Chapter 100. Earl Brúsi Appeals to King Óláf for Help


After the fall of Earl Einar, Earl Brúsi took over that part of the lands which before had belonged to Earl Einar, because it was known to many what agreements existed between the brothers Einar and Brúsi [when they shared the rule between them]. But to Thorfinn it seemed most just that each of them had half of the islands, whereas Brúsi during that winter held two thirds of the lands. In the spring following, Thorfinn made a claim to half of the lands, but Brúsi did not consent to that. They met together to debate the matter. Friends of both tried to make them come to an agreement, with the outcome that Thorfinn would not be satisfied unless he obtained half of the islands. He also said that Brúsi did not require more than a third, considering his disposition. Brúsi replied, “I was satisfied with having that third part of the lands which I inherited from my father. Nor did anyone make a claim on it. But now I have fallen heir to another third after my brother according to the agreements made with him. And although I may not be able to contend with you, brother, yet I mean to take other measures than thus yield up to you what rightfully belongs to me.” And with that they broke up the meeting.


But as Brúsi saw that he did not have the power to stand on an equal footing with Thorfinn, because the latter had a much larger dominion and, besides, had the support of the king of Scotland, his maternal grandfather, Brúsi decided to leave his lands, together with his son Rognvald, aged ten years then, and journey east to meet King Óláf. And when they met, he was well received by the king.


The earl laid his case before him, explaining how the dispute between the brothers came about, and prayed the king to lend him support so that he could maintain himself in his possessions, offering in return his fullest friendship. In his reply the king began by stating that Harald Fairhair had taken possession of all the allodial rights in the Orkneys, and that the earls since that time had held these lands in fief, but never as their own property.


“And as proof of this,” he said, “[you know] that when Eirík Bloodyaxe and his sons were in the Orkneys, the earls yielded him homage. And when Óláf Tryggvason, my kinsman, came there, your father, Earl Sigurth, swore him allegiance. Now I have come into the complete inheritance of King Óláf. [As a condition for helping you] I shall stipulate that you swear allegiance to me, when I shall give you the islands in fief. Then, if I give you my backing, we shall see whether that which the king of the Scots gives your brother Thorfinn, is of more avail to him. But if you will not accept this condition, then I shall seek to regain the possessions and allodial rights which our kinsmen and ancestors had there west.”


The earl fixed in his mind what the king had said, and brought it up before his friends, asking their advice which of the king’s conditions he should accept—whether he should make his peace with King Óláf and became his vassal—“but I am not sure what will happen to me, when the king and I part, if I refuse; because the king made clear his claim to the Orkneys. And what with his great resources and the fact that I am here [in his power], it is a small matter for him to do with me what he pleases.” And though the earl saw disadvantages in either condition, he accepted the alternative of placing both himself and his dominions under the suzerainty of the king. Thereupon King Óláf took from the earl the power and government of all his inherited possessions. He became his vassal, and they confirmed that with oaths.


Chapter 101. King Óláf Forces Earl Thorfinn to Become His Vassal


Earl Thorfinn learned that his brother Brúsi had gone east to meet King Óláf and obtain support from him. But because Thorfinn [himself] had previously been to see King Óláf and had won his friendship he thought he stood well with him. He also knew he had many spokesmen there who would plead his case. Nevertheless he expected that there would be more of them if he went there himself. So Earl Thorfinn determined to make ready in all haste to sail east to Norway, believing that there would be little difference between the time he and Brúsi [got to Norway] and that the latter’s business would not be concluded before he, Thorfinn, met with the king.


But it turned out differently from what he had expected, because when he came to see King Óláf, the business between the king and Brúsi had been concluded and the agreement settled. Nor did Earl Thorfinn, before seeing the king, know that Brúsi had given up the hereditary right to his possessions. And when he met King Óláf, the latter raised the same claim to overlordship in the Orkneys as he had done with Earl Brúsi, and demanded the same of Thorfinn: that he should agree to hand over to the king that share of the land which he had had before. The earl answered the king quietly and with composure, saying that he cared greatly for the friendship of the king toward him—“and in case you consider, sire, that you require my support against other chieftains, you have every claim to it from before. However, it will not do for me to swear allegiance to you, because I am already the earl of the king of Scotland and tributary to him.”


Now when the king found evasiveness in the earl’s reply to his demands, he spoke as follows: “If you, sir earl, will not swear allegiance to me, then there is the alternative that I assign the man to rule the Orkneys whom I choose. And it is my wish that you promise on oath that you make no claims on these lands and let them be in peace whom I set over them. But if you will accept neither of these alternatives, then he who will rule the lands can expect hostilities from you. And then you need not be surprised if there is a clash between us.” In his answer the earl requested to be given time to consider the matter, which the king did, leaving the earl time to advise with his men what to decide. Thereupon the earl asked the king to let him have time till the following summer and allow him to cross the sea to the west, for the reason that his counsellors were at home and that he was still a youth. But the king required him to make his decision then and there.


At that time Thorkel the Foster Father was at the court of the king. He sent a man secretly to Earl Thorfinn and begged him, whatever he had in mind, not to think for a moment of parting with the king without having made his peace with him, as he now was in the power of the king. With warnings such as these the earl understood that probably the only choice he had was to let the king decide, that time. Nor did it seem advantageous to have no hope of regaining his ancestral possessions and to make a pledge to let persons who had no rights by birth enjoy them in peace. But because he deemed it impossible to get away, he chose to swear allegiance to the king and become his man, just as Brúsi had done.


The king observed that Thorfinn was a much prouder minded man than Brúsi and resented more than he this humiliation, and so trusted him less than Brúsi. The king saw that Thorfinn might expect the support of the king of Scotland in case he chose to break this agreement. Shrewd as he was, the king discerned that Brúsi only reluctantly entered into any agreement, promising nothing but what he meant to keep; whereas Thorfinn, once he had decided which alternative he would choose, gladly assented to all terms nor refused any which the king made, to start with. But the king suspected that the earl would not adhere to all.


Chapter 102. Earl Thorfinn and Thorkel Are Reconciled


When King Óláf had reflected on this whole matter, he had the trumpets blown for an assembly to be attended by as many as possible, and had the two earls called to be present. Then the king said, “I shall now make known to everybody the agreement between myself and the Orkney earls. They have now consented to my taking possession of the Orkneys and Shetland, and have sworn fealty to me and confirmed that by oaths; and now I shall bestow on them that land in fief: Brúsi is to have one third, Thorfinn, another, just as they had had them before. But that third which Einar Wrymouth had shall fall to my share for the reason that he killed Eyvind Úrarhorn, my follower, companion, and dear friend. I shall administer that part of the land as I consider best. That too I want to stipulate with you, my earls, that you agree to take compensation from Thorkel Ámundason for the slaying of your brother Einar. I desire that you let me be the judge between you if you agree to that.” And the earls agreed to that as they had to all the king said. Then Thorkel came forward and put the award into the king’s hands; whereupon the assembly broke up.


King Óláf adjudged the compensation for the slaying of Earl Einar to be the same as for three landed-men; but because of the offence committed [by Einar], one third of the payment was to be forgiven. Thereupon Earl Thorfinn asked the king for leave to depart; and no sooner did he obtain that but he made ready in the greatest haste.


One day, when Thorfinn was all ready [to sail] and was drinking on his ship, Thorkel Ámundason suddenly stepped up to him and laid his head on the earl’s knees and bade him do with him as he pleased. The earl asked him why he did so, “We are already at peace according to the king’s judgment. Stand up, Thorkel!”


He did so; then he said, “The peace between us which the king made, I shall adhere to so far as Brúsi is concerned; but as between us, it is for you to decide. To be sure the king has adjudged to me my possessions and the right to live in the Orkneys. Yet I know your disposition and that it is unsafe for me to be in the islands unless I have your assurance, sir earl. I shall be willing to bind myself,” he added, “never to come to the Orkneys, whatever the king says about it.”


The earl was silent, and it was a long while before he spoke: “If you so prefer, Thorkel, that I be the judge in this business between us, rather than rely on the king’s judgment, then I shall make that the first condition for our reconciliation that you go with me to the Orkneys, stay with me, nor part from me except by my permission and consent; also that you have the obligation to defend my land and perform such labors as I decide on, as long as both of us live.”


Thorkel said, “Let that be in your hands, sir earl; that, as well as everything else which it is in my power to do.” Thereupon Thorkel by oath confirmed all the earl wished him to. As to the compensation [for Einar], the earl remarked that he would talk about that later. But he made Thorkel give solemn assurances [that he would do as stipulated]. Thereupon Thorkel forthwith got ready to go with the earl, and they sailed at once; nor did they and the king ever meet again.


Earl Brúsi remained behind and allowed himself more time to get ready. And before he departed, the king had a meeting with him and spoke as follows: “It would appear to me, earl, that I can depend on your loyalty when you are west across the sea. I intend that you shall have the same two thirds of the islands to govern as you had before. I do not wish you to be a man of less power, being my man now, than you were before. But I shall assure myself of your allegiance by your leaving your son Rognvald here with me. I shall see to it then that, having my support and two thirds of the islands, you can well maintain yourself and keep what is yours by rights, against your brother Thorfinn.” Brúsi accepted with thanks being given two thirds of the islands. Thereafter he remained in Norway but a short while before sailing to the Orkneys, where he arrived in fall. Rognvald, Brúsi’s son, remained behind at King Óláf’s court. He was an exceptionally handsome youth with abundant hair, yellow as silk. He soon was tall and strong and most accomplished both as to intelligence and courtly bearing. He remained a long time with King Óláf. All this is mentioned by Óttar in the drápa which he composed about King Óláf:




271.   Properly do you, peerless
prince, hold onto forbears’
might; therefore ’tis meet that
men of Shetland obey you.
From eastlands1 no one ever
awed like you and, warlike
youth, brought under yoke the
yeomen of western islands.


Chapter 103. Earl Thorfinn Takes Over the Defence of the Orkneys


When the two brothers, Thorfinn and Brúsi, arrived west in the Orkneys, Brúsi took over two thirds of the islands to govern, and Thorfinn, one third. He was most often in Caithness and Scotland, and assigned his men to administer the islands, so Brúsi alone had to see to the defence of the islands. But in those days they were much exposed to raids, for both Norwegians and Danes were given to marauding on their viking expeditions to the west, and often touched on the Orkneys, either going or coming from the west, and made ness-raids. Brúsi mentioned this to his brother Thorfinn and that the latter took no measures to defend the Orkneys and Shetland Islands though he levied tributes and dues on his portion of them. Then Thorfinn offered Brúsi this alternative, that the latter should retain one third of the lands and let Thorfinn have two thirds, in return for Thorfinn’s taking over the defence of the islands for both. And though this exchange did not come about all at once, yet we are told in the Earls’ Saga1 that it did and that, [as a result], Thorfinn had two thirds of the lands and Brúsi, one third, at the time Knút the Powerful had dominion in Norway and King Óláf had departed from his country.


Earl Thorfinn was the most eminent chieftain in the islands and of all Orkney earls had the greatest power. He took possession of the Shetland Islands, the Orkneys, and the Hebrides, besides wielding great power in Scotland and Ireland. About this speaks Arnór the Earls’ Skald [in this verse]:




272.   The ring-breaker obey all
brave men, from Thurso Bay to
Dublin—sooth I say—as
sovran, following Thorfinn.


Thorfinn was a great warrior. He assumed his earldom when he was five years old and ruled more than sixty years. He died of a sickness in the latter days of Harald Sigurtharson. And Brúsi passed away in the days of Knút the Powerful, a short time after the fall of Holy King Óláf.


Chapter 104. Of Hárek of Thjótta


Now we shall continue with two stories, beginning where we left off, at the point when Óláf Haraldsson had made his peace with Óláf, king of Sweden, and that summer when King Óláf sailed north to Trondheim. During the fall he prepared for winter quarters in Nitharós and resided there during the winter. It was that winter when Thorkel the Foster Father, the son of Ámundi, stayed with King Óláf, as was set down above. At that time King Óláf inquired much how it stood with Christianity round about in the country; and he was informed that there was little of it north in Hálogaland. But it was far from being kept in Naumu Dale and in the inner reaches of the Trondheimfjord.


There was a man called Hárek, who was the son of Eyvind Skáldaspillir. He lived on the island of Thjótta in Hálogaland. Eyvind had not been a man of great wealth, but was of noble descent and most influential. On the island of Thjótta there lived at that time many small farmers. Hárek first bought himself a farm there, not a very large one, then transported his possessions there. But in a few years he had all the farmers moved out who had lived there before, so that he owned the whole island himself, and erected there a large manorial residence. He soon waxed very rich. He was a man of excellent good sense, and most enterprising. By the chieftains he was held in the highest respect and [besides] counted himself as related to the kings of Norway, for which reason he was shown much esteem by the [great] chieftains of the country. Gunnhild, his father’s mother, was the daughter of Earl Hálfdan and Ingibjorg, a daughter of Harald Fairhair. Hárek was rather advanced in age when [what we shall tell] happened. He was the man of greatest distinction in Hálogaland. He had had under him for a long time the trade with the Finns1 and was the chief royal officer of the District of [Finn]mark. At times he had had that office alone, at others he had shared it with other men. He had not come to see King Óláf, but messages and emissaries had passed between them, and their relations had been cordial. Now then, during the winter when King Óláf resided in Nitharós, there passed messages again between the king and Hárek of Thjótta. At that time the king made it known that in the following summer he intended to travel north to Hálogaland and all the way north to the land’s end. But the people of Hálogaland had very divided opinions about this journey.


Chapter 105. King Óláfs Expedition to Hálogaland


Now King Óláf equipped himself in spring with five ships and a crew of nearly three hundred [360] men; and when ready, he began his journey north along the land. When he arrived in the Naumu Dale District he called for a meeting with the farmers, and was acknowledged king at every assembly. And there as well as in other places he had the laws read to the people, by which they were commanded to maintain their Christianity, on pain of life and limbs or else of loss of all property for those who would not submit to the Christian laws. The king inflicted severe penalties on many, nor did he make any distinction between the powerful and the humble. He did not leave any district before all the people consented to maintain the holy faith. Most of the men of power, and many wealthy farmers, entertained the king. Thus he proceeded all the way north in Hálogaland. Hárek of Thjótta also entertained the king with a banquet attended by a great multitude, and it was a splendid one. At that time Hárek became a landed-man under King Óláf, whereupon the king bestowed upon him revenues such as he [Hárek] had had from the former chieftains of the land.


Chapter 106. Grankel Becomes King Óláf’s Man


There was a man called Grankel or Granketil, a wealthy farmer, and rather advanced in age at the time. When young he had been on viking expeditions and had been a great warrior. He was a man of many accomplishments in the field of manly sports. His son was named Ásmund, and he was in every respect like his father or even excelled him. It was the opinion of many that as regards comeliness, strength, and manly sports he was the third most outstanding man in Norway, Hákon, the foster son of Æthelstān, being the first, and Óláf Tryggvason next. Grankel invited King Óláf to a banquet, and that was a magnificent feast. At their parting Ásmund gave the king splendid gifts as a proof of his friendship. The king invited Ásmund to come with him, insisting very strongly on it. And Ásmund on his part did not think he could refuse this honor. He joined the king’s company, becoming his man, later on, and one of his closest friends.


King Óláf remained most of the summer in Hálogaland, visiting all communities and there baptizing all the people. At that time there lived a man on the Island of Bjarkey called Thórir the Hound—the most powerful man in the North. He became a landed-man of King Óláf. Many sons of powerful farmers joined the following of King Óláf. As the summer wore on the king returned south and, sailing into the Trondheimfjord, steered to Nitharós, where he settled for the winter. That same winter Thorkel Foster Father had come east from the Orkneys after killing Earl Einar Wrymouth. There was a bad season for grain in the Trondheim District that fall, after a long row of good seasons; and that bad season prevailed all over the northern part of the country, and worse the farther north one went. But in the eastern part of the country the grain crop was good, also in the Uppland districts. But in the Trondheim region people were saved by having much grain in storage.


Chapter 107. King Óláf Learns of Sacrifices in Trondheim


That fall, information reached King Óláf that the farmers in the inner reaches of the Trondheimfjord had had great feasts at the beginning of winter, with much drinking. The king was told that all toasts were brought to the Æsir,1 following old heathen custom. He was told that cattle and horses had been slaughtered and the pedestals [of the idols] reddened with their blood and that sacrifices were being performed for the purpose of improving the harvests. And the report was further that everybody considered it clear that the gods had become angered because the people of Hálogaland had let themselves be baptized. When the king learned of all this, he sent messengers to the Trondheim districts, summoning to him certain farmers whom he mentioned by name.


There was a man called Olvir of Egg after the farm on which he lived. He was a man with great influence and of noble descent. He was the leader of the farmers going to see the king. And when they arrived at the court, the king accused them of what was done. Olvir as the spokesman of the farmers replied that there had been no [sacrificial] feast that fall, but only drinking in company, or communal drinking bouts, and some entertainments between friends. “But as to what is told you,” he said, “about what is said when we people of Trondheim come together for drinking, all men of sense will guard against [believing] what is told them; but no one can be responsible for what fools and drunken people say.” Olvir was a man of ready speech, and not afraid to speak out. He defended the farmers against what had been reported of them. At the conclusion of the meeting the king said that the people from the inner districts of Trondheim themselves would have to bear witness as to how they stood in the faith; whereupon the farmers were given leave to depart for their homes, which they did as soon as they could.


Chapter 108. The King Is Told of Heathen Rites at Mærin


Later during the winter the king was told that the people from the inner reaches of the Trondheimfjord had assembled in great numbers at Mærin and that there were big sacrifices made at midwinter for peace and a good season. Now as the king thought he had learned the truth of the matter, he sent men and a message into these districts, summoning the farmers to the town and again citing those who seemed to him most intelligent. Thereupon the farmers discussed the matter between them and spoke about this message. All those who had gone before were most unwilling to make the journey. But at the pleading of all the farmers Olvir made ready to go. And when he arrived in the town he went at once to see the king, and they talked together. The king accused the farmers of having had a midwinter sacrifice. Olvir replied that the farmers were not guilty of that. “We had Yule feasts, and social drinking all about the districts,” he said. “The farmers do not want to make scant provision for Yule banqueting, and so there is much food and drink left over, and the men kept drinking that store for a long time afterwards. At Mærin there is a large estate with big houses, and there is a large settlement round about. And people consider it good entertainment to drink in a large company.”


The king did not say much and rather showed his displeasure. He considered he knew that what he was told was far from the truth. He ordered the farmers to return—“but,” he said, “I shall ascertain the truth, even if you conceal it and do not want to acknowledge it. But, whatever has been the case hitherto, don’t do so again.” Thereupon the farmers returned home and told how it had gone and that the king was rather angry.


Chapter 109. The King Arrives at Marin


King Óláf arranged for a great entertainment in the Easter season, to which he had invited many townspeople and also some farmers. But after Easter the king ordered his ships to be launched, and tackle and oars brought out. He had the ships decked and tented, and when so equipped he let the ships float by the piers. After Easter, King Óláf despatched some men to Vera Dale.


There was a certain man by the name of Thóraldi who was the king’s steward on his estate at Haug [in Vera Dale]. The king sent him word to join him in all haste. Nor did Thóraldi tarry, but at once travelled to the town together with the messengers. The king summoned him to talk with him in private and asked him how much truth there was in this. “I am told about the ways of the people in the inner reaches of the Trondheimfjord, and is it true that they perform sacrifices? I want you to tell me what are the facts,” the king said, “as you know them. You owe me that, for you are my man.”


Thóraldi replied, “Sire, let me tell you first of all that I have brought hither to the town my two sons and my wife, and all the movable property that I could take along. Now if you want me to tell you the truth about this, I am at your command. But if I tell you the facts then you will have to look out for me.”


The king said, “Tell me the truth about what I ask you, and I shall look out for you so you will suffer no harm.”


“To tell the truth, sire, if you want the facts, in the interior of the Trondheim District nearly all the people are pure heathen in their belief, even though some few there are baptized. It is their custom to perform a sacrifice in the fall to welcome winter, a second at midwinter, and a third in summer to welcome its arrival. In this, the people of Eyin and those of Sparabú, of Vera Dale, and of Skaun participate. There are twelve men who take it upon themselves to arrange the sacrificial feasts; and this spring it falls to Olvir to make ready the feast. He is now busily engaged upon that at Mærin, and all provisions necessary for the feast are being brought there.”


Now when the king had learned the truth, he had the trumpets blown to summon his troops and ordered them to board the ships. He appointed steersmen and also captains of the troops, and which troop was to be on each ship. All this was done quickly. The king had five ships and three hundred [360] men, and with these he proceeded up toward the head of the fjord. There was a favorable breeze, and the swift-sailing ships made good progress. No one had imagined that the king would get there so quickly, but he arrived at Mærin during the night. The houses were at once surrounded. Olvir was captured and killed, together with many others. The king took all provisions and had them brought to his ships, along with all the properties, such as furniture, clothing, and valuables which had been moved there, and had them distributed as booty among his men. The king also had those men’s homes ransacked whom he suspected to have had most part in these doings. Some were captured and put in chains, some escaped by flight, and many had their goods confiscated. Then the king summoned the farmers to a meeting. And because he had made many men of influence prisoner and had them in his power, their kinsmen and friends decided to swear obedience to the king; and no resistance was made to him at the time. He converted all the people to the right faith, placing priests there and erecting and consecrating churches. The king judged Olvir to have been slain for just cause and confiscated all his possessions. But as to the other men who seemed to him most guilty, some he had killed, some mutilated, some he drove out of the country, and some he mulcted. Thereupon the king returned to Nitharós.


Chapter 110. Of Árni Armóthsson and His Kin


There was a man called Árni Armóthsson. He was married to Thóra, the daughter of Thorstein Gallows. Their children were Kálf, Finn, Thorberg, Ámundi, Kolbjorn, Arnbjorn, Árni, and Ragnhild. She was the wife of Hárek of Thjótta. Árni was a landed-man, powerful and prominent, a great friend of King Óláf. At the time, his sons Kálf and Finn were at the court of King Óláf, and highly regarded. The woman who had been married to Olvir at Egg was young and handsome, of noble ancestry and wealthy. A match with her was considered most excellent, but it was the king who had the disposition of her property in his hands. By Olvir she had two young sons. Kalf Árnason requested the king to let him marry Olvir’s widow, and because of their friendship the king granted him that, together with all the possessions Olvir had had; whereupon the king made him a landed-man and procured him the stewardship for his rule in the District of Trondheim. Then Kálf became a great chieftain and was a man of exceding sagacity.


Chapter 111. The King Forces the Uppland Districts to Become Christian


By this time King Óláf had been seven years in Norway. That same summer the two Orkney earls, Thorfinn and Brúsi had come to him. King Óláf took possession of their lands, as was written above. That summer also the king went about the districts of North and South Mœr, and about Raums Dale in fall. In the latter place he disembarked and proceeded to the Uppland districts till he came to Lesjar. There he had all the most prominent men taken, both at Lesjar and Dofrar. And they all were compelled to become Christians or else suffer death or flee abroad if they were able. And they who let themselves be baptized surrendered to the king their sons as hostages for their good faith.


The king passed the night at a place called Bœjar in Lesjar, and left priests behind. Then he proceeded through Loru Dale and through Ljár Dale, arriving at a place called Stafabrekka. A river called Ótta runs through that valley, and there are fair settlements called Lóar on both sides of the river, and the king could see from one end of the settlement to the other. “Too bad,” he said, “to have to burn down so fine a settlement,” and he descended down the valley with his troops and stayed overnight at a farm called Nes, and the king was quartered in a loft where he slept by himself; and that stands there to this day, nor has any change been made in it since that time. The king remained there for five days, calling together an assembly, and summoning to it people both from Vági, Lóar, and from He Dale. He had his messengers proclaim that they had the choice, either to give battle to him and to suffer their places to be burned down, or to accept Christianity and deliver up to him their sons as hostages. Thereupon they went up to the king and submitted to him. But some fled south into the Dales.


Chapter 112. The King Negotiates with the People of Guthbrands Dale


Dala-Guthbrand [Guthbrand of the Dales] was the name of a man who ruled like a king over the Dales. In rank he was a hersir. Sigvat the Skald compared him to Erling Skjálgsson with regard to power and extent of his lands. About Erling, Sigvat composed this verse:




273.   One great warrior, knew I,
was there, unto you like,
Guthbrand hight, who governed,
gold-rich, over Dalesmen.
Equal, I would say, is
either enemy-of-gold-rings.
Lies he who, ’mongst lair-hoards-
loathers,1 thinks he is greater.


Guthbrand had one son of whom there will be mention. When Guthbrand learned that King Óláf had come to Lóar and forced people to become Christian, he sent out the war-arrows, summoning all Dalesmen to meet with him at the farm called Hundthorp. And all came, an immense number; because nearby lies a lake called Log; so that the place can be reached by boat as well as by travelling on land. There Guthbrand held a meeting with them and said that a man called Óláf had come to Lóar, “and means to bid us have a faith different from the one we have had, and to break in pieces all our gods, and says that he has a god by far greater and more powerful. It is a wonder that the earth does not burst asunder under him for daring to speak thus, or that our gods allow him to go about longer. But I think that if we bear Thór out from our temple, where he stands here in this farm and has always helped us, and if he sees Óláf and his men, they will melt away, and he and his men become as nothing.”


Then all the people shouted approval and said that Óláf would never get away alive if ever he came there, “and he will not dare to go farther south in the Dales,” they said. Thereupon they despatched seven hundred [840] men to be on the lookout at Breitha, and the leader of this force was the eighteen-year-old son of Guthbrand, accompanied by many other men of weight. They came to the farm called Hof and stayed there three days, when many joined them of those who had fled from Lesjar, Lóar, and Vági and would not receive baptism.


King Óláf and Bishop Sigurth assigned priests to Lóar and Vági. Then they proceeded over Vágarost2 and descended to Sil, where they stayed overnight and learned that a great host was expecting them. Likewise the farmers at Breitha learned of the king’s approach and prepared for battle against him. Now when the king arose he put on his armor and proceeded south along the Sil meadows and did not stop till he came to Breitha. There he saw before him a large host ready to do battle with him. Then the king put his men in battle formation, himself riding at their head, and addressed the farmers, bidding them receive Christianity. They answered, “You will get something else done today than to mock us,” and raised their battle cry, striking their weapons against their shields. Thereupon the king’s men ran forward and hurled their spears, but the farmers forthwith turned to flight and only few stood their ground. Then Guthbrand’s son was captured. King Óláf gave him quarter and took him along with him. The king remained there for four days.




The farmers’ army.


Then the king said to Guthbrand’s son, “Go back to your father and tell him I shall be there soon.”


He returned thereupon and told his father the sorry news that they had met the king and fought with him, “and our force right away took to flight,” he said, “and I was captured. The king gave me quarter and bade me tell you that he will be here soon. Now we have here no more than two hundred men [240] of all the force we had before to do battle with him. So now I advise you, father, not to fight against this man.”




King Óláf addresses the farmers.


“[From your words],” said Guthbrand, “one can gather that all your courage has been beaten out of you. With little luck you left home, and this will be held up against you for a long time. And now you right away believe the wild fancies this man brings up; and he has [certainly] given you and your force a big discomfiture.”


The following night Guthbrand dreamed that a man approached him. There was a glory about him, and his appearance inspired fear, and he said to him, “Your son was not granted victory over King Óláf, but you will fare even more ingloriously if you mean to give battle to the king, and you yourself and all of your troops will fall, and wolves will drag you about, and all of you, and ravens will rive your corpses.”


He was greatly terrified by this awful vision and told his dream to Thórth Paunchbelly, who was a chieftain over the Dales people. And he said, “I had the same vision.”


In the morning they had the trumpets blown to summon the troops for an assembly and said it was advisable to negotiate with that man who came from the north with a new message, and find out how much truth there was in what he proclaimed. Then Guthbrand said to his son, “Now you, together with twelve men, are to go back to this king who gave you quarter,” and this was done. And they approached the king and told him their message, that the farmers desired to negotiate with him, so as to make peace between the king and the farmers. The king was pleased with that, and they confirmed the truce with special agreements for the time their meeting lasted. They returned after settling this and told Guthbrand and Thórth that a truce had been made.


Thereupon the king proceeded to the farm which is called Lithsstathir and remained there five days. Then the king went to meet the farmers and negotiated with them. There fell a hard rain that day. Now when the assembly met, the king arose and said that the people at Lesjar, Lóar, and Vági had accepted Christianity and had destroyed their heathen houses of worship, “and they now believe in the true God who created heaven and earth and is omniscient.” Then he sat down.


Guthbrand replied, “We know not of whom you speak. Do you call him God whom neither you nor anyone else can see? But we have a god whom one can see every day, but he is not outside today because it is raining, and he will look terrifying to you and awe inspiring when you see him. I expect you will be seized with fear if he comes to the meeting. But as you say that your god is so powerful, let him bring it about that the weather will be cloudy tomorrow but with no rain, and let us then meet here.”


Thereupon the king returned to his quarters, and Guthbrand’s son with him as hostage, against another man from the other part. In the evening the king asked the son of Guthbrand how their god was made up. He answered that he was made in the image of Thór, “and he has a hammer in his hand and is of great size and hollow inside, and he stands on a kind of pedestal when he is outside. There is a profusion of gold and silver upon him. He receives four loaves of bread every day and also fresh meat.”


They went to bed then, but the king stayed awake during the night, saying his prayers. And when day broke, the king went to mass, and then to table, and from there to the assembly. The weather was such as Guthbrand had wanted. Then the bishop arose. He wore the chasuble and had the mitre on his head and the crozier in his hand. He preached the faith to the farmers, relating many a miracle God had performed, and concluded his speech eloquently. Thereupon Thórth Paunchbelly made this reply: “Much does that horned man say who has a staff in his hand with a crook like a ram’s horn on top. Now since you claim that your god performs so many miracles, then speak with him to let it be clear weather tomorrow before sunrise, and sunny, and let us meet then and either agree about this matter or else [afterwards] fight it out.” With that they parted for the time.


Chapter 113. The King Destroys the Image of Thór


Kolbein the Strong was the name of one of the followers of King Óláf. His kinsmen lived in the Fjord District. He always went about armed, with a sword at his side and a big quarterstaff in his hand, of the kind called a club. The king told Kolbein to stay close by his side next morning. Then he bade his men, “Go down tonight to where the ships of the farmers are and bore holes in all, also ride off all the horses in the farms which you can find.” And so this was done. The king himself stayed awake with prayers all night, beseeching God to resolve this difficulty by His grace and mercy. And after he had heard mass, at break of day, he went to the assembly. And when he arrived there, some farmers had come. Then they saw a great crowd of farmers come up to the place of meeting who carried between them a big figure of a man all glistening with gold and silver. And when the farmers already at the place of meeting saw it, they all sprang up and bowed down before this idol. Then it was set down in the middle of the place of assembly. On one side of it sat the farmers, on the other the king and his troops.


Then Guthbrand of the Dales arose and spoke: “Where now is your god, king? I am thinking that he bears his chinbeard rather low, and it would seem to me that you boast less—and also that horned man whom you call bishop and who sits at your side—than you did yesterday; because now our god has come who rules over all and is looking at you with sharp eyes. And I see that you are filled with fear now and hardly dare raise your eyes to look at him. Now give up your idolatry and believe in our god who has all power over you.” And so he ended his speech.


The king said to Kolbein without the farmers observing it, “If so happens that they look away from their god while I speak, then you strike him with your club as hard as you can.”


Then the king arose and spoke: “You have said much to us, this morning. You think it strange that you cannot see our god, but we expect that he will soon come to us. You terrify us with your god who is blind and deaf and cannot save either himself nor others and cannot budge unless he is carried, and I expect that ill will befall him soon. And now look ye to the east, there comes our God now with great light.” Then the sun rose, and all farmers looked at the sun. And at that moment Kolbein struck at their god so he fell to pieces, and out jumped mice as big as cats, and adders, and snakes. This so frightened the farmers that they fled, some to the ships; but when they shoved them into the lake, the water poured in and filled the boats so they could not board them. And those who ran for their horses could not find them.


Then the king had the farmers called to him, saying he would speak with them. So the farmers turned back and assembled together. The king arose and spoke as follows: “I don’t know what all this tumult and running of yours is about. But now you can see what power your god has whom you clad in gold and silver and whom you fed with meat and other provisions, and behold now what creatures were benefited by it—mice and snakes, adders and toads. Ill bestead are they who believe in that sort of thing and will not desist from their folly. Take your gold and finery which is scattered over the meadow and bring it home to your women folks, and do not hereafter hang it on sticks or stones. Now there are two alternatives for you: either you accept Christianity or else do battle with me today, and let them have the victory whom the God we believe in wishes to have it.”


Then arose Guthbrand and said, “Great damage have we suffered in our god. But, seeing that he was not able to help us, we shall now believe in the god you believe in.” And then all accepted the Christian faith. Then the bishop baptized Guthbrand and his son, and left priests there. And they parted as friends who before had been enemies. And Guthbrand had a church built in the Dales.


Chapter 114. Raumaríki and the Sóleyar District Are Converted


Thereafter, King Óláf proceeded to Heithmork, baptizing people there; for at the time he had taken the kings prisoner he did not trust himself to go about the country to any distance with but a small force. Hence but few people in Heithmork were Christians. But this time the king did not cease in his efforts till all Heithmork was Christian and consecrated churches were there and priests [to serve them]. Then he proceeded to Thótn and Hathaland, converting people to the true faith, and did not desist till all the people were baptized. From there he proceeded to Hringaríki, and all the people were converted there.


Now the Raumar heard that King Óláf intended to come to their district, and they collected a large army and said to each other that they had not forgotten the harsh treatment he had meted out to them before, and declared that he was not going to do that again. So when King Óláf advanced on Raumaríki, the gathered host of the farmers met him at the river called Nitja. They had a huge host of men. And when the two forces met, the farmers at once gave battle; but soon they had the worst of it. They fled right soon, and for their own good they were beaten and accepted Christianity. The king went all through that district, nor did he leave till all the people there had become Christians.


From there he proceeded east to the Sóleyar District and converted that settlement. The [skald] Óttar the Black came to him there and offered to become King Óláf’s man. Earlier that winter Óláf, the king of the Swedes had died, whereupon Onund Óláfsson became their king. King Óláf returned to Raumaríki when the winter was nearly ended. Then King Óláf summoned a well-attended assembly at the place which later was the location for the Heithsævis Assembly.1 He entered it into the laws that all men from the Uppland districts were to attend this assembly and that the laws enacted there were to apply to all the Uppland districts and as far in other places as has been the case since.


When spring approached he proceeded down to the sea, where he had his ships made ready, and then in spring sailed to Túnsberg. There he resided during the spring, while the town was most populous and wares were brought there from other countries. It had been a good season in all of Vík, and conditions were very favorable all the way to Cape Stath, but north from there famine conditions prevailed.


Chapter 115. The King and Einar Thambarskelfir Are Reconciled


In the spring King Óláf sent messages west through the District of Agthir, and all the way to Rogaland and Horthaland, that neither grain nor malt nor flour from these regions was to be sold abroad and that he would come there with his force in order to be entertained there as was the custom. This message went to all these districts, but the king remained in Vík during the summer and [in fact] proceeded east as far as the very boundary.


Einar Thambarskelfir had been at the court of Óláf, the king of Sweden, ever since his brother-in-law, Earl Svein, had died, and had become a vassal of the Swedish king, receiving large fiefs from him. But after the king’s death Einar was eager to come to terms with Óláf the Stout, and there had been messages between them during the spring. And when King Óláf had moored his ships in the [Gaut Elf] River, Einar Thambarskelfir came to him, accompanied by a few men. Then the king and he discussed terms of a reconciliation between them, and it was agreed that Einar was to go north to Trondheim and repossess himself of all his properties as well as of the lands which Bergljót had brought him as her dowry. So Einar journeyed north while the king remained in Vík, where he resided for a long time at Borg during the fall and toward winter.


Chapter 116. Erling Skjálgsson and Áslák


Erling Skjálgsson maintained his power, so that from the Sogn Sea in the north to Cape Lithandisness in the east [south] his word prevailed among the farmers; but he had far fewer revenues from the king. Nevertheless he was so greatly feared that no one dared to oppose him. To the king it appeared that Erling had too much power.


There was a certain man called Áslák Fitjaskalli, high-born and powerful. Skjálg, Erling’s father, and Áskel, Áslák’s father, were cousins. Áslák was a great friend of King Óláf, and the king had established him in South Horthaland, had given him a large fief and big revenues, and had told him to hold his own against Erling. But it did not go according to his wishes, as soon as the king was not near; for then Erling did what he pleased between them. He was in no way more pliable when Áslák tried to assert himself as his equal. And it went so far that Áslák could not maintain himself in his district. He went to see the king and told him about his dealings with Erling. The king requested Áslák to remain with him “until I meet Erling.”


The king sent word to Erling to come to Túnsberg in the spring to see him. When they met, they had a conference, and the king said, “I am told that your power is so great, Erling, that there is no man from the Sogn Sea in the north to Cape Lithandisness who can be sure of his liberty from you. Many people live there who consider themselves entitled to their rights as against persons of no higher birth than they are. Now there is Áslák for example, your kinsman, who considers he has suffered indignities in his dealings with you. Now I do not know whether he himself is to blame for this or whether he is to suffer for it that I have placed him there to take care of my interests. But though I mention him particularly, many others make similar complaints to me, both the men who are my stewards and those who administer my estates and are to entertain me and my following.”


Erling replied, “I shall quickly answer these charges,” he said, “and deny that I have anything against Áslák or others because they stand in your service. But this I will admit that now, as has been the case for a long time, every one of my kinsmen wants to have more to say than the others. And I shall also acknowledge that I gladly submit to you, King Óláf, but that I find it hard to bow my head to Seal-Thórir, who is thrall-born on all sides, or to the likes of him as to extraction, even though you set so much store by them.”


At this point, friends of both went between them, praying them to be reconciled. They said that no man lent greater support to the king than Erling, “if you let him be your sincere friend.” On the other hand they admonished Erling to yield to the king, and that if he maintained his friendship with him it would be easy for him to do with the others whatever he pleased. Their conference ended with Erling retaining the same revenues he had before, and with all the accusations the king had raised against Erling being dropped. Also Skjálg, Erling’s son, was to be with the king. Thereupon Áslák returned to his estates, reconciled in a fashion with Erling. The latter also returned to his estates and maintained the same power as he had before.


Chapter 117. Ásbjorn Sails South to Buy Grain


There was a man called Sigurth Thórisson. He was the brother of Thórir Hound on Bjarkey Island. Sigurth was married to Sigríth, who was the daughter of Skjálg, and thus was Erling’s sister. Their son bore the name of Ásbjorn. He was considered a man of very great promise in his youth. Sigurth had his residence at Thrándarness on the island of Omth.1 He was exceedingly wealthy, a man of weight. He had not become a retainer of the king, for which reason Thórir Hound was considered the more eminent of the two brothers, for he was a landed-man of the king. But at home on his estate Sigurth was in no way a man of less importance. While heathendom still prevailed he was accustomed to have three sacrifices made every year, one at the beginning of winter, one in midwinter, and the third at the beginning of summer. And when he had adopted Christianity he still persisted in this way of holding feasts. So he had a great banquet in fall for friends, then a Yule feast in winter to which he invited a great many people; and at Easter too he had numerous guests. And in this way he continued as long as he lived. Sigurth died of a sickness. At that time Ásbjorn was eighteen. He inherited his father’s estate and continued having three entertainments every year, like his father.


It was but a short time after Ásbjorn had entered into his inheritance when the seasons grew poorer and the harvest failed. Still Ásbjorn continued with his entertainments. It stood him in good stead that [at his place] there was a supply of grain and other provisions from earlier years which he could draw on. But when that year passed, the crops in the next year were in no wise better. Then Sigríth wished that the entertainments were discontinued, either some or all; but Ásbjorn would not. In fall he travelled to visit his friends and bought grain wherever he could obtain it, and was successful in some places. So he continued with his entertainments during the following year. But in the next spring little grain was sown because no seed corn was available. Sigríth spoke about diminishing the number of men-servants. That, Ásbjorn did not want to do, and he continued in all respects the same way that summer. It did not look promising for a good crop, that year either. In addition, the news came from the south that King Óláf had forbidden grain, malt, and flour to be exported from the south to northern portions of the land.


Then it appeared difficult to Ásbjorn to provision his farm. So he hit upon the plan to set out a cargo boat he owned and which was a seagoing ship in size. It was a good vessel, with all its tackle shipshape. It was equipped with a striped sail. Ásbjorn made ready for the journey, and twenty men went with him. They sailed south in summer, and we are not told of anything happening on their journey until they arrived in the Kormt Sound one day in the evening and cast anchor at Ogvaldsness. There, on the Island of Kormt, not far from the sea, there stands a large farm which [also] is called Ogvaldsness. That was a royal estate, an excellent farm, and it was run by Thórir Seal, the royal steward. Thórir was of low birth, but had become quite a man. He was a good worker, ready of speech, a very showy person, ambitious and headstrong, and he got along well since he had the king’s support. He was rash in his speech and outspoken.


Ásbjorn and his crew were moored there during the night. In the morning after daybreak Thórir went down to the ship, and some men with him. He asked who was the master of that noble ship. Ásbjorn told him his name and mentioned who his father was. Thórir asked whither he was bound and on what errand. Ásbjorn told him that he wanted to buy grain and malt and that, as was the truth, a great famine prevailed in the north, “but we are told that here you had a good season. Would you, farmer, sell us grain? I see that there are big stacks of it here. It would be a great help for us not to have to journey farther.”


Thórir answered, “I shall help you, so that you won’t need to go farther for buying grain, either here or anywhere else in Rogaland. I may [as well] tell you that you might as well turn back nor sail farther, because neither here nor anywhere else will you obtain grain, because the king has forbidden the sale of grain to people in the north—so turn back, man from Hálogaland. That will be best for you.”


Ásbjorn said, “If that is the case, as you say, farmer, that we cannot buy grain, then it is no less my errand to visit my kinsfolk at Sóli and see the homestead of my kinsman Erling.”


Thórir said, “How closely are you related to Erling?”


Ásbjorn replied, “My mother is a sister of his.”


Thórir said, “In that case it may be that I have spoken rashly, if you are the sister’s son of the king of Rogaland.”


Then Ásbjorn and his men cast off the tent covering of their ship and turned it seaward. Thórir shouted to them, “Farewell, now, and come back on your return.” Ásbjorn said they would do so. They went their way and in the evening arrived at Jathar. Ásbjorn himself went on land with ten men while ten remained to guard the ship. And when Ásbjorn arrived at Erling’s residence he was received well, for Erling was greatly pleased to see him. He seated him next to himself and asked him for all the news from the northern part of the country. Ásbjorn told him plainly about his errand [to these parts]. Erling said that was unfortunate since the king had forbidden the sale of grain. “I do not know of any man here,” he said, “who would dare to break the king’s command. And I find it difficult to keep the friendship of the king because there are many who wish to ruin our friendly relations.”


Ásbjorn said: “It is hard to learn the truth. I was told when I was young that my mother was freeborn on all sides, and also that Erling at Sóli now was the most powerful of her kinsmen, but now I hear you say that you dare not, for fear of the king’s thralls, dispose of your grain as you please.”


Erling looked at him, grinning, and said: “Less do you people of Hálogaland know of the king’s power than we of Rogaland. At home you may be frank of speech, nor is that strange, considering your origin. But now let us drink first, kinsman, and let us see tomorrow what can be done about your business.”


They did so and were merry during the evening. The following day they discussed the matter again, and Erling said, “I have hit upon a plan concerning your purchase of grain. But are you particular with whom you deal, Ásbjorn?” He replied he did not care from whom be bought grain provided it was sold to him lawfully. Erling said, “I should think it likely that my thralls have enough for you to buy all you need. They are not bound by our laws and statutes as others are.” Ásbjorn said he would accept that. Then the thralls were informed about this [proposed] purchase. They produced their grain and malt and sold it to Ásbjorn. He loaded his ship as he had wanted to, and when he was ready to depart Erling accompanied him on his way with gifts of friendship, and they parted as dear friends.


Ásbjorn got a favorable wind and in the evening moored in the Kormt Sound near Ogvaldsness and remained there during the night. Thórir Seal was promptly informed of Ásbjorn’s coming and also, that his ship was deep-laden. Thórir summoned a force of men during the night, so that before daybreak he had sixty men. He went to see Ásbjorn as soon as there was enough light to see, and straightway boarded the ship. At that time Ásbjorn and his men had their clothes on, and he greeted Thórir. The latter asked what cargo Ásbjorn had in his ship. He replied that it was grain and malt. Thórir said, “In that case Erling as usual disregards as idle all edicts of the king, and still is not weary of opposing him in every respect, and it is strange that the king winks at all he does,” and he used violent language for a while. When he stopped, Ásbjorn said that the grain had been the property of Erling’s thralls. Thórir answered sharply that he was not fooled by his and Erling’s tricks. “And now, Ásbjorn, you will have to step on land, or else we shall heave you all overboard, because we don’t want to be crowded by you while we clear the ship.”


Ásbjorn saw he did not have enough men to fight Thórir, so he and his crew went up on land; but Thórir had all the cargo unloaded. When the ship was cleared, Thórir went through the ship. He said, “Wonderfully fine sails these people from Hálogaland have! Take the old sail from our cargo boat and give them that! It is good enough for them as they sail with an empty bottom.” So they did and exchanged the sails.


Ásbjorn and his men went their way, not being able to do anything about it. He sailed north along the land nor stopped till he reached home at the beginning of winter, and that journey became widely known. So Ásbjorn was relieved of all the trouble of preparing for feastings that winter.


Thórir [Hound] invited to his Yule entertainment both Ásbjorn, his mother, and all those they wanted to have along. But Ásbjorn declined and remained at home. It appeared that Thórir considered Ásbjorn to have reacted unhandsomely to his invitation. He made fun of his expedition. “There is,” he said, “a great difference between us kinsmen of Ásbjorn in the honor he does us, and he makes that plain, seeing the effort he put forth this summer to visit Erling and his kin; whereas now he disdains to come to me who lives next door to him! I don’t know but he fears that Seal-Thórir be there on every islet.” Such sayings of Thórir, and others like them, came to Ásbjorn’s ears. He was mightily displeased with his voyage, and all the more so now, hearing this mock and laughter made of it. He remained at home that winter, going to no entertainments.


Chapter 118. Ásbjorn Slays Thórir


Ásbjorn owned a warship. It was a swift-sailing ship with twenty rowers’ benches and stood in a large boathouse. After Candlemas [February 2nd] he launched it, had the tackle brought out, and the vessel made ready. Then he summoned his friends, so he had nearly ninety men, all well armed. And when he was finished with his preparations and had a favorable breeze he sailed south along the land. On their journey, however, he had to wait rather long for favorable breezes. As they came south they sailed in the open sea rather than by the generally travelled fairway [within the skerries], whenever that was possible. Nothing happened on their journey before—on the evening of the fifth day after Easter—they arrived at the Island of Kormt, on its ocean side. That is a large island, long and for the most part not broad, and it lies on the outside of the fairway. On the land side there is a large settlement, but most of the island on the side facing the sea is uninhabited.


When they had stretched the awnings over the ship Ásbjorn said, “Now I want you to stay behind here and wait for me, but I shall go up on the island to reconnoiter and see how matters stand on the island, for we have no information about that.” Ásbjorn was meanly clad and wore a long hood. He had a staff with a hook on it in his hand and was girt with a sword under his clothes. He went up on land and crossed the island. And when he came to a hill from which he could see Kormt Sound and the farm on Ogvaldsness he observed a great stir of men both on sea and land, and he noticed that all the people were going toward the farm on Ogvaldsness. That seemed strange to him.


Then he went up to the farm and the place where the servants were preparing food. Very soon he gathered from their talk that King Óláf had arrived there for his entertainment, and also that the king had sat down to table. Then Ásbjorn went up to the house [where people were eating], and when he came to the entrance hall he saw some people coming out, and others, going in, but no one took any notice of him. The door to the [dining] room stood open, and he could see Thórir Seal standing before the table where the high-seat was. It was late in the evening by then. Ásbjorn heard people ask Thórir what had happened between him and Ásbjorn, and also heard Thórir make a long story of it; and he thought Thórir plainly was onesided in his account. Then he heard a man ask, “How did Ásbjorn bear it when you cleared his ship?”


Thórir said: “He bore that with some composure, though not too well, when we cleared his ship; but when we took his sail he blubbered.”


When Ásbjorn heard that, he drew his sword quickly and rushed into the hall and straightway dealt Thórir a blow. It fell on his neck, the head dropped on the table before the king, and the body before his feet. The table cloths were all spattered with blood, both above and below. The king ordered Ásbjorn to be seized, which was done, and he was led out. Then the dishes and the table cloths were removed, and also Thórir’s body, and everything stained with blood was swept clean. The king was in a towering rage but kept control of himself as was his habit.


Skjálg, the son of Erling, arose and went before the king. He spoke thus, “Now matters have come to such a pass that we must look to you, sire, as often has been the case, for a remedy of this situation. I shall offer to pay an indemnity so that this man may keep life and limbs; but I shall leave it to you to decide about all else.”


The king replied, “Is it not true, Skjálg, that it is a deed deserving death for a man to break the peace at Easter; and again, that he killed a man in the king’s lodgings; and third—which will seem to you and your father but a small matter—that he used my feet as the chopping block?”


Skjálg answered, “It is unfortunate, sire, that the deed seems hateful to you, for otherwise a good piece of work has been done. But if it is abhorrent to you, sire, and of grave import, then I expect, [to offset it], that I deserve much for my services to you. Many will say that this may well comport with your dignity.”


The king replied, “Although I set great value on you, Skjálg, I shall not for your sake break the law and debase my royal dignity.”


Thereupon Skjálg turned to go and left the room. Twelve men had been with him, and all of them followed him, and many others left with him. Skjálg said to Thórarin, the son of Nef jólf, “If you wish to keep my friendship, then do all you can that the man is not executed before Sunday.”


Thereupon Skjálg and his men launched a skiff with oars which he owned, and rowed south with all their might and arrived at Jathar at daybreak. They forthwith went up to the farm and the loft in which Erling slept. Skjálg threw his weight against the door so that it broke from the hinges. With that, Erling and other people inside awoke. He was the first on his feet, grabbed his shield and sword, and running to the door he asked who it was that burst in that way. Skjálg told him and bade him unlock the door. Erling said, “I might have thought it was you, rushing about so witlessly; or is anyone pursuing you?” Then the door was opened.


Skjálg said: “Even though you may think I am headlong, I expect that Ásbjorn, your kinsman, would not think I am going too fast, sitting as he does north in Ogvaldsness in irons. And it is more manly to hurry to his aid.” Then son and father exchanged a few words, and Skjálg told Erling all the circumstances how Seal-Thórir was slain.


Chapter 119. Thórarin Delays Ásbjorn’s Execution


King Óláf seated himself again, after the room had been put in order, and he was in a towering rage. He asked what had been done about the slayer, and was told that he was kept outside on the porch under guard. The king said, “Why has he not been killed?” Thórarin Nefjólfsson replied, “Would you not call it murder, sire, to kill a man at night?”1 Then the king said, “Put him in irons and kill him in the morning.” Then Ásbjorn was put in irons and locked in a house during the night.


On the following day the king listened to matins. Thereupon he attended meetings and sat there till high mass. Then he went to mass, and as he left it he said to Thórarin, “Is the sun high enough now that Ásbjorn, your friend, can be hanged?”


Thórarin bowed to the king and said, “Sire, the bishop last Friday said that the king who has power over all suffered [great] trials; and also that he is blessed who does like him, rather than like them who condemned him to die or those who killed him. It is not long till morning now, and then it will be a week day on which all actions are permitted.”


The king looked at him and said, “You shall have your way, he shall not be put to death today. Take him into your custody now and guard him; but be assured that your life is at stake if he escapes in whatsoever fashion.”


Then the king went his way, and Thórarin went to where Ásbjorn sat in irons. Then Thórarin released him from his fetters and took him to a small room where he had food and drink given him. He told him what the king would do to him if Ásbjorn ran away. Ásbjorn assured Thórarin that he need not fear that. Thórarin sat there by him for a long time during the day and slept there at night.




The king walks through the lines of Erling’s men.


On Saturday the king arose and went to matins. Then he attended meetings, to which many farmers had come, and they brought up many complaints. The king sat there for a long time during the day, and it was rather late when he went to high mass. Following that, the king sat down to table, and when he had finished eating he drank for a while before the tables were removed. Thórarin went up to the priest who had charge of the church and gave him two ounces of silver to ring the bell for the holiday as soon as the king’s tables were removed.


Now when the king had drunk such time as seemed to him sufficient, the tables were removed, and the king said that the time had come for the thralls to bring out the slayer and execute him. At this moment the bell was rung for the holiday. Thereupon Thórarin went before the king and said, “Peace ought to be granted this man for the duration of the holidays even though he has done evil.”


The king said, “You guard him, Thórarin, so that he will not escape.” Then the king went to church for the nones,2 while Thórarin continued sitting by Ásbjorn during the day. On Sunday the bishop came to Ásbjorn to shrive him, and gave him permission to attend high mass. Thereupon Thórarin approached the king and asked him to provide men to guard the slayer. “I now wish to have no more to do with him,” he said. The king thanked him for what he had done and set men to guard Ásbjorn. They put him in irons. And when people went to high mass, Ásbjorn was led to the church. He remained standing outside with those who guarded him. The king and all the people heard the mass standing.


Chapter 120. Erling Skjálgsson Is Reconciled with King Óláf


Now we must revert to what we told before, when Erling and his son Skjálg took counsel what to do in this difficult situation. At the urging of Skjálg and others of Erling’s sons it was agreed on to collect troops and send out war-arrows. Soon a large force collected and embarked on ships, and when they counted the men they found they had nearly fifteen hundred [1800]. They sailed with that force and on Sunday arrived at Ogvaldsness on the Isle of Kormt. They went up to the buildings there with all their force and got there at the time the reading of the gospels was finished. They straightway went up to the church, freed Ásbjorn, and broke his chains.


Hearing all this tumult and clash of weapons, all who were outside fled into the church; and they who were inside looked out, all except the king. He stood there and did not look around. Erling and his men placed themselves on both sides of the street which led from the church to the [meeting] hall. Erling and his sons stood close to the hall. But when the clerics had finished singing the mass, the king forthwith left the church. He was the first to proceed through the line of men, and after him came one after the other of his men.


When the king arrived at the hall, Erling was standing in the doorway and bowed down before him and saluted him. The king made answer, praying God to help him. Then Erling spoke as follows: “I am told that my kinsman Ásbjorn has committed a grave offence, and it is unfortunate, now it is done, that you, sire, are displeased thereat. Now I have come for the purpose of offering to you for him reconciliation and compensation such as you yourself shall determine, against security for him of life and limb and permission to stay in the country.”


The king answered, “It would appear to me, Erling, that you probably think that you now have the power to decide what is to be done about Ásbjorn. I do not see why you now act as though you were to offer compensation for him. I suppose you have collected an army for the purpose of deciding between us.”


Erling replied, “It is you who are to decide, and decide in such fashion that we may part reconciled.”


The king said, “Do you mean to overawe me, Erling? Is that why you have such a large force?”


“No,” he replied.


The king said, “But if there is something else at the bottom of this, do not expect me to flee.”


Erling said, “No need to remind me that up to now whenever we met I had but a small force to oppose to yours. Now I shall not conceal from you what I have in mind; and that is, that we part reconciled, or else I do not expect that I shall risk meeting you again.”


At this point Erling’s face was as red as blood. The Bishop Sigurth stepped forth and spoke to the king: “Sire, I shall ask you, for God’s sake, to obey me and be reconciled to Erling on the terms he has set, that this man have safety of life and limbs, but you yourself determine all conditions for a reconciliation.”


The king said, “You decide!”


Then the bishop said, “You, Erling, give the king such assurances as he may choose, then let Ásbjorn give himself up to the king and ask for mercy.” Erling gave assurances, which the king accepted. Then Ásbjorn gave himself up to the king’s mercy and kissed his hand. Thereupon Erling departed with his force. There were no exchanges of courtesies between them.


Thereupon the king went into the [council] room with Ásbjorn and revealed the conditions for their reconciliation: “The first point for reconciliation between us two, Ásbjorn, is that you submit to the laws of the land in this, that he who kills a servant of the king shall take upon himself the same service, if the king so wills. And it is my will that you take upon yourself this stewardship which Seal-Thórir held and manage this my estate on Ogvaldsness.” Ásbjorn said that it should be as the king wished, “yet I must go first to my estate and arrange matters there.” The king was agreeable to that.


Thereupon the king proceeded to another entertainment arranged for him, and Ásbjorn joined his companions for the return journey. They had been anchored in a hidden cove during all the time Ásbjorn was away. They had got news of what had happened with him, and would not sail away before they knew for certain what the outcome was. Then Ásbjorn went his way and did not stop, that spring, till he reached his estate in the north. People now called him Ásbjorn the Slayer of Seal-[Thórir].


Now when Ásbjorn had been at home for a little while, he and his kinsman Thórir [the Hound] met and discussed matters. Thórir asked Ásbjorn about all the particulars of his journey, and Ásbjorn told him how it had been. Then Thórir said, “Then I suppose you think you have removed the humiliation of having been robbed, last fall?”


“Yes, I do,” said Ásbjorn. “Or what do you think, kinsman?”


“That I shall tell you quickly,” said Thórir, “your former journey south was a great humiliation [for you], yet it could be remedied to some extent; but this journey has resulted in your and your kinsmen’s shame if it comes to pass that you become the king’s thrall and the equal of such a miserable wretch as Thórir Seal. Now behave like a man and rather remain here on your own estate. We, your kinsmen, shall support you so that you will never hereafter get into such straits again.” To Ásbjorn this counsel seemed excellent; and before they parted, it was agreed upon that he should remain on his own estate and not go to see the king again or enter his service; and so he did and stayed at home on his estate.


Chapter 121. The King Converts the People of Vors and Valdres


After King Óláf and Erling Skjálgsson had met on Ogvaldsness, disagreements arose anew between them, and they grew till there was full hostility between them. King Óláf proceeded about Horthaland on his visitations during the spring, at which time he went up to Vors, because he had learned that people there were not firm in the faith. He held meetings with the farmers at a place called Vang. The farmers came there in great strength and fully armed. The king bade them become Christians, but the farmers offered him battle instead, and it went so far that both sides drew up their forces in battle array. Then it so happened that fear entered into the hearts of the farmers so that no one would stand first in the ranks, and the upshot was—and that was to their advantage—that they submitted to the king and received the baptism. The king did not depart from there before all had accepted Christianity.


One day as the king rode on his way and sang his psalms, he came right opposite the burial mounds.1 He stopped and said: “Let these my words go forth to everybody, that I hold it advisable that never after should a king of Norway fare between these mounds.” And it is commonly reported that most kings have avoided doing so.


Then the king proceeded to the Ostrarfjord and came to his ships, whereafter he went north to Sogn District, where he held visitations during the summer. But as fall approached, he moved into the inner part of the fjord, then proceeded inland to Valdres. That valley was heathen still. The king travelled as fast as he could to the lake2 and, taking the farmers by surprise, seized their boats and went aboard them with all his followers. Then he called for a meeting with the farmers, arranging for it to be so near the shore that he had complete access to the boats in case he thought he required it. The farmers came to the meeting with a great host, all armed. The king called on them to accept Christianity, but the farmers cried out against him, asking him to stop speaking, and right away made a great din, clashing their weapons together. But when the king saw that they would not listen to what he would teach them, and also that he had too great a host to contend with, he gave his speech a different turn and asked if there were any persons present at the assembly who had grievances against others, and whether they would like to have him arbitrate between them. It soon became clear from the talk of the farmers that many of them who had banded together to oppose Christianity had cases outstanding against others. But no sooner did the farmers begin to set forth their cases than every one of them tried to get others to support his case, and with that the whole day passed. In the evening the assembly disbanded.


When the farmers had been informed that the king was proceeding through Valdres and that he had arrived in the settled areas, they had sent out the war-arrows and summoned both free men and thralls, and had advanced with that host against the king, so that far and wide the land was void of people. The farmers held their ranks together when the meeting was disbanded. The king became aware of that, and when he boarded his ships, he rowed straight across the lake during the night. There he had his men enter the settlements and burn and plunder, and on the day following they rowed from headland to headland, burning all the settlements. But when the farmers who were gathered together saw the smoke and fire rising from their houses, they dispersed [in a hurry], each one leaving and trying to get home to find his home folk. But as soon as there was a breach in their ranks, one after the other left till the whole host broke up into small groups. But the king crossed the lake again and burned the countryside on both shores. Then the farmers came up to him, begging for mercy, and offered their submission. He gave quarter to everyone who came to him asking it, and also spared their property. And then no one any longer opposed becoming Christian. Then the king had all the people baptized and took hostages from the farmers. The king remained there for a long time that fall and had his ships drawn across the portage between the lakes.3 The king did not much trust the farmers. He had churches built and consecrated, and placed priests there to serve them. But when he expected the advent of freezing weather, he went further inland till he arrived at Thótn. Mention is made by Arnór the Earls’ Skald of King Óláf having set fires in the Upplands, at the time he composed a poem about the king’s brother Harald:




274.   Inborn is it, for the
Ynglings’ scion—his wrath was
felt by Uppland folk—to
fire the farmers’ houses.
Would not the wealthy yeomen—
woe was in the making—
listen to their liege-lord;
led they were to the gallows.


Thereupon King Óláf proceeded north through the Dales and over the mountains and did not stop till he arrived in the Trondheim District and Nitharós. There he prepared winter quarters and dwelt there during the winter. This was the tenth winter that he was king.


Earlier, during the summer, Einar Thambarskelfir left the land, sailing first west to England, where he met his brother-in-law Hákon, with whom he remained for a while. Then he proceeded to the court of King Knút, from whom he received large presents. After that, Einar sailed south across the sea and made his way south to Rome, returning the following summer, when he repaired to his estates. King Óláf and he did not meet, that time.


Chapter 122. Magnús Is Given His Name by the Skald Sigvat


Álfhild was the name of a woman who was called the King’s Hand-Maid. However, she was descended from a good family. She was very beautiful. She stayed at the court of King Óláf. Now when spring came it so happened that Álfhild was with child, and the king’s confidants knew that he most likely was the father of this child. One night Álfhild was in labor. Only a few persons were present, some women, a priest, and the skald Sigvat, but few others. Álfhild had a difficult delivery and was at death’s door. She gave birth to a boy child, and for some time they did not know for sure whether the child was alive. But when the child drew breath, though very weakly, the priest bade Sigvat go to the king and tell him about it. He replied, “I dare not for any consideration wake the king, because he has forbidden everybody to wake him out of his sleep before he awakens himself.”


The priest answered, “It is imperative that this child be baptized, for it seems unlikely that it will live.”


Sigvat said, “I had rather risk your baptizing the child than that I wake the king; and I shall take on myself the responsibility to name it.” And so they did: the boy was baptized and called Magnús.


The morning after, when the king was awake and dressed, he was told of what had happened. Then the king had Sigvat called to him and said, “How did you dare to have my child baptized before I knew of it?”


Sigvat answered, “Because I thought it better to give God two souls, rather than one to the devil.”


The king said, “Just how was there danger of that?”


Sigvat answered, “The child was nigh to death, and if it had died a heathen it would have been the devil’s, but now it is God’s. For another matter I knew that, even though you were furious at me, nothing would be involved but my life; but if you will that I lose it because of this, then I expect that I shall be with God.”


The king said, “Why did you baptize the boy to be called Magnús? That name does not run in our kin.”


Sigvat answered, “I named him after King Karla-Magnús,1 for him I knew to be the greatest man in the world.”


Then the king said, “You are a man of great good luck, Sigvat. It is not to be wondered at that good fortune attends wisdom. But it is strange that, as sometimes happens, good luck attends unwise men, and unwise counsel turns out to be fortunate.” And then the king was exceedingly glad. That boy was brought up and soon showed promise as he advanced in years.




Thórir the Hound with the spear, Sealkiller.


Chapter 123. Ásmund Grankelsson Slays Ásbjorn


That same spring King Óláf assigned to Ásmund Grankelsson half of the stewardship of Hálogaland which Hárek of Thjótta had had in its entirety, some of it for revenue, some as a fief. Ásmund owned a skiff with a crew of nearly thirty men, all well armed. When Ásmund arrived in the north, he and Hárek encountered one another, and Ásmund told him what the king had decided about the disposition of the stewardship, in proof of which he showed him the tokens of the king. Hárek said that the king had the power to decide who was to have the stewardship, “but the former rulers did not diminish our dominion to which we are entitled from the king by reason of our birth, and assign them to farmers’ sons who never before had such power in their hands.” And though it was clear that Hárek greatly disliked it, he let Ásmund take over the stewardship as the king had ordered.


Then Ásmund returned to his father’s estate, where he remained for a short while, then proceeded to his stewardship north in Hálogaland. And when he came north to Langey Island he found dwelling there two brothers, Gunnstein and Karli. Both were wealthy and men of great distinction. Gunnstein, the older of the brothers, managed the estate. Karli was a handsome man and one who loved a showy appearance, but both were accomplished in many things. Ásmund was well received by them and dwelled there for a time, gathering what revenues he could from the district. Karli talked with Ásmund about wanting to go south with him to meet King Óláf and to endeavor to find a place among the king’s bodyguard. Ásmund encouraged him in this, promising him to say a word for him to the king so that Karli might attain what he wished. Then Karli prepared to accompany Ásmund.


Ásmund learned that Ásbjorn the Slayer of Seal, with the cargo ship he owned, manned with nearly twenty men, had sailed south to the meeting at Vágar,1 and that he was at that time expected to be coming from the south. Ásmund and his men proceeded south along the land. They had contrary winds, though not strong ones. Ships came sailing toward them which belonged to the Vágar [fishing] fleet. In all secrecy they inquired concerning the whereabouts of Ásbjorn, and were told that he was probably on his way back from the south.


Ásmund and Karli shared one bunk and were the closest friends. One day as Ásmund was rowing along some sound, a cargo ship came sailing toward them. It was easily recognizable, having brightly painted bows, colored both white and red, and a sail of striped material. Then Karli said to Ásmund, “Often you have said that you were very eager to see Ásbjorn the Killer of Seal. I can’t tell one ship from another if that isn’t the one he is sailing on.”


Ásmund replied, “Be so good, comrade, and tell me if you recognize him.”


At that moment the ships ran alongside each other, and Karli said, “There he sits at the rudder, the Slayer of Seal, the one in a blue kirtle.”


Ásmund answered, “I shall give him a red kirtle,” and hurled a spear at Ásbjorn the Slayer of Seal. It struck him in the middle and went through him so that the spear stood fast in the head-board behind him. Ásbjorn fell down dead by the rudder. Then each vessel sailed on its way.


They brought Ásbjorn’s body north to Thrándarness. There Sigríth had messengers sent to Thórir the Hound on the Island of Bjarkey. He arrived when the body of Ásbjorn had been prepared [for burial] according to their customs. And when Thórir and his men were about to depart, Sigríth chose gifts for her friends. And as she accompanied Thórir to his ship she said before parting with him, “The fact is, Thórir, that Ásbjorn, my son, followed your kindly advice. It was not granted to him to repay you for what it was worth. Now, though I am not able to do as well as he would have done, still I am minded to do what I can. Here is a gift I shall give you, and I wish it may serve you well.” It was a spear. “Here is the spear that pierced my son Ásbjorn, with his blood still on it. It will help you to remember that it came from the wound you saw on Ásbjorn, your brother’s son. It would be a manly deed if you parted with it in such fashion that it stood in the breast of Óláf the Stout. And now I say,” she continued, “that you will be called by everyone a vile wretch if you do not avenge Ásbjorn.” With that she turned away.


Thórir was so enraged at her words that he could not make answer, and so distracted was he that he did not let go of the spear and that he did not watch out for the pier, and he would have fallen in the water if men had not taken hold of him and supported him when he went aboard his ship. It was a spear of no great length, adorned with figures [runes?], which had a gold inlaid socket. Then Thórir and his men rowed off and back to Bjarkey.


Ásmund and his companions sailed on their way till they arrived in Trondheim in the south, and repaired to the court of King Óláf, where Ásmund told him of what had occurred on his journey. Karli became one of the king’s bodyguard. Ásmund and he kept up their friendship. But the exchange of words between them before the slaying of Ásbjorn was not kept secret, because they themselves told the king about it. And here the saying proved true that everyone has a friend among his enemies. There were some who fixed this in their minds, and from them it reached Thórir the Hound.


Chapter 124. King Óláf’s Achievements


As spring wore on King Óláf got his ships ready. Later in summer, he sailed south along the land, had meetings with the farmers, helped some to come to an agreement, and confirmed the land in the faith. He also collected the revenues due to the crown wherever he went. In the fall the king proceeded east all the way to the boundary. By that time King Óláf had Christianized all the larger settlements and had also regulated the laws over all the country. Moreover he had subjected the Orkneys to his rule, as was written above. Also, he had sent messages to friends he had made, both in Iceland, Greenland, and in the Faroes. King Óláf had sent to Iceland wood for churches and of it was built the church on Thingvellir [Plain], where the Althing is held. With it he sent the large bell which is still there. That was after the Icelanders had changed their laws and made them conform to the ones King Óláf had ordained. After that, many men of distinction came from Iceland and entered the king’s service, men such as Thorkel Eyólfsson, Thorleik Bollason, Thórth Kolbeinsson, Thórth Barkarsson, Thorgeir Hávararson, and Thormóth Kolbrúnarskáld [Skald of Coalbrows].1 King Óláf had sent gifts of friendship to many chieftains in Iceland, and they in return had sent him such things as were available there and which they expected would be acceptable to him. However, in this show of friendship by the king toward Iceland there dwelled some considerations which became plain later on.


Chapter 125. The Icelanders Refuse King Óláf’s Request for the Island of Grímsey


King Óláf that summer sent Thórarin Nefjólfsson to Iceland with his message. Thórarin steered his ship out of the Trondheimfjord at the same time as the king, and followed him south to Mœr. Thereupon Thórarin sailed out to sea and had such a fresh fair wind that he reached land at Eyrar in Iceland in eight half-days. He straightway rode to the Althing, arriving there as men were assembled on the Mount of Laws, and went straight up to it. After the judicial decisions had been made, Thórarin Nefjólfsson spoke as follows: “I parted from King Óláf Haraldsson four days ago. He gave me greetings hither to all the people, both men and women, the young as well as the old, the rich as well as the poor—both God’s and his greetings—and bade me say that he will be your king if you will be his subjects, and both be friends and help one another in all things of good report.” There was a favorable response to his speech, all saying that they would gladly be friends of the king if he would be a friend to them.


Thereupon Thórarin continued, “Together with his salutations, the king would in all friendship ask of the people of the Northern Quarter that they give him the island or skerry outside of the Eyafjord which they call Grímsey Island; against which he would give such good things from his own land which they would ask him for. He sent word to Guthmund of Mothruvellir to support this request, because he has been informed that Guthmund had most influence in those parts.”


Guthmund replied, “I would gladly have the friendship of King Óláf, and would consider that of greater advantage to me than the outlying skerry he asks for. However, the king has not been correctly informed that I have more influence in this matter than others, because it has recently been made into common pasture. Let there be a meeting about this of all those who have most use of the island.”


Thereupon people went to their booths, and the men of the Northern Quarter had a meeting, where everyone gave his opinion. Guthmund favored the proposal and many others followed him. Then some asked why Einar, his brother, did not say anything about it. “It would seem to us,” they said, “that he sees clearest in most matters.”


Then Einar answered, “I am chary of my words about this business, because no one has asked me. But if you wish to have my opinion, then I would say that it were best for the people of our country not to subject themselves here to pay tribute to King Óláf, nor to all those taxes such as he has imposed on Norwegians. And we would impose that bondage not only on ourselves but both on ourselves and our sons and all our people who live in this land; and that bondage this land would never be free or rid of. And though this king be a good one, as I believe he is, yet it is likely to be the case, as always hitherto, that when there is a change in the succession there will be some kings who are good and some who are bad. But if our countrymen would preserve their freedom, such as they have had ever since they settled here, then it would be best not to let the king get any hold here, whether it be a piece of land or our promises to pay fixed taxes, which might be interpreted as due from subjects. But I would consider it appropriate for those of us who wish to, to send the king gifts of friendship—hawks or horses, tents or sails or other things which are suitable for sending. That would be a good investment if it is repaid by friendship. But concerning the Island of Grímsey I would say this, that even if nothing is taken from it for supplying people with food, yet a host of men could find food there. And if some army from abroad [made it their base and] sailed from there with their warships, I think many a cotter would find himself in a predicament.”


And when Einar had spoken and made the state of affairs clear, then all the men were agreed that this should not come about, and Thórarin understood what the outcome of his mission would be.


Chapter 126. The Icelanders Debate Whether to Accept the King’s Invitation


On the following day Thórarin went to the Mount of Laws and again spoke about his mission, beginning in this wise: “King Óláf sent word to his friends in this land, mentioning Guthmund Eyólfsson, Snorri the Priest, Thorkel Eyólfsson, Skapti the Lawspeaker, and Thorstein Hallsson. He sent word to you to this effect that you should come to see him and receive his offer of friendship.”


They answered this speech thanking the king for his invitation, and said that they would tell Thórarin their decision about that journey when they had taken counsel among themselves and their friends. But when the chieftains discussed the matter among themselves, everyone gave his opinion about this journey. Snorri the Priest and Skapti advised against the risk of all of them journeying to Norway at the same time, as they were the men who had most to say in governing the country. They said that this message rather roused their suspicion about what Einar had mentioned, that the king might consider some coercion against the Icelanders if he had the power. Guthmund and Thorkel Eyólfsson strongly urged them to yield to King Óláf’s call and thought it might redound to their great honor. But after having debated the matter between them, they came to the decision that they themselves should not go, but each send a man in their stead whom they considered most fit for the journey. Having agreed on that, they parted at this assembly; and nothing came of any journey abroad during that summer.


Thórarin sailed back the same summer, and in fall went to see King Óláf and told him about the outcome of his mission, and also, that the chieftains would come to Norway, those to whom he had sent word, or else their sons.


Chapter 127. King Óláf Demands Tribute from the Faroe Islands


That summer there came from the Faroes to Norway, at the invitation of King Óláf, Gilli the Lawspeaker, Leif Ozurarson, Thorálf from Dimon, and many other farmers’ sons. Thránd in Gata made preparations to go, but when he was ready to leave, he had a heart attack which incapacitated him, and he stayed behind. Now when the Faroese came to see King Óláf, he called them together and met with them. Then he made clear to them the reason behind his requesting their coming, and told them he wanted to have tribute from the Faroes, and also that the people of the Faroes were to have the laws which King Óláf would give them. In this meeting it became apparent that the king wished to have assurances concerning this matter from the Faroese who had come, whether they would confirm this agreement with oaths, offering those of them who seemed to him most eminent to become his followers and to receive from him high rank and become his friends. But from the words of the king they inferred that there might be reason to suspect how matters would turn out for them if they would not submit to all the king demanded of them. And although there were several other meetings before the matter was settled, yet in the end the king obtained all that he demanded. They offered their submission to the king, Leif, Gilli, and Thórálf becoming members of his bodyguard, and all in their company swearing oaths to King Óláf that they would maintain in the Faroes the laws and statutes which he ordained for them and pay the tribute he imposed.


Thereupon the Faroese made ready to journey home. At their parting the king made friendly gifts to all those who had sworn fealty to him. They departed when finished with their preparations for the voyage. But the king also had a ship readied and equipped with a crew, and sent men with it who were to receive the tribute the Faroese were to pay him. They were delayed in their preparations; and of their journey we are told only that they never returned and that no tribute was brought back the summer following, because they had not made the Faroes. No one had come there to levy tribute.


Chapter 128. The King Arranges for the Marriages of Kinsmen and Friends


In the fall King Óláf proceeded to Vík and sent word to the Uppland districts to prepare entertainment against his coming there, for he intended to proceed about the Uppland districts during the winter. Thereupon he started on his progress to these districts and remained there that winter at the entertainments, putting to rights such matters as appeared to him to need correction, and mending the practice of Christianity where it seemed to him called for.


When the king was in Heithmork, Ketil Kálf of Hringuness sued for the hand of Gunnhild, the daughter of Sigurth Sýr and Ásta, and thus King Óláf’s [half-] sister. The king thus had to give his consent and make provisions for this marriage. He did this gladly because he knew that Ketil was high-born and wealthy, wise, and a great chieftain. He had for a long time been a close friend of King Óláf, as has been told above. For all these reasons the king was glad to consent to this marriage, and King Óláf was present at the marriage feast.


From there he proceeded north to Guthbrands Dale and was entertained there. A certain man by the name of Thórth Gothormsson lived on the farm called Steig. Thórth was the most powerful man in the northern part of the Dale. And when the king and he met, Thórth sued for the hand of Isríth, the daughter of Guthbrand, who was the maternal aunt of King Óláf; hence the king was responsible for giving his consent, and after the matter had been discussed, it was agreed that the match was acceptable, and Isríth was given in marriage to Thórth. Thereafter he became a sincere friend of King Óláf, and with him, many other kinsmen and friends of his who followed his lead.


Thereupon King Óláf returned south through Thótn and Hathaland, thence to Hringaríki and to Vík. In spring he journeyed to Túnsberg, remaining there for a long time while the fair and supplies were at their height. Then he had his fleet put in order and had a great number of followers about him.


Chapter 129. The Ship Sent to the Faroes to Demand Tribute Disappears


This summer there came from Iceland, at the request of King Óláf, Stein, the son of Skapti the Lawspeaker, Thórodd, the son of Snorri the Priest, Gellir, the son of Thorkel, Egil, the son of Sithu-Hall and brother of Thorstein. Guthmund Eyólfsson had died the winter before. These Icelanders at once at the earliest opportunity repaired to King Óláf’s court. And when they met the king they were made welcome and stayed with him as a group.


That same summer King Óláf learned that the ship he had sent to the Faroes the previous summer to collect the tribute, had vanished and never made land so far as could be learned. Then the king equipped another ship with a crew to sail to the Faroes to collect the tribute. They got under way across the ocean, but nothing was heard of them afterwards, no more than the first. And there were many surmises what had become of these ships.


Chapter 130. King Knút Lays Claim to Norway


Knút [Canute] the Powerful, by some called the Old, at that time was king of England and of Denmark. He was the son of Svein Forkbeard, the son of Harald. Their line had ruled Denmark for a long time. Harald Gormsson, the grandfather of Knút had taken possession of Norway after the fall of Harald, the son of Gunnhild, and laid it under tribute, setting over it Earl Hákon the Powerful to defend the land. Svein, the son of Harald, and king of Denmark, ruled Norway and had set over it to defend the country, Earl Eirík, the son of Hákon. He and his brother, Svein Hákonarson, ruled over the land until Eirík had gone west to England at the bidding of Knút the Powerful, his brother-in-law. In his place, to govern his dominion in Norway, Eirík left Earl Hákon, who was his son and the sister’s son of Knút the Powerful. Now when Óláf the Stout came to Norway, he first of all captured Earl Hákon and deposed him, as was written above. Thereupon Hákon repaired to Knút, his maternal uncle, and stayed with him all the time to this point in our story.


Knút the Powerful had won England with battles and warfare, and had a long struggle until the people of the land were obedient to him. But when he had gained complete domination of the land he came to think of the claims he had on the dominion he did not have the governance of himself, and that was Norway. He considered that he possessed all of Norway as his inheritance; and Hákon, his sister’s son, likewise considered that he had a claim on part of it, and that he had lost it dishonorably. One reason why Knút and Hákon had kept quiet about their claim to Norway was that, at first, when Óláf Haraldsson came to the land, everybody to a man acclaimed him and wanted to have him as king over all the country. But afterwards, when men feared losing their independence through his power, some left the country. Very many men of influence, and also sons of powerful yeomen, had joined King Knút under various pretexts. And to every one of them who came to him and whom he wished to attach to himself, he gave handfuls of money. Also, at his court one could see much greater splendor than in other places, both as to the multitudes there every day, and as to other furnishings in the buildings he had and occupied himself. Knút the Powerful received tribute and taxes from the richest nations of the North; but in the same measure as he received more income than other kings, he also gave more than any other sovran. In all his lands there was such complete peace that no one dared to break it, and the people themselves enjoyed peace and their ancient laws. For these reasons he was greatly famed in all lands. And many of the men who came from Norway complained to Earl Hákon about the tyranny there, and some even to the king, [intimating] that they were inclined to revert to King Knút and the earl and from them receive back their liberties. These utterances pleased the earl, and he pleaded with the king, requesting him to find out whether King Óláf would yield his kingdom to them or at least come to some terms to share it with him. There were many who pleaded for the earl in this matter.


Chapter 131. King Óláf Answers King Knút’s Claim


Knút the Powerful sent ambassadors east to Norway, and they were splendidly equipped for the journey. They carried with them the letters and seal of Knút, king of England. In the spring they arrived at the court of Óláf Haraldsson, the king of Norway, in Túnsberg. But when the king was told that ambassadors had come from Knút the Powerful, he became angry and said that Knút was not likely to send ambassadors to him with any message likely to be of advantage either to him or to his adherents; and it was some days before the ambassadors were allowed to have an audience with the king. But when they received permission to have it they went before the king, producing the letters of King Knút, and read the message contained in them; which was that King Knút claimed as his possession all of Norway and that his forbears had that kingdom before him, but that because King Knút would offer peace to all lands he would not invade Norway if there was a chance to avoid that. However, if King Óláf Haraldsson wished to be king of Norway, then let him come to King Knút and receive his land in fief from him and swear loyalty to him and pay him such tribute as the earls did previously. Thereupon they produced their letters to the same effect.


King Óláf made reply as follows: “I have heard it told in old accounts that Gorm, the king of Denmark, was considered a great sovran, and he ruled over Denmark only. But the Danish kings who succeeded him have not been satisfied with that. And now it has come about that Knút rules over both Denmark and England, and in addition he has now brought under his sway a large part of Scotland. And now he makes claim to my patrimony. He should at last learn moderation in his ambition. Or does he wish to be sole ruler over all the lands of the North? Or does he mean to eat up all the cabbage of England himself? Let him do that before I tender my submission or bow to him in even one respect. Now you are to report to him these my words, that I mean to defend Norway by all means available to me while I live, and to pay no one tribute from my kingdom.” After being given this answer Knút’s ambassadors left, in no way pleased with the outcome of their mission.


The skald Sigvat had been at the court of King Knút who gave him a golden [arm] ring which weighed half a mark [four ounces]. At the same time there was at King Knút’s court Bersi Skáldtorfuson,1 and to him he gave two gold rings, each weighing half a mark, as well as an inlaid sword. Sigvat spoke this verse:




275.   Gave us the glorious sovran
guerdon bounteous, so that
both our arms, Bersi,
brightly shine with gold rings.
One mark or more he gave as
meed to you, a sword eke,
sharp-edged: my share is only—
surely God rules—a half mark.


Sigvat approached the ambassadors of King Knút to King Óláf and asked them much about what had happened. They replied to his questions and told them about their talk with King Óláf and also what the outcome was. They reported that he had given a truculent answer to their message. “And we do not know,” they said, “how he has the courage to refuse to swear allegiance to King Knút and journey to his court. Yet that would be the best thing he could do, because King Knút is so gracious that however much any chieftains have offended against him, he will forgive them as soon as they come to him and submit to him. Only a short while ago two kings came to him from Fife in Scotland in the north, and he gave up his wrath against them and bestowed on them all the lands they had had before, together with great gifts of friendship. Then Sigvat spoke this verse:




276.   Princes twain did purchase
peace from Knút, they from
Fife in Scotland, fealty—
fie on them!—both offering.
Óláf the Stout not e’er to
any man in this world
bended his knee, bowing—
battles won he many.


The ambassadors of Knút went their way and had favorable winds across the sea. Then they repaired to King Knút and told him about the result of their mission, and also the final words King Óláf had spoken to them. King Knút made this reply: “King Óláf gaesses wrong if he thinks that I myself want to eat up all the cabbage in England. I would, rather, that he find out that there is more inside my ribs than cabbage only; because hostile measures shall issue henceforth from under my every rib-bone.”


That same summer there came to King Knút from Norway Áslák and Skjálg, the sons of Erling of Jathar, and they were well received by him, because Áslák was married to Sigríth, the daughter of Earl Svein Hákonarson. And Earl Hákon Eiríksson and she were brother’s children. King Knút gave the two brothers large revenues from his kingdom.


Chapter 132. Kings Óláf and Onund Form an Alliance


King Óláf summoned his landed-men to join him and collected many troops during the summer, because rumors were abroad that Knút the Powerful would come sailing from the west in summer. People believed they had it from [the crews] of merchantmen from the west that Knút was drawing together a large army in England. And as the summer wore on some affirmed, and others denied, that a fleet would be coming. King Óláf was in Vík during the summer and sent men to reconnoiter if King Knút would be coming to Denmark. In the fall King Óláf sent envoys east to Sweden to his brother-in-law, King Onund, to tell him about the message of King Knút and the claims he had made on Norway, adding that he thought that if Knút subdued Norway, Onund would not long rule Sweden in peace. It was advisable [therefore], that Onund and he concluded an alliance to oppose Knút. Then they would have sufficient forces to make head against King Knút. King Onund took King Óláf’s advice in good part and sent him the reply that he would make common cause with him, in such fashion that each would lend assistance from his country to whoever needed it first. Moreover, in their negotiations they agreed to meet and deliberate on what measures to take. King Onund intended to journey through West Gautland in the following winter and King Óláf made ready to have his winter quarters in Sarpsborg.


King Knút the Powerful that fall sailed to Denmark and remained there during the winter with a great host. He was informed that envoys and messages had passed between the kings of Norway and of Sweden and that important plannings might have been involved. King Knút sent envoys to Sweden and to King Onund that winter, with large gifts and offers of friendship. They told Onund from him that he could well sit in peace, so far as his [Knút’s] quarrel with Óláf the Stout was concerned, “for King Onund,” he said, “and his kingdom shall be left in peace by me.” Now when the envoys came before Onund, they presented to him the gifts King Knút had sent him and also tendered his friendship. King Onund received their message rather coolly, so that the envoys felt that King Onund was probably much inclined to friendship with King Óláf. On their return they reported to King Knút the outcome of their mission and that he could not expect the friendship of King Onund.


Chapter 133. Thórir the Hound Joins Karli and Gunnstein


During that winter King Óláf resided in Sarpsborg and had many troops about him. He sent Karli of Hálogaland to the northern part of the land on his missions. Karli first journeyed to the Uppland District, then north over the mountains. He arrived at Nitharós and there took as much of the king’s revenues as he was empowered to, and selected a ship which seemed to him fitting for the errand which the king had assigned to him; which was, to sail north to Bjarmaland.1 The intention was that the king and he should be in partnership, each to have half of the revenue. Early in spring Karli steered his ship north to Hálogaland. Then Gunnstein, his brother, joined him. He had his own merchandise along. There were nearly thirty men on board, and straightway they sailed that same spring north to the Mork [Finnmark].


Thórir the Hound learned about that, so he sent word by messengers to the brothers informing them that he too intended to journey to Bjarmaland in the summer and that he wished to sail together with them and to have an equal share of their gain. The brothers in reply sent word that Thórir should take along twenty-five men, which was the number of their crew. They demanded that of the goods they acquired, an equal portion should be assigned to each ship, not reckoning the merchandise each of them had along.


Now when the messengers Thórir had sent returned, he had launched a large vessel, half warship, half merchantman, which he owned, and had it equipped. As crew for this ship he used his men-servants, nearly eighty in number. Thórir alone had command of this force and was also owner of all the earnings that might be got on the expedition. When ready to sail he steered north along the land and met Karli north at Sandvær.2 Then they sailed together and had a favorable breeze.


When Thórir had joined them, Gunnstein said to his brother Karli that he thought Thórir rather strong in numbers; “and I consider,” he said, “that it is more advisable that we turn back and do not travel in such fashion that Thórir has power over us, because I do not trust him.”


Karli said, “I do not want to turn back; yet it is true that if I had known when at home in Langey that Thórir the Hound would join us with such a large crew, we would have taken more men along.”


The brothers talked about this with Thórir, asking him how it was that he had far more men with him than was stipulated. He made this answer: “I have a large ship, requiring a large crew. It would seem to me that on a hazardous enterprise such as this there never can be too many good men.”


During the summer they sailed, most of the time, as fast as the ships would travel. When there was a light breeze, Karli’s ship sailed faster, but when it freshened, Thórir caught up. Hence they rarely were together, yet never lost sight of one another. When they arrived in Bjarmaland they put into a market town, and dealings [with natives] began. All those who had merchandise along sold it at full value. Thórir acquired an abundance of grey furs as well as beaver and sable pelts. Karli also had a very great amount of wares along, with which he bought many furs.




Thórir’s men return to the ships with their booty.


When the market closed they left by way of the Vína [Dvina] River, and then the truce with the people of the land was declared to be at an end. Now when they were on the high seas, they called a meeting of the crews. Thórir asked them if they perhaps cared to go on inland and make booty. The men answered that they were eager to, providing there was a definite chance to acquire booty. Thórir said that booty could be got if everything went well, “but it is not unlikely that there is danger of life on such an enterprise.” They all said they would risk it if there was hope of making booty. Thórir said it was the custom of Bjarmaland that when a wealthy man died, all his movable property was divided between the dead man and his heirs, in such fashion that he would get half or a third of it, and sometimes less. And this property was to be carried into the woods, sometimes put into grave mounds, and covered with earth. Sometimes, houses were built for that purpose. Thórir told them to make ready for the venture in the evening. It was agreed that no one was to leave the other in the lurch, and no one was to stay behind when the steersmen gave the signal to leave.


They left men behind to guard the ships, and the others went up on land. There they first found a level plain, then a big forest. Thórir headed them, followed by Karli and Gunnstein. Thórir bade the men proceed silently, “and rip some bark from trees so that one can see one tree [so marked] from the other.” They came to a large clearing, and in it was a tall wooden palisade with a gate in it which was locked. Six of the natives were set to guard the palisade every night, two of them every third part of it.


When Thórir and his men arrived at the palisade, the watchmen had gone home, and those who were to have the next shift had not yet come to keep guard. Thórir went up to the palisade and hooked his axe [over the top], then hoisted himself up and so got over the fence. By then Karli had got over it on the other side of the gate. Both came to the gate at the same time, removed the bars, and opened the gate. Then the men entered the enclosure.


Thórir told them, “In this enclosure is a mound, and in it is gold and silver all mixed up with earth. Let us go at it. But inside the yard there stands the god of the Permians who is called Jómali.3 Let no one be so bold as to plunder him.” Thereupon they went at the mound and took out of it as much gold and silver as they could and carried it away in their garments. Much earth stuck to it, as might be expected. Then Thórir told them to leave the place. He said, “Now you brothers, Karli and Gunnstein, lead the way, and I shall bring up the rear.” Then all left by the gate. Thórir turned back to Jómali and snatched the silver bowl from his lap. It was filled with silver coins. He poured the silver into his kirtle and inserted his arm in the handle of the bowl, then left by the gate. Meanwhile all the company had passed out of the enclosure when they became aware that Thórir had stayed behind. Karli turned back to look for him, and they met inside the gate. Karli saw that Thórir had the silver bowl with him. Then Karli ran up to Jómali. He saw that he had a thick necklace around his neck. Karli swung his axe and cut in two the thong with which the necklace was fastened in the back of Jómali’s neck. That blow was so violent that Jómali’s head came off. The crash was so loud as to seem a marvel to all. Karli snatched the necklace, and then they made off. But no sooner was the crash heard than the watchmen appeared in the clearing and blew their horns. Right soon then they heard trumpets in all directions. They rushed toward the forest and into it, and heard in the clearing behind them the shouts and the hue and cry of the Permians who had come up.


Thórir the Hound went last of all the company. Two men ahead of him carried a sack for him. In it was something resembling ashes. Thórir put his hand in it and sometimes sowed the contents on their tracks behind them, at others he threw them forward over the company; and so they emerged from the forest onto the plain. They heard the army of the Permians pursuing them with shouts and evil-sounding howls. They rushed out of the forest after them on two sides, but at no time did the Permians or their missiles come so close as to do them any harm. From that they gathered that the Permians did not see them.


Now when they arrived at the ships, Karli and his men boarded his first, because they were first all along, but Thórir was farthest behind on land.


As soon as Karli and his company were aboard their ship they took down the tents and unmoored it, then hoisted sail, so their ship quickly gained the high sea; whereas Thórir and his men took a longer time, for their ship was less manageable. And when they got their sail up, Karli’s ship was far from land. Then both sailed across the White Sea. The nights were still light, so they sailed both day and night until Karli one day in the evening put to shore by some islands, where they lowered the sail, cast anchor, and waited for the falling of the tide, because there was a strong current in the sea ahead of them. Then Thórir caught up with them. He also anchored. There upon they lowered a boat. Thórir stepped into it with some men and rowed over to Karli’s ship. Thórir came on board of it. The brothers greeted him cordially. Thórir requested Karli to hand over to him the necklace. “I consider myself most entitled to have the valuables taken there, because it was owing to me that we escaped without danger to our lives. Whereas you, Karli, put us into the worst peril.”


Karli replied, “King Óláf is entitled to half of all that I gain on this journey. I intend him to have the necklace. Go to see him, if you care to, and then maybe he will let you have the necklace, in case he does not wish to have it because I took it from Jómali.” Then Thórir said he wanted both parties to go up on the island to divide their booty. Gunnstein said that the tide was turning and that it was time to sail on. Then they pulled in their cables. When Thórir saw that, he stepped down into his boat and rowed to his ship.


By the time Thórir was able to hoist his sail, Karli and his men had theirs up and had sailed quite a ways. Then they sailed on in such fashion that Karli always was ahead, and both sailed with the utmost speed. So they proceeded till they came to Geirsver,4 where there is the first landing stage for ships from the north. There they both arrived early in the evening and moored their ships by the landing stage. Thórir’s ship lay inside the harbor, Karli’s more on the outside. Now when Thórir and his men had spread their awnings, he went up on land together with many other men. They went up to Karli’s ship. By that time Karli’s crew had made ready [for the night]. Thórir hailed them and asked the skippers to come on land with him. So the two brothers did, accompanied by a few others. Then Thórir began as before, asking them to come on land and bring out for redistribution the goods they had taken as booty. The brothers said there was no necessity for that before they were back home; but Thórir insisted it was not the custom to delay the redistribution of the booty till returning home and depend on the honesty of the men.


They talked about this for some time but without being able to agree. Then Thórir turned to go; but when only a short way, he turned and told his followers to stay there. He called out to Karli. “I want to talk to you in private,” he said. Karli walked up to him. But when they met, Thórir ran a spear through his middle so that it came out in the back. Said Thórir then, “Here you may recognize a man from Bjarkey, Karli. Also, I think, you ought to recognize the spear Seal’s Avenger.” Karli died at once as Thórir and his men returned to their ship.


Gunnstein and his men saw Karli fall. They ran up straightway, carried the corpse to their ship, then quickly removed the awnings and the gangplanks and rowed away from land, then hoisted the sail and made off. When Thórir and his men saw that, they also struck their tentings, working feverishly. But when they hoisted the sail, the rope extending from the top of the mast to the stem broke, and the sail fell down athwart the ship. This caused Thórir much delay before they could again raise the sail. By this time Gunnstein was a long ways off, before Thórir’s ship could get up speed. He used both sail and oars, as did Gunnstein.


Thus they both hurried on, day and night, as fast as they could. It was a long time before Thórir could catch up, because as soon as they came to the region where there are many straits, Gunnstein’s ship was quicker in making the turns. Yet Thórir finally gained on him, so that when Gunnstein arrived at Lengjuvik,5 he steered to the land and, abandoning the ship, ran up on land [with his crew]. A little later Thórir arrived there and ran up on land after them, giving them pursuit. A certain woman managed to help and hide Gunnstein. It is said that she was greatly skilled in magic. Thórir and his men returned to their ship. They took all the valuables from Gunnstein’s ship, loaded it with stones, then took it out into the fjord, bored holes in it and sank it. Thereupon Thórir proceeded home to Bjarkey.


Gunnstein and his men at first moved stealthily, travelling by rowboats and at night, and lay still in daytime. They went on that way till they were past Bjarkey Island and out of Thórir’s district. Then Gunnstein first returned home to Langey Island, where he tarried only a short while before straightway journeying south. He did not stop till he arrived south in Trondheim. There he met King Óláf and told him what had happened on his expedition to Bjarmaland. The king was greatly put out about this, and invited Gunnstein to stay with him, saying that he would seek to make amends for Gunnstein’s grievance when the opportunity came. Gunnstein accepted that offer and remained at King Ólaf’s court.


Chapter 134. King Óláf Proceeds to Horthaland


As was related above, King Óláf that winter resided east of Sarpsborg when Knút the Powerful was in Denmark. Onund, king of Sweden, that winter rode about West Gautland with an army of more than three thousand [3600] men, and messengers and messages went between the two kings. They made the agreement to meet the following spring at Konungahella. They delayed about the meeting, because they meant to find out before what were the intentions of King Knút. But as spring wore on Knút made his fleet ready to sail west to England, leaving behind him as ruler of Denmark Hortha-Knút [Harde-Canute], his son, and with him [as adviser], Earl Úlf, the son of Thorgils Sprakalegg. Úlf was married to Ástríth, daughter of King Svein and sister of Knút the Powerful. Their son was Svein, who later was king of Denmark. Earl Úlf was a most distinguished personage.


Knút the Powerful sailed west to England. As soon as the kings Óláf and Onund learned that, they came to the meeting agreed on and met in Konungahella by the [Gaut Elf] River. It was a joyful meeting, with great attestations of friendship, so that their relations were plain to everyone. They discussed many things between them, known to themselves alone, but some of which were put into effect later so as to become plain to everybody. At their parting, the two kings exchanged gifts and parted as friends.


Then King Onund proceeded inland to Gautland, but King Óláf, north to Vík, and later on to Agthir, and from there north along the land. He was becalmed for a long time in Eika Sound. There he learned that Erling Skjálgsson and the inhabitants of Jathar had gathered a large force.


One day some followers of the king talked about the weather and whether the wind was in the south or southwest and whether weather conditions were right for rounding Jathar. Most of them were of the opinion that they were not. Then Halldór Brynjólfsson replied. “It seems to me,” he said, “that you would consider sailing conditions good enough to round Jathar if Erling Skjálgsson had prepared a reception for us at Sóli.” Then King Óláf commanded the awnings to be taken off and the ships to be turned about. So was done, and they sailed that day past Jathar with an excellent breeze, and in the evening anchored by Hvítingsey Island. From there the king proceeded to Horthaland and was entertained there.


Chapter 135. Thórálf Is Slain


That spring a ship had sailed to the Faroes. On that ship were messengers carrying King Óláf’s orders that one of the men whom he had selected to be his attendants, whether Leif Ozurarson or Gilli the Lawspeaker, or Thórálf of Dimon, was to come to him in Norway. But when this message was brought to the Faroes, and personally to these men, they discussed among themselves what might be at the bottom of these orders; and they agreed in surmising that the king wished to inquire about just what was said to have happened in the islands, and which some held to be true, with respect to the disaster which had befallen the [previous] messengers of the king and their crews, of which not a man had been rescued. They came to the decision that Thórálf was to go.


He made ready for the journey and outfitted the cargo ship he owned with a crew. On that vessel were ten or twelve men. But when they were all ready to sail and were waiting for a favorable breeze, it happened, one fine day, that Thránd came into the living room of his house in Gata on the Island of Austrey, and there he found his two nephews, Sigurth and Thórth, both lying on the dais. They were sons of Thorlák. A third man there was called Gaut the Red, also a kinsman of theirs. They were all foster sons of Thránd, and doughty men. Sigurth was the oldest, and in most cases their leader. Thórth had a nickname, being called Thórth the Little, though he was exceedingly tall, besides being stout of frame and strong.


Then Thránd spoke as follows: “There is much change in the course of one’s life. When we were young it was uncommon for men who were young and fit, to be lying or sitting [around] in good weather. To men of that time it would not have seemed likely that Thórálf of Dimon was a better man than you. But the cargo ship I own and that stands in the boathouse is getting so old now, I think, that its planks are rotting underneath the tar. Every shed here is full of wool, but it is not offered for sale. That would not be the case if I were some years younger.”


Sigurth sprang up and called on Gaut and Thórth, saying he could not stand Thránd’s reproaches. They left the house and, the men-servants joining them, went and launched the cargo boat, then had the wares brought out, and loaded the ship. Nor was there any lack of wares or of tackle at the place, so they got the ship ready within a few days. They had a crew of ten or twelve besides themselves. And both Thórálf and they started out with the same wind and always kept in sight of one another across the sea. They made land toward evening at Hernar.1 Sigurth anchored farther outside along the beach, but there was no great distance between them.


Then this happened: in the evening, when it had become dark, and Thórálf and his men prepared to go to sleep, Thórálf himself, together with another man, went up on land to relieve himself. And when about to return to the ship—as relates the man who accompanied Thórálf—a cloth was thrown over the companion’s head and he was lifted up off the ground. At the same time he heard a crash. Then he was carried off and knocked down. Below him was the sea, and he was flung into it. Yet he managed to come to land and went to the spot where Thórálf and he were separated, and there he found Thórálf dead, with his head cleft down to his shoulders. As soon as the crew found that out they carried his body aboard the ship and kept a wake over it during the night.


At this time King Óláf was being entertained at Lygra,2 and news of this happening was sent there. Then people were summoned by messengers, and the king came to the assembly. He had summoned the Faroese from both ships, and the crews of both were present. And when the session began, the king arose and spoke as follows: “Things have come to pass here which are of rare occurrence, and better so. A brave man has been killed here, and so far as we know, for no [just] cause. Is there perchance a man here who can tell us who has done this deed?” But no one spoke up. Then the king said, “I shall not conceal from you what I suspect, and that is that we must put the blame for this misdeed on the Faroese [themselves]. It would appear to me that Sigurth Thorláksson slew the man, and that Thórth the Little heaved the other man into the sea. I shall also add that I surmise the reason for their foul deed is that they did not want Thórálf to tell about the misdeeds he probably knew they had committed, to wit, what we have long suspected, the murder and mistreatment of my messengers.”


Now when the king ceased speaking, Sigurth Thorláksson arose. He said, “I have not spoken before at assemblies. So I believe people will not consider me ready of speech. Yet I think it very necessary to make some answer. I dare say that the speech the king made probably originated with men who are much less wise than he and of worse disposition, and it is plain that they mean to be hostile to us in all respects. It is wholly unlikely that I should want to be the killer of Thórálf, because he was my foster brother and my good friend. And even if circumstances had been different and there had been cause for hostility between Thórálf and me, I have wits enough about me to have dared to commit this crime at home in the Faroes rather than right here, sir king, where I am in your power. Now therefore I want to deny, both for myself and all my crew, any complicity in this deed. I will swear oaths upon that according to your laws. And if you think more confirmation necessary, I offer to prove my innocence by undergoing the ordeal of carrying glowing iron. And I would want you yourself to be present when I clear myself.”


When Sigurth ceased speaking, many pleaded for him and requested the king to let Sigurth take the test for his innocence. They considered that Sigurth had spoken well and declared him not guilty of the misdeed attributed to him. The king said, “About this man one might have widely different opinions. If he is falsely accused in this he is likely to be a good man; but if the opposite is true, then he must be a man of unexampled audacity—and my guess is that the latter is the case. But I suppose he shall himself have to bear witness [of either].” And at the supplication of many the king allowed Sigurth to make pledge that he would undergo the ordeal. He was to return to Lygra the day following, and the bishop was to prepare for the ordeal. And so the meeting broke up. The king returned to Lygra, and Sigurth and his companions to their ship.


It soon began to grow dark with approaching night. Then Sigurth said to his crew, “To say the truth, we have got into great difficulties and have been basely slandered. This king is crafty and deceitful, and it is easy to see what will be our fate if he prevails; for first he had Thórálf slain and now wants to brand us as evildoers and criminals. It will be easy for him to falsify this ordeal. I would consider it dangerous to risk that with him. And now there is a light breeze from the mountains along the sound. I advise that we hoist our sail and make for the open sea. Let Thránd have his wool sold for him another summer. But if I get away, there is little expectation that I shall ever come to Norway again.” His crew thought that was a wise counsel. They hoisted the sail and made for the open sea the fastest they could during the night. They did not stop before they arrived in the Faroes and came home to Gata. Thránd was ill-pleased with their voyage. They answered him in kind, yet stayed with Thránd.


Chapter 136. The Icelanders Refuse to Pay Tribute to King Óláf


King Óláf immediately learned that Sigurth and his companions had taken themselves off; and heavy suspicions were voiced concerning their case. Now many who had before denied it said that it was most likely that Sigurth and his men were guilty. King Óláf did not say much about the case, but he thought he knew the truth of what before he had suspected. So he proceeded on his way, accepting the entertainment arranged for him.


King Óláf summoned for a conference the men who had come to him from Iceland: Thórodd Snorrason, Gellir Thorkelsson, Stein Skaptason, and Egil Hallsson. The king spoke to them as follows: “You mentioned to me this summer that you wanted to make ready and return to Iceland, but I had so far come to no final decision about that. Now I shall tell you what are my intentions. You, Gellir, I want to journey to Iceland if you will deliver my message there. But as to the other Icelanders here, no one of you is to return there until I learn how the message is accepted which you, Gellir, are to deliver there.”


When the king had voiced his intentions, those who were eager to travel [home] but had been forbidden, considered they were being meanly treated and that their condition was an ill one, amounting to their being deprived of their liberty. But Gellir got himself ready for the journey and in summer sailed to Iceland. He had with him the message of the king, that he requested the Icelanders to adopt the laws he had given in Norway; also, to pay him weregild for any subject of his slain [in Iceland]; also a poll-tax of one penny, worth one tenth of an ell of homespun. He furthermore promised them his friendship if they would assent to those conditions, or else hard terms whenever he would be able to enforce them.


The Icelanders deliberated for a long time about this matter, and finally it was agreed by all to refuse paying any taxes and all the imposts the king had demanded. And Gellir that same summer travelled to Norway and sought out King Óláf who was at Vík that fall after having come to the seashore from Gautland, as I expect will be told later in the saga of King Óláf. But as the season wore on, the king proceeded north to Trondheim, steering his fleet to Nitharós where he had preparations made to reside during the winter. King Óláf resided in the town during the following winter. That was the thirteenth year of his reign.


Chapter 137. The Jamtalanders Decide to Pay Their Tribute to Sweden


A certain man was called Ketil of Jamtaland who was the son of Earl Onund of Sparabú in the District of Trondheim. He had fled the rule of King Eystein the Wicked, going east over the Keel. There he had cleared the forests and cultivated the land which is now called Jamtaland. A great number of people also fled to the east from Trondheim because of the troubles caused by King Eystein’s laying the people there under tribute and setting over them as king his dog, called Saur. Ketil’s grandson was Thórir Helsing, after whom Helsingjaland was named, because it was cultivated by him. Now when Harald Fairhair subjugated Norway, a great number of people in like manner fled the country, people both from Trondheim and Naumu Dale, when further settlements were founded in Jamtaland to the east. Some went all the way to Helsingjaland by the Baltic, and they became the subjects of the Swedish kings.1


But when Hákon, the foster son of Æthelstān, was king of Norway, peace and trade were established between Trondheim and Jamtaland; and because of the popularity of the king the people of Jamtaland came to him, declaring their fealty to him and paying him tribute. He established their laws and statutes. They preferred his rule to that of the Swedish kings, because they were Norwegians by descent. And so did all those of Helsingjaland whose origin was north [west] of the Keel. And this relation lasted for a long time afterwards, until Óláf the Stout and Óláf, the king of Sweden, quarrelled about the division of lands between them. At that time the people of Jamtaland and Helsingjaland changed their allegiance to be under the king of Sweden, so that the boundary [between the kingdoms] ran from the Eith Forest in the east along the Keel all the way north to Finnmark. Then the king of Sweden levied tribute both from Helsingjaland and from Jamtaland. But King Óláf thought that, according to the agreement between him and the king of Sweden, the tribute from Jamtaland was to go in another direction, as had been the case of old. Yet [as a fact] for a long time the people of Jamtaland had paid their dues to the king of Sweden, and the stewards over them had come from there. So the Swedes would not have it any other way than that all the land east of the Keel belonged to the king of Sweden. It was then, as often is the case, that even though there was relationship and [even] friendship between kings, yet both of them would have all the lands they considered they had a claim to. King Óláf [the Stout] had sent word to Jamtaland that it was his will that the people there should declare their allegiance to him, or else he would use force against them. However, they had decided that they wanted to be subject to the king of Sweden.


Chapter 138. Stein Slays Thorgeir and Seeks Refuge with Ragnhild


Thórodd Snorrason and Stein Skaptason were greatly dissatisfied that they were not permitted to travel as they pleased. Stein Skaptason was a very handsome man, greatly skilled in bodily accomplishments, a good poet, very fond of fine clothes, and most enterprising. His father, Skapti,1 had composed a drápa about King Óláf and had taught it to Stein. It was the intention that he should recite the poem to the king. Stein did not refrain from saying things in reproach of the king both in his speech and in verse. Both he and Thórodd were incautious in their speech and said that the king would fare worse than they who had sent their sons to him in good faith, whereas the king deprived them of their liberty. The king became furious [when he heard of this]. One day, when Stein Skaptason was in the presence of the king and asked for permission to recite the drápa which his father, Skapti, had composed about him, the king said, “First, Stein, I would hear you recite the poem you have composed about me.”


Stein replied that what he had composed amounted to nothing. “I am no skald, sire,” he said, “and even if I could indite a poem, it would seem of no importance to you just like other things about me.” And then Stein went his way, but he thought he knew what the king alluded to.2


Thorgeir was the name of one of the king’s bailiffs who managed an estate of his in Orka Dale. At the time, he was at the court and had listened to the conversation between the king and Stein. Not long after that, Thorgeir journeyed home. One night, Stein escaped from the town, and his page with him. They travelled across Gaular Ridge3 and continued on their way till they came to Orka Dale, arriving in the evening at the royal estate which Thorgeir managed. Thorgeir invited Stein to stay there for the night and asked what the purpose of his journey was. Stein asked him to let him have a horse and a sleigh. He saw that they had been bringing in the grain.


Thorgeir said, “I do not know about the nature of your journey, and whether you are travelling by the king’s permission. It seemed to me some little while ago that your exchange of words with the king was not very peaceful.”


Stein said, “Though I am not my own master as against the king, I shall not be so as against his thralls.” With that he drew his sword and killed the bailiff, then took the horse and bade his man jump on its back. Stein himself seated himself in the sleigh, and so they went their way, driving all the night. They journeyed on till they came down in Súrna Dale in Mœr. There they obtained passage over the fjord. They travelled as fast as they could, without telling people about the slaying of Thorgeir, but calling themselves men in the king’s employ. They received good help wherever they came.


One day in the evening they arrived at Gizki,4 the estate of Thorberg Árnason. He was not at home, but his wife, Ragnhild, the daughter of Erling Skjálgsson, was. There, Stein got a cordial reception, for she had been very well acquainted with him from before.


It had been this way: when Stein had arrived from Iceland on the ship he owned himself, and made land at Gizki, anchoring by the island, Ragnhild was in the throes of childbirth and had a very difficult time. There was no priest on the island nor anywhere in the neighborhood. Then messengers were sent to the merchantman to inquire if perchance there was a priest on board. Now there was a priest on the ship, one called Bárth. He hailed from the Westfirth District [in Iceland] and was a young and not particularly learned man. The messengers requested this priest to go with them up to the house. It seemed to him that this might turn out to be a very difficult business as he was conscious of his ignorance, so he refused to go. Then Stein put in a word with the priest and asked him to go. The priest answered, “I shall go if you go with me. For then I shall have more confidence if I have you to advise me.” Stein said he would be glad to do so.


Then they went up to the estate where Ragnhild lived. A short time thereafter she gave birth to a girl child which appeared very weak. So the priest baptized the infant while Stein held the babe during baptismal service. It was named Thóra. Stein gave the infant a gold finger ring.5 Ragnhild promised Stein her cordial friendship and told him to look her up if he thought he needed her help. Stein said that he would not hold any more girl children during baptism, and with that they parted. But now it had come to pass that Stein reminded her of her kind words and told her what had happened and that he had incurred the wrath of the king. She replied that she would assist him to the best of her ability and asked him to wait till Thorberg returned. Meanwhile she assigned him a seat next to her son, Eystein Orri. He was twelve years old at that time. Stein made presents to both Ragnhild and Eystein.


Thorberg had learned about Stein’s doings before his return and was very much put out. Ragnhild went to speak with him, told him about what Stein had done, and asked him to take in Stein and do what he could to assist him. Thorberg said, “I have learned that the king has had a meeting summoned by arrow-message when he learned of the killing of Thorgeir and that Stein has been declared an outlaw; also, that the king is most furious. And I have more sense than to protect a foreigner and draw upon myself the wrath of the king. Let Stein get himself gone from here at once.”


Ragnhild replied that both she and Stein would leave or else both stay. Thorberg asked her to go wherever she pleased. “I expect,” he said, “that though you go you will soon return, because nowhere else will you have as much to say.” Thereupon Eystein Orri, their son, came forward. He declared that he would not remain behind if Ragnhild departed. Thorberg said they showed much obstinacy and a hot temper in behaving in this fashion. “And it seems best to let you two have your way in this matter since it appears of such importance to you. But you take all too much after your family, Ragnhild, in not heeding what King Óláf says.”


Ragnhild replied, “If you are afraid to lend Stein your assistance, then why not go with him to my father Erling, or else give him enough attendants along so that he may get there unharmed?” Thorberg replied that he would not send Stein there, “because Erling has trouble enough on his hands in his dealings with the king.”


Stein remained there during the winter. But after Yule messengers of the king came to Thorberg requesting him to report to him before Mid-Lent, and they laid great stress on it. Thorberg brought this up before his friends, asking for their advice whether he should risk going to see the king, considering how matters stood. Most of them advised against it, holding it wisest to get rid of Stein before putting himself in the power of the king. Thorberg was more inclined to do the latter and not delay about getting started.


Some little time afterwards Thorberg looked up his brother Finn and brought the matter up before him, asking him to go along. Finn replied that he thought it unfortunate to have such a domineering wife that, on account of her, he did not dare to keep his pledge to his king. “Of course you have the choice whether or not to go with me,” said Thorberg, “but I am thinking that you will not, more out of fear than because of loyalty to the king.”


They parted in a dudgeon. Thereupon Thorberg looked up Árni Árnason, [another] brother of his, told him how matters stood, and asked him to go with him before the king. Árni said, “It seems strange to me that so wise and circumspect a man as you have got yourself in such an unfortunate situation as to call down upon yourself the wrath of the king when there was no need to. It would have been understandable if you had given aid to a kinsman or foster brother, but not at all that you have supported an Ice-lander outlawed by the king and thus endangered all your kinsmen.”


Thorberg said, “It is as the adage has it: there is a degenerate in every family. This misfortune of my father I see very clearly: he was unlucky with his sons and had one finally who bears no resemblance to our kin and is devoid of any spirit. And if I did not think it a shame for our mother, I would never call you my brother.” With that Thorberg turned to go and journeyed home to his estate in a very despondent frame of mind. Then he sent word north to Trondheim to his brother Kálf, requesting him to come to meet him at Agthaness. And when the messengers found Kálf, without saying a word he promised to be there.


Ragnhild sent messengers east [south] to Jathar, praying her father, Erling, to send her troops. Erling’s two sons, Sigurth and Thórir, proceeded from there, each with a ship of twenty rowers’ benches and a crew of ninety men. And when they arrived at Thorberg’s place to the north he received them well and most joyfully. He readied a vessel with twenty rowers’ benches for the journey. And when they came to———6 they found moored there Finn and Árni, Thorberg’s brothers, with two vessels of twenty rowers’ benches. Thorberg gave his brothers a glad welcome and remarked that his incitation had taken effect on them. Finn replied that there had rarely been a necessity for it, so far as he was concerned. Then they proceeded north to Trondheim with all this fleet, and Stein with them. And when they arrived at Agthaness,7 they found there Kálf Árnason, and he had a ship with twenty rowers’ benches and a good crew. With his force they entered [the Trondheimfjord] and anchored at Nitharhólm during the night.


On the following morning they conferred together. Kálf and the sons of Erling were for entering the town with all their force and trust to luck how things would go; but Thorberg preferred to proceed gently, to start with, and offer [the king] conditions; and with that Finn and Árni agreed. They came to the conclusion that Finn and Árni, accompanied by a few men, should first have a meeting with King Óláf.


The king had by then been apprised of the considerable force they had, and spoke harshly to them. Finn offered compensation for Thorberg and also for Stein. He offered the king the decision as to the amount of money he would exact for letting Thorberg stay in the country and retain his revenues, and for giving Stein assurance of life and limb. The king said, “It would seem to me that this attack of yours is made with the idea essentially that now you have power over me, half-ways or altogether. But I would have thought it most unlikely that you brothers would move on me with an army. I suspect that it is the people of Jathar [Erling and his kin] who have hatched this plan. It is no use to offer me money.”


Then Finn replied, “We brothers have not raised troops to carry on hostilities against you, sire; but on the contrary we would first offer our services to you, sir king. But if you refuse, and intend to inflict harsh punishment on Thorberg, then we all shall, with the forces we have, proceed to join Knút the Powerful.” Then the king looked at him and said, “If you brothers would swear oaths to me that you will support me, within the country and outside of it, nor part with me except by my permission, and reveal to me any treachery brewing against me, then I will accept compensation from you brothers.”


Thereupon Finn returned to his forces and repeated to them the conditions the king had laid down. And then they discussed this among them. Thorberg said that so far as he was concerned he would accept the king’s offer. “I am loath to flee from my possessions,” he said, “and seek refuge with foreign princes. I consider it will always be an honor for me to follow King Óláf and remain in his presence.”


Then Kálf said, “I do not care to swear oaths to the king, and would stay with the king only so long as I retain my revenues and my rank otherwise, and if the king promises me his friendship; and I would that we all agree on that.”


Finn replied, “I would advise that we let the king alone decide on terms between us.” Árni Árnason spoke thus, “If I am ready to assist you, brother Thorberg, even if you are ready to do battle with the king, I shall [certainly] not part with you if you take better counsel; and I would follow you and Finn in accepting such conditions as you consider wisest.”


Thereupon the three brothers Thorberg, Finn, and Árni, boarded a ship, rowed up to the city, and went before the king. Then this stipulation for their reconciliation was fulfilled in that the brothers swore the king oaths [of allegiance]. Following this, Thorberg sought to achieve a reconciliation of Stein and the king. The king said that Stein might proceed in peace, so far as he was concerned, and go wherever he pleased, “but I do not want him to be around me any more,” he said. Thereupon Thorberg and his brothers rejoined their force. Kálf then proceeded to [his estate at] Egg, but Finn joined the king. Thorberg and the rest of their troops returned to their homes in the south. Stein journeyed south with the sons of Erling; but in early spring he sailed west to England, where he joined the court of Knút the Powerful and remained with him for a long time in high favor.


Chapter 139. Thórir the Hound and Finn Árnason


When Finn Árnason had been with King Óláf for a short time, one day the king summoned for a conference him and a number of other men with whom he was accustomed to discuss his intentions. The king spoke as follows: “The plan has taken shape in my mind that I intend this spring to levy from all the land forces of both men and ships, and with all the troops I can collect proceed against Knút the Powerful; because I know that the claims to my kingdom which he has made were not empty words. Now I shall want you, Finn Árnason, to carry my message north to Hálogaland and levy troops there. You are to summon a complete levy, both of men and ships, and this force you are to steer to Agthaness, where I shall meet you.” Thereupon the king detailed others [to do the same], sending some to the various districts of Trondheim, some to the south, so as to let this summons go over all the land.


Concerning Finn’s journey there is this to be said that he had a swiftsailing ship with a crew of nearly thirty men. And when all ready he sailed to Hálogaland. There he called meetings with the farmers, delivered his message, and demanded a levy. They had large ships in that district all ready for such an expedition. They responded to the king’s summons and got their vessels shipshape.


Now when Finn proceeded to the northern part of Hálogaland he called [the farmers] to assemblies and despatched some of his men to request the levy where he thought it was required, and also to Bjarkey, to Thórir the Hound. There as elsewhere he had his men demand a levy. And when the messengers of the king came to Thórir he made himself ready for the journey and manned with his housecarls the ship he had had the summer before on his expedition to Bjarmaland, which he had equipped entirely out of his own means.


Finn had all the men from northern Hálogaland assemble at Vágar. A great fleet came together there in spring, and all waited till Finn arrived from the north, among them also Thórir the Hound. Now when Finn arrived, he had the trumpets blown immediately for all the ships’ crews to meet together. At this meeting the men produced their weapons, and the levy from every district furnishing a ship-levy was examined. And when this had been done, Finn spoke as follows: “Thee, Thórir the Hound, I want to ask: what offer will you make to King Óláf for the slaying of Karli, his follower, and for the robbery you committed when you took possession of the king’s property north in Lengjuvik? I am charged by the king to see about this business, and I now demand to know your answer.” Thórir looked about him and saw standing on both sides of him many fully-armed men, and recognized among them Gunnstein and a multitude of other kinsmen of Karli. Then Thórir said, “Quickly I shall tell you my offer, Finn. I shall leave all to the king’s decision, whatever he has against me.” Finn answered, “Most likely now less honor is going to be shown you; because now it will be I who shall impose judgment if there is to be any reconciliation.” Thórir replied, “Even so I consider my case in excellent hands, and shall not refuse to submit to your judgment.”


Thereupon Thórir came forward to make pledge, and Finn gave his decision for all [Thórir had done]. He set forth these terms for compensation: that Thórir was to pay the king ten marks1 in gold, and to Gunnstein and his kinsmen another ten marks, and for the robbery and destruction of property still another ten marks. “And it is to be paid at once,” he said.


Thórir said, “This is a huge fine.”


Finn replied, “Either you pay it or there will be no reconciliation.” Thórir said that Finn might allow him time to seek to borrow the amount from his followers. Finn ordered him to pay right away, and also to hand over the large necklace which he took off Karli’s dead body. Thórir said he did not take the necklace.


Then Gunnstein came forward and said that when Karli left him he wore the necklace, “but it was gone when we took up his body.”


Thórir said he had not thought about that necklace, “but even if I had any necklace it would be lying at home in Bjarkey.” Then Finn leveled the point of his spear against Thórir’s breast and told him to yield up the necklace. At which Thórir took the necklace off his neck and gave it to Finn.


Then Thórir went aboard his ship. Finn followed after him accompanied by many others, going to and fro [on the ship] and lifting up the floor-boards. Underneath them by the mast they discovered two barrels of such great size that they marvelled. Finn asked what was in them. Thórir said they held his drink.


Finn said, “Why don’t you give us some of it, partner, since you have such a lot of it?”


Thórir called to a man to pour some of it into a bowl. Then Finn and his companions were given the drink, and they found it excellent. Thereupon Finn ordered Thórir to pay out the money. Thórir went to and fro on his ship and spoke to one and the other of the men. Finn called out to him to come forward with the money. Thórir requested him to go on land, saying he would pay it there. Finn and his men did so; and Thórir followed him and paid out silver. Out of one purse he fetched ten marks of weighed silver. Then he produced many kerchiefs all knotted up. In some there was a mark of weighed silver, in others half a mark or else a few ounces.


Then Thórir said: “This is borrowed money that various men have loaned me, because all the ready money I had on hand is gone.” Thereupon Thórir went back to his ship, and when he returned he paid out the silver little by little, and thus the day wore on.


Now as soon as the assembly came to an end, people went aboard their ships and prepared to depart. And those who were ready began to sail, so that most of them were on their way. Finn then perceived that the force about him was thinning, so his men asked him to get ready, too. By that time not even a third of the money had been paid. Then Finn said to Thórir, “It takes you a long time, Thórir, to make the payment. I can see you pay it out most grudgingly. So for the first we shall have to let it stand. You will have to pay the king the remainder.”2 Then Finn stood up.


Thórir said, “I am glad, Finn, that our ways part; but I shall be willing to pay this debt in such fashion that neither you nor the king shall consider yourselves repaid insufficiently.”3 Then Finn boarded his ship and sailed after his fleet.


Thórir was slow in getting ready to leave the harbor. And when he had hoisted his sail he pursued a course through the West Fjord and then out into the open sea and south along the land in such fashion that the land was almost or altogether out of sight, and so he sailed south till he reached the North Sea and England. He proceeded to the court of King Knút who received him well. It was then seen that Thórir had with him an abundance of valuables and all the money he and Karli had taken in Bjarmaland. In the large barrels there was a false bottom, and the drink in between, and both the barrels were mainly filled with squirrel skins and beaver and sable furs. Thórir stayed with King Knút.


Finn Árnason with his fleet joined King Óláf. He told him about his expedition and also, that he believed Thórir had left the country and had sailed west to England to King Knút—“and I consider us well rid of him.”


The king said, “I believe Thórir is our enemy, and the farther [he is] from us, the better.”


Chapter 140. King Óláf Awards Judgment against Hárek of Thjótta


Ásmund Grankelsson had passed that winter in his stewardship in Hálogaland, staying with his father Grankel. Seaward from their place is an outlying fishing station which was both a good seal hunting and fowling ground, and an excellent place for gathering eggs, and for fishing, and from of old it belonged to the farm Grankel owned. But Hárek of Thjótta laid claim to it, and things had gone so far that for several years he had had all the produce from that island. But then Ásmund and his father thought they might have the support of the king for their just claims. So in spring they both went to Hárek, reporting to him the decision, and showing him the tokens, of King Óláf, to the effect that Hárek should desist from his claims on the island. Hárek answered ill-naturedly, alleging that Ásmund had been to the king with such and similar wrong representations. “I have all the right on my side, and you, Ásmund, should learn to control your demands, even though you now are puffed up, believing you have the king’s support. And you will need it if you think you can contrive to kill some chieftains, after branding them as criminals, and rob us who hitherto had thought we could more than assert ourselves, even if it were against men of equal birth; whereas in fact you are very far from being of equal station.”


Ásmund made this answer: “There are many who have found out, Hárek, that you belong to a great family and are a man of great power yourself. You have taken unfair advantage of many. But now it looks as if you have to exercise your unjust dealings on others and not on us and not set the law at defiance in such fashion.” With that they parted.


Hárek sent out ten or twelve of his men servants in a large rowboat. They went out to the fishing station, made all kinds of haul, and loaded the boat with it. When they were about to leave, Ásmund Grankelsson came up with thirty men and ordered them give up all they had caught. Hárek’s men were rather slow to do so. Thereupon Ásmund attacked them, and it soon appeared who had the odds against him. Some of Hárek’s men were beaten, some wounded, and some were ducked in the sea, and all their catch was taken out of their boat and carried away by Ásmund’s men. Hárek’s men servants returned home after that had happened and told Hárek about it. He answered, “That is something altogether new. That has never occurred before that my men were beaten.” Nothing was done about it, and Hárek said no more about it and displayed a most cheerful mood.


In spring Hárek had a swift-sailing ship with twenty rowers’ benches got ready, manning it with his housecarls, and it was excellently equipped both as to crew and fittings. With it Hárek in spring had joined the general levy. When he came to King Óláf, he encountered Ásmund Grankelsson there. Then the king arranged a meeting between Ásmund and Hárek and got them reconciled. The case was submitted to the king’s judgment. Then Ásmund produced witnesses to prove that the fishing station belonged to Grankel, and the king judged accordingly, so that the case was all one-sided. There was no compensation decreed for Hárek’s housecarls, and the fishing station was awarded to Grankel. Hárek said it is in nowise humiliating to obey the judgment of the king, however the case might turn out later.


Chapter 141. Thórodd Escapes from Jamtaland


On the orders of King Óláf, Thórodd Snorrason had remained in Norway when, as was put down before, Gellir Thorkelsson had received permission to return to Iceland; and he stayed at the court of King Óláf, ill-pleased with not being allowed to travel wherever he wanted to. At the beginning of the winter during which King Óláf resided in Nitharós, he made it known that he meant to send emissaries to Jamtaland to collect the taxes. But men were unwilling to undertake that journey because the messengers King Óláf had sent before [for that purpose], Thránd the White and eleven others, had been killed, as was written above. And the people of Jamtaland had since that time remained loyal to the king of Sweden.


Thórodd Snorrason offered to undertake that mission, because he cared very little what might happen to him if only he could be his own master. The king accepted his offer, and Thórodd started with eleven others. They arrived east in Jamtaland and sought out a man called Thórar. He was lawspeaker there, and a man of the greatest distinction. They were well received there; and after having stayed there a short time they revealed their mission to Thórar. He replied that for an answer to it, other men and chieftains of the district were as responsible as he, and promised he would summon an assembly. So he did. The call for an assembly was sent out and many gathered for it. Thórar attended it while the emissaries remained at his place. Thórar laid the matter before the people, and they all agreed on not wanting to pay the king of Norway any tax. As to his emissaries, some wanted them hanged, others wanted to use them as sacrifices. It was decided to retain them there till the bailiffs of the king of Sweden arrived: they were then to decide about them as they saw fit, with the consent of the people of the district; but the messengers were to be given the impression that they were being well treated, and retained only because they were to wait for the tax to be brought in; and they were to be lodged, two in one place.


Thórodd and one other man stayed at Thórar’s place. There was a great Yuletide entertainment there, with joint drinking. There were many farmers in that settlement, and they all drank together at Yuletide. There was another settlement not far away where lived a relation of Thórar, a powerful and wealthy man, who had a grown son. These relatives were to celebrate Yule at each other’s place in turn, first at Thórar’s. The two kinsmen drank to one another, and Thórodd, to the farmer’s son. They held a drinking match, and in the evening a contest arose between the Norwegians and the Swedes, and following that, a matching of their kings, both those of former times and those still living; and then there was a discussion of the hostilities between the two countries and the killings and depredations attending them.


Then the farmer’s son said, “If our kings lost more men, the bailiffs of the king of Sweden will make up for that with the lives of twelve men when they arrive here from the south after Yule, and you poor men do not know why you are kept here.” Thórodd considered what he was going to say to that while many grinned and used foul language about them and their king. Then, as the ale had its effect on the Jamtalanders, things became clear to Thórodd which he had not before suspected.


On the day following, Thórodd and his companion took their clothing and their weapons so that they had them handy; and later in the night when men were asleep they slipped away to the forest. Next morning when people became aware of their escape, they were pursued with bloodhounds that spotted them where they had hidden, and they were brought back to a small detached house in which there was a deep pit. They were put in there and the door was locked on them. They were given little food and they had no clothes except those they wore.


When it was middle of Yule, Thórar and all the freemen repaired to his relative where they were to be guests during the latter part of Yule. Thórar’s thralls were left to guard the prisoners. Enough of the drink was left them, and they observed no moderation about it and in the evening straightway became drunk with it. Now when they felt themselves completely drunk, those who were to bring food to the men in the pit agreed with each other that the prisoners were not to lack food. Thórodd recited poems, and so entertained the thralls, and they declared him to be a capital fellow and gave him a real big candle and lighted it for him. Then those of them who had been inside the house went outside and called out loud to the others to go in; but both parties were drunk, so they locked neither the pit nor the house. Then Thórodd and his companion tore their cloaks into shreds, knotted them together, and made a knot on the end. This rope they threw up onto the floor of the house. There it wrapped itself around the foot of a chest and was fast there. They then tried to haul themselves up. Thórodd lifted his companion up to stand on his shoulders, whereupon he crawled up through the opening in the floor. He found plenty of rope in the house and let it down to Thórodd. But when he attempted to pull Thórodd up he found he did not have sufficient strength. Then Thórodd told him to throw the rope over the cross-beam of the house and make a loop on the end of it, and in it place enough stones and wood so as to more than outweigh him; and so he did. Then that weight went down into the pit, and Thórodd came up.


They got them all the clothes they needed in the house. There were some reindeer skins there, and from these they cut the hoofs and tied them backward under their feet. Before they left they put fire to a large barn, then betook themselves off into the pitch-dark night. The barn burned down, and many another house in the settlement.


Thórodd and his companion traversed the wilderness all night, hiding during the day. They were missed in the morning. Then people went out in all directions with bloodhounds to look for them. But the dogs tracked their footprints back to the house, because they scented the reindeer hoofs and tracked the footprints in the direction shown by the hoofs, and nothing came of the search.


Thórodd and his companion travelled for a long time in the desert woods and one evening came to a small farm. They went in, and found a man and a woman sitting by the fire. The man gave his name as Thórir and said the woman sitting there was his wife. He also told them that he had settled there because he had to flee the village on account of a killing. Thórodd and his companion were well entertained, and they all ate by the fire. Afterwards a place for their bedding was made for them on the dais, and they lay down to sleep. The fire in the fireplace had not died down yet. Then Thórodd saw a man come in out of another house. He had never seen so large a man. That man wore a scarlet cloak with a gold lace border and was of a most stately appearance. Thórodd heard him reproach their hosts for taking in guests when they scarcely had enough to eat themselves. The woman of the house answered, “Don’t be angry, brother, this has rarely happened before. Rather do you give them some help, because you are better able to do so than we.” Thórodd heard that large man called Arnljót Gellini, and gathered that the woman of the house was his sister. Thórodd had heard Arnljót mentioned and that he was a wicked highwayman and evildoer.


Thórodd and his companion slept during the night, for they were tired from walking. But when two thirds of the night had passed, Arnljót came to them and told them to get up and make ready for the journey. So Thórodd and his companion got up quickly and dressed. They were given a breakfast. Then Thórir provided them both with skis. Arnljót made ready to go with them. He mounted his skis, which were both broad and long. But no sooner had he stuck down his ski pole but he was far ahead of them. Then he stopped for them and said they would get nowhere that way, and told them to get on his skis [behind him]. So they did. Thórodd stood close to him, holding onto Arnijót’s belt, and his companion held onto him. Thereupon Arnljót ran as fast as though he were unencumbered.


When a third of the night1 had passed they came to some place of shelter for travellers. There they kindled a fire and prepared to eat. But while they ate, Arnljót warned them not to throw away any bit of food, whether bones or crumbs. Arnljót took a silver dish from out of his cloak and ate from it. When they had eaten their fill Arnljót hid their leavings, and then they prepared to go to sleep.


In one end of the house there was a loft up above the cross beams. Arnljót and the two others climbed up there and lay down to sleep. Arnljót had a large halberd whose socket was inlaid with gold and whose shaft was so long that with uplifted hands one could just reach the socket, and he was girded with a sword. They took both their weapons and their clothes with them into the loft. Arnljót told them to keep their peace. He lay on the outside [of where they lay] in the loft.


Shortly afterwards there came twelve men into the house. They were merchants who were travelling to Jamtaland with their wares. Now when they entered the house they were noisy with cheerful merriment and kindled big fires. And when they ate they threw all the bones away. Then they got ready to sleep and lay down on the dais by the fire. When they had slept but a short time, a big troll woman came to the house, and when she entered it, she swiftly swept everything together, bones and everything she thought edible and devoured it. Then she grabbed the man lying nearest to her, ripped him to pieces, and threw him on the fire. Then the others awoke as if from a bad dream, and jumped up; but she killed one after the other, so that only one survived. He ran in under the loft and shouted for help if there was anyone up there who could help him. Arnljót reached down, grabbed him by the shoulders, and pulled him up into the loft. Then the troll woman turned to the fire and took to devouring the men who were roasted. Then Arnljót got up, seized his halberd, and ran it through her between the shoulder blades so that the point came out at her breast. She reared up quickly, shrieked fiendishly, and rushed out of doors. Arnljót had to let go of his spear, and she took it out with her. Arnljót cleared away the corpses and set the door and the door frame back in the house, for she had broken out both when she ran out.


They slept through the remainder of the night, and when it dawned they arose and first ate their breakfast. When they had eaten, Arnljót said, “Now we shall have to part. You must now follow the sleigh tracks which the merchants made when they came here yesterday, but I shall be looking for my halberd. As a reward [for what I did for you] I shall take what seems will bring money of the things these men had along. You, Thórodd, shall deliver my greetings to King Óláf and tell him that he is the man I would most gladly meet. However, my greetings will probably not seem of any value to him.” Thereupon he took up the silver dish, dried it with a towel and said, “Bring the king this dish and tell him this is my greeting.”


Then both he and Thórodd made ready to go on, and so they parted. Thórodd, his comrade, and also the man who had been the only one of his party to escape, went their way. Thórodd journeyed on till he found King Óláf in Nitharós and told him all that had happened to him. He also brought him the greetings of Arnljót and gave him the silver dish. The king remarked that he was very sorry that Arnljót had not himself come to see him, “and it is a great pity that such great misfortune should befall so brave and remarkable a man.” Thórodd afterwards stayed with King Óláf during the remainder of the winter and then received permission from him to return to Iceland in the summer following.


Chapter 142. Karl of Mœr Offers to Collect the Tribute from the Faroes


In spring King Óláf made ready to leave Nitharós, and a great force gathered to him both from the Trondheim districts and from the northern parts of the land. When finished with his preparations he first proceeded south to Mœr with his force and collected the troops levied from there and from Raums Dale. Thereupon he sailed to South Mœr. For a long time he tarried in the Herey Islands, 1 waiting for his levy, and often he held councils [with his advisors]; for much was brought to his attention which appeared to him to need consideration. At one of these council meetings he spoke about the loss of men he had suffered in the Faroes, “but the tribute which they promised to pay,” he said, “that is not forthcoming. Now I intend once more to send for the tribute.” The king addressed himself to various people about this matter, as to who was to undertake this journey; but the answers he got all came to the same: everyone excused himself from it.


Thereupon a man of tall stature and imposing appearance stood up in the council hall. He wore a red kirtle, had a helmet on his head, was girt with a sword, and had a large halberd in his hand. He spoke as follows. “In truth,” he said, “there is a great difference between the men assembled here. You have a good king, but he has poor men. You refuse a mission he requires of you, whereas you have previously received from him friendly gifts and things of value. As to myself, I have not till now been a friend to this king. And he has been hostile to me, alleging that he has reasons for so being. Now, sir king, I shall offer to go on this expedition unless you can find better men to do so.”


The king said, “Who is this manly fellow who made answer to my demand? There is a big difference between you and the other men here, since you offer to undertake this journey, whereas they excuse themselves who I thought were well fitted to undertake it. But I know nothing whatever about you, and I do not know your name.”


He made this answer, “My name is not difficult [to remember] sir king. I expect that you have heard of me before. I am called Karl of Mœr.”


The king replied, “So it is, Karl, I have heard you mentioned before; and to say the truth there have been occasions when you would not have lived to tell of it if ever we two had met. But now I will show myself not a worse man than you, seeing that you offer me your aid, and shall give you in return my thanks and good will. You are to come to me, Karl, and be my guest today. Then we shall talk about this matter.” Karl replied that he would.


Chapter 143. Karl Is Slain by Thránd’s Kinsmen


Karl of Mœr had been a viking and a great pirate, and the king often had sent out men to catch him and make away with him. But Karl was of noble lineage, a man of great enterprise, an athlete, and resourceful in many ways. Now since Karl had agreed to go on this expedition, the king came to terms with him—in fact, grew to be his friend—and equipped him for it to the best of his ability. On his ship were nearly twenty men. The king gave him messages to his friends in the Faroes, and recommended Karl to Leif Ozurarson and Gilli the Lawspeaker to lend him their support and backing, if he needed it, and furnished Karl with tokens [to show his authority].


Karl departed at once when ready. He had favorable winds, and anchored at Thórshafn on Straumey Island. An assembly was called and was attended by many. Thránd of Gata came there with a large following, and also Leif and Gilli. They also had a large following. When they had set up their booths and got everything ready, they went forth to meet Karl of Mœr. There were friendly greetings between them. Thereupon Karl produced the message and the tokens of King Óláf, and delivered his greetings of friendship to Gilli and Leif. They accepted them in good grace and invited Karl to their homes, offering to further his errand and give him such support as they were able to. He accepted that gratefully. Shortly afterwards Thránd came up and gave Karl a friendly welcome. “I am glad,” he said, “that such a splendid fellow has come to our land with business from our king to whom we all are bound in obedience. I will have it, Karl, that you come to my house to pass the winter, together with all your crew, to maintain the dignity of your position.” Karl replied that he had already decided to be a guest of Leif. “Otherwise,” he said, “I would gladly accept this offer.” Thránd remarked, “In that case great honor accrues to Leif from this. But is there anything else which I might do to help you?” Karl answered that it would be a great help if Thránd collected the tax in Austrey Island as well as in all the northerly islands. Thránd replied that it was no more than his bounden duty to render him that service in the king’s business.


Thereupon Thránd went back to his booth. Nothing else worth telling happened at that assembly. Karl went to Leif Ozurarson as his guest and stayed there the following winter. Leif collected the tax in Straumey Island and all the islands to the south of it.


In the spring following Thránd of Gata was ill with pains in his eyes, and besides had other ailments, yet he got ready to travel to the assembly as was his wont. And when he arrived at the assembly and his booth was tented over, he had it covered with black material on the inside so that less light should come in. Now when several days during which the assembly met had passed, Leif and Karl with numerous followers proceeded to Thránd’s booth. As they approached it they saw several men standing outside. Leif asked if Thránd was in the booth, and they replied that he was. Leif told them to request Thránd to come out. “Karl and I have some business with him,” he said. But when they returned they said that Thránd had such pain in his eyes that he could not come out, “and he requested that you, Leif, come in.”


Leif told his followers to proceed cautiously when entering the booth, not to crowd one another, “and let him come out first who enters last.” Leif was the first to enter, Karl next, then his followers, and they went in all armed as if prepared to go into battle. Leif went in toward the black hangings and asked where Thránd was. Thránd answered and greeted Leif. Leif returned his greetings and then asked if he perchance had collected the tax in the north islands and whether the silver was going to be paid out. Thránd answered and said that he had not forgotten what Karl and he had talked about, and that the tax would be paid out. “Here is a purse for you, Leif, it is full of silver.” Leif looked about him and saw only a few men in the booth. Some were lying on the dais, and a few were sitting up. Leif went up to Thránd to receive the purse, and carried it toward the front of the booth where it was light, poured it into his shield, rooted in it with his hand, and told Karl to look at the silver. They examined it for a while. Then Karl asked what Leif thought about it.




Karl of Mœr sits down to count the silver.


He replied, “It seems to me that all the bad money in the North Islands has been brought here.”


Thránd overheard that and said, “Don’t you like the silver, Leif?”


“No indeed,” he said.


Thránd said, “Why then our kinsmen prove to be perfect scoundrels whom you can’t trust about anything. I sent them this spring to collect the tax in the North Isles since I was not fit to do anything, this spring; and they have taken bribes from the farmers to accept such counterfeit money as can’t be given in payment. And it would be best, Leif, if you looked at that silver which was paid to me for ground rent.”


Thereupon Leif brought the silver back and received another purse, which he brought to where Karl stood. They looked that money over, and Karl asked Leif what he thought about it. He said that he thought that money was poor, but not so bad that it could not be given for debts about which there had not been a strict agreement, “but I don’t want to use this money for settling with the king.”


Then a man who was lying on the dais threw off the cloak covering his head and said, “There is truth in the adage ‘the older a man gets, the worse he grows.’ That is the case with you, Thránd, if you let Karl of Mœr repudiate your money all day long.” It was Gaut the Red who had spoken.


At these words of Gaut, Thránd jumped up and furiously reproached his kinsmen, using many hard words. And he ended by requesting Leif to hand him back the silver he had given him, “and here take the purse my renters brought me this spring. And though my eyesight is poor, one’s own hand is most trustworthy.”


Then a man who was lying on the dais raised himself on his elbow. It was Thórth the Little. He said, “It isn’t a few taunts we have to stand from that Mœr-Karl, and he ought to be repaid for it.”


Leif took the purse [Thránd had given him] and again carried it to Karl. They inspected the money in it. Then Leif said, “One does not need to look long at this silver. Here one coin is better than the other, and this money we want to have. Get a man, Thránd, to weigh it.” Thránd said he thought it was best if Leif saw to that for him.


Then Leif and those with him went out a short distance from the booth where they sat down to weigh the silver. Karl took off his helmet and poured the silver into it after it was weighed. They saw a man come up to them. He had a cudgel in his hand and a wide cowl on his head. He wore a green cloak, with linen breeches laced about his legs, and he was barefooted. He put down his cudgel on the ground and left it there, saying: “Look out, Mœr-Karl, that my cudgel won’t hurt you.”


Shortly afterwards a man came running and called out loud to Leif Ozurarson to come at once to the booth of Gilli the Lawspeaker, that “Sigurth Thorláksson rushed through the tent flaps and has wounded one of the men in there mortally.” Leif sprang up at once and went to find Gilli. All of the men in his booth went with him, leaving Karl behind with a circle of Norwegians about him. Gaut the Red ran up and, with his [long-handled] axe, reached over their shoulders and inflicted a wound on Karl’s head. It was not a dangerous wound. Thórth the Little grabbed the club lying on the ground and with a blow of it on the head of the axe drove it into Karl’s brain. At that point a crowd of men poured out of Thránd’s booth. Karl was carried away dead.


Thránd decried the deed; still he offered compensation for his kinsmen. Leif and Gilli took up the action [because of the slaying of Karl], and nothing came of the compensation [by money payment]. Sigurth was declared outlaw for the wound inflicted on Gilli’s man, and so were Thórth and Gaut, for the slaying of Karl. The Norwegians got ready the ship in which they had come with Karl and sailed east to report to King Óláf what had happened …1 but nothing came of that because of the hostilities which at that time had arisen in Norway and of which we shall tell presently. And that is the end of the story about King Óláf’s demanding tribute from the Faroes. But there arose hostilities in the Faroes after the slaying of Karl of Mœr between the kinsmen of Thránd of Gata, on the one hand, and Leif Ozurarson on the other, concerning which there exist long accounts.2


Chapter 144. The King Proceeds South along the Land with His Fleet


But now we shall tell about the happenings touched on before, namely King Óláf’s sailing with his fleet after having ordered a levy from the land. All the landed-men from the north were with him except Einar Thambarskelfir. He had remained quietly at home on his estates ever since his return, and did not serve the king. Einar had immense possessions and maintained a magnificent standard of living even though he did not have any revenues from the king. With this fleet Óláf steered south around Cape Stath. There he was joined by a large force from the [various] districts. At the time, King Óláf had the ship which he had caused to be built the preceding winter. It was called Visund [Bison], and was a huge ship. As its figurehead it had the head of a bison, all gilded. The skald Sigvat makes mention of it [in this verse]:




277.   Bore—its beak, with red gold
burnished—his noble warship,
Serpent the Long, the unswerving
son of Tryggvi1 to battle.
Another ship did Óláf,2
oaken-planked and gold-dight
launch—the waves oft washed hard
Vísund’s horns—on seashore.


Then the king sailed south to Horthaland. He learned that Erling Skjálgsson had left the country with a large force and four or five ships. He himself had a large galley, and his sons, three ships of twenty rowers’ benches each, and they had sailed west to join Knút the Powerful. King Óláf then proceeded east [south] along the land with a huge force. He made inquiries whether people knew anything about the plans of Knút the Powerful. They all knew that he was in England. However, King Óláf was told also that Knút had ordered a levy and intended to proceed to Norway. But because King Óláf had a large force and he could not obtain certain information where he should sail for an encounter with Knút, and also because his men considered it unwise to tarry in one spot with so large an army, he came to the decision to steer his fleet south to Denmark; and on that expedition he had with him all that force which he considered most warlike and best equipped, and gave the others leave to return home, as we are told in this verse:




278.   With shaven oars Óláf
urges Vísund southward.
Cleaves the king of Sweden
crashing waves to northward.


Now then that part of his force returned home which he considered would give him the least reliable support. [After it had left] King Óláf had with him a large and well-equipped force. Composing it were most landed-men in Norway, excepting those who, as was said before, had left the country or had remained at home on their estates.


Chapter 145. King Óláf and King Onund Ravage Denmark


With this fleet King Óláf sailed to Denmark, steering to Seeland, and when he arrived there he began to harry as soon as he came ashore. The people of the country were robbed, some killed, some taken prisoner, tied up, and brought to the ships. All fled who could, and there was no resistance. King Óláf ravaged the country thoroughly. Now when in Seeland, he was informed that King Onund Óláfsson had ordered a levy and with a large force was sailing around Scania from the east and was harrying there. It was evident now what plans he and King Onund had made, the time they lay at anchor in the [Gaut Elf] River and had agreed on a pact and mutual friendship; in effect, to resist King Knút. King Onund proceeded on his way till he met his brother-in-law, King Óláf. And when they met they announced, both to their forces and the people of the country, that they intended to subject Denmark to their rule, and they requested the people of the country to receive them [as kings]. And as often is the case when the people of a country are exposed to harrying and find no support for making resistance, most of them assented to all the conditions laid upon them in order to buy peace for themselves. So it came that many swore allegiance to the kings and submitted to them. They proceeded to subject the country far and wide to their rule or else they ravaged it. The skald Sigvat makes mention of this warfare in the drápa he composed about Knút the Powerful:




279.   Was Knút under heaven1
Heard I have that
Harald’s scion2 was
hardy in battle.
South o’er the sea
sailed his dragons
Óláf, the earls’
overlord mighty.




280.   Carry the king2
keel-horses southward
with bellying sails
to Seeland’s plain.
Onund another
army brings up
on great galleys
‘gainst the Danish.


Chapter 146. King Knút Assembles a Great Fleet


King Knút had learned, west in England, that Óláf, king of Norway, had called for a levy; also that he had sailed to Denmark with that large fleet and that there were hostilities in his dominions. Then Knút began to assemble a force. Soon a large army and a multitude of ships gathered together. Earl Hákon was second in command over his force. The skald Sigvat that summer arrived in England from Rútha [Rouen] in Valland to the west [south], together with a man called Berg. They had made a trading voyage there the preceding summer. Sigvat composed the flokk which is named Vestrfararvísur [Verses on a Journey to the West] whose beginning is as follows:




281.   Berg, we remember many a
morning how I fast made
in Rúthaborg roadstead,
riding there at anchor.


Now when Sigvat arrived in England, he went at once to the court of King Knút, intending to request permission to journey to Norway. King Knút had issued an embargo on all merchant ships until he had equipped his force. Now when Sigvat arrived at the court, he went to the building in which the king resided. He found it barred, and stood outside for a long time. But when he got to speak with the king, he was given the permission to recite his poem as he had requested. Then he recited this verse:




282.   Outside, asking, stood I
ere that—was the house door
locked—I was given leave to
lay my case before him;
when inside the hall, the
high-born lord of Denmark—
byrnie I often bore in
battle—granted my wishes.


But when Sigvat became aware that King Knút was preparing to go to war against King Óláf, and when he knew how great was the force King Knút had, then he spoke this verse:




283.   His whole force has Knút out,
Hákon eke: they threaten
our liege’s life and kingdom—
loath would be his passing.
Keep thee, king, to the mountains:
Knút and the earls won’t like that:
on the fells their fight would be
fairer, once he ’scaped hence.


Sigvat composed still other verses about the expedition of Knút and Hákon. He also recited this verse:




284.   Terms to make between them
toiled the noble earl oft,
with Óláf arguing ’gainst
agèd yeomen sharply.
Heads they hewed off more than
Hákon—great is Eirík’s
kin—could cause them not to
clash again in fury.1


Chapter 147. King Knút Arrives in Denmark


Knút the Powerful had got his army ready to depart from the country. He had a tremendous force and huge ships. He himself had a dragon ship so large that there were sixty rowers’ benches in it. It had gilded figureheads. Earl Hákon had another dragon ship, with forty rowers’ benches. It also had a gilded figurehead, and the sails on both ships had stripes of blue, red, and green. All their ships were painted above the water line, and all their equipment was of the best. They had many other ships, large and well equipped. The skald Sigvat mentions this in his Knút’s drápa:




285.   Was Knút under heaven.
Heard from the east
the Danes’ keen-eyed
king [of warfare].
From westward wended
well-rigged galleys,
the atheling bearing,
Æthelred’s foe.




286.   And bore in the breeze
blue sails on yards
the dauntless sovran’s
dragons aloft.
From the west coming,
the keel-stags sailed,
lashed by storms, to
Limfjord’s shorelands.


We are here told that King Knút led this large fleet east from England and arrived with all his force intact in Denmark and anchored in the Limfjord. There they found a great gathering of people of the country.


Chapter 148. Hortha-Knút Renounces His Royal Title


Earl Úlf, the son of Sprakalegg had been appointed to defend Denmark while King Knút was in England; and the king had entrusted to Earl Úlf his son, whose name was Hortha-Knút. That was in the preceding summer, as was set down before. But the earl straightway alleged that, when they parted, King Knút had indicated his will that the Danes were to take HorthaKnút, his son, as king over the Danish dominions.


“He entrusted him to us for that purpose. Both I,” he said, “and many other chieftains and leaders of this country have frequently complained to King Knút that people thought it dangerous to be here without a king, seeing that former Danish rulers considered they had their hands full just being kings of Denmark. But in the olden days there were many kings over this realm. Yet [governing it] presents more difficulty now than before, because heretofore we have been so fortunate as to be spared the attacks of foreign potentates, whereas now we hear that the king of Norway plans to invade us, and we suspect that the king of Sweden may join him in such an attempt. And King Knút is in England now.”


And then the earl presented a letter bearing the seal of King Knút, confirming what he had stated. Many other chieftains supported him in this matter. And what with the pleadings of all of them, the people decided at this same assembly to elect Hortha-Knút king. It was Queen Emma who had been the originator of this plan, and it was she who had had this letter written and sealed, having obtained the king’s seal by trickery. But he himself knew nothing about all this.


Now when Hortha-Knút and Earl Úlf were informed that King Óláf had come from Norway in the north with a large fleet, they proceeded to Jutland, because there is the center of greatest strength in the Danish dominions. They sent out the war-arrows and called together a great army. But when they learned that the king of Sweden had also arrived with an army, they considered they did not have a sufficient force to do battle with both. Then they kept the army they had gathered in Jutland [in readiness], intending to defend that part of the land against the kings. Their whole fleet they stationed in the Limfjord, and thus they waited for the arrival of King Knút. And when they learned that King Knút had come to the Limfjord from the west, they sent messengers to him as well as to Queen Emma, asking her to find out whether or no the king had taken amiss [what they had done] and to let them know.


The queen spoke with the king about the matter. She said that Hortha-Knút, their son, would make amends for it according to the king’s pleasure, in case he had contravened his intentions. The king answered, saying that Hortha-Knút had not done this on his own initiative. “It has gone,” he said, “just as might have been expected, since he who is still a child, and foolish, wanted to be called king; and then when difficulties arose there was danger that all the country might be overrun and subjected by foreign leaders unless our army came to their rescue. Now if he wants to arrive at a reconciliation with me, then let him come to me and lay down that empty title and this letting himself be called king.”


These same words the queen sent to Hortha-Knút, together with her prayer not to tarry about coming. She added that, as was indeed the case, he would not get any support to oppose his father.


Now when this message came to Hortha-Knút he sought the advice of the earl and other chieftains he had with him. But it was quickly apparent that so soon as the people of the land learned that Knút the Old had arrived, all the men of the countryside joined his colors, considering that in him lay all their security. Earl Úlf and those with him perceived that they had only two alternatives: either, to go to the king and submit to his decision, or else, to flee the country. But all urged Hortha-Knút to go to meet his father; and so he did. And when they met, he knelt down to his father and laid the seal, which went with the royal title, in his lap. King Knút took Hortha-Knút by the hand and assigned him a seat as high as that which he had had before. Earl Úlf sent his son Svein to the royal court—he was the son of Knút’s sister. He sought quarter for his father and pleaded for a reconciliation with the king, offering to stay with him as a hostage for his father. Svein and Hortha-Knút were of the same age. King Knút sent word to the earl, commanding him to collect his army and his ships and join the forces of the king. They would discuss a reconciliation afterwards. The earl did so.


Chapter 149. King Óláf Prepares a Stratagem


Now when King Óláf and King Onund learned that King Knút had arrived from the west with an unconquerable force, they sailed east around Scania, harrying and burning the countryside, then proceeded eastward around the land toward the realm of the king of Sweden. But as soon as the people [in Denmark] learned that King Knút had come from the west, they would hear of no more submission to the kings. The skald Sigvat makes mention of this:




287.   The twain brave kings
could not ever
subdue stubborn
Denmark by war.
Then scathe much did
in Scania’s plains
the foe of Danes.
foremost of princes.


Thereupon the two kings steered east along the land and cast anchor by a river called Áin Helga [Helgeå, “Holy River”], and remained there for a while. When they learned that King Knút was pursuing them with his fleet, they took counsel and hit on this stratagem that King Óláf with his force landed and went through the forests to the lake out of which the Áin Helga River flows. There at the outlet [from the lake] they made a dam of tree trunks and turf, thus damming up the water. Then they dug deep trenches, causing several creeks to flow together, thereby creating widespread marshes. And into the river bed they felled large trees. This work occupied them a number of days, with King Óláf having supervision of this stratagem while King Onund had command of the fleet. King Knút was informed of the whereabouts of the kings and of all the damage they had inflicted in his realm, and he moved against them where they lay anchored in the Áin Helga River. He had a huge force, half again as large as the combined force of both kings. The skald Sigvat makes mention of this:




288.   Would not the prince—
people soon found out—
let his land be
laid waste resistless.
The Danes’ buckler
brooked no rapine
but fended his folklands.
foremost of princes.


Chapter 150. The Battle off the Áin Helga River


One day toward evening King Onund’s lookout men saw the fleet of King Knút approaching, nor were they far away. Then King Onund had the war trumpets blown. The crews thereupon took the tent coverings down and armed themselves, rowed out of the harbor and east along the land, then gathered their ships, bound them together, and made ready for battle. King Onund sent his lookout men running up into the country to find King Óláf and tell him what was happening. Then King Óláf had the dam breached, so that the river flowed along its old bed, and during the night went down to his own ships.


King Knút arrived in front of the harbor, and there saw where lay the fleet of the kings all ready to do battle. Then it appeared to him rather late in the day to give battle until his force could be ready for that, because his fleet needed much room at sea for sailing. There was a long distance between the foremost ship and the last, also between that one which was farthest to sea and the one nearest the land. The wind was nearly calm. But when the king saw that the Swedes and the Norwegians had left the harbor, he moved into it with the ships for which there was room. But the greater part of his fleet nevertheless lay outside at sea.


In the morning, when there was full daylight, a great many men of the Danish force were on land, some conversing, some disporting themselves. Then all of a sudden the waters came rushing down upon them with the swiftness of a cataract, and along with them, big trees which drifted against their ships, which suffered damage from them while the waters flowed over all the fields. The men who had gone ashore were drowned, many died also who were aboard the ships. And those who were able to do so cut their cables and drifted out to sea, and the ships scattered. The large dragon ship which bore the king himself was carried along with the current, nor was it easily turned with the oars, so it drifted out to where lay the fleet of King Onund. And when the Swedes recognized the ship they promptly surrounded it. But because the ship had high sides as though it was a fort and had a multitude of men on board, a picked crew, well armed and fearless, it was not so easily attacked. Nor was it long before Earl Úlf came up with his fleet, and then the battle began. Soon also King Knút’s fleet approached from all sides. Then the kings Óláf and Onund saw that they had won as great a victory as fate allowed for the time being. They pulled out, stern first, and got themselves clear of the ships of King Knút, so the fleets separated. But because this attack had not gone the way King Knút had planned, his ships had not been maneuvered as was intended, and so no [further] attack was made. King Knút mustered his forces, re-arranged them, and prepared [for battle again]. But when the fleets had separated and each proceeded by itself, the kings mustered their forces and found they had not suffered any loss of men. They also saw that if they waited till King Knút had re-arranged all the forces he had and then attacked them, that then the odds would be so great against them that there was little hope of their winning the victory, and that most certainly, in the event of a battle, there would be a very great loss of life. So they decided to row east along the land with all their ships. And when they saw that King Knút’s fleet did not pursue them, they raised their masts and hoisted sail. Óttar the Black speaks about this encounter in the drápa he composed about Knút the Powerful:




289.   To Swedes a setback gavest,
scion thou of Skjoldungs.
Didst batten on blood the wolfish
brood at Helgaá River.
Against two kings thou keptest—
quenched was the ravens’ hunger
there—thy land. Of their lives were
lawless caitiffs in terror.


The skald Thórth Sjáreksson1 composed a memorial poem about Holy King Óláf, which is called the Drápa of the Rood, and in it this encounter is mentioned:




290.   Egthirs’2 ruler, Óláf,
onsets three had with the
Isle-Danes’ ever watchful
arm-ring giver valiant.3
Sharply shot the Skanings’
shaft-storm-urger.3 Was not
Svein’s great son3 faint-hearted
seen. Howled wolves o’er corpses.


Chapter 151. The Two Kings Deliberate on a Course of Action


King Óláf and King Onund sailed east along the lands of the Swedish king, and in the evening of that day made land at a place called Barvík.1 There they lay at anchor during the night. Now it could readily be seen [by the behavior of the Swedes] that they longed to get home. During the night a considerable portion of the Swedish fleet sailed east along the land, and they did not stop till each arrived in his home district. But when King Onund became aware of this at dawn, he had the trumpets sounded for a meeting. Then all the crews went up on land, and an assembly was held. King Onund spoke as follows. “The case is this,” he said. “As you, King Óláf, know, this summer we all proceeded together and harried far and wide in Denmark. We acquired much booty but no land. During the summer I had three hundred and fifty [420] ships; but now there remain only a hundred [120] of them. Now it would seem to me that we cannot win much glory with a force no larger than this, even though you do have the sixty ships you had this summer. Now I consider it most advisable to return to my kingdom; for it is a good thing to drive home with all the cart in one piece. We have acquired wealth on this expedition and lost nothing. Now I shall suggest to you, brother-in-law Óláf, that you come with me, and that we all stay together, this winter. Take of my kingdom as much as you think you need to support yourself and your company. And then let us, when spring comes, take such counsel as seems advisable. Or if you prefer to make your way through our dominions, you are welcome to do so, in case you wish to proceed overland to your kingdom.”


King Óláf thanked King Onund for this friendly offer. “However, if I am to prevail,” he said, “we shall follow a different course; which is, to keep together the force left us now. In the beginning of summer, before leaving Norway, I had three hundred and fifty [420] vessels, but when I left it, I chose from all that fleet those troops which I considered fittest. With them I manned the sixty ships which I now have. Now it would seem to me, also with regard to your force, that those have run their way who had the least enterprise and on whom one could place least reliance. But here I see all your leaders and captains, and I know that all those troops which belong to the bodyguard are most skilled in the use of weapons. We still have a large force and such good vessels that we can well lie out at sea all winter, as kings have done before in time. Now King Knút will remain in the Áin Helga River but a short while, because there is not sufficient harbor room for the multitude of ships he has, and so he will pursue us eastward. In that case we shall draw away from him and soon acquire more support. But if he returns to where there are harbors sufficiently large to accommodate his fleet, then, just as happened here [with us], many of his troops will most likely be eager to return home. And I expect we have done enough, this summer, so that the cotters, both in Scania and in Seeland, know what is awaiting them. The fleet of King Knút is likely to be scattered far and wide so that it won’t be sure who will win the victory. Let us first of all find out what he intends to do.” And King Óláf concluded his speech in such fashion that everybody concurred with him and the plan he advised was adopted. Spies were sent to find out about King Knút’s movements, and meanwhile both kings lay at anchor.


Chapter 152. King Knút Abandons the Pursuit


King Knút saw that the king of Norway and the king of Sweden steered their fleets east along the land. Straightway he despatched troops landward and let them ride day and night, following the course of the fleet of the kings out at sea. Some of his recognizance detachments went forward as others returned, so King Knút every day was informed of the movements of the kings. There were spies in the [very] force of the kings. And when he learned that a large portion of their fleet had left them, he returned with his fleet to Seeland and anchored in the Eyrar Sound with all his force. Some of his ships were moored near Seeland, some near Scania.


King Knút rode to Hróiskelda1 the day before Michaelmas, together with a large company of men. There his brother-in-law, Earl Úlf, had prepared a banquet for him. The earl treated his guests most liberally and was in exceedingly good spirits. The king was taciturn and rather glum. The earl spoke to him, addressing him on such topics as he expected the king would be most interested in. The king made little reply. The earl asked if he cared to play chess. He said yes. So they took the chess board and played.


Earl Úlf was quick spoken and ruthless, both in his talk and in all other matters, also a most enterprising man in his dominions. He was a great man of war, and there exists a long saga about him. He was the most powerful man in Denmark next to the king. His sister was Gytha, who married Earl Guthini [Godwine], the son of Úlfnath. Their sons were Harald, later the king of England, Earl Tóstig, Earl Valtheow, Earl Morkere, and Earl Svain. The name of their daughter was Gytha, whom King Eadward the Good of England married.