Hakon the Good
Hakon, Athelstan's foster-son, was in England when he heard of his father King Harald's death. He immediately prepared to return to Norway. King Athelstan gave him men, and a choice of good ships, and equipped him well for his journey. He arrived in Norway at harvest time, there he heard of the death of his brothers, and that King Eirik (another brother) was in Viken.
Hakon sailed north to Throndhjem, where he went to Sigurd Earl of Hlader who was a powerful man in Norway. He gave Hakon a good reception; and they made an agreement, by which Hakon promised great power to Sigurd if he helped him to become the king of Norway. They called a large public meeting, and Sigurd the earl recommended Hakon's cause to the assembly, proposing him to the people as king. Then Hakon himself stood up and spoke; and the people said to each other as they heard him, "It is Harald Harfager come back to life, only bigger and younger."
Hakon began his speech by offering himself to them as their king, asking them for the title of king, and aid and forces with which to defend the kingdom. In return he promised to make all the peasants landholders, and give every man full rights to the land he lived on. This speech was well received and although he was only 15 years of age the Throndhjem people accepted Hakon as king.
Hakon took courtiers, bodyguards and servants, and toured through the country. The news reached the Uplands that the people in Throndhjem had taken a new king, who was in many respects like King Harald Harfager; but whereas Harald had made people his servants and slaves, Hakon wished all men well and offered to return the rights that Harald had taken from them. People rejoiced at this news, and it spread throughout the land by word of mouth as fast as fire in dry grass.
Many people came from the Uplands to meet King Hakon, others sent gifts and messages of support; Hakon accepted them all gratefully.
Early in the winter, Hakon went to the Uplands and summoned the people to a meeting, all that could come were there and he was accepted as king in the Uplands. Then he went east to Viken. There his brother's sons, Trygve and Gudrod, and many others, came to him, and complained of the evil his brother Eirik had done and the sorrow he had caused. As the people grew to like King Hakon , so their hatred of King Eirik grew too, and men found the courage to say what they thought.
King Hakon gave Trygve and Gudrod the title of kings, and the domains that King Harald had given to their fathers. Trygve received Ranrike and Vingulmark, and Gudrod received Vestfold. Because they were still young, he appointed capable men to rule the land for them. He gave them the country on the same conditions as it had been given before, that they should share the income with him half and half. As springtime approached, King Hakon returned north, through the Uplands, to Throndhjem.
Early in the spring, King Hakon collected a great army at Throndhjem and fitted out ships. The people of Viken also had a great force on foot and intended to join Hakon. Meanwhile King Eirik tried to raise an army in the middle of the country but it went badly for him. His leading men left him and went over to Hakon. He saw that he was not nearly strong enough to oppose Hakon, so he sailed away on the West Sea with as many men as would follow him.
First he sailed to Orkney, and many Orkney men joined his forces. Then he went south towards England, plundering in Scotland and in the north parts of England wherever he could land.
Athelstan, the king of England, sent a message to Eirik, offering him domains under him in England; saying that King Harald was a good friend, and therefore he would be kind to Harald's sons. Messengers passed between the two kings; and they came to an agreement. King Eirik would rule Northumberland on behalf of King Athelstan, and defend it against the Danes or other Vikings. Eirik would also let himself be baptised, together with his wife and children, and all the people who had followed him. Eirik accepted this offer, and was baptised, and adopted Christianity.
King Eirik had many people about him, for many Northmen had come with him, and many of his friends had joined him from Norway too. But as he had little land, he went on a Viking cruise every summer, plundering in Scotland, the Hebrides, Ireland, and Wales to gain wealth and property.
King Athelstan died on a sick bed after a reign of fourteen years. After him his brother Jatmund became king of England, and he liked neither the Northmen nor King Eirik. It was rumoured that King Jatmund would find another king for Northumberland. When King Eirik heard this he set off to the west on a Viking cruise. From the Orkneys he took with him the Earls Arnkel and Erlend, the sons of Earl Torfeinar.
Then he sailed to the Hebrides, where there were many Vikings and minor kings that joined their men to his. With all this force he steered to Ireland first, from there he took with him all the men he could. Then he went to Wales, and plundered; and after that sailed south to England, raiding there as elsewhere. The people fled before him wherever he appeared. King Eirik was a bold warrior, and had a great force, so he was able to penetrate a long way inland, following and plundering the people who fled before him.
King Jatmund had chosen a king called Olaf to defend the land; and he gathered an immense army that marched against King Eirik. A dreadful battle ensued, in which many Englishmen fell, but for each one who fell there came three in his place from the land behind. When evening fell the battle turned against the Northmen, and many fell. Towards the end of the day, King Eirik and five kings with him fell. Three of them were Guthorm and his two sons, Ivar and Harek. Sigurd and Ragnvald fell there too, and with them Torfeinar's two sons, Arnkel and Erlend. There was a great slaughter of Northmen, and those who escaped went to Northumberland, carrying the news to Gunhild and her sons.
When Gunhild and her sons heard that King Eirik had fallen, after having plundered the land of the King of England, they fled from Northumberland for fear of retribution. They took the remaining ships and all the men who would go with them. They took with them everything that they could carry, goods which they had gathered as taxes in England or plundered on their expeditions. With their army they sailed north to Orkney, where Thorfin Hausakljufer was earl, a son of Torfeinar, and they stayed there for a while.
Eirik's sons subdued the islands and Hjaltland, took booty for themselves, and stayed there all the winter. In the summer they went on Viking cruises to the West, and plundered in Scotland and Ireland.
When King Eirik had left the country, King Hakon, Athelstan's foster-son, subdued the whole of Norway. The first winter he visited the western parts, and then went north, and settled in Throndhjem. But as no peace could be expected while King Eirik was at large with his forces, he set up a military base in the middle of the country. Hakon placed Sigurd earl of Hlader over the whole Throradhjem district, as Sigurd and his father had been before Harald Harfager took the land from them.
When King Hakon heard of his brother Eirik's death, and also that his sons had no footing in England, he thought there was little to fear from them, so he took his troops east to Viken. At that time the Danes plundered often in Viken, but when they heard that King Hakon was coming with a great army, they fled to Halland. Those who were nearest to King Hakon went out to sea, and over to Jutland. When the king heard of this, he sailed after them with all his army. On arriving in Jutland he plundered all around, and when the country people heard of it, they assembled in a large crowd to defend their land. There was a great battle, King Hakon fought so boldly that he went forward before his banner without helmet or coat of mail. King Hakon won the victory, and drove the fugitives far up the country.
Hakon went south with his fleet to seek the Vikings, and on to Sealand. He rowed into the Eyrarsund with two ships, there he found eleven Viking ships, and instantly attacked them. He gained the victory and cleared the Viking ships of all their men.
Thereafter King Hakon carried war far and wide in Sealand, plundering, slaying, taking prisoners and ransom, and all without opposition. Then he went along the coast of Skane, pillaging everywhere, extracting taxes and ransom from the country, and killing all Vikings, both Danish and Finnish. Then he went eastwards to the district of Gautland, raided there, and took ransom from the country.
In autumn, King Hakon returned to Viken with his army and an immense amount of booty. He remained there all the winter to defend against the Danes and Gautlanders, in case they attacked.
In the same winter King Trygve Olafson returned from a Viking cruise in the West Sea where he had raided in Ireland and Scotland. In spring King Hakon went north, and left his brother's son, King Trygve, to defend Viken against enemies. He also gave him the part of Denmark that he had recaptured.
King Harald Gormson was King of Denmark at that time. He was very angry that King Hakon had made war in his dominion, and it was rumoured that he would take revenge; but this did not take place immediately. When Gunhild and her sons heard that there was enmity between Denmark and Norway, they turned their course from the West. King Eirik's daughter, Ragnhild, to Arnfin, was married to a son of Thorfin Hausakljufer; and as soon as Eirik's sons went away, Thorfin retook the earldom of the Orkney Islands. Gamle Eirikson was somewhat older than the other brothers were, but still he was not a grown man.
When Gunhild and her sons came from the west to Denmark, they were well received by King Harald. He gave them land in his kingdom, so that they could maintain themselves and their men very well. He also took Harald Eirikson to be his foster-son, set him on his knee, and thereafter he was brought up at the Danish king's court.
Some of Eirik's sons went out on Viking expeditions as soon as they were old enough, and gathered property, raiding all around in the East Sea. They grew up quickly to be handsome men, and far beyond their years in strength and perfection.
Then Eirik's sons went north with their troops to Viken and raided there; but King Trygve kept troops on foot with which he met them, and they had many a battle, in which the victory was sometimes on one side, and sometimes on the other. Sometimes Eirik's sons plundered in Viken, and sometimes Trygve in Sealand and Halland.
As long as Hakon was king in Norway, there was peace between the peasants and merchants; so that none did harm either to the life or goods of the other. It was a time of prosperity. King Hakon was of a remarkably cheerful disposition, clever in words, and very considerate. He was a man of great understanding too, and turned his attention to law making. He gave out the Gula-meeting's laws on the advice of Thorleif Spake (the Wise); also the Frosta-meeting's laws on the advice of Earl Sigurd, and of other Throndhjem men of wisdom. Halfdan the Black first established Eidsiva-meeting laws in the country.
King Hakon kept Yule at Throndhjem, and Earl Sigurd made a feast for him at Hlader. The night of the first day of Yule the earl's wife, Bergljot, gave birth to a boy-child. King Hakon poured water over him, and gave him his own name. The boy grew up, and became in his day a mighty and able man, and was earl after his father, who was King Hakon's dearest friend.
Eystein, a king of the Uplands, whom some called the Great, and some the Bad, once made war in Throndhjem, subduing Eyna district and Sparbyggia district, and setting his own son Onund over them; but the Throndhjem people killed Onund. Then King Eystein made another inroad into Throndhjem, and ravaged the land far and wide, subduing it again. He then offered the people either his slave, who was called Thorer Faxe, or his dog, whose name was Saur, to be their king. They chose the dog, as they thought they would be rid of it sooner.
A collar and chain of gold and silver were made for it, and courtiers carried it on their shoulders when the weather or pathways were foul. A throne was erected for it, and it sat in a high place, as kings are wont to sit. It lived on Eyin Idre (Idre Isle), and had a mansion in a place now called Saurshaug.
Many other extraordinary things were done by King Eystein against the Throndhjem people, and in consequence of this persecution and trouble, many chiefs and men abandoned their properties and fled.
Ketil Jamte, a son of Earl Onund of Sparabu, went eastward across the mountain ridge, and with him a great multitude, who took all their farm-stock and goods with them. They cleared the woods, and established large farms, and settled the country afterwards called Jamtaland.
Thorer Helsing, Ketil's grandson, ran away from Jamtaland on account of a murder. He fled to the east through the forest, and settled there. Many people followed, and that country, which extends eastward down to the coast, was called Helsingjaland and its eastern parts are inhabited by Swedes.
When Harald Harfager took possession of the whole country many people fled before him, including the people of Throndhjem and of Naumudal districts; and thus new settlers came to Jamtaland, and some all the way to Helsingjaland. The Helsingjaland people travelled into Svithiod for their merchandise, and became subjects of that country. The Jamtaland people were in a manner between the two countries, and nobody cared about them until Hakon entered into friendly discourse with Jamtaland, and made friends of the more powerful people.
Then they turned to him, and promised him obedience and payment of taxes, and became his subjects, for they saw nothing but good in him, and being of Norwegian race they would rather stand under his royal authority than under the king of Sweden. He gave them laws and rights to their land - that is, all who were of Norwegian race, from the other side of the great mountain ridge. He did the same in Helsingjaland.
King Hakon was a good Christian when he came to Norway; but the whole country was heathen, with much heathen sacrifice. As many great people, as well as the favour of the common people, were to be conciliated, he resolved to practice his Christianity in private. He kept Sundays, and the Friday fasts, and some token of the greatest holy days. He made a law that the festival of Yule should begin at the same time as Christian people held it, and that every man, under penalty, should brew a meal of malt into ale and keep the Yule holy as long as it lasted.
Before the beginning of Yule was the night of mid-winter, and Yule was kept for three days thereafter. It was his intent to introduce Christianity as soon as he had established himself in the land, and subjected all of it to his power.
He started by converting those nearest to him to Christianity. Many allowed themselves to be baptised, though some continued to offer sacrifices to other Gods. He lived in the Throndhjem district for a long time, because the strength of the country was there. He thought that with the support of powerful people he could introduce Christianity to the whole country, so he sent a message to England for a bishop and other teachers. When they arrived in Norway, Hakon made it known that he would proclaim Christianity all over the land.
The people of More and Raumsdal discussed the people of Throndhjem. King Hakon had several churches consecrated, and put priests into them. When he came to Throndhjem he summoned the peasants to a meeting, and invited them to accept Christianity. They answered that they would make a decision until the Frosta-meeting, at which there would be men from every district of the Throndhjem country, and then they would give their answer on this difficult matter.
Sigurd, Earl of Hlader, was one of the greatest men for sacrifices, just as Hakon his father been before him; and Sigurd always presided on behalf of the king at sacrificial festivals in the Throndhjem country. It was an old custom, that when there was to be sacrifice all the peasants would come to the spot where the temple stood and bring with them all that they might need while the festival lasted.
Men brought ale with them; and all kinds of cattle and horses were slaughtered. The blood that came from them was called "hlaut", and the vessels in which it was collected were called hlaut-vessels. Hlaut-sticks were made, like sprinkling brushes, with which the altars and the temple walls were sprinkled over, both inside and outside. The people were also sprinkled with the blood and the flesh was boiled into savoury meat for all those present.
The fire was in the middle of the temple floor and over it hung the kettles. Full goblets were handed across the fire and the chief who hosted the feast then blessed the full goblets and all the meat from the sacrifice.
The first cup to be passed around for all to drink from was called 'Odin's cup', this was drunk for victory and power to the king. After that came Niord's and Freyja's cups for peace and a good season. Finally the guests emptied a cup called the remembrance cup, to the memory of departed friends.
Sigurd the earl was a generous man who held a great sacrifice festival at Hlader, at which he paid all the expenses.
King Hakon came to the Frosta-meeting, at which a vast multitude of people was assembled. When the meeting was seated, the king spoke to the people, and began his speech by saying that it was his message and entreaty to the peasants and freemen, both great and small, and to the whole public in general, young and old, rich and poor, women as well as men, that they should all be baptised, and should believe in one God, and in Christ the son of Mary and refrain from all sacrifices and heathen gods; and should keep the seventh day holy, and abstain from all work on it, and keep a fast on the seventh day.
As soon as the king had proposed this, there was a great murmur and noise among the crowd. They complained that the king wanted to take their labour and their old faith from them, and the land could not be cultivated in that way. The labouring men and slaves thought that they could not work if they did not get meat; and they said it was the character of King Hakon, and his father, and all the family, to be generous enough with their money, but sparing with their diet.
Asbjorn of Medalhus in the Gaulardal stood up, and answered to the king's proposal: "King Hakon, when we elected you to be our king, and got back our rights at the meeting held in Throndhjem, we were happy people. Now we don't know whether we have really regained our freedom, or whether you wish to make slaves of us again by this extraordinary proposal that we should abandon the ancient faith. Our fathers and forefathers have held the faith from the oldest times, in the times when the dead were burned, as well as more recent times when they were laid under mounds, and it has served us well as a faith to the present time.
We have also held you so dear, that we have allowed you to rule and give law and right to all the country. And even now we will unanimously hold by the law which you give us here in the meeting, and to which we have also given our assent; and we will follow you, and have you for our king, as long as there is a living man among us assembled here in this meeting. But you must use some moderation and only require from us such things as we can obey you in, and are not impossible for us. If you take up this matter with a high hand, and try your power and strength against us, we have resolved to part from you and find ourselves a king who will allow us to freely and safely enjoy that faith that suits our own inclinations. You must choose one or other of these conditions before the meeting is ended."
The assembly gave loud applause to this speech, and said that it expressed their will, and they would stand or fall by what had been said. When silence was again restored, Earl Sigurd said, "It is King Hakon's will to give way to you and never to separate himself from your friendship."
The people replied, that it was their desire that the king should offer a sacrifice for peace and a good year, as his father was wont to do; and at that the noise and tumult ceased and the meeting was concluded.
Earl Sigurd spoke to the king afterwards, and advised him not to refuse to do as the people desired, saying that there was nothing else for it but to give way to the will of the people; "for it is, as you have heard yourself, the will and earnest desire of the head-people, as well as of the multitude. We may find a good way to change their minds later." In this resolution the king and the earl agreed.
At the next harvest the King went to a festival of sacrifice at Hlader. It had become his custom, when he was present at a place where there was sacrifice, to take his meals in a house by himself or with a few of his men; but the peasants grumbled that he did not seat himself in his high-seat at the happiest meetings of the people. The earl said that the king should do so this time, so the king reluctantly sat in his place of honour.
When the first cup was filled, Earl Sigurd spoke some words over it, blessed it in Odin's name, and drank to the king out of the horn. The king then took it, and made the sign of the cross over it.
Then Kar of Gryting said, "What does the king mean by doing that? Will he not sacrifice?"
Earl Sigurd replied, "The king is doing what all of you do, he is blessing the full cup in the name of Thor, by making the sign of his hammer over it before he drinks it."
After this there was quietness for the evening. The next day, when the people sat down to table, the peasants pressed the king strongly to eat of some of the horseflesh from the sacrifice but he would not do so. They offered him some of the soup but he would not drink it. They insisted he should at least taste the gravy, but still the king refused.
Earl Sigurd came and made peace among them by asking the king to lick the handle of the kettle, on which there was some fat from the boiled horseflesh. The king first laid a linen cloth over the handle, and then gaped over it and returned to the high-seat; but nobody was very satisfied with this.
The following winter, the king prepared a Yule feast in More and eight chiefs had agreed to meet at it. Four of them were from outside the Throndhjem district, namely, Kar of Gryting, Asbjorn of Medalhus, Thorberg of Varnes, and Orm from Ljoxa. From the Throndhjem district came Botolf of Olvishaug, Narfe of Staf in Veradal, Thrand Hak from Egg, and Thorer Skeg from Husaby in Eyin Idre. These eight men bound themselves by oath, the first four to root out Christianity in Norway, and the four others to oblige the king to offer sacrifice to the gods.
The first four went south to More in four ships. They killed three priests, burned three churches, and then they returned. When King Hakon and Earl Sigurd came to More with their court the peasants assembled in great numbers, and immediately, on the first day of the feast, the peasants pressed the king to offer sacrifice, and threatened him with violence if he refused. Earl Sigurd tried to make peace between them, and persuaded the king to eat some pieces of horse-liver, and empty all of the cups the peasants filled for him without making the sign of the cross; but as soon as the feast was over, the king and the earl returned to Hlader.
The king was very ill pleased and made ready to leave Throndhjem immediately with all his people; saying that the next time he came to Throndhjem, he would come with such strength of men-at-arms that he would repay the peasants for their enmity towards him.
Earl Sigurd asked the king not to take it amiss of the peasants; adding that it was unwise to threaten them, or to make war upon his own people, especially in the Throndhjem district, where the strength of the land lay. The king was so enraged that he would not listen to anybody. He left Throndhjem, and went south to More, where he remained for the rest of the winter. When summer came he assembled men, and it was rumoured that he intended to attack the Throndhjem people.
Just as the king was embarking with a great force of troops, news arrived that King Eirik's sons had come from Denmark to Viken. They had driven King Trygve Olafson from his ships at Sotanes, then plundered far and wide around in Viken, and many had submitted to them.
When King Hakon heard this news, he realised that he would need help. He sent word to Earl Sigurd and to the other chiefs to come to his assistance with all speed. Sigurd the earl came accordingly with a great body of men, among whom were all the Throndhjem people who had set upon him the hardest to offer sacrifice; and by the earl's persuasion all made their peace with the king.
King Hakon sailed south along the coast, when he came to Stad he heard that Eirik's sons had come to North Agder.
They advanced against each other, and met at Kormt. Both parties left their ships there, and gave battle at Ogvaldsnes. Both parties had a great force, and it was a great battle. King Hakon went forward bravely, King Guthorm Eirikson met him with his troop, and they exchanged blows with each other. Guthorm fell and his standard was cut down. Many people fell around him. Eirik's sons' army fled to their ships and rowed away with the loss of many men.
King Hakon returned to his ships and pursued Gunhild's sons until they came to East Adger, from there Eirik's sons set out to sea towards Jutland. After that King Hakon went back to Norway and Eirik's sons stayed in Denmark for a long time.
After this battle, King Hakon made a law. All inhabited land over the whole country along the seacoast, and as far back from it as the salmon swims up in the rivers, should be divided according to the districts. It was fixed by law how many ships should be available from each district, and how big each one should be. The inhabitants of each district would be required to provide the ships and crews whenever a foreign army came to the country.
Hakon also ordered that beacons should be erected on the hills, so that every man could see from one to the next; and it is told that a war-signal could thus be given in seven days, from the most southerly beacon to the most northerly district in Halogaland
Eirik's sons plundered on the Baltic coasts and sometimes in Norway, but while Hakon ruled Norway there was generally peace and prosperity. He was the most beloved of kings.
When Hakon had reigned in Norway for about twenty years, Eirik's sons came from Denmark with a powerful army. A great part of it consisted of the people who had followed them on their expeditions; but King Harald Gormson had placed a still greater army of Danes at their disposal.
They sailed to Agderwith from Vendil with a fair wind, and then sailed northwards, night and day, along the coast. The beacons were not lit, because an attack was not expected from that direction, and besides that, King Hakon had set heavy penalties for giving false alarm. The reason for this was that ships of war and Vikings frequently cruised about and plundered among the outlying islands, the country people took them for Eirik's sons and lit the beacons, setting the whole country in fear and dread of war. King Hakon was very angry when a false alarm was raised, because it caused great inconvenience and expense for no purpose. The peasants also suffered by these false alarms when they were given, so no warning of the arrival of Eirik's sons was given until they had come as far north as Ulfasund, where they lay for seven days.
Then spies set off across Eid and north to More. King Hakon was at that time in the island Frede, in North More, at a place called Birkistrand. He had a house there, but no troops with him other than his bodyguard and the neighbouring peasants that he had invited to his house.
Spies came to King Hakon, and told him that Eirik's sons lay just to the south of Stad with a great army. He called together the most understanding of the men about him, and asked their opinion, whether he should fight with Eirik's sons and their large army, or retreat northwards to gather together more men.
There was a peasant there named Egil Ulserk, who was a very old man. In former days had been strong and stout beyond most men, and a hardy man-at-arms too, having long carried King Harald Harfager's banner. Egil answered the king, "I was in several battles with your father Harald the king, and he gave battle sometimes with many, sometimes with few people; but he always had the victory. Never did I hear him ask his friends whether he should flee, and neither will you get any such advice from us. As we know that we have a brave leader, we will follow you bravely."
Many others agreed with this speech and the king himself declared he was most inclined to fight with such strength as they could gather. It was decided! The king split up a war-arrow, which he sent off in all directions, and by that token men were quickly collected. Then Egil Ulserk said, "It has been peaceful for so long that I was afraid I might die of old age, indoors and in bed! I would rather fall in battle following my king, and now it seems that I may get my wish."
Eirik's sons sailed northwards around Stad as soon as the wind suited. When they had passed Stad they heard where King Hakon was and sailed to meet him. King Hakon had nine ships, with which he lay under Fredarberg in Feeysund. Eirik's sons had twenty ships, with which they moored on the south side of the same cape, in Feeysund.
King Hakon sent them a message, asking them to go on the land; and telling them that he had hedged in with hazel boughs a place of combat at Rastarkalf, where there is a flat large field at the foot of a long and low ridge.
Eirik's sons left their ships, went over the neck of land in Fredarberg, and on to Rastarkalf. Then Egil asked King Hakon to give him ten men with ten banners, and the king did so. Egil took his men below the ridge and out of sight, but King Hakon went out on the open field with his army. He set up his banner and called together his army, saying, "Let us draw up in a long line so that they cannot surround us, because they have the most men." There was a severe battle, and a very sharp attack.
Then Egil Ulserk set up the ten banners he had with him, placing the men who carried them as near the summit of the ridge as possible without them being seen, and leaving a space between each of them. They went so near the summit that the banners could be seen over it, and moved on as though they were coming behind Eirik's sons' army.
When the tallest men in the line of Eirik's sons' troops saw so many flying banners advancing high over the edge of the ridge, they supposed a great force must be following, who would come behind their army, and between them and their ships. They shouted a warning to the others and took to flight. When Eirik's sons saw them, they fled with the rest. King Hakon pushed on briskly with his people, pursuing the fleeing, and killing many.
When Gamle Eirikson came up the ridge of the hill he looked back and saw that no more people were pursuing than his men had been engaged with already, and he realised that it had been a strategy of war. He ordered the war-horns blown and his banner to be set up, and he put his men in battle order. All his Northmen turned with him and stood their ground, but the Danes fled to the ships.
When King Hakon and his men caught up with them, there was again sharp conflict; though now Hakon had most people. Eventually Eirik's sons' force fled and took the road south around the hill; but a part of their army retreated over the hill followed by King Hakon. There is a flat field east of the ridge, which runs westward along the range of hills, and it is bounded on its west side by a steep ridge. Gamle's men retreated towards this ground; but Hakon followed so closely that he killed some, and others ran west over the ridge, and were killed on that side of it. King Hakon did not part with them until the last man of them was killed.
Gamle Eirikson fled from the ridge down onto the plain to the south of the hill. There he stood his ground again and gathered people to him. All of his brothers and many of their men assembled there. Egil Ulserk was in front, in advance of Hakon's men, and made a stout attack. He and King Gamle exchanged blows with each other, and King Gamle received a serious wound; but Egil fell too, and many people with him. Then King Hakon came with the troops, which had followed him, and a new battle began. King Hakon pressed on, cutting down men on both sides of him, and killing one after another.
When Eirik's sons saw their men falling all round them, they turned and fled to their ships; but those who had fled earlier had pushed some of the ships away from the land, others were still hauled up on the beach. The sons of Eirik and their men plunged into the sea, and started to swim. Gamle Eirikson was drowned, but the other sons of Eirik reached their ships and set sail with what men remained. They steered southwards back to Denmark, very dissatisfied with their expedition.
King Hakon took all of the ships that had been left on the beach and had them drawn up onto the land. Then he ordered that Egil Ulserk, and all the men of his army who had fallen, should be laid in the ships, and covered entirely over with earth and stones. King Hakon had many of the ships drawn up onto the field of battle, and the mounds over them are to be seen to the present day a little to the south of Fredarberg. High standing stones mark Egil Ulserk's grave.
King Hakon, Athelstan's foster-son, had been king for twenty-six years. He was at a feast in Hordaland in the house at Fitjar on the island of Stord. With him at the feast were his court and many of the peasants. Just as the king was seated at the supper-table, his watchmen who were outside noticed many ships coming, sailing from the south, and not very far from the island. They thought that they should tell the king that an armed force might be coming against them; but none thought it advisable to be the bearer of an alarm of war to the king, as he had set heavy penalties on those who raised such alarms falsely. Nevertheless, they thought it unsuitable that the king should remain in ignorance of what they saw. One of them went into the room and asked Eyvind Finson to come out as fast as possible, for it was very needful. Eyvind immediately came out and went to where he could see the ships. He saw immediately that a great army was on the way there and he quickly went back into the room. Standing in front of the king, he said, "It is time for action, there will be time enough for feasting later."
The king looked at him, and said, "What is it now?"
Eyvind said, "Eirik's sons are approaching!"
Then the king said, "You are too brave a fellow, Eyvind, to bring us any false alarm of war." The others confirmed that it was a true report. The king ordered the tables removed, then went out to look at the ships. When it could be clearly seen that they were ships of war, the king asked his men for help with the decision, whether to give battle with the men they had or go on board ship and sail northwards along the coast. "For it is easy to see," he said, "that we must now fight against a much greater force than we ever had against us before; although we thought just the same the last time we fought against Gunhild's sons."
Nobody was in a hurry to give an answer to the king; but at last Eyvind replied to the king's speech, "Let us take shield in hand, brave king!"
The king replied, "Your counsel, Eyvind, is manly, and after my own heart; but I will hear the opinion of others upon this matter."
As the king's men thought that they knew the king's mind, they answered that they would rather fall bravely and like men, than flee before the Danes; adding that they had often gained the victory against greater odds of numbers.
The king thanked them for their advice and bade them arm themselves; and all the men did so. The king put on his armour, girded on his sword, and put a gilt helmet upon his head. Then he took a spear in his hand and a shield by his side. He gathered his courtiers and the peasants in one body, and set up his banner.
After Gamle's death King Harald, Eirik's son, became the chief of the brothers. He had a great army with him from Denmark. In their army were also their mother's brothers, Eyvind Skreyja and Alf Askman, both strong and able men, and great manslayers. The sons of Eirik anchored their ships off the island, and it is said that their force outnumbered King Hakon's by not less than six to one.
King Hakon assembled his men and it is told that he threw off his armour before the battle began.
King Hakon had selected his personal guards and his courtiers from men that were distinguished for their strength and bravery, as his father King Harald did before him. Among these was Thoralf Skolmson the Strong, who went on one side of the king. He had helmet and shield, spear and sword; and his sword was named Footbreadth. It was said that Thoralf and King Hakon were equal in strength.
When both lines met there was a hard combat, and much bloodshed. The combatants threw their spears and then drew their swords. Then King Hakon, and Thoralf with him, went in front of the banner, cutting down on both sides of them.
King Hakon was very conspicuous among other men, especially when the sun glinted from his gilded helmet, therefore many weapons were directed at him. Eyvind Finson took a hat and put it over the king's helmet.
Eyvind Skreyja called out, "Is the king of the Norsemen hiding himself, or has he fled? Where has the golden helmet gone?"
Then Eyvind, and his brother Alf with him, pushed on like fools or madmen. King Hakon shouted to Eyvind, "Come on over here, you will find the king of the Norsemen soon enough."
It was but a short space of time before Eyvind came up swinging his sword, and made a cut at the king; but Thoralf thrust his shield so hard against Eyvind that he tottered with the shock. The king took his sword 'Kvernbit' with both hands, and hewed Eyvind through helm and head, cleaving him down to the shoulders. Thoralf also slew Alf Askman.
After the fall of the two brothers, King Hakon pressed on so hard that all men gave way before his assault. Suddenly fear gripped the army of Eirik's sons, and the men began to flee. King Hakon, who was at the head of his men, pressed on after them and hewed down often and hard. Then an arrow flew into Hakon's arm, into the muscles below the shoulder.
Many of the followers of Eirik's sons were killed, both on the field of battle and on the way to the ships, and also on the beach, and many threw themselves into the water and drowned. Others, among them Eirik's sons, managed to board their ships and rowed away as fast as they could, with Hakon's men pursuing them.
When King Hakon came to his ship he had his wound bound up, but the blood ran from it so much and so constantly, that it could not be stopped. As the day drew to an end his strength began to leave him.
He told his men that he wanted to go north to his house at Alreksstader; but when they came to Hakonarhella Hill they put in towards the land, because the king was almost lifeless.
Hakon called his friends around him, and told them what he wished to be done with his kingdom. He had only one child, a daughter, called Thora, and had no son. He told them to send a message to Eirik's sons, that they should be kings over the country; but asked them to hold his friends in respect and honour. "And if fate should prolong my life, I will leave the country, and go to a Christian land, and do penance for what I have done against God. But if I should die in a heathen land, give me any burial you think fit."
Shortly afterwards Hakon expired, at the hill on the shore-side at which he was born. The sorrow over Hakon's death was great, he was lamented both by friends and enemies; and they said that never again would Norway see such a king.
His friends removed his body to Saeheim, in North Hordaland, and made a great mound in which they laid the king in full armour and in his best clothes, but with no other goods. They spoke over his grave and wished him well in Valhalla.