Chapter 13. The Rise of Sigurth Slembidjákn


Sigurth was the name of a man who was brought up in Norway. He was supposed to be the son of the priest, Athalbrikt. The mother of Sigurth was Thóra, the daughter of Saxi in Vík and the sister of Sigríth, the mother of King Óláf Magnússon and of; Kári, his brother. The latter was married to Borghild, the daughter of Dag Eilífsson. Their sons were Sigurth of Austrátt and Dag. Sigurth’s sons were Jóan of Austrátt and Thorstein; also, Andréás the Deaf. Jóan was married to Sigríth, the sister of King Ingi and of Duke Skúli.


In his childhood Sigurth [the son of Athalbrikt] was put to learning. He became a cleric and was consecrated as a deacon. But when he reached maturity in age and strength he was an exceedingly powerful and doughty man, tall in stature, and exceeding all of his own age in accomplishments, as he did nearly everybody else in Norway. Sigurth soon became a most overbearing and unruly man. He was called Slembidjákn [Gadabout-Deacon]. He was a very handsome man. His hair was rather thin, yet of good appearance.


Then it came to Sigurth’s ears that his mother said King Magnús Barelegs was his father. And as soon as he was his own master, he quit the clerical mode of life and left the country. He was a long time on these journeys. He journeyed to Jerusalem, went to the Jordan River, and sought out the holy places as pilgrims are wont to. And when he returned he engaged in merchant journeys. One winter he dwelled for some time in the Orkneys. He was with Earl Harald when Thorkel Fóstri, the son of Sumarlithi, fell. Sigurth also was in Scotland with David, king of the Scots, where he was held in great honor. Then Sigurth sailed to Denmark, and, according to him and his men, he there went through the ordeal to prove his paternity—and bore it, to the effect that he was the son of King Magnús. Five bishops [they said] had been present on that occasion. As says Ívar Ingimundarson1 in his poem on Sigurth:




577.   Ordeals ordered
about the atheling’s kin
five Danish bishops
who were foremost thought;
and so was proved,
that of the powerful king,
in might matchless,
Magnús was sire.


Harald’s friends alleged that this was just a fraud and lie of the Danes.


Chapter 14. Sigurth Makes Good His Escape


When Harald had been king in Norway for six years Sigurth came to Norway in order to see King Harald, his brother. He found him in Bergen, and at once went up to him and revealed his paternity to him, asking him to acknowledge his kinship. The king made no quick decision about this matter and brought it before his friends in meetings and discussions. The result of these conferences was that the king accused Sigurth of having been an accomplice in the killing of Thorkel Fóstri west in the Orkneys—Thorkel had accompanied King Harald when first he came to Norway and had been his stanch friend. And this accusation was urged with such energy that it was accounted a deed deserving Sigurth’s death; and on the advice of the landed-men it was arranged that late one evening some men of the king’s ‘guests’ approached Sigurth and called on him to go with them. They took a skiff and rowed away from the town with Sigurth and south to Northness. Sigurth sat aft on the box, thinking about what was going to happen to him and suspecting treachery. He was clad in blue trousers and a shirt, and had a cloak with cords as outer garments. He looked down before him, with his hands on the cords of his cloak, now placing them on his head, now taking them off. But when they were rounding a point of land—the men were merry and drunk and rowed furiously, entirely off their guard—then Sigurth stood up and went to the side of the skiff. The two men assigned to guard him also stood up, seizing his cloak and holding it away from him, as is the wont with men of rank. But as he suspected that they were holding onto more of his clothing, he grabbed both of them with either hand and plunged overboard with them. But the skiff sped on a long way before they managed to turn, and it took them a long time before they picked up their men. But Sigurth dived and swam under water so far that he reached the shore before they had turned the skiff to get him. He was exceedingly fast on foot. He headed inland, and the king’s men went and looked for him all night without finding him. He hid in the cleft of a rock and was chilled through and through. He took off his breeches, cut a hole in the seat-gores, stuck his head through and his arms into the legs and thus for the time being saved his life. The king’s men returned, nor could they conceal their misadventure.


Chapter 15. Sigurth Conspires to Kill King Harald


Sigurth considered that it would not be of any avail for him to meet King Harald, and kept in hiding all that fall and during the first part of the winter. He was in the town of Bergen with a certain priest and schemed how he could bring about the death of King Harald, and very many conspired with him in this, even some who at that time were the followers and body servants of King Harald as they had before been the followers of King Magnús. They were great favorites of King Harald, so much so that one or the other of them always sat at table with the king.


In the evening of Lucius Mass [December 13th] two men sitting there were talking together, and one of them said to the king, “Sire, now we have decided to leave to you the decision in our dispute. Each of us has put up as stake a measure of honey. I say that you will sleep with Queen Ingiríth your wife, tonight, but he says you will sleep with Thóra, the daughter of Guthorm.”


Laughing, the king replied, quite unsuspecting that so much treachery lay in the question, “It isn’t you who will win that wager.”


From his answer they gathered where he was expected to be that night. But the bodyguard had been set before the lodgings where most men thought the king would be, which were the queen’s.


Chapter 16. Sigurth Kills King Harald but is Rebuffed by the King’s Men


Sigurth Gadabout-Deacon and some men with him went to the lodgings where the king slept, broke down the door and went in with their swords drawn. Ívar Kolbeinsson was the first to inflict a wound on King Harald. The king had lain down drunk and slept hard. He awoke when they attacked him and said in his delirium, “Now you are treating me cruelly, Thóra!”


She started up quickly and said, “You are treated cruelly by men worse disposed to you than I.”


King Harald lost his life there. Sigurth and his men left the place and had those called to him who had promised to follow him if he managed to kill King Harald. Then Sigurth and his men boarded a skiff and, seizing the oars, rowed out in the bay to the royal residence. Day was breaking by that time. Then Sigurth stood up [in the boat] and spoke to the men standing on the king’s landing stage. He declared himself to be the slayer of King Harald and asked them to accept him and to acknowledge him as the king, as his birth entitled him to.


Then a great many men from the royal residence drifted to the landing stages and all spoke with one accord, saying that it never should come to pass that they obeyed and served that man who had murdered his own brother—“and if he was not your brother, then you have not the birth to be king.” They struck their weapons together and declared all of them [in the boat] outlawed and proscribed. Then the king’s trumpet was sounded and all landed-men and king’s men were summoned together. But Sigurth and his men thought it wisest to leave the scene. He betook himself to North Horthaland and there met the assembled farmers. They accepted him and gave him the title of king. Then he proceeded to Sogn and there met the assembled farmers and was accepted as king by them also. Then he sailed north to the Fjord District and was received well there. As says Ívar Ingimundarson:




578.   Both Horthar and Sogn-men,
once Harald had fallen,
received as liege
the son of Magnús.
At the thing, many
thanes on him did,
in his brother’s stead,
bestow king’s name.


King Harald was buried in the Old Christ Church.




The Saga of the Sons of Harald


Chapter 1. Sigurth and Ingi Succeed Harald


Queen Ingiríth, in agreement with the landed-men and the men who constituted the court of King Harald, determined to send a fast boat north to Trondheim to inform the people of the death of King Harald and to urge them to accept as king, Sigurth, the son of Harald, who at that time was north there in the fosterage of Sátha-Gyrth Bártharson, while Queen Ingiríth herself immediately set out for Vík in the east. Ingi, her son by King Harald, was fostered there in Vík with Ámundi, the son of Gyrth, the son of Law-Bersi. And when they arrived in Vík, the Borgar Thing1 was called together. There Ingi was chosen king. He was two years of age then. In these deliberations were active Ámundi, Thjóstólf Álason, and many other great chieftains.


Now when the news of the murder of King Harald arrived north in Trondheim, Sigurth, the son of King Harald was chosen king, by the advice of Óttar Birting, Pétr Sautha-Úlfsson, the brothers Guthorm Ásólfsson of Reine and Óttar Balli, and many other chieftains. And nearly all the people turned their allegiance to the brothers, the sons of Harald, and chiefly, because their father was called holy. And the country was sworn to them to the effect that it would not swear allegiance to anyone else while any of the sons of King Harald were alive.


Chapter 2. Magnús Escapes from the Cloister But Is Defeated


Sigurth Gadabout-Deacon proceeded north of Cape Stath, and when he arrived in North Mœr the letters and tokens of the leaders who had sworn allegiance to the sons of Harald had reached there before him and he got neither welcome nor support there. And because he himself had few followers, he decided to head into the Trondheim District, because he had before sent word there to his friends and those of King Magnús who had been blinded. Now when he arrived at the town [of Nitharós], he rowed up the Nith River and fastened his landing-cables by the royal residence, but had to depart from there, because all the people resisted him. Afterwards they rowed to the island of Hólm and there took Magnús Sigurtharson out of the cloister against the wish of the monks. Before that time he had taken monk’s vows. It is the opinion of most that Magnús went of his own accord; whereas the opposite opinion was spread to improve his [Magnús’?] cause and gain support for himself [Sigurth?], and so it did.


This happened right after Yule. Sigurth and his band sailed out of the fjord. They were followed by Bjorn Egilsson, Gunnar of Gimsar, Halldór Sigurtharson, Áslák Hákonarson, and the brothers, Benedikt and Eirík, together with those who previously had been in the court of King Magnús, and a great many others. All these with their men sailed along the district of Mœr and as far as the opening of the valley of Raums Dale. There they divided, Sigurth Gadabout-Deacon sailing west across the sea that very winter. Whereas Magnús proceeded to the districts of Uppland, because he expected to obtain a great following there, which indeed he did. There he remained during the winter and also during the entire summer and had a great force.


King Ingi on his part approached with his army, and they met at the place which is called Mynni [at the mouth, that is, of Lake Mjors]. A great battle followed, with King Magnús having superiority in numbers. It is told that Thjóstólf Álason had King Ingi along on his lap during the battle and kept near the banner, and that Thjóstólf was in great danger and difficulty in the heat of the battle; and they say that it was then that Ingi acquired the disability which he suffered from all his life—his back was crooked, and one leg shorter than the other and so weak that he limped all his life.


More men fell then on the side of King Magnús [than on Ingi’s]—among them these in the front ranks: Halldór Sigurtharson and Bjorn Egilsson, also Gunnar of Gimsar, besides a great many of Magnús’ men, before he would flee or ride away. As says Kolli:1




578.   Met ye east at Mynni,
mail-clad all, nor was it,
warrior, long ere with your
weapons ye ravens sated.


And also:




580.   Fallen lay on field, ere
flee would the brave ruler,
most of Magnús’ henchmen.
Mighty king in heaven2


From there Magnús fled to Gautland and from there, to Denmark.


At that time Earl Karl Sónason ruled in Gautland. He was powerful and ambitious. Wherever Magnús the Blind and his men came before chieftains, they declared that Norway was an easy prey for any powerful chieftain who would seize it, seeing that there was no king over the land and landed-men administered it, and seeing that the landed-men who were first appointed to do so now were at odds with one another because of mutual jealousy. And because Earl Karl was ambitious to rule and lent a willing ear to persuasion he collected a force and rode west to Vík, where many submitted to him because they feared him.


When Thjóstólf Álason and Ámundi got news of this they moved against him with such troops as they could muster, and had King Ingi with them. They encountered Earl Karl and his army of Gauts in the east in the Króka Forest3 and there had a second battle in which King Ingi was victorious. Munán Ogmundarson, Earl Karl’s maternal uncle, fell there. Ogmund, Munán’s father, was the son of Earl Orm Eilífsson and Sigríth, the daughter of Finn Árnason. Ástríth, the daughter of Ogmund was Earl Karl’s mother. Many men fell in Króka Forest. The earl himself fled east out of the forest. King Ingi drove them altogether east out of his land, so their expedition turned out ignominiously. As says Kolli:




581.   Known I’ll make the news—his
neb the raven dipped in
wounds of warriors—how that
wolves were sated by Ingi.
With bloody blade repaid he
their treachery—was tested
troth—in Króka Forest.


Chapter 3. Magnús Persuades King Eirík to Attack Norway


Magnús the Blind betook himself to Eirík Eimuni’s court and was well received there. He offered Eirík to accompany him to Norway if Eirík would want to conquer the land and sail to Norway with the Danish fleet. He said that if he came there with a strong force, no one would dare hurl a spear against him. The king listened to his persuasions and called out men and ships for war. He sailed north to Norway with six hundred [720] ships, and Magnús the Blind and his men accompanied him on this expedition.


When they came to Vík they proceeded rather peacefully and with moderation, on the east side of the fjord, but when they arrived with their fleet at Túnsberg they encountered there a great gathering of the landed-men of King Ingi. Vatn-Orm Dagsson, the brother of Grégóríús, had most authority among them. There the Danes could not land and obtain water, and they lost many men. Then they sailed along the fjord to Ósló. There, Thjóstólf Álason was in command.


It is told that the townsfolk wanted to have the shrine of Saint Hallvarth1 borne out of the town in the evening, and that as many as could take hold of it did so, and that they were not able to carry it farther than out on the church floor. But next morning, when they saw the fleet approaching Main Island,2 four men carried the shrine out of the town, and Thjóstólf and all the people of the town bore it company.


Chapter 4. The Danish Fleet Is Repulsed


King Eirík and his troops pushed up into the town, and some pursued Thjóstólf and his followers. Thjóstólf hurled a javelin at a man whose name was Áskell—he was a forecastleman of King Eirík—and struck him under his throat so that it came out in the nape of his neck; and Thjóstólf was thought never to have made a better shot; because no place was bare on that man’s body but that one. The shrine of Saint Hallvarth was moved to Raumaríki, where it remained for three months. Thjóstólf journeyed about Raumaríki during the night, collecting a force, and in the morning came down to the town [of Ósló]. King Eirík had fires kindled in Saint Hallvarth’s Church and many places in the town, so that it burned down altogether. Soon after, Thjóstólf descended on it with a large force. King Eirík moved away with his fleet, and they were not able to get on land anywhere in the northern part of the fjord because of the forces of the landed-men; and wherever they tried to land, five, six, or more men of their force fell.


King Ingi lay in the Hornboru Sound with a great fleet. But when King Eirík learned that, he turned back south to Denmark [with his fleet]. King Ingi pursued them, inflicting on them all the damage he could. And it was said that there never was made a more ill-starred expedition with a great force into another king’s land. King Eirík was ill-pleased with Magnús and his followers and believed they had made game of him in having him undertake this expedition and declared he would not again be so stanch a friend of theirs as before.


Chapter 5. Sigurth Slembidjákn Makes Depredations in Norway


Sigurth Gadabout-Deacon that summer came east across the sea to Norway. But when he learned of the ill-luck of his kinsman Magnús, he considered that he would get little support in Norway. So he sailed south along the coast by the outer course all the way to Denmark, and steered into the Eyrar Sound. South of Erre1 he encountered some swift-sailing Wendish ships, attacked them, and was victorious, clearing them of their men, killing many, and hanging others. Another successful battle he fought against the Wends by Mon Island. Then he sailed north and anchored in the eastern branch of the (Gaut Elf) River, overcoming three ships of the fleet of Thórir Hvínantorthi and of Óláf the son of Harald Kesja, his sister’s son. Óláf’s mother was Ragnhild, a daughter of King Magnús Barelegs. Sigurth drove Óláf up on land. Thórir was in the town of Konungahella where he had collected a force. Sigurth advanced that way, and both parties shot at each other, killing some on each side and wounding many others, but Sigurth and his men were not able to land there. At that place fell Úlfhethin Sox-ólfsson, a man from the north of Norway, who had been forecastleman in Sigurth’s force.


Then Sigurth departed and sailed north to Vík, where he plundered far and wide. He anchored his ships in Portyrja on the coast of Lungarth, and waylaid ships sailing in or out of Vík, and plundered in many places. The people of Túnsberg raised a force against him [and his men] and came upon them unawares when Sigurth and his men were ashore dividing their booty. Some of this force fell upon him from the land while they placed ships across the harbor on the outside. Sigurth dashed on board his ship and rowed towards them. Vatn-Orm’s ship lay nearest, and he let his ship fall back. Sigurth rowed past them and escaped in one ship, but many of his men fell. Thereupon this ditty was composed:




582.   Poorly defended him at
Portyrja old Vatn-Orm.


Chapter 6. Sigurth and Magnús Escape to Northern Norway


Sigurth Gadabout-Deacon then sailed south to Denmark. One man was lost from his ship, his name was Kolbein Thorljótsson of Batald.1 He was in the cockboat towed behind the ship, and they sailed with all their might.


Sigurth wrecked his ship when they arrived in Denmark, and he stayed that winter in Álaborg. But in the summer following, he and Magnús sailed north with seven ships and arrived unobserved at Listi in the night and anchored their ships near the land. Bentein Kolbeinsson, a member of King Ingi’s bodyguard and a very brave man, was in command there. Sigurth and his men went on land at daybreak and came upon the inhabitants without warning. They stormed their houses and wanted to put the town to the torch, but Bentein escaped to a storehouse in his armor and with his weapons and stood within the doorway with drawn sword—he held his shield before him and was helm-clad, all prepared to defend himself. The door opening was rather low. Sigurth asked why they didn’t go in. They answered that no one was inclined to go in alone. But while they were talking about that heatedly, Sigurth ran into the house past him. Bentein struck at him, but missed him. Thereupon Sigurth turned on him, and they exchanged but a few blows before Sigurth killed him and carried his head out in his hand. They took all the property they found in the town, then returned to their ships.


But when King Ingi and his friends, and the sons of Kolbein, Sigurth and Gyrth, Bentein’s brothers, learned about the slaying of Bentein, the king collected a force against Sigurth. The king himself went along and took a ship from Hákon Pungelta Pálsson, who was the son of the daughter of Áslák Erlingsson of Sóli and cousin of Hákon Maw. Ingi drove Hákon up on land and laid his hands on all their possessions. Sigurth Stork, the son of Eindrithi of Gaut Dale; Eirík Heel, his brother; and Andréás Kelduskítr, son of Grím of Víst fled into the Fjord District, whilst Sigurth himself and Magnús, together with Thorleif Skjappa with three ships sailed north outside the skerries to Hálogaland.


During the winter Magnús stayed with Víthkun Jóansson; while Sigurth hewed off the [projecting] stem and stern of his ship,2 gashed holes in it, and sank it in the innermost reach of the Ægisfjord. He passed the winter in the Tjalda Sound on the island of Hinn3 at Gljúfrafjord. Innermost in this fjord there is a cave. There Sigurth and more than twenty of his men passed the winter. They fashioned a door in front of the cave so that it could not be detected from the beach. They were provisioned during the winter by Thorleif Skjappa and by Einar, the son of Ogmund of Sand and of Guthrún, the daughter of Einar, who was the son of Ari of Reykjaholar. It is told that Sigurth had the Finns make him two skiffs in the fjord. They were held together by sinews, without any nails, and had withies for knee-timbers. They were rowed by twelve men on each side. Sigurth lived with the Finns while they made the skiffs, and they had small-beer for him when they entertained him. Afterwards Sigurth composed this verse:4




583.   Good was’t in Lapps’ hut,
gladly we drank,
and the prince pleasantly
passed ’twixt the benches.
Not lacked good cheer
at the Lapps’ banquet:
cheered is man by man,
remote though the land.


These skiffs were so swift that no ship could overtake them in the open sea; as this verse has it:




584.   Few ships fleeter
than fast Háleyg5 boat.
Swiftly saileth
sinew-bound skiff.


In the spring following, Sigurth and Magnús proceeded south in the two skiffs the Finns had built. And when they came to Vágar they killed Svein the Priest and his two sons.


Chapter 7. Sigurth and Magnús Commit Atrocities Along the Shore


Sigurth then sailed south to Víkar and there caught Viljalm the Tanner—he was a landed-man of King Sigurth—and Thóraldi Chaps, and killed both. Then Sigurth proceeded south along the land and there found Styrkár Glæsirófa south at Byrtha sailing north from Kaupang, and killed him. When he arrived at Valsness he found Swíne-Grím, and had his right hand cut off. Then he sailed south to Mœr, outside the entrance of the Trondheimfjord, and there captured Hethin Hardbelly and Kálf Ringeye. He let Hethin escape but killed Kálf.


King Sigurth and Sátha-Gyrth, his foster father, learned about Sigurth’s excursions and what he was doing, and sent out men to hunt him down. For leaders they chose Jón Katha, the son of Kálf the Crooked, a brother of Bishop Ívar, and as a second in command, Priest Jón Smyril. They manned the ship called the Reindeer which had twenty-two benches and was an exceedingly swift ship. They went out to track down Sigurth, but could not find him and returned ingloriously, because it was said that they had seen them and had not dared to attack them. Sigurth sailed south to Horthaland and arrived at Herthla. There resided Einar, the son of Salmon Pál. He had gone to the Hamarsfjord for the assembly held before Ascension Day.1 Sigurth and his men took possession of all they could lay hands on and also of a warship of twenty-five benches which Einar owned. They also laid hold of his four-year-old son who was staying with one of Einar’s workmen. Some of the men wanted to kill the boy, others, to take him along with them. The workman told them, “It won’t be of any advantage to you to kill this boy, nor will you profit from taking him with you. He is my son, and not Einar’s.” And believing him, they let the boy remain there and went their way. But when Einar returned home he gave the workman goods worth at least two ounces of gold. He thanked him for his resourceful action and said he would be his friend ever after. This is what Eirík Oddsson relates, who was the first to write down this account; and he heard Einar Pálsson tell about this occurrence when he was in Bergen.


After this, Sigurth sailed south along the land until he arrived east in Vík. There, at Kvildir, he encountered Finn Sautha-Úlfsson, engaged in collecting the rents for King Ingi, and hanged him. Thereupon he sailed south to Denmark.


Chapter 8. King Ingi Sends a Letter to King Sigurth


The people of the District of Vík as well as the townsfolk of Bergen said it was a disgrace that King Sigurth, the son of Harald Gilli, and his friends remained quietly north in Kaupang while the killers of his father were sailing along the sea lane outside the Trondheimfjord and while King Ingi and his men were exposed to danger in Vík in the east, defending the land and fighting many battles.


Then King Ingi sent a letter north to Kaupang. In it were these words:


“King Ingi, son of King Harald, sends greetings, both God’s and his own, to King Sigurth, his brother, and to Sátha-Gyrth, Ogmund Sviptir, Óttar Birting, and all landed-men, bodyguardsmen, housecarls, and to all the people, both the rich and the poor, the young and the old. All people know of the difficulties we have, and also of our youth, you being five years old and I, three years. We cannot undertake to do anything except with the aid of our friends and of men of honest intentions. Now we consider that I and my friends are closer to the difficulties and dangers with which both of us are bestead than you and your friends. Now then be so good to join me as soon, and with as large a force, as you can; and let us stay together whatever may befall us. Now he is the best friend of both of us who gives as his opinion that we two should ever be well agreed and hold together in every matter. But if you delay to do this and still refuse to come notwithstanding my urgent message, as you have done so far, then be prepared that I shall proceed against you with an army, when God will decide between us; because we shall no longer abide with being saddled with such great expense to entertain an army, which is required here because of hostile incursions, while you receive half of all the taxes and other income of Norway. The peace of God be with you!”


Thereupon Óttar Birting arose and answered as follows in the Assembly.


Chapter 9. King Sigurth Replies to King Ingi and Joins Him


“This is the answer King Sigurth will make to King Ingi, his brother: that God may reward him for his good greetings and also for the labor and difficulties which [he] and [his] friends are undergoing in this our realm in behalf of both of us. And although some of the words of King Ingi to King Sigurth may seem rather harsh, yet in many ways he has good cause for them. Now I shall make known my opinion and learn whether King Sigurth and other men of note agree with me in holding that you, King Sigurth and all who will follow you, make ready to defend your land, and that you proceed with as many men as possible to meet King Ingi, your brother, and as soon as possible, so that one may support the other in all matters advantageous to both of you; and may God protect both of you. Now I would hear what you say, sir king.”


Péter, the son of Sautha-Úlf carried King Sigurth to the assembly—the one who later was called Pétr Byrtharsvein [Burden-Carrier].


Then the king said, “Know all men that if I prevail then I shall proceed to join King Ingi, my brother, at the earliest possibility.”


Then one man after another spoke up, each in his own way but all coming to the same conclusion as had Óttar Birting, and it was agreed to summon an army and march east. Later, King Sigurth journeyed east to Vík and there joined his brother, King Ingi.


Chapter 10. Sigurth Slembidjákn Is Defeated and Magnús Slain


That same fall Sigurth Gadabout-Deacon and Magnús the Blind came north from Denmark with thirty ships, manned by both Norwegians and Danes. That was at the beginning of winter. As soon as the kings and their army heard of this, they sailed east [south] toward them. They met by the Hvalir Islands 1 at Grey Holm. That was the day after Martin Mass [November 11th], on a Sunday.


King Ingi and King Sigurth had twenty ships, all large. There ensued a hard battle. But after the first onset the Danes with eighteen ships fled home south. Thereupon the ships of Sigurth and Magnús were cleared of men. Now when Magnús’ ship was nearly cleared to where he rested on a couch, Hreithar Grjótgarthsson, a man who had long been with him as one of his bodyguard, took up King Magnús in his arms in order to leap with him into another ship. At that moment Hreithar was struck with a spear between his shoulders, so that it pierced him; and it is told that King Magnús was killed with the same spear. Hreithar fell backward onto the deck and Magnús on top of him. But it was all men’s opinion that Hreithar had stood by his liege lord bravely and manfully. Fortunate he who achieves such renown.


In that battle there fell Lothin Saupruth of Línustathir on board King Magnús’ ship, as also Brúsi Thormótharson, the forecastleman of Sigurth Gadabout-Deacon, Ívar Kolbeinsson, and Hallvarth Fægir, the man stationed before the poop of the ship of Sigurth Gadabout-Deacon. It was Ívar who had been the first to attack and wound King Harald. Then there fell a great number of the troops of Magnús and Sigurth, because the men of Ingi let no one escape whom they could reach, even though I mention only a few here. On one islet alone they slew more than sixty men. Two Icelanders were slain there, Sigurth the Priest, the son of Bergthor Másson, and Klémet, the son of Ari Einarsson. Ívar Skrauthanki, the son of Kálf the Crooked, who later became bishop north in Trondheim and was the father of Archbishop Eirík—this Ívar had steadily followed Magnús. He managed to get on board the ship of Jón Katha, his brother. Jón was married to Cécilía, the daughter of Gyrth Bártharson, and was one of Ingi’s force. These three, then, managed to get on board Jón’s ship, [Ívar], Arnbjorn Ambi, who later married the daughter of Thorstein of Authsholt, and Ívar Dynta Starason—he was a brother of Helgi Starason, of Trondheim ancestry on his mother’s side, an exceptionally handsome man. But as soon as the men of Ingi’s force became aware of their presence, they seized their arms and attacked Jón and his followers; but they prepared to resist them, and they were on the point of fighting one another. But they came to an agreement to the effect that Jón got his brother Ívar ransomed, as well as Arnbjorn, by pledging money for them; but that payment was remitted to him later. Ívar Dynta, however, was taken on shore and slain, because Sigurth and Gyrth, the sons of Kolbein, would not take money for his life: they accused him of having been an accomplice in the slaying of Bentein, their brother.




Hreithar Grotgarthsson seeks to rescue King Magnús.


Bishop Ívar related [later] that nothing had ever affected him so much as when he saw Ívar Dynta led up on land and beheaded, having before that kissed them and hoped that they would meet again.2 This was told Eirík Oddsson by Guthríth, the daughter of Birgir and sister of Bishop Jón. She said she had heard Bishop Ívar tell that.


Chapter 11. Sigurth Slembidjákn Is Captured


Thránd Gjaldkeri [Treasurer] was the name of the man who was steersman of one of the ships in Ingi’s fleet. By that time Ingi’s men rowed in small boats after the men who were swimming about, and killed everyone they found. Sigurth Gadabout-Deacon had dived into the sea from his ship when it was cleared of men. He divested himself of his mail coat while under water, and then swam, holding his shield over his head. Now some men of Thránd’s ship caught a man swimming and were about to kill him, but he begged for his life and said he would tell them where Sigurth Gadabout-Deacon was, and they let him do that. Shields and spears and dead men and garments were floating far and wide about the ships. “You can see,” he said, “that red shield floating there. He is under that.” Then they rowed there, captured him, and took him to Thránd’s ship; and Thránd sent word to Thjóstólf and Óttar and Ámundi.


Sigurth Gadabout-Deacon had on him a tinder-box, with the tinder inside a walnut shell which was sealed with wax. Mention is made of this, because it seemed ingenious to fix it so that it would never become wet. His shield he had held over his head when swimming, because then no one would know whether it was his or someone else’s, because many were swimming in the sea. Men said that they never would have found him if they hadn’t been told.


When Thránd came ashore with him the troops were told that he had been captured. Thereupon shouts of joy broke out in the army. But when Sigurth heard that he said: “Many a rascal will be glad to see me beheaded here today.”


Then Thjóstólf Álason went up to where he sat and swept a silk cap with laces off his head. Then Thjóstólf said, “Why were you so bold, you son of a thrall, as to call yourself the son of King Magnús?”


He answered, “You don’t need to liken my father to a thrall, because your father was of little worth compared to my father.”


Hall, the son of Thorgeir Steinsson, the physician, was one of King Ingi’s bodyguard and was present at these happenings. He related them to Eirík Oddsson1 who wrote down this account. Eirík wrote the book which is called Hryggjarstykki. In that book we are told about Harald Gilli and his two sons; also of Magnús the Blind and of Sigurth Gadabout-Deacon, down to their death. Eirík was a man of good understanding and had at that time been long in Norway. Some of his account he wrote according to what he was told by Hákon Maw, a landed-man under the two sons of Harald. Hákon and his sons took part in all these fights and counsels. Eirík mentions still other men who told him about these events, men who were both of good understanding and reliable. They were close by, so that they heard or saw what was happening. But some things he wrote according to what he himself heard or saw.


Chapter 12. Sigurth Slembidjákn Is Tortured to Death


Hall relates that the chieftains wanted to have Sigurth Gadabout-Deacon put to death immediately. But those men who were most cruel-minded and considered they had to revenge themselves for wrongs done to them, were responsible for the tortures inflicted on him. In that connection are mentioned the brothers of Bentein, Sigurth and Gyrth Kolbeinsson; and Peter Byrtharsvein wanted to avenge his brother Finn. But the chieftains and most others left the place.


They broke his leg bones and arm bones with the hammers of their axes. Then they stripped him of his clothes and wanted to flay him alive, and did scalp him. But they could not carry out their intention on account of the flow of blood. Then they took whips of walrus-hide and flogged him until his skin was completely off as if he had been flayed. Then they took a pole and broke his backbone. Then they dragged him to a tree and hanged him. They cut off his head and then they dragged his carcass away and buried it in a heap of stones.


It is the opinion of all, both friends and enemies, that within the memory of man, no one in all Norway had been more capable, in every way, than Sigurth. But in some respects he was pursued by ill luck. Hall relates that he spoke and answered little, even though they cast insults at him; and according to Hall he did not budge anymore than if they struck stone or wood. But he added that it took a man of rare strength of mind to stand being tortured in such fashion as not to say a word or to budge; nor did he raise his voice anymore than if he sat drinking. He did not speak with a higher or lower voice, nor more tremulously, than was his custom. He spoke until the very last, and sang a third part of the psalter. Hall thought that betokened endurance and strength beyond that of other men.


Now the priest who served a church nearby had Sigurth’s corpse brought to the church. This priest was a partisan of the sons of Harald. Nevertheless, when this was learned they turned upon him in wrath and had the corpse returned to where it had been before, and mulcted the priest for what he had done. But later on the adherents of Sigurth came north from Denmark in a ship after the body and brought it to Álaborg and buried it by Saint Mary’s Church in that town. So Eirík was told by the provost Ketil who had charge of Saint Mary’s Church in that town, affirming that Sigurth was buried there. Thjóstólf Álason had the body of King Magnús brought to Ósló where it was interred in Saint Hallvarth’s Church by the side of King Sigurth, his father. The body of Lothin Saupruth they took to Túnsberg, but all the others who had fallen were buried on the spot.


Chapter 13. Eystein Haraldsson Is Given a Third of the Realm


Sigurth and Ingi had ruled over Norway for six years when Eystein, in spring, came over east from Scotland. He was a son of Harald Gilli. Árni Sturla, Thorleif Brynjólfsson, and Kolbein Hrúga had sailed across the sea to fetch Eystein and had accompanied him to the land, steering straightway to Trondheim. And the men of the district received him well, and he was chosen king at the Eyra Assembly in the Rogation Days [May 25th-27th], with the intent that he was to have a third part of Norway together with his brothers. At that time Sigurth and Ingi were in the eastern part of the country. Men went to mediate beween the kings and came to the agreement that Eystein was to have a third of the kingdom. [No tests of paternity were made], 1 but it was believed what King Harald had said about the matter. King Eystein’s mother was Bjathok, and she accompanied him to Norway.


Chapter 14. Óttar Birting Is Assassinated


Magnús was the name of a fourth son of King Harald. He was fostered by Kyrpinga-Orm. He also was chosen king and had his share of the land. Magnús was diseased in his legs. He lived but a short time and died a natural death. Einar Skúlason makes mention of him in this stanza:




585.   Wins wealth for all Eystein,
wages Sigurth battles,
swords sing out for Ingi,
seemly peace gives Magnús.
Nobler brothers never—
ness-of-swords1 aye reddened
beloved liege’s offspring—
lived beneath the sun’s rays.


After the death of King Harald Gilli his queen, Ingiríth, was married to Óttar Birting. He was a landed-man and a great chieftain from the Trondheim District. He was a stanch supporter of King Ingi when Ingi was still a child. King Sigurth was no great friend of his, for the reason that he considered Óttar to be altogether too much inclined to favor his kinsman, King Ingi. Óttar Birting was killed north in Kaupang in an affray one evening as he was going to vespers. When he heard the whistle of the blow he lifted his arm and cloak to ward it off, thinking it was a snowball thrown at him, as is often done by young boys. He fell with the blow. But, at that moment, Álf Hrothi, his son, entered the churchyard. He saw his father fall and also [saw] that the man who had done the deed ran east around the church. Álf ran after him and killed him at the corner of the choir. People said that he avenged himself well, and he was considered a man of greater stature than before for having done that.


Chapter 15. Óttar’s Death Is Attributed to King Sigurth


King Eystein Haraldsson was in the Trondheim District when he learned of the fall of Óttar, and summoned a force of farmers. He marched to the town with a considerable host. The kinsmen of Óttar and other friends of his attributed the deed to King Sigurth who at that time was in Kaupang, and the farmers were exceedingly enraged at him. But he offered to undergo the ordeal of [red-hot] iron, in order to put his word to the proof, and that was agreed upon. After that King Sigurth travelled south, so that this ordeal never took place.


Chapter 16. Queen Ingiríth’s Marriages


Queen Ingiríth had a son by Ívar Sneis. He was called Orm, and later, King’s Brother. He was exceedingly handsome and became a great chieftain, as will be told later. Queen Ingiríth was married to Árni of Stothreim who later was called King’s Stepfather. Their children were Ingi, Níkolás, Philippús of Herthla, and Margrét. She was married, first to Bjorn Bukk, and later to Símon Kárason.


Chapter 17. Erling and Eindrithi Sail to the Holy Land


Erling was the name of the son of Kyrpinga-Orm and Ragnhild, the daughter of Sveinki Steinarsson. Kyrpinga-Orm was the son of Svein Sveinsson, who was the son of Erlend of Gerthi. Orm’s mother was Ragna, a daughter of Earl Orm Eilífsson and Ingibjorg, daughter of Earl Finn Árnason. The mother of Earl Orm was Ragnhild, a daughter of Earl Hákon the Powerful. Erling was a man of excellent understanding and a great friend of King Ingi, and through his influence Erling married Kristín, the daughter of King Sigurth and Queen Málmfríth. Erling resided at Stuthla in South Horthaland. Erling went abroad, and with him Eindrithi the Young and several other landed-men, with a picked troop. They had made preparations to go to the Holy Land and sailed west across the sea to the Orkneys. There they were joined by Earl Rognvald, surnamed Kali, and Bishop Viljalm. They had altogether fifteen long-ships when they sailed from the Orkneys, and proceeded to the Hebrides, and from there west [south] to France, and along the same route Sigurth the Jerusalem-farer had followed, all the way to Norva Sound, harrying far and wide about heathen Spain. Shortly after they had sailed through the Sound, Eindrithi the Young and those with him parted company with six ships, and afterwards both fleets proceeded separately.


Earl Rognvald and Erling Skakki encountered a large warship. They attacked it with their nine ships and fought with it. In the end they fastened their ships to the warship. Then the Saracens hurled down upon them both missiles and rocks and pots full of boiling pitch and oil. Erling with his ship lay closest to them, so that the missiles of the Saracens flew beyond it. Thereupon Erling and his men hacked holes in the warship, some below the water-line, some in the sides so that they could enter there. As says Thorbjorn Skakkaskáld1 in his Erlingsdrápa:




586.   Hacked with whetted axes
holes the daring Northmen,
little fearing, below the
line in the ship’s broadside.
Saw your wiles the wilding
how you broke a breach a-
bove the line of water.


Authun the Red, the forecastleman on Erling’s ship was the first to board the warship. They conquered it and killed an enormous number of men in it. They took immense booty and had won a fine victory.


Earl Rognvald and Erling Skakki on this expedition reached Palestine and went as far as the River Jordan, whereupon they returned by way of Miklagarth. There they left their ships and returned by the landway from abroad, continuing until they reached Norway, hale and well, and their expedition won great praise. Erling was now considered a more important man than before, both by reason of this expedition and the match he had made. Also, he was a man of keen understanding, wealthy and high-born, of great eloquence. As between the brothers, he was most inclined to side with Ingi.


Chapter 18. King Sigurth Engenders a Son with a Servant Woman


King Sigurth with his following rode east in Vík on his king’s progress, and past the estate of a wealthy man by the name of Símon. And as the king rode through the yard he heard someone sing so beautifully in one of the houses that he was much pleased. He rode to that house and looked in and saw a woman standing by a handmill and singing wondrously fine while she ground. The king descended from his horse and went in and lay with the woman. But when he departed, farmer Símon got to know what the king had been about there. The woman’s name was Thóra, and she was a working woman of farmer Símon. Afterwards he had her work done by others. Later on she bore a son, and this boy was named Hákon and termed the son of King Sigurth. Hákon was brought up there by Símon Thorbergsson and his wife Gunnhild. The sons of Símon, Onund and Andréás, were raised with Hákon, and they were so fond of one another that only death could part them.


Chapter 19. King Eystein Overcomes the Farmers of Ranríki and Hísing


King Eystein Haraldsson was stationed east in Vík at the extreme confines of the kingdom. He had some disagreements with the farmers of Ranríki and Hísing. They gathered a force against him, but he fought them and gained the victory. The place where the battle took place is called Leikberg. He devastated Hísing far and wide with fire. Thereupon the farmers submitted to him and paid him large tribute, also giving him hostages. As says Einar Skúlason:1




587.   Stern, unafraid,
the king repaid—
all men him laud—
the Vík-folk’s fraud.
They were in fear:
peace cost them dear.
He hostages took
as luck them forsook.




588.   Hard fight he chose
’gainst bitter foes—
my tale is clear—
to Leikberg near.
All Ran-folk fled,
or did as he said:
gave him their gold
as bade the king bold.


Chapter 20. King Eystein Leads an Expedition to Scotland and England


A short time thereafter King Eystein started on an expedition west across the sea, sailing to Caithness. He learned that Earl Harald Maddatharson was at Thórsá Island [Thurso]. He approached the island with three small skiffs and took them by surprise. The earl had had a ship with thirty rowers’ benches and a crew of eighty. However, as they were unprepared [for the attack], King Eystein and his men boarded the ship straightway, took the earl captive, and brought him along. He ransomed himself with three marks of gold, and then they parted. As says Einar Skúlason:




589.   Manned with eighty men was
Maddath’s scion’s sea-steed.
Won the wolfbrood’s-sater
welcome victory o’er them:
with skiffs three, unscathed—nor
’scaped the earl—he conquered.
The ravening ravens’-feeder
ransomed his head with gold rings.


From there King Eystein sailed south along the east coast of Scotland and landed by the Scottish town which is called Apardjón [Aberdeen]. There he slew many men and ransacked the town. As says Einar Skúlason:




590.   Heard I have tell
that folk many fell
when the king made war
near Aberdeen’s shore.


Another battle he fought in the south at Hjartapoll [Hartlepool] against a band of horsemen and put them to flight. They cleared some ships of their crews in that place. As says Einar:




591.   Bit the king’s sword.
Followed men their lord
with all their soul
at Hartlepool.
Did ravens gloat.
Many an English boat
was cleared. Grew red
swords with blood shed.


He proceeded still further south along the English coast and had a third battle at Hvítaby [Whitby]. He was victorious and burned the town. As says Einar:




592.   The king fray stirred,
was swords’ whine heard.
At Whitby Town
he won renown.
Fire leapt high
into the sky,
were wolves’ teeth red
with blood that was shed.


After that he harried far and wide in England. At that time King Stephen ruled in England.1 Afterwards King Eystein had a battle at Skarpasker2 with some horsemen. As says Einar:




593.   Drave arrows’-rain
with might and main
by Skarpasker coast
’gainst shield-clad host.


Then he fought a battle at Pílavík3 and was victorious. As says Einar:




594.   Bloodied his sword
the Northmen’s lord
in Scotsmen’s4 blood.
Ran the wound-flood
on Pílavík’s strand.
Rang ’gainst skulls his brand,
to the ground as down
he burned Langatown.


There they burned Langatún5 to the ground. That was a large town, and it is said that it never rose again to what it was before. Thereupon King Eystein left England, and in the fall sailed back to Norway. Men differed greatly about [the value of] this expedition.


Chapter 21. Of King Sigurth’s Appearance and Character


Good peace prevailed in the beginning of the reign of the sons of Harald, and they were tolerably agreed the while the body of their old counsellors was alive and Ingi and Sigurth were children. Then both had their courts together, but Eystein, his own separately. He was a full-grown man [at the time]. But when the foster parents of Ingi and Sigurth had passed away—to wit, Sátha-Gyrth Bártharson, Ámundi Gyrtharson, Thjóstólf Álason, Óttar Birting, Ogmund Sviptir, and Ogmund Dengir, the brother of Erling Skakki—Erling was thought of little account while Ogmund was still living. After that Ingi and Sigurth had separate courts, and King Ingi had the support of Grégóríús, the son of Dag Eilífsson and Ragnhild, the daughter of Skopti Ogmundarson. Grégóríús had large possessions and himself was a man of outstanding qualities. He was at the head of the government of the country with King Ingi; and the king permitted him to appropriate for himself all such possessions of the king as he desired.


King Sigurth as he matured grew to be a most overbearing man, unruly in all respects, as was Eystein who yet was somewhat more moderate, though he was a most avaricious and covetous man. King Sigurth grew to be a tall and strong man of stately appearance. He had brown hair and an ugly mouth, but good features otherwise. He was exceedingly ready and skilful of speech. This is mentioned by Einar Skúlason:




595.   Excels in speech Sigurth,
swords in blood who reddens—
God himself has given him
glory—all in Norway.
Whene’er the Raumers’1 ruler
raised his voice, ’t was as if—
unfading fame he won o’er
foes—hushed were all others.


Chapter 22. Of the Appearance and Character of Kings Eystein and Ingi


King Eystein was a man with black hair and a dark complexion. In stature he was somewhat over medium height. He had a good mind and keen understanding. What most contributed to his unpopularity was his avarice and stinginess. He had for a wife Ragna, daughter of Níkolás Mása.


King Ingi had an exceedingly handsome countenance. His hair was yellow, rather thin, and very curly. He was of low stature and could hardly walk alone because one of his legs was withered, and he had a hump both on his shoulders and his chest. He was kindly of speech and good to his friends, generous with his possessions. He let the chieftains share in the government of the country and was popular among the people. All this contributed to draw most of the people to his side.


Brígitha was the name of a daughter of King Harald Gilli. She was first married to King Ingi Hallsteinsson of Sweden, then to Earl Karl Sónason, and then to Magnús, king of Sweden. King Ingi Haraldsson and she had the same mother. Finally, Earl Birgir Brosa married her. They had four sons—Earl Philippús, Earl Knút, Fólki, and Magnús. Their daughters were Ingigerth, who married King Sørkvir of Sweden—their son was King Jón—Kristín, and Margrét. Another daughter of Harald Gilli was named Máría. She was married to Símon Skálp, the son of Hallkel Húk. Their son was Níkolás. Margrét, the third daughter of Harald Gilli was married to Jón Hallkelsson, brother of Símon. A great many things happened which led to disagreement between the Brothers, but I shall mention only this one thing which, it seems to me, led to the most important consequences.


Chapter 23. Cardinal Níkolás Visits Norway


Cardinal Níkolás of Rome came to Norway in the days of the sons of Harald. He was sent to Norway by the Pope. The cardinal was incensed against Sigurth and Eystein, and they were compelled to come to an agreement with him. But he was exceedingly pleased with Ingi and called him his son. But when they all were reconciled with him he granted them permission to have Jón Birgisson consecrated archbishop of the Trondheim diocese and presented him with the vestment which is called pallium. He made the pronouncement that the archiepiscopal see should be in Nitharós, in Christ Church, where Holy King Óláf rests. Before that there had only been suffragan bishops in Norway. The cardinal brought it about that no one was to carry arms in the market towns with impunity, except the twelve men who were to attend the king. He improved in many respects the ways of the Norwegians whilst he dwelled there. No foreigner has ever come to Norway whom men rated as highly and who had such influence on the community as he. Later, he travelled south, after receiving many friendly gifts and declaring that he would always be most friendly disposed toward Norwegians. Soon after his arrival in Rome the Pope died who had ruled the see until then. All the people of Rome wanted to have Níkolás for Pope and so he was consecrated as Pope, with the name of Adrian. Those who came to Rome in those days tell that never had he so important business with other men than he did not first speak with Norwegians, whenever they desired to consult him. He was not Pope for long, and he is pronounced to be a saint.


Chapter 24. Saint Óláf Restores a Man’s Speech


In the days of the sons of Harald Gilli it happened that a certain man called Halldór was made a captive by the Wends. They tortured him, slitting his throat, and pulling his tongue through it, and cutting it off at the roots. Thereupon he sought out the resting place of Saint Óláf and turned his thoughts firmly to that holy man and begged King Óláf with many tears to give him back his speech and his health. Soon thereafter he did receive back his speech [by] the mercy of this good king, and straightway became his servant for all his life, becoming an excellent man, steadfast in the Christian faith. This miracle happened half a month before the latter Saint Óláf’s Mass [July 20th], on the same day Cardinal Níkolás set foot on land in Norway.


Chapter 25. Saint Óláf Heals the Priest Richard


In the Uppland District there lived two brothers, named Einar and Andréás. Wealthy and of noble extraction, they were the sons of Guthorm Graybeard and maternal uncles of King Sigurth Haraldsson. All their possessions and their family homestead were in that district. Their sister was a woman of rather handsome appearance but not too careful about the promises of evil men, as proved to be the case later. She showed great kindness to an English priest, Richard by name, who lived with her brothers, and out of the goodness of her heart did much to please him. As a result, ugly rumors became current about her. Then, when it had become common talk, everyone laid the blame on the priest, as did her brothers. And as soon as they became aware of this they charged him publicly with seducing her, seeing the great tenderness which had prevailed between the two.


This later turned out to the great misfortune of Richard and their sister, as was to be expected, since the brothers kept their silence about their secret plot and did not betray their intentions by word or look. But on a certain day they called the priest to them—he expected nothing but good of them—luring him from home with them. They told him that they were bound for another district on some business and asked him to accompany them. They had with them their man servant who had been informed of their plan. In a boat they rowed along the lake called Rond and landed on the tongue of land called Skiptisand. There they landed and disported themselves for a while. Then they went to a spot that was hidden from sight and told the servant to deal the priest a blow with the back of his axe, and he did so, knocking him unconscious.


When he came to, he said, “Why do you ill-treat me so?”


They answered, “Even if no one has told you, you are going to find out now what you have done,” and then they brought up the charges against him. He denied them and prayed to let God and Holy King Óláf judge between them. Then they broke the bone in one of his legs. Thereupon they dragged him into the forest and tied his hands behind his back. Then they put a rope around his head and a board under his shoulders and his head and inserted a pin to tighten the rope with. Then Einar took a peg and set it on the eye of the priest. The servant stood over him and struck down with his axe, knocking out the eye so that it dropped into his beard. Then they set the peg on the other eye and said to the servant, “Don’t strike quite so hard.” He did so. Then the peg glanced off the eyeball and tore loose the eyelid. Then Einar took hold of the eyelid with his hand and held it up and saw that the eyeball still was in place. Then he set the peg outside on the cheek bone, the servant struck, and the eyeball fell down on the cheek bone where it was most prominent. Next they opened his mouth, pulled his tongue out, and cut it off. Then they undid his hands and his head. As soon as he regained his senses it occurred to him to lay the eyeballs under the brows in their proper places and to hold them there with both hands the best he could.


They carried him to the boat and brought him to the farm which is called Sæheimrud, where they landed. They sent a man to the farm to tell the people that a priest lay there on the strand by the boat. While the man they had sent was gone they asked the priest if he could speak, and he wagged his tongue to and fro, trying to speak. Then Einar said to his brother, “If he recovers and the stump of his tongue heals, it occurs to me that he might speak again.” Then they took hold of the stub of the tongue with tongs, pulled it out, cut it two ways, and down into the roots of it the third time, and left him there half dead.


The mistress of the farm was poor, yet she and her daughter went straightway and carried him home in their cloaks. Then they went to fetch a priest, and when he came he bandaged all his wounds, and they tried to relieve him the best they could. He lay there then, that priest, sorely mutilated and in a pitiful condition. But he lived aye in hopes of God’s grace, never misdoubting it; and though bereft of speech he prayed to God in his thoughts and with a sorrowful heart, and all the more confidently the worse off he was. He turned his thoughts to that gracious king, Saint Óláf, God’s holy man, having before heard told much of his glorious works and believing therefore all the more firmly, and with all his heart, that he would help him in his need. And as he lay there, maimed and bereft of all strength, he wept sorely, sighing, and with a sad heart prayed to glorious King Óláf to help him.


Now after midnight the sorely ill-treated priest fell asleep, when he thought he saw a noble-looking man come up to him and say to him, “Cruelly have you been maltreated, friend Richard, and I see that your strength is all gone.” He believed he agreed. Then the man said to him, “You are indeed in need of mercy.”


The priest replied, “I would indeed need the mercy of Almighty God and of Holy King Óláf.”


The other said, “And that you shall have indeed.” Thereupon he took hold of the stump of his tongue and pulled it so hard that the priest felt terrible pain. Thereupon with his hand he stroked him about the eyes and legs and other parts that were sore. Then the priest asked who he was. The man looked at him and said, “I am Óláf from north in Trondheim,” and disappeared.


But the priest awoke, entirely recovered, and straightway said, “Blessed am I; thanks to God and to Holy King Óláf. He has healed me.” And however cruelly he had before been maltreated, now he quickly received comfort for all his mistreatment, and it seemed to him that he had neither been wounded nor ailing—his tongue was whole, his eyes were both in place, his leg as well as all the other parts were healed and smarted no longer, and he was in the best of health. But as a mark that his eyes had been gouged out, a white scar appeared on both his eyelids, so that the might of this glorious king should be shown in the man who had been so pitiably maltreated.


Chapter 26. The Kings Eystein and Sigurth Conspire against King Ingi


Eystein and Sigurth had fallen out for the reason that King Sigurth had slain a courtier of King Eystein, a man called Harald of Vík, who owned a house in Bergen, and another man, Priest Jón Taparth, the son of Bjarni Sigurtharson. On account of this the kings arranged for a meeting in winter in the Uppland District to come to an agreement. The two had a long session discussing the matter, and the upshot of their talks was that all three brothers were to meet the following summer in Bergen. And the two were also agreed that King Ingi should have only two or three estates and enough property otherwise so as to be able to have thirty men about him; and they were of the opinion that he was not hale enough to be king. Ingi and Grégóríús learned of this and proceeded to Bergen with a large force of men. Sigurth arrived a little later, with a force considerably smaller. By that time Ingi and Sigurth had been kings over Norway for nineteen years. Eystein arrived later, from Vík in the east, whereas the other two had come from the north. Then King Ingi had the trumpets blown for the assembly on the Hólm, and both Sigurth and Ingi came there, together with a great host of men. Grégóríús had two warships and ninety or more men whom he provided for at his own expense. He kept his housecarls better than other landed-men, never drinking at entertainments unless all his housecarls were served too. He went to the assembly with a gilded helmet, and all his following was helmeted. King Ingi arose and told people what he had heard—how his brothers wanted to deal with him, and asked for their support. His speech was well received by the multitude, and they declared they would follow him.


Chapter 27. Queen Ingiríth Asks King Ingi to Avenge Himself


Then King Sigurth arose and spoke. He said that there was no truth in what King Ingi accused him of; that it was Grégóríús who had concocted this, and that it would not be long, if things went as he wished, before they could meet in such wise that he would knock off that gilded helmet of his; and he ended by saying that one of them would have to go. Grégóríús in his answer said he thought he hardly needed to be prompted to meet him and that he was ready to do so.


A few days afterwards one of Grégóríús’ housecarls was slain on the Street, and it was one of King Sigurth’s housecarls who had done it. Then Grégóríús wanted to attack King Sigurth and his men, but King Ingi was against that, and so were many others.


But when Ingiríth, the mother of King Ingi, came from vespers she found Sigurth Skrúthhyrna slain. He was a courtier of King Ingi and an old man who had been in the service of many kings. Two men of King Sigurth’s, Hallvarth Gunnarsson and Sigurth, the son of Eystein Trafali had slain him; and the blame for this was laid on King Sigurth. Then she went straightway to King Ingi and said to him that he would long be [considered] a little king if he did not bestir himself even if his courtiers were killed, one after the other, like swine. The king grew furious under her reproaches; and whilst they were bandying words Grégóríús walked in, helmeted and in his coat of mail. He asked the king not to be angry,—that she was saying the truth. “I have come here to support you if you will set upon King Sigurth. And here are more than a hundred men close by, my housecarls, helmeted and in their coats of mail, and we shall attack them from the side which seems to others most dangerous.”


But most were against that, saying that Sigurth would be willing to make redress for what had been done. But when Grégóríús saw that King Ingi was about to be persuaded not to do anything, he said to him, “In this way they will kill off one by one—they killed one of my housecarls a little while ago, and now your courtier, and they will want to do away with me or some other landed-man whom they consider we can least afford to lose, once they see that you do not take action, and then remove you from your kingdom after your friends are killed. Now whatever is the inclination of your other landed-men, I for my part will not wait for the final blow. We two, Sigurth and I shall this night have it out. Not only are you poorly off on account of your disabilities, but I think you have little desire to protect your friends. But now I am altogether ready to attack Sigurth [from here] because my banner is right outside here.”


King Ingi stood up and called for his armor. He asked all those who would follow him to get ready, saying it would be no use to try to dissuade him and that he had given in many times, that now it would have to come to a decision between them.


Chapter 28. King Sigurth Is Slain


King Sigurth was drinking in the house of Sigríth Sæta and was all prepared [to fight], but thought nothing would come of the attack. Then they approached the house—King Ingi from above, from the huts of the artisans; Árni, the king’s father-in-law from Sandbridge in the west; Áslák Erlendsson from the side of his house; and Grégóríús from the Street, which was considered the most difficult side [to attack from]. Sigurth and his men shot many arrows from the loop holes in the loft, and they tore down the ovens and hurled the rocks at them. Grégóríús and his men broke down the house gate; and there in the gate fell Einar, the son of Laxa-Pál, and Hallvarth Gunnarsson, who belonged to King Sigurth’s bodyguard. The latter was shoved into the loft nor did any one feel sorry about his death. Then they tore down the houses; and then Sigurth’s men deserted him and asked for quarter. Then Sigurth went up into a loft and wanted to talk to the attackers; but he carried a gilt shield, and so was recognized, and they did not want to listen to him. They shot at him, and their arrows came as thick as falling snow, so he could not stay there. And when his men had deserted him and the houses were being broken down he came out with Thórth Húsfreya, one of his henchmen, a man from Vík. They went in the direction where King Ingi stood, and Sigurth appealed to Ingi to give him quarter. But both were cut down. Thórth Húsfreya fell after a brave fight. Many of Sigurth’s company fell there, though I name but a few, but also some of Ingi’s men. Four of Grégóríús’ men were slain, and some who were not on either side but were shot down below on the piers or outside on ships.


This fight took place fourteen days before Saint John the Baptist’s Day [June 10th], on a Friday. King Sigurth was interred by the Old Christ Church on the Hólm. King Ingi gave Grégóríús the ship King Sigurth had owned.


Two or three days afterwards King Eystein came sailing from the east with thirty ships. He had with him Hákon, his brother’s son, but did not make for Bergen but laid up in Flóruvág Bay. Men went between them to effect a reconciliation. But Grégóríús wanted to attack them, saying that matters would not improve and that he himself would be the leader. “But you, sire, shall not go. We have a sufficient force.” However, many were against it, and so nothing came of it. King Eystein returned east to Vík, and King Ingi sailed to Trondheim; and there was peace of a sort between them though they did not meet personally.


Chapter 29. Grégóríús Is Forewarned and Flees from King Eystein


Grégóríús Dagsson sailed east shortly after King Eystein did, and dwelt on his estate of Bratsberg in the shire of Hofund.1 King Eystein resided in Ósló and had his ships dragged more than two sea-miles over the ice, because the bay was frozen over far and wide. He proceeded to Hofund, intending to capture Grégóríús; but he had been warned and got away to Telemark with ninety men and from there journeyed north [west] over the mountains to the Harthanger District, thent o Stuthla in Ethni.2 There, Erling Skakki had his estate. He himself had sailed north to Bergen, but his wife, Kristín, the daughter of King Sigurth [Jerusalemfarer], was at home and offered Grégóríús all the help he wanted to proceed further. Grégóríús had a good welcome there. He was given a warship which belonged to Erling, and all else that he needed. Grégóríús thanked her cordially, saying that she had comported herself as befitted a great lady, and as was to be expected. Then they sailed to Bergen, where they found Erling, and he considered she had done the right thing.


Chapter 30. The Kings Do Not Abide by Their Agreement


Then Grégóríús Dagsson sailed north to Kaupang and arrived there before Yule. King Ingi received him with great joy, and asked him to take anything of his possessions that he desired. King Eystein had burned down Grégóríús’ estate and slaughtered his livestock. But the boathouses which King Eystein the Elder had had built north in Kaupang, and which were most valuable possessions, were burned down that winter, together with some good ships belonging to King Ingi—a deed which caused much indignation and was attributed to King Eystein and Philippús Gyrtharson, the foster brother of King Sigurth.


The summer after, King Ingi sailed south with a great fleet, and King Eystein from the east, also collecting together a force. They met by the Sel Islands north [west] of Cape Lithandisness, King Ingi having much the larger force. They were on the point of doing battle but came to an agreement by which Eystein was to pay forty-five marks in gold. Of these, King Ingi was to have thirty marks because Eystein had instigated the burning of the ships and of the boathouses. Then, Philippús was to be outlawed, as well as all those who had been connected with the burning of the ships. [On the other hand] the men guilty of striking down King Sigurth were also to be outlawed, because King Eystein accused King Ingi of sheltering them, while Grégóríús was to have fifteen marks for the damage King Eystein had done him in burning down his estate.


King Eystein was ill-pleased with this settlement, considering it forced on him. After the meeting King Ingi repaired to the Vík District, and King Eystein to the north. And then King Ingi continued to reside in Vík, and Eystein, in the north, in the Trondheim area. They did not meet personally, and there passed between them only such messages as were not conducive to peace. Also, they had one another’s friends killed; and nothing came of the payment Eystein was to make. Each accused the other of not abiding by the agreement they had made between them. King Ingi and Grégóríús enticed many men away from King Eystein—thus, Bárth Standali Brynjólfsson and Símun Skálp, son of Hallkel Húk, and many other landed-men, such as Halldór Brynjólfsson and Jón Hallkelsson.


Chapter 31. The Hostile Fleets Face Each Other


When two years had passed since the death of King Sigurth, the two kings collected forces; Ingi, eighty ships in the eastern part of the country, and Eystein, forty-five in the north. One of these was the large dragon ship which King Eystein Magnússon had had built. Both kings had large and well-equipped crews. King Ingi stationed his ships by the island of Mostr in the south, and Eystein, a little to the north of that, in Grœninga Sound. Eystein sent Áslák the Young, the son of Jón, and Árni Sturla, the son of Sæbjørn with one ship south to Ingi to negotiate with him. But when Ingi’s men caught sight of them they attacked them, killing many of the crew. They took possession of the ship and of all on it, together with all their belongings.


But Áslák and Árni and some other men escaped to the land, rejoined King Eystein, and told him how Ingi had received them. Then King Eystein held a council and told his men how Ingi had broken the peace, and called upon them to follow him—“and we have a force so large and good that I shall never flee if you will lend me your support.” But there was no applause after his speech. Hallkel Húk was there, but both his sons, Símun and Jón, had joined Ingi. Hallkel made reply so that a great many heard it: “Let your chests of gold support you now and defend your land!”


Chapter 32. King Eystein Flees and Is Slain


During the night many secretly absconded with their ships, some joining King Ingi, some sailing to Bergen, some rowing into the fjords. But in the morning, when it was light the king was left with only ten ships. Then he left the large dragon ship behind because it was heavy to row, as well as several other ships. They damaged the dragon ship [enough to put it out of action]. Also, they let their beer run out, and ruined all they could not take along with them. King Eystein went on board the ship of Eindrithi Jónsson Mornef. They sailed north into the Sognfjord, and thence made their way overland east to Vík.


King Ingi took possession of the ships and sailed, outside the skerries, east to Vík. But east of Fold [the Óslófjord] Eystein was lying in wait for him with nearly twelve hundred [1440] men. However, when they saw King Ingi’s fleet they did not consider they were numerous enough and ran away into the forest, fleeing every which way, so that the king was left with only one man.


King Ingi and his men learned which way Eystein had taken, and also that he had only few in his company, and they searched for him. Símun Skálp found him issuing from a thicket by himself to meet them. Símun greeted him, saying, “Hail, my lord.”


The king replied, “I don’t know but you consider yourself my lord now.”


“That is what it turns out to be,” said Símun.




Símun Skálp discovers King Eystein.


The king asked him to help him escape, saying that would be seemly in him—“because for a long time we were on good terms, even though that isn’t the case now.” Símun said that couldn’t be done now. The king asked to hear mass [before being slain], and that was granted him. Then he laid himself with his face down, spreading out his arms, and asked them to slash him crosswise between his shoulders—then they would find out whether he could stand cold steel as King Ingi’s followers said he could not.


Símun spoke to the man who was to hew him, asking him to go to work, and saying that the king had crept all too long through the heather. Then he was beheaded and was considered to have behaved manfully. His body was brought to Fors1 and placed for the night under the hill south of the church. He was interred in Fors Church, with his resting place in the middle of the church floor, and a rug spread over it. Men call him holy. At the spot where he was beheaded and his blood touched the ground, a spring came up, and another one, under the hill where his body had been placed for the night. Many consider that they have regained their health from the water of either spring. People from Vík have said that many miracles happened at the tomb of King Eystein before his enemies poured broth made from a dog on it.


Símun Skálp was much reproached for his action, and it became the talk of the people. But some say that when King Eystein was captured, Símun sent a messenger to King Ingi, but that the king said he never wanted to see Eystein again. That is what King Sverri ordered written.2 But Einar Skúlason says thus:




596.   Hardly, though, will he who
hand raised ’gainst his liege-lord,
Símun Skálp, for his soul e’er
salvation find in heaven.




The Saga of Hákon the Broadshouldered


Chapter 1. Hákon Sigurtharson Is Chosen Leader of Eystein’s Troops


Hákon, son of King Sigurth, was chosen chieftain of the troops which had followed King Eystein, and they conferred the title of king on him. He was ten years of age at that time. With him were Sigurth, the son of Hallvarth of Reyr, a large landowner; also, Andréás and Onund, the foster brothers of Hákon and sons of Símun; and many of the chieftains and friends of King Eystein and King Sigurth. They first repaired to Gautland. King Ingi had taken possession of all their property in Norway and had made them outlaws. King Ingi journeyed north in Vík and resided, sometimes there, and sometimes in the northern part of the land. Grégóríús stayed in Konungahella close to where hostilities might be expected, to defend the land.


Chapter 2. Grégóríús Prepares to Battle Hákon


The summer after, Hákon and his followers came out of Gautland and proceeded to Konungahella with a very large and well-equipped army. Grégóríús was there in the town and summoned a numerous assembly of farmers and townsmen, asking for their support. It seemed to him they were half-hearted about it, and he declared that he did not trust them. He left with two ships and sailed to Vík in a depressed state of mind, intending to meet King Ingi. He had learned that King Ingi was coming south to Vík with a large army. And when Grégóríús had come but a short way north he met Símun Skálp, Halldór Brynjólfsson, and Gyrth Ámundason, the foster brother of King Ingi, and he was mighty glad to meet them. Accompanied by them he turned back. They had eleven ships. But when they rowed up to Konungahella, Hákon and his men were holding an assembly outside the town and saw Grégóríús approaching. Then Sigurth of Reyr said, “Now Grégóríús is fey, seeing that he delivers himself into our power with but a small force.”


Grégóríús moored his ships opposite the town with the intention of waiting for King Ingi. He was expected there but did not come. King Hákon prepared for battle in the town and appointed Thorljót Skaufuskalli chieftain over the troops on the merchantmen in front of the town. He was a viking and pirate. But Hákon and Sigurth and all their troops were inside the town and placed themselves in battle array on the piers. All the people in town had joined Hákon’s forces.


Chapter 3. Grégóríús Routs Hákon’s Forces


Grégóríús and his men rowed up the river and let their ships drift down at Thorljót. They exchanged shots for a while, until Thorljót and his companions leapt overboard. Some of them were killed, others made their way to land. Then Grégóríús and his men rowed toward the piers and at once shoved out the landing stages from his ship right in front of Hákon’s men. Then the man who bore his standard fell, just as he was about to go up on land. Thereupon Grégóríús called on Hall, son of Authun Hallsson, to carry the standard. He did so and carried it up on the pier, and Grégóríús stepped up right after him, holding his shield over Hall’s head. But as soon as Grégóríús came up on the pier and Hákon’s men recognized him, they drew back, making room on both sides. And when more men had come ashore from the ships, they and Grégóríús advanced, and Hákon’s men first backed out and then ran up into the town, with Grégóríús following them and twice driving them out of the town and killing many.


It is said that there never was a braver exploit than this one of Grégóríús, because Hákon had more than four thousand [4800] men, whereas Grégóríús had not quite four hundred [480]. After the battle Grégóríús said to Hall Authunarson, “Many, it would seem to me, are more agile in an attack than you Icelanders, because you are less practiced in fighting than we Norwegians, but few seem to me more gallant than you.”


A little later, Ingi arrived and had many put to death who had taken sides with Hákon. Some he compelled to pay fines, in the case of others he burned down their farms, still others he drove out of the land and inflicted much damage on them.


During the winter, Hákon took his way north over the mountains to Trondheim, arriving there before Whitsuntide [April 12th]. And the people of that district accepted him as king allowing him to have as his paternal inheritance one third of Norway together with King Ingi. The latter was in Vík at the time, together with Grégóríús, and Grégóríús wanted to proceed north against Hákon, but many held back so that nothing was done about it that winter.


Chapter 4. Hákon Avoids Grégóríús in Bergen


In spring Hákon proceeded south with thirty ships. The men from Vík in his army went before him and pillaged in both districts of Mœr. Within the memory of man no one had ever harried between the two towns of Bergen and Trondheim. Jón, the son of Hallkel Húk, collecting a force of farmers, attacked the pillagers, captured Kolbein Óthi, and slew every one of his crew. After that he sought out others and encountered seven ships and attacked them. But Hallkel, Jón’s father, did not come to reinforce him as had been agreed upon. Many a good farmer fell there, and Jón himself was wounded.


Hákon sailed south to Bergen with his fleet, and when they arrived at Stjórnvelta1 they learned that King Ingi and Grégóríús had come from the east to Bergen a few days previously, so they did not dare to proceed to Bergen. They sailed south outside the skerries, and on their way met three ships with followers of King Ingi, who had been delayed on their way from the east. They were commanded by Gyrth Ámundason, the foster brother of King Ingi—he was married to Gyrith, the sister of Grégóríús—by Gyrth Lawman, the son of Gunnhild, and by Hávarth Klíning. Hákon then had Gyrth Ámundason and Hávarth Klíning killed, but Gyrth Lawman he took with him as he proceeded to Vík.


Chapter 5. Grégóríús Is for Attacking Hákon


When King Ingi learned of these happenings, he sailed east after them. They met east in the [Gaut Elf] River. King Ingi anchored in the northern [western] branch of the river and reconnoitered to find where Hákon’s fleet lay. He made fast outside the island of Hísing, waiting there for his scouts. And when they returned, they reported to the king that they had seen the fleet of King Hákon and what preparations they had made. They told him that they were moored by the piles and had tied the sterns of their vessels to them. “They have two merchantmen, such as frequent the Baltic, and have placed them outside of the other ships.” On these merchantmen were fortified crow’s-nests on the mastheads, and likewise on the prows of both.


When the king had learned what arrangements the enemies had made, he had the trumpets blown to summon all his army to a council meeting. And as soon as it had assembled, the king sought the advice of his troops, calling on Grégóríús Dagsson and Erling Skakki, his brother-in-law, as well as on other landed-men and skippers, and telling them of the [defensive] arrangements made by Hákon and his followers.


Grégóríús was the first to answer and reveal his opinion. He spoke as follows: “We have had several encounters with Hákon, when most often they had more numerous troops [than we], yet came off second best. But now we have the larger force by far; and it will seem likely to those men who have but recently lost good kinsmen through them, that here they will have a good chance for revenge, because Hákon’s men have now for a long time eluded us, this summer. We have often said that if ever they waited for us, as we are told is the case now, we would risk an encounter with them. Now I shall declare that so far as I am concerned, I want to engage them in battle, if that is not against the king’s wishes; because I consider it likely that, as before, they will yield ground if we attack them briskly. And I shall attack them where others think it most dangerous.”


There was much applause to Grégóríús’ speech, and all declared they were ready to do battle with Hákon. Then all the ships were rowed up the river till the two fleets came in sight of each other. Thereupon King Ingi’s fleet left the current and steered into the lee of the island [of Hísing]. Then King Ingi spoke to all the skippers, bidding them make ready to attack. Then he addressed Erling Skakki, saying, as was true, that no one in that army was a wiser man nor more experienced in battle, though some were more impetuous. Then he spoke to a number of landed-men, calling several by name, and concluded by asking each and every one to give such advice as might be most helpful, when all should be agreed on one plan.


Chapter 6. Erling Counsels Against an Attack


Erling Skakki replied to the king’s speech as follows: “I owe it to you, sir king, to make answer to your speech. And if you are anxious to know what my advice would be, I shall let you hear it. The plan which has been proposed is straight counter to my mind; for I consider it unwise to fight them as conditions are now, though we have a large and fine army. If we were to attack them, rowing against this current, with three men in each compartment, then one will have to row and one other, to shield him. Then what would that mean except that but one third of our force would be left to fight with? It would seem to me that those who do the rowing and turn their backs to the enemy will not be of much use in battle. Give me time to devise a plan, and I promise you that before three days have elapsed I shall devise a stratagem to attack them more easily.” And it was clear from Erling’s speech that he was against making an attack. Nevertheless many others urged it, saying that Hákon and his men would escape to land as before—“and then they will get away from us,” they said, “whereas now they have but few troops, and we have them altogether in our power.” Grégóríús made but a few remarks, cuttingly observing that the main reason for Erling’s being against an attack was that he wanted to scout the counsels which he, Grégóríús had given, rather than that he had a better understanding of these matters than others.


Chapter 7. King Ingi Adopts Erling’s Plan


King Ingi then said to Erling, “Brother-in-law Erling,” said he, “now we mean to follow your advice, how to manage the attack; but because the leaders are bent on that, we shall attack the enemy today.”


Then Erling said: “Let all skiffs and light ships row around the island and up the eastern fork of the river, and then come down on them and try to detach them from the piles. Then we shall row at them with the big ships from below; but the outcome will show whether they who now oppose me will fight harder than I in the same measure as they are more insistent on it.”


This counsel was approved by all. A point of land jutted out between Ingi’s fleet and that of Hákon, so that neither could see the ships of the other side. And when the flotilla of skiffs came rowing down the river, Hákon’s men caught sight of them. Before that they had held a council and discussed their plans. There were some who supposed that King Ingi would attack them, but many considered that he wouldn’t trust himself to do so since the attack seemed to be delayed and because they had confidence in their own preparations and their forces.


There were many men of high rank in their fleet. There was Sigurth of Reyr and the two sons of Símun. Also Níkolás Skjaldvararson and Eindrithi, the son of Jón Mornef, who at that time was the most prominent as well as the most popular man in the province of Trondheim. Many others there were landed-men and district chieftains.


Now when they saw that Ingi’s men with many ships rowed downstream, the followers of Hákon thought that Ingi and his force wanted to flee, so they cut their cables, took to the oars, and rowed after them, intending to pursue them. The ships were carried along by the fast current which bore them past the point of land which previously had concealed one from the other; and then they saw that the main portion of Ingi’s fleet lay along the island of Hísing. The followers of Ingi now [on their part] caught sight of Hákon’s ships and thought they were about to attack.


Then there arose a great tumult, with clashing of arms and shouts of encouragement, and they raised the war cry. But Hákon’s men steered their ships to the northern bank of the river where there is a small indentation, and where they got out of the current. There they prepared for defense, making fast to the land with stern cables and turning their prows out [toward the river]. They fastened their ships together and placed the Baltic merchantmen outside the other vessels, one upstream and one downstream, tying them fast to the warships. The ship of King Hákon lay in the center of the fleet, with Sigurth’s ship beside it and that of Níkolás on the other side, and next to his, that of Eindrithi Jónsson. All the smaller ships were on the flanks. Nearly all the ships they had filled with stones and weapons.


Chapter 8. Sigurth of Reyr Exhorts Hákon’s Troops


Sigurth of Reyr spoke to the following effect: “It is likely that now will happen what for a long time has been predicted for us, namely that we shall encounter Ingi in battle. And we have also for a long time prepared against it, and many of our companies have boasted that they would not flee or flinch fighting against King Ingi or Grégóríús, and it is a good thing to recall their words now. But we who on earlier occasions have had somewhat of a drubbing [from them] may talk about that with less confidence; and the fact is, as everyone has heard, that we have very often come off second best in encounters with them. But all the same it behooves us to face them in the most manful fashion and stand fast; for this is the [only] way for us to be victorious. And though we have a somewhat smaller force, yet fate will decide which side shall win.


“The best hope we have for our cause is that God knows that we have the right on our side. Ingi has already cut down his two brothers, and no one is so blind as not to know what atonement for the death of his father is in store for King Hákon, and that is, to be cut down like his other kinsmen, and that will become apparent this very day.


“From the beginning, Hákon demanded no more of Norway for himself than a third, such as his father had had, and that was denied him. But in my opinion Hákon is more entitled to the inheritance of Eystein, his uncle, than Ingi or Símun Skálp or the other men who made away with King Eystein. To many who are anxious for the salvation of their soul and who have committed such monstrous misdeeds as has Ingi, it would seem overweening before God to call themselves kings; and I marvel that God abides his audacity, and it may be that God will cast him down through us.


“Let us fight bravely, for God will give us victory. But if we fall, God will make retribution for that with manifold joys if he does give evil men the power to overcome us. Let us advance calmly and not be overcome with fright if there is battle. Let each and every one take care of himself and his comrades, and God of us all.”


Sigurth’s speech was much applauded, and everybody vowed they would give a good account of themselves. King Hákon went aboard one of the Baltic merchantmen, and was surrounded by a wall of shields, but his standard was erected on the warship on which he had been before.


Chapter 9. Grégóríús and Erling Counsel the King Not to Enter the Fight


Now to tell about Ingi’s men: when they saw that Hákon’s troops prepared for battle—only the river was between them—they sent a swift boat after that portion of their fleet which had rowed away, with the message that they turn about. But the king and the rest of the fleet waited for them and made ready for the attack. Then the chieftains spoke [to their crews] advising them of their intentions, especially which ships should lie [closest to the enemy].


Grégóríús said, “We have a large and well-equipped force. Now it is my advice that you, sir king, be not in the attack; for if you live, all is well, and no one knows where a stray arrow may hit. They have taken such measures that from the fortified crow’s-nest on the merchant ships they can launch both stones and shot. Then it is somewhat less risky for those who remain at a distance. The enemy has a force not too big for us landed-men to take on. I shall lay my ship alongside their largest one. This time, too, I don’t believe we will have to wait long before we reach a decision, for so it has been most often in our former contests with them, even though the difference in numbers was in their favor then.” All approved what Grégóríús said about the king’s not taking part in the battle.


Then spoke Erling Skakki, “With this advice I concur, sir king, that you do not take part in the battle. Their preparations seem to me to be such that we shall have to be on our guard lest we suffer great loss of life from them. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A great many were against the counsel I gave earlier in the day, saying I did not want to fight. Now it would seem to me greatly to our advantage that the enemy is no longer fastened to the piles. And now things have turned out so that I shall not dissuade from making an attack, for I see, as all will understand, how important it is to disperse this band of robbers who have gone about all the country, pilfering and plundering, so that afterwards people may cultivate their land in peace and serve one king, one who is as good and just as is King Ingi, who yet has had trouble and difficulty from the overbearing and iniquity of his kinsmen and has been a shield for all the people, incurring much danger to bring peace to the country.”


Erling spoke long and eloquently, and so did several chieftains, and all to the same effect, all urging to do battle. They waited till all their forces were gathered. At that time King Ingi had the ship called Bœkisúthin;1 and he heeded the prayer of his friends not to participate in the battle but remained behind by the island.


Chapter 10. Ivar Fights Grégóríús and Is Helped by Him to Escape


Now when the fleet was ready for action, it rowed to the attack, and both armies raised the battle cry. Ingi’s followers did not fasten their ships together and did not proceed as a unit, because they rowed across all of the current and the larger ships drifted considerably. Erling Skakki laid his ship alongside of King Hákon’s, wedging its prow between that ship and Sigurth’s. Then the battle began. But Grégóríús’ ship ran aground and tilted much to one side. As a consequence they did not in the beginning take part in the fight. And when Hákon’s men saw his plight they laid their ships alongside his and attacked while Grégóríús’ ship lay fast. Then Ívar, the son of Hákon Maw, moved up his ship to that of Grégóríús so that their poops drifted together. Ívar cast a boat-hook about Grégóríús’ middle and pulled Grégóríús toward the railing, but the scythe slipped up his side. Still Ívar almost managed to drag him overboard. Grégóríús suffered but a slight wound [from it], because he wore plate armor. Ívar shouted over to him, saying he [Grégóríús] had stout armor. Grégóríús replied, saying that the way he [Ívar] went to work, he [Grégóríús] had need for it, nor was it any too thick.


At that time Grégóríús and his crew were almost on the point of having to leap overboard, when Áslák the Young cast an anchor on board his ship and pulled them off the shoal. Then Grégóríús [in his turn] attacked Ívar’s ship, and they fought for a long time. Grégóríús’ ship was larger and had a more numerous crew. A great many fell on Ívar’s ship, and some leapt overboard. Ívar was seriously wounded so that he was unable to fight, and when his ship was cleared of men, Grégóríús had him brought to land and helped him to escape, and they were friends thereafter.


Chapter 11. King Ingi’s Forces Are Victorious


Now when King Ingi and his men saw that Grégóríús had run aground, the king called on his men to row up to him. He said, “That was a most unwise counsel for us to stay behind when our friends went to battle. We have the largest ship with the best crew in the whole fleet, and now I see that Grégóríús, the man to whom I owe most gratitude, needs help; so let us join battle and fight as hard as we can. Also, it is most proper that I be in the battle, for if we win victory, then it will be mine. And even though I knew beforehand that we would lose the fight, yet the only proper thing for us to do is to join in the fight with our men; because I shall not be able to undertake anything if I lose the men who have protected me and are the most gallant and who for a long time have governed for me and my kingdom.”


And so he bade them raise his standard, which was done, and they rowed across the river. At that time the battle raged most furiously, and the king had no chance to share in the attack, so crowded lay the ships there. Then they rowed close to the Baltic merchantmen, and there they were greeted by a hail of spears and heavy missiles and stones so big that nothing could stand against it, and they had to leave that place. But when the men of the fleet saw that the king had come they made room for him, and then he rowed alongside the ship of Eindrithi Jónsson. Then Hákon’s men abandoned their small ships and boarded the merchantmen, and some went on land.


Erling Skakki and his men were engaged in a hard fight. He was stationed by the mast. He called on his forecastlemen to board the royal ship [of Hákon]. They replied that this was no easy matter, that the railing was protected by iron [spikes]. So Erling went forward to the forecastle and stayed there but a little while before they made ready to board the royal ship and [then] cleared it of men. Thereupon the whole army [of the enemy] took to flight. Many leapt overboard, many fell, but the great majority managed to reach land; as says Einar Skúlason:




597.   Many a man off bloody
mere-ship’s forecastle tumbled.
Got the giantess’ jade1 his
jaws filled. Drifted corpses.
Reddened was the river’s
rapid flow with wound-gore.
Was the warmish wolf’s-drink
washed there into Karmt’s-ring.2




598.   Cleared of men were many
mast-hogs3 floating down the
river—rang ’gainst helmets
red steel—men drew bowstrings—
from the fray ere landward
fled warriors from sea-steeds.
Fewer grew Hákon’s force in
fiercest storm-of-arrows.


About Grégóríús Dagsson, Einar composed the flokk4 which is called Elfarvísur [River Ditties]. King Ingi gave quarter to Níkolás Skjaldvararson after his ship had been cleared of men, whereupon he went over to King Ingi and stayed with him as long as he lived. Eindrithi Jónsson leapt onto the ship of King Ingi when his own ship had been cleared of men, and asked for quarter. This, the king wished to grant him, but the son of Hávarth Klíning ran up and gave him the death blow. He was much blamed for his deed, but he said that Eindrithi had been the cause of his father Hávarth’s death. Eindrithi was much mourned, most in the Trondheim District.


Many of Hákon’s men had fallen, but not any other chieftains. Of Ingi’s troops few were slain but many wounded. Hákon fled up on land, but King Ingi proceeded north to Vík with his fleet. Both he and Grégóríús dwelled there during the winter. But when some of King Ingi’s men returned to Bergen from the battle, [including] Bergljót and his brothers, the sons of Ívar of Elda, they killed Níkolás Beard, who had been King Hákon’s steward, and then returned to their home north in Trondheim. King Hákon arrived in the north before Yule, and Sigurth sometimes stayed in his home at Reyr. Grégóríús had been permitted by Ingi to give him quarter and that he should have possession of all his properties, because Grégóríús and Sigurth were closely related.


King Hákon was in Kaupang during Yule, and one evening during Yule some of his men fought in the guardsmen’s hall, with the result that seven were killed and many wounded. And after the eighth day of Yule his followers went to Elda, [headed by] Álf Hrothi, the son of Óttar Birting, with nearly eighty men. They arrived there early in the evening, when the people inside were drunk, and set fire to the hall. They came out to defend themselves. There fell Bergljót, the son of Ívar, and Ogmund, his brother, together with many others. Nearly thirty men had been inside.


During the winter, Andréás, the son of Símun, died north in Kaupang. He was the foster brother of King Hákon, and his death was greatly mourned. Erling Skakki and the followers of King Ingi who were in Bergen talked about sailing north, that winter, and capturing Hákon, but nothing came of it. Grégóríús sent the message from Konungahella in the east, that if he were as near to Hákon as was Erling, he would not sit quiet in Bergen when Hákon had friends of King Ingi and their companions killed in Trondheim.


Chapter 12. Grégóríús and Erling Fight Each Other in Bergen


King Ingi and Grégóríús sailed to Bergen in spring. But as soon as Hákon and Sigurth learned that Ingi had left Vík, they journeyed the landway east to Vík. Now when King Ingi and his fleet arrived in Bergen, a feud arose between Halldór Brynjólfsson and Bjorn Níkolásson. [One time] when one of Bjorn’s housecarls met one [of Halldór’s] down by the piers he asked him why he looked so pale. He answered that he had had himself bled. “I would not become so deadly pale when bled as you are.”


“And I believe,” said the other, “that you would stand it worse and in less manly fashion.”


It took no more than that to start an altercation. Then one word brought on the other until they bandied words and then fought with one another. Then the word came to Halldór Brynjólfsson that one of his housecarls was wounded on the piers. That was when Halldór was drinking in a house near by. Then he went to that place; but before that, some of Bjorn’s housecarls had [joined the fray], and it seemed to Halldór his men were being overborne and so [he and his men] shoved Bjorn’s housecarls and struck them. Then Bjorn Bukk was told that the men from Vík were beating his housecarls down by the piers. Then Bjorn and his men armed themselves and ran down to avenge their men, and much blood was shed. Then Grégóríús was told that Halldór, his kinsman needed help, that his housecarls were being cut down outside on the Street. Thereupon Grégóríús and his men quickly put on their coats of mail and hastened down to them. Then Erling Skakki learned that Bjorn, his sister’s son, was fighting with Halldór and Grégóríús down by the piers and that he needed help. Then he hurried there with a great force and asked people to aid him, saying that it would be a disgrace for them “if one man from Vík is to get the better of us here in our native town—that would be an everlasting reproach to us.”




King Ingi reconciles Erling and Grégóríús.


Fourteen men fell in that encounter, of which nine were killed outright and five died of the wounds they received, and many were wounded. Then word reached King Ingi that Grégóríús and Erling were fighting each other down by the piers, and he hastened there, intending to separate them, but could not prevail upon them, because both were so much beside themselves with fury. Then Grégóríús called out to King Ingi, begging him to go away as he could do nothing about it as matters stood and declaring it would be the greatest mischance if anything happened to him, “because one never knows who might want to do some mischief if he thought he had the chance.” Then the king betook himself away. But when the worst fight was over, Grégóríús and his men went up to Saint Nicholas Church, followed by Erling and his men and called out to one another. Then King Ingi approached them again and reconciled them, and then both desired that he should be sole arbiter between them. At that time information reached them that Hákon was in Vík, so King Ingi and Grégóríús sailed east with a great fleet of ships. But when they arrived in the east, Hákon and his men fled, and it came to no battle. Then King Ingi proceeded up the fjord to Ósló, but Grégóríús remained in Konungahella.


Chapter 13. Hákon and Sigurth Escape from Grégóríús


Shortly afterwards, Grégóríús got news that Hákon and his men were at a place called Saurbýir. That is up toward the forests. He went there, arriving at night, and thought that Hákon and Sigurth were in the larger of the houses there, and put it to the torch. However, Hákon and Sigurth were in the smaller house, and when they saw the fire, they hastened to help the others. There fell Munán, the son of Áli the Shieldless, who was a brother of King Sigurth, King Hákon’s father. Grégóríús and his men slew him as he was about to help those who were burned in the house. They made their way out, but many were killed there.


Ásbjorn Jalda managed to get out of the building, sorely wounded. He was a great viking. A farmer encountered him, and Ásbjorn asked the man to let him escape, saying he would give him money in return. The farmer replied he would rather do what he had a mind to do. And saying he had often stood in dread of him he gave him a mortal blow.


Hákon and Sigurth managed to escape, but many of their men were slain. Then Grégóríús returned east [south] to Konungahella. A short time afterwards, Hákon and Sigurth came to the estate of Halldór Brynjólfsson at Vettaland, set fire to the buildings and burned them down. Halldór issued [from the burning building] and was at once cut down, as were his housecarls. Altogether, nearly twenty men were slain. Sigríth, his wife, Grégóríús’ sister, they let escape to the forest, clad only in her nightgown. They captured Ámundi, son of Gyrth Ámundason and Gyríth, daughter of Dag, and sister’s son of Grégóríús, and took him away with them. He was five years of age then.


Chapter 14. Grégóríús Falls Crossing a River to Attack Hákon


Grégóríús was informed of these happenings and was greatly affected by them. He made careful inquiries where Hákon and his men were. Then he left Konungahella toward the end of Yule with a large force. They arrived at Fors on the thirteenth day of Yule [January 7th] and lodged there overnight. He had the matins read for him on the last day of Yule and afterwards, the gospel. That was on a Saturday. And when Grégóríús and his men caught sight of Hákon’s force, it seemed to them much smaller than theirs. A river ran between them where the encounter took place. It is called Befja. 1 The ice on it was unreliable, because the flood-tide from the sea flowed under the ice. Hákon and his men had chopped holes in the ice and covered them [with snow], so that one could not see them. When Grégóríús arrived at the river he remarked that the ice seemed unreliable to him and said it was advisable to proceed to the bridge which spanned the river a little ways above. The farmers [in his army] made the remark that they did not know what was the reason he did not dare to attack the enemy by crossing the ice, seeing how small their force was. They thought the ice safe enough, that maybe he was fey. 2 Grégóríús replied, saying it had rarely been necessary to urge him to attack, and that they did not need to do that now, either. And he bade them keep up with him and not remain standing on the shore if he ventured on to the ice, that it was their counsel to walk on unsafe ice, which he was unwilling to do—“and yet I will not refuse your challenge,” he said, and ordered his banner to be borne forward, and advanced upon the ice. But as soon as the farmers saw that the ice was unsafe, they turned back.


Grégóríús broke through the ice, but not too deeply. He cautioned his men to proceed warily, but not more than some twenty men followed him, the remainder had all turned back. A man in Hákon’s troop shot at him, hitting him in the throat. Grégóríús fell there and the twenty men with him, and that was the end of his life. It was everybody’s opinion that he had been the greatest chieftain among the landed-men of Norway in the memory of men then living, and that he was the man best disposed to us Icelanders ever since the passing of King Eystein the Elder. His body was brought up to Hofund and buried in Gimsey3 at the nunnery there. At that time, Baugeith, Grégóríús’ sister, was abbess there.


Chapter 15. King Ingi Vows to Avenge Grégóríús


Two king’s stewards were sent to Ósló with the news of what had happened. And when they arrived there, they requested to speak with the king. He asked what news they had to tell him. “The death of Grégóríús Dagsson,” they said.


“How did such a calamity come about?” asked the king. They told him. The king answered, “Then those prevailed who had little experience.” It is told that he was so affected that he cried like a child. And when he had regained his composure, he said this, “I had wanted to join Grégóríús as soon as I had heard of the slaying of Halldór, because I thought for certain that he would not remain inactive long before proceeding to avenge Halldór. But these people here considered that nothing was as important as this Yule banquet and that nothing ought to interrupt it. Because I know for sure that if I had been there, they would have proceeded with greater circumspection, or else Grégóríús and I would have gone to one and the same banquet.1 There now has passed away the man who has done most for me and has kept the land together for me. Until now I had thought that death would not separate us for long. Now I shall do my utmost to proceed against Hákon and his band, and then one of two things will happen: either I shall fall or else triumph over Hákon and his men. Nor is a man like Grégóríús avenged sufficiently, even though all of them perish.” Somebody made answer and said it would not be hard to find them, that they meant to encounter him here.


Kristín, the daughter of King Sigurth and first cousin of Ingi resided in Ósló at that time. The king learned that she intended to leave the town. He sent a messenger to inquire why she wanted to do so. She said she thought there was too much commotion there and that it was not a place for women to remain in. The king requested her not to depart. “If we are successful, as I believe, you will be safe here; but if I fall, my friends will not be able to attend to my body. And then you shall ask to be permitted to do so. And in so doing you will repay me for having treated you kindly.”


Chapter 16. Hákon’s Army Approaches Ósló


On the evening of Saint Blasius’ Mass [February 3rd] the information was brought to King Ingi that Hákon could be expected to arrive before the town. Then King Ingi by trumpet signal called together his troops out of the town, and when counted by tallies there were nearly forty hundred [4800] men. The king ordered the battle array to be long and not more than five men deep. Then some spoke to the king, advising him not to take part in the fighting, that there was much at stake if he did—“but let your brother Orm head the army.”




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


The king replied: “If Grégóríús were alive and here, and I had fallen and he had to avenge me, I don’t think he would go into hiding, but would take part in the battle. And though I be less fit [for fighting] than he was, because of my disabilities, I shall be no less willing to fight than he; and don’t think for a moment that I shall not be in the battle.”


It is told that Gunnhild, who had been the wife of Símun and Hákon’s foster mother, had a sorceress sit by a crossroads and conjure spirits to have Hákon win the victory, and it was foretold that they must fight against Ingi at night, but never in daytime, and that they might have success then. Thórdís Skeggja was the name of the woman who is said to have practiced sorcery to procure victory for Hákon, but I cannot vouch for that.


Símun Skálp had gone into town and lain down to sleep when the battle cry waked him. But as night wore on the information came to King Ingi that Hákon and his army were approaching on the ice, for the fjord was frozen all the way from the town to the island of Hofuthey [Main Island].1