Heimskringla The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway
Part 3 out of 18
cruise, on which he had gathered great riches, and therefore he
was called Gold Harald. He thought he had a good chance of
coming to the Danish kingdom.
(1) Odin's mead, called Bodn, was the blood or mead the sons of
Brage, the god of poets, drank to inspire them. -- L.
(2) To dwell with Odin, -- viz. slew them. -- L.
16. KING ERLING'S FALL.
King Harald Grafeld and his brothers proceeded northwards to
Throndhjem, where they met no opposition. They levied the
scat-duties, and all other revenues, and laid heavy penalties
upon the bondes; for the kings had for a long time received but
little income from Throndhjem, because Earl Hakon was there with
many troops, and was at variance with these kings. In autumn
(A.D. 968) King Harald went south with the greater part of the
men-at-arms, but King Erlin remained behind with his men. He
raised great contributions from the bondes, and pressed severely
on them; at which the bondes murmured greatly, and submitted to
their losses with impatience. In winter they gathered together
in a great force to go against King Erling, just as he was at a
feast; and they gave battle to him, and he with the most of his
men fell (A.D. 969).
17. THE SEASONS IN NORWAY AT THIS TIME.
While Gunhild's sons reigned in Norway the seasons were always
bad, and the longer they reigned the worse were the crops; and
the bondes laid the blame on them. They were very greedy, and
used the bondes harshly. It came at length to be so bad that
fish, as well as corn, were wanting. In Halogaland there was the
greatest famine and distress; for scarcely any corn grew, and
even snow was lying, and the cattle were bound in the byres (1)
all over the country until midsummer. Eyvind Skaldaspiller
describes it in his poem, as he came outside of his house and
found a thick snowdrift at that season: --
"Tis midsummer, yet deep snows rest
On Odin's mother's frozen breast:
Like Laplanders, our cattle-kind
In stall or stable we must bind."
(1) Byres = gards or farms.
18. THE ICELANDERS AND EYVIND THE SKALD.
Eyvind composed a poem about the people of Iceland, for which
they rewarded him by each bonde giving him three silver pennies,
of full weight and white in the fracture. And when the silver
was brought together at the Althing, the people resolved to have
it purified, and made into a row of clasps; and after the
workmanship of the silver was paid, the row of clasps was valued
at fifty marks. This they sent to Eyvind; but Eyvind was obliged
to separate the clasps from each other, and sell them to buy food
for his household. But the same spring a shoal of herrings set
in upon the fishing ground beyond the coast-side, and Eyvind
manned a ship's boat with his house servants and cottars, and
rowed to where the herrings were come, and sang: --
"Now let the steed of ocean bound
O'er the North Sea with dashing sound:
Let nimble tern and screaming gull
Fly round and round -- our net is full.
Fain would I know if Fortune sends
A like provision to my friends.
Welcome provision 'tis, I wot,
That the whale drives to our cook's pot."
So entirely were his movable goods exhausted, that he was obliged
to sell his arrows to buy herrings, or other meat for his table:
"Our arms and ornaments of gold
To buy us food we gladly sold:
The arrows of the bow gave we
For the bright arrows of the sea." (1)
(1) Herrings, from their swift darting along, are called the
arrows of the sea.
KING OLAF TRYGVASON'S SAGA.
Hitherto the narrative has been more or less fragmentary. With
Olaf Trygvason's Saga reliable history begins, and the narration
is full and connected. The story of Hakon the earl is
incorporated in this saga.
Accounts of Olaf Trygvason may be found in Od the Monk's
legendary saga, in parts of "Agrip", "Historia Norvegiae", and in
Thjodrek. Icelandic works on this epoch are:
"Egla", "Eyrbyggja", "Finboga", "Floamanna", "Faereyinga",
"Hallfredar Saga", "Havardar Saga", "Are's Islendinga-bok",
"Kristni Saga", "Laxdaela", "Ljosvetninga", "Njala",
"Orkneyinga", "Viga Glums Saga", and "Viga Styrs Saga".
The skalds quoted are: Glum Geirason, Eyvind Finson,
Skaldaspiller, Einar Skalaglam, Tind Halkelson, Eyjolf Dadaskald,
Hallarstein, Halfred Vandraedaskald, Haldor Ukristne, Skule
Thorsteinson, and Thord Kolbeinson.
1. OLAF TRYGVASON'S BIRTH.
King Trygve Olafson had married a wife who was called Astrid.
She was a daughter of Eirik Bjodaskalle, a great man, who dwelt
at Oprustader. But after Trygve's death (A.D. 963) Astrid fled,
and privately took with her all the loose property she could.
Her foster-father, Thorolf Lusarskeg, followed her, and never
left her; and others of her faithful followers spied about to
discover her enemies, and where they were. Astrid was pregnant
with a child of King Trygve, and she went to a lake, and
concealed herself in a holm or small island in it with a few men.
Here her child was born, and it was a boy; and water was poured
over it, and it was called Olaf after the grandfather. Astrid
remained all summer here in concealment; but when the nights
became dark, and the day began to shorten and the weather to be
cold, she was obliged to take to the land, along with Thorolf and
a few other men. They did not seek for houses unless in the
night-time, when they came to them secretly; and they spoke to
nobody. One evening, towards dark, they came to Oprustader,
where Astrid's father Eirik dwelt, and privately sent a man to
Eirik to tell him; and Eirik took them to an out-house, and
spread a table for them with the best of food. When Astrid had
been here a short time her travelling attendants left her, and
none remained, behind with her but two servant girls, her child
Olaf, Thorolf Lusarskeg, and his son Thorgils, who was six years
old; and they remained all winter (A.D. 964).
2. OF GUNHILD S SONS.
After Trygve Olafson's murder, Harald Grafeld and his brother
Gudrod went to the farm which he owned; but Astrid was gone, and
they could learn no tidings of her. A loose report came to their
ears that she was pregnant to King Trygve; but they soon went
away northwards, as before related. As soon as they met their
mother Gunhild they told her all that had taken place. She
inquired particularly about Astrid, and they told her the report
they had heard; but as Gunhild's sons the same harvest and winter
after had bickerings with Earl Hakon, as before related, they did
not seek after Astrid and her son that winter.
3. ASTRID'S JOURNEY.
The spring after (A.D. 964) Gunhild sent spies to the Uplands,
and all the way down to Viken, to spy what they could about
Astrid; and her men came back, and could only tell her that
Astrid must be with her father Eirik, and it was probable was
bringing up her infant, the son of Trygve. Then Gunhild, without
delay, sent off men well furnished with arms and horses, and in
all a troop of thirty; and as their leader she sent a particular
friend of her own, a powerful man called Hakon. Her orders were
to go to Oprustader, to Eirik, and take King Trygve's son from
thence, and bring the child to her; and with these orders the men
went out. Now when they were come to the neighbourhood of
Oprustader, some of Eirik's friends observed the troop of
travellers, and about the close of the day brought him word of
their approach. Eirik immediately, in the night, made
preparation for Astrid's flight, gave her good guides, and send
her away eastward to Svithjod, to his good friend Hakon Gamle,
who was a powerful man there. Long before day they departed, and
towards evening they reached a domain called Skaun. Here they
saw a large mansion, towards which they went, and begged a
night's lodging. For the sake of concealment they were clad in
mean clothing. There dwelt here a bonde called Bjorn
Eiterkveisa, who was very rich, but very inhospitable. He drove
them away; and therefore, towards dark, they went to another
domain close by that was called Vidar. Thorstein was the name of
the bonde; and he gave them lodging, and took good care of them,
so that they slept well, and were well entertained. Early that
morning Gunhild's men had come to Oprustader, and inquired for
Astrid and her son. As Eirik told them she was not there, they
searched the whole house, and remained till late in the day
before they got any news of Astrid. Then they rode after her the
way she had taken, and late at night they came to Bjorn
Eiterkveisa in Skaun, and took up their quarters there. Hakon
asked Bjorn if he knew anything about Astrid, and he said some
people had been there in the evening wanting lodgings; "but I
drove them away, and I suppose they have gone to some of the
neighbouring houses." Thorstein's labourer was coming from the
forest, having left his work at nightfall, and called in at
Bjorn's house because it was in his way; and finding there were
guests come to the house, and learning their business, he comes
to Thorstein and tells him of it. As about a third part of the
night was still remaining, Thorstein wakens his guests and orders
them in an angry voice to go about their business; but as soon as
they were out of the house upon the road, Thorstein tells them
that Gunhild's messengers were at Bjorn's house, and are upon the
trace of them. They entreat of him to help them, and he gave
them a guide and some provisions. He conducted them through a
forest to a lake, in which there was an islet overgrown with
reeds. They waded out to the islet, and hid themselves among the
reeds. Early in the morning Hakon rode away from Bjorn's into
the township, and wherever he came he asked after Astrid; and
when he came to Thorstein's he asked if she had been there. He
said that some people had been there; but as soon as it was
daylight they had set off again, eastwards, to the forest. Hakon
made Thorstein go along with them, as he knew all the roads and
hiding-places. Thorstein went with them; but when they were come
into the woods, he led them right across the way Astrid had
taken. They went about and about the whole day to no purpose, as
they could find no trace of her, so they turned back to tell
Gunhild the end of their travel. Astrid and her friends
proceeded on their journey, and came to Svithjod, to Hakon Gamle
(the Old), where she and her son remained a long time, and had
4. HAKON'S EMBASSY TO SWEDEN.
When Gunhild, the mother of the kings, heard that Astrid and her
son Olaf were in the kingdom of Svithjod, she again sent Hakon,
with a good attendance, eastward, to Eirik king of Sweden, with
presents and messages of friendship. The ambassadors were well
received and well treated. Hakon, after a time, disclosed his
errand to the king, saying that Gunhild had sent him with the
request that the king would assist him in getting hold of Olaf
Trygvason, to conduct him to Norway, where Gunhild would bring
him up. The king gave Hakon people with him, and he rode with
them to Hakon the Old, where Hakon desired, with many friendly
expressions, that Olaf should go with him. Hakon the Old
returned a friendly answer, saying that it depended entirely upon
Olaf's mother. But Astrid would on no account listen to the
proposal; and the messengers had to return as they came, and to
tell King Eirik how the matter stood. The ambassadors then
prepared to return home, and asked the king for some assistance
to take the boy, whether Hakon the Old would or not. The king
gave them again some attendants; and when they came to Hakon the
Old, they again asked for the boy, and on his refusal to deliver
him they used high words and threatened violence. But one of the
slaves, Buste by name, attacked Hakon, and was going to kill him;
and they barely escaped from the thralls without a cudgelling,
and proceeded home to Norway to tell Gunhild their ill success,
and that they had only seen Olaf.
5. OF SIGURD EIRIKSON.
Astrid had a brother called Sigurd, a son of Eirik Bjodaskalle,
who had long been abroad in Gardarike (Russia) with King
Valdemar, and was there in great consideration. Astrid had now a
great inclination to travel to her brother there. Hakon the Old
gave her good attendants, and what was needful for the journey,
and she set out with some merchants. She had then been two years
(A.D. 965-966) with Hakon the Old, and Olaf was three years of
age. As they sailed out into the Baltic, they were captured by
vikings of Eistland, who made booty both of the people and goods,
killing some, and dividing others as slaves. Olaf was separated
from his mother, and an Eistland man called Klerkon got him as
his share along with Thorolf and Thorgils. Klerkon thought that
Thorolf was too old for a slave, and that there was not much work
to be got out of him, so he killed him; but took the boys with
him, and sold them to a man called Klerk for a stout and good
ram. A third man, called Reas, bought Olaf for a good cloak.
Reas had a wife called Rekon, and a son by her whose name was
Rekone. Olaf was long with them, was treated well, and was much
beloved by the people. Olaf was six years in Eistland in this
banishment (A.D. 987-972).
6. OLAF IS SET FREE IN EISTLAND.
Sigurd, the son of Eirik (Astrid's brother), came into Eistland
from Novgorod, on King Valdemar's business to collect the king's
taxes and rents. Sigurd came as a man of consequence, with many
followers and great magnificence. In the market-place he
happened to observe a remarkably handsome boy; and as he could
distinguish that he was a foreigner, he asked him his name and
family. He answered him, that his name was Olaf; that he was a
son of Trygve Olafson; and Astrid, a daughter of Eirik
Bjodaskalle, was his mother. Then Sigurd knew that the boy was
his sister's son, and asked him how he came there. Olaf told him
minutely all his adventures, and Sigurd told him to follow him to
the peasant Reas. When he came there he bought both the boys,
Olaf and Thorgils, and took them with him to Holmgard. But, for
the first, he made nothing known of Olaf's relationship to him,
but treated him well.
7. KLERKON KILLED BY OLAF.
Olaf Trygvason was one day in the market-place, where there was a
great number of people. He recognized Klerkon again, who had
killed his foster-father Thorolf Lusarskeg. Olaf had a little
axe in his hand, and with it he clove Klerkon's skull down to the
brain, and ran home to his lodging, and told his friend Sigurd
what he had done. Sigurd immediately took Olaf to Queen
Allogia's house, told her what had happened, and begged her to
protect the boy. She replied, that the boy appeared far too
comely to allow him to be slain; and she ordered her people to be
drawn out fully armed. In Holmgard the sacredness of peace is so
respected, that it is law there to slay whoever puts a man to
death except by judgment of law; and, according to this law and
usage, the whole people stormed and sought after the boy. It was
reported that he was in the Queen's house, and that there was a
number of armed men there. When this was told to the king, he
went there with his people, but would allow no bloodshed. It was
settled at last in peace, that the king should name the fine for
the murder; and the queen paid it. Olaf remained afterwards with
the queen, and was much beloved. It is a law at Holmgard, that
no man of royal descent shall stay there without the king's
permission. Sigurd therefore told the queen of what family Olaf
was, and for what reason he had come to Russia; namely, that he
could not remain with safety in his own country: and begged her
to speak to the king about it. She did so, and begged the king
to help a king's son whose fate had been so hard; and in
consequence of her entreaty the king promised to assist him, and
accordingly he received Olaf into his court, and treated him
nobly, and as a king's son. Olaf was nine years old when he came
to Russia, and he remained nine years more (A.D. 978-981) with
King Valdemar. Olaf was the handsomest of men, very stout and
strong, and in all bodily exercises he excelled every Northman
that ever was heard of.
8. OF HAKON EARL OF HLADER.
Earl Hakon, Sigurd's son, was with the Danish king, Harald
Gormson, the winter after he had fled from Norway before
Gunhild's sons. During the winter (A.D. 969) the earl had so
much care and sorrow that he took to bed, and passed many
sleepless nights, and ate and drank no more than was needful to
support his strength. Then he sent a private message to his
friends north in Throndhjem, and proposed to them that they
should kill King Erling, if they had an opportunity; adding, that
he would come to them in summer. The same winter the Throndhjem
people accordingly, as before related, killed King Erling. There
was great friendship between Earl Hakon and Gold Harald, and
Harald told Hakon all his intentions. He told him that he was
tired of a ship-life, and wanted to settle on the land; and asked
Hakon if he thought his brother King Harald would agree to divide
the kingdom with him if he asked it. "I think," replied Hakon,
"that the Danish king would not deny thy right; but the best way
to know is to speak to the king himself. I know for certain so
much, that you will not get a kingdom if you don't ask for it."
Soon after this conversation Gold Harald spoke to the king about
the matter, in the presence of many great men who were friends to
both; and Gold Harald asked King Harald to divide the kingdom
with him in two equal parts, to which his royal birth and the
custom of the Danish monarchy gave him right. The king was
highly incensed at this demand, and said that no man had asked
his father Gorm to be king over half of Denmark, nor yet his
grandfather King Hordaknut, or Sigurd Orm, or Ragnar Lodbrok; and
he was so exasperated and angry, that nobody ventured to speak of
it to him.
9. OF GOLD HARALD.
Gold Harald was now worse off than before; for he had got no
kingdom, and had got the king's anger by proposing it. He went
as usual to his friend Hakon, and complained to him of his fate,
and asked for good advice, and if he could help him to get his
share of the kingdom; saying that he would rather try force, and
the chance of war, than give it up.
Hakon advised him not to speak to any man so that this should be
known; "for," said he, "it concerns thy life: and rather consider
with thyself what thou art man enough to undertake; for to
accomplish such a purpose requires a bold and firm man, who will
neither stick at good nor evil to do that which is intended; for
to take up great resolutions, and then to lay them aside, would
only end in dishonour."
Go1d Harald replies -- "I will so carry on what I begin, that I
will not hesitate to kill Harald with my own hands, if I can come
thereby to the kingdom he denies me, and which is mine by right."
And so they separated.
Now King Harald comes also to Earl Hakon, and tells him the
demand on his kingdom which Gold Harald had made, and also his
answer, and that he would upon no account consent to diminish his
kingdom. "And if Gold Harald persists in his demand, I will have
no hesitation in having him killed; for I will not trust him if
he does not renounce it."
The earl answered, -- "My thoughts are, that Harald has carried
his demand so far that he cannot now let it drop, and I expect
nothing but war in the land; and that he will be able to gather a
great force, because his father was so beloved. And then it
would be a great enormity if you were to kill your relation; for,
as things now stand, all men would say that he was innocent. But
I am far from saying, or advising, that you should make yourself
a smaller king than your father Gorm was, who in many ways
enlarged, but never diminished his kingdom."
The king replies, -- "What then is your advice, -- if I am
neither to divide my kingdom, nor to get rid of my fright and
"Let us meet again in a few days," said Earl Hakon, "and I will
then have considered the matter well, and will give you my advice
The king then went away with his people.
10. COUNCILS HELD BY HAKON AND HARALD.
Earl Hakon had now great reflection, and many opinions to weigh,
and he let only very few be in the house with him. In a few days
King Harald came again to the earl to speak with him, and ask if
he had yet considered fully the matter they had been talking of.
"I have," said the earl, "considered it night and day ever since,
and find it most advisable that you retain and rule over the
whole of your kingdom just as your father left it; but that you
obtain for your relation Harald another kingdom, that he also may
enjoy honour and dignity."
"What kind of kingdom is that," said the king, "which I can give
to Harald, that I may possess Denmark entire?"
"It is Norway," said the earl. "The kings who are there are
oppressive to the people of the country, so that every man is
against them who has tax or service to pay."
The king replies, -- "Norway is a large country, and the people
fierce, and not good to attack with a foreign army. We found
that sufficiently when Hakon defended that country; for we lost
many people, and gained no victory. Besides, Harald the son of
Eirik is my foster-son, and has sat on my knee."
The earl answers, "I have long known that you have helped
Gunhild's sons with your force, and a bad return you have got for
it; but we shall get at Norway much more easily than by fighting
for it with all the Danish force. Send a message to your foster-
son Harald, Eirik's son, and offer him the lands and fiefs which
Gunhild's sons held before in Denmark. Appoint him a meeting,
and Gold Harald will soon conquer for himself a kingdom in Norway
from Harald Grafeld."
The king replies, that it would be called a bad business to
deceive his own foster-son.
"The Danes," answered the earl, "will rather say that it was
better to kill a Norwegian viking than a Danish, and your own
They spoke so long over the matter, that they agreed on it.
11. HARALD GORMSON'S MESSAGE TO NORWAY.
Thereafter Gold Harald had a conference with Earl Hakon; and the
earl told him he had now advanced his business so far, that there
was hope a kingdom might stand open for him in Norway. "We can
then continue," said he, "our ancient friendship, and I can be of
the greatest use to you in Norway. Take first that kingdom.
King Harald is now very old, and has but one son, and cares but
little about him, as he is but the son of a concubine."
The Earl talked so long to Gold Harald that the project pleased
him well; and the king, the earl, and Gold Harald often talked
over the business together. The Danish king then sent messengers
north to Norway to Harald Grafeld, and fitted them out
magnificently for their journey. They were well received by
Harald. The messengers told him that Earl Hakon was in Denmark,
but was lying dangerously sick, and almost out of his senses.
They then delivered from Harald, the Danish king, the invitation
to Harald Grafeld, his foster-son, to come to him and receive
investiture of the fiefs he and his brothers before him had
formerly held in Denmark; and appointing a meeting in Jutland.
Harald Grafeld laid the matter before his mother and other
friends. Their opinions were divided. Some thought that the
expedition was not without its danger, on account of the men with
whom they had to deal; but the most were in haste to begin the
journey, for at that time there was such a famine in Norway that
the kings could scarcely feed their men-at-arms; and on this
account the Fjord, on which the kings resided, usually got the
name of Hardanger (Hardacre). In Denmark, on the other hand,
there had been tolerably good crops; so that people thought that
if King Harald got fiefs, and something to rule over there they
would get some assistance. It was therefore concluded, before
the messengers returned, that Harald should travel to Denmark to
the Danish king in summer, and accept the conditions King Harald
12. TREACHERY OF HARALD AND HAKON.
Harald Grafeld went to Denmark in the summer (A.D. 969) with
three long-ships; and Herse Arinbjorn, from the Fjord district,
commanded one of them. King Harald sailed from Viken over to
Limfjord in Jutland, and landed at the narrow neck of land where
the Danish king was expected. Now when Gold Harald heard of
this, he sailed there with nine ships which he had fitted out
before for a viking cruise. Earl Hakon had also his war force on
foot; namely, twelve large ships, all ready, with which he
proposed to make an expedition. When Gold Harald had departed
Earl Hakon says to the king, "Now I don't know if we are not
sailing on an expedition, and yet are to pay the penalty of not
having joined it. Gold Harald may kill Harald Grafeld, and get
the kingdom of Norway; but you must not think he will be true to
you, although you do help him to so much power, for he told me in
winter that he would take your life if he could find opportunity
to do so. Now I will win Norway for you, and kill Gold Harald,
if you will promise me a good condition under you. I will be
your earl; swear an oath of fidelity to you, and, with your help,
conquer all Norway for you; hold the country under your rule; pay
you the scat and taxes; and you will be a greater king than your
father, as you will have two kingdoms under you." The king and
the earl agreed upon this, and Hakon set off to seek Gold Harald.
13. DEATH OF HARALD GRAFELD.
Gold Harald came to the neck of land at Limfjord, and immediately
challenged Harald Grafeld to battle; and although Harald had
fewer men, he went immediately on the land, prepared for battle,
and drew up his troops. Before the lines came together Harald
Grafeld urged on his men, and told them to draw their swords. He
himself advanced the foremost of the troop, hewing down on each
side. So says Glum Geirason, in Grafeld's lay: --
"Brave were thy words in battlefield,
Thou stainer of the snow-white shield! --
Thou gallant war-god! With thy voice
Thou couldst the dying man rejoice:
The cheer of Harald could impart
Courage and life to every heart.
While swinging high the blood-smeared sword,
By arm and voice we knew our lord."
There fell Harald Grafeld. So says Glum Geirason: --
"On Limfjord's strand, by the tide's flow,
Stern Fate has laid King Harald low;
The gallant viking-cruiser -- he
Who loved the isle-encircling sea.
The generous ruler of the land
Fell at the narrow Limfjord strand.
Enticed by Hakon's cunning speech
To his death-bed on Limfjord's beach."
The most of King Harald's men fell with him. There also fell
This happened fifteen years after the death of Hakon, Athelstan's
foster-son, and thirteen years after that of Sigurd earl of
Hlader. The priest Are Frode says that Earl Hakon was thirteen
years earl over his father's dominions in Throndhjem district
before the fall of Harald Grafeld; but, for the last six years of
Harald Grafeld's life, Are Frode says the Earl Hakon and
Gunhild's sons fought against each other, and drove each other
out of the land by turns.
14. GOLD HARALD'S DEATH.
Soon after Harald Grafeld's fall, Earl Hakon came up to Gold
Harald, and the earl immediately gave battle to Harald. Hakon
gained the victory, and Harald was made prisoner; but Hakon had
him immediately hanged on a gallows. Hakon then went to the
Danish king, and no doubt easily settled with him for the killing
his relative Gold Harald.
15. DIVISION OF THE COUNTRY.
Soon after King Harald Gormson ordered a levy of men over all his
kingdom, and sailed with 600 ships (1). There were with him Earl
Hakon, Harald Grenske, a son of King Gudrod, and many other great
men who had fled from their udal estates in Norway on account of
Gunhild's sons. The Danish king sailed with his fleet from the
south to Viken, where all the people of the country surrendered
to him. When he came to Tunsberg swarms of people joined him;
and King Harald gave to Earl Hakon the command of all the men who
came to him in Norway, and gave him the government over Rogaland,
Hordaland, Sogn, Fjord-district, South More, Raumsdal, and North
More. These seven districts gave King Harald to Earl Hakon to
rule over, with the same rights as Harald Harfager gave with them
to his sons; only with the difference, that Hakon should there,
as well as in Throndhjem, have the king's land-estates and land-
tax, and use the king's money and goods according to his
necessities whenever there was war in the country. King Harald
also gave Harald Grenske Vingulmark, Vestfold, and Agder all the
way to Lidandisnes (the Naze), together with the title of king;
and let him have these dominions with the same rights as his
family in former times had held them, and as Harald Harfager had
given with them to his sons. Harald Grenske was then eighteen
years old, and he became afterwards a celebrated man. Harald
king of Denmark returned home thereafter with all his army.
(1) i.e., 720 ships, as they were counted by long hundreds,
16. GUNHILD'S SONS LEAVE THE COUNTRY.
Earl Hakon proceeded northwards along the coast with his force;
and when Gunhild and her sons got the tidings they proceeded to
gather troops, but were ill off for men. Then they took the same
resolution as before, to sail out to sea with such men as would
follow them away to the westward (A.D. 969). They came first to
the Orkney Islands, and remained there a while. There were in
Orkney then the Earls Hlodver. Arnfid, Ljot, and Skule, the sons
of Thorfin Hausakljufer.
Earl Hakon now brought all the country under him, and remained
all winter (A.D. 970) in Throndhjem. Einar Skalaglam speaks of
his conquests in "Vellekla": --
"Norway's great watchman, Harald, now
May bind the silk snood on his brow --
Seven provinces he seized. The realm
Prospers with Hakon at the helm."
As Hakon the earl proceeded this summer along the coast
subjecting all the people to him, he ordered that over all his
dominions the temples and sacrifices should be restored, and
continued as of old. So it is said in the "Vellekla": --
"Hakon the earl, so good and wise,
Let all the ancient temples rise; --
Thor's temples raised with fostering hand
That had been ruined through the land.
His valiant champions, who were slain
On battle-fields across the main,
To Thor, the thunder-god, may tell
How for the gods all turns out well.
The hardy warrior now once more
Offers the sacrifice of gore;
The shield-bearer in Loke's game
Invokes once more great Odin's name.
The green earth gladly yields her store,
As she was wont in days of yore,
Since the brave breaker of the spears
The holy shrines again uprears.
The earl has conquered with strong hand
All that lies north of Viken land:
In battle storm, and iron rain
Hakon spreads wide his sword's domain."
The first winter that Hakon ruled over Norway the herrings set in
everywhere through the fjords to the land, and the seasons
ripened to a good crop all that had been sown. The people,
therefore, laid in seed for the next year, and got their lands
sowed, and had hope of good times.
17. HAKON'S BATTLE WITH RAGNFRED.
King Ragnfred and King Gudrod, both sons of Gunhild and Eirik,
were now the only sons of Gunhild remaining in life. So says
Glum Geirason in Grafeld's lay: --
"When in the battle's bloody strife
The sword took noble Harald's life,
Half of my fortunes with him fell:
But his two brothers, I know well,
My loss would soon repair, should they
Again in Norway bear the sway,
And to their promises should stand,
If they return to rule the land."
Ragnfred began his course in the spring after he had been a year
in the Orkney Islands. He sailed from thence to Norway, and had
with him fine troops, and large ships. When he came to Norway he
learnt that Earl Hakon was in Throndhjem; therefore he steered
northwards around Stad, and plundered in South More. Some people
submitted to him; for it often happens, when parties of armed men
scour over a country, that those who are nearest the danger seek
help where they think it may be expected. As soon as Earl Hakon
heard the news of disturbance in More, he fitted out ships, sent
the war-token through the land, made ready in all haste, and
proceeded out of the fjord. He had no difficulty in assembling
men. Ragnfred and Earl Hakon met at the north corner of More;
and Hakon, who had most men, but fewer ships, began the battle.
The combat was severe, but heaviest on Hakon's side; and as the
custom then was, they fought bow to bow, and there was a current
in the sound which drove all the ships in upon the land. The
earl ordered to row with the oars to the land where landing
seemed easiest. When the ships were all grounded, the earl with
all his men left them, and drew them up so far that the enemy
might not launch them down again, and then drew up his men on a
grass-field, and challenged Ragnfred to land. Ragnfred and his
men laid their vessels in along the land, and they shot at each
other a long time; but upon the land Ragnfred would not venture:
and so they separated. Ragnfred sailed with his fleet southwards
around Stad; for he was much afraid the whole forces of the
country would swarm around Hakon. Hakon, on his part, was not
inclined to try again a battle, for he thought the difference
between their ships in size was too great; so in harvest he went
north to Throndhjem, and staid there all winter (A.D. 971). King
Ragnfred consequently had all the country south of Stad at his
mercy; namely, Fjord district, Hordaland, Sogn, Rogaland; and he
had many people about him all winter. When spring approached he
ordered out the people and collected a large force. By going
about the districts he got many men, ships, and warlike stores
sent as he required.
18. BATTLE BETWEEN HAKON AND RAGNFRED.
Towards spring Earl Hakon ordered out all the men north in the
country; and got many people from Halogaland and Naumudal; so
that from Bryda to Stad he had men from all the sea-coast.
People flocked to him from all the Throndhjem district and from
Raumsdal. It was said for certain that he had men from four
great districts, and that seven earls followed him, and a
matchless number of men. So it is said in the "Vellekla": --
"Hakon, defender of the land,
Armed in the North his warrior-band
To Sogn's old shore his force he led,
And from all quarters thither sped
War-ships and men; and haste was made
By the young god of the sword-blade,
The hero-viking of the wave,
His wide domain from foes to save.
With shining keels seven kings sailed on
To meet this raven-feeding one.
When the clash came, the stunning sound
Was heard in Norway's farthest bound;
And sea-borne corpses, floating far,
Brought round the Naze news from the war."
Earl Hakon sailed then with his fleet southwards around Stad; and
when he heard that King Ragnfred with his army had gone towards
Sogn, he turned there also with his men to meet him: and there
Ragnfred and Hakon met. Hakon came to the land with his ships,
marked out a battle-field with hazel branches for King Ragnfred,
and took ground for his own men in it. So it is told in the
"In the fierce battle Ragnfred then
Met the grim foe of Vindland men;
And many a hero of great name
Fell in the sharp sword's bloody game.
The wielder of fell Narve's weapon,
The conquering hero, valiant Hakon
Had laid his war-ships on the strand,
And ranged his warriors on the land."
There was a great battle; but Earl Hakon, having by far the most
people, gained the victory. It took place on the Thinganes,
where Sogn and Hordaland meet.
King Rangfred fled to his ships, after 300 of his men had fallen.
So it is said in the "Vellekla":-
"Sharp was the battle-strife, I ween, --
Deadly and close it must have been,
Before, upon the bloody plain,
Three hundred corpses of the slain
Were stretched for the black raven's prey;
And when the conquerors took their way
To the sea-shore, they had to tread
O'er piled-up heaps of foemen dead."
After this battle King Ragnfred fled from Norway; but Earl Hakon
restored peace to the country, and allowed the great army which
had followed him in summer to return home to the north country,
and he himself remained in the south that harvest and winter
19. EARL HAKON'S MARRIAGE.
Earl Hakon married a girl called Thora, a daughter of the
powerful Skage Skoptason, and very beautiful she was. They had
two sons, Svein and Heming, and a daughter called Bergljot who
was afterwards married to Einar Tambaskielfer. Earl Hakon was
much addicted to women, and had many children; among others a
daughter Ragnhild, whom he married to Skopte Skagason, a brother
of Thora. The Earl loved Thora so much that he held Thora's
family in higher respect than any other people, and Skopte his
brother-in-law in particular; and he gave him many great fiefs in
More. Whenever they were on a cruise together, Skopte must lay
his ship nearest to the earl's, and no other ship was allowed to
come in between.
20. DEATH OF SKOPTE.
One summer that Earl Hakon was on a cruise, there was a ship with
him of which Thorleif Spake (the Wise) was steersman. In it was
also Eirik, Earl Hakon's son, then about ten or eleven years old.
Now in the evenings, as they came into harbour, Eirik would not
allow any ship but his to lie nearest to the earl's. But when
they came to the south, to More, they met Skopte the earl's
brother-in-law, with a well-manned ship; and as they rowed
towards the fleet, Skopte called out that Thorleif should move
out of the harbour to make room for him, and should go to the
roadstead. Eirik in haste took up the matter, and ordered Skopte
to go himself to the roadstead. When Earl Hakon heard that his
son thought himself too great to give place to Skopte, he called
to them immediately that they should haul out from their berth,
threatening them with chastisement if they did not. When
Thorleif heard this, he ordered his men to slip their land-cable,
and they did so; and Skopte laid his vessel next to the earl's as
he used to do. When they came together, Skopte brought the earl
all the news he had gathered, and the earl communicated to Skopte
all the news he had heard; and Skopte was therefore called
Tidindaskopte (the Newsman Skopte). The winter after (A.D. 973)
Eirik was with his foster-father Thorleif, and early in spring he
gathered a crew of followers, and Thorleif gave him a boat of
fifteen benches of rowers, with ship furniture, tents, and ship
provisions; and Eirik set out from the fjord, and southwards to
More. Tidindaskopte happened also to be going with a fully
manned boat of fifteen rowers' benches from one of his farms to
another, and Eirik went against him to have a battle. Skopte was
slain, but Eirik granted life to those of his men who were still
on their legs. So says Eyjolf Dadaskald in the "Banda Lay": --
"At eve the youth went out
To meet the warrior stout --
To meet stout Skopte -- he
Whose war-ship roves the sea
Like force was on each side,
But in the whirling tide
The young wolf Eirik slew
Skopte, and all his crew
And he was a gallant one,
Dear to the Earl Hakon.
Up, youth of steel-hard breast --
No time hast thou to rest!
Thy ocean wings spread wide --
Speed o'er the foaming tide!
Speed on -- speed on thy way!
For here thou canst not stay."
Eirik sailed along the land and came to Denmark, and went to King
Harald Gormson, and staid with him all winter (A.D. 974). In
spring the Danish king sent him north to Norway, and gave him an
earldom, and the government of Vingulmark and Raumarike, on the
same terms as the small scat-paying kings had formerly held these
domains. So says Eyjolf Dadaskald: --
"South through ocean's spray
His dragon flew away
To Gormson's hall renowned.
Where the bowl goes bravely round.
And the Danish king did place
This youth of noble race
Where, shield and sword in hand,
He would aye defend his land."
Eirik became afterwards a great chief.
21. OLAF TRYGVASON'S JOURNEY FROM RUSSIA.
All this time Olaf Trygvason was in Gardarike (Russia), and
highly esteemed by King Valdemar, and beloved by the queen. King
Valdemar made him chief over the men-at-arms whom he sent out to
defend the land. So says Hallarsteid-
"The hater of the niggard band,
The chief who loves the Northman's land,
Was only twelve years old when he
His Russian war-ships put to sea.
The wain that ploughs the sea was then
Loaded with war-gear by his men --
With swords, and spears, and helms: and deep
Out to the sea his good ships sweep."
Olaf had several battles, and was lucky as a leader of troops.
He himself kept a great many men-at-arms at his own expense out
of the pay the king gave him. Olaf was very generous to his men,
and therefore very popular. But then it came to pass, what so
often happens when a foreigner is raised to higher power and
dignity than men of the country, that many envied him because he
was so favoured by the king, and also not less so by the queen.
They hinted to the king that he should take care not to make Olaf
too powerful, -- "for such a man may be dangerous to you, if he
were to allow himself to be used for the purpose of doing you or
your kingdom harm; for he is extremely expert in all exercises
and feats, and very popular. We do not, indeed, know what it is
he can have to talk of so often with the queen." It was then the
custom among great monarchs that the queen should have half of
the court attendants, and she supported them at her own expense
out of the scat and revenue provided for her for that purpose.
It was so also at the court of King Valdemar that the queen had
an attendance as large as the king, and they vied with each other
about the finest men, each wanting to have such in their own
service. It so fell out that the king listened to such speeches,
and became somewhat silent and blunt towards Olaf. When Olaf
observed this, he told it to the queen; and also that he had a
great desire to travel to the Northern land, where his family
formerly had power and kingdoms, and where it was most likely he
would advance himself. The queen wished him a prosperous
journey, and said he would be found a brave man wherever he might
be. Olaf then made ready, went on board, and set out to sea in
As he was coming from the east he made the island of
Borgundarholm (Bornholm), where he landed and plundered. The
country people hastened down to the strand, and gave him battle;
but Olaf gained the victory, and a large booty.
22. OLAF TRYGVASON'S MARRIAGE.
While Olaf lay at Borgundarholm there came on bad weather, storm,
and a heavy sea, so that his ships could not lie there; and he
sailed southwards under Vindland, where they found a good
harbour. They conducted themselves very peacefully, and remained
some time. In Vindland there was then a king called Burizleif,
who had three daughters, -- Geira, Gunhild, and Astrid. The
king's daughter Geira had the power and government in that part
where Olaf and his people landed, and Dixen was the name of the
man who most usually advised Queen Geira. Now when they heard
that unknown people were came to the country, who were of
distinguished appearance, and conducted themselves peaceably,
Dixen repaired to them with a message from Queen Geira, inviting
the strangers to take up their winter abode with her; for the
summer was almost spent, and the weather was severe and stormy.
Now when Dixen came to the place he soon saw that the leader was
a distinguished man, both from family and personal appearance,
and he told Olaf the queen's invitation with the most kindly
message. Olaf willingly accepted the invitation, and went in
harvest (A.D. 982) to Queen Geira. They liked each other
exceedingly, and Olaf courted Queen Geira; and it was so settled
that Olaf married her the same winter, and was ruler, along
with Queen Geira, over her dominions. Halfred Vandredaskald
tells of these matters in the lay he composed about King Olaf: --
"Why should the deeds the hero did
In Bornholm and the East he hid?
His deadly weapon Olaf bold
Dyed red: why should not this be told?"
23. EARL HAKON PAYS NO SCAT.
Earl Hakon ruled over Norway, and paid no scat; because the
Danish king gave him all the scat revenue that belonged to the
king in Norway, for the expense and trouble he had in defending
the country against Gunhild's sons.
24. HARALD OPPOSES CHRISTIANITY.
The Emperor Otta (Otto) was at that time in the Saxon country,
and sent a message to King Harald, the Danish king, that he must
take on the true faith and be baptized, he and all his people
whom he ruled; "otherwise," says the emperor, "we will march
against him with an army." The Danish king ordered the land
defence to be fitted out, Danavirke (1) (the Danish wall) to be
well fortified, and his ships of war rigged out. He sent a
message also to Earl Hakon in Norway to come to him early in
spring, and with as many men as he could possibly raise. In
spring (A.D. 975) Earl Hakon levied an army over the whole
country which was very numerous, and with it he sailed to meet
the Danish king. The king received him in the most honourable
manner. Many other chiefs also joined the Danish king with their
men, so that he had gathered a very large army.
(1) Danavirke. The Danish work was a wall of earth, stones, and
wood, with a deep ditch in front, and a castle at every
hundred fathoms, between the rivers Eider and Slien,
constructed by Harald Blatand (Bluetooth) to oppose the
progress of Charlemagne. Some traces of it still exist.
25. OLAF TRYGVASON'S WAR EXPEDITION.
Olaf Trygvason had been all winter (A.D. 980) in Vindland, as
before related, and went the same winter to the baronies in
Vindland which had formerly been under Queen Geira, but had
withdrawn themselves from obedience and payment of taxes. There
Olaf made war, killed many people, burnt out others, took much
property, and laid all of them under subjection to him, and then
went back to his castle. Early in spring Olaf rigged out his
ships and set off to sea. He sailed to Skane and made a landing.
The people of the country assembled, and gave him battle; but
King Olaf conquered, and made a great booty. He then sailed
eastward to the island of Gotland, where he captured a merchant
vessel belonging to the people of Jamtaland. They made a brave
defence; but the end of it was that Olaf cleared the deck, killed
many of the men, and took all the goods. He had a third battle
in Gotland, in which he also gained the victory, and made a great
booty. So says Halfred Vandredaskald: --
"The king, so fierce in battle-fray,
First made the Vindland men give way:
The Gotlanders must tremble next;
And Scania's shores are sorely vexed
By the sharp pelting arrow shower
The hero and his warriors pour;
And then the Jamtaland men must fly,
Scared by his well-known battle-cry."
26. OTTA AND HAKON IN BATTLE.
The Emperor Otta assembled a great army from Saxland, Frakland,
Frisland, and Vindland. King Burizleif followed him with a large
army, and in it was his son-in-law, Olaf Trygvason. The emperor
had a great body of horsemen, and still greater of foot people,
and a great army from Holstein. Harald, the Danish king, sent
Earl Hakon with the army of Northmen that followed him southwards
to Danavirke, to defend his kingdom on that side. So it is told
in the "Vellekla": --
"Over the foaming salt sea spray
The Norse sea-horses took their way,
Racing across the ocean-plain
Southwards to Denmark's green domain.
The gallant chief of Hordaland
Sat at the helm with steady hand,
In casque and shield, his men to bring
From Dovre to his friend the king.
He steered his war-ships o'er the wave
To help the Danish king to save
Mordalf, who, with a gallant band
Was hastening from the Jutes' wild land,
Across the forest frontier rude,
With toil and pain through the thick wood.
Glad was the Danish king, I trow,
When he saw Hakon's galley's prow.
The monarch straightway gave command
To Hakon, with a steel-clad band,
To man the Dane-work's rampart stout,
And keep the foreign foemen out."
The Emperor Otta came with his army from the south to Danavirke,
but Earl Hakon defended the rampart with his men. The Dane-work
(Danavirke) was constructed in this way: -- Two fjords run into
the land, one on each side; and in the farthest bight of these
fjords the Danes had made a great wall of stone, turf, and
timber, and dug a deep and broad ditch in front of it, and had
also built a castle over each gate of it. There was a hard
battle there, of which the "Vellekla" speaks: --
"Thick the storm of arrows flew,
Loud was the din, black was the view
Of close array of shield and spear
Of Vind, and Frank, and Saxon there.
But little recked our gallant men;
And loud the cry might be heard then
Of Norway's brave sea-roving son --
'On 'gainst the foe! On! Lead us on!"
Earl Hakon drew up his people in ranks upon all the gate-towers
of the wall, but the greater part of them he kept marching along
the wall to make a defence wheresoever an attack was threatened.
Many of the emperor's people fell without making any impression
on the fortification, so the emperor turned back without farther
attempt at an assault on it. So it is said in the "Vellekla": --
"They who the eagle's feast provide
In ranked line fought side by side,
'Gainst lines of war-men under shields\
Close packed together on the fields,
Earl Hakon drive by daring deeds
The Saxons to their ocean-steeds;
And the young hero saves from fall
The Danavirke -- the people's wall."
After this battle Earl Hakon went back to his ships, and intended
to sail home to Norway; but he did not get a favourable wind, and
lay for some time outside at Limafjord.
27. HARALD AND HAKON ARE BAPTIZED.
The Emperor Otta turned back with his troops to Slesvik,
collected his ships of war, and crossed the fjord of Sle into
Jutland. As soon as the Danish king heard of this he marched his
army against him, and there was a battle, in which the emperor at
last got the victory. The Danish king fled to Limafjord and took
refuge in the island Marsey. By the help of mediators who went
between the king and the emperor, a truce and a meeting between
them were agreed on. The Emperor Otta and the Danish king met
upon Marsey. There Bishop Poppo instructed King Harald in the
holy faith; he bore red hot irons in his hands, and exhibited his
unscorched hands to the king. Thereafter King Harald allowed
himself to be baptized, and also the whole Danish army. King
Harald, while he was in Marsey, had sent a message to Hakon that
he should come to his succour; and the earl had just reached the
island when the king had received baptism. The king sends word
to the earl to come to him, and when they met the king forced the
earl to allow himself also to be baptized. So Earl Hakon and all
the men who were with him were baptized; and the king gave them
priests and other learned men with them, and ordered that the
earl should make all the people in Norway be baptized. On that
they separated; and the earl went out to sea, there to wait for a
28. HAKON RENOUNCES CHRISTIANITY.
When a wind came with which he thought he could get clear out to
sea, he put all the learned men on shore again, and set off to
the ocean; but as the wind came round to the south-west, and at
last to west, he sailed eastward, out through Eyrarsund, ravaging
the land on both sides. He then sailed eastward along Skane,
plundering the country wherever he came. When he got east to the
skerries of East Gautland, he ran in and landed, and made a great
blood-sacrifice. There came two ravens flying which croaked
loudly; and now, thought the earl, the blood-offering has been
accepted by Odin, and he thought good luck would be with him any
day he liked to go to battle. Then he set fire to his ships,
landed his men, and went over all the country with armed hand.
Earl Ottar, who ruled over Gautland, came against him, and they
held a great battle with each other; but Earl Hakon gained the
day, and Earl Ottar and a great part of his men were killed.
Earl Hakon now drove with fire and sword over both the Gautlands,
until he came into Norway; and then he proceeded by land all the
way north to Throndhjem. The "Vellekla" tells about this: --
"On the silent battle-field,
In viking garb, with axe and shield,
The warrior, striding o'er the slain,
Asks of the gods `What days will gain?'
Two ravens, flying from the east,
Come croaking to the bloody feast:
The warrior knows what they foreshow --
The days when Gautland blood will flow.
A viking-feast Earl Hakon kept,
The land with viking fury swept,
Harrying the land far from the shore
Where foray ne'er was known before.
Leaving the barren cold coast side,
He raged through Gautland far and wide, --
Led many a gold-decked viking shield
O'er many a peaceful inland field.
Bodies on bodies Odin found
Heaped high upon each battle ground:
The moor, as if by witchcraft's power,
Grows green, enriched by bloody shower.
No wonder that the gods delight
To give such luck in every fight
To Hakon's men -- for he restores
Their temples on our Norway shores."
29. THE EMPEROR OTTA RETURNS HOME.
The Emperor Otta went back to his kingdom in the Saxon land, and
parted in friendship with the Danish king. It is said that the
Emperor Otta stood godfather to Svein, King Harald's son, and
gave him his name; so that he was baptized Otta Svein. King
Harald held fast by his Christianity to his dying day.
King Burizleif went to Vindland, and his son-in-law King Olaf
went with him. This battle is related also by Halfred
Vandredaskald in his song on Olaf: --
"He who through the foaming surges
His white-winged ocean-coursers urges,
Hewed from the Danes, in armour dressed,
The iron bark off mail-clad breast."
30. OLAF'S JOURNEY FROM VINDLAND.
Olaf Trygvason was three years in Vindland (A.D. 982-984) when
Geira his queen fell sick, and she died of her illness. Olaf
felt his loss so great that he had no pleasure in Vindland after
it. He provided himself, therefore, with warships, and went out
again a plundering, and plundered first in Frisland, next in
Saxland, and then all the way to Flaemingjaland (Flanders). So
says Halfred Vandredaskald: --
"Olaf's broad axe of shining steel
For the shy wolf left many a meal.
The ill-shaped Saxon corpses lay
Heaped up, the witch-wife's horses' (1) prey.
She rides by night: at pools of blood.
Where Frisland men in daylight stood,
Her horses slake their thirst, and fly
On to the field where Flemings lie.
The raven-friend in Odin's dress --
Olaf, who foes can well repress,
Left Flemish flesh for many a meal
With his broad axe of shining steel."
(1) Ravens were the witches' horses. -- L.
31. KING OLAF'S FORAYS.
Thereafter Olaf Trygvason sailed to England, and ravaged wide
around in the land. He sailed all the way north to
Northumberland, where he plundered; and thence to Scotland,
where he marauded far and wide. Then he went to the Hebrides,
where he fought some battles; and then southwards to Man, where
he also fought. He ravaged far around in Ireland, and thence
steered to Bretland, which he laid waste with fire and sword, and
all the district called Cumberland. He sailed westward from
thence to Valland, and marauded there. When he left the west,
intending to sail to England, he came to the islands called the
Scilly Isles, lying westward from England in the ocean. Thus
tells Halfred Vandraskald of these events: --
The brave young king, who ne'er retreats,
The Englishman in England beats.
Death through Northumberland is spread
From battleaxe and broad spearhead.
Through Scotland with his spears he rides;
To Man his glancing ships he guides:
Feeding the wolves where'er he came,
The young king drove a bloody game.
The gallant bowmen in the isles
Slew foemen, who lay heaped in piles.
The Irish fled at Olaf's name --
Fled from a young king seeking fame.
In Bretland, and in Cumberland,
People against him could not stand:
Thick on the fields their corpses lay,
To ravens and howling wolves a prey."
Olaf Trygvason had been four years on this cruise (A.D. 985-988),
from the time he left Vindland till he came to the Scilly
32. KING OLAF IS BAPTIZED.
While Olaf Trygvason lay in the Scilly Isles he heard of a seer,
or fortune-teller, on the islands, who could tell beforehand
things not yet done, and what he foretold many believed was
really fulfilled. Olaf became curious to try this man's gift of
prophecy. He therefore sent one of his men, who was the
handsomest and strongest, clothed him magnificently, and bade him
say he was the king; for Olaf was known in all countries as
handsomer, stronger, and braver than all others, although, after
he had left Russia, he retained no more of his name than that he
was called Ole, and was Russian. Now when the messenger came to
the fortune-teller, and gave himself out for the king, he got the
answer, "Thou art not the king, but I advise thee to be faithful
to thy king." And more he would not say to that man. The man
returned, and told Olaf, and his desire to meet the fortune-
teller was increased; and now he had no doubt of his being really
a fortune-teller. Olaf repaired himself to him, and, entering
into conversation, asked him if he could foresee how it would go
with him with regard to his kingdom, or of any other fortune he
was to have. The hermit replies in a holy spirit of prophecy,
"Thou wilt become a renowned king, and do celebrated deeds. Many
men wilt thou bring to faith and baptism, and both to thy own and
others' good; and that thou mayst have no doubt of the truth of
this answer, listen to these tokens: When thou comest to thy
ships many of thy people will conspire against thee, and then a
battle will follow in which many of thy men will fall, and thou
wilt be wounded almost to death, and carried upon a shield to thy
ship; yet after seven days thou shalt be well of thy wounds, and
immediately thou shalt let thyself be baptized." Soon after Olaf
went down to his ships, where he met some mutineers and people
who would destroy him and his men. A fight took place, and the
result was what the hermit had predicted, that Olaf was wounded,
and carried upon a shield to his ship, and that his wound was
healed in seven days. Then Olaf perceived that the man had
spoken truth, that he was a true fortune-teller, and had the gift
of prophecy. Olaf went once more to the hermit, and asked
particularly how he came to have such wisdom in foreseeing things
to be. The hermit replied, that the Christian God himself let
him know all that he desired; and he brought before Olaf many
great proofs of the power of the Almighty. In consequence of
this encouragement Olaf agreed to let himself be baptized, and he
and all his followers were baptized forthwith. He remained here
a long time, took the true faith, and got with him priests and
other learned men.
33. OLAF MARRIES GYDA.
In autumn (A.D. 988) Olaf sailed from Scilly to England, where he
put into a harbour, but proceeded in a friendly way; for England
was Christian, and he himself had become Christian. At this time
a summons to a Thing went through the country, that all men
should come to hold a Thing. Now when the Thing was assembled a
queen called Gyda came to it, a sister of Olaf Kvaran, who was
king of Dublin in Ireland. She had been married to a great earl
in England, and after his death she was at the head of his
dominions. In her territory there was a man called Alfvine, who
was a great champion and single-combat man. He had paid his
addresses to her; but she gave for answer, that she herself would
choose whom of the men in her dominions she would take in
marriage; and on that account the Thing was assembled, that she
might choose a husband. Alfvine came there dressed out in his
best clothes, and there were many well-dressed men at the
meeting. Olaf had come there also; but had on his bad-weather
clothes, and a coarse over-garment, and stood with his people
apart from the rest of the crowd. Gyda went round and looked at
each, to see if any appeared to her a suitable man. Now when she
came to where Olaf stood she looked at him straight in the face,
and asked "what sort of man he was?"
He said, "I am called Ole; and I am a stranger here."
Gyda replies, "Wilt thou have me if I choose thee?"
"I will not say no to that," answered he; and he asked what her
name was, and her family, and descent.
"I am called Gyda," said she; "and am daughter of the king of
Ireland, and was married in this country to an earl who ruled
over this territory. Since his death I have ruled over it, and
many have courted me, but none to whom I would choose to be
She was a young and handsome woman. They afterwards talked over
the matter together, and agreed, and Olaf and Gyda were
34. KING OLAF AND ALFVINE'S DUEL.
Alfvine was very ill pleased with this. It was the custom then
in England, if two strove for anything, to settle the matter by
single combat (1); and now Alfvine challenges Olaf Trygvason to
fight about this business. The time and place for the combat
were settled, and that each should have twelve men with him.
When they met, Olaf told his men to do exactly as they saw him
do. He had a large axe; and when Alfvine was going to cut at him
with his sword he hewed away the sword out of his hand, and with
the next blow struck down Alfvine himself. He then bound him
fast. It went in the same way with all Alfvine's men. They were
beaten down, bound, and carried to Olaf's lodging. Thereupon he
ordered Alfvine to quit the country, and never appear in it
again; and Olaf took all his property. Olaf in this way got Gyda
in marriage, and lived sometimes in England, and sometimes in
(1) Holm-gang: so called because the combatants went to a holm
or uninhabited isle to fight in Norway. -- L.
35. KING OLAF GETS HIS DOG VIGE.
While Olaf was in Ireland he was once on an expedition which went
by sea. As they required to make a foray for provisions on the
coast, some of his men landed, and drove down a large herd of
cattle to the strand. Now a peasant came up, and entreated Olaf
to give him back the cows that belonged to him. Olaf told him to
take his cows, if he could distinguish them; "but don't delay our
march." The peasant had with him a large house-dog, which he put
in among the herd of cattle, in which many hundred head of beasts
were driven together. The dog ran into the herd, and drove out
exactly the number which the peasant had said he wanted; and all
were marked with the same mark, which showed that the dog knew
the right beasts, and was very sagacious. Olaf then asked the
peasant if he would sell him the dog. "I would rather give him
to you," said the peasant. Olaf immediately presented him with a
gold ring in return, and promised him his friendship in future.
This dog was called Vige, and was the very best of dogs, and Olaf
owned him long afterwards.
36. HARALD GORMSON SAILS AGAINST ICELAND.
The Danish king, Harald Gormson, heard that Earl Hakon had thrown
off Christianity, and had plundered far and wide in the Danish
land. The Danish king levied an army, with which he went to
Norway; and when he came to the country which Earl Hakon had to
rule over he laid waste the whole land, and came with his fleet
to some islands called Solunder. Only five houses were left
standing in Laeradal; but all the people fled up to the
mountains, and into the forest, taking with them all the moveable
goods they could carry with them. Then the Danish king proposed
to sail with his fleet to Iceland, to avenge the mockery and
scorn all the Icelanders had shown towards him; for they had made
a law in Iceland, that they should make as many lampoons against
the Danish king as there were headlands in his country; and the
reason was, because a vessel which belonged to certain Icelanders
was stranded in Denmark, and the Danes took all the property, and
called it wreck. One of the king's bailiffs called Birger was to
blame for this; but the lampoons were made against both. In the
lampoons were the following lines: --
"The gallant Harald in the field
Between his legs lets drop his shield;
Into a pony he was changed.
And kicked his shield, and safely ranged.
And Birger, he who dwells in halls
For safety built with four stone walls,
That these might be a worthy pair,
Was changed into a pony mare."
37. HARALD SENDS A WARLOCK TO ICELAND.
King Harald told a warlock to hie to Iceland in some altered
shape, and to try what he could learn there to tell him: and he
set out in the shape of a whale. And when he came near to the
land he went to the west side of Iceland, north around the land,
where he saw all the mountains and hills full of guardian-
spirits, some great, some small. When he came to Vapnafjord he
went in towards the land, intending to go on shore; but a huge
dragon rushed down the dale against him with a train of serpents,
paddocks, and toads, that blew poison towards him. Then he
turned to go westward around the land as far as Eyjafjord, and he
went into the fjord. Then a bird flew against him, which was so
great that its wings stretched over the mountains on either side
of the fjord, and many birds, great and small, with it. Then he
swam farther west, and then south into Breidafjord. When he came
into the fjord a large grey bull ran against him, wading into the
sea, and bellowing fearfully, and he was followed by a crowd of
land-spirits. From thence he went round by Reykjanes, and wanted
to land at Vikarsskeid, but there came down a hill-giant against
him with an iron staff in his hands. He was a head higher than
the mountains, and many other giants followed him. He then swam
eastward along the land, and there was nothing to see, he said,
but sand and vast deserts, and, without the skerries, high-
breaking surf; and the ocean between the countries was so wide
that a long-ship could not cross it. At that time Brodhelge
dwelt in Vapnafjord, Eyjolf Valgerdson in Eyjafjord, Thord Geller
in Breidafjord, and Thorod Gode in Olfus. Then the Danish king
turned about with his fleet, and sailed back to Denmark.
Hakon the earl settled habitations again in the country that had
been laid waste, and paid no scat as long as he lived to Denmark.
38. HARALD GORMSON'S DEATH.
Svein, King Harald's son, who afterwards was called Tjuguskeg
(forked beard), asked his father King Harald for a part of his
kingdom; but now, as before, Harald would not listen to dividing
the Danish dominions, and giving him a kingdom. Svein collected
ships of war, and gave out that he was going on a viking cruise;
but when all his men were assembled, and the Jomsborg viking
Palnatoke had come to his assistance he ran into Sealand to
Isafjord, where his father had been for some time with his ships
ready to proceed on an expedition. Svein instantly gave battle,
and the combat was severe. So many people flew to assist King
Harald, that Svein was overpowered by numbers, and fled. But
King Harald received a wound which ended in his death: and Svein
was chosen King of Denmark. At this time Sigvalde was earl over
Jomsborg in Vindland. He was a son of King Strutharald, who had
ruled over Skane. Heming, and Thorkel the Tall, were Sigvalde's
brothers. Bue the Thick from Bornholm, and Sigurd his brother,
were also chiefs among the Jomsborg vikings: and also Vagn, a son
of Ake and Thorgunna, and a sister's son of Bue and Sigurd. Earl
Sigvalde had taken King Svein prisoner, and carried him to
Vindland, to Jomsborg, where he had forced him to make peace with
Burizleif, the king of the Vinds, and to take him as the peace-
maker between them. Earl Sigvalde was married to Astrid, a
daughter of King Burizleif; and told King Svein that if he did
not accept of his terms, he would deliver him into the hands of
the Vinds. The king knew that they would torture him to death,
and therefore agreed to accept the earl's mediation. The earl
delivered this judgment between them -- that King Svein should
marry Gunhild, King Burizleif's daughter; and King Burizleif
again Thyre, a daughter of Harald, and King Svein's sister; but
that each party should retain their own dominions, and there
should be peace between the countries. Then King Svein returned
home to Denmark with his wife Gunhild. Their sons were Harald
and Knut (Canute) the Great. At that time the Danes threatened
much to bring an army into Norway against Earl Hakon.
39. VOW OF THE JOMSBORG VIKINGS.
King Svein made a magnificent feast, to which he invited all the
chiefs in his dominions; for he would give the succession-feast,
or the heirship-ale, after his father Harald. A short time
before, Strutharald in Skane, and Vesete in Bornholm, father to
Bue the Thick and to Sigurd, had died; and King Svein sent word
to the Jomsborg vikings that Earl Sigvalde and Bue, and their
brothers, should come to him, and drink the funeral-ale for their
fathers in the same feast the king was giving. The Jomsborg
vikings came to the festival with their bravest men, forty ships
of them from Vindland, and twenty ships from Skane. Great was
the multitude of people assembled. The first day of the feast,
before King Svein went up into his father's high-seat, he drank
the bowl to his father's memory, and made the solemn vow, that
before three winters were past he would go over with his army to
England, and either kill King Adalrad (Ethelred), or chase him
out of the country. This heirship bowl all who were at the feast
drank. Thereafter for the chiefs of the Jomsborg vikings was
filled and drunk the largest horn to be found, and of the
strongest drink. When that bowl was emptied, all men drank
Christ's health; and again the fullest measure and the strongest
drink were handed to the Jomsborg vikings. The third bowl was to
the memory of Saint Michael, which was drunk by all. Thereafter
Earl Sigvalde emptied a remembrance bowl to his father's honour,
and made the solemn vow, that before three winters came to an end
he would go to Norway, and either kill Earl Hakon, or chase him
out of the country. Thereupon Thorkel the Tall, his brother,
made a solemn vow to follow his brother Sigvalde to Norway, and
not flinch from the battle so long as Sigvalde would fight there.
Then Bue the Thick vowed to follow them to Norway, and not flinch
so long as the other Jomsborg vikings fought. At last Vagn
Akason vowed that he would go with them to Norway, and not return
until he had slain Thorkel Leira, and gone to bed to his daughter
Ingebjorg without her friends' consent. Many other chiefs made
solemn vows about different things. Thus was the heirship-ale
drunk that day, but the next morning, when the Jomsborg vikings
had slept off their drink, they thought they had spoken more than
enough. They held a meeting to consult how they should proceed
with their undertaking, and they determined to fit out as
speedily as possible for the expedition; and without delay ships
and men-at-arms were prepared, and the news spread quickly.
40. EIRIK AND HAKON MAKE A WAR LEVY.
When Earl Eirik, the son of Hakon, who at that time was in
Raumarike, heard the tidings, he immediately gathered troops, and
went to the Uplands, and thence over the mountains to Throndhjem,
and joined his father Earl Hakon. Thord Kolbeinson speaks of
this in the lay of Eirik: --
"News from the south are flying round;
The bonde comes with look profound,
Bad news of bloody battles bringing,
Of steel-clad men, of weapons ringing.
I hear that in the Danish land
Long-sided ships slide down the strand,
And, floating with the rising tide,
The ocean-coursers soon will ride."
The earls Hakon and Eirik had war-arrows split up and sent round
the Throndhjem country; and despatched messages to both the
Mores, North More and South More, and to Raumsdal, and also north
to Naumudal and Halogaland. They summoned all the country to
provide both men and ships. So it is said in Eirik's lay:
"The skald must now a war-song raise,
The gallant active youth must praise,
Who o'er the ocean's field spreads forth
Ships, cutters, boats, from the far north.
His mighty fleet comes sailing by, --
The people run to see them glide,
Mast after mast, by the coast-side."
Earl Hakon set out immediately to the south, to More, to
reconnoitre and gather people; and Earl Eirik gathered an army
from the north to follow.
41. EXPEDITION OF THE JOMSBORG VIKINGS.
The Jomsborg vikings assembled their fleet in Limafjord, from
whence they went to sea with sixty sail of vessels. When they
came under the coast of Agder, they steered northwards to
Rogaland with their fleet, and began to plunder when they came
into the earl's territory; and so they sailed north along the
coast, plundering and burning. A man, by name Geirmund, sailed
in a light boat with a few men northwards to More, and there he
fell in with Earl Hakon, stood before his dinner table, and told
the earl the tidings of an army from Denmark having come to the
south end of the land. The earl asked if he had any certainty of
it. Then Geirmund stretched forth one arm, from which the hand
was cut off, and said, "Here is the token that the enemy is in
the land." Then the earl questioned him particularly about this
army. Geirmund says it consists of Jomsborg vikings, who have
killed many people, and plundered all around. "And hastily and
hotly they pushed on," says he "and I expect it will not be long
before they are upon you." On this the earl rode into every
fjord, going in along the one side of the land and out at the
other, collecting men; and thus he drove along night and day. He
sent spies out upon the upper ridges, and also southwards into
the Fjords; and he proceeded north to meet Eirik with his men.
This appears from Eirik's lay: --
"The earl, well skilled in war to speed
O'er the wild wave the viking-steed,
Now launched the high stems from the shore,
Which death to Sigvalde's vikings bore.
Rollers beneath the ships' keels crash,
Oar-blades loud in the grey sea splash,
And they who give the ravens food
Row fearless through the curling flood."
Eirik hastened southwards with his forces the shortest way he
42. OF THE JOMSBORG VIKINGS.
Earl Sigvalde steered with his fleet northwards around Stad, and
came to the land at the Herey Isles. Although the vikings fell
in with the country people, the people never told the truth about
what the earl was doing; and the vikings went on pillaging and
laying waste. They laid to their vessels at the outer end of Hod
Island, landed, plundered, and drove both men and cattle down to
the ships, killing all the men able to bear arms.
As they were going back to their ships, came a bonde, walking
near to Bue's troop, who said to them, "Ye are not doing like
true warriors, to be driving cows and calves down to the strand,
while ye should be giving chase to the bear, since ye are coming
near to the bear's den."
"What says the old man?" asked some. "Can he tell us anything
about Earl Hakon?"
The peasant replies, "The earl went yesterday into the
Hjorundarfjord with one or two ships, certainly not more than
three, and then he had no news about you."
Bue ran now with his people in all haste down to the ships,
leaving all the booty behind. Bue said, "Let us avail ourselves
now of this news we have got of the earl, and be the first to the
victory." When they came to their ships they rode off from the
land. Earl Sigvalde called to them, and asked what they were
about. They replied, "The earl is in the fjord;" on which Earl
Sigvalde with the whole fleet set off, and rowed north about the
43. BATTLE WITH THE JOMSBORG VIKINGS.
The earls Hakon and Eirik lay in Halkelsvik, where all their
forces were assembled. They had 150 ships, and they had heard
that the Jomsborg vikings had come in from sea, and lay at the
island Hod; and they, in consequence, rowed out to seek them.
When they reached a place called Hjorungavag they met each other,
and both sides drew up their ships in line for an attack. Earl
Sigvalde's banner was displayed in the midst of his army, and
right against it Earl Hakon arranged his force for attack. Earl
Sigvalde himself had 20 ships, but Earl Hakon had 60. In Earl's
army were these chiefs, -- Thorer Hjort from Halogaland, and
Styrkar from Gimsar. In the wing of the opposite array of the
Jomsborg vikings was Bue the Thick, and his brother Sigurd, with
20 ships. Against him Earl Eirik laid himself with 60 ships; and
with him were these chiefs, -- Gudbrand Hvite from the Uplands,
and Thorkel Leira from Viken. In the other wing of the Jomsborg
vikings' array was Vagn Akason with 20 ships; and against him
stood Svein the son of Hakon, in whose division was Skegge of
Yrjar at Uphaug, and Rognvald of Aervik at Stad, with 60 ships.
It is told in the Eirik's lay thus: --
"The bonde's ships along the coast
Sailed on to meet the foemen's host;
The stout earl's ships, with eagle flight,
Rushed on the Danes in bloody fight.
The Danish ships, of court-men full,
Were cleared of men, -- and many a hull
Was driving empty on the main,
With the warm corpses of the slain."
Eyvind Skaldaspiller says also in the "Haleygja-tal": --
"Twas at the peep of day, --
Our brave earl led the way;
His ocean horses bounding --
His war-horns loudly sounding!
No joyful morn arose
For Yngve Frey's base foes
These Christian island-men
Wished themselves home again."
Then the fleets came together, and one of the sharpest of
conflicts began. Many fell on both sides, but the most by far on
Hakon's side; for the Jomsborg vikings fought desperately,
sharply, and murderously, and shot right through the shields. So
many spears were thrown against Earl Hakon that his armour was
altogether split asunder, and he threw it off. So says Tind
"The ring-linked coat of strongest mail
Could not withstand the iron hail,
Though sewed with care and elbow bent,
By Norn (1), on its strength intent.
The fire of battle raged around, --
Odin's steel shirt flew all unbound!
The earl his ring-mail from him flung,
Its steel rings on the wet deck rung;
Part of it fell into the sea, --
A part was kept, a proof to be
How sharp and thick the arrow-flight
Among the sea-steeds in this fight."
(1) Norn, one of the Fates, stands here for women, whose
business it was to sew the rings of iron upon the cloth
which made these ring-mail coats or shirts. The needles,
although some of them were of gold, appear to have been
without eyes, and used like shoemaker's awls. -- L.
44. EARL SIGVALDE'S FLIGHT.
The Jomsborg vikings had larger and higher-sided ships; and both
parties fought desperately. Vagn Akason laid his ship on board
of Svein Earl Hakon's son's ship, and Svein allowed his ship to
give way, and was on the point of flying. Then Earl Eirik came
up, and laid his ship alongside of Vagn, and then Vagn gave way,
and the ships came to lie in the same position as before.
Thereupon Eirik goes to the other wing, which had gone back a
little, and Bue had cut the ropes, intending to pursue them.
Then Eirik laid himself, board to board, alongside of Bue's ship,
and there was a severe combat hand to hand. Two or three of
Eirik's ships then laid themselves upon Bue's single vessel. A
thunder-storm came on at this moment, and such a heavy hail-storm
that every hailstone weighed a pennyweight. The Earl Sigvalde
cut his cable, turned his ship round, and took flight. Vagn
Akason called to him not to fly; but as Earl Sigvalde paid no
attention to what he said, Vagn threw his spear at him, and hit
the man at the helm. Earl Sigvalde rowed away with 35 ships,
leaving 25 of his fleet behind.
45. BUE THROWS HIMSELF OVERBOARD.
Then Earl Hakon laid his ship on the other side of Bue's ship,
and now came heavy blows on Bue's men. Vigfus, a son of
Vigaglum, took up an anvil with a sharp end, which lay upon
the deck, and on which a man had welded the hilt to his sword
just before, and being a very strong man cast the anvil with both
hands at the head of Aslak Holmskalle, and the end of it went
into his brains. Before this no weapon could wound this Aslak,
who was Bue's foster-brother, and forecastle commander, although
he could wound right and left. Another man among the strongest
and bravest was Havard Hoggande. In this attack Eirik's men
boarded Bue's ship, and went aft to the quarter-deck where Bue
stood. There Thorstein Midlang cut at Bue across his nose, so
that the nosepiece of his helmet was cut in two, and he got a
great wound; but Bue, in turn, cut at Thorstein's side, so that
the sword cut the man through. Then Bue lifted up two chests
full of gold, and called aloud, "Overboard all Bue s men," and
threw himself overboard with his two chests. Many of his people
sprang overboard with him. Some fell in the ship, for it was of
no use to call for quarter. Bue's ship was cleared of people
from stem to stern, and afterwards all the others, the one after
46. VIKINGS BOUND TOGETHER IN ONE CHAIN.
Earl Eirik then laid himself alongside of Vagn's ship, and there
was a brave defence; but at last this ship too was cleared, and
Vagn and thirty men were taken prisoners, and bound, and brought
to land. Then came up Thorkel Leira, and said, "Thou madest a
solemn vow, Vagn, to kill me, but now it seems more likely that I
will kill thee." Vagn and his men sat all upon a log of wood
together. Thorkel had an axe in his hands, with which he cut
at him who sat outmost on the log. Vagn and the other prisoners
were bound so that a rope was fastened on their feet, but they
had their hands free. One of them said, "I will stick this
cloak-pin that I have in my hand into the earth, if it be so that
I know anything, after my head is cut off." His head was cut
off, but the cloak-pin fell from his hand. There sat also a very
handsome man with long hair, who twisted his hair over his head,
put out his neck, and said, "Don't make my hair bloody." A man
took the hair in his hands and held it fast. Thorkel hewed with
his axe; but the viking twitched his head so strongly that he who
was holding his hair fell forwards, and the axe cut off both his
hands, and stuck fast in the earth. Then Earl Eirik came up, and
asked, "Who is that handsome man?"
He replies, "I am called Sigurd, and am Bue's son. But are all
the Jomsborg vikings dead?"
Eirik says, "Thou art certainly Boe's son. Wilt thou now take
life and peace?"
"That depends," says he, "upon who it is that offers it."
"He offers who has the power to do it -- Earl Eirik."
"That will I," says he, "from his hands." And now the rope was
loosened from him.
Then said Thorkel Leira, "Although thou should give all these men
life and peace, earl, Vagn Akason shall never come from this with
life." And he ran at him with uplifted axe; but the viking
Skarde swung himself in the rope, and let himself fall just
before Thorkel's feet, so that Thorkel ell over him, and Vagn
caught the axe and gave Thorkel a death-wound. Then said the
earl, "Vagn, wilt thou accept life?"
"That I will," says he, "if you give it to all of us."
"Loose them from the rope," said the earl, and it was done.
Eighteen were killed, and twelve got their lives.
47. DEATH OF GISSUR OF VALDERS.
Earl Hakon, and many with him, were sitting upon a piece of wood,
and a bow-string twanged from Bue's ship, and the arrow struck
Gissur from Valders, who was sitting next the earl, and was
clothed splendidly. Thereupon the people went on board, and
found Havard Hoggande standing on his knees at the ship's
railing, for his feet had been cut off (1), and he had a bow in
his hand. When they came on board the ship Havard asked, "Who
fell by that shaft?"
They answered, "A man called Gissur."
"Then my luck was less than I thought," said he.
"Great enough was the misfortune," replied they; "but thou shalt
not make it greater." And they killed him on the spot.
The dead were then ransacked, and the booty brought all together
to be divided; and there were twenty-five ships of the Jomsborg
vikings in the booty. So says Tind:
"Many a viking's body lay
Dead on the deck this bloody day,
Before they cut their sun-dried ropes,
And in quick flight put all their hopes.
He whom the ravens know afar
Cleared five-and-twenty ships of war:
A proof that in the furious fight
None can withstand the Norsemen's might."
Then the army dispersed. Earl Hakon went to Throndhjem, and was
much displeased that Earl Eirik had given quarter to Vagn Akason.
It was said that at this battle Earl Hakon had sacrificed for
victory his son, young Erling, to the gods; and instantly came
the hailstorm, and the defeat and slaughter of the Jomsborg
Earl Eirik went to the Uplands, and eastward by that route to his
own kingdom, taking Vagn Akason with him. Earl Eirik married
Vagn to Ingebjorg, a daughter of Thorkel Leira, and gave him a
good ship of war and all belonging to it, and a crew; and they
parted the best of friends. Then Vagn went home south to
Denmark, and became afterwards a man of great consideration, and
many great people are descended from him.
(1) This traditionary tale of a warrior fighting on his knees
after his legs were cut off, appears to have been a popular
idea among the Northmen, and is related by their descendants
in the ballad o Chevy Chase. -- L.
48. KING HARALD GRENSKE'S DEATH.
Harald Grenske, as before related, was king in Vestfold, and was
married to Asta, a daughter of Gudbrand Kula. One summer (A.D.
994) Harald Grenske made an expedition to the Baltic to gather
property, and he came to Svithjod. Olaf the Swede was king
there, a son of Eirik the Victorious, and Sigrid, a daughter of
Skoglartoste. Sigrid was then a widow, and had many and great
estates in Svithjod. When she heard that her foster-brother was
come to the country a short distance from her, she sent men to
him to invite him to a feast. He did not neglect the invitation,
but came to her with a great attendance of his followers, and was
received in the most friendly way. He and the queen sat in the
high-seat, and drank together towards the evening, and all his
men were entertained in the most hospitable manner. At night,
when the king went to rest, a bed was put up for him with a
hanging of fine linen around it, and with costly bedclothes; but
in the lodging-house there were few men. When the king was
undressed, and had gone to bed, the queen came to him, filled a
bowl herself for him to drink, and was very gay, and pressed to
drink. The king was drunk above measure, and, indeed, so were
they both. Then he slept, and the queen went away, and laid
herself down also. Sigrid was a woman of the greatest
understanding, and clever in many things. In the morning there
was also the most excellent entertainment; but then it went on as
usual when people have drunk too much, that next day they take
care not to exceed. The queen was very gay, and she and the king
talked of many things with each other; among other things she
valued her property, and the dominions she had in Svithjod, as
nothing less than his property in Norway. With that observation
the king was nowise pleased, and he found no pleasure in anything
after that, but made himself ready for his journey in an ill
humor. On the other hand, the queen was remarkably gay, and made
him many presents, and followed him out to the road. Now Harald
returned about harvest to Norway, and was at home all winter; but
was very silent and cast down. In summer he went once more to
the Baltic with his ships, and steered to Svithjod. He sent a
message to Queen Sigrid that he wished to have a meeting with her
and she rode down to meet him. They talked together and he soon
brought out the proposal that she should marry him. She replied,
that this was foolish talk for him, who was so well married
already that he might think himself well off. Harald says, "Asta
is a good and clever woman; but she is not so well born as I am."
Sigrid replies, "It may be that thou art of higher birth, but I
think she is now pregnant with both your fortunes." They
exchanged but few words more before the queen rode away. King
Harald was now depressed in mind, and prepared himself again to
ride up the country to meet Queen Sigrid. Many of his people
dissuaded him; but nevertheless he set off with a great
attendance, and came to the house in which the queen dwelt. The
same evening came another king, called Vissavald, from Gardarike
(Russia), likewise to pay his addresses to Queen Sigrid. Lodging
was given to both the kings, and to all their people, in a great
old room of an out-building, and all the furniture was of the
same character; but there was no want of drink in the evening,
and that so strong that all were drunk, and the watch, both
inside and outside, fell fast asleep. Then Queen Sigrid ordered
an attack on them in the night, both with fire and sword. The
house was burnt, with all who were in it and those who slipped
out were put to the sword. Sigrid said that she would make these
small kings tired of coming to court her. She was afterwards
called Sigrid the Haughty (Storrada).
49. BIRTH OF OLAF, SON OF HARALD GRENSKE.
This happened the winter after the battle of the Jomsborg vikings
at Hjorungavag. When Harald went up the country after Sigrid, he
left Hrane behind with the ships to look after the men. Now when
Hrane heard that Harald was cut off, he returned to Norway the
shortest way he could, and told the news. He repaired first to
Asta, and related to her all that had happened on the journey,
and also on what errand Harald had visited Queen Sigrid. When
Asta got these tidings she set off directly to her father in the
Uplands, who received her well; but both were enraged at the
design which had been laid in Svithjod, and that King Harald had
intended to set her in a single condition. In summer (A.D. 995)
Asta, Gudbrand's daughter, was confined, and had a boy child, who
had water poured over him, and was called Olaf. Hrane himself
poured water over him, and the child was brought up at first in
the house of Gudbrand and his mother Asta.
50. ABOUT EARL HAKON.
Earl Hakon ruled over the whole outer part of Norway that lies on
the sea, and had thus sixteen districts under his sway. The
arrangement introduced by Harald Harfager, that there should be
an earl in each district, was afterward continued for a long
time; and thus Earl Hakon had sixteen earls under him. So says
the "Vellekla": --
"Who before has ever known
Sixteen earls subdued by one?
Who has seen all Norway's land
Conquered by one brave hero's hand?
It will be long in memory held,
How Hakon ruled by sword and shield.
When tales at the viking's mast go round,
His praise will every mouth resound."
While Earl Hakon ruled over Norway there were good crops in the
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