ОБЗОР САГ О НОРВЕЖСКИХ КОНУНГАХ
I. ...he was then taken as sole king. He was then called Haraldr lúfa (1), for he was not then fine-haired, but later his name changed and he was called Haraldr hárfagri, because he was the handsomest of men and finest-haired.
Here it is fitting to elucidate a problem posed by Christian men as to what heathen men knew about Yule, for our Yule has its origin in the birth of Our Lord. Heathen men had a feast, held in honour of Óðinn, and Óðinn is called by many names: he is called Viðrir and he is called Hár and Þriði and Jólnir; and it is after Jólnir that Yule is named (2).
This is how Hálfdan (3) died: he was being feasted (4) in Haðaland, and leaving there in a sledge he drowned in Rönd in Rykinvík, where there was a hole in the ice for cattle; and he was taken to Steinn in Hringaríki and there buried in a mound (5).
II. Haraldr succeeded Hálfdan in the kingdom his father had had and enlarged his kingdom – he was valiant at an early age and of imposing stature – by fighting battles with neighbouring kings and defeating them all, and by the age of twenty he was the first king to gain all Norway. He fought his final battle with a king named Skeiðar-Brandr, in Hafrsvágr (6), off Jaðarr. Brandr fled to Denmark and fell in a battle in Wendland, as is told in the poem Oddmjór (7), which was composed about the kings of Norway, in this way:
1. The Scylding-king (8) drove with shield
Skeiðar-Brandr (9) from land;
the king thereafter governed,
valiant, Norway all.
It was ten winters he fought for the country, before becoming sole ruler of Norway, and he brought good order and peace to his country. Haraldr had twenty sons, and by many women (10), though only two came to be kings, Eiríkr blóðøx and Hákon góði. Eiríkr blóðøx was the eldest of his sons and Hákon the youngest, whom Æthelstan, king of England, fostered; third was Óláfr digrbeinn; fourth Björn kaupmaðr, whom some call buna; fifth Goðormr; sixth Hálfdan svarti; seventh Dagr; eighth Hringr; ninth Guðrøðr skirja; tenth Rögnvaldr; eleventh Sigtryggr; twelfth Fróði; thirteenth Hrœrekr; fourteenth Tryggvi; fifteenth Gunnrøðr; sixteenth Eysteinn; seventeenth Sigurðr hrísi; eighteenth Guðrøðr ljómi; nineteenth Hálfdan hvítbeinn, whom some called háfœta; and the twentieth Rögnvaldr reykill, whom some call Ragnarr. He was the son of a certain Lappish woman called Snjófríðr (11), the daughter of Svási, king of the Lapps, and took after his mother. He was called a sorcerer – that is to say a soothsayer – and he lived in Haðaland and practised sorcery there and was called a warlock (12).
III. On the eve of Yule (13), as Haraldr sat at table, Svási came to the door and sent word in to the king that he should come out to him. This request angered the king, and the same man bore his anger out as had borne the message in. Svási asked him nevertheless a second time and also gave him a beaver skin and said that he was that Lapp whom the king had allowed to set up his hut on the other side of the hill at Þoptyn, where the king then was. The king went out and he agreed to go to Svási's hut, egged on by some of his men, though others tried to dissuade him.
There Snjófríðr stood up, Svási's daughter, the most beautiful of women and offered the king a cup full of mead. He took it and with it her hand, and suddenly it was as if fiery heat entered into his flesh and he wished to have her that same night. But Svási said that this should not be so – except against his will – unless the king betrothed himself to her and then wedded her according to the law. And he betrothed himself to her and wedded her and loved her so witlessly that he neglected his kingdom and all that beseemed his kingly honour, and he stayed by her almost night and day while they both lived and for three years after she died. He mourned for her, dead, but the people all mourned for him, bewitched.
IV. But Þorleifr spaki came to cure him and put an end to this enchantment, and he did it wisely and with blandishments in this way: 'It is not strange, king, that you should remember so beautiful and noble a woman and honour her thus on down and velvet, as she asked you. And yet your honour is less than is fitting – and hers – for she has lain too long in the same clothes. It would be much seemlier if she were moved.' And when she was moved there issued from the body a rank and fulsome stench and foul odours of every sort. A pyre was hastily prepared and she was burnt, but before that the body blackened and there bubbled out worms and vipers, frogs and toads and multitudes of vermin. She sank thus into ash, but the king rose to wisdom and abandoned his folly; he from then on took control of his kingdom and strengthened it; he was gladdened by his subjects and they by him and the kingdom by them both, and he ruled Norway as absolute king for sixty years thereafter, after having won all of it in ten. He later died in Rogaland and was buried at Haugar, inland from Hasleyjarsund (14).
V. Eiríkr blóðøx took the kingdom after Haraldr. His brother Hákon was west in England with King Æthelstan, to whom his father, while alive, had sent him to be fostered. Eiríkr blóðøx was a handsome man, tall and very stately. His wife was Gunnhildr, daughter of Özurr lafskegg (15). Their sons were Gamli and Goðormr, Haraldr gráfeldr and Erlingr, Sigurðr slefa; there are still more named: Guðrøðr ljómi, Ragnfrøðr, Hálfdan, Eyvindr and Gormr. Eiríkr ruled Norway for five years, including the two years he was considered king while Haraldr lived and three years thereafter (16).
Gunnhildr, his wife, was of all women the most beautiful; a woman small of stature yet great of counsel. She became so wicked in her counsel, and he so easily led to acts cruel and oppressive to the people, that it was hard to bear. He had killed his brother Óláfr digrbeinn and Björn and others of his brothers. Thus he was called blóð0x, because he was a cruel and ruthless man, and mostly as a result of her counsel (17).
Then, two years after the death of Haraldr hárfagri, wise men, in secrecy, called Hákon back to Norway. He came from the west with two ships and stayed there the winter without the name of king. Hákon was the best-looking of men, tall and magnificent, and so strong that his equal could not be found. He was a full head taller than other men and his hair was like yellow silk. In chivalry and all courtesy he excelled other men. He was nearly twenty when he came to the country.
His following grew so quickly that Eiríkr could not stand against him, and he and his wife fled, going first to Denmark (18). Hákon ruled thereafter alone as king of Norway, and Norway so prospered under his rule that none could remember when it had been better – except that there was then no Christianity. Hákon was a Christian, but his wife was heathen (19), and he departed much from Christian ways for her sake and in order to please the people, who stood against Christianity, although he kept the holiness of Sunday and the Friday fast.
Hákon went south to Denmark with two ships and fought there, defeating ten ships with his two. On this voyage he won Sjóland, Skáney and Vestra-Gautland and then returned to Norway.
In his day many men turned to Christianity as a result of his popularity, and others, although they did not become Christian, ceased the practice of pagan rites. He built some churches in Norway and set clerics in them, but the heathens burnt his churches and killed his priests so that he could not continue this activity as a result of their evil work. And later the Þrœndir (20) rose against him at Mærin and asked him to worship the gods as other kings in Norway had done. 'We will drive you from the kingdom,' they said, 'if you do not act in some way in accordance with our wishes.' Because he saw their zeal against him, and following the advice of the chieftains, he responded in such a way that he refused nothing, so as to appear to appease them.
It is said that he bit horse-liver, but wrapped it in cloth so that he should not bite it directly. He would worship in no other way, and thereafter, it is said, his troubles were greater than before (21).
He established the Gulaþing Law, following the advice of Þorleifr spaki, as it had been of old (22).
After he had ruled Norway for fifteen years with peace and popularity, the sons of Eiríkr blóð0x returned to Norway: Gamli Gunnhildarson (23), who of the brothers was foremost and most valiant in every way, and Goðormr and Haraldr gráfeldr and all the brothers. They fought Hákon in battle in Körmt, near Ögvaldsnes. There fell Goðormr and Hálfdan and Eyvindr, but the others fled and escaped. Another battle was fought shortly thereafter against Hákon in Fræði (24), and again Hákon won. The brothers all fled the country, with the exception of Gamli, who went to the mainland and then overland through Súrnadalr to Þrándheimr. Hákon's men, with the help of the people, came against him and killed him in Gaulardalr, at that place which is now called Gamlaleir after him (25).
VI. But then, nine years (26) after the brothers attacked Norway, Haraldr gráfeldr – who was the most noteworthy of the brothers after the death of Gamli – and those brothers who remained came back to the country with their mother Gunnhildr and fought a battle with Hákon at Fitjar in Storð, near Byskupssteinn. They were four to one against Hákon.
In their army was a man named Eyvindr skreyja (27). He was a great champion, bigger than other men, and little iron could bite him. He fought that day in such a way that none could stand against him, for no one could have power against him. He went bellowing and shrieking forward, clearing a path by hacking on both sides, demanding where the Norwegian king was; 'Why does he hide now?'
'Keep on as you are, if you would find him,' said the king, and at this Eyvindr grew more violent and hewed on both sides with a great broad axe, striking down to the ground each time. Þórálfr sterki (28), an Icelander who was then with the king, nineteen years old and said to be as strong as the king himself, spoke then: 'Do you wish, my lord,' he said, 'that I attack him?'
'No,' said the king, 'it is I he wishes to meet; so meet me he shall.' And he threw off the hood Eyvindr skáldaspillir (29) had placed over the golden helmet he had on his head, in order to hide him so that he would be more difficult to recognise – for his height and bearing made him easily known. Then the king went out from under his banner and faced the warrior, wearing a silk shirt, a helmet on his head, a shield before him, and in his hand the sword called Kvernbiti (30), and thus dressed he seemed to all falcon-like.
Then the warrior strode forward, helmeted and mail-clad, and, gripping the axe with both hands, he struck at the king. The king drew back a little and the warrior missed him and struck the ground, stumbling somewhat. The king split him in two in the middle with his sword, through the chainmail, so that he fell in halves to either side.
When the champion had fallen, the tide of battle turned against the brothers, and then Gormr fell, and Erlingr, and many men besides. Their brothers all fled to ship and all who could left the country. But King Hákon and his forces pursued them. Then there flew toward the king an arrow – shot by no one knows whom – and it passed under the sleeve of his corselet and into the muscle of the upper arm. But it is said that through the sorcery of Gunnhildr a kitchen boy wheeled round, crying: 'Make room for the king's banesman!' and let fly the arrow into the group coming toward him and wounding the king, as has been said.
When the king realised that his wound was mortal – for the flow of blood could not be stopped – he asked to be moved to Alreksstaðir. Along the way they came to the slab of rock which is now called Hákonarhella. There he had been born of a bondwoman named Þóra Morstöng. She was of Mostr-kin and had herself been born there and was for this reason so called.
When the king saw that death was near he repented greatly of his offences to God. His friends offered to take his body west to England and bury it there at a church. 'I am not worthy of that,' he said. 'I have lived in many ways as a heathen, and as a heathen shall I therefore be buried. I hope for greater mercy from God Himself than I am worthy of.' And he died at Hákonarhella and he was buried at Sæheimr in Norðhörðaland. He was mourned by both friends and enemies. There were no more goods set in his mound with him than his sword Kvernbiti and his battle-dress. He was laid in the mound in a stone coffin.
VII. And it happened then that when Eiríkr blóðøx fled the country he went west with his ships to England and there spent his time raiding and plundering. There he asked quarter of the English king, as Æthelstan had promised him (31). He received from the king an earldom in Northumbria. Through the advice of his wife Gunnhildr he became once again so cruel and savage in his dealings with his people that they could scarcely endure it. Because of this he went raiding and harrying widely in western Europe and fell in Spain while on a raid (32). Gunnhildr returned to King Haraldr, who was then king in Denmark, and remained there with her sons till they were fully grown to manhood.
VIII. After Hákon's death, the Norwegians, following King Hákon's counsel, took Haraldr gráfeldr as king in Norway. Haraldr gráfeldr returned to Norway and took the kingdom together with his brothers Sigurðr slefa, Guðrøðr ljómi and Ragnfrøðr. Haraldr was foremost of the brothers, the most accomplished and best looking. This verse was composed:
2. Steady is my eye across the fire
fixed on Grey-cloak;
because he was a handsome man.
IX. Haraldr was king fifteen winters (33). He followed his mother's counsel, and, with his brothers, tyrannised over the people. In their time there was hunger and starvation and injustices of every kind in Norway. They were all overbearing men, eager for battle, and nearly all were killed as a result of the fact that men would not suffer their tyranny and lawlessness.
It is said that the Vörsar rose against King Haraldr and the brothers and Sigurðr at an assembly and meant to kill them, but they escaped. But later they killed Sigurðr slefa at Alreksstaðir. There they were led by Vémundr Völubrjótr. Sigurðr was killed by a man named Þorkell kleypr (34), whose wife he had forcibly taken. Þorkell ran him through with a sword, and one of Sigurðr's men called Erlingr gamli straightway avenged him.
Haraldr gráfeldr came against his cousin Tryggvi and killed him, but Þórólfr lúsarskegg escaped with Óláfr, King Tryggvi's son (35).
X. At that time Haraldr king of the Danes had treacherously invited Haraldr gráfeldr to Denmark. He sailed into Limafjörðr with three ships, and there Gull-Haraldr (36), son of Knútr, nephew of Haraldr blátönn, came against him with nine ships, by the design of the Danish king and Jarl Hákon, who had become jarl of his patrimony in Norway after the brothers had killed his father at Hökló in Prándheimr. But when King Haraldr gráfeldr saw that he had been betrayed and his forces outnumbered, he said to Gull-Haraldr: 'It makes me laugh,' he said, 'that I see your victory to be short-lived, because Jarl Hákon, my kinsman, is on his way here now with an army, and in killing you on our heels, he will straightway avenge us (37).' King Haraldr gráfeldr fell there, at Háls in Limafjörðr, and all his men, but Hákon immediately killed Gull-Haraldr, winning Norway for himself as a vassal of the Danish king.
XI. Following the death of Haraldr, Jarl Hákon came to power and ruled alone very nearly all Norway, and with the jarl's title his forefathers had had. His kin were Háleygir and Mœrir, and there had been jarls on both sides, for which reason he did not wish to honour himself by assuming the kingly title. His father was called Sigurðr Hyrnajarl, and his mother was Bergljót, the daughter of Þórir þegjandi, jarl of Mœrr. He was married to Olof, daughter of Haraldr hárfagri. She was Bergljót's mother.
In the early days of his reign Hákon had opposition from Gunnhildr konungamóðir (38), and they were often engaged in nasty trickery each against the other, for neither of them was lacking in that.
Jarl Hákon was the handsomest of men, not tall, but imposing. He was a man of great wisdom and therefore more cunning than Gunnhildr in his machinations. He was then still on good terms with King Haraldr, who then ruled Denmark, and asked him to trick Gunnhildr into leaving the country by sending to her messengers bearing a writ proffering marriage. And Haraldr sent her the writ, saying it would be fitting that she in her old age marry an old king, and she agreed to do this. But her journey, which began in splendour, ended in disgrace, for when she arrived in Denmark she was taken and sunk in a bog, and, according to many, so ended her days (39).
XII. Hákon jarl ruled twenty winters after the death of Haraldr gráfeldr at Háls in Limafjörðr. He ruled imperiously, and, as time passed, grew more and more unpopular, particularly because – and this led to his death – he considered all women whom he desired equally available to him, making no distinction as to who was whose wife or sister or daughter.
XIII. He once desired a woman named Guðrún Lundasól. She lived at Lundir in Gauladalr, and he sent his thralls from Meðalhús to get her and bring her to him for unseemly purposes. But while the thralls were eating she got together so great a band of men that there was no possibility of taking her. She sent word to Jarl Hákon saying that she would not seek his company unless he sent away the woman he kept as mistress, who was named Þóra of Remol. After these words he proceeded to Gauladalr with all his men.
Halldórr of Skerðingssteðja called men to arms from everywhere in the valley, and a band of men came against the jarl from every direction. When the jarl saw the forces and realised that he had been betrayed, he sent away all his men and he and his thrall Karkr (40) rode till they came to a hole in the ice, and there they drowned his horse and laid his cloak and then his sword on the ice, and then they went to a cave, which is still called Jarlshellir, in Gauladalr.
There the thrall fell asleep and rested uneasily and said afterwards when he awoke that a man dark and grim had passed before the cave, and he had feared that the man would enter. Then he had told him that Ulli was dead. The jarl answered that his son must then be slain, and this was so (41). The thrall slept again and rested no better than before, saying afterwards that the same man had passed again and had asked him to tell the jarl that all hope was gone (42). And the jarl understood from this that his last day was come, and they went to Remol, to the woman named Þóra, who was his mistress (43), and she hid him and the thrall in her pig-sty.
Later a band of men came and searched the house, and finding nothing, they intended to burn the farm to the ground. When the jarl heard this he wished not to be tortured by his enemies and had the thrall slit his throat (44), and thus a man who had lived a life of filth ended, in a house of filth, his days and his rule. The head was taken to Kaupangr. And when the men came down from Steinbjörg the fjord was full of ships, as all the people had received the call to battle, so Hákon's life could be taken (45).
The head was then moved to Hólmr, and there every man threw a stone at it. The thrall Karkr had come forward with the head, and for this he expected to be given his life, but he was hanged nevertheless (46). It was in the spring that Hákon died.
At that same time Óláfr Tryggvason came to Norway from England. Eiríkr Hákonarson fled the country to Sweden with his brother Sveinn, and there they joined Óláfr the Swede.
XIV. Jarl Hákon had not ruled alone over Norway through right of descent from those who had been kings before him, but rather as a result of strength and force, and because he was a wise man, though he turned his wisdom to evil; and furthermore because the sons of Gunnhildr and their kin were all gone and had nearly all been killed, and though there were some of their kin, all men hated them, and had hoped for better, though they hoped in vain.
XV. Yet he had had, among his ancestors, a king whose name was Hersir. He had been king in Naumudalr. His wife was called Vigða and the river in Naumudalr is still called Vigða after her (47). Hersir suffered her loss and wished to kill himself after her if an instance could be found of a king having done this before. It was found that a jarl had done so, but never a king. He went then to the top of a mound and rolled down, saying he had thus rolled from the kingship, and then he hanged himself as a jarl and for this reason his descendants would afterwards never take the name of king. The truth of this can be heard in the Háleygjatal, which Eyvindr composed, who was called skáldaspillir (48).
XVI. After Hákon jarl Óláfr Tryggvason ascended the throne and assumed the name of king in Norway, to which he had right through descent from Haraldr hárfagri, because one of Haraldr's sons was named Óláfr, who was the father of Tryggvi, who in the days of the sons of Gunnhildr held the title and authority of king in Raumaríki. He was killed on Sótanes and there buried and men call this place Tryggvareyrr (49). But not all tell of his slaying in the same way: some blame the farmers, that they felt his rule to be harsh and killed him at assembly; some say that he was about to be reconciled with his cousins, and that they killed him through the treachery and wicked counsel of Gunnhildr konungamóðir, and most believe this.
XVII. After his death, Ástríðr, whom Tryggvi had married in Upplönd, fled to Orkney with Óláfr, their three-year-old son (50), in order to avoid both the treachery of Gunnhildr and her sons and that of Jarl Hákon, who were all still struggling for control of Norway, for the sons of Gunnhildr had not yet been slain. Ástríðr came to Orkney with three fully-manned ships, but because her voyage could not be concealed and much perfidy could befall them, she sent the child away with the man whom some call Þórólfr lúsarskegg (51). He took the child in secrecy to Norway and thence, in great fear, to Sweden. He wished to go from Sweden to Hólmgarðr, for some of Óláfr's kin were there (52). Men from Estonia came on board their ship and killed some men and took others hostage. Þórólfr was killed and Óláfr taken hostage near the island called Eysýsla (53), and afterwards sold into slavery.
XVIII. But God, who had chosen this child for great things, saw to his release in this way: a man came to Estonia, an ambassador from the king in Hólmgarðr, sent to collect tribute in that country. He was the child's kinsman, and he ransomed his kinsman and brought him to Hólmgarðr. There he remained a while and few knew of his descent.
When he was twelve years old (54), it happened one day in the market place that he recognised in a man's hand the axe Þórólfr had had, and he asked the man under what circumstances he had come to possess the axe. From his answers Oláfr knew for certain that this was both his fosterfather's axe and also his slayer. He took the axe from his hands and killed him who had brought it there, thus avenging his fosterfather.
Inviolability of the person was there highly regarded, and there were great penalties for manslaughter, and Óláfr resolved then to seek the support of the queen. Through her petition and because it was thought a manly deed for a twelve-year-old to have performed – and because it was considered a just revenge – he was granted the king's pardon. Thereafter, as report of him increased, so also did his esteem and honour. And as time went on he was given men and ships and went harrying from land to land. Norwegians, Gauts (55) and Danes quickly swelled his flock, and through great feats he won for himself fame and good repute.
XIX. He harried widely, both in Wendland and Flanders, in England and in Scotland, in Ireland and in many other countries (56), generally wintering in Wendland, in the town called Jómsborg (57). But however long he kept up such practice, it happened finally that he came to a place in England (58) where there lived a great man of God, a hermit, famed for good and wide learning. Óláfr wished to test him and sent one of his retainers dressed in kingly clothing to seek helping advice in the name of king, and he received this answer: 'You are no king, but it is my advice that you be loyal to your king.' And when Óláfr heard such an answer he desired even more to meet him, for now he was in no doubt that he was a true prophet (59). In the course of that good man's conversation and persuasion he spoke to Óláfr with these words of holy revelation and heavenly foresight: 'You will be,' he said, 'an excellent king and do excellent works, and you will bring many peoples to faith and baptism, and in this way you will benefit both yourself and many others. And so that you may not doubt my words, you shall take this as a sign: at your ships you will meet with treachery and bands of men. It will end in battle and you will lose some of your men and you yourself be wounded. As a result of this wound you will be near death, and you will be borne on a shield to your ship. But from this wound you will recover within seven nights, and soon afterward you will receive baptism (60).' All happened as had been told, and in this way Óláfr came to the faith and then to Norway, and brought with him Bishop Sigurðr, who had been ordained to proclaim the name of God to the people; and still other learned men, the priest Þangbrandr and Þormóðr (61) and also several deacons. He first proclaimed the Christian faith at an assembly at Mostr in Hörðaland – and it was easy to preach, both because it was supported by God and because men had grown tired of the tyranny of Hákon illi (62) – and there the people took the faith and Óláfr the kingdom.
He was twenty-seven years old when he came to Norway (63), and during the five years he bore the name of king in Norway he Christianised five countries: Norway, Iceland, Shetland, Orkney and the fifth, the Faeroes (64). He first raised churches on his own estates and he abolished pagan feasts and sacrifices, in place of which, as a favour to the people, he ordained the holiday feasts Yule and Easter, St John's Mass ale and an autumn-ale at Michaelmas.
Óláfr was a big man, tall and handsome, with straight, light hair and beard, and of all men he was the quickest and best versed in all courtly behaviour.
XX. Soon after this Óláfr married the sister of Sveinn tjúguskegg, king of the Danes, whose name was Þyri and whom a duke in Wendland had forcibly betrothed to himself, for which reason the betrothal had not stood (65).
After the wedding King Sveinn withheld the things promised in dowry with his sister, and King Óláfr considered this a disgrace. To seek vengeance he collected an army to go to Denmark and awaited forces on the coast (66), but because their arrival was delayed, he sailed to Wendland with only eleven ships, expecting the army to follow him. But when his hope was not realised, because the men had turned back as soon as he was out of the country, he intended to gather support in Wendland among his true friends, who had been faithful friends and trusted companions with him on viking expeditions. But this proved unsuccessful, for King Sveinn had called upon Óláfr, King of the Swedes, and Eiríkr, son of Hákon illi, and they came against him off Sjóland with eighty-two ships: Sveinn had thirty ships, Óláfr thirty and Eiríkr twenty-two. Sveinn came first against him with thirty ships, but suffered great losses and turned back with disgrace. Then came Óláfr the Swede with equal strength, and he met with equal disgrace. Lastly came Eiríkr and he won the day (67).
But of the fall of King Óláfr nothing was known. It was seen that as the fighting lessened he stood, still alive, on the high-deck astern on the Long Serpent, which had thirty-two rowing-places (68). But when Eiríkr went to the stern of the ship in search of the king, a light flashed before him, as though it were lightning, and when the light disappeared, the king himself was gone. Some suppose he got away in a boat and say that he was seen afterwards in a monastery in the Holy Land, but others think that he fell overboard. But whatever ended his life, it is likely that God has the soul.
XXI. Because Sveinn felt that he had won Norway through Óláfr's death he granted it to Eiríkr and Sveinn, Jarl Hákon's sons (69), and Eiríkr ruled the country alone after King Sveinn of Denmark died (70). And when Eiríkr had ruled Norway twelve winters in all with the title of jarl, he left the country to his son Hákon and went west to England (71), where he took service in the army of his brother-in-law Knútr (72), when he conquered England, and there bled to death when his uvula was cut (73).
XXII. But as much pain and effort as Óláfr Tryggvason had put into forwarding Christianity – and he spared nothing which was to the honour of God and the strengthening of the Christian faith – so Eiríkr and his son put all their strength into the quelling of it; and this would have come to pass had not God's mercy been manifested in the arrival of Óláfr, son of Haraldr grenski (74), who at that time had his mind much set on worldly victory, as will soon be heard (75). He later turned his faith to Christianity and through his steadfast belief gained eternal bliss and sanctity.
And that men may know of his ancestral birthright to the realm, this may now be heard.
XXIII. Haraldr, father of St Óláfr, was the son of Guðrøðr, and Guðrøðr the son of Björn, and Björn the son of Haraldr hárfagri, who was the first sole monarch of Norway.
Much is said about the extent of Óláfr's travels, but however widely he travelled, he returned when God wished to make the kingdom available to him (76), and he came from the west, sailing from England with two ships, and made land at Sæla and then sailed into Sauðungasund.
And as God had ordained, Hákon's approach could be seen – fifteen years old and a very handsome man, he then ruled the country after his father Eiríkr – and he headed for Sauðungasund, at that time a common route, and was unaware that Óláfr digri lay ahead. He had no more forces than one longship and a small cutter. When the king realised that Hákon was coming, he placed his ships one on either side of the strait. And when Hákon rowed up to them, his ships immediately pulled towards each other and Hákon was there taken captive (77). He and all his men were granted life by the king, and Hákon pledged Norway to Óláfr for all time.
Eiríkr and his son Hákon had then ruled Norway for fourteen years with a jarl's title, together with Sveinn Hákonarson. St Óláfr gave Hákon the Hebrides, according to some, and supported him so that he was able to keep them, and he was king there for as long as he lived (78).
XXIV. And so St Óláfr became king of Norway and strengthened his kingdom through Christianity and good ways, although with great difficulty, for there were many who opposed him, both within and without Norway, particularly because of the Christian faith he preached.
He spent most of the first winter with his stepfather Sigurðr in Upplönd (79). The following spring Jarl Sveinn attacked the country and they met in battle on Palm Sunday off Nesjar by Grenmarr and the victory was Óláfr's (80). There fell a great part of Sveinn's army, but Sveinn himself escaped. Einarr þambarskelmir (81) cast an anchor onto Sveinn's ship and forced him to sail away to Denmark. Thereafter Sveinn went to Garðar (82) and never returned.
XXV. Later Óláfr asked for the hand of Ástríðr, the daughter of Óláfr soenski and the sister of Ingigerðr, to whom he had previously been betrothed. Her father had broken off that betrothal out of anger and had given her to Yaroslav, king of Russia (83). Óláfr digri had some children by Ástríðr, but with the exception of their daughter Gunnhildr, whom Duke Otto of Saxony married, their names and fates are unknown (84).
Óláfr was handsome and good-looking, with reddish-brown hair and a redder beard, squarely built and of medium height, not tall. He was in his twentieth year when he came to Norway, and to wise men in Norway he seemed outstanding in his wisdom and in all valour surpassing other men.
XXVI. At this time Knútr ruled England, which he had won with the help and support of St Óláfr (85), but he rewarded him no better than by bribing the chieftains who were in Norway into betraying the country away from him, as later happened. Among these chieftains were Erlingr of Sóli, Kálfr of Egg, Þórir hundr and many others. And when St Óláfr went east against King Knútr he met Erlingr, whom he supposed to be there to support him, but Erlingr turned against him and fought him in battle (86). St Óláfr won the victory and Erlingr was in such straits that there was no alternative but to go and put himself at the king's mercy, and the king protected him when others attacked him. But a man named Áslákr Fitjaskalli (87), the king's forecastleman, walked to the stern of the ship with a hand-axe concealed under his cloak, and before anyone had noticed, he struck Erlingr a mortal wound on the head and spoke these words: 'Thus shall the nothing (88) be branded.' The king answered: 'Now you have struck Norway from my hand.' And from the men he captured there, the king learned that all the most important men in the country were involved in his betrayal. He turned north into the fjord called Sleygsarfjörðr, in from Borgund, and there he left his ships and went up the valley called Valdalr and thereafter he left the country, in the fourteenth winter after his arrival in the country, and went to Russia and he took with him his son, Magnús góði.
XXVII. Knútr first set his nephew Hákon over the kingdom and secured the country by taking hostage the sons of the most important men, and he oppressed the people and made them do him homage. But Hákon drowned the following spring in the North Sea and when Knútr received word of this he set his son Sveinn and Ælfgyfu, Sveinn's mother, over the kingdom (89).
XXVIII. There was in the beginning such high regard for Danish men that the testimony of one of them would overturn that of ten Norwegians. No one could leave the country without the king's permission, but if anyone did leave, his possessions were forfeit to the king. And whosoever killed a man would lose land and chattels, and if a man were in outlawry and succeeded to inheritance, that inheritance was the king's.
XXIX. At Yule each farmer was to give the king a measure of malt for each hearth, a ham from a three-year-old ox – this was called 'a bit of the meadow' (90) – and a measure of butter; and each housewife should supply a 'lady's tow' (91) – that was as much clean flax as could be clasped between thumb and middle finger. The farmers were also to build all the houses the king wished to have on his estates. Each seven men were to outfit one able-bodied man – and this included all who had reached the age of five – who would thereafter man an oar (92). Each man who went fishing was to pay the king a 'land bundle' from wherever he put out, and this was five fish. On each ship sailing from the country the king was to load a space across the ship. Each man who sailed to Iceland, native or foreign (93), was to pay a land tax. These obligations remained until Sigurðr Jórsalafari and his brothers abolished most of these impositions (94).
XXX. And even though such evil and oppression lay on the country, men dared not rise up for the sake of their sons who were held hostage.
XXXI. Later St Óláfr returned to Norway through Sweden and came from Jamtaland to Þrándheimr and came down in Veradalr, and then Kálfr of Egg, because of his malevolence and eagerness to fight, rose against him and prepared for battle with all his might. He gained the support of many men, mostly those who wished to keep Óláfr's Christian preaching from the country, for they knew that he would again preach it and support it with all his power as he had done before. But Kálfr gave as his pretext that the sons of good men should not be held hostage and fought King Óláfr in battle at Stiklastaðir (95).
These were the chieftains leading the Prœndir's army with Kálfr: Þórir hundr, Erlendr of Gerði, Áslákrof Finneyjar. On Óláfr's side were his brother Haraldr, fifteen years of age, a handsome man of great stature, Rögnvaldr Brúsason and Bjgrn digri (96).
In that battle Erlendr of Gerði fell first of the Þroendir's army. It was also early in the battle that King Óláfr fell. He had a sword in his hand, but had neither helmet nor mail-coat. He was wounded in the knee by one of Kálfr's men. He sank down and prayed and threw down his sword. Þórir hundr and Þorsteinn knarrasmiðr dealt King Óláfr his death blow. And thus in that battle St Óláfr rose from this kingdom to the kingdom of heaven. Björn digri fell before the king and Porsteinn knarrasmiðr was killed right on the king's heels. In this battle Áslákr of Finneyjar fell and many men of the Þroendir's army.
XXXII. After the death of the king, the people's misery became complete under Sveinn and Ælfgyfu. It was miserable living under their rule, both because of their tyranny and the bad seasons, when the people lived more off cattle fodder than the food of men, because the seasons were never good in their time, as can be heard from this verse by Sighvatr (97):
3. Ælfgyfu's time
long will the young man remember,
when they at home ate ox's food,
and like the goats, ate rind;
different it was when Óláfr,
the warrior, ruled the land,
then everyone could enjoy
stacks of dry corn.
XXXIII. St Óláfr had borne in this world the name of king in Norway for fifteen years when he fell. He was then thirty-five years of age and it was, when he fell, one thousand and twenty-nine winters from the birth of Our Lord (98). In the battle in which St Óláfr fell his brother Haraldr was wounded, and after Óláfr's death he fled the country to Russia and went thereafter to Mikligarðr, and some say that he claimed the kingly title in Norway, but others deny this (99).
XXXIV. When God began to provide miraculous proof of St Óláfr (100), the most important men decided to go abroad and fetch Magnús, St Óláfr's son, for men had realised their mistake and had repented and wished to make up to Óláfr's son the offence that they had caused Óláfr himself to suffer. They went to Russia to King Yaroslav, bearing the message of all the most important men and their request that he return to Norway. The leading men on this expedition were Jarl Rögnvaldr, Einarr þambarskelmir, Sveinn bryggjufótr and Kálfr Arnason. But their request was neither heard nor granted until they had pledged Magnús both the country and their loyalty, because Queen Ingigerðr prevented it.
XXXV. He returned to Norway four years after the death of his father King Óláfr, and Sveinn and Ælfgyfu, knowing of his favour with the people and of their own unpopularity, fled to Denmark. And Magnús took the kingdom with the good will of the people in the end, though in the beginning he was the cause of many grievances, for because of his youth and the ambition of his advisers he began his rule harshly (101). He was nearly eleven years old when he came to the country.
He held assembly in Niðaróss and began by acrimoniously making accusations against all the Þrœndir, and they all stuck their noses in their cloaks, and were silent and gave no answer. Then a man named Atli stood up and said no more words than these: 'So shrinks the shoe on ray foot that I cannot move.'
Sighvatr spoke this verse then and there:
4. Dangerous is the threat
– this must first be dealt with –
when all the elders, whom I hear,
would rise against their king.
It is dangerous too
when the assembled men bow their heads
and stick their noses in their cloaks;
the thanes are struck silent (102).
And the assembly broke up with the king's request that all meet there the following morning. And then it could be heard from his words that God had changed his disposition and his acrimony was turned then to mercy. He promised all men kindness and kept what he had promised, or better, and as a result gained great popularity and the name by which he was called: Magnús góði.
XXXVI. After he had ruled the country for several years, established laws and good customs and strengthened Christianity, he remembered the injustices that had been done his father and went with an army to Denmark. They were all eager to go for the sake of revenge.
But in Denmark Sveinn had died and so had his father Knútr in England, and Denmark was then ruled by Sveinn's brother, who was called Hörða-Knútr (103), and he led an army against Magnús and they met at Brenneyjar. Wise men acted as intermediaries and an agreement was proposed and made in such a way that since Hörða-Knútr thought that he had rightful claim to Norway because his father had won it and his brother had ruled it – and Magnús thought too that his father had suffered great wrong at the hands of Knútr, betrayal, exile, death – this agreement was reached: the one who lived the longer was to rule both countries, but each would rule his own kingdom while both lived (104). Then hostages were exchanged. Knútr died first (105), and Magnús then took Denmark without opposition, because the sons of the most important men were held hostage.
XXXVII. When Sveinn, son of Úlfr and Knútr ríki's sister Ástríðr (106), heard news of this in England, he gathered forces together from wherever he could. Magnús came against him and they met with their ships off the peninsula called Helganes and there fought (107). Sveinn fled to Wendland and there gathered an army a second time, also from wherever he could. He brought this army to Denmark in such a way that Magnús remained unaware of his coming until shortly beforehand and had therefore made little preparation and was afraid that his men would be too few. He nevertheless prepared as best he could for defence.
XXXVIII. During the night before the morning he was to fight, as he was greatly apprehensive about his situation, his father appeared to him in a dream and told him not to fear and told him that he would gain victory, and so it came to pass. They met that morning on the heath called Hlýrskógsheiðr, which lies near Skotborgará (108), and Magnús arrayed his forces in detachments as St Oláfr had instructed him in the dream and went into battle at the time Óláfr had told him to during the night. That was when the sun was in the southeast, and his forces came upon one wing of Sveinn's army, who all turned, and Sveinn was harmed greatly by many of the things that he had intended to bring him victory, because he had had oxen placed at the front of his ranks, with spears tied to their backs and wooden boards before their eyes, but the cattle turned back and so it happened that Sveinn was trapped between the herd of cattle and Magnús's troops. Sveinn suffered the greater losses and escaped though flight, and Magnús and one other man pursued Sveinn and his forces for a long time. Sveinn and his men said that if all had fought as had the handsome young man in the silken shirt, then not a child would have got away – and that man was the king himself. Magnús then turned back to his men and all were relieved to see him. Earlier they had feared that he had been killed, when he had been so long in pursuing Sveinn's army with the help of only one man. Sveinn sought asylum. King Magnús now ruled Denmark in peace and complete tranquillity.
XXXIX. But as time went on, Haraldr, brother of St Óláfr, returned home from Mikligarðr through Russia on a merchant ship, well provided with treasure and goods (109), and he landed in Denmark at a place where King Magnús knew nothing of him or of his ship. And so it happened that he came near to where the king was and got one of King Magnús's advisers, whose name was Úlfr stalleri (110), to meet with him, and he discussed with him Haraldr's situation, as though he were Haraldr's messenger rather than Haraldr himself. He then asked Úlfr to enquire as to how King Magnús might receive his father's brother if he were to return to the country and said that he very much deserved to be well received. 'The reason for this,' he said, 'as I see it, is that they are kinsmen and because of the support he gave St Óláfr, his brother and Magnús's father.' He also said Haraldr was a wise and powerful man who had done many great deeds abroad, a man now also well provided with money and treasure, and through this he could give his nephew much support. But if he were not received with honour, great ill could come of it.
Úlfr undertook this errand gladly and King Magnús responded favourably and said that he expected much support and good counsel from all the good men he had with him, but especially from his uncle.
After the king's answer, Haraldr returned to his ship and proceeded then to meet his nephew. Then Úlfr realised that the great and handsome man who had earlier called himself Haraldr's messenger was Haraldr himself. It was then a very joyful meeting for the kinsmen (111), and Haraldr accepted half of Norway and took it as he had right to, both by descent and because of the good king's good gift, because Haraldr was the son of Sigurðr sýr and Sigurðr son of Hálfdan, whom some called heikilnef (112) and others hvítbeinn, and Hálfdan the son of Sigurðr hrísi, who was the son of Haraldr hárfagri.
XL. Thereafter Magnús ruled Denmark and half of Norway in peace and tranquillity without further claims for as long as he lived. He ruled both kingdoms thirteen winters in all, including the six he ruled Denmark, and he fell ill and died in Sjóland the winter following his uncle Haraldr's return (113). He was then nearly twenty-four years old. His body was moved north to Þrándheimr and buried in Kristskirkja, where his father rests (114). His death was much lamented in both countries, for no offspring survived him but for one daughter (115), dying as he did at this early age. But while he had lain ill, he had sent his half-brother Þórir to Sveinn Úlfsson; Pórir was not to tell Sveinn that King Magnús had died, but rather that he had given him the kingdom. But Sveinn realised that Magnús had died and accepted the great gift joyfully. He took the kingdom and allowed to stand all the arrangements Magnús had made in the kingdom, and also the gifts to his brother Þórir and to everyone else.
XLI. King Haraldr now took sole rule over all Norway and ruled with great severity, yet peacefully. There was not another king who, because of his wisdom and his accomplishments, inspired as much awe in all his people.
Soon after coming to Norway, Haraldr married the niece of a man named Finnr, a man of good family and great wealth who lived to the east in Ranríki (116). King Haraldr granted his wife's uncle great revenues, but later it happened that he wished to put a stop to these and they quarrelled as a result (117). Finnr thereafter left the country with his kinsfolk and went to King Sveinn in Denmark with seven longships and received from him the title of jarl. He sent home those who had accompanied him, for he did not wish that they should lose their property or their wives or children. He and Sveinn gathered together forces and went with an army to Norway. King Haraldr came against them and they met by the Niz in Halland in Denmark (118). Haraldr lay by an island near to the mainland. Sveinn and Finni thought to cut him off from fresh water, because no one thought there was water on the island. King Haraldr had men search for a live snake on the island. One was found and, following the king's direction, then exhausted by a fire so that it should get as thirsty as possible (119). They then tied a string to its tail and set it free. It immediately sought drinking water and in this way water was found.
When Haraldr felt himself prepared and the men for whom he had been waiting arrived, he went into battle. Sveinn was defeated and suffered great losses and fled with a few men. But Finnr was captured and pardoned and returned home with Haraldr to his estates.
XLII. When Haraldr had ruled all Norway for nineteen years after the death of Magnús, a man came from England named Tostig (120). He was a jarl and the brother of Harold Godwineson, who then ruled in England, and though his right of birth was equal to Harold's he was deprived of everything. He asked support of Haraldr and promised him half of England if they should win it. Haraldr took his army there with Tostig and they won all of Northumbria. The king of England was then in Normandy, but as soon as he heard news of this he hurried back with an army and came so unexpectedly upon them that most of their troops were on board their ships, and those on land nearly unarmed but for striking weapons and weapons of defence. They all came together in one formation and made ready. Haraldr of Norway was on horseback and rode as he arrayed his troops. The horse stumbled and threw him off. The king said as he stood up: 'Seldom has it gone thus when fate was favourable (121). And it happened as the king had said, and his prophecy was not false, for that day in that same battle both he and Jarl Tostig fell and many with them. Those who escaped fled to the ships. The leader of this group was Óláfr, Haraldr's son, a fine man, nearly twenty years old. He was called 'búandi' because he was quiet and gentle (122). He asked quarter of Harold and also for the body of his father and was granted both. He then went to Orkney with Jarl Páll and the following spring to Norway. He buried Haraldr's body in Maríukirkja in Niðaróss – he now lies at Elgjusetr – because it was thought fitting that he remain with the church that he himself had had built. Archbishop Eysteinn had him moved there into the care of the monks and thus added to the other possessions he had himself given them (123).
XLIII. The twelve months Haraldr and Óláfr were in the west, Haraldr's son, the one named Magnús, ruled Norway, a most handsome man, and he and his brother Óláfr now divided the kingdom between them. But, sooner than expected, two years later, Magnús died, leaving a son named Hákon, who was then fostered by Steigar-Pórir. Thereafter Óláfr ruled Norway alone for twenty-four years, and during no king's lifetime since Haraldr hárfagri had Norway seen such prosperity as in his day. He mitigated much which Haraldr harðráði had harshly begun and kept up. He was openhanded with gold and silver, valuables and treasures, but tight-fisted with land. The reason for this was his good sense and also that he saw that this would benefit his kingdom. And there are many of his good deeds to be related.
XLIV. At the bishop's seat in Niðaróss he restored a stone church over the body of his uncle St Óláfr and saw to its completion (124). And how great his kindness and love for his people were can be seen from the words he spoke one day at Miklagildi (125). He was merry and in excellent humour, and some ventured to say: 'See now, it is pleasing to us, King, that you are so merry.' And he answered: 'Why should I not be merry when I see my people both happy and free, and I sit here at this feast in honour of my saintly uncle? In my father's day men lived in great awe and fear, and most hid their gold and treasures, but now I see that on every man shine his possessions. Their freedom is my joy.'
It was so good during his days that he made peace abroad without battle, both for himself and for his people. And even though he was quiet and gentle, his nearest neighbours stood in fear of him, as the poet says:
5. Through threatening words
Óláfr defended his country
so that no king dared claim it (126).
XLV. When he had ruled Norway for twenty-seven years, including the year he was in the west after the death of Haraldr and his brother Magnús was in Norway, he was taken ill at the farm called Haukbœr, eastward in Ranríki, where he was being feasted. He died there and his body was taken north to Niðaróss and there buried in the church he had had built.
XLVI. Thereafter his son Magnús berleggr took the kingdom (127). He was nearly twenty when he took the kingly title after his father – along with his cousin Hákon, who had been fostered by Steigar-Þórir, as was said before; he was then in his late twenties – and both ruled one winter and spent it in Niðaróss, Magnús in the king's residence and Hákon in Skúlagarðr (128), down from Klémetskirkja (129), and there he celebrated the Christmas feast. Hákon abolished all Christmas dues, duties and land taxes for those Þrœndir and Upplendingar who acknowledged him as king, and in return for this he enhanced the people's rights in many other ways. Magnús became uneasy at this, because he felt the income from his lands and taxes to be less than that of his father, his uncle and his forebears. He felt that what was rightfully his, no less than Hákon's own, had been given up to the honour of the Þrœndir and Upplendingar. He felt dishonoured and wronged by his cousin and by his and Þórir's schemes.
They greatly feared Magnús's response to these measures, because the whole winter he kept seven longships at an opening in the ice at Kaupangr. But that spring, near Candlemas, he left during the night with the ships tented and with lights under the tents and made for Hefring (130). He stayed there the night and built huge fires ashore. Hákon and the men who were in the town suspected treachery and called together an army, and all the townsmen gathered together and remained in readiness throughout the night. But in the morning when it got light and Magnús saw the public troops on Eyrar, he sailed out of the fjord and south to Gulabingslög.
XLVII. Hákon held a meeting in Kaupangr before undertaking the journey eastward to Vík. He sat on horseback and promised every man friendship and asked the same in return and said he was unsure of his cousin's intentions. All willingly promised him friendship and, if necessary, support. All the people accompanied him up to Steinbjörg. He then went onto the mountain (131). One day he followed a ptarmigan which flew away from him as he rode. And he then fell ill and this was his death-sickness and he died there on the mountain. Word reached Kaupangr a fortnight later. It was requested that the people should go to meet his body and all the townspeople went, nearly all of them crying, for all men had heartfelt love for him. His body was buried in Kristskirkja.
XLVIII. But after the death of Hákon, Þórir could not support Magnús, who then took over the kingdom, and he arrogantly put forward a man called Sveinn, the son of Haraldr flettir (132). They gathered support in Upplönd and came to Raumsdalr and Sunnmœrr and there obtained ships, proceeding then north to Þrándheimr. When Sigurðr ullstrengr and many others of the king's friends received word of Steigar-Þórir's rebellion and enmity they summoned all the forces they could against him and turned their army towards Vigg. Sveinn and Þórir brought their army there and fought Sigurðr, and they succeeded in getting ashore and won the victory, killing many men. Sigurðr fled to King Magnús, and Þórir and his men sailed to Kaupangr and there sailed back and forth in the fjord, waiting. When they had positioned their ships by Hefring and were ready to sail out of the fjord King Magnús sailed into it. But Þórir and his men took their ships over to Vagnvíkaströnd (133) and there left them and they came down to the valley called Þexdalr in Seljuhverfi. Þórir was carried over the mountain on a litter (134). Thereafter they gathered ships and went to Hálogaland, but King Magnús came after them and the armies sighted each other on the fjord called Harmi. Þórir and his men then went to Hesjutún. They thought they had reached the mainland, but it was an island, and there Steigar-Þórir was captured and many with him. Þórir himself was then hanged on an islet called Vambarhólmr. When he saw the gallows he said: 'Bad is a bad plan,' and before he was hanged and the noose put round his neck he spoke this verse:
6. Four fellows were we once,
one at the helm (135).
Egill Áskelsson from Forland, a very brave man, was also killed and hanged there with Þórir because he would not leave his wife Ingibjörg Ögmundardóttir, Skopti's sister. As Egill hung from the gallows, King Magnús said: 'Good kin are of little benefit to him (136).'
Sveinn fled out to sea and on to Denmark and remained there till he was reconciled with Magnús's son King Eysteinn, who made peace with him and made him his page (137) and held him in favour and affection.
King Magnús ruled alone and uncontested, kept his land in peace and rid the country of all vikings and outlaws. He was a warlike man, doughty and industrious, and in disposition he was in every respect more like his grandfather Haraldr than like his father. They were all tall and handsome men.
XLIX. Magnús went on many campaigns. His first claim was eastwards against Gautland, saying that Dalr, Véar and Varðynjar rightfully belonged to Norway, as his forefathers had ruled them in the past. He took up position at the border with a great army camped in tents and intended to mount an invasion of Gautland. When King Ingi (138) received word of this he soon gathered together an army and went to meet him.
But when King Magnús heard true report of his movements, the chieftains urged that they turn back, but he would not consent to this and attacked King Ingi earlier than he expected, and at night, and killed many men, but King Ingi escaped through flight. Afterwards they came to an agreement whereby Magnús took King Ingi's daughter Margrét and with her those lands to which he had earlier laid claim (139).
L. With King Magnús on this expedition were Ögmundr Skoptason, Sigurðr Sigurðarson, Sigurðr ullstrengr and many others.
Thereafter King Magnús made for Orkney with an army. These chieftains were with him: Dagr, the father of Gregónús, Víðkunnr Jóansson, Úlfr Hranason, the brother of Sigurðr, who was Nikulaus's father, and many other important chieftains (140). In Orkney he took with him Jarl Erlendr and his eighteen-year-old son Magnús, who is now a saint (141). They harried the coasts of Scotland and Wales, and on that expedition killed a jarl named Hugi digri (142). He was shot in the eye and died as a result. The one who shot the arrow threw the bow to the king and, according to some accounts, remarked: 'Well shot, Sir,' thus attributing it to the king. Magnús returned home from this expedition with his ships laden with gold, silver and costly things.
LI. A few years later he set out west to Ireland with a fleet of ships, taking a large force of men, intending to conquer that country (143). He won a part of it straight away and as a result grew bolder and then became more unwary, because all went well for him in the beginning, just as it had for his grandfather Haraldr, when he fell in England. And the same treachery drew him to his death, for the Irish raised in secrecy an overwhelming army against King Magnús on St Bartholomew's Eve (144), when he and his men had gone ashore from their ships to make a strand-raid. The first thing they knew was that the army had come between them and their ships. The king and his men had little armour, for the king had gone ashore wearing a silk doublet and on his head a helmet, girt with a sword and with a spear in his hand, and he wore gaiters, as was his custom. King Magnús fell on this expedition and many men with him. Where he died is called Ulster, and Eyvindr Finnsson (145) died there with him, along with many other great chieftains.
Víðkunnr stood nearest to the king and received three wounds, and King Magnús asked him to save himself by flight when he saw for certain that he himself would die. Víðkunnr and the others who managed to escape returned to their ships and then back home to Norway. For having behaved so well Víðkunnr later received great honour from the sons of Magnús.
At that time Mýrjartak Kondjálfason ruled as high king in Ireland. Sigurðr Magnússon was married to his daughter for a time. Her name was Bjaðmunjo (146). Magnús berleggr was king ten years in all.
LII. After Magnús, his three sons Eysteinn, Sigurðr and Óláfr succeeded to the kingdom. They were all good men, handsome, gentle men, quiet and peace-loving, and there is much good and splendid to be said about them. Trial was made of Óláfr only a short time, however, for he lived but twelve winters after his father's death. He died in Kaupangr at the age of seventeen and was buried in Kristskirkja. His death was mourned by all.
But in the beginning, when the three brothers Eysteinn, Sigurðr and Óláfr, ruled, Sigurðr got the urge to leave Norway and travel to Jerusalem, and his brothers and the most important men in the country agreed to this.
To gain for themselves the mercy of God and the favour of the people, all the brothers abolished harsh and oppressive measures and onerous taxes which impudent kings and jarls had imposed on the people, as has been told (147).
LIII. In this way the brothers now changed oppression to freedom. Then four years after the death of his father Magnús, King Sigurðr travelled abroad to Jerusalem with sixty ships. He had with him a large and goodly company, though only those who wanted to go. He stayed in England the first winter and spent the next on the journey to Jerusalem, where he was received with great honour and given splendid treasures (148).
LIV. The king asked for a fragment of the True Cross and was given one, but not until twelve men, and he himself the thirteenth, had sworn that he would advance Christianity with all his might and establish an archbishop's see in his country if he could, and furthermore that the Cross would be kept where St Óláfr lay, and that a tithe, which he himself was to pay as well, would be levied. And he kept to some of this, for he imposed a tithe, but the rest he disregarded, and this would have caused great harm had not God intervened miraculously. Sigurðr built a church on the frontier (149), and put the Cross there, almost in the heathen's hands – as later happened (150) – thinking this would act to protect the country, but this proved ill-advised, for the heathens came, burned the church and captured the Cross and the priest and took both away. Thereafter such a great heat came upon the heathens that they thought themselves almost burning and this terrified them as a bad omen, and the priest told them that this fire came from God's might and the power of the Holy Cross, so they put out a dinghy and put both the Cross and the priest ashore. The priest thought it unwise to subject the Cross a second time to such danger and moved it in secrecy north to the place where it had been sworn on oath that it would be kept, to the shrine of St Óláfr, and there it has remained ever since.
LV. There were many other good things on Sigurðr's journey. He won victories over several heathen towns and vowed to ban the eating of meat on Saturdays in Norway if he took one of them.
He went to Mikligarðr and was received with great honour by the emperor and given great gifts. He left his ships there as a memorial of his visit. He took off one of his ships several great and costly figure-heads and put them on the church of St Peter. He returned to Norway through Hungary, Saxony and Denmark three years after he had left, and all the people rejoiced at his return. He was twenty when he returned to Norway after this journey and he had become most famous.
Eysteinn was a year older than Sigurðr, and Óláfr was then twelve years old.
There are still many holy places adorned with the treasures King Si[gurðr] brought (151)…
LVI. …and levied a food-tax of fifteen-hundred cattle on Smálönd; and the people accepted Christianity (152) King Sigurðr then returned home with much treasure and booty gathered on that expedition. It was called the Kalmarnar expedition and took place the summer before the great darkness (153).
Sigurðr's time was a good one, both in terms of harvests and many other beneficial things, with the one exception that he could hardly control his temper when he suffered attacks (154) as he grew older. But he was nevertheless regarded as the most splendid and remarkable of all kings, and in particular because of his journey. He was also a very fine-looking man and very tall, as his father and forefathers had been. He loved his people, and they him, and he expressed his affection in this verse:
7. Farmers I find best;
farmed land and lasting peace.
LVII. Because of the support he felt he had through the people's love, Sigurðr had the whole of Norway swear allegiance to his son Magnús while he still lived. Magnús was the son of a mistress and was the finest man there has ever been (155).
LVIII. But after this there came a man from the west from Ireland named Haraldr gillikrist (156), and he claimed to be the son of Magnús and Sigurðr's brother, and offered to give evidence of this (157). The king gave him leave to do so, more because it was his will than by the advice of his counsellors. Haraldr walked over nine glowing hot plough-shares and was clean, and was afterwards made much of by his brother, for he was valiant and doughty, tall and very lively in appearance. But the oaths regarding Magnús still stood.
Before he was allowed to submit to ordeal, Haraldr had also sworn an oath that he would make no claim to the throne while Magnús lived. With this oath the king wished to confirm the oath of the people and thus secure his son's rule and so keep trouble at bay and prevent loss of life.
These ordeals were carried out at Sæheimr (158), and people thought them excessive, for Haraldr had submitted to ordeal in order to prove his paternity and not his right to the throne, which he had already forsworn.
Soon after this the king died east in Oslo, while Haraldr and Magnús were in Túnsberg, and word was immediately sent to Magnús and he hurried to Oslo and in this way gained the treasure. The body of King Sigurðr was buried in Hallvarðskirkja, when he had ruled Norway twenty-seven winters in all.
LIX. It was then Magnús's intention to rule alone, as his father's arrangement and the oath of the people entitled him to, but Haraldr was not pleased with this and laid claim to half the kingdom, choosing to remember neither his oaths nor his brother's arrangement. During the first week there arose disagreement between them, and the court, the chieftains and the people split into two groups. Haraldr gained plenty of support as a result and (159)…
LX. …their fosterfathers. King Ingi and King Sigurðr shared one following together and King Eysteinn (160) had one of his own, but soon after, with the deaths of all the following chieftains, who had, through their counsel, governed the kingdom with them bravely and in accordance with the law of the land: [Sáða-Gyrðr], Ámundi, Þjóstólfr Álason, Óttarr birtingr – who was married to Ingiríðr, King Ingi's mother – Ögmundr sviptir and Ögmundr dengir – who was the brother of Erlingr skakki Kyrpinga-Ormsson and both older than Erlingr in years and the one who achieved by far the greater honour while they both lived – the brothers Sigurðr and Ingi divided their court (161).
King Sigurðr was a tall man and doughty, strong, temperamental and eloquent, irascible and intemperate, valiant and merry. King Eysteinn was tall, strong and outspoken, a crafty, guileful man, mean and miserly, dark and curly-haired. King Ingi was fair and had a handsome face, poor in health, with a broken back and one withered leg, so that he walked with a great limp (162). He was kindly and amiable towards his men.
King Sigurðr was an overbearing man in every way and an unruly man when he grew up. And so was his brother Eysteinn, though it was rather more true in his case for he was considered the most avaricious of them all. King Ingi was popular with the people.
A little after the deaths of the kings' counsellors, this came to pass:163 there was a man named Geirsteinn who had two sons, Hjarrandi and Hísingr, and a daughter who was the mistress of King Sigurðr, and they were on intimate terms with him. Geirsteinn was an unruly man and unjust. He was in the king's favour.
A short way away from him lived a noble widow named Gyða. Her sister was Ragnhildr, who was married to Dagr Eilífsson from Vík in the east. She was a woman of outstanding character and Geirsteinn often went to see her and was eager to gain her love, but she was unwilling. As a result he went into a rage and said that refusing him would prove to be a mistake. His first plan and scheme was to have all her cattle driven onto his corn-fields and lay the blame for this on her; then in retaliation he had his cattle led onto her corn-fields and in many ways caused her great injury.
When she saw how great was his malevolence, and the damage he had done her, she said to her friends how greatly she felt let down by her noble friends and guardians, that she should now be slighted in so many ways. A man named Gyrðr who had been brought up in her neighbourhood and was of good family and a brave man, then said to her: 'Lady,' he said, 'what you say is true: you have suffered very bad treatment at the hands of this man. But I see that you direct your speech to me, expecting me to act upon it.' And it happened one day as she walked round her farm, that she saw many cattle in her corn-fields and many causing great damage. She became angry and took a spear and ran out and made for where the cattle were. Gyrðr came out to meet her, took the spear from her and walked over toward the cattle, driving them away and over the bridge spanning the river that divided the farms. Geirsteinn came to meet him and ran toward him immediately, saying that they had promoted slaves too highly if people like him were to be measured against him, and he thrust at Gyrðr. Gyrðr parried the blow and struck in return on the left hand side, dealing him a death wound. He then went to see Gyða and told her what had happened. She had already prepared two horses, one with money and the other for him to ride...