Chapter 40. King Æthelstān Gives Hákon the Sword Quernbiter


King Æthelstān had Hákon baptized and instructed in the true faith and also taught good manners and all kinds of courtly ways. King Æthelstān loved him greatly, more than any one of his own kin, and so did all those who got to know him. In later times he was called Æthelstān’s foster son. He was accomplished in all manner of skills, and was taller and stronger and handsomer than any other man. Also, he was clever, eloquent, and a good Christian. King Æthelstān gave Hákon a sword whose hilt as well as haft was of gold. Its blade was most excellent and with it Hákon cleft a millstone to its center, whence it was called Quernbiter. That was the best sword that ever was brought to Norway. Hákon wore it till his dying day.


Chapter 41. King Harald Decides on Eirík to Succeed Him


King Harald was now eighty years of age and got to be so infirm that he felt unable to journey about in the country and conduct the business of a king. Then he led his son Eirík to his high-seat and gave him the power over all the land. But when the other sons of King Harald learned of this, Hálfdan the Black occupied the king’s high-seat and took over the government of the whole Province of Trondheim, and all the people agreed to that action. After the fall of Bjorn the Chapman, his brother Óláf assumed the government of Westfold and fostered Bjorn’s son Guthröth. Óláf’s son was called Tryggvi. He and Guthröth were foster brothers of nearly the same age. Both were youths of great promise and most energetic disposition. Tryggvi excelled all others in size and strength.


Now when the inhabitants of Vík learned that the people of Horthaland had made Eirík their overlord, they took Óláf to be the overlord of the Vík District, and he assumed the power there. This incensed Eirík greatly. Two years later Hálfdan the Black died suddenly at a banquet in the Trondheim District, and people said that Gunnhild Kingsmother had suborned a witch to prepare a poisoned drink for him. Thereupon the people of Trondheim chose as their king Sigröth [another son of Harald by Ása].


Chapter 42. King Harald Dies and Is Buried in a Mound


King Harald lived three years after transferring to Eirík the sole government of the land. He resided then on the large estates he possessed in Rogaland or Horthaland. Eirík and Gunnhild had a son whom King Harald sprinkled with water and gave his own name, saying that he was to be king after his father Eirík. King Harald married most of his daughters to earls within his realm, and great families are descended from them. King Harald died of a sickness in Rogaland. He is buried in a mound at Haugar by the Karmt Sound. At Hauga Sound there stands a church, and close by the churchyard, to the northwest, lies the mound of King Harald Fairhair. West of the church there is the gravestone of King Harald—the one which lay over his resting place inside the burial mound, and that stone is thirteen and a half feet long and nearly two ells broad. The grave of King Harald was in the middle of the mound. There, [originally] one stone was placed at his head and another at his feet. The slab was placed above him, and loose stones were piled up around the grave. The gravestones which [originally] were inside the mound and have just been described, now stand there in the churchyard.


Men versed in history say that Harald Fairhair was of exceedingly handsome appearance, very strong and tall, most generous of his substance and extremely well liked by his men. He was a great warrior during the earlier part of his life. As to the great tree which his mother saw before he was born, men interpret that in this wise that it signified him. The lowest portion of the trunk was red as blood, but from there on up the stem was fair and green, and that betokened the flowering of his kingdom. And above that the tree was white, which signified that he would become old and hoary. The branches and twigs of the tree foretold about his offspring who were to spread over all the land; and all kings of Norway ever since his time are descended from him.


Chapter 43. Eirík Overcomes His Brothers Óláf and Sigröth


During the year following the death of King Harald King Eirík collected all the revenues owing to the king in the western districts, Óláf did the same in Vík, and Sigröth, their brother, those in the Trondheim District. Eirík was mightily displeased with this, and it was rumored that he would try with force to regain from his brothers the sole dominion over all the land which his father had given him. But when Óláf and Sigröth learned of this, they sent messages to one another and agreed on a day for meeting. In spring Sigröth came east to Vík, and the brothers met in Túnsberg remaining there for a while.


The same spring Eirík summoned a great force and a fleet and steered east to Vík. Eirík had so strong and favorable a wind that he sailed day and night, and that no news went ahead of his coming. And when he arrived at Túnsberg, Óláf and Sigröth with their forces issued forth and drew up their troops in battle array on the hills east of the town. Eirík had a greatly superior force and was victorious. Both Óláf and Sigröth fell there, and the burial mound of both of them is on the hill where they fell.


Thereupon Eirík proceeded about the Vík District, bringing it into his power, and remained there a long time during the summer. Tryggvi and Guthröth fled then to the Upplands.


Eirík was a large and handsome man, strong and of great prowess, a great and victorious warrior, violent of disposition, cruel, gruff, and taciturn. Gunnhild, his wife, was a very beautiful woman, shrewd and skilled in magic, friendly of speech, but full of deceit and cruelty. The following were the children of Eirík and Gunnhild. Gamli was the eldest, then Guthorm, Harald, Ragnfröth, Ragnhild, Erling, Guthröth, Sigurth Slefa. All of Eirík’s children were handsome and promising.




The Saga of Hákon the Good


Chapter 1. Hákon Returns to Norway from England


Hákon, the foster son of Æthelstān, was in England at the time when he learned of the death of King Harald, his father. Then he made ready at once for his journey. King Æthelstān gave him a body of men and good ships, outfitting the expedition most magnificently. He arrived in Norway toward autumn. Then he heard of the fall of his brothers, and also that King Eirík was in the District of Vík right then. Thereupon Hákon sailed north to Trondheim to seek Sigurth, the earl of Hlathir, the shrewdest man in all Norway. He was received well by him, and they entered into an agreement. Hákon promised him great power if he became king. They called together an assembly which was attended by many people, and at this assembly Earl Sigurth spoke in behalf of Hákon and counseled them to choose Hákon as their king. Thereupon Hákon himself arose and spoke. Then people said, one turning to another, that in him Harald Fairhair had been reborn.


Hákon began his speech by asking the farmers to give him the title of king, and also, to stand by him and lend him their support to maintain him in his kingship. On his part he offered to confirm all landholders in the possession of their ancestral estates and let them have the family homestead in which they lived [unentailed].


When they heard these particulars there was much applause; so much so that the whole host of farmers made acclaim and called out that they wanted to have him as their king. And so was done, and the people of the Trondheim District declared Hákon king over the whole land. He was fifteen at that time. He assembled a bodyguard and made his royal progress around the country. The news was brought to the Uppland districts1 that the people of Trondheim had chosen as king one who in all respects was like Harald Fairhair, with the difference that Harald had made slaves of all the people in the land and oppressed them, whereas this Hákon wished everyone well and offered to return to the landholders their estates which King Harald had taken away from them. Hearing these tidings all became glad, and everyone told it to others, and it spread like wildfire all the way east to the very ends of the country. Many farmers travelled from Uppland to meet King Hákon, others sent messengers, still others, messages and tokens, all to the effect that they wanted to be his followers; and the king was grateful to them.




King Hákon addresses the assembly.


Chapter 2. Hákon Is Accepted as King in the Uppland Districts


At the beginning of winter King Hákon journeyed to the Uppland districts where he summoned assemblies; and all the people who could, crowded to see him, and in all districts he was accepted as king. Then he journeyed east [south] to the District of Vík. There he was joined by Tryggvi and Guthröth, his nephews, as well as by many others, who recounted to him the ill treatment they had suffered at the hands of Eirík, Hákon’s brother. Eirík’s unpopularity grew the greater the more all people wished to gain King Hákon’s friendship and took courage to speak about what dwelled in their hearts. King Hákon bestowed the royal title on Tryggvi and Guthröth, together with the lands which King Harald had given their fathers. To Tryggvi he gave Ranríki and Vingulmork, and to Guthröth, Westfold. But because they were young and childish, he set noble and wise men to administer the land with them. He gave them [these] lands with the understanding, which had existed before, that they were to have the half of the taxes and revenues together with him. Toward spring King Hákon returned overland to Trondheim by way of Uppland.


Chapter 3. King Eirík Flees to England


King Hákon gathered a large army in the Trondheim District during the spring, procuring ships. The people of Vík also had a large force and meant to join Hákon. Eirík also levied troops in the center of the country, but with little success, because many prominent chieftains failed him, joining Hákon. And when he saw he had no means to resist Hákon’s army, he sailed west across the sea with such troops as wished to follow him. First, he went to the Orkneys, and from there he led away a great force.


Then he sailed south to England, harrying along the Scottish coast wherever he touched land. He harried also in the northern parts of England.


King Æthelstān, the king of England, sent word to Eirík to the effect that he offered him a dominion in England, saying that King Harald, his father, had been a great friend of his and that he would take that into consideration with his son. Then messengers went between the kings, and special agreements were made that King Eirík was to have Northumberland in fief from King Æthelstān, and defend that land against Danes and other vikings. Eirík was to let himself be baptized, together with his wife and children and all the force that had followed him to England. Eirík accepted these conditions. Thereupon he was baptized, accepting the true faith.


Northumberland is called a fifth part of England. Eirík made his residence in York where, it is said, the sons of Lothbrók had resided. Northumberland was settled by Norwegians, chiefly after the sons of Lothbrók had conquered the land. Danes and Norwegians often harried there after they had lost control of the country. Many place names in that land have Scandinavian forms, such as Grimsby, Hauksfljót,1 and many others.


Chapter 4. King Eirík Ravages the British Islands and Is Slain


King Eirík surrounded himself with many men. There were a great number of Norwegians who had sailed to the west with him, and they were augmented by many friends of his from Norway. His land was small in size, and therefore he always went on plundering expeditions in summer, harrying in Scotland, the Hebrides, Ireland, and Bretland [Wales], and thus gained wealth for himself.


King Æthelstān died from sickness. He had been king for fourteen years, eight weeks, and three days. He was succeeded by Eadmund, his brother. He did not care for Norwegians. He and King Eirík were no friends, and there was the rumor that King Eadmund would appoint another chieftain for Northumberland. But when King Eirík heard of that he went on a viking expedition to the west. From the Orkneys he had with him Arnkel and Erlend, the sons of Turf-Einar. From there he sailed to the Hebrides, and there were many vikings and warrior chieftains who joined his expedition. Then he first sailed to Ireland with all his forces, and took with him as many men from there as he could get. Thereupon he sailed to Wales and harried there. Then he sailed south along the English coast, harrying there as elsewhere, and all the people fled where he came. And because Eirík was a leader of great prowess and had a large army, he dared depend on his army to such an extent that he went far inland, harrying and recruiting men. Óláf was the name of the king whom Eadmund had appointed to protect that part of the country. He gathered a huge host and made a stand against Eirík, and there was a great battle. Many of the English fell, but when one fell, three came in his stead from inland. And toward the end of the day more Norwegians than English fell. Many died there, and at the close of that day King Eirík fell, together with five other kings. Their names were Guthorm and his two sons, Ívar and Hárek. Among the dead were also Sigurth and Rognvald. There fell also Arnkel and Erlend, the sons of Turf-Einar. There was a great slaughter of Norwegians. Those who escaped sailed to Northumberland and informed Gunnhild and her sons of these happenings.


Chapter 5. Queen Gunnhild Retires to the Orkneys


When Gunnhild and her sons learned that King Eirík had fallen after having harried in the land of the English king, they felt certain that they would not be allowed to stay there in peace. They made ready at once to depart from Northumberland with all the ships King Eirík had had and all the men who wanted to go with them. They had along with them also a huge quantity of valuables which had collected there from taxes in England, though some had been gotten by plundering. With their force they sailed north to the Orkneys and made their abode there for a while. At that time Earl Thorfinn Hausakljúf [Skullcleaver], the son of Turf-Einar ruled there. Then the sons of Eirík took possession of the Orkneys and of the Shetland Islands, laying them under tribute. They resided there in wintertime and made viking expeditions in the summers, harrying in Scotland and Ireland. Glúm Geirason1 makes mention of this in these verses:




60.   Thence, a stripling, steered the
steed-of-sea’s bold reiner,
matchless mariner, to
make inroads on Skáney.2
Ravaging, the war-worker
wasted Scotland wholly,
sending, sword-hewn in battle,
sons of men to Óthin.




61.   Irish hosts the hero
whelmed in bitter combat—
ravenous ravens he gladdened—
routing amain his foeman!
Reddened the Freyr-of-folklands,3
fearless, his broadsword with
gore—was grim fray won—of
gallant men, in Southland.


Chapter 6. King Hákon Pursues the Danes to Jutland


King Hákon, the foster son of Æthelstān, brought all Norway to submission after his brother Eirík had fled abroad. During his first winter in Norway, King Hákon sought out the western part of the country, thereafter residing north in the District of Trondheim. But because peace was not to be expected if King Eirík should cross the sea with his army, he kept with his forces in the middle of the country, in the Fjord and Sogn districts, in Horthaland and Rogaland. Hákon set Sigurth, the earl of Hlathir, to govern the entire District of Trondheim, as Sigurth, as well as his father Hákon, had done under King Harald Fairhair. But when King Hákon learned of the death of his brother, King Eirík, and that King Eirík’s sons found no support in England he thought there was not much to be feared from them, and so one summer he journeyed east to Vík with his army. At that time the Danes were much given to harrying in the District of Vík and often did much damage there. But when they heard that King Hákon had arrived there with a large army, all of them fled; some south, to Halland, and some who were closer to Hákon took to the sea, sailing south to Jutland. But when King Hákon became aware of that he sailed after them with all his forces. Now when he arrived in Jutland and the population heard of that, they gathered an army to protect their country and prepared to resist King Hákon, and there was a great battle. King Hákon fought so valiantly that he advanced in front of his standard without either helmet or coat of mail. He was victorious and pursued the enemy far inland. As says Guthorm Sindri1 in his Hákonardrápa:




62.   Trod the king the track of
tiller-horses2 with oar blades.
Fey Jutes felled he in the
Pursued the ravens’-sater
since their fleeing army.
To howling wolves the hardy
hero gave food aplenty.


Chapter 7. King Hákon Is Victorious over Eleven Viking Ships


Then King Hákon led his forces south to Seeland, looking for the vikings. With two swift-sailing ships he proceeded into the Sound. There he found eleven viking ships and at once joined battle with them, and in the end came out as victor, clearing all the viking ships of their crews. As says Guthorm Sindri:




63.   Sailed from the south toward
Selund’s1 green sea-nesses
the elmbow-shower’s-urger,2 with
only two swift sail-ships,
when the liege eleven
long-ships cleared of Danish
crews—far-famed that fray—in
fierce-fought battle clashing.


Chapter 8. King Hákon Ravages Seeland, Scania, and Gautland


After that King Hákon harried far and wide in Seeland, plundering the people, killing some and leading others into captivity. From some he took a large ransom. He found no resistance then. As says Guthorm Sindri:




64.   Selund overset the
sea-king with his power
as far as falcon freely
flies, wind blows—and Skáney.


Thereupon King Hákon sailed east along the coast of Scania, harrying everywhere and taking tribute and taxes from the land. He killed all the vikings he found, both Danes and Wends. Then he proceeded east along Gautland, harrying and exacting a large tribute from the land. As says Guthorm Sindri:




65.   Gained the Gauts’ subduer
gold and tribute from them.
Stirred the sea-nag’s-steerer1
Strife wherever he fared there.


In the fall, King Hákon returned with his force, having gotten an immense amount of booty. During the winter he stayed in Vík to defend it if Danes and Gauts made inroads there.


Chapter 9. King Hákon Appoints Tryggvi to Defend Vík


That same fall King Tryggvi Óláfsson returned from a viking expedition to the west, after harrying in Ireland and Scotland. In the spring King Hákon journeyed north and appointed King Tryggvi, his brother’s son, to defend Vík against any incursions and to take possession of those lands in Denmark which King Hákon had laid under tribute during the preceding summer. As says Guthorm Sindri:




66.   The ring-dight-helmets’-reddener1
rule gave to doughty Tryggvi
over Ónar’s daughter’s2
oak-grown eastern folk-land—
him who ere from Ireland,
eager for deeds, came on
sea-steeds o’er the swans’-road
sailing in force thither.


Chapter 10. Queen Gunnhild and Her Sons Take Refuge with King Harald of Denmark


At that time King Harald Gormsson ruled in Denmark. He was much incensed that King Hákon had harried in his land, and there was a rumor that the Danish king would take revenge; but nothing came of that immediately. But when Gunnhild and her sons learned that there was war between Denmark and Norway, they made ready to return to Norway. They gave Ragnhild, Eirík’s daughter, in marriage to Arnfinn, the son of Thorfinn Hausakljúf. Earl Thorfinn reestablished himself in the Orkneys, and the sons of Eirík sailed away. Gamli Eiríksson was somewhat older than his brothers, but still not full-grown. Now when Gunnhild arrived in Denmark with her sons she went to the court of King Harald and found a good reception there. King Harald gave them revenues in his kingdom large enough to support themselves and their followers. He accepted Harald Eiríksson as his foster son and adopted him. He was brought up there at the court of the Danish king. Some of the sons of Eirík went on warlike expeditions as soon as they were old enough for that, acquiring possessions by harrying in the Baltic. At an early age they were handsome men, and ahead of their age in strength and accomplishments. Glúm Geirason makes mention of this in his Gráfeldardrápa:1




67.   Lands in the east the liege brought—
lavished he weapons on his
skalds—unscathèd fought he
skirmishes—’neath his sway then.
The sword-play’s-sire2 made sheath-tongues3
sing; and doughty, gold-dight
warriors laid he low in
lusty games-of-Skogul.4


The sons of Eirík then turned with their fleet against Vík and harried there, but King Tryggvi had his forces ready and resisted them; and they fought many battles, with now one, now the other victorious, the sons of Eirík sometimes harrying in Vík, and Tryggvi, sometimes in Halland and Seeland.


Chapter 11. King Hákon’s Character and Legislation


While Hákon was king in Norway good peace obtained for both farmers and merchants, so that no one harmed the other or his property. Abundance reigned both on sea and land. King Hákon was a most cheerful person, very eloquent, and most kindly disposed. He was a man of keen understanding and laid great stress on legislation. He devised the Gulathings Law with the help of Thorleif the Wise; and the Frostathings Law, with the advice of Earl Sigurth and other men from the Trondheim District who were accounted wisest. But the Heithsævis Law1 had been given by Hálfdan the Black, as mentioned before. King Hákon held his Yule celebration in the Trondheim District. Earl Sigurth had made a banquet ready for him at Hlathir. In the first night of Yule, Bergljót, the earl’s wife, gave birth to a boy child. On the day after, King Hákon sprinkled that boy with water, giving him his own name. He grew up to be a man, powerful and of mark. Earl Sigurth was a close friend of King Hákon.


Chapter 12. King Eystein Sets the Dog Saur over Trondheim


Eystein, the King of the Uppland districts, who by some is called the Powerful, but by some, the Evil, [had, in times long before that] harried in the Trondheim District and conquered the counties of Eynafylki and Sparbyggja District and set his son———1 over them. But the people of Trondheim killed him. Then King Eystein made another expedition against Trondheim, harrying far and wide, and subduing it. Then he offered the people of Trondheim the choice whether they would rather have as king over them his thrall, whose name was Thórir Faxi, or the dog called Saur. They chose the dog, thinking that under him they would rather have their own way. By magic they had put into the dog the understanding of three men. He barked twice but spoke every third word. A neckband was fashioned for him, and also a chain of silver and gold. And whenever the ways were muddy his followers carried him on their shoulders. A high-seat was prepared for him, and he sat on a hill, as kings do, and lived on the Inner Island,2 residing at the place called Saur’s Hill. It is told that the cause of his death was this that wolves attacked his flock, and his followers urged him to defend his sheep; and so he came down from his hill to fight the wolves, and they promptly tore him to pieces.


Many other strange things King Eystein did to the people of Trondheim. Owing to this warfare and tumult many chieftains fled the country, and many people abandoned their homes. Ketil Jamti, the son of Earl Onund of Sparabú, went east over the Keel,3 together with a great many others, taking along their livestock. They cleared the forests and cultivated a large district. Later, this was called Jamtaland. Ketil’s grandson was Thórir Helsing. On account of some slayings he left Jamtaland and journeyed west through the forests that are there, establishing himself, and many followed him. That is now called Helsingjaland. It extends as far as the sea to the east. [Before that] the Swedes had cultivated Helsingj aland in its eastern part along the sea.


At one time when King Harald Fairhair cleared his way to dominion [in Norway], again a great multitude of people fled the country, both from Nauma Dale and Trondheim, and still more settlements were established east in Jamtaland. Some went all the way to Helsingjaland. The people from Helsingjaland traded with Sweden and were subject in all respects to Sweden; but the people of Jamtaland were nearly in the middle [between Norway and Sweden], and no one paid much attention to that before Hákon arranged for peaceful agreements and trading with Jamtaland and made friends of the chieftains there. Thereafter they came west to meet him and promised obedience and tribute to him, swearing allegiance to him because they had heard only good about him. They preferred to attach themselves to him, rather than to the Swedish king, because they were of Norwegian descent; and he established laws and statutes for them. So did all those of Helsingjaland who had their kin north [west] of the Keel.


Chapter 13. King Hákon Sets About Christianizing Norway


King Hákon was a confirmed Christian when he arrived in Norway. But since the land was altogether heathen and much idolatry prevailed, and also because there were many great chieftains and he considered that he much needed their help and the friendship of the people, he adopted the course of practicing Christianity secretly, keeping Sundays and fasting on Fridays. He had it established in the laws that the Yule celebration was to take place at the same time as is the custom with the Christians. And at that time everyone was to have ale for the celebration from a measure of grain, or else pay fines, and had to keep the holidays while the ale lasted. Before that, Yule was celebrated on midwinter night, and for the duration of three nights. It was his plan that when he had firmly established himself and had the whole country in his power, that he then would have the gospel preached. He proceeded at first in this fashion that he coaxed those who were dearest to him into becoming Christians. As a result, what with his popularity, many let themselves be baptized, and some stopped making sacrifices. During most of the time he resided in Trondheim, for that was the part of the country with the most resources.


But when King Hákon considered that he had the support of some men wielding power enough to uphold Christianity, he sent to England for a bishop and other priests. And when they arrived in Norway, King Hákon made it known that he would have the gospel preached in the whole country. But the people of Mœr and Raums Dale referred the matter to the people of the Trondheim District to decide. At that time King Hákon had some churches consecrated and appointed priests for them. And when he came to Trondheim he summoned an assembly with the farmers and urged them to adopt Christianity. They made answer, saying that they would refer the matter to the Frostathing Assembly1 and expressed the wish that all should come there who belonged to the various districts around the Trondheimfjord: they would then decide about this difficult matter.


Chapter 14. The Heathen Yule Celebration Described


Sigurth, earl of Hlathir, was a most ardent heathen worshipper, as had been Hákon, his father. Earl Sigurth maintained all sacrificial feasts there in Trondheim on the king’s behalf. It was ancient custom that when sacrifice was to be made, all farmers were to come to the heathen temple and bring along with them the food they needed while the feast lasted. At this feast all were to take part in the drinking of ale. Also all kinds of livestock were killed in connection with it, horses also; and all the blood from them was called hlaut [sacrificial blood], and hlautbolli, the vessel holding that blood; and hlautteinar, the sacrificial twigs [aspergills]. These were fashioned like sprinklers, and with them were to be smeared all over with blood the pedestals of the idols and also the walls of the temple within and without; and likewise the men present were to be sprinkled with blood. But the meat of the animals was to be boiled and to serve as food at the banquet. Fires were to be lighted in the middle of the temple floor, and kettles hung over them. The sacrificial beaker was to be borne around the fire, and he who made the feast and was chieftain, was to bless the beaker as well as all the sacrificial meat. Óthin’s toast was to be drunk first—that was for victory and power to the king—then Njorth’s and Frey’s, for good harvests and for peace. Following that many used to drink a beaker to the king. Men drank toasts also in memory of departed kinsfolk—that was called minni [memorial toast].


Sigurth was a most open-handed man. He did what brought him much fame—he made a great sacrificial banquet at Hlathir, defraying all outlays himself. This is mentioned by Kormák Ogmundarson1 in his drápa in honor of Sigurth:




68.   Bring not there your beer, vat-
brewed, to lord free-handed,
nor fare with baskets filled with
food.—The gods tricked Thjatsi.2
All shun to fall foul of
fain to be the famed one’s
friend.—Fought Gram4 for riches.


Chapter 15. Ásbjorn of Methalhús Opposes the King


King Hákon came to the Frostathing Assembly, and a very large number of farmers attended it. When they met, King Hákon made a speech. He began by saying that it was his bidding and his request, addressed to freeholders and husbandmen alike, of high and low estate, and so to all the people, young men and old, rich and poor, women as well as men, that all should let themselves be baptized and believe in one God, Christ, the son of Mary, and stop all idolatry and heathen worship; that they should keep holy every seventh day, abstaining from work, and fast every seventh day.




Ásbjorn of Methalhús answers the king.


But no sooner had the king proposed this to the people than there was a great muttering. The farmers complained that the king wanted to deprive them of their livelihood, that they could not cultivate the land in that fashion. But the working men and thralls thought they could not work unless they had food. They said, too, that it was a failing of King Hákon’s, as it was of his father and their kinsmen, that they were stingy of food, even though they were generous in giving gold.


Ásbjorn of Methalhús in Gaular Dale stood up to make answer to what the King had proposed, and spoke as follows.


“It was our thought, King Hákon,” he said, “the time you had held our first assembly here in the Trondheim District and we had chosen you king and received from you the title to our ancestral possessions, that very heaven had come down to earth; but now we don’t know what to think, whether we have regained our liberty or whether you are going to make us thralls again with the strange proposal that we should abandon the faith our fathers have had before us, and all our forefathers, first in the time when the dead were burned, and now in the age when the dead are buried. And they were better men than we, and yet this faith has served us very well. We have put so much trust in you that we have let you have your way about all the laws and statutes of our land. Now it is our will, and all the farmers are agreed on this, to obey the laws you have given us here at the Frostathing Assembly and to which we consented. We all want to follow you and to have you be our king so long as one of us farmers who are at the assembly now is alive, if you, sir king, will observe moderation and ask only that of us which we can give you and which is within reason.


“But if you mean to pursue this so high-handedly as to contend against us with force and compulsion, then all of us farmers have made up our minds to desert you and choose another leader, one who will help us freely to have the faith we wish to have. Now you, sir king, shall decide on one of these alternatives before the assembly disperses.”


The farmers gave loud acclaim to this speech and said that it was this they wanted.


Chapter 16. Earl Sigurth Mediates between the King and the Farmers


When silence was restored, Earl Sigurth made this answer: “It is the intention of King Hákon to agree with you farmers, and to let nothing stand between him and your friendship.” The farmers said that it was their wish that the king should make sacrifice to procure for them good crops and peace, as his father had done. Thereupon the muttering ceased and they ended the assembly.


Afterwards Earl Sigurth talked with the king and warned him that he should not refuse altogether to do as the farmers would have it—that nothing else would do: “As you yourself could hear, sir king, this is the will and imperious demand of the chieftains and thereby of all the people. In good time we shall devise some way or other, sir king, to accomplish this [i.e. your aims].” And the king and the earl were agreed on this course of action.


Chapter 17. Hákon Is Forced to Participate in the Sacrifice


In fall, at the beginning of winter there was a sacrificial feast at Hlathir, and the king attended it. Before that, if present at a place where heathen sacrifice was made, he was accustomed to eat in a little house apart, in the company of a few men. But the farmers remarked about it that he did not occupy his high-seat when there was the best cheer among the people. The earl told him that he should not do that; and so it came that the king occupied his high-seat [on this occasion].




Earl Sigurth persuades the king to yield.


But when the first beaker was served, Earl Sigurth proposed a toast, dedicating the horn to Óthin, and drank to the king. The king took the horn from him and made the sign of the cross over it.


Then Kár of Grýting said, “Why does the king do that? Doesn’t he want to drink of the sacrificial beaker?”


Earl Sigurth made answer, “The king does as all do who believe in their own might and strength, and dedicated his beaker to Thór. He made the sign of the hammer over it before drinking.” People said no more about it that evening. Next day when people had seated themselves at the tables, the farmers thronged about the king, saying that now he must eat the horse meat.1 That, the king would not do under any condition. Then they asked him to drink the broth from it. He refused to do that. Then they asked him to eat the drippings from it. He would not do that, either, and they came near to making an attack on him. Earl Sigurth said he would help them come to an agreement, asking them to cease their tumult; and he asked the king to gape with his mouth over the handle of the kettle on which the smoke of the broth from the horse meat had settled, so that the handle was greasy from it. Then the king went up to it and put a linen cloth over the handle and gaped with his mouth over it. Then he went back to his high-seat, and neither party was satisfied with that.


Chapter 18. The People of Trondheim Destroy Three Churches


In the winter following, the Yule feast was prepared for the king at Mærin. But when Yuletime approached, the eight chieftains who had most to do with the sacrifices in the whole Trondheim District arranged for a meeting between them. The four of them were from the outer parts of the Trondheim District: Kár of Grýting, Ásbjorn of Methalhús, Thorberg of Varness, Orm of Ljoxa; and from the inner parts of the Trondheim District, Blótólf of Olvishaug, Narfi of Staf in Vera Dale, Thránd Haki of Eggja, Thórir Beard of Húsabœ on the Inner Island. These eight men engaged themselves that the four from the outer districts were to destroy the Christianity [there was], and the four of the inner districts were to force the king to sacrifice. The men from the outer parts sailed with four ships south to Mœr, killed three priests, and burned down three churches, then returned. But when King Hákon and Earl Sigurth came to Mærin with their troops, the farmers were there in very great numbers. The first day at the banquet the farmers thronged in upon him and asked him to sacrifice, or else they would force him to. Then Earl Sigurth mediated between them, and in the end King Hákon ate a few bits of horse liver. Then he drank all the toasts the farmers poured for him without making the sign of the cross. But when the banquet was finished, the king and the earl forthwith proceeded to Hlathir. The king was much put out and immediately left the Trondheim District, saying that he would come another time and with greater forces and then repay the people of Trondheim the hostility they had shown him. Earl Sigurth besought the king not to bear down on them for this and said that it would not do for him to make rash vows of vengeance or to harry people within his kingdom, least of all in the Trondheim District which had the most resources. The king was so enraged that no one durst speak to him. Leaving the Trondheim District he went south to Mœr, and resided there during the winter and the spring. But as summer approached he gathered an army, and it was rumored that he would proceed with it against the people of Trondheim.


Chapter 19. The Sons of Eirík Invade Norway but Are Repulsed


At that time King Hákon had gone on board his fleet, and he had a great force. Then came to him the information from the southern part of the country that the sons of King Eirík had come to Vík from Denmark and that they had driven King Tryggvi Óláfsson from his ships at Sótaness in the east of the country. They had harried far and wide in Vík, and many had sworn allegiance to them. Now when the king learned all this he considered that he needed help and sent word to Earl Sigurth and other chieftains from whom he could expect support, to come to him. Earl Sigurth joined King Hákon with a very large force. In it were all those men from Trondheim who in the winter had done most to compel the king to sacrifice. By the intercession of Earl Sigurth they were all reconciled with the king. Thereupon King Hákon sailed south along the land. But when he came south around Stath Promontory, he learned that the sons of Eirík had arrived in North Agthir; and then both hosts advanced against each other and met at the Island of Kormt. Both armies went on shore and fought on Ogvaldsness. Both sides were of very great strength. It was a fierce battle. King Hákon went to the attack with vigor where stood King Guthorm, the son of Eirík, with his troops, and they exchanged blows. There fell King Guthorm, and his banner was cut down, and a great many of his men fell too. Then flight started in the ranks of the sons of Eirík. They fled to their ships and rowed away, having lost a great number. Guthorm Sindri makes mention of this:




69.   Battle-slain men above, the
breaker-of-armrings let then
sword-blades sing their strident
song on the ness of Ogvald.
There the Frey-of-flashing-
left for dead the doughty
din-of-shields’ awakener.2


King Hákon embarked on his ships and pursued the sons of Gunnhild on their eastward flight. Both fleets sailed the fastest they could till they came to East Agthir, when the sons of Eirík made for the open sea and sailed south to Jutland. Guthorm Sindri makes mention of this:




70.   Oft the elmbow’s-twanger’s
heirs did feel the power of
bold—in my mind I bear it—
Baldr-of-keen-edged wound-snakes.3
Kept the steerer-of-keels his
craft at sea, while fled the
ill-starred kinsmen all of
Eirík, pursued by him.


Then King Hákon returned north to Norway. But the sons of Eirík remained in Denmark for a long time.


Chapter 20. King Hákon Sets the Ship-Levies and Orders Beacons Installed


After this battle King Hákon incorporated into the laws for all the land along the seas, and as far inland as the salmon goes upstream, that all districts were divided into “ship-levies”; and these he parcelled out among the districts. It was stated in the laws how many ships there were in every district, and how many large ones were to be furnished when a general levy was called; and a general levy was enjoined whenever a foreign army was in the land. Along with this it was ordered that whenever there was a general levy, beacons were to be lit on high mountains, so that one could be seen from the other. It is said that news of the levy travelled from the southern-most beacon to the northernmost borough in seven nights.


Chapter 21. Peace Prevails in Norway


The sons of Eirík were constantly engaged in viking expeditions in the Baltic, but sometimes they harried in Norway as was written above. But King Hákon ruled in Norway and was greatly beloved. There were good crops in the land and peace prevailed.


Chapter 22. The Sons of Eirík Approach without Warning


When Hákon had been king over Norway for twenty years the sons of Eirík came from the south out of Denmark with a large army. A great part consisted of men who had been with them in their viking expeditions, yet many more were Danish troops which Harald Gormsson had furnished them. They had a strong favorable wind, sailing from Vendil, and arrived at Agthir. Then they continued north along the land, sailing day and night. But the beacons had not been kindled because it was the custom that they were kindled starting from the east along the land, but the approach of the enemy had not been sighted there in the east. Another reason was that the king had placed severe fines on the men responsible if beacons were kindled for no good reason. [It had so happened that when] warships and vikings had harried outlying islands, the people had often thought they were the sons of Eirík. Then the beacons had been kindled and there was a great rush to arms in all the land. [Each time, however,] the sons of Eirík had returned to Denmark, not having been reinforced by any Danish troops; and sometimes the invaders were other vikings. This had greatly enraged the king since it caused labor and expense and nothing was gained by it. The farmers also complained when their interests were concerned, whenever it happened.


And this was the reason that no news went ahead of the approach of the sons of Eirík before they arrived north in Úlfa Sound. There they remained anchored for seven days. Then the news about it was carried north by the inland way over the neck of land1 and spread about Mœr. King Hákon at that time was in South Mœr on the island called Fræthi,2 on his estate called Birkistrand, and had no troops about him except his bodyguard and the farmers who had been guests at his entertainment.


Chapter 23. King Hákon Seeks Egil Ullserk’s Advice


Men bearing the information came to King Hákon, telling him that the sons of Eirík lay with a great force south of Stath. Then he had called to him those men who were reputed wisest in that district and asked their advice whether he should give battle to the sons of Eirík, notwithstanding that the odds were greatly in their favor, or withdraw to the north and collect a greater force.


Among them there was one farmer, called Egil Ullserk [Wool Shirt]. He was very old then, but had been larger and stronger than anyone else and a great warrior. For a long time he had borne the standard of King Harald Fairhair. Egil answered the king’s speech in this fashion:


“I was in some battles with your father, King Harald. Sometimes he fought against a large force, and sometimes against a smaller one; but he always was victorious. Never did I hear him invite the advice of friends to flee. Nor shall we give such advice, sir king; because we think we have a fearless leader. You shall have our trusty support.”


Many others, too, stood by his speech. And the king also said that he too was more inclined to give battle with such forces as he had at hand. So that course of action was taken. Then the king had the war-arrows carried in all directions and assembled as much of a force as he could get. Then Egil Ullserk said, “That have I feared for some time, whilst we had this long peace, that I might die of old age on the straw inside my house; but I would rather die in battle, following my chieftain. Maybe that this will now be the case.”


Chapter 24. The Battle on Rastarkálf Plain


The sons of Eirík sailed north past Cape Stath as soon as they had a favorable breeze. And when they had passed Stath they learned where King Hákon was, and they proceeded against him. King Hákon had nine ships. He was anchored north of Fræthar Hill in Féey Sound, and the sons of Eirík anchored south of the hill. They had more than twenty ships. King Hákon sent a messenger to them, asking them to disembark and [saying] that he had marked off a battlefield for them on Rastarkálf. At that place there is a level plain of large extent, and above it, a long and rather low hill. There the sons of Eirík disembarked and went north over the neck of land below Fræthar Hill and onto the Rastarkálf Plain.


Then Egil spoke to King Hákon, asking him for ten men with ten standards. The king gave them to him. Thereupon Egil with his men went up along the slope. Now King Hákon proceeded to the plain with his troops, set up his standard and drew up his forces in battle array. He said, “We shall have an extended line of battle so they cannot surround us, even though they have more men.” This they did. There ensued a great and very sharp engagement. Then Egil had his ten standards set up, and so arranged it with the men carrying them that they should advance as close as possible to the brink of the hill, but with a long interval between each of them. This they did and advanced as close as possible to the brink of the hill, as though they intended to attack the sons of Eirík in the rear. Those who stood highest in the rank of Eirík’s men observed that many standards were being rushed forward and overtopped the hill, and thought that a great host would be following [the standards] to attack them in the rear and come between them and their ships. Then there was much shouting, one telling the other what was happening, and soon their ranks broke in flight. When the sons of Eirík saw that, they fled, too. King Hákon pursued them vigorously, and there was a great slaughter.


Chapter 25. King Gamli Makes a Last Stand


When Gamli Eiríksson had got on top of the ridge he turned about and saw that no more of a host was pursuing them than the one they had battled before, and that this was a stratagem. Then King Gamli had the trumpets blown, set up his standard, and rearranged his battle line. All the Norwegians in his force flocked about it, but the Danes fled to their ships. So when King Hákon and his troops came up to them, there followed a second bitter fight. By that time King Hákon was superior in numbers, and the outcome was that the sons of Eirík took to flight. They then retreated south over the ridge; but a part of their forces fled south to the hill, pursued by King Hákon. There is a level plain east of the neck of land on the west side of the hill, but steep cliffs descend west from it. Then Gamli’s men retreated to the top of the hill, and King Hákon attacked them fiercely killing some; but others leapt over the cliff on the west side of the hill, and all of them perished. The king did not stop until they had slain every man’s son there.


Chapter 26. Egil Ullserk and King Gamli Fall


Gamli, the son of Eirík, also fled from the ridge down to the plain south of the hill. There, King Gamli turned about once more and renewed the fight, and again some troops joined him. Then also all his brothers joined him with many men. Egil Ullserk was heading Hákon’s men and made a strong onslaught, and he and King Gamli exchanged blows. King Gamli was severely wounded, but Egil fell also, and many with him. Then King Hákon came up with the troops that had followed him, and the battle was renewed. Again King Hákon pressed the enemy hard, cutting down men right and left and felling one after the other. As says Guthorm Sindri:




71.   Fearful, the host of foemen
fled from the gold-dispender.
Went the warlike leader
well before the standards.
Nor did the shaft-shatterer
shield himself in war-fray,
he who in Hild’s-tempest1
hardiest was ever.


The sons of Eirík saw their men fall on all sides. Then they turned and fled to their ships. But those who before had fled to the ships had launched them into the water. Some of the ships, however, were left aground. Then all the sons of Eirík plunged into the water, together with the men who followed them. There Gamli Eiríksson died, but his brothers reached the ships and sailed away with all who survived and set their course to Denmark.


Chapter 27. King Hákon Buries the Fallen


King Hákon captured the ships belonging to the sons of Eirík that had run aground and had them dragged up on land. He had Egil Ullserk laid upon one of them, together with all those of his company who had fallen in battle, and had earth and stones heaped up around it. Also other ships King Hákon had dragged ashore and put in them the corpses lying on the battlefield; and these mounds can still be seen south of Frætharberg. Eyvind Skáldaspillir composed the following verse, after Glúm Geirason in one of his verses had made much of the fall of King Hákon:




72.   Before, the king unfleeing, with
Fenrir’s jaw-distender1
stout-souled men were stirred to
strife—shed Gamli’s life-blood,
when that all of Eirík’s
heirs he drove—his men now,
downcast, mourn the dear one’s
death—into the water.


High stone monuments stand beside the burial mound of Egil Ullserk.


Chapter 28. Eyvind Skáldaspillir Forewarns the King


When King Hákon, foster son of Æthelstān, had been king of Norway for twenty-six years after his brother Eirík had fled the land, it so happened that he was in Horthaland and was entertained with a banquet at Fitjar on the Island of Storth. He had his bodyguard with him, and many farmers were there too. One day, in the forenoon, as the king sat at table, the watchmen outside reported that many ships came sailing from the south and would be at the island before long. Then everyone said that the king should be told that they thought a hostile force was approaching. But no one dared to tell the king that there was danger of hostilities, because he had warned that anyone who did that would be punished severely; and yet they thought it would never do to keep the king in ignorance of it. Then one of them went into the room [where the king sat] and asked Eyvind Finnsson [Skáldaspillir] to come out quickly, saying it was most urgent. Eyvind came out and immediately went to the spot where he could see the ships. He saw at once that a very considerable fleet was approaching and forthwith went back into the room before the king and said these words:


73.   “Fleeting is time on the foreshore
which to the feaster is long”


[Literally: Short is time for the traveller at sea, but long the time at the meal].


The king looked at him and said, “What’s in the wind?”


Eyvind spoke this verse:




74.   Valkyrie’s-game,1 avengers—
avails not sitting still now—
wish to awake ’gainst you,
warring for death of Blood-Axe.
Not easy is it—yet thy
honor wish I, sovran—
take we our tools of war!—to
tell of fight approaching.


The king said, “You are so gallant a fellow, Eyvind, that you are not likely to warn of danger approaching unless it is so.” Then the king had the table removed and went outside to look at the ships, and saw they were warships. Then he spoke to his men, asking their opinion, whether they should do battle with such forces as they had, or board their ships and sail away from them heading north. “It is evident,” the king said, “that we shall have to fight against much greater odds than we did before, although we often thought we had to fight against much superior forces, when we had to do battle with the sons of Gunnhild.”


The men were not quick to make their decision. Then Eyvind spoke this verse:




75.   Nowise beseems it noble,
flinch not feebly—to lead our
fleet still farther northward,
now that steer their stout sea-
steeds the sons of Eirík—
grip we our gear of warfare—
’gainst us north from Denmark.


The king replied, “These are brave words, and after my own heart; yet I should like to hear the opinion of others about this business.” But when they thought they could gather what the king’s wishes were, many answered and said that they would rather fall honorably than flee from the Danes; also, that often they had fought victoriously when they had fought against greater odds. The king thanked them much for their words and asked them to arm themselves; and so they did. The king sheathed himself in his coat of mail and girded himself with the sword Quernbiter, put on his head a gilt helmet, took a halberd in hand, and had a shield at his side. Then he arranged his bodyguard in one battle array, together with the farmers, and raised his standards.


Chapter 29. The Sons of Eirík Make a Fresh Attack


Harald Eiríksson was at that time head of the sons of Eirík after Gamli had fallen. They had come with a great force north from Denmark. In company with them were their maternal uncles, Eyvind Skreya and Álf Askmathr [Skipper]. They were strong and valiant men and great warriors. The sons of Eirík steered their ships to the island, disembarked, and formed their battle array. And we are told that the odds were six to one in favor of the sons of Eirík.


Chapter 30. The Battle of Storth and the Poem Hákonarmál


By that time King Hákon too had put his men in battle array; and it is said that the king cast off his coat of mail before the battle started. As says Eyvind Skáldaspillir in his Lay of Hákon:1




76.   They2 found Bjorn’s brother
his byrnie donning,
under standard standing
the stalwart leader—
were darts uplifted
and spearshafts lowered;
up the strife then started.




77.   Called on Háleygers
as on Holmrygers3
the earls’ banesman
as to battle he fared;
a good host had he
of henchmen from Norway—
the Danes’-terror
donned his gold helm.




78.   Threw off his war-weeds,
thrust down his mail-coat
the great-hearted lord,
ere began the battle.
Laughed with his liege-men;4
his land would he shield,
the gladsome hero
’neath gold helm standing.


King Hákon chose men for his bodyguard especially for their strength and bravery, as had done King Harald, his father. Among them was Thórálf the Strong, the son of Skólm, and he went by the side of the king. He was armed with helmet and shield, a halberd, and the sword called Fetbreith. It was said that King Hákon and he were of equal strength. Thórth Sjáreksson5 makes mention of this in the drápa he composed about Thórálf:




79.   There where the hardy roller-
horses’-steerers forth, for
slaughterous sword-play eager,
sallied, on Storth in Fitjar,
the doughty dart-storm’s-urger
dared, helm-clad, sword-girt, and
naught fearing, to fight next to
Norway’s king’s side in combat.


And when the opposing forces met there was a furious and bloody fight. When the men had hurled their spears, they took to their swords. King Hákon, with Thórálf at his side, advanced beyond the standard, cutting down men right and left. As says Eyvind Skáldaspillir:




80.   Cut then keenly
the king’s broadsword
through foemen’s war-weeds
as though water it parted.
Clashed then spear-blades,
cleft were bucklers,
did ring-adorned war-swords6
rattle on helmets.




81.   Were targes trodden
by the Týr-of-shields7
with hard-footed hilt-blade,
and heads eke, by Northmen;
battle raged on island,
athelings reddened
shining shield-castles
with shedded life-blood.


King Hákon was easily recognized—more easily than other men. His helmet glittered as the sun shone upon it. He was the target of all. Then Eyvind Finnsson took a hood and drew it over the king’s helmet.


Chapter 31. King Hákon Is Wounded by an Arrow


Eyvind Skreya then called out aloud, “Hides now the king of the Norwegians, or has he fled—else where is the gold helmet now?” Thereupon Eyvind forged ahead, together with Álf, his brother, striking down men on both sides and acting like men possessed.


King Hákon called out aloud to Eyvind, “Keep going as you are headed, if you want to find the king of the Norwegians.” As says Eyvind Skáldaspillir:




King Hákon advances against the Danes.




82.   Bade the valkyries’-weather-
wooer1 Eyvind Skreya—
good to men, but to gold not—
go forward as headed,
“if, far-famed sea-fighter,
find thou wouldst in battle
the wise and wealth-dispending,
warlike king of Norway.”


Nor was it long before Eyvind got there and raised his sword and swung at the king. Thórálf thrust his shield against him so that Eyvind stumbled. But the king seized his sword, Quernbiter, with both hands and struck Eyvind on his helmet and cleft it and his head down to the shoulders. Then Thórálf slew Álf the Skipper. As says Eyvind Skáldaspillir:




83.   Saw I the wand-of-wounds2 which
wielded Norway’s ruler,
with both his hands when he
hewed down treacherous Skreya.
Fearless, the foe of Denmark
famous cleft the scalp-hills3
of many mail-clad Danish
mariners with sword gold-hilted.


After the fall of these two brothers King Hákon forged ahead with such might that all opponents fell back before him. Then terror struck the hearts of the followers of the sons of Eirík and soon they took to flight. But King Hákon was in front of his men, pursuing the fleeing enemies closely and raining sword-blows. Then there flew an arrow, of the kind which is called flein,4 and struck King Hákon in the arm, in the muscle below the shoulder. And many say that Gunnhild’s page, by the name of Kisping, ran forward in the confusion—calling out, “Make room for the king’s slayer”—and shot the arrow at King Hákon. Some say, however, that no one knows who shot the arrow. And that may very well be, because arrows and javelins and all kinds of missiles flew as thick as a fall of snow. A great number of the Eiríkssons’ force fell, both on the battlefield and on their way to the ships and also on the beach, and many leapt into the sea. A good many of these managed to reach the ships, as did all the sons of Eirík, and at once rowed away, with Hákon’s men in pursuit. As says Thórth Sjáreksson:




84.   Before his men the mainsworns’
murderer5—and thus should—
a long life men wished him—
land be warded—fought there.
Trouble arose, the time that
tight-fisted6—the king7 fell—
Gunnhild’s son, short of gold, his
galleys steered from southward.




85.   Wearily, wound-sore yeomen
worked on board the long-ships—
many men their death did
meet there—the sweeps pulling.
The warrior’s8 worth was seen,—he
wolves gave food in battle—
when in strife so stern he
stood beside his master.


Chapter 32. King Hákon Bequeathes Norway to the Sons of Eirík


King Hákon boarded his warships and had his wound bandaged. But the blood flowed so profusely that it could not be staunched. And as the day wore on the king became faint. Then he said that he wished to proceed north to his estate at Alreksstath. When they arrived at Hákonarhella they anchored there, and by that time the king was at death’s door. Then he called his friends to his side and told them his wishes about the disposition of the kingdom. His only child was a daughter, Thóra by name. He had no son. He requested them to send word to the sons of Eirík that they were to be kings over the land, but that they should exercise forbearance to his friends and kinsmen. “But even if I be granted to live,” he said, “I would leave the country to abide among Christians and do penance for what I have sinned against God. But if I die here, among heathens, then give me such burial place as seems most fitting to you.”


And a short while afterwards King Hákon died on the same slab of rock where he was born. King Hákon was mourned so greatly that both friends and enemies bewailed his death and declared that a king as good as he would not be seen again in Norway. His friends moved his body north to Sæheim in North Horthaland. There they raised a great mound and in it buried the king in full armor and in his finest array, but with no other valuables. Words were spoken over his grave according to the custom of heathen men, and they put him on the way to Valhalla. Eyvind Skáldaspillir composed a poem about the fall of King Hákon and how he was welcomed [in Valhalla]. It is called Hákonarmál, and this is the beginning of it: 1




86.   Gautatýr2 sent forth   Gondul and Skogul
  to choose among kings’ kinsmen:
who of Yngvi’s offspring   should with Óthin dwell
  and wend with them to Valholl.


[Follow the stanzas here numbered 76-78,80,81.]




87.   Burned the wound-fires3   in bloody gashes,
were the long-beards3 lifted   against the life of warriors—
the sea-of-wounds surged high   around the swords’ edges,
ran the stream-of-arrows4   on the strand of Storth-Isle.




88.   Reddened war shields   rang ’gainst each other,
did Skogul’s-stormblast5   scar red targes;
billowed blood-waves   in the blast-of-Óthin5
was many a man’s son   mowed down in battle.




89.   Sat then the athelings   with swords brandished,
with shields shattered and shredded byrnies:
not happy in their hearts   was that host of men,
   and to Valholl wended their way.




90.   Spoke then Gondul   on spearshift leaning:
      “groweth now the gods’ following,
   since Hákon has been   with host so goodly
      bidden home with holy godheads.”




91.   Heard the war-lord   what the valkyries said,
      high-hearted, on horseback—
   wisely they bore them,   sitting war-helmeted,
      and with shields them sheltering.
                         Hákon said:




92.   “Why didst, Geirskogul   grudge us victory,
though worthy we were   for the gods to grant it?”
                        Skogul said:
“ ’T is owing to us   that the issue was won
     and your foemen fled.




93.   “Ride forth now shall we,”   said fierce Skogul,
   “To the green6 homes of the godheads—
to tell Óthin   that the atheling will
   come now to see him himself.”




94.   “Hermóth and Bragi!”   called out Hroptatýr:7
   “Go ye to greet the hero;
for a king cometh   who has keenly foughten,
   to our halls hither.”




95.   Said the war-worker   wending from battle—
   was his byrnie all bloody:
“Angry-minded   Óthin meseemeth.8
   Be we heedful of his hate!




96.   “All einheriar9   shall swear oaths to thee:
   share thou the Æsir’s ale,
thou enemy-of-earls!10   Here within hast thou
   brethren eight,11” said Bragi.




97.   “Our gear of war,”   said the gladsome king,
   “we mean to keep in our might.
Helmet and hauberk   one should heed right well.
   ’T is good to guard one’s spear.”




98.   Then it was seen   how that sea-king had
   honored the ancient altars
since that Hákon   hailed and welcomed,
   all gods and heavenly hosts.




99.   On a good day is born   that great-souled lord
   who hath a heart like his.
His times will aye   be told of on earth,
   as good and glorious.




100.   Unfettered will fare   the Fenris Wolf12
   and ravage the realm of men,
ere that cometh   a kingly prince
   as good, to stand in his stead.




101.   Cattle die   and kinsmen die,13
   land and lieges are whelmed;
ever since Hákon   to the heathen gods fared,
   many a liege is laid low.




The Saga of Harald Graycloak


Chapter 1. The Sons of Eirík Take Possession of Norway


The sons of Eirík took possession of the kingdom in Norway after the fall of King Hákon. Among them, Harald was foremost, and he was also the oldest of them still living. Gunnhild, their mother, had a great share with them in the government of the country. At that time she was called Kingsmother. These men were chieftains in the country then: Tryggvi Óláfsson in the eastern part, Guthröth Bjarnarson in Westfold, Sigurth Hlathajarl [earl of Hlathir] in Trondheim; and the sons of Gunnhild were in possession of the western part during the first year. Then there were negotiations between the sons of Gunnhild on the one hand, and Tryggvi and Guthröth on the other, and they came to the agreement that, under the sons of Gunnhild, the latter two were to have in their possession the same share of the realm as they had had before under King Hákon.


There was one Glúm Geirason, a skald with King Harald and a man of great prowess. After the fall of Hákon he composed this verse:




102.   Well hast avenged, Harald—
hapless foemen to their
graves have gone—your brother
Gamli, fighting bravely,
dark-hued since hawks-of-Ygg1 on
Hákon’s corpse have battened—
glaives from grievous wounds were
gory—beyond the ocean.


This verse became very popular; but when Eyvind Finnsson learned of it he recited the verse which is written down above:




103.   2 Before, the king unfleeing, with
Fenrir’s jaw-distender—
stout-souled men were stirred to
strife—shed Gamli’s life-blood,
when that all of Eirík’s
heirs he drove—his men now,
downcast, mourn the dear one’s
death—into the water.


And this verse also was often recited. But when King Harald heard that, he declared this was a deed worthy of death on the part of Eyvind, until mutual friends made peace between them, on condition that Eyvind should become his skald as before he had been King Hákon’s. There was close kinship between them, as Eyvind’s mother, Gunnhild, was the daughter of Earl Hálfdan; and her mother, again, was Ingibjorg, a daughter of King Harald Fairhair. Then Eyvind composed a verse about King Harald:




104.   Little did you, liege-lord,
let yourself be daunted
when bows were bent, and on
byrnies crashed the hail of arrows,
where the whetted sword-blades
whined, naked, all gory,
and with your hands, Harald,
hawks-of-carnage3 you sated.


The sons of Gunnhild resided for the most part in the western districts, for the reason, on the one hand, that they considered it risky to dwell too close to the people of Trondheim and Vík, who had been the stanchest friends of King Hákon; and on the other, that there were many men of influence in both provinces. Then there were negotiations between the sons of Gunnhild and Earl Sigurth, for else they would receive no revenues from the Trondheim District; and the result was that the kings on the one hand and the earl on the other, came to the agreement, which they confirmed with oaths, that Earl Sigurth was to have the same domains, under the overlord-ship of the kings, as he had had before under King Hákon. Thereupon they considered that peace was established between them.


All the sons of Gunnhild were held to be avaricious, and it was rumored that they hid valuables in the ground. About this, Eyvind Skáldaspillir composed these verses:






105.   Upon our hands had we,
whilst that Hákon lived, ample
seed-corn sown on Fýri’s
swale,4 thou Ullr-of-combat.5
Now the Norsemen’s foe has
niggardly hidden all
meal6 in Thór’s-mother’s7-bosom.




106.   Shone upon the shields and
shafts of Hákon’s skalds, the
while he fared here, Fulla’s-
fillet8 in abundance.
Now the river’s riches9
ruddy—such the mighty
one’s behest—are wholly
hid in Thór’s dam’s body.


When King Harald had been reliably informed about these verses, he summoned Eyvind to appear before him. And when Eyvind came, the king berated him and called him his enemy, “and it is ill becoming in you,” he said, “to play me false, because you have sworn me allegiance.” Then Eyvind recited this verse:




107.   One belovèd lord was,
liege, mine—one, before thee,10
nor wish I, thane, a third one:
throngs me now my old age.
True was I to my dear lord—
two masters never served I.
I but fill your flock, sire:11
feeble I am with age now.


King Harald fixed his judgment thus in this matter: Eyvind owned a large and valuable gold ring which was called Moldi. It had been dug out of the ground long ago. This ring, the king said, he would have, and there was no other choice for Eyvind. He spoke this verse:




108.   Should I, ship’s keen steerer,
share thy favor henceforth:
would that well befit thee,
warrior, ruling Norway,
seeing I give thee this goodly
golden arm ring, dragon’s-
lair’s rich treasure, liege, which
long had owned my father.


Then Eyvind departed for his home, and we are not told that he came before King Harald’s presence anytime afterwards.


Chapter 2. Of the Sons of Gunnhild


The sons of Gunnhild had been baptized in England, as is written above. But when they entered upon the government in Norway they had no success in converting the inhabitants, and all they accomplished was to destroy heathen fanes and to break up sacrifices, and this brought them much enmity. There came bad seasons in their time because there were many kings, and each had his henchmen about him. They required much for their upkeep, and they were most rapacious and did not abide by the laws King Hákon had established except when it suited them. They were all very handsome men, strong and of great stature, and accomplished in bodily skills. As says Glúm Geirason in the drápa composed about Harald, the son of Gunnhild:




109.   Skills twelve had he who scattered
Skylding gold and often
first and foremost was in
fiercest storm of battle.


Often the brothers were together, but at times each one by himself. They were cruel and courageous, great warriors and often victorious.


Chapter 3. Gunnhild Plots against Earl Sigurth


Gunnhild Kingsmother and her sons often conferred and took counsel about the government of the country. And one time Gunnhild asked her sons, “What are your intentions about ruling in Trondheim? You bear the title of kings, as have done your ancestors, but you have few troops and little land, and there are many of you to share it. Tryggvi and Guthröth have sway in Vík, and they do have some claim to it because their forebears ruled there, but Earl Sigurth has the mastery in all districts of Trondheim, and I don’t know what reason there exists for your letting an earl take the power over so great a territory from you. It seems strange to me that every summer you go on viking expeditions to other countries but allow an earl in your own land to take your inheritance from you. Your father’s father, Harald, after whom you are called, would have thought little of depriving an earl of land and life when he won all of Norway and ruled it afterwards until he grew old.”




Queen Gunnhild incites her sons.


Harald replied, “It isn’t as easy to kill Sigurth as to slaughter a kid or a calf. Earl Sigurth is of high birth and has many friends. He is well liked and shrewd. I feel sure that if he anticipates trouble from us, all the people of Trondheim will stand by him. And then there would be an ill outcome to whatever we undertook against him. Nor do I think any of us brothers would relish coming into the power of the men of Trondheim.”


Then Gunnhild said, “Then we shall proceed another way with our business and go a little more slowly. Let Harald and Erling remain in North Mœr this fall. I shall go with you. Then all of us together shall try and see what will come of it.” And they followed this plan.


Chapter 4. Grjótgarth Is Won Over by Harald


A brother of Earl Sigurth was called Grjótgarth. He was younger by a great deal and of lesser rank, neither did he have the title of earl. Still he had a company of men and was on viking expeditions during the summer, acquiring possessions. King Harald sent messengers into the Trondheim District to present Earl Sigurth with gifts and protestations of friendship, with the message that King Harald wanted to maintain with him the same kind of friendship as Earl Sigurth had had with King Hákon. This was followed by an invitation to the earl to visit King Harald, when they were to confirm their friendship. Earl Sigurth bade the messengers welcome and thanked them for the friendship offered him by the king, but said that he could not visit King Harald because of the press of things he had to do. However he sent with them gifts of friendship and kind and fair words in return for his offer of friendship; and with that they departed.


Then they sought out Grjótgarth and delivered the same message, offering him the friendship of King Harald, with good gifts and an invitation to visit him. And when they departed they had Grjótgarth’s promise that he would visit the king.


And on the day agreed upon, Grjótgarth came to the court of King Harald and Gunnhild. He was received there in the most friendly way and treated as a close friend, in such fashion that he was present when special arrangements and many secret affairs were dealt with. Finally they came to speak about Earl Sigurth, and in the way the king and the queen had previously agreed upon. They brought up before Grjótgarth how the earl had kept him in low estate; but if he were to join forces with them, the king said, then Grjótgarth should be his earl and have the domains that Sigurth had had. In the end they agreed on these terms: that Grjótgarth was to have spies out to find when it would be most advantageous for them to set upon Earl Sigurth, and then he was to let King Harald know. After these arrangements were made, Grjótgarth returned home with good gifts from the king.


Chapter 5. Earl Sigurth Is Surprised and Slain by Harald and Grjótgarth


In the fall Earl Sigurth journeyed to Stjóra Dale where he was entertained; and from there he went to Ogló1 to be entertained there. During the time he harbored suspicion of the kings, the earl always kept himself surrounded by many followers. But because a friendly exchange had taken place between him and King Harald he now did not have so large a company about him. Grjótgarth then informed King Harald that a more opportune chance might not offer to take the earl by surprise. That very same night the kings Harald and Erling sailed into the Trondheimfjord with four ships and many troops, steering in the night by starlight. Then Grjótgarth joined them, and late at night they came upon Earl Sigurth at Ogló, where he was being entertained. They set the house on fire and burned it down with the earl and all his company inside, then early that same day they sailed out of the fjord, proceeding south to Mœr, where they stayed for a long time.


Chapter 6. A Peace Is Concluded between Earl Hákon and the Sons of Gunnhild


Hákon, the son of Earl Sigurth, was in the inner reaches of the Trondheimfjord when he learned what had happened. Immediately everybody rushed to arms in all the Trondheim shires. Every ship which was fit for war service was launched. And when these forces were assembled they chose for earl and leader Hákon, the son of Earl Sigurth. With this fleet they sailed out of the Trondheimfjord. When the sons of Gunnhild heard of this they journeyed south to Raums Dale and South Mœr. Then both armies kept posted about the location of their enemies.


Earl Sigurth was slain two years after the fall of King Hákon.

As Eyvind Skáldaspillir says in his Háleygjatal: 1



110.   And Sigurth,
who to swans-of-
food provided,
was laid low
by the liege-lords,
Eirík’s sons,
on Ogló farm.




111.   And the Earl
by fire was felled,
kindled by
king’s scions who
in his trust
betrayed him foully.


Earl Hákon with the help of his kinsmen for three years maintained his power in the Trondheim districts, so that the sons of Gunnhild had no revenue from that province. He fought some battles with the sons of Gunnhild in which many men were slain. Of this Einar Skálaglamm3 makes mention in his poem Vellekla, which he composed about Earl Hákon:




112.   And the gladsome giver of
gleaming arm rings launched his
broad-spread fleet for battle, nor
brooked delay, ’gainst foemen.
And the hardy whittler of
Hethin’s red-moon-of-battle4
lifted arms to allay their
lust for making trouble.




113.   Nor was it needful to urge the
Njorth-of-valkyries’-game5 to
start the storm-of-flying-
steel to gladden ravens:
shaking from shield the hail of
shafts sent by his foemen,
the enemy of evil-doers
oaken-hearted lived on.




114.   Frays full many fought the
far-famed warrior, ere he, at the Æsir’s will, could
oust his foes from Eastland.6


Still further Einar tells how Earl Hákon avenged his father:




115.   Praises I sing of peerless
prince’s revenge on his
father Sigurth’s slayers:
sword he lifted in victory.




116.   Rained he showers of shrilling
shafts on faithless hersar,
ushering into Óthin’s
honored hall these heroes.
And the steerer of storm-tossed
steeds-of-Atli7 oft did
Leifi’s-weather launch ’gainst
luckless men of Harald.


As time wore on, friends of both mediated between them, arranging a settlement; because the farmers grew weary of harrying and warfare within the land. And with the help and counsel of influential men an agreement was reached between them, to this effect that Earl Hákon was to retain the same dominions in Trondheim as had had Earl Sigurth, his father; and the kings, the same dominion as had had King Hákon before them, and that peace was confirmed with binding oaths. Then Earl Hákon and Gunnhild were on the best of terms, though at times they schemed against each other and tried who could get the better of the other. So three more years passed. During that time Earl Hákon was in quiet possession of his lands.


Chapter 7. King Harald is Given a Sheepskin Cloak


King Harald most often dwelled in Horthaland and Rogaland, as did several of his brothers. Frequently they dwelled in the Harthanger District. One summer a seagoing ship, owned by Icelanders, arrived from Iceland. It had a cargo of sheepskin cloaks. They steered into the Harthangerfjord, because they had heard that a great multitude was gathered there. But when people came to bargain with them, no one wanted to buy the sheepskins. Then the skipper sought out King Harald, because they were acquainted, and told him about his difficulty. The king said he would go see them, and so he did. King Harald was a kindly disposed man and of a very cheerful disposition. He arrived there with a fully manned skiff and looked at their wares. He asked the skipper, “Will you give me one of your cloaks?”


“Gladly,” said the skipper, “and several, if need be.” Then the king took one of the sheepskin cloaks and hung it over his shoulders, whereupon he boarded the skiff again. But before they rowed away every one of his men had bought a sheepskin. A few days later such a multitude came there who all wanted to buy the cloaks that not a half of them got any. Then the king was called Harald Gráfeldr [Graycloak].


Chapter 8. The Birth of Earl Eirík


One winter Earl Hákon journeyed to the Uppland District where he was entertained, and there he slept with a woman of low birth; and after a while the woman was with child. And when it was born it proved to be a boy. It was sprinkled with water and given the name of Eirík. The mother brought the child to Earl Hákon and declared that he was its father. The earl had the boy brought up by a man called Thorleif the Wise. He lived in Methal Dale. He was a powerful man, wealthy, and a close friend of the earl. Soon Eirík grew to be a promising youth, of very handsome appearance, tall and strong at an early age. The earl showed little regard for him. Earl Hákon also was exceedingly handsome, not of tall stature but very strong, and a man of many accomplishments, shrewd, and a great warrior.


Chapter 9. King Harald and King Guthröth Have a Falling Out


One fall Earl Hákon journeyed to the Uppland District. And when he arrived in Heithmork he was met by King Tryggvi Óláfsson and King Guthröth Bjarnarson. Guthbrand of the Dales also came there. They had a meeting and conferred long and in secret; and they came to the agreement that they were to be mutual friends. Then they parted, each one returning to his own dominions.


Gunnhild and her sons learned about this, and they suspected that some treason against them was planned. They often conferred with one another. And when spring came, King Harald and King Guthröth, his brother, made it known that they planned to go on a viking expedition in summer, either to the west or to the east, as they were accustomed to do. They collected troops and launched their ships, preparing to start.


At their parting banquet, men drank heavily, and much was spoken over their drinks. Finally, they engaged in a matching of men, and they got to talking about the kings themselves. Someone said that King Harald was the foremost among the brothers in all respects. That made Guthröth furious, and he said he was in no wise inferior to Harald, and added that he was ready to test that. Soon both of them were so furious that they challenged one another and took to their weapons. But others who were wiser and less intoxicated checked them and went between them. Thereupon each boarded his ships, and there was little expectation that they would keep together. Guthröth sailed east [and south] along the land; but Harald steered out upon the high sea, announcing that he meant to sail west across the sea. But once he got outside the island belt he steered east along the land in the open sea. King Guthröth sailed the fairway within the islands and on across the Foldfjord. From there he sent word to King Tryggvi inviting him to join them and go freebooting into the Baltic during the summer. King Tryggvi was inclined to do so and gave a favorable answer. Learning that Guthröth had but a small fleet he joined him with one skiff. They met at Veggir, west of Sótaness. But when they went to confer with one another, King Guthröth’s men fell upon and slew King Tryggvi and twelve men with him. He is buried at a place now called Tryggvi’s Cairn.


Chapter 10. King Harald Slays King Guthröth Bjarnarson


King Harald for the most part sailed the outer course. He steered into the Foldfjord [Óslófjord] and arrived at Túnsberg during the night. There he learned that King Guthröth [Bjarnarson] was being entertained not far away inland. King Harald and his troops came there at night and surrounded the house. Guthröth and his followers issued out of it, and there was a short fight before King Guthröth fell with many of his men. Then King Harald returned and joined King Guthröth, his brother. Together they subdued all of the District of Vík.


Chapter 11. Harald Flees from the Sons of Gunnhild to Sweden


King Guthröth Bjarnarson had married an excellent woman of good birth. They had a son whose name was Harald. He was sent to Hrói the White, a king’s steward in Grenland,1 to be fostered by him. Hrói’s son was Hrani the Widely-Travelled. He and Harald were of about the same age and were foster brothers. After his father Guthröth’s fall Harald who was called Grenski [the Grenlander] fled first to the Uppland District, together with his foster brother Hrani and a few men. There he stayed for a while with kinsmen of his. The sons of Eirík searched diligently for the men who were bound by agreements with them,2 and most of all for those who could be suspected of rising against them. Harald’s kinsmen and friends advised him to leave the country. Then Harald the Grenlander went east to Sweden and looked for a place on board a ship to join men who wished to go on a viking expedition to acquire possessions. Harald was a most accomplished man.


Tósti was the name of a man in Sweden, one of the noblest and most powerful there of those who were not of princely birth. He was a great warrior and had been for a long time on viking expeditions. He was called Skoglar-Tósti. Harald the Grenlander joined his company, following Tósti in his expeditions in summertime; and Harald was esteemed highly by everybody. In the winter following, Harald stayed with Tósti. Sigríth was the name of Tósti’s daughter, a handsome and very haughty young woman. Later on she was married to the Swedish king, Eirík the Victorious, and their son was Óláf of Sweden, who afterwards ruled that country. Eirík died of a sickness at Uppsala, ten years after the fall of Styrbjorn.


Chapter 12. Earl Hákon Avoids the Sons of Gunnhild


The sons of Gunnhild collected a great force in Vík and sailed north along the land, summoning troops and ships from every district, and gave it to be understood that they were steering north to Trondheim against Earl Hákon. The earl was informed of this and collected troops and procured himself ships. And when he heard how great a fleet the sons of Gunnhild had, he proceeded south to Mœr, ravaging the countryside and killing many men. Then he sent back his ’army of Trondheim farmers, and himself harried in both North and South Mœr and in Raums Dale. He had his spies out all the way south of the headland of Stath, to inform himself about the fleet of the sons of Gunnhild. And when he heard that they had anchored in the Fjord District,1 waiting for favorable winds to sail north of Stath, he sailed south, rounding that promontory far out to sea, so that his sails could not be seen from the land, then proceeded east [south] along the land far out to sea, and got to Denmark, from where he made his way east into the Baltic, harrying there during the summer. The sons of Gunnhild sailed north to Trondheim with their fleet and stayed there a long time, collecting all the tribute and revenues. And as the summer wore on, Sigurth Slefa and Guthröth settled down there while Harald and his other brothers, together with the troops they had levied during the summer, returned to the east.


Chapter 13. Earl Hákon Regains His Possessions


In the fall, Earl Hákon sailed to Helsingjaland where he drew up his ships [for winter], then travelled overland through Helsingjaland and Jamtaland, then west over the Keel till he arrived in Trondheim. At once men began to gather about him, and he procured ships. But when the sons of Gunnhild learned this they embarked on their ships and sailed out of the [Trondheim] fjord. Earl Hákon proceeded to Hlathir and resided there during the winter, while the sons of Gunnhild remained in Mœr; and each of the two parties made descents on the other, killing many people. Earl Hákon held onto his dominions in Trondheim and resided there most often in the winter, but in summer he sometimes marched east over to Helsingjaland, got his ships ready, and sailed into the Baltic on viking expeditions. But sometimes he resided in Trondheim and had an army on foot, and then the sons of Gunnhild could not maintain their power north of Stath.


Chapter 14. King Sigurth Rapes Klypp’s Wife and Is Slain by Him


One summer Harald Graycloak sailed with his fleet north to Permia, harried there, and had a great battle with the Permians on the bank of the Dvína River in which Harald was victorious and killed many people, whereupon he plundered the land far and wide and acquired an immense amount of property. Glúm Geirason makes mention of this:




117.   Eastward saw I the athelings’
awer redden his broadsword
where Permian folk, frightened,
fled their burning dwellings.
Good fame got him youngish
gold-bestower on Dvína’s
banks, in fiercest battle
braving the storm-of-arrows.


King Sigurth Slefa came to the estate of the hersir Klypp, the son of Thórth Hortha-Kárason, a powerful chieftain of noble birth. Klypp was not at home at the time, but Álof, his wife, gave the king a good welcome, entertaining him with a banquet at which there was much drinking. Álof, the wife of Hersir Klypp, was the daughter of Ásbjorn and the sister of Járn-Skeggi who dwelled north in Yrjar. Hreithar was the brother of Ásbjorn and the father of Styrkár, the father of Eindrithi, the father of Einar Thambar-skelfir. In the night the king went to Álof’s bed and lay with her against her will. Then he departed. Later in fall King Harald and his brother Sigurth travelled up to Vors and summoned the farmers there to an assembly. At the assembly the farmers attacked them and wanted to kill them, but they escaped and left that place. King Harald went to the Harthanger District, and King Sigurth, to Alreksstath. And when Hersir Klypp learned that, he and his kinsmen gathered together and fell upon him. Vémund Volubrjót headed them. And when they came to the farm they made for the king. Klypp ran the king through with his sword, and he died; but in the same moment Erling the Old slew Klypp.


Chapter 15. Earl Hákon Again Seeks Refuge in Denmark


King Harald Graycloak and his brother, King Guthröth, collected a large army from the eastern part of the country, and with it proceeded north to Trondheim. As soon as Earl Hákon learned that, he gathered troops and sailed south to Mœr to harry there. His father’s brother, Grjótgarth, was charged to defend the land for the sons of Gunnhild. He summoned a force, as the kings had bidden him to. Earl Hákon sailed against him and gave him battle, and there fell Grjótgarth, and two earls with him and many men. Einar Skálaglamm makes mention of this:




118.   Hardy Hákon did with
helmet-hail1 o’ermaster—
waxed therewith the wine of
Way-Farer2—his enemies:
overbold, three athelings,
earls’ sons, in Thrótt’s-showers3
glory gained thereby the
gallant earl—dropped lifeless.


Thereupon Earl Hákon sailed into the open sea and by the outer course south along the land. He finally came to Denmark and journeyed to the court of Harald Gormsson, the king of Denmark, who welcomed him, and there he stayed that winter. At the court of the Danish king there was also a man called Harald. He was the son of Knút Gormsson and the nephew of King Harald. He had just returned from a viking expedition on which he had been for a long time and had gotten an immense amount of property. He was called Gold-Harald, and he thought himself well entitled to succeed to the throne of Denmark.


Chapter 16. King Erling Is Slain by the Farmers


King Harald and his brothers sailed north with their fleet and into the Trondheimfjord, and met no resistance. They levied tribute and taxes and exacted all the king’s revenues, making the farmers pay large contributions, because the kings had received little income from the Trondheim District for a long time, since Earl Hákon had resided there with many troops and had been embroiled with the kings.


In the fall King Harald proceeded to the southern provinces, together with those troops who came from there; but King Erling remained behind with his force. He had still many claims outstanding against the farmers and made hard conditions for them, but the farmers grumbled menacingly and were ill pleased with their losses. And in the winter the farmers gathered a large force and proceeded to where King Erling was being entertained, and attacked him. And there King Erling fell, and many of his men.


During the time when the sons of Gunnhild ruled in Norway there were bad seasons, and they became worse the longer they ruled, and the farmers attributed that to the kings, and also complained that they were grasping and treated the farmers harshly. It went so far that the people in all parts hardly had any grain or fish. In Hálogaland there was such famine and starvation that scarcely any grain grew there. The snow lay in all parts in midsummer, and the cattle had to stay in their stalls. As Eyvind Skáldaspillir said in a verse, once he came out and snow was falling fast:




119.   It snows on Svolnir’s yokemate.1
So, like the Finns, have we
our bud-eaters2 bound in
barn in middle summer.


Eyvind composed a drápa about all Icelanders,3 and they rewarded him by each farmer giving him a silver coin, and this was three pennies of silver in weight and white when scratched. But when the silver was collected at the Althing,4 it was decided to have a smith purify the silver. Later on, a cloak fibula was made of it, and after the smith had received his reward5 the fibula weighed fifty marks. This fibula they sent to Eyvind, but Eyvind had it cut into pieces and bought himself cattle for it. And in the spring there arrived a school of herrings at a certain outlying fishing station. Eyvind manned a rowboat with his man servants and tenants and rowed to the place where the herring had drifted. He spoke this verse:




120.   Let us row our restless
roller-horse from northward,
for our hunger to haul the
herring-school tail-feathered,
and see if, gracious Gerth-of-
gold-rings,6 the sea-silver7
dipped from the deep by men with
dragnets, could be sold us.


And all his money had been so entirely spent to buy the cattle that he had to buy the herrings with his arrows. He spoke this verse:




121.   A clasp I got, as goodly
gift sent me from Iceland,
which for a herd of cattle
wholly I dispended.
Then I sold for sea-fish—
seasons bad did cause this—
nearly all my arrows.
Erstwhile was I richer.