Part 14 out of 18
That this peace ever should be broken,
And oaths should fail before God spoken."
King Harald with his people sailed northwards to Norway, and King
Svein southwards to Denmark.
74. KING HARALD'S BATTLE WITH EARL HAKON.
King Harald was in Viken in the summer (A.D. 1064), and he sent
his men to the Uplands after the scat and duty which belonged to
him; but the bondes paid no attention to the demand, but said
they would hold all for Earl Hakon until he came for it. Earl
Hakon was then up in Gautland with a large armed force. When
summer was past King Harald went south to Konungahella. Then he
took all the light-sailing vessels he could get hold of and
steered up the river. He had the vessels drawn past all the
waterfalls and brought them thus into the Wener lake. Then he
rowed eastward across the lake to where he heard Earl Hakon was;
but when the earl got news of the king's expedition he retreated
down the country, and would not let the king plunder the land.
Earl Hakon had a large armed force which the Gautland people had
raised for him. King Harald lay with his ships up in a river,
and made a foray on land, but left some of his men behind to
protect the ships. The king himself rode up with a part of the
men, but the greater part were on foot. They had to cross a
forest, where they found a mire or lake, and close to it a wood;
and when they reached the wood they saw the earl's men, but the
mire was between them. They drew up their people now on both
sides. Then King Harald ordered his men to sit down on the
hillside. "We will first see if they will attack us. Earl Hakon
does not usually wait to talk." It was frosty weather, with some
snow-drift, and Harald's men sat down under their shields; but it
was cold for the Gautlanders, who had but little clothing with
them. The earl told them to wait until King Harald came nearer,
so that all would stand equally high on the ground. Earl Hakon
had the same banner which had belonged to King Magnus Olafson.
The lagman of the Gautland people, Thorvid, sat upon a horse, and
the bridle was fastened to a stake that stood in the mire. He
broke out with these words: "God knows we have many brave and
handsome fellows here, and we shall let King Steinkel hear that
we stood by the good earl bravely. I am sure of one thing: we
shall behave gallantly against these Northmen, if they attack us;
but if our young people give way, and should not stand to it, let
us not run farther than to that stream; but if they should give
way farther, which I am sure they will not do, let it not be
farther than to that hill." At that instant the Northmen sprang
up, raised the war-cry, and struck on their shields; and the
Gautland army began also to shout. The lagman's horse got shy
with the war-cry, and backed so hard that the stake flew up and
struck the lagman on the head. He said, "Ill luck to thee,
Northman, for that arrow!" and away fled the lagman. King Harald
had told his people, "If we do make a clash with the weapons, we
shall not however, go down from the hill until they come nearer
to us;" and they did so. When the war-cry was raised the earl
let his banner advance; but when they came under the hill the
king's army rushed down upon them, and killed some of the earl's
people, and the rest fled. The Northmen did not pursue the
fugitives long, for it was the fall of day; but they took Earl
Hakon's banner and all the arms and clothes they could get hold
of. King Harald had both the banners carried before him as they
marched away. They spoke among themselves that the earl had
probably fallen. As they were riding through the forest they
could only ride singly, one following the other. Suddenly a man
came full gallop across the path, struck his spear through him
who was carrying the earl's banner, seized the banner-staff, and
rode into the forest on the other side with the banner. When
this was told the king he said, "Bring me my armour, for the earl
is alive." Then the king rode to his ships in the night; and
many said that the earl had now taken his revenge. But Thiodolf
sang thus: --
"Steinkel's troops, who were so bold,
Who the Earl Hakon would uphold,
Were driven by our horsemen's power
To Hel, death goddess, in an hour;
And the great earl, so men say
Who won't admit he ran away,
Because his men fled from the ground,
Retired, and cannot now be found."
75. DEATH OF HAL, THE MURDERER OF KODRAN.
The rest of the night Harald passed in his ships; but in the
morning, when it was daylight, it was found that so thick ice had
gathered about the vessels that one could walk around them. The
king ordered his men to cut the ice from the ships all the way
out to the clear water; on which they all went to break the ice.
King Harald's son, Magnus, steered the vessel that lay lowest
down the river and nearest the water. When the people had
cleared the ice away almost entirely, a man ran out to the ice,
and began hewing away at it like a madman. Then said one of the
men, "It is going now as usual, that none can do so much as Hal
who killed Kodran, when once he lays himself to the work. See
how he is hewing away at the ice." There was a man in the crew
of Magnus, the king's son, who was called Thormod Eindridason;
and when he heard the name of Kodran's murderer he ran up to Hal,
and gave him a death-wound. Kodran was a son of Gudmund
Eyjolfson; and Valgerd, who was a sister of Gudmund, was the
mother of Jorun, and the grandmother by the mother's side of this
Thormod. Thormod was a year old when Kodran was killed, and had
never seen Hal Utrygson until now. When the ice was broken all
the way out to the water, Magnus drew his ship out, set sail
directly, and sailed westward across the lake; but the king's
ship, which lay farthest up the river, came out the last. Hal
had been in the king's retinue, and was very dear to him; so that
the king was enraged at his death. The king came the last into
the harbour, and Magnus had let the murderer escape into the
forest, and offered to pay the mulct for him; and the king had
very nearly attacked Magnus and his crew, but their friends came
up and reconciled them.
76. OF KING HARALD.
That winter (A.D. 1065) King Harald went up to Raumarike, and had
many people with him; and he accused the bondes there of having
kept from him his scat and duties, and of having aided his
enemies to raise disturbance against him. He seized on the
bondes and maimed some, killed others, and robbed many of all
their property. They who could do it fled from him. He burned
everything in the districts and laid them altogether waste. So
says Thiodolf: --
"He who the island-people drove,
When they against his power strove,
Now bridle's Raumarike's men,
Marching his forces through their glen.
To punish them the fire he lights
That shines afar off in dark nights
From house and yard, and, as he says,
Will warn the man who disobeys."
Thereafter the king went up to Hedemark, burnt the dwellings, and
made no less waste and havoc there than in Raumarike. From
thence he went to Hadeland and Ringerike, burning and ravaging
all the land. So says Thiodolf: --
"The bonde's household goods are seen
Before his door upon the green,
Smoking and singed: and sparks red hot
Glow in the thatched roof of his cot.
In Hedemark the bondes pray
The king his crushing hand to stay;
In Ringerike and Hadeland,
None 'gainst his fiery wrath can stand."
Then the bondes left all to the king's mercy. After the death of
King Magnus fifteen years had passed when the battle at Nis-river
took place, and afterwards two years elapsed before Harald and
Svein made peace. So says Thiodolf: --
"The Hordland king under the land
At anchor lay close to the strand,
At last, prepared with shield and spear
The peace was settled the third year."
After this peace the disturbances with the people of the Upland
districts lasted a year and a half. So says Thiodolf: --
"No easy task it is to say
How the king brought beneath his sway
The Upland bondes, and would give
Nought but their ploughs from which to live.
The king in eighteen months brought down
Their bonde power, and raised his own,
And the great honour he has gained
Will still in memory be retained."
77. OF THE KINGS OF ENGLAND.
Edward, Ethelred's son, was king of England after his brother
Hardacanute. He was called Edward the Good; and so he was. King
Edward's mother was Queen Emma, daughter of Richard, earl of
Rouen. Her brother was Earl Robert, whose son was William the
Bastard, who at that time was earl at Rouen in Normandy. King
Edward's queen was Gyda, a daughter of Earl Godwin, the son of
Ulfnad. Gyda's brothers were, Earl Toste, the eldest; Earl
Morukare the next; Earl Walter the third; Earl Svein the fourth;
and the fifth was Harald, who was the youngest, and he was
brought up at King Edward's court, and was his foster-son. The
king loved him very much, and kept him as his own son; for he had
78. OF HARALD GODWINSON.
One summer it happened that Harald, the son of Godwin, made an
expedition to Bretland with his ships, but when they got to sea
they met a contrary wind, and were driven off into the ocean.
They landed west in Normandy, after suffering from a dangerous
storm. They brought up at Rouen, where they met Earl William,
who received Harald and his company gladly. Harald remained
there late in harvest, and was hospitably entertained; for the
stormy weather continued, and there was no getting to sea, and
this continued until winter set in; so the earl and Harald agreed
that he should remain there all winter. Harald sat on the high-
seat on one side of the earl; and on the other side sat the
earl's wife, one of the most beautiful women that could be seen.
They often talked together for amusement at the drinking-table;
and the earl went generally to bed, but Harald and the earl's
wife sat long in the evenings talking together, and so it went on
for a great part of the winter. In one of their conversations
she said to Harald, "The earl has asked me what it is we have to
talk about so much, for he is angry at it." Harald replies, "We
shall then at once let him know all our conversation." The
following day, Harald asked the earl to a conference, and they
went together into the conference-chamber; where also the queen
was, and some of the councillors. Then Harald began thus: -- "I
have to inform you, earl, that there lies more in my visit here
than I have let you know. I would ask your daughter in marriage,
and have often spoke over this matter with her mother, and she
has promised to support my suit with you." As soon as Harald had
made known this proposal of his, it was well received by all who
were present. They explained the case to the earl; and at last
it came so far that the earl was contracted to Harald, but as she
was very young, it was resolved that the wedding should be
deferred for some years.
79. KING EDWARD'S DEATH.
When spring came Harald rigged his ships and set off; and he and
the earl parted with great friendship. Harald sailed over to
England to King Edward, but did not return to Valland to fulfill
the marriage agreement. Edward was king over England for twenty-
three years and died on a bed of sickness in London on the 5th of
January, and was buried in Paul's church. Englishmen call him a
80. HARALD GODWINSON MADE KING OF ENGLAND.
The sons of Earl Godwin were the most powerful men in England.
Toste was made chief of the English king's army, and was his
land-defence man when the king began to grow old; and he was also
placed above all the other earls. His brother Harald was always
with the court itself, and nearest to the king in all service,
and had the charge of the king's treasure-chamber. It is said
that when the king was approaching his last hour, Harald and a
few others were with him. Harald first leans down over the king,
and then said, "I take you all to witness that the king has now
given me the kingdom, and all the realm of England:" and then the
king was taken dead out of the bed. The same day there was a
meeting of the chiefs, at which there was some talk of choosing a
king; and then Harald brought forward his witnesses that King
Edward had given him the kingdom on his dying day. The meeting
ended by choosing Harald as king, and he was consecrated and
crowned the 13th day of Yule, in Paul's church. Then all the
chiefs and all the people submitted to him. Now when his
brother, Earl Toste, heard of this he took it very ill, as he
thought himself quite as well entitled to be king. "I want,"
said he, "that the principal men of the country choose him whom
they think best fitted for it." And sharp words passed between
the brothers. King Harald says he will not give up his kingly
dignity, for he is seated on the throne which kings sat upon, and
is anointed and consecrated a king. On his side also was the
strength of the people, for he had the king's whole treasure.
81. EARL TOSTE'S EXPEDITION TO DENMARK.
Now when King Harald perceived that his brother Toste wanted to
have him deprived of the kingdom he did not trust him; for Toste
was a clever man, and a great warrior, and was in friendship with
the principal men of the country. He therefore took the command
of the army from Toste, and also all the power he had beyond that
of the other earls of the country. Earl Toste, again, would not
submit to be his own brother's serving man; therefore he went
with his people over the sea to Flanders, and stayed there
awhile, then went to Friesland, and from thence to Denmark to his
relation King Svein. Earl Ulf, King Svein's father, and Gyda,
Earl Toste's mother, were brother's and sister's children. The
earl now asked King Svein for support and help of men; and King
Svein invited him to stay with him, with the promise that he
should get so large an earldom in Denmark that he would be an
The earl replies, "My inclination is to go back to my estate in
England; but if I cannot get help from you for that purpose, I
will agree to help you with all the power I can command in
England, if you will go there with the Danish army, and win the
country, as Canute, your mother's brother, did."
The king replied, "So much smaller a man am I than Canute the
Great, that I can with difficulty defend my own Danish dominions
against the Northmen. King Canute, on the other hand, got the
Danish kingdom in heritage, took England by slash and blow, and
sometimes was near losing his life in the contest; and Norway he
took without slash or blow. Now it suits me much better to be
guided by my own slender ability than to imitate my relation,
King Canute's, lucky hits."
Then Earl Toste said, "The result of my errand here is less
fortunate than I expected of thee who art so gallant a man,
seeing that thy relative is in so great need. It may be that I
will seek friendly help where it could less be expected; and that
I may find a chief who is less afraid, king, than thou art of a
Then the king and the earl parted, not just the best friends.
82. EARL TOSTE'S EXPEDITION TO NORWAY.
Earl Toste turned away then and went to Norway, where he
presented himself to King Harald, who was at that time in Viken.
When they met the earl explained his errand to the king. He told
him all his proceedings since he left England, and asked his aid
to recover his dominions in England.
The king replied that the Northmen had no great desire for a
campaign in England, and to have English chiefs over them there.
"People say," added he, "that the English are not to be trusted."
The earl replied, "Is it true what I have heard people tell in
England, that thy relative, King Magnus, sent men to King Edward
with the message that King Magnus had right to England as well as
to Denmark, and had got that heritage after Hardacanute, in
consequence of a regular agreement?"
The king replied, "How came it that he did not get it, if he had
a right to it?"
"Why," replied the earl, "hast thou not Denmark, as King Magnus,
thy predecessor, had it?"
The king replies, "The Danes have nothing to brag of over us
Northmen; for many a place have we laid in ashes to thy
Then said the earl, "If thou wilt not tell me, I will tell thee.
Magnus subdued Denmark, because all the chiefs of the country
helped him; and thou hast not done it, because all the people of
the country were against thee. Therefore, also, King Magnus did
not strive for England, because all the nation would have Edward
for king. Wilt thou take England now? I will bring the matter
so far that most of the principal men in England shall be thy
friends, and assist thee; for nothing is wanting to place me at
the side of my brother Harald but the king's name. All men allow
that there never was such a warrior in the northern lands as thou
art; and it appears to me extraordinary that thou hast been
fighting for fifteen years for Denmark, and wilt not take England
that lies open to thee."
King Harald weighed carefully the earl's words, and perceived at
once that there was truth in much of what he said; and he himself
had also a great desire to acquire dominions. Then King Harald
and the earl talked long and frequently together; and at last he
took the resolution to proceed in summer to England, and conquer
the country. King Harald sent a message-token through all Norway
and ordered out a levy of one-half of all the men in Norway able
to carry arms. When this became generally known, there were many
guesses about what might be the end of this expedition. Some
reckoned up King Harald's great achievements, and thought he was
also the man who could accomplish this. Others, again, said that
England was difficult to attack; that it was very full of people;
and the men-at-arms, who were called Thingmen, were so brave,
that one of them was better than two of Harald's best men. Then
said Ulf the marshal: --
"I am still ready gold to gain;
But truly it would be in vain,
And the king's marshal in the hall
Might leave his good post once for all,
If two of us in any strife
Must for one Thingman fly for life,
My lovely Norse maid, in my youth
We thought the opposite the truth."
Ulf the marshal died that spring (A.D. 1066). King Harald stood
over his grave, and said, as he was leaving it, "There lies now
the truest of men, and the most devoted to his king."
Earl Toste sailed in spring west to Flanders, to meet the people
who had left England with him, and others besides who had
gathered to him both out of England and Flanders.
83. GYRD'S DREAMS.
King Harald's fleet assembled at the Solunds. When King Harald
was ready to leave Nidaros he went to King Olaf's shrine,
unlocked it, clipped his hair and nails, and locked the shrine
again, and threw the keys into the Nid. Some say he threw them
overboard outside of Agdanes; and since then the shrine of Saint
Olaf, the king, has never been opened. Thirty-five years had
passed since he was slain; and he lived thirty-five years here on
earth (A.D. 1080-1066). King Harald sailed with his ships he had
about him to the south to meet his people, and a great fleet was
collected; so that. according to the people's reckoning, King
Harald had nearly 200 ships beside provision-ships and small
While they lay at the Solunds a man called Gyrd, on board the
king's ship, had a dream. He thought he was standing in the
king's ship and saw a great witch-wife standing on the island,
with a fork in one hand and a trough in the other. He thought
also that he saw over all the fleet, and that a fowl was sitting
upon every ship's stern, and that these fowls were all ravens or
ernes; and the witch-wife sang this song: --
"From the east I'll 'tice the king,
To the west the king I'll bring;
Many a noble bone will be
Ravens o'er Giuke's ship are fitting,
Eyeing the prey they think most fitting.
Upon the stem I'll sail with them!
Upon the stem I'll sail with them!"
84. THORD'S DREAM.
There was also a man called Thord, in a ship which lay not far
from the king's. He dreamt one night that he saw King Harald's
fleet coming to land, and he knew the land to be England. He saw
a great battle-array on the land; and he thought both sides began
to fight, and had many banners flapping in the air. And before
the army of the people of the country was riding a huge witch-
wife upon a wolf; and the wolf had a man's carcass in his mouth,
and the blood was dropping from his jaws; and when he had eaten
up one body she threw another into his mouth, and so one after
another, and he swallowed them all. And she sang thus: --
"Skade's eagle eyes
The king's ill luck espies:
Though glancing shields
Hide the green fields,
The king's ill luck she spies.
To bode the doom of this great king,
The flesh of bleeding men I fling
To hairy jaw and hungry maw!
To hairy jaw and hungry maw!"
85. KING HARALD'S DREAM.
King Harald also dreamt one night that he was in Nidaros, and met
his brother, King Olaf, who sang to him these verses: --
"In many a fight
My name was bright;
Men weep, and tell
How Olaf fell.
Thy death is near;
Thy corpse, I fear,
The crow will feed,
The witch-wife's steed."
Many other dreams and forebodings were then told of, and most of
them gloomy. Before King Harald left Throndhjem, he let his son
Magnus be proclaimed king and set him as king over Norway while
he was absent. Thora, the daughter of Thorberg, also remained
behind; but he took with him Queen Ellisif and her two daughters,
Maria and Ingegerd. Olaf, King Harald's son, also accompanied
his father abroad.
86. BATTLE AT SCARBOROUGH.
When King Harald was clear for sea, and the wind became
favourable, he sailed out into the ocean; and he himself landed
in Shetland, but a part of his fleet in the Orkney Islands. King
Harald stopped but a short time in Shetland before sailing to
Orkney, from whence he took with him a great armed force, and the
earls Paul and Erlend, the sons of Earl Thorfin; but he left
behind him here the Queen Ellisif, and her daughters Maria and
Ingegerd. Then he sailed, leaving Scotland and England westward
of him, and landed at a place called Klifland. There he went on
shore and plundered, and brought the country in subjection to him
without opposition. Then he brought up at Skardaburg, and fought
with the people of the place. He went up a hill which is there,
and made a great pile upon it, which he set on fire; and when the
pile was in clear flame, his men took large forks and pitched the
burning wood down into the town, so that one house caught fire
after the other, and the town surrendered. The Northmen killed
many people there and took all the booty they could lay hold of.
There was nothing left for the Englishmen now, if they would
preserve their lives, but to submit to King Harald; and thus he
subdued the country wherever he came. Then the king proceeded
south along the land, and brought up at Hellornes, where there
came a force that had been assembled to oppose him, with which he
had a battle, and gained the victory.
87. OF HARALD'S ORDER OF BATTLE.
Thereafter the king sailed to the Humber, and up along the river,
and then he landed. Up in Jorvik were two earls, Earl Morukare,
and his brother, Earl Valthiof, and they had an immense army.
While the army of the earls was coming down from the upper part
of the country, King Harald lay in the Usa. King Harald now went
on the land, and drew up his men. The one arm of this line stood
at the outer edge of the river, the other turned up towards the
land along a ditch; and there was also a morass, deep, broad, and
full of water. The earls let their army proceed slowly down
along the river, with all their troops in line. The king's
banner was next the river, where the line was thickest. It was
thinnest at the ditch, where also the weakest of the men were.
When the earls advanced downwards along the ditch, the arm of the
Northmen's line which was at the ditch gave way; and the
Englishmen followed, thinking the Northmen would fly. The banner
of Earl Morukare advanced then bravely.
88. THE BATTLE AT THE HUMBER.
When King Harald saw that the English array had come to the ditch
against him, he ordered the charge to be sounded, and urged on
his men. He ordered the banner which was called the Land-ravager
to be carried before him, and made so severe an assault that all
had to give way before it; and there was a great loss among the
men of the earls, and they soon broke into flight, some running
up the river, some down, and the most leaping into the ditch,
which was so filled with dead that the Norsemen could go dry-foot
over the fen. There Earl Morukare fell. So says Stein Herdison:
"The gallant Harald drove along,
Flying but fighting, the whole throng.
At last, confused, they could not fight,
And the whole body took to flight.
Up from the river's silent stream
At once rose desperate splash and scream;
But they who stood like men this fray
Round Morukare's body lay."
This song was composed by Stein Herdison about Olaf, son of King
Harald; and he speaks of Olaf being in this battle with King
Harald, his father. These things are also spoken of in the song
called "Harald's Stave": --
"Earl Valthiof's men
Lay in the fen,
By sword down hewed,
So thickly strewed,
That Norsemen say
They paved a way
Across the fen
For the brave Norsemen."
Earl Valthiof, and the people who escaped, fled up to the castle
of York; and there the greatest loss of men had been. This
battle took place upon the Wednesday next Mathias' day (A.D.
89. OF EARL TOSTE.
Earl Toste had come from Flanders to King Harald as soon as he
arrived in England, and the earl was present at all these
battles. It happened, as he had foretold the king at their first
meeting, that in England many people would flock to them, as
being friends and relations of Earl Toste, and thus the king's
forces were much strengthened. After the battle now told of, all
people in the nearest districts submitted to Harald, but some
fled. Then the king advanced to take the castle, and laid his
army at Stanforda-bryggiur (Stamford Bridge); and as King Harald
had gained so great a victory against so great chiefs and so
great an army, the people were dismayed, and doubted if they
could make any opposition. The men of the castle therefore
determined, in a council, to send a message to King Harald, and
deliver up the castle into his power. All this was soon settled;
so that on Sunday the king proceeded with the whole army to the
castle, and appointed a Thing of the people without the castle,
at which the people of the castle were to be present. At this
Thing all the people accepted the condition of submitting to
Harald, and gave him, as hostages, the children of the most
considerable persons; for Earl Toste was well acquainted with all
the people of that town. In the evening the king returned down
to his ships, after this victory achieved with his own force, and
was very merry. A Thing was appointed within the castle early on
Monday morning, and then King Harald was to name officers to rule
over the town, to give out laws, and bestow fiefs. The same
evening, after sunset, King Harald Godwinson came from the south
to the castle with a numerous army, and rode into the city with
the good-will and consent of the people of the castle. All the
gates and walls were beset so that the Northmen could receive no
intelligence, and the army remained all night in the town.
90. OF KING HARALD'S LANDING.
On Monday, when King Harald Sigurdson had taken breakfast, he
ordered the trumpets to sound for going on shore. The army
accordingly got ready, and he divided the men into the parties
who should go, and who should stay behind. In every division he
allowed two men to land, and one to remain behind. Earl Toste
and his retinue prepared to land with King Harald; and, for
watching the ships, remained behind the king's son Olaf; the
earls of Orkney, Paul and Erlend; and also Eystein Orre, a son of
Thorberg Arnason, who was the most able and best beloved by the
king of all the lendermen, and to whom the king had promised his
daughter Maria. The weather was uncommonly fine, and it was hot
sunshine. The men therefore laid aside their armour, and went on
the land only with their shields, helmets and spears, and girt
with swords; and many had also arrows and bows, and all were very
merry. Now as they came near the castle a great army seemed
coming against them, and they saw a cloud of dust as from horses'
feet, and under it shining shields and bright armour. The king
halted his people, and called to him Earl Toste, and asked him
what army this could be. The earl replied that he thought it
most likely to be a hostle army, but possibly it might be some of
his relations who were seeking for mercy and friendship, in order
to obtain certain peace and safety from the king. Then the king
said, "We must all halt, to discover what kind of a force this
is." They did so; and the nearer this force came the greater it
appeared, and their shining arms were to the sight like glancing
91. OF EARL TOSTE'S COUNSEL.
Then said King Harald, "Let us now fall upon some good sensible
counsel; for it is not to be concealed that this is an hostile
army and the king himself without doubt is here."
Then said the earl, "The first counsel is to turn about as fast
as we can to our ships to get our men and our weapons, and then
we will make a defence according to our ability; or otherwise let
our ships defend us, for there these horsemen have no power over
Then King Harald said, "I have another counsel. Put three of our
best horses under three of our briskest lads and let them ride
with all speed to tell our people to come quickly to our relief.
The Englishmen shall have a hard fray of it before we give
ourselves up for lost."
The earl said the king must order in this, as in all things, as
he thought best; adding, at the same time, it was by no means his
wish to fly. Then King Harald ordered his banner Land-ravager to
be set up; and Frirek was the name of him who bore the banner.
92. OF KING HARALD'S ARMY.
Then King Harald arranged his army, and made the line of battle
long, but not deep. He bent both wings of it back, so that they
met together; and formed a wide ring equally thick all round,
shield to shield, both in the front and rear ranks. The king
himself and his retinue were within the circle; and there was the
banner, and a body of chosen men. Earl Toste, with his retinue,
was at another place, and had a different banner. The army was
arranged in this way, because the king knew that horsemen were
accustomed to ride forwards with great vigour, but to turn back
immediately. Now the king ordered that his own and the earl's
attendants should ride forwards where it was most required. "And
our bowmen," said he, "shall be near to us; and they who stand in
the first rank shall set the spear-shaft on the ground, and the
spear-point against the horseman's breast, if he rides at them;
and those who stand in the second rank shall set the spear-point
against the horse's breast."
93. OF KING HARALD GODWINSON.
King Harald Godwinson had come with an immense army, both of
cavalry and infantry. Now King Harald Sigurdson rode around his
array, to see how every part was drawn up. He was upon a black
horse, and the horse stumbled under him, so that the king fell
off. He got up in haste and said, "A fall is lucky for a
The English king Harald said to the Northmen who were with him,
"Do ye know the stout man who fell from his horse, with the blue
kirtle and the beautiful helmet?"
"That is the king himself." said they.
The English king said, "A great man, and of stately appearance is
he; but I think his luck has left him."
94. OF THE TROOP OF THE NOBILITY.
Twenty horsemen rode forward from the Thing-men's troops against
the Northmen's array; and all of them, and likewise their horses,
were clothed in armour.
One of the horsemen said, "Is Earl Toste in this army?"
The earl answered, "It is not to be denied that ye will find him
The horseman says, "Thy brother, King Harald, sends thee
salutation, with the message that thou shalt have the whole of
Northumberland; and rather than thou shouldst not submit to him,
he will give thee the third part of his kingdom to rule over
along with himself."
The earl replies, "This is something different from the enmity
and scorn he offered last winter; and if this had been offered
then it would have saved many a man's life who now is dead, and
it would have been better for the kingdom of England. But if I
accept of this offer, what will he give King Harald Sigurdson
for his trouble?"
The horseman replied, "He has also spoken of this; and will give
him seven feet of English ground, or as much more as he may be
taller than other men."
"Then," said the earl, "go now and tell King Harald to get ready
for battle; for never shall the Northmen say with truth that Earl
Toste left King Harald Sigurdson to join his enemy's troops, when
he came to fight west here in England. We shall rather all take
the resolution to die with honour, or to gain England by a
Then the horseman rode back.
King Harald Sigurdson said to the earl, "Who was the man who
spoke so well?"
The earl replied, "That was King Harald Godwinson."
Then, said King Harald Sigurdson, "That was by far too long
concealed from me; for they had come so near to our army, that
this Harald should never have carried back the tidings of our
Then said the earl, "It was certainly imprudent for such chiefs,
and it may be as you say; but I saw he was going to offer me
peace and a great dominion, and that, on the other hand, I would
be his murderer if I betrayed him; and I would rather he should
be my murderer than I his, if one of two be to die."
King Harald Sigurdson observed to his men, "That was but a little
man, yet he sat firmly in his stirrups."
It is said that Harald made these verses at this time: --
No helmets glance,
But blue swords play
In our array.
No mail-coats glance,
But hearts are here
That ne'er knew fear."
His coat of mail was called Emma; and it was so long that it
reached almost to the middle of his leg, and so strong that no
weapon ever pierced it. Then said King Harald Sigurdson, "These
verses are but ill composed; I must try to make better;" and he
composed the following: --
"In battle storm we seek no lee,
With skulking head, and bending knee,
Behind the hollow shield.
With eye and hand we fend the head;
Courage and skill stand in the stead
Of panzer, helm, and shield,
In hild's bloody field."
Thereupon Thiodolf sang: --
"And should our king in battle fall, --
A fate that God may give to all, --
His sons will vengeance take;
And never shone the sun upon
Two nobler eaglet; in his run,
And them we'll never forsake."
95. OF THE BEGINNING OF THE BATTLE.
Now the battle began. The Englishmen made a hot assault upon the
Northmen, who sustained it bravely. It was no easy matter for
the English to ride against the Northmen on account of their
spears; therefore they rode in a circle around them. And the
fight at first was but loose and light, as long as the Northmen
kept their order of battle; for although the English rode hard
against the Northmen, they gave way again immediately, as they
could do nothing against them. Now when the Northmen thought
they perceived that the enemy were making but weak assaults, they
set after them, and would drive them into flight; but when they
had broken their shield-rampart the Englishmen rode up from all
sides, and threw arrows and spears on them. Now when King Harald
Sigurdson saw this, he went into the fray where the greatest
crash of weapons was, and there was a sharp conflict, in which
many people fell on both sides. King Harald then was in a rage,
and ran out in front of the array, and hewed down with both
hands; so that neither helmet nor armour could withstand him, and
all who were nearest gave way before him. It was then very near
with the English that they had taken to flight. So says Arnor,
the earls' skald: --
"Where battle-storm was ringing,
Where arrow-cloud was singing,
Harald stood there,
Of armour bare,
His deadly sword still swinging.
The foeman feel its bite;
His Norsemen rush to fight,
Danger to share,
With Harald there,
Where steel on steel was ringing."
96. FALL OF KING HARALD.
King Harald Sigurdson was hit by an arrow in the windpipe, and
that was his death-wound. He fell, and all who had advanced with
him, except those who retired with the banner. There was
afterwards the warmest conflict, and Earl Toste had taken charge
of the king's banner. They began on both sides to form their
array again, and for a long time there was a pause in fighting.
Then Thiodolf sang these verses: --
"The army stands in hushed dismay;
Stilled is the clamour of the fray.
Harald is dead, and with him goes
The spirit to withstand our foes.
A bloody scat the folk must pay
For their king's folly on this day.
He fell; and now, without disguise,
We say this business was not wise."
But before the battle began again Harald Godwinson offered his
brother, Earl Toste, peace, and also quarter to the Northmen who
were still alive; but the Northmen called out, all of them
together, that they would rather fall, one across the other, than
accept of quarter from the Englishmen. Then each side set up a
war-shout, and the battle began again. So says Arnor, the earls'
"The king, whose name would ill-doers scare,
The gold-tipped arrow would not spare.
Unhelmed, unpanzered, without shield,
He fell among us in the field.
The gallant men who saw him fall
Would take no quarter; one and all
Resolved to die with their loved king,
Around his corpse in a corpse-ring."
97. SKIRMISH OF ORRE.
Eystein Orre came up at this moment from the ships with the men
who followed him, and all were clad in armour. Then Eystein got
King Harald's banner Land-ravager; and now was, for the third
time, one of the sharpest of conflicts, in which many Englishmen
fell, and they were near to taking flight. This conflict is
called Orre's storm. Eystein and his men had hastened so fast
from the ships that they were quite exhausted, and scarcely fit
to fight before they came into the battle; but afterwards they
became so furious, that they did not guard themselves with their
shields as long as they could stand upright. At last they threw
off their coats of ringmail, and then the Englishmen could easily
lay their blows at them; and many fell from weariness, and died
without a wound. Thus almost all the chief men fell among the
Norway people. This happened towards evening; and then it went,
as one might expect, that all had not the same fate, for many
fled, and were lucky enough to escape in various ways; and
darkness fell before the slaughter was altogether ended.
98. OF STYRKAR THE MARSHAL.
Styrkar, King Harald Sigurdson's marshal, a gallant man, escaped
upon a horse, on which he rode away in the evening. It was
blowing a cold wind, and Styrkar had not much other clothing upon
him but his shirt, and had a helmet on his head, and a drawn
sword in his hand. As soon as his weariness was over, he began
to feel cold. A waggoner met him in a lined skin-coat. Styrkar
asks him, "Wilt thou sell thy coat, friend?"
"Not to thee," says the peasant: "thou art a Northman; that I
can hear by thy tongue."
Styrkar replies, "If I were a Northman, what wouldst thou do?"
"I would kill thee," replied the peasant; "but as ill luck would
have it, I have no weapon just now by me that would do it."
Then Styrkar says, "As you can't kill me, friend, I shall try if
I can't kill you." And with that he swung his sword, and struck
him on the neck, so that his head came off. He then took the
skin-coat, sprang on his horse, and rode down to the strand.
Olaf Haraldson had not gone on land with the others, and when he
heard of his father's fall he made ready to sail away with the
men who remained.
99. OF WILLIAM THE BASTARD.
When the Earl of Rouen, William the Bastard, heard of his
relation, King Edward's, death, and also that Harald Godwinson
was chosen, crowned, and consecrated king of England, it appeared
to him that he had a better right to the kingdom of England than
Harald, by reason of the relationship between him and King
Edward. He thought, also, that he had grounds for avenging the
affront that Harald had put upon him with respect to his
daughter. From all these grounds William gathered together a
great army in Normandy, and had many men, and sufficient
transport-shipping. The day that he rode out of the castle to
his ships, and had mounted his horse, his wife came to him, and
wanted to speak with him; but when he saw her he struck at her
with his heel, and set his spurs so deep into her breast that she
fell down dead; and the earl rode on to his ships, and went with
his ships over to England. His brother, Archbishop Otto, was
with him; and when the earl came to England he began to plunder,
and take possession of the land as he came along. Earl William
was stouter and stronger than other men; a great horseman and
warrior, but somewhat stern; and a very sensible man, but not
considered a man to be relied on.
100. FALL OF KING HARALD GODWINSON.
King Harald Godwinson gave King Harald Sigurdson's son Olaf leave
to go away, with the men who had followed him and had not fallen
in battle; but he himself turned round with his army to go south,
for he had heard that William the Bastard was overwhelming the
south of England with a vast army, and was subduing the country
for himself. With King Harald went his brothers Svein and Gyrd,
and Earl Valthiof. King Harald and Earl William met each other
south in England at Helsingja-port (Hastings). There was a great
battle in which King Harald and his brother Earl Gyrd and a great
part of his men fell. This was the nineteenth day after the fall
of King Harald Sigurdson. Harald's brother, Earl Valthiof,
escaped by flight, and towards evening fell in with a division of
William's people, consisting of 100 men; and when they saw Earl
Valthiof's troop they fled to a wood. Earl Valthiof set fire to
the wood, and they were all burnt. So says Thorkel Skallason in
Valthiof's ballad: --
"Earl Valthiof the brave
His foes a warming gave:
Within the blazing grove
A hundred men he drove.
The wolf will soon return,
And the witch's horse will burn
Her sharp claws in the ash,
To taste the Frenchman's flesh."
101. EARL VALTHIOF'S DEATH.
William was proclaimed king of England. He sent a message to
Earl Valthiof that they should be reconciled, and gave him
assurance of safety to come to the place of meeting. The earl
set out with a few men; but when he came to a heath north of
Kastala-bryggia, there met him two officers of King William, with
many followers, who took him prisoner, put him in fetters, and
afterwards he was beheaded; and the English call him a saint.
Thorkel tells of this: --
"William came o'er the sea,
With bloody sword came he:
Cold heart and bloody hand
Now rule the English land.
Earl Valthiof he slew, --
Valthiof the brave and true.
Cold heart and bloody hand
Now rule the English land."
William was after this king of England for twenty-one years, and
his descendants have been so ever since.
102. OF OLAF HARALDSON'S EXPEDITION TO NORWAY.
Olaf, the son of King Harald Sigurdson, sailed with his fleet
from England from Hrafnseyr, and came in autumn to the Orkney
Isles, where the event had happened that Maria, a daughter of
Harald Sigurdson, died a sudden death the very day and hour her
father, King Harald, fell. Olaf remained there all winter; but
the summer after he proceeded east to Norway, where he was
proclaimed king along with his brother Magnus. Queen Ellisif
came from the West, along with her stepson Olaf and her daughter
Ingegerd. There came also with Olaf over the West sea Skule, a
son of Earl Toste, and who since has been called the king's
foster-son, and his brother Ketil Krok. Both were gallant men,
of high family in England, and both were very intelligent; and
the brothers were much beloved by King Olaf. Ketil Krok went
north to Halogaland, where King Olaf procured him a good
marriage, and from him are descended many great people. Skule,
the king's foster-son, was a very clever man, and the handsomest
man that could be seen. He was the commander of King Olaf's
court-men, spoke at the Things (1) and took part in all the
country affairs with the king. The king offered to give Skule
whatever district in Norway he liked, with all the income and
duties that belonged to the king in it. Skule thanked him very
much for the offer, but said he would rather have something else
from him. "For if there came a shift of kings," said he, "the
gift might come to nothing. I would rather take some properties
lying near to the merchant towns, where you, sire, usually take
up your abode, and then I would enjoy your Yule-feasts." The
king agreed to this, and conferred on him lands eastward at
Konungahella, Oslo, Tunsberg, Sarpsborg, Bergen, and north at
Nidaros. These were nearly the best properties at each place,
and have since descended to the family branches which came from
Skule. King Olaf gave Skule his female relative, Gudrun, the
daughter of Nefstein, in marriage. Her mother was Ingerid, a
daughter of Sigurd Syr and Asta, King Olaf the Saint's mother.
Ingerid was a sister of King Olaf the Saint and of King Harald.
Skule and Gudrun's son was Asolf of Reine, who married Thora, a
daughter of Skopte Ogmundson; Asolf's and Thora's son was Guthorm
of Reine, father of Bard, and grandfather of King Inge and of
(1) Another instance of the old Norse or Icelandic tongue having
been generally known in a part of England.
103. OF KING HARALD SIGURDSON.
One year after King Harald's fall his body was transported from
England north to Nidaros, and was buried in Mary church, which he
had built. It was a common observation that King Harald
distinguished himself above all other men by wisdom and resources
of mind; whether he had to take a resolution suddenly for himself
and others, or after long deliberation. He was, also, above all
other men, bold, brave, and lucky, until his dying day, as above
related; and bravery is half victory. So says Thiodolf: --
"Harald, who till his dying day
Came off the best in many a fray,
Had one good rule in battle-plain,
In Seeland and elsewhere, to gain --
That, be his foes' strength more or less,
Courage is always half success."
King Herald was a handsome man, of noble appearance; his hair and
beard yellow. He had a short beard, and long mustaches. The one
eyebrow was somewhat higher than the other. He had large hands
(1) and feet; but these were well made. His height was five
ells. He was stern and severe to his enemies, and avenged
cruelly all opposition or misdeed. So says Thiodolf: --
"Severe alike to friends or foes,
Who dared his royal will oppose;
Severe in discipline to hold
His men-at-arms wild and bold;
Severe the bondes to repress;
Severe to punish all excess;
Severe was Harald -- but we call
That just which was alike to all."
King Harald was most greedy of power, and of all distinction and
honour. He was bountiful to the friends who suited him. So says
"I got from him, in sea-fight strong,
A mark of gold for my ship-song.
Merit in any way
He generously would pay."
King Harald was fifty years old when he fell. We have no
particular account of his youth before he was fifteen years old,
when he was with his brother, King Olaf, at the battle of
Stiklestad. He lived thirty-five years after that, and in all
that time was never free from care and war. King Harald never
fled from battle, but often tried cunning ways to escape when he
had to do with great superiority of forces. All the men who
followed King Harald in battle or skirmish said that when he
stood in great danger, or anything came suddenly upon him, he
always took that course which all afterwards saw gave the best
hope of a fortunate issue.
(1) It is a singular physical circumstance, that in almost all
the swords of those ages to be found in the collection of
weapons in the Antiquarian Museum at Copenhagen, the handles
indicate a size of hand very much smaller than the hands of
modern people of any class or rank. No modern dandy, with
the most delicate hands, would find room for his hand to
grasp or wield with case some of the swords of these
Northmen. -- L.
104. KING HARALD AND KING OLAF COMPARED.
When Haldor, a son of Brynjolf Ulfalde the Old, who was a
sensible man and a great chief, heard people talk of how unlike
the brothers Saint Olaf and King Harald were in disposition, he
used to say, "I was in great friendship with both the brothers,
and I knew intimately the dispositions of both, and never did I
know two men more like in disposition. Both were of the highest
understanding, and bold in arms, and greedy of power and
property; of great courage, but not acquainted with the way of
winning the favour of the people; zealous in governing, and
severe in their revenge. King Olaf forced the people into
Christianity and good customs, and punished cruelly those who
disobeyed. This just and rightful severity the chiefs of the
country could not bear, but raised an army against him, and
killed him in his own kingdom; and therefore he is held to be a
saint. King Harald, again, marauded to obtain glory and power,
forced all the people he could under his power, and died in
another king's dominions. Both brothers, in daily life, were of
a worthy and considerate manner of living; they were of great
experience, and very laborious, and were known and celebrated far
and wide for these qualities."
105. KING MAGNUS'S DEATH.
King Magnus Haraldson ruled over Norway the first winter after
King Harald's death (A.D. 1067), and afterwards two years (A.D.
1068-1069) along with his brother, King Olaf. Thus there were
two kings of Norway at that time; and Magnus had the northern and
Olaf the eastern part of the country. King Magnus had a son
called Hakon, who was fostered by Thorer of Steig in
Gudbrandsdal, who was a brother of King Magnus by the mother's
side; and Hakon was a most agreeable man.
After King Harald Sigurdson's death the Danish king Svein let it
be known that the peace between the Northmen and the Danes was at
an end, and insisted that the league between Harald and Svein was
not for longer time than their lives. There was a levy in both
kingdoms. Harald's sons called out the whole people in Norway
for procuring men and ships, and Svein set out from the south
with the Danish army. Messengers then went between with
proposals for a peace; and the Northmen said they would either
have the same league as was concluded between King Harald and
Svein, or otherwise give battle instantly on the spot. Verses
were made on this occasion, viz.: --
"Ready for war or peace,
King Olaf will not cease
From foeman's hand
To guard his land."
So says also Stein Herdison in his song of Olaf: --
"From Throndhjem town, where in repose
The holy king defies his foes,
Another Olaf will defend
His kingdom from the greedy Svein.
King Olaf had both power and right,
And the Saint's favour in the fight.
The Saint will ne'er his kin forsake,
And let Svein Ulfson Norway take."
In this manner friendship was concluded between the kings and
peace between the countries. King Magnus fell ill and died of
the ringworm disease, after being ill for some time. He died and
was buried at Nidaros. He was an amiable king and bewailed by
SAGA OF OLAF KYRRE.
Snorri's account of Olaf Kyrre corresponds with the statements
found in "Agrip", "Fagrskinna", and "Morkinskinna".
There are but few events in Olaf's long reign, and hence he is
very appropriately called the Quiet (Kyrre). As Hildebrand says,
this saga seems to be written simply to fill out the empty space
between Harald Hardrade and Magnus Barefoot.
Skalds quoted in this saga are: Stein Herdison and Stuf.
1. OLAF'S PERSONAL APPEARANCE.
Olaf remained sole king of Norway after the death (A.D. 1069) of
his brother King Magnus. Olaf was a stout man, well grown in
limbs; and every one said a handsomer man could not be seen, nor
of a nobler appearance. His hair was yellow as silk, and became
him well; his skin was white and fine over all his body; his eyes
beautiful, and his limbs well proportioned. He was rather silent
in general, and did not speak much even at Things; but he was
merry in drinking parties. He loved drinking much, and was
talkative enough then; but quite peaceful. He was cheerful in
conversation, peacefully inclined during all his reign, and
loving gentleness and moderation in all things. Stein Herdison
speaks thus of him: --
"Our Throndhjem king is brave and wise,
His love of peace our bondes prize;
By friendly word and ready hand
He holds good peace through every land.
He is for all a lucky star;
England he frightens from a war;
The stiff-necked Danes he drives to peace;
Troubles by his good influence cease."
2. OF KING OLAF'S MANNER OF LIVING.
It was the fashion in Norway in old times for the king's high-
seat to be on the middle of a long bench, and the ale was handed
across the fire (1); but King Olaf had his high-seat made on a
high bench across the room; he also first had chimney-places in
the rooms, and the floors strewed both summer and winter. In
King Olaf's time many merchant towns arose in Norway, and many
new ones were founded. Thus King Olaf founded a merchant town at
Bergen, where very soon many wealthy people settled themselves,
and it was regularly frequented by merchants from foreign lands.
He had the foundations laid for the large Christ church, which
was to be a stone church; but in his time there was little done
to it. Besides, he completed the old Christ church, which was of
wood. King Olaf also had a great feasting-house built in
Nidaros, and in many other merchant towns, where before there
were only private feasts; and in his time no one could drink in
Norway but in these houses, adorned for the purpose with branches
and leaves, and which stood under the king's protection. The
great guild-bell in Throndhjem, which was called the pride of the
town, tolled to call together to these guilds. The guild-
brethren built Margaret's church in Nidaros of stone. In King
Olaf's time there were general entertainments and hand-in-hand
feasts. At this time also much unusual splendour and foreign
customs and fashions in the cut of clothes were introduced; as,
for instance, costly hose plaited about the legs. Some had gold
rings about the legs, and also used coats which had lists down
the sides, and arms five ells long, and so narrow that they must
be drawn up with ties, and lay in folds all the way up to the
shoulders. The shoes were high, and all edged with silk, or even
with gold. Many other kinds of wonderful ornaments were used at
(1) We may understand the arrangement by supposing the fire in
the middle of the room, the smoke escaping by a hole in the
roof, and a long bench on each side of the fire; one bench
occupied by the high-seat of the king and great guests, the
other by the rest of the guests; and the cup handed across
the fire, which appears to have had a religious meaning
previous to the introduction of Christianity. -- L.
3. FASHION OF KING OLAF'S COURT.
King Olaf used the fashion, which was introduced from the courts
of foreign kings, of letting his grand-butler stand at the end of
the table, and fill the table-cups for himself and the other
distinguished guests who sat at the table. He had also torch-
bearers, who held as many candles at the table as there were
guests of distinction present. There was also a marshal's bench
outside of the table-circle, where the marshal and other persons
of distinction sat with their faces towards the high-seat. King
Harald, and the kings before him, used to drink out of deer-horn;
and the ale was handed from the high-seat to the otherside over
the fire, and he drank to the memory of any one he thought of.
So says Stuf the skald: --
"He who in battle is the first,
And now in peace is best to trust,
A welcome, hearty and sincere,
Gave to me on my coming here.
He whom the ravens watch with care,
He who the gold rings does not spare,
A golden horn full to the brink
Gave me himself at Haug to drink."
4. ARRANGEMENT OF KING OLAF'S COURT.
King Olaf had 120 courtmen-at-arms, and 60 pursuivants, besides
60 house-servants, who provided what was wanted for the king's
house wherever it might be, or did other work required for the
king. When the bondes asked why he kept a greater retinue than
the law allowed, or former kings kept when they went in guest-
quarters or feasts which the bondes had to provide for them, the
king answered, "It does not happen that I rule the kingdom
better, or produce greater respect for me than ye had for my
father, although I have one-half more people than he had. I do
not by any means do it merely to plague you, or to make your
condition harder than formerly."
5. KING SVEIN ULFSON'S DEATH.
King Svein Ulfson died ten years after the fall of both the
Haralds (A.D. 1076). After him his son, Harald Hein, was king
for three years (A.D. 1077-1080); then Canute the Holy for seven
years (A.D. 1081-1087); afterwards Olaf, King Svein's third son,
for eight years (A.D. 1088-1095). Then Eirik the Good, Svein's
fourth son, for eight winters (A.D. 1096-1103). Olaf, the king
of Norway, was married to Ingerid, a daughter of Svein, the
Danish king; and Olaf, the Danish King Svein's son, married
Ingegerd, a daughter of King Harald, and sister of King Olaf of
Norway. King Olaf Haraldson, who was called by some Olaf Kyrre,
but by many Olaf the Bonde, had a son by Thora, Joan's daughter,
who was called Magnus, and was one of the handsomest lads that
could be seen, and was promising in every respect. He was
brought up in the king's court.
6. MIRACLES OF KING OLAF THE SAINT.
King Olaf had a church of stone built in Nidaros, on the spot
where King Olaf's body had first been buried, and the altar was
placed directly over the spot where the king's grave had been.
This church was consecrated and called Christ Church; and King
Olaf's shrine was removed to it, and was placed before the altar,
and many miracles took place there. The following summer, on the
same day of the year as the church was consecrated, which was the
day before Olafsmas, there was a great assemblage of people, and
then a blind man was restored to sight. And on the mass-day
itself, when the shrine and the holy relics were taken out and
carried, and the shrine itself, according to custom, was taken
and set down in the churchyard, a man who had long been dumb
recovered his speech again, and sang with flowing tongue praise-
hymns to God, and to the honour of King Olaf the Saint. The
third miracle was of a woman who had come from Svithjod, and had
suffered much distress on this pilgrimage from her blindness; but
trusting in God's mercy, had come travelling to this solemnity.
She was led blind into the church to hear mass this day; but
before the service was ended she saw with both eyes, and got her
sight fully and clearly, although she had been blind fourteen
years. She returned with great joy, praising God and King Olaf
7. OF THE SHRINE OF KING OLAF THE SAINT.
There happened a circumstance in Nidaros, when King Olaf's coffin
was being carried about through the streets, that it became so
heavy that people could not lift it from the spot. Now when the
coffin was set down, the street was broken up to see what was
under it at that spot, and the body of a child was found which
had been murdered and concealed there. The body was carried
away, the street put in order again as it had been before, and
the shrine carried on according to custom.
8. KING OLAF WAS BLESSED WITH PEACE.
In the days of King O1af there were bountiful harvests in Norway
and many good things. In no man's life had times been so good in
Norway since the days of Harald Harfager. King O1af modified for
the better many a matter that his father had inaugurated and
maintained with severity. He was generous, but a strict ruler,
for he was a wise man, and well understood what was of advantage
to the kingdom. There are many stories of his good works. How
much he loved and how kind he was to the people may be seen from
the following words, which he once spoke at a large banquet. He
was happy and in the best of spirits, when one of his men said,
"It pleases us, sire, to see you so happy." He answered: "I have
reason to be glad when I see my subjects sitting happy and free
in a guild consecrated to my uncle, the sainted King Olaf. In
the days of my father these people were subjected to much terror
and fear; the most of them concealed their gold and their
precious things, but now I see glittering on his person what each
one owns, and your freedom is my gladness. In his reign there
was no strife, and he protected himself and his realm against
enemies abroad; and his nearest neighbours stood in great awe of
him, although he was a most gentle man, as is confirmed by the
9. MEETING OF OLAF KYRRE AND CANUTE THE SAINT.
King Olaf Kyrre was a great friend of his brother-in-law, the
Danish king, Canute the holy. They appointed a meeting and met
at the Gaut river at Konungahella, where the kings used to have
their meetings. There King Canute made the proposal that they
should send an army westward to England on account of the revenge
they had to take there; first and foremost King Olaf himself, and
also the Danish king. "Do one of two things," said King Canute,
-- "either take sixty ships, which I will furnish thee with, and
be thou the leader; or give me sixty ships, and I shall be the
leader." Then said King Olaf, "This speech of thine, King
Canute, is altogether according to my mind; but there is this
great difference between us; your family has had more luck in
conquering England with great glory, and, among others, King
Canute the Great; and it is likely that this good fortune follows
your race. On the other hand, when King Harald, my father, went
westward to England, he got his death there; and at that time the
best men in Norway followed him. But Norway was so emptied then
of chosen men, that such men have not since been to find in the
country; for that expedition there was the most excellent outfit,
and you know what was the end of it. Now I know my own capacity,
and how little I am suited to be the leader; so I would rather
you should go, with my help and assistance."
So King Olaf gave Canute sixty large ships, with excellent
equipment and faithful men, and set his lendermen as chiefs over
them; and all must allow that this armament was admirably equipt.
It is also told in the saga about Canute, that the Northmen alone
did not break the levy when the army was assembled, but the Danes
would not obey their king's orders. This king Canute
acknowledged, and gave them leave to trade in merchandise where
they pleased through his country, and at the same time sent the
king of Norway costly presents for his assistance. On the other
hand he was enraged against the Danes, and laid heavy fines upon
10. A BONDE WHO UNDERSTOOD THE LANGUAGE OF BIRDS.
One summer, when King Olaf's men had gone round the country
collecting his income and land dues, it happened that the king,
on their return home asked them where on their expedition they
had been best entertained. They said it was in the house of a
bonde in one of the king's districts. "There is an old bonde
there who knows many things before they happen. We asked him
about many things, which he explained to us; nay, we even believe
that he understands perfectly the language of birds." The king
replies, "How can ye believe such nonsense?" and insisted that it
was wrong to put confidence in such things. It happened soon
after that the king was sailing along the coast; and as they
sailed through a Sound the king said, "What is that township up
in the country?"
They replied, "That is the district, sire, where we told you we
were best entertained."
Then said the king, "What house is that which stands up there,
not far from the Sound?"
They replied, "That house belongs to the wise old bonde we told
you of, sire."
They saw now a horse standing close to the house. Then said the
king, "Go there, and take that horse, and kill him."
They replied, "We would not like to do him such harm."
The king: "I will command. Cut off the horse's head; but take
care of yourselves that ye let no blood come to the ground, and
bear the horse out to my ship. Go then and bring to me the old
man; but tell him nothing of what has happened, as ye shall
answer for it with your lives."
They did as they were ordered, and then came to the old man, and
told him the king's message. When he came before the king, the
king asked him, "Who owns the house thou art dwelling in?"
He replies, "Sire, you own it, and take rent for it."
The king: "Show us the way round the ness, for here thou must be
a good pilot."
The old man went into his boat and rowed before the king's ship;
and when he had rowed a little way a crow came flying over the
ship, and croaking hideously. The peasant listens to the crow.
The king said, "Do you think, bonde, that betokens anything?"
"Sire, that is certain," said he.
Then another crow flies over the ship, and screeches dreadfully.
The bonde was so ill hearing this that he could not row, and the
oars hung loose in his hands.
Then said the king, "Thy mind is turned much to these crows,
bonde, and to what they say."
The bonde replies, "Now I suspect it is true what they say."
The third time the crow came flying screeching at its very worst,
and almost settling on the ship. Now the bonde threw down his
oars, regarded them no more, and stood up before the king.
Then the king said, "Thou art taking this much to heart, bonde;
what is it they say?"
The peasant -- "It is likely that either they or I have
misunderstood -- "
"Say on," replied the king.
The bonde replied in a song: --
"The `one-year old'
Mere nonsense told;
The `two-years' chatter
Seemed senseless matter;
The three-years' croak
Of wonders spoke.
The foul bird said
My old mare's head
I row along;
And, in her song,
She said the thief
Was the land's chief."
The king said, "What is this, bonde! Wilt thou call me a thief?"
Then the king gave him good presents, and remitted all the land-
rent of the place he lived on. So says Stein: --
"The pillar of our royal race
Stands forth adorned with every grace.
What king before e'er took such pride
To scatter bounty far and wide?
Hung round with shields that gleam afar;
The merchant ship on one bestows,
With painted streaks in glowing rows.
"The man-at-arms a golden ring
Boasts as the present of his king;
At the king's table sits the guest,
By the king's bounty richly drest.
King Olaf, Norway's royal son,
Who from the English glory won,
Pours out with ready-giving hand
His wealth on children of the land.
"Brave clothes to servants he awards,
Helms and ring-mail coats grace his guards;
Or axe and sword Har's warriors gain,
And heavy armour for the plain.
Gold, too, for service duly paid,
Red gold all pure, and duly weighed,
King Olaf gives -- be loves to pay
All service in a royal way."
11. OF KING OLAF KYRRE'S DEATH.
King Olaf lived principally in his domains on his large farms.
Once when he was east in Ranrike, on his estate of Haukby, he
took the disease which ended in his death. He had then been king
of Norway for twenty-six years (A.D. 1068-1093); for he was made
king of Norway the year after King Harald's death. King Olaf's
body was taken north to Nidaros, and buried in Christ church,
which he himself had built there. He was the most amiable king
of his time, and Norway was much improved in riches and
cultivation during his reign.
MAGNUS BAREFOOT'S SAGA.
The greater part of the contents of this saga is also found in
"Agrip", "Fagrskinna", and "Morkinskinna".
Magnus and his cousin Hakon became kings in 1093, but Hakon ruled
only two years and died in 1095. King Magnus fell in the year
Skalds quoted are: Bjorn Krephende, Thorkel Hamarskald, and
1. BEGINNING OF THE REIGN OF KING MAGNUS AND HIS COUSIN HAKON.
Magnus, King Olaf's son, was, immediately after King Olaf's
death, proclaimed at Viken king of all Norway; but the Upland
people, on hearing of King Olaf's death, chose Hakon, Thorer's
foster-son, a cousin of King Magnus, as king. Thereupon Hakon
and Thorer went north to the Throndhjem country, and when they
came to Nidaros they summoned the Eyrathing; and at that Thing
Hakon desired the bondes to give him the kingly title, which was
agreed to, and the Throndhjem people proclaimed him king of half
of Norway, as his father, King Magnus, had been before. Hakon
relieved the Throndhjem people of all harbour duties, and gave
them many other privileges. He did away with Yule-gifts, and
gained by this the good-will of all the Throndhjem people.
Thereafter Hakon formed a court, and then proceeded to the
Uplands, where he gave the Upland people the same privileges as
the Throndhjem people; so that they also were perfectly well
affected to him, and were his friends. The people in Throndhjem
sang this ballad about him: --
"Young Hakon was the Norseman's pride,
And Steig-Thorer was on his side.
Young Hakon from the Upland came,
With royal birth, and blood, and name.
Young Hakon from the king demands
His royal birthright, half the lands;
Magnus will not the kingdom break, --
The whole or nothing he will take."
2. HAKON'S DEATH.
King Magnus proceeded north to the merchant town (Nidaros), and
on his arrival went straight to the king's house, and there took
up his abode. He remained here the first part of the winter
(A.D. 1094), and kept seven longships in the open water of the
river Nid, abreast of the king's house. Now when King Hakon
heard that King Magnus was come to Throndhjem, he came from the
East over the Dovrefield, and thence down from Throndhjem to the
merchant town, where he took up his abode in the house of Skule,
opposite to Clement's church, which had formerly been the king's
house. King Magnus was ill pleased with the great gifts which
Hakon had given to the bondes to gain their favour, and thought
it was so much given out of his own property. This irritated his
mind; and he thought he had suffered injustice from his relative
in this respect, that he must now put up with less income than
his father and his predecessors before him had enjoyed; and he
gave Thorer the blame. When King Hakon and Thorer observed this,
they were alarmed for what Magnus might do; and they thought it
suspicious that Magnus kept long-ships afloat rigged out, and
with tents. The following spring, after Candlemas, King Magnus
left the town in the night with his ships; the tents up, and
lights burning in the tents. They brought up at Hefring,
remained there all night, and kindled a fire on the land. Then
Hakon and the men in the town thought some treachery was on foot,
and he let the trumpets call all the men together out on the
Eyrar, where the whole people of the town came to him, and the
people were gathering together the whole night. When it was
light in the morning, King Magnus saw the people from all
districts gathered together on the Eyrar; and he sailed out of
the fjord, and proceeded south to where the Gulathing is held.
Hakon thanked the people for their support which they had given
him, and got ready to travel east to Viken. But he first held a
meeting in the town, where, in a speech, he asked the people for
their friendship, promising them his; and added, that he had some
suspicions of his relation, King Magnus's intentions. Then King
Hakon mounted his horse, and was ready to travel. All men
promised him their good-will and support whenever he required
them, and the people followed him out to the foot of Steinbjorg.
From thence King Hakon proceeded up the Dovrefield; but as he was
going over the mountains he rode all day after a ptarmigan, which
flew up beside him, and in this chase a sickness overfell him,
which ended in his death; and he died on the mountains. His body
was carried north, and came to the merchant town just half a
month after he left it. The whole townspeople went to meet the
body, sorrowing, and the most of them weeping; for all people
loved him with sincere affection. King Hakon's body was interred
in Christ church, and Hakon and Magnus had ruled the country for
two years. Hakon was a man full twenty-five years old, and was
one of the chiefs the most beloved by all the people. He had
made a journey to Bjarmaland, where he had given battle and
gained a victory.
3. OF A FORAY IN HALLAND.
King Magnus sailed in winter (A.D. 1095) eastward to Viken; but
when spring approached he went southwards to Halland, and
plundered far and wide. He laid waste Viskardal and many other
districts, and returned with a great booty back to his own
kingdom. So says Bjorn Krephende in his song on Magnus: --
"Through Halland wide around
The clang and shriek resound;
The houses burn,
The people mourn,
Through Halland wide around.
The Norse king strides in flame,
Through Viskardal he came;
The fire sweeps,
The widow weeps,
The Norse king strides in flame."
Here it is told that King Magnus made the greatest devastation
4. OF THORER OF STEIG.
"There was a man called Svein, a son of Harald Fietter. He was a
Danish man by family, a great viking and champion, and a very
clever man, and of high birth in his own country. He had been
some time with King Hakon Magnuson, and was very dear to him; but
after King Hakon's decease Thorer of Steig, his foster-father,
had no great confidence in any treaty or friendship with King
Magnus, if the whole country came into his power, on account of
the position in which Thorer had stood to King Magnus, and the
opposition he had made to him. Thereupon Thorer and Svein took
counsel with each other, which they afterwards carried into
effect, -- to raise, with Thorer's assistance, and his men, a
troop against Magnus. But as Thorer was old and heavy, Svein
took the command, and name of leader of the troop. In this
design several chiefs took part, among whom the principal was
Egil Aslakson of Aurland. Egil was a lenderman, and married to
Ingebjorg, a daughter of Ogmund Thorbergson, a sister of Skopte
of Giske. The rich and powerful man, Skjalg Erlingson, also
joined their party. Thorkel Hamarskald speaks of this in his
ballad of Magnus:
"Thorer and Egil were not wise,
They aimed too high to win a prize:
There was no reason in their plan,
And it hurt many a udalman.
The stone, too great for them to throw,
Fell back, and hurt them with the blow,
And now the udalmen must rue
That to their friends they were so true."
Thorer and Svein collected a troop in the Uplands, and went down
through Raumsdal into Sunmore, and there collected vessels, with
which they afterwards sailed north to Throndhjem.
5. OF THORER'S ADVENTURES.
The lenderman Sigurd Ulstreng, a son of Lodin Viggiarskalle,
collected men by sending round the war-token, as soon as he heard
of Thorer and the troop which followed him, and had a rendezvous
with all the men he could raise at Viggia. Svein and Thorer also
met there with their people, fought with Sigurd, and gained the
victory after giving him a great defeat; and Sigurd fled, and
joined King Magnus. Thorer and his followers proceeded to the
town (Nidaros), and remained there some time in the fjord, where
many people joined them. King Magnus hearing this news
immediately collected an army, and proceeded north to Throndhjem.
And when he came into the fjord Thorer and his party heard of it
while they lay at Herring, and they were ready to leave the
fjord; and they rowed their ships to the strand at Vagnvik, and
left them, and came into Theksdal in Seliuhverfe, and Thorer was
carried in a litter over the mountains. Then they got hold of
ships and sailed north to Halogaland. As soon as King Magnus was
ready for sea, he sailed from Throndhjem in pursuit of them.
Thorer and his party went north all the way to Bjarkey; and Jon,
with his son Vidkun, fled from thence. Thorer and his men robbed
all the movable goods, and burnt the house, and a good long-ship
that belonged to Vidkun. While the hull was burning the vessel
keeled to one side, and Thorer called out, "Hard to starboard,
Vidkun!" Some verses were made about this burning in Bjarkey: --
"The sweetest farm that I have seen
Stood on Bjarkey's island green;
And now, where once this farmhouse stood,
Fire crackles through a pile of wood;
And the clear red flame, burning high,
Flashes across the dark-night sky.
Jon and Vidkun, this dark night,
Will not be wandering without light."
6. DEATH OF THORER AND EGIL.
Jon and Vidkun travelled day and night till they met King Magnus.
Svein and Thorer proceeded northwards with their men, and
plundered far and wide in Halogaland. But while they lay in a
fjord called Harm, Thorer and his party saw King Magnus coming
under sail towards them; and thinking they had not men enough to
fight him, they rowed away and fled. Thorer and Egil brought up
at Hesjutun; but Svein rowed out to sea, and some of their people
rowed into the fjords. King Magnus pursued Thorer, and the
vessels struck together while they were landing. Thorer stood in
the forecastle of his ship, and Sigurd Ulstreng called out to
him, and asked, "Art thou well, Thorer?" Thorer replied, "I am
well in hands, but ill on my feet."
Then all Thorer's men fled up the country, and Thorer was taken
prisoner. Egil was also taken prisoner, for he would not leave
his wife. King Magnus then ordered both of them to be taken out
to Vambarholm; and when they were leading Thorer from the ship he
tottered on his legs. Then Vidkun called out, "More to the
larboard, Thorer!" When he was being led to the gallows he sang:
"We were four comrades gay, --
Let one by the helm stay."
When he came to the gallows he said, "Bad counsel comes to a bad
end." Then Thorer was hanged; but when he was hoisted up the
gallows tree he was so heavy that his neck gave way, and the body
fell down to the ground; for Thorer was a man exceedingly stout,
both high of stature and thick. Egil was also led to the
gallows, and when the king's thralls were about hanging him he
said, "Ye should not hang me, for in truth each of you deserves
much more to be hanged." People sang these verses about it: --
"I hear, my girl, that Egil said,
When to the gallows he was led,
That the king's thralls far more than he
Deserved to hang on gallows-tree.
It might be so; but, death in view,
A man should to himself be true, --
End a stout life by death as stout,
Showing no fear; or care, or doubt."
King Magnus sat near while they were being hanged, and was in
such a rage that none of his men was so bold as to ask mercy for
them. The king said, when Egil was spinning at the gallows, "Thy
great friends help thee but poorly in time of need." From this
people supposed that the king only wanted to have been entreated
to have spared Egil's life. Bjorn Krephende speaks of these
"King Magnus in the robbers' gore
Dyed red his sword; and round the shore
The wolves howled out their wild delight,
At corpses swinging in their sight.
Have ye not heard how the king's sword
Punished the traitors to their lord?
How the king's thralls hung on the gallows
Old Thorer and his traitor-fellows?"
7. OF THE PUNISHMENT OF THE THRONDHJEM PEOPLE.
After this King Magnus sailed south to Throndhjem, and brought up
in the fjord, and punished severely all who had been guilty of
treason towards him; killing some, and burning the houses of
others. So says Bjorn Krephende: --
"He who despises fence of shields
Drove terror through the Throndhjem fields,
When all the land through which he came
Was swimming in a flood of flame.
The raven-feeder, will I know,
Cut off two chieftans at a blow;
The wolf could scarcely ravenous be,
The ernes flew round the gallows-tree."
Svein Harald Fletter's son, fled out to sea first, and sailed
then to Denmark, and remained there; and at last came into great
favour with King Eystein, the son of King Magnus, who took so
great a liking to Svein that he made him his dish-bearer, and
held him in great respect. King Magnus had now alone the whole
kingdom, and he kept good peace in the land, and rooted out all
vikings and lawless men. He was a man quick, warlike, and able,
and more like in all things to his grandfather, King Harald, in
disposition and talents than to his father.
8. OF THE BONDE SVEINKE, AND SIGURD ULSTRENG.
There was a man called Sveinke Steinarson, who was very wealthy,
and dwelt in Viken at the Gaut river. He had brought up Hakon
Magnuson before Thorer of Steig took him. Sveinke had not yet
submitted to King Magnus. King Magnus ordered Sigurd Ulstreng to
be called, and told him he would send him to Sveinke with the
command that he should quit the king's land and domain. "He has
not yet submitted to us, or shown us due honour." He added, that
there were some lendermen east in Viken, namely Svein Bryggjufot,
Dag Eilifson, and Kolbjorn Klakke, who could bring this matter
into right bearing. Then Sigurd said, "I did not know there was
the man in Norway against whom three lendermen besides myself
were needful." The king replied, "Thou needst not take this
help, unless it be necessary." Now Sigurd made himself ready for
the journey with a ship, sailed east to Viken, and there summoned
the lendermen to him. Then a Thing was appointed to Viken, to
which the people were called who dwelt on the Gaut river, besides
others; so that it was a numerous assembly. When the Thing was
formed they had to wait for Sveinke. They soon after saw a troop
of men coming along, so well furnished with weapons that they
looked like pieces of shining ice; and now came Sveinke and his
people to the Thing, and set themselves down in a circle. All
were clad in iron, with glowing arms, and 500 in number. Then
Sigurd stood up, and spoke. "My master, King Magnus, sends God's
salutation and his own to all friends, lendermen and others, his
subjects in the kingdom; also to the powerful bondes, and the
people in general, with kind words and offers of friendship; and
to all who will obey him he offers his friendship and good will.
Now the king will, with all cheerfulness and peace, show himself
a gracious master to all who will submit to him, and to all in
his dominions. He will be the leader and defender of all the men
of Norway; and it will be good for you to accept his gracious
speech, and this offer."
Then stood up a man in the troop of the Elfgrims, who was of
great stature and grim countenance, clad in a leather cloak, with
a halberd on his shoulder, and a great steel hat upon his head.
He looked sternly, and said, "Here is no need of wheels, says the
fox, when he draws the trap over the ice." He said nothing more,
but sat down again.
Soon after Sigurd Ulstreng stood up again, and spoke thus: "But
little concern or help have we for the king's affairs from you,
Elfgrims, and but little friendship; yet by such means every man
shows how much he respects himself. But now I shall produce more
clearly the king's errand." Thereupon he demanded land-dues and
levy-dues, together with all other rights of the king, from the
great bondes. He bade each of them to consider with himself how
they had conducted themselves in these matters; and that they
should now promote their own honour, and do the king justice, if
they had come short hitherto in doing so. And then he sat down.
Then the same man got up in the troop of Elfgrims who had spoken
before, lifted his hat a little up, and said, "The lads run well,
say the Laplanders, who have skates for nothing." Then he sat
himself down again.
Soon after Sigurd arose, after speaking with the lendermen, and
said that so weighty a message as the king's ought not to be
treated lightly as a jest. He was now somewhat angry; and added,
that they ought not to receive the king's message and errand so
scornfully, for it was not decent. He was dressed in a red or
scarlet coat, and had a blue coat over it. He cast off his upper
coat and said, "Now it is come so far that every one must look to
himself, and not loiter and jest with others; for by so doing
every man will show what he is. We do not require now to be
taught by others; for now we can see ourselves how much we are
regarded. But this may be borne with; but not that ye treat so
scornfully the king's message. Thereby every one shows how
highly he considers himself. There is one man called Sveinke
Steinarson, who lives east at the Gaut river; and from him the
king will have his just land-dues, together with his own land, or
will banish him from the country. It is of no use here to seek
excuses, or to answer with sharp words; for people are to be
found who are his equals in power, although he now receives our
speech so unworthily; and it is better now than afterwards to
return to the right way, and do himself honour, rather than await
disgrace for his obstinancy." He then sat down.
Sveinke then got up, threw back his steel-hat, and gave Sigurd
many scornful words, and said, "Tut! tut! 'tis a shame for the
dogs, says the proverb, when the fox is allowed to cast their
excrements in the peasant's well. Here will be a miracle! Thou
useless fellow! with a coat without arms, and a kirtle with
skirts, wilt thou drive me out of the country? Thy relation,
Sigurd Woolsack, was sent before on this errand, and one called
Gille the Backthief, and one who had still a worse name. They
were a night in every house, and stole wherever they came. Wilt
thou drive me out of the country? Formerly thou wast not so
mighty, and thy pride was less when King Hakon, my foster-son,
was in life. Then thou wert as frightened for him when he met
thee on the road as a mouse in a mouse-trap, and hid thyself
under a heap of clothes, like a dog on board a ship. Thou wast
thrust into a leather-bag like corn in a sack, and driven from
house and farm like a year-old colt from the mares; and dost thou
dare to drive me from the land? Thou shouldst rather think
thyself lucky to escape from hence with life. Let us stand up
and attack him."
Then all his men stood up, and made a great clash with their
weapons. Then Svein Bryggjufot and the other lendermen saw there
was no other chance for Sigurd but to get him on horseback, which
was done, and he rode off into the forest. The end was that
Sveinke returned home to his farm, and Sigurd Ulstreng came, with
great difficulty, by land north to Throndhjem to King Magnus, and
told the result of his errand. "Did I not say," said the king,
"that the help of my lendermen would be needed?" Sigurd was ill
pleased with his journey; insisted that he would be revenged,
cost what it will; and urged the king much. The king ordered
five ships to be fitted out; and as soon as they were ready for
sea he sailed south along the land, and then east to Viken, where
he was entertained in excellent guest-quarters by his lendermen.
The king told them he would seek out Sveinke. "For I will not
conceal my suspicion that he thinks to make himself king of
Norway." They said that Sveinke was both a powerful and an
ungovernable man. Now the king went from Viken until he came to
Sveinke's farm. Then the lendermen desired that they might be
put on shore to see how matters stood; and when they came to the
land they saw that Sveinke had already come down from the farm,
and was on the road with a number of well-armed men. The
lendermen held up a white shield in the air, as a peace-token;
and when Sveinke saw it he halted his men, and they approached
each other. Then said Kolbjorn Klakke, "King Magnus sends thee
God's salutation and his own, and bids thee consider what becomes
thee, and do him obedience, and not prepare thyself to give him
battle." Kolbjorn offered to mediate peace between them, if he
could, and told him to halt his troops.
Sveinke said he would wait for them where he was. "We came out to
meet you," he said, "that ye might not tread down our corn-
The lendermen returned to the king, and told him all was now at