Olaf Haraldson the Saint's Saga is the longest, the most
important, and the most finished of all the sagas in
"Heimskringla". The life of Olaf will be found treated more or
less freely in "Agrip", in "Historia Norvegiae", in "Thjodrek the
Monk", in the legendary saga, and in "Fagrskinna". Other old
Norse literature relating to this epoch:
Are's "Islendingabok", "Landnama", "Kristni Saga", "Biskupa-
sogur", "Njala", "Gunlaugs Saga", "Ormstungu", "Bjarnar Saga
Hitdaelakappa", "Hallfredar Thattr Vandraedaskalde", "Eyrbyggia",
"Viga Styrs Saga", "Laxdaela", "Fostbraedra", "Gretla",
"Liosvetninga", "Faereyinga", "Orkneyinga".
Olaf Haraldson was born 995, went as a viking at the age of
twelve, 1007; visited England, one summer and three winters,
1009-1012; in France two summers and one winter, 1012-1013;
spent the winter in Normandy, 1014; returned to Norway and was
recognized as King, April 3, 1015; fled from Norway the winter
of 1028-1029; fell at Stiklestad, July 29 (or August 31), 1030.
Skalds quoted in this saga are: -- Ottar Svarte, Sigvat Skald,
Thord Kolbeinson, Berse Torfason, Brynjolf, Arnor Jarlaskald,
Thord Siarekson, Harek, Thorarin Loftunga, Halvard Hareksblese,
Bjarne Gulbraskald, Jokul Bardson, Thormod Kolbrunarskald,
Gissur, Thorfin Mun, Hofgardaref.
(1) King Olaf the Saint reigned from about the year 1015 to
1030. The death of King Olaf Trygvason was in the year
1000: and Earl Eirik held the government for the Danish and
Swedish kings about fifteen years. -- L.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. OF RING 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.
4. 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;
The people dread;
And the wolf howls for a feast
On the shore-side in the east."
5. 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
"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."
6. 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."
7. 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
"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."
8. 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."
9. 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."
10. 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."
11. 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.
12. 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.
Hild is shouting in the din!
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."
13. 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!
Was a bed of death:
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 Thingmen (1) 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
14. 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
"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).
15. 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."
16. 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."
17. 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.
18. FIFTEENTH BATTLE.
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:
In ashes lay;
Far inland reached the Norsemen's spear."
19. 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.
20. 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.
21. 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 200 (2) 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
(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.
22. 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
23. 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
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,
Eng1and'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.
24. 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."
25. 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.
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. 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."
29. 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.
30. 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.