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KING OLAF TRYGVASON'S SAGA.
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.
1. OLAF TRYGVASON'S BIRTH.
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).
2. OF GUNHILD S SONS.
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.
3. ASTRID'S JOURNEY.
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
4. HAKON'S EMBASSY TO SWEDEN.
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.
5. OF SIGURD EIRIKSON.
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).
6. OLAF IS SET FREE IN EISTLAND.
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.
7. KLERKON KILLED BY OLAF.
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.
8. OF HAKON EARL OF HLADER.
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.
9. OF GOLD HARALD.
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
The king then went away with his people.
10. COUNCILS HELD BY HAKON AND HARALD.
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 foster-
son 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
They spoke so long over the matter, that they agreed on it.
11. HARALD GORMSON'S MESSAGE TO NORWAY.
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
12. TREACHERY OF HARALD AND HAKON.
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.
13. DEATH OF HARALD GRAFELD.
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
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.
14. GOLD HARALD'S DEATH.
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.
15. DIVISION OF THE COUNTRY.
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 land-
tax, 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,
16. GUNHILD'S SONS LEAVE THE COUNTRY.
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.
17. HAKON'S BATTLE WITH RAGNFRED.
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.
18. BATTLE BETWEEN HAKON AND RAGNFRED.
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
"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
19. EARL HAKON'S MARRIAGE.
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.
20. DEATH OF SKOPTE.
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.
21. OLAF TRYGVASON'S JOURNEY FROM RUSSIA.
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
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.
22. OLAF TRYGVASON'S MARRIAGE.
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?"
23. EARL HAKON PAYS NO SCAT.
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.
24. HARALD OPPOSES CHRISTIANITY.
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.
25. OLAF TRYGVASON'S WAR EXPEDITION.
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."
26. OTTA AND HAKON IN BATTLE.
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.
27. HARALD AND HAKON ARE BAPTIZED.
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
28. HAKON RENOUNCES CHRISTIANITY.
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."
29. THE EMPEROR OTTA RETURNS HOME.
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."
30. OLAF'S JOURNEY FROM VINDLAND.
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.
31. KING OLAF'S FORAYS.
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
32. KING OLAF IS BAPTIZED.
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 fortune-
teller 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.
33. OLAF MARRIES GYDA.
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
34. KING OLAF AND ALFVINE'S DUEL.
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.
35. KING OLAF GETS HIS DOG VIGE.
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.
36. HARALD GORMSON SAILS AGAINST ICELAND.
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."
37. HARALD SENDS A WARLOCK TO ICELAND.
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 guardian-
spirits, 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, high-
breaking 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.
38. HARALD GORMSON'S DEATH.
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 peace-
maker 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.
39. VOW OF THE JOMSBORG VIKINGS.
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.
40. EIRIK AND HAKON MAKE A WAR LEVY.
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.
41. EXPEDITION OF THE JOMSBORG VIKINGS.
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
42. OF THE JOMSBORG VIKINGS.
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
43. BATTLE WITH THE JOMSBORG VIKINGS.
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
"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.
44. EARL SIGVALDE'S FLIGHT.
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.
45. BUE THROWS HIMSELF OVERBOARD.
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
46. VIKINGS BOUND TOGETHER IN ONE CHAIN.
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 œell 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.
47. DEATH OF GISSUR OF VALDERS.
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 oœ Chevy Chase. -- L.
48. KING HARALD GRENSKE'S DEATH.
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).
49. BIRTH OF OLAF, SON OF HARALD GRENSKE.
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.
50. ABOUT EARL HAKON.
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.
51. THORER KLAKKA'S JOURNEY.
Earl Hakon, in the mean time, hears some whisper that to the
westward, over the Norœh 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.
52. OLAF TRYGVASON COMES TO NORWAY.
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.
53. EARL HAKON'S FLIGHT.
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
54. ERLEND'S DEATH.
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
55. EARL HAKON'S DEATH.
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.
56. EARL HAKON'S HEAD.
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.
57. OLAF TRYGVASON ELECTED KING.
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."
58. LODIN'S MARRIAGE
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.
59. OLAF BAPTIZES THE COUNTRY OF VIKEN.
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 Forked-
beard, 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-in-
law 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.
60. OF THE HORDALAND PEOPLE.
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.
61. ROGALAND BAPTIZED.
When King Olaf came to Rogaland, he immediately summoned the
people to a Thing; and when the bondes received the message-
token 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.
62. ERLING SKJALGSON'S WOOING.
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
63. HORDALAND BAPTIZED.
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.
64. ERLING SKJALGSON'S WEDDING.
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.
65. RAUMSDAL AND FJORD-DISTRICTS BAPTIZED.
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.
66. OLAF PROPOSES MARRIAGE TO QUEEN SIGRID.
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.
67. OLAF HARALDSON 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).
68. MEETING OF OLAF AND SIGRID.
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.
69. THE BURNING OF WARLOCKS.
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.
70. EYVIND KELDA'S 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
71. OLAF AND ODIN'S APPARITION.
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 cellar-
master 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
72. THE THING IN THRONDHJEM.
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.
73. JARNSKEGGE OR IRON BEARD.
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
74. THE FEAST AT 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
75. OF THE THING IN THRONDHJEM.
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.
76. THE THRONDHJEM PEOPLE BAPTIZED.
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.
77. A TOWN IN THE THRONDHJEM COUNTRY.
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.
78. KING OLAF'S MARRIAGE.
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.
79. BUILDING OF THE SHIP CRANE.
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.
80. THANGBRAND THE PRIEST GOES TO ICELAND.
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 man-
slayer; 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.
81. OF SIGURD AND HAUK.
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.
82. OF HAREK OF THJOTTA.
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.
83. EYVIND KINRIFA'S DEATH.
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.
84. HALOGALAND MADE CHRISTIAN.
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.
85. THORER HJORT'S DEATH.
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.
86. KING OLAF'S VOYAGE TO GODEY.
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.
87. OF RAUD'S BEING TORTURED.
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
88. OF 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
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
"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
89. BAPTISM OF THE ICELANDERS.
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.
90. HALFRED VANDREDASKALD BAPTIZED.
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.
91. THANGBRAND RETURNS FROM ICELAND.
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.
92. OF KING OLAF'S FEATS.
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.
93. BAPTISM OF LEIF EIRIKSON.
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.
94. FALL OF KING GUDROD.
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.
95. BUILDING OF THE SHIP LONG SERPENT.
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 seventy-
four 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.
96. EARL EIRIK, THE SON OF HAKON.
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
"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 "Banda-
"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."
97. EIRIK'S FORAY ON THE BALTIC COASTS.
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.
98. KING SVEIN'S MARRIAGE.
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.
99. KING BURIZLEIF'S MARRIAGE.
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
100. OLAF GETS THYRE IN MARRIAGE.
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!"
101. OLAF'S LEVY FOR WAR.
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.
102. CREW ON BOARD OF THE LONG SERPENT.
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.
103. ICELAND BAPTIZED.
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).
104. GREENLAND BAPTIZED
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.
105. RAGNVALD SENDS MESSENGERS TO OLAF.
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.
106. OLAF SENDS EXPEDITION TO VINDLAND.
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.)
107. OLAF'S EXPEDITION VINDLAND.
(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
108. CONSPIRACY AGAINST KING OLAF.
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.
109. EARL SIGVALDE'S TREACHEROUS PLANS.
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.
110. KING OLAF'S VOYAGE FROM VINDLAND.
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.
111. CONSULTATION OF THE KINGS.
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
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.
112. OF KING OLAF'S PEOPLE.
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."
113. OLAF'S SHIPS PREPARED FOR BATTLE.
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.
114. OF KING OLAF.
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."
115. THE BATTLE BEGINS.
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."
116. FLIGHT OF SVEIN AND OLAF THE SWEDE.
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."
117. OF EARL EIRIK.
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.
118. OF EINAR TAMBARSKELVER.
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
119. OLAF GIVES HIS MEN SHARP SWORDS.
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.
120. THE SERPENT BOARDED.
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!'"
121. THE SERPENT'S DECKS CLEARED.
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.
122. REPORT AMONG THE PEOPLE.
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.'"
123. OF EARL EIRIK, THE SON OF HAKON.
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 upper-
king 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