Harald Hardrade - Part 1

Genealogy Index | Orme in Icelandic Sagas

Harald, a son of Sigurd Syr and a brother to Olaf the Saint by the same mother, was at the battle of Stiklestad, was fifteen years old when King Olaf the Saint fell. Harald was wounded, and escaped with other fugitives. Ragnvald Brusason led Harald from the battle, and the night after the fray took him to a serf who lived in a forest far from other people. The peasant received Harald, and kept him concealed; and Harald was waited upon until he was quite cured of his wounds. Then the serf's son attended him on the way east over the ridge of the land, and they went by all the forest paths they could, avoiding the common road. The serf's son did not know who it was he was attending.

He went eastward over the ridge through Jamtaland and Helsingjaland, and came to Svithjod, where he found Ragnvald Brusason, and many others of King Olaf's men who had fled from the battle at Stiklestad, and they remained there until winter was over.

The next spring, Harald and Ragnvald obtained ships, and went east in summer to Russia to King Jarisleif, and were with him all the following winter. King Jarisleif gave Harald and Ragnvald a kind reception, and made Harald and Ellif, the son of Earl Ragnvald, chiefs over the land-defence men of the king. Harald remained several years in Russia, and travelled far and wide in the Eastern land. Then he began his expedition out to Greece, and had a great suite of men with him; and he went on to Constantinople.

At that time the Greek empire was ruled by the Empress Zoe the Great, and with her Michael Catalactus. When Harald came to Constantinople he presented himself to the empress, and went into her pay; and immediately, in autumn, went on board the galleys manned with troops which went out to the Greek sea. Harald had his own men with him.

Harald had been but a short time in the army before all the Varings (Norsemen) flocked to him, and they all joined together when there was a battle. Harald was made chief of the Varings. There was a chief over all the troops who was called Gyrger, and who was a relation of the empress. Gyrger and Harald went among all the Greek islands, and fought against the corsairs.

Gyrger and the Varings were going through the country, and they decided to make their night quarters in a wood; as the Varings came to the ground first, they chose the place which was best for pitching their tents on, which was the highest ground; for it is the nature of the land there to be soft when rain falls, and therefore it is bad to choose a low situation for your tents. When Gyrger, the chief of the army, saw where the Varings had set up their tents, he told them to pitch their tents elsewhere, saying he would pitch his own tents on that ground. Harald replied, "If you come first to the night quarter, you take up your ground, and we always go pitch our tents at some other place where we best can. I suggest that you do the same, and find a place where you will. It is the privilege of us Varings here in the dominions of the Greek emperor to be free, and independent of all but our own commanders, and bound only to serve the emperor and empress."

They disputed long and hotly about this, and both sides armed themselves, and were preparing to fight; but men of understanding came between and separated them. They said it would be better to come to an agreement about such questions, so that in future no dispute could arise. It was agreed, with the consent of all parties, that lots should be drawn from a box to decide who would be first to ride, or to row, or to take place in a harbour, or to choose a camp site. Accordingly the lots were made and marked. Harald said to Gyrger, "Let me see what mark you have put on your lot, so that we do not both mark our lots in the same way."

Gyrger showed him and then Harald marked his lot, and put it into the box along with the other. The man who was to draw out the lots then took up one of the lots between his fingers, held it up in the air, and said, "This lot shall be the first to ride, and to row, and to take place in harbour and on the tent field." Harald seized his hand, snatched the die, and threw it into the sea, and calling out, "That was our lot!"

Gyrger said, "Why did you not let other people see it?"

Harald replied, "Look at the one remaining in the box, there you see your own mark upon it."

The lot which was left behind was examined, and all men saw that Gyrger's mark was upon it, and the judgment was given that the Varings had gained the first choice in all they had been quarrelling about. There were many things that they quarrelled about, but in the end Harald always got his own way.

They went on a campaign in summer. When the whole army was assembled Harald kept his men out of the battle, or wherever he saw the least danger, under pretext of saving his men; but where he was alone with his own men only, he fought so desperately that they must either be victorious or die. It often happened that when he commanded the army he gained victories, while Gyrger could do nothing. The troops noticed this, and insisted they would be more successful if Harald alone was chief of the whole army, and upbraided the general with never achieving anything, neither himself, nor his people. Gyrger again said that the Varings would give him no assistance, and ordered Harald to take his men somewhere else, and he, with the rest of his army, would win what he could.

Harald left with the Varings and the Latin men, and Gyrger on his side went off with the Greek troops. Then it was seen what each could do. Harald always gained victories and booty; but the Greeks went home to Constantinople with their army, all except a few brave men who had joined themselves to Harald to gain booty and money, and took him for their leader.

Then Harald took his troops west to Africa, which the Varings call Serkland, where he was strengthened with many men. In Serkland he took eighty castles, some of which surrendered, and others were stormed. Then he went to Sicily. It is said that Michael was king of the Greeks at that time. Harald remained many years in Africa, where he gathered great wealth in gold, jewels, and all sorts of precious things; and all the wealth he gathered there which he did not need for his expenses, he sent north to Novgorod with trusted men of his own, to King Jarisleif's care and keeping. He gathered together there extraordinary treasure, for he had plundered the part of the world richest in gold and valuable things, and he had done great deeds.

When Harald came to Sicily he plundered there too, and sat down with his army before a strong and heavily defended castle. He surrounded the castle, but the walls were so thick that there was no possibility of breaking into it. The people of the castle had adequate provisions, and all that was necessary for defence.

Harald had an idea. He had his bird-catchers catch the small birds which nested in the castle, but flew into the woods by day to get food for their young. He had small splinters of tarred wood bound upon the backs of the birds, smeared these over with wax and sulphur, and set fire to them. As soon as the birds were released they immediately flew to the castle to their young, and to their nests, which they had under the house roofs that were covered with reeds or straw. The fire from the birds spread to the house roofs; and although each bird could only carry a small burden of fire, all at once there was a mighty flame, caused by so many birds carrying fire with them and spreading it widely among the house roofs. One house after another was set on fire, until the castle itself was in flames. Then the people came out of the castle and begged for mercy; the same men who for many days had defied the Greek army and its leader. Harald granted life and safety to all who asked quarter, and made himself master of the place.

There was another castle that Harald came to with his army. This castle was full of people and so strong, that there was no hope of breaking into it. The castle stood upon a flat hard plain. Harald dug a tunnel from a place where a stream ran in a bed so deep that it could not be seen from the castle. They threw the earth into the stream to be carried away by the water. They laboured day and night, and relieved each other in gangs; while the rest of the army went against the castle the whole day. The castle people shot through their loop-holes, they shot at each other all day and at night they slept on both sides.

When Harald saw that his tunnel was long enough, he ordered his men to arm themselves. Towards daybreak they went into the tunnel. When they got to the end of it they dug up until they came to stones laid in lime which were the floor of a stone hall. They broke open the floor and rose into the hall. Many of the castle-men sat there eating and drinking, and not in the least expecting such uninvited wolves; for the Varings instantly attacked them sword in hand, and killed some, and those who could get away fled. The Varings pursued them; and some seized the castle gate, and opened it, so that the whole body of the army got in. The people of the castle fled; but many asked quarter from the troops, which was granted to all who surrendered. In this way Harald got possession of the place, and found an immense booty in it.

They came to a third castle, the greatest and strongest of them all, and also the richest in property and the fullest of people. Around this castle there were great ditches, so that it evidently could not be taken in the same way as the last one; and they lay seige to it for a long time without doing anything. When the castle-men saw this they became bolder and appeared on the castle walls. They threw open the castle gates, and shouted to the Varings, urging them, and jeering at them, and telling them to come into the castle, and that they were no more fit for battle than so many poultry.

Harald told his men to pretend that they did not know what to do, or did not understand what was said. He said, "if we make an assault we will achieve nothing, they can throw their weapons onto our heads; and even if some of us get into the castle they can shut them in. and shut out the others; because the castle gates are heavily manned. We will therefore show them the same scorn that they show us, and let them see we do not fear them. Our men will go out on the plain nearest to the castle; taking care to keep out of bow-shot. All of our men will go unarmed, and be playing games, so that the castle-men may see that we do not regard them or their array as dangerous." This went on for some days, without anything being done.

Two Iceland men were then with Harald; Haldor, a son of the gode Snorre, who brought this account to Iceland, and Ulf Uspakson, a grandson of Usvifer Spake. Both were very strong men, bold under arms, and friends of Harald; and both were in this play. After a few days, the castle people became bolder and would go up on the castle walls without weapons, while the castle gates were standing open. The Varings had noticed this, and one day they went to their sports with their swords under their cloaks, and their helmets under their hats. After playing for a while, they saw that the castle people were off their guard, so they grabbed their weapons and made for the castle gate.

When the men of the castle saw this they quickly armed themselves and a battle began in the castle gate. The Varings had no shields, but wrapped their cloaks round their left arms. Some of them were wounded, some killed, and all stood in great danger. Then Harald came to their assistance with the men who had remained in the camp. By this time the castle-men had taken their positions on the walls, from which they shot arrows and threw down stones. There was a severe battle, and those who were in the castle gates thought that help had not come as quickly as they would have liked it to. When Harald came to the castle gate his standard-bearer fell, and Harald said to Haldor, "You must carry the banner now." Haldor picked up the banner, and said, "Why bother to carry a banner before you, when you follow it so timidly?" But these were words more of anger than of truth; for Harald was one of the boldest of men under arms.

Then they pressed in, and had a hard battle in the castle; and eventually Harald gained the victory and took the castle. Haldor was badly wounded in the face, and it gave him great pain as long as he lived.

The fourth castle which Harald came to was the greatest of all. It was so strong that there was no possibility of breaking into it, so they surrounded the castle and stopped supplies from getting into it.

They had been there but a short time when Harald fell sick, and he took to his bed. He had his tent moved outside the camp, for he found quietness and rest away from the clamour and clang of armed men. His men usually went to or from him in companies to hear his orders; and the castle people observing there was something new among the Varings, sent out spies to discover what was afoot. The spies came back to the castle and reported the illness of the commander of the Varings, and that on that account no assault had been made on the castle.

Harald's strength began to fail, at which his men were very melancholy and downcast; the spies reported this to the castle-men. Harald's sickness increased so rapidly that his death was expected through all the army. The Varings went to the castle-men and told them of the death of their commander; begging the priests to grant him burial in the castle. When the castle people heard this news, there were many among them who ruled over cloisters or other great establishments within the place, and who were very eager to get the corpse for their church, knowing that upon that there would follow very rich presents. A great many priests therefore clothed themselves in all their robes, and went out of the castle with cross and shrine and relics and formed a beautiful procession. The Varings made a great show of the funeral. The coffin was carried high in the air, and over it was a tent of costly linen and before it were carried many banners.

When the corpse was brought to the castle gate the Varings set down the coffin right across the entry, they fixed a bar to keep the gates open, sounded to battle with all their trumpets and drew their swords. The whole army of the Varings, fully armed. rushed from the camp to assault the castle with shout and cry. The monks and other priests who had gone to meet the corpse and had vied with each other who should be the first to come out and take the offering at the burial, were now striving much more who should first get away from the Varings; for they killed all before them, whether clerk or unconsecrated. The Varings ravaged the castle so well that they killed all the men, pillaged everything and made an enormous booty.

Harald was many years in these campaigns, both in Serkland and in Sicily. Then he came back to Constantinople with his troops and stayed there but a little time before he began his expedition to Jerusalem. There he left the pay he had received from the Greek emperor and all the Varings who accompanied him did the same. It is said that on all these expeditions Harald had fought eighteen great battles.

Harald and his men went to the land of Jerusalem and then to the city of Jerusalem. Wherever they went the towns and strongholds surrendered to him. The land came under Harald's command without fire and sword. He then went to Jordan and bathed in the river, according to the custom of other pilgrims.

Harald gave great gifts to our Lord's grave, to the Holy Cross, and other holy relics in the land of Jerusalem. He also cleared the whole road all the way out to Jordan, by killing the robbers and other disturbers of the peace.

Harald returned to Constantinople from Jerusalem, but he longed to return to the North to his native land. When he heard that Magnus Olafson, his brother's son, had become king both of Norway and Denmark, he gave up his command in the Greek service. On hearing of this, the empress Zoe became angry. She accused Harald of stealing the property of the Greek emperor which he had received in the campaigns in which he was commander of the army.

There was a young and beautiful girl called Maria, a neice of the empress Zoe, and Harald had courted her; but the empress had given him a refusal. There was a rumour that the empress Zoe herself wanted Harald for her husband, and that this was the real reason for her accusation.

Constantinus Monomachus was at that time emperor of the Greeks and ruled with Zoe. He had Harald imprisoned.

As Harald was being led to the prison, King Olaf the Saint stood before him and said he would assist him. On that spot of the street a chapel has since been built and consecrated to Saint Olaf and the chapel has stood there ever since. The prison was constructed as a high tower, open above but with a door to go into it from the street. Harald was thrust in through the door, along with Haldor and Ulf.

The next night, a lady of distinction came with two servants. Using ladders they climbed to the top of the tower, let down a rope into the prison and hauled them up. Saint Olaf had cured this lady of a sickness and he had appeared to her in a vision, telling her to deliver his brother. Harald immediately went to the Varings, who all rose from their seats when he came in and received him with joy. The men quickly armed themselves and went to where the emperor slept. They took the emperor prisoner and put out both of his eyes.

The same night King Harald and his men went to the house where Maria slept and carried her away by force. Then they went down to where their boats lay, took two of them and rowed out into Sjavid sound.

They came to the place where an iron chain formed a barrier across the sound, Harald told his men to stretch out at their oars in both galleys. He had the men who were not rowing run to the stern of the galley with their baggage in his hand. The prows of the galleys rose out of the water and ran up onto the iron chain. When they could advance no further, Harald ordered all the men to run forward. The galley that Harald was in balanced forwards and swung down over the chain; but the other, which remained fast across chain, split in two and many men were lost.

Thus Harald escaped from Constantinople and sailed away into the Black Sea; but before he left the land he put the lady ashore and sent her back to Constantinople with a good escort. He asked her to tell her relation, the Empress Zoe, how little power she had over him, and how little the empress could have hindered him from taking the lady.

Harald then sailed northwards in the Ellipalta and all round the Eastern empire.

When Harald came to Novgorod, King Jarisleif received him in the most friendly way and he remained there all winter. He gathered all the gold and the many kinds of precious things that he had sent there from Constantinople, which together made up so vast a treasure that no man in the Northern lands had ever seen the like of it in one man's possession.

It was the custom that when a Greek emperor died, the Varings were allowed to go through the emperor's palaces and take and keep whatever they liked. This had happened three times while Harald was in Constantinople.

That winter, King Jarisleif gave Harald his daughter Elisabeth in marriage. The Northmen called her Ellisif. The following spring he began his journey from Novgorod and came to Aldeigjuborg, where he took ships and he sailed from there in the summer. He turned first to Svithjod and then went to Sigtuna.

Harald found there before him Svein Ulfson, who had fled from King Magnus at Helganes the previous autumn, and when they met they were very friendly on both sides. The Swedish king, Olaf the Swede, was Harald's wife's uncle; and also Svein's Uncle. Harald and Svein entered into friendship with each other and confirmed it by oath. All the Swedes were friendly to Svein, because he belonged to the greatest family in the country; and thus all the Swedes were Harald's friends and helpers too, for many great men were connected with him by relationship.

Harald and Svein fitted out ships and gathered together a great force; and when the troops were ready they sailed from the East towards Denmark. They landed first in Seeland, pillaging and burning far and wide. Then they went to Fyen, where they also landed and wasted.

King Magnus Olafson sailed north to Norway in the autumn after the battle at Helganes. There he heard the news that Harald Sigurdson, his relation, had come to Svithjod; and moreover that Svein Ulfson and Harald had entered into a friendly bond with each other and gathered together a great force, intending first to subdue Denmark and then Norway. King Magnus ordered a general levy over all Norway and he soon collected a great army.

He heard then that Harald and Svein had come to Denmark and were burning and laying waste the land and that the country people everywhere were submitting to them. It was said that King Harald was stronger and stouter than other men, and so wise that nothing was impossible to him, and he had always the victory when he fought a battle. It was also told that he was so rich in gold that no man could compare with him in wealth.

Harald and Magnus were both advised that it would be a great misfortune if relations should fight and throw a death-spear against each other; and many offered to attempt bringing about some agreement between them. The kings, by their persuasion, agreed to it.

Magnus sent a fast boat to Denmark to fetch some trusted Danish friends to propose the settlement to Harald. This affair was conducted very secretly. When Harald heard that his relation, King Magnus, offered him a treaty and land, so that Harald should have half of Norway with King Magnus, and that they should divide all their movable property into two equal parts, he accepted the proposal.

One evening Harald and Svein were sitting at table drinking and talking together, and Svein asked Harald what he valued most amongst all of his property. He answered that it was his banner Land-waster. Svein asked what was remarkable about it, that he valued it so highly. Harald replied that it was a common saying that whoever followed the banner was assured of victory, and it had been so ever since he had owned it.

Svein replied, "I will begin to believe there is such virtue in the banner when you have had three battles with your relation Magnus, and have won them all."

Harald answered with an angry voice, "I know my relationship to King Magnus, without you reminding me of it; and although we are now going in arms against him, our meeting may be of a better sort."

Svein changed colour, and said, "There are people, Harald, who say that you only hold to the part of an agreement which suits your own interest best."

Harald answered, "It ill becomes you to say that I have not stood by an agreement, when I know what King Magnus could tell of your own proceedings with him."

Thereupon each went his own way.

That night, when Harald went to bed in his boat, he said to his servant, "I will not sleep in my bed to-night, for there may be treachery. I noticed this evening that my friend Svein was very angry at my free discourse. You must therefore keep watch in case anything should happen in the night."

Harald went away to sleep somewhere else, and laid a log of wood in his place. At midnight a boat rowed alongside; a man went on board, lifted up the tent cloth and struck in Harald's bed with a great axe, so that it stuck fast in the log. The man ran back to his boat and rowed away in the dark night, for the moon was set; but the axe remained stuck in the log as evidence.

Harald woke his men and let them know of the intended treachery. "We can now see sufficiently," he said, "that we could never match Svein if he practises such deliberate treachery against us; so it will be best for us to get away from this place while we can. Let us cast loose our vessel and row away as quietly as possible."

They did so, and rowed during the night northwards along the land; and then proceeded night and day until they came to King Magnus, where he lay with his army. Harald went to his relation Magnus, and there was a joyful meeting between them. Afterwards the two relatives conversed with each other and all was settled by peaceful agreement.

King Magnus laid up his boats and set up tents upon the land. He invited his relation, King Harald, to be his guest at table and Harald went to the entertainment with sixty of his men and was well feasted. Towards the end of the day King Magnus left the feast and returned with men carrying parcels of clothes and weapons. He went to the man who sat lowest and gave him a good sword, to the next a shield, to the next a mail shirt, and so it continued. Clothes, weapons, or gold; to each man he gave one or the other valuable gift, and the more costly to the more distinguished men among them.

Then he went to his relation Harald, holding two sticks in his hand, and said, "Which of these two sticks would you like, my friend?"

Harald replied, "The one nearest me."

Then King Magnus said, "With this stick I give you half of Norway, with all the tribute and duties, and all the domains belonging to it, with the condition that everywhere you will be as much king in Norway as I am myself; but when we are both together in one place, I will be the first man in seat, service and salutation; and if there are three of us together of equal dignity, that I will sit in the middle, and will have the royal tent-ground and the royal landing-place. You will strengthen and advance our kingdom, in return for becoming that man in Norway whom I never expected any man to be as long as I was still alive."

Harald stood up, and thanked him for the high title and dignity. They both sat down, and were very merry together. That same evening Harald and his men returned to their ships.

The following morning King Magnus had the trumpets sounded to call a meeting of the people. When they were all seated, he told them of the gift he had given to his relation Harald. Thorer of Steig gave Harald the title of King there at the meeting. The same day King Harald invited King Magnus to table with him, and he went with sixty men to King Harald's tent, where the feast took place. The two kings sat together on a high-seat, and the feast was splendid; everything went magnificently, and the kings were happy and content.

Towards the close of the day, King Harald ordered many caskets to be brought into the tent, and other people brought in weapons, clothes and other sorts of valuables. King Harald divided these among King Magnus's men who were at the feast. Then he had the caskets opened and said to King Magnus, "Yesterday you gave me a large kingdom, which your hand alone won from our enemies, taking me into partnership with you at great expense to yourself. I have been away in foreign parts, and often in peril of my life to gather together the gold which you here see. Now I will divide this with you. We will share my wealth between us just as you have shared the Kingdom of Norway with me. I know that our dispositions are different and you are more generous than I am; therefore let us divide this property equally between us, so that each may have his share free to do with as he will."

Harald had a large ox-hide spread out, and poured gold onto it from the caskets. Scales and weights were brought in and the gold was divided by weight into equal parts. Everybody there was amazed that so much gold should have come together in one place in the northern countries. The kings were now very merry. Then an ingot appeared among the rest as big as a man's hand. Harald took it in his hands and said, "Friend Magnus, do you have a piece of gold that can match this piece?"

King Magnus replied, "There have been so many disturbances and wars in this country that almost all of my gold and silver is gone. I have no more gold in my possession than this ring."

He took the ring off his hand and gave it to Harald. Harald looked at it, and said, "That is not much gold for the king who owns two kingdoms; and yet some may doubt whether you are rightful owner of even this ring."

After a moments thought, King Magnus replied, "If I am not rightful owner of this ring, then I do not know what I have got right to; for my father, King Olaf the Saint, gave me this ring at our last parting."

King Harald laughed, "What you say is true King Magnus, for your father gave you this ring, but he took the ring from my father for some trifling reason; and in truth it was not a good time for small kings in Norway when your father was in full power."

At that feast King Harald gave Thorer of Steig a bowl made of mountain birch, that was encircled with a silver ring and had a silver handle, both of which parts were gilded. The bowl was filled with coins of pure silver, and there were also two gold rings in it. Then Harald gave Thorer his own cloak of dark purple lined with white skins, and promised him friendship and great dignity. Thorgils Snorrason, an intelligent man, said that he had seen an altar-cloth that was made of this cloak. Gudrid, a daughter of Guthorm, the son of Thorer of Steig, said that she had seen the bowl in her father Guthorm's possession.

The two kings, Magnus and Harald, both ruled in Norway the winter after their agreement and each had his court. They travelled the Upland country staying in guest-quarters; sometimes they were both together, sometimes each was for himself. They went all the way north to Throndhjem, to the town of Nidaros. King Magnus had taken special care of the holy remains of King Olaf after he came to the country; he had the hair and nails clipped every twelve months, and he kept the keys that opened the shrine in his own possession. Many miracles were worked by King Olaf's holy remains.

It was not long before there was disagreement between the two kings, as many were so mischievous as to promote discord between them.

Svein Ulfson had remained behind in the harbour when Harald went to meet Magnus. When he heard that Magnus and Harald had made peace with each other and joined their forces, he sailed to the east along Scania, and remained there until the late autumn. There Svein heard that King Magnus and King Harald had gone to the Uplands, so he went south to Denmark and took all the royal income that winter.

As soon as the spring arrived, King Magnus and King Harald started a tax collection in Norway. One night their boats lay all in the same harbour and in the morning King Harald, being first ready, set sail. Towards evening he came to the harbour in which Magnus and his retinue intended to pass the night. Harald laid his vessel in the royal ground, and set up his tents. King Magnus sailed later in the day and came into the harbour just as King Harald had finished pitching his tents. King Magnus saw that King Harald had taken the king's ground and intended to lie there. He ordered the sails to be taken in and said, "The men will now arm themselves and take up their oars, be ready for battle for if they will not make way for us we will fight them."

When King Harald saw that King Magnus was preparing to give him battle, he said to his men, "Cut our land-fastenings and back the ship out of the ground, for friend Magnus is in a passion." They did so and moved the boat out of the ground and King Magnus laid his vessel in it.

When they had all finished mooring, King Harald took a few men and went on board of King Magnus's ship. King Magnus received him in a friendly way, and bade him welcome. King Harald answered, "I thought we were among friends; but I just had serious doubts of that. Children can be hasty so I will put your actions just now down to your age."

King Magnus replied, "It is no childish whim, but a trait of my family, that I never forget what I have given, or what I have not given. If this trifle had been settled against my will, some other discord like it would soon have followed. I will hold to our agreement, but I will have all that belongs to me by right of that agreement."

King Harald replied coldly, "It is an old custom for the wisest to give way," and he returned to his ship.

There were other similar petty disputes and they were spoken of long and loudly amongst foolish people. The spirit of disagreement between the relatives continued, but did not become serious because of their family ties.

Magnus and Harald sailed their fleet south to Denmark and when Svein heard of their approach, he fled to Scania. Magnus and Harald remained in Denmark until late in summer, subduing the whole country. In autumn they were in Jutland.

One night as King Magnus lay in his bed, his father, Saint Olaf, appeared to him in a dream. Saint Olaf spoke to him saying, "Choose now my son whether to follow me, or become a mighty king and have long life, but commit a crime that will never be forgiven."

Magnus made the answer, "Choose for me father."

His father replied, "You will follow me."

King Magnus told his men of his dream. Soon after he fell sick and lay at a place called Sudathorp. When he was near his death he sent his brother, Thorer, with tokens to Svein Ulfson, with the request to give Thorer the aid he might require. In this message King Magnus also gave the Danish dominions to Svein after his death; and said that it was just that Harald should rule over Norway and Svein over Denmark. Then King Magnus the Good died and great was the sorrow of all the people at his death.

After this event King Harald held a meeting of his men-at-arms, and told them of his intention to take the army to Viborg meeting, and have himself proclaimed king over the whole Danish dominions, to which he claimed he had a hereditary right after his relation Magnus, as well as to Norway. He therefore asked his men for their help, and said that he thought the Norway man would always show himself to be superior to the Dane.

Einar Tambaskelfer replied that he considered it a greater duty to bring his foster-son King Magnus's corpse to the grave, and lay it beside his father, King Olaf, rather than fight abroad taking another king's dominions and property. He ended his speech by saying that he would rather follow King Magnus dead than any other king alive. He had the body adorned in the most careful way and magnificent preparations were made in the king's ship. Then all the Throndhjem people and all the Northmen prepared to return home with the king's body, and Magnus's army disbanded.

King Harald realised that it was better for him to return to Norway and secure that kingdom first, and then assemble a new army to take Denmark; and so King Harald returned to Norway with his depleted forces. When he came to Norway he held meetings with the people, and had himself proclaimed king everywhere. He went from the East through Viken, and in every district in Norway he was named king.

Einar Tambaskelfer and the Throndhjem troops escorted King Magnus's body to the town of Nidaros, where it was buried in St. Clement's church, near to the shrine of his faher, King Olaf the Saint.

King Magnus was of middle size, of long and clear-complexioned countenance, and light hair. He spoke well and hastily, was brisk in his actions, and extremely generous. He was a great warrior, and remarkably bold in arms. He was the most popular of kings, prized even by enemies as well as friends.

Svein Ulfson was still in Scania and was preparing to travel east to Sweden, with the intention of renouncing the title of king that he had assumed in Denmark. Just as he was mounting his horse some men rode up to him with the news that King Magnus was dead, and all the Northmen had left Denmark. Svein quickly answered, "As God is my witness, I will never flee from Denmark again." Then he mounted his horse and rode through Scania, where people crowded to him.

That winter he brought all the Danish dominions under his power, and all the Danes accepted him as their king. Thorer, King Magnus's brother, came to Svein in autumn with the message of King Magnus, as before related, and was well received. Thorer remained with Svein for a long time and was well taken care of in his old age.

King Harald Sigurdson took the royal power over all Norway after the death of King Magnus Olafson. When he had reigned over Norway one winter and spring was come, he ordered a levy through all the land of one-half of all men and ships and went south to Jutland. He harried and burned wide in the land all summer.

Then they burned the house of Thorkel Geysa, who was a great lord, and they carried his daughters off bound to their ships. The previous winter, they had made a great mockery of King Harald's coming with war-ships against Denmark; and they cut their cheese into the shape of anchors, and said such anchors might hold all the ships of the Norwegian king.

It is said that a spy who had seen the fleet of King Harald said to Thorkel Geysa's daughters, "You said that King Harald dared not come to Denmark."

Dotta, Thorkel's daughter, replied, "That was yesterday."

Thorkel had to ransom his daughters with a great sum. King Harald plundered in Denmark all that summer, and took immense booty; but he had no secure base in Denmark, so in the autumn he returned to Norway and he remained there all winter.

King Harald took Thora, daughter of Thorberg Arnason, and they had two sons; the oldest called Magnus, and the other Olaf. King Harald and Queen Ellisif had two daughters; the one Maria, the other Ingegerd. King Harald continued to raise armies and lay waste to Denmark each summer.

King Svein ruled over all the Danish dominions after King Magnus's death. He sat quiet all the winter; but in summer he lay out in his ships with all his people and it was said he would go north to Norway with the Danish army and make more havoc there than King Harald had made in Denmark.

King Svein proposed to King Harald that they should meet the following summer at the Gaut river and fight until they had resolved their differences in the battle-field. On both sides they spent the whole winter preparing their ships, and in the summer each called out one-half of all the fighting men in their respective countries.

King Harald's army came to the appointed meeting-place; but there he heard that King Svein was lying with his fleet at the south side of Seeland. Harald divided his forces, letting the greater part of the peasant troops return home; and took with him his courtiers, his barons, the best men-at-arms, and all the peasant troops who lived nearest to Denmark. They sailed across to Jutland to the south of Vendilskage, and then south to Thioda; and over all they carried fire and sword.

Then King Harald sailed back to the north. He had sixty ships and most of them were large and heavily laden with the booty taken during summer. As they sailed north past Thioda King Svein came down from the land with a great force and he challenged King Harald to land and fight. King Harald had little more than half the force of King Svein, so he challenged Svein to fight at sea and sailed on. When Harald's fleet came to Vendilskage the wind turned against them, and they brought up under Hlesey, where they lay all night.

A thick fog lay upon the sea; and as dawn approached they saw numerous burning lights in the distance. This was reported to King Harald; he looked for himself and said immediately, "Take to the oars, for the Danish forces are coming upon us. The fog has cleared where they are and sunlight is reflecting from the gilded dragon-heads of their ships, that is what we see."

It was as he had said, Svein had come with a massive armed force. On both sides they rowed as hard as they could. The Danish ships flew lightly over the water, but the Northmen's ships were both soaked with water and heavily laden, so the Danes approached nearer and nearer. Then Harald, whose own dragon-ship was the last of the fleet, saw that he could not get away; so he ordered his men to throw some wood overboard, and put clothes and other good and valuable articles on it. The sea was calm and the wod drifted about with the tide.

When the Danes saw their own goods drifting about on the sea, the leading boats turned about to retrieve them; knowing that taking what was floating about was much easier than boarding the Northmen's boats and taking it from them. They stopped rowing and lost ground. When King Svein caught up with them in his boat, he urged them on, saying that it would be a great shame if they, with so great a force, could not overtake and master so small a number.

Again the Danes began to stretch out lustily at their oars. When King Harald saw that the Danish boats were gaining on him, he ordered his men to lighten their ships by throwing overboard malt, wheat and bacon, and letting their mead run out, which helped a little. Then Harald ordered the empty casks and barrels and the prisoners thrown overboard. When all these were drifting about on the sea, Svein ordered help to be given to save the men. This was done; but so much time was lost that they separated from each other. The Danes turned back and the Northmen continued on their way.

King Harald was a great man, who ruled his kingdom well. He was very prudent and understanding. It was the universal opinion that no chief in northern lands was ever of such deep judgment and ready counsel as Harald. He was a great warrior; bold in arms and strong and expert in the use of his weapons beyond any others. A great part of his history is put in verse by Iceland men, which poems they presented to him or his sons, and for which reason he was their great friend. He was, indeed. a great friend to all the people of that country; and once, when a very hard time set in, he allowed four ships to transport meal to Iceland and set a low price for it. He also permitted all poor people, who could find provisions to keep them on the voyage across the sea, to emigrate from Iceland to Norway; and from that time there was better subsistence in the Iceland, and the seasons also turned out better.

King Harold also sent from Norway a bell for the church of which Olaf the Saint had sent the timbers to Iceland, and which was erected on the meeting-plain. Such remembrances of King Harald are found here in Iceland, besides many great gifts which he presented to those who visited him.

Haldor Snorrason and Ulf Uspakson, as before related, came to Norway with King Harald. They were, in many respects, of different dispositions. Haldor was very stout and strong, and remarkably handsome in appearance. King Harald said that, among all his men, Haldor cared least about doubtful circumstances; Whether they were dangerous or pleasurable he was never in higher or in lower spirits, he slept neither less nor more on account of them, and ate or drank but according to his custom. Haldor was not a man of many words, but short in conversation. He told his opinion bluntly and was obstinate and hard, and this did not please the king, who had many clever people about him zealous in his service. Haldor remained a short time with the king; and then came to Iceland, where he took up his abode in Hjardarholt, and lived at that farm to a very advanced age.

Ulf Uspakson stood in great esteem with King Harald; for he was a man of great understanding, clever in conversation, active and brave, and also true and sincere. King Harald made Ulf his marshal, and married him to Jorun, Thorberg's daughter, a sister of Harald's wife, Thora. Ulf and Jorun's children were Joan the Strong of Rasvol, and Brigida, mother of Sauda-Ulf, who was father of Peter Byrdar-Svein, father of Ulf Fly and Sigrid. Joan the Strong's son was Erlend Himalde, father of Archbishop Eystein and his brothers. King Harald gave Ulf the marshal the rights of a baron and lands of twelve marks income, besides a district in the Throndhjem land.

King Magnus Olafson built Olaf's church in the town (Nidaros), on the spot where Olaf's body was set down for the night. He also had the king's house built there. The church was not quite finished when Magnus died, but King Harald had it completed. King Harald had the church called Mary Church built from the foundations up, at the sandhill close to the spot where the king's holy remains were concealed in the earth the first winter after his fall. It was a large temple, and so strongly built with lime that it was difficult to break it when the Archbishop Eystein had it pulled down. Olaf's holy remains were kept in Olaf's church while Mary Church was being built. King Harald had the king's house erected below Mary Church, at the side of the river, and he had the house in which he had made a great hall consecrated and called Gregorius Church.

There was a man called Ivar the White, who was a brave baron dwelling in the Uplands, and was a daughter's son of Earl Hakon the Great. Ivar was the a handsome man. Ivar's son was called Hakon and it was said that he was distinguished above all men in Norway for beauty, strength and perfection of figure. In his youth he was sent out on war expeditions, where he gained great honour. He later became one of the most celebrated men.

Einar Tambaskelfer was the most powerful baron in the Throndhjem land. There was little friendship between him and King Harald, although Einar retained all the lands that he had held while Magnus the Good lived. Einar had many large estates, and was married to Bergliot, a daughter of Earl Hakon, as related above. Their son Eindride was grown up, and married to Sigrid, a daughter of Ketil Kalf and Gunhild, King Harald's sister's daughter. Eindride had inherited the beauty of his mother's father, Earl Hakon; His sons; and in size and strength he took after his father, Einar, and also bore the bodily perfections by which Einar had been distinguished above other men.

Orm was at that time earl in the Uplands. His mother was Ragnhild, a daughter of Earl Hakon the Great, and Orm was a remarkably clever man. Aslak Erlingson was then in Jadar at Sole, and was married to Sigrid, a daughter of Earl Svein Hakonson. Gunhild, Earl Svein's other daughter, was married to the Danish king, Svein Ulfson. These were the descendants of Earl Hakon at that time in Norway, and many other distinguished people besides. The whole race was remarkable for their very beautiful appearance, and most of them were gifted with great bodily perfection, and were all distinguished and important men.

King Harald was very proud and, as he became firmly established in Norway, his pride increased so much that it was not good to speak against him, or to propose anything contrary to his wishes.

Einar Tambaskelfer was the head man among the peasants in Throndhjem, and answered for them at the meetings - even against the king's men - and all the peasants stood by him. Einar knew the law well, he did not hesitate to offer his opinion at meetings, even if the king was present. The king grew very angry at this, and they disputed eagerly against each other. Einar said that the peasants would not tolerate any unlawful proceedings from King Harald if he broke the law of the land, and reminded the king of this on several occasions. Einar then began to keep people about him at home, and he had many more when he came into the town if the king was there.

Once, Einar came to the town with a great many men and ships. He had with him eight or nine great war-ships and nearly 500 men. When he came to the town he went up from the beach with his attendants. King Harald was in his house, standing out on a balcony, when he saw Einar's people disembarking. Harald made a mental note of Einar's growing power and resolved to be rid of him.

One day there was a meeting held in the town, at which the king himself was present. A thief had been caught and he was brought before the meeting for judgement. The man had before been in the service of Einar, who had been very well satisfied with him. This was reported to Einar, and he knew the king would ask for a harsh penalty because the man had been in his service. Einar therefore armed his men, they went to the meeting, and freed the man by force.

Friends on both sides came between Einar and Harald and tried to effect a reconciliation; a meeting place was appointed, to which both should come. There was a meeting-room in the king's house at the river Nid, and the king went into it with a few men, while most of his men stayed out in the yard. The king ordered the shutters of the loft-opening to be turned, so that there was only a little space left clear. When Einar came into the yard with his men, he told his son Eindride to remain outside with them, "for there is no danger for me here."

Eindride remained standing outside by the door. When Einar entered the meeting-room, he said, "It is dark in the king's meeting-room."

At that moment he was attacked with spears and swords. When Eindride heard the commotion he drew his sword and rushed into the room; but he was instantly killed along with his father. The king's men then ran up and placed themselves in front of the door, and having no leader the peasants lost courage. They urged each other on, saying that it would be shameful if they did not avenge their leader, but it came to nothing. The king went out to his men, arrayed them in battle order, and set up his standard: but the peasants did not dare to attack. Then the king and his men went back to their ships, rowed down the river, and made their way out of the fjord.

When Einar's wife Bergliot, who was in the house which Einar had in the town, heard of Einar's fall, she immediately went to the king's house and urged the peasants to attack; but by that time the king was already rowing out of the river. Then Bergliot said, "We need my relation, Hakon Ivarson, here: Einar's murderer would not be rowing out of the river if Ivar stood here on the riverbank."

Bergliot adorned Einar's and Eindride's corpses and buried them in Olaf's church, beside King Magnus Olafson's burial-place. After Einar's murder the king was so greatly disliked that the only thing preventing the barons and peasants from attacking the king, and giving him battle, was the lack of a leader.

Fin Arnason lived at Austrat in Yrjar, and was King Harald's baron there. Fin was married to Bergliot, a daughter of Halfdan, who was a son of Sigurd Syr, and brother of Olaf the Saint and of King Harald. Thora, King Harald's wife, was Fin Arnason's brother's daughter: and Fin and all his brothers were the king's dearest friends. Fin Arnason had been for some summers on a viking cruise in the West sea; and Fin, Guthorm Gunhildson and Hakon Ivarson had all been together on that cruise.

King Harald sailed from Throndhjem fjord to Austrat, where he was well received. Afterwards the king and Fin talked about the death of Einar and his son, and of the murmuring and threatening which the peasants made against the king. Fin took up the conversation briskly, and said, "You are ruling badly in two ways: first, in doing all manner of mischief; and next, in being so afraid that you do not know what to do."

The king laughed, "I will send you into the town, my friend, to bring about a reconciliation with the peasants. If that does not work, you must go to the Uplands and make an agreement with Hakon Ivarson that he will not be my opponent."

Fin replied, "And how will you reward me if I undertake this dangerous errand? Both the people of Throndhjem and the people of Upland are such great enemies to you that it would not be safe for any of your messengers to go among them, unless he was one who would be spared for his own sake."

The king replied, "You must undertake this mission, for I know you will succeed in it if any man can, and bring about a reconciliation; and then you may choose your own reward."

Fin said, "I will hold you to your word, for I have already chosen my reward. I would like to have peace and safe residence in this country for my brother Kalf, and all of his estates restored to him, along with all the dignity and power that he had when he left the country."

The king agreed and it was confirmed by witnesses and shake of hand. Then Fin said, "What may I offer Hakon to induce him to agree to a treaty and reconciliation with you?"

The king replied, "First ask Hakon what he requires of me for undertaking such an agreement, then negotiate on my behalf, but in the end deny him nothing but my kingdom." Then King Harald went to More, and gathered together men in considerable numbers.

Fin Arnason went to the town with his house-servants, nearly eighty men. When he arrived he held a meeting with the town's people. Fin spoke long and ably at the meeting; and asked the town's people, and peasants not to hate their king or drive him away. He reminded them of how much evil they had suffered by acting in that way against King Olaf the Saint; and added that the king was willing to pay penalty for this murder, according to the judgment of understanding and good men.

The peasants promised to wait quietly until the messengers that Bergliot had sent to Hakon Ivarson returned. Fin went to Orkadal with the men who had accompanied him to the town. From there he went up to Dovrefield, and east over the mountains. First he went to his son-in-law, Earl Orm, who was married to Sigrid, Fin's daughter, and told him his business.

Fin and Earl Orm arranged a meeting with Hakon Ivarson; and when they met Fin explained his errand to Hakon, and the offer which King Harald made him. It was soon seen, from Hakon's speech, that he considered it to be his great duty to avenge the death of his relative, Eindride; and added, that word was come to him from Throndhjem, from which he might expect help against the king. Then Fin suggested to Hakon how much better it would be for him to accept as high a dignity from the king as he could desire, rather than attempt an uprising against the king to whom he owed service and duty. He said if Hakon came out of the conflict without victory, he would lose his life and property: "And even if you succeed, you will still be called a traitor to your sovereign."

Earl Orm supported Fin's speech. Hakon paused for thought and then said, "I will be reconciled with King Harald if he will give me in marriage his relation Ragnhild, King Magnus Olafson's daughter, with such dowry as is suitable to her."

Fin said he would agree to this on the king's part; and thus it was settled among them. Fin returned to Throndhjem, and the disturbance and enmity was quashed, so that the king could retain his kingdom in peace at home; and the league that Eindride's relations had made among themselves for opposing King Harald was broken.

At the appointed time Hakon went to King Harald; and in their conference the king said that he would adhere to all that was settled in their agreement. Harald then said, "You must settle for yourself the matter concerning Ragnhild, for it would not be advisable for you, or for any one, to marry Ragnhild without her consent."

Hakon went to Ragnhild, and made his proposal to her. She made this reply: "It grieves me that my father, King Magnus, is dead and gone from me, since now it seems that I must suffer proposals from peasants. If King Magnus had lived he would not have married me to any man less than a king; so do not expect me to take a man who has no dignity or title whatsoever."

Then Hakon returned to King Harald and told him of his conversation with Ragnhild, and reminded him of the agreement that he had made with Fin in front of witnesses who had been present at the meeting with Fin.

Hakon called the witnesses to confirm the agreement that the king should give Ragnhild a suitable dowry. "Since she will have no man who does not have a high dignity, you must give me such a title. According to the opinion of the people, I am of suitable birth, family and other qualifications to be called earl."

The king replied, "When my brother, King Olaf, and his son, King Magnus, ruled the kingdom, they allowed only one earl at a time to be in the country, and I have done the same since I came to the kingly title. I will not take away from Orm the title of honour I have given him."

Hakon saw that his business had not advanced, and was very ill pleased. Fin was outrageously angry. They said the king had broken his word; and thus they parted.

Hakon immediately left the country. When he came to Denmark he went to his relative, King Svein, who received him honourably and gave him great areas of land. Hakon became King Svein's commander of the coast defence against the vikings, - the Vindland people, Kurland people, and others from the East countries, - who infested the Danish dominions; and he lay out with his ships of war both winter and summer.

There was a man called Asmund, who is said to have been King Svein's sister's son, and his foster-son. Asmund was distinguished by his boldness and was much disliked by the king. When Asmund came of age, he became an ungovernable person, fond of murder and manslaughter. The king was ill pleased at this, and sent him away, giving him sufficient lands to support him and his followers well. As soon as Asmund had obtained the property from the king he gathered a large troop of men. Since the estate he received from the king was not as much as he wanted, he also took other land that belonged to the king.

When the king heard of this he summoned Asmund to him, and when they met the king said that Asmund should remain with the court without keeping any retinue of his own. Asmund had been a little time in the king's court he grew weary of being there, and escaped in the night. He returned to his former companions and did more mischief than ever.

When the king was riding through the country he came to the neighbourhood where Asmund was, and sent out men-at-arms to seize him. The king then had him laid in irons, and kept him so for some time in the hope he would reform; but no sooner did Asmund get rid of his chains than he absconded again, gathered together people and men-at-arms and took to plunder, both abroad and at home.

The people who suffered under these disturbances came to the king and complained to him of their losses, he replied, "Why do you tell me of this? Why not go to Hakon Ivarson, who is my officer for the land-defence, placed in that position to keep the peace for you and hold the vikings in check? I was told that Hakon was a gallant and brave man, but I think he is rather shy when there is any danger of life."

The king's words were brought to Hakon, with many additions. Hakon went in search of Asmund, and when their ships met Hakon gave battle immediately. The conflict was sharp, and many men were killed. Hakon boarded Asmund's ship and cut down all before him. At last he and Asmund met and exchanged blows until Asmund fell. Hakon cut off his head and took it to King Svein, just as the king was sitting down to dine. Hakon stood in front of the table, he laid Asmund's head on the table and asked the king whether he knew it. The king made no reply, but became very red in the face. Soon after the king sent him a message, ordering him to leave his service immediately. "Tell him I will do him no harm myself; but I cannot speak for Asmund's other relatives."

Hakon left Denmark, and went to his estates in Norway. His relation Earl Orm was dead. Hakon's relations and friends were glad to see Hakon, and many gallant men went to great lengths to bring about a reconciliation between King Harald and Hakon. It was finally settled in this way, Hakon married Ragnhild, the king's daughter, and King Harald gave Hakon the earldom, with the same power that Earl Orm had possessed. Hakon swore to King Harald an oath of fidelity to all the services he was liable to fulfill.

Kalf Arnason had been on a viking cruise to the Western countries ever since he had left Norway; but in winter he was often in the Orkney Islands with his relative, Earl Thorfin. Fin Arnason sent a message to his brother Kalf, and told him the agreement which he had made with King Harald, that Kalf should enjoy safety in Norway, and his estates, and all the lands he had held from King Magnus. When Kalf received the message he immediately prepared for his voyage, and went east to Norway to his brother Fin. Fin obtained the king's peace for Kalf, and when Kalf and the king met they entered into the agreement which Fin and the king had settled upon before. Kalf bound himself to the king in the same way as he had bound himself to serve King Magnus, according to which Kalf should do all that the king desired and considered of advantage to his realm. Thereupon Kalf received all the estates and lands that he had previously held from King Magnus.

Go to Harald Hardrade Part 2

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