Chapter 78. Earl Tostig Seeks King Svein’s Help


When Harold became aware that Tostig, his brother, intended to deprive him of the crown, he grew mistrustful of him, because Tostig was an astute man as well as a great warrior and a good friend of important chieftains. Then King Harold deprived Earl Tostig of his command of the army and of all the power greater than other earls in the land which he had before. Earl Tostig would under no circumstances submit to be the underling of his brother born of the same parents. So he left the country with his force and sailed south over the sea to Flanders, remained there for a while, then sailed to Frísia, and from there to Denmark to meet King Svein, his kinsman. Earl Úlf, King Svein’s father, was the brother of Eadgytha, the mother of Earl Tostig. Earl Tostig asked King Svein for assistance and armed support. King Svein offered him his hospitality and an earldom in Denmark sufficient to make him an honored chieftain there.


The earl made this reply: “I long to return to England and to my possessions there. And if I obtain no support for that from you, sir king, then I would rather make this offer to you to assist you with all the force on which I can count in England, if you will with your Danish fleet sail to England to win that land, as did Knút, your mother’s brother.”


The king answered, “So much am I a lesser man than my kinsman, King Knút, that I am scarcely able to hold my power in Denmark against the Norwegians. Knút the Old obtained Denmark by inheritance, and gained England by warfare and battle; and yet for a time it looked as though he might lose his life there; and Norway he gained without a blow. Now I know my limitations, [and wish] to live in accordance with my circumscribed power, rather than vie with the prowess of my kinsman, King Knút.”


Then the earl said, “The outcome of my business here is less than I had thought you would make it, so powerful a man as you are, and considering the need I, your kinsman, have [of your aid]. Now I may possibly seek friendly support in a quarter which is more unlikely. Yet it may well be that I shall find the chieftain who is less faint-hearted than you to engage in a great enterprise, sir king.”


After that the king and the earl parted in none too cordial a fashion.


Chapter 79. Earl Tostig Wins over King Harald to Help Him


Then Earl Tostig turned to another direction and ended up in Norway, where he sought out King Harald. He was in the district of Vík. And when they met, the earl brought up his business before the king, telling him all about his journey after leaving England, and asked the king to support him in regaining his kingdom in England. The king replied, saying that Norwegians would hardly be eager to sail to England and harry there, only to have an English overlord. “It is people’s opinion,” he said, “that the English are not altogether reliable.”


The earl replied, “I wonder if it is true, as I have heard people say in England, that King Magnús, your kinsman, sent messengers to King Eadward, and that their message was that King Magnús was entitled to England as well as to Denmark which he inherited after Hortha-Knút, according to agreements between them?”


The king replied, “Why, then, did he not have possession of it if he had a right to it?”


The earl said, “Why do you not possess Denmark as King Magnús did before you?”


The king said, “The Danes do not need to brag to us Norwegians. Many a mark have we left on those kinsmen of yours.”


Then the earl said, “If you will not tell me, then I shall tell you: King Magnús took possession of Denmark, because the chiefs of that land aided him; and you did not, because all the people stood against you. King Magnús did not fight to gain England, because all the people wanted Eadward for king. If you wish to gain possession of England, then I may bring it about that most of the chieftains in England will be on your side and support you. As against my brother Harold, I lack only the royal title. All men know that no greater warrior has arisen in the North than you; and it seems strange to me that you fought fifteen years to gain possession of Denmark and don’t want to have England which is yours for the having.”


King Harald weighed closely what the earl said, and he concluded that much the earl had said was true; and also, he was eager to gain possession of that kingdom. Thereafter the king and the earl talked together long and often, and they agreed on this plan that in the summer following they would sail to England and win possession of it.


King Harald sent word all about Norway, ordering out a half levy of men and ships. This became widely known, and many surmises were made as to how this expedition would turn out. There were some who counted up all the great deeds of King Harald, and said nothing would be impossible for him; but some said that England would be difficult to conquer, having a great population and there being the army called in England “the king’s housecarls.” This consisted of men so valiant that one of them was better than two of Harald’s best men. Then Úlf, the king’s marshal, made answer with this verse:




516.   Need no more king’s marshals
move about—I surely
boggle not at booty—on
board King Harald’s sea-steed,
if, linen-dight lady—
learned I otherwise in
youth—two yeomen were to
yield to one king’s housecarl.


Marshal Úlf died that spring. King Harald stood over his grave and said as he turned away, “There lies the man who was the most faithful and loyal of all to me.”


In spring Earl Tostig sailed west to Flanders to join the body of men who had followed him when he left England and that flock which gathered about him, both from England and there in Flanders.


Chapter 80. Gyrth’s Foreboding Dream


The army of King Harald gathered in the Sólund Islands. But when the king was ready to sail from Nitharós he first went to the shrine of King Óláf. He opened it, clipped the king’s hair and nails, and then locked it again and threw the key out into the Nith River; nor has the shrine of Holy King Óláf been opened since that time. Thirty-five years had elapsed since his fall. His life in this world also had lasted thirty-five years.


King Harald sailed south with his fleet to join the force assembled there. A huge fleet was gathered there. It is said that King Harald had nearly two hundred [240] ships, not counting merchant ships carrying provisions and lesser vessels.


When they lay in the Sólund Islands a certain man called Gyrth, who was stationed on the king’s ship, had a dream. It seemed to him that he was on the king’s ship and looked up on an island and there stood a big troll woman who had a sword in one hand and a trough in the other. And it seemed to him he looked over all their ships and that a bird sat on every prow. These were all eagles and ravens. The troll woman spoke this verse:




517.   That wot I well: enticed is
westward the king, to
fore-gather—my gain it is—with
glorious knuckles many.1
Keen-eyed carrion birds will
carve them plenteous tid-bits,
and famished ravens feast on
fallen—we’re leagued ever.2


Chapter 81. Thórth’s Warning Dream


A certain man by the name of Thórth was on a ship not far from that of the king. One night he dreamed that he saw King Harald’s fleet come to land, and it seemed to him that land was England. On the land he saw an army in battle array, and it looked as though both parties prepared to do battle and had many banners aloft, and in front of the army of the inhabitants of that land a big troll woman rode on a wolf, and the wolf had the corpse of a man in his mouth, and blood dripping from his chops, and when he had eaten that man she tossed another one into his jaws, and so with one after another, and he swallowed them all. She spoke this verse:




518.   Red shield the troll shows as
shine forth swords for battle.
Seen is the dear lord’s downfall
dire by etin1 woman.
In wolf’s wide jaws she tosses
warriors’ bloody corpses;
ravening reddens his chops with
reeking gore of men slain,
the reeking gore of men slain.2


Chapter 82. King Harald Has a Warning Dream of Saint Óláf


Still further, King Harald dreamed one night that he was in Nitharós and met King Óláf, his brother, and that he spoke a verse for him:




519.   Honor earned him portly
atheling1 by his victories.
A holy death I had, on
homeland falling, glorious.
Fear I that, folk-ruler,
fey thou wilt be yonder,
gorging the greedy mount-of-
ghouls.2 ’Tis not God’s doing.


Many other dreams were told there, as well as other forebodings, most of them gloomy. Before sailing from Trondheim King Harald had his son Magnús proclaimed king, and set him on the throne before leaving the country. Thóra, the daughter of Thorberg, also remained behind, but Queen Ellisif went with him together with her two daughters, Máría and Ingigerth. Óláf, [another] son of King Harald, also left the country with him.


Chapter 83. King Harald Ravages the Coast of England


Now when King Harald had fully equipped his fleet and a favorable breeze sprang up he set out to sea, and made land in the Shetland Islands; but part of his fleet landed in the Orkneys. King Harald stopped in the Shetland Islands for a while, then sailed on to the Orkneys. And when departing from there he had a mighty host of men with him, including the Earls Pál and Erlend, the sons of Earl Thorfinn, but he left behind there Queen Ellisif and the daughters he had by her, Máría and Ingigerth. From there he sailed south along the coast of Scotland and England, and landed in the district of Cleveland. There he disembarked and at once began to ravage the country and bring it under subjection, without meeting any resistance. Thereupon King Harald besieged Scarborough and fought with its garrison. He went up on the cliff which is there and had a great fire made. And when it blazed high they took long gaff-poles and hurled brands upon the town. Then one house after the other began to blaze, and the whole town went up in flames. The Norwegians slew many there and took everything they laid hands on. The English then had no choice, if they wanted to save their lives, but to swear allegiance to King Harald. Then he made subject to him all the land where his course lay. Thereupon King Harald with all his army sailed south along the land and landed at Holderness. There, they met a force that had gathered to oppose him, they gave battle, and King Harald was victorious.




Chapter 84. The Earls Morkere and Wæltheow Oppose King Harald


Thereupon King Harald sailed to the Humber and up the river, and anchored there. At that time there were two earls in York, Morkere and his brother Wæltheow, with a huge army. King Harald lay in the Ouse when the army of the earls came down from the land to oppose him. Then the king went on land and began to array his army for battle. One wing stood on the bank of the river, the other was arrayed further up on land, and extended to a ditch. There was a swamp, deep and broad and full of water. The earls deployed their army down along the river with the whole body of their men. The royal banner was close by the river. There the king’s men stood thickest, and the lines were thinnest by the ditch, with the troops he could least rely on. Then the earls proceeded down along the ditch. There the wing of the Norwegian army extending to the ditch gave way, and the English followed them up, thinking that the Norwegians were about to flee. That part of the English army was led by Morkere.


Chapter 85. King Harald Defeats the Earls


But when King Harald saw that the battle array of the English had come down along the ditch right opposite them, he had the trumpets blown and sharply urged on his men to the attack, raising his banner called Landwaster. And there so strong an attack was made by him that nothing held against it. Then there was a great slaughter among the earls’ men. Soon their army took to flight. Some fled up or down along the river, but most leapt into the ditch. There the bodies of the fallen lay so thick that the Norwegians could walk dry-shod over the swamp. There Earl Morkere lost his life. As says Stein Herdísarson:




520.   Their lives lost there many,
left this world by drowning.
Mired in the marsh, lay by
Morkere young a legion.
Pursued the sea-king this
smitten host. They madly
fled before the brave king.
Foremost under heaven—1


This drápa Stein Herdísarson composed about Óláf, the son of King Harald; and we are told here that Óláf took part in the battle with King Harald, his father. This is mentioned also in the poem called Haraldsstikki:2




521.   Lay the fallen
in fen thickly,
Wæltheow’s men, by
weapons slaughtered;
so that walk could
warlike Northmen
on dead bodies
dryshod across.


Earl Wæltheow and those who managed to escape fled to the fortified town of York. It had been a murderous battle. It took place on Wednesday, the day before Saint Matthew’s Day [September 21st].


Chapter 86. The Town of York Surrenders to King Harald


Earl Tostig had come north from Flanders to join King Harald as soon as he invaded England, and the earl had been in all these battles. Then it came about, as he had told Harald when they had been together before, that a great many English flocked to them, kinsmen and friends of Earl Tostig, and gave the king much reinforcement.


After the battle just told of, all the people in the districts round about submitted to King Harald, but some fled. Then King Harald started to lay siege to the town [of York] and encamped with his army at Stamford Bridge. But because the king had won so great a victory against great chieftains and an overwhelming army, all the people were afraid and despaired of resistance. Then the townsmen decided to send messengers to King Harald in order to deliver themselves and their city into his power. It was arranged in such fashion that on Sunday King Harald and all his army advanced to the town, where the king and his men held an assembly to which came the men of the town. There all people submitted to King Harald, giving him as hostages the sons of eminent men, because Earl Tostig knew all the people in this town. Then the king after this easy victory went down to his ships and was of excellent cheer. An assembly was set for Monday early, in the city. Then King Harald was to appoint governors for the city and bestow fiefs and assign places of honor.


That same evening, after sunset, King Harold, the son of Godwine, approached the town from the south with an immense army and entered the town at the wish and with the consent of all its citizens. All gates were manned and all roads guarded, so that no information should reach the Norwegians. This army remained inside the fortification during the night.


Chapter 87. The Army of King Harold of England Approaches


On Monday [September 26th], when Harald Sigurtharson had eaten his fill at breakfast, he ordered the trumpets to be blown for going ashore. He got his army ready, deciding which troops were to go with him and which were to stay behind. Out of every detachment two men were ordered to go on land, for one to stay behind. Earl Tostig and his company made ready to go on land with King Harald; but left behind, to guard the ships, were Óláf, the king’s son, together with the Orkney earls Pál and Erlend, and also Eystein Orri, the son of Thorberg Árnason, who at that time was the most eminent of all landed-men as well the most in favor with the king, who had promised him his daughter Máría in marriage.


The weather on that day was excellent, with hot sunshine. The men left their mail coats behind and went on land with their shields and helmets and halberds, and girt with their swords. Many also had bows and arrows. They were in excellent good spirits. But when they approached the town, a great army was seen riding against them. They saw the cloud of dust raised by horses, and under it, fine shields and shining coats of mail. Then the king stopped his army. He had Earl Tostig called to him and asked him what host that might be. The earl answered and said that it seemed to him that there rather was a likelihood of trouble, but it might be also that these were some of his kinsmen who were coming to ask for quarter and offer their friendship against the king’s granting them protection and his trust. The king said that first they were to come to a halt and learn more about that army. They did so; and the army grew the larger the nearer it came, and it looked like gleaming ice as the weapons shone.


Chapter 88. King Harald Decides to Make a Stand


Then King Harald Sigurtharson said, “Let us now decide on some good and wise plan, because we can’t shut our eyes to the fact that this means trouble, for this is probably the king himself.”


Then the earl answered, “The first thing to do is to turn back the fastest we can to our ships for our men and our weapons, and then make a stand as best we can, or else let our ships defend us, for then horsemen have no power over us.”


King Harald replied, “I mean to follow another plan: Let us put three of our best men on the fastest horses and let them ride with all speed to inform our men, and then they will quickly come to our help—because the English shall have to expect the hardest fight rather than we suffer defeat.” Then the earl said that the king should have his way in this as in other matters, and that he too was unwilling to flee. Then King Harald had his banner Landwaster raised. Frírek was the name of the man who bore the banner.


Chapter 89. King Harald Puts His Army in Battle Array


Thereupon King Harald put his army in battle array, with the lines long and not deep. He bent the wings back so that they touched, so as to form a wide and thick ring everywhere even on the outside, shield by shield, and one above the other. The king with his retinue was inside the ring, with the banner—a picked force. At another place stood Earl Tostig with his troops. He had a different banner. The reason for this arrangement was that the king knew that the horsemen were wont to attack in small detachments and retreat at once. Now the king ordered that his retinue and that of the earl were to attack at the point where it was most needed—“but our archers also shall be there with us; and those men who stand in front are to set the ends of their spear shafts on the ground and turn the points toward the breast of the horsemen, if they ride against us; and those standing next behind them are to turn the points of their spears against the breast of their horses.”


Chapter 90. King Harald Is Thrown by His Horse


King Harold, the son of Godwine, had come there with an overwhelming army of both horsemen and foot soldiers. King Harald Sigurtharson then rode around his troops to examine how they were arrayed. He rode a black horse with a white mark on its forehead. The horse fell under him, and the king was thrown forward. He rose quickly and said, “A fall betokens luck on the journey!”


Then Harold, the king of the English, said to the Norwegians who were with him, “Did you recognize the big man who fell off his horse there, the one with the blue doublet and the shining helmet?”


“That is the king himself,” they said.


The king of the English said, “A big man and stately; but more likely his good luck has deserted him.”


Chapter 91. King Harold Offers Tostig a Third of His Kingdom


Twenty horsemen rode out in front of the army of the king’s housecarls and toward the array of the Norwegians. They were in armor from head to foot, as were their horses. Then one of the riders spoke up: “Is Earl Tostig in this army?”


Tostig answered, “I shall not deny it, here you may see him.”


Then one of the riders said, “Harold, your brother, sent you greetings and this message, that you shall have peace and all Northumberland; and rather than that you fight him he would give you a third of all the kingdom to share with him.”


Thereupon the earl answered, “That is an offer different from the one of last winter, when I was shown contempt and hostility. If it had been made then, many a man would be alive who is dead now, and the king’s power in England would stand on firmer ground. Now if I should accept this, what will he offer King Harald Sigurtharson for his pains?”


Then the horseman said, “He did say something about what he would grant him of England: seven feet of English soil or so much more as he is taller than other men.”


Then the earl replied, “Go now, and tell King Harold to prepare for battle. This, the Norwegians shall not have to say about Earl Tostig, that he forsook King Harald Sigurtharson to join his enemies, the time he came to do battle west in England. Rather shall we all resolve to die with honor or else win England and victory.” Then the horsemen rode back.


Thereupon King Harald Sigurtharson asked the earl, “Who was that man who spoke so well?”


The earl replied, “That was King Harold, the son of Godwine.”


Then King Harald Sigurtharson said, “Too late were we told of that. They had approached our army so close that this Harold would not have lived to tell of our men’s death.”


Then the earl said, “That is true, sire; it was incautious for such a chieftain, and it might have been as you say. I saw that he wished to offer me peace and much power and that I would be the cause of his death if I told who he was. But I would rather that he slay me than I him.”


Then King Harald Sigurtharson said to his men: “A little man that was, and proudly he stood in his stirrups.”


It is told that King Harald Sigurtharson spoke this verse:




522.   We stride forward,
fighting bravely,
though byrnieless,
’gainst blue-steel swords.
Helmets do shine—
I have not mine:1
below in the ships
lies our armor.


His coat of mail was called Emma. It was so long that it reached down to below his knees, and so strong that no weapon was known to have pierced it. Then King Harald Sigurtharson said, “This verse is poorly composed, and I shall have to make another and better one.” Then he spoke this verse:




523.   Hide within the hollow—
high-born maid thus bade me—
of our shields we surely
shall not, in battle-tumult:
high she bade me hold my
head, the Hild-of-combat,2
when in bloody battle
blades and skulls were clashing.


Then Thjóthólf also spoke a verse:




524.   Ne’er shall my fealty fail, though
fall the prince himself—but
God does govern all—to
gallant sons of the sovran.
Shines not the sun on sightlier
scions—avengers they of
hard-fighting, high-hearted
Harald—than both these eaglets.


Chapter 92. King Harald Sigurtharson Falls


Now the battle began, and the English horsemen rode down upon the Norwegians. They met hard resistance, for it was not easy for the English to ride down upon the Norwegians because of [the volley of] shots, so they rode in a circle around them. At first it was not a fight at close quarters while the Norwegians held their order of battle. The English rode upon them fiercely, but retired when they could do nothing against them. But when the Norwegians saw what they conceived to be feeble attacks, they attacked in their turn and wished to pursue them; but when in so doing they broke up their shield castle, then the English rode down upon them from all sides with spear thrusts and arrow shots.


But when King Harald Sigurtharson saw that, he advanced in the battle where the fighting was hardest. It was a fierce fray, and many fell on both sides. Then King Harald Sigurtharson became so [ungovernably] fighting mad that he ran out in front of the battle line, slashing with both hands. Neither helmet nor corselet held out against him, and all those close by turned tail, and a little more and the English would have taken to flight. As says Arnór the Earls’ Skald:




525.   Little sheltered him, nor shook in
shattering-of-shields the
heart—no whit then gave he
heed—of fearless sea-king,
when the host all saw it,
how the embattled war-lord’s
bloody sword in swaths did
slash the ranks of foemen.


King Harald Sigurtharson was struck in the throat by an arrow. That was his death wound. He fell, and with him all the men who had advanced to the front with him, except those who retreated; and they held onto the banner. Then again ensued the fiercest struggle. Earl Tostig had the king’s banner raised over him, and both sides reformed their lines, and there ensued a long pause in the fighting. Then spoke Thjóthólf this verse:




526.   Upon evil days has
all the host now fallen:
needless and for naught from
Norway brought us Harald;
ill bestead now are we—
ended is the life of
him who boldly bade us
battle—here in England.


But before this last battle began, Harold, the son of Godwine, offered quarter to his brother, Earl Tostig, and to all the Norwegians still alive. But the Norwegians all shouted together and said they would rather fall one upon the other than accept quarter from the English, and raised their war-whoop. Thereupon the battle started again. As says Arnór the Earls’ Skald:




527.   Ill-fated the fierce king’s
fall in storm-of-arrows:
gold-wound spears did spare the
spender-of-rings but little.
Death would rather dree the
doughty chieftain’s henchmen,
thronging thickly about him,
than be given quarter.


Chapter 93. Eystein Orri Renews the Battle


Just then Eystein Orri and his men arrived from the ships. They were in full armor. Eystein then seized hold of Landwaster, the banner of King Harald. And now battle was joined for the third time, and most grimly. Many of the English fell, and they came close to fleeing. This engagement is called Orri’s Charge. Eystein and his men had marched in such haste from the ships that they were so tired to start with that they were nearly undone, but later on they were so frenzied that they did not shield themselves so long as they could stand upright. Finally they shed their coats of ring-mail. Then it was easy for the English to find their unprotected parts; but some died unwounded from sheer exhaustion. Nearly all men of rank among the Norwegians succumbed. This happened in the latter part of the day. As was to be expected, not all were equally brave, many fled, and many were fortunate enough to escape. Also, it grew dark in the evening before the slaughter came to an end.


Chapter 94. Marshal Styrkár Deprives an Englishman of His Jacket


Styrkár, the marshal of King Harald Sigurtharson, and an excellent man, managed to escape. He procured a horse and rode away on it. In the evening a rather chilly breeze arose, and Styrkár had nothing on but a shirt. He was helmeted and held a naked sword in his hand. And when the weariness had worn off he began to feel chilly. Then he met a man with a cart who wore a lined skin jacket. Then Styrkár said, “Will you sell me your jacket, my good man?”




Styrkár kills the English farmer.


“Not to you,” he replied. “You are probably a Norwegian, I know you by your speech.”


Then Styrkár said, “If I am a Norwegian, what would you do?”


The farmer replied, “I would kill you, but unfortunately I don’t have a weapon by me to do it with.”


Then Styrkár said, “If you can’t kill me, farmer, then I shall see if I can kill you”—and raising his sword he cut off his head so that it tumbled on the ground. Then he took the skin jacket, leapt on his horse, and rode down to the shore.


Chapter 95. Earl William the Bastard Invades England


William the Bastard, earl of Rouen, had learned of the death of his kinsman, King Eadward, and also, that thereupon Harold, the son of Godwine, had been chosen king of England and had been anointed as such. But William considered himself better entitled to the English realm than Harold because of the kinship between him and Eadward. Another reason was that he wished to avenge the affront put on him by Harold in breaking the engagement with his daughter. For all these reasons William gathered an army in Normandy. It was exceedingly numerous, and he also had a sufficiently large fleet [to transport it].


On the day when he rode out of his castle down to his ships and he had already mounted his horse, his spouse went up to him and wanted to speak with him. But when he saw her, he struck at her with his heel, piercing her breast deeply with his spur so that she fell down dead. But the earl rode down to his ships and sailed to England with his army. With him was Bishop Ótta, his brother. And when the earl arrived in England, he harried and took possession of the land wherever he went. William was taller and stronger than other men, an excellent horseman, a great warrior, of cruel disposition, a very shrewd man. He was called double-tongued.


Chapter 96. King Harold of England Falls in the Battle of Hastings


King Harold, the son of Godwine, gave permission to Óláf, the son of Harald Sigurtharson, to leave the country with the men who had not fallen in the battle. But he himself and his army marched to southern England, because the news had come to him just then that William the Bastard had invaded England in the south, taking possession of the land. At that time there were in King Harold’s company three of his brothers, Svein, Gyrth, and Wæltheow. The locality where the clash between King Harold and Earl William occurred was in southern England, near Helsingjaport [Hastings]. A great battle took place there. King Harold fell there, also Gyrth, his brother, and a large part of their army. That was nineteen days after the fall of King Harald Sigurtharson [October 14th]. Earl Wæltheow escaped by flight, and late in the evening the earl encountered a small band of William’s followers. When they saw the troops of the earl they fled into a certain oak forest. They were one hundred [120] men. Earl Wæltheow laid fire to the forest and burned them all. As says Thorkel Skallason 1 in the poem called Valthjófsflokk. 2




528.   King’s henchmen one hundred
had the Ygg-of-combat3
a baleful blaze was that—
burned in raging fire.
Heard I have that Franks ’neath
claws did come to lie, and
corpses fed the wolf-brood.


Chapter 97. William Has Himself Proclaimed King of England


William had himself proclaimed king of England. He sent word to Earl Wæltheow about coming to terms with him, and gave him assurance of safe-conduct for coming to a meeting with him. The earl journeyed with but a few men, and when he came to the heath north of Castlebridge, he encountered two stewards of the king with a troop of followers. They took him prisoner and set him in chains, and later he was put to death. The English consider him a saint. As says Thorkel:




529.   Well I know that William—
war-targes he bloodied—
from the south who sailed the
sea, cozened brave Wæltheow.
Not soon will cease, ween I—
certes never died a
bolder baron than he was—
bloodshed dire in England.


After that, William ruled England as king for twenty-one years, and his descendants, ever since.


Chapter 98. Óláf, the Son of Harald, Is Chosen as King of Norway


Óláf, the son of King Harald, brought his force away from England, sailing out of Hrafnseyr [Ravenspur] and toward fall arrived in the Orkneys. And there he learned that Máriá, the daughter of King Harald Sigurtharson, had died suddenly the same day and at the same hour as did her father, King Harald. Óláf remained there during the winter, and in the following summer sailed east to Norway. There he was chosen king, together with his brother Magnús. Queen Ellisif and her daughter Ingigerth accompanied her stepson Óláf when he sailed east. With them from the west came also Skúli, who later was called the king’s foster father, and Ketil Krók, the latter’s brother. They both were excellent men and of noble English extraction, and both exceedingly wise. Both were much beloved by King Óláf. Ketil Krók journeyed to Hálogaland, where King Óláf procured him a good match; and many persons of note are descended from him. Skúli, the king’s foster father, was a wise man and a man of great account, as well as of very handsome appearance. He became the leader of King Óláf’s retinue. He spoke at the assemblies and gave the king advice in all matters of government. King Óláf offered to give Skúli a county in Norway, the one which suited him best, with all the income and revenues due to the king. Skúli thanked him for his offer but said he would rather ask for other things; because—“if there is a change in the succession, it may be that this gift may be taken away from me. I would like,” he said, “to be granted some possessions lying near to the market towns where you, sire, are accustomed to reside and have your Yule entertainment.”


The king granted him this and assigned to him landed possessions east near Konungahella, near Ósló, near Túnsberg, near Borg, near Bjorgvin [Bergen], and in the north near Nitharós. These were about the most valuable estates in every place, and they have since been in the hands of the kinsmen who are descended from Skúli. King Óláf gave him in marriage his relative, Guthrún, the daughter of Nefstein. Her mother was Ingiríth, the daughter of King Sigurth Sýr and Queen Ásta. She was thus a sister of Holy King Óláf and of Harald. The son of Skúli and Guthrún was Ásólf at Rein. He was married to Thóra, the daughter of Skopti, the son of Ogmund. Their son was Guthorm at Rein, the father of Bárth, the father of King Ingi and of Duke Skúli.


Chapter 99. Of King Harald’s Appearance and Character


One year after the fall of King Harald, his body was brought east from England to Nitharós in the north, and interred in the Church of Saint Mary, the one he caused to be built. It was the opinion of everybody that King Harald had excelled other men in shrewdness and resourcefulness, whether he had to act on the spur of the moment or to make plans at long range for himself or others. He was exceedingly skilled in arms, and victorious in his undertakings, as was set down above. As says Thjóthólf:




530.   His derring-do brought dread to
dwellers oft in Seeland.
Hardihood wins out—is
Harald witness—in warfare.


King Harald was a handsome man of stately appearance. He was light blond, with a blond beard and long mustaches, with one eyebrow higher than the other. His hands and feet were large, and both well proportioned. His height was five ells.1 He was ruthless with his enemies, and given to harsh punishment of all who opposed him. As says Thjóthólf:




531.   Sternly strikes down Harald
strutting henchmen’s o’erbearing.
I ween, the king’s warriors
wanton deeds will atone for.
Will the sword-wielders pay for
willful deeds—’t is but right so—
Harald heals their quarrels—
which they had a hand in.


King Harald was inordinately covetous of power and of valuable possessions of all kinds. He bestowed great gifts on his friends and those of whom he thought much. As says Thjóthólf:




532.   One mark2 for my merits
meted out the sea-battles’-
urger. He honors highly
all those who are worthy.


King Harald was fifty years old when he fell. We have no stories worthy the telling of his youth before he was fifteen, when he took part in the battle of Stiklarstathir at the side of King Óláf, his [half] brother. He lived thirty-five years after that. And in all that time he lived in constant turbulence and war. King Harald never fled out of battle, but often he sought some way out when fighting against great odds. All who accompanied him in battle and warfare are agreed in saying that when he was in great danger and everything depended on making a quick decision he most usually hit on a plan which in the event was seen by all to be the one most likely to succeed.


Chapter 100. A Comparison of the Ways of Saint Óláf and Harald


Halldór, the son of Brynjólf Úlfaldi the Old, was a man of discernment and a great chieftain. He spoke as follows when he overheard men speaking about how unlike were the dispositions of the two brothers, Holy King Óláf and Harald. He said:


“I was in great favor with both brothers, and I knew the disposition of both. I never saw two persons whose disposition was more alike. Both men were exceedingly sagacious and skilled in arms, avid for wealth and power, imperious in manner, not very affable, jealous of their authority, and given to meting out stern chastisement. King Óláf forcibly converted the people to Christianity and the true faith, and cruelly punished those who turned a deaf ear to it. The leaders of the country would not accept his jurisdiction and equitable judgments, and gathered an army against him, laying him low in his own land. It was therefore he became a saint. But Harald made war to gain fame and power, subduing all those he could, and fell in the realm of other kings. Both brothers were as a rule well mannered and high-minded. They were also widely travelled and men of great energy, and as such became famous and gained a great name.”


Chapter 101. King Svein and the Kings Óláf and Magnús


King Magnús, the son of Harald, held dominion in Norway the first year after the fall of King Harald, but afterwards he ruled the land for two years with his brother Óláf. These two shared the kingdom. King Magnús held sway in the northern part of the country; and Óláf, in the eastern part. King Magnús had a son called Hákon who was fostered by Steigar-Thórir. He was a youth who gave rise to the greatest expectations.


After the fall of King Harald Sigurtharson, Svein, the king of the Danes, alleged that the peaceful agreement between the Norwegians and the Danes had come to an end, asserting that this agreement was to last only as long as both Harald and Svein lived. Then forces were levied in both kingdoms. The sons of Harald had out a full levy of ships and men from Norway, and Svein sailed from the south with an army of Danes. Thereupon envoys went between the two parties with proposals for coming to terms. The Norwegians said they would either adhere to the same conditions of peace that were made before or else give battle. That was the occasion for this verse:




533.   Thwarted with threats of battle
thewful Óláf,1 eke with
pledges of peace, any
prince’s lust for Norway.


As Stein Herdísarson says in his Óláfsdrápa:




534.   Will the combat-keen, in
Kaupang he who rules, where
Holy Óláf aye his
altar hath, ward Svein off.
Would Óláf grant to all his
heirs the whole of Norway:
cannot Ulf’s son, the king, lay
claim to any of it.


At this meeting of the naval forces [of both countries] the kings came to an agreement by which peace was established between them. King Magnús became ill with ergotism and lay sick for some time. He died in Nitharós and was interred there. As a king he had been beloved of all the people.




The Saga of Óláf the Gentle


Chapter 1. King Óláf the Gentle’s Appearance and Disposition


Óláf was sole king over Norway after the death of his brother Magnús. Óláf was a large man in every way, and well proportioned. All are agreed that no one ever saw a handsomer man nor one of more stately appearance. He had flaxen, silky hair of great beauty, and a fair skin. His eyes were unusually fine, and his limbs well-shaped. As a rule he was a man of few words and spoke little at assemblies. But he was merry at ale and a great drinker, talkative and soft-spoken, peaceably inclined during his rule. As Stein Herdísarson has it:




535.   His lands the lord of Thronders
—like that well his henchemen—
well-skilled he in warfare—
willingly keeps untroubled.
Store they set by his stemming
strife within his homeland
while he awes the English.
Óláf under heaven.1


Chapter 2. King Óláf the Gentle’s Building Activities


It was an old custom in Norway that the high-seat of the king was in the middle of the long bench in the hall. And the ale was carried around the fire. King Óláf was the first to have his high-seat placed on the elevated dais which ran across the hall [on one side]. He was also the first to have rooms furnished with stoves, and have the floor covered with straw in winter1 as well as in summer. In the days of King Óláf the market towns grew fast, and some new ones were established. King Óláf founded a market town in Bergen. And soon many rich men began to reside there, and merchants from other lands came sailing to the place. He laid the foundations of Christ Church, the great stone church; however, little was done toward its completion; but he had the wooden church there completed. King Óláf established the Great Guild2 in Nitharós, and many others in the market towns. Before, there had been only banquets at various places. Bœjarbót3 was the name of the great guild bell in Nitharós. The guild brothers there built the Church of Saint Margaret, a stone church.


In the days of King Óláf there arose clubs and drinking bouts in the market towns. At that time new fashions in dress made their appearance. Men wore “court-breeches” laced tight around the legs, and some clasped gold rings around their ankles. They wore trailing gowns, laced with ribbons [?] at the side, and sleeves five ells in length and so tight that they had to be laced with straps all the way up to the shoulders, and high shoes, embroidered all over with white silk, and some with gold laces. And there were many other striking new fashions at that time.


Chapter 3. King Óláf Introduces New Customs


King Óláf introduced these customs in his court that he had cup-bearers stand by his table to pour out the drink from pitchers, both for himself and for all men of high rank who sat at his table. He had also candle-bearers who held tapers for him at table, as many as there were men of high rank sitting there. There was also the seat for the king’s marshal, farther out from the sideboard, and there sat the marshals and other persons of rank; and they sat facing inward toward the high-seat. King Harald and other kings before his time used to drink out of horns and to have the ale borne from the high-seat around the fireplace, and to toast those whom they wished. As says Stúf the Skald:




536.   Warmly the war-play-urger—
well it was to know him—
thought of me, the thewful
thane victorious ever,
when, with gilded horn in
hand, the ring-dispenser,
the dun heath-dwellers’1 feeder,
drank to me at Haug farm.


Chapter 4. Of King Óláf’s Court


King Óláf had a hundred [120] men in his bodyguard and sixty “guests,”1 as well as sixty housecarls whose business it was to transport to the [king’s] place of residence whatever was needed there or to perform such other services which the king desired. But when the farmers asked the king why he had with him a more numerous company at the entertainments the farmers gave him than the laws permitted or former kings had maintained, the king answered as follows: “I do not govern the country better, nor am I held in greater awe than my father, even though I have a company larger by half than he had; but it is not my intention to oppress you or put you to greater expense.”


Chapter 5. The Line of the Danish and Norwegian Kings


King Svein Úlfsson died of a malady ten years after the fall of the [two] Haralds. He was succeeded on the throne of Denmark by Harald Hein, his son, who ruled for four years; then by Knút, his second son, who ruled for seven years and is pronounced to be a true saint; then by Óláf, his third son, who ruled for eight years; then by Eirík the Good, his fourth son, who also ruled for eight years. Óláf [the Gentle], the king of Norway, married Ingiríth, the daughter of Svein, king of Denmark; and Óláf Sveinsson of Denmark married Ingigerth, the daughter of Harald and thus sister of Óláf [the Gentle]. King Óláf Haraldsson, whom some called Óláf the Gentle, and many, Óláf the Farmer, had a son by Thóra, the daughter of Jóan. He was called Magnús. That lad was very handsome and gave much promise. He grew up at the king’s court.


Chapter 6. The Miracles of Holy King Óláf


King Óláf had a stone church erected in Nitharós on the spot where Holy King Óláf had first been interred; and the altar was placed above the spot where the king had lain. It was consecrated as Christ Church. The shrine of King Óláf was moved there and the altar placed above it. Then many miracles took place there.


In the summer following, on the same day the church had been consecrated, a great multitude was present. It was on the eve of Saint Óláf’s Mass that a blind man recovered his sight. On the mass day itself, when the shrine was set down in the churchyard, as was the custom—a man recovered his speech who had been dumb before for a long time, and with a gentle voice sang praises to God and Holy King Óláf. The third was a woman who had come west from Sweden and had endured much hardship on her journey on account of her blindness and yet had trusted to the mercy of God and had come journeying there on this holy day. Sightless she was led that day into the church for mass; but before the service was at an end she saw clearly with both eyes and had keen vision, when before that she had been blind for fourteen years. She departed thence with solemn joy.


Chapter 7. Saint Óláf Discovers a Murdered Child


It happened in Nitharós, when the shrine of King Óláf was borne about the Street,1 that the shrine became so heavy that it could not be borne away from the spot. Then it was set down and they dug into the Street to find what was below it, and they found there the body of a child which had been murdered and hidden there. It was borne away and the Street put back in the shape it was before; and then the shrine was borne on as usual.


Chapter 8. King Óláf the Gentle Dies of a Sickness


King Óláf often resided in the country on the large estates he owned there. But when he was east in the District of Ranríki, on his farm of Hauk-boer, he was struck down by a sickness which caused his death. He had then been king of Norway for twenty-six years, after having been chosen king one year after the fall of King Harald. King Óláf’s body was brought north to Nitharós and buried in Christ Church, which had been erected by him. He was much beloved as king, and during his rule Norway had grown greatly in wealth and honor.




The Saga of Magnús Barelegs


Chapter 1. Norway Is Divided between Magnús Óláfsson and Hákon Magnússon


After the death of King Óláf, at an assembly in Vík, Magnús, the son of King Óláf, was immediately chosen king of all Norway. But when the people in the districts of Uppland learned of the death of King Óláf, they chose as king, Hákon, the foster son of Thórir, who was the cousin of Magnús. Thereupon Hákon and Thórir journeyed north to Trondheim, and when they arrived in Nitharós they called together the Eyra Assembly. And at this assembly Hákon demanded the title of king for himself; and the farmers gave him dominion over half the land, the same as King Magnús, his father, had had. Hákon relieved the people of Trondheim of the land-tax and granted them many other amendments of the laws. He also exempted them from having to give Yule presents [to him]. So all the people of Trondheim became friendly inclined to King Hákon. Then King Hákon selected a bodyguard and returned to Uppland. There he granted the people the same improvements in the laws as he had granted the people of Trondheim. And they, too, became his fast friends. Then somebody in Trondheim composed this verse:




537.   Hákon the young hither—
he is of all men noblest
born, famous in folk-lands—
fared with Steigar-Thórir.
Would he sithen cede the
sway of half of Norway
to Óláf’s son: he asked though
all of the land to govern.


Chapter 2. King Hákon Dies Traversing the Mountains


In the fall King Magnús journeyed north to Kaupang, and when he had arrived there he went to the royal estate and dwelled there during the beginning of the winter. He kept seven warships in an open space in the ice of the Nith River in front of the royal residence. But when King Hákon learned that King Magnús had arrived in the Trondheim District he came west [north] over the Dofra Mountains to Trondheim and to Kaupang, and took lodgings in the Skúli residence below Saint Clemens Church. That had been the old royal residence. King Magnús thought ill of the great concessions which King Hákon had made to the farmers to win their favor. Magnús considered that it was no less his own property which had been given away, and he was greatly incensed about that and considered himself wronged by his kinsman in thus having so much less revenue than his father and forefathers had had, and blamed Thórir for that. King Hákon and Thórir became aware of this and were apprehensive of what measures Magnús would take. They thought it ominous that Magnús had afloat warships tented and equipped.


In spring, near Candlemas Magnús set out at dead of night and stood out with his ships tented and with lights under the tents, and sailed to Hefring Head.1 There they stayed during the night, making great fires up on land.


Then King Hákon and the troops in the town thought that this was done to trick them. He had the trumpets blown to call out his forces, and all the people in the town came and collected in one place. But in the morning at dawn, when King Magnús saw the assembled multitude on Eyrar Point, he sailed out of the fjord and south to the Gula Assembly District. Then King Hákon prepared for proceeding east [south] to Vík. But before that he held a meeting in the town and there made a speech bespeaking the friendship of the people and promising to be friends with all. He said he felt much misgivings as to what King Magnús, his kinsman, intended to do. King Hákon sat on horseback, all ready to start out. Everyone vowed friendship and good will, promising him their aid, if that was required. And all the multitude followed him out to Steinbjorg Hill.2


King Hákon journeyed up to the Dofra Mountains; and one day, as he rode over the mountains, he followed after a ptarmigan which flew away from him. Then he took deadly sick and expired there on the mountain. His body was brought north and arrived in Kaupang half a month after he had left it. Then all the people of the town, most of them weeping, came to meet the body of the king, because everybody had loved him with heartfelt affection. The body of King Hákon was interred in Christ Church. King Hákon had reached the age of about twenty-five years. He was one of the chieftains who was most beloved by all the people in Norway. He had travelled north to Permia, had fought there, and won a victory.


Chapter 3. King Magnús Harries in Halland


During the winter King Magnús continued east to Vík. And when spring came he sailed south to Halland and harried there far and wide. He destroyed Viskar Dale and a number of other districts by fire. He made large booty there and then returned to his own kingdom. As Bjorn the Cripple-handed1 says in his Magnússdrápa:




538.   Far and wide the war-lord
wasted Halland’s homesteads—
swift he followed the fleeing
foe—with sword and fire.
Burned the thane of Thronders2
thatched farms many in Visk Dale—
soundly slept not women
south there—and other shires.


It is said here that King Magnús harried fiercely in Halland.


Chapter 4. Steigar-Thórir Collects Forces against King Magnús


There was a man called Svein, the son of Harald Flettir, of Danish origin. He was a great viking and warrior, of exceeding bravery, and of noble lineage in his country. He had been one of the followers of King Hákon. Now after the death of Hákon, Steigar-Thórir had small hopes that he could achieve a reconciliation with King Magnús and win his friendship, once his power extended over all the land, because of what he had done and his opposition to King Magnús. Then Thórir and Svein adopted a plan which later proved a success: they raised a band with the aid of Thórir and his many henchmen. But because Thórir was an old man now and sluggish in his movements, Svein took over the leadership of the band and became its chieftain. In this plot a number of chieftains were involved. The most prominent of them was Egil, the son of Áslák of Forland. Egil was a landed-man. He was married to Ingibjorg, the daughter of Ogmund Thorbergsson and the sister of Skopti of Gizki. Skjálg was the name of another powerful and wealthy man who joined the band. Of this, Thorkel Hamarskáld1 makes mention in his Magnússdrápa:




539.   From far and wide his war-band
wealthy Thórir gathered—
sorely men did suffer
soon from this—with Egil.
Heard I that overwhelming
hardships befell Skjálg’s friends, when
the king’s stewards stirred up
strife ’gainst the feeder-of-ravens.


Thórir and his men collected their forces in the Uppland districts and descended into Raums Dale and South Mœr. There they procured ships and then sailed north to Trondheim.


Chapter 5. Thórir Flees to Hálogaland, Pursued by King Magnús


Sigurth Woolstring was the name of a king’s steward. He was the son of Lothin Viggjarskalli. When hearing of the approach of Thórir and his band he gathered a force by means of sending around the war-arrows, and proceeded to Vigg with all the men he managed to get. But Svein and Thórir headed the same way with their force and gave battle to Sigurth. They were victorious, causing great slaughter, and Sigurth fled and sought out the king. But Thórir and his men proceeded to Kaupang, remaining in the fjord for a while, and many men joined them.


King Magnús learned of these happenings and at once summoned his troops and then proceeded to Trondheim. When he arrived at the Trond-heimfjord, and Thórir and his men learned that—they were anchored by Hefring Head, ready to sail out of the fjord—they rowed over to Vagnvíkastrands and there disembarked and went north to Thex Dale in the Selja District. Thórir was carried over the mountains on a stretcher. There they procured ships and sailed north to Hálogaland. But King Magnús pursued them, as soon as he had made his preparations in Trondheim. Thórir and his men sailed all the way north to Bjarkey. There, Jóan fled, together with his son Víthkun. Thórir’s band plundered there, taking all movable property and burning the farm and also a fine warship which belonged to Víthkun. When the ship burned and began to heel, Thórir said, “More to starboard, Víthkun!” Then someone composed this verse:




540.   Burns in middle Birch-Isle
the best of manors—little
good one ever gets from
grim Thórir—high blazing.
Needless to ask, at night, if
Jóan enough had of plunder—
high to heaven from buildings
whirls the smoke—or fire.


Chapter 6. Thórir and Egil Are Hanged


Jóan and Víthkun travelled day and night to join King Magnús. Svein and Thórir also came down from the north with their forces, plundering far and wide in Hálogaland. But when they were anchored in the fjord which is called Harm they saw the fleet of King Magnús approaching; and they did not consider they had a force to stand up against the king, and so took to flight by rowing. Thórir and Egil rowed to Hesjutún while Svein rowed out to sea; and a part of their fleet rowed into the fjord. King Magnús pursued Thórir, and when the ships began to engage each other in fight at the landing-place, Thórir stood forward in his ship. Then Sigurth Wool-string called out to him, “Are you hale, Thórir?”


Thórir replied,




541.   “Hale in my hands,
but halt in my feet.”


Then all of Thórir’s men fled up on land, and Thórir was captured. Egil, too, was made captive, because he did not want to abandon his wife. King Magnús had both led to Vambarhólm Island. But as Thórir was brought upon the island he tottered on his legs. Then Víthkun said, “More to larboard, Thórir!” Thereupon Thórir was led up to the gallows. Then he spoke this verse:




542.   “Formerly were there four1 of us
fellows; one did the steering.”


And when he went up to the gallows he said, “Ill are evil counsels.” Thereupon he was hanged; and when the gallows-tree was raised, Thórir proved so heavy that his neck was torn from his body, which fell to the ground. Thórir was an enormously big man, and both tall and stout.


Egil was also led to the gallows; but when the king’s slaves were about to hang him, Egil said, “Not that every one of you didn’t better deserve to hang!” according to the verse:




Egil is hanged.




543.   In spite Egil spoke, on the
spur of the moment, sun-of-
gleaming-gold,2 about the
grovelling thralls of Magnús:
that higher than he should each be
hanging by rights, said he:
the fire-of-fray’s3-waster
far too much did suffer.


King Magnús sat near where they were hanged and was so furious that no one of his men dared to plead for their lives. When Egil kicked the gallows the king said, “Of little avail are your good kinsmen to you.” From these words it was inferred that the king wished that someone had pleaded for Egil’s life. Thus says Bjorn the Cripplehanded:




544.   Soon the Sogn men’s lord his
sword reddened on spoilers—
far and wide the wolf-brood
warm flesh got in Harmfjord.
Heard you have, how Magnús—
hanged was by him Thórir—
fast he fared against his
foes—punished the traitors.


Chapter 7. King Magnús Is Sole Ruler in Norway


Thereupon King Magnús returned to the Trondheim District, and sailing into the Trondheimfjord, visited strong retribution on the men who had been guilty of treason against him. Some he executed, and burned down the houses of others. As says Bjorn the Cripplehanded:




545.   Fear put the feeder-of-ravens
fierce into the hearts of
Thronders, when their thatch he
threatened to set fire to.
Did the liege of life rob
leaders twain at one time—
hawks pounced on the hanged, and
had their fill witch-horses.1


Svein Haraldsson first fled out to sea, and then to Denmark, and lived there until he effected a conciliation with King Eystein, the son of Magnús. He pardoned Svein and made him his cup-bearer, befriending him and holding him in great honor.


Then King Magnús was sole ruler in Norway. He preserved peace in it, destroying all vikings and pirates. He was a vigorous man, warlike and active, and in every respect more like his grandfather Harald in disposition than his father.


Chapter 8. King Magnús’ Expedition to the Western Isles


King Magnús prepared for an expedition abroad, taking with him a force both large and well-equipped and a fine fleet. With this force he sailed west across the sea, first to the Orkneys. He made the earls Pál and Erlend captive and sent them both east to Norway, setting his son Sigurth as chieftain over the islands, and giving him a body of counsellors. Then King Magnús sailed to the Hebrides, and at once upon arrival there began to harry and burn the countryside, killing the men and despoiling them wherever the troops came. The inhabitants of the land fled and scattered in all directions. Some fled into the Scottish firths, some south to Saltire [Kintyre] or west to Ireland. Some were given quarter and swore him allegiance. Thus says Bjorn the Cripplehanded:




546.   Leapt the flames aloft on
Lewis nigh to heaven.
Far and wide all folk did
flee—burst fire from houses.
Over Uist Island
endlong went the Skjoldung—
life and wealth the lieges
lost—with reddened sword-blade.




547.   Harried on Skye he who
hungry ravens battens.
Their teeth on Tiree reddened
tawny wolves on corpses.
Grieved there Grenland’s1 ruler
girls in Shetland islands—
high up in Scotland harried
he who Mull’s people frightened.


Chapter 9. King Magnús Captures Lawman


King Magnús with his force came to Holy Isle [lona] and there assured men of peace and protection and likewise everyone’s possessions. It is told that he wanted to open up Kolumba’s little cell,1 but did not enter into it, and immediately closed the door again, saying that no one should dare to enter that church; nor was that done in after time.


Then King Magnús sailed with his fleet south to Islay and harried and burned there. And after conquering that land he proceeded south past Sal-tire, harrying on both sides in Ireland and Scotland. He laid the land waste all the way south to Man, harrying there as elsewhere. As says Bjorn the Cripplehanded:




548.   Warlike Magnús widely
waste laid Sanday’s grasslands.
Smoke rose up on Islay
Isle as homesteads burned there.
South on Saltire bloody
swords felled many Scotsmen.
Manxmen many then by
Magnús’ host were laid low.


Lawman was the name of the son of Guthröth, king over the Hebrides. Lawman had been charged with the defence of the Northern Isles. But when King Magnús neared the Hebrides with his fleet, Lawman fled and hid among the islands; but finally King Magnús’ men captured him together with his crew as he was about to flee to Ireland. The king had him put in irons, with a guard set over him. As says Bjorn the Cripplehanded:




549.   Safe for sea-king Guthröth’s
scion was no refuge.
Won there lands the lord, to
Lawman barred forever.
Out at sea, where swords did
sing, the Egthirs’ ruler
bound the breaker-of-rings with
bonds and chains of iron.


Chapter 10. King Magnús Defeats Two Welsh Earls


Then King Magnús steered his fleet to Bretland [Wales]. And when he arrived at the Sound of Anglesey [Menai Strait] a fleet approached from Bretland, headed by two earls, Hugh the Proud and Hugh the Stout, and at once gave battle. It was a hard fight. King Magnús shot with his bow, but Hugh the Proud was clad in mail from head to foot, so that no spot was bare except the eyes. Both King Magnús and a man from Hálogaland who stood near the king aimed their arrows at him, and both shot at the same time. One arrow struck the visor of Hugh’s helmet, and was deflected to the side, but the other hit the earl’s eye and penetrated his head; and that shot was attributed to the king. Earl Hugh fell dead, and then the Welsh fled after losing many men.


As says Bjorn the Cripplehanded:




550.   Lifeless was left by the
liege where raged the battle—
whined and whizzed the arrows—
Hugh in Sound of Anglesey.


This verse also was spoken:




551.   Darts then drummed on byrnies,
doughtily hurled by war-lord.
Blood rose on helms. Bent his
bow of elm the atheling.
A hail of arrows hit the
hauberks—many fell there—
when the Horthar’s1 king in
hard fight slew Hugh Earl.


King Magnús was victorious in this battle. He took possession of Anglesey, as had done the kings of Norway who had dominion farthest south. Anglesey is one third the size of Bretland.


After this battle King Magnús turned back with his fleet and steered first to Scotland. Then men negotiated a peace between him and Malcolm, king of Scotland. According to their agreement King Magnús was to have possession of all the islands west of Scotland separated from the mainland by water so that a ship with fixed rudder could pass between them. Now when King Magnús approached Saltire from the south he had a small craft dragged over the neck of land between Saltire and the mainland, with tiller fixed. The king himself sat on the raised afterdeck, holding the steering post, and thus took possession of the land to larboard. Saltire is a large land, and better than the best island in the Hebrides excepting Man. There is a slender neck of land between it and the mainland of Scotland. Warships are often dragged across it.


Chapter 11. Sigurth, the Son of Magnús, Marries Bjathmynja


King Magnús remained in the Hebrides during the winter. At that time his men went west about all the firths of Scotland behind the islands, both inhabited and uninhabited, and took possession of all of them for the king. King Magnús married his son Sigurth to Bjathmynja, the daughter of King Mýrjartak Thjálbason,1 king over the Irish. He ruled over Connaught. In the summer after, King Magnús with his fleet returned east to Norway.


Earl Erlend died of a sickness in Nitharós and is buried there; but Pál, in Bergen.


Skopti, the son of Ogmund Thorbergsson, was a steward of the king, an excellent man. He resided in Gizki in South Mœr. He was married to Guthrún, the daughter of Thórth Fólason. Their children were Ogmund, Finn, Thórth; and his daughter Thóra became the wife of Ásólf Skúlason. When young the sons of Skopti gave rise to much promise.


Chapter 12. Magnús Constructs a Fort in Lake Vœneren


Steinkel, the king of Sweden, died about the time of the death of the [two] Haralds. Hákon was the name of the king who succeeded Steinkel in Sweden. After him Ingi, the son of Steinkel, was king—a good and powerful king, a man of great size and strength. He ruled in Sweden at the same time as Magnús in Norway.


King Magnús maintained that in the olden times the Gaut Elf River had been the boundary between the realms of the Swedish and the Norwegian kings, and from there, Lake Vænir up to Vermaland. King Magnús laid claim to all the districts west of Vænir. These comprise Sunn Dale and North Dale, Véar and Varthynjar, and all the forested parts neighboring to them. All these had for a long time been subject to the Swedish kings, and paid tribute as parts of West Gautland. And the people of the Forest Settlements wanted to be under the Swedish king as before.


King Magnús proceeded from Vík and into Gautland with a large and well-equipped army. And when he came to the Forest Settlements he harried and burned, and dealt so with all districts. The people swore him allegiance and fealty. But when he came to Lake Vænir, fall was approaching. Then the king’s men rowed out to the island of Kvalthinsey and there constructed a fort of turf and timbers and dug a ditch around it. And when this fortification was completed they brought into it victuals and other necessaries. The king placed a garrison of three hundred [360] men there. They were under the command of Finn Skoptason and Sigurth Woolstring. It was a picked band. Then the king returned to Vík.


Chapter 13. King Ingi Treats the Garrison of the Fort with Ignominy


But when the Swedish king learned about these events he summoned troops; and it was reported that he would move down to those parts. However, there was a delay. Then the Norwegians spoke this ditty:




552.   Long does loin-broad Ingi
linger before coming.


But when the ice formed on Lake Vænir, King Ingi rode down with nearly thirty hundred [3600] men. He sent a message to the Norwegians in the fortification, asking them to depart with the booty they had made, and to return to Norway. But when the messengers had delivered the king’s message, Sigurth Woolstring replied that Ingi should think of some other plan than to turn them out like a herd into the pasture—that he would have to come nearer first. The messengers returned to the king with that answer.


Thereupon King Ingi proceeded to the island with all his army. Then he sent his men to the Norwegians a second time and asked them to depart with their weapons, clothes, and horses, but to leave behind their booty. They refused to do so. Thereupon an attack was made and they shot upon one another. Following that the king had stones and wood brought up to fill the moat. Then he had anchors fastened to long timbers and had those thrown up on the wooden wall. Many men took hold and pulled the wall apart. Still further great fires [with glowing embers] were kindled and flaming brands tossed at them. Thereupon the Norwegians asked for quarter, but the king then commanded them to leave weaponless and without their outer garments; and when they issued, every one of them was lashed with a switch. They left in this wise and went back home to Norway. But the men of the Forest Districts returned to their allegiance to King Ingi. Sigurth and his companions rejoined King Magnús and told him about their misadventure.


Chapter 14. King Magnús Is Defeated and Pursued


As soon as the ice broke up in the spring, King Magnús proceeded east to the [Gaut Elf] River with a large army. He rowed up the eastern [southern] branch and harried everywhere in the Swedish realm. And when he [and his forces] arrived at Foxerni they went on land from their ships. As they passed over a certain river an army of Gauts met them. There was a battle, and the Norwegians were overpowered and took to flight. Many of them were slain near a certain waterfall. King Magnús fled, with the Gauts pursuing and killing all they could.


King Magnús was easily recognizable, being of unusual height. He wore a red doublet over his coat of mail, and his long hair, as pale as silk, fell down over his shoulders. Ogmund, the son of Skopti, rode by the side of the king. He too was exceedingly tall and handsome. He said, “Give me your doublet, king!”


The king answered, “Of what use to you would be my doublet?”


“I wish to have it,” he said. “You have given me greater gifts.” The nature of the place was such that there were broad plains round about, so that Gauts and Norwegians were always in sight of one another. But there were also steeps and coppices, and there they were out of each others’ sight. Then the king gave Ogmund his doublet, and he put it on. Afterwards they rode on over the plain. Then Ogmund and his men turned abruptly to one side, and when the Gauts saw that they thought it was the king and pursued him in a body. But the king kept on till he boarded his ship, while Ogmund barely escaped, yet made it to the ships. Thereupon King Magnús rowed down the river and then north to Vík.


Chapter 15. Kings Magnús, Ingi, and Eirík Agree on Peace Terms


The summer after [these events], a meeting of kings was arranged, to take place at Konungahella in the [Gaut Elf] River. To this meeting came Magnús, king of Norway, Ingi, king of Sweden, and Eirík Sveinsson, king of Denmark. And this conference was safeguarded by mutual assurances. When it took place, the three kings came forward on the plain, away from their followers, and conferred together for a little while, then returned to their company. Then the agreement was made that each of them was to have possession of the realm his forefathers had had; and each of the kings was to make recompense to the other for the booty made by him, and for the destruction of life. And each of them was to make amends for the damages done by him. King Magnús was to obtain in marriage Margrét, the daughter of King Ingi—she was thereafter called Frithkolia [Peace Woman].


People said that never had there been seen more princely men than these three kings. King Ingi was the tallest in stature and the stoutest of them, and to all he seemed the most majestic in appearance. But King Magnús seemed the most striking and active, whereas Eirík was the handsomest. But all three of them were large men, handsome, distinguished-looking, and eloquent. They parted when these agreements had been made.


Chapter 16. Of the Costumes Worn by King Magnús and His Son


King Magnús obtained Queen Margaret in marriage. She was sent west from Sweden to Norway with a magnificent following. Now King Magnús had some children from before whose names are as follows. One son’s name was Eystein. His mother was of low birth. A second was called Sigurth, younger by one year, whose mother was Thóra. The third was Óláf, who was by a great deal the youngest. His mother was Sigríth, daughter of Saxi of Vík, a chieftain in the district of Trondheim. She was Magnús’ mistress.


It is told that when King Magnús returned from his expedition to the west he and many of his men for the most part had the manners and wore the clothes which were customary in the British Islands. They went barelegged in the Street [of Kaupaug] and had short kirtles and outer garments. Then people called him Magnús Barefoot or Barelegs; but some, Magnús the Tall, and still others Styrjaldar Magnús [Magnús of the turbulence, warfare]. He was exceedingly tall. A mark was made of his height in Saint Mary’s Church in the town, the one which King Harald had had built. There on the north door three crosses were chiseled, one showing Harald’s height, another, Óláf’s, and a third, that of Magnús. They were put where it was easiest for them to kiss. And highest was Harald’s cross; the lowest that of Magnús, and that of Óláf in the middle between them.


Chapter 17. Skopti Ogmundarson Falls Out with Magnús


Skopti, the son of Ogmund, had a falling out with King Magnús. They quarrelled about the inheritance of one deceased which Skopti had possession of, but which the king claimed for himself with such vehemence that there was danger of serious trouble between them. They [Skopti and his kinsmen] had many discussions [about this], and Skopti cautioned against himself and his sons ever putting themselves into the king’s power at one and the same time, and that this would best serve their purposes. Now when Skopti himself came before the king he pointed out that there was a close relationship between the king and himself, and also, that he, Skopti, always had been a close friend of the king and that their friendship never had been broken. He also said that men might know that he had sense enough—“not to quarrel about this matter with you, sir king, if I were in the wrong. But I take after my forefathers in this that I insist on my rights against everyone, and in this I make no distinction against whom.” The king did not change his mind, nor was it softened by such an appeal. Skopti returned home.


Chapter 18. Finn Skoptason Pleads with the King


Then Finn [Skoptason] went to see the king, and spoke to him, asking him to let his father and his kin have what they were by rights entitled to. The king answered curtly and gruffly. Thereupon Finn said, “A different treatment, sir king, I expected to get from you than to be cheated out of my lawful rights by you, considering the time I stationed myself on the island of Kvalthinsey, which few of your other friends would consent to do, because they said—and that proved to be the truth—that those who were stationed there were delivered up and would have been condemned to death if King Ingi had not shown greater chieftainly qualities than you have shown us; and yet it would appear to many that even so we suffered great humiliation there—if that has any weight [with you].” The king was not moved by such arguments, and Finn returned home.


Chapter 19. Ogmund Skoptason Urges his Cause before the King


Thereupon Ogmund Skoptason went to speak with the king, and when he appeared before him he pleaded his case, praying the king to proceed with justice toward his father and brothers. The king said that the right was on his side and that they were most impudent. Then Ogmund said, “You are likely, sir king, to succeed in wronging us, because of your power. Thus is proved true that, as the saying goes, most people show little or no gratitude, even if you save their lives. But I shall want it understood that never again shall I join your service, nor any of our kin, if I have my way.” Thereupon Ogmund returned home, nor did King Magnús or they ever meet again.


Chapter 20. Skopti and his Sons Die Abroad


In the spring following, Skopti Ogmundarson outfitted to leave the land. He had five warships, all well equipped. His sons, Ogmund, Finn, and Thórth all joined company with him. They got off to a rather late start, and in the fall sailed to Flamland [Flanders] and stayed there during the winter. Early the following spring they sailed west to Valland [France], and in the summer they sailed through Norva Sound [the Straits of Gibraltar], and in fall, to Rome. There Skopti died, and all his sons died on that expedition. Thórth lived longest of them. He died in Sikiley [Sicily]. It is said that Skopti was the first Norwegian to sail through Norva Sound, and this journey was famed widely.


Chapter 21. Saint Óláf Saves his Church from Burning


It happened in Kaupang, where King Saint Óláf is interred, that fire broke out in a house in the town and spread widely. Then the shrine of King Óláf was borne out of the church and set against the conflagration. Then a certain rash and witless man ran up to it, beat upon the shrine, and uttered threats against the saint, saying that all, both the churches and other buildings, would go up in flames unless he prevented it by his prayers. Now Almighty God kept the church from burning, but to this witless man he sent a pain in the eye that very night, and he lay there until Holy King Óláf interceded for him with God Almighty and he was healed in that same church.


Chapter 22. Saint Óláf Heals a Crippled Woman


Still further it happened in Kaupang that a woman was brought to the place in the town where King Óláf is interred. She was so misshapen that she was all shrunk together and both feet were bent up against her thighs. And when she lay there, constantly praying and weeping, and had called on him, he healed her of her great infirmity, so that her feet and legs and other limbs were straightened from their bent position and each limb and joint afterwards served its proper purpose. Before, she could not even creep to that spot, but now she walked from there hale and rejoicing to her home.


Chapter 23. King Magnús Sails to Ireland


King Magnús prepared an expedition abroad with a large army. At that time he had been king over Norway for nine years. Then he sailed west across the sea with the best equipped army that ever left Norway. In his company were all the chieftains in the country: Sigurth Hranason, Víthkun Jóansson, Dag Eilífsson, Serk of Sogn, Eyvind Elbow, the marshal of the king, Úlf Hranason, the brother of Sigurth, and many other chieftains. With all this force the king sailed west to the Orkneys and from there took with him Magnús and Erling, the sons of Earl Erlend. Then he sailed to the Hebrides; and when he was anchored beside the Scottish coast, Magnús Erlendsson at night jumped overboard from the king’s ship and swam to land. Then he hid in the forest and finally came to the court of the king of Scotland. Afterwards King Magnús sailed to Ireland and harried there. Then King Mýrjartak joined him, and together they won much of the land, Dublin and the Shire of Dublin; and in the winter following, King Magnús dwelt in Connaught with King Mýrjartak, putting his men to the defence of the land he had won. But when spring came the kings with their army marched west to Ulster and there had many battles and subdued the land, winning the greater part of Ulster. Thereupon Mýrjartak returned to Connaught.




At sunrise Magnús and his men go on land.


Chapter 24. King Magnús Goes Inland in Ulster


Then King Magnús outfitted his ships, intending to return to Norway. He stationed his men in Dublin to guard it. He lay with all of his ships by the Ulster coast, ready for sailing. They thought they needed provisioning, and King Magnús sent his men to King Mýrjartak, asking him to send provisions and mentioning the day they were to be brought—the day before Bartholomew Mass [August 24th], if his messengers got through with a whole skin. But on the evening before the day they had not arrived. On the day of the Mass, when the sun rose, King Magnús debarked with the greater part of his force and went up on land, meaning to look for his men and provisions. The weather was calm and the sun shone. The way lay over swamps and fens. A corduroy road was made over them, and there were thickets on both sides. As they proceeded they came to a very high hill. From there they had a wide view. Inland they saw a great cloud of dust arising from a body of horsemen. They wondered whether that might be the army of the Irish, but some said that these probably were the men with the provisions. They took a position there. Then Eyvind Elbow spoke. “Sir king,” he said, “what do you think this body of men is? Your men think you are proceeding without due caution. You know that the Irish are treacherous. Lay down some plan for your troops to follow.”


Then the king said, “Let us draw up our force in battle array, to be prepared in case this is treachery.” This they did. The king and Eyvind went in front of their lines. King Magnús had a helmet on his head and a red shield before him on which a lion was embossed in gold. He was girt with the sword which was called Legbiter, whose hilt was carved of walrus-tooth and whose haft was wound with gold—an excellent weapon. In his hand he carried a halberd. Over his kirtle he wore a red silken jacket with a lion sewed on front and back with yellow silk. It was said that a man of more imposing stature and more gallant bearing had never been seen. Eyvind, too, had a red silk jacket, just like that of the king. And he also was a tall man, handsome, and of martial bearing.


Chapter 25. King Magnús and His Army Are Overcome by the Irish


But when the cloud of dust approached they recognized their own men, who came with a great amount of provisions which the king of the Irish had sent them. He kept all the promises he had made to King Magnús. Then they started on their way back to the ships, and that was about noontime. But when they came out on the fens they were slow in passing over them. Then the army of the Irish rushed out upon them from every corner of the woods and at once began to give battle; but the Norwegians were travelling in open formation, and many of them fell quickly.


Then Eyvind spoke. “Sir king,” he said, “our troops are faring badly. Let us quickly hit on a good plan.”


The king said, “Let a blast of trumpets call all the troops under their banners; but let all those who are here form a rampart of shields, and then let us beat a retreat over the moors. Once we are on even ground there will be no more danger.” The Irish shot [their arrows] boldly, yet they fell thickly. However, where one had fallen, another filled his place. And when the king had got to the next ditch—it was difficult going there, with only few places where one could get over—a great many Norwegians fell.


Then the king called Thorgrím Furcap, one of his stewards—he was from the Upplands—and ordered him to pass over the ditch with his troop, “but meanwhile we shall keep them away,” he said, “so that they won’t harm you. Then get on the knoll over there and shoot at them while we pass over the ditch—you are good shots.” But as soon as Thorgrím and his men had got over the ditch they threw their shields on their backs and ran down to the ships. When the king saw that he called out: “Shamefully you part with your king. A fool I was to make you my steward but outlawed Sigurth the Hound1—he would never have behaved so!”


King Magnús was wounded by a spear passing through both his thighs above the knee. He grasped the shaft between his legs and broke it, and said: “Thus break we every leg-spar, men!” King Magnús received a blow with a battle-axe on his neck, and that was his death-wound. Then those fled who were still left. Vithkun Jóansson carried the sword Legbiter and the standard of the king to the ships. These were the last to take to flight: he, and Sigurth Hranason, and Dag Eilífsson. Together with King Magnús there fell Eyvind Elbow, Úlf Hranason, and many other chieftains. Many Norwegians fell, yet many more Irishmen.


The Norwegians who escaped, at once left [Ireland] in the fall. Erling, the son of Earl Erlend, fell in Ireland with King Magnús. But when the force that had fled from Ireland arrived in the Orkneys and Sigurth learned of the death of his father Magnús he joined them at once, and that [same] fall returned to Norway.


Chapter 26. Of King Magnús Barelegs’ Character


King Magnús had ruled Norway for ten years, and in his days there was good peace within the land; but people had much labor and expense from his expeditions abroad. By his followers King Magnús was greatly beloved, but the farmers considered him stern. It is recalled that when his friends told him that he often proceeded incautiously on his expeditions abroad he replied, “for glorious deeds one should have a king, not for a long life.” King Magnús was approaching thirty years of age when he fell. Víthkun slew that man in the battle who had given King Magnús his death-blow, whereupon he fled, having received three wounds. For this reason he was in great favor with the sons of King Magnús.




The Saga of the Sons of Magnús


Chapter 1. King Sigurth Heads an Expedition to Miklagarth


After the fall of King Magnús Barelegs his sons, Eystein, Sigurth, and Óláf succeeded to the kingdom of Norway. Eystein ruled in the northern part of the country, Sigurth, in the southern part. King Óláf was four or five years old, and the third of the land which fell to his share was in the keeping of his two older brothers. Sigurth was chosen king when he was thirteen or fourteen years old, but Eystein was a year older. King Sigurth left the daughter of the Irish king behind in the west.


When the sons of Magnús succeeded to the throne, the men who had gone abroad with Skopti Ogmundarson returned from Palestine, and some, from Miklagarth [Byzantium]. They had acquired great fame and could tell of many events; and this news whetted the desire of a great many in Norway to undertake a like journey. It was said that in Miklagarth Norwegians who wanted to take service as mercenaries could acquire great wealth. The request was made of the kings that one of them, whether Eystein or Sigurth, should head a fleet which was being outfitted for such an expedition abroad. The kings assented and equipped this expedition at the expense of both. Many chieftains joined it, both such as held lands from the king and rich farmers. And when they were ready it was decided that Sigurth was to head this enterprise, and that Eystein was to govern the country for both kings.


Chapter 2. Hákon Is Made Earl of the Orkneys


One year or two after the fall of Magnús Barelegs, Hákon, the son of Earl Pál, came east from the Orkneys; and the kings bestowed on him the earlship and authority over the Orkneys, the same as Earls Pál, his father, or Erlend, his paternal uncle, had had before him; whereupon Hákon sailed west back to the Orkneys.


Chapter 3. King Sigurth Sails to England


Four years after the death of King Magnús, King Sigurth and his expedition left Norway. He had with him sixty ships. As says Thórarin Stuttfeld: 1




553.   So great a fleet
together came
for prudent prince,
picked and faithful,
that sixty ships
sailed, gaily planked,
hence by holy
heavens’ decree.


In the fall King Sigurth sailed to England. At that time Henry, the son of William the Bastard was king. King Sigurth remained there during the winter. As says Einar Skúlason:2




554.   Strongest fleet was steered by
stout-hearted king westward.
Leapt toward English lands the
liege-of-Norway’s sea-steed.
Gave the ruler rest to
roller-horses weary
lord ne’er better from gangplank.


Chapter 4. King Sigurth Proceeds Along the Coast of Spain


In the spring following, King Sigurth proceeded west to France with his fleet, and in fall reached Galicia, where he remained another winter. As says Einar Skúlason:




555.   He who holiest realm1 did
have ’neath the sun’s-mansion,2
one more winter tarried
west in land of Saint Jacob.3
There the prince repaid the
perjured earl—he gladdened
ravening ravens ever—
richly for broken promise.


What happened was that the earl who ruled that land had made an agreement with King Sigurth that he would have a market set up where Sigurth could purchase food the whole winter through; but this he did no longer than Yule, so food became scarce for them, because that land is rugged and does not produce much food. Then King Sigurth proceeded with a large army to the castle the earl had; whereupon the earl fled as he had but a small force. King Sigurth captured much food there and made much other booty, which he transported to his ships. Then he made ready to depart and sailed west [south?] along the Spanish coast.


When King Sigurth was sailing along the coast of Spain it happened that some vikings out for plunder came toward him with a fleet of galleys. But King Sigurth joined battle with them, and this was his first engagement with heathen men. He won eight galleys from them. As says Halldór Skvaldri:4




556.   And the paltry pirates
pounced—but many warriors
fierce before his onset
fell—on the mighty ruler.
Fast the fleet of men cleared—
few were there our losses—
eight of the enemy’s galleys:
heir was he to their riches.


Thereupon King Sigurth proceeded to the castle which is called Sintre [Cintra], and there had another battle. That stronghold is in Spain. There the heathens had established themselves and harried on the Christians. He conquered the stronghold and killed all people in it, because they refused to be baptized, and made much booty there. As says Halldór Skvaldri:






557.   Tell I shall the tidings
to you, how that the lavish
dispender-of-spoils took, in
Spain, the castle of Cintra.
Hard found it the hapless
heathens—but they would not
take to God’s his tested
truth—to deal with Sigurth.


Chapter 5. King Sigurth Conquers the City of Alcasse


Thereupon King Sigurth and his fleet proceeded to Lissabon. That is a great city in Spain, half Christian and half heathen. There is the boundary between Christian and heathen1 Spain. All the districts west [south] of that are heathen. There King Sigurth had a third battle with heathen warriors in which he was victorious, and carried off much booty. As says Halldór Skvaldri:




558.   South you sailed and landed,
Sigurth, by the castle
Lisbon, learned I, called, and,
lord, won a third victory.


Then King Sigurth with his fleet proceeded west [south] along the heathen part of Spain and made land by a city which is called Alcasse,2 and there had a fourth battle with the heathens and conquered that city. He slew many people there so as to depopulate the city. There they made an immense amount of booty. As says Halldór Skvaldri:




559.   Fourth victory fain wouldst,
folk-ruler, win in combat,
heard I, ’gainst a heathen
host, at Alcasse castle.


And still further:




560.   In sapped castle, sorrow
seized on heathen women,
heard I, when their men had
hied them off in wild flight.


Chapter 6. King Sigurth Subdues a Cave Fort on Forminterra


Then King Sigurth continued on his journey and came to Norva Sound, and in the sound he encountered a large fleet of corsairs. The king engaged them in combat. This was his fifth battle, and he was victorious. As says Halldór Skvaldri:




561.   Fearless ye fought—God did
favor you—the raven to
new wounds flew—in Norva
Narrows ’gainst the heathens.


After that King Sigurth sailed south [east—of Spain] along Serkland1 and arrived at the islands which are called Forminterra.2 There a large force of heathen black men had established themselves in some cave and had placed a stone wall in front of its mouth. They harried far and wide on the land and had brought all their booty into the cave. King Sigurth went on land in this island and advanced to the cave—it was in a cliff, and one had to go high up to the stone wall, and the cliff jutted out above it. The heathens defended the stone wall and were not afraid of the weapons of the Norwegians, because they could throw stones and shoot down on the Norwegians below them. Nor did the Norwegians want to attack under such conditions. Then the heathens brought costly stuffs and other precious things out on the wall, shook them at the Norwegians, shouted at them, egged them to come on, and taunted them.


Then King Sigurth bethought himself of a stratagem. He had two ship-boats which are called barks [launches] dragged up to the top of the cliff above the opening of the cave and had them secured with strong ropes under the ribs and about the stern. Then as many men got into them as could find room in them, and then they let the boats down above the cave with ropes. Then those in the boats shot and hurled stones so that the heathens drew back from the stone wall. Then King Sigurth and his troops climbed up the cliff under the wall, broke it down and thus got into the cave. The heathens fled behind the stone wall which was set across the cave. Then the king had large pieces of wood brought up and great bonfires lit before the door-opening. And when the fire and the smoke told on them, some of the heathens lost their lives, others hurled themselves against the weapons of the Norwegians; but all were either killed or burned. The Norwegians took the greatest amount of booty they had gotten on this expedition. As says Halldór Skvaldri:




562.   3 His sea-steed then
steered the dauntless,
fight-loving prince to
There, fire and sword
suffered the Moors
in dogged fray, ere
death overtook them.


And still further:




563.   From above, the boats thou,
battle-urger—done were
mighty works among the
Moors—didst lower gently.
But from below, liege, didst,
loving battle, climb to
cliffy and man-crowded
cave at head of warriors.


Still further, Thórarin Suttfeld says:




564.   Bade the weapon-skilled
warlord drag two
blue-black breeze-wolves4
above the cliff,
whence by ropes were
the roller-horses5
lowered to cave-mouth,
laden with men.


Chapter 7. King Sigurth Has Battles at Íviza and Minorca


Then King Sigurth continued on his journey and came to the island called Íviza.1 There he had a battle and was victorious—that was the seventh. As says Halldór Skvaldri:




565.   Steered then the strife-loving,
stout-souled king his sea-steeds—
eager aye was he for
honor—straight to Íviza.


Then King Sigurth arrived at the island which is called Manork [Minorca] and there had an eighth battle with heathens and was victorious. As says Halldór Skvaldri:




566.   An eighth storm-of-arrows
added the prince sithen—
crimsoned king’s men spears in
combat—on green Minorca.


Chapter 8. King Sigurth Is the Guest of Duke Roger


In the spring King Sigurth arrived in Sicily, and there he remained for a long time. Rothgeir [Roger] was duke there at that time. He received the king well and invited him to a banquet. King Sigurth came to it with a great following. A splendid hospitality was shown him there, and every day the feast lasted, Duke Rothgeir stood by the table of King Sigurth, serving him. And on the seventh day of the banquet, when men had washed their hands, King Sigurth took the duke by the hand, led him up to the high-seat, and conferred the title of king on him and the right to be king over the realm of Sicily; but before that time earls had ruled that land.


Chapter 9. Of Duke Roger and His Kin


Rothgeir [Roger], the king of Sicily, was a most powerful ruler. He conquered all of Apulia and also many large islands in the Greek Sea. He was called Rothgeir the Powerful. His son was William, king over Sicily, who for a long time was at war with the emperors of Miklagarth. King William had three daughters but no son. One of his daughters was married to Emperor Henry, the son of Emperor Frederick; and their son was the Frederick who at that time was Roman emperor. Another daughter of King William was married to the duke of Capr [Cyprus?]. The third was the wife of the admiral of the fleet, Margrít [Margarito]. Emperor Henry slew both of them. The daughter of Rothgeir, king of Sicily, was married to Mánúli [Emanuel Komnenos], emperor of Miklagarth. Their son was Emperor Kir-jalax [Kyr-Alexios].


Chapter 10. King Sigurth Is Received by King Balduin


During the summer King Sigurth crossed the Greek Sea on his way to Palestine, then marched up to Jerusalem and there met Balduin, the king of Jerusalem. King Balduin received King Sigurth most graciously and with him rode to the River Jordan and back to Jerusalem. Thus says Einar Skúlason:




The kings ride to Jordan.




567.   Sped the king through spume and
spindrift his man-of-war—not
few the folk-lord’s deeds of
fame—in Grecian waters,
ere at Acre the liege his
anchor lowered, and all his
followers fain were on that
festive morning, with him.




568.   Peaceful pilgrimage made the
prince—under wide heaven
nobler lord was never
known—through Land the Holy;
and the gladsome gold-ring-
giver—praiseworthy was that—
bathed in blessed Jordan’s
burn, of sin to cleanse him.


King Sigurth remained a long time in Palestine during the fall and the first part of winter.


Chapter 11. King Sigurth Is Given a Splinter of the Holy Cross


King Balduin prepared a splendid feast for King Sigurth and a great following of his. At that time King Balduin gave King Sigurth many sacred relics. With the consent of King Balduin and the Patriarch a splinter was taken from the Holy Cross. They both swore by the sacred relics that this wood was from the holy cross on which God himself was martyred. Then this sacred relic was given to King Sigurth on condition that he, and twelve other men with him, made oath that he was to promote Christianity with all his power and establish an archbishopric [in his land] if he could, and that [this piece of] the cross should be deposited where Holy King Óláf was interred, and that he [the king] should promote the paying of tithes [to the church] and that he should do so himself.


Thereafter the king returned to his ships at Acre. Then also King Balduin made ready his army to proceed to Syria and the city called Sæt [Sidon]. That city was heathen. King Sigurth joined him on this expedition. And when the two kings had beleaguered the city for a short time the heathen men surrendered, and the kings took possession of the city, and their troops of all other booty. King Sigurth yielded to King Balduin entire possession of the city. As says Halldór Skvaldri:




569.   Heathen fastness, feeder-of-
famished-wolves, thou tookst and,
great-hearted, gavest back then,
gallant ruler, to Balduin.


Einar Skúlason also speaks about this:




570.   A pact of peace, I heard, the
prince-of-Dalesmen1 made there.
Crashed the catapults in
combat against Sidon.
Broke down the strong, beetling
breastworks the ravens’-feeder.
Bitter brands were reddened,
boasted the king of victory.


After that, King Sigurth returned to his ships and made ready to leave Palestine. They sailed north to the island called Kípr [Cyprus], and there King Sigurth remained for some time. Then he sailed to Greece and moored the whole fleet by Angel’s Ness [Cape Saint Angelo] and lay there for half a month. A fresh south wind blew there every day [to sail with] but he wanted to wait for a side-wind so that the sails could be set lengthwise on the ships; because all his sails were covered with costly stuffs—both in front and back, because neither those stationed in the bow of the ships nor those in the stern cared to see the less attractive side of the sails.




King Sigurth and his men ride into Miklagarth.


Chapter 12. King Sigurth and His Train Make Their Entry into Byzantium


When King Sigurth sailed in to Miklagarth he kept close to the shore. There, towns and castles and villages follow the shore without a break. The people on land could see all the billowing sails, nor was there any opening between them, so that it looked like an unbroken wall. All the people stood outside to behold the sailing of King Sigurth. Also Emperor Kirjalax had heard of the approach of King Sigurth, and he had the castle gate of Miklagarth opened which is called Gullvarta [Golden Gate] That gate the emperor is to ride through when he has been away for a long time from Miklagarth and returns victorious. Then the emperor had precious stuffs laid on all streets of the city leading from Gullvarta to Laktjarnir.1 There is the most splendid imperial palace.


King Sigurth told his men to ride into the city with a proud bearing and not to show any astonishment at all the new things they might see; and so they did. With such pomp King Sigurth and all his men rode into Miklagarth and then into the most splendid of royal halls; and all was ready there for their reception. King Sigurth remained there for some time. Then King [sic] Kirjalax sent messengers to him to ask whether he would rather accept six hundred-weights of gold from the emperor or have him make preparations for the games which the emperor was accustomed to have played in the Hippodrome. King Sigurth chose the games; and the messengers said that it would cost the emperor as much as the gold. Thereupon the emperor made preparations for the games, and then they were played in the usual fashion; and all the games that time went better for the emperor. The empress has half the game, and their men vie with each other. The Greeks say that if the emperor wins more games in the Hippodrome than the empress, then the emperor would be victorious in his expeditions.


Chapter 13. King Sigurth Returns to Norway


Thereupon King Sigurth made ready for the home journey. He gave the emperor all his ships. There were gilded [dragon] heads on the ship the king had steered—they were set on Saint Peter’s Church. Emperor Kirjalax gave King Sigurth many horses and furnished him guides through all his lands. Then King Sigurth left Miklagarth; but a great many of his men remained behind and went into military service [with the emperor].


First, King Sigurth marched into Bulgaria, then through Hungary, Pannonia, Swabia, and Bavaria. There he met Lothar, the emperor of Rome, who gave him an excellent welcome, furnished [his force] guides through the whole of his realm, and had markets established for them, whenever they needed all kinds of purchases. And when King Sigurth came to Slesvík in Denmark, Earl Eilíf entertained him splendidly. That was in midsummer time. In Heithaby1 he met Níkolás, the king of Denmark, who made him greatly welcome, and himself accompanied him north in Jutland and gave him a ship with complete equipment on which he sailed to Norway. Thus King Sigurth returned to his own kingdom, and was well received. It was thought that no more honorable expedition had ever sailed from Norway than this one. He was then twenty years of age, and had been three years on this expedition. Óláf, his [youngest] brother, was then twelve years old.


Chapter 14. King Eystein’s Improvements in Norway


King Eystein had done much in the land to serve it well, while King Sigurth was on his expedition. He had established the monastery in Bergen on the North ness and endowed it with much wealth. He had built the Church of Saint Michael, a splendid stone minster. And on the site of the royal palace in Bergen he had built the Apostle Church, a wooden edifice. There also he had erected the great hall, the most magnificent wooden structure that has been built in Norway. Also, he had built a church at Agthaness, and had made a fortification and a harbor where before had been a harbor-less coast. Still further, he had built the Saint Nicholas Church in the royal palace in Nitharós, which edifice is very richly adorned with woodwork and all kinds of artistry. Another church he had built in Vágar in Hálogaland and gave it a prebend [for its maintenance].


Chapter 15. King Eystein Wins over Jamtaland


King Eystein sent word to the wisest and most powerful men of Jamtaland, inviting them to come to him; and very kindly welcomed all who came, and saw them off with gifts of friendship, and thus won them over. And as many became accustomed to see him and receive his gifts, and others who did not come to him were sent presents, he gained the complete adherence of all those who were leaders in that land. Then he spoke to them and said that the people of Jamtaland had followed ill counsel to turn their allegiance and their tribute away from the kings of Norway. He brought up the fact that the people of Jamtaland had joined the realm of King Hákon, the foster son of Æthelstān, and had long been subject to the kings of Norway. He also mentioned how many necessaries they might obtain from Norway and how much trouble it was for them to seek in the realm of the king of Sweden the things they needed. And with his speeches he brought it about that the people of Jamtaland offered to yield their allegiance to King Eystein, calling that their need and necessity. The outcome of their friendly intercourse was that the people of Jamtaland brought all their land under the sway of King Eystein. First, their chieftains obtained assurance of complete agreement from all the people, and then they came to King Eystein and by oaths confirmed to him possession of their land; and this they have abided by ever since. Thus King Eystein won the land of the Jamts by wisdom and not by force as had some of his forbears.


Chapter 16. King Eystein’s Appearance and Character


King Eystein was strikingly handsome in appearance. His eyes were blue and rather large, his hair pale blond and curly. He was a man of middle height, wise and well-informed in all respects—both in the laws, instances, and history—and resourceful, eloquent, and well-spoken. He was of a most cheerful disposition, affable, pleasing in his ways, and beloved by all the people. He was married to Ingibjorg, the daughter of Guthorm, the son of Steigar-Thórir. Their daughter was called Máría and later became the wife of Guthbrand Skafhoggsson.


Chapter 17. King Sigurth’s Appearance and Character


King Sigurth was a man of tall stature, and he had reddish brown hair. He was of an imposing appearance, not handsome but well-proportioned, brisk, of few words, and most often gruff, but a good friend, firm of mind, not inclined to talk much, well-mannered and high-minded. King Sigurth was a man who asserted his authority and was inclined to mete out punishment. He observed the laws well, was generous, loved magnificence, and was renowned.


King Óláf was of tall and slender build, handsome, of cheerful disposition, affable, and popular. When the brothers were kings in Norway they abolished many taxes which the Danes had imposed on the people when Svein Álfífuson ruled there; and because of this they were greatly beloved by both the common people and the chieftains.


Chapter 18. King Óláf Dies of a Malady


King Óláf was attacked by a disease which caused his death. He is buried by Christ Church in Nitharós and was much lamented. Thereafter, the two kings, Eystein and Sigurth, ruled the land between them. Before that time the three brothers had been kings for twelve years—five years after Sigurth returned to the land, and seven before that. Óláf was seventeen when he died, which was on the twenty-second of December. King Sigurth had his residence in the northern part of the country, Eystein in the eastern part; and when the latter had been king of the eastern part for one year he resided for a long time in Sarpsborg during the winter.


Chapter 19. King Sigurth Deposits the Splinter of the Holy Cross in Konungahella


There was a wealthy and powerful farmer who lived in Aumorth in Mickle Dale and was called Óláf in the Dale. He had two children—a son, called Hákon Fauk, and a daughter, called Borghild. She was exceedingly handsome and a wise and well-informed woman. Both Óláf and his children lived for a long time in Borg during the winter; and Borghild was constantly in the company of the king, and there were conflicting opinions about their intimacy. In the summer following, King Eystein journeyed to the north of the country, whereas Sigurth journeyed east; and during the following winter Sigurth stayed in the east. He resided for a long time in Konungahella and did much to improve that market town. He built a large stronghold there and surrounded it with a great moat. That stronghold was constructed of sods and stone, and within it he had houses erected and also a church. He placed the Holy Cross in Konungahella, and insofar did not fulfil the promise he had made in the Holy Land. But he established tithes and did most other things he had there vowed to do. But the reason he had the cross placed there east at the very boundary was that he thought it would be a protection for all the land. But it turned out to be most ill-advised to place that holy relic almost within the power of heathens as was evident later on.


Borghild, the daughter of Óláf learned of the rumor that people were speaking ill about King Eystein and her because of their conversations and friendship. Then she journeyed to Borg and there fasted in preparation for the ordeal of carrying hot iron. She bore it to clear herself of that accusation and proved her innocence. But when King Sigurth heard of that he rode in one day what is a long two-day’s journey, and arrived in Dale where Óláf lived, and stayed there during the night. He made Borghild his concubine and took her away with him. Their son was called Magnús. Very early in his youth he was sent away to be fostered by Víthkun Jóansson in the north at Bjarkey in Hálogaland, and he was brought up there. Magnús was exceedingly handsome, and matured early in stature and strength.


Chapter 20. Of Queen Málmfríth and Her Kin


King Sigurth was married to Málmfríth, daughter of King Harald Valdamarsson from the east in Hólmgarth. The mother of King Harald was Queen Gytha the Old, daughter of Harold, the son of Godwine, king of England. Malmfríth’s mother was Kristín, daughter of Ingi Steinkelsson, king of Sweden. Málmfríth’s sister was Ingilborg, who was married to Knút Lávarth, the son of Eirík the Good of Denmark, the son of Svein Úlfsson. The children of Knút and Ingilborg were Valdamar, who succeeded Svein Eiríksson, and Margrét, Kristín, and Katrín. Margrét was married to Stíg Whiteskin. Their daughter was Kristín, who was married to Karl Sörkvisson, king of Sweden. Their son was King Sörkvir.


Chapter 21. The Kings Match Their Accomplishments


One winter both King Eystein and King Sigurth were on their visitation in the Uppland District, on separate estates. And since it was but a short distance between the places where the kings were to be entertained, it was decided that they were to be entertained together alternately on their estates. The first time, both were together on the estate King Eystein owned.


Now in the evening, when the men began to drink, the ale was not good, and not much was said. Then King Eystein said, “Everyone surely is silent here. When drinking it is preferable to have some merriment. Let us have some cheer over our cups. That will be a better entertainment for us. Brother Sigurth, it would seem best that we two have some entertaining chat between us.”


King Sigurth answered rather curtly, “You may talk as much as you please, but let me keep my peace.”


King Eystein said, “It has often been the custom for men when drinking to choose someone to compare themselves with. Let us do so now.” To that, King Sigurth said nothing. “I see,” said King Eystein, “that it behooves me to start this entertainment. I shall choose you, brother, for my match. And I shall start by saying that we two have the same title and equal possessions. There is no difference between our birth and upbringing.”


Then King Sigurth replied, “Do you not remember that I had the better of you in wrestling whenever I wanted to, though you were a year older?”


Then King Eystein answered, “I recall as well that you were no match for me in agility.”


King Sigurth replied, “Do you remember how it was with our swimming, and that I could duck you whenever I wanted to?”


King Eystein said, “I could swim as far as you could, nor was I worse at diving. Also, I was so good at skating that I did not know anyone who could vie with me; but you were not better at that than a cow.”


King Sigurth said, “A more chieftainly sport, and a more useful one, it seems to me, is to shoot well with bow and arrow. And I believe you would not be able to stretch my bow even though you used both feet [to stretch it].”


King Eystein answered, “I am not as strong at the bow as you are; but there is less difference between our marksmanship. And I am better at the use of skis than you, and that has also been considered a worthwhile accomplishment.”


King Sigurth said, “It is considered more chieftainly that he who is to command others should stand tall in a group and be stronger and more practiced in arms than others and be easily seen and recognized when men are gathered.”


King Eystein said, “It is no less distinctive that a man be handsome. And then he is no less easily recognized in a multitude. That too seems to me chieftainly, because fine clothes go best with a handsome exterior. Also, I have better knowledge of the laws than you; and whatever the subject, I am by far the better speaker.”


King Sigurth answered, “It may be that you have learned more dodges of the law than I, because I have had other things to do. No one doubts that you are glib, but many say that you are not very true to your word, that you attach no importance to your promises, and that you truckle to those who happen to be present; and that does not befit a king.”


King Eystein answered, “The reason for that is that when people bring their cases before me I endeavor to settle them so as to please both parties. Then frequently someone else appears who contends with a man, and then often there has to be a compromise, so that both shall be pleased. Likewise it often occurs that I promise to do what I am asked to, because I would rather that everyone shall leave me pleased. I might also choose to do as you do, if I cared to—that is, to promise everyone ill; and I have not heard anyone taunting you for not sticking to that.”


King Sigurth said, “It is people’s opinion that the expedition abroad which I undertook has been a rather chieftainly one. Meanwhile you stayed at home as though you were the daughter of your father.”


King Eystein replied, “Now you come to the point. I would not have started this controversy if I did not have an answer to that. It seemed to me rather that I dowered you as though you were my sister before you were ready to go on that expedition.”


King Sigurth said, “You probably have heard that I had a great many battles in Saracen Lands, as you probably have learned, and that I was victorious in all and acquired many kinds of valuable things, such as have never been seen in our land. I was held in the highest esteem wherever I met the most highly placed men; whereas I think you have never got over being a stay-at-home.”


King Eystein answered, “I have heard that you had some fights abroad; but more useful for our country has been what I did meanwhile: I built five churches from their foundation up and I constructed a harbor at Agthaness where before the coast was harborless and where everyone must pass who sails south or north along the land. Also, I erected the beacon in Sinholm Sound1 and the [royal] hall in Bergen, while you put Moors to the sword in Saracen Land and sent them to the devil. I consider that of little gain to our country.”


King Sigurth said, “On this expedition, at its farthest point, I journeyed to the River Jordan and swam across it. And beyond, on the river bank, there is a thicket, and there I tied a knot and spoke words over it to the effect that you were to undo it, brother, or else have such challenge as was laid on it.”


King Eystein said, “The knot you tied for me I shall not undo; but I could have tied that knot for you which you could have undone even less; to wit, when you with one ship sailed into my fleet, the time you returned to the land.”


Thereafter they both ceased talking, and both were furious. Several things occurred in their dealings between them when one could see that each put himself and his claims forward, and that each wanted to be foremost; yet peace was maintained between the two the while they lived.


Chapter 22. King Sigurth Shows Signs of Insanity


[One time] King Sigurth was in the Uppland District at an entertainment given him, and baths were prepared [for the guests]. But when the king was in his bath, which was tented over, it seemed to him that a fish swam by him in the bath. And then he had such a fit of laughter that his mind was unhinged. And that occurred very often later.


The brothers gave Ragnhild, a daughter of King Magnús Barelegs, in marriage to Harald Kesja. He was the son of Eirík the Good, the king of Denmark. Their sons were Magnús, Óláf, Knút, and Harald.


Chapter 23. Of King Eystein’s Improvements and Death


King Eystein had a large ship constructed in Nitharós. It was built on the same scale and in the same manner as was the Long Serpent, which Óláf Tryggvason had had built. A dragon head was on its stem, and a crook on its stern, and both were gilded. The ship had high sides, but the stem and the stern seemed somewhat smaller than was fitting. Also, he had boathouses built in Nitharós, both so large that it was considered a great achievement, and built with the best of materials and excellently constructed.


King Eystein was at an entertainment [given him] at Stim near Hústathir. There he took suddenly ill, and that was his death. He died on the fourth of the Kalends of September [29th of August], and his body was brought north to Kaupang, and there he is interred in Christ Church. It is said that over no man’s body in Norway had ever stood so many men in sorrow, since the death of King Magnús, the son of Holy King Óláf, as over him. Eystein was king in Norway for twenty years. After the death of King Eystein, Sigurth was sole king in Norway as long as he lived.


Chapter 24. Kings Sigurth and Níkolás Agree on a Crusade to Smáland


Níkolás Sveinsson, king of Denmark, afterwards married Margrét, the daughter of Ingi, who had before been the wife of King Magnús Barelegs. Their son was called Magnús the Strong. King Níkolás sent messengers to King Sigurth Jerusalemfarer, asking him to support him with troops and all the force of his kingdom, and proceed with King Níkolás east along the coast of Sweden to Smáland, in order to convert the people there; for the inhabitants of that province had not maintained their faith even though some had accepted Christianity. At that time far and wide in Sweden many still were heathen and many, Christian only superficially, because there had been some kings of theirs who had renounced Christianity and kept up sacrifices, as did Sacrifice-Svein and later, Eirík Ársæl. King Sigurth promised to come, and the kings agreed to meet in the Eyrar Sound.


Thereupon King Sigurth summoned a full levy in all Norway, of both troops and ships. And when this force was assembled he had fully three hundred [360] ships. King Níkolás came to the meeting place much earlier, and waited there a long time. Then the Danes began to grumble and complain, saying that the Norwegians were not likely to come, and then disbanded. Both the king and the whole fleet departed. Later, King Sigurth did arrive and was ill-pleased. They sailed east to Svimrarós and held a meeting there. King Sigurth spoke about King Níkolás not living up to his word; and they agreed on doing some plundering in his country on account of that.


They seized on the village of Tumathorp, which lies not far from Lund,1 and then steered east to the market town which is called Kalmar. They harried there and also in the District of Smáland, levying contributions of food, to the extent of fifteen hundred [1800] head of cattle; and the people of Smáland accepted Christianity.


Thereupon King Sigurth returned with his army and arrived in his kingdom with many and valuable pieces of goods and property which he had won on this expedition. And this expedition was called the Kalmar Expedition. That was in the summer before the great eclipse [August 11th]. It was the only warlike expedition undertaken by Sigurth while he was king.


Chapter 25. King Sigurth’s Dream


One time King Sigurth was at one of his estates, and in the morning, when he had dressed, he was glum and silent, and his friends feared that he had one of his seizures. But his steward [at the place] was a wise and courageous man, and accosting the king he asked if perchance any tidings had come to his ears which were so weighty that they depressed him, or if it could be that he was not satisfied with his entertainment, or if anything else were amiss that he could set right. King Sigurth replied that none of the things he had mentioned were at fault; “but the reason is,” he said, “that I am thinking of the dream I had last night.”


“Sire,” he said, “I hope it was a good dream, and we would be glad to hear it.”


The king said, “I thought I was out in the open, here at Jathar, and that I was looking out to sea and that I saw a great darkness, and it was approaching hither. Then it seemed to me that it was a big tree, with its branches looming above the water and its roots down in the sea. And when that tree drifted on land it broke into pieces and they were scattered far and wide over the land, both on the mainland and the outlying islands, skerries, and strands; and then the vision was given me that I could see all of Norway’s coastlands, and I could look into every cove and see that pieces of that tree had drifted into them. Most of them were small, but some, larger.”


Then the steward answered, “It would seem best to me that you interpret this dream yourself, and I would gladly hear you do that.”


The king said, “It appears to me most likely that it foretells of the arrival in this land of some man, and that he will take up his abode here and that his offspring will be scattered about this land and be of widely differing importance.”


Chapter 26. Harald Gilli Undergoes the Ordeal


Hallkel Húk, the son of Jóan Smjórbalti, was the steward [of the king] in the District of Mœr. He sailed west across the sea, all the way to the Hebrides. There, a man from Ireland came to see him who was called Gillikrist [Servant of Christ] and who declared that he was the son of King Magnús Barelegs. His mother accompanied him and said that he also was called Harald. Hallkel espoused his cause and took them to Norway, and straightway went to see King Sigurth with Harald and his mother. They presented their case to the king. King Sigurth laid it before the chieftains, so that each one should give his advice according to his disposition; but all asked him to decide for himself.


Thereupon King Sigurth had Harald called before him and told him that he would not deny him the right to prove his paternity by undergoing the ordeal; provided that a pledge was given that, even in the event his paternity was proved, he should make no claim to the kingdom while King Sigurth or Magnús, his son, was alive. And these pledges were given and confirmed by oaths.


King Sigurth ordered that Harald was to walk on red-hot ploughshares to prove his paternity. But that ordeal was considered rather harsh, because it was to be undergone only to prove his paternity and not his claim to the throne. For that he had before given pledges. However, Harald agreed to it. He fasted in preparation for the ordeal, and then this test was undergone—the sternest ever made in Norway: nine red-hot ploughshares were laid on the ground, and Harald walked over them with bare feet, led by two bishops. And three days later the outcome of the test was looked into, and his feet were found to be unburned.


Thereafter King Sigurth accepted the kinship of Harald with good grace; but Magnús, his son, took a dislike to Harald, and many chieftains followed him in that. King Sigurth was so assured of his popularity with all the people that he demanded that all should swear that Magnús, his son, was to be king after him; and he received assurances from all the people.


Chapter 27. Harald Gilli Shows His Prowess as a Runner


Harald Gilli was a man of tall and slender stature. He had a long neck and rather long face, black eyes, and dark hair. He was alert and swift [in his motions] and most often wore the Irish costume with short and light clothes. The Norwegian speech was hard for him to master, he often hesitated for words, and many ridiculed him for that.


Once upon a time Harald sat drinking and was talking with another man and told him about matters west in Ireland. Among other things he told him that there were men in Ireland who were so fast on their feet that no horse could overtake them. Magnús, the son of the king overheard that and said, “Now he is lying as usual.”


Harald answered. “It is the truth,” he said, “that there are men in Ireland whom no horse in Norway could pass in running.”


They talked about this still further, and both were drunk. Then Magnús said, “That you shall wager, with your head as pledge, unless you run as fast as I ride my horse; and I shall put up my gold ring against that.”


Harald answered, “I do not say that I can run so fast. I could find those men in Ireland who can run so fast, and I can lay a wager about that.”


Magnús, the king’s son, replied, “I do not care to journey to Ireland. Here we shall wager, and not there.”


Then Harald left the company to go to sleep and would have no more to do with him. That was in Ósló. But the following morning, after early mass, Magnús rode up the Street.1 He sent word to Harald to come there. And when he came he was arrayed like this: he was in a shirt and trousers with straps under the feet; he wore a short mantle and had an Irish hat on his head and a spearshaft in his hand. Magnús marked off the extent of the course to be run. Harald said, “You are making it too long.” Magnús straightway made it much longer and said that it was too short nevertheless.


Many people were present. Then they started the race, and Harald kept up alongside the horse’s shoulder. But when they arrived at the end of the course, Magnús said, “You are holding onto the saddle-strap, and the horse pulled you.” Magnús had a very fast horse from Gautland.


Then they took another heat back, and this time Harald ran ahead of the horse all the way. When they came to the end of the course Harald asked, “Did I hold onto the saddle-strap this time?”


Magnús said, “This time you had a head start.”


Then Magnús let his horse breathe a while, and when he was ready he dug his spurs into the horse and got a fast start. Meanwhile Harald stood still. Then Magnús looked back and called out, “Run now.” Then Harald leapt and ran quickly past the horse, and far ahead, and so to the end of the course. He got there long before Magnús, so that he lay down, and jumped up and greeted Magnús when he arrived.


Then they returned to the town. King Sigurth had been at mass meanwhile, and knew nothing about this till after the meal that day.


Then he spoke to Magnús in angry fashion, “You call Harald foolish, but it seems to me you are a fool. You are not acquainted with the ways of other peoples. Did you not know before that people in other parts train themselves in other sports than filling their bellies with drink and rendering themselves senseless and unfit, so they don’t know what they do? Give Harald his ring and make no more sport of him while I am alive.”


Chapter 28. Sigurth Sigurtharson Saves a Man from Drowning


One time when King Sigurth was at sea with his ships and they lay to in a harbor they found a merchant vessel from Iceland anchored beside them. Harald had his station in the fore room of the king’s ship, and foreward next to him lay Svein Hrímhildarson, whose mother was Hrímhild and whose father was Knút Sveinsson of Jathar. Sigurth Sigurtharson was a steward [of the king], an excellent man. He steered one of the ships.


One fine day with hot sunshine, many men went swimming, both those of the warships and of the merchantman. A certain Icelander who was among those swimming took pleasure in ducking those who couldn’t swim as well as he. The men laughed about that. King Sigurth saw and heard that. Then he cast off his clothes, jumped overboard, and swam toward the Icelander. He grabbed him and ducked him and held him under; and as soon as the Icelander came up, the king ducked him, and so time and again.


Then Sigurth Sigurtharson said, “Are we going to let the king kill that man?” Someone said that no one was particularly eager to go [and prevent that]. Sigurth said, “Someone would if Dag Eilífsson were here.”


Thereupon Sigurth leapt overboard and swam to the king. He seized him and said, “Don’t kill the man. Everyone now sees that you are much the better swimmer.”


The king said, “Let go of me, Sigurth. I shall kill him. He wants to duck our men.”


Sigurth answered, “Let us two now play first; but you, Icelander, swim to the land.” He did so, but the king let go of Sigurth and swam to his ship. So did Sigurth. But the king was heard to say that Sigurth had better not dare to show himself to him again. Sigurth was told that, and [leaving his ship] he went on land.


Chapter 29. Sigurth Sigurtharson Saves Harald Gilli from Being Hanged


In the evening, about the time the men were going to bed, some were playing games on land. Harald was among them and bade his page go on board the ship and make his couch ready and wait there for him. The page did so. The king had gone to sleep. But when the page thought it took a long time [for Harald to return] he lay down in Harald’s bed. Svein Hrímhildarson said, “A great shame it is for men of good birth to leave their homes in order to have a valet lie next to them.” The page replied that Harald had told him to wait there for him. Svein Hrímhildarson said, “To me it seems no particular advantage that Harald has his couch here, even if he doesn’t bring here any thralls or beggars”—and he seized a truncheon and hit the page on the head so that the blood ran down his face. The page straightway went on land and told Harald what had happened. Harald at once went on board the ship and back into the forward compartment. He dealt Svein a blow with his hand-axe, inflicting a great wound on his arm. Then he went back to the land at once. Svein ran on land after him. Then Svein’s kinsmen came up, seized Harald, and intended to hang him. But when they were preparing to do that, Sigurth Sigurtharson boarded King Sigurth’s ship and waked him. But when the king opened his eyes and recognized Sigurth he said, “For this you shall die, since you have come before me, because I forbade you to do that”—and sprang up.


Sigurth said, “That you can do, sir king, whenever you want to, but other matters are more important now: go on land the fastest you can and help your brother Harald. The people of Rogaland are about to hang him.”


Then the king said, “May God help us now! Sigurth, call the trumpeter and have him sound his trumpet for all to follow me.” The king hurried to the land, and all who recognized him followed him to where the gallows was raised. He took Harald at once under his protection. But all the men, fully armed, at once rushed to the king as soon as they heard the trumpet. Then the king declared that Svein and all his companions were to be outlawed; but on the pleading by all, the king moderated his decree, so that they were permitted to stay in the land and to retain their possessions, but that the wound was not to be atoned for.


Then Sigurth Sigurtharson asked the king whether he was to leave him now. “That I do not wish,” the king said. “Never shall I be able to get along without you.”


Chapter 30. King Saint Óláf Restores a Man’s Speech


There was a poor young man, Kolbein by name, whose tongue Thóra, the mother of King Sigurth the Jerusalemfarer, had cut out for the sole reason that this young man had eaten half a piece of a dish intended for the king’s mother, saying that the cook had given it him. But the cook did not dare confess the truth to her. Thereafter this man was deprived of his speech for a long time. Einar Skúlason makes mention of this in his Óláfsdrápa:1




571.   For little cause the lady
let the tongue be cut out
of the youthful yeoman
yearning aye for riches.
Him I saw then, when at
Hlíth I was, the breaker-
of-rings, bereft of speech and
wretched, few weeks after.


Later, he betook himself Trondheim and Nitharós and kept vigil in Christ Church. And at the time of the matins, on the latter day of Saint Óláf’s Mass [August 3rd], he fell asleep; and it seemed to him that Holy King Óláf approached him and with his hand took hold of the stump of his tongue and pulled it toward him. And he awaked healed, and with a glad heart thanked our Lord and Holy King Óláf, through whom he had regained his health and obtained grace—having journeyed thither speechless and sought his holy shrine; and now he returned from there whole and of clear speech.


Chapter 31. Saint Óláf Helps a Man Escape Slavery


A certain young man, Danish of birth, had been seized by heathen men and brought to Wendish lands and kept there with other captives. There he stayed alone in irons in daytime, but nights the farmer’s son was chained to him so that he could not escape. But this miserable man could never sleep nor be in peace, because of his grief and sorrow, reflecting this way and that what could be of aid to him. He was much afraid of being kept a slave, and feared both hunger and tortures; nor did he expect any release through his kinsmen, because they had twice before ransomed him from heathen lands; for which reason he believed it would seem to them too troublesome and too expensive to do that a third time. Happy the man who does not experience so much evil in this world as he had undergone. Now no other way seemed open to him than to run away and escape, if luck favored him. So at night time he went and killed the farmer’s son, cut off his foot, and headed for the woods with the chains on him. But the morning after, at dawn, they discovered it and went after him with two hounds accustomed to find the tracks of those who escaped, and they discovered him in the woods where he lay trying to hide from them. Then they seized hold of him and beat and pummeled him, mistreating him in all manner of ways.


Then they dragged him back, maltreating him within an inch of his life and showing him no mercy. They dragged him to be tortured, and straightway penned him in a dungeon in which there were already sixteen men, all Christians, and there fastened him with iron chains and other fetters as tight as they could.


And then the misery and tortures he had suffered before seemed to him but a shadow against what he underwent now. There was no man in this prison who besought mercy for him. No one took pity on the miserable wretch except the Christians who lay there by him in chains. They bewailed his sufferings and their own misfortunes and ill hap. And one day they counselled him, asking that he dedicate himself to Holy King Óláf, to become his servant in his house of glory if by God’s grace and with his prayers he made his escape out of this prison. To this he assented with a glad heart and at once vowed he would serve in that [holy] place, as they had asked him. The night after, in his sleep, he thought he saw a man of medium height stand close to him and speak to him in this fashion. “Hear, you poor man,” he said. “Why don’t you arise?”


He replied, “My lord, who are you?”


“I am King Óláf, on whom you called.”


“Alas, my good lord,” he said, “I would gladly arise if I could, but I lie bound in chains and also fettered among the men who here sit in irons.”


Thereupon King Óláf called him and spoke thus to him: “Get up quickly and do not be afraid—for certainly you are unfettered now.”


Thereupon he awoke and told his fellow prisoners what he had dreamed. Then they told him to try and stand up to see whether it was true. And up he stood and felt that he was free. Now other fellow prisoners spoke and said that this was of no use for him, because the door was locked from without and within. Then an old man who sat there, in pitiful plight, spoke up and prayed him not to misdoubt the mercy of the man from whom he had received his freedom—“and for this reason will he have done this miracle for you that you were to benefit from his mercy and escape from here, but not that you would have to endure more misery and torture. Now be quick,” he said, “and go to the door, and if you can get out, then you are saved.”


So he did; he at once found the door open, and quickly made his way out and escaped forthwith into the woods. People became aware of that and let loose their dogs and set out after him the fastest they could; but he lay hidden, that wretched man, and saw them search for him. Now the hounds right away lost track of him when they approached him, and all the men became confused, so that no one could find him though he lay right before their feet. Then they returned, sorely vexed and bewailing that they could not catch him.


King Óláf let nothing harm him, once he had got into the woods. He gave him back his hearing and restored his health though they before had beaten him and bruised his head so that he became deaf.


Soon after, he managed to reach a ship, together with two other Christians who had been tortured there for a long time, and they all together made use of that ship to betake themselves away.


Later, he made his way to the saint’s edifice. He had by then become hale and able bodied. Then he repented of his vow and broke his promise to the gracious king, and one day ran away and in the evening came to a farmer who gave him shelter for God’s sake. Afterwards, in the night, when he was asleep, he saw three handsome and fair-dight maidens approach him. They spoke to him forthwith and reproached him sternly for being so bold as to run away from the good king who had shown him such great mercy—first freeing him from his chains and then from all captivity—that he ran away from the kindly lord whom he had served.


Then he awoke in terror, arose straightway early in the morning and told the husbandman [his dream]; and that good farmer did not let him do anything but return to that holy place.


He who first wrote down these miracles, himself saw the man and the marks of the chain on him.


Chapter 32. King Sigurth Builds the Holy Cross Church in Konungahella


King Sigurth had so many buildings erected in Konungahella that there was no more richly provided market town in Norway, and he resided there a long time in order to defend the land. He had a royal residence built within the fortification. He imposed this duty on all the district in the neighborhood of the market town, as well as on the people in the town, that every twelve months everyone nine years old or older was to carry to the fortification five stones to be used as missiles or else five stakes five ells in length which were to be sharpened on one end. Inside the fortification King Sigurth had a Holy Cross Church built. That was a wooden church, very carefully built both as to material and workmanship. This Holy Cross Church was consecrated when Sigurth had been king for twenty-four years. The king deposited in it the splinter of the Holy Cross and many other relics. It was called the Castle Church. In front of the altar he placed the altar-piece he had had made in Greece. It was of bronze and silver, beautifully gilded, and set with enamel and jewels. There was [also] a shrine which Eirík Eimuni, the king of Denmark, had sent him, and a plenary missal,1 written in golden letters, which the Patriarch had given King Sigurth.


Chapter 33. King Sigurth Falls Sick and Dies


Three years after the Holy Cross Church was consecrated King Sigurth fell sick while in Ósló. He expired one night after Annunciation [March 25th]. He was buried in Saint Halvarth’s Church and interred inside the stone wall behind the choir on the south side. Magnús, the son of King Sigurth, was in the town at that time. He at once took over all the king’s treasure when Sigurth had died. Sigurth had been king in Norway for twenty-seven years. He was forty years old then. And his reign was blessed for the people of the land with both peace and good harvests.




The Saga of Magnús the Blind and Harald Gilli


Chapter 1. Magnús and Harald Gilli Share the Kingdom


Magnús, the son of King Sigurth, was at Ósló chosen king over all the land, just as all the people had sworn to King Sigurth. Then many men forth with avowed their adherence to him and became his stewards. Magnús was handsomer than any man then living in Norway. He was a man of a haughty disposition, cruel, a great athlete; but it was his father’s popularity that brought him the friendship of the people. He was much given to drinking, greedy for money, unfriendly, and hard to get along with.


Harald Gilli was an affable man, merry and gay, not haughty; and he was generous, so that he begrudged his friends nothing. He was open to advice, letting others give him counsel in whatever they would. All this made him popular and earned him praise. As a consequence, men of power attached themselves to him not less than to Magnús.


Harald was in Túnsberg when he learned of the death of King Sigurth, his brother. Then he at once arranged for a meeting with his friends; and they advised him to summon the Haugathing Assembly in that town. At that assembly Harald was chosen as king over half the country. The fact that before he had renounced his paternal inheritance was there declared to have been an oath taken under compulsion. Harald surrounded himself with a bodyguard and appointed stewards. Soon a force joined him no whit smaller than that of King Magnús. Men negotiated between them, and matters continued thus for seven days. But because Magnús could get only considerably smaller forces he had no other choice than to share the kingdom with Harald. The division was made in this fashion that either would have half of the realm King Sigurth had had; but that the ships, the table-service, the jewels, and all movable goods King Sigurth had possessed should go to Magnús. Yet he was ill satisfied with that. Nevertheless they ruled the land in peace for some time, even though they were ill agreed about many things.


King Harald had a son, called Sigurth, by Thóra, a daughter of Guthorm Graybeard. King Harald was married to Ingiríth, a daughter of Rognvald, who was a son of King Ingi Steinkelsson. King Magnús married Kristín, a daughter of Knút Lávarth and [thus] a sister of Valdamar, king of Denmark. Magnús did not take to her and sent her back to Denmark, and thereafter all his affairs took an unfavorable turn. Her kinsfolk were greatly incensed against him.




Horsemen guard the farm.


Chapter 2. The Two Kings Arm against One Another


When the two, Magnús and Harald, had been kings for three years, both took their residence north in Kaupang during the fourth winter. They invited each other for entertainment. Yet the men of both were ever at the point of fighting. But in the spring following, Magnús with his fleet proceeded south along the coast, collecting all the forces he could get and then approached his friends whether they would furnish him sufficient troops to remove Harald from the kingship and to assign him only so much power as he [Magnús] saw fit, alleging that Harald had [before] renounced the kingship. King Magnús got the consent of many chieftains to this plan.


Harald proceeded to the Uppland districts and overland to Vík, and also collected troops when he heard that King Magnús had done so. And wherever either went he destroyed the property of the other and killed his men. King Magnús had by far the greater force since he had the main part of the country to draw on for troops. Harald was in Vík, east of the fjord, and collected troops, and each deprived the other of men and goods. In Harald’s company there was at that time Kriströth, his brother by the same mother, and there were also many landed-men on his side; yet many more on King Magnús’.


King Harald with his troops was at a place called Fors, in the Ranríki District, and from there proceeded toward the sea. On the eve of Saint Lawrence Mass [August 10th] they ate supper at a place called Fyrileif. Mounted guards were set on all sides of the farm buildings, and these guards became aware of the approach of King Magnús’ troops. King Magnús had nearly six thousand men [7200], and Harald, fifteen hundred [1800]. The watchmen told King Harald that the troops of King Magnús were approaching the farm. Harald said, “I wonder what our kinsman, King Magnús, has in mind. He surely does not want to fight us.”


Thjóstólf Álason said, “Sire, you will have to take such counsel for yourself and your force [as will be necessary], seeing that King Magnús probably has collected a force all summer long just for this purpose that he intends to fight you as soon as he encounters you.”


Then King Harald arose and bade his men arm themselves. “If Magnús intends to fight, then we too shall fight.” Thereupon the trumpets were blown, and all the troops of King Harald advanced from the buildings to an enclosure of tilled fields and there set up their standards. King Harald had on two coats of mail, whereas his brother Kriströth, who was accounted a man of great bravery, had none. When King Magnús and his men saw the troops of King Harald they put themselves in battle array, extending themselves in such fashion as to surround the troops of King Harald. As says Halldór Skvaldri:






572.   Magnús by much got him
more support to lengthen—
corpses the ground covered
quite—his line of battle.


Chapter 3. King Magnús Defeats King Harald Gilli


King Magnús had the Holy Cross borne before him in battle. There ensued a great and fierce fight. Kriströth, the brother of the king, had advanced into the lines of King Magnús, hewing with both hands, and men fell back before him on both sides. But a certain influential farmer who had been in King Harald’s army was stationed behind Kriströth. He lifted up his halberd with both hands and thrust it through Kriströth’s shoulders so that it pierced his breast and he fell. Then many who stood by asked why he had done that ill deed. He answered, “Now he was given in return for their slaughtering my cattle, this summer, and ransacking my home, and leading me away against my will to be in their army. This I had in mind to do to him before this, as soon as I got the chance.”


Then the army of King Harald broke in flight—he and all his troops fled, and many of them had fallen. Ingimar Sveinsson of Ask, a steward of King Harald’s, received a mortal wound there; and nearly sixty of King Harald’s bodyguard fell. King Harald then fled east in the Vík District to his ships, and thereupon proceeded to Denmark to meet King Eirík Eimuni in order to secure his support. They met in the south, in Seeland. King Eirík received him kindly, chiefly because they had sworn brotherhood to one another. 1 He assigned the province of Halland to Harald for revenue and visitation and gave him eight warships without equipment. Then King Harald went north about Halland, and many joined him there.


After this battle King Magnús subjected all the land to his rule. He gave quarter to all those who were wounded and had them attended to like his own men. Then he laid claim to all of the realm. He then had the best and most influential men in the land at his disposal. And when they held council together, Sigurth Sigurtharson and Thórir Ingirítharson and all the wisest men were of the opinion that they should keep their troops in the Vík District and be on the watch there, in case Harald should come from the south. But self-willed as he was, King Magnús decided to go north [west] to Bergen; and there he took his residence for the winter and let his troops depart and his landed-men go to their estates.


Chapter 4. Harald Gilli Returns and Exacts Revenge


King Harald arrived at Konungahella with the troops he had with him from Denmark. There they were opposed by the landed-men and townsmen, who assembled in battle array landward from the town. But King Harald disembarked and sent messengers to the army of the farmers, praying them not to keep him from his own country by force, and declaring that he was not claiming more than was his by rights. There were negotiations, and in the end the farmers disbanded and swore allegiance to King Harald. Then Harald, in order to win adherents, gave lands in fief and for revenue to the landed-men, and granted amendments of the laws to those yeomen who would join his forces. Thereupon a great host collected for King Harald. He proceeded west [north] about the Vík District, and made a good peace with all except the adherents of King Magnús. Them he had ransacked or killed whenever he caught them. And when he came west [north] to Sarpsborg, he made prisoners of two landed-men of King Magnús, Ásbjorn and Nereith, his brother, and gave them the choice that one was to hang and the other, to be plunged into the Sarp waterfall, and bade them choose for themselves. Ásbjorn chose to be plunged into the Sarp waterfall because he was the older, and because that mode of death seemed to him the worser, and so it was done. Halldór Skvaldri makes mention of this:




573.   Ásbjorn, he who ill his
oath did keep to ruler
feeding famished wolf-brood,
forced was Sarp to enter.
Nereith, the Njorth-of-gold,1 in
hanged, and thus his hateful
hústhing3 speech repaid him.


After that King Harald advanced north [west] to Túnsberg, where he was well received. There also a great force joined him.


Chapter 5. Magnús Rejects Sigurth Sigurtharson’s Advice


King Magnús while residing in Bergen learned of these happenings. Then he had called in for counsel the chieftains who were in the town and asked their advice as to what should be done. Then Sigurth Sigurtharson answered, “For that I can give good advice: have a small craft manned with a good crew, and let me or some other landed-man steer it and sail to meet King Harald, your kinsman, and offer him a reconciliation in accordance
with what righteous men in the land agree upon between you; to wit, that he is to share the realm with you. And it seems likely to me that, with the pleading of men of good will, King Harald will consent to that offer and that then there will be peace between you.”


Then King Magnús answered, “That course I will not take; for else, what good was it that we won the whole kingdom, last fall, if now we are to share it between us? Let me have other advice!”




Sigurth leaves the king.


Then answered Sigurth Sigurtharson, “It appears to me that those landedmen who last fall asked for leave to go home, now sit at home and refuse to join you. At that time you acted straight contrary to my advice in allowing the great force we had then to scatter; because I suspected that Harald and his retainers would return to Vík as soon as they learned that there was no one in command there. Now here is still another alternative—a bad one, yet one that might be successful; and that is, to send your guests,1 reinforced by other troops to your landed-men, and kill those who refuse to answer your call when you need them; and to give their possessions to those few who are steadfast in your support, even though they were reckoned of not great account before. Let them herd together your forces, taking with them the evil characters as well as the good, and then proceed east against Harald, with the force you thus obtain, and do battle against him.”


The king replied, “It would create much ill will against me to do to death many men of influence and to elevate men of little account to high position. They have often proved to be as unreliable and managed the land more poorly. I want to hear still other counsel from you.”


Sigurth answered, “It is difficult for me to give you further advice since you will neither seek an agreement nor fight. So let us proceed north to Trondheim, where the greater part of the countryside is for us, and on the way there gather all the men we can get. Maybe the men from the [Gaut Elf] River will weary of being after us.”


The king replied, “I don’t want to be fleeing from the men whom we chased last summer—give me better counsel.”


Then Sigurth arose and made ready to go and said, “Then I shall counsel you to do what I see you want to do anyway and which will happen: remain here in Bergen till Harald comes with a big army; and then either death or disgrace will be in store for you.” Nor did Sigurth say any more.


Chapter 6. King Magnús Prepares for the Defence of Bergen


King Harald proceeded west along the land and had a very large force. That winter was called múga winter.1 Harald arrived at Bergen on the day before Christmas and anchored his ships in Flóravág Bay and did not want to do battle at Christmas because of the Holy Season. King Magnús on his part prepared for the defence of the town. He had a catapult erected out on the Hólm and had iron chains and some timber booms stretched across the bay from the royal hall. He had caltrops forged and strewn over the Jóans Meadows; and no more than three days during Yule did the smiths stop work.


But on the Twelfth-night King Harald had the trumpets sounded for his fleet to leave the harbor. Nine hundred [1080] men [additionally ?] had gathered about King Harald during the Yule season.


Chapter 7. King Magnús Is Taken Prisoner


King Harald made a vow to Saint Óláf that he would at his own expense build a church in his honor in the town there if he granted him victory. King Magnús arrayed his troops in the yard of Christ Church, whereas Harald rowed his ships first to Northness, but when King Magnús and his troops saw that they turned to the town and to the inner end of the bay. But as they passed through the Street,1 many townsfolk ran into their courtyards and homes whilst those who crossed the Meadows ran onto the caltrops. Then King Magnús and his men saw that Harald and all his fleet had rowed over to Hegravík and there landed on the hill above the town. Then King Magnús turned back along the Street, whilst his men fled from him—some up to the mountain, some up past the Nunnery, some into the churches or hid away in other places. King Magnús went on board his ship, but there was no chance to escape because the iron chains barred his egress.




Bergen. From Íslenzk Fornrit, Vol. 28. Courtesy of Hið Íslenzka Fornritafélag, Reykjavík.


Also, few men followed the king and so were not capable of making any resistance. As says Einar Skúlason in his Haraldsdrápa:




574.   Bergen’s Bay was
barred a week long:
chains no choice of
channel to ships left.


Shortly afterwards King Harald’s men boarded the ships. Then King Magnús was taken prisoner—he sat aft in the middle of his ship on the chest near the high-seat—and with him Hákon Fauk, his mother’s brother, a very handsome man but not in full possession of his wits: also, Ívar Ozurarson and many other friends of his were taken prisoner, and some, killed at once.


Chapter 8. King Magnús Is Blinded and Mutilated


Thereupon, King Harald had a meeting with his counsellors, asking them for their advice; and they finally arrived at the decision to depose Magnús and uncrown him. Then he was committed to the charge of the king’s thralls, and they mutilated him, putting out his eyes and cutting off one of his feet; and finally they gelded him. Ívar Ozurarson was blinded and Hákon Fauk killed.


After that the whole land was subjected to the rule of King Harald. Then much inquiry was made who had most befriended King Magnús and who might know best about his treasures and valuables. Magnús had had the Holy Cross with him ever since the battle of Fyrileif, and he refused to tell what had become of it.


Bishop Reinald in Stavanger was of English origin and said to be very avaricious. He was a close friend of King Magnús, and it was thought that great treasures and many valuables had been given to him for safekeeping. Messengers were sent to him, and he came to Bergen. These charges were then preferred against him, but he denied them, offering to undergo the ordeal. Harald refused that and commanded the bishop to pay him fifteen marks of gold. The bishop said that he would not impoverish his church to that extent and that he would rather risk his life. Thereupon they hanged Bishop Reinald on the Hólm by the catapult. When he walked to the gallows he kicked the boot off his foot and said on his oath, “I have no knowledge of King Magnús’ treasure other than is in this boot.” A gold ring was found in it. Bishop Reinald was interred on Northness by the Church of Saint Michael. This action earned [Harald] much reproach.


Thereafter, King Harald was sole king in Norway while he lived.


Chapter 9. Portents in Konungahella Alarm the Townspeople


Five years after the death of King Sigurth important events took place in Konungahella. At that time the king’s stewards, Guthorm, the son of Harald Flettir, and Sæmund [nicknamed] “Mistress of the House,” were there. Guthorm was married to Ingibjorg, a daughter of the priest Andréás Brúnsson. Their sons were called Pál Flíp and Gunni Físs. Ásmund was the name of an illegitimate son of Sæmund. Andréás Brúnsson was a man of mark. He officiated in the Church of the Holy Cross. Solveig was his wife. It was in their home that Jóan Loptsson 1 was fostered and brought up. He was eleven years old then. The priest Lopt Sæmundarson, Jóan’s father, was also there at that time. The daughter of Andréás the Priest and Solveig was called Helga and was married to Einar.


It happened in Konungahella, on the Saturday night following Easter Week, that a great din was heard outside in the streets all about town, as great as when the king came through with all his men; and the dogs became so vicious that they got out of hand and could not be confined. And all of them that got out grew rabid and bit all they came across, both people and cattle, and all that were bitten so that blood showed, became mad; and all of the dogs that were with young lost their litters and became mad. These portents occurred nearly every night from Easter till Ascension Day. People were greatly alarmed by these marvels. Many got ready to depart from the town, and sold their property, moving to the country or to other towns. And the wisest even were greatly perturbed, fearing that this might herald great events which had not yet manifested themselves. And Andréás the Priest delivered a long and eloquent sermon at Whitsuntide, and concluded by speaking about the difficulties besetting the townsmen and praying people to take courage and not desert that noble place, but rather to keep watch over themselves, to take counsel, and guard against all that might occur, against fire or hostilities, and pray to God for mercy.




The people flee from Konungahella.


Chapter 10. A Wendish Fleet Attacks Konungahella


Thirteen merchant ships made ready to sail from the town to Bergen; and eleven of them sank with crew and lading and everything on board. The twelfth was shipwrecked. Its crew was saved, but the lading was lost. But Lopt, the priest, sailed to Bergen and got there unscathed. It was on the day before Saint Lawrence Mass [August 10th] that the merchantmen sank. Eirík, the king of Denmark, and Archbishop Ozur both sent messengers to Konungahella, asking the citizens to be on the alert because the Wends had mustered a large army and harried Christian lands far and wide and always were victorious.


The townsfolk paid too little attention to the matter, and they neglected and forgot about it the more, the longer time passed since this terror that had befallen them.


On the day before Saint Lawrence Mass, when high mas was being read, Réttibur,1 the king of the Wends, arrived at Konungahella with five hundred and fifty [660] Wendish swift sailing vessels, and on every boat there were forty-four men and two horses. Dúnímiz was the name of the king’s sister’s son, and Únibur, that of a chieftain who headed a great part of the force. These two chieftains and some of their fleet rowed up the eastern fork [of the river] past the island of Hísing, and thus came upon the town from above, and part of the force proceeded up the western branch to the town. They made land by the piles and put their horsemen ashore. These rode over Bratsás Ridge and then up around the town. Einar, the son-in-law of Andréás, brought news of this up to the Castle Church, because the townsfolk had gone there to listen to high mass, and Einar arrived just as Andréás was preaching. Einar told them that an army was moving toward the town with a multitude of ships and that part of the troops rode over Bratsás Ridge. Then many said that very likely this was Eirík, king of the Danes, and that they expected [only] peace from him.


Thereupon all the people ran down into the town to their properties, armed themselves, and went down to the landing stages. Then they perceived at once that it meant war, and with a huge force of enemies. Nine ships belonging to merchants trading with the east floated in the river alongside the landing stages. The Wends attacked them first and fought with the merchants. The merchants armed themselves and made a long and manful defence. It was a hard battle before they were overcome. In the fight the Wends lost one hundred fifty [180] ships with all men. At the height of the battle the townsmen stood on the landing stages and shot at the heathens; but when the fight subsided the townsmen fled up into the town. And then all the people ran into the fort with their valuables and all the goods they could carry.


Solveig, her daughters, and two other women went inland. When the Wends had overcome the merchant ships, they debarked and mustered their troops, when their losses were seen. Some of them ran into the town, others climbed on the merchant ships and took all they wanted. Then they laid fire to the town, burning it as well as all the ships. Then their whole force proceeded to the fort and prepared to attack it.


Chapter 11. The Wends Beleaguer and Sack the Town


King Réttibur offered to all in the fort the chance to come out, with safety of life and limbs, keeping their weapons, clothes, and gold. But all shouted it down and went out on the fortifications. Some shot arrows, some hurled stones, some cast stakes,1 and there was a fierce fight. Men fell on both sides, but far more of the Wends.


Solveig came to the Solbjargir estates and told of what had happened. Then war-arrows were sent to Skúrbágar. At that place there happened to be a drinking bout and many men were there. Among them was a certain farmer who was called Olvir Bigmouth. He leaped up straightaway, took his shield and helmet, shouldered a large axe and called out, “Let us arise, good men, and take your weapons in hand, and let us go to help the townsmen; because it will seem shameful to everyone who learns that we sit here and swill ale while good men in the town risk their lives for our sakes!” Many answered and spoke against that, saying that they would lose their lives and yet be of no help to the townsmen. Then Olvir leaped up and said, “Though all of you stay behind, I shall go alone, and one or two heathens shall fall by my hand before I die,” and ran down to the town.


The men ran after him to see how he fared and whether they might perhaps help him. But when he approached near enough to the fort that the heathens could see him, eight fully armed men ran against him. And when they met, the heathen men surrounded him. Olvir lifted up his axe and with its forward point hit one of them standing back of him in the throat so that it cut asunder his jawbone and windpipe, and he fell on his back. Then he swung his axe forward and struck another man on the head, cleaving it down to the shoulders. Then the others attacked him, and he slew two more, he himself receiving great wounds. But the four who were left fled then. Olvir ran after them. There was a ditch before them, and two of the heathen men jumped into it, and Olvir killed both of them. By that time he was also stuck fast in the ditch. But two of the eight heathens escaped.


The men who had followed Olvir pulled him out and took him with them to Skúrbágar and he was healed entirely. And it was general opinion that no one had ever behaved more bravely.


Two landed-men, Sigurth Gyrtharson, the brother of Philippús, and Sigarth, arrived at Skúrbágar with six hundred [720] men. Sigurth turned back with four hundred [480] men, and ever after was accounted a man of little worth. He died soon afterwards. Sigarth with two hundred [240] men proceeded to the town and there fought the heathen, and fell there with all his men.


The Wends attacked the fort, but their king and leaders did not participate. In one spot where the Wends were stationed, there stood a man who shot with his bow and killed a man with every arrow. Two men stood in front of that man, protecting him with their shields. Then Sæmund told his son Ásmund to shoot at the bowman at the same time he did—“but I shall shoot at the [one of them] carrying a shield.” He did so, and the man shoved his shield in front of himself. Then Ásmund shot between the shields, and his arrow struck the bowman on his forehead and came out in the nape of his neck, and he fell over dead. When the Wends saw that they all howled like dogs or wolves.


Then King Réttibur called upon them, offering them safety of life and limbs, but they would not hear of it. Thereupon the heathens attacked them fiercely. One of the heathens approached so near as to come to the very castle gate, and lunged at a man who stood within the gate. But they [made at him] with arrow shots and rocks. He had no shield but was so skilled in magic that no weapon could pierce him. Then Andréás the Priest took consecrated fire and blessed it. He cut some tinder, ignited it and placed it on an arrow head which he handed to Ásmund. And with that arrow he shot at the man protected by magic, and that shot took full effect, so that he fell down dead. Then the heathens set up a howl like before, howling and snarling. Then they all went up to the king, and the Christians thought they were taking counsel and meant to retreat.


Then an interpreter who understood Wendish, gathered what the chieftain called Ünibur said. He spoke as follows: “These are fierce people and hard to deal with; and even if we got hold of all the goods in this place we might well give as much again if we hadn’t come here at all, seeing how many men and how many chieftains we have lost. To begin with, when we started to attack the fort today, they defended themselves with arrow shots and spears, then they fought us with stones, and now they fight us with sticks like dogs. This makes me think that their means of defence are getting scarce; so let us once more have at them with all our might and put them to the test.”


The people in the fort had done as he said and had in the first fight hurled missiles and stones recklessly. But when the Christians saw that their supply of stakes was diminishing, they cut each pole in two. The heathen attacked them with strong rushes, resting between them. Both parties grew tired and suffered many wounds. And one time when they rested, the king again offered them safety of life and limbs and that they would be permitted to have along both their weapons and their clothing and what they themselves could carry out of the fort.


By that time Sæmund Housewife had fallen, and the men who were left gave the advice to surrender the fort and themselves into the power of the heathen; which was most unwise, because the heathen did not abide by their word but made prisoners of all, both men, women, and children, killing many and all those who were wounded and young and were considered hard to remove. They took all the goods they found in the fort, and going into Holy Cross Church they robbed it of all its furnishings.


Andréás the Priest gave Réttibur a crozier with silver ornaments, and to Dúnímiz, his sister’s son, he gave a gold finger ring. For this reason they thought he was a man of influence in the town, and so honored him more than others. They took the Holy Cross and had it away with them. Then they took the altar piece which stood before the altar—the one which King Sigurth had had made in Greece and had brought home with him. They laid it down on the step before the altar. Then they left the church. Then the king said, “This building has been appointed with great love for the god who owns it, and it would seem to me that both the town and this building have not been guarded with much care; because I see that the god is angered at those who were to guard them.”


King Réttibur gave Andréás the Priest the church and the shrine, the Holy Cross, the book Plenarius, and four clerks. But the heathens burned down the church2 and all the houses within the fort. However, the fire they had set in the church went out twice. Then they hewed down the church, when it took fire all over inside and burned like the other houses.


Thereupon the heathens boarded their ships with the booty and mustered their troops. But when they saw how many men they had lost, they led captive all the people [of the town], dividing them between their ships.


Then Andréás the Priest and his clerks entered the king’s ship bearing the Holy Cross. Thereupon a fear befell the heathens, following the portent that so great a heat came over the king’s ship that all thought they would almost burn. The king bade the interpreter ask the priest what caused it. He said that the almighty God the Christians believed in sent it as a mark of his wrath for those daring to lay hands on the symbol of his martyrdom who did not believe in their maker. “And so much might goes with the Cross that often before have such signs come over the heathen men who had laid hands on it, some even more striking.”


The king had the priests put out in the ship’s boat, and Andréás carried the Cross in his bosom. The heathens guided the boat along the ship, around the prow, and back along the other side to the poop, then with forks shoved it to the landing stages.




The priests are set adrift.


Then Andréás the Priest in the night went to Sólbjargir with the Cross in wind and downpour. Andréás put the Cross in safekeeping.


Chapter 12. King Magnús Enters the Cloister


King Réttibur and what was left of his troops returned to Wendland, and many of the people who had been led captive from Konungahella remained there in thralldom for a long time. But those who were ransomed and returned to Norway to their estates, all prospered less than before; and the merchant town of Konungahella never afterwards rose again to the affluence it had before.


Magnús, when deprived of his eyesight, travelled to Nitharós and there entered the cloister,1 taking a monk’s habit. Then the income of Herness the Large on the Frosta Peninsula was given the cloister for his maintenance. But Harald was sole ruler in the following winter. He gave amnesty to all who desired it, and accepted many men into his retinue, who had before been with Magnús. Einar Skúlason tells us that King Harald fought two battles in Denmark, one by the island of Hvethn, the other, by the island of Hlésey:




575.   Powerful prince, thou didst
repay the men neath lofty
Hvethn, with bloody broadswords
battling, for their treachery.


And still further:




576.   Bitter war didst wage, thou
where blasts o’er men billowed
banners on flat Hlés Isle.