Heimskringla/Saga of Olaf Haraldson/Part I
- 1 Of Saint Olaf's Bringing Up.
- 2 Of Olaf and King Sigurd Syr.
- 3 Of King Olaf's Accomplishments.
- 4 King Olaf's War Expedition.
- 5 Olaf's First Battle.
- 6 Foray in Svithjod.
- 7 The Second Battle.
- 8 The Third Battle.
- 9 The Fourth Battle in Sudervik.
- 10 The Fifth Battle in Friesland.
- 11 Death of King Svein Forked Beard.
- 12 The Sixth Battle.
- 13 The Seventh Battle.
- 14 Eighth and Ninth Battles of Olaf
- 15 The Tenth Battle.
- 16 Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth Battles.
- 17 Fourteenth Battle and Olaf's Dream.
- 18 Fifteenth Battle.
- 19 Of the Earls of Rouen.
- 20 Of Einar Tambaskelfer.
- 21 Of Erling Skialgson.
- 22 Of The Herse Erling Skialgson.
- 23 Of Earl Eirik.
- 24 The Murder of Edmund.
- 25 Olaf and Ethelred's Sons.
- 26 Battle of King Olaf.
- 27 Olaf's Expedition to Norway.
- 28 Hakon Taken Prisoner by Olaf.
- 29 Hakon's Departure from Norway.
- 30 Asta Receives Her Son Olaf.
- 31 King Sigurd's Dress.
- 32 Of the Feast.
- 33 Conversation of Olaf and Sigurd.
- 34 Kings in the Upland Districts.
- 35 Olaf Gets the Title of King from the Thing.
- 36 King Olaf Travels in the Uplands.
- 37 Levy Against Olaf in Throndhjem.
- 38 Olaf's Progress in Throndhjem.
- 39 Of Earl Svein's Proceedings.
- 40 Earl Svein's and Einar's Consultations.
- 41 Of Sigvat the Skald.
- 42 Of Earl Svein.
- 43 Of King Olaf.
- 44 Of Earl Svein's Forces.
- 45 King Olaf's Forces.
- 46 King Olaf's Speech.
- 47 Of the Battle at Nesjar.
- 48 Earl Svein's Flight.
Of Saint Olaf's Bringing Up.
Olaf, Harald Grenske's son, was brought up by his stepfather Sigurd Syr and his mother Asta. Hrane the Far-travelled lived in the house of Asta, and fostered this Olaf Haraldson. Olaf came early to manhood, was handsome in countenance, middle-sized in growth, and was even when very young of good understanding and ready speech. Sigurd his stepfather was a careful householder, who kept his people closely to their work, and often went about himself to inspect his corn-rigs and meadowland, the cattle, and also the smith-work, or whatsoever his people had on hand to do.
Of Olaf and King Sigurd Syr.
It happened one day that King Sigurd wanted to ride from home, but there was nobody about the house; so he told his stepson Olaf to saddle his horse. Olaf went to the goats' pen, took out the he-goat that was the largest, led him forth, and put the king's saddle on him, and then went in and told King Sigurd he had saddled his riding horse. Now when King Sigurd came out and saw what Olaf had done, he said "It is easy to see that thou wilt little regard my orders; and thy mother will think it right that I order thee to do nothing that is against thy own inclination. I see well enough that we are of different dispositions, and that thou art far more proud than I am." Olaf answered little, but went his way laughing.
Of King Olaf's Accomplishments.
When Olaf Haraldson grew up he was not tall, but middle-sized in height, although very thick, and of good strength. He had light brown hair, and a broad face, which was white and red. He had particularly fine eyes, which were beautiful and piercing, so that one was afraid to look him in the face when he was angry. Olaf was very expert in all bodily exercises, understood well to handle his bow, and was distinguished particularly in throwing his spear by hand: he was a great swimmer, and very handy, and very exact and knowing in all kinds of smithwork, whether he himself or others made the thing. He was distinct and acute in conversation, and was soon perfect in understanding and strength. He was beloved by his friends and acquaintances, eager in his amusements, and one who always liked to be the first, as it was suitable he should be from his birth and dignity. He was called Olaf the Great.
King Olaf's War Expedition.
Olaf Haraldson was twelve years old when he, for the first time, went on board a ship of war (A.D. 1007). His mother Asta got Hrane, who was called the foster-father of kings, to command a ship of war and take Olaf under his charge; for Hrane had often been on war expeditions. When Olaf in this way got a ship and men, the crew gave him the title of king; for it was the custom that those commanders of troops who were of kingly descent, on going out upon a viking cruise, received the title of king immediately although they had no land or kingdom. Hrane sat at the helm; and some say that Olaf himself was but a common rower, although he was king of the men-at-arms. They steered east along the land, and came first to Denmark. So says Ottar Svarte, in his lay which he made about King Olaf: --
- "Young was the king when from his home
- He first began in ships to roam,
- His ocean-steed to ride
- To Denmark o'er the tide.
- Well exercised art thou in truth --
- In manhood's earnest work, brave youth!
- Out from the distant north
- Mighty hast thou come forth."
Towards autumn he sailed eastward to the Swedish dominions, and there harried and burnt all the country round; for he thought he had good cause of hostility against the Swedes, as they killed his father Harald. Ottar Svarte says distinctly that he came from the east, out by way of Denmark: --
- "Thy ship from shore to shore,
- With many a well-plied car,
- Across the Baltic foam is dancing. --
- Shields, and spears, and helms glancing!
- Hoist high the swelling sail
- To catch the freshening gale!
- There's food for the raven-flight
- Where thy sail-winged ship shall light;
- Thy landing-tread
- The people dread;
- And the wolf howls for a feast
- On the shore-side in the east."
Olaf's First Battle.
The same autumn Olaf had his first battle at Sotasker, which lies in the Swedish skerry circle. He fought there with some vikings, whose leader was Sote. Olaf had much fewer men, but his ships were larger, and he had his ships between some blind rocks, which made it difficult for the vikings to get alongside; and Olaf's men threw grappling irons into the ships which came nearest, drew them up to their own vessels, and cleared them of men. The vikings took to flight after losing many men. Sigvat the skald tells of this fight in the lay in which he reckons up King Olaf's battles: --
- "They launch his ship where waves are foaming --
- To the sea shore
- Both mast and oar,
- And sent his o'er the seas a-roaming.
- Where did the sea-king first draw blood?
- In the battle shock
- At Sote's rock;
- The wolves howl over their fresh food."
Foray in Svithjod.
King Olaf steered thereafter eastwards to Svithjod, and into the Lag (the Maelar lake), and ravaged the land on both sides. He sailed all the way up to Sigtuna, and laid his ships close to the old Sigtuna. The Swedes say the stone-heaps are still to be seen which Olaf had laid under the ends of the gangways from the shore to the ships. When autumn was advanced, Olaf Haraldson heard that Olaf the Swedish king was assembling an army, and also that he had laid iron chains across Stoksund (the channel between the Maelar lake and the sea), and had laid troops there; for the Swedish king thought that Olaf Haraldson would be kept in there till frost came, and he thought little of Olaf's force knowing he had but few people. Now when King Olaf Haraldson came to Stoksund he could not get through, as there was a castle west of the sound, and men-at-arms lay on the south; and he heard that the Swedish king was come there with a great army and many ships. He therefore dug a canal across the flat land Agnafit out to the sea. Over all Svithjod all the running waters fall into the Maelar lake; but the only outlet of it to the sea is so small that many rivers are wider, and when much rain or snow falls the water rushes in a great cataract out by Stoksund, and the lake rises high and floods the land. It fell heavy rain just at this time; and as the canal was dug out to the sea, the water and stream rushed into it. Then Olaf had all the rudders unshipped and hoisted all sail aloft. It was blowing a strong breeze astern, and they steered with their oars, and the ships came in a rush over all the shallows, and got into the sea without any damage. Now went the Swedes to their king, Olaf, and told him that Olaf the Great had slipped out to sea; on which the king was enraged against those who should have watched that Olaf did not get away. This passage has since been called King's Sound; but large vessels cannot pass through it, unless the waters are very high. Some relate that the Swedes were aware that Olaf had cut across the tongue of land, and that the water was falling out that way; and they flocked to it with the intention to hinder Olaf from getting away, but the water undermined the banks on each side so that they fell in with the people, and many were drowned: but the Swedes contradict this as a false report, and deny the loss of people. The king sailed to Gotland in harvest, and prepared to plunder; but the Gotlanders assembled, and sent men to the king, offering him a scat. The king found this would suit him, and he received the scat, and remained there all winter. So says Ottar Svarte: --
- "Thou seaman-prince! thy men are paid:
- The scat on Gotlanders is laid;
- Young man or old
- To our seamen bold
- Must pay, to save his head:
- The Yngling princes fled,
- Eysvssel people bled;
- Who can't defend the wealth they have
- Must die, or share with the rover brave."
The Second Battle.
It is related here that King Olaf, when spring set in, sailed east to Eysyssel, and landed and plundered; the Eysyssel men came down to the strand and grave him battle. King Olaf gained the victory, pursued those who fled, and laid waste the land with fire and sword. It is told that when King Olaf first came to Eysvssel they offered him scat, and when the scat was to be brought down to the strand the king came to meet it with an armed force, and that was not what the bondes there expected; for they had brought no scat, but only their weapons with which they fought against the king, as before related. So says Sigvat the skald: --
- "With much deceit and bustle
- To the heath of Eysyssel
- The bondes brought the king,
- To get scat at their weapon-thing.
- But Olaf was too wise
- To be taken by surprise;
- Their legs scarce bore them off
- O'er the common test enough."
The Third Battle.
After this they sailed to Finland and plundered there, and went up the country. All the people fled to the forest, and they had emptied their houses of all household goods. The king went far up the country, and through some woods, and came to some dwellings in a valley called Herdaler, -- where, however, they made but small booty, and saw no people; and as it was getting late in the day, the king turned back to his ships. Now when they came into the woods again people rushed upon them from all quarters, and made a severe attack. The king told his men to cover themselves with their shields, but before they got out of the woods he lost many people, and many were wounded; but at last, late in the evening, he got to the ships. The Finlanders conjured up in the night, by their witchcraft, a dreadful storm and bad weather on the sea; but the king ordered the anchors to be weighed and sail hoisted, and beat off all night to the outside of the land. The king's luck prevailed more than the Finlanders' witchcraft; for he had the luck to beat round the Balagard's side in the night. and so got out to sea. But the Finnish army proceeded on land, making the same progress as the king made with his ships. So says Sigvat: --
- "The third fight was at Herdaler, where
- The men of Finland met in war
- The hero of the royal race,
- With ringing sword-blades face to face.
- Off Balagard's shore the waves
- Ran hollow; but the sea-king saves
- His hard-pressed ship, and gains the lee
- Of the east coast through the wild sea."
The Fourth Battle in Sudervik.
King Olaf sailed from thence to Denmark, where he met Thorkel the Tall, brother of Earl Sigvalde, and went into partnership with him; for he was just ready to set out on a cruise. They sailed southwards to the Jutland coast, to a place called Sudervik, where they overcame many viking ships. The vikings, who usually have many people to command, give themselves the title of kings, although they have no lands to rule over. King Olaf went into battle with them, and it was severe; but King Olaf gained the victory, and a great booty. So says Sigvat: --
- "Hark! hark! The war-shout
- Through Sudervik rings,
- And the vikings bring out
- To fight the two kings.
- Great honour, I'm told,
- Won these vikings so bold:
- But their bold fight was vain,
- For the two brave kings gain."
The Fifth Battle in Friesland.
King Olaf sailed from thence south to Friesland, and lay under the strand of Kinlima in dreadful weather. The king landed with his men; but the people of the country rode down to the strand against them, and he fought them. So says Sigvat: --
- "Under Kinlima's cliff,
- This battle is the fifth.
- The brave sea-rovers stand
- All on the glittering sand;
- And down the horsemen ride
- To the edge of the rippling tide:
- But Olaf taught the peasant band
- To know the weight of a viking's hand."
Death of King Svein Forked Beard.
The king sailed from thence westward to England. It was then the case that the Danish king, Svein Forked Beard, was at that time in England with a Danish army, and had been fixed there for some time, and had seized upon King Ethelred's kingdom. The Danes had spread themselves so widely over England, that it was come so far that King Ethelred had departed from the country, and had gone south to Valland. The same autumn that King Olaf came to England, it happened that King Svein died suddenly in the night in his bed; and it is said by Englishmen that Edmund the Saint killed him, in the same way that the holy Mercurius had killed the apostate Julian. When Ethelred, the king of the English, heard this in Flanders, he returned directly to England; and no sooner was he come back, than he sent an invitation to all the men who would enter into his pay, to join him in recovering the country. Then many people flocked to him; and among others, came King Olaf with a great troop of Northmen to his aid. They steered first to London, and sailed into the Thames with their fleet; but the Danes had a castle within. On the other side of the river is a great trading place, which is called Sudvirke. There the Danes had raised a great work, dug large ditches, and within had built a bulwark of stone, timber, and turf, where they had stationed a strong army. King Ethelred ordered a great assault; but the Danes defended themselves bravely, and King Ethelred could make nothing of it. Between the castle and Southwark (Sudvirke) there was a bridge, so broad that two wagons could pass each other upon it. On the bridge were raised barricades, both towers and wooden parapets, in the direction of the river, which were nearly breast high; and under the bridge were piles driven into the bottom of the river. Now when the attack was made the troops stood on the bridge everywhere, and defended themselves. King Ethelred was very anxious to get possession of the bridge, and he called together all the chiefs to consult how they should get the bridge broken down. Then said King Olaf he would attempt to lay his fleet alongside of it, if the other ships would do the same. It was then determined in this council that they should lay their war forces under the bridge; and each made himself ready with ships and men.
The Sixth Battle.
King Olaf ordered great platforms of floating wood to be tied together with hazel bands, and for this he took down old houses; and with these, as a roof, he covered over his ships so widely, that it reached over the ships' sides. Under this screen he set pillars so high and stout, that there both was room for swinging their swords, and the roofs were strong enough to withstand the stones cast down upon them. Now when the fleet and men were ready, they rode up along the river; but when they came near the bridge, there were cast down upon them so many stones and missile weapons, such as arrows and spears, that neither helmet nor shield could hold out against it; and the ships themselves were so greatly damaged, that many retreated out of it. But King Olaf, and the Northmen's fleet with him, rowed quite up under the bridge, laid their cables around the piles which supported it, and then rowed off with all the ships as hard as they could down the stream. The piles were thus shaken in the bottom, and were loosened under the bridge. Now as the armed troops stood thick of men upon the bridge, and there were likewise many heaps of stones and other weapons upon it, and the piles under it being loosened and broken, the bridge gave way; and a great part of the men upon it fell into the river, and all the ethers fled, some into the castle, some into Southwark. Thereafter Southwark was stormed and taken. Now when the people in the castle saw that the river Thames was mastered, and that they could not hinder the passage of ships up into the country, they became afraid, surrendered the tower, and took Ethelred to be their king. So says Ottar Svarte: --
- "London Bridge is broken down. --
- Gold is won, and bright renown.
- Shields resounding,
- War-horns sounding,
- Hild is shouting in the din!
- Arrows singing,
- Mail-coats ringing --
- Odin makes our Olaf win!"
And he also composed these: --
- "King Ethelred has found a friend:
- Brave Olaf will his throne defend --
- In bloody fight
- Maintain his right,
- Win back his land
- With blood-red hand,
- And Edmund's son upon his throne replace --
- Edmund, the star of every royal race!"
Sigvat also relates as follows: --
- "At London Bridge stout Olaf gave
- Odin's law to his war-men brave --
- `To win or die!'
- And their foemen fly.
- Some by the dyke-side refuge gain --
- Some in their tents on Southwark plain!
- The sixth attack
- Brought victory back."
The Seventh Battle.
King Olaf passed all the winter with King Ethelred, and had a great battle at Hringmara Heath in Ulfkel's land, the domain which Ulfkel Snilling at that time held; and here again the king was victorious. So says Sigvat the skald: --
- "To Ulfkel's land came Olaf bold,
- A seventh sword-thing he would hold.
- The race of Ella filled the plain --
- Few of them slept at home again!
- Hringmara heath
- Was a bed of death:
- Harfager's heir
- Dealt slaughter there."
And Ottar sings of this battle thus: --
- "From Hringmara field
- The chime of war,
- Sword striking shield,
- Rings from afar.
- The living fly;
- The dead piled high
- The moor enrich;
- Red runs the ditch."
The country far around was then brought in subjection to King Ethelred: but the Thingmen1 and the Danes held many castles, besides a great part of the country.
(1) Thing-men were hired men-at-arms; called Thing-men probably from being men above the class of thralls or unfree men, and entitled to appear at Things, as being udal-born to land at home.
Eighth and Ninth Battles of Olaf
King Olaf was commander of all the forces when they went against Canterbury; and they fought there until they took the town, killing many people and burning the castle. So says Ottar Svarte: --
- "All in the grey of morn
- Broad Canterbury's forced.
- Black smoke from house-roofs borne
- Hides fire that does its worst;
- And many a man laid low
- By the battle-axe's blow,
- Waked by the Norsemen's cries,
- Scarce had time to rub his eyes."
Sigvat reckons this King Olaf's eighth battle: --
- "Of this eighth battle I can tell
- How it was fought, and what befell,
- The castle tower
- With all his power
- He could not take,
- Nor would forsake.
- The Perthmen fought,
- Nor quarter sought;
- By death or flight
- They left the fight.
- Olaf could not this earl stout
- From Canterbury quite drive out."
At this time King Olaf was entrusted with the whole land defence of England, and he sailed round the land with his ships of War. He laid his ships at land at Nyjamoda, where the troops of the Thingmen were, and gave them battle and gained the victory. So says Sigvat the skald: --
- "The youthful king stained red the hair
- Of Angeln men, and dyed his spear
- At Newport in their hearts' dark blood:
- And where the Danes the thickest stood --
- Where the shrill storm round Olaf's head
- Of spear and arrow thickest fled.
- There thickest lay the Thingmen dead!
- Nine battles now of Olaf bold,
- Battle by battle, I have told."
King Olaf then scoured all over the country, taking scat of the people and plundering where it was refused. So says Ottar: --
- "The English race could not resist thee,
- With money thou madest them assist thee;
- Unsparingly thou madest them pay
- A scat to thee in every way;
- Money, if money could be got --
- Goods, cattle, household gear, if not.
- Thy gathered spoil, borne to the strand,
- Was the best wealth of English land."
Olaf remained here for three years (A.D. 1010-1012).
The Tenth Battle.
The third year King Ethelred died, and his sons Edmund and Edward took the government (A.D. 1012). Then Olaf sailed southwards out to sea, and had a battle at Hringsfjord, and took a castle situated at Holar, where vikings resorted, and burnt the castle. So says Sigvat the skald: --
- "Of the tenth battle now I tell,
- Where it was fought, and what befell.
- Up on the hill in Hringsfjord fair
- A robber nest hung in the air:
- The people followed our brave chief,
- And razed the tower of the viking thief.
- Such rock and tower, such roosting-place,
- Was ne'er since held by the roving race."
Eleventh, Twelfth and Thirteenth Battles.
Then King Olaf proceeded westwards to Grislupollar, and fought there with vikings at Williamsby; and there also King Olaf gained the victory. So says Sigvat: --
- "The eleventh battle now I tell,
- Where it was fought, and what befell.
- At Grislupol our young fir's name
- O'ertopped the forest trees in fame:
- Brave Olaf's name -- nought else was heard
- But Olaf's name, and arm, and sword.
- Of three great earls, I have heard say,
- His sword crushed helm and head that day."
Next he fought westward on Fetlafjord, as Sigvat tells: --
- "The twelfth fight was at Fetlafjord,
- Where Olaf's honour-seeking sword
- Gave the wild wolf's devouring teeth
- A feast of warriors doomed to death."
From thence King Olaf sailed southwards to Seljupollar, where he had a battle. He took there a castle called Gunvaldsborg, which was very large and old. He also made prisoner the earl who ruled over the castle and who was called Geirfin. After a conference with the men of the castle, he laid a scat upon the town and earl, as ransom, of twelve thousand gold shillings: which was also paid by those on whom it was imposed. So says Sigvat: --
- "The thirteenth battle now I tell,
- Where it was fought, and what befell.
- In Seljupol was fought the fray,
- And many did not survive the day.
- The king went early to the shore,
- To Gunvaldsborg's old castle-tower;
- And a rich earl was taken there,
- Whose name was Geridin, I am sure."
Fourteenth Battle and Olaf's Dream.
Thereafter King Olaf steered with his fleet westward to Karlsar, and tarried there and had a fight. And while King Olaf was lying in Karlsa river waiting a wind, and intending to sail up to Norvasund, and then on to the land of Jerusalem, he dreamt a remarkable dream -- that there came to him a great and important man, but of a terrible appearance withal, who spoke to him, and told him to give up his purpose of proceeding to that land. "Return back to thy udal, for thou shalt be king over Norway for ever." He interpreted this dream to mean that he should be king over the country, and his posterity after him for a long time.
After this appearance to him he turned about, and came to Poitou, where he plundered and burnt a merchant town called Varrande. Of this Ottar speaks: --
- "Our young king, blythe and gay,
- Is foremost in the fray:
- Poitou he plunders, Tuskland burns, --
- He fights and wins where'er he turns."
And also Sigvat says: --
- "The Norsemen's king is on his cruise,
- His blue steel staining,
- Rich booty gaining,
- And all men trembling at the news.
- The Norsemen's kings up on the Loire:
- Rich Partheney
- In ashes lay;
- Far inland reached the Norsemen's spear."
Of the Earls of Rouen.
King Olaf had been two summers and one winter in the west in Valland on this cruise; and thirteen years had now passed since the fall of King Olaf Trygvason. During this time earls had ruled over Norway; first Hakon's sons Eirik and Svein, and afterwards Eirik's sons Hakon and Svein. Hakon was a sister's son of King Canute, the son of Svein. During this time there were two earls in Valland, William and Robert; their father was Richard earl of Rouen. They ruled over Normandy. Their sister was Queen Emma, whom the English king Ethelred had married; and their sons were Edmund, Edward the Good, Edwy, and Edgar. Richard the earl of Rouen was a son of Richard the son of William Long Spear, who was the son of Rolf Ganger, the earl who first conquered Normandy; and he again was a son of Ragnvald the Mighty, earl of More, as before related. From Rolf Ganger are descended the earls of Rouen, who have long reckoned themselves of kin to the chiefs in Norway, and hold them in such respect that they always were the greatest friends of the Northmen; and every Northman found a friendly country in Normandy, if he required it. To Normandy King Olaf came in autumn (A.D. 1013), and remained all winter (A.D. 1014) in the river Seine in good peace and quiet.
Of Einar Tambaskelfer.
After Olaf Trygvason's fall, Earl Eirik gave peace to Einar Tambaskelfer, the son of Eindride Styrkarson; and Einar went north with the earl to Norway. It is said that Einar was the strongest man and the best archer that ever was in Norway. His shooting was sharp beyond all others; for with a blunt arrow he shot through a raw, soft ox-hide, hanging over a beam. He was better than any man at running on snow-shoes, was a great man at all exercises, was of high family, and rich. The earls Eirik and Svein married their sister Bergliot to Einar. Their son was named Eindride. The earls gave Einar great fiefs in Orkadal, so that he was one of the most powerful and able men in the Throndhjem country, and was also a great friend of the earls, and a great support and aid to them.
Of Erling Skialgson.
When Olaf Trygvason ruled over Norway, he gave his brother-in-law Erling half of the land scat, and royal revenues between the Naze and Sogn. His other sister he married to the Earl Ragnvald Ulfson, who long ruled over West Gautland. Ragnvald's father, Ulf, was a brother of Sigrid the Haughty, the mother of Olaf the Swedish king. Earl Eirik was ill pleased that Erling Skialgson had so large a dominion, and he took to himself all the king's estates, which King Olaf had given to Erling. But Erling levied, as before, all the land scat in Rogaland; and thus the inhabitants had often to pay him the land scat, otherwise he laid waste their land. The earl made little of the business, for no bailiff of his could live there, and the earl could only come there in guest-quarters, when he had a great many people with him. So says Sigvat: --
- "Olaf the king
- Thought the bonde Erling
- A man who would grace
- His own royal race.
- One sister the king
- Gave the bonde Erling;
- And one to an earl,
- And she saved him in peril."
Earl Eirik did not venture to fight with Erling, because he had very powerful and very many friends, and was himself rich and popular, and kept always as many retainers about him as if he held a king's court. Erling vas often out in summer on plundering expeditions, and procured for himself means of living; for he continued his usual way of high and splendid living, although now he had fewer and less convenient fiefs than in the time of his brother-in-law King Olaf Trygvason. Erling was one of the handsomest, largest, and strongest men; a better warrior than any other; and in all exercises he was like King Olaf himself. He was, besides, a man of understanding, jealous in everything he undertook, and a deadly man at arms. Sigvat talks thus of him: --
- "No earl or baron, young or old,
- Match with this bonde brave can hold.
- Mild was brave Erling, all men say,
- When not engaged in bloody fray:
- His courage he kept hid until
- The fight began, then foremost still
- Erling was seen in war's wild game,
- And famous still is Erling's name."
It was a common saying among the people, that Erling had been the most valiant who ever held lands under a king in Norway. Erlings and Astrid s children were these -- Aslak, Skialg, Sigurd, Lodin, Thorer, and Ragnhild, who was married to Thorberg Arnason. Erling had always with him ninety free-born men or more, and both winter and summer it was the custom in his house to drink at the mid-day meal according to a measure,1 but at the night meal there was no measure in drinking. When the earl was in the neighbourhood he had 2002 men or more. He never went to sea with less than a fully-manned ship of twenty benches of rowers. Erling had also a ship of thirty-two benches of rowers, which was besides, very large for that size. and which he used in viking cruises, or on an expedition; and in it there were 200 men at the very least.
(1) There were silver-studs in a row from the rim to the bottom of the drinking born or cup; and as it went round each drank till the stud appeared above the liquor. This was drinking by measure. -- L.
(2) I.e., 240.
Of The Herse Erling Skialgson.
Erling had always at home on his farm thirty slaves, besides other serving-people. He gave his slaves a certain day's work; but after it he gave them leisure, and leave that each should work in the twilight and at night for himself, and as he pleased. He gave them arable land to sow corn in, and let them apply their crops to their own use. He laid upon each a certain quantity of labour to work themselves free by doing it; and there were many who bought their freedom in this way in one year, or in the second year, and all who had any luck could make themselves free within three years. With this money he bought other slaves: and to some of his freed people he showed how to work in the herring-fishery, to others he showed some useful handicraft; and some cleared his outfields and set up houses. He helped all to prosperity.
Of Earl Eirik.
When Earl Eirik had ruled over Norway for twelve years. there came a message to him from his brother-in-law King Canute, the Danish king, that he should go with him on an expedition westward to England; for Eirik was very celebrated for his campaigns, as he had gained the victory in the two hardest engagements which had ever been fought in the north countries. The one was that in which the Earls Hakon and Eirik fought with the Jomsborg vikings; the other that in which Earl Eirik fought with King Olaf Trygvason. Thord Kolbeinson speaks of this: --
- "A song of praise
- Again I raise.
- To the earl bold
- The word is told,
- That Knut the Brave
- His aid would crave;
- The earl, I knew,
- To friend stands true."
The earl would not sleep upon the message of the king, but sailed immediately out of the country, leaving behind his son Earl Hakon to take care of Norway; and, as he was but seventeen years of age, Einar Tambaskelfer was to be at his hand to rule the country for him.
Eirik met King Canute in England, and was with him when he took the castle of London. Earl Eirik had a battle also to the westward of the castle of London, and killed Ulfkel Snilling. So says Thord Kolbeinson: --
- "West of London town we passed,
- And our ocean-steeds made fast,
- And a bloody fight begin,
- England's lands to lose or win.
- Blue sword and shining spear
- Laid Ulfkel's dead corpse there,
- Our Thingmen hear the war-shower sounding
- Our grey arrows from their shields rebounding."
Earl Eirik was a winter in England, and had many battles there. The following autumn he intended to make a pilgrimage to Rome, but he died in England of a bloody flux.
The Murder of Edmund.
King Canute came to England the summer that King Ethelred died, and had many battles with Ethelred's sons, in which the victory was sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other. Then King Canute took Queen Emma in marriage; and their children were Harald, Hardacanute, and Gunhild. King Canute then made an agreement with King Edmund, that each of them should have a half of England. In the same month Henry Strion murdered King Edmund. King Canute then drove all Ethelred's sons out of England. So says Sigvat: --
- "Now all the sons of Ethelred
- Were either fallen, or had fled:
- Some slain by Canute, -- some they say,
- To save their lives had run away."
Olaf and Ethelred's Sons.
King Ethelred's sons came to Rouen in Valland from England, to their mother's brother, the same summer that King Olaf Haraldson came from the west from his viking cruise, and they were all during the winter in Normandy together. They made an agreement with each other that King Olaf should have Northumberland, if they could succeed in taking England from the Danes. Therefore about harvest, Olaf sent his foster-father Hrane to England to collect men-at-arms; and Ethelred's sons sent tokens to their friends and relations with him. King Olaf, besides, gave him much money with him to attract people to them. Hrane was all winter in England, and got promises from many powerful men of fidelity, as the people of the country would rather have native kings over them; but the Danish power had become so great in England, that all the people were brought under their dominion.
Battle of King Olaf.
In spring (A.D. 1014) King Olaf and King Ethelred's sons set out together to the west, and came to a place in England called Jungufurda, where they landed with their army and moved forward against the castle. Many men were there who had promised them their aid. They took the castle; and killed many people. Now when King Canute's men heard of this they assembled an army, and were soon in such force that Ethelred's sons could not stand against it; and they saw no other way left but to return to Rouen. Then King Olaf separated from them, and would not go back to Valland, but sailed northwards along England, all the way to Northumberland, where he put into a haven at a place called Valde; and in a battle there with the townspeople and merchants he gained the victory, and a great booty.
Olaf's Expedition to Norway.
King Olaf left his long-ships there behind, but made ready two ships of burden; and had with him 220 men in them, well-armed, and chosen people. He sailed out to sea northwards in harvest, but encountered a tremendous storm and they were in danger of being lost; but as they had a chosen crew, and the king s luck with them, all went on well. So says Ottar: --
- "Olaf, great stem of kings, is brave --
- Bold in the fight, bold on the wave.
- No thought of fear
- Thy heart comes near.
- Undaunted, 'midst the roaring flood,
- Firm at his post each shipman stood;
- And thy two ships stout
- The gale stood out."
And further he says: --
- "Thou able chief! with thy fearless crew
- Thou meetest, with skill and courage true,
- The wild sea's wrath
- On thy ocean path.
- Though waves mast-high were breaking round.
- Thou findest the middle of Norway's ground,
- With helm in hand
- On Saela's strand."
It is related here that King Olaf came from the sea to the very middle of Norway; and the isle is called Saela where they landed, and is outside of Stad. King Olaf said he thought it must be a lucky day for them, since they had landed at Saela in Norway; and observed it was a good omen that it so happened. As they were going up in the isle, the king slipped with one foot in a place where there was clay, but supported himself with the other foot. Then said he "The king falls." "Nay," replies Hrane, "thou didst not fall, king, but set fast foot in the soil." The king laughed thereat, and said, "It may be so if God will." They went down again thereafter to their ships, and sailed to Ulfasund, where they heard that Earl Hakon was south in Sogn, and was expected north as soon as wind allowed with a single ship.
Hakon Taken Prisoner by Olaf.
King Olaf steered his ships within the ordinary ships' course when he came abreast of Fjaler district, and ran into Saudungssund. There he laid his two vessels one on each side of the sound. with a thick cable between them. At the same moment Hakon, Earl Eirik's son, came rowing into the sound with a manned ship; and as they thought these were but two merchant-vessels that were lying in the sound, they rowed between them. Then Olaf and his men draw the cable up right under Hakon's ship's keel and wind it up with the capstan. As soon as the vessel's course was stopped her stern was lifted up, and her bow plunged down; so that the water came in at her fore-end and over both sides, and she upset. King Olaf's people took Earl Hakon and all his men whom they could get hold of out of the water, and made them prisoners; but some they killed with stones and other weapons, and some were drowned. So says Ottar: --
- "The black ravens wade
- In the blood from thy blade.
- Young Hakon so gay,
- With his ship, is thy prey:
- His ship, with its gear,
- Thou hast ta'en; and art here,
- Thy forefather's land
- From the earl to demand."
Earl Hakon was led up to the king's ship. He was the handsomest man that could be seen. He had long hair, as fine as silk, bound about his bead with a gold ornament.
When he sat down in the fore-hold, the king said to him, "It is not false what is said of your family, that ye are handsome people to look at; but now your luck has deserted you."
Hakon the earl replied, "It has always been the case that success is changeable; and there is no luck in the matter. It has gone with your family as with mine, to have by turns the better lot. I am little beyond childhood in years; and at any rate we could not have defended ourselves, as we did not expect any attack on the way. It may turn out better with us another time."
Then said King Olaf, "Dost thou not apprehend that thou art in that condition that, hereafter, there can be neither victory nor defeat for thee?"
The earl replies, "That is what thou only canst determine, king, according to thy pleasure."
Olaf says, "What wilt thou give me, earl, if for this time I let thee go, whole and unhurt?"
The earl asks what he would take.
"Nothing," says the king, "except that thou shalt leave the country, give up thy kingdom, and take an oath that thou shalt never go into battle against me."
The earl answered, that he would do so. And now Earl Hakon took the oath that he would never fight against Olaf, or seek to defend Norway against him, or attack him; and King Olaf thereupon gave him and all his men life and peace. The earl got back the ship which had brought him there, and he and his men rowed their way. Thus says Sigvat of him: --
- "In old Saudungs sound
- The king Earl Hakon found,
- Who little thought that there
- A foeman was so near.
- The best and fairest youth
- Earl Hakon was in truth,
- That speaks the Danish tongue,
- And of the race of great Hakon."
Hakon's Departure from Norway.
After this (A.D. 1014) the earl made ready as fast as possible to leave the country and sail over to England. He met King Canute, his mother's brother, there, and told him all that had taken place between him and King Olaf. King Canute received him remarkably well, placed him in his court in his own house, and gave him great power in his kingdom. Earl Hakon dwelt a long time with King Canute. During the time Svein and Hakon ruled over Norway, a reconciliation with Erling Skialgson was effected, and secured by Aslak, Erling's son, marrying Gunhild, Earl Svein's daughter; and the father and son, Erling and Aslak, retained all the fiefs which King Olaf Trygvason had given to Erling. Thus Erling became a firm friend of the earl's, and their mutual friendship was confirmed by oath.
Asta Receives Her Son Olaf.
King Olaf went now eastward along the land, holding Things with the bondes all over the country. Many went willingly with him; but some, who were Earl Svein's friends or relations, spoke against him. Therefore King Olaf sailed in all haste eastward to Viken; went in there with his ships; set them on the land; and proceeded up the country, in order to meet his stepfather, Sigurd Syr. When he came to Vestfold he was received in a friendly way by many who had been his father's friends or acquaintances; and also there and in Folden were many of his family. In autumn (A.D. 1014) he proceeded up the country to his stepfather King Sigurd's, and came there one day very early. As Olaf was coming near to the house, some of the servants ran beforehand to the house, and into the room. Olaf's mother, Asta, was sitting in the room, and around her some of her girls. When the servants told her of King Olaf's approach, and that he might soon be expected, Asta stood up directly, and ordered the men and girls to put everything in the best order. She ordered four girls to bring out all that belonged to the decoration of the room and put it in order with hangings and benches. Two fellows brought straw for the floor, two brought forward four-cornered tables and the drinking-jugs, two bore out victuals and placed the meat on the table, two she sent away from the house to procure in the greatest haste all that was needed, and two carried in the ale; and all the other serving men and girls went outside of the house. Messengers went to seek King Sigurd wherever he might be, and brought to him his dress-clothes, and his horse with gilt saddle, and his bridle, which was gilt and set with precious stones. Four men she sent off to the four quarters of the country to invite all the great people to a feast, which she prepared as a rejoicing for her son's return. All who were before in the house she made to dress themselves with the best they had, and lent clothes to those who had none suitable.
King Sigurd's Dress.
King Sigurd Syr was standing in his corn-field when the messengers came to him and brought him the news, and also told him all that Asta was doing at home in the house. He had many people on his farm. Some were then shearing corn, some bound it together, some drove it to the building, some unloaded it and put it in stack or barn; but the king, and two men with him, went sometimes into the field, sometimes to the place where the corn was put into the barn. His dress, it is told, was this: -- he had a blue kirtle and blue breeches; shoes which were laced about the legs; a grey cloak, and a grey wide-brimmed hat; a veil before his face; a staff in his hand with a gilt-silver head on it and a silver ring around it. Of Sigurd's living and disposition it is related that he was a very gain-making man who attended carefully to his cattle and husbandry, and managed his housekeeping himself. He was nowise given to pomp, and was rather taciturn. But he was a man of the best understanding in Norway, and also excessively wealthy in movable property. Peaceful he was, and nowise haughty. His wife Asta was generous and high-minded. Their children were, Guthorm, the eldest; then Gunhild; the next Halfdan, Ingerid, and Harald. The messengers said to Sigurd, "Asta told us to bring thee word how much it lay at her heart that thou shouldst on this occasion comport thyself in the fashion of great men, and show a disposition more akin to Harald Harfager's race than to thy mother's father's, Hrane Thin-nose, or Earl Nereid the Old, although they too were very wise men." The king replies, "The news ye bring me is weighty, and ye bring it forward in great heat. Already before now Asta has been taken up much with people who were not so near to her; and I see she is still of the same disposition. She takes this up with great warmth; but can she lead her son out of the business with the same splendour she is leading him into it? If it is to proceed so methinks they who mix themselves up in it regard little property or life. For this man, King Olaf, goes against a great superiority of power; and the wrath of the Danish and Swedish kings lies at the foot of his determination, if he ventures to go against them."
Of the Feast.
When the king had said this he sat down, and made them take off his shoes, and put corduvan boots on, to which he bound his gold spurs. Then he put off his cloak and coat, and dressed himself in his finest clothes, with a scarlet cloak over all; girded on his sword, set a gilded helmet upon his head, and mounted his horse. He sent his labouring people out to the neighbourhood, and gathered to him thirty well-clothed men, and rode home with them. As they rode up to the house, and were near the room, they saw on the other side of the house the banners of Olaf coming waving; and there was he himself, with about 100 men all well equipped. People were gathered over all upon the house-tops. King Sigurd immediately saluted his stepson from horseback in a friendly way, and invited him and his men to come in and drink a cup with him. Asta, on the contrary, went up and kissed her son, and invited him to stay with her; and land, and people, and all the good she could do for him stood at his service. King Olaf thanked her kindly for her invitation. Then she took him by the hand, and led him into the room to the high-seat. King Sigurd got men to take charge of their clothes, and give their horses corn; and then he himself went to his high-seat, and the feast was made with the greatest splendour.
Conversation of Olaf and Sigurd.
King Olaf had not been long here before he one day called his stepfather King Sigurd, his mother Asta, and his foster-father Hrane to a conference and consultation. Olaf began thus: "It has so happened," said he, "as is well known to you, that I have returned to this country after a very long sojourn in foreign parts, during all which time I and my men have had nothing for our support but what we captured in war, for which we have often hazarded both life and soul: for many an innocent man have we deprived of his property, and some of their lives; and foreigners are now sitting in the possessions which my father, his father, and their forefathers for a long series of generations owned, and to which I have udal right. They have not been content with this, but have taken to themselves also the properties of all our relations who are descended from Harald Harfager. To some they have left little, to others nothing at all. Now I will disclose to you what I have long concealed in my own mind, that I intend to take the heritage of my forefathers; but I will not wait upon the Danish or Swedish king to supplicate the least thing from them, although they for the time call that their property which was Harald Harfager's heritage. To say the truth, I intend rather to seek my patrimony with battle-axe and sword, and that with the help of all my friends and relations, and of those who in this business will take my side. And in this matter I will so lay hand to the work that one of two things shall happen, -- either I shall lay all this kingdom under my rule which they got into their hands by the slaughter of my kinsman Olaf Trygvason, or I shall fall here upon my inheritance in the land of my fathers. Now I expect of thee, Sigurd, my stepfather, as well as other men here in the country who have udal right of succession to the kingdom, according to the law made by King Harald Harfager, that nothing shall be of such importance to you as to prevent you from throwing off the disgrace from our family of being slow at supporting the man who comes forward to raise up again our race. But whether ye show any manhood in this affair or not, I know the inclination of the people well, -- that all want to be free from the slavery of foreign masters, and will give aid and strength to the attempt. I have not proposed this matter to any before thee, because I know thou art a man of understanding, and can best judge how this my purpose shall be brought forward in the beginning, and whether we shall, in all quietness, talk about it to a few persons, or instantly declare it to the people at large. I have already shown my teeth by taking prisoner the Earl Hakon, who has now left the country, and given me, under oath, the part of the kingdom which he had before; and I think it will be easier to have Earl Svein alone to deal with, than if both were defending the country against us."
King Sigurd answers, "It is no small affair, King Olaf, thou hast in thy mind; and thy purpose comes more, methinks, from hasty pride than from prudence. But it may be there is a wide difference between my humble ways and the high thoughts thou hast; for whilst yet in thy childhood thou wast full always of ambition and desire of command, and now thou art experienced in battles, and hast formed thyself upon the manner of foreign chiefs. I know therefore well, that as thou hast taken this into thy head, it is useless to dissuade thee from it; and also it is not to be denied that it goes to the heart of all who have courage in them, that the whole Harfager race and kingdom should go to the ground. But I will not bind myself by any promise, before I know the views and intentions of other Upland kings; but thou hast done well in letting me know thy purpose, before declaring it publicly to the people. I will promise thee, however, my interest with the kings, and other chiefs, and country people; and also, King Olaf, all my property stands to thy aid, and to strengthen thee. But we will only produce the matter to the community so soon as we see some progress, and expect some strength to this undertaking; for thou canst easily perceive that it is a daring measure to enter into strife with Olaf the Swedish king, and Canute, who is king both of Denmark and England; and thou requirest great support under thee, if it is to succeed. It is not unlikely, in my opinion, that thou wilt get good support from the people, as the commonalty always loves what is new; and it went so before, when Olaf Trygvason came here to the country, that all rejoiced at it, although he did not long enjoy the kingdom."
When the consultation had proceeded so far, Asta took up the word. "For my part, my son, I am rejoiced at thy arrival, but much more at thy advancing thy honour. I will spare nothing for that purpose that stands in my power, although it be but little help that can be expected from me. But if a choice could be made, I would rather that thou shouldst be the supreme king of Norway, even if thou shouldst not sit longer in thy kingdom than Olaf Trygvason did, than that thou shouldst not be a greater king than Sigurd Syr is, and die the death of old age." With this the conference closed. King Olaf remained here a while with all his men. King Sigurd entertained them, day about, the one day with fish and milk, the other day with flesh-meat and ale.
Kings in the Upland Districts.
At that time there were many kings in the Uplands who had districts to rule over, and the most of them were descended from Harald Harfager. In Hedemark two brothers ruled -- Hrorek and Ring; in Gudbrandsdal, Gudrod; and there was also a king in Raumarike; and one had Hadaland and Thoten; and in Valders also there was a king. With these district-kings Sigurd had a meeting up in Hadaland, and Olaf Haraldson also met with them. To these district-kings whom Sigurd had assembled he set forth his stepson Olaf's purpose, and asked their aid, both of men and in counsel and consent; and represented to them how necessary it was to cast off the yoke which the Danes and Swedes had laid upon them. He said that there was now a man before them who could head such an enterprise; and he recounted the many brave actions which Olaf had achieved upon his war-expeditions.
Then King Hrorek says, "True it is that Harald Harfager's kingdom has gone to decay, none of his race being supreme king over Norway. But the people here in the country have experienced many things. When King Hakon, Athelstan's foster-son, was king, all were content; but when Gunhild's sons ruled over the country, all were so weary of their tyranny and injustice that they would rather have foreign men as kings, and be themselves more their own rulers; for the foreign kings were usually abroad and cared little about the customs of the people if the scat they laid on the country was paid. When enmity arose between the Danish king Harald and Earl Hakon, the Jomsborg vikings made an expedition against Norway; then the whole people arose, and threw the hostilities from themselves; and thereafter the people encouraged Earl Hakon to keep the country, and defend it with sword and spear against the Danish king. But when he had set himself fast in the kingdom with the help of the people, he became so hard and overbearing towards the country-folks, that they would no longer suffer him. The Throndhjem people killed him, and raised to the kingly power Olaf Trygvason, who was of the udal succession to the kingdom, and in all respects well fitted to be a chief. The whole country's desire was to make him supreme king, and raise again the kingdom which Harald Harfager had made for himself. But when King Olaf thought himself quite firmly seated in his kingdom, no man could rule his own concerns for him. With us small kings he was so unreasonable, as to take to himself not only all the scat and duties which Harald Harfager had levied from us, but a great deal more. The people at last had so little freedom under him, that it was not allowed to every man to believe in what god he pleased. Now since he has been taken away we have kept friendly with the Danish king; have received great help from him when we have had any occasion for it; and have been allowed to rule ourselves, and live in peace and quiet in the inland country, and without any overburden. I am therefore content that things be as they are, for I do not see what better rights I am to enjoy by one of my relations ruling over the country; and if I am to be no better off, I will take no part in the affair."
Then said King Ring, his brother, "I will also declare my opinion that it is better for me, if I hold the same power and property as now, that my relative is king over Norway, rather than a foreign chief, so that our family may again raise its head in the land. It is, besides, my opinion about this man Olaf, that his fate and luck must determine whether he is to obtain the kingdom or not; and if he succeed in making himself supreme king, then he will be the best off who has best deserved his friendship. At present he has in no respect greater power than any of us; nay, indeed, he has less; as we have lands and kingdoms to rule over, and he has nothing, and we are equally entitled by the udal right to the kingdom as he is himself. Now, if we will be his men, give him our aid, allow him to take the highest dignity in the country, and stand by him with our strength, how should he not reward us well, and hold it in remembrance to our great advantage, if he be the honourable man I believe him to be, and all say he is? Therefore let us join the adventure, say I, and bind ourselves in friendship with him."
Then the others, one after the other, stood up and spoke; and the conclusion was, that the most of them determined to enter into a league with King Olaf. He promised them his perfect friendship, and that he would hold by and improve the country's laws and rights, if he became supreme king of Norway. This league was confirmed by oath.
Olaf Gets the Title of King from the Thing.
Thereafter the kings summoned a Thing, and there King Olaf set forth this determination to all the people, and his demand on the kingly power. He desires that the bondes should receive him as king; and promises, on the other hand, to allow them to retain their ancient laws, and to defend the land from foreign masters and chiefs. On this point he spoke well, and long; and he got great praise for his speech. Then the kings rose and spoke, the one after the other, and supported his cause, and this message to the people. At last it came to this, that King Olaf was proclaimed king over the whole country, and the kingdom adjudged to him according to law in the Uplands (A.D. 1014).
King Olaf Travels in the Uplands.
King Olaf began immediately his progress through the country, appointing feasts before him wherever there were royal farms. First he travelled round in Hadaland, and then he proceeded north to Gudbrandsdal. And now it went as King Sigurd Syr had foretold, that people streamed to him from all quarters; and he did not appear to have need for half of them, for he had nearly 300 men. But the entertainments bespoken did not half serve; for it had been the custom that kings went about in guest-quarters in the Uplands with 60 or 70 men only, and never with more than 100 men. The king therefore hastened over the country, only stopping one night at the same place. When he came north to Dovrefield, he arranged his journey so that he came over the mountain and down upon the north side of it, and then came to Opdal, where he remained all night. Afterwards he proceeded through Opdal forest, and came out at Medaldal, where he proclaimed a Thing, and summoned the bondes to meet him at it. The king made a speech to the Thing, and asked the bondes to accept him as king; and promised, on his part, the laws and rights which King Olaf Trygvason had offered them. The bondes had no strength to make opposition to the king; so the result was that they received him as king, and confirmed it by oath: but they sent word to Orkadal and Skaun of all that they knew concerning Olaf's proceedings.
Levy Against Olaf in Throndhjem.
Einar Tambaskelfer had a farm and house at Husaby in Skaun; and now when he got news of Olaf's proceedings, he immediately split up a war-arrow, and sent it out as a token to the four quarters -- north, south, east, west, -- to call together all free and unfree men in full equipment of war: therewith the message, that they were to defend the land against King Olaf. The message-stick went to Orkadal, and thence to Gaulardal, where the whole war-force was to assemble.
Olaf's Progress in Throndhjem.
King Olaf proceeded with his men down into Orkadal, and advanced in peace and with all gentleness; but when he came to Griotar he met the assembled bondes, amounting to more than 700 men. Then the king arrayed his army, for he thought the bondes were to give battle. When the bondes saw this, they also began to put their men in order; but it went on very slowly, for they had not agreed beforehand who among them should be commander. Now when King Olaf saw there was confusion among the bondes, he sent to them Thorer Gudbrandson; and when he came he told them King Olaf did not want to fight them, but named twelve of the ablest men in their flock of people, who were desired to come to King Olaf. The bondes agreed to this; and the twelve men went over a rising ground which is there, and came to the place where the king's army stood in array. The king said to them, "Ye bondes have done well to give me an opportunity to speak with you, for now I will explain to you my errand here to the Throndhjem country. First I must tell you, what ye already must have heard, that Earl Hakon and I met in summer; and the issue of our meeting was, that he gave me the whole kingdom he possessed in the Throndhjem country, which, as ye know, consists of Orkadal, Gaulardal, Strind, and Eyna district. As a proof of this, I have here with me the very men who were present, and saw the earl's and my own hands given upon it, and heard the word and oath, and witnessed the agreement the earl made with me. Now I offer you peace and law, the same as King Olaf Trygvason offered before me."
The king spoke well, and long; and ended by proposing to the bondes two conditions -- either to go into his service and be subject to him, or to fight him. Thereupon the twelve bondes went back to their people, and told the issue of their errand, and considered with the people what they should resolve upon. Although they discussed the matter backwards and forwards for a while, they preferred at last to submit to the king; and it was confirmed by the oath of the bondes. The king now proceeded on his journey, and the bondes made feasts for him. The king then proceeded to the sea-coast, and got ships; and among others he got a long-ship of twenty benches of rowers from Gunnar of Gelmin; another ship of twenty benches he got from Loden of Viggia; and three ships of twenty benches from the farm of Angrar on the ness which farm Earl Hakon had possessed, but a steward managed it for him, by name Bard White. The king had, besides, four or five boats; and with these vessels he went in all haste into the fjord of Throndhjem.
Of Earl Svein's Proceedings.
Earl Svein was at that time far up in the Throndhjem fjord at Steinker, which at that time was a merchant town, and was there preparing for the yule festival (A.D. 1015). When Einar Tambaskelfer heard that the Orkadal people had submitted to King Olaf, he sent men to Earl Svein to bring him the tidings. They went first to Nidaros, and took a rowing-boat which belonged to Einar, with which they went out into the fjord, and came one day late in the evening to Steinker, where they brought to the earl the news about all King Olaf's proceedings. The earl owned a long-ship, which was lying afloat and rigged just outside the town: and immediately, in the evening, he ordered all his movable goods, his people's clothes, and also meat and drink, as much as the vessel could carry, to be put on board, rowed immediately out in the night-time, and came with daybreak to Skarnsund. There he saw King Olaf rowing in with his fleet into the fjord. The earl turned towards the land within Masarvik, where there was a thick wood, and lay so near the rocks that the leaves and branches hung over the vessel. They cut down some large trees, which they laid over the quarter on the sea-side, so that the ship could not be seen for leaves, especially as it was scarcely clear daylight when the king came rowing past them. The weather was calm, and the king rowed in among the islands; and when the king's fleet was out of sight the earl rowed out of the fjord, and on to Frosta, where his kingdom lay, and there he landed.
Earl Svein's and Einar's Consultations.
Earl Svein sent men out to Gaulardal to his brother-in-law, Einar Tambaskelfer; and when Einar came the earl told him how it had been with him and King Olaf, and that now he would assemble men to go out against King Olaf, and fight him.
Einar answers, "We should go to work cautiously, and find out what King Olaf intends doing; and not let him hear anything concerning us but that we are quiet. It may happen that if he hears nothing about our assembling people, he may sit quietly where he is in Steinker all the Yule; for there is plenty prepared for him for the Yule feast: but if he hears we are assembling men, he will set right out of the fjord with his vessels, and we shall not get hold of him." Einar's advice was taken; and the earl went to Stjoradal, into guest-quarters among the bondes.
When King Olaf came to Steinker he collected all the meat prepared for the Yule feast, and made it be put on board, procured some transport vessels, took meat and drink with him, and got ready to sail as fast as possible, and went out all the way to Nidaros. Here King Olaf Trygvason had laid the foundation of a merchant town, and had built a king's house: but before that Nidaros was only a single house, as before related. When Earl Eirik came to the country, he applied all his attention to his house of Lade, where his father had had his main residence, and he neglected the houses which Olaf had erected at the Nid; so that some were fallen down, and those which stood were scarcely habitable. King Olaf went now with his ships up the Nid, made all the houses to be put in order directly that were still standing, and built anew those that had fallen down, and employed in this work a great many people. Then he had all the meat and drink brought on shore to the houses, and prepared to hold Yule there; so Earl Svein and Einar had to fall upon some other plan.
Of Sigvat the Skald.
There was an Iceland man called Thord Sigvaldaskald, who had been long with Earl Sigvalde, and afterwards with the earl's brother, Thorkel the Tall; but after the earl's death Thord had become a merchant. He met King Olaf on his viking cruise in the west, and entered into his service, and followed him afterwards. He was with the king when the incidents above related took place. Thord had a son called Sigvat fostered in the house of Thorkel at Apavatn, in Iceland. When he was nearly a grown man he went out of the country with some merchants; and the ship came in autumn to the Throndhjem country, and the crew lodged in the hered (district). The same winter King Olaf came to Throndhjem, as just now related by us. Now when Sigvat heard that his father Thord was with the king, he went to him, and stayed a while with him. Sigvat was a good skald at an early age. He made a lay in honour of King Olaf, and asked the king to listen to it. The king said he did not want poems composed about him, and said he did not understand the skald's craft. Then Sigvat sang: --
- "Rider of dark-blue ocean's steeds!
- Allow one skald to sing thy deeds;
- And listen to the song of one
- Who can sing well, if any can.
- For should the king despise all others,
- And show no favour to my brothers,
- Yet I may all men's favour claim,
- Who sing, still of our great king's fame."
King Olaf gave Sigvat as a reward for his verse a gold ring that weighed half a mark, and Sigvat was made one of King Olaf's court-men. Then Sigvat sang: --
- "I willingly receive this sword --
- By land or sea, on shore, on board,
- I trust that I shall ever be
- Worthy the sword received from thee.
- A faithful follower thou hast bound --
- A generous master I have found;
- Master and servant both have made
- Just what best suits them by this trade."
Earl Svein had, according to custom, taken one half of the harbour-dues from the Iceland ship-traders about autumn (A.D. 1014); for the Earls Eirik and Hakon had always taken one half of these and all other revenues in the Throndhjem country. Now when King Olaf came there, he sent his men to demand that half of the tax from the Iceland traders; and they went up to the king's house and asked Sigvat to help them. He went to the king, and sang: --
- "My prayer, I trust, will not be vain --
- No gold by it have I to gain:
- All that the king himself here wins
- Is not red gold, but a few skins.
- It is not right that these poor men
- Their harbour-dues should pay again.
- That they paid once I know is true;
- Remit, great king, what scarce is due."
Of Earl Svein.
Earl Svein and Einar Tambaskelfer gathered a large armed force, with which they came by the upper road into Gaulardal, and so down to Nidaros, with nearly 2000 men. King Olaf's men were out upon the Gaular ridge, and had a guard on horseback. They became aware that a force was coming down the Gaulardal, and they brought word of it to the king about midnight. The king got up immediately, ordered the people to be wakened, and they went on board of the ships, bearing all their clothes and arms on board, and all that they could take with them, and then rowed out of the river. Then came the earl's men to the town at the same moment, took all the Christmas provision, and set fire to the houses. King Olaf went out of the fjord down to Orkadal, and there landed the men from their ships. From Orkadal they went up to the mountains, and over the mountains eastwards into Gudbrandsdal. In the lines composed about Kleng Brusason, it is said that Earl Eirik burned the town of Nidaros: --
- "The king's half-finished hall,
- Rafters, root, and all,
- Is burned down by the river's side;
- The flame spreads o'er the city wide."
Of King Olaf.
King Olaf went southwards through Gudbrandsdal, and thence out to Hedemark. In the depth of winter (A.D. 1015) he went about in guest-quarters; but when spring returned he collected men, and went to Viken. He had with him many people from Hedemark, whom the kings had given him; and also many powerful people from among the bondes joined him, among whom Ketil Kalf from Ringanes. He had also people from Raumarike. His stepfather, Sigurd Syr, gave him the help also of a great body of men. They went down from thence to the coast, and made ready to put to sea from Viken. The fleet, which was manned with many fine fellows, went out then to Tunsberg.
Of Earl Svein's Forces.
After Yule (A.D. 1015) Earl Svein gathers all the men of the Throndhjem country, proclaims a levy for an expedition, and fits out ships. At that time there were in the Throndhjem country a great number of lendermen; and many of them were so powerful and well-born, that they descended from earls, or even from the royal race, which in a short course of generations reckoned to Harald Harfager, and they were also very rich. These lendermen were of great help to the kings or earls who ruled the land; for it was as if the lenderman had the bonde-people of each district in his power. Earl Svein being a good friend of the lendermen, it was easy for him to collect people. His brother-in-law, Einar Tambaskelfer, was on his side, and with him many other lendermen; and among them many, both lendermen and bondes, who the winter before had taken the oath of fidelity to King Olaf. When they were ready for sea they went directly out of the fjord, steering south along the land, and drawing men from every district. When they came farther south, abreast of Rogaland, Erling Skialgson came to meet them, with many people and many lendermen with him. Now they steered eastward with their whole fleet to Viken, and Earl Svein ran in there towards the end of Easter. The earl steered his fleet to Grenmar, and ran into Nesjar (A.D. 1015).
King Olaf's Forces.
King Olaf steered his fleet out from Viken, until the two fleets were not far from each other, and they got news of each other the Saturday before Palm Sunday. King Olaf himself had a ship called the Carl's Head, on the bow of which a king's head was carved out, and he himself had carved it. This head was used long after in Norway on ships which kings steered themselves.
King Olaf's Speech.
As soon as day dawned on Sunday morning, King Olaf got up, put on his clothes, went to the land, and ordered to sound the signal for the whole army to come on shore. Then he made a speech to the troops, and told the whole assembly that he had heard there was but a short distance between them and Earl Svein. "Now," said he, "we shall make ready; for it can be but a short time until we meet. Let the people arm, and every man be at the post that has been appointed him, so that all may be ready when I order the signal to sound for casting off from the land. Then let us row off at once; and so that none go on before the rest of the ships, and none lag behind when I row out of the harbour: for we cannot tell if we shall find the earl where he was lying, or if he has come out to meet us. When we do meet, and the battle begins, let people be alert to bring all our ships in close order, and ready to bind them together. Let us spare ourselves in the beginning, and take care of our weapons, that we do not cast them into the sea, or shoot them away in the air to no purpose. But when the fight becomes hot and the ships are bound together, then let each man show what is in him of manly spirit."
Of the Battle at Nesjar.
King Olaf had in his ship 100 men armed in coats of ring-mail, and in foreign helmets. The most of his men had white shields, on which the holy cross was gilt; but some had painted it in blue or red. He had also had the cross painted in front on all the helmets, in a pale colour. He had a white banner on which was a serpent figured. He ordered a mass to be read before him, went on board ship, and ordered his people to refresh themselves with meat and drink. He then ordered the war-horns to sound to battle, to leave the harbour, and row off to seek the earl. Now when they came to the harbour where the earl had lain, the earl's men were armed, and beginning to row out of the harbour; but when they saw the king's fleet coming they began to bind the ships together, to set up their banners, and to make ready for the fight. When King Olaf saw this he hastened the rowing, laid his ship alongside the earl's, and the battle began. So says Sigvat the skald: --
- "Boldly the king did then pursue
- Earl Svein, nor let him out of view.
- The blood ran down the reindeer's flank
- Of each sea-king -- his vessel's plank.
- Nor did the earl's stout warriors spare
- In battle-brunt the sword and spear.
- Earl Svein his ships of war pushed on,
- And lashed their stout stems one to one."
It is said that King Olaf brought his ships into battle while Svein was still lying in the harbour. Sigvat the skald was himself in the fight; and in summer, just after the battle, he composed a lay, which is called the "Nesjar Song", in which he tells particularly the circumstances: --
- "In the fierce fight 'tis known how near
- The scorner of the ice-cold spear
- Laid the Charles' head the earl on board,
- All eastward of the Agder fjord."
Then was the conflict exceedingly sharp, and it was long before it could be seen how it was to go in the end. Many fell on both sides, and many were the wounded. So says Sigvat: --
- "No urging did the earl require,
- Midst spear and sword -- the battle's fire;
- No urging did the brave king need
- The ravens in this shield-storm to feed.
- Of limb-lopping enough was there,
- And ghastly wounds of sword and spear.
- Never, I think, was rougher play
- Than both the armies had that day."
The earl had most men, but the king had a chosen crew in his ship, who had followed him in all his wars; and, besides, they were so excellently equipped, as before related, that each man had a coat of ring-mail, so that he could not be wounded. So says Sigvat: --
- "Our lads, broad-shouldered, tall, and hale,
- Drew on their cold shirts of ring-mail.
- Soon sword on sword was shrilly ringing,
- And in the air the spears were singing.
- Under our helms we hid our hair,
- For thick flew arrows through the air.
- Right glad was I our gallant crew,
- Steel-clad from head to foot, to view."
Earl Svein's Flight.
When the men began to fall on board the earl's ships, and many appeared wounded, so that the sides of the vessels were but thinly beset with men, the crew of King Olaf prepared to board. Their banner was brought up to the ship that was nearest the earl's, and the king himself followed the banner. So says Sigvat: --
- "`On with the king!' his banners waving:
- `On with the king!' the spears he's braving!
- `On, steel-clad men! and storm the deck,
- Slippery with blood and strewed with wreck.
- A different work ye have to share,
- His banner in war-storm to bear,
- From your fair girl's, who round the hall
- Brings the full mead-bowl to us all.'"
Now was the severest fighting. Many of Svein's men fell, and some sprang overboard. So says Sigvat: --
- "Into the ship our brave lads spring, --
- On shield and helm their red blades ring;
- The air resounds with stroke on stroke, --
- The shields are cleft, the helms are broke.
- The wounded bonde o'er the side
- Falls shrieking in the blood-stained tide --
- The deck is cleared with wild uproar --
- The dead crew float about the shore."
And also these lines: --
- "The shields we brought from home were white,
- Now they are red-stained in the fight:
- This work was fit for those who wore
- Ringed coats-of-mail their breasts before.
- Where for the foe blunted the best sword
- I saw our young king climb on board.
- He stormed the first; we followed him --
- The war-birds now in blood may swim."
Now defeat began to come down upon the earl's men. The king's men pressed upon the earl's ship and entered it; but when the earl saw how it was going, he called out to his forecastle-men to cut the cables and cast the ship loose, which they did. Then the king's men threw grapplings over the timber heads of the ship, and so held her fast to their own; but the earl ordered the timber heads to be cut away, which was done. So says Sigvat: --
- "The earl, his noble ship to save,
- To cut the posts loud order gave.
- The ship escaped: our greedy eyes
- Had looked on her as a clear prize.
- The earl escaped; but ere he fled
- We feasted Odin's fowls with dead: --
- With many a goodly corpse that floated
- Round our ship's stern his birds were bloated."
Einar Tambaskelfer had laid his ship right alongside the earl's. They threw an anchor over the bows of the earl's ship, and thus towed her away, and they slipped out of the fjord together. Thereafter the whole of the earl's fleet took to flight, and rowed out of the fjord. The skald Berse Torfason was on the forecastle of the earl's ship; and as it was gliding past the king's fleet, King Olaf called out to him -- for he knew Berse, who was distinguished as a remarkably handsome man, always well equipped in clothes and arms -- "Farewell, Berse!" He replied, "Farewell, king!" So says Berse himself, in a poem he composed when he fell into King Olaf's power, and was laid in prison and in fetters on board a ship: --
- "Olaf the Brave
- A `farewell' gave,
- (No time was there to parley long,)
- To me who knows the art of song.
- The skald was fain
- `Farewell' again
- In the same terms back to send --
- The rule in arms to foe or friend.
- Earl Svein's distress
- I well can guess,
- When flight he was compelled to take:
- His fortunes I will ne'er forsake,
- Though I lie here
- In chains a year,
- In thy great vessel all forlorn,
- To crouch to thee I still will scorn:
- I still will say,
- No milder sway
- Than from thy foe this land e'er knew:
- To him, my early friend, I'm true."