Heimskringla/Saga of Olaf Haraldson/Part VI
- 1 Fin Arnason's Expedition to Halogaland.
- 2 Dispute Between Harek and Asmund.
- 3 Thorod's Story.
- 4 King Olaf's Levy of Men.
- 5 Karl Morske's Story.
- 6 King Olaf's Expedition with His Levy.
- 7 Of King Olaf and King Onund.
- 8 Of King Canute the Great.
- 9 Of King Canute's Ship the Dragon.
- 10 Hardaknut Taken to Be King in Denmark.
- 11 Foray in Scania.
- 12 Battle in Helga River.
- 13 King Olaf and King Onund's Plans.
- 14 Of King Canute and Earl Ulf.
- 15 Of the Earl's Murder.
- 16 Of King Olaf and the Swedes.
- 17 Of Egil and Tofe.
- 18 Treachery Towards King Olaf.
- 19 King Olaf's Consultations.
- 20 Harek of Thjotta's Voyage.
- 21 King Olaf's Course from Svithjod.
- 22 Of Sigvat the Skald.
- 23 Of Erling Skjalgson and His Sons.
- 24 Of King Olaf's Presents at Yule.
- 25 Of Bjorn the Bailiff.
- 26 Of Raud's Sons.
- 27 Thorer's Death.
Fin Arnason's Expedition to Halogaland.
Now when Fin Arnason had been a short time with King Olaf, the king called him to a conference, along with some other persons he usually held consultation with; and in this conference the king spoke to this effect: -- "The decision remains fixed in my mind that in spring I should raise the whole country to a levy both of men and ships, and then proceed, with all the force I can muster, against King Canute the Great: for I know for certain that he does not intend to treat as a jest the claim he has awakened upon my kingdom. Now I let thee know my will, Fin Arnason, that thou proceed on my errand to Halogaland, and raise the people there to an expedition, men and ships, and summon that force to meet me at Agdanes." Then the king named other men whom he sent to Throndhjem, and some southwards in the country, and he commanded that this order should be circulated through the whole land. Of Fin's voyage we have to relate that he had with him a ship with about thirty men, and when he was ready for sea he prosecuted his journey until he came to Halogaland. There he summoned the bondes to a Thing, laid before them his errand, and craved a levy. The bondes in that district had large vessels, suited to a levy expedition, and they obeyed the king's message, and rigged their ships. Now when Fin came farther north in Halogaland he held a Thing again, and sent some of his men from him to crave a levy where he thought it necessary. He sent also men to Bjarkey Island to Thorer Hund, and there, as elsewhere, craved the quota to the levy. When the message came to Thorer he made himself ready, and manned with his house-servants the same vessel he had sailed with on his cruise to Bjarmaland, and which he equipped at his own expense. Fin summoned all the people of Halogaland who were to the north to meet at Vagar. There came a great fleet together in spring, and they waited there until Fin returned from the North. Thorer Hund had also come there. When Fin arrived he ordered the signal to sound for all the people of the levy to attend a House-Thing; and at it all the men produced their weapons, and also the fighting men from each ship-district were mustered. When that was all finished Fin said, "I have also to bring thee a salutation, Thorer Hund, from King Olaf, and to ask thee what thou wilt offer him for the murder of his court-man Karle, or for the robbery in taking the king's goods north in Lengjuvik. I have the king's orders to settle that business, and I wait thy answer to it."
Thorer looked about him, and saw standing on both sides many fully armed men, among whom were Gunstein and others of Karle's kindred. Then said Thorer, "My proposal is soon made. I will refer altogether to the king's pleasure the matter he thinks he has against me."
Fin replies, "Thou must put up with a less honour; for thou must refer the matter altogether to my decision, if any agreement is to take place."
Thorer replies, "And even then I think it will stand well with my case, and therefore I will not decline referring it to thee."
Thereupon Thorer came forward, and confirmed what he said by giving his hand upon it; and Fin repeated first all the words he should say.
Fin now pronounced his decision upon the agreement, -- that Thorer should pay to the king ten marks of gold, and to Gunstein and the other kindred ten marks, and for the robbery and loss of goods ten marks more; and all which should be paid immediately.
Thorer says, "This is a heavy money mulct."
"Without it," replies Fin, "there will be no agreement."
Thorer says, there must time be allowed to gather so much in loan from his followers; but Fin told him to pay immediately on the spot; and besides, Thorer should lay down the great ornament which he took from Karle when he was dead. Thorer asserted that he had not got the ornament. Then Gunstein pressed forward, and said that Karle had the ornament around his neck when they parted, but it was gone when they took up his corpse. Thorer said he had not observed any ornament; but if there was any such thing, it must be lying at home in Bjarkey. Then Fin put the point of his spear to Thorer's breast, and said that he must instantly produce the ornament; on which Thorer took the ornament from his neck and gave it to Fin. Thereafter Thorer turned away, and went on board his ship. Fin, with many other men, followed him, went through the whole vessel, and took up the hatches. At the mast they saw two very large casks; and Fin asked, "What are these puncheons?"
Thorer replies, "It is my liquor."
Fin says, "Why don't you give us something to drink then, comrade, since you have so much liquor?"
Thorer ordered his men to run off a bowlfull from the puncheons, from which Fin and his people got liquor of the best quality. Now Fin ordered Thorer to pay the mulcts. Thorer went backwards and forwards through the ship, speaking now to the one, now to the other, and Fin calling out to produce the pence. Thorer begged him to go to the shore, and said he would bring the money there, and Fin with his men went on shore. Then Thorer came and paid silver; of which, from one purse, there were weighed ten marks. Thereafter Thorer brought many knotted nightcaps; and in some was one mark, in others half a mark, and in others some small money. "This is money my friends and other good people have lent me," said he; "for I think all my travelling money is gone." Then Thorer went back again to his ship, and returned, and paid the silver by little and little; and this lasted so long that the day was drawing towards evening. When the Thing had closed the people had gone to their vessels, and made ready to depart; and as fast as they were ready they hoisted sail and set out, so that most of them were under sail. When Fin saw that they were most of them under sail, he ordered his men to get ready too; but as yet little more than a third part of the mulct had been paid. Then Fin said, "This goes on very slowly, Thorer, with the payment. I see it costs thee a great deal to pay money. I shall now let it stand for the present, and what remains thou shalt pay to the king himself." Fin then got up and went away.
Thorer replies, "I am well enough pleased, Fin, to part now; but the good will is not wanting to pay this debt, so that both thou and the king shall say it is not unpaid."
Then Fin went on board his ship, and followed the rest of his fleet. Thorer was late before he was ready to come out of the harbour. When the sails were hoisted he steered out over Westfjord, and went to sea, keeping south along the land so far off that the hill-tops were half sunk, and soon the land altogether was sunk from view by the sea. Thorer held this course until he got into the English sea, and landed in England. He betook himself to King Canute forthwith, and was well received by him. It then came out that Thorer had with him a great deal of property; and, with other things, all the money he and Karle had taken in Bjarmaland. In the great liquor-casks there were sides within the outer sides, and the liquor was between them. The rest of the casks were filled with furs, and beaver and sable skins. Thorer was then with King Canute. Fin came with his forces to King Olaf, and related to him how all had gone upon his voyage, and told at the same time his suspicion that Thorer had left the country, and gone west to England to King Canute. "And there I fear he will cause as much trouble."
The king replies, "I believe that Thorer must be our enemy, and it appears to me always better to have him at a distance than near."
Dispute Between Harek and Asmund.
Asmund Grankelson had been this winter (A.D. 1027) in Halogaland in his sheriffdom, and was at home with his father Grankel. There lies a rock out in the sea, on which there is both seal and bird catching, and a fishing ground, and egg-gathering; and from old times it had been an appendage to the farm which Grankel owned, but now Harek of Thjotta laid claim to it. It had gone so far, that some years he had taken by force all the gain of this rock; but Asmund and his father thought that they might expect the king's help in all cases in which the right was upon their side. Both father and son went therefore in spring to Harek, and brought him a message and tokens from King Olaf that he should drop his claim. Harek answered Asmund crossly, because he had gone to the king with such insinuations -- "for the just right is upon my side. Thou shouldst learn moderation, Asmund, although thou hast so much confidence in the king's favour. It has succeeded with thee to kill some chiefs, and leave their slaughter unpaid for by any mulct; and also to plunder us, although we thought ourselves at least equal to all of equal birth, and thou art far from being my equal in family."
Asmund replies, "Many have experienced from thee, Harek, that thou art of great connections, and too great power; and many in consequence have suffered loss in their property through thee. But it is likely that now thou must turn thyself elsewhere, and not against us with thy violence, and not go altogether against law, as thou art now doing." Then they separated.
Harek sent ten or twelve of his house-servants with a large rowing boat, with which they rowed to the rock, took all that was to be got upon it, and loaded their boat. But when they were ready to return home, Asmund Grankelson came with thirty men, and ordered them to give up all they had taken. Harek's house-servants were not quick in complying, so that Asmund attacked them. Some of Harek's men were cudgelled, some wounded, some thrown into the sea, and all they had caught was taken from on board of their boat, and Asmund and his people took it along with them. Then Harek's servants came home, and told him the event. Harek replies, "That is called news indeed that seldom happens; never before has it happened that my people have been beaten."
The matter dropped. Harek never spoke about it, but was very cheerful. In spring, however, Harek rigged out a cutter of twenty seats of rowers, and manned it with his house-servants, and the ship was remarkably well fitted out both with people and all necessary equipment; and Harek went to the levy; but when he came to King Olaf, Asmund was there before him. The king summoned Harek and Asmund to him, and reconciled them so that they left the matter entirely to him. Asmund then produced witnesses to prove that Grankel had owned the rock, and the king gave judgment accordingly. The case had a one-sided result. No mulct was paid for Harek's house-servants, and the rock was declared to be Grankel's. Harek observed it was no disgrace to obey the king's decision, whatever way the case itself was decided.
Thorod Snorrason had remained in Norway, according to King Olaf's commands, when Geller Thorkelson got leave to go to Iceland, as before related. He remained there (A.D. 1027) with King Olaf, but was ill pleased that he was not free to travel where he pleased. Early in winter, King Olaf, when he was in Nidaros, made it known that he would send people to Jamtaland to collect the scat; but nobody had any great desire to go on this business, after the fate of those whom King Olaf had sent before, namely, Thrand White and others, twelve in number, who lost their lives, as before related; and the Jamtalanders had ever since been subject to the Swedish king. Thorod Snorrason now offered to undertake this journey, for he cared little what became of him if he could but become his own master again. The king consented, and Thorod set out with eleven men in company. They came east to Jamtaland, and went to a man called Thorar, who was lagman, and a person in high estimation. They met with a hospitable reception; and when they had been there a while, they explained their business to Thorar. He replied, that other men and chiefs of the country had in all respects as much power and right to give an answer as he had, and for that purpose he would call together a Thing. It was so done; the message-token was sent out, and a numerous Thing assembled. Thorar went to the Thing, but the messengers in the meantime remained at home. At the Thing, Thorar laid the business before the people, but all were unanimous that no scat should be paid to the king of Norway; and some were for hanging the messengers, others for sacrificing them to the gods. At last it was resolved to hold them fast until the king of Sweden's sheriffs arrived, and they could treat them as they pleased with consent of the people; and that, in the meantime, this decision should be concealed, and the messengers treated well, and detained under pretext that they must wait until the scat is collected; and that they should be separated, and placed two and two, as if for the convenience of boarding them. Thorod and another remained in Thorar's house. There was a great Yule feast and ale-drinking, to which each brought his own liquor; for there were many peasants in the village, who all drank in company together at Yule. There was another village not far distant, where Thorar's brother-in-law dwelt, who was a rich and powerful man, and had a grown-up son. The brothers-in-law intended to pass the Yule in drinking feasts, half of it at the house of the one and half with the other; and the feast began at Thorar's house. The brothers-in-law drank together, and Thorod and the sons of the peasants by themselves; and it was a drinking match. In the evening words arose, and comparisons between the men of Sweden and of Norway, and then between their kings both of former times and at the present, and of the manslaughters and robberies that had taken place between the countries. Then said the peasants sons, "If our king has lost most people, his sheriffs will make it even with the lives of twelve men when they come from the south after Yule; and ye little know, ye silly fools, why ye are kept here." Thorod took notice of these words, and many made jest about it, and scoffed at them and their king. When the ale began to talk out of the hearts of the Jamtalanders, what Thorod had before long suspected became evident. The day after Thorod and his comrade took all their clothes and weapons, and laid them ready; and at night, when the people were all asleep, they fled to the forest. The next morning, when the Jamtalanders were aware of their flight, men set out after them with dogs to trace them, and found them in a wood in which they had concealed themselves. They brought them home to a room in which there was a deep cellar, into which they were thrown, and the door locked upon them. They had little meat, and only the clothes they had on them. In the middle of Yule, Thorar, with all his freeborn men, went to his brother's-in-law, where he was to be a guest until the last of Yule. Thorar's slaves were to keep guard upon the cellar, and they were provided with plenty of liquor; but as they observed no moderation in drinking, they became towards evening confused in the head with the ale. As they were quite drunk, those who had to bring meat to the prisoners in the cellar said among themselves that they should want for nothing. Thorod amused the slaves by singing to them. They said he was a clever man, and gave him a large candle that was lighted; and the slaves who were in went to call the others to come in; but they were all so confused with the ale, that in going out they neither locked the cellar nor the room after them. Now Thorod and his comrades tore up their skin clothes in strips, knotted them together, made a noose at one end, and threw up the rope on the floor of the room. It fastened itself around a chest, by which they tried to haul themselves up. Thorod lifted up his comrade until he stood on his shoulders, and from thence scrambled up through the hatchhole. There was no want of ropes in the chamber, and he threw a rope down to Thorod; but when he tried to draw him up, he could not move him from the spot. Then Thorod told him to cast the rope over a cross-beam that was in the house, make a loop in it, and place as much wood and stones in the loop as would outweigh him; and the heavy weight went down into the cellar, and Thorod was drawn up by it. Now they took as much clothes as they required in the room; and among other things they took some reindeer hides, out of which they cut sandals, and bound them under their feet, with the hoofs of the reindeer feet trailing behind. But before they set off they set fire to a large corn barn which was close by, and then ran out into the pitch-dark night. The barn blazed, and set fire to many other houses in the village. Thorod and his comrade travelled the whole night until they came to a lonely wood, where they concealed themselves when it was daylight. In the morning they were missed. There was chase made with dogs to trace the footsteps all round the house; but the hounds always came back to the house, for they had the smell of the reindeer hoofs, and followed the scent back on the road that the hoofs had left, and therefore could not find the right direction. Thorod and his comrade wandered long about in the desert forest, and came one evening to a small house, and went in. A man and a woman were sitting by the fire. The man called himself Thorer, and said it was his wife who was sitting there, and the hut belonged to them. The peasant asked them to stop there, at which they were well pleased. He told them that he had come to this place, because he had fled from the inhabited district on account of a murder. Thorod and his comrade were well received, and they all got their supper at the fireside; and then the benches were cleared for them, and they lay down to sleep, but the fire was still burning with a clear light. Thorod saw a man come in from another house, and never had he seen so stout a man. He was dressed in a scarlet cloak beset with gold clasps, and was of very handsome appearance. Thorod heard him scold them for taking guests, when they had scarcely food for themselves. The housewife said, "Be not angry, brother; seldom such a thing happens; and rather do them some good too, for thou hast better opportunity to do so than we." Thorod heard also the stout man named by the name of Arnliot Gelline, and observed that the woman of the house was his sister. Thorod had heard speak of Arnliot as the greatest-of robbers and malefactors. Thorod and his companion slept the first part of the night, for they were wearied with walking; but when a third of the night was still to come, Arnliot awoke them, told them to get up, and make ready to depart. They arose immediately, put on their clothes, and some breakfast was given them; and Arnliot gave each of them also a pair of skees. Arnliot made himself ready to accompany them, and got upon his skees, which were both broad and long; but scarcely had he swung his skee-staff before he was a long way past them. He waited for them, and said they would make no progress in this way, and told them to stand upon the edge of his skees beside him. They did so. Thorod stood nearest to him, and held by Arnliot's belt, and his comrade held by him. Arnliot strode on as quickly with them both, as if he was alone and without any weight. The following day they came, towards night, to a lodge for travellers, struck fire, and prepared some food; but Arnliot told them to throw away nothing of their food, neither bones nor crumbs. Arnliot took a silver plate out of the pocket of his cloak, and ate from it. When they were done eating, Arnliot gathered up the remains of their meal, and they prepared to go to sleep. In the other end of the house there was a loft upon cross-beams, and Arnliot and the others went up, and laid themselves down to sleep. Arnliot had a large halberd, of which the upper part was mounted with gold, and the shaft was so long that with his arm stretched out he could scarcely touch the top of it; and he was girt with a sword. They had both their weapons and their clothes up in the loft beside them. Arnliot, who lay outermost in the loft, told them to be perfectly quiet. Soon after twelve men came to the house, who were merchants going with their wares to Jamtaland; and when they came into the house they made a great disturbance, were merry, and made a great fire before them; and when they took their supper they cast away all the bones around them. They then prepared to go to sleep, and laid themselves down upon the benches around the fire. When they, had been asleep a short time, a huge witch came into the house; and when she came in, she carefully swept together all the bones and whatever was of food kind into a heap, and threw it into her mouth. Then she gripped the man who was nearest to her, riving and tearing him asunder, and threw him upon the fire. The others awoke in dreadful fright, and sprang up, but she took them, and put them one by one to death, so that only one remained in life. He ran under the loft calling for help, and if there was any one on the loft to help him. Arnliot reached down his hand, seized him by the shoulder, and drew him up into the loft. The witch-wife had turned towards the fire, and began to eat the men who were roasting. Now Arnliot stood up, took his halberd, and struck her between the shoulders, so that the point came out at her breast. She writhed with it, gave a dreadful shriek, and sprang up. The halberd slipped from Arnliot's hands, and she ran out with it. Arnliot then went in; cleared away the dead corpses out of the house; set the door and the door-posts up, for she had torn them down in going out; and they slept the rest of the night. When the day broke they got up; and first they took their breakfast. When they had got food, Arnliot said, "Now we must part here. Ye can proceed upon the new-traced path the merchants have made in coming here yesterday. In the meantime I will seek after my halberd, and in reward for my labour I will take so much of the goods these men had with them as I find useful to me. Thou, Thorod, must take my salutation to King Olaf; and say to him that he is the man I am most desirous to see, although my salutation may appear to him of little worth." Then he took his silver plate, wiped it dry with a cloth, and said, "Give King Olaf this plate; salute him, and say it is from me." Then they made themselves ready for their journey, and parted. Thorod went on with his comrade and the man of the merchants company who had escaped. He proceeded until he came to King Olaf in the town (Nidaros); told the king all that had happened, and presented to him the silver plate. The king said it was wrong that Arnliot himself had not come to him; "for it is a pity so brave a hero, and so distinguished a man, should have given himself up to misdeeds."
Thorod remained the rest of the winter with the king, and in summer got leave to return to Iceland; and he and King Olaf parted the best of friends.
King Olaf's Levy of Men.
King Olaf made ready in spring (A.D. 1027) to leave Nidaros, and many people were assembled about him, both from Throndhjem and the Northern country; and when he was ready he proceeded first with his men to More, where he gathered the men of the levy, and did the same at Raumsdal. He went from thence to South More. He lay a long time at the Herey Isles waiting for his forces; and he often held House-things, as many reports came to his ears about which he thought it necessary to hold councils. In one of these Things he made a speech, in which he spoke of the loss he suffered from the Farey islanders. "The scat which they promised me," he said, "is not forthcoming; and I now intend to send men thither after it." Then he proposed to different men to undertake this expedition; but the answer was, that all declined the adventure.
Then there stood up a stout and very remarkable looking man in the Thing. He was clad in a red kirtle, had a helmet on his head, a sword in his belt, and a large halberd in his hands. He took up the word and said, "In truth here is a great want of men. Ye have a good king; but ye are bad servants who say no to this expedition he offers you, although ye have received many gifts of friendship and tokens of honour from him. I have hitherto been no friend of the king, and he has been my enemy, and says, besides, that he has good grounds for being so. Now, I offer, sire, to go upon this expedition, if no better will undertake it."
The king answers, "Who is this brave man who replies to my offer? Thou showest thyself different from the other men here present, in offering thyself for this expedition from which they excuse themselves, although I expected they would willingly have undertaken it; but I do not know thee in the least, and do not know thy name."
He replies, "My name, sire, is not difficult to know, and I think thou hast heard my name before. I am Karl Morske."
The king -- "So this is Karl! I have indeed heard thy name before; and, to say the truth, there was a time when our meeting must have been such, if I had had my will; that thou shouldst not have had to tell it now. But I will not show myself worse than thou, but will join my thanks and my favour to the side of the help thou hast offered me. Now thou shalt come to me, Karl, and be my guest to-day; and then we shall consult together about this business." Karl said it should be so.
Karl Morske's Story.
Karl Morske had been a viking, and a celebrated robber. Often had the king sent out men against him, and wished to make an end of him; but Karl, who was a man of high connection, was quick in all his doing's, and besides a man of great dexterity, and expert in all feats. Now when Karl had undertaken this business the king was reconciled to him, gave him his friendship, and let him be fitted out in the best manner for this expedition. There were about twenty men in the ship; and the king sent messages to his friends in the Farey Islands, and recommended him also to Leif Ossurson and Lagman Gille, for aid and defence; and for this purpose furnished Karl with tokens of the full powers given him. Karl set out as soon as he was ready; and as he got a favourable breeze soon came to the Farey Islands, and landed at Thorshavn, in the island Straumey. A Thing was called, to which there came a great number of people. Thrand of Gata came with a great retinue, and Leif and Gille came there also, with many in their following. After they had set up their tents, and put themselves in order, they went to Karl Morske, and saluted each other on both sides in a friendly way. Then Karl produced King Olaf's words, tokens, and friendly message to Leif and Gille, who received them in a friendly manner, invited Karl to come to them, and promised him to support his errand, and give him all the aid in their power, for which he thanked them. Soon after came Thrand of Gata, who also received Karl in the most friendly manner, and said he was glad to see so able a man coming to their country on the king's business, which they were all bound to promote. "I will insist, Karl," says he, "on thy taking-up thy winter abode with me, together with all those of thy people who may appear to thee necessary for thy dignity."
Karl replies, that he had already settled to lodge with Leif; "otherwise I would with great pleasure have accepted thy invitation."
"Then fate has given great honour to Leif," says Thrand; "but is there any other way in which I can be of service?"
Karl replies, that he would do him a great service by collecting the scat of the eastern island, and of all the northern islands.
Thrand said it was both his duty and interest to assist in the king's business, and thereupon Thrand returned to his tent; and at that Thing nothing else worth speaking of occurred. Karl took up his abode with Leif Ossurson, and was there all winter (A.D. 1028). Leif collected the scat of Straumey Island, and all the islands south of it. The spring after Thrand of Gata fell ill, and had sore eyes and other complaints; but he prepared to attend the Thing, as was his custom. When he came to the Thing he had his tent put up, and within it another black tent, that the light might not penetrate. After some days of the Thing had passed, Leif and Karl came to Thrand's tent, with a great many people, and found some persons standing outside. They asked if Thrand was in the tent, and were told he was. Leif told them to bid Thrand come out, as he and Karl had some business with him. They came back, and said that Thrand had sore eyes, and could not come out; "but he begs thee, Leif, to come to him within." Leif told his comrades to come carefully into the tent, and not to press forward, and that he who came last in should go out first. Leif went in first, followed by Karl, and then his comrades; and all fully armed as if they were going into battle. Leif went into the black tent and asked if Thrand was there. Thrand answered and saluted Leif. Leif returned his salutation, and asked if he had brought the scat from the northern islands, and if he would pay the scat that had been collected. Thrand replies, that he had not forgotten what had been spoken of between him and Karl, and that he would now pay over the scat. "Here is a purse, Leif, full of silver, which thou canst receive." Leif looked around, and saw but few people in the tent, of whom some were lying upon the benches, and a few were sitting up. Then Leif went to Thrand, and took the purse, and carried it into the outer tent, where it was light, turned out the money on his shield, groped about in it with his hand, and told Karl to look at the silver. When they had looked at it a while, Karl asked Leif what he thought of the silver. He replied, "I am thinking where the bad money that is in the north isles can have come from." Thrand heard this, and said, "Do you not think, Leif, the silver is good?" "No," says he. Thrand replies, "Our relations, then, are rascals not to be trusted. I sent them in spring to collect the scat in the north isles, as I could not myself go anywhere, and they have allowed themselves to be bribed by the bondes to take false money, which nobody looks upon as current and good; it is better, therefore, Leif, to look at this silver which has been paid me as land-rent." Leif thereupon carried back this silver, and received another bag, which he carried to Karl, and they looked over the money together. Karl asked Leif what he thought of this money. He answered, that it appeared to him so bad that it would not be taken in payment, however little hope there might be of getting a debt paid in any other way: "therefore I will not take this money upon the king's account." A man who had been lying on the bench now cast the skin coverlet off which he had drawn over his head, and said, "True is the old word, -- he grows worse who grows older: so it is with thee, Thrand, who allowest Karl Morske to handle thy money all the day." This was Gaut the Red. Thrand sprang up at Gaut's words, and reprimanded his relation with many angry words. At last he said that Leif should leave this silver, and take a bag which his own peasants had brought him in spring. "And although I am weak-sighted, yet my own hand is the truest test." Another man who was lying on the bench raised himself now upon his elbow; and this was Thord the Low. He said, "These are no ordinary reproaches we suffer from Karl Morske, and therefore he well deserves a reward for them." Leif in the meantime took the bag, and carried it to Karl; and when they cast their eyes on the money, Leif said, "We need not look long at this silver, for here the one piece of money is better than the other; and this is the money we will have. Let a man come to be present at the counting it out." Thrand says that he thought Leif was the fittest man to do it upon his account. Leif and Karl thereupon went a short way from the tent, sat down. and counted and weighed the silver. Karl took the helmet off his head, and received in it the weighed silver. They saw a man coming to them who had a stick with an axe-head on it in his hand, a hat low upon his head, and a short green cloak. He was bare-legged, and had linen breeches on tied at the knee. He laid his stick down in the field, and went to Karl and said, "Take care, Karl Morske, that thou does not hurt thyself against my axe-stick." Immediately a man came running and calls with great haste to Leif Ossurson, telling him to come as quickly as possible to Lagman Gille's tent; "for," says he, "Sirurd Thorlakson ran in just now into the mouth of the tent, and gave one of Gille's men a desperate wound." Leif rose up instantly, and went off to Gille's tent along with his men. Karl remained sitting, and the Norway people stood around in all corners. Gaut immediately sprang up, and struck with a hand-axe over the heads of the people, and the stroke came on Karl's head; but the wound was slight. Thord the Low seized the stick-axe, which lay in the field at his side, and struck the axe-blade right into Karl's skull. Many people now streamed out of Thrand's tent. Karl was carried away dead. Thrand was much grieved at this event, and offered money-mulcts for his relations; but Leif and Gille, who had to prosecute the business, would accept no mulct. Sigurd was banished the country for having wounded Gille's tent comrade, and Gaut and Thord for the murder of Karl. The Norway people rigged out the vessel which Karl had with him, and sailed eastward to Olaf, and gave him these tidings. He was in no pleasant humour at it, and threatened a speedy vengeance; but it was not allotted by fate to King Olaf to revenge himself on Thrand and his relations, because of the hostilities which had begun in Norway, and which are now to be related. And there is nothing more to be told of what happened after King Olaf sent men to the Farey Islands to take scat of them. But great strife arose after Karl's death in the Farey Islands between the family of Thrand of Gata and Leif Ossurson, and of which there are great sagas.
King Olaf's Expedition with His Levy.
Now we must proceed with the relation we began before, -- that King Olaf set out with his men, and raised a levy over the whole country (A.D. 1027). All lendermen in the North followed him excepting Einar Tambaskelfer, who sat quietly at home upon his farm since his return to the country, and did not serve the king. Einar had great estates and wealth, although he held no fiefs from the king, and he lived splendidly. King Olaf sailed with his fleet south around Stad, and many people from the districts around joined him. King Olaf himself had a ship which he had got built the winter before (A.D. 1027), and which was called the Visund.1 It was a very large ship, with a bison's head gilded all over upon the bow. Sigvat the skald speaks thus of it: --
- "Trygvason's Long Serpent bore,
- Grim gaping o'er the waves before,
- A dragon's head with open throat,
- When last the hero was afloat:
- His cruise was closed,
- As God disposed.
- Olaf has raised a bison's head,
- Which proudly seems the waves to tread.
- While o'er its golden forehead dashing
- The waves its glittering horns are washing:
- May God dispose
- A luckier close."
The king went on to Hordaland; there he heard the news that Erling Skjalgson had left the country with a great force, and four or five ships. He himself had a large war-ship, and his sons had three of twenty rowing-banks each; and they had sailed westward to England to Canute the Great. Then King Olaf sailed eastward along the land with a mighty war-force, and he inquired everywhere if anything was known of Canute's proceedings; and all agreed in saying he was in England but added that he was fitting out a levy, and intended coming to Norway. As Olaf had a large fleet, and could not discover with certainty where he should go to meet King Canute, and as his people were dissatisfied with lying quiet in one place with so large an armament, he resolved to sail with his fleet south to Denmark, and took with him all the men who were best appointed and most warlike; and he gave leave to the others to return home. Now the people whom he thought of little use having gone home, King Olaf had many excellent and stout men-at-arms besides those who, as before related, had fled the country, or sat quietly at home; and most of the chief men and lendermen of Norway were along with him.
(1) Visundr is the buffalo; although the modern bison, or American animal of that name, might have been known through the Greenland colonists, who in this reign had visited some parts of America. -- L.
Of King Olaf and King Onund.
When King Olaf sailed to Denmark, he set his course for Seeland; and when he came there he made incursions on the land, and began to plunder. The country people were severely treated; some were killed, some bound and dragged to the ships. All who could do so took to flight, and made no opposition. King Olaf committed there the greatest ravages. While Olaf was in Seeland, the news came that King Onund Olafson of Sweden had raised a levy, and fallen upon Scania, and was ravaging there; and then it became known what the resolution had been that the two kings had taken at the Gaut river, where they had concluded a union and friendship, and had bound themselves to oppose King Canute. King Onund continued his march until he met his brother-in-law King Olaf. When they met they made proclamation both to their own people and to the people of the country, that they intended to conquer Denmark; and asked the support of the people of the country for this purpose. And it happened, as we find examples of everywhere, that if hostilities are brought upon the people of a country not strong enough to withstand, the greatest number will submit to the conditions by which peace can be purchased at any rate. So it happened here that many men went into the service of the kings, and agreed to submit to them. Wheresoever they went they laid the country all round subjection to them, and otherwise laid waste all with fire and sword.
Of this foray Sigvat the skald speaks, in a ballad he composed concerning King Canute the Great: --
- "`Canute is on the sea!'
- The news is told,
- And the Norsemen bold
- Repeat it with great glee.
- And it runs from mouth to mouth --
- `On a lucky day
- We came away
- From Throndhjem to the south.'
- Across the cold East sea,
- The Swedish king
- His host did bring,
- To gain great victory.
- King Onund came to fight,
- In Seeland's plains,
- Against the Danes,
- With his steel-clad men so bright.
- Canute is on the land;
- Side to side
- His long-ships ride
- Along the yellow strand.
- Where waves wash the green banks,
- Mast to mast,
- All bound fast,
- His great fleet lies in ranks."
Of King Canute the Great.
King Canute had heard in England that King Olaf of Norway had called out a levy, and had gone with his forces to Denmark, and was making great ravages in his dominions there. Canute began to gather people, and he had speedily collected a great army and a numerous fleet. Earl Hakon was second in command over the whole.
Sigvat the skald came this summer (A.D. 1027) from the West, from Ruda (Rouen) in Valland, and with him was a man called Berg. They had made a merchant voyage there the summer before. Sigvat had made a little poem about this journey, called "The Western Traveller's Song," which begins thus: --
- "Berg! many a merry morn was pass'd,
- When our vessel was made fast,
- And we lay on the glittering tide
- or Rouen river's western side."
When Sigvat came to England he went directly to King Canute, and asked his leave to proceed to Norway; for King Canute had forbidden all merchant vessels to sail until he himself was ready with his fleet. When Sigvat arrived he went to the house in which the king was lodged; but the doors were locked, and he had to stand a long time outside, but when he got admittance he obtained the permission he desired. He then sang: --
- "The way to Jutland's king I sought;
- A little patience I was taught.
- The doors were shut -- all full within;
- The udaller could not get in.
- But Gorm's great son did condescend
- To his own chamber me to send,
- And grant my prayer -- although I'm one
- Whose arms the fetters' weight have known."
When Sigvat became aware that King Canute was equipping an armament against King Olaf, and knew what a mighty force King Canute had, he made these lines: --
- "The mighty Canute, and Earl Hakon,
- Have leagued themselves, and counsel taken
- Against King Olaf's life,
- And are ready for the strife.
- In spite of king and earl, I say,
- `I love him well -- may he get away:'
- On the Fields, wild and dreary,
- With him I'd live, and ne'er be weary."
Sigvat made many other songs concerning this expedition of Canute and Hakon. He made this among others: --
- "`Twas not the earl's intention then
- 'Twixt Olaf and the udalmen
- Peace to establish, and the land
- Upright to hold with Northman's hand;
- But ever with deceit and lies
- Eirik's descendant, Hakon, tries
- To make ill-will and discontent,
- Till all the udalmen are bent
- Against King Olaf's rule to rise."
Of King Canute's Ship the Dragon.
Canute the Great was at last ready with his fleet, and left the land; and a vast number of men he had, and ships frightfully large. He himself had a dragon-ship, so large that it had sixty banks of rowers, and the head was gilt all over. Earl Hakon had another dragon of forty banks, and it also had a gilt figure-head. The sails of both were in stripes of blue, red, and green, and the vessels were painted all above the water-stroke; and all that belonged to their equipment was most splendid. They had also many other huge ships remarkably well fitted out, and grand. Sigvat the skald talks of this in his song on Canute: --
- "Canute is out beneath the sky --
- Canute of the clear blue eye!
- The king is out on the ocean's breast,
- Leading his grand fleet from the West.
- On to the East the ship-masts glide,
- Glancing and bright each long-ship's side.
- The conqueror of great Ethelred,
- Canute, is there, his foemen's dread:
- His dragon with her sails of blue,
- All bright and brilliant to the view,
- High hoisted on the yard arms wide,
- Carries great Canute o'er the tide.
- Brave is the royal progress -- fast
- The proud ship's keel obeys the mast,
- Dashes through foam, and gains the land,
- Raising a surge on Limfjord's strand."
It is related that King Canute sailed with this vast force from England, and came with all his force safely to Denmark, where he went into Limfjord, and there he found gathered besides a large army of the men of the country.
Hardaknut Taken to Be King in Denmark.
Earl Ulf Sprakalegson had been set as protector over Denmark when King Canute went to England, and the king had intrusted his son Hardaknut in the earl's hands. This took place the summer before (A.D. 1026), as we related. But the earl immediately gave it out that King Canute had, at parting, made known to him his will and desire that the Danes should take his son Hardaknut as king over the Danish dominions. "On that account," says the earl, "he gave the matter into our hands; as I, and many other chiefs and leading men here in the country, have often complained to King Canute of the evil consequences to the country of being without a king, and that former kings thought it honour and power enough to rule over the Danish kingdom alone; and in the times that are past many kings have ruled over this kingdom. But now there are greater difficulties than have ever been before; for we have been so fortunate hitherto as to live without disturbance from foreign kings, but now we hear the king of Norway is going to attack us, to which is added the fear of the people that the Swedish king will join him; and now King Canute is in England." The earl then produced King Canute's letter and seal, confirming all that the earl asserted. Many other chiefs supported this business; and in consequence of all these persuasions the people resolved to take Hardaknut as king, which was done at the same Thing. The Queen Emma had been principal promoter of this determination; for she had got the letter to be written, and provided with the seal, having cunningly got hold of the king's signet; but from him it was all concealed. Now when Hardaknut and Earl Ulf heard for certain that King Olaf was come from Norway with a large army, they went to Jutland, where the greatest strength of the Danish kingdom lies, sent out message-tokens, and summoned to them a great force; but when they heard the Swedish king was also come with his army, they thought they would not have strength enough to give battle to both, and therefore kept their army together in Jutland, and resolved to defend that country against the kings. The whole of their ships they assembled in Limfjord, and waited thus for King Canute. Now when they heard that King Canute had come from the West to Limfjord they sent men to him, and to Queen Emma, and begged her to find out if the king was angry at them or not, and to let them know. The queen talked over the matter with him, and said, "Your son Hardaknut will pay the full mulct the king may demand, if he has done anything which is thought to be against the king." He replies, that Hardaknut has not done this of his own judgement. "And therefore," says he, "it has turned out as might have been expected, that when he, a child, and without understanding, wanted to be called king, the country, when any evil came and an enemy appeared, must be conquered by foreign princes, if our might had not come to his aid. If he will have any reconciliation with me let him come to me, and lay down the mock title of king he has given himself." The queen sent these very words to Hardaknut, and at the same time she begged him not to decline coming; for, as she truly observed, he had no force to stand against his father. When this message came to Hardaknut he asked the advice of the earl and other chief people who were with him; but it was soon found that when the people heard King Canute the Old was arrived they all streamed to him, and seemed to have no confidence but in him alone. Then Earl Ulf and his fellows saw they had but two roads to take; either to go to the king and leave all to his mercy, or to fly the country. All pressed Hardaknut to go to his father, which advice he followed. When they met he fell at his father's feet, and laid his seal, which accompanied the kingly title, on his knee. King Canute took Hardaknut by the hand, and placed him in as high a seat as he used to sit in before. Earl UIf sent his son Svein, who was a sister's son of King Canute, and the same age as Hardaknut, to the king. He prayed for grace and reconciliation for his father, and offered himself as hostage for the earl. King Canute ordered him to tell the earl to assemble his men and ships, and come to him, and then they would talk of reconciliation. The earl did so.
Foray in Scania.
When King Olaf and King Onund heard that King Canute was come from the West, and also that he had a vast force, they sailed east to Scania, and allowed themselves to ravage and burn in the districts there, and then proceeded eastward along the land to the frontier of Sweden. As soon as the country people heard that King Canute was come from the West, no one thought of going into the service of the two kings.
Now the kings sailed eastward along the coast, and brought up in a river called Helga, and remained there some time. When they heard that King Canute was coming eastward with his forces against them, they held a council; and the result was, that King Olaf with his people went up the country to the forest, and to the lake out of which the river Helga flows. There at the riverhead they made a dam of timber and turf, and dammed in the lake. They also dug a deep ditch, through which they led several waters, so that the lake waxed very high. In the river-bed they laid large logs of timber. They were many days about this work, and King Olaf had the management of this piece of artifice; but King Onund had only to command the fleet and army. When King Canute heard of the proceedings of the two kings, and of the damage they had done to his dominions, he sailed right against them to where they lay in Helga river. He had a War-force which was one half greater than that of both the kings together. Sigvat speaks of these things: --
- "The king, who shields
- His Jutland fields
- From scaith or harm
- By foeman's arm,
- Will not allow
- Wild plundering now:
- `The greatest he,
- On land or sea.'"
Battle in Helga River.
One day, towards evening, King Onund's spies saw King Canute coming sailing along, and he was not far off. Then King Onund ordered the war-horns to sound; on which his people struck their tents, put on their weapons, rowed out of the harbour and east round the land, bound their ships together, and prepared for battle. King Onund made his spies run up the country to look for King Olaf, and tell him the news. Then King Olaf broke up the dam, and let the river take its course. King Olaf travelled down in the night to his ships. When King Canute came outside the harbour, he saw the forces of the kings ready for battle. He thought that it would be too late in the day to begin the fight by the time his forces could be ready; for his fleet required a great deal of room at sea, and there was a long distance between the foremost of his ships and the hindmost, and between those outside and those nearest the land, and there was but little wind. Now, as Canute saw that the Swedes and Norwegians had quitted the harbour, he went into it with as many ships as it could hold; but the main strength of the fleet lay without the harbour. In the morning, when it was light, a great part of the men went on shore; some for amusement, some to converse with the people of other ships. They observed nothing until the water came rushing over them like a waterfall, carrying huge trees, which drove in among their ships, damaging all they struck; and the water covered all the fields. The men on shore perished, and many who were in the ships. All who could do it cut their cables; so that the ships were loose, and drove before the stream, and were scattered here and there. The great dragon, which King Canute himself was in, drove before the stream; and as it could not so easily be turned with oars, drove out among Olaf's and Onund's ships. As they knew the ship, they laid her on board on all quarters. But the ship was so high in the hull, as if it were a castle, and had besides such a numerous and chosen crew on board, well armed and exercised, that it was not easy to attack her. After a short time also Earl Ulf came up with his fleet; and then the battle began, and King Canute's fleet gathered together from all quarters. But the kings Olaf and Onund, seeing they had for this time got all the victory that fate permitted them to gain, let their ships retreat, cast themselves loose from King Canute's ship, and the fleets separated. But as the attack had not been made as King Canute had determined, he made no further attempt; and the kings on each side arranged their fleets and put their ships in order. When the fleets were parted, and each sailing its course, Olaf and Onund looked over their forces, and found they had suffered no loss of men. In the meantime they saw that if they waited until King Canute got his large fleet in order to attack them, the difference of force was so great that for them there was little chance of victory. It was also evident that if the battle was renewed, they must suffer a great loss of men. They took the resolution, therefore, to row with the whole fleet eastward along the coast. Observing that King Canute did not pursue them, they raised up their masts and set sail. Ottar Svarte tells thus of it in the poem he composed upon King Canute the Great: --
- "The king, in battle fray,
- Drove the Swedish host away:
- The wolf did not miss prey,
- Nor the raven on that day.
- Great Canute might deride
- Two kings if he had pride,
- For at Helga river's side
- They would not his sword abide."
Thord Sjarekson also sang these lines in his death song of King Olaf: --
- "King Olaf, Agder's lord,
- Ne'er shunned the Jutland king,
- But with his blue-edged sword
- Broke many a panzer ring.
- King Canute was not slow:
- King Onund filled the plain
- With dead, killed by his bow:
- The wolf howled o'er the slain."
King Olaf and King Onund's Plans.
King Olaf and King Onund sailed eastward to the Swedish king's dominions; and one day, towards evening, landed at a place called Barvik, where they lay all night. But then it was observed of the Swedes that they were home-sick; for the greater part of their forces sailed eastward along the land in the night, and did not stop their course until they came home to their houses. Now when King Onund observed this he ordered, as soon as the day dawned, to sound the signal for a House-thing; and the whole people went on shore, and the Thing sat down. Then King Onund took up the word, and spake thus: "So it is, King Olaf, that, as you know, we have been assembled in summer, and have forayed wide around in Denmark, and have gained much booty, but no land. I had 350 vessels, and now have not above 100 remaining with me. Now it appears to me we can make no greater progress than we have made, although you have still the 60 vessels which have followed you the whole summer. It therefore appears to me best that we come back to my kingdom; for it is always good to drive home with the wagon safe. In this expedition we have won something, and lost nothing. Now I will offer you, King Olaf, to come with me, and we shall remain assembled during the winter. Take as much of my kingdom as you will, so that you and the men who follow you may support yourselves well; and when spring comes let us take such measures as we find serviceable. If you, however, will prefer to travel across our country, and go overland to Norway, it shall be free for you to do so."
King Olaf thanked King Onund for his friendly offer. "But if I may advise," says he, "then we should take another resolution, and keep together the forces we have still remaining. I had in the first of summer, before I left Norway, 350 ships; but when I left the country I chose from among the whole war-levy those I thought to be the best, and with them I manned 60 ships; and these I still have. Now it appears to me that the part of your war-force which has now run away is the most worthless, and of least resistance; but now I see here all your chiefs and leaders, and I know well that the people who belong to the court-troops1 are by far the best suited to carry arms. We have here chosen men and superb ships, and we can very well lie all winter in our ships, as viking's custom is. But Canute cannot lie long in Helga river; for the harbour will not hold so many vessels as he has. If he steers eastward after us, we can escape from him, and then people will soon gather to us; but if he return to the harbours where his fleet can lie, I know for certain that the desire to return home will not be less in his army than in ours. I think, also, we have ravaged so widely in summer, that the villagers, both in Scania and in Halland, know well whose favour they have to seek. Canute's army will thus be dispersed so widely, that it is uncertain to whom fate may at the last give the victory; but let us first find out what resolution he takes."
Thus King Olaf ended his speech, and it found much applause, and his advice was followed. Spies were sent into King Canute's army, and both the kings Olaf and Onund remained lying where they were.
(1) The thingmen, or hired body-guard attending the court. -- L.
Of King Canute and Earl Ulf.
When King Canute saw that the kings of Norway and Sweden steered eastward with their forces along the coast, he sent men to ride night and day on the land to follow their movements. Some spies went forward, others returned; so that King Canute had news every day of their progress. He had also spies always in their army. Now when he heard that a great part of the fleet had sailed away from the kings, he turned back with his forces to Seeland, and lay with his whole fleet in the Sound; so that a part lay on the Scania side, and a part on the Seeland side. King Canute himself, the day before Michaelmas, rode with a great retinue to Roeskilde. There his brother-in-law, Earl Ulf, had prepared a great feast for him. The earl was the most agreeable host, but the king was silent and sullen. The earl talked to him in every way to make him cheerful, and brought forward everything which he thought would amuse him; but the king remained stern, and speaking little. At last the earl proposed to him a game at chess, which he agreed to; and a chess-board was produced, and they played together. Earl Ulf was hasty in temper, stiff, and in nothing yielding; but everything he managed went on well in his hands; and he was a great warrior, about whom there are many stories. He was the most powerful man in Denmark next to the king. Earl Ulf's sister Gyda was married to Earl Gudin (Godwin) Ulfnadson; and their sons were Harald king of England, and Earl Toste, Earl Valthiof, Earl Morukare, and Earl Svein. Gyda was the name of their daughter, who was married to the English king Edward the Good.
Of the Earl's Murder.
When they had played a while the king made a false move, at which the earl took a knight from the king; but the king set the piece again upon the board, and told the earl to make another move; but the earl grew angry, threw over the chess-board, stood up, and went away. The king said, "Runnest thou away, Ulf the coward?" The earl turned round at the door and said, "Thou wouldst have run farther at Helga river, if thou hadst come to battle there. Thou didst not call me Ulf the coward, when I hastened to thy help while the Swedes were beating thee like a dog." The earl then went out, and went to bed. A little later the king also went to bed. The following morning while the king was putting on his clothes he said to his footboy, "Go thou to Earl Ulf, and kill him."
The lad went, was away a while, and then came back.
The king said, "Hast thou killed the earl?"
"I did not kill him, for he was gone to Saint Lucius' church."
There was a man called Ivar White, a Norwegian by birth, who was the king's courtman and chamberlain. The king said to him, "Go thou and kill the earl."
Ivar went to the church, and in at the choir, and thrust his sword through the earl, who died on the spot. Then Ivar went to the king, with the bloody sword in his hand.
The king said, "Hast thou killed the earl?"
"I have killed him," says he.
"Thou didst well."
After the earl was killed the monks closed the church, and locked the doors. When that was told the king he sent a message to the monks, ordering them to open the church and sing high mass. They did as the king ordered; and when the king came to the church he bestowed on it great property, so that it had a large domain, by which that place was raised very high; and these lands have since always belonged to it. King Canute rode down to his ships, and lay there till late in harvest with a very large army.
Of King Olaf and the Swedes.
When King Olaf and King Onund heard that King Canute had sailed to the Sound, and lay there with a great force, the kings held a House-thing, and spoke much about what resolution they should adopt. King Olaf wished they should remain there with all the fleet, and see what King Canute would at last resolve to do. But the Swedes held it to be unadvisable to remain until the frost set in, and so it was determined; and King Onund went home with all his army, and King Olaf remained lying after them.
Of Egil and Tofe.
While King Olaf lay there, he had frequently conferences and consultations with his people. One night Egil Halson and Tofe Valgautson had the watch upon the king's ship. Tofe came from West Gautland, and was a man of high birth. While they sat on watch they heard much lamentation and crying among the people who had been taken in the war, and who lay bound on the shore at night. Tofe said it made him ill to hear such distress, and asked Egil to go with him, and let loose these people. This work they set about, cut the cords, and let the people escape, and they looked upon it as a piece of great friendship; but the king was so enraged at it, that they themselves were in the greatest danger. When Egil afterwards fell sick the king for a long time would not visit him, until many people entreated it of him. It vexed Egil much to have done anything the king was angry at, and he begged his forgiveness. The king now dismissed his wrath against Egil, laid his hands upon the side on which Egil's pain was, and sang a prayer; upon which the pain ceased instantly, and Egil grew better. Tofe came, after entreaty, into reconciliation with the king, on condition that he should exhort his father Valgaut to come to the king. He was a heathen; but after conversation with the king he went over to Christianity, and died instantly when he was baptized.
Treachery Towards King Olaf.
King Olaf had now frequent conferences with his people, and asked advice from them, and from his chiefs, as to what he should determine upon. But there was no unanimity among them -- some considering that unadvisable which others considered highly serviceable; and there was much indecision in their councils. King Canute had always spies in King Olaf's army, who entered into conversation with many of his men, offering them presents and favour on account of King Canute. Many allowed themselves to be seduced, and gave promises of fidelity, and to be King Canute's men, and bring the country into his hands if he came to Norway. This was apparent, afterwards, of many who at first kept it concealed. Some took at once money bribes, and others were promised money afterwards; and a great many there were who had got great presents of money from him before: for it may be said with truth of King Canute, that every man who came to him, and who he thought had the spirit of a man and would like his favour, got his hands full of gifts and money. On this account he was very popular, although his generosity was principally shown to foreigners, and was greatest the greater distance they came from.
King Olaf's Consultations.
King Olaf had often conferences and meetings with his people, and asked their counsel; but as he observed they gave different opinions, he had a suspicion that there must be some who spoke differently from what they really thought advisable for him, and he was thus uncertain if all gave him due fidelity in council. Some pressed that with the first fair wind they should sail to the Sound, and so to Norway. They said the Danes would not dare to attack them, although they lay with so great a force right in the way. But the king was a man of too much understanding not to see that this was impracticable. He knew also that Olaf Trygvason had found it quite otherwise, as to the Danes not daring to fight, when he with a few people went into battle against a great body of them. The king also knew that in King Canute's army there were a great many Norwegians; therefore he entertained the suspicion that those who gave this advice were more favourable to King Canute than to him. King Olaf came at last to the determination, from all these considerations, that the people who would follow him should make themselves ready to proceed by land across Gautland, and so to Norway. "But our ships," said he, "and all things that we cannot take with us, I will send eastward to the Swedish king's dominions, and let them be taken care of for us there."
Harek of Thjotta's Voyage.
Harek of Thjotta replied thus to the king's speech: "It is evident that I cannot travel on foot to Norway. I am old and heavy, and little accustomed to walking. Besides, I am unwilling to part with my ship; for on that ship and its apparel I have bestowed so much labour, that it would go much against my inclination to put her into the hands of my enemies." The king said, "Come along with us, Harek, and we shall carry thee when thou art tired of walking." Then Harek sang these lines :--
- "I'll mount my ocean steed,
- And o'er the sea I'll speed;
- Forests and hills are not for me, --
- I love the moving sea,
- Though Canute block the Sound,
- Rather than walk the ground,
- And leave my ship, I'll see
- What my ship will do for me."
Then King Olaf let everything be put in order for the journey. The people had their walking clothing and weapons, but their other clothes and effects they packed upon such horses as they could get. Then he sent off people to take his ships east to Calmar. There he had the vessels laid up, and the ships' apparel and other goods taken care of. Harek did as he had said, and waited for a wind, and then sailed west to Scania, until, about the decline of the day, he came with a fresh and fair wind to the eastward of Holar. There he let the sail and the vane, and flag and mast be taken down, and let the upper works of the ship be covered over with some grey tilt-canvas, and let a few men sit at the oars in the fore part and aft, but the most were sitting low down in the vessel.
When Canute's watchmen saw the ship, they talked with each other about what ship it might be, and made the guess that it must be one loaded with herrings or salt, as they only saw a few men at the oars; and the ship, besides, appeared to them grey, and wanting tar, as if burnt up by the sun, and they saw also that it was deeply loaded. Now when Harek came farther through the Sound, and past the fleet, he raised the mast, hoisted sail, and set up his gilded vane. The sail was white as snow, and in it were red and blue stripes of cloth interwoven. When the king's men saw the ship sailing in this state, they told the king that probably King Olaf had sailed through them. But King Canute replies, that King Olaf was too prudent a man to sail with a single ship through King Canute's fleet, and thought it more likely to be Harek of Thjotta, or the like of him. Many believed the truth to be that King Canute knew of this expedition of Harek, and that it would not have succeeded so if they had not concluded a friendship beforehand with each other; which seemed likely, after King Canute's and Harek's friendly understanding became generally known.
Harek made this song as he sailed northward round the isle of Vedrey: --
- "The widows of Lund may smile through their tears,
- The Danish girls may have their jeers;
- They may laugh or smile,
- But outside their isle
- Old Harek still on to his North land steers."
Harek went on his way, and never stopped till he came north to Halogaland, to his own house in Thjotta.
King Olaf's Course from Svithjod.
When King Olaf began his journey, he came first into Smaland, and then into West Gautland. He marched quietly and peaceably, and the country people gave him all assistance on his journey. Thus he proceeded until he came into Viken, and north through Viken to Sarpsborg, where he remained, and ordered a winter abode to be prepared (A.D. 1028). Then he gave most of the chiefs leave to return home, but kept the lendermen by him whom he thought the most serviceable. There were with him also all the sons of Arne Arnmodson, and they stood in great favour with the king. Geller Thorkelson, who the summer before had come from Iceland, also came there to the king, as before related.
Of Sigvat the Skald.
Sigvat the skald had long been in King Olaf's household, as before related, and the king made him his marshal. Sigvat had no talent for speaking in prose; but in skaldcraft he was so practised, that the verses came as readily from his tongue as if he were speaking in usual language. He had made a mercantile journey to Normandy, and in the course of it had come to England, where he met King Canute, and obtained permission from him to sail to Norway, as before related. When he came to Norway he proceeded straight to King Olaf, and found him at Sarpsborg. He presented himself before the king just as he was sitting down to table. Sigvat saluted him. The king looked at Sigvat and was silent. Then Sigvat sang: --
- "Great king! thy marshal is come home,
- No more by land or sea to roam,
- But by thy side
- Still to abide.
- Great king! what seat here shall be take
- For the king's honour -- not his sake?
- For all seats here
- To me are dear."
Then was verified the old saying, that "many are the ears of a king;" for King Olaf had heard all about Sigvat's journey, and that he had spoken with Canute. He says to Sigvat, "I do not know if thou art my marshal, or hast become one of Canute's men." Sigvat said: --
- "Canute, whose golden gifts display
- A generous heart, would have me stay,
- Service in his great court to take,
- And my own Norway king forsake.
- Two masters at a time, I said,
- Were one too many for men bred
- Where truth and virtue, shown to all,
- Make all men true in Olaf's hall."
Then King Olaf told Sigvat to take his seat where he before used to sit; and in a short time Sigvat was in as high favour with the king as ever.
Of Erling Skjalgson and His Sons.
Erling Skjalgson and all his sons had been all summer in King Canute's army, in the retinue of Earl Hakon. Thorer Hund was also there, and was in high esteem. Now when King Canute heard that King Olaf had gone overland to Norway, he discharged his army, and gave all men leave to go to their winter abodes. There was then in Denmark a great army of foreigners, both English, Norwegians, and men of other countries, who had joined the expedition in summer. In autumn (A.D. 1027) Erling Skjalgson went to Norway with his men, and received great presents from King Canute at parting; but Thorer Hund remained behind in King Canute's court. With Erling went messengers from King Canute well provided with money; and in winter they travelled through all the country, paying the money which King Canute had promised to many in autumn for their assistance. They gave presents in money, besides, to many whose friendship could be purchased for King Canute. They received much assistance in their travels from Erling. In this way it came to pass that many turned their support to King Canute, promised him their services, and agreed to oppose King Olaf. Some did this openly, but many more concealed it from the public. King Olaf heard this news, for many had something to tell him about it; and the conversation in the court often turned upon it. Sigvat the skald made a song upon it: --
- "The base traitors ply
- With purses of gold,
- Wanting to buy
- What is not to be sold, --
- The king's life and throne
- Wanting to buy:
- But our souls are our own,
- And to hell we'll not hie.
- No pleasure in heaven,
- As we know full well,
- To the traitor is given, --
- His soul is his hell."
Often also the conversation turned upon how ill it beseemed Earl Hakon to raise his hand in arms against King Olaf, who had given him his life when he fell into the king's power; but Sigvat was a particular friend of Earl Hakon, and when he heard the earl spoken against he sang: --
- "Our own court people we may blame,
- If they take gold to their own shame,
- Their king and country to betray.
- With those who give it's not the same,
- From them we have no faith to claim:
- 'Tis we are wrong, if we give way."
Of King Olaf's Presents at Yule.
King Olaf gave a great feast at Yule, and many great people had come to him. It was the seventh day of Yule, that the king, with a few persons, among whom was Sigvat, who attended him day and night, went to a house in which the king's most precious valuables were kept. He had, according to his custom, collected there with great care the valuable presents he was to make on New Year's eve. There was in the house no small number of gold-mounted swords; and Sigvat sang: --
- "The swords stand there,
- All bright and fair, --
- Those oars that dip in blood:
- If I in favour stood,
- I too might have a share.
- A sword the skald would gladly take,
- And use it for his master's sake:
- In favour once he stood,
- And a sword has stained in blood."
The king took a sword of which the handle was twisted round with gold, and the guard was gold-mounted, and gave it to him. It was a valuable article; but the gift was not seen without envy, as will appear hereafter.
Immediately after Yule (1028) the king began his journey to the Uplands; for he had a great many people about him, but had received no income that autumn from the North country, for there had been an armament in summer, and the king had laid out all the revenues he could command; and also he had no vessels with which he and his people could go to the North. At the same time he had news from the North, from which he could see that there would be no safety for him in that quarter, unless he went with a great force. For these reasons he determined to proceed through the Uplands, although it was not so long a time since he had been there in guest-quarters as the law prescribes, and as the kings usually had the custom of observing in their visits. When he came to the Uplands the lendermen and the richest bondes invited him to be their guest, and thus lightened his expenses.
Of Bjorn the Bailiff.
There was a man called Bjorn who was of Gautland family, and a friend and acquaintance of Queen Astrid, and in some way related to her. She had given him farm-management and other offices in the upper part of Hedemark. He had also the management of Osterdal district. Bjorn was not in esteem with the king, nor liked by the bondes. It happened in a hamlet which Bjorn ruled over, that many swine and cattle were missing: therefore Bjorn ordered a Thing to be called to examine the matter. Such pillage he attributed chiefly to the people settled in forest-farms far from other men; by which he referred particularly to those who dwelt in Osterdal, for that district was very thinly inhabited, and full of lakes and forest-cleanings, and but in few places was any great neighbourhood together.
Of Raud's Sons.
There was a man called Raud who dwelt in Osterdal. His wife was called Ragnhild; and his sons, Dag and Sigurd, were men of great talent. They were present at the Thing, made a reply in defence of the Osterdal people, and removed the accusation from them. Bjorn thought they were too pert in their answer, and too fine in their clothes and weapons; and therefore turned his speech against these brothers, and said it was not unlikely they may have committed these thefts. They denied it, and the Thing closed. Soon after King Olaf, with his retinue, came to guest-quarters in the house of bailiff Bjorn. The matter which had been before the Thing was then complained of to the king; and Bjorn said that Raud's sons appeared to him to have committed these thefts. A messenger was sent for Raud's sons; and when they appeared before the king he said they had not at all the appearance of thieves, and acquitted them. Thereupon they invited the king, with all his retinue, to a three days' entertainment at their father's; and although Bjorn dissuaded him from it, the king went. At Raud's there was a very excellent feast. The king asked Raud what people he and his wife were. Raud answered that he was originally a Swedish man, rich and of high birth; "but I ran away with the wife I have ever since had, and she is a sister of King Hring Dagson." The king then remembered both their families. He found that father and sons were men of understanding, and asked them what they could do. Sigurd said he could interpret dreams, and determine the time of the day although no heavenly bodies could be seen. The king made trial of his art, and found it was as Sigurd had said. Dag stated, as his accomplishment, that he could see the misdeeds and vices of every man who came under his eye, when he chose to observe him closely. The king told him to declare what faults of disposition he saw in the king himself. Dag mentioned a fault which the king was sensible he really had. Then the king asked what fault the bailiff Bjorn had. Dag said Bjorn was a thief; and told also where Bjorn had concealed on his farm the bones, horns, and hides of the cattle he had stolen in autumn; "for he committed," said Dag, "all the thefts in autumn which he accuses other people of." Dag also told the king the places where the king should go after leaving them. When the king departed from Raud's house he was accompanied on the way, and presented with friendly gifts; and Raud's sons remained with the king. The king went first to Bjorn's, and found there that all Dag had told him was true. Upon which he drove Bjorn out of the country; and he had to thank the queen that he preserved life and limbs.
Thorer, a son of Olver of Eggja, a stepson of Kalf Arnason, and a sister's son of Thorer Hund, was a remarkably handsome man, stout and strong. He was at this time eighteen years old; had made a good marriage in Hedemark, by which he got great wealth; and was besides one of the most popular of men, and formed to be a chief. He invited the king and his retinue home to him to a feast. The king accepted the invitation, went to Thorer's, and was well received. The entertainment was very splendid; they were excellently treated, and all that was set before the guests was of the best that could be got. The king and his people talked among themselves of the excellence of everything, and knew not what they should admire the most, -- whether Thorer's house outside, or the inside furniture, the table service, or the liquors, or the host who gave them such a feast. But Dag said little about it. The king used often to speak to Dag, and ask him about various things; and he had proved the truth of all that Dag had said, both of things that had happened or were to happen, and therefore the king had much confidence in what he said. The king called Dag to him to have a private conversation together, and spoke to him about many things. Afterwards the king turned the conversation on Thorer, -- what an excellent man Thorer was, and what a superb feast he had made for them. Dag answered but little to this, but agreed it was true what the king said. The king then asked Dag what disposition or faith he found in Thorer. Dag replied that he must certainly consider Thorer of a good disposition, if he be really what most people believe him to be. The king told him to answer direct what he was asked, and said that it was his duty to do so. Dag replies, "Then thou must allow me to determine the punishment if I disclose his faith." The king replied that he would not submit his decision to another man, but again ordered Dag to reply to what he asked.
Dag replies, "The sovereign's order goes before all. I find this disposition in Thorer, as in so many others, that he is too greedy of money."
The king: "Is he then a thief, or a robber?"
"He is neither."
"What is he then?"
"To win money he is a traitor to his sovereign. He has taken money from King Canute the Great for thy head."
The king asks, "What proof hast thou of the truth of this?"
Dag: "He has upon his right arm, above the elbow, a thick gold ring, which King Canute gave him, and which he lets no man see."
This ended their conference, and the king was very wroth. Now as the king sat at table, and the guests had drunk a while with great mirth, and Thorer went round to see the guests well served, the king ordered Thorer to be called to him. He went up before the table, and laid his hands upon it.
The king asked, "How old a man art thou, Thorer?"
He answered, "I am eighteen years old."
"A stout man thou art for those years, and thou hast been fortunate also."
Then the king took his right hand, and felt it towards the elbow.
Thorer said, "Take care, for I have a boil upon my arm."
The king held his hand there, and felt there was something hard under it. "Hast thou not heard," said he, "that I am a physician? Let me see the boil."
As Thorer saw it was of no use to conceal it longer, he took off the ring and laid it on the table.
The king asked if that was the gift of King Canute.
Thorer replied that he could not deny it was.
The king ordered him to be seized and laid in irons. Kalf came up and entreated for mercy, and offered money for him, which also was seconded by many; but the king was so wroth that nobody could get in a word. He said Thorer should suffer the doom he had prepared for himself. Thereupon he ordered Thorer to be killed. This deed was much detested in the Uplands, and not less in the Throndhjem country, where many of Thorer's connections were. Kalf took the death of this man much to heart, for he had been his foster-son in childhood.