SAGA OF OLAF HARALDSON

 

 

 

PRELIMINARY REMARKS.

 

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.

 

 

ENDNOTES:

(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;

          Thy landing-tread

          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

battles: --

 

     "They launch his ship where waves are foaming --

          To the sea shore

          Both mast and oar,

     And sent his o'er the seas a-roaming.

     Where did the sea-king first draw blood?

          In the battle shock

          At Sote's rock;

     The wolves howl over their fresh food."

 

 

 

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

skald: --

 

     "With much deceit and bustle

     To the heath of Eysyssel

     The bondes brought the king,

     To get scat at their weapon-thing.

     But Olaf was too wise

     To be taken by surprise;

     Their legs scarce bore them off

     O'er the common test enough."

 

 

 

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.

          Shields resounding,

          War-horns sounding,

     Hild is shouting in the din!

          Arrows singing,

          Mail-coats ringing --

     Odin makes our Olaf win!"

 

And he also composed these: --

 

     "King Ethelred has found a friend:

     Brave Olaf will his throne defend --

          In bloody fight

          Maintain his right,

          Win back his land

          With blood-red hand,

     And Edmund's son upon his throne replace --

     Edmund, the star of every royal race!"

 

Sigvat also relates as follows: --

 

     "At London Bridge stout Olaf gave

     Odin's law to his war-men brave --

          `To win or die!'

          And their foemen fly.

     Some by the dyke-side refuge gain --

     Some in their tents on Southwark plain!

          The sixth attack

          Brought victory back."

 

 

 

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!

     Hringmara heath

     Was a bed of death:

     Harfager's heir

     Dealt slaughter there."

 

And Ottar sings of this battle thus: --

 

     "From Hringmara field

          The chime of war,

     Sword striking shield,

          Rings from afar.

     The living fly;

     The dead piled high

     The moor enrich;

     Red runs the ditch."

 

The country far around was then brought in subjection to King

Ethelred: but the Thingmen (1) and the Danes held many castles,

besides a great part of the country.

 

 

ENDNOTES:

(1)  Thing-men were hired men-at-arms; called Thing-men probably

     from being men above the class of thralls or unfree men, and

     entitled to appear at Things, as being udal-born to land at

     home.

 

 

 

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

Svarte: --

 

     "All in the grey of morn

          Broad Canterbury's forced.

     Black smoke from house-roofs borne

          Hides fire that does its worst;

     And many a man laid low

     By the battle-axe's blow,

     Waked by the Norsemen's cries,

     Scarce had time to rub his eyes."

 

Sigvat reckons this King Olaf's eighth battle: --

 

     "Of this eighth battle I can tell

     How it was fought, and what befell,

          The castle tower

          With all his power

          He could not take,

          Nor would forsake.

          The Perthmen fought,

          Nor quarter sought;

          By death or flight

          They left the fight.

     Olaf could not this earl stout

     From Canterbury quite drive out."

 

At this time King Olaf was entrusted with the whole land defence

of England, and he sailed round the land with his ships of War.

He laid his ships at land at Nyjamoda, where the troops of the

Thingmen were, and gave them battle and gained the victory.  So

says Sigvat the skald: --

 

     "The youthful king stained red the hair

     Of Angeln men, and dyed his spear

     At Newport in their hearts' dark blood:

     And where the Danes the thickest stood --

     Where the shrill storm round Olaf's head

     Of spear and arrow thickest fled.

     There thickest lay the Thingmen dead!

     Nine battles now of Olaf bold,

     Battle by battle, I have told."

 

King Olaf then scoured all over the country, taking scat of the

people and plundering where it was refused.  So says Ottar: --

 

     "The English race could not resist thee,

     With money thou madest them assist thee;

     Unsparingly thou madest them pay

     A scat to thee in every way;

     Money, if money could be got --

     Goods, cattle, household gear, if not.

     Thy gathered spoil, borne to the strand,

     Was the best wealth of English land."

 

Olaf remained here for three years (A.D. 1010-1012).

 

 

 

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:

          Rich Partheney

          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

very least.

 

 

ENDNOTES:

(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

prosperity.

 

 

 

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

for him.

 

Eirik met King Canute in England, and was with him when he took

the castle of London.  Earl Eirik had a battle also to the

westward of the castle of London, and killed Ulfkel Snilling.  So

says Thord Kolbeinson: --

 

     "West of London town we passed,

     And our ocean-steeds made fast,

     And a bloody fight begin,

     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.

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