The Saga of Óláf Tryggvason


Chapter 1. Queen Ástríth Flees and Gives Birth to Óláf


Ástríth was the name of King Tryggvi Óláfsson’s wife. She was a daughter of Eirík Bjóthaskalli whose home was at Oprostathir.1 He was a powerful chieftain. Now after Tryggvi’s fall Ástríth fled secretly with all the possessions she could carry with her. She was accompanied by her foster father, called Thórólf Lousebeard, and he never left her. But other faithful friends of hers went to find out what could be learned about her enemies and where they were.


Ástríth was with child by King Tryggvi. She had herself rowed out on a lake, and with few other persons hid herself on a small island. There she bore her child, a boy. And when he was sprinkled with water he was given the name Óláf after his grandfather. There she kept in hiding during the summer, but when the nights became darker and the days grew shorter and the weather cooler, Ástríth started out again, accompanied by Thórólf and only a few others. They went through inhabited places only at night, so that they met with no one. And one day in the evening they arrived at the estate of Oprostathir where dwelled Eirík, Ástríth’s father. They proceeded cautiously. Ástríth sent men to the farm to inform him [about her], and he had them led to a small building and set the table for them with the best food. But after Ástríth’s companions had stayed there a short while, they left her. And she remained behind with two servant women and her son Óláf, Thórólf Lousebeard, and his six year old son Thorgísl. And there they stayed during the winter.


Chapter 2. Queen Gunnhild and Her Sons Inquire about Ástríth


After the slaying of King Tryggvi, Harald Graycloak and his brother Guthröth went to the estates Tryggvi had owned; but Ástríth was gone, and they could learn nothing about her. They heard the rumor that she was pregnant with the child of King Tryggvi. In the fall they journeyed north, as was mentioned before; and when they met their mother Gunnhild they told her about all that happened on the expedition. She inquired closely concerning Ástríth, and they told her of the rumors they had heard. But because of the fact that the sons of Gunnhild that same fall and the winter following had clashes with Earl Hákon, as was mentioned above, no search was made that winter for Ástríth and her son.


Chapter 3. Queen Ástríth Eludes Her Pursuers


In the spring following, Gunnhild sent spies to the Upplands and throughout Vík to find out what might be the facts about Ástríth. And when they returned they were able to tell her that Ástríth most likely was with her father Eirík and presumably brought up there the child she had with King Tryggvi. Then Gunnhild at once sent men well equipped with horses and arms, thirty in number, with Hákon, a friend of Gunnhild and a man of great power, as leader. She ordered them to journey to Oprostathir, the estate of Eirík, take possession of the son of King Tryggvi, and bring him to her. The men went on their way. But when they had come close to Oprostathir, some friends of Eirík caught sight of them and in the evening informed him about the approach of the men who had been sent. Then right away the same night Eirík got Ástríth ready to depart and with good guides sent her east to Sweden to Hákon the Old, a friend of his and a man of power. They left early in the night, and toward evening of the next day came to the district called Skaun, where they saw a large farm. They went up to it and asked for quarters during the night. They did not say who they were and wore poor clothes. The farmer there, whose name was Bjorn Eitrkveisa, a rich man but of evil nature, drove them away. So the same evening they journeyed to another settlement near by, called Vizkar. The farmer there, Thorstein by name, gave them shelter and entertained them well during the night, so they slept in good beds.


Chapter 4. Farmer Thorstein Hides Ástríth


Hákon and the men with him came to Oprostathir early in the morning and inquired about Ástríth and her son. Eirík told them she was not there. Hákon and his men searched the farm, remaining there a long time during the day, and obtained some information about where Ástríth had gone. They rode the same way and late in the evening came to Bjorn Eitrkveisa in Skaun and stayed there overnight. Hákon asked Bjorn if he could tell them anything about Ástríth. He said that some persons had come there that day who had asked for shelter—“but I drove them away and they are likely to have gotten quarters somewhere else in the settlement.”


One of Thorstein’s workmen in the evening came out of the forest and to Bjorn’s farm, because it was on his way. He observed that guests had come there and learned on what errand they were, and he informed farmer Thorstein. And when two thirds of the night had passed, Thorstein roused his guests and roughly told them to be on their way. And when they had set out and were outside the farm, Thorstein told them that Gunnhild’s men were at Bjorn’s and that they had come to look for them. Ástríth and her companions begged him for help, and he gave them a guide and some provisions. The guide led them into the forest to a pond with a small island in it overgrown with reeds. They had to wade out to the island, and there they hid in the reeds.


Early the next day Hákon left Bjorn’s farm and rode through the settlement, inquiring after Ástríth wherever he came. And when he arrived at Thorstein’s place he asked if they were there. Thorstein said that there had been persons there, but that at daybreak they had set off again eastward into the forest. Hákon asked Thorstein to go with him since he knew [all] the paths and hiding places. Thorstein went with them, but when they came into the forest he led them in a direction opposite to where Ástríth was. They sought them all day but did not find them. Then they returned and told Gunnhild about the result of their expedition. Ástríth and her companions went on their way and finally came to Hákon the Old in Sweden. There, Ástríth and her son Óláf remained for a long time and were well taken care of.


Chapter 5. Hákon the Old Refuses to Surrender the Boy Óláf


Gunnhild Kingsmother learned that Ástríth and her son were in Sweden. Thereupon she again sent Hákon with a goodly company east to Eirík, the king of Sweden, with noble gifts and a message of friendship. The messengers were well received and shown all honor. Then Hákon brought up his message before the king, which was that Gunnhild requested the king to support him in having Óláf Tryggvason return with him to Norway, because “Gunnhild wants to have him as her foster son.” The king supplied him with men, and they rode to the estate of Hákon the Old. Hákon with many friendly words prayed [to have] Óláf go with him. Hákon the Old replied politely, saying that his mother was to determine whether he should go; but Ástríth refused most determinedly to let him.


The messengers departed and told King Eirík what had passed. Thereupon they made ready to return home, but requested the king again to give them a force to take the boy away, whether or not Hákon the Old consented. And again the king furnished them a company of men. The messengers arrived at the estate of Hákon the Old and demanded that the boy should go with them. But when they received a negative answer they used high words, threatening violence, and flew into a rage. Then a certain thrall, called Bursti, ran forward and wanted to strike Hákon, and they narrowly escaped being beaten by the thralls. Thereupon they journeyed home to Norway and told Gunnhild how they had fared, and also that they had seen Óláf Tryggvason.


Chapter 6. Vikings Capture Ástríth and Óláf


Sigurth was the name of Ástríth’s brother, a son of Eirík Bjóthaskalli. He had been abroad a long time, staying in the east with King Valdamar in Gartharíki,1 where Sigurth was held in high esteem. Ástríth was eager to go there to join her brother Sigurth. Hákon the Old gave her a goodly retinue and outfitted her very well. She travelled with some merchants. By then she had been two years with Hákon the Old, and Óláf was three years old. And when they sailed east across the Baltic they were attacked by vikings from Esthonia. They captured both men and goods, killing some and dividing others among them as thralls. There, Óláf was separated from his mother, and Klerkón, an Esthonian, got him as his share, together with Thórólf and Thorgísl. Klerkón thought Thórólf too old to be a thrall, nor able to do slave work, and killed him; but the boys he took with him and sold them to a man called Klerk, in exchange for a good goat. Still a third man bought Óláf, purchasing him for a good cloak or garment. His name was Réás, his wife’s Rékón, and their son’s Rékóni. Óláf was there for a long time and treated well as the farmer loved him greatly. Óláf stayed six years in Esthonia as an exile.


Chapter 7. Sigurth Ransoms Óláf


Sigurth Eiríksson came to Esthonia, being sent there by King Valdamar of Hólmgarth to fetch from that land the tribute due to the king. Sigurth travelled in great state, accompanied by many men and with much money. In the market place he saw a boy of great beauty, and surmised that he probably was a foreigner there, and asked him about his name and kin. He gave his name as Óláf, and said his father was Tryggvi Óláfsson, and his mother, Ástríth, daughter of Eirík Bjóthaskalli. Then Sigurth understood that the boy was his sister’s son. He asked the boy how he had got there, and Óláf told him all that happened to him. Sigurth asked him to come with him to farmer Réás’ place. And when he arrived there he bought both boys, Óláf and Thorgísl, and took them with him to Hólmgarth, without letting it be known of what kin Óláf was, and maintained him well.


Chapter 8. The Queen of Gartharíki Takes Óláf under Her Protection


One day Óláf Tryggvason was standing in the market place, where there was a great multitude. He recognized Klerkón there, the man who had killed his foster father, Thórólf Lousebeard. Óláf had a small axe in his hand and struck Klerkón’s head with it so that it sank into his brain, and ran home at once to his quarters and told his kinsman Sigurth about it. Sigurth took Óláf speedily to the residence of the queen and told her what had occurred. Her name was Allógíá. Sigurth asked her to help the boy. Looking at the boy she answered that so handsome a boy must not be killed, and summoned a troop to come to her palace, fully armed.


There was such excellent protection by law in Hólmgarth that anyone who killed a person who had not forfeited his life, also should lose his. So according to their custom and laws all the populace rushed to find what had become of the boy. Then they were told that he was in the queen’s palace and that a fully armed guard was stationed there. Then the king was informed of what had taken place, and he approached with his guard, unwilling to have it come to a fight. He managed to bring about, first a truce and then a compromise. He adjudged fines which the queen then paid. From that time on Óláf stayed with the queen, and she was very fond of him.


The law obtained in Gartharíki that persons of royal blood were not allowed to reside there except by permission of the king. Then Sigurth told the queen of what kin Óláf was and for what reasons he was there—that he could not stay in his own country on account of his enemies, and asked her to talk about this with the king. She did so, requesting the king to help this king’s son, considering what hardships he had undergone. And her intercession effected it that the king agreed and took him into his protection and maintained him in a fashion befitting a king’s son.


Óláf was nine years old when he came to Gartharíki, and stayed there with King Valdamar another nine years. He was strikingly handsome, very tall and strong, and excelled all others in the accomplishments which are told about Norwegians.


Chapter 9. Earl Hákon Befriends Gold-Harald


Earl Hákon Sigurtharson was with Harald Gormsson, the Danish king, during the winter after fleeing from the sons of Gunnhild. He was filled with such great concern, that winter, that he took to his bed and often was sleepless. He ate and drank only enough to keep up his strength. It was at that time he sent some of his men secretly north to his friends in Trondheim, instigating them to kill King Erling if opportunity offered, and telling them that he meant to return to his lands at the beginning of summer. That very winter the men of Trondheim killed Erling, as is written above.


There was close friendship between Hákon and Gold-Harald. The latter revealed his designs to Hákon. Harald told him he planned to reside on the land and no longer on board his warships. He asked Hákon whether he thought King Harald would be willing to share his kingdom with him if he made that demand.


“I should think,” said Hákon, “that the king of Denmark would not refuse you any of your just claims. But you will find out more certainly about this if you bring it up before the king himself. I do not expect that you will obtain the kingdom unless you lay claim to it.”


Soon after this conversation Gold-Harald spoke to King Harald in the presence of many men of influence, friends of both. On that occasion Gold-Harald demanded of King Harald that he should let him have the half of the kingdom, as his birth entitled him to in Denmark. When he heard this demand King Harald waxed most furious and said that no one had asked King Gorm, his father, to be half-king of the Danish realm, nor Hortha-Knút [Harde-Canúte], his father’s father, nor Sigurth Serpent-in-the-Eye, nor Ragnar Lothbrók;1 and he flew into such a passionate rage that no one dared speak to him.


Chapter 10. King Harald of Denmark Asks Earl Hákon for Advice


Then Gold-Harald was more dissatisfied than ever, having dominion no more than before and, moreover, the wrath of the king. Then he came to his friend Hákon again, telling him of his troubles and asking him for his good advice, if he had any, so that he might obtain dominion, and telling him that he had thought of trying to gain possession of the realm by force. Hákon urged him not to utter such speech lest anyone should get to hear it.


“Your very life depends on it. Consider with yourself how much you might be able to accomplish. To execute such dangerous undertakings requires that a man be bold and undaunted and not hesitate to use fair means or foul, so that he may accomplish what he has set out to do. But it is risky to embark on a great enterprise and then to abandon it abjectly.”


Gold-Harald replied, “I mean to urge my claim in such fashion that I shall not hesitate to kill the king with my own hands, if opportunity offers, because he wants to deny me the power which by rights is mine.” With that they concluded their conference.


Then King Harald approached Hákon about the matter and told the earl of the claims Gold-Harald had made to the kingdom and of the answer he had given him—that he would under no condition yield up a part of his dominion; “but if Gold-Harald intends to persist in his claims I shall have no compunction to have him killed; because I suspect evil intentions on his part if he will not desist.”


The earl answered, “In my opinion Harald has gone so far in declaring himself that he is not likely to drop the matter. I expect that if he starts hostilities in the land, many will support him, mostly because of the popularity of his father. But it would be most unfortunate for you to kill your kinsman, for all would say he was innocent as matters stand now. Neither would I advise you to make yourself a lesser king than was your father, Gorm, who greatly increased his dominions and in no wise diminished them.”


Then the king said, “What, then, would be your counsel, Hákon? Shall I neither share the realm nor rid myself of this apprehension?”


“Let us meet again in a few days,” said Earl Hákon. “I shall in the meantime consider this difficulty and come to some decision.” Thereupon the king left, together with all his men.


Chapter 11. King Harald Invites Harald Graycloak to Denmark


Earl Hákon now again brooded a great deal and was concerned about plans, and allowed only a few to be in the house with him. A few days later King Harald came to speak with the earl. The king asked if he had thought about the matter they had touched on.


“I have,” replied the earl. “I have been wakeful about it both day and night ever since, and I have come to the conclusion that you should retain and govern all the realm which your father had and you inherited from him, and give Harald, your kinsman, power over another kingdom which may confer distinction on him.”


“What realm is that,” asked the king, “which I may let Harald have a title to if I keep undivided possession of Denmark?”


The earl replied, “Norway. The kings there mistreat all people of the land. Everyone there, as might be expected, hates them.”


The king said, “Norway is a large country with a hardy people, and difficult to attack with an army from abroad. That was our experience when [King] Hákon defended the land: we lost many men and won no victory. Besides, Harald Eiríksson is my foster son whom I have adopted.”


Then the earl replied, “I have known for a long time that you have lent your support to the sons of Gunnhild; but they have repaid you with nothing but ill. We shall be able to get hold of Norway in a much easier way than by fighting for it with the entire Danish army. Send messengers to your foster son Harald and offer him to have from you that land in fief which they had before in Denmark. Summon him here to meet you. And then Gold-Harald can in a short time win the realm of Norway from King Harald Graycloak.” The king said that it would be called dastardly to betray one’s own Danish foster son. “A preferable alternative would the Danes call it,” said the earl, “to kill a Norwegian viking rather than one’s own nephew.” They debated this a long time until finally they came to an agreement about this.


Chapter 12. Harald Graycloak Accepts the Invitation to Denmark


Gold-Harald again came to speak with Hákon. The earl told him that he had labored in his interest to such good purpose that there were great hopes that he might seize hold of the kingdom of Norway with little effort. “And then,” he said, “we shall maintain our friendship. I can be of great help to you in Norway. Get possession of that kingdom first. King Harald is a very old man now, and he has only one son, whom he has little love for and who is illegitimate.1


The earl urged the matter on Gold-Harald until the latter was well taken with it. And they all often discussed this—the king, the earl, and Gold-Harald. Then the Danish king sent messengers north to Norway to the court of Harald Graycloak. They travelled in great state and were well received by King Harald. They delivered this message that Earl Hákon was in Denmark nigh to death and almost out of his mind; also that King Harald of Denmark invited his foster son Harald Graycloak to visit with him; offering to him the revenues which he and his brothers had had in Denmark before, and [suggesting] that he should meet him in Jutland.


Harald Graycloak laid this proposition before Gunnhild and others of his friends, and there were many different opinions about it. Some thought there was something suspicious about a journey such as was proposed for them. But the most of them urged him to undertake it, because at that time there was such a famine in Norway that the kings hardly managed to feed their followers. It was then that the fjord where the kings resided most often received the name of Harthanger.2 The season in Denmark was fairly good, so people thought they might get provisions from there if King Harald received fiefs and revenues there. So before the messengers departed it was decided that King Harald would sail to Denmark in the summer, to meet with the king of Denmark and receive of him what had been offered.


Chapter 13. Earl Hákon Plans Gold-Harald’s Death


In the following summer King Graycloak sailed to Denmark with three warships. One was captained by Hersir Arinbjorn from the Fjord District. King Harald sailed from Vík to the Limfjord and anchored at Háls. He was told that the Danish king would be there very soon. But when Gold-Harald learned of his arrival, he sailed to that place with nine warships. Before, he had equipped that force to go on a viking expedition. Earl Hákon likewise had equipped his ships for the same purpose. He had twelve ships, all of large size. And when Gold-Harald had sailed away, Earl Hákon said to the king,


“Now I don’t know but we shall row on a levy of war and yet will have to pay a fine for not obeying the summons. Very likely Gold-Harald will now kill Harald Graycloak. And then he is likely to be the king in Norway. Do you believe he will be faithful to you, once you have given him such power? Because this winter he said to me he would kill you if chance offered. Now I shall win Norway for you and slay Gold-Harald if you pledge me your faith that I shall have no difficulty in being reconciled with you for that deed. I shall then become earl under you, confirming that by oaths, and with your support win Norway for you and afterwards possess myself of the land under your suzerainty and pay you tribute; then you will be a greater king than your father if you have dominion over two nations.” The king and the earl agreed on these terms. Thereupon Hákon departed with his fleet to search for Gold-Harald.


Chapter 14. Gold-Harald Fells Harald Graycloak


Gold-Harald arrived at Háls in the Limfjord and immediately challenged Harald Graycloak to do battle with him. And although Harald had a smaller force he straightway disembarked and made ready for the fight, putting his troops in battle array. And before the hostile forces met, Harald Graycloak incited his troops with fiery words to draw their swords, and at once ran forward to the head of his column, mowing down people right and left. As says Glúm Geirason in his Gráfeldardrápa:




122.   Words unwavering spoke the
war-play’s royal urger
gallant, who with gore his
glaive reddened in battle.
Hardy Harald bade his
henchmen draw from scabbard—
well that pleased the warriors—
wound-snakes for bloody combat.


There fell King Harald Graycloak. As says Glúm Geirason:




123.   Harald, fond of horses,
had to lie, the roller-
steed’s-steerer, on the spreading
strands of Eylimi’s inlet.1
Fell the fire-of-rivers2
free-handed giver at Háls thorp.
Caused the cunning double-tongued
comrade of kings3 this slaying.


With him fell most of Harald’s men. Hersir Arinbjorn fell there. Fifteen years had then passed since the death of Hákon, Æthelstān’s fosterson, and thirteen, since the death of Sigurth, earl of Hlathir. Priest Ari Thorgilsson says that Earl Hákon resided thirteen years on his patrimony in Trondheim before the fall of Harald Graycloak, and that during the last six years of Harald Graycloak’s life Hákon and the sons of Gunnhild fought one another, with one or the other fleeing the land.


Chapter 15. Earl Hákon Defeats and Hangs Gold-Harald


Shortly after the fall of Harald Graycloak, Earl Hákon encountered Gold-Harald and gave battle to him. Hákon was victorious, Gold-Harald was captured, and Hákon had him hanged on a gallows. Thereupon Hákon sought out the king and had little difficulty in achieving a reconciliation with him about the killing of his kinsman Gold-Harald. Thereupon King Harald summoned an army from all over his kingdom and sailed abroad with six hundred [720] ships. Along with him were Earl Hákon and Harald of Grenland, the son of King Guthröth, and many other chieftains who had fled from their possessions in Norway to escape the sons of Gunnhild. Coming from the south, the Danish king sailed his fleet into Vík, and the people all swore allegiance to him. When he arrived at Túnsberg a great multitude went over to him, and King Harald gave to Earl Hákon all the troops that had joined him in Norway, and bestowed on him the government of Rogaland, Horthaland, Sogn, the Fjord District, South Mœr, Raums Dale, and North Mœr—these seven districts King Harald bestowed on Earl Hákon to govern, with the same stipulations under which Harald Fairhair had given them to his sons; with this exception, however, that Hákon was to have possession, there and in Trondheim, of all royal estates and revenues. He was also to have the royal revenues he needed if an enemy invaded the land. To Harald of Grenland he gave Vingulmork, Westfold, and Agthir to Lithandisness,1 together with the title of “King” and let him in every way have the same power as before him his kinsmen had had and Harald Fairhair had given his sons. Harald of Grenland was eighteen years at the time, and later on became a man of importance. Thereupon King Harald of Denmark returned to his country with all his Danish troops.


Chapter 16. Gunnhild and Her Sons Flee Norway


Earl Hákon sailed north along the land with his fleet. Now when Gunnhild and her sons learned of these happenings they tried to collect a force, but were not successful. They resorted to the same plan as before and sailed west across the sea together with all those who would follow them, going first to the Orkneys, where they remained for a while. Before that time the sons of Thorfith Hausakljúf, Hlothvir and Arnvith, Ljót and Skúli, had ruled there as earls.


Earl Hákon took possession of all the land and resided in Trondheim that year. As says Einar Skálaglamm in his poem of Vellekla:




124.   Shires seven the silken
circlet’s1 wearer—startling
turn things took then—blameless
to his earlship added.


In the summer, when Earl Hákon sailed along the land from the south and the people of the land swore him allegiance, he commanded that throughout his dominions all people were to maintain the heathen temples and the sacrifices [in them]; and he was obeyed. As is said in the poem Vellekla:




125.   High the prince bade hold all
holy places in honor,
eke the fanes, ’mong folk far-
famed, which had been ravaged
ere the thewful Thór-of-shields2 with
thin-edged wand-of-wounds had—
guided was he by godheads—
gained the rule of Norway.




126.   And the glorious godheads
go back to their offerings.
Furthers that the folkland’s
far-famed warshield-reddener.3
Now grows the earth as erstwhile;
as before, again now
stand, undisturbed, in their
stead the blessed Æsir.




127.   Under the earl lies now
all the land of Norway
north of Vík; so widely
wields his power Hákon.


The first winter Hákon ruled over Norway, shoals of herring came near land all over the country, and during the fall before, the grain had matured wherever it had been sowed. And in the spring farmers provided themselves with seed corn, so that most of them could sow their fields, and a good season was promising.


Chapter 17. King Ragnfröth Invades Norway


King Ragnfröth, a son of Gunnhild, and Guthröth, another son—these alone were still living of the sons of Eirík and Gunnhild. As says Glúm Geirason in his Gráfeldardrápa:




128.   Half my hopes of riches
have now vanished, since in
dart-storm1 Harald died, the
doughty war-lord, lately.
But I know that both his
brothers—have full many
pinned their hopes for pelf on
princes twain—will help me.


After he had been one winter in the Orkneys, Ragnfröth outfitted an expedition and then sailed east to Norway with select troops and large ships. When he arrived in Norway he learned that Earl Hákon was in Trondheim. Then Ragnfröth steered north around Cape Stath and harried in South Mœr, and some people swore him allegiance; as often happens when bodies of warriors pass through a land, when those who are exposed to danger seek help, each where he thinks most likely.


Earl Hákon learned that there were hostilities south in Mœr. Then he procured ships and sent round the war-arrows. He got ready the fastest he could and sailed out of the fjord with a goodly force. He met Ragnfröth in the northern part of South Mœr, and gave battle to him at once. He had a larger fleet but smaller ships. There was a hard fight, and Ragnfröth had the upper hand. They fought about the forecastles, as was the custom then. There was a current in the sound, and all the ships drifted to landward. The earl also had his ships rowed stern foremost to where he thought it best to go on shore. And when the ships touched bottom, the earl with all his troops left the ships and drew them up on land so that their foes should not be able to pull them into the water. Then the earl put his troops in battle array on land and taunted Ragnfröth to come ashore. Ragnfröth laid his ships alongside the land, and the two forces shot at each other for a long time. Ragnfröth did not choose to go on land, and with that they parted.


Ragnfröth steered his fleet south around Stath Headland, because he was afraid of the land troops if [many of them] joined Earl Hákon. But the earl did not wish to do battle with him because he considered the difference in the size of ships too great against himself. So in the fall he sailed north to Trondheim, but King Ragnfröth had sway over all the land south of Stath—the Fjord District, Sogn, Horthaland, and Rogaland. He had many followers about him during the winter. And when spring set in he summoned a levy and got a large force together. He went about all these districts to procure troops, ships, and the provisions he needed.


Chapter 18. Earl Hákon Puts Ragnfröth to Flight


When spring came, Earl Hákon summoned troops from all the northern part of the country. A great force came to him from Hálogaland and Naumu Dale; and also from Byrtha to Stath he was joined by troops from all lands along the sea. Reinforcements came to him from all the Trondheim districts as well as from Raums Dale. It is said [in poems] that he had troops from four folk. Seven earls followed him, and together they had a huge number of men. As is said in Vellekla:




129.   Thereupon the prince, the
peace of Mœr’s defender,
salty waves did sail to
Sogn, eager for battle.
Out of the folklands four, the
led forth all the levy—
lay that in his purpose.




130.   Eke on their swift sail-steeds
seven raven-gladdening
hersar hurried, joining
Hákon, to the conflict.
Rang all Norway’s realm when
clashed in carnage—bloody
corpses floated past headlands.


With all this force Earl Hákon rounded Cape Stath, sailing south. Then he heard that King Ragnfröth with his fleet had moved into the Sogn District. So he proceeded there and encountered Ragnfröth. The earl moved his ships to the land and marked out a battlefield3 for King Ragnfröth, choosing his ground. As is said in Vellekla:




131.   Waged the wide-famed chieftain
war-play, slaughtering many.
Again then Hákon gathered
galleys, his sword to redden.
Bade the buckler’s-destroyer
beach the rudder-horses,
and in order of battle
endlong ’rayed his warriors.


Then there was a very great battle. Earl Hákon had a much larger force and was victorious. This happened on Thinganess, where Sogn and Horthaland meet. King Ragnfröth fled to his ships, but he lost three hundred [360] of his men. As is said in Vellekla:




132.   Stern the struggle, ere the
stalwart bonders’ leader
under eagles’ beak could
eftsoons thrust4 three hundred.
Seaward sailing then his
sloops of war, the active
gold-dispender grim—a
gain was that—his foes dogged.


After this battle King Ragnfröth fled from Norway, and Earl Hákon restored the country to peace and let the great army which had been under his leadership during the summer return north, but himself remained there that fall and winter.


Chapter 19. Earl Hákon’s Children by Thóra


Earl Hákon had married Thóra, daughter of Skagi Skoptason, a man of high rank. She was an unusually beautiful woman. Their sons were Svein and Heming. Bergljót, their daughter, later married Einar Thambarskelfir. Earl Hákon was a great lover of women and had many children. One of his daughters was named Ragnhild. He gave her in marriage to Skopti Skagason, brother of Thóra. The earl loved Thóra so much that he favored her kinsmen above all others; and especially Skopti, his son-in-law, he valued most of all her relatives. The earl assigned great revenues to him in Mœr; and whenever they were on an expedition by sea, Skopti was to moor his ship next to the earl’s, and no one was to presume to moor his ship between them.




Earl Hákon’s ships at anchor during the night.


Chapter 20. Earl Eirík Slays Skopti Skagason


One summer when Earl Hákon had summoned a fleet, Thorleif the Wise was the skipper of one of his ships. Eirík, who was by then some ten or eleven years old, was on board with him. And when they dropped anchor in harbors in the evening, Eirík would have it that they should choose their berth next to the earl’s ship. But when they arrived south in Mœr, Skopti, the earl’s son-in-law, joined them with a well-manned warship. And when rowing toward the fleet, Skopti called out to Thorleif to move out of the place where they were moored to make room for his ship. Eirík replied quickly, requesting Skopti to find another berth. Earl Hákon overheard this—that his son Eirík thought himself so important that he did not care to yield to Skopti—and he called out at once, demanding that Thorleif remove his ship, or else it would be worse for them and that they might expect a drubbing.


When Thorleif heard this he called to his men and bade them undo the hawsers [with which they had made fast to the earl’s ship], and they did so. Then Skopti moved in the space he was accustomed to occupy next to the earl’s ship.


Whenever the two met, Skopti was to inform the earl of all happenings, and the earl was to tell him if he had heard of them before him. He was called Tidings-Skopti.


In the following winter Eirík stayed with his foster father Thorleif, but early in spring Eirík procured for himself a company of men. Thorleif gave him a skiff with fifteen rowers’ benches, and with all equipment, tenting, and provisions. Then Eirík sailed out of the fjord and south to Mœr. Tidings-Skopti, with a skiff with fifteen rowers’ benches, and all manned, was travelling from one of his estates to another. Eirík steered up to him and gave battle. There Skopti fell, but Eirík gave quarter to the men who were still living. As says Eyólf Dáthaskáld1 in his Bandadrápa:




133.   Fell the young prince, fearless—
fatal was that battle—
late at eve on the enemy;
equal were their forces,
when the wound-flame’s wielder,2
war-play eager—oft he
wolves fed on the flesh of
fallen foe—slew Skopti.




134.   Hardy hoard-dispender3
hastened death for Hákon’s
steward—bloody the struggle—
stoutly battled Skopti.
Was then the wayfaring
wealth-bestower slain by
sovran’s scion in combat.
Seized the land by gods’ will.4


Then Eirík sailed south along the land and finally arrived in Denmark. There he sought King Harald Gormsson at his court, and stayed with him during the winter. But in spring the Danish king sent Eirík north to Norway after bestowing on him the title of “earl” and the revenues of Vingulmork and Raumaríki, under the same conditions as the vassal kings had had before. As says Eyólf Dáthaskáld:




135.   Few of the folklord’s years were,
fight-filled—hear my poem—
spent on his sea-serpent5
sleek in southern waters,
ere the athelings, ever
eager for storm-of-arrows,
had the young helm-clad
hero rule over folk-lands.


Earl Eirík in time became a great chieftain.


Chapter 21. Óláf Tryggvason Leaves Hólmgarth


All this time Óláf Tryggvason was in Gartharíki, greatly favored by King Valdamar and loved by the queen. King Valdamar made him chieftain over the troops which he dispatched to defend his country. Óláf fought some battles, and the command of this army was in good hands. He himself kept a company of warriors, given him by the king, at his own expense. Óláf was very free-handed with his men and thus became popular. But as often happens when foreigners gain power or acquire such great fame, beyond that got by men of the country, he was envied by many for being greatly favored by the king and no less by the queen. Many warned the king against giving Óláf too much power, “because, if he will lend himself to inflict harm on you or the land, a man with such achievements and so popular is most risky for you to have. Nor, for that matter, do we know what he and the queen are always talking about.”1


It was often the custom of powerful kings to let their queens have half their bodyguard, maintaining them at their own expense, and for that purpose [to let them] have such revenues and taxes as were needed. That was the case also with King Valdamar; the queen had a bodyguard no smaller than that of the king, and they vied with each other to obtain men of prominence, both wanting to get hold of such.


It so happened that the king came to believe such words which people addressed to him, and he became somewhat cool to Óláf, showing displeasure. As soon as Óláf discovered that, he told the queen about it, and also that he was eager to go to the northern lands; also, that his kinsmen had had dominion there before and that he thought it likeliest that he would prosper most there. The queen bade him to go if he so pleased and said that he would be considered a man of distinction wherever he was. Thereupon he prepared to leave. He boarded a ship and sailed out into the Baltic. And as he sailed west he touched on Borgundarholm, 2 where he made a descent and harried. The men of the country rushed down to the strand and gave battle to him, but Óláf was victorious and got much booty.


Chapter 22. Óláf Tryggvason Marries Princess Geira


While Óláf lay with his ship by Borgundarholm he experienced a sharp gale with strong seas and could not hold himself there, so he sailed south to Wendland,1 where he found a good harbor. He proceeded peaceably and stayed there for some time. Búrizláf2 was the name of the king of Wendland. His daughters were Geira, Gunnhild, and Ástríth. At the place where Óláf had landed, Princess Geira had sway and power, and a man called Dixin had most to say with her. And when it was learned that unknown men had landed there who were of lordly appearance and were peaceably inclined, Dixin went to meet them, bringing a message from Queen Geira to the effect that she would offer winter quarters to the men who had come there; because summer was well-nigh past and the weather was severe, with hard storms. And when Dixin met them he soon was aware that their chieftain was a man distinguished both in appearance and by birth. Dixin told them that the queen invited them to her court with an offer of friendship. Óláf accepted that invitation and proceeded to Queen Geira’s court to spend the winter there. They took a great liking to one another; so much so that Óláf asked for Princess Geira’s hand, and it was decided that Óláf was to marry her that winter. Then he became the governor of that country with her. Hallfröth Vandræthaskáld3 mentions this in the drápa which he composed about King Óláf:




136.   On the island Óláf
arrows with blood colored—
why should that be hidden?
Hólmgarth also felt him.4


Chapter 23. Earl Hákon Retains the Tribute to Denmark


Earl Hákon ruled over Norway and paid no tribute, for the reason that the king of Denmark forgave him all the tribute which was due to him from Norway, because of the trouble and expense the earl had been put to in defending his country against the sons of Gunnhild.


Chapter 24. King Harald Summons Earl Hákon to Aid Him against Emperor Otto


At that time Otto1 was emperor in Saxland. He sent word to King Harald of Denmark, demanding that he should let himself be baptized and adopt the true faith, together with the people he ruled, or else he would move against him with his army. Thereupon Harald had the defences of his land put in order. He had the Danavirki2 maintained and his warships made ready for action. Then he sent messengers to Earl Hákon in Norway requesting him to join him early in the spring with all the forces he could muster. So in spring Earl Hákon summoned a levy in all his dominions, and a great force it was; and with it he sailed to Denmark to join the king of Denmark. The king received him most graciously. Many other chieftains were with the king of Denmark at that time in order to lend him support, so he had a huge force.


Chapter 25. Óláf Harries in the Baltic


As was set down before, Óláf Tryggvason had been in Wendland during the winter. During that season he proceeded to those districts in Wendland which had been subject to Queen Geira, but had at that time forsworn all allegiance to her and refused to pay tribute. Óláf harried there, killing many, burning the houses down for others, and took much booty, subduing these shires, whereupon he returned to his stronghold.


Early in spring Óláf got his ships ready and sailed out to sea. He sailed along the coast of Scania and went on land there [to harry], but the men of the country gathered and fought him. Óláf was victorious and took much booty. Then he sailed east to the Island of Gotland. There he captured a merchantman which was owned by men from Jamtaland. They offered stout resistance. In the end, Óláf cleared the ship of men, killing many, and took all their goods. A third battle he had on Gotland, where Óláf was the victor and took much booty. As says Hallfröth Vandræthaskáld:




137.   Erstwhile, the fanes’-flouter1
felled in battle—early
was he wont to war-play—
Wends and Jamts in the Baltic.
Mortal was to many
men of Gotland he who
the stern storm-of-spears did
stir on shores of Scania.


Chapter 26. Earl Hákon Helps Defend the Danavirki


Emperor Otto drew together a great army. He had troops from Saxony, Franconia, and Frísia, from Wendland King Búrizláf had joined him with many troops; and in that force there was, in company with him, Óláf Tryggvason, his son-in-law. The emperor had a large force of knights, and an even greater one of foot soldiers. Also from Holstein he was joined by a large army. King Harald sent Earl Hákon and the Norwegians with him south to the Danavirki, there to defend his land. As is said in Vellekla:




138.   Eke ’neath the nimble-footed
nags-of-Áli1 fared he
early in din-of-darts with
Denmark’s king to battle.
Helm-clad, Sigurth’s son and
Sogn’s lord and the Horthar’s,2
sailed over the salt waves
south to join the Danish.




139.   And toward winter would the
wealth-dispending Danish
folk-king test the troth of
tough-minded Earl Hákon,
when the breastwork’s builder3
bade the doughty fighter
guard the goodly ramparts
’gainst the Saxons’ onrush.


Emperor Otto proceeded with his army from the south to the Danavirki, but Earl Hákon with his troops defended the wall of the fortification. The Danavirki is disposed in this fashion: two fjords penetrate the land, each from its side; and between the heads of these fjords the Danes had constructed a great fortified wall of stone and turf and timbers, and dug a broad and deep moat outside of it, and there were strongholds in front of the gates of the fortification. A great battle began. In Vellekla this is said about it:




140.   Not easy was’t to enter
into breastwork by him4
defended, fiercely though the
foeman stormed against it,
when with Franks and Frisians
fared the battle-urger5
had the roller-steed’s rider
raised a host—from southward.


Earl Hákon stationed troops in all strongholds, but the greater part of his forces he disposed along the walls to put up a defence where the attack was heaviest. Many in the emperor’s army fell there, and they were not able to take the stronghold. Then the emperor desisted and tried no longer there. As is said in Vellekla:




141.   Fray most fierce arose, when
foemen, shield ’gainst shield, clashed.
Stalwart steerer-of-sea-nags
stood his ground ’gainst Southrons.
Promptly the prow-steed’s-rider6
put to flight the Saxons.
There it was he threw back
throngs of the assailants.


After this battle Earl Hákon returned to his ships, intending to sail back north to Norway, but he had contrary winds. So he remained anchored in the Limfjord.


Chapter 27. King Harald and Earl Hákon Are Baptized


Emperor Otto then withdrew with his army to the Slé[fjord]. There he gathered a fleet and moved his troops across the fjord into Jutland. When Harald, the king of Denmark learned of that he advanced against him with his army. A great battle arose, and in the end the emperor won the victory, and the Danish king fled to the Limfjord, where he rowed over to the Island of Mársey. Thereupon messages were interchanged between emperor and king, and an armistice was set and a meeting between them arranged to take place on the Island of Mársey. Then Poppo, a holy bishop, preached the faith to King Harald. He bore a glowing iron in his hand, and showed his hand unburned to King Harald. Thereupon King Harald let himself be baptized, together with the whole Danish army.


Before, when King Harald was settled on the Island of Mársey, he had sent messengers to Earl Hákon to come to his support. And the earl had arrived at the island when the king had let himself be baptized. Then the king sent him word to come to him, and when they met, the king forced the earl to accept baptism. So Earl Hákon and all the men who had accompanied him were baptized. Then the king gave him priests and other learned men along and commanded that the earl was to have all the people in Norway baptized. Thereupon they parted. Earl Hákon sailed to the mouth of the fjord and there waited for a favorable breeze. And when a breeze arose which he thought would carry him out to sea, he set ashore all learned men and sailed out to sea.


The wind veered to southwest and west, and the earl then sailed east [north] through the Eyrar Sound,1 harrying on both sides. Then he crossed over to Scania and harried wherever he landed. And when he arrived at the Gauta Skerries2 in the east, he anchored and made a great sacrifice. Then two ravens came flying, croaking loudly. Then the earl believed that Óthin had accepted the sacrifice and that it was a propitious time to fight. He burned all his ships and went up on land with all his troops and proceeded, harrying wherever he came.




Earl Hákon puts the clerics on land.


Then Earl Óttar who ruled over Gautland advanced against him. There was a great battle. Earl Hákon was the victor, and Earl Óttar and many of his men fell. Earl Hákon went about Gautland, both east and west, harrying everywhere, until he arrived in Norway, when he took the way overland north till he arrived in Trondheim. This is related in Vellekla:




142.   Asked he then the oracle,
up on land he wended.
Got him the god-of-war3 for
game-of-swords a day set.
And the rampart-reddener
ravens twain saw flying.
Would the shield-shatterer
shorten the lives of Gautar.




143.   Fought the earl, where ere this
atheling under Sorli’s
house4 never had harried,
high-souled, storm-of-arrows.
Farther from the swans’-road
fared no man ’neath gold-dight
helmet: Hákon through the
whole of Gautland wended.




144.   Battlefields with bloody
bodies covered were by
god-descended scion of
sea-kings. Got Óthin the fallen.
Who can doubt but deities
deign to govern his life-course.


Chapter 28. Óláf Tryggvason Returns to Wendland with King Búrizláf


Emperor Otto returned to his realm of Saxland. He and the king of Denmark parted in friendship. It is said that Emperor Otto became godfather to Svein, the son of Harald, and bestowed his name upon him and had him baptized with the name of Otto Svein. King Harald of Denmark held fast to the Christian faith till his dying day. King Búrizláf then returned to Wendland, and with him, Óláf, his son-in-law. Of this battle Hallfröth Vandræthaskáld makes mention in his Óláfsdrápa:




145.   The steerer-of-sea-steeds then
steel-clad warriors in Denmark
from sarks of mail severed,
south of Heithabýr Town.1


Chapter 29. Óláf Tryggvason Reverts to the Viking Life


Óláf Tryggvason had been three years in Wendland when his wife Geira was stricken with a disease which brought about her death. This grieved Óláf so that he liked it no longer in Wendland. So he procured himself warships and again went on viking expeditions, harrying first in Frísia and then in Saxland and even in the land of the Flemings. As Hallfröth Vandræthaskáld says [in his Óláfsdrápa]:




146.   Slew oft Tryggvi’s scion
Saxon warriors—food he
furnished wilding wolves by
weapon-thing1—in Southland.
Far and wide the foe of
Frisians gave the witch’s-
steed2 dark blood to drink, by
dealing many the death-blow.




147.   He who helps men’s strife to
halt,3 killed many on Valkeren,4
and with Flemings’ flesh he
fattened hungry ravens.


Chapter 30. Óláf Harries in the British Islands


After that, Óláf Tryggvason sailed to England, harrying far and wide in that land. He sailed all the way north to Northumberland and harried there. From there he sailed north to Scotland and harried there far and wide. Then he set his course to the Hebrides, where he had some battles. From there he sailed south to the Isle of Man and had some engagements there. He also harried far and wide in Ireland. Then he sailed to Wales, harrying that land far and wide, and also the country called Cumberland. From there he sailed west [south] to Valland [France] and harried there. Thereupon he steered east [north], intending to reach England. Then he arrived at the Scilly Islands, which lie in the sea west of England. As says Hallfröth Vandræthaskáld:




148.   Difficult to deal with
did he prove to the English;
the arrow-storm’s urger
awed the Northumbrians.
Wasted the wolves’-feeder
widely Scottish folklands.
The gold-ring-giver reddened
glaives boldly on Man Isle.




149.   The bender-of-the-bow then let
British islanders perish,
Irishmen eke—was he
eager ever for glory.
Smote he those on Celtic
soil who dwelled—the ravens’
hunger dwindled—hewed eke
hordes of Cymric peasants.


Óláf Tryggvason passed four years on viking expeditions after leaving Wendland and before arriving at the Scilly Islands.


Chapter 31. Óláf Tryggvason Meets a Hermit and Is Converted


When Óláf Tryggvason was anchored in the Scilly Islands he heard that on one of the islands there lived a soothsayer who prophesied future events which to many seemed to come true. Óláf grew curious and wished to test the prophecies of this man. He sent to him one of his handsomest and tallest men, attiring him most splendidly, and bade him say that he was the king, because Óláf had become famous in all lands for being handsomer and more stately and taller than any other man. After having left Gartharíki he had not used his own name but called himself Óla and given out that he was from Gartharíki.


But when this messenger came to the soothsayer and said he was the king, he received this answer: “You are not the king, and I give you the advice to be faithful to your king.” Nor did he say more to this man. The messenger returned and related this to Óláf, and Óláf was all the more eager to meet this man after hearing that he had answered in this wise, and he doubted no longer that he was a prophet. Then Óláf himself sought him out and spoke with him and asked what he would prophesy concerning whether he would attain a kingdom or be fortunate otherwise. The hermit replied with a holy prophecy.


“You will become a famous king and work famous deeds. You will bring many men to the true faith and baptism, and in so doing benefit both yourself and many others. And lest you doubt my answer, let this be a token: when you come to your ships you shall encounter a traitor band, and that will lead to fighting, and you will put to death some of the band, and you will yourself receive a mortal wound and be borne on your shield to the ship. But you will recover from this wound within seven days and be baptized soon thereafter.”


Thereupon Óláf returned to his ships, and there he met a hostile band aiming to kill him and his crew, and it all turned out as the hermit had predicted—Óláf was borne wounded to his ship and, too, he recovered in seven days. Then Óláf believed that this man had told him the truth and that he was a real prophet, from whatever source he had the gift of prophecy.


Then Óláf again visited this man, spoke about many things with him, and asked him whence he had this wisdom that he could foretell the future. The hermit said that it was the god of Christian men himself who let him know all he was anxious to know. He told Óláf of many miracles of God, and persuaded Óláf to be baptized; and so Óláf and all his men were baptized there. He remained there for a long time, learning about the true faith, and took with him priests and other learned men from there.


Chapter 32. Óláf Defeats Alvini and Marries Gytha


In the fall Óláf sailed from the Scilly Islands to England and anchored in some harbor. He proceeded peaceably, for England was Christian, and he too was a Christian. A summons had gone about the land that all men should come to the assembly. And when the assembly met, there came to it a certain queen called Gytha. She was the sister of Óláf Kváran who was a king in Ireland [with his seat] in Dublin.1 She had been married in England to a powerful earl. He had passed away, and she maintained herself in the earldom after him.


There was a certain man in her dominions called Alvini, a great champion, who challenged others to single combat. He had asked her in marriage, but she answered that she meant herself to choose the man living in her dominions whom she would marry; and the assembly had been called for the purpose of letting Gytha make her choice of a mate. Alvini had met there, arrayed in most splendid garments, and there were many others there in fine apparel.


Óláf had come there, dressed in his workaday clothes, with a fur cloak over them. He and his company stood apart from the others. Gytha walked about, looking at everyone who seemed to her of manly deportment. And when she came to where Óláf stood and looked up into his face, she asked him who he was. He gave his name as Óla. “I am a foreigner here,” he said.


Gytha said, “If you care to marry me I will choose you.”


“I shall not refuse that,” he said. He asked what her name was, and what her kin and origin.


“I am,” she said, “the daughter of a king in Ireland. I was married in this country to the earl who had sway here. And since he passed away I have ruled here. There have been men who have asked for my hand, but no one to whom I would be married. My name is Gytha.” She was young and handsome.


They discussed this matter and came to an agreement between them. Óláf betrothed himself to Gytha. This displeased Alvini greatly. But it was the custom in England that if two men contended about a matter, it should be decided by single combat. Alvini challenged Óláf Tryggvason to single combat to settle this matter, and they agreed on a time for the fight. They were to have twelve men on either side. When they met, Óláf told his men to do as he did. He had a big battle-axe, and when Alvini was about to hew at him with his sword he knocked the sword out of his hands, and with another blow he felled Alvini. Then Óláf bound him fast. And all of Alvini’s men fared thus—they were knocked down, tied, and led to Óláf’s quarters. Thereupon he ordered Alvini to leave the land and not to return, and took possession of all his property. Then Óláf married Gytha and resided in England, but at times in Ireland.


Once Óláf was in Ireland on some warlike expedition with his fleet. And when they required to make a raid on the shore for food, some men went on land and drove a great number of cattle down to the shore. Then a farmer ran after them and prayed Óláf to let him have the cows he owned, and Óláf told him he could have his cows if he recognized them, “but don’t delay us.” The farmer had with him a large cattle dog. He pointed him into the flock, where many hundred cattle were being driven. The dog circled the whole herd and drove away as many cows as the farmer said he owned, and they all bore the same mark, so they believed that the dog had recognized them properly, and they thought the dog marvellously clever. Then Óláf asked the farmer if he would give him the dog.


“Gladly,” said the farmer. Óláf right away gave him a gold ring in return and promised him his friendship. That dog was called Vígi and was a most outstanding dog. Óláf kept him for a long time afterwards.


Chapter 33. King Harald Gormsson Is Discouraged from Invading Iceland


Harald Gormsson, king of Denmark, learned that Earl Hákon had renounced Christianity and had harried far and wide in the Danish realm. Then he levied troops and sailed to Norway. And when he came to the domain ruled by Earl Hákon he harried there and laid all the land waste. At last he came to the islands called Solundir.1 Only five farms remained un-burned in Lær Dale in the Sogn District, and the people all fled into the mountains and forests with all the possessions they could take along. Then the king of Denmark had the intention to sail with his fleet to Iceland to avenge the insult which all Icelanders had heaped on him. It had been put into the laws in Iceland that a lampooning verse about the Danish king be composed for every head in the land. The reason for this was that when a vessel owned by Icelanders was shipwrecked in Denmark, the Danes appropriated all the cargo, calling it goods drifted ashore. And it was a bailiff of the king, called Birgir who was responsible for that. Lampooning verses were composed about him and the king. Among them is this one:




150.   South of the sea when Harald
set upon the mare-horse,
wax-soft was his limb and
weak, though he a stallion.
Was base, mare-like2 Birgir
banned from the isle by land-wights
angrily eying him—
all the world did see that.


King Harald bade a warlock to journey to Iceland and find out what he could tell him. He went in a whale’s-shape. And when he came to Iceland he proceeded west and north around it. He saw that all mountains and hills were full of land-wights, some big and some small. And when he came to the Vápnafjord he swam into the fjord, intending to go ashore there. Then a big dragon came down the valley, followed by many serpents, toads, and adders that blew poison against him. Then he swam away, heading west along the land, all the way to the Eyjafjord, and he entered into that fjord. Then there flew against him a bird so large that its wings touched the mountains on either side of the fjord, and a multitude of other birds besides, both large and small. Away he backed from there, swimming west around the land and then south to the Breithafjord and entered that fjord. Then came against him a big bull, wading out into the water and bellowing fearfully. A multitude of land-wights followed him. Away he backed from there, swimming around Reykjaness, and intended to come ashore at Víkarsskeith. Then came against him a mountain giant with an iron bar in his hand, and his head was higher than the mountains, and many other giants were with him. From there he swam east along the whole land—“and there was nothing but sands and a harborless coast,” he said, “with a tremendous surf to seaward; and the sea between the lands is so wide that it is not feasible to sail there with warships.”


At that time there dwelled Brodd-Helgi in the Vápnafjord District, Eyólf Valgertharson in the Eyjafjord District, Thórth Gellir in the Breitha-fjord District, and Thórodd the Priest in the Olfus District.


Thereupon the king of Denmark sailed his fleet south along the land, and then to Denmark. But Earl Hákon had all the land cultivated again and paid no more tribute to the king of Denmark afterwards.


Chapter 34. Of King Svein Forkbeard and the Jómsvíkings


Svein, the son of King Harald, who later was called Forkbeard, demanded a share of the kingdom from his father; but then it was as before, that King Harald would not divide the Danish realm into two parts and did not give him any part of his dominion. Then Svein procured himself warships and indicated that he would go on a viking expedition. And when his troops were gathered and he had been joined by Pálna-Tóki1 of the Jómsvíkings, Svein sailed to Seeland and into the Isafjord. There, King Harald lay moored with his fleet, making ready to go on a sea expedition. Svein gave him battle, and it was a severe engagement. Then support arrived for King Harald, so that Svein was overpowered and fled. In the battle King Harald received mortal wounds. Thereupon Svein became king of Denmark.


At that time Sigvaldi ruled as earl in Jómsborg in Wendland. He was the son of King Strút-Harald, who had ruled the province of Scania. Heming and Thorkel the Tall were the brothers of Sigvaldi. Another chieftain over the Jómsvíkings was Búi the Stout of Borgundarholm and his brother Sigurth. There was also Vagn, the son of Áki and Thorgunna, and sister’s son of Búi. Sigvaldi had taken King Svein captive and brought him to Jómsborg in Wendland and compelled him to make peace with Búrizláf, the king of the Wends, with him, Earl Sigvaldi, as the umpire. Sigvaldi was married to Ástríth, a daughter of King Búrizláf. If he would not, Sigvaldi said, he would deliver him up to the Wends. But the king knew that they would torture him to death, and therefore he agreed to the peace the earl would arrange. The earl decreed that King Svein should marry Gunnhild, another daughter of King Búrizláf, and King Búrizláf should marry Thyra, the daughter of Harald and sister of King Svein; that both of them should retain their own kingdom, and that there should be peace between their countries. After that, King Svein returned to Denmark with Gunnhild, his spouse. Their sons were Harald and Knút [Canúte] the Powerful. At that time the Danes constantly threatened to proceed with a fleet to Norway against Earl Hákon.


Chapter 35. The Vows of Svein and the Jómsvíkings


King Svein arranged a great feast, requesting the presence of all the chieftains in his realm. He intended to honor his father Harald with a funeral feast, and enter into his inheritance. Shortly before that also Strút-Harald of Scania and Véseti of Borgundarholm, the father of Búi the Stout, had passed away. Then the king sent word to the Jómsvíkings that Earl Sigvaldi and Búi and their brothers should come and inherit from their fathers at this funeral feast which the king made. The Jómsvíkings came to the feast with all their most valorous men. They had forty ships from Wendland, and twenty from Scania. A very great multitude was assembled there.


On the first day of the banquet, before King Svein ascended the high-seat of his father, he drank to his memory and made the vow that before three years had passed he would have invaded England with his army and killed King Æthelred or driven him from his country. All who were at the funeral feast were to drink that memorial toast. The chieftains of the Jómsvíkings were served the biggest horns with the strongest drink there was. When that memorial horn had been emptied, then all were to drink a memorial toast to Christ, and the Jómsvíkings were always served with the fullest horns and the strongest drink. The third memorial toast was brought to [Archangel] Michael, and all drank that. Then Earl Sigvaldi drank a horn in memory of his father, making the vow that before three years had passed he would have invaded Norway and killed Earl Hákon or else driven him from his country. Thereupon Thorkel the Tall, his brother, vowed that he would follow Sigvaldi to Norway and not flee from battle while Sigvaldi was still fighting. Then Búi the Stout vowed that he would sail to Norway with them, and not flee from a battle with Earl Hákon. Then his brother Sigurth vowed that he would go to Norway and not flee while the greater part of the Jómsvíkings were still fighting. Then Vagn Ákason vowed that he would follow them to Norway and not return before he had killed Thorkel Leira and gone to bed with Ingibjorg, his daughter. Many other chieftains made vows of various kinds. That day the men drank at the funeral feast, but on the morning following when the Jómsvíkings were sober again, they thought they had said too much and they consulted together and took counsel how they should go about their expedition, and they decided to get ready the soonest possible, and equipped both their ships and crews. All this became widely known throughout the lands.




Earl Sigvaldi makes a vow at the arvel.


Chapter 36. Earl Eirík Joins Earl Hákon


Earl Eirík, the son of Hákon, learned of this. At that time he was in Rau-mariki. He assembled troops at once and proceeded to the Uppland districts and thence north over the mountains till he arrived in Trondheim where he met his father, Earl Hákon. Thórth Kolbeinsson1 makes mention of this in his Eiríksdrápa:




151.   And from the south proceeding,
sea-steeds many with warriors—
feared the wealthy farmers
for their lives—sailed northward.
Learned then the liege-lord that
launched were to the southward,
o’er worn rollers, warships
withy-bound2 from Denmark.


Chapter 37. The Earls Gather Their Forces


Earl Hákon and Earl Eirík had the war-arrows sent about all the Trondheim districts, and despatched messengers to South and North Mœr, to Raums Dale, and also north ot Naumu Dale and Hálogaland, summoning a total conscription of both men and ships. As is said in the Eiríksdrápa:




152.   Masted merchantmen and
many warships and galleys
let the prince—my poem
prospers—float on the waters,
the time the shield-shatterer
sheltered—numberless were
long-ships on the lee-shore
launched—his father’s country.


Earl Hákon immediately sailed south to Mœr to reconnoiter and collect more troops while Earl Eirík gathered the army together and moved it south.


Chapter 38. Geirmund Forewarns Earl Hákon of the Approach of the Jómsvíkings


The Jómsvíkings steered their fleet to the Limfjord, whence they sailed out to sea with sixty ships, sighting land at Agthir and at once continuing north to Rogaland. They took to harrying as soon as they came to Earl Hákon’s dominions, and thus proceeded north along the land, plundering all the while.


There was a man called Geirmund who with some few men was sailing with a swift skiff. He made land in Mœr where he found Earl Hákon. He went in and stepped before the earl as he sat at table and informed the earl that a fleet had come to the land south of there from Denmark. The earl asked if he could show proof of that. Geirmund lifted up his one arm on which the hand was cut off at the wrist, and said that this was his proof that a hostile force had invaded the land. Thereupon the earl inquired more closely about this army. Geirmund said that they were the Jómsvíkings, and that they had slain many and plundered far and wide. “And they sail fast and push on hurriedly. I expect that it will not be long before they appear here.” Then the earl rowed into and out of all fjords, travelling day and night, and reconnoitering inland from the Eith Peninsula, and from there south in the Fjord District, and also north where Eirík lay with his fleet; as is mentioned in the Eiríksdrápa:




Geirmund brings the news of the approach of the Jómsvíkings.




153.   Overawing the foe, the
earl against Sigvaldi’s
higher prows opposed his
planked fleet of small vessels.
Shook the shafts of oars, but
shield-shatterers quaked not,
saters of ravens, slitting
sea-waves with their oar-blades.


Earl Eirík proceeded south with his fleet as fast as he could.


Chapter 39. The Old Farmer Deceives the Jómsvíkings


Earl Sigvaldi sailed his fleet north around Cape Stath, mooring first by the Herey Islands. The country folk whom the Jómsvíkings encountered never told them the truth about the whereabouts of the earls. The Jómsvíkings harried wherever they went. They anchored outside of Hoth Island, went on land, harried and brought to their ships both people and cattle, killing the men able to bear arms. But on their way down to the ships they met an old farmer right close to Búi’s men. The farmer said, “You don’t act like warriors, driving cows and calves down to the beach, when you could make a bigger catch, and kill the bear, since you are near the bear’s lair.”


“What is the fellow saying?” they said. “Can you perhaps tell us about Earl Hákon?”


The farmer said, “Yesterday he rowed into the Horundarfjord with one ship or two, there weren’t more than four in any case, and he didn’t know anything about you.”


Búi and his men at once ran to the ships, letting go of all their booty. Búi said, “Let us make good use of what we have just heard, and let us be first in the victory.” And once aboard the ships they straightway rowed out to sea. Then Earl Sigvaldi called out to them and asked what they had learned. They said that Earl Hákon was inside the fjord. Then the earl cast the cables off his ships and they rowed north around the island of Hoth and then into the fjord past the island.


Chapter 40. The Battle Array of the Hostile Forces


Earl Hákon and his son, Earl Eirík, were moored in Hallkels Inlet. Their total forces were assembled there. They had one hundred and fifty [180] vessels and had learned by that time that the Jómsvíkings had anchored outside of the Island of Hoth. Then the earls rowed north to look for them, and when they came to the place called Hjorunga Bay they encountered them. Then both sides arrayed their forces for battle. The banner of Earl Sigvaldi was in the center of the fleet. Against it, Earl Hákon pitted himself for the battle. Earl Sigvaldi had twenty ships, and Hákon, sixty. In the force of Earl Hákon there were the chieftains Thórir Hart of Hálogaland and Styrkár of Gimsar. One wing [of the Jómsvíkings’] fleet was headed by Búi the Stout and his brother Sigurth, with twenty ships. Against him was arrayed Earl Eirík, the son of Hákon, with sixty ships. Under him were these chieftains: Guthbrand the White from the Upplands and Thorkel Leira, a man from Vík. In the other wing [of the Jómsvíkings’ fleet] lay Vagn Ákason with twenty ships; and he was faced by Svein, the son of Hákon, with Skeggi of Upphaug in Yrjar and Rognvald from Ærvík on Stath with sixty ships. As is said in the Eiríksdrápa:




154.   Forth to the fray the Danish
fleet over the ocean—
along the land sailing
long ways—swiftly glided,
with vessels the victorious
vassal of Danes1 in battle
cleared of many men in
Mœr—were their corpses warm still.


And as Eyvind Skáldaspillir also says in his Háleygjatal:




155.   Little joy
had lords of Danes
as toward morn
met together
their fleet with
the folk-warder’s,
from the south
who sailed toward them,
and his fleet,
fast advancing,
sword-thing urged
with athelings.


Then the fleets clashed together, and there began a most savage battle, with great loss of life on either side, but with much greater loss on the part of Hákon’s; because the Jómsvíkings fought boldly, fiercely, and hard, shooting right through the shields; and there was such a shower of missiles which struck the earl that his coat-of-mail was shot to pieces and became useless, so that he cast it off. Of this, Tind Hallkelsson 2 makes mention:




156.   Far else fared it than when
fair arm-ring-dight maiden—
waxed the din of weapon-thing
wild—a bed for the earl made,
when his gleaming, goodly byrnie,
gashed by gale of javelins
cast—cleared were then ships of
crews—he had to throw off.




157.   Asunder on the sands was
slit from the earl by arrows—
’t was seen by seat-fellows—
Sorli’s3 ring-woven byrnie.


Chapter 41. The Battle of Horundarfjord


The Jómsvíkings’ ships were larger and higher above the water, but both armies pushed their attack most vigorously. Vagn Ákason attacked Svein Hákonarson’s ship so furiously that Svein had his men back water and they were about to flee. Then Earl Eirík rowed his ship forward in the battle array against Vagn. Then Vagn let his ship drop back, and then the ships were in the same position as at first. Then Eirík retired to his line, but by that time his men had backed away and Búi had cut the hawsers [that tied the ships together during the battle] and was about to pursue them. Then Earl Eirík laid his ship broadside to that of Búi, and there ensued a most violent hand to hand fight, with two or three of Eirík’s ships attacking Búi’s one.


Then a storm sprang up, with a hail shower so violent that every hailstone weighed one ounce. Then Sigvaldi cut the hawsers [that connected his ship with the others] and turned about, intending to flee. Vagn Ákason shouted to him not to flee, but Earl Sigvaldi paid no attention to what he said. Then Vagn hurled a spear at him and struck the man who sat by the rudder. Earl Sigvaldi rowed away with thirty-five ships, but twenty-five remained behind.


Then Earl Hákon laid his ship broadside to Búi’s, so that blows rained on his crew hard and fast. Vígfús Víga-Glúmsson lifted up a sharp-pointed anvil that lay on the floorboards on which someone had riveted the hilt of his sword. He was a man of tremendous strength. He lifted the anvil with both hands and hurled it at the head of Áslák Hólmskalli, so that the point sank into his skull. No other weapons had been able to hurt him before, and he had slashed right and left [with his sword]. He was Búi’s foster father and his forecastleman. Another forecastleman was Hávarth the Hewer, a man of great strength and bravery.




The hailstorm during the battle of Hjorunga Bay.


In this fight Eirík’s men boarded Búi’s ship and advanced toward the raised afterdeck of it. Then Thorstein Midlong slashed across Búi’s forehead cleaving his visor. That made a very big wound. Búi with one sword blow to his side cut Thorstein in two. Then Búi took up two chests full of gold and called out aloud: “Overboard, all Búi’s men,” and leapt overboard with his chests, and many of his men then leapt overboard; though some were slain on the ship because it was not easy to obtain quarter. Thereupon the whole of Búi’s ship was cleared of men from stem to stern and, following that, one ship after the other. Then Earl Eirík laid his ship alongside that of Vagn. There was a terrific defence, but in the end his ship was cleared of men and Vagn made captive, together with thirty others, and brought ashore shackled.


Then Thorkel Leira went up to them and said, “You made the vow, Vagn, that you would kill me, but now it seems more likely to me that I shall kill you.” Vagn and his men all sat together on a log. Thorkel wielded a big axe and hewed down the man who sat on the end of the log.


Vagn and his companions were tied in such fashion that a rope was slung around the feet of all of them, leaving their arms free. Then one of them said, “Here I have a dagger in my hand, and I shall stick it in the ground if I am conscious when my head is chopped off.” He was beheaded, and the dagger dropped from his hand.




Sigurth Búason, Thorkel Leira, and Earl Eirík.


Next to him sat a handsome man with long and fine hair. He swept his hair forward over his head and stretched out his neck, saying, “Don’t sully my hair with blood.” A man took hold of his hair with a firm grip. Thorkel swung his axe, but the viking swiftly jerked his head back, so the man holding his hair was forced forward, and the axe fell on both his hands, shearing them off, so that the axe struck the ground.


Then Earl Eirík came up and asked, “Who is this handsome man?”


“They call me Sigurth,” he said, “and I am said to be the son of Búi. Not yet are all Jómsvíkings dead.”


Eirík said, “You are truly likely to be the son of Búi. Would you have quarter?”


“That depends on who offers it,” said Sigurth.


“He offers,” said the earl, “who has the authority to do so—Earl Eirík.”


“Then I accept,” said he. Thereupon he was released from the rope.


Then Thorkel Leira said, “If, earl, you want to give quarter to all these men, then at least Vagn Ákason shall never escape with his life”—and ran forward with axe swung on high; but the viking Skarth hurled himself down in the rope, falling before Thorkel’s feet, and he fell flat over him. Then Vagn grabbed the axe, swung it aloft and dealt Thorkel his death blow.


Then the earl said, “Vagn, would you have quarter?”


“I would,” he replied, “if you give it to all of us.”


“Release them from the rope,” said the earl; and so was done. Eighteen had been killed and twelve received quarter.


Chapter 42. Earl Eirík Gives Ingibjorg to Vagn in Marriage


Earl Hákon and many others were sitting on a log. Then a bowstring twanged on Búi’s ship, and the arrow hit Gizur of Valdres, a landed-man1 of the earl’s. He was sitting next to the earl, dressed splendidly. Then men boarded that ship and found there Hávarth the Hewer, standing on his knees by the railing, for his feet had been lopped off. He had his bow in his hand. And when the men came aboard the ship, Hávarth asked, “Who fell from the log?” They told him it was a man called Gizur. “Then my luck was less than I could have wished,” he said. “A big enough piece of bad luck as it is,” they said, “and you shall not cause more,” and killed him. Then they went over the scene of battle and carried away the spoils for distribution. Twenty-five of the Jómsvíkings’ ships had been cleared of men. As says Tind:




158.   Wounds the warrior dealt to
Wendish host2 with bloody
sword—with savage bite it
sundered bones—in battle,
ere of their crews could clear the
combat-urger—was it
fraught with fearful danger—
five and twenty longships.


Thereupon the earls dismissed their army. Earl Hákon was extremely ill-pleased that Eirík had given quarter to Vagn Ákason. It is told that Earl Hákon had in this battle sacrificed his son Erling to gain the victory, and that the hailshower followed the sacrifice, and that it was then the Jómsvíkings suffered most loss of life.


Then Earl Eirík journeyed to the Uppland districts and to his own possessions, and with him Vagn Ákason. Then Eirík gave Vagn Ingibjorg, the daughter of Thorkel Leira, in marriage, and presented him a good man-of-war with all equipment and procured him a crew. They parted as excellent friends. Then Vagn sailed home south to Denmark and later became a famous man from whom many important persons are descended.


Chapter 43. King Harald of Grenland Is Slain by Sigríth


As set down before, Harald of Grenland was king in the Westfold District. He married Ásta, the daughter of Guthbrand Kúla. One summer, when Harald of Grenland had gone on a viking expedition to the Baltic to acquire possessions, he came to Sweden. At that time Óláf the Swedish was king there. He was the son of King Eirík the Victorious and Sigríth, a daughter of Skoglar-Tósti. Sigríth was widowed then and owned many and large estates in Sweden. Now when she learned that Harald of Grenland, her foster brother, had come ashore not far away, she sent messengers to him, inviting him to a banquet. He did not delay long and came with a large company of men. They were entertained splendidly there. The king and the queen sat in the high-seat and drank together in the evening, and all his men were entertained most lavishly. In the evening, when the king sought his bed he found it decked with covers of costly stuff and made up with sheets of precious material. There were few persons in those lodgings. And when the king had undressed and gotten into bed, the queen came to him and herself poured out a beaker for him, enticing him much to drink, and treating him in the most ingratiating way. The king was dead drunk, and so was she. Then the king went to sleep, and the queen also lay down.


Sigríth was an exceedingly clever woman and prescient about many things. Again in the morning following, the entertainment was of the best. But then it happened, as generally is the case, when men have drunk to excess, that on the following day most of them go slow about drinking. But the queen was gay, and she and the king talked with one another. She said that she valued her possessions and the dominion she had in Sweden no less than his kingdom and his possessions in Norway. The king became dipleased with her utterances. He grew cool about everything and prepared to leave in great ill humor; but the queen was in a most cheerful mood and said farewell to him, presenting him with lordly farewell gifts.


In the autumn following, Harald returned to Norway and remained in rather poor spirits. When summer came he sailed into the Baltic again with his fleet. He steered to Sweden and sent word to Queen Sigríth that he wished to see her again. She rode down to the coast to meet with him, and they spoke together. He soon came to the point, asking her if she would marry him. She said that he was insincere in proposing that, because he was so well married that he should be well satisfied. Harald replied that Ásta was, to be sure, a good woman and worthy, “but she is not as highborn as I am.”


Sigríth said, “It may well be that you are of nobler birth than she. But I should think that the good fortune of both of you reposes with her.”1 Few more words were exchanged between them before the queen rode away.


King Harald remained behind in heavy spirits. He made ready to ride inland to meet Queen Sigríth again. Many of his men advised against that, but he proceeded nonetheless with a numerous company of men and arrived at the estate belonging to the queen. That same evening another king came there. He was Vissavald from Gartharíki in the east. He came to ask her in marriage. Both kings and their retinue were housed in a large and ancient hall furnished in the same manner. Plentiful drink was served there in the evening. It was so potent that all became dead drunk and that both their bodyguards and the watch posted without fell asleep. Then Queen Sigríth had them assailed in the night with both fire and sword. The hall burned, together with the men inside, and those who got out were slain. Sigríth said that in this way she was going to break kinglets of the habit of visiting her to ask her in marriage. In after times she was called Sigríth the Haughty. The battle with the Jómsvíkings occurred the year before that.


Chapter 44. The Birth of Saint Óláf


When Harald had gone ashore, Hrani was left behind with the ships as commander of the force which remained. And when they learned that Harald had been put to death, they left at once and returned to Norway with this news. Hrani went to see Ásta and told her what had happened on their expedition, but also for what purpose Harald had gone to meet Queen Sigríth. When Ásta had learned of these tidings she immediately journeyed to the Uppland District to be with her father. He received her well. Both were greatly incensed about Harald’s plans for marriage in Sweden and that he had meant to leave her. Ásta, the daughter of Guthbrand, in summer gave birth there to a boy child. He was sprinkled with water and given the name Óláf. It was Hrani who sprinkled him. During his first years the boy grew up there with Guthbrand and his mother Ásta.


Chapter 45. Earl Hákon’s Power and His Licentiousness with Women


Earl Hákon ruled over all of Norway facing the sea, and his domination extended over sixteen districts. And ever since Harald Fairhair had instituted the order that there should be an earl over every district, this was maintained for a long time afterwards. Earl Hákon had sixteen earls under him. As is said in [Einar Skálaglamm’s poem] Vellekla:




159.   Where else has it e’er been
heard before that sixteen
earls did under one great
earl rule all of Norway?
Unfading spreads the fame o’er
four corners of heaven
of wealth-dispending, warlike
weapon-thing’s bold urger.


During the time Earl Hákon ruled over Norway there were good harvests, and a good peace reigned within the land among the farmers. For the greater part of his life the earl was popular with them. But as time wore on it occurred very often that he became licentious in his intercourse with women. He went so far as to abduct the daughters of powerful chieftains and to have them brought to his residence, where he lay with them for a week or two before sending them home. This brought him the bitter resentment of the kinsmen of these women, and the farmers began to murmur menacingly, as is the wont of the people of Trondheim if anything displeases them.


Chapter 46. Earl Hákon Sends Thórir Klakka to Inveigle Óláf Tryggvason


Earl Hákon heard a rumor that there was a man to the west beyond the sea who called himself Áli, and that he was there regarded as a man of royal race; and from the accounts of some men the earl conceived the suspicion that this man might perhaps be of a Norwegian royal race. He was told that Áli said that his kinsfolk lived in Gartharíki. Now the earl had heard that Tryggvi Óláfsson had had a son who had gone east to Gartharíki and had there been brought up by King Valdamar, and that this son was called Óláf. Also, the earl had made many inquiries about this man, and now he suspected that this same man had got to the lands in the west.


There was a man called Thórir Klakka, a great friend of Earl Hákon, who had been on viking expeditions for a long time, and occasionally on trading journeys and had a wide acquaintance with countries and people. This man Earl Hákon sent west across the sea, bidding him to undertake a trading journey to Dublin, which at that time was done by many, in order to find out who this man Áli was; and if he found out for sure that it was Óláf Tryggvason or someone else of royal Norwegian race, he was to get the better of him by some treachery, if he could.


Chapter 47. Óláf Tryggvason Converts the Orkneys and Sails to Norway


So then Thórir journeyed west to Dublin in Ireland, and there made inquiries about Áli. The latter was at the court of King Óláf Kváran, his brother-in-law. Then Thórir managed to get to speak with Áli. Thórir was a man of clever speech. And when they had talked together for a very long time, Áli began to ask about matters in Norway, first about the kings in the Upplands, who of them were still living and what regions they ruled over. He also asked about Earl Hákon and how popular he was in the country. Thórir said, “Earl Hákon is so powerful a man that no one dares to oppose him; but the reason for that is that there is no one else to look to. To tell you the truth, I know the frame of mind of many men of importance and also of the people, and that they would be most eager and more than willing to have some king of the race of Harald Fairhair rule there; but we do not know of any such, and chiefly because we have learned that it does not avail to fight Earl Hákon.” And when they had discussed this often, Óláf revealed his name and descent to Thórir and asked his advice and what he thought would happen if he came to Norway—whether he believed that the farmers would accept him as king. Thórir urged him most strongly to undertake that, praising him and his accomplishments highly.


As a result, Óláf longed much to journey to the land of his fathers, and finally sailed east with five ships; at first, to the Hebrides. Thórir was in his company. From there, he sailed to the Orkneys. At that time Earl Sigurth Hlothvisson was anchored with one warship in Ásmundar Bay in the Island of Rognvaldsey,1 intending to sail over to Caithness. Óláf steered his fleet east toward the islands and anchored there, as the Pentland Firth was not navigable [because of a storm].


As soon as Óláf learned that the earl was moored not far from him, he requested him to come and confer with him. And when the earl came it was not long before the king commanded him to accept baptism, together with all his people, or else suffer death at once; and the king said he would devastate the islands with fire and flame, and lay the land waste unless the people accepted baptism. And seeing the pinch he was in, the earl chose to be baptized. Then he and all those with him were christened. Thereupon, the earl swore allegiance to the king, giving him his son as hostage. He was called Whelp or Hound, and Óláf took him along to Norway.


Then Óláf sailed east across the sea and sighted land at the Island of Morstr, which was the first place for him to come ashore and where he had mass sung in a tent. In after times a church was built in that same place.


Thórir Klakka told the king that it was most advisable for him not to let anyone know who he was and not to let any news be spread of his whereabouts, but to move on the earl as fast as possible so as to surprise him unprepared. King Óláf did so, travelling north day and night with every favorable breeze and without the people of the country becoming aware who he was. And when he arrived north at Agthaness he had learned that Earl Hákon was in the Fjord District and also that he had had a clash with the farmers. But when Thórir heard that, he found out that things had taken a turn very different from what he had thought; because after the battle with the Jómsvíkings all the people of Norway had been ardent friends of Earl Hákon because of the victory he had won, and thereby freeing all the country from hostilities. But now it happened unfortunately [for him] that a great chieftain had come to the land while the farmers had fallen out with him.


Chapter 48. Earl Hákon Takes Refuge in a Pigsty at Rimul


Earl Hákon was being entertained at Methalhús in Gaular Dale, and his ships lay anchored at Viggja. A certain man called Orm Lyrgja lived at Býness and was a farmer who wielded great influence. His wife was Guthrún, daughter of Bergthór of Lundar. She was called Lundasól [the Sun of Lundar] and was a most beautiful woman. The earl sent his thralls to Orm to fetch Orm’s wife Guthrún and bring her to him. The thralls delivered their message, and Orm asked them first to eat the evening meal [with them]. But before they had eaten their fill, there had come to Orm’s farm many men from the neighborhood to whom Orm had gotten word. And then Orm refused to let Guthrún go with the thralls. Guthrún told the thralls to say to the earl that she would not come to him unless he sent Thóra of Rimul to fetch her. This was a wealthy lady and one of the earl’s mistresses. The thralls declared that another time they would come in such fashion as to make the farmer and his wife shortly rue this. They used threatening language but then departed. Orm sent the war-arrows four ways around the settlement, requesting all to arm themselves and attack and kill Earl Hákon. He also sent word to Halldór at Skerthingstethja, who in his turn sent out the war-arrows.


A short time before that, the earl had taken the wife of a man called Brynjólf, and that deed had aroused immense resentment, so that people were near rising in a body. After the war-arrows has been sent around, a great host of men collected and marched to Methalhús. But the earl was informed of it and with his men left the farm and retreated into a deep valley which is now called Earl’s Dale, and hid there.


A day later the earl learned about the plans of the farmers. They had barricaded all the roads, rather thinking that the earl had gone to his ships, which were headed by Erlend, his son, a most promising young man. But when night approached, the earl dismissed his followers, ordering them to proceed to Orkn Dale by way of the forests—“No one will harm you if I am not by. Send word to Erlend to sail out of the fjord and [tell him] we shall meet in Mœr. I shall know how to hide from the farmers.” Then the earl left with one thrall called Kark. The Gaula River was covered with ice, and the earl drove his horse into it, leaving his cloak lying there.


Both entered a cave which later was called Earl’s cave. Then they fell asleep. And when Kark awoke he told the earl his dream—that a black and ugly man went by the cave, and that he was afraid he might enter it. But this man told him that Ulli was dead. The earl said that this probably meant that Erlend had been slain. Then Thormóth Kark fell asleep again and was restless in his sleep, and when he awoke, he told his dream, that he saw that same man come down again [to them] and that he asked him to tell the earl that now all ways of retreat were barred. Kark told the earl his dream, and he feared it meant that he had but a short time to live.


Then he arose and they went to the farm Rimul. There he sent Kark in to Thóra, asking her to come out secretly to him. This she did, and welcomed him. The earl asked her to hide him for some days until the farmers had dispersed. “They will search for you here,” she said, “both inside and outside my house, because many know that I would gladly help you all I can. But there is one place here on my farm where I would not be likely to look for a man such as you are, and that is the pigsty.”


They went up to it. The earl said, “Here we shall bed us down. The main thing is to save one’s life.” Then the thrall dug a deep pit, carrying the dirt away and then covering the excavation with timbers. Thóra told the earl the news that Óláf Tryggvason had entered the fjord and slain his son Erlend. Thereupon the earl and Kark went down into the pit, and Thóra covered it with timbers and swept dirt and dung over it and drove the swine over it. That pigsty was beneath a big boulder.


Chapter 49. The Thrall Kark Murders Earl Hákon


Óláf Tryggvason sailed into the fjord with five warships, whilst Erlend, the son of Earl Hákon, with three warships rowed toward him from within the fjord. But when the ships approached each other, Erlend suspected hostilities and rowed toward land. Now when Óláf saw the warships coming toward him out of the fjord he thought it was Earl Hákon and bade his crews row after them as fast as they could. But when Erlend and his men had nearly reached the land they ran aground and leapt overboard, trying to get ashore. Óláf’s ships followed in hot pursuit. Óláf saw an unusually handsome man take to swimming. He seized the tiller of his rudder and hurled it at that man. The blow struck Erlend, the earl’s son, on the head, breaking his skull. That was his death. Óláf and his men killed many there; some escaped by flight, and to some they gave quarter, and from them they learned what had happened [in the land]. Óláf was told then that the farmers had driven away Earl Hákon and that he had fled and that his followers had spread to all the winds.


Then all farmers came to see Óláf, and both he and the farmers were glad to meet, and right away agreed on their common purpose. The farmers chose him king over them, and all resolved to search for Earl Hákon. They marched up Gaular Dale, because all thought it most likely that the earl was at Rimul if he was on any farm; for Thóra was his most intimate friend in that valley. They went there and searched for the earl without and within and did not find him. Then Óláf had a meeting [with the people] outside in the farm yard. He stood on the great boulder beside the pigsty and spoke to them and promised he would both honor and endow with riches the man who would kill Earl Hákon.


This was heard by both the earl and Kark. They had a light with them. The earl said, “Why are you so pale and sometimes as black as the earth? Is it that you will betray me?”


“No,” said Kark.


“We were born in one and the same night,” said the Earl, “and it is not likely that much time will elapse between our deaths.”


King Óláf left as evening approached. And when it became night, the earl kept awake, but Kark fell asleep and carried on in his dream. Then the earl waked him and asked him what he had dreamed. He said, “I dreamed I was at Hlathir and Óláf Tryggvason laid a golden necklace about my neck.”


The earl answered, “That signifies that Óláf will put a blood-red ring about your neck when you meet him. So have a care. But by me you will always be treated well, as I have done always, so do not betray me.” Then both stayed awake, as though each watched the other. But toward daybreak the earl fell asleep and soon he carried on in his sleep, and so badly that he bent down heels and neck as though he meant to rise, and uttered a loud and dreadful cry. But Kark grew frightened and alarmed. He took a big knife from his belt and cut the earl’s throat, then slashed it clean through, and that was Earl Hákon’s death. Then Kark cut off the earl’s head and ran away with it. Next day he entered the estate at Hlathir and presented the earl’s head to King Óláf. He also told about what had happened between Earl Hákon and him, as was written above. Thereupon King Óláf had him led away and beheaded.


Chapter 50. The Heads of Earl Hákon and Kark Are Stoned


Then King Óláf and a multitude of farmers with him went to the Island of Nitharhólm1 taking with them the heads of Earl Hákon and of Kark. This island was at that time used for putting to death thieves and evildoers, and a gallows stood there. The king had the heads of Earl Hákon and of Kark fastened to it. Thereupon the whole multitude came with great shouts and stoned them, saying that they should fare thus like every other villain. Then they sent men up to Gaular Dale who hauled away Hákon’s trunk and burned it. There was such fierce hatred against Earl Hákon among the Tronders that no one might call him by any other name than the evil earl. And that name stuck to him for a long time. But the truth of the matter is that he had many qualifications for leadership: first, an exalted lineage, and therewith shrewdness and sagacity to use his power, briskness in battle as well as a lucky hand in winning the victory and slaying his enemies. As says Thorleif Rauthfeldarson:2




160.   Hákon, heard we under
heaven no doughtier earl than
thou—but greater grew thy
glory from wars—to govern.
Athelings nine to Óthin—
feeds the raven on flesh of
fallen men—spread far thy
fame aye—thou didst send forth.


Earl Hákon exceeded everyone in generosity, and it was great ill fortune that a chieftain such as he should have died as he did. But the reason for this was chiefly that the time had come when heathen worship and idolators were done away with and Christianity took their place.


Chapter 51. Óláf Tryggvason Is Accepted as King over Norway


In the general assembly in Trondheim, Óláf Tryggvason was chosen king over all the land, as Harald Fairhair had been. On that occasion all the multitudinous crowd of people would not have it otherwise than that Óláf Tryggvason should be king. Thereupon Óláf went about the whole country and was given the oath of fealty. All the people of Norway swore allegiance to him, even those chieftains in the Uppland districts and in Vík who before had held their lands in fief from the King of Denmark. They now became King Óláf’s men and held their lands from him. Thus he made his royal progress about the country the first winter and the summer thereafter.


Earl Eirík, the son of Hákon, and his brother Svein, as well as other kinsmen and friends of theirs fled the land, seeking refuge in Sweden with King Óláf of Sweden, and were welcomed there. As says Thórth Kol-beinsson:




161.   Curber of outlaws!1 Cut short
caitiff traitors a little
while since—harsh is fate oft—
Hákon’s, thy father’s, life-span,
what time Tryggvi’s kinsman2
to this land came, which the
atheling3 erst had conquered,
over the sea from Westlands.




162.   Much in mind had Eirík—
more than thought was—’ gainst the
sower-of-wealth:4 certes
such was to be looked for.
Wrothly sought the Swedish
sovran’s help—durst no one
hinder that—the Thronders
thane.5 That tribe proved stubborn.


Chapter 52. Lothin Redeems Queen Ástríth from Bondage


There was a man called Lothin. He was from Vík, and both rich and well born. Often he went on trading journeys, and sometimes, on viking expeditions. One summer Lothin went on a trading journey in the Baltic with only one ship, laden with much merchandise. He sailed to Esthonia and there attended markets during the summer. And when there was a market, all kinds of wares were brought there, and many bondwomen were there for sale. Lothin saw a woman there who had been sold as a slave. And when he looked at the woman he recognized her and knew her to be Ástríth, the daughter of Eirík, who had been King Tryggvi’s wife, though she looked different from what she had done when last he saw her. She was pale and peaked and poorly clad. He went up to her and asked how matters stood with her. She replied, “It is bitter to tell you about it. I am sold as a slave, and brought here to be sold.” Then they recognized each other, and Ástríth knew him well. Then she begged him to buy her and take her home with him to her kinsfolk.


“I shall do so under one condition,” he said. “I shall take you to Norway if you will marry me.” Now since Ástríth was in dire straits at the time, and also because she knew that Lothin was a man of high lineage, brave and rich, she promised him this to ransom herself. Thereupon Lothin bought Ástríth and took her home to Norway with him and married her there with the consent of her kinsmen. Their children were a son, Thorkel Nose, and their daughters, Ingiríth and Ingigerth. The daughters of Ástríth with King Tryggvi were Ingibjorg and Ástríth. The sons of Eirík Bjóthaskalli were Sigurth, Karlshofuth, Jóstein, and Thorkel Dyrthil. They all were men of worth and wealth and had their estates in the eastern part of the land. There were two brothers who lived east in Vík, one called Thorgeir, the other Hyrning. They married the two daughters of Lothin and Ástríth.