Chapter 17. King Ingi Refuses to Flee


King Ingi and his army then went out upon the ice and he placed his battle array in front of the town. Símun Skálp was in the wing which extended to Thrælaborg; and in the wing which was based on Nunnusetr, there were Guthröth, king over the Hebrides, who was the son of Óláf Klíning, and Jón, the son of Svein Bergthórsson Bukk. And when Hákon approached the battle lines of King Ingi, both armies raised the war cry. Both Guthröth and Jón made signs to Hákon’s force, letting them know where they stood. Thereupon Hákon’s men turned toward them, and Guthröth’s troops promptly fled—they numbered nearly fifteen hundred [1800] men. And Jón and a large force with him went over to Hákon and fought together with them. King Ingi was told that. He said, “There is a great difference between my friends. Never would Grégóríús have done that while he lived.”


Then the king was advised by some to mount a horse, to leave the battle, and ride to the Raumaríki District. “There you will find plenty of men even today.”


“I have no desire to do so,” said the king. “I have often heard you say, and I think there was truth in it, that Eystein, my brother, was little favored by fortune, once he took to flight, and he was well equipped with the qualities that adorn a king. Now it is easy to see how, with my disability, I shall have little success, if I do what caused him so much trouble, considering the difference between us in health and strength in every respect. I was two years old when I was chosen to be king in Norway, and now I am fully twenty-five. It seems to me I have had more difficulties and responsibilities in my kingship than pleasure and ease. I have had many battles, sometimes with a bigger force [at my command], sometimes with a smaller one. I have been most fortunate in that I never had to flee. May God dispose of my life, how long it shall last; but I shall never take to flight.”


Chapter 18. King Ingi Falls in Battle


Now when Jón and his followers had broken the battle array of King Ingi, the men there and many in positions near them, fled, so that the ranks broke and fell into disorder, and then Hákon’s troops attacked strongly. By that time it was almost dawn. Then an attack was made on the standard of King Ingi, and in this charge fell King Ingi; but Orm, his brother, kept up the battle. Then many fled up into the town. Twice after the fall of the king, Orm went up into the town to encourage the troops, and both times he returned onto the ice, keeping up the battle. Then Hákon and his men attacked the wing headed by Símun Skálp, and in this charge there fell of Ingi’s force Guthbrand Skáfhoggsson, the brother-in-law of the king; but Símun Skálp and Hallvarth Hikri were pitted against each other and battled with their troops and gradually drifted up to Thrælaborg. In this charge both Símun and Hallvarth fell.


Orm, the king’s brother, made a praiseworthy stand, yet in the end had to flee. That same winter Orm had been betrothed to Rogna, daughter of Níkolás Mási. Before, she had been the wife of King Eystein Haraldsson, and the marriage was to be celebrated the Sunday after. Saint Blasius’ Mass was on a Friday. Orm fled to Sweden to his brother Magnús, who ruled there at that time. Their brother, Rognvald, had an earldom there. They were the sons of Ingiríth and Heinrek the Halt. He was the son of Svein Sveinsson, king of Denmark.


Kristín Kingsdaughter1 tended to King Ingi’s body, and he was interred in the stone wall on the south side of Saint Hallvarth’s Church, outside the choir. He had then been king for twenty-five years. In that battle many fell on both sides, yet many more of Ingi’s men. On Hákon’s side, Árni Fríreksson was among the casualties. Hákon and his men ate up the marriage feast and took an immense amount of booty besides.


Chapter 19. Kristín Has a Spy Listen to Hákon’s Council


Thereupon King Hákon subjected all the country to his rule, putting his men into all districts and likewise the towns. King Hákon and his followers held their meetings in Saint Hallvarth’s Church when discussing the government of the country. Kristín Kingsdaughter gave money to the priest who had charge of the church keys, to conceal one of her men in the church so he could listen to what Hákon and his followers talked about. And when she got to know what their plans were she sent word to Erling Skakki in Bergen, her husband, never to trust them.


Chapter 20. King Óláf’s Sword Hneitir Is Given to His Church in Miklagarth


As was written before, at the Battle of Stiklarstathir King Óláf when he was wounded had cast away his sword Hneitir. Now a certain man, of Swedish origin, had broken his own sword and picked up the sword Hneitir and fought with it. That man escaped from the battle and, together with other fugitives, got back to Sweden and returned to his farm. He had the sword in his possession all his life, and after him, his son; and then one after the other of his kinsfolk had it. And whoever handed it on to another told the name of the sword and whence it came.


Now long afterward, in the days of Kirjalax,1 the Emperor of Miklagarth, there were numerous troops of Varangians in that city. It happened, one summer, when the emperor was on some warlike expedition, that the troops slept in their tents, with the Varangians keeping watch and guarding the king. They lay on the ground outside the camp. Between them, they divided the night into watches, and those men who had had the watch lay down to sleep. All were fully armed. It was their custom that everyone who lay down to sleep had his helmet on his head, his shield over him, and the sword under his head, with his right hand resting on its hilt. One of their comrades who by lot had had the watch during the last part of the night, awoke at dawn, and found his sword gone. But when he searched for it he saw it lying far from him on the ground. He got up and fetched it, thinking that his companions who had had the watch, might have played a practical joke on him by luring it from him. But that they denied. The same occurred three nights in succession. Then he himself marvelled greatly, and so did others who had seen it or had heard of it, and he was asked what that might signify. Then he told them that the sword was called Hneitir and had belonged to Saint Óláf and had been wielded by him in the Battle of Stiklarstathir, and he also related what had happened with the sword afterwards. In time, this was told to King Kirjalax. He had the possessor of that sword called to his presence and gave him gold for tenfold the value of the sword. The king had the sword carried to Saint Óláf’s Church which is maintained by the Varangians and hung it up above the altar. Eindrithi the Young was in Miklagarth at the time these events came to pass. He related them in Norway, according to the testimony of Einar Skúlason in the drápa2 which he composed about Holy King Óláf, where this occurrence is mentioned.


Chapter 21. Saint Óláf Gives Victory to the Varangians


The following happened in Greece, the time King Kirjalax ruled there and was on an expedition against Blokumannaland [Walachia]. When he arrived at the Pézína Plains,1 a heathen king advanced against him with an irresistible host. They had with them a company of horsemen, and huge wagons with embrasures on top. And when they prepared their night quarters, they drew up their wagons, one beside the other, around their tents, and dug a large moat outside of that, so that altogether it made a strong fortification like a stronghold. The heathen king was blind. And when the Greek king arrived the heathens drew up their battle array on the plain outside the rampart of chariots, and the Greeks drew up theirs confronting them. They rode one against the other and fought, and the outcome was unfortunate for the Greeks. They fled, after losing many men, and the heathens won the victory.


Then the king drew up an array of Franks and Flemings, and they rode against the heathens and fought them, and they fared like the former, they lost many killed, and all fled who escaped from the battle. Then the king of the Greeks grew wroth with his warriors, but they answered him, asking him to use the Varangians, his wine bibbers. The king replied that he did not want to ruin his most precious troops by pitting a few men, though brave, against such a large army.


Then Thórir Helsing, who at that time commanded the Varangians, made this answer to the king: “Even though there were burning fire before us, yet I and my troops would leap into it if I were sure that it would procure peace for you, sir king.”


The king replied, “Pray then to Saint Óláf, your king, to aid you and give you victory.”


The Varangians numbered four hundred and fifty [540] men. They made a solemn vow, promising to erect a church in Miklagarth, at their own expense and with the support of good men, and have that church dedicated to the honor and glory of Holy King Óláf.


Thereupon the Varangians ran forward on the plain, and when the heathens saw that, they told their king that still another force of the Greek king was advancing—“and,” they said, “this is but a handful of men.”


Then their king said, “Who is that princely man riding on a white horse in front of their band?”


“We do not see him,” they said.


There was such a great difference in the numbers between the two hosts that sixty heathens fought against one Christian, but none the less the Varangians most gallantly advanced to do battle. But as soon as they met, a fear and terror descended upon the heathen host so that they took to flight immediately, and the Varangians pursued them, quickly slaying a great multitude. But when the Greeks and Franks, who before had fled from the heathens, saw that, they joined in the pursuit with them. By that time the Varangians had gotten into the fortification made by the wagons, and then there ensued a great carnage. And during the flight of the heathens, the heathen king was captured and brought along by the Varangians. Then the Christians captured the tents of the heathens and the rampart of wagons.




The Saga of Magnús Erlingsson


Chapter 1. Erling Skakki Assumes Leadership


After Erling had ascertained what the plans of Hákon and his followers were, he sent word to all chieftains whom he knew to have been trusty friends of King Ingi, also to the body of his followers and retainers who had escaped, and to Grégóríús’ housecarls, and set a time for their meeting. And when they came together and had held a council they agreed at once that they should keep together, and they bound themselves with fast agreements to stick to that. Then they debated whom they should choose to be king. Erling Skakki spoke and inquired whether the chieftains and other landed-men were agreeable to electing for king the son of Símun Skálp, who was also the son of King Harald Gilli’s daughter and to have Jón Hallkelsson head their forces. Jón declined. Then they asked Níkolás Skjaldvararson, the sister’s son of King Magnús Barelegs, if he wished to be leader of their forces. He answered to this effect, that it would be his advice to elect as king a person descended from the royal house, and to let that man who had the necessary qualifications for that task be leader of their forces, because then it would be easier to collect an army. They inquired of Árni, the husband of Queen Ingiríth, if he was agreeable to have one of his sons, brothers of King Ingi, elected king. He answered that the son of Kristín, and daughter’s son of King Sigurth, was by birth best entitled to be king in Norway. “And,” he said, “he will have with him, for administering the country, a man who is in duty bound to be counsellor both for him and the kingdom; and that is his father Erling, a man wise, determined, much tested in battle, and an excellent ruler. Nor will he fail in this business if [only] luck is on his side.”


Many were well agreed with this proposal. Erling made this reply: “It would seem to me that most of the men who have been approached about this matter are unwilling to undertake this responsibility. There seems to me an equal chance, now that we engage in this business, whether they that would hazard to lead our forces will also achieve royal dignity; or whether matters will turn out so—as has been the case with many who have engaged in such risky business—that through it they have lost, both all their possessions and even their lives. But if success should crown this undertaking, then perchance there may be those who would like to have had this opportunity [to make good]. And then he who has ventured to undergo the risk must take strong precautions against incurring the opposition or enmity of those who now go along in this action.”


All promised to join the league in complete good faith. Erling said [further], “I will say this of myself, that I would almost prefer death to being subservient to Hákon. And although this plan of ours seems to me extremely risky, yet would I rather take the chance of following your judgment. I shall take upon myself the leadership of our forces if that is the wish and desire of you all, and if you will promise upon your oath to stick to this agreement.” All were agreed, and it was decided at that meeting to elect Magnús Erlingsson king. Thereupon they summoned an assembly in the town [of Bergen], and at this assembly Magnús was elected king over all the land. At that time he was five years old. Then all present who had been followers of King Ingi, swore him allegiance, and each of them retained the same position and title he had had under King Ingi.


Chapter 2. Erling Seeks the Help of King Valdamar


Erling Skakki prepared for his expedition by mustering ships, and took along with him King Magnús and all those retainers [of Ingi] who were there. With him were Árni, Queen Ingiríth’s husband, and Ingiríth herself, the mother of King Ingi; also, her two sons. Also, Jón Kútiza, son of Sigurth Stork, the housecarls of Erling, and likewise those who had been the housecarls of Grégóríús. Altogether they had ten ships. They sailed south to Denmark and sought out King Valdamar and Búriz Heinreksson, brother of King Ingi. King Valdamar1 was a close kin of King Magnús. Ingilborg, King Valdamar’s mother, and Málmfríth the mother of Kristín, the mother of King Magnús, were sisters, being the daughters of King Harald of Garthar in the east. He was the son of Valdamar Jarizleifsson. King Valdamar received them well, and he and Erling spent a long time together in meetings and making plans, the upshot of which was that King Valdamar was to lend King Magnús all the support from Denmark which he would need to take and to maintain possession of Norway, against Valdamar’s obtaining that dominion in Norway which his earlier kinsmen, Harald Gormsson and Svein Forkbeard had had; that is, all of Vík up to Rýgjarbit. This agreement was confirmed by oaths and special covenants. Thereupon Erling and his fleet made ready to leave Denmark and sailed from Vendilskagi [the Skaw].


Chapter 3. Erling Attacks the Town of Túnsberg


In the spring immediately after Easter King Hákon proceeded north to Trondheim. He was then in possession of all the ships King Ingi had owned. Hákon held an assembly in Kaupang and was accepted as king of the whole country. He appointed Sigurth of Reyr earl and gave him an earldom.


Thereupon Hákon and his army returned south and all the way east to Vík. The king sailed to Túnsberg and sent Earl Sigurth to Konungahella to defend the land with part of the army, in case Erling should come from the south.


Erling and his fleet arrived at Agthir and immediately sailed north to Bergen. There they killed Árni Brígitharskalli, a bailiff of King Hákon, then put about to the east from there in order to encounter King Hákon. Earl Sigurth had not become aware of Erling’s coming from the south and remained in the east at the [Gaut Elf] River, while King Hákon was at Túnsberg. Erling moored his ships at Hrossaness,1 remaining there several days. King Hákon made ready for the battle in the town [of Túnsberg]. Erling moved up to the town. They took a merchant ship, loaded it with wood and straw and set fire to it. The wind blew toward the town, and the merchant ship drifted up to the town. Erling had two cables fastened to the merchant ship and secured to two skiffs that were rowed in the same direction as the ship drifted. But when the burning ship had approached close to the town, the men rowing the skiffs held it by the cables so it would not set the town on fire. The smoke drifted so thickly toward the town that the men on the piers, where King Hákon had arrayed his troops, could not see anything. Thereupon Erling brought up all his fleet from windward of the fire and had his men shoot at the troops on the piers.


Now when the townsmen saw that the fire approached their houses and many were wounded by arrow shots, they held a council and sent the priest Hróald Longspeech to ask Erling for quarter for themselves and the town. And as soon as Hróald informed them that quarter would be given they forsook the ranks of King Hákon’s men. But when the force of townsmen had left, the ranks on the piers were thinned out. Then some of King Hákon’s men encouraged them to make a stand, but Onund Símunarson, who then commanded the greater part of the troops, said, “I will not fight to help Earl Sigurth gain power, seeing that he is not present himself.” Then Onund took to flight, as did all the army, together with the king, and escaped into the country. Very many of Hákon’s men fell there. About these events the following verse was composed:




599.   Not e’er for the earl, said
Onund, would he battle,
from the south ere Sigurth
sailed with all his housecarls.
Briskly debarked Magnús’
brave men up the town street,
while King Hákon’s hawks2 as
hurriedly absconded.


Thorbjorn Skakkaskáld puts it this way:




600.   Readily, roomy Túnsberg,
ruler, within, didst thou—
were reddened beaks of ravenous
ravens—gain the victory.
Townsmen feared the flight of
flashing, deadly arrows,
feared the fire and eke the
fierce bow-bending king’s men.


King Hákon took the mountain road to Trondheim, and when Earl Sigurth learned that, he sailed north outside the skerries with all the ships he could procure, to join him.


Chapter 4. Hákon Escapes to Trondheim


Erling Skakki captured all the ships in Túnsberg which had made up King Hákon’s fleet, among them the one named Bœkisúthin, which King Ingi had possessed. Thereupon he proceeded to subject to Magnús the whole District of Vík as well as all the districts to the north of it, wherever he went; and during the winter he resided in Bergen. Then Erling had Ingibjorn Sipil executed. He was a landed-man of King Hákon in the Fjord District to the north. King Hákon remained in Trondheim during the winter, but in the spring following he summoned a levy and prepared to proceed south against Erling. At that time there were in his company Earl Sigurth, Jón Sveinsson, Eindrithi the Young, Onund Símunarson, Philippús Petrsson, Philippús Gyrtharson, Rognvald Kunta, Sigurth Cape, Sigurth Doublet, Frírek Kœna, Áskel of Forland, Thorbjorn, the son of Gunnar the Treasurer, and Strath-Bjarni.


Chapter 5. Erling Spreads the Rumor that He Will Stay in Bergen


Erling was in Bergen with a large army. He took the measure of putting an embargo on all merchant ships intending to sail north to Kaupang, because he thought that, with ships sailing between the towns, Hákon might too soon find out about his purpose [and] that the townspeople of Bergen would find it more advantageous to obtain the wares on these ships, even though they bought them more cheaply from the owners than they [the owners] might think reasonable, “rather than to have them fall into the hands of our enemies and opponents, to be of use to them.” Now ships were gathered in the town, because many arrived every day and none left. Then Erling ordered his lightest ships to be drawn ashore and had the rumor spread that he intended to stay there and defend himself with the support of his friends and kinsmen.


But on a certain day Erling summoned the skippers to a meeting and there gave permission to all skippers of merchantmen to depart to wherever they wished. Now as soon as the men in command of the merchant ships lying there, all ready to depart with their wares, were given permission by Erling to leave—some had bought goods, some had other errands, and there was a breeze favorable for sailing north along the land—all those ready to sail had left before early afternoon, those with the fastest ships pushing on, each vying with the other. And when this flotilla arrived in Mœr to the north, they encountered King Hákon’s fleet. He himself was there, gathering troops and getting his ships ready, summoning landed-men and the levies. For a long time he had not had news from Bergen, but now he learned one and the same thing from all the ships coming from the south, which was that Erling had drawn his ships up on land in Bergen and that they would have to find him there. They told him that Erling had a large army there.


From there, Hákon sailed to Véey Island and sent Earl Sigurth and Onund Símunarson into the Raums Dale District to recruit for him men and ships. And likewise he sent men into both North and South Mœr. And after King Hákon had remained a few days in the market town [of Véey], he put out again, sailing somewhat farther to the south, thinking that in so doing they could accomplish their business more speedily and that auxiliary troops would join him faster.


It was on Sunday that Erling had given the merchantmen permission to leave from Bergen, and on Tuesday, as soon as the matins had been sung, a signal was given by the trumpet on the royal ship summoning both troops and townsmen to launch the ships that previously had been pulled ashore. Erling called a meeting with his troops and the levied men and informed them of his intentions. He named the men to captain the ships and had the list read to those enrolled on the royal ship. The meeting ended with Erling ordering everyone to betake himself to the station in the ships assigned to him. He announced that any person remaining behind in the town when his ship Bœkisúthin put out should forfeit life or limbs. Orm, the king’s brother, sailed at once in the evening, and most other vessels had been set afloat before then.


Chapter 6. King Hákon’s Fleet Is Taken by Surprise


On Wednesday, before matins had been sung in the town, Erling departed with all the fleet. They had twenty-one ships. There was a brisk breeze from the south along the coast. Erling had with him his son Magnús. Many landed-men were along, and they had a picked crew. When Erling was sailing north, outside the Fjord District, he sent a skiff from the inner passage to the estate of Jón Hallkelsson and had them capture Níkolás, the son of Símun Skálp and Máría, the daughter of Harald Gilli, and they brought him with them out to the fleet, where he was put on the royal ship. Friday, early at dawn, they sailed into Steinavág Bay.


King Hákon was anchored then in the harbor called———,1 with fourteen ships. He himself and his men had gone up on the island to divert themselves, and his landed-men were sitting on a certain rise. They saw a boat rowing toward the island from the south. Two men were in it. They bent down to the keel in rowing and rowed with all their might; and when they made land they did not fasten the boat but took to their heels. Now when the chieftains saw that they said to each other that these men might be able to give them some information. They got up and went toward them. And as they came upon them, Onund Símunarson asked them, “Can you perhaps tell us about Erling Skakki, running as you do?”


Then the man who first caught his breath said, “Here comes Erling sailing from the south toward you with twenty ships or thereabouts, and many of them plenty large, and you may soon see their sails.”


Then Eindrithi the Young said, “ Too close to the nose,’ said the fellow when he was shot in the eye.” Then they hurried to the men who were disporting themselves; and forthwith the trumpet was blown and the battle call sounded for all the troops to go on board the fastest they could. It was the time of the day when the meal was about ready. All headed toward the ships. Then everyone boarded the ship nearest to him, so that the crews were unevenly divided. They took to the oars, some raising the platforms,2 and steered north to Véey Island, because they expected to find many auxiliaries from the townsfolk there.


Chapter 7. King Hákon Is Vanquished and Slain


Soon they saw the sails of Erling’s fleet, and Erling’s men, theirs. Eindrithi the Young had the ship called Draglaun, a large warship of broad beam. It lacked a sufficient crew, because those who had been on it before had rushed aboard other ships. It was the slowest in Hákon’s fleet. And when Eindrithi was off the island of Sekk, the ship Bœkisúthin which Erling steered came up with it and made fast to it. But Hákon had barely arrived at Véey Island when they heard blasts of trumpets, because the ships nearest to Eindrithi’s turned around, wanting to help him, and both sides gave battle just as opportunity offered. Many sails fell athwart the ships. They were not fastened together and lay side by side. This battle did not last long before disorder broke out on King Hákon’s ship. Some fell; some leapt overboard. Hákon cast a grey cloak over himself and leapt onto another ship. But he had not been there long before he realized that he had landed among his enemies, and when he considered the situation and saw none of his men or ships close by, he boarded Bœkisúthin and went forward to the forecastlemen and asked for quarter, and the forecastlemen accepted him among themselves and gave him quarter.


In this fray many men had fallen, but more on the side of Hákon. On the ship Bœkisúthin Níkolás, the son of Símun Skálp was among the dead, and his slaying was attributed to Erling’s men themselves.


After that, there was a lull in the fighting, and the ships separated from one another. Then Erling was told that King Hákon was on his ship and that his forecastlemen had taken him into their company and threatened to defend him. Erling sent a man forward, bidding him tell the forecastlemen to take care that Hákon did not get away; also that he had no objection to giving the king quarter if the chieftains so advised, and if an agreement was reached between the two parties. His forecastle guard as a man called out hailing his decision.


Thereupon Erling had the trumpets blown furiously, bidding his men attack the ships which had not yet been cleared of their crews, saying that they never would have a better chance to avenge King Ingi. Then all raised the battle cry, each urging on the other, and went to the attack. In this tumult King Hákon received a mortal wound. Now when his men became aware of his fall they rowed hard to the attack. They discarded their shields and hewed with both hands, not caring for their lives. This foolhardiness cost them dear, because Erling’s men could see where they were exposed. A great part of King Hákon’s troops fell there. The chief cause for that was that the odds were altogether on Erling’s side; also, Hákon’s men did not shield themselves. But there was no use for Hákon’s men to ask for quarter, excepting those whom some chieftain or other took under his protection and ransomed. The following fell in Hákon’s army: Sigurth Cape, Sigurth Doublet, Rognvald Kunta. However, some ships escaped, the crews rowing into the fjords and thus saving their lives. The body of King Hákon was brought to Raums Dale and interred there. [Later] King Sverri, his brother,1 had King Hákon’s body moved north to Kaupang and entombed in the stone wall in Christ Church, on the south side of the choir.


Chapter 8. King Hákon’s Appearance and Character


Sigurth, Eindrithi the Young, Onund Símunarson, Frírek the Keen, and still other chieftains held their troops together. They left their ships in Raums Dale, and from there journeyed to the Uppland District. Erling Skakki and King Magnús with their fleet proceeded north to Kaupang, subduing all the country to their overlordship wherever they came. Then Erling summoned the Eyrathing Assembly, and there Magnús was elected king over all Norway. Erling remained there but a short time as he did not trust the people of Trondheim to be loyal to him and his son. Magnús was now considered king over all the land.


King Hákon was rather handsome, well-grown, tall and slender. He was very broadshouldered, for which reason his followers called him Hákon the Broadshouldered. Because he was still young, other chieftains aided him in the government. He was merry and friendly in his speech, playful, and had a youthful disposition. He was popular among the people.


Chapter 9. Sigurth Sigurtharson Is Proclaimed King


Markús of Skóg was the name of a man from the Uppland District, a kinsman of Earl Sigurth. Markús had brought up the son of King Sigurth, who was also called Sigurth. Later, on the advice of Earl Sigurth and other chieftains who had followed King Hákon, this Sigurth was by the people of Uppland proclaimed king. These chieftains still had a considerable force, and this force often proceeded in two parts, the king and Markús keeping to the less exposed locations, while Earl Sigurth and other chieftains with their troops stayed where there was more danger. Their troops kept mostly to the Uppland districts, though sometimes they came down to Vík.


Erling Skakki always had with him his son Magnús. He had command of all the fleet and took charge of the defence of the land. He resided for some time in Bergen during the fall, and journeyed from there east to Vík, settling in Túnsberg, which he prepared to use as winter quarters; and round about Vík he collected the taxes and tribute owing to the king. Also he kept a large and picked force about him. But Earl Sigurth, having but a small part of the land to draw on and a large force of men, soon ran out of money, and where there were no other chieftains near, he laid his hands on properties in a most lawless fashion, some by unfounded charges, some by open robbery.


Chapter 10. The Lawlessness of Markús’ Band Is Resented


At that time the dominion of Norway flourished greatly. The farmers were rich and powerful and unused to tyranny and lawlessness on the part of [roving] bands. It was quickly noised abroad and much was made of it when such robberies occurred. The people of Vík were altogether the friends of Magnús and Erling, for the most part because of the popularity of King Ingi Haraldsson, the people of that district having always served under his banner. Erling had a watch set around the town, with twelve men standing on guard every night. He always met with the farmers, and there was frequent mention of the raids of Sigurth’s men; and what with the representations of Erling and other men in his army, there arose a great clamor among the farmers to the effect that it would be fortunate if a halt were called to the doings of this band. Árni, husband of Queen Ingiríth, made a long speech about this matter, concluding it with harsh words, urging all those present at the assembly, whether enlisted men, farmers, or townsmen, to pass a resolution, according to law, condemning Earl Sigurth and all his followers to hell, both the living and the dead. And owing to the excited feelings and the vehemence of the people, all consented to this. This unheard of decision was made and confirmed according to the laws decreeing how to proceed with judgments at assemblies. Hróald Longspeech, who was a man of great eloquence, talked about the same matter, and largely concurred in what had been said before. Erling gave a banquet in Túnsberg at Yuletide, and paid off his men at Candlemas [February 2nd].


Chapter 11. Philippús Is Slain by Sigurth’s Men


Earl Sigurth with a picked troop went about Vík, and many swore allegiance to him, being overborne by superior force, and many paid money. Thus he went up and down the countryside, appearing in various places. There were some among his troop who secretly sought quarter from Erling; and this reply was made to them, that all who requested it would be given quarter, but only those would be given permission to stay in the country who had not committed serious offences against him. But when the men in Sigurth’s troop heard that they would not be allowed to stay in the country, that kept the troop together, because there were many who knew themselves guilty of having committed grave misdeeds against Erling. Philippús Gyrtharson came to terms with Erling, regained possession of his properties, and returned to his estates. A short time later, Sigurth’s men came upon him and killed him. Many skirmishes took place between the two parties, with pursuits and manslaughter, but none were put down in writing except where chieftains were concerned.


Chapter 12. Erling Counsels His Men to Wait for Daybreak


Toward the beginning of the Lenten Season, the information came to Erling that Earl Sigurth intended to attack him—he was rumored to be now here, now there, sometimes nearby, sometimes far away. Erling sent out spies to learn where he might be expected, and every night by trumpet signal he summoned his troops out of the town. Several nights they lay gathered there, with all the troops assigned their position. Then Erling was informed that Earl Sigurth and his forces were close by at Ré. Thereupon Erling started from the town, and had with him all the townsmen who could bear arms and had weapons, also merchants, excepting the twelve men whom he left behind to guard the town. He left the town on Tuesday during the second week of Lent [February 19th], in the afternoon, and every man carried provisions for two days. They travelled during the night, being delayed in moving the troops out of the town. There was one horse and one shield for every two men. When the troops were counted their number was found to be about thirteen hundred [1560]. And when the men sent out to reconnoiter returned, Erling was told that Earl Sigurth was at Ré on the farm called Hrafnsness, with five hundred [600] men.


Then Erling had his troops called together and gave them the information he had received. All urged him to make haste and surround them in the farm or else at once attack them in the night. Erling spoke as follows: “It seems likely that we shall soon encounter Earl Sigurth. There are in that band also many others whose deeds we may well remember, they being the ones who cut down King Ingi and many others of our friends whom it would take long to enumerate. They did that with the aid of the devil, with magic, and with villainous tricks; because it is written in our laws and statutes that it shall be accounted a rank villainy or murder if men kill one another at night. Now this band, following the counsel of warlocks, has sought its fortune at nighttime, and not when the sun is shining. And with such maneuvers they have been victorious and have overcome and laid low such a chieftain [as Philippús]. Now we have often said and shown how disreputable this habit of theirs seems to us, going to battle at night. For that reason we shall rather follow the example of those chieftains we know better and whom it seems wiser to follow; which is, to do battle in bright daylight and with a regular battle array, rather than to steal on sleeping men at night. We have a good army to fight them, though not a larger one than they. We shall bide daylight and hold together our ranks, in case they want to attack us.”


Thereupon all the troops sat down. Some tore up some haystacks to make bedding, some sat on their shields and waited for the dawn. The weather was chilly, with sleet and rain.


Chapter 13. The Opposing Armies Take Up Positions


Earl Sigurth had just received information about the foe when Erling’s force was close by. His men got up and armed themselves, but were uncertain how large an army Erling had. Some wanted to flee, but most of them wanted to remain. Earl Sigurth was a resourceful man, and eloquent, but not very daring. He too was for fleeing, which brought him much reproach from his followers.


Now when day dawned both parties began to array themselves in battle formation. Earl Sigurth set up his ranks on a certain hill above the bridge, between it and the farm. A small creek runs there, and Erling placed his men on the other side of the creek. Behind their lines were stationed men on horseback, well-armed. They had the king among them. Earl Sigurth’s men saw that the odds in numbers would be greatly against them and said it would be advisable to take to the forest. The earl made this answer: “You say I have no courage, but now we shall test that. Let everyone take care that he does not flee or flinch before I do. We have a good defence here, let them then cross the bridge, and as soon as their standard is carried over it, let us fall upon them from above, and now let no one desert the others.”


Earl Sigurth wore a brown kirtle and a red cloak with the tails tucked in, and had on shoes of reindeer hide. He was armed with a shield and a sword called Bastard. The earl said, “God knows, rather than have much gold, I would like to deal Erling Skakki a blow with Bastard.”


Chapter 14. Earl Sigurth Is Defeated and Slain


Erling Skakki’s troops wanted to advance to the bridge, but he said they should turn up along the creek. “This creek is small and presents no difficulty, because there is flat land on either bank.” They did so. The earl’s troops went along the ridge opposite Erling’s force. But when the ridge ended and levelled off, and it thus was easy to ford the creek, Erling bade his men sing the Lord’s Prayer and pray that they might be victors who had the right on their side. Then all sang the Kyrie Eleison [Lord, be merciful] aloud and beat on their shields with their swords. Hearing this din, some three hundred [360] of Sigurth’s men took to flight. Erling and his men forded the creek, and Earl Sigurth’s men raised their battle cry, but nothing came of their rushing down the hill at Erling’s ranks, and the battle started in front of the ridge. First, spears were hurled, then right away they fought at close quarters. The earl’s banner fell back, so that Erling and his men got up on the slope of the hill. It was not long before the earl’s men fled into the woods which lay in their rear. Earl Sigurth was told that, and his men begged him to flee. He answered, “Forward now whilst we may.” Then they advanced most boldly, wielding their swords with both hands. In this charge, Earl Sigurth fell, and also Jón Sveinsson, with nearly sixty men. Erling’s men suffered few losses and pursued the enemy to the woods. Then Erling mustered his troops and turned back. He came upon some of the king’s thralls who were about to pull the clothes off Earl Sigurth. He had not yet altogether breathed his last, but was unconscious. He had stuck his sword into the scabbard lying by his side. Erling took it up and belabored the thralls with it, bidding them to be gone. Thereupon Erling returned with his force and settled in Túnsberg. Seven days after the earl’s death, Erling’s men captured Eindrithi the Young and slew him.




Erling and his men wade the river.


Chapter 15. Erling Pursues Markús’ Band


When spring came, Markús of Skóg and his foster son Sigurth journeyed to Vík and procured some ships. And when Erling learned that he sailed east [south] after them and encountered them at Konungahella. Markús and his company fled onto the island of Hísing. There, the inhabitants of Hísing came down to the shore, making common cause with Markús and his men. Erling and his crew rowed to the land, but were shot at by Markús’ men. Then Erling said to his men, “Let us capture their ships, but don’t let us land to battle with the inhabitants. It is not easy to fight the men of Hísing, they are tough and thickheaded. They won’t have this band [of Markús] with them for long, because Hísing is but a small land.” So was done; they captured their ships and brought them over to Konungahella. Markús and his men retired to the Forest District [between Norway and Sweden], intending to make incursions from there. Both parties had men out to reconnoiter. Erling had many troops, summoning men from the country-side. Each party made forays on the other.


Chapter 16. Archbishop Eystein Demands Payment of Dues in Pure Silver


Eystein, the son of Erling Himaldi, was chosen archbishop after the death of Archbishop Jón. Eystein was consecrated the same year as King Ingi fell. Now when Archbishop Eystein succeeded to the see, he was well-thought of by all the people. He was a most capable man and of noble lineage. The people of the Trondheim District gave him a good reception, because most of the leaders there were connected with him by kin or by other relationship, and all were close friends of his. He began negotiations with the farmers, mentioning first the establishment’s need of funds, and also how much support it needed if he was to be maintained more suitably than before in the same measure as he was elevated higher than before, considering that now the see was established as an archbishopric. He requested the farmers to pay him in pure silver coin for fines due him. Before that, he was given current coin such as was paid the king for mulct. The difference between the two standards of money was that the pure silver coin which he demanded was worth twice as much as the other. And with the support of the kinsfolk and friends of the archbishop, as well as by his own urging, this was accepted; and it was decreed by law in all districts of Trondheim as well as in all the districts belonging to his archbishopric.


Chapter 17. Sigurth Sigurtharson Is Again Proclaimed King


When Sigurth and Markús had lost their ships in the [Gaut Elf] River and saw that they could not take Erling unawares, they turned back to the Uppland District and then marched over the mountains to Trondheim. They were well received there, and at the Eyrathing Assembly Sigurth was elected king. There, many sons of eminent men joined his force. They obtained ships, got them ready quickly, and toward summer sailed to Mœr, taking all royal taxes wherever they came. In Bergen there were set, for the defence of the realm, Níkolás Sigurtharson, Nokkvi Pálsson, and still other captains, as Thórólf Dryll, Thorbjorn the Treasurer, and many others. Markús and his fleet sailed south and heard that Erling’s men had a great force in Bergen, so they sailed south outside the skerries. It was the talk of people that Markús and his men had favorable breezes that summer wheresoever they wished to sail.


Chapter 18. Markús and Sigurth Are Captured and Slain


As soon as Erling Skakki learned that Markús had marched north, he himself proceeded north to Vík and soon collected numerous troops and also had many and large ships. However, when he set out from Vík, he had contrary winds, and put in here and there in harbors all that summer. Now when Markús’ fleet arrived east [south] at Listi he learned that Erling had a tremendous force in Vík, so he turned back north. And when they arrived in Horthaland, they planned to sail in to Bergen; but when they approached the town, Níkolás with his fleet rowed against them, with more and bigger ships. Then Markús saw no other way out but to row away southward. Some of his ships sailed out to sea, some to the sounds, some into the fjords. Markús himself and a part of his force sought refuge on an island called Skarpa. Níkolás and his men captured their ships and gave quarter to Jón Hallkelsson and a few others but slew most of them they got hold of. A few days later Eindrithi Heithafylja found Sigurth and Markús and brought them to Bergen. There, they beheaded Sigurth outside Grav Dale, and hanged Markús and another man on Hvarfsness.1 That was at Michaelmas [September 29th]. Thereupon the band which had followed them dispersed.


Chapter 19. Erling Avenges Himself on the Men of Hísing


Frírek Kœna, Bjarni the Evil, Onund Símunarson, and Ornólf Skorpa had rowed out to sea with several ships, and kept outside the skerries, sailing east along the land. And wherever they touched land, they ransacked and killed the friends of Erling. But when Erling had learned of the execution of Markús and Sigurth he gave his landed-men and the men of the levy leave to depart home. He himself sailed with his force east across the Foldenfjord, for he had heard that Markús’ men were there. He sailed to Konungahella, remaining there during the fall. In the first week of winter [the week following October 14th] he proceeded with a large force to the island of Hísing, and there demanded to have an assembly [with the inhabitants]. The people of Hísing complied and came to the assembly. Erling upbraided them for their having joined Markús’ band and raised arms against him. Ozur, the most powerful of the farmers, spoke in their defense. The assembly lasted long, but finally the farmers gave Erling the right to pass judgment in the matter. He appointed a meeting with them after a week’s time in the town and named fifteen of the farmers who were to appear there. And when they came, Erling passed sentence on them to pay a penalty of three hundred [360] head of cattle. The farmers returned home greatly put out.


A little while later, the river froze over and Erling’s ships were ice-bound. Then the farmers held back the payment and gathered for a while [as though prepared to fight]. Erling got ready for the Yule banquet. But the men of Hísing had a joint drinking bout and kept their flock together. The night after the fifth day of Yule [December 29th], Erling marched to the island, surrounded the house of Ozur and burned him inside. Altogether he killed a hundred men and burned down three farms before returning to Konungahella. Then the farmers came to him and paid the penalty.


Chapter 20. Erling Captures the Remnants of Markús’ Band


Early in spring, Erling Skakki got ready his ships as soon as the condition of the ice allowed, and sailed from Konungahella. He had heard that some bands which had been part of Markús’ force were harrying north in Vík. Erling reconnoitered where they were and went to search them out. He came upon them where they had anchored in a certain harbor. Onund Símunarson and Ornólf Skorpa escaped, but Frírek Kœna and Bjarni the Evil were captured and many of their men killed. Erling had Frírek lashed to an anchor and cast overboard. For this deed Erling earned much hate by the people of the Trondheim District, for Frírek was connected with the most eminent families there. Bjarni, Erling had hanged; and before his execution, Bjarni uttered the foulest indecencies, as was his wont. As says Thorbjorn Skakkaskáld:




601.   East of the fjord, Erling
erstwhile to death did vikings—
many a man by Kœna
murdered lay—in East Fold.
An anchor fluke to Frírek
fastened was; and high up
above him, evil Bjarni’s
body dangled from tree-limb.


Onund and Ornólf, with the men who had escaped, fled to Denmark, but sometimes came to Gautland or Vík.


Chapter 21. Erling and Archbishop Eystein Have High Words


Afterwards, Erling Skakki proceeded to Túnsberg and dwelled there for a long time in spring. But when summer approached, he proceeded north [west] to Bergen. A great multitude of people was there at that time. There was the papal legate Stephanus from Rome and Archbishop Eystein, and other Norwegian bishops. There was also Bishop Brand, who was consecrated at that time to officiate in Iceland. There was also Jón Loptsson, a daughter’s son of King Magnús Barelegs. At that time King Magnús [Erlingsson] and other kinsfolk of Jón acknowledged relationship to him.


Archbishop Eystein and Erling Skakki frequently conversed privately with one another. And one time in their conversation Erling asked, “Is it true, my lord, what people say, that you have increased the value of the dues owing to you from the farmers in the north of the land?”


The archbishop answered, “To be sure it is true that the farmers have conceded to me an increase in the value of the dues owing to me. They did so of their own accord and under no compulsion from me, and have by so doing increased God’s glory and the wealth of the see.”


Erling said, “Are these the laws of Holy King Óláf, my lord, or have you proceeded somewhat more harshly than is warranted by the laws?”


The archbishop replied, “It is likely that Holy King Óláf gave his laws so that he had the agreement and consent of all the people, but there is nothing said in them about forbidding to increase the rights of God.”


Erling replied, “If you wish to increase your rights, then you will wish to help us to increase the king’s rights as much.”


The archbishop said, “You have increased even now amply the name and power of your son. And if I have unlawfully taken an increase in the value of the dues from the people of Trondheim, I consider it an even greater breach of the law that he is king over the land who is not a king’s son. For that there is neither law nor parallel in this country.”


Erling said, “At the time Magnús was chosen king of the dominion of Norway, that was done with your knowledge and consent, as well as with that of the other bishops in the land.”


The archbishop said, “This you promised at the time, Erling, that if we gave our consent to Magnús being elected king, you were to strengthen God’s rights in all places and with all your might.”


“I do acknowledge,” said Erling, “that I promised to maintain God’s law as well as the laws of the land with all my, and the king’s, power. But now, instead of our accusing one the other of breach of promise, I consider it wiser that we both stick to our agreements. Do you strengthen King Magnús in his power, as you promised, and in return I shall strengthen yours in all matters profitable to you.”


Thereupon all conversation between them took a more amicable turn. Then Erling said, “If it is so that Magnús was not chosen king according to ancient custom in our land, then you can with your authority give him the crown according to God’s law and anoint him for the royal power. And though I be not king or of the royal race, yet most of the kings I remember did not know the laws and customs of the land as well as I. But King Magnús’ mother is a king’s daughter and lawfully begotten, and thus Magnús is a queen’s son and the son of a lawful wife. And if you will consecrate him king, then no one may later depose him. William the Bastard was not a king’s son, yet he was consecrated and crowned king of England, and the royal power has remained in his line in England, and all have been crowned. Svein Úlfsson of Denmark was not a king’s son, yet he was crowned king, and his sons after him, and each of his successors in that line was a crowned king. There is now in our land an archiepiscopal see. That is a great honor and a glory for our country. Let us increase its dignity even more with gifts, and let us have a crowned king as have Englishmen and Danes.”




King Magnús Erlingsson receives homage.


Later, the archbishop brought this matter up before the papal legate, and easily got him to agree with him. Following that, the archbishop called a meeting with the suffragan bishops and other clerics, explaining the matter to them, and all answered with one accord, declaring their agreement with what the archbishop desired; and all urged that the consecration be carried out, as soon as they understood that this was the archbishop’s wish. Then everyone agreed to it.