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Heimskringla The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway by Snorri Sturlson

Part 12 out of 18

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which could be locked with a key. In this shrine King Magnus had
the holy remains of King Olaf deposited, and many were the
miracles there wrought. Of this Sigvat speaks: --

"For him a golden shrine is made,
For him whose heart was ne'er afraid
Of mortal man -- the holy king,
Whom the Lord God to heaven did bring.
Here many a man shall feel his way,
Stone-blind, unconscious of the day,
And at the shrine where Olaf lies
Give songs of praise for opened eyes."

It was also appointed by law that King Olaf's holy day should be
held sacred over all Norway, and that day has been kept ever
afterwards as the greatest of Church days. Sigvat speaks of it:

"To Olaf, Magnus' father, raise,
Within my house, the song of praise!
With joy, yet grief, we'll keep the day
Olaf to heaven was called away.
Well may I keep within my breast
A day for him in holy rest, --
My upraised hands a golden ring
On every branch (1) bear from that king."

(1) The fingers, the branches of the hand, bore golden fruits
from the generosity of the king. -- L.


Thorer Hund left the country immediately after King Olaf's fall.
He went all the way to Jerusalem, and many people say he never
came back. Thorer Hund had a son called Sigurd, father of
Ranveig who was married to Joan, a son of Arne Arnason. Their
children were Vidkun of Bjarkey, Sigurd Hund, Erling, and


Harek of Thjotta sat at home on his farm, till King Magnus
Olafson came to the country and was made king. Then Harek went
south to Throndhjem to King Magnus. At that time Asmund
Grankelson was in the king's house. When Harek came to Nidaros,
and landed out of the ship, Asmund was standing with the king in
the gallery outside the loft, and both the king and Asmund knew
Harek when they saw him. "Now," says Asmund to the king, "I will
pay Harek for my father's murder." He had in his hand a little
thin hatchet. The king looked at him, and said, "Rather take
this axe of mine." It was thick, and made like a club. "Thou
must know, Asmund," added he, "that there are hard bones in the
old fellow." Asmund took the axe, went down, and through the
house, and when he came down to the cross-road Harek and his men
coming up met him. Asmund struck Harek on the head, so that the
axe penetrated to the brains; and that was Harek's death-wound.
Asmund turned back directly to the king's house, and the whole
edge of the axe was turned with the blow. Then said the king,
"What would thy axe have done, for even this one, I think, is
spoilt?" King Magnus afterwards gave him a fief and office in
Halogaland, and many are the tales about the strife between
Asmund and Harek's sons.


Kalf Arnason had at first, for some time, the greatest share of
the government of the country under King Magnus; but afterwards
there were people who reminded the king of the part Kalf had
taken at Stiklestad, and then it became difficult for Kalf to
give the king satisfaction in anything. Once it happened there
were many men with the king bringing their affairs before him;
and Thorgeir Flek from Sula in Veradal, of whom mention is made
before in the history of King Olaf the Saint, came to him about
some needful business. The king paid no attention to his words,
but was listening to people who stood near him. Then Thorgeir
said to the king, so loud that all who were around him could
hear: --

"Listen, my lord, to my plain word.
I too was there, and had to bear
A bloody head from Stiklestad:
For I was then with Olaf's men.
Listen to me: well did I see
The men you're trusting the dead corpse thrusting
Out of their way, as dead it lay;
And striking o'er your father's gore."

There was instantly a great uproar, and some told Thorgeir to go
out; but the king called him, and not only despatched his
business to his satisfaction, but promised him favour and


Soon after this the king was at a feast at the farm of Haug in
Veradel, and at the dinner-table Kalf Arnason sat upon one side
of him, and Einar Tambaskelfer on the other. It was already come
so far that the king took little notice of Kalf, but paid most
attention to Einar. The king said to Einar, "Let us ride to-day
to Stiklestad. I should like to see the memorials of the things
which took place there." Einar replies, "I can tell thee nothing
about it; but take thy foster-father Kalf with thee; he can give
thee information about all that took place." When the tables
were removed, the king made himself ready, and said to Kalf,
"Thou must go with me to Stiklestad."

Kalf replied, "That is really not my duty."

Then the king stood up in a passion, and said, "Go thou shalt,
Kalf!" and thereupon he went out.

Kalf put on his riding clothes in all haste, and said to his
foot-boy, "Thou must ride directly to Eggja, and order my house-
servants to ship all my property on board my ship before sunset."

King Magnus now rides to Stiklestad, and Kalf with him. They
alighted from horseback, and went to the place where the battle
had been. Then said the king to Kalf, "Where is the spot at
which the king fell?"

Kalf stretched out his spear-shaft, and said, "There he lay when
he fell."

The king: "And where wast thou, Kalf?"

Kalf: "Here where I am now standing."

The king turned red as blood in the face, and said, "Then thy axe
could well have reached him."

Kalf replied, "My axe did not come near him;" and immediately
went to his horse, sprang on horseback, and rode away with all
his men; and the king rode back to Haug. Kalf did not stop until
he got home in the evening to Eggja. There his ship lay ready at
the shore side, and all his effects were on board, and the vessel
manned with his house-servants. They set off immediately by
night down the fjord, and afterwards proceeded day and night,
when the wind suited. He sailed out into the West sea, and was
there a long time plundering in Ireland, Scotland, and the
Hebudes. Bjarne Gullbrarskald tells of this in the song about
Kalf: --

"Brother of Thorberg, who still stood
Well with the king! in angry mood
He is the first to break with thee,
Who well deserves esteemed to be;
He is the first who friendship broke,
For envious men the falsehood spoke;
And he will he the first to rue
The breach of friendship 'twixt you two."


King Magnus added to his property Veggia, which Hrut had been
owner of, and Kviststad, which had belonged to Thorgeir, and also
Eggja, with all the goods which Kalf had left behind him; and
thus he confiscated to the king's estate many great farms, which
had belonged to those of the bonde-army who had fallen at
Stiklestad. In like manner, he laid heavy fined upon many of
those who made the greatest opposition to King Olaf. He drove
some out of the country, took large sums of money from others,
and had the cattle of others slaughtered for his use. Then the
bondes began to murmur, and to say among themselves, "Will he go
on in the same way as his father and other chiefs, whom we made
an end of when their pride and lawless proceedings became
insupportable?" This discontent spread widely through the
country. The people of Sogn gathered men, and, it was said, were
determined to give battle to King Magnus, if he came into the
Fjord district. King Magnus was then in Hordaland, where he had
remained a long time with a numerous retinue, and was now come to
the resolution to proceed north to Sogn. When the king's friends
observed this, twelve men had a meeting, and resolved to
determine by casting lots which of them should inform the king of
the discontent of the people; and it so happened that the lot
fell upon Sigvat.


Sigvat accordingly composed a poem, which he called the "Free-
speaking Song", which begins with saying the king had delayed too
long to pacify the people, who were threatening to rise in tumult
against him. He said: --

"Here in the south, from Sogn is spread
The news that strife draws to a head:
The bondes will the king oppose --
Kings and their folk should ne'er be foes.
Let us take arms, and briskly go
To battle, if it must be so;
Defend our king -- but still deplore
His land plunged in such strife once more."

In this song are also these verses: --

"Hakon. who at Fitiar died, --
Hakon the Good, could not abide
The viking rule. or robber train,
And all men's love he thus did gain.
The people since have still in mind
The laws of Hakon, just and kind;
And men will never see the day
When Hakon's laws have passed away.

"The bondes ask but what is fair;
The Olafs and the Earls, when there
Where Magnus sits, confirmed to all
Their lands and gear -- to great and small,
Bold Trygve's son, and Harald's heir,
The Olafs, while on earth they were,
Observed the laws themselves had made,
And none was for his own afraid.

"Let not thy counsellors stir thy wrath
Against the man who speaks the truth;
Thy honour lies in thy good sword,
But still more in thy royal word;
And, if the people do not lie,
The new laws turn out not nigh
So Just and mild, as the laws given
At Ulfasund in face of heaven.

"Dread king! who urges thee to break
Thy pledged word, and back to take
Thy promise given? Thou warrior bold;
With thy own people word to hold,
Thy promise fully to maintain,
Is to thyself the greatest gain:
The battle-storm raiser he
Must by his own men trusted be.

"Who urges thee, who seek'st renown,
The bondes' cattle to cut down?
No king before e'er took in hand
Such viking-work in his own land.
Such rapine men will not long bear,
And the king's counsellors will but share
In their ill-will: when once inflamed,
The king himself for all is blamed.

"Do cautious, with this news of treason
Flying about -- give them no reason.
We hange the thief, but then we use
Consideration of the excuse.
I think, great king (who wilt rejoice
Eagle and wolf with battle voice),
It would be wise not to oppose
Thy bondes, and make them thy foes.

"A dangerous sign it is, I fear,
That old grey-bearded men appear
In corners whispering at the Thing,
As if they had bad news to bring.
The young sit still, -- no laugh, or shout, --
More looks than words passing shout;
And groups of whispering heads are seen,
On buttoned breasts, with lowering mien.

"Among the udalmen, they say
The king, if he could have his way,
Would seize the bondes' udal land,
And free-born men must this withstand.
In truth the man whose udal field,
By any doom that law can yield
From him adjudged the king would take,
Could the king's throne and power shake."

This verse is the last: --

"A holy bond between us still
Makes me wish speedy end to ill:
The sluggard waits till afternoon, --
At once great Magnus! grant our boon.
Then we will serve with heart and hand,
With thee we'll fight by sea or land:
With Olaf's sword take Olaf's mind,
And to thy bondes be more kind."

In this song the king was exhorted to observe the laws which his
father had established. This exhortation had a good effect on
the king, for many others held the same language to him. So at
last the king consulted the most prudent men, who ordered all
affairs according to law. Thereafter King Magnus had the law-
book composed in writing which is still in use in Throndhjem
district, and is called "The Grey Goose" (1). King Magnus
afterwards became very popular, and was beloved by all the
country people, and therefore he was called Magnus the Good.

(1) "The Grey Goose", so called probably from the colour of the
parchment on which it is written, is one of the most curious
relics of the Middle Ages, and give us an unexpected view of
the social condition of the Northmen in the eleventh
century. Law appears to have been so far advanced among
them that the forms were not merely established, but the
slightest breach of the legal forms of proceeding involved
the loss of the case. The "Grey Goose" embraces subjects
not dealt with probably by any other code in Europe at that
period. The provision for the poor, the equality of
weights and measures, police of markets and of sea havens,
provision for illegitimate children of the poor, inns for
travellers, wages of servants and support of them in
sickness, protection of pregnant women and even of domestic
animals from injury, roads, bridges, vagrants, beggars, are
subjects treated of in this code. -- "Schlegel." -- L.


The king of the English, King Harald, died (A.D. 1040) five years
after his father King Canute, and was buried beside his father at
Winchester. After his death his brother Hardaknut, the second
son of the old King Canute, was king of England, and was thus
king both of Denmark and England. He ruled these kingdoms two
years, and then died of sickness in England, leaving no children.
He was buried at Winchester beside his father. After his death
Edward the Good, a son of the English king Ethelred (and Emma, a
daughter of Richard earl of Rouen), was chosen king in England.
King Edward the Good was, on his mother's side, a brother of
Harald and Hardaknut, the sons of Canute the Great; and the
daughter of Canute and Queen Emma was Gunhild, who was married to
the Emperor Henry of Germany, who was called Henry the Mild.
Gunhild had been three years in Germamy when she fell sick, and
she died five years after the death of her father King Canute the


When King Magnus Olafson heard of Hardaknut's death, he
immediately sent people south to Denmark, with a message to the
men who had bound themselves by oath to the peace and agreement
which was made between King Magnus and Hardaknut, and reminded
them of their pledge. He added, as a conclusion, that in summer
(A.D. 1042.) he would come with his army to Denmark to take
possession of his Danish dominions, in terms of the agreement, or
to fall in the field with his army. So says Arnor, the earls'
skald: --

"Wise were the words, exceeding wise,
Of him who stills the hungriest cries
Of beasts of prey -- the earl's lord;
And soon fulfilled will be his word:
`With his good sword he'll Denmark gain,
Or fall upon a bloody plain;
And rather than give up his cause,
Will leave his corpse to raven's claws.'"


Thereafter King Magnus gathered together a great army, and
summoned to him all lendermen and powerful bondes, and collected
war-ships. When the army was assembled it was very handsome, and
well fitted out. He had seventy large vessels when he sailed
from Norway. So says Thiodolf the skald: --

"Brave king! the terror of the foe,
With thee will many a long-ship go.
Full seventy sail are gathered here,
Eastward with their great king to steer.
And southward now the bright keel glides;
O'er the white waves the Bison rides.
Sails swell, yards crack, the highest mast
O'er the wide sea scarce seen at last."

Here it related that King Magnus had the great Bison, which his
father King Olaf had built. It had more than thirty banks of
rowers; and forward on the bow was a great buffalo head, and aft
on the stern-post was its tail. Both the head and the tail, and
both sides of the ship, were gilded over. Of this speaks Arnor,
the earls' skald: --

"The white foam lashing o'er the deck
Oft made the glided head to shake;
The helm down, the vessel's heel
Oft showed her stem's bright-glacing steel.
Around Stavanger-point careering,
Through the wild sea's white flames steering,
Tackle loud singing to the strain,
The storm-horse flies to Denmark's plain."

King Magnus set out to sea from Agder, and sailed over to
Jutland. So says Arnor: --

"I can relate how through the gale
The gallant Bison carried sail.
With her lee gunwale in the wave,
The king on board, Magnus the brave!
The iron-clad Thingmen's chief to see
On Jutland's coast right glad were we, --
Right glad our men to see a king
Who in the fight his sword could swing."


When King Magnus came to Denmark he was joyfully received. He
appointed a Thing without delay, to which he summoned the people
of the country, and desired they would take him as king,
according to the agreement which had been entered into. As the
highest of the chiefs of the country were bound by oath to King
Magnus, and were desirous of keeping their word and oath, they
endeavoured zealously to promote the cause with the people. It
contributed also that King Canute the Great, and all his
descendants, were dead; and a third assistance was, that his
father King Olaf's sanctity and miracles were become celebrated
in all countries.


King Magnus afterwards ordered the people to be summoned to
Viborg to a Thing. Both in older and later times, the Danes
elected their kings at the Viborg Thing. At this Thing the Danes
chose Magnus Olafson to be king of all the Danish dorninions.
King Magnus remained long in Denmark during the summer (A.D.
1042); and wherever he came the people received him joyfully, and
obeyed him willingly. He divided the country into baronies and
districts, and gave fiefs to men of power in the land. Late in
autumn he returned with his fleet to Norway, but lay for some
time at the Gaut river.


There was a man, by name Svein, a son of Earl Ulf, and grandson
of Thorgils Sprakaleg. Svein's mother was Astrid, a daughter of
King Svein Forkbeard. She was a sister of Canute the Great by
the father's side, and of the Swedish King Olaf Eirikson by the
mother's side; for her mother was Queen Sigrid the Haughty, a
daughter of Skoglar Toste. Svein Ulfson had been a long time
living with his relation the Swedish king, ever since King Canute
had ordered his father Ulf to be killed, as is related in the
saga of old King Canute, that he had his brother-in-law, Earl
Ulf, murdered in Roskilde; and on which account Svein had not
since been in Denmark. Svein Ulfson was one of the handsomest
men that could be seen; he was very stout and strong, and very
expert in all exercises, and a well-spoken man withal. Every one
who knew him said he had every quality which became a good chief.
Svein Ulfson waited upon King Magnus while he lay in the Gaut
river, as before mentioned, and the king received him kindly, as
he was by many advised to do; for Svein was a particularly
popular man. He could also speak for himself to the king well
and cleverly; so that it came at lasf to Svein's entering into
King Magnus's service, and becoming his man. They often talked
together afterwards in private concerning many affairs.


One day, as King Magnus sat in his high-seat and many people were
around him, Svein Ulfson sat upon a footstool before the king.
The king then made a speech: "Be it known to you, chiefs, and the
people in general, that I have taken the following resolution.
Here is a distinguished man, both for family and for his own
merits, Svein Ulfson, who has entered into my service, and given
me promise of fidelity. Now, as ye know, the Danes have this
summer become my men, so that when I am absent from the country
it is without a head; and it is not unknown to you how it is
ravaged by the people of Vindland, Kurland, and others from the
Baltic, as well as by Saxons. Therefore I promised them a chief
who could defend and rule their land; and I know no man better
fitted, in all respects, for this than Svein Ulfson, who is of
birth to be chief of the country. I will therefore make him my
earl, and give him the government of my Danish dominions while I
am in Norway; just as King Canute the Great set his father, Earl
Ulf, over Denmark while he was in England."

Then Einar Tambaskelfer said, "Too great an earl -- too great an
earl, my foster-son!"

The king replied in a passion, "Ye have a poor opinion of my
judgment, I think. Some consider that ye are too great earls,
and others that ye are fit for nothing."

Then the king stood up, took a sword, and girt it on the earl's
loins, and took a shield and fastened it on his shoulders, put a
helmet upon his head, and gave him the title of earl, with the
same fiefs in Denmark which his father Earl Ulf had formerly
held. Afterwards a shrine was brought forth containing holy
relics, and Svein laid his hand hereon, and swore the oath of
fidelity to King Magnus; upon which the king led the earl to the
highseat by his side. So says Thiodolf: --

"Twas at the Gaut river's shore,
With hand on shrine Svein Ulfson swore.
King Magnus first said o'er the oath,
With which Svein Ulfson pledged his troth.
The vows by Svein solemnly given,
On holy bones of saints in heaven,
To Magnus seemed both fair and fast;
He found they were too fair to last."

Earl Svein went thereafter to Denmark, and the whole nation
received him well. He established a court about him, and soon
became a great man. In winter (A.D. 1043), he went much about
the country, and made friends among the powerful chiefs; and,
indeed, he was beloved by all the people of the land.


King Magnus proceeded northward to Norway with his fleet, and
wintered there; but when the spring set in (A.D. 1048) he
gathered a large force, with which he sailed south to Demnark,
having heard the news from Vindland that the Vindland people in
Jomsborg had withdrawn from their submission to him. The Danish
kings had formerly had a very large earldom there, and they first
founded Jomsborg; and now the place was become a very strong
fortress. When King Magnus heard of this, he ordered a large
fleet and army to be levied in Denmark, and sailed in summer to
Vindland with all his forces, which made a very large army
altogether. Arnor, the earls' skald, tells of it thus: --

"Now in this strophe, royal youth!
I tell no more than the plain truth.
Thy armed outfit from the strand
Left many a keel-trace on the sand,
And never did a king before
SO many ships to any shore
Lead on, as thou to Vindland's isle:
The Vindland men in fright recoil."

Now when King Magnus came to Vindland he attacked Jomsborg, and
soon took the fortress, killing' many people, burning and
destroying both in the town and in the courttry all around, and
making the greatest havoc. So says Arnor, the earl's skald: --

"The robbers, hemmed 'twixt death and fire,
Knew not how to escape thy ire;
O'er Jomsborg castle's highest towers
Thy wrath the whirlwind-fire pours.
The heathen on his false gods calls,
And trembles even in their halls;
And by the light from its own flame
The king this viking-hold o'ercame."

Many people in Vindland submitted to King Magnus, but many more
got out of the way and fled. King Magnus returned to Denmark,
and prepared to take his winter abode there, and sent away the
Danish, and also a great many of the Norwegian people he had
brought with him.


The same winter (A.D. 1043), in which Svein Ulfson was raised to
the government of the whole Danish dominions, and had made
friends of a great number of the principal chiefs in Denmark, and
obtained the affections of the people, he assumed by the advice
of many of the chiefs the title of king. But when in the spring
thereafter he heard that King Magnus had come from the north with
a great army, Svein went over to Scania, from thence up to
Gautland, and so on to Svithjod to his relation, King Emund,
where he remained all summer, and sent spies out to Denmark, to
inquire about the king's proceedings and the number of his men.
Now when Svein heard that King Magnus had let a great part of his
army go away, and also that he was south in Jutland, he rode from
Svithjod with a great body of peopie which the Swedish king had
given him. When Svein came to Scania the people of that country
received him well, treated him as their king, and men joined him
in crowds. He then went on to Seeland, where he was also well
received, and the whole country joined him. He then went to
Fyen, and laid all the islands under his power; and as the people
also joined him, he collected a great army and many ships of war.


King Magnus heard this news, and at the same time that the people
of Vindland had a large force on foot. He summoned people
therefore to come to him, and drew together a great army in
Jutland. Otto, also, the Duke of Brunsvik, who had married
Ulfhild, King Olaf the Saint's daughter, and the sister of King
Magnus, came to him with a great troop. The Danish chiefs
pressed King Magnus to advance against the Vindland army, and not
allow pagans to march over and lay waste the country; so it was
resolved that the king with his army should proceed south to
Heidaby. While King Magnus lay at Skotborg river, on Hlyrskog
Heath, he got intelligence concerning the Vindland army, and that
it was so numerous it could not be counted; whereas King Magnus
had so few, that there seemed no chance for him but to fly. The
king, however, determined on fighting, if there was any
possibility of gaining the victory; but the most dissuaded him
from venturing on an engagement, and all, as one man, said that
the Vindland people had undoubtedly a prodigious force. Duke
Otto, however, pressed much to go to battle. Then the king
ordered the whole army to be gathered by the war trumpets into
battle array, and ordered all the men to arm, and to lie down for
the night under their shields; for he was told the enemy's army
had come to the neighbourhood. The king was very thoughtful; for
he was vexed that he should be obliged to fly, which fate he had
never experienced before. He slept but little all night, and
chanted his prayers.


The following day was Michaelmas eve. Towards dawn the king
slumbered, and dreamt that his father, King Olaf the Saint,
appeared to him, and said, "Art thou so melancholy and afraid,
because the Vindland people come against thee with a great army?
Be not afraid of heathens, although they be many; for I shall be
with thee in the battle. Prepare, therefore, to give battle to
the Vindlanders, when thou hearest my trumpet." When the king
awoke he told his dream to his men, and the day was then dawning.
At that moment all the people heard a ringing of bells in the
air; and those among King Magnus's men who had been in Nidaros
thought that it was the ringing of the bell called Glod, which
King Olaf had presented to the church of Saint Clement in the
town of Nidaros.


Then King Magnus stood up, and ordered the war trumpets to sound,
and at that moment the Vindland army advanced from the south
across the river against him; on which the whole of the king's
army stood up, and advanced against the heathens. King Magnus
threw off from him his coat of ring-mail, and had a red silk
shirt outside over his clothes, and had in his hands the battle-
axe called Hel (1), which had belonged to King Olaf. King Magnus
ran on before all his men to the enemy's army, and instantly
hewed down with both hands every man who came against him. So
says Arnor, the earls' skald: --

"His armour on the ground he flung
His broad axe round his head he swung;
And Norway's king strode on in might,
Through ringing swords, to the wild fight.
His broad axe Hel with both hands wielding,
Shields, helms, and skulls before it yielding,
He seemed with Fate the world to share,
And life or death to deal out there."

This battle was not very long; for the king's men were very
fiery, and where they came the Vindland men fell as thick as
tangles heaped up by the waves on the strand. They who stood
behind betook themselves to flight, and were hewed down like
cattle at a slaughter. The king himself drove the fugitives
eastward over the heath, and people fell all over the moor. So
says Thiodolf: --

"And foremost he pursued,
And the flying foe down hewed;
An eagle's feast each stroke,
As the Vindland helms he broke.
He drove them o'er the hearth,
And they fly from bloody death;
But the moor, a mile or more,
With the dead was studded o'er."

It is a common saying, that there never was so great a slaughter
of men in the northern lands, since the time of Christianity, as
took place among the Vindland people on Hlyrskog's Heath. On the
other side, not many of King Magnus's people were killed,
although many were wounded. After the battle the king ordered
the wounds of his men to be bound; but there were not so many
doctors in the army as were necessary, so the king himself went
round, and felt the hands of those he thought best suited for the
business; and when he had thus stroked their palms, he named
twelve men, who, he thought, had the softest hands, and told them
to bind the wounds of the people; and although none of them had
ever tried it before, they all became afterwards the best of
doctors. There were two Iceland men among them; the one was
Thorkil, a son of Geire, from Lyngar; the other was Atle, father
of Bard Svarte of Selardal, from whom many good doctors are
descended. After this battle, the report of the miracle which
King Olaf the Saint had worked was spread widely through the
country; and it was the common saying of the people, that no man
could venture to fight against King Magnus Olafson, for his
father Saint Olaf stood so near to him that his enemies, on that
account. never could do him harm.

(1) Hel -- Death: the goddess of Death. -- L.


King Magnus immediately turned round with his army against Svein,
whom he called his earl, although the Danes called him their
king; and he collected ships, and a great force, and on both
sides a great strength was assembled. In Svein's army were many
chiefs from Scania, Halland, Seeland, and Fyen; while King
Magnus, on the other hand, had mostly Norway and Jutland men, and
with that war-force he hastened to meet Svein. They met at Re,
near Vestland; and there was a great battle, which ended in King
Magnus gaining the victory, and Svein taking flight. After
losing many people, Svein fled back to Scania, and from thence to
Gautland, which was a safe refuge if he needed it, and stood open
to him. King Magnus returned to Jutland, where he remained all
winter (A.D. 1044) with many people, and had a guard to watch his
ships. Arnor, the earls' skald, speaks of this: --

"At Re our battle-loving lord
In bloody meeting stained his sword, --
At Re upon the western shore,
In Vestland warrior's blood once more."


Svein Ulfson went directly to his ships as soon as he heard that
King Magnus had left his fleet. He drew to him all the men he
could, and went round in winter among the islands, Seeland, Fyen,
and others. Towards Yule he sailed to Jutland, and went into
Limfjord, where many people submitted to him. He imposed scat
upon some, but some joined King Magnus. Now when King Magnus
heard what Svein was doing, he betook himself to his ships with
all the Northmen then in Denmark, and a part of the Danish
troops, and steered south along the land. Svein was then in Aros
with a great force; and when he heard of King Magnus he laid his
vessels without the town, and prepared for battle. When King
Magnus heard for certain where Svein was, and that the distance
between them was but short, he held a House-thing, and addressed
his people thus: "It is reported to me that the earl and his
fleet are lying not far from us, and that he has many people.
Now I would let you know that I intend to go out against the earl
and fight for it, although, we have fewer people. We will, as
formerly, put our trust in God, and Saint Olaf, my father, who
has given us victory sometimes when we fought, even though we had
fewer men than the enemy. Now I would have you get ready to seek
out the enemy, and give battle the moment we find him by rowing
all to attack, and being all ready for battle." Thereupon the
men put on their weapons, each man making himself and his place
ready; and then they stretched themselves to their oars. When
they saw the earl's ships they rowed towards them, and made ready
to attack. When Svein's men saw the forces they armed
themselves, bound their ships together, and then began one of the
sharpest of battles. So says Thiodolf, the skald: --

"Shield against shield, the earl and king
Made shields and swords together ring.
The gold-decked heroes made a play
Which Hild's iron-shirt men say
They never saw before or since
On battle-deck; the brave might wince,
As spear and arrow whistling flew,
Point blank, death-bringing, quick and true."

They fought at the bows, so that the men only on the bows could
strike; the men on the forecastle thrust with spears: and all who
were farther off shot with light spears or javelins, or war-
arrows. Some fought with stones or short stakes; and those who
were aft of the mast shot with the bow. So Says Thiodolf: --

"Steel-pointed spear, and sharpened stake,
Made the broad shield on arm shake:
The eagle, hovering in the air,
Screamed o'er the prey preparing there.
And stones and arrows quickly flew,
And many a warrior bold they slew.
The bowman never twanged his bow
And drew his shaft so oft as now;
And Throndhjem's bowmen on that day
Were not the first tired of this play:
Arrows and darts so quickly fly,
You could not follow with the eye."

Here it appears how hot the battle was with casting weapons.
King Magnus stood in the beginning of the battle within a shield-
rampart; but as it appeared to him that matters were going on too
slowly, he leaped over the shields, and rushed forward in the
ship, encouraging his men with a loud cheer, and springing to the
bows, where the battle was going on hand to hand. When his men
saw this they urged each other on with mutual cheering, and there
was one great hurrah through all the ships. So says Thiodolf: --

"`On with our ships! on to the foe!'
Cry Magnus' men -- on, on they go.
Spears against shields in fury rattle, --
Was never seen so fierce a battle."

And now the battle was exceedingly sharp; and in the assault
Svein's ship was cleared of all her forecastle men, upon and on
both sides of the forecastle. Then Magnus boarded Svein's ship,
followed by his men; and one after the other came up, and made so
stout an assault that Svein's men gave way, and King Magnus first
cleared that ship, and then the rest, one after the other. Svein
fled, with a great part of his people; but many fell, and many
got life and peace. Thiodolf tells of this: --

"Brave Magnus, from the stern springing
On to the stem, where swords were ringing
From his sea-raven's beak of gold
Deals death around -- the brave! the bold!
The earl's housemen now begin
To shrink and fall: their ranks grow thin --
The king's luck thrives -- their decks are cleared,
Of fighting men no more appeared.
The earl's ships are driven to flight,
Before the king would stop the fight:
The gold-distributor first then
Gave quarters to the vanquished men."

This battle was fought on the last Sunday before Yule. So says
Thiodolf: --

"'Twas on a Sunday morning bright,
Fell out this great and bloody fight,
When men were arming, fighting, dying,
Or on the red decks wounded lying.
And many a mabn, foredoomed to die,
To save his life o'erboard did fly,
But sank; for swimming could not save,
And dead men rolled in every wave."

Magnus took seven ships from Svein's people. So says Thiodolf:

"Thick Olaf's son seven vessels cleared,
And with his fleet the prizes steered.
The Norway girls will not be sad
To hear such news -- each from her lad."

He also sings: --

"The captured men will grieve the most
Svein and their comrades to have lost;
For it went ill with those who fled,
Their wounded had no easy bed.
A heavy storm that very night
O'ertook them flying from the fight;
And skulls and bones are tumbling round,
Under the sea, on sandy ground."

Svein fled immediately by night to Seeland, with the men who had
escaped and were inclined to follow him; but King Magnus brought
his ships to the shore, and sent his men up the country in the
night-time, and early in the morning they came flown to the
strand with a great booty in cattle. Thiodolf tells about it: --

"But yesterday with heavy stones
We crushed their skulls, and broke their bones,
And thinned their ranks; and now to-day
Up through their land we've ta'en our way,
And driven their cattle to the shore,
And filled out ships with food in store.
To save his land from our quick swords,
Svein will need something more than words."


King Magnus sailed with his fleet from the south after Svein to
Seeland; but as soon as the king came there Svein fled up the
country with his men, and Magnus followed them, and pursued the
fugitives, killing all that were laid hold of. So says Thiodolf:

"The Seeland girl asks with fear,
`Whose blood-bespattered shield and spear --
The earl's or king's -- up from the shore
Moved on with many a warrior more?'
We scoured through all their muddy lanes,
Woodlands, and fields, and miry plains.
Their hasty footmarks in the clay
Showed that to Ringsted led their way.

"Spattered with mud from heel to head,
Our gallant lord his true men led.
Will Lund's earl halt his hasty flight,
And try on land another fight?
His banner yesterday was seen,
The sand-bills and green trees between,
Through moss and mire to the strand,
In arrow flight, leaving the land."

Then Svein fled over to Fyen Island, and King Magnus carried fire
and sword through Seeland, and burnt all round, because their men
had joined Svein's troop in harvest. So says Thiodolf: --

"As Svein in winter had destroyed
The royal house, the king employed
No little force to guard the land,
And the earl's forays to withstand.
An armed band one morn he found,
And so beset them round and round,
That Canute's nephew quickly fled,
Or he would have been captive led.

"Our Throndhjem king in his just ire
Laid waste the land with sword and fire,
Burst every house, and over all
Struck terror into great and small.
To the earl's friends he well repaid
Their deadly hate -- such wild work made
On them and theirs, that from his fury,
Flying for life, away they hurry."


As soon as King Magnus heard that Svein with his troops had gone
across to Fyen, he sailed after them; and when Svein heard this
news he went on board ship and sailed to Scania, and from thence
to Gautland, and at last to the Swedish King. King Magnus landed
in Fyen, and plundered and burned over all; and all of Svein's
men who came there fled far enough. Thiodolf speaks of it thus:

"Fiona isle, once green and fair,
Lies black and reeking through the air:
The red fog rises, thick and hot,
From burning farm and smouldering cot.
The gaping thralls in terror gaze
On the broad upward-spiring blaze,
From thatched roofs and oak-built walls,
Their murdered masters' stately halls.

"Svein's men, my girl, will not forget
That thrice they have the Norsemen met,
By sea, by land, with steel, with fire,
Thrice have they felt the Norse king's ire.
Fiona's maids are slim and fair,
The lovely prizes, lads, we'll share:
Some stand to arms in rank and row,
Some seize, bring off, and fend with blow."

After this the people of Denmark submitted to King Magnus, and
during the rest of the winter, there was peace. King Magnus then
appointed some of his men to govern Denmark; and when spring was
advanced he sailed northwards with his fleet to Norway, where he
remained a great part of the summer.


Now, when Svein heard that King Magnus had gone to Norway he rode
straight down, and had many people out of Svithjod with him. The
people of Scania received him well, and he again collected an
army, with which he first crossed over into Seeland and seized
upon it and Fyen, and all the other isles. When King Magnus
heard of this he gathered together men and ships, and sailed to
Denmark; and as soon as he knew where Svein was lying with his
ships King Magnus sailed to meet him. They met at a place called
Helganes, and the battle began about the fall of day. King
Magnus had fewer men, but larger and better equipt vessels. So
says Arnor, the earls' skald: --

"At Helganes -- so goes the tale --
The brave wolf-feeder, under sail,
Made many an ocean-elk (1) his prey,
Seized many a ship ere break of day.
When twilight fell he urged the fight,
Close combat -- man to man all night;
Through a long harvest night's dark hours,
Down poured the battle's iron showers."

The battle was very hot, and as night advanced the fall of men
was great. King Magnus, during the whole night, threw hand-
spears. Thiodolf speaks of this: --

"And there at Helganes sunk down,
Sore wounded, men of great renown;
And Svein's retainers lost all heart,
Ducking before the flying dart.
The Norsemen's king let fly his spears,
His death-wounds adding to their fears;
For each spear-blade was wet all o'er,
Up to the shaft in their life-gore."

To make a short tale, King Magnus won the victory in this battle,
and Svein fled. His ship was cleared of men from stem to stern;
and it went so on board many others of his ships. So says
Thiodolf: --

"Earl Svein fled from the empty deck,
His lonely ship an unmann'd wreck;
Magnus the Good, the people's friend,
Pressed to the death on the false Svein.
Hneiter (2), the sword his father bore,
Was edge and point, stained red with gore;
Swords sprinkle blood o'er armour bright,

When kings for land and power fight."

And Arnor says :-

"The cutters of Bjorn's own brother
Soon changed their owner for another;
The king took them and all their gear;
The crews, however, got off clear."

A great number of Svein's men fell, and King Magnus and his men
had a vast booty to divide. So says Thiodolf: --

"Where the Norsemen the Danish slew,
A Gautland shield and breast-plate true
Fell to my share of spoil by lot;
And something more i' the south I got:
(There all the summer swords were ringing)
A helm, gay arms, and gear worth bringing,
Home to my quiet lovely one
I sent -- with news how we had won."

Svein fled up to Scania with all the men who escaped with him;
and King Magnus and his people drove the fugitives up through the
country without meeting any opposition either from Svein's men or
the bondes. So says Thiodolf: --

"Olaf's brave son then gave command,
All his ships' crews should quickly land:
King Magnus, marching at their head,
A noble band of warriors led.
A foray through the land he makes;
Denmark in every quarter shakes.
Up hill and down the horses scour,
Carrying the Danes from Norsemen's power."

King Magnus drove with fire and sword through the land. So says
Thiodolf: --

"And now the Norsemen storm along,
Following their banner in a throng:
King Magnus' banner flames on high,
A star to guide our roaming by.
To Lund, o'er Scania's peaceful field,
My shoulder bore my useless shield;
A fairer land, a better road,
As friend or foe, I never trod."

They began to burn the habitations all around, and the people
fled on every side. So says Thiodolf: --

"Our ice-cold iron in great store,
Our arms, beside the king we bore:
The Scanian rogues fly at the view
Of men and steel all sharp and true.
Their timbered houses flame on high,
Red flashing over half the sky;
The blazing town flings forth its light,
Lighting the cowards on their flight."

And he also sang: --

"The king o'er all the Danish land
Roams, with his fire-bringing band:
The house, the hut, the farm, the town,
All where men dwelt is burned down.
O'er Denmark's plains and corn-fields,
Meadows and moors, are seen our shields:
Victorious over all, we chase
Svein's wounded men from place to place.

"Across Fiona's moor again,
The paths late trodden by our men
We tread once more, until quite near,
Through morning mist, the foes appear.
Then up our numerous banners flare
In the cold early morning air;
And they from Magnus' power who fly
Cannot this quick war-work deny."

Then Svein fled eastwards along Scania, and King Magnus returned
to his ships, and steered eastwards also along the Scanian coast,
having got ready with the greatest haste to sail. Thiodolf sings
thus about it: --

"No drink but the salt sea
On board our ships had we,
When, following our king,
On board our ships we spring.
Hard work on the salt sea,
Off Scania's coast, had we;
But we laboured for the king,
To his foemen death to bring."

Svein fled to Gautland, and then sought refuge with the Swedish
king, with whom he remained all winter (A.D. 1046), and was
treated with great respect.

(1) Ship. -- L.
(2) This was the name of Saint Olaf's sword, which Magnus had
recovered. -- L.


When King Magnus had subdued Scania he turned about, and first
went to Falster, where he landed, plundered, and killed many
people who had before submitted to Svein. Arnor speaks of this:

"A bloody vengeance for their guile
King Magnus takes on Falster Isle;
The treacherous Danes his fury feel,
And fall before his purpled steel.
The battle-field is covered o'er,
With eagle's prey from shore to shore;
And the king's courtmen were the first
To quench with blood the raven's thirst."

Thereafter Magnus with his fleet proceeded to the isle of Fyen,
went on land, plundered, and made great devastation. So says
Arnor, the earls' skald: --

"To fair Fiona's grassy shore
His banner now again he bore:
He who the mail-shirt's linked chains
Severs, and all its lustre stains, --
He will be long remembered there,
The warrior in his twentieth year,
Whom their black ravens from afar
Saluted as he went to war."


King Magnus remained in Denmark all that winter (A.D. 1046), and
sat in peace. He had held many battles, and had gained the
victory in all. So says Od Kikinaskald: --

"'Fore Michaelmas was struck the blow,
That laid the Vindland vikings low;
And people learned with joy to hear
The clang of arms, and leaders' cheer.
Short before Yule fell out the day,
Southward of Aros, where the fray,
Though not enough the foe to quell,
Was of the bloodiest men can tell."

And Arnor says: --

"Olaf's avenger who can sing?
The skald cannot o'ertake the king,
Who makes the war-bird daily drain
The corpse-blood of his foemen slain.
Four battles won within a year, --
Breaker of shields! with swords and spear,
And hand to hand, exalt thy fame
Above the kings of greatest name."

King Magnus had three battles with Svein Ulfson. So says
Thiodolf: --

"To our brave Throndhjem sovereign's praise
The skald may all his skaldcraft raise;
For fortune, and for daring deed,
His song will not the truth exceed.
After three battles to regain
What was his own, unjustly ta'en,
Unjustly kept, and dues denied,
He levied dues in red-blood dyed."


While King Magnus the Good, a son of King Olaf the Saint, ruled
over Norway, as before related, the Earl Ragnvald Brusason lived
with him. Earl Thorfin Sigurdson, the uncle of Ragnvald, ruled
then over Orkney. King Magnus sent Ragnvald west to Orkney, and
ordered that Thorfin should let him have his father's heritage.
Thorfin let Ragnvald have a third part of the land along with
him; for so had Erase, the father of Ragnvald, had it at his
dying day. Earl Thorfin was married to Ingebjorg, the earl-
mother, who was a daughter of Fin Arnason. Earl Ragnvald thought
he should have two-thirds of the land, as Olaf the Saint had
promised to his father Bruse, and as Bruse had enjoyed as long as
Olaf lived. This was the origin of a great strife between these
relations, concerning which we have a long saga. They had a
great battle in Pentland Firth, in which Kalf Arnason was with
Earl Thorfin. So says Bjarne Gullbrarskald: --

"Thy cutters, dashing through the tide,
Brought aid to Earl Thorfin's side,
Fin's son-in-law, and people say
Thy aid made Bruse's son give way.
Kalf, thou art fond of warlike toil,
Gay in the strife and bloody broil;
But here 'twas hate made thee contend
Against Earl Ragnvald, the king's friend."


King Magnus ruled then both over Denmark and Norway; and when he
had got possession of the Danish dominions he sent ambassadors
over to England to King Edward, who brought to him King Magnus's
letter and seal. And in this letter there stood, along with a
salutation from King Magnus, these words: -- "Ye must have heard
of the agreement which I and Hardaknut made, -- that he of us two
who survived the other should have all the land and people which
the deceased had possessed. Now it has so turned out, as ye have
no doubt heard, that I have taken the Danish dominions as my
heritage after Hardaknut. But before he departed this life he
had England as well as Denmark; therefore I consider myself now,
in consequence of my rights by this agreement, to own England
also. Now I will therefore that thou deliver to me the kingdom;
otherwise I will seek to take it by arms, both from Denmark and
Norway; and let him rule the land to whom fate gives the


Now when King Edward had read this letter, he replied thus: "It
is known to all men in this country that King Ethelred, my
father, was udal-born to this kingdom, both after the old and
new law of inheritance. We were four sons after him; and when he
by death left the throne my brother Edmund took the government
and kingdom; for he was the oldest of us brothers, and I was well
satisfied that it was so. And after him my stepfather, Canute
the Great, took the kingdom, and as long as he lived there was no
access to it. After him my brother Harald was king as long as he
lived; and after him my brother Hardaknut took the kingdoms both
of Denmark and England; for he thought that a just brotherly
division that he should have both England and Denmark, and that I
should have no kingdom at all. Now he died, and then it was the
resolution of all the people of the country to take me for king
here in England. So long as I had no kingly title I served only
superiors in all respects, like those who had no claims by birth
to land or kingdom. Now, however, I have received the kingly
title, and am consecrated king. I have established my royal
dignity and authority, as my father before me; and while I live I
will not renounce my title. If King Magnus come here with an
army, I will gather no army against him; but he shall only get
the opportunity of taking England when he has taken my life.
Tell him these words of mine." The ambassadors went back to King
Magnus, and told him the answer to their message. King Magnus
reflected a while, and answered thus: "I think it wisest, and
will succeed best, to let King Edward have his kingdom in peace
for me, and that I keep the kingdoms God has put into my hands."



Harald, son of Sigurd Syr, was born in the year A.D. 1015, and
left Norway A.D. 1030. He was called Hardrade, that is, the
severe counsellor, the tyrant, though the Icelanders never
applied this epithet to him. Harald helped the Icelanders in the
famine of A.D. 1056, and sent them timber for a church at
Thingvol. It was the Norwegians who gave him the name tyrant in
contrast to the "debonairete" of Magnus. He came to Norway in
A.D. 1046, and became sole king in A.D. 1047. He died in A.D.
1066, and his son and successor Magnus died in A.D. 1069.

His saga is to be compared with "Agrip", "Fagrskinna", and

The skalds quoted are: Thiodolf, Bolverk, Illuge Bryndalaskald,
Stuf the skald, Thorarin Skeggjason, Valgard o' Val, Od
Kikinaskald, Grane Skald, Thorleik the Fair, Stein Herdison, Ulf
the Marshal, Arnor the earls' skald, Thorkel Skallason, and King
Harald Hardrade himself.


Harald, son of Sigurd Syr, brother of Olaf the Saint, by the same
mother, was at the battle of Stiklestad, and was fifteen years
old when King Olaf the Saint fell, as was before related. Harald
was wounded, and escaped with other fugitives. So says Thiodolf:

"At Haug the fire-sparks from his shield
Flew round the king's head on the field,
As blow for blow, for Olaf's sake,
His sword and shield would give and take.
Bulgaria's conqueror, I ween,
Had scarcely fifteen winters seen,
When from his murdered brother's side
His unhelmed head he had to hide."

Ragnvald Brusason led Harald from the battle, and the night after
the fray took him to a bonde who dwelt in a forest far from other
people. The peasant received Harald, and kept him concealed; and
Harald was waited upon until he was quite cured of his wounds.
Then the bonde's son attended him on the way east over the ridge
of the land, and they went by all the forest paths they could,
avoiding the common road. The bonde's son did not know who it
was he was attending; and as they were riding together between
two uninhabited forests, Harald made these verses:

"My wounds were bleeding as I rode;
And down below the bondes strode,
Killing the wounded with the sword,
The followers of their rightful lord.
From wood to wood I crept along,
Unnoticed by the bonde-throng;
`Who knows,' I thought, `a day may come
My name will yet be great at home.'"

He went eastward over the ridge through Jamtaland and
Helsingjaland, and came to Svithjod, where he found Ragnvald
Brusason, and many others of King Olaf's men who had fled from
the battle at Stiklestad, and they remained there till winter was


The spring after (A.D. 1031) Harald and Ragnvald got ships, and
went east in summer to Russia to King Jarisleif, and were with
him all the following winter. So says the skald Bolverk: --

"The king's sharp sword lies clean and bright,
Prepared in foreign lands to fight:
Our ravens croak to have their fill,
The wolf howls from the distant hill.
Our brave king is to Russia gone, --
Braver than he on earth there's none;
His sharp sword will carve many feast
To wolf and raven in the East."

King Jarisleif gave Harald and Ragnvald a kind reception, and
made Harald and Ellif, the son of Earl Ragnvald, chiefs over the
land-defence men of the king. So says Thiodolf: --

"Where Ellif was, one heart and hand
The two chiefs had in their command;
In wedge or line their battle order
Was ranged by both without disorder.
The eastern Vindland men they drove
Into a corner; and they move
The Lesians, although ill at ease,
To take the laws their conquerors please."

Harald remained several years in Russia, and travelled far and
wide in the Eastern land. Then he began his expedition out to
Greece, and had a great suite of men with him; and on he went to
Constantinople. So says Bolverk: --

"Before the cold sea-curling blast
The cutter from the land flew past,
Her black yards swinging to and fro,
Her shield-hung gunwale dipping low.
The king saw glancing o'er the bow
Constantinople's metal glow
From tower and roof, and painted sails
Gliding past towns and wooded vales."


At that time the Greek empire was ruled by the Empress Zoe the
Great, and with her Michael Catalactus. Now when Harald came to
Constantinople he presented himself to the empress, and went into
her pay; and immediately, in autumn, went on board the galleys
manned with troops which went out to the Greek sea. Harald had
his own men along with him. Now Harald had been but a short time
in the army before all the Varings flocked to him, and they all
joined together when there was a battle. It thus came to pass
that Harald was made chief of the Varings. There was a chief
over all the troops who was called Gyrger, and who was a relation
of the empress. Gyrger and Harald went round among all the Greek
islands, and fought much against the corsairs.


It happened once that Gyrger and the Varings were going through
the country, and they resolved to take their night quarters in a
wood; and as the Varings came first to the ground, they chose the
place which was best for pitching their tents upon, which was the
highest ground; for it is the nature of the land there to be soft
when rain falls, and therefore it is bad to choose a low
situation for your tents. Now when Gyrger, the chief of the
army, came up, and saw where the Varings had set up their tents,
he told them to remove, and pitch their tents elsewhere, saying
he would himself pitch his tents on their ground. Harald
replies, "If ye come first to the night quarter, ye take up your
ground, and we must go pitch our tents at some other place where
we best can. Now do ye so, in the same way, and find a place
where ye will. It is, I think, the privilege of us Varings here
in the dominions of the Greek emperor to be free, and independent
of all but their own commanders, and bound only to serve the
emperor and empress." They disputed long and hotly about this,
and both sides armed themselves, and were on the way to fight for
it; but men of understanding came between and separated them.
They said it would be better to come to an agreement about such
questions, so that in future no dispute could arise. It came
thus to an arbitration between them, at which the best and most
sagacious men should give their judgment in the case. At this
arbitration it was determined, with the consent of all parties,
that lots should be thrown into a box, and the Greeks and Varings
should draw which was first to ride, or to row, or to take place
in a harbour, or to choose tent ground; and each side should be
satisfied with what the drawing of the lots gave them.
Accordingly the lots were made and marked. Harald said to
Gyrger, "Let me see what mark thou hast put upon thy lot, that
we may not both mark our lots in the same way." He did so. Then
Harald marked his lot, and put it into the box along with the
other. The man who was to draw out the lots then took up one of
the lots between his fingers, held it up in the air, and said,
"This lot shall be the first to ride, and to row, and to take
place in harbour and on the tent field." Harald seized his band,
snatched the die, and threw it into the sea, and called out,
"That was our lot!" Gyrger said, "Why did you not let other
people see it?" Harald replies, "Look at the one remaining in
the box, -- there you see your own mark upon it." Accordingly
the lot which was left behind was examined, and all men saw that
Gyrger's mark was upon it, and accordingly the judgment was given
that the Varings had gained the first choice in all they had been
quarrelling about. There were many things they quarrelled about,
but the end always was that Harald got his own way.


They went out all on a campaign in summer. When the whole army
was thus assembled Harald kept his men out of the battle, or
wherever he saw the least danger, under pretext of saving his
men; but where he was alone with his own men only, he fought so
desperately that they must either come off victorious or die. It
thus happened often that when he commanded the army he gained
victories, while Gyrger could do nothing. The troops observed
this, and insisted they would be more successful if Harald alone
was chief of the whole army, and upbraided the general with never
effecting anything, neither himself, nor his people. Gyrger
again said that the Varings would give him no assistance, and
ordered Harald to go with his men somewhere else, and he, with
the rest of his army, would win what they could. Harald
accordingly left the army with the Varings and the Latin men, and
Gyrger on his side went off with the Greek troops. Then it was
seen what each could do. Harald always gained victories and
booty; but the Greeks went home to Constantinople with their
army, all except a few brave men, who, to gain booty and money,
joined themselves to Harald, and took him for their leader. He
then went with his troops westward to Africa, which the Varings
call Serkland, where he was strengthened with many men. In
Serkland he took eighty castles, some of which surrendered, and
others were stormed. He then went to Sicily. So says Thiodolf:

"The serpent's bed of glowing gold
He hates -- the generous king, the bold!
He who four score towers laid low,
Ta'en from the Saracenic foe.
Before upon Sicilian plains,
Shield joined to shield, the fight he gains,
The victory at Hild's war game;
And now the heathens dread his name."

So says also Illuge Bryndala-skald: --

"For Michael's empire Harald fought,
And southern lands to Michael brought;
So Budle's son his friendship showed
When he brought friends to his abode."

Here it is said that Michael was king of the Greeks at that time.
Harald remained many years in Africa, where he gathered great
wealth in gold, jewels, and all sorts of precious things; and all
the wealth he gathered there which he did not need for his
expenses, he sent with trusty men of his own north to Novgorod to
King Jarisleif's care and keeping. He gathered together there
extraordinary treasure, as is reasonable to suppose; for he had
the plundering of the part of the world richest in gold and
valuable things, and he had done such great deeds as with truth
are related, such as taking eighty strongholds by his valour.


Now when Harald came to Sicily he plundered there also, and sat
down with his army before a strong and populous castle. He
surrounded the castle; but the walls were so thick there was no
possibility of breaking into it, and the people of the castle had
enough of provisions, and all that was necessary for defence.
Then Harald hit upon an expedient. He made his bird-catchers
catch the small birds which had their nests within the castle,
but flew into the woods by day to get food for their young. He
had small splinters of tarred wood bound upon the backs of the
birds, smeared these over with wax and sulphur, and set fire to
them. As soon as the birds were let loose they all flew at once
to the castle to their young, and to their nests, which they had
under the house roofs that were covered with reeds or straw. The
fire from the birds seized upon the house roofs; and although
each bird could only carry a small burden of fire, yet all at
once there was a mighty flame, caused by so many birds carrying
fire with them and spreading it widely among the house roofs.
Thus one house after the other was set on fire, until the castle
itself was in flames. Then the people came out of the castle and
begged for mercy; the same men who for many days had set at
defiance the Greek army and its leader. Harald granted life and
safety to all who asked quarter, and made himself master of the


There was another castle before which Harald had come with his
army. This castle was both full of people and so strong, that
there was no hope of breaking into it. The castle stood upon a
flat hard plain. Then Harald undertook to dig a passage from a
place where a stream ran in a bed so deep that it could not be
seen from the castle. They threw out all the earth into the
stream, to be carried away by the water. At this work they
laboured day and night, and relieved each other in gangs; while
the rest of the army went the whole day against the castle, where
the castle people shot through their loop-holes. They shot at
each other all day in this way, and at night they slept on both
sides. Now when Harald perceived that his underground passage
was so long that it must be within the castle walls, he ordered
his people to arm themselves. It was towards daybreak that they
went into the passage. When they got to the end of it they dug
over their heads until they came upon stones laid in lime which
was the floor of a stone hall. They broke open the floor and
rose into the hall. There sat many of the castle-men eating and
drinking, and not in the least expecting such uninvited wolves;
for the Varings instantly attacked them sword in hand, and killed
some, and those who could get away fled. The Varings pursued
them; and some seized the castle gate, and opened it, so that the
whole body of the army got in. The people of the castle fled;
but many asked quarter from the troops, which was granted to all
who surrendered. In this way Harald got possession of the place,
and found an immense booty in it.


They came to a third castle, the greatest and strongest of them
all, and also the richest in property and the fullest of people.
Around this castle there were great ditches, so that it evidently
could not be taken by the same device as the former; and they lay
a long time before it without doing anything. When the castle-
men saw this they became bolder, drew up their array on the
castle walls, threw open the castle gates, and shouted to the
Varings, urging them, and jeering at them, and telling them to
come into the castle, and that they were no more fit for battle
than so many poultry. Harald told his men to make as if they did
not know what to do, or did not understand what was said. "For,"
says he, "if we do make an assault we can effect nothing, as they
can throw their weapons under their feet among us; and if we get
in the castle with a party of our people, they have it in their
power to shut them in. and shut out the others; for they have all
the castle gates beset with men. We shall therefore show them
the same scorn they show us, and let them see we do not fear
them. Our men shall go out upon the plain nearest to the castle;
taking care, however, to keep out of bow-shot. All our men shall
go unarmed, and be playing with each other, so that the castle-
men may see we do not regard them or their array." Thus it went
on for some days, without anything being done.


Two Iceland men were then with Harald; the one was Haldor (1), a
son of the gode Snorre, who brought this account to Iceland; the
other was Ulf Uspakson, a grandson of Usvifer Spake. Both were
very strong men, bold under arms, and Harald's best friends; and
both were in this play. Now when some days were passed the
castle people showed more courage, and would go without weapons
upon the castle wall, while the castle gates were standing open.
The Varings observing this, went one day to their sports with the
sword under their cloaks, and the helmet under their hats. After
playing awhile they observed that the castle people were off
their guard; and instantly seizing their weapons, they made at
the castle gate. When the men of the castle saw this they went
against them armed completely, and a battle began in the castle
gate. The Varings had no shields, but wrapped their cloaks round
their left arms. Some of them were wounded, some killed, and all
stood in great danger. Now came Harald with the men who had
remained in the camp, to the assistance of his people; and the
castle-men had now got out upon the walls, from which they shot
and threw stones down upon them; so that there was a severe
battle, and those who were in the castle gates thought that help
was brought them slower than they could have wished. When Harald
came to the castle gate his standard-bearer fell, and Harald said
to Haldor, "Do thou take up the banner now." Haldor took up the
banner, and said foolishly, "Who will carry the banner before
thee, if thou followest it so timidly as thou hast done for a
while?" But these were words more of anger than of truth; for
Harald was one of the boldest of men under arms. Then they
pressed in, and had a hard battle in the castle; and the end was
that Harald gained the victory and took the castle. Haldor was
much wounded in the face, and it gave him great pain as long as
he lived.

(1) One of the descendants of this Haldor was Snorre Sturlason,
the author of "Heimskring1a".


The fourth castle which Harald came to was the greatest of all we
have been speaking about. It was so strong that there was no
possibility of breaking into it. They surrounded the castle, so
that no supplies could get into it. When they had remained here
a short time Harald fell sick, and he betook himself to his bed.
He had his tent put up a little from the camp, for he found
quietness and rest out of the clamour and clang of armed men.
His men went usually in companies to or from him to hear his
orders; and the castle people observing there was something new
among the Varings, sent out spies to discover what this might
mean. When the spies came back to the castle they had to tell of
the illness of the commander of the Varings, and that no assault
on that account had been made on the castle. A while after
Harald's strength began to fail, at which his men were very
melancholy and cast down; all which was news to the castle-men.
At last Harald's sickness increased so rapidly that his death was
expected through all the army. Thereafter the Varings went to
the castle-men; told them, in a parley, of the death of their
commander; and begged of the priests to grant him burial in the
castle. When the castle people heard this news, there were many
among them who ruled over cloisters or other great establishments
within the place, and who were very eager to get the corpse for
their church, knowing that upon that there would follow very rich
presents. A great many priests, therefore, clothed themselves in
all their robes, and went out of the castle with cross and shrine
and relics and formed a beautiful procession. The Varings also
made a great burial. The coffin was borne high in the air, and
over it was a tent of costly linen and before it were carried
many banners. Now when the corpse was brought within the castle
gate the Varings set down the coffin right across the entry,
fixed a bar to keep the gates open, and sounded to battle with
all their trumpets, and drew their swords. The whole army of the
Varings, fully armed. rushed from the camp to the assault of the
castle with shout and cry; and the monks and other priests who
had gone to meet the corpse and had striven with each other who
should be the first to come out and take the offering at the
burial, were now striving much more who should first get away
from the Varings; for they killed before their feet every one who
was nearest, whether clerk or unconsecrated. The Varings
rummaged so well this castle that they killed all the men,
pillaged everything and made an enormous booty.


Harald was many years in these campaigns, both in Serkland and
in Sicily. Then he came back to Constantinople with his troops
and stayed there but a little time before he began his expedition
to Jerusalem. There he left the pay he had received from the
Greek emperor and all the Varings who accompanied him did the
same. It is said that on all these expeditions Harald had fought
eighteen regular battles. So says Thiodolf: --

"Harald the Stern ne'er allowed
Peace to his foemen, false and proud;
In eighteen battles, fought and won,
The valour of the Norseman shone.
The king, before his home return,
Oft dyed the bald head of the erne
With bloody specks, and o'er the waste
The sharp-claw'd wolf his footsteps traced."


Harald went with his men to the land of Jerusalem and then up to
the city of Jerusalem, and wheresoever he came in the land all
the towns and strongholds were given up to him. So says the
skald Stuf, who had heard the king himself relate these tidings:

"He went, the warrior bold and brave,
Jerusalem, the holy grave,
And the interior of the land,
To bring under the Greeks' command;
And by the terror of his name
Under his power the country came,
Nor needed wasting fire and sword
To yield obediance to his word."

Here it is told that this land came without fire and sword under
Harald's command. He then went out to Jordan and bathed therein,
according to the custom of other pilgrims. Harald gave great
gifts to our Lord's grave, to the Holy Cross, and other holy
relics in the land of Jerusalem. He also cleared the whole road
all the way out to Jordan, by killing the robbers and other
disturbers of the peace. So says the skald Stuf: --

"The Agder king cleared far and wide
Jordan's fair banks on either side;
The robber-bands before him fled,
And his great name was widely spread.
The wicked people of the land
Were punished here by his dread hand,
And they hereafter will not miss
Much worse from Jesus Christ than this."


Thereafter he went back to Constantinople. When Harald returned
to Constantinople from Jerusalem he longed to return to the North
to his native land; and when he heard that Magnus Olafson, his
brother's son, had become king both of Norway and Denmark, he
gave up his command in the Greek service. And when the empress
Zoe heard of this she became angry and raised an accusation
against Harald that he had misapplied the property of the Greek
emperor which he had received in the campaigns in which he was
commander of the army. There was a young and beautiful girl
called Maria, a brother's daughter of the empress Zoe, and Harald
had paid his addresses to her; but the empress had given him a
refusal. The Varings, who were then in pay in Constantinople,
have told here in the North that there went a report among
well-informed people that the empress Zoe herself wanted Harald
for her husband, and that she chiefly blamed Harald for his
determination to leave Constantinople, although another reason
was given out to the public. Constantinus Monomachus was at
that time emperor of the Greeks and ruled along with Zoe. On
this account the Greek emperor had Harald made prisoner and
carried to prison.


When Harald drew near to the prison King Olaf the Saint stood
before him and said he would assist him. On that spot of the
street a chapel has since been built and consecrated to Saint
Olaf and which chapel has stood there ever since. The prison was
so constructed that there was a high tower open above, but a door
below to go into it from the street. Through it Harald was
thrust in, along with Haldor and Ulf. Next night a lady of
distinction with two servants came, by the help of ladders, to
the top of the tower, let down a rope into the prison and hauled
them up. Saint Olaf had formerly cured this lady of a sickness
and he had appeared to her in a vision and told her to deliver
his brother. Harald went immediately to the Varings, who all
rose from their seats when he came in and received him with joy.
The men armed themselves forthwith and went to where the emperor
slept. They took the emperor prisoner and put out both the eyes
of him. So says Thorarin Skeggjason in his poem: --

"Of glowing gold that decks the hand
The king got plenty in this land;
But it's great emperor in the strife
Was made stone-blind for all his life."

So says Thiodolf, the skald, also: --

"He who the hungry wolf's wild yell
Quiets with prey, the stern, the fell,
Midst the uproar of shriek and shout
Stung tho Greek emperor's eyes both out:
The Norse king's mark will not adorn,
The Norse king's mark gives cause to mourn;
His mark the Eastern king must bear,
Groping his sightless way in fear."

In these two songs, and many others, it is told that Harald
himself blinded the Greek emperor; and they would surely have
named some duke, count, or other great man, if they had not known
this to be the true account; and King Harald himself and other
men who were with him spread the account.


The same night King Harald and his men went to the house where
Maria slept and carried her away by force. Then they went down
to where the galleys of the Varings lay, took two of them and
rowed out into Sjavid sound. When they came to the place where
the iron chain is drawn across the sound, Harald told his men to
stretch out at their oars in both galleys; but the men who were
not rowing to run all to the stern of the galley, each with his
luggage in his hand. The galleys thus ran up and lay on the iron
chain. As soon as they stood fast on it, and would advance no
farther, Harald ordered all the men to run forward into the bow.
Then the galley, in which Harald was, balanced forwards and swung
down over the chain; but the other, which remained fast athwart
the chain, split in two, by which many men were lost; but some
were taken up out of the sound. Thus Harald escaped out of
Constantinople and sailed thence into the Black Sea; but before
he left the land he put the lady ashore and sent her back with a
good escort to Constantinople and bade her tell her relation, the
Empress Zoe, how little power she had over Harald, and how little
the empress could have hindered him from taking the lady. Harald
then sailed northwards in the Ellipalta and then all round the
Eastern empire. On this voyage Harald composed sixteen songs for
amusement and all ending with the same words. This is one of
them: --

"Past Sicily's wide plains we flew,
A dauntless, never-wearied crew;
Our viking steed rushed through the sea,
As viking-like fast, fast sailed we.
Never, I think, along this shore
Did Norsemen ever sail before;
Yet to the Russian queen, I fear,
My gold-adorned, I am not dear."

With this he meant Ellisif, daughter of King Jarisleif in


When Harald came to Novgorod King Jarisleif received him in the
most friendly way and he remained there all winter (A.D. 1045).
Then he took into his own keeping all the gold and the many kinds
of precious things which he had sent there from Constantinople
and which together made up so vast a treasure that no man in the
Northern lands ever saw the like of it in one man's possession.
Harald had been three times in the poluta-svarf while he was in
Constantinople. It is the custom, namely, there, that every time
one of the Greek emperors dies, the Varings are allowed
poluta-svarf; that is, they may go through all the emperor's
palaces where his treasures are and each may take and keep what
he can lay hold of while he is going through them.


This winter King Jarisleif gave Harald his daughter Elisabeth in
marriage. She is called by the Northmen Ellisif. This is
related by Stuf the Blind, thus: --

"Agder's chief now got the queen
Who long his secret love had been.
Of gold, no doubt, a mighty store
The princess to her husband bore."

In spring he began his journey from Novgorod and came to
Aldeigjuborg, where he took shipping and sailed from the East in
summer. He turned first to Svithjod and came to Sigtuna. So
says Valgard o' Val: --

"The fairest cargo ship e'er bore,
From Russia's distant eastern shore
The gallant Harald homeward brings --
Gold, and a fame that skald still sings.
The ship through dashing foam he steers,
Through the sea-rain to Svithjod veers,
And at Sigtuna's grassy shores
His gallant vessel safely moors."


Harald found there before him Svein Ulfson, who the autumn before
(A.D. 1045) had fled from King Magnus at Helganes; and when they
met they were very friendly on both sides. The Swedish king,
Olaf the Swede, was brother of the mother of Ellisif, Harald's
wife; and Astrid, the mother of Svein, was King Olaf's sister.
Harald and Svein entered into friendship with each other and
confirmed it by oath. All the Swedes were friendly to Svein,
because he belonged to the greatest family in the country; and
thus all the Swedes were Harald's friends and helpers also, for
many great men were connected with him by relationship. So says

"Cross the East sea the vessel flew, --
Her oak-keel a white furrow drew
From Russia's coast to Swedish land.
Where Harald can great help command.
The heavy vessel's leeward side
Was hid beneath the rushing tide;
While the broad sail and gold-tipped mast
Swung to and fro in the hard blast."


Then Harald and Svein fitted out ships and gathered together a
great force; and when the troops were ready they sailed from the
East towards Denmark. So says Valgard: --

"Brave Yngve! to the land decreed
To thee by fate, with tempest speed
The winds fly with thee o'er the sea --
To thy own udal land with thee.
As past the Scanlan plains they fly,
The gay ships glances 'twixt sea and sky,
And Scanian brides look out, and fear
Some ill to those they hold most dear."

They landed first in Seeland with their men and herried and
burned in the land far and wide. Then they went to Fyen, where
they also landed and wasted. So says Valgard: --

"Harald! thou hast the isle laid waste,
The Seeland men away hast chased,
And the wild wolf by daylight roams
Through their deserted silent homes.
Fiona too could not withstand
The fury of thy wasting hand.
Helms burst, shields broke, -- Fiona's bounds.
Were filled with death's terrific sounds.

"Red flashing in the southern sky,
The clear flame sweeping broad and high,
From fair Roeskilde's lofty towers,
On lowly huts its fire-rain pours;
And shows the housemates' silent train
In terror scouring o'er the plain,
Seeking the forest's deepest glen,
To house with wolves, and 'scape from men.

"Few were they of escape to tell,
For, sorrow-worn, the people fell:
The only captives form the fray
Were lovely maidens led away.
And in wild terror to the strand,
Down to the ships, the linked band
Of fair-haired girls is roughly driven,
Their soft skins by the irons riven."


King Magnus Olafson sailed north to Norway in the autumn after
the battle at Helganes (A.D. 1045). There he hears the news that
Harald Sigurdson, his relation, was come to Svithjod; and
moreover that Svein Ulfson and Harald had entered into a friendly
bond with each other and gathered together a great force,
intending first to subdue Denmark and then Norway. King Magnus
then ordered a general levy over all Norway and he soon collected
a great army. He hears then that Harald and Svein were come to
Denmark and were burning and laying waste the land and that the
country people were everywhere submitting to them. It was also
told that King Harald was stronger and stouter than other men,
and so wise withal that nothing was impossible to him, and he had
always the victory when he fought a battle; and he was also so
rich in gold that no man could compare with him in wealth.
Thiodolf speaks thus of it:

"Norsemen, who stand the sword of foe
Like forest-stems unmoved by blow!
My hopes are fled, no peace is near, --
People fly here and there in fear.
On either side of Seeland's coast
A fleet appears -- a white winged host;
Magnus form Norway takes his course,
Harald from Sweden leads his force.


Those of Harald's men who were in his counsel said that it would
be a great misfortune if relations like Harald and Magnus should
fight and throw a death-spear against each other; and therefore
many offered to attempt bringing about some agreement between
them, and the kings, by their persuasion, agreed to it.
Thereupon some men were sent off in a light boat, in which they
sailed south in all haste to Denmark, and got some Danish men,
who were proven friends of King Magnus, to propose this matter to
Harald. This affair was conducted very secretly. Now when
Harald heard that his relation, King Magnus, would offer him a

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