Heimskringla The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway
Part 6 out of 18
long with Earl Sigvalde, and afterwards with the earl's brother,
Thorkel the Tall; but after the earl's death Thord had become a
merchant. He met King Olaf on his viking cruise in the west, and
entered into his service, and followed him afterwards. He was
with the king when the incidents above related took place. Thord
had a son called Sigvat fostered in the house of Thorkel at
Apavatn, in Iceland. When he was nearly a grown man he went out
of the country with some merchants; and the ship came in autumn
to the Throndhjem country, and the crew lodged in the hered
(district). The same winter King Olaf came to Throndhjem, as
just now related by us. Now when Sigvat heard that his father
Thord was with the king, he went to him, and stayed a while with
him. Sigvat was a good skald at an early age. He made a lay in
honour of King Olaf, and asked the king to listen to it. The
king said he did not want poems composed about him, and said he
did not understand the skald's craft. Then Sigvat sang: --
"Rider of dark-blue ocean's steeds!
Allow one skald to sing thy deeds;
And listen to the song of one
Who can sing well, if any can.
For should the king despise all others,
And show no favour to my brothers,
Yet I may all men's favour claim,
Who sing, still of our great king's fame."
King Olaf gave Sigvat as a reward for his verse a gold ring that
weighed half a mark, and Sigvat was made one of King Olaf's
court-men. Then Sigvat sang: --
"I willingly receive this sword --
By land or sea, on shore, on board,
I trust that I shall ever be
Worthy the sword received from thee.
A faithful follower thou hast bound --
A generous master I have found;
Master and servant both have made
Just what best suits them by this trade."
Earl Svein had, according to custom, taken one half of the
harbour-dues from the Iceland ship-traders about autumn (A.D.
1014); for the Earls Eirik and Hakon had always taken one half of
these and all other revenues in the Throndhjem country. Now when
King Olaf came there, he sent his men to demand that half of the
tax from the Iceland traders; and they went up to the king's
house and asked Sigvat to help them. He went to the king, and
"My prayer, I trust, will not be vain --
No gold by it have I to gain:
All that the king himself here wins
Is not red gold, but a few skins.
it is not right that these poor men
Their harbour-dues should pay again.
That they paid once I know is true;
Remit, great king, what scarce is due."
42. OF EARL SVEIN.
Earl Svein and Einar Tambaskelfer gathered a large armed force,
with which they came by the upper road into Gaulardal, and so
down to Nidaros, with nearly 2000 men. King Olaf's men were out
upon the Gaular ridge, and had a guard on horseback. They became
aware that a force was coming down the Gaulardal, and they
brought word of it to the king about midnight. The king got up
immediately, ordered the people to be wakened, and they went on
board of the ships, bearing all their clothes and arms on board,
and all that they could take with them, and then rowed out of the
river. Then came the earl's men to the town at the same moment,
took all the Christmas provision, and set fire to the houses.
King Olaf went out of the fjord down to Orkadal, and there landed
the men from their ships. From Orkadal they went up to the
mountains, and over the mountains eastwards into Gudbrandsdal.
In the lines composed about Kleng Brusason, it is said that Earl
Eirik burned the town of Nidaros: --
"The king's half-finished hall,
Rafters, root, and all,
Is burned down by the river's side;
The flame spreads o'er the city wide."
43. OF KING OLAF.
King Olaf went southwards through Gudbrandsdal, and thence out to
Hedemark. In the depth of winter (A.D. 1015) he went about in
guest-quarters; but when spring returned he collected men, and
went to Viken. He had with him many people from Hedemark, whom
the kings had given him; and also many powerful people from among
the bondes joined him, among whom Ketil Kalf from Ringanes. He
had also people from Raumarike. His stepfather, Sigurd Syr, gave
him the help also of a great body of men. They went down from
thence to the coast, and made ready to put to sea from Viken.
The fleet, which was manned with many fine fellows, went out then
44. OF EARL SVEIN'S FORCES.
After Yule (A.D. 1015) Earl Svein gathers all the men of the
Throndhjem country, proclaims a levy for an expedition, and fits
out ships. At that time there were in the Throndhjem country a
great number of lendermen; and many of them were so powerful and
well-born, that they descended from earls, or even from the royal
race, which in a short course of generations reckoned to Harald
Harfager, and they were also very rich. These lendermen were of
great help to the kings or earls who ruled the land; for it was
as if the lenderman had the bonde-people of each district in his
power. Earl Svein being a good friend of the lendermen, it was
easy for him to collect people. His brother-in-law, Einar
Tambaskelfer, was on his side, and with him many other lendermen;
and among them many, both lendermen and bondes, who the winter
before had taken the oath of fidelity to King Olaf. When they
were ready for sea they went directly out of the fjord, steering
south along the land, and drawing men from every district. When
they came farther south, abreast of Rogaland, Erling Skialgson
came to meet them, with many people and many lendermen with him.
Now they steered eastward with their whole fleet to Viken, and
Earl Svein ran in there towards the end of Easter. The earl
steered his fleet to Grenmar, and ran into Nesjar (A.D. 1015).
45. KING OLAF S FORCES.
King Olaf steered his fleet out from Viken, until the two fleets
were not far from each other, and they got news of each other the
Saturday before Palm Sunday. King Olaf himself had a ship called
the Carl's Head, on the bow of which a king's head was carved
out, and he himself had carved it. This head was used long after
in Norway on ships which kings steered themselves.
46. KING OLAF'S SPEECH.
As soon as day dawned on Sunday morning, King Olaf got up, put on
his clothes, went to the land, and ordered to sound the signal
for the whole army to come on shore. Then he made a speech to
the troops, and told the whole assembly that he had heard there
was but a short distance between them and Earl Svein. "Now,"
said he, "we shall make ready; for it can be but a short time
until we meet. Let the people arm, and every man be at the post
that has been appointed him, so that all may be ready when I
order the signal to sound for casting off from the land. Then
let us row off at once; and so that none go on before the rest of
the ships, and none lag behind when I row out of the harbour: for
we cannot tell if we shall find the earl where he was lying, or
if he has come out to meet us. When we do meet, and the battle
begins, let people be alert to bring all our ships in close
order, and ready to bind them together. Let us spare ourselves
in the beginning, and take care of our weapons, that we do not
cast them into the sea, or shoot them away in the air to no
purpose. But when the fight becomes hot and the ships are bound
together, then let each man show what is in him of manly spirit."
47. OF THE BATTLE AT NESJAR.
King Olaf had in his ship 100 men armed in coats of ring-mail,
and in foreign helmets. The most of his men had white shields,
on which the holy cross was gilt; but some had painted it in blue
or red. He had also had the cross painted in front on all the
helmets, in a pale colour. He had a white banner on which was a
serpent figured. He ordered a mass to be read before him, went
on board ship, and ordered his people to refresh themselves with
meat and drink. He then ordered the war-horns to sound to
battle, to leave the harbour, and row off to seek the earl. Now
when they came to the harbour where the earl had lain, the earl's
men were armed, and beginning to row out of the harbour; but when
they saw the king's fleet coming they began to bind the ships
together, to set up their banners, and to make ready for the
fight. When King Olaf saw this he hastened the rowing, laid his
ship alongside the earl's, and the battle began. So says Sigvat
the skald: --
"Boldly the king did then pursue
Earl Svein, nor let him out of view.
The blood ran down the reindeer's flank
Of each sea-king -- his vessel's plank.
Nor did the earl's stout warriors spare
In battle-brunt the sword and spear.
Earl Svein his ships of war pushed on,
And lashed their stout stems one to one."
It is said that King Olaf brought his ships into battle while
Svein was still lying in the harbour. Sigvat the skald was
himself in the fight; and in summer, just after the battle, he
composed a lay, which is called the "Nesjar Song", in which he
tells particularly the circumstances: --
"In the fierce fight 'tis known how near
The scorner of the ice-cold spear
Laid the Charles' head the earl on board,
All eastward of the Agder fjord."
Then was the conflict exceedingly sharp, and it was long before
it could be seen how it was to go in the end. Many fell on both
sides, and many were the wounded. So says Sigvat: --
"No urging did the earl require,
Midst spear and sword -- the battle's fire;
No urging did the brave king need
The ravens in this shield-storm to feed.
Of limb-lopping enough was there,
And ghastly wounds of sword and spear.
Never, I think, was rougher play
Than both the armies had that day."
The earl had most men, but the king had a chosen crew in his
ship, who had followed him in all his wars; and, besides, they
were so excellently equipped, as before related, that each man
had a coat of ring-mail, so that he could not be wounded. So
says Sigvat: --
"Our lads, broad-shouldered, tall, and hale,
Drew on their cold shirts of ring-mail.
Soon sword on sword was shrilly ringing,
And in the air the spears were singing.
Under our helms we hid our hair,
For thick flew arrows through the air.
Right glad was I our gallant crew,
Steel-clad from head to foot, to view."
48. EARL SVEIN'S FLIGHT.
When the men began to fall on board the earl's ships, and many
appeared wounded, so that the sides of the vessels were but
thinly beset with men, the crew of King Olaf prepared to board.
Their banner was brought up to the ship that was nearest the
earl's, and the king himself followed the banner. So says
"`On with the king!' his banners waving:
`On with the king!' the spears he's braving!
`On, steel-clad men! and storm the deck,
Slippery with blood and strewed with wreck.
A different work ye have to share,
His banner in war-storm to bear,
From your fair girl's, who round the hall
Brings the full mead-bowl to us all.'"
Now was the severest fighting. Many of Svein's men fell, and
some sprang overboard. So says Sigvat: --
"Into the ship our brave lads spring, --
On shield and helm their red blades ring;
The air resounds with stroke on stroke, --
The shields are cleft, the helms are broke.
The wounded bonde o'er the side
Falls shrieking in the blood-stained tide --
The deck is cleared with wild uproar --
The dead crew float about the shore."
And also these lines: --
"The shields we brought from home were white,
Now they are red-stained in the fight:
This work was fit for those who wore
Ringed coats-of-mail their breasts before.
Where for the foe blunted the best sword
I saw our young king climb on board.
He stormed the first; we followed him --
The war-birds now in blood may swim."
Now defeat began to come down upon the earl's men. The king's
men pressed upon the earl's ship and entered it; but when the
earl saw how it was going, he called out to his forecastle-men to
cut the cables and cast the ship loose, which they did. Then the
king's men threw grapplings over the timber heads of the ship,
and so held her fast to their own; but the earl ordered the
timber heads to be cut away, which was done. So says Sigvat: --
"The earl, his noble ship to save,
To cut the posts loud order gave.
The ship escaped: our greedy eyes
Had looked on her as a clear prize.
The earl escaped; but ere he fled
We feasted Odin's fowls with dead: --
With many a goodly corpse that floated
Round our ship's stern his birds were bloated."
Einar Tambaskelfer had laid his ship right alongside the earl's.
They threw an anchor over the bows of the earl's ship, and thus
towed her away, and they slipped out of the fjord together.
Thereafter the whole of the earl's fleet took to flight, and
rowed out of the fjord. The skald Berse Torfason was on the
forecastle of the earl's ship; and as it was gliding past the
king's fleet, King Olaf called out to him -- for he knew Berse,
who was distinguished as a remarkably handsome man, always well
equipped in clothes and arms -- "Farewell, Berse!" He replied,
"Farewell, king!" So says Berse himself, in a poem he composed
when he fell into King Olaf's power, and was laid in prison and
in fetters on board a ship: --
"Olaf the Brave
A `farewell' gave,
(No time was there to parley long,)
To me who knows the art of song.
The skald was fain
In the same terms back to send --
The rule in arms to foe or friend.
Earl Svein's distress
I well can guess,
When flight he was compelled to take:
His fortunes I will ne'er forsake,
Though I lie here
In chains a year,
In thy great vessel all forlorn,
To crouch to thee I still will scorn:
I still will say,
No milder sway
Than from thy foe this land e'er knew:
To him, my early friend, I'm true."
49. EARL SVEIN LEAVES THE COUNTRY.
Now some of the earl's men fled up the country, some surrendered
at discretion; but Svein and his followers rowed out of the
fjord, and the chiefs laid their vessels together to talk with
each other, for the earl wanted counsel from his lendermen.
Erling Skialgson advised that they should sail north, collect
people, and fight King Olaf again; but as they had lost many
people, the most were of opinion that the earl should leave the
country, and repair to his brother-in-law the Swedish King, and
strengthen himself there with men. Einar Tambaskelfer approved
also of that advice, as they had no power to hold battle against
Olaf. So they discharged their fleet. The earl sailed across
Folden, and with him Einar Tambaskelfer. Erling Skialgson again,
and likewise many other lendermen who would not abandon their
udal possessions, went north to their homes; and Erling had many
people that summer about him.
50. OLAF'S AND SIGURD'S CONSULTATION.
When King Olaf and his men saw that the earl had gathered his
ships together, Sigurd Syr was in haste for pursuing the earl,
and letting steel decide their cause. But King Olaf replies,
that he would first see what the earl intended doing -- whether
he would keep his force together or discharge his fleet. Sigurd
Syr said, "It is for thee, king, to command; but," he adds, "I
fear, from thy disposition and wilfulness, that thou wilt some
day be betrayed by trusting to those great people, for they are
accustomed of old to bid defiance to their sovereigns." There
was no attack made, for it was soon seen that the earl's fleet
was dispersing. Then King Olaf ransacked the slain, and remained
there some days to divide the booty. At that time Sigvat made
these verses: --
"The tale I tell is true
To their homes returned but few
Of Svein's men who came to meet
King Olaf's gallant fleet.
From the North these warmen came
To try the bloody game, --
On the waves their corpses borne
Show the game that Sunday morn.
The Throndhjem girls so fair
Their jeers, I think, will spare,
For the king's force was but small
That emptied Throndhjem's hall.
But if they will have their jeer,
They may ask their sweethearts dear,
Why they have returned shorn
Who went to shear that Sunday morn."
And also these: --
"Now will the king's power rise,
For the Upland men still prize
The king who o'er the sea
Steers to bloody victory.
Earl Svein! thou now wilt know
That our lads can make blood flow --
That the Hedemarkers hale
Can do more than tap good ale."
King Olaf gave his stepfather King Sigurd Syr, and the other
chiefs who had assisted him, handsome presents at parting. He
gave Ketil of Ringanes a yacht of fifteen benches of rowers,
which Ketil brought up the Raum river and into the Mjosen lake.
51. OF KING OLAF.
King Olaf sent spies out to trace the earl's doings (A.D. 1015);
and when he found that the earl had left the country he sailed
out west, and to Viken, where many people came to him. At the
Thing there he was taken as king, and so he proceeded all the way
to the Naze; and when he heard that Erling Skialgson had gathered
a large force, he did not tarry in North Agder, but sailed with a
steady fair wind to the Throndhjem country; for there it appeared
to him was the greatest strength of the land, if he could subdue
it for himself while the earl was abroad. When Olaf came to
Throndhjem there was no opposition, and he was elected there to
be king. In harvest (A.D. 1015) he took his seat in the town of
Nidaros, and collected the needful winter provision (A.D. 1016).
He built a king's house, and raised Clement's church on the spot
on which it now stands. He parcelled out building ground, which
he gave to bondes, merchants, or others who he thought would
build. There he sat down with many men-at-arms around him; for
he put no great confidence in the Throndhjem people, if the earl
should return to the country. The people of the interior of the
Throndhjem country showed this clearly, for he got no land-scat
52. PLAN OF SVEIN AND THE SWEDISH KING.
Earl Svein went first to Svithjod to his brother-in-law Olaf the
Swedish king, told him all that had happened between him and Olaf
the Thick, and asked his advice about what he should now
undertake. The king said that the earl should stay with him if
he liked, and get such a portion of his kingdom to rule over as
should seem to him sufficient; "or otherwise," says he, "I will
give thee help of forces to conquer the country again from Olaf."
The earl chose the latter; for all those among his men who had
great possessions in Norway, which was the case with many who
were with him, were anxious to get back; and in the council they
held about this, it was resolved that in winter they should take
the land-way over Helsingjaland and Jamtaland, and so down into
the Throndhjem land; for the earl reckoned most upon the faithful
help and strength of the Throndhjem people of the interior as
soon as he should appear there. In the meantime, however, it was
determined to take a cruise in summer in the Baltic to gather
53. EARL SVEIN'S DEATH.
Earl Svein went eastward with his forces to Russia, and passed
the summer (A.D. 1015) in marauding there; but on the approach of
autumn returned with his ships to Svithjod. There he fell into a
sickness, which proved fatal. After the earl's death some of the
people who had followed him remained in Svithjod; others went to
Helsingjaland, thence to Jamtaland, and so from the east over the
dividing ridge of the country to the Throndhjem district, where
they told all that had happened upon their journey: and thus the
truth of Earl Svein's death was known (A.D. 1016).
54. OF THE THRONDHJEM PEOPLE.
Einar Tambaskelfer, and the people who had followed him went in
winter to the Swedish king, and were received in a friendly
manner. There were also among them many who had followed the
earl. The Swedish king took it much amiss that Olaf the Thick
had set himself down in his scat-lands, and driven the earl out
of them, and therefore he threatened the king with his heaviest
vengeance when opportunity offered. He said that Olaf ought not
to have had the presumption to take the dominions which the earl
had held of him; and all the Swedish king's men agreed with him.
But the Throndhjem people, when they heard for certain that the
earl was dead. and could not be expected back to Norway, turned
all to obedience to King Olaf. Many came from the interior of
the Throndhjem country, and became King Olaf's men; others sent
word and tokens that they would service him. Then, in autumn, he
went into the interior of Throndhjem, and held Things with the
bondes, and was received as king in each district. He returned
to Nidaros, and brought there all the king's scat and revenue,
and had his winter-seat provided there (A.D. 1016).
55. OF KING OLAF'S HOUSEHOLD.
King Olaf built a king's house in Nidaros, and in it was a large
room for his court, with doors at both ends. The king's high-
seat was in the middle of the room; and within sat his court-
bishop, Grimkel, and next him his other priests; without them sat
his counsellors; and in the other high-seat opposite to the king
sat his marshal, Bjorn, and next to him his pursuivants. When
people of importance came to him, they also had a seat of honour.
The ale was drunk by the fire-light. He divided the service
among his men after the fashion of other kings. He had in his
house sixty court-men and thirty pursuivants; and to them he gave
pay and certain regulations. He had also thirty house-servants
to do the needful work about the house, and procure what was
required. He had, besides, many slaves. At the house were many
outbuildings, in which the court-men slept. There was also a
large room, in which the king held his court-meetings.
56. OF KING OLAF'S HABITS.
It was King Olaf's custom to rise betimes in the morning, put on
his clothes, wash his hands, and then go to the church and hear
the matins and morning mass. Thereafter he went to the Thing-
meeting, to bring people to agreement with each other, or to talk
of one or the other matter that appeared to him necessary. He
invited to him great and small who were known to be men of
understanding. He often made them recite to him the laws which
Hakon Athelstan's foster-son had made for Throndhjem; and after
considering them with those men of understanding, he ordered laws
adding to or taking from those established before. But Christian
privileges he settled according to the advice of Bishop Grimbel
and other learned priests; and bent his whole mind to uprooting
heathenism, and old customs which he thought contrary to
Christianity. And he succeeded so far that the bondes accepted
of the laws which the king proposed. So says Sigvat: --
"The king, who at the helm guides
His warlike ship through clashing tides,
Now gives one law for all the land --
A heavenly law, which long will stand."
King Olaf was a good and very gentle man, of little speech, and
open-handed although greedy of money. Sigvat the skald, as
before related, was in King Olaf's house, and several Iceland
men. The king asked particularly how Christianity was observed
in Iceland, and it appeared to him to be very far from where it
ought to be; for, as to observing Christian practices, it was
told the king that it was permitted there to eat horse-flesh, to
expose infants as heathens do, besides many other things contrary
to Christianity. They also told the king about many principal
men who were then in Iceland. Skapte Thorodson was then the
lagman of the country. He inquired also of those who were best
acquainted with it about the state of people in other distant
countries; and his inquiries turned principally on how
Christianity was observed in the Orkney, Shetland, and Farey
Islands: and, as far as he could learn, it was far from being as
he could have wished. Such conversation was usually carried on
by him; or else he spoke about the laws and rights of the
57. KING OLAF'S MESSENGERS.
The same winter (A.D. 1016) came messengers from the Swedish
king, Olaf the Swede, out of Svithjod: and their leaders were two
brothers, Thorgaut Skarde and Asgaut the bailiff; and they, had
twenty-four men with them, when they came from the eastward, over
the ridge of the country down into Veradal, they summoned a Thing
of the bondes, talked to them, and demanded of them scat and
duties upon account of the king of Sweden. But the bondes, after
consulting with each other, determined only to pay the scat which
the Swedish king required in so far as King Olaf required none
upon his account, but refused to pay scat to both. The
messengers proceeded farther down the valley; but received at
every Thing they held the same answer, and no money. They went
forward to Skaun, held a Thing there, and demanded scat; but it
went there as before. Then they came to Stjoradal, and summoned
a Thing, but the bondes would not come to it. Now the messengers
saw that their business was a failure; and Thorgaut proposed that
they should turn about, and go eastward again. "I do not think,"
says Asgaut, "that we have performed the king's errand unless we
go to King Olaf the Thick, since the bondes refer the matter to
him." He was their commander; so they proceeded to the town
(Nidaros), and took lodging there. The day after they presented
themselves to the king, just as he was seated at table, saluted
him, and said they came with a message of the Swedish king. The
king told them to come to him next day. Next day the king,
having heard mass, went to his Thing-house, ordered the
messengers of the Swedish king to be called, and told them to
produce their message. Then Thorgaut spoke, and told first what
his errand was, and next how the Throndhjem people of the
interior had replied to it; and asked the king's decision on the
business, that they might know what result their errand there was
to have. The king answers, "While the earls ruled over the
country, it was not to be wondered at if the country people
thought themselves bound to obey them, as they were at least of
the royal race of the kingdom. But it would have been more just
if those earls had given assistance and service to the kings who
had a right to the country, rather than to foreign kings, or to
stir up opposition to their lawful kings, depriving them of their
land and kingdom. With regard to Olaf the Swede, who calls
himself entitled to the kingdom of Norway, I, who in fact am so
entitled, can see no ground for his claim; but well remember the
skaith and damage we have suffered from him and his relations."
Then says Asgaut. "It is not wonderful that thou art called Olaf
the Thick, seeing thou answerest so haughtily to such a prince's
message, and canst not see clearly how heavy the king's wrath
will be for thee to support, as many have experienced who had
greater strength than thou appearest to have. But if thou
wishest to keep hold of thy kingdom, it will be best for thee to
come to the king, and be his man; and we shall beg him to give
thee this kingdom in fief under him."
The king replies with all gentleness, "I will give thee an
advice, Asgaut, in return. Go back to the east again to thy
king, and tell him that early in spring I will make myself ready,
and will proceed eastward to the ancient frontier that divided
formerly the kingdom of the kings of Norway from Sweden. There
he may come if he likes, that we may conclude a peace with each
other; and each of us will retain the kingdom to which he is
Now the messengers turned back to their lodging, and prepared for
their departure, and the king went to table. The messengers came
back soon after to the king's house; but the doorkeepers saw it,
and reported it to the king, who told them not to let the
messengers in. "I will not speak with them," said he. Then the
messengers went off, and Thorgaut said he would now return home
with his men; but Asgaut insisted still that he would go forward
with the king's errand: so they separated. Thorgaut proceeded
accordingly through Strind; but Asgaut went into Gaulardal and
Orkadal, and intended proceeding southwards to More, to deliver
his king's message. When King Olaf came to the knowledge of this
he sent out his pursuivants after them, who found them at the
ness in Stein, bound their hands behind their backs, and led them
down to the point called Gaularas, where they raised a gallows,
and hanged them so that they could be seen by those who travelled
the usual sea-way out of the fjord. Thorgaut heard this news
before he had travelled far on his way home through the
Throndhjem country; and he hastened on his journey until he came
to the Swedish king, and told him how it had gone with them. The
king was highly enraged when he heard the account of it; and he
had no lack of high words.
58. OLAF AND ERLING RECONCILED.
The spring thereafter (A.D. 1016) King Olaf Haraldson calls out
an army from the Throndhjem land, and makes ready to proceed
eastward. Some of the Iceland traders were then ready to sail
from Norway. With them King Olaf sent word and token to Hjalte
Skeggjason, and summoned him to come to him, and at the same time
sent a verbal message to Skapte the lagman, and other men who
principally took part in the lawgiving of Iceland, to take out of
the law whatever appeared contrary to Christianity. He sent,
besides, a message of friendship to the people in general. The
king then proceeded southwards himself along the coast, stopping
at every district, and holding Things with the bondes; and in
each Thing he ordered the Christian law to be read, together with
the message of salvation thereunto belonging, and with which many
ill customs and much heathenism were swept away at once among the
common people: for the earls had kept well the old laws and
rights of the country; but with respect to keeping Christianity,
they had allowed every man to do as he liked. It was thus come
so far that the people were baptized in the most places on the
sea-coast, but the most of them were ignorant of Christian law.
In the upper ends of the valleys, and in the habitations among
the mountains, the greater part of the people were heathen; for
when the common man is left to himself, the faith he has been
taught in his childhood is that which has the strongest hold over
his inclination. But the king threatened the most violent
proceedings against great or small, who, after the king's
message, would not adopt Christianity. In the meantime Olaf was
proclaimed king in every Law Thing in the country, and no man
spoke against him. While he lay in Karmtsund messengers went
between him and Erling Skjalgson, who endeavoured to make peace
between them; and the meeting was appointed in Whitings Isle.
When they met they spoke with each other about agreement
together; but Erling found something else than he expected in the
conversation: for when he insisted on having all the fiefs which
Olaf Trygvason, and afterwards the Earls Svein and Hakon, had
given him, and on that condition would be his man and dutiful
friend, the king answered, "It appears to me, Erling, that it
would be no bad bargain for thee to get as great fiefs from me
for thy aid and friendship as thou hadst from Earl Eirik, a man
who had done thee the greatest injury by the bloodshed of thy
men; but even if I let thee remain the greatest lenderman in
Norway, I will bestow my fiefs according to my own will, and not
act as if ye lendermen had udal right to my ancestor's heritage,
and I was obliged to buy your services with manifold rewards."
Erling had no disposition to sue for even the smallest thing; and
he saw that the king was not easily dealt with. He saw also that
he had only two conditions before him: the one was to make no
agreement with the king, and stand by the consequences; the other
to leave it entirely to the king's pleasure. Although it was
much against his inclination, he chose the latter, and merely
said to the king, "The service will be the most useful to thee
which I give with a free will." And thus their conference ended.
Erling's relations and friends came to him afterwards, and
advised him to give way, and proceed with more prudence and less
pride. "Thou wilt still," they said, "be the most important and
most respected lenderman in Norway, both on account of thy own
and thy relations' abilities and great wealth." Erling found
that this was prudent advice, and that they who gave it did so
with a good intention, and he followed it accordingly. Erling
went into the king's service on such conditions as the king
himself should determine and please. Thereafter they separated
in some shape reconciled, and Olaf went his way eastward along
the coast (A.D. 1016).
59. EILIF OF GAUTLAND'S MURDER.
As soon as it was reported that Olaf had come to Viken, the Danes
who had offices under the Danish king set off for Denmark,
without waiting for King Olaf. But King Olaf sailed in along
Viken, holding Things with the bondes. All the people of the
country submitted to him, and thereafter he took all the king's
taxes, and remained the summer (A.D. 1016) in Viken. He then
sailed east from Tunsberg across the fjord, and all the way east
to Svinasund. There the Swedish king's dominions begin, and he
had set officers over this country; namely, Eilif Gautske over
the north part, and Hroe Skialge over the east part, all the way
to the Gaut river. Hroe had family friends on both sides of the
river, and also great farms on Hising Island, and was besides a
mighty and very rich man. Eilif was also of great family, and
very wealthy. Now when King Olaf came to Ranrike he summoned the
people to a Thing, and all who dwelt on the sea-coast or in the
out-islands came to him. Now when the Thing was seated the
king's marshal, Bjorn, held a speech to them, in which he told
the bondes to receive Olaf as their king, in the same way as had
been done in all other parts of Norway. Then stood up a bold
bonde by name Brynjolf Ulfalde, and said, "We bondes know where
the division-boundaries between the Norway and Danish and Swedish
kings' lands have stood by rights in old times; namely, that the
Gaut river divided their lands between the Vener lake and the
sea; but towards the north the forests until Eid forest, and from
thence the ridge of the country all north to Finmark. We know,
also, that by turns they have made inroads upon each other's
territories, and that the Swedes have long had power all the way
to Svinasund. But, sooth to say, I know that it is the
inclination of many rather to serve the king of Norway, but they
dare not; for the Swedish king's dominions surround us, both
eastward, southwards, and also up the country; and besides, it
may be expected that the king of Norway must soon go to the
north, where the strength of his kingdom lies, and then we have
no power to withstand the Gautlanders. Now it is for the king to
give us good counsel, for we have great desire to be his men."
After the Thing, in the evening, Brynjolf was in the king's tent,
and the day after likewise, and they had much private
conversation together. Then the king proceeded eastwards along
Viken. Now when Eilif heard of his arrival, he sent out spies to
discover what he was about; but he himself, with thirty men, kept
himself high up in the habitations among the hills, where he had
gathered together bondes. Many of the bondes came to King Olaf,
but some sent friendly messages to him. People went between King
Olaf and Eilif, and they entreated each separately to hold a
Thing-meeting between themselves, and make peace in one way or
another. They told Eilif that they might expect violent
treatment from King Olaf if they opposed his orders; but promised
Eilif he should not want men. It was determined that they should
come down from the high country, and hold a thing with the bondes
and the king. King Olaf thereupon sent the chief of his
pursuivants, Thorer Lange, with six men, to Brynjolf. They were
equipped with their coats-of-mail under their cloaks, and their
hats over their helmets. The following day the bondes came in
crowds down with Eilif; and in his suite was Brynjolf, and with
him Thorer. The king laid his ships close to a rocky knoll that
stuck out into the sea, and upon it the king went with his
people, and sat down. Below was a flat field, on which the
bondes' force was; but Eilif's men were drawn up, forming a
shield-fence before him. Bjorn the marshal spoke long and
cleverly upon the king's account, and when he sat down Eilif
arose to speak; but at the same moment Thorer Lange rose, drew
his sword, and struck Eilif on the neck, so that his head flew
off. Then the whole bonde-force started up; but the Gautland men
set off in full flight and Thorer with his people killed several
of them. Now when the crowd was settled again, and the noise
over the king stood up, and told the bondes to seat themselves.
They did so, and then much was spoken. The end of it was that
they submitted to the king, and promised fidelity to him; and he,
on the other hand, promised not to desert them, but to remain at
hand until the discord between him and the Swedish Olaf was
settled in one way or other. King Olaf then brought the whole
northern district under his power, and went in summer eastward as
far as the Gaut river, and got all the king's scat among the
islands. But when summer (A.D. 1016) was drawing towards an end
he returned north to Viken, and sailed up the Raum river to a
waterfall called Sarp. On the north side of the fall, a point of
land juts out into the river. There the king ordered a rampart
to be built right across the ness, of stone, turf, and wood, and
a ditch to be dug in front of it; so that it was a large earthen
fort or burgh, which he made a merchant town of. He had a king's
house put up, and ordered the building of Mary church. He also
laid out plans for other houses, and got people to build on them.
In harvest (A.D. 1016) he let everything be gathered there that
was useful for his winter residence (A.D. 1017), and sat there
with a great many people, and the rest he quartered in the
neighbouring districts. The king prohibited all exports from
Viken to Gautland of herrings and salt, which the Gautland people
could ill do without. This year the king held a great Yule
feast, to which he invited many great bondes.
60. THE HISTORY OF EYVIND URARHORN.
There was a man called Eyvind Urarhorn, who was a great man, of
high birth, who had his descent from the East Agder country.
Every summer he went out on a viking cruise, sometimes to the
West sea, sometimes to the Baltic, sometimes south to Flanders,
and had a well-armed cutter (snekkia) of twenty benches of
rowers. He had been also at Nesjar, and given his aid to the
king; and when they separated the king promised him his favour,
and Eyvind, again, promised to come to the king's aid whenever he
was required. This winter (A.D. 1017) Eyvind was at the Yule
feast of the king, and received goodly gifts from him. Brynjolf
Ulfalde was also with the king, and he received a Yule present
from the king of a gold-mounted sword, and also a farm called
Vettaland, which is a very large head-farm of the district.
Brynjolf composed a song about these gifts, of which the refrain
"The song-famed hero to my hand
Gave a good sword, and Vettaland."
The king afterwards gave him the title of Lenderman, and Brynjolf
was ever after the king's greatest friend.
61. THRAND WHITE'S MURDER.
This winter (A.D. 1017) Thrand White from Throndhjem went east to
Jamtaland, to take up scat upon account of King Olaf. But when
he had collected the scat he was surprised by men of the Swedish
king, who killed him and his men, twelve in all, and brought the
scat to the Swedish king. King Olaf was very ill-pleased when he
heard this news.
62. CHRISTIANITY PROCLAIMED IN VIKEN.
King Olaf made Christian law to be proclaimed in Viken, in the
same way as in the North country. It succeeded well, because the
people of Viken were better acquainted with the Christian customs
than the people in the north; for, both winter and summer, there
were many merchants in Viken, both Danish and Saxon. The people
of Viken, also, had much trading intercourse with England, and
Saxony, and Flanders, and Denmark; and some had been on viking
expeditions, and had had their winter abode in Christian lands.
63. HROE'S FALL.
About spring-time (A.D. 1017) King Olaf sent a message that
Eyvind Urarhorn should come to him; and they spake together in
private for a long time. Thereafter Eyvind made himself ready
for a viking cruise. He sailed south towards Viken, and brought
up at the Eikreys Isles without Hising Isle. There he heard that
Hroe Skialge had gone northwards towards Ordost, and had there
made a levy of men and goods on account of the Swedish king, and
was expected from the north. Eyvind rowed in by Haugasund, and
Hroe came rowing from the north, and they met in the sound and
fought. Hroe fell there, with nearly thirty men; and Eyvind took
all the goods Hroe had with him. Eyvind then proceeded to the
Baltic, and was all summer on a viking cruise.
64. FALL OF GUDLEIK AND THORGAUT.
There was a man called Gudleik Gerske, who came originally from
Agder. He was a great merchant, who went far and wide by sea,
was very rich, and drove a trade with various countries. He
often went east to Gardarike (Russia), and therefore was called
Gudleik Gerske (the Russian). This spring (A.D. 1017) Gudleik
fitted out his ship, and intended to go east in summer to Russia.
King Olaf sent a message to him that he wanted to speak to him;
and when Gudleik came to the king he told him he would go in
partnership with him, and told him to purchase some costly
articles which were difficult to be had in this country. Gudleik
said that it should be according to the king's desire. The king
ordered as much money to be delivered to Gudleik as he thought
sufficient, and then Gudleik set out for the Baltic. They lay in
a sound in Gotland; and there it happened, as it often does, that
people cannot keep their own secrets, and the people of the
country came to know that in this ship was Olaf the Thick's
partner. Gudleik went in summer eastwards to Novgorod, where he
bought fine and costly clothes, which he intended for the king as
a state dress; and also precious furs, and remarkably splendid
table utensils. In autumn (A.D. 1017), as Gudleik was returning
from the east, he met a contrary wind, and lay for a long time at
the island Eyland. There came Thorgaut Skarde, who in autumn had
heard of Gudleik's course, in a long-ship against him, and gave
him battle. They fought long, and Gudleik and his people
defended themselves for a long time; but the numbers against them
were great, and Gudleik and many of his ship's crew fell, and a
great many of them were wounded. Thorgaut took all their goods,
and King Olaf's, and he and his comrades divided the booty among
them equally; but he said the Swedish king ought to have the
precious articles of King Olaf, as these, he said, should be
considered as part of the scat due to him from Norway.
Thereafter Thorgaut proceeded east to Svithjod. These tidings
were soon known; and as Eyvind Urarhorn came soon after to
Eyland, he heard the news, and sailed east after Thorgaut and his
troop, and overtook them among the Swedish isles on the coast,
and gave battle. There Thorgaut and the most of his men were
killed, and the rest sprang overboard. Eyvind took all the goods
and all the costly articles of King Olaf which they had captured
from Gudleik, and went with these back to Norway in autumn, and
delivered to King Olaf his precious wares. The king thanked him
in the most friendly way for his proceeding, and promised him
anew his favour and friendship. At this time Olaf had been three
years king over Norway (A.D. 1015-1017).
65. MEETING OF OLAF AND RAGNVALD.
The same summer (A.D. 1017) King Olaf ordered a levy, and went
out eastwards to the Gaut river, where he lay a great part of the
summer. Messages were passing between King Olaf, Earl Ragnvald,
and the earl's wife, Ingebjorg, the daughter of Trygve. She was
very zealous about giving King Olaf of Norway every kind of help,
and made it a matter of her deepest interest. For this there
were two causes. She had a great friendship for King Olaf; and
also she could never forget that the Swedish king had been one at
the death of her brother, Olaf Trygvason; and also that he, on
that account only, had any presence to rule over Norway. The
earl, by her persuasion, turned much towards friendship with King
Olaf; and it proceeded so far that the earl and the king
appointed a meeting, and met at the Gaut river. They talked
together of many things, but especially of the Norwegian and
Swedish kings' relations with each other; both agreeing, as was
the truth also, that it was the greatest loss, both to the people
of Viken and of Gautland, that there was no peace for trade
between the two countries; and at last both agreed upon a peace,
and still-stand of arms between them until next summer; and they
parted with mutual gifts and friendly speeches.
66. KING OLAF THE SWEDE.
The king thereupon returned north to Viken, and had all the royal
revenues up to the Gaut river; and all the people of the country
there had submitted to him. King Olaf the Swede had so great a
hatred of Olaf Haraldson, that no man dared to call him by his
right name in the king's hearing. They called him the thick man;
and never named him without some hard by-name.
67. ACCOUNT OF THEIR RECONCILIATION.
The bondes in Viken spoke with each other about there being
nothing for it but that the kings should make peace and a league
with each other, and insisted upon it that they were badly used
by the kings going to war; but nobody was so bold as to bring
these murmurs before the king. At last they begged Bjorn the
marshal to bring this matter before the king, and entreat him to
send messengers to the Swedish king to offer peace on his side.
Bjorn was disinclined to do this, and put it off from himself
with excuses; but on the entreaties of many of his friends, he
promised at last to speak of it to the king; but declared, at the
same time, that he knew it would be taken very ill by the king to
propose that he should give way in anything to the Swedish king.
The same summer (A.D. 1017) Hjalte Skeggjason came over to Norway
from Iceland, according to the message sent him by King Olaf, and
went directly to the king. He was well received by the king, who
told him to lodge in his house, and gave him a seat beside Bjorn
the marshal, and Hjalte became his comrade at table. There was
good-fellowship immediately between them.
Once, when King Olaf had assembled the people and bondes to
consult upon the good of the country, Bjorn the marshal said,
"What think you, king, of the strife that is between the Swedish
king and you? Many people have fallen on both sides, without its
being at all more determined than before what each of you shall
have of the kingdom. You have now been sitting in Viken one
winter and two summers, and the whole country to the north is
lying behind your back unseen; and the men who have property or
udal rights in the north are weary of sitting here. Now it is
the wish of the lendermen, of your other people, and of the
bondes that this should come to an end. There is now a truce,
agreement, and peace with the earl, and the West Gautland people
who are nearest to us; and it appears to the people it would be
best that you sent messengers to the Swedish king to offer a
reconciliation on your side; and, without doubt, many who are
about the Swedish king will support the proposal, for it is a
common gain for those who dwell in both countries, both here and
there." This speech of Bjorn's received great applause.
Then the king said, "It is fair, Bjorn, that the advice thou hast
given should be carried out by thyself. Thou shalt undertake
this embassy thyself, and enjoy the good of it, if thou hast
advised well; and if it involve any man in danger, thou hast
involved thyself in it. Moreover, it belongs to thy office to
declare to the multitude what I wish to have told." Then the
king stood up, went to the church, and had high mass sung before
him; and thereafter went to table.
The following day Hjalte said to Bjorn, "Why art thou so
melancholy, man? Art thou sick, or art thou angry at any one?"
Bjorn tells Hjalte his conversation with the king, and says it is
a very dangerous errand.
Hjalte says, "It is their lot who follow kings that they enjoy
high honours, and are more respected than other men, but stand
often in danger of their lives: and they must understand how to
bear both parts of their lot. The king's luck is great; and much
honour will be gained by this business, if it succeed."
Bjorn answered, "Since thou makest so light of this business in
thy speech, wilt thou go with me? The king has promised that I
shall have companions with me on the journey."
"Certainly," says Hjalte; "I will follow thee, if thou wilt: for
never again shall I fall in with such a comrade if we part."
68. JOURNEY OF BJORN THE MARSHAL.
A few days afterwards. when the king was at a Thing-meeting,
Bjorn came with eleven others. He says to the king that they
were now ready to proceed on their mission, and that their horses
stood saddled at the door. "And now," says he, "I would know
with what errand I am to go, or what orders thou givest us."
The king replies, "Ye shall carry these my words to the Swedish
king -- that I will establish peace between our countries up to
the frontier which Olaf Trygvason had before me; and each shall
bind himself faithfully not to trespass over it. But with regard
to the loss of people, no man must mention it if peace there is
to be; for the Swedish king cannot with money pay for the men the
Swedes have deprived us of." Thereupon the king rose, and went
out with Bjorn and his followers; and he took a gold-mounted
sword and a gold ring, and said, in handing over the sword to
Bjorn, "This I give thee: it was given to me in summer by Earl
Ragnvald. To him ye shall go; and bring him word from me to
advance your errand with his counsel and strength. This thy
errand I will think well fulfilled if thou hearest the Swedish
king's own words, be they yea or nay: and this gold ring thou
shalt give Earl Ragnvald. These are tokens (1) he must know
Hjalte went up to the king, saluted him, and said, "We need much,
king, that thy luck attend us;" and wished that they might meet
again in good health.
The king asked where Hjalte was going.
"With Bjorn," said he.
The king said, "It will assist much to the good success of the
journey that thou goest too, for thy good fortune has often been
proved; and be assured that I shall wish that all my luck, if
that be of any weight, may attend thee and thy company."
Bjorn and his followers rode their way, and came to Earl
Ragnvald's court, where they were well received. Bjorn was a
celebrated and generally known man, -- known by sight and speech
to all who had ever seen King Olaf; for at every Thing, Bjorn
stood up and told the king's message. Ingebjorg, the earl's
wife, went up to Hjalte and looked at him. She recognized him,
for she was living with her brother Olaf Trygvason when Hjalte
was there: and she knew how to reckon up the relationship between
King Olaf and Vilborg, the wife of Hjalte; for Eirik Bjodaskalle
father of Astrid, King Olaf Trygvason's mother, and Bodvar father
of Olaf, mother of Gissur White the father of Vilborg, were
brother's sons of the lenderman Vikingakare of Vors.
They enjoyed here good entertainment. One day Bjorn entered into
conversation with the earl and Ingebjorg, in which he set forth
his errand, and produced to the earl his tokens.
The earl replies, "What hast thou done, Bjorn, that the king
wishes thy death? For, so far from thy errand having any
success, I do not think a man can be found who could speak these
words to the Swedish king without incurring wrath and punishment.
King Olaf, king of Sweden, is too proud for any man to speak to
him on anything he is angry at."
Then Bjorn says, "Nothing has happened to me that King Olaf is
offended at; but many of his disposition act both for themselves
and others, in a way that only men who are daring can succeed in.
But as yet all his plans have had good success, and I think this
will turn out well too; so I assure you, earl, that I will
actually travel to the Swedish king, and not turn back before I
have brought to his ears every word that King Olaf told me to say
to him, unless death prevent me, or that I am in bonds, and
cannot perform my errand; and this I must do, whether you give
any aid or no aid to me in fulfilling the king's wishes."
Then said IngebJorg, "I will soon declare my opinion. I think,
earl, thou must turn all thy attention to supporting King Olaf
the king of Norway's desire that this message be laid before the
Swedish king, in whatever way he may answer it. Although the
Swedish king's anger should be incurred, and our power and
property be at stake, yet will I rather run the risk, than that
it should be said the message of King Olaf was neglected from
fear of the Swedish king. Thou hast that birth, strength of
relations, and other means, that here in the Swedish land it is
free to thee to tell thy mind, if it be right and worthy of being
heard, whether it be listened to by few or many, great or little
people, or by the king himself."
The earl replies, "It is known to every one how thou urgest me:
it may be, according to thy counsel, that I should promise the
king's men to follow them, so that they may get their errand laid
before the Swedish king, whether he take it ill or take it well.
But I will have my own counsel followed, and will not run hastily
into Bjorn's or any other man's measures, in such a highly
important matter. It is my will that ye all remain here with me,
so long as I think it necessary for the purpose of rightly
forwarding this mission." Now as the earl had thus given them to
understand that he would support them in the business, Bjorn
thanked him most kindly, and with the assurance that his advice
should rule them altogether. Thereafter Bjorn and his fellow-
travellers remained very long in the earl's house.
(1) Before writing was a common accomplishment in courts, the
only way of accrediting a special messenger between kings
and great men was by giving the messenger a token; that is.
some article well known by the person receiving the message
to be the property of and valued by the person sending it.
69. CONVERSATION OF BJORN AND INGEBJORG.
Ingebjorg was particularly kind to them; and Bjorn often spoke
with her about the matter, and was ill at ease that their journey
was so long delayed. Hjalte and the others often spoke together
also about the matter; and Hjalte said; "I will go to the king if
ye like; for I am not a man of Norway, and the Swedes can have
nothing to say to me. I have heard that there are Iceland men in
the king's house who are my acquaintances, and are well treated;
namely, the skalds Gissur Black and Ottar Black. From them I
shall get out what I can about the Swedish king; and if the
business will really be so difficult as it now appears, or if
there be any other way of promoting it, I can easily devise some
errand that may appear suitable for me."
This counsel appeared to Bjorn and Ingebjorg to be the wisest,
and they resolved upon it among themselves. Ingebjorg put Hjalte
in a position to travel; gave him two Gautland men with him, and
ordered them to follow him, and assist him with their service,
and also to go wherever he might have occasion to send them.
Besides, Ingebjorg gave him twenty marks of weighed silver money
for travelling expenses, and sent word and token by him to the
Swedish king Olaf's daughter, Ingegerd, that she should give all
her assistance to Hjalte's business, whenever he should find
himself under the necessity of craving her help. Hjalte set off
as soon as he was ready. When he came to King Olaf he soon found
the skalds Gissur and Ottar, and they were very glad at his
coming. Without delay they went to the king, and told him that a
man was come who was their countryman, and one of the most
considerable in their native land, and requested the king to
receive him well. The king told them to take Hjalte and his
fellow-travellers into their company and quarters. Now when
Hjalte had resided there a short time, and got acquainted with
people, he was much respected by everybody. The skalds were
often in the king's house, for they were well-spoken men; and
often in the daytime they sat in front of the king's high-seat,
and Hjalte, to whom they paid the highest respect in all things,
by their side. He became thus known to the king, who willingly
entered into conversation with him, and heard from him news about
70. OF SIGVAT THE SKALD.
It happened that before Bjorn set out from home he asked Sigvat
the skald, who at that time was with King Olaf, to accompany him
on his journey. It was a journey for which people had no great
inclination. There was, however, great friendship between Bjorn
and Sigvat. Then Sigvat sang: --
"With the king's marshals all have I,
In days gone by,
Lived joyously, --
With all who on the king attend,
And knee before him humbly bend,
Bjorn, thou oft hast ta'en my part --
Pleaded with art,
And touched the heart.
Bjorn! brave stainer of the sword,
Thou art my friend -- I trust thy word."
While they were riding up to Gautland, Sigvat made these verses:
"Down the Fjord sweep wind and rain,
Our stout ship's sails and tackle strain;
Wet to the skin.
We're sound within,
And gaily o'er the waves are dancing,
Our sea-steed o'er the waves high prancing!
Through Lister sea
Flying all free;
Off from the wind with swelling sail,
We merrily scud before the gale,
And reach the sound
Where we were bound.
And now our ship, so gay and grand,
Glides past the green and lovely land,
And at the isle
Moors for a while.
Our horse-hoofs now leave hasty print;
We ride -- of ease there's scanty stint --
In heat and haste
O'er Gautland's waste:
Though in a hurry to be married,
The king can't say that we have tarried."
One evening late they were riding through Gautland, and Sigvat
made these verses: --
"The weary horse will at nightfall
Gallop right well to reach his stall;
When night meets day, with hasty hoof
He plies the road to reach a roof.
Far from the Danes, we now may ride
Safely by stream or mountain-side;
But, in this twilight, in some ditch
The horse and rider both may pitch."
They rode through the merchant town of Skara, and down the street
to the earl's house. He sang: --
"The shy sweet girls, from window high
In wonder peep at the sparks that fly
From our horses heels, as down the street
Of the earl's town we ride so fleet.
Spur on! -- that every pretty lass
May hear our horse-hoofs as we pass
Clatter upon the stones so hard,
And echo round the paved court-yard."
71. HJALTE SKEGGJASON WHILE HE WAS IN SVITHIOD.
One day Hjalte, and the skalds with him, went before the king,
and he began thus: -- "It has so happened, king, as is known to
you, that I have come here after a long and difficult journey;
but when I had once crossed the ocean and heard of your
greatness, it appeared to me unwise to go back without having
seen you in your splendour and glory. Now it is a law between
Iceland and Norway, that Iceland men pay landing due when they
come into Norway, but while I was coming across the sea I took
myself all the landing dues from my ship's people; but knowing
that thou have the greatest right to all the power in Norway, I
hastened hither to deliver to you the landing dues." With this
he showed the silver to the king, and laid ten marks of silver in
Gissur Black's lap.
The king replies, "Few have brought us any such dues from Norway
for some time; and now, Hjalte, I will return you my warmest
thanks for having given yourself so much trouble to bring us the
landing dues, rather than pay them to our enemies. But I will
that thou shouldst take this money from me as a gift, and with it
Hjalte thanked the king with many words, and from that day set
himself in great favour with the king, and often spoke with him;
for the king thought, what was true, that he was a man of much
understanding and eloquence. Now Hjalte told Gissur and Ottar
that he was sent with tokens to the king's daughter Ingegerd, to
obtain her protection and friendship; and he begged of them to
procure him some opportunity to speak with her. They answered,
that this was an easy thing to do; and went one day to her house,
where she sat at the drinking table with many men. She received
the skalds in a friendly manner, for they were known to her.
Hjalte brought her a salutation from the earl's wife, Ingebjorg;
and said she had sent him here to obtain friendly help and
succour from her, and in proof whereof produced his tokens. The
king's daughter received him also kindly, and said he should be
welcome to her friendship. They sat there till late in the day
drinking. The king's daughter made Hjalte tell her much news,
and invited him to come often and converse with her. He did so:
came there often, and spoke with the king's daughter; and at last
entrusted her with the purpose of Bjorn's and his comrade's
journey, and asked her how she thought the Swedish king would
receive the proposal that there should be a reconciliation
between the kings. The king's daughter replied, that, in her
opinion, it would be a useless attempt to propose to the king any
reconciliation with Olaf the Thick; for the king was so enraged
against him, that he would not suffer his name to be mentioned
before him. It happened one day that Hjalte was sitting with the
king and talking to him, and the king was very merry and drunk.
Then Hjalte said, "Manifold splendour and grandeur have I seen
here; and I have now witnessed with my eyes what I have often
heard of, that no monarch in the north is so magnificent: but it
is very vexatious that we who come so far to visit it have a road
so long and troublesome, both on account of the great ocean, but
more especially because it is not safe to travel through Norway
for those who are coming here in a friendly disposition. But why
is there no one to bring proposals for a peace between you and
King Olaf the Thick? I heard much in Norway, and in west
Gautland, of the general desire that this peace should have taken
place; and it has been told me for truth, as the Norway king's
words, that he earnestly desires to be reconciled to you; and the
reason I know is, that he feels how much less his power is than
yours. It is even said that he intends to pay his court to your
daughter Ingegerd; and that would lead to a useful peace, for I
have heard from people of credit that he is a remarkably
The king answers. "Thou must not speak thus, Hjalte; but for this
time I will not take it amiss of thee, as thou dost not know what
people have to avoid here. That fat fellow shall not be called
king in my court, and there is by no means the stuff in him that
people talk of: and thou must see thyself that such a connection
is not suitable; for I am the tenth king in Upsala who, relation
after relation, has been sole monarch over the Swedish, and many
other great lands, and all have been the superior kings over
other kings in the northern countries. But Norway is little
inhabited, and the inhabitants are scattered. There have only
been small kings there; and although Harald Harfager was the
greatest king in that country, and strove against the small
kings, and subdued them, yet he knew so well his position that he
did not covet the Swedish dominions, and therefore the Swedish
kings let him sit in peace, especially as there was relationship
between them. Thereafter, while Hakon Athelstan's foster-son was
in Norway he sat in peace, until he began to maraud in Gautland
and Denmark; on which a war-force came upon him, and took from
him both life and land. Gunhild's sons also were cut off when
they became disobedient to the Danish kings; and Harald Gormson
joined Norway to his own dominions, and made it subject to scat
to him. And we reckon Harald Gormson to be of less power and
consideration than the Upsala kings, for our relation Styrbjorn
subdued him, and Harald became his man; and yet Eirik the
Victorious, my father, rose over Styrbjorn's head when it came to
a trial between them. When Olaf Trygvason came to Norway and
proclaimed himself king, we would not permit it, but we went with
King Svein, and cut him off; and thus we have appropriated
Norway, as thou hast not heard, and with no less right than if I
had gained it in battle, and by conquering the kings who ruled it
before. Now thou canst well suppose, as a man of sense, that I
will not let slip the kingdom of Norway for this thick fellow.
It is wonderful he does not remember how narrowly he made his
escape, when we had penned him in in the Malar lake. Although he
slipped away with life from thence, he ought, methinks, to have
something else in his mind than to hold out against us Swedes.
Now, Hjalte, thou must never again open thy mouth in my presence
on such a subject."
Hjalte saw sufficiently that there was no hope of the king's
listening to any proposal of a peace, and desisted from speaking
of it, and turned the conversation to something else. When
Hjalte, afterwards, came into discourse with the king's daughter
Ingegerd, he tells her his conversation with the king. She told
him she expected such an answer from the king. Hjalte begged of
her to say a good word to the king about the matter, but she
thought the king would listen as little to what she said: "But
speak about it I will, if thou requirest it." Hjalte assured her
he would be thankful for the attempt. One day the king's
daughter Ingegerd had a conversation with her father Olaf; and as
she found her father was in a particularly good humour, she said,
"What is now thy intention with regard to the strife with Olaf
the Thick? There are many who complain about it, having lost
their property by it; others have lost their relations by the
Northmen, and all their peace and quiet; so that none of your men
see any harm that can be done to Norway. It would be a bad
counsel if thou sought the dominion over Norway; for it is a poor
country, difficult to come at, and the people dangerous: for the
men there will rather have any other for their king than thee.
If I might advise, thou wouldst let go all thoughts about Norway,
and not desire Olaf's heritage; and rather turn thyself to the
kingdoms in the East country, which thy forefathers the former
Swedish kings had, and which our relation Styrbjorn lately
subdued, and let the thick Olaf possess the heritage of his
forefathers and make peace with him."
The king replies in a rage, "It is thy counsel, Ingegerd, that I
should let slip the kingdom of Norway, and give thee in marriage
to this thick Olaf. - No," says he, "something else shall first
take place. Rather than that, I shall, at the Upsala Thing in
winter, issue a proclamation to all Swedes, that the whole people
shall assemble for an expedition, and go to their ships before
the ice is off the waters; and I will proceed to Norway, and lay
waste the land with fire and sword, and burn everything, to
punish them for their want of fidelity."
The king was so mad with rage that nobody ventured to say a word,
and she went away. Hjalte, who was watching for her, immediately
went to her and asked how her errand to the king had turned out.
She answered, it turned out as she had expected; that none could
venture to put in a word with the king; but, on the contrary, he
had used threats; and she begged Hjalte never to speak of the
matter again before the king. As Hjalte and Ingegerd spoke
together often, Olaf the Thick was often the subject, and he told
her about him and his manners; and Hjalte praised the king of
Norway what he could, but said no more than was the truth, and
she could well perceive it. Once, in a conversation, Hjalte said
to her, "May I be permitted, daughter of the king, to tell thee
what lies in my mind?"
"Speak freely," says she; "but so that I alone can hear it."
"Then," said Hjalte, "what would be thy answer, if the Norway
king Olaf sent messengers to thee with the errand to propose
marriage to thee?"
She blushed, and answered slowly but gently, "I have not made up
my mind to answer to that; but if Olaf be in all respects so
perfect as thou tellest me, I could wish for no other husband;
unless, indeed, thou hast gilded him over with thy praise more
Hjalte replied, that he had in no respect spoken better of the
king than was true. They often spoke together on the same
subject. Ingegerd begged Hjalte to be cautious not to mention it
to any other person, for the king would be enraged against him if
it came to his knowledge. Hjalte only spoke of it to the skalds
Gissur and Ottar, who thought it was the most happy plan, if it
could but be carried into effect. Ottar, who was a man of great
power of conversation, and much beloved in the court, soon
brought up the subject before the king's daughter, and recounted
to her, as Hjalte had done, all King Olaf's excellent qualities.
Often spoke Hjalte and the others about him; and now that Hjalte
knew the result of his mission, he sent those Gautland men away
who had accompanied him, and let them return to the earl with
letters (1) which the king's daughter Ingegerd sent to the earl
and Ingebjorg. Hjalte also let them give a hint to the earl
about the conversation he had had with Ingegerd, and her answer
thereto: and the messengers came with it to the earl a little
(1) This seems the first notice we have in the sagas of written
letters being sent instead of tokens and verbal messages. --
72. OLAF'S JOURNEY TO THE UPLANDS.
When King Olaf had despatched Bjorn and his followers to
Gautland, he sent other people also to the Uplands, with the
errand that they should have guest-quarters prepared for him, as
he intended that winter (A.D. 1018) to live as guest in the
Uplands; for it had been the custom of former kings to make a
progress in guest-quarters every third year in the Uplands. In
autumn he began his progress from Sarpsborg, and went first to
Vingulmark. He ordered his progress so that he came first to
lodge in the neighbourhood of the forest habitations, and
summoned to him all the men of the habitations who dwelt at the
greatest distance from the head-habitations of the district; and
he inquired particularly how it stood with their Christianity,
and, where improvement was needful, he taught them the right
customs. If any there were who would not renounce heathen ways,
he took the matter so zealously that he drove some out of the
country, mutilated others of hands or feet, or stung their eyes
out; hung up some, cut down some with the sword; but let none go
unpunished who would not serve God. He went thus through the
whole district, sparing neither great nor small. He gave them
teachers, and placed these as thickly in the country as he saw
needful. In this manner he went about in that district, and had
300 deadly men-at-arms with him; and then proceeded to Raumarike.
He soon perceived that Christianity was thriving less the farther
he proceeded into the interior of the country. He went forward
everywhere in the same way, converting all the people to the
right faith, and severely punishing all who would not listen to
73.TREACHERY OF THE UPLAND KINGS.
Now when the king who at that time ruled in Raumarike heard of
this, he thought it was a very bad affair; for every day came men
to him, both great and small, who told him what was doing.
Therefore this king resolved to go up to Hedemark, and consult
King Hrorek, who was the most eminent for understanding of the
kings who at that time were in the country. Now when these kings
spoke with each other, they agreed to send a message to Gudrod,
the valley-king north in the Gudbrandsdal, and likewise to the
king who was in Hadaland, and bid them to come to Hedemark, to
meet Hrorek and the other kings there. They did not spare their
travelling; for five kings met in Hedemark, at a place called
Ringsaker. Ring, King Hrorek's brother, was the fifth of these
kings. The kings had first a private conference together, in
which he who came from Raumarike first took up the word, and told
of King Olaf's proceedings, and of the disturbance he was causing
both by killing and mutilating people. Some he drove out of the
country, some he deprived of their offices or property if they
spoke anything against him; and, besides, he was travelling over
the country with a great army, not with the number of people
fixed by law for a royal progress in guest-quarters. He added,
that he had fled hither upon account of this disturbance, and
many powerful people with him had fled from their udal properties
in Raumarike. "But although as yet the evil is nearest to us, it
will be but a short time before ye will also be exposed to it;
therefore it is best that we all consider together what
resolution we shall take." When he had ended his speech, Hrorek
was desired to speak; and he said, "Now is the day come that I
foretold when we had had our meeting at Hadaland, and ye were all
so eager to raise Olaf over our heads; namely, that as soon as he
was the supreme master of the country we would find it hard to
hold him by the horns. We have but two things now to do: the one
is, to go all of us to him, and let him do with us as he likes,
which I think is the best thing we can do; or the other is, to
rise against him before he has gone farther through the country.
Although he has 300 or 400 men, that is not too great a force for
us to meet, if we are only all in movement together: but, in
general, there is less success and advantage to be gained when
several of equal strength are joined together, than when one
alone stands at the head of his own force; therefore it is my
advice, that we do not venture to try our luck against Olaf
Thereafter each of the kings spoke according to his own mind some
dissuading from going out against King Olaf, others urging it;
and no determination was come to, as each had his own reasons to
Then Gudrod, the valley-king, took up the word, and spoke: -- "It
appears wonderful to me, that ye make such a long roundabout in
coming to a resolution; and probably ye are frightened for him.
We are here five kings, and none of less high birth than Olaf.
We gave him the strength to fight with Earl Svein, and with our
forces he has brought the country under his power. But if he
grudges each of us the little kingdom he had before, and
threatens us with tortures, or gives us ill words, then, say I
for myself, that I will withdraw myself from the king's slavery;
and I do not call him a man among you who is afraid to cut him
off, if he come into your hands here up in Hedemark. And this I
can tell you, that we shall never bear our heads in safety while
Olaf is in life." After this encouragement they all agreed to
Then said Hrorek, "With regard to this determination, it appears
to me necessary to make our agreement so strong that no one shall
fail in his promise to the other. Therefore, if ye determine
upon attacking Olaf at a fixed time, when he comes here to
Hedemark, I will not trust much to you if some are north in the
valleys, others up in Hedemark; but if our resolution is to come
to anything, we must remain here assembled together day and
This the kings agreed to, and kept themselves there all
assembled, ordering a feast to be provided for them at Ringsaker,
and drank there a cup to success; sending out spies to Raumarike,
and when one set came in sending out others, so that day and
night they had intelligence of Olaf's proceedings, and of the
numbers of his men. King Olaf went about in Raumarike in
guest-quarters, and altogether in the way before related; but as
the provision of the guest-quarter was not always sufficient,
upon account of his numerous followers, he laid it upon the
bondes to give additional contributions wherever he found it
necessary to stay. In some places he stayed longer, in others,
shorter than was fixed; and his journey down to the lake Miosen
was shorter than had been fixed on. The kings, after taking
their resolution, sent out message-tokens, and summoned all the
lendermen and powerful bondes from all the districts thereabout;
and when they had assembled the kings had a private meeting with
them, and made their determination known, setting a day for
gathering together and carrying it into effect; and it was
settled among them that each of the kings should have 300 (1)
men. Then they sent away the lendermen to gather the people, and
meet all at the appointed place. The most approved of the
measure; but it happened here, as it usually does, that every one
has some friend even among his enemies.
(1) I.e., 360.
74. MUTILATING OF THE UPLAND KINGS.
Ketil of Ringanes was at this meeting. Now when he came home in
the evening he took his supper, put on his clothes, and went down
with his house-servants to the lake; took a light vessel which he
had, the same that King Olaf had made him a present of, and
launched it on the water. They found in the boat-house
everything ready to their hands; betook themselves to their oars,
and rowed out into the lake. Ketil had forty well-armed men with
him, and came early in the morning to the end of the lake. He
set off immediately with twenty men, leaving the other twenty to
look after the ship. King Olaf was at that time at Eid, in the
upper end of Raumarike. Thither Ketil arrived just as the king
was coming from matins. The king received Ketil kindly. He said
he must speak with the king in all haste; and they had a private
conference together. There Ketil tells the king the resolution
which the kings had taken, and their agreement, which he had come
to the certain knowledge of. When the king learnt this he called
his people together, and sent some out to collect riding-horses
in the country; others he sent down to the lake to take all the
rowing-vessels they could lay hold of, and keep them for his use.
Thereafter he went to the church, had mass sung before him, and
then sat down to table. After his meal he got ready, and
hastened down to the lake, where the vessels were coming to meet
him. He himself went on board the light vessel, and as many men
with him as it could stow, and all the rest of his followers took
such boats as they could get hold of; and when it was getting
late in the evening they set out from the land, in still and calm
weather. He rowed up the water with 400 men, and came with them
to Ringsaker before day dawned; and the watchmen were not aware
of the army before they were come into the very court. Ketil
knew well in what houses the kings slept, and the king had all
these houses surrounded and guarded, so that nobody could get
out; and so they stood till daylight. The kings had not people
enough to make resistance, but were all taken prisoners, and led
before the king. Hrorek was an able but obstinate man, whose
fidelity the king could not trust to if he made peace with him;
therefore he ordered both his eyes to be punched out, and took
him in that condition about with him. He ordered Gudrod's tongue
to be cut out; but Ring and two others he banished from Norway,
under oath never to return. Of the lendermen and bondes who had
actually taken part in the traitorous design, some he drove out
of the country, some he mutilated, and with others he made peace.
Ottar Black tells of this: --
"The giver of rings of gold,
The army leader bold,
In vengeance springs
On the Hedemark kings.
Olaf the bold and great,
Repays their foul deceit --
In full repays
Their treacherous ways.
He drives with steel-clad hand
The small kings from the land, --
Greater by far
In deed of war.
The king who dwelt most north
Tongueless must wander forth:
All fly away
In great dismay.
King Olaf now rules o'er
What five kings ruled before.
To Eid's old bound
Extends his ground.
No kings in days of yore
E'er won so much before:
That this is so
All Norsemen know."
King Olaf took possession of the land these five kings had
possessed, and took hostages from the lendermen and bondes in it.
He took money instead of guest-quarters from the country north of
the valley district, and from Hedemark; and then returned to
Raumarike, and so west to Hadaland. This winter (A.D. 1018) his
stepfather Sigurd Syr died; and King Olaf went to Ringerike,
where his mother Asta made a great feast for him. Olaf alone
bore the title of king now in Norway.
75. KING OLAF'S HALF-BROTHERS.
It is told that when King Olaf was on his visit to his mother
Asta, she brought out her children, and showed them to him. The
king took his brother Guthorm on the one knee, and his brother
Halfdan on the other. The king looked at Guthorm, made a wry
face, and pretended to be angry at them: at which the boys were
afraid. Then Asta brought her youngest son, called Harald, who
was three years old, to him. The king made a wry face at him
also; but he looked the king in the face without regarding it.
The king took the boy by the hair, and plucked it; but the boy
seized the king's whiskers, and gave them a tug. "Then," said
the king, "thou wilt be revengeful, my friend, some day." The
following day the king was walking with his mother about the
farm, and they came to a playground, where Asta's sons, Guthorm
and Halfdan, were amusing themselves. They were building great
houses and barns in their play, and were supposing them full of
cattle and sheep; and close beside them, in a clay pool, Harald
was busy with chips of wood, sailing them, in his sport along the
edge. The king asked him what these were; and he answered, these
were his ships of war. The king laughed, and said, "The time may
come, friend, when thou wilt command ships."
Then the king called to him Halfdan and Guthorm; and first he
asked Guthorm, "What wouldst thou like best to have?"
"Corn land," replied he.
"And how great wouldst thou like thy corn land to be?"
"I would have the whole ness that goes out into the lake sown
with corn every summer." On that ness there are ten farms.
The king replies, "There would be a great deal of corn there."
And, turning to Halfdan, he asked, "And what wouldst thou like
best to have?"
"Cows," he replied.
"How many wouldst thou like to have?"
"When they went to the lake to be watered I would have so many,
that they stood as tight round the lake as they could stand."
"That would be a great housekeeping," said the king; "and therein
ye take after your father."
Then the king says to Harald, "And what wouldst thou like best to
"And how many wouldst thou have?"
"Oh! so many I would like to have as would eat up my brother
Halfdan's cows at a single meal."
The king laughed, and said to Asta, "Here, mother, thou art
bringing up a king." And more is not related of them on this
76. THE DIVISION OF THE COUNTRY.
In Svithjod it was the old custom, as long as heathenism
prevailed, that the chief sacrifice took place in Goe month at
Upsala. Then sacrifice was offered for peace, and victory to the
king; and thither came people from all parts of Svithjod. All
the Things of the Swedes, also, were held there, and markets, and
meetings for buying, which continued for a week: and after
Christianity was introduced into Svithjod, the Things and fairs
were held there as before. After Christianity had taken root in
Svithjod, and the kings would no longer dwell in Upsala, the
market-time was moved to Candlemas, and it has since continued
so, and it lasts only three days. There is then the Swedish
Thing also, and people from all quarters come there. Svithjod is
divided into many parts. One part is West Gautland, Vermaland,
and the Marks, with what belongs to them; and this part of the
kingdom is so large, that the bishop who is set over it has 1100
churches under him. The other part is East Gautland, where there
is also a bishop's seat, to which the islands of Gotland and
Eyland belong; and forming all together a still greater
bishopric. In Svithjod itself there is a part of the country
called Sudermanland, where there is also a bishopric. Then comes
Westmanland, or Fiathrundaland, which is also a bishopric. The
third portion of Svithjod proper is called Tiundaland; the fourth
Attandaland; the fifth Sialand, and what belongs to it lies
eastward along the coast. Tiundaland is the best and most
inhabited part of Svithjod, under which the other kingdoms stand.
There Upsala is situated, the seat of the king and archbishop;
and from it Upsala-audr, or the domain of the Swedish kings,
takes its name. Each of these divisions of the country has its
Lag-thing, and its own laws in many parts. Over each is a
lagman, who rules principally in affairs of the bondes: for that
becomes law which he, by his speech, determines them to make law:
and if king, earl, or bishop goes through the country, and holds
a Thing with the bondes, the lagmen reply on account of the
bondes, and they all follow their lagmen; so that even the most
powerful men scarcely dare to come to their Al-thing without
regarding the bondes' and lagmen's law. And in all matters in
which the laws differ from each other, Upsala-law is the
directing law; and the other lagmen are under the lagman who
dwells in Tiundaland.
77. OF THE LAGMAN THORGNY.
In Tiundaland there was a lagman who was called Thorgny, whose
father was called Thorgny Thorgnyson. His forefathers had for a
long course of years, and during many kings' times, been lagmen
of Tiundaland. At this time Thorgny was old, and had a great
court about him. He was considered one of the wisest men in
Sweden, and was Earl Ragnvald's relation and foster-father.
78. MEETING OF RAGNVALD AND INGEGERD.
Now we must go back in our story to the time when the men whom
the king's daughter Ingegerd and Hjalte had sent from the east
came to Earl Ragnvald. They relate their errand to the earl and
his wife Ingebjorg, and tell how the king's daughter had oft
spoken to the Swedish king about a peace between him and King
Olaf the Thick, and that she was a great friend of King Olaf; but
that the Swedish king flew into a passion every time she named
Olaf, so that she had no hopes of any peace. The Earl told Bjorn
the news he had received from the east; but Bjorn gave the same
reply, that he would not turn back until he had met the Swedish
king, and said the earl had promised to go with him. Now the
winter was passing fast, and immediately after Yule the earl made
himself ready to travel with sixty men, among whom where the
marshal Bjorn and his companions. The earl proceeded eastward
all the way to Svithjod; but when he came a little way into the
country he sent his men before him to Upsala with a message to
Ingegerd the king's daughter to come out to meet him at
Ullaraker, where she had a large farm. When the king's daughter
got the earl's message she made herself ready immediately to
travel with a large attendance, and Hjalte accompanied her. But
before he took his departure he went to King Olaf, and said,
"Continue always to be the most fortunate of monarchs! Such
splendour as I have seen about thee I have in truth never
witnessed elsewhere, and wheresoever I come it shall not be
concealed. Now, king, may I entreat thy favour and friendship in
time to come?"
The king replies, "Why art thou in so great a haste, and where
art thou going?"
Hjalte replies, "I am to ride out to Ullaraker with Ingegerd thy
The king says, "Farewell, then: a man thou art of understanding
and politeness, and well suited to live with people of rank."
Thereupon Hjalte withdrew.
The king's daughter Ingegerd rode to her farm in Ullaraker, and
ordered a great feast to be prepared for the earl. When the earl
arrived he was welcomed with gladness, and he remained there
several days. The earl and the king's daughter talked much, and
of many things, but most about the Swedish and Norwegian kings;
and she told the earl that in her opinion there was no hope of
peace between them.
Then said the earl, "How wouldst thou like it, my cousin, if Olaf
king of Norway were to pay his addresses to thee? It appears to
us that it would contribute most towards a settled peace if there
was relationship established between the kings; but I would not
support such a matter if it were against thy inclination."
She replies, "My father disposes of my hand; but among all my
other relations thou art he whose advice I would rather follow in
weighty affairs. Dost thou think it would be advisable?" The
earl recommended it to her strongly, and reckoned up many
excellent achievements of King Olaf's. He told her, in
particular, about what had lately been done; that King Olaf in an
hours time one morning had taken five kings prisoners, deprived
them all of their governments, and laid their kingdoms and
properties under his own power. Much they talked about the
business, and in all their conversations they perfectly agreed
with each other. When the earl was ready he took leave, and
proceeded on his way, taking Hjalte with him.
79. RAGNVALD AND THORGNY.
Earl Ragnvald came towards evening one day to the house of Lagman
Thorgny. It was a great and stately mansion, and many people
stood outside, who received the earl kindly, and took care of the
horses and baggage. The earl went into the room, where there was
a number of people. In the high-seat sat an old man; and never
had Bjorn or his companions seen a man so stout. His beard was
so long that it lay upon his knee, and was spread over his whole
breast; and the man, moreover, was handsome and stately in
appearance. The earl went forward and saluted him. Thorgny
received him joyfully and kindly, and bade him go to the seat he
was accustomed to take. The earl seated himself on the other
side, opposite Thorgny. They remained there some days before the
earl disclosed his errand, and then he asked Thorgny to go with
him into the conversing room. Bjorn and his followers went there
with the earl. Then the earl began, and told how Olaf king of
Norway had sent these men hither to conclude a peaceful
agreement. He showed at great length what injury it was of to
the West Gautland people, that there was hostility between their
country and Norway. He further related that Olaf the king of
Norway had sent ambassadors, who were here present, and to whom
he had promised he would attend them to the Swedish king; but he
added, "The Swedish king takes the matter so grievously, that he
has uttered menaces against those who entertain it. Now so it
is, my foster-father, that I do not trust to myself in this
matter; but am come on a visit to thee to get good counsel and
help from thee in the matter."
Now when the earl had done speaking Thorgny sat silent for a
while, and then took up the word. "Ye have curious dispositions
who are so ambitious of honour and renown, and yet have no
prudence or counsel in you when you get into any mischief. Why
did you not consider, before you gave your promise to this
adventure, that you had no power to stand against King Olaf? In
my opinion it is not a less honourable condition to be in the
number of bondes and have one's words free, and be able to say
what one will, even if the king be present. But I must go to the
Upsala Thing, and give thee such help that without fear thou
canst speak before the king what thou findest good."
The earl thanked him for the promise, remained with Thorgny, and
rode with him to the Upsala Thing. There was a great assemblage
of people at the Thing, and King Olaf was there with his court.
80. OF THE UPSALA THING.
The first day the Thing sat, King Olaf was seated on a stool, and
his court stood in a circle around him. Right opposite to him
sat Earl Ragnvald and Thorgny in the Thing upon one stool, and
before them the earl's court and Thorgny's house-people. Behind
their stool stood the bonde community, all in a circle around
them. Some stood upon hillocks and heights, in order to hear the
better. Now when the king's messages, which are usually handled
in the Things, were produced and settled, the marshal Bjorn rose
beside the earl's stool, and said aloud, "King Olaf sends me here
with the message that he will offer to the Swedish king peace,
and the frontiers that in old times were fixed between Norway and
Svithjod." He spoke so loud that the Swedish king could
distinctly hear him; but at first, when he heard King Olaf's name
spoken, he thought the speaker had some message or business of
his own to execute; but when he heard of peace, and the frontiers
between Norway and Svithjod, he saw from what root it came, and
sprang up, and called out that the man should be silent, for that
such speeches were useless. Thereupon Bjorn sat down; and when
the noise had ceased Earl Ragnvald stood up and made a speech.
He spoke of Olaf the Thick's message, and proposal of peace to
Olaf the Swedish king; and that all the West Gautland people sent
their entreaty to Olaf that he would make peace with the king of
Norway. He recounted all the evils the West Gautlanders were
suffering under; that they must go without all the things from
Norway which were necessary in their households; and, on the
other hand, were exposed to attack and hostility whenever the
king of Norway gathered an army and made an inroad on them. The
earl added, that Olaf the Norway king had sent men hither with
the intent to obtain Ingegerd the king's daughter in marriage.
When the earl had done speaking Olaf the Swedish king stood up
and replied, and was altogether against listening to any
proposals of peace, and made many and heavy reproaches against
the earl for his impudence in entering into a peaceful truce with
the thick fellow, and making up a peaceful friendship with him,
and which in truth he considered treason against himself. He
added, that it would be well deserved if Earl Ragnvald were
driven out of the kingdom. The earl had, in his opinion, the
influence of his wife Ingebjorg to thank for what might happen;
and it was the most imprudent fancy he could have fallen upon to
take up with such a wife. The king spoke long and bitterly,
turning his speech always against Olaf the Thick. When he sat
down not a sound was to be heard at first.
81. THORGNY'S SPEECH.
Then Thorgny stood up; and when he arose all the bondes stood up
who had before been sitting, and rushed together from all parts
to listen to what Lagman Thorgny would say. At first there was a
great din of people and weapons; but when the noise was settled
into silent listening, Thorguy made his speech. "The disposition
of Swedish kings is different now from what it has been formerly.
My grandfather Thorgny could well remember the Upsala king Eirik
Eymundson, and used to say of him that when he was in his best
years he went out every summer on expeditions to different
countries, and conquered for himself Finland, Kirjalaland,
Courland, Esthonia, and the eastern countries all around; and at
the present day the earth-bulwarks, ramparts, and other great
works which he made are to be seen. And, more over, he was not
so proud that he would not listen to people who had anything to
say to him. My father, again, was a long time with King Bjorn,
and was well acquainted with his ways and manners. In Bjorn's
lifetime his kingdom stood in great power, and no kind of want
was felt, and he was gay and sociable with his friends. I also
remember King Eirik the Victorious, and was with him on many a
war-expedition. He enlarged the Swedish dominion, and defended
it manfully; and it was also easy and agreeable to communicate
our opinions to him. But the king we have now got allows no man
to presume to talk with him, unless it be what he desires to
hear. On this alone he applies all his power, while he allows
his scat-lands in other countries to go from him through laziness
and weakness. He wants to have the Norway kingdom laid under
him, which no Swedish king before him ever desired, and therewith
brings war and distress on many a man. Now it is our will, we
bondes, that thou King Olaf make peace with the Norway king, Olaf
the Thick, and marry thy daughter Ingegerd to him. Wilt thou,
however, reconquer the kingdoms in the east countries which thy
relations and forefathers had there, we will all for that purpose
follow thee to the war. But if thou wilt not do as we desire, we
will now attack thee, and put thee to death; for we will no
longer suffer law and peace to be disturbed. So our forefathers
went to work when they drowned five kings in a morass at the
Mula-thing, and they were filled with the same insupportable
pride thou hast shown towards us. Now tell us, in all haste,
what resolution thou wilt take." Then the whole public approved,
with clash of arms and shouts, the lagman's speech.
The king stands up and says he will let things go according to
the desire of the bondes. "All Swedish kings," he said, "have
done so, and have allowed the bondes to rule in all according to
their will." The murmur among the bondes then came to an end,
and the chiefs, the king, the earl, and Thorgny talked together,
and concluded a truce and reconciliation, on the part of the
Swedish king, according to the terms which the king of Norway had
proposed by his ambassadors; and it was resolved at the Thing
that Ingegerd, the king's daughter, should be married to Olaf
Haraldson. The king left it to the earl to make the contract
feast, and gave him full powers to conclude this marriage affair;
and after this was settled at the Thing, they separated. When
the earl returned homewards, he and the king's daughter Ingegerd
had a meeting, at which they talked between themselves over this
matter. She sent Olaf a long cloak of fine linen richly
embroidered with gold, and with silk points. The earl returned
to Gautland, and Bjorn with him; and after staying with him a
short time, Bjorn and his company returned to Norway. When he
came to King Olaf he told him the result of his errand, and the
king returned him many thanks for his conduct, and said Bjorn had
had great success in bringing his errand to so favourabie a
conclusion against such animosity.
82. OF KING HROREK'S TREACHERY.
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