Heimskringla The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway
Part 7 out of 18
On the approach of spring (A.D. 1018) King Olaf went down to the
coast, had his ships rigged out, summoned troops to him, and
proceeded in spring out from Viken to the Naze, and so north to
Hordaland. He then sent messages to all the lendermen, selected
the most considerable men in each district, and made the most
splendid preparations to meet his bride. The wedding-feast was
to be in autumn, at the Gaut river, on the frontiers of the two
countries. King Olaf had with him the blind king Hrorek. When
his wound was healed, the king gave him two men to serve him, let
him sit in the high-seat by his side, and kept him in meat and
clothes in no respect Norse than he had kept himself before.
Hrorek was taciturn, and answered short and cross when any one
spoke to him. It was his custom to make his footboy, when he
went out in the daytime, lead him away from people, and then to
beat the lad until he ran away. He would then complain to King
Olaf that the lad would not serve him. The king changed his
servants, but it was as before; no servant would hold it out with
King Hrorek. Then the king appointed a man called Svein to wait
upon and serve King Hrorek. He was Hrorek's relation, and had
formerly been in his service. Hrorek continued with his habits
of moroseness, and of solitary walks; but when he and Svein were
alone together, he was merry and talkative. He used to bring up
many things which had happened in former days when he was king.
He alluded, too, to the man who had, in his former days, torn him
from his kingdom and happiness, and made him live on alms. "It
is hardest of all," says he, "that thou and my other relations,
who ought to be men of bravery, are so degenerated that thou wilt
not avenge the shame and disgrace brought upon our race." Such
discourse he often brought out. Svein said, they had too great a
power to deal with, while they themselves had but little means.
Hrorek said, "Why should we live longer as mutilated men with
disgrace? I, a blind man, may conquer them as well as they
conquered me when I was asleep. Come then, let us kill this
thick Olaf. He is not afraid for himself at present. I will lay
the plan, and would not spare my hands if I could use them, but
that I cannot by reason of my blindness; therefore thou must use
the weapons against him, and as soon as Olaf is killed I can see
well enough that his power must come into the hands of his
enemies, and it may well be that I shall be king, and thou shalt
be my earl." So much persuasion he used that Svein at last
agreed to join in the deed. The plan was so laid that when the
king was ready to go to vespers, Svein stood on the threshold
with a drawn dagger under his cloak. Now when the king came out
of the room, it so happened that he walked quicker than Svein
expected; and when he looked the king in the face he grew pale,
and then white as a corpse, and his hand sank down. The king
observed his terror and said, "What is this, Svein? Wilt thou
betray me?" Svein threw down his cloak and dagger, and fell at
the king's feet, saying, "All is in Gods hands and thine, king!"
The king ordered his men to seize Svein, and he was put in irons.
The king ordered Hrorek's seat to be moved to another bench. He
gave Svein his life, and he left the country. The king appointed
a different lodging for Hrorek to sleep in from that in which he
slept himself, and in which many of his court-people slept. He
set two of his court-men, who had been long with him, and whose
fidelity he had proof of, to attend Hrorek day and night; but it
is not said whether they were people of high birth or not. King
Hrorek's mood was very different at different times. Sometimes
he would sit silent for days together, so that no man could get a
word out of him; and sometimes he was so merry and gay, that
people found a joke in every word he said. Sometimes his words
were very bitter. He was sometimes in a mood that he would drink
them all under the benches, and made all his neighbours drunk;
but in general he drank but little. King Olaf gave him plenty of
pocket-money. When he went to his lodgings he would often,
before going to bed, have some stoups of mead brought in, which
he gave to all the men in the house to drink, so that he was much
83. OF LITTLE FIN.
There was a man from the Uplands called Fin the Little, and some
said of him that he was of Finnish (1) race. He was a remarkable
little man, but so swift of foot that no horse could overtake
him. He was a particularly well-excercised runner with snow-
shoes, and shooter with the bow. He had long been in the service
of King Hrorek, and often employed in errands of trust. He knew
the roads in all the Upland hills, and was well known to all the
great people. Now when King Hrorek was set under guards on the
journey Fin would often slip in among the men of the guard, and
followed, in general, with the lads and serving-men; but as often
as he could he waited upon Hrorek, and entered into conversation
with him. The king, however, only spoke a word or two with him
at a time, to prevent suspicion. In spring, when they came a
little way beyond Viken, Fin disappeared from the army for some
days, but came back, and stayed with them a while. This happened
often, without anyone observing it particularly; for there were
many such hangers-on with the army.
(1) The Laplanders are called Fins In Norway and Sweden. -- L.
84. MURDER OF OLAF'S COURT-MEN.
King Olaf came to Tunsberg before Easter (A.D. 1018), and
remained there late in spring. Many merchant vessels came to the
town, both from Saxon-land and Denmark, and from Viken, and from
the north parts of the country. There was a great assemblage of
people; and as the times were good, there was many a drinking
meeting. It happened one evening that King Hrorek came rather
late to his lodging; and as he had drunk a great deal, he was
remarkably merry. Little Fin came to him with a stoup of mead
with herbs in it, and very strong. The king made every one in
the house drunk, until they fell asleep each in his berth. Fin
had gone away, and a light was burning in the lodging. Hrorek
waked the men who usually followed him, and told them he wanted
to go out into the yard. They had a lantern with them, for
outside it was pitch dark. Out in the yard there was a large
privy standing upon pillars, and a stair to go up to it. While
Hrorek and his guards were in the yard they heard a man say, "Cut
down that devil;" and presently a crash, as if somebody fell.
Hrorek said, "These fellows must be dead drunk to be fighting
with each other so: run and separate them." They rushed out; but
when they came out upon the steps both of them were killed: the
man who went out the last was the first killed. There were
twelve of Hrorek's men there, and among them Sigurd Hit, who had
been his banner-man, and also little Fin. They drew the dead
bodies up between the houses, took the king with them, ran out to
a boat they had in readiness, and rowed away. Sigvat the skald
slept in King Olaf's lodgings. He got up in the night, and his
footboy with him, and went to the privy. But as they were
returning, on going down the stairs Sigvat's foot slipped, and he
fell on his knee; and when he put out his hands he felt the
stairs wet. "I think," said he, laughing, "the king must have
given many of us tottering legs tonight." When they came into
the house in which light was burning the footboy said, "Have you
hurt yourself that you are all over so bloody?" He replied, "I
am not wounded, but something must have happened here."
Thereupon he wakened Thord Folason, who was standard-bearer, and
his bedfellow. They went out with a light, and soon found the
blood. They traced it, and found the corpses, and knew them.
They saw also a great stump of a tree in which clearly a gash had
been cut, which, as was afterwards known, had been done as a
stratagem to entice those out who had been killed. Sigvat and
Thord spoke together and agreed it was highly necessary to let
the king know of this without delay. They immediately sent a lad
to the lodging where Hrorek had been. All the men in it were
asleep; but the king was gone. He wakened the men who were in
the house, and told them what had happened. The men arose, and
ran out to the yard where the bodies were; but, however needful
it appeared to be that the king should know it, nobody dared to
Then said Sigvat to Thord, "What wilt thou rather do, comrade,
waken the king, or tell him the tidings?"
Thord replies, "I do not dare to waken him, and I would rather
tell him the news."
Then said Sigvat, "There is minch of the night still to pass, and
before morning Hrorek may get himself concealed in such a way
that it may be difficult to find him; but as yet he cannot be
very far off, for the bodies are still warm. We must never let
the disgrace rest upon us of concealing this treason from the
king. Go thou, up to the lodging, and wait for me there."
Sigvat then went to the church, and told the bell-ringer to toll
for the souls of the king's court-men, naming the men who were
killed. The-bell-ringer did as he was told. The king awoke at
the ringing, sat up in his bed, and asked if it was already the
hours of matins.
Thord replies, "It is worse than that, for there has occurred a
very important affair. Hrorek is fled, and two of the court-men
The king asked how this had taken place, and Thord told him all
he knew. The king got up immediately, ordered to sound the call
for a meeting of the court, and when the people were assembled he
named men to go out to every quarter from the town, by sea and
land, to search for Hrorek. Thorer Lange took a boat, and set
off with thirty men; and when day dawned they saw two small boats
before them in the channel, and when they saw each other both
parties rowed as hard as they could. King Hrorek was there with
thirty men. When they came quite close to each other Hrorek and
his men turned towards the land, and all sprang on shore except
the king, who sat on the aft seat. He bade them farewell, and
wished they might meet each other again in better luck. At the
same moment Thorer with his company rowed to the land. Fin the
Little shot off an arrow, which hit Thorer in the middle of the
body, and was his death; and Sigurd Hit, with his men, ran up
into the forest. Thorer's men took his body, and transported it,
together with Hrorek, to Tunsberg. King Olaf undertook himself
thereafter to look after King Hrorek, made him be carefully
guarded, and took good care of his treason, for which reason he
had a watch over him night and day. King Hrorek thereafter was
very gay, and nobody could observe but that he was in every way
85. OF HROREK'S ASSAULT.
It happened on Ascension-day that King Olaf went to high mass,
and the bishop went in procession around the church, and
conducted the king; and when they came back to the church the
bishop led the king to his seat on the north side of the choir.
There Hrorek sat next to the king, and concealed his countenance
in his upper cloak. When Olaf had seated himself Hrorek laid his
hand on the king's shoulder, and felt it.
"Thou hast fine clothes on, cousin, today," said he.
King Olaf replies, "It is a festival today, in remembrance that
Jesus Christ ascended to heaven from earth."
King Hrorek says, "I understand nothing about it so as to hold in
my mind what ye tell me about Christ. Much of what ye tell me
appears to me incredible, although many wonderful things may have
come to pass in old times."
When the mass was finished Olaf stood up, held his hands up over
his head, and bowed down before the altar, so that his cloak hung
down behind his shoulders. Then King Hrorek started up hastily
and sharply, and struck at the king with a long knife of the kind
called ryting; but the blow was received in the upper cloak at
the shoulder, because the king was bending himself forwards. The
clothes were much cut, but the king was not wounded. When the
king perceived the attack he sprang upon the floor; and Hrorek
struck at him again with the knife, but did not reach him, and
said, "Art thou flying, Olaf, from me, a blind men?" The king
ordered his men to seize him and lead him out of the church,
which was done. After this attempt many hastened to King Olaf,
and advised that King Hrorek should be killed. "It is," said
they, "tempting your luck in the highest degree, king, to keep
him with you, and protect him, whatever mischief he may
undertake; for night and day he thinks upon taking your life.
And if you send him away, we know no one who can watch him so
that he will not in all probability escape; and if once he gets
loose he will assemble a great multitude, and do much evil."
The king replies, "You say truly that many a one has suffered
death for less offence than Hrorek's; but willingly I would not
darken the victory I gained over the Upland kings, when in one
morning hour I took five kings prisoners, and got all their
kingdoms: but yet, as they were my relations, I should not be
their murderer but upon need. As yet I can scarcely see whether
Hrorek puts me in the necessity of killing him or not."
It was to feel if King Olaf had armour on or not that Hrorek had
laid his hand on the king's shoulder.
86. KING HROREK'S JOURNEY TO ICELAND.
There was an Iceland man, by name Thorarin Nefiulfson, who had
his relations in the north of the country. He was not of high
birth, but particularly prudent, eloquent, and agreeable in
conversation with people of distinction. He was also a far-
travelled man, who had been long in foreign parts. Thorarin was
a remarkably ugly man, principally because he had very ungainly
limbs. He had great ugly hands, and his feet were still uglier.
Thorarin was in Tunsberg when this event happened which has just
been related, and he was known to King Olaf by their having had
conversations together. Thorarin was just then done with rigging
out a merchant vessel which he owned, and with which he intended
to go to Iceland in summer. King Olaf had Thorarin with him as a
guest for some days, and conversed much with him; and Thorarin
even slept in the king's lodgings. One morning early the king
awoke while the others were still sleeping. The sun had newly
risen in the sky, and there was much light within. The king saw
that Thorarin had stretched out one of his feet from under the
bed-clothes, and he looked at the foot a while. In the meantime
the others in the lodging awoke; and the king said to Thorarin,
"I have been awake for a while, and have seen a sight which was
worth seeing; and that is a man's foot so ugly that I do not
think an uglier can be found in this merchant town." Thereupon
he told the others to look at it, and see if it was not so; and
all agreed with the king. When Thorarin observed what they were
talking about, he said, "There are few things for which you
cannot find a match, and that may be the case here."
The king says, "I would rather say that such another ugly foot
cannot be found in the town, and I would lay any wager upon it."
Then said Thorarin, "I am willing to bet that I shall find an
uglier foot still in the town."
The king -- "Then he who wins shall have the right to get any
demand from the other he chooses to make."
"Be it so," said Thorarin. Thereupon he stretches out his other
foot from under the bed-clothes, and it was in no way handsomer
than the other, and moreover, wanted the little toe. "There,"
said Thorarin, "see now, king, my other foot, which is so much
uglier; and, besides, has no little toe. Now I have won."
The king replies, "That other foot was so much uglier than this
one by having five ugly toes upon it, and this has only four; and
now I have won the choice of asking something from thee."
"The sovereign's decision must be right," says Thorarin; "but
what does the king require of me?"
"To take Hrorek," said the king, "to Greenland, and deliver him
to Leif Eirikson."
Thorarin replies, "I have never been in Greenland."
The king -- "Thou, who art a far-travelled man, wilt now have an
opportunity of seeing Greenland, if thou hast never been there
At first Thorarin did not say much about it; but as the king
insisted on his wish he did not entirely decline, but said, "I
will let you hear, king, what my desire would have been had I
gained the wager. It would have been to be received into your
body of court-men; and if you will grant me that, I will be the
more zealous now in fulfilling your pleasure." The king gave his
consent, and Thorarin was made one of the court-men. Then
Thorarin rigged out his vessel, and when he was ready he took on
board King Hrorek. When Thorarin took leave of King Olaf, he
said, "Should it now turn out, king, as is not improbable, and
often happens, that we cannot effect the voyage to Greenland, but
must run for Iceland or other countries, how shall I get rid of
this king in a way that will be satisfactory to you?"
The king -- "If thou comest to Iceland, deliver him into the
hands of Gudmund Eyolfson, or of Skapte, the lagman, or of some
other chief who will receive my tokens and message of friendship.
But if thou comest to other countries nearer to this, do so with
him that thou canst know with certainty that King Hrorek never
again shall appear in Norway; but do so only when thou seest no
other way of doing whatsoever."
When Thorarin was ready for sea, and got a wind, he sailed
outside of all the rocks and islands, and when he was to the
north of the Naze set right out into the ocean. He did not
immediately get a good wind, but he avoided coming near the land.
He sailed until he made land which he knew, in the south part of
Iceland, and sailed west around the land out into the Greenland
There he encountered heavy storms, and drove long about upon the
ocean; but when summer was coming to an end he landed again in
Iceland in Breidafjord. Thorgils Arason (1) was the first man of
any consequence who came to him. Thorarin brings him the king's
salutation, message, and tokens, with which was the desire about
King Hrorek's reception. Thorgils received these in a friendly
way, and invited King Hrorek to his house, where he stayed all
winter. But he did not like being there, and begged that
Thorgils would let him go to Gudmund; saying he had heard some
time or other that there in Gudmund's house, was the most
sumptuous way of living in Iceland, and that it was intended he
should be in Gudmund's hands. Thorgils let him have his desire,
and conducted him with some men to Gudmund at Modruveller.
Gudmund received Hrorek kindly on account of the king's message,
and he stayed there the next winter. He did not like being there
either; and then Gudmund gave him a habitation upon a small farm
called Kalfskin, where there were but few neighbours. There
Hrorek passed the third winter, and said that since he had laid
down his kingdom he thought himself most comfortably situated
here; for here he was most respected by all. The summer after
Hrorek fell sick, and died; and it is said he is the only king
whose bones rest in Iceland. Thorarin Nefiulfson was afterwards
for a long time upon voyages; but sometimes he was with King
(1) Thorgils was the son of Are Marson, who visited America
(Vindland). Thorgils, who was still alive in the year 1024,
was noted for his kindness toward all persecuted persons.
87. BATTLE IN ULFREKS-FJORD.
The summer that Thorarin went with Hrorek to Iceland, Hjalte
Skeggjason went also to Iceland, and King Olaf gave him many
friendly gifts with him when they parted. The same summer Eyvind
Urarhorn went on an expedition to the west sea, and came in
autumn to Ireland, to the Irish king Konofogor (1). In autumn
Einar earl of Orkney and this Irish king met in Ulfreks-fjord,
and there was a great battle, in which Konofogor gained the
victory, having many more people. The earl fled with a single
ship and came back about autumn to Orkney, after losing most of
his men and all the booty they had made. The earl was much
displeased with his expedition, and threw the blame upon the
Northmen, who had been in the battle on the side of the Irish
king, for making him lose the victory.
(1) Konofogor's Irish name was Connor.
88. OLAF PREPARES FOR HIS BRIDAL JOURNEY.
Now we begin again our story where we let it slip -- at King
Olaf's travelling to his bridal, to receive his betrothed
Ingegerd the king's daughter. The king had a great body of men
with him, and so chosen a body that all the great people he could
lay hold of followed him; and every man of consequence had a
chosen band of men with him distinguished by birth or other
qualifications. The whole were well appointed, and equipped in
ships, weapons, and clothes. They steered the fleet eastwards to
Konungahella; but when they arrived there they heard nothing of
the Swedish king and none of his men had come there. King Olaf
remained a long time in summer (A.D. 1018) at Konungahella, and
endeavored carefully to make out what people said of the Swedish
king's movements, or what were his designs; but no person could
tell him anything for certain about it. Then he sent men up to
Gautland to Earl Ragnvald, to ask him if he knew how it came to
pass that the Swedish king did not come to the meeting agreed on.
The earl replies, that he did not know. "But as soon," said he,
"as I hear, I shall send some of my men to King Olaf, to let him
know if there be any other cause for the delay than the multitude
of affairs; as it often happens that the Swedish king's movements
are delayed by this more than he could have expected."
89. OF THE SWEDISH KING'S CHILDREN.
This Swedish king, Olaf Eirikson, had first a concubine who was
called Edla, a daughter of an earl of Vindland, who had been
captured in war, and therefore was called the king's slave-girl.
Their children were Emund, Astrid, Holmfrid.... They had,
besides, a son, who was born the day before St. Jacob's-day.
When the boy was to be christened the bishop called him Jacob,
which the Swedes did not like, as there never had been a Swedish
king called Jacob. All King Olaf's children were handsome in
appearance, and clever from childhood. The queen was proud, and
did not behave well towards her step-children; therefore the king
sent his son Emund to Vindland, to be fostered by his mother's
relations, where he for a long time neglected his Christianity.
The king's daughter, Astrid, was brought up in West Gautland, in
the house of a worthy man called Egil. She was a very lovely
girl: her words came well into her conversation; she was merry,
but modest, and very generous. When she was grown up she was
often in her father's house, and every man thought well of her.
King Olaf was haughty and harsh in his speech. He took very ill
the uproar and clamour the country people had raised against him
at the Upsala Thing, as they had threatened him with violence,
for which he laid the chief blame on Earl Ragnvald. He made no
preparation for the bridal, according to the agreement to marry
his daughter Ingegerd to Olaf the king of Norway, and to meet him
on the borders for that purpose. As the summer advanced many of
his men were anxious to know what the kings intentions were;
whether to keep to the agreement with King Olaf, or break his
word, and with it the peace of the country. But no one was so
bold as to ask the king, although they complained of it to
Ingegerd, and besought her to find out what the king intended.
She replied "I have no inclination to speak to the king again
about the matters between him and King Olaf; for he answered me
ill enough once before when I brought forward Olaf's name." In
the meantime Ingegerd, the king's daughter, took it to heart,
became melancholy and sorrowful and yet very curious to know what
the king intended. She had much suspicion that he would not keep
his word and promise to King Olaf; for he appeared quite enraged
whenever Olaf the Thick's name was in any way mentioned.
90. OF THE SWEDISH KING OLAF'S HUNTING.
One morning early the king rode out with his dogs and falcons,
and his men around him. When they let slip the falcons the
king's falcon killed two black-cocks in one flight, and three in
another. The dogs ran and brought the birds when they had fallen
to the ground. The king ran after them, took the game from them
himself, was delighted with his sport, and said, "It will be long
before the most of you have such success." They agreed in this;
adding, that in their opinion no king had such luck in hunting as
he had. Then the king rode home with his followers in high
spirits. Ingegerd, the king's daughter, was just going out of
her lodging when the king came riding into the yard, and she
turned round and saluted him. He saluted her in return,
laughing; produced the birds, and told her the success of his
"Dost thou know of any king," said he, "who made so great a
capture in so short a time?"
"It is indeed," replied she, "a good morning's hunting, to have
got five black-cocks; but it was a still better when, in one
morning, the king of Norway, Olaf, took five kings, and subdued
all their kingdoms."
When the king heard this he sprang from his horse, turned to
Ingegerd, and said, "Thou shalt know, Ingegerd, that however
great thy love may be for this man, thou shalt never get him, nor
he get thee. I will marry thee to some chief with whom I can be
in friendship; but never can I be a friend of the man who has
robbed me of my kingdom, and done me great mischief by marauding
and killing through the land." With that their conversation
broke off, and each went away.
91. OLAF THE NORWAY KING'S COUNSELS.
Ingegerd, the king's daughter, had now full certainty of King
Olaf's intention, and immediately sent men to West Gautland to
Earl Ragnvald, and let him know how it stood with the Swedish
king, and that the agreement made with the king of Norway was
broken; and advising the earl and people of West Gautland to be
upon their guard, as no peace from the people of Norway was to be
expected. When the earl got this news he sent a message through
all his kingdom, and told the people to be cautious, and prepared
in case of war or pillage from the side of Norway. He also sent
men to King Olaf the Thick, and let him know the message he had
received, and likewise that he wished for himself to hold peace
and friendship with King Olaf; and therefore he begged him not to
pillage in his kingdom. When this message came to King Olaf it
made him both angry and sorry; and for some days nobody got a
word from him. He then held a House-Thing with his men, and in
it Bjorn arose, and first took the word. He began his speech by
telling that he had proceeded eastward last winter to establish a
peace, and he told how kindly Earl Ragnvald had received him;
and, on the other hand, how crossly and heavily the Swedish king
had accepted the proposal. "And the agreement," said he, "which
was made, was made more by means of the strength of the people,
the power of Thorgny, and the aid of the earl, than by the king's
good-will. Now, on these grounds, we know for certain that it is
the king who has caused the breach of the agreement; therefore we
ought by no means to make the earl suffer, for it is proved that
he is King Olaf's firm friend." The king wished now to hear from
the chiefs and other leaders of troops what course he should
adopt. "Whether shall we go against Gautland, and maraud there
with such men as we have got; or is there any other course that
appears to you more advisable?" He spoke both long and well.
Thereafter many powerful men spoke, and all were at last agreed
in dissuading from hostilities. They argued thus: -- "Although
we are a numerous body of men who are assembled here, yet they
are all only people of weight and power; but, for a war
expedition, young men who are in quest of property and
consideration are more suitable. It is also the custom of people
of weight and power, when they go into battle or strife, to have
many people with them whom they can send out before them for
their defence; for the men do not fight worse who have little
property, but even better than those who are brought up in the
midst of wealth." After these considerations the king resolved
to dismiss this army from any expedition, and to give every man
leave to return home; but proclaimed, at the same time, that next
summer the people over the whole country would be called out in a
general levy, to march immediately against the Swedish king, and
punish him for his want of faith. All thought well of this plan.
Then the king returned northwards to Viken, and took his abode at
Sarpsborg in autumn, and ordered all things necessary for winter
provision to be collected there; and he remained there all winter
(A.D. 1019) with a great retinue.
92. SIGVAT THE SKALD'S JOURNEY EASTWARDS.
People talked variously about Earl Ragnvald; some said he was
King Olaf's sincere friend; others did not think this likely, and
thought it stood in his power to warn the Swedish king to keep
his word, and the agreement concluded on between him and King
Olaf. Sigvat the poet often expressed himself in conversation as
Earl Ragnvald's great friend, and often spoke of him to King
Olaf; and he offered to the king to travel to Earl Ragnvald's and
spy after the Swedish kings doings, and to attempt, if possible,
to get the settlement of the agreement. The king thought well of
this plan; for he oft, and with pleasure, spoke to his
confidential friends about Ingegerd, the king's daughter. Early
in winter (A.D. 1019) Sigvat the skald, with two companions, left
Sarpsborg, and proceeded eastwards over the moors to Gautland.
Before Sigvat and King Olaf parted he composed these verses: --
"Sit happy in thy hall, O king!
Till I come back, and good news bring:
The skald will bid thee now farewell,
Till he brings news well worth to tell.
He wishes to the helmed hero
Health, and long life, and a tull flow
Of honour, riches. and success --
And, parting, ends his song with this.
The farewell word is spoken now __
The word that to the heart lies nearest;
And yet, O king! before I go,
One word on what I hold the dearest,
I fain would say, "O! may God save
To thee the bravest of the brave,
The land, which is thy right by birth!"
This is my dearest with on earth."
Then they proceeded eastwards towards Eid, and had difficulty in
crossing the river in a little cobble; but they escaped, though
with danger: and Sigvat sang: --
"On shore the crazy boat I drew,
Wet to the skin, and frightened too;
For truly there was danger then;
The mocking hill elves laughed again.
To see us in this cobble sailing,
And all our sea-skill unavailing.
But better did it end, you see,
Than any of us could foresee."
Then they went through the Eid forest, and Sigvat sang: --
"A hundred miles through Eid's old wood,
And devil an alehouse, bad or good, --
A hundred miles, and tree and sky
Were all that met the weary eye.
With many a grumble, many a groan.
A hundred miles we trudged right on;
And every king's man of us bore
On each foot-sole a bleeding sore."
They came then through Gautland, and in the evening reached a
farm-house called Hof. The door was bolted so that they could
not come in; and the servants told them it was a fast-day, and
they could not get admittance. Sigvat sang: --
"Now up to Hof in haste I hie,
And round the house and yard I pry.
Doors are fast locked -- but yet within,
Methinks, I hear some stir and din.
I peep, with nose close to the ground.
Below the door, but small cheer found.
My trouble with few words was paid --
"`Tis holy time,' the house-folkd said.
Heathens! to shove me thus away!
I' the foul fiend's claws may you all lay."
Then they came to another farm, where the good-wife was standing
at the door. and told them not to come in, for they were busy
with a sacrifice to the elves. Sigvat sang of it thus: --
"`My poor lad, enter not, I pray!'
Thus to me did the old wife say;
`For all of us are heathens here,
And I for Odin's wrath do fear.'
The ugly witch drove me away,
Like scared wolf sneaking from his prey.
When she told me that there within
Was sacrifice to foul Odin."
Another evening, they came to three bondes, all of them of the
name of Olver, who drove them away. Sigvat sang: --
"Three of one name,
To their great shame,
The traveller late
Drove from their gate!
Travellers may come
From our viking-home,
At these Olvers' feasts."
They went on farther that evening, and came to a fourth bonde,
who was considered the most hospitable man in the country; but he
drove them away also. Then Sigvat sang: --
"Then on I went to seek night's rest
From one who was said to be the best,
The kindest host in the land around,
And there I hoped to have quarters found.
But, faith,'twas little use to try;
For not so much as raise an eye
Would this huge wielder of the spade:
If he's the hest, it must he said
Bad is the best, and the skald's praise
Cannot be given to churls like these.
I almost wished that Asta's son
In the Eid forest had been one
When we, his men, were even put
Lodging to crave in a heathen's hut.
I knew not where the earl to find;
Four times driven off by men unkind,
I wandered now the whole night o'er,
Driven like a dog from door to door."
Now when they came to Earl Ragnvald's the earl said they must
have had a severe journey. Then Sigvat sang: --
"The message-bearers of the king
From Norway came his words to bring;
And truly for their master they
Hard work have done before to-day.
We did not loiter on the road,
But on we pushed for thy abode:
Thy folk, in sooth, were not so kind
That we cared much to lag hehind.
But Eid to rest safe we found,
From robbers free to the eastern bound:
This praise to thee, great earl, is due --
The skald says only what is true."
Earl Ragnvald gave Sigvat a gold arm-ring, and a woman said "he
had not made the journey with his black eyes for nothing."
Sigvat sang: --
"My coal-black eyes
Dost thou despise?
They have lighted me
Across the sea
To gain this golden prize:
They have lighted me,
Thy eyes to see,
O'er Iceland's main,
O'er hill and plain:
Where Nanna's lad would fear to be
They have lighted me."
Sigvat was long entertained kindly and well in the house of Earl
Ragnvald. The earl heard by letters, sent by Ingegerd the king's
daughter, that ambassadors from King Jarisleif were come from
Russia to King Olaf of Svithjod to ask his daughter Ingegerd in
marriage, and that King Olaf had given them hopes that he would
agree to it. About the same time King Olaf's daughter Astrid
came to Earl Ragnvald's court, and a great feast was made for
her. Sigvat soon became acquainted by conversation with the
king's daughter, and she knew him by name and family, for Ottar
the skald, Sigvat's sister's son, had long intimate acquaintance
with King Olaf, the Swedish king. Among other things talked of,
Earl Ragnvald asked Sigvat if the king of Norway would not marry
the king's daughter Astrid. "If he would do that," said he, "I
think we need not ask the Swedish king for his consent."
Astrid, the kings daughter, said exactly the same. Soon after
Sigvat returns home, and comes to King Olaf at Sarpsborg a little
When Sigvat came home to King Olaf he went into the hall, and,
looking around on the walls, he sang: --
"When our men their arms are taking
The raven's wings with greed are shaking;
When they come back to drink in hall
Brave spoil they bring to deck the wall --
Shield, helms, and panzers (1), all in row,
Stripped in the field from lifeless fow.
In truth no royal nail comes near
Thy splendid hall in precious gear."
Afterwards Sigvat told of his journey, and sang these verses: --
"The king's court-guards desire to hear
About our journey and our cheer,
Our ships in autumn reach the sound,
But long the way to Swedish ground.
With joyless weather, wind and raind,
And pinching cold, and feet in pain --
With sleep, fatigue, and want oppressed,
No songs had we -- we scarce had rest."
And when he came into conversation with the king he sang: --
"When first I met the earl I told
How our king loved a friend so bold;
How in his heart he loved a man
With hand to do, and head to plan.
Thou generous king! with zeal and care
I sought to advance thy great affair;
For messengers from Russian land
Had come to ask Ingegerd's hand.
The earl, thy friend, bids thee, who art
So mild and generous of heart,
His servants all who here may come
To cherish in thy royal home;
And thine who may come to the east
In Ragnvald's hall shall find a feast --
In Ragnvald's house shall find a home --
At Ragnvald's court be still welcome.
When first I came the people's mind
Incensed by Eirik's son I find;
And he refused the wish to meet,
Alleging treachery and deceit.
But I explained how it was here,
For earl and king, advantage clear
With thee to hold the strictest peace,
And make all force and foray cease.
The earl is wise, and understands
The need of peace for both the lands;
And he entreats thee not to break
The present peace for vengeance's sake!"
He immediately tells King Olaf the news he had heard; and at
first the king was much cast down when he heard of King
Jarisleif's suit, and he said he expected nothing but evil from
King Olaf; but wished he might be able to return it in such a way
as Olaf should remember. A while afterwards the king asks Sigvat
about various news from Gautland. Sigvat spoke a great deal
about Astrid, the kings daughter; how beautiful she was, how
agreeable in her conversation; and that all declared she was in
no respect behind her sister Ingegerd. The king listened with
pleasure to this. Then Sigvat told him the conversation he and
Astrid had had between themselves, and the king was delighted at
the idea. "The Swedish king," said he, "will scarcely think that
I will dare to marry a daughter of his without his consent." But
this speech of his was not known generally. King Olaf and Sigvat
the skald often spoke about it. The king inquired particularly
of Sigvat what he knew about Earl Ragnvald, and "if he be truly
our friend," said the king. Sigvat said that the earl was King
Olaf's best friend, and sang these verses: --
"The mighty Olaf should not cease
With him to hold good terms and peace;
For this good earl unwearied shows
He is thy friend where all are foes.
Of all who dwell by the East Sea
So friendly no man is as he:
At all their Things he takes thy part,
And is thy firm friend, hand and heart."
(1) The Pantzer -- a complete suit of plate-armour.
93. RAGNVALD AND ASTRA'S JOURNEY.
After Yule (A.D. 1019), Thord Skotakol, a sister's son of Sigvat,
attended by one of Sigvat's footboys, who had been with Sigvat
the autumn before in Gautland, went quite secretly from the
court, and proceeded to Gautland. When they came to Earl
Ragnvald's court, they produced the tokens which Olaf himself had
sent to the earl, that he might place confidence in Thord.
Without delay the earl made himself ready for a journey, as did
Astrid, the king's daughter; and the earl took with him 120 men,
who were chosen both from among his courtmen and the sons of
great bondes, and who were carefully equipped in all things,
clothes, weapons, and horses. Then they rode northwards to
Sarpsborg, and came there at Candlemas.
94. OF KING OLAF'S MARRIAGE.
King Olaf had put all things in order in the best style. There
were all sorts of liquors of the best that could be got, and all
other preparations of the same quality. Many people of
consequence were summoned in from their residences. When the
earl arrived with his retinue the king received him particularly
well; and the earl was shown to a large, good, and remarkably
well-furnished house for his lodging; and serving-men and others
were appointed to wait on him; and nothing was wanting, in any
respect, that could grace a feast. Now when the entertainment
had lasted some days, the king, the earl, and Astrid had a
conference together; and the result of it was, that Earl Ragnvald
contracted Astrid, daughter of the Swedish king Olaf, to Olaf
king of Norway, with the same dowry which had before been settled
that her sister Ingegerd should have from home. King Olaf, on
his part, should give Astrid the same bride-gift that had been
intended for her sister Ingegerd. Thereupon an eke was made to
the feast, and King Olaf and Queen Astrid's wedding was drunk in
great festivity. Earl Ragnvald then returned to Gautland, and
the king gave the earl many great and good gifts at parting; and
they parted the dearest of friends, which they continued to be
while they lived.
95. THE AGREEMENT BROKEN BY OLAF.
The spring (A.D. 1019) thereafter came ambassadors from King
Jarisleif in Novgorod to Svithjod, to treat more particularly
about the promise given by King Olaf the preceding summer to
marry his daughter Ingegerd to King Jarisleif. King Olaf tallied
about the business with Ingegerd, and told her it was his
pleasure that she should marry King Jarisleif. She replied. "If
I marry King Jarisleif, I must have as my bride-gift the town and
earldom of Ladoga." The Russian ambassadors agreed to this, on
the part of their sovereign. Then said Ingegerd, "If I go east
to Russia, I must choose the man in Svithjod whom I think most
suitable to accompany me; and I must stipulate that he shall not
have any less title, or in any respect less dignity, privilege,
and consideration there, than he has, here." This the king and
the ambassadors agreed to, and gave their hands upon it in
confirmation of the condition.
"And who," asked the king, "is the man thou wilt take with thee
as thy attendant?"
"That man," she replied, "is my relation Earl Ragnvald."
The king replies, "I have resolved to reward Earl Ragnvald in a
different manner for his treason against his master in going to
Norway with my daughter, and giving her as a concubine to that
fellow, who he knew was my greatest enemy. I shall hang him up
Then Ingegerd begged her father to be true to the promise he had
made her, and had confirmed by giving his hand upon it. By her
entreaties it was at last agreed that the king should promise to
let Earl Ragnvald go in peace from Svithjod, but that he should
never again appear in the king's presence, or come back to
Svithjod while Olaf reigned. Ingegerd then sent messengers to
the earl to bring him these tidings, and to appoint a place of
meeting. The earl immediately prepared for his journey; rode up
to East Gautland; procured there a vessel, and, with his retinue,
joined Ingegerd, and they proceeded together eastward to Russia.
There Ingegerd was married to King Jarisleif; and their children
were Valdemar, Vissivald, and Holte the Bold. Queen Ingegerd
gave Earl Ragnvald the town of Ladoga, and earldom belonging to
it. Earl Ragnvald was there a long time, and was a celebrated
man. His sons and Ingebjorg's were Earl Ulf and Earl Eilif.
96. HISTORY OF THE LAGMAN EMUND.
There was a man called Emund of Skara, who was lagman of west
Gautland, and was a man of great understanding and eloquence, and
of high birth, great connection, and very wealthy; but was
considered deceitful, and not to be trusted. He was the most
powerful man in West Gautland after the earl was gone. The same
spring (A.D. 1019) that Earl Ragnvald left Gautland the Gautland
people held a Thing among themselves, and often expressed their
anxiety to each other about what the Swedish king might do. They
heard he was incensed because they had rather held in friendship
with the king of Norway than striven against him; and he was also
enraged against those who had attended his daughter Astrid to
Norway. Some proposed to seek help and support from the king of
Norway, and to offer him their services; others dissuaded from
this measure, as West Gautland had no strength to oppose to the
Swedes. "And the king of Norway," said they, "is far from us,
the chief strength of his country very distant; and therefore let
us first send men to the Swedish king to attempt to come to some
reconciliation with him. If that fail, we can still turn to the
king of Norway." Then the bondes asked Emund to undertake this
mission, to which he agreed; and he proceeded with thirty men to
East Gautland, where there were many of his relations and
friends, who received him hospitably. He conversed there with
the most prudent men about this difficult business; and they were
all unanimous on one point, -- that the king's treatment of them
was against law and reason. From thence Emund went into
Svithjod, and conversed with many men of consequence, who all
expressed themselves in the same way. Emund continued his
journey thus, until one day, towards evening, he arrived at
Upsala, where he and his retinue took a good lodging, and stayed
there all night. The next day Emund waited upon the king, who
was just then sitting in the Thing surrounded by many people.
Emund went before him, bent his knee, and saluted him. The king
looked at him, saluted him, and asked him what news he brought.
Emund replies, "There is little news among us Gautlanders; but it
appears to us a piece of remarkable news that the proud, stupid
Atte, in Vermaland, whom we look upon as a great sportsman, went
up to the forest in winter with his snow-shoes and his bow.
After he had got as many furs in the mountains as filled his
hand-sledge so full that he could scarcely drag it, he returned
home from the woods. But on the way he saw a squirrel in the
trees, and shot at it, but did not hit; at which he was so angry,
that he left the sledge to run after the squirrel: but still the
squirrel sprang where the wood was thickest, sometimes among the
roots of the trees, sometimes in the branches, sometimes among
the arms that stretch from tree to tree. When Atte shot at it
the arrows flew too high or too low, and the squirrel never
jumped so that Atte could get a fair aim at him. He was so eager
upon this chase that he ran the whole day after the squirrel, and
yet could not get hold of it. It was now getting dark; so he
threw himself down upon the snow, as he was wont, and lay there
all night in a heavy snow-storm. Next day Atte got up to look
after his sledge, but never did he find it again; and so he
returned home. And this is the only news, king, I have to tell."
The king says, "This is news of but little importance, if it be
all thou hast to tell."
Ernund replies, "Lately something happened which may well be
called news. Gaute Tofason went with five warships out of the
Gaut river, and when he was lying at the Eikrey Isles there came
five large Danish merchant-ships there. Gaute and his men
immediately took four of the great vessels, and made a great
booty without the loss of a man: but the fifth vessel slipped out
to sea, and sailed away. Gaute gave chase with one ship, and at
first came nearer to them; but as the wind increased, the Danes
got away. Then Gaute wanted to turn back; but a storm came on so
that he lost his ship at Hlesey, with all the goods, and the
greater part of his crew. In the meantime his people were
waiting for him at the Eikrey Isles: but the Danes came over in
fifteen merchant-ships, killed them all, and took all the booty
they had made. So but little luck had they with their greed of
The king replied. "That is great news, and worth being told; but
what now is thy errand here?"
Emund replies, "I travel, sire, to obtain your judgment in a
difficult case, in which our law and the Upsala law do not
The king asks, "What is thy appeal case?"
Emund replies, "There were two noble-born men of equal birth, but
unequal in property and disposition. They quarrelled about some
land, and did each other much damage; but most was done to him
who was the more powerful of the two. This quarrel, however, was
settled, and judged of at a General Thing; and the judgment was,
that the most powerful should pay a compensation. But at the
first payment, instead of paying a goose, he paid a gosling; for
an old swine he paid a sucking pig; and for a mark of stamped
gold only a half- mark, and for the other half-mark nothing but
clay and dirt; and, moreover, threatened, in the most violent
way, the people whom he forced to receive such goods in payment.
Now, sire, what is your judgment?"
The king replies, "He shall pay the full equivalent whom the
judgment ordered to do so, and that faithfully; and further,
threefold to his king: and if payment be not made within a year
and a day, he shall be cut off from all his property, his goods
confiscated, and half go the king's house, and half to the other
Emund took witnesses to this judgment among the most considerable
of the men who were present, according to the laws which were
held in the Upsala Thing. He then saluted the king, and went his
way; and other men brought their cases before the king, and he
sat late in the day upon the cases of the people. Now when the
king came to table, he asked where Lagman Emund was. It was
answered, he was home at his lodgings. "Then," said the king,
"go after him, and tell him to be my guest to-day." Thereafter
the dishes were borne in; then came the musicians with harps,
fiddles, and musical instruments; and lastly, the cup-bearers.
The king was particularly merry, and had many great people at
table with him, so that he thought little of Emund. The king
drank the whole day, and slept all the night after; but in the
morning the king awoke, and recollected what Emund had said the
day before: and when he had put on his clothes, he let his wise
men be summoned to him; for he had always twelve of the wisest
men who sat in judgment with him, and treated the more difficult
cases; and that was no easy business, for the king was ill-
pleased if the judgment was not according to justice, and yet it
was of no use to contradict him. In this meeting the king
ordered Lagman Emund to be called before them. The messenger
returned, and said, "Sire, Lagman Emund rode away yesterday as
soon as he had dined." "Then," said the king, "tell me, ye good
chiefs, what may have been the meaning of that law-case which
Emund laid before us yesterday?"
They replied, "You must have considered it yourself, if you think
there was any other meaning under it than what he said."
The king replied, "By the two noble-born men whom he spoke of,
who were at variance, and of whom one was more powerful than the
other, and who did each other damage, he must have meant us and
Olaf the Thick."
They answered, "It is, sire, as you say."
The king -- "Our case was judged at the Upsala Thing. But what
was his meaning when he said that bad payment was made; namely, a
gosling for a goose, a pig for a swine, and clay and dirt for
half of the money instead of gold?"
Arnvid the Blind replied, "Sire, red gold and clay are things
very unlike; but the difference is still greater between king and
slave. You promised Olaf the Thick your daughter Ingegerd, who,
in all branches of her descent, is born of kings, and of the
Upland Swedish race of kings, which is the most noble in the
North; for it is traced up to the gods themselves. But now Olaf
has got Astrid; and although she is a king's child, her mother
was but a slave-woman, and, besides, of Vindish race. Great
difference, indeed, must there be between these kings, when the
one takes thankfully such a match; and now it is evident, as
might be expected, that no Northman is to be placed by the side
of the Upsala kings. Let us all give thanks that it has so
turned out; for the gods have long protected their descendants,
although many now neglect this faith."
There were three brothers: -- Arnvid the Blind, who had a great
understanding, but was so weak-sighted that he was scarcely fit
for war; the second was Thorvid the Stammerer, who could not
utter two words together at one time, but was remarkably bold and
courageous; the third was Freyvid the Deaf, who was hard of
hearing. All these brothers were rich and powerful men, of noble
birth, great wisdom, and all very dear to the king.
Then said King Olaf, "What means that which Emund said about Atte
None made any reply, but the one looked at the other.
"Speak freely," said the king.
Then said Thorvid the Stammerer, "Atte -- quarrel -- some --
greedy -- jealous -- deceitful -- dull."
Then said the king, "To whom are these words of reproach and
Freyvid the Deaf replied, "We will speak more clearly if we have
The king -- "Speak freely, Freyvid, what you will."
Freyvid took up the word, and spoke. "My brother Thorvid, who is
considered to be the wisest of us brothers, holds the words
`quarrelsome, greedy, jealous, dull,' to be one and the same
thing; for it applies to him who is weary of peace, longs for
small things without attaining them, while he lets great and
useful things pass away as they came. I am deaf; yet so loud
have many spoken out, that I can perceive that all men, both
great and small, take it ill that you have not kept your promise
to the king of Norway; and, worse than that, that you broke the
decision of the community as it was delivered at Upsala Thing.
You need not fear either the king of Norway, or the king of
Denmark, or any other, so long as the Swedish army will follow
you; but if the people of the country unanimously turn against
you, we, your friends, see no counsel that can be of advantage to
The king asks, "Who is the chief who dares to betray the country
Freyvid replies, "All Swedes desire to have the ancient laws, and
their full rights. Look but here, sire, how many chiefs are
sitting in council with you. I think, in truth, we are but six
whom you call your councillors: all the others, so far as I know,
have ridden forth through the districts to hold Things with the
people; and we will not conceal it from you, that the message-
token has gone forth to assemble a Retribution-thing (1). All of
us brothers have been invited to take part in the decisions of
this council, but none of us will bear the name of traitor to the
sovereign; for that our father never was."
Then the king said, "What council shall we take in this dangerous
affair that is in our hands? Good chiefs give me council, that I
may keep my kingdom, and the heritage of my forefathers; for I
cannot enter into strife against the whole Swedish force."
Arnvid the Blind replies, "Sire, it is my advice that you ride
down to Aros with such men as will follow you; take your ship
there and go out into the Maeler lake; summon all people to meet
you; proceed no longer with haughtiness, but promise every man
the law and rights of old established in the country; keep back
in this way the message-token, for it cannot as yet, in so short
a time have travelled far through the land. Send, then those of
your men in whom you have the most confidence to those who have
this business on hand, and try if this uproar can be appeased."
The king says that he will adopt this advice. "I will," says he,
"that ye brothers undertake this business; for I trust to you the
most among my men."
Thorvid the Stammerer said, "I remain behind. Let Jacob, your
son, go with them, for that is necessary."
Then said Freyvid, "Let us do as Thorvid says: he will not leave
you, and I and Arnvid must travel."
This counsel was followed. Olaf went to his ships, and set out
into the Maelar lake, and many people came to him. The brothers
Arnvid and Freyvid rode out to Ullaraker, and had with them the
king's son Jacob; but they kept it a secret that he was there.
The brothers observed that there was a great concourse and war-
gathering, for the bondes held the Thing night and day. When
Arnvid and Freyvid met their relations and friends, they said
they would join with the people; and many agreed to leave the
management of the business in the hands of the brothers. But
all, as one man, declared they would no longer have King Olaf
over them, and no longer suffer his unlawful proceedings, and
over-weening pride which would not listen to any man's
remonstrances, even when the great chiefs spoke the truth to him.
When Freyvid observed the heat of the people, he saw in what a
bad situation the king's cause was. He summoned the chiefs of
the land to a meeting with him and addressed them thus: -- "It
appears to me, that if we are to depose Olaf Eirikson from his
kingdom, we Swedes of the Uplands should be the leading men in
it: for so it has always been, that the counsel which the Upland
chiefs have resolved among themselves has always been followed
by the men of the rest of the country. Our forefathers did not
need to take advice from the West Gautlanders about the
government of the Swedes. Now we will not be so degenerate as to
need Emund to give us counsel; but let us, friends and relations,
unite ourselves for the purpose of coming to a determination."
All agreed to this, and thought it was well said. Thereafter the
people joined this union which the Upland chiefs made among
themselves, and Freyvid and Arnvid were chiefs of the whole
assemblage. When Emund heard this he suspected how the matter
would end, and went to both the brothers to have a conversation
with them. Then Freyvid asked Emund, "Who, in your opinion,
should we take for king, in case Olaf Eirikson's days are at an
Emund -- "He whom we think best suited to it, whether he be of
the race of chiefs or not."
Freyvid answers, "We Uplanders will not, in our time, have the
kingdom go out of the old race of our ancestors, which has given
us kings for a long course of generations, so long as we have so
good a choice as now. King Olaf has two sons, one of whom we
will choose for king, although there is a great difference
between them. The one is noble-born, and of Swedish race on both
sides; the other is a slave-woman's son, and of Vindish race on
the mother's side."
This decision was received with loud applause, and all would have
Jacob for king.
Then said Emund. "Ye Upland Swedes have the power this time to
determinate the matter; but I will tell you what will happen: --
some of those who now will listen to nothing but that the kingdom
remain in the old race will live to see the day when they will
wish the kingdom in another race, as being of more advantage."
Thereupon the brothers Freyvid and Arnvid led the king's son
Jacob into the Thing, and saluted him with the title of king; and
the Swedes gave him the name of Onund, which he afterwards
retained as long as he lived. He was then ten or twelve years
old. Thereafter King Onund took a court, and chose chiefs to be
around him; and they had as many attendants in their suite as
were thought necessary, so that he gave the whole assemblage of
bondes leave to return home. After that ambassadors went between
the two kings; and at last they had a meeting, and came to an
agreement. Olaf was to remain king over the country as long as
he lived; but should hold peace and be reconciled with King Olaf
of Norway, and also with all who had taken part in this business.
Onund should also be king, and have a part of the land, such as
the father and son should agree upon; but should be bound to
support the bondes in case King Olaf did anything which the
bondes would not suffer.
(1) Refsithing -- a Thing for punishment by penalty or death for
crimes and misdemeanours. -- L.
97. MEETING OF RECONCILIATION BETWEEN THE KINGS, AND THEIR GAME
Thereafter ambassadors were sent to Norway to King Olaf, with the
errand that he should come with his retinue to a meeting at
Konungahella with the Swedish kings, and that the Swedish kings
would there confirm their reconciliation. When King Olaf heard
this message, he was willing, now as formerly, to enter into the
agreement, and proceeded to the appointed place. There the
Swedish kings also came; and the relations, when they met, bound
themselves mutually to peace and agreement. Olaf the Swedish
king was then remarkably mild in manner, and agreeable to talk
with. Thorstein Frode relates of this meeting, that there was an
inhabited district in Hising which had sometimes belonged to
Norway, and sometimes to Gautland. The kings came to the
agreement between themselves that they would cast lots by the
dice to determine who should have this property, and that he who
threw the highest should have the district. The Swedish king
threw two sixes, and said King Olaf need scarcely throw. He
replied, while shaking the dice in his hand, "Although there be
two sixes on the dice, it would be easy, sire, for God Almighty
to let them turn up in my favour." Then he threw, and had sixes
also. Now the Swedish king threw again, and had again two sixes.
Olaf king of Norway then threw, and had six upon one dice, and
the other split in two, so as to make seven eyes in all upon it;
and the district was adjudged to the king of Norway. We have
heard nothing else of any interest that took place at this
meeting; and the kings separated the dearest of friends with each
98. OF OLAF OF NORWAY, AFTER THE MEETING.
After the events now related Olaf returned with his people to
Viken. He went first to Tunsberg, and remained there a short
time, and then proceeded to the north of the country. In
harvest-time he sailed north to Throndhjem, and had winter
provision laid in there, and remained there all winter (A.D.
1090). Olaf Haraldson was now sole and supreme king of Norway,
and the whole of that sovereignty, as Harald Harfager had
possessed it, and had the advantage over that monarch of being
the only king in the land. By a peaceful agreement he had also
recovered that part of the country which Olaf the Swedish king
had before occupied; and that part of the country which the
Danish king had got he retook by force, and ruled over it as
elsewhere in the country. The Danish king Canute ruled at that
time both over Denmark and England; but he himself was in England
for the most part, and set chiefs over the country in Denmark,
without at that time making any claim upon Norway.
99. HISTORY OF THE EARLS OF ORKNEY.
It is related that in the days of Harald Harfager, the king of
Norway, the islands of Orkney, which before had been only a
resort for vikings, were settled . The first earl in the Orkney
Islands was called Sigurd, who was a son of Eystein Giumra, and
brother of Ragnvald earl of More. After Sigurd his son Guthorm
was earl for one year. After him Torf-Einar, a son of Ragnvald,
took the earldom, and was long earl, and was a man of great
power. Halfdan Haleg, a son of Harald Harfager, assaulted Torf-
Einar, and drove him from the Orkney Islands; but Einar came back
and killed Halfdan in the island Ronaldsha. Thereafter King
Harald came with an army to the Orkney Islands. Einar fled to
Scotland, and King Harald made the people of the Orkney Islands
give up their udal properties, and hold them under oath from him.
Thereafter the king and earl were reconciled, so that the earl
became the king's man, and took the country as a fief from him;
but that it should pay no scat or feu-duty, as it was at that
time much plundered by vikings. The earl paid the king sixty
marks of gold; and then King Harald went to plunder in Scotland,
as related in the "Glym Drapa". After Torf-Einar, his sons
Arnkel, Erlend, and Thorfin Hausakljufer (1) ruled over these
lands. In their days came Eirik Blood-axe from Norway, and
subdued these earls. Arnkel and Erlend fell in a war expedition;
but Thorfin ruled the country long, and became an old man. His
sons were Arnfin, Havard, Hlodver, Liot, and Skule. Their mother
was Grelad, a daughter of Earl Dungad of Caithness. Her mother
was Groa, a daughter of Thorstein Raud. In the latter days of
Earl Thorfin came Eirik Blood-axe's sons, who had fled from Earl
Hakon out of Norway, and committed great excesses in Orkney.
Earl Thorfin died on a bed of sickness, and his sons after him
ruled over the country, and there are many stories concerning
them. Hlodver lived the longest of them, and ruled alone over
this country. His son was Sigurd the Thick, who took the earldom
after him, and became a powerful man and a great warrior. In his
days came Olaf Trygvason from his viking expedition in the
western ocean, with his troops, landed in Orkney and took Earl
Sigurd prisoner in South Ronaldsha, where he lay with one ship.
King Olaf allowed the earl to ransom his life by letting himself
be baptized, adopting the true faith, becoming his man, and
introducing Christianity into all the Orkney Islands. As a
hostage, King Olaf took his son, who was called Hunde or Whelp.
Then Olaf went to Norway, and became king; and Hunde was several
years with King Olaf in Norway, and died there. After his death
Earl Sigurd showed no obedience or fealty to King Olaf. He
married a daughter of the Scottish king Malcolm, and their son
was called Thorfin. Earl Sigurd had, besides, older sons;
namely, Sumarlide, Bruse, and Einar Rangmund. Four or five years
after Olaf Tryrgvason's fall Earl Sigurd went to Ireland, leaving
his eldest sons to rule the country, and sending Thorfin to his
mother's father, the Scottish king. On this expedition Earl
Sigurd fell in Brian's battle (l). When the news was received in
Orkney, the brothers Sumarlide, Bruse, and Einar were chosen
earls, and the country was divided into three parts among them.
Thorfin Sigurdson was five years old when Earl Sigurd fell. When
the Scottish king heard of the earl's death he gave his relation
Thorfin Caithness and Sutherland, with the title of earl, and
appointed good men to rule the land for him. Earl Thorfin was
ripe in all ways as soon as he was grown up: he was stout and
strong, but ugly; and as soon as he was a grown man it was easy
to see that he was a severe and cruel but a very clever man. So
says Arnor, the earls' skald: --
"Under the rim of heaven no other,
So young in years as Einar's brother,
In battle had a braver hand,
Or stouter, to defend the land."
(1) Hausakljufer -- the splitter of skulls. -- L.
(2) Brian's battle is supposed to have taken place on the 23rd
April 1014, at Clontart, near Dublin; and is known in Irish
history as the battle of Clontarf, and was one of the
bloodiest of the age. It was fought between a viking called
Sigtryg and Brian king of Munster, who gained the victory,
but lost his life. -- L.
100. OF THE EARLS EINAR AND BRUSE.
The brothers Einar and Bruse were very unlike in disposition.
Bruse was a soft-minded, peaceable man, -- sociable, eloquent,
and of good understanding. Einar was obstinate, taciturn, and
dull; but ambitious, greedy of money, and withal a great warrior.
Sumarlide, the eldest of the brothers, was in disposition like
Bruse, and lived not long, but died in his bed. After his death
Thorfin claimed his share of the Orkney Islands. Einar replied,
that Thorfin had the dominions which their father Sigurd had
possessed, namely, Caithness and Sutherland, which he insisted
were much larger than a third part of Orkney; therefore he would
not consent to Thorfin's having any share. Bruse, on the other
hand, was willing, he said, to divide with him. "I do not-
desire," he said, "more than the third part of the land, and
which of right belongs to me." Then Einar took possession of two
parts of the country, by which he became a powerful man,
surrounded by many followers. He was often in summer out on
marauding expeditions, and called out great numbers of the people
to join him; but it went always unpleasantly with the division of
the booty made on his viking cruises. Then the bondes grew weary
of all these burdens; but Earl Einar held fast by them with
severity, calling in all services laid upon the people, and
allowing no opposition from any man; for he was excessively proud
and overbearing. And now there came dearth and scarcity in his
lands, in consequence of the services and money outlay exacted
from the bondes; while in the part of the country belonging to
Bruse there were peace and plenty, and therefore he was the best
beloved by the bondes.
101. OF THORKEL AMUNDASON.
There was a rich and powerful man who was called Amunde, who
dwelt in Hrossey at Sandvik, in Hlaupandanes. His son, called
Thorkel, was one of the ablest men in the islands. Amunde was a
man of the best understanding, and most respected in Orkney. One
spring Earl Einar proclaimed a levy for an expedition, as usual.
The bondes murmured greatly against it, and applied to Amunde
with the entreaty that he would intercede with the earl for them.
He replied, that the earl was not a man who would listen to other
people, and insisted that it was of no use to make any entreaty
to the earl about it. "As things now stand, there is a good
understanding between me and the earl; but, in my opinion, there
would be much danger of our quarrelling, on account of our
different dispositions and views on both sides; therefore I will
have nothing to do with it." They then applied to Thorkel, who
was also very loath to interfere, but promised at last to do so,
in consequence of the great entreaty of the people. Amunde
thought he had given his promise too hastily. Now when the earl
held a Thing, Thorkel spoke on account of the people, and
entreated the earl to spare the people from such heavy burdens,
recounting their necessitous condition. The earl replies
favourably, saying that he would take Thorkel's advice. "I had
intended to go out from the country with six ships, but now I
will only take three with me; but thou must not come again,
Thorkel, with any such request." The bondes thanked Thorkel for
his assistance, and the earl set out on a viking cruise, and came
back in autumn. The spring after, the earl made the same levy as
usual, and held a Thing with the bondes. Then Thorkel again made
a speech, in which he entreated the earl to spare the people.
The earl now was angry, and said the lot of the bondes should be
made worse in consequence of his intercession; and worked himself
up into such a rage, that he vowed they should not both come next
spring to the Thing in a whole skin. Then the Thing was closed.
When Amunde heard what the earl and Thorkel had said at the
Thing, he told Thorkel to leave the country, and he went over to
Caithness to Earl Thorfin. Thorkel was afterwards a long time
there, and brought up the earl in his youth, and was on that
account called Thorkel the Fosterer; and he became a very
102. THE AGREEMENT OF THE EARLS.
There were many powerful men who fled from their udal properties
in Orkney on account of Earl Einar's violence, and the most fled
over to Caithness to Earl Thorfin: but some fled from the Orkney
Islands to Norway, and some to other countries. When Earl
Thorfin was grown up he sent a message to his brother Einar, and
demanded the part of the dominion which he thought belonged to
him in Orkney; namely, a third of the islands. Einar was nowise
inclined to diminish his possessions. When Thorfin found this he
collected a warforce in Caithness, and proceeded to the islands.
As soon as Earl Einar heard of this he collected people, and
resolved to defend his country. Earl Bruse also collected men,
and went out to meet them, and bring about some agreement between
them. An agreement was at last concluded, that Thorfin should
have a third part of the islands, as of right belonging to him,
but that Bruse and Einar should lay their two parts together, and
Einar alone should rule over them; but if the one died before the
other, the longest liver should inherit the whole. This
agreement seemed reasonable, as Bruse had a son called Ragnvald,
but Einar had no son. Earl Thorfin set men to rule over his land
in Orkney, but he himself was generally in Caithness. Earl Einar
was generally on viking expeditions to Ireland, Scotland, and
103. EYVIND URARHORN'S MURDER.
One summer (A.D. 1018) that Earl Einar marauded in Ireland, he
fought in Ulfreks-fjord with the Irish king Konofogor, as has
been related before, and suffered there a great defeat. The
summer after this (A.D. 1019) Eyvind Urarhorn was coming from the
west from Ireland, intending to go to Norway; but the weather was
boisterous, and the current against him, so he ran into
Osmundwall, and lay there wind-bound for some time. When Earl
Einar heard of this, he hastened thither with many people, took
Eyvind prisoner, and ordered him to be put to death, but spared
the lives of most of his people. In autumn they proceeded to
Norway to King Olaf, and told him Eyvind was killed. The king
said little about it, but one could see that he considered it a
great and vexatious loss; for he did not usually say much if
anything turned out contrary to his wishes. Earl Thorfin sent
Thorkel Fosterer to the islands to gather in his scat. Now, as
Einar gave Thorkel the greatest blame for the dispute in which
Thorfin had made claim to the islands, Thorkel came suddenly back
to Caithness from Orkney, and told Earl Thorfin that he had
learnt that Earl Einar would have murdered him if his friends and
relations had not given him notice to escape. "Now," says he,
"it is come so far between the earl and me, that either some
thing decisive between us must take place if we meet, or I must
remove to such a distance that his power will not reach me." The
earl encouraged Thorkel much to go east to Norway to King Olaf.
"Thou wilt be highly respected," says he, "wherever thou comest
among honourable men; and I know so well thy disposition and the
earl's, that it will not be long before ye come to extremities."
Thereupon Thorkel made himself ready, and proceeded in autumn to
Norway, and then to King Olaf, with whom he stayed the whole
winter (A.D. 1020), and was in high favour. The king often
entered into conversation with him, and he thought, what was
true, that Thorkel was a high-minded man, of good understanding.
In his conversations with Thorkel, the king found a great
difference in his description of the two earls; for Thorkel was a
great friend of Earl Thorfin, but had much to say against Einar.
Early in spring (A.D. 1020) the king sent a ship west over the
sea to Earl Thorfin, with the invitation to come east and visit
him in Norway. The earl did not decline the invitation, for it
was accompanied by assurances of friendship.
104. EARL EINAR'S MURDER.
Earl Thorfin went east to Norway, and came to King Olaf, from
whom he received a kind reception, and stayed till late in the
summer. When he was preparing to return westwards again, King
Olaf made him a present of a large and fully-rigged long-ship.
Thorkel the Fosterer joined company with the earl, who gave him
the ship which he brought with him from the west. The king and
the earl took leave of each other tenderly. In autumn Earl
Thorfin came to Orkney, and when Earl Einar heard of it he went
on board his ships with a numerous band of men. Earl Bruse came
up to his two brothers, and endeavoured to mediate between them,
and a peace was concluded and confirmed by oath. Thorkel
Fosterer was to be in peace and friendship with Earl Einar; and
it was agreed that each of them should give a feast to the other,
and that the earl should first be Thorkel's guest at Sandwick.
When the earl came to the feast he was entertained in the best
manner; but the earl was not cheerful. There was a great room,
in which there were doors at each end. The day the earl should
depart Thorkel was to accompany him to the other feast; and
Thorkel sent men before, who should examine the road they had to
travel that day. The spies came back, and said to Thorkel they
had discovered three ambushes. "And we think," said they, "there
is deceit on foot." When Thorkel heard this he lengthened out
his preparations for the journey, and gathered people about him.
The earl told him to get ready, as it was time to be on
horseback. Thorkel answered, that he had many things to put in
order first, and went out and in frequently. There was a fire
upon the floor. At last he went in at one door, followed by an
Iceland man from Eastfjord, called Halvard, who locked the door
after him. Thorkel went in between the fire and the place where
the earl was sitting. The earl asked, "Art thou ready at last,
Thorkel answers, "Now I am ready;" and struck the earl upon the
head so that he fell upon the floor.
Then said the Icelander, "I never saw people so foolish as not to
drag the earl out of the fire;" and took a stick, which he set
under the earl's neck, and put him upright on the bench. Thorkel
and his two comrades then went in all haste out of the other door
opposite to that by which they went in, and Thorkel's men were
standing without fully armed. The earl's men now went in, and
took hold of the earl. He was already dead, so nobody thought of
avenging him: and also the whole was done so quickly; for nobody
expected such a deed from Thorkel, and all supposed that there
really was, as before related, a friendship fixed between the
earl and Thorkel. The most who were within were unarmed, and
they were partly Thorkel's good friends; and to this may be
added, that fate had decreed a longer life to Thorkel. When
Thorkel came out he had not fewer men with him than the earl's
troop. Thorkel went to his ship, and the earl's men went their
way. The same day Thorkel sailed out eastwards into the sea.
This happened after winter; but he came safely to Norway, went as
fast as he could to Olaf, and was well received by him. The king
expressed his satisfaction at this deed, and Thorkel was with him
all winter (A.D. 1091).
105. AGREEMENT BETWEEN KING OLAF AND EARL BRUSE.
After Earl Einar's fall Bruse took the part of the country which
he had possessed; for it was known to many men on what conditions
Einar and Bruse had entered into a partnership. Although Thorfin
thought it would be more just that each of them had half of the
islands, Bruse retained the two-thirds of the country that winter
(A.D. 1021). In spring, however, Thorfin produced his claim, and
demanded the half of the country; but Bruse would not consent.
They held Things and meetings about the business; and although
their friends endeavoured to settle it, Thorfin would not be
content with less than the half of the islands, and insisted that
Bruse, with his disposition, would have enough even with a third
part. Bruse replies, "When I took my heritage after my father I
was well satisfied with a third part of the country, and there
was nobody to dispute it with me; and now I have succeeded to
another third in heritage after my brother, according to a lawful
agreement between us; and although I am not powerful enough to
maintain a feud against thee, my brother, I will seek some other
way, rather than willingly renounce my property." With this
their meeting ended. But Bruse saw that he had no strength to
contend against Thorfin, because Thorfin had both a greater
dominion and also could have aid from his mother's brother, the
Scottish king. He resolved, therefore, to go out of the country;
and he went eastward to King Olaf, and had with him his son
Ragnvald, then ten years old. When the earl came to the king he
was well received. The earl now declared his errand, and told
the king the circumstances of the whole dispute between him and
his brother, and asked help to defend his kingdom of Orkney;
promising, in return, the fullest friendship towards King Olaf.
In his answer, the king began with showing how Harald Harfager
had appropriated to himself all udal rights in Orkney, and that
the earls, since that time, have constantly held the country as a
fief, not as their udal property. "As a sufficient proof of
which," said he, "when Eirik Blood-axe and his sons were in
Orkney the earls were subject to them; and also when my relation
Olaf Trygvason came there thy father, Earl Sigurd, became his
man. Now I have taken heritage after King Olaf, and I will give
thee the condition to become my man and then I will give thee the
islands as a fief; and we shall try if I cannot give thee aid
that will he more to the purpose than Thorfin can get from the
Scottish king. If thou wilt not accept of these terms, then will
I win back my udal property there in the West, as our forefathers
and relations of old possessed it."
The earl carefully considered this speech, laid it before his
friends, and demanded their advice if he should agree to it, and
enter into such terms with King Olaf and become his vassal. "But
I do not see what my lot will be at my departure if I say no; for
the king has clearly enough declared his claim upon Orkney; and
from his great power, and our being in his hands, it is easy for
him to make our destiny what he pleases."
Although the earl saw that there was much to be considered for
and against it he chose the condition to deliver himself and his
dominion into the king's power. Thereupon the king took the
earl's power, and the government over all the earl's lands, and
the earl became his vassal under oath of fealty.
106. THE EARL'S AGREEMENT TO THE KING'S TERMS.
Thorfin the earl heard that his brother Bruse had gone east to
King Olaf to seek support from him; but as Thorfin had been on a
visit to King Olaf before, and had concluded a friendship with
him, he thought his case would stand well with the king, and that
many would support it; but he believed that many more would do so
if he went there himself. Earl Thorfin resolved, therefore, to
go east himself without delay; and he thought there would be so
little difference between the time of his arrival and Bruse's,
that Bruse's errand could not be accomplished before he came to
King Olaf. But it went otherwise than Earl Thorfin had expected;
for when he came to the king the agreement between the king and
Bruse was already concluded and settled, and Earl Thorfin did not
know a word about Bruse's having surrendered his udal domains
until he came to King Olaf. As soon as Earl Thorfin and King
Olaf met, the king made the same demand upon the kingdom of
Orkney that he had done to Earl Bruse, and required that Thorfin
should voluntarily deliver over to the king that part of the
country which he had possessed hitherto. The earl answered in a
friendly and respectful way, that the king's friendship lay near
to his heart: "And if you think, sire, that my help against other
chiefs can be of use, you have already every claim to it; but I
cannot be your vessel for service, as I am an earl of the
Scottish king, and owe fealty to him."
As the king found that the earl, by his answer, declined
fulfilling the demand he had made, he said, "Earl, if thou wilt
not become my vassal, there is another condition; namely, that I
will place over the Orkney Islands the man I please, and require
thy oath that thou wilt make no claim upon these lands, but allow
whoever I place over them to sit in peace. If thou wilt not
accept of either of these conditions, he who is to rule over
these lands may expect hostility from thee, and thou must not
think it strange if like meet like in this business."
The earl begged of the king some time to consider the matter.
The king did so, and gave the earl time to take the counsel of
his friends on the choosing one or other of these conditions.
Then the earl requested a delay until next summer, that he might
go over the sea to the west, for his proper counsellors were all
at home, and he himself was but a child in respect of age; but
the king required that he should now make his election of one or
other of the conditions. Thorkel Fosterer was then with the
king, and he privately sent a person to Earl Thorfin, and told
him, whatever his intentions might be, not to think of leaving
Olaf without being reconciled with him, as he stood entirely in
Olaf's power. From such hints the earl saw there was no other
way than to let the king have his own will. It was no doubt a
hard condition to have no hope of ever regaining his paternal
heritage, and moreover to bind himself by oath to allow those to
enjoy in peace his domain who had no hereditary right to it; but
seeing it was uncertain how he could get away, he resolved to
submit to the king and become his vassal, as Bruse had done. The
king observed that Thorfin was more high-minded, and less
disposed to suffer subjection than Bruse, and therefore he
trusted less to Thorfin than to Bruse; and he considered also
that Thorfin would trust to the aid of the Scottish king, if he
broke the agreement. The king also had discernment enough to
perceive that Bruse, although slow to enter into an agreement,
would promise nothing but what he intended to keep; but as to
Thorfin when he had once made up his mind he went readily into
every proposal and made no attempt to obtain any alteration of
the king's first conditions: therefore the king had his
suspicions that the earl would infringe the agreement.
107. EARL THORFIN'S DEPARTURE, AND RECONCILIATION WITH THORKEL.
When the king had carefully considered the whole matter by
himself, he ordered the signal to sound for a General Thing, to
which he called in the earls. Then said the king, "I will now
make known to the public our agreement with the Orkney earls.
They have now acknowledged my right of property to Orkney and
Shetland, and have both become my vassals, all which they have
confirmed by oath; and now I will invest them with these lands as
a fief: namely, Bruse with one third part and Thorfin with one
third, as they formerly enjoyed them; but the other third which
Einar Rangmund had, I adjudge as fallen to my domain, because he
killed Eyvind Urarhorn, my court-man, partner, and dear friend;
and that part of the land I will manage as I think proper. I
have also my earls, to tell you it is my pleasure that ye enter
into an agreement with Thorkel Amundason for the murder of your
brother Einar, for I will take that business, if ye agree
thereto, within my own jurisdiction." The earls agreed to this,
as to everything else that the king proposed. Thorkel came
forward, and surrendered to the king's judgment of the case, and
the Thing concluded. King Olaf awarded as great a penalty for
Earl Einar's murder as for three lendermen; but as Einar himself
was the cause of the act, one third of the mulct fell to the
ground. Thereafter Earl Thorfin asked the king's leave to
depart, and as soon as he obtained it made ready for sea with all
speed. It happened one day, when all was ready for the voyage,
the earl sat in his ship drinking; and Thorkel Amundason came
unexpectedly to him, laid his head upon the earl's knee, and bade
him do with him what he pleased. The earl asked why he did so.
"We are, you know, reconciled men, according to the king's
decision; so stand up, Thorkel."
Thorkel replied, "The agreement which the king made as between me
and Bruse stands good; but what regards the agreement with thee
thou alone must determine. Although the king made conditions for
my property and safe residence in Orkney, yet I know so well thy
disposition that there is no going to the islands for me, unless
I go there in peace with thee, Earl Thorfin; and therefore I am
willing to promise never to return to Orkney, whatever the king
The earl remained silent; and first, after a long pause, he said,
"If thou wilt rather, Thorkel, that I shall judge between us than
trust to the king's judgment, then let the beginning of our
reconciliation be, that you go with me to the Orkney Islands,
live with me, and never leave me but with my will, and be bound
to defend my land, and execute all that I want done, as long as
we both are in life."
Thorkel replies, "This shall be entirely at thy pleasure, earl,
as well as everything else in my power." Then Thorkel went on,
and solemnly ratified this agreement. The earl said he would
talk afterwards about the mulct of money, but took Thorkel's oath
upon the conditions. Thorkel immediately made ready to accompany
the earl on his voyage. The earl set off as soon as all was
ready, and never again were King Olaf and Thorfin together.
108. EARL BRUSE'S DEPARTURE.
Earl Bruse remained behind, and took his time to get ready.
Before his departure the king sent for him, and said, "It appears
to me, earl, that in thee I have a man on the west side of the
sea on whose fidelity I can depend; therefore I intend to give
thee the two parts of the country which thou formerly hadst to
rule over; for I will not that thou shouldst be a less powerful
man after entering into my service than before: but I will secure
thy fidelity by keeping thy son Ragnvald with me. I see well
enough that with two parts of the country and my help, thou wilt
be able to defend what is thy own against thy brother Thorfin."
Bruse was thankful for getting two thirds instead of one third of
the country, and soon after he set out, and came about autumn to
Orkney; but Ragnvald, Bruse's son, remained behind in the East
with King Olaf. Ragnvald was one of the handsomest men that
could be seen, -- his hair long, and yellow as silk; and he soon
grew up, stout and tall, and he was a very able and superb man,
both of great understanding and polite manners. He was long with
King Olaf. Otter Svarte speaks of these affairs in the poem he
composed about King Olaf: --
"From Shetland, far off in the cold North Sea,
Come chiefs who desire to be subject to thee:
No king so well known for his will, and his might,
To defend his own people from scaith or unright.
These isles of the West midst the ocean's wild roar,
Scarcely heard the voice of their sovereign before;
Our bravest of sovereigns before could scarce bring
These islesmen so proud to acknowledge their king."
109. OF THE EARLS THORFIN AND BRUSE.
The brothers Thorfin and Bruse came west to Orkney; and Bruse
took the two parts of the country under his rule, and Thorfin the
third part. Thorfin was usually in Caithness and elsewhere in
Scotland; but placed men of his own over the islands. It was
left to Bruse alone to defend the islands, which at that time
were severely scourged by vikings; for the Northmen and Danes
went much on viking cruises in the west sea, and frequently
touched at Orkney on the way to or from the west, and plundered,
and took provisions and cattle from the coast. Bruse often
complained of his brother Thorfin, that he made no equipment of
war for the defence of Orkney and Shetland, yet levied his share
of the scat and duties. Then Thorfin offered to him to exchange,
and that Bruse should have one third and Thorfin two thirds of
the land, but should undertake the defence of the land, for the
whole. Although this exchange did not take place immediately, it
is related in the saga of the earls that it was agreed upon at
last; and that Thorfin had two parts and Bruse only one, when
Canute the Great subdued Norway and King Olaf fled the country.
Earl Thorfin Sigurdson has been the ablest earl of these islands,
and has had the greatest dominion of all the Orkney earls; for he
had under him Orkney, Shetland, and the Hebudes, besides very
great possessions in Scotland and Ireland. Arnor, the earls'
skald, tells of his possessions: --
"From Thurso-skerry to Dublin,
All people hold with good Thorfin --
All people love his sway,
And the generous chief obey."
Thorfin was a very great warrior. He came to the earldom at five
years of age, ruled more than sixty years, and died in his bed
about the last days of Harald Sigurdson. But Bruse died in the
days of Canute the Great, a short time after the fall of Saint
110. OF HAREK OF THJOTTA.
Having now gone through this second story, we shall return to
that which we left, -- at King Olaf Haraldson having concluded
peace with King Olaf the Swedish king, and having the same summer
gone north to Throndhjem (1019). He had then been king in Norway
five years (A.D. 1015-1019). In harvest time he prepared to take
his winter residence at Nidaros, and he remained all winter there
(A.D. 1020). Thorkel the Fosterer, Amunde's son, as before
related, was all that winter with him. King Olaf inquired very
carefully how it stood with Christianity throughout the land, and
learnt that it was not observed at all to the north of
Halogaland, and was far from being observed as it should be in
Naumudal, and the interior of Throndhjem. There was a man by
name Harek, a son of Eyvind Skaldaspiller, who dwelt in an island
called Thjotta in Halogaland. Eyvind had not been a rich man,
but was of high family and high mind. In Thjotta, at first,
there dwelt many small bondes; but Harek began with buying a farm
not very large and lived on it, and in a few years he had got all
the bondes that were there before out of the way; so that he had
the whole island, and built a large head-mansion. He soon became
very rich; for he was a very prudent man, and very successful.
He had long been greatly respected by the chiefs; and being
related to the kings of Norway, had been raised by them to high
dignities. Harek's father's mother Gunhild was a daughter of
Earl Halfdan, and Ingebjorg, Harald Harfager's daughter. At the
time the circumstance happened which we are going to relate he
was somewhat advanced in years. Harek was the most respected man
in Halogaland, and for a long time had the Lapland trade, and did
the king's business in Lapland; sometimes alone, sometimes with
others joined to him. He had not himself been to wait on King
Olaf, but messages had passed between them, and all was on the
most friendly footing. This winter (A.D. 1020) that Olaf was in
Nidaros, messengers passed between the king and Harek of Thjotta.
Then the king made it known that he intended going north to
Halogaland, and as far north as the land's end; but the people of
Halogaland expected no good from this expedition.
111. OF THE PEOPLE OF HALOGALAND.
Olaf rigged out five ships in spring (A.D. 1020), and had with
him about 300 men. When he was ready for sea he set northwards
along the land; and when he came to Naumudal district he summoned
the bondes to a Thing, and at every Thing was accepted as king.
He also made the laws to be read there as elsewhere, by which the
people are commanded to observe Christianity; and he threatened
every man with loss of life, and limbs, and property who would
not subject himself to Christian law. He inflicted severe
punishments on many men, great as well as small, and left no
district until the people had consented to adopt the holy faith.
The most of the men of power and of the great bondes made feasts
for the king, and so he proceeded all the way north to
Halogaland. Harek of Thjotta also made a feast for the king, at
which there was a great multitude of guests, and the feast was
very splendid. Harek was made lenderman, and got the same
privileges he had enjoyed under the former chiefs of the country.
112. OF ASMUND GRANKELSON.
There was a man called Grankel, or Granketil, who was a rich
bonde, and at this time rather advanced in age. In his youth he
had been on viking cruises, and had been a powerful fighter; for
he possessed great readiness in all sorts of bodily exercises.
His son Asmund was equal to his father in all these, and in some,
indeed, he excelled him. There were many who said that with
respect to comeliness, strength, and bodily expertness, he might
be considered the third remarkably distinguished for these that
Norway had ever produced. The first was Hakon Athelstan's
foster-son; the second, Olaf Trygvason. Grankel invited King
Olaf to a feast, which was very magnificent; and at parting
Grankel presented the king with many honourable gifts and tokens
of friendship. The king invited Asmund, with many persuasions,
to follow him; and as Asmund could not decline the honours
offered him, he got ready to travel with the king, became his
man, and stood in high favour with him. The king remained in
Halogaland the greater part of the summer, went to all the
Things, and baptized all the people. Thorer Hund dwelt at that
time in the island Bjarkey. He was the most powerful man in the
North, and also became one of Olaf's lendermen. Many sons of
great bondes resolved also to follow King Olaf from Halogaland.
Towards the end of summer King Olaf left the North, and sailed
back to Throndhjem, and landed at Nidaros, where he passed the
winter (A.D. 1021). It was then that Thorkel the Fosterer came
from the West from Orkney, after killing Einar Rangmumd, as
before related. This autumn corn was dear in Throndhjem, after a
long course of good seasons, and the farther north the dearer was
the corn; but there was corn enough in the East country, and in
the Uplands, and it was of great help to the people of Throndhjem
that many had old corn remaining beside them.
113. OF THE SACRIFICES OF THE THRONDHJEM PEOPLE.
In autumn the news was brought to King Olaf that the bondes had
had a great feast on the first winter-day's eve, at which there
was a numerous attendance and much drinking; and it was told the
king that all the remembrance-cups to the Asas, or old gods, were
blessed according to the old heathen forms; and it was added,
that cattle and horses had been slain, and the altars sprinkled
with their blood, and the sacrifices accompanied with the prayer
that was made to obtain good seasons. It was also reported that
all men saw clearly that the gods were offended at the Halogaland
people turning Christian. Now when the king heard this news he
sent men into the Throndhjem country, and ordered several bondes,
whose names he gave, to appear before him. There was a man
called Olver of Eggja, so called after his farm on which he
lived. He was powerful, of great family, and the head-man of
those who on account of the bondes appeared before the king.
Now, when they came to the king, he told them these accusations;
to which Olver, on behalf of the bondes, replied, that they had
had no other feasts that harvest than their usual entertainments,
and social meetings, and friendly drinking parties. "But as to
what may have been told you of the words which may have fallen
from us Throndhjem people in our drinking parties, men of
understanding would take good care not to use such language; but
I cannot hinder drunken or foolish people's talk." Olver was a
man of clever speech, and bold in what he said, and defended the
bondes against such accusations. In the end, the king said the
people of the interior of Thorndhjem must themselves give the
best testimony to their being in the right faith. The bondes got
leave to return home, and set off as soon as they were ready.
114. OF THE SACRIFICES BY THE PEOPLE OF THE INTERIOR OF THE
Afterwards, when winter was advanced, it was told the king that
the people of the interior of Throndhjem had assembled in great
number at Maerin, and that there was a great sacrifice in the
middle of winter, at which they sacrificed offerings for peace
and a good season. Now when the king knew this on good authority
to be true, he sent men and messages into the interior, and
summoned the bondes whom he thought of most understanding into
the town. The bondes held a council among themselves about this
message; and all those who had been upon the same occasion in the
beginning of winter were now very unwilling to make the journey.
Olver, however, at the desire of all the bondes, allowed himself
to be persuaded. When he came to the town he went immediately
before the king, and they talked together. The king made the
same accusation against the bondes, that they had held a mid-
winter sacrifice. Olver replies, that this accusation against
the bondes was false. "We had," said he, "Yule feasts and
drinking feasts wide around in the districts; and the bondes do
not prepare their feasts so sparingly, sire, that there is not
much left over, which people consume long afterwards. At Maerin
there is a great farm, with a large house on it, and a great
neighbourhood all around it, and it is the great delight of the
people to drink many together in company." The king said little
in reply, but looked angry, as he thought he knew the truth of
the matter better than it was now represented. He ordered the
bondes to return home. "I shall some time or other," said he,
"come to the truth of what you are now concealing, and in such a
way that ye shall not be able to contradict it. But, however,
that may be, do not try such things again." The bondes returned
home, and told the result of their journey, and that the king was
115. MURDER OF OLVER OF EGGJA.
At Easter (A.D. 1021) the king held a feast, to which he had
invited many of the townspeople as well as bondes. After Easter
he ordered his ships to be launched into the water, oars and
tackle to be put on board, decks to be laid in the ships, and
tilts (1) and rigging to be set up, and to be laid ready for sea
at the piers. Immediately after Easter he sent men into Veradal.
There was a man called Thoralde, who was the king's bailiff, and
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