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Early Kings of Norway by Thomas Carlyle

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Scanned and proofed by Ron Burkey (rburkey@heads-up.com). The text
has been taken from volume 19 of the "Sterling Edition" of Carlyle's
complte works. Italics have been indicated by _underscores_. All
footnotes have been collected as endnotes, with their positions in the
text indicated by bracketed numbers, such as [2]. The pound
(currency) symbol has been replaced by the word "pounds".


by Thomas Carlyle

The Icelanders, in their long winter, had a great habit of writing;
and were, and still are, excellent in penmanship, says Dahlmann. It
is to this fact, that any little history there is of the Norse Kings
and their old tragedies, crimes and heroisms, is almost all due. The
Icelanders, it seems, not only made beautiful letters on their paper
or parchment, but were laudably observant and desirous of accuracy;
and have left us such a collection of narratives (_Sagas_, literally
"Says") as, for quantity and quality, is unexampled among rude
nations. Snorro Sturleson's History of the Norse Kings is built out
of these old Sagas; and has in it a great deal of poetic fire, not a
little faithful sagacity applied in sifting and adjusting these old
Sagas; and, in a word, deserves, were it once well edited, furnished
with accurate maps, chronological summaries, &c., to be reckoned among
the great history-books of the world. It is from these sources,
greatly aided by accurate, learned and unwearied Dahlmann,[1] the
German Professor, that the following rough notes of the early Norway
Kings are hastily thrown together. In Histories of England (Rapin's
excepted) next to nothing has been shown of the many and strong
threads of connection between English affairs and Norse.



Till about the Year of Grace 860 there were no kings in Norway,
nothing but numerous jarls,--essentially kinglets, each presiding over
a kind of republican or parliamentary little territory; generally
striving each to be on some terms of human neighborhood with those
about him, but,--in spite of "_Fylke Things_" (Folk Things, little
parish parliaments), and small combinations of these, which had
gradually formed themselves,--often reduced to the unhappy state of
quarrel with them. Harald Haarfagr was the first to put an end to
this state of things, and become memorable and profitable to his
country by uniting it under one head and making a kingdom of it; which
it has continued to be ever since. His father, Halfdan the Black, had
already begun this rough but salutary process,--inspired by the
cupidities and instincts, by the faculties and opportunities, which
the good genius of this world, beneficent often enough under savage
forms, and diligent at all times to diminish anarchy as the world's
worst savagery, usually appoints in such cases,--conquest, hard
fighting, followed by wise guidance of the conquered;--but it was
Harald the Fairhaired, his son, who conspicuously carried it on and
completed it. Harald's birth-year, death-year, and chronology in
general, are known only by inference and computation; but, by the
latest reckoning, he died about the year 933 of our era, a man of

The business of conquest lasted Harald about twelve years (A.D.
860-872?), in which he subdued also the vikings of the out-islands,
Orkneys, Shetlands, Hebrides, and Man. Sixty more years were given
him to consolidate and regulate what he had conquered, which he did
with great judgment, industry and success. His reign altogether is
counted to have been of over seventy years.

The beginning of his great adventure was of a romantic
character.--youthful love for the beautiful Gyda, a then glorious and
famous young lady of those regions, whom the young Harald aspired to
marry. Gyda answered his embassy and prayer in a distant, lofty
manner: "Her it would not beseem to wed any Jarl or poor creature of
that kind; let him do as Gorm of Denmark, Eric of Sweden, Egbert of
England, and others had done,--subdue into peace and regulation the
confused, contentious bits of jarls round him, and become a king;
then, perhaps, she might think of his proposal: till then, not."
Harald was struck with this proud answer, which rendered Gyda tenfold
more desirable to him. He vowed to let his hair grow, never to cut or
even to comb it till this feat were done, and the peerless Gyda his
own. He proceeded accordingly to conquer, in fierce battle, a Jarl or
two every year, and, at the end of twelve years, had his unkempt (and
almost unimaginable) head of hair clipt off,--Jarl Rognwald
(_Reginald_) of More, the most valued and valuable of all his
subject-jarls, being promoted to this sublime barber function;--after
which King Harald, with head thoroughly cleaned, and hair grown, or
growing again to the luxuriant beauty that had no equal in his day,
brought home his Gyda, and made her the brightest queen in all the
north. He had after her, in succession, or perhaps even
simultaneously in some cases, at least six other wives; and by Gyda
herself one daughter and four sons.

Harald was not to be considered a strict-living man, and he had a
great deal of trouble, as we shall see, with the tumultuous ambition
of his sons; but he managed his government, aided by Jarl Rognwald and
others, in a large, quietly potent, and successful manner; and it
lasted in this royal form till his death, after sixty years of it.

These were the times of Norse colonization; proud Norsemen flying into
other lands, to freer scenes,--to Iceland, to the Faroe Islands, which
were hitherto quite vacant (tenanted only by some mournful hermit,
Irish Christian _fakir_, or so); still more copiously to the Orkney
and Shetland Isles, the Hebrides and other countries where Norse
squatters and settlers already were. Settlement of Iceland, we say;
settlement of the Faroe Islands, and, by far the notablest of all,
settlement of Normandy by Rolf the Ganger (A.D. 876?).[2]

Rolf, son of Rognwald,[3] was lord of three little islets far north,
near the Fjord of Folden, called the Three Vigten Islands; but his
chief means of living was that of sea robbery; which, or at least
Rolf's conduct in which, Harald did not approve of. In the Court of
Harald, sea-robbery was strictly forbidden as between Harald's own
countries, but as against foreign countries it continued to be the one
profession for a gentleman; thus, I read, Harald's own chief son, King
Eric that afterwards was, had been at sea in such employments ever
since his twelfth year. Rolf's crime, however, was that in coming
home from one of these expeditions, his crew having fallen short of
victual, Rolf landed with them on the shore of Norway, and in his
strait, drove in some cattle there (a crime by law) and proceeded to
kill and eat; which, in a little while, he heard that King Harald was
on foot to inquire into and punish; whereupon Rolf the Ganger speedily
got into his ships again, got to the coast of France with his sea-
robbers, got infeftment by the poor King of France in the fruitful,
shaggy desert which is since called Normandy, land of the Northmen;
and there, gradually felling the forests, banking the rivers, tilling
the fields, became, during the next two centuries, Wilhelmus
Conquaestor, the man famous to England, and momentous at this day, not
to England alone, but to all speakers of the English tongue, now
spread from side to side of the world in a wonderful degree. Tancred
of Hauteville and his Italian Normans, though important too, in Italy,
are not worth naming in comparison. This is a feracious earth, and
the grain of mustard-seed will grow to miraculous extent in some

Harald's chief helper, counsellor, and lieutenant was the
above-mentioned Jarl Rognwald of More, who had the honor to cut
Harald's dreadful head of hair. This Rognwald was father of
Turf-Einar, who first invented peat in the Orkneys, finding the wood
all gone there; and is remembered to this day. Einar, being come to
these islands by King Harald's permission, to see what he could do in
them,--islands inhabited by what miscellany of Picts, Scots, Norse
squatters we do not know,--found the indispensable fuel all wasted.
Turf-Einar too may be regarded as a benefactor to his kind. He was,
it appears, a bastard; and got no coddling from his father, who
disliked him, partly perhaps, because "he was ugly and blind of an
eye,"--got no flattering even on his conquest of the Orkneys and
invention of peat. Here is the parting speech his father made to him
on fitting him out with a "long-ship" (ship of war, "dragon-ship,"
ancient seventy-four), and sending him forth to make a living for
himself in the world: "It were best if thou never camest back, for I
have small hope that thy people will have honor by thee; thy mother's
kin throughout is slavish."

Harald Haarfagr had a good many sons and daughters; the daughters he
married mostly to jarls of due merit who were loyal to him; with the
sons, as remarked above, he had a great deal of trouble. They were
ambitious, stirring fellows, and grudged at their finding so little
promotion from a father so kind to his jarls; sea-robbery by no means
an adequate career for the sons of a great king, two of them, Halfdan
Haaleg (Long-leg), and Gudrod Ljome (Gleam), jealous of the favors won
by the great Jarl Rognwald. surrounded him in his house one night,
and burnt him and sixty men to death there. That was the end of
Rognwald, the invaluable jarl, always true to Haarfagr; and
distinguished in world history by producing Rolf the Ganger, author of
the Norman Conquest of England, and Turf-Einar, who invented peat in
the Orkneys. Whether Rolf had left Norway at this time there is no
chronology to tell me. As to Rolf's surname, "Ganger," there are
various hypotheses; the likeliest, perhaps, that Rolf was so weighty a
man no horse (small Norwegian horses, big ponies rather) could carry
him, and that he usually walked, having a mighty stride withal, and
great velocity on foot.

One of these murderers of Jarl Rognwald quietly set himself in
Rognwald's place, the other making for Orkney to serve Turf-Einar in
like fashion. Turf-Einar, taken by surprise, fled to the mainland;
but returned, days or perhaps weeks after, ready for battle, fought
with Halfdan, put his party to flight, and at next morning's light
searched the island and slew all the men he found. As to Halfdan
Long-leg himself, in fierce memory of his own murdered father,
Turf-Einar "cut an eagle on his back," that is to say, hewed the ribs
from each side of the spine and turned them out like the wings of a
spread-eagle: a mode of Norse vengeance fashionable at that time in
extremely aggravated cases!

Harald Haarfagr, in the mean time, had descended upon the Rognwald
scene, not in mild mood towards the new jarl there; indignantly
dismissed said jarl, and appointed a brother of Rognwald (brother,
notes Dahlmann), though Rognwald had left other sons. Which done,
Haarfagr sailed with all speed to the Orkneys, there to avenge that
cutting of an eagle on the human back on Turf-Einar's part.
Turf-Einar did not resist; submissively met the angry Haarfagr, said
he left it all, what had been done, what provocation there had been,
to Haarfagr's own equity and greatness of mind. Magnanimous Haarfagr
inflicted a fine of sixty marks in gold, which was paid in ready money
by Turf-Einar, and so the matter ended.



In such violent courses Haarfagr's sons, I know not how many of them,
had come to an untimely end; only Eric, the accomplished sea-rover,
and three others remained to him. Among these four sons, rather
impatient for property and authority of their own, King Harald, in his
old days, tried to part his kingdom in some eligible and equitable
way, and retire from the constant press of business, now becoming
burdensome to him. To each of them he gave a kind of kingdom; Eric,
his eldest son, to be head king, and the others to be feudatory under
him, and pay a certain yearly contribution; an arrangement which did
not answer well at all. Head-King Eric insisted on his tribute;
quarrels arose as to the payment, considerable fighting and
disturbance, bringing fierce destruction from King Eric upon many
valiant but too stubborn Norse spirits, and among the rest upon all
his three brothers, which got him from the Norse populations the
surname of _Blod-axe_, "Eric Blood-axe," his title in history. One of
his brothers he had killed in battle before his old father's life
ended; this brother was Bjorn, a peaceable, improving, trading
economic Under-king, whom the others mockingly called "Bjorn the
Chapman." The great-grandson of this Bjorn became extremely
distinguished by and by as _Saint_ Olaf. Head-King Eric seems to have
had a violent wife, too. She was thought to have poisoned one of her
other brothers-in-law. Eric Blood-axe had by no means a gentle life
of it in this world, trained to sea-robbery on the coasts of England,
Scotland, Ireland and France, since his twelfth year.

Old King Fairhair, at the age of seventy, had another son, to whom was
given the name of Hakon. His mother was a slave in Fairhair's house;
slave by ill-luck of war, though nobly enough born. A strange
adventure connects this Hakon with England and King Athelstan, who was
then entering upon his great career there. Short while after this
Hakon came into the world, there entered Fairhair's palace, one
evening as Fairhair sat Feasting, an English ambassador or messenger,
bearing in his hand, as gift from King Athelstan, a magnificent sword,
with gold hilt and other fine trimmings, to the great Harald, King of
Norway. Harald took the sword, drew it, or was half drawing it,
admiringly from the scabbard, when the English excellency broke into a
scornful laugh, "Ha, ha; thou art now the feudatory of my English
king; thou hast accepted the sword from him, and art now his man!"
(acceptance of a sword in that manner being the symbol of investiture
in those days.) Harald looked a trifle flurried, it is probable; but
held in his wrath, and did no damage to the tricksy Englishman. He
kept the matter in his mind, however, and next summer little Hakon,
having got his weaning done,--one of the prettiest, healthiest little
creatures,--Harald sent him off, under charge of "Hauk" (Hawk so
called), one of his Principal, warriors, with order, "Take him to
England," and instructions what to do with him there. And
accordingly, one evening, Hauk, with thirty men escorting, strode into
Athelstan's high dwelling (where situated, how built, whether with
logs like Harald's, I cannot specifically say), into Athelstan's high
presence, and silently set the wild little cherub upon Athelstan's
knee. "What is this?" asked Athelstan, looking at the little cherub.
"This is King Harald's son, whom a serving-maid bore to him, and whom
he now gives thee as foster-child!" Indignant Athelstan drew his
sword, as if to do the gift a mischief; but Hauk said, "Thou hast
taken him on thy knee [common symbol of adoption]; thou canst kill him
if thou wilt; but thou dost not thereby kill all the sons of Harald."
Athelstan straightway took milder thoughts; brought up, and carefully
educated Hakon; from whom, and this singular adventure, came, before
very long, the first tidings of Christianity into Norway.

Harald Haarfagr, latterly withdrawn from all kinds of business, died
at the age of eighty-three--about A.D. 933, as is computed; nearly
contemporary in death with the first Danish King, Gorm the Old, who
had done a corresponding feat in reducing Denmark under one head.
Remarkable old men, these two first kings; and possessed of gifts for
bringing Chaos a little nearer to the form of Cosmos; possessed, in
fact, of loyalties to Cosmos, that is to say, of authentic virtues in
the savage state, such as have been needed in all societies at their
incipience in this world; a kind of "virtues" hugely in discredit at
present, but not unlikely to be needed again, to the astonishment of
careless persons, before all is done!



Eric Blood-axe, whose practical reign is counted to have begun about
A.D. 930, had by this time, or within a year or so of this time,
pretty much extinguished all his brother kings, and crushed down
recalcitrant spirits, in his violent way; but had naturally become
entirely unpopular in Norway, and filled it with silent discontent and
even rage against him. Hakon Fairhair's last son, the little
foster-child of Athelstan in England, who had been baptized and
carefully educated, was come to his fourteenth or fifteenth year at
his father's death; a very shining youth, as Athelstan saw with just
pleasure. So soon as the few preliminary preparations had been
settled, Hakon, furnished with a ship or two by Athelstan, suddenly
appeared in Norway got acknowledged by the Peasant Thing in Trondhjem
"the news of which flew over Norway, like fire through dried grass,"
says an old chronicler. So that Eric, with his Queen Gunhild, and
seven small children, had to run; no other shift for Eric. They went
to the Orkneys first of all, then to England, and he "got
Northumberland as earldom," I vaguely hear, from Athelstan. But Eric
soon died, and his queen, with her children, went back to the Orkneys
in search of refuge or help; to little purpose there or elsewhere.
From Orkney she went to Denmark, where Harald Blue-tooth took her poor
eldest boy as foster-child; but I fear did not very faithfully keep
that promise. The Danes had been robbing extensively during the late
tumults in Norway; this the Christian Hakon, now established there,
paid in kind, and the two countries were at war; so that Gunhild's
little boy was a welcome card in the hand of Blue-tooth.

Hakon proved a brilliant and successful king; regulated many things,
public law among others (_Gule-Thing_ Law, _Frost-Thing_ Law: these
are little codes of his accepted by their respective Things, and had a
salutary effect in their time); with prompt dexterity he drove back
the Blue-tooth foster-son invasions every time they came; and on the
whole gained for himself the name of Hakon the Good. These Danish
invasions were a frequent source of trouble to him, but his greatest
and continual trouble was that of extirpating heathen idolatry from
Norway, and introducing the Christian Evangel in its stead. His
transcendent anxiety to achieve this salutary enterprise was all along
his grand difficulty and stumbling-block; the heathen opposition to it
being also rooted and great. Bishops and priests from England Hakon
had, preaching and baptizing what they could, but making only slow
progress; much too slow for Hakon's zeal. On the other hand, every
Yule-tide, when the chief heathen were assembled in his own palace on
their grand sacrificial festival, there was great pressure put upon
Hakon, as to sprinkling with horse-blood, drinking Yule-beer, eating
horse-flesh, and the other distressing rites; the whole of which Hakon
abhorred, and with all his steadfastness strove to reject utterly.
Sigurd, Jarl of Lade (Trondhjem), a liberal heathen, not openly a
Christian, was ever a wise counsellor and conciliator in such affairs;
and proved of great help to Hakon. Once, for example, there having
risen at a Yule-feast, loud, almost stormful demand that Hakon, like a
true man and brother, should drink Yule-beer with them in their sacred
hightide, Sigurd persuaded him to comply, for peace's sake, at least,
in form. Hakon took the cup in his left hand (excellent hot _beer_),
and with his right cut the sign of the cross above it, then drank a
draught. "Yes; but what is this with the king's right hand?" cried
the company. "Don't you see?" answered shifty Sigurd; "he makes the
sign of Thor's hammer before drinking!" which quenched the matter for
the time.

Horse-flesh, horse-broth, and the horse ingredient generally, Hakon
all but inexorably declined. By Sigurd's pressing exhortation and
entreaty, he did once take a kettle of horsebroth by the handle, with
a good deal of linen-quilt or towel interposed, and did open his lips
for what of steam could insinuate itself. At another time he
consented to a particle of horse-liver, intending privately, I guess,
to keep it outside the gullet, and smuggle it away without swallowing;
but farther than this not even Sigurd could persuade him to go. At
the Things held in regard to this matter Hakon's success was always
incomplete; now and then it was plain failure, and Hakon had to draw
back till a better time. Here is one specimen of the response he got
on such an occasion; curious specimen, withal, of antique
parliamentary eloquence from an Anti-Christian Thing.

At a Thing of all the Fylkes of Trondhjem, Thing held at Froste in
that region, King Hakon, with all the eloquence he had, signified that
it was imperatively necessary that all Bonders and sub-Bonders should
become Christians, and believe in one God, Christ the Son of Mary;
renouncing entirely blood sacrifices and heathen idols; should keep
every seventh day holy, abstain from labor that day, and even from
food, devoting the day to fasting and sacred meditation. Whereupon,
by way of universal answer, arose a confused universal murmur of
entire dissent. "Take away from us our old belief, and also our time
for labor!" murmured they in angry astonishment; "how can even the
land be got tilled in that way?" "We cannot work if we don't get
food," said the hand laborers and slaves. "It lies in King Hakon's
blood," remarked others; "his father and all his kindred were apt to
be stingy about food, though liberal enough with money." At length,
one Osbjorn (or Bear of the Asen or Gods, what we now call Osborne),
one Osbjorn of Medalhusin Gulathal, stept forward, and said, in a
distinct manner, "We Bonders (peasant proprietors)thought, King Hakon,
when thou heldest thy first Thing-day here in Trondhjem, and we took
thee for our king, and received our hereditary lands from thee again
that we had got heaven itself. But now we know not how it is, whether
we have won freedom, or whether thou intendest anew to make us slaves,
with this wonderful proposal that we should renounce our faith, which
our fathers before us have held, and all our ancestors as well, first
in the age of burial by burning, and now in that of earth burial; and
yet these departed ones were much our superiors, and their faith, too,
has brought prosperity to us. Thee, at the same time, we have loved
so much that we raised thee to manage all the laws of the land, and
speak as their voice to us all. And even now it is our will and the
vote of all Bonders to keep that paction which thou gavest us here on
the Thing at Froste, and to maintain thee as king so long as any of us
Bonders who are here upon the Thing has life left, provided thou,
king, wilt go fairly to work, and demand of us only such things as are
not impossible. But if thou wilt fix upon this thing with so great
obstinacy, and employ force and power, in that case, we Bonders have
taken the resolution, all of us, to fall away from thee, and to take
for ourselves another head, who will so behave that we may enjoy in
freedom the belief which is agreeable to us. Now shalt thou, king,
choose one of these two courses before the Thing disperse."
"Whereupon," adds the Chronicle, "all the Bonders raised a mighty
shout, 'Yes, we will have it so, as has been said.'" So that Jarl
Sigurd had to intervene, and King Hakon to choose for the moment the
milder branch of the alternative.[4] At other Things Hakon was more
or less successful. All his days, by such methods as there were, he
kept pressing forward with this great enterprise; and on the whole did
thoroughly shake asunder the old edifice of heathendom, and fairly
introduce some foundation for the new and better rule of faith and
life among his people. Sigurd, Jarl of Lade, his wise counsellor in
all these matters, is also a man worthy of notice.

Hakon's arrangements against the continual invasions of Eric's sons,
with Danish Blue-tooth backing them, were manifold, and for a long
time successful. He appointed, after consultation and consent in the
various Things, so many war-ships, fully manned and ready, to be
furnished instantly on the King's demand by each province or fjord;
watch-fires, on fit places, from hill to hill all along the coast,
were to be carefully set up, carefully maintained in readiness, and
kindled on any alarm of war. By such methods Blue-tooth and Co.'s
invasions were for a long while triumphantly, and even rapidly, one
and all of them, beaten back, till at length they seemed as if
intending to cease altogether, and leave Hakon alone of them. But
such was not their issue after all. The sons of Eric had only abated
under constant discouragement, had not finally left off from what
seemed their one great feasibility in life. Gunhild, their mother,
was still with them: a most contriving, fierce-minded, irreconcilable
woman, diligent and urgent on them, in season and out of season; and
as for King Blue-tooth, he was at all times ready to help, with his
good-will at least.

That of the alarm-fires on Hakon's part was found troublesome by his
people; sometimes it was even hurtful and provoking (lighting your
alarm-fires and rousing the whole coast and population, when it was
nothing but some paltry viking with a couple of ships); in short, the
alarm-signal system fell into disuse, and good King Hakon himself, in
the first place, paid the penalty. It is counted, by the latest
commentators, to have been about A.D. 961, sixteenth or seventeenth
year of Hakon's pious, valiant, and worthy reign. Being at a feast
one day, with many guests, on the Island of Stord, sudden announcement
came to him that ships from the south were approaching in quantity,
and evidently ships of war. This was the biggest of all the
Blue-tooth foster-son invasions; and it was fatal to Hakon the Good
that night. Eyvind the Skaldaspillir (annihilator of all other
Skalds), in his famed _Hakon's Song_, gives account, and, still more
pertinently, the always practical Snorro. Danes in great multitude,
six to one, as people afterwards computed, springing swiftly to land,
and ranking themselves; Hakon, nevertheless, at once deciding not to
take to his ships and run, but to fight there, one to six; fighting,
accordingly, in his most splendid manner, and at last gloriously
prevailing; routing and scattering back to their ships and flight
homeward these six-to-one Danes. "During the struggle of the fight,"
says Snorro, "he was very conspicuous among other men; and while the
sun shone, his bright gilded helmet glanced, and thereby many weapons
were directed at him. One of his henchmen, Eyvind Finnson (_i.e._
Skaldaspillir, the poet), took a hat, and put it over the king's
helmet. Now, among the hostile first leaders were two uncles of the
Ericsons, brothers of Gunhild, great champions both; Skreya, the elder
of them, on the disappearance of the glittering helmet, shouted
boastfully, 'Does the king of the Norsemen hide himself, then, or has
he fled? Where now is the golden helmet?' And so saying, Skreya, and
his brother Alf with him, pushed on like fools or madmen. The king
said, 'Come on in that way, and you shall find the king of the
Norsemen.'" And in a short space of time braggart Skreya did come up,
swinging his sword, and made a cut at the king; but Thoralf the
Strong, an Icelander, who fought at the king's side, dashed his shield
so hard against Skreya, that he tottered with the shock. On the same
instant the king takes his sword "quernbiter" (able to cut _querns_ or
millstones) with both hands, and hews Skreya through helm and head,
cleaving him down to the shoulders. Thoralf also slew Alf. That was
what they got by such over-hasty search for the king of the

Snorro considers the fall of these two champion uncles as the crisis
of the fight; the Danish force being much disheartened by such a
sight, and King Hakon now pressing on so hard that all men gave way
before him, the battle on the Ericson part became a whirl of recoil;
and in a few minutes more a torrent of mere flight and haste to get on
board their ships, and put to sea again; in which operation many of
them were drowned, says Snorro; survivors making instant sail for
Denmark in that sad condition.

This seems to have been King Hakon's finest battle, and the most
conspicuous of his victories, due not a little to his own grand
qualities shown on the occasion. But, alas! it was his last also. He
was still zealously directing the chase of that mad Danish flight, or
whirl of recoil towards their ships, when an arrow, shot Most likely
at a venture, hit him under the left armpit; and this proved his

He was helped into his ship, and made sail for Alrekstad, where his
chief residence in those parts was; but had to stop at a smaller place
of his (which had been his mother's, and where he himself was born)--a
place called Hella (the Flat Rock), still known as "Hakon's Hella,"
faint from loss of blood, and crushed down as he had never before
felt. Having no son and only one daughter, he appointed these
invasive sons of Eric to be sent for, and if he died to become king;
but to "spare his friends and kindred." "If a longer life be granted
me," he said, "I will go out of this land to Christian men, and do
penance for what I have committed against God. But if I die in the
country of the heathen, let me have such burial as you yourselves
think fittest." These are his last recorded words. And in heathen
fashion he was buried, and besung by Eyvind and the Skalds, though
himself a zealously Christian king. Hakon the _Good_; so one still
finds him worthy of being called. The sorrow on Hakon's death, Snorro
tells us, was so great and universal, "that he was lamented both by
friends and enemies; and they said that never again would Norway see
such a king."



Eric's sons, four or five of them, with a Harald at the top, now at
once got Norway in hand, all of it but Trondhjem, as king and
under-kings; and made a severe time of it for those who had been, or
seemed to be, their enemies. Excellent Jarl Sigurd, always so useful
to Hakon and his country, was killed by them; and they came to repent
that before very long. The slain Sigurd left a son, Hakon, as Jarl,
who became famous in the northern world by and by. This Hakon, and
him only, would the Trondhjemers accept as sovereign. "Death to him,
then," said the sons of Eric, but only in secret, till they had got
their hands free and were ready; which was not yet for some years.
Nay, Hakon, when actually attacked, made good resistance, and
threatened to cause trouble. Nor did he by any means get his death
from these sons of Eric at this time, or till long afterwards at all,
from one of their kin, as it chanced. On the contrary, he fled to
Denmark now, and by and by managed to come back, to their cost.

Among their other chief victims were two cousins of their own, Tryggve
and Gudrod, who had been honest under-kings to the late head-king,
Hakon the Good; but were now become suspect, and had to fight for
their lives, and lose them in a tragic manner. Tryggve had a son,
whom we shall hear of. Gudrod, son of worthy Bjorn the Chapman, was
grandfather of Saint Olaf, whom all men have heard of,--who has a
church in Southwark even, and another in Old Jewry, to this hour. In
all these violences, Gunhild, widow of the late king Eric, was
understood to have a principal hand. She had come back to Norway with
her sons; and naturally passed for the secret adviser and Maternal
President in whatever of violence went on; always reckoned a fell,
vehement, relentless personage where her own interests were concerned.
Probably as things settled, her influence on affairs grew less. At
least one hopes so; and, in the Sagas, hears less and less of her, and
before long nothing.

Harald, the head-king in this Eric fraternity, does not seem to have
been a bad man,--the contrary indeed; but his position was untowardly,
full of difficulty and contradictions. Whatever Harald could
accomplish for behoof of Christianity, or real benefit to Norway, in
these cross circumstances, he seems to have done in a modest and
honest manner. He got the name of _Greyfell_ from his people on a
very trivial account, but seemingly with perfect good humor on their
part. Some Iceland trader had brought a cargo of furs to Trondhjem
(Lade) for sale; sale being slacker than the Icelander wished, he
presented a chosen specimen, cloak, doublet, or whatever it was, to
Harald; who wore it with acceptance in public, and rapidly brought
disposal of the Icelander's stock, and the surname of _Greyfell_ to
himself. His under-kings and he were certainly not popular, though I
almost think Greyfell himself, in absence of his mother and the
under-kings, might have been so. But here they all were, and had
wrought great trouble in Norway. "Too many of them," said everybody;
"too many of these courts and court people, eating up any substance
that there is." For the seasons withal, two or three of them in
succession, were bad for grass, much more for grain; no _herring_ came
either; very cleanness of teeth was like to come in Eyvind
Skaldaspillir's opinion. This scarcity became at last their share of
the great Famine Of A.D. 975, which desolated Western Europe (see the
poem in the Saxon Chronicle). And all this by Eyvind Skaldaspillir,
and the heathen Norse in general, was ascribed to anger of the heathen
gods. Discontent in Norway, and especially in Eyvind Skaldaspillir,
seems to have been very great.

Whereupon exile Hakon, Jarl Sigurd's son, bestirs himself in Denmark,
backed by old King Blue-tooth, and begins invading and encroaching in
a miscellaneous way; especially intriguing and contriving plots all
round him. An unfathomably cunning kind of fellow, as well as an
audacious and strong-handed! Intriguing in Trondhjem, where he gets
the under-king, Greyfell's brother, fallen upon and murdered;
intriguing with Gold Harald, a distinguished cousin or nephew of King
Blue-tooth's, who had done fine viking work, and gained, such wealth
that he got the epithet of "Gold," and who now was infinitely desirous
of a share in Blue-tooth's kingdom as the proper finish to these
sea-rovings. He even ventured one day to make publicly a distinct
proposal that way to King Harald Blue-tooth himself; who flew into
thunder and lightning at the mere mention of it; so that none durst
speak to him for several days afterwards. Of both these Haralds Hakon
was confidential friend; and needed all his skill to walk without
immediate annihilation between such a pair of dragons, and work out
Norway for himself withal. In the end he found he must take solidly
to Blue-tooth's side of the question; and that they two must provide a
recipe for Gold Harald and Norway both at once.

"It is as much as your life is worth to speak again of sharing this
Danish kingdom," said Hakon very privately to Gold Harald; "but could
not you, my golden friend, be content with Norway for a kingdom, if
one helped you to it?"

"That could I well," answered Harald.

"Then keep me those nine war-ships you have just been rigging for a
new viking cruise; have these in readiness when I lift my finger!"

That was the recipe contrived for Gold Harald; recipe for King
Greyfell goes into the same vial, and is also ready.

Hitherto the Hakon-Blue-tooth disturbances in Norway had amounted to
but little. King Greyfell, a very active and valiant man, has
constantly, without much difficulty, repelled these sporadic bits of
troubles; but Greyfell, all the same, would willingly have peace with
dangerous old Blue-tooth (ever anxious to get his clutches over Norway
on any terms) if peace with him could be had. Blue-tooth, too,
professes every willingness; inveigles Greyfell, he and Hakon do; to
have a friendly meeting on the Danish borders, and not only settle all
these quarrels, but generously settle Greyfell in certain fiefs which
he claimed in Denmark itself; and so swear everlasting friendship.
Greyfell joyfully complies, punctually appears at the appointed day in
Lymfjord Sound, the appointed place. Whereupon Hakon gives signal to
Gold Harald, "To Lymfjord with these nine ships of yours, swift!"
Gold Harald flies to Lymfjord with his ships, challenges King Harald
Greyfell to land and fight; which the undaunted Greyfell, though so
far outnumbered, does; and, fighting his very best, perishes there, he
and almost all his people. Which done, Jarl Hakon, who is in
readiness, attacks Gold Harald, the victorious but the wearied; easily
beats Gold Harald, takes him prisoner, and instantly hangs and ends
him, to the huge joy of King Blue-tooth and Hakon; who now make
instant voyage to Norway; drive all the brother under-kings into rapid
flight to the Orkneys, to any readiest shelter; and so, under the
patronage of Blue-tooth, Hakon, with the title of Jarl, becomes ruler
of Norway. This foul treachery done on the brave and honest Harald
Greyfell is by some dated about A.D. 969, by Munch, 965, by others,
computing out of Snorro only, A.D. 975. For there is always an
uncertainty in these Icelandic dates (say rather, rare and rude
attempts at dating, without even an "A.D." or other fixed "year one"
to go upon in Iceland), though seldom, I think, so large a discrepancy
as here.



Hakon Jarl, such the style he took, had engaged to pay some kind of
tribute to King Blue-tooth, "if he could;" but he never did pay any,
pleading always the necessity of his own affairs; with which excuse,
joined to Hakon's readiness in things less important, King Blue-tooth
managed to content himself, Hakon being always his good neighbor, at
least, and the two mutually dependent. In Norway, Hakon, without the
title of king, did in a strong-handed, steadfast, and at length,
successful way, the office of one; governed Norway (some count) for
above twenty years; and, both at home and abroad, had much
consideration through most of that time; specially amongst the heathen
orthodox, for Hakon Jarl himself was a zealous heathen, fixed in his
mind against these chimerical Christian innovations and unsalutary
changes of creed, and would have gladly trampled out all traces of
what the last two kings (for Greyfell, also, was an English Christian
after his sort) had done in this respect. But he wisely discerned
that it was not possible, and that, for peace's sake, he must not even
attempt it, but must strike preferably into "perfect toleration," and
that of "every one getting to heaven or even to the other goal in his
own way." He himself, it is well known, repaired many heathen temples
(a great "church builder" in his way!), manufactured many splendid
idols, with much gilding and such artistic ornament as there was,--in
particular, one huge image of Thor, not forgetting the hammer and
appendages, and such a collar (supposed of solid gold, which it was
not quite, as we shall hear in time) round the neck of him as was
never seen in all the North. How he did his own Yule festivals, with
what magnificent solemnity, the horse-eatings, blood-sprinklings, and
other sacred rites, need not be told. Something of a "Ritualist," one
may perceive; perhaps had Scandinavian Puseyisms in him, and other
desperate heathen notions. He was universally believed to have gone
into magic, for one thing, and to have dangerous potencies derived
from the Devil himself. The dark heathen mind of him struggling
vehemently in that strange element, not altogether so unlike our own
in some points.

For the rest, he was evidently, in practical matters, a man of sharp,
clear insight, of steadfast resolution, diligence, promptitude; and
managed his secular matters uncommonly well. Had sixteen Jarls under
him, though himself only Hakon Jarl by title; and got obedience from
them stricter than any king since Haarfagr had done. Add to which
that the country had years excellent for grass and crop, and that the
herrings came in exuberance; tokens, to the thinking mind, that Hakon
Jarl was a favorite of Heaven.

His fight with the far-famed Jomsvikings was his grandest exploit in
public rumor. Jomsburg, a locality not now known, except that it was
near the mouth of the River Oder, denoted in those ages the
impregnable castle of a certain hotly corporate, or "Sea Robbery
Association (limited)," which, for some generations, held the Baltic
in terror, and plundered far beyond the Belt,--in the ocean itself, in
Flanders and the opulent trading havens there,--above all, in opulent
anarchic England, which, for forty years from about this time, was the
pirates' Goshen; and yielded, regularly every summer, slaves,
Danegelt, and miscellaneous plunder, like no other country Jomsburg or
the viking-world had ever known. Palnatoke, Bue, and the other
quasi-heroic heads of this establishment are still remembered in the
northern parts. _Palnatoke_ is the title of a tragedy by
Oehlenschlager, which had its run of immortality in Copenhagen some
sixty or seventy years ago.

I judge the institution to have been in its floweriest state, probably
now in Hakon Jarl's time. Hakon Jarl and these pirates, robbing
Hakon's subjects and merchants that frequented him, were naturally in
quarrel; and frequent fightings had fallen out, not generally to the
profit of the Jomsburgers, who at last determined on revenge, and the
rooting out of this obstructive Hakon Jarl. They assembled in force
at the Cape of Stad,--in the Firda Fylke; and the fight was dreadful
in the extreme, noise of it filling all the north for long afterwards.
Hakon, fighting like a lion, could scarcely hold his own,--Death or
Victory, the word on both sides; when suddenly, the heavens grew
black, and there broke out a terrific storm of thunder and hail,
appalling to the human mind,--universe swallowed wholly in black
night; only the momentary forked-blazes, the thunder-pealing as of
Ragnarok, and the battering hail-torrents, hailstones about the size
of an egg. Thor with his hammer evidently acting; but in behalf of
whom? The Jomsburgers in the hideous darkness, broken only by
flashing thunder-bolts, had a dismal apprehension that it was probably
not on their behalf (Thor having a sense of justice in him); and
before the storm ended, thirty-five of their seventy ships sheered
away, leaving gallant Bue, with the other thirty-five, to follow as
they liked, who reproachfully hailed these fugitives, and continued
the now hopeless battle. Bue's nose and lips were smashed or cut
away; Bue managed, half-articulately, to exclaim, "Ha! the maids
('mays') of Funen will never kiss me more. Overboard, all ye Bue's
men!" And taking his two sea-chests, with all the gold he had gained
in such life-struggle from of old, sprang overboard accordingly, and
finished the affair. Hakon Jarl's renown rose naturally to the
transcendent pitch after this exploit. His people, I suppose chiefly
the Christian part of them, whispered one to another, with a shudder,
"That in the blackest of the thunder-storm, he had taken his youngest
little boy, and made away with him; sacrificed him to Thor or some
devil, and gained his victory by art-magic, or something worse." Jarl
Eric, Hakon's eldest son, without suspicion of art-magic, but already
a distinguished viking, became thrice distinguished by his style of
sea-fighting in this battle; and awakened great expectations in the
viking public; of him we shall hear again.

The Jomsburgers, one might fancy, after this sad clap went visibly
down in the world; but the fact is not altogether so. Old King
Blue-tooth was now dead, died of a wound got in battle with his
unnatural (so-called "natural") son and successor, Otto Svein of the
Forked Beard, afterwards king and conqueror of England for a little
while; and seldom, perhaps never, had vikingism been in such flower as
now. This man's name is Sven in Swedish, Svend in German, and means
boy or lad,--the English "swain." It was at old "Father Bluetooth's
funeral-ale" (drunken burial-feast), that Svein, carousing with his
Jomsburg chiefs and other choice spirits, generally of the robber
class, all risen into height of highest robber enthusiasm, pledged the
vow to one another; Svein that he would conquer England (which, in a
sense, he, after long struggling, did); and the Jomsburgers that they
would ruin and root out Hakon Jarl (which, as we have just seen, they
could by no means do), and other guests other foolish things which
proved equally unfeasible. Sea-robber volunteers so especially
abounding in that time, one perceives how easily the Jomsburgers could
recruit themselves, build or refit new robber fleets, man them with
the pick of crews, and steer for opulent, fruitful England; where,
under Ethelred the Unready, was such a field for profitable enterprise
as the viking public never had before or since.

An idle question sometimes rises on me,--idle enough, for it never can
be answered in the affirmative or the negative, Whether it was not
these same refitted Jomsburgers who appeared some while after this at
Red Head Point, on the shore of Angus, and sustained a new severe
beating, in what the Scotch still faintly remember as their "Battle of
Loncarty"? Beyond doubt a powerful Norse-pirate armament dropt anchor
at the Red Head, to the alarm of peaceable mortals, about that time.
It was thought and hoped to be on its way for England, but it visibly
hung on for several days, deliberating (as was thought) whether they
would do this poorer coast the honor to land on it before going
farther. Did land, and vigorously plunder and burn south-westward as
far as Perth; laid siege to Perth; but brought out King Kenneth on
them, and produced that "Battle of Loncarty" which still dwells in
vague memory among the Scots. Perhaps it might be the Jomsburgers;
perhaps also not; for there were many pirate associations, lasting not
from century to century like the Jomsburgers, but only for very
limited periods, or from year to year; indeed, it was mainly by such
that the splendid thief-harvest of England was reaped in this
disastrous time. No Scottish chronicler gives the least of exact date
to their famed victory of Loncarty, only that it was achieved by
Kenneth III., which will mean some time between A.D. 975 and 994; and,
by the order they put it in, probably soon after A.D. 975, or the
beginning of this Kenneth's reign. Buchanan's narrative, carefully
distilled from all the ancient Scottish sources, is of admirable
quality for style and otherwise quiet, brief, with perfect clearness,
perfect credibility even, except that semi-miraculous appendage of the
Ploughmen, Hay and Sons, always hanging to the tail of it; the grain
of possible truth in which can now never be extracted by man's art![6]
In brief, what we know is, fragments of ancient human bones and armor
have occasionally been ploughed up in this locality, proof positive of
ancient fighting here; and the fight fell out not long after Hakon's
beating of the Jomsburgers at the Cape of Stad. And in such dim
glimmer of wavering twilight, the question whether these of Loncarty
were refitted Jomsburgers or not, must be left hanging. Loncarty is
now the biggest bleach-field in Queen Victoria's dominions; no village
or hamlet there, only the huge bleaching-house and a beautiful field,
some six or seven miles northwest of Perth, bordered by the beautiful
Tay river on the one side, and by its beautiful tributary Almond on
the other; a Loncarty fitted either for bleaching linen, or for a bit
of fair duel between nations, in those simple times.

Whether our refitted Jomsburgers had the least thing to do with it is
only matter of fancy, but if it were they who here again got a good
beating, fancy would be glad to find herself fact. The old piratical
kings of Denmark had been at the founding of Jomsburg, and to Svein of
the Forked Beard it was still vitally important, but not so to the
great Knut, or any king that followed; all of whom had better business
than mere thieving; and it was Magnus the Good, of Norway, a man of
still higher anti-anarchic qualities, that annihilated it, about a
century later.

Hakon Jarl, his chief labors in the world being over, is said to have
become very dissolute in his elder days, especially in the matter of
women; the wretched old fool, led away by idleness and fulness of
bread, which to all of us are well said to be the parents of mischief.
Having absolute power, he got into the habit of openly plundering
men's pretty daughters and wives from them, and, after a few weeks,
sending them back; greatly to the rage of the fierce Norse heart, had
there been any means of resisting or revenging. It did, after a
little while, prove the ruin and destruction of Hakon the Rich, as he
was then called. It opened the door, namely, for entry of Olaf
Tryggveson upon the scene,--a very much grander man; in regard to whom
the wiles and traps of Hakon proved to be a recipe, not on Tryggveson,
but on the wily Hakon himself, as shall now be seen straightway.



Hakon, in late times, had heard of a famous stirring person,
victorious in various lands and seas, latterly united in sea-robbery
with Svein, Prince Royal of Denmark, afterwards King Svein of the
Double-beard ("_Zvae Skiaeg_", _Twa Shag_) or fork-beard, both of whom
had already done transcendent feats in the viking way during this
copartnery. The fame of Svein, and this stirring personage, whose
name was "Ole," and, recently, their stupendous feats in plunder of
England, siege of London, and other wonders and splendors of viking
glory and success, had gone over all the North, awakening the
attention of Hakon and everybody there. The name of "Ole" was
enigmatic, mysterious, and even dangerous-looking to Hakon Jarl; who
at length sent out a confidential spy to investigate this "Ole;" a
feat which the confidential spy did completely accomplish,--by no
means to Hakon's profit! The mysterious "Ole" proved to be no other
than Olaf, son of Tryggve, destined to blow Hakon Jarl suddenly into
destruction, and become famous among the heroes of the Norse world.

Of Olaf Tryggveson one always hopes there might, one day, some real
outline of a biography be written; fished from the abysses where (as
usual) it welters deep in foul neighborhood for the present. Farther
on we intend a few words more upon the matter. But in this place all
that concerns us in it limits itself to the two following facts first,
that Hakon's confidential spy "found Ole in Dublin;" picked
acquaintance with him, got him to confess that he was actually Olaf,
son of Tryggve (the Tryggve, whom Blood-axe's fierce widow and her
sons had murdered); got him gradually to own that perhaps an
expedition into Norway might have its chances; and finally that, under
such a wise and loyal guidance as his (the confidential spy's, whose
friendship for Tryggveson was so indubitable), he (Tryggveson) would
actually try it upon Hakon Jarl, the dissolute old scoundrel. Fact
second is, that about the time they two set sail from Dublin on their
Norway expedition, Hakon Jarl removed to Trondhjem, then called Lade;
intending to pass some months there.

Now just about the time when Tryggveson, spy, and party had landed in
Norway, and were advancing upon Lade, with what support from the
public could be got, dissolute old Hakon Jarl had heard of one Gudrun,
a Bonder's wife, unparalleled in beauty, who was called in those
parts, "Sunbeam of the Grove" (so inexpressibly lovely); and sent off
a couple of thralls to bring her to him. "Never," answered Gudrun;
"never," her indignant husband; in a tone dangerous and displeasing to
these Court thralls; who had to leave rapidly, but threatened to
return in better strength before long. Whereupon, instantly, the
indignant Bonder and his Sunbeam of the Grove sent out their
war-arrow, rousing all the country into angry promptitude, and more
than one perhaps into greedy hope of revenge for their own injuries.
The rest of Hakon's history now rushes on with extreme rapidity.

Sunbeam of the Grove, when next demanded of her Bonder, has the whole
neighborhood assembled in arms round her; rumor of Tryggveson is fast
making it the whole country. Hakon's insolent messengers are cut in
pieces; Hakon finds he cannot fly under cover too soon. With a single
slave he flies that same night;--but whitherward? Can think of no
safe place, except to some old mistress of his, who lives retired in
that neighborhood, and has some pity or regard for the wicked old
Hakon. Old mistress does receive him, pities him, will do all she can
to protect and hide him. But how, by what uttermost stretch of female
artifice hide him here; every one will search here first of all! Old
mistress, by the slave's help, extemporizes a cellar under the floor
of her pig-house; sticks Hakon and slave into that, as the one safe
seclusion she can contrive. Hakon and slave, begrunted by the pigs
above them, tortured by the devils within and about them, passed two
days in circumstances more and more horrible. For they heard, through
their light-slit and breathing-slit, the triumph of Tryggveson
proclaiming itself by Tryggveson's own lips, who had mounted a big
boulder near by and was victoriously speaking to the people, winding
up with a promise of honors and rewards to whoever should bring him
wicked old Hakon's head. Wretched Hakon, justly suspecting his slave,
tried to at least keep himself awake. Slave did keep himself awake
till Hakon dozed or slept, then swiftly cut off Hakon's head, and
plunged out with it to the presence of Tryggveson. Tryggveson,
detesting the traitor, useful as the treachery was, cut off the
slave's head too, had it hung up along with Hakon's on the pinnacle of
the Lade Gallows, where the populace pelted both heads with stones and
many curses, especially the more important of the two. "Hakon the
Bad" ever henceforth, instead of Hakon the Rich.

This was the end of Hakon Jarl, the last support of heathenry in
Norway, among other characteristics he had: a stronghanded,
hard-headed, very relentless, greedy and wicked being. He is reckoned
to have ruled in Norway, or mainly ruled, either in the struggling or
triumphant state, for about thirty years (965-995?). He and his
seemed to have formed, by chance rather than design, the chief
opposition which the Haarfagr posterity throughout its whole course
experienced in Norway. Such the cost to them of killing good Jarl
Sigurd, in Greyfell's time! For "curses, like chickens," do sometimes
visibly "come home to feed," as they always, either visibly or else
invisibly, are punctually sure to do.

Hakon Jarl is considerably connected with the _Faroer Saga_ often
mentioned there, and comes out perfectly in character; an altogether
worldly-wise man of the roughest type, not without a turn for
practicality of kindness to those who would really be of use to him.
His tendencies to magic also are not forgotten.

Hakon left two sons, Eric and Svein, often also mentioned in this
Saga. On their father's death they fled to Sweden, to Denmark, and
were busy stirring up troubles in those countries against Olaf
Tryggveson; till at length, by a favorable combination, under their
auspices chiefly, they got his brief and noble reign put an end to.
Nay, furthermore, Jarl Eric left sons, especially an elder son, named
also Eric, who proved a sore affliction, and a continual stone of
stumbling to a new generation of Haarfagrs, and so continued the curse
of Sigurd's murder upon them.

Towards the end of this Hakon's reign it was that the discovery of
America took place (985). Actual discovery, it appears, by Eric the
Red, an Icelander; concerning which there has been abundant
investigation and discussion in our time. _Ginnungagap_ (Roaring
Abyss) is thought to be the mouth of Behring's Straits in Baffin's
Bay; _Big Helloland_, the coast from Cape Walsingham to near
Newfoundland; _Little Helloland_, Newfoundland itself. _Markland_ was
Lower Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Southward thence to
Chesapeake Bay was called _Wine Land_ (wild grapes still grow in Rhode
Island, and more luxuriantly further south). _White Man's Land_,
called also _Great Ireland_, is supposed to mean the two Carolinas,
down to the Southern Cape of Florida. In Dahlmann's opinion, the
Irish themselves might even pretend to have probably been the first
discoverers of America; they had evidently got to Iceland itself
before the Norse exiles found it out. It appears to be certain that,
from the end of the tenth century to the early part of the fourteenth,
there was a dim knowledge of those distant shores extant in the Norse
mind, and even some straggling series of visits thither by roving
Norsemen; though, as only danger, difficulty, and no profit resulted,
the visits ceased, and the whole matter sank into oblivion, and, but
for the Icelandic talent of writing in the long winter nights, would
never have been heard of by posterity at all.



Olaf Tryggveson (A.D. 995-1000) also makes a great figure in the
_Faroer Saga_, and recounts there his early troubles, which were
strange and many. He is still reckoned a grand hero of the North,
though his _vates_ now is only Snorro Sturleson of Iceland.
Tryggveson had indeed many adventures in the world. His poor mother,
Astrid, was obliged to fly, on murder of her husband by Gunhild,--to
fly for life, three months before he, her little Olaf, was born. She
lay concealed in reedy islands, fled through trackless forests;
reached her father's with the little baby in her arms, and lay
deep-hidden there, tended only by her father himself; Gunhild's
pursuit being so incessant, and keen as with sleuth-hounds. Poor
Astrid had to fly again, deviously to Sweden, to Esthland (Esthonia),
to Russia. In Esthland she was sold as a slave, quite parted from her
boy,--who also was sold, and again sold; but did at last fall in with
a kinsman high in the Russian service; did from him find redemption
and help, and so rose, in a distinguished manner, to manhood,
victorious self-help, and recovery of his kingdom at last. He even
met his mother again, he as king of Norway, she as one wonderfully
lifted out of darkness into new life and happiness still in store.

Grown to manhood, Tryggveson,--now become acquainted with his birth,
and with his, alas, hopeless claims,--left Russia for the one
profession open to him, that of sea-robbery; and did feats without
number in that questionable line in many seas and scenes,--in England
latterly, and most conspicuously of all. In one of his courses
thither, after long labors in the Hebrides, Man, Wales, and down the
western shores to the very Land's End and farther, he paused at the
Scilly Islands for a little while. He was told of a wonderful
Christian hermit living strangely in these sea-solitudes; had the
curiosity to seek him out, examine, question, and discourse with him;
and, after some reflection, accepted Christian baptism from the
venerable man. In Snorro the story is involved in miracle, rumor, and
fable; but the fact itself seems certain, and is very interesting; the
great, wild, noble soul of fierce Olaf opening to this wonderful
gospel of tidings from beyond the world, tidings which infinitely
transcended all else he had ever heard or dreamt of! It seems certain
he was baptized here; date not fixable; shortly before poor
heart-broken Dunstan's death, or shortly after; most English churches,
monasteries especially, lying burnt, under continual visitation of the
Danes. Olaf such baptism notwithstanding, did not quit his viking
profession; indeed, what other was there for him in the world as yet?

We mentioned his occasional copartneries with Svein of the
Double-beard, now become King of Denmark, but the greatest of these,
and the alone interesting at this time, is their joint invasion of
England, and Tryggveson's exploits and fortunes there some years after
that adventure of baptism in the Scilly Isles. Svein and he "were
above a year in England together," this time: they steered up the
Thames with three hundred ships and many fighters; siege, or at least
furious assault, of London was their first or main enterprise, but it
did not succeed. The Saxon Chronicle gives date to it, A.D. 994, and
names expressly, as Svein's co-partner, "Olaus, king of
Norway,"--which he was as yet far from being; but in regard to the
Year of Grace the Saxon Chronicle is to be held indisputable, and,
indeed, has the field to itself in this matter. Famed Olaf
Tryggveson, seen visibly at the siege of London, year 994, it throws a
kind of momentary light to us over that disastrous whirlpool of
miseries and confusions, all dark and painful to the fancy otherwise!
This big voyage and furious siege of London is Svein Double-beard's
first real attempt to fulfil that vow of his at Father Blue-tooth's
"funeral ale," and conquer England,--which it is a pity he could not
yet do. Had London now fallen to him, it is pretty evident all
England must have followed, and poor England, with Svein as king over
it, been delivered from immeasurable woes, which had to last some
two-and-twenty years farther, before this result could be arrived at.
But finding London impregnable for the moment (no ship able to get
athwart the bridge, and many Danes perishing in the attempt to do it
by swimming), Svein and Olaf turned to other enterprises; all England
in a manner lying open to them, turn which way they liked. They burnt
and plundered over Kent, over Hampshire, Sussex; they stormed far and
wide; world lying all before them where to choose. Wretched Ethelred,
as the one invention he could fall upon, offered them Danegelt (16,000
pounds of silver this year, but it rose in other years as high as
48,000 pounds); the desperate Ethelred, a clear method of quenching
fire by pouring oil on it! Svein and Olaf accepted; withdrew to
Southampton,--Olaf at least did,--till the money was got ready.
Strange to think of, fierce Svein of the Double-beard, and conquest of
England by him; this had at last become the one salutary result which
remained for that distracted, down-trodden, now utterly chaotic and
anarchic country. A conquering Svein, followed by an ably and
earnestly administrative, as well as conquering, Knut (whom Dahlmann
compares to Charlemagne), were thus by the mysterious destinies
appointed the effective saviors of England.

Tryggveson, on this occasion, was a good while at Southampton; and
roamed extensively about, easily victorious over everything, if
resistance were attempted, but finding little or none; and acting now
in a peaceable or even friendly capacity. In the Southampton country
he came in contact with the then Bishop of Winchester, afterwards
Archbishop of Canterbury, excellent Elphegus, still dimly decipherable
to us as a man of great natural discernment, piety, and inborn
veracity; a hero-soul, probably of real brotherhood with Olaf's own.
He even made court visits to King Ethelred; one visit to him at
Andover of a very serious nature. By Elphegus, as we can discover, he
was introduced into the real depths of the Christian faith. Elphegus,
with due solemnity of apparatus, in presence of the king, at Andover,
baptized Olaf anew, and to him Olaf engaged that he would never
plunder in England any more; which promise, too, he kept. In fact,
not long after, Svein's conquest of England being in an evidently
forward state, Tryggveson (having made, withal, a great English or
Irish marriage,--a dowager Princess, who had voluntarily fallen in
love with him,--see Snorro for this fine romantic fact!) mainly
resided in our island for two or three years, or else in Dublin, in
the precincts of the Danish Court there in the Sister Isle.
Accordingly it was in Dublin, as above noted, that Hakon's spy found
him; and from the Liffey that his squadron sailed, through the
Hebrides, through the Orkneys, plundering and baptizing in their
strange way, towards such success as we have seen.

Tryggveson made a stout, and, in effect, victorious and glorious
struggle for himself as king. Daily and hourly vigilant to do so,
often enough by soft and even merry methods, for he was a witty,
jocund man, and had a fine ringing laugh in him, and clear pregnant
words ever ready,--or if soft methods would not serve, then by hard
and even hardest he put down a great deal of miscellaneous anarchy in
Norway; was especially busy against heathenism (devil-worship and its
rites): this, indeed, may be called the focus and heart of all his
royal endeavor in Norway, and of all the troubles he now had with his
people there. For this was a serious, vital, all-comprehending
matter; devil-worship, a thing not to be tolerated one moment longer
than you could by any method help! Olaf's success was intermittent,
of varying complexion; but his effort, swift or slow, was strong and
continual; and on the whole he did succeed. Take a sample or two of
that wonderful conversion process:--

At one of his first Things he found the Bonders all assembled in arms;
resolute to the death seemingly, against his proposal and him.
Tryggveson said little; waited impassive, "What your reasons are, good
men?" One zealous Bonder started up in passionate parliamentary
eloquence; but after a sentence or two, broke down; one, and then
another, and still another, and remained all three staring in
open-mouthed silence there! The peasant-proprietors accepted the
phenomenon as ludicrous, perhaps partly as miraculous withal, and
consented to baptism this time.

On another occasion of a Thing, which had assembled near some heathen
temple to meet him,--temple where Hakon Jarl had done much repairing,
and set up many idol figures and sumptuous ornaments, regardless of
expense, especially a very big and splendid Thor, with massive gold
collar round the neck of him, not the like of it in Norway,--King Olaf
Tryggveson was clamorously invited by the Bonders to step in there,
enlighten his eyes, and partake of the sacred rites. Instead of which
he rushed into the temple with his armed men; smashed down, with his
own battle-axe, the god Thor, prostrate on the ground at one stroke,
to set an example; and, in a few minutes, had the whole Hakon Pantheon
wrecked; packing up meanwhile all the gold and preciosities
accumulated there (not forgetting Thor's illustrious gold collar, of
which we shall hear again), and victoriously took the plunder home
with him for his own royal uses and behoof of the state.
In other cases, though a friend to strong measures, he had to hold in,
and await the favorable moment. Thus once, in beginning a
parliamentary address, so soon as he came to touch upon Christianity,
the Bonders rose in murmurs, in vociferations and jingling of arms,
which quite drowned the royal voice; declared, they had taken arms
against king Hakon the Good to compel him to desist from his Christian
proposals; and they did not think King Olaf a higher man than him
(Hakon the Good). The king then said, "He purposed coming to them
next Yule to their great sacrificial feast, to see for himself what
their customs were," which pacified the Bonders for this time. The
appointed place of meeting was again a Hakon-Jarl Temple, not yet done
to ruin; chief shrine in those Trondhjem parts, I believe : there
should Tryggveson appear at Yule. Well, but before Yule came,
Tryggveson made a great banquet in his palace at Trondhjem, and
invited far and wide, all manner of important persons out of the
district as guests there. Banquet hardly done, Tryggveson gave some
slight signal, upon which armed men strode in, seized eleven of these
principal persons, and the king said: "Since he himself was to become
a heathen again, and do sacrifice, it was his purpose to do it in the
highest form, namely, that of Human Sacrifice; and this time not of
slaves and malefactors, but of the best men in the country!" In which
stringent circumstances the eleven seized persons, and company at
large, gave unanimous consent to baptism; straightway received the
same, and abjured their idols; but were not permitted to go home till
they had left, in sons, brothers, and other precious relatives,
sufficient hostages in the king's hands.

By unwearied industry of this and better kinds, Tryggveson had
trampled down idolatry, so far as form went,--how far in substance may
be greatly doubted. But it is to be remembered withal, that always on
the back of these compulsory adventures there followed English
bishops, priests and preachers; whereby to the open-minded,
conviction, to all degrees of it, was attainable, while silence and
passivity became the duty or necessity of the unconvinced party.

In about two years Norway was all gone over with a rough harrow of
conversion. Heathenism at least constrained to be silent and
outwardly conformable. Tryggveson, next turned his attention to
Iceland, sent one Thangbrand, priest from Saxony, of wonderful
qualities, military as well as theological, to try and convert
Iceland. Thangbrand made a few converts; for Olaf had already many
estimable Iceland friends, whom he liked much, and was much liked by;
and conversion was the ready road to his favor. Thangbrand, I find,
lodged with Hall of Sida (familiar acquaintance of "Burnt Njal," whose
Saga has its admirers among us even now). Thangbrand converted Hall
and one or two other leading men,; but in general he was reckoned
quarrelsome and blusterous rather than eloquent and piously
convincing. Two skalds of repute made biting lampoons upon
Thangbrand, whom Thangbrand, by two opportunities that offered, cut
down and did to death because of their skaldic quality. Another he
killed with his own hand, I know not for what reason. In brief, after
about a year, Thangbrand returned to Norway and king Olaf; declaring
the Icelanders to be a perverse, satirical, and inconvertible people,
having himself, the record says, "been the death of three men there."
King Olaf was in high rage at this result; but was persuaded by the
Icelanders about him to try farther, and by a wilder instrument. He
accordingly chose one Thormod, a pious, patient, and kindly man, who,
within the next year or so, did actually accomplish the matter;
namely, get Christianity, by open vote, declared at Thingvalla by the
general Thing of Iceland there; the roar of a big thunder-clap at the
right moment rather helping the conclusion, if I recollect. Whereupon
Olaf's joy was no doubt great.

One general result of these successful operations was the discontent,
to all manner of degrees, on the part of many Norse individuals,
against this glorious and victorious, but peremptory and terrible king
of theirs. Tryggveson, I fancy, did not much regard all that; a man
of joyful, cheery temper, habitually contemptuous of danger. Another
trivial misfortune that befell in these conversion operations, and
became important to him, he did not even know of, and would have much
despised if he had. It was this: Sigrid, queen dowager of Sweden,
thought to be amongst the most shining women of the world, was also
known for one of the most imperious, revengeful, and relentless, and
had got for herself the name of Sigrid the Proud. In her high
widowhood she had naturally many wooers; but treated them in a manner
unexampled. Two of her suitors, a simultaneous Two, were, King Harald
Graenske (a cousin of King Tryggveson's, and kind of king in some
district, by sufferance of the late Hakon's),--this luckless Graenske
and the then Russian Sovereign as well, name not worth mentioning,
were zealous suitors of Queen Dowager Sigrid, and were perversely slow
to accept the negative, which in her heart was inexorable for both,
though the expression of it could not be quite so emphatic. By
ill-luck for them they came once,--from the far West, Graenske; from
the far East, the Russian;--and arrived both together at Sigrid's
court, to prosecute their importunate, and to her odious and tiresome
suit; much, how very much, to her impatience and disdain. She lodged
them both in some old mansion, which she had contiguous, and got
compendiously furnished for them; and there, I know not whether on the
first or on the second, or on what following night, this unparalleled
Queen Sigrid had the house surrounded, set on fire, and the two
suitors and their people burnt to ashes! No more of bother from these
two at least! This appears to be a fact; and it could not be unknown
to Tryggveson.

In spite of which, however, there went from Tryggveson, who was now a
widower, some incipient marriage proposals to this proud widow; by
whom they were favorably received; as from the brightest man in all
the world, they might seem worth being. Now, in one of these
anti-heathen onslaughts of King Olaf's on the idol temples of
Hakon--(I think it was that case where Olaf's own battle-axe struck
down the monstrous refulgent Thor, and conquered an immense gold ring
from the neck of him, or from the door of his temple),--a huge gold
ring, at any rate, had come into Olaf's hands; and this he bethought
him might be a pretty present to Queen Sigrid, the now favorable,
though the proud. Sigrid received the ring with joy; fancied what a
collar it would make for her own fair neck; but noticed that her two
goldsmiths, weighing it on their fingers, exchanged a glance. "What
is that?" exclaimed Queen Sigrid. "Nothing," answered they, or
endeavored to answer, dreading mischief. But Sigrid compelled them to
break open the ring; and there was found, all along the inside of it,
an occult ring of copper, not a heart of gold at all! "Ha," said the
proud Queen, flinging it away, "he that could deceive in this matter
can deceive in many others!" And was in hot wrath with Olaf; though,
by degrees, again she took milder thoughts.

Milder thoughts, we say; and consented to a meeting next autumn, at
some half-way station, where their great business might be brought to
a happy settlement and betrothment. Both Olaf Tryggveson and the high
dowager appear to have been tolerably of willing mind at this meeting;
but Olaf interposed, what was always one condition with him, "Thou
must consent to baptism, and give up thy idol-gods." "They are the
gods of all my forefathers," answered the lady, "choose thou what gods
thou pleasest, but leave me mine." Whereupon an altercation; and
Tryggveson, as was his wont, towered up into shining wrath, and
exclaimed at last, "Why should I care about thee then, old faded
heathen creature?" And impatiently wagging his glove, hit her, or
slightly switched her, on the face with it, and contemptuously turning
away, walked out of the adventure. "This is a feat that may cost thee
dear one day," said Sigrid. And in the end it came to do so, little
as the magnificent Olaf deigned to think of it at the moment.

One of the last scuffles I remember of Olaf's having with his
refractory heathens, was at a Thing in Hordaland or Rogaland, far in
the North, where the chief opposition hero was one Jaernskaegg
("ironbeard") Scottice ("Airn-shag," as it were!). Here again was a
grand heathen temple, Hakon Jarl's building, with a splendid Thor in
it and much idol furniture. The king stated what was his constant
wish here as elsewhere, but had no sooner entered upon the subject of
Christianity than universal murmur, rising into clangor and violent
dissent, interrupted him, and Ironbeard took up the discourse in
reply. Ironbeard did not break down; on the contrary, he, with great
brevity, emphasis, and clearness, signified "that the proposal to
reject their old gods was in the highest degree unacceptable to this
Thing; that it was contrary to bargain, withal; so that if it were
insisted on, they would have to fight with the king about it; and in
fact were now ready to do so." In reply to this, Olaf, without word
uttered, but merely with some signal to the trusty armed men he had
with him, rushed off to the temple close at hand; burst into it,
shutting the door behind him; smashed Thor and Co. to destruction;
then reappearing victorious, found much confusion outside, and, in
particular, what was a most important item, the rugged Ironbeard done
to death by Olaf's men in the interim. Which entirely disheartened
the Thing from fighting at that moment; having now no leader who dared
to head them in so dangerous an enterprise. So that every one
departed to digest his rage in silence as he could.

Matters having cooled for a week or two, there was another Thing held;
in which King Olaf testified regret for the quarrel that had fallen
out, readiness to pay what _mulct_ was due by law for that unlucky
homicide of Ironbeard by his people; and, withal, to take the fair
daughter of Ironbeard to wife, if all would comply and be friends with
him in other matters; which was the course resolved on as most
convenient: accept baptism, we; marry Jaernskaegg's daughter, you.
This bargain held on both sides. The wedding, too, was celebrated,
but that took rather a strange turn. On the morning of the
bride-night, Olaf, who had not been sleeping, though his fair partner
thought he had, opened his eyes, and saw, with astonishment, the fair
partner aiming a long knife ready to strike home upon him! Which at
once ended their wedded life; poor Demoiselle Ironbeard immediately
bundling off with her attendants home again; King Olaf into the
apartment of his servants, mentioning there what had happened, and
forbidding any of them to follow her.

Olaf Tryggveson, though his kingdom was the smallest of the Norse
Three, had risen to a renown over all the Norse world, which neither
he of Denmark nor he of Sweden could pretend to rival. A magnificent,
far-shining man; more expert in all "bodily exercises" as the Norse
call them, than any man had ever been before him, or after was. Could
keep five daggers in the air, always catching the proper fifth by its
handle, and sending it aloft again; could shoot supremely, throw a
javelin with either hand; and, in fact, in battle usually throw two
together. These, with swimming, climbing, leaping, were the then
admirable Fine Arts of the North; in all which Tryggveson appears to
have been the Raphael and the Michael Angelo at once. Essentially
definable, too, if we look well into him, as a wild bit of real
heroism, in such rude guise and environment; a high, true, and great
human soul. A jovial burst of laughter in him, withal; a bright,
airy, wise way of speech; dressed beautifully and with care; a man
admired and loved exceedingly by those he liked; dreaded as death by
those he did not like. "Hardly any king," says Snorro, "was ever so
well obeyed; by one class out of zeal and love, by the rest out of
dread." His glorious course, however, was not to last long.

King Svein of the Double-Beard had not yet completed his conquest of
England,--by no means yet, some thirteen horrid years of that still
before him!--when, over in Denmark, he found that complaints against
him and intricacies had arisen, on the part principally of one
Burislav, King of the Wends (far up the Baltic), and in a less degree
with the King of Sweden and other minor individuals. Svein earnestly
applied himself to settle these, and have his hands free. Burislav,
an aged heathen gentleman, proved reasonable and conciliatory; so,
too, the King of Sweden, and Dowager Queen Sigrid, his managing
mother. Bargain in both these cases got sealed and crowned by
marriage. Svein, who had become a widower lately, now wedded Sigrid;
and might think, possibly enough, he had got a proud bargain, though a
heathen one. Burislav also insisted on marriage with Princess Thyri,
the Double-Beard's sister. Thyri, inexpressibly disinclined to wed an
aged heathen of that stamp, pleaded hard with her brother; but the
Double-Bearded was inexorable; Thyri's wailings and entreaties went
for nothing. With some guardian foster-brother, and a serving-maid or
two, she had to go on this hated journey. Old Burislav, at sight of
her, blazed out into marriage-feast of supreme magnificence, and was
charmed to see her; but Thyri would not join the marriage party;
refused to eat with it or sit with it at all. Day after day, for six
days, flatly refused; and after nightfall of the sixth, glided out
with her foster-brother into the woods, into by-paths and
inconceivable wanderings; and, in effect, got home to Denmark.
Brother Svein was not for the moment there; probably enough gone to
England again. But Thyri knew too well he would not allow her to stay
here, or anywhere that he could help, except with the old heathen she
had just fled from.

Thyri, looking round the world, saw no likely road for her, but to
Olaf Tryggveson in Norway; to beg protection from the most heroic man
she knew of in the world. Olaf, except by renown, was not known to
her; but by renown he well was. Olaf, at sight of her, promised
protection and asylum against all mortals. Nay, in discoursing with
Thyri Olaf perceived more and more clearly what a fine handsome being,
soul and body, Thyri was; and in a short space of time winded up by
proposing marriage to Thyri; who, humbly, and we may fancy with what
secret joy, consented to say yes, and become Queen of Norway. In the
due months they had a little son, Harald; who, it is credibly
recorded, was the joy of both his parents; but who, to their
inexpressible sorrow, in about a year died, and vanished from them.
This, and one other fact now to be mentioned, is all the wedded
history we have of Thyri.

The other fact is, that Thyri had, by inheritance or covenant, not
depending on her marriage with old Burislav, considerable properties
in Wendland; which, she often reflected, might be not a little
behooveful to her here in Norway, where her civil-list was probably
but straitened. She spoke of this to her husband; but her husband
would take no hold, merely made her gifts, and said, "Pooh, pooh,
can't we live without old Burislav and his Wendland properties?" So
that the lady sank into ever deeper anxiety and eagerness about this
Wendland object; took to weeping; sat weeping whole days; and when
Olaf asked, "What ails thee, then?" would answer, or did answer once,
"What a different man my father Harald Gormson was [vulgarly called
Blue-tooth], compared with some that are now kings! For no King Svein
in the world would Harald Gormson have given up his own or his wife's
just rights!" Whereupon Tryggveson started up, exclaiming in some
heat, "Of thy brother Svein I never was afraid; if Svein and I meet in
contest, it will not be Svein, I believe, that conquers;" and went off
in a towering fume. Consented, however, at last, had to consent, to
get his fine fleet equipped and armed, and decide to sail with it to
Wendland to have speech and settlement with King Burislav.

Tryggveson had already ships and navies that were the wonder of the
North. Especially in building war ships, the Crane, the Serpent, last
of all the Long Serpent,[7]--he had, for size, for outward beauty, and
inward perfection of equipment, transcended all example.

This new sea expedition became an object of attention to all
neighbors; especially Queen Sigrid the Proud and Svein Double-Beard,
her now king, were attentive to it.

"This insolent Tryggveson," Queen Sigrid would often say, and had long
been saying, to her Svein, "to marry thy sister without leave had or
asked of thee; and now flaunting forth his war navies, as if he, king
only of paltry Norway, were the big hero of the North! Why do you
suffer it, you kings really great?"

By such persuasions and reiterations, King Svein of Denmark, King Olaf
of Sweden, and Jarl Eric, now a great man there, grown rich by
prosperous sea robbery and other good management, were brought to take
the matter up, and combine strenuously for destruction of King Olaf
Tryggveson on this grand Wendland expedition of his. Fleets and
forces were with best diligence got ready; and, withal, a certain Jarl
Sigwald, of Jomsburg, chieftain of the Jomsvikings, a powerful,
plausible, and cunning man, was appointed to find means of joining
himself to Tryggveson's grand voyage, of getting into Tryggveson's
confidence, and keeping Svein Double-Beard, Eric, and the Swedish King
aware of all his movements.

King Olaf Tryggveson, unacquainted with all this, sailed away in
summer, with his splendid fleet; went through the Belts with
prosperous winds, under bright skies, to the admiration of both
shores. Such a fleet, with its shining Serpents, long and short, and
perfection of equipment and appearance, the Baltic never saw before.
Jarl Sigwald joined with new ships by the way: "Had," he too, "a
visit to King Burislav to pay; how could he ever do it in better
company?" and studiously and skilfully ingratiated himself with King
Olaf. Old Burislav, when they arrived, proved altogether courteous,
handsome, and amenable; agreed at once to Olaf's claims for his now
queen, did the rites of hospitality with a generous plenitude to Olaf;
who cheerily renewed acquaintance with that country, known to him in
early days (the cradle of his fortunes in the viking line), and found
old friends there still surviving, joyful to meet him again. Jarl
Sigwald encouraged these delays, King Svein and Co. not being yet
quite ready. "Get ready!" Sigwald directed them, and they diligently
did. Olaf's men, their business now done, were impatient to be home;
and grudged every day of loitering there; but, till Sigwald pleased,
such his power of flattering and cajoling Tryggveson, they could not
get away.

At length, Sigwald's secret messengers reporting all ready on the part
of Svein and Co., Olaf took farewell of Burislav and Wendland, and all
gladly sailed away. Svein, Eric, and the Swedish king, with their
combined fleets, lay in wait behind some cape in a safe little bay of
some island, then called Svolde, but not in our time to be found; the
Baltic tumults in the fourteenth century having swallowed it, as some
think, and leaving us uncertain whether it was in the neighborhood of
Rugen Island or in the Sound of Elsinore. There lay Svein, Eric, and
Co. waiting till Tryggveson and his fleet came up, Sigwald's spy
messengers daily reporting what progress he and it had made. At
length, one bright summer morning, the fleet made appearance, sailing
in loose order, Sigwald, as one acquainted with the shoal places,
steering ahead, and showing them the way.

Snorro rises into one of his pictorial fits, seized with enthusiasm at
the thought of such a fleet, and reports to us largely in what order
Tryggveson's winged Coursers of the Deep, in long series, for perhaps
an hour or more, came on, and what the three potentates, from their
knoll of vantage, said of each as it hove in sight, Svein thrice over
guessed this and the other noble vessel to be the Long Serpent; Eric,
always correcting him, "No, that is not the Long Serpent yet" (and
aside always), "Nor shall you be lord of it, king, when it does come."
The Long Serpent itself did make appearance. Eric, Svein, and the
Swedish king hurried on board, and pushed out of their hiding-place
into the open sea. Treacherous Sigwald, at the beginning of all this,
had suddenly doubled that cape of theirs, and struck into the bay out
of sight, leaving the foremost Tryggveson ships astonished, and
uncertain what to do, if it were not simply to strike sail and wait
till Olaf himself with the Long Serpent arrived.

Olaf's chief captains, seeing the enemy's huge fleet come out, and how
the matter lay, strongly advised King Olaf to elude this stroke of
treachery, and, with all sail, hold on his course, fight being now on
so unequal terms. Snorro says, the king, high on the quarter-deck
where he stood, replied, "Strike the sails; never shall men of mine
think of flight. I never fled from battle. Let God dispose of my
life; but flight I will never take." And so the battle arrangements
immediately began, and the battle with all fury went loose; and lasted
hour after hour, till almost sunset, if I well recollect. "Olaf stood
on the Serpent's quarter-deck," says Snorro, "high over the others.
He had a gilt shield and a helmet inlaid with gold; over his armor he
had a short red coat, and was easily distinguished from other men."
Snorro's account of the battle is altogether animated, graphic, and so
minute that antiquaries gather from it, if so disposed (which we but
little are), what the methods of Norse sea-fighting were; their
shooting of arrows, casting of javelins, pitching of big stones,
ultimately boarding, and mutual clashing and smashing, which it would
not avail us to speak of here. Olaf stood conspicuous all day,
throwing javelins, of deadly aim, with both hands at once;
encouraging, fighting and commanding like a highest sea-king.

The Danish fleet, the Swedish fleet, were, both of them, quickly dealt
with, and successively withdrew out of shot-range. And then Jarl Eric
came up, and fiercely grappled with the Long Serpent, or, rather, with
her surrounding comrades; and gradually, as they were beaten empty of
men, with the Long Serpent herself. The fight grew ever fiercer, more
furious. Eric was supplied with new men from the Swedes and Danes;
Olaf had no such resource, except from the crews of his own beaten
ships, and at length this also failed him; all his ships, except the
Long Serpent, being beaten and emptied. Olaf fought on unyielding.
Eric twice boarded him, was twice repulsed. Olaf kept his
quarterdeck; unconquerable, though left now more and more hopeless,
fatally short of help. A tall young man, called Einar Tamberskelver,
very celebrated and important afterwards in Norway, and already the
best archer known, kept busy with his bow. Twice he nearly shot Jarl
Eric in his ship. "Shoot me that man," said Jarl Eric to a bowman
near him; and, just as Tamberskelver was drawing his bow the third
time, an arrow hit it in the middle and broke it in two. "What is
this that has broken?" asked King Olaf. "Norway from thy hand, king,"
answered Tamberskelver. Tryggveson's men, he observed with surprise,
were striking violently on Eric's; but to no purpose: nobody fell.
"How is this?" asked Tryggveson. "Our swords are notched and
blunted, king; they do not cut." Olaf stept down to his arm-chest;
delivered out new swords; and it was observed as he did it, blood ran
trickling from his wrist; but none knew where the wound was. Eric
boarded a third time. Olaf, left with hardly more than one man,
sprang overboard (one sees that red coat of his still glancing in the
evening sun), and sank in the deep waters to his long rest.

Rumor ran among his people that he still was not dead; grounding on
some movement by the ships of that traitorous Sigwald, they fancied
Olaf had dived beneath the keels of his enemies, and got away with
Sigwald, as Sigwald himself evidently did. "Much was hoped, supposed,
spoken," says one old mourning Skald; "but the truth was, Olaf
Tryggveson was never seen in Norseland more." Strangely he remains
still a shining figure to us; the wildly beautifulest man, in body and
in soul, that one has ever heard of in the North.



Jarl Eric, splendent with this victory, not to speak of that over the
Jomsburgers with his father long ago, was now made Governor of Norway:
Governor or quasi-sovereign, with his brother, Jarl. Svein, as
partner, who, however, took but little hand in governing;--and, under
the patronage of Svein Double-Beard and the then Swedish king (Olaf
his name, Sigrid the Proud, his mother's), administered it, they say,
with skill and prudence for above fourteen years. Tryggveson's death
is understood and laboriously computed to have happened in the year
1000; but there is no exact chronology in these things, but a
continual uncertain guessing after such; so that one eye in History as
regards them is as if put out;--neither indeed have I yet had the luck
to find any decipherable and intelligible map of Norway: so that the
other eye of History is much blinded withal, and her path through
those wild regions and epochs is an extremely dim and chaotic one. An
evil that much demands remedying, and especially wants some first
attempt at remedying, by inquirers into English History; the whole
period from Egbert, the first Saxon King of England, on to Edward the
Confessor, the last, being everywhere completely interwoven with that
of their mysterious, continually invasive "Danes," as they call them,
and inextricably unintelligible till these also get to be a little
understood, and cease to be utterly dark, hideous, and mythical to us
as they now are.

King Olaf Tryggveson is the first Norseman who is expressly mentioned
to have been in England by our English History books, new or old; and
of him it is merely said that he had an interview with King Ethelred
II. at Andover, of a pacific and friendly nature,--though it is
absurdly added that the noble Olaf was converted to Christianity by
that extremely stupid Royal Person. Greater contrast in an interview
than in this at Andover, between heroic Olaf Tryggveson and Ethelred
the forever Unready, was not perhaps seen in the terrestrial Planet
that day. Olaf or "Olaus," or "Anlaf," as they name him, did "engage
on oath to Ethelred not to invade England any more," and kept his
promise, they farther say. Essentially a truth, as we already know,
though the circumstances were all different; and the promise was to a
devout High Priest, not to a crowned Blockhead and cowardly
Do-nothing. One other "Olaus" I find mentioned in our Books, two or
three centuries before, at a time when there existed no such
individual; not to speak of several Anlafs, who sometimes seem to mean
Olaf and still oftener to mean nobody possible. Which occasions not a
little obscurity in our early History, says the learned Selden. A
thing remediable, too, in which, if any Englishman of due genius (or
even capacity for standing labor), who understood the Icelandic and
Anglo-Saxon languages, would engage in it, he might do a great deal of
good, and bring the matter into a comparatively lucid state. Vain
aspirations,--or perhaps not altogether vain.

At the time of Olaf Tryggveson's death, and indeed long before, King
Svein Double-Beard had always for chief enterprise the Conquest of
England, and followed it by fits with extreme violence and impetus;
often advancing largely towards a successful conclusion; but never,
for thirteen years yet, getting it concluded. He possessed long since
all England north of Watling Street. That is to say, Northumberland,
East Anglia (naturally full of Danish settlers by this time), were
fixedly his; Mercia, his oftener than not; Wessex itself, with all the
coasts, he was free to visit, and to burn and rob in at discretion.
There or elsewhere, Ethelred the Unready had no battle in him
whatever; and, for a forty years after the beginning of his reign,
England excelled in anarchic stupidity, murderous devastation, utter
misery, platitude, and sluggish contemptibility, all the countries one
has read of. Apparently a very opulent country, too; a ready skill in
such arts and fine arts as there were; Svein's very ships, they say,
had their gold dragons, top-mast pennons, and other metallic splendors
generally wrought for them in England. "Unexampled prosperity" in the
manufacture way not unknown there, it would seem! But co-existing
with such spiritual bankruptcy as was also unexampled, one would hope.
Read Lupus (Wulfstan), Archbishop of York's amazing _Sermon_ on the
subject,[8] addressed to contemporary audiences; setting forth such a
state of things,--sons selling their fathers, mothers, and sisters as
Slaves to the Danish robber; themselves living in debauchery,
blusterous gluttony, and depravity; the details of which are well-nigh
incredible, though clearly stated as things generally known,--the
humor of these poor wretches sunk to a state of what we may call
greasy desperation, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." The
manner in which they treated their own English nuns, if young,
good-looking, and captive to the Danes; buying them on a kind of
brutish or subter-brutish "Greatest Happiness Principle" (for the
moment), and by a Joint-Stock arrangement, far transcends all human
speech or imagination, and awakens in one the momentary red-hot
thought, The Danes have served you right, ye accursed! The so-called
soldiers, one finds, made not the least fight anywhere; could make
none, led and guided as they were, and the "Generals" often enough
traitors, always ignorant, and blockheads, were in the habit, when
expressly commanded to fight, of taking physic, and declaring that
nature was incapable of castor-oil and battle both at once. This
ought to be explained a little to the modern English and their
War-Secretaries, who undertake the conduct of armies. The undeniable
fact is, defeat on defeat was the constant fate of the English; during
these forty years not one battle in which they were not beaten. No
gleam of victory or real resistance till the noble Edmund Ironside
(whom it is always strange to me how such an Ethelred could produce
for son) made his appearance and ran his brief course, like a great
and far-seen meteor, soon extinguished without result. No remedy for
England in that base time, but yearly asking the victorious,
plundering, burning and murdering Danes, "How much money will you take
to go away?" Thirty thousand pounds in silver, which the annual
_Danegelt_ soon rose to, continued to be about the average yearly sum,
though generally on the increasing hand; in the last year I think it
had risen to seventy-two thousand pounds in silver, raised yearly by a
tax (Income-tax of its kind, rudely levied), the worst of all
remedies, good for the day only. Nay, there was one remedy still
worse, which the miserable Ethelred once tried: that of massacring
"all the Danes settled in England" (practically, of a few thousands or
hundreds of them), by treachery and a kind of Sicilian Vespers. Which
issued, as such things usually do, in terrible monition to you not to
try the like again! Issued, namely, in redoubled fury on the Danish
part; new fiercer invasion by Svein's Jarl Thorkel; then by Svein
himself; which latter drove the miserable Ethelred, with wife and
family, into Normandy, to wife's brother, the then Duke there; and
ended that miserable struggle by Svein's becoming King of England
himself. Of this disgraceful massacre, which it would appear has been
immensely exaggerated in the English books, we can happily give the
exact date (A.D. 1002); and also of Svein's victorious accession (A.D.
1013),[9]--pretty much the only benefit one gets out of contemplating
such a set of objects.

King Svein's first act was to levy a terribly increased Income-Tax for
the payment of his army. Svein was levying it with a stronghanded
diligence, but had not yet done levying it, when, at Gainsborough one
night, he suddenly died; smitten dead, once used to be said, by St.
Edmund, whilom murdered King of the East Angles; who could not bear to
see his shrine and monastery of St. Edmundsbury plundered by the
Tyrant's tax-collectors, as they were on the point of being. In all
ways impossible, however,--Edmund's own death did not occur till two
years after Svein's. Svein's death, by whatever cause, befell 1014;
his fleet, then lying in the Humber; and only Knut,[10] his eldest son
(hardly yet eighteen, count some), in charge of it; who, on short
counsel, and arrangement about this questionable kingdom of his,
lifted anchor; made for Sandwich, a safer station at the moment; "cut
off the feet and noses" (one shudders, and hopes not, there being some
discrepancy about it!) of his numerous hostages that had been
delivered to King Svein; set them ashore;--and made for Denmark, his
natural storehouse and stronghold, as the hopefulest first thing he
could do.

Knut soon returned from Denmark, with increase of force sufficient for
the English problem; which latter he now ended in a victorious, and
essentially, for himself and chaotic England, beneficent manner.
Became widely known by and by, there and elsewhere, as Knut the Great;
and is thought by judges of our day to have really merited that title.
A most nimble, sharp-striking, clear-thinking, prudent and effective
man, who regulated this dismembered and distracted England in its
Church matters, in its State matters, like a real King. Had a
Standing Army (_House Carles_), who were well paid, well drilled and
disciplined, capable of instantly quenching insurrection or breakage
of the peace; and piously endeavored (with a signal earnestness, and
even devoutness, if we look well) to do justice to all men, and to
make all men rest satisfied with justice. In a word, he successfully
strapped up, by every true method and regulation, this miserable,
dislocated, and dissevered mass of bleeding Anarchy into something
worthy to be called an England again;--only that he died too soon, and
a second "Conqueror" of us, still weightier of structure, and under
improved auspices, became possible, and was needed here! To
appearance, Knut himself was capable of being a Charlemagne of England
and the North (as has been already said or quoted), had he only lived
twice as long as he did. But his whole sum of years seems not to have
exceeded forty. His father Svein of the Forkbeard is reckoned to have
been fifty to sixty when St. Edmund finished him at Gainsborough. We
now return to Norway, ashamed of this long circuit which has been a
truancy more or less.



King Harald Graenske, who, with another from Russia accidentally
lodging beside him, got burned to death in Sweden, courting that
unspeakable Sigrid the Proud,--was third cousin or so to Tryggve,
father of our heroic Olaf. Accurately counted, he is great-grandson
of Bjorn the Chapman, first of Haarfagr's sons whom Eric Bloodaxe made
away with. His little "kingdom," as he called it, was a district
named the Greenland (_Graeneland_); he himself was one of those little
Haarfagr kinglets whom Hakon Jarl, much more Olaf Tryggveson, was
content to leave reigning, since they would keep the peace with him.
Harald had a loving wife of his own, Aasta the name of her, soon
expecting the birth of her and his pretty babe, named Olaf,--at the
time he went on that deplorable Swedish adventure, the foolish, fated
creature, and ended self and kingdom altogether. Aasta was greatly
shocked; composed herself however; married a new husband, Sigurd Syr,
a kinglet, and a great-grandson of Harald Fairhair, a man of great
wealth, prudence, and influence in those countries; in whose house, as
favorite and well-beloved stepson, little Olaf was wholesomely and
skilfully brought up. In Sigurd's house he had, withal, a special
tutor entertained for him, one Rane, known as Rane the Far-travelled,
by whom he could be trained, from the earliest basis, in Norse
accomplishments and arts. New children came, one or two; but Olaf,
from his mother, seems always to have known that he was the
distinguished and royal article there. One day his Foster-father,
hurrying to leave home on business, hastily bade Olaf, no other being
by, saddle his horse for him. Olaf went out with the saddle, chose
the biggest he-goat about, saddled that, and brought it to the door by
way of horse. Old Sigurd, a most grave man, grinned sardonically at
the sight. "Hah, I see thou hast no mind to take commands from me;
thou art of too high a humor to take commands." To which, says
Snorro, Boy Olaf answered little except by laughing, till Sigurd
saddled for himself, and rode away. His mother Aasta appears to have
been a thoughtful, prudent woman, though always with a fierce royalism
at the bottom of her memory, and a secret implacability on that head.

At the age of twelve Olaf went to sea; furnished with a little fleet,
and skilful sea-counsellor, expert old Rane, by his Foster-father, and
set out to push his fortune in the world. Rane was a steersman and
counsellor in these incipient times; but the crew always called Olaf
"King," though at first, as Snorro thinks, except it were in the hour
of battle, he merely pulled an oar. He cruised and fought in this
capacity on many seas and shores; passed several years, perhaps till
the age of nineteen or twenty, in this wild element and way of life;
fighting always in a glorious and distinguished manner. In the hour
of battle, diligent enough "to amass property," as the Vikings termed
it; and in the long days and nights of sailing, given over, it is
likely, to his own thoughts and the unfathomable dialogue with the
ever-moaning Sea; not the worst High School a man could have, and
indeed infinitely preferable to the most that are going even now, for
a high and deep young soul.

His first distinguished expedition was to Sweden: natural to go
thither first, to avenge his poor father's death, were it nothing
more. Which he did, the Skalds say, in a distinguished manner; making
victorious and handsome battle for himself, in entering Maelare Lake;
and in getting out of it again, after being frozen there all winter,
showing still more surprising, almost miraculous contrivance and
dexterity. This was the first of his glorious victories, of which the
Skalds reckon up some fourteen or thirteen very glorious indeed,
mostly in the Western and Southern countries, most of all in England;
till the name of Olaf Haraldson became quite famous in the Viking and
strategic world. He seems really to have learned the secrets of his
trade, and to have been, then and afterwards, for vigilance,
contrivance, valor, and promptitude of execution, a superior fighter.
Several exploits recorded of him betoken, in simple forms, what may be
called a military genius.

The principal, and to us the alone interesting, of his exploits seem
to have lain in England, and, what is further notable, always on the
anti-Svein side. English books do not mention him at all that I can
find; but it is fairly credible that, as the Norse records report, in
the end of Ethelred's reign, he was the ally or hired general of
Ethelred, and did a great deal of sea-fighting, watching, sailing, and
sieging for this miserable king and Edmund Ironside, his son. Snorro
says expressly, London, the impregnable city, had to be besieged again
for Ethelred's behoof (in the interval between Svein's death and young
Knut's getting back from Denmark), and that our Olaf Haraldson was the
great engineer and victorious captor of London on that singular
occasion,--London captured for the first time. The Bridge, as usual,
Snorro says, offered almost insuperable obstacles. But the
engineering genius of Olaf contrived huge "platforms of wainscoting
[old walls of wooden houses, in fact], bound together by withes;"
these, carried steadily aloft above the ships, will (thinks Olaf)
considerably secure them and us from the destructive missiles, big
boulder stones, and other, mischief profusely showered down on us,
till we get under the Bridge with axes and cables, and do some good
upon it. Olaf's plan was tried; most of the other ships, in spite of
their wainscoting and withes, recoiled on reaching the Bridge, so
destructive were the boulder and other missile showers. But Olaf's
ships and self got actually under the Bridge; fixed all manner of
cables there; and then, with the river current in their favor, and the
frightened ships rallying to help in this safer part of the
enterprise, tore out the important piles and props, and fairly broke
the poor Bridge, wholly or partly, down into the river, and its Danish
defenders into immediate surrender. That is Snorro's account.

On a previous occasion, Olaf had been deep in a hopeful combination
with Ethelred's two younger sons, Alfred and Edward, afterwards King
Edward the Confessor: That they two should sally out from Normandy in
strong force, unite with Olaf in ditto, and, landing on the Thames, do
something effectual for themselves. But impediments, bad weather or
the like, disheartened the poor Princes, and it came to nothing. Olaf
was much in Normandy, what they then called Walland; a man held in
honor by those Norman Dukes.

What amount of "property" he had amassed I do not know, but could
prove, were it necessary, that he had acquired some tactical or even
strategic faculty and real talent for war. At Lymfjord, in Jutland,
but some years after this (A.D. 1027), he had a sea-battle with the
great Knut himself,--ships combined with flood-gates, with roaring,
artificial deluges; right well managed by King Olaf; which were within
a hair's-breadth of destroying Knut, now become a King and Great; and
did in effect send him instantly running. But of this more
particularly by and by.

What still more surprises me is the mystery, where Olaf, in this
wandering, fighting, sea-roving life, acquired his deeply religious
feeling, his intense adherence to the Christian Faith. I suppose it
had been in England, where many pious persons, priestly and other,
were still to be met with, that Olaf had gathered these doctrines; and
that in those his unfathomable dialogues with the ever-moaning Ocean,
they had struck root downwards in the soul of him, and borne fruit
upwards to the degree so conspicuous afterwards. It is certain he
became a deeply pious man during these long Viking cruises; and
directed all his strength, when strength and authority were lent him,
to establishing the Christian religion in his country, and suppressing
and abolishing Vikingism there; both of which objects, and their
respective worth and unworth, he, must himself have long known so

It was well on in A.D. 1016 that Knut gained his last victory, at
Ashdon, in Essex, where the earth pyramids and antique church near by
still testify the thankful piety of Knut,--or, at lowest his joy at
having _won_ instead of lost and perished, as he was near doing there.
And it was still this same year when the noble Edmund Ironside, after
forced partition-treaty "in the Isle of Alney," got scandalously
murdered, and Knut became indisputable sole King of England, and
decisively settled himself to his work of governing there. In the
year before either of which events, while all still hung uncertain for
Knut, and even Eric Jarl of Norway had to be summoned in aid of him,
in that year 1015, as one might naturally guess and as all Icelandic
hints and indications lead us to date the thing, Olaf had decided to
give up Vikingism in all its forms; to return to Norway, and try
whether he could not assert the place and career that belonged to him
there. Jarl Eric had vanished with all his war forces towards
England, leaving only a boy, Hakon, as successor, and Svein, his own
brother,--a quiet man, who had always avoided war. Olaf landed in
Norway without obstacle; but decided to be quiet till he had himself
examined and consulted friends.

His reception by his mother Aasta was of the kindest and proudest, and
is lovingly described by Snorro. A pretty idyllic, or epic piece, of
_Norse_ Homeric type: How Aasta, hearing of her son's advent, set all
her maids and menials to work at the top of their speed; despatched a
runner to the harvest-field, where her husband Sigurd was, to warn him
to come home and dress. How Sigurd was standing among his harvest
folk, reapers and binders; and what he had on,--broad slouch hat, with
veil (against the midges), blue kirtle, hose of I forget what color,
with laced boots; and in his hand a stick with silver head and ditto
ring upon it;--a personable old gentleman, of the eleventh century, in
those parts. Sigurd was cautious, prudentially cunctatory, though
heartily friendly in his counsel to Olaf as to the King question.
Aasta had a Spartan tone in her wild maternal heart; and assures Olaf
that she, with a half-reproachful glance at Sigurd, will stand by him
to the death in this his just and noble enterprise. Sigurd promises
to consult farther in his neighborhood, and to correspond by messages;
the result is, Olaf resolutely pushing forward himself, resolves to
call a Thing, and openly claim his kingship there. The Thing itself
was willing enough: opposition parties do here and there bestir
themselves; but Olaf is always swifter than they. Five kinglets
somewhere in the Uplands,[11]--all descendants of Haarfagr; but averse
to break the peace, which Jarl Eric and Hakon Jarl both have always
willingly allowed to peaceable people,--seem to be the main opposition
party. These five take the field against Olaf with what force they
have; Olaf, one night, by beautiful celerity and strategic practice
which a Friedrich or a Turenne might have approved, surrounds these
Five; and when morning breaks, there is nothing for them but either
death, or else instant surrender, and swearing of fealty to King Olaf.
Which latter branch of the alternative they gladly accept, the whole
five of them, and go home again.

This was a beautiful bit of war-practice by King Olaf on land. By
another stroke still more compendious at sea, he had already settled
poor young Hakon, and made him peaceable for a long while. Olaf by
diligent quest and spy-messaging, had ascertained that Hakon, just
returning from Denmark and farewell to Papa and Knut, both now under
way for England, was coasting north towards Trondhjem; and intended on
or about such a day to land in such and such a fjord towards the end
of this Trondhjem voyage. Olaf at once mans two big ships, steers
through the narrow mouth of the said fjord, moors one ship on the
north shore, another on the south; fixes a strong cable, well sunk
under water, to the capstans of these two; and in all quietness waits
for Hakon. Before many hours, Hakon's royal or quasi-royal barge
steers gaily into this fjord; is a little surprised, perhaps, to see
within the jaws of it two big ships at anchor, but steers gallantly
along, nothing doubting. Olaf with a signal of "All hands," works his
two capstans; has the cable up high enough at the right moment,
catches with it the keel of poor Hakon's barge, upsets it, empties it
wholly into the sea. Wholly into the sea; saves Hakon, however, and
his people from drowning, and brings them on board. His dialogue with
poor young Hakon, especially poor young Hakon's responses, is very
pretty. Shall I give it, out of Snorro, and let the reader take it
for as authentic as he can? It is at least the true image of it in
authentic Snorro's head, little more than two centuries later.

"Jarl Hakon was led up to the king's ship. He was the handsomest man
that could be seen. He had long hair as fine as silk, bound about his
head with a gold ornament. When he sat down in the forehold the king
said to him:

_King._ "'It is not false, what is said of your family, that ye are
handsome people to look at; but now your luck has deserted you.'

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

_King._ "'Dost thou not apprehend that thou art in such a condition
that, hereafter, there can be neither victory nor defeat for thee?'

_Hakon._ "'That is what only thou canst determine, King, according to
thy pleasure.'

_King._ "'What wilt thou give me, Jarl, if, for this time, I let thee
go, whole and unhurt?'

_Hakon._ "'What wilt thou take, King?'

_King._ "'Nothing, except that thou shalt leave the country; give up
thy kingdom; and take an oath that thou wilt never go into battle
against me.'"[12]

Jarl Hakon accepted the generous terms; went to England and King Knut,
and kept his bargain for a good few years; though he was at last
driven, by pressure of King Knut, to violate it,--little to his
profit, as we shall see. One victorious naval battle with Jarl Svein,
Hakon's uncle, and his adherents, who fled to Sweden, after his
beating,--battle not difficult to a skilful, hard-hitting king,--was
pretty much all the actual fighting Olaf had to do in this enterprise.
He various times met angry Bonders and refractory Things with arms in
their hand; but by skilful, firm management,--perfectly patient, but
also perfectly ready to be active,--he mostly managed without coming
to strokes; and was universally recognized by Norway as its real king.
A promising young man, and fit to be a king, thinks Snorro. Only of
middle stature, almost rather shortish; but firm-standing, and
stout-built; so that they got to call him Olaf the Thick (meaning Olaf
the Thick-set, or Stout-built), though his final epithet among them
was infinitely higher. For the rest, "a comely, earnest,
prepossessing look; beautiful yellow hair in quantity; broad, honest
face, of a complexion pure as snow and rose;" and finally (or firstly)
"the brightest eyes in the world; such that, in his anger, no man
could stand them." He had a heavy task ahead, and needed all his
qualities and fine gifts to get it done.



The late two Jarls, now gone about their business, had both been
baptized, and called themselves Christians. But during their
government they did nothing in the conversion way; left every man to
choose his own God or Gods; so that some had actually two, the
Christian God by land, and at sea Thor, whom they considered safer in
that element. And in effect the mass of the people had fallen back
into a sluggish heathenism or half-heathenism, the life-labor of Olaf
Tryggveson lying ruinous or almost quite overset. The new Olaf, son
of Harald, set himself with all his strength to mend such a state of
matters; and stood by his enterprise to the end, as the one highest
interest, including all others, for his People and him. His method
was by no means soft; on the contrary, it was hard, rapid,
severe,--somewhat on the model of Tryggveson's, though with more of
_bishoping_ and preaching superadded. Yet still there was a great
deal of mauling, vigorous punishing, and an entire intolerance of
these two things: Heathenism and Sea-robbery, at least of Sea-robbery
in the old style; whether in the style we moderns still practise, and
call privateering, I do not quite know. But Vikingism proper had to
cease in Norway; still more, Heathenism, under penalties too severe to
he borne; death, mutilation of limb, not to mention forfeiture and
less rigorous coercion. Olaf was inexorable against violation of the
law. "Too severe," cried many; to whom one answers, "Perhaps in part
_yes_, perhaps also in great part _no_; depends altogether on the
previous question, How far the law was the eternal one of God Almighty
in the universe, How far the law merely of Olaf (destitute of right
inspiration) left to his own passions and whims?"

Many were the jangles Olaf had with the refractory Heathen Things and
Ironbeards of a new generation: very curious to see. Scarcely ever
did it come to fighting between King and Thing, though often enough
near it; but the Thing discerning, as it usually did in time, that the
King was stronger in men, seemed to say unanimously to itself, "We
have lost, then; baptize us, we must burn our old gods and conform."
One new feature we do slightly discern: here and there a touch of
theological argument on the heathen side. At one wild Thing, far up
in the Dovrefjeld, of a very heathen temper, there was much of that;
not to be quenched by King Olaf at the moment; so that it had to be
adjourned till the morrow, and again till the next day. Here are some
traits of it, much abridged from Snorro (who gives a highly punctual
account), which vividly represent Olaf's posture and manner of
proceeding in such intricacies.

The chief Ironbeard on this occasion was one Gudbrand, a very rugged
peasant; who, says Snorro, was like a king in that district. Some
days before, King Olaf, intending a religious Thing in those deeply
heathen parts, with alternative of Christianity or conflagration, is
reported, on looking down into the valley and the beautiful village of
Loar standing there, to have said wistfully, "What a pity it is that
so beautiful a village should be burnt!" Olaf sent out his
message-token all the, same, however, and met Gudbrand and an immense
assemblage, whose humor towards him was uncompliant to a high degree
indeed. Judge by this preliminary speech of Gudbrand to his
Thing-people, while Olaf was not yet arrived, but only advancing,
hardly got to Breeden on the other side of the hill: "A man has come
to Loar who is called Olaf," said Gudbrand, "and will force upon us
another faith than we had before, and will break in pieces all our

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