Heimskringla The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway
Snorri Sturlson

Part 5 out of 18

Svein ordered his men to go to their ships, "for there comes the
Long Serpent."

Earl Eirik says, "Many other great and stately vessels have they
besides the Long Serpent. Let us wait a little."

Then said many, "Earl Eirik will not fight and avenge his father;
and it is a great shame that it should be told that we lay here
with so great a force, and allowed King Olaf to sail out to sea
before our eyes."

But when they had spoken thus for a short time, they saw four
ships coming sailing along, of which one had a large dragon-head
richly gilt. Then King Svein stood up and said, "That dragon
shall carry me this evening high, for I shall steer it."

Then said many, "The Long Serpent is indeed a wonderfully large
and beautiful vessel, and it shows a great mind to have built
such a ship."

Earl Eirik said so loud that several persons heard him, "If King
Olaf had no ether vessels but only that one, King Svein would
never take it from him with the Danish force alone."

Thereafter all the people rushed on board their ships, took down
the tents, and in all haste made ready for battle.

While the chiefs were speaking among themselves as above related,
they saw three very large ships coming sailing along, and at last
after them a fourth, and that was the Long Serpent. Of the large
ships which had gone before, and which they had taken for the
Long Serpent, the first was the Crane; the one after that was the
Short Serpent; and when they really, saw the Long Serpent, all
knew, and nobody had a word to say against it, that it must be
Olaf Trygvason who was sailing in such a vessel; and they went to
their ships to arm for the fight.

An agreement had been concluded among the chiefs, King Svein,
King Olaf the Swede, and Earl Eirik, that they should divide
Norway among them in three parts, in case they succeeded against
Olaf Trygvason; but that he of the chiefs who should first board
the Serpent should have her, and all the booty found in her, and
each should have the ships he cleared for himself. Earl Eirik
had a large ship of war which he used upon his viking
expeditions; and there was an iron beard or comb above on both
sides of the stem, and below it a thick iron plate as broad as
the combs, which went down quite to the gunnel.


When Earl Sigvalde with his vessels rowed in under the island,
Thorkel Dydril of the Crane, and the other ship commanders who
sailed with him, saw that he turned his ships towards the isle,
and thereupon let fall the sails, and rowed after him, calling
out, and asking why he sailed that way. The Earl answered, that
he was waiting for king Olaf, as he feared there were enemies in
the water. They lay upon their oars until Thorkel Nefia came up
with the Short Serpent and the three ships which followed him.
When they told them the same they too struck sail, and let the
ships drive, waiting for king Olaf. But when the king sailed in
towards the isle, the whole enemies' fleet came rowing within
them out to the Sound. When they saw this they begged the king
to hold on his way, and not risk battle with so great a force.
The king replied, high on the quarter-deck where he stood,
"Strike the sails; never shall men of mine think of flight. I
never fled from battle. Let God dispose of my life, but flight I
shall never take." It was done as the king commanded. Halfred
tells of it thus: --

"And far and wide the saying bold
Of the brave warrior shall be told.
The king, in many a fray well tried,
To his brave champions round him cried,
`My men shall never learn from me
From the dark weapon-cloud to flee.'
Nor were the brave words spoken then
Forgotten by his faithful men."


King Olaf ordered the war-horns to sound for all his ships to
close up to each other. The king's ship lay in the middle of the
line, and on one side lay the Little Serpent, and on the other
the Crane; and as they made fast the stems together (1), the Long
Serpent's stem and the short Serpent's were made fast together;
but when the king saw it he called out to his men, and ordered
them to lay the larger ship more in advance, so that its stern
should not lie so far behind in the fleet.

Then says Ulf the Red, "If the Long Serpent is to lie as much
more ahead of the other ships as she is longer than them, we
shall have hard work of it here on the forecastle."

The king replies, "I did not think I had a forecastle man afraid
as well as red."

Says Ulf, "Defend thou the quarterdeck as I shall the

The king had a bow in his hands, and laid an arrow on the string,
and aimed at Ulf.

Ulf said, "Shoot another way, king, where it is more needful: my
work is thy gain."

(1) The mode of fighting in sea battles appears, from this and
many other descriptions, to have been for each party to bind
together the stems and sterns of their own ships, forming
them thus into a compact body as soon aa the fleets came
within fighting distance, or within spears' throw. They
appear to have fought principally from the forecastles; and
to have used grappling irons for dragging a vessel out of
the line, or within boarding distance. -- L.


King Olaf stood on the Serpent's quarterdeck, high over the
others. He had a gilt shield, and a helmet inlaid with gold;
over his armour he had a short red coat, and was easy to be
distinguished from other men. When King Olaf saw that the
scattered forces of the enemy gathered themselves together under
the banners of their ships, he asked, "Who is the chief of the
force right opposite to us?"

He was answered, that it was King Svein with the Danish army.

The king replies, "We are not afraid of these soft Danes, for
there is no bravery in them; but who are the troops on the right
of the Danes?"

He was answered, that it was King Olaf with the Swedish forces.

"Better it were," says King Olaf, "for these Swedes to be sitting
at home killing their sacrifices, than to be venturing under our
weapons from the Long Serpent. But who owns the large ships on
the larboard side of the Danes?"

"That is Earl Eirik Hakonson," say they.

The king replies, "He, methinks, has good reason for meeting us;
and we may expect the sharpest conflict with these men, for they
are Norsemen like ourselves."


The kings now laid out their oars, and prepared to attack (A.D.
1000). King Svein laid his ship against the Long Serpent.
Outside of him Olaf the Swede laid himself, and set his ship's
stern against the outermost ship of King Olaf's line; and on the
other side lay Earl Eirik. Then a hard combat began. Earl
Sigvalde held back with the oars on his ships, and did not join
the fray. So says Skule Thorsteinson, who at that time was with
Earl Eirik: --

"I followed Sigvalde in my youth,
And gallant Eirik, and in truth
The' now I am grown stiff and old,
In the spear-song I once was bold.
Where arrows whistled on the shore
Of Svold fjord my shield I bore,
And stood amidst the loudest clash
When swords on shields made fearful crash."

And Halfred also sings thus: --

"In truth I think the gallant king,
Midst such a foemen's gathering,
Would be the better of some score
Of his tight Throndhjem lads, or more;
For many a chief has run away,
And left our brave king in the fray,
Two great kings' power to withstand,
And one great earl's, with his small band,
The king who dares such mighty deed
A hero for his skald would need."


This battle was one of the severest told of, and many were the
people slain. The forecastle men of the Long Serpent, the Little
Serpent, and the Crane, threw grapplings and stem chains into
King Svein's ship, and used their weapons well against the people
standing below them, for they cleared the decks of all the ships
they could lay fast hold of; and King Svein, and all the men who
escaped, fled to other vessels, and laid themselves out of
bow-shot. It went with this force just as King Olaf Trygvason
had foreseen. Then King Olaf the Swede laid himself in their
place; but when he came near the great ships it went with him as
with them, for he lost many men and some ships, and was obliged
to get away. But Earl Eirik laid his ship side by side with the
outermost of King Olaf's ships, thinned it of men, cut the
cables, and let it drive. Then he laid alongside of the next,
and fought until he had cleared it of men also. Now all the
people who were in the smaller ships began to run into the
larger, and the earl cut them loose as fast as he cleared them of
men. The Danes and Swedes laid themselves now out of shooting
distance all around Olaf's ship; but Earl Eirik lay always close
alongside of the ships, and used hid swords and battle-axes, and
as fast as people fell in his vessel others, Danes and Swedes,
came in their place. So says Haldor, the Unchristian: --

"Sharp was the clang of shield and sword,
And shrill the song of spears on board,
And whistling arrows thickly flew
Against the Serpent's gallant crew.
And still fresh foemen, it is said,
Earl Eirik to her long side led;
Whole armies of his Danes and Swedes,
Wielding on high their blue sword-blades."

Then the fight became most severe, and many people fell. But at
last it came to this, that all King Olaf Trygvason's ships were
cleared of men except the Long Serpent, on board of which all who
could still carry their arms were gathered. Then Earl Eirik lay
with his ship by the side of the Serpent, and the fight went on
with battle-axe and sword. So says Haldor: --

"Hard pressed on every side by foes,
The Serpent reels beneath the blows;
Crash go the shields around the bow!
Breast-plates and breasts pierced thro' and thro!
In the sword-storm the Holm beside,
The earl's ship lay alongside
The king's Long Serpent of the sea --
Fate gave the earl the victory."


Earl Eirik was in the forehold of his ship, where a cover of
shields (1) had been set up. In the fight, both hewing weapons,
sword, and axe, and the thrust of spears had been used; and all
that could be used as weapon for casting was cast. Some used
bows, some threw spears with the hand. So many weapons were cast
into the Serpent, and so thick flew spears and arrows, that the
shields could scarcely receive them, for on all sides the Serpent
was surrounded by war-ships. Then King Olaf's men became so mad
with rage, that they ran on board of the enemies ships, to get at
the people with stroke of sword and kill them; but many did not
lay themselves so near the Serpent, in order to escape the close
encounter with battle-axe or sword; and thus the most of Olaf's
men went overboard and sank under their weapons, thinking they
were fighting on plain ground. So says Halfred: --

"The daring lads shrink not from death; --
O'erboard they leap, and sink beneath
The Serpent's keel: all armed they leap,
And down they sink five fathoms deep.
The foe was daunted at the cheers;
The king, who still the Serpent steers,
In such a strait -- beset with foes --
Wanted but some more lads like those."

(1) Both in land and sea fights the commanders appear to have
been protected from missile weapons, -- stones, arrows,
spears, -- by a shieldburg: that is, by a party of men
bearing shields surrounding them in such a way that the
shields were a parapet, covering those within the circle.
The Romans had a similar military arrangement of shields in
sieges -- the testudo. -- L.


Einar Tambarskelver, one of the sharpest of bowshooters, stood by
the mast, and shot with his bow. Einar shot an arrow at Earl
Eirik, which hit the tiller end just above the earl's head so
hard that it entered the wood up to the arrow-shaft. The earl
looked that way, and asked if they knew who had shot; and at the
same moment another arrow flew between his hand and his side, and
into the stuffing of the chief's stool, so that the barb stood
far out on the other side. Then said the earl to a man called
Fin, -- but some say he was of Fin (Laplander) race, and was a
superior archer, -- "Shoot that tall man by the mast." Fin shot;
and the arrow hit the middle of Einar's bow just at the moment
that Einar was drawing it, and the bow was split in two parts.

"What is that."cried King Olaf, "that broke with such a noise?"

"Norway, king, from thy hands," cried Einar.

"No! not quite so much as that," says the king; "take my bow,
and shoot," flinging the bow to him.

Einar took the bow, and drew it over the head of the arrow. "Too
weak, too weak," said he, "for the bow of a mighty king!" and,
throwing the bow aside, he took sword and shield, and fought


The king stood on the gangways of the Long Serpent. and shot the
greater part of the day; sometimes with the bow, sometimes with
the spear, and always throwing two spears at once. He looked
down over the ship's sides, and saw that his men struck briskly
with their swords, and yet wounded but seldom. Then he called
aloud, "Why do ye strike so gently that ye seldom cut?" One
among the people answered, "The swords are blunt and full of
notches." Then the king went down into the forehold, opened the
chest under the throne, and took out many sharp swords, which he
handed to his men; but as he stretched down his right hand with
them, some observed that blood was running down under his steel
glove, but no one knew where he was wounded.


Desperate was the defence in the Serpent, and there was the
heaviest destruction of men done by the forecastle crew, and
those of the forehold, for in both places the men were chosen
men, and the ship was highest, but in the middle of the ship the
people were thinned. Now when Earl Eirik saw there were but few
people remaining beside the ship's mast, he determined to board;
and he entered the Serpent with four others. Then came Hyrning,
the king's brother-in-law, and some others against him, and there
was the most severe combat; and at last the earl was forced to
leap back on board his own ship again, and some who had
accompanied him were killed, and others wounded. Thord
Kolbeinson alludes to this: --

"On Odin's deck, all wet with blood,
The helm-adorned hero stood;
And gallant Hyrning honour gained,
Clearing all round with sword deep stained.
The high mountain peaks shall fall,
Ere men forget this to recall."

Now the fight became hot indeed, and many men fell on board the
Serpent; and the men on board of her began to be thinned off, and
the defence to be weaker. The earl resolved to board the Serpent
again, and again he met with a warm reception. When the
forecastle men of the Serpent saw what he was doing, they went
aft and made a desperate fight; but so many men of the Serpent
had fallen, that the ship's sides were in many places quite bare
of defenders; and the earl's men poured in all around into the
vessel, and all the men who were still able to defend the ship
crowded aft to the king, and arrayed themselves for his defence.
So says Haldor the Unchristian: --

"Eirik cheers on his men, --
`On to the charge again!'
The gallant few
Of Olaf's crew
Must refuge take
On the quarter-deck.
Around the king
They stand in ring;
Their shields enclose
The king from foes,
And the few who still remain
Fight madly, but in vain.
Eirik cheers on his men --
`On to the charge again!'"


Kolbjorn the marshal, who had on clothes and arms like the kings,
and was a remarkably stout and handsome man, went up to king on
the quarter-deck. The battle was still going on fiercely even in
the forehold (1). But as many of the earl's men had now got into
the Serpent as could find room, and his ships lay all round her,
and few were the people left in the Serpent for defence against
so great a force; and in a short time most of the Serpent's men
fell, brave and stout though they were. King Olaf and Kolbjorn
the marshal both sprang overboard, each on his own side of the
ship; but the earl's men had laid out boats around the Serpent,
and killed those who leaped overboard. Now when the king had
sprung overboard, they tried to seize him with their hands, and
bring him to Earl Eirik; but King Olaf threw his shield over his
head, and sank beneath the waters. Kolbjorn held his shield
behind him to protect himself from the spears cast at him from
the ships which lay round the Serpent, and he fell so upon his
shield that it came under him, so that he could not sink so
quickly. He was thus taken and brought into a boat, and they
supposed he was the king. He was brought before the earl; and
when the earl saw it was Kolbjorn, and not the king, he gave him
his life. At the same moment all of King Olaf's men who were in
life sprang overboard from the Serpent; and Thorkel Nefia, the
king's brother, was the last of all the men who sprang overboard.
It is thus told concerning the king by Halfred: --

"The Serpent and the Crane
Lay wrecks upon the main.
On his sword he cast a glance, --
With it he saw no chance.
To his marshal, who of yore
Many a war-chance had come o'er,
He spoke a word -- then drew in breath,
And sprang to his deep-sea death."

(1) From the occasional descriptions of vessels in this and
other battles, it may be inferred that even the Long
Serpent, described in the 95tb chapter as of 150 feet of
keel was only docked fore and aft; the thirty-four benches
for rowers occupying the open area in the middle, and
probably gangways running along the side for communicating
from the quarter-deck to the forcastle. -- L.


Earl Sigvalde. as before related, came from Vindland, in company
with King Olaf, with ten ships; but the eleventh ship was manned
with the men of Astrid, the king's daughter, the wife of Earl
Sigvalde. Now when King Olaf sprang overboard, the whole army
raised a shout of victory; and then Earl Sigvalde and his men put
their oars in the water and rowed towards the battle. Haldor the
Unchristian tells of it thus: --

"Then first the Vindland vessels came
Into the fight with little fame;
The fight still lingered on the wave,
Tho' hope was gone with Olaf brave.
War, like a full-fed ravenous beast,
Still oped her grim jaws for the feast.
The few who stood now quickly fled,
When the shout told -- `Olaf is dead!'"

But the Vindland cutter, in which Astrid's men were, rowed back
to Vindland; and the report went immediately abroad and was told
by many, that King Olaf had cast off his coat-of-mail under
water, and had swum, diving under the longships, until he came to
the Vindland cutter, and that Astrid's men had conveyed him to
Vindland: and many tales have been made since about the
adventures of Olaf the king. Halfred speaks thus about it: --

"Does Olaf live? or is he dead?
Has he the hungry ravens fed?
I scarcely know what I should say,
For many tell the tale each way.
This I can say, nor fear to lie,
That he was wounded grievously --
So wounded in this bloody strife,
He scarce could come away with life."

But however this may have been, King Olaf Trygvason never came
back again to his kingdom of Norway. Halfred Vandredaskald
speaks also thus about it:

"The witness who reports this thing
Of Trygvason, our gallant king,
Once served the king, and truth should tell,
For Olaf hated lies like hell.
If Olaf 'scaped from this sword-thing,
Worse fate, I fear, befel our king
Than people guess, or e'er can know,
For he was hemm'd in by the foe.
From the far east some news is rife
Of king sore wounded saving life;
His death, too sure, leaves me no care
For cobweb rumours in the air.
It never was the will of fate
That Olaf from such perilous strait
Should 'scape with life! this truth may grieve --
`What people wish they soon believe.'"


By this victory Earl Eirik Hakonson became owner of the Long
Serpent, and made a great booty besides; and he steered the
Serpent from the battle. So says Haldor: --

"Olaf, with glittering helmet crowned,
Had steered the Serpent through the Sound;
And people dressed their boats, and cheered
As Olaf's fleet in splendour steered.
But the descendent of great Heming,
Whose race tells many a gallant sea-king,
His blue sword in red life-blood stained,
And bravely Olaf's long ship gained."

Svein, a son of Earl Hakon, and Earl Eirik's brother, was engaged
at this time to marry Holmfrid, a daughter of King Olaf the
Swedish king. Now when Svein the Danish king, Olaf the Swedish
king, and Earl Eirik divided the kingdom of Norway between them,
King Olaf got four districts in the Throndhjem country, and also
the districts of More and Raumsdal; and in the east part of the
land he got Ranrike, from the Gaut river to Svinasund. Olaf gave
these dominions into Earl Svein's hands, on the same conditions
as the sub kings or earls had held them formerly from the upper-
king of the country. Earl Eirik got four districts in the
Throndhjem country, and Halogaland, Naumudal, the Fjord
districts, Sogn, Hordaland, Rogaland, and North Agder, all the
way to the Naze. So says Thord Kolbeinson: --

"All chiefs within our land
On Eirik's side now stand:
Erling alone, I know
Remains Earl Eirik's foe.
All praise our generous earl, --
He gives, and is no churl:
All men are well content
Fate such a chief has sent.
From Veiga to Agder they,
Well pleased, the earl obey;
And all will by him stand,
To guard the Norsemen's land.
And now the news is spread
That mighty Svein is dead,
And luck is gone from those
Who were the Norsemen's foes."

The Danish king Svein retained Viken as he had held it before,
but he gave Raumarike and Hedemark to Earl Eirik. Svein Hakonson
got the title of earl from Olaf the Swedish king. Svein was one
of the handsomest men ever seen. The earls Eirik and Svein both
allowed themselves to be baptized, and took up the true faith;
but as long as they ruled in Norway they allowed every one to do
as he pleased in holding by his Christianity. But, on the other
hand, they held fast by the old laws, and all the old rights and
customs of the land, and were excellent men and good rulers.
Earl Eirik had most to say of the two brothers in all matters of



Olaf Haraldson the Saint's Saga is the longest, the most
important, and the most finished of all the sagas in
"Heimskringla". The life of Olaf will be found treated more or
less freely in "Agrip", in "Historia Norvegiae", in "Thjodrek the
Monk", in the legendary saga, and in "Fagrskinna". Other old
Norse literature relating to this epoch:

Are's "Islendingabok", "Landnama", "Kristni Saga", "Biskupa-
sogur", "Njala", "Gunlaugs Saga", "Ormstungu", "Bjarnar Saga
Hitdaelakappa", "Hallfredar Thattr Vandraedaskalde", "Eyrbyggia",
"Viga Styrs Saga", "Laxdaela", "Fostbraedra", "Gretla",
"Liosvetninga", "Faereyinga", "Orkneyinga".

Olaf Haraldson was born 995, went as a viking at the age of
twelve, 1007; visited England, one summer and three winters,
1009-1012; in France two summers and one winter, 1012-1013;
spent the winter in Normandy, 1014; returned to Norway and was
recognized as King, April 3, 1015; fled from Norway the winter
of 1028-1029; fell at Stiklestad, July 29 (or August 31), 1030.

Skalds quoted in this saga are: -- Ottar Svarte, Sigvat Skald,
Thord Kolbeinson, Berse Torfason, Brynjolf, Arnor Jarlaskald,
Thord Siarekson, Harek, Thorarin Loftunga, Halvard Hareksblese,
Bjarne Gulbraskald, Jokul Bardson, Thormod Kolbrunarskald,
Gissur, Thorfin Mun, Hofgardaref.

(1) King Olaf the Saint reigned from about the year 1015 to
1030. The death of King Olaf Trygvason was in the year
1000: and Earl Eirik held the government for the Danish and
Swedish kings about fifteen years. -- L.


Olaf, Harald Grenske's son, was brought up by his stepfather
Sigurd Syr and his mother Asta. Hrane the Far-travelled lived in
the house of Asta, and fostered this Olaf Haraldson. Olaf came
early to manhood, was handsome in countenance, middle-sized in
growth, and was even when very young of good understanding and
ready speech. Sigurd his stepfather was a careful householder,
who kept his people closely to their work, and often went about
himself to inspect his corn-rigs and meadowland, the cattle, and
also the smith-work, or whatsoever his people had on hand to do.


It happened one day that King Sigurd wanted to ride from home,
but there was nobody about the house; so he told his stepson Olaf
to saddle his horse. Olaf went to the goats' pen, took out the
he-goat that was the largest, led him forth, and put the king's
saddle on him, and then went in and told King Sigurd he had
saddled his riding horse. Now when King Sigurd came out and saw
what Olaf had done, he said "It is easy to see that thou wilt
little regard my orders; and thy mother will think it right that
I order thee to do nothing that is against thy own inclination.
I see well enough that we are of different dispositions, and that
thou art far more proud than I am." Olaf answered little, but
went his way laughing.


When Olaf Haraldson grew up he was not tall, but middle-sized in
height, although very thick, and of good strength. He had light
brown hair, and a broad face, which was white and red. He had
particularly fine eyes, which were beautiful and piercing, so
that one was afraid to look him in the face when he was angry.
Olaf was very expert in all bodily exercises, understood well to
handle his bow, and was distinguished particularly in throwing
his spear by hand: he was a great swimmer, and very handy, and
very exact and knowing in all kinds of smithwork, whether he
himself or others made the thing. He was distinct and acute in
conversation, and was soon perfect in understanding and strength.
He was beloved by his friends and acquaintances, eager in his
amusements, and one who always liked to be the first, as it was
suitable he should be from his birth and dignity. He was called
Olaf the Great.


Olaf Haraldson was twelve years old when he, for the first time,
went on board a ship of war (A.D. 1007). His mother Asta got
Hrane, who was called the foster-father of kings, to command a
ship of war and take Olaf under his charge; for Hrane had often
been on war expeditions. When Olaf in this way got a ship and
men, the crew gave him the title of king; for it was the custom
that those commanders of troops who were of kingly descent, on
going out upon a viking cruise, received the title of king
immediately although they had no land or kingdom. Hrane sat at
the helm; and some say that Olaf himself was but a common rower,
although he was king of the men-at-arms. They steered east along
the land, and came first to Denmark. So says Ottar Svarte, in
his lay which he made about King Olaf: --

"Young was the king when from his home
He first began in ships to roam,
His ocean-steed to ride
To Denmark o'er the tide.
Well exercised art thou in truth --
In manhood's earnest work, brave youth!
Out from the distant north
Mighty hast thou come forth."

Towards autumn he sailed eastward to the Swedish dominions, and
there harried and burnt all the country round; for he thought he
had good cause of hostility against the Swedes, as they killed
his father Harald. Ottar Svarte says distinctly that he came
from the east, out by way of Denmark: --

"Thy ship from shore to shore,
With many a well-plied car,
Across the Baltic foam is dancing. --
Shields, and spears, and helms glancing!
Hoist high the swelling sail
To catch the freshening gale!
There's food for the raven-flight
Where thy sail-winged ship shall light;
Thy landing-tread
The people dread;
And the wolf howls for a feast
On the shore-side in the east."


The same autumn Olaf had his first battle at Sotasker, which lies
in the Swedish skerry circle. He fought there with some vikings,
whose leader was Sote. Olaf had much fewer men, but his ships
were larger, and he had his ships between some blind rocks, which
made it difficult for the vikings to get alongside; and Olaf's
men threw grappling irons into the ships which came nearest, drew
them up to their own vessels, and cleared them of men. The
vikings took to flight after losing many men. Sigvat the skald
tells of this fight in the lay in which he reckons up King Olaf's
battles: --

"They launch his ship where waves are foaming --
To the sea shore
Both mast and oar,
And sent his o'er the seas a-roaming.
Where did the sea-king first draw blood?
In the battle shock
At Sote's rock;
The wolves howl over their fresh food."


King Olaf steered thereafter eastwards to Svithjod, and into the
Lag (the Maelar lake), and ravaged the land on both sides. He
sailed all the way up to Sigtuna, and laid his ships close to the
old Sigtuna. The Swedes say the stone-heaps are still to be seen
which Olaf had laid under the ends of the gangways from the shore
to the ships. When autumn was advanced, Olaf Haraldson heard
that Olaf the Swedish king was assembling an army, and also that
he had laid iron chains across Stoksund (the channel between the
Maelar lake and the sea), and had laid troops there; for the
Swedish king thought that Olaf Haraldson would be kept in there
till frost came, and he thought little of Olaf's force knowing he
had but few people. Now when King Olaf Haraldson came to
Stoksund he could not get through, as there was a castle west of
the sound, and men-at-arms lay on the south; and he heard that
the Swedish king was come there with a great army and many ships.
He therefore dug a canal across the flat land Agnafit out to the
sea. Over all Svithjod all the running waters fall into the
Maelar lake; but the only outlet of it to the sea is so small
that many rivers are wider, and when much rain or snow falls the
water rushes in a great cataract out by Stoksund, and the lake
rises high and floods the land. It fell heavy rain just at this
time; and as the canal was dug out to the sea, the water and
stream rushed into it. Then Olaf had all the rudders unshipped
and hoisted all sail aloft. It was blowing a strong breeze
astern, and they steered with their oars, and the ships came in a
rush over all the shallows, and got into the sea without any
damage. Now went the Swedes to their king, Olaf, and told him
that Olaf the Great had slipped out to sea; on which the king was
enraged against those who should have watched that Olaf did not
get away. This passage has since been called King's Sound; but
large vessels cannot pass through it, unless the waters are very
high. Some relate that the Swedes were aware that Olaf had cut
across the tongue of land, and that the water was falling out
that way; and they flocked to it with the intention to hinder
Olaf from getting away, but the water undermined the banks on
each side so that they fell in with the people, and many were
drowned: but the Swedes contradict this as a false report, and
deny the loss of people. The king sailed to Gotland in harvest,
and prepared to plunder; but the Gotlanders assembled, and sent
men to the king, offering him a scat. The king found this would
suit him, and he received the scat, and remained there all
winter. So says Ottar Svarte: --

"Thou seaman-prince! thy men are paid:
The scat on Gotlanders is laid;
Young man or old
To our seamen bold
Must pay, to save his head:
The Yngling princes fled,
Eysvssel people bled;
Who can't defend the wealth they have
Must die, or share with the rover brave."


It is related here that King Olaf, when spring set in, sailed
east to Eysyssel, and landed and plundered; the Eysyssel men came
down to the strand and grave him battle. King Olaf gained the
victory, pursued those who fled, and laid waste the land with
fire and sword. It is told that when King Olaf first came to
Eysvssel they offered him scat, and when the scat was to be
brought down to the strand the king came to meet it with an armed
force, and that was not what the bondes there expected; for they
had brought no scat, but only their weapons with which they
fought against the king, as before related. So says Sigvat the
skald: --

"With much deceit and bustle
To the heath of Eysyssel
The bondes brought the king,
To get scat at their weapon-thing.
But Olaf was too wise
To be taken by surprise;
Their legs scarce bore them off
O'er the common test enough."


After this they sailed to Finland and plundered there, and went
up the country. All the people fled to the forest, and they had
emptied their houses of all household goods. The king went far
up the country, and through some woods, and came to some
dwellings in a valley called Herdaler, -- where, however, they
made but small booty, and saw no people; and as it was getting
late in the day, the king turned back to his ships. Now when
they came into the woods again people rushed upon them from all
quarters, and made a severe attack. The king told his men to
cover themselves with their shields, but before they got out of
the woods he lost many people, and many were wounded; but at
last, late in the evening, he got to the ships. The Finlanders
conjured up in the night, by their witchcraft, a dreadful storm
and bad weather on the sea; but the king ordered the anchors to
be weighed and sail hoisted, and beat off all night to the
outside of the land. The king's luck prevailed more than the
Finlanders' witchcraft; for he had the luck to beat round the
Balagard's side in the night. and so got out to sea. But the
Finnish army proceeded on land, making the same progress as the
king made with his ships. So says Sigvat: --

"The third fight was at Herdaler, where
The men of Finland met in war
The hero of the royal race,
With ringing sword-blades face to face.
Off Balagard's shore the waves
Ran hollow; but the sea-king saves
His hard-pressed ship, and gains the lee
Of the east coast through the wild sea."


King Olaf sailed from thence to Denmark, where he met Thorkel the
Tall, brother of Earl Sigvalde, and went into partnership with
him; for he was just ready to set out on a cruise. They sailed
southwards to the Jutland coast, to a place called Sudervik,
where they overcame many viking ships. The vikings, who usually
have many people to command, give themselves the title of kings,
although they have no lands to rule over. King Olaf went into
battle with them, and it was severe; but King Olaf gained the
victory, and a great booty. So says Sigvat: --

"Hark! hark! The war-shout
Through Sudervik rings,
And the vikings bring out
To fight the two kings.
Great honour, I'm told,
Won these vikings so bold:
But their bold fight was vain,
For the two brave kings gain."


King Olaf sailed from thence south to Friesland, and lay under
the strand of Kinlima in dreadful weather. The king landed with
his men; but the people of the country rode down to the strand
against them, and he fought them. So says Sigvat: --

"Under Kinlima's cliff,
This battle is the fifth.
The brave sea-rovers stand
All on the glittering sand;
And down the horsemen ride
To the edge of the rippling tide:
But Olaf taught the peasant band
To know the weight of a viking's hand."


The king sailed from thence westward to England. It was then the
case that the Danish king, Svein Forked Beard, was at that time
in England with a Danish army, and had been fixed there for some
time, and had seized upon King Ethelred's kingdom. The Danes had
spread themselves so widely over England, that it was come so far
that King Ethelred had departed from the country, and had gone
south to Valland. The same autumn that King Olaf came to
England, it happened that King Svein died suddenly in the night
in his bed; and it is said by Englishmen that Edmund the Saint
killed him, in the same way that the holy Mercurius had killed
the apostate Julian. When Ethelred, the king of the English,
heard this in Flanders, he returned directly to England; and no
sooner was he come back, than he sent an invitation to all the
men who would enter into his pay, to join him in recovering the
country. Then many people flocked to him; and among others, came
King Olaf with a great troop of Northmen to his aid. They
steered first to London, and sailed into the Thames with their
fleet; but the Danes had a castle within. On the other side of
the river is a great trading place, which is called Sudvirke.
There the Danes had raised a great work, dug large ditches, and
within had built a bulwark of stone, timber, and turf, where they
had stationed a strong army. King Ethelred ordered a great
assault; but the Danes defended themselves bravely, and King
Ethelred could make nothing of it. Between the castle and
Southwark (Sudvirke) there was a bridge, so broad that two
wagons could pass each other upon it. On the bridge were raised
barricades, both towers and wooden parapets, in the direction of
the river, which were nearly breast high; and under the bridge
were piles driven into the bottom of the river. Now when the
attack was made the troops stood on the bridge everywhere, and
defended themselves. King Ethelred was very anxious to get
possession of the bridge, and he called together all the chiefs
to consult how they should get the bridge broken down. Then said
King Olaf he would attempt to lay his fleet alongside of it, if
the other ships would do the same. It was then determined in
this council that they should lay their war forces under the
bridge; and each made himself ready with ships and men.


King Olaf ordered great platforms of floating wood to be tied
together with hazel bands, and for this he took down old houses;
and with these, as a roof, he covered over his ships so widely,
that it reached over the ships' sides. Under this screen he set
pillars so high and stout, that there both was room for swinging
their swords, and the roofs were strong enough to withstand the
stones cast down upon them. Now when the fleet and men were
ready, they rode up along the river; but when they came near the
bridge, there were cast down upon them so many stones and missile
weapons, such as arrows and spears, that neither helmet nor
shield could hold out against it; and the ships themselves were
so greatly damaged, that many retreated out of it. But King
Olaf, and the Northmen's fleet with him, rowed quite up under the
bridge, laid their cables around the piles which supported it,
and then rowed off with all the ships as hard as they could down
the stream. The piles were thus shaken in the bottom, and were
loosened under the bridge. Now as the armed troops stood thick
of men upon the bridge, and there were likewise many heaps of
stones and other weapons upon it, and the piles under it being
loosened and broken, the bridge gave way; and a great part of the
men upon it fell into the river, and all the ethers fled, some
into the castle, some into Southwark. Thereafter Southwark was
stormed and taken. Now when the people in the castle saw that
the river Thames was mastered, and that they could not hinder the
passage of ships up into the country, they became afraid,
surrendered the tower, and took Ethelred to be their king. So
says Ottar Svarte: --

"London Bridge is broken down. --
Gold is won, and bright renown.
Shields resounding,
War-horns sounding,
Hild is shouting in the din!
Arrows singing,
Mail-coats ringing --
Odin makes our Olaf win!"

And he also composed these: --

"King Ethelred has found a friend:
Brave Olaf will his throne defend --
In bloody fight
Maintain his right,
Win back his land
With blood-red hand,
And Edmund's son upon his throne replace --
Edmund, the star of every royal race!"

Sigvat also relates as follows: --

"At London Bridge stout Olaf gave
Odin's law to his war-men brave --
`To win or die!'
And their foemen fly.
Some by the dyke-side refuge gain --
Some in their tents on Southwark plain!
The sixth attack
Brought victory back."


King Olaf passed all the winter with King Ethelred, and had a
great battle at Hringmara Heath in Ulfkel's land, the domain
which Ulfkel Snilling at that time held; and here again the king
was victorious. So says Sigvat the skald: --

"To Ulfkel's land came Olaf bold,
A seventh sword-thing he would hold.
The race of Ella filled the plain --
Few of them slept at home again!
Hringmara heath
Was a bed of death:
Harfager's heir
Dealt slaughter there."

And Ottar sings of this battle thus: --

"From Hringmara field
The chime of war,
Sword striking shield,
Rings from afar.
The living fly;
The dead piled high
The moor enrich;
Red runs the ditch."

The country far around was then brought in subjection to King
Ethelred: but the Thingmen (1) and the Danes held many castles,
besides a great part of the country.

(1) Thing-men were hired men-at-arms; called Thing-men probably
from being men above the class of thralls or unfree men, and
entitled to appear at Things, as being udal-born to land at


King Olaf was commander of all the forces when they went against
Canterbury; and they fought there until they took the town,
killing many people and burning the castle. So says Ottar
Svarte: --

"All in the grey of morn
Broad Canterbury's forced.
Black smoke from house-roofs borne
Hides fire that does its worst;
And many a man laid low
By the battle-axe's blow,
Waked by the Norsemen's cries,
Scarce had time to rub his eyes."

Sigvat reckons this King Olaf's eighth battle: --

"Of this eighth battle I can tell
How it was fought, and what befell,
The castle tower
With all his power
He could not take,
Nor would forsake.
The Perthmen fought,
Nor quarter sought;
By death or flight
They left the fight.
Olaf could not this earl stout
From Canterbury quite drive out."

At this time King Olaf was entrusted with the whole land defence
of England, and he sailed round the land with his ships of War.
He laid his ships at land at Nyjamoda, where the troops of the
Thingmen were, and gave them battle and gained the victory. So
says Sigvat the skald: --

"The youthful king stained red the hair
Of Angeln men, and dyed his spear
At Newport in their hearts' dark blood:
And where the Danes the thickest stood --
Where the shrill storm round Olaf's head
Of spear and arrow thickest fled.
There thickest lay the Thingmen dead!
Nine battles now of Olaf bold,
Battle by battle, I have told."

King Olaf then scoured all over the country, taking scat of the
people and plundering where it was refused. So says Ottar: --

"The English race could not resist thee,
With money thou madest them assist thee;
Unsparingly thou madest them pay
A scat to thee in every way;
Money, if money could be got --
Goods, cattle, household gear, if not.
Thy gathered spoil, borne to the strand,
Was the best wealth of English land."

Olaf remained here for three years (A.D. 1010-1012).


The third year King Ethelred died, and his sons Edmund and Edward
took the government (A.D. 1012). Then Olaf sailed southwards out
to sea, and had a battle at Hringsfjord, and took a castle
situated at Holar, where vikings resorted, and burnt the castle.
So says Sigvat the skald: --

"Of the tenth battle now I tell,
Where it was fought, and what befell.
Up on the hill in Hringsfjord fair
A robber nest hung in the air:
The people followed our brave chief,
And razed the tower of the viking thief.
Such rock and tower, such roosting-place,
Was ne'er since held by the roving race."


Then King Olaf proceeded westwards to Grislupollar, and fought
there with vikings at Williamsby; and there also King Olaf gained
the victory. So says Sigvat: --

"The eleventh battle now I tell,
Where it was fought, and what befell.
At Grislupol our young fir's name
O'ertopped the forest trees in fame:
Brave Olaf's name -- nought else was heard
But Olaf's name, and arm, and sword.
Of three great earls, I have heard say,
His sword crushed helm and head that day."

Next he fought westward on Fetlafjord, as Sigvat tells: --

"The twelfth fight was at Fetlafjord,
Where Olaf's honour-seeking sword
Gave the wild wolf's devouring teeth
A feast of warriors doomed to death."

From thence King Olaf sailed southwards to Seljupollar, where he
had a battle. He took there a castle called Gunvaldsborg, which
was very large and old. He also made prisoner the earl who ruled
over the castle and who was called Geirfin. After a conference
with the men of the castle, he laid a scat upon the town and
earl, as ransom, of twelve thousand gold shillings: which was
also paid by those on whom it was imposed. So says Sigvat: --

"The thirteenth battle now I tell,
Where it was fought, and what befell.
In Seljupol was fought the fray,
And many did not survive the day.
The king went early to the shore,
To Gunvaldsborg's old castle-tower;
And a rich earl was taken there,
Whose name was Geridin, I am sure."


Thereafter King Olaf steered with his fleet westward to Karlsar,
and tarried there and had a fight. And while King Olaf was lying
in Karlsa river waiting a wind, and intending to sail up to
Norvasund, and then on to the land of Jerusalem, he dreamt a
remarkable dream -- that there came to him a great and important
man, but of a terrible appearance withal, who spoke to him, and
told him to give up his purpose of proceeding to that land.
"Return back to thy udal, for thou shalt be king over Norway for
ever." He interpreted this dream to mean that he should be king
over the country, and his posterity after him for a long time.


After this appearance to him he turned about, and came to Poitou,
where he plundered and burnt a merchant town called Varrande. Of
this Ottar speaks: --

"Our young king, blythe and gay,
Is foremost in the fray:
Poitou he plunders, Tuskland burns, --
He fights and wins where'er he turns."

And also Sigvat says: --

"The Norsemen's king is on his cruise,
His blue steel staining,
Rich booty gaining,
And all men trembling at the news.
The Norsemen's kings up on the Loire:
Rich Partheney
In ashes lay;
Far inland reached the Norsemen's spear."


King Olaf had been two summers and one winter in the west in
Valland on this cruise; and thirteen years had now passed since
the fall of King Olaf Trygvason. During this time earls had
ruled over Norway; first Hakon's sons Eirik and Svein, and
afterwards Eirik's sons Hakon and Svein. Hakon was a sister's
son of King Canute, the son of Svein. During this time there
were two earls in Valland, William and Robert; their father was
Richard earl of Rouen. They ruled over Normandy. Their sister
was Queen Emma, whom the English king Ethelred had married; and
their sons were Edmund, Edward the Good, Edwy, and Edgar.
Richard the earl of Rouen was a son of Richard the son of William
Long Spear, who was the son of Rolf Ganger, the earl who first
conquered Normandy; and he again was a son of Ragnvald the
Mighty, earl of More, as before related. From Rolf Ganger are
descended the earls of Rouen, who have long reckoned themselves
of kin to the chiefs in Norway, and hold them in such respect
that they always were the greatest friends of the Northmen; and
every Northman found a friendly country in Normandy, if he
required it. To Normandy King Olaf came in autumn (A.D. 1013),
and remained all winter (A.D. 1014) in the river Seine in good
peace and quiet.


After Olaf Trygvason's fall, Earl Eirik gave peace to Einar
Tambaskelfer, the son of Eindride Styrkarson; and Einar went
north with the earl to Norway. It is said that Einar was the
strongest man and the best archer that ever was in Norway. His
shooting was sharp beyond all others; for with a blunt arrow he
shot through a raw, soft ox-hide, hanging over a beam. He was
better than any man at running on snow-shoes, was a great man
at all exercises, was of high family, and rich. The earls Eirik
and Svein married their sister Bergliot to Einar. Their son was
named Eindride. The earls gave Einar great fiefs in Orkadal, so
that he was one of the most powerful and able men in the
Throndhjem country, and was also a great friend of the earls, and
a great support and aid to them.


When Olaf Trygvason ruled over Norway, he gave his brother-in-law
Erling half of the land scat, and royal revenues between the Naze
and Sogn. His other sister he married to the Earl Ragnvald
Ulfson, who long ruled over West Gautland. Ragnvald's father,
Ulf, was a brother of Sigrid the Haughty, the mother of Olaf the
Swedish king. Earl Eirik was ill pleased that Erling Skialgson
had so large a dominion, and he took to himself all the king's
estates, which King Olaf had given to Erling. But Erling levied,
as before, all the land scat in Rogaland; and thus the
inhabitants had often to pay him the land scat, otherwise he laid
waste their land. The earl made little of the business, for no
bailiff of his could live there, and the earl could only come
there in guest-quarters, when he had a great many people with
him. So says Sigvat: --

"Olaf the king
Thought the bonde Erling
A man who would grace
His own royal race.
One sister the king
Gave the bonde Erling;
And one to an earl,
And she saved him in peril."

Earl Eirik did not venture to fight with Erling, because he had
very powerful and very many friends, and was himself rich and
popular, and kept always as many retainers about him as if he
held a king's court. Erling vas often out in summer on
plundering expeditions, and procured for himself means of living;
for he continued his usual way of high and splendid living,
although now he had fewer and less convenient fiefs than in the
time of his brother-in-law King Olaf Trygvason. Erling was one
of the handsomest, largest, and strongest men; a better warrior
than any other; and in all exercises he was like King Olaf
himself. He was, besides, a man of understanding, jealous in
everything he undertook, and a deadly man at arms. Sigvat talks
thus of him: --

"No earl or baron, young or old,
Match with this bonde brave can hold.
Mild was brave Erling, all men say,
When not engaged in bloody fray:
His courage he kept hid until
The fight began, then foremost still
Erling was seen in war's wild game,
And famous still is Erling's name."

It was a common saying among the people, that Erling had been the
most valiant who ever held lands under a king in Norway. Erlings
and Astrid s children were these -- Aslak, Skialg, Sigurd, Lodin,
Thorer, and Ragnhild, who was married to Thorberg Arnason.
Erling had always with him ninety free-born men or more, and both
winter and summer it was the custom in his house to drink at the
mid-day meal according to a measure (1), but at the night meal
there was no measure in drinking. When the earl was in the
neighbourhood he had 200 (2) men or more. He never went to sea
with less than a fully-manned ship of twenty benches of rowers.
Erling had also a ship of thirty-two benches of rowers, which was
besides, very large for that size. and which he used in viking
cruises, or on an expedition; and in it there were 200 men at the
very least.

(1) There were silver-studs in a row from the rim to the bottom
of the drinking born or cup; and as it went round each drank
till the stud appeared above the liquor. This was drinking
by measure. -- L.
(2) I.e., 240.


Erling had always at home on his farm thirty slaves, besides
other serving-people. He gave his slaves a certain day's work;
but after it he gave them leisure, and leave that each should
work in the twilight and at night for himself, and as he pleased.
He gave them arable land to sow corn in, and let them apply their
crops to their own use. He laid upon each a certain quantity of
labour to work themselves free by doing it; and there were many
who bought their freedom in this way in one year, or in the
second year, and all who had any luck could make themselves free
within three years. With this money he bought other slaves: and
to some of his freed people he showed how to work in the herring-
fishery, to others he showed some useful handicraft; and some
cleared his outfields and set up houses. He helped all to


When Earl Eirik had ruled over Norway for twelve years. there
came a message to him from his brother-in-law King Canute, the
Danish king, that he should go with him on an expedition westward
to England; for Eirik was very celebrated for his campaigns, as
he had gained the victory in the two hardest engagements which
had ever been fought in the north countries. The one was that in
which the Earls Hakon and Eirik fought with the Jomsborg vikings;
the other that in which Earl Eirik fought with King Olaf
Trygvason. Thord Kolbeinson speaks of this: --

"A song of praise
Again I raise.
To the earl bold
The word is told,
That Knut the Brave
His aid would crave;
The earl, I knew,
To friend stands true."

The earl would not sleep upon the message of the king, but sailed
immediately out of the country, leaving behind his son Earl Hakon
to take care of Norway; and, as he was but seventeen years of
age, Einar Tambaskelfer was to be at his hand to rule the country
for him.

Eirik met King Canute in England, and was with him when he took
the castle of London. Earl Eirik had a battle also to the
westward of the castle of London, and killed Ulfkel Snilling. So
says Thord Kolbeinson: --

"West of London town we passed,
And our ocean-steeds made fast,
And a bloody fight begin,
Eng1and's lands to lose or win.
Blue sword and shining spear
Laid Ulfkel's dead corpse there,
Our Thingmen hear the war-shower sounding
Our grey arrows from their shields rebounding."

Earl Eirik was a winter in England, and had many battles there.
The following autumn he intended to make a pilgrimage to Rome,
but he died in England of a bloody flux.


King Canute came to England the summer that King Ethelred died,
and had many battles with Ethelred's sons, in which the victory
was sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other. Then King
Canute took Queen Emma in marriage; and their children were
Harald, Hardacanute, and Gunhild. King Canute then made an
agreement with King Edmund, that each of them should have a half
of England. In the same month Henry Strion murdered King Edmund.
King Canute then drove all Ethelred's sons out of England. So
says Sigvat: --

"Now all the sons of Ethelred
Were either fallen, or had fled:
Some slain by Canute, -- some they say,
To save their lives had run away."


King Ethelred's sons came to Rouen in Valland from England, to
their mother's brother, the same summer that King Olaf Haraldson
came from the west from his viking cruise, and they were all
during the winter in Normandy together. They made an agreement
with each other that King Olaf should have Northumberland, if
they could succeed in taking England from the Danes. Therefore
about harvest, Olaf sent his foster-father Hrane to England to
collect men-at-arms; and Ethelred's sons sent tokens to their
friends and relations with him. King Olaf, besides, gave him
much money with him to attract people to them. Hrane was all
winter in England, and got promises from many powerful men of
fidelity, as the people of the country would rather have native
kings over them; but the Danish power had become so great in
England, that all the people were brought under their dominion.


In spring (A.D. 1014) King Olaf and King Ethelred's sons set out
together to the west, and came to a place in England called
Jungufurda, where they landed with their army and moved forward
against the castle. Many men were there who had promised them
their aid. They took the castle; and killed many people. Now
when King Canute's men heard of this they assembled an army, and
were soon in such force that Ethelred's sons could not stand
against it; and they saw no other way left but to return to
Rouen. Then King Olaf separated from them, and would not go back
to Valland, but sailed northwards along England, all the way to
Northumberland, where he put into a haven at a place called
Valde; and in a battle there with the townspeople and merchants
he gained the victory, and a great booty.


King Olaf left his long-ships there behind, but made ready two
ships of burden; and had with him 220 men in them, well-armed,
and chosen people. He sailed out to sea northwards in harvest,
but encountered a tremendous storm and they were in danger of
being lost; but as they had a chosen crew, and the king s luck
with them, all went on well. So says Ottar: --

"Olaf, great stem of kings, is brave --
Bold in the fight, bold on the wave.
No thought of fear
Thy heart comes near.
Undaunted, 'midst the roaring flood,
Firm at his post each shipman stood;
And thy two ships stout
The gale stood out."

And further he says: --

"Thou able chief! with thy fearless crew
Thou meetest, with skill and courage true,
The wild sea's wrath
On thy ocean path.
Though waves mast-high were breaking round.
Thou findest the middle of Norway's ground,
With helm in hand
On Saela's strand."

It is related here that King Olaf came from the sea to the very
middle of Norway; and the isle is called Saela where they landed,
and is outside of Stad. King Olaf said he thought it must be a
lucky day for them, since they had landed at Saela in Norway; and
observed it was a good omen that it so happened. As they were
going up in the isle, the king slipped with one foot in a place
where there was clay, but supported himself with the other foot.
Then said he "The king falls." "Nay," replies Hrane, "thou didst
not fall, king, but set fast foot in the soil." The king laughed
thereat, and said, "It may be so if God will." They went down
again thereafter to their ships, and sailed to Ulfasund, where
they heard that Earl Hakon was south in Sogn, and was expected
north as soon as wind allowed with a single ship.


King Olaf steered his ships within the ordinary ships' course
when he came abreast of Fjaler district, and ran into
Saudungssund. There he laid his two vessels one on each side of
the sound. with a thick cable between them. At the same moment
Hakon, Earl Eirik's son, came rowing into the sound with a manned
ship; and as they thought these were but two merchant-vessels
that were lying in the sound, they rowed between them. Then Olaf
and his men draw the cable up right under Hakon's ship's keel and
wind it up with the capstan. As soon as the vessel's course was
stopped her stern was lifted up, and her bow plunged down; so
that the water came in at her fore-end and over both sides, and
she upset. King Olaf's people took Earl Hakon and all his men
whom they could get hold of out of the water, and made them
prisoners; but some they killed with stones and other weapons,
and some were drowned. So says Ottar: --

"The black ravens wade
In the blood from thy blade.
Young Hakon so gay,
With his ship, is thy prey:
His ship, with its gear,
Thou hast ta'en; and art here,
Thy forefather's land
From the earl to demand."

Earl Hakon was led up to the king's ship. He was the handsomest
man that could be seen. He had long hair, as fine as silk, bound
about his bead with a gold ornament.

When he sat down in the fore-hold, the king said to him, "It is
not false what is said of your family, that ye are handsome
people to look at; but now your luck has deserted you."

Hakon the earl replied, "It has always been the case that success
is changeable; and there is no luck in the matter. It has gone
with your family as with mine, to have by turns the better lot.
I am little beyond childhood in years; and at any rate we could
not have defended ourselves, as we did not expect any attack on
the way. It may turn out better with us another time."

Then said King Olaf, "Dost thou not apprehend that thou art in
that condition that, hereafter, there can be neither victory nor
defeat for thee?"

The earl replies, "That is what thou only canst determine, king,
according to thy pleasure."

Olaf says, "What wilt thou give me, earl, if for this time I let
thee go, whole and unhurt?"

The earl asks what he would take.

"Nothing," says the king, "except that thou shalt leave the
country, give up thy kingdom, and take an oath that thou shalt
never go into battle against me."

The earl answered, that he would do so. And now Earl Hakon took
the oath that he would never fight against Olaf, or seek to
defend Norway against him, or attack him; and King Olaf thereupon
gave him and all his men life and peace. The earl got back the
ship which had brought him there, and he and his men rowed their
way. Thus says Sigvat of him: --

"In old Saudungs sound
The king Earl Hakon found,
Who little thought that there
A foeman was so near.
The best and fairest youth
Earl Hakon was in truth,
That speaks the Danish tongue,
And of the race of great Hakon."


After this (A.D. 1014) the earl made ready as fast as possible to
leave the country and sail over to England. He met King Canute,
his mother's brother, there, and told him all that had taken
place between him and King Olaf. King Canute received him
remarkably well, placed him in his court in his own house, and
gave him great power in his kingdom. Earl Hakon dwelt a long
time with King Canute. During the time Svein and Hakon ruled
over Norway, a reconciliation with Erling Skialgson was effected,
and secured by Aslak, Erling's son, marrying Gunhild, Earl
Svein's daughter; and the father and son, Erling and Aslak,
retained all the fiefs which King Olaf Trygvason had given to
Erling. Thus Erling became a firm friend of the earl's, and
their mutual friendship was confirmed by oath.


King Olaf went now eastward along the land, holding Things with
the bondes all over the country. Many went willingly with him;
but some, who were Earl Svein's friends or relations, spoke
against him. Therefore King Olaf sailed in all haste eastward to
Viken; went in there with his ships; set them on the land; and
proceeded up the country, in order to meet his stepfather, Sigurd
Syr. When he came to Vestfold he was received in a friendly way
by many who had been his father's friends or acquaintances; and
also there and in Folden were many of his family. In autumn
(A.D. 1014) he proceeded up the country to his stepfather King
Sigurd's, and came there one day very early. As Olaf was coming
near to the house, some of the servants ran beforehand to the
house, and into the room. Olaf's mother, Asta, was sitting in
the room, and around her some of her girls. When the servants
told her of King Olaf's approach, and that he might soon be
expected, Asta stood up directly, and ordered the men and girls
to put everything in the best order. She ordered four girls to
bring out all that belonged to the decoration of the room and put
it in order with hangings and benches. Two fellows brought straw
for the floor, two brought forward four-cornered tables and the
drinking-jugs, two bore out victuals and placed the meat on the
table, two she sent away from the house to procure in the
greatest haste all that was needed, and two carried in the ale;
and all the other serving men and girls went outside of the
house. Messengers went to seek King Sigurd wherever he might be,
and brought to him his dress-clothes, and his horse with gilt
saddle, and his bridle, which was gilt and set with precious
stones. Four men she sent off to the four quarters of the
country to invite all the great people to a feast, which she
prepared as a rejoicing for her son's return. All who were
before in the house she made to dress themselves with the best
they had, and lent clothes to those who had none suitable.


King Sigurd Syr was standing in his corn-field when the
messengers came to him and brought him the news, and also told
him all that Asta was doing at home in the house. He had many
people on his farm. Some were then shearing corn, some bound it
together, some drove it to the building, some unloaded it and put
it in stack or barn; but the king, and two men with him, went
sometimes into the field, sometimes to the place where the corn
was put into the barn. His dress, it is told, was this: -- he
had a blue kirtle and blue breeches; shoes which were laced about
the legs; a grey cloak, and a grey wide-brimmed hat; a veil
before his face; a staff in his hand with a gilt-silver head on
it and a silver ring around it. Of Sigurd's living and
disposition it is related that he was a very gain-making man who
attended carefully to his cattle and husbandry, and managed his
housekeeping himself. He was nowise given to pomp, and was
rather taciturn. But he was a man of the best understanding in
Norway, and also excessively wealthy in movable property.
Peaceful he was, and nowise haughty. His wife Asta was generous
and high-minded. Their children were, Guthorm, the eldest; then
Gunhild; the next Halfdan, Ingerid, and Harald. The messengers
said to Sigurd, "Asta told us to bring thee word how much it lay
at her heart that thou shouldst on this occasion comport thyself
in the fashion of great men, and show a disposition more akin to
Harald Harfager's race than to thy mother's father's, Hrane Thin-
nose, or Earl Nereid the Old, although they too were very wise
men." The king replies, "The news ye bring me is weighty, and ye
bring it forward in great heat. Already before now Asta has been
taken up much with people who were not so near to her; and I see
she is still of the same disposition. She takes this up with
great warmth; but can she lead her son out of the business with
the same splendour she is leading him into it? If it is to
proceed so methinks they who mix themselves up in it regard
little property or life. For this man, King Olaf, goes against a
great superiority of power; and the wrath of the Danish and
Swedish kings lies at the foot of his determination, if he
ventures to go against them."


When the king had said this he sat down, and made them take off
his shoes, and put corduvan boots on, to which he bound his gold
spurs. Then he put off his cloak and coat, and dressed himself
in his finest clothes, with a scarlet cloak over all; girded on
his sword, set a gilded helmet upon his head, and mounted his
horse. He sent his labouring people out to the neighbourhood,
and gathered to him thirty well-clothed men, and rode home with
them. As they rode up to the house, and were near the room, they
saw on the other side of the house the banners of Olaf coming
waving; and there was he himself, with about 100 men all well
equipped. People were gathered over all upon the house-tops.
King Sigurd immediately saluted his stepson from horseback in a
friendly way, and invited him and his men to come in and drink a
cup with him. Asta, on the contrary, went up and kissed her son,
and invited him to stay with her; and land, and people, and all
the good she could do for him stood at his service. King Olaf
thanked her kindly for her invitation. Then she took him by the
hand, and led him into the room to the high-seat. King Sigurd
got men to take charge of their clothes, and give their horses
corn; and then he himself went to his high-seat, and the feast
was made with the greatest splendour.


King Olaf had not been long here before he one day called his
stepfather King Sigurd, his mother Asta, and his foster-father
Hrane to a conference and consultation. Olaf began thus: "It has
so happened," said he, "as is well known to you, that I have
returned to this country after a very long sojourn in foreign
parts, during all which time I and my men have had nothing for
our support but what we captured in war, for which we have often
hazarded both life and soul: for many an innocent man have we
deprived of his property, and some of their lives; and foreigners
are now sitting in the possessions which my father, his father,
and their forefathers for a long series of generations owned, and
to which I have udal right. They have not been content with
this, but have taken to themselves also the properties of all our
relations who are descended from Harald Harfager. To some they
have left little, to others nothing at all. Now I will disclose
to you what I have long concealed in my own mind, that I intend
to take the heritage of my forefathers; but I will not wait upon
the Danish or Swedish king to supplicate the least thing from
them, although they for the time call that their property which
was Harald Harfager's heritage. To say the truth, I intend
rather to seek my patrimony with battle-axe and sword, and that
with the help of all my friends and relations, and of those who
in this business will take my side. And in this matter I will so
lay hand to the work that one of two things shall happen, --
either I shall lay all this kingdom under my rule which they got
into their hands by the slaughter of my kinsman Olaf Trygvason,
or I shall fall here upon my inheritance in the land of my
fathers. Now I expect of thee, Sigurd, my stepfather, as well as
other men here in the country who have udal right of succession
to the kingdom, according to the law made by King Harald
Harfager, that nothing shall be of such importance to you as to
prevent you from throwing off the disgrace from our family of
being slow at supporting the man who comes forward to raise up
again our race. But whether ye show any manhood in this affair
or not, I know the inclination of the people well, -- that all
want to be free from the slavery of foreign masters, and will
give aid and strength to the attempt. I have not proposed this
matter to any before thee, because I know thou art a man of
understanding, and can best judge how this my purpose shall be
brought forward in the beginning, and whether we shall, in all
quietness, talk about it to a few persons, or instantly declare
it to the people at large. I have already shown my teeth by
taking prisoner the Earl Hakon, who has now left the country, and
given me, under oath, the part of the kingdom which he had
before; and I think it will be easier to have Earl Svein alone to
deal with, than if both were defending the country against us."

King Sigurd answers, "It is no small affair, King Olaf, thou hast
in thy mind; and thy purpose comes more, methinks, from hasty
pride than from prudence. But it may be there is a wide
difference between my humble ways and the high thoughts thou
hast; for whilst yet in thy childhood thou wast full always of
ambition and desire of command, and now thou art experienced in
battles, and hast formed thyself upon the manner of foreign
chiefs. I know therefore well, that as thou hast taken this into
thy head, it is useless to dissuade thee from it; and also it is
not to be denied that it goes to the heart of all who have
courage in them, that the whole Harfager race and kingdom should
go to the ground. But I will not bind myself by any promise,
before I know the views and intentions of other Upland kings; but
thou hast done well in letting me know thy purpose, before
declaring it publicly to the people. I will promise thee,
however, my interest with the kings, and other chiefs, and
country people; and also, King Olaf, all my property stands to
thy aid, and to strengthen thee. But we will only produce the
matter to the community so soon as we see some progress, and
expect some strength to this undertaking; for thou canst easily
perceive that it is a daring measure to enter into strife with
Olaf the Swedish king, and Canute, who is king both of Denmark
and England; and thou requirest great support under thee, if it
is to succeed. It is not unlikely, in my opinion, that thou wilt
get good support from the people, as the commonalty always loves
what is new; and it went so before, when Olaf Trygvason came here
to the country, that all rejoiced at it, although he did not long
enjoy the kingdom."

When the consultation had proceeded so far, Asta took up the
word. "For my part, my son, I am rejoiced at thy arrival, but
much more at thy advancing thy honour. I will spare nothing for
that purpose that stands in my power, although it be but little
help that can be expected from me. But if a choice could be
made, I would rather that thou shouldst be the supreme king of
Norway, even if thou shouldst not sit longer in thy kingdom than
Olaf Trygvason did, than that thou shouldst not be a greater king
than Sigurd Syr is, and die the death of old age." With this the
conference closed. King Olaf remained here a while with all his
men. King Sigurd entertained them, day about, the one day with
fish and milk, the other day with flesh-meat and ale.


At that time there were many kings in the Uplands who had
districts to rule over, and the most of them were descended from
Harald Harfager. In Hedemark two brothers ruled -- Hrorek and
Ring; in Gudbrandsdal, Gudrod; and there was also a king in
Raumarike; and one had Hadaland and Thoten; and in Valders also
there was a king. With these district-kings Sigurd had a meeting
up in Hadaland, and Olaf Haraldson also met with them. To these
district-kings whom Sigurd had assembled he set forth his stepson
Olaf's purpose, and asked their aid, both of men and in counsel
and consent; and represented to them how necessary it was to cast
off the yoke which the Danes and Swedes had laid upon them. He
said that there was now a man before them who could head such an
enterprise; and he recounted the many brave actions which Olaf
had achieved upon his war-expeditions.

Then King Hrorek says, "True it is that Harald Harfager's kingdom
has gone to decay, none of his race being supreme king over
Norway. But the people here in the country have experienced many
things. When King Hakon, Athelstan's foster-son, was king, all
were content; but when Gunhild's sons ruled over the country, all
were so weary of their tyranny and injustice that they would
rather have foreign men as kings, and be themselves more their
own rulers; for the foreign kings were usually abroad and cared
little about the customs of the people if the scat they laid on
the country was paid. When enmity arose between the Danish king
Harald and Earl Hakon, the Jomsborg vikings made an expedition
against Norway; then the whole people arose, and threw the
hostilities from themselves; and thereafter the people encouraged
Earl Hakon to keep the country, and defend it with sword and
spear against the Danish king. But when he had set himself fast
in the kingdom with the help of the people, he became so hard and
overbearing towards the country-folks, that they would no longer
suffer him. The Throndhjem people killed him, and raised to the
kingly power Olaf Trygvason, who was of the udal succession to
the kingdom, and in all respects well fitted to be a chief. The
whole country's desire was to make him supreme king, and raise
again the kingdom which Harald Harfager had made for himself.
But when King Olaf thought himself quite firmly seated in his
kingdom, no man could rule his own concerns for him. With us
small kings he was so unreasonable, as to take to himself not
only all the scat and duties which Harald Harfager had levied
from us, but a great deal more. The people at last had so little
freedom under him, that it was not allowed to every man to
believe in what god he pleased. Now since he has been taken away
we have kept friendly with the Danish king; have received great
help from him when we have had any occasion for it; and have been
allowed to rule ourselves, and live in peace and quiet in the
inland country, and without any overburden. I am therefore
content that things be as they are, for I do not see what better
rights I am to enjoy by one of my relations ruling over the
country; and if I am to be no better off, I will take no part in
the affair."

Then said King Ring, his brother, "I will also declare my opinion
that it is better for me, if I hold the same power and property
as now, that my relative is king over Norway, rather than a
foreign chief, so that our family may again raise its head in the
land. It is, besides, my opinion about this man Olaf, that his
fate and luck must determine whether he is to obtain the kingdom
or not; and if he succeed in making himself supreme king, then he
will be the best off who has best deserved his friendship. At
present he has in no respect greater power than any of us; nay,
indeed, he has less; as we have lands and kingdoms to rule over,
and he has nothing, and we are equally entitled by the udal right
to the kingdom as he is himself. Now, if we will be his men,
give him our aid, allow him to take the highest dignity in the
country, and stand by him with our strength, how should he not
reward us well, and hold it in remembrance to our great
advantage, if he be the honourable man I believe him to be, and
all say he is? Therefore let us join the adventure, say I, and
bind ourselves in friendship with him."

Then the others, one after the other, stood up and spoke; and the
conclusion was, that the most of them determined to enter into a
league with King Olaf. He promised them his perfect friendship,
and that he would hold by and improve the country's laws and
rights, if he became supreme king of Norway. This league was
confirmed by oath.


Thereafter the kings summoned a Thing, and there King Olaf set
forth this determination to all the people, and his demand on the
kingly power. He desires that the bondes should receive him as
king; and promises, on the other hand, to allow them to retain
their ancient laws, and to defend the land from foreign masters
and chiefs. On this point he spoke well, and long; and he got
great praise for his speech. Then the kings rose and spoke, the
one after the other, and supported his cause, and this message to
the people. At last it came to this, that King Olaf was
proclaimed king over the whole country, and the kingdom adjudged
to him according to law in the Uplands (A.D. 1014).


King Olaf began immediately his progress through the country,
appointing feasts before him wherever there were royal farms.
First he travelled round in Hadaland, and then he proceeded north
to Gudbrandsdal. And now it went as King Sigurd Syr had
foretold, that people streamed to him from all quarters; and he
did not appear to have need for half of them, for he had nearly
300 men. But the entertainments bespoken did not half serve; for
it had been the custom that kings went about in guest-quarters in
the Uplands with 60 or 70 men only, and never with more than 100
men. The king therefore hastened over the country, only stopping
one night at the same place. When he came north to Dovrefield,
he arranged his journey so that he came over the mountain and
down upon the north side of it, and then came to Opdal, where he
remained all night. Afterwards he proceeded through Opdal
forest, and came out at Medaldal, where he proclaimed a Thing,
and summoned the bondes to meet him at it. The king made a
speech to the Thing, and asked the bondes to accept him as king;
and promised, on his part, the laws and rights which King Olaf
Trygvason had offered them. The bondes had no strength to make
opposition to the king; so the result was that they received him
as king, and confirmed it by oath: but they sent word to Orkadal
and Skaun of all that they knew concerning Olaf's proceedings.


Einar Tambaskelfer had a farm and house at Husaby in Skaun; and
now when he got news of Olaf's proceedings, he immediately split
up a war-arrow, and sent it out as a token to the four quarters
-- north, south, east, west, -- to call together all free and
unfree men in full equipment of war: therewith the message, that
they were to defend the land against King Olaf. The message-
stick went to Orkadal, and thence to Gaulardal, where the whole
war-force was to assemble.


King Olaf proceeded with his men down into Orkadal, and advanced
in peace and with all gentleness; but when he came to Griotar he
met the assembled bondes, amounting to more than 700 men. Then
the king arrayed his army, for he thought the bondes were to give
battle. When the bondes saw this, they also began to put their
men in order; but it went on very slowly, for they had not agreed
beforehand who among them should be commander. Now when King
Olaf saw there was confusion among the bondes, he sent to them
Thorer Gudbrandson; and when he came he told them King Olaf did
not want to fight them, but named twelve of the ablest men in
their flock of people, who were desired to come to King Olaf.
The bondes agreed to this; and the twelve men went over a rising
ground which is there, and came to the place where the king's
army stood in array. The king said to them, "Ye bondes have done
well to give me an opportunity to speak with you, for now I will
explain to you my errand here to the Throndhjem country. First I
must tell you, what ye already must have heard, that Earl Hakon
and I met in summer; and the issue of our meeting was, that he
gave me the whole kingdom he possessed in the Throndhjem country,
which, as ye know, consists of Orkadal, Gaulardal, Strind, and
Eyna district. As a proof of this, I have here with me the very
men who were present, and saw the earl's and my own hands given
upon it, and heard the word and oath, and witnessed the agreement
the earl made with me. Now I offer you peace and law, the same
as King Olaf Trygvason offered before me."

The king spoke well, and long; and ended by proposing to the
bondes two conditions -- either to go into his service and be
subject to him, or to fight him. Thereupon the twelve bondes
went back to their people, and told the issue of their errand,
and considered with the people what they should resolve upon.
Although they discussed the matter backwards and forwards for a
while, they preferred at last to submit to the king; and it was
confirmed by the oath of the bondes. The king now proceeded on
his journey, and the bondes made feasts for him. The king then
proceeded to the sea-coast, and got ships; and among others he
got a long-ship of twenty benches of rowers from Gunnar of
Gelmin; another ship of twenty benches he got from Loden of
Viggia; and three ships of twenty benches from the farm of Angrar
on the ness which farm Earl Hakon had possessed, but a steward
managed it for him, by name Bard White. The king had, besides,
four or five boats; and with these vessels he went in all haste
into the fjord of Throndhjem.


Earl Svein was at that time far up in the Throndhjem fjord at
Steinker, which at that time was a merchant town, and was there
preparing for the yule festival (A.D. 1015). When Einar
Tambaskelfer heard that the Orkadal people had submitted to King
Olaf, he sent men to Earl Svein to bring him the tidings. They
went first to Nidaros, and took a rowing-boat which belonged to
Einar, with which they went out into the fjord, and came one day
late in the evening to Steinker, where they brought to the earl
the news about all King Olaf's proceedings. The earl owned a
long-ship, which was lying afloat and rigged just outside the
town: and immediately, in the evening, he ordered all his movable
goods, his people's clothes, and also meat and drink, as much as
the vessel could carry, to be put on board, rowed immediately out
in the night-time, and came with daybreak to Skarnsund. There he
saw King Olaf rowing in with his fleet into the fjord. The earl
turned towards the land within Masarvik, where there was a thick
wood, and lay so near the rocks that the leaves and branches hung
over the vessel. They cut down some large trees, which they laid
over the quarter on the sea-side, so that the ship could not be
seen for leaves, especially as it was scarcely clear daylight
when the king came rowing past them. The weather was calm, and
the king rowed in among the islands; and when the king's fleet
was out of sight the earl rowed out of the fjord, and on to
Frosta, where his kingdom lay, and there he landed.


Earl Svein sent men out to Gaulardal to his brother-in-law, Einar
Tambaskelfer; and when Einar came the earl told him how it had
been with him and King Olaf, and that now he would assemble men
to go out against King Olaf, and fight him.

Einar answers, "We should go to work cautiously, and find out
what King Olaf intends doing; and not let him hear anything
concerning us but that we are quiet. It may happen that if he
hears nothing about our assembling people, he may sit quietly
where he is in Steinker all the Yule; for there is plenty
prepared for him for the Yule feast: but if he hears we are
assembling men, he will set right out of the fjord with his
vessels, and we shall not get hold of him." Einar's advice was
taken; and the earl went to Stjoradal, into guest-quarters among
the bondes.

When King Olaf came to Steinker he collected all the meat
prepared for the Yule feast, and made it be put on board,
procured some transport vessels, took meat and drink with him,
and got ready to sail as fast as possible, and went out all the
way to Nidaros. Here King Olaf Trygvason had laid the foundation
of a merchant town, and had built a king's house: but before that
Nidaros was only a single house, as before related. When Earl
Eirik came to the country, he applied all his attention to his
house of Lade, where his father had had his main residence, and
he neglected the houses which Olaf had erected at the Nid; so
that some were fallen down, and those which stood were scarcely
habitable. King Olaf went now with his ships up the Nid, made
all the houses to be put in order directly that were still
standing, and built anew those that had fallen down, and employed
in this work a great many people. Then he had all the meat and
drink brought on shore to the houses, and prepared to hold Yule
there; so Earl Svein and Einar had to fall upon some other plan.


There was an Iceland man called Thord Sigvaldaskald, who had been


Back to Full Books