Here begins the Prologue
…tus (1), treating in his Philostratus of the other good things of life, says in praise of friendship that between true friends hardly any difficulties arise. Not by any means daring to oppose the well-founded axiom of such a philosopher, knowing myself incapable of matching in any way such sagacity and my powers too feeble for such an onerous task, yet bound in duty to respond to the highly honourable urging of the most excellent of men, lest I show myself ungrateful for the favour of his many generosities (2), I shall therefore attempt, willy-nilly, to undertake what is asked of me. For it is a heavy burden on my ignorant self to describe comprehensively the situation of a region so very vast, to disentangle the genealogy of its rulers, to relate the advent of Christianity side by side with the retreat of paganism and to expound the current state of both religions (3). You yourself know best what a labour this will be, full of inordinate toil, a subject, though hitherto unattempted in Latin discourse (4), is devised by an eminent mind and imposed upon my callow ness; and you know best how onerous the task and how great the risk to be run on account of envious men. I comply nevertheless, trusting in the sources we have and disregarding their devouring rancour if it touches us, because you generations to come will have the fruits of my labour, in which, if the author who obeys has done aught amiss in untaught presumption, may the patron who ordains pardon it in forbearing charity. Therefore, Agnellus (5), whatever other readers may say of these writings of mine, that they are not smoothed with rhetorical charm but gravelled with rough barbarisms, do you who are set above me with a so teacher's authority (6) receive them with the kindness that befits a friend. For I am neither eager for praise as a historian nor fearful of the sting of censure as a liar, since concerning the course of early times I have added nothing new or unknown but in all things followed the assertions of my seniors. On the other hand, if I came upon something noteworthy that occurred in our own day I have included it, for I have observed that the illustrious acts of many men, along with the men themselves, daily escape the memory of our contemporaries because there are no writers to record them.
Here begins the first book of the History of Norway (7)
Norway, then, received its name from a certain king called Nórr (8). And Norway is a very vast country (9), though for the most part uninhabitable because of the great number of mountains and forests and frozen tracts. It starts in the east from…, a great river (10), but turns westwards and so is by a curving stretch bends its way towards the north. It is a land with many inlets and innumerable promontories and through its length contains three habitable regions. The first is and largest is the seaboard region. The second is the interior, also called the mountainous, region. The third is the forest region, lived in by Lapps (11) but not cultivated. Bounded by the stream of ocean to the west and north, it has Denmark and the Baltic Sea to the south, and Sweden, Gautland, Angrmannaland and Jamtaland (12) to the east. Thanks be to God, the populations of these countries are now Christian, but northward and spreading from the east across Norway are many peoples devoted to paganism: Kirjalians, Kvænir, Horn-Lapps (13) and the people of the two Bjarmalands (14). Of what peoples live beyond these we have no certain knowledge. However, when certain shipmen were trying to return to Norway from Iceland, they were driven by contrary tempests into the wintry region and at last made land between the Greenlanders and the Bjarmians (15) where, so they claimed, they found men of prodigious size and a country of maidens (these are said to conceive children by a drink of water) (16). Greenland (17) is cut off from these by icy crags. This country, which was discovered, settled and confirmed in the universal faith by Icelanders (18), is the western boundary of Europe, almost touching the African islands where the waters of ocean flood in. Beyond the Greenlanders some manikins have been found by hunters, who call them Skrælings (19). Weapon-wounds inflicted on them from which they will survive grow white without bleeding, but if they are mortal the blood hardly ceases flowing. But they lack iron completely: they use whales' teeth for missiles, sharp stones for knives.
Thus far we have made known Norway's situation and surroundings. Now let us also describe its threefold inhabited regions.
The three inhabited parts of Norway
The seaboard region can be called Decapolis (20), for it is famous for ten townships. It comprises four provinces (21) containing twenty-two districts (22). The first province is called the Vík, is beginning at the border of Denmark and extending to the place known as Rýgjarbit; it contains four districts. The second is the Gula province, going as far as the island called Miðja and containing six districts. In the northernmost of these, with the name Mœrr, there is a farm of a marvel lous nature, for every felled tree and cut branch turns to stone if they lie one year on the ground there. The third province is called Þrándheimr, a bay with a very narrow entrance, having eight districts in the capacious pouches of its shores and three more outside it, making eleven in all. The fourth is Hálogaland, whose inhabitants often live together with the Lapps and have frequent commerce with them. This province bounds Norway to the north, where the place Vegistafr marks the divide between it and Bjarma land. The deepest stretch of northern sea is found there, with a Charybdis and Scylla (23) and whirlpools from which there is no escape (24); and there are frozen headlands which send headlong into the sea immense icebergs, which are increased in bulk by the water spewed on them by the flooding waves and solidified by the frost of winter. Traders making for Greenland often and unwillingly must set their course among them and so run the risk of shipwreck. There are also great whales of diverse kind there, shattering the strongest ships and swallowing down the sailors they overwhelm. One- eyed horse-whales with spreading manes are found there, most ferocious beasts ploughing the depths of the sea. The pistrix is among them and the hafstrambr (25), a monster of great size but without tail or head, looking like a tree-trunk as it leaps up and down and portending perils to mariners is when it appears. The hafgufa and the hafrkitti (26) occur there, the biggest of all sea-monsters, and countless more of this sort.
Leaving the seaboard, let us move to the mountainous region.
The mountainous parts of Norway
The interior region goes from the border of Gautland and extends to Þrándheimr, comprising four provinces and twelve districts. The first of these provinces consists of the people of Raumaríki and Hringaríki in their sequent districts. The second comprises Þelamork and the settlements beyond it. The third is Heiðmork with the Alv valleys. And the fourth takes in Guðbrandsdalar with the people of Lóar and other adjacent districts. It ends with the great Dofrafjall. There are in addition numerous inhabited parts between the sea board and mountainous regions, Valdres and Haddingjadalr so and others, which are subject to the Gulaþing laws. In the mountainous region there is a river, red with golden sands, which flows out of the great lake Mjors and reaches the sea in the Vík. Saxons came there once upon a time and they realised the presence of gold from what they saw on the hooves of cattle swimming across that river. They secretly smelted the gold and carried it away in boundless quan tity. And close to the township of Oslo there is a great wealth of silver, but floods of water now make it inaccessible to men and it lies hidden under cliffs of rock (27).
Now that we have traversed the mountainous region, let us enter and explore the forests of the Lapps.
Bordering the length of Norway is a vast wasteland, sepa rating it from the pagan peoples. This waste is lived in by Lapps and by the wild animals whose flesh they eat half raw and whose skins they wear (28). They are indeed most skilful hunters, solitary rovers and nomadic. For homes they use huts of hide which they carry about on their shoulders as they move with their wives and children, travelling faster than a bird over snow-fields and mountain slopes by means of smooth wooden slats attached under their feet (a device they call ondros (29)) and drawn by reindeer. For where they lodge is uncertain since at any given time it is the supply of game which decides their hunting-grounds. There is no limit to the number of wild animals there: bears, wolves, lynxes, foxes, sables, otters, badgers and beavers (30). This last beast, the beaver, is marvellously wary. Since it is very often chased by hunters' hounds, it digs itself three underground dens by a stream. When the water rises, it keeps to the middle or top one, but when the water is low and dogs are snap ping, they leave a slave-beaver (31) in the way of the hounds at the entrance, and the master-beaver, as if homeward bound, makes his way with mate and cubs to the lowest den, where he has freer access to the stream, for they put more trust in travel by water than by land. When winter provisions are to be gathered in, they work all the harder, using their teeth to cut down huge elms (whose bark is the food they prefer) and load them on their slave, who lies on his back holding a bar of wood in his front paws. They use him as a cart in this way and bring in a great quantity, helping each other to drag the load-bearer by gripping the bar with their teeth. For there is a certain servile class of beaver which fetches a very small price and on account of frequent use for work is not furry but smooth-skinned. Among the Lapps are also a great many squirrels and ermines, and every year the Lapps pay the skins of all these animals as large tribute to the kings of Norway, whose subjects they are.
Their intolerable ungodliness will hardly seem credible nor how much devilish superstition they exercise in the art of magic (32). For some of them are revered as soothsayers by the foolish multitude because whenever asked they can employ an unclean spirit, which they call a gandus (33), and make many predictions for many people which later come to pass. By marvellous means they can also draw to them selves objects of desire from distant parts and although far off themselves miraculously bring hidden treasures to light.
Once when some Christians were among the Lapps on a trading trip, they were sitting at table when their hostess suddenly collapsed and died. The Christians were sorely grieved but the Lapps, who were not at all sorrowful, told them that she was not dead but had been snatched away by the gandi of rivals and that they themselves would soon retrieve her. Then a wizard spread out a cloth under (34) which he made himself ready for unholy magic incantations and with hands extended lifted up a small vessel like a sieve, which was covered with images of whales and reindeer with harness and little skis, even a little boat with oars (35). The devilish gandus would use these means of transport over heights of snow, across slopes of mountains and through depths of lakes. After dancing there for a very long time to endow this equipment with magic power, he at last fell to the ground, as black as an Ethiopian (36) and foaming at the mouth like a madman, then his belly burst and finally with a great cry he gave up the ghost (37). Then they consulted another man, one highly skilled in the magic art, as to what should be done about the two of them. He went through the same motions but with a different outcome, for the hostess rose up unharmed. And he told them that the dead wizard had perished in the following way: his gandus, in the shape of a whale (38), was rushing at speed through a certain lake when by evil chance it met an enemy gandus (39) in the shape of sharp ened stakes, and these stakes, hidden in the depths of that same lake, pierced its belly, as was evident from the dead wizard in the house (40).
On another occasion, when Lapps side by side with Christ ians were trying to hook the squamous flock, the Lapps had noticed creels almost full of fish in the dwellings of the Christians, and these they drew from the water's depth is and almost filled their boat with fish.
I have selected these piecemeal from among the innu merable deceptions of the Lapps and offered them as illus trations of such a godless group for the benefit of people who live at a greater distance from them (41).
Having made the circuit of Norway's regions, let us turn to the tributary islands. As for the islands which lie off the coast of Norway itself, they are such a multitude that no one can count them.
The tributary islands
There are, then, certain islands lying off the coast of the Gula province which are called the Sólund islands by the inhabitants, from which the sea between Norway and Scot land (42) is named the Sólund Sea. In this sea are the Orkney islands, more than thirty in number (43), deriving their name from a certain earl named Orkan (44). These islands have been inhabited by various peoples (45) and are now divided into two realms: the southern isles, enhanced by the rule of petty kings, and the northern isles, graced by the rule of earls (46). Each of them pays no small tribute to the kings of Norway (47).
The Orkney islands
These islands were first inhabited by the Picts (48) and the Papar. The Picts, who were only a little bigger than pygmies, worked great marvels in city-building each evening and morning, but at noontide they were utterly bereft of their strength and hid for fear in little subterranean dwellings. At that time moreover the islands were not called the Orkneys but Pictland, and this is why still to this day the sea dividing the islands from Scotland is called the Pictland Firth (49) by the local people. The greatest of all whirlpools is to be found there, which engulfs the strongest ships, sucking them in at ebb tide and spewing out their fragments with a belch at flood tide (50). We do not know at all where these people came from. On the other hand, the Papar got their name from the albs they wore, like clerics, for all clergy are called papœ in the German tongue (51). There is moreover an island still today called Papey after them (52). It is seen, however, from the character and script of the books they left behind them that they were Africans who practised Judaism (53). When Háraldr hárfagri ruled in Norway some vikings of the kin of a very mighty prince, Rognvaldr (54), crossed the Sólund Sea with a large fleet, drove the Papar from their long-established homes, destroyed them utterly and subdued the islands under their own rule. With winter bases thus provided, they sallied forth all the so more securely in summer and imposed their harsh sway now on the English, now on the Scots, and sometimes on the Irish, so that Northumbria in England, Caithness in Scotland, Dublin and other coastal towns in Ireland were brought under their rule. In this company was a certain Hrólfr, called Gongu-Hrólfr (55) by his comrades because he always travelled on foot, his immense size making it impossible for him to ride. With a few men and by means of a marvellous stratagem he took Rouen (56), a city in Normandy. He came into a river with fifteen ships, where each crew member dug his part of a trench which was then covered by thin turves, simulating the appearance of firm ground. They then arrayed themselves on the landward side of the trenched ground and advanced prepared for battle. When the townsmen saw this, they met the enemy in head-on attack, but these feigned flight as if racing back to their ships. The mounted men, pursuing them faster than the rest, all fell in heaps into the hidden trenches, their armoured horses with them, where the Norwegians slaughtered them with deadly hand. So, with the flight of the townsmen, they freely entered the city and along with it gained the whole region, which has taken its name of Normandy from them.
Having obtained rule over the realm, this same Hrólfr married the widow of the dead count (57), by whom he had William, called Longspear, the father of Richard, who also had a son with the same name as himself. The younger Richard was the father of William the Bastard (58), who conquered the English. He was the father of William Rufus and his brother Henry, who in the prophecies of Merlin is styled the Lion of Justice (59). When established as count of Normandy Hrólfr invaded the Frisians with a hostile force and won the victory, but soon afterwards he was treacherously killed in Holland by his stepson (60).
Meanwhile his comrades confirmed their dominion in the Orkney islands, which are indeed to this day still under the rule of their descendants, though subject to the kings of Norway by due payment of tribute (61).
The Faroe islands
In the streams of ocean there are also "islands of sheep", eighteen in number (62), which the inhabitants call Færeyjar in their native tongue, for fat flocks abound in the ownership of the farmers there, some having sheep by the thousand. These islanders also pay tribute to our kings (63) at fixed times.
Westwards from there is the big island which the Italians called Ultima Thule (64). It is now inhabited by a multitude of colonists but it was once a vast empty land and unknown to men (65) until the time of Haraidr hárfagri. Then Ingólfr and Hjorleifr, Norwegians (66) who were fleeing their homeland on account of killings, took ship with their wives and children and, seeking their way through the combing waves, finally found the island which had first been discovered by Garðarr and subsequently by Anbi (67). In about fifty years (68) it was in habited all over in the same way as it is today. The Norwe gians call this island Iceland, "the land of ice" (69), for the island contains countless mountains covered with uninterrupted sheets of ice and by their sheen mariners at sea and far from land customarily set their course for the haven best suited to them. Among them is Mount Hekla which, quak ing all over like Mount Etna (70), is shaken by a terrible disturbance of the ground and sends out bursts of sulphurous flames. Small hot springs similarly boil up at various sites which, roofed over and tempered by the introduction of cold water, provide the local people with bath-like washing places. There are some other wells on the island in which wool or cloth steeped overnight turns to stone. Another spring there, gushing in the sandy coils of a river, has the taste and colour of beer; a mere mouthful is said to restore health.
Nor do I think it proper to pass over what is reported to have occurred in our own time (71): for over a stretch of three miles the whole ocean began to surge like narrow waters and boil like a cauldron, while out of the deep the gaping earth sent forth fire-spewing vapours and a great moun tain emerging from the waves. This will be thought an evil omen by many people, auguring that when the elements spontaneously disturb the regular tides and movements of nature it either portends marvels on earth or prefigures the end of the world. For in the book Solinus wrote on the wonders of the world (72), he said that there is a very deep abyss in the earth itself (which is why it is written, "the fountains of the great deep were broken up" (73)) and alongside it are open-mouthed caverns containing winds which are said to be brought forth by the breathing of the water, and these are the breath of gales. Indeed, by their breathing these winds draw to them the waters of the sea through hidden passages in the earth; they shut them up in the vaults of the abyss, and then by the same force drive them out again, causing sea-surges, spates and the whirling of waterspouts. Earthquakes (74) also occur and various discharges of vapour and conflagration, for when the winds' breath, held in the cheeks of earth, presses to burst out, it shakes the foundation of the world with a dreadful roaring and forces it to tremble. So when the winds' breath contends with fire in the earth's interior, then even in mid-ocean the depths are fissured and smoky exhalations and sulphurous flames are seen to emerge. Similarly, what is a tremor in the ground is believed to correspond to thunder in the clouds, a rift here to lightning there. Although we do not clearly understand these marvels in the world, or oth ers greater still, they are not therefore to be taken as omens or reckoned portents foreboding the deluge. On the con trary, since in some mysterious manner they gloriously serve him who knows all things unknown, the immutable Crea tor of mutable things, they comply with nature in every way. Since, truly, the spark of our feeble intellect, surrounded by the obscurity of corporeal darkness, is found quite incapable of investigating the deepest causes, let us call for enlightenment on him who with the spirit of understanding brings to light the things hidden in darkness (75).
So far we have described the tributary islands one by one. Let us now, however, turn our pen to an account of the kings who have ruled Norway and from whom they descend.
The origin of the kings (76)
The ancient line of the kings of Norway had its beginning in Sweden, from where Þrándheimr, the principal region of Norway (77), was also settled. So King Ingvi (78), whom many assert to have been the first to rule the kingdom of Sweden, fathered Njorðr (79), who fathered Freyr – both these were worshipped as gods by their posterity through many centuries. Freyr fathered Fjolnir (80), who was drowned in a vat of mead and whose son, Svegðir, chased a dwarf into a rock and is said never to have returned, which can certainly be counted a fable. He fathered Vanlandi, who was smothered by a demon in his sleep and died. This sort of demon is called mara in Norwegian. Vanlandi fathered Vísburr, who with all his retinue was burned alive by his sons so that they might all the sooner inherit the kingdom. His son, Dómaldi, was hanged by the Swedes as a sacrifice to the goddess Ceres (81) to ensure the fertility of the crops (82). He fathered Dómarr who died of sickness in Sweden and whose son, Dyggvi, also ended his life in that country. His son Dagr succeeded him in the reign; Danes killed him in a general battle at a ford called Skjótansvað or Vápnavað when he was seeking to avenge a sparrow's wrongs. He so fathered Alrekr who was beaten to death with a bridle by his brother, Eiríkr. Alrekr was the father of Hogni (83), whose wife killed him with her own hands, hanging him from a tree by a golden chain at the place Agnaflt, which is now called Stockholm (84). His son, Ingjaldr (85), was killed in Sweden by his own brother because of the taunting of the latter's wife; her name was Bera (which is ursa in Latin (86)). After him came his son, Jorundr (87), who met a miserable end when he fought against the Danes and was hanged by them on the sea-inlet in Denmark which the natives call Limafjorðr. He was the father of Aun (88) who, it is told, in the drawn-out infirmity of old age took no solid food for nine years before his death but only sucked milk from a horn like an infant. Aun fathered Egill, nicknamed Vendilkráki (89), who was deprived of his kingdom by his own slave, named Tunni. The slave raised civil strife against his master in eight battles and won the victory in all of them; he fell in the ninth, vanquished at last, but the king himself was soon afterwards gored to death by a ferocious bull. He was succeeded in is the realm by his son Óttarr who was killed by a namesake, Óttarr, earl of the Danes, and Fasti, his brother, in Vendill, one of the provinces of Denmark. His son Aðils, or Aðísl (90), fleeing from idolatrous sacrifice, fell from his horse in front of the temple of Diana (91) and died. He was father of Eysteinn, whom the Gautar (92) forced into a house and burnt alive with his men. His son Yngvarr, nicknamed "the White", was killed in a campaign on an island in the Baltic Sea which is called Eysysla by the natives. This Yngvarr fathered Braut-Onundr who was killed by his brother, Sigvarðr (93), at Himinheiðr, whose name means "field of heaven". In succession to him his son Ingjaldr (94) was elevated to the kingship. He had immoderate fear of a King Ívarr, called víðfaðmi (95), who terrified many people at the time, so with all his retinue he shut himself up in his feasting-hall and set it on fire. His son Óláfr, with the nickname "Tree-feller" (96), ruled the kingdom long and peacefully and died full of days in Sweden.
Óláfr was the father of Hálfdan, with the nickname "White-leg" (97), whom the Norwegians of the mountainous region accepted as king when he came from Sweden. He gave up the ghost at an advanced age in the district of Þotn. When his son Eysteinn, nicknamed "Fart" (98), was sailing in narrow waters between two islands with many ships in company, he was knocked off the stern-deck by a spar from another vessel and disappeared, sunk beneath the waves. He was succeeded by his son Hálfdan who was lavish of gold and most tenaciously sparing of food (99), for he presented his retainers with gold and tortured them with hunger. He was the father of Guðrøðr the Hunter-king (100) who was betrayed by his own wife, for a young man whom she bribed pierced his side with a spear. His son Hálfdan, nicknamed "the Black" (101), likewise held the kingdom in the mountainous region after his father. On his way from a feast, when he was travelling with wagons and many mounted men across the ice of a lake called Rond, he was carelessly driven into a break in the frozen surface, where herdsmen customarily watered their beasts, and perished under the ice (102).
His son who succeeded him, Háraldr hárfagri (103), so called because of his comely head of hair, was the first to hold sway over the whole seaboard region; indeed, the interior region, hitherto ruled by petty kings, was likewise as good as under his rule. Many and marvellous are the things told of him, which it would take too long to rehearse in sequence at this point. He ruled for seventy-three years (104) and had sixteen sons (105). The first-born was Eiríkr, nicknamed blóðøx (106), that is "bloody axe". The second was Hákon, whom Æthelstan, king of the English, adopted as a son. The third Óláfr. The fourth Bjorn, which means "bear". The fifth Sigvarðr, nicknamed "the Giant". The sixth Gunnrøðr. The seventh Guðrøðr. The eighth Hálfdan High-leg. The ninth Rognvaldr réttilbeini (107), who was fostered by a sorceress in the district of Haðaland and was active in the same magic art as his foster-mother. The tenth was Eysteinn. The eleventh Jorundr. The twelfth Sigtryggr. The thirteenth Yngvarr. The fourteenth Tryggvi. The fifteenth Hringr. The sixteenth Hrólfr.
The oldest of these, Eiríkr Bloodaxe, acquired the kingdom after his father and took to wife a vicious and most iniquitous woman from Denmark named Gunnhildr, the daughter of the notably foolish Gormr, king of the Danes (108), and of the notably sagacious woman, Þyri. With Gunnhildr he had six sons (109), namely Háraldr, with the nickname "Greypelt", second Gamli, third Sigvarðr Gleam, fourth Gunnrøðr, fifth Erlingr, sixth Gormr. After ruling for a year, and pleasing no one on account of the excessive arrogance of his wife, Eiríkr was deprived of the kingdom by his brother Hákon, foster-son of Æthelstan, king of England, with the agreement of the chief men of Norway, and Eiríkr withdrew as a fugitive to England. There he was well received by his brother's foster-father (110) and laved in the fount of baptism; he was made earl over all Northumbria and proved most acceptable to all until his outrageous wife, Gunnhildr, is arrived. The Northumbrians would not suffer her pestilential fury and forthwith threw off their intolerable yoke. Eiríkr, however, died when he was attacked while on a foray in Spain (111), and Gunnhildr returned with her sons to her brother Háraldr, king of the Danes.
Hákon was accepted as king by the seaboard peoples of Norway. This man, most dutifully reared by a most Christian king in England, nevertheless went so far astray that by a most wretched exchange he preferred an ephemeral realm to the eternal kingdom. In his anxiety to retain his sovereign rank he became, alas, an apostate, subject in servitude to idols, serving gods, not God. But although eternally deprived of perdurable greatness because of blind ambition for fleeting majesty, he nevertheless observed his nation's laws and the decisions of the people more faithfully than all the kings who lived in the heathen age (112). Because of this he was indeed dear to the nobility and an object of devotion to the commoners. He defended his homeland with the utmost vigour for twenty-seven years. In the last years of his life he was engaged in almost constant warfare against his nephews, the sons of his brother and Gunnhildr, their mother. Two of their battles (113) were especially renowned. One was at the place called Rastarkálfr on the island of Fræði in the district of Norð-Mœrr, where Gamli, son of Gunnhildr, and a great number of their host were forced off a promontory into the sea. The other great battle they fought was in the Gula province at the settlement called Fitjar, an encounter in which many fell on both sides. Two sons of Gunnhildr, Gormr and Erlingr, fell there, while their other brothers fled. But in their retreat a lad in their company threw a spear aimed at the battle-line of the enemy which gave King Hákon himself a lethal wound in his upper arm on the right side. It will be clearly apparent to all and sun-is dry that it was divine vengeance that brought about this event in such a way: having dared to deny the Christ Child, he was now overcome by a mere boy after his enemies were defeated. He decided to return to his estate of Alreksstaðir but he died on the way in the very haven where he had been born, and as a result this place has ever since been called Hákonarhella, that is "Hákon's stone".
After these events the whole seaboard region was held for fourteen years (114) by Gunnhildr and her sons, Háraldr, Sigvarðr and Gunnrøðr. Under their rule Norway was most heavily oppressed by famine and all sorts of evils through the exceptional wickedness of its rulers. But Sigvarðr and many other men were killed at an assembly by the people of Vors, led by Vémundr volubrjótr (115). Gunnrøðr, however, was killed on the Alreksstaðir estate (the famous town of Bergen is now situated nearby) by a certain Þorkell, nicknamed klyppr (116), whose wife he had ravished against her will. He thrust him through with a sword, and one of his retainers, Erlingr the Old by name, manfully avenged him. But … (117).
Of the great number of Háraldr hárfagri's sons two, that is Eiríkr and Hákon, are said to have ruled the seaboard peoples in succession to their father; the others had rule in the mountainous region. Some indeed ended their lives before their time to rule arrived, for Hálfdan High-leg was killed by the Orkney islanders (118), while Rognvaldr réttilbeini, infamous for the disgrace customarily attached to degrading practices, is said to have been thrown into a whirlpool in Haðaland on his father's orders (119). But their brothers left to posterity an altogether worthy lineage, for from their line sprang those two health-bringing namesakes, Óláfr and Óláfr (120), who, like bright lights of heaven, illumined their homeland with the radiance of holy faith. Bjorn, son of Háraldr hárfagri, was nurtured in Grenland (121), where he is also said to have ruled. He fathered Guðrøðr who was the father of Háraldr the Grenlander, who was brought up and had rule in Grenland. He made a very choice match with Ásta, daughter of Guðbrandr kúla (122), and she bore him Óláfr, perpetual king of Norway (123). Sigvarðr Sow (124), king in the mountainous region, took Ásta in marriage after the death of her husband. Sigvarðr risi (that is, "the Giant" (125)), son of Háraldr hárfagri, was the father of Hálfdan who was the father of Sigvarðr Sow. By Ásta he had Háraldr, a man of great sagacity and deep experience in the art of war. The fabric of the genealogy of the kings of Norway, stretching down to this day, descends from him, as it were by a thread. Óláfr (126), son of Háraldr hárfagri, was the father of Tryggvi. Tryggvi, nurtured in Raumariki, where he is said to have first had rule, married Ástriðr, a lovely maiden from the mountainous region. Later, when he had subjugated the Vík, he was cunningly led astray and treacherously killed by his cousins, namely the sons of Eiríkr, in a small island (127) in Ranríki on an occasion when they were supposed to confirm a pact of peace betwen them. That place is still called Tryggvareyrr, that is "Tryggvi's cairn". Many people maintain that Tryggvi's death came about in this different way: when the local people, that is the men of Ranríki, had no stomach to tolerate the harshness of his rule, an assembly was summoned, as if for the public weal, at which they had the king deceitfully killed by Saxi, Skorri and Skreyja (128), youths bribed with money for the purpose. But whether it was done by the first lot or the second, the name of the site on that island demonstrates that he was done to death there. Meanwhile Ástriðr herself, now pregnant, went with three ships and fitting company to the Orkney islands (129); there she was most loyally given refuge and there the happy mother-to-be gave birth to the future king, whom she named Óláfr, through whom Norway finally received the most salutary admonitions of Christ.
On the death of the sons of Gunnhildr, a certain Hákon (nicknamed "the Bad" on account of the unrestrained cruelty of his nature), who had the title of earl, usurped sovereignty over all Norway after having expelled all the petty kings and done away with those who were tributary to the Swedes. And he preferred to be called "earl" like his forebears rather than "king", for through his father Sigvarðr and his mother Bergljót, daughter of Þorir the Silent, he was descended from the line of the earls of Mœrr and Hálogaland. Mighty in war but stubbornly devoted to idolatry, he increased his dominion far and wide, subduing numerous neighbouring regions. But when he learnt of the fatherless boy born in Orkney, he straightway laid crafty plans against the lad who would, he suspected, deprive him of the kingdom (130). When his mother learnt of the earl's malevolent plots, then in order to remove the boy from her to safety she gave him, by God's provident mercy (so I believe), although she loved him dearly as her only son, to a certain Þórólfr Louse-beard to foster and carry to Sweden. Þórólfr took the child as his to foster with every care and carrying him in his bosom passed through Þrándheimr in the greatest peril. After that he got to Sweden, where he paused for a time, then made for Russia but landed in Estonia. In the end while sailing off Eysysla they were intercepted by pirates and some of them taken prisoner, some killed. Among them the boy's foster-father was also executed, while the boy Óláfr himself was sold as a slave to Estonians. Óláfr was redeemed from there by a kinsman (131) of his who by chance was sent there at that time by the king of Russia with the task of collecting taxes. For some years Óláfr lived privately with him in Russia. When he was about twelve years old he manfully avenged his foster-father in the middle of the market-place of Holmgarðr, and word of this unheard-of act of vengeance by a lad barely twelve years of age soon reached the king. Because of it he was presented to the king, by whom he was finally adopted as a son (132). Practising piracy as a youth (133), traversing the Baltic shores and striking terror into all the peoples of those parts, this glorious bandit was in his ignorance steered away from God. His fleet was swelled by Norwegians and Danes, Gautar and Slavs, who joined him in making their winter quarters in Jómsborg (134), the strongest of the Slav townships. From here he made for Frisia, after that entered Flanders, and from there went to England, and after ravaging these lands he worked wonders in Scotland and spared no one in Ireland. But indeed the n Creator, taking care of his created, in the bowels of his mercy miraculously visited this tyrant so free and fierce, and by his visitation illumined him, so that those whom he had hitherto cloaked in the shadow of death, He might now clothe in the robe of eternal radiance. For when this Óláfr had inflicted his insensate rage on the peoples named he came upon a hermit serving God on a small island off Britain (135). Óláfr put him to the test by changing clothes with his shield-bearer, but he at once recognised this servant of the king and admonished him to serve his lord faithfully. At that the princely leader of pirates made haste to visit the hermit, who he now had no doubt was a prophet of God, and he heard from him many predictions which he soon found by experience to be true.
"You will be," he said, "an illustrious king, most devout in the Christian faith and most beneficial to your people, for through you innumerable people will become truly Christian. And if the things I foretell are true, take this as a sign: the day after tomorrow, when you leave your ships, you will see cattle on the shore and you will realise that there is deceit behind it, for you will be ambushed by enemies. But while you are suffering losses among your men, you yourself will be wounded almost to death and you will be carried barely alive on a shield to your ships. After a week you will be healed with heaven's help and on your return you will be laved in the fount of life."
The outcome verified all these things, just as he foretold them.
When the blessed Óláfr (136), through the health-giving change effected by the right hand of the Most High (137), had received the grace of baptism, and the greater part of his host with him, he crossed the sea to Norway, having with him Bishop Johannes (138) and the priest Þangbrandr (139) whom he sent to preach to the Icelanders. He also had with him many other ministers of God, all of whom began to preach Christ with one mind and one mouth (140) to the heathens. The Norwegians, converted to the faith by the measureless mercy of the great God, made Óláfr their king and expelled Earl Hákon from the realm after he had been ruling for thirty-three years. A slave of his by the name of Karkr killed him despicably by night (141) in Gaulardalr, one of the districts of Þrándheimr, and even brought his severed head to the king, hoping to win great rewards. But what befell him was just the reverse of that, for he was publicly condemned as a most villainous murderer and hanged as a criminal. But the sons of Earl Hákon, Sveinn and Eiríkr, fled to Denmark and were peacefully received by King Sveinn.
Meanwhile Óláfr reconciled all his countrymen in the seaboard region to the King of Kings, and if there were those whom the bishop could not subdue to the reign of Christ by the sword of the spirit, the king used material means on noble and commoner, suckling child with the man in years. Thus it came about that within five years he rendered to Christ all the peoples of the tributary islands, the Shetlanders, the Orcadians, the Faroese and the Icelanders (142), shining in faith, rejoicing in hope, ardent in charity (143). As a result, the chariot of God, multiplied by ten thousand, and the waggon of Christ, filled full of his salvation freely offered, were drawn by this wonder-working king, as if by the strongest horse, to the farthest bounds of the world and set on course to return to the homeland of Paradise.
Óláfr married a lady from Denmark, sister of King Sveinn, Þyri by name, who had in fact been previously betrothed against her will to the duke of Slavland (144). But because King Sveinn determined to keep fast hold on Sjáland, which he had given in dowry to his sister, King Óláfr went to war against the Danes, and he ordered that a great fleet from Þrándheimr and Gulaþing should be gathered by the leading men; and he himself summoned the host of the eastern region and waited for the others on the border between Denmark and Norway. So, when some of the Gulabing men arrived, the king set off with no great numbers on the planned expedition, hoping that the rest of the force would follow him. But they were unwilling to cross their country's frontier, especially when their leader had departed, and they went back to their homes. When the king realised that they had cheated him, he decided to go to the Slavs and seek reinforcements from the men who had been his most loyal comrades in piracy. But while sailing past Sjáland (145), he was cut off by enemies in ambush like a sheep by wolves. The fact was that, when King Sveinn heard that Óláfr would be coming with an armed force, he summoned his stepson, Óláfr king of the Swedes, and Eiríkr, the son of Earl Hákon, and these three against one then fought their sea-battle in this way. First Sveinn attacked Óláfr with thirty ships while he fought back with only eleven, but the royal ship was furnished with eighty bench-divisions. This vessel, which had the image of a serpent's head on prow and stern, was called the Long Serpent. It had room for one hundred and sixty oarsmen if all the half-bench spaces together were occupied for rowing, and in the battle now spoken of all of them are said to have been in coats of mail. There were also forty clerics in the thirty half-bench spaces nearest the stern; not brought up to war, they worked harder at praying than fighting. After a long struggle each one of Sveinn's ships had been cleared of men and he returned with great disgrace to his allies. Then his stepson Óláfr, with the same number of ships, attacked his namesake and suffered worse loss than Sveinn, his predecessor, and retired with great dishonour. Eiríkr, last in sequence but first in victory, made a most fierce attack on the enemy; not unmindful of the death of his father and his own flight, he dealt injuries to pay for those injuries. But Óláfr, as if starting all over again in resisting with all his might the strong onslaught of those bold rebels, strove to hurl stones, spears and other missiles at their adversaries. Finally, with no strength left and their ships boarded by their enemies with no one to lift a hand against them, all those still quickened by the warmth of life were devoured by the sword's mouth, except the king himself who was last seen by them standing on the lofty stern-deck. But when the battle was over they found him neither alive nor dead, and because of this some say that, being in armour, he sank under the waves. There are others who claim to have seen him long afterwards in a certain monastery. But how he may have been brought through the perils of the sea to the firm ground of the shore – by his own swimming or by a skiff's conveyance or by spirits angelic and attendant – or whether he drowned there is, I believe, unknown to all our contemporaries. Therefore let us more honestly leave the subject by omitting what is indefinite rather than offering false opinion on an uncertain fact (146). But certainly Óláfr's wife bore the death of her husband with excessive tribulation and died of grief.
After these events rule over all Norway was conceded by Sveinn Forkbeard to the sons of Earl Hákon. They presided over the realm as earls for fourteen years and almost uprooted God's holy church which the blessed Óláfr had planted and Johannes watered (147).
In those times Óláfr, son of Háraldr the Grenlander, was held in high esteem in Russia. Because he was dispossessed of his native land, he had to turn to piracy. He usually wintered in Eapolis (148), which we call Hólmgarðr, attended by no small fleet. In summer he constantly harassed all the peoples round the Baltic Sea (149) with raiding and ravaging. He utterly laid waste the large and populous island of Eysysla, and so harried two others equal to it in size and population, namely Gotland and Eyland, that their inhabitants paid enormous sums in tribute throughout the time he stayed in Russia. In the coun try of the Kurlanders he inflicted no small slaughter on them, crowned with most glorious success. After long displaying the fierceness of a tyrant, this splendid leader made ready to return to his homeland, but when he arrived in Denmark, he was invited by Sveinn, king of the Danes, to cross the sea with him to England (150); Knútr accompanied his father Sveinn. They won the victory in every battle through the military shrewdness of that most blessed tyrant (151), Óláfr. At last Æthelred (152) was driven out and Sveinn held the whole island but only briefly, for three months later he was removed from the light of this world. When Knútr returned to his homeland, he was made king by the Danes in place of his father. Óláfr meanwhile waged war against the Britons and reached even regions of Spain; leaving there the clearest tokens of his triumph, he returned to Denmark and was received with high honour by his comrade, now king of the Danes. They made a pact of brotherhood by adoption. But because Knútr had fled ingloriously from England on the death of his father, he now intended to return with an enormous army. He strongly urged his comrade Óláfr and his step-brother of the same name to go with him, promising them half if it proved possible for him to win the whole island with their support. Consequently they eagerly started off together (153) and with bil lowing sails and fair winds in three days reached the port of Yarmouth. From there they moved on to attack London, where by chance King Edmund was staying at the time (154), now deprived of his father Æthelred. When the king learnt of the arrival of the enemy, he summoned the townsmen and ordered them to fortify the bridge over the River Thames so that his foe should not have free entry. They took ac tion without delay to fulfil his command, and he gathered a host from the neighbouring districts. Meanwhile the Danes, approaching the bridge with huge clamour, began all with one intent to assault their fortifications, while those on the other side strove with all their might to defend themselves and their property. When Knútr had thus contended all day in fruitless effort and suffered the sore loss of many of his men, our Óláfr put himself and his men into great danger for the sake of victory. With eleven ships he rowed hard against the bridge defences, his troops covered by protective shields, and risking their lives to make mock of the contrivan ces of the defenders, they most audaciously penetrated them. When the supremely victorious Óláfr had made his entry into the city, he was accorded splendid acclamations of praise by the whole host, and the renown of the triumph won was attributed all to him. After London was taken they fought hard against King Edmund five times in nine months. At last when both sides were exhausted, the kings, Edmund and Knútr, made a pact by which as long as both lived they should rule the island on equal terms, but the one who outlived the other should have it all. Then when Edmund had reigned for a single month he was deprived of the light of this world and Knútr took possession of the whole kingdom. He married the mother of his late co-regent, named Ælfgifu (155), who as … Sveinn and Knútr, nicknamed "the Hard" (152), his two sons. The agreement he had most firmly made with his supporters he set entirely at nought, allowing both his brother and his comrade to depart disappointed of all reward for their labours. Before leaving, Óláfr of Norway was then betrothed to the sister of Óláfr of Sweden, Margaret (157) by name, whom he had long esteemed highly with the favour of deep affection becomingly recip rocated. But this came to nothing, for she was forced by her brother to marry King Jaroslav of Russia against her will. This act would have fomented very great hatred and discord among those three illustrious princes had not Margaret's exceedingly wise sister, following the counsel of her foster-father, most fittingly re-knit the severed ties of the previous betrothal: for Óláfr made her his wife and by her had… (158).
Óláfr, returning from England with two big ships of burden, crossed the sea to his native Norway. Four bishops (159) were with him, namely Grímkell, Bernard, Ruðólfr and Sigfrid.
The end (160)