Powered by Heat Keywords
The Online 
Medieval and Classical Library

The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway

King Olaf Trygvason's Saga: Part III

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #15b


Bishop Sigurd took all his mass robes and went forward to the bow
of the king's ship; ordered tapers to be lighted, and incense to
be brought out.  Then he set the crucifix upon the stem of the
vessel, read the Evangelist and many prayers, besprinkled the
whole ship with holy water, and then ordered the ship-tent to be
stowed away, and to row into the fjord.  The king ordered all the
other ships to follow him.  Now when all was ready on board the
Crane to row, she went into the fjord without the rowers finding
any wind; and the sea was curled about their keel track like as
in a calm, so quiet and still was the water; yet on each side of
them the waves were lashing up so high that they hid the sight of
the mountains.  And so the one ship followed the other in the
smooth sea track; and they proceeded this way the whole day and
night, until they reached Godey.  Now when they came to Raud's
house his great ship, the dragon, was afloat close to the land.
King Olaf went up to the house immediately with his people; made
an attack on the loft in which Raud was sleeping, and broke it
open.  The men rushed in: Raud was taken and bound, and of the
people with him some were killed and some made prisoners.  Then
the king's men went to a lodging in which Raud's house servants
slept, and killed some, bound others, and beat others.  Then the
king ordered Raud to be brought before him, and offered him
baptism.  "And," says the king, "I will not take thy property
from thee, but rather be thy friend, if thou wilt make thyself
worthy to be so."  Raud exclaimed with all his might against the
proposal, saying he would never believe in Christ, and making his
scoff of God.  Then the king was wroth, and said Raud should die
the worst of deaths.  And the king ordered him to be bound to a
beam of wood, with his face uppermost, and a round pin of wood
set between his teeth to force his mouth open.  Then the king
ordered an adder to be stuck into the mouth of him; but the
serpent would not go into his mouth, but shrunk back when Raud
breathed against it.  Now the king ordered a hollow branch of an
angelica root to be stuck into Raud's mouth; others say the king
put his horn into his mouth, and forced the serpent to go in by
holding a red-hot iron before the opening.  So the serpent crept
into the mouth of Raud and down his throat, and gnawed its way
out of his side; and thus Raud perished.  King Olaf took here
much gold and silver, and other property of weapons, and many
sorts of precious effects; and all the men who were with Raud he
either had baptized, or if they refused had them killed or
tortured.  Then the king took the dragonship which Raud had
owned, and steered it himself; for it was a much larger and
handsomer vessel than the Crane.  In front it had a dragon's
head, and aft a crook, which turned up, and ended with the figure
of the dragon's tail.  The carved work on each side of the stem
and stern was gilded.  This ship the king called the Serpent.
When the sails were hoisted they represented, as it were, the
dragon's wings; and the ship was the handsomest in all Norway.
The islands on which Raud dwelt were called Gylling and Haering;
but the whole islands together were called Godey Isles, and the
current between the isles and the mainland the Godey Stream. 
King Olaf baptized the whole people of the fjord, and then sailed
southwards along the land; and on this voyage happened much and
various things, which are set down in tales and sagas, -- namely,
how witches and evil spirits tormented his men, and sometimes
himself; but we will rather write about what occurred when King
Olaf made Norway Christian, or in the other countries in which he
advanced Christianity.  The same autumn Olaf with his fleet
returned to Throndhjem, and landed at Nidaros, where he took up
his winter abode.  What I am now going to write about concerns
the Icelanders.


Kjartan Olafson, a son's son of Hoskuld, and a daughter's son of
Egil Skallagrimson, came the same autumn (A.D. 999) from Iceland
to Nidaros, and he was considered to be the most agreeable and
hopeful man of any born in Iceland.  There was also Haldor, a son
of Gudmund of Modruveller; and Kolbein, a son of Thord, Frey's
gode, and a brother's son of Brennuflose; together with Sverting,
a son of the gode Runolf.  All these were heathens; and besides
them there were many more, -- some men of power, others common
men of no property.  There came also from Iceland considerable
people, who, by Thangbrand's help, had been made Christians;
namely, Gissur the white, a son of Teit Ketilbjornson; and his
mother was Alof, daughter of herse Bodvar, who was the son of
Vikingakare.  Bodvar's brother was Sigurd, father of Eirik
Bjodaskalle, whose daughter Astrid was King Olaf's mother. 
Hjalte Skeggjason was the name of another Iceland man, who was
married to Vilborg, Gissur the White's daughter.  Hjalte was also
a Christian; and King Olaf was very friendly to his relations
Gissur and Hjalte, who live with him.  But the Iceland men who
directed the ships, and were heathens, tried to sail away as soon
as the king came to the town of Nidaros, for they were told the
king forced all men to become Christians; but the wind came stiff
against them, and drove them back to Nidarholm.  They who
directed the ships were Thorarin Nefjulson, the skald Halfred
Ottarson, Brand the Generous, and Thorleik, Brand's son.  It was
told the king that there were Icelanders with ships there, and
all were heathen, and wanted to fly from a meeting with the king.
Then the king sent them a message forbidding them to sail, and
ordering them to bring their ships up to the town, which they
did, but without discharging the cargoes.  (They carried on their
dealings and held a market at the king's pier.  In spring they
tried three times to slip away, but never succeeded; so they
continued lying at the king's pier.  It happened one fine day
that many set out to swim for amusement, and among them was a man
who distinguished himself above the others in all bodily
exercises.  Kjartan challenged Halfred Vandredaskald to try
himself in swimming against this man, but he declined it.  "Then
will I make a trial," said Kjartan, casting off his clothes, and
springing into the water.  Then he set after the man, seizes hold
of his foot, and dives with him under water.  They come up again,
and without speaking a word dive again, and are much longer under
water than the first time.  They come up again, and without
saying a word dive a third time, until Kjartan thought it was
time to come up again, which, however, he could in no way
accomplish, which showed sufficiently the difference in their
strength.  They were under water so long that Kjartan was almost
drowned.  They then came up, and swam to land.  This Northman
asked what the Icelander's name was.  Kjartan tells his name.

He says, "Thou art a good swimmer; but art thou expert also in
other exercises?"

Kjartan replied, that such expertness was of no great value.

The Northman asks, "Why dost thou not inquire of me such things
as I have asked thee about?"

Kjartan replies, "It is all one to me who thou art, or what thy
name is."

"Then will I," says he, "tell thee: I am Olaf Trygvason."

He asked Kjartan much about Iceland, which he answered generally,
and wanted to withdraw as hastily as he could; but the king said,
"Here is a cloak which I will give thee, Kjartan."  And Kjartan
took the cloak with many thanks.)" (1)

(1)  The part included in parenthesis is not found in the
     original text of "Heimskringla", but taken from "Codex


When Michaelmas came, the king had high mass sung with great
splendour.  The Icelanders went there, listening to the fine
singing and the sound of the bells; and when they came back to
their ships every man told his opinion of the Christian man's
worship.  Kjartan expressed his pleasure at it, but most of the
others scoffed at it; and it went according to the proverb, "the
king had many ears," for this was told to the king.  He sent
immediately that very day a message to Kjartan to come to him. 
Kjartan went with some men, and the king received him kindly.  
Kjartan was a very stout and handsome man, and of ready and
agreeable speech.  After the king and Kjartan had conversed a
little, the king asked him to adopt Christianity.  Kjartan
replies, that he would not say no to that, if he thereby obtained
the king's friendship; and as the king promised him the fullest
friendship, they were soon agreed.  The next day Kjartan was
baptized, together with his relation Bolle Thorlakson, and all
their fellow-travelers.  Kjartan and Bolle were the king's guests
as long as they were in their white baptismal clothes, and the
king had much kindness for them.  Wherever they came they were
looked upon as people of distinction.


As King Olaf one day was walking in the street some men met him,
and he who went the foremost saluted the king.  The king asked
the man his name, and he called himself Halfred.

"Art thou the skald?" said the king.

"I can compose poetry," replied he.

"Wilt thou then adopt Christianity, and come into my service?"
asked the king.

"If I am baptized," replies he, "it must be on one condition, --
that thou thyself art my godfather; for no other will I have."

The king replies, "That I will do."  And Halfred was baptized,
the king holding him during the baptism.

Afterwards the king said, "Wilt thou enter into my service?"

Halfred replied, "I was formerly in Earl Hakon's court; but now I
will neither enter into thine nor into any other service, unless
thou promise me it shall never be my lot to be driven away from

"It has been reported to me," said the king, "that thou are
neither so prudent nor so obedient as to fulfil my commands."

"In that case," replied Halfred, "put me to death."

"Thou art a skald who composes difficulties," says the king; "but
into my service, Halfred, thou shalt be received."

Halfred says, "if I am to be named the composer of difficulties,
what cost thou give me, king, on my name-day?"

The king gave him a sword without a scabbard, and said, "Now
compose me a song upon this sword, and let the word sword be in
every line of the strophe." Halfred sang thus:

     "This sword of swords is my reward.
     For him who knows to wield a sword,
     And with his sword to serve his lord,
     Yet wants a sword, his lot is hard.
     I would I had my good lord's leave
     For this good sword a sheath to choose:
     I'm worth three swords when men use,
     But for the sword-sheath now I grieve."

Then the king gave him the scabbard, observing that the word
sword was wanting in one line of his strophe.  "But there instead
are three swords in one of the lines," says Halfred.  "That is
true," replies the king. -- Out of Halfred's lays we have taken
the most of the true and faithful accounts that are here related
about Olaf Trygvason.


The same harvest (A.D. 999) Thangbrand the priest came back from
Iceland to King Olaf, and told the ill success of his journey;
namely, that the Icelanders had made lampoons about him; and that
some even sought to kill him, and there was little hope of that
country ever being made Christian.  King Olaf was so enraged at
this, that he ordered all the Icelanders to be assembled by sound
of horn, and was going to kill all who were in the town, but
Kjartan, Gissur, and Hjalte, with the other Icelanders who had
become Christians, went to him, and said, "King, thou must not
fail from thy word -- that however much any man may irritate
thee, thou wilt forgive him if he turn from heathenism and become
Christian.  All the Icelanders here are willing to be baptized;
and through them we may find means to bring Christianity into
Iceland: for there are many amongst them, sons of considerable
people in Iceland, whose friends can advance the cause; but the
priest Thangbrand proceeded there as he did here in the court,
with violence and manslaughter, and such conduct the people there
would not submit to."  The king harkened to those remonstrances;
and all the Iceland men who were there were baptized.


King Olaf was more expert in all exercises than any man in Norway
whose memory is preserved to us in sagas; and he was stronger and
more agile than most men, and many stories are written down about
it.  One is that he ascended the Smalsarhorn, and fixed his
shield upon the very peak.  Another is, that one of his followers
had climbed up the peak after him, until he came to where he
could neither get up nor down; but the king came to his help,
climbed up to him, took him under his arm, and bore him to the
flat ground.  King Olaf could run across the oars outside of the
vessel while his men were rowing the Serpent.  He could play with
three daggers, so that one was always in the air, and he took the
one falling by the handle.  He could walk all round upon the
ship's rails, could strike and cut equally well with both hands,
and could cast two spears at once.  King Olaf was a very merry
frolicsome man; gay and social; was very violent in all respects;
was very generous; was very finical in his dress, but in battle
he exceeded all in bravery.  He was distinguished for cruelty
when he was enraged, and tortured many of his enemies.  Some he
burnt in fire; some he had torn in pieces by mad dogs; some he
had mutilated, or cast down from high precipices.  On this
account his friends were attached to him warmly, and his enemies
feared him greatly; and thus he made such a fortunate advance in
his undertakings, for some obeyed his will out of the friendliest
zeal, and others out of dread.


Leif, a son of Eirik the Red, who first settled in Greenland,
came this summer (A.D. 999) from Greenland to Norway; and as he
met King Olaf he adopted Christianity, and passed the winter
(A.D. 1000) with the king.


Gudrod, a son of Eirik Bloodaxe and Gunhild, had been ravaging in
the west countries ever since he fled from Norway before the Earl
Hakon.  But the summer before mentioned (A.D. 999), where King
Olaf Trygvason had ruled four years over Norway, Gudrod came to
the country, and had many ships of war with him.  He had sailed
from England; and when he thought himself near to the Norway
coast, he steered south along the land, to the quarter where it
was least likely King Olaf would be.  Gudrod sailed in this way
south to Viken; and as soon as he came to the land he began to
plunder, to subject the people to him, and to demand that they
should accept of him as king.  Now as the country people saw that
a great army was come upon them, they desired peace and terms.
They offered King Gudrod to send a Thing-message over all the
country, and to accept of him at the Thing as king, rather than
suffer from his army; but they desired delay until a fixed day,
while the token of the Thing's assembling was going round through
the land.  The king demanded maintenance during the time this
delay lasted.  The bondes preferred entertaining the king as a
guest, by turns, as long as he required it; and the king accepted
of the proposal to go about with some of his men as a guest from
place to place in the land, while others of his men remained to
guard the ships.  When King Olaf's relations, Hyrning and
Thorgeir, heard of this, they gathered men, fitted out ships, and
went northwards to Viken.  They came in the night with their men
to a place at which King Gudrod was living as a guest, and
attacked him with fire and weapons; and there King Gudrod fell,
and most of his followers.  Of those who were with his ships some
were killed, some slipped away and fled to great distances; and
now were all the sons of Eirik and Gunhild dead.


The winter after, King Olaf came from Halogaland (A.D. 1000), he
had a great vessel built at Hladhamrar, which was larger than any
ship in the country, and of which the beam-knees are still to be
seen.  The length of keel that rested upon the grass was seventy-
four ells.  Thorberg Skafhog was the man's name who was the
master-builder of the ship; but there were many others besides,
-- some to fell wood, some to shape it, some to make nails, some
to carry timber; and all that was used was of the best.  The ship
was both long and broad and high-sided, and strongly timbered.

While they were planking the ship, it happened that Thorberg had
to go home to his farm upon some urgent business; and as he
remained there a long time, the ship was planked up on both sides
when he came back.  In the evening the king went out, and
Thorberg with him, to see how the vessel looked, and everybody
said that never was seen so large and so beautiful a ship of
war.  Then the king returned to the town.  Early next morning the
king returns again to the ship, and Thorberg with him.  The
carpenters were there before them, but all were standing idle
with their arms across.  The king asked, "what was the matter?"
They said the ship was destroyed; for somebody had gone from,
stem to stern, and cut one deep notch after the other down the
one side of the planking.  When the king came nearer he saw it
was so, and said, with an oath, "The man shall die who has thus
destroyed the vessel out of envy, if he can be discovered, and I
shall bestow a great reward on whoever finds him out."

"I can tell you, king," said Thorberg, "who has done this piece
of work." --

"I don't think," replies the king, "that any one is so likely to
find it out as thou art."

Thorberg says, "I will tell you, king, who did it.  I did it

The king says, "Thou must restore it all to the same condition as
before, or thy life shall pay for it."

Then Thorberg went and chipped the planks until the deep notches
were all smoothed and made even with the rest; and the king and
all present declared that the ship was much handsomer on the side
of the hull which Thorberg, had chipped, and bade him shape the
other side in the same way; and gave him great thanks for the
improvement.  Afterwards Thorberg was the master builder of the
ship until she was entirely finished.  The ship was a dragon,
built after the one the king had captured in Halogaland; but this
ship was far larger, and more carefully put together in all her
parts.  The king called this ship Serpent the Long, and the
other Serpent the Short.  The long Serpent had thirty-four
benches for rowers.  The head and the arched tail were both gilt,
and the bulwarks were as high as in sea-going ships.  This ship
was the best and most costly ship ever made in Norway.


Earl Eirik, the son of Earl Hakon, and his brothers, with many
other valiant men their relations, had left the country after
Earl Hakon's fall.  Earl Eirik went eastwards to Svithjod, to
Olaf, the Swedish king, and he and his people were well received.
King Olaf gave the earl peace and freedom in the land, and great
fiefs; so that he could support himself and his men well.  Thord
Kolbeinson speaks of this in the verses before given.  Many
people who fled from the country on account of King Olaf
Trygvason came out of Norway to Earl Eirik; and the earl resolved
to fit out ships and go a-cruising, in order to get property for
himself and his people.  First he steered to Gotland, and lay
there long in summer watching for merchant vessels sailing
towards the land, or for vikings.  Sometimes he landed and
ravaged all round upon the sea-coasts.  So it is told in the
"Banda-drapa": --

     "Eirik, as we have lately heard,
     Has waked the song of shield and sword --
     Has waked the slumbering storm of shields
     Upon the vikings' water-fields:
     From Gotland's lonely shore has gone
     Far up the land, and battles won:
     And o'er the sea his name is spread,
     To friends a shield, to foes a dread."

Afterwards Earl Eirik sailed south to Vindland, and at Stauren
found some viking ships, and gave them battle.  Eirik gained the
victory, and slew the vikings.  So it is told in the "Banda-
drapa": --

     "Earl Eirik, he who stoutly wields
     The battle-axe in storm of shields,
     With his long ships surprised the foe
     At Stauren, and their strength laid low
     Many a corpse floats round the shore;
     The strand with dead is studded o'er:
     The raven tears their sea-bleached skins --
     The land thrives well when Eirik wins."


Earl Eirik sailed back to Sweden in autumn, and staid there all
winter (A.D. 997); but in the spring fitted out his war force
again, and sailed up the Baltic.  When he came to Valdemar's
dominions he began to plunder and kill the inhabitants, and burn
the dwellings everywhere as he came along, and to lay waste the
country.  He came to Aldeigiuburg, and besieged it until he took
the castle; and he killed many people, broke down and burned the
castle, and then carried destruction all around far and wide in
Gardarike.  So it is told in the "Banda-drapa": --

     "The generous earl, brave and bold,
     Who scatters his bright shining gold,
     Eirik with fire-scattering hand,
     Wasted the Russian monarch's land, --
     With arrow-shower, and storm of war,
     Wasted the land of Valdemar.
     Aldeiga burns, and Eirik's might
     Scours through all Russia by its light."

Earl Eirik was five years in all on this foray; and when he
returned from Gardarike he ravaged all Adalsysla and Eysysla, and
took there four viking ships from the Danes and killed every man
on board.  So it is told in the "Banda-drapa": --

     "Among the isles flies round the word,
     That Eirik's blood-devouring sword
     Has flashed like fire in the sound,
     And wasted all the land around.
     And Eirik too, the bold in fight,
     Has broken down the robber-might
     Of four great vikings, and has slain
     All of the crew -- nor spared one Dane.
     In Gautland he has seized the town,
     In Syssels harried up and down;
     And all the people in dismay
     Fled to the forests far away.
     By land or sea, in field or wave,
     What can withstand this earl brave?
     All fly before his fiery hand --
     God save the earl, and keep the land."

When Eirik had been a year in Sweden he went over to Denmark
(A.D. 996) to King Svein Tjuguskeg, the Danish king, and courted
his daughter Gyda.  The proposal was accepted, and Earl Eirik
married Gyda; and a year after (A.D. 997) they had a son, who was
called Hakon.  Earl Eirik was in the winter in Denmark, or
sometimes in Sweden; but in summer he went a-cruising.


The Danish king, Svein Tjuguskeg, was married to Gunhild, a
daughter of Burizleif, king of the Vinds.  But in the times we
have just been speaking of it happened that Queen Gunhild fell
sick and died.  Soon after King Svein married Sigrid the Haughty,
a daughter of Skoglartoste, and mother of the Swedish king Olaf;
and by means of this relationship there was great friendship
between the kings and Earl Eirik, Hakon's son.


Burizleif, the king of the Vinds, complained to his relation Earl
Sigvalde, that the agreement was broken which Sigvalde had made
between King Svein and King Burizleif, by which Burizleif was to
get in marriage Thyre, Harald's daughter, a sister of King Svein:
but that marriage had not proceeded, for Thyre had given positive
no to the proposal to marry her to an old and heathen king.
"Now," said King Burizleif to Earl Sigvalde, "I must have the
promise fulfilled."  And he told Earl Sigvalde to go to Denmark,
and bring him Thyre as his queen.  Earl Sigvalde loses no time,
but goes to King Svein of Denmark, explains to him the case; and
brings it so far by his persuasion, that the king delivered his
sister Thyre into his hands.  With her went some female
attendants, and her foster-father, by name Ozur Agason, a man of
great power, and some other people.  In the agreement between the
king and the earl, it was settled that Thyre should have in
property the possessions which Queen Gunhild had enjoyed in
Vindland, besides other great properties as bride-gifts.  Thyre
wept sorely, and went very unwillingly.  When the earl came to
Vindland, Burizleif held his wedding with Queen Thyre, and
received her in marriage; bus as long as she was among heathens
she would neither eat nor drink with them, and this lasted for
seven days.


It happened one night that Queen Thyre and Ozur ran away in the
dark, and into the woods, and, to be short in our story, came at
last to Denmark.  But here Thyre did not dare to remain, knowing
that if her brother King Svein heard of her, he would send her
back directly to Vindland.  She went on, therefore, secretly to
Norway, and never stayed her journey until she fell in with King
Olaf, by whom she was kindly received.  Thyre related to the king
her sorrows, and entreated his advice in her need, and protection
in his kingdom.  Thyre was a well-spoken woman, and the king had
pleasure in her conversation.  He saw she was a handsome woman,
and it came into his mind that she would be a good match; so he
turns the conversation that way, and asks if she will marry him.
Now, as she saw that her situation was such that she could not
help herself, and considered what a luck it was for her to marry
so celebrated a man, she bade him to dispose himself of her hand
and fate; and, after nearer conversation, King Olaf took Thyre in
marriage.  This wedding was held in harvest after the king
returned from Halogaland (A.D. 999), and King Olaf and Queen
Thyre remained all winter (A.D. 1000) at Nidaros.

The following spring Queen Thyre complained often to King Olaf,
and wept bitterly over it, that she who had so great property in
Vindland had no goods or possessions here in the country that
were suitable for a queen; and sometimes she would entreat the
king with fine words to get her property restored to her, and
saying that King Burizleif was so great a friend of King Olaf
that he would not deny King Olaf anything if they were to meet.
But when King Olaf's friends heard of such speeches, they 
dissuaded him from any such expedition.  It is related at the
king one day early in spring was walking in the street, and met a
man in the market with many, and, for that early season,
remarkably large angelica roots.  The king took a great stalk of
the angelica in his hand, and went home to Queen Thyre's lodging.
Thyre sat in her room weeping as the king came in.  The king
said, "Set here, queen, is a great angelica stalk, which I give
thee."  She threw it away, and said, "A greater present Harald
Gormson gave to my mother; and he was not afraid to go out of the
land and take his own.  That was shown when he came here to
Norway, and laid waste the greater part of the land, and seized
on all the scat and revenues; and thou darest not go across the
Danish dominions for this brother of mine, King Svein."  As she
spoke thus, King Olaf sprang up, and answered with loud oath,
"Never did I fear thy brother King Svein; and if we meet he shall
give way before me!"


Soon after the king convoked a Thing in the town, and proclaimed
to all the public, that in summer would go abroad upon an
expedition out of the country, and would raise both ships and men
from every district; and at the same time fixed how many ships
would have from the whole Throndhjem fjord.  Then he sent his
message-token south and north, both along the sea-coast and up in
the interior of the country, to let an army be gathered.  The
king ordered the Long Serpent to be put into the water, along
with all his other ships both small and great.  He himself
steered the Long Serpent.  When the crews were taken out for the
ships, they were so carefully selected that no man on board the
Long Serpent was older than sixty or younger than twenty years,
and all were men distinguished for strength and courage.  Those
who were Olaf's bodyguard were in particular chosen men, both of
the natives and of foreigners, and the boldest and strongest.


Ulf the Red was the name of the man who bore King Olaf's banner,
and was in the forecastle of the Long Serpent; and with him was
Kolbjorn the marshal, Thorstein Uxafot, and Vikar of Tiundaland,
a brother of Arnliot Gelline.  By the bulkhead next the
forecastle were Vak Raumason from Gaut River, Berse the Strong,
An Skyte from Jamtaland, Thrand the Strong from Thelamork, and
his brother Uthyrmer.  Besides these were, of Halogaland men,
Thrand Skjalge and Ogmund Sande, Hlodver Lange from Saltvik, and
Harek Hvasse; together with these Throndhjem men -- Ketil the
High, Thorfin Eisle, Havard and his brothers from Orkadal.  The
following were in the fore-hold: Bjorn from Studla, Bork from the
fjords.  Thorgrim Thjodolfson from Hvin, Asbjorn and Orm, Thord
from Njardarlog, Thorstein the White from Oprustadar, Arnor from
More, Halstein and Hauk from the Fjord district, Eyvind Snak,
Bergthor Bestil, Halkel from Fialer, Olaf Dreng, Arnfin from
Sogn, Sigurd Bild, Einar from Hordaland, and Fin, and Ketil from
Rogaland and Grjotgard the Brisk.  The following were in the hold
next the mast: Einar Tambaskelfer, who was not reckoned as fully
experienced, being only eighteen years old; Thorstein Hlifarson,
Thorolf, Ivar Smetta, and Orm Skogarnef.  Many other valiant men
were in the Serpent, although we cannot tell all their names.  In
every half division of the hold were eight men, and each and all
chosen men; and in the fore-hold were thirty men.  It was a
common saying among people, that the Long Serpent's crew was as
distinguished for bravery, strength, and daring, among other men,
as the Long Serpent was distinguished among other ships.  Thorkel
Nefja, the king's brother, commanded the Short Serpent; and
Thorkel Dydril and Jostein, the king's mother's brothers, had the
Crane; and both these ships were well manned.  King Olaf had
eleven large ships from Throndhjem, besides vessels with twenty
rowers' benches, smaller vessels, and provision-vessels.


When King Olaf had nearly rigged out his fleet in Nidaros, he
appointed men over the Throndhjem country in all districts and
communities.  He also sent to Iceland Gissur the White and Hjalte
Skeggjason, to proclaim Christianity there; and sent with them a
priest called Thormod, along with several men in holy orders. 
But he retained with him, as hostages, four Icelanders whom he
thought the most important; namely, Kjartan Olafson, Haldor
Gudmundson, Kolbein Thordson, and Sverting Runolfson.  Of Gissur
and Hjalte's progress, it is related that they came to Iceland
before the Althing, and went to the Thing; and in that Thing
Christianity was introduced by law into Iceland, and in the
course of the summer all the people were baptized (A.D. 1000).


The same spring King Olaf also sent Leif Eirikson (A.D. 1000) to
Greenland to proclaim Christianity there, and Leif went there
that summer.  In the ocean he took up the crew of a ship which
had been lost, and who were clinging to the wreck.  He also found
Vinland the Good; arrived about harvest in Greenland; and had
with him for it a priest and other teachers, with whom he went to
Brattahild to lodge with his father Eirik.  People called him
afterwards Leif the Lucky: but his father Eirik said that his
luck and ill luck balanced each other; for if Leif had saved a
wreck in the ocean, he had brought a hurtful person with him to
Greenland, and that was the priest.


The winter after King Olaf had baptized Halogaland, he and Queen
Thyre were in Nidaros; and the summer before Queen Thyre had
brought King Olaf a boy child, which was both stout and
promising, and was called Harald, after its mother's father.  The
king and queen loved the infant exceedingly, and rejoiced in the
hope that it would grow up and inherit after its father; but it
lived barely a year after its birth, which both took much to
heart.  In that winter were many Icelanders and other clever men
in King Olaf's house, as before related.  His sister Ingebjorg,
Trygve's daughter, King Olaf's sister, was also at the court at
that time.  She was beautiful in  appearance, modest and frank
with the people, had a steady manly judgment, and was beloved of
all.  She was very fond of the Icelanders who were there, but
most of Kjartan Olafson, for he had been longer than the others
in the king's house; and he found it always amusing to converse
with her, for she had both understanding and cleverness in talk.
The king was always gay and full of mirth in his intercourse with
people; and often asked about the manners of the great men and
chiefs in the neighbouring countries, when strangers from Denmark
or Sweden came to see him.  The summer before Halfred
Vandredaskald had come from Gautland, where he had been with Earl
Ragnvald, Ulf's son, who had lately come to the government of
West Gautland.  Ulf, Ragnvald's father, was a brother of Sigurd
the Haughty; so that King Olaf the Swede and Earl Ragnvald were
brother's and sister's children.  Halfred told Olaf many things
about the earl: he said he was an able chief, excellently fitted
for governing, generous with money, brave and steady in
friendship.  Halfred said also the earl desired much the
friendship of King Olaf, and had spoken of making court
Ingebjorg, Trygve's daughter.  The same winter came ambassadors
from Gautland, and fell in with King Olaf in the north, in
Nidaros, and brought the message which Halfred had spoken of, --
that the earl desired to be King Olaf's entire friend, and wished
to become his brother-in-law by obtaining his sister Ingebjorg in
marriage.  Therewith the ambassadors laid before the king
sufficient tokens in proof that in reality they came from the
earl on this errand.  The king listened with approbation to their
speech; but said that Ingebjorg must determine on his assent to
the marriage.  The king then talked to his sister about the
matter, and asked her opinion about it.  She answered to this
effect, -- "I have been with you for some time, and you have
shown brotherly care and tender respect for me ever since you
came to the country.  I will agree therefore to your proposal
about my marriage, provided that you do not marry me to a heathen
man." The king said it should be as she wished.  The king then
spoke to the ambassadors; and it was settled before they
departed that in summer Earl Ragnvald should meet the king in the
east parts of the country, to enter into the fullest friendship
with each other, and when they met they would settle about the
marriage.  With this reply the earl's messengers went westward,
and King Olaf remained all winter in Nidaros in great splendour,
and with many people about him.


King Olaf proceeded in summer with his ships and men southwards
along the land (and past Stad.  With him were Queen Thyre and
Ingebjorg, Trygveis daughter, the king's sister).  Many of his
friends also joined him, and other persons of consequence who had
prepared themselves to travel with the king.  The first man among
these was his brother-in-law, Erling Skjalgson, who had with him
a large ship of thirty benches of rowers, and which was in every
respect well equipt.  His brothers-in-law Hyrning and Thorgeir
also joined him, each of whom for himself steered a large vessel;
and many other powerful men besides followed him.  (With all this
war-force he sailed southwards along the land; but when he came
south as far as Rogaland he stopped there, for Erling Skjalgson
had prepared for him a splendid feast at Sole.  There Earl 
Ragnvald, Ulf's son, from Gautland, came to meet the king, and to
settle the business which had been proposed ;n winter in the
messages between them, namely, the marriage with Ingebjorg the
king's sister.  Olaf received him kindly; and when the matter
came to be spoken of, the king said he would keep his word, and
marry his sister Ingebjorg to him, provided he would accept the
true faith, and make all his subjects he ruled over in his land
be baptized; The earl agreed to this, and he and all his
followers were baptized.  Now was the feast enlarged that Erling
had prepared, for the earl held his wedding there with Ingebjorg
the king's sister.  King Olaf had now married off all his
sisters.  The earl, with Ingebjorg, set out on his way home; and
the king sent learned men with him to baptize the people in
Gautland, and to teach them the right faith and morals.  The king
and the earl parted in the greatest friendship.)


(After his sister Ingebjorg's wedding, the king made ready in all
haste to leave the country with his army, which was both great
and made up of fine men.)  When he left the land and sailed
southwards he had sixty ships of war, with which he sailed past
Denmark, and in through the Sound, and on to Vindland.  He
appointed a meeting with King Burizleif; and when the kings met,
they spoke about the property which King Olaf demanded, and the
conference went off peaceably, as a good account was given of the
properties which King Olaf thought himself entitled to there.  He
passed here much of the summer, and found many of his old


The Danish king, Svein Tjuguskeg, was married, as before related,
to Sigrid the Haughty.  Sigrid was King Olaf Trygvason's greatest
enemy; the cause of which, as before said, was that King Olaf had
broken off with her, and had struck her in the face.  She urged
King Svein much to give battle to King Olaf Trygvason; saying
that he had reason enough, as Olaf had married his sister Thyre
without his leave, "and that your predecessors would not have
submitted to."  Such persuasions Sigrid had often in her mouth;
and at last she brought it so far that Svein resolved firmly on
doing so.  Early in spring King Svein sent messengers eastward
into Svithjod, to his son-in-law Olaf, the Swedish king, and to
Earl Eirik; and informed them that King Olaf of Norway was
levying men for an expedition, and intended in summer to go to
Vindland.  To this news the Danish king added an invitation to
the Swedish king and Earl Eirik to meet King Svein with an army,
so that all together they might make an attack; on King Olaf
Trygvason.  The Swedish king and Earl Eirik were ready enough for
this, and immediately assembled a great fleet and an army through
all Svithjod, with which they sailed southwards to Denmark, and
arrived there after King Olaf Trygvason had sailed to the
eastward.  Haldor the Unchristian tells of this in his lay on
Earl Eirik: --

     "The king-subduer raised a host
     Of warriors on the Swedish coast.
     The brave went southwards to the fight,
     Who love the sword-storm's gleaming light;
     The brave, who fill the wild wolf's mouth,
     Followed bold Eirik to the south;
     The brave, who sport in blood -- each one
     With the bold earl to sea is gone."

The Swedish king and Earl Eirik sailed to meet the Danish king,
and they had all, when together, an immense force.


At the same time that king Svein sent a message to Svithjod for
an army, he sent Earl Sigvalde to Vindland to spy out King Olaf
Trygvason's proceedings, and to bring it about by cunning devices
that King Svein and King Olaf should fall in with each other.  So
Sigvalde sets out to go to Vindland.  First, he came to Jomsborg,
and then he sought out King Olaf Trygvason.  There was much
friendship in their conversation, and the earl got himself into
great favour with the king.  Astrid, the Earl's wife, King
Burizleif's daughter, was a great friend of King Olaf Trygvason,
particularly on account of the connection which had been between
them when Olaf was married to her sister Geira.  Earl Sigvalde
was a prudent, ready-minded man; and as he had got a voice in
King Olaf's council, he put him off much from sailing homewards,
finding various reasons for delay.  Olaf's people were in the
highest degree dissatisfied with this; for the men were anxious
to get home, and they lay ready to sail, waiting only for a wind.
At last Earl Sigvalde got a secret message from Denmark that the
Swedish king's army was arrived from the east, and that Earl
Eirik's also was ready; and that all these chiefs had resolved to
sail eastwards to Vindland, and wait for King Olaf at an island
which is called Svold.  They also desired the earl to contrive
matters so that they should meet King Olaf there.


There came first a flying report to Vindland that the Danish
king, Svein, had fitted out an army; and it was soon whispered
that he intended to attack King Olaf.  But Earl Sigvalde says to
King Olaf, "It never can be King Svein's intention to venture
with the Danish force alone, to give battle to thee with such a
powerful army; but if thou hast any suspicion that evil is on
foot, I will follow thee with my force (at that time it was
considered a great matter to have Jomsborg vikings with an army),
and I will give thee eleven well-manned ships."  The king
accepted this offer; and as the light breeze of wind that came
was favourable, he ordered the ships to get under weigh, and the
war-horns to sound the departure.  The sails were hoisted and all
the small vessels, sailing fastest, got out to sea before the
others.  The earl, who sailed nearest to the king's ship, called
to those on board to tell the king to sail in his keel-track:
"For I know where the water is deepest between the islands and in
the sounds, and these large ships require the deepest."  Then the
earl sailed first with his eleven ships, and the king followed
with his large ships, also eleven in number; but the whole of the
rest of the fleet sailed out to sea.  Now when Earl Sigvalde came
sailing close under the island Svold, a skiff rowed out to inform
the earl that the Danish king's army was lying in the harbour
before them.  Then the earl ordered the sails of his vessels to
be struck, and they rowed in under the island.  Haldor the
Unchristian says: --

     "From out the south bold Trygve's son
     With one-and-seventy ships came on,
     To dye his sword in bloody fight,
     Against the Danish foeman's might.
     But the false earl the king betrayed;
     And treacherous Sigvalde, it is said,
     Deserted from King Olaf's fleet,
     And basely fled, the Danes to meet."

It is said here that King Olaf and Earl Sigvalde had seventy sail
of vessels: and one more, when they sailed from the south.


The Danish King Svein, the Swedish King Olaf, and Earl Eirik,
were there with all their forces (1000).  The weather being fine
and clear sunshine, all these chiefs, with a great suite, went
out on the isle to see the vessels sailing out at sea, and many
of them crowded together; and they saw among them one large and
glancing ship.  The two kings said, "That is a large and very
beautiful vessel: that will be the Long Serpent."

Earl Eirik replied, "That is not the Long Serpent."  And he was
right; for it was the ship belonging to Eindride of Gimsar.

Soon after they saw another vessel coming sailing along much
larger than the first; then says King Svein, "Olaf Trygvason must
be afraid, for he does not venture to sail with the figure-head
of the dragon upon his ship."

Says Earl Eirik, "That is not the king's ship yet; for I know
that ship by the coloured stripes of cloth in her sail.  That is
Erling Skialgson's.  Let him sail; for it is the better for us
that the ship is away from Olaf's fleet, so well equipt as she

Soon after they saw and knew Earl Sigvalde's ships, which turned
in and laid themselves under the island.  Then they saw three
ships coming along under sail, and one of them very large.  King
Svein ordered his men to go to their ships, "for there comes the
Long Serpent."

Earl Eirik says, "Many other great and stately vessels have they
besides the Long Serpent.  Let us wait a little."

Then said many, "Earl Eirik will not fight and avenge his father;
and it is a great shame that it should be told that we lay here
with so great a force, and allowed King Olaf to sail out to sea
before our eyes."

But when they had spoken thus for a short time, they saw four
ships coming sailing along, of which one had a large dragon-head
richly gilt.  Then King Svein stood up and said, "That dragon
shall carry me this evening high, for I shall steer it."

Then said many, "The Long Serpent is indeed a wonderfully large
and beautiful vessel, and it shows a great mind to have built
such a ship."

Earl Eirik said so loud that several persons heard him, "If King
Olaf had no ether vessels but only that one, King Svein would
never take it from him with the Danish force alone."

Thereafter all the people rushed on board their ships, took down
the tents, and in all haste made ready for battle.

While the chiefs were speaking among themselves as above related,
they saw three very large ships coming sailing along, and at last
after them a fourth, and that was the Long Serpent.  Of the large
ships which had gone before, and which they had taken for the
Long Serpent, the first was the Crane; the one after that was the
Short Serpent; and when they really, saw the Long Serpent, all
knew, and nobody had a word to say against it, that it must be
Olaf Trygvason who was sailing in such a vessel; and they went to
their ships to arm for the fight.

An agreement had been concluded among the chiefs, King Svein,
King Olaf the Swede, and Earl Eirik, that they should divide
Norway among them in three parts, in case they succeeded against
Olaf Trygvason; but that he of the chiefs who should first board
the Serpent should have her, and all the booty found in her, and
each should have the ships he cleared for himself.  Earl Eirik
had a large ship of war which he used upon his viking
expeditions; and there was an iron beard or comb above on both
sides of the stem, and below it a thick iron plate as broad as
the combs, which went down quite to the gunnel.


When Earl Sigvalde with his vessels rowed in under the island,
Thorkel Dydril of the Crane, and the other ship commanders who
sailed with him, saw that he turned his ships towards the isle,
and thereupon let fall the sails, and rowed after him, calling
out, and asking why he sailed that way.  The Earl answered, that
he was waiting for king Olaf, as he feared there were enemies in
the water.  They lay upon their oars until Thorkel Nefia came up
with the Short Serpent and the three ships which followed him.
When they told them the same they too struck sail, and let the
ships drive, waiting for king Olaf.  But when the king sailed in
towards the isle, the whole enemies' fleet came rowing within
them out to the Sound.  When they saw this they begged the king
to hold on his way, and not risk battle with so great a force.
The king replied, high on the quarter-deck where he stood,
"Strike the sails; never shall men of mine think of flight.  I
never fled from battle.  Let God dispose of my life, but flight I
shall never take."  It was done as the king commanded.  Halfred
tells of it thus: --

     "And far and wide the saying bold
     Of the brave warrior shall be told.
     The king, in many a fray well tried,
     To his brave champions round him cried,
     `My men shall never learn from me
     From the dark weapon-cloud to flee.'
     Nor were the brave words spoken then
     Forgotten by his faithful men."


King Olaf ordered the war-horns to sound for all his ships to
close up to each other.  The king's ship lay in the middle of the
line, and on one side lay the Little Serpent, and on the other
the Crane; and as they made fast the stems together (1), the Long
Serpent's stem and the short Serpent's were made fast together;
but when the king saw it he called out to his men, and ordered
them to lay the larger ship more in advance, so that its stern
should not lie so far behind in the fleet.

Then says Ulf the Red, "If the Long Serpent is to lie as much
more ahead of the other ships as she is longer than them, we
shall have hard work of it here on the forecastle."

The king replies, "I did not think I had a forecastle man afraid
as well as red."

Says Ulf, "Defend thou the quarterdeck as I shall the

The king had a bow in his hands, and laid an arrow on the string,
and aimed at Ulf.

Ulf said, "Shoot another way, king, where it is more needful: my
work is thy gain."

(1)  The mode of fighting in sea battles appears, from this and
     many other descriptions, to have been for each party to bind
     together the stems and sterns of their own ships, forming
     them thus into a compact body as soon aa the fleets came
     within fighting distance, or within spears' throw.  They
     appear to have fought principally from the forecastles; and
     to have used grappling irons for dragging a vessel out of
     the line, or within boarding distance. -- L.


King Olaf stood on the Serpent's quarterdeck, high over the
others.  He had a gilt shield, and a helmet inlaid with gold;
over his armour he had a short red coat, and was easy to be
distinguished from other men.  When King Olaf saw that the
scattered forces of the enemy gathered themselves together under
the banners of their ships, he asked, "Who is the chief of the
force right opposite to us?"

He was answered, that it was King Svein with the Danish army.

The king replies, "We are not afraid of these soft Danes, for
there is no bravery in them; but who are the troops on the right
of the Danes?"

He was answered, that it was King Olaf with the Swedish forces.

"Better it were," says King Olaf, "for these Swedes to be sitting
at home killing their sacrifices, than to be venturing under our
weapons from the Long Serpent.  But who owns the large ships on
the larboard side of the Danes?"

"That is Earl Eirik Hakonson," say they.

The king replies, "He, methinks, has good reason for meeting us;
and we may expect the sharpest conflict with these men, for they
are Norsemen like ourselves."


The kings now laid out their oars, and prepared to attack (A.D.
1000).  King Svein laid his ship against the Long Serpent. 
Outside of him Olaf the Swede laid himself, and set his ship's
stern against the outermost ship of King Olaf's line; and on the
other side lay Earl Eirik.  Then a hard combat began.  Earl
Sigvalde held back with the oars on his ships, and did not join
the fray.  So says Skule Thorsteinson, who at that time was with
Earl Eirik: --

     "I followed Sigvalde in my youth,
     And gallant Eirik, and in truth
     The' now I am grown stiff and old,
     In the spear-song I once was bold.
     Where arrows whistled on the shore
     Of Svold fjord my shield I bore,
     And stood amidst the loudest clash
     When swords on shields made fearful crash."

And Halfred also sings thus: --

     "In truth I think the gallant king,
     Midst such a foemen's gathering,
     Would be the better of some score
     Of his tight Throndhjem lads, or more;
     For many a chief has run away,
     And left our brave king in the fray,
     Two great kings' power to withstand,
     And one great earl's, with his small band,
     The king who dares such mighty deed
     A hero for his skald would need."


This battle was one of the severest told of, and many were the
people slain.  The forecastle men of the Long Serpent, the Little
Serpent, and the Crane, threw grapplings and stem chains into
King Svein's ship, and used their weapons well against the people
standing below them, for they cleared the decks of all the ships
they could lay fast hold of; and King Svein, and all the men who
escaped, fled to other vessels, and laid themselves out of
bow-shot.  It went with this force just as King Olaf Trygvason
had foreseen.  Then King Olaf the Swede laid himself in their
place; but when he came near the great ships it went with him as
with them, for he lost many men and some ships, and was obliged
to get away.  But Earl Eirik laid his ship side by side with the
outermost of King Olaf's ships, thinned it of men, cut the
cables, and let it drive.  Then he laid alongside of the next,
and fought until he had cleared it of men also.  Now all the
people who were in the smaller ships began to run into the
larger, and the earl cut them loose as fast as he cleared them of
men.  The Danes and Swedes laid themselves now out of shooting
distance all around Olaf's ship; but Earl Eirik lay always close
alongside of the ships, and used hid swords and battle-axes, and
as fast as people fell in his vessel others, Danes and Swedes,
came in their place.  So says Haldor, the Unchristian: --

     "Sharp was the clang of shield and sword,
     And shrill the song of spears on board,
     And whistling arrows thickly flew
     Against the Serpent's gallant crew.
     And still fresh foemen, it is said,
     Earl Eirik to her long side led;
     Whole armies of his Danes and Swedes,
     Wielding on high their blue sword-blades."

Then the fight became most severe, and many people fell.  But at
last it came to this, that all King Olaf Trygvason's ships were
cleared of men except the Long Serpent, on board of which all who
could still carry their arms were gathered.  Then Earl Eirik lay
with his ship by the side of the Serpent, and the fight went on
with battle-axe and sword.  So says Haldor: --

     "Hard pressed on every side by foes,
     The Serpent reels beneath the blows;
     Crash go the shields around the bow!
     Breast-plates and breasts pierced thro' and thro!
     In the sword-storm the Holm beside,
     The earl's ship lay alongside
     The king's Long Serpent of the sea --
     Fate gave the earl the victory."


Earl Eirik was in the forehold of his ship, where a cover of
shields (1) had been set up.  In the fight, both hewing weapons,
sword, and axe, and the thrust of spears had been used; and all
that could be used as weapon for casting was cast.  Some used
bows, some threw spears with the hand.  So many weapons were cast
into the Serpent, and so thick flew spears and arrows, that the
shields could scarcely receive them, for on all sides the Serpent
was surrounded by war-ships.  Then King Olaf's men became so mad
with rage, that they ran on board of the enemies ships, to get at
the people with stroke of sword and kill them; but many did not
lay themselves so near the Serpent, in order to escape the close
encounter with battle-axe or sword; and thus the most of Olaf's
men went overboard and sank under their weapons, thinking they
were fighting on plain ground.  So says Halfred: --

     "The daring lads shrink not from death; --
     O'erboard they leap, and sink beneath
     The Serpent's keel: all armed they leap,
     And down they sink five fathoms deep.
     The foe was daunted at the cheers;
     The king, who still the Serpent steers,
     In such a strait -- beset with foes --
     Wanted but some more lads like those."

(1)  Both in land and sea fights the commanders appear to have
     been protected from missile weapons, -- stones, arrows,
     spears, -- by a shieldburg: that is, by a party of men
     bearing shields surrounding them in such a way that the
     shields were a parapet, covering those within the circle. 
     The Romans had a similar military arrangement of shields in
     sieges -- the testudo. -- L.


Einar Tambarskelver, one of the sharpest of bowshooters, stood by
the mast, and shot with his bow.  Einar shot an arrow at Earl
Eirik, which hit the tiller end just above the earl's head so
hard that it entered the wood up to the arrow-shaft.  The earl
looked that way, and asked if they knew who had shot; and at the
same moment another arrow flew between his hand and his side, and
into the stuffing of the chief's stool, so that the barb stood
far out on the other side.  Then said the earl to a man called
Fin, -- but some say he was of Fin (Laplander) race, and was a
superior archer, -- "Shoot that tall man by the mast."  Fin shot;
and the arrow hit the middle of Einar's bow just at the moment
that Einar was drawing it, and the bow was split in two parts.

"What is that."cried King Olaf, "that broke with such a noise?"

"Norway, king, from thy hands," cried Einar.

"No!  not quite so much as that," says the king; "take my bow,
and shoot," flinging the bow to him.

Einar took the bow, and drew it over the head of the arrow.  "Too
weak, too weak," said he, "for the bow of a mighty king!" and,
throwing the bow aside, he took sword and shield, and fought


The king stood on the gangways of the Long Serpent. and shot the
greater part of the day; sometimes with the bow, sometimes with
the spear, and always throwing two spears at once.  He looked
down over the ship's sides, and saw that his men struck briskly
with their swords, and yet wounded but seldom.  Then he called
aloud, "Why do ye strike so gently that ye seldom cut?"  One
among the people answered, "The swords are blunt and full of
notches."  Then the king went down into the forehold, opened the
chest under the throne, and took out many sharp swords, which he
handed to his men; but as he stretched down his right hand with
them, some observed that blood was running down under his steel
glove, but no one knew where he was wounded.


Desperate was the defence in the Serpent, and there was the
heaviest destruction of men done by the forecastle crew, and
those of the forehold, for in both places the men were chosen
men, and the ship was highest, but in the middle of the ship the
people were thinned.  Now when Earl Eirik saw there were but few
people remaining beside the ship's mast, he determined to board;
and he entered the Serpent with four others.  Then came Hyrning,
the king's brother-in-law, and some others against him, and there
was the most severe combat; and at last the earl was forced to
leap back on board his own ship again, and some who had
accompanied him were killed, and others wounded.  Thord
Kolbeinson alludes to this: --

     "On Odin's deck, all wet with blood,
     The helm-adorned hero stood;
     And gallant Hyrning honour gained,
     Clearing all round with sword deep stained.
     The high mountain peaks shall fall,
     Ere men forget this to recall."

Now the fight became hot indeed, and many men fell on board the
Serpent; and the men on board of her began to be thinned off, and
the defence to be weaker.  The earl resolved to board the Serpent
again, and again he met with a warm reception.  When the
forecastle men of the Serpent saw what he was doing, they went
aft and made a desperate fight; but so many men of the Serpent
had fallen, that the ship's sides were in many places quite bare
of defenders; and the earl's men poured in all around into the
vessel, and all the men who were still able to defend the ship
crowded aft to the king, and arrayed themselves for his defence.
So says Haldor the Unchristian: --

     "Eirik cheers on his men, --
     `On to the charge again!'
     The gallant few
     Of Olaf's crew
     Must refuge take
     On the quarter-deck.
     Around the king
     They stand in ring;
     Their shields enclose
     The king from foes,
     And the few who still remain
     Fight madly, but in vain.
     Eirik cheers on his men --
     `On to the charge again!'"


Kolbjorn the marshal, who had on clothes and arms like the kings,
and was a remarkably stout and handsome man, went up to king on
the quarter-deck.  The battle was still going on fiercely even in
the forehold (1).  But as many of the earl's men had now got into
the Serpent as could find room, and his ships lay all round her,
and few were the people left in the Serpent for defence against
so great a force; and in a short time most of the Serpent's men 
fell, brave and stout though they were.  King Olaf and Kolbjorn
the marshal both sprang overboard, each on his own side of the
ship; but the earl's men had laid out boats around the Serpent,
and killed those who leaped overboard.  Now when the king had
sprung overboard, they tried to seize him with their hands, and
bring him to Earl Eirik; but King Olaf threw his shield over his
head, and sank beneath the waters.  Kolbjorn held his shield
behind him to protect himself from the spears cast at him from
the ships which lay round the Serpent, and he fell so upon his
shield that it came under him, so that he could not sink so
quickly.  He was thus taken and brought into a boat, and they
supposed he was the king.  He was brought before the earl; and
when the earl saw it was Kolbjorn, and not the king, he gave him
his life.  At the same moment all of King Olaf's men who were in
life sprang overboard from the Serpent; and Thorkel Nefia, the
king's brother, was the last of all the men who sprang overboard.
It is thus told concerning the king by Halfred: --

     "The Serpent and the Crane
     Lay wrecks upon the main.
     On his sword he cast a glance, --
     With it he saw no chance.
     To his marshal, who of yore
     Many a war-chance had come o'er,
     He spoke a word -- then drew in breath,
     And sprang to his deep-sea death."

(1)  From the occasional descriptions of vessels in this and
     other battles, it may be inferred that even the Long
     Serpent, described in the 95tb chapter as of 150 feet of
     keel was only docked fore and aft; the thirty-four benches
     for rowers occupying the open area in the middle, and
     probably gangways running along the side for communicating
     from the quarter-deck to the forcastle. -- L.


Earl Sigvalde. as before related, came from Vindland, in company
with King Olaf, with ten ships; but the eleventh ship was manned
with the men of Astrid, the king's daughter, the wife of Earl
Sigvalde.  Now when King Olaf sprang overboard, the whole army
raised a shout of victory; and then Earl Sigvalde and his men put
their oars in the water and rowed towards the battle.  Haldor the
Unchristian tells of it thus: --

     "Then first the Vindland vessels came
     Into the fight with little fame;
     The fight still lingered on the wave,
     Tho' hope was gone with Olaf brave.
     War, like a full-fed ravenous beast,
     Still oped her grim jaws for the feast.
     The few who stood now quickly fled,
     When the shout told -- `Olaf is dead!'"

But the Vindland cutter, in which Astrid's men were, rowed back
to Vindland; and the report went immediately abroad and was told
by many, that King Olaf had cast off his coat-of-mail under
water, and had swum, diving under the longships, until he came to
the Vindland cutter, and that Astrid's men had conveyed him to
Vindland: and many tales have been made since about the
adventures of Olaf the king.  Halfred speaks thus about it: --

     "Does Olaf live? or is he dead?
     Has he the hungry ravens fed?
     I scarcely know what I should say,
     For many tell the tale each way.
     This I can say, nor fear to lie,
     That he was wounded grievously --
     So wounded in this bloody strife,
     He scarce could come away with life."

But however this may have been, King Olaf Trygvason never came
back again to his kingdom of Norway.  Halfred Vandredaskald
speaks also thus about it:

     "The witness who reports this thing
     Of Trygvason, our gallant king,
     Once served the king, and truth should tell,
     For Olaf hated lies like hell.
     If Olaf 'scaped from this sword-thing,
     Worse fate, I fear, befel our king
     Than people guess, or e'er can know,
     For he was hemm'd in by the foe.
     From the far east some news is rife
     Of king sore wounded saving life;
     His death, too sure, leaves me no care
     For cobweb rumours in the air.
     It never was the will of fate
     That Olaf from such perilous strait
     Should 'scape with life!  this truth may grieve --
     `What people wish they soon believe.'"


By this victory Earl Eirik Hakonson became owner of the Long
Serpent, and made a great booty besides; and he steered the
Serpent from the battle.  So says Haldor: --

     "Olaf, with glittering helmet crowned,
     Had steered the Serpent through the Sound;
     And people dressed their boats, and cheered
     As Olaf's fleet in splendour steered.
     But the descendent of great Heming,
     Whose race tells many a gallant sea-king,
     His blue sword in red life-blood stained,
     And bravely Olaf's long ship gained."

Svein, a son of Earl Hakon, and Earl Eirik's brother, was engaged
at this time to marry Holmfrid, a daughter of King Olaf the
Swedish king.  Now when Svein the Danish king, Olaf the Swedish
king, and Earl Eirik divided the kingdom of Norway between them,
King Olaf got four districts in the Throndhjem country, and also
the districts of More and Raumsdal; and in the east part of the
land he got Ranrike, from the Gaut river to Svinasund.  Olaf gave
these dominions into Earl Svein's hands, on the same conditions
as the sub kings or earls had held them formerly from the upper-
king of the country.  Earl Eirik got four districts in the
Throndhjem country, and Halogaland, Naumudal, the Fjord
districts, Sogn, Hordaland, Rogaland, and North Agder, all the
way to the Naze.  So says Thord Kolbeinson: --

     "All chiefs within our land
     On Eirik's side now stand:
     Erling alone, I know
     Remains Earl Eirik's foe.
     All praise our generous earl, --
     He gives, and is no churl:
     All men are well content
     Fate such a chief has sent.
     From Veiga to Agder they,
     Well pleased, the earl obey;
     And all will by him stand,
     To guard the Norsemen's land.
     And now the news is spread
     That mighty Svein is dead,
     And luck is gone from those
     Who were the Norsemen's foes."

The Danish king Svein retained Viken as he had held it before,
but he gave Raumarike and Hedemark to Earl Eirik.  Svein Hakonson
got the title of earl from Olaf the Swedish king.  Svein was one 
of the handsomest men ever seen.  The earls Eirik and Svein both
allowed themselves to be baptized, and took up the true faith;
but as long as they ruled in Norway they allowed every one to do
as he pleased in holding by his Christianity.  But, on the other
hand, they held fast by the old laws, and all the old rights and
customs of the land, and were excellent men and good rulers. 
Earl Eirik had most to say of the two brothers in all matters of

Continue to next saga

le classeur | mycustomessay.com | 123writings.com | Privatewriting | Free Large Photos