Heimskringla The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway
Part 16 out of 18
the drinking-room. A man stood outside of the door of the room
with a horn in his hand, and said, "Icelander! the king says
that if thou wilt deserve any gift from him thou shalt compose a
song before going in, and make it about a man whose name is Hakon
Serkson, and who is called Morstrut (1); and speak about that
surname in thy song." The man who spoke to him was called Arne
Fioruskeif. Then they went into the room; and when Thorarin came
before the king's seat he recited these verses: --
"Throndhjem's warrior-king has said
The skald should be by gifts repaid,
If he before this meeting gave
The king's friend Serk a passing stave.
The generous king has let me know
My stave, to please, must be framed so
That my poor verse extol the fame
Of one called Hakon Lump by name."
Then said the king, "I never said so, and somebody has been
making a mock of thee. Hakon himself shall determine what
punishment thou shalt have. Go into his suite." Hakon said, "He
shall be welcome among us, for I can see where the joke came
from;" and he placed the Icelander at his side next to himself,
and they were very merry. The day was drawing to a close, and
the liquor began to get into their heads, when Hakon said, "Dost
thou not think, Icelander, that thou owest me some penalty? and
dost thou not see that some trick has been played upon thee?"
Thorarin replies, "It is true, indeed, that I owe thee some
Hakon says, "Then we shall be quits, if thou wilt make me another
stave about Arne."
He said he was ready to do so; and they crossed over to the side
of the room where Arne was sitting, and Thorarin gave these
"Fioruskeif has often spread,
With evil heart and idle head,
The eagle's voidings round the land,
Lampoons and lies, with ready hand.
Yet this landlouper we all know,
In Africa scarce fed a crow,
Of all his arms used in the field,
Those in most use were helm and shield."
Arne sprang up instantly, drew his sword, and was going to fall
upon him; but Hakon told him to let it alone and be quiet, and
bade him remember that if it came to a quarrel he would come off
the worst himself. Thorarin afterwards went up to the king, and
said he had composed a poem which he wished the king to hear.
The king consented, and the song is known by the name of the
Stutfeld poem. The king asked Thorarin what he intended to do.
He replied, it was his intention to go to Rome. Then the king
gave him much money for his pilgrimage, and told him to visit him
on his return, and promised to provide for him.
(1) Morstrut is a short, fat, punchy fellow. -- L.
30. OF SIGURD AND OTTAR BIRTING.
It is told that King Sigurd, one Whitsunday, sat at table with
many people, among whom were many of his friends; and when he
came to his high-seat, people saw that his countenance was very
wild, and as if he had been weeping, so that people were afraid
of what might follow. The king rolled his eyes, and looked at
those who were seated on the benches. Then he seized the holy
book which he had brought with him from abroad, and which was
written all over with gilded letters; so that never had such a
costly book come to Norway. His queen sat by his side. Then
said King Sigurd, "Many are the changes which may take place
during a man's lifetime. I had two things which were dear to me
above all when I came from abroad, and these were this book and
the queen; and now I think the one is only worse and more
loathsome than the other, and nothing I have belonging to me that
I more detest. The queen does not know herself how hideous she
is; for a goat's horn is standing out on her head, and the better
I liked her before the worse I like her now." Thereupon he cast
the book on the fire which was burning on the hall-floor, and
gave the queen a blow with his fist between the eyes. The queen
wept; but more at the king's' illness than at the blow, or the
affront she had suffered.
Then a man stood up before the king; his name was Ottar Birting;
and he was one of the torch-bearers, although a bonde's son, and
was on service that day. He was of small stature, but of
agreeable appearance; lively, bold, and full of fun; black
haired, and of a dark skin. He ran and snatched the book which
the king had cast into the fire, held it out, and said,
"Different were the days, sire, when you came with great state
and splendour to Norway, and with great fame and honour; for then
all your friends came to meet you with joy, and were glad at your
coming. All as one man would have you for king, and have you in
the highest regard and honour. But now days of sorrow are come
over us; for on this holy festival many of your friends have come
to you, and cannot be cheerful on account of your melancholy and
ill health. It is much to be desired that you would be merry
with them; and do, good king, take this saving advice, make peace
first with the queen, and make her joyful whom you have so highly
affronted, with a friendly word; and then all your chiefs,
friends, and servants; that is my advice."
Then said King Sigurd, "Dost thou dare to give me advice, thou
great lump of a houseman's lad!" And he sprang up, drew his
sword, and swung it with both hands as if going to cut him down.
But Ottar stood quiet and upright; did not stir from the spot,
nor show the slightest sign of fear; and the king turned round
the sword-blade which he had waved over Ottar's head, and gently
touched him on the shoulder with it. Then he sat down in silence
on his high-seat.
All were silent who were in the hall, for nobody dared to say a
word. Now the king looked around him, milder than before, and
said, "It is difficult to know what there is in people. Here sat
my friends, and lendermen, marshals and shield-bearers, and all
the best men in the land; but none did so well against me as this
man, who appears to you of little worth compared to any of you,
although now he loves me most. I came here like a madman, and
would have destroyed my precious property; but he turned aside my
deed, and was not afraid of death for it. Then he made an able
speech, ordering his words so that they were honourable to me,
and not saying a single word about things which could increase my
vexation; but even avoiding what might, with truth, have been
said. So excellent was his speech, that no man here, however
great his understanding, could have spoken better. Then I sprang
up in a pretended rage, and made as if I would have cut him down;
but he was courageous as if he had nothing to fear; and seeing
that, I let go my purpose; for he was altogether innocent. Now
ye shall know, my friends, how I intend to reward him; he was
before my torchbearer, and shall now be my lenderman; and there
shall follow what is still more, that he shall be the most
distinguished of my lendermen. Go thou and sit among the
lendermen, and be a servant no longer."
Ottar became one of the most celebrated men in Norway for various
good and praiseworthy deeds.
31. OF KING SIGURD'S DREAM.
In King Sigurd's latter days he was once at an entertainment at
one of his farms; and in the morning when he was dressed he was
silent and still, so that his friends were afraid he was not able
to govern himself. Now the farm bailiff, who was a man of good
sense and courage, brought him into conversation, and asked if he
had heard any news of such importance that it disturbed his
mirth; or if the entertainment had not satisfied him; or if there
was anything else that people could remedy.
King Sigurd said, that none of the things he had mentioned was
the cause. "But it is that I think upon the dream I had in the
"Sire," replied he, "may it prove a lucky dream! I would gladly
The king: "I thought that I was in Jadar, and looked out towards
the sea; and that I saw something very black moving itself; and
when it came near it appeared to be a large tree, of which the
branches stretched far above the water, and the roots were down
in the sea. Now when the tree came to the shore it broke into
pieces, and drove all about the land, both the mainland and the
out-islands, rocks and strands; and it appeared to me as if I saw
over all Norway along the sea-coast, and saw pieces of that tree,
some small and some large, driven into every bight."
Then said the bailiff, "It is likely that you an best interpret
this dream yourself; and I would willingly hear your
interpretation of it."
Then said the king, "This dream appears to me to denote the
arrival in this country of some man who will fix his seat here,
and whose posterity will spread itself over the land; but with
unequal power, as the dream shows."
32. OF ASLAK HANE.
It so happened once, that King Sigurd sat in a gloomy mood among
many worthy men. It was Friday evening, and the kitchen-master
asked what meat should be made ready.
The king replies, "What else but flesh-meat?" And so harsh were
his words that nobody dared to contradict him, and all were ill
at ease. Now when people prepared to go to table, dishes of warm
flesh-meat were carried in; but all were silent, and grieved at
the king's illness. Before the blessing was pronounced over the
meat, a man called Aslak Hane spoke. He had been a long time
with King Sigurd on his journey abroad, and was not a man of any
great family; and was small of stature, but fiery. When he
perceived how it was, and that none dared to accost the king, he
asked, "What is it, sire, that is smoking on the dish before
The king replies, "What do you mean, Aslak? what do you think it
Aslak: "I think it is flesh-meat; and I would it were not so."
The king: "But if it be so, Aslak?"
He replied, "It would be vexatious to know that a gallant king,
who has gained so much honour in the world, should so forget
himself. When you rose up out of Jordan, after bathing in the
same waters as God himself, with palm-leaves in your hands, and
the cross upon your breast, it was something else you promised,
sire, than to eat flesh-meat on a Friday. If a meaner man were
to do so, he would merit a heavy punishment. This royal hall is
not so beset as it should be, when it falls upon me, a mean man,
to challenge such an act."
The king sat silent, and did not partake of the meat; and when
the time for eating was drawing to an end, the king ordered the
flesh dishes to be removed and other food was brought in, such as
it is permitted to use. When the meal-time was almost past, the
king began to be cheerful, and to drink. People advised Aslak to
fly, but he said he would not do so. "I do not see how it could
help me; and to tell the truth, it is as good to die now that I
have got my will, and have prevented the king from committing a
sin. It is for him to kill me if he likes."
Towards evening the king called him, and said, "Who set thee on,
Aslak Hane, to speak such free words to me in the hearing of so
"No one, sire, but myself."
The king: "Thou wouldst like, no doubt, to know what thou art to
have for such boldness; what thinkest thou it deserves."
He replies, "If it be well rewarded, sire, I shall be glad; but
should it be otherwise, then it is your concern."
Then the king said, "Smaller is thy reward than thou hast
deserved. I give thee three farms. It has turned out, what
could not have been expected, that thou hast prevented me from a
great crime, -- thou, and not the lendermen, who are indebted to
me for so much good." And so it ended.
33. OF A WOMAN BROUGHT TO THE KING.
One Yule eve the king sat in the hall, and the tables were laid
out, and the king said, "Get me flesh-meat."
They answered, "Sire, it is not the custom to eat flesh-meat on
The king said, "If it be not the custom I will make it the
They went out, and brought him a dolphin. The king stuck his
knife into it, but did not eat of it. Then the king said, "Bring
me a girl here into the hall." They brought him a woman whose
head-dress went far down her brows. The king took her hand in
his hands, looked at her, and said, "An ill looking girl!"
((LACUNA -- The rest of this story is missing))
34. HARALD GILLE COMES TO NORWAY.
Halkel Huk, a son of Jon Smiorbalte, who was lenderman in More,
made a voyage in the West sea, all the way to the South Hebudes.
A man came to him out of Ireland called Gillikrist, and gave
himself out for a son of King Magnus Barefoot. His mother came
with him, and said his other name was Harald. Halkel received
the man, brought him to Norway with him, and went immediately to
King Sigurd with Harald and his mother. When they had told their
story to the king, he talked over the matter with his principal
men, and bade them give their opinions upon it. They were of
different opinions, and all left it to the king himself, although
there were several who opposed this; and the king followed his
own counsel. King Sigurd ordered Harald to be called before him,
and told him that he would not deny him the proof, by ordeal, of
who his father was; but on condition that if he should prove his
descent according to his claim, he should not desire the kingdom
in the lifetime of King Sigurd, or of King Magnus: and to this he
bound himself by oath. King Sigurd said he must tread over hot
iron to prove his birth; but this ordeal was thought by many too
severe, as he was to undergo it merely to prove his father, and
without getting the kingdom; but Harald agreed to it, and fixed
on the trial by iron: and this ordeal was the greatest ever made
in Norway; for nine glowing plowshares were laid down, and Harald
went over them with bare feet, attended by two bishops.
Three days after the iron trial the ordeal was taken to proof,
and the feet were found unburnt. Thereafter King Sigurd
acknowledged Harald's relationship; but his son Magnus conceived
a great hatred of him, and in this many chiefs followed Magnus.
King Sigurd trusted so much to his favour with the whole people
of the country, that he desired all men, under oath, to promise
to accept Magnus after him as their king; and all the people took
35. RACE BETWEEN MAGNUS AND HARALD GILLE.
Harald Gille was a tall, slender-grown man, of a long neck and
face, black eyes, and dark hair, brisk and quick, and wore
generally the Irish dress of short light clothes. The Norse
language was difficult for Harald, and he brought out words which
many laughed at. Harald sat late drinking one evening. He spoke
with another man about different things in the west in Ireland;
and among other things, said that there were men in Ireland so
swift of foot that no horse could overtake them in running.
Magnus, the king's son, heard this, and said, "Now he is lying,
as he usually does."
Harald replies, "It is true that there are men in Ireland whom no
horse in Norway could overtake." They exchanged some words about
this, and both were drunk. Then said Magnus, "Thou shalt make a
wager with me, and stake thy head if thou canst not run so fast
as I ride upon my horse, and I shall stake my gold ring."
Harald replies, "I did not say that I could run so swiftly; but I
said that men are to be found in Ireland who will run as fast;
and on that I would wager."
The king's son Magnus replies, "I will not go to Ireland about
it; we are wagering here, and not there."
Harald on this went to bed, and would not speak to him more about
it. This was in Oslo. The following morning, when the early
mass was over, Magnus rode up the street, and sent a message to
Harald to come to him. When Harald came he was dressed thus. He
had on a shirt and trousers which were bound with ribands under
his foot-soles, a short cloak, an Irish hat on his head, and a
spear-shaft in his hand. Magnus set up a mark for the race.
Harald said, "Thou hast made the course too long;" but Magnus
made it at once even much longer, and said it was still too
short. There were many spectators. They began the race, and
Harald followed always the horse's pace; and when they came to
the end of the race course, Magnus said, "Thou hadst hold of the
saddle-girth, and the horse dragged thee along." Magnus had his
swift runner, the Gautland horse. They began the race again, and
Harald ran the whole race-course before the horse. When came to
the end Harald asked, "Had I hold of the saddle-girths now?"
Magnus replied, "Thou hadst the start at first."
Then Magnus let his horse breathe a while, and when he was ready
he put the spurs to him, and set off in full gallop. Harald
stood still, and Magnus looked back, and called, "Set off now."
Then Harald ran quickly past the horse, and came to the end of
the course so long before him that he lay down, and got up and
saluted Magnus as he came in."
Then they went home to the town. In the meantime King Sigurd had
been at high mass, and knew nothing of this until after he had
dined that day. Then he said to Magnus angrily, "Thou callest
Harald useless; but I think thou art a great fool, and knowest
nothing of the customs of foreign people. Dost thou not know
that men in other countries exercise themselves in other feats
than in filling themselves with ale, and making themselves mad,
and so unfit for everything that they scarcely know each other?
Give Harald his ring, and do not try to make a fool of him again,
as long as I am above ground."
36. OF SIGURD'S SWIMMING.
It happened once that Sigurd was out in his ship, which lay in
the harbour; and there lay a merchant ship, which was an Iceland
trader, at the side of it. Harald Gille was in the forecastle of
the king's ship, and Svein Rimhildson, a son of Knut Sveinson of
Jadar, had his berth the next before him. There was also Sigurd
Sigurdson, a gallant lenderman, who himself commanded a ship. It
was a day of beautiful weather and warm sunshine, and many went
out to swim, both from the long-ship and the merchant vessel. An
Iceland man, who was among the swimmers, amused himself by
drawing those under water who could not swim so well as himself;
and at that the spectators laughed. When King Sigurd saw and
heard this, he cast off his clothes, sprang into the water, and
swam to the Icelander, seized him, and pressed him under the
water, and held him there; and as soon as the Icelander came up
the king pressed him down again, and thus the one time after the
Then said Sigurd Sigurdson, "Shall we let the king kill this
Somebody said, "No one has any wish to interfere."
Sigurd replies, that "If Dag Eilifson were here, we should not be
without one who dared."
Then Sigurd sprang overboard, swam to the king, took hold of him,
and said, "Sire, do not kill the man. Everybody sees that you
are a much better swimmer."
The king replies, "Let me loose, Sigurd: I shall be his death,
for he will destroy our people under water."
Sigurd says, "Let us first amuse ourselves; and, Icelander, do
thou set off to the land," which he did. The king now got loose
from Sigurd, and swam to his ship, and Sigurd went his way: but
the king ordered that Sigurd should not presume to come into his
presence; this was reported to Sigurd, and so he went up into the
37. OF HARALD AND SVEIN RIMHILDSON.
In the evening, when people were going to bed, some of the ship's
men were still at their games up in the country. Harald was with
those who played on the land, and told his footboy to go out to
the ship, make his bed, and wait for him there. The lad did as
he was ordered. The king had gone to sleep; and as the boy
thought Harald late, he laid himself in Harald's berth. Svein
Rimhildson said, "It is a shame for brave men to be brought from
their farms at home, and to have here serving boys to sleep
beside them." The lad said that Harald had ordered him to come
there. Svein Rimhildson said, "We do not so much care for Harald
himself lying here, if he do not bring here his slaves and
beggars;" and seized a riding-whip, and struck the boy on the
head until the blood flowed from him. The boy ran immediately up
the country, and told Harald what had happened, who went
immediately out to the ship, to the aft part of the forecastle,
and with a pole-axe struck Svein so that he received a severe
wound on his hands; and then Harald went on shore. Svein ran to
the land after him, and, gathering his friends, took Harald
prisoner, and they were about hanging him. But while they were
busy about this, Sigurd Sigurdson went out to the king's ship and
awoke him. When the king opened his eyes and recognised Sigurd,
he said. "For this reason thou shalt die, that thou hast intruded
into my presence; for thou knowest that I forbade thee:" and with
these words the king sprang up.
Sigurd replied, "That is in your power as soon as you please; but
other business is more urgent. Go to the land as quickly as
possible to help thy brother; for the Rogaland people are going
to hang him."
Then said the king, "God give us luck, Sigurd! Call my
trumpeter, and let him call the people all to land, and to meet
The king sprang on the land, and all who knew him followed him to
where the gallows was being erected. The king instantly took
Harald to him; and all the people gathered to the king in full
armour, as they heard the trumpet. Then the king ordered that
Svein and all his comrades should depart from the country as
outlaws; but by the intercession of good men the king was
prevailed on to let them remain and hold their properties, but no
mulct should be paid for Svein's wound.
Then Sigurd Sigurdson asked if the king wished that he should go
forth out of the country.
"That will I not," said the king; "for I can never be without
38. OF KING OLAF'S MIRACLE.
There was a young and poor man called Kolbein; and Thora, King
Sigurd the Crusader's mother, had ordered his tongue to be cut
out of his mouth, and for no other cause than that this young man
had taken a piece of meat out of the king-mother's tub which he
said the cook had given him, and which the cook had not ventured
to serve up to her. The man had long gone about speechless. So
says Einar Skulason in Olaf's ballad: --
"The proud rich dame, for little cause,
Had the lad's tongue cut from his jaws:
The helpless man, of speech deprived,
His dreadful sore wound scarce survived.
A few weeks since at Hild was seen,
As well as ever he had been,
The same poor lad -- to speech restored
By Olaf's power, whom he adored."
Afterwards the young man came to Nidaros, and watched in the
Christ church; but at the second mass for Olaf before matins he
fell asleep, and thought he saw King Olaf the Saint coming to
him; and that Olaf talked to him, and took hold with his hands of
the stump of his tongue and pulled it. Now when he awoke he
found himself restored, and joyfully did he thank our Lord and
the holy Saint Olaf, who had pitied and helped him; for he had
come there speechless, and had gone to the holy shrine, and went
away cured, and with his speech clear and distinct.
39. KING OLAF'S MIRACLE WITH A PRISONER.
The heathens took prisoner a young man of Danish family and
carried him to Vindland, where he was in fetters along with other
prisoners. In the day-time he was alone in irons, without a
guard; but at night a peasant's son was beside him in the chain,
that he might not escape from them. This poor man never got
sleep or rest from vexation and sorrow, and considered in many
ways what could help him; for he had a great dread of slavery,
and was pining with hunger and torture. He could not again
expect to be ransomed by his friends, as they had already
restored him twice from heathen lands with their own money; and
he well knew that it would be difficult and expensive for them to
submit a third time to this burden. It is well with the man who
does not undergo so much in the world as this man knew he had
suffered. He saw but one way; and that was to get off and escape
if he could. He resolved upon this in the night-time, killed
the peasant, and cut his foot off after killing him, and set off
to the forest with the chain upon his leg. Now when the people
knew this, soon after daylight in the morning, they pursued him
with two dogs accustomed to trace any one who escaped, and to
find him in the forest however carefully he might be concealed.
They got him into their hands and beat him, and did him all kinds
of mischief; and dragging him home, left barely alive, and showed
him no mercy. They tortured him severely; put him in a dark
room, in which there lay already sixteen Christian men; and bound
him both with iron and other tyings, as fast as they could. Then
he began to think that the misery and pain he had endured before
were but shadows to his present sufferings. He saw no man before
his eyes in this prison who would beg for mercy for him; no one
had compassion on his wretchedness, except the Christian men who
lay bound with him, who sorrowed with him, and bemoaned his fate
together with their own misfortunes and helplessness. One day
they advised him to make a vow to the holy King Olaf, to devote
himself to some office in his sacred house, if he, by God's
compassion and Saint Olaf's prayers could get away from this
prison. He gladly agreed to this, and made a vow and prepared
himself for the situation they mentioned to him. The night after
he thought in his sleep that he saw a man, not tall, standing at
his side, who spoke to him thus, "Here, thou wretched man, why
dost thou not get up?"
He replied, "Sir, who are you?"
"I am King Olaf, on whom thou hast called."
"Oh, my good lord! gladly would I raise myself; but I lie bound
with iron and with chains on my legs, and also the other men who
Thereupon the king accosts him with the words, "Stand up at once
and be not afraid; for thou art loose."
He awoke immediately, and told his comrades what, had appeared to
him in his dream. They told him to stand up, and try if it was
true. He stood up, and observed that he was loose. Now said his
fellow-prisoners, this would help him but little, for the door
was locked both on the inside and on the outside. Then an old
man who sat there in a deplorable condition put in his word, and
told him not to doubt the mercy of the man who had loosened his
chains; "For he has wrought this miracle on thee that thou
shouldst enjoy his mercy, and hereafter be free, without
suffering more misery and torture. Make haste, then, and seek
the door; and if thou are able to slip out, thou art saved."
He did so, found the door open, slipped out, and away to the
forest. As soon as the Vindland people were aware of this they
set loose the dogs, and pursued him in great haste; and the poor
man lay hid, and saw well where they were following him. But now
the hounds lost the trace when they came nearer, and all the eyes
that sought him were struck with a blindness, so that nobody
could find him, although he lay before their feet; and they all
returned home, vexed that they could not find him. King Olaf did
not permit this man's destruction after he had reached the
forest, and restored him also to his health and hearing; for they
had so long tortured and beaten him that he had become deaf. At
last he came on board of a ship, with two other Christian men who
had been long afflicted in that country. All of them worked
zealously in this vessel, and so had a successful flight. Then
he repaired to the holy man's house, strong and fit to bear arms.
Now he was vexed at his vow, went from his promise to the holy
king, ran away one day, and came in the evening to a bonde who
gave him lodging for God's sake. Then in the night he saw three
girls coming to him; and handsome and nobly dressed were they.
They spoke to him directly, and sharply reprimanded him for
having been so bold as to run from the good king who had shown so
much compassion to him, first in freeing him from his irons, and
then from the prison; and yet he had deserted the mild master
into whose service he had entered. Then he awoke full of terror,
got up early, and told the house-father his dream. The good man
had nothing so earnest in life as to send him-back to the holy
place. This miracle was first written down by a man who himself
saw the man, and the marks of the chains upon his body.
40. KING SIGURD MARRIES CECILIA.
In the last period of King Sigurd's life, his new and
extraordinary resolution was whispered about, that he would be
divorced from his queen, and would take Cecilia, who was a great
man's daughter, to wife. He ordered accordingly a great feast to
be prepared, and intended to hold his wedding with her in Bergen.
Now when Bishop Magne heard this, he was very sorry; and one day
the bishop goes to the king's hall, and with him a priest called
Sigurd, who was afterwards bishop of Bergen. When they came to
the king's hall, the bishop sent the king a message that he would
like to meet him; and asked the king to come out to him. He did
so, and came out with a drawn sword in his hand. He received the
bishop kindly and asked him to go in and sit down to table with
The bishop replies, "I have other business now. Is it true,
sire, what is told me, that thou hast the intention of marrying,
and of driving away thy queen, and taking another wife?"
The king said it was true.
Then the bishop changed countenance, and angrily replied, "How
can it come into your mind, sire, to do such an act in our
bishopric as to betray God's word and law, and the holy church?
It surprises me that you treat with such contempt our episcopal
office, and your own royal office. I will now do what is my
duty; and in the name of God, of the holy King Olaf, of Peter the
apostle, and of the other saints, forbid thee this wickedness."
While he thus spoke he stood straight up, as if stretching out
his neck to the blow, as if ready if the king chose to let the
sword fall; and the priest Sigurd. who afterwards was bishop, has
declared that the sky appeared to him no bigger than a calf's
skin, so frightful did the appearance of the king present itself
to him. The king returned to the hall, however, without saying a
word; and the bishop went to his house and home so cheerful and
gay that he laughed, and saluted every child on his way, and was
playing with his fingers. Then the priest Sigurd asked him the
reason, saying, "Why are you so cheerful, sir? Do you not
consider that the king may be exasperated against you? and would
it not be better to get out of the way?"
Then said the bishop, "It appears to me more likely that he will
not act so; and besides, what death could be better, or more
desirable, than to leave life for the honour of God? or to die
for the holy cause of Christianity and our own office, by
preventing that which is not right? I am so cheerful because I
have done what I ought to do."
There was much noise in the town about this. The king got ready
for a journey, and took with him corn, malt and honey. He went
south to Stavanger, and prepared a feast there for his marriage
with Cecilia. When a bishop who ruled there heard of this he
went to the king, and asked if it were true that he intended to
marry in the lifetime of the queen.
The king said it was so.
The bishop answers, "If it be so, sire, you must know how much
such a thing is forbidden to inferior persons. Now it appears as
if you thought it was allowable for you, because you have great
power, and that it is proper for you, although it is against
right and propriety; but I do not know how you will do it in our
bishopric, dishonouring thereby God's command, the holy Church,
and our episcopal authority. But you must bestow a great amount
of gifts and estates on this foundation, and thereby pay the
mulct due to God and to us for such transgression."
Then said the king, "Take what thou wilt of our possessions.
Thou art far more reasonable than Bishop Magne."
Then the king went away, as well pleased with this bishop as ill
pleased with him who had laid a prohibition on him. Thereafter
the king married the girl, and loved her tenderly.
41. IMPROVEMENT OF KONUNGAHELLA.
King Sigurd improved the town of Konungahella so much, that there
was not a greater town in Norway at the time, and he remained
there long for the defence of the frontiers. He built a king's
house in the castle, and imposed a duty on all the districts in
the neighbourhood of the town, as well as on the townspeople,
that every person of nine years of age and upwards should bring
to the castle five missile stones for weapons, or as many large
stakes sharp at one end and five ells long. In the castle the
king built a cross-church of timber, and carefully put together,
as far as regards the wood and other materials. The cross-church
was consecrated in the 24th year of King Sigurd's reign (A.D.
1127). Here the king deposited the piece of the holy cross, and
many other holy relics. It was called the castle church; and
before the high altar he placed the tables he had got made in the
Greek country, which were of copper and silver, all gilt, and
beautifully adorned with jewels. Here was also the shrine which
the Danish king Eirik Eimune had sent to King Sigurd; and the
altar book, written with gold letters, which the patriarch had
presented to King Sigurd.
42. KING SIGURD'S DEATH.
Three years after the consecration of the cross-church, when King
Sigurd was stopping at Viken, he fell sick (A.D. 1130). He died
the night before Mary's-mass (August 15), and was buried in
Halvard's church, where he was laid in the stone wall without the
choir on the south side. His son Magnus was in the town at the
time and took possession of the whole of the king's treasury when
King Sigurd died. Sigurd had been king of Norway twenty-seven
years (A.D. 1104-1130), and was forty years of age when he died.
The time of his reign was good for the country; for there was
peace, and crops were good.
SAGA OF MAGNUS THE BLIND AND OF HARALD GILLE.
An age of conflict now begins in Norway. On his death, in 1130,
Sigurd left his son Magnus and his brother Harald. They soon
divided the government, and then entered upon a five-years'
conflict, until Magnus, in 1135, with eyes picked out, went into
The next year, 1136, a new pretender appeared in the person of
Sigurd Slembe, who took King Harald's life in 1137. Magnus died
Other literature in regard to this epoch is "Fagrskinna" and
"Morkinskinna". The corresponding part of "Agrip" is lost.
Skalds quoted are: Haldor Skvaldre, Einar Skulason, and Ivar
1. MAGNUS AND HARALD PROCLAIMED KINGS.
King Sigurd's son Magnus was proclaimed in Oslo king of all the
country immediately after his father's death, according to the
oath which the whole nation had sworn to King Sigurd; and many
went into his service, and many became his lendermen. Magnus was
the handsomest man then in Norway; of a passionate temper, and
cruel, but distinguished in bodily exercises. The favour of the
people he owed most to the respect for his father. He was a
great drinker, greedy of money, hard, and obstinate.
Harald Gille, on the other hand, was very pleasing in
intercourse, gay, and full of mirth; and so generous that he
spared in nothing for the sake of his friends. He willingly
listened to good advice, so that he allowed others to consult
with him and give counsel. With all this he obtained favour and a
good repute, and many men attached themselves as much to him as
to King Magnus. Harald was in Tunsberg when he heard of his
brother King Sigurd's death. He called together his friends to a
meeting, and it was resolved to hold the Hauga Thing (1) there in
the town. At this Thing, Harald was chosen king of half the
country, and it was called a forced oath which had been taken
from him to renounce his paternal heritage. Then Harald formed a
court, and appointed lendermen; and very soon he had as many
people about him as King Magnus. Then men went between them, and
matters stood in this way for seven days; but King Magnus,
finding he had fewer people, was obliged to give way, and to
divide the kingdom with Harald into two parts. The kingdom
accordingly was so divided (October 3, 1130) that each of them
should have the half part of the kingdom which King Sigurd had
possessed; but that King Magnus alone should inherit the fleet of
ships, the table service, the valuable articles and the movable
effects which had belonged to his father, King Sigurd. He was
notwithstanding the least satisfied with his share. Although
they were of such different dispositions, they ruled the country
for some time in peace. King Harald had a son called Sigurd, by
Thora, a daughter of Guthorm Grabarde. King Harald afterwards
married Ingerid, a daughter of Ragnvald, who was a son of the
Swedish King Inge Steinkelson. King Magnus was married to a
daughter of Knut Lavard, and she was a sister of the Danish King
Valdernar; but King Magnus having no affection for her, sent her
back to Denmark; and from that day everything went ill with him,
and he brought upon himself the enmity of her family.
(1) Hauga-thing means a Thing held at the tumuli or burial
mounds. -- L.
2. OF THE FORCES OF HARALD AND MAGNUS.
When the two relations, Harald and Magnus, had been about three
years kings of Norway (A.D. 1131-1133), they both passed the
fourth winter (A.D. 1134) in the town of Nidaros, and invited
each other as guests; but their people were always ready for a
fight. In spring King Magnus sailed southwards along the land
with his fleet, and drew all the men he could obtain out of each
district, and sounded his friends if they would strengthen him
with their power to take the kingly dignity from Harald, and give
him such a portion of the kingdom, as might be suitable;
representing to them that King Harald had already renounced the
kingdom by oath. King Magnus obtained the consent of many
powerful men. The same spring Harald went to the Uplands, and by
the upper roads eastwards to Viken; and when he heard what King
Magnus was doing, he also drew together men on his side.
Wheresoever the two parties went they killed the cattle, or even
the people, upon the farms of the adverse party. King Magnus had
by far the most people, for the main strength of the country lay
open to him for collecting men from it. King Harald was in Viken
on the east side of the fjord, and collected men, while they were
doing each other damage in property and life. King Harald had
with him Kristrod, his brother by his mother's side, and many
other lendermen; but King Magnus had many more. King Harald was
with his forces at a place called Fors in Ranrike, and went from
thence towards the sea. The evening before Saint Lawrence day
(August 10), they had their supper at a place called Fyrileif,
while the guard kept a watch on horseback all around the house.
The watchmen observed King Magnus's army hastening towards the
house, and consisting of full 6000 men, while King Harald had but
1500. Now come the watchmen who had to bring the news to King
Harald of what was going on and say that King Magnus's army was
now very near the town.
The king says, "What will my relation King Magnus Sigurdson have?
He wants not surely to fight us."
Thjostolf Alason replies, "You must certainly, sire, make
preparation for that, both for yourself and your, men. King
Magnus has been drawing together an army all the summer for the
purpose of giving you battle when he meets you."
Then King Harald stood up, and ordered his men to take their
arms. "We shall fight, if our relative King Magnus wants to
Then the war-horns sounded, and all Harald's men went out from
the house to an enclosed field, and set up their banners. King
Harald had on two shirts of ring-mail, but his brother Kristrod
had no armour on; and a gallant man he was. When King Magnus and
his men saw King Harald's troop they drew up and made their
array, and made their line so long that they could surround the
whole of King Harald's troop. So says Haldor Skvaldre: --
"King Magnus on the battle-plain
From his long troop-line had great gain;
The plain was drenched with warm blood,
Which lay a red and reeking flood."
3. BATTLE AT FYRILEIF.
King Magnus had the holy cross carried before him in this battle,
and the battle was great and severe. The king's brother,
Kristrod, had penetrated with his troop into the middle of King
Magnus's array, and cut down on each side of him, so that people
gave way before him everywhere. But a powerful bonde who was in
King Harald's array raised his spear with both hands, and drove
it through between Kristrod's shoulders, so that it came out at
his breast; and thus fell Kristrod. Many who were near asked the
bonde why he had done so foul a deed.
The bonde replies, "He knows the consequences now of slaughtering
my cattle in summer, and taking all that was in my house, and
forcing me to follow him here. I determined to give him some
return when the opportunity came."
After this King Harald's army took to flight, and he fled
himself, with all his men. Many fell; and Ingemar Sveinson of
Ask, a great chief and lenderman, got there his death-wound, and
nearly sixty of King Harald's court-men also fell. Harald
himself fled eastward to Viken to his ships, and went out of the
country to King Eirik Eimune in Denmark, and found him in Seeland
and sought aid from him. King Eirik received him well, and
principally because they had sworn to each other to be as
brothers (1); and gave him Halland as a fief to rule over, and
gave him seven long-ships, but without equipment. Thereafter
King Harald went northwards through Halland, and many Northmen
came to meet him. After this battle King Magnus subdued the
whole country, giving life and safety to all who were wounded,
and had them taken care of equally with his own men. He then
called the whole country his own, and had a choice of the best
men who were in the country. When they held a council among
themselves afterwards, Sigurd Sigurdson, Thorer Ingeridson, and
all the men of most understanding, advised that they should keep
their forces together in Viken, and remain there, in case Harald
should return from the south; but King Magnus would take his own
way, and went north to Bergen. There he sat all winter (A.D.
1135), and allowed his men to leave him; on which the lendermen
returned home to their own houses.
(1) These brotherhoods, by which one man was bound by oath to
aid or avenge another, were common in the Middle Ages among
all ranks. "Sworn brothers" is still a common expression
with us. -- L.
4. DEATH OF ASBJORN AND OF NEREID.
King Harald came to Konungahella with the men who had followed
him from Denmark. The lendermen and town's burgesses collected a
force against him, which they drew up in a thick array above the
town. King Harald landed from his ships, and sent a message to
the bondes, desiring that they would not deny him his land, as he
wanted no more than what of right belonged to him. Then
mediators went between them; and it came to this, that the bondes
dismissed their troops, and submitted to him. Thereupon he
bestowed fiefs and property on the lendermen, that they might
stand by him, and paid the bondes who joined him the lawful
mulcts for what they had lost. A great body of men attached
themselves, therefore, to King Harald; and he proceeded westwards
to Viken, where he gave peace to all men, except to King Magnus's
people, whom he plundered and killed wherever he found them. And
when he came west to Sarpsborg he took prisoners two of King
Magnus s lendermen, Asbjorn and his brother Nereid; and gave them
the choice that one should be hanged, and the other thrown into
the Sarpsborg waterfall, and they might choose as they pleased.
Asbjorn chose to be thrown into the cataract, for he was the
elder of the two, and this death appeared the most dreadful; and
so it was done. Halder Skvaldre tells of this: --
"Asbjorn, who opposed the king,
O'er the wild cataract they fling:
Nereid, who opposed the king,
Must on Hagbard's high tree swing.
The king given food in many a way
To foul-mouthed beasts and birds of prey:
The generous men who dare oppose
Are treated as the worst of foes."
Thereafter King Harald proceeded north to Tunsberg, where he was
well received, and a large force gathered to him.
5. OF THE COUNSELS PROPOSED.
When King Magnus, who was in Bergen, heard these tidings, he
called together all the chiefs who were in the town, and asked
them their counsel, and what they should now do. Then Sigurd
Sigurdson said, "Here I can give a good advice. Let a ship be
manned with good men, and put me, or any other lenderman, to
command it; send it to thy relation, King Harald, and offer him
peace according to the conditions upright men may determine upon,
and offer him the half of the kingdom. It appears to me probable
that King Harald, by the words and counsel of good men, may
accept this offer, and thus there may be a peace established
Then King Magnus replied, "This proposal I will not accept of;
for of what advantage would it be, after we have gained the whole
kingdom in summer to give away the half of it now? Give us some
Then Sigurd Sigurdson answered, "It appears to me, sire, that
your lendermen who in autumn asked your leave to return home will
now sit at home and will not come to you. At that time it was
much against my advice that you dispersed so entirely the people
we had collected; for I could well suppose that Harald would come
back to Viken as soon as he heard that it was without a chief.
Now there is still another counsel, and it is but a poor one; but
it may turn out useful to us. Send out your pursuivants, and
send other people with them, and let them go against the
lendermen who will not join you in your necessity, and kill them;
and bestow their property on others who will give you help
although they may have been of small importance before. Let them
drive together the people, the bad as well as the good; and go
with the men you can thus assemble against King Harald, and give
The king replies, "It would be unpopular to put to death people
of distinction, and raise up inferior people who often break
faith and law, and the country would be still worse off. I would
like to hear some other counsel still."
Sigurd replies, "It is difficult for me now to give advice, as
you will neither make peace nor give battle. Let us go north to
Throndhjem, where the main strength of the country is most
inclined to our side; and on the way let us gather all the men we
can. It may be that these Elfgrims will be tired of such a long
stride after us."
The king replies, "We must not fly from those whom we beat in
summer. Give some better counsel still."
Then Sigurd stood up and said, while he was preparing to go out,
"I will now give you the counsel which I see you will take, and
which must have its course. Sit here in Bergen until Harald
comes with his troops, and then you will either suffer death or
And Sigurd remained no longer at that meeting.
6. OF HARALD'S FORCE.
King Harald came from the East along the coast with a great army,
and this winter (A.D. 1135) is called on that account the
Crowd-winter. King Harald came to Bergen on Christmas eve, and
landed with his fleet at Floruvagar; but would not fight on
account of the sacred time. But King Magnus prepared for defence
in the town. He erected a stone-slinging machine out on the
holm, and had iron chains and wooden booms laid across over the
passage from the king's house to Nordnes, and to the Monks
bridge. He had foot-traps made, and thrown into Saint John's
field, and did not suspend these works except during the three
sacred days of Christmas. The last holyday of Yule, King Harald
ordered his war-horns to sound the gathering of his men for going
to the town; and, during the Yule holydays, his army had been
increased by about 900 men.
7. KING MAGNUS TAKEN PRISONER.
King Harald made a promise to King Olaf the Saint for victory,
that he would build an Olaf's church in the town at his own
expense. King Magnus drew up his men in the Christ church yard;
but King Harald laid his vessels first at Nordnes. Now when King
Magnus and his people saw that, they turned round towards the
town, and to the end of the shore; but as they passed through the
streets many of the burgesses ran into their houses and homes,
and those who went across the fields fell into the foot-traps.
Then King Magnus and his men perceived that King Harald had rowed
with all his men across to Hegravik, and landed there, and had
gone from thence the upper road up the hill opposite the town.
Now Magnus returned back again through the streets, and then his
men fled from him in all directions; some up to the mountains,
some up to the neighbourhood of the convent of nuns, some to
churches, or hid themselves as they best could. King Magnus fled
to his ship; but there was no possibility of getting away, for
the iron chains outside prevented the passage of vessels. He had
also but few men with him, and therefore could do nothing. Einar
Skulason tells of this in the song of Harald: --
"For a whole week an iron chain
Cut off all sailing to the main:
Bergen's blue stable was locked fast, --
Her floating wains could not get past."
Soon after Harald's people came out to the ships, and then King
Magnus was made prisoner. He was sitting behind in the
forecastle upon the chests of the high-seat, and at his side
Hakon Fauk, his mother's brother, who was very popular but was
not considered very wise, and Ivar Assurson. They, and many
others of King Magnus's friends, were taken, and some of them
killed on the spot.
8. KING MAGNUS MUTILATED.
Thereafter King Harald had a meeting of his counsellors, and
desired their counsel; and in this meeting the judgment was given
that Magnus should be deposed from his dominions, and should no
longer be called king. Then he was delivered to the king's
slaves, who mutilated him, picked out both his eyes, cut off one
foot, and at last castrated him. Ivar Assurson was blinded, and
Hakon Fauk killed. The whole country then was reduced to
obedience under King Harald. Afterwards it was diligently
examined who were King Magnus's best friends, or who knew most of
his concealments of treasure or valuables. The holy cross King
Magnus had kept beside him since the battle of Fyrileif, but
would not tell where it was deposited for preservation. Bishop
Reinald of Stavanger, who was an Englishman, was considered very
greedy of money. He was a great friend of King Magnus, and it
was thought likely that great treasure and valuables had been
given into his keeping. Men were sent for him accordingly, and
he came to Bergen, where it was insisted against him that he had
some knowledge of such treasure; but he denied it altogether,
would not admit it, and offered to clear himself by ordeal. King
Harald would not have this, but laid on the bishop a money fine
of fifteen marks of gold, which he should pay to the king. The
bishop declared he would not thus impoverish his bishop's see,
but would rather offer his life. On this they hanged the bishop
out on the holm, beside the sling machine. As he was going to
the gallows he threw the sock from his foot, and said with an
oath, "I know no more about King Magnus's treasure than what is
in this sock;" and in it there was a gold ring. Bishop Reinald
was buried at Nordnes in Michael's church, and this deed was much
blamed. After this Harald Gille was sole king of Norway as long
as he lived.
9. WONDERFUL OMENS IN KONUNGAHELLA.
Five years after King Sigurd's death remarkable occurrences took
place in Konungahella (A.D. 1135). Guthorm, a son of Harald
Fletter, and Saemund Husfreyja, were at that time the king's
officers there. Saemund was married to Ingebjorg, a daughter of
the priest Andres Brunson. Their sons were Paul Flip and Gunne
Fis. Saemund's natural son was called Asmund. Andres Brunson
was a very remarkable man, who carried on divine service in the
Cross church. His wife (1) was called Solveig. Jon Loptson, who
was then eleven years old, was in their house to be fostered and
educated. The priest Lopt Saemundson, Jon's father, was also in
the town at that time. The priest Andres and Solveig had a
daughter by name Helga, who was Einar's wife. It happened now in
Konungahella, the next Sunday night after Easter week, that there
was a great noise in the streets through the whole town as if the
king was going through with all his court-men. The dogs were so
affected that nobody could hold them, but they slipped loose; and
when they came out they ran mad, biting all that came in their
way, people and cattle. All who were bitten by them till the
blood came turned raging mad; and pregnant women were taken in
labour prematurely, and became mad. From Easter to
Ascension-day, these portentous circumstances took place almost
every night. People were dreadfully alarmed at these wonders;
and many made themselves ready to remove, sold their houses, and
went out to the country districts, or to other towns. The most
intelligent men looked upon it as something extremely remarkable;
were in dread of it; and said, as it proved to be, that it was an
omen of important events which had not yet taken place. And the
priest Andres, on Whit Sunday, made a long and excellent speech,
and turned the conclusion of it to the distressing situation of
the townspeople; telling them to muster courage, and not lay
waste their excellent town by deserting it, but rather to take
the utmost care in all things, and use the greatest foresight
against all dangers, as of fire or the enemy, and to pray to God
to have mercy on them.
(1) The Catholic priests appear to have had wives at that time
in Norway, and celibacy to have been confined to the monks.
10. THE RISE OF WAR IN KONUNGAHELLA.
Thirteen loaded merchant ships made ready to leave the town,
intending to proceed to Bergen; but eleven of them were lost, men
and goods, and all that was in them; the twelfth was lost also,
but the people were saved, although the cargo went to the bottom.
At that time the priest Lopt went north to Bergen, with all that
belonged to him, and arrived safely. The merchant vessels were
lost on Saint Lawrence eve (August 10). The Danish king Eirik
and the Archbishop Assur, both sent notice to Konungahella to
keep watch on their town; and said the Vindland people had a
great force on foot with which they made war far around on
Christian people, and usually gained the victory. But the
townspeople attended very little to this warning, were
indifferent, and forgot more and more the dreadful omens the
longer it was since they happened. On the holy Saint Lawrence
day, while the words of high mass were spoken, came to the
Vindland king Rettibur to Konungahella with 550 Vindland cutters,
and in each cutter were forty-four men and two horses. The
king's sister's son Dunimiz, and Unibur, a chief who ruled over
many people, were with him. These two chiefs rowed at once, with
a part of their troops, up the east arm of the Gaut river past
Hising Isle, and thus came down to the town; but a part of the
fleet lay in the western arm, and came so to the town. They made
fast their ships at the piles, and landed their horses, and rode
over the height of Bratsas, and from thence up around the town.
Einar, a relation of priest Andres, brought these tidings up to
the Castle church; for there the whole inhabitants of the town
were gathered to hear high mass. Einar came just as the priest
Andres was holding his discourse; and he told the people that an
army was sailing up against the town with a great number of ships
of war, and that some people were riding over Bratsas. Many said
it must be the Danish king Eirik, and from him they might expect
peace. The people ran down into the town to their properties,
armed themselves, and went down upon the piers, whence they
immediately saw there was an enemy and an immense army. Nine
East-country trading vessels belonging to the merchants were
afloat in the river at the piers. The Vindland people first
directed their course toward these and fought with the merchants,
who armed themselves, and defended themselves long, well, and
manfully. There was a hard battle, and resistance, before the
merchant vessels were cleared of their men; and in this conflict
the Vindland people lost 150 of their ships, with all the men on
board. When the battle was sharpest the townsmen stood upon the
piers, and shot at the heathens. But when the fight slackened
the burgesses fled up to the town, and from thence into the
castle; and the men took with them all their valuable articles,
and such goods as they could carry. Solveig and her daughters,
with two other women, went on shore when the Vindlanders took
possession of the merchant vessels. Now the Vindlanders landed,
and mustered their men, and discovered their loss. Some of them
went up into the town, some on board the merchant ships, and took
all the goods they pleased; and then they set fire to the town,
and burnt it and the ships. They hastened then with all their
army to assault the castle.
11. THE SECOND BATTLE.
King Rettibur made an offer to those who were in the castle that
they should go out, and he would give them their lives, weapons,
clothes, silver, and gold; but all exclaimed against it, and went
out on the fortification; some shot, some threw stones, some
sharp stakes. It was a great battle, in which many fell on both
sides, but by far the most of the Vindlanders. Solveig came up
to a large farm called Solbjorg, and brought the news. A message
war-token was there split, and sent out to Skurbagar, where there
happened to be a joint ale-drinking feast, and many men were
assembled. A bonde called Olver Miklimun (Mickle Mouth) was
there, who immediately sprang up, took helmet and shield, and a
great axe in his hand, and said, "Stand up, brave lads, and take
your weapons. Let us go help the townspeople; for it would
appear shameful to every man who heard of it, if we sit here
sipping our ale, while good men in the town are losing their
lives by our neglect."
Many made an objection, and said they would only be losing their
own lives, without being of any assistance to the townspeople.
Then said Olver, "Although all of you should hold back, I will go
alone; and one or two heathens, at any rate, shall fall before I
He ran down to the town, and a few men after him to see what he
would do, and also whether they could assist him in any way.
When he came near the castle, and the heathens saw him, they sent
out eight men fully armed against him; and when they met, the
heathen men ran and surrounded him on all sides. Olver lifted
his axe, and struck behind him with the extreme point of it,
hitting the neck of the man who was coming up behind him, so that
his throat and jawbone were cut through, and he fell dead
backwards. Then he heaved his axe forwards, and struck the next
man in the head, and clove him down to the shoulders. He then
fought with the others, and killed two of them; but was much
wounded himself. The four who remained took to flight, but Olver
ran after them. There was a ditch before them, and two of the
heathens jumped into it, and Olver killed them both; but he stuck
fast himself in the ditch, so that two of the eight heathens
escaped. The men who had followed Olver took him up, and brought
him back to Skurbagar, where his wounds were bound and healed;
and it was the talk of the people, that no single man had ever
made such a bloody onset. Two lendermen, Sigurd Gyrdson, a
brother of Philip, and Sigard, came with 600 men to Skurbagar; on
which Sigurd turned back with 400 men. He was but little
respected afterwards, and soon died. Sigard, on the other hand,
proceeded with 200 men towards the town; and they gave battle to
the heathens, and were all slain. While the Vindlanders were
storming the castle, their king and his chiefs were out of the
battle. At one place there was a man among the Vindlanders
shooting with a bow, and killing a man for every arrow; and two
men stood before him, and covered him with their shields. Then
Saemund Husfreyja said to his son Asmund, that they should both
shoot together at this bowman. "But I will shoot at the man who
holds the shield before him." He did so, and he knocked the
shield down a little before the man; and in the same instant
Asmund shot between the shields, and the arrow hit the bowman in
the forehead, so that it came out at his neck, and he fell down
dead. When the Vindlanders saw it they howled like dogs, or like
wolves. Then King Rettibur called to them that he would give
them safety and life, but they refused terms. The heathens again
made a hard assault. One of the heathens in particular fought so
bravely, and ventured so near, that he came quite up to the
castle-gate, and pierced the man who stood outside the gate with
his sword; and although they used both arrows and stones against
him, and he had neither shield nor helmet, nothing could touch
him, for he was so skilled in witchcraft that weapon could not
wound him. Then priest Andres took consecrated fire; blew upon
it; cut tinder in pieces, and laid it on the fire; and then laid
the tinder on the arrow-point, and gave it to Asmund. He shot
this arrow at the warlock; and the shaft hit so well that it did
its business, and the man of witchcraft fell dead. Then the
heathens crowded together as before, howling and whining
dreadfully; and all gathered about their king, on which the
Christians believed that they were holding a council about
retreating. The interpreters, who understood the Vindland
tongue, heard the chief Unibur make the following speech: "These
people are brave, and it is difficult to make anything of them;
and even if we took all the goods in their town, we might
willingly give as much more that we had never come here, so great
has been our loss of men and chiefs. Early in the day, when we
began to assault the castle, they defended themselves first with
arrows and spears; then they fought against us with stones; and
now with sticks and staves, as against dogs. I see from this
that they are in want of weapons and means of defense; so we
shall make one more hard assault, and try their strength." It
was as he said, that they now fought with stakes; because, in the
first assault, they had imprudently used up all their missile
weapons and stones; and now when the Christians saw the number of
their stakes diminishing, they clave each stake in two. The
heathens now made a very hot attack, and rested themselves
between whiles, and on both sides they were exhausted. During a
rest the Vindland king Rettibur again offered terms, and that
they should retain the weapons, clothes, and silver they could
carry out of the castle. Saemund Husfreyja had fallen, and the
men who remained gave the counsel to deliver up the castle and
themselves into the power of the heathens; but it was a foolish
counsel; for the heathens did not keep their promises, but took
all people, men, women, and children, and killed all of them who
were wounded or young, or could not easily be carried with them.
They took all the goods that were in the castle; went into the
Cross church, and plundered it of all its ornaments. The priest
Andres gave King Rettibur a silver-mounted gilt sceptre, and to
his sister's son Dunimiz he gave a gold ring. They supposed from
this that he was a man of great importance in the town, and held
him in higher respect than the others. They took away with them
the holy cross, and also the tables which stood before the altar,
which Sigurd had got made in the Greek country, and had brought
home himself. These they took, and laid flat down on the steps
before the altar. Then the heathens went out of the church.
Rettibur said, "This house has been adorned with great zeal for
the God to whom it is dedicated; but, methinks, He has shown
little regard for the town or house: so I see their God has been
angry at those who defended them." King Rettibur gave the priest
Andres the church, the shrine, the holy cross, the Bible, the
altar-book, and four clerks (prisoners); but the heathens burnt
the Castle church, and all the houses that were in the castle.
As the fire they had set to the church went out twice, they hewed
the church down, and then it burnt like other houses. Then the
heathens went to their ships with the booty; but when they
mustered their people and saw their loss, they made prisoners of
all the people, and divided them among the vessels. Now priest
Andres went on board the king's ship with the holy cross, and
there came a great terror over the heathens on account of the
portentous circumstance which took place in the king's ship;
namely, it became so hot that all thought they were to be burnt
up. The king ordered the interpreter to ask the priest why this
happened. He replied, that the Almighty God on whom the
Christians believed, sent them a proof of His anger, that they
who would not believe in their Creator presumed to lay hands on
the emblem of His suffering; and that there lay so much power in
the cross, that such, and even clearer miracles, happened to
heathen men who had taken the cross in their hands. The king had
the priest put into the ship's boat, and the priest Andres
carried the holy cross in his grasp. They led the boat along
past the ship's bow, and then along the side of the next ship,
and then shoved it with a boat-hook in beside the pier. Then
Andres went with the cross by night to Solbjorg, in rain and
dreadful weather; but brought it in good preservation. King
Rettibur, and the men he had remaining, went home to Vindland,
and many of the people who were taken at Konungahella were long
afterwards in slavery in Vindland; and those who were ransomed
and came back to Norway to their udal lands and properties,
throve worse than before their capture. The merchant town of
Konungahella has never since risen to the importance it was of
before this event.
12. OF MAGNUS THE BLIND.
King Magnus, after he was deprived of sight, went north to
Nidaros, where he went into the cloister on the holm, and assumed
the monk's dress. The cloister received the farm of Great Hernes
in Frosta for his support. King Harald alone ruled the country
the following winter, gave all men peace and pardon who desired
it, and took many of the men into his court-service who had been
with King Magnus. Einar Skulason says that King Harald had two
battles in Denmark; the one at Hvedn Isle, and the other at
Hlesey Isle: --
"Unwearied champion! who wast bred
To stain thy blue-edged weapons red!
Beneath high Hvedn's rocky shore,
The faithless felt thy steel once more."
And again, thus: --
"On Hlesey's plain the foe must quail
'Fore him who dyes their shirts of mail.
His storm-stretched banner o'er his head
Flies straight, and fills the foe with dread."
13. OF KING HARALD GILLE AND BISHOP MAGNUS.
King Harald Gille was a very generous man. It is told that in
his time Magnus Einarson came from Iceland to be consecrated a
bishop, and the king received him well, and showed him much
respect. When the bishop was ready to sail for Iceland again,
and the ship was rigged out for sea, he went to the hall where
the king was drinking, saluted him politely and warmly, and the
king received him joyfully. The queen was sitting beside the
Then said the king, "Are you ready, bishop, for your voyage?"
He replied that he was.
The king said, "You come to us just now at a bad time; for the
tables are just removed, and there is nothing at hand suitable to
present to you. What is there to give the bishop?"
The treasurer replies, "Sire, as far as I know, all articles of
any value are given away."
The king: "Here is a drinking goblet remaining; take this,
bishop; it is not without value."
The bishop expressed his thanks for the honour shown him.
Then said the queen, "Farewell, bishop! and a happy voyage."
The king said to her, "When did you ever hear a noble lady say so
to a bishop without giving him something?"
She replies, "Sire, what have I to give him?"
The king: "Thou hast the cushion under thee."
Thereupon this, which was covered with costly cloth, and was a
valuable article, was given to the bishop. When the bishop was
going away the king took the cushion from under himself and gave
it him, saying, "They have long been together." When the bishop
arrived in Iceland to his bishop's see, it was talked over what
should be done with the goblet that would be serviceable for the
king; and when the bishop asked the opinion of other people, many
thought it should be sold, and the value-bestowed on the poor.
Then said the bishop, "I will take another plan. I will have a
chalice made of it for this church, and consecrate it, so that
all the saints of whom there are relics in this church shall let
the king have some good for his gift every time a mass is sung
over it." This chalice has since belonged to the bishopric of
Skalholt; and of the costly cloth with which the cushions given
him by the king were covered, were made the choristers' cloaks
which are now in Skalholt. From this the generous spirit of King
Harald may be seen, as well as from many other things, of which
but a few are set down here.
14. BEGINNING OF SIGURD SLEMBIDJAKN.
There was a man, by name Sigurd, who was brought up in Norway,
and was called priest Adalbrikt's son. Sigurd's mother was
Thora, a daughter of Saxe of Vik, a sister of Sigrid, who was
mother of King Olaf Magnuson, and of Kare, the king's brother who
married Borghild, a daughter of Dag Eilifson. Their sons were
Sigurd of Austrat and Dag. Sigurd of Austrat's sons were Jon of
Austrat, Thorstein, and Andres the Deaf. Jon was married to
Sigrid, a sister of King Inge and of Duke Skule. This Sigurd, in
his childhood, was kept at his book, became a clerk, and was
consecrated a deacon; but as he ripened in years and strength he
became a very clever man, stout, strong, distinguished for all
perfections and exercises beyond any of his years, -- indeed,
beyond any man in Norway. Sigurd showed early traces of a
haughty ungovernable spirit, and was therefore called
Slembidjakn. He was as handsome a man as could be seen, with
rather thin but beautiful hair. When it came to Sigurd's ears
that his mother said King Magnus was his father, he laid aside
all clerkship; and as soon as he was old enough to be his own
master, he left the country. He was a long time on his travels,
went to Palestine; was at the Jordan river; and visited many holy
places, as pilgrims usually do. When he came back, he applied
himself to trading expeditions. One winter he was in Orkney with
Earl Harald, and was with him when Thorkel Fostre Summarlidason
was killed. Sigurd was also in Scotland with the Scottish king
David, and was held in great esteem by him. Thereafter Sigurd
went to Denmark; and according to the account of himself and his
men, he there submitted to the iron ordeal to confirm his
paternal descent, and proved by it, in the presence of five
bishops, that he was a son of King Magnus Barefoot. So says Ivar
Ingemundson, in Sigurd's song: --
"The holiest five
Of men alive, --
Bishops were they, --
The iron glowing
Red hot, yet showing
No scaith on skin,
Proves cause and kin."
King Harald Gille's friends, however, said this was only a lie,
and deceit of the Danes.
15. SIGURD IN ICELAND.
It is told before of Sigurd that he passed some years in merchant
voyages, and he came thus to Iceland one winter, and took up his
lodging with Thorgils Odson in Saurby; but very few knew where he
was. In autumn, when the sheep were being driven into a fold to
be slaughtered, a sheep that was to be caught ran to Sigurd; and
as Sigurd thought the sheep ran to him for protection, he
stretched out his hands to it and lifted it over the fold dyke,
and let it run to the hills, saying, "There are not many who seek
help from me, so I may well help this one." It happened the same
winter that a woman had committed a theft, and Thorgils, who was
angry at her for it, was going to punish her; but she ran to
Sigurd to ask his help, and he set her upon the bench by his
side. Thorgils told him to give her up, and told him what she
had committed; but Sigurd begged forgiveness for her since she
had come to him for protection, and that Thorgils would dismiss
the complaint against her, but Thorgils insisted that she should
receive her punishment. When Sigurd saw that Thorgils would not
listen to his entreaty, he started up, drew his sword, and bade
him take her if he dared; and Thorgils seeing that Sigurd would
defend the woman by force of arms, and observing his commanding
mien, guessed who he must be, desisted from pursuing the woman,
and pardoned her. There were many foreign men there, and Sigurd
made the least appearance among them. One day Sigurd came into
the sitting-room, and a Northman who was splendidly clothed was
playing chess with one of Thorads house-servants. The Northman
called Sigurd, and asked him his advice how to play; but when
Sigurd looked at the board, he saw the game was lost. The man
who was playing against the Northman had a sore foot, so that one
toe was bruised, and matter was coming out of it. Sigurd, who
was sitting on the bench, takes a straw, and draws it along the
floor, so that some young kittens ran after it. He drew the
straw always before them, until they came near the house-
servant's foot, who jumping up with a scream, threw the chessmen
in disorder on the board; and thus it was a dispute how the game
had stood. This is given as a proof of Sigurd's cunning. People
did not know that he was a learned clerk until the Saturday
before Easter, when he consecrated the holy water with chant; and
the longer he stayed there the more he was esteemed. The summer
after, Sigurd told Thorgils before they parted, that he might
with all confidence address his friends to Sigurd Slembidjakn.
Thorgils asked how nearly he was related to him, on which he
replies, "I am Sigurd Slembidjakn, a son of King Magnus
Barefoot." He then left Iceland.
16. OF SIGURD SLEMBE.
When Harald Gille had been six years (A.D. 1136), king of Norway,
Sigurd came to the country and went to his brother King Harald,
and found him in Bergen. He placed himself entirely in the
king's hands, disclosed who his father was, and asked him to
acknowledge their relationship. The king gave him no hasty or
distinct reply; but laid the matter before his friends in a
conference at a specially appointed meeting. After this
conference it became known that the king laid an accusation
against Sigurd, because he had been at the killing of Thorkel
Fostre in the West. Thorkel had accompanied Harald to Norway
when he first came to the country, and had been one of Harald's
best friends. This case was followed up so severely, that a
capital accusation against Sigurd was made, and, by the advice of
the lendermen, was carried so far, that some of the king's
pursuivants went one evening late to Sigurd, and called him to
them. They then took a boat and rowed away with Sigurd from the
town south to Nordnes. Sigurd sat on a chest in the stern of the
boat, and had his suspicions that foul play was intended. He was
clothed in blue trousers, and over his shirt he had a hood tied
with ribands, which served him for a cloak. He sat looking down,
and holding his hood-strings; and sometimes moved them over his
head, sometimes let them fall again before him. Now when they
had passed the ness, they were drunk, and merry, were rowing so
eagerly that they were not taking notice of anything. Sigurd
stood up, and went on the boat's deck; but the two men who were
placed to guard him stood up also, and followed him to the side
of the vessel, holding by his cloak, as is the custom in guarding
people of distinction. As he was afraid that they would catch
hold of more of his clothes, he seized them both, and leaped
overboard with them. The boat, in the meantime, had gone on a
long way, and it was a long time before those on board could turn
the vessel, and long before they could get their own men taken on
board again; and Sigurd dived under water, and swam so far away
that he reached the land before they could get the boat turned to
pursue him. Sigurd, who was very swift of foot, hied up to the
mountains, and the king's men travelled about the whole night
seeking him without finding him. He lay down in a cleft of the
rocks; and as he was very cold he took off his trousers, cut a
hole in the seat of them, and stuck his head through it, and put
his arms in the legs of them. He escaped with life this time;
and the king's men returned, and could not conceal their
17. TREACHERY TOWARDS KING HARALD.
Sigurd thought now that it would be of no use to seek any help
from King Harald again; and he kept himself concealed all the
autumn and the beginning of the winter. He lay hid in Bergen, in
the house of a priest. King Harald was also in the town, and
many great people with him. Now Sigurd considered how, with his
friends' help, he might take the king by surprise, and make an
end of him. Many men took part in this design; and among them
some who were King Harald's court-men and chamberlains, but who
had formerly been King Magnus's court-men. They stood in great
favour with the king, and some of them sat constantly at the
king's table. On Saint Lucia's day (December 13), in the evening
when they proposed to execute this treason, two men sat at the
king's table talking together; and one of them said to the king,
"Sire, we two table-companions submit our dispute to your
judgment, having made a wager of a basket of honey to him who
guesses right. I say that you will sleep this night with your
Queen Ingerid; and he says that you will sleep with Thora,
The king answered laughing, and without suspecting in the least
that there lay treachery under the question, that he who had
asked had lost his bet.
They knew thus where he was to be found that night; but the main
guard was without the house in which most people thought the king
would sleep, viz., that which the queen was in.
18. MURDER OF KING HARALD.
Sigurd Slembe, and some men who were in his design, came in the
night to the lodging in which King Harald was sleeping; killed
the watchman first; then broke open the door, and went in with
drawn swords. Ivar Kolbeinson made the first attack on King
Harald; and as the king had been drunk when he went to bed he
slept sound, and awoke only when the men were striking at him.
Then he said in his sleep, "Thou art treating me hardly, Thora."
She sprang up, saying, "They are treating thee hardly who love
thee less than I do." Harald was deprived of life. Then Sigurd
went out with his helpers, and ordered the men to be called to
him who had promised him their support if he should get King
Harald taken out of the way. Sigurd and his men then went on,
and took a boat, set themselves to the oars, and rowed out in
front of the king's house; and then it was just beginning to be
daylight. Then Sigurd stood up, spoke to those who were standing
on the king's pier, made known to them the murder of King Harald
by his hand, and desired that they would take him, and choose him
as chief according to his birth. Now came many swarming down to
the pier from the king's house; and all with one voice replied,
that they would never give obedience or service to a man who had
murdered his own brother. "And if thou are not his brother, thou
hast no claim from descent to be king." They clashed their
weapons together, and adjudged all murderers to be banished and
outlawed men. Now the king's horn sounded, and all lendermen and
courtmen were called together. Sigurd and his companions saw it
was best for them to get way; and he went northward to North
Hordaland, where he held a Thing with the bondes, who submitted
to him, and gave him the title of king. From thence he went to
Sogn, and held a Thing there with the bondes and was proclaimed
king. Then he went north across the fjords, and most people
supported his cause. So says Ivar Ingemundson: --
"On Harald's fall
The bondes all,
In Hord and Sogn,
Took Magnus' son.
The Things swore too
They would be true
To this new head
In Harald's stead."
King Harald was buried in the old Christ church.
SAGA OF SIGURD, INGE, AND EYSTEIN, THE SONS OF HARALD
Sigurd died A.D. 1155, Eystein 1157, and Inge 1161.
Other literature is "Morkinskinna" and "Fagrskinna."
Sigurd Slembe is the subject of a drama by Bjornstjerne Bjornson,
translated into English by William Morton Payne, and published by
Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, 1888.
Skalds quoted are: Kolle, Einar Skulason, and Thorbjorn
1. HISTORY OF KINGS SIGURD AND INGE.
Queen Ingerid, and with her the lendermen and the court which had
been with King Harald, resolved to send a fast-sailing vessel to
Throndhjem to make known King Harald's death, and also to desire
the Throndhjem people to take King Harald's son Sigurd for king.
He was then in the north, and was fostered by Sadagyrd Bardson.
Queen Ingerid herself proceeded eastward immediately to Viken.
Inge was the name of her son by King Harald, and he was then
fostered by Amunde Gyrdson, a grandson of Logberse. When they
came to Viken a Borgar-thing was immediately called together, at
which Inge, who was in the second year of his age, was chosen
king. This resolution was supported by Amunde and Thjostolf
Alason, together with many other great chiefs. Now when the
tidings came north to Throndhjem that King Harald was murdered,
the Throndhjem people took Sigurd, King Harald's son, to be the
king; and this resolution was supported by Ottar Birting, Peter
Saudaulfson, the brothers Guthorm of Reine, and Ottar Balle, sons
of Asolf and many other great chiefs. Afterwards the whole
nation almost submitted to the brothers, and principally because
their father was considered holy; and the country took the oath
to them, that the kingly power should not go to any other man as
long as any of King Harald's sons were alive.
2. OF SIGURD SLEMBIDJAKN.
Sigurd Slembe sailed north around Stad; and when he came to North
More, he found that letters and full powers had arrived before
him from the leaders who had given in their allegiance to
Harald's sons; so that there he got no welcome or help. As
Sigurd himself had but few people with him, he resolved to go
with them to Throndhjem, and seek out Magnus the Blind; for he
had already sent a message before him to Magnus's friends. Now
when they came to the town, they rowed up the river Nid to meet
King Magnus, and fastened their land-ropes on the shore at the
king's house; but were obliged to set off immediately, for all
the people rose against them. They then landed at Monkholm, and
took Magnus the Blind out of the cloister against the will of the
monks; for he had been consecrated a monk. It is said by some
that Magnus willingly went with them; although it was differently
reported, in order to make his cause appear better. Sigurd,
immediately after Yule (January, A.D. 1137), went forth with his
suite, expecting aid from his relations and Magnus's friends, and
which they also got. Sigurd sailed with his men out of the
fjord, and was joined afterwards by Bjorn Egilson, Gunnar of
Gimsar, Haldor Sigurdson, Aslak Hakonson, the brothers Bendikt
and Eirik, and also the court which had before been with King
Magnus, and many others. With this troop they went south to
More, and down to the mouth of Raumsdal fjord. Here Sigurd and
Magnus divided their forces, and Sigurd went immediately
westwards across the sea. King Magnus again proceeded to the
Uplands, where he expected much help and strength, and which he
obtained. He remained there the winter and all the summer (A.D.
1137), and had many people with him; but King Inge proceeded
against him with all his forces, and they met at a place called
Mynne. There was a great battle, at which King Magnus had the
most people. It is related that Thjostolf Alason carried King
Inge in his belt as long as the battle lasted, and stood under
the banner; but Thjostolf was hard pressed by fatigue and
fighting; and it is commonly said that King Inge got his ill
health there, and which he retained as long as he lived, so that
his back was knotted into a hump, and the one foot was shorter
than the other; and he was besides so infirm that he could
scarcely walk as long as he lived. The defeat began to turn upon
Magnus and his men; and in the front rank of his array fell
Haldor Sigurdson, Bjorn Egilson, Gunnar of Gimsar, and a great
number of his men, before he himself would take to his horse and
fly. So says Kolle: --
"Thy arrow-storm on Mynne's banks
Fast thinn'd the foemen's strongest ranks;
Thy good sword hewed the raven's feast
On Mynne's banks up in the East.
Shield clashed on shield, and bucklers broke
Under thy battle-axe's stroke;
While thou, uncovered, urged the fray,
Thy shield and mail-coat thrown away."
And also this: --
"The king to heaven belonging fled,
When thou, in war's quick death-game bred,
Unpanzered, shieldless on the plain
His heavy steel-clad guards hadst slain.
The painted shield, and steel-plate mail,
Before thy fierce attack soon fail,
To Magnus who belongs to heaven,
Was no such fame in battle given."
Magnus fled eastward to Gautland, and then to Denmark. At that
time there was in Gautland an earl, Karl Sonason, who was a great
and ambitious man. Magnus the Blind and his men said, wherever
they happened to meet with chiefs, that Norway lay quite open to
any great chieftain who would attack it; for it might well be
said there was no king in the country, and the kingdom was only
ruled by lendermen, and, among those who had most sway, there
was, from mutual jealousy, most discord. Now Karl, being
ambitious of power, listens willingly to such speeches; collects
men, and rides west to Viken, where many people, out of fear,
submit to him. When Thjostolf Alason and Amunde heard of this,
they went with the men they could get together, and took King
Inge with them. They met Earl Karl and the Gautland army
eastward in Krokaskog, where there was a great battle and a great
defeat, King Inge gaining the victory. Munan Ogmundson, Earl
Karl's mother's brother, fell there. Ogmund, the father of
Munan, was a son of Earl Orm Eilifson, and Sigrid, a daughter of
Earl Fin Arnason. Astrid, Ogrnund's daughter, was the mother of
Earl Karl. Many others of the Gautland people fell at Krokaskog;
and the earl fled eastward through the forest. King Inge pursued
them all the way out of the kingdom; and this expedition turned
out a great disgrace to them. So says Kolle: --
"I must proclaim how our great lord
Coloured deep red his ice-cold sword;
And ravens played with Gautland bones,
And wolves heard Gautlanders' last groans.
Their silly jests were well repaid, --
In Krokaskog their laugh was laid:
Thy battle power was then well tried,
And they who won may now deride."
3. KING EIRIK'S EXPEDITION TO NORWAY.
Magnus the Blind then went to Denmark to King Eirik Eimune, where
he was well received. He offered the king to follow him if he
would invade Norway with a Danish army, and subdue the country;
saying, that if he came to Norway with his army, no man in Norway
would venture to throw a spear against him. The king allowed
himself to be moved by Magnus's persuasions, ordered a levy, and
went north to Norway with 200 ships; and Magnus and his men were
with him on this expedition. When they came to Viken, they
proceeded peacefully and gently on the east side of the fjord;
but when the fleet came westward to Tunsberg, a great number of
King Inge's lendermen came against them. Their leader was
Vatnorm Dagson, a brother of Gregorius. The Danes could not land
to get water without many of them being killed; and therefore
they went in through the fjord to Oslo, where Thjostolf Alason
opposed them. It is told that some people wanted to carry the
holy Halvard's coffin out of the town in the evening when the
fleet was first observed, and as many as could took hold of it;
but the coffin became so heavy that they could not carry it over
the church floor. The morning after, however, when they saw the
fleet sailing in past the Hofud Isle, four men carried the coffin
out of the town, and Thjostolf and all the townspeople followed
4. THE TOWN OF OSLO BURNT.
King Eirik and his army advanced against the town; and some of
his men hastened after Thjostolf and his troop. Thjostolf threw
a spear at a man named Askel, which hit him under the throat, so
that the spear point went through his neck; and Thjostolf thought
he had never made a better spear-cast, for, except the place he
hit, there was nothing bare to be seen. The shrine of St.
Halvard, was taken up to Raumarike, where it remained for three
months. Thjostolf went up to Raumarike, and collected men during
the night, with whom he returned towards the town in the morning.
In the meantime King Eirik set fire to Halvard's church, and to
the town, which was entirely burnt. Thjostolf came soon after to
the town with the men he had assembled, and Eirik sailed off with
his fleet; but could not land anywhere on that side of the fjord,
on account of the troops of the lendermen who came down against
them; and wherever they attempted a landing, they left five or
six men or more upon the strand. King Inge lay with a great
number of people into Hornborusund, but when he learned this, he
turned about southwards to Denmark again. King Inge pursued him,
and took from him all the ships he could get hold of; and it was
a common observation among people, that never was so poor an
expedition made with so great an armament in another king's
dominions. King Eirik was ill pleased at it, and thought King
Magnus and his men had been making a fool of him by encouraging
him to undertake this expedition, and he declared he would never
again besuch friends with them as before.
5. OF SIGURD SLEMBIDJAKN.
Sigurd Slembidjakn came that summer from the West sea to Norway,
where he heard of his relation King Magnus's unlucky expedition;
so he expected no welcome in Norway, but sailed south, outside
the rocks, past the land, and set over to Denmark, and went into
the Sound. He fell in with some Vindland cutters south of the
islands, gave them battle, and gained the victory. He cleared
eight ships, killing many of the men, and he hanged the others.
He also had a battle off the Island Mon with the Vindland men,
and gained a victory. He then sailed from the south and came to
the eastern arm of the Gaut river, and took three ships of the
fleet of Thorer Hvinantorde, and Olaf, the son of Harald Kesia,
who was Sigurd's own sister's son; for Ragnhild, the mother of
Olaf, was a daughter of King Magnus Barefoot. He drove Olaf up
Thjostolf was at this time in Konungahella, and had collected
people to defend the country, and Sigurd steered thither with his
fleet. They shot at each other, but he could not effect a
landing; and, on both sides, many were killed and many wounded.
Ulfhedin Saxolfson, Sigurd's forecastle man, fell there. He was
an Icelander, from the north quarter. Sigurd continued his
course northwards to Viken and plundered far and wide around.
Now when Sigurd lay in a harbour called Portyrja on Limgard's
coast, and watched the ships going to or coming from Viken to
plunder them, the Tunsberg men collected an armed force against
him, and came unexpectedly upon them while Sigurd and his men
were on shore dividing their booty. Some of the men came down
from the land, but some of the other party laid themselves with
their ships right across the harbour outside of them. Sigurd ran
up into his ship, and rowed out against them. Vatnorm's ship was
the nearest, and he let his ship fall behind the line, and Sigurd
rowed clear past, and thus escaped with one ship and the loss of
many men. This verse was made upon Vatnorm (1): --
"The water serpent, people say,
From Portyrja slipped away."
(1) Vatnorm, the name of this man, means the water-serpent, and
appears to have been a favourite name for war-ships also;
hence the pun in the lines upon Vatnorm. -- L.
6. THE MURDER OF BEINTEIN.
Sigurd Slembidjakn sailed from thence to Denmark; and at that
time a man was lost in his ship, whose name was Kolbein
Thorliotson of Batald. He was sitting in a boat which was made
fast to the vessel, and upset because she was sailing quickly.
When they came south to Denmark, Sigurd's ship itself was cast
away; but he got to Alaborg, and was there in winter. The summer
after (A.D. 1138) Magnus and Sigurd sailed together from the
south with seven ships, and came unexpectedly in the night to
Lister, where they laid their ships on the land. Beintein
Kolbeinson, a court-man of King Inge, and a very brave man, was
there. Sigurd and his men jumped on shore at daylight, came
unexpectedly on the people, surrounded the house, and were
setting fire to the buildings; but Beintein came out of a store-
house with his weapons, well armed, and stood within the door
with drawn sword, his shield before him, helmet on, and ready to
defend himself. The door was somewhat low. Sigurd asked which
of his lads had most desire to go in against Beintein, which he
called brave man's work; but none was very hurried to make ready
for it. While they were discussing this matter Sigurd rushed
into the house, past Beintein. Beintein struck at him, but
missed him. Sigurd turned instantly on Beintein; and after
exchanging blows, Sigurd gave him his death-stroke, and came out
presently bearing his head in his hands.
They took all the goods that were in the farm-house, carried the
booty to their ships, and sailed away. When King Inge and his
friends, and also Kolbein's sons, Sigurd and Gyrd, the brothers
of Beintein, heard of Beintein's murder, the king sent a great
force against Sigurd Slembe and his followers; and also travelled
himself, and took a ship from Hakon Paulson Pungelta, who was a
daughter's son of Aslak, a son of Erling Skjalgson of Sole, and
cousin of Hakon Mage. King Inge drove Hakon and his followers up
the country, and took all their gear. Sigurd Stork, a son of
Eindride of Gautdal, and his brother, Eirik Hael, and Andres
Kelduskit, son of Grim of Vist, all fled away into the fjords.
But Sigurd Slembe, Magnus the Blind and Thorieif Skiappa sailed
outside the isles with three ships north to Halogaland; and
Magnus was in winter (A.D. 1139) north in Bjarkey Isle with
Vidkun Jonson. But Sigurd had the stem and stern-post of his
ship cut out, made a hole in her, and sank her in the inner part
of Egisfjord, and thereafter he passed the winter at Tialdasund
by Gljufrafjord in Hin. Far up the fjord there is a cave in the
rock; in that place Sigurd sat with his followers, who were above
twenty men, secretly, and hung a grey cloth before the mouth of
the hole, so that no person could see them from the strand.
Thorleif Skiappa, and Einar, son of Ogmund of Sand, and of
Gudrun, daughter of Einar Arason of Reikiaholar, procured food
for Sigurd during the winter. It is said that Sigurd made the
Laplanders construct two boats for him during the winter up in
the fjord; and they were fastened together with deer sinews,
without nails, and with twigs of willow instead of knees, and
each boat could carry twelve men. Sigurd was with the Laplanders
while they were making the boats; and the Laplanders had good
ale, with which they entertained Sigurd. Sigurd made these lines
on it: --
"In the Lapland tent
Brave days we spent.
Under the grey birch tree;
In bed or on bank
We knew no rank,
And a merry crew were we.
"Good ale went round
As we sat on the ground,
Under the grey birch tree;
And up with the smoke
Flew laugh and joke,
And a merry crew were we."
These boats were so light that no ship could overtake them in the
water, according to what was sung at the time: --
"Our skin-sewed Fin-boats lightly swim,
Over the sea like wind they skim.
Our ships are built without a nail;
Few ships like ours can row or sail."
In spring Sigurd and Magnus went south along the coast with the
two boats which the Laplanders had made; and when they came to
Vagar they killed Svein the priest and his two sons.
7. OF SIGURD'S SLEMBE'S CAMPAIGN.
Thereafter Sigurd came south to Vikar, and seized King Sigurd's
lendermen, William Skinnare and Thorald Kept, and killed them
both. Then Sigurd turned south-wards along the coast, and met
Styrkar Glaesirofa south of Byrda, as he was coming from the
south from the town of Nidaros, and killed him. Now when Sigurd
came south to Valsnes, he met Svinagrim outside of the ness, and
cut off his right hand. From thence he went south to More, past
the mouth of the Throndhjem fjord, where they took Hedin Hirdmage
and Kalf Kringluauge. They let Hedin escape, but killed Kalf.
When King Sigurd, and his foster-father, Sadagyrd, heard of
Sigurd Slembidjakn's proceedings, and what he was doing, they
sent people to search for him; and their leader was Jon Kauda, a
son of Kalf Range. Bishop Ivar's brother, and besides the priest
Jon Smyril. They went on board the ship the Reindeer, which had
twenty-two rowing benches, and was one of the swiftest sailing
vessels, to seek Sigurd; but as they could not find him, they
returned north-wards with little glory; for people said that they
had got sight of Sigurd and his people, and durst not attack
them. Afterwards Sigurd proceeded southwards to Hordaland, and
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