Sacred Texts Index
Northern European Index
SAGA OF SIGURD THE CRUSADER AND HIS BROTHERS EYSTEIN AND OLAF.
"Agrip", "Fagrskinna", and "Morkinskinna" more or less complete
the story of the sons of Magnus. They contain some things omitted
by Snorre, while, on the other hand, some facts related by Snorre
are not found in the above sources.
Thjodrek the Monk tells of Sigurd that he made a Journey to
Jerusalem, conquered many heathen cities, and among them Sidon;
that he captured a cave defended by robbers, received presents
from Baldwin, returned to Norway in Eystein's lifetime, and
became insane, as a result, as some say, of a poisonous drink.
The three brothers became kings in the year A.D. 1103. Olaf died
1115, Eystein 1122 or 1123, Sigurd 1130.
Skalds quoted in this saga are: Thorarin Stutfeld, Einar
Skulason, Haldor Skvaldre, and Arne Fjoruskeif.
1. BEGINNING OF THE REIGN OF KING MAGNUS'S SONS.
After King Magnus Barefoot's fall, his sons, Eystein, Sigurd, and
Olaf, took the kingdom of Norway. Eystein got the northern, and
Sigurd the southern part of the country. King Olaf was then four
or five years old, and the third part of the country which he had
was under the management of his two brothers. King Sigurd was
chosen king when he was thirteen or fourteen years old, and
Eystein was a year older. King Sigurd left west of the sea the
Irish king's daughter. When King Magnus's sons were chosen
kings, the men who had followed Skopte Ogmundson returned home.
Some had been to Jerusalem, some to Constantinople; and there
they had made themselves renowned, and they had many kinds of
novelties to talk about. By these extraordinary tidings many men
in Norway were incited to the same expedition; and it was also
told that the Northmen who liked to go into the military service
at Constantinople found many opportunities of getting property.
Then these Northmen desired much that one of the two kings,
either Eystein or Sigurd, should go as commander of the troop
which was preparing for this expedition. The kings agreed to
this, and carried on the equipment at their common expense. Many
great men, both of the lendermen and bondes, took part in this
enterprise; and when all was ready for the journey it was
determined that Sigurd should go, and Eystein in the meantime,
should rule the kingdom upon their joint account.
2. OF THE EARLS OF ORKNEY.
A year or two after King Magnus Barefoot's fall, Hakon, a son of
Earl Paul, came from Orkney. The kings gave him the earldom and
government of the Orkney Islands, as the earls before him, his
father Paul or his Uncle Erland, had possessed it; and Earl Hakon
then sailed back immediately to Orkney.
3. KING SIGURD'S JOURNEY OUT OF THE COUNTRY.
Four years after the fall of King Magnus (A.D. 1107), King Sigurd
sailed with his people from Norway. He had then sixty ships. So
says Thorarin Stutfeld: --
"A young king just and kind,
People of loyal mind:
Such brave men soon agree, --
To distant lands they sail with glee.
To the distant Holy Land
A brave and pious band,
Magnificent and gay,
In sixty long-ships glide away."
King Sigurd sailed in autumn to England, where Henry, son of
William the Bastard, was then king, and Sigurd remained with him
all winter. So says Einar Skulason: --
"The king is on the waves!
The storm he boldly braves.
With winged speed,
O'er the white-flashing surges,
To England's coast he urges;
And there he stays the winter o'er:
More gallant king ne'er trod that shore."
4. OF KING SIGURD'S JOURNEY.
In spring King Sigurd and his fleet sailed westward to Valland
(A.D. 1108), and in autumn came to Galicia, where he stayed the
second winter (A.D. 1109). So says Einar Skulason: --
"Our king, whose land so wide
No kingdom stands beside,
In Jacob's land next winter spent,
On holy things intent;
And I have heard the royal youth
Cut off an earl who swerved from truth.
Our brave king will endure no ill, --
The hawks with him will get their fill."
It went thus: -- The earl who ruled over the land made an
agreement with King Sigurd, that he should provide King Sigurd
and his men a market at which they could purchase victuals all
the winter; but this he did not fulfil longer than to about Yule.
It began then to be difficult to get food and necessaries, for it
is a poor barren land. Then King Sigurd with a great body of men
went against a castle which belonged to the earl; and the earl
fled from it, having but few people. King Sigurd took there a
great deal of victuals and of other booty, which he put on board
of his ships, and then made ready and proceeded westward to
Spain. It so fell out, as the king was sailing past Spain, that
some vikings who were cruising for plunder met him with a fleet
of galleys, and King Sigurd attacked them. This was his first
battle with heathen men; and he won it, and took eight galleys
from them. So says Haldor Skvaldre: --
"Bold vikings, not slow
To the death-fray to go,
Meet our Norse king by chance,
And their galleys advance.
The bold vikings lost
Many a man of their host,
And eight galleys too,
With cargo and crew."
Thereafter King Sigurd sailed against a castle called Sintre and
fought another battle. This castle is in Spain, and was occupied
by many heathens, who from thence plundered Christian people.
King Sigurd took the castle, and killed every man in it, because
they refused to be baptized; and he got there an immense booty.
So says Haldor Skvaldre: --
"From Spain I have much news to tell
Of what our generous king befell.
And first he routs the viking crew,
At Cintra next the heathens slew;
The men he treated as God's foes,
Who dared the true faith to oppose.
No man he spared who would not take
The Christian faith for Jesus' sake."
5. LISBON TAKEN.
After this King Sigurd sailed with his fleet to Lisbon, which is
a great city in Spain, half Christian and half heathen; for there
lies the division between Christian Spain and heathen Spain, and
all the districts which lie west of the city are occupied by
heathens. There King Sigurd had his third battle with the
heathens, and gained the victory, and with it a great booty. So
says Haldor Skvaldre: --
"The son of kings on Lisbon's plains
A third and bloody battle gains.
He and his Norsemen boldly land,
Running their stout ships on the strand."
Then King Sigurd sailed westwards along heathen Spain, and
brought up at a town called Alkasse; and here he had his fourth
battle with the heathens, and took the town, and killed so many
people that the town was left empty. They got there also immense
booty. So says Haldor Skvaldre: --
"A fourth great battle, I am told,
Our Norse king and his people hold
At Alkasse; and here again
The victory fell to our Norsemen."
And also this verse: --
"I heard that through the town he went,
And heathen widows' wild lament
Resounded in the empty halls;
For every townsman flies or falls."
3. BATTLE IN THE ISLAND FORMINTERRA.
King Sigurd then proceeded on his voyage, and came to Norfasund;
and in the sound he was met by a large viking force, and the king
gave them battle; and this was his fifth engagement with heathens
since the time he left Norway. He gained the victory here also.
So says Haldor Skvaldre: --
"Ye moistened your dry swords with blood,
As through Norfasund ye stood;
The screaming raven got a feast,
As ye sailed onward to the East."
King Sigurd then sailed eastward along the coast of Serkland, and
came to an island there called Forminterra. There a great many
heathen Moors had taken up their dwelling in a cave, and had
built a strong stone wall before its mouth. They harried the
country all round, and carried all their booty to their cave.
King Sigurd landed on this island, and went to the cave; but it
lay in a precipice, and there was a high winding path to the
stone wall, and the precipice above projected over it. The
heathens defended the stone wall, and were not afraid of the
Northmen's arms; for they could throw stones, or shoot down upon
the Northmen under their feet; neither did the Northmen, under
such circumstances, dare to mount up. The heathens took their
clothes and other valuable things, carried them out upon the
wall, spread them out before the Northmen, shouted, and defied
them, and upbraided them as cowards. Then Sigurd fell upon this
plan. He had two ship's boats, such as we call barks, drawn up
the precipice right above the mouth of the cave; and had thick
ropes fastened around the stem, stern, and hull of each. In
these boats as many men went as could find room, and then the
boats were lowered by the ropes down in front of the mouth of the
cave; and the men in the boats shot with stones and missiles into
the cave, and the heathens were thus driven from the stone wall.
Then Sigurd with his troops climbed up the precipice to the foot
of the stone wall, which they succeeded in breaking down, so that
they came into the cave. Now the heathens fled within the stone
wall that was built across the cave; on which the king ordered
large trees to be brought to the cave, made a great pile in the
mouth of it, and set fire to the wood. When the fire and smoke
got the upper hand, some of the heathens lost their lives in it;
some fled; some fell by the hands of the Northmen; and part were
killed, part burned; and the Northmen made the greatest booty
they had got on all their expeditions. So says Halder Skvaldre:
In the victor's way;
His ships' stems fly
The bluemen there
Must fire bear,
And Norsemen's steel
At their hearts feel."
And also thus:--
"'Twas a feat of renown, --
The boat lowered down,
With a boat's crew brave,
In front of the cave;
While up the rock scaling,
And comrades up trailing,
The Norsemen gain,
And the bluemen are slain."
And also Thorarin Stutfeld says:--
"The king's men up the mountain's side
Drag two boats from the ocean's tide;
The two boats lay,
Like hill-wolves grey.
Now o'er the rock in ropes they're swinging
Well manned, and death to bluemen bringing;
They hang before
The robber's door."
7. OF THE BATTLES OF IVIZA AND MINORCA.
Thereafter King Sigurd proceeded on his expedition, and came to
an island called Iviza (Ivica), and had there his seventh battle,
and gained a victory. So says Haldor Skvaldre: --
"His ships at Ivica now ride,
The king's, whose fame spreads far and wide;
And hear the bearers of the shield
Their arms again in battle wield."
Thereafter King Sigurd came to an island called Manork (Minorca),
and held there his eighth battle with heathen men, and gained the
victory. So says Haldor Skvaldre: --
"On green Minorca's plains
The eighth battle now he gains:
Again the heathen foe
Falls at the Norse king's blow."
8. DUKE ROGER MADE A KING.
In spring King Sigurd came to Sicily (A.D. 1109), and remained a
long time there. There was then a Duke Roger in Sicily, who
received the king kindly, and invited him to a feast. King
Sigurd came to it with a great retinue, and was splendidly
entertained. Every day Duke Roger stood at the company's table,
doing service to the king; but the seventh day of the feast, when
the people had come to table, and had wiped their hands, King
Sigurd took the duke by the hand, led him up to the high-seat,
and saluted him with the title of king; and gave the right that
there should be always a king over the dominion of Sicily,
although before there had only been earls or dukes over that
9. OF KING ROGER.
King Roger of Sicily was a very great king. He won and subdued
all Apulia, and many large islands besides in the Greek sea; and
therefore he was called Roger the Great. His son was William,
king of Sicily, who for a long time had great hostility with the
emperor of Constantinople. King William had three daughters, but
no son. One of his daughters he married to the Emperor Henry, a
son of the Emperor Frederik; and their son was Frederik, who for
a short time after was emperor of Rome. His second daughter was
married to the Duke of Kipr. The third daughter, Margaret, was
married to the chief of the corsairs; but the Emperor Henry
killed both these brothers-in-law. The daughter of Roger the
Great, king of Sicily, was married to the Emperor Manuel of
Constantinople; and their son was the Emperor Kirjalax.
10. KING SIGURD'S EXPEDITION TO PALESTINE.
In the summer (A.D. 1110) King Sigurd sailed across the Greek sea
to Palestine, and thereupon went up to Jerusalem, where he met
Baldwin, king of Palestine. King Baldwin received him
particularly well, and rode with him all the way to the river
Jordan, and then back to the city of Jerusalem. Einar Skulason
speaks thus of it: --
"Good reason has the skald to sing
The generous temper of the king,
Whose sea-cold keel from northern waves
Ploughs the blue sea that green isles laves.
At Acre scarce were we made fast,
In holy ground our anchors cast,
When the king made a joyful morn
To all who toil with him had borne."
And again he made these lines: --
"To Jerusalem he came,
He who loves war's noble game,
(The skald no greater monarch finds
Beneath the heaven's wide hall of winds)
All sin and evil from him flings
In Jordan's wave: for all his sins
(Which all must praise) he pardon wins."
King Sigurd stayed a long time in the land of Jerusalem
(Jorsalaland) in autumn, and in the beginning of winter.
11. SIDON TAKEN.
King Baldwin made a magnificent feast for King Sigurd and many of
his people, and gave him many holy relics. By the orders of King
Baldwin and the patriarch, there was taken a splinter off the
holy cross; and on this holy relic both made oath, that this wood
was of the holy cross upon which God Himself had been tortured.
Then this holy relic was given to King Sigurd; with the condition
that he, and twelve other men with him, should swear to promote
Christianity with all his power, and erect an archbishop's seat
in Norway if he could; and also that the cross should be kept
where the holy King Olaf reposed, and that he should introduce
tithes, and also pay them himself. After this King Sigurd
returned to his ships at Acre; and then King Baldwin prepared to
go to Syria, to a heathen town called Saet. On this expedition
King Sigurd accompanied him, and after the kings had besieged the
town some time it surrendered, and they took possession of it,
and of a great treasure of money; and their men found other
booty. King Sigurd made a present of his share to King Baldwin.
So say Haldor Skvaldre: --
"He who for wolves provides the feast
Seized on the city in the East,
The heathen nest; and honour drew,
And gold to give, from those he slew."
Einar Skulason also tells of it: --
"The Norsemen's king, the skalds relate,
Has ta'en the heathen town of Saet:
The slinging engine with dread noise
Gables and roofs with stones destroys.
The town wall totters too, -- it falls;
The Norsemen mount the blackened walls.
He who stains red the raven's bill
Has won, -- the town lies at his will."
Thereafter King Sigurd went to his ships and made ready to leave
Palestine. They sailed north to the island Cyprus; and King
Sigurd stayed there a while, and then went to the Greek country,
and came to the land with all his fleet at Engilsnes. Here he
lay still for a fortnight, although every day it blew a breeze
for going before the wind to the north; but Sigurd would wait a
side wind, so that the sails might stretch fore and aft in the
ship; for in all his sails there was silk joined in, before and
behind in the sail, and neither those before nor those behind the
ships could see the slightest appearance of this, if the vessel
was before the wind; so they would rather wait a side wind.
12. SIGURD'S EXPEDITION TO CONSTANTINOPLE.
When King Sigurd sailed into Constantinople, he steered near the
land. Over all the land there are burghs, castles, country
towns, the one upon the other without interval. There from the
land one could see into the bights of the sails; and the sails
stood so close beside each other, that they seemed to form one
enclosure. All the people turned out to see King Sigurd sailing
past. The Emperor Kirjalax had also heard of King Sigurd's
expedition, and ordered the city port of Constantinople to be
opened, which is called the Gold Tower, through which the emperor
rides when he has been long absent from Constantinople, or has
made a campaign in which he has been victorious. The emperor had
precious cloths spread out from the Gold Tower to Laktjarna,
which is the name of the emperor's most splendid hall. King
Sigurd ordered his men to ride in great state into the city, and
not to regard all the new things they might see; and this they
did. King Sigurd and his followers rode with this great
splendour into Constantinople, and then came to the magnificent
hall, where everything was in the grandest style.
King Sigurd remained here some time. The Emperor Kirjalax sent
his men to him to ask if he would rather accept from the emperor
six lispund of gold, or would have the emperor give the games in
his honour which the emperor was used to have played at the
Padreim. King Sigurd preferred the games, and the messengers
said the spectacle would not cost the emperor less than the money
offered. Then the emperor prepared for the games, which were
held in the usual way; but this day everything went on better for
the king than for the queen; for the queen has always the half
part in the games, and their men, therefore, always strive
against each other in all games. The Greeks accordingly think
that when the king's men win more games at the Padreim than the
queen's, the king will gain the victory when he goes into battle.
People who have been in Constantinople tell that the Padreim is
thus constructed: -- A high wall surrounds a flat plain, which
may be compared to a round bare Thing-place, with earthen banks
all around at the stone wall, on which banks the spectators sit;
but the games themselves are in the flat plain. There are many
sorts of old events represented concerning the Asas, Volsungs,
and Giukungs, in these games; and all the figures are cast in
copper, or metal, with so great art that they appear to be living
things; and to the people it appears as if they were really
present in the games. The games themselves are so artfully and
cleverly managed, that people appear to be riding in the air; and
at them also are used shot-fire (1), and all kinds of harp-
playing, singing, and music instruments.
(1) Fireworks, or the Greek fire, probably were used. -- L.
12. SIGURD AND THE EMPEROR OF CONSTANTINOPLE.
It is related that King Sigurd one day was to give the emperor a
feast, and he ordered his men to provide sumptuously all that was
necessary for the entertainment; and when all things were
provided which are suitable for an entertainment given by a great
personage to persons of high dignity, King Sigurd ordered his
men to go to the street in the city where firewood was sold, as
they would require a great quantity to prepare the feast. They
said the king need not be afraid of wanting firewood, for every
day many loads were brought into the town. When it was
necessary, however, to have firewood, it was found that it was
all sold, which they told the king. He replied, "Go and try if
you can get walnuts. They will answer as well as wood for fuel."
They went and got as many as they needed. Now came the emperor,
and his grandees and court, and sat down to table. All was very
splendid; and King Sigurd received the emperor with great state,
and entertained him magnificently. When the queen and the
emperor found that nothing was wanting, she sent some persons to
inquire what they had used for firewood; and they came to a house
filled with walnuts, and they came back and told the queen.
"Truly," said she, "this is a magnificent king, who spares no
expense where his honour is concerned." She had contrived this
to try what they would do when they could get no firewood to
dress their feast with.
14. KING SIGURD THE CRUSADER'S RETURN HOME.
King Sigurd soon after prepared for his return home. He gave the
emperor all his ships; and the valuable figureheads which were on
the king's ships were set up in Peter's church, where they have
since been to be seen. The emperor gave the king many horses and
guides to conduct him through all his dominions. Then King
Sigurd left Constantinople; but a great many Northmen remained,
and went into the emperor's pay. Then King Sigurd traveled from
Bulgaria, and through Hungary, Pannonia. Suabia, and Bavaria,
where he met the Roman emperor, Lotharius, who received him in
the most friendly way, gave him guides through his dominions, and
had markets established for him at which he could purchase all he
required. When King Sigurd came to Slesvik in Denmark, Earl
Eilif made a sumptuous feast for him; and it was then midsummer.
In Heidaby he met the Danish king, Nikolas, who received him in
the most friendly way, made a great entertainment for him,
accompanied him north to Jutland, and gave him a ship provided
with everything needful. From thence the king returned to
Norway, and was joyfully welcomed on his return to his kingdom
(A.D. 1110). It was the common talk among the people, that none
had ever made so honourable a journey from Norway as this of King
Sigurd. He was twenty years of age, and had been three years on
these travels. His brother Olaf was then twelve years old.
15. EYSTEIN'S DOINGS IN THE MEANTIME.
King Eystein had also effected much in the country that was
useful while King Sigurd was on his journey. He established a
monastery at Nordnes in Bergen, and endowed it with much
property. He also built Michael's church, which is a very
splendid stone temple. In the king's house there he also built
the Church of the Apostles, and the great hall, which is the most
magnificent wooden structure that was ever built in Norway. He
also built a church at Agdanes with a parapet; and a harbour,
where formerly there had been a barren spot only. In Nidaros he
built in the king's street the church of Saint Nikolas, which was
particularly ornamented with carved work, and all in wood. He
also built a church north in Vagar in Halogaland, and endowed it
with property and revenues.
16. OF KING EYSTEIN.
King Eystein sent a verbal message to the most intelligent and
powerful of the men of Jamtaland, and invited them to him;
received them all as they came with great kindness; accompanied
them part of the way home, and gave them presents, and thus
enticed them into a friendship with him. Now as many of them
became accustomed to visit him and receive gifts from him, and he
also sent gifts to some who did not come themselves, he soon
gained the favour of all the people who had most influence in the
country. Then he spoke to the Jamtaland people, and told them
they had done ill in turning away from the kings of Norway, and
withdrawing from them their taxes and allegiance. He began by
saying how the Jamtaland people had submitted to the reign of
Hakon, the foster-son of Athelstane, and had long afterwards been
subjected to the kings of Norway, and he represented to them how
many useful things they could get from Norway, and how
inconvenient it was for them to apply to the Swedish king for
what they needed. By these speeches he brought matters so far
that the Jamtaland people of their own accord offered to be
subject to him, which they said was useful and necessary for
them; and thus, on both sides, it was agreed that the
Jamtalanders should put their whole country under King Eystein.
The first beginning was with the men of consequence, who
persuaded the people to take an oath of fidelity to King Eystein;
and then they went to King Eystein and confirmed the country to
him by oath; and this arrangement has since continued for a long
time. King Eystein thus conquered Jamtaland by his wisdom, and
not by hostile inroads, as some of his forefathers had done.
17. OF KING EYSTEIN'S PERFECTIONS.
King Eystein was the handsomest man that could be seen. He had
blue open eyes; his hair yellow and curling; his stature not
tall, but of the middle size. He was wise, intelligent, and
acquainted with the laws and history. He had much knowledge of
mankind, was quick in counsel, prudent in words, and very
eloquent and very generous. He was very merry, yet modest; and
was liked and beloved, indeed, by all the people. He was married
to Ingebjorg, a daughter of Guthorm, son of Thorer of Steig; and
their daughter was Maria, who afterwards married Gudbrand
18. OF IVAR INGIMUNDSON.
King Eystein had in many ways improved the laws and priveleges of
the country people, and kept strictly to the laws; and he made
himself acquainted with all the laws of Norway, and showed in
everything great prudence and understanding. What a valuable man
King Eystein was, how full of friendship, and how much he turned
his mind to examining and avoiding everything that could be of
disadvantage to his friends, may be seen from his friendship to
an Iceland man called Ivar Ingimundson. The man was witty, of
great family, and also a poet. The king saw that Ivar was out of
spirits, and asked him why he was so melancholy. "Before, when
thou wast with us, we had much amusement with thy conversation.
I know thou art a man of too good an understanding to believe
that I would do anything against thee. Tell me then what it is."
He replied, "I cannot tell thee what it is."
Then said the king, "I will try to guess what it is. Are there
any men who displease thee?"
To this he replied, "No."
"Dost thou think thou art held in less esteem by me than thou
wouldst like to be?"
To this he also replied, "No."
"Hast thou observed anything whatever that has made an impression
on thee at which thou art ill pleased?"
He replied, it was not this either.
The king: "Would you like to go to other chiefs or to other men?"
To this he answered, "No."
The king: "It is difficult now to guess. Is there any girl here,
or in any other country, to whom thy affections are engaged?"
He said it was so.
The king said, "Do not be melancholy on that account. Go to
Iceland when spring sets in, and I shall give thee money, and
presents, and with these my letters and seal to the men who have
the principal sway there; and I know no man there who will not
obey my persuasions or threats."
Ivar replied, "My fate is heavier, sire; for my own brother has
Then said the king, "Throw it out of thy mind; and I know a
counsel against this. After Yule I will travel in
guest-quarters. Thou shalt come along with me, and thou will
have an opportunity of seeing many beautiful girls; and, provided
they are not of the royal stock, I will get thee one of them in
Ivar replies, "Sire, my fate is still the heavier; for as oft as
I see beautiful and excellent girls I only remember the more that
girl, and they increase my misery."
The king: "Then I will give thee property to manage, and estates
for thy amusement."
He replied, "For that I have no desire."
The king: "Then I will give thee money, that thou mayest travel
in other countries."
He said he did not wish this.
Then said the king, "It is difficult for me to seek farther, for
I have proposed everything that occurs to me. There is but one
thing else; and that is but little compared to what I have
offered thee. Come to me every day after the tables are removed,
and, if I am not sitting upon important business, I shall talk
with thee about the girl in every way that I can think of; and I
shall do so at leisure. It sometimes happens that sorrow is
lightened by being brought out openly; and thou shalt never go
away without some gift."
He replied, "This I will do, sire, and return thanks for this
And now they did so constantly; and when the king was not
occupied with weightier affairs he talked with him, and his
sorrow by degrees wore away, and he was again in good spirits.
19. OF KING SIGURD.
King Sigurd was a stout and strong man, with brown hair; of a
manly appearance, but not handsome; well grown; of little speech,
and often not friendly, but good to his friends, and faithful;
not very eloquent, but moral and polite. King Sigurd was self-
willed, and severe in his revenge; strict in observing the law;
was generous; and withal an able, powerful king. His brother
Olaf was a tall, thin man; handsome in countenance; lively,
modest, and popular. When all these brothers, Eystein, Sigurd
and Olaf were kings of Norway, they did away with many burthens
which the Danes had laid upon the people in the time that Svein
Alfifason ruled Norway; and on this account they were much
beloved, both by the people and the great men of the country.
20. OF KING SIGURD'S DREAM.
Once King Sigurd fell into low spirits, so that few could get him
to converse, and he sat but a short time at the drinking table.
This was heavy on his counsellors, friends, and court; and they
begged King Eystein to consider how they could discover the cause
why the people who came to the king could get no reply to what
they laid before him. King Eystein answered them, that it was
difficult to speak with the king about this; but at last, on the
entreaty of many, he promised to do it. Once, when they were
both together, King Eystein brought the matter before his
brother, and asked the cause of his melancholy. "It is a great
grief, sire, to many to see thee so melancholy; and we would like
to know what has occasioned it, or if perchance thou hast heard
any news of great weight?"
King Sigurd replies, that it was not so.
"Is it then, brother," says King Eystein, "that you would like to
travel out of the country, and augment your dominions as our
He answered, that it was not that either.
"Is it, then, that any man here in the country has offended?"
To this also the king said "No."
"Then I would like to know if you have dreamt anything that has
occasioned this depression of mind?"
The king answered that it was so.
"Tell me, then, brother, thy dream."
King Sigurd said, "I will not tell it, unless thou interpret it
as it may turn out; and I shall be quick at perceiving if thy
interpretation be right or not."
King Eystein replies, "This is a very difficult matter, sire, on
both sides; as I am exposed to thy anger if I cannot interpret
it, and to the blame of the public if I can do nothing in the
matter; but I will rather fall under your displeasure, even if my
interpretation should not be agreeable."
King Sigurd replies, "It appeared to me, in a dream, as if we
brothers were all sitting on a bench in front of Christ church in
Throndhjem; and it appeared to me as if our relative, King Olaf
the Saint, came out of the church adorned with the royal raiment
glancing and splendid, and with the most delightful and joyful
countenance. He went to our brother King Olaf, took him by the
hand, and said cheerfully, to him, `Come with me, friend.' On
which he appeared to stand up and go into the church. Soon after
King Olaf the Saint came out of the church, but not so gay and
brilliant as before. Now he went to thee, brother, and said to
thee that thou shouldst go with him; on which he led thee with
him, and ye went into the church. Then I thought, and waited for
it, that he would come to me, and meet me; but it was not so.
Then I was seized with great sorrow, and great dread and anxiety
fell upon me, so that I was altogether without strength; and then
King Eystein replies, "Thus I interpret your dream, sire, -- That
the bench betokens the kingdom we brothers have; and as you
thought King Olaf came with so glad a countenance to our brother,
King Olaf, he will likely live the shortest time of us brothers,
and have all good to expect hereafter; for he is amiable, young
in years, and has gone but little into excess, and King Olaf the
Saint must help him. But as you thought he came towards me, but
not with so much joy, I may possibly live a few years longer, but
not become old, and I trust his providence will stand over me;
but that he did not come to me with the same splendour and glory
as to our brother Olaf, that will be because, in many ways, I
have sinned and transgressed his command. If he delayed coming
to thee, I think that in no way betokens thy death, but rather a
long life; but it may be that some heavy accident may occur to
thee, as there was an unaccountable dread overpowering thee; but
I foretell that thou will be the oldest of us, and wilt rule the
Then said Sigurd, "This is well and intelligently interpreted,
and it is likely it will be so." And now the king began to be
21. OF KING SIGURD'S MARRIAGE.
King Sigurd married Malmfrid, a daughter of King Harald
Valdemarson, eastward in Novgorod. King Harald Valdemarson's
mother was Queen Gyda the Old, a daughter of the Swedish king,
Inge Steinkelson. Harald Valdemarson's other daughter, sister to
Malmfrid, was Ingebjorg, who was married to Canute Lavard, a son
of the Danish king, Eirik the Good, and grandson of King Svein
Ulfson. Canute's and Ingebjorg's children were, the Danish king,
Valdemar, who came to the Danish kingdom after Svein Eirikson;
and daughters Margaret, Christina, and Catherine. Margaret was
married to Stig Hvitaled; and their daughter was Christina,
married to the Swedish king, Karl Sorkvison, and their son was
22. OF THE CASES BEFORE THE THING.
The king's relative, Sigurd Hranason, came into strife with King
Sigurd. He had had the Lapland collectorship on the king's
account, because of their relationship and long friendship, and
also of the many services Sigurd Hranason had done to the kings;
for he was a very distinguished, popular man. But it happened to
him, as it often does to others, that persons more wicked and
jealous than upright slandered him to King Sigurd, and whispered
in the king's ear that he took more of the Laplander's tribute to
himself than was proper. They spoke so long about this, that
King Sigurd conceived a dislike and anger to him, and sent a
message to him. When he appeared before the king, the king
carried these feelings with him, and said, "I did not expect that
thou shouldst have repaid me for thy great fiefs and other
dignities by taking the king's property, and abstracting a
greater portion of it than is allowable."
Sigurd Hranason replies, "It is not true that has been told you;
for I have only taken such portion as I had your permission to
King Sigurd replies, "Thou shalt not slip away with this; but the
matter shall be seriously treated before it comes to an end."
With that they parted.
Soon after, by the advice of his friends, the king laid an action
against Sigurd Hranason at the Thing-meeting in Bergen, and would
have him made an outlaw. Now when the business took this turn,
and appeared so dangerous, Sigurd Hranason went to King Eystein,
and told him what mischief King Sigurd intended to do him, and
entreated his assistance. King Eystein replied, "This is a
difficult matter that you propose to me, to speak against my
brother; and there is a great difference between defending a
cause and pursuing it in law;" and added, that this was a matter
which concerned him and Sigurd equally. "But for thy distress,
and our relationship, I shall bring in a word for thee."
Soon after Eystein visited King Sigurd, and entreated him to
spare the man, reminding him of the relationship between them and
Sigurd Hranason, who was married to their aunt, Skialdvor; and
said he would pay the penalty for the crime committed against the
king, although he could not with truth impute any blame to him in
the matter. Besides, he reminded the king of the long friendship
with Sigurd Hranason. King Sigurd replied, that it was better
government to punish such acts. Then King Eystein replied, "If
thou, brother, wilt follow the law, and punish such acts
according to the country's privileges, then it would be most
correct that Sigurd Hranason produce his witnesses, and that the
case be judged at the Thing, but not at a meeting; for the case
comes under the law of the land, not under Bjarkey law." Then
said Sigurd, "It may possibly be so that the case belongs to it,
as thou sayest, King Eystein; and if it be against law what has
hitherto been done in this case, then we shall bring it before
the Thing." Then the kings parted, and each seemed determined to
take his own way. King Sigurd summoned the parties in the case
before the Arnarnes Thing, and intended to pursue it there. King
Eystein came also to the Thing-place; and when the case was
brought forward for judgment, King Eystein went to the Thing
before judgment was given upon Sigurd Hranason. Now King Sigurd
told the lagmen to pronounce the judgment; but King Eystein
replied thus: "I trust there are here men acquainted sufficiently
with the laws of Norway, to know that they cannot condemn a
lendermen to be outlawed at this Thing." And he then explained
how the law was, so that every man clearly understood it. Then
said King Sigurd, "Thou art taking up this matter very warmly,
King Eystein, and it is likely the case will cost more trouble
before it comes to an end than we intended; but nevertheless we
shall follow it out. I will have him condemned to be outlawed in
his native place." Then said King Eystein, "There are certainly
not many things which do not succeed with thee, and especially
when there are but few and small folks to oppose one who has
carried through such great things." And thus they parted,
without anything being concluded in the case. Thereafter King
Sigurd called together a Gula Thing, went himself there, and
summoned to him many high chiefs. King Eystein came there also
with his suite; and many meetings and conferences were held among
people of understanding concerning this case, and it was tried
and examined before the lagmen. Now King Eystein objected that
all the parties summoned in any cases tried here belonged to the
Thing-district; but in this case the deed and the parties
belonged to Halogaland. The Thing accordingly ended in doing
nothing, as King Eystein had thus made it incompetent. The kings
parted in great wrath; and King Eystein went north to Throndhjem.
King Sigurd, on the other hand, summoned to him all lendermen,
and also the house-servants of the lendermen, and named out of
every district a number of the bondes from the south parts of the
country, so that he had collected a large army about him; and
proceeded with all this crowd northwards along the coast to
Halogaland, and intended to use all his power to make Sigurd
Hranason an outlaw among his own relations. For this purpose he
summoned to him the Halogaland and Naumudal people, and appointed
a Thing at Hrafnista. King Eystein prepared himself also, and
proceeded with many people from the town of Nidaros to the Thing,
where he made Sigurd Hranason, by hand-shake before witnesses,
deliver over to him the following and defending this case. At
this Thing both the kings spoke, each for his own side. Then
King Eystein asks the lagmen where that law was made in Norway
which gave the bondes the right to judge between the kings of the
country, when they had pleas with each other. "I shall bring
witnesses to prove that Sigurd has given the case into my hands;
and it is with me, not with Sigurd Hranason, that King Sigurd has
to do in this case." The lagmen said that disputes between kings
must be judged only at the Eyra Thing in Nidaros.
King Eystein said, "So I thought that it should be there, and the
cases must be removed there."
Then King Sigurd said, "The more difficulties and inconvenience
thou bringest upon me in this matter, the more I will persevere
in it." And with that they parted.
Both kings then went south to Nidaros town, where they summoned a
Thing from eight districts. King Eystein was in the town with a
great many people, but Sigurd was on board his ships. When the
Thing was opened, peace and safe conduct was given to all; and
when the people were all collected, and the case should be gone
into, Bergthor, a son of Svein Bryggjufot, stood up, and gave his
evidence that Sigurd Hranason had concealed a part of the
Then King Eystein stood up and said, "If thy accusation were
true, although we do not know what truth there may be in thy
testimony, yet this case has already been dismissed from three
Things, and a fourth time from a town meeting; and therefore I
require that the lagmen acquit Sigurd in this case according to
law." And they did so.
Then said King Sigurd, "I see sufficiently, King Eystein, that
thou hast carried this case by law-quirks (1), which I do not
understand. But now there remains, King Eystein, a way of
determining the case which I am more used to, and which I shall
He then retired to his ships, had the tents taken down, laid his
whole fleet out at the holm, and held a Thing of his people; and
told them that early in the morning they should land at
Iluvellir, and give battle to King Eystein. But in the evening,
as King Sigurd sat at his table in his ship taking his repast,
before he was aware of it a man cast himself on the floor of the
forehold, and at the king's feet. This was Sigurd Hranason, who
begged the king to take what course with regard to him the king
himself thought proper. Then came Bishop Magne and Queen
Malmfrid, and many other great personages, and entreated
forgiveness for Sigurd Hranason; and at their entreaty the king
raised him up, took him by the hand, and placed him among his
men, and took him along with himself to the south part of the
country. In autumn the king gave Sigurd Hranason leave to go
north to his farm, gave him an employment, and was always
afterward his friend. After this day, however, the brothers were
never much together, and there was no cordiality or cheerfulness
(1) These law-quirks show a singularly advanced state of law.
and deference to the Law Things, amidst such social disorder
and misdeeds. -- L.
23. OF KING OLAF'S DEATH.
King Olaf Magnuson fell into a sickness which ended in his death.
He was buried in Christ church in Nidaros, and many were in great
grief at his death. After Olaf's death, Eystein and Sigurd ruled
the country, the three brothers together having been kings of
Norway for twelve years (A.D. 1104-1115); namely, five years
after King Sigurd returned home, and seven years before. King
Olaf was seventeen years old when he died, and it happened on the
24th of December.
24. MAGNUS THE BLIND; HIS BIRTH.
King Eystein had been about a year in the east part of the
country at that time, and King Sigurd was then in the north.
King Eystein remained a long time that winter in Sarpsborg.
There was once a powerful and rich bonde called O1af of Dal, who
dwelt in Great Dal in Aumord, and had two children, -- a son
called Hakon Fauk, and a daughter called Borghild, who was a very
beautiful girl, and prudent, and well skilled in many things.
Olaf and his children were a long time in winter in Sarpsborg,
and Borghild conversed very often with King Eystein; so that many
reports were spread about their friendship. The following summer
King Eystein went north, and King Sigurd came eastward, where he
remained all winter, and was long in Konungahella, which town he
greatly enlarged and improved. He built there a great castle of
turf and stone, dug a great ditch around it, and built a church
and several houses within the castle. The holy cross he allowed
to remain at Konungahella, and therein did not fulfill the oath
he had taken in Palestine; but, on the other hand, he established
tithe, and most of the other things to which he had bound himself
by oath. The reason of his keeping the cross east at the
frontier of the country was, that he thought it would be a
protection to all the land; but it proved the greatest misfortune
to place this relic within the power of the heathens, as it
afterwards turned out.
When Borghild, Olaf's daughter, heard it whispered that people
talked ill of her conversations and intimacy with King Eystein,
she went to Sarpsborg; and after suitable fasts she carried the
iron as proof of her innocence, and cleared herself thereby fully
from all offence. When King Sigurd heard this, he rode one day
as far as usually was two days' travelling, and came to Dal to
Olaf, where he remained all night, made Borghild his concubine,
and took her away with him. They had a son, who was called
Magnus, and he was sent immediately to Halogaland, to be fostered
at Bjarkey by Vidkun Jonson; and he was brought up there. Magnus
grew up to be the handsomest man that could be seen, and was very
soon stout and strong.
25. COMPARISON BETWEEN THE TWO KINGS.
King Eystein and King Sigurd went both in spring to
guest-quarters in the Uplands; and each was entertained in a
separate house, and the houses were not very distant from each
other. The bondes, however, thought it more convenient that both
should be entertained together by turns in each house; and thus
they were both at first in the house of King Eystein. But in the
evening, when the people began to drink, the ale was not good; so
that the guests were very quiet and still. Then said King
Eystein, "Why are the people so silent? It is more usual in
drinking parties that people are merry, so let us fall upon some
jest over our ale that will amuse people; for surely, brother
Sigurd, all people are well pleased when we talk cheerfully."
Sigurd replies, bluntly, "Do you talk as much as you please, but
give me leave to be silent."
Eystein says, "It is a common custom over the ale-table to
compare one person with another, and now let us do so." Then
Sigurd was silent.
"I see," says King Eystein, "that I must begin this amusement.
Now I will take thee, brother, to compare myself with, and will
make it appear so as if we had both equal reputation and
property, and that there is no difference in our birth and
Then King Sigurd replies, "Do you remember that I was always able
to throw you when we wrestled, although you are a year older?"
Then King Eystein replied, "But I remember that you was not so
good at the games which require agility."
Sigurd: "Do you remember that I could drag you under water, when
we swam together, as often as I pleased?"
Eystein: "But I could swim as far as you, and could dive as well
as you; and I could run upon snow-skates so well that nobody
could beat me, and you could no more do it than an ox."
Sigurd: "Methinks it is a more useful and suitable accomplishment
for a chief to be expert at his bow; and I think you could
scarcely draw my bow, even if you took your foot to help."
Eystein: "I am not strong at the bow as you are, but there is
less difference between our shooting near; and I can use the
skees much better than you, and in former times that was held a
Sigurd: "It appears to me much better for a chief who is to be
the superior of other men, that he is conspicuous in a crowd, and
strong and powerful in weapons above other men; easily seen, and
easily known, where there are many together."
Eystein: "It is not less a distinction and an ornament that a man
is of a handsome appearance, so as to be easily known from others
on that account; and this appears to me to suit a chief best,
because the best ornament is allied to beauty. I am moreover
more knowing in the law than you, and on every subject my words
flow more easily than yours."
Sigurd: "It may be that you know more law-quirks, for I have had
something else to do; neither will any deny you a smooth tongue.
But there are many who say that your words are not to be trusted;
that what you promise is little to be regarded; and that you talk
just according to what those who are about you say, which is not
Eystein: "This is because, when people bring their cases before
me, I wish first to give every man that satisfaction in his
affairs which he desires; but afterwards comes the opposite
party, and then there is something to be given or taken away very
often, in order to mediate between them, so that both may be
satisfied. It often happens, too, that I promise whatever is
desired of me, that all may be joyful about me. It would be an
easy matter for me to do as you do, -- to promise evil to all;
and I never hear any complain of your not keeping this promise to
Sigurd: "It is the conversation of all that the expedition that I
made out of the country was a princely expedition, while you in
the meantime sat at home like your father's daughter."
Eystein: "Now you touched the tender spot. I would not have
brought up this conversation if I had not known what to reply on
this point. I can truly say that I equipt you from home like a
sister, before you went upon this expedition."
Sigurd: "You must have heard that on this expedition I was in
many a battle in the Saracen's land, and gained the victory in
all; and you must have heard of the many valuable articles I
acquired, the like of which were never seen before in this
country, and I was the most respected wherever the most gallant
men were; and, on the other hand, you cannot conceal that you
have only a home-bred reputation."
Eystein: "I have heard that you had several battles abroad, but
it was more useful for the country what I was doing in the
meantime here at home. I built five churches from the
foundations, and a harbour out at Agdanes, where it before was
impossible to land, and where vessels ply north and south along
the coast. I set a warping post and iron ring in the sound of
Sinholm, and in Bergen I built a royal hall, while you were
killing bluemen for the devil in Serkland. This, I think, was of
but little advantage to our kingdom."
King Sigurd said: "On this expedition I went all the way to
Jordan and swam across the river. On the edge of the river there
is a bush of willows, and there I twisted a knot of willows, and
said this knot thou shouldst untie, brother, or take the curse
King Eystein said: "I shall not go and untie the knot which you
tied for me; but if I had been inclined to tie a knot for thee,
thou wouldst not have been king of Norway at thy return to this
country, when with a single ship you came sailing into my fleet."
Thereupon both were silent, and there was anger on both sides.
More things passed between the brothers, from which it appeared
that each of them would be greater than the other; however, peace
was preserved between them as long as they lived.
26. OF KING SIGURD'S SICKNESS.
King Sigurd was at a feast in the Upland, and a bath was made
ready for him. When the king came to the bath and the tent was
raised over the bathing-tub, the king thought there was a fish in
the tub beside him; and a great laughter came upon him, so that
he was beside himself, and was out of his mind, and often
afterwards these fits returned.
Magnus Barefoot's daughter, Ragnhild, was married by her brothers
to Harald Kesia, a son of the Danish king, Eirik the Good; and
their sons were Magnus, Olaf, Knut and Harald.
27. OF KING EYSTEIN'S DEATH.
King Eystein built a large ship at Nidaros, which, in size and
shape, was like the Long Serpent which King Olaf Trygvason had
built. At the stem there was a dragon's head, and at the stern a
crooked tail, and both were gilded over. The ship was high-
sided; but the fore and aft parts appeared less than they should
be. He also made in Nidaros many and large dry-docks of the best
material, and well timbered.
Six years after King Olaf's death, it happened that King Eystein,
at a feast at Hustadir in Stim, was seized with an illness which
soon carried him off. He died the 29th of August, 1123, and his
body was carried north to Nidaros, and buried in Christ church;
and it is generally said that so many mourners never stood over
any man's grave in Norway as over King Eystein's, at least since
the time Magnus the Good, Saint Olaf's son, died. Eystein had
been twenty years (A.D. 1104-1123) king of Norway; and after his
decease his brother, King Sigurd, was the sole king of Norway as
long as he lived.
28. BAPTIZING THE PEOPLE OF SMALAND.
The Danish king, Nikolas, a son of Svein Ulfson, married
afterwards the Queen Margaret, a daughter of King Inge, who had
before been married to King Magnus Barefoot; and their sons were
Nikolas and Magnus the Strong. King Nikolas sent a message to
King Sigurd the Crusader, and asked him if he would go with him
with all his might and help him to the east of the Swedish
dominion, Smaland, to baptize the inhabitants; for the people who
dwelt there had no regard for Christianity, although some of them
had allowed themselves to be baptized. At that time there were
many people all around in the Swedish dominions who were
heathens, and many were bad Christians; for there were some of
the kings who renounced Christianity, and continued heathen
sacrifices, as Blotsvein, and afterwards Eirik Arsale, had done.
King Sigurd promised to undertake this journey, and the kings
appointed their meeting at Eyrarsund. King Sigurd then summoned
all people in Norway to a levy, both of men and ships; and when
the fleet was assembled he had about 300 ships. King Nikolas
came very early to the meeting-place, and stayed there a long
time; and the bondes murmured much, and said the Northmen did not
intend to come. Thereupon the Danish army dispersed, and the
king went away with all his fleet. King Sigurd came there soon
afterwards, and was ill pleased; but sailed east to Svimraros,
and held a House-thing, at which Sigurd spoke about King
Nikolas's breach of faith, and the Northmen, on this account,
determined to go marauding in his country. They first plundered
a village called Tumathorp, which is not far from Lund; and then
sailed east to the merchant-town of Calmar, where they plundered,
as well as in Smaland, and imposed on the country a tribute of
1500 cattle for ship provision; and the people of Smaland
received Christianity. After this King Sigurd turned about with
his fleet, and came back to his kingdom with many valuable
articles and great booty, which he had gathered on this
expedition; and this levy was called the Calmar levy. This was
the summer before the eclipse. This was the only levy King
Sigurd carried out as long as he was king.
29. OF THORARIN STUTFELD.
It happened once when King Sigurd was going from the drinking-
table to vespers, that his men were very drunk and merry; and
many of them sat outside the church singing the evening song, but
their singing was very irregular. Then the king said, "Who is
that fellow I see standing at the church with a skin jacket on?"
They answered, that they did not know. Then the king said: --
"This skin-clad man, in sorry plight,
Puts all our wisdom here to flight."
Then the fellow came forward and said: --
"I thought that here I might be known,
Although my dress is scanty grown.
'Tis poor, but I must be content:
Unless, great king, it's thy intent
To give me better; for I have seen
When I and rags had strangers been."
The king answered, "Come to me to-morrow when I am at the drink-
table." The night passed away; and the morning after the
Icelander, who was afterwards called Thorarin Stutfetd, went into
the drinking-room. A man stood outside of the door of the room
with a horn in his hand, and said, "Icelander! the king says
that if thou wilt deserve any gift from him thou shalt compose a
song before going in, and make it about a man whose name is Hakon
Serkson, and who is called Morstrut (1); and speak about that
surname in thy song." The man who spoke to him was called Arne
Fioruskeif. Then they went into the room; and when Thorarin came
before the king's seat he recited these verses: --
"Throndhjem's warrior-king has said
The skald should be by gifts repaid,
If he before this meeting gave
The king's friend Serk a passing stave.
The generous king has let me know
My stave, to please, must be framed so
That my poor verse extol the fame
Of one called Hakon Lump by name."
Then said the king, "I never said so, and somebody has been
making a mock of thee. Hakon himself shall determine what
punishment thou shalt have. Go into his suite." Hakon said, "He
shall be welcome among us, for I can see where the joke came
from;" and he placed the Icelander at his side next to himself,
and they were very merry. The day was drawing to a close, and
the liquor began to get into their heads, when Hakon said, "Dost
thou not think, Icelander, that thou owest me some penalty? and
dost thou not see that some trick has been played upon thee?"
Thorarin replies, "It is true, indeed, that I owe thee some
Hakon says, "Then we shall be quits, if thou wilt make me another
stave about Arne."
He said he was ready to do so; and they crossed over to the side
of the room where Arne was sitting, and Thorarin gave these
"Fioruskeif has often spread,
With evil heart and idle head,
The eagle's voidings round the land,
Lampoons and lies, with ready hand.
Yet this landlouper we all know,
In Africa scarce fed a crow,
Of all his arms used in the field,
Those in most use were helm and shield."
Arne sprang up instantly, drew his sword, and was going to fall
upon him; but Hakon told him to let it alone and be quiet, and
bade him remember that if it came to a quarrel he would come off
the worst himself. Thorarin afterwards went up to the king, and
said he had composed a poem which he wished the king to hear.
The king consented, and the song is known by the name of the
Stutfeld poem. The king asked Thorarin what he intended to do.
He replied, it was his intention to go to Rome. Then the king
gave him much money for his pilgrimage, and told him to visit him
on his return, and promised to provide for him.
(1) Morstrut is a short, fat, punchy fellow. -- L.
30. OF SIGURD AND OTTAR BIRTING.
It is told that King Sigurd, one Whitsunday, sat at table with
many people, among whom were many of his friends; and when he
came to his high-seat, people saw that his countenance was very
wild, and as if he had been weeping, so that people were afraid
of what might follow. The king rolled his eyes, and looked at
those who were seated on the benches. Then he seized the holy
book which he had brought with him from abroad, and which was
written all over with gilded letters; so that never had such a
costly book come to Norway. His queen sat by his side. Then
said King Sigurd, "Many are the changes which may take place
during a man's lifetime. I had two things which were dear to me
above all when I came from abroad, and these were this book and
the queen; and now I think the one is only worse and more
loathsome than the other, and nothing I have belonging to me that
I more detest. The queen does not know herself how hideous she
is; for a goat's horn is standing out on her head, and the better
I liked her before the worse I like her now." Thereupon he cast
the book on the fire which was burning on the hall-floor, and
gave the queen a blow with his fist between the eyes. The queen
wept; but more at the king's' illness than at the blow, or the
affront she had suffered.
Then a man stood up before the king; his name was Ottar Birting;
and he was one of the torch-bearers, although a bonde's son, and
was on service that day. He was of small stature, but of
agreeable appearance; lively, bold, and full of fun; black
haired, and of a dark skin. He ran and snatched the book which
the king had cast into the fire, held it out, and said,
"Different were the days, sire, when you came with great state
and splendour to Norway, and with great fame and honour; for then
all your friends came to meet you with joy, and were glad at your
coming. All as one man would have you for king, and have you in
the highest regard and honour. But now days of sorrow are come
over us; for on this holy festival many of your friends have come
to you, and cannot be cheerful on account of your melancholy and
ill health. It is much to be desired that you would be merry
with them; and do, good king, take this saving advice, make peace
first with the queen, and make her joyful whom you have so highly
affronted, with a friendly word; and then all your chiefs,
friends, and servants; that is my advice."
Then said King Sigurd, "Dost thou dare to give me advice, thou
great lump of a houseman's lad!" And he sprang up, drew his
sword, and swung it with both hands as if going to cut him down.
But Ottar stood quiet and upright; did not stir from the spot,
nor show the slightest sign of fear; and the king turned round
the sword-blade which he had waved over Ottar's head, and gently
touched him on the shoulder with it. Then he sat down in silence
on his high-seat.
All were silent who were in the hall, for nobody dared to say a
word. Now the king looked around him, milder than before, and
said, "It is difficult to know what there is in people. Here sat
my friends, and lendermen, marshals and shield-bearers, and all
the best men in the land; but none did so well against me as this
man, who appears to you of little worth compared to any of you,
although now he loves me most. I came here like a madman, and
would have destroyed my precious property; but he turned aside my
deed, and was not afraid of death for it. Then he made an able
speech, ordering his words so that they were honourable to me,
and not saying a single word about things which could increase my
vexation; but even avoiding what might, with truth, have been
said. So excellent was his speech, that no man here, however
great his understanding, could have spoken better. Then I sprang
up in a pretended rage, and made as if I would have cut him down;
but he was courageous as if he had nothing to fear; and seeing
that, I let go my purpose; for he was altogether innocent. Now
ye shall know, my friends, how I intend to reward him; he was
before my torchbearer, and shall now be my lenderman; and there
shall follow what is still more, that he shall be the most
distinguished of my lendermen. Go thou and sit among the
lendermen, and be a servant no longer."
Ottar became one of the most celebrated men in Norway for various
good and praiseworthy deeds.
31. OF KING SIGURD'S DREAM.
In King Sigurd's latter days he was once at an entertainment at
one of his farms; and in the morning when he was dressed he was
silent and still, so that his friends were afraid he was not able
to govern himself. Now the farm bailiff, who was a man of good
sense and courage, brought him into conversation, and asked if he
had heard any news of such importance that it disturbed his
mirth; or if the entertainment had not satisfied him; or if there
was anything else that people could remedy.
King Sigurd said, that none of the things he had mentioned was
the cause. "But it is that I think upon the dream I had in the
"Sire," replied he, "may it prove a lucky dream! I would gladly
The king: "I thought that I was in Jadar, and looked out towards
the sea; and that I saw something very black moving itself; and
when it came near it appeared to be a large tree, of which the
branches stretched far above the water, and the roots were down
in the sea. Now when the tree came to the shore it broke into
pieces, and drove all about the land, both the mainland and the
out-islands, rocks and strands; and it appeared to me as if I saw
over all Norway along the sea-coast, and saw pieces of that tree,
some small and some large, driven into every bight."
Then said the bailiff, "It is likely that you an best interpret
this dream yourself; and I would willingly hear your
interpretation of it."
Then said the king, "This dream appears to me to denote the
arrival in this country of some man who will fix his seat here,
and whose posterity will spread itself over the land; but with
unequal power, as the dream shows."
32. OF ASLAK HANE.
It so happened once, that King Sigurd sat in a gloomy mood among
many worthy men. It was Friday evening, and the kitchen-master
asked what meat should be made ready.
The king replies, "What else but flesh-meat?" And so harsh were
his words that nobody dared to contradict him, and all were ill
at ease. Now when people prepared to go to table, dishes of warm
flesh-meat were carried in; but all were silent, and grieved at
the king's illness. Before the blessing was pronounced over the
meat, a man called Aslak Hane spoke. He had been a long time
with King Sigurd on his journey abroad, and was not a man of any
great family; and was small of stature, but fiery. When he
perceived how it was, and that none dared to accost the king, he
asked, "What is it, sire, that is smoking on the dish before
The king replies, "What do you mean, Aslak? what do you think it
Aslak: "I think it is flesh-meat; and I would it were not so."
The king: "But if it be so, Aslak?"
He replied, "It would be vexatious to know that a gallant king,
who has gained so much honour in the world, should so forget
himself. When you rose up out of Jordan, after bathing in the
same waters as God himself, with palm-leaves in your hands, and
the cross upon your breast, it was something else you promised,
sire, than to eat flesh-meat on a Friday. If a meaner man were
to do so, he would merit a heavy punishment. This royal hall is
not so beset as it should be, when it falls upon me, a mean man,
to challenge such an act."
The king sat silent, and did not partake of the meat; and when
the time for eating was drawing to an end, the king ordered the
flesh dishes to be removed and other food was brought in, such as
it is permitted to use. When the meal-time was almost past, the
king began to be cheerful, and to drink. People advised Aslak to
fly, but he said he would not do so. "I do not see how it could
help me; and to tell the truth, it is as good to die now that I
have got my will, and have prevented the king from committing a
sin. It is for him to kill me if he likes."
Towards evening the king called him, and said, "Who set thee on,
Aslak Hane, to speak such free words to me in the hearing of so
"No one, sire, but myself."
The king: "Thou wouldst like, no doubt, to know what thou art to
have for such boldness; what thinkest thou it deserves."
He replies, "If it be well rewarded, sire, I shall be glad; but
should it be otherwise, then it is your concern."
Then the king said, "Smaller is thy reward than thou hast
deserved. I give thee three farms. It has turned out, what
could not have been expected, that thou hast prevented me from a
great crime, -- thou, and not the lendermen, who are indebted to
me for so much good." And so it ended.
33. OF A WOMAN BROUGHT TO THE KING.
One Yule eve the king sat in the hall, and the tables were laid
out, and the king said, "Get me flesh-meat."
They answered, "Sire, it is not the custom to eat flesh-meat on
The king said, "If it be not the custom I will make it the
They went out, and brought him a dolphin. The king stuck his
knife into it, but did not eat of it. Then the king said, "Bring
me a girl here into the hall." They brought him a woman whose
head-dress went far down her brows. The king took her hand in
his hands, looked at her, and said, "An ill looking girl!"
((LACUNA -- The rest of this story is missing))
34. HARALD GILLE COMES TO NORWAY.
Halkel Huk, a son of Jon Smiorbalte, who was lenderman in More,
made a voyage in the West sea, all the way to the South Hebudes.
A man came to him out of Ireland called Gillikrist, and gave
himself out for a son of King Magnus Barefoot. His mother came
with him, and said his other name was Harald. Halkel received
the man, brought him to Norway with him, and went immediately to
King Sigurd with Harald and his mother. When they had told their
story to the king, he talked over the matter with his principal
men, and bade them give their opinions upon it. They were of
different opinions, and all left it to the king himself, although
there were several who opposed this; and the king followed his
own counsel. King Sigurd ordered Harald to be called before him,
and told him that he would not deny him the proof, by ordeal, of
who his father was; but on condition that if he should prove his
descent according to his claim, he should not desire the kingdom
in the lifetime of King Sigurd, or of King Magnus: and to this he
bound himself by oath. King Sigurd said he must tread over hot
iron to prove his birth; but this ordeal was thought by many too
severe, as he was to undergo it merely to prove his father, and
without getting the kingdom; but Harald agreed to it, and fixed
on the trial by iron: and this ordeal was the greatest ever made
in Norway; for nine glowing plowshares were laid down, and Harald
went over them with bare feet, attended by two bishops.
Three days after the iron trial the ordeal was taken to proof,
and the feet were found unburnt. Thereafter King Sigurd
acknowledged Harald's relationship; but his son Magnus conceived
a great hatred of him, and in this many chiefs followed Magnus.
King Sigurd trusted so much to his favour with the whole people
of the country, that he desired all men, under oath, to promise
to accept Magnus after him as their king; and all the people took
35. RACE BETWEEN MAGNUS AND HARALD GILLE.
Harald Gille was a tall, slender-grown man, of a long neck and
face, black eyes, and dark hair, brisk and quick, and wore
generally the Irish dress of short light clothes. The Norse
language was difficult for Harald, and he brought out words which
many laughed at. Harald sat late drinking one evening. He spoke
with another man about different things in the west in Ireland;
and among other things, said that there were men in Ireland so
swift of foot that no horse could overtake them in running.
Magnus, the king's son, heard this, and said, "Now he is lying,
as he usually does."
Harald replies, "It is true that there are men in Ireland whom no
horse in Norway could overtake." They exchanged some words about
this, and both were drunk. Then said Magnus, "Thou shalt make a
wager with me, and stake thy head if thou canst not run so fast
as I ride upon my horse, and I shall stake my gold ring."
Harald replies, "I did not say that I could run so swiftly; but I
said that men are to be found in Ireland who will run as fast;
and on that I would wager."
The king's son Magnus replies, "I will not go to Ireland about
it; we are wagering here, and not there."
Harald on this went to bed, and would not speak to him more about
it. This was in Oslo. The following morning, when the early
mass was over, Magnus rode up the street, and sent a message to
Harald to come to him. When Harald came he was dressed thus. He
had on a shirt and trousers which were bound with ribands under
his foot-soles, a short cloak, an Irish hat on his head, and a
spear-shaft in his hand. Magnus set up a mark for the race.
Harald said, "Thou hast made the course too long;" but Magnus
made it at once even much longer, and said it was still too
short. There were many spectators. They began the race, and
Harald followed always the horse's pace; and when they came to
the end of the race course, Magnus said, "Thou hadst hold of the
saddle-girth, and the horse dragged thee along." Magnus had his
swift runner, the Gautland horse. They began the race again, and
Harald ran the whole race-course before the horse. When came to
the end Harald asked, "Had I hold of the saddle-girths now?"
Magnus replied, "Thou hadst the start at first."
Then Magnus let his horse breathe a while, and when he was ready
he put the spurs to him, and set off in full gallop. Harald
stood still, and Magnus looked back, and called, "Set off now."
Then Harald ran quickly past the horse, and came to the end of
the course so long before him that he lay down, and got up and
saluted Magnus as he came in."
Then they went home to the town. In the meantime King Sigurd had
been at high mass, and knew nothing of this until after he had
dined that day. Then he said to Magnus angrily, "Thou callest
Harald useless; but I think thou art a great fool, and knowest
nothing of the customs of foreign people. Dost thou not know
that men in other countries exercise themselves in other feats
than in filling themselves with ale, and making themselves mad,
and so unfit for everything that they scarcely know each other?
Give Harald his ring, and do not try to make a fool of him again,
as long as I am above ground."
36. OF SIGURD'S SWIMMING.
It happened once that Sigurd was out in his ship, which lay in
the harbour; and there lay a merchant ship, which was an Iceland
trader, at the side of it. Harald Gille was in the forecastle of
the king's ship, and Svein Rimhildson, a son of Knut Sveinson of
Jadar, had his berth the next before him. There was also Sigurd
Sigurdson, a gallant lenderman, who himself commanded a ship. It
was a day of beautiful weather and warm sunshine, and many went
out to swim, both from the long-ship and the merchant vessel. An
Iceland man, who was among the swimmers, amused himself by
drawing those under water who could not swim so well as himself;
and at that the spectators laughed. When King Sigurd saw and
heard this, he cast off his clothes, sprang into the water, and
swam to the Icelander, seized him, and pressed him under the
water, and held him there; and as soon as the Icelander came up
the king pressed him down again, and thus the one time after the
Then said Sigurd Sigurdson, "Shall we let the king kill this
Somebody said, "No one has any wish to interfere."
Sigurd replies, that "If Dag Eilifson were here, we should not be
without one who dared."
Then Sigurd sprang overboard, swam to the king, took hold of him,
and said, "Sire, do not kill the man. Everybody sees that you
are a much better swimmer."
The king replies, "Let me loose, Sigurd: I shall be his death,
for he will destroy our people under water."
Sigurd says, "Let us first amuse ourselves; and, Icelander, do
thou set off to the land," which he did. The king now got loose
from Sigurd, and swam to his ship, and Sigurd went his way: but
the king ordered that Sigurd should not presume to come into his
presence; this was reported to Sigurd, and so he went up into the
37. OF HARALD AND SVEIN RIMHILDSON.
In the evening, when people were going to bed, some of the ship's
men were still at their games up in the country. Harald was with
those who played on the land, and told his footboy to go out to
the ship, make his bed, and wait for him there. The lad did as
he was ordered. The king had gone to sleep; and as the boy
thought Harald late, he laid himself in Harald's berth. Svein
Rimhildson said, "It is a shame for brave men to be brought from
their farms at home, and to have here serving boys to sleep
beside them." The lad said that Harald had ordered him to come
there. Svein Rimhildson said, "We do not so much care for Harald
himself lying here, if he do not bring here his slaves and
beggars;" and seized a riding-whip, and struck the boy on the
head until the blood flowed from him. The boy ran immediately up
the country, and told Harald what had happened, who went
immediately out to the ship, to the aft part of the forecastle,
and with a pole-axe struck Svein so that he received a severe
wound on his hands; and then Harald went on shore. Svein ran to
the land after him, and, gathering his friends, took Harald
prisoner, and they were about hanging him. But while they were
busy about this, Sigurd Sigurdson went out to the king's ship and
awoke him. When the king opened his eyes and recognised Sigurd,
he said. "For this reason thou shalt die, that thou hast intruded
into my presence; for thou knowest that I forbade thee:" and with
these words the king sprang up.
Sigurd replied, "That is in your power as soon as you please; but
other business is more urgent. Go to the land as quickly as
possible to help thy brother; for the Rogaland people are going
to hang him."
Then said the king, "God give us luck, Sigurd! Call my
trumpeter, and let him call the people all to land, and to meet
The king sprang on the land, and all who knew him followed him to
where the gallows was being erected. The king instantly took
Harald to him; and all the people gathered to the king in full
armour, as they heard the trumpet. Then the king ordered that
Svein and all his comrades should depart from the country as
outlaws; but by the intercession of good men the king was
prevailed on to let them remain and hold their properties, but no
mulct should be paid for Svein's wound.
Then Sigurd Sigurdson asked if the king wished that he should go
forth out of the country.
"That will I not," said the king; "for I can never be without
38. OF KING OLAF'S MIRACLE.
There was a young and poor man called Kolbein; and Thora, King
Sigurd the Crusader's mother, had ordered his tongue to be cut
out of his mouth, and for no other cause than that this young man
had taken a piece of meat out of the king-mother's tub which he
said the cook had given him, and which the cook had not ventured
to serve up to her. The man had long gone about speechless. So
says Einar Skulason in Olaf's ballad: --
"The proud rich dame, for little cause,
Had the lad's tongue cut from his jaws:
The helpless man, of speech deprived,
His dreadful sore wound scarce survived.
A few weeks since at Hild was seen,
As well as ever he had been,
The same poor lad -- to speech restored
By Olaf's power, whom he adored."
Afterwards the young man came to Nidaros, and watched in the
Christ church; but at the second mass for Olaf before matins he
fell asleep, and thought he saw King Olaf the Saint coming to
him; and that Olaf talked to him, and took hold with his hands of
the stump of his tongue and pulled it. Now when he awoke he
found himself restored, and joyfully did he thank our Lord and
the holy Saint Olaf, who had pitied and helped him; for he had
come there speechless, and had gone to the holy shrine, and went
away cured, and with his speech clear and distinct.
39. KING OLAF'S MIRACLE WITH A PRISONER.
The heathens took prisoner a young man of Danish family and
carried him to Vindland, where he was in fetters along with other
prisoners. In the day-time he was alone in irons, without a
guard; but at night a peasant's son was beside him in the chain,
that he might not escape from them. This poor man never got
sleep or rest from vexation and sorrow, and considered in many
ways what could help him; for he had a great dread of slavery,
and was pining with hunger and torture. He could not again
expect to be ransomed by his friends, as they had already
restored him twice from heathen lands with their own money; and
he well knew that it would be difficult and expensive for them to
submit a third time to this burden. It is well with the man who
does not undergo so much in the world as this man knew he had
suffered. He saw but one way; and that was to get off and escape
if he could. He resolved upon this in the night-time, killed
the peasant, and cut his foot off after killing him, and set off
to the forest with the chain upon his leg. Now when the people
knew this, soon after daylight in the morning, they pursued him
with two dogs accustomed to trace any one who escaped, and to
find him in the forest however carefully he might be concealed.
They got him into their hands and beat him, and did him all kinds
of mischief; and dragging him home, left barely alive, and showed
him no mercy. They tortured him severely; put him in a dark
room, in which there lay already sixteen Christian men; and bound
him both with iron and other tyings, as fast as they could. Then
he began to think that the misery and pain he had endured before
were but shadows to his present sufferings. He saw no man before
his eyes in this prison who would beg for mercy for him; no one
had compassion on his wretchedness, except the Christian men who
lay bound with him, who sorrowed with him, and bemoaned his fate
together with their own misfortunes and helplessness. One day
they advised him to make a vow to the holy King Olaf, to devote
himself to some office in his sacred house, if he, by God's
compassion and Saint Olaf's prayers could get away from this
prison. He gladly agreed to this, and made a vow and prepared
himself for the situation they mentioned to him. The night after
he thought in his sleep that he saw a man, not tall, standing at
his side, who spoke to him thus, "Here, thou wretched man, why
dost thou not get up?"
He replied, "Sir, who are you?"
"I am King Olaf, on whom thou hast called."
"Oh, my good lord! gladly would I raise myself; but I lie bound
with iron and with chains on my legs, and also the other men who
Thereupon the king accosts him with the words, "Stand up at once
and be not afraid; for thou art loose."
He awoke immediately, and told his comrades what, had appeared to
him in his dream. They told him to stand up, and try if it was
true. He stood up, and observed that he was loose. Now said his
fellow-prisoners, this would help him but little, for the door
was locked both on the inside and on the outside. Then an old
man who sat there in a deplorable condition put in his word, and
told him not to doubt the mercy of the man who had loosened his
chains; "For he has wrought this miracle on thee that thou
shouldst enjoy his mercy, and hereafter be free, without
suffering more misery and torture. Make haste, then, and seek
the door; and if thou are able to slip out, thou art saved."
He did so, found the door open, slipped out, and away to the
forest. As soon as the Vindland people were aware of this they
set loose the dogs, and pursued him in great haste; and the poor
man lay hid, and saw well where they were following him. But now
the hounds lost the trace when they came nearer, and all the eyes
that sought him were struck with a blindness, so that nobody
could find him, although he lay before their feet; and they all
returned home, vexed that they could not find him. King Olaf did
not permit this man's destruction after he had reached the
forest, and restored him also to his health and hearing; for they
had so long tortured and beaten him that he had become deaf. At
last he came on board of a ship, with two other Christian men who
had been long afflicted in that country. All of them worked
zealously in this vessel, and so had a successful flight. Then
he repaired to the holy man's house, strong and fit to bear arms.
Now he was vexed at his vow, went from his promise to the holy
king, ran away one day, and came in the evening to a bonde who
gave him lodging for God's sake. Then in the night he saw three
girls coming to him; and handsome and nobly dressed were they.
They spoke to him directly, and sharply reprimanded him for
having been so bold as to run from the good king who had shown so
much compassion to him, first in freeing him from his irons, and
then from the prison; and yet he had deserted the mild master
into whose service he had entered. Then he awoke full of terror,
got up early, and told the house-father his dream. The good man
had nothing so earnest in life as to send him-back to the holy
place. This miracle was first written down by a man who himself
saw the man, and the marks of the chains upon his body.
40. KING SIGURD MARRIES CECILIA.
In the last period of King Sigurd's life, his new and
extraordinary resolution was whispered about, that he would be
divorced from his queen, and would take Cecilia, who was a great
man's daughter, to wife. He ordered accordingly a great feast to
be prepared, and intended to hold his wedding with her in Bergen.
Now when Bishop Magne heard this, he was very sorry; and one day
the bishop goes to the king's hall, and with him a priest called
Sigurd, who was afterwards bishop of Bergen. When they came to
the king's hall, the bishop sent the king a message that he would
like to meet him; and asked the king to come out to him. He did
so, and came out with a drawn sword in his hand. He received the
bishop kindly and asked him to go in and sit down to table with
The bishop replies, "I have other business now. Is it true,
sire, what is told me, that thou hast the intention of marrying,
and of driving away thy queen, and taking another wife?"
The king said it was true.
Then the bishop changed countenance, and angrily replied, "How
can it come into your mind, sire, to do such an act in our
bishopric as to betray God's word and law, and the holy church?
It surprises me that you treat with such contempt our episcopal
office, and your own royal office. I will now do what is my
duty; and in the name of God, of the holy King Olaf, of Peter the
apostle, and of the other saints, forbid thee this wickedness."
While he thus spoke he stood straight up, as if stretching out
his neck to the blow, as if ready if the king chose to let the
sword fall; and the priest Sigurd. who afterwards was bishop, has
declared that the sky appeared to him no bigger than a calf's
skin, so frightful did the appearance of the king present itself
to him. The king returned to the hall, however, without saying a
word; and the bishop went to his house and home so cheerful and
gay that he laughed, and saluted every child on his way, and was
playing with his fingers. Then the priest Sigurd asked him the
reason, saying, "Why are you so cheerful, sir? Do you not
consider that the king may be exasperated against you? and would
it not be better to get out of the way?"
Then said the bishop, "It appears to me more likely that he will
not act so; and besides, what death could be better, or more
desirable, than to leave life for the honour of God? or to die
for the holy cause of Christianity and our own office, by
preventing that which is not right? I am so cheerful because I
have done what I ought to do."
There was much noise in the town about this. The king got ready
for a journey, and took with him corn, malt and honey. He went
south to Stavanger, and prepared a feast there for his marriage
with Cecilia. When a bishop who ruled there heard of this he
went to the king, and asked if it were true that he intended to
marry in the lifetime of the queen.
The king said it was so.
The bishop answers, "If it be so, sire, you must know how much
such a thing is forbidden to inferior persons. Now it appears as
if you thought it was allowable for you, because you have great
power, and that it is proper for you, although it is against
right and propriety; but I do not know how you will do it in our
bishopric, dishonouring thereby God's command, the holy Church,
and our episcopal authority. But you must bestow a great amount
of gifts and estates on this foundation, and thereby pay the
mulct due to God and to us for such transgression."
Then said the king, "Take what thou wilt of our possessions.
Thou art far more reasonable than Bishop Magne."
Then the king went away, as well pleased with this bishop as ill
pleased with him who had laid a prohibition on him. Thereafter
the king married the girl, and loved her tenderly.
41. IMPROVEMENT OF KONUNGAHELLA.
King Sigurd improved the town of Konungahella so much, that there
was not a greater town in Norway at the time, and he remained
there long for the defence of the frontiers. He built a king's
house in the castle, and imposed a duty on all the districts in
the neighbourhood of the town, as well as on the townspeople,
that every person of nine years of age and upwards should bring
to the castle five missile stones for weapons, or as many large
stakes sharp at one end and five ells long. In the castle the
king built a cross-church of timber, and carefully put together,
as far as regards the wood and other materials. The cross-church
was consecrated in the 24th year of King Sigurd's reign (A.D.
1127). Here the king deposited the piece of the holy cross, and
many other holy relics. It was called the castle church; and
before the high altar he placed the tables he had got made in the
Greek country, which were of copper and silver, all gilt, and
beautifully adorned with jewels. Here was also the shrine which
the Danish king Eirik Eimune had sent to King Sigurd; and the
altar book, written with gold letters, which the patriarch had
presented to King Sigurd.
42. KING SIGURD'S DEATH.
Three years after the consecration of the cross-church, when King
Sigurd was stopping at Viken, he fell sick (A.D. 1130). He died
the night before Mary's-mass (August 15), and was buried in
Halvard's church, where he was laid in the stone wall without the
choir on the south side. His son Magnus was in the town at the
time and took possession of the whole of the king's treasury when
King Sigurd died. Sigurd had been king of Norway twenty-seven
years (A.D. 1104-1130), and was forty years of age when he died.
The time of his reign was good for the country; for there was
peace, and crops were good.