Chapter 53. Óláf Tryggvason Proclaims Christianity in Norway

 

When Harald Gormsson, the king of Denmark, had been baptized he sent the order over all his kingdom that all were to take the baptism and accept the true faith. He followed up this command himself and used his power and inflicted punishment if nothing else helped. He had sent two earls to Norway with a great force. Their names were———.1 They were to proclaim Christianity in Norway. That succeeded in Vík, where people were subject to King Harald, and many of the people were baptized. Now after Harald’s death his son, Svein Forkbeard, made incursions in Saxland, Frísia, and finally, in England. But those in Norway who had accepted Christianity reverted to heathen sacrifices as before and as the people in the north of the land did.

 

Now when Óláf Tryggvason had become king in Norway, he resided a long time in Vík during the summer. There, many of his kinsmen and relations by marriage came to him. Many had been great friends of his father and welcomed him heartily. Then Óláf called his maternal uncles, Lothin, his stepfather, and his relatives Thorgeir and Hyrning, to a conference with him, and with the greatest earnestness laid before them the matter they themselves should take hold of, together with him, and then further with all their strength; which was, to preach the Gospel throughout the kingdom. And he said he would succeed in christening all of Norway or else die. “I shall make you all great and powerful men, because I put most trust in you because of our kinship or other affinity.” They all agreed to this and to do what they could and follow him in all that he proposed, together with all those who would follow their counsel.

 

Very soon King Óláf made it clear to all the people that he would proclaim Christianity in all his realm. And the first to agree to this order were they who before had accepted the faith. They were also the most powerful of those who were present at the time, and all others followed their example. Then all who dwelled in the eastern part of Vík were baptized, whereupon the king proceeded north in Vík and commanded all to accept Christianity; but those who spoke against it he punished severely, killing some, maiming others or driving them out of the country. As a result, all the dominions which King Tryggvi, his father, had ruled as well as those which had been subject to Harald of Grenland, his kinsman, now accepted Christianity as Óláf ordered; so that during the summer and the following winter everyone in Vík was baptized.

 

Chapter 54. The Men of Horthaland Are Warned of the King’s Coming

 

Early in spring King Óláf with a large force proceeded to the outer reaches of the [Fold]fjord and then north [west] to Agthir. And wherever he assembled with the farmers he ordered all to be baptized, and all accepted Christianity, because no one among the farmers dared to rebel against the king; so people were baptized wherever he came.

 

There were many and prominent men in Horthaland descended from Hortha-Kári. He had had four sons. One was Thorleif the Wise; another, Ogmund, the father of Thórólf Squinter, the father of Erling of Sóli; the third, Thórth, the father of the Hersir Klypp who killed Sigurth Slefa, the son of Gunnhild; the fourth, Olmóth, the father of Áskel, the father of Áslák Fitjaskalli. That family was at that time the largest and noblest in Horthaland. Now when these kinsmen learned of the tidings—that the king was proceeding westward along the land with a large force, breaking down the old dispensation, and that men underwent punishment and had to submit to harsh conditions if they went against him—they agreed on meeting together to take counsel, because they knew that the king would soon be upon them; and they determined that all of them would proceed to the Gulathing Assembly with a numerous force and there come to a meeting with King Óláf Tryggvason.

 

Chapter 55. The Resistance to Óláf’s Missionary Efforts in Rogaland Collapses

 

King Óláf on arriving in Rogaland at once called for an assembly. But when the summons came to the farmers they assembled together in great numbers, all armed. And when they had gathered they conferred and took counsel, and selected the most eloquent in their midst, to make answer to King Óláf at the assembly and oppose him; and they agreed they would refuse to submit to lawlessness, even though the king commanded them.

 

Now when the farmers came to the assembly and deliberations were to begin, King Óláf arose and at first spoke gently to the farmers. Still, it was plain from his speech that he meant them to become Christians. He asked them with fair words to agree to that; but in the end he added that those who opposed him and would not comply with his demands would feel his wrath and suffer punishment and stern conditions wherever he could reach them.

 

Now when the king had finished speaking, then arose one of the farmers who was the most eloquent and had been chosen to answer King Óláf. But when he was about to speak he had such a fit of coughing and such difficulty with breathing that he could not utter a word and sat down again. Then another farmer arose with the intention not to fail in his reply, even though the first spokesman had not been so successful. But when he began he stammered so much that he did not get a word out. Then all those who listened fell to laughing, and he sat down. Then the third one got up to speak against King Óláf. But when he started to speak he was so hoarse and husky that no one understood what he said, so he sat down. Then no one of the farmers undertook to speak against the king. And as the farmers got no one to oppose the king, there was no resistance to him, and the end was that all agreed to the king’s demands. Then all the people at the assembly were baptized before the king departed.

 

Chapter 56. Ástríth Refuses to Marry Erling Skjálgsson

 

King Óláf with his troops proceeded to the Gulathing Assembly, because the farmers had sent him word that they would make reply to his demands there. But when both parties had arrived at the assembly, the king insisted on first conferring with the chieftains of the land. And when they were all gathered, the king voiced his intentions and requested them to have themselves baptized according to his command.

 

Then replied Olmóth the Old, “We kinsmen have discussed this matter between us, and we all shall follow one course. If it be so, sir king, that you intend to compel us kinsmen to break our laws and to subdue us by force, we shall oppose you with all our might; and then let him obtain victory who can. But if on the contrary you will do something to the advantage of us kinsmen, then you will attain your aim so well that we will give you our complete allegiance.”

 

The king said, “What would you have me do so that we come to a fair agreement between us?”

 

Then Olmóth said, “First this, that you marry your sister Ástríth1 to Erling Skjálgsson, our kinsman, whom we consider the most promising of all young men in Norway.” King Óláf replied that to him that match would seem a good one, adding that Erling was of high birth and seemed indeed most eligible, but that Ástríth herself would have to give her consent. Then the king discussed this with his sister.

 

“Little do I benefit,” said she, “from being a king’s daughter and a king’s sister if you wish me to marry a commoner. I would rather wait some years for another match.” And with that they ended their discussion.

 

Chapter 57. Ástríth Consents to Marry Erling

 

King Óláf had one of Ástríth’s hawks taken and its feathers plucked, whereupon he sent it back to her.1 Then Ástríth said, “Angry is my brother now.” Then she arose and went to the king. He made her welcome. Then Ástríth said that it was her wish that the king was to act in her behalf as he thought best.

 

“I had thought,” said the king, “that I would obtain the power to raise to high estate in this land whom I will.” The king then had Olmóth, Erling, and all their kinsmen called to him to discuss the matter of this marriage; and in the end Ástríth was betrothed to Erling. Thereupon the king had the assembly meet and bade the farmers accept Christianity. And then Olmóth and Erling were the leaders in speaking for this matter, important to the king, as well as all of their kinsmen. No one dared to oppose him. Then all the people there were baptized and converted.

 

Chapter 58. The Nuptials of Erling Skjálgsson

 

Erling Skjálgsson celebrated his wedding in the summer, and it was attended by a very great multitude. King Óláf was there too. He offered Erling an earldom. Erling answered thus, “My kinsmen have been hersar [barons]. I do not wish to have a title higher than they. But this would I accept of thee, sir king, that you let me be the greatest of this title in the country.” The king granted him that. And at their parting King Óláf assigned to Erling, his brother-in-law, the lands south of the mouth of the Sognfjord and east [south] to Cape Lithandisness [Lindesness], under the same conditions as Harald Fairhair had granted his sons, as was written above.

 

Chapter 59. The King Christianizes the Western Districts

 

In the fall of the same year King Óláf summoned an assembly representing four district meetings to be held on Dragseith [Isthmus] on the peninsula of Stath. To it were to repair people from Sogn, the Fjord districts, South Mœr, and Raums Dale. The king proceeded there with a very large following from the eastern part of the land and also the force which had joined him in Rogaland and Horthaland. And when King Óláf came there he bade people to be baptized, as he had in other places. But because the king had the support there of a large army, they were alarmed. In the end the king offered them two alternatives: either to accept Christianity and be baptized, or else to fight it out with him. But since the farmers saw no chance to fight the king they decided on having all the people christened.

 

Thereupon King Óláf with his army proceeded to North Mœr and converted that district to Christianity. Then he sailed into the [Trondheim] fjord to Hlathir and had the temple there dismantled and all the property and all the decorations removed from it and from the idol. He took a large gold ring from the temple gates which Earl Hákon had had constructed, whereupon he had the temple burned down. But when the farmers learned of this they sent the war-arrows about all the districts, summoning an army and intending to attack the king.

 

King Óláf then sailed his fleet out of the fjord, steering north along the land with the intention of going to Hálogaland and christening it. But when he arrived at Bjarnaurar, he learned that the people of Hálogaland had collected an army and meant to defend their land against him. The chieftains of their forces were Hárek of Thjótta, Thórir Hart of Vágar, and Eyvind Kinnrifa. When King Óláf learned that he turned about and sailed south along the land. And when he had rounded Stath Promontory he proceeded more leisurely, yet managed to get all the way to Vík at the beginning of winter.

 

Chapter 60. King Óláf Wooes Queen Sigríth

 

Queen Sigríth of Sweden, who was called the Haughty, resided on her estates. That winter messengers went between King Óláf and Queen Sigríth, and through them King Óláf asked for the hand of Queen Sigríth. She received his suit favorably, and the betrothal was definitely agreed on. Thereupon King Óláf sent Queen Sigríth the large gold [arm] ring which he had taken from the temple gate at Hlathir. It was considered a splendid possession. Their meeting to arrange matters for the wedding was to be in the spring following at the boundary [on an island] in the [Gaut Elf] River.

 

Now [as to] this ring which King Óláf had sent Queen Sigríth and which was so greatly valued by all—with the queen there were two smiths, brothers. And when they held the ring in their hands and weighed it and talked secretly together, the queen had them called to her and asked them why they laughed in their sleeves about the ring. They would not say. Then she told them by all means to let her know what they had noticed. They said that the ring was counterfeit. Then she had the ring broken in two, and there was seen to be copper inside it. Then the queen was furious and said that Óláf would defraud her in more things than that.

 

That same winter King Óláf journeyed up to Hringaríki to christen the people there. Ásta, the daughter of Guthbrand, had soon after the death of Harald of Grenland married a man called Sigurth Sýr [Sow], who was king of Hringaríki. He was the son of Hálfdan, who was the son of Sigurth Hrísi [Bastard], a son of Harald Fairhair. At Ásta’s residence there lived Óláf, her son with Harald of Grenland. While young he was brought up by Sigurth Syr, his stepfather. Now when King Óláf Tryggvason came to Hringaríki to christen the people, Sigurth Sýr and Ásta, his wife, had themselves baptized together with her son Óláf, and Óláf Tryggvason became the godfather of Óláf Haraldsson. He was three years old at the time. Then King Óláf journeyed back to Vík and dwelled there during the winter. That was the third year of his being king in Norway.

 

Chapter 61. Queen Sigríth Refuses Baptism

 

Early in spring King Óláf journeyed east to Konungahella for the meeting with Queen Sigríth. And when they met they discussed the matter which had been broached in winter, that they were to marry; and matters went very well. Then King Óláf said that Sigríth should be baptized and accept the true faith. She replied in this wise: “I do not mean to abandon the faith I have had, and my kinsmen before me. Nor shall I object to your belief in the god you prefer.”

 

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Then Sigríth said, “This may well be your death!”

 

The King Óláf became very angry and said hastily, “Why should I want to marry you dog of a heathen?” and slapped her in the face with the glove he had in his hand. Whereupon he arose, and she too.

 

Then Sigríth said, “This may well be your death!” With that they parted. The king returned north to Vík, and the queen east to Sweden.

 

Chapter 62. The King Has the Warlocks Burned

 

King Óláf then proceeded to the town of Túnsberg and held an assembly there at which he proclaimed that all those who were known to be guilty of practicing magic and sorcery or who were warlocks must leave the country. Then the king had a search made in that neighborhood for such persons, and summoned them to his presence. Among those who came was a man called Eyvind Kelda. He was the grandson of Rognvald Rettilbeini, a son of Harald Fairhair. Eyvind was a sorcerer and exceedingly skilled in wizardry. King Óláf had all these people put in one room and entertained well with strong drink. And when they were drunk he had the house fired, and it burned down with all those inside, except that Eyvind Kelda escaped through the louver and got away. And when he had got a long ways he encountered people who intended to journey to the king, and he bade them tell the king that Eyvind Kelda had escaped and that he would never after get into the clutches of King Óláf and that he would behave as he had done before in practicing his sorcery. And when these men came before King Óláf they told him what Eyvind had bidden them. The king was greatly vexed that Eyvind was not dead.

 

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The sorcerers die on the skerries.

 

Chapter 63. Eyvind Kelda and Other Warlocks Are Drowned

 

Toward spring King Óláf sailed out along the [Fold]fjord, visiting his large estates, and sent messengers about all the Vík District that he would collect troops in summer and journey north with them. Then he proceeded north [west] to Agthir. And as Lent approached, he sailed to Rogaland and by Easter-Eve arrived at Ogvaldsness on the Island of Kormt. There, the Easter repast was prepared for him. He had with him close to three hundred [360] men. The same night Eyvind Kelda approached the island with a warship fully manned with warlocks only and other kinds of sorcerers. Eyvind left his ship together with his crew and began to exert his spells. He made such a cover of darkness with fog that the king and his people should not be able to see them. But when they came close to the building on Ogvaldsness it became bright day. And then matters turned out differently from what Eyvind had intended: then the same darkness he had produced with his magic enveloped him and his followers so that they could not see any more with their eyes than with the back of their heads and went about in circles. But the king’s watchman saw them but did not know what band it was, and told the king. He and all his followers arose and put on their clothes. And when he saw Eyvind and his band he ordered his men to arm themselves and go up to them to find out who they were. And when the king’s men recognized Eyvind they captured him and his crew and led them to the king. Then Eyvind told him about his doings; whereupon the king had them taken out to skerries which were covered with water at high tide and bound them there. Thus Eyvind and all his companions lost their lives. That place was thereafter called Skrattasker [Sorcerers’ Skerries].

 

Chapter 64. Óthin Visits the King

 

It is told that one evening when King Óláf was being entertained at Ogvaldsness an old and very wise-spoken man came in. He wore a hood coming low down over his face and was one-eyed. This man had things to tell of every land. He engaged in conversation with the king, and the king found much pleasure in his talk and asked him about many things. The guest had an answer to all his questions, and he stayed up long in the evening with him. Then the king asked him whether he knew who had been the Ogvald after whom the ness and the estate were named. The guest answered that Ogvald had been a king and a great man of war and had worshipped a cow more than anything else, and that he had her with him wherever he went, and that he thought it salutary always to drink her milk. “King Ogvald fought with a king named Varin, and in that battle King Ogvald fell. He was then interred here in the mound close to the estate, and memorial stones were raised for him which still stand here. And in another place close to here the cow was buried.” Such tales he told, and many others, about kings and other stories of olden times.

 

When they had sat thus a long time in the night, the bishop reminded the king that it was time to retire, and the king did so. But when he was undressed and had got into bed, the guest sat down on the footboard and still talked a long time with the king, and no sooner had he said one thing than the king longed to hear more. Then the bishop said to the king that it was time to go to sleep. The king did so, and the guest left the room. A short time afterwards the king awoke and asked after the guest and ordered that he be called to him, but the guest was nowhere to be found.

 

On the morning following, the king had the cook called before him and also the man who attended to the drink and asked them if any stranger had come to see them. They said that when they were about to prepare the meal some man they did not know approached them and said that they were preparing marvellously poor meat for the king’s table. And then he gave them two fat and thick sides of beef, which they boiled, together with other meat. Then the king said they were to destroy all that food—that this had probably not been any human but Óthin, the god heathen men had long worshipped, and that he was not going to succeed in deceiving them.

 

Chapter 65. The People of Trondheim Reject the King’s Attempt to Christianize Them

 

In the summer King Óláf gathered numerous troops from the eastern part of the country, and with that force proceeded north to Trondheim, anchoring first at Nitharós.1 Then he sent out messengers2 about all the fjord to call an assembly, summoning the men of eight districts to Frosta; but the farmers changed their token into war-arrows and called together both free men and thralls in the whole province of Trondheim.

 

Now when the king arrived at the assembly, he found there the host of farmers all armed. And when the meeting was opened, the king spoke to the people and bade them accept Christianity. But when he had spoken but a little while, the farmers called out and asked him to cease, saying that otherwise they would set upon him and drive him away. “Thus we did to Hákon, the foster child of Æthelstān, when he demanded that of us, and we do not value you higher than him.”

 

And when King Óláf perceived the angry disposition of the farmers and observed that they had so large a force that resistance was impossible, he yielded in his speech as if to agree with the farmers, and said, “I desire that we come to an agreement such as we had before. I wish to journey to where you celebrate your greatest sacrifice and there see what is your accustomed faith. Then let us decide on what faith we shall adopt, and agree on that, all of us.” And as the king spoke gently to the farmers their mood softened and all their discussion thereafter proceeded peaceably and in a conciliatory spirit; and it was finally decided that there should be held a midsummer sacrifice inside the fjord at Mærin, and that all the chieftains and influential farmers should attend it as was the custom; and King Óláf was to come there too.

 

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Chapter 66. Járnskeggi Is the Leader of the Farmers

 

There was a powerful franklin called Skeggi. He was called Járnskeggi [Ironbeard]. He dwelled at Upphaug in Yrjar. Skeggi was the first to speak against King Óláf at the assembly and also was of most influence among the farmers opposing Christianity. Thus stood matters when the assembly dissolved. Then the farmers went home, and the king, to Hlathir.

 

Chapter 67. The King Forces the Farmers to Accept Christianity

 

King Óláf moored his ships in the Nith River. He had thirty ships, with a picked and numerous crew. The king himself often resided at Hlathir with his retinue. And when the time approached for the sacrifices at Mærin, King Óláf arranged for a big feast at Hlathir and sent messengers into the inner fjord district to Strind and up into Gaular Dale and into Orka Dale, inviting chieftains and other farmers of importance. And when the banquet was all prepared and those invited had arrived, there was good entertainment the first evening, and drink was served very liberally, and the men grew very drunk. But afterwards during the night everyone slept in peace.

 

On the morning after, when the king was dressed, he had mass sung for himself; and when it was finished he had the horns blown to summon men for a meeting. Then all his crews left their ships and came to the assembly; and when it opened, the king arose and spoke as follows:

 

“We had an assembly at Frosta, and there I bade the farmers to let themselves be baptized, but they bade me on the contrary to come to sacrifice with them, as had done Hákon, the foster son of Æthelstān. Then we agreed that we should meet in Mærin and there make a great sacrifice. But if I am to sacrifice with you, then I shall have a sacrifice made which is the greatest ever made, and sacrifice humans. And I shall choose for that, not thralls or evildoers, but the noblest of men as sacrifice to the gods. I shall choose for that Orm Lygra1 of Methalhús, Styrkár of Gimsar, Kár of Grýting, Ásbjorn and Thorberg of Ornesś,1 Orm of Lyxá, Halldór of Skerthingstethja”—and he named still another five most prominent men, saying that he would sacrifice them to obtain a good season and peace; and then he had his men immediately attack them. But when the farmers saw that they did not have a sufficient force to fight the king, they asked for quarter and offered to submit to his terms. Then they came to the agreement that all the farmers who had come were to let themselves be baptized and to promise the king upon oath to hold fast to the true faith and to abolish all sacrifices. The king kept all these men by him at the feast until they had delivered their sons or their brothers or other close kinsmen as hostages to the king.

 

Chapter 68. King Óláf Attends the Sacrifice at Marin

 

King Óláf with all his troops proceeded to the inner reaches of the Trondheimfjord. And when he reached Mærin, all the chieftains of the Trondheim District who most opposed Christianity had arrived together with all the rich farmers who before had maintained the sacrifices in that place. There was a great multitude, just as there had been at the Frostathing Assembly. Then the king asked the assembly to meet, and both parties came there all armed. And when the assembly met, the king made a speech in which he asked the people to accept Christianity. Járnskeggi answered his speech as representative of the farmers. He said that it was the wish of the farmers as it had been before that the king should not break the laws. “It is our wish, sir king,” he said, “that you make the sacrifice as other kings have done here before you.” The farmers shouted approval, saying they wanted everything done as Skeggi had said. Then the king replied that he would go into the temple and see what their custom was when they sacrificed. The farmers were well pleased with that, and both parties went to the temple.

 

Chapter 69. King Óláf Destroys the Idols

 

King Óláf now entered the temple, accompanied by a few men and some of the farmers. And when the king came to where the gods were, he found Thór sitting there as the most honored of all the gods, adorned with gold and silver. King Óláf lifted up the gold-adorned rod he held in his hand and struck Thór, so he fell from his pedestal. Then the king’s men ran up and shoved all the gods from their pedestals. And while the king was inside, Járnskeggi was killed outside in the front of the temple door, and the king’s men did that. And when the king had rejoined his force he offered the farmers two alternatives—either to accept Christianity or to go to battle with him. But after Skeggi’s death there was no leader among the farmers to raise the standard against King Óláf. So they chose the alternative to go to the king and to do what he bade them. Then King Óláf had all the people that were there baptized, and demanded hostages from the farmers to make certain they would hold fast to Christianity. Thereupon King Óláf let his men go about through all the districts of Trondheim, and then no one made opposition to Christianity, so that all the people in the Trondheim District were baptized.

 

Chapter 70. King Óláf Founds the Town of Nitharós

 

King Óláf returned with his army to Nitharós. Then he had houses built on the bank of the Nith River, decreeing that there was to be a market town there. He gave people lots to build themselves houses on and had the royal residence erected above a small inlet there. In the fall he had all furnishings [and provisions] requisite for a winter residence brought there, and maintained a very considerable force at that place.

 

Chapter 71. Guthrún Attempts to Assassinate the King

 

King Óláf arranged for a meeting with the kinsmen of Járnskeggi and offered them atonement, and many men of prominence appeared to make a claim. Járnskeggi had a daughter called Guthrún. It was finally agreed upon that King Óláf was to marry her. And when the marriage was celebrated King Óláf and Guthrún mounted the same bed. And in the first night as they lay together, no sooner had the king fallen asleep but she drew a knife and was about to thrust it into him. But the king became aware of it. He wrested the knife from her, got up out of bed, and went to his men and told them what had happened. Guthrún also took her clothes, as did all the men who had come there with her. They left the place, nor did Guthrún ever after lie in the same bed with King Óláf.

 

Chapter 72. The Ship Crane Is Built

 

That same fall King Óláf had a large warship built on the spit by the Nith River. It was a swift-sailing ship, and he employed many artisans for building it. And toward the beginning of that winter the ship was finished. It had thirty rowers’ benches, was high in stem and stern, but not large otherwise. That ship the king called the Crane. After the slaying of Járnskeggi his body was brought out to Yrjar, and he lies buried in Skeggi’s Howe near Austrátt.

 

Chapter 73. Thangbrand Is Sent to Iceland to Convert It

 

When King Óláf Tryggvason had been king of Norway for two years, there was at his court a Saxon priest called Thangbrand. He was a man of great overbearing and much inclined to violence, but otherwise a good cleric and a brave fellow. However, because of his turbulent ways the king did not want to have him about him and entrusted him with the mission to journey to Iceland and convert that land to Christianity. He was given a merchantman, and it is told of his journey that he made land in Iceland in the South Álptafjord in the Eastfjord District and stayed with Hall of Sítha during the winter following. Thangbrand preached Christianity in Iceland, and owing to his eloquence Hall let himself be baptized, together with his household and many other chieftains; but there were far more who opposed him. Thorvald Veili and the skald Vetrlithi 1 composed scurrilous verses about Thangbrand, and he killed both. Thangbrand stayed two years in Iceland and had slain three persons before leaving.

 

Chapter 74. Sigurth and Hauk Refuse Baptism

 

There were two men, one called Sigurth and another, Hauk. Both were from Hálogaland and travelled much as merchants. One summer they had sailed west to England; and when they returned to Norway they sailed north along the land; and in North Mœr they encountered the fleet of King Óláf. Now when the king was told that some men from Hálogaland had arrived there who were heathen, he had the skippers called to him and asked them if they would let themselves be baptized, but they said they would not. Then the king approached them in a number of ways, without avail. Then he threatened them with death or torture, but it had no effect on them. So he had them put in irons and had them along with him for some time, in chains. The king often spoke to them, but it was of no use; and one night they disappeared without anyone hearing about them or knowing how they had got away. But in the fall they showed up with Hárek of Thjótta, who received them well and had them stay with him during the winter in high favor.

 

Chapter 75. Sigurth and Hauk Abduct Hárek

 

One fine day in spring Hárek was at home, and only a few persons had remained behind with him. It seemed very dull to him. Sigurth then asked him if he would like to go rowing a bit for amusement, and Hárek liked the suggestion. So they went down to the shore and pulled out a boat with six oars. Sigurth went to the boatshed and brought out the sail and the tackle belonging to the boat as they often were accustomed to when sailing for amusement. Hárek stepped into the boat to put the rudder in place. Sigurth and his brother were fully armed just as it was their custom to go about on the estate of the franklin. Both were unusually strong men. But before they stepped into the boat they threw into it some casks with butter and a chest full of bread; and between them they carried a large keg of ale into the boat. Then they rowed-away from land, and when they had come a short ways from the island the brothers hoisted the sail while Hárek steered.

 

Soon they were at some distance from the island. Then the two brothers went aft to where Hárek sat. Sigurth said to Franklin Hárek, “Now you shall have to choose one of these alternatives: either to let us two brothers decide where we shall go, or have us tie you hand and foot, or else kill you.” Hárek understood how matters stood. He was a match for no more than one of the brothers if both had been equally well armed. So he chose what seemed to him the most acceptable of these alternatives, which was, to let them decide their course. He confirmed that with oaths and gave them surety about it.

 

Thereupon Sigurth took the helm and steered south along the land. The brothers took care not to meet anyone, and they had a most favorable breeze. They did not stop before making the Trondheimfjord in the south and finally Nitharós, where they went to King Óláf’s court.

 

Then the king summoned Hárek to a conference and bade him accept baptism. Hárek refused to do that. The king and Hárek discussed this many a day, sometimes in the hearing of many, sometimes in private, but could come to no agreement.

 

Finally the king said to Hárek, “I want you to journey home now, I shall not harm you for the nonce. The reason for that is, first, that there is much kinship between us, and second, that you might say I got hold of you by trickery. But I want you to know for sure that I intend to sail north your way in summer and pay a visit to you people of Hálogaland. And then you will find out whether I can punish them who refuse Christianity.” Hárek declared himself well pleased that he could get away from there, the sooner the better. King Óláf procured Hárek a good skiff with ten or twelve oarsmen and had that boat provisioned as best could be. The king gave Hárek a crew of thirty men well-equipped and hardy.

 

Chapter 76. Eyvind Kinnrifa Is Tortured to Death by King Óláf

 

Hárek of Thjótta left the town as soon as he could, but Hauk and Sigurth remained with the king and had themselves baptized. Hárek sailed his way until he arrived home in Thjótta. He sent word to Eyvind Kinnrifa, his friend, to tell him that Hárek of Thjótta had met King Óláf and had not let himself be cowed to accept Christianity. For another thing, his messengers were to tell him that King Óláf intended to come against them with a fleet during the summer. Hárek said they would have to be on guard for that and asked Eyvind to come to see him as soon as possible. And when this message was delivered to Eyvind he understood there was ample reason to take counsel against being at the mercy of the king. So Eyvind departed as fast as he could on a swift boat with only a few men. And when he arrived at Thjótta, Hárek made him right welcome, and they both straightway left the farm to have a talk together. But when they had talked but a short while, the men of King Óláf who had brought Hárek north, made Eyvind prisoner and led him away to the ship. Then they departed with Eyvind, and continued on their way till they arrived in Trondheim and found the king in Nitharós. Then he was brought to King Óláf. The king bade him to let himself be baptized like others. But Eyvind refused. The king with kind words urged him to accept Christianity, both he and the bishop giving him many reasons for so doing. But Eyvind would not budge. Then the king offered him gifts and great revenues, but Eyvind refused all. Then the king threatened him with torture or death. Still Eyvind would not budge. Thereupon the king had a basin full of live coals brought in and put on Eyvind’s belly, and soon his belly burst.

 

Then Eyvind said: “Take the basin away. I want to say a few words before I die.” And that was done.

 

Then the king asked, “Will you now believe in Christ, Eyvind?”

 

“No,” he said, “I cannot accept any baptism. I am a spirit brought to life in human shape by the sorcery of Finns, my father and my mother could have no child before.” Then Eyvind died. He had been a great sorcerer.

 

Chapter 77. Hárek of Thjótta Is Baptized

 

In the spring following, King Óláf had his ships and their crews well equipped. He himself took over the Crane. He had then a numerous and picked force. And when he was ready he sailed out of the fjord and proceeded north around Cape Byrtha, continuing north to Hálogaland. And wherever he made land he held an assembly, at which he bade all to be baptized and accept the true faith. No one durst oppose him, and wherever he fared all the land was made Christian. King Óláf was entertained by Hárek in Thjótta. He and all his followers were baptized then. At their parting, Hárek made the king fine presents and swore him allegiance, against receiving grants and the dues accruing to a steward [of the king].

 

Chapter 78. Rauth the Strong and Thórir Hart Are Defeated by the King

 

Rauth the Strong was the name of a farmer who lived at Gothey in the Sálptifjord. He was a man of great wealth and had many workers. He was a man who had much power. A great number of Finns followed him whenever he needed them. Rauth was much given to making sacrifices and was a great sorcerer. He was a close friend of Thórir Hart, a man who was mentioned before. Both were powerful chieftains. Now when they learned that King Óláf was coming from the south to Hálogaland with an army, they gathered troops, made a levy of ships, and had a great force. Rauth owned a large dragon ship with gilded head. That vessel had thirty rowers’ benches and was large in proportion. Thórir Hart also had a large ship. With this force they headed south against King Óláf, and when they met, they offered battle to him. It was a fierce combat, and many fell, most in the army of the men of Hálogaland. Their ships were cleared, and then terror and fright got the upper hand among them.

 

Rauth rowed out to sea with his dragon ship and soon hoisted his sail. He always had a favorable wind, wherever he wished to sail, and that was owing to his witchcraft. To be brief about the matter, he sailed back to his home on Gothey.

 

Thórir Hart fled to the land, where he [and his crew] abandoned their ships and were pursued by King Óláf and his men, who also left their ships, following on their heels and killing them. The king, there too, was foremost as always where such exploits were called for. He caught sight of Thórir Hart fleeing. Thórir was an exceedingly swift runner. The king ran after him, accompanied by his hound Vígi. The king called out to him, “Vígi, get the hart!” Vígi ran after Thórir and jumped on him. Thórir stopped. Then the king hurled his spear at Thórir. Thórir gave the dog a great wound with his sword, but at the same moment the king’s spear pierced Thórir under his arm so that it came out on the other side. There Thórir expired; but Vígi was borne wounded to the ship. King Óláf gave quarter to all those who asked for it and consented to be baptized.

 

Chapter 79. Sorcery Prevents King Óláf’s Fleet from Entering the Sálptifjord

 

King Óláf sailed north with his fleet along the land, baptizing all the people wherever he came. And when he arrived at the Sálptifjord in the north, he intended to enter it to find Rauth, but a furious squall and fierce gale swept out from the fjord, and the king lay there for a week, with the same tempestuous blast coming out of the fjord, whilst on the outside there was a favorable wind to sail north. Then the king sailed all the way north to Omth, where all the people accepted Christianity. Then the king reversed his course and steered south again. But when he approached the Sálptifjord from the north, squalls and spume again issued from it. The king lay there several nights while the same weather continued. Then the king spoke with Bishop Sigurth and inquired whether he knew what course to pursue. The bishop replied that he would try and see if God would lend him his might to overcome this fiendish power.

 

Chapter 80. Bishop Sigurth Overcomes Rauth’s Magic

 

Bishop Sigurth put on all his vestments and went forward to the prow of the king’s ship, had tapers lit and incense borne. He set up a crucifix on the stem of the ship, read the gospel and many other prayers, and sprinkled holy water all over the ship. Then he told them to take the tent coverings off and to row into the fjord. The king then had the order to go out to all the other ships to row behind his. And when they started rowing the Crane, she entered the fjord, and the rowers felt no wind blowing on them; and in the space left by its wake there was perfect calm, and the spoondrift receded on both sides, so that the mountains were hidden by it. Then one ship followed the other in that calm. Thus they proceeded all day, and then during the night, and shortly before daybreak arrived at Gothey. And when they approached Rauth’s estate they saw his large dragon ship floating on the water near land.

 

King Óláf straightway went up to the buildings with his troops. They attacked the loft in which Rauth slept, forced it open, and entered. Then Rauth was seized and bound. The others inside were either killed or taken prisoner. Then the king’s men went to the hall in which slept the housecarls of Rauth, killing some, and capturing or manhandling others.

 

The king had Rauth brought before him and bade him take the baptism. “In that case,” said the king, “I shall not deprive you of your property, but rather be your friend if you show yourself worthy of it.” Rauth cried out against him and said he would never believe in Christ, and he uttered much blasphemy. Then the king became enraged and promised him a most terrible death. Then the king had him tied with his back to a beam with a stick as gag between his teeth to keep his mouth open. Then he had a snake put before his mouth but it wriggled away, because Rauth blew against it. Then the king had the hollow stem of an angelica-stalk put into his mouth—though some say the king had his trumpet put into his mouth—and inserted the snake into it, then applied a glowing iron bar without. Then the snake wriggled into Rauth’s mouth and throat and gnawed its way out through his side. From that Rauth died.

 

King Óláf took from there a great amount of riches in gold and silver and other valuables, weapons and many kinds of precious things. And all the men who had followed Rauth, the king had baptized, but those who would not, he had killed or tortured. Then King Óláf seized the dragon ship Rauth had owned, and steered it himself, because it was a much larger and finer ship than the Crane. Its stem had a dragon’s head on it, and on its stern, a crook shaped like a tail; and both sides of the neck and all the stern were gilded. That ship the king called the Serpent, because when the sail was hoisted it was to look like the wing of a dragon. That was the finest ship in all Norway.

 

The islands where Rauth lived are called Gylling and Hæring, and the name for all of them is the Gothey Islands; and the Gothey Current1 is in the north between them and the mainland.

 

King Óláf converted all the district about that fjord, then proceeded south along the land, and on that journey much happened which has been set down in accounts—how trolls and evil spirits taunted his men and sometimes even himself. But we would rather write about how King Óláf introduced Christianity in Norway and in the other countries to which he brought the faith. King Óláf that same fall returned to Trondheim, steering to Nitharós, where he prepared to spend the winter. The next matter which I shall have written deals with Icelanders.

 

Chapter 81. The Icelanders in Nitharós Vainly Attempt to Avoid the King

 

That same fall there came to Nitharós from Iceland Kjartan,1 the son of Óláf, who himself was the son of Hoskuld and the nephew, by his daughter, of Egil Skallagrimsson. Kjartan has been called the most promising man ever born in Iceland. In Nitharós there were also Halldor, the son of Guthmund of Mothruvellir; Kolbein, the son of Thórth Freysgothi and the brother of Flosi of the Burning; 2 and as the fourth, Sverting, the son of Rúnólf the Gothi. 3 All these men were heathen as well as many others, some influential, others less so. There had also come from Iceland some excellent men who had been converted by Thangbrand, such as Gizur the White, the son of Teit Ketilbjarnarson—his mother was Álof, the daughter of Hersir Bothvar, the son of Víkinga-Kári. Bothvar’s brother was Sigurth, the father of Eirík Bjóthaskalli, the father of Ástríth who was King Óláf’s mother. Another Icelander was Hjalti Skeggjason. He was married to Vilborg, the daughter of Gizur the White. Hjalti also was a Christian, and King Óláf received him and Gizur, his kinsman, well, and they stayed at his court.

 

Now those Icelanders who commanded ships and were heathen, sought to be on their way as soon as the king was in the town, because they had been told that the king forced everyone to accept Christianity; but the weather was against them, and they drifted back to Nitharhólm. The following men were the skippers of these ships: Thórarin Nefjólfsson, the skald Hallfröth Óttarsson,4 Brand the Generous, and Thorleik Brandsson. King Óláf was told that there were Icelanders in several ships, heathen all, who wanted to avoid meeting him. Then the king sent messengers to them, forbidding them to leave the country and commanding them to put into town. They did so, but did not carry any of their goods on shore.

 

Chapter 82. Kjartan and Bolli Are Baptized

 

Now came Michaelmas. The king had it observed strictly and had mass sung solemnly. The Icelanders approached and listened to the beautiful singing and the ringing of the bells. And when they returned to their ships, everyone remarked on whether he had liked the proceedings of the Christians. Kjartan spoke favorably about them, but most of the others had no taste for them. But, as the saying goes, “many are the king’s ears.” The king was told about this, so straightway the same day he sent a messenger to Kjartan and bade him come to him. Kjartan went to the king together with some few men. The king received him in kindly fashion. Kjartan was an unusually tall and strong man, very handsome, and spoke well. When they had exchanged but a few words, the king bade Kjartan become a Christian. Kjartan said he would not refuse to if thereby he could gain the friendship of the king. The king promised him complete friendship, and so they came to an agreement between them. On the following day Kjartan was baptized, together with Bolli Thorláksson, a kinsman of his, and their entire crew. Both Kjartan and Bolli were the guests of the king whilst they were in their baptismal robes, and the king showed them great kindness.

 

Chapter 83. The Skald Hallfröth Accepts Baptism

 

One day King Óláf was walking in the Street1 with some followers when several men met them, and the man at their head greeted the king well. The king asked that man what his name was, and he gave it as Hallfröth. The king said, “Are you the skald?”

 

He replied, “I can compose poetry.”

 

Then the king said, “I am sure you will want to be baptized and there-after be my man?”

 

He replied, “Then I shall make this one condition for being baptized, that you, sir king, yourself be my godfather. I will not be baptized by anyone else.”

 

The king said, “I shall do that.” Then Hallfröth was baptized, and it was the king who held him during the baptism.

 

Thereupon the king asked Hallfröth, “Will you now be my man?”

 

Hallfröth said, “Before, I was a retainer of Earl Hákon. Now I do not want to enter your service or that of any other chieftain, unless you promise me this, that you will not drive me out of your company, whatever may happen to me.”

 

“I have been told this about you, Hallfröth,” said the king, “that you are not so wise or so gentle in your ways, and I suspect that you may do something which I will under no condition put up with.”

 

“Kill me then,”2 said Hallfröth.

 

The king said, “A troublesome skald you are, but my man you shall be.”

 

Hallfröth replied: “What will you, sir king, give me if you bestow this name of ‘Troublesome Skald’ on me?”3 The king gave him a sword, but one without a scabbard.

 

The king said, “Now compose a stanza about this sword, and let the word ‘sword’ occur in every line.” Hallfröth recited this verse:

 

(146.)

 

163.   A sword of swords this, which
sword-rich now did make me.
Sword-some will’t now seem to
sword-bearing brave warriors.
No worse off for swords were I—
worth am I three swords now—
with the sword if, sire,
seemly sheath be given.

 

Thereupon the king gave him a scabbard. From the poems of Hallfröth we have gathered the information and true facts which are told about King Óláf Tryggvason.

 

Chapter 84. All Icelanders at the Court Are Baptized

 

That same fall Thangbrand the priest arrived from Iceland at King Óláf’s court and told him that his mission had not been so successful, that the Icelanders had composed lampoons about him, and that some had wanted to kill him. He considered it unlikely that that land would ever be Christian. The king became so furiously angry that he had the trumpets sounded to summon all Icelanders then in the town, and said that all were to be killed. But Kjartan, Gizur, and Hjalti, as well as the others who at that time had been baptized, went before the king and said, “You will not want to go back on your word, sir king, because you have been saying that there is no man, however much he has done to provoke your wrath, who will not be pardoned by you if he will let himself be baptized and will give up heathenish ways. Now all Icelanders here are willing to let themselves be baptized; and we shall find ways and means to bring it about that Christianity is accepted in Iceland. There are here many influential men’s sons from Iceland, and their fathers are likely to afford us great help in this matter. But Thangbrand proceeded there, as he did here with you, with overbearing, and committed manslaughter, and people there would not stand for that.” Then the king began to listen to what they had to say. And then all Icelanders who were there were baptized.

 

Chapter 85. King Óláf Tryggvason’s Character and Accomplishments

 

King Óláf was in all bodily accomplishments the foremost of all the men in Norway of whom we are told. He was stronger and more agile than anyone else, and many stories are told about that. One of these is that he climbed the Smalsarhorn1 and fastened his shield on top of the mountain; and another, that he helped down one of his followers who had before him climbed the mountain, and now could get neither up nor down. The king went up to him and on his arm carried him down to even ground. King Óláf could walk along the oars outside the Serpent while his men rowed. He could juggle with three daggers, with one always up in the air, and he always caught them by the hilt. He wielded his sword equally well with either hand, and hurled two spears at the same time. King Óláf was of a most cheerful disposition and full of fun. He was friendly and affable, impetuous in all matters, exceedingly generous, and a fine dresser. He exceeded everyone in bravery when in battle. When angered he was very cruel, inflicting tortures on his enemies. Some of them he burned with fire, some he let wild dogs tear to pieces, others he had maimed or cast down from high cliffs. For these reasons he was beloved by his friends and feared by his enemies. And he had such success, because some out of friendship and good will did what he wanted done, and some, because of their fear of him.

 

Chapter 86. Leif Eiríksson Joins the King’s Court

 

Leif, the son of Eirík the Red, the man who first settled in Greenland, had that summer come from Greenland to Norway. He went to the court of King Óláf, received the baptism, and stayed with King Óláf during the winter.

 

Chapter 87. King Guthröth Eiríksson Is Slain

 

Guthröth, one of the sons of Eirík Bloodyaxe and Gunnhild, had been raiding in the British Islands ever since he fled from Earl Hákon.

But this summer of which we have just written, when King Óláf Tryggvason had been ruler of Norway for four years, Guthröth came to Norway with many warships. He had sailed from England; and when he expected to sight land in Norway, he steered south along the land to where there was less chance of meeting King Óláf, and sailed south [east] toward Vík. And as soon as he made land he began to harry and to force people into submission, requiring them to acknowledge him as king. But when the people of the country saw that a large army had descended upon them, they begged for peace and expressed their willingness to come to an agreement. They offered King Guthröth to have an assembly called and rather accept him as king than to suffer the depredations of his army; and there was to be a respite until the assembly could gather.
 

image

 

Guthröth Eiríksson’s men harry in Vík.

 

Then the king demanded a contribution in food for the time until the assembly met. But the farmers preferred to entertain the king as long as he needed it until then. And he accepted that alternative and went about the country, being entertained, together with part of his force, while part of it guarded his ships. But when Hyrning and Thorgeir, King Óláf’s relatives by marriage learned of this, they gathered a force and procured ships and then sailed north to Vík, and one night came to the place where King Guthröth was being entertained. They attacked it with fire and arms; and King Guthröth fell there, together with most of his company. But those of his force who had remained on the ships were either slain or escaped, fleeing every which way. Then all the sons of Eirík and Gunnhild were dead.

 

Chapter 88. The Long Serpent Is Defaced and Then Improved by Thorberg

 

The winter following, when King Óláf had returned from Hálogaland, he ordered a large ship built underneath the Hlathir Cliffs which was much larger than any other ship then in the country, and the stocks on which it was built still exist and can be seen. Thorberg Skafhogg was the name of the man who fashioned the stem and stern of the ship, but many others were engaged in its building, some fitting the timbers together, some shaping it with their adzes, some riveting the nails, some transporting the timber. All parts were wrought very carefully. The vessel was both long and broad, stood high out of the water, and was constructed of big timbers. And when they were fashioning the gunwales on it, Thorberg was obliged to go home on a necessary errand and stayed there a long time. And when he returned, the ship had bulwarks of full height. In the evening the king straightway went with Thorberg to inspect the ship and see what had been done, and everyone declared that they had never seen a ship as large and handsome. Thereupon the king returned to the town.

 

image

 

The Long Serpent.

 

Early next morning the king again went to the ship together with Thorberg. The workmen had already arrived there, but all stood about and did nothing. The king asked what was the matter. They said that the ship was ruined, that somebody had gone from the stem to the raised afterdeck and had given the uppermost course of the ship’s side one damaging blow after the other. The king then went closer and saw that it was true. Then he spoke at once and vowed that if he found out who because of jealousy had ruined the ship, that man should die. “But he who can tell me who did it shall be handsomely rewarded.”

 

Then Thorberg said, “I can tell you, sir king, who did this.”

 

“I would not have expected,” said the king, “anyone else to be so lucky as to be able to tell me who did it.”

 

“I shall tell you, sir king,” he said, “who has done it. I did it.”

 

Then the king said, “In that case you are to repair the ship so that it is as good as before. Your life depends on it.” Then Thorberg went to work with his adze, with the result that all traces of the damage inflicted disappeared. Then the king and all the others declared that the ship looked far better on that side which Thorberg had cut out. Then the king bade him do so on both sides, and offered him thanks for what he had done; whereupon Thorberg was made chief builder until the ship was completed.

 

It was constructed as a dragon ship, on the model of the Serpent which the king had taken along from Hálogaland; only it was much larger and more carefully wrought in all respects. He called it the Long Serpent, and the other one, the Short Serpent. The Long Serpent had thirty-four compartments. The head and the tail were all gilt. And the gunwales were as high as those on a seagoing ship. This was the best ship ever built in Norway, and the most costly.

 

Chapter 89. Earl Eirík Hákonarson Harries in the Baltic

 

Earl Eirík Hákonarson, his brothers, and many other prominent kinsmen of theirs had fled the country after the death of Earl Hákon. Earl Eirík journeyed to Sweden to join the court of Óláf, the king of Sweden, where he was received well. King Óláf gave the earl the freedom of the country and large revenues so he could maintain himself and his men well. This is mentioned by Thórth Kolbeinsson [in these verses]: 1

 

(147.)

 

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

 

(148.)

 

165.   Much in mind had Eirík—
more than thought was—’gainst the
sower-of-wealth: certes,
such was to be looked for.
Wrothly sought the Swedish
sovran’s help—durst none
hinder that—the Thronders’
thane. That tribe proved stubborn.

 

A great number of people who had fled Norway from King Óláf Tryggvason joined Earl Eirík. Then Earl Eirík determined to procure himself ships and undertake a warlike expedition to obtain property for himself and his company. First he sailed to Gotland, where he lay for a long time during the summer, waylaying merchantmen sailing to land, or vikings. Now and then he went up on land, raiding far and wide along the coast. As is said in the Bandadrápa:2

 

(149.)

 

166.   Hard frays many more the
mail-clad lord, besides these,
fought—that have we found out—
Fray-loving Earl Eirík3
he who harried Gotland’s
hapless shorelands often
far and wide with fury.
furthered storm-of-arrows.

 

Later on Earl Eirík sailed south to Wendland, and there, before [the headland of] Staur,4 he encountered some viking ships and gave battle to them. Eirík was victorious and slew the vikings. As is told in the Bandadrápa:

 

(150.)

 

167.   His stem-horses at Staur, the
strengthener of men anchored—
ordered thus the atheling.
Eager for the fray, the5
Slit the sea-gull-of-wounds,6 at
sword-contest fierce, men’s
bodies on island’s edges—
earl rules land god-warded.

 

Chapter 90. Earl Eirík Marries the Daughter of King Svein Forkbeard

 

In the following autumn, Earl Eirík returned to Sweden and remained there another winter. But in spring the earl readied his force and sailed into the Baltic. And when he came to the realm of King Valdamar he began to harry and to kill people, and to burn down everything where he went, thus laying the land waste. He reached Aldeigjuborg 1 and beleaguered it until he conquered that town, killing many there, and breaking down and burning the entire town. Thereupon he went about Gartharíki, raiding far and wide, as is told in the Bandadrápa:

 

(151.)

 

168.   Waste laid then the warrior—
waxed battle thereafter—
Valdamar’s land and lieges
likewise with sword and fire.
Didst Aldeigja level,
dreaded leader—such news
heard we for sure—when you
harried east in Garthar.

 

Altogether, Earl Eirík was engaged in these expeditions during five summers. When he left Gartharíki he raided throughout Athalsýsla and Eysýsla,2 where he took four galleys from the Danes and killed all their crews; as is told in the Bandadrápa:

 

(152.)

 

169.   Heard have I how the
hardy blood-wand3 wielder
fought in the firth ’twixt islands.
Fray-loving Earl Eirík4
Cleared then of their caitiff
crews four Danish warships,
learned we, fiercely fighting.
furthered storm-of-arrows.

 

(153.)

 

170.   Battle gave ye ’gainst the
Gautar, in their stronghold
afterward ye entered.
Eager for the fray, the
Went the god-of-war5—to
wights he gave no surcease—
into all the districts.
earl rules land god-warded.

 

After passing one winter in Sweden Earl Eirík journeyed to Denmark. There he went to the court of Svein Forkbeard, the Danish king, and asked for the hand of Gytha, his daughter; and upon his agreeing to that, Earl Eirík married her. And a year later they had a son who was called Hákon. During the winters Earl Eirík sometimes sojourned in Denmark and sometimes in Sweden, but in summer he went on warlike expeditions.

 

Chapter 91. King Svein Forkbeard Marries Sigríth the Haughty

 

King Svein of Denmark was married to Gunnhild, a daughter of King Búrizláf of Wendland. But in the times of which we have just written, it happened that Queen Gunnhild took sick and died; and a short time afterwards King Svein married Sigríth the Haughty, the daughter of Skoglar-Tósti and the mother of Óláf, king of Sweden. With these bonds of relationship there came great friendship between the two kings and also with Earl Eirík Hákonarson.

 

Chapter 92. Princess Thyri Is Wed to Búrizláf But Escapes to Norway and Marries Óláf

 

Búrizláf, the king of the Wendish, complained to Earl Sigvaldi, his son-in-law; that the agreements had been broken which Earl Sigvaldi had arranged between him [Búrizláf] and King Svein. Búrizláf was to have received in marriage Thyri, daughter of Harald and sister of King Svein; but that union was not effected because Thyri absolutely refused to be married to a heathen king who also was old. Now King Búrizláf told the earl that he would insist on having that agreement kept, and asked the earl to journey to Denmark and bring him Queen Thyri.

 

Earl Sigvaldi did not put this aside but travelled to the court of Svein, the king of Denmark, and brought this matter up before him; and the earl was so successful in his arguments that King Svein put into his hands his sister Thyri. In her train were some women and her foster father, Ozur Agason, a man of influence, as well as some other men. It was in the agreement between the king and the earl that the properties in Wendland formerly owned by Queen Gunnhild, should pass into the possession of Thyri, together with other large properties which were to be her dowry. Thyri wept bitterly and went most reluctantly. And when the earl and his company arrived in Wendland, King Búrizláf celebrated his marriage with Queen Thyri. But she was among heathens and she would not have any food or drink from them; and this went on for seven days.

 

But one night Queen Thyri and Ozur escaped to the woods in the darkness of the night. To make a long story short, they got to Denmark. But there Thyri did not dare remain at any price because she knew that if King Svein, her brother, was informed that she was there, he would quickly deport her back to Wendland. So they continued by stealth till they came to Norway, and there Thyri did not stop till she arrived at the court of King Óláf. He made them welcome, and they stayed there and were hospitably entertained.

 

Thyri told the king about her troubles and asked him for advice and help, requesting that she might stay in his kingdom. Thyri was a well-spoken woman, and the king was pleased with her words. He observed that she was handsome, and bethought himself that she would be a good match. He broached the matter to her and asked whether she would marry him. Now seeing the difficulties she was in and from which she believed it would be very hard to extricate herself; and on the other hand considering how advantageous a match this was, to be married to so noble a king, she asked him to decide for her and [said] that she would follow his advice. And the outcome of their talk was that King Óláf received Queen Thyri in marriage. The celebration of it was held the same fall when the king had returned from Hálogaland in the north.

 

King Óláf and Queen Thyri dwelled in Nitharós during the winter. But in the spring following, the queen complained frequently to King Óláf, weeping bitterly, that she had such large possessions in Wendland, whereas she had no property there in Norway as befitted a queen. At times she would beg the king with sweet words to regain her possessions for her, saying that King Búrizláf was so great a friend of King Óláf that he would let King Óláf have all he wanted as soon as they met. But when the friends of King Óláf learned of what she said, they all of them counselled against this undertaking.

 

We are told that one day early in the spring when the king was walking in the Street, he met a man in the market place who had [for sale] many stalks of angelica1 remarkably large for so early in the spring. The king took along with him a large stalk and went to where resided Queen Thyri. She was sitting in her room and wept when the king entered. The king said, “Look at this large stalk of angelica for you.”

 

She struck at it with her hand and said, “Larger gifts bestowed Harald Gormsson, and was less afraid to leave his country and redeem his possessions than you are; and that was shown when he came here to Norway and laid waste most of this land and took possession of all revenues from it; but you don’t dare to proceed through the Danish realm for fear of King Svein, my brother.”

 

At this, King Óláf sprang to his feet and exclaimed in a loud voice, “Never shall I stand in fear of King Svein, your brother; and if ever we meet he shall have to give way.”

 

Chapter 93. Óláf Readies His Fleet to Retrieve Thyri’s Possessions in Wendland

 

A short time thereafter King Óláf summoned an assembly in the town, in which he made known to all the people that he would levy men and ships for war in summer from all the country, and that he demanded a contribution to this levy from every district, both in ships and men. And he made known how many ships he wanted from the Trondheim District. Thereupon he sent messengers both north and south along the land, and both along the coast and inland, and summoned troops. He launched the Long Serpent and all other ships he had, both large arid small. He himself steered the Long Serpent. And when men were chosen for the crews, they were so carefully picked that no one on the Long Serpent was to be older than sixty or younger than twenty, and it was a picked crew both as to strength and valor. Chosen were first of all the bodyguard of King Óláf, because it consisted of picked men as to strength and prowess, both Norwegians and foreigners.

 

Chapter 94. The Crew of the Long Serpent

 

Úlf the Red was the name of the man who carried the standard of King Óláf and was forecastleman on the Serpent. Other commanders were Kolbjorn the Marshal, Thorstein Oxfoot, Víkar of Tíundaland, a brother of Arnljót Gellini. The following were in the forepart of the ship: Vak Raumason of Álfheim, Bersi the Strong, Án the Marksman of Jamtaland, Thránd the Strong of Thelamork and his brother Óthyrmir. The following were from Hálogaland: Thránd the Squinter, Ogmund Sandi, Hlothvir the Long from Saltvík, Hárek the Keen. Then these men hailed from the inner reaches of the Trondheimsfjord: Ketil the Tall, Thorfinn Eisli, and Hávarth with his brothers from Orka Dale. The following were in the middle compartment of the vessel: Bjorn of Stuthla, Thorgrím Thjóthólfsson from Hvinir, the foster brothers Ásbjorn and Orm, Thórth from Njartharlog, Thorstein the White of Oprostathir, Arnór of Mœr, Hallstein and Hauk from the Fjord District, Eyvind Snake, Bergthór Bestil, Hallkel of Fjalir, Óláf the Manly, Arnfinn from Sogn, Sigurth Knife, Einar and Finn of Horthaland, Ketil of Rogaland, and Grjótgarth the Brave. In the compartment before the mast (?) were Einar Thambarskelfir—he was not considered to be up to the mark because he was only eighteen—Hallstein Hlífarson, Thórólf, Ívar Smetta, Orm Neck-of-the-Woods. And many other, very eminent men were on the Serpent though we cannot furnish their names. Eight men were in [each] half-compartment in the Serpent, and each one was picked. Thirty men were in the forward compartment. It was said that the select body of men on the Serpent excelled other men in comeliness, strength, and prowess no less than the Serpent did other vessels. Thorkel Nose, the king’s brother, steered the Short Serpent. Thorkel Dyrthil and Jóstein, maternal uncles of the king, were in command of the Crane; and both of these ships were well staffed. King Óláf had eleven large ships from Trondheim, besides twenty-oared and smaller vessels.

 

Chapter 95. Gizur the White and Hjalti Skeggjason Are Commissioned to Christianize Iceland

 

Now when King Óláf had his army nearly ready to leave Nitharós, he divided the people in all the districts around the Trondheimfjord into prefectures and stewardships. Then he sent Gizur the White and Hjalti Skeggjason to Iceland to proclaim Christianity there, and with them a priest called Thormóth and several other ordained men, but kept with him as hostages four Icelanders that seemed to him the noblest: Kjartan Óláfsson, Halldór Guthmundarson, Kolbein Thórtharson, and Sverting Rúnólfsson. And we are told about the mission of Gizur and Hjalti that they arrived in Iceland before the meeting of the Althing and journeyed to the assembly; and at this assembly Christianity was adopted in Iceland by law, and all the people were baptized.

 

Chapter 96. Leif Eiríksson Is Sent to Convert the Greenlanders

 

That same spring King Óláf commissioned Leif Eiríksson to Greenland to preach Christianity there, and he sailed there that summer. At sea he rescued the crew who were marooned on a wreck; and on the same journey he discovered Wineland the Good. He arrived in Greenland in the summer, and in his company were a priest and some clerics. He went to stay in Brattahlíth with Eirík, his father. People afterwards called him Leif the Fortunate. But his father Eirík said that the two things balanced each other—that Leif had rescued that crew and that he had brought the hypocrite to Greenland. By that he meant the priest.

 

Chapter 97. King Óláf Sails to Wendland

 

King Óláf proceeded south along the land with his fleet. Then he was joined by many friends of his, powerful men who were ready to go with the king on his expedition. The first among them was his brother-in-law, Erling Skjálgsson, with the large man-of-war he owned. It had thirty rowers’ benches, and its crew was a select one. The king was joined also by his relatives, Hyrning and Thorgeir, each of whom steered a large ship. Many other men of power followed him. When he left Norway he had sixty warships, and with them he sailed south through the Eyrar Sound past Denmark, and arrived in Wendland, where he arranged for a meeting with King Búrizláf. When the kings met they discussed the possessions King Óláf laid claim to, and all went amicably between them, and there was promptness shown about agreeing to the claims King Óláf preferred. King Óláf remained long there during the summer and met many of his friends.

 

Chapter 98. The Alliance between King Svein Forkbeard, King Óláf of Sweden, and Earl Eirík

 

As was written above, King Svein Forkbeard had married Sigríth the Haughty. Sigríth was King Óláf’s bitterest enemy, because King Óláf had broken the agreement with her and had slapped her face, as was written above. She constantly incited King Svein to wage war against King Óláf Tryggvason, saying that sufficient reason for that was having shared Thyri’s, King Svein’s sister’s, bed “without asking your permission; nor would your forebears have stood for that.” Such pleadings Queen Sigríth often made, and succeeded so well that King Svein was persuaded to follow her advice. And early in spring King Svein sent messengers east to Sweden to the court of Óláf, king of Sweden, his stepson, and Earl Eirík, informing them that Óláf, king of Norway, had called out an army and intended to sail to Wendland in the summer. The messengers furthermore were charged to request the Swedish king and Earl Eirík to levy troops and with them join King Svein, when they all together were to give battle to King Óláf. The king of Sweden and the earl were quite ready to join this enterprise. They gathered a large fleet in Sweden and with it sailed south to Denmark, arriving there after King Óláf had sailed east [south]. Halldór the Unchristened1 mentions this in the poem he composed about Earl Eirík:

 

(154.)

 

171.   South from Sweden Óláf
summoned mighty forces.
Swiftly the kings’-cower2
came, eager for battle.
Willingly would all the
wielders-of-steel-blue-broadswords—
gorged the gulls-of-fray3 on
gore—then follow Eirík.

 

The king of Sweden and Earl Eirík proceeded to join the Danish king, and then they altogether had an immense army.

 

Chapter 99. Earl Sigvaldi’s Treachery

 

After summoning his army King Svein sent Earl Sigvaldi to reconnoiter about the movements of King Óláf Tryggvason and to contrive to bring about an encounter between him, King Svein, and King Óláf Tryggvason. So Earl Sigvaldi betook himself to Wendland and to Jómsborg, where he sought out King Óláf Tryggvason. Much friendship was shown between the two, and the earl managed to win the king’s confidence. Ástríth, the wife of the earl and daughter of King Búrizláf, was a great friend of King Óláf [Tryggvason], chiefly because of their former relationship, when King Óláf had as wife her sister, Queen Geira. Earl Sigvaldi was a shrewd and resourceful man. And as he came to know the plans of King Óláf, he managed to delay his sailing west [north] with a great number of reasons. But the troops of King Óláf chafed much at that—they wanted to return home, and lay there all ready to sail, with a favorable breeze to be expected. Earl Sigvaldi secretly received the message from Denmark that the fleet of the Danish king had arrived from the east [? west], that Earl Eirík also had readied his forces, and that these chieftains were about to approach Wendland from the east. It was agreed between them that they were to await the coming of King Óláf near the island called Svolth,1 and that the earl [Sigvaldi] was to manage it so that they would encounter King Óláf there.

 

Chapter 100. King Óláf with His Fleet Leaves Wendland

 

Then a rumor spread in Wendland that King Svein of Denmark had mustered an army, and there was a report that he intended to encounter King Óláf in battle. But Earl Sigvaldi said to the king, “It cannot be the intention of King Svein to enter into battle with you with only the Danish fleet, considering the large force you have here. But if you entertain any suspicion of hostilities against you, I shall join you with my fleet; and it has always hitherto been regarded as a point of main strength to have Jómsvíkings supporting the troops of chieftains. I shall provide you with eleven well-manned ships” The king agreed to that. A light and fair breeze was blowing. Then the king gave the order to cast off the cables and to give the trumpet signal for departure. Then the sails were hoisted. The smaller vessels made better headway and sailed out to sea leaving the others behind.

 

The earl kept near the king’s ship and called out to them, asking the king to follow his lead. “I know exactly,” he said, “where it is deepest in the straits between the islands, and you may require that for those large ships of yours.” Then Earl Sigvaldi headed the fleet with his ships. He had eleven ships, and the king followed in his wake with his large ships. He also had eleven ships. But all the rest of his fleet had sailed out to sea. Now when Earl Sigvaldi approached Svolth from seaward a skiff came rowing toward them. Men on it told the earl that the fleet of the king of Denmark was moored in the harbor close by. Then the earl lowered the sails on his ships and they rowed up to the island. As Halldór the Unchristened says:

 

(155.)

 

172.   With seventy sails and one then
sailed the long-ship’s-steerer1
from the south—his sword the
sovran reddened, battling—
since the sea-steeds’-reiner2
summoned ships from Skáney—
broken were oaths that bound them
both—to aid in combat.

 

Here we are told that King Óláf and Earl Sigvaldi had seventy-one ships when they proceeded from the south.

 

Chapter 101. The Allies Watch the Approach of Óláf’s Fleet

 

Svein, the king of the Danes, Óláf, the king of the Swedes, and Earl Eirík were at that place then, with their combined forces. It was fair weather with bright sunshine. All the chieftains now went up on the island, together with some bodies of men. They saw very many ships out at sea, and presently they saw a large and handsome ship sailing along. Then both kings said, “That is a large ship and a mighty beautiful one. That is likely to be the Long Serpent.” Earl Eirík answered that this was not the Long Serpent; nor was it. It belonged to Eindrithi of Grimsar.

 

A short time afterwards they saw another ship which was much larger than the first. Then King Svein said, “Afraid is Óláf Tryggvason now, since he dares not sail with the dragon head fastened on his ship.”

 

Then Earl Eirík replied, “This is not the king’s ship. I know that ship and its sail, because it is striped. It is Erling Skjálgson’s. Let it sail on. It is better for us to have a hole and gap in King Óláf’s fleet than [to fight] that ship which is so well outfitted.”

 

A while after they saw and recognized Earl Sigvaldi’s ships, and they steered toward the island where they were. Then they saw three ships come sailing, one of them a large vessel. Then King Svein bade his men go on board his ships, saying that this was the Long Serpent. But Earl Eirík said, “They have many other large and stately vessels beside the Long Serpent. Let us wait still.”

 

Then a great many exclaimed, “Earl Eirík does not want to fight now and avenge his father. It is a big shame, which will be noised abroad, that we lie here with such a large fleet and let King Óláf sail out to sea right past us.”

 

And when they had talked about that for a while, they saw four ships come sailing, one of them a huge dragonship, all ornamented with gold. Then King Svein arose and said, “On high the Serpent is going to bear me this evening. That ship I mean to steer.” Then many said that the Serpent was a marvelous, big, and handsome ship, and that it was a grand thing to have so beautiful a ship built.

 

Then Earl Eirík said in the hearing of several men, “Even though King Óláf did not have any bigger ships than that one, King Svein would never get it away from him with the Danish fleet alone.”

 

image

 

The allied kings see Óláf Tryggvason’s ships sail by.

 

Then the crews hurried to the ships and removed the ship awnings. But while the chieftains were talking about this, as put down above, they saw three huge ships come sailing, and a fourth one last, and that was the Long Serpent. But as to the other two ships which had sailed past and which they thought were the Long Serpent, the first of them was the Crane, and the next, the Short Serpent. But when they saw the Long Serpent, they all recognized it, and no one contradicted that on it sailed Óláf Tryggvason.1 They boarded their ships and made ready for the attack.

 

It was agreed among the chieftains—King Svein, King Óláf, and Earl Eirík—that each one was to have a third of Norway if they cut down King Óláf Tryggvason, and that he who first boarded the Serpent was to have all the booty to be got on it; also, that each of them was to have the ships they themselves cleared of their crews. Earl Eirík owned a mighty big ship which he was accustomed to take on his viking expeditions. It had a beak [or ram] on the upper part of the prow, fore and aft, and below that heavy iron plates as broad as the beak itself, which went down to the waterline.

 

Chapter 102. King Óláf Decides to Fight the Allied Fleet

 

When Sigvaldi and his flotilla rowed up to the island, Thorkel Dyrthil on the Crane, and the other skippers on the vessels following him, observed that the earl with his ships steered toward the island. Then they also lowered their sails and rowed in his wake and called out to him, asking why he did so. The earl said that he wanted to wait for King Óláf—“and it looks as if we may expect a fight here.” Then they let the ships drift until Thorkel Nefja came up with the Short Serpent together with the three ships following him, and they were given the same information. Then they lowered their sails, letting their ships drift, and waited for King Óláf. And when the king sailed up to the island, the entire enemy fleet rowed out into the sound in front of them. When King Óláf’s men saw that they begged the king to sail along and not engage such a huge host in battle.

 

The king answered aloud as he stood high upon the raised stern deck, “Lower the sail! Let not my men think of fleeing. I have never fled in battle. May God dispose of my life, but I shall never flee.” They did as the king commanded. As says Hallfröth:1

 

(156.)

 

173.   Tell I will the warrior’s
words which at the sword-thing,
fearless, spoke the spear-shafts-
speeder to his liege men:
Bade the enemies’-awer not
ever think of flight—his
dauntless words no doubt will
dure forever—in battle.

 

Chapter 103. King Óláf and His Forecastlemen Have Words

 

King Óláf had the trumpets blown for all his ships to gather. The king’s ship was in the middle of the battle array, with the Short Serpent on one side, and the Crane on the other. And when they began to lash the ships together stem to stem and stern to stern, they did so also with the Long Serpent and the Short Serpent. But when the king saw that, he called out aloud and ordered the big ship to be placed farther forward and not let it be the hind-most of all ships of the fleet. Then replied Úlf the Red, “If the Serpent is to be placed forward by as much as it is longer than other ships, then those in the forecastle will have to bear the brunt of the fight.”

 

The king said, “I was not aware that I had a forecastleman who was both red and afraid.”1

 

Úlf said, “Just don’t you defend the raised afterdeck more with your back2 than I shall the forecastle.” The king had a bow in his hands and laid an arrow on the bowstring, aiming at Úlf.

 

Úlf said, “Shoot the other way, sir king, where there is more need. Whatever I do, I do for you.”

 

Chapter 104. King Óláf Scans His Opponents

 

King Óláf stood on the poop of the Serpent, high above the others. He had a gilt shield and helmet, and was thus easily distinguishable from others. He wore a short red kirtle over his coat of mail. And when King Óláf saw that the [enemy] forces gathered together and the standards were raised for the chieftains, he asked, “Who is the leader of the fleet facing us?” He was told that it was King Svein Forkbeard with his Danish force. The king replied, “We have no fear of those cravens. There is no courage in the Danes. But who is the chieftain whose standards I see there on the right of them?” He was told it was King Óláf with his Swedish army. King Óláf said, “Better it would be for the Swedes to stay at home and lap their sacrificial bowls1 than attack the Serpent and encounter our weapons. But whose are those large ships that lie on the larboard side of the Danes?”

 

“There,” they said, “is Earl Eirík Hákonarson.”

 

Then King Óláf replied, “Very likely he considers he has a bone to pick with us, and we may expect a smart fight with that force: they are Norwegians like us.”

 

Chapter 105. The Battle Begins

 

Now the kings rowed to the attack. King Svein laid his ship against the Long Serpent, but King Óláf of Sweden from the outside pushed his prows against the outmost ship of King Óláf Tryggvason from the sea side while Earl Eirík did so on the opposite side. Then began a hard battle. Earl Sigvaldi moved his ships to and fro and did not participate in the battle. As says Skúli Thorsteinsson1—he was in Earl Eirík’s force at that time:

 

(157.)

 

174.   When young, the Frisians’ foe2 I
followed, and eke Sigvaldi—
fame I gathered—but gray have
grown since—where sang arrows,
the time by Svolth Sound we
swords did redden, and in
din-of-darts3 we met our
doughty foe there head-on.

 

And still further, Hallfröth has this to say about these events:

 

(158.)

 

175.   There, I think, for sure the
thane, for fray ever-ready,
much did miss the help of
men from Trondheim4 in battle.
Alone the fearless folk-king
fought the valiant rulers—
deathless are such doughty
deeds—and the earl as third foe.

 

Chapter 106. King Óláf Defeats the Danes and the Swedes

 

This was the bitterest and most murderous battle. The men stationed in the forecastle of the Long Serpent, the Short Serpent, and the Crane hurled anchors and grappling hooks onto the ship of King Svein, and they were able to attack them from above. They cleared of their crews all the ships they could hold onto, but King Svein and the men who managed to escape fled onto other ships and thereupon retired out of range of arrow shots; and this force behaved just as King Óláf Tryggvason had predicted.

 

In their place Óláf, the king of the Swedes, now moved to the attack, and no sooner did they come near the large ships [of King Óláf Tryggvason] than they fared like the others, losing many men and some ships, and so retired from the fight.

 

Now Earl Eirík brought his ship Barthi alongside the outermost ship of King Óláf, cleared it of its crew, and straightway cut the hawsers connecting it with the other ships, then attacked the ship next to it, and fought till that was cleared too. Then the men of the smaller ships took to seek refuge on the large ships. But the earl cut the hawsers of each ship as soon as it was cleared of its crew. And now the Danes and the Swedes approached within shooting distance from all sides around King Óláf’s ships. But Earl Eirík steadily moved alongside and fought at close quarters; and as men fell on his ships, others, Danes and Swedes, stepped in their places. As says Halldór (the Unchristened):

 

(159.)

 

176.   Raged bitter brands a long time—
broken was the peace then—
whined the hurtling javelins’
hail—round the Serpent.
Forward followed him1 in
fray slaughterous, say they,
south of the sea by Svolth Isle,
Swedish men and Danish.

 

Then there was most furious fighting and great carnage; and in the end all ships of King Óláf’s were cleared of men, excepting the Long Serpent. On it had taken refuge all of his men who were still able to fight. Then Earl Eirík laid his ship Barthi alongside the Serpent, and there was hand to hand fighting. As says Halldór:

 

(160.)

 

177.   Yester-year at Svolth, as
ye have heard, pressed sorely—
smote keen wands-of-wounds there—
was the king’s Long Serpent,
broadside when his Barthi,
boarded high, Earl Eirík—
loot won that lord in battle—
laid ’gainst Fáfnir’s2 bulwarks.

 

Chapter 107. The Men on the Long Serpent Offer a Sharp Defence

 

Earl Eirík stood in the compartment in front of the raised stern-deck where men had formed a shield-castle. The battle raged with blows of swords and axes and with thrusts of spears, and everything was hurled that could be called a weapon. Some shot with bows, others hurled javelins. There was such a shower of weapons directed against the Serpent that the men could hardly protect themselves with their shields, since javelins and spears flew so thick; because battleships attacked the Serpent on all sides. King Óláf’s men fought so furiously that they jumped on the railings in order to reach and kill their foes with swordblows; but many [of these] did not approach the Serpent so closely as to engage in close combat. But most of Óláf’s men leapt overboard, acting as though they were fighting on level ground, and sank with their arms. As says Hallfröth:

 

(161.)

 

178.   Sank down from the Serpent,
sorely wounded in spear-fight,
many, nor sharp shots could
shun in storm-of-arrows.
Ne’er, though steer it a stalwart,
stout-souled king hereafter,
where’er it haply sail, will
have such crew the Serpent.

 

Chapter 108. Of Einar Thambarskelfir

 

Einar Thambarskelfir was on the Serpent in the compartment forward of the stern. He shot with bow and arrow. He was the best shot anywhere. He shot at Earl Eirík, and the arrow hit the top piece of the rudder above the earl’s head and sank in all the way up to the socket. The earl looked at it and asked if they knew who was the archer; but straightway there came another arrow, and so near to the earl that it passed between his side and his arm and went into the head-board behind him so that the point came out on the other side of it. Then the earl said to the man some call Finn—some say he was Finnish—he was a great archer, “Shoot that big man in the forward compartment!” He shot, and the arrow struck the bow of Einar in the middle, at the moment when Einar drew his bow for the third time, and the bow burst in two.

 

Then said King Óláf, “What cracked there with such a loud report?”

 

Einar answered, “Norway out of your hands, sir king.”

 

“Hardly so great a break,” said the king. “Take my bow and shoot with it”—and he flung his bow over to him.

 

Einar took the bow and at once drew the head of the arrow behind it and said, “Too soft, too soft is the king’s bow,” and threw the bow behind him, took up his shield, and fought with his sword.

 

image

 

“Too soft, too soft is the king’s bow.”

 

Chapter 109. King Óláf Tryggvason Is Wounded

 

King Óláf Tryggvason stood on the raised afterdeck of the Serpent during the day, and most often shot with his bow, but sometimes he hurled javelins, generally two at a time. He looked forward on his ship and saw his men wield their swords and hew again and again, but noticed that their swords did no execution, and he called out aloud, “Why do you wield your swords in such slack fashion, because I see they don’t cut?”

 

A man made answer, “Our swords are dull and much dented.” Then the king went down into the forward compartment and undid the high-seat box. From it he took many sharp swords and handed them to his men. But when he reached down with his right arm, it was seen that blood ran down out of the sleeve of his coat of mail. No one knows where he was wounded.

 

Chapter 110. The Last Defence on the Long Serpent

 

The strongest defence on the Serpent, and the most deadly, was made by the men in the forward compartment and those in the forecastle. There were both the pick of the men and the highest gunwales. Now when the crew amidships had fallen and only few men were still standing by the mast, Earl Eirík attempted to board the Serpent, and managed to get up on it with fourteen others. Then Hyrning, King Óláf’s brother-in-law, with a company of men, fell upon him, and there ensued the most furious fight, with the result that the earl had to fall back and get down into his ship Barthi; and of the men who had followed him, some fell and some were wounded. Of this Thórth Kolbeinsson makes mention:

 

image

 

Eirík’s men board the Long Serpent.

 

(162.)

 

179.   Helmeted host’s shields were
wholly with blood covered—
…………………
…………………1
Fame got him in fiercest
fray, with blue sword slaughterous,
Hyrning: as the heavens
high will it last forever.

 

Then there was another terrific fight, and many of the Serpent’s crew were cut down. And as the ranks of the defenders on the Serpent grew thin, Earl Eirík again tried to board the Serpent. And again the resistance was fierce. When the men in the forecastle of the Serpent saw [Earl Eirík’s attack] they came aft and turned against him, giving him a stiff reception. However, since so many of the Serpent’s crew had fallen that there were gaps between the defenders along the gunwales, the earl’s men began to climb aboard in many places. But all those still able to stand up on the Serpent retreated aft to where the king was. Then, as says Halldór the Unchristened, Earl Eirík urged on his men:

 

(163.)

 

180.   Urged the gladsome earl his
iron-hearted troops—while
all of Óláf’s men ran
aftmost—to the onset,
round when his rudder-horses2
ringed—waxed then the din of
battle about the gold-ring-
breaker3—the Long Serpent.

 

Chapter 111. King Óláf Tryggvason Leaps Overboard

 

Kolbjorn the Marshal went up on the raised afterdeck to join the king. Their garments and arms were much alike. Kolbjorn also was an unusually tall and handsome man. A fierce battle was still raging in the forward compartment. And because so great a host of the earl’s men had come aboard the Serpent—as many as there was room for—and because his ships surrounded the Serpent on all sides and there was but a small band of defenders against so many, even though they were both strong and brave, most were cut down in a short while. But both King Óláf himself and Kolbjorn leapt overboard, each on his side.

 

The earl’s men had surrounded the Serpent with small skiffs and killed those who leapt overboard; and when the king himself had leapt into the sea they wanted to take him prisoner and bring him to the earl. But King Óláf held his shield over his head when he plunged into the sea, whereas Kolbjorn the Marshal held his beneath himself to protect himself against the spears hurled from the vessels below them; and so he fell into the sea with the shield under him, so that he did not sink as quickly, and he was captured and hauled up into a skiff, and they believed he was the king. He was brought before the earl, and when the earl saw that it was Kolbjorn and not King Óláf he was given quarter. At that moment all those of King Óláf’s men who were still alive leapt overboard from the Serpent; and Hallfröth relates that Thorkel Nefja, the brother of the king, was the last of them all to leap overboard:

 

(164.)

 

181.   Reft of men, the ruler—
raged the storm-of-arrows—
saw the Serpents twain, the
swift Crane eke, float crewless,
ere that Thorkel, eager
aye for war, unfallen,
dauntless foiled his foes and
fled his ship by swimming.

 

Chapter 112. Rumors of King Óláf’s Survival

 

As was set down before, Earl Sigvaldi had joined King Óláf in Wendland [before sailing]. He had ten ships beside the one on which were the men of Princess Ástríth, his wife. Now when King Óláf had leapt overboard, the whole army [of his enemies] shouted “victory”; whereupon the earl [Sigvaldi] and his men lowered their oars and rowed to join the battle. Of this Halldór the Unchristened makes mention:

 

(165.)

 

182.   Wide-spread, Wendish ships to
weapon-thing then hurried—
grimly, Garms-of-shields1 there
gaped, thin-mouthed ’gainst warriors.
Din was on deep sea-ways.
Dun eagles slit corpses.
Fiercely fought the war-lord.
Fled the host of enemies.

 

But the Wendish ship on which were Ástríth’s men rowed away and back to Wendland; and it was soon said by many that King Óláf probably had cast off his mail-coat under water and dived out of sight of the warships, and then swum to the Wendish ship, and that Ástríth’s men had brought him to land. And there are many [other] stories told later by some men about King Óláf’s adventures. But Hallfröth has this to say:

 

(166.)

 

183.   I little know if our liege-lord
laud I should in poem—
him who fed the hungry
hawks—whether dead or living,
seeing that men for sooth do
say both of our chieftain:
hearsay has it he’s wounded.
Hard to know what the truth is.

 

But howsoever that be, King Óláf Tryggvason never thereafter returned to his kingdom in Norway. Yet Hallfróth has this to say:

 

(167.)

 

184.   A worthy warrior told me
(one who fought with Óláf)
that the liege of landsmen
lived still, the son of Tryggvi.
Out of storm-of-steel, they
state, had come King Óláf.
Wide of the mark I ween them:
worse than that by far is’t.

 

And also this:

 

(168.)

 

185.   Hardly could have happened,
when that Eirík fought him
on the Serpent—Óthin’s
ale I have drunk2—fiercely,
that the belovèd, lavish
lord—unlikely seems it—
scatheless could have ’scaped such
skirmish nor met his death there.

 

(169.)

 

186.   Still some stalwart men have
steadfastly told me, how that,
weapon-wounded, scaped the
warlord out of battle.
The truth is told now, how—no
trust I put in empty
rumors—the ruler died in
ruthless struggle in Southland.

 

Chapter 113. The Earls Eirík and Svein Are Given the Rule of Norway

 

After the battle Earl Eirík took possession of the Long Serpent and much booty, and sailed away with it when the battle had ended. Thus says Halldór:

 

image

 

The victors return from the battle of Svolth.

 

(170.)

 

187.   Thither on Long Serpent
sailed the helm-clad chieftain1
bore it a bold crew—to
baleful storm-of-arrows.
After the battle, however,
eagerly took it over
Heming’s high-born brother2
hot raged sword-fight on it.

 

Svein, a son of Earl Hákon, was at that time betrothed to Hólmfríth, a daughter of King Óláf of Sweden. Now when the realm of Norway was divided between Svein, the king of Denmark, Óláf, the king of Sweden, and Earl Eirík, then King Óláf’s share comprised four districts in Trondheim, both parts of Mœr, Raums Dale, and Ranríki in the east, from the Gaut Elf River to Svína Sound. All this, King Óláf conveyed to Earl Svein under the same conditions under which vassal kings or earls had held land from suzerain kings. Earl Eirík took over four districts in Trondheim, also Hálogaland, Naumu Dale, the Fjord districts and Fjalir, Sogn, Horthaland, Rogaland, and Agthir all the way south to Lithandisness. As says Thórth Kolbeinsson:

 

(171.)

 

188.   I know that, not counting
noble Erling, most hersar—
aye I praise the earl—with
Eirík were linked in friendship.
Once the battle was won, they
wielded power from Veiga3
sword-play raged at Svolth Isle—
south to Agthir and farther.

 

(172.)

 

189.   Loved all men the liege, and
liked to be his subjects.
Watch, he would, said the ruler,
well over all in Norway.
Svein,4 men from the Southland
say, is dead, his folklands—
few men does fate spare mis-
fortunes—lie deserted.

 

Then King Svein of Denmark again had possession of the Vík District as he had had before, but granted Earl Eirík Raumaríki and Heithmork. Svein Hákonarson was given an earldom by Óláf of Sweden. Earl Svein was the handsomest man in peoples’ memory. Earl Eirík and Earl Svein were both baptized and accepted the true faith; but during the time they ruled over Norway they let everyone do as he pleased about the keeping of Christianity, whereas they kept well the old laws and all customs of the land, and they were greatly beloved and governed well. Earl Eirík had most to say of all his brothers in matters dealing with the administration of the country.

 

image

 

Saint Óláf’s Saga

 

Chapter 1. Óláf Is Brought Up at the Estate of Sigurth Sýr

 

Óláf, the son of Harald of Grenland, was brought up in the establishment of Sigurth Sýr, his stepfather, and his mother Ásta. Hrani the Widely-Travelled lived with Ásta and was Óláf Haraldsson’s foster father. Óláf soon grew to be an accomplished man, handsome and of middle height. Soon, too, he became clever and eloquent. Sigurth Sýr was a most efficient farmer who always kept his men busy, and he himself often went out to see to the fields, the meadows, and the cattle, as well as to the craftsmen and others who were busy with this or that.

 

Chapter 2. Óláf Mocks Sigurth Sýr

 

One day, when King Sigurth wanted to ride [on an errand], there was no one home on the farm. He called his stepson to saddle a horse for him. Óláf went to the goat house, took out the largest he-goat that was there, led him forth, and laid the king’s saddle on him, then went and told the king he had a riding-horse ready for him. Then King Sigurth came out and saw what Óláf had done. He said, “It is clear that you don’t care to obey my requests. Very likely your mother thinks it more fitting that I make no more requests of you which are distasteful to you. It is quite evident that we two are not of the same disposition. Very likely you are more proud minded by far than I.” Óláf made no reply but went his way laughing.

 

Chapter 3. Of Óláf’s Appearance and Character

 

As he grew up, Óláf Haraldsson was not of tall stature, but of middle height and of stout frame and great strength. His hair was of light chestnut color and his face, broad, of light complexion, and ruddy. His eyes were unusually fine, bright and piercing, so that it inspired terror to look into them when he was furious. Óláf was a man of many accomplishments. He was a good shot, an excellent swimmer, and second to none in hurling spears. He was skilled and had a sure eye for all kinds of handicraft work, whether the things were made for himself or others. He was nicknamed Óláf the Stout. He was bold and ready in speech, mature early in all ways, both in bodily strength and shrewdness; and he endeared himself to all his kinsfolk and acquaintances. He vied with all in games and always wanted to be the first in everything, as was proper, befitting his rank and birth.

 

Chapter 4. Óláf’s First Viking Expedition

 

Óláf Haraldsson was twelve years when he went on board a warship for the first time. Ásta, his mother, got Hrani, who was called the King’s Foster Father, to take charge of the crew, together with Óláf, because Hrani had often before been on viking expeditions. When Óláf took over ship and crew, the men gave him the title of “king,” as it was the custom that warrior-kings on a viking expedition, if of royal birth, were forthwith called kings, even though they had no land to govern. Hrani sat by the helm, and therefore some say that Óláf was [only] an oarsman. Still he was king over the crew. They sailed first east [south] along the land, and first to Denmark. So says Óttar the Black1 in a poem on King Óláf:

 

(1.)

 

190.   Young still, yet you, Óláf,
used early to warlike
deeds, impelled to Denmark
dauntlessly your sea-steeds.
From the north but newly—
knowledge have I of your
progress—cam’st thou, peerless
princeling, seeking glory.

 

Chapter 5. Óláf Ravages Sweden

 

And toward fall he sailed east to Sweden and there began to harry and burn all the countryside, for he thought he had good cause to repay the Swedes for having deprived his father of life. Óttar the Black says in clear words that he at that time departed from Denmark and sailed to the east:

 

(2.)

 

191.   Onward east ye sailed with
oar-dight roller-horses.
Linden shields ye lifted,
liege, on your ships’ gunwales,
hoisted sails and seized the
sea-stirrers,1 too, sometimes.
The main’s mighty swells by
many oars were parted.

 

(3.)

 

192.   Fear befell the people
forthwith at your coming.
sovran. Sithen didst in
Sweden redden nesses.

 

Chapter 6. Óláf’s First Battle

 

That fall, Óláf had his first battle at Sóta Skerry, which is in the Swedish skerries. There he fought with vikings. Their leader was called Sóti. Óláf had a much smaller force, but bigger ships. He stationed his ships between breakers on hidden rocks where it was difficult for the vikings to attack. But Óláf’s men drew the ships which lay nearest up to them with grappling irons and cleared them of their crews. The vikings retired after losing many men. The skald Sigvat1 tells about this engagement in the poem in which he recounted the battles Óláf had fought:

 

(4.)

 

193.   Bore his long ship,2 launched from
land, the youthful scion of
royal forebears: feared all
folk his wrath thereafter.
Much do I remember
men’s great deeds, as first when
in the east he sated
eagles by Sóta Skerry.

 

Chapter 7. Óláf Escapes from Lake Mælaren

 

King Óláf sailed then east along Sweden, thereupon steered into Lake Mælaren, harrying on both shores. He rowed all the way up to Sigtúnir and made fast his ships close to Old Sigtúnir.1 The Swedes say one can still see the stone wall Óláf made for the head of his piers. But when fall approached, King Óláf learned that Óláf, the king of the Swedes, had collected a great army, and also, that he had laid an iron chain across Stokk Sound2 and guarded it with a force of men. The Swedish king thought that King Óláf would wait till the lake froze over, and that his force was negligible as he had few men. Then King Óláf sailed to Stokk Sound and found he could not get out. There was a stronghold on the east side of the sound, and an army, south of it. And when they learned that the Swedish king had gone on board his ship and had a great fleet, King Óláf had his men dig a channel through [the low land of the peninsula of] Agnafit, out to the sea. Heavy rains fell at the time.

 

Now all the rivers and creeks in [that part of] Sweden drain into Lake Mælaren, but there is only one outlet from it to the sea, and that is narrower than many a river. Now when there is heavy rain together with the thawing of the snow, then the waters descend so violently that a torrent flows through Stokk Sound and Lake Mælaren rises so high that it floods the surrounding country.

 

Now when the channel [Óláf had dug] reached the sea, the water rushed out in a torrent. Then King Óláf had the rudders on his vessels shipped and the sails hoisted to the top. There was a stiff breeze. They steered with the oars, and the ships went swiftly over shallow places, and all of them got out into the sea unscathed. But the Swedes came to Óláf, the king of Sweden, and told him that Óláf the Stout had got out to sea. The Swedish king strongly berated those who should have seen to it that Óláf did not escape. That channel has since that time been called King’s Sound. It cannot be navigated by large ships except at a time when the waters are most torrential.

 

Some relate that the Swedes became aware of Óláf’s having dug the channel through the neck of land and that the water was rushing out; also, that the Swedes came up with an army, intending to keep Óláf from getting out. But the waters undermined the banks on both sides, which fell and took with them many people, so that a great many drowned. But the Swedes contradict all this and say it is all nonsense that anyone perished there.

 

In the fall King Óláf sailed to the Island of Gotland and made ready to harry there. But the people met together and sent messengers to the king, offering him tribute from the land. That the king accepted. He took the tribute and dwelled there during the winter. Thus says Óttar:

 

(5.)

 

194.   Tribute-taker, thou didst
teach the Goths to fear you,
so they did not dare to
draw their swords to ward them.
Fled the islanders—few are
fearless more than thou art.
Wolf-brood’s hunger, hear I
hero, in the east thou satedst.

 

Chapter 8. Óláf Defeats the Men of Ösel

 

Here we are told that as soon as spring arrived, King Óláf sailed east to Eysýsla1 to harry. He went up on land, but the men of Eysýsla came down to the shore and fought with them. King Óláf was victorious there, he pursued them, harried, and devastated the land. We are told that at first, when King Óláf arrived in Eysýsla, the farmers offered to pay tribute. But when they arrived with the tribute he marched against them with his troops fully armed; and then it turned out otherwise than the farmers had expected; for they had come down to the shore, not with the tribute, but rather, all armed, and gave battle to the king, as was told before. As says Sigvat the Skald:

 

(6.)

 

195.   It befell afresh—nor was
foulest treason hidden—
that Óláf arrow-thing2 must
urge on sacked Eysýsla.
Their lives, liege-lord, to their
legs they owed who away ran
nor, wincing, waited there for
wounds where they were stationed.

 

Chapter 9. Óláf Makes Good His Retreat from Finnland

 

Afterwards he sailed back to Finnland, harried there, and invaded the country, and all the people fled into the forests, emptying their homes of all property. The king [and his men] went far inland and through some forests, until they came to some valley settlements, called Her Dales. There they found little property and no people. The day wore on, and the king returned toward his ships. But when they passed through the forest, they were attacked fiercely from all sides with arrow shots. The king bade his men protect themselves as best they could and advance against the enemy, but that was difficult as the Finns hid behind trees. And before the king left the forest behind, he had lost many men, and many were wounded before he reached the ships late in the evening. During the night, the Finns with their witchcraft made a furious gale and a storm at sea. But the king bade his men weigh anchor and hoist the sails and cruise before the land during the night. And then, as often afterwards, the king’s luck prevailed over the magic of the Finns. During the night they cruised along the Balagarth Shore1 and from there out to sea. The army of the Finns followed them on land as the king sailed outside. As says Sigvat:

 

(7.)

 

196.   Stern was the third storm-of-steel
, what time the king in
Her Dale forest fought the
Finnish hordes in combat.
But in the east the ocean’s
ebb-shore parted the vikings.
Past Balagarth’s beaches
beat the liege’s sea-stags.2

 

Chapter 10. Óláf Wins a Battle against Vikings

 

Then King Óláf sailed to Denmark. There he met Thorkel the Tall, the brother of Earl Sigvaldi, and Thorkel joined him, because he was at that time all ready to set out on a warlike expedition. So they sailed south along the coast of Jutland, and at a place called Suthrvík1 they won a battle over many viking ships. Such vikings that always were at sea and commanded a large force, had themselves called kings though they had no lands to rule over. King Óláf gave battle to them, and it was a hard one, but he won the victory and much booty. As says Sigvat:

 

(8.)

 

197.   Began, a fourth time, Gondul’s
game2 Óláf to play there;
and great glory, heard I
gained him the folk-ruler,
when ’twixt prideful princes
peace was rudely broken
asunder there in sedgy
Suthrvík, known in Denmark.

 

Chapter 11. Óláf Battles the Frisians

 

Then King Óláf sailed south to Frísia and hove to before the coast of Kinnlimi1 in heavy weather. Then the king disembarked with his men, but the people of the land came riding against them and fought them. So says Skald Sigvat:

 

(9.)

 

198.   A fifth fray, hard on helmets,
hadst thou, thieves’ subduer—2
thy boats’ bows the storm did
buffet—off Kinnlimi’s shoreline,
when gallant foemen galloped
grimly ’gainst the ruler’s
vessels, and he advanced with
vigor to give them battle.

 

Chapter 12. King Æthelred Seeks to Regain England

 

Svein Forkbeard, the king of Denmark, was at that time in England with an army of Danes. He had been there for some time and had the land of King Æthelred in his possession. The Danes had by then conquered most of England, and it had come so far that King Æthelred had fled the country and sought refuge in Valland [France] to the south. The same fall when Óláf had arrived in England, it happened that King Svein had suddenly died at night in his bed; and it is rumored among the English that Edmund the Holy had killed him in the same fashion that Mercurius the Holy slew Julian the Apostate.1 And as soon as Æthelred, the king of the English, had learned that he returned speedily to England. And arriving in his country he sent word to all who would enter into his pay to join him to regain possession of the land. Then a great multitude of men came to his colors, among them King Óláf with a large company of Norwegians. They first attacked London from the Thames, but the Danes held the fortified town. On the other side of the river is a large market town, called Súthvirki [Southwark]. There the Danes had made large preparations, digging a great dyke, and behind it had erected a wall with timbers, stone, and turf, and kept a large force inside. Æthelred tried to storm the fort, but the Danes defended it, and King Æthelred accomplished nothing.

 

There was a bridge over the river between the fortified town and Súthvirki, broad enough for two carts to pass one another. On this bridge there were fortifications, both towers and bulwarks of palisades on the downstream side, high enough to reach to a man’s middle. And under the bridge piles were rammed into the bottom of the river. And when an attack was made, the force on the bridge stood there along all its length and defended it.

 

King Æthelred was greatly concerned how he might win the bridge. He called all the leaders of his army into a conference and sought counsel from them how they might destroy the bridge. Then King Óláf said he would try with his company if the other chieftains would assist him. At that conference it was decided that they should move their forces up against the bridge. Then every leader made ready his troops and his ships.

 

Chapter 13. Óláf Breaks Down London Bridge

 

King Óláf had great wicker-work shields made of tough tree roots and soft wood, and had houses built of wands taken apart and brought upon his ships so that they reached over their sides. Then he had props put under them, both so strong and so high that it was easy to fight under them, and stout enough to resist rocks thrown from above. And when the fleet was ready, they rowed upstream to the attack. But when they approached the bridge, such a hail of arrows and huge rocks met them that neither helmets nor shields protected them and the very ships were greatly damaged. Then many beat a retreat. But King Óláf and his force of Norwegians rowed up close to the bridge and fastened cables around the piles which supported the bridge; then with all their ships [they] rowed downstream with all their might. The piles were dragged along the bottom until they tore loose from the bridge. But because an armed host stood thick on the bridge and there were great heaps of both stones and weapons on it, as soon as the piles were broken from under, the bridge gave way and many fell into the river, whilst all the others fled from the bridge, some into the town and some to Súthvirki. Thereupon [Æthelred’s army] attacked Súthvirki and conquered it. But when the people in the town saw that the river Thames was won so that they could not hinder ships from proceeding up into the land, then they were seized with terror of the ships, gave up the town to King Æthelred, and acknowledged him as king. Thus says Óttar the Black:

 

image

 

King Óláf breaks London Bridge.

 

(10.)

 

199.   Boldly brokest London
Bridge’s towers, thou Óthin’s
-storm-of-steel’s keen urger,
striving to win England.
Were shields by shafts in battle
shattered, as the olden—
fiercely raged the fighting—
far-famed swords were shivered.

 

And still further he composed this verse:

 

(11.)

 

200.   Landedst, and land gavest,
liege-lord, to Æthelred.
Much did need thee, mighty
man of war, the sovran.
Hard the fight you fought, ere,
feeder-of-wolves, came with you
Edmund’s sire, who ere had
England in peace governed.

 

Sigvat also mentions these events:

 

(12.)

 

201.   Certes, the sixth fray, thou
sword-play-urger, was when
Óláf broke the oaken
English Bridge of London.
Smote the Frankish swords, but
sallies made the vikings.
Some of them in Southwark’s
sodden fields had quarters.

 

Chapter 14. Óláf Aids Æthelred to Regain England

 

King Óláf was with King Æthelred during the following winter.

They fought a great battle on Hringmara Heath 1 in Úlfkelsland—that was the land ruled by Úlfkel Snilling [the Hero]. Óláf and Æthelred were victorious. As Skald Sigvat says:
 

(13.)

 

202.   Even a seventh time Óláf
urged a bloody sword-thing2
in the land of Úlfkel,
as I heard it told me.
Hringmara Heath full was—
high were piled the dead—of
Ella’s offspring,3 whom the
heir of Harald4 battled.

 

Óttar also has this to say about this battle:

 

(24.)

 

203.   Liege-lord, then learned I that
laden was with corpses
Hringmara Heath all bloody,
when that inland you battled.
Bowed and overborne, king,
by you, country-folk of
England, awed, submitted
or else fled off headlong.

 

At that time large parts of England were brought under the sway of King Æthelred; still the Company of the Thingmen5 and the Danes occupied many strongholds, and wide stretches of land were still held by them.

 

Chapter 15. Óláf Conquers Canterbury

 

King Óláf was leader of the army when it marched to Canterbury and fought till the place was overcome. They killed a host of foemen there and burned the castle. As says Óttar the Black:

 

(15.)

 

204.   Onset made you, Yngvi’s-
heir,1 on princely chieftains:
generous king, you captured
Canterbury in the morning.
Fiercely burning, firebrands
fell into houses, nor didst,
liege-lord, learned I, spare the
lives of luckless burghers.

 

Sigvat counts this as the eighth battle of King Óláf:

 

(16.)

 

205.   Wot I that the warrior, to
Wends a terror, strongly
an eighth time ’gainst earthworks
onset made and won them.
Nor could Canterbury’s
keepers hold back Óláf
who the prideful Partar2
plunged into greatest sorrow.

 

King Óláf had under him the defence of England and with his warships sailed along the land, and anchoring in Nýjamótha3—the Company of the Thingmen occupied that place—fought a battle, from which King Óláf emerged as victor. As says Skald Sigvat:

 

(17.)

 

206.   Scatheless, in that skirmish
scalps red he gave the English.
Dark-red billowed blood on
blades in Nýjamótha.
Now have I nine battles
named for thee, king of Norway.
Danes fell where the deadly
dart-storm raged ’gainst Óláf.

 

Then King Óláf marched about far and wide in the land, exacting tribute or else harrying. As says Óttar:

 

(18.)

 

207.   English hosts could hardly
hamper, king, thy progress
when thou tookst the traitors’
toll without forbearance.
Gold they often gave to
gracious lord grudgingly.
Treasures great at times were
taken aboard thy vessels.

 

King Óláf remained there three years at a stretch.

 

Chapter 16. Óláf Captures the Stronghold of Hól

 

In the spring of the third year King Æthelred died. His two sons, Eadmund and Eadward, took over the kingdom. Then King Óláf traversed the sea to the south and had a battle in the Hringsfjord and conquered the stronghold of Hól 1 which vikings had occupied. He levelled it. As says Skald Sigvat:

 

(19.)

 

208. Tidings tell I of the
tenth stern storm-of-targes,2
fought by the folk-warder
fair Hrings’ fjord withinside.
At Hól he broke the high-on
headland-towering stronghold
vikings owned: they asked not
oftener for such issue.

 

Chapter 17. Óláf Wins Battles in Western Europe

 

King Óláf continued west [south] with his fleet to Grislupollar1 and fought victoriously with vikings before Williamsby. As says Sigvat:

 

(20.)

 

209.   Liege, the eleventh battle—
lost great chiefs their lives there—
wont to weapon-thing, you
won in Grislupollar.
Worthy William’s castle—
wild the fray—before, were
helmets hewed in combat
hard, to tell you shortly.

 

Next he had a battle in the Fetlafjord to the west, as says Sigvat:

 

(21.)

 

210.   Tawny she-wolves’ teeth a
twelfth time the king reddened,
fey when in Fetlafirth men
fell, slain by the chieftains.

 

From there King Óláf sailed all the way south to Seljupollar2 and fought a battle there. He conquered the castle called Gunnvaldsborg3—it was large and old—and there he captured the earl who was in command there, called Geirfith. Then he had a meeting with the townspeople and imposed a ransom on them for freeing the earl—twelve thousand gold shillings; and that sum was paid by the townspeople as he had demanded. As says Sigvat:

 

(22.)

 

211.   A thirteenth time the Thronders’
thane did win a battle
south in Seljupollar,
sithen, with great carnage,
when to ancient stronghold
early at morn he marched, and
gallant Earl Geirfith of
Gunnvaldsborg made captive.

 

Chapter 18. Óláf Dreams That He Will Be King of Norway Forever

 

Thereupon King Óláf proceeded with his fleet west into Karlsá [Harbor], harried there and had a battle. Now when King Óláf lay in Karlsá [Harbor] waiting for a favorable breeze to sail to Norva Sound [the Strait of Gibraltar] and thence to Jerusalem, he dreamed a remarkable dream—that a man of commanding appearance, handsome but also terror-inspiring, approached him and spoke to him, bidding him give up his intention of proceeding further out into the world. “Return to your own possessions, because you shall be king of Norway forever.” He understood this dream to mean that he would be king in the land, and his descendants kings after him for a long time.

 

Chapter 19. Óláf Harries in Western France

 

Obeying this vision he turned back and anchored in Peituland [Poitou] where he harried and burned the market town called Varrandi.1 Of this, Óttar makes mention:

 

(23.)

 

212.   War-loving prince, you plundered
Peita while still youthful.
In Túskaland2 you tested
targes stained and sturdy.

 

Still further Sigvat says this:

 

(24.)

 

213.   From the south the sovran
sailed up Leira3 River
to where spears were splintered,
speeding eager for battle.
Varrandi was by vengeful
vikings, far from the seashore,
burned wholly—thus is hight a
hamlet there in Peita.

 

Chapter 20. The Earls of Normandy

 

King Óláf had been on this warlike expedition west in France for two summers and one winter. By that time thirteen years had passed since the fall of King Óláf Tryggvason. There ruled then in France two earls, William and Robert. Their father was Richard, earl of Rouen. They ruled over Normandy. Their sister was Queen Emma who had been married to King Æthelred of England. Their sons were Eadmund and Eadward the Good, Eadvig and Eadgar. Richard, earl of Rouen, was the son of Richard, the son of William Longspear; and he was the son of Earl Ganger-Hrólf who conquered Normandy. He was the son of Rognvald the Powerful, earl of Mœr, as is written above. From Ganger-Hrólf are descended the earls of Rouen. They called themselves for a long time kinsmen of the Norwegian chieftains and considered themselves such for a long time. They always were the greatest friends of the Norwegians, and all Norwegians who wanted to come there had a friendly welcome with them. In the fall, King Óláf arrived in Normandy, remaining there in peace during the winter in Signa [Seine].

 

Chapter 21. Einar Thambarskelfir Regains His Power

 

After the fall of Óláf Tryggvason, Earl Eirík gave quarter to Einar Thambarskelfir, the son of Eindrithi Styrkársson. Einar journeyed north to Norway with the earl. It is said that Einar was a man of enormous strength and the best archer that ever lived in Norway; and his hard shooting excelled that of all other men. With a blunt-headed arrow he could shoot through a raw oxhide suspended from a beam. He was a most skilled runner on skis, a great athlete, and most courageous. He was of noble kin and wealthy. Earl Eirík and Earl Svein gave Einar their sister, Bergljót, the daughter of Hákon, in marriage. She was a woman of strong personality. Their son was called Eindrithi. The earls gave Einar great revenues in Orka Dale, and he became the most powerful and influential man in the Trondheim District and was a close friend and strong supporter of the earls.

 

Chapter 22. Erling Skjálgsson’s Character and Power

 

Earl Eirík was ill-pleased that Erling Skjálgsson had so large a dominion, and [so he] took possession of all the royal revenues which King Óláf [Tryggvason] had granted to Erling. But Erling collected, as always before, all the revenues in Rogaland; thus the tenants often had to pay their taxes twice, or else he would ruin their fields. The earl got but little revenue from fines, because his stewards could not maintain themselves there; and the earl did not go to be entertained on farms unless he had a strong force with him. This is mentioned by Sigvat:

 

(25.)

 

214.   Erling, Óláf’s kinsman,1
ably kept at a distance
the earls, awing them, over
Óláf who had triumphed.
Then the farmers’-friend gave,
fair-dight, his other sister,
Ingibjorg, to Úlf’s sire,2
evermore to cherish.

 

Earl Eirík did not care to fight Erling, for the latter had many and influential kinsmen and was powerful and popular. He always proceeded with a large host of retainers, much as though it were a royal bodyguard. During the summers Erling often went on raiding expeditions and amassed property, because he maintained the magnificent establishment he was accustomed to, although he at that time had fewer revenues, and less advantageous ones than in the times of King Óláf [Tryggvason], his brother-in-law.

 

Erling was a very handsome man, exceedingly tall and strong, most skilled in arms, and in all bodily accomplishments much resembling King Óláf Tryggvason. He was a shrewd man, most ambitious in all respects, and a great man of war. This is mentioned by Sigvat:

 

(26.)

 

215.   Not anyone but Erling,
other stewards among, had
fought as many frays, ne’er
faltering, ever victorious.
Briskness showed he in battle,
being the first to plunge in,
our liberal lord, but
last from it retiring.

 

This has always been said, that Erling was the noblest of all landed-men in Norway. The following were the children of Erling and Ástríth: Áslák, Skjálg, Sigurth, Lothin, Thórir, and Ragnhild, who married Thorberg Árnason. Erling always had about him ninety or more freedmen, and both in winter and summer there was served a measure of drink at the morning meal; but at the evening meal there was no limit. And when the earls [Eirík and Svein] were near he had two hundred [240] or more men about him. He never travelled except with a boat of twenty rowers’ benches and a full crew. Erling had a large warship with thirty-two rowers’ benches and correspondingly large. He used it for viking expeditions or else for going to appointed meetings, and on it were two hundred [240] or more men.

 

Chapter 23. Erling’s Management of His Estates

 

Erling always kept at home thirty thralls beside other servants. He assigned his thralls their daily work, but let them have their leisure afterwards, and gave permission to everyone who wanted to do so to work for himself in the twilight or at night. He gave them fields to sow grain on and let them have the produce to use for themselves. He set on each his value and the price for his emancipation. Many bought their freedom the first or second year, and all who had it in them freed themselves within three years. And with that money Erling bought himself other servants; and those whom he had freed, he assigned to the herring fishery or else to some other occupation. Some would clear forests and set up their homes there, but all he helped to prosper.

 

Chapter 24. Earl Eirík Joins King Knút in England

 

When Earl Eirík had ruled Norway for twelve years, there came to him a message from Knút [Canute], king of Denmark, his brother-in-law, bidding him to proceed with him west to England with his fleet, for the reason that Eirík had acquired much fame by his warlike deeds, having won the victory in two battles which were reputed to have been the hardest in the northlands, the one in which Earl Hákon and Eirík had fought against the Jómsvíkings; the other, when he had battled King Óláf Tryggvason. This is mentioned by Thórth Kolbeinsson:

 

(27.)

 

216.   Fain would I praise more feats of
fame, done by the atheling,
helmeted, gladsome, when that
high lords of England called him,
as in duty bound to bring them
badly needed aid—I
grasp the princes’ purpose—
promptly there to join them.

 

The earl did not care to think long about this request of the king but set out immediately, leaving behind his son, Earl Hákon, to guard Norway under the guidance of Einar Thambarskelfir, his brother-in-law, who was to govern for Hákon who at that time was only seventeen.

 

Chapter 25. Earl Eirík Battles and Dies in England

 

Eirík joined King Knút and was with him when he conquered London. Earl Eirík had a battle west of London in which he felled Úlfkel Snilling. As says Thórth:

 

(28.)

 

217.   Gave the gladsome arm-ring-
giver battle west of
London; for the land fought
lordly steerer of sea-steeds.
Awful blows got Úlfkel;
over heads of thingmen
bluish blades flashed out there.
Bothn’s-dear-flood11 master.

 

Earl Eirík remained one year in England, and fought several battles. In the fall following he intended to make a pilgrimage to Rome, but died there in England of a loss of blood.

 

Chapter 26. King Knút Wins the Power Over All England

 

King Knút fought many battles in England with the sons of King Æthelred of England, with varying success. He had arrived in England the summer Æthelred died. Thereupon King Knút married Queen Emma. Their children were Harald, Hortha-Knút, and Gunnhild. King Knút came to an agreement with King Eadmund. They were to divide England between them. In the same month Heinrek Strjóna murdered King Eadmund. Thereupon King Knút drove all the sons of King Æthelred out of England. As says Sigvat:

 

(29.)

 

218.   1 Soon all of
Æthelred’s sons
Knút vanquished
or cast out else.

 

Chapter 27. The Sons of Æthelred Enlist Óláf’s Aid

 

The same summer that the sons of King Æthelred of England sought refuge with their maternal uncles in Rouen in France, Óláf Haraldsson arrived from his viking expedition in the west; and all of them remained in Normandy that year and concluded an alliance, stipulating that King Óláf was to have Northumberland if they succeeded in winning England from the Danes. Thereupon in the fall King Óláf sent his foster father Hrani to England in order to enlist troops, and the sons of Æthelred furnished him with tokens to their friends and kinsmen, whilst King Óláf gave him a great amount of money to attract men to their colors. And Hrani spent the winter in England and secured the allegiance of many men of influence, because people were more willing to have a king of their own country to rule over them. Yet the power of the Danes in England had grown so great at that time that all the people there had become subject to them.

 

Chapter 28. The Sons of Æthelred Cannot Cope with the Power of Knút

 

In the spring they all, King Óláf and the sons of King Æthelred, sailed east [north] and landed at a place called Jungufurtha.1 There they disembarked their troops and went up to the stronghold. They found many there who had promised them assistance. They conquered the castle and killed a great number. But when King Knút’s generals learned this they collected troops, and soon had such a large force that the sons of King Æthelred did not have the power to hold out against them and chose rather to withdraw west [south] to Rouen. Then King Óláf parted company with them, not wanting to go to France. He sailed north along the English coast all the way up to Northumberland. He anchored in the harbor called Fyrir Valdi [before the Wolds]2 and fought a battle there with the townsmen in which he gained the victory and much booty.

 

Chapter 29. Óláf Returns to Norway

 

King Óláf left his warships behind there and equipped two merchantmen for sailing thence, and on them he had two hundred and twenty [260] men, all furnished with full mail, a picked crew. In the fall he sailed north, and at sea they experienced violent gales which put them in great peril; but because they had a good crew and the luck of the king with them, everything turned out well. As says Óttar:

 

(30.)

 

219.   Ready made you merchant-
men twain to sail eastward.
With danger oft you dallied,
dauntless peer-of-Skjoldungs.1
Would the savage sea have
sunk your merchant ships if,
warrior, worser crew had
wielded oars aboard them.

 

And still further:

 

(31.)

 

220.   Ye feared not nor flinched, as ye
fared o’er the wide ocean.
Abler crew will not ever
heir of war-lord come by.
Towering breakers oft tested
tackle and ship, ere that
mighty king, you made the
midway coast of Norway.

 

In this verse we are told that King Óláf made land in the middle of Norway’s [west] coast. The name of the island on which they first touched land is called Sæla, 2 beside the Promontory of Stath. Then the king said that he believed that it was a lucky day for him since they had made land at Sæla [luck] in Norway and remarked that it most likely was a good omen that it had happened so. Then they went upon the island. There the king slid with one foot on a patch of clay, but steadied himself on the other knee. Then he said, “Now I fell.”

 

Then Hrani said: “You fell not, sire; you set fast foot on the land.”

 

The king laughed and said, “That may be, if God so wills.” Then they boarded their ships again and sailed south to Úlfa Sound.3 There they learned that Earl Hákon was south in Sogn and that he was expected to come north as soon as there was a favorable breeze; also that he had only one ship.

 

Chapter 30. Óláf Upsets Earl Hákon’s Ship and Exiles Him

 

When he had come south of Fjalir, King Óláf steered his ships out of the usual course and into the Sauthunga Sound1 and then anchored. The ships lay on either side of the sound and had a thick cable stretched between them. At that very time Earl Hákon Eiríksson rowed toward the sound with a fully manned warship. They believed that the two ships in the sound were merchantmen, and so rowed on into the sound between them; whereupon King Óláf’s men hauled up the cable right under the keel of the earl’s ship, using windlasses. And as soon as it took hold, the stern turned up and the stem plunged down, so that the sea fell in over the gunwale of the forepart, swamping the ship, which then overturned. King Óláf fished up Earl Hákon and all those they managed to reach and capture, some they killed and some were drowned. As says Óttar:

 

(32.)

 

221.   Tookst thou, ravenous raven’s
ring-dight feeder, youthful
Hákon’s handsome roller-
horse, and all his crew eke.
Hither didst thou, hero,
hie thee, while quite young still;
nor could the earl, crestfallen,
keep thee from thy own land.

 

Hákon was brought up into the king’s ship. He was the handsomest man they had ever seen. His hair was abundant and fair as silk, and fastened about his head with a golden fillet. He sat down by the mast. Then said King Óláf, “It is certainly true what is said about your kin, that you are of handsome appearance. But luck has deserted you now.”

 

Hákon replied, “It is not that luck has deserted us. It has long been the case that now the one, now the other of two parties have lost out. Thus as between your kin and mine, victory has been, now yours, now ours. I am but little over the years of childhood. Nor were we prepared to defend ourselves, we never suspected that an attack would be made on us. It may be that we are more successful another time.”

 

Then King Óláf replied, “Has it not entered your mind, earl, that events have taken such a turn that in the future you may have neither victory nor defeat?”

 

The earl said, “This is in your power, sire, to decide this time.”

 

Then said King Óláf, “What will you do on your part, earl, if I let you go where you will, hale and unharmed?” The earl asked what he demanded. The king said, “Nothing else but that you leave the land and thus give up your dominion and swear oaths that you and your kin will henceforth not fight against me.” The earl made answer to the effect that he would do so. And then Earl Hákon swore with oaths that he would never after fight against King Óláf, nor defend Norway by warlike measures against him nor attack him. Thereupon King Óláf gave him and all his men quarter. The earl received back the ship he had had before, and they rowed away. This is mentioned by Skald Sigvat:

 

(33.)

 

222.   Declared the king, of fame most
covetous, that needs in
Sauthung Sound, the ancient,
seek he must Earl Hákon.
There, the thewful ruler
that earl met who, although
youthful, had to no one yielded
yet in rank and high birth.

 

Chapter 31. Earl Hákon Joins the Court of King Knút

 

After this encounter the earl got himself ready the quickest he could to leave the country, and sailed west to England. There he met King Knút, his maternal uncle, and told him all how matters had gone between him and King Óláf. King Knút made him most welcome. He appointed him a member of his bodyguard and gave him much power in his dominions. Earl Hákon now remained with Knút for a long time.

 

When Svein and Hákon had governed Norway, they came to an agreement with Erling Skjálgsson, which was sealed by Áslák, a son of Erling’s, marrying Gunnhild, a daughter of Earl Svein. Erling and Áslák both were to have all those revenues which King Óláf Tryggvason had given Erling. Then Erling became a close friend of the earls and they confirmed that by binding oaths.

 

Chapter 32. Ásta Prepares for Óláf’s Homecoming

 

King Óláf the Stout sailed east [south] along the land and in many places had meetings with the farmers; and many swore allegiance to him, but some who were relatives or friends of Earl Svein opposed him. For this reason, King Óláf proceeded east to Vík as fast as he could and steered his force there. When he arrived in Westfold, he drew his ships ashore and then proceeded inland. Many people welcomed him there who had been acquaintances or friends of his father. Thereabout in Fold resided also many of his kinfolk. In the fall he went inland to visit his stepfather, King Sigurth, and arrived there early one morning. And when King Óláf drew near to the estate, some servant men ran up to the house and into the [living] room. Within sat Ásta, the mother of King Óláf, together with some other women. The men told her about King Óláf approaching and that he could be expected forthwith.

 

Ásta immediately arose and ordered both men and women to bestir themselves and put everything in the best possible order. She had four woman servants take [down] the [cloth] ornaments of the room and quickly decorate [the walls] with tapestries and also the benches. Two man servants put straw on the floor, two set up the dressers for the decanters, two set the table, two brought in the viands. Still another two she sent off, two bore in the ale, and all others, women and men, went out into the courtyard. The two who had been sent off, looked up King Sigurth and brought him his robes of state and also his horse with gilt saddle and the bridle all set with enamel and precious stones and gilt. Four men she sent four ways into the district to invite all chieftains to come to the banquet she was preparing to welcome her son. All the others in the establishment she ordered to put on their best clothes, and to those who had no clothes that were suitable, she lent clothes befitting them.

 

Chapter 33. Ásta’s Messengers Find King Sigurth in the Fields

 

King Sigurth was out in the fields when the messengers came to him to tell him the news and inform him of all the preparations Ásta had made. There were many men with him. Some were cutting the grain, some bound it in sheaves, some carted the grain to the barn, some stacked it on ricks or piled it. And the king, together with two other men, now went about on the field, now to the place where the grain was piled up. Concerning his apparel we are told that he wore a blue kirtle and blue leggings, and shoes which were laced high up on his calf; also, a gray cloak with a wide gray hood and a veil about his face.1 He had a staff in his hand topped by a gilt silver ferrule with a ring in it.

 

As to what manner of man King Sigurth was, we are told that he was a hard worker, a good husbandman who managed his property and farm, attending to household matters himself. He was not given to display, and was rather taciturn. He was one of the wisest men then living in Norway, and the richest in chattels. He was of a peaceful disposition and not aggressive. Ásta, his wife, was open handed and of a proud disposition. Their children were these: Guthorm was the eldest, then came Gunnhild, then Hálfdan, then Ingiríth, then Harald.

 

Those sent out to Sigurth spoke as follows: “This message were we to deliver from Ásta, that it appeared to her to be of the greatest importance that you behave in a lordly fashion; and she prayed that in this business you should comport yourself more like Harald Fairhair in your behavior than like Hrani Thinnose, your maternal grandfather or like Earl Nereith the Old, even though the latter were exceedingly wise.”

 

The king replied, “Important news you bring me, and much stress you put on it. A great to-do Ásta made before about people who were less closely related to her; and I see that she is still of the same mind. She certainly bestirs herself about this business with much energy, if only she will see her son off in the same grand fashion as she now welcomes him. It would seem to me that, if things are to proceed in this fashion, then those who take such hazards are little concerned about either their goods or their life. This man, King Óláf, will have to contend with overwhelming odds, because against him and his ambitions, if he persists in them, he has the enmity of both the king of Denmark and the king of Sweden.”

 

Chapter 34. Ásta and Sigurth Welcome Óláf

 

After King Sigurth had said this, he sat down and had his men pull off his shoes and instead put on his feet cordovan boots and fasten on them golden spurs. Then he took off his cloak and kirtle and dressed himself in garments of costly material, with a scarlet cloak over it. He girded on his sword, put a gilt helmet on his head, and mounted his horse. He sent his workmen into the district and had thence thirty men, all well-dressed, who rode back to his estate with him. And when they came riding into the courtyard in front of the living quarters, he saw on the other side of the courtyard the standard of King Óláf advancing, with Óláf under it, and a hundred [120] men in his company, all well accoutered.

 

Then the men were given quarters in the various buildings. From his horse King Sigurth welcomed his stepson King Óláf and his company and invited him into the house for a banquet; but Ásta went up to her son, kissed him, and asked him to stay with her, telling him that he was welcome to share all with her, both land and people. King Óláf graciously thanked her for her offer. She took him by the hand and led him into the room and to the high-seat. King Sigurth assigned men to take care of their clothing and to feed grain to their horses, then went to his high-seat. This feast [of welcome] was made with the greatest magnificence.

 

Chapter 35. Óláf Divulges His Plans

 

Now on a certain day, when King Óláf had not been there so very long, he asked King Sigurth his stepfather, his mother Ásta, and his foster father Hrani to have a private conference with him. Then he spoke as follows.

 

“As you know,” he said, “I have returned to Norway after having been away for a long time. And all that time my men and I have had nothing for our support but what we gained in warfare, risking in many places both life and soul. Many a man through no fault of his own has been deprived by us of his property, and some, of their lives, too, while foreigners dispose of the possessions which my father, and his father, and one after the other of our kinsmen owned, and to which I am entitled. Nor are they satisfied with that, but have appropriated what has belonged to our kinsmen who in direct line are descended from Harald Fairhair. To some they give a share of it, to others, nothing at all. Now I shall disclose to you what has been in my mind for a long time, which is that I mean to regain my paternal inheritance; nor shall I go to see either the king of Denmark or the king of Sweden to ask them any favor, although they have for some time called their own what was the heritage after Harald Fairhair. Rather, to tell you the truth, do I intend to seek my patrimony at the point of the sword and request for that purpose the support of all my kinsmen and friends and of all those who will go with me in this business. And I shall pursue this claim to the effect that either I shall take possession of all that dominion which they took from King Óláf Tryggvason, my kinsman, or else fall in the land of my fathers.

 

“Now I shall expect of you, kinsman Sigurth, and of the other men in this land who are born to possession of ancestral property according to the laws given by Harald Fairhair, that you will not be so devoid of pride as not to wish to rise and do away with this disgrace to our family and that you will risk your all to support him who is willing to be your leader in restoring the power of our family. But whether or no you are willing to show your manhood in this business, I know the temper of the people and that all would be eager to escape servitude under foreign chieftains as soon as they have the confidence that this can be accomplished.

 

“I have not broached this matter to anyone before, because I know you are a wise man and can judge best how to proceed in this business—whether we should talk this over secretly with some men or forthwith bring it up publicly before all the people. I have [already] shown my teeth to our enemy by capturing Earl Hákon. He has fled the country now, after giving me by solemn agreement that part of the realm which he possessed before. So now I consider it will be easier to fight Earl Svein alone than when both were there to defend the land against us.”

 

King Sigurth made this reply: “These be matters of no little importance you are revolving, King Óláf. And which, so far as I can judge, bear witness more to your ambition than to your foresight; and indeed it was to be expected that there would be a big difference between my unpretentious ways and your grandiose plans; because even when you were scarcely out of childhood, you were full of ambition and overbearing in everything that concerned you. And now you have won much experience in battles and have adopted the ways of foreign chieftains. Now I know that if you have gone so far in this matter, it will be useless to try to stop you. For that matter, it is only natural that it must weigh heavily on the minds of men who have the spirit of enterprise that all the race of Harald Fairhair and his kingdom have fallen to such low estate. But I will not be bound by any promises before I know the views and the measures of the other kings in the Uppland districts. Now it is well that you have informed me of your intentions before you make them known to all the people. I shall promise you my good offices with the kings and also with other chieftains and countrymen. Likewise, I shall put my property at your disposal to further your enterprise. But as to making this known to the people, I don’t care to do so before ascertaining what success may be expected, and what support gotten, for this great undertaking; because I shall want you to consider that you will engage in no small undertaking, if you enter into a contest with Óláf, king of Sweden and with Knút, who now is king in both England and Denmark; and you will have to take strong measures if you expect any success. Yet I don’t think it unlikely that you will have good support, because the people are fond of new measures. That was the case before, when Óláf Tryggvason came here and all welcomed him, yet he did not live to have the royal power for long.”

 

At this point Ásta spoke as follows: “So far as I am concerned, my son, I will tell you that I rejoice in you, and all the more, the more you prosper. I shall spare nothing I have to further your progress, though I can help little with my counsels. But if I had the choice, I would rather have you become supreme king of Norway, even though you lived to rule no longer than Óláf Tryggvason, than be no more of a king than Sigurth Sýr and die of old age.”

 

After these words had been spoken, they broke off the conference. King Óláf remained there for a while with all his followers. On alternate days King Sigurth served them at table, either with fish and milk or with meat and ale.

 

Chapter 36. Sigurth and the Uppland Kings Debate Whether to Aid Óláf

 

In those days there were many kings in the Upplands who ruled over shires, and most were descended from the race of Harald Fairhair. Two brothers, Hrœrek and Hring, ruled over Heithmork; and Guthröth, over Guthbrands Dale. A king also ruled in Raumaríki, and there was another who governed Thótn and Hathaland. In the Valdres District, too, there was a king. King Sigurth had arranged for a meeting with the district kings at a place in Hathaland, to which meeting came also Óláf Haraldsson. And there Sigurth brought up before them the designs of his stepson Óláf, and asked for their support, both as to troops, advice, and their consent, recounting to them how necessary it was for them to throw off the yoke which the Danes and Swedes had laid upon them, and that now there was a man who would lead them in these plans. And he recounted before them the many deeds of prowess Óláf had performed in his journeys and expeditions.

 

Then King Hrœrek spoke as follows: “True it is that the kingdom of King Harald Fairhair has fallen on evil days since no one of his race is supreme king in Norway. Now people in this land have tried to help themselves in this way and that. King Hákon, the foster son of Æthelstān, was king, and all liked him well. But when the sons of Gunnhild ruled over the country, all hated their tyranny and injustice, and people preferred to have foreign kings rule over them and be more independent, because foreign chieftains generally resided far away and did not care much what faith people had but [only] levied such tribute from the country as they decreed. And when Harald, the king of the Danes, and Earl Hákon fell out, then the Jómsvíkings harried in Norway. And then all the people rose up against them and made an end of these hostilities. Thereupon some encouraged Earl Hákon to hold the land against the Danish king and defend it with might and main. But as soon as he considered himself to be in complete possession of the land through the support of the people, he became so hard and tyrannical against them that they would not stand for that, and the people of Trondheim killed him themselves and elevated to the kingship Óláf Tryggvason, who was by birth entitled to the crown and in all respects fit to be king. All the commoners were inordinately eager to have him as king over them and to raise anew the dominion of which Harald Fairhair had had possession. But as soon as Óláf thought he had complete power, no one could maintain his independence against him. He proceeded with harshness against us small kings, exacting from us all the tribute Harald Fairhair had taken here, and more still; and people were even less independent of him insofar as no one was his own master as to what god he was to believe in. And now he has been taken from us we have maintained friendly relations with the Danish king and have had his complete support in all demands we need to make, and our independence and an easy existence within our land, and no tyranny. Now, so far as my opinion is concerned I wish to say that I am well pleased with matters as they are. I don’t know whether my condition will be improved if my kinsman becomes king over the land. And if that isn’t the case, then I don’t mean to have any share in these plans.”

 

Then Hring, his brother, spoke as follows: “I shall tell you my opinion. It would seem preferable to me, granted I have the same power and properties, that a kinsman of mine be king over Norway, rather than foreign chieftains and if our race could rise again in our country. But as to this man Óláf, I surmise that his fate and his good luck will decide whether or no he will obtain the power here in Norway; and if he does become absolute ruler, then it seems it will be advantageous for him who has a stronger claim on his friendship. At present he has in no wise greater power than any of us; and less, insofar as we have some lands and power at our disposal and he has none. Neither are we by birth less entitled to the royal title. Now we want to be such strong supporters of his that we do not begrudge him the highest rank in this country and aid him to that end with all our power. Why should he not reward us well for that and bear it long in mind, if he is indeed so great a hero as I believe him to be and all call him? If I am to prevail, then let us take that risk and join him as our friend.”

 

Thereupon, one after the other of the chieftains got up and spoke; and the end of the discussion was that the majority was ready to make common cause with King Óláf. He pledged them his true friendship and an increase in their privileges, once he was supreme king in Norway. Thereupon they pledged adherence to their agreement with oaths.

 

Chapter 37. Óláf Is Accepted as King of Norway

 

After that, the kings summoned an assembly, and there Óláf made known to the people these plans and the claim he had to the succession. He asked the farmers to accept him as king of the land, promising them in return maintenance of the ancient laws and to defend them against foreign armies and chieftains. His speech was long and eloquent, and it was well received. Then the kings arose, one after another, all supporting his cause and what Óláf had said. And as a result, Óláf was given the title of king over all Norway, and the land was adjudicated to him according to the laws of the Uppland District.

 

Chapter 38. Óláf Forces the People of Methal Dale to Acknowledge Him

 

Thereupon King Óláf forthwith started on his royal progress, bidding people prepare for his entertainment wherever there were royal estates. First he visited about Hathaland and then proceeded north to Guthbrands Dale. Then it went as Sigurth Sýr had predicted: so many came to join his colors that he considered he needed but half their number—and by that time he had almost three hundred [360] men—so that the entertainments agreed upon were inadequate, because it had been the custom for kings to go about the Uppland District with sixty or seventy followers, but never with more than one hundred. So the king travelled fast, staying only one night in the same place. And when he arrived at the mountains to the north, he started on his passage over them till he arrived at their northern side. Descending, he arrived in Upp Dale and stayed there during the night. Then he traversed the Upp Dale Forest and came out in Methal Dale, where he called for an assembly and summoned the farmers to come to meet him. Thereupon he spoke at the assembly, demanding that the farmers should recognize him as king, promising them in turn to maintain the rights and laws such as King Óláf Tryggvason had given them. The farmers were not strong enough to go counter to him, and the end was that they acknowledged him, confirming the agreement with oaths. Nevertheless they had sent messengers down to Orka Dale and also to Skaun who reported about King Óláf and told all they knew about him.

 

Chapter 39. Einar Thambarskelfir Prepares to Resist Óláf

 

Einar Thambarskelfir had an estate at Skaun, and when the news came to him about King Óláf’s proceedings, he at once sent the war-arrows in all directions, summoning both freedmen and thralls to come fully armed and bidding them to defend the land against King Óláf. These war-arrows went to Orka Dale and to Gaular Dale, and troops gathered there from all directions.

 

Chapter 40. Óláf Persuades the People of Orka Dale to Acknowledge Him

 

King Óláf with his force proceeded down to Orka Dale. He proceeded very quietly and peacefully. And when he arrived at Grjótar, he encountered the host of farmers, more than seven hundred [840] strong. Then the king drew up his men in battle array, thinking that the farmers were going to fight him. But when the farmers saw that they also began to array themselves in battle order, but this was not so easy for them, for it had not been decided beforehand who was to be their leader. And when King Óláf noticed that there was confusion among the farmers, he sent Thórir Guthbrandsson over to them; and he told them that King Óláf did not want to fight them. He pointed out twelve of the most influential men among them and asked them to come to meet with King Óláf. And the farmers agreed to that and came forward across a ridge to where stood the king’s men in battle array.

 

Then the king said, “You farmers have done well to give me a chance to talk with you, because I want to tell you about my business here in the region of Trondheim. First of all I know you have heard that Earl Hákon and I had an encounter, this summer; and it ended with his giving me all the dominion he had had in the Province of Trondheim, which as you know comprises the Districts of Orka Dale, Gaular Dale, and Strind, and the Islands. And I have witnesses here who were present when the earl made this pledge to me and who heard the words of the oaths and all the stipulations made between us. I shall offer you the laws and the securities which King Óláf Tryggvason offered to you before me.”

 

He spoke at length and eloquently, and in conclusion offered the farmers the alternative, either to accept him and give him their allegiance or else to do battle with him. Thereupon the farmers returned to their people and reported to them what the king had told them. They then counselled with all the people which of the alternatives to take. And though they debated this for a while between them, in the end they chose to swear allegiance to the king, and that was agreed upon with oaths on the part of the farmers.

 

Thereupon the king arranged for his further progress, and the farmers entertained him as he went along. He made his way down to the seashore and there procured ships. He had two warships, one a vessel with twenty rowers’ benches, given him by Gunnar of Gelmin, the other, also with twenty rowers’ benches, given him by Lothin of Viggjar. A third ship, of the same description, was gotten from Angrar at Ness. That estate had been a possession of Earl Hákon and was managed by a steward by the name of Bárth the White. The king had [also] four or five skiffs, and with all these he proceeded quickly into the Trondheimfjord.

 

Chapter 41. Earl Svein Eludes Óláf

 

At that time Earl Svein was at Steinker1 at the head of the Trondheimfjord and was preparing for a Yuletide banquet there. There was a market town there. Einar Thambarskelfir had learned that the people of Orka Dale had sworn allegiance to King Óláf. Then he sent messengers to Earl Svein. They went first to Nitharós and there took a rowing skiff that belonged to Einar, then rowed into the upper reaches of the fjord and arrived late one day at Steinker and reported this news to the earl, telling him all about King Óláf’s proceedings. The earl had a warship which rode tented on the fjord outside the town. He forthwith had his movable property, the clothing of his men, and food and drink as much as the ship could hold, brought on board in the evening; thereupon they set out immediately that same night and at dawn arrived at Skarn Sound. There they saw King Óláf rowing into the fjord with his fleet. Then the earl turned toward the land at Masarvík. A dense forest grew there, and they moored the ship so close to the wooded slope that the leaves and branches of the trees hung down over the ship. Then they felled trees and placed them in the water on the outside so that the ship could not be seen for the leaves. It was not yet full daylight when the king rowed into the sound past them. It was a wind-still day. The king rowed into the sound past the island. But as soon as they could not see one another, the earl rowed out into the fjord and kept going till he reached Frosta Peninsula where they landed. That was in the earl’s territory.

 

Chapter 42. Earl Svein Confers with Einar Thambarskelfir

 

Earl Svein sent messengers to Gaular Dale for Einar, his brother-in-law; and when the two met, the earl told Einar what had taken place between him and King Óláf, and said that he wanted to collect a force and advance against King Óláf and fight it out with him. Einar answered him as follows: “Let us proceed cautiously and find out with the help of spies what King Óláf’s plans are. Let him find out about us only that we are keeping quiet. Maybe then, if he does not find out about our collecting troops he will settle at Steinker for Yule, because there are plenty of provisions there now. But if he does find out that we are collecting troops, he is likely to steer out of the fjord, and then he will escape us.” It was done as Einar counselled. The earl journeyed up to Stjóra Dale to be entertained there by the farmers.

 

Now when King Óláf arrived at Steinker, he took away all the provisions intended for the banquet and had them carried to his ships, to which he added a merchantman, taking along both food and drink, and hurried away the fastest he could, rowing all the way to Nitharós. There, King Óláf Tryggvason had laid the foundations of a market town, as was written above. But when Eirík came to rule the land, he had favored Hlathir, where his father had established his headquarters, and neglected the buildings which Óláf had erected on the banks of the Nith River, so that some had collapsed and others still stood but were rather uninhabitable. King Óláf steered his ships up the Nith River and immediately had those houses repaired which still stood and had those raised up which had fallen. He put many men to work to do that, and then had both the drink and the victuals moved into the houses, intending to celebrate Yule there. But when Earl Svein and Einar learned that they changed their plans.

 

Chapter 43. The Skald Sigvat Joins King Óláf

 

There was an Icelander called Thórth Sigvaldaskáld. He had for a long time been the retainer, first of Earl Sigvaldi, and then of Thorkel the Tall, the earl’s brother; but after the fall of the earl he had become a merchant. He had met King Óláf when he was on his viking expedition in the west, and became his retainer, following him afterwards. He was with the king at the time. Sigvat was the son of this Thórth and had been fostered by Thorkel at Apavatn. But when he was almost full grown, he had left the country in the company of some merchants. That fall this ship arrived in the Trondheim District, and the men were quartered in the surrounding country. The same winter King Óláf arrived in the Trondheim District, as is told above. And when Sigvat heard that his father was there with the king, he went to the king, met his father Thórth, and dwelt there for some time. Sigvat had at an early age become a good skald. He had composed a poem about King Óláf and asked the king to listen to it. The king said he did not want to have poems composed about himself and that he did not understand skaldship. Then Sigvat spoke this verse:

 

(34.)

 

223.   List to my song, sea-steed’s-
sinker thou, for greatly
skilled at the skein am I—
a skald you must have—of verses;
and even if thou, king of
all Norway, hast ever
scorned and scoffed at other
skalds, yet I shall praise thee.

 

As a reward for his verse, King Óláf gave Sigvat a ring weighing four ounces. Sigvat became a member of King Óláf’s bodyguard. Then he spoke this verse:

 

(35.)

 

224.   Lief I was, my liege, and
loath nowise, to accept your
gracious gift—I did so
gladly—and be your courtier.
Hero, a faithful housecarl
hast thou gained in me, and
I—excellent trade!—an
open-handed master.

 

Earl Svein had that fall taken half of the landing tax1 as had been the custom before; for Earl Eirík and Earl Hákon had half of these as well as other revenues from the District of Trondheim. Now when King Óláf had arrived there, he commissioned his men to collect half of the landing tax from the Icelandic merchants. But they went up to the king [to complain about having to pay twice], and asked Sigvat to intercede for them. Then he went before the king and spoke this verse:

 

(36.)

 

225.   Not unwilling warriors may
ween me to beg for pelf now—
often before from you
Fáfnir’s treasure had I.
Forgive the land tax, gold-ring-
giver, half of it, e’en though
for my own ship I have
asked you for that favor.

 

Chapter 44. King Óláf Evacuates Nitharós

 

Earl Svein and Einar Thambarskelfir gathered a large army and proceeded to Gaular Dale over the mountains toward Nitharós. They had nearly twenty hundred [2400] men. Some followers of King Óláf were on Gaular Ridge as a mounted guard. They became aware of the army marching down Gaular Dale, and brought the news to the king at midnight. King Óláf arose immediately and had his men awakened. They went on board their ships at once, carrying with them all their clothes, their weapons, and all else they managed to take, and then rowed out of the river. No sooner were they gone but the earl’s army marched into the town. They removed all the provisions intended for the Yule banquet and burned down all the houses. King Óláf sailed out of the fjord and to Orka Dale, where he disembarked; and from there he marched up Orka Dale Valley till he came to the mountains, and then over the mountains to [Guthbrands] Dale. About this, that Earl Svein burned down the town of Nitharós, we are told in the flokk1 which was composed about Klœng Brúsason:

 

(37.)

 

226.   Burned the liege’s lodgings—
laid them low the fire, while
singed the men hot smoke and
cinders—down to the River.

 

Chapter 45. Óláf Collects Troops in the Uppland Districts

 

Then King Óláf marched south down Guthbrands Dale, and from there to Heithmork. There he spent all the time in midwinter, being entertained [by the farmers]; but when spring approached he collected an army and proceeded to Vík. He had with him a large following from Heithmork which the kings had procured for him. Many landed-men went with him from there, among them Ketil Kálf of Hringuness. Also from Raumaríki King Óláf had reinforcements. King Sigurth Sýr, his stepfather, joined him with a large host of men. Then they proceeded toward the sea, procured themselves ships, and outfitted themselves in Vík. They had a large and well-equipped crew. And when they were ready they set out for Tuns-berg.