Heimskringla The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway
Part 9 out of 18
a Thing, and I do not expect to be looked upon as a man of ready
words. But I think there is sufficient necessity before me to
reply something to this. I will venture to make a guess that the
speech the king has made comes from some man's tongue who is of
far less understanding and goodness than he is, and has evidently
proceeded from those who are our enemies. It is speaking
improbabilities to say that I could be Thoralf's murderer; for
he was my foster-brother and good friend. Had the case been
otherwise, and had there been anything outstanding between me and
Thoralf, yet I am surely born with sufficient understanding to
have done this deed in the Farey Islands, rather than here
between your hands, sire. But I am ready to clear myself, and my
whole ship's crew, of this act, and to make oath according to
what stands in your laws. Or, if ye find it more satisfactory, I
offer to clear myself by the ordeal of hot iron; and I wish,
sire, that you may be present yourself at the proof."
When Sigurd had ceased to speak there were many who supported his
case, and begged the king that Sigurd might be allowed to clear
himself of this accusation. They thought that Sigurd had spoken
well, and that the accusation against him might be untrue.
The king replies, "It may be with regard to this man very
differently, and if he is belied in any respect he must be a good
man; and if not, he is the boldest I have ever met with: and I
believe this is the case, and that he will bear witness to it
At the desire of the people, the king took Sigurd's obligation to
take the iron ordeal; he should come the following day to Lygra,
where the bishop should preside at the ordeal; and so the Thing
closed. The king went back to Lygra, and Sigurd and his comrades
to their ship.
As soon as it began to be dark at night Sigurd said to his ship's
people. "To say the truth, we have come into a great misfortune;
for a great lie is got up against us, and this king is a
deceitful, crafty man. Our fate is easy to be foreseen where he
rules; for first he made Thoralf be slain, and then made us the
misdoers, without benefit of redemption by fine. For him it is
an easy matter to manage the iron ordeal, so that I fear he will
come ill off who tries it against him. Now there is coming a
brisk mountain breeze, blowing right out of the sound and off the
land; and it is my advice that we hoist our sail, and set out to
sea. Let Thrand himself come with his wool to market another
summer; but if I get away, it is my opinion I shall never think
of coming to Norway again."
His comrades thought the advice good, hoisted their sail, and in
the night-time took to the open sea with all speed. They did not
stop until they came to Farey, and home to Gata. Thrand was ill-
pleased with their voyage, and they did not answer him in a very
friendly way; but they remained at home, however, with Thrand.
The morning after, King Olaf heard of Sigurd's departure, and
heavy reports went round about this case; and there were many who
believed that the accusation against Sigurd was true, although
they had denied and opposed it before the king. King Olaf spoke
but little about the matter, but seemed to know of a certainty
that the suspicion he had taken up was founded in truth. The
king afterwards proceeded in his progress, taking up his abode
where it was provided for him.
146. OF THE ICELANDERS.
King Olaf called before him the men who had come from Iceland,
Thorod Snorrason, Geller Thorkelson, Stein Skaptason, and Egil
Halson, and spoke to them thus: -- "Ye have spoken to me much in
summer about making yourselves ready to return to Iceland, and I
have never given you a distinct answer. Now I will tell you what
my intention is. Thee, Geller, I propose to allow to return, if
thou wilt carry my message there; but none of the other
Icelanders who are now here may go to Iceland before I have heard
how the message which thou, Geller, shalt bring thither has been
When the king had made this resolution known, it appeared to
those who had a great desire to return, and were thus forbidden,
that they were unreasonably and hardly dealt with, and that they
were placed in the condition of unfree men. In the meantime
Geller got ready for his journey, and sailed in summer (A.D.
1026) to Iceland, taking with him the message he was to bring
before the Thing the following summer (A.D. 1027). The king's
message was, that he required the Icelanders to adopt the laws
which he had set in Norway, also to pay him thane-tax and nose-
tax (1); namely, a penny for every nose, and the penny at the
rate of ten pennies to the yard of wadmal (2). At the same time
he promised them his friendship if they accepted, and threatened
them with all his vengeance if they refused his proposals.
The people sat long in deliberation on this business; but at last
they were unanimous in refusing all the taxes and burdens which
were demanded of them. That summer Geller returned back from
Iceland to Norway to King Olaf, and found him in autumn in the
east in Viken, just as he had come from Gautland; of which I
shall speak hereafter in this story of King Olaf. Towards the
end of autumn King Olaf repaired north to Throndhjem, and went
with his people to Nidaros, where he ordered a winter residence
to be prepared for him. The winter (A.D. 1027) that he passed
here in the merchant-town of Nidaros was the thirteenth year of
(1) Nefgildi (nef=nose), a nose-tax or poll-tax payable to the
king. This ancient "nose-tax" was also imposed by the
Norsemen on conquered countries, the penalty for defaulters
being the loss of their nose.
(2) Wadmal was the coarse woollen cloth made in Iceland, and so
generally used for clothing that it was a measure of value
in the North, like money, for other commodities. -- L.
147. OF THE JAMTALAND PEOPLE.
There was once a man called Ketil Jamte, a son of Earl Onund of
Sparby, in the Throndhjem district. He fled over the ridge of
mountains from Eystein Illrade, cleared the forest, and settled
the country now called the province of Jamtaland. A great many
people joined him from the Throndhjem land, on account of the
disturbances there; for this King Eystein had laid taxes on the
Throndhjem people, and set his dog, called Saur, to be king over
them. Thorer Helsing was Ketil's grandson, and he colonised the
province called Helsingjaland, which is named after him. When
Harald Harfager subdued the kingdom by force, many people fled
out of the country from him, both Throndhjem people and Naumudal
people, and thus new settlements were added to Jamtaland; and
some settlers went even eastwards to Helsingjaland and down to
the Baltic coast, and all became subjects of the Swedish king.
While Hakon Athelstan's foster-son was over Norway there was
peace, and merchant traffic from Throndhjem to Jamtaland; and, as
he was an excellent king, the Jamtalanders came from the east to
him, paid him scat, and he gave them laws and administered
justice. They would rather submit to his government than to the
Swedish king's, because they were of Norwegian race; and all the
Helsingjaland people, who had their descent from the north side
of the mountain ridge, did the same. This continued long after
those times, until Olaf the Thick and the Swedish king Olaf
quarrelled about the boundaries. Then the Jamtaland and
Helsingjaland people went back to the Swedish king; and then the
forest of Eid was the eastern boundary of the land, and the
mountain ridge, or keel of the country, the northern: and the
Swedish king took scat of Helsingjaland, and also of Jamtaland.
Now, thought the king of Norway, Olaf, in consequence of the
agreement between him and the Swedish king, the scat of Jamtaland
should be paid differently than before; although it had long been
established that the Jamtaland people paid their scat to the
Swedish king, and that he appointed officers over the country.
The Swedes would listen to nothing, but that all the land to the
east of the keel of the country belonged to the Swedish king.
Now this went so, as it often happens, that although the kings
were brothers-in-law and relations, each would hold fast the
dominions which he thought he had a right to. King Olaf had sent
a message round in Jamtaland, declaring it to be his will that
the Jamtaland people should be subject to him, threatening them
with violence if they refused; but the Jamtaland people preferred
being subjects of the Swedish king.
148. STEIN'S STORY.
The Icelanders, Thorod Snorrason and Stein Skaptason, were ill-
pleased at not being allowed to do as they liked. Stein was a
remarkably handsome man, dexterous at all feats, a great poet,
splendid in his apparel, and very ambitious of distinction. His
father, Skapte, had composed a poem on King Olaf, which he had
taught Stein, with the intention that he should bring it to King
Olaf. Stein could not now restrain himself from making the king
reproaches in word and speech, both in verse and prose. Both he
and Thorod were imprudent in their conversation, and said the
king would be looked upon as a worse man than those who, under
faith and law, had sent their sons to him, as he now treated them
as men without liberty. The king was angry at this. One day
Stein stood before the king, and asked if he would listen to the
poem which his father Skapte had composed about him. The king
replies, "Thou must first repeat that, Stein, which thou hast
composed about me." Stein replies, that it was not the case that
he had composed any. "I am no skald, sire," said he; "and if I
even could compose anything, it, and all that concerns me, would
appear to thee of little value." Stein then went out, but
thought he perceived what the king alluded to. Thorgeir, one of
the king's land-bailiffs, who managed one of his farms in
Orkadal, happened to be present, and heard the conversation of
the king and Stein, and soon afterwards Thorgeir returned home.
One night Stein left the city, and his footboy with him. They
went up Gaularas and into Orkadal. One evening they came to one
of the king's farms which Thorgeir had the management of, and
Thorgeir invited Stein to pass the night there, and asked where
he was travelling to. Stein begged the loan of a horse and
sledge, for he saw they were just driving home corn.
Thorgeir replies, "I do not exactly see how it stands with thy
journey, and if thou art travelling with the king's leave. The
other day, methinks, the words were not very sweet that passed
between the king and thee."
Stein said, "If it be so that I am not my own master for the
king, yet I will not submit to such treatment from his slaves;"
and, drawing his sword, he killed the landbailiff. Then he took
the horse, put the boy upon him, and sat himself in the sledge,
and so drove the whole night. They travelled until they came to
Surnadal in More. There they had themselves ferried across the
fjord, and proceeded onwards as fast as they could. They told
nobody about the murder, but wherever they came called themselves
king's men, and met good entertainment everywhere. One day at
last they came towards evening to Giske Isle, to Thorberg
Arnason's house. He was not at home himself, but his wife
Ragnhild, a daughter of Erling Skjalgson, was. There Stein was
well received, because formerly there had been great friendship
between them. It had once happened, namely, that Stein, on his
voyage from Iceland with his own vessel, had come to Giske from
sea, and had anchored at the island. At that time Ragnhild was
in the pains of childbirth, and very ill, and there was no priest
on the island, or in the neighbourhood of it. There came a
message to the merchant-vessel to inquire if, by chance, there
was a priest on board. There happened to be a priest in the
vessel, who was called Bard; but he was a young man from
Westfjord, who had little learning. The messengers begged the
priest to go with them, but he thought it was a difficult matter:
for he knew his own ignorance, and would not go. Stein added his
word to persuade the priest. The priest replies, "I will go if
thou wilt go with me; for then I will have confidence, if I
should require advice." Stein said he was willing; and they went
forthwith to the house, and to where Ragnhild was in labour.
Soon after she brought forth a female child, which appeared to be
rather weak. Then the priest baptized the infant, and Stein held
it at the baptism, at which it got the name of Thora; and Stein
gave it a gold ring. Ragnhild promised Stein her perfect
friendship, and bade him come to her whenever he thought he
required her help. Stein replied that he would hold no other
female child at baptism, and then they parted. Now it was come
to the time when Stein required this kind promise of Ragnhild to
be fulfilled, and he told her what had happened, and that the
king's wrath had fallen upon him. She answered, that all the aid
she could give should stand at his service; but bade him wait for
Thorberg's arrival. She then showed him to a seat beside her son
Eystein Orre, who was then twelve years old. Stein presented
gifts to Ragnhild and Eystein. Thorberg had already heard how
Stein had conducted himself before he got home, and was rather
vexed at it. Ragnhild went to him, and told him how matters
stood with Stein, and begged Thorberg to receive him, and take
care of him.
Thorberg replies, "I have heard that the king, after sending out
a message-token, held a Thing concerning the murder of Thorgeir,
and has condemned Stein as having fled the country, and likewise
that the king is highly incensed: and I have too much sense to
take the cause of a foreigner in hand, and draw upon myself the
king's wrath. Let Stein, therefore, withdraw from hence as
quickly as thou canst."
Ragnhild replied, that they should either both go or both stay.
Thorberg told her to go where she pleased. "For I expect," said
he, "that wherever thou goest thou wilt soon come back, for here
is thy importance greatest."
Her son Eystein Orre then stood forward, and said he would not
stay behind if Ragnhild goes.
Thorberg said that they showed themselves very stiff and
obstinate in this matter. "And it appears that ye must have your
way in it, since ye take it so near to heart; but thou art
reckoning too much, Ragnhild, upon thy descent, in paying so
little regard to King Olaf's word."
Ragnhild replied, "If thou art so much afraid to keep Stein with
thee here, go with him to my father Erling, or give him
attendants, so that he may get there in safety." Thorberg said
he would not send Stein there; "for there are enough of things
besides to enrage the king against Erling." Stein thus remained
there all winter (A.D. 1027).
After Yule a king's messenger came to Thorberg, with the order
that Thorberg should come to him before midsummer; and the order
was serious and severe. Thorberg laid it before his friends, and
asked their advice if he should venture to go to the king after
what had taken place. The greater number dissuaded him, and
thought it more advisable to let Stein slip out of his hands than
to venture within the king's power: but Thorberg himself had
rather more inclination not to decline the journey. Soon after
Thorberg went to his brother Fin, told him the circumstances, and
asked him to accompany him. Fin replied, that he thought it
foolish to be so completely under woman's influence that he dared
not, on account of his wife, keep the fealty and law of his
"Thou art free," replied Thorberg, "to go with me or not; but I
believe it is more fear of the king than love to him that keeps
thee back." And so they parted in anger.
Then Thorberg went to his brother Arne Arnason, and asked him to
go with him to the king. Arne says, "It appears to me wonderful
that such a sensible, prudent man, should fall into such a
misfortune, without necessity, as to incur the king's
indignation. It might be excused if it were thy relation or
foster-brother whom thou hadst thus sheltered; but not at all
that thou shouldst take up an Iceland man, and harbour the king's
outlaw, to the injury of thyself and all thy relations."
Thorberg replies, "It stands good, according to the proverb, -- a
rotten branch will be found in every tree. My father's greatest
misfortune evidently was that he had such ill luck in producing
sons that at last he produced one incapable of acting, and
without any resemblance to our race, and whom in truth I never
would have called brother, if it were not that it would have been
to my mother's shame to have refused."
Thorberg turned away in a gloomy temper, and went home.
Thereafter he sent a message to his brother Kalf in the
Throndhjem district, and begged him to meet him at Agdanes; and
when the messengers found Kalf he promised, without more ado, to
make the journey. Ragnhild sent men east to Jadar to her father
Erling, and begged him to send people. Erling's sons, Sigurd and
Thord, came out, each with a ship of twenty benches of rowers and
ninety men. When they came north Thorberg received them
joyfully, entertained them well, and prepared for the voyage with
them. Thorberg had also a vessel with twenty benches, and they
steered their course northwards. When they came to the mouth of
the Throndhjem fjord Thorberg's two brothers, Fin and Arne, were
there already, with two ships each of twenty benches. Thorberg
met his brothers with joy, and observed that his whetstone had
taken effect; and Fin replied he seldom needed sharpening for
such work. Then they proceeded north with all their forces to
Throndhjem, and Stein was along with them. When they came to
Agdanes, Kaff Arnason was there before them; and he also had a
wellmanned ship of twenty benches. With this war-force they
sailed up to Nidaros, where they lay all night. The morning
after they had a consultation with each other. Kalf and Erling's
sons were for attacking the town with all their forces, and
leaving the event to fate; but Thorberg wished that they should
first proceed with moderation, and make an offer; in which
opinion Fin and Arne also concurred. It was accordingly resolved
that Fin and Arne, with a few men, should first wait upon the
king. The king had previously heard that they had come so strong
in men, and was therefore very sharp in his speech. Fin offered
to pay mulct for Thorberg, and also for Stein, and bade the king
to fix what the penalties should be, however large; stipulating
only for Thorberg safety and his fiefs, and for Stein life and
The king replies, "It appears to me that ye come from home so
equipped that ye can determine half as much as I can myself, or
more; but this I expected least of all from you brothers, that ye
should come against me with an army; and this counsel, I can
observe, has its origin from the people of Jadar; but ye have no
occasion to offer me money in mulct."
Fin replies, "We brothers have collected men, not to offer
hostility to you, sire, but to offer rather our services; but if
you will bear down Thorberg altogether, we must all go to King
Canute the Great with such forces as we have."
Then the king looked at him, and said, "If ye brothers will give
your oaths that ye will follow me in the country and out of the
country, and not part from me without my leave and permission,
and shall not conceal from me any treasonable design that may
come to your knowledge against me, then will I agree to a peace
with you brothers."
Then Fin returned to his forces, and told the conditions which
the king had proposed to them. Now they held a council upon it,
and Thorberg, for his part, said he would accept the terms
offered. "I have no wish," says he, "to fly from my property,
and seek foreign masters; but, on the contrary, will always
consider it an honour to follow King Olaf, and be where he is."
Then says Kalf, "I will make no oath to King Olaf, but will be
with him always, so long as I retain my fiefs and dignities, and
so long as the king will be my friend; and my opinion is that we
should all do the same." Fin says, "we will venture to let King
Olaf himself determine in this matter." Arne Arnason says, "I
was resolved to follow thee, brother Thorberg, even if thou hadst
given battle to King Olaf, and I shall certainly not leave thee
for listening to better counsel; so I intend to follow thee and
Fin, and accept the conditions ye have taken."
Thereupon the brothers Thorberg, Fin, and Arne, went on board a
vessel, rowed into the fjord, and waited upon the king. The
agreement went accordingly into fulfillment, so that the brothers
gave their oaths to the king. Then Thorberg endeavored to make
peace for Stein with the king; but the king replied that Stein
might for him depart in safety, and go where he pleased, but "in
my house he can never be again." Then Thorberg and his brothers
went back to their men. Kalf went to Eggja, and Fin to the king;
and Thorberg, with the other men, went south to their homes.
Stein went with Erling's sons; but early in the spring (A.D.
1027) he went west to England into the service of Canute the
Great, and was long with him, and was treated with great
149. FIN ARNASON"S EXPEDITION TO HALOGALAND.
Now when Fin Arnason had been a short time with King Olaf, the
king called him to a conference, along with some other persons he
usually held consultation with; and in this conference the king
spoke to this effect: -- "The decision remains fixed in my mind
that in spring I should raise the whole country to a levy both of
men and ships, and then proceed, with all the force I can muster,
against King Canute the Great: for I know for certain that he
does not intend to treat as a jest the claim he has awakened upon
my kingdom. Now I let thee know my will, Fin Arnason, that thou
proceed on my errand to Halogaland, and raise the people there to
an expedition, men and ships, and summon that force to meet me at
Agdanes." Then the king named other men whom he sent to
Throndhjem, and some southwards in the country, and he commanded
that this order should be circulated through the whole land. Of
Fin's voyage we have to relate that he had with him a ship with
about thirty men, and when he was ready for sea he prosecuted his
journey until he came to Halogaland. There he summoned the
bondes to a Thing, laid before them his errand, and craved a
levy. The bondes in that district had large vessels, suited to a
levy expedition, and they obeyed the king's message, and rigged
their ships. Now when Fin came farther north in Halogaland he
held a Thing again, and sent some of his men from him to crave a
levy where he thought it necessary. He sent also men to Bjarkey
Island to Thorer Hund, and there, as elsewhere, craved the quota
to the levy. When the message came to Thorer he made himself
ready, and manned with his house-servants the same vessel he had
sailed with on his cruise to Bjarmaland, and which he equipped at
his own expense. Fin summoned all the people of Halogaland who
were to the north to meet at Vagar. There came a great fleet
together in spring, and they waited there until Fin returned from
the North. Thorer Hund had also come there. When Fin arrived he
ordered the signal to sound for all the people of the levy to
attend a House-Thing; and at it all the men produced their
weapons, and also the fighting men from each ship-district were
mustered. When that was all finished Fin said, "I have also to
bring thee a salutation, Thorer Hund, from King Olaf, and to ask
thee what thou wilt offer him for the murder of his court-man
Karle, or for the robbery in taking the king's goods north in
Lengjuvik. I have the king's orders to settle that business, and
I wait thy answer to it."
Thorer looked about him, and saw standing on both sides many
fully armed men, among whom were Gunstein and others of Karle's
kindred. Then said Thorer, "My proposal is soon made. I will
refer altogether to the king's pleasure the matter he thinks he
has against me."
Fin replies, "Thou must put up with a less honour; for thou must
refer the matter altogether to my decision, if any agreement is
to take place."
Thorer replies, "And even then I think it will stand well with my
case, and therefore I will not decline referring it to thee."
Thereupon Thorer came forward, and confirmed what he said by
giving his hand upon it; and Fin repeated first all the words he
Fin now pronounced his decision upon the agreement, -- that
Thorer should pay to the king ten marks of gold, and to Gunstein
and the other kindred ten marks, and for the robbery and loss of
goods ten marks more; and all which should be paid immediately.
Thorer says, "This is a heavy money mulct."
"Without it," replies Fin, "there will be no agreement."
Thorer says, there must time be allowed to gather so much in loan
from his followers; but Fin told him to pay immediately on the
spot; and besides, Thorer should lay down the great ornament
which he took from Karle when he was dead. Thorer asserted that
he had not got the ornament. Then Gunstein pressed forward, and
said that Karle had the ornament around his neck when they
parted, but it was gone when they took up his corpse. Thorer
said he had not observed any ornament; but if there was any such
thing, it must be lying at home in Bjarkey. Then Fin put the
point of his spear to Thorer's breast, and said that he must
instantly produce the ornament; on which Thorer took the ornament
from his neck and gave it to Fin. Thereafter Thorer turned away,
and went on board his ship. Fin, with many other men, followed
him, went through the whole vessel, and took up the hatches. At
the mast they saw two very large casks; and Fin asked, "What are
Thorer replies, "It is my liquor."
Fin says, "Why don't you give us something to drink then,
comrade, since you have so much liquor?"
Thorer ordered his men to run off a bowlfull from the puncheons,
from which Fin and his people got liquor of the best quality.
Now Fin ordered Thorer to pay the mulcts. Thorer went backwards
and forwards through the ship, speaking now to the one, now to
the other, and Fin calling out to produce the pence. Thorer
begged him to go to the shore, and said he would bring the money
there, and Fin with his men went on shore. Then Thorer came and
paid silver; of which, from one purse, there were weighed ten
marks. Thereafter Thorer brought many knotted nightcaps; and in
some was one mark, in others half a mark, and in others some
small money. "This is money my friends and other good people
have lent me," said he; "for I think all my travelling money is
gone." Then Thorer went back again to his ship, and returned,
and paid the silver by little and little; and this lasted so long
that the day was drawing towards evening. When the Thing had
closed the people had gone to their vessels, and made ready to
depart; and as fast as they were ready they hoisted sail and set
out, so that most of them were under sail. When Fin saw that
they were most of them under sail, he ordered his men to get
ready too; but as yet little more than a third part of the mulct
had been paid. Then Fin said, "This goes on very slowly, Thorer,
with the payment. I see it costs thee a great deal to pay money.
I shall now let it stand for the present, and what remains thou
shalt pay to the king himself." Fin then got up and went away.
Thorer replies, "I am well enough pleased, Fin, to part now; but
the good will is not wanting to pay this debt, so that both thou
and the king shall say it is not unpaid."
Then Fin went on board his ship, and followed the rest of his
fleet. Thorer was late before he was ready to come out of the
harbour. When the sails were hoisted he steered out over
Westfjord, and went to sea, keeping south along the land so far
off that the hill-tops were half sunk, and soon the land
altogether was sunk from view by the sea. Thorer held this
course until he got into the English sea, and landed in England.
He betook himself to King Canute forthwith, and was well received
by him. It then came out that Thorer had with him a great deal
of property; and, with other things, all the money he and Karle
had taken in Bjarmaland. In the great liquor-casks there were
sides within the outer sides, and the liquor was between them.
The rest of the casks were filled with furs, and beaver and sable
skins. Thorer was then with King Canute. Fin came with his
forces to King Olaf, and related to him how all had gone upon his
voyage, and told at the same time his suspicion that Thorer had
left the country, and gone west to England to King Canute. "And
there I fear he will cause as much trouble."
The king replies, "I believe that Thorer must be our enemy, and
it appears to me always better to have him at a distance than
150. DISPUTE BETWEEN HAREK AND ASMUND.
Asmund Grankelson had been this winter (A.D. 1027) in Halogaland
in his sheriffdom, and was at home with his father Grankel.
There lies a rock out in the sea, on which there is both seal and
bird catching, and a fishing ground, and egg-gathering; and from
old times it had been an appendage to the farm which Grankel
owned, but now Harek of Thjotta laid claim to it. It had gone so
far, that some years he had taken by force all the gain of this
rock; but Asmund and his father thought that they might expect
the king's help in all cases in which the right was upon their
side. Both father and son went therefore in spring to Harek, and
brought him a message and tokens from King Olaf that he should
drop his claim. Harek answered Asmund crossly, because he had
gone to the king with such insinuations -- "for the just right is
upon my side. Thou shouldst learn moderation, Asmund, although
thou hast so much confidence in the king's favour. It has
succeeded with thee to kill some chiefs, and leave their
slaughter unpaid for by any mulct; and also to plunder us,
although we thought ourselves at least equal to all of equal
birth, and thou art far from being my equal in family."
Asmund replies, "Many have experienced from thee, Harek, that
thou art of great connections, and too great power; and many in
consequence have suffered loss in their property through thee.
But it is likely that now thou must turn thyself elsewhere, and
not against us with thy violence, and not go altogether against
law, as thou art now doing." Then they separated.
Harek sent ten or twelve of his house-servants with a large
rowing boat, with which they rowed to the rock, took all that was
to be got upon it, and loaded their boat. But when they were
ready to return home, Asmund Grankelson came with thirty men, and
ordered them to give up all they had taken. Harek's house-
servants were not quick in complying, so that Asmund attacked
them. Some of Harek's men were cudgelled, some wounded, some
thrown into the sea, and all they had caught was taken from on
board of their boat, and Asmund and his people took it along with
them. Then Harek's servants came home, and told him the event.
Harek replies, "That is called news indeed that seldom happens;
never before has it happened that my people have been beaten."
The matter dropped. Harek never spoke about it, but was very
cheerful. In spring, however, Harek rigged out a cutter of
twenty seats of rowers, and manned it with his house-servants,
and the ship was remarkably well fitted out both with people and
all necessary equipment; and Harek went to the levy; but when he
came to King Olaf, Asmund was there before him. The king
summoned Harek and Asmund to him, and reconciled them so that
they left the matter entirely to him. Asmund then produced
witnesses to prove that Grankel had owned the rock, and the king
gave judgment accordingly. The case had a one-sided result. No
mulct was paid for Harek's house-servants, and the rock was
declared to be Grankel's. Harek observed it was no disgrace to
obey the king's decision, whatever way the case itself was
151. THOROD'S STORY.
Thorod Snorrason had remained in Norway, according to King Olaf's
commands, when Geller Thorkelson got leave to go to Iceland, as
before related. He remained there (A.D. 1027) with King Olaf,
but was ill pleased that he was not free to travel where he
pleased. Early in winter, King Olaf, when he was in Nidaros,
made it known that he would send people to Jamtaland to collect
the scat; but nobody had any great desire to go on this business,
after the fate of those whom King Olaf had sent before, namely,
Thrand White and others, twelve in number, who lost their lives,
as before related; and the Jamtalanders had ever since been
subject to the Swedish king. Thorod Snorrason now offered to
undertake this journey, for he cared little what became of him if
he could but become his own master again. The king consented,
and Thorod set out with eleven men in company. They came east to
Jamtaland, and went to a man called Thorar, who was lagman, and a
person in high estimation. They met with a hospitable reception;
and when they had been there a while, they explained their
business to Thorar. He replied, that other men and chiefs of the
country had in all respects as much power and right to give an
answer as he had, and for that purpose he would call together a
Thing. It was so done; the message-token was sent out, and a
numerous Thing assembled. Thorar went to the Thing, but the
messengers in the meantime remained at home. At the Thing,
Thorar laid the business before the people, but all were
unanimous that no scat should be paid to the king of Norway; and
some were for hanging the messengers, others for sacrificing them
to the gods. At last it was resolved to hold them fast until the
king of Sweden's sheriffs arrived, and they could treat them as
they pleased with consent of the people; and that, in the
meantime, this decision should be concealed, and the messengers
treated well, and detained under pretext that they must wait
until the scat is collected; and that they should be separated,
and placed two and two, as if for the convenience of boarding
them. Thorod and another remained in Thorar's house. There was
a great Yule feast and ale-drinking, to which each brought his
own liquor; for there were many peasants in the village, who all
drank in company together at Yule. There was another village not
far distant, where Thorar's brother-in-law dwelt, who was a rich
and powerful man, and had a grown-up son. The brothers-in-law
intended to pass the Yule in drinking feasts, half of it at the
house of the one and half with the other; and the feast began at
Thorar's house. The brothers-in-law drank together, and Thorod
and the sons of the peasants by themselves; and it was a drinking
match. In the evening words arose, and comparisons between the
men of Sweden and of Norway, and then between their kings both of
former times and at the present, and of the manslaughters and
robberies that had taken place between the countries. Then said
the peasants sons, "If our king has lost most people, his
sheriffs will make it even with the lives of twelve men when they
come from the south after Yule; and ye little know, ye silly
fools, why ye are kept here." Thorod took notice of these words,
and many made jest about it, and scoffed at them and their king.
When the ale began to talk out of the hearts of the Jamtalanders,
what Thorod had before long suspected became evident. The day
after Thorod and his comrade took all their clothes and weapons,
and laid them ready; and at night, when the people were all
asleep, they fled to the forest. The next morning, when the
Jamtalanders were aware of their flight, men set out after them
with dogs to trace them, and found them in a wood in which they
had concealed themselves. They brought them home to a room in
which there was a deep cellar, into which they were thrown, and
the door locked upon them. They had little meat, and only the
clothes they had on them. In the middle of Yule, Thorar, with
all his freeborn men, went to his brother's-in-law, where he was
to be a guest until the last of Yule. Thorar's slaves were to
keep guard upon the cellar, and they were provided with plenty of
liquor; but as they observed no moderation in drinking, they
became towards evening confused in the head with the ale. As
they were quite drunk, those who had to bring meat to the
prisoners in the cellar said among themselves that they should
want for nothing. Thorod amused the slaves by singing to them.
They said he was a clever man, and gave him a large candle that
was lighted; and the slaves who were in went to call the others
to come in; but they were all so confused with the ale, that in
going out they neither locked the cellar nor the room after them.
Now Thorod and his comrades tore up their skin clothes in strips,
knotted them together, made a noose at one end, and threw up the
rope on the floor of the room. It fastened itself around a
chest, by which they tried to haul themselves up. Thorod lifted
up his comrade until he stood on his shoulders, and from thence
scrambled up through the hatchhole. There was no want of ropes
in the chamber, and he threw a rope down to Thorod; but when he
tried to draw him up, he could not move him from the spot. Then
Thorod told him to cast the rope over a cross-beam that was in
the house, make a loop in it, and place as much wood and stones
in the loop as would outweigh him; and the heavy weight went down
into the cellar, and Thorod was drawn up by it. Now they took as
much clothes as they required in the room; and among other things
they took some reindeer hides, out of which they cut sandals, and
bound them under their feet, with the hoofs of the reindeer feet
trailing behind. But before they set off they set fire to a
large corn barn which was close by, and then ran out into the
pitch-dark night. The barn blazed, and set fire to many other
houses in the village. Thorod and his comrade travelled the
whole night until they came to a lonely wood, where they
concealed themselves when it was daylight. In the morning they
were missed. There was chase made with dogs to trace the
footsteps all round the house; but the hounds always came back to
the house, for they had the smell of the reindeer hoofs, and
followed the scent back on the road that the hoofs had left, and
therefore could not find the right direction. Thorod and his
comrade wandered long about in the desert forest, and came one
evening to a small house, and went in. A man and a woman were
sitting by the fire. The man called himself Thorer, and said it
was his wife who was sitting there, and the hut belonged to them.
The peasant asked them to stop there, at which they were well
pleased. He told them that he had come to this place, because he
had fled from the inhabited district on account of a murder.
Thorod and his comrade were well received, and they all got their
supper at the fireside; and then the benches were cleared for
them, and they lay down to sleep, but the fire was still burning
with a clear light. Thorod saw a man come in from another house,
and never had he seen so stout a man. He was dressed in a
scarlet cloak beset with gold clasps, and was of very handsome
appearance. Thorod heard him scold them for taking guests, when
they had scarcely food for themselves. The housewife said, "Be
not angry, brother; seldom such a thing happens; and rather do
them some good too, for thou hast better opportunity to do so
than we." Thorod heard also the stout man named by the name of
Arnliot Gelline, and observed that the woman of the house was his
sister. Thorod had heard speak of Arnliot as the greatest-of
robbers and malefactors. Thorod and his companion slept the
first part of the night, for they were wearied with walking; but
when a third of the night was still to come, Arnliot awoke them,
told them to get up, and make ready to depart. They arose
immediately, put on their clothes, and some breakfast was given
them; and Arnliot gave each of them also a pair of skees.
Arnliot made himself ready to accompany them, and got upon his
skees, which were both broad and long; but scarcely had he swung
his skee-staff before he was a long way past them. He waited for
them, and said they would make no progress in this way, and told
them to stand upon the edge of his skees beside him. They did
so. Thorod stood nearest to him, and held by Arnliot's belt, and
his comrade held by him. Arnliot strode on as quickly with them
both, as if he was alone and without any weight. The following
day they came, towards night, to a lodge for travellers, struck
fire, and prepared some food; but Arnliot told them to throw away
nothing of their food, neither bones nor crumbs. Arnliot took a
silver plate out of the pocket of his cloak, and ate from it.
When they were done eating, Arnliot gathered up the remains of
their meal, and they prepared to go to sleep. In the other end
of the house there was a loft upon cross-beams, and Arnliot and
the others went up, and laid themselves down to sleep. Arnliot
had a large halberd, of which the upper part was mounted with
gold, and the shaft was so long that with his arm stretched out
he could scarcely touch the top of it; and he was girt with a
sword. They had both their weapons and their clothes up in the
loft beside them. Arnliot, who lay outermost in the loft, told
them to be perfectly quiet. Soon after twelve men came to the
house, who were merchants going with their wares to Jamtaland;
and when they came into the house they made a great disturbance,
were merry, and made a great fire before them; and when they took
their supper they cast away all the bones around them. They then
prepared to go to sleep, and laid themselves down upon the
benches around the fire. When they, had been asleep a short
time, a huge witch came into the house; and when she came in, she
carefully swept together all the bones and whatever was of food
kind into a heap, and threw it into her mouth. Then she gripped
the man who was nearest to her, riving and tearing him asunder,
and threw him upon the fire. The others awoke in dreadful
fright, and sprang up, but she took them, and put them one by one
to death, so that only one remained in life. He ran under the
loft calling for help, and if there was any one on the loft to
help him. Arnliot reached down his hand, seized him by the
shoulder, and drew him up into the loft. The witch-wife had
turned towards the fire, and began to eat the men who were
roasting. Now Arnliot stood up, took his halberd, and struck her
between the shoulders, so that the point came out at her breast.
She writhed with it, gave a dreadful shriek, and sprang up. The
halberd slipped from Arnliot's hands, and she ran out with it.
Arnliot then went in; cleared away the dead corpses out of the
house; set the door and the door-posts up, for she had torn them
down in going out; and they slept the rest of the night. When
the day broke they got up; and first they took their breakfast.
When they had got food, Arnliot said, "Now we must part here. Ye
can proceed upon the new-traced path the merchants have made in
coming here yesterday. In the meantime I will seek after my
halberd, and in reward for my labour I will take so much of the
goods these men had with them as I find useful to me. Thou,
Thorod, must take my salutation to King Olaf; and say to him that
he is the man I am most desirous to see, although my salutation
may appear to him of little worth." Then he took his silver
plate, wiped it dry with a cloth, and said, "Give King Olaf this
plate; salute him, and say it is from me." Then they made
themselves ready for their journey, and parted. Thorod went on
with his comrade and the man of the merchants company who had
escaped. He proceeded until he came to King Olaf in the town
(Nidaros); told the king all that had happened, and presented to
him the silver plate. The king said it was wrong that Arnliot
himself had not come to him; "for it is a pity so brave a hero,
and so distinguished a man, should have given himself up to
Thorod remained the rest of the winter with the king, and in
summer got leave to return to Iceland; and he and King Olaf
parted the best of friends.
152. KING OLAF'S LEVY OF MEN.
King Olaf made ready in spring (A.D. 1027) to leave Nidaros, and
many people were assembled about him, both from Throndhjem and
the Northern country; and when he was ready he proceeded first
with his men to More, where he gathered the men of the levy, and
did the same at Raumsdal. He went from thence to South More. He
lay a long time at the Herey Isles waiting for his forces; and he
often held House-things, as many reports came to his ears about
which he thought it necessary to hold councils. In one of these
Things he made a speech, in which he spoke of the loss he
suffered from the Farey islanders. "The scat which they promised
me," he said, "is not forthcoming; and I now intend to send men
thither after it." Then he proposed to different men to
undertake this expedition; but the answer was, that all declined
Then there stood up a stout and very remarkable looking man in
the Thing. He was clad in a red kirtle, had a helmet on his
head, a sword in his belt, and a large halberd in his hands. He
took up the word and said, "In truth here is a great want of men.
Ye have a good king; but ye are bad servants who say no to this
expedition he offers you, although ye have received many gifts of
friendship and tokens of honour from him. I have hitherto been
no friend of the king, and he has been my enemy, and says,
besides, that he has good grounds for being so. Now, I offer,
sire, to go upon this expedition, if no better will undertake
The king answers, "Who is this brave man who replies to my offer?
Thou showest thyself different from the other men here present,
in offering thyself for this expedition from which they excuse
themselves, although I expected they would willingly have
undertaken it; but I do not know thee in the least, and do not
know thy name."
He replies, "My name, sire, is not difficult to know, and I think
thou hast heard my name before. I am Karl Morske."
The king -- "So this is Karl! I have indeed heard thy name
before; and, to say the truth, there was a time when our meeting
must have been such, if I had had my will; that thou shouldst not
have had to tell it now. But I will not show myself worse than
thou, but will join my thanks and my favour to the side of the
help thou hast offered me. Now thou shalt come to me, Karl, and
be my guest to-day; and then we shall consult together about this
business." Karl said it should be so.
153. KARL MORSKE'S STORY.
Karl Morske had been a viking, and a celebrated robber. Often
had the king sent out men against him, and wished to make an end
of him; but Karl, who was a man of high connection, was quick in
all his doing's, and besides a man of great dexterity, and expert
in all feats. Now when Karl had undertaken this business the
king was reconciled to him, gave him his friendship, and let him
be fitted out in the best manner for this expedition. There were
about twenty men in the ship; and the king sent messages to his
friends in the Farey Islands, and recommended him also to Leif
Ossurson and Lagman Gille, for aid and defence; and for this
purpose furnished Karl with tokens of the full powers given him.
Karl set out as soon as he was ready; and as he got a favourable
breeze soon came to the Farey Islands, and landed at Thorshavn,
in the island Straumey. A Thing was called, to which there came
a great number of people. Thrand of Gata came with a great
retinue, and Leif and Gille came there also, with many in their
following. After they had set up their tents, and put themselves
in order, they went to Karl Morske, and saluted each other on
both sides in a friendly way. Then Karl produced King Olaf's
words, tokens, and friendly message to Leif and Gille, who
received them in a friendly manner, invited Karl to come to them,
and promised him to support his errand, and give him all the aid
in their power, for which he thanked them. Soon after came
Thrand of Gata, who also received Karl in the most friendly
manner, and said he was glad to see so able a man coming to their
country on the king's business, which they were all bound to
promote. "I will insist, Karl," says he, "on thy taking-up thy
winter abode with me, together with all those of thy people who
may appear to thee necessary for thy dignity."
Karl replies, that he had already settled to lodge with Leif;
"otherwise I would with great pleasure have accepted thy
"Then fate has given great honour to Leif," says Thrand; "but is
there any other way in which I can be of service?"
Karl replies, that he would do him a great service by collecting
the scat of the eastern island, and of all the northern islands.
Thrand said it was both his duty and interest to assist in the
king's business, and thereupon Thrand returned to his tent; and
at that Thing nothing else worth speaking of occurred. Karl took
up his abode with Leif Ossurson, and was there all winter (A.D.
1028). Leif collected the scat of Straumey Island, and all the
islands south of it. The spring after Thrand of Gata fell ill,
and had sore eyes and other complaints; but he prepared to attend
the Thing, as was his custom. When he came to the Thing he had
his tent put up, and within it another black tent, that the light
might not penetrate. After some days of the Thing had passed,
Leif and Karl came to Thrand's tent, with a great many people,
and found some persons standing outside. They asked if Thrand
was in the tent, and were told he was. Leif told them to bid
Thrand come out, as he and Karl had some business with him. They
came back, and said that Thrand had sore eyes, and could not come
out; "but he begs thee, Leif, to come to him within." Leif told
his comrades to come carefully into the tent, and not to press
forward, and that he who came last in should go out first. Leif
went in first, followed by Karl, and then his comrades; and all
fully armed as if they were going into battle. Leif went into
the black tent and asked if Thrand was there. Thrand answered
and saluted Leif. Leif returned his salutation, and asked if he
had brought the scat from the northern islands, and if he would
pay the scat that had been collected. Thrand replies, that he
had not forgotten what had been spoken of between him and Karl,
and that he would now pay over the scat. "Here is a purse, Leif,
full of silver, which thou canst receive." Leif looked around,
and saw but few people in the tent, of whom some were lying upon
the benches, and a few were sitting up. Then Leif went to
Thrand, and took the purse, and carried it into the outer tent,
where it was light, turned out the money on his shield, groped
about in it with his hand, and told Karl to look at the silver.
When they had looked at it a while, Karl asked Leif what he
thought of the silver. He replied, "I am thinking where the bad
money that is in the north isles can have come from." Thrand
heard this, and said, "Do you not think, Leif, the silver is
good?" "No," says he. Thrand replies, "Our relations, then, are
rascals not to be trusted. I sent them in spring to collect the
scat in the north isles, as I could not myself go anywhere, and
they have allowed themselves to be bribed by the bondes to take
false money, which nobody looks upon as current and good; it is
better, therefore, Leif, to look at this silver which has been
paid me as land-rent." Leif thereupon carried back this silver,
and received another bag, which he carried to Karl, and they
looked over the money together. Karl asked Leif what he thought
of this money. He answered, that it appeared to him so bad that
it would not be taken in payment, however little hope there might
be of getting a debt paid in any other way: "therefore I will not
take this money upon the king's account." A man who had been
lying on the bench now cast the skin coverlet off which he had
drawn over his head, and said, "True is the old word, -- he grows
worse who grows older: so it is with thee, Thrand, who allowest
Karl Morske to handle thy money all the day." This was Gaut the
Red. Thrand sprang up at Gaut's words, and reprimanded his
relation with many angry words. At last he said that Leif should
leave this silver, and take a bag which his own peasants had
brought him in spring. "And although I am weak-sighted, yet my
own hand is the truest test." Another man who was lying on the
bench raised himself now upon his elbow; and this was Thord the
Low. He said, "These are no ordinary reproaches we suffer from
Karl Morske, and therefore he well deserves a reward for them."
Leif in the meantime took the bag, and carried it to Karl; and
when they cast their eyes on the money, Leif said, "We need not
look long at this silver, for here the one piece of money is
better than the other; and this is the money we will have. Let a
man come to be present at the counting it out." Thrand says that
he thought Leif was the fittest man to do it upon his account.
Leif and Karl thereupon went a short way from the tent, sat down.
and counted and weighed the silver. Karl took the helmet off his
head, and received in it the weighed silver. They saw a man
coming to them who had a stick with an axe-head on it in his
hand, a hat low upon his head, and a short green cloak. He was
bare-legged, and had linen breeches on tied at the knee. He laid
his stick down in the field, and went to Karl and said, "Take
care, Karl Morske, that thou does not hurt thyself against my
axe-stick." Immediately a man came running and calls with great
haste to Leif Ossurson, telling him to come as quickly as
possible to Lagman Gille's tent; "for," says he, "Sirurd
Thorlakson ran in just now into the mouth of the tent, and gave
one of Gille's men a desperate wound." Leif rose up instantly,
and went off to Gille's tent along with his men. Karl remained
sitting, and the Norway people stood around in all corners. Gaut
immediately sprang up, and struck with a hand-axe over the heads
of the people, and the stroke came on Karl's head; but the wound
was slight. Thord the Low seized the stick-axe, which lay in the
field at his side, and struck the axe-blade right into Karl's
skull. Many people now streamed out of Thrand's tent. Karl was
carried away dead. Thrand was much grieved at this event, and
offered money-mulcts for his relations; but Leif and Gille, who
had to prosecute the business, would accept no mulct. Sigurd was
banished the country for having wounded Gille's tent comrade, and
Gaut and Thord for the murder of Karl. The Norway people rigged
out the vessel which Karl had with him, and sailed eastward to
Olaf, and gave him these tidings. He was in no pleasant humour
at it, and threatened a speedy vengeance; but it was not allotted
by fate to King Olaf to revenge himself on Thrand and his
relations, because of the hostilities which had begun in Norway,
and which are now to be related. And there is nothing more to be
told of what happened after King Olaf sent men to the Farey
Islands to take scat of them. But great strife arose after
Karl's death in the Farey Islands between the family of Thrand of
Gata and Leif Ossurson, and of which there are great sagas.
154. KING OLAF'S EXPEDITION WITH HIS LEVY.
Now we must proceed with the relation we began before, -- that
King Olaf set out with his men, and raised a levy over the whole
country (A.D. 1027). All lendermen in the North followed him
excepting Einar Tambaskelfer, who sat quietly at home upon his
farm since his return to the country, and did not serve the king.
Einar had great estates and wealth, although he held no fiefs
from the king, and he lived splendidly. King Olaf sailed with
his fleet south around Stad, and many people from the districts
around joined him. King Olaf himself had a ship which he had got
built the winter before (A.D. 1027), and which was called the
Visund (1). It was a very large ship, with a bison's head gilded
all over upon the bow. Sigvat the skald speaks thus of it: --
"Trygvason's Long Serpent bore,
Grim gaping o'er the waves before,
A dragon's head with open throat,
When last the hero was afloat:
His cruise was closed,
As God disposed.
Olaf has raised a bison's head,
Which proudly seems the waves to tread.
While o'er its golden forehead dashing
The waves its glittering horns are washing:
May God dispose
A luckier close."
The king went on to Hordaland; there he heard the news that
Erling Skjalgson had left the country with a great force, and
four or five ships. He himself had a large war-ship, and his
sons had three of twenty rowing-banks each; and they had sailed
westward to England to Canute the Great. Then King Olaf sailed
eastward along the land with a mighty war-force, and he inquired
everywhere if anything was known of Canute's proceedings; and all
agreed in saying he was in England but added that he was fitting
out a levy, and intended coming to Norway. As Olaf had a large
fleet, and could not discover with certainty where he should go
to meet King Canute, and as his people were dissatisfied with
lying quiet in one place with so large an armament, he resolved
to sail with his fleet south to Denmark, and took with him all
the men who were best appointed and most warlike; and he gave
leave to the others to return home. Now the people whom he
thought of little use having gone home, King Olaf had many
excellent and stout men-at-arms besides those who, as before
related, had fled the country, or sat quietly at home; and most
of the chief men and lendermen of Norway were along with him.
(1) Visundr is the buffalo; although the modern bison, or
American animal of that name, might have been known through
the Greenland colonists, who in this reign had visited some
parts of America. -- L.
155. OF KING OLAF AND KING ONUND.
When King Olaf sailed to Denmark, he set his course for Seeland;
and when he came there he made incursions on the land, and began
to plunder. The country people were severely treated; some were
killed, some bound and dragged to the ships. All who could do so
took to flight, and made no opposition. King Olaf committed
there the greatest ravages. While Olaf was in Seeland, the news
came that King Onund Olafson of Sweden had raised a levy, and
fallen upon Scania, and was ravaging there; and then it became
known what the resolution had been that the two kings had taken
at the Gaut river, where they had concluded a union and
friendship, and had bound themselves to oppose King Canute. King
Onund continued his march until he met his brother-in-law King
Olaf. When they met they made proclamation both to their own
people and to the people of the country, that they intended to
conquer Denmark; and asked the support of the people of the
country for this purpose. And it happened, as we find examples
of everywhere, that if hostilities are brought upon the people of
a country not strong enough to withstand, the greatest number
will submit to the conditions by which peace can be purchased at
any rate. So it happened here that many men went into the
service of the kings, and agreed to submit to them. Wheresoever
they went they laid the country all round subjection to them, and
otherwise laid waste all with fire and sword.
Of this foray Sigvat the skald speaks, in a ballad he composed
concerning King Canute the Great: --
"`Canute is on the sea!'
The news is told,
And the Norsemen bold
Repeat it with great glee.
And it runs from mouth to mouth --
`On a lucky day
We came away
From Throndhjem to the south.'
Across the cold East sea,
The Swedish king
His host did bring,
To gain great victory.
King Onund came to fight,
In Seeland's plains,
Against the Danes,
With his steel-clad men so bright.
Canute is on the land;
Side to side
His long-ships ride
Along the yellow strand.
Where waves wash the green banks,
Mast to mast,
All bound fast,
His great fleet lies in ranks."
154. OF KING CANUTE THE GREAT.
King Canute had heard in England that King Olaf of Norway had
called out a levy, and had gone with his forces to Denmark, and
was making great ravages in his dominions there. Canute began to
gather people, and he had speedily collected a great army and a
numerous fleet. Earl Hakon was second in command over the whole.
Sigvat the skald came this summer (A.D. 1027) from the West, from
Ruda (Rouen) in Valland, and with him was a man called Berg.
They had made a merchant voyage there the summer before. Sigvat
had made a little poem about this journey, called "The Western
Traveller's Song," which begins thus: --
"Berg! many a merry morn was pass'd,
When our vessel was made fast,
And we lay on the glittering tide
or Rouen river's western side."
When Sigvat came to England he went directly to King Canute, and
asked his leave to proceed to Norway; for King Canute had
forbidden all merchant vessels to sail until he himself was ready
with his fleet. When Sigvat arrived he went to the house in
which the king was lodged; but the doors were locked, and he had
to stand a long time outside, but when he got admittance he
obtained the permission he desired. He then sang: --
"The way to Jutland's king I sought;
A little patience I was taught.
The doors were shut -- all full within;
The udaller could not get in.
But Gorm's great son did condescend
To his own chamber me to send,
And grant my prayer -- although I'm one
Whose arms the fetters' weight have known."
When Sigvat became aware that King Canute was equipping an
armament against King Olaf, and knew what a mighty force King
Canute had, he made these lines: --
"The mighty Canute, and Earl Hakon,
Have leagued themselves, and counsel taken
Against King Olaf's life,
And are ready for the strife.
In spite of king and earl, I say,
`I love him well -- may he get away:'
On the Fields, wild and dreary,
With him I'd live, and ne'er be weary."
Sigvat made many other songs concerning this expedition of Canute
and Hakon. He made this among others: --
"`Twas not the earl's intention then
'Twixt Olaf and the udalmen
Peace to establish, and the land
Upright to hold with Northman's hand;
But ever with deceit and lies
Eirik's descendant, Hakon, tries
To make ill-will and discontent,
Till all the udalmen are bent
Against King Olaf's rule to rise."
157. OF KING CANUTE'S SHIP THE DRAGON.
Canute the Great was at last ready with his fleet, and left the
land; and a vast number of men he had, and ships frightfully
large. He himself had a dragon-ship, so large that it had sixty
banks of rowers, and the head was gilt all over. Earl Hakon had
another dragon of forty banks, and it also had a gilt figure-
head. The sails of both were in stripes of blue, red, and green,
and the vessels were painted all above the water-stroke; and all
that belonged to their equipment was most splendid. They had
also many other huge ships remarkably well fitted out, and grand.
Sigvat the skald talks of this in his song on Canute: --
"Canute is out beneath the sky --
Canute of the clear blue eye!
The king is out on the ocean's breast,
Leading his grand fleet from the West.
On to the East the ship-masts glide,
Glancing and bright each long-ship's side.
The conqueror of great Ethelred,
Canute, is there, his foemen's dread:
His dragon with her sails of blue,
All bright and brilliant to the view,
High hoisted on the yard arms wide,
Carries great Canute o'er the tide.
Brave is the royal progress -- fast
The proud ship's keel obeys the mast,
Dashes through foam, and gains the land,
Raising a surge on Limfjord's strand."
It is related that King Canute sailed with this vast force from
England, and came with all his force safely to Denmark, where he
went into Limfjord, and there he found gathered besides a large
army of the men of the country.
158. HARDAKNUT TAKEN TO BE KING IN DENMARK.
Earl Ulf Sprakalegson had been set as protector over Denmark when
King Canute went to England, and the king had intrusted his son
Hardaknut in the earl's hands. This took place the summer before
(A.D. 1026), as we related. But the earl immediately gave it out
that King Canute had, at parting, made known to him his will and
desire that the Danes should take his son Hardaknut as king over
the Danish dominions. "On that account," says the earl, "he gave
the matter into our hands; as I, and many other chiefs and
leading men here in the country, have often complained to King
Canute of the evil consequences to the country of being without a
king, and that former kings thought it honour and power enough to
rule over the Danish kingdom alone; and in the times that are
past many kings have ruled over this kingdom. But now there are
greater difficulties than have ever been before; for we have been
so fortunate hitherto as to live without disturbance from foreign
kings, but now we hear the king of Norway is going to attack us,
to which is added the fear of the people that the Swedish king
will join him; and now King Canute is in England." The earl then
produced King Canute's letter and seal, confirming all that the
earl asserted. Many other chiefs supported this business; and in
consequence of all these persuasions the people resolved to take
Hardaknut as king, which was done at the same Thing. The Queen
Emma had been principal promoter of this determination; for she
had got the letter to be written, and provided with the seal,
having cunningly got hold of the king's signet; but from him it
was all concealed. Now when Hardaknut and Earl Ulf heard for
certain that King Olaf was come from Norway with a large army,
they went to Jutland, where the greatest strength of the Danish
kingdom lies, sent out message-tokens, and summoned to them a
great force; but when they heard the Swedish king was also come
with his army, they thought they would not have strength enough
to give battle to both, and therefore kept their army together in
Jutland, and resolved to defend that country against the kings.
The whole of their ships they assembled in Limfjord, and waited
thus for King Canute. Now when they heard that King Canute had
come from the West to Limfjord they sent men to him, and to Queen
Emma, and begged her to find out if the king was angry at them or
not, and to let them know. The queen talked over the matter with
him, and said, "Your son Hardaknut will pay the full mulct the
king may demand, if he has done anything which is thought to be
against the king." He replies, that Hardaknut has not done this
of his own judgement. "And therefore," says he, "it has turned
out as might have been expected, that when he, a child, and
without understanding, wanted to be called king, the country,
when any evil came and an enemy appeared, must be conquered by
foreign princes, if our might had not come to his aid. If he
will have any reconciliation with me let him come to me, and lay
down the mock title of king he has given himself." The queen
sent these very words to Hardaknut, and at the same time she
begged him not to decline coming; for, as she truly observed, he
had no force to stand against his father. When this message came
to Hardaknut he asked the advice of the earl and other chief
people who were with him; but it was soon found that when the
people heard King Canute the Old was arrived they all streamed to
him, and seemed to have no confidence but in him alone. Then
Earl Ulf and his fellows saw they had but two roads to take;
either to go to the king and leave all to his mercy, or to fly
the country. All pressed Hardaknut to go to his father, which
advice he followed. When they met he fell at his father's feet,
and laid his seal, which accompanied the kingly title, on his
knee. King Canute took Hardaknut by the hand, and placed him in
as high a seat as he used to sit in before. Earl UIf sent his
son Svein, who was a sister's son of King Canute, and the same
age as Hardaknut, to the king. He prayed for grace and
reconciliation for his father, and offered himself as hostage for
the earl. King Canute ordered him to tell the earl to assemble
his men and ships, and come to him, and then they would talk of
reconciliation. The earl did so.
159. FORAY IN SCANIA.
When King Olaf and King Onund heard that King Canute was come
from the West, and also that he had a vast force, they sailed
east to Scania, and allowed themselves to ravage and burn in the
districts there, and then proceeded eastward along the land to
the frontier of Sweden. As soon as the country people heard that
King Canute was come from the West, no one thought of going into
the service of the two kings.
Now the kings sailed eastward along the coast, and brought up in
a river called Helga, and remained there some time. When they
heard that King Canute was coming eastward with his forces
against them, they held a council; and the result was, that King
Olaf with his people went up the country to the forest, and to
the lake out of which the river Helga flows. There at the
riverhead they made a dam of timber and turf, and dammed in the
lake. They also dug a deep ditch, through which they led several
waters, so that the lake waxed very high. In the river-bed they
laid large logs of timber. They were many days about this work,
and King Olaf had the management of this piece of artifice; but
King Onund had only to command the fleet and army. When King
Canute heard of the proceedings of the two kings, and of the
damage they had done to his dominions, he sailed right against
them to where they lay in Helga river. He had a War-force which
was one half greater than that of both the kings together.
Sigvat speaks of these things: --
"The king, who shields
His Jutland fields
From scaith or harm
By foeman's arm,
Will not allow
Wild plundering now:
`The greatest he,
On land or sea.'"
160. BATTLE IN HELGA RIVER.
One day, towards evening, King Onund's spies saw King Canute
coming sailing along, and he was not far off. Then King Onund
ordered the war-horns to sound; on which his people struck their
tents, put on their weapons, rowed out of the harbour and east
round the land, bound their ships together, and prepared for
battle. King Onund made his spies run up the country to look for
King Olaf, and tell him the news. Then King Olaf broke up the
dam, and let the river take its course. King Olaf travelled down
in the night to his ships. When King Canute came outside the
harbour, he saw the forces of the kings ready for battle. He
thought that it would be too late in the day to begin the fight
by the time his forces could be ready; for his fleet required a
great deal of room at sea, and there was a long distance between
the foremost of his ships and the hindmost, and between those
outside and those nearest the land, and there was but little
wind. Now, as Canute saw that the Swedes and Norwegians had
quitted the harbour, he went into it with as many ships as it
could hold; but the main strength of the fleet lay without the
harbour. In the morning, when it was light, a great part of the
men went on shore; some for amusement, some to converse with the
people of other ships. They observed nothing until the water
came rushing over them like a waterfall, carrying huge trees,
which drove in among their ships, damaging all they struck; and
the water covered all the fields. The men on shore perished, and
many who were in the ships. All who could do it cut their
cables; so that the ships were loose, and drove before the
stream, and were scattered here and there. The great dragon,
which King Canute himself was in, drove before the stream; and as
it could not so easily be turned with oars, drove out among
Olaf's and Onund's ships. As they knew the ship, they laid her
on board on all quarters. But the ship was so high in the hull,
as if it were a castle, and had besides such a numerous and
chosen crew on board, well armed and exercised, that it was not
easy to attack her. After a short time also Earl Ulf came up
with his fleet; and then the battle began, and King Canute's
fleet gathered together from all quarters. But the kings Olaf
and Onund, seeing they had for this time got all the victory that
fate permitted them to gain, let their ships retreat, cast
themselves loose from King Canute's ship, and the fleets
separated. But as the attack had not been made as King Canute
had determined, he made no further attempt; and the kings on each
side arranged their fleets and put their ships in order. When
the fleets were parted, and each sailing its course, Olaf and
Onund looked over their forces, and found they had suffered no
loss of men. In the meantime they saw that if they waited until
King Canute got his large fleet in order to attack them, the
difference of force was so great that for them there was little
chance of victory. It was also evident that if the battle was
renewed, they must suffer a great loss of men. They took the
resolution, therefore, to row with the whole fleet eastward along
the coast. Observing that King Canute did not pursue them, they
raised up their masts and set sail. Ottar Svarte tells thus of
it in the poem he composed upon King Canute the Great: --
"The king, in battle fray,
Drove the Swedish host away:
The wolf did not miss prey,
Nor the raven on that day.
Great Canute might deride
Two kings if he had pride,
For at Helga river's side
They would not his sword abide."
Thord Sjarekson also sang these lines in his death song of King
"King Olaf, Agder's lord,
Ne'er shunned the Jutland king,
But with his blue-edged sword
Broke many a panzer ring.
King Canute was not slow:
King Onund filled the plain
With dead, killed by his bow:
The wolf howled o'er the slain."
161. KING OLAF AND KING ONUND'S PLANS.
King Olaf and King Onund sailed eastward to the Swedish king's
dominions; and one day, towards evening, landed at a place called
Barvik, where they lay all night. But then it was observed of
the Swedes that they were home-sick; for the greater part of
their forces sailed eastward along the land in the night, and did
not stop their course until they came home to their houses. Now
when King Onund observed this he ordered, as soon as the day
dawned, to sound the signal for a House-thing; and the whole
people went on shore, and the Thing sat down. Then King Onund
took up the word, and spake thus: "So it is, King Olaf, that, as
you know, we have been assembled in summer, and have forayed wide
around in Denmark, and have gained much booty, but no land. I
had 350 vessels, and now have not above 100 remaining with me.
Now it appears to me we can make no greater progress than we have
made, although you have still the 60 vessels which have followed
you the whole summer. It therefore appears to me best that we
come back to my kingdom; for it is always good to drive home with
the wagon safe. In this expedition we have won something, and
lost nothing. Now I will offer you, King Olaf, to come with me,
and we shall remain assembled during the winter. Take as much of
my kingdom as you will, so that you and the men who follow you
may support yourselves well; and when spring comes let us take
such measures as we find serviceable. If you, however, will
prefer to travel across our country, and go overland to Norway,
it shall be free for you to do so."
King Olaf thanked King Onund for his friendly offer. "But if I
may advise," says he, "then we should take another resolution,
and keep together the forces we have still remaining. I had in
the first of summer, before I left Norway, 350 ships; but when I
left the country I chose from among the whole war-levy those I
thought to be the best, and with them I manned 60 ships; and
these I still have. Now it appears to me that the part of your
war-force which has now run away is the most worthless, and of
least resistance; but now I see here all your chiefs and leaders,
and I know well that the people who belong to the court-troops
(1) are by far the best suited to carry arms. We have here
chosen men and superb ships, and we can very well lie all winter
in our ships, as viking's custom is. But Canute cannot lie long
in Helga river; for the harbour will not hold so many vessels as
he has. If he steers eastward after us, we can escape from him,
and then people will soon gather to us; but if he return to the
harbours where his fleet can lie, I know for certain that the
desire to return home will not be less in his army than in ours.
I think, also, we have ravaged so widely in summer, that the
villagers, both in Scania and in Halland, know well whose favour
they have to seek. Canute's army will thus be dispersed so
widely, that it is uncertain to whom fate may at the last give
the victory; but let us first find out what resolution he takes."
Thus King Olaf ended his speech, and it found much applause, and
his advice was followed. Spies were sent into King Canute's
army, and both the kings Olaf and Onund remained lying where they
(1) The thingmen, or hired body-guard attending the court. -- L.
162. OF KING CANUTE AND EARL ULF.
When King Canute saw that the kings of Norway and Sweden steered
eastward with their forces along the coast, he sent men to ride
night and day on the land to follow their movements. Some spies
went forward, others returned; so that King Canute had news every
day of their progress. He had also spies always in their army.
Now when he heard that a great part of the fleet had sailed away
from the kings, he turned back with his forces to Seeland, and
lay with his whole fleet in the Sound; so that a part lay on the
Scania side, and a part on the Seeland side. King Canute
himself, the day before Michaelmas, rode with a great retinue to
Roeskilde. There his brother-in-law, Earl Ulf, had prepared a
great feast for him. The earl was the most agreeable host, but
the king was silent and sullen. The earl talked to him in every
way to make him cheerful, and brought forward everything which he
thought would amuse him; but the king remained stern, and
speaking little. At last the earl proposed to him a game at
chess, which he agreed to; and a chess-board was produced, and
they played together. Earl Ulf was hasty in temper, stiff, and
in nothing yielding; but everything he managed went on well in
his hands; and he was a great warrior, about whom there are many
stories. He was the most powerful man in Denmark next to the
king. Earl Ulf's sister Gyda was married to Earl Gudin (Godwin)
Ulfnadson; and their sons were Harald king of England, and Earl
Toste, Earl Valthiof, Earl Morukare, and Earl Svein. Gyda was
the name of their daughter, who was married to the English king
Edward the Good.
163. OF THE EARL'S MURDER.
When they had played a while the king made a false move, at which
the earl took a knight from the king; but the king set the piece
again upon the board, and told the earl to make another move; but
the earl grew angry, threw over the chess-board, stood up, and
went away. The king said, "Runnest thou away, Ulf the coward?"
The earl turned round at the door and said, "Thou wouldst have
run farther at Helga river, if thou hadst come to battle there.
Thou didst not call me Ulf the coward, when I hastened to thy
help while the Swedes were beating thee like a dog." The earl
then went out, and went to bed. A little later the king also
went to bed. The following morning while the king was putting on
his clothes he said to his footboy, "Go thou to Earl Ulf, and
The lad went, was away a while, and then came back.
The king said, "Hast thou killed the earl?"
"I did not kill him, for he was gone to Saint Lucius' church."
There was a man called Ivar White, a Norwegian by birth, who was
the king's courtman and chamberlain. The king said to him, "Go
thou and kill the earl."
Ivar went to the church, and in at the choir, and thrust his
sword through the earl, who died on the spot. Then Ivar went to
the king, with the bloody sword in his hand.
The king said, "Hast thou killed the earl?"
"I have killed him," says he.
"Thou didst well."
After the earl was killed the monks closed the church, and locked
the doors. When that was told the king he sent a message to the
monks, ordering them to open the church and sing high mass. They
did as the king ordered; and when the king came to the church he
bestowed on it great property, so that it had a large domain, by
which that place was raised very high; and these lands have since
always belonged to it. King Canute rode down to his ships, and
lay there till late in harvest with a very large army.
164. OF KING OLAF AND THE SWEDES.
When King Olaf and King Onund heard that King Canute had sailed
to the Sound, and lay there with a great force, the kings held a
House-thing, and spoke much about what resolution they should
adopt. King Olaf wished they should remain there with all the
fleet, and see what King Canute would at last resolve to do. But
the Swedes held it to be unadvisable to remain until the frost
set in, and so it was determined; and King Onund went home with
all his army, and King Olaf remained lying after them.
165. OF EGIL AND TOFE.
While King Olaf lay there, he had frequently conferences and
consultations with his people. One night Egil Halson and Tofe
Valgautson had the watch upon the king's ship. Tofe came from
West Gautland, and was a man of high birth. While they sat on
watch they heard much lamentation and crying among the people who
had been taken in the war, and who lay bound on the shore at
night. Tofe said it made him ill to hear such distress, and
asked Egil to go with him, and let loose these people. This work
they set about, cut the cords, and let the people escape, and
they looked upon it as a piece of great friendship; but the king
was so enraged at it, that they themselves were in the greatest
danger. When Egil afterwards fell sick the king for a long time
would not visit him, until many people entreated it of him. It
vexed Egil much to have done anything the king was angry at, and
he begged his forgiveness. The king now dismissed his wrath
against Egil, laid his hands upon the side on which Egil's pain
was, and sang a prayer; upon which the pain ceased instantly, and
Egil grew better. Tofe came, after entreaty, into reconciliation
with the king, on condition that he should exhort his father
Valgaut to come to the king. He was a heathen; but after
conversation with the king he went over to Christianity, and died
instantly when he was baptized.
166. TREACHERY TOWARDS KING OLAF.
King Olaf had now frequent conferences with his people, and asked
advice from them, and from his chiefs, as to what he should
determine upon. But there was no unanimity among them -- some
considering that unadvisable which others considered highly
serviceable; and there was much indecision in their councils.
King Canute had always spies in King Olaf's army, who entered
into conversation with many of his men, offering them presents
and favour on account of King Canute. Many allowed themselves to
be seduced, and gave promises of fidelity, and to be King
Canute's men, and bring the country into his hands if he came to
Norway. This was apparent, afterwards, of many who at first kept
it concealed. Some took at once money bribes, and others were
promised money afterwards; and a great many there were who had
got great presents of money from him before: for it may be said
with truth of King Canute, that every man who came to him, and
who he thought had the spirit of a man and would like his favour,
got his hands full of gifts and money. On this account he was
very popular, although his generosity was principally shown to
foreigners, and was greatest the greater distance they came from.
167. KING OLAF'S CONSULTATIONS.
King Olaf had often conferences and meetings with his people, and
asked their counsel; but as he observed they gave different
opinions, he had a suspicion that there must be some who spoke
differently from what they really thought advisable for him, and
he was thus uncertain if all gave him due fidelity in council.
Some pressed that with the first fair wind they should sail to
the Sound, and so to Norway. They said the Danes would not dare
to attack them, although they lay with so great a force right in
the way. But the king was a man of too much understanding not to
see that this was impracticable. He knew also that Olaf
Trygvason had found it quite otherwise, as to the Danes not
daring to fight, when he with a few people went into battle
against a great body of them. The king also knew that in King
Canute's army there were a great many Norwegians; therefore he
entertained the suspicion that those who gave this advice were
more favourable to King Canute than to him. King Olaf came at
last to the determination, from all these considerations, that
the people who would follow him should make themselves ready to
proceed by land across Gautland, and so to Norway. "But our
ships," said he, "and all things that we cannot take with us, I
will send eastward to the Swedish king's dominions, and let them
be taken care of for us there."
168. HAREK OF THJOTTA'S VOYAGE.
Harek of Thjotta replied thus to the king's speech: "It is
evident that I cannot travel on foot to Norway. I am old and
heavy, and little accustomed to walking. Besides, I am unwilling
to part with my ship; for on that ship and its apparel I have
bestowed so much labour, that it would go much against my
inclination to put her into the hands of my enemies." The king
said, "Come along with us, Harek, and we shall carry thee when
thou art tired of walking." Then Harek sang these lines :--
"I'11 mount my ocean steed,
And o'er the sea I'll speed;
Forests and hills are not for me, --
I love the moving sea,
Though Canute block the Sound,
Rather than walk the ground,
And leave my ship, I'll see
What my ship will do for me."
Then King Olaf let everything be put in order for the journey.
The people had their walking clothing and weapons, but their
other clothes and effects they packed upon such horses as they
could get. Then he sent off people to take his ships east to
Calmar. There he had the vessels laid up, and the ships' apparel
and other goods taken care of. Harek did as he had said, and
waited for a wind, and then sailed west to Scania, until, about
the decline of the day, he came with a fresh and fair wind to the
eastward of Holar. There he let the sail and the vane, and flag
and mast be taken down, and let the upper works of the ship be
covered over with some grey tilt-canvas, and let a few men sit at
the oars in the fore part and aft, but the most were sitting low
down in the vessel.
When Canute's watchmen saw the ship, they talked with each other
about what ship it might be, and made the guess that it must be
one loaded with herrings or salt, as they only saw a few men at
the oars; and the ship, besides, appeared to them grey, and
wanting tar, as if burnt up by the sun, and they saw also that it
was deeply loaded. Now when Harek came farther through the
Sound, and past the fleet, he raised the mast, hoisted sail, and
set up his gilded vane. The sail was white as snow, and in it
were red and blue stripes of cloth interwoven. When the king's
men saw the ship sailing in this state, they told the king that
probably King Olaf had sailed through them. But King Canute
replies, that King Olaf was too prudent a man to sail with a
single ship through King Canute's fleet, and thought it more
likely to be Harek of Thjotta, or the like of him. Many believed
the truth to be that King Canute knew of this expedition of
Harek, and that it would not have succeeded so if they had not
concluded a friendship beforehand with each other; which seemed
likely, after King Canute's and Harek's friendly understanding
became generally known.
Harek made this song as he sailed northward round the isle of
"The widows of Lund may smile through their tears,
The Danish girls may have their jeers;
They may laugh or smile,
But outside their isle
Old Harek still on to his North land steers."
Harek went on his way, and never stopped till he came north to
Halogaland, to his own house in Thjotta.
169. KING OLAF'S COURSE FROM SVITHJOD.
When King Olaf began his journey, he came first into Smaland, and
then into West Gautland. He marched quietly and peaceably, and
the country people gave him all assistance on his journey. Thus
he proceeded until he came into Viken, and north through Viken to
Sarpsborg, where he remained, and ordered a winter abode to be
prepared (A.D. 1028). Then he gave most of the chiefs leave to
return home, but kept the lendermen by him whom he thought the
most serviceable. There were with him also all the sons of Arne
Arnmodson, and they stood in great favour with the king. Geller
Thorkelson, who the summer before had come from Iceland, also
came there to the king, as before related.
170. OF SIGVAT THE SKALD.
Sigvat the skald had long been in King Olaf's household, as
before related, and the king made him his marshal. Sigvat had no
talent for speaking in prose; but in skaldcraft he was so
practised, that the verses came as readily from his tongue as if
he were speaking in usual language. He had made a mercantile
journey to Normandy, and in the course of it had come to England,
where he met King Canute, and obtained permission from him to
sail to Norway, as before related. When he came to Norway he
proceeded straight to King Olaf, and found him at Sarpsborg. He
presented himself before the king just as he was sitting down to
table. Sigvat saluted him. The king looked at Sigvat and was
silent. Then Sigvat sang: --
"Great king! thy marshal is come home,
No more by land or sea to roam,
But by thy side
Still to abide.
Great king! what seat here shall be take
For the king's honour -- not his sake?
For all seats here
To me are dear."
Then was verified the old saying, that "many are the ears of a
king;" for King Olaf had heard all about Sigvat's journey, and
that he had spoken with Canute. He says to Sigvat, "I do not
know if thou art my marshal, or hast become one of Canute's men."
Sigvat said: --
"Canute, whose golden gifts display
A generous heart, would have me stay,
Service in his great court to take,
And my own Norway king forsake.
Two masters at a time, I said,
Were one too many for men bred
Where truth and virtue, shown to all,
Make all men true in Olaf's hall."
Then King Olaf told Sigvat to take his seat where he before used
to sit; and in a short time Sigvat was in as high favour with the
king as ever.
171. OF ERLING SKJALGSON AND HIS SONS.
Erling Skjalgson and all his sons had been all summer in King
Canute's army, in the retinue of Earl Hakon. Thorer Hund was
also there, and was in high esteem. Now when King Canute heard
that King Olaf had gone overland to Norway, he discharged his
army, and gave all men leave to go to their winter abodes. There
was then in Denmark a great army of foreigners, both English,
Norwegians, and men of other countries, who had joined the
expedition in summer. In autumn (A.D. 1027) Erling Skjalgson
went to Norway with his men, and received great presents from
King Canute at parting; but Thorer Hund remained behind in King
Canute's court. With Erling went messengers from King Canute
well provided with money; and in winter they travelled through
all the country, paying the money which King Canute had promised
to many in autumn for their assistance. They gave presents in
money, besides, to many whose friendship could be purchased for
King Canute. They received much assistance in their travels from
Erling. In this way it came to pass that many turned their
support to King Canute, promised him their services, and agreed
to oppose King Olaf. Some did this openly, but many more
concealed it from the public. King Olaf heard this news, for
many had something to tell him about it; and the conversation in
the court often turned upon it. Sigvat the skald made a song
upon it: --
"The base traitors ply
With purses of gold,
Wanting to buy
What is not to be sold, --
The king's life and throne
Wanting to buy:
But our souls are our own,
And to hell we'll not hie.
No pleasure in heaven,
As we know full well,
To the traitor is given, --
His soul is his hell."
Often also the conversation turned upon how ill it beseemed Earl
Hakon to raise his hand in arms against King Olaf, who had given
him his life when he fell into the king's power; but Sigvat was a
particular friend of Earl Hakon, and when he heard the earl
spoken against he sang: --
"Our own court people we may blame,
If they take gold to their own shame,
Their king and country to betray.
With those who give it's not the same,
From them we have no faith to claim:
'Tis we are wrong, if we give way."
172. OF KING OLAF'S PRESENTS AT YULE.
King Olaf gave a great feast at Yule, and many great people had
come to him. It was the seventh day of Yule, that the king, with
a few persons, among whom was Sigvat, who attended him day and
night, went to a house in which the king's most precious
valuables were kept. He had, according to his custom, collected
there with great care the valuable presents he was to make on New
Year's eve. There was in the house no small number of gold-
mounted swords; and Sigvat sang: --
"The swords stand there,
All bright and fair, --
Those oars that dip in blood:
If I in favour stood,
I too might have a share.
A sword the skald would gladly take,
And use it for his master's sake:
In favour once he stood,
And a sword has stained in blood."
The king took a sword of which the handle was twisted round with
gold, and the guard was gold-mounted, and gave it to him. It was
a valuable article; but the gift was not seen without envy, as
will appear hereafter.
Immediately after Yule (1028) the king began his journey to the
Uplands; for he had a great many people about him, but had
received no income that autumn from the North country, for there
had been an armament in summer, and the king had laid out all the
revenues he could command; and also he had no vessels with which
he and his people could go to the North. At the same time he had
news from the North, from which he could see that there would be
no safety for him in that quarter, unless he went with a great
force. For these reasons he determined to proceed through the
Uplands, although it was not so long a time since he had been
there in guest-quarters as the law prescribes, and as the kings
usually had the custom of observing in their visits. When he
came to the Uplands the lendermen and the richest bondes invited
him to be their guest, and thus lightened his expenses.
173. OF BJORN THE BAILIFF.
There was a man called Bjorn who was of Gautland family, and a
friend and acquaintance of Queen Astrid, and in some way related
to her. She had given him farm-management and other offices in
the upper part of Hedemark. He had also the management of
Osterdal district. Bjorn was not in esteem with the king, nor
liked by the bondes. It happened in a hamlet which Bjorn ruled
over, that many swine and cattle were missing: therefore Bjorn
ordered a Thing to be called to examine the matter. Such pillage
he attributed chiefly to the people settled in forest-farms far
from other men; by which he referred particularly to those who
dwelt in Osterdal, for that district was very thinly inhabited,
and full of lakes and forest-cleanings, and but in few places was
any great neighbourhood together.
174. OF RAUD'S SONS.
There was a man called Raud who dwelt in Osterdal. His wife was
called Ragnhild; and his sons, Dag and Sigurd, were men of great
talent. They were present at the Thing, made a reply in defence
of the Osterdal people, and removed the accusation from them.
Bjorn thought they were too pert in their answer, and too fine in
their clothes and weapons; and therefore turned his speech
against these brothers, and said it was not unlikely they may
have committed these thefts. They denied it, and the Thing
closed. Soon after King Olaf, with his retinue, came to guest-
quarters in the house of bailiff Bjorn. The matter which had
been before the Thing was then complained of to the king; and
Bjorn said that Raud's sons appeared to him to have committed
these thefts. A messenger was sent for Raud's sons; and when
they appeared before the king he said they had not at all the
appearance of thieves, and acquitted them. Thereupon they
invited the king, with all his retinue, to a three days'
entertainment at their father's; and although Bjorn dissuaded him
from it, the king went. At Raud's there was a very excellent
feast. The king asked Raud what people he and his wife were.
Raud answered that he was originally a Swedish man, rich and of
high birth; "but I ran away with the wife I have ever since had,
and she is a sister of King Hring Dagson." The king then
remembered both their families. He found that father and sons
were men of understanding, and asked them what they could do.
Sigurd said he could interpret dreams, and determine the time of
the day although no heavenly bodies could be seen. The king made
trial of his art, and found it was as Sigurd had said. Dag
stated, as his accomplishment, that he could see the misdeeds and
vices of every man who came under his eye, when he chose to
observe him closely. The king told him to declare what faults of
disposition he saw in the king himself. Dag mentioned a fault
which the king was sensible he really had. Then the king asked
what fault the bailiff Bjorn had. Dag said Bjorn was a thief;
and told also where Bjorn had concealed on his farm the bones,
horns, and hides of the cattle he had stolen in autumn; "for he
committed," said Dag, "all the thefts in autumn which he accuses
other people of." Dag also told the king the places where the
king should go after leaving them. When the king departed from
Raud's house he was accompanied on the way, and presented with
friendly gifts; and Raud's sons remained with the king. The king
went first to Bjorn's, and found there that all Dag had told him
was true. Upon which he drove Bjorn out of the country; and he
had to thank the queen that he preserved life and limbs.
175. THORER'S DEATH.
Thorer, a son of Olver of Eggja, a stepson of Kalf Arnason, and a
sister's son of Thorer Hund, was a remarkably handsome man, stout
and strong. He was at this time eighteen years old; had made a
good marriage in Hedemark, by which he got great wealth; and was
besides one of the most popular of men, and formed to be a chief.
He invited the king and his retinue home to him to a feast. The
king accepted the invitation, went to Thorer's, and was well
received. The entertainment was very splendid; they were
excellently treated, and all that was set before the guests was
of the best that could be got. The king and his people talked
among themselves of the excellence of everything, and knew not
what they should admire the most, -- whether Thorer's house
outside, or the inside furniture, the table service, or the
liquors, or the host who gave them such a feast. But Dag said
little about it. The king used often to speak to Dag, and ask
him about various things; and he had proved the truth of all that
Dag had said, both of things that had happened or were to happen,
and therefore the king had much confidence in what he said. The
king called Dag to him to have a private conversation together,
and spoke to him about many things. Afterwards the king turned
the conversation on Thorer, -- what an excellent man Thorer was,
and what a superb feast he had made for them. Dag answered but
little to this, but agreed it was true what the king said. The
king then asked Dag what disposition or faith he found in Thorer.
Dag replied that he must certainly consider Thorer of a good
disposition, if he be really what most people believe him to be.
The king told him to answer direct what he was asked, and said
that it was his duty to do so. Dag replies, "Then thou must
allow me to determine the punishment if I disclose his faith."
The king replied that he would not submit his decision to another
man, but again ordered Dag to reply to what he asked.
Dag replies, "The sovereign's order goes before all. I find this
disposition in Thorer, as in so many others, that he is too
greedy of money."
The king: "Is he then a thief, or a robber?"
"He is neither."
"What is he then?"
"To win money he is a traitor to his sovereign. He has taken
money from King Canute the Great for thy head."
The king asks, "What proof hast thou of the truth of this?"
Dag: "He has upon his right arm, above the elbow, a thick gold
ring, which King Canute gave him, and which he lets no man see."
This ended their conference, and the king was very wroth. Now as
the king sat at table, and the guests had drunk a while with
great mirth, and Thorer went round to see the guests well served,
the king ordered Thorer to be called to him. He went up before
the table, and laid his hands upon it.
The king asked, "How old a man art thou, Thorer?"
He answered, "I am eighteen years old."
"A stout man thou art for those years, and thou hast been
Then the king took his right hand, and felt it towards the elbow.
Thorer said, "Take care, for I have a boil upon my arm."
The king held his hand there, and felt there was something hard
under it. "Hast thou not heard," said he, "that I am a
physician? Let me see the boil."
As Thorer saw it was of no use to conceal it longer, he took off
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