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HARALD HARFAGER'S SAGA.
1. HARALD'S STRIFE WITH HAKE AND HIS FATHER GANDALF.
Harald (1) was but ten years old when he succeeded his father
(Halfdan the Black). He became a stout, strong, and comely man,
and withal prudent and manly. His mother's brother, Guthorm, was
leader of the hird, at the head of the government, and commander
(`hertogi') of the army. After Halfdan the Black's death, many
chiefs coveted the dominions he had left. Among these King
Gandalf was the first; then Hogne and Frode, sons of Eystein,
king of Hedemark; and also Hogne Karuson came from Ringerike.
Hake, the son of Gandalf, began with an expedition of 300 men
against Vestfold, marched by the main road through some valleys,
and expected to come suddenly upon King Harald; while his father
Gandalf sat at home with his army, and prepared to cross over the
fiord into Vestfold. When Duke Guthorm heard of this he gathered
an army, and marched up the country with King Harald against
Hake. They met in a valley, in which they fought a great battle,
and King Harald was victorious; and there fell King Hake and most
of his people. The place has since been called Hakadale. Then
King Harald and Duke Guthorm turned back, but they found King
Gandalf had come to Vestfold. The two armies marched against
each other, and met, and had a great battle; and it ended in King
Gandalf flying, after leaving most of his men dead on the spot,
and in that state he came back to his kingdom. Now when the sons
of King Eystein in Hedemark heard the news, they expected the war
would come upon them, and they sent a message to Hogne Karuson
and to Herse Gudbrand, and appointed a meeting with them at
Ringsaker in Hedemark.
(1) The first twenty chapters of this saga refer to Harald's
youth and his conquest of Norway. This portion of the saga
is of great importance to the Icelanders, as the settlement
of their Isle was a result of Harald's wars. The second
part of the saga (chaps. 21-46) treats of the disputes
between Harald's sons, of the jarls of Orkney, and of the
jarls of More. With this saga we enter the domain of
history. -- Ed.
2. KING HARALD OVERCOMES FIVE KINGS.
After the battle King Harald and Guthorm turned back, and went
with all the men they could gather through the forests towards
the Uplands. They found out where the Upland kings had appointed
their meeting-place, and came there about the time of midnight,
without the watchmen observing them until their army was before
the door of the house in which Hogne Karuson was, as well as that
in which Gudbrand slept. They set fire to both houses; but King
Eystein's two sons slipped out with their men, and fought for a
while, until both Hogne and Frode fell. After the fall of these
four chiefs, King Harald, by his relation Guthorm's success and
powers, subdued Hedemark, Ringerike, Gudbrandsdal, Hadeland,
Thoten, Raumarike, and the whole northern part of Vingulmark.
King Harald and Guthorm had thereafter war with King Gandalf, and
fought several battles with him; and in the last of them King
Gandalf was slain, and King Harald took the whole of his kingdom
as far south as the river Raum.
3. OF GYDA, DAUGHTER OF EIRIE.
King Harald sent his men to a girl called Gyda, daughter of King
Eirik of Hordaland, who was brought up as foster-child in the
house of a great bonde in Valdres. The king wanted her for his
concubine; for she was a remarkably handsome girl, but of high
spirit withal. Now when the messengers came there, and delivered
their errand to the girl, she answered, that she would not throw
herself away even to take a king for her husband, who had no
greater kingdom to rule over than a few districts. "And
methinks," said she, "it is wonderful that no king here in Norway
will make the whole country subject to him, in the same way as
Gorm the Old did in Denmark, or Eirik at Upsala." The messengers
thought her answer was dreadfully haughty, and asked what she
thought would come of such an answer; for Harald was so mighty a
man, that his invitation was good enough for her. But although
she had replied to their errand differently from what they
wished, they saw no chance, on this occasion, of taking her with
them against her will; so they prepared to return. When they
were ready, and the people followed them out, Gyda said to the
messengers, "Now tell to King Harald these my words. I will only
agree to be his 1awful wife upon the condition that he shall
first, for my sake, subject to himself the whole of Norway, so
that he may rule over that kingdom as freely and fully as King
Eirik over the Swedish dominions, or King Gorm over Denmark; for
only then, methinks, can he be called the king of a people."
4. KING HARALD'S VOW.
Now came the messengers back to King Harald, bringing him the
words of the girl, and saying she was so bold and foolish that
she well deserved that the king should send a greater troop of
people for her, and inflict on her some disgrace. Then answered
the king, "This girl has not spoken or done so much amiss that
she should be punished, but rather she should be thanked for her
words. She has reminded me," said he, "of something which it
appears to me wonderful I did not think of before. And now,"
added he, "I make the solemn vow, and take God to witness, who
made me and rules over all things, that never shall I clip or
comb my hair until I have subdued the whole of Norway, with scat
(1), and duties, and domains; or if not, have died in the
attempt." Guthorm thanked the king warmly for his vow; adding,
that it was royal work to fulfil royal words.
(1) Scat was a land-tax, paid to the king in money, malt, meal,
or flesh-meat, from all lands, and was adjudged by the Thing
to each king upon his accession, and being proposed and
accepted as king.
5. THE BATTLE IN ORKADAL.
After this the two relations gather together a great force, and
prepare for an expedition to the Uplands, and northwards up the
valley (Gudbrandsdal), and north over Dovrefjeld; and when the
king came down to the inhabited land he ordered all the men to be
killed, and everything wide around to be delivered to the flames.
And when the people came to know this, they fled every one where
he could; some down the country to Orkadal, some to Gaulardal,
some to the forests. But some begged for peace, and obtained it,
on condition of joining the king and becoming his men. He met no
opposition until he came to Orkadal. There a crowd of people had
assembled, and he had his first battle with a king called
Gryting. Harald won the victory, and King Gryting was made
prisoner, and most of his people killed. He took service himself
under the king, and swore fidelity to him. Thereafer all the
people in Orkadal district went under King Harald, and became his
6. KING HARALD S LAWS FOR LAND PROPERTY.
King Harald made this law over all the lands he conquered, that
all the udal property should belong to him; and that the bondes,
both great and small, should pay him land dues for their
possessions. Over every district he set an earl to judge
according to the law of the land and to justice, and also to
collect the land dues and the fines; and for this each earl
received a third part of the dues, and services, and fines, for
the support of his table and other expenses. Each earl had under
him four or more herses, each of whom had an estate of twenty
marks yearly income bestowed on him and was bound to support
twenty men-at-arms, and the earl sixty men, at their own
expenses. The king had increased the land dues and burdens so
much, that each of his earls had greater power and income than
the kings had before; and when that became known at Throndhjem,
many great men joined the king and took his service.
7. BATTLE IN GAULARDAL.
It is told that Earl Hakon Grjotgardson came to King Harald from
Yrjar, and brought a great crowd of men to his service. Then
King Harald went into Gaulardal, and had a great battle, in which
he slew two kings, and conquered their dominions; and these were
Gaulardal district and Strind district. He gave Earl Hakon
Strind district to rule over as earl. King Harald then proceeded
to Stjoradal, and had a third battle, in which he gained the
victory, and took that district also. There upon the Throndhjem
people assembled, and four kings met together with their troops.
The one ruled over Veradal, the second over Skaun, third over the
Sparbyggja district, and the fourth over Eyin Idre (Inderoen);
and this latter had also Eyna district. These four kings marched
with their men against King Harald, but he won the battle; and
some of these kings fell, and some fled. In all, King Harald
fought at the least eight battles, and slew eight kings, in the
Throndhjem district, and laid the whole of it under him.
8. HARALD SEIZES NAUMUDAL DISTRICT.
North in Naumudal were two brothers, kings, -- Herlaug and
Hrollaug; and they had been for three summers raising a mound or
tomb of stone and lime and of wood. Just as the work was
finished, the brothers got the news that King Harald was coming
upon them with his army. Then King Herlaug had a great quantity
of meat and drink brought into the mound, and went into it
himself, with eleven companions, and ordered the mound to be
covered up. King Hrollaug, on the contrary, went upon the summit
of the mound, on which the kings were wont to sit, and made a
throne to be erected, upon which he seated himself. Then he
ordered feather-beds to be laid upon the bench below, on which
the earls were wont to be seated, and threw himself down from his
high seat or throne into the earl's seat, giving himself the
title of earl. Now Hrollaug went to meet King Harald, gave up to
him his whole kingdom, offered to enter into his service, and
told him his whole proceeding. Then took King Harald a sword,
fastened it to Hrollaug's belt, bound a shield to his neck, and
made him thereupon an earl, and led him to his earl's seat; and
therewith gave him the district Naumudal, and set him as earl
over it ((A.D. 866)). (1)
(1) Before writing was in general use, this symbolical way of
performing all important legal acts appears to have entered
into the jurisprudence of all savage nations; and according
to Gibbon, chap. 44, "the jurisprudence of the first Romans
exhibited the scenes of a pantomime; the words were adapted
to the gestures, and the slightest error or neglect in the
forms of proceeding was sufficient to annul the substance of
the fairest claims." -- Ed.
9. KING HARALD'S HOME AFFAIRS.
King Harald then returned to Throndhjem, where he dwelt during
the winter, and always afterwards called it his home. He fixed
here his head residence, which is called Lade. This winter he
took to wife Asa, a daughter of Earl Hakon Grjotgardson, who then
stood in great favour and honour with the king. In spring the
king fitted out his ships. In winter he had caused a great
frigate (a dragon) to be built, and had it fitted-out in the most
splendid way, and brought his house-troops and his berserks on
board. The forecastle men were picked men, for they had the
king's banner. From the stem to the mid-hold was called rausn,
or the fore-defence; and there were the berserks. Such men only
were received into King Harald's house-troop as were remarkable
for strength, courage, and all kinds of dexterity; and they alone
got place in his ship, for he had a good choice of house-troops
from the best men of every district. King Harald had a great
army, many large ships, and many men of might followed him.
Hornklofe, in his poem called "Glymdrapa", tells of this; and
also that King Harald had a battle with the people of Orkadal, at
Opdal forest, before he went upon this expedition.
"O'er the broad heath the bowstrings twang,
While high in air the arrows sang.
The iron shower drives to flight
The foeman from the bloody fight.
The warder of great Odin's shrine,
The fair-haired son of Odin's line,
Raises the voice which gives the cheer,
First in the track of wolf or bear.
His master voice drives them along
To Hel -- a destined, trembling throng;
And Nokve's ship, with glancing sides,
Must fly to the wild ocean's tides. --
Must fly before the king who leads
Norse axe-men on their ocean steeds."
10. BATTLE AT SOLSKEL
King Harald moved out with his army from Throndhjem, and went
southwards to More. Hunthiof was the name of the king who ruled
over the district of More. Solve Klofe was the name of his son,
and both were great warriors. King Nokve, who ruled over
Raumsdal, was the brother of Solve's mother. Those chiefs
gathered a great force when they heard of King Harald, and came
against him. They met at Solskel, and there was a great battle,
which was gained by King Harald (A.D. 867). Hornklofe tells of
this battle: --
"Thus did the hero known to fame,
The leader of the shields, whose name
Strikes every heart with dire dismay,
Launch forth his war-ships to the fray.
Two kings he fought; but little strife
Was needed to cut short their life.
A clang of arms by the sea-shore, --
And the shields' sound was heard no more."
The two kings were slain, but Solve escaped by flight; and King
Harald laid both districts under his power. He stayed here long
in summer to establish law and order for the country people, and
set men to rule them, and keep them faithful to him; and in
autumn he prepared to return northwards to Throndhjem. Ragnvald
Earl of More, a son of Eystein Glumra, had the summer before
become one of Harald's men; and the king set him as chief over
these two districts, North More and Raumsdal; strengthened him
both with men of might and bondes, and gave him the help of
ships to defend the coast against enemies. He was called
Ragnvald the Mighty, or the Wise; and people say both names
suited him well. King Harald came back to Throndhjem about
11. FALL OF KINGS ARNVID AND AUDBJORN.
The following spring (A.D. 868) King Harald raised a great force
in Throndhjem, and gave out that he would proceed to South More.
Solve Klofe had passed the winter in his ships of war, plundering
in North More, and had killed many of King Harald's men;
pillaging some places, burning others, and making great ravage;
but sometimes he had been, during the winter, with his friend
King Arnvid in South More. Now when he heard that King Harald
was come with ships and a great army, he gathered people, and was
strong in men-at-arms; for many thought they had to take
vengeance of King Harald. Solve Klofe went southwards to
Firdafylke (the Fjord district), which King Audbjorn ruled over,
to ask him to help, and join his force to King Arnvid's and his
own. "For," said he, "it is now clear that we all have but one
course to take; and that is to rise, all as one man, against King
Harald, for we have strength enough, and fate must decide the
victory; for as to the other condition of becoming his servants,
that is no condition for us, who are not less noble than Harald.
My father thought it better to fall in battle for his kingdom,
than to go willingly into King Harald's service, or not to abide
the chance of weapons like the Naumudal kings." King Solve's
speech was such that King Audbjorn promised his help, and
gathered a great force together and went with it to King Arnvid,
and they had a great army. Now, they got news that King Harald
was come from the north, and they met within Solskel. And it was
the custom to lash the ships together, stem to stem; so it was
done now. King Harald laid his ship against King Arnvid's, and
there was the sharpest fight, and many men fell on both sides.
At last King Harald was raging with anger, and went forward to
the fore-deck, and slew so dreadfully that all the forecastle men
of Arnvid's ship were driven aft of the mast, and some fell.
Thereupon Harald boarded the ship, and King Arnvid's men tried to
save themselves by flight, and he himself was slain in his ship.
King Audbjorn also fell; but Solve fled. So says Hornklofe: --
"Against the hero's shield in vain
The arrow-storm fierce pours its rain.
The king stands on the blood-stained deck,
Trampling on many a stout foe's neck;
And high above the dinning stound
Of helm and axe, and ringing sound
Of blade and shield, and raven's cry,
Is heard his shout of `Victory!'"
Of King Harald's men, fell his earls Asgaut and Asbjorn, together
with his brothers-in-law, Grjotgard and Herlaug, the sons of Earl
Hakon of Lade. Solve became afterwards a great sea-king, and
often did great damage in King Harald's dominions.
12. KING VEMUND BURNT TO DEATH.
After this battle (A.D. 868) King Harald subdued South More; but
Vemund, King Audbjorn's brother, still had Firdafylke. It was
now late in harvest, and King Harald's men gave him the counsel
not to proceed south-wards round Stad. Then King Harald set Earl
Ragnvald over South and North More and also Raumsdal, and he had
many people about him. King Harald returned to Throndhjem. The
same winter (A.D. 869) Ragnvald went over Eid, and southwards to
the Fjord district. There he heard news of King Vemund, and came
by night to a place called Naustdal, where King Vemund was living
in guest-quarters. Earl Ragnvald surrounded the house in which
they were quartered, and burnt the king in it, together with
ninety men. The came Berdlukare to Earl Ragnvald with a complete
armed long-ship, and they both returned to More. The earl took
all the ships Vemund had, and all the goods he could get hold of.
Berdlukare proceeded north to Throndhjem to King Harald, and
became his man; and dreadful berserk he was.
13. DEATH OF EARLS HAKON, AND ATLE MJOVE.
The following spring (A.D. 869) King Harald went southwards with
his fleet along the coast, and subdued Firdafylke. Then he
sailed eastward along the land until he came to Vik; but he left
Earl Hakon Grjotgardson behind, and set him over the Fjord
district. Earl Hakon sent word to Earl Atle Mjove that he should
leave Sogn district, and be earl over Gaular district, as he had
been before, alleging that King Harald had given Sogn district to
him. Earl Atle sent word that he would keep both Sogn district
and Gaular district, until he met King Harald. The two earls
quarreled about this so long, that both gathered troops. They
met at Fialar, in Stavanger fiord, and had a great battle, in
which Earl Hakon fell, and Earl Atle got a mortal wound, and his
men carried him to the island of Atley, where he died. So says
Eyvind Skaldaspiller: --
"He who stood a rooted oak,
Unshaken by the swordsman's stroke,
Amidst the whiz of arrows slain,
Has fallen upon Fjalar's plain.
There, by the ocean's rocky shore,
The waves are stained with the red gore
Of stout Earl Hakon Grjotgard's son,
And of brave warriors many a one."
14. HARALD AND THE SWEDISH KING EIRIK.
King Harald came with his fleet eastward to Viken and landed at
Tunsberg, which was then a trading town. He had then been four
years in Throndhjem, and in all that time had not been in Viken.
Here he heard the news that Eirik Eymundson, king of Sweden, had
laid under him Vermaland, and was taking scat or land-tax from
all the forest settlers; and also that he called the whole
country north to Svinasund, and west along the sea, West
Gautland; and which altogether he reckoned to his kingdom, and
took land-tax from it. Over this country he had set an earl, by
name Hrane Gauzke, who had the earldom between Svinasund and the
Gaut river, and was a mighty earl. And it was told to King
Harald that the Swedish king said he would not rest until he had
as great a kingdom in Viken as Sigurd Hring, or his son Ragnar
Lodbrok, had possessed; and that was Raumarike and Vestfold, all
the way to the isle Grenmar, and also Vingulmark, and all that
lay south of it. In all these districts many chiefs, and many
other people, had given obedience to the Swedish king. King
Harald was very angry at this, and summoned the bondes to a Thing
at Fold, where he laid an accusation against them for treason
towards him. Some bondes defended themselves from the
accusation, some paid fines, some were punished. He went thus
through the whole district during the summer, and in harvest he
did the same in Raumarike, and laid the two districts under his
power. Towards winter he heard that Eirik king of Sweden was,
with his court, going about in Vermaland in guest-quarters.
15. HARALD AT A FEAST OF THE PEASANT AKE.
King Harald takes his way across the Eid forest eastward, and
comes out in Vermaland, where he also orders feasts to be
prepared for himself. There was a man by name Ake, who was the
greatest of the bondes of Vermaland, very rich, and at that time
very aged. He sent men to King Harald, and invited him to a
feast, and the king promised to come on the day appointed. Ake
invited also King Eirik to a feast, and appointed the same day.
Ake had a great feasting hall, but it was old; and he made a new
hall, not less than the old one, and had it ornamented in the
most splendid way. The new hall he had hung with new hangings,
but the old had only its old ornaments. Now when the kings came
to the feast, King Eirik with his court was taken into the old
hall; but Harald with his followers into the new. The same
difference was in all the table furniture, and King Eirik and his
men had the old-fashioned vessels and horns, but all gilded and
splendid; while King Harald and his men had entirely new vessels
and horns adorned with gold, all with carved figures, and shining
like glass; and both companies had the best of liquor. Ake the
bonde had formerly been King Halfdan the Black s man. Now when
daylight came, and the feast was quite ended, and the kings made
themselves ready for their journey, and the horses were saddled,
came Ake before King Harald, leading in his hand his son Ubbe, a
boy of twelve years of age, and said, "If the goodwill I have
shown to thee, sire, in my feast, be worth thy friendship, show
it hereafter to my son. I give him to thee now for thy service."
The king thanked him with many agreeable words for his friendly
entertainment, and promised him his full friendship in return.
Then Ake brought out great presents, which he gave to the king,
and they gave each other thereafter the parting kiss. Ake went
next to the Swedish king, who was dressed and ready for the road,
but not in the best humour. Ake gave to him also good and
valuable gifts; but the king answered only with few words, and
mounted his horse. Ake followed the king on the road and talked
with him. The road led through a wood which was near to the
house; and when Ake came to the wood, the king said to him, "How
was it that thou madest such a difference between me and King
Harald as to give him the best of everything, although thou
knowest thou art my man?" "I think" answered Ake, "that there
failed in it nothing, king, either to you or to your attendants,
in friendly entertainment at this feast. But that all the
utensils for your drinking were old, was because you are now old;
but King Harald is in the bloom of youth, and therefore I gave
him the new things. And as to my being thy man, thou art just as
much my man." On this the king out with his sword, and gave Ake
his deathwound. King Harald was ready now also to mount his
horse, and desired that Ake should be called. The people went to
seek him; and some ran up the road that King Eirik had taken, and
found Ake there dead. They came back, and told the news to King
Harald, and he bids his men to be up, and avenge Ake the bonde.
And away rode he and his men the way King Eirik had taken, until
they came in sight of each other. Each for himself rode as hard
as he could, until Eirik came into the wood which divides
Gautland and Vermaland. There King Harald wheels about, and
returns to Vermaland, and lays the country under him, and kills
King Eirik's men wheresoever he can find them. In winter King
Harald returned to Raumarike, and dwelt there a while.
16. HARALD'S JOURNEY TO TUNSBERG.
King Harald went out in winter to his ships at Tunsberg, rigged
them, and sailed away eastward over the fiord, and subjected all
Vingulmark to his dominion. All winter he was out with his
ships, and marauded in Ranrike; so says Thorbjorn Hornklofe: --
"The Norseman's king is on the sea,
Tho' bitter wintry cold it be. --
On the wild waves his Yule keeps he.
When our brisk king can get his way,
He'll no more by the fireside stay
Than the young sun; he makes us play
The game of the bright sun-god Frey.
But the soft Swede loves well the fire
The well-stuffed couch, the doway glove,
And from the hearth-seat will not move."
The Gautlanders gathered people together all over the country.
17. THE BATTLE IN GAUTLAND.
In spring, when the ice was breaking up, the Gautlanders drove
stakes into the Gaut river to hinder King Harald with his ships
from coming to the land. But King Harald laid his ships
alongside the stakes, and plundered the country, and burnt all
around; so says Horn klofe: --
"The king who finds a dainty feast,
For battle-bird and prowling beast,
Has won in war the southern land
That lies along the ocean's strand.
The leader of the helmets, he
Who leads his ships o'er the dark sea,
Harald, whose high-rigged masts appear
Like antlered fronts of the wild deer,
Has laid his ships close alongside
Of the foe's piles with daring pride."
Afterwards the Gautlanders came down to the strand with a great
army, and gave battle to King Harald, and great was the fall of
men. But it was King Harald who gained the day. Thus says
"Whistles the battle-axe in its swing
O'er head the whizzing javelins sing,
Helmet and shield and hauberk ring;
The air-song of the lance is loud,
The arrows pipe in darkening cloud;
Through helm and mail the foemen feel
The blue edge of our king's good steel
Who can withstand our gallant king?
The Gautland men their flight must wing."
18. HRANE GAUZKE'S DEATH.
King Harald went far and wide through Gautland, and many were the
battles he fought there on both sides of the river, and in
general he was victorious. In one of these battles fell Hrane
Gauzke; and then the king took his whole land north of the river
and west of the Veneren, and also Vermaland. And after he turned
back there-from, he set Duke Guthorm as chief to defend the
country, and left a great force with him. King Harald himself
went first to the Uplands, where he remained a while, and then
proceeded northwards over the Dovrefjeld to Throndhjem, where he
dwelt for a long time. Harald began to have children. By Asa he
had four sons. The eldest was Guthorm. Halfdan the Black and
Halfdan the White were twins. Sigfrod was the fourth. They were
all brought up in Throndhjem with all honour.
19. BATTLE IN HAFERSFJORD.
News came in from the south land that the people of Hordaland and
Rogaland, Agder and Thelemark, were gathering, and bringing
together ships and weapons, and a great body of men. The leaders
of this were Eirik king of Hordaland; Sulke king of Rogaland, and
his brother Earl Sote: Kjotve the Rich, king of Agder, and his
son Thor Haklang; and from Thelemark two brothers, Hroald Hryg
and Had the Hard. Now when Harald got certain news of this, he
assembled his forces, set his ships on the water, made himself
ready with his men, and set out southwards along the coast,
gathering many people from every district. King Eirik heard of
this when he same south of Stad; and having assembled all the men
he could expect, he proceeded southwards to meet the force which
he knew was coming to his help from the east. The whole met
together north of Jadar, and went into Hafersfjord, where King
Harald was waiting with his forces. A great battle began, which
was both hard and long; but at last King Harald gained the day.
There King Eirik fell, and King Sulke, with his brother Earl
Sote. Thor Haklang, who was a great berserk, had laid his ship
against King Harald's, and there was above all measure a
desperate attack, until Thor Haklang fell, and his whole ship was
cleared of men. Then King Kjotve fled to a little isle outside,
on which there was a good place of strength. Thereafter all his
men fled, some to their ships, some up to the land; and the
latter ran southwards over the country of Jadar. So says
Hornklofe, viz.: --
"Has the news reached you? -- have you heard
Of the great fight at Hafersfjord,
Between our noble king brave Harald
And King Kjotve rich in gold?
The foeman came from out the East,
Keen for the fray as for a feast.
A gallant sight it was to see
Their fleet sweep o'er the dark-blue sea:
Each war-ship, with its threatening throat
Of dragon fierce or ravenous brute (1)
Grim gaping from the prow; its wales
Glittering with burnished shields, (2) like scales
Its crew of udal men of war,
Whose snow-white targets shone from far
And many a mailed spearman stout
From the West countries round about,
English and Scotch, a foreign host,
And swordamen from the far French coast.
And as the foemen's ships drew near,
The dreadful din you well might hear
Savage berserks roaring mad,
And champions fierce in wolf-skins clad, (3)
Howling like wolves; and clanking jar
Of many a mail-clad man of war.
Thus the foe came; but our brave king
Taught them to fly as fast again.
For when he saw their force come o'er,
He launched his war-ships from the shore.
On the deep sea he launched his fleet
And boldly rowed the foe to meet.
Fierce was the shock, and loud the clang
Of shields, until the fierce Haklang,
The foeman's famous berserk, fell.
Then from our men burst forth the yell
Of victory, and the King of Gold
Could not withstand our Harald bold,
But fled before his flaky locks
For shelter to the island rocks.
All in the bottom of the ships
The wounded lay, in ghastly heaps;
Backs up and faces down they lay
Under the row-seats stowed away;
And many a warrior's shield, I ween
Might on the warrior's back be seen,
To shield him as he fled amain
From the fierce stone-storm's pelting rain.
The mountain-folk, as I've heard say,
Ne'er stopped as they ran from the fray,
Till they had crossed the Jadar sea,
And reached their homes -- so keen each soul
To drown his fright in the mead bowl."
(1) The war-ships were called dragons, from being decorated with
the head of a dragon, serpent, or other wild animal; and the
word "draco" was adopted in the Latin of the Middle Ages to
denote a ship of war of the larger class. The snekke was
the cutter or smaller war-ship. -- L.
(2) The shields were hung over the side-rails of the ships. --
(3) The wolf-skin pelts were nearly as good as armour against
20. HARALD SUPREME SOVEREIGN IN NORWAY.
After this battle King Harald met no opposition in Norway, for
all his opponents and greatest enemies were cut off. But some,
and they were a great multitude, fled out of the country, and
thereby great districts were peopled. Jemtaland and
Helsingjaland were peopled then, although some Norwegians had
already set up their habitation there. In the discontent that
King Harald seized on the lands of Norway, the out-countries of
Iceland and the Farey Isles were discovered and peopled. The
Northmen had also a great resort to Hjaltland (Shetland Isles)
and many men left Norway, flying the country on account of King
Harald, and went on viking cruises into the West sea. In winter
they were in the Orkney Islands and Hebrides; but marauded in
summer in Norway, and did great damage. Many, however, were the
mighty men who took service under King Harald, and became his
men, and dwelt in the land with him.
21. HARALD'S MARRIAGE AND HIS CHILDREN.
When King Harald had now become sole king over all Norway, he
remembered what that proud girl had said to him; so he sent men
to her, and had her brought to him, and took her to his bed. And
these were their children: Alof -- she was the eldest; then was
their son Hrorek; then Sigtryg, Frode, and Thorgils. King Harald
had many wives and many children. Among them he had one wife,
who was called Ragnhild the Mighty, a daughter of King Eirik,
from Jutland; and by her he had a son, Eirik Blood-axe. He was
also married to Svanhild, a daughter of Earl Eystein; and their
sons were Olaf Geirstadaalf, Bjorn and Ragnar Rykkil. Lastly,
King Harald married Ashild, a daughter of Hring Dagson, up in
Ringerike; and their children were, Dag, Hring, Gudrod Skiria,
and Ingigerd. It is told that King Harald put away nine wives
when he married Ragnhild the Mighty. So says Hornklofe: --
"Harald, of noblest race the head,
A Danish wife took to his bed;
And out of doors nine wives he thrust, --
The mothers of the princes first.
Who 'mong Holmrygians hold command,
And those who rule in Hordaland.
And then he packed from out the place
The children born of Holge's race."
King Harald's children were all fostered and brought up by their
relations on the mother's side. Guthorm the Duke had poured
water over King Harald's eldest son and had given him his own
name. He set the child upon his knee, and was his foster-father,
and took him with himself eastward to Viken, and there he was
brought up in the house of Guthorm. Guthorm ruled the whole land
in Viken and the Uplands, when King Harald was absent.
22. KING HARALD'S VOYAGE TO THE WEST.
King Harald heard that the vikings, who were in the West sea in
winter, plundered far and wide in the middle part of Norway; and
therefore every summer he made an expedition to search the isles
and out-skerries (1) on the coast. Wheresoever the vikings heard
of him they all took to flight, and most of them out into the
open ocean. At last the king grew weary of this work, and
therefore one summer he sailed with his fleet right out into the
West sea. First he came to Hjaltland (Shetland), and he slew all
the vikings who could not save themselves by flight. Then King
Harald sailed southwards, to the Orkney Islands, and cleared them
all of vikings. Thereafter he proceeded to the Sudreys
(Hebrides), plundered there, and slew many vikings who formerly
had had men-at-arms under them. Many a battle was fought, and
King Harald was always victorious. He then plundered far and
wide in Scotland itself, and had a battle there. When he was
come westward as far as the Isle of Man, the report of his
exploits on the land had gone before him; for all the inhabitants
had fled over to Scotland, and the island was left entirely bare
both of people and goods, so that King Harald and his men made no
booty when they landed. So says Hornklofe: --
"The wise, the noble king, great
Whose hand so freely scatters gold,
Led many a northern shield to war
Against the town upon the shore.
The wolves soon gathered on the sand
Of that sea-shore; for Harald's hand
The Scottish army drove away,
And on the coast left wolves a prey."
In this war fell Ivar, a son of Ragnvald, Earl of More; and King
Harald gave Ragnvald, as a compensation for the loss, the Orkney
and Shetland isles, when he sailed from the West; but Ragnvald
immediately gave both these countries to his brother Sigurd, who
remained behind them; and King Harald, before sailing eastward,
gave Sigurd the earldom of them. Thorstein the Red, a son of
Olaf the White and of Aud the Wealthy, entered into partnership
with him; and after plundering in Scotland, they subdued
Caithness and Sutherland, as far as Ekkjalsbakke. Earl Sigurd
killed Melbridge Tooth, a Scotch earl, and hung his head to his
stirrup-leather; but the calf of his leg were scratched by the
teeth, which were sticking out from the head, and the wound
caused inflammation in his leg, of which the earl died, and he
was laid in a mound at Ekkjalsbakke. His son Guthorm ruled over
these countries for about a year thereafter, and died without
children. Many vikings, both Danes and Northmen, set themselves
down then in those countries.
(1) Skerries are the uninhabited dry or halt-tide rocks of a
coast. -- L.
23. HARALD HAS HIS HAIR CLIPPED.
After King Harald had subdued the whole land, he was one day at
a feast in More, given by Earl Ragnvald. Then King Harald went
into a bath, and had his hair dressed. Earl Ragnvald now cut his
hair, which had been uncut and uncombed for ten years; and
therefore the king had been called Lufa (i.e., with rough matted
hair). But then Earl Ragnvald gave him the distinguishing name
-- Harald Harfager (i.e., fair hair); and all who saw him agreed
that there was the greatest truth in the surname, for he had the
most beautiful and abundant head of hair.
24. ROLF GANGER DRIVEN INTO BANISHMENT.
Earl Ragnvald was King Harald's dearest friend, and the king had
the greatest regard for him. He was married to Hild, a daughter
of Rolf Nefia, and their sons were Rolf and Thorer. Earl
Ragnvald had also three sons by concubines, -- the one called
Hallad, the second Einar, the third Hrollaug; and all three were
grown men when their brothers born in marriage were still
children Rolf became a great viking, and was of so stout a growth
that no horse could carry him, and wheresoever he went he must go
on foot; and therefore he was called Rolf Ganger. He plundered
much in the East sea. One summer, as he was coming from the
eastward on a viking's expedition to the coast of Viken, he
landed there and made a cattle foray. As King Harald happened,
just at that time, to be in Viken, he heard of it, and was in a
great rage; for he had forbid, by the greatest punishment, the
plundering within the bounds of the country. The king assembled
a Thing, and had Rolf declared an outlaw over all Norway. When
Rolf's mother, Hild heard of it she hastened to the king, and
entreated peace for Rolf; but the king was so enraged that here
entreaty was of no avail. Then Hild spake these lines: --
"Think'st thou, King Harald, in thy anger,
To drive away my brave Rolf Ganger
Like a mad wolf, from out the land?
Why, Harald, raise thy mighty hand?
Why banish Nefia's gallant name-son,
The brother of brave udal-men?
Why is thy cruelty so fell?
Bethink thee, monarch, it is ill
With such a wolf at wolf to play,
Who, driven to the wild woods away
May make the king's best deer his prey."
Rolf Ganger went afterwards over sea to the West to the Hebrides,
or Sudreys; and at last farther west to Valland, where he
plundered and subdued for himself a great earldom, which he
peopled with Northmen, from which that land is called Normandy.
Rolf Ganger's son was William, father to Richard, and grandfather
to another Richard, who was the father of Robert Longspear, and
grandfather of William the Bastard, from whom all the following
English kings are descended. From Rolf Ganger also are descended
the earls in Normandy. Queen Ragnhild the Mighty lived three
years after she came to Norway; and, after her death, her son and
King Harald's was taken to the herse Thorer Hroaldson, and Eirik
was fostered by him.
25. OF THE FIN SVASE AND KING HARALD.
King Harald, one winter, went about in guest-quarters in the
Uplands, and had ordered a Christmas feast to be prepared for him
at the farm Thoptar. On Christmas eve came Svase to the door,
just as the king went to table, and sent a message to the king to
ask if he would go out with him. The king was angry at such a
message, and the man who had brought it in took out with him a
reply of the king's displeasure. But Svase, notwithstanding,
desired that his message should be delivered a second time;
adding to it, that he was the Fin whose hut the king had promised
to visit, and which stood on the other side of the ridge. Now
the king went out, and promised to go with him, and went over the
ridge to his hut, although some of his men dissuaded him. There
stood Snaefrid, the daughter of Svase, a most beautiful girl; and
she filled a cup of mead for the king. But he took hold both of
the cup and of her hand. Immediately it was as if a hot fire
went through his body; and he wanted that very night to take her
to his bed. But Svase said that should not be unless by main
force, if he did not first make her his lawful wife. Now King
Harald made Snaefrid his lawful wife, and loved her so
passionately that he forgot his kingdom, and all that belonged to
his high dignity. They had four sons: the one was Sigurd Hrise;
the others Halfdan Haleg, Gudrod Ljome and Ragnvald Rettilbeine.
Thereafter Snaefrid died; but her corpse never changed, but was
as fresh and red as when she lived. The king sat always beside
her, and thought she would come to life again. And so it went on
for three years that he was sorrowing over her death, and the
people over his delusion. At last Thorleif the Wise succeeded,
by his prudence, in curing him of his delusion by accosting him
thus: -- "It is nowise wonderful, king, that thou grievest over
so beautiful and noble a wife, and bestowest costly coverlets and
beds of down on her corpse, as she desired; but these honours
fall short of what is due, as she still lies in the same clothes.
It would be more suitable to raise her, and change her dress."
As soon as the body was raised in the bed all sorts of corruption
and foul smells came from it, and it was necessary in all haste
to gather a pile of wood and burn it; but before this could be
done the body turned blue, and worms, toads, newts, paddocks, and
all sorts of ugly reptiles came out of it, and it sank into
ashes. Now the king came to his understanding again, threw the
madness out of his mind, and after that day ruled his kingdom as
before. He was strengthened and made joyful by his subjects, and
his subjects by him and the country by both.
26. OF THJODOLF OF HVIN, THE SKALD.
After King Harald had experienced the cunning of the Fin woman,
he was so angry that he drove from him the sons he had with her,
and would not suffer them before his eyes. But one of them,
Gudrod Ljome, went to his foster-father Thjodolf of Hvin, and
asked him to go to the king, who was then in the Uplands; for
Thjodolf was a great friend of the king. And so they went, and
came to the king's house late in the evening, and sat down
together unnoticed near the door. The king walked up and down
the floor casting his eye along the benches; for he had a feast
in the house, and the mead was just mixed. The king then
murmured out these lines: --
"Tell me, ye aged gray-haired heroes,
Who have come here to seek repose,
Wherefore must I so many keep
Of such a set, who, one and all,
Right dearly love their souls to steep,
From morn till night, in the mead-bowl?"
Then Thjodolf replies: --
"A certain wealthy chief, I think,
Would gladly have had more to drink
With him, upon one bloody day,
When crowns were cracked in our sword-play."
Thjodolf then took off his hat, and the king recognised him, and
gave him a friendly reception. Thjodolf then begged the king not
to cast off his sons; "for they would with great pleasure have
taken a better family descent upon the mother's side, if the king
had given it to them." The king assented, and told him to take
Gudrod with him as formerly; and he sent Halfdan and Sigurd to
Ringerike, and Ragnvald to Hadaland, and all was done as the king
ordered. They grew up to be very clever men, very expert in all
exercises. In these times King Harald sat in peace in the land,
and the land enjoyed quietness and good crops.
27. OF EARL TORFEINAR'S OBTAINING ORKNEY.
When Earl Ragnvald in More heard of the death of his brother Earl
Sigurd, and that the vikings were in possession of the country,
he sent his son Hallad westward, who took the title of earl to
begin with, and had many men-at-arms with him. When he arrived
at the Orkney Islands, he established himself in the country; but
both in harvest, winter, and spring, the vikings cruised about
the isles plundering the headlands, and committing depredations
on the coast. Then Earl Hallad grew tired of the business,
resigned his earldom, took up again his rights as an allodial
owner, and afterwards returned eastward into Norway. When Earl
Ragnvald heard of this he was ill pleased with Hallad, and said
his son were very unlike their ancestors. Then said Einar, "I
have enjoyed but little honour among you, and have little
affection here to lose: now if you will give me force enough, I
will go west to the islands, and promise you what at any rate
will please you -- that you shall never see me again." Earl
Ragnvald replied, that he would be glad if he never came back;
"For there is little hope," said he, "that thou will ever be an
honour to thy friends, as all thy kin on thy mother's side are
born slaves." Earl Ragnvald gave Einar a vessel completely
equipped, and he sailed with it into the West sea in harvest.
When he came to the Orkney Isles, two vikings, Thorer Treskeg and
Kalf Skurfa, were in his way with two vessels. He attacked them
instantly, gained the battle, and slew the two vikings. Then
this was sung: --
"Then gave he Treskeg to the trolls,
Torfeinar slew Skurfa."
He was called Torfeinar, because he cut peat for fuel, there
being no firewood, as in Orkney there are no woods. He
afterwards was earl over the islands, and was a mighty man. He
was ugly, and blind of an eye, yet very sharp-sighted withal.
28. KING EIRIK EYMUNDSON'S DEATH.
Duke Guthorm dwelt principally at Tunsberg, and governed the
whole of Viken when the king was not there. He defended the
land, which, at that time, was much plundered by the vikings.
There were disturbances also up in Gautland as long as King Eirik
Eymundson lived; but he died when King Harald Harfager had been
ten years king of all Norway.
29.GUTHORM'S DEATH IN TUNSBERG.
After Eirik, his son Bjorn was king of Svithjod for fifty years.
He was father of Eirik the Victorious, and of Olaf the father of
Styrbjorn. Guthorm died on a bed of sickness at Tunsberg, and
King Harald gave his son Guthorm the government of that part of
his dominions and made him chief of it.
30. EARL RAGNVALD BURNT IN HIS HOUSE.
When King Harald was forty years of age many of his sons were
well advanced, and indeed they all came early to strength and
manhood. And now they began to take it ill that the king would
not give them any part of the kingdom, but put earls into every
district; for they thought earls were of inferior birth to them.
Then Halfdan Haleg and Gudrod Ljome set off one spring with a
great force, and came suddenly upon Earl Ragnvald, earl of More,
and surrounded the house in which he was, and burnt him and sixty
men in it. Thereafter Halfdan took three long-ships, and fitted
them out, and sailed into the West sea; but Gudrod set himself
down in the land which Ragnvald formerly had. Now when King
Harald heard this he set out with a great force against Gudrod,
who had no other way left but to surrender, and he was sent to
Agder. King Harald then set Earl Ragnvald's son Thorer over
More, and gave him his daughter Alof, called Arbot, in marriage.
Earl Thorer, called the Silent, got the same territory his father
Earl Ragnvald had possessed.
31. HALFDAN HALEG'S DEATH.
Halfdan Haleg came very unexpectedly to Orkney, and Earl Einar
immediately fled; but came back soon after about harvest time,
unnoticed by Halfdan. They met and after a short battle Halfdan
fled the same night. Einar and his men lay all night without
tents, and when it was light in the morning they searched the
whole island and killed every man they could lay hold of. Then
Einar said "What is that I see upon the isle of Rinansey? Is it
a man or a bird? Sometimes it raises itself up, and sometimes
lies down again." They went to it, and found it was Halfdan
Haleg, and took him prisoner.
Earl Einar sang the following song the evening before he went
into this battle: --
"Where is the spear of Hrollaug? where
Is stout Rolf Ganger's bloody spear!
I see them not; yet never fear,
For Einar will not vengeance spare
Against his father's murderers, though
Hrollaug and Rolf are somewhat slow,
And silent Thorer sits add dreams
At home, beside the mead-bowl's streams."
Thereafter Earl Einar went up to Halfdan, and cut a spread eagle
upon his back, by striking his sword through his back into his
belly, dividing his ribs from the backbone down to his loins, and
tearing out his lungs; and so Halfdan was killed. Einar then
"For Ragnvald's death my sword is red:
Of vengeance it cannot be said
That Einar's share is left unsped.
So now, brave boys, let's raise a mound, --
Heap stones and gravel on the ground
O'er Halfdan's corpse: this is the way
We Norsemen our scat duties pay."
Then Earl Einar took possession of the Orkney Isles as before.
Now when these tidings came to Norway, Halfdan's brothers took it
much to heart, and thought that his death demanded vengeance; and
many were of the same opinion. When Einar heard this, he sang:
"Many a stout udal-man, I know,
Has cause to wish my head laid low;
And many an angry udal knife
Would gladly drink of Eina's life.
But ere they lay Earl Einar low, --
Ere this stout heart betrays its cause,
Full many a heart will writhe, we know,
In the wolf's fangs, or eagle's claws."
32. HARALD AND EINAR RECONCILED.
King Harald now ordered a levy, and gathered a great force, with
which he proceeded westward to Orkney; and when Earl Einar heard
that King Harald was come, he fled over to Caithness. He made
the following verses on this occasion: --
"Many a bearded man must roam,
An exile from his house and home,
For cow or horse; but Halfdan's gore
Is red on Rinansey's wild shore.
A nobler deed -- on Harald's shield
The arm of one who ne'er will yield
Has left a scar. Let peasants dread
The vengeance of the Norsemen's head:
I reck not of his wrath, but sing,
`Do thy worst! -- I defy thee, king! --'"
Men and messages, however, passed between the king and the earl,
and at last it came to a conference; and when they met the earl
submitted the case altogether to the king's decision, and the
king condemned the earl Einar and the Orkney people to pay a fine
of sixty marks of gold. As the bondes thought this was too heavy
for them to pay, the earl offered to pay the whole if they would
surrender their udal lands to him. This they all agreed to do:
the poor because they had but little pieces of land; the rich
because they could redeem their udal rights again when they
liked. Thus the earl paid the whole fine to the king, who
returned in harvest to Norway. The earls for a long time
afterwards possessed all the udal lands in Orkney, until Sigurd
son of Hlodver gave back the udal rights.
33. DEATH OF GUTHORM AND HALFDAN THE WHITE.
While King Harald's son Guthorm had the defence of Viken, he
sailed outside of the islands on the coast, and came in by one
of the mouths of the tributaries of the Gaut river. When he lay
there Solve Klofe came upon him, and immediately gave him battle,
and Guthorm fell. Halfdan the White and Halfdan the Black went
out on an expedition, and plundered in the East sea, and had a
battle in Eistland, where Halfdan the White fell.
34. MARRIAGE OF EIRIK.
Eirik, Harald's son, was fostered in the house of the herse
Thorer, son of Hroald, in the Fjord district. He was the most
beloved and honoured by King Harald of all his sons. When Eirik
was twelve years old, King Harald gave him five long-ships, with
which he went on an expedition, -- first in the Baltic; then
southwards to Denmark, Friesland, and Saxland; on which
expedition he passed four years. He then sailed out into the
West sea and plundered in Scotland, Bretland, Ireland, and
Valland, and passed four years more in this way. Then he sailed
north to Finmark, and all the way to Bjarmaland, where he had
many a battle, and won many a victory. When he came back to
Finmark, his men found a girl in a Lapland hut, whose equal for
beauty they never had seen. She said her name was Gunhild, and
that her father dwelt in Halogaland, and was called Ozur Tote.
"I am here," she said, "to learn sorcery from two of the most
knowing Fins in all Finmark, who are now out hunting. They both
want me in marriage. They are so skilful that they can hunt out
traces either upon the frozen or the thawed earth, like dogs; and
they can run so swiftly on skees that neither man nor beast can
come near them in speed. They hit whatever they take aim at, and
thus kill every man who comes near them. When they are angry the
very earth turns away in terror, and whatever living thing they
look upon then falls dead. Now ye must not come in their way;
but I will hide you here in the hut, and ye must try to get them
killed." They agreed to it, and she hid them, and then took a
leather bag, in which they thought there were ashes which she
took in her hand, and strewed both outside and inside of the hut.
Shortly after the Fins came home, and asked who had been there;
and she answered, "Nobody has been here." "That is wonderful,"
said they, "we followed the traces close to the hut, and can find
none after that." Then they kindled a fire, and made ready their
meat, and Gunhild prepared her bed. It had so happened that
Gunhild had slept the three nights before, but the Fins had
watched the one upon the other, being jealous of each other.
"Now," she said to the Fins, "come here, and lie down one on each
side of me." On which they were very glad to do so. She laid an
arm round the neck of each and they went to sleep directly. She
roused them up; but they fell to sleep again instantly, and so
soundly the she scarcely could waken them. She even raised them
up in the bed, and still they slept. Thereupon she too two great
seal-skin bags, and put their heads in them, and tied them fast
under their arms; and then she gave a wink to the king~s men.
They run forth with their weapons, kill the two Fins, and drag
them out of the hut. That same night came such a dreadful
thunder-storm that the could not stir. Next morning they came to
the ship, taking Gunhild with them, and presented her to Eirik.
Eirik and his followers then sailed southwards to Halogaland and
he sent word to Ozur Tote, the girl's father, to meet him. Eirik
said he would take his daughter in marriage, to which Ozur Tote
consented, and Eirik took Gunhild and went southwards with her
35. HARALD DIVIDES HIS KINGDOM.
When King Harald was fifty years of age many of his sons were
grown up, and some were dead. Many of them committed acts of
great violence in the country, and were in discord among
themselves. They drove some of the king's earls out of their
properties, and even killed some of them. Then the king called
together a numerous Thing in the south part of the country, and
summoned to it all the people of the Uplands. At this Thing he
gave to all his sons the title of king, and made a law that his
descendants in the male line should each succeed to the kingly
title and dignity; but his descendants by the female side only to
that of earl. And he divided the country among them thus: --
Vingulmark, Raumarike, Vestfold and Thelamark, he bestowed on
Olaf, Bjorn, Sigtryg, Frode, and Thorgils. Hedemark and
Gudbrandsdal he gave to Dag, Hring, and Ragnar. To Snaefrid's
sons he gave Ringerike, Hadeland, Thoten, and the lands thereto
belonging. His son Guthorm, as before mentioned, he had set over
the country from Glommen to Svinasund and Ranrike. He had set
him to defend the country to the East, as before has been
written. King Harald himself generally dwelt in the middle of
the country, and Hrorek and Gudrod were generally with his court,
and had great estates in Hordaland and in Sogn. King Eirik was
also with his father King Harald; and the king loved and regarded
him the most of all his sons, and gave him Halogaland and North
More, and Raumsdal. North in Throndhjem he gave Halfdan the
Black, Halfdan the White, and Sigrod land to rule over. In each
of these districts he gave his sons the one half of his revenues,
together with the right to sit on a high-seat, -- a step higher
than earls, but a step lower than his own high-seat. His king's
seat each of his sons wanted for himself after his death, but he
himself destined it for Eirik. The Throndhjem people wanted
Halfdan the Black to succeed to it. The people of Viken, and the
Uplands, wanted those under whom they lived. And thereupon new
quarrels arose among the brothers; and because they thought their
dominions too little, they drove about in piratical expeditions.
In this way, as before related, Guthorm fell at the mouth of the
Gaut river, slain by Solve Klofe; upon which Olaf took the
kingdom he had possessed. Halfdan the White fell in Eistland,
Halfdan Haleg in Orkney. King Harald gave ships of war to
Thorgils and Frode, with which they went westward on a viking
cruise, and plundered in Scotland, Ireland, and Bretland. They
were the first of the Northmen who took Dublin. It is said that
Frode got poisoned drink there; but Thorgils was a long time king
over Dublin, until he fell into a snare of the Irish, and was
36. DEATH OF RAGNVALD RETTILBEINE.
Eirik Blood-axe expected to be head king over all his brothers
and King Harald intended he should be so; and the father and son
lived long together. Ragnvald Rettilbeine governed Hadaland, and
allowed himself to be instructed in the arts of witchcraft, and
became an area warlock. Now King Harald was a hater of all
witchcraft. There was a warlock in Hordaland called Vitgeir; and
when the king sent a message to him that he should give up his
art of witchcraft, he replied in this verse: --
"The danger surely is not great
From wizards born of mean estate,
When Harald's son in Hadeland,
King Ragnvald, to the art lays hand."
But when King Harald heard this, King Eirik Blood-axe went by his
orders to the Uplands, and came to Hadeland and burned his
brother Ragnvald in a house, along with eighty other warlocks;
which work was much praised.
37. DEATH OF GUDROD LJOME.
Gudrod Ljome was in winter on a friendly visit to his foster-
father Thjodolf in Hvin, and had a well-manned ship, with which
he wanted to go north to Rogaland. It was blowing a heavy storm
at the time; but Gudrod was bent on sailing, and would not
consent to wait. Thjodolf sang thus: --
"Wait, Gudrod, till the storm is past, --
Loose not thy long-ship while the blast
Howls over-head so furiously, --
Trust not thy long-ship to the sea, --
Loose not thy long-ship from the shore;
Hark to the ocean's angry roar!
See how the very stones are tost
By raging waves high on the coast!
Stay, Gudrod, till the tempest's o'er --
Deep runs the sea off the Jadar's shore."
Gudrod set off in spite of what Thjodolf could say: and when they
came off the Jadar the vessel sunk with them, and all on board
38. KING BJORN KAUPMAN'S DEATH.
King Harald's son, Bjorn, ruled over Vestfold at that time, and
generally lived at Tunsberg, and went but little on war
expeditions. Tunsberg at that time was much frequented by
merchant vessels, both from Viken and the north country, and also
from the south, from Denmark, and Saxland. King Bjorn had also
merchant ships on voyages to other lands, by which he procured
for himself costly articles, and such things as he thought
needful; and therefore his brothers called him Farman (the
Seaman), and Kaupman (the Chapman). Bjorn was a man of sense and
understanding, and promised to become a good ruler. He made a
good and suitable marriage, and had a son by his wife, who was
named Gudrod. Eirik Blood-axe came from his Baltic cruise with
ships of war, and a great force, and required his brother Bjorn
to deliver to him King Harald's share of the scat and incomes of
Vestfold. But it had always been the custom before, that Bjorn
himself either delivered the money into the king's hands, or sent
men of his own with it; and therefore he would continue with the
old custom, and would not deliver the money. Eirik again wanted
provisions, tents, and liquor. The brothers quarrelled about
this; but Eirik got nothing and left the town. Bjorn went also
out of the town towards evening up to Saeheim. In the night
Eirik came back after Bjorn, and came to Saeheim just as Bjorn
and his men were seated at table drinking. Eirik surrounded the
house in which they were; but Bjorn with his men went out and
fought. Bjorn, and many men with him, fell. Eirik, on the other
hand, got a great booty, and proceeded northwards. But this work
was taken very ill by the people of Viken, and Eirik was much
disliked for it; and the report went that King Olaf would avenge
his brother Bjorn, whenever opportunity offered. King Bjorn lies
in the mound of Farmanshaug at Saeheim.
39. RECONCILIATION OF THE KINGS.
King Eirik went in winter northwards to More, and was at a feast
in Solve, within the point Agdanes; and when Halfdan the Black
heard of it he set out with his men, and surrounded the house in
which they were. Eirik slept in a room which stood detached by
itself, and he escaped into the forest with four others; but
Halfdan and his men burnt the main house, with all the people who
were in it. With this news Eirik came to King Harald, who was
very wroth at it, and assembled a great force against the
Throndhjem people. When Halfdan the Black heard this he levied
ships and men, so that he had a great force, and proceeded with
it to Stad, within Thorsbjerg. King Harald lay with his men at
Reinsletta. Now people went between them, and among others a
clever man called Guthorm Sindre, who was then in Halfdan the
Black's army, but had been formerly in the service of King
Harald, and was a great friend of both. Guthorm was a great
skald, and had once composed a song both about the father and the
son, for which they had offered him a reward. But he would take
nothing; but only asked that, some day or other, they should
grant him any request he should make, which they promised to do.
Now he presented himself to King Harald, brought words of peace
between them, and made the request to them both that they shou1d
be reconciled. So highly did the king esteem him, that in
consequence of his request they were reconciled. Many other able
men promoted this business as well as he; and it was so settled
that Halfdan should retain the whole of his kingdom as he had it
before, and should let his brother Eirik sit in peace. After
this event Jorun, the skald-maid, composed some verses in
"Sendibit" ("The Biting Message"): --
"I know that Harald Fairhair
Knew the dark deed of Halfdan.
To Harald Halfdan seemed
Angry and cruel."
40. BIRTH OF HAKON THE GOOD.
Earl Hakon Grjotgardson of Hlader had the whole rule over
Throndhjem when King Harald was anywhere away in the country; and
Hakon stood higher with the king than any in the country of
Throndhjem. After Hakon's death his son Sigurd succeeded to his
power in Throndhjem, and was the earl, and had his mansion at
Hlader. King Harald's sons, Halfdan the Black and Sigrod, who
had been before in the house of his father Earl Hakon, continued
to be brought up in his house. The sons of Harald and Sigurd
were about the same age. Earl Sigurd was one of the wisest men
of his time, and married Bergljot, a daughter of Earl Thorer the
Silent; and her mother was Alof Arbot, a daughter of Harald
Harfager. When King Harald began to grow old he generally dwelt
on some of his great farms in Hordaland; namely, Alreksstader or
Saeheim, Fitjar, Utstein, or Ogvaldsnes in the island Kormt.
When Harald was seventy years of age he begat a son with a girl
called Thora Mosterstang, because her family came from Moster.
She was descended from good people, being connected with Kare
(Aslakson) of Hordaland; and was moreover a very stout and
remarkably handsome girl. She was called the king's servant-
girl; for at that time many were subject to service to the
king who were of good birth, both men and women. Then it was the
custom, with people of consideration, to choose with great care
the man who should pour water over their children, and give them
a name. Now when the time came that Thora, who was then at
Moster, expected her confinement, she would to King Harald, who
was then living at Saeheim; and she went northwards in a ship
belonging to Earl Sigurd. They lay at night close to the land;
and there Thora brought forth a child upon the land, up among the
rocks, close to the ship's gangway, and it was a man child. Earl
Sigurd poured water over him, and called him Hakon, after his own
father, Hakon earl of Hlader. The boy soon grew handsome, large
in size, and very like his father King Harald. King Harald let
him follow his mother, and they were both in the king's house as
long as he was an infant.
41. KING ATHELSTAN'S MESSAGE
At this time a king called Aethelstan had taken the Kingdom of
England. He was called victorious and faithful. He sent men to
Norway to King Harald, with the errand that the messengers should
present him with a sword, with the hilt and handle gilt, and also
the whole sheath adorned with gold and silver, and set with
precious jewels. The ambassador presented the sword-hilt to the
king, saying, "Here is a sword which King Athelstan sends thee,
with the request that thou wilt accept it." The king took the
sword by the handle; whereupon the ambassador said, "Now thou
hast taken the sword according to our king's desire, and
therefore art thou his subject as thou hast taken his sword."
King Harald saw now that this was an insult, for he would be
subject to no man. But he remembered it was his rule, whenever
anything raised his anger, to collect himself, and let his
passion run off, and then take the matter into consideration
coolly. Now he did so, and consulted his friends, who all gave
him the advice to let the ambassadors, in the first place, go
home in safety.
42. HAUK'S JOURNEY TO ENGLAND.
The following summer King Harald sent a ship westward to England,
and gave the command of it to Hauk Habrok. He was a great
warrior, and very dear to the king. Into his hands he gave his
son Hakon. Hank proceeded westward tn England, and found King
Athelstan in London, where there was just at the time a great
feast and entertainment. When they came to the hall, Hauk told
his men how they should conduct themselves; namely, that he who
went first in should go last out, and all should stand in a row
at the table, at equal distance from each other; and each should
have his sword at his left side, but should fasten his cloak so
that his sword should not be seen. Then they went into the hall,
thirty in number. Hauk went up to the king and saluted him, and
the king bade him welcome. Then Hauk took the child Hakon, and
set it on the king's knee. The king looks at the boy, and asks
Hauk what the meaning of this is. Hauk replies, "Herald the king
bids thee foster his servant-girl's child." The king was in
great anger, and seized a sword which lay beside him, and drew
it, as if he was going to kill the child. Hauk says, "Thou hast
borne him on thy knee, and thou canst murder him if thou wilt;
but thou wilt not make an end of all King Harald's sons by so
doing." On that Hauk went out with all his men, and took the way
direct to his ship, and put to sea, -- for they were ready, --
and came back to King Harald. The king was highly pleased with
this; for it is the common observation of all people, that the
man who fosters another's children is of less consideration than
the other. From these transactions between the two kings, it
appears that each wanted to be held greater than the other; but
in truth there was no injury, to the dignity of either, for each
was the upper king in his own kingdom till his dying day.
43. HAKON, THE FOSTER-SON OF ATHELSTAN, IS BAPTIZED.
King Athelstan had Hakon baptized, and brought up in the right
faith, and in good habits, and all sorts of good manners, and he
loved Hakon above all his relations; and Hakon was beloved by all
men. He was henceforth called Athelstan's foster-son. He was an
accomplished skald, and he was larger, stronger and more
beautiful than other men; he was a man of understanding and
eloquence, and also a good Christian. King Athelstan gave Hakon
a sword, of which the hilt and handle were gold, and the blade
still better; for with it Hakon cut down a mill-stone to the
centre eye, and the sword thereafter was called the Quernbite
(1). Better sword never came into Norway, and Hakon carried it
to his dying day.
(1) Quern is the name of the small hand mill-stones still found
in use among the cottars in Orkney, Shetland, and the
Hebrides. This sword is mentioned in the Younger Edda.
There were many excellent swords in the olden time, and many
of them had proper names.
44. EIRIK BROUGHT TO THE SOVEREIGNTY.
When King Harald was eighty years of age (A.D. 930) he became
very heavy, and unable to travel through the country, or do the
business of a king. Then he brought his son Eirik to his
high-seat, and gave him the power and command over the whole
land. Now when King Harald's other sons heard this, King Halfdan
the Black also took a king's high-seat, and took all Throndhjem
land, with the consent of all the people, under his rule as upper
king. After the death of Bjorn the Chapman, his brother Olaf
took the command over Vestfold, and took Bjorn's son, Gudrod, as
his foster-child. Olaf's son was called Trygve; and the two
foster-brothers were about the same age, and were hopeful and
clever. Trygve, especially, was remarkable as a stout and strong
man. Now when the people of Viken heard that those of Hordaland
had taken Eirik as upper king, they did the same, and made Olaf
the upper king in Viken, which kingdom he retained. Eirik did
not like this at all. Two years after this, Halfdan the Black
died suddenly at a feast in Throndhjem and the general report was
that Gunhild had bribed a witch to give him a death-drink.
Thereafter the Throndhjem people took Sigrod to be their king.
45. KING HARALD'S DEATH.
King Harald lived three years after he gave Eirik the supreme
authority over his kingdom, and lived mostly on his great farms
which he possessed, some in Rogaland, and some in Hordaland.
Eirik and Gunhild had a son on whom King Harald poured water, and
gave him his own name, and the promise that he should be king
after his father Eirik. King Harald married most of his
daughters within the country to his earls, and from them many
great families are descended. Harald died on a bed of sickness
in Hogaland (A.D. 933), and was buried under a mound at Haugar in
Karmtsund. In Haugesund is a church, now standing; and not far
from the churchyard, at the north-west side, is King Harald
Harfager's mound; but his grave-stone stands west of the church,
and is thirteen feet and a half high, and two ells broad. One
stone was set at head and one at the feet; on the top lay the
slab, and below on both sides were laid small stones. The grave,
mound, and stone, are there to the present day. Harald Harfager
was, according to the report of men~of knowledge, or remarkably
handsome appearance, great and strong, and very generous and
affable to his men. He was a great warrior in his youth; and
people think that this was foretold by his mother's dream before
his birth, as the lowest part of the tree she dreamt of was red
as blood. The stem again was green and beautiful, which
betokened his flourishing kingdom; and that the tree was white at
the top showed that he should reach a grey-haired old age. The
branches and twigs showed forth his posterity, spread over the
whole land; for of his race, ever since. Norway has always had
46. THE DEATH OF OLAF AND OF SIGROD.
King Eirik took all the revenues (A.D. 934), which the king had
in the middle of the country, the next winter after King Harald's
decease. But Olaf took all the revenues eastward in Viken, and
their brother Sigrod all that of the Throndhjem country. Eirik
was very ill pleased with this; and the report went that he would
attempt with force to get the sole sovereignty over the country,
in the same way as his father had given it to him. Now when Olaf
and Sigrod heard this, messengers passed between them; and after
appointing a meeting place, Sigrod went eastward in spring to
Viken, and he and his brother Olaf met at Tunsberg, and remained
there a while. The same spring (A.D. 934), King Eirik levied a
great force, and ships and steered towards Viken. He got such a
strong steady gale that he sailed night and day, and came faster
than the news of him. When he came to Tunsberg, Olaf and Sigrod,
with their forces, went out of the town a little eastward to a
ridge, where they drew up their men in battle order; but as Eirik
had many more men he won the battle. Both brothers, Olaf and
Sigrod, fell there; and both their grave-mounds are upon the
ridge where they fell. Then King Eirik went through Viken, and
subdued it, and remained far into summer. Gudrod and Trygve fled
to the Uplands. Eirik was a stout handsome man, strong, and very
manly, -- a great and fortunate man of war; but bad-minded,
gruff, unfriendly, and silent. Gunhild, his wife, was the most
beautiful of women, -- clever, with much knowledge, and lively;
but a very false person, and very cruel in disposition. The
children of King Eirik and Gunhild were, Gamle, the oldest; then
Guthorm, Harald, Ragnfrod, Ragnhild, Erling, Gudrod, and Sigurd
Sleva. All were handsome, and of manly appearance (1).
(1) Of Eirik, his wife, and children, see the following sagas.