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SAGA OF HAKON HERDEBREID (HAKON THE BROAD-SHOULDERED) (1)
This saga describes the feud between Hakon Sigurdson and his
The only skald quoted is Einar Skulason.
(1) The period is from A.D. 1157 to 1161. -- L.
1. BEGINNING OF HAKON HERDEBREID.
Hakon, King Sigurd's son, was chosen chief of the troop which had
followed King Eystein, and his adherents gave him the title of
king. He was ten years old. At that time he had with him
Sigurd, a son of Halvard Hauld of Reyr, and Andreas and Onund,
the sons of Simon, his foster-brothers, and many chiefs, friends
of King Sigurd and King Eystein; and they went first up to
Gautland. King Inge took possession of all the estates they had
left behind, and declared them banished. Thereafter King Inge
went to Viken, and was sometimes also in the north of the
country. Gregorius Dagson was in Konungahella, where the danger
was greatest, and had beside him a strong and handsome body of
men, with which he defended the country.
2. OF GREGORIUS DAGSON.
The summer after (A.D. 1158) Hakon came with his men, and
proceeded to Konungahella with a numerous and handsome troop.
Gregorius was then in the town, and summoned the bondes and
townspeople to a great Thing, at which he desired their aid; but
he thought the people did not hear him with much favour, so he
did not much trust them. Gregorius set off with two ships to
Viken, and was very much cast down. He expected to meet King
Inge there, having heard he was coming with a great army to
Viken. Now when Gregorius had come but a short way north he met
Simon Skalp, Haldor Brynjolfson, and Gyrd Amundason, King Inge's
foster-brothers. Gregorius was much delighted at this meeting,
and turned back with them, being all in one body, with eleven
ships. As they were rowing up to Konungahella, Hakon, with his
followers, was holding a Thing without the town, and saw their
approach; and Sigurd of Reyr said, "Gregorius must be fey to be
throwing himself with so few men into our hands." Gregorius
landed opposite the town to wait for King Inge, for he was
expected, but he did not come. King Hakon put himself in order
in the town, and appointed Thorliot Skaufaskalle, who was a
viking and a robber, to be captain of the men in the merchant
ships that were afloat in the river; and King Hakon and Sigurd
were within the town, and drew up the men on the piers, for all
the townspeople had submitted to King Hakon.
3. KING HAKON'S FLIGHT.
Gregorius rowed up the river, and let the ship drive down with
the stream against Thorliot. They shot at each other a while,
until Thorliot and his comrades jumped overboard; and some of
them were killed, some escaped to the land. Then Gregorius rowed
to the piers, and let a gangway be cast on shore at the very feet
of Hakon's men. There the man who carried his banner was slain,
just as he was going to step on shore. Gregorius ordered Hal, a
son of Audun Halson, to take up the banner, which he did, and
bore the banner up to the pier. Gregorius followed close after
him, held his shield over his head, and protected him as well as
himself. As soon as Gregorius came upon the pier, and Hakon's
men knew him, they gave way, and made room for him on every side.
Afterwards more people landed from the ships, and then Gregorius
made a severe assault with his men; and Hakon's men first moved
back, and then ran up into the town. Gregorius pursued them
eagerly, drove them twice from the town, and killed many of them.
By the report of all men, never was there so glorious an affair
as this of Gregorius; for Hakon had more than 4000 men, and
Gregorius not full 400. After the battle, Gregorius said to Hal
Audunson, "Many men, in my opinion, are more agile in battle than
ye Icelanders are, for ye are not so exercised as we Norwegians;
but none, I think, are so bold under arms as ye are." King Inge
came up soon after, and killed many of the men who had taken part
with Hakon; made some pay heavy fines, burnt the houses of some,
and some he drove out of the country, or treated otherwise very
ill. Hakon fled at first up to Gautland with all his men; but
the winter after (A.D. 1159), he proceeded by the upper road to
Throndhjem, and came there before Easter. The Throndhjem people
received him well, for they had always served under that shield.
It is said that the Throndhjem people took Hakon as king, on the
terms that he should have from Inge the third part of Norway as
his paternal heritage. King Inge and Gregorius were in Viken,
and Gregorius wanted to make an expedition against the party in
the north; but it came to nothing that winter, as many dissuaded
4. FALL OF GYRD AND HAVARD.
King Hakon left Throndhjem in spring with thirty ships nearly;
and some of his men sailed before the rest with seven ships, and
plundered in North and South More. No man could remember that
there ever before had been plundering between the two towns
(Bergen and Nidaros). Jon the son of Halkel Huk collected the
bondes in arms, and proceeded against them; took Kolbein Ode
prisoner, killed every woman's son of them in his ship. Then
they searched for the others, found them all assembled in seven
ships, and fought with them; but his father Halkel not coming to
his assistance as he had promised, many good bondes were killed,
and Jon himself was wounded. Hakon proceeded south to Bergen
with his forces; but when he came to Stiornvelta, he heard that
King Inge and Gregorius had arrived a few nights before from the
east at Bergen, and therefore he did not venture to steer
thither. They sailed the outer course southwards past Bergen,
and met three ships of King Inge's fleet, which had been
outsailed on the voyage from the east. On board of them were
Gyrd Amundason, King Inge's foster-brother, who was married to
Gyrid a sister of Gregorius, and also lagman Gyrd Gunhildson, and
Havard Klining. King Hakon had Gyrd Amundason and Havard Klining
put to death; but took lagman Gyrd southwards, and then proceeded
east to Viken.
5. OF THE CONSULTATIONS OF KING INGE.
When King Inge heard of this he sailed east after them, and they
met east in the Gaut river. King Inge went up the north arm of
the river, and sent out spies to get news of Hakon and his fleet;
but he himself landed at Hising, and waited for his spies. Now
when the spies came back they went to the king, and said that
they had seen King Hakon's forces, and all his ships which lay at
the stakes in the river, and Hakon's men had bound the stems of
their vessels to them. They had two great East-country trading
vessels, which they had laid outside of the fleet, and on both
these were built high wooded stages (castles). When King Inge
heard the preparations they had made, he ordered a trumpet to
call a House-thing of all the men; and when the Thing was seated
he asked his men for counsel, and applied particularly to
Gregorius Dagson, his brother-in-law Erling Skakke, and other
lendermen and ship-commanders, to whom he related the
preparations of Hakon and his men.
Then Gregorius Dagson replied first, and made known his mind in
the following words: -- "Sometimes we and Hakon have met, and
generally they had the most people; but, notwithstanding, they
fell short in battle against us. Now, on the other hand, we have
by far the greatest force; and it will appear probable to the men
who a short time ago lost gallant relations by them, that this
will be a good occasion to get vengeance, for they have fled
before us the greater part of the summer; and we have often said
that if they waited for us, as appears now to be the case, we
would have a brush with them. Now I will tell my opinion, which
is, that I will engage them, if it be agreeable to the king's
pleasure; for I think it will go now as formerly, that they must
give way before us if we attack them bravely; and I shall always
attack where others may think it most difficult."
The speech was received with much applause, and all declared they
were ready to engage in battle against Hakon. Then they rowed
with all the ships up the river, until they came in sight of each
other, and then King Inge turned off from the river current under
the island. Now the king addressed the lendermen again, and told
them to get ready for battle. He turned himself especially to
Erling Skakke, and said, what was true, that no man in the army
had more understanding and knowledge in fighting battles,
although some were more hot. The king then addressed himself to
several of the lendermen, speaking to them by name; and ended by
desiring that each man should make his attack where he thought it
would be of advantage, and thereafter all would act together.
6. ERLING'S SPEECH.
Erling Skakke replied thus to the king's speech: "It is my duty,
sire, not to be silent; and I shall give my advice, since it is
desired. The resolution now adopted is contrary to my judgment;
for I call it foolhardy to fight under these circumstances,
although we have so many and such fine men. Supposing we make an
attack on them, and row up against this river-current; then one
of the three men who are in each half room must be employed in
rowing only, and another must be covering with the shield the man
who rows; and what have we then to fight with but one third of
our men? It appears to me that they can be of little use in the
battle who are sitting at their oars with their backs turned to
the enemy. Give me now some time for consideration, and I
promise you that before three days are over I shall fall upon
some plan by which we can come into battle with advantage."
It was evident from Erling's speech that he dissuaded from an
attack; but, notwithstanding, it was urged by many who thought
that Hakon would now, as before, take to the land. "And then,"
said they, "we cannot get hold of him; but now they have but few
men, and we have their fate in our own hands."
Gregorius said but little; but thought that Erling rather
dissuaded from an attack that Gregorius's advice should have no
effect, than that he had any better advice to give.
7. OF HAKON'S FLEET.
Then said King Inge to Erling, "Now we will follow thy advice,
brother, with regard to the manner of attacking; but seeing how
eager our counsellors are for it, we shall make the attack this
Erling replied, "All the boats and light vessels we have should
row outside the island, and up the east arm of the river, and
then down with the stream upon them, and try if they cannot cut
them loose from the piles. Then we, with the large ships, shall
row from below here against them; and I cannot tell until it be
tried, if those who are now so furiously warm will be much
brisker at the attack than I am."
This counsel was approved by all. There was a ness stretched out
between their fleet and Hakon's, so that they could not see each
other. Now when Hakon and his men, who had taken counsel with
each other in a meeting, saw the boat-squadron rowing down the
river, some thought King Inge intended to give them battle; but
many believed they did not dare, for it looked as if the attack
was given up; and they, besides, were very confident, both in
their preparations and men. There were many great people with
Hakon: there were Sigurd of Reyr, and Simon's sons; Nikolas
Skialdvarson; Eindride, a son of Jon Mornef, who was the most
gallant and popular man in the Throndhjem country; and many other
lendermen and warriors. Now when they saw that King Inge's men
with many ships were rowing out of the river, Hakon and his men
believed they were going to fly; and therefore they cut their
land-ropes with which they lay fast at the piles, seized their
oars, and rowed after them in pursuit. The ships ran fast down
with the stream; but when they came further down the river,
abreast of the ness, they saw King Inge's main strength lying
quiet at the island Hising. King Inge's people saw Hakon's ships
under way, and believed they were coming to attack them; and now
there was great bustle and clash of arms, and they encouraged
each other by a great war-shout. Hakon with his fleet turned
northwards a little to the land, where there was a turn in the
bight of the river, and where there was no current. They made
ready for battle, carried land-ropes to the shore, turned the
stems of their ships outwards, and bound them all together. They
laid the large East-country traders without the other vessels,
the one above, the other below, and bound them to the long-ships.
In the middle of the fleet lay the king's ship, and next to it
Sigurd's; and on the other side of the king's ship lay Nikolas,
and next to him Endride Jonson. All the smaller ships lay
farther off, and they were all nearly loaded with weapons and
8. SIGURD OF REYR'S SPEECH.
Then Sigurd of Reyr made the following speech: "Now there is hope
that the time is come which has been promised us all the summer,
that we shall meet King Inge in battle. We have long prepared
ourselves for this; and many of our comrades have boasted that
they would never fly from or submit to King Inge and Gregorius,
and now let them remember their words. But we who have sometimes
got the toothache in our conflicts with them, speak less
confidently; for it has happened, as all have heard, that we very
often have come off without glory. But, nevertheless, it is now
necessary to fight manfully, and stand to it with steadiness; for
the only escape for us is in victory. Although we have somewhat
fewer men than they, yet luck determines which side shall have
the advantage, and God knows that the right is on our side. Inge
has killed two of his brothers; and it is obvious to all men that
the mulct he intends to pay King Hakon for his father's murder is
to murder him also, as well as his other relations, which will be
seen this day to be his intent. King Hakon desired from the
beginning no more of Norway than the third part, which his father
had possessed, and which was denied him; and yet, in my opinion,
King Hakon has a better right to inherit after his father's
brother, King Eystein, than Inge or Simon Skalp, or the other men
who killed King Eystein. Many of them who would save their
souls, and yet have defiled their hands with such bloody deeds as
Inge has done, must think it a presumption before God that he
takes the name of king; and I wonder God suffers such monstrous
wickedness as his; but it may be God's will that we shall now put
him down. Let us fight then manfully, and God will give us
victory; and, if we fall, will repay us with joys unspeakable for
now allowing the might of the wicked to prevail over us. Go
forth then in confidence, and be not afraid when the battle
begins. Let each watch over his own and his comrade's safety,
and God protect us all." There went a good report abroad of this
speech of Sigurd, and all promised fairly, and to do their duty.
King Hakon went on board of the great East-country ship, and a
shield-bulwark was made around him; but his standard remained on
the long-ship in which it had been before.
9. OF KING INGE'S MEN.
Now must we tell about King Inge and his men. When they saw that
King Hakon and his people were ready for battle, and the river
only was between them, they sent a light vessel to recall the
rest of the fleet which had rowed away; and in the meantime the
king waited for them, and arranged the troops for the attack.
Then the chiefs consulted in presence of the army, and told their
opinions; first, which ships should lie nearest to the enemy; and
then where each should attack.
Gregorius spoke thus: "We have many and fine men; and it is my
advice, King Inge, that you do not go to the assault with us, for
everything is preserved if you are safe. And no man knows where
an arrow may hit, even from the hands of a bad bowman; and they
have prepared themselves so, that missiles and stones can be
thrown from the high stages upon the merchant ships, so that
there is less danger for those who are farthest from them. They
have not more men than we lendermen can very well engage with. I
shall lay my ship alongside their largest ship, and I expect the
conflict between us will be but short; for it has often been so
in our former meetings, although there has been a much greater
want of men with us than now." All thought well of the advice
that the king himself should not take part in the battle.
Then Erling Skakke said, "I agree also to the counsel that you,
sire, should not go into the battle. It appears to me that their
preparations are such, that we require all our precaution not to
suffer a great defeat from them; and whole limbs are the easiest
cured. In the council we held before to-day many opposed what I
said, and ye said then that I did not want to fight; but now I
think the business has altered its appearance, and greatly to our
advantage, since they have hauled off from the piles, and now it
stands so that I do not dissuade from giving battle; for I see,
what all are sensible of, how necessary it is to put an end to
this robber band who have gone over the whole country with
pillage and destruction, in order that people may cultivate the
land in peace, and serve a king so good and just as King Inge who
has long had trouble and anxiety from the haughty unquiet spirit
of his relations, although he has been a shield of defence for
the whole people, and has been exposed to manifold perils for the
peace of the country." Erling spoke well and long, and many
other chiefs also; and all to the same purpose -- all urging to
battle. In the meantime they waited until all the fleet should
be assembled. King Inge had the ship Baekisudin; and, at the
entreaty of his friends, he did not join the battle, but lay
still at the island.
10. BEGINNING OF THE BATTLE.
When the army was ready they rowed briskly against the enemy, and
both sides raised a war-shout. Inge's men did not bind their
ships together, but let them be loose; for they rowed right
across the current, by which the large ships were much swayed.
Erling Skakke laid his ship beside King Hakon's ship, and ran the
stem between his and Sigurd's ship, by which the battle began.
But Gregorius's ship swung upon the ground, and heeled very much
over, so that at first she could not come into the battle; and
when Hakon's men saw this they laid themselves against her, and
attacked Gregorius's ship on all sides. Ivar, Hakon Mage's son,
laid his ship so that the stems struck together; and he got a
boat-hook fastened on Gregorius, on that part of his body where
the waist is smallest, and dragged him to him, by which Gregorius
stumbled against the ship's rails; but the hook slipped to one
side, or Gregorius would have been dragged over-board.
Gregorius, however, was but little wounded, for he had on a plate
coat of armour. Ivar called out to him, that he had a "thick
bark." Gregorius replied, that if Ivar went on so he would
"require it all, and not have too much." It was very near then
that Gregorius and his men had sprung overboard; but Aslak Unge
threw an anchor into their ship, and dragged them off the ground.
Then Gregorius laid himself against Ivar's ship, and they fought
a long while; but Gregorius's ship being both higher sided and
more strongly manned, many people fell in Ivar's ship, and some
jumped overboard. Ivar was so severely wounded that he could not
take part in the fight. When his ship was cleared of the men,
Gregorius let Ivar be carried to the shore, so that he might
escape; and from that time they were constant friends.
11. KING HAKON'S FLIGHT.
When King Inge and his men saw that Gregorius was aground, he
encouraged his crew to row to his assistance. "It was," he said,
"the most imprudent advice that we should remain lying here,
while our friends are in battle; for we have the largest and best
ship in all the fleet. But now I see that Gregorius, the man to
whom I owe the most, is in need of help; so we must hasten to the
fight where it is sharpest. It is also most proper that I should
be in the battle; for the victory, if we win it, will belong to
me. And if I even knew beforehand that our men were not to gain
the battle, yet our place is where our friends are; for I can do
nothing if I lose the men who are justly called the defence of
the country, who are the bravest, and have long ruled for me and
my kingdom." Thereupon he ordered his banner to be set up, which
was done; and they rowed across the river. Then the battle
raged, and the king could not get room to attack, so close lay
the ships before him. First he lay under the East-country
trading ship, and from it they threw down upon his vessel spears,
iron-shod stakes, and such large stones that it was impossible to
hold out longer there, and he had to haul off. Now when the
king's people saw that he was come they made place for him, and
then he laid alongside of Eindride Jonson's ship. Now King
Hakon's men abandoned the small ships, and went on board the
large merchant vessels; but some of them sprang on shore. Erling
Skakke and his men had a severe conflict. Erling himself was on
the forecastle, and called his forecastlemen, and ordered them to
board the king's ship; but they answered, this was no easy
matter, for there were beams above with an iron comb on them.
Then Erling himself went to the bow, and stayed there a while,
until they succeeded in getting on board the king's ship: and
then the ship was cleared of men on the bows, and the whole army
gave way. Many sprang into the water, many fell, but the greater
number got to the land. So says Einar Skulason: --
"Men fall upon the slippery deck --
Men roll off from the blood-drenched wreck;
Dead bodies float down with the stream,
And from the shores witch-ravens scream.
The cold blue river now runs red
With the warm blood of warriors dead,
And stains the waves in Karmt Sound
With the last drops of the death-wound.
"All down the stream, with unmann'd prow,
Floats many an empty long-ship now,
Ship after ship, shout after shout,
Tell that Kign Hakon can't hold out.
The bowmen ply their bows of elm,
The red swords flash o'er broken helm:
King Hakon's men rush to the strand,
Out of their ships, up through the land."
Einar composed a song about Gregorius Dagson, which is called the
River-song. King Inge granted life and peace to Nikolas
Skialdvarson when his ship was deserted, and thereupon he went
into King Inge's service, and remained in it as long as the king
lived. Eindride Jonson leaped on board of King Inge's ship when
his own was cleared of men, and begged for his life. King Inge
wished to grant it; but Havard Klining's son ran up, and gave him
a mortal wound, which was much blamed; but he said Eindride had
been the cause of his father's death. There was much lamentation
at Eindride's death, but principally in the Throndhjem district.
Many of Hakon's people fell here, but not many chiefs. Few of
King Inge's people fell, but many were wounded. King Hakon fled
up the country, and King Inge went north to Viken with his
troops; and he, as well as Gregorius, remained in Viken all
winter (A.D. 1160). When King Inge's men, Bergliot and his
brothers, sons of Ivar of Elda, came from the battle to Bergen,
they slew Nickolas Skeg, who had been Hakon's treasurer, and then
went north to Throndhjem.
King Hakon came north before Yule, and Sigurd was sometimes home
at Reyr; for Gregorius, who was nearly related to Sigurd, had
obtained for him life and safety from King Inge, so that he
retained all his estates. King Hakon was in the merchant-town of
Nidaros in Yule; and one evening in the beginning of Yule his men
fought in the room of the court, and in this affray eight men
were killed, and many were wounded. The eighth day of Yule, King
Hakon's man Alf Rode, son of Ottar Birting, with about eighty
men, went to Elda, and came in the night unexpectedly on the
people, who were very drunk, and set fire to the room; but they
went out, and defended themselves bravely. There fell Bergliot,
Ivar's son, and Ogmund, his brother, and many more. They had
been nearly thirty altogether in number. In winter died, north
in the merchant-town, Andres Simonson, King Hakon's foster-
brother; and his death was much deplored. Erling Skakke and
Inge's men, who were in Bergen, threatened that in winter they
would proceed against Hakon and his men; but it came to nothing.
Gregorius sent word from the east, from Konungahella, that if he
were so near as Erling and his men, he would not sit quietly in
Bergen while Hakon was killing King Inge's friends and their
comrades in war north in the Throndhjem country.
12. THE CONFLICT UPON THE PIERS.
King Inge and Gregorius left the east in spring, and came to
Bergen; but as soon as Hakon and Sigurd heard that Inge had left
Viken, they went there by land. When King Inge and his people
came to Bergen, a quarrel arose between Haldor Brynjolfson and
Bjorn Nikolason. Bjorn's house-man asked Haldor's when they met
at the pier, why he looked so pale.
He replied, because he had been bled.
"I could not look so pale if I tried, at merely being bled."
"I again think," retorted the other, "that thou wouldst have
borne it worse, and less manfully." And no other beginning was
there for their quarrel than this. Afterwards one word followed
another, till from brawling they came to fighting. It was told
to Haldor Brynjolfson, who was in the house drinking, that his
house-man was wounded down on the pier and he went there
immediately. But Bjorn's house-men had come there before, and as
Haldor thought his house-man had been badly treated, he went up
to them and beat them; and it was told to Bjorn Buk that the
people of Viken were beating his house-men on the pier. Then
Bjorn and his house-men took their weapons, hurried down to the
pier, and would avenge their men; and a bloody strife began. It
was told Gregorius that his relation Haldor required assistance,
and that his house-men were being cut down in the street; on
which Gregorius and his men ran to the place in their armour.
Now it was told Erling Skakke that his sister's son Bjorn was
fighting with Gregorius and Haldor down on the piers, and that he
needed help. Then he proceeded thither with a great force, and
exhorted the people to stand by him; saying it would be a great
disgrace never to be wiped out, if the Viken people should
trample upon them in their own native place. There fell thirteen
men, of whom nine were killed on the spot, and four died of their
wounds, and many were wounded. When the word came to King Inge
that Gregorius and Erling were fighting down on the piers, he
hastened there, and tried to separate them; but could do nothing,
so mad were they on both sides. Then Gregorius called to Inge,
and told him to go away; for it was in vain to attempt coming
between them, as matters now stood. He said it would be the
greatest misfortune if the king mixed himself up with it; for he
could not be certain that there were not people in the fray who
would commit some great misdeed if they had opportunity. Then
King Inge retired; and when the greatest tumult was over,
Gregorius and his men went to Nikolas church, and Erling behind
them, calling to each other. Then King Inge came a second time,
and pacified them; and both agreed that he should mediate between
When King Inge and Gregorius heard that King Hakon was in Viken,
they went east with many ships; but when they came King Hakon
fled from them, and there was no battle. Then King Inge went to
Oslo, and Gregorius was in Konungahella.
13. MUNAN'S DEATH.
Soon after Gregorius heard that Hakon and his men were at a farm
called Saurby, which lies up beside the forest. Gregorius
hastened there; came in the night; and supposing that King Hakon
and Sigurd would be in the largest of the houses, set fire to the
buildings there. But Hakon and his men were in the smaller
house, and came forth, seeing the fire, to help their people.
There Munan fell, a son of Ale Uskeynd, a brother of King Sigurd
Hakon's father. Gregorius and his men killed him, because he was
helping those whom they were burning within the house. Some
escaped, but many were killed. Asbjorn Jalda, who had been a
very great viking, escaped from the house, but was grievously
wounded. A bonde met him, and he offered the man money to let
him get away; but the bonde replied, he would do what he liked
best; and, adding that he had often been in fear of his life for
him, he slew him. King Hakon and Sigurd escaped, but many of
their people were killed. Thereafter Gregorius returned home to
Konungahella. Soon after King Hakon and Sigurd went to Haldor
Brynjolfson's farm of Vettaland, set fire to the house, and burnt
it. Haldor went out, and was cut down instantly with his house-
men; and in all there were about twenty men killed. Sigrid,
Haldor's wife, was a sister of Gregorius, and they allowed her to
escape into the forest in her night-shift only; but they took
with them Amunde, who was a son of Gyrd Amundason and of Gyrid
Dag's daughter, and a sister's son of Gregorius, and who was then
a boy about five years old.
14. OF THE FALL OF GREGORIUS DAGSON.
When Gregorius heard the news he took it much to heart, and
inquired carefully where they were. Gregorius set out from
Konungahella late in Yule, and came to Fors the thirteenth day of
Yule, where he remained a night, and heard vespers the last day
of Yule, which was a Saturday, and the holy Evangel was read
before him. When Gregorius and his followers saw the men of King
Hakon and Sigurd, the king's force appeared to them smaller than
their own. There was a river called Befia between them, where
they met; and there was unsound ice on the river, for there went
a stream under the ice from it. King Hakon and his men had cut a
rent in the ice, and laid snow over it, so that nobody could see
it. When Gregorius came to the ice on the river the ice appeared
to him unsound, he said; and he advised the people to go to the
bridge, which was close by, to cross the river. The bonde-troops
replied, that they did not know why he should be afraid to go
across the ice to attack so few people as Hakon had, and the ice
was good enough. Gregorius said it was seldom necessary to
encourage him to show bravery, and it should not be so now. Then
he ordered them to follow him, and not to be standing on the land
while he was on the ice, and he said it was their council to go
out upon the dangerous ice, but he had no wish to do so, or to be
led by them. Then he ordered the banner to be advanced, and
immediately went out on the ice with the men. As soon as the
bondes found that the ice was unsound they turned back.
Gregorius fell through the ice, but not very deep, and he told
his men to take care. There were not more than twenty men with
him, the others having turned back. A man of King Hakon's troop
shot an arrow at Gregorius, which hit him under the throat, and
thus ended his life. Gregorius fell, and ten men with him. It
is the talk of all men that he had been the most gallant
lenderman in Norway that any man then living could remember; and
also he behaved the best towards us Icelanders of any chief since
King Eystein the Elder's death. Gregorius's body was carried to
Hofund, and interred at Gimsey Isle, in a nunnery which is there,
of which Gregorius's sister, Baugeid, was then the abbess.
15. KING INGE HEARS OF GREGORIUS'S FALL.
Two bailiffs went to Oslo to bring the tidings to King Inge.
When they arrived they desired to speak to the king: and he
asked, what news they brought.
"Gregorius Dagson's death," said they.
"How came that misfortune?" asked the king.
When they had told him how it happened, he said, "They gave
advice who understood the least."
It is said he took it so much to heart that he cried like a
child. When he recovered himself he said, "I wanted to go to
Gregorius as soon as I heard of Haldor's murder; for I thought
that Gregorius would not sit long before thinking. of revenge.
But the people here would think nothing so important as their
Yule feasts, and nothing could move them away; and I am confident
that if I had been there, he would either have proceeded more
cautiously, or I and Gregorius would now have shared one lodging.
Now he is gone, the man who has been my best friend, and more
than any other has kept the kingdom in my hands; and I think it
will be but a short space between us. Now I make an oath to go
forth against Hakon, and one of two things shall happen: I shall
either come to my death, or shall walk over Hakon and his people;
and such a man as Gregorius is not avenged, even if all were to
pay the penalty of their lives for him."
There was a man present who replied, "Ye need not seek after
them, for they intend to seek you."
Kristin, King Sigurd's daughter and King Inge's cousin, was then
in Oslo. The king heard that she intended going away. He sent a
message to her to inquire why she wished to leave the town.
She thought it was dangerous and unsafe for a female to be there.
The king would not let her go. "For if it go well with me, as I
hope, you will be well here; and if I fall, my friends may not
get leave to dress my body; but you can ask permission, and it
will not be denied you, and you will thereby best requite what I
have done for you."
16. OF KING INGE.
On Saint Blasius' day (February 3, 1161), in the evening, King
Inge's spies brought him the news that King Hakon was coming
towards the town. Then King Inge ordered the war-horns to call
together all the troops up from the town; and when he drew them
up he could reckon them to be nearly 4000 men. The king let the
array be long, but not more than five men deep. Then some said
that the king should not be himself in the battle, as they
thought the risk too great; but that his brother Orm should be
the leader of the army. The king replied, "I think if Gregorius
were alive and here now, and I had fallen and was to be avenged,
he would not lie concealed, but would be in the battle. Now,
although I, on account of my ill health, am not fit for the
combat as he was, yet will I show as good will as he would have
had; and it is not to be thought of that I should not be in the
People say that Gunhild, who was married to Simon, King Hakon's
foster-brother, had a witch employed to sit out all night and
procure the victory for Hakon; and that the answer was obtained,
that they should fight King Inge by night, and never by day, and
then the result would be favourable. The witch who, as people
say, sat out was called Thordis Skeggia; but what truth there may
be in the report I know not.
Simon Skalp had gone to the town, and was gone to sleep, when the
war-shouts awoke him. When the night was well advanced, King
Inge's spies came to him, and told him that King Hakon and his
army were coming over the ice; for the ice lay the whole way from
the town to Hofud Isle.
17. KING INGE'S SPEECH.
Thereupon King Inge went with his army out on the ice, and he
drew it up in order of battle in front of the town. Simon Skalp
was in that wing of the array which was towards Thraelaberg; and
on the other wing, which was towards the Nunnery, was Gudrod, the
king of the South Hebudes, a son of Olaf Klining, and Jon, a son
of Svein Bergthor Buk. When King Hakon and his army came near to
King Inge's array, both sides raised a war-shout. Gudrod and Jon
gave King Hakon and his men a sign, and let them know where they
were in the line; and as soon as Hakon's men in consequence
turned thither, Gudrod immediately fled with 1500 men; and Jon,
and a great body of men with him, ran over to King Hakon's army,
and assisted them in the fight. When this news was told to King
Inge, he said, "Such is the difference between my friends. Never
would Gregorius have done so in his life!" There were some who
advised King Inge to get on horseback, and ride from the battle
up to Raumarike; "where," said they, "you would get help enough,
even this very day." The king replied, he had no inclination to
do so. "I have heard you often say, and I think truly, that it
was of little use to my brother, King Eystein, that he took to
flight; and yet he was a man distinguished for many qualities
which adorn a king. Now I, who labour under so great
decrepitude, can see how bad my fate would be, if I betook myself
to what proved so unfortunate for him; with so great a difference
as there is between our activity, health, and strength. I was in
the second year of my age when I was chosen king of Norway, and I
am now twenty-five; and I think I have had misfortune and sorrow
under my kingly dignity, rather than pleasure and peaceful days.
I have had many battles, sometimes with more, sometimes with
fewer people; and it is my greatest luck that I have never fled.
God will dispose of my life, and of how long it shall be; but I
shall never betake myself to flight."
18. KING INGE'S FALL.
Now as Jon and his troop had broken the one wing of King Inge's
array, many of those who were nearest to him fled, by which the
whole array was dispersed, and fell into disorder. But Hakon and
his men went briskly forwards; and now it was near daybreak. An
assault was made against King Inge's banner, and in this conflict
King Inge fell; but his brother Orm continued the battle, while
many of the army fled up into the town. Twice Orm went to the
town after the king's fall to encourage the people, and both
times returned, and went out again upon the ice to continue the
battle. Hakon's men attacked the wing of the array which Simon
Skalp led; and in that assault fell of King Inge's men his
brother-in-law, Gudbrand Skafhogson. Simon Skalp and Halvard
Hikre went against each other with their troops, and fought while
they drew aside past Thraelaberg; and in this conflict both Simon
and Halvard fell. Orm, the king's brother, gained great
reputation in this battle; but he at last fled. Orm the winter
before had been contracted with Ragna, a daughter of Nikolas
Mase, who had been married before to King Eystein Haraldson; and
the wedding was fixed for the Sunday after Saint Blasius's mass,
which was on a Friday. Orm fled east to Svithjod, where his
brother Magnus was then king; and their brother Ragnvald was an
earl there at that time. They were the sons of Queen Ingerid and
Henrik Halte, who was a son of the Danish king Svein Sveinson.
The princess Kristin took care of King Inge's body, which was
laid on the stone wall of Halvard's church, on the south side
without the choir. He had then been king for twenty-three years
(A.D. 1137-1161). In this battle many fell on both sides, but
principally of King Inge's men. Of King Hakon's people fell Arne
Frirekson. Hakon's men took all the feast and victuals prepared
for the wedding, and a great booty besides.
19. OF KING HAKON AND QUEEN KRISTIN.
Then King Hakon took possession of the whole country, and
distributed all the offices among his own friends, both in the
towns and in the country. King Hakon and his men had a meeting
in Halvard's church, where they had a private conference
concerning the management of the country. Kristin the princess
gave the priest who kept the church keys a large sum of money to
conceal one of her men in the church, so that she might know what
Hakon and his counsellors intended. When she learnt what they
had said, she sent a man to Bergen to her husband Erling Skakke,
with the message that he should never trust Hakon or his men.
20. OF OLAF'S MIRACLE.
It happened at the battle of Stiklestad, as before related, that
King Olaf threw from him the sword called Hneiter when he
received his wound. A Swedish man, who had broken his own sword,
took it up, and fought with it. When this man escaped with the
other fugitives he came to Svithjod, and went home to his house.
From that time he kept the sword all his days, and afterwards his
son, and so relation after relation; and when the sword shifted
its owner, the one told to the other the name of the sword and
where it came from. A long time after, in the days of Kirjalax
the emperor of Constantinople, when there was a great body of
Varings in the town, it happened in the summer that the emperor
was on a campaign, and lay in the camp with his army. The
Varings who had the guard, and watched over the emperor, lay on
the open plain without the camp. They changed the watch with
each other in the night, and those who had been before on watch
lay down and slept; but all completely armed. It was their
custom, when they went to sleep, that each should have his helmet
on his head, his shield over him, sword under the head, and the
right hand on the sword-handle. One of these comrades, whose lot
it was to watch the latter part of the night, found, on awakening
towards morning, that his sword was gone. He looked after it,
and saw it lying on the flat plain at a distance from him. He
got up and took the sword, thinking that his comrades who had
been on watch had taken the sword from him in a joke; but they
all denied it. The same thing happened three nights. Then he
wondered at it, as well as they who saw or heard of it; and
people began to ask him how it could have happened. He said that
his sword was called Hneiter, and had belonged to King Olaf the
Saint, who had himself carried it in the battle of Stiklestad;
and he also related how the sword since that time had gone from
one to another. This was told to the emperor, who called the man
before him to whom the sword belonged, and gave him three times
as much gold as the sword was worth; and the sword itself he had
laid in Saint Olaf's church, which the Varings supported, where
it has been ever since over the altar. There was a lenderman of
Norway while Harald Gille's sons, Eystein, Inge, and Sigurd
lived, who was called Eindride Unge; and he was in Constantinople
when these events took place. He told these circumstances in
Norway, according to what Einar Skulason says in his song about
King Olaf the Saint, in which these events are sung.
21. OLAF'S MIRACLE IN FAVOUR OF THE VARINGS.
It happened once in the Greek country, when Kirjalax was emperor
there, that he made an expedition against Blokumannaland. When
he came to the Pezina plains, a heathen king came against him
with an innumerable host. He brought with him many horsemen, and
many large waggons, in which were large loop-holes for shooting
through. When they prepared for their night quarters they drew
up their waggons, one by the side of the other, without their
tents, and dug a great ditch without; and all which made a
defence as strong as a castle. The heathen king was blind. Now
when the Greek king came, the heathens drew up their array on the
plains before their waggon-fortification. The Greeks drew up
their array opposite, and they rode on both sides to fight with
each other; but it went on so ill and so unfortunately, that the
Greeks were compelled to fly after suffering a great defeat, and
the heathens gained a victory. Then the king drew up an array of
Franks and Flemings, who rode against the heathens, and fought
with them; but it went with them as with the others, that many
were killed, and all who escaped took to flight. Then the Greek
king was greatly incensed at his men-at-arms; and they replied,
that he should now take his wine-bags, the Varings. The king
says that he would not throw away his jewels, and allow so few
men, however bold they might be, to attack so vast an army. Then
Thorer Helsifig, who at that time was leader of the Varings
replied to the king's words, "If there was burning fire in the
way, I and my people would run into it, if I knew the king's
advantage required it." Then the king replied, "Call upon your
holy King Olaf for help and strength." The Varings, who were 450
men, made a vow with hand and word to build a church in
Constantinople, at their own expense and with the aid of other
good men, and have the church consecrated to the honour and glory
of the holy King Olaf; and thereupon the Varings rushed into the
plain. When the heathens saw them, they told their king that
there was another troop of the Greek king's army come out upon
the plain; but they were only a handful of people. The king
says, "Who is that venerable man riding on a white horse at the
head of the troop?" They replied, "We do not see him." There
was so great a difference of numbers, that there were sixty
heathens for every Christian man; but notwithstanding the Varings
went boldly to the attack. As soon as they met terror and alarm
seized the army of the heathens, and they instantly began to fly;
but the Varings pursued, and soon killed a great number of them.
When the Greeks and Franks who before had fled from the heathens
saw this, they hastened to take part, and pursue the enemy with
the others. Then the Varings had reached the waggon-
fortification, where the greatest defeat was given to the enemy.
The heathen king was taken in the flight of his people, and the
Varings brought him along with them; after which the Christians
took the camp of the heathens, and their waggon-fortification.