Heimskringla The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway
Part 11 out of 18
the bondes' army was seen advancing with raised banners, and the
multitude of these was very great.
Then Fin awakened the king, and said that the bonde-army advanced
The king awoke, and said, "Why did you waken me, Fin, and did not
allow me to enjoy my dream?"
Fin: "Thou must not be dreaming; but rather thou shouldst be
awake, and preparing thyself against the host which is coming
down upon us; or, dost thou not see that the whole bonde-crowd is
The king replies, "They are not yet so near to us, and it would
have been better to have let me sleep."
Then said Fin, "What was the dream, sire, of which the loss
appears to thee so great that thou wouldst rather have been left
to waken of thyself?"
Now the king told his dream, -- that he seemed to see a high
ladder, upon which he went so high in the air that heaven was
open: for so high reached the ladder. "And when you awoke me, I
was come to the highest step towards heaven."
Fin replies, "This dream does not appear to me so good as it does
to thee. I think it means that thou art fey (1); unless it be
the mere want of sleep that has worked upon thee."
(1) Fey means doomed to die.
227. OF ARNLJOT GELLINE'S BAPTISM.
When King Olaf was arrived at Stiklestad, it happened, among
other circumstances, that a man came to him; and although it was
nowise wonderful that there came many men from the districts, yet
this must be regarded as unusual, that this man did not appear
like the other men who came to him. He was so tall that none
stood higher than up to his shoulders: very handsome he was in
countenance, and had beautiful fair hair. He was well armed; had
a fine helmet, and ring armour; a red shield; a superb sword in
his belt; and in his hand a gold-mounted spear, the shaft of it
so thick that it was a handful to grasp. The man went before the
king, saluted him, and asked if the king would accept his
The king asked his name and family, also what countryman he was.
He replies, "My family is in Jamtaland and Helsingjaland, and my
name is Arnljot Gelline; but this I must not forget to tell you,
that I came to the assistance of those men you sent to Jamtaland
to collect scat, and I gave into their hands a silver dish, which
I sent you as a token that I would be your friend."
Then the king asked Arnljot if he was a Christian or not. He
replied, "My faith has been this, to rely upon my power and
strength, and which faith hath hitherto given me satisfaction;
but now I intend rather to put my faith, sire, in thee."
The king replies, "If thou wilt put faith in me thou must also
put faith in what I will teach thee. Thou must believe that
Jesus Christ has made heaven and earth, and all mankind, and to
him shall all those who are good and rightly believing go after
Arnljot answers, "I have indeed heard of the white Christ, but
neither know what he proposes, nor what he rules over; but now I
will believe all that thou sayest to me, and lay down my lot in
Thereupon Arnljot was baptized. The king taught him so much of
the holy faith as appeared to him needful, and placed him in the
front rank of the order of battle, in advance of his banner,
where also Gauka-Thorer and Afrafaste, with their men, were.
228. CONCERNING THE ARMY COLLECTED IN NORWAY.
Now shall we relate what we have left behind in our tale, -- that
the lendermen and bondes had collected a vast host as soon as it
was reported that King Olaf was come from Russia, and had arrived
in Svithjod; but when they heard that he had come to Jamtaland,
and intended to proceed westwards over the keel-ridge to Veradal,
they brought their forces into the Throndhjem country, where they
gathered together the whole people, free and unfree, and
proceeded towards Veradal with so great a body of men that there
was nobody in Norway at that time who had seen so large a force
assembled. But the force, as it usually happens in so great a
multitude, consisted of many different sorts of people. There
were many lendermen, and a great many powerful bondes; but the
great mass consisted of labourers and cottars. The chief
strength of this army lay in the Throndhjem land, and it was the
most warm in enmity and opposition to the king.
229. OF BISHOP SIGURD.
When King Canute had, as before related, laid all Norway under
his power, he set Earl Hakon to manage it, and gave the earl a
court-bishop, by name Sigurd, who was of Danish descent, and had
been long with King Canute. This bishop was of a very hot
temper, and particularly obstinate, and haughty in his speech;
but supported King Canute all he could in conversation, and was a
great enemy of King Olaf. He was now also in the bondes' army,
spoke often before the people, and urged them much to
insurrection against King Olaf.
230. BISHOP SIGURD'S SPEECH.
At a House-thing, at which a great many people were assembled,
the bishop desired to be heard, and made the following speech:
"Here are now assembled a great many men, so that probably there
will never be opportunity in this poor country of seeing so great
a native army; but it would be desirable if this strength and
multitude could be a protection; for it will all be needed, if
this Olaf does not give over bringing war and strife upon you.
From his very earliest youth he has been accustomed to plunder
and kill: for which purposes he drove widely around through all
countries, until he turned at last against this, where he began
to show hostilities against the men who were the best and most
powerful; and even against King Canute, whom all are bound to
serve according to their ability, and in whose scat-lands he set
himself down. He did the same to Olaf the Swedish king. He
drove the earls Svein and Hakon away from their heritages; and
was even most tyrannical towards his own connections, as he drove
all the kings out of the Uplands: although, indeed, it was but
just reward for having been false to their oaths of fealty to
King Canute, and having followed this King Olaf in all the folly
he could invent; so their friendship ended according to their
deserts, by this king mutilating some of them, taking their
kingdoms himself, and ruining every man in the country who had an
honourable name. Ye know yourselves how he has treated the
lendermen, of whom many of the worthlest have been murdered, and
many obliged to fly from their country; and how he has roamed far
and wide through the land with robber-bands, burning and
plundering houses, and killing people. Who is the man among us
here of any consideration who has not some great injury from him
to avenge? Now he has come hither with a foreign troop,
consisting mostly of forest-men, vagabonds, and such marauders.
Do ye think he will now be more merciful to you, when he is
roaming about with such a bad crew, after committing devastations
which all who followed him dissuaded him from? Therefore it is
now my advice, that ye remember King Canute's words when he told
you, if King Olaf attempted to return to the country ye should
defend the liberty King Canute had promised you, and should
oppose and drive away such a vile pack. Now the only thing to be
done is to advance against them, and cast forth these malefactors
to the wolves and eagles, leaving their corpses on the spot they
cover, unless ye drag them aside to out-of-the-way corners in the
woods or rocks. No man would be so imprudent as to remove them
to churches, for they are all robbers and evil-doers." When he
had ended his speech it was hailed with the loudest applause, and
all unanimously agreed to act according to his recommendation.
231. OF THE LENDERMEN.
The lendermen who had come together appointed meetings with each
other, and consulted together how they should draw up their
troops, and who should be their leader. Kalf Arnason said that
Harek of Thjotta was best fitted to be the chief of this army,
for he was descended from Harald Harfager's race. "The king also
is particularly enraged against him on account of the murder of
Grankel, and therefore he would be exposed to the severest fate
if Olaf recovered the kingdom; and Harek withal is a man
experienced in battles, and a man who does much for honour
Harek replies, that the men are best suited for this who are in
the flower of their age. "I am now," says he, "an old and
decaying man, not able to do much in battle: besides, there is
near relationship between me and King Olaf; and although he seems
not to put great value upon that tie, it would not beseem me to
go as leader of the hostilities against him, before any other in
this meeting. On the other hand, thou, Thorer, art well suited
to be our chief in this battle against King Olaf; and thou hast
distinct grounds for being so, both because thou hast to avenge
the death of thy relation, and also hast been driven by him as an
outlaw from thy property. Thou hast also promised King Canute,
as well as thy connections, to avenge the murder of thy relative
Asbjorn; and dost thou suppose there ever will be a better
opportunity than this of taking vengeance on Olaf for all these
insults and injuries?"
Thorer replies thus to his speech: "I do not confide in myself so
much as to raise the banner against King Olaf, or, as chief, to
lead on this army; for the people of Throndhjem have the greatest
part in this armament, and I know well their haughty spirit, and
that they would not obey me, or any other Halogaland man,
although I need not be reminded of my injuries to be roused to
vengeance on King Olaf. I remember well my heavy loss when King
Olaf slew four men, all distinguished both by birth and personal
qualities; namely, my brother's son Asbjorn, my sister's sons
Thorer and Grjotgard, and their father Olver; and it is my duty
to take vengeance for each man of them. I will not conceal that
I have selected eleven of my house-servants for that purpose, and
of those who are the most daring; and I do not think we shall be
behind others in exchanging blows with King Olaf, should
opportunity be given."
232. KALF ARNASON'S SPEECH.
Then Kalf Arnason desired to speak. "It is highly necessary,"
says he, "that this business we have on hand do not turn out a
mockery and child-work, now that an army is collected. Something
else is needful, if we are to stand battle with King Olaf, than
that each should shove the danger from himself; for we must
recollect that although King Olaf has not many people compared to
this army of ours, the leader of them is intrepid, and the whole
body of them will be true to him, and obedient in the battle.
But if we who should be the leaders of this army show any fear,
and will not encourage the army and go at the head of it, it must
happen that with the great body of our people the spirit will
leave their hearts, and the next thing will be that each will
seek his own safety. Although we have now a great force
assembled, we shall find our destruction certain, when we meet
King Olaf and his troops, if we, the chiefs of the people, are
not confident in our cause, and have not the whole army
confidently and bravely going along with us. If it cannot be so,
we had better not risk a battle; and then it is easy to see that
nothing would be left us but to shelter ourselves under King
Olaf's mercy, however hard it might be, as then we would be less
guilty than we now may appear to him to be. Yet I know there are
men in his ranks who would secure my life and peace if I would
seek it. Will ye now adopt my proposal -- then shalt thou,
friend Thorer, and thou, Harek, go under the banner which we will
all of us raise up, and then follow. Let us all be speedy and
determined in the resolution we have taken, and put ourselves so
at the head of the bondes' army that they see no distrust in us;
for then will the common man advance with spirit when we go
merrily to work in placing the army in battle-order, and in
encouraging the people to the strife."
When Kalf had ended they all concurred in what he proposed, and
all would do what Kalf thought of advantage. All desired Kalf to
be the leader of the army, and to give each what place in it he
233. HOW THE LENDERMEN SET UP THEIR BANNERS.
Kalf Arnason then raised his banner, and drew up his house-
servants along with Harek of Thjotta and his men. Thorer Hund,
with his troop, was at the head of the order of battle in front
of the banner; and on both sides of Thorer was a chosen body of
bondes, all of them the most active and best armed in the forces.
This part of the array was long and thick, and in it were drawn
up the Throndhjem people and the Halogalanders. On the right
wing was another array; and on the left of the main array were
drawn up the men from Rogaland, Hordaland, the Fjord districts,
and Scgn, and they had the third banner.
234. OF THORSTEIN KNARRARSMID.
There was a man called Thorstein Knarrarsmid, who was a merchant
and master ship-carpenter, stout and strong, very passionate, and
a great manslayer. He had been in enmity against King Olaf, who
had taken from him a new and large merchant-vessel he had built,
on account of some manslaughter-mulct, incurred in the course of
his misdeeds, which he owed to the king. Thorstein, who was with
the bondes' army, went forward in front of the line in which
Thorer Hund stood, and said, "Here I will be, Thorer, in your
ranks; for I think, if I and King Olaf meet, to be the first to
strive a weapon at him, if I can get so near, to repay him for
the robbery of the ship he took from me, which was the best that
ever went on merchant voyage." Thorer and his men received
Thorstein, and he went into their ranks.
235. OF THE PREPARATIONS OF THE BONDES.
When the bondes' men and array were drawn up the lendermen
addressed the men, and ordered them to take notice of the place
to which each man belonged, under which banner each should be,
who there were in front of the banner, who were his side-men, and
that they should be brisk and quick in taking up their places in
the array; for the army had still to go a long way, and the array
might be broken in the course of march. Then they encouraged the
people; and Kalf invited all the men who had any injury to avenge
on King Olaf to place themselves under the banner which was
advancing against King Olaf's own banner. They should remember
the distress he had brought upon them; and, he said, never was
there a better opportunity to avenge their grievances, and to
free themselves from the yoke and slavery he had imposed on them.
"Let him," says he, "be held a useless coward who does not fight
this day boldly; and they are not innocents who are opposed to
you, but people who will not spare you if ye spare them."
Kalf's speech was received with loud applause, and shouts of
encouragement were heard through the whole army.
236. OF THE KING'S AND THE BONDES' ARMIES.
Thereafter the bondes' army advanced to Stiklestad, where King
Olaf was already with his people. Kalf and Harek went in front,
at the head of the army under their banners. But the battle did
not begin immediately on their meeting; for the bondes delayed
the assault, because all their men were not come upon the plain,
and they waited for those who came after them. Thorer Hund had
come up with his troop the last, for he had to take care that the
men did not go off behind when the battlecry was raised, or the
armies were closing with each other; and therefore Kalf and Harek
waited for Thorer. For the encouragement of their men in the
battle the bondes had the field-cry -- "Forward, forward,
bondemen!" King Olaf also made no attack, for he waited for Dag
and the people who followed him. At last the king saw Dag and
his men approaching. It is said that the army of the bondes was
not less on this day than a hundred times a hundred men. Sigvat
the skald speaks thus of the numbers: --
"I grieve to think the king had brought
Too small a force for what he sought:
He held his gold too fast to bring
The numbers that could make him king.
The foemen, more than two to one,
The victory by numbers won;
And this alone, as I've heard say,
Against King Olaf turned the day."
237. MEETING OF THE KING AND THE BONDES.
As the armies on both sides stood so near that people knew each
other, the king said, "Why art thou here, Kalf, for we parted
good friends south in More? It beseems thee ill to fight against
us, or to throw a spear into our army; for here are four of thy
Kalf replied, "Many things come to pass differently from what may
appear seemly. You parted from us so that it was necessary to
seek peace with those who were behind in the country. Now each
must remain where he stands; but if I might advise, we should be
Then Fin, his brother, answered, "This is to be observed of Kalf,
that when he speaks fairly he has it in his mind to do ill."
The king answered, "It may be, Kalf, that thou art inclined to
reconciliation; but, methinks, the bondes do not appear so
Then Thorgeir of Kviststad said, "You shall now have such peace
as many formerly have received at your hands, and which you shall
now pay for."
The king replies, "Thou hast no occasion to hasten so much to
meet us; for fate has not decreed to thee to-day a victory over
me, who raised thee to power and dignity from a mean station."
238. BEGINNING OF THE BATTLE OF STIKLESTAD.
Now came Thorer Hund, went forward in front of the banner with
his troop, and called out, "Forward, forward, bondemen!"
Thereupon the bondemen raised the war-cry, and shot their arrows
and spears. The king's men raised also a war-shout; and that
done, encouraged each other to advance, crying out, "Forward,
forward, Christ-men! cross-men! king's men!" When the bondes
who stood outermost on the wings heard it, they repeated the same
cry; but when the other bondes heard them they thought these were
king's men, turned their arms against them, and they fought
together, and many were slain before they knew each other. The
weather was beautiful, and the sun shone clear; but when the
battle began the heaven and the sun became red, and before the
battle ended it became as dark as at night. King Olaf had drawn
up his army upon a rising ground, and it rushed down from thence
upon the bonde-army with such a fierce assault, that the bondes'
array went before it; so that the breast of the king's array came
to stand upon the ground on which the rear of the bondes' array
had stood, and many of the bondes' army were on the way to fly,
but the lendermen and their house-men stood fast, and the battle
became very severe. So says Sigvat: --
"Thundered the ground beneath their tread,
As, iron-clad, thick-tramping, sped
The men-at-arms, in row and rank,
Past Stiklestad's sweet grassy bank.
The clank of steel, the bowstrings' twang,
The sounds of battle, loudly rang;
And bowman hurried on advancing,
Their bright helms in the sunshine glancing."
The lendermen urged their men, and forced them to advance.
Sigvat speaks of this: --
"Midst in their line their banner flies,
Thither the stoutest bonde hies:
But many a bonde thinks of home,
And many wish they ne'er had come."
Then the bonde-army pushed on from all quarters. They who stood
in front hewed down with their swords; they who stood next thrust
with their spears; and they who stood hindmost shot arrows, cast
spears, or threw stones, hand-axes, or sharp stakes. Soon there
was a great fall of men in the battle. Many were down on both
sides. In the first onset fell Arnljot Gelline, Gauka-Thorer,
and Afrafaste, with all their men, after each had killed a man or
two, and some indeed more. Now the ranks in front of the king's
banner began to be thinned, and the king ordered Thord to carry
the banner forward, and the king himself followed it with the
troop he had chosen to stand nearest to him in battle; and these
were the best armed men in the field, and the most expert in the
use of their weapons. Sigvat the skald tells of this: --
"Loud was the battle-storm there,
Where the king's banner flamed in air.
The king beneath his banner stands,
And there the battle he commands."
Olaf came forth from behind the shield-bulwark, and put himself
at the head of the army; and when the bondes looked him in the
face they were frightened, and let their hands drop. So says
"I think I saw them shrink with fear
Who would not shrink from foeman's spear,
When Olaf's lion-eye was cast
On them, and called up all the past.
Clear as the serpent's eye -- his look
No Throndhjem man could stand, but shook
Beneath its glance, and skulked away,
Knowing his king, and cursed the day."
The combat became fierce, and the king went forward in the fray.
So says Sigvat: --
"When on they came in fierce array,
And round the king arose the fray,
With shield on arm brave Olaf stood,
Dyeing his sword in their best blood.
For vengeance on his Throndhjem foes,
On their best men he dealt his blows;
He who knew well death's iron play,
To his deep vengeance gave full sway."
239. THORGEIR OF KVISTSTAD'S FALL.
King Olaf fought most desperately. He struck the lenderman
before mentioned (Thorgeir of Kviststad) across the face, cut off
the nose-piece of his helmet, and clove his head down below the
eyes so that they almost fell out. When he fell the king said,
"Was it not true, Thorgeir, what I told thee, that thou shouldst
not be victor in our meeting?" At the same instant Thord stuck
the banner-pole so fast in the earth that it remained standing.
Thord had got his death-wound, and fell beneath the banner.
There also fell Thorfin Mun, and also Gissur Gullbrarskald, who
was attacked by two men, of whom he killed one, but only wounded
the other before he fell. So says Hofgardaref: --
"Bold in the Iron-storm was he,
Firm and stout as forest tree,
The hero who, 'gainst two at once,
Made Odin's fire from sword-edge glance;
Dealing a death-blow to the one,
Known as a brave and generous man,
Wounding the other, ere he fell, --
His bloody sword his deeds showed well."
It happened then, as before related, that the sun, although the
air was clear, withdrew from the sight, and it became dark. Of
this Sigvat the skald speaks: --
"No common wonder in the sky
Fell out that day -- the sun on high,
And not a cloud to see around,
Shone not, nor warmed Norway's ground.
The day on which fell out this fight
Was marked by dismal dusky light,
This from the East I heard -- the end
Of our great king it did portend."
At the same time Dag Hringson came up with his people, and began
to put his men in array, and to set up his banner; but on account
of the darkness the onset could not go on so briskly, for they
could not see exactly whom they had before them. They turned,
however, to that quarter where the men of Hordaland and Rogaland
stood. Many of these circumstances took place at the same time,
and some happened a little earlier, and some a little later.
240. KING OLAF'S FALL.
On the one side of Kalf Arnason stood his two relations, Olaf and
Kalf, with many other brave and stout men. Kalf was a son of
Arnfin Arnmodson, and a brother's son of Arne Arnmodson. On the
other side of Kalf Arnason stood Thorer Hund. King Olaf hewed at
Thorer Hund, and struck him across the shoulders; but the sword
would not cut, and it was as if dust flew from his reindeer-skin
coat. So says Sigvat: --
"The king himself now proved the power
Of Fin-folk's craft in magic hour,
With magic song; for stroke of steel
Thor's reindeer coat would never feel,
Bewitched by them it turned the stroke
Of the king's sword, -- a dust-like smoke
Rose from Thor's shoulders from the blow
Which the king though would end his foe."
Thorer struck at the king, and they exchanged some blows; but the
king's sword would not cut where it met the reindeer skin,
although Thorer was wounded in the hands. Sigvat sang thus of
"Some say that Thorer's not right bold;
Why never yet have I been told
Of one who did a bolder thing
Than to change blows with his true king.
Against his king his sword to wield,
Leaping across the shield on shield
Which fenced the king round in the fight,
Shows the dog's (1) courage -- brave, not bright."
The king said to Bjorn the marshal, "Do thou kill the dog on whom
steel will not bite." Bjorn turned round the axe in his hands,
and gave Thorer a blow with the hammer of it on the shoulder so
hard that he tottered. The king at the same moment turned
against Kalf and his relations, and gave Olaf his death-wound.
Thorer Hund struck his spear right through the body of Marshal
Bjorn, and killed him outright; and Thorer said, "It is thus we
hunt the bear." (2) Thorstein Knarrarsmid struck at King Olaf
with his axe, and the blow hit his left leg above the knee. Fin
Arnason instantly killed Thorstein. The king after the wound
staggered towards a stone, threw down his sword, and prayed God
to help him. Then Thorer Hund struck at him with his spear, and
the stroke went in under his mail-coat and into his belly. Then
Kalf struck at him on the left side of the neck. But all are not
agreed upon Kalf having been the man who gave him the wound in
the neck. These three wounds were King Olaf's death; and after
the king's death the greater part of the forces which had
advanced with him fell with the king. Bjarne Gullbrarskald sang
these verses about Kalf Arnason: --
"Warrior! who Olaf dared withstand,
Who against Olaf held the land,
Thou hast withstood the bravest, best,
Who e'er has gone to his long rest.
At Stiklestad thou wast the head;
With flying banners onwards led
Thy bonde troops, and still fought on,
Until he fell -- the much-mourned one."
Sigvat also made these verses on Bjorn: --
"The marshal Bjorn, too, I find,
A great example leaves behind,
How steady courage should stand proof,
Though other servants stand aloof.
To Russia first his steps he bent,
To serve his master still intent;
And now besides his king he fell, --
A noble death for skalds to tell."
(1) Thorer's name was Hund -- the dog; and a play upon Thorer
Hund's name was intended by the skald. -- L.
(2) Bjorn, the marshal's name, signifies a bear. -- L.
241. BEGINNING OF DAG HRINGSON'S ATTACK.
Dag Hringson still kept up the battle, and made in the beginning
so fierce an assault that the bondes gave way, and some betook
themselves to flight. There a great number of the bondes fell,
and these lendermen, Erlend of Gerde and Aslak of Finey; and the
banner also which they had stood under was cut down. This onset
was particularly hot, and was called Dag's storm. But now Kalf
Arnason, Harek of Thjotta, and Thorer Hund turned against Dag,
with the array which had followed them, and then Dag was
overwhelmed with numbers; so he betook himself to flight with the
men still left him. There was a valley through which the main
body of the fugitives fled, and men lay scattered in heaps on
both sides; and many were severely wounded, and many so fatigued
that they were fit for nothing. The bondes pursued only a short
way; for their leaders soon returned back to the field of battle,
where they had their friends and relations to look after.
240. KING OLAF'S MIRACLE SHOWN TO THORER HUND.
Thorer Hund went to where King Olaf's body lay, took care of it,
laid it straight out on the ground, and spread a cloak over it.
He told since that when he wiped the blood from the face it was
very beautiful; and there was red in the cheeks, as if he only
slept, and even much clearer than when he was in life. The
king's blood came on Thorer's hand, and ran up between his
fingers to where he had been wounded, and the wound grew up so
speedily that it did not require to be bound up. This
circumstance was testified by Thorer himself when King Olaf's
holiness came to be generally known among the people; and Thorer
Hund was among the first of the king's powerful opponents who
endeavoured to spread abroad the king's sanctity.
243. OF KALF ARNASON'S BROTHERS.
Kalf Arnason searched for his brothers who had fallen, and found
Thorberg and Fin. It is related that Fin threw his dagger at
him, and wanted to kill him, giving him hard words, and calling
him a faithless villain, and a traitor to his king. Kalf did not
regard it, but ordered Fin and Thorberg to be carried away from
the field. When their wounds were examined they were found not
to be deadly, and they had fallen from fatigue, and under the
weight of their weapons. Thereafter Kalf tried to bring his
brothers down to a ship, and went himself with them. As soon as
he was gone the whole bonde-army, having their homes in the
neighbourhood, went off also, excepting those who had friends or
relations to look after, or the bodies of the slain to take care
of. The wounded were taken home to the farms, so that every
house was full of them; and tents were erected over some. But
wonderful as was the number collected in the bonde-army, no less
wonderful was the haste with which this vast body was dispersed
when it was once free; and the cause of this was, that the most
of the people gathered together from the country places were
longing for their homes.
244. OF THE BONDES OF VERADAL.
The bondes who had their homes in Veradal went to the chiefs
Harek and Thorer, and complained of their distress, saying, "The
fugitives who have escaped from the battle have proceeded up over
the valley of Veradal, and are destroying our habitations, and
there is no safety for us to travel home so long as they are in
the valley. Go after them with war-force, and let no mother's
son of them escape with life; for that is what they intended for
us if they had got the upper hand in the battle, and the same
they would do now if they met us hereafter, and had better luck
than we. It may also be that they will linger in the valley if
they have nothing to be frightened for, and then they would not
proceed very gently in the inhabited country." The bondes made
many words about this, urging the chiefs to advance directly, and
kill those who had escaped. Now when the chiefs talked over this
matter among themselves, they thought there was much truth in
what the bondes said. They resolved, therefore, that Thorer Hund
should undertake this expedition through Veradal, with 600 men of
his own troops. Then, towards evening, he set out with his men;
and Thorer continued his march without halt until he came in the
night to Sula, where he heard the news that Dag Hringson had come
there in the evening, with many other flocks of the king's men,
and had halted there until they took supper, but were afterwards
gone up to the mountains. Then Thorer said he did not care to
pursue them up through the mountains, and he returned down the
valley again, and they did not kill many of them this time. The
bondes then returned to their homes, and the following day
Thorer, with his people, went to their ships. The part of the
king's men who were still on their legs concealed themselves in
the forests, and some got help from the people.
245. OF THE KING'S BROTHER, HARALD SIGURDSON.
Harald Sigurdson was severely wounded; but Ragnvald Brusason
brought him to a bonde's the night after the battle, and the
bonde took in Harald, and healed his wound in secret, and
afterwards gave him his son to attend him. They went secretly
over the mountains, and through the waste forests, and came out
in Jamtaland. Harald Sigurdson was fifteen years old when King
Olaf fell. In Jamtaland Harald found Ragnvald Brusason; and they
went both east to King Jarisleif in Russia, as is related in the
Saga of Harald Sigurdson.
246. OF THORMOD KOLBRUNARSKALD.
Thormod Kolbrunarskald was under King Olaf's banner in the
battle; but when the king had fallen, the battle was raging so
that of the king's men the one fell by the side of the other, and
the most of those who stood on their legs were wounded. Thormod
was also severely wounded, and retired, as all the others did,
back from where there was most danger of life, and some even
fled. Now when the onset began which is called Dag's storm, all
of the king's men who were able to combat went there; but Thormod
did not come into that combat, being unable to fight, both from
his wound and from weariness, but he stood by the side of his
comrade in the ranks, although he could do nothing. There he was
struck by an arrow in the left side; but he broke off the shaft
of the arrow, went out of the battle, and up towards the houses,
where he came to a barn which was a large building. Thormod had
his drawn sword in his hand; and as he went in a man met him,
coming out, and said, "It is very bad there with howling and
screaming; and a great shame it is that brisk young fellows
cannot bear their wounds: it may be that the king's men have done
bravely to-day, but they certainly bear their wounds very ill."
Thormod asks. "What is thy name?"
He called himself Kimbe.
Thormod: "Wast thou in the battle, too?"
"I was with the bondes, which was the best side," says he.
"And art thou wounded any way?" says Thormod.
"A little," said Kimbe. "And hast thou been in the battle too?"
Thormod replied, "I was with them who had the best."
"Art thou wounded?" says Kimbe.
"Not much to signify," replies Thormod.
As Kimbe saw that Thormod had a gold ring on his arm, he said,
"Thou art certainly a king's man. Give me thy gold ring, and I
will hide thee. The bondes will kill thee if thou fallest in
Thormod says, "Take the ring if thou canst get it: I have lost
that which is more worth."
Kimbe stretched out his hand, and wanted to take the ring; but
Thormod, swinging his sword, cut off his hand; and it is related
that Kimbe behaved himself no better under his wound than those
he had been blaming just before. Kimbe went off, and Thormod sat
down in the barn, and listened to what people were saying. The
conversation was mostly about what each had seen in the battle,
and about the valour of the combatants. Some praised most King
Olaf's courage, and some named others who stood nowise behind him
in bravery. Then Thormod sang these verses: --
"Olaf was brave beyond all doubt, --
At Stiklestad was none so stout;
Spattered with blood, the king, unsparing,
Cheered on his men with deed and daring.
But I have heard that some were there
Who in the fight themselves would spare;
Though, in the arrow-storm, the most
Had perils quite enough to boast."
247. THORMOD'S DEATH.
Thormod went out, and entered into a chamber apart, in which
there were many wounded men, and with them a woman binding their
wounds. There was fire upon the floor, at which she warmed water
to wash and clean their wounds. Thormod sat himself down beside
the door, and one came in, and another went out, of those who
were busy about the wounded men. One of them turned to Thormod,
looked at him, and said, "Why art thou so dead-pale? Art thou
wounded? Why dost thou not call for the help of the wound-
healers?" Thormod then sang these verses: --
"I am not blooming, and the fair
And slender girl loves to care
For blooming youths -- few care for me;
With Fenja's meal I cannot fee.
This is the reason why I feel
The slash and thrust of Danish steel;
And pale and faint, and bent with pain,
Return from yonder battle-plain."
Then Thormod stood up and went in towards the fire, and stood
there awhile. The young woman said to him, "Go out, man, and
bring in some of the split firewood which lies close beside the
door." He went out and brought in an armful of wood, which he
threw down upon the floor. Then the nurse-girl looked him in the
face, and said, "Dreadfully pale is this man -- why art thou so?"
Then Thormod sang: --
"Thou wonderest, sweet sprig, at me,
A man so hideous to see:
Deep wounds but rarely mend the face,
The crippling blow gives little grace.
The arrow-drift o'ertook me, girl, --
A fine-ground arrow in the whirl
Went through me, and I feel the dart
Sits, lovely girl, too near my heart."
The girl said, "Let me see thy wound, and I will bind it."
Thereupon Thormod sat down, cast off his clothes, and the girl
saw his wounds, and examined that which was in his side, and felt
that a piece of iron was in it, but could not find where the iron
had gone in. In a stone pot she had stirred together leeks and
other herbs, and boiled them, and gave the wounded men of it to
eat, by which she discovered if the wounds had penetrated into
the belly; for if the wound had gone so deep, it would smell of
leek. She brought some of this now to Thormod, and told him to
eat of it. He replied, "Take it away, I have no appetite for my
broth." Then she took a large pair of tongs, and tried to pull
out the iron; but it sat too fast, and would in no way come, and
as the wound was swelled, little of it stood out to lay hold of.
Now said Thormod, "Cut so deep in that thou canst get at the iron
with the tongs, and give me the tongs and let me pull." She did
as he said. Then Thormod took a gold ring from his hand, gave it
to the nurse-woman, and told her to do with it what she liked.
"It is a good man's gift," said he: "King Olaf gave me the ring
this morning." Then Thormod took the tongs, and pulled the iron
out; but on the iron there was a hook, at which there hung some
morsels of flesh from the heart, -- some white, some red. When
he saw that, he said, "The king has fed us well. I am fat, even
at the heart-roots;" and so saying he leant back, and was dead.
And with this ends what we have to say about Thormod.
248. OF SOME CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE BATTLE.
King Olaf fell on Wednesday, the 29th of July (A.D. 1030). It
was near mid-day when the two armies met, and the battle began
before half-past one, and before three the king fell. The
darkness continued from about half-past one to three also.
Sigvat the skald speaks thus of the result of the battle: --
"The loss was great to England's foes,
When their chief fell beneath the blows
By his own thoughtless people given, --
When the king's shield in two was riven.
The people's sovereign took the field,
The people clove the sovereign's shield.
Of all the chiefs that bloody day,
Dag only came out of the fray."
And he composed these: --
"Such mighty bonde-power, I ween,
With chiefs or rulers ne'er was seen.
It was the people's mighty power
That struck the king that fatal hour.
When such a king, in such a strife,
By his own people lost his life,
Full many a gallant man must feel
The death-wound from the people's steel."
The bondes did not spoil the slain upon the field of battle, for
immediately after the battle there came upon many of them who had
been against the king a kind of dread as it were; yet they held
by their evil inclination, for they resolved among themselves
that all who had fallen with the king should not receive the
interment which belongs to good men, but reckoned them all
robbers and outlaws. But the men who had power, and had
relations on the field, cared little for this, but removed their
remains to the churches, and took care of their burial.
249. A MIRACLE ON A BLIND MAN.
Thorgils Halmason and his son Grim went to the field of battle
towards evening when it was dusk, took King Olaf's corpse up, and
bore it to a little empty houseman's hut which stood on the other
side of their farm. They had light and water with them. Then
they took the clothes off the body, swathed it in a linen cloth,
laid it down in the house, and concealed it under some firewood
so that nobody could see it, even if people came into the hut.
Thereafter they went home again to the farmhouse. A great many
beggars and poor people had followed both armies, who begged for
meat; and the evening after the battle many remained there, and
sought lodging round about in all the houses, great or small. It
is told of a blind man who was poor, that a boy attended him and
led him. They went out around the farm to seek a lodging, and
came to the same empty house, of which the door was so low that
they had almost to creep in. Now when the blind man had come in,
he fumbled about the floor seeking a place where he could lay
himself down. He had a hat on his head, which fell down over his
face when he stooped down. He felt with his hands that there was
moisture on the floor, and he put up his wet hand to raise his
hat, and in doing so put his fingers on his eyes. There came
immediately such an itching in his eyelids, that he wiped the
water with his fingers from his eyes, and went out of the hut,
saying nobody could lie there, it was so wet. When he came out
of the hut he could distinguish his hands, and all that was near
him, as far as things can be distinguished by sight in the
darkness of light; and he went immediately to the farm-house into
the room, and told all the people he had got his sight again, and
could see everything, although many knew he had been blind for a
long time, for he had been there, before, going about among the
houses of the neighbourhood. He said he first got his sight when
he was coming out of a little ruinous hut which was all wet
inside. "I groped in the water," said he, "and rubbed my eyes
with my wet hands." He told where the hut stood. The people who
heard him wondered much at this event, and spoke among themselves
of what it could be that produced it: but Thorgils the peasant
and his son Grim thought they knew how this came to pass; and as
they were much afraid the king's enemies might go there and
search the hut, they went and took the body out of it, and
removed it to a garden, where they concealed it, and then
returned to the farm, and slept there all night.
250. OF THORER HUND.
The fifth day (Thursday), Thorer Hund came down the valley of
Veradal to Stiklestad; and many people, both chiefs and bondes,
accompanied him. The field of battle was still being cleared,
and people were carrying away the bodies of their friends and
relations, and were giving the necessary help to such of the
wounded as they wished to save; but many had died since the
battle. Thorer Hund went to where the king had fallen, and
searched for his body; but not finding it, he inquired if any one
could tell him what had become of the corpse, but nobody could
tell him where it was. Then he asked the bonde Thorgils, who
said, "I was not in the battle, and knew little of what took
place there; but many reports are abroad, and among others that
King Olaf has been seen in the night up at Staf, and a troop of
people with him: but if he fell in the battle, your men must
have concealed him in some hole, or under some stone-heap." Now
although Thorer Hund knew for certain that the king had fallen,
many allowed themselves to believe, and to spread abroad the
report, that the king had escaped from the battle, and would in a
short time come again upon them with an army. Then Thorer went
to his ships, and sailed down the fjord, and the bonde-army
dispersed, carrying with them all the wounded men who could bear
to be removed.
251. OF KING OLAF'S BODY.
Thorgils Halmason and his son Grim had King Olaf's body, and were
anxious about preserving it from falling into the hands of the
king's enemies, and being ill-treated; for they heard the bondes
speaking about burning it, or sinking it in the sea. The father
and son had seen a clear light burning at night over the spot on
the battlefield where King Olaf's body lay, and since, while they
concealed it, they had always seen at night a light burning over
the corpse; therefore they were afraid the king's enemies might
seek the body where this signal was visible. They hastened,
therefore, to take the body to a place where it would be safe.
Thorgils and his son accordingly made a coffin, which they
adorned as well as they could, and laid the king's body in it;
and afterwards made another coffin in which they laid stones and
straw, about as much as the weight of a man, and carefully closed
the coffins. As soon as the whole bonde-army had left
Stiklestad, Thorgils and his son made themselves ready, got a
large rowing-boat, and took with them seven or eight men, who
were all Thorgil's relations or friends, and privately took the
coffin with the king's body down to the boat, and set it under
the foot-boards. They had also with them the coffin containing
the stones, and placed it in the boat where all could see it; and
then went down the fjord with a good opportunity of wind and
weather, and arrived in the dusk of the evening at Nidaros, where
they brought up at the king's pier. Then Thorgils sent some of
his men up to the town to Bishop Sigurd, to say that they were
come with the king's body. As soon as the bishop heard this
news, he sent his men down to the pier, and they took a small
rowing-boat, came alongside of Thorgil's ship, and demanded the
king's body. Thorgils and his people then took the coffin which
stood in view, and bore it into the boat; and the bishop's men
rowed out into the fjord, and sank the coffin in the sea. It was
now quite dark. Thorgils and his people now rowed up into the
river past the town, and landed at a place called Saurhlid, above
the town. Then they carried the king's body to an empty house
standing at a distance from other houses, and watched over it for
the night, while Thorgils went down to the town, where he spoke
with some of the best friends of King Olaf, and asked them if
they would take charge of the king's body; but none of them dared
to do so. Then Thorgils and his men went with the body higher up
the river, buried it in a sand-hill on the banks, and levelled
all around it so that no one could observe that people had been
at work there. They were ready with all this before break of
day, when they returned to their vessel, went immediately out of
the river, and proceeded on their way home to Stiklestad.
252. OF THE BEGINNING OF KING SVEIN ALFIFASON'S GOVERNMENT.
Svein, a son of King Canute, and of Alfifa, a daughter of Earl
Alfrin, had been appointed to govern Jomsborg in Vindland. There
came a message to him from his father King Canute, that he should
come to Denmark; and likewise that afterwards he should proceed
to Norway, and take that kingdom under his charge, and assume, at
the same time, the title of king of Norway. Svein repaired to
Denmark, and took many people with him from thence, and also Earl
Harald and many other people of consequence attended him.
Thorarin Loftunga speaks of this in the song he composed about
King Svein, called the "Glelogn Song": --
"'Tis told by fame,
How grandly came
The Danes to tend
Their young king Svein.
Grandest was he,
That all could see;
Then, one by one,
Each following man
More splendour wore
Than him before."
Then Svein proceeded to Norway, and his mother Alfifa was with
him; and he was taken to be king at every Law-thing in the
country. He had already come as far as Viken at the time the
battle was fought at Stiklestad, and King Olaf fell. Svein
continued his journey until he came north, in autumn, to the
Throndhjem country; and there, as elsewhere, he was received as
253. OF KING SVEIN'S LAWS.
King Svein introduced new laws in many respects into the country,
partly after those which were in Denmark, and in part much more
severe. No man must leave the country without the king's
permission; or if he did, his property fell to the king. Whoever
killed a man outright, should forfeit all his land and movables.
If any one was banished the country, and all heritage fell to
him, the king took his inheritance. At Yule every man should pay
the king a meal of malt from every harvest steading, and a leg of
a three-year old ox, which was called a friendly gift, together
with a spand of butter; and every house-wife a rock full of
unspun lint, as thick as one could span with the longest fingers
of the hand. The bondes were bound to build all the houses the
king required upon his farms. Of every seven males one should be
taken for the service of war, and reckoning from the fifth year
of age; and the outfit of ships should be reckoned in the same
proportion. Every man who rowed upon the sea to fish should pay
the king five fish as a tax, for the land defence, wherever he
might come from. Every ship that went out of the country should
have stowage reserved open for the king in the middle of the
ship. Every man, foreigner or native, who went to Iceland,
should pay a tax to the king. And to all this was added, that
Danes should enjoy so much consideration in Norway, that one
witness of them should invalidate ten of Northmen (1).
When these laws were promulgated the minds of the people were
instantly raised against them, and murmurs were heard among them.
They who had not taken part against King Olaf said, "Now take
your reward and friendship from the Canute race, ye men of the
interior Throndhjem who fought against King Olaf, and deprived
him of his kingdom. Ye were promised peace and justice, and now
ye have got oppression and slavery for your great treachery and
crime." Nor was it very easy to contradict them, as all men saw
how miserable the change had been. But people had not the
boldness to make an insurrection against King Svein, principally
because many had given King Canute their sons or other near
relations as hostages; and also because no one appeared as leader
of an insurrection. They very soon, however, complained of King
Svein; and his mother Alfifa got much of the blame of all that
was against their desire. Then the truth, with regard to Olaf,
became evident to many.
(1) This may probably have referred not to witnesses of an act,
but to the class of witnesses in the jurisprudence of the
Middle Ages called compurgators, who testified not the fact,
but their confidence in the statements of the accused; and
from which, possibly, our English bail for offenders arose.
254. OF KING OLAF'S SANCTITY.
This winter (A.D. 1031) many in the Throndhjem land began to
declare that Olaf was in reality a holy man, and his sanctity was
confirmed by many miracles. Many began to make promises and
prayers to King Olaf in the matters in which they thought they
required help, and many found great benefit from these
invocations. Some in respect of health, others of a journey, or
other circumstances in which such help seemed needful.
255. OF EINAR TAMBASKELFER.
Einar Tambaskelfer was come home from England to his farm, and
had the fiefs which King Canute had given him when they met in
Throndhjem, and which were almost an earldom. Einar had not been
in the strife against King Olaf, and congratulated himself upon
it. He remembered that King Canute had promised him the earldom
over Norway, and at the same time remembered that King Canute had
not kept his promise. He was accordingly the first great person
who looked upon King Olaf as a saint.
256. OF THE SONS OF ARNE.
Fin Arnason remained but a short time at Eggja with his brother
Kalf; for he was in the highest degree ill-pleased that Kalf had
been in the battle against King Olaf, and always made his brother
the bitterest reproaches on this account. Thorberg Arnason was
much more temperate in his discourse than Fin; but yet he
hastened away, and went home to his farm. Kalf gave the two
brothers a good long-ship, with full rigging and other
necessaries, and a good retinue. Therefore they went home to
their farms, and sat quietly at home. Arne Arnason lay long ill
of his wounds, but got well at last without injury of any limb,
and in winter he proceeded south to his farm. All the brothers
made their peace with King Svein, and sat themselves quietly down
in their homes.
257. BISHOP SIGURD'S FLIGHT.
The summer after (A.D. 1031) there was much talk about King
Olaf's sanctity, and there was a great alteration in the
expressions of all people concerning him. There were many who
now believed that King Olaf must be a saint, even among those who
had persecuted him with the greatest animosity, and would never
in their conversation allow truth or justice in his favour.
People began then to turn their reproaches against the men who
had principally excited opposition to the king; and on this
account Bishop Sigurd in particular was accused. He got so many
enemies, that he found it most advisable to go over to England to
King Canute. Then the Throndhjem people sent men with a verbal
message to the Uplands, to Bishop Grimkel, desiring him to come
north to Throndhjem. King Olaf had sent Bishop Grimkel back to
Norway when he went east into Russia, and since that time Grimkel
had been in the Uplands. When the message came to the bishop he
made ready to go, and it contributed much to this journey that
the bishop considered it as true what was told of King Olaf's
miracles and sanctity.
258. KING OLAF THE SAINT'S REMAINS DISINTERRED.
Bishop Grimkel went to Einar Tambaskelfer, who received him
joyfully. They talked over many things, and, among others, of
the important events which had taken place in the country; and
concerning these they were perfectly agreed. Then the bishop
proceeded to the town (Nidaros), and was well received by all the
community. He inquired particularly concerning the miracles of
King Olaf that were reported, and received satisfactory accounts
of them. Thereupon the bishop sent a verbal message to
Stiklestad to Thorgils and his son Grim, inviting them to come to
the town to him. They did not decline the invitation, but set
out on the road immediately, and came to the town and to the
bishop. They related to him all the signs that had presented
themselves to them, and also where they had deposited the king"s
body. The bishop sent a message to Einar Tambaskelfer, who came
to the town. Then the bishop and Einar had an audience of the
king and Alfifa, in which they asked the king's leave to have
King Olaf's body taken up out of the earth. The king gave his
permission, and told the bishop to do as he pleased in the
matter. At that time there were a great many people in the town.
The bishop, Einar, and some men with them, went to the place
where the king's body was buried, and had the place dug; but the
coffin had already raised itself almost to the surface of the
earth. It was then the opinion of many that the bishop should
proceed to have the king buried in the earth at Clement's church;
and it was so done. Twelve months and five days (Aug. 3, A.D.
1031), after King Olaf's death his holy remains were dug up, and
the coffin had raised itself almost entirely to the surface of
the earth; and the coffin appeared quite new, as if it had but
lately been made. When Bishop Grimkel came to King Olaf's opened
coffin, there was a delightful and fresh smell. Thereupon the
bishop uncovered the king's face, and his appearance was in no
respect altered, and his cheeks were as red as if he had but just
fallen asleep. The men who had seen King Olaf when he fell
remarked, also, that his hair and nails had grown as much as if
he had lived on the earth all the time that had passed since his
fall. Thereupon King Svein, and all the chiefs who were at the
place, went out to see King Olaf's body. Then said Alfifa,
"People buried in sand rot very slowly, and it would not have
been so if he had been buried in earth." Afterwards the bishop
took scissors, clipped the king's hair, and arranged his beard;
for he had had a long beard, according to the fashion of that
time. Then said the bishop to the king and Alfifa, "Now the
king's hair and beard are such as when he gave up the ghost, and
it has grown as much as ye see has been cut off." Alfifa
answers, "I will believe in the sanctity of his hair, if it will
not burn in the fire; but I have often seen men's hair whole and
undamaged after lying longer in the earth than this man's." Then
the bishop had live coals put into a pan, blessed it, cast
incense upon it, and then laid King Olaf's hair on the fire.
When all the incense was burnt the bishop took the hair out of
the fire, and showed the king and the other chiefs that it was
not consumed. Now Alfifa asked that the hair should be laid upon
unconsecrated fire; but Einar Tambaskelfer told her to be silent,
and gave her many severe reproaches for her unbelief. After the
bishop's recognition, with the king's approbation and the
decision of the Thing, it was determined that King Olaf should be
considered a man truly holy; whereupon his body was transported
into Clement's church, and a place was prepared for it near the
high altar. The coffin was covered with costly cloth, and stood
under a gold embroidered tent. Many kinds of miracles were soon
wrought by King Olaf's holy remains.
259. OF KING OLAF'S MIRACLES.
In the sand-hill where King Olaf's body had lain on the ground a
beautiful spring of water came up and many human ailments and
infirmities were cured by its waters. Things were put in order
around it, and the water ever since has been carefully preserved.
There was first a chapel built, and an altar consecrated, where
the king's body had lain; but now Christ's church stands upon the
spot. Archbishop Eystein had a high altar raised upon the spot
where the king's grave had been, when he erected the great temple
which now stands there; and it is the same spot on which the
altar of the old Christ church had stood. It is said that Olaf's
church stands on the spot on which the empty house had stood in
which King Olaf's body had been laid for the night. The place
over which the holy remains of King Olaf were carried up from the
vessel is now called Olaf's Road, and is now in the middle of the
town. The bishop adorned King Olaf's holy remains, and cut his
nails and hair; for both grew as if he had still been alive. So
says Sigvat the skald: --
"I lie not, when I say the king
Seemed as alive in every thing:
His nails, his yellow hair still growing,
And round his ruddy cheek still flowing,
As when, to please the Russian queen,
His yellow locks adorned were seen;
Or to the blind he cured he gave
A tress, their precious sight to save."
Thorarin Loftunga also composed a song upon Svein Alfifason,
called the "Glelogn Song", in which are these verses: --
"Svein, king of all,
In Olaf's hall
Now sits on high;
And Olaf's eye
Looks down from heaven,
Where it is given
To him to dwell:
Or here in cell,
As heavenly saint,
To heal men's plaint,
May our gold-giver
Live here for ever!
"King Olaf there
To hold a share
On earth prepared,
Nor labour spared
A seat to win
From heaven's great King;
Which he has won
Next God's own Son.
"His holy form,
Untouched by worm,
Lies at this day
Where good men pray,
And nails and hair
Grow fresh and fair;
His cheek is red,
His flesh not dead.
"Around his bier,
Good people hear
The small bells ring
Over the king,
Or great bell toll;
And living soul
Not one can tell
Who tolls the bell.
"Tapers up there,
(Which Christ holds dear,)
By day and night
The altar light:
Olaf did so,
And all men know
In heaven he
From sin sits free.
"And crowds do come,
The deaf and dumb,
Cripple and blind,
Sick of all kind,
Cured to be
On bended knee;
And off the ground
Rise whole and sound.
"To Olaf pray
To eke thy day,
To save thy land
From spoiler's hand.
God's man is he
To deal to thee
Good crops and peace;
Let not prayer cease.
If, nail for nail (1),
Thou tellest on,
Thorarin Loftunga was himself with King Svein, and heard these
great testimonials of King Olaf's holiness, that people, by the
heavenly power, could hear a sound over his holy remains as if
bells were ringing, and that candles were lighted of themselves
upon the altar as by a heavenly fire. But when Thorarin says
that a multitude of lame, and blind, and other sick, who came to
the holy Olaf, went back cured, he means nothing more than that
there were a vast number of persons who at the beginning of King
Olaf's miraculous working regained their health. King Olaf's
greatest miracles are clearly written down, although they
occurred somewhat later.
(1) Before the entrance of the temples or churches were posts
called Ondveigis-sulor, with nails called Rigin-naglar --
the gods' nails -- either for ornament, or, as Schoning
suggests, to assist the people in reckoning weeks, months,
festivals, and in reckoning or keeping tale of prayers
repeated, and to recall them to memory, in the same way as
beads are used still by the common people in Catholic
countries for the same purpose. -- L.
260. OF KING OLAF'S AGE AND REIGN.
It is reckoned by those who have kept an exact account, that Olaf
the Saint was king of Norway for fifteen years from the time Earl
Svein left the country; but he had received the title of king
from the people of the Uplands the winter before. Sigvat the
skald tells this: --
"For fifteen winters o'er the land
King Olaf held the chief command,
Before he fell up in the North:
His fall made known to us his worth.
No worthier prince before his day
In our North land e'er held the sway,
Too short he held it for our good;
All men wish now that he had stood."
Saint Olaf was thirty-five years old when he fell, according to
what Are Frode the priest says, and he had been in twenty pitched
battles. So says Sigvat the skald: --
"Some leaders trust in God -- some not;
Even so their men; but well I wot
God-fearing Olaf fought and won
Twenty pitched battles, one by one,
And always placed upon his right
His Christian men in a hard fight.
May God be merciful, I pray,
To him -- for he ne'er shunned his fray."
We have now related a part of King Olaf's story, namely, the
events which took place while he ruled over Norway; also his
death, and how his holiness was manifested. Now shall we not
neglect to mention what it was that most advanced his honour.
This was his miracles; but these will come to be treated of
afterwards in this book.
261. OF THE THRONDHJEM PEOPLE.
King Svein, the son of Canute the Great, ruled over Norway for
some years; but was a child both in age and understanding. His
mother Alfifa had most sway in the country; and the people of the
country were her great enemies, both then and ever since. Danish
people had a great superiority given them within the country, to
the great dissatisfaction of the people; and when conversation
turned that way, the people of the rest of Norway accused the
Throndhjem people of having principally occasioned King Olaf the
Holy's fall, and also that the men of Norway were subject,
through them, to the ill government by which oppression and
slavery had come upon all the people, both great and small;
indeed upon the whole community. They insisted that it was the
duty of the Throndhjem people to attempt opposition and
insurrection, and thus relieve the country from such tyranny;
and, in the opinion of the common people, Throndhjem was also
the chief seat of the strength of Norway at that time, both on
account of the chiefs and of the population of that quarter.
When the Throndhjem people heard these remarks of their
countrymen, they could not deny that there was much truth in
them, and that in depriving King Olaf of life and land they had
committed a great crime, and at the same time the misdeed had
been ill paid. The chiefs began to hold consultations and
conferences with each other, and the leader of these was Einar
Tambaskelfer. It was likewise the case with Kalf Arnason, who
began to find into what errors he had been drawn by King Canute's
persuasion. All the promises which King Canute had made to Kalf
had been broken; for he had promised him the earldom and the
highest authority in Norway: and although Kalf had been the
leader in the battle against King Olaf, and had deprived him of
his life and kingdom, Kalf had not got any higher dignity than he
had before. He felt that he had been deceived, and therefore
messages passed between the brothers Kalf, Fin, Thorberg, and
Arne, and they renewed their family friendship.
262. OF KING SVEIN'S LEVY.
When King Svein had been three years in Norway (A.D. 1031-33),
the news was received that a force was assembled in the western
countries, under a chief who called himself Trygve, and gave out
that he was a son of Olaf Trygvason and Queen Gyda of England.
Now when King Svein heard that foreign troops had come to the
country, he ordered out the people on a levy in the north, and
the most of the lendermen hastened to him; but Einar Tambaskelfer
remained at home, and would not go out with King Svein. When
King Svein's order came to Kalf Arnason at Eggja, that he should
go out on a levy with King Svein, he took a twenty-benched ship
which he owned, went on board with his house-servants, and in all
haste proceeded out of the fjord, without waiting for King Svein,
sailed southwards to More, and continued his voyage south until
he came to Giske to his brother Thorberg. Then all the brothers,
the sons of Arne, held a meeting, and consulted with each other.
After this Kalf returned to the north again; but when he came to
Frekeysund, King Svein was lying in the sound before him. When
Kalf came rowing from the south into the sound they hailed each
other, and the king's men ordered Kalf to bring up with his
vessel, and follow the king for the defence of the country. Kalf
replies, "I have done enough, if not too much, when I fought
against my own countrymen to increase the power of the Canute
family." Thereupon Kalf rowed away to the north until he came
home to Eggja. None of these Arnasons appeared at this levy to
accompany the king. He steered with his fleet southwards along
the land; but as he could not hear the least news of any fleet
having come from the west, he steered south to Rogaland, and all
the way to Agder; for many guessed that Trygve would first make
his attempt on Viken, because his forefathers had been there, and
had most of their strength from that quarter, and he had himself
great strength by family connection there.
263. KING TRYGVE OLAFSON'S FALL.
When Trygve came from the west he landed first on the coast of
Hordaland, and when he heard King Svein had gone south he went
the same way to Rogaland. As soon as Svein got the intelligence
that Trygve had come from the west he returned, and steered north
with his fleet; and both fleets met within Bokn in Soknarsund,
not far from the place where Erling Skjalgson fell. The battle,
which took place on a Sunday, was great and severe. People tell
that Trygve threw spears with both hands at once. "So my
father," said he, "taught me to celebrate mass." His enemies had
said that he was the son of a priest; but the praise must be
allowed him that he showed himself more like a son of King Olaf
Trygvason, for this Trygve was a slaughtering man. In this
battle King Trygve fell, and many of his men with him; but some
fled, and some received quarter and their lives. It is thus
related in the ballad of Trygve: --
"Trygve comes from the northern coast,
King Svein turns round with all his host;
To meet and fight, they both prepare,
And where they met grim death was there.
From the sharp strife I was not far, --
I heard the din and the clang of war;
And the Hordaland men at last gave way,
And their leader fell, and they lost the day."
This battle is also told of in the ballad about King Svein, thus:
"My girl! it was a Sunday morn,
And many a man ne'er saw its eve,
Though ale and leeks by old wives borne
The bruised and wounded did relieve.
'Twas Sunday morn, when Svein calls out,
`Stem to stem your vessels bind;'
The raven a mid-day feast smells out,
And he comes croaking up the wind."
After this battle King Svein ruled the country for some time, and
there was peace in the land. The winter after it (A.D. 1034) he
passed in the south parts of the country.
264. OF THE COUNSELS OF EINAR TAMBASKELFER AND KALF ARNASON.
Einar Tambaskelfer and Kalf Arnason had this winter meetings and
consultations between themselves in the merchant town (1). Then
there came a messenger from King Canute to Kalf Arnason, with a
message to send him three dozen axes, which must be chosen and
good. Kalf replies, "I will send no axes to King Canute. Tell
him I will bring his son Svein so many, that he shall not think
he is in want of any."
(1) Nidaros, or Throndhjem, is usually called merely the
merchant town. -- L.
265. OF EINAR TAMBASKELFER AND KALF ARNASON'S JOURNEY.
Early in spring (A.D. 1034) Einar Tambaskelfer and Kalf Arnason
made themselves ready for a journey, with a great retinue of the
best and most select men that could be found in the Throndhjem
country. They went in spring eastward over the ridge of the
country to Jamtaland, from thence to Helsingjaland, and came to
Svithjod, where they procured ships, with which in summer they
proceeded east to Russia, and came in autumn to Ladoga. They
sent men up to Novgorod to King Jarisleif, with the errand that
they offered Magnus, the son of King Olaf the Saint, to take him
with them, follow him to Norway, and give him assistance to
attain his father's heritage and be made king over the country.
When this message came to King Jarisleif he held a consultation
with the queen and some chiefs, and they all resolved unanimously
to send a message to the Northmen, and ask them to come to King
Jarisleif and Magnus; for which journey safe conduct was given
them. When they came to Novgorod it was settled among them that
the Northmen who had come there should become Magnus's men, and
be his subjects; and to this Kalf and the other men who had been
against King Olaf at Stiklestad were solemnly bound by oath. On
the other hand, King Magnus promised them, under oath, secure
peace and full reconciliation; and that he would be true and
faithful to them all when he got the dominions and kingdom of
Norway. He was to become Kalf Arnason's foster-son; and Kalf
should be bound to do all that Magnus might think necessary for
extending his dominion, and making it more independent than
SAGA OF MAGNUS THE GOOD.
Magnus reigned from A.D. 1035 to 1047, when he died. During the
last year of his reign his half-brother Harald Sigurdson was his
The history of Magnus is treated in "Agrip.", ch. 28-32; in
"Fagrskinna", ch. 119-146; in "Fornmannasogur", part vi., and in
The skalds quoted in this saga are: Arnor the earls' skald
(Arnor Jarlaskald), Sigvat, Thjodulf, Bjarne Gullbrarskald,
Thorgeir Flek, Od Kikinaskald.
1. MAGNUS OLAFSON'S JOURNEY FROM THE WEST.
After Yule Magnus Olafson began his journey from the East from
Novgorod to Ladoga, where he rigged out his ships as soon as the
ice was loosened in spring (A.D. 1035). Arnor, the earls' skald,
tells of this in the poem on Magnus: --
"It is no loose report that he,
Who will command on land and sea,
In blood will make his foeman feel
Olaf's sword Hneiter's sharp blue steel.
This generous youth, who scatters gold,
Norway's brave son, but ten years old,
Is rigging ships in Russia's lake,
His crown, with friend's support, to take."
In spring Magnus sailed from the East to Svithjod. So says
"The young sword-stainer called a Thing,
Where all his men should meet their king:
Heroes who find the eagle food
Before their lord in arms stood.
And now the curved plank of the bow
Cleaves the blue sea; the ocean-plough
By grey winds driven across the main,
Reaches Sigtuna's grassy plain."
Here it is related that when King Magnus and his fellow-
travellers sailed from the East to Svithjod, they brought up at
Sigtuna. Emund Olafson was then king in Svithjod. Queen Astrid,
who had been married to King Olaf the Saint, was also there. She
received very gladly and well her stepson King Magnus, and
summoned immediately a numerous Thing of Swedes at a place called
Hangtar. At the Thing Queen Astrid spoke these words: "Here is
come to us a son of Olaf the Saint, called Magnus, who intends to
make an expedition to Norway to seek his father's heritage. It
is my great duty to give him aid towards this expedition; for he
is my stepson, as is well known to all, both Swedes and
Norwegians. Neither shall he want men or money, in so far as I
can procure them or have influence, in order that his strength
may be as great as possible; and all the men who will support
this cause of his shall have my fullest friendship; and I would
have it known that I intend myself to go with him on this
attempt, that all may see I will spare nothing that is in my
power to help him." She spoke long and cleverly in this strain;
but when she had ended many replied thus: "The Swedes made no
honourable progress in Norway when they followed King Olaf his
father, and now no better success is to be expected, as this man
is but in years of boyhood; and therefore we have little
inclination for this expedition." Astrid replies, "All men who
wish to be thought of true courage must not be deterred by such
considerations. If any have lost connections at the side of King
Olaf, or been themselves wounded, now is the time to show a man's
heart and courage, and go to Norway to take vengeance." Astrid
succeeded so far with words and encouragement that many men
determined to go with her, and follow King Magnus to Norway.
Sigvat the skald speaks of this:--
"Now Astrtd, Olaf's widowed Queen, --
She who so many a change had seen, --
Took all the gifts of happier days,
Jewels and rings, all she could raise,
And at a Thing at Hangrar, where
The Swedes were numerous, did declare
What Olaf's son proposed to do,
And brought her gifts -- their pay -- in view.
"And with the Swedes no wiser plan,
To bring out every brave bold man,
Could have been found, had Magnus been
The son himself of the good queen.
With help of Christ, she hoped to bring
Magnus to be the land's sole king,
As Harald was, who in his day
Obtained o'er all the upper sway.
"And glad are we so well she sped, --
The people's friend is now their head;
And good King Magnus always shows
How much be to Queen Astrid owes.
Such stepmothers as this good queen
In truth are very rarely seen;
And to this noble woman's praise
The skald with joy his song will raise."
Thiodolf the skald also says in his song of Magnus: --
"When thy brave ship left the land,
The bending yard could scarce withstand
The fury of the whistling gale,
That split thy many-coloured sail;
And many a stout ship, tempest-tost,
Was in that howling storm lost
That brought them safe to Sigtuna's shore,
Far from the sound of ocean's roar."
2. MAGNUS'S EXPEDITION FROM SVITHJOD.
King Magnus set out on his journey from Sigtuna with a great
force, which he had gathered in Svithjod. They proceeded through
Svithjod on foot to Helsingjaland. So says Arnor, the earl's
"And many a dark-red Swedish shield
Marched with thee from the Swedish field.
The country people crowded in,
To help Saint Olaf's son to win;
And chosen men by thee were led,
Men who have stained the wolf's tongue red.
Each milk-white shield and polished spear
Came to a splendid gathering there."
Magnus Olafson went from the East through Jamtaland over the
keel-ridge of the country and came down upon the Throndhjem
district, where all men welcomed the king with joy. But no
sooner did the men of King Svein, the son of Alfifa, hear that
King Magnus Olafson was come to the country, than they fled on
all sides and concealed themselves, so that no opposition was
made to King Magnus; for King Svein was in the south part of the
country. So says Arnor, the earls' skald: --
"He who the eagle's talons stains
Rushed from the East on Throndhjem's plains;
The terror of his plumed helm
Drove his pale foemen from the realm.
The lightning of thy eye so near,
Great king! thy foemen could not bear,
Scattered they fled -- their only care
If thou their wretched lives wilt spare."
3. MAGNUS MADE KING.
Magnus Olafson advanced to the town (Nidaros), where he was
joyfully received. He then summoned the people to the Eyra-
thing (1); and when the bondes met at the Thing, Magnus was taken
to be king over the whole land, as far as his father Olaf had
possessed it. Then the king selected a court, and named
lendermen, and placed bailiffs and officers in all domains and
offices. Immediately after harvest King Magnus ordered a levy
through all Throndhjem land, and he collected men readily; and
thereafter he proceeded southwards along the coast.
(1) Eyra Thing, held on the ayr of the river Nid, that is, on
the spit of sand, still called an ayr in the north of
Scotland, dividing a lake, pond, or river-mouth from the
sea. At the Thing held here the kings of Norway were chosen
and proclaimed. It was held to be the proper Thing for
settling disputes between kings in Norway. -- L.
4. KING SVEIN'S FLIGHT.
King Svein Alfifason was staying in South Hordaland when he heard
this news of war. He immediately sent out war-tokens to four
different quarters, summoned the bondes to him, and made it known
to all that they should join him with men and ships to defend the
country. All the men who were in the neighbourhood of the king
presented themselves; and the king formed a Thing, at which in a
speech he set forth his business, and said he would advance
against Magnus O1afson and have a battle with him, if the bondes
would aid his cause. The king's speech was not very long, and
was not received with much approbation by the bondes. Afterwards
the Danish chiefs who were about the king made long and clever
speeches; but the bondes then took up the word, and answered
them; and although many said they would follow Svein, and fight
on his side, some refused to do so bluntly, some were altogether
silent, and some declared they would join King Magnus as soon as
they had an opportunity. Then King Svein says, "Methinks very
few of the bondes to whom we sent a message have appeared here;
and of those who have come, and tell us to our face that they
will join King Magnus as soon as they can, we shall have as
little benefit as of those who say they will sit at home quietly.
It is the same with those who say nothing at all. But as to
those who promise to help us, there are not more than every other
man; and that force will avail us little against King Magnus. It
is my counsel, therefore, that we do not trust to these bondes;
but let us rather go to the land where all the people are sure
and true to us, and where we will obtain forces to conquer this
country again." As soon as the king had made known this
resolution all his men followed it, turned their ship's bows, and
hoisted sail. King Svein sailed eastward along the land, and
then set right over to Denmark without delay, and Hardaknut
received his brother Svein very kindly. At their first meeting
Hardaknut offered King Svein to divide the kingdom of Denmark
with him, which offer King Svein accepted.
5. KING MAGNUS'S JOURNEY TO NORWAY.
In autumn (A.D. 1035) King Magnus proceeded eastward to the end
of the country, and was received as king throughout the whole
land, and the country people were rejoiced at his arrival.
6. DEATH OF KING CANUTE THE GREAT AND HIS SON SVEIN.
King Svein, Canute's son, went to Denmark, as before related, and
took part in the government with his brother Hardaknut. In the
same autumn King Canute the Great died in England, the 13th
November, forty years old, and was buried at Winchester. He had
been king of Denmark for twenty-seven years, and over Denmark and
England together twenty-four years, and also over Norway for
seven years. King Canute's son Harald was then made king in
England. The same winter (A.D. 1036) King Svein, Alfifa's son,
died in Denmark. Thiodolf the skald made these lines concerning
King Magnus: --
"Through Sweden's dirty roads the throng
Followed the king in spearmen strong.
Svein doth fly, in truth afraid,
And partly by his men betrayed;
Flying to Denmark o'er the sea,
He leaves the land quite clear to thee."
Bjarne Gullbrarskald composed the following lines concerning Kalf
"By thee the kings got each his own, --
Magnus by thee got Norway's throne;
And Svein in Denmark got a seat,
When out of Norway he was beat.
Kalf! It was you who showed the way
To our young king, the battle-lover, --
From Russia to his father's sway
You showed the way, and brought him over."
King Magnus ruled over Norway this winter (A.D. 1036), and
Hardaknut over Denmark.
7. RECONCILIATION BETWEEN HARDAKNUT AND KING MAGNUS.
The following spring (A.D. 1036) the kings on both sides ordered
out a levy, and the news was that they would have a battle at the
Gaut river; but when the two armies approached each other, the
lendermen in the one army sent messengers to their connections
and friends in the other; and it came to a proposal for a
reconciliation between the two kings, especially as, from both
kings being but young and childish, some powerful men, who had
been chosen in each of the countries for that purpose, had the
rule of the country on their account. It thus was brought about
that there was a friendly meeting between the kings, and in this
meeting a peace was proposed; and the peace was to be a brotherly
union under oath to keep the peace towards each other to the end
of their lives; and if one of them should die without leaving a
son, the longest liver should succeed to the whole land and
people. Twelve of the principal men in each kingdom swore to the
kings that this treaty should be observed, so long as any one of
them was in life. Then the kings separated, and each returned
home to his kingdom; and the treaty was kept as long as both
8. OF QUEEN ASTRID.
Queen Astrid, who had been married to King Olaf the Saint, came
to Norway with King Magnus her stepson, as before related, and
was held by him deservedly in great honour and esteem. Then came
also Alfhild, King Magnus's mother, to the court, and the king
received her with the greatest affection, and showed her great
respect. But it went with Alfhild, as it does with many who come
to power and honour, that pride keeps pace with promotion. She
was ill pleased that Queen Astrid was treated with more respect,
had a higher seat, and more attention. Alfhild wanted to have a
seat next to the king, but Astrid called Alfhild her slave-woman,
as indeed she had formerly been when Astrid was queen of Norway
and King Olaf ruled the land, and therefore would on no account
let her have a seat beside her, and they could not lodge in the
9. OF SIGVAT THE SKALD.
Sigvat the skald had gone to Rome, where he was at the time of
the battle of Stiklestad.
He was on his way back from the South when he heard tidings of
King O1af's fall, which gave him great grief. He then sang
these lines: --
"One morning early on a hill,
The misty town asleep and still,
Wandering I thought upon the fields.
Strewed o'er with broken mail and shields,
Where our king fell, -- our kind good king,
Where now his happy youthful spring?
My father too! -- for Thord was then
One of the good king's chosen men."
One day Sigvat went through a village, and heard a husband
lamenting grievously over the loss of his wife, striking his
breast, tearing his clothes, weeping bitterly, and saying he
wanted to die; and Sigvat sang these lines: --
"This poor man mourns a much-loved wife,
Gladly would he be quit of life.
Must love be paid for by our grief?
The price seems great for joy so brief.
But the brave man who knows no fear
Drops for his king a silent tear,
And feels, perhaps, his loss as deep
As those who clamour when they weep."
Sigvat came home to Norway to the Throndhjem country, where he
had a farm and children. He came from the South along the coast
in a merchant vessel, and as they lay in Hillarsund they saw a
great many ravens flying about. Then Sigvat said: --
"I see here many a croaking raven
Flying about the well-known haven:
When Olaf's ship was floating here,
They knew that food for them was near;
When Olaf's ship lay here wind-bound,
Oft screamed the erne o'er Hillar sound,
Impatient for the expected prey,
And wont to follow to the fray."
When Sigvat came north to the town of Throndhjem King Svein was
there before him. He invited Sigvat to stay with him, as Sigvat
had formerly been with his father King Canute the Great; but
Sigvat said he would first go home to his farm. One day, as
Sigvat was walking in the street, he saw the king's men at play,
and he sang: --
"One day before I passed this way,
When the king's guards were at their play,
Something there was -- I need not tell --
That made me pale, and feel unwell.
Perhaps it was I thought, just then,
How noble Olaf with his men,
In former days, I oft have seen
In manly games upon this green."
Sigvat then went to his farm; and as he heard that many men
upbraided him with having deserted King Olaf, he made these
"May Christ condemn me still to burn
In quenchless fire, if I did turn,
And leave King Olaf in his need, --
My soul is free from such base deed.
I was at Rome, as men know well
Who saw me there, and who can tell
That there in danger I was then:
The truth I need not hide from men."
Sigvat was ill at ease in his home. One day he went out and
"While Olaf lived, how smiled the land!
Mountain and cliff, and pebbly strand.
All Norway then, so fresh, so gay,
On land or sea, where oft I lay.
But now to me all seems so dready,
All black and dull -- of life I'm weary;
Cheerless to-day, cheerless to-morrow --
Here in the North we have great sorrow."
Early in winter Sigvat went westward over the ridge of the
country to Jamtaland, and onwards to Helsingjaland, and came to
Svithjod. He went immediately to Queen Astrid, and was with her
a long time, and was a welcome guest. He was also with her
brother King Emund, and received from him ten marks of proved
silver, as is related in the song of Canute. Sigvat always
inquired of the merchants who traded to Novgorod if they could
tell him any news of Magnus Olafson. Sigvat composed these lines
at that time: --
"I ask the merchant oft who drives
His trade to Russia, `How he thrives,
Our noble prince? How lives he there?
And still good news -- his praise -- I hear.
To little birds, which wing their way
Between the lands, I fain would say,
How much we long our prince to see,
They seem to hear a wish from me."
10. OF KING MAGNUS'S FIRST ARRIVAL IN SVITHJOD.
Immediately after Magnus Olafson came to Svithjod from Russia,
Sigvat met him at Queen Astrid's house, and glad they all were at
meeting. Sigvat then sang: --
"Thou art come here, prince, young and bold!
Thou art come home! With joy behold
Thy land and people. From this hour
I join myself to thy young power.
I could not o'er to Russie hie, --
Thy mother's guardian here was I.
It was my punishment for giving
Magnus his name, while scarcely living."
Afterwards Sigvat travelled with Queen Astrid, and followed
Magnus to Norway. Sigvat sang thus: --
"To the crowds streaming to the Thing,
To see and hear Magnus their king,
Loudly, young king, I'll speak my mind --
`God to His people has been kind.'
If He, to whom be all the praise,
Give us a son in all his ways
Like to his sire, no folk on earth
Will bless so much a royal birth."
Now when Magnus became king of Norway Sigvat attended him, and
was his dearest friend. Once it happened that Queen Astrid and
Alfhild the king's mother had exchanged some sharp words with
each other, and Sigvat said: --
"Alfhild! though it was God's will
To raise thee -- yet remember still
The queen-born Astrid should not be
Kept out of due respect by thee."
11. KING OLAF'S SHRINE.
King Magnus had a shrine made and mounted with gold and silver,
and studded with jewels. This shrine was made so that in shape
and size it was like a coffin. Under it was an arched way, and
above was a raised roof, with a head and a roof-ridge. Behind
were plaited hangings; and before were gratings with padlocks,
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