Halfdan the Black
Halfdan was a year old when his father was killed. His mother, Asa, immediately set off with him to Agder, the kingdom which her father Harald had possessed. Halfdan grew up there, and soon became stout and strong; and, because of his black hair, was called Halfdan the Black.
When he was eighteen years old he took his kingdom in Agder, and went immediately to Vestfold, where he divided that kingdom with his brother Olaf. The same autumn he took an army to Vingulmark against King Gandalf. They had many battles, and sometimes one, sometimes the other gained the victory; but at last they agreed that Halfdan should have half of Vingulmark, as his father Gudrod had it before.
Then King Halfdan went to Raumarike, and subdued it. King Sigtryg, son of King Eystein, who had his residence in Hedemark, and who had subdued Raumarike before, having heard of this, came out with his army against King Halfdan, and there was great battle, in which King Halfdan was victorious. As King Sigtryg and his troops were turning to flee, an arrow struck him under the left arm, and he fell dead. Halfdan then laid the whole of Raumarike under his power.
King Eystein's second son, King Sigtryg's brother, was also called Eystein, and was then king in Hedemark. As soon as Halfdan had returned to Vestfold, King Eystein took his army to Raumarike, and laid the whole country in subjection to him.
When King Halfdan heard of these disturbances in Raumarike, he again gathered his army together; and went against King Eystein. A battle took place between them, and Halfdan gained the victory. Eystein fled to Hedemark, pursued by Halfdan. Another battle took place, in which Halfdan was again victorious; and Eystein fled northwards, into the Dales to the Baron Gudbrand. There he was strengthened with new people, and in winter he went towards Hedemark, and met Halfdan the Black upon a large island which lies in the Mjosen lake. There a great battle was fought, and many people on both sides were slain, but Halfdan won the victory. There fell Guthorm, the son of the Baron Gudbrand, who was one of the finest men in the Uplands. Then Eystein fled north up the valley, and sent his relation Halvard Skalk to King Halfdan to beg for peace. On consideration of their relationship, King Halfdan gave King Eystein half of Hedemark, which he and his relations had held before; but kept to himself Thoten, and the district called Land. He likewise appropriated to himself Hadeland, and thus became a mighty king.
Halfdan the Black took a wife called Ragnhild, a daughter of Harald Gulskeg (Goldbeard), who was a king in Sogn. They had a son, to whom Harald gave his own name; and the boy was brought up in Sogn, by his mother's father, King Harald. When Harald grew old and weak, having no son, he gave his dominions to his daughter's son Harald, and gave him his title of king; and he died soon after. The same winter his daughter Ragnhild died; and the following spring the young Harald fell sick and died at ten years of age. As soon as Halfdan the Black heard of his son's death, he took the road northwards to Sogn with a great force, and was well received. He claimed the heritage and dominion after his son; and no opposition being made, he took the whole kingdom.
Earl Atle Mjove (the Slender), who was a friend of King Halfdan, came to him from Gaular; and the king set him over the Sogn district, to judge in the country according to the country's laws, and collect taxes on his behalf.
In autumn, King Halfdan went to Vingulmark. One night when he was there in guest quarters, at about midnight a man came to him who had been on the watch on horseback, and told him that an army had come near to the house. The king rose immediately, ordered his men to arm themselves, and went out of the house to draw them up in battle order. At that moment, Gandalf's sons, Hysing and Helsing, appeared with a large army. There was a great battle; but Halfdan was overpowered by the number of people and fled to the forest, leaving many of his men behind. His foster-father, Olver Spake (the Wise), fell here. The people rallied to King Halfdan and he advanced to seek Gandalf's sons. They met at Eid, near Lake Oieren, and fought there. Hysing and Helsing fell, and their brother Hake saved himself by running away. King Halfdan then took possession of the whole of Vingulmark, and Hake fled to Alfheimar.
Sigurd Hjort was the name of a king in Ringerike, who was stouter and stronger than any other man, and his equal could not be seen for a handsome appearance. His father was Helge Hvasse (the Sharp); and his mother was Aslaug, a daughter of Sigurd the worm-eyed, who in turn was a son of Ragnar Lodbrok.
It is told of Sigurd that when he was only twelve years old he killed in single combat the berserk Hildebrand, and eleven others of his comrades; and many are the deeds of manhood told of him in a long saga about his feats. Sigurd had two children, one of whom was a daughter, called Ragnhild, then twenty years of age, and an excellent brisk girl. Her brother Guthorm was a youth. It is related in regard to Sigurd's death that he had a custom of riding out quite alone in the uninhabited forest to hunt the wild beasts that are hurtful to man, and he was always very eager at this sport. One day he rode out into the forest as usual, and when he had ridden a long way he came out at a piece of cleared land near to Hadeland. There the berserk Hake came against him with thirty men, and they fought. Sigurd Hjort fell there, after killing twelve of Hake's men; and Hake himself lost one hand, and had three other wounds. Then Hake and his men rode to Sigurd's house, where they took his daughter Ragnhild and her brother Guthorm, and carried them, with much property and valuable articles, home to Hadeland, where Hake had many great farms. He ordered a feast to be prepared, intending to hold his wedding with Ragnhild; but the time passed on account of his wounds, which healed slowly; and the berserk Hake of Hadeland had to keep his bed, on account of his wounds, all the autumn and beginning of winter.
King Halfdan was in Hedemark at the Yule entertainments when he heard this news; and one morning early, when the king was dressed, he summoned Harek Gand, and told him to go to Hadeland, and fetch Ragnhild, Sigurd Hjort's daughter. Harek got ready with a hundred men, and made his journey so that they came over the lake to Hake's house in the grey of the morning, and guarded all the doors and stairs of the places where the house-servants slept. Then they broke into the sleeping-room where Hake slept, took Ragnhild, with her brother Guthorm, and all the goods that were there, and set fire to the house-servants' place, and burnt all the people in it. Then they covered over a magnificent waggon, placed Ragnhild and Guthorm in it, and drove down onto the ice. Hake pursued them; but when he came to the ice on the lake, he turned his sword-hilt to the ground and let himself fall upon the point, so that the sword went through him. He was buried under a mound on the banks of the lake.
When King Halfdan, who was very sharp-eyed, saw the party returning over the frozen lake, and with a covered waggon, he knew that their errand was accomplished according to his desire. He ordered the tables to be set out, and sent people all round in the neighbourhood to invite plenty of guests; and the same day there was a good feast which was also Halfdan's marriage-feast with Ragnhild, who became a great queen. Ragnhild's mother was Thorny, a daughter of Klakharald king in Jutland, and a sister of Thrye Dannebod who was married to the Danish king, Gorm the Old, who then ruled over the Danish dominions.
Ragnhild, who was wise and intelligent, dreamt great dreams. Once she dreamt that she was standing out in her herb-garden, and she took a thorn out of her shift; but while she was holding the thorn in her hand it grew so that it became a great tree, one end of which struck itself down into the earth, and it became firmly rooted; and the other end of the tree raised itself so high in the air that she could scarcely see over it, and it also became wonderfully thick. The under part of the tree was red with blood, but the stem upwards was beautifully green and the branches white as snow. There were many and great limbs to the tree, some high up, others low down; and so vast were the tree's branches that they seemed to her to cover all Norway, and even much more.
King Halfdan never had dreams, which appeared to him an extraordinary circumstance. He spoke of this with a man called Thorleif Spake (the Wise), and asked his advice. Thorleif said that what he did himself, when he wanted to have a revelation by dream, was to take his sleep in a pig-sty, and then he never failed to have dreams. The king tried this, and the following dream was revealed to him. He thought he had the most beautiful hair, which was all in ringlets; some so long as to fall upon the ground, some reaching to the middle of his legs, some to his knees, some to his loins or the middle of his sides, some to his neck, and some were no more than knots springing from his head. The ringlets were of various colours; but one ringlet surpassed all the others in beauty, lustre, and size. He told this dream to Thorleif, who interpreted it thus: There should be a great posterity from him, and his descendants should rule over countries with great honour; but one of his race would be more celebrated than all the others. It was the opinion of people that this ringlet betokened King Olaf the Saint. King Halfdan was a wise man, a man of truth and uprightness who made laws, observed them himself, and obliged others to observe them. So that violence should not come in place of the laws, he himself fixed the number of criminal acts in law, and the compensations, fines, or penalties, for each case, according to birth and dignity.
Queen Ragnhild gave birth to a son, and water was poured over him, and he was given the name Harald. He soon grew stout and remarkably handsome. As he grew up he became very expert at all feats, and showed also a good understanding. He was much beloved by his mother, but less so by his father.
King Halfdan was at a Yule-feast in Hadeland, where a wonderful thing happened one Yule evening. When the great number of guests assembled were going to sit down to table, all the meat and all the ale disappeared from the table. The king sat alone very confused in mind; all the others set off, each to his home, in consternation. The king suspected a Fin and tried to extract a confession of guilt; but however much he tortured the man, he got nothing out of him. The Fin sought help particularly from Harald, the king's son, and Harald begged for mercy for him, but in vain. Then Harald let him escape against the king's will, and accompanied the man himself. On their journey they came to a place where the man's chief had a great feast, and they were well received there. When they had been there until spring, the chief said, "Your father was upset that I took some provisions from him last winter. Now I will repay it to you with a joyful piece of news: Your father is dead; and now you may return home, and take possession of the whole kingdom that he had, and with it you will obtain the whole kingdom of Norway."
Halfdan the Black was returning from a feast in Hadeland, and his road lay over the lake called Rand. It was in spring, and there was a great thaw. They went across the bay called Rykinsvik, where in winter there had been a hole broken in the ice for cattle to drink at, and where the dung had fallen onto the ice the thaw had eaten it into holes. As the king rode over it the ice broke, and King Halfdan and many with him perished. He was forty years old. He had been one of the most fortunate kings in respect of good seasons. The people thought so much of him, that when his death was known and his body was taken by boat to Ringerike to bury it there, the people of most consequence from Raumarike, Vestfold, and Hedemark came to meet it. All desired to take the body with them to bury it in their own district, and they thought that those who got it would have good crops. At last it was agreed to divide the body into four parts. The head was laid in a mound at Stein in Ringerike, and each of the others took his part home and laid it in a mound; and these have since been called Halfdan's Mounds.