Chapter 46. Earl Svein Collects Troops against Óláf


Earl Svein collected troops all about the Trondheim District immediately after Yule, summoning a levy, and also made ships ready. At that time there was in Norway a great number of landed-men. Many of them were powerful and so high-born as to be in direct descent from royal or earls’ families, and they were also very rich. Whoever governed the country, whether kings or earls, depended on them, because in every district it was these landed-men who had the greatest influence with the farmers. Earl Svein was good friends with these landed-men, and so it was easy to collect troops. Einar Thambarskelfir, his brother-in-law, was in his company, and so were many other landed-men, and also many who before had sworn allegiance to King Óláf, both landed-men and farmers. As soon as they were ready they sailed out of the fjord, steering south along the land and collecting auxiliaries from every district. And when they arrived south, outside of Rogaland, Erling Skjálgsson joined them with a large fleet, and a great many landed-met! with him. When all were together the fleet sailed east to Vík. It was toward the end of the Lenten Season when Earl Svein entered the Vík District. The earl steered his fleet past Grenmar and anchored at Nesjar.


Chapter 47. King Óláf Makes Ready for Battle


About this time, King Óláf steered his fleet out of the fjord and there was but a short distance between the two fleets. They became aware of each other on the Saturday before Palm Sunday. King Óláf had the ship which was called Karlhofthi [Man’s Head]. As a figurehead it had a king’s head carved on its prow. He himself had carved it; and such a figurehead was in Norway for a long time afterward fixed on the prows of ships steered by chieftains.




The king has the trumpets blown.


Chapter 48. Óláf Addresses His Men before Battle


On Sunday morning, as soon as dawn broke, King Óláf arose and dressed. Then he went on land and had the trumpets blown for all his army to go on land. Then he spoke to the army and made it known to all that he had learned that only a short distance separated them from Earl Svein.


“Now let us prepare and be ready to meet them, because in a little while we shall encounter them. Let men arm themselves now, and let everyone make ready for the fight both himself and his place in the ship to which he is assigned, so that all are ready when I have the trumpets blown for us to start. Then let us row close together, let no one start before the whole fleet starts, and let no one remain behind when I row out of the harbor; because we cannot know whether we shall find the earl where he is moored now, or whether he is coming to look for us. But if we encounter him and the battle starts, then let our men gather our ships together and be ready to fasten them one to the other. Let us remain on the defensive at first and save our missiles and not waste them by throwing them into the sea to no good. But when the battle is on in earnest and the ships have been tied together, then fight for all you are worth, and let everyone show his manhood.”


Chapter 49. The Battle of Nesjar


King Óláf had on his ship a hundred [120] men, all in coats of mail, with French helmets on their heads. Most of his men had white shields, with the holy cross inlaid on them with gold, but some had it drawn on them with red or blue color. He also had the front of all helmets marked with a cross in chalk. He himself had a white standard with a dragon figured on it.


Thereupon he had mass said for himself. He went on board his ship and told the men to have refreshments of food and drink, then had the trumpets sounded for the fleet to leave harbor. And when they arrived before the harbor where the earl’s fleet had anchored, they found his force armed and about to row out of the harbor. And when they saw the king’s fleet, they began to fasten their ships together, to raise their standards, and to prepare for battle. When King Óláf saw that, he rowed to the attack. The king laid his ship beside the earl’s, and the battle began. As says Skald Sigvat:




227.   Onset made then Óláf,
anchored as in the harbor
Svein’s fleet lay—the salty
sea grew red with wound-dew.
Urged the keen-eyed king the
combat ’gainst the earl’s men
ruthlessly—with ropes their
readied ships they fastened.


In this verse we are told that King Óláf proceeded to do battle, and that Svein remained in the harbor, waiting for him. Sigvat the Skald was in that battle, and right soon in the summer after it he composed the flokk which is called Nesjavísur. In it we are told fully about these happenings:




228.   Heard we have, great warrior,
how that you for combat
near to the earl, east of
Agthir, laid Karlhofthi.


The battle was most bitterly fought, and for a long time it seemed uncertain what the outcome would be. Many fell on both sides, and a great many were wounded. As says Sigvat:




229.   Need there was none to urge to
noise-of-swords the earl’s men,
nor to egg on Óláf,
eager ever for battle;
for either host was apt to
undergo—nor were they
ever—the loss of life or
limb—worse bestead in combat.1


The earl had a greater force, but the king had a picked crew on his ship who had been with him in his expeditions and, as stated above, were so splendidly equipped that every man wore chain mail. They suffered no wounds. As says Sigvat:




230.   Gladly saw I the glorious
gold-ring-dealer’s men there
busked in cold steel byrnies—
bated not the sword-din;
but my black hair hid I,
benchmate, ’gainst the flight of
arrows—armed thus were we—
under a French helmet.


But when men on board the earl’s ships began to fall and a number were wounded, the ranks of warriors along the sides of the ships grew thin.


Chapter 50. King Óláf Hails Fleeing Bersi


Then King Óláf’s men prepared to board them. His standard was carried up onto the ship next to the earl’s, and the king himself advanced with it. As says Sigvat:




231.   Strode ’neath golden standard
stalwart men of Óláf
up upon the earl’s ship
after their brave leader.
Not was it as though to thewy
thanes before the battle
mead were borne by modest
maidens on the sea-steeds.


A sharp struggle took place there, and many of Svein’s men fell, and some leapt overboard. As says Sigvat:




232.   Straightway stormed we on their
steeds-of-Atli1 briskly—
were shields by red blades shattered—
shrilly whined the arrows.
Overboard—on the brine dead
bodies many floated—
wounded warriors leapt and
weltered in the billows.


And still further:




233.   With blood our bucklers, which were
brought there white, our fighters,
as could be seen, colored
crimson in fierce onset.
O’er gangway our gallant leader—
gore he gave the ravens—
boldly—blades were dulled there—
boarded foeman’s galley.


Then many more men began to fall on the earl’s side. Then the king’s men attacked the earl’s ship and came close to boarding it. But when the earl saw how matters stood, he called on the men in the bow to cut the hawsers [with which his ship was tied to the others] and cast it loose, and they did so. Then the king’s men threw grappling hooks on the beak of the warship and so held them fast. Then the earl commanded his forecastlemen to chop off the beak, which they did. As says Sigvat:




234.   Bade then Svein lop the blackish
beak upon his warship—
before, full-nigh he was to
fall into our power—
when, to gladden greedy
gulls-of-Óthin2—still the
birds had their fill of bloody
bodies—they lopped the ship’s beak.


Einar Thambarskelfir had laid his ship alongside of the earl’s ship. They heaved an anchor onto the bow of the earl’s ship and thus they all got away on the fjord. Thereupon all of the earl’s fleet fled and rowed out on the fjord.


Bersi, the son of Skáldtorfa,3 was stationed in the middle on Earl Svein’s ship; and when it drifted away from the fleet, King Óláf called out aloud when he recognized Bersi, for he was easily recognizable, being exceptionally handsome and excellently equipped as to weapons and clothes, “Fare you well, Bersi.”


He replied, “All hail to you, king.”


So says Bersi in the flokk which he composed when he fell into the power of King Óláf and sat in chains:




235.   “Depart in peace,” thou didst,
prince, bid me, the poet;
and I said the same to
seasoned tree-of-combat.4
Unwillingly these words in
weapon-thing returned I
as from the Fáfnir’s-treasure’s-
foe5 I had received them.




236.   Seen have I Svein tested
since we fared together—
sang loud polished swords—in
serious conflicts, ruler.
Never on shipboard shall I,
should whate’er betide me,
in fiercest fray tested
follow a better master.




237.   Crouch I shall not, King, nor
crawl before thee—rather,
let us ready, liege, a
large ship, this year—and so
turn my back on true and
tried friends and aggrieve them.
Young when I was I held dear
him who was your enemy.


Chapter 51. Earl Svein Decides to Flee the Country


As some of the earl’s men fled up on land, some asked for, and received, quarter. Then Svein and his fleet rowed out of the fjord. The chieftains laid their vessels alongside each other and discussed matters between them, and the earl sought the advice of the landed-men. Erling Skjálgsson counseled that they should sail north, collect troops, and renew the battle with King Óláf. But because they had lost so many troops, most of them urged that the earl should leave the country and repair to the king of Sweden, his brother-in-law, and there gather troops; and Einar gave his support to this counsel, because it seemed to him they did not have a sufficient force to do battle with King Óláf. So they separated, the earl sailing south outside Fold and Einar Thambarskelfir with him. Erling Skjálgsson and many other landed-men who did not want to flee their possessions proceeded north to their homes. During the summer Erling kept a great number of men about him.


Chapter 52. King Óláf Disregards Sigurth Sýr’s Counsel


King Óláf and his men saw that the earl and his followers had laid their ships together. Then King Sigurth Sýr urged him to attack the earl and fight it out with him. King Óláf said he wanted to ascertain first what course the earl would pursue, whether he would try to keep his fleet together or whether they would part company. Sigurth said that Óláf would have his way—“but I very much fear that, with your disposition and your willfulness, you will be long at making sure of the loyalty of these bigwigs, used as they are from of old to go straight counter to their chieftains.”


Neither did it come to an attack. They soon saw that the earl’s fleet scattered. They lay there for several nights and divided the booty. Then the skald Sigvat spoke these verses:




238.   Many a minister-of-
murderous battle, ween I,
but now who from the north came,
ne’ermore will wend homeward:
sank from the sea-steeds many a
sailor down to the bottom:
Svein forsooth we met at
sea in fierce-fought combat.




239.   Will not, as yester-year, the
young maidens of Trondheim
twit and taunt us, though our
troops fewer, that we fought not.
Much rather will they mock at
men who fell on their noses—
we sullied the sea with gore of
slain hosts—in that battle.


And still further:




240.   Grew the stem-nag-steerer’s1
strength—Earl Svein, you found that—
e’er since Uppland chieftains
Óláf chose as liege-lord.
Heard we have that men from
Heithmork District can do
more than—wands-of-wounds we
wielded—drink king’s ale-cups.


King Óláf at parting gave King Sigurth Sýr, his stepfather, presents, as also to the other chieftains who had supported him. To Ketil of Hringuness he gave a swift-sailing ship with fifteen rowers’ benches, which Ketil took up through the Raum Elf River all the way to Mjors Lake.


Chapter 53. King Óláf Establishes His Residence in Trondheim


King Óláf sent out spies to ascertain where the earl had gone; but when he learned that the earl had left the country, he proceeded west along the coast of Vík. Then many joined his host and he was acknowledged as king at the assemblies. Thus he proceeded all the way to Cape Lithandisness. Then he learned that Erling Skjálgsson had collected many troops. So he did not tarry in North Agthir, because a fresh fair wind sprang up. He sailed the fastest he could north to the District of Trondheim, because there he considered was the greatest power of the country, to see if he could lay his hands on it while the earl was out of the country. But when King Óláf arrived in Trondheim, he found no opposition against him, and he was acknowledged as king there. He resided in Nitharós in the fall and prepared to make his winter residence there. He had the royal quarters erected there and laid the foundations of Saint Clement’s Church at the place where it now stands. He marked out sites for homes and gave them to farmers and merchants and others he liked and who wanted to build there. He kept many men about him, for he did not trust the Tronders to be loyal to him if the earl should return. That was specially plain in the case of the inhabitants of the interior regions of the district. Neither did he receive any revenues from there.


Chapter 54. King Óláf of Sweden Aids Earl Svein


Earl Svein first journeyed to King Óláf of Sweden, his brother-in-law, and told him about his encounter with Óláf the Stout and asked the advice of the Swedish king how he should proceed. The king said that he could stay in his land, if he so desired and have at his disposal a dominion befitting his station. “As another alternative,” he said, “I shall let you have sufficient troops to reconquer Norway from Óláf.” The earl chose the latter, because he was urged by all of the many men who had large landed possessions in Norway and who had followed him. And after deliberating about the measures to be taken, they agreed on proceeding by the landway, the following winter, through Helsingjaland and Jamtaland and on to Trondheim; for the earl had great hopes that the people living about the inner reaches of the Trondheimfjord would be loyal to him and best support him with troops if he arrived there. Yet they decided on first going on a raiding expedition to the eastern Baltic that summer to procure booty.


Chapter 55. Earl Svein Dies in Sweden


Earl Svein proceeded with his force east to Gartharíki and harried there. He remained there during the summer, but when fall approached he returned to Sweden with his troops. At that time he contracted the sickness which brought on his death. After the earl’s death the troops that had followed him returned to Sweden, and some went to Helsingjaland and from there to Jamtaland till at last after going west over the Keel they arrived in Trondheim, and spread the tidings which had occurred during their journey; and then the news of Earl Svein’s death was confirmed.


Chapter 56. The King of Sweden Vows to Regain Norway


Einar Thambarskelfir and the troop which had followed him during the winter joined the court of the Swedish king and they were given a cordial welcome. Many other men were there also who had followed the earl. The king of Sweden was much put out with Óláf the Stout for having occupied the country tributary to him and driving out Earl Svein. To repay him, the king promised Óláf the strongest retribution as soon as he was able to. He said that Óláf [the Stout] would not dare to be so bold as to take possession of the dominion the earl had had. And many of the Swedish king’s men agreed with him.


But as soon as the people of Trondheim were certain that Earl Svein was dead and could no longer be expected back in Norway, then all the people turned their allegiance to King Óláf, and many men from the interior of the district came to him to swear allegiance and become his men; and some sent word and tokens of their submission to him. Then in the fall he went into the interior of the province and had the farmers meet him in an assembly. In every shire there he was accepted as king. Thereupon he returned to Nitharós. He had all the royal revenues brought there and prepared to have his winter quarters there.


Chapter 57. King Óláf’s Residence in Nitharós


King Óláf had a royal residence built in Nitharós. In it there was a large hall for his retinue, with doors at both ends. The king’s high-seat was in the middle of the hall. Next to him sat Grímkel, his court bishop, and next to him, his other priests; and on the other side sat his councillors. Opposite to the king, on the other high-seat, sat his marshal Bjorn the Stout, and next to him sat the “guests.”1 Whenever men of importance came to see the king, they were well taken care of. Fires were lit [on the floor] on such occasions when the ale was drunk. He appointed men to serve in various capacities, as was the custom of kings. He had about him sixty retainers and thirty “guests,” and gave them wages and laws. In addition he had thirty housecarls who were to do such work in the [royal] household as was needed, and to provision it. He had also many thralls. In the [royal] estate there was also a large hall for the retainers to sleep in. There was also a large room which the king used for meetings with his retainers.


Chapter 58. King Óláf’s Character and Ways


It was the habit of the king to rise betimes in the morning, to put on his clothes and wash his hands, then to go to church and listen to the matins and morning mass, then to. go to meetings and reconcile people, or else to deal with other matters such as seemed needful to him. He gathered at his court men both of high and of low degree, and all who were of keen understanding. He had often recited in his presence the laws which Hákon, the foster son of Æthelstān, had given to the Trondheim District. He changed laws with the advice of the wisest men, taking away or adding as seemed best to him. The Christian code of laws he gave in accordance with the advice of Bishop Grímkel and other priests, laying great stress on abolishing heathendom and ancient practices such as seemed to him contrary to the spirit of Christianity. In the end the farmers agreed to the laws the king gave. As says Sigvat:




241.   Do thou, liege-lord, lay down
laws for all the land that
may prevail among all
men and stand forever!


King Óláf was well-mannered, of an agreeable disposition, a man of rather few words, open-handed, [yet also] eager to have possessions. At that time there was at the king’s court the skald Sigvat, as was said above, together with several other Icelanders. King Óláf inquired carefully of them how the Christian faith was kept in Iceland; and it appeared to him to be in a bad case, for they told him about their manner of holding to the Christian precepts—that it was permitted in their laws to eat horse meat and expose children, as is done by heathens, and of still other customs that comported ill with Christianity. They also told the king of many of the great chieftains who lived in Iceland. Skapti Thóroddsson was at that time the lawspeaker there. He inquired of men who were best informed concerning the customs of people in countries round about. Most often he asked how the Christian faith was kept both in the Orkneys, in the Shetland and the Faroe Islands; and his inquiries revealed that not everything was as it should be. He often talked about such matters, and also about the laws and ordinances [of these countries].


Chapter 59. The Emissaries of the Swedish King Attempt to Levy Tribute in Norway


That same winter there came from Sweden in the east emissaries from King Óláf of Sweden. Two brothers headed them, Thorgaut Skarthi and Ásgaut the Steward, and they had with them twenty-four men. And when they arrived in Vera Dale, after crossing the Keel, they called the farmers to a meeting with them and spoke to them demanding the revenues and taxes due to the king of Sweden. The farmers discussed the matter and agreed between them to pay the taxes as required by the Swedish king provided King Óláf [the Stout] demanded no taxes from them on his account, but they said they would not pay taxes to both. The messengers departed, going down the valley, and in every meeting they had with the farmers they received the same answer but no money. Thereupon they went to Skaun, where they called the farmers together, demanding the taxes there also, and all went as before. Then they proceeded to Stjóra Dale and summoned the farmers, but they declined to come. Then the messengers understood that they would get nowhere with their errand. So Thorgaut wanted to return east. But Ásgaut said, “It seems to me we have not been successful in the king’s business. I wish to go to the court of King Óláf the Stout, considering that the farmers leave everything to his decision.”


He prevailed, and they proceeded to the town and took lodgings there. Next day they went to the king—he was sitting at table—greeted him, and informed him that they came on an errand from the king of Sweden. The king requested them to come again the day after. Next day, when the king had heard mass he went to his assembly hall and had the men sent by the Swedish king called for and bade them deliver their message.


Thorgaut spoke up, explaining first on what errand they had been sent, and then relating what answer the people of the inner districts of Trondheim had given them. Finally, he asked the king to deliver his decision what the outcome of their errand to these parts was to be.


The king answered, “During the times earls governed the land here it was only natural that the people should be subject to them, because they were entitled by birth to power over the people here. Yet it would have been better even if the earls had shown obedience and given service to the kings who were entitled to have dominion in this land, rather than to bow down to foreign kings and rise in rebellion against their rightful kings and dethrone them. But as to the King Óláf of the Swedes who makes claims to Norway, I do not know what just right he has to do so. But this we shall remember, how many men we have lost through him and his kinsmen.”


Then Ásgaut replied, “It is not to be wondered that you are called Óláf the Big-Mouthed,1 because with great haughtiness you answer the message of such a chieftain. You do not understand how heavy for you to bear will be the wrath of the king, for such it has proved to those who had greater power than you appear to me to have. But if you obstinately insist on holding onto your kingdom, it would be best for you to come to his court and become his vassal; in which case I shall join you in praying him to let you have this kingdom as a fief.”


Then the king replied in a calm voice, “I shall give you a different counsel, Ásgaut. Return now east to your king and tell him that early in spring I shall get ready to journey east to the boundary which from of old has separated the realm of the king of Norway from that of the king of Sweden. Let him also come there if he desires to arrive at an agreement to let each of us have the dominions he is entitled to by birth.”


Thereupon the emissaries left and went back to their lodgings and made ready to leave, but the king went to table. Then they returned to the king’s residence, and when the doorkeepers saw that, they told the king. He told them not to let the messengers in—“I will not speak with them,” he said. Thereupon the messengers left. Then Thorgaut said that he and his men would return to Sweden, but Ásgaut said that he meant to execute his errand. Then they separated, and Thorgaut journeyed to Strind; but Ásgaut with eleven other men travelled up through Gaular Dale and then south to Orka Dale, intending to proceed south to Mœr and there carry out the king of Sweden’s business. But when King Óláf became aware of that, he sent his “guests” after them. They found them on the ness by Stein, took them captive, and led them back to Gaular Ridge. There they raised gallows and hanged them there, in plain sight of the common passageway on the fjord. Thorgaut learned of this before leaving the Trondheim District. Thereupon he travelled all the way back till he came to the king of Sweden and told him what had happened to them on their expedition. The king became furious when he heard this account, and used strong language.


Chapter 60. King Óláf Inculcates the Christian Commandments


At Easter the following year King Óláf summoned troops in the Trondheim District, preparing to sail to the eastern part of the land. At the same time a vessel bound for Iceland got ready to sail from Nitharós. Then King Óláf sent word and tokens to Hjalti Skeggjason, requesting him to see him, and by him sent word to Skapti the Lawspeaker and to other men who had most to do with the laws in Iceland, that they were to take out of the laws such parts as seemed to him most at variance with Christianity. Together with this request he sent friendly greetings to all their countrymen.


The king sailed south along the land, stopping in every district, holding meetings with the farmers. And at every meeting he had the Christian laws read and also the commandments that went with them. He straightway abolished many evil customs and heathen rites among the people; for the earls had kept well the old laws and rights of the land, but concerning the observance of Christianity they had let everyone do as he pleased. The situation then was this that in nearly all settlements along the seashore people were baptized, though most of them were ignorant of the Christian commandments; but in the remote valleys and the mountain settlements people were for the most part altogether heathen; because whenever people were allowed to do as they pleased, the faith which they had learned in childhood became fixed in their minds. But those men who would not be moved by the words of the king concerning the keeping of Christianity he threatened with harsh punishment, whether they were men of influence or humble folk.


Óláf was accepted as king everywhere, at every general assembly, and no one opposed him. When he was moored in Karmt Sound, messages passed between him and Erling Skjálgsson about coming to an agreement; and the place for their coming to terms was arranged to be on Hvitingsey Island. And when they met they talked man to man about terms. Then it seemed clear to Erling from the words of the king to him that he had been misinformed about King Óláf. Erling claimed all those possessions which Óláf Tryggvason, and then the earls Svein and Hákon had bestowed on him, “and then I shall be your vassal and loyal friend,” he said.


The king replied, “It would seem to me that it would be no worse for you to accept from me possessions as large as you received from Earl Eirík, the man who had killed so many of your people. But I shall let you be the most outstanding man in the land, even though I mean to deal out the various possessions as I see fit and not make it appear as though you landed-men were entitled by birth to what is my patrimony and as though I had to buy your submission at many times its worth.”


Erling had no mind to ask the king for the smallest favor, because he saw that he was not easily won over. He also perceived that there were only two alternatives for him to choose, the one, not to come to an understanding with the king and risk the consequences; the other, to leave the matter entirely up to the king. And he chose the latter course, much though it went against his disposition. So he said to the king, “You are likely to be served best if I do so of my own free will.” With that they concluded their discussion.


Afterwards, Erling’s kinsmen and friends came to him, begging him to yield and proceed with circumspection, and not be overbearing. “You are always likely to be the most important of all landed-men in Norway,” they said, “both on account of your own ability and of your kinsfolk and great wealth.” And Erling considered that this was wholesome advice and given with the best intentions. He followed it, and swore an oath of fealty to the king, under the terms which the king was to impose. After that they parted and were reconciled, at least nominally. Thereupon Óláf continued on his way east along the land.


Chapter 61. King Óláf Founds and Fortifies the Town of Sarpsborg


As soon as King Óláf’s arrival in Vík became known, the Danes who had stewardships from the king of Denmark departed and sailed to Denmark, not wishing to bide the coming of King Óláf. And the king proceeded up along the fjord, holding meetings with the farmers. All the people submitted to him. He appropriated all the royal revenues and resided in Vík during the summer. From Túnsberg he sailed east across the fjord and all the way east to Svína Sound. There began the realm of the king of Sweden. He [the king of Sweden] had set stewards over those parts, Eilíf the Gaut over the northern part, and Hroí Skjálgi over the eastern part all the way to the Gaut Elf River. The latter had kinsfolk on both banks of the river and large estates on the island of Hísing. He was a powerful man and immensely wealthy. Eilíf also was a man of high birth. When King Óláf and his fleet arrived in Ranríki, he summoned the inhabitants to an assembly, and those who lived on the island or near the sea attended it. And when they were met, Bjorn the Marshal made a speech in which he asked the farmers to accept Óláf as king, as had been done in other districts of Norway.


Brynjólf Úlfaldi [the Camel] was the name of an influential yeoman. He arose and spoke as follows: “We farmers know which is the boundary from of old between the kings of Norway, of Sweden, and of Denmark. The Gaut Elf River has formed it from Lake Vænir to the sea; in the north, the Forest District to the Eithaskóg region, and from there the Keel all the way north to Finnmark. We know also that now this, now that, power has made inroads on the other’s land. The Swedes have for a long time had possession of the land all the way to Svína Sound.1 Yet, to say the truth, I know many men are inclined to think it would be better to be subject to the king of Norway, but they don’t have the courage to acknowledge that. The realm of the Swedish king extends both east and south of us; while it is to be expected that the king of Norway will soon depart to the north to where the greatest strength of his land lies, and then we shall not have the power to fight the Gautar. Now it is up to the king to counsel us wisely. We would be ready enough to be his subjects.”


After the assembly was over, Brynjólf at the invitation of the king stayed with him during the evening and likewise the day after. They discussed many things between them privately. Thereupon the king departed for the eastern part of Vík.


Now when Eilíf learned that the king was there, he had spies report on his whereabouts. Eilíf had thirty men, who were his followers. He was stationed above in the settlements toward the forest, and here had with him a gathering of farmers. Many farmers joined King Óláf, and some sent messages of friendship. Then men went between King Óláf and Eilíf bearing messages from the farmers to both, beseeching them earnestly to arrange for a meeting and somehow maintain the peace between them. They told Eilíf that if they did not heed the king’s commands they could expect harsh treatment from him and said they would support Eilíf [with troops] at such a meeting. Then the decision was reached that Eilíf and his men should come down [to the coast] and there hold a meeting with the farmers and the king.


Thereupon the king sent Thórir the Long, the chief of his “guests,” together with eleven others, to Brynjólf. They wore coats of mail under their kirtles and hoods over their helmets. The day after, the farmers in a great body came down to the seashore together with Eilíf. Brynjólf was there in his company and Thórir too was along.


The king moved his ships to where a certain cliff projected into the sea. He went up on it with his troops and settled on top. Above it was a level place and that was occupied by the army of the farmers, and Eilíf’s men formed a shield castle around him.


Bjorn, the king’s marshal, made a long and clever speech, representing the king. But when he sat down, Eilíf arose and started to speak. In the same instant Thórir the Long stood up, drew his sword, and struck Eilíf on the neck so that his head flew off. At that all the farmers’ host started up, and the troop of Gautar took to flight. Thórir and his men killed some of them. But when the multitude had calmed down and the noise subsided, the king arose and called out that the farmers should sit down. They did so. Much was spoken on that occasion, but in the end the farmers submitted to the king and swore allegiance to him, and he on his part promised not to desert them and to remain there until he and Óláf, the king of the Swedes, settled their difficulties between them.


After that, King Óláf subjected the northern districts [of Ranríki] to his sway, and in summer proceeded all the way to the Gaut Elf River, collecting all the revenues due to the king along the coast and around the islands. But as the summer wore on he returned north to Vík and rowed up into the Raum Elf River to where there is a great waterfall, called Sarp.2 North of this fall a peninsula juts out into the river. There King Óláf had a small wall of stones, turf, and wood built across the peninsula, and a moat dug on the outside of it. He built a large stronghold of earth there and within it he laid the foundation of Saint Mary’s Church. He had also sites for other buildings marked off and got other men to build there. In the fall he had the provisions necessary for dwelling there during the winter brought up and resided there that winter with a great host, but also had his men in all districts. He forbade all movements of herring and salt from Vík to Gautland. And these wares the Gautar could ill do without. He arranged a great Yule celebration and asked to it farmers of wealth from all districts.


Chapter 62. King Óláf Rewards Eyvind Úrarhorn and Brynjólf Úlfaldi


There was a man called Eyvind Úrarhorn [Uroxhorn] whose kin resided in East Agthir. He was a man of much importance and of noble descent who went on raiding expeditions every summer, sometimes to the west, sometimes to the Baltic, or south to Frísia. He owned a swift-sailing ship with twenty rowers’ benches and a good crew. He had been in the battle of Nesjar, supporting King Óláf. And when they parted, the king promised him his friendship, and Eyvind, his assistance wherever the king needed it. Eyvind attended the Yule banquet King Óláf gave and received goodly gifts from him. Brynjólf Úlfaldi was there also and as a Yule gift received a sword with gold ornaments from the king, together with an estate called Vettaland,1 which is a large manorial possession. Brynjólf composed a verse which ends like this:




242.   A sword gave me
the sovran, and Vettaland.


At the same time the king gave him the title of landed-man; and Brynjólf remained the king’s trusted friend all his life.


Chapter 63. The Tribute from Jamtaland Is Collected by King Óláf of Sweden


That same winter Thránd the White of Trondheim went east to Jamtaland to collect the revenues for King Óláf the Stout. But after he had done so, emissaries of the Swedish king came upon him and killed Thránd with his eleven companions, taking the revenues and delivering them to the king of Sweden. King Óláf learned of this and was greatly put out about it.


Chapter 64. The District of Vík Is Firmly Christianized


King Óláf had the Christian laws proclaimed in Vík as in the more northern parts of the country, and with good success, because the Christian ways were much better known to the people of Vík than to people in the northern parts, since a great many merchants came there, both summer and winter, Danes as well as Saxons. Also the people of Vík kept up merchant journeys to England, to Saxland, to the land of the Flemings, or to Denmark; and some engaged in freebooting expeditions and had their winter quarters in Christian lands.


Chapter 65. Hrói Skjálgi Is Slain


In the spring King Óláf sent word to Eyvind to come to him. They spoke in private for a long time. Then Eyvind straightway made ready to go on a raiding expedition. He sailed south along the coast of Vík and made fast in the Eikrey Islands outside of the Island of Hísing. There he learned that Hrói Skjálgi had gone north to the Island of Orthost and had there collected revenues and war contributions, and that he was expected back south at that time. Thereupon Eyvind rowed into the Hauga Sound, and met Hrói who came rowing from the north, and they met in the sound and fought together. Hrói fell there, with nearly thirty of his men, and Eyvind took all the possessions Hrói had acquired. Thereupon Eyvind sailed into the Baltic and remained on freebooting expeditions all summer long.


Chapter 66. Guthleik Is Robbed of His Cargo by Thorgaut


There was a man called Guthleik Gerzki [of Gartharíki]. His kinfolk lived in Agthir. He was a seafaring man and a great merchant, wealthy, and one who carried on trade with various countries. Frequently he travelled east to Gartharíki, for which reason he was called Guthleik Gerzki. That spring Guthleik readied his ship, intending to journey east to Garthar. King Óláf sent word to him that he wanted to see him. And when Guthleik arrived, the king said he wanted to go into partnership with him, and asked him to buy for him those valuable things which are hard to get in Norway. Guthleik said that this would be done according to his wishes. Thereupon the king caused to be paid out to him as much money as he thought was required.


In the summer Guthleik sailed into the Baltic. They lay to for some time at the Island of Gotland. Then it happened, as often is the case, that not everyone [of the crew] held his tongue and so the people of the land got to know that on that ship was the partner of Óláf the Stout. In summer Guthleik travelled to Hólmgarth1 in the east, and there bought splendid costly stuffs which he intended for the king’s robes of state, and also costly pelts and expensive tablecloth. In the fall, when Guthleik returned from the east, they had headwinds, and they lay anchored a long time at the Island of Eyland. Thorgaut Skarthi had learned by his spies about Guthleik’s journey, and he fell upon them there with a warship and fought with them. They defended themselves for a long time, but as the odds were great against them, Guthleik fell with many of his crew, and many were wounded. Then Thorgaut took possession of all goods and the precious things meant for King Óláf. Thorgaut and his men divided the booty equally among themselves, but the precious objects the Swedish king was to have—“and that is,” said he, “a part of the tribute which is owing to him from Norway.” Thorgaut then sailed east [west] to Sweden.


The news about this spread fast. Somewhat later, Eyvind Úrarhorn arrived in Eyland, and when he learned what had happened, he sailed east [west] in pursuit of Thorgaut. They met in the Swedish skerries and fought a battle. There Thorgaut fell with most of his men who did not leap overboard. Then Eyvind took all they had taken from Guthleik, also the precious things intended for King Óláf. Eyvind returned to Norway in fall, and delivered to King Óláf the precious things belonging to him. The king thanked him much for what he had done and assured him again of his friendship. At that time King Óláf had been king in Norway for three years.


Chapter 67. King Óláf Allies Himself with Earl Rognvald


That same summer King Óláf raised a general levy, and again sailed east to the [Gaut Elf] River, where he lay anchored during the summer. Messages were sent between King Óláf, Earl Rognvald, and Ingibjorg, the daughter of Tryggvi, who was the earl’s wife. She applied herself with great zeal to assisting King Óláf. She was very determined in following this up, the reason being both her feeling of close kinship with King Óláf and the fact that she never forgot what part the Swedish king had in the fall of Óláf Tryggvason, her brother, and that because of this he considered he had a claim on Norway. Through her the earl was persuaded to become a great friend of King Óláf, and the result of it was that a meeting was arranged between the king and the earl at the [Gaut Elf] River. There they discussed many matters, especially the hostile relations between the king of Norway and the king of Sweden; and both declared, as was true, that for both inhabitants of Vík and the Gauts it was ruinous that there was not the chance of peaceful trading between the two countries; and at the end they concluded a peace between them till the following summer. At parting they interchanged gifts and assured each other of their friendship. Thereupon the king returned north to Vík, receiving the royal taxes all the way to the [Gaut Elf] River. And all the people submitted to him. King Óláf of Sweden was so furious with Óláf Haraldsson that he declared that no one should dare to call him by his right name in his hearing. They called him “that fat man” and vilified him whenever he was mentioned.


Chapter 68. Óláf Commissions Bjorn the Marshal to Go to Sweden


The farmers in Vík between them declared there was only one way out of their difficulty, and that was that the kings should come to an agreement and make peace between them. They said they were ill bestead to have the kings harry on one another. But no one dared to bring this complaint up boldly before the king. So they prayed Bjorn the Marshal to speak for them to the king and ask him to send messengers to meet the Swedish king and to offer to come to some agreement. Bjorn was reluctant and begged to be excused; but many of his friends entreated him to do so. At last he promised to speak about this to the king, but said he suspected the king would resent yielding to the Swedish king even in one point.


That summer, Hjalti Skeggjason arrived in Norway from Iceland in response to the request of King Óláf. He immediately repaired to the court of King Óláf. The king received him cordially and asked him to stay at his court, assigning him a seat at table next to Bjorn the Marshal, so they became comrades at table and soon good friends.


One time when King Óláf was at a meeting between his troops and the farmers to discuss matters of government, Bjorn the Marshal spoke as follows: “What are your intentions, sire, concerning the clashes between you and Óláf, the king of Sweden? Now both parties have lost men through the other, but there is no decision either way, any more than before, who is to have what part of the realm. You have resided one winter and two summers in Vík and turned your back on all the land north of here. Men who have possessions and hereditary property in the north are tired of staying here. Now it is the wish of the landed-men and others of your followers, and also of the farmers, that there be made a decision. And because there is now a truce, and peace terms are agreed on with the earl and the West Gautar, who sit nearest to us, the people consider it wise that you send emissaries to the king of Sweden to offer a reconciliation on your part; and many who are with the Swedish king are likely to support that, because it is to the advantage of the inhabitants of either land.”


Bjorn’s speech received the hearty approval of all. Thereupon the king said, “The counsel which you have just now given, Bjorn, very likely was given with yourself in mind; so you shall go on this mission. If it is a good idea it will redound to your credit; but if your life is endangered by it, then you yourself will bear the blame. For that matter, it is your duty in assemblies to voice what are my intentions.” Thereupon the king arose, went to church, and had a high mass sung for himself, then he sat down at table.


The day after, Hjalti said to Bjorn, “Why do you look so downcast, man? Are you sick or are you incensed at someone?” Thereupon Bjorn reported what he and what the king had said, and declared this was a dangerous mission. Hjalti said, “Kings should be served in such fashion that the men [who do their errands] derive great honor therefrom and are valued more highly than others. But often they are in danger of their lives, and they must be reconciled to either outcome. But the king’s good luck may do wonders. And if everything goes well you may reap great honor from this enterprise.”


Bjorn said, “You take it lightly. I suppose you will wish to go with me, for the king said that I should have my own following with me on that journey.”


Hjalti said, “Assuredly I shall go with you if that is your wish, for I shall have difficulty in finding another bench mate if we two part company.”


Chapter 69. Bjorn Journeys to Gautland


A few days later, when King Óláf was at a meeting, Bjorn appeared before him, together with eleven other men. He told the king that they were ready to go on his mission, and their horses stood outside saddled. “I now desire to know,” said Bjorn, “what message I am to deliver, and what plan you have devised for us.”


The king replied, “You are to deliver to the Swedish king these my words: that I want to establish peace between our lands according to the boundaries which Óláf Tryggvason had before me, and that this be confirmed by fixed agreements so that neither of us shall transgress these boundaries. But as to the men who were slain, it will be of no use to bring that up if we are to be reconciled, for the king of Sweden could not make up with money for the loss of men we have suffered through the Swedes.”


Then the king arose and left the hall with Bjorn and his men. He took a finely adorned sword and a finger ring and handed them to Bjorn. “This sword I shall give you. It was given me this summer by Earl Rognvald. You are to proceed to him and deliver to him these my words: that he is to help you with his counsel and his support so that you may accomplish your errand. You will have done well if you can hear what the Swedish king will say, whether yea or nay. But this finger ring you are to give Earl Rognvald. He will recognize these tokens.”


Hjalti went up to the king and saluted him—“now we very much require that you give us your luck along on this journey,”1 and he bade the king farewell. The king asked him where he was going. “With Bjorn,” he said.


The king said, “That will be of advantage on this journey that you go along, because your luck has stood the test many a time. Be assured that I shall lay this matter to my heart, if this perchance will help, and confer my luck on you and all of you.”


Bjorn and his companions rode on their way, and arrived at the court of Earl Rognvald. There they were received well. Bjorn was a man of mark, known to many both by his aspect and by his voice, and to all who had seen King Óláf; for Bjorn arose at all meetings to speak for the king. Ingibjorg, the earl’s wife, went up to Hjalti and kissed him. She knew him, for she had been with Óláf Tryggvason, her brother, when Hjalti was at his court. And there was some relationship between the king and Vilborg, Hjalti’s wife [as follows]: Eirík Bjóthaskalli, the father of Ástríth, King Óláf Tryggvason’s mother, and Bothvar, the father of Álof, the mother of Gizur the White, Vilborg’s father, were brothers, and both the sons of Víkinga-Kári, a landed-man of Vors.


Now then the emissaries of King Óláf enjoyed the hospitality of the earl. One day Bjorn and his men had a conference with the earl and Ingibjorg, when Bjorn spoke of his mission and showed the earl his tokens.


The earl asked, “What have you done, Bjorn, that the king desires your death? You stand mighty little chance of being successful with your mission; in fact, I am thinking that there is no one who can deliver such a message to the Swedish king and escape with his life. King Óláf, the Swedish king, is by far too high and mighty for anyone to dare to mention before him matters against which he has set his face.”


Bjorn replied, “Nothing has happened for King Óláf to harbor a grudge against me; but he entertains plans, both for himself and his men which may appear dangerous to those who are apprehensive how things will turn out. But so far all his plans have turned out well, and we expect that will be the case in the future. Now I will tell you for sure that I shall go to see the Swedish king and not turn back before I have had him hear the message which King Óláf enjoined me to bring up before him—unless death prevent me or I am made captive so that I cannot manage to approach him. I shall do so, whether or no you mean to further the message of the king.”


Then Ingibjorg said, “I shall tell you quickly what my mind is about this business; and that is, earl, that you should do all in your power to support this message of King Óláf’s, so that it is brought up before the king of Sweden, whatever his answer. Even if we expose ourselves to the wrath of the Swedish king and endanger all our possessions and dominion, yet I would rather risk that than have it known that you put off the message of King Óláf because you were afraid of the Swedish king. You have the ancestry, the support of kinsmen, and all the energy required to be free to have your say here in Sweden concerning all that is seemly and will appear to all worth hearing, whether many listen or few, great or little, and even if the king himself listen.”


The earl gave this answer: “It is not hard to see what you are driving at. Now let it be that you have your way in this matter and that I promise these emissaries of the king to help them so that they may succeed in bringing up their errand before the Swedish king, whether he likes it or no. But I mean to have my way how to manage this; and I don’t care to be rushed by Bjorn or any other man when such difficult matters are at stake. I desire that they remain here with me until such time when it will seem to me most likely to attend successfully to this business.” But when the earl had given them to understand that he would aid them and lend them his support, Bjorn thanked him cordially and said he would follow his advice. Bjorn and his company tarried there at the earl’s for a very long while.


Chapter 70. The Skald Hjalti Proceeds to Sweden


Ingibjorg was exceedingly kind to them. Bjorn spoke to her about his errand, and considered it bad that the journey should be postponed so long. Both they and Hjalti often spoke about this. Then Hjalti said, “I shall proceed to the king, if you so wish. I am not a Norwegian, so the Swedes will not have anything against me. I have heard that some Icelanders are at the court of the Swedish king and are treated well. They are acquaintances of mine, Gizur the Black, the king’s skald, and Óttar the Black. I can then make inquiries and find out from the temper of the Swedish king whether this business is as hopeless as is made out now or whether there exist any other means to deal with it. Then I could act as occasion arises.”


This seemed to Ingibjorg and Bjorn a mighty wise plan, and they came to a fast agreement about it. Then Ingibjorg made preparations for Hjalti’s journey. She gave him two Gautish men along and instructed them to be at his service, both to wait upon him and to be ready to go on his errands. She gave him twenty marks of weighed silver for travelling expenses, and also a message and tokens to deliver to Ingigerth, the daughter of King Óláf, enjoining her to further his business in every way and do whatever he might require of her.


Hjalti departed as soon as he was ready. And when he arrived at the court of King Óláf, he sought out Gizur and Óttar immediately. They greeted him joyfully and straightway went to the king with him, and told the king that a compatriot of theirs had arrived who was one of the most honored in that land, and asked the king to receive him well. Then the king ordered Hjalti and his companions to join his court. Now when Hjalti had been there some time and had made acquaintances, he was greatly honored by all. The skalds were often in the king’s presence, because they were free-spoken. Often during the day they were seated in front of the king’s high-seat, Hjalti among them. They paid him their highest respects in all matters. So he also became acquainted with the king, who spoke quite frankly with him and asked him about happenings in Iceland.


Chapter 71. The Skald Sigvat Accompanies Bjorn


Before leaving, Bjorn had requested the skald Sigvat to accompany him—he had at that time been attached to the court of King Óláf; but people had not been eager to join them on that journey. The friendliest relations existed between Bjorn and Sigvat. The latter spoke this verse:




243.   Fond I was of former
friendly marshals all who
crowd about our keen-eyed
king, seeking his favor.
Bjorn, thou brand-reddener,
boons thou didst procure me
oft from the folk-warder,
for thou hadst the skill to.


And when they rode up into Gautland, Sigvat spoke these verses:




244.   1 Light my mind was, lord, and
mirthful, when on firthways
with glorious king the gusty
gales did shake our sail-ships:
in glee, swiftly, our sea-steeds
o’er sounds of Lister bounded
at will, with the wind bellying
the wings of heeling keel-birds.2




245.   Tented, in summer-time, and
tethered, our sea-wethers3
rode at anchor, floating
before the good land’s shore line:
now, in fall, when on rollers
Ræfil’s-horses4 are coursing,
we wretches must ride to Sweden,
restless, as the king requested.


And when they rode up into Gautland late in the evening, Sigvat spoke this verse:




246.   Hungry, my horse on long road
hastens, at twilight coursing—
stars gan stream out—forward,
the straw scenting, to our quarters.
Through brooks splashing, my black steed
bears me swiftly, warily,
at wane of day, from men far,
in ditch though stumbled he, pitching.


Then they rode into the market town of Skara and through its Street to the earl’s residence. He spoke this verse:




247.   Readily will look the ladies
and lasses, as we are passing
by the road, on the dust of our riding
fast, up to Rognvald’s castle.
Spur we to speed our horses
sprightly, so maidens high-born
and fair from the hall may hear us
whisk by as we gallop briskly.


Chapter 72. King Óláf of Sweden Refuses to Come to Terms


One day Hjalti went before the king, accompanied by the skalds. Then Hjalti spoke as follows: “As you know, sir king, I have come here to your court, and I had a long and difficult journey. But ever after I crossed the sea and heard of your royal splendor, it seemed foolish to return without having seen you and your grandeur. Now it is the law between Iceland and Norway that Icelanders when arriving in Norway must pay land-dues. And when I had crossed the sea, I appropriated the land-dues of all aboard. But because I know that yours by rights is the power over Norway, I travelled hither to bring you these land-dues.” And he showed the king the silver and poured into the lap of Gizur the Black ten marks of silver.




The king of Sweden flies into a rage.


The king said, “No one has brought us the like of that from Norway for some time. I give you my cordial thanks that you have gone to such pains to bring us the land-dues, rather than pay them to our enemies. However, I would that you accept this money as a gift from me, together with my friendship.” Hjalti thanked the king effusively.


From that time on Hjalti became great friends with the king, and often talked with him. The king thought that he was a wise and well-spoken man, as was the case. Hjalti told Gizur and Óttar that he was sent to Ingigerth, the king’s daughter, with tokens to bespeak her support and friendship, and requested them to arrange it so that he could talk with her. They said that would be an easy matter for them, and one day went to her quarters. She sat there drinking in the company of many persons. She welcomed the skalds, for she knew them well. Hjalti brought her the greetings of Ingibjorg, and told her that she had sent him there for her support and friendship, and showed her the tokens. The king’s daughter received his greetings graciously and said he should be welcome to her friendship. They sat there a long time during the day, drinking together. The princess asked Hjalti about many matters and requested him to come to her often to speak with her. He did so, and often came to talk with the king’s daughter, and told her in confidence of the journey of Bjorn and his company and asked her what she thought about how the Swedish king might react to the plan of concluding a peace between the two kings. The princess said it was her opinion that there was no use trying to have the king make a truce with Óláf the Stout—that the king was so incensed at him that he would not tolerate even having his name mentioned.


One day Hjalti sat by the king, talking with him. The king was in excellent humor and quite drunk. Then Hjalti said to the king, “All manner of splendor one can see here. I have actually got to see what I often heard told, that no king in the Northlands has the magnificence you have. It is a pity that it is so long and difficult a journey to come here—first the great expanse of ocean, and then it is not safe to travel through Norway for people who want to come here on friendly errands. Why is it that attempts are not made to reconcile you with Óláf the Stout? I have heard a great deal said about it in Norway and also in West Gautland, that all would be eager to have peace established; and I was told reliably that the king of Norway has remarked that he was eager to come to an agreement with you; and I know that the reason for that is that he realizes that he has much less power than you. Also, I heard it said that he intended to ask in marriage Ingigerth, your daughter, and that this would also be most conducive to a lasting peace. He is also a most distinguished person, according to what I have heard trustworthy men say.”


Thereupon the king replied, “You must not say that, Hjalti! But I shall not blame you for what you have said, because you don’t know what you are to guard against: that fat man no one here in my court may call king, and he is of much less account than many consider him to be, and you will be of the same opinion when I tell you that this alliance by marriage is in no wise fitting; for I am the tenth king in Uppsala, our kinsmen following one the other and having been sole kings over the Swedish realm and over many other large countries, and all having been kings over other kings in the north. But in Norway are but small settlements, and those scattered. Kinglets have ruled there, and Harald Fairhair was the greatest king in that land, and he fought against the district kings and made them subject to his rule. He knew his limitations and did not covet any of the dominions of the Swedish king. For that reason the Swedish kings let him be in peace, and also because they were akin. But when Hákon, Æthelstān’s foster son, was [king] in Norway, he remained in peace until he made depredations in Gautland and Denmark, but then a force was gathered against him, and he lost life and kingdom. The sons of Gunnhild also were cut off as soon as they showed disobedience to the king of Denmark. Thereupon Harald Gormsson [the king of Denmark] added Norway to his dominions and levied tribute from it. And yet King Harald Gormsson seemed to us less powerful than the kings of Uppsala, because our kinsman, Styrbjorn, subdued him, and Harald became his vassal. Yet Eirík the Victorious got the upper hand of Styrbjorn when they tried conclusions between them. Now when Óláf Tryggvason came to Norway and called himself king, we did not put up with that. Svein, the king of Denmark, and I banded together and slew him. Now I have taken possession of Norway, and with no less power than [in the cases] you have just heard of, and with as much justice as if I had waged war against and been victorious over the king who ruled there before. You may judge, sensible as you are, that it is far from my intention to yield up possession of that realm to that fat man. It is strange that he does not remember how he escaped by the skin of his teeth out of Lake Mælaren when we had him shut in. I should think that he had other things in mind [that time], if he got away with his life, than to pick a quarrel with us Swedes. And now I forbid you, Hjalti, ever again to mention these matters to me.”


It seemed to Hjalti most unlikely to get the king to listen to any proposals of a reconciliation. So he gave that up and talked about other matters. A little later, when talking with Princess Ingigerth, he related to her the discussion he had had with the king. She said that a reply such as that was to be expected from him. Hjalti requested her to say a good word to the king [about these matters] and said that was likely to help. She replied that the king would not listen, whatever she said; “but I shall mention it,” she said, “if you want me to.” Hjalti said he would be grateful to her for that.


One day, Princess Ingigerth was talking with her father, and when she noted that the king was in a cheerful frame of mind she said, “What are your intentions about your differences with Óláf the Stout? Many people are complaining about that trouble. Some claim they have lost property, some, that they have lost relatives through the Norwegians. And no one of your subjects is safe in Norway as matters lie. It was quite uncalled for that you claimed dominion in Norway. That country is poor and travelled with difficulty, and the people there are not to be trusted. Its inhabitants want anyone but you as their king. If I had anything to say, you would cease to claim possession of Norway, and rather fight in the east to regain the dominion which the former kings of Sweden had and which but a short time ago our kinsman Styrbjorn conquered, and leave his patrimony to Óláf the Stout and come to an agreement with him.”


The king replied furiously, “So that is your counsel: that I give up my claim to Norway and let you marry Óláf the Stout? No,” he said, “nothing will come of that! On the contrary, this winter at the Uppsala Assembly I shall announce to all Swedes that there will be a general levy before the ice goes off the lakes. I shall proceed to Norway and lay waste that land with fire and sword and so repay them for their treachery.” And the king became so enraged that she could not put in a word. So she went her way.


Hjalti had been watching for her and went up to her and asked how matters had turned out with the king. She replied that it had gone as she had anticipated, and she could not put in a word edgewise, in fact, that the king had uttered threats against [her]; and she begged him never to touch on that subject again before the king.


Often, when Ingigerth talked with Hjalti, they came to speak of Óláf the Stout. He told her frequently about him and his ways, praising him all he could, but sticking to the truth; and she appeared ready to be convinced. And one time when they talked together, Hjalti said, “Would I have permission, Princess, to speak out about what is in my mind?”


“Speak freely,” she said, “but to me alone.”


Then Hjalti said, “What answer would you give if Óláf, the king of Norway, sent men to you to ask for your hand?”


She blushed and, after some hesitation, answered with composure: “I have not made up my mind about that, because I don’t think I shall have occasion to answer such a question; but if Óláf is indeed in every way as you make him out to me, I could not ask for a better husband, unless you have given me too flattering a description of him.”


Hjalti said he had in nowise made him out a better man than he was. They talked about this very frequently. Ingigerth begged Hjalti to be careful not to speak about this in the presence of other people—“Because if the king gets to hear of this he would be incensed against you.”


Hjalti informed the skalds Gizur and Óttar about this matter, and they thought it a most excellent plan if it could be brought to a happy issue. Óttar was a free-spoken man and a great favorite with the chieftains. He quickly took up the matter with the princess and recounted to her the good qualities of the king just as Hjalti had done. All three, the princess, Hjalti, and Óttar frequently discussed the matter. And after they had talked about it many times and Hjalti had assured himself about the outcome of his mission, he sent away the two Gauts who had been his attendants and had them return to the earl with the letters which Princess Ingigerth and he sent to the earl and Ingibjorg. Hjalti also gave a hint about the talks he had had with Ingigerth and what her answer had been. The messengers arrived at the earl’s court shortly before Yule.


Chapter 73. King Óláf Enforces Christianity in the Uppland Districts


At the time King Óláf had sent Bjorn and his company east to Gautland, he despatched other men to the Uppland District with the message that entertainment was to be made for him, and that he intended to journey about the Upplands that winter; because it had been the custom of the former kings to do so every third winter. So he began his progress in fall from Borg.1 First, the king journeyed to Vingulmork and ordered his progress so as to have himself entertained close to the Forest Settlements, and summoned all inhabitants to meet him, and most particularly those who lived farthest from the main centers. He investigated how Christianity was being kept, and when he considered that there was need of improvement, he taught them the right faith. And he laid such stress on it that if he found anyone who did not want to abandon heathendom, he drove him out of the land. Some he had maimed, having their hands or feet lopped off or their eyes gouged out, others he had hanged or beheaded, but left no one unchastised who refused to serve God. And thus he proceeded in all that district. Always he punished both the mighty and the humble. He provided priests for the people, placing these as closely together among the settlements as he thought best. In this way he proceeded about the entire district. He had about him three hundred [360] armed men when he entered the District of Raumaríki. Soon he found that the practice of Christianity became less the farther he proceeded into the interior of the country. Yet he persisted in the same fashion, converting all the people to the right faith and chastising severely those who refused to obey his commands.


Chapter 74. The Kings of Uppland Take Counsel Together


Now when this was reported to the king who then ruled over the Province of Raumaríki, it seemed to him that a difficult situation was arising; for every day there came to him many, both men of importance and lowly folk, who complained about this. The king bethought himself of journeying to Heithmork to meet King Hrœrek, because he was considered the wisest of the kings then ruling there. And after discussing this matter between them, they agreed on sending word north to King Guthröth in the Dales,1 as well as to Hathaland and the king who ruled there, bidding them to come to Heithmork and have a meeting with them. They did not delay this, and the five kings met in Heithmork at a place called Hringisakr.2 The fifth of them was Hring, the brother of Hrœrek. The kings first of all talked about this in private. The one from Raumaríki was the first to speak, and he told about the proceedings of Óláf the Stout and the trouble he was causing, executing some and maiming others, driving some out of the land and mulcting all who opposed him, and that he travelled about the country with an army and not with the force the laws permitted. He also told them that he had fled there from these hostilities, and that many other men of influence had fled from their rightful possessions in Raumaríki. “But though we now are closest to that trouble, it will not be so long before you will be exposed to the same thing, and therefore it is wisest that we discuss, all of us, what is to be done.”


After he had concluded, the kings turned to Hrœrek for his opinion. He spoke as follows: “Now that has come to pass which I suspected would happen when we met in Hathaland and you all were intent on raising Óláf up above all of us, and that is, that he would prove hard for us to manage as soon as he had achieved sole power in the land. Now there are two alternatives to choose from: either we all go to him and let him have all the say in the matter—and that would seem to me best for us; or else we rise up against him before he proceeds thus further throughout the land. Because even if he has some three or four hundred men about him, that is not too great a force for us to cope with if we all agree on one plan. However, most often men are less successful, when several of them are equally powerful than one who is uncontested leader of his force; and therefore it is my advice not to risk pitting our luck against that of Óláf Haraldsson.”


After him the other kings spoke their minds, some advising against, and some urging [that they make head against King Óláf], and they came to no decision, holding that either course had disadvantages. Then Guthröth, the king of Guthbrands Dale, spoke up as follows: “It seems strange to me that you cannot come to a decision in this business, thoroughly afraid of Óláf as you are, five kings, and no one of us of less high birth than Óláf. A short while ago we aided him in his fight against Earl Svein, and it is with our support that he has possessed himself of this country. But if he now begrudges each of us the little power we have had hitherto, and tyrannizes and oppresses us, then I will say for my part that I shall seek to avoid becoming thrall to this king; and I call that one of you not to be a man who is afraid to cut him off if he ventures into our power here in Heithmork, because that I can tell you: we never shall be free men while Óláf is alive.”


And after this incitation they all inclined to his counsel. Thereupon Hrœrek said, “If we follow this plan it appears necessary that we make our alliance so strong that no one breaks faith with the other. I suppose that you mean to attack Óláf when he comes here to Heithmork for a meeting which was agreed upon. In that case I will not place any confidence in you if some of you at that time are north in the Dales and others, somewhere in Heithmork. If this plan is agreed upon by us, then I want all of us to stay together day and night till it is carried out.”


The kings agreed to this, and they kept together. They had a banquet prepared for them at Hringisakr, and there they drank in turns, but had spies out in Raumaríki, in such fashion that they had some leave when others returned, so that they were informed, day and night, of Óláf’s movements and of how many men he had.


King Óláf rode to visitations throughout Raumaríki in the same manner as was said above. But whenever there were not sufficient means in a place to entertain so many men, he ordered the farmers there to add to the provisions so as to prolong the visitations wherever he considered it necessary to stay a longer time; but in some places he stayed a shorter time than, planned, and so his progress was faster, up to Lake Mjors, than was intended.


Now when the kings had confirmed their plan between them, they sent messengers and summoned landed-men and farmers from all districts to meet with them. And when they arrived, the kings met them in private, revealing to them their plans and agreeing on a day for coming together to execute them. On that day each of the kings was to bring three hundred [360] men. Then they let the landed-men go back in order to gather their troops and meet with the kings on the day agreed upon. This plan suited most of the men; still, as the saying goes, everyone has a friend even among his enemies.


Chapter 75. King Óláf Captures the Uppland Kings


At this meeting there was also Ketil from Hringuness. When he came home in the evening, he ate supper, then he and his housecarls dressed and went down to the lake where there was the skiff which King Óláf had given him. They launched the ship—all they required was in the boathouse—took to the oars, and rowed out into the lake. Ketil had with him forty men, all well armed. Early the next morning they arrived at the end of the lake. Then Ketil went on, together with twenty men, leaving the others to guard the boat. King Óláf was at that time at Eith1 in upper Raumaríki. Ketil arrived there when the king was leaving church after matins were sung. He received Ketil right well. Ketil said he must speak with the king immediately, so the two talked together. Thereupon Ketil told the king what were the kings’ plans and all their intentions which he had got to know for certain.


As soon as the king had learned this, he called his men together, despatching some into the settlements and bidding them to gather and bring up to him riding horses. Others, he sent to the lake to collect all the rowboats they could get hold of and have them ready for him. Then he went to church and had mass sung for himself, then sat down to table right away. And when he had eaten he got himself ready in all haste and proceeded to the lake. Then he himself boarded the skiff, together with as many as the skiff could hold, and all the others got into whatever boats were there. When evening wore on they set out from land, in a perfect calm, and rowed up the lake. The king had nearly four hundred [480] men with him. Before dawn he arrived at Hringisakr. The watchmen were unaware of the approach of the troops until they stood before the buildings. Ketil and his men knew exactly in which quarters the kings slept. All these the king had surrounded and watched so that no one could escape, and then waited for daylight. The kings had no men to defend them. They were all taken prisoner and brought before the king.


King Hrœrek was a shrewd and determined man, so King Óláf did not think he could be trusted even if he came to some agreement with him. He had him blinded in both eyes and had him with him, but ordered the tongue of Guthröth, the king of Guthbrands Dale, cut out. Hring and two others he made swear him oaths to leave Norway and never return. As for landed-men or farmers guilty of this treachery, some he drove out of the country, some he had maimed, and with some he made his peace. Of these events speaks Óttar the Black:




248.   Harshly hast thou, ruler,
handed out just sentence
on churlish landed chieftains
charged with treachery ’gainst thee.
For foul treason, folk-king,
fitting reward thou gavest
to Heithmork heathen thanes who
heinously betrayed thee.




249.   Out hast, arrow-storms’ fast
urger, driven—no wise
could they match thy might—the
mainsworn thanes from Norway.
Fled then from thee, as is
full well known, all chieftains.
The tattling tongue of him you
trimmed then who dwelled northmost.




250.   Now you govern—God did
give you, king, great victory—
lands which lieges five had
lately ruled between them.
Broad is, east to Eith,2 your
ancestral land. Never
war-play-urger under
welkin ruled a larger.


Then King Óláf subdued to his sway the lands these five kings had had, and took hostages from landed-men and farmers, and money, in the place of entertainment, from the Dales to the north and far and wide in Heithmork, then returned to Raumaríki and from there west to Hathaland. That winter Sigurth Sýr, his stepfather passed away. Then King Óláf returned to Hringaríki, where his mother Ásta prepared a great banquet to greet him. After that Óláf was sole king in Norway.


Chapter 76. King Óláf Tests His Young Half-Brothers


We are told that when King Óláf was at this banquet, his mother Ásta brought forward her children to show to him. The king set on one knee his brother Guthorm, and on the other, his other brother, Hálfdan. The king looked at the boys, frowning on them, and showing an angry countenance. Then the boys whimpered. Thereupon Ásta led up to him her youngest son, called Harald. He was three years old then. The king frowned down on him. But he faced him [fearlessly]. Then the king took the boy by his hair and tugged it. The boy grabbed the king’s mustache and twitched it. Then the king said, “You are likely to be vindictive when you grow up, kinsman.”


Another day the king, accompanied by his mother, was walking about the estate. They approached a certain pond, and there were the boys, Guthorm and Hálfdan, her sons, engaged in play. They had made big farmhouses and barns, with many cattle and sheep, and played with them. Not far from there at a muddy bend of the pond, there sat Harald and played with chips of wood, and had many of them floating on the water. The king asked him what they were. He replied they were his warships. Then the king laughed and said, “It may well be, kinsman, that the time will come when you will be in command of ships.”


Then the king called Hálfdan and Guthorm to come to him. He asked Guthorm, “What would you most like to have, kinsman?”


“Fields,” he replied.


The king said, “How large a field would you like to have?”


He answered, “I would like to have this whole point of land sown with grain every summer.” There were ten farms on it.


The king answered, “A great deal of grain might be grown there.” Then he asked Hálfdan what he would most like to have.


“Cows,” he replied.


The king asked, “How many cows would you like to own?”


Hálfdan replied, “So many that when they were watered they would stand thickly around the whole pond.”


The king answered, “You both want to own big farms, just like your father.” Then the king asked Harald: “And what would you most like to have?”


“Housecarls,” he replied.


The king asked, “And how many?”


“So many that they would eat up all of my brother Hálfdan’s cows at a single meal.”


The king laughed and said to Ásta, “In him you are likely to bring up a king, mother.” We are not told what else they said.


Chapter 77. Of the Divisions of Sweden and Their Laws


At the time when heathendom still prevailed in Sweden, it was an old custom there that the main sacrifices were held at Uppsala in the month of Gói [15th of February till the 15th of March]. Sacrifices were to be made at that time for peace and victory for the king, and people from all over Sweden were to resort there. At that place and time also was to be the assembly of all Swedes, and there was also a market and a fair which lasted a week. Now when Christianity was introduced, the general assembly and the market were still held there. But at present, when Christianity is general in Sweden and the kings have ceased residing at Uppsala, the market has been shifted to meet at Candlemas [February 2nd]; and thus has it been ever since, but now it lasts only three days. The general assembly of the Swedes is there, and they resort to it from all over the land.


Sweden is divided into many parts. One part is West Gautland, Vermaland, the Forest Districts, and contiguous areas. That is so large a dominion that under the bishop presiding over it there are eleven hundred churches. Another part of the country is East Gautland, which contains another bishopric. With it go the islands of Gotland and Eyland, and all together that constitutes a much larger bishopric. In Sweden proper there is a province called Suthrmannaland which forms one bishopric. Then there is Vestmannaland, also called Fjathryndaland, which forms one bishopric. A third part of Sweden [proper] is called Tíundaland; a fourth, Áttundaland; a fifth, Sjáland and the region contiguous to it in the east along the sea. Tíundaland is the best and most populous district in Sweden [proper], and there is the residence of the king and also the seat of the archbishop, as is the “Uppsala treasure,” as the Swedes call the possessions of the Swedish king.


Every part of the country has its assembly and its own laws about many things. In every legal district there is a lawspeaker, and he has the greatest power among the farmers, because whatever he decides to be the law stands. And whenever the king or an earl or bishop travel about the country and hold an assembly with the farmers, then the lawspeaker makes answer for them, and they all go by him in such fashion that even the most powerful chieftains hardly dare to come to their meetings unless the farmers and their lawspeaker permit them. But whenever there is a conflict in their laws, then the Uppsala laws prevail; and all the other lawspeakers have a lower rank than the one who functions for Tíundaland.


Chapter 78. Earl Rognvald Discusses Plans with Princess Ingigerth


At that time there lived in Tíundaland the lawspeaker called Thorgný. And his father’s name was Thorgný Thorgnýsson. His forefathers had been lawspeakers in Tíundaland during the lives of many kings. Thorgný was an old man at that time. He had a large retinue about him. He was called the wisest man in all Sweden. He was a kinsman of Earl Rognvald and the latter’s foster father.


Now it behooves us to tell about the men who arrived at the court of Earl Rognvald, sent west by Princess Ingigerth and Hjalti. They related their message to Earl Rognvald and Ingibjorg, his wife, and told them that the princess had often brought up before the king of Sweden the matter of reconciliation between him and King Óláf the Stout, and that she was a great friend of King Óláf, but that the Swedish king became furious whenever she mentioned King Óláf, and that as matters stood she could see no hope of reconciliation between the two. The earl told Bjorn what information had come to him from the east; but Bjorn insisted that he would not turn back before having met the king of Sweden, and said that the earl had promised to go with him to the court of the Swedish king.


Now the winter wore on, and right after Yule the earl made ready for the journey, accompanied by sixty men, with Bjorn and his companions among them. The earl journeyed east all the way to Sweden [proper], and as he got into that country, he despatched his men ahead of him to Uppsala with word from him to Princess Ingigerth that she should come out to Ullarakr1 to meet him. She had great estates there. And when this message came to the princess, she did not delay but made ready to travel with a great retinue, with Hjalti among them. But before his departure he went into the presence of King Óláf and spoke as follows: “All hail to thee, king! Truth to say, I have not anywhere seen such splendor as surrounds you here. I shall tell about that wherever I come later. Sire, I pray that you be my friend.”


The king answered, “Why do you seem so eager to be off? Where are you bound?”


Hjalti answered, “I shall ride to Ullarakr in company with your daughter Ingigerth.”


The king said, “Fare you well, then. You are a wise and well-mannered man, well-trained to be among chieftains.” Thereupon Hjalti departed.


Princess Ingigerth rode to her estate in Ullarakr and there had a great banquet prepared to welcome the earl, and when he arrived there he was received graciously. He remained there several days, during which time the princess and he discussed many matters, and especially the relation between the king of Sweden and the king of Norway. She told the earl that it seemed unlikely to her that a reconciliation could be brought about. Thereupon the earl said, “What would you say, kinswoman, if Óláf, the king of Norway, asked for your hand? It would seem to me to be an effective way to bring about such reconciliation if an alliance by marriage between the kings took place; but I don’t care to proceed in this matter if I know it is against your wishes.”


She replied, “My father will most likely look out for me [in selecting a spouse]; but among all my other kinsfolk I would most gladly follow your advice in matters of importance. Now, how advisable would you consider [such a marriage]?” The earl encouraged her strongly and enumerated a great many important considerations that spoke for King Óláf, and told her many particulars about the events which had taken place recently, when King Óláf had captured five kings in one morning and deprived them all of their possessions, adding them to his dominions. They discussed this for a long time and came to a perfect agreement. Thereupon the earl made ready to depart, and Hjalti travelled with him.


Chapter 79. Thorgný the Lawspeaker Promises to Help Earl Rognvald


One day at evening time Earl Rognvald arrived at the estate of Thorgný the lawspeaker. That was a large and stately establishment. A great many men were outside [in the courtyard]. They made the earl [and his company] welcome and took care of their horses and their baggage. Then the earl entered the living room. There were a great many people inside. An old man sat in the high-seat. Bjorn and his fellows had never seen so large a man. His beard was so long that it came down to his knees and spread over his whole chest. He was handsome and looked distinguished. The earl approached and greeted him. Thorgný gave him a friendly welcome and invited him to the seat he usually occupied; so the earl seated himself on the opposite side of the table, facing Thorgný. They remained there several days before the earl broached his business.1 He requested Thorgný to go to his conference room with him. Bjorn and his companions went with the earl.


Then the earl began and related how Óláf, the king of Norway, had sent his men east to conclude a peace, and he dwelled long on what difficulties there had been for the West Gautar in the hostilities between them and Norway. He told also about Óláf, the king of Norway, having sent emissaries to him—these were the men—and he had promised them to accompany them to the court of the king of Sweden. He further said that the Swedish king was so exercised about the matter that he would not allow anyone to bring it up. “Now the fact is, foster father,” said the earl, “that I cannot manage this business without help. For this reason I have come to see you, and from you I expect good counsel and your aid.”


Now when the earl had done speaking, Thorgný was silent for a while. But when he spoke he said this: “You behave strangely. You are eager to have princely rank, but as soon as you run into any difficulty you do not know how to help yourself and have no forethought. Why did you not consider, before promising to go on this expedition, that you had not the power to oppose King Óláf? It would seem to me not less honorable to be a farmer and be free to say what one pleases, even to the king’s face. Now I shall attend the Uppsala Assembly and support you so that you may speak to the king without fear and say what you please.” The earl thanked him for this promise. He dwelled with Thorgný until both rode to the Uppsala Assembly. A huge multitude was there. King Óláf also was there with his retinue.


Chapter 80. Thorgný Compels the King of Sweden to Come to Terms


The first day that the assembly met, King Óláf sat on his throne, with his retinue about him. On the other side of the assembly there sat Earl Rognvald and Thorgný, and in front of them, the earl’s followers and the housecarls of Thorgný, and behind him and all around in a circle stood the multitude of farmers. Some of them occupied rising ground and hills to listen to the proceedings from there.




Thorgný the Lawspeaker at the Uppsala Assembly.


Now when the communications from the king had been made known, as was the custom at assemblies, and this part of the proceedings was finished, then Bjorn the Marshal stood up by the seat of the earl and said aloud, “King Óláf sent me here for the purpose of offering to the king of Sweden peace and that boundary which has from of old been between Norway and Sweden.” He spoke so loud that the Swedish king could hear him well. Now when the king of Sweden heard Bjorn mention King Óláf, he thought that this man was dealing with some business of his [the king’s]; but when he heard him speak of peace and the boundary between Sweden and Norway, then he understood from which side the wind blew. Then he jumped up and shouted that that man should hold his peace and that such talk was of no use.


Thereupon Bjorn sat down. But when silence was restored, the earl got up to speak. He told about the message of Óláf the Stout and his offer to make peace with Óláf, the king of Sweden, and also that the West Gautar urged King Óláf to conclude a peace with the Norwegians. He mentioned what difficulties the West Gautar had in having to do without all those commodities from Norway which they required to sustain themselves; also that they were exposed to the attacks and forays of the Norwegians whenever the king of Norway gathered troops to make war on them. The earl also mentioned that Óláf, the king of Norway had sent ambassadors to them for the purpose of asking for the hand of Ingigerth, his daughter.


When the earl had ceased speaking, the king of Sweden arose. He was altogether set against making peace, and reproached the earl bitterly and harshly for being so bold as to come to any agreements and make peace with that fat man and to become his friend. He called him guilty of high treason against himself and said he deserved to be driven from his dominions. He said that all this resulted from the promptings of his wife Ingibjorg and that it was the worst possible counsel he could have gotten from the evil desires of such a wife. He spoke long and harshly, again referring in hostile fashion to Óláf the Stout.


When he sat down, there was at first silence. Then arose Thorgný. And when he arose, all farmers arose who had been seated before, and those who had been standing in other places crowded forward and wanted to hear what Thorgný had to say. At first there was much noise of the multitude and their weapons. But when silence was restored, Thorgný spoke as follows:


“Different is now the disposition of the Swedish kings from what it was before. Thorgný, my father’s father, remembered Eirík Emundarson, king in Uppsala, and related this about him that when he was in his best years he had a levy every summer and proceeded to various lands, subjecting to his sway Finnland and Kirjálaland, Eistland and Kurland1 and wide reaches of other lands in the east. And one may still see the fortifications and other great works which he made [there]; and he was not so haughty that he did not listen to men who had important business to discuss with him. Thorgný, my father, was a long time with King Bjorn, and he knew his way of dealing with men. And while Bjorn lived, his dominion flourished and in nowise decreased. His friends found him easy to deal with. I myself can remember King Eirík the Victorious, for I was with him in many warlike expeditions. He increased the dominion of the Swedes and defended it valiantly. It was easy to approach him with advice. But the king whom we now have lets no one presume to talk to him except about what he himself wants done; and on that alone he is intent, but lets lands tributary to him defect from him through his lack of energy and enterprise. He has the ambition to keep the dominion of Norway in his power which no other Swedish king ever coveted before, and that causes trouble to many. Now it is the will of us farmers that you make peace with Óláf the Stout, the king of Norway, and give him your daughter Ingigerth in marriage. Now if you intend to regain those lands in the east which your kinsmen and forbears have possessed there, then we shall all follow your leadership to do so. But if you will not do as we say, we shall set upon you and kill you, and not tolerate from you lawlessness and hostility. That is what our forbears did: at the Múlathing2 they plunged five kings into a well because they were swelled up with the same arrogance as you show against us. Say now right quickly what you decide to do.


Thereupon the people clashed their weapons together and made a great din [in approval of Thorgný’s speech]. Then the king arose and said that he would follow the will of the farmers in all matters, that all Swedish kings had done so and let the farmers take counsel with them in all they wished. Then the murmuring of the farmers stopped.


Thereupon the chieftains [present], the king, the earl, and Thorgný conferred together and concluded peace and came to an agreement, on the part of the Swedish king, on the terms suggested by the king of Norway. At the same assembly it was decided that Ingigerth, the daughter of King Óláf, was to marry King Óláf Haraldsson. The king left it to the earl to arrange for the betrothal, giving him complete charge of the marriage arrangements, and they parted at the assembly after settling matters in such fashion.


When the earl departed for home, he met with Princess Ingigerth and they talked together about this matter. She sent to King Óláf a gown of costly material much embroidered with gold and having silken ribbons. The earl journeyed back to Gautland, together with Bjorn. Bjorn remained there only a short while before returning to Norway with his company. And when he rejoined King Óláf and told him of the outcome of his mission, the king expressed his great gratitude to him for his undertaking that journey and said that Bjorn indeed had been fortunate to accomplish his mission in such a state of hostilities.


Chapter 81. Hrœrek Plots to Kill King Óláf


As spring approached, King Óláf travelled down to the sea, had his ships made ready, summoned his forces, and at the beginning of spring proceeded along the Vík coast all the way to Cape Lithandisness, and from there to Horthaland. He sent word to his landedmen, calling upon all the most powerful men in the districts to journey with him, and preparing his expedition in the most sumptuous fashion, to meet his betrothed. The celebration of his marriage was to be in fall, and in the east, at the boundary by the Gaut Elf River.


King Óláf had with him blind King Hrœrek. When his wounds were healed, King Óláf got two men to wait on him and had him sit in the high-seat by his side. He maintained him as to food and clothes in no wise worse than he had maintained himself before. Hrœrek was taciturn and answered gruffly and curtly when spoken to. It was his custom to let his page lead him about every day away from people. He beat the page, and when he ran away from him, he told King Óláf that this youth refused to serve him. Then King Óláf changed the servants, but everything went as before, that no servants would stay with King Hrœrek.


Then King Óláf got a man called Svein to wait on Hrœrek and watch him. He was a kinsman of King Hrœrek and before had been one of his followers. Hrœrek persisted in his crabbedness and solitary walking. But whenever he and this Svein were by themselves, Hrœrek was cheerful and talkative. At such times he called to mind many things from earlier days and what had happened when he was still king and recalled his earlier life and also, who had changed all that and deprived him of his power and happiness and made him a beggar. “But this seems to me the hardest of all to bear,” said he, “that you and other kinsmen of mine who gave promise to be manly fellows, now are such degenerates as not to care to avenge the disgrace that has been brought on our kin.” And such lamentations he often indulged in. Svein replied that they had to deal with men of very great power, whereas they themselves had but little. Hrœrek said, “What is the use of my living so long, in disgrace and mutilated; except for the possibility that I, a blind man, might avenge myself on those who overcame me when I was asleep. Luck favoring, we may kill Óláf the Stout. He fears not for his life now. I shall devise a plan, and I would not hesitate to put my hands to use if I could; but that I cannot because of my blindness. And for that reason you must fall upon him. But I predict for certain that no sooner is Óláf killed than his kingdom will fall into the hands of his enemies. And then it may be that I become king, and then you shall be my earl.” And so persuasive was he that Svein consented to follow this evil advice.


The plan was that when the king made ready to attend evening mass, Svein would stand outside in the gallery [of the hall] with a naked short sword under his cloak. But when the king came out of the hall he walked faster than Svein had expected and he looked the king in the face. Then he grew pale as a sheet, and his hands dropped. The king perceived his fright and said, “How now, Svein? Would you betray me?” Svein threw off his cloak, cast away the sword, and fell at the king’s feet and said, “All is in God’s power and yours, sire.”


The king bade his men seize Svein and put him in irons. Then the king had Hrœrek’s seat moved to the other dais.1 To Svein he gave his life and exiled him. Then the king assigned Hrœrek to other lodgings to sleep in than those he used himself. Many of the king’s retinue slept in the same quarters as he did. He got two of them to be with Hrœrek day and night, men who had followed King Óláf for a long time and of whose fidelity he had proof. We are not told that they were men of high birth. King Hrœrek alternately kept his silence for many days so that no one got a word out of him, and then again he was so merry and of good cheer that these men found entertainment in everything he said. At other times he spoke much but uttered only evil. Also, sometimes he drank everyone under the table so that all near him were helpless; but most often he himself drank but little. King Óláf had given him plenty of money for his subsistence. Often before going to sleep in his lodgings he had several small kegs of mead brought in and treated all the men who slept there, and thus became popular with them.


Chapter 82. Finn the Little Joins the Men Guarding Hrœrek


There was a man called Finn the Little, of Uppland origin, though some say he was Finnish. He was of unusually small stature, but extraordinarily fleet so that no horse could overtake him. He was also a fast runner on skis and an excellent shot. He had long been in the service of King Hrœrek and had often gone on errands for him that required fidelity. He knew all paths in Uppland and also was acquainted with many men of influence there. Now when King Hrœrek was put under guard of a few men, Finn joined their company and most often associated himself with valets and men servants; and every time he could, he went to serve King Hrœrek and frequently spoke with him. But the king did not care to talk to him for any length of time in order not to arouse suspicion. But as spring wore on and the king and his men journeyed down to the Vík District, Finn disappeared from the troops for some days. Then he returned again and stayed with them for a while. And so it went often, and no attention was paid to it because there were many hangers-on among the troops.


Chapter 83. Hrœrek’s Escape is Detected by Sigvat


King Óláf arrived at Túnsberg before Easter and resided there a long time during the spring. Many merchant ships came to the town, both Saxons, Danes, and men from Vík in the east and from the northern parts of the land. There was a great multitude there. Harvests had been good that year and there were many drinking bouts.


One evening King Hrœrek had come to his quarters very late. He had drunk a great deal and so was very merry. Then Finn the Little came there with a keg of mead spiced with herbs and of the strongest kind. Then Hrœrek gave drinks to all who were in the room until all fell asleep in their bunks. Finn had gone his way. A light burned in the place. Then Hrœrek roused the men who used to follow him, saying he wanted to relieve himself. They took a lantern with them as it was pitch dark outside. There was a large privy in the yard built on posts, and there were stairs up to the door. Now when Hrœrek and the men sat there they heard a voice call out, “Cut down the blackguard!” Then they heard a crash and a thump as though something fell.


King Hrœrek said, “Those fellows must be dead drunk to be fighting each other. Go quickly and separate them.” They hurried and ran out. But when they got on the stairs the one coming down last was cut down first, but both were killed. It was King Hrœrek’s men who were there, led by Sigurth Hít, his standard bearer, with eleven others, and Finn the Little among them. They dragged the bodies up between the houses and took hold of the king and led him along. They jumped into a skiff they had brought with them and rowed away.


The skald Sigvat slept in the lodgings of King Óláf. He and his page got up in the night and went out to the large privy. But when they were about to return, coming down the stairs, Sigvat slipped and fell on his knee. In so doing he put out his hands and felt something wet on them. He said, “I am thinking that the king has given us so much to drink this evening that we are unsteady on our legs,” and he laughed. But when they got back to their lodging where there was a light the page asked Sigvat, “Have you skinned yourself, or why are you bloody all over?”


He replied, “No, I did not skin myself, but this may signify that something has happened here.” Then he roused Thórth Fólason, the king’s banner bearer, who was his bedfellow. Both went out with a lantern, and soon found the blood. They looked further and soon discovered the corpses and recognized them. They also saw a big tree-stump with big gashes in it. Afterwards they understood that this was done as a ruse to lure the slain men out.


Sigvat and Thórth agreed between them that it was important that the king be informed as soon as possible about this. They sent a page at once to the lodgings occupied by King Hrœrek. There, all men were asleep, but the king was gone. He roused the men in the room and told them what had happened. They got up and right away came down into the yard where the bodies lay. But although they understood the importance of King Óláf’s being at once informed of what had happened, no one dared to wake him.


Then Sigvat said to Thórth, “Which would you rather, comrade, wake the king or tell him what has happened.”


Thórth replied, “For no consideration would I dare to wake him, but I shall tell him what happened.”


Then Sigvat said, “There is much left of the night, and it is well possible that before daybreak Hrœrek has found him a hiding place so that he may not easily be located later. But they are not likely to have gotten far, because the bodies are still warm. Let not that shame befall us that we don’t let the king know about this foul play. You, Thórth, go up into his lodgings and wait for me there.”


Then Sigvat went to the church, roused the verger, and bade him ring the bell for the souls of the king’s men who had been killed and mentioned their names. The verger did as he was told. But at this tolling the king awoke and sat up. He asked if it was time for matins. Thórth made answer, “The bells toll for something worse. Dreadful things have occurred: King Hrœrek has disappeared, and your two followers have been killed.” The king then inquired into the particulars of what had happened, and Thórth told him all he knew.


Then the king got up and had the trumpet blown for a gathering of his retinue. And when all were assembled, the king appointed men to go out in every direction from the town and look for Hrœrek on sea or land. Thórir the Long took a skiff and set out with thirty men, and when dawn came they saw two small skiffs in front of them. But when they saw each other they rowed with all their might. King Hrœrek was aboard [one of the skiffs] with thirty men. And when the king’s men caught up with them, Hrœrek’s crew turned in toward land and all jumped ashore except the king. He seated himself in the stern and bade them farewell and well met again! Thereupon Thórir and his crew made for the land. Then Finn the Little shot an arrow, and it struck Thórir in the middle and killed him. Sigurth’s crew escaped into the woods, but Thórir’s men took his body and also King Hrœrek, and brought both back to Túnsberg. Thereafter King Óláf himself guarded King Hrœrek. He had him carefully watched, taking great precautions against any treachery of his. He had men guarding him day and night. King Hrœrek was as merry as could be, so no one could detect that he was not well pleased with everything.


Chapter 84. Hrœrek Attempts King Óláf’s Life in Church


On Ascension Day [May 15th] King Óláf went to high mass. The bishop went in procession around the church, leading the king, and when they re-entered the church, the bishop led the king to his seat on the north side of the choir. Next to him sat King Hrœrek, as he was accustomed to. He held his outer garment in front of his face; and when King Óláf had seated himself, King Hrœrek laid his hand on his shoulder and pressed it. Then he said, “You are wearing a garment of costly material now, kinsman.”


King Óláf replied, “There is a great festival today to remind us that Jesus Christ ascended to heaven [on this day].”


King Hrœrek answered, “I do not comprehend, and I cannot make up my mind about what you say of Christ. Much of what you say seems to me rather incredible. Yet many a strange thing has happened in the olden times.”


Now when the mass began, King Óláf arose and held up his hands over his head, bowing to the altar, when his outer garment slid from his shoulders. Then King Hrœrek started up quickly and briskly and thrust at King Óláf with a dagger of the kind which is called rýting. The blow pierced the upper garment by his shoulders since the king had bent forward. The clothes were slashed a good deal, but the king was not wounded. Now when King Óláf had perceived Hrœrek’s lunge at him, he leapt forward onto the floor. King Hrœrek again thrust at him with his dirk. He missed him and called out, “Flee you now, Óláf the Stout, before me, the blind man?” The king bade his men take him and lead him out of the church, and that was done.


After this occurrence people urged King Óláf to have Hrœrek killed—“It is,” they said, “altogether too great a trial of your luck, sire, to have him by you and spare him, whatever wickedness he perpetrates; and he is bent upon it day and night to take your life. And if you send him off, we don’t know the man capable of watching him so he won’t escape. But if he does get away, he is bound to raise a force against you and do much harm.”


The king made this answer, “True it is that many a man has suffered death for fewer misdeeds than Hrœrek; but I am unwilling to ruin the victory I gained over the kings of the Upplands, the time I captured five in one morning and so managed to gain all their kingdoms without having to deprive any one of them of life, because they all were kinsmen of mine. Still, I wonder if Hrœrek will not put me to the necessity of having him killed.” The reason Hrœrek had laid his hand on the shoulder of King Óláf was to find out whether he wore his mail coat.


Chapter 85. Thórarin Loses His Wager with the King


There was a certain man called Thórarin Nefjólfsson. He was an Icelander whose kin lived in the northern quarter of the land. He was not of high birth, but he had a keen mind and was ready of speech. He was not afraid to speak frankly to men of princely birth. He had been on long journeys as a merchant and had been abroad for a long time. Thórarin was exceedingly ugly, and particularly his limbs. He had big and misshapen hands, but his feet were uglier even by far. At the time when the occurrences told above took place. Thórarin happened to be in Túnsberg. King Óláf knew him and had spoken to him. He was getting the merchantmen he owned ready for sailing to Iceland in the summer. King Óláf had invited Thórarin to stay with him for a few days and used to converse with him. Thórarin slept in the king’s lodgings.


One morning early the king awoke while other men were still asleep in the lodgings. The sun had just risen, and the room was in broad daylight. The king observed that Thórarin had stuck one of his feet outside of the bed clothes. He looked at the foot for a while. Just then the other men in the lodging awoke.


The king said to Thórarin, “I have been awake for a while, and I have seen a sight which seems to me worth seeing, and that is, a man’s foot so ugly that I don’t think there is an uglier one here in this town.” And he called on others to look at it and see whether they thought so too. And all who looked at it agreed that this was the case.




Thórarin shows the king his ugly feet.


Thórarin understood what it was they talked about and said, “There are few things so unusual that their likes cannot be found, and that is most likely to be true here too.”


The king said, “I rather warrant you that there isn’t an equally ugly foot to be found, and I would even be willing to bet on that.”


Then Thórarin said, “I am ready to wager with you that I can find a foot here in town which is even uglier.”


The king said, “Then let the one of us who is right ask a favor from the other.”


“So let it be,” replied Thórarin. He stuck out his other foot from under the bed clothes, and that one was in no wise prettier than the other. It lacked the big toe. Then Thórarin said, “Look here, sire, at my other foot. That is so much the uglier for lacking a toe. I have won.”


The king replied, “The first foot is the uglier because there are five hideous toes on it, whilst this one has only four. So it is I who has the right to ask a favor of you.”


Thórarin said, “Precious are the king’s words. What would you have me do?”


He answered, “That you take Hrœrek to Greenland and deliver him to Leif Eiríksson.”


Thórarin answered, “I have never been to Greenland.”


The king said, “For a sailor such as you—now is the time for you to sail there if you have never been there before.”


Thórarin was slow at first to answer about this business, but when the king rather insisted, Thórarin did not decline altogether and spoke as follows: “I shall let you, sire, hear the wish I had meant to ask you if I had won the wager. It is that you grant me to be one of your retinue. And if you grant me that, then I would be more bound to be ready to execute what you demand of me.” The king granted him his wish, and so Thórarin became a member of his retinue.


Thereupon Thórarin got his ship ready, and when about to sail, he was given King Hrœrek in his keeping. At parting from King Óláf, Thórarin said, “Now supposing, sire, that, as is not unlikely and often does happen, we do not manage to make Greenland but are driven to Iceland or other lands—how shall I dispose of this king in a manner not to displease you?”


The king replied, “If you come to Iceland, you are to put him in the hands of Guthmund Eyólfsson or of Skapti, the lawspeaker, or else some other chieftain who wishes to have my friendship and my tokens, [assuring him of that]. But if you come to other lands nearer to us, then make sure that Hrœrek never gets to Norway alive; but do that only if there is no other possibility.”


When Thórarin was ready and there was a favorable breeze, he sailed outside all the skerries and islands, and rounding Cape Lithandisness made for the open sea. He did not soon have a favorable breeze but took good care not to approach the land [in Norway]. He sailed south of Iceland, close enough to have indications of it, and then west around it into the Greenland Sea. Then he had fierce storms and heavy seas, but as the summer wore on he made Iceland about the Breithafjord.

Thorgils Arason was the first of the chieftains to meet them. Thórarin told him about the message and the tokens of friendship from King Óláf which were to be his if he was willing to accommodate King Hrœrek.
Thorgils took this in good part and invited King Hrœrek to stay with him; and he stayed with Thorgils Arason during the winter. However, he did not like it there and asked that Thorgils take him to Guthmund, saying he thought he had heard that at Guthmund’s there was the most sumptuous living in Iceland and that he [really] was sent to him.
Thorgils did as he asked and got men to take him to Guthmund at Mothruvellir. Guthmund received him favorably because of the message of the king, and he stayed with Guthmund another winter. Then he did not like it there any longer. Thereupon, Guthmund got him lodging at a small farm which is called Kálfskin, and there were few people on that farm. There, Hrœrek passed a third winter and said that of all places he had been to, since losing his kingdom, he liked that one best because he was most honored there by all. The summer after, Hrœrek contracted a sickness which brought about his death. We are told that he is the only king who is buried in Iceland. Thórarin Nefjólfsson thereafter for a long time engaged in voyages, but once in a while stayed with King Óláf.

Chapter 86. King Konofogor Defeats Earl Einar


The same summer that Thórarin sailed to Iceland with Hrœrek, Hjalti Skeggjason also journeyed to Iceland. When they parted King Óláf saw him on his way with tokens of friendship. During the same summer Eyvind Urarhorn went on a viking expedition to the west, and in fall came to the court of Konofogor [Connor], a king of Ireland. Earl Einar of the Orkneys and this king of Ireland encountered each other in the Úlfreksfjord 1 in fall, and there was a great battle. King Konofogor had a much larger force and carried off the victory, and Earl Einar fled on one ship and thus returned to the Orkneys in fall, having lost most of his crew and all the booty they had made. The earl was mighty ill-pleased with the result of his expedition and attributed his defeat to the Norwegians who had been in the battle on the side of the Irish king.


Chapter 87. King Óláf of Sweden Defaults on His Agreement


Now we shall have to resume our story where we left off before, when King Óláf went on his bridal journey to fetch his betrothed, Ingigerth, the daughter of Óláf, king of Sweden. King Óláf [of Norway] had a large and choice following. There were in his company all the chieftains he could lay hold of; and every one of these leaders had a picked body of men chosen both for high birth and accomplishments. That following was appointed admirably, both as to ships, weapons, and clothing. They proceeded east to Konungahella. But when they arrived there, nothing was to be seen of the Swedish king. Nor had any men come on his behalf. King Óláf remained at Konungahella for a long time during the summer and made many inquiries as to what could be learned of the whereabouts of the Swedish king or of his intentions; but no one was able to tell him for certain.




King Óláf’s expedition to fetch his bride.


Then he sent messengers to Earl Rognvald in Gautland to find out whether he knew what was in the wind to cause the Swedish king not to come to the meeting agreed upon. The earl said he did not know—“but if I do hear,” he said, “I shall at once despatch my messengers to King Óláf and let him know what is at the bottom of this and if there is any other cause for this delay than the press of business as often is the case and may be the reason why the journey of the Swedish king is delayed more than he intended.”


Chapter 88. Of the Children of King Óláf of Sweden


Óláf Eiríksson, the king of Sweden, first had a mistress, called Ethla, who was the daughter of an earl of Wendland. Before that, she had been abducted, hence was called the king’s handmaid. The names of their children were Emund, Ástríth, Hólmfríth. They had still another son, born on the day before Saint Jacob’s Mass. When the boy was to be baptized, the bishop had him called Jákob. That name ill-pleased the Swedes. They said that no Swedish king had borne that name. All of King Óláf’s children were handsome and well-endowed. His queen was of an imperious temperament and hated her stepchildren. The king sent his son Emund to Wendland where he was brought up with the kinsfolk on his mother’s side. He did not maintain his Christianity for any length of time. Princess Ástríth was fostered in West Gautland on the estate of an excellent man named Egil. She was a beautiful woman, well-spoken, of pleasant manners and modest ways, generous of her substance. And when of age she often was with her father and liked by everybody.


King Óláf [of Sweden] was of an imperious nature and difficult to deal with. He was exceedingly incensed that the people had risen up in a body against him at the Uppsala Assembly and had imposed hard terms on him; and he blamed that most on Earl Rognvald. He did not allow any preparations to be made for the bride’s journey as had been agreed upon in the winter, [when it had been decided] that he was to give in marriage his daughter Ingigerth to Óláf the Stout, the king of Norway, and to proceed with her in summer to the boundary of his land. But as time wore on, many people wondered what intentions the king had and whether he would stick to the covenant with the king of Norway or break the agreement and thus also the peace. Many were distressed about this, but no one was so bold as to dare to ask the king about this. But many complained about this to Princess Ingigerth and prayed her to make sure what might be the king’s intentions. She replied, “I am unwilling to talk with the king about his business with Óláf the Stout, because there is no love between them. He gave me a cross answer the one time I did plead for Óláf the Stout.” All this gave Princess Ingigerth much concern. She was distressed and dejected, and she wondered greatly what might be in the king’s mind. She suspected then that he might not want to live up to his agreement with the king of Norway, because people observed he grew furious every time Óláf the Stout was called king.


Chapter 89. King Óláf of Sweden Boasts of His Hunting


Early one day the king rode out to hunt with his hawks and his dogs, and his men along with him. And when they slipped their falcons, the king’s hawk in one flight killed two heath cocks, and three in another. The dogs retrieved and brought back every bird that came down. The king spurred his horse after them and himself took the game from them. He boasted much about this and said, “Most of you will have a long way to go before you make a haul like this.” They agreed about that and said that no king was likely to have as much luck in the sport as he.


Thereupon the king and his companions rode home in high spirits. The princess was walking outside of her bower and when she saw the king riding into the courtyard she went up to him and greeted him. He returned her greeting, laughing with pleasure, and right away showed her the birds and told her of his hunting. He said, “Do you know of any king who ever made such a catch in so short a time?”


She answered, “That is a good morning’s hunt, sire, to have brought down five woodcocks; but a greater catch it was when in one morning Óláf, the king of Norway, caught five kings and took possession of all their lands.”


When he heard this he leapt down from his horse and turning to her said, “I want you to know, Ingigerth, that however great your love for that fat man, you shall never marry him nor he you. I shall marry you to some chieftain with whom I can be friends. But I can never be the friend of the man who has robbed me of my dominions and has done me much harm pillaging and killing my subjects.” With that they parted, each going his own way.


Chapter 90. King Óláf of Norway Is Advised Not to Avenge Himself


Princess Ingigerth now was certain about what the intentions of King Óláf were, and at once sent messengers to West Gautland to inform Earl Rognvald of what the Swedish king meant to do, that all the agreements with the king of Norway were broken, and that the earl and other men of West Gautland should be on their guard, because hostilities might be expected on the part of the Norwegians. And when the earl heard these tidings he despatched messengers to all parts of his domain, warning people to be on guard in case the Norwegians planned on incursions. Other messengers he despatched to King Óláf the Stout, telling him of what he had learned and informing him that he meant to keep the agreements and friendship with him. He also requested him not to make incursions into his domain.


But when the message reached King Óláf [of Norway], he became very furious, and also distressed, and for some days people could not get a word out of him. When that had passed he called a council of his retinue.


The first one to arise to speak was his marshal, Bjorn, and he related how, the winter before, he had journeyed east to conclude peace, and how Earl Rognvald had made him welcome. He also told how crossly and reluctantly the Swedish king had entered into these negotiations. “And such agreements as were made,” he said, “were due more to the numerous following and power of Thorgný and the support of Earl Rognvald than to the goodwill of the Swedish king. And therefore I think we can take it for certain that it is the king who has gone back on the agreement and that the earl is not to be blamed for it. Him we found to be a sincere friend of King Óláf. Now the king desires to know what the chieftains and other retainers think he should do, whether to invade Gautland with the forces we now have and harry there, or whether other counsels are to prevail.” He spoke both at length and eloquently.


Thereafter many men of influence expressed their opinions, and at last all agreed that no invasion should be made, for this reason: “Though we have a large force, there are here collected men of importance and might; but for warfare, young men eager to gather wealth and honor are no less well suited. Also, it is the habit of men of weight, when about to engage in battle or warfare, to have with them many men to go ahead of them and protect them, whereas those who have few possessions often give better account of themselves in battle than they who have been brought up in wealth.”


Yielding to their arguments the king decided to dismiss the levy. He gave everyone permission to journey home, and made known that next summer he would have a levy from all the land and advance against the king of Sweden to avenge this breach of promise. All were pleased at that. Then King Óláf journeyed north through Vík and that fall settled in Borg. And there he had brought together all provisions he needed for the winter, and remained there during the winter with a large retinue.


Chapter 91. Sigvat Arranges for King Óláf’s Marriage to Ástríth


There were divided opinions about Earl Rognvald. Some said he was a true friend of King Óláf, but others doubted that and thought that [if he wished to] he could have enough influence with the Swedish king to make him keep to his word and agreement with King Óláf the Stout. Sigvat the Skald was a great friend of Earl Rognvald and often touched on that when talking with King Óláf. He offered to visit Earl Rognvald for the king and try to find out what the latter had learned about the Swedish king and see if any agreement could be brought about. The king was pleased with this proposal, because he liked to talk frequently with his confidants about Princess Ingigerth.


Toward the beginning of winter Sigvat the Skald with two companions set out from Borg, travelling east through the Forest Districts to Gautland. And before parting with King Óláf he spoke this verse:1




251.   Hail now, hero; bide thy
halls within until I
come again to give thee
good news of thy true love.
I pray that, prince—long live thy
praise—that thou mayst keep both
lands, liege-lord, and eke thy
life. My verse is ended.




252.   Said is now what to say did,
sovran, matter most; though
in my mind are many
more things which concern thee.
God may grant you power,
gladsome lord—such is my
wish—to rule the realm which
rightfully you are born to.


Then they travelled east to Eith2 and had some difficulty crossing the river in an oaken boat, and just managed to get to the other bank. Sigvat spoke this verse:




253.   I dragged that dory—for we
dreaded to turn back wet—
all the way to Eithar.
Almost we upset it.
May trolls take that crazy
tiller-horse: there was not
ever seen a sorrier
sea-buck.3 I was lucky.


Then they travelled through the Eithaskóg Forest. Sigvat spoke a verse:




254.   Wearily we went our
way—and that is certain—
through Eithar forest onward,
all of thirteen miles then.
Blisters and sores, I swear, were
seen on the soles of us king’s men.
Fast we fared that day, though
footsore, to our quarters.


Then they journeyed through Gautland and in the evening came to a farm called Hof. There they found the door barred, so they could not enter. The people of the house declared it was “holy” there, so they turned away from there. Sigvat spoke this verse:




255.   At dark to Hof we drifted.
Doors were barred; so outside
stood I, knocking, and stoutly
stuck my nose in, plucky.
Gruffly answer they gave us:
“Get you gone!” And threatened
us all: ’t was heathen-holy.
To hell with all those fellows!


Then he went to another farm. There the woman of the house stood in the doorway and told them they could not come in there, saying that they had the sacrifice to the elves4 there. Sigvat spoke this verse:




256.   “Wreak his wrath will Óthin,
wretch,” said a witchlike gammer.
“Keep out,” quoth she, “nor further
come; for we are heathen.”
“Also,” this ancient beldame
added, she who forbade me
foot to set in, the slattern,
“sacred to elves we are making.”


The next evening he came to three farmers, all called Olvir, and they all drove him away. Sigvat spoke this verse:




257.   Moreover, now three knavish
namesakes—not much fame they
gained thereby—against me
gruffly turned, the ruffians!
I fear that from their doorsteps
forthwith all the worthless,
flinty fellows hight Olvir
felly will expel us.


Then they journeyed on, that same evening, and came to a fourth farmer who was reckoned to be the most considerable man in the neighborhood. He too drove them away. Sigvat spoke these verses:




258.   To find that flinger then of
finger-gold,5 as all called the
fellow forth we sallied,
food seeking and other good things.
Through a door’s chink the boorish
churl but eyed us, surly:
if best you call him—Christ! then
curses on the worst one!




259.   Aye missed we in the east, in
Eith-wood yonder wandering,
the ale that all had drunk at
Ásta’s farm, without asking:
Sakse’s son6 we lacked, his
sincere words so winsome:
four times was I turned out,
told I was unwelcome.


And when they arrived at Earl Rognvald’s, the earl said they [must have] had a toilsome journey. Sigvat spoke these verses:




260.   Friends, on our hands had we
a hard task when asked us
the sea-king-of-the-Sognings:7
“Proceed to the earl in Sweden.”
Ordered us to folk-warder,
word to bear from fjord-land.
Nor have we spared us hardships
heavy, nor moil and toiling.




261.   Weary were we from tiring
ways—the earl I praised e’er—
threading the thick Eith Woods
this way to the feasting.
Nor need you think us thankful,
thrust as we were by blustering
dolts from their doors with scolding,
dastards! on way to your castle.


Rognvald gave Sigvat a gold arm ring. A woman said he at least had some reward [for his journey], with those black eyes of his. Sigvat spoke this verse:




262.   This band my bonny Icelandic
black eyes through the trackless
forest wastes from westward,
wench, led to these benches.
And, o’er steep rocks stepping,
these sturdy feet, unerring
have trod, tender maiden,
till we came to this village.


But when Sigvat returned to King Óláf and stepped into the hall he spoke this verse, looking at the walls:




263.   Our king’s hall is hung with
helmets and eke with mailcoats
of hirth-men back from harrying—
hall and eke the wall-posts.
No better found, nor fitter
furnishings than those byrnies,
a king, nor comelier hangings
could find: thy hall is goodly!


Then he told about his journey and spoke this verse:




264.   Let your hirth give hearing
how, wielder-of-power,
out of word-hoard, of hardships
rehearsed are these verses.
From the swan’s-road8 to Sweden
set I out, and little
sleep I had since, riding
ceaselessly to eastward.


But when he was speaking with the king, he spoke this verse:




265.   I clung fast, king, as I
came at last to famous
Earl Rognvald, to my errands
all, thy words recalling.
In his demesne and manor
many a time with the thane I
held converse: he’s beholden
wholly to thee, Óláf.




266.   “Thou shalt,” said he, “shelt’ring,
shield them who, wielder-
of-Norway’s-power, come near you
anon, sent by Rognvald.
And likewise, belike if,
Lister’s-king, to eastward
o’er the main at thy commanding
men shall fare to Rognvald.”9




267.   Thy false friends from elsewhere
folk-warder, aye spoke of
turning traitor to Norway,
as, trothless, Eirík’s kin urged them.
To tell the truth: not well couldst
retain the land from Svein which thou tookst, if so forsook thee
the son of Úlf,10 for money!




268.   The son of Úlf, King Óláf,
said that he was ready
to mediate ’twixt you speedily,
mighty one, with troth plighted:
mayhap to settle matters
if minded and inclined to
forgive and forget, fore’er, all
grievances, thou thieves’-foe.


11 Toward winter the skald Sigvat with two companions left Borg and travelled east through the Forest District and so to Gautland; and on this journey people often shut their door upon them. One evening he came to three farmers, and they all drove him away. Afterwards Sigvat the Skald composed the Verses on a Journey to the East about his experiences.


Sigvat the Skald arrived at Rognvald’s residence and was hospitably entertained there for a long time. After a while he learned through letters from Princess Ingigerth that emissaries of King Jarizleif12 from Hólmgarth in the east had come to Óláf, the king of Sweden, to ask Ingigerth, his daughter, in marriage for Jarizleif; and also, that King Óláf had taken to that proposal in a most enthusiastic fashion.


It was at this time that Ástríth, daughter of King Óláf [of Sweden], came to the court of Earl Rognvald. Then a great banquet was made [in her honor]. Sigvat soon became acquainted with the princess. She knew about him and his family, because the skald Óttar, Sigvat’s nephew, had long been a favorite of King Óláf of Sweden. They had many conversations together. Earl Rognvald asked whether King Óláf of Norway might be inclined to have Ástríth in marriage. “And if he is,” he said, “then I wager that for that marriage we will not need the consent of the king of Sweden.” And Princess Ástríth was of the same opinion.


Following this, Sigvat and his companions returned and arrived in Borg at the king’s court shortly before Yule. Sigvat immediately told King Óláf the news which he had heard. At first, the king was very dejected when Sigvat told him about King Jarizleif’s suit. He said that he had suspected only ill from the Swedish king—“if only we can repay him so he will remember it!”


But as time wore on, the king asked Sigvat much about affairs in Gautland, and Sigvat told him much about the beauty and cleverness of Princess Ástríth and that everybody there said she was in no wise inferior to her sister Ingigerth. The king listened to that with pleasure. Sigvat related to him all the conversations he had had with Ástríth, and the king liked all that very well and observed, “The king of Sweden will hardly imagine that I would dare to marry his daughter without his consent.” But they did not talk about this matter to others, though King Óláf and Skald Sigvat frequently discussed it. The king asked Sigvat particularly what he knew about Earl Rognvald and “how is he disposed toward us?” Sigvat assured him that the earl was a most faithful friend of King Óláf. Then Sigvat spoke this verse:




269.   Fast shalt, hero, hold with
him, and shoulder to shoulder
stand; for to aid thee, always
Earl Rognvald bestirs him,
working for thy welfare,
war-lord, night and day eke.
Thy best friend in the east he’s
been, all by the green sea.


After the Yule festival Thórth Skotakoll, the nephew of Skald Sigvat, and one of Sigvat’s pages secretly departed from the king’s court and journeyed east to Gautland. Both had in the preceding fall journeyed there with Sigvat. And when they arrived at the court of the earl they showed him the tokens Sigvat and he had agreed on when departing. They also produced those tokens which King Óláf himself had sent the earl in confidence. Thereupon immediately the earl set out, together with Princess Ástríth. They had with them nearly a hundred [120] picked men of the earl’s retinue and the sons of influential farmers; and their equipment was most magnificent, both as to weapons, garments, and horses. They rode north to Sarpsborg in Norway, arriving there at Candlemas (February 2).


Chapter 92. King Óláf Celebrates His Marriage with Ástríth


There, King Óláf had made all preparations. The choicest beverages obtainable were held ready, and everything else was of the best. He had also summoned to his court many men of influence from the [surrounding] districts. And when the earl arrived there with his company, the king made him most welcome. They were given roomy and good quarters, with excellent furnishings and with servants and others who saw to it that nothing was lacking which could contribute to the festivities. And when these had lasted several days, the king, the earl, and the princess conferred together, and as a result they came to the decision that Earl Rognvald betrothed Ástríth, the daughter of Óláf, king of Sweden, to Óláf, king of Norway, with the same dowry as had been agreed upon for her sister Ingigerth. And the king was to furnish Ástríth with the same bridal gifts as had been promised her sister Ingigerth. Thereupon the festivities were continued with the marital banquet of King Óláf and Queen Ástríth, celebrated with the greatest pomp; whereupon Earl Rognvald returned to Gautland. At their parting the king presented the earl with great and noble gifts, and this close friendship persisted during the life of both men.


Chapter 93. Princess Ingigerth Marries King Jarizleif


In the following fall the emissaries of King Jarizleif came to Sweden out of Hólmgarth in the east. Their errand was to claim the fulfilment of the agreement made by King Óláf [of Sweden] in the preceding summer to give his daughter Ingigerth in marriage to Jarizleif. She made this answer, “If I am to marry King Jarizleif, then I demand as my bridal gift Aldeigjuborg Castle and the earldom belonging to it.” The emissaries from Gartharíki assented to this on behalf of their king. Then Ingigerth said, “If I am to go east to Gartharíki, then I shall choose a man from Sweden whom I judge most suitable to go with me. I shall also make the condition that there in the east he is to have a rank not lower than here and in particular no fewer rights or a lesser dignity than he has here.” The king as well as the emissaries assented to this. The king pledged himself to do so, and the emissaries likewise. Then the king asked Ingigerth whom in his kingdom she wanted to have go with her. She replied, “It is my kinsman, Earl Rognvald Úlfsson.”


The king answered, “I have decided to repay Earl Rognvald in different coin for the treason against his king, going as he did to Norway with my daughter and giving her as a concubine to that fat man, whom he knew to be our greatest enemy; and for that he shall hang this summer.”


Ingigerth requested her father to keep the pledge he had given her; and she achieved by her entreaties that the king agreed to let Rognvald depart in peace out of Sweden, but not ever to show himself to him or return to Sweden while he, Óláf, was king. Thereupon Ingigerth sent messengers to the earl, informing him of this agreement and appointing a place of meeting with her. And the earl set out straightway for East Gautland, where he procured ships and proceeded with his retinue to where he was to meet Princess Ingigerth. Then they all together journeyed east to Gartharíki in the summer. Then Ingigerth was married to King Jarizleif. Their sons were Valdamar, Vissivald,1 and Holti the Bold. Queen Ingigerth bestowed on Earl Rognvald the castle of Aldeigjuborg and the earldom belonging to it. Earl Rognvald lived there for a long time. He was a man of great renown. The sons of Earl Rognvald and Ingibjorg were Earls Úlf and Eilíf.


Chapter 94. Earl Emund’s Parables


There was a man from Skara called Emund. He was the lawspeaker in West Gautland and a man of great shrewdness and eloquence. He was of noble origin, had many kinsmen, and was very rich. He was considered a guileful person and not to be relied on. He was the most powerful man in West Gautland after the earl had left. Now in the spring, when Earl Rognvald had departed, the Gautar held an assembly and there they frequently discussed what the king of Sweden might intend [concerning them]. They were informed that he was angry with them for having befriended King Óláf of Norway, rather than be at odds with him. Also, he made accusations against those who had accompanied his daughter Ástríth to Norway. Some were of the opinion that they should seek the support of the king of Norway and offer him their services. Others warned, saying that the West Gautar did not have the power to contend with the Swedes. “But the king of Norway is too far removed,” they said, “because his chief resources are at a great distance from us. It will be wiser for us to send men to the king of Sweden and try to reach some agreement with him. But if we can’t attain that, then we can have recourse to seek the support of the king of Norway.”


Then the farmers requested Emund to go on this mission, and he assented, and with thirty men journeyed till he came to East Gautland. Many of his kinsmen and friends lived there. He was well received there and talked with the wisest men about the trouble they were in. And all were agreed that the way the king behaved toward them was against all law and decency. Thereafter Emund journeyed to Sweden [proper] and there discussed the matter with many men of influence, and they came to the same conclusion. He continued on his journey until one day at evening he arrived in Uppsala. There they took good lodgings and stayed overnight.


The next day Emund sought an audience with the king as he sat at a meeting with a great many men about him. Emund went before him, bowed, and saluted him. The king looked at him, greeted him, and asked him about news.


Emund replied, “The news from us Gautar is of but little importance. But this we consider news that Atti the Fool from Vermaland this winter went up into the forest on his skis and with his bow. Him we consider a great hunter. In the mountains he gathered so many squirrel pelts that he had filled his ski sled with as many as he could drag after him, and then he returned from the woods. Then he saw a squirrel up in a tree. He shot at it but missed it. Then he grew furious. He abandoned the sled and ran after the squirrel. But the squirrel always jumped to where the woods were thickest, sometimes it went among the roots of the trees, sometimes up into the branches, and then it would sail between the branches to another tree. And when Atti shot at it, the arrow would fly too high or too low; but he never lost sight of that squirrel. He became so intent on this chase that he hunted the squirrel all day long, but never did bag it. And when it began to grow dark he threw himself down on the snow, as he was accustomed to, and lay there during the night. Then there came a snowstorm. Next day Atti went to look for his ski sled. But he never found it again and so returned home empty-handed. This is my news, sire.”


The king said, “Small news this, if there is not more to tell.”


Emund replied, “Something else happened a short time ago which might be called news. It is that Gauti Tófason proceeded down the Gaut Elf River with five warships; and when he lay before the Eikrey Islands, five big Danish merchantmen appeared. Gauti and his men quickly conquered four of the ships without losing a man and gathered a lot of booty; but the fifth ship escaped out to sea and got up sail. Gauti gave chase with one ship and at first began to gain on them. But then the wind got stronger, and the merchant ship then went faster and disappeared out at sea. Then Gauti wanted to return, but a storm came on, and he suffered shipwreck at Hlésey Island, losing all his property and the greater part of his crew. Meanwhile his companions were to wait for him in the Eikrey Islands. Then the Danes came at them with fifteen merchantmen, killed them all, and took all the goods they had gotten before. Thus their greed was repaid.”


The king said, “This is important news and worth telling. But what is your errand here?”


Emund replied, “I come, sire, to seek a solution of the difficulties arising through our laws differing from the Uppsala laws.”


The king asked, “What is it you want to complain about?”


Emund said, “There were two men, of noble family, of equal birth but not equal as to property and disposition. They quarreled about lands, and each did damage to the other, and most he who was the more powerful of the two, until their quarrel was settled and judged in the general assembly. Then he who was the most powerful had to pay a fine. And as a first payment he substituted a gosling for a goose, a pig for a hog, and instead of a mark of burnt gold he paid out half a mark of gold and the other half in clay and mud, besides threatening retribution on him who got this payment for his debt. How would you judge this case, sire?”


The king replied, “Let him pay in full what he was ordered to, and threefold to his king. And if that is not paid within the year he is to leave all his possessions as an outlaw, half his property going to the royal coffers, half to him whom he was to repay.”


Emund submitted this decision to all those men there who were of the greatest influence, and referred it to the laws valid at the Uppsala Assembly. Thereupon he saluted the king and went his way. Then others brought their complaints before the king, and he sat till late in the day, adjudicating their affairs. But when he sat down at table he asked what had become of Emund the Lawspeaker. He was told that he was in his lodgings. Then the king said: “Fetch him, he is to be my guest today.”


Then delicacies were brought in, and after that there came in jesters with harps and fiddles and other musical instruments, and then drinks were served. The king was in a most cheerful mood and had many eminent men as his guests, and had quite forgotten about Emund. The king drank during the remainder of the day, then slept the night through. But in the morning, when he awoke, he remembered what Emund had spoken of the day before. And when he was clad, he had his advisers summoned. King Óláf had about him twelve of the wisest men who, together with him, sat in judgment about difficult matters, though that was not easy since the king was ill-pleased if the judgments were not according to justice;1 and it was useless to contradict him. When they were met, the king spoke and bade Emund the Lawspeaker to be called there. His messenger returned and said, “Sire, Emund the Lawspeaker rode away yesterday as soon as he had eaten.”


Then the king said, “Tell me, good chieftains, what was the meaning of the legal question Emund put to me?”


They answered: “Sire, you will probably have found out by yourself if he meant something else than he said.”


The king said, “The two men of noble extraction he talked about who had been at odds, one being the more powerful, and each inflicting damage on the other, by them he meant me and Óláf the Stout.”


They replied, “So it is, sire, exactly as you said.”


The king said, “A decision was made at the Uppsala Assembly in the matter between us. But what was his meaning when he said that unfair payment was made in giving a gosling for a goose, a pig for a hog, and half clay for gold?”


Arnvith the Blind answered, “My lord, red gold and clay are most unlike, but there is more difference than that between a king and a thrall. You promised Óláf the Stout your daughter Ingigerth. She is of royal birth in all her kin and of Uppland Swedish lineage, which is noblest of all in the North, for it is descended from the very gods. But Óláf has now married Ástríth; but though she is a king’s child, her mother is a servant maid, and Wendish at that. There is a great difference between two kings when one of them is content with such a deal and is grateful for it. Now it is only to be expected that a Norwegian is not the equal of an Uppsala king. Let us all be thankful that this is acceptable, for the gods have for a long time taken much loving care of their favorites though there now be men who are negligent in their belief in them.”


They were three brothers: Arnvith the Blind, his eyesight was so poor that he was scarcely able to bear arms, though he was a most valiant man. The second was Thorvith the Stammerer, he could not manage to say two words together, but was an exceedingly bold and determined man. The third was Freyvith the Deaf, he was hard of hearing. They all were powerful and wealthy men, of noble race, wise, and much respected by the king.


Then the king said, “What could be the meaning of what Emund said about Atti the Foolish?” No one gave answer, each looking at the other. The king said, “Come now, say it!”


Then Thorvith the Stammerer said, “Atti: quarrelsome, covetous, malicious; dœlskr: foolish.”2


Then the king said, “At whom is this insult aimed?”


Then said Freyvith the Deaf, “Sire, people would speak more plainly if you gave them your permission.”


The king said, “Go on then, Freyvith, you have my permission.”


Then Freyvith spoke as follows: “My brother Thorvith, who is called the wisest of us, says that all this—Atti and quarrelsome, dœlskr and foolish—refers to one and the same person. He calls him so who is so weary of peace that he covets trumperies, without getting them, while passing up matters of great importance. Now I am to be sure deaf; still so many have spoken out that I can readily perceive that both men of power and commoners are displeased with your not keeping your promise given to the king of Norway and, worse still, your going back on the decision rendered by all the people at the Uppsala Assembly. You will not need to fear either the king of Norway or the king of Denmark, or anyone else, as long as the Swedish army will follow you; but if all the people with one accord turn against you, then we, your friends, can see no help that will avail you.”


The king asked, “Who are the leaders in this attempt to wrest the country from me?”


Freyvith made answer, “All Swedes desire to have the old laws and their full rights. Consider, my lord, how many of your chieftains are present here to take counsel with you. I dare say there are six of us here whom you call your counsellors; but all others have ridden and departed into the countryside, there to meet in assembly with the people. And, to tell you the truth, the war-arrows have been cut and sent about all the country, and a criminal court has been summoned. All three of us brothers have been asked to join this movement, but no one of us wants to be called a traitor to his king, for that our father never was.”


Then the king said, “What way is there out of this difficulty? I have run into great trouble. Advise me now, good chieftains, how I may keep my kingship and my paternal possessions, for I don’t want to fight against all embattled Swedes.”


Arnvith the Blind replied, “Sire, it would seem advisable to me that you ride down to Árós3 with all the troops that will follow you and there go aboard your ships and proceed to Lake Mælaren. Then summon the people to have a meeting with you. And do not behave with obstinacy but offer them to abide by the laws and the established rights of the country, and let them stop sending the war-arrows. It probably will not have gone far over the land, because only a short time has passed. Send men whom you trust to meet with the men who have a hand in these doings and see if this discontent can be allayed.”


The king said that he would follow that advice. “I wish,” he said, “that you three brothers would go on this errand, because I trust you most among my men.”


Then Thorvith the Stammerer said, “I shall remain behind, let Jákob [your son] go. That is necessary.”


Then Freyvith said, “Let us do as Thorvith says. He does not wish to part with you in this dangerous situation. But Arnvith and I shall go.”


King Óláf followed this counsel and proceeded to his ships and steered into Lake Mælaren where he was soon joined by a great multitude. But Freyvith and Arnvith rode to Ullarakr, together with Jákob, the king’s son, but concealed the fact that he was along. They soon became aware that the men were rushing to arms and that troops were gathering, and that the farmers were holding meetings day and night. Now when Freyvith and his brother encountered their friends and kinsmen there, they said they would join their troop, and that offer was joyfully accepted. Then they forthwith turned to the brothers for guidance and troops gathered around them, but all were agreed in saying that they would no longer have Óláf as king over them and that they would not stand his lawlessness and arrogance in not wanting to listen to what anyone said, even though great chieftains told him the truth.


Now when Freyvith saw the indignation of the people he recognized the precariousness of the situation. So he had meetings with the great chieftains of the land and spoke to them in this wise: “It would seem to me that if this important business of deposing Óláf Eiríksson is to go forward, then we men from Uppland Sweden should take the lead. It has always been the custom in this country that what the chieftains of the Uppland Swedes had agreed upon between them, that counsel was adopted by the people in other parts of the country. Our forefathers did not need to accept the advice of the West Gautar as to how the country was to be governed. So now do not let us be such weaklings as to need Emund to tell us what to do. I would that we stand together on that, all of us kinsmen and friends.” All were agreed and considered the point well made. After that all the multitude joined the union agreed on between the chieftains of the Uppland Swedes. It was headed by Freyvith and Arnvith.


But when Emund learned this, he suspected that his plan was not going to be successful. So he had a meeting with the brothers to discuss the matter. Then Freyvith asked Emund, “What think you [about] who is to be king if we put Óláf Eiríksson to death?”


Emund replied, “He who seems to us best fitted, whether he be of chieftainly race or no.”


Freyvith answered, “We Uppland Swedes do not wish that in our days the crown go from the line of the ancestors of our ancient kings while there is such good choice as we have. King Óláf has two sons, and we desire one of them to be king. But there is a great difference between them. The one is born in wedlock and of Swedish race on both sides whereas the other is the son of a servant woman herself half Wendish.”


This opinion was received with loud acclaim, and all wanted Jákob for king. Then Emund said, “You Uppland Swedes have the power to decide, this time; but I will tell you what will happen later, and that is that some of you who now insist on the Swedish crown continuing to go to men of the ancient line, that you will yourselves live to agree to it’s going to a different line,4 and that will [indeed] be of more advantage [to our country].”


Thereupon the brothers Freyvith and Arnvith had the king’s son, Jákob, brought before the assembly and had him given the title of king. At the same time the Swedes gave him the name Onund, and that name he bore till his death. At this time he was ten or twelve years old. Then King Onund chose for himself followers and chieftains to have about him, and all of them together had as great a force as he considered needful. Then he gave the assembled farmers leave to return to their homes.


Following this, messengers went between the two kings, after which they arranged to meet personally and concluded an agreement, as follows: Óláf was to be king over the land as long as he lived. Also he was to keep the peace and the agreements made with the king of Norway, as well as with all others who were involved in these affairs. Onund was also to be king and have as large a portion of the land as was agreed upon between father and son, but was to take the part of the farmers if King Óláf engaged in anything the farmers would not stand for.


Then emissaries were sent to Norway and King Óláf with the message that he should come with his fleet to a meeting with the Swedish king at Konungahella and also, that the Swedish king desired to confirm the peace between them. And when King Óláf learned of this message he was, as before, eager to maintain the peace, and so sailed with his fleet to the place agreed upon. The king of Sweden arrived there, and when son-in-law and father-in-law met they confirmed the peace and the agreements between them. Óláf, the king of Sweden, was affable then, and mild tempered.


Thorstein the Learned says that there was a settlement on the Island of Hísing which had alternately belonged to Norway and to Gautland. So the kings agreed between them to draw lots and throw dice for this possession. And he was to have it who threw the highest. Then the Swedish king threw two sixes and said that it was no use for King Óláf to throw. He replied, while shaking the dice in his hand, “There are two sixes still on the dice, and it is a trifling matter for God, my Lord, to have them turn up.” He threw them, and two sixes turned up. Thereupon Óláf, the king of Sweden, again threw two sixes. Then Óláf, the king of Norway, cast the dice, and one six showed on one of them, but the other split in two, so that six and one turned up; and so he took possession of the settlement. Nothing else is told about this meeting, and the kings parted with their differences made up.


Chapter 95. King Óláf Is Sole Ruler of Norway


After the events told above, King Óláf returned with his force to Vík. He first went to Túnsberg and resided there for some little time, then journeyed north and, in fall, all the way north to Trondheim, where he prepared his winter quarters and remained during the winter. Then Óláf was absolute king over all the realm Harald Fairhair had had, and all the more so since he was sole ruler in the land. Because he had then obtained by peaceful means and by agreements that territory which had belonged to the king of Sweden; but that portion which had been under the king of Denmark he took over by force and ruled it like any other [province]. Knút, king of Denmark, at that time ruled both Denmark and England, and himself resided for the most part in England, placing chieftains to govern in Denmark and making no claims on Norway.


Chapter 96.1 Of the Orkney Earls


We are told that in the days of Harald Fairhair, king of Norway, the Orkneys were settled, which before had been a haunt of vikings. Sigurth was the name of the first earl in the Orkneys. He was the son of Eystein Glumra and the brother of Rognvald, Earl of Mœr. And after him, his son Guthorm ruled for one year. After him, Turf-Einar succeeded to the earldom. He was the son of Earl Rognvald, and was earl and a man of power for a long time. Hálfdan Longshank, a son of Harald Fairhair, attacked Turf-Einar, driving him out of the Orkneys, but Einar returned and slew Hálfdan on the island of Ronaldshay. Thereupon King Harald came to the Orkneys with a fleet, and Einar fled to Scotland. King Harald made the people of the Orkneys give up their allodial rights, after which the king and the earl came to the agreement that the earl should swear an oath of allegiance to the king and have his land in fief from him; but he was to pay no taxes since the land was greatly ravaged. The earl paid the king sixty marks of gold. Thereupon King Harald harried Scotland, as is told in the poem called Glymdrápa.2


After Turf-Einar, his sons Arnkel, Erlend, and Thorfinn Skullcleaver ruled the islands. In their days Eirík Bloodyaxe came over from Norway and the earls became his liegemen. Arnkel and Erlend died on warlike expeditions, but Thorfinn ruled over the lands and lived to be an old man. His sons were Arnfinn, Hávarth, Hlothvir, Ljót, and Skúli. Their mother was Gréloth, a daughter of Dungath, the earl of Caithness. Her mother was Gróa, a daughter of Thorstein the Red. During the latter days of Earl Thorfinn the sons of [Eirík] Bloodyaxe came over from Norway, fleeing from Earl Hákon, and they harried cruelly in the Orkneys.


Earl Thorfinn died of a sickness. After him his sons were rulers over his lands, and there are many stories told about them. Hlothvir survived them all and was sole ruler. His son was Sigurth the Stout, who inherited the earldom. He was a powerful man and a great warrior. In his days Óláf Tryggvason came from a viking expedition to the west. He anchored his ships in the Orkneys and took Earl Sigurth prisoner on the island of Ronaldshay. He had cast anchor there with one ship. King Óláf then offered the earl as a ransom to be baptized and adopt the true faith, to swear allegiance to him, and to proclaim Christianity in all the Orkney Islands. As a hostage, King Óláf took along his son, called Hundi or Whelp. From there Óláf sailed to Norway and became its king. Hundi remained with King Óláf for some years, and died in Norway. Thereafter, Earl Sigurth terminated his allegiance to King Óláf. He then married a daughter of Melkólm,3 the king of Scotland, and their son was called Thorfinn. There were also the older sons of Earl Sigurth, Sumarlithi, Brúsi, and Einar Wrymouth. Five years, or four, after the fall of Óláf Tryggvason, Earl Sigurth proceeded to Ireland, leaving his older sons to rule the islands. His son Thorfinn he sent to his father-in-law, the king of Scotland. On this expedition Earl Sigurth fell in the Battle of Clontarf.4


When the news of that reached the Orkneys, the brothers Sumarlithi, Brúsi, and Einar were chosen as earls, and they divided the islands between them into three parts. When Earl Sigurth fell, his son Thorfinn was five years old. When the news of Sigurth’s fall came to the king of Scotland he gave his kinsman Thorfinn the districts of Caithness and Sutherland. He bestowed the title of earl on him and appointed men to govern his lands for him. Earl Thorfinn was precocious in his youth and matured early. He was tall and strong, of ugly visage; and as he grew up it became clear that he was reckless, hard, cruel, and very shrewd. This is mentioned by Arnór the Earls’ Skald5 in this verse:




270.   Ne’er in the world so wide, to
ward his land ’gainst foes, was
man braver born than Einar’s
brother, nor one younger.


Chapter 97. Earl Einar Takes Possession of Two Thirds of the Orkneys


The two brothers, Einar and Brúsi, were unlike in temperament, Brúsi was gentle, very peaceable, wise, eloquent, and greatly loved by all. Einar was obstinate, reserved and unfriendly, covetous, and avaricious, and a great warrior. Sumarlithi was similar to Brúsi in disposition. He was the oldest of the brothers and the most short-lived of them. He died of a sickness. After his death, Thorfinn made claims to his portion of the Orkneys. Einar replied that Thorfinn had Caithness and Sutherland, the dominions their father Sigurth had had before him. He called that much more than a third of the Orkneys and was unwilling to let Thorfinn have that share. Brúsi, however, had no objections as far as he was concerned—“and I don’t covet more of the lands,” he said, “than the third part, which I possess by rights.” Then Einar took possession of two thirds of the islands and thus became a powerful man with many troops. He often went on viking expeditions during the summer and had a great levy of men in his lands; but he was not always so successful in making booty on these expeditions. Then the farmers became impatient about this burden; but the earl nevertheless harshly persisted in all his impositions and would hear of no opposition, for he was a most overbearing man. Then there resulted in his dominions a famine from the burdens and expense which the farmers had borne, whereas in the portion Brúsi had there was an excellent good season and the farmers lived an easy life, so he was popular.


Chapter 98. Feud between the Orkney Earls


There was a powerful and rich man called Ámundi. He lived in Sandvík at Hlaupandaness on the island of Hrossay [Pomona]. His son’s name was Thorkel, and he was of all men in the Orkneys the most accomplished. Ámundi himself was a very wise man and one of the most respected in the islands. One spring Earl Einar again called for a levy, as he was accustomed to. But the farmers complained bitterly about it. They brought their grievances before Ámundi and prayed him to say a good word for them with the earl. He answered, “The earl is self-willed,” and held that it would be of no use to entreat him about this or any other thing. “As it is, the earl and I are good friends, but I think it would be dangerous if we fell out, considering our different dispositions. I shall do nothing about it,” he said.


So they went to Thorkel to talk about this. He was unwilling to do anything about it, yet on their urging him he promised [to speak to the earl]. Ámundi considered that Thorkel had been too hasty about giving his promise. Now when the earl called a thing, Thorkel spoke on behalf of the farmers, begging the earl to spare the farmers [further] impositions, and told him how hard they were put to it. The earl gave a favorable answer, saying he regarded Thorkel’s wishes highly. “I had intended to set out with six ships, but now I shall have no more than three. However, Thorkel, be sure not to make any more such pleas in the future.” The farmers thanked Thorkel much for his help.


The earl went on a viking expedition and returned in fall. But in the following spring the earl made the same requisitions as he was wont to make and called for a meeting with the farmers. Then Thorkel spoke again and requested the earl to spare the farmers. To that the earl made an angry reply and said that the lot of the farmers should be all the worse for his intercession. And he grew so furious and wrathful that he said that another spring they would not both be alive at the assembly. With this, the meeting came to an end.


But when Ámundi learned what had passed between Thorkel and the earl he begged Thorkel to go abroad, and he sailed over to Caithness to Earl Thorfinn. Thorkel remained there for a long time and devoted himself to the earl since (the latter) was young. Thereafter he was called Thorkel the Foster Father and became a man of renown.


There were a number of influential men who fled their ancestral possessions in the Orkneys because of Earl Einar’s harsh rule. Most of them fled to Caithness and Earl Thorfinn, but some fled from the Orkneys to Norway, and still others, to various lands. Now when Earl Thorfinn was grown, he sent a message to Earl Einar, his brother, demanding from him that portion of the Orkneys which he considered was his; and that was a third of the islands. Einar was by no means willing to diminish his rule. Now when Thorfinn learned that, he ordered a levy of troops in Caithness and proceeded toward the islands. As soon as Earl Einar became aware of this, he gathered a force, intending to defend his lands. Earl Brúsi also collected troops, and went out to meet them to bring about some agreement between them; and the agreement was made that Thorfinn was to have the third part of the Orkneys which was his by right. But Brúsi and Einar laid their shares together. Einar was to rule over them alone, but if one of them should die before the other, then the survivor was to take possession of the whole. But that covenant did not seem equitable, since Brúsi had a son, called Rognvald, but Einar was sonless.


Thereupon Earl Thorfinn assigned men to guard his share of the Orkneys while he himself most often was in Caithness. During the summer Earl Einar most often harried in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.


One summer, when Earl Einar harried in Ireland, he had a battle in the Úlfreksfjord with Konofogor, a king of Ireland, as was written above,1 and there suffered a great defeat, losing many men. The summer following, Eyvind Úrarhorn sailed east from Ireland, intending to make Norway, but he encountered stormy weather and strong counter currents and so put into Ásmundarvág [Osmundwall] and lay there for some time weatherbound. When Earl Einar heard of that he sailed there with a large fleet, caught Eyvind and had him killed, but gave quarter to most of his men. They sailed to Norway in the fall, sought out King Óláf, and told him about the slaying of Eyvind. The king did not say much about it [at that time], yet people noticed that he felt he had suffered a great loss and that this was done mostly to spite him. He generally said little when matters ran counter to his interests.


Earl Thorfinn sent Thorkel Foster Father to the islands to collect the taxes due him. Earl Einar had laid the blame mostly on Thorkel for the restitution to Thorfinn of his share in the islands. Thorkel hurried back to Caithness and told Earl Thorfinn that he had got wind of Earl Einar’s intention to put him to death, but had been warned by friends and kinsmen. “Now I have the choice,” he said, “either of risking an encounter with the earl and let it come to a decision between us, or else to put a greater distance between us and go to a place where his power can’t reach me.”


The earl encouraged him to journey east to Norway to see King Óláf. “You will be shown high honor,” he said, “wherever you meet chieftains; and I know the disposition of both of you, yours and the earl’s,2 and that it will not be long before you come to blows.” Then Thorkel got ready for the journey and in fall sailed to Norway and there went to the court of King Óláf, where he stayed during the winter, in high favor. The king frequently conversed with Thorkel, because he seemed to him a wise man, as indeed he was, and an outstanding person. The king observed that in his conversation he made a great distinction between the earls, speaking highly about Thorfinn but very ill about Earl Einar. And early in spring the king sent a ship across the sea with a message to Earl Thorfinn, requesting him to visit the king in Norway. Nor did the earl delay about accepting this invitation, since assurances of the king’s friendship went with it.


Chapter 99. Earl Brúsi Reconciles the Opponents


So Earl Thorfinn sailed east to Norway to meet the king, and was received graciously. He stayed there for a long time during the summer. And when he made ready to return, King Óláf presented him with a warship which was large and well-made and provided with full rigging. Then Thorkel the Foster Father joined the earl [in Norway], and the earl gave him the ship on which he had come east that summer. The king and the earl parted as the closest friends.


Earl Thorfinn arrived in the Orkneys in fall. At the time Earl Einar learned that, he had many men about him and was aboard his ships. Then Earl Brúsi met both his brothers and induced them to come to an agreement. And he succeeded in reconciling them again and confirming their pact with oaths. Thorkel the Foster Father was to be reconciled and bound in friendship with Earl Einar. It was agreed that each of them should entertain the other with a feast, and the earl, to begin with, was to be the guest of Thorkel in Sandvík. And when the earl came there, he was given the noblest entertainment. But he was in ill humor. A great hall was there with doors at both ends.


The day the earl was to depart, Thorkel was to accompany him to the entertainment [at the earl’s hall]. Thorkel sent out men on the way they were to take, to reconnoiter; and when they returned, they reported to Thorkel that they had found three ambushes with armed men—“And we believe,” they said, “that some treachery is afoot.” Now when Thorkel heard that, he tarried about getting ready, and collected his men about him. The earl urged him to get ready, saying it was time to ride away. Thorkel replied that he had much to attend to, and sometimes went out, sometimes in. Fires burned on the floor. [Finally] he entered by one door, together with a man called Hallvarth, an Icelander from the Eastfirths District. He closed the door after him. Thorkel went in front of the fire to where the earl sat. The earl said, “Are you not ready yet?”


Thorkel replied, “Now I am ready,” and with that he struck at the earl’s head so that he slumped to the floor.


Then the Icelander said, “I never yet saw people so much at a loss what to do, that you don’t drag the earl away from the fire,” and he drove [the point of] his battle-axe under the earl’s neckbone and tossed him up on the dais. Both he and Thorkel hurriedly left by the door on the opposite side from where they had entered. There outside stood Thorkel’s men all armed.


Earl Einar’s men took hold of him, but he was dead already. They all were perplexed and did not think of avenging him. Also, things had happened so quickly, and no one had expected that of Thorkel, because all thought it was agreed on, that the earl and Thorkel were to be friends. Moreover most of the men in the hall were unarmed, and many, good friends of Thorkel from earlier times. It just was so fated that, of the two, Thorkel was to live longest. Thorkel had no smaller force on the outside than the earl’s men.


Thereupon Thorkel boarded his ship and the earl’s men departed. Thorkel on that very day sailed east at once. It was after the beginning of winter, but he managed to make Norway safely, and straightway went to see King Óláf, by whom he was received in friendly fashion. The king approved of what Thorkel had done, and the latter stayed with him during the winter.