Chapter 9. Sigvat Joins Queen Ástríth and Magnús on Their Journey to Norway


Now when Magnús Óláfsson arrived in Sweden from Russia, Sigvat was there with Queen Ástríth, and they were all overjoyed. Then Sigvat spoke this verse:




385.   Boldly back to your homeland—
bounden am I to aid you—
faring, may’st thou, King Magnús,
make claim of lands and liegemen.
Gone had I to Garthar
gladly—thy name I gave thee1
messages must have reached you,
Magnús, from thy kinsfolk.


Thereupon Sigvat joined Queen Ástríth to accompany Magnús to Norway. Sigvat spoke this verse:




386.   Pleased I am—to people
plainly I say it—Magnús,
—God’s good grace it is—that
guided well your life is.
Few would be the folk-lands,
famous king, that could then
boast that equal heir e’er,
Óláf, a father engendered.


And when Magnús had become king in Norway, Sigvat stayed with him and was in high favor. When Queen Ástríth and Álfhild, the king’s mother, had had some words with each other, he spoke this verse:




387.   Let thou, Álfhild, Ástríth
uppermost sit at table,
thousandfold though your standing,
thanks to God, have risen.


Chapter 10. Magnús Enshrines Saint Óláf’s Body


King Magnús had a shrine made adorned with gold and silver and inlaid with jewels. And that shrine was like a coffin, both as to size and shape, with a portico underneath, and above, a cover fashioned like a roof, and surmounting it, dragonheads as gable ends. On the back of the cover were hinges, and in front, hasps closed with [lock and] key. Thereupon King Magnús had the sacred remnants of King Óláf reposited in this reliquary. Many miracles happened there at this sanctuary of King Óláf. About these Sigvat the Skald spoke this verse:




388.   A golden shrine for good and
gallant King Saint Óláf—
high I hold fore’er his
holiness—was made then.
Many a man, quickly
mended, wends from the holy
saint’s sepulchre, and many,
seeing who blind came there.


Then it was written into the laws everywhere in Norway that the memorial day of King Óláf was to be kept holy. And then that day was kept as holy as the greatest of festivals. This is mentioned by the skald Sigvat:




389.   It behooves us to hold e’er
holy—God has given
power to sainted prince—with
pure spirit his mass day.
Seemly, to celebrate the
sainted Óláf’s death day,
the ruler’s who with red gold-
rings adorned my arms both.


Chapter 11. Thórir the Hound Makes a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem


Thórir the Hound left the country shortly after the fall of King Óláf. Thórir journeyed to Jerusalem, and it is the opinion of many that he never returned. Sigurth was the name of the son of Thórir the Hound. He was the father of Rannveig, the wife of Jóan, who was the son of Árni Árnason. Their children were Víthkun of Bjarkey and Sigurth the Hound, Erling and Jarthrúth.


Chapter 12. Ásmund Grankelsson Slays Hárek of Thjótta


Hárek of Thjótta resided at home on his estates until the time when Magnús Óláfsson came into the land and had become king. Then Hárek journeyed south to Trondheim to meet King Magnús. At that time Ásmund Grankelsson was with the king. Now when Hárek had arrived in Nitharós and stepped on land from his ship, Ásmund was standing by the side of the king in the gallery [of the house he resided in]; and they saw Hárek and recognized him. Ásmund said to the king, “Now I want to repay Hárek for the slaying of my father.” He had in his hand a small axe with a broad blade that was beaten out thin.


The king looked at him and said, “Take my axe rather.” That one had a wedge-shaped edge and was thick. And he continued, “I am thinking, Ásmund, that the bones of that fellow are likely to be hard.”


Ásmund took the axe and stepped down from the house; and below, on the cross street, Hárek and those with him met him coming up from the river. Ásmund struck him on the head with such force that the axe at once cleft his skull. It was a mortal blow. But Ásmund returned to the house and rejoined the king, and the whole edge of the axe had been knocked off. Then the king said, “Now how would that thin axe have served you? It seems to me this one is ruined now.” Thereupon King Magnús gave Ásmund a fief and a stewardship in Hálogaland, and there exist many and long accounts of the dealings between Ásmund and the sons of Hárek.


Chapter 13. Thorgeir Makes the King Listen to Him


At first it was Kálf Árnason who wielded most power under King Magnús. But then some people reminded the king on what side Kálf had stood at Stiklarstathir. And then it became more difficult for Kálf to have influence with the king. Once, when there were many men gathered about the king to plead their causes, a certain man appeared before him to present to him his necessary business. It was a man who has been mentioned before, Thorgeir from Súl in Vera Dale.1 The king paid no attention to his words but listened to those who were close to him. Then Thorgeir spoke to the king in such a loud voice that all heard who were near by:




390.   2Speak thou with me,
Magnús, king!
I followed faithfully
your father Óláf.
A broken brain-pan
bore I thence,
when to death they did
the dear ruler.
But you favor
who foully left him,
the traitors who had
truck with the devil.


Then some shouted him down, and others bade Thorgeir leave the hall. The king told him to approach, and then attended to his business so that Thorgeir was well pleased, and the king promised him his friendship.


Chapter 14. Kálf Árnason Flees the Wrath of King Magnús


A short time later King Magnús was at a reception at Haug in Vera Dale. And when the king sat at table, Kálf Árnason sat on one side of him, and on the other, Einar Thambarskelfir. By that time things had gone so far that the king acted coolly toward Kálf and honored Einar most. The king said to Einar, “We two shall ride to Stiklarstathir today. I want to see the marks of what happened there.”


Einar answered, “It isn’t I who can tell you about that. Let Kálf, your foster father, go with you. He will be able to tell you what happened there.”


Now when the tables had been removed, the king made ready to go. He said to Kálf, “I shall want you to go with me to Stiklarstathir.” Kálf said that he was not bound to do so. Thereupon the king arose and said rather angrily, “Go you shall, Kálf!” Then he left the hall.


Kálf quickly dressed and said to his attendant, “You are to go to Egg and tell my men servants to bring all my belongings onto the ship before sunset.”


The king rode to Stiklarstathir, and Kálf with him. They dismounted and went to the place where the battle had been fought. Then the king said to Kálf, “Where is the place the king fell?”


Kálf answered and pointed to the place with the shaft of his spear. “Here he lay when he fell,” he said.


The king said, “And where were you then, Kálf?”


He answered, “Here where I am standing now.”


The king said, and his countenance was blood red, “In that case your axe might have reached him.”


Kálf said, “My axe did not reach him.”


Thereupon he went up to his horse, leaped on its back, and rode off together with all his men; but the king rode back to Haug. Kálf arrived in Egg by nightfall. His ship lay there ready for sailing, with all his movable goods aboard and manned with a crew of his men servants. They immediately sailed out of the fjord at night. Thereupon Kálf sailed day and night as the wind permitted. He crossed the sea westward and remained there a long time, harrying in Scotland, Ireland, and the Hebrides. Of this Bjarni Gullbrárskáld speaks in his flokk about Kálf:




391.   Well-disposed, unwavering
—worthy of that were you—
was Harald’s nephew,1 heard I,
wholly to you; until that
enemies steadily stirred up
strife between you, in envy.
Ill will come to Óláf’s
heir through this your discord.


Chapter 15. Sigvat Is Chosen by Lot to Warn the King


King Magnús appropriated Vigg, which Hrút had owned, and Kviststathir, which had been Thorgeir’s1 property; also Egg with all the goods Kálf had left behind. And he took possession of many other large estates which had belonged to those who had fallen in the yeomen’s army at Stiklarstathir. Also, he dealt out heavy punishment to those who had fought against King Óláf in that battle. Some, he drove out of the country, and from some he took great sums of money, and in the case of still others he had their cattle slaughtered. Then the farmers began to murmur and said to one another, “What can this king be thinking of, breaking thus [against us] the laws which King Hákon the Good has given us? Doesn’t he remember that we have never tolerated acts of injustice? He is likely to have the same fate as his father and other chieftains whom we have slain when we grew weary of their overbearing and lawlessness.”


This dissatisfaction was widespread throughout the country. The people of the Sogn District collected their forces and let it be known that they would fight King Magnús if he came there. King Magnús was in Horthaland then and had stayed there a very long time with a large army and seemed on the point of proceeding north to the Sogn District. The king’s friends became aware of this, and came together for a conference, twelve of them; and they agreed to cast lots to select a man to inform the king of this dissatisfaction; and it was managed in such fashion as to fall on Sigvat the Skald.


Chapter 16. Warned by Sigvat, Magnús Mends his Ways


Sigvat composed a flokk which bears the name of Bersǫglisvísur[Outspoken Verses].1 And in it he began by telling the king that they thought he had hesitated too long about acting on their advice to reconcile himself with the yeomen when they threatened to rise up against him. He spoke [this verse]:




392.   Sternly stressed it Sigvat:
“Strive not with the Sognings,
embattled ’gainst thee and bitter!”
But I shall fight if need be.
Seize we our swords then, and
sadly do as he orders,
if but thereby, king, we
bate the hateful discord.


In the same poem are also these verses:




393.   Hákon fell at Fitjar:
folk named him the Good, and
held most high and loved him,
halt who called on outlaws;
folk e’er and aye remember
Æthelstān’s foster son:2 they
keep his laws right loyally,
loath e’er to forget him.




394.   Right were rich and poor to
rally round the Óláfs:
these kings gave their crops and
cattle the peace they needed:
both Harald’s heir and Tryggvi’s
hardy son strove e’er to
heed and uphold the even-
handed laws made by them.




395.   Beware lest wroth thou wax at
warnings, frankly uttered
by men of wisdom, mainly
meant for thine own honor.
But they lie, worse laws thy
lieges have now, say they,
prince, than which were promised,
previously at Úlf Sound.3




396.   Whoever eggs thee, atheling,
eager for battle—oft thy
blade with blood is red—to
break thy promise given?
Constant a king should e’er be,
keeping his pledges. Nowise
folk-warder, befits thee
false to be and mainsworn.




397.   Whoever eggs thee, atheling,
to axe the farmers’ cattle?
Unheard for hero is’t to
harry in his country.
To youthful king such cursed
counsel never was given:
weary of sack thy warriors,
ween I, wrathful the farmers.




398.   Guard thee ’gainst the groundless
gossip of folk which borne is
hitherward—one’s hand should,
hanger-of-thieves, move slowly.
A faithful friend is he who,
feeder-of-greedy ravens,
gives thee goodly warning:
the gorge of yeomen has risen!




399.   Warning take thou, warlord—
wise is’t to stave off danger—
hoary men of whom I
heard are set against thee;
’tis parlous, prince, if franklins
put their heads together,
suddenly grow silent,
sinking noses cloakward.




400.   This they ever think on:
thou, king, takest from them
farmlands that their fathers
farmed: they rise against thee!
Robbery recks it the yeoman,
routed from his freehold
by high-handed rulings
of henchmen, at thy bidding.


This warning the king took in good part. Many others also pleaded like words before the king. The result was that the king took counsel with the wisest men, and they agreed on the laws [to be followed]. Thereupon King Magnús ordered the law-book written down which is still kept in Trondheim and is called Grágás [Grey Goose].4 King Magnús then became popular and beloved of all the people. Because of this he was called Magnús the Good.


Chapter 17. Of the Successors of King Knút


Harald, the king of the English, died five years after the death of Knút the Powerful, his father. He was interred at the side of his father in Winchester. After his death, Hortha-Knút, Harald’s brother, another son of Knút the Old, succeeded him on the throne of England. He then was king of both England and the Danish realm. This dominion he ruled for two years. He died from sickness in England and is buried in Winchester by the side of his father. After his death, Eadward the Good was made king of England. He was the son of King Æthelred and Queen Emma, the daughter of Richard, the earl of Rouen. King Eadward was the brother of Harald and Hortha-Knút by the same mother. Gunnhild was the name of the daughter of Knút the Old and Emma. She was married to Emperor Henry [Heinrich] in Saxland [Germany]. He was called Henry the Generous. Gunnhild lived for three years in Saxland before she became sick. She died two years after the demise of King Knút, her father.


Chapter 18. Magnús Succeeds Hortha-Knút


King Magnús Óláfsson learned of the death of Hortha-Knút. Thereupon he at once sent his envoys south to Denmark with the message to the men who had bound themselves with oaths, the time the covenant and the special terms were drawn up between Hortha-Knút and him, and reminded them of their words; and he added that he would right away in the following summer come to Denmark himself with his army; and concluded by saying that he would take possession of the entire Danish realm, according to the covenant and special terms agreed upon, or else fall in combat with his army. Thus says Arnór Jarlaskáld:




401.   Powerful the prince’s
parlance—and deeds followed—
as the wilding-wolf-brood’s
warlike-sater swore that
ready he was, to ravening
ravens a prey, in grimmest
shield-clash fighting fey to
fall, or else rule Denmark.


Chapter 19. King Magnús Sails to Denmark


Thereupon King Magnús collected his forces. He summoned to him stewards and powerful yeomen and got himself warships. And when these forces came together they proved to be picked men, excellently outfitted. He had seventy ships when he sailed from Norway. Thus says Thjóthólf:




402.   Forthwith, fearless, didst thou
fare to eastward, since that
seventy sailships had been
summoned by thy stewards;
south then foamed they swiftly—
salt waves Vísund cleft—with
hoisted sails and halyards
holding secret converse.


Here it is mentioned that King Magnús then had [the ship called] the great Bison, which Holy King Óláf had had built. It had more than thirty seats [for rowers]. On the stem was the head of a bison; on the stern, its tail. The head and tail and both “necks”1 were all gilded. This is mentioned by Arnór Jarlaskáld:






403.   2 Hatefully, the spume and spindrift
spattered ’gainst the poop and rudder,
gusts of wind did shake the galleys’
gold-decked yard-arms, low them bending,
as you steered past Stafang3 southward
steadfastly—the waters parted—
up above there burned like fire
burnished mastheads—toward Denmark.


King Magnús sailed from Agthir across to Jutland. Thus says Arnór:




404.   Say I shall how sailed the
Sognings’ doughty ruler
Vísund, listing leeward,
loaded with rime, to Denmark.
His stems then turned the stalwart
strife-awakener—met him
joyfully the gentry—
Jutland-ward to harbor.


Chapter 20. Magnús Is Accepted as King of Denmark


Now when King Magnús arrived in Denmark he was well received. He straightway held an assembly and meetings with the countrymen and asked to be received [as king] as had been agreed upon. And because the chieftains who wielded the greatest power in Denmark were bound by oaths to King Magnús and meant to stay by them, they advocated this strongly before the people. A contributing factor was that Knút the Powerful had passed away and all his progeny were dead; and also, that the sanctity of Holy King Óláf and his miracles had become known in all the lands.


Chapter 21. King Magnús Returns to Norway


Then King Magnús had the Vébjorg1 Assembly summoned. That is where the Danes choose their kings, both formerly and now. And at this assembly the Danes accepted Magnús Óláfsson as king over all the Danish realm. King Magnús stayed in Denmark for a long time in summer, and all the people received him well and showed him obedience. He set then men over all the country in both hundreds and districts, and gave the revenues to men of eminence. But as autumn approached he returned with his army to Norway and lay anchored in the [Gaut Elf] River for some time.


Chapter 22. Svein Úlfsson Declares Himself King Magnús’ Vassal


Svein was the name of the son of Earl Úlf, the son of Thorgils Sprakalegg. Svein’s mother was Ástríth, the daughter of King Svein Forkbeard. She was the sister of King Knút the Powerful by the same father and of King Óláf Eiríksson of Sweden by the same mother. Their mother was Queen Sigríth the Haughty, the daughter of Skoglar-Tósti. Svein Úlfsson had been staying for a long time at the court of the Swedish kings, his relatives, from the time his father, Earl Úlf had fallen—as is written in the story of King Knút the Old, he had his kinsman Úlf killed in Hróiskelda.1 Because of this, Svein Úlfsson did not stay in Denmark afterwards.


Svein Úlfsson was an exceedingly handsome man. He was of large stature and strong build, the greatest athlete, besides being a man of great intelligence. It was said by all who knew him that he had all the qualities that mark the good leader. Svein Úlfsson came to meet King Magnús when he lay anchored in the [Gaut Elf] River, as was written before. The king received him well. Also there were many who spoke for Svein, for he had a most engaging personality. And he himself pleaded his cause before the king eloquently and shrewdly. The outcome was that Svein declared himself King Magnús’ vassal. Then the king and Svein discussed many matters in private.


Chapter 23. Magnús Appoints Svein to Rule Denmark in His Absence


One day when King Magnús sat in his high-seat, and a great many men were about him, Svein Úlfsson sat on the foot-board in front of the king. The king began to speak as follows:


“To the chieftains and all the people I wish to make known the decision which I have come to. To me has come here a most excellent man, both as to family and himself, Svein Úlfsson. He has now become my vassal and has given me assurances as to that. But as you know, all Danes have this summer sworn allegiance to me, and now the land will be without a ruler when I leave it. But as you know also it is much exposed to incursions of the Wends, Kurlanders, and other tribes along the Baltic, as well as of Saxons. Again, I have promised [the Danes] to give them a chieftain for the protection of the land and for governing it. I do not know of any man as well suited for that, in every way, as is Svein Úlfsson. He has the birth to be a chieftain. Now then I shall appoint him my earl and give into his hands the Danish realm, to rule while I am in Norway; just as Knút the Powerful set Earl Úlf, his father, as chieftain over Denmark while he himself was in England.”


Einar Thambarskelfir said, “Too great an earl, too great an earl, foster son!”


Then the king said wrathfully, “Little understanding you think I am showing; but to me it seems that you think some too great to be earls and some, not man enough [to be so].”


Thereupon the king stood up and took a sword and fastened it in Svein’s belt. Then he took a shield and fastened it on his shoulder, and last he set a helmet on Svein’s head and bestowed the title of earl on him, giving him such revenues as Ulf, his father, had had before. Thereupon a shrine with holy reliques was brought before them. Upon it Svein laid his hands and swore allegiance to King Magnús. Thereupon the king led the earl to share his high-seat with him. Of this speaks Thjóthólf in this verse:




405.   In proper person Úlf’s son
pledges gave to Magnús.
Solemn oaths did swear there
Svein, with hands on shrine laid.
Saint Óláf’s heir drew up
oaths while on the River—
would that his word had not been
worthless—for him to swear to.


Thereupon Earl Svein journeyed to Denmark and was well received there by all the people. He surrounded himself with a bodyguard and soon became a great chieftain. During the winter he travelled widely about the land and made fast friends with men of eminence. He was also popular with the people.


Chapter 24. King Magnús Destroys Jómsborg


King Magnús continued with his forces north to Norway and remained there during the winter. But when spring came, King Magnús collected a large army and proceeded south to Denmark. And when he arrived there he learned that the Wends in Jómsborg had thrown off their allegiance to him. There the kings of Denmark had had a large earldom—it was they who had founded Jómsborg; and it had become a mighty stronghold. But when King Magnús heard this news he summoned a large fleet from Denmark, and in summer proceeded to Wendland with all his forces, and it was a mighty army. Of this Arnór Jarlaskáld speaks in this verse:




406.   1Hear now how the scion of heroes
harried on the Wendish folklands,
in this burden; fortune-favored
fared his ships from shipyard rollers;
hardly ever had a ruler
high-born launched more ships—’t was rued by
Wends—the foaming main to furrow,
frosty-prowed—against that folk-land.


And when King Magnús arrived in the land of the Wends he steered to Jómsborg and quickly conquered that fortified place. He slew a multitude of people there, burned the fort and [laid waste] the land far and wide, ravaging it severely. About this Arnór Jarlaskáld spoke this verse:




407.   Skylding king! With fire then fell you
furiously upon the heathen,
made great carnage, keen-eyed rapine-
queller, bloody, south by Jómsborg;
heathen hosts durst nowise shield their
halls within the ample breastworks:
fire and hurtling flame, high-blazing,
frightened townsmen, king, awe-stricken.


Many people in Wendish lands offered their submission to King Magnús, but many more fled. Then King Magnús returned to Denmark and prepared his winter quarters there, dismissing his army, both the Danish forces and also those that had come with him from Norway.


Chapter 25. Svein Úlfsson Makes Himself Master of Denmark


The same winter that Svein Úlfsson had received power over all the Danish realm and had established friendly relations with a great number of important persons, he had himself given the title of king; and in this he had the consent of many chieftains. But in the spring, when he learned that King Magnús was coming south from Norway with a large army, Svein betook himself to Scania, and from there to Gotland and to Sweden to his kinsman Emund, the king of Sweden, and remained there with him during the summer, but had spies out in Denmark to warn him of the movements of King Magnús and to learn how great an army he had. And when he learned that King Magnús had dismissed a large part of his army, and also that he himself had gone south to Jutland, then he, Svein, rode down from Sweden together with large forces which the Swedish king had procured for him. And when he arrived in Scania the people there received him well and regarded him as their king. Then a great number of men joined him. Thereupon he proceeded to Seeland and was well received there. He made himself master of all the land. Then he went over to the island of Fjón [Funen] and took possession of all the islands. The people all submitted to him. Svein had a large army and many ships.


Chapter 26. A Wendish Army Invades Denmark


King Magnús learned about those events, and also that the Wends had gathered an army: Then King Magnús collected a large force, and quickly gathered troops from all over Jutland. Then Otto, the duke of Saxony from Brunswick joined him. He had as wife Úlfhild, a daughter of King Saint Óláf and [thus] a sister of King Magnús. The duke had a large military force. The Danish chieftains urged King Magnús to march against the Wendish army and not let that heathen host overrun the country and lay it waste; and the plan was adopted that the king should lead his army south to Heithabý. Now when King Magnús lay encamped by the Skotborgará River in the Hlýrskógs Heath, his spies brought him news that the Wendish army was near and also, that they had so great a host that no one could count them and that King Magnús could not possibly make head against such a multitude and had no other choice but to flee. Nevertheless King Magnús wanted to do battle if there was any chance of gaining the victory. But most men advised against it, and all were of one mind, that the Wends had an invincible army. But Duke Otto rather urged him to fight them. Then the king had the trumpets blown for all his army to gather, and all men put on their armor and lay under the open sky at night beneath their shields; because they were told that the army of the Wends had come near. And the king was very distressed. It seemed to him an ill chance if he were compelled to flee, because he had never had that experience. He slept little during the night and said his prayers.


Chapter 27. King Magnús’ Dream


The next day was Michaelmas Eve [September 28th]. Now toward dawn the king fell asleep and dreamed that he saw Holy King Óláf, his father, and that he spoke to him: “Are you much distressed now and fearful because the Wends advance against you with a big army? You must not fear the heathen though they be many. I shall be with you in this struggle. Go to battle when you hear my horn.” But when the king awoke he told [the men about him] his dream. Then it was bright daylight. Then all the army heard the ringing of a bell aloft, and those of King Magnús’ men who had been in Nitharós thought that it sounded like the pealing of Gloth [Glad]. That was the bell King Óláf had given the Church of Saint Clement in Kaupang.


Chapter 28. Magnús Defeats the Wends on Hlýrskógs Heath


Then King Magnús arose and ordered the trumpets to be blown for the army to arise. By that time the host of the Wends was advancing toward them over the river. Then all the king’s army arose and marched against the heathen. King Magnús cast off his shirt of mail. His outermost garment was a kirtle of red silk. He grasped the battle-axe Hel which had been King Óláf’s own. He ran ahead of all the others against the enemy and at once, wielding the axe with both hands, hewed down one man after the other. As says Arnór Jarlaskáld:




408.   Strode then forth to strife the
stout-hearted sea-king, with
broad-axe brandished, and doffed his
byrnie, for battle eager.
With both his hands the haft of
Hel he grasped; and Heaven’s
Warder—unscathed in skirmish,
skulls he cleft—gave victory.


This battle did not last long. The king’s men fought most fiercely. And wherever they met, the Wends fell as thick as waves at high tide, and those who stood in the rear turned to flee and were slaughtered like cattle. The king himself pursued them east over the heath, and the whole heath was strewn with their dead. As Thjóthólf says in this verse:




409.   In host, Harald’s nephew
hardy—was the ravens’,
starved long, strongest hunger
stilled—foremost of all stood.
Widely, Wends lay scattered.
Was, where Magnús battled
the heath hidden by corpses
hewn down, in several miles’ breadth.


It is common report that there never has been as great a carnage in the north lands in Christian times as that of the Wends on Hlýrskógs Heath. But of the army of King Magnús only a few fell though many were wounded. After the battle King Magnús had the wounds of his men dressed, but there were not as many physicians in the army as were needed. Then the king went to the men who to him seemed suitable and felt of their hands. And after he had felt their palms, stroking them, he selected twelve men who seemed to him to have the softest palms and said that they were to bandage the men’s wounds. None of them had ever bandaged wounds before, but they all became most excellent physicians. There were two Icelanders among them, Thorkel Geirason of Lyngar and Atli, the father of Bárth the Black in Selar Dale, and from them are descended many physicians in later times.


After this battle the news of the miracle which King Saint Óláf had performed was spread far and wide in all lands; and all men declared it was in vain for anyone to fight against King Magnús Óláfsson, because King Óláf, his father, stood so close to him that no one could offer him resistance because of that.


Chapter 29. King Magnús Is Victorious over Svein


Thereupon King Magnús marched with his army against Svein, whom he called his earl even though the Danes called him king. King Magnús procured ships and equipped his army. Both sides collected large forces. Many chieftains from Scania, Halland, Funen were in Svein’s army, whereas King Magnús had mostly Norwegians and Jutlanders. Then he proceeded with his fleet against Svein. They met before Westland by [the island of] Ré.1 A great battle was fought there, and it ended with King Magnús winning the victory and Svein being put to flight with great losses. He fled back to Scania for he had a hiding-place in Gautland for refuge when needed. But King Magnús returned to Jutland and had his winter quarters there with a great army, setting a watch over his ships. Of this speaks Arnór Jarlaskáld in this verse:




410.   Ready was the ruler at
Ré to go to battle.
Welsh swords before Westland
wide then reddened Magnús.


Chapter 30. King Magnús Defeats Svein at Árós


Svein Úlfsson at once boarded his ships when he learned that King Magnús had disembarked. He collected all the troops he could and during the winter went about Seeland and Funen and the [other Danish] islands; and toward Yule he proceeded south [north] to Jutland, first sailing to the Limfjord. Many submitted to him there, and from some he took tribute. Others went to join King Magnús. And when King Magnús learned what Svein was about, he proceeded to his ships, accompanied by his Norwegian troops which were then in Denmark, and by some Danish ones, and sailed north along the land. Svein was in Árós [Aarhus] at that time and had a large army. When he learned of the approach of the army of King Magnús he pulled his troops out of the town and prepared for battle.


Now when King Magnús had heard where Svein was and he knew that he was close to him, he called his troops together and spoke to them as follows:


“We have learned now that the earl and his army are close by. I am told he has a large army. I shall now make known to you what my intention is. I shall take the offensive against the earl and do battle with him even though our force is somewhat smaller than his. As before, we shall put our confidence in God himself and in Holy King Óláf, my father. He has several times before given us victory when we went to battle and often had a smaller force than our enemies. Now I want my men to be prepared to advance against them; and as soon as they come near we shall row at them and at once do battle. So let all my men be prepared to fight.”


Thereupon they put on their armor, each preparing himself and his space in the ship for battle. King Magnús’ fleet rowed forward until they caught sight of the earl’s fleet and immediately rowed to the attack. Svein’s men armed themselves and tied their ships together, and at once a hard battle began. As the skald Thjóthólf says in this verse:




411.   Clashed the shields of king and
keen-eyed earl but lately—
broke out bitter play-of-
blades ’twixt sea-glow-keepers,1
so men could not remember
maid-of-Hethin’s2 conflict—
din of darts was made by
dauntless warriors—fiercer.


They fought about the forecastle, so that only those who were there could exchange blows, but those who stood in the space right behind them dealt thrusts with their halberds, while all those who stood farther back hurled thong-javelins, darts, or gaffs. Still others threw stones or other missiles, and those who stood about the mast shot with bows and arrows. This is mentioned by Thjóthólf:




412.   Splintering spears, heard I,
sped fast—wolves on corpses
bloody gorged, bucklers were
battered—in that onset.
Men made use, as most they
might—sword-slain lay many
warriors—waxed the din of
war—of rocks and arrows.




413.   Unwearied, bowmen bent their
bows to wing keen arrows.
Surely, of shots fell Thronders
short in nowise, that day.
Thong-sped darts were thrown so
thickly that one could not—
was hail of hissing arrows
heard—e’en see between them.


We are told here how violent the exchange of missiles was. At the beginning of the battle King Magnús first stood in a rampart of shields; but when it seemed to him that the attack was being pushed too slowly he ran from behind the shield-castle and along the length of the ship, calling out aloud and urging his men on, and going to the very front where blows were exchanged. And when his men saw that, everyone egged on his neighbor, and there was great shouting throughout the host. As says Thjóthólf:




414.   ’Monished each his mate in
Magnús’ ranks, with briskness—
was their prompting put to
proof—to fall on the enemy.


So the battle raged most fiercely. In that onset the forecastle of Svein’s ship and the space in front of the mast were cleared of men. Then King Magnús himself, together with his bodyguard, boarded Svein’s ship, and thereupon the king’s men, one after the other; and they attacked so sharply that Svein’s men gave ground. And then King Magnús cleared that ship of men, and afterwards one ship after the other. Then Svein fled, and also a large part of his fleet. Many of his men fell, and many others were given quarter. As says Thjóthólf in this verse:




415.   The warder-of-keel-wagons3
went aboard, unquailing—
famous was that—the foc’sl
fair of Earl Svein’s vessel.
We fought so fewer grew the
followers of the earl there.
Big the booty, as we
boarded and cleared their bottoms.




416.   Earl Svein’s fleet, defeated,
fell back—great the slaughter,
ere the keen-eyed king gave
quarter to the warriors.


1043 This battle was fought on the last Sunday before Yule [December 18]. As says Thjóthólf:




417.   Fiercely, heard I, that fray was
fought—the trees-of-combat4
strove in storm-of-Óthin5
stoutly—on a Sunday.
Floated, fated to perish,
fey men’s—drowned were many,
cruel carnage fleeing—
corpses on every billow.


King Magnús captured seven of Svein’s ships there. As says Thjóthólf:




418.   Cleared then Óláf’s kinsman
keel-wains seven, and victory
won—scarce will the women
weep at home in Norway.


And stíll further:






419.   Lost have Earl Svein’s luckless
liege-men in storm-of-arrows—
hard was the hail-of-darts—their
home-coming—at Árós.
Winter storms will stir there
steersmen’s skulls and leg bones—
wind-whipped waves o’er dead men
wash—on shelving sand banks.


Svein straightway fled to Seeland in the night with such ships as had escaped and wanted to stay with him. But King Magnús anchored his ships by the land and let his force straightway disembark in the night; and early on the following morning they returned after making a great raid in the countryside. This is mentioned by Thjóthólf:




420.   Warrior’s heads were hit by
hard stone-casts but lately—
their battle array was breached and
broken—that crushed their helmets.
Booty great we gathered,
gotten above in Denmark—
reconquer cannot Svein his
country—where we anchored.


Chapter 31. King Magnús Pursues Svein


King Magnús immediately sailed north [south] to Seeland with his fleet in pursuit of Svein. But as soon as King Magnús’ fleet arrived, Svein at once fled on land with his army. King Magnús pursued them in their flight and killed those whom they overtook. As says Thjóthólf:




421.   With one voice Seeland’s women
wished to know in truth who
bore the banner:1 many
blood-reddened shields had there.
Fearful, many fled through
forests in mad terror—
fast their feet did carry
fugitives—to Ringstath.




422.   All were the earl’s shoulders
up to his neck muddy:
Much I marvel if the
master of Lund2 can hold out.
But yesterday the darts did
drop o’er swamp and heather
as Svein the strong to sea-coast
slunk with dragging banner.




Magnús’ men put farms to the torch in Seeland.


Then Svein fled over to the island of Funen, but King Magnús harried in Seeland, burning down far and wide the houses of those who in fall had joined Svein’s army. As says Thjóthólf:




423.   Up had the earl to yield his
aim, that winter, of kingship.
Right well didst thou, war-lord,
ward thy country, Magnús.
Risk didst thou, ring-giver,
raging strife ’neath war-shield.
Near to death was Canute’s stout
nephew in that battle.




424.   Wrathfully didst, Raumers’3
ruler, set all dwellings—
hadst all barns of bonders4
burned to gleeds—on fire.
Repay and punish wouldst thou,
prince, with like for like, for
scathe done by them—they scattered,
scuttling—the earl’s followers.


Chapter 32. King Magnús Ravages Funen


As soon as King Magnús learned where Svein was he sailed with his fleet to Funen. When Svein heard this he took ship at once and landed in Scania, from where he proceeded to Gautland and then to Sweden, to join the king. But King Magnús disembarked on Funen and had his men plunder and burn the estates of many [followers of Svein]. All of them on the island scattered and fled. As says Thjóthólf:




425.   Storm winds stir up flames from
stout oak-rafters blazing.
Furious fires, kindled,
flickering glow in southland.
Houses burn still higher by
half o’er folks on Funen.
Roof and rafters suffer
ruin through the Northmen.




426.   Magnús’ men ought now be
mindful to make free with
Svein’s warriors’ women, having
won three battles against him:
fair ones we shall find in
Funen: redden weapons!
Forward now to fight in
foremost ranks in sword-din!


After that, all people in Denmark submitted to King Magnús. Then there was good peace during the latter part of that winter, and King Magnús appointed his own men to administer all of Denmark. But with approaching spring he proceeded to Norway with his army and remained there a long time during the summer.


Chapter 33. Magnús Defeats Svein in the Battle off Helganess


Now when Svein learned that, he straightway rode down to Scania with a large army he had from Sweden. The people of Scania gave him a good welcome. He increased his army there and thereupon proceeded to Seeland and made himself master of it as well as of Funen and all the other islands. But when King Magnús heard of that he mustered an army and a fleet and then proceeded south to Denmark. He learned where Svein and his fleet lay at anchor, and proceeded against him. The fleets met at Helganess, toward evening (1045). When the battle began, King Magnús had a smaller fleet but larger ships and better equipped. As says Arnór:




427.   A headland broad, heard I,
Helganess is called, where
wave-steeds many emptied.
As eve wore on, the ruler
asked us to join battle.
All night the rain-of-rocks did
rage, and warriors went Hel-ward.


The battle was fiercely fought, and as the night wore on there was great carnage. King Magnús threw javelins all night long. As says Thjóthólf:




428.   At headland there which hight is
Helganess, Svein’s army
whelmed was in the hail-of-
halberds—men drowned wounded.
Thong-sped darts were thrown by
Thronders’ famous liege-lord.
Ashen rods he reddened
rapidly toward night-fall.


To be brief about this battle, King Magnús was victorious, and Svein was put to flight. His ship was cleared from stem to stern, and all other ships of Svein were cleared, likewise. As says Thjóthólf:




429.   Fled the ill-starred earl from
emptied warship, fearing
flight barred by the embattled
bold offspring of Óláf.
Shedded blood did sheathe the
sharp-edged blade of Magnús’
brand, whetted to bite strong
byrnies. He fought for his kingdom.


Arnór says furthermore:




430.   From Bjorn’s1 brother took then,
baleful to Scanings,2 Magnús—
thither thronged the war-ships
thickly—all his vessels.


A great host of Svein’s men fell there. King Magnús and his men obtained much booty. As says Thjóthólf:




431.   Buckler good and byrnie
bore I, by lot gotten—
fierce the din of furious
fighting—from that battle.
Arms fair and feat, as before
I told my leman,
got I where gallant Magnús
gave the Danes a drubbing.


Svein then fled up into Scania, together with all those who managed to get away; but King Magnús and his army pursued them far into the country, and little resistance was made by Svein’s men and the farmers there. As says Thjóthólf:




432.   Bade then Óláf’s heir his
army to invade the country.
Lusting for battle, the liege-lord
left his ships in harbor.
Brave king had us harry—
here is tumult—in Denmark.
Storm our steeds to eastward,
streaking over Scania.


Thereupon King Magnús had his men harry widely about the countryside. As says Thjóthólf:




433.   Now flock the Norse to follow
flags, high-borne, of Magnús.
At my side but seldom
sword and shield I carry.
Scuttled the scamps o’er all
Scania in great hurry—
few lands have I found more
fair e’er—south to Lund town.


Then they took to burning down the houses all over the countryside, and the people fled far and wide. As says Thjóthólf:




434.   With ice-cold iron we drove the
earl’s followers [southward].
A halt was called to haughty
hopes of Scanings’ victory.
Red-blazing fires ravage
rich villagers’ houses,
kindled by keen warriors
quickening this havoc.




435.   With flaming firebrands kindled,
fast the son of Óláf
with war-host great lays waste the
wealth of Danish folklands.
O’er moors of Denmark marching,
men wearily shields bear.
Wounded, Earl Svein’s warriors—
Victory ours!—flee before us.




436.   Yesteryear our liege-lord
youthful had his war-host—
truth I tell—on Funen
tread the olden folk-paths.
May the men of Svein scarce
Magnús hinder, fleeing—
this morning, martial banners
many flew—from winning.


Svein then fled east in Scania while King Magnús returned to his ships and proceeded east along the coast of Scania after hurried preparations. Then Thjóthólf spoke this verse:




437.   Naught have I now, save this
nasty sea, to drink of.
From salty sea I take a
swallow on board the king’s ship.
Lies now Scania low on
leeshore—greatly have we
labored for our leader;
little fear we the Swedish.


Svein fled to Gautland and then sought out the Swedish king. There he stayed all winter and was accorded a good reception.


Chapter 34. King Magnús Ravages Falster and Funen


King Magnús turned back after subduing Scania, and first went on land in the island of Falster, where he harried and killed many who had supported Svein. This is mentioned by Arnór:




438.   Well repaid the prince their
perfidy to the Danish:
many Falster farmers
felled he then wrathfully.
Heaped he—and his henchmen
helped him not a little—
hills of high-piled slain for
hungry wolves on the island.


Thereupon King Magnús proceeded with his army to the island of Funen where he harried, greatly ravaging the land. As says Arnór:




439.   Reddened the ring-sarks’-dyer—for
rapine he repaid them—
fought the folk-lord young on
Fuñen—their bright banners.
Men may not call to mind that
many other leaders
gave equal food to eagles,
agèd twenty winters.


Chapter 35. King Magnús’ Battles Are Rehearsed


King Magnús resided in Denmark that winter; and good peace prevailed then. He had fought many battles in Denmark and had victory in all. Odd Kíkinaskáld1 says thus:




440.   Michaelmas before was
murderous battle foughten—
Wends did fall. To war-din
waxed men much accustomed.
At Yule before was fought out
fiercely still another:
savage sword-fight was there
south of Árós started.


Still further Arnór says:




441.   2Óláf’s avenger, grist thou givest,
glorious ruler, for my poem:
Dew-of-wounds3 thou lettest drink the
dun-hued wolves: I sing thy praises.
Battles four, folk-ruler, hast thou
foughten in one winter, hard ones—
stern art called, destroyer-of-shields—and
storms-of-arrows urged in Denmark.


Three battles King Magnús fought with Svein Ulfsson. As says Thjóthólf:




442.   With omens goodly urged was
Óthin’s-weather4 by Magnús.
The vikings’-foe’s victory
vaunt I in my poem:
reddened his sword the Raumers’
ruler; in three battles
the upper hand had he,
whelming aye his enemies.


Chapter 36. King Magnús Lays Claim to England


Now then King Magnús ruled over both Denmark and Norway. But when he had taken possession of the Danish realm he sent emissaries west to England. They went to the court of King Eadward and showed him the letter and seal of King Magnús. In his letter there stood, together with the greetings of King Magnús:


“You will have learned of the agreement made between Hortha-Knút and me that the one of us who survived the other, if the latter died without a son, should take over the land and subjects of the deceased. Now it has turned out so, as I know you have heard, that I have taken possession of all of the Danish realm as my heritage after Hortha-Knút. But when he died he had power over England no less than over Denmark. So now I claim England according to our agreement. I desire that you give up your kingdom to me. Otherwise I shall attempt to gain it with the forces both of Norway and Denmark. And then he will govern the land who wins the victory.”


Chapter 37. King Eadward Refuses to Give Up His Kingdom


But when Eadward had read this letter, he made reply as follows:


“All men in this country know that King Æthelred, my father, was entitled by birth to this realm, according to both old and recent covenants. We four were his sons. But when he left us by death, Eadmund, my brother, took over the power and the realm, because he was the oldest of us brothers. Therewith I was well pleased, the while he lived. After him, King Knút, my stepfather, took possession of the kingdom. And while he lived it was not easy to lay claim to the throne. After him, Harald, my brother, ruled during his lifetime. But when he died, my brother, Hortha-Knút governed Denmark; and it was thought the right and proper division between us brothers that he should be king both over England and Denmark. But I had no kingdom to govern. Now he has died; and it was the counsel of all men in this country to have me as king here in England. But during the time I did not have princely rank, I served those above me without any more overbearing than they who had no hereditary claims to kingship. Now I have been consecrated king of this country with as complete authority as had my father before me. And I shall not give up this title while I live. But if King Magnús comes here with his army, I shall gather no army against him, and he may then take possession of England after depriving me of my life. Tell him these my words.”


Thereupon the messengers returned to King Magnús and reported to him what they had heard. The king answered slowly in this wise: “I consider it best and most fitting to let King Eadward have his kingdom in peace, so far as I am concerned, and to hold on to the one which God has permitted me to possess.”




The Saga of Harald Sigurtharson [Hardruler]


Chapter 1. Harald Escapes from the Battle of Stiklarstathir


Harald, the son of Sigurth Sýr, brother of King Saint Óláf by the same mother, was at the battle of Stiklarstathir where Holy King Óláf was slain. Harald was wounded and escaped with others who took to flight; as says Thjóthólf:




443.   Heard have I that near to
Haug did rage the shield storm;
by his brother stood, though,
Parted from his peerless
prince he, all unwilling—
fifteen years the youth then—
beyond the woods to hide him.


Rognvald Brúsason helped Harald to escape from the battle and led him to a certain farmer who lived in the forest far from other people. There Harald was healed, and stayed till he was entirely recovered. Then the son of the farmer accompanied him on the way east of the Keel. They took to paths in the woods, avoiding, as far as possible, the commonly travelled roads. The farmer’s son did not know whom he was following. And when they were riding through some wild woods, Harald spoke this verse:




444.   Through endless woods I wend my
way now, honored little.
Who knows but my name will be
noised abroad hereafter?


He journeyed east through Jamtaland and Helsingjaland till he came to Sweden. There he found Earl Rognvald Brúsason and many others of King Óláf’s men who had escaped from the battle.


Chapter 2. Harald Repairs to Gartharíki and to Miklagarth


In the following spring they procured for themselves a ship and in summer travelled to Gartharíki to the court of King Jarizleif and stayed there during the winter. As says Bolverk:1




445.   Bold prince! Blood didst wipe from
brand ere leaving combat:
You filled the ravens with flesh of
fallen—wolves howled in forests.
Passed then—of more peerless
peace-destroyer2 not heard I
ever speak—the atheling
east, next year, to Garthar.


King Jarizleif made Harald and his followers welcome. Harald became chieftain of the men charged with the defence of the country, as did Eilíf, the son of Earl Rognvald. As says Thjóthólf:




446.   3 The same was done
by Rognvald’s son:
in phalanx taut
both chieftains fought
East-Wends, pent tight
in sorry plight;
to Poles hard driven
harsh terms were given.


Harald remained several years in Gartharíki and made forays in the eastern Baltic. Later, he proceeded to Greece with a great host of men, all the way to Miklagarth [Byzantium]. As says Bolverk:




447.   Fresh gales drove our gallant
galley scurrying shoreward—
with armored prows and poops our
proud ships rode to harbor.
Of Miklagarth the golden
gables our famous prince saw.
Many a mere-ship fair-dight
moved toward the high-walled city.


Chapter 3. Harald Becomes the Leader of the Varangians


At that time there ruled over the Greek Empire Queen Zóë1 the Powerful together with Michael Kátalactús. And when Harald arrived in Byzantium and had had a meeting with the queen he took military service with her and right away in fall sailed with some galleys together with the fleet into the Greek Sea. Harald had command over a troop of his own men. The leader over the fleet was called Gyrgir [Georgios]. He was a kinsman of the queen. Harald had joined the expedition but a short time before the Varangians2 became greatly attached to him, so they all fought together in battles. And at last Harald became the leader of all Varangians. Gyrgir and his fleet sailed widely about the Greek islands, making war upon the corsairs.


Chapter 4. Harald Outwits Gyrgir


Once, when they had been marching overland and were about to choose night quarters near some forest, the Varangians had arrived first at the spot where they intended to camp for the night and had chosen for their tents the places which had the best and highest location; for the land there is swampy, and when the rains come it is bad to be camped in low places. Then Gyrgir, the general of the army, arrived and when he saw where the Varangians had pitched their tents he commanded them to leave that place and camp somewhere else, saying that he wanted to pitch his tent there. Harald answered him thus:


“Whenever you are the first to arrive at night quarters, then you choose the location for camping, and then we pitch our tents somewhere else to suit ourselves. Do this now, you too, and pitch your tent where you will, in some other place. It was my impression that it was the privilege of the Varangians here in the empire of the Greek kings to be free and independent of everyone in all respects, owing service only to the king and the queen.”


They quarrelled about this with great heat, and it went so far that both parties armed themselves and were ready to fight. Then the wisest men intervened and parted them, saying that it would be better for them to come to an agreement about this and arrive at a clear understanding, so that there would be no occasion in the future for an argument. A meeting was arranged with the best and wisest men to judge between them. At that meeting, following their counsel, all were agreed that Greeks and Varangians should cast lots as to who was to be first in riding or rowing or choosing a berth in harbor or selecting a place for pitching their tents. And each side was to be satisfied with the outcome.


Thereupon the lots were made ready and marked. Then Harald said to Gyrgir, “I want to see how you mark your lot, so that we don’t mark them the same way.” This Gyrgir did. Then Harald marked his lot and threw it into the bag, as did Gyrgir.


The man who was to draw the lots took one between his fingers and held it up, saying, “These shall be first to ride, to row, to choose a berth in harbor, and to select a place for pitching their tents.”


Harald grabbed his hand with the lot, threw it into the sea, and said, “That was our lot.”


Gyrgir said, “Then why didn’t you let others see it?”


“Look at the one left,” said Harald, “and you will recognize your mark.”


Then they looked at that lot, and all saw it bore Gyrgir’s mark. So it was decided that the Varangians should have the first choice in all matters under dispute. There were several matters on which they could not agree, and the end was that Harald always had his way.


Chapter 5. Harald Gains Great Possessions in Africa


During the summer the whole army harried [in the countryside]. Whenever the whole army was together, Harald had his men keep away from battle or, at least, stay where there was least danger, saying that he wished to avoid losing his men. But when his troop was alone, he gave himself to fighting so furiously that he would either be victorious or else die. Thus it often happened that when Harald led he won the victory whilst Gyrgir did not. The soldiers took note of this and said they would have more success if Harald alone was general of the whole army; and they reproached the commander that neither he nor his men showed any efficiency.


Gyrgir said that the Varangians refused to support him, and requested them to turn elsewhere and let him and the remainder of the army achieve what they could. Thereupon Harald left the army together with the Varangians and the Latin men.1 Gyrgir then proceeded with his army of Greeks, and it became apparent then who was most effective. Harald always was victorious and won booty, but the Greeks returned to Miklagarth, excepting the young men who wanted to gain riches. They joined Harald and chose him as their general. He proceeded with his army west to Africa, which the Varangians call Serkland [Saracen Land], and there he increased his strength greatly. In Saracen Land he gained possession of eighty cities. Some surrendered, some he took by force. Thereupon he proceeded to Sicily. As says Thjóthólf:




448.   Taken were twice forty
towns—oft risked his life the
youthful glow-red gold-rings’-
giver—in land of Saracens,
ere the hardy hero
Hild’s-dire-game, to Saracens
baleful, buckler-shielded
brought to level Sicily.


Thus says Illugi Bryndœlaskáld:2




449.   Mighty Michael didst make
master—his kin, Atli3
to him invited, heard we—
Harald, over Southlands.


Here we are told that Michael was king over the Greek Empire at that time.


Harald remained many years in Africa and acquired great quantities of chattels—gold, and all kinds of valuable things. But all the property thus acquired which he did not need for his living expenses he sent by trusty men north to Hólmgarth for King Jarizleif to keep and safeguard; and an immense amount of treasure accumulated thus, as was to be expected, seeing that he harried in that part of the world which is richest in gold and treasure, and also considering his achievements, having as was stated truthfully before, conquered eighty strongholds.


Chapter 6. Harald Gains a City by a Stratagem


Now when Harald came to Sicily he harried there and with his army laid siege to a great and populous fortified city. He surrounded the place, because it had strong walls, so that it seemed unlikely that he could break them down. The townspeople had sufficient victuals and other things required to resist a siege. Then Harald hit upon this stratagem: he let his fowlers catch little birds which had their nests in the city and tie plane shavings of resinous pine soaked with molten wax and sulphur on their backs, to which he set fire. When liberated, all the birds at once flew into the city to seek their young and the nests they had under the thatches of reed or straw. And then the fire spread from the birds to the house-thatches; and though each single one carried but little fire, it soon grew to a conflagration, since many birds carried it all about the thatches of the city; and soon one house after the other began to burn till the whole city was aflame. Then all the people came out of the city and begged for mercy—the very same who many a day had spoken overbearingly and scornfully about the Greek army and its generals. Harald gave all those quarter who asked for it, and made himself master of that city.


Chapter 7. Harald Digs a Tunnel to Overcome a City


There was another fortified town to which Harald laid siege. It was both populous and strong, so that they could not expect to break it down, [especially] seeing that it was surrounded by a flat, hard plain. Then Harald began to dig an underground passage from a place where a creek flowed in a deep gorge so that one could not see down into it from the stronghold. They dumped the earth [they excavated] into the water, and let the current carry it away. They kept at this work both day and night, in shifts. But the army every day went up to the castle, and the garrison stood behind their ramparts, and they shot at each other. But at night both sides slept. When Harald judged that the underground passage had reached to within the castle wall he ordered his army to be ready for battle. It was toward daybreak when they entered the passage. And when they reached the end of it they began to dig over their heads until they came to stones laid in lime. That was the flooring of a stone hall. Then they broke through the floor and went up into the hall. There they found many townsmen who were eating and drinking there; and it was for them a most unforeseen calamity, because the Varangians attacked them with drawn swords, killing some, while others fled who could. The Varangians pursued them, and some seized the castle gates and undid them, letting in the whole army. When they entered the stronghold the townsfolk fled, but many asked for mercy, and all who surrendered were given quarter. In this fashion Harald took possession of the town and won immense booty.


Chapter 8. A Third Stronghold Defies Harald


They came to a third stronghold, the largest and strongest of them all, and also the richest and most powerfully garrisoned. About this stronghold there were moats so large that they saw they could not win the place with wiles as they did the other ones. They lay before it a very long time without accomplishing anything. But when the people in the stronghold saw that, they became quite bold. They placed their men on the battlements and then opened up the castle gates, shouting at the Varangians, daring them to come into the stronghold, and taunting them and saying that they couldn’t fight any more than chickens. Harald asked his men to behave as though they did not know what they said. “We shall not accomplish anything,” he said, “even though we assault their stronghold. They can shoot at us from above, and though we might get into the stronghold with some troops, they have the power to lock in those they want to, and lock others out, because they have set guards over all the gates. We shall make no less game of them and let them see that we are not afraid of them. Let our men go forward as far as possible on the level ground before the fortress, yet be careful not to come within range of their arrows. Let all our men go unarmed and play games and let the men in the stronghold see that we are not concerned about their array.” And thus it went on for several days.


Chapter 9. Harald Forces the Castle Gate


Mention is made of two Icelanders who were in Harald’s army. One was Halldór, a son of Snorri Gothi [the Priest]—he brought this account to Iceland; the other, Úlf, the son of Óspak, the son of Ósvífr the Wise. Both men were of great strength and valor and were dear friends of Harald. Both took part in the games. Now when things had gone on this way for several days, the men of the fortress wanted to show still greater hardihood and went up on the fortress walls unarmed, leaving the gates of the stronghold open. But when the Varangians saw that, one day, they went to the games with their swords under their cloaks and their helmets under their hoods. When they had disported themselves for a while they saw that the men of the fortress were off their guard. Then they quickly brandished their swords and ran toward the gate. But when the men of the fortress saw that, they made a courageous stand, fully armed, and there was a battle in the castle gate. The Varangians had no means for protecting themselves except that they wrapped their mantles around their left arm. Some were wounded, some fell, and all were in great danger. Harald and those who were in the camp with him came up to support his men. But the men of the fortress had by that time gone on the castle wall and shot and threw stones down on them. A hard battle ensued. Those [Varangians] inside the castle gate thought there was more delay in helping them than they could have wished. When Harald arrived at the castle gate his standard bearer fell. Then he said, “Halldór, you take up the banner!”




Harald storms a walled city.


Halldór, taking up the standard, answered rather unwisely, “Who would bear your standard if you do your part so timidly as you have been doing?” These were words of anger rather than the truth, for Harald was the most valiant of men. Then they forced their way into the stronghold. There was the fiercest battle, but in the end Harald won the victory and took the fortress. Halldór was severely wounded with a great wound in his face, and that blemish disfigured him for life.


Chapter 10. Harald Wins a Fourth City by Shamming Death


The fourth stronghold Harald came to with his army was larger than all those spoken of before. It was also so strong that they saw no hope of taking it. So they laid siege to it, to prevent any supplies being brought into it. Now after they had camped there but a little time, Harald fell ill, so that he had to take to his bed. He had his tent pitched at some distance from the other encampment, because he felt it to be more restful not to hear the noise and uproar of the troops. His men often went to and from his tent for advice. The people in the stronghold observed that something had happened among the Varangians. So they sent out spies to find out what it was. And when these spies returned to the stronghold, they were able to report that the chieftain of the Varangians was sick and that this was the reason no attack was made on the city. And when things had gone on this way for a while, Harald’s strength failed him. Then his men became very sad and downcast. All this was learned by the citizens. And finally Harald wasted away so greatly that his death was noised abroad through his army. Thereupon the Varangians had a parley with the townsmen and told them of the death of their chieftain and asked the priests to let him be interred in the fortress. But when the townsmen heard this, many who ruled over cloisters or other great churches in the city all wanted to have the body interred in their churches, because they knew that rich donations could be expected. So all the priests clad themselves in their vestments and went out of the city with shrines and holy relics and formed a fine procession. The Varangians also prepared a great funeral. The coffin was borne on high, covered with costly cloths, and with many banners borne over it. But when the coffin was carried in past the castle gate they set down the bier across the open castle gate. Thereupon the Varangians sounded a war blast with all their trumpets and bared their swords. Then all the army of the Varangians rushed out of their camp fully armed and ran toward the stronghold with shouts and whooping. But the monks and other clerics who had issued for this funeral procession and had vied with each other to be the first and foremost to come out and receive the offerings, now were more eager by half to run away from the Varangians, because they slew all of those nearest to them, whether priest or layman. And the Varangians went through the whole city, killing the men, plundering all the churches, and taking immense booty.


Chapter 11. Of Harald’s Eighteen Battles


Harald for many years took part in the campaign just described, both in Serkland [Saracen Land] and in Sicily. After that he returned to Miklagarth with that army and remained there for a little while before starting out for Jerusalem Land. Then he left behind him there the payment in gold for his military services for the Greek king, and so did all Varangians who had been in this expedition with him. It is said that in all these campaigns Harald fought eighteen great battles. As says Thjóthólf:




450.   All have heard that Harald
had—oft the folk-leader
urged the storm-of -arrows—
eighteen fierce-fought battles.
Glorious king! With gore the
grey eagles’ talons you did
redden, wherever you harried,
home ere that you journeyed.


Chapter 12. Harald Bathes in the Jordan River


Harald proceeded with his army to Jerusalem Land and then overland to Jerusalem itself. And wherever he went all castles and strongholds surrendered to him. Thus says the skald Stúf,1 who had heard the king himself tell about these events:




451.   Wended, weapon-bold, the
warrior out from Greek-land—
to follow him that folk was
Unburned also, because of
awe of his power, was the
Holy Land handed to him.
Harald’s soul, we pray, shall.2


Here we are told that this land came into Harald’s power unburned and unharried. Then he journeyed to the Jordan River and bathed in it, as is the custom of other palmers. Harald made great gifts to our Lord’s sepulchre as well as to the Holy Cross and other sacred places in Jerusalem Land. He rendered the road safe all the way to the Jordan River and killed robbers and other disturbers of the peace. As says Stúf:




452.   Held good Harald’s angry
hest, the Egthir’s3 ruler’s,
on both the banks of Jordan—
bad men’s wiles it stopped short.
But for taunts and treachery
trounced them thoroughly the
stern folk-warder straightway.
Stay with Christ forever.


Thereupon he returned to Miklagarth.


Chapter 13. Harald Is Imprisoned by the Greek Emperor


Once back in Miklagarth from Jerusalem Land, Harald felt the desire to return to the North and his own ancestral possessions. He had learned that Magnús, the son of Óláf, had become king of Norway and also of Denmark. So he gave up service for the Greek king. But when Queen Zóë learned of this she became enraged and accused him of having misappropriated the property of the Greek king which Harald had acquired on these expeditions when chieftain over his army.


Máría was the name of a beautiful young maiden. She was the daughter of Queen Zóë’s brother. Harald had asked for the hand of this maiden, but the queen had forbidden it. According to Varangians who had served as soldiers in Miklagarth and returned to Iceland, it was said by well-informed men there that Queen Zóë herself wished to marry Harald and that this was the chief reason for her accusation of Harald when he desired to leave Miklagarth, though the people were given another reason. At that time Konstantínus Mónomákús1 was the king of the Greeks. He ruled together with Queen Zóë. For the reasons alleged, the king of Greece had Harald taken prisoner and put into a dungeon.


Chapter 14. Harald Blinds the Greek Emperor


But when Harald approached the prison, Holy King Óláf appeared to him, saying that he would succor him. On the street there a chapel was built later and consecrated to King Óláf, and that chapel has stood there ever since. The prison was made in such fashion that it was a high tower, open above, with a door leading into it from the street. Harald was locked in there, and with him, Halldór and Úlf.


In the following night a certain lady of high degree came to the top of the prison, having climbed the tower with ladders, together with two servants of hers. They let down a rope into the dungeon and pulled them up by it. This woman, Holy King Óláf had healed, and he had appeared to her and told her that she should free his brother from prison. Then Harald at once went to the Varangians, and they all arose and bade him welcome. Thereupon all the army took their weapons and went to the bedchamber of the king. They made him prisoner and put out both his eyes. As says Thórarin Skeggjarson1 in his drápa:




453.   Gained e’en more of the glow-red
gold our valiant chieftain.
With eyes destroyed, stone-blind
stared the Greek lands’ liege-lord.


So says also the skald Thjóthólf:




454.   On both eyes blinded was then—
baleful strife was started—
Greekland’s great lord by the
Over in the East, an
ill mark Norway’s ruler,
Magnús’ kinsman, made on
mainsworn Greek king’s countenance.


In these two drápas in honor of Harald, and in many other poems about him, it is mentioned that Harald put out the eyes of the very emperor of the Greeks. They might have named a duke or count or some other man of princely rank as having done it if they knew that to be more true. But Harald himself told this story, as did the other men who were with him there.


Chapter 15. Harald Escapes with Princess Máría


That same night Harald and his men went to the house where Máría slept and took her away by force. Then they went to the place where the galleys of the Varangians were anchored. They captured two of them and rowed out into the Golden Horn,1 and when they came to where iron chains were stretched across the entrance of the harbor Harald ordered the men on both vessels to take to their oars; and those who did not row were to run back to the stern, each with his sleeping bag in hand. So they ran the galleys up on the iron chains. And as soon as they were fast and the momentum was spent, Harald ordered them all to run forward. Then the galley on which Harald was, plunged forward and through this teetering slid down from the iron chain; but the other galley hung fast on the chain and broke in two, and many drowned there while some were rescued. In this fashion Harald escaped from Miklagarth and sailed into the Black Sea. But before leaving the land he put the maiden ashore, giving her a goodly retinue back to Miklagarth. He bade her tell Zóë, her kinswoman, just how much power she had over him and [ask her] whether the queen’s power would have been able to prevent him from taking the maiden. Then he sailed north to Ellipaltar,2 and from there he travelled all through the eastern realm. On this journey Harald composed humorous verses, sixteen altogether,3 with one refrain for them all. One of them is as follows:




455.   On Sea of Sicily we
sailed in stately fashion—
sharp-cut, moved our shapely
ship, full-manned with warriors.
Scarce would cowards care to
come, I ween, where we did.
Yet the gold-ring-Gerth4 from
Garthar lets me dangle


With this he referred to Ellisif, the daughter of King Jarizleif in Hólmgarth.


Chapter 16. Harald Collects Much Treasure


When Harald arrived in Hólmgarth, King Jarizleif welcomed him most heartily. He remained there during the winter, taking into his own keeping all the gold he had before sent there from Miklagarth, together with much other treasure. Altogether it was more than had ever been seen in the North in one man’s property. Harald had been in “pólútasvarf”1 three times whilst in Miklagarth. It is a custom there that every time the Greek emperor dies the Varangians are permitted to have “pólútasvarf.” Then they are free to go through all the pólútir of the emperor where are kept his treasures, and every one may then freely help himself to whatever he lays his hands on.


Chapter 17. Harald Marries Ellisif and Sails to Sweden


That winter King Jarizleif married his daughter to Harald. Her name was Elizabeth, whom Northmen call Ellisif. Witness Stúf the Blind:




456.   Kinship won the keen-eyed
king which he had wished,
gold a-plenty as guerdon
gained he, and eke the princess.


In the spring following he journeyed from Hólmgarth to Aldeigjuborg. There he got himself ships and in summer sailed west, turning first to Sweden, and anchored in Sigtúna. As says Valgarth á Velli:1




457.   Laden with fairest load, you
launched your swift ship, Harald,
carrying gold from Garthar—
glory came to you—westward.
You steered in stormy weather,
stalwart chief—ships wallowed
deep—through spray and spindrift
speeding, till you saw Sigtún.


Chapter 18. Harald Allies Himself with Svein


There, Harald encountered Svein Úlfsson. He had fled from King Magnús that fall, after the battle off Helganess. And when they met they were greatly pleased. Óláf Sœnski [the Swedish], King of Sweden, was the grandfather of Ellisif, Harald’s wife; and Ástríth, Svein’s mother, was the sister of King Saint Óláf. Harald and Svein entered into an alliance with each other and made firm agreements. All Swedes were friends of Svein, because most of his kinsmen dwelled there. And so all Swedes became friends and followers of Harald. Many important personages were bound to him there by ties of marriage. As says Thjóthólf:




458.   Your oaken keel from the east the
angry billows parted.
Since that time, all Swedes did,
scion of Óláf, aid thee.
Gales fell on gold-laden
galley soaked with salt sea,
leeward leaning strongly,
luffing under broad sail.


Chapter 19. Harald and Svein Harry in Denmark


Afterwards they procured ships, Harald and Svein, and soon a large force collected; and when it was equipped they sailed west to Denmark. As says Valgarth:




459.   Shoved out for you a ship was,
shield-surrounded, battle-
eager Yngvi-scion, your
own to win, from Sweden.
High, then, to mast’s head you
hoisted the sail as you
scudded past level Scania,
scaring women, near Denmark.


First they landed in Seeland with their fleet and harried and burned there far and wide. Then they made for Funen, went up on shore, and plundered there. As says Valgarth:




460.   Harrying, Harald, thou didst
havoc spread—the wolves on
bloody battle-slain then
battened—in all of Seeland.
With strong force you fell on
Funen and did to helmets—
shredded were there shapely
shields galore—great damage.




461.   Bright fire houses burned and
barns, south of Roskilde.
Toppled farms in flames the
fierce urger-of-combat.
Hel did life withhold from
hapless countrymen, while
hosts of fear-crazed franklins
fled to the woods in silence.




462.   Down-cast, away drifted
Danes who lived still, scattered
in flight, while fair maidens
fell into our power.
With fetters fastened, women
followed you down to your vessels;
cut chafing chains the flesh of
chattel maidens cruelly.


Chapter 20. Harald and Magnús Advance Against One Another


In the fall after the battle of Helganess King Magnús Óláfsson had sailed north to Norway. Then he heard the tidings that Harald Sigurtharson, his kinsman, had arrived in Sweden, and also, that he had allied himself with Svein Úlfsson, and with a large fleet intended to conquer Denmark and afterwards, Norway. King Magnús thereupon levied ships and men from Norway and soon had gathered a large fleet together. Then he heard that Harald and Svein had invaded Denmark, burning and laying waste everything, and that the people were submitting to them. It was said also that Harald was larger and stronger than any other man, and so clever that nothing was impossible for him and that he always was victorious, wherever he fought; also that he was so rich in gold that no one ever had seen the like of it. Thus says Thjóthólf:




463.   Little hope have land-folk—
lies the fleet before anchor—
fearful are they to face their
foes—to live in peace now.
Martial Magnús from northward
musters his roller-horses
whilst from the south his sea-steeds
Sigurth’s son makes ready.


Chapter 21. Magnús Agrees to Share the Kingdom with Harald


King Magnús councillors advised him that they considered it most unfortunate if he and his kinsman Harald were to enter into hostilities with one another. Many offered to try to have them come to an agreement and the king was persuaded to let them try. So some were detailed to travel by a swift boat as fast as possible south to Denmark. Those who were selected for this errand were Danes in whom King Magnús had complete confidence, and they were to bring this matter up before Harald. This was done with the utmost secrecy. But when Harald learned that King Magnús, his kinsman, would offer him terms, of partnership according to which Harald was to have one half of Norway and Magnús the other, against sharing each other’s treasure [then Harald agreed to that].1 And this covenant was brought back to King Magnús.


Chapter 22. Harald and Svein Fall Out


A short while thereafter, one evening Harald and Svein talked with one another at table. Svein asked Harald what possessions of his he valued most highly. He answered that it was his banner “Land-Destroyer.” Thereupon Svein asked what virtue it had to be accounted so valuable. Harald replied that it was prophesied that victory would be his before whom this banner was borne; and added that this had been the case ever since he had obtained it. Thereupon Svein said, “I shall believe that your flag has this virtue if you fight three battles with King Magnús, your kinsman, and are victorious in all.”


Harald answered rather angrily, “I am aware of the kinship between Magnús and myself even though you had not reminded me of it; and I would say that it would be more seemly for us two to meet otherwise than as enemies.”


Svein changed color and said, “Some say, Harald, that you have been known to keep only that part of an agreement which suits your purpose best.”


Harald answered, “Most likely you know of fewer occasions when I didn’t keep my agreements than I know King Magnús is likely to remember that you kept with him.”


Then each went his way. In the evening, when Harald went to sleep in the poop of his ship he said to his page, “Now I shall not lie in my bunk tonight, because I have a suspicion that there may be some treachery afoot. This evening I saw that my kinsman grew very angry at my frank speech. I want you to keep watch tonight to see if anything happens here.” Then Harald went to sleep in some other place, and placed a log of wood in his bunk. In the night a boat approached the poop. A man climbed up and ripped open the tent-covering over it, stepped up to Harald’s bunk, and with a big axe hewed into it so that it stood fast in the wood. Then the man immediately jumped into his boat in the pitch-black night and rowed away; but the axe was left behind as evidence of the deed, standing fast in the wood. Then Harald woke up his men to show them what treachery they had been exposed to. “We can see by that,” he said, “that we shall have no support in Svein- here so soon as he contemplates treachery against us. So it might be wisest for us to get away from here while we have the chance. Let us now unfasten our ships and row away stealthily.” So they did, and during the night rowed north along the land. They sailed day and night till they encountered King Magnús where he lay anchored with his fleet. Then Harald went to meet his kinsman, King Magnús, and their meeting was most cordial, as says Thjóthólf:




464.   With keen oaken keels you
cleft, famed prince, the waters—
the trim ships severed salty
seas—westward to Denmark.
Offered thee, thereafter,
Óláf’s son—methinks that
whole-heartedly they met—the
half of lands and liegemen.


Thereupon the kinsmen discussed matters between them, and all went in a conciliatory fashion.


Chapter 23. King Magnús Stipulates Superior Rights


King Magnús with his fleet lay anchored near land and had his tents erected up on land. He then invited his kinsman, Harald, to his table, and Harald came to the banquet with sixty men. It was a very noble banquet. And as the day wore on, King Magnús entered the tent where Harald sat. Men accompanied him, bearing weapons and garments. The king went up to the man farthest down at the table and gave him a good sword, to another, a shield, and so on, garments or weapons or gold—and more valuable things to those of greater distinction. Last of all, he approached Harald, his kinsman, and had in his hand two reeds. He said, “Which of these reeds would you have?”


Then Harald answered, “The one nearest to me.”


Then King Magnús said, “With this reed I give you half of the Norwegian realm, with all the imposts, levies, and all properties thereto appertaining; with this stipulation that you shall be king in Norway in all places, having the same rights as I. But when we are both together, then I shall be first, in salutation, services, and seating. And if there are three men of princely rank present, then I shall occupy the middle seat. I shall have the king’s berth in harbor and the king’s pier. You are also to support and strengthen our realm, against my raising you to that position in Norway which I thought no one would have while I was above ground.”


Thereupon Harald arose and thanked him properly for the honor and glory conferred on him. Then both were seated and in excellent spirits all that day. In the evening Harald and his men repaired to their ship.


Chapter 24. Harald Shares His Treasures with Magnús


The morning after, King Magnús had the trumpets blown to call an assembly for all his forces. And when they were come together, King Magnús announced to all his men the gift he had bestowed on his kinsman Harald. Thórir of Steig gave Harald the title of king at this assembly. On the same day King Harald invited King Magnús to his table. In the course of the day, accompanied by sixty of his men, he went to King Harald’s tent where the banquet was prepared. Then both kings were seated together, and the banquet was a noble one, with excellent food and drink. Both kings were cheerful and in good spirits. Now as the day wore on, King Harald had a great many bags carried into the tent, and also garments, and weapons, and other valuable things. These things he distributed among the followers of King Magnús who were in the tent. Then he had the bags opened, and said to King Magnús, “Yesterday you gave us a large realm, which you had earlier won from your and my enemies, and granted me to have it in common with you. That was well done, because you labored greatly to gain it. Now I, for my part, I have been in foreign lands, and have indeed also been in some dangerous situations before acquiring the gold which you see here. This, I give for co-partnership with you. Let us two own this property in equal parts just as we have, each of us, half of the kingdom of Norway. I know that our natures differ. You are by far more generous than I. Let us then divide this treasure equally between us, and let then each do with it as he will.”


Thereupon Harald had a large ox-hide spread and poured the gold from the bags out on it. Then scales and weights were brought and the valuables weighed in the balance and divided by weight; and it seemed marvellous to all who saw it that so much gold should have been got together in one place in the North. As a fact it was really the property and treasure of the emperor of Greece where, as all say, there is red gold by the houseful.


The two kings were now in excellent spirits. A goblet was produced then as big as a man’s head. King Harald took hold of this goblet and said; “Where is the gold, kinsman Magnús, to match this knob-head?”


Then King Magnús answered, “There have been so many hostilities and such great levies [for me] that I have given you nearly all the gold and silver which were in my keeping. Now I have no more in my possession than this ring,” and took the ring and gave it to Harald.


He looked at it and said; “That is little gold, kinsman, for a king who has two kingdoms; and yet some might doubt whether you own this ring.”


Then King Magnús said gravely, “If this is not my ring by rights, then I don’t know what is my own by rights; because Holy King Óláf, my father, gave me this ring when last we parted.”


Then King Harald answered, laughing, “You say truly, King Magnús: your father gave you the ring. That ring he took from my father for little cause. But that is true, too, that petty kings fared badly when your father was most powerful.”


King Harald gave Steigar-Thórir a maple-wood bowl at this banquet. It was encircled with silver bands, with a silver handle on top, all gilded, and filled with coins of pure silver. In addition he gave him two gold rings, weighing eight ounces together. He also gave him his cloak which was of dark purple with white fur, and promised him great honor and friendship. Thorgils Snorrason said that he saw the altar cloth which was made of this cloak; and Guthríth the daughter of Guthorm, the son of Steigar-Thórir, affirmed that her father Guthorm owned that bowl. As says Bolverk:




465.   To goodly land was given thee,
gladsome prince,1 the title
when that met thee Magnús—
matched by thee with treasure.
Close the accord you two
kinsmen reached peacefully;
whereas Svein could sithen
solely look for conflict.