king's luck is great; and much
honour will be gained by this business, if it succeed."
Bjorn answered, "Since thou makest so light of this business in
thy speech, wilt thou go with me? The king has promised that I
shall have companions with me on the journey."
"Certainly," says Hjalte; "I will follow thee, if thou wilt: for
never again shall I fall in with such a comrade if we part."
A few days afterwards. when the king was at a Thing-meeting,
Bjorn came with eleven others. He says to the king that they
were now ready to proceed on their mission, and that their horses
stood saddled at the door. "And now," says he, "I would know
with what errand I am to go, or what orders thou givest us."
The king replies, "Ye shall carry these my words to the Swedish
king -- that I will establish peace between our countries up to
the frontier which Olaf Trygvason had before me; and each shall
bind himself faithfully not to trespass over it. But with regard
to the loss of people, no man must mention it if peace there is
to be; for the Swedish king cannot with money pay for the men the
Swedes have deprived us of." Thereupon the king rose, and went
out with Bjorn and his followers; and he took a gold-mounted
sword and a gold ring, and said, in handing over the sword to
Bjorn, "This I give thee: it was given to me in summer by Earl
Ragnvald. To him ye shall go; and bring him word from me to
advance your errand with his counsel and strength. This thy
errand I will think well fulfilled if thou hearest the Swedish
king's own words, be they yea or nay: and this gold ring thou
shalt give Earl Ragnvald. These are tokens (1) he must know
Hjalte went up to the king, saluted him, and said, "We need much,
king, that thy luck attend us;" and wished that they might meet
again in good health.
The king asked where Hjalte was going.
"With Bjorn," said he.
The king said, "It will assist much to the good success of the
journey that thou goest too, for thy good fortune has often been
proved; and be assured that I shall wish that all my luck, if
that be of any weight, may attend thee and thy company."
Bjorn and his followers rode their way, and came to Earl
Ragnvald's court, where they were well received. Bjorn was a
celebrated and generally known man, -- known by sight and speech
to all who had ever seen King Olaf; for at every Thing, Bjorn
stood up and told the king's message. Ingebjorg, the earl's
wife, went up to Hjalte and looked at him. She recognized him,
for she was living with her brother Olaf Trygvason when Hjalte
was there: and she knew how to reckon up the relationship between
King Olaf and Vilborg, the wife of Hjalte; for Eirik Bjodaskalle
father of Astrid, King Olaf Trygvason's mother, and Bodvar father
of Olaf, mother of Gissur White the father of Vilborg, were
brother's sons of the lenderman Vikingakare of Vors.
They enjoyed here good entertainment. One day Bjorn entered into
conversation with the earl and Ingebjorg, in which he set forth
his errand, and produced to the earl his tokens.
The earl replies, "What hast thou done, Bjorn, that the king
wishes thy death? For, so far from thy errand having any
success, I do not think a man can be found who could speak these
words to the Swedish king without incurring wrath and punishment.
King Olaf, king of Sweden, is too proud for any man to speak to
him on anything he is angry at."
Then Bjorn says, "Nothing has happened to me that King Olaf is
offended at; but many of his disposition act both for themselves
and others, in a way that only men who are daring can succeed in.
But as yet all his plans have had good success, and I think this
will turn out well too; so I assure you, earl, that I will
actually travel to the Swedish king, and not turn back before I
have brought to his ears every word that King Olaf told me to say
to him, unless death prevent me, or that I am in bonds, and
cannot perform my errand; and this I must do, whether you give
any aid or no aid to me in fulfilling the king's wishes."
Then said IngebJorg, "I will soon declare my opinion. I think,
earl, thou must turn all thy attention to supporting King Olaf
the king of Norway's desire that this message be laid before the
Swedish king, in whatever way he may answer it. Although the
Swedish king's anger should be incurred, and our power and
property be at stake, yet will I rather run the risk, than that
it should be said the message of King Olaf was neglected from
fear of the Swedish king. Thou hast that birth, strength of
relations, and other means, that here in the Swedish land it is
free to thee to tell thy mind, if it be right and worthy of being
heard, whether it be listened to by few or many, great or little
people, or by the king himself."
The earl replies, "It is known to every one how thou urgest me:
it may be, according to thy counsel, that I should promise the
king's men to follow them, so that they may get their errand laid
before the Swedish king, whether he take it ill or take it well.
But I will have my own counsel followed, and will not run hastily
into Bjorn's or any other man's measures, in such a highly
important matter. It is my will that ye all remain here with me,
so long as I think it necessary for the purpose of rightly
forwarding this mission." Now as the earl had thus given them to
understand that he would support them in the business, Bjorn
thanked him most kindly, and with the assurance that his advice
should rule them altogether. Thereafter Bjorn and his fellowtravellers
remained very long in the earl's house.
(1) Before writing was a common accomplishment in courts, the
only way of accrediting a special messenger between kings
and great men was by giving the messenger a token; that is.
some article well known by the person receiving the message
to be the property of and valued by the person sending it.
Ingebjorg was particularly kind to them; and Bjorn often spoke
with her about the matter, and was ill at ease that their journey
was so long delayed. Hjalte and the others often spoke together
also about the matter; and Hjalte said; "I will go to the king if
ye like; for I am not a man of Norway, and the Swedes can have
nothing to say to me. I have heard that there are Iceland men in
the king's house who are my acquaintances, and are well treated;
namely, the skalds Gissur Black and Ottar Black. From them I
shall get out what I can about the Swedish king; and if the
business will really be so difficult as it now appears, or if
there be any other way of promoting it, I can easily devise some
errand that may appear suitable for me."
This counsel appeared to Bjorn and Ingebjorg to be the wisest,
and they resolved upon it among themselves. Ingebjorg put Hjalte
in a position to travel; gave him two Gautland men with him, and
ordered them to follow him, and assist him with their service,
and also to go wherever he might have occasion to send them.
Besides, Ingebjorg gave him twenty marks of weighed silver money
for travelling expenses, and sent word and token by him to the
Swedish king Olaf's daughter, Ingegerd, that she should give all
her assistance to Hjalte's business, whenever he should find
himself under the necessity of craving her help. Hjalte set off
as soon as he was ready. When he came to King Olaf he soon found
the skalds Gissur and Ottar, and they were very glad at his
coming. Without delay they went to the king, and told him that a
man was come who was their countryman, and one of the most
considerable in their native land, and requested the king to
receive him well. The king told them to take Hjalte and his
fellow-travellers into their company and quarters. Now when
Hjalte had resided there a short time, and got acquainted with
people, he was much respected by everybody. The skalds were
often in the king's house, for they were well-spoken men; and
often in the daytime they sat in front of the king's high-seat,
and Hjalte, to whom they paid the highest respect in all things,
by their side. He became thus known to the king, who willingly
entered into conversation with him, and heard from him news about
It happened that before Bjorn set out from home he asked Sigvat
the skald, who at that time was with King Olaf, to accompany him
on his journey. It was a journey for which people had no great
inclination. There was, however, great friendship between Bjorn
and Sigvat. Then Sigvat sang: --
"With the king's marshals all have I,
In days gone by,
Lived joyously, --
With all who on the king attend,
And knee before him humbly bend,
Bjorn, thou oft hast ta'en my part --
Pleaded with art,
And touched the heart.
Bjorn! brave stainer of the sword,
Thou art my friend -- I trust thy word."
While they were riding up to Gautland, Sigvat made these verses:
"Down the Fjord sweep wind and rain,
Our stout ship's sails and tackle strain;
Wet to the skin.
We're sound within,
And gaily o'er the waves are dancing,
Our sea-steed o'er the waves high prancing!
Through Lister sea
Flying all free;
Off from the wind with swelling sail,
We merrily scud before the gale,
And reach the sound
Where we were bound.
And now our ship, so gay and grand,
Glides past the green and lovely land,
And at the isle
Moors for a while.
Our horse-hoofs now leave hasty print;
We ride -- of ease there's scanty stint --
In heat and haste
O'er Gautland's waste:
Though in a hurry to be married,
The king can't say that we have tarried."
One evening late they were riding through Gautland, and Sigvat
made these verses: --
"The weary horse will at nightfall
Gallop right well to reach his stall;
When night meets day, with hasty hoof
He plies the road to reach a roof.
Far from the Danes, we now may ride
Safely by stream or mountain-side;
But, in this twilight, in some ditch
The horse and rider both may pitch."
They rode through the merchant town of Skara, and down the street
to the earl's house. He sang: --
"The shy sweet girls, from window high
In wonder peep at the sparks that fly
From our horses heels, as down the street
Of the earl's town we ride so fleet.
Spur on! -- that every pretty lass
May hear our horse-hoofs as we pass
Clatter upon the stones so hard,
And echo round the paved court-yard."
One day Hjalte, and the skalds with him, went before the king,
and he began thus: -- "It has so happened, king, as is known to
you, that I have come here after a long and difficult journey;
but when I had once crossed the ocean and heard of your
greatness, it appeared to me unwise to go back without having
seen you in your splendour and glory. Now it is a law between
Iceland and Norway, that Iceland men pay landing due when they
come into Norway, but while I was coming across the sea I took
myself all the landing dues from my ship's people; but knowing
that thou have the greatest right to all the power in Norway, I
hastened hither to deliver to you the landing dues." With this
he showed the silver to the king, and laid ten marks of silver in
Gissur Black's lap.
The king replies, "Few have brought us any such dues from Norway
for some time; and now, Hjalte, I will return you my warmest
thanks for having given yourself so much trouble to bring us the
landing dues, rather than pay them to our enemies. But I will
that thou shouldst take this money from me as a gift, and with it
my friendship."
Hjalte thanked the king with many words, and from that day set
himself in great favour with the king, and often spoke with him;
for the king thought, what was true, that he was a man of much
understanding and eloquence. Now Hjalte told Gissur and Ottar
that he was sent with tokens to the king's daughter Ingegerd, to
obtain her protection and friendship; and he begged of them to
procure him some opportunity to speak with her. They answered,
that this was an easy thing to do; and went one day to her house,
where she sat at the drinking table with many men. She received
the skalds in a friendly manner, for they were known to her.
Hjalte brought her a salutation from the earl's wife, Ingebjorg;
and said she had sent him here to obtain friendly help and
succour from her, and in proof whereof produced his tokens. The
king's daughter received him also kindly, and said he should be
welcome to her friendship. They sat there till late in the day
drinking. The king's daughter made Hjalte tell her much news,
and invited him to come often and converse with her. He did so:
came there often, and spoke with the king's daughter; and at last
entrusted her with the purpose of Bjorn's and his comrade's
journey, and asked her how she thought the Swedish king would
receive the proposal that there should be a reconciliation
between the kings. The king's daughter replied, that, in her
opinion, it would be a useless attempt to propose to the king any
reconciliation with Olaf the Thick; for the king was so enraged
against him, that he would not suffer his name to be mentioned
before him. It happened one day that Hjalte was sitting with the
king and talking to him, and the king was very merry and drunk.
Then Hjalte said, "Manifold splendour and grandeur have I seen
here; and I have now witnessed with my eyes what I have often
heard of, that no monarch in the north is so magnificent: but it
is very vexatious that we who come so far to visit it have a road
so long and troublesome, both on account of the great ocean, but
more especially because it is not safe to travel through Norway
for those who are coming here in a friendly disposition. But why
is there no one to bring proposals for a peace between you and
King Olaf the Thick? I heard much in Norway, and in west
Gautland, of the general desire that this peace should have taken
place; and it has been told me for truth, as the Norway king's
words, that he earnestly desires to be reconciled to you; and the
reason I know is, that he feels how much less his power is than
yours. It is even said that he intends to pay his court to your
daughter Ingegerd; and that would lead to a useful peace, for I
have heard from people of credit that he is a remarkably
distinguished man."
The king answers. "Thou must not speak thus, Hjalte; but for this
time I will not take it amiss of thee, as thou dost not know what
people have to avoid here. That fat fellow shall not be called
king in my court, and there is by no means the stuff in him that
people talk of: and thou must see thyself that such a connection
is not suitable; for I am the tenth king in Upsala who, relation
after relation, has been sole monarch over the Swedish, and many
other great lands, and all have been the superior kings over
other kings in the northern countries. But Norway is little
inhabited, and the inhabitants are scattered. There have only
been small kings there; and although Harald Harfager was the
greatest king in that country, and strove against the small
kings, and subdued them, yet he knew so well his position that he
did not covet the Swedish dominions, and therefore the Swedish
kings let him sit in peace, especially as there was relationship
between them. Thereafter, while Hakon Athelstan's foster-son was
in Norway he sat in peace, until he began to maraud in Gautland
and Denmark; on which a war-force came upon him, and took from
him both life and land. Gunhild's sons also were cut off when
they became disobedient to the Danish kings; and Harald Gormson
joined Norway to his own dominions, and made it subject to scat
to him. And we reckon Harald Gormson to be of less power and
consideration than the Upsala kings, for our relation Styrbjorn
subdued him, and Harald became his man; and yet Eirik the
Victorious, my father, rose over Styrbjorn's head when it came to
a trial between them. When Olaf Trygvason came to Norway and
proclaimed himself king, we would not permit it, but we went with
King Svein, and cut him off; and thus we have appropriated
Norway, as thou hast not heard, and with no less right than if I
had gained it in battle, and by conquering the kings who ruled it
before. Now thou canst well suppose, as a man of sense, that I
will not let slip the kingdom of Norway for this thick fellow.
It is wonderful he does not remember how narrowly he made his
escape, when we had penned him in in the Malar lake. Although he
slipped away with life from thence, he ought, methinks, to have
something else in his mind than to hold out against us Swedes.
Now, Hjalte, thou must never again open thy mouth in my presence
on such a subject."
Hjalte saw sufficiently that there was no hope of the king's
listening to any proposal of a peace, and desisted from speaking
of it, and turned the conversation to something else. When
Hjalte, afterwards, came into discourse with the king's daughter
Ingegerd, he tells her his conversation with the king. She told
him she expected such an answer from the king. Hjalte begged of
her to say a good word to the king about the matter, but she
thought the king would listen as little to what she said: "But
speak about it I will, if thou requirest it." Hjalte assured her
he would be thankful for the attempt. One day the king's
daughter Ingegerd had a conversation with her father Olaf; and as
she found her father was in a particularly good humour, she said,
"What is now thy intention with regard to the strife with Olaf
the Thick? There are many who complain about it, having lost
their property by it; others have lost their relations by the
Northmen, and all their peace and quiet; so that none of your men
see any harm that can be done to Norway. It would be a bad
counsel if thou sought the dominion over Norway; for it is a poor
country, difficult to come at, and the people dangerous: for the
men there will rather have any other for their king than thee.
If I might advise, thou wouldst let go all thoughts about Norway,
and not desire Olaf's heritage; and rather turn thyself to the
kingdoms in the East country, which thy forefathers the former
Swedish kings had, and which our relation Styrbjorn lately
subdued, and let the thick Olaf possess the heritage of his
forefathers and make peace with him."
The king replies in a rage, "It is thy counsel, Ingegerd, that I
should let slip the kingdom of Norway, and give thee in marriage
to this thick Olaf. - No," says he, "something else shall first
take place. Rather than that, I shall, at the Upsala Thing in
winter, issue a proclamation to all Swedes, that the whole people
shall assemble for an expedition, and go to their ships before
the ice is off the waters; and I will proceed to Norway, and lay
waste the land with fire and sword, and burn everything, to
punish them for their want of fidelity."
The king was so mad with rage that nobody ventured to say a word,
and she went away. Hjalte, who was watching for her, immediately
went to her and asked how her errand to the king had turned out.
She answered, it turned out as she had expected; that none could
venture to put in a word with the king; but, on the contrary, he
had used threats; and she begged Hjalte never to speak of the
matter again before the king. As Hjalte and Ingegerd spoke
together often, Olaf the Thick was often the subject, and he told
her about him and his manners; and Hjalte praised the king of
Norway what he could, but said no more than was the truth, and
she could well perceive it. Once, in a conversation, Hjalte said
to her, "May I be permitted, daughter of the king, to tell thee
what lies in my mind?"
"Speak freely," says she; "but so that I alone can hear it."
"Then," said Hjalte, "what would be thy answer, if the Norway
king Olaf sent messengers to thee with the errand to propose
marriage to thee?"
She blushed, and answered slowly but gently, "I have not made up
my mind to answer to that; but if Olaf be in all respects so
perfect as thou tellest me, I could wish for no other husband;
unless, indeed, thou hast gilded him over with thy praise more
than sufficiently."
Hjalte replied, that he had in no respect spoken better of the
king than was true. They often spoke together on the same
subject. Ingegerd begged Hjalte to be cautious not to mention it
to any other person, for the king would be enraged against him if
it came to his knowledge. Hjalte only spoke of it to the skalds
Gissur and Ottar, who thought it was the most happy plan, if it
could but be carried into effect. Ottar, who was a man of great
power of conversation, and much beloved in the court, soon
brought up the subject before the king's daughter, and recounted
to her, as Hjalte had done, all King Olaf's excellent qualities.
Often spoke Hjalte and the others about him; and now that Hjalte
knew the result of his mission, he sent those Gautland men away
who had accompanied him, and let them return to the earl with
letters (1) which the king's daughter Ingegerd sent to the earl
and Ingebjorg. Hjalte also let them give a hint to the earl
about the conversation he had had with Ingegerd, and her answer
thereto: and the messengers came with it to the earl a little
before Yule.
(1) This seems the first notice we have in the sagas of written
letters being sent instead of tokens and verbal messages. --
When King Olaf had despatched Bjorn and his followers to
Gautland, he sent other people also to the Uplands, with the
errand that they should have guest-quarters prepared for him, as
he intended that winter (A.D. 1018) to live as guest in the
Uplands; for it had been the custom of former kings to make a
progress in guest-quarters every third year in the Uplands. In
autumn he began his progress from Sarpsborg, and went first to
Vingulmark. He ordered his progress so that he came first to
lodge in the neighbourhood of the forest habitations, and
summoned to him all the men of the habitations who dwelt at the
greatest distance from the head-habitations of the district; and
he inquired particularly how it stood with their Christianity,
and, where improvement was needful, he taught them the right
customs. If any there were who would not renounce heathen ways,
he took the matter so zealously that he drove some out of the
country, mutilated others of hands or feet, or stung their eyes
out; hung up some, cut down some with the sword; but let none go
unpunished who would not serve God. He went thus through the
whole district, sparing neither great nor small. He gave them
teachers, and placed these as thickly in the country as he saw
needful. In this manner he went about in that district, and had
300 deadly men-at-arms with him; and then proceeded to Raumarike.
He soon perceived that Christianity was thriving less the farther
he proceeded into the interior of the country. He went forward
everywhere in the same way, converting all the people to the
right faith, and severely punishing all who would not listen to
his word.
Now when the king who at that time ruled in Raumarike heard of
this, he thought it was a very bad affair; for every day came men
to him, both great and small, who told him what was doing.
Therefore this king resolved to go up to Hedemark, and consult
King Hrorek, who was the most eminent for understanding of the
kings who at that time were in the country. Now when these kings
spoke with each other, they agreed to send a message to Gudrod,
the valley-king north in the Gudbrandsdal, and likewise to the
king who was in Hadaland, and bid them to come to Hedemark, to
meet Hrorek and the other kings there. They did not spare their
travelling; for five kings met in Hedemark, at a place called
Ringsaker. Ring, King Hrorek's brother, was the fifth of these
kings. The kings had first a private conference together, in
which he who came from Raumarike first took up the word, and told
of King Olaf's proceedings, and of the disturbance he was causing
both by killing and mutilating people. Some he drove out of the
country, some he deprived of their offices or property if they
spoke anything against him; and, besides, he was travelling over
the country with a great army, not with the number of people
fixed by law for a royal progress in guest-quarters. He added,
that he had fled hither upon account of this disturbance, and
many powerful people with him had fled from their udal properties
in Raumarike. "But although as yet the evil is nearest to us, it
will be but a short time before ye will also be exposed to it;
therefore it is best that we all consider together what
resolution we shall take." When he had ended his speech, Hrorek
was desired to speak; and he said, "Now is the day come that I
foretold when we had had our meeting at Hadaland, and ye were all
so eager to raise Olaf over our heads; namely, that as soon as he
was the supreme master of the country we would find it hard to
hold him by the horns. We have but two things now to do: the one
is, to go all of us to him, and let him do with us as he likes,
which I think is the best thing we can do; or the other is, to
rise against him before he has gone farther through the country.
Although he has 300 or 400 men, that is not too great a force for
us to meet, if we are only all in movement together: but, in
general, there is less success and advantage to be gained when
several of equal strength are joined together, than when one
alone stands at the head of his own force; therefore it is my
advice, that we do not venture to try our luck against Olaf
Thereafter each of the kings spoke according to his own mind some
dissuading from going out against King Olaf, others urging it;
and no determination was come to, as each had his own reasons to
Then Gudrod, the valley-king, took up the word, and spoke: -- "It
appears wonderful to me, that ye make such a long roundabout in
coming to a resolution; and probably ye are frightened for him.
We are here five kings, and none of less high birth than Olaf.
We gave him the strength to fight with Earl Svein, and with our
forces he has brought the country under his power. But if he
grudges each of us the little kingdom he had before, and
threatens us with tortures, or gives us ill words, then, say I
for myself, that I will withdraw myself from the king's slavery;
and I do not call him a man among you who is afraid to cut him
off, if he come into your hands here up in Hedemark. And this I
can tell you, that we shall never bear our heads in safety while
Olaf is in life." After this encouragement they all agreed to
his determination.
Then said Hrorek, "With regard to this determination, it appears
to me necessary to make our agreement so strong that no one shall
fail in his promise to the other. Therefore, if ye determine
upon attacking Olaf at a fixed time, when he comes here to
Hedemark, I will not trust much to you if some are north in the
valleys, others up in Hedemark; but if our resolution is to come
to anything, we must remain here assembled together day and
This the kings agreed to, and kept themselves there all
assembled, ordering a feast to be provided for them at Ringsaker,
and drank there a cup to success; sending out spies to Raumarike,
and when one set came in sending out others, so that day and
night they had intelligence of Olaf's proceedings, and of the
numbers of his men. King Olaf went about in Raumarike in
guest-quarters, and altogether in the way before related; but as
the provision of the guest-quarter was not always sufficient,
upon account of his numerous followers, he laid it upon the
bondes to give additional contributions wherever he found it
necessary to stay. In some places he stayed longer, in others,
shorter than was fixed; and his journey down to the lake Miosen
was shorter than had been fixed on. The kings, after taking
their resolution, sent out message-tokens, and summoned all the
lendermen and powerful bondes from all the districts thereabout;
and when they had assembled the kings had a private meeting with
them, and made their determination known, setting a day for
gathering together and carrying it into effect; and it was
settled among them that each of the kings should have 300 (1)
men. Then they sent away the lendermen to gather the people, and
meet all at the appointed place. The most approved of the
measure; but it happened here, as it usually does, that every one
has some friend even among his enemies.
(1) I.e., 360.
Ketil of Ringanes was at this meeting. Now when he came home in
the evening he took his supper, put on his clothes, and went down
with his house-servants to the lake; took a light vessel which he
had, the same that King Olaf had made him a present of, and
launched it on the water. They found in the boat-house
everything ready to their hands; betook themselves to their oars,
and rowed out into the lake. Ketil had forty well-armed men with
him, and came early in the morning to the end of the lake. He
set off immediately with twenty men, leaving the other twenty to
look after the ship. King Olaf was at that time at Eid, in the
upper end of Raumarike. Thither Ketil arrived just as the king
was coming from matins. The king received Ketil kindly. He said
he must speak with the king in all haste; and they had a private
conference together. There Ketil tells the king the resolution
which the kings had taken, and their agreement, which he had come
to the certain knowledge of. When the king learnt this he called
his people together, and sent some out to collect riding-horses
in the country; others he sent down to the lake to take all the
rowing-vessels they could lay hold of, and keep them for his use.
Thereafter he went to the church, had mass sung before him, and
then sat down to table. After his meal he got ready, and
hastened down to the lake, where the vessels were coming to meet
him. He himself went on board the light vessel, and as many men
with him as it could stow, and all the rest of his followers took
such boats as they could get hold of; and when it was getting
late in the evening they set out from the land, in still and calm
weather. He rowed up the water with 400 men, and came with them
to Ringsaker before day dawned; and the watchmen were not aware
of the army before they were come into the very court. Ketil
knew well in what houses the kings slept, and the king had all
these houses surrounded and guarded, so that nobody could get
out; and so they stood till daylight. The kings had not people
enough to make resistance, but were all taken prisoners, and led
before the king. Hrorek was an able but obstinate man, whose
fidelity the king could not trust to if he made peace with him;
therefore he ordered both his eyes to be punched out, and took
him in that condition about with him. He ordered Gudrod's tongue
to be cut out; but Ring and two others he banished from Norway,
under oath never to return. Of the lendermen and bondes who had
actually taken part in the traitorous design, some he drove out
of the country, some he mutilated, and with others he made peace.
Ottar Black tells of this: --
"The giver of rings of gold,
The army leader bold,
In vengeance springs
On the Hedemark kings.
Olaf the bold and great,
Repays their foul deceit --
In full repays
Their treacherous ways.
He drives with steel-clad hand
The small kings from the land, --
Greater by far
In deed of war.
The king who dwelt most north
Tongueless must wander forth:
All fly away
In great dismay.
King Olaf now rules o'er
What five kings ruled before.
To Eid's old bound
Extends his ground.
No kings in days of yore
E'er won so much before:
That this is so
All Norsemen know."
King Olaf took possession of the land these five kings had
possessed, and took hostages from the lendermen and bondes in it.
He took money instead of guest-quarters from the country north of
the valley district, and from Hedemark; and then returned to
Raumarike, and so west to Hadaland. This winter (A.D. 1018) his
stepfather Sigurd Syr died; and King Olaf went to Ringerike,
where his mother Asta made a great feast for him. Olaf alone
bore the title of king now in Norway.
It is told that when King Olaf was on his visit to his mother
Asta, she brought out her children, and showed them to him. The
king took his brother Guthorm on the one knee, and his brother
Halfdan on the other. The king looked at Guthorm, made a wry
face, and pretended to be angry at them: at which the boys were
afraid. Then Asta brought her youngest son, called Harald, who
was three years old, to him. The king made a wry face at him
also; but he looked the king in the face without regarding it.
The king took the boy by the hair, and plucked it; but the boy
seized the king's whiskers, and gave them a tug. "Then," said
the king, "thou wilt be revengeful, my friend, some day." The
following day the king was walking with his mother about the
farm, and they came to a playground, where Asta's sons, Guthorm
and Halfdan, were amusing themselves. They were building great
houses and barns in their play, and were supposing them full of
cattle and sheep; and close beside them, in a clay pool, Harald
was busy with chips of wood, sailing them, in his sport along the
edge. The king asked him what these were; and he answered, these
were his ships of war. The king laughed, and said, "The time may
come, friend, when thou wilt command ships."
Then the king called to him Halfdan and Guthorm; and first he
asked Guthorm, "What wouldst thou like best to have?"
"Corn land," replied he.
"And how great wouldst thou like thy corn land to be?"
"I would have the whole ness that goes out into the lake sown
with corn every summer." On that ness there are ten farms.
The king replies, "There would be a great deal of corn there."
And, turning to Halfdan, he asked, "And what wouldst thou like
best to have?"
"Cows," he replied.
"How many wouldst thou like to have?"
"When they went to the lake to be watered I would have so many,
that they stood as tight round the lake as they could stand."
"That would be a great housekeeping," said the king; "and therein
ye take after your father."
Then the king says to Harald, "And what wouldst thou like best to
"And how many wouldst thou have?"
"Oh! so many I would like to have as would eat up my brother
Halfdan's cows at a single meal."
The king laughed, and said to Asta, "Here, mother, thou art
bringing up a king." And more is not related of them on this
In Svithjod it was the old custom, as long as heathenism
prevailed, that the chief sacrifice took place in Goe month at
Upsala. Then sacrifice was offered for peace, and victory to the
king; and thither came people from all parts of Svithjod. All
the Things of the Swedes, also, were held there, and markets, and
meetings for buying, which continued for a week: and after
Christianity was introduced into Svithjod, the Things and fairs
were held there as before. After Christianity had taken root in
Svithjod, and the kings would no longer dwell in Upsala, the
market-time was moved to Candlemas, and it has since continued
so, and it lasts only three days. There is then the Swedish
Thing also, and people from all quarters come there. Svithjod is
divided into many parts. One part is West Gautland, Vermaland,
and the Marks, with what belongs to them; and this part of the
kingdom is so large, that the bishop who is set over it has 1100
churches under him. The other part is East Gautland, where there
is also a bishop's seat, to which the islands of Gotland and
Eyland belong; and forming all together a still greater
bishopric. In Svithjod itself there is a part of the country
called Sudermanland, where there is also a bishopric. Then comes
Westmanland, or Fiathrundaland, which is also a bishopric. The
third portion of Svithjod proper is called Tiundaland; the fourth
Attandaland; the fifth Sialand, and what belongs to it lies
eastward along the coast. Tiundaland is the best and most
inhabited part of Svithjod, under which the other kingdoms stand.
There Upsala is situated, the seat of the king and archbishop;
and from it Upsala-audr, or the domain of the Swedish kings,
takes its name. Each of these divisions of the country has its
Lag-thing, and its own laws in many parts. Over each is a
lagman, who rules principally in affairs of the bondes: for that
becomes law which he, by his speech, determines them to make law:
and if king, earl, or bishop goes through the country, and holds
a Thing with the bondes, the lagmen reply on account of the
bondes, and they all follow their lagmen; so that even the most
powerful men scarcely dare to come to their Al-thing without
regarding the bondes' and lagmen's law. And in all matters in
which the laws differ from each other, Upsala-law is the
directing law; and the other lagmen are under the lagman who
dwells in Tiundaland.
In Tiundaland there was a lagman who was called Thorgny, whose
father was called Thorgny Thorgnyson. His forefathers had for a
long course of years, and during many kings' times, been lagmen
of Tiundaland. At this time Thorgny was old, and had a great
court about him. He was considered one of the wisest men in
Sweden, and was Earl Ragnvald's relation and foster-father.
Now we must go back in our story to the time when the men whom
the king's daughter Ingegerd and Hjalte had sent from the east
came to Earl Ragnvald. They relate their errand to the earl and
his wife Ingebjorg, and tell how the king's daughter had oft
spoken to the Swedish king about a peace between him and King
Olaf the Thick, and that she was a great friend of King Olaf; but
that the Swedish king flew into a passion every time she named
Olaf, so that she had no hopes of any peace. The Earl told Bjorn
the news he had received from the east; but Bjorn gave the same
reply, that he would not turn back until he had met the Swedish
king, and said the earl had promised to go with him. Now the
winter was passing fast, and immediately after Yule the earl made
himself ready to travel with sixty men, among whom where the
marshal Bjorn and his companions. The earl proceeded eastward
all the way to Svithjod; but when he came a little way into the
country he sent his men before him to Upsala with a message to
Ingegerd the king's daughter to come out to meet him at
Ullaraker, where she had a large farm. When the king's daughter
got the earl's message she made herself ready immediately to
travel with a large attendance, and Hjalte accompanied her. But
before he took his departure he went to King Olaf, and said,
"Continue always to be the most fortunate of monarchs! Such
splendour as I have seen about thee I have in truth never
witnessed elsewhere, and wheresoever I come it shall not be
concealed. Now, king, may I entreat thy favour and friendship in
time to come?"
The king replies, "Why art thou in so great a haste, and where
art thou going?"
Hjalte replies, "I am to ride out to Ullaraker with Ingegerd thy
The king says, "Farewell, then: a man thou art of understanding
and politeness, and well suited to live with people of rank."
Thereupon Hjalte withdrew.
The king's daughter Ingegerd rode to her farm in Ullaraker, and
ordered a great feast to be prepared for the earl. When the earl
arrived he was welcomed with gladness, and he remained there
several days. The earl and the king's daughter talked much, and
of many things, but most about the Swedish and Norwegian kings;
and she told the earl that in her opinion there was no hope of
peace between them.
Then said the earl, "How wouldst thou like it, my cousin, if Olaf
king of Norway were to pay his addresses to thee? It appears to
us that it would contribute most towards a settled peace if there
was relationship established between the kings; but I would not
support such a matter if it were against thy inclination."
She replies, "My father disposes of my hand; but among all my
other relations thou art he whose advice I would rather follow in
weighty affairs. Dost thou think it would be advisable?" The
earl recommended it to her strongly, and reckoned up many
excellent achievements of King Olaf's. He told her, in
particular, about what had lately been done; that King Olaf in an
hours time one morning had taken five kings prisoners, deprived
them all of their governments, and laid their kingdoms and
properties under his own power. Much they talked about the
business, and in all their conversations they perfectly agreed
with each other. When the earl was ready he took leave, and
proceeded on his way, taking Hjalte with him.
Earl Ragnvald came towards evening one day to the house of Lagman
Thorgny. It was a great and stately mansion, and many people
stood outside, who received the earl kindly, and took care of the
horses and baggage. The earl went into the room, where there was
a number of people. In the high-seat sat an old man; and never
had Bjorn or his companions seen a man so stout. His beard was
so long that it lay upon his knee, and was spread over his whole
breast; and the man, moreover, was handsome and stately in
appearance. The earl went forward and saluted him. Thorgny
received him joyfully and kindly, and bade him go to the seat he
was accustomed to take. The earl seated himself on the other
side, opposite Thorgny. They remained there some days before the
earl disclosed his errand, and then he asked Thorgny to go with
him into the conversing room. Bjorn and his followers went there
with the earl. Then the earl began, and told how Olaf king of
Norway had sent these men hither to conclude a peaceful
agreement. He showed at great length what injury it was of to
the West Gautland people, that there was hostility between their
country and Norway. He further related that Olaf the king of
Norway had sent ambassadors, who were here present, and to whom
he had promised he would attend them to the Swedish king; but he
added, "The Swedish king takes the matter so grievously, that he
has uttered menaces against those who entertain it. Now so it
is, my foster-father, that I do not trust to myself in this
matter; but am come on a visit to thee to get good counsel and
help from thee in the matter."
Now when the earl had done speaking Thorgny sat silent for a
while, and then took up the word. "Ye have curious dispositions
who are so ambitious of honour and renown, and yet have no
prudence or counsel in you when you get into any mischief. Why
did you not consider, before you gave your promise to this
adventure, that you had no power to stand against King Olaf? In
my opinion it is not a less honourable condition to be in the
number of bondes and have one's words free, and be able to say
what one will, even if the king be present. But I must go to the
Upsala Thing, and give thee such help that without fear thou
canst speak before the king what thou findest good."
The earl thanked him for the promise, remained with Thorgny, and
rode with him to the Upsala Thing. There was a great assemblage
of people at the Thing, and King Olaf was there with his court.
The first day the Thing sat, King Olaf was seated on a stool, and
his court stood in a circle around him. Right opposite to him
sat Earl Ragnvald and Thorgny in the Thing upon one stool, and
before them the earl's court and Thorgny's house-people. Behind
their stool stood the bonde community, all in a circle around
them. Some stood upon hillocks and heights, in order to hear the
better. Now when the king's messages, which are usually handled
in the Things, were produced and settled, the marshal Bjorn rose
beside the earl's stool, and said aloud, "King Olaf sends me here
with the message that he will offer to the Swedish king peace,
and the frontiers that in old times were fixed between Norway and
Svithjod." He spoke so loud that the Swedish king could
distinctly hear him; but at first, when he heard King Olaf's name
spoken, he thought the speaker had some message or business of
his own to execute; but when he heard of peace, and the frontiers
between Norway and Svithjod, he saw from what root it came, and
sprang up, and called out that the man should be silent, for that
such speeches were useless. Thereupon Bjorn sat down; and when
the noise had ceased Earl Ragnvald stood up and made a speech.
He spoke of Olaf the Thick's message, and proposal of peace to
Olaf the Swedish king; and that all the West Gautland people sent
their entreaty to Olaf that he would make peace with the king of
Norway. He recounted all the evils the West Gautlanders were
suffering under; that they must go without all the things from
Norway which were necessary in their households; and, on the
other hand, were exposed to attack and hostility whenever the
king of Norway gathered an army and made an inroad on them. The
earl added, that Olaf the Norway king had sent men hither with
the intent to obtain Ingegerd the king's daughter in marriage.
When the earl had done speaking Olaf the Swedish king stood up
and replied, and was altogether against listening to any
proposals of peace, and made many and heavy reproaches against
the earl for his impudence in entering into a peaceful truce with
the thick fellow, and making up a peaceful friendship with him,
and which in truth he considered treason against himself. He
added, that it would be well deserved if Earl Ragnvald were
driven out of the kingdom. The earl had, in his opinion, the
influence of his wife Ingebjorg to thank for what might happen;
and it was the most imprudent fancy he could have fallen upon to
take up with such a wife. The king spoke long and bitterly,
turning his speech always against Olaf the Thick. When he sat
down not a sound was to be heard at first.
Then Thorgny stood up; and when he arose all the bondes stood up
who had before been sitting, and rushed together from all parts
to listen to what Lagman Thorgny would say. At first there was a
great din of people and weapons; but when the noise was settled
into silent listening, Thorguy made his speech. "The disposition
of Swedish kings is different now from what it has been formerly.
My grandfather Thorgny could well remember the Upsala king Eirik
Eymundson, and used to say of him that when he was in his best
years he went out every summer on expeditions to different
countries, and conquered for himself Finland, Kirjalaland,
Courland, Esthonia, and the eastern countries all around; and at
the present day the earth-bulwarks, ramparts, and other great
works which he made are to be seen. And, more over, he was not
so proud that he would not listen to people who had anything to
say to him. My father, again, was a long time with King Bjorn,
and was well acquainted with his ways and manners. In Bjorn's
lifetime his kingdom stood in great power, and no kind of want
was felt, and he was gay and sociable with his friends. I also
remember King Eirik the Victorious, and was with him on many a
war-expedition. He enlarged the Swedish dominion, and defended
it manfully; and it was also easy and agreeable to communicate
our opinions to him. But the king we have now got allows no man
to presume to talk with him, unless it be what he desires to
hear. On this alone he applies all his power, while he allows
his scat-lands in other countries to go from him through laziness
and weakness. He wants to have the Norway kingdom laid under
him, which no Swedish king before him ever desired, and therewith
brings war and distress on many a man. Now it is our will, we
bondes, that thou King Olaf make peace with the Norway king, Olaf
the Thick, and marry thy daughter Ingegerd to him. Wilt thou,
however, reconquer the kingdoms in the east countries which thy
relations and forefathers had there, we will all for that purpose
follow thee to the war. But if thou wilt not do as we desire, we
will now attack thee, and put thee to death; for we will no
longer suffer law and peace to be disturbed. So our forefathers
went to work when they drowned five kings in a morass at the
Mula-thing, and they were filled with the same insupportable
pride thou hast shown towards us. Now tell us, in all haste,
what resolution thou wilt take." Then the whole public approved,
with clash of arms and shouts, the lagman's speech.
The king stands up and says he will let things go according to
the desire of the bondes. "All Swedish kings," he said, "have
done so, and have allowed the bondes to rule in all according to
their will." The murmur among the bondes then came to an end,
and the chiefs, the king, the earl, and Thorgny talked together,
and concluded a truce and reconciliation, on the part of the
Swedish king, according to the terms which the king of Norway had
proposed by his ambassadors; and it was resolved at the Thing
that Ingegerd, the king's daughter, should be married to Olaf
Haraldson. The king left it to the earl to make the contract
feast, and gave him full powers to conclude this marriage affair;
and after this was settled at the Thing, they separated. When
the earl returned homewards, he and the king's daughter Ingegerd
had a meeting, at which they talked between themselves over this
matter. She sent Olaf a long cloak of fine linen richly
embroidered with gold, and with silk points. The earl returned
to Gautland, and Bjorn with him; and after staying with him a
short time, Bjorn and his company returned to Norway. When he
came to King Olaf he told him the result of his errand, and the
king returned him many thanks for his conduct, and said Bjorn had
had great success in bringing his errand to so favourabie a
conclusion against such animosity.
On the approach of spring (A.D. 1018) King Olaf went down to the
coast, had his ships rigged out, summoned troops to him, and
proceeded in spring out from Viken to the Naze, and so north to
Hordaland. He then sent messages to all the lendermen, selected
the most considerable men in each district, and made the most
splendid preparations to meet his bride. The wedding-feast was
to be in autumn, at the Gaut river, on the frontiers of the two
countries. King Olaf had with him the blind king Hrorek. When
his wound was healed, the king gave him two men to serve him, let
him sit in the high-seat by his side, and kept him in meat and
clothes in no respect Norse than he had kept himself before.
Hrorek was taciturn, and answered short and cross when any one
spoke to him. It was his custom to make his footboy, when he
went out in the daytime, lead him away from people, and then to
beat the lad until he ran away. He would then complain to King
Olaf that the lad would not serve him. The king changed his
servants, but it was as before; no servant would hold it out with
King Hrorek. Then the king appointed a man called Svein to wait
upon and serve King Hrorek. He was Hrorek's relation, and had
formerly been in his service. Hrorek continued with his habits
of moroseness, and of solitary walks; but when he and Svein were
alone together, he was merry and talkative. He used to bring up
many things which had happened in former days when he was king.
He alluded, too, to the man who had, in his former days, torn him
from his kingdom and happiness, and made him live on alms. "It
is hardest of all," says he, "that thou and my other relations,
who ought to be men of bravery, are so degenerated that thou wilt
not avenge the shame and disgrace brought upon our race." Such
discourse he often brought out. Svein said, they had too great a
power to deal with, while they themselves had but little means.
Hrorek said, "Why should we live longer as mutilated men with
disgrace? I, a blind man, may conquer them as well as they
conquered me when I was asleep. Come then, let us kill this
thick Olaf. He is not afraid for himself at present. I will lay
the plan, and would not spare my hands if I could use them, but
that I cannot by reason of my blindness; therefore thou must use
the weapons against him, and as soon as Olaf is killed I can see
well enough that his power must come into the hands of his
enemies, and it may well be that I shall be king, and thou shalt
be my earl." So much persuasion he used that Svein at last
agreed to join in the deed. The plan was so laid that when the
king was ready to go to vespers, Svein stood on the threshold
with a drawn dagger under his cloak. Now when the king came out
of the room, it so happened that he walked quicker than Svein
expected; and when he looked the king in the face he grew pale,
and then white as a corpse, and his hand sank down. The king
observed his terror and said, "What is this, Svein? Wilt thou
betray me?" Svein threw down his cloak and dagger, and fell at
the king's feet, saying, "All is in Gods hands and thine, king!"
The king ordered his men to seize Svein, and he was put in irons.
The king ordered Hrorek's seat to be moved to another bench. He
gave Svein his life, and he left the country. The king appointed
a different lodging for Hrorek to sleep in from that in which he
slept himself, and in which many of his court-people slept. He
set two of his court-men, who had been long with him, and whose
fidelity he had proof of, to attend Hrorek day and night; but it
is not said whether they were people of high birth or not. King
Hrorek's mood was very different at different times. Sometimes
he would sit silent for days together, so that no man could get a
word out of him; and sometimes he was so merry and gay, that
people found a joke in every word he said. Sometimes his words
were very bitter. He was sometimes in a mood that he would drink
them all under the benches, and made all his neighbours drunk;
but in general he drank but little. King Olaf gave him plenty of
pocket-money. When he went to his lodgings he would often,
before going to bed, have some stoups of mead brought in, which
he gave to all the men in the house to drink, so that he was much
There was a man from the Uplands called Fin the Little, and some
said of him that he was of Finnish (1) race. He was a remarkable
little man, but so swift of foot that no horse could overtake
him. He was a particularly well-excercised runner with snowshoes,
and shooter with the bow. He had long been in the service
of King Hrorek, and often employed in errands of trust. He knew
the roads in all the Upland hills, and was well known to all the
great people. Now when King Hrorek was set under guards on the
journey Fin would often slip in among the men of the guard, and
followed, in general, with the lads and serving-men; but as often
as he could he waited upon Hrorek, and entered into conversation
with him. The king, however, only spoke a word or two with him
at a time, to prevent suspicion. In spring, when they came a
little way beyond Viken, Fin disappeared from the army for some
days, but came back, and stayed with them a while. This happened
often, without anyone observing it particularly; for there were
many such hangers-on with the army.
(1) The Laplanders are called Fins In Norway and Sweden. -- L.
King Olaf came to Tunsberg before Easter (A.D. 1018), and
remained there late in spring. Many merchant vessels came to the
town, both from Saxon-land and Denmark, and from Viken, and from
the north parts of the country. There was a great assemblage of
people; and as the times were good, there was many a drinking
meeting. It happened one evening that King Hrorek came rather
late to his lodging; and as he had drunk a great deal, he was
remarkably merry. Little Fin came to him with a stoup of mead
with herbs in it, and very strong. The king made every one in
the house drunk, until they fell asleep each in his berth. Fin
had gone away, and a light was burning in the lodging. Hrorek
waked the men who usually followed him, and told them he wanted
to go out into the yard. They had a lantern with them, for
outside it was pitch dark. Out in the yard there was a large
privy standing upon pillars, and a stair to go up to it. While
Hrorek and his guards were in the yard they heard a man say, "Cut
down that devil;" and presently a crash, as if somebody fell.
Hrorek said, "These fellows must be dead drunk to be fighting
with each other so: run and separate them." They rushed out; but
when they came out upon the steps both of them were killed: the
man who went out the last was the first killed. There were
twelve of Hrorek's men there, and among them Sigurd Hit, who had
been his banner-man, and also little Fin. They drew the dead
bodies up between the houses, took the king with them, ran out to
a boat they had in readiness, and rowed away. Sigvat the skald
slept in King Olaf's lodgings. He got up in the night, and his
footboy with him, and went to the privy. But as they were
returning, on going down the stairs Sigvat's foot slipped, and he
fell on his knee; and when he put out his hands he felt the
stairs wet. "I think," said he, laughing, "the king must have
given many of us tottering legs tonight." When they came into
the house in which light was burning the footboy said, "Have you
hurt yourself that you are all over so bloody?" He replied, "I
am not wounded, but something must have happened here."
Thereupon he wakened Thord Folason, who was standard-bearer, and
his bedfellow. They went out with a light, and soon found the
blood. They traced it, and found the corpses, and knew them.
They saw also a great stump of a tree in which clearly a gash had
been cut, which, as was afterwards known, had been done as a
stratagem to entice those out who had been killed. Sigvat and
Thord spoke together and agreed it was highly necessary to let
the king know of this without delay. They immediately sent a lad
to the lodging where Hrorek had been. All the men in it were
asleep; but the king was gone. He wakened the men who were in
the house, and told them what had happened. The men arose, and
ran out to the yard where the bodies were; but, however needful
it appeared to be that the king should know it, nobody dared to
waken him.
Then said Sigvat to Thord, "What wilt thou rather do, comrade,
waken the king, or tell him the tidings?"
Thord replies, "I do not dare to waken him, and I would rather
tell him the news."
Then said Sigvat, "There is minch of the night still to pass, and
before morning Hrorek may get himself concealed in such a way
that it may be difficult to find him; but as yet he cannot be
very far off, for the bodies are still warm. We must never let
the disgrace rest upon us of concealing this treason from the
king. Go thou, up to the lodging, and wait for me there."
Sigvat then went to the church, and told the bell-ringer to toll
for the souls of the king's court-men, naming the men who were
killed. The-bell-ringer did as he was told. The king awoke at
the ringing, sat up in his bed, and asked if it was already the
hours of matins.
Thord replies, "It is worse than that, for there has occurred a
very important affair. Hrorek is fled, and two of the court-men
are killed."
The king asked how this had taken place, and Thord told him all
he knew. The king got up immediately, ordered to sound the call
for a meeting of the court, and when the people were assembled he
named men to go out to every quarter from the town, by sea and
land, to search for Hrorek. Thorer Lange took a boat, and set
off with thirty men; and when day dawned they saw two small boats
before them in the channel, and when they saw each other both
parties rowed as hard as they could. King Hrorek was there with
thirty men. When they came quite close to each other Hrorek and
his men turned towards the land, and all sprang on shore except
the king, who sat on the aft seat. He bade them farewell, and
wished they might meet each other again in better luck. At the
same moment Thorer with his company rowed to the land. Fin the
Little shot off an arrow, which hit Thorer in the middle of the
body, and was his death; and Sigurd Hit, with his men, ran up
into the forest. Thorer's men took his body, and transported it,
together with Hrorek, to Tunsberg. King Olaf undertook himself
thereafter to look after King Hrorek, made him be carefully
guarded, and took good care of his treason, for which reason he
had a watch over him night and day. King Hrorek thereafter was
very gay, and nobody could observe but that he was in every way
well satisfied.
It happened on Ascension-day that King Olaf went to high mass,
and the bishop went in procession around the church, and
conducted the king; and when they came back to the church the
bishop led the king to his seat on the north side of the choir.
There Hrorek sat next to the king, and concealed his countenance
in his upper cloak. When Olaf had seated himself Hrorek laid his
hand on the king's shoulder, and felt it.
"Thou hast fine clothes on, cousin, today," said he.
King Olaf replies, "It is a festival today, in remembrance that
Jesus Christ ascended to heaven from earth."
King Hrorek says, "I understand nothing about it so as to hold in
my mind what ye tell me about Christ. Much of what ye tell me
appears to me incredible, although many wonderful things may have
come to pass in old times."
When the mass was finished Olaf stood up, held his hands up over
his head, and bowed down before the altar, so that his cloak hung
down behind his shoulders. Then King Hrorek started up hastily
and sharply, and struck at the king with a long knife of the kind
called ryting; but the blow was received in the upper cloak at
the shoulder, because the king was bending himself forwards. The
clothes were much cut, but the king was not wounded. When the
king perceived the attack he sprang upon the floor; and Hrorek
struck at him again with the knife, but did not reach him, and
said, "Art thou flying, Olaf, from me, a blind men?" The king
ordered his men to seize him and lead him out of the church,
which was done. After this attempt many hastened to King Olaf,
and advised that King Hrorek should be killed. "It is," said
they, "tempting your luck in the highest degree, king, to keep
him with you, and protect him, whatever mischief he may
undertake; for night and day he thinks upon taking your life.
And if you send him away, we know no one who can watch him so
that he will not in all probability escape; and if once he gets
loose he will assemble a great multitude, and do much evil."
The king replies, "You say truly that many a one has suffered
death for less offence than Hrorek's; but willingly I would not
darken the victory I gained over the Upland kings, when in one
morning hour I took five kings prisoners, and got all their
kingdoms: but yet, as they were my relations, I should not be
their murderer but upon need. As yet I can scarcely see whether
Hrorek puts me in the necessity of killing him or not."
It was to feel if King Olaf had armour on or not that Hrorek had
laid his hand on the king's shoulder.
There was an Iceland man, by name Thorarin Nefiulfson, who had
his relations in the north of the country. He was not of high
birth, but particularly prudent, eloquent, and agreeable in
conversation with people of distinction. He was also a fartravelled
man, who had been long in foreign parts. Thorarin was
a remarkably ugly man, principally because he had very ungainly
limbs. He had great ugly hands, and his feet were still uglier.
Thorarin was in Tunsberg when this event happened which has just
been related, and he was known to King Olaf by their having had
conversations together. Thorarin was just then done with rigging
out a merchant vessel which he owned, and with which he intended
to go to Iceland in summer. King Olaf had Thorarin with him as a
guest for some days, and conversed much with him; and Thorarin
even slept in the king's lodgings. One morning early the king
awoke while the others were still sleeping. The sun had newly
risen in the sky, and there was much light within. The king saw
that Thorarin had stretched out one of his feet from under the
bed-clothes, and he looked at the foot a while. In the meantime
the others in the lodging awoke; and the king said to Thorarin,
"I have been awake for a while, and have seen a sight which was
worth seeing; and that is a man's foot so ugly that I do not
think an uglier can be found in this merchant town." Thereupon
he told the others to look at it, and see if it was not so; and
all agreed with the king. When Thorarin observed what they were
talking about, he said, "There are few things for which you
cannot find a match, and that may be the case here."
The king says, "I would rather say that such another ugly foot
cannot be found in the town, and I would lay any wager upon it."
Then said Thorarin, "I am willing to bet that I shall find an
uglier foot still in the town."
The king -- "Then he who wins shall have the right to get any
demand from the other he chooses to make."
"Be it so," said Thorarin. Thereupon he stretches out his other
foot from under the bed-clothes, and it was in no way handsomer
than the other, and moreover, wanted the little toe. "There,"
said Thorarin, "see now, king, my other foot, which is so much
uglier; and, besides, has no little toe. Now I have won."
The king replies, "That other foot was so much uglier than this
one by having five ugly toes upon it, and this has only four; and
now I have won the choice of asking something from thee."
"The sovereign's decision must be right," says Thorarin; "but
what does the king require of me?"
"To take Hrorek," said the king, "to Greenland, and deliver him
to Leif Eirikson."
Thorarin replies, "I have never been in Greenland."
The king -- "Thou, who art a far-travelled man, wilt now have an
opportunity of seeing Greenland, if thou hast never been there
At first Thorarin did not say much about it; but as the king
insisted on his wish he did not entirely decline, but said, "I
will let you hear, king, what my desire would have been had I
gained the wager. It would have been to be received into your
body of court-men; and if you will grant me that, I will be the
more zealous now in fulfilling your pleasure." The king gave his
consent, and Thorarin was made one of the court-men. Then
Thorarin rigged out his vessel, and when he was ready he took on
board King Hrorek. When Thorarin took leave of King Olaf, he
said, "Should it now turn out, king, as is not improbable, and
often happens, that we cannot effect the voyage to Greenland, but
must run for Iceland or other countries, how shall I get rid of
this king in a way that will be satisfactory to you?"
The king -- "If thou comest to Iceland, deliver him into the
hands of Gudmund Eyolfson, or of Skapte, the lagman, or of some
other chief who will receive my tokens and message of friendship.
But if thou comest to other countries nearer to this, do so with
him that thou canst know with certainty that King Hrorek never
again shall appear in Norway; but do so only when thou seest no
other way of doing whatsoever."
When Thorarin was ready for sea, and got a wind, he sailed
outside of all the rocks and islands, and when he was to the
north of the Naze set right out into the ocean. He did not
immediately get a good wind, but he avoided coming near the land.
He sailed until he made land which he knew, in the south part of
Iceland, and sailed west around the land out into the Greenland
There he encountered heavy storms, and drove long about upon the
ocean; but when summer was coming to an end he landed again in
Iceland in Breidafjord. Thorgils Arason (1) was the first man of
any consequence who came to him. Thorarin brings him the king's
salutation, message, and tokens, with which was the desire about
King Hrorek's reception. Thorgils received these in a friendly
way, and invited King Hrorek to his house, where he stayed all
winter. But he did not like being there, and begged that
Thorgils would let him go to Gudmund; saying he had heard some
time or other that there in Gudmund's house, was the most
sumptuous way of living in Iceland, and that it was intended he
should be in Gudmund's hands. Thorgils let him have his desire,
and conducted him with some men to Gudmund at Modruveller.
Gudmund received Hrorek kindly on account of the king's message,
and he stayed there the next winter. He did not like being there
either; and then Gudmund gave him a habitation upon a small farm
called Kalfskin, where there were but few neighbours. There
Hrorek passed the third winter, and said that since he had laid
down his kingdom he thought himself most comfortably situated
here; for here he was most respected by all. The summer after
Hrorek fell sick, and died; and it is said he is the only king
whose bones rest in Iceland. Thorarin Nefiulfson was afterwards
for a long time upon voyages; but sometimes he was with King
(1) Thorgils was the son of Are Marson, who visited America
(Vindland). Thorgils, who was still alive in the year 1024,
was noted for his kindness toward all persecuted persons.
The summer that Thorarin went with Hrorek to Iceland, Hjalte
Skeggjason went also to Iceland, and King Olaf gave him many
friendly gifts with him when they parted. The same summer Eyvind
Urarhorn went on an expedition to the west sea, and came in
autumn to Ireland, to the Irish king Konofogor (1). In autumn
Einar earl of Orkney and this Irish king met in Ulfreks-fjord,
and there was a great battle, in which Konofogor gained the
victory, having many more people. The earl fled with a single
ship and came back about autumn to Orkney, after losing most of
his men and all the booty they had made. The earl was much
displeased with his expedition, and threw the blame upon the
Northmen, who had been in the battle on the side of the Irish
king, for making him lose the victory.
(1) Konofogor's Irish name was Connor.
Now we begin again our story where we let it slip -- at King
Olaf's travelling to his bridal, to receive his betrothed
Ingegerd the king's daughter. The king had a great body of men
with him, and so chosen a body that all the great people he could
lay hold of followed him; and every man of consequence had a
chosen band of men with him distinguished by birth or other
qualifications. The whole were well appointed, and equipped in
ships, weapons, and clothes. They steered the fleet eastwards to
Konungahella; but when they arrived there they heard nothing of
the Swedish king and none of his men had come there. King Olaf
remained a long time in summer (A.D. 1018) at Konungahella, and
endeavored carefully to make out what people said of the Swedish
king's movements, or what were his designs; but no person could
tell him anything for certain about it. Then he sent men up to
Gautland to Earl Ragnvald, to ask him if he knew how it came to
pass that the Swedish king did not come to the meeting agreed on.
The earl replies, that he did not know. "But as soon," said he,
"as I hear, I shall send some of my men to King Olaf, to let him
know if there be any other cause for the delay than the multitude
of affairs; as it often happens that the Swedish king's movements
are delayed by this more than he could have expected."
This Swedish king, Olaf Eirikson, had first a concubine who was
called Edla, a daughter of an earl of Vindland, who had been
captured in war, and therefore was called the king's slave-girl.
Their children were Emund, Astrid, Holmfrid.... They had,
besides, a son, who was born the day before St. Jacob's-day.
When the boy was to be christened the bishop called him Jacob,
which the Swedes did not like, as there never had been a Swedish
king called Jacob. All King Olaf's children were handsome in
appearance, and clever from childhood. The queen was proud, and
did not behave well towards her step-children; therefore the king
sent his son Emund to Vindland, to be fostered by his mother's
relations, where he for a long time neglected his Christianity.
The king's daughter, Astrid, was brought up in West Gautland, in
the house of a worthy man called Egil. She was a very lovely
girl: her words came well into her conversation; she was merry,
but modest, and very generous. When she was grown up she was
often in her father's house, and every man thought well of her.
King Olaf was haughty and harsh in his speech. He took very ill
the uproar and clamour the country people had raised against him
at the Upsala Thing, as they had threatened him with violence,
for which he laid the chief blame on Earl Ragnvald. He made no
preparation for the bridal, according to the agreement to marry
his daughter Ingegerd to Olaf the king of Norway, and to meet him
on the borders for that purpose. As the summer advanced many of
his men were anxious to know what the kings intentions were;
whether to keep to the agreement with King Olaf, or break his
word, and with it the peace of the country. But no one was so
bold as to ask the king, although they complained of it to
Ingegerd, and besought her to find out what the king intended.
She replied "I have no inclination to speak to the king again
about the matters between him and King Olaf; for he answered me
ill enough once before when I brought forward Olaf's name." In
the meantime Ingegerd, the king's daughter, took it to heart,
became melancholy and sorrowful and yet very curious to know what
the king intended. She had much suspicion that he would not keep
his word and promise to King Olaf; for he appeared quite enraged
whenever Olaf the Thick's name was in any way mentioned.
One morning early the king rode out with his dogs and falcons,
and his men around him. When they let slip the falcons the
king's falcon killed two black-cocks in one flight, and three in
another. The dogs ran and brought the birds when they had fallen
to the ground. The king ran after them, took the game from them
himself, was delighted with his sport, and said, "It will be long
before the most of you have such success." They agreed in this;
adding, that in their opinion no king had such luck in hunting as
he had. Then the king rode home with his followers in high
spirits. Ingegerd, the king's daughter, was just going out of
her lodging when the king came riding into the yard, and she
turned round and saluted him. He saluted her in return,
laughing; produced the birds, and told her the success of his
"Dost thou know of any king," said he, "who made so great a
capture in so short a time?"
"It is indeed," replied she, "a good morning's hunting, to have
got five black-cocks; but it was a still better when, in one
morning, the king of Norway, Olaf, took five kings, and subdued
all their kingdoms."
When the king heard this he sprang from his horse, turned to
Ingegerd, and said, "Thou shalt know, Ingegerd, that however
great thy love may be for this man, thou shalt never get him, nor
he get thee. I will marry thee to some chief with whom I can be
in friendship; but never can I be a friend of the man who has
robbed me of my kingdom, and done me great mischief by marauding
and killing through the land." With that their conversation
broke off, and each went away.
Ingegerd, the king's daughter, had now full certainty of King
Olaf's intention, and immediately sent men to West Gautland to
Earl Ragnvald, and let him know how it stood with the Swedish
king, and that the agreement made with the king of Norway was
broken; and advising the earl and people of West Gautland to be
upon their guard, as no peace from the people of Norway was to be
expected. When the earl got this news he sent a message through
all his kingdom, and told the people to be cautious, and prepared
in case of war or pillage from the side of Norway. He also sent
men to King Olaf the Thick, and let him know the message he had
received, and likewise that he wished for himself to hold peace
and friendship with King Olaf; and therefore he begged him not to
pillage in his kingdom. When this message came to King Olaf it
made him both angry and sorry; and for some days nobody got a
word from him. He then held a House-Thing with his men, and in
it Bjorn arose, and first took the word. He began his speech by
telling that he had proceeded eastward last winter to establish a
peace, and he told how kindly Earl Ragnvald had received him;
and, on the other hand, how crossly and heavily the Swedish king
had accepted the proposal. "And the agreement," said he, "which
was made, was made more by means of the strength of the people,
the power of Thorgny, and the aid of the earl, than by the king's
good-will. Now, on these grounds, we know for certain that it is
the king who has caused the breach of the agreement; therefore we
ought by no means to make the earl suffer, for it is proved that
he is King Olaf's firm friend." The king wished now to hear from
the chiefs and other leaders of troops what course he should
adopt. "Whether shall we go against Gautland, and maraud there
with such men as we have got; or is there any other course that
appears to you more advisable?" He spoke both long and well.
Thereafter many powerful men spoke, and all were at last agreed
in dissuading from hostilities. They argued thus: -- "Although
we are a numerous body of men who are assembled here, yet they
are all only people of weight and power; but, for a war
expedition, young men who are in quest of property and
consideration are more suitable. It is also the custom of people
of weight and power, when they go into battle or strife, to have
many people with them whom they can send out before them for
their defence; for the men do not fight worse who have little
property, but even better than those who are brought up in the
midst of wealth." After these considerations the king resolved
to dismiss this army from any expedition, and to give every man
leave to return home; but proclaimed, at the same time, that next
summer the people over the whole country would be called out in a
general levy, to march immediately against the Swedish king, and
punish him for his want of faith. All thought well of this plan.
Then the king returned northwards to Viken, and took his abode at
Sarpsborg in autumn, and ordered all things necessary for winter
provision to be collected there; and he remained there all winter
(A.D. 1019) with a great retinue.
People talked variously about Earl Ragnvald; some said he was
King Olaf's sincere friend; others did not think this likely, and
thought it stood in his power to warn the Swedish king to keep
his word, and the agreement concluded on between him and King
Olaf. Sigvat the poet often expressed himself in conversation as
Earl Ragnvald's great friend, and often spoke of him to King
Olaf; and he offered to the king to travel to Earl Ragnvald's and
spy after the Swedish kings doings, and to attempt, if possible,
to get the settlement of the agreement. The king thought well of
this plan; for he oft, and with pleasure, spoke to his
confidential friends about Ingegerd, the king's daughter. Early
in winter (A.D. 1019) Sigvat the skald, with two companions, left
Sarpsborg, and proceeded eastwards over the moors to Gautland.
Before Sigvat and King Olaf parted he composed these verses: --
"Sit happy in thy hall, O king!
Till I come back, and good news bring:
The skald will bid thee now farewell,
Till he brings news well worth to tell.
He wishes to the helmed hero
Health, and long life, and a tull flow
Of honour, riches. and success --
And, parting, ends his song with this.
The farewell word is spoken now __
The word that to the heart lies nearest;
And yet, O king! before I go,
One word on what I hold the dearest,
I fain would say, "O! may God save
To thee the bravest of the brave,
The land, which is thy right by birth!"
This is my dearest with on earth."
Then they proceeded eastwards towards Eid, and had difficulty in
crossing the river in a little cobble; but they escaped, though
with danger: and Sigvat sang: --
"On shore the crazy boat I drew,
Wet to the skin, and frightened too;
For truly there was danger then;
The mocking hill elves laughed again.
To see us in this cobble sailing,
And all our sea-skill unavailing.
But better did it end, you see,
Than any of us could foresee."
Then they went through the Eid forest, and Sigvat sang: --
"A hundred miles through Eid's old wood,
And devil an alehouse, bad or good, --
A hundred miles, and tree and sky
Were all that met the weary eye.
With many a grumble, many a groan.
A hundred miles we trudged right on;
And every king's man of us bore
On each foot-sole a bleeding sore."
They came then through Gautland, and in the evening reached a
farm-house called Hof. The door was bolted so that they could
not come in; and the servants told them it was a fast-day, and
they could not get admittance. Sigvat sang: --
"Now up to Hof in haste I hie,
And round the house and yard I pry.
Doors are fast locked -- but yet within,
Methinks, I hear some stir and din.
I peep, with nose close to the ground.
Below the door, but small cheer found.
My trouble with few words was paid --
"`Tis holy time,' the house-folkd said.
Heathens! to shove me thus away!
I' the foul fiend's claws may you all lay."
Then they came to another farm, where the good-wife was standing
at the door. and told them not to come in, for they were busy
with a sacrifice to the elves. Sigvat sang of it thus: --
"`My poor lad, enter not, I pray!'
Thus to me did the old wife say;
`For all of us are heathens here,
And I for Odin's wrath do fear.'
The ugly witch drove me away,
Like scared wolf sneaking from his prey.
When she told me that there within
Was sacrifice to foul Odin."
Another evening, they came to three bondes, all of them of the
name of Olver, who drove them away. Sigvat sang: --
"Three of one name,
To their great shame,
The traveller late
Drove from their gate!
Travellers may come
From our viking-home,
Unbidden guests
At these Olvers' feasts."
They went on farther that evening, and came to a fourth bonde,
who was considered the most hospitable man in the country; but he
drove them away also. Then Sigvat sang: --
"Then on I went to seek night's rest
From one who was said to be the best,
The kindest host in the land around,
And there I hoped to have quarters found.
But, faith,'twas little use to try;
For not so much as raise an eye
Would this huge wielder of the spade:
If he's the hest, it must he said
Bad is the best, and the skald's praise
Cannot be given to churls like these.
I almost wished that Asta's son
In the Eid forest had been one
When we, his men, were even put
Lodging to crave in a heathen's hut.
I knew not where the earl to find;
Four times driven off by men unkind,
I wandered now the whole night o'er,
Driven like a dog from door to door."
Now when they came to Earl Ragnvald's the earl said they must
have had a severe journey. Then Sigvat sang: --
"The message-bearers of the king
From Norway came his words to bring;
And truly for their master they
Hard work have done before to-day.
We did not loiter on the road,
But on we pushed for thy abode:
Thy folk, in sooth, were not so kind
That we cared much to lag hehind.
But Eid to rest safe we found,
From robbers free to the eastern bound:
This praise to thee, great earl, is due --
The skald says only what is true."
Earl Ragnvald gave Sigvat a gold arm-ring, and a woman said "he
had not made the journey with his black eyes for nothing."
Sigvat sang: --
"My coal-black eyes
Dost thou despise?
They have lighted me
Across the sea
To gain this golden prize:
They have lighted me,
Thy eyes to see,
O'er Iceland's main,
O'er hill and plain:
Where Nanna's lad would fear to be
They have lighted me."
Sigvat was long entertained kindly and well in the house of Earl
Ragnvald. The earl heard by letters, sent by Ingegerd the king's
daughter, that ambassadors from King Jarisleif were come from
Russia to King Olaf of Svithjod to ask his daughter Ingegerd in
marriage, and that King Olaf had given them hopes that he would
agree to it. About the same time King Olaf's daughter Astrid
came to Earl Ragnvald's court, and a great feast was made for
her. Sigvat soon became acquainted by conversation with the
king's daughter, and she knew him by name and family, for Ottar
the skald, Sigvat's sister's son, had long intimate acquaintance
with King Olaf, the Swedish king. Among other things talked of,
Earl Ragnvald asked Sigvat if the king of Norway would not marry
the king's daughter Astrid. "If he would do that," said he, "I
think we need not ask the Swedish king for his consent."
Astrid, the kings daughter, said exactly the same. Soon after
Sigvat returns home, and comes to King Olaf at Sarpsborg a little
before Yule.
When Sigvat came home to King Olaf he went into the hall, and,
looking around on the walls, he sang: --
"When our men their arms are taking
The raven's wings with greed are shaking;
When they come back to drink in hall
Brave spoil they bring to deck the wall --
Shield, helms, and panzers (1), all in row,
Stripped in the field from lifeless fow.
In truth no royal nail comes near
Thy splendid hall in precious gear."
Afterwards Sigvat told of his journey, and sang these verses: --
"The king's court-guards desire to hear
About our journey and our cheer,
Our ships in autumn reach the sound,
But long the way to Swedish ground.
With joyless weather, wind and raind,
And pinching cold, and feet in pain --
With sleep, fatigue, and want oppressed,
No songs had we -- we scarce had rest."
And when he came into conversation with the king he sang: --
"When first I met the earl I told
How our king loved a friend so bold;
How in his heart he loved a man
With hand to do, and head to plan.
Thou generous king! with zeal and care
I sought to advance thy great affair;
For messengers from Russian land
Had come to ask Ingegerd's hand.
The earl, thy friend, bids thee, who art
So mild and generous of heart,
His servants all who here may come
To cherish in thy royal home;
And thine who may come to the east
In Ragnvald's hall shall find a feast --
In Ragnvald's house shall find a home --
At Ragnvald's court be still welcome.
When first I came the people's mind
Incensed by Eirik's son I find;
And he refused the wish to meet,
Alleging treachery and deceit.
But I explained how it was here,
For earl and king, advantage clear
With thee to hold the strictest peace,
And make all force and foray cease.
The earl is wise, and understands
The need of peace for both the lands;
And he entreats thee not to break
The present peace for vengeance's sake!"
He immediately tells King Olaf the news he had heard; and at
first the king was much cast down when he heard of King
Jarisleif's suit, and he said he expected nothing but evil from
King Olaf; but wished he might be able to return it in such a way
as Olaf should remember. A while afterwards the king asks Sigvat
about various news from Gautland. Sigvat spoke a great deal
about Astrid, the kings daughter; how beautiful she was, how
agreeable in her conversation; and that all declared she was in
no respect behind her sister Ingegerd. The king listened with
pleasure to this. Then Sigvat told him the conversation he and
Astrid had had between themselves, and the king was delighted at
the idea. "The Swedish king," said he, "will scarcely think that
I will dare to marry a daughter of his without his consent." But
this speech of his was not known generally. King Olaf and Sigvat
the skald often spoke about it. The king inquired particularly
of Sigvat what he knew about Earl Ragnvald, and "if he be truly
our friend," said the king. Sigvat said that the earl was King
Olaf's best friend, and sang these verses: --
"The mighty Olaf should not cease
With him to hold good terms and peace;
For this good earl unwearied shows
He is thy friend where all are foes.
Of all who dwell by the East Sea
So friendly no man is as he:
At all their Things he takes thy part,
And is thy firm friend, hand and heart."
(1) The Pantzer -- a complete suit of plate-armour.
After Yule (A.D. 1019), Thord Skotakol, a sister's son of Sigvat,
attended by one of Sigvat's footboys, who had been with Sigvat
the autumn before in Gautland, went quite secretly from the
court, and proceeded to Gautland. When they came to Earl
Ragnvald's court, they produced the tokens which Olaf himself had
sent to the earl, that he might place confidence in Thord.
Without delay the earl made himself ready for a journey, as did
Astrid, the king's daughter; and the earl took with him 120 men,
who were chosen both from among his courtmen and the sons of
great bondes, and who were carefully equipped in all things,
clothes, weapons, and horses. Then they rode northwards to
Sarpsborg, and came there at Candlemas.
King Olaf had put all things in order in the best style. There
were all sorts of liquors of the best that could be got, and all
other preparations of the same quality. Many people of
consequence were summoned in from their residences. When the
earl arrived with his retinue the king received him particularly
well; and the earl was shown to a large, good, and remarkably
well-furnished house for his lodging; and serving-men and others
were appointed to wait on him; and nothing was wanting, in any
respect, that could grace a feast. Now when the entertainment
had lasted some days, the king, the earl, and Astrid had a
conference together; and the result of it was, that Earl Ragnvald
contracted Astrid, daughter of the Swedish king Olaf, to Olaf
king of Norway, with the same dowry which had before been settled
that her sister Ingegerd should have from home. King Olaf, on
his part, should give Astrid the same bride-gift that had been
intended for her sister Ingegerd. Thereupon an eke was made to
the feast, and King Olaf and Queen Astrid's wedding was drunk in
great festivity. Earl Ragnvald then returned to Gautland, and
the king gave the earl many great and good gifts at parting; and
they parted the dearest of friends, which they continued to be
while they lived.
The spring (A.D. 1019) thereafter came ambassadors from King
Jarisleif in Novgorod to Svithjod, to treat more particularly
about the promise given by King Olaf the preceding summer to
marry his daughter Ingegerd to King Jarisleif. King Olaf tallied
about the business with Ingegerd, and told her it was his
pleasure that she should marry King Jarisleif. She replied. "If
I marry King Jarisleif, I must have as my bride-gift the town and
earldom of Ladoga." The Russian ambassadors agreed to this, on
the part of their sovereign. Then said Ingegerd, "If I go east
to Russia, I must choose the man in Svithjod whom I think most
suitable to accompany me; and I must stipulate that he shall not
have any less title, or in any respect less dignity, privilege,
and consideration there, than he has, here." This the king and
the ambassadors agreed to, and gave their hands upon it in
confirmation of the condition.
"And who," asked the king, "is the man thou wilt take with thee
as thy attendant?"
"That man," she replied, "is my relation Earl Ragnvald."
The king replies, "I have resolved to reward Earl Ragnvald in a
different manner for his treason against his master in going to
Norway with my daughter, and giving her as a concubine to that
fellow, who he knew was my greatest enemy. I shall hang him up
this summer."
Then Ingegerd begged her father to be true to the promise he had
made her, and had confirmed by giving his hand upon it. By her
entreaties it was at last agreed that the king should promise to
let Earl Ragnvald go in peace from Svithjod, but that he should
never again appear in the king's presence, or come back to
Svithjod while Olaf reigned. Ingegerd then sent messengers to
the earl to bring him these tidings, and to appoint a place of
meeting. The earl immediately prepared for his journey; rode up
to East Gautland; procured there a vessel, and, with his retinue,
joined Ingegerd, and they proceeded together eastward to Russia.
There Ingegerd was married to King Jarisleif; and their children
were Valdemar, Vissivald, and Holte the Bold. Queen Ingegerd
gave Earl Ragnvald the town of Ladoga, and earldom belonging to
it. Earl Ragnvald was there a long time, and was a celebrated
man. His sons and Ingebjorg's were Earl Ulf and Earl Eilif.
There was a man called Emund of Skara, who was lagman of west
Gautland, and was a man of great understanding and eloquence, and
of high birth, great connection, and very wealthy; but was
considered deceitful, and not to be trusted. He was the most
powerful man in West Gautland after the earl was gone. The same
spring (A.D. 1019) that Earl Ragnvald left Gautland the Gautland
people held a Thing among themselves, and often expressed their
anxiety to each other about what the Swedish king might do. They
heard he was incensed because they had rather held in friendship
with the king of Norway than striven against him; and he was also
enraged against those who had attended his daughter Astrid to
Norway. Some proposed to seek help and support from the king of
Norway, and to offer him their services; others dissuaded from
this measure, as West Gautland had no strength to oppose to the
Swedes. "And the king of Norway," said they, "is far from us,
the chief strength of his country very distant; and therefore let
us first send men to the Swedish king to attempt to come to some
reconciliation with him. If that fail, we can still turn to the
king of Norway." Then the bondes asked Emund to undertake this
mission, to which he agreed; and he proceeded with thirty men to
East Gautland, where there were many of his relations and
friends, who received him hospitably. He conversed there with
the most prudent men about this difficult business; and they were
all unanimous on one point, -- that the king's treatment of them
was against law and reason. From thence Emund went into
Svithjod, and conversed with many men of consequence, who all
expressed themselves in the same way. Emund continued his
journey thus, until one day, towards evening, he arrived at
Upsala, where he and his retinue took a good lodging, and stayed
there all night. The next day Emund waited upon the king, who
was just then sitting in the Thing surrounded by many people.
Emund went before him, bent his knee, and saluted him. The king
looked at him, saluted him, and asked him what news he brought.
Emund replies, "There is little news among us Gautlanders; but it
appears to us a piece of remarkable news that the proud, stupid
Atte, in Vermaland, whom we look upon as a great sportsman, went
up to the forest in winter with his snow-shoes and his bow.
After he had got as many furs in the mountains as filled his
hand-sledge so full that he could scarcely drag it, he returned
home from the woods. But on the way he saw a squirrel in the
trees, and shot at it, but did not hit; at which he was so angry,
that he left the sledge to run after the squirrel: but still the
squirrel sprang where the wood was thickest, sometimes among the
roots of the trees, sometimes in the branches, sometimes among
the arms that stretch from tree to tree. When Atte shot at it
the arrows flew too high or too low, and the squirrel never
jumped so that Atte could get a fair aim at him. He was so eager
upon this chase that he ran the whole day after the squirrel, and
yet could not get hold of it. It was now getting dark; so he
threw himself down upon the snow, as he was wont, and lay there
all night in a heavy snow-storm. Next day Atte got up to look
after his sledge, but never did he find it again; and so he
returned home. And this is the only news, king, I have to tell."
The king says, "This is news of but little importance, if it be
all thou hast to tell."
Ernund replies, "Lately something happened which may well be
called news. Gaute Tofason went with five warships out of the
Gaut river, and when he was lying at the Eikrey Isles there came
five large Danish merchant-ships there. Gaute and his men
immediately took four of the great vessels, and made a great
booty without the loss of a man: but the fifth vessel slipped out
to sea, and sailed away. Gaute gave chase with one ship, and at
first came nearer to them; but as the wind increased, the Danes
got away. Then Gaute wanted to turn back; but a storm came on so
that he lost his ship at Hlesey, with all the goods, and the
greater part of his crew. In the meantime his people were
waiting for him at the Eikrey Isles: but the Danes came over in
fifteen merchant-ships, killed them all, and took all the booty
they had made. So but little luck had they with their greed of
The king replied. "That is great news, and worth being told; but
what now is thy errand here?"
Emund replies, "I travel, sire, to obtain your judgment in a
difficult case, in which our law and the Upsala law do not
The king asks, "What is thy appeal case?"
Emund replies, "There were two noble-born men of equal birth, but
unequal in property and disposition. They quarrelled about some
land, and did each other much damage; but most was done to him
who was the more powerful of the two. This quarrel, however, was
settled, and judged of at a General Thing; and the judgment was,
that the most powerful should pay a compensation. But at the
first payment, instead of paying a goose, he paid a gosling; for
an old swine he paid a sucking pig; and for a mark of stamped
gold only a half- mark, and for the other half-mark nothing but
clay and dirt; and, moreover, threatened, in the most violent
way, the people whom he forced to receive such goods in payment.
Now, sire, what is your judgment?"
The king replies, "He shall pay the full equivalent whom the
judgment ordered to do so, and that faithfully; and further,
threefold to his king: and if payment be not made within a year
and a day, he shall be cut off from all his property, his goods
confiscated, and half go the king's house, and half to the other
Emund took witnesses to this judgment among the most considerable
of the men who were present, according to the laws which were
held in the Upsala Thing. He then saluted the king, and went his
way; and other men brought their cases before the king, and he
sat late in the day upon the cases of the people. Now when the
king came to table, he asked where Lagman Emund was. It was
answered, he was home at his lodgings. "Then," said the king,
"go after him, and tell him to be my guest to-day." Thereafter
the dishes were borne in; then came the musicians with harps,
fiddles, and musical instruments; and lastly, the cup-bearers.
The king was particularly merry, and had many great people at
table with him, so that he thought little of Emund. The king
drank the whole day, and slept all the night after; but in the
morning the king awoke, and recollected what Emund had said the
day before: and when he had put on his clothes, he let his wise
men be summoned to him; for he had always twelve of the wisest
men who sat in judgment with him, and treated the more difficult
cases; and that was no easy business, for the king was illpleased
if the judgment was not according to justice, and yet it
was of no use to contradict him. In this meeting the king
ordered Lagman Emund to be called before them. The messenger
returned, and said, "Sire, Lagman Emund rode away yesterday as
soon as he had dined." "Then," said the king, "tell me, ye good
chiefs, what may have been the meaning of that law-case which
Emund laid before us yesterday?"
They replied, "You must have considered it yourself, if you think
there was any other meaning under it than what he said."
The king replied, "By the two noble-born men whom he spoke of,
who were at variance, and of whom one was more powerful than the
other, and who did each other damage, he must have meant us and
Olaf the Thick."
They answered, "It is, sire, as you say."
The king -- "Our case was judged at the Upsala Thing. But what
was his meaning when he said that bad payment was made; namely, a
gosling for a goose, a pig for a swine, and clay and dirt for
half of the money instead of gold?"
Arnvid the Blind replied, "Sire, red gold and clay are things
very unlike; but the difference is still greater between king and
slave. You promised Olaf the Thick your daughter Ingegerd, who,
in all branches of her descent, is born of kings, and of the
Upland Swedish race of kings, which is the most noble in the
North; for it is traced up to the gods themselves. But now Olaf
has got Astrid; and although she is a king's child, her mother
was but a slave-woman, and, besides, of Vindish race. Great
difference, indeed, must there be between these kings, when the
one takes thankfully such a match; and now it is evident, as
might be expected, that no Northman is to be placed by the side
of the Upsala kings. Let us all give thanks that it has so
turned out; for the gods have long protected their descendants,
although many now neglect this faith."
There were three brothers: -- Arnvid the Blind, who had a great
understanding, but was so weak-sighted that he was scarcely fit
for war; the second was Thorvid the Stammerer, who could not
utter two words together at one time, but was remarkably bold and
courageous; the third was Freyvid the Deaf, who was hard of
hearing. All these brothers were rich and powerful men, of noble
birth, great wisdom, and all very dear to the king.
Then said King Olaf, "What means that which Emund said about Atte
the Dull?"
None made any reply, but the one looked at the other.
"Speak freely," said the king.
Then said Thorvid the Stammerer, "Atte -- quarrel -- some --
greedy -- jealous -- deceitful -- dull."
Then said the king, "To whom are these words of reproach and
mockery applied?"
Freyvid the Deaf replied, "We will speak more clearly if we have
your permission."
The king -- "Speak freely, Freyvid, what you will."
Freyvid took up the word, and spoke. "My brother Thorvid, who is
considered to be the wisest of us brothers, holds the words
`quarrelsome, greedy, jealous, dull,' to be one and the same
thing; for it applies to him who is weary of peace, longs for
small things without attaining them, while he lets great and
useful things pass away as they came. I am deaf; yet so loud
have many spoken out, that I can perceive that all men, both
great and small, take it ill that you have not kept your promise
to the king of Norway; and, worse than that, that you broke the
decision of the community as it was delivered at Upsala Thing.
You need not fear either the king of Norway, or the king of
Denmark, or any other, so long as the Swedish army will follow
you; but if the people of the country unanimously turn against
you, we, your friends, see no counsel that can be of advantage to
The king asks, "Who is the chief who dares to betray the country
and me?"
Freyvid replies, "All Swedes desire to have the ancient laws, and
their full rights. Look but here, sire, how many chiefs are
sitting in council with you. I think, in truth, we are but six
whom you call your councillors: all the others, so far as I know,
have ridden forth through the districts to hold Things with the
people; and we will not conceal it from you, that the messagetoken
has gone forth to assemble a Retribution-thing (1). All of
us brothers have been invited to take part in the decisions of
this council, but none of us will bear the name of traitor to the
sovereign; for that our father never was."
Then the king said, "What council shall we take in this dangerous
affair that is in our hands? Good chiefs give me council, that I
may keep my kingdom, and the heritage of my forefathers; for I
cannot enter into strife against the whole Swedish force."
Arnvid the Blind replies, "Sire, it is my advice that you ride
down to Aros with such men as will follow you; take your ship
there and go out into the Maeler lake; summon all people to meet
you; proceed no longer with haughtiness, but promise every man
the law and rights of old established in the country; keep back
in this way the message-token, for it cannot as yet, in so short
a time have travelled far through the land. Send, then those of
your men in whom you have the most confidence to those who have
this business on hand, and try if this uproar can be appeased."
The king says that he will adopt this advice. "I will," says he,
"that ye brothers undertake this business; for I trust to you the
most among my men."
Thorvid the Stammerer said, "I remain behind. Let Jacob, your
son, go with them, for that is necessary."
Then said Freyvid, "Let us do as Thorvid says: he will not leave
you, and I and Arnvid must travel."
This counsel was followed. Olaf went to his ships, and set out
into the Maelar lake, and many people came to him. The brothers
Arnvid and Freyvid rode out to Ullaraker, and had with them the
king's son Jacob; but they kept it a secret that he was there.
The brothers observed that there was a great concourse and wargathering,
for the bondes held the Thing night and day. When
Arnvid and Freyvid met their relations and friends, they said
they would join with the people; and many agreed to leave the
management of the business in the hands of the brothers. But
all, as one man, declared they would no longer have King Olaf
over them, and no longer suffer his unlawful proceedings, and
over-weening pride which would not listen to any man's
remonstrances, even when the great chiefs spoke the truth to him.
When Freyvid observed the heat of the people, he saw in what a
bad situation the king's cause was. He summoned the chiefs of
the land to a meeting with him and addressed them thus: -- "It
appears to me, that if we are to depose Olaf Eirikson from his
kingdom, we Swedes of the Uplands should be the leading men in
it: for so it has always been, that the counsel which the Upland
chiefs have resolved among themselves has always been followed
by the men of the rest of the country. Our forefathers did not
need to take advice from the West Gautlanders about the
government of the Swedes. Now we will not be so degenerate as to
need Emund to give us counsel; but let us, friends and relations,
unite ourselves for the purpose of coming to a determination."
All agreed to this, and thought it was well said. Thereafter the
people joined this union which the Upland chiefs made among
themselves, and Freyvid and Arnvid were chiefs of the whole
assemblage. When Emund heard this he suspected how the matter
would end, and went to both the brothers to have a conversation
with them. Then Freyvid asked Emund, "Who, in your opinion,
should we take for king, in case Olaf Eirikson's days are at an
Emund -- "He whom we think best suited to it, whether he be of
the race of chiefs or not."
Freyvid answers, "We Uplanders will not, in our time, have the
kingdom go out of the old race of our ancestors, which has given
us kings for a long course of generations, so long as we have so
good a choice as now. King Olaf has two sons, one of whom we
will choose for king, although there is a great difference
between them. The one is noble-born, and of Swedish race on both
sides; the other is a slave-woman's son, and of Vindish race on
the mother's side."
This decision was received with loud applause, and all would have
Jacob for king.
Then said Emund. "Ye Upland Swedes have the power this time to
determinate the matter; but I will tell you what will happen: --
some of those who now will listen to nothing but that the kingdom
remain in the old race will live to see the day when they will
wish the kingdom in another race, as being of more advantage."
Thereupon the brothers Freyvid and Arnvid led the king's son
Jacob into the Thing, and saluted him with the title of king; and
the Swedes gave him the name of Onund, which he afterwards
retained as long as he lived. He was then ten or twelve years
old. Thereafter King Onund took a court, and chose chiefs to be
around him; and they had as many attendants in their suite as
were thought necessary, so that he gave the whole assemblage of
bondes leave to return home. After that ambassadors went between
the two kings; and at last they had a meeting, and came to an
agreement. Olaf was to remain king over the country as long as
he lived; but should hold peace and be reconciled with King Olaf
of Norway, and also with all who had taken part in this business.
Onund should also be king, and have a part of the land, such as
the father and son should agree upon; but should be bound to
support the bondes in case King Olaf did anything which the
bondes would not suffer.
(1) Refsithing -- a Thing for punishment by penalty or death for
crimes and misdemeanours. -- L.
Thereafter ambassadors were sent to Norway to King Olaf, with the
errand that he should come with his retinue to a meeting at
Konungahella with the Swedish kings, and that the Swedish kings
would there confirm their reconciliation. When King Olaf heard
this message, he was willing, now as formerly, to enter into the
agreement, and proceeded to the appointed place. There the
Swedish kings also came; and the relations, when they met, bound
themselves mutually to peace and agreement. Olaf the Swedish
king was then remarkably mild in manner, and agreeable to talk
with. Thorstein Frode relates of this meeting, that there was an
inhabited district in Hising which had sometimes belonged to
Norway, and sometimes to Gautland. The kings came to the
agreement between themselves that they would cast lots by the
dice to determine who should have this property, and that he who
threw the highest should have the district. The Swedish king
threw two sixes, and said King Olaf need scarcely throw. He
replied, while shaking the dice in his hand, "Although there be
two sixes on the dice, it would be easy, sire, for God Almighty
to let them turn up in my favour." Then he threw, and had sixes
also. Now the Swedish king threw again, and had again two sixes.
Olaf king of Norway then threw, and had six upon one dice, and
the other split in two, so as to make seven eyes in all upon it;
and the district was adjudged to the king of Norway. We have
heard nothing else of any interest that took place at this
meeting; and the kings separated the dearest of friends with each
After the events now related Olaf returned with his people to
Viken. He went first to Tunsberg, and remained there a short
time, and then proceeded to the north of the country. In
harvest-time he sailed north to Throndhjem, and had winter
provision laid in there, and remained there all winter (A.D.
1090). Olaf Haraldson was now sole and supreme king of Norway,
and the whole of that sovereignty, as Harald Harfager had
possessed it, and had the advantage over that monarch of being
the only king in the land. By a peaceful agreement he had also
recovered that part of the country which Olaf the Swedish king
had before occupied; and that part of the country which the
Danish king had got he retook by force, and ruled over it as
elsewhere in the country. The Danish king Canute ruled at that
time both over Denmark and England; but he himself was in England
for the most part, and set chiefs over the country in Denmark,
without at that time making any claim upon Norway.
It is related that in the days of Harald Harfager, the king of
Norway, the islands of Orkney, which before had been only a
resort for vikings, were settled . The first earl in the Orkney
Islands was called Sigurd, who was a son of Eystein Giumra, and
brother of Ragnvald earl of More. After Sigurd his son Guthorm
was earl for one year. After him Torf-Einar, a son of Ragnvald,
took the earldom, and was long earl, and was a man of great
power. Halfdan Haleg, a son of Harald Harfager, assaulted TorfEinar,
and drove him from the Orkney Islands; but Einar came back
and killed Halfdan in the island Ronaldsha. Thereafter King
Harald came with an army to the Orkney Islands. Einar fled to
Scotland, and King Harald made the people of the Orkney Islands
give up their udal properties, and hold them under oath from him.
Thereafter the king and earl were reconciled, so that the earl
became the king's man, and took the country as a fief from him;
but that it should pay no scat or feu-duty, as it was at that
time much plundered by vikings. The earl paid the king sixty
marks of gold; and then King Harald went to plunder in Scotland,
as related in the "Glym Drapa". After Torf-Einar, his sons
Arnkel, Erlend, and Thorfin Hausakljufer (1) ruled over these
lands. In their days came Eirik Blood-axe from Norway, and
subdued these earls. Arnkel and Erlend fell in a war expedition;
but Thorfin ruled the country long, and became an old man. His
sons were Arnfin, Havard, Hlodver, Liot, and Skule. Their mother
was Grelad, a daughter of Earl Dungad of Caithness. Her mother
was Groa, a daughter of Thorstein Raud. In the latter days of
Earl Thorfin came Eirik Blood-axe's sons, who had fled from Earl
Hakon out of Norway, and committed great excesses in Orkney.
Earl Thorfin died on a bed of sickness, and his sons after him
ruled over the country, and there are many stories concerning
them. Hlodver lived the longest of them, and ruled alone over
this country. His son was Sigurd the Thick, who took the earldom
after him, and became a powerful man and a great warrior. In his
days came Olaf Trygvason from his viking expedition in the
western ocean, with his troops, landed in Orkney and took Earl
Sigurd prisoner in South Ronaldsha, where he lay with one ship.
King Olaf allowed the earl to ransom his life by letting himself
be baptized, adopting the true faith, becoming his man, and
introducing Christianity into all the Orkney Islands. As a
hostage, King Olaf took his son, who was called Hunde or Whelp.
Then Olaf went to Norway, and became king; and Hunde was several
years with King Olaf in Norway, and died there. After his death
Earl Sigurd showed no obedience or fealty to King Olaf. He
married a daughter of the Scottish king Malcolm, and their son
was called Thorfin. Earl Sigurd had, besides, older sons;
namely, Sumarlide, Bruse, and Einar Rangmund. Four or five years
after Olaf Tryrgvason's fall Earl Sigurd went to Ireland, leaving
his eldest sons to rule the country, and sending Thorfin to his
mother's father, the Scottish king. On this expedition Earl
Sigurd fell in Brian's battle (l). When the news was received in
Orkney, the brothers Sumarlide, Bruse, and Einar were chosen
earls, and the country was divided into three parts among them.
Thorfin Sigurdson was five years old when Earl Sigurd fell. When
the Scottish king heard of the earl's death he gave his relation
Thorfin Caithness and Sutherland, with the title of earl, and
appointed good men to rule the land for him. Earl Thorfin was
ripe in all ways as soon as he was grown up: he was stout and
strong, but ugly; and as soon as he was a grown man it was easy
to see that he was a severe and cruel but a very clever man. So
says Arnor, the earls' skald: --
"Under the rim of heaven no other,
So young in years as Einar's brother,
In battle had a braver hand,
Or stouter, to defend the land."
(1) Hausakljufer -- the splitter of skulls. -- L.
(2) Brian's battle is supposed to have taken place on the 23rd
April 1014, at Clontart, near Dublin; and is known in Irish
history as the battle of Clontarf, and was one of the
bloodiest of the age. It was fought between a viking called
Sigtryg and Brian king of Munster, who gained the victory,
but lost his life. -- L.
The brothers Einar and Bruse were very unlike in disposition.
Bruse was a soft-minded, peaceable man, -- sociable, eloquent,
and of good understanding. Einar was obstinate, taciturn, and
dull; but ambitious, greedy of money, and withal a great warrior.
Sumarlide, the eldest of the brothers, was in disposition like
Bruse, and lived not long, but died in his bed. After his death
Thorfin claimed his share of the Orkney Islands. Einar replied,
that Thorfin had the dominions which their father Sigurd had
possessed, namely, Caithness and Sutherland, which he insisted
were much larger than a third part of Orkney; therefore he would
not consent to Thorfin's having any share. Bruse, on the other
hand, was willing, he said, to divide with him. "I do notdesire,"
he said, "more than the third part of the land, and
which of right belongs to me." Then Einar took possession of two
parts of the country, by which he became a powerful man,
surrounded by many followers. He was often in summer out on
marauding expeditions, and called out great numbers of the people
to join him; but it went always unpleasantly with the division of
the booty made on his viking cruises. Then the bondes grew weary
of all these burdens; but Earl Einar held fast by them with
severity, calling in all services laid upon the people, and
allowing no opposition from any man; for he was excessively proud
and overbearing. And now there came dearth and scarcity in his
lands, in consequence of the services and money outlay exacted
from the bondes; while in the part of the country belonging to
Bruse there were peace and plenty, and therefore he was the best
beloved by the bondes.
There was a rich and powerful man who was called Amunde, who
dwelt in Hrossey at Sandvik, in Hlaupandanes. His son, called
Thorkel, was one of the ablest men in the islands. Amunde was a
man of the best understanding, and most respected in Orkney. One
spring Earl Einar proclaimed a levy for an expedition, as usual.
The bondes murmured greatly against it, and applied to Amunde
with the entreaty that he would intercede with the earl for them.
He replied, that the earl was not a man who would listen to other
people, and insisted that it was of no use to make any entreaty
to the earl about it. "As things now stand, there is a good
understanding between me and the earl; but, in my opinion, there
would be much danger of our quarrelling, on account of our
different dispositions and views on both sides; therefore I will
have nothing to do with it." They then applied to Thorkel, who
was also very loath to interfere, but promised at last to do so,
in consequence of the great entreaty of the people. Amunde
thought he had given his promise too hastily. Now when the earl
held a Thing, Thorkel spoke on account of the people, and
entreated the earl to spare the people from such heavy burdens,
recounting their necessitous condition. The earl replies
favourably, saying that he would take Thorkel's advice. "I had
intended to go out from the country with six ships, but now I
will only take three with me; but thou must not come again,
Thorkel, with any such request." The bondes thanked Thorkel for
his assistance, and the earl set out on a viking cruise, and came
back in autumn. The spring after, the earl made the same levy as
usual, and held a Thing with the bondes. Then Thorkel again made
a speech, in which he entreated the earl to spare the people.
The earl now was angry, and said the lot of the bondes should be
made worse in consequence of his intercession; and worked himself
up into such a rage, that he vowed they should not both come next
spring to the Thing in a whole skin. Then the Thing was closed.
When Amunde heard what the earl and Thorkel had said at the
Thing, he told Thorkel to leave the country, and he went over to
Caithness to Earl Thorfin. Thorkel was afterwards a long time
there, and brought up the earl in his youth, and was on that
account called Thorkel the Fosterer; and he became a very
celebrated man.
There were many powerful men who fled from their udal properties
in Orkney on account of Earl Einar's violence, and the most fled
over to Caithness to Earl Thorfin: but some fled from the Orkney
Islands to Norway, and some to other countries. When Earl
Thorfin was grown up he sent a message to his brother Einar, and
demanded the part of the dominion which he thought belonged to
him in Orkney; namely, a third of the islands. Einar was nowise
inclined to diminish his possessions. When Thorfin found this he
collected a warforce in Caithness, and proceeded to the islands.
As soon as Earl Einar heard of this he collected people, and
resolved to defend his country. Earl Bruse also collected men,
and went out to meet them, and bring about some agreement between
them. An agreement was at last concluded, that Thorfin should
have a third part of the islands, as of right belonging to him,
but that Bruse and Einar should lay their two parts together, and
Einar alone should rule over them; but if the one died before the
other, the longest liver should inherit the whole. This
agreement seemed reasonable, as Bruse had a son called Ragnvald,
but Einar had no son. Earl Thorfin set men to rule over his land
in Orkney, but he himself was generally in Caithness. Earl Einar
was generally on viking expeditions to Ireland, Scotland, and
One summer (A.D. 1018) that Earl Einar marauded in Ireland, he
fought in Ulfreks-fjord with the Irish king Konofogor, as has
been related before, and suffered there a great defeat. The
summer after this (A.D. 1019) Eyvind Urarhorn was coming from the
west from Ireland, intending to go to Norway; but the weather was
boisterous, and the current against him, so he ran into
Osmundwall, and lay there wind-bound for some time. When Earl
Einar heard of this, he hastened thither with many people, took
Eyvind prisoner, and ordered him to be put to death, but spared
the lives of most of his people. In autumn they proceeded to
Norway to King Olaf, and told him Eyvind was killed. The king
said little about it, but one could see that he considered it a
great and vexatious loss; for he did not usually say much if
anything turned out contrary to his wishes. Earl Thorfin sent
Thorkel Fosterer to the islands to gather in his scat. Now, as
Einar gave Thorkel the greatest blame for the dispute in which
Thorfin had made claim to the islands, Thorkel came suddenly back
to Caithness from Orkney, and told Earl Thorfin that he had
learnt that Earl Einar would have murdered him if his friends and
relations had not given him notice to escape. "Now," says he,
"it is come so far between the earl and me, that either some
thing decisive between us must take place if we meet, or I must
remove to such a distance that his power will not reach me." The
earl encouraged Thorkel much to go east to Norway to King Olaf.
"Thou wilt be highly respected," says he, "wherever thou comest
among honourable men; and I know so well thy disposition and the
earl's, that it will not be long before ye come to extremities."
Thereupon Thorkel made himself ready, and proceeded in autumn to
Norway, and then to King Olaf, with whom he stayed the whole
winter (A.D. 1020), and was in high favour. The king often
entered into conversation with him, and he thought, what was
true, that Thorkel was a high-minded man, of good understanding.
In his conversations with Thorkel, the king found a great
difference in his description of the two earls; for Thorkel was a
great friend of Earl Thorfin, but had much to say against Einar.
Early in spring (A.D. 1020) the king sent a ship west over the
sea to Earl Thorfin, with the invitation to come east and visit
him in Norway. The earl did not decline the invitation, for it
was accompanied by assurances of friendship.

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