History of the Kings of Norway



History of the Kings of Norway

by Snorri Sturluson

Translated with Introduction and Notes by

Lee M. Hollander



Stolen and delivered by

Twitter: Twitter.com/HammerDer
Kickass.to: Kickass.to/user/DerHammer





Snorri’s Foreword


The Saga of the Ynglings


Ynglinga saga


The Saga of Hálfdan the Black


Hálfdanar saga Svarta


The Saga of Harald Fairhair


Haralds saga Hárfagra


The Saga of Hákon the Good


Hákonar saga Góða


The Saga of Harald Graycloak


Haralds saga Gráfeldar


The Saga of Óláf Tryggvason


Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar


Saint Óláf’s Saga


Óláfs saga Helga


The Saga of Magnús the Good


Magnúss saga ins Góða


The Saga of Harald Sigurtharson (Hardruler)


Haralds saga Sigurðarsonar


The Saga of Óláf the Gentle


Óláfs saga Kyrra


The Saga of Magnús Barelegs


Magnúss saga Berfoetts


The Saga of the Sons of Magnús


Magnússona saga


The Saga of Magnús the Blind and Harald Gilli


Magnúss saga Blinda ok Harald Gilla


The Saga of the Sons of Harald


Haraldssona saga


The Saga of Hákon the Broadshouldered


Hákonar saga Herðibreiðs


The Saga of Magnús Erlingsson


Magnúss saga Erlingssonar






The illustrations in this volume are by Halfdan Egedius, Christian Krohg, Gerhard Munthe, Eilif Peterssen, Erik Werenskiold, and Wilhelm Wetlesen. They are reproduced courtesy of Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, Oslo, Norway.


The Seeress Chants Incantations against Vísbur


Ingjald and Gautvith Come to Svipdag the Blind


Svipdag’s Sons and Their Warriors Storm the Hall of Seven Kings


King Hogni and His Men Ride into Sweden


Hálfdan the Black Prepares for Battle


Queen Ragnhild’s Dream


King Hálfdan Breaks through the Ice


Gytha Sends King Harald’s Messengers Away


The Captive King Grýting Is Led before King Harald


The Battle of Sólskel


The Ships Made Ready at the Battle of Hafrsfjord


King Hákon Addresses the Assembly


Ásbjorn of Methalhús Answers the King


Earl Sigurth Persuades the King to Yield


King Hákon Advances against the Danes


Queen Gunnhild Incites Her Sons


Earl Hákon’s Ships at Anchor during the Night


Earl Hákon Puts the Clerics on Land


Earl Sigvaldi Makes a Vow at the Arvel


Geirmund Brings the News of the Approach of the Jómsvíkings


The Hailstorm during the Battle of Hjorunga Bay


Sigurth Búason, Thorkel Leira, and Earl Eirík


Then Sigríth Said, “This May Well Be Your Death!”


The Sorcerers Die on the Skerries


Guthröth Eiríksson’s Men Harry in Vík


The Long Serpent


The Allied Kings See Óláf Tryggvason’s Ships Sail By


“Too Soft, Too Soft Is the King’s Bow.’’


Eirík’s Men Board the Long Serpent


The Victors Return from the Battle of Svolth


King Óláf Breaks London Bridge


The King Has the Trumpets Blown


The King of Sweden Flies into a Rage


Thorgný the Lawspeaker at the Uppsala Assembly


Thórarin Shows the King His Ugly Feet


King Óláf’s Expedition to Fetch His Bride


The Farmers’ Army


King Óláf Addresses the Farmers


The King Walks through the Lines of Erling’s Men


Thórir the Hound with the Spear, Sealkiller


Thórir’s Men Return to the Ships with Their Booty


Karl of Mœr Sits Down to Count the Silver


Thórir Reveals the Ring Given Him by King Knút


Túnsberg in the Time of Saint Óláf


King Óláf Travels through the Eith Forest


Knút’s Emissary Bribes Bjorn the Marshal


“It Will Be Monday Tomorrow, Sire!”


Gauka-Thórir and Afra-Fasti Meet the King


Bishop Sigurth Addresses the Farmers


Magnús the Good Meets Hortha-Knút


Magnús’ Men Put Farms to the Torch in Seeland


Harald Storms a Walled City


When It Dawns They See the Danish Fleet


Saint Óláf and the Cripple Walk over London Bridge


Thormóth Eindrithason Slays Hall on the Ice


Styrkár Kills the English Farmer


Egil Is Hanged


At Sunrise Magnús and His Men Go on Land


The Kings Ride to Jordan


King Sigurth and His Men Ride into Miklagarth


Horsemen Guard the Farm


Sigurth Leaves the King


The People Flee from Konungahella


The Priests Are Set Adrift


Hreithar Grotgarthsson Seeks to Rescue King Magnús


Símun Skálp Discovers King Eystein


King Ingi Reconciles Erling and Grégóríús


Erling and His Men Wade the River


King Magnús Erlingsson Receives Homage


The Birchlegs Attack Níkolás’ Residence




Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the Baltic Countries)


The Trondheim District


Nitharós (about 1200)


The British Isles


Bergen (about 1200)


Oslo (about 1200)




In Snorri Sturluson the northern world has had a historian who in many ways can be compared with Thucydides and in some is in nowise inferior to his Greek counterpart. And considering the great disparity in general culture and intellectual advancement between his times and Periclean Greece we may marvel all the more at Snorri’s genius. His work is unique in European historiography in presenting us with a continuous account of a nation’s history from its beginnings in the dim prehistoric past down into the High Middle Ages.


The protagonists of both “nature” and “nurture” as influence on the development of a man will find support in the ancestry and the upbringing of Snorri. He was born in 1179 (or 1178) at Hvamm in western Iceland. His father, Sturla Thortharson,1 was a shrewd and grasping landholder, descended in a direct line from that canny leader, Snorri the Priest, who in many ways played a dominant part in early Icelandic affairs. Snorri’s mother, Guthný, was the daughter of Bothvar Thortharson, who reckoned among his ancestors the redoubted fighter and great poet, Egil Skallagrímsson, as well as the lawspeaker and able skald, Markús Skeggjason; while on the spindle side she was likewise a descendant of Snorri the Priest. So much for his ancestry.


While Snorri was still a child of three or four there occurred an incident which was to have a decisive influence on his life and career. As we are told in the Sturlunga saga, that rather chaotic but most informative chronicle of the internecine struggles in Iceland during the thirteenth century, a dispute had arisen about an inheritance between a certain priest, Pál Sölveson, and Bothvar. The latter’s case was being argued by Sturla when, exasperated by the lengthy wrangling, Thorbjorg, Pál’s wife, rushed at Sturla with a knife, exclaiming, “Why shouldn’t I make you like him you most want to be like, and that is Óthin,”2 and with that she aimed at Sturla’s eye; but persons standing near pushed her so that the blow struck Sturla on the cheek, inflicting a big wound. A fight appeared imminent between the two parties, but Sturla ordered his followers to put up their swords, proposing that Pál agree to pay a compensation for his wife’s attack—which he set so high that it would have beggared Pál.3 But later, through the intercession of the great Jón [Jóan] Loptsson, it was lowered considerably. To mollify Sturla, Jón offered to foster his youngest son, Snorri, at his estate of Oddi.


Now to grasp the import of this offer we must bear in mind that he who offered fosterage to another man’s child thereby acknowledged himself inferior in rank. As a fact Jón Loptsson was at the time the most powerful as well as the most high-born chieftain in Iceland. Jon’s father, Lopt Sæmundarson, had married a daughter of King Magnús Barelegs of Norway;4 and his grandfather, Sæmund, a kinsman of the Earl of Mœr, enjoyed an almost legendary respect for his wisdom and for the learning he had acquired when studying in France. Oddi, the family estate in south Iceland, had since Sæmund’s time been the seat of the highest culture the island could boast of, and functioned informally as a kind of school for clerics. It was a place where a knowledge of the common law of the land was handed down and in whose atmosphere the study of history, of skaldship, and of course of Latin, were cultivated.


We do not know why Jón offered fosterage to Snorri in preference to his two (legitimate) older brothers, Thord and Sigvat. Is it possible that he discerned signs of unusual precocity in a child so young? It is tempting to think so. But we may take it for granted that, with so wise and responsible a foster father, the child, and then the youth, early imbibed the respect for learning and culture prevailing at Oddi. And we may be certain that his knowledge of the law, his grasp of history, his profound insight into the nature of skaldship, were derived from instruction there.


When Jón Loptsson died (1197) Snorri, then about nineteen, seems to have continued living at Oddi. Snorri’s own father had died, and his widow—from all we can infer, a gifted but extravagant woman—had run through Snorri’s share of his patrimony. To set the young man up in the world, a marriage was arranged for him with Herdís, only child of Bersi the Wealthy; and when he died a few years later, Snorri moved with her to Bersi’s estate of Borg, which was also the ancestral home of Snorri’s family. Meanwhile Snorri had with all the impetuousness of youth plunged into the politics of his time and had quickly amassed a fortune, most likely in the same unscrupulous and ruthless manner he exhibited in his later dealings. With the inheritance from Bersi went the possession of a goðorð (gothi-dom), to which in the course of time others were added, so that Snorri soon became a powerful chieftain. The institution of the goði was peculiar to Iceland. It had come down from heathen times—Christianity had been adopted in 1000 A.D. by resolution of the Althing—and survived till after the middle of the thirteenth century when it was superseded by royal subordinates. The goði (or temple priest) had both religious and secular prerogatives and duties. His office could be inherited or bought and sold or held in partnership, even loaned. The farmers and cotters of his bailiwick, known as his thingmen, had to pay toll to the temple and, later, to the church, and render the goði services. All their minor disputes were referred to him for settlement; and he on his part, like a feudal lord, afforded them protection.


In all likelihood Snorri’s marriage to Herdís was only a cold-blooded means of acquiring wealth. In the year 1206 he left her in Borg, with what arrangements we know not. She had borne him a son and a daughter. He himself moved to the estate of Reykjarholt, some twenty-five miles to the east of Borg. He had acquired this property by an agreement with the priest Magnús Pálsson, who then put himself and his family under Snorri’s protection. Snorri is said to have been skilful in all he undertook. To this day one may see one of his improvements on this estate, a walled circular basin, some three feet deep and about twelve feet across, which is filled with water from one of the many hot springs in the Reykja Valley. No doubt it was originally roofed over so that it could be used at any time.


That Snorri as a comparatively young man was elected lawspeaker for the Althing, the yearly general assembly, bespeaks the respect of his peers for his ability. He occupied this responsible post during two periods, from 1215 to 1218 (when he went abroad), and then again from 1222 to 1231. As the laws were not written to begin with, the lawspeaker’s duties involved pronouncing the letter of the law in any case of doubt; and in Iceland, in particular, reciting the body of the law once a year before the assembled Althing. Needless to say, especially considering the inveterate propensity of Icelanders for litigation, an intimate knowledge of the law offered manifold opportunities for enriching one’s self by taking advantage of the subtleties, the ambiguities, the dodges of the law. And Snorri seems to have made good use of this advantage—and made many enemies thereby. The years while he lived at Reykjarholt were filled with feuding in which Snorri was by no means always the gainer.


At a somewhat later time Snorri entered into a “community ownership” with Hallveig, widowed daughter of Orm, reputed to have been the richest woman in Iceland at that time, and “received into custody the property of her sons, Klæng and Orm, eight-hundred hundreds (ounces of silver). Then Snorri had far greater wealth than any other man in Iceland.”5 Not that he had lived without concubines, both at Borg and Reykjarholt—that was fairly common practice during the Sturlung Period, nor was it particularly frowned upon. At least three are mentioned by name, and he engendered a number of children with them.


Winter in subarctic Iceland with its darkness and inclement weather and long periods of enforced idleness always has been the time when people gave themselves up most to the cultural activities for which the short and hectic summer months offered little leisure. No doubt it was so, too, in Snorri’s time; and there is no doubt, either, that Snorri kept up the interests awakened and fostered in him during his youth at Oddi. We hear that he composed a poem now lost, but most likely adulatory, about the Norwegian Earl Hákon Galinn, a nephew of King Sverri, and was rewarded with the gift of a sword, a shield, and a coat of mail, together with an invitation to visit this influential lord. And probably nothing would have suited the ambitious young chieftain better than a chance to get his hands into the larger affairs of the continent. Poems reportedly composed by him about Kings Sverri and Ingi also indicate attempts to insinuate himself into the graces of the royal house of Norway. But the earl died in 1214, and Snorri’s plans had to be postponed, especially since most likely he knew that he was selected as the lawspeaker for the following year.


In this connection it is well to bear in mind that though separated from the motherland Norway by broad and stormy seas, for over three hundred years attachment to it never waned in Iceland. The language had scarcely changed, bonds of kinship in Norway were kept intact, intellectual and commercial relations were never interrupted. Young Icelanders of birth in surprising numbers took passage to the “old country” to acquire a knowledge of the world, and returned enriched with experience, incidentally having sold their cargoes of wool and homespun for good money and things not readily obtainable at home. They brought back with them news of changes abroad—news told and avidly listened to at meetings of the Althing and the local assemblies. For one like Snorri, raised in a family that boasted of royal connections, the pageant of contemporary history would naturally rouse interest in what had happened in bygone times and would stimulate a desire to write a connected history of the motherland.


The opportunity for travel came at last in 1218, when Snorri was forty and at the height of his powers. At that time Hákon the Fourth of Norway, the grandson of the adventurer king, Sverri, and then a boy of thirteen, had ascended the throne. The affairs of state were conducted for him by his uncle, Earl Skúli, as regent; and it was to him Snorri attached himself. It may have been a case of like to like, Skúli resembling Snorri in his ambitious, unscrupulous—and indecisive—disposition. One can imagine the two travelling together about the countryside of southern Norway on government errands, with the lively commercial town of Túnsberg (Tönsberg), at that time serving as the royal residence, as their headquarters, Snorri eagerly absorbing and storing in his mind the amazing information about topography and local history which was to stand him in such good stead later. In late summer Snorri by himself made a side trip to visit the lawspeaker of (Swedish) West Gaut-land (Götland), who had married the widow of Earl Hákon. We can think of him as travelling in the footsteps of Skald Sigvat two hundred years before him, going by way of Oslo, Sarpsborg, the Eidskog Forest, till reaching Skara (near Lake Vänern), and gathering there and on the way that detailed information about Swedish conditions exhibited in the seventy-seventh chapter of his Óláfs saga Helga. In the fall he returned, possibly by boat down the lordly Gaut Elf River (Göta Elf River) to Konungahella where he took ship for Trondheim to rejoin the king and Earl Skúli. If the trip was accomplished leisurely, sailing only in the daytime, Snorri could have been afforded an insight into the fantastically complicated coast line of western Norway.


In the spring following (1220) the court journeyed south to Bergen. Snorri had made himself very useful, among other ways, by composing a bloody altercation between Icelanders and the townsmen of Bergen which had assumed dangerous proportions, almost threatening war. For that, the king rewarded him by conferring on him the title of “landed-man” (approximately “baron”). Even before that, both the king and Earl Skúli had appointed him skutilsveinn (approximately “chamberlain”). For the home journey, Skúli presented him with a ship and “fifteen lordly gifts,” after Snorri had composed a poem about him, now lost except for the refrain.


It had been the ambition of several Norwegian kings to subject distant Iceland by conquest to their rule as they had done in the case of the Orkneys and the Faroes; and the recent altercation had suggested this anew to both King Hákon and Skúli. But Snorri was able to dissuade them, promising to accomplish this by peaceful means. However, after his return to Iceland he did not bestir himself in the least to keep that promise—whether because he had changed his mind or because he had never meant to do so, having given the promise only to save his country from warfare and destruction, we shall never know. The action is in line with his ambiguous character. Rumors of this secret deal with the king had gone before him, and when Snorri set foot on land he was met with lampoons and distrust. Nevertheless, born diplomat as he was, he overcame all suspicions, regaining the confidence of his compatriots to the extent that he was chosen lawspeaker for the second time, holding that influential post for ten years. And by conducting successful lawsuits and advantageously marrying off three daughters he was soon again considered the most powerful man in Iceland. It was in these years, presumably, that he composed the works which cause posterity to consider him the most versatile and gifted man of letters in medieval Iceland, nay in the whole North—the Prose Edda, Heimskringla, and, possibly, the Egils saga.


Later, circumstances worsened again for Snorri. He fell out with his eldest brother, Sigvat, who had a just cause against Snorri because of the depredations of the latter’s favorite but ungovernable son Órœkja on his properties and thingmen. In revenge, Sigvat fell upon Snorri (1236) and drove him out of house and home at Reykjarholt; on which occasion Snorri showed little physical courage and determination.


It was, possibly, in order to escape his many enemies, or (who knows?) perhaps with a forlorn hope of regaining his possessions through the help of Skúli, that Snorri ventured a second journey to Norway (1237), this time accompanied by Órœkja, even though he might have known that he was under heavy suspicion there for having gone back on his promise to deliver Iceland to the king—sufficient reason for him to avoid King Hákon and associate only with, now, Duke Skúli. Whether Snorri was aware of the dangerous tension which had been building up between the two men we do not know. In the fall of 1238 news was brought to Norway of the bloody Battle of Orlygsstathir in which both Sigvat and his son Sturla were killed. This strongly affected the king, who had hoped to find in Sigvat a more willing tool to bring Iceland under his sway, and also Snorri, who after all mourned his brother. Yet here was his chance to regain his properties and influence. So in the following spring, directly counter to the express order of the king, but with the connivance of Duke Skúli, he sailed back to Iceland. The rumor preceded him that Skúli had conferred on him the title of earl.


Once more Snorri succeeded in re-establishing himself. But he was then struck a hard blow in the death of Hallveig, to whom he appears to have been sincerely attached. All the more we wonder at his cupidity and unwisdom in denying the sons from her earlier marriage their rightful share in their inheritance. That proved to be his undoing: they turned for help to their uncle, the chieftain Gizur Thorvaldsson, Snorri’s own, but estranged, son-in-law. The same summer (1241) a letter came to Gizur from King Hákon, to the effect that he was to bring Snorri to Norway, with or without his consent; or else kill him, because he had committed high treason against him in wilfully disobeying his embargo. With sixty of his followers Gizur surprised Snorri in the night of September 23d, 1241 at Reykjarholt and had him slain. The king claimed Snorri’s properties. Thus his death may be called the prelude to Iceland’s loss of independence, twenty years later, after four hundred years of republican, or at least oligarchic, rule.


For his own contemporaries Snorri no doubt was the powerful chieftain known for his munificence as well as his avarice, the lawspeaker who could throw his weight in one’s favor or against one, a ruthless intriguer whom it was dangerous to have as one’s adversary. But for us he is the author of the Prose Edda, the Heimskringla, and, possibly, the Egils saga—works, that is, which in after times have had a far-reaching and profound influence on the literary and political life, not only of Iceland and Norway, but of all Scandinavian countries.


Habent sua fata libelli—books have their own, often curious fates. In the case of Snorri’s works we do not know when they were written; we are not even absolutely sure that they were written by him.


Least uncertainty obtains with regard to the so-called Prose Edda. Yet only the least authentic vellum of this work, the Uppsala Codex, says in so many words that Snorri had “put it together,” i.e. composed it. But the incomparable style of his Edda, surely one of the most delightful of “text-books,” allows little doubt as to who could have written it. The avowed purpose of the slight volume is to set forth the principles of skaldship, its foundations and rules—for its times a most original undertaking; in fact, one without parallel for a similar stage of literary development. It was not intended to be a treatise on Northern mythology, even though to us it is invaluable precisely in this respect, but rather to give the beginning skald the material for his kennings, the most characteristic feature of skaldic poetry, and also to explain the metrical rules governing that difficult art. Some of Snorri’s information, we see, is drawn from certain lays of the so-called Older or Poetic Edda; but much also from sources otherwise unknown.


The work is in three sections. In the first, called “Gylfaginning,” “The Duping of Gylfi,” we are given a synopsis of the heathen beliefs of the olden times—at Snorri’s time the island had been Christian, at least nominally, for some two centuries. This is done with inimitable charm and verve, even though the myths are presented in the pedantic medieval form of question and answer. King Gylfi asks, and Hár, “the exalted” (i.e. Óthin) and his hypostases Jafnhár, “Even-as-Exalted,” and Thrithi, “the Third,” satisfy his curiosity about creation and the nature and the fates of the gods.


The second part, “Skáldskaparmál,” “The Language of Poetry,” deals with the kenningar6 and their mythologic and legendary background. It, too, is presented in the form of a dialogue, this time between the sea god, Ægir, and Bragi, the god of poetry.


The third section, as its name, “Háttatal,” “Enumeration of Metres,” indicates, has as its matter the exceedingly numerous verse forms at the disposal of the skald. Each is described in technical fashion, then illustrated by a stanza of Snorri’s own encomiastic poem on King Hákon and Duke Skúli—a technical feat, even if dull poetry.


The many sagas of Old Iceland are practically all anonymous. Exactly why, we do not know. Present scholarship inclines to regard most of them as composed by individual authors making more or less use of local tradition. The masterly Egils saga is no exception to this anonymity; but in recent times more and more students are inclined to attribute it to Snorri, and this for a number of stylistic and compositional reasons. It must be admitted, however, that among the many arguments adduced for crediting it to him, the only tangible one is this: through his mother’s ancestry Snorri belonged to the kin of the Mýramen, as the kinsfolk of Egil were called. So it must have been a satisfaction for him when coming into the possession of the ancestral estate of Borg, to acquire the intimate knowledge of surrounding localities exhibited in the saga. There also he could, from old retainers of the family, gather reminiscences of the colorful personality of Egil. Negatively, we know of no skald in the thirteenth century from that particular region, and certainly no one equipped like Snorri with the skill to write a saga like Eigla.


We have no certain indications when Heimskringla, a work of so much larger scope than these earlier works, was composed. Most likely it was the occupation of a lifetime. Also, what more likely than that the chieftainly seats of Oddi and of Reykjarholt were well stocked with all the manuscripts about history available and obtainable. For Snorri was by no means the first Icelander to write history. Since the heroic age of the mass migration to Iceland—oversimplified as being due only to the tyranny of King Harald Fair-hair7—took place about the same time as the introduction of writing, traditions of that time no doubt were in annalistic form, fixed on parchment by clerics, and of course in Latin. Thus Sæmund the Learned (1056-1133) is reported to have written about the lives of the kings of Norway from Hálfdan the Black down to Magnús the Good. But as Snorri stresses in his Foreword, it was the priest Ari Thorgilsson the Learned (1067-1148) who first wrote history in the vernacular.8


This remarkable man seems with one stroke to have lifted Icelandic historiography to a high level. As he himself tells us, he bases his history of Iceland on the reliable oral testimony of veracious old persons of tenacious memory, anchoring its chronology on the established dates of Old English annals and world history. His Libellus Islendorum [Little Book about the Icelanders) gives a compact, matter of fact history of Iceland from its first settlement (ca. 874) down to his own times (ca. 1130). His style is admirably clear and quite unpretentious, his account sober, eschewing all imaginative embellishments. No higher praise can be given him than is bestowed on him by his great successor, Snorri, in his Foreword. Ari’s more comprehensive work called Islendingabók (Book about the Icelanders), now lost, contained genealogies of the kings of Norway as well as accounts of their lives; and Snorri, for much of his narrative about the earlier kings down to the death of Magnús Barelegs, seems to rely on his predecessor. Another work Ari may have written, or at least have had a hand in compiling, is the famous Landnámabók (Book of Settlements), unique in European historiography in specifying in detail what families first settled in Iceland, and where.


Another Icelander to whom Snorri owes many of the details of the history of Magnús the Blind and Harald Gilli and his sons is Eirík Oddsson. His work, called Hryggjarstykki9 has come down to us only in what we find in Heimskringla and the Morkinskinna Codex. We gather that it was essentially a history of his own times as witnessed by himself or told him by contemporaries.


Of Karl Jónsson, the author of the excellent Sverris saga, we know only that he twice, and for long years, was abbot of the cloister of Thingeyrar in Iceland and that he wrote it under the supervision of the adventurer king himself. The hypothesis may be entertained that Snorri read this work when in Norway. If so, he may have learned from Karl how to compose the speeches which form so notable a part in both works. And though Snorri does not say so, he may have concluded his own work, rather abruptly, with the accession of Magnús Erlingsson because he knew of the existence of Karl’s work, which starts about that time, and considered it unnecessary to continue.


About the turn of the century two Icelandic monks, Odd Snorrason and Gunnlaug Leifsson, likewise of Thingeyrar monastery, composed works in Latin, but now known only in fragmentary Old Norse translation, about the two missionary kings; however, they were more in the style of hagio-graphic and thoroughly uncritical compilations than historic writing. Still, they probably furnished the basis of more connected lives of the two Óláfs.


Of greater historic interest are the Latin works of two Norwegian (?) clerics of about the same time. One, Theodricus monachus, in his Historia de antiquitate regum Norwagiensium, gives us a brief, soberly written account of the lives of the Norwegian kings from Harald Fairhair to the death of Sigurth Jerusalemfarer. It is noteworthy that Theodricus is the first to make use of Skaldic verse and insofar is the forerunner of Snorri and others in recognizing its importance as contemporaneous testimony. The other work, Historia Norwegiœ, has been called the oldest continuous history of Norway. But its chief interest for us lies in the copious topographical information it furnishes about Scandinavia and the various tributary lands of Norway, and also Iceland. Unfortunately it breaks off in the middle of Saint Óláf’s reign.


Finally there is a poorly written compilatory work in Icelandic from the last years of the twelfth century, properly called Ágrip af Noregs konungasǫgum (Epitome of the Sagas of the Norwegian Kings), which, with considerable gaps, deals with all Norwegian history from Harald Fairhair to the sons of Harald Gilli.


Then there are the many works of hagiography, rather than historiography, dealing with the lives of northern saints; among them, fragments of an independent life of Saint Óláf in Icelandic, dating from the latter part of the twelfth century; also, a later Legendary Óláfs saga, apparently based on the former. Snorri leaned heavily on this saga for his Life of Saint Óláf.


All these works were in existence by 1220 when the two large compilations, the one called Morkinskinna (Rotten Vellum), the other Fagrskinna (Beautiful Vellum), came into being. The first is a work of high caliber, stylistically, but in typically medieval fashion uncritically decked out with a wealth of anecdotes relating to the various kings, some to be sure brilliantly told. The unknown author makes no pretence of historic reliability, following the happy principle of quod bene dictum est, meum est—what is well told I make my own! The likewise unknown author of Fagrskinna, on the other hand, writes in an awkward style, but more scrupulously foregoes bringing in irrelevant material. What gives his compilation great importance is that, to an even larger extent than Morkinskinna, it cites skaldic stanzas, many not found elsewhere. It is from these two collections that Snorri has lifted bodily some of the most telling pages of the sagas of Harald Sigurth-arson and the kings succeeding him—always improving and clarifying their accounts.


I have dwelt on the fact that several of the histories mentioned contain skaldic verses. The modern historian, with documents of all sorts at his disposal, would not dream of depending—of all things—on poems for his source. The case is different for the historian of a preliterary age. Just as Thucydides, quite correctly for his times, relies on Homer as his witness for legendary history, Snorri cites as his authority Thjóthólf’s genealogic poem Ynglingatal (Enumeration of the Yngling Kings) and Eyvind’s corresponding Háleygjatal (Enumeration of the Hálogaland Chieftains) for the origins in dim antiquity of the Scandinavian nations. Together with scanty living tradition they were the only source available. For later times, he draws importantly on the contemporary encomiastic poems of the skalds, both for the information they contain and for a check on tradition. As he explains in his Foreword:


“At the court of King Harald [Fairhair] there were skalds, and men still remember their poems and the poems about all the kings who have since his time ruled in Norway; and we gathered most of our information from what we are told in those poems which were recited before the chieftains themselves or their sons. We regard all that to be true which is found in those poems about their expeditions and battles. It is [to be sure] the habit of poets to give highest praise to those princes in whose presence they are; but no one would have dared to tell them to their faces about deeds which all who listened as well as the prince himself knew were only falsehoods and fabrications. That would have been mockery, still not praise … As to the poems, I consider they will yield the best information if they are correctly composed and judiciously interpreted.”10


As to the latter statement, Snorri, himself the greatest expert on skaldic poetry, has for the most part been confirmed in his interpretations by modern Icelandic and continental scholars. Yet skaldic poetry, both intrinsically, and often by faulty tradition, is difficult—perhaps the most difficult body of poetry in existence. The translator of it must ever be on his guard to render these verses faithfully, without adding a tittle of spurious matter and thus falsifying their testimony. At the same time it is in the nature of things that, like any translation of Thucydides, his version needs must read more smoothly than the gnarled original.


It has been the arduous task of historians and philologists to determine which of the sources available at the time were used by Snorri, and to what extent. It cannot be the purpose here to give in detail the often conflicting results of their labors. Nor has it been the aim in the present translation of his work to point out the hundreds of errors of fact or chronology which he is, or may be, guilty of, or to cite variant and differing accounts in English and continental annals or histories. Like every historian, Snorri builds largely with materials brought together by his predecessors. In a number of cases he frankly mentions his sources. But it is generally conceded that, while making abundant use of them, he stands high above all his predecessors in deliberately omitting, or at least rationalizing, what he considers less credible. As he remarks concerning King Harald Hardruler, “Yet many more of his famous deeds have not been set down, both because of our lack of information and because we do not wish to put down in writing stories not sufficiently witnessed … it seems better that [some accounts] be added later, rather than that they needed to be omitted.”11 To be sure, this critical attitude would seem to us moderns to be sorely wanting when he includes the multitude of stories of witchcraft; and still more so when we are regaled with the numerous mawkish, and often revolting, miracles of Saint Óláf, chapters which we would regard as serious blemishes in his work. But here we must not fail to remember that Snorri, like other great men, after all was a child of his own times—in his case, the thirteenth century, a period more given to superstitions of all kinds than any other, before or after. Moreover, the possibility must not be ruled out that Snorri, keen intellectual as he was, may not have put more credence in some Christian miracles than in heathen magic and that he copied these accounts of miracles verbatim from older collections to placate the Church: their sanctimonious, lachrymose style is easily distinguished from Snorri’s own cool and matter-of-fact manner. Another matter, born storyteller as he was, Snorri evidently was loath to forego the pleasure of including such entertaining fornaldar saga12 style yarns of derring-do as the one of the robbing of the temple of Jómali,13—nor would we, admittedly, wish this omitted—even though a much briefer account would have sufficed to account for Thórir the Hound’s later actions. The same is true of many other telling episodes which often do not seem indispensable, yet add zest and life to his narrative. On the other hand, still others, seemingly irrelevant, finally reveal themselves as indispensable links in the course of events. Take the case of Thórarin Nefjólfsson’s ugly feet, where broad bantering leads to a wager, and that to Thórarin’s being intrusted with the responsible task of disposing of dangerous King Hrœrek.14 The very long episode of Ásbjorn Selsbani15—by the way, one of the pinnacles of Snorri’s narrative art—at first blush appears wholly unrelated to the main course of Norwegian history, but then is seen to lead to the irreconcilable, and ultimately fateful, conflict between King Óláf and Erling Skjálgsson.


The extensive saga literature of Iceland contains few “speeches,” though it abounds in dramatic dialogue. Admirable examples of both are found in the Færinga saga, from which Snorri, a good judge of such matters, has lifted bodily several chapters containing in their taut narrative the superb short speech of Sigurth Thorlaksson as well as the prevaricating answers of Thránd. But the “set speech” as a feature of historic writing was introduced by Abbot Karl in his Sverris saga, emulating Livy, who in his turn imitated Thucydides. Snorri had probably become acquainted with Karl’s work while in Norway. What Thucydides says about the many speeches he introduces—“I have made the persons say what it seemed to me most opportune for them to say in view of each situation; at the same time I have adhered as closely as possible to the general sense of what was actually said”16—might have been claimed, with the same slight justice, by Snorri who, wisely, makes only sparing use of long set speeches but, unlike Thucydides, integrates them into the action. Thus, in a famous passage, we see Thorgný, the powerful leader of the farmers, sitting broad and self-possessed at the Uppsala Assembly, facing the king of Sweden. Both Bjorn, the emissary of King Óláf of Norway, and Rognvald, earl of Gautland, have pleaded the cause of peace between the two countries, to be sealed by a royal intermarriage, but have been talked down by the loud-mouthed king of Sweden, and there is much tumult and shouting. Then Thorgný arises to speak, the crowd surges forward, hushed, to hear him. When he has finished, a tumult of applause breaks out; and the king, cowed, promises he will agree to all he is asked to do.


Again, the modern reader finds monotony in the narrative of Thucydides, unrelieved as it is by the innumerable picturesque touches with which Snorri enlivens his pages. Where, in the older historian, will you find such trenchant characterizations of great leaders as—to choose one among many—that of the grizzly, old, wry-necked warrior, Erling Skakki, with his old-fashioned garb and gaunt appearance, which Snorri gives us?17 Or such a startlingly candid appraisal and comparison as Halldór makes of King Saint Óláf and his half-brother, Harald Hardruler, both utterly different outwardly, but much alike in temperament, nevertheless?18 Is it a wonder that Heimskringla still is favored reading in Scandinavia among high and low, young and old? Thucydides makes it clear that he intends his work to be “useful.”19 Snorri no doubt intended that too, but he also intended that it might serve til skemmtanar, for entertainment.


Still further, compared with Thucydides’ frequently turgid and obscure style, Snorri’s prose is simplicity itself, even where it rises to heights of passionate eloquence or expresses high dramatic tension. But it must be admitted that occasionally his paragraphs are disfigured by drab, careless sentences; that there are altogether too many which begin with the childlike “then … then”; worse, that sometimes sentences, or even whole paragraphs, are absentmindedly repeated and, in places, contain contradictory statements—all shortcomings of which saga literature is rarely, if ever, guilty. Concerning these obvious blemishes (which the translator is often tempted to remove) the surmise may be entertained that they are due to the author’s not having bad the time or opportunity to set matters straight, what with the huge pile of vellum involved. Perhaps portions of the work dictated from notes had not been gone over by him for a last filing.


Readers of Heimskringla have been troubled by the author’s lack of any recognizable philosophy or central view concerning the pageant of history he lets pass before our eyes. There certainly is no enthusiasm shown about the missionary activities of the two Óláfs, and not much enthusiasm for Christian ideals, apart from some obbligato passages in the life of Saint Óláf. Is it that Snorri at heart was a fatalist? Before the decisive battle of Stiklar-stathir the saint to be has the vindictively-minded skald Thormóth intone the heathen Old Bjarkamál, and thanks him for it. He trusts that the better cause will win, but “fate will decide the outcome.” On the other hand the old heroic ideals of loyalty to king and defiance of death prevail in his evaluation of the fallen—“fair fame will fade never, I ween, for him who wins it,” as the thoroughly heathen Eddie “Hávamál” has it.


Intimately connected with this religious indifferentism—after all rare in the Middle Ages—is Snorri’s cool impartiality. Earl Hákon the Powerful’s great qualities are acknowledged, Sigurth Slembidjákn’s stoicism under torture is admired, notwithstanding conduct which in our eyes would brand them as criminals on a grand scale. The opponents of King Saint Óláf have their day in court as well as the hero and his followers. We are given to understand how ill will accumulates against him, how his harsh justice alienates more and more of his former friends. Snorri does not moralize, he is “objective,” and is content to let facts speak for themselves; whereas the compiler of Morkinskinna, on whom he leans heavily, often cannot refrain from expressing his indignation or approval.


As was remarked above, we do not know when Snorri’s works were written, nor are we absolutely sure that they were written by him. To be sure, the Sturlunga saga20 tells us that in the winter of 1230 to 1231 “Sturla [Sig-vatsson, Snorri’s nephew] was for a long time in Reykjarholt and concentrated on having saga books copied from the books which Snorri had put together [composed].” But how can we be certain that this refers to Heimskringla?


Of the main manuscripts (or copies of lost manuscripts) giving us the text of Heimskringla (Kringla, Jǫfraskinna, Codex Frisianus), not one mentions Snorri as the author. The best of them, Kringla, was written about twenty years after Snorri’s death. It was brought to Norway some time in the Middle Ages, and later was transferred to the library of the University of Copenhagen. Already then it had lost the first page containing the Foreword. Toward the end of the seventeenth century two excellent copies of it were made—fortunately; in 1728 occurred the great conflagration of Copenhagen which destroyed also the greater part of the University Library. Codex Frisianus was written about 1300 in Norway, by an Icelander, and contains all of the histories excepting the one dealing with Saint Óláf. It was found in 1550 in Bergen, and was brought to Denmark before 1600 when it was acquired by the book collector Otto Friis, who then sold it to the famous bibliophile, Árni Magnússon, in whose huge collection, now belonging to the University of Copenhagen, it still reposes. The third manuscript, called Jǫfraskinna (Kings’ Vellum) because in it were the pictures of two Norwegian kings, was written about 1320 by a Norwegian who copied an Icelandic original. It contains all of Heimskringla, together with the Sverris saga and the Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar, and also landed in the University Library where it was burned, but not before a good copy had been made of it. There is, finally, the codex called Eirspennill (Vellum with Copper Clasps), written about 1300 by an Icelander and now in Árni Magnússon’s collection. In it are found the sagas of the Norwegian kings, but only from the accession of Magnús the Good to the death of Hákon Hákonsson.


The first, abridged, translation, by the Norwegian lawman, Matthis Størssøn, about 1561, shows no knowledge of Snorri’s being the author. Yet Laurents Hanssøn, a royal steward who in the years 1548 to 1551 translated the central portion of Heimskringla, twice states outright, in the heading and at the end of the Foreword, that the work is by Snorri. And the Norwegian divine, Peder Claussøn Friis, who in 1599 translated all of Heimskringla, likewise mentions Snorri twice. A recent study of Hanssøn’s and Claussøn’s versions seems to show that both used a manuscript now lost.


A copy of Claussøn’s translation got into the hands of the learned Danish antiquarian, Ole Worm, who at once recognized the importance of the work and published it in 1633 under the title of Snorre Sturleson’s Chronicle of Norwegian Kings. The book soon won a large circle of readers, especially in Norway. A second edition came out in 1757.


The first edition of the original text, with a translation into Swedish, based on the Kringla manuscript, was prepared by the royal Swedish antiquarian Johan Peringskjöld. It was he who gave the work the title Heims-kringla, after the two first words of the Ynglinga saga, Kringla heimsins (The Earth’s Round). The title has been adopted generally. A more appropriate name would be The Lives of the Kings of Norway as, indeed, it is frequently called in other Old Icelandic manuscripts.


It was subsequently translated into Danish by N.F.S. Grundtvig (1818-1821), into Dano-Norwegian by Jacob Aal (1838-1839) and P. A. Munch (1859-1871), into Swedish by H. O. Hildebrand (1869-1871)—to mention only translations by outstanding authors. By these translations Heims-kringla became a “folk-book” such as few nations possess. Certainly, no other work, the Bible excepted, has exerted such broad and pervasive influence on Scandinavian life, literature, the arts. In Norway especially it has been a source of inspiration and strength in times of national stress as well as in those of prosperity; particularly since Gustav Storm’s exemplary translation (1899) in one volume made the work, richly illustrated with drawings by the best Norwegian artists, available to all at a popular price.


The text followed in this translation of Heimskringla is that of the manuscript “Kringla” as edited by Bjarni Athalbjarnarson, with the variants of the other manuscripts, in three volumes (Reykjavik: hiò Islenzka Fornritafélag, 1941, 1945, 1951). It differs from previous translations into English, and from all others, for that matter, in endeavoring to adhere closely both to the form and the content of the copious skaldic stanzas. I have laid down my views on how best to render skaldic verse in the Introduction to The Skalds (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1945), and also in Scandinavian Studies, XVIII (1945), 233-240. Readers interested in the nature of skaldic art, its verse forms, kennings, rimes, and alliterations will find a brief orientation in the former publication.


Reviewers are urged to take note of what I consider the proper diction to be employed in the rendering of Old Norse poetry (discussed in Scandinavian Studies, V (1920), 197-201), and of what can be said concerning the proper rendering of Scandinavian personal and geographic names (ibid., XXVI (1954), 25-29). As to the latter, I have in general used the forms likely to be most familiar to English-speaking readers. However, a little reflection will show that consistency on this score is unattainable.


I have of course followed Snorri’s very capricious division into chapters. The headings to these are mine. Naturally it is difficult to do justice in these to the contents of divisions so greatly varying in length.


As to my Introduction and, to a large extent, the footnotes, I disclaim any independent value. The specialist will without difficulty discern in how far both are based on the conclusions of previous scholarship. The scope of the present translation has, of course, precluded going into the—legionary—difficulties of the interpretation of the skaldic verse. My own interpretation has, I hope, profited from the best scholarship in this field.


The gracious permission from Gyldendal Norsk Forlag of Oslo to reproduce the illustrations by Norwegian artists is hereby gratefully acknowledged; likewise the permission extended by Hiò Islenzka Fornritafélag to use the sketch of maps of Nitharós, Ósló, and Bjǫrgvin from their edition of Heimskringla.




Snorri’s foreword


In this book I have had written down old accounts about the chieftains who had dominion in the North and were speakers of the Danish tongue,1 basing myself on the information given me by well-informed men; also, on some of their genealogies according to what I have learned about them, some of which information is found in the pedigrees which kings or other persons of exalted lineage have about their kin; and still other matter follows ancient lays or legends people have entertained themselves with. And although we do not know for sure whether these accounts are true, yet we do know that old and learned men consider them to be so.


The learned Thjóthólf of Hvinir2 was a skald at the court of King Harald Fairhair. He composed a lay about King Rognvald the Highly Honored which is called Ynglingatal (Enumeration of the YnglingKings). Rognvald was the son of Óláf Geirstathaálf, the brother of Hálfdan the Black. In this lay are mentioned thirty of his forebears, together with an account of how each of them died and where they are buried. Fjolnir is the name of the son of Yngvifrey to whom the Swedes made sacrifice for a long time afterwards. That race is called the Ynglings after him. Eyvind Skáldaspillir3 also enumerated the ancestors of Earl Hákon the Mighty in the lay which is called Háleygjatal (Enumeration of the Hálogaland Chieftains),4 which he composed about Hákon. There, Sæming is named as the son of Yngvifrey. And in it also we are told about the death of each of them and where his burial mound is. First we have written the lives of the Ynglings according to Thjóthólf’s account, and this we amplified with the information given us by learned men.


The first age is called the Age of Cremation. In that age it was the custom to burn all the dead and to raise memorial stones after them; but after Frey was put to rest in a burial mound at Uppsalir [Uppsala], many chieftains used to erect burial mounds as often as memorial stones to commemorate departed relatives. However, after Dan the Proud, the Danish king, had a burial mound made for himself and decreed that he was to be carried into it when dead, in all his royal vestments and armor, together with his horse, fully saddled, and much treasure besides, and when many of his kinsmen did likewise, then began the Age of Sepulchral Mounds. However, the Age of Cremation persisted for a long time among Swedes and Norwegians.


Now when Harald Fairhair was king of Norway, Iceland was settled. At the court of King Harald there were skalds, and men still remember their poems and the poems about all the kings who have since his time ruled in Norway; and we gathered most of our information from what we are told in those poems which were recited before the chieftains themselves or their sons. We regard all that to be true which is found in those poems about their expeditions and battles. It is [to be sure] the habit of poets to give highest praise to those princes in whose presence they are; but no one would have dared to tell them to their faces about deeds which all who listened, as well as the prince himself, knew were only falsehoods and fabrications. That would have been mockery, still not praise.


Priest Ari the Learned, the son of Thorgils, the son of Gellir, was the first man in this country to write in the Norse tongue about lore both ancient and recent. In the beginning of his book he wrote chiefly about the settlement and legislation of Iceland, then also about the lawspeakers, how long each one was in office; and he employed this reckoning, first for the time before Christianity was introduced in Iceland, then for the period down to his own days. He included also much other matter, both concerning the lives of the kings of Norway and Denmark, as well as of England, and also the notable events which had occurred here in his own country. And what he says appears to me most noteworthy. He was exceedingly well informed, and so long lived that his birth occurred one year after the fall of King Harald Sigurtharson [1067].5 As he himself tells us, he wrote the lives of the kings of Norway, following the narrative of Odd Kolsson. [Kol was] the son of Hall of Sítha. Odd himself had heard it from Thorgeir Afráthskoll, a well-informed man whose life extended back to the time when he dwelled in Nitharness and Earl Hákon the Powerful was slain. In this same locality Óláf Tryggvason founded the market town which is there now [995].6


Ari the Priest when seven years old came to Hall Thórarinsson in Hauka Dale and remained there for fourteen years. Hall was a man of extensive information and possessed an excellent memory. He remembered Thangbrand the Priest baptizing him when he was three years old. That was one year before Christianity was adopted by law in Iceland [1000]. Ari was twelve years old when Bishop Isleif died. Hall travelled much and had commercial dealings with Holy King Óláf, and profited greatly thereby. For this reason Hall was well informed about his reign.


Now when Bishop Isleif expired [1080], nearly eighty years had elapsed since King Óláf Tryggvason’s fall. Hall died nine years after Bishop Isleif’s demise. He reached the age of ninety-four years. When thirty years old he established himself in Hauka Dale and lived there for sixty-four years—all this according to Ari. Teit, Bishop Isleif’s son, was fostered by Hall in Hauka Dale and lived there afterwards. He was the teacher of Ari the Priest and gave him much information, which Ari wrote down afterwards. Ari also had much information from Thuríth, the daughter of Snorri the Gothi,7 who was a wise woman. She remembered Snorri, her father, who was nearly thirty-five years old when Christianity was introduced to Iceland and died one year after the fall of Holy King Óláf. Therefore it is not strange that Ari was well informed about events that had happened in the olden times both here [in Iceland] and in foreign parts, because he had learned from old and well-informed men, and himself was both eager to learn and endowed with an excellent memory.


As to the poems, I consider they will yield the best information if they are correctly composed and judiciously interpreted.8




The Saga of the Ynglings


Chapter 1. Of the Three Continents


The earth’s round, on which mankind lives, is much indented. Great seas cut into the land from the ocean. We know that a sea goes from the Norva Sound [The Strait of Gibraltar] all the way to Jórsalaland [“Jerusalem Land,” Palestine]. From this sea a long arm extends to the northeast which is called the Black Sea. It separates the three parts of the world. The part to the eastward is called Asia; but that which lies to the west of it is called by some Europe, by others Eneá.1 North of the Black Sea lies Svíthjóth the Great or the Cold.2


Some men consider Svíthjóth the Great not less in size than Serkland the Great [“Saracen Land,” North Africa], and some think it is equal in size to Bláland [“Blackman’s Land,” Africa]. The northern part of Svíthjóth is uncultivated on account of frost and cold, just as the southern part of Bláland is a desert because of the heat of the sun. In Svíthjóth there are many large provinces. There are also many tribes and many tongues. There are giants and dwarfs; there are black men and many kinds of strange tribes. Also there are animals and dragons of marvellous size. Out of the north, from the mountains which are beyond all inhabited districts,3 a river runs through Svíthjóth whose correct name is Tanais [The Don River]. In olden times it was called Tana Fork or Vana Fork. Its mouth is in the Black Sea. The land around the Vana Fork was then called Vana Home or the Home of the Vanir.4 This river divides the three continents. East of it is Asia, west of it Europe.


Chapter 2. Of Ásgarth and Óthin


The land east of the Tana Fork was called the Land or Home of the Æsir, and the capital of that country they called Ásgarth.1 In this capital the chieftain ruled whose name was Óthin.2 This was a great place for sacrifices. The rule prevailed there that twelve temple priests were highest in rank. They were to have charge of sacrifices and to judge between men. They are called díar3 or chiefs. All the people were to serve them and show them reverence.


Óthin was a great warrior and fared widely, conquering many countries. He was so victorious that he won the upper hand in every battle; as a result, his men believed that it was granted to him to be victorious in every battle. It was his habit that, before sending his men to battle or on other errands, he would lay his hands on their heads and give them a bjannak.4 Then they believed they would succeed. It was also noted that wherever his men were sore bestead, on sea or on land, they would call on his name, and they would get help from so doing. They put all their trust in him. Often he was away so long as to be gone for many years.


Chapter 3. Of Óthin’s Brothers


Óthin had two brothers. One was called Vé, and the other, Víli.1 These, his brothers, governed the realm when he was gone. One time when Óthin was gone to a great distance, he stayed away so long that the Æsir thought he would never return. Then his brothers began to divide his inheritance; but his wife Frigg they shared between them. However, a short while afterwards, Óthin returned and took possession of his wife again.


Chapter 4. The War between the Æsir and the Vanir


Óthin made war on the Vanir, but they resisted stoutly and defended their land; now the one, now the other was victorious, and both devastated the land of their opponents, doing each other damage. But when both wearied of that, they agreed on a peace meeting and concluded a peace, giving each other hostages. The Vanir gave their most outstanding men, Njorth1 the Wealthy and his son Frey;2 but the Æsir, in their turn, furnished one whose name was Hœnir,3 declaring him to be well fitted to be a chieftain. He was a large man and exceedingly handsome. Together with him the Æsir sent one called Mímir, a very wise man; and the Vanir in return sent the one who was the cleverest among them. His name was Kvasir. Now when Hœnir arrived in Vanaheim he was at once made a chieftain. Mímir advised him in all things. But when Hœnir was present at meetings or assemblies without having Mímir at his side and was asked for his opinion on a difficult matter, he would always answer in the same way, saying, “Let others decide.” Then the Vanir suspected that the Æsir had defrauded them in the exchange of hostages. Then they seized Mímir and beheaded him and sent the head to the Æsir. Óthin took it and embalmed it with herbs so that it would not rot, and spoke charms over it, giving it magic power so that it would answer him and tell him many occult things.


Óthin appointed Njorth and Frey to be priests for the sacrificial offerings, and they were díar [gods] among the Æsir. Freya was the daughter of Njorth. She was the priestess at the sacrifices. It was she who first taught the Æsir magic such as was practiced among the Vanir. While Njorth lived with the Vanir he had his sister as wife, because that was the custom among them. Their children were Frey and Freya. But among the Æsir it was forbidden to marry so near a kin.


Chapter 5. Gefjon Ploughs Seeland Out of Lake Mælaren


A great mountain chain runs from the northeast to the southwest.1 It divides Svíthjóth the Great from other realms. South of the mountains it is not far to Turkey. There Óthin had large possessions. At that time the generals of the Romans moved about far and wide, subjugating all peoples, and many chieftains fled from their possessions because of these hostilities. And because Óthin had the gift of prophecy and was skilled in magic, he knew that his offspring would inhabit the northern part of the world. Then he set his brothers Vé and Víli over Ásgarth, but he himself and all díar, and many other people, departed. First he journeyed west to Gartharíki [Russia], and then south, to Saxland [Northwestern Germany]. He had many sons. He took possession of lands far and wide in Saxland and set his sons to defend these lands. Then he journeyed north to the sea and fixed his abode on an island. That place is now called Óthinsey [Óthin’s Island],2 on the island of Funen.


Thereupon he sent Gefjon north over the sound to seek for land. She came to King Gylfi, and he gave her a ploughland. Then she went to Giant-land and there bore four sons to some giant. She transformed them into oxen and attached them to the plough and drew the land westward into the sea, opposite Óthin’s Island, and that is [now] called Selund [Seeland], and there she dwelled afterwards. Skjold,3 a son of Óthin married her. They lived at Hleithrar.4 A lake was left [where the land was taken] which is called Logrin.5 The bays in that lake correspond to the nesses of Selund. Thus says Bragi the Old :6




1.7 Gefjon, glad in mind, from
Gylfi drew the good land,
Denmark’s increase, from the
oxen so the sweat ran.
Did four beasts of burden—
with brow-moons8 eight in foreheads—
walk before the wide isle
won by her from Sweden.


But when Óthin learned that there was good land east in Gylfi’s kingdom he journeyed there; and Gylfi came to an agreement with him, because he did not consider himself strong enough to withstand the Æsir. Óthin and Gylfi vied much with each other in magic and spells, but the Æsir always had the better of it.


Óthin settled by Lake Logrin, at a place which formerly was called Sigtúnir.9 There he erected a large temple and made sacrifices according to the custom of the Æsir. He took possession of the land as far as he had called it Sigtúnir. He gave dwelling places to the temple priests. Njorth dwelled at Nóatún, Frey at Uppsala, Heimdall at Himinbjorg, Thór at Thrúthvang, Baldr at Breithablik. To all he gave good estates.


Chapter 6. Of Óthin’s Skills


It is said with truth that when Ása-Óthin1 came to the Northlands, and the díar with him, they introduced and taught the skills practiced by men for a long time afterwards. Óthin was the most prominent among them all, and from him they learned all the skills, because he was the first to know them. Now as to why he was honored so greatly—the reasons for that are these: he was so handsome and noble to look at when he sat among his friends that it gladdened the hearts of all. But when he was engaged in warfare he showed his enemies a grim aspect. The reasons for this were that he knew the arts by which he could shift appearance and body any way he wished. For another matter, he spoke so well and so smoothly that all who heard him believed all he said was true. All he spoke was in rimes, as is now the case in what is called skaldship. He and his temple priests are called songsmiths, because that art began with them in the northern lands. Óthin was able to cause his enemies to be blind or deaf or fearful in battle, and he could cause their swords to cut no better than wands. His own men went to battle without coats of mail and acted like mad dogs or wolves. They bit their shields and were as strong as bears or bulls. They killed people, and neither fire nor iron affected them. This is called berserker rage.


Chapter 7. Of Óthin’s Magic


Óthin could shift his appearance. When he did so his body would lie there as if he were asleep or dead; but he himself, in an instant, in the shape of a bird or animal, a fish or a serpent, went to distant countries on his or other men’s errands. He was also able with mere words to extinguish fires, to calm the sea, and to turn the winds any way he pleased. He had a ship called Skíthblathnir with which he sailed over great seas. It could be folded together like a cloth.


Óthin had with him Mímir’s head, which told him many tidings from other worlds; and at times he would call to life dead men out of the ground, or he would sit down under men that were hanged. On this account he was called Lord of Ghouls or of the Hanged. He had two ravens on whom he had bestowed the gift of speech. They flew far and wide over the lands and told him many tidings. By these means he became very wise in his lore. And all these skills he taught with those runes and songs which are called magic songs [charms]. For this reason the Æsir are called Workers of Magic.


Óthin had the skill which gives great power and which he practiced himself. It is called seith [sorcery], and by means of it he could know the fate of men and predict events that had not yet come to pass; and by it he could also inflict death or misfortunes or sickness, or also deprive people of their wits or strength, and give them to others. But this sorcery is attended by such wickedness that manly men considered it shameful to practice it, and so it was taught to priestesses.


Óthin knew about all hidden treasures, and he knew such magic spells as would open for him the earth and mountains and rocks and burial mounds; and with mere words he bound those who dwelled in them, and went in and took what he wanted. Exercising these arts he became very famous. His enemies feared him, and his friends had faith in him and in his power. Most of these skills he taught the sacrificial priests. They were next to him in all manner of knowledge and sorcery. Yet many others learned a great deal of it; hence sorcery spread far and wide and continued for a long time. People worshipped Óthin and his twelve chieftains, calling them their gods, and believed in them for a long time thereafter. The name “Authun” is derived from that of Óthin,1 and men gave their sons that name; but from the name of Thór are derived such names as “Thórir” or “Thórarin,” or it is combined with other names, as in “Steinthór,” “Hafthór,” and also changed in other ways.


Chapter 8. Óthin Ordains the Burial Rites


In his country Óthin instituted such laws as had been in force among the Æsir before. Thus he ordered that all the dead were to be burned on a pyre together with their possessions, saying that everyone would arrive in Valholl1 with such wealth as he had with him on his pyre and that he would also enjoy the use of what he himself had hidden in the ground. His ashes were to be carried out to sea or buried in the ground. For notable men burial mounds were to be thrown up as memorials. But for all men who had shown great manly qualities memorial stones were to be erected; and this custom continued for a long time thereafter. A sacrifice was to be made for a good season at the beginning of winter, and one in midwinter for good crops, and a third one in summer, for victory.


In all Sweden men paid tribute to Óthin, a penny2 for every head; and he was to defend their land against incursions and to make sacrifice for them so they would have good seasons.


Njorth married a woman who was called Skathi. She would not have intercourse with him, and later married Óthin. They had many sons. One of them was called Sæming. About him, Eyvind Skáldaspillir3 composed these verses:




2.   That scion
his sire gat, of
Æsir’s kin
with etin4 maid,
the time that
this fair maiden,
Skathi hight,
the skalds’ friend5 had.




3.   …
Of sea-bones,6
and sons many
the ski-goddess
gat with Óthin.


Earl Hákon the Mighty reckoned his pedigree from Sæming. This part of Svíthjóth they called Man Home; but Svíthjóth the Great they called God Home.7 About this God Home many stories are told.


Chapter 9. Óthin’s Death and Burial


Óthin died in his bed in Sweden. But when he felt death approaching he had himself marked with the point of a spear, and he declared as his own all men who fell in battle. He said he was about to depart to the abode of the gods and would there welcome his friends. So then the Swedes believed that he had gone to the old Ásgarth and would live there forever. Then the belief in Óthin arose anew, and they called on him. Often, the Swedes thought, he revealed himself before great battles were fought, when he would give victory to some and invite others to come to his abode. Both fates seemed good to them.


Óthin was burned after his death, and this burning on the pyre of his body took place with great splendor. It was people’s belief that the higher the smoke rose into the sky, the more elevated in heaven would he be who was cremated; and [therefore] a man [was considered] the nobler, the more possessions were burned with him.


After him, Njorth of Nóatún took power among the Swedes and continued the sacrifices. Then the Swedes called him their king, and he received their tribute. In his days good peace prevailed and there were such good crops of all kinds that the Swedes believed that Njorth had power over the harvests and the prosperity of mankind. In his days most of the díar died, and all were burned, and men made sacrifices to them. Njorth died in his bed. He had himself marked for Óthin before he died. The Swedes burned his body and wept sorely at his tomb.


Chapter 10. Frey’s Reign of Plenty


After Njorth, Frey succeeded to power. He was called king of the Swedes and received tribute from them. He was greatly beloved and blessed by good seasons like his father. Frey erected a great temple at Uppsala and made his chief residence there, directing to it all tribute due to him, both lands and chattels. This was the origin of the Uppsala crown goods, which have been kept up ever since. In his days there originated the so-called Peace of Fróthi, There were good harvests at that time in all countries. The Swedes attributed that to Frey. And he was worshipped more than other gods because in his days, owing to peace and good harvests, the farmers became better off than before. His wife was called Gerth, the daughter of Gymir. Their son was Fjolnir. Frey was also called Yngvi; and the name of Yngvi was for a long time afterwards kept in his line as a name for kings, and his race were thereafter called Ynglings.1


Frey took sick; and when the sickness gained on him, his followers hit upon the plan to let few men see him, and they threw up a great burial mound with a door and three windows. And when Frey was dead they carried him secretly into the mound and told the Swedes that he was still alive, and kept him there for three years. But all the tribute they poured into the mound—gold by one window, silver by another, and copper coin by the third. Thus good seasons and peace endured.


Freya kept up the sacrifices for she was the only one among the godheads who survived. Therefore she became most famous, so that all women of rank came to be called by her name. They are now called frúvur [“ladies”]. Thus everyone who is a mistress over her property is called freya, and húsfreya [“lady of the house”] one who owns an estate.


Freya was rather fickle-minded. Her husband was called Óth, and her daughters, Hnoss and Gersimi.2 They were very beautiful, and we give their names to our most precious possessions.


When all Swedes knew that Frey was dead but that good seasons and peace still prevailed, they believed this would be the case so long as Frey was in Sweden; and so they would not burn him and called him the God of the World and sacrificed to him ever after for good harvests and peace.


Chapter 11. King Fjolnir Drowns in a Mead Vat


Thereafter Fjolnir, the son of Yngvifrey, had sway over the Swedes and the Uppsala crown goods. He was powerful; there were good harvests, and peace obtained during his reign. At the same time Peace-Fróthi ruled in Hleithrar, and there was friendship between them and they invited one another to feasts. Once when Fjolnir went to visit Fróthi on the Island of Selund, a great banquet had been prepared and many had been invited from near and far. Fróthi had a large estate, and a vat had been built there, many ells high, and reinforced by stout timbers. It stood on the lower floor of a storehouse, and above it was a balcony with an opening in the floor, so that liquids could be poured down, and mead mixed in it. An exceedingly strong drink had been prepared. In the evening Fjolnir and his retinue were led to lodgings in a loft close by. During the night he went out on the balcony to find a place to relieve himself. He was drowsy with sleep and dead drunk, and on his way back to his lodgings he went along the balcony and to the wrong loft door and through it. He missed his footing and fell into the mead vat and drowned. As says Thjóthólf of Hvinir i1




4.   Doom of death
where dwelled Fróthi
fulfilled was
on fey Fjolnir;
and in mead-
measure’s spacious,
windless wave
the warrior died.


Chapter 12. King Sveigthir Is Lured into a Rock by a Dwarf


Sveigthir succeeded to the throne after his father. He made a vow that he would try to find God Home and Óthin the Old. With eleven others he fared widely about the world. He came to the land of the Turks and Svíthjóth the Great, and there he met many of his kinsmen. He was five years on this journey. Then he returned to Sweden and remained at home for a while. In Vanaland he had married a woman named Vana. Their son was Vanlandi.


Sveigthir set out again to look for God Home. In the eastern part of Sweden there is a large estate, called Stein. There stands a boulder as big as a large house. In the evening, after sunset, when Sveigthir went from the feast to his sleeping quarters he saw that a dwarf was sitting by the boulder. Sveigthir and his men were very drunk and ran toward the boulder. The dwarf stood in the doorway [of the rock] and called to Sveigthir, inviting him to enter in if he would see Óthin. Sveigthir ran in, and the rock at once closed after him, and he never came out again. As says Thjóthólf of Hvinir:




5.   Daylight-shy,
Durni’s kinsman,1
the rock’s warder,
wiled King Sveigthir,
after him
when hastened the thane,
Fjolnir’s son,
scion of godheads;
and that hall,
hewn by etins,
swallowed up
Sveigthir, the king.


Chapter 13. King Vanlandi Engenders a Son in Finnland and Is Killed by a Nightmare


Vanlandi was the name of Sveigthir’s son who succeeded him and ruled over the Uppsala crown goods. He was a great warrior and fared far and wide from country to country. He accepted an invitation to pass the winter in Finnland with Snær [“Snow”] the Old, and there he married his daughter Drífa [“Snowdrift”]. But in the spring he departed, leaving Drífa behind. He promised to return after three years, but did not within ten years. Then Drífa sent for Huld, a sorceress, and sent Vísbur, her son by Vanlandi, to Sweden. Drífa prevailed upon Huld by gifts that she should conjure Vanlandi back to Finnland or else kill him.


At the time when she exercised her sorcery, Vanlandi was at Uppsala. Then he became eager to go to Finnland; but his friends and counsellors prevented him from doing so, saying that most likely it was the witchcraft of the Finns which caused his longing. Then a drowsiness overcame him and he lay down to sleep. But he had hardly gone to sleep when he called out, saying that a nightmare1 rode him. His men went to him and wanted to help him. But when they took hold of his head the nightmare trod on his legs so they nearly broke; and when they seized his feet it pressed down on his head so that he died. The Swedes burned him by a river called Skúta, and there they erected memorial stones for him. As says Thjóthólf of Hvinir:




6.   A vile witch
caused Vanlandi
to visit
Víli’s brother,2
when that trod
the troll-woman,
wicked wench,
the warrior king;
was he burned
on bank of Skúta,
noble prince, whom
the nightmare killed.


Chapter 14. King Vísbur’s Sons Burn Him in His Hall


Vísbur was the heir of his father Vanlandi. He got in marriage the daughter of Authi the Wealthy, and for her bridal gift gave her three large estates and a gold necklace. They had two sons, Gísl [Ski-staff] and Ondur [Ski]. But Vísbur deserted her and got himself another wife, so she returned to her father with her two sons. Vísbur had a son called Dómaldi. Dómaldi’s stepmother inflicted harm on him through sorcery. When the sons of Vísbur were twelve and thirteen years old they came upon him and demanded from him their mother’s bridal gifts, but he would not yield them up. Then they said that the gold necklace would be the death of the best man in his line. Thereupon they left him and returned home. Then another incantation was chanted to enable them to kill their father. Then Huld, the sorceress, told them she would bring it about, but also that there would always be slaughter of kinsmen in the race of the Skyldings. They agreed to that. Then they gathered a host and fell upon Vísbur unawares at night and burned him in his hall. As says Thjóthólf:




7.   And Vísbur’s
Ægir’s sib2
swallowed forthwith,
when the throne’s
theft avengers
on their father
the fire did turn,
and the gleedes’
greedy-dog3 bit
the liege-lord,
loudly howling.




The seeress chants incantations against Vísbur.


Chapter 15. King Dómaldi Is Sacrificed for Better Seasons


Dómaldi succeeded his father Vísbur and ruled over his lands. In his days there was famine and starvation in Sweden. Then the Swedes made huge sacrifices in Uppsala. The first fall they sacrificed oxen, but the season did not improve for all that. A second fall they sacrificed humans, but the season remained the same or was even worse. In the third fall the Swedes came in great numbers to Uppsala at the time for the sacrifices. Then the chieftains held a council, and they agreed that the famine probably was due to Dómaldi, their king, and that they should sacrifice him for better seasons, and that they should attack and kill him and redden the altars with his blood; and so they did. As says Thjóthólf:




8.   The time was
when weapon-bearing
Swedes reddened
their soil with blood
of their liege.
Lifeless lay then
dead in his blood,
when that him,
his folk gave
as gift to gods.


Chapter 16. King Dómar Dies of a Malady


Dómar was the name of Dómaldi’s son, and he succeeded to the kingdom. His rule was a long one, and good seasons and peace prevailed in his days. Nothing more is told about him than that he died in Uppsala of a sickness. His body was brought to Fýrisvellir1 and was burned there by the river, and there stand his memorial stones. As says Thjóthólf:




9.   Oft had I
about Yngvi’s sib2
vainly asked
the wisest men:
where Dómar’s
his dead body
had been borne
on Hálf’s bale-fire.3
Now I know:
gnawed by disease,
Fjolnir’s kin4
by Fýri burned.


Chapter 17. King Dyggvi Dies of a Sickness


Dyggvi was the name of his son, who ruled the land after him, and nothing more is told about him than that he died of a sickness. As says Thjóthólf:




10.   I doubt not
but Dyggvi’s corpse
Hel does hold
to whore with him;
for Úlf’s sib1
a scion of kings
by right should
caress in death:
to love lured
Loki’s sister
Yngvi’s heir
o’er all Sweden.


The mother of Dyggvi was Drótt, the daughter of King Danp, the son of Ríg, who was the first to be called “king” in the Danish tongue.2 His kinsmen have ever since borne the title of “king” as that of the highest rank. Dyggvi was the first of his line to be called “king.” Before that they were called dróttnar, their spouses, drottningar, and the king’s men, drótt. But everyone in their line was always called “Yngvi” or “Ynguni,” and all of them, “Ynglings.” Queen Drótt was the sister of King Dan the Proud, after whom Denmark is named.


Chapter 18. King Dag Seeks Revenge for His Sparrow and Is Slain


Dag was the name of King Dyggvi’s son who succeeded to the kingdom. He was so wise that he understood the speech of birds. He had a sparrow which told him many tidings. It used to fly over various countries. One time this sparrow flew into Reithgothaland1 and to the farm called Vorvi. He flew to the field of a farmer and fed there. The farmer came up and seized a stone and killed the bird. King Dag felt greatly concerned when the sparrow did not return to him. He prepared a sacrifice, offering up a boar to Frey, to find out what had happened, and received the answer that his sparrow had been killed at Vorvi. Then he summoned a large fleet and proceeded to Gotland. And when he arrived at Vorvi he debarked with his army and harried there. The people fled in all directions. In the evening King Dag returned with his army to the ships after having slain many and taken many prisoners. But as they were crossing some river, at a place called Skjótansford or Vápnaford, a work slave ran out of the woods on to the river bank and hurled a pitchfork into their flock. It struck the king on his head, and he fell straightway from his horse and was dead. In those days a chieftain on a harrying expedition was called gram,2 and his men, gramir. As says Thjóthólf:




11.   Heard I have
that high-born Dag,
to death doomed,
undaunted came
to avenge
on Vorvi strand,
with spear armed,
his sparrow’s loss.
And eke that,
in eastern lands,
the king’s host
of combat told:
that this thane
by thrown hay-fork
from hind’s hands
to Hel should fare.


Chapter 19. King Agni Is Hanged by Skjálf to Avenge Her Father’s Death


Agni was the name of Dag’s son who was king after him, a famous man of much power, a great warrior, and a man of many accomplishments in every way. One summer King Agni proceeded to Finnland with his fleet, landing and harrying there. The Finns collected a great force to oppose him. The name of their leader was Frosti. A great battle ensued, and King Agni was victorious. Frosti and a great many others fell there. King Agni harried far and wide in Finnland, subjecting it and making enormous booty. He took Skjálf, Frosti’s daughter, prisoner and carried her away together with Logi, her brother. And when he returned west he anchored in Stokk Sound1 and erected his tents on the meadow south of it. A forest was there at that time. King Agni had [with him] the golden necklace which had belonged to Vísbur. King Agni proceeded to marry Skjálf. She prayed the king to make a funeral feast for her father. So he invited many men of note and celebrated a great feast. He had become most famous through his expedition. Then there was a great drinking bout. And when King Agni had become drunk, Skjálf asked him to take care of the necklace he wore. So he seized it and bound it fast to his neck before he went to sleep. His tent stood close by the forest, with a high tree over it to shield it against the sun’s heat. Now when King Agni had fallen asleep, Skjálf took a thick cord and fastened it to the necklace. Then her followers took down the tent posts and threw the coil of rope over the limbs of the tree, then pulled, so that the king hung high in the branches; and that was the death of him. Skjálf and her men ran to a boat and rowed away. King Agni’s body was burned there, and the place was later called Agnafit. It is east of Taur and west of Stokk Sound. As says Thjóthólf:




12.   Marvel were’t
if Agni’s men
did not scout
Queen Skjálf’s scheme, when
Logi’s sib
lifted aloft
the good king
by golden torque,
and hanged him
high ’neath heaven
like Signý’s
lover2 on gallows.


Chapter 20. Kings Alrek and Eirík Kill Each Other


Alrek and Eirík were the names of Agni’s sons who were kings after him. They were men of great power, great warriors, and skilled in all arts. It was their habit to ride horses, training them both for pacing and racing. They were exceedingly skillful in this. They vied with each other who was the better horseman and who had the better mounts. One time both the brothers rode away from their followers on their best horses. They traversed some level lands and did not return. A search was made for them, and both were found dead, with their heads battered. They had had no weapons besides the bridle bits of their horses, and it was believed that they had killed each other with them. As says Thjóthólf:




13.   Fell Alrek
where Eirík, too
breathed his last,
by brother slain.
With racer’s
reins, men said that
Dag’s kinsmen
killed each other.
Unheard was’t,
that with horses’ bits
Frey’s offspring
fought each other.


Chapter 21. King Álf Slays King Yngvi in a Jealous Rage and Is Killed by Him


Yngvi and Álf, the sons of Alrek, succeeded to the kingdom in Sweden after him and Eirík. Yngvi was a great man of war, victorious, handsome, much versed in all skills, strong and keen in battle, generous with his gifts, and of a most cheerful disposition. On account of these qualities he became famous and popular. King Álf, his brother, stayed in his own country and did not go on warlike expeditions. He was called Elfsi. He was a taciturn man, imperious, and of a morose disposition. His mother was Dageith, the daughter of King Dag the Powerful, from whom the Doglings are descended. Álf had a wife called Bera, a most beautiful woman, of strong character, and of a most cheerful disposition. One fall, Yngvi, the son of Alrek, had returned to Uppsala from a viking expedition in which he had gained great renown. Often he sat up late in the evening, drinking. King Álf used to go to bed early. Queen Bera frequently sat up in the evening, talking with Yngvi. Álf often spoke to her about that and asked her to come to bed earlier, saying that he did not want to stay awake for her. She answered that it was better for a woman to marry Yngvi than Álf, and as she often said that, he grew most furious. One evening Álf came into the hall when Yngvi and Bera sat together on the high-seat, talking. Yngvi had a sword on his knees. His men were very drunk and had not noticed the king come in. King Álf went up to the high-seat, drew his sword from under his cloak, and ran his brother Yngvi through with it. Yngvi leapt up, drew his sword and gave Álf his death blow; and both fell dead on the floor. Álf and Yngvi were buried in a funeral mound on the Fýri Plains. As says Thjóthólf:




14.   Eke must he
whom Álf did smite,
the fane’s priest,
fall on hall floor,
when his sword
the sib of Dag1
reddened, hot
with jealous rage.
Baleful was’t
that Bera should
egg to strife
the athelings twain,
so the thanes
thrust each other
through with swords
for sake of bride.


Chapter 22. Haki Slays King Hugleik in Battle


Hugleik was the name of Alf’s son who succeeded to the kingdom of Sweden after these brothers; because Yngvi’s sons were still children. King Hugleik was no warrior but remained quietly in his kingdom. He was exceedingly wealthy, and miserly of his goods. He was given to have in his retinue all sorts of jugglers, harpers, and fiddlers, and players on the viol. Also, he had with him sorcerers and all kinds of magicians.


Haki and Hagbarth was the name of two brothers of great fame. They were sea-kings and had a great fleet. Sometimes they joined forces, at others, they fought separately. Many men of valor followed each of them. King Haki with his force moved against King Hugleik, and King Hugleik gathered an army to counter him. Then two brothers, Svipdag and Geigath joined him, both famous men and the greatest warriors. King Haki had twelve champions in his company. Starkath the Old was one of them. King Haki also was a great champion. The armies met on the Fýri Plains, and a great battle ensued. Many of Hugleik’s men fell very soon. Then the two champions, Svipdag and Geigath advanced, but Haki’s champions went against them, six against each of them, and they were captured. Thereupon King Haki entered the shield castle1 of King Hugleik and killed him and both his sons. Then the Swedes fled, and King Haki conquered the lands and made himself king over the Swedes. He remained three years in the land, but while he remained there in peace, his champions left him and went on viking expeditions and thus amassed spoils for themselves.


Chapter 23. King Guthlaug of Hálogaland Is Overcome by Jorund and Eirík


Jorund and Eirík were the sons of Yngvi, the son of Alrek. During all this time they were at sea. They were great warriors. One summer they harried in Denmark, when they encountered Guthlaug, the king of the Háleygir1 and fought a battle with him. In the end Guthlaug’s ship was cleared of men [by the brothers], and he was taken prisoner. They brought him on land at Straumeyrar Ness and hanged him there. His followers threw up a mound in memory of him. As says Eyvind Skáldaspillir:




15.   Overcome
by East-Kings twain
Guthlaug rode
the grim steed, by
Sigar raised,2
when Yngvi’s sons
fastened him
on high gallows.




16.   On ness droops,
the dead bearing,
Fjolnir’s tree3
where forks the bight;
there, far-famed
for folk-warder,
by stone marked,
is Straumeyrarness.


The brothers, Eirík and Jorund, became very famous through this deed, and were considered to have grown much greater than before in stature. They learned that King Haki of Sweden had sent away his champions. Then they sailed to Sweden and collected an army. But when the Swedes learned that the Ynglings had come to their land, an immense army joined them. They sailed into Lake Mælaren and proceeded toward Uppsala to attack King Haki. He met them on the Fýri Plains with a much smaller force. A great battle ensued. King Haki advanced so vigorously that he felled all who stood nearest to him, and finally he slew King Eirík and knocked down the banner of the brothers. Thereupon King Jorund and all his men fled to their ships.


King Haki had received such great wounds that he knew that his days were numbered. Then he had one of his galleys loaded with slain men and weapons. He had it moved out to sea, with the rudder shipped and with hoisted sails, and had a funeral pyre of resinous wood piled on the ship and fired. The wind blew from the land. By that time Haki was dead, or nigh unto death, when he was laid on the pyre. Then the ship stood blazing out to sea; and this event was celebrated for a long time thereafter.


Chapter 24. King Jorund Is Captured and Hanged


Jorund, the son of King Yngvi, was king in Uppsala. He governed his lands, and often in summer went on viking expeditions. One summer he sailed to Denmark with his fleet. He harried in Jutland, and toward fall sailed into the Limfjord and harried there. He lay with his ships in Odda Sound. Then Gýlaug, the king of the Háleygir and son of Guthlaug, mentioned before, approached with a large force. He gave battle to Jorund, and when the people of the country learned that, they came from all quarters with ships large and small [and joined Gýlaug]. Jorund was overpowered and his ships cleared of men. Then he leapt overboard but was captured and brought up on land. King Gýlaug had a gallows raised. He led Jorund up to it and had him hanged. Thus his life came to an end. As says Thjóthólf:




17.   Was Jorund,
of yore who died,
reft of life
in the Limfjord,
when the high
horse, flax-bridled,1
got to bear
Guthlaug’s slayer,
and Hagbarth’s
hair-braided noose
wound about
the warrior’s neck.


Chapter 25. King Aun Sacrifices Nine Sons to Prolong His Life


Aun or Áni was the name of the son of Jorund, who ruled over Sweden after his father. He was a wise man and a great believer in sacrifices. He was no warrior but remained [quietly] in his lands. During that time when those kings ruled in Uppsala as has been told here, there reigned in Denmark, first, Dan the Magnificent—he lived a very long life—and then his son Fróthi the Magnificent or the Peaceful; and then his sons, Hálfdan and Frithleif. They were great men of war. Hálfdan was the older and the foremost of the two in all respects. He led his army to Sweden against King Aun. There were some battles, and Hálfdan always was the victor. Finally, King Aun fled to West Gautland.1 He had been king in Uppsala for twenty years. He also lived in Gautland for twenty years whilst King Hálfdan resided in Uppsala.


King Hálfdan died in Uppsala of a sickness and was buried in a mound. After that, King Aun returned to Uppsala. At that time he was sixty years of age. Then he made a great sacrifice to have a long life, dedicating and sacrificing his son to Óthin. King Aun was given an answer by Óthin, to the effect that he was to live another sixty years. Then King Aun ruled in Uppsala for another twenty years. Then Áli the Bold, the son of Frithleif, invaded Sweden with an army. Some battles were fought, and Áli was always victorious. Then King Aun fled a second time from his kingdom and went to West Gautland. Áli was king in Uppsala for twenty years before Starkath the Old slew him.


After Áli’s fall King Aun returned to Uppsala and ruled over it for another twenty years. Then he performed a great sacrifice, sacrificing his other son, and was told by Óthin that he would continue to live if he sacrificed him a son every tenth year; and also, that he was to name some district after the number of sons he had sacrificedlo Óthin. And when he had sacrificed seven of his sons he lived on for ten years in such a fashion that he could no longer walk and had to be carried in a chair. Then he sacrificed his eighth son and lived for another ten years, but bed-ridden. Then he sacrificed his ninth son and lived for another ten years, and had to drink from a horn like an infant. Then Aun had one son left and wanted to sacrifice him, and also dedicate to Óthin Uppsala and the districts adjoining it and call it Tíundaland.2 But the Swedes forbade him to do that, so no sacrifice was made. Then King Aun died. He is buried in a funeral mound at Uppsala. Since that time one calls it Aun-sickness when a person dies painlessly of old age. As says Thjóthólf:




18.   Of yore did
old age at last
fell King Aun
at Uppsala,
when, tough-lived,
he had to take,
as before,
an infant’s food,
and to him
was turned the thinner
end of an
and his kin’s
killer4 from teat
lying down,
lapped up his milk.
Hardly could
the Eastmen’s king5
hold the horn
upheld to him.


Chapter 26. Tunni Rebels against King Egil—King Egil is Killed by a Bull


Egil was the name of the son of Aun the Old who succeeded his father in Sweden. He was not a warlike man and resided quietly in his lands. Tunni was the name of one of his slaves, who had been the treasurer of Aun the Old. When Aun had died, Tunni took a great quantity of valuables and buried them in the ground. Now when Egil became king he put Tunni among the other thralls. That he resented bitterly, and absconded, together with many other slaves, and they dug up the goods he had hidden. He gave them to his men, and they chose him to be their leader. Thereupon a great many evildoers drifted to him, and they camped out in the woods, and ever so often made incursions into the farm lands, robbing or killing people.


King Egil had heard of this and went out with his men to hunt them down. But one time when he had taken night quarters, Tunni came upon him with his band without warning and killed many of the king’s men. But when King Egil became aware of the surprise attack, he prepared to resist and raised his banner. But many of his men fled, and Tunni and his band assailed them briskly. Then King Egil saw no other recourse but to take to flight. Tunni and his men pursued them all the way to the forest. Then they turned back to the farm lands and harried and plundered, nor was any resistance made to them. All the property Tunni took in the countryside he gave to his followers, and by doing so he became popular and many flocked to him.


King Egil collected an army and went to do battle with Tunni. They fought, Tunni was victorious, and Egil fled after losing many of his men. King Egil and Tunni fought eight battles, and Tunni was victorious in every one. Then King Egil fled his land and went to the Island of Seeland in Denmark to Fróthi the Bold. He covenanted King Fróthi a tribute from Sweden if he would help him. Then Fróthi supplied him with an army and his champions. Thereupon King Egil returned to Sweden. But when Tunni learned that, he marched against him with his army, and there was a great battle. Tunni fell, and King Egil regained his kingdom. The Danes returned. King Egil every year sent King Fróthi good and valuable presents but paid the Danes no tribute. Yet Fróthi and Egil maintained friendly relations.


After Tunni’s fall King Egil ruled the land for three years. It so happened in Sweden that the ox that was intended for a sacrifice was old and had been given such strong feed that he became vicious; and when they wanted to capture him he ran to the woods and became wild and stayed in the thickets, doing much damage. King Egil was a great hunter and frequently rode to the woods to hunt animals. One time he had gone to hunt with his men. The king chased a deer for a long time, riding after it into the forest away from his men. Then he came upon the bull and rode up to him, intending to kill him. The bull turned upon him. The king thrust at him with his spear, but it glanced. The bull stuck his horns into the horse’s flank so that it fell flat, and the king with it. Then the king leapt to his feet and wanted to draw his sword, but the bull sank his horns deep into his chest. At that moment the king’s men came up and killed the bull. The king lived but a short while. He is interred at Uppsala. As says Thjóthólf:




19.   Fled his land
the far-famed King,
Týr’s offspring,1
from Tunni’s power.
But his brand
the bull reddened,
etin’s beast,2
in Egil’s blood,
which that ere
in East Forest
long had borne
his brow-temple:3
in Skilfing’s sib’s4
heart did stand
its head’s broadsword.


Chapter 27. King Óttar Refuses to Pay Tribute to the Danes


Óttar was the name of Egil’s son who succeeded to his realm and crown. He did not maintain the friendship with Fróthi. Thereupon Fróthi sent men to King Óttar to fetch the tribute which Egil had covenanted to him. Óttar made answer that the Swedes never had paid tribute to the Danes, and that he would not either. The messengers returned.


Fróthi was a great warrior. One summer he proceeded to Sweden with his troops and made an incursion in it, harrying, and killing many, and making some prisoners. He collected immense spoils. He burned the villages far and wide, and ravaged the land.


In the summer following King Fróthi sailed on a warlike expedition to the Baltic lands. King Óttar learned that Fróthi was not in his kingdom. Then he boarded his warships and sailed to Denmark, and there he ravaged the land without any resistance being made to him. He learned that a great army had gathered on Seeland. Then he steered west [north] in the Eyrar Sound,1 and then south [west] to Jutland and entered the Limfjord. Then he harried in the Vendil District, burning, and devastating the land.


Vott and Fasti were the earls to whom Fróthi had assigned the defence of the realm of Denmark while he was abroad. Now when these earls learned that the Swedish king was harrying in Denmark they collected a force, boarded their fleet, and sailed south to the Limfjord. They took King Óttar entirely by surprise and attacked him at once. The Swedes made stout resistance, and many were slain on both sides; but as men fell in the Danish ranks, others and still more arrived from the surrounding countryside, and also the number of their ships was increased by all those in the neighborhood. The outcome of the battle was that King Óttar succumbed, together with the greater part of his host. The Danes took his corpse to the land, and laid it upon a hill to let the beasts and the birds devour it. They made a crow of wood and sent it to Sweden with the words that their King Óttar was of no more value [than that]. Thereafter they called him Óttar Vendil Crow. As says Thjóthólf:




20.   Fell Óttar,
to eagles a prey,
doughty prince,
by Danes vanquished:
his body
blood-stained ravens,
in Vendil trod.
And the work
of Vott and Fasti
to the Swedes
a tale became,
how island-
earls of Fróthi
o’erborne had
the battle-urger.2


Chapter 28. King Athils Brings Home Yrsa as His Queen


Athils was the name of King Óttar’s son who succeeded him. He ruled for a long time and had great riches; and he, too, went on viking expeditions during several summers. One time King Athils came with his fleet to Saxland. A king ruled there by the name of Geirthjóf, and his wife was called Álof the Powerful. We are not told whether they had children. The king was [at that time] not in his land. King Athils and his men stormed on land to the king’s estate and plundered it. Some of them drove down the livestock to slaughter it on the shore. Those who had tended it were thralls, both men and women, and they were taken along with the cattle. Among them was a maiden of singular beauty. Her name was Yrsa. Then King Athils returned home with his booty.


Yrsa was not put with the women thralls. It soon appeared that she was clever and spoke well and was well informed about all things. Everyone took a liking to her, but most of all the king. And it ended with Athils taking her to wife. So Yrsa became queen in Sweden, and she was considered a woman of great ability.


Chapter 29. King Helgi Carries Off Yrsa and Engenders Hrólf with Her


At that time King Helgi, the son of Hálfdan, ruled in Hleithrar. He went to Sweden with so mighty a host that King Athils saw no other alternative but to flee. King Helgi went on land with his army to harry, and got much booty. He captured QueenYrsa and took her with him to Hleithrar where he married her. Their son was Hrólf Kraki.


When Hrólf was three years old, Queen Álof came to Denmark. She told Yrsa that King Helgi, her husband, was her father and Álof, her mother. Thereupon Yrsa returned to Sweden to rejoin Athils, and was his queen for the remainder of her life. King Helgi fell in warfare. Hrólf Kraki was eight years old then, and was chosen king at Hleithrar.


King Athils fought great battles with King Áli of the Uppland District in Norway. They fought a battle on the ice of Lake Vænir.1 King Áli fell there, and Athils was victorious. Much is told about this battle in the Skjoldunga saga;2 also about Hrólf Kraki’s expedition to Athils in Uppsala. It was then Hrólf Kraki sowed gold on the Fýri Plains.3


King Athils took great delight in fine horses and owned the best horses in those times. One of his steeds was called Slongvir, another, Hrafn. He had captured them when Áli had fallen, and between them was bred another horse called Hrafn. He sent him to King Gothgest in Hálogaland. King Gothgest rode him but could not rein him in, and was thrown and killed. That was in Omth in Hálogaland.


One time King Athils attended the sacrifice to the Dísar and rode his horse about the hall of the goddess. The horse stumbled and fell, and the king was thrown. His head struck a rock so that his skull broke, and his brain spilled on the rock and he died. This happened at Uppsala, and a burial mound was thrown up for him. The Swedes considered him a mighty king. As says Thjóthólf:




21.   Learned I eke
that Athils’ life
a vile witch
was to finish—
that Frey’s sib4
to fall was doomed,
head foremost,
from horse’s back,
and with sand
the sovran’s brain
mingled was,
the mighty king’s;
and bold thane
did breathe his last,
Áli’s foe,
at Uppsalir.


Chapter 30. King Eystein Succeeds Athils


Athils’ son, whose name was Eystein, succeeded him as king over Sweden. In his days Hrólf Kraki fell at Hleithrar. At that time, both Danish and Norwegian kings harried much in Sweden. Many of them were sea-kings who “never slept under sooty roof-beam and never drank by hearth-nook.”1


Chapter 31. Solvi Burns King Eystein in His Hall


Solvi was the name of a sea-king, the son of Hogni of Njarthey,1 who was at that time harrying in Sweden. He ruled over [a part of] Jutland. He led his fleet to Sweden. King Eystein was then being entertained in the district of Lófund. King Solvi came upon him in the night when he least expected it, and burned him inside his hall with all his following. Then Solvi proceeded to Sigtúna and demanded to be proclaimed king and be received as such; but the Swedes collected an army to defend their land, and there ensued a battle so great that it was said to have lasted more than eleven days. King Solvi was victorious and ruled over Sweden for a long time, until the Swedes betrayed and slew him. As says Thjóthólf:




22.   Is Eystein’s
end known to me:
at Lófund
his life he lost;
in Sweden
Solvi did burn
in his hall
him and his host.
And the fire
fell upon him
in his tight-
timbered homestead,
when the tang-
him and his men.


Chapter 32. King Yngvar Invades Esthonia and Is Slain


After that, Sweden was ruled by Yngvar, the son of King Eystein. He was a great man of war and frequently on board his warships, because before his time there had been many incursions made in Sweden, both by Danes and hordes from beyond the Baltic. King Yngvar concluded a peace with the Danes, and then took to harrying in the Eastlands. One summer he summoned his fleet and proceeded to Esthonia where he harried in the district of Stein. Then the Esthonians came upon him with a great host, and there was a battle. The army of the Esthonians was so strong that the Swedes were unable to withstand them. King Yngvar was slain then, and his host fled. He is buried in a mound there, close by the sea, in Athalsýsla District.1 After this defeat the Swedes returned home. As says Thjóthólf:




23.   Said it was
that slaughtered had
Esthnic folk
Yngvar the fair,
and at Stein
had struck with force
against the
gallant leader.
And the sea
a song doth sing
in the east
to atheling slain.


Chapter 33. King Onund Clears Forest Lands in Sweden


Onund was the name of the son of Yngvar, who succeeded him. In his days, good peace prevailed in Sweden, and he became very wealthy in chattels. King Onund proceeded with his host to Esthonia to avenge his father. He landed, and harried far and wide and made great booty. In the fall he returned to Sweden. In his days there was great prosperity in Sweden. He was the most beloved of all kings. Sweden has much forest land, and there are such great stretches of it uninhabited that it takes many days’ journey to cross them. King Onund bestowed great diligence and expense on clearing the forests and cultivating the land which had been cleared. Also he had roads made through the uninhabited forests. Then many tracts were found throughout the forests which were not covered with woods, and these came to be populous districts. In this manner the land was populated, for there was no lack of people to cultivate it. King Onund had roads built throughout Sweden, both through forests and over bogs and mountains. Because of this he was called Road-Onund. King Onund established estates for himself in every large district in Sweden and made his royal progress throughout the land.


Chapter 34. Ingjald Is Given a Wolf’s Heart to Eat


Road-Onund had a son who was called Ingjald. At that time King Yngvar ruled over Fjathryndaland.1 He had two sons by his wife, Álf and Agnar. They were of about the same age as Ingjald. There were at that time district kings all over Sweden. Road-Onund ruled the district of Tíundaland.1 Uppsala is located there, and there is the place of assembly for all Swedes. Great sacrifices were held there, and many kings came to attend them. They were held in midwinter. And one winter, when a great multitude had come to Uppsala, King Yngvar and his sons were present. They were six years old.


Álf, the son of King Yngvar, and Ingjald, the son of King Onund, set a-going a boys’ game in which each of them was to head his side. And when they played against each other, Ingjald proved to be weaker than Álf, and grew so vexed about it that he cried bitterly. Then Gautvith, his foster brother, came up to him and led him away to Svipdag the Blind, his foster-father, and told him that he had fared ill [because] he was weaker and not a match for Álf, the son of King Yngvar. Then Svipdag said that was a great shame.


The day after, Svipdag had the heart cut out of a wolf and had it steaked on a spit, and then gave it to Ingjald, the king’s son, to eat. And from that time he became the most cruel and most ill-natured of men.2


When Ingjald was grown, Onund asked for him the hand of Gauthild, daughter of King Algaut. He was the son of King Gautrek the Generous, the son of that Gaut after whom Gautland3 is named. King Algaut thought that his daughter would be well married if she were given to the son of King Onund if he had the disposition of his father. The maiden was sent to Sweden, and Ingjald held his wedding feast with her.




Ingjald and Gautvith come to Svipdag the Blind.


Chapter 35. King Onund Is Buried by an Avalanche


One autumn, King Onund journeyed from one of his estates to another, and came to the one called Himinheith. It lies in a narrow valley between high mountains. It had rained heavily, but before that, the mountains had been covered with snow. Then an avalanche of stones and clay descended and buried King Onund and his following. Both the king and many followers perished. As says Thjóthólf:




24.   Onund was
’neath open sky
with Jónakr’s-
son’s-evil1 slain.
And the Esths’
enemy strong
by bastard
base was murdered;2
and he who
Hogni’s blood shed,
o’erborne was
by bones-of-earth.3


Chapter 36. King Ingjald Burns Six District Kings in His Hall


Ingjald, the son of King Onund, ruled at Uppsala. The Uppsala kings were the most powerful in Sweden, where there were many district kings. From the time Óthin was chieftain in Sweden, the chieftains who resided at Uppsala were the absolute rulers over all Sweden until the death of Agni; but then, as written above [chapter 20], by the division of inheritance among brothers, the rule and the kingdom was divided among the [various] branches of the house, and some kings cleared large forest tracts and cultivated them, thus increasing their dominions.


Now when Ingjald succeeded to the realm and kingdom, there were many district kings, as was written above. King Ingjald had a great banquet prepared at Uppsala for the purpose of honoring King Onund, his father, with a funeral feast. He had made ready a hall in no wise smaller or less stately than the one already at Uppsala, which he called the Hall of Seven Kings. In it were erected seven high-seats. King Ingjald sent messengers through all of Sweden, inviting kings, earls, and other prominent men. To this funeral feast came King Algaut, Ingjald’s father-in-law, and King Yngvar of Fjathryndaland and his two sons, Agnar and Álf. Also, King Sporsnjall of Næríki1 and King Sigverk of Áttundaland.2 Only King Granmar of Suthr-mannaland3 did not come. There, the six kings were assigned seats in the new hall. One high-seat that King Ingjald had had erected remained empty.


All the host that had come there were given seats in the new hall. But for his own bodyguard and all his people King Ingjald had made room in the [old] Uppsala hall.




Svipdag’s sons and their warriors storm the Hall of Seven Kings.


It was custom at that time, when a funeral feast was prepared to honor a [departed] king or earl, that the one who prepared the feast and was to be inducted into the inheritance, was to sit on the step before the high-seat until the beaker called the bragafull4 was brought in; and then he was to stand up to receive it and make a vow, then quaff the beaker, whereupon he was to be inducted in the high-seat which his father had occupied. Then he had come into the [rightful] inheritance to succeed him.


So was done here; and when the beaker was brought in, King Ingjald stood up, seized a large drinking horn, and made the vow that he would increase his dominion to double its size in every direction, or else die. Then he emptied the beaker.


Now when everyone was drunk, King Ingjald told Fólkvith and Hulvith, the sons of Svipdag, to arm themselves and their men when evening approached, as was planned. They went out to the new hall and put it to the torch; the hall blazed up, and the six kings and all their followers were burned [inside]. Those that tried to come out were quickly cut down. Thereupon King Ingjald took possession of all the realms these kings had ruled, and levied tribute on them.


Chapter 37. King Hjorvarth Marries Hildigunn


King Granmar heard these tidings and believed the same fate awaited him unless he took precautions. That same summer King Hjorvarth, who was called an Ylfing,1 came with his fleet to Sweden and anchored in the firth called Myrkva Firth.2 When King Granmar learned that, he sent messengers to him, inviting him and all his men to a banquet. He accepted that, because he had not harried in the realm of King Granmar. And when he arrived at this banquet he was given a great welcome. It was the custom of those kings who resided in their own lands or sat at the banquets they had arranged, that in the evening, when beakers were passed around, two and two were to drink together, in couples, one man and one woman, as far as possible, and those left over were to drink [together] by themselves. Otherwise it was viking law that at banquets all were to drink together.


The high-seat of King Hjorvarth was prepared opposite that of King Granmar, and all his followers sat on the bench [on that side of the hall]. Then King Granmar said to Hildigunn, his daughter, that she should make ready to pour the ale for the vikings. She was an exceedingly handsome woman. She took a silver beaker, filled it and, stepping before King Hjorvarth, she said, “A health to all you Ylfings, in memory of Hrólf Kraki,” and quaffed half of it before handing it to King Hjorvarth. Thereupon he seized the beaker and her hand as well, and said that she should sit by his side. She replied it was not the custom of vikings to drink two and two with women. Hjorvarth replied that for once he would make a change and not abide by the laws of the vikings, but drink two and two with her. Then Hildigunn sat down by his side, and both drank together and had much to say to each other during the evening.


The day after, when Granmar and Hjorvarth met together, Hjorvarth asked for the hand of Hildigunn. King Granmar laid his proposal before Hild, his wife, and other persons of influence, saying that they might expect much help from King Hjorvarth. There was made great acclaim at that, and all considered it advisable; and as a result Hildigunn was betrothed to King Hjorvarth, and he celebrated his marriage with her. It was decided that King Hjorvarth was to remain with King Granmar, because he had no son to defend the realm with him.


Chapter 38. King Ingjald Flees from King Granmar


That same fall King Ingjald collected a force, intending to proceed against Granmar and his son-in-law. He summoned troops from all the districts of which he had taken possession. When Granmar and Hjorvarth learned of this, they collected their forces, and there came to their aid King Hogni and his son who ruled over East Gautland. Hogni was the father of Hild, the wife of Granmar.


King Ingjald landed with all his army, and his forces were larger by far. Then they fought a hard battle. But when the battle had lasted but a little while, the chieftains over the districts of Fjathryndaland, West Gautland, Næríki, and Áttundaland took to flight, together with all the men from those districts, and went aboard their ships. Thereafter King Ingjald was hard bestead. He was wounded in many places and so fled to his ships. Svipdag the Blind, his foster father, fell there together with his sons, Gautvith and Hulvith.


King Ingjald then returned to Uppsala, ill-pleased with his venture. He felt certain that the troops he had levied in those parts of his dominions won by him through force had betrayed him.


After that, hostilities persisted between King Ingjald and King Granmar. When this had lasted for a long time, friends of both managed to get them reconciled. The kings arranged for a meeting and met with one another and concluded a peace, between King Ingjald on the one hand, and King Granmar and King Hjorvarth, his son-in-law [on the other]. This peace between them was to last as long as the three kings lived. This was confirmed by oaths and pledges of faith. In the spring folowing, King Granmar went to Uppsala, in order to sacrifice, as was the custom toward beginning of summer, that this peace might last. Then the oracle of staves1 foretold him that he would not live much longer. Thereupon he returned to his kingdom.


Chapter 39. King Ingjald Burns King Granmar and King Hjorvarth in Their Hall


In the fall of that year, King Granmar and King Hjorvarth, his son-in-law, made their royal progress to the island called Sili,1 [there to be entertained] at their estate. And while they were there, King Ingjald fell upon them one night with his army, surrounding their house, and burned them inside with all their followers. Then he subjected all the dominions they had had and set chieftains over them.




King Hogni and his men ride into Sweden.


King Hogni and Hildir, his son, often made incursions in Sweden and slew the men King Ingjald had set over the realm which had belonged to King Granmar, their relative. Hostilities lasted a long time between King Ingjald and King Hogni. Yet King Hogni managed to maintain himself against King Ingjald until his dying day.


King Ingjald had two children by his wife. The elder [a girl] was called Asa, the younger [a boy], Óláf Trételgja (Woodcutter). Gauthild, the wife of King Ingjald, sent the latter to Bóvi, her foster father, in West Gautland. He was raised there together with Saxi, the son of Bóvi, who was called Flettir.


It is said that King Ingjald slew twelve kings, and all by treachery. He was called Ingjald the Wicked. He was king over the greater part of Sweden. He married his daughter Ása to Guthröth, king of Scania. She had the same nature as her father. It was Ása who made him [i.e. her husband] kill his brother Hálfdan. The latter was the father of Ívar the Widefathomer. Ása also brought about the death of her husband, Guthröth.


Chapter 40. King Ingjald and His Daughter Burn Themselves in Their Hall


Ívar the Widefathomer proceeded to Scania after the death of his uncle, Guthröth. He forthwith collected a large force and then advanced on Sweden. Ása the Wicked had before this come to visit her father. King Ingjald was being entertained at Rœning1 when he learned that the army of King Ívar was near at hand. He did not consider that he had a sufficient force to fight against Ívar. He also saw clearly that if he fled, his enemies would fall upon him from all sides. So he and Ása hit on a decision which since has become famous: they had all the people [with them] become dead drunk, then set fire to the hall. It burned down with all the people inside, and King Ingjald also. As says Thjóthólf:




25.   Raging fire
at Rœning farm
trod Ingjald
while in this life,
when by stealth
in stocking feet
it fell on
the friend-of-gods;2
and this fate
most fitting seemed
to all Swedes
for scion of kings:
to die first
in fiery death,
and end first
his own brave life.


Chapter 41. King Ívar Rules Sweden and Denmark


Ívar the Widefathomer subdued all of Sweden. He also had possession of all the Danish realm and a large part of Saxland, all of the Eastern lands and a fifth of England. From him are descended the kings of Denmark and of Sweden who have ruled there. With Ingjald the Wicked the race of the Ynglings lost their power over the domain of Uppsala, so far as one can follow the line.


Chapter 42. Óláf the Woodcutter Founds the Province of Vermaland


When Óláf, the son of King Ingjald, learned of the death of his father, he departed with all those who would follow him; because all the people in Sweden with one accord rose up to drive out the kin of King Ingjald and all his friends. Óláf first proceeded to Næríki, but when the Swedes learned of his whereabouts he could not remain there. So he proceeded west along forest paths to the river which flows into Lake Vænir from the north and is called Elf [Klar Elf River]. There they settled and cleared the forest, burning it down and cultivating the land. Soon this came to be a populous district. They called it Vermaland.1 The land there afforded good sustenance. But when people in Sweden heard about Óláf clearing the forest, they called him Trételgja [Woodcutter], and considered it an unworthy proceeding.


Óláf married a woman called Sólveig or Solva, a daughter of Hálfdan Goldtooth of Sóleyar, which is west of Vermaland. Hálfdan was the son of Solvi Solvarsson, the son of Solvi the Old, who first cleared the District of Sóleyar.2 The name of Óláf the Woodcutter’s mother was Gauthild. Her mother was Álof, a daughter of Óláf the Keeneyed, king of Næríki. Óláf and Solva had two sons, Ingjald and Hálfdan. Hálfdan was raised in Sóleyar by his maternal uncle Solvi. He was called Hálfdan Whiteleg.


Chapter 43. Hálfdan Whiteleg Takes Possession of Sóleyar and Raumaríki


It was a great multitude that fled out of Sweden before King Ívar. They heard that Óláf Woodcutter had [developed] good conditions for living in Vermaland and so great a multitude drifted there that the land could not give them sustenance. There came a very bad season and famine. They laid the blame for that on the king, as the Swedes are wont to ascribe to their king good seasons or bad. King Óláf was but little given to offer sacrifices. The Swedes were ill-pleased at that and believed it was the cause of the bad harvests. They collected a host and moved on King Óláf. They surrounded his hall and burned him inside, giving him to Óthin and sacrificing him for good crops. That was by Lake Vænir. As says Thjóthólf:




26.   By bay bight
the building-wolf1
swallowed up
Óláf’s body.
Fornjót’s son2
with flaming heat
smelted off
the Swede king’s mail.
That ruler
of royal race
long before
had left Uppsalir.


Those of the Swedes who were wiser attributed the famine to the fact that the inhabitants were too numerous for the land to support and they believed that it was not the fault of the king. Then they decided to advance with all their numbers westward across the Eith Forest,3 and appeared very unexpectedly in Sóleyar. They killed King Solvi and captured Hálfdan Whiteleg. They elected him their leader and made him king. Then he took possession of Sóleyar. Thereupon he advanced on Raumaríki,4 harried there, and added that district to his dominions.


Chapter 44. Hálfdan Conquers Eastern Norway


Hálfdan Whiteleg was a powerful king. He married Asa, the daughter of Eystein the Hardruler, king of the Upplands. He ruled over Heithmork. They had two sons, Eystein and Guthröth. Hálfdan took possession of much of Heithmork, Thótn, and Hathaland, together with a large part of West-fold.1 He lived to be an old man. He died of a sickness when he was in Thótn, and was afterwards carried to Westfold to be buried in a mound at a place called Skæreith in Skíringssal. As says Thjóthólf:




27.   All have heard
that Hálfdan King
then was mourned
by men of peace,
and that Hel,
the howes’-warder,2
in Thótn took
the thane from life.
And Skæreith
in Skíringssal
droops above
the dead thane’s bones.


Chapter 45. Hálfdan Takes Over Vermaland


Ingjald, the brother of Hálfdan, had been king over Vermaland; but after his death King Hálfdan took possession of Vermaland, levying tribute and placing earls over it during his lifetime.1


Chapter 46. King Eystein Is Knocked Overboard and Killed by a Sailyard


Eystein, the son of Hálfdan Whiteleg, who ruled after him over Raumaríki and Westfold, married Hild, the daughter of Eirík, the son of Agnar, king of Westfold. Agnar, the father of Eirík, was the son of King Sig-trygg of Vendil. King Eirík had no son. He died during the lifetime of King Hálfdan Whiteleg. Then Hálfdan and his son Eystein took possession of all of Westfold. Eystein ruled over Westfold whilst he lived.


At that time a king ruled in Varna1 whose name was Skjold. He was greatly skilled in magic. King Eystein proceeded to Varna with several warships and plundered there, taking whatever he found—clothing and other valuables and farm tools. They slaughtered the cattle by the seashore for provision and then departed. King Skjold came to the seashore with his army. King Eystein had by that time departed and had got across the fjord, and Skjold saw their sails. Then he took his cloak, swung it about, and blew against it. King Eystein was sitting by the rudder as they rounded the Island of Jarlsey, when another ship sailed close by. There was some swell. The sailyard of the other ship knocked the king overboard, and that was his death. His men got hold of his corpse and brought it to Borró where a funeral mound was erected over him on the ridge by the sea near Vathla.2 As says Thjóthólf:




28.   But Eystein
by yard slain, fared
to Býleist’s-
and now lies
the liege buried
under rocks
’neath ridge’s brow
where, ice-cold,
by Eystein’s howe
Vathla inlet
opens to sea.