Powered by Heat Keywords
The Online 
Medieval and Classical Library

The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway

Saga of Magnus the Blind and of Harald Gille

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #15b

An age of conflict now begins in Norway. On his death, in 1130, Sigurd left his son Magnus and his brother Harald. They soon divided the government, and then entered upon a five-years' conflict, until Magnus, in 1135, with eyes picked out, went into a convent.

The next year, 1136, a new pretender appeared in the person of Sigurd Slembe, who took King Harald's life in 1137. Magnus died in 1139.

Other literature in regard to this epoch is "Fagrskinna" and "Morkinskinna". The corresponding part of "Agrip" is lost.

Skalds quoted are: Haldor Skvaldre, Einar Skulason, and Ivar Ingemundson.


King Sigurd's son Magnus was proclaimed in Oslo king of all the
country immediately after his father's death, according to the
oath which the whole nation had sworn to King Sigurd; and many
went into his service, and many became his lendermen.  Magnus was
the handsomest man then in Norway; of a passionate temper, and
cruel, but distinguished in bodily exercises.  The favour of the
people he owed most to the respect for his father.  He was a
great drinker, greedy of money, hard, and obstinate.

Harald Gille, on the other hand, was very pleasing in
intercourse, gay, and full of mirth; and so generous that he
spared in nothing for the sake of his friends.  He willingly
listened to good advice, so that he allowed others to consult
with him and give counsel. With all this he obtained favour and a
good repute, and many men attached themselves as much to him as
to King Magnus.  Harald was in Tunsberg when he heard of his
brother King Sigurd's death.  He called together his friends to a
meeting, and it was resolved to hold the Hauga Thing (1) there in
the town.  At this Thing, Harald was chosen king of half the
country, and it was called a forced oath which had been taken
from him to renounce his paternal heritage.  Then Harald formed a
court, and appointed lendermen; and very soon he had as many
people about him as King Magnus.  Then men went between them, and
matters stood in this way for seven days; but King Magnus,
finding he had fewer people, was obliged to give way, and to
divide the kingdom with Harald into two parts.  The kingdom
accordingly was so divided (October 3, 1130) that each of them
should have the half part of the kingdom which King Sigurd had
possessed; but that King Magnus alone should inherit the fleet of
ships, the table service, the valuable articles and the movable
effects which had belonged to his father, King Sigurd.  He was
notwithstanding the least satisfied with his share.  Although
they were of such different dispositions, they ruled the country
for some time in peace.  King Harald had a son called Sigurd, by
Thora, a daughter of Guthorm Grabarde.  King Harald afterwards
married Ingerid, a daughter of Ragnvald, who was a son of the
Swedish King Inge Steinkelson.  King Magnus was married to a
daughter of Knut Lavard, and she was a sister of the Danish King
Valdernar; but King Magnus having no affection for her, sent her
back to Denmark; and from that day everything went ill with him,
and he brought upon himself the enmity of her family.

(1)  Hauga-thing means a Thing held at the tumuli or burial
     mounds. -- L.


When the two relations, Harald and Magnus, had been about three
years kings of Norway (A.D. 1131-1133), they both passed the
fourth winter (A.D. 1134) in the town of Nidaros, and invited
each other as guests; but their people were always ready for a
fight.  In spring King Magnus sailed southwards along the land
with his fleet, and drew all the men he could obtain out of each
district, and sounded his friends if they would strengthen him
with their power to take the kingly dignity from Harald, and give
him such a portion of the kingdom, as might be suitable;
representing to them that King Harald had already renounced the
kingdom by oath.  King Magnus obtained the consent of many
powerful men.  The same spring Harald went to the Uplands, and by
the upper roads eastwards to Viken; and when he heard what King
Magnus was doing, he also drew together men on his side. 
Wheresoever the two parties went they killed the cattle, or even
the people, upon the farms of the adverse party.  King Magnus had
by far the most people, for the main strength of the country lay
open to him for collecting men from it.  King Harald was in Viken
on the east side of the fjord, and collected men, while they were
doing each other damage in property and life.  King Harald had
with him Kristrod, his brother by his mother's side, and many
other lendermen; but King Magnus had many more.  King Harald was
with his forces at a place called Fors in Ranrike, and went from
thence towards the sea.  The evening before Saint Lawrence day
(August 10), they had their supper at a place called Fyrileiv,
while the guard kept a watch on horseback all around the house.
The watchmen observed King Magnus's army hastening towards the
house, and consisting of full 6000 men, while King Harald had but
1500.  Now come the watchmen who had to bring the news to King
Harald of what was going on and say that King Magnus's army was
now very near the town.

The king says, "What will my relation King Magnus Sigurdson have? 
He wants not surely to fight us."

Thjostolf Alason replies, "You must certainly, sire, make
preparation for that, both for yourself and your, men.  King
Magnus has been drawing together an army all the summer for the
purpose of giving you battle when he meets you."

Then King Harald stood up, and ordered his men to take their
arms.  "We shall fight, if our relative King Magnus wants to
fight us."

Then the war-horns sounded, and all Harald's men went out from
the house to an enclosed field, and set up their banners.  King
Harald had on two shirts of ring-mail, but his brother Kristrod
had no armour on; and a gallant man he was.  When King Magnus and
his men saw King Harald's troop they drew up and made their
array, and made their line so long that they could surround the
whole of King Harald's troop.  So says Haldor Skvaldre: --

     "King Magnus on the battle-plain
     From his long troop-line had great gain;
     The plain was drenched with warm blood,
     Which lay a red and reeking flood."


King Magnus had the holy cross carried before him in this battle,
and the battle was great and severe.  The king's brother,
Kristrod, had penetrated with his troop into the middle of King
Magnus's array, and cut down on each side of him, so that people
gave way before him everywhere.  But a powerful bonde who was in
King Harald's array raised his spear with both hands, and drove
it through between Kristrod's shoulders, so that it came out at
his breast; and thus fell Kristrod.  Many who were near asked the
bonde why he had done so foul a deed.

The bonde replies, "He knows the consequences now of slaughtering
my cattle in summer, and taking all that was in my house, and
forcing me to follow him here.  I determined to give him some
return when the opportunity came."

After this King Harald's army took to flight, and he fled
himself, with all his men.  Many fell; and Ingemar Sveinson of
Ask, a great chief and lenderman, got there his death-wound, and
nearly sixty of King Harald's court-men also fell.  Harald
himself fled eastward to Viken to his ships, and went out of the
country to King Eirik Eimune in Denmark, and found him in Seeland
and sought aid from him.  King Eirik received him well, and
principally because they had sworn to each other to be as
brothers (1); and gave him Halland as a fief to rule over, and
gave him seven long-ships, but without equipment.  Thereafter
King Harald went northwards through Halland, and many Northmen
came to meet him.  After this battle King Magnus subdued the
whole country, giving life and safety to all who were wounded,
and had them taken care of equally with his own men.  He then
called the whole country his own, and had a choice of the best
men who were in the country.  When they held a council among
themselves afterwards, Sigurd Sigurdson, Thorer Ingeridson, and
all the men of most understanding, advised that they should keep
their forces together in Viken, and remain there, in case Harald
should return from the south; but King Magnus would take his own
way, and went north to Bergen.  There he sat all winter (A.D.
1135), and allowed his men to leave him; on which the lendermen
returned home to their own houses.

(1)  These brotherhoods, by which one man was bound by oath to
     aid or avenge another, were common in the Middle Ages among
     all ranks.  "Sworn brothers" is still a common expression
     with us. -- L.


King Harald came to Konungahella with the men who had followed
him from Denmark.  The lendermen and town's burgesses collected a
force against him, which they drew up in a thick array above the
town.  King Harald landed from his ships, and sent a message to
the bondes, desiring that they would not deny him his land, as he
wanted no more than what of right belonged to him.  Then
mediators went between them; and it came to this, that the bondes
dismissed their troops, and submitted to him.  Thereupon he
bestowed fiefs and property on the lendermen, that they might
stand by him, and paid the bondes who joined him the lawful
mulcts for what they had lost.  A great body of men attached
themselves, therefore, to King Harald; and he proceeded westwards
to Viken, where he gave peace to all men, except to King Magnus's
people, whom he plundered and killed wherever he found them.  And
when he came west to Sarpsborg he took prisoners two of King
Magnus s lendermen, Asbjorn and his brother Nereid; and gave them
the choice that one should be hanged, and the other thrown into
the Sarpsborg waterfall, and they might choose as they pleased.
Asbjorn chose to be thrown into the cataract, for he was the
elder of the two, and this death appeared the most dreadful; and
so it was done.  Halder Skvaldre tells of this: --

     "Asbjorn, who opposed the king,
     O'er the wild cataract they fling:
     Nereid, who opposed the king,
     Must on Hagbard's high tree swing.
     The king given food in many a way
     To foul-mouthed beasts and birds of prey:
     The generous men who dare oppose
     Are treated as the worst of foes."

Thereafter King Harald proceeded north to Tunsberg, where he was
well received, and a large force gathered to him.


When King Magnus, who was in Bergen, heard these tidings, he
called together all the chiefs who were in the town, and asked
them their counsel, and what they should now do.  Then Sigurd
Sigurdson said, "Here I can give a good advice.  Let a ship be
manned with good men, and put me, or any other lenderman, to
command it; send it to thy relation, King Harald, and offer him
peace according to the conditions upright men may determine upon,
and offer him the half of the kingdom.  It appears to me probable
that King Harald, by the words and counsel of good men, may
accept this offer, and thus there may be a peace established
between you."

Then King Magnus replied, "This proposal I will not accept of;
for of what advantage would it be, after we have gained the whole
kingdom in summer to give away the half of it now?  Give us some
other counsel."

Then Sigurd Sigurdson answered, "It appears to me, sire, that
your lendermen who in autumn asked your leave to return home will
now sit at home and will not come to you.  At that time it was
much against my advice that you dispersed so entirely the people
we had collected; for I could well suppose that Harald would come
back to Viken as soon as he heard that it was without a chief.
Now there is still another counsel, and it is but a poor one; but
it may turn out useful to us.  Send out your pursuivants, and
send other people with them, and let them go against the
lendermen who will not join you in your necessity, and kill them;
and bestow their property on others who will give you help
although they may have been of small importance before.  Let them
drive together the people, the bad as well as the good; and go
with the men you can thus assemble against King Harald, and give
him battle."

The king replies, "It would be unpopular to put to death people
of distinction, and raise up inferior people who often break
faith and law, and the country would be still worse off.  I would
like to hear some other counsel still."

Sigurd replies, "It is difficult for me now to give advice, as
you will neither make peace nor give battle.  Let us go north to
Throndhjem, where the main strength of the country is most
inclined to our side; and on the way let us gather all the men we
can.  It may be that these Elfgrims will be tired of such a long
stride after us."

The king replies, "We must not fly from those whom we beat in
summer.  Give some better counsel still."

Then Sigurd stood up and said, while he was preparing to go out,
"I will now give you the counsel which I see you will take, and
which must have its course.  Sit here in Bergen until Harald
comes with his troops, and then you will either suffer death or

And Sigurd remained no longer at that meeting.


King Harald came from the East along the coast with a great army,
and this winter (A.D. 1135) is called on that account the
Crowd-winter.  King Harald came to Bergen on Christmas eve, and
landed with his fleet at Floruvagar; but would not fight on
account of the sacred time.  But King Magnus prepared for defence
in the town.  He erected a stone-slinging machine out on the
holm, and had iron chains and wooden booms laid across over the
passage from the king's house to Nordnes, and to the Monks
bridge.  He had foot-traps made, and thrown into Saint John's
field, and did not suspend these works except during the three
sacred days of Christmas.  The last holyday of Yule, King Harald
ordered his war-horns to sound the gathering of his men for going
to the town; and, during the Yule holydays, his army had been
increased by about 900 men.


King Harald made a promise to King Olaf the Saint for victory,
that he would build an Olaf's church in the town at his own
expense.  King Magnus drew up his men in the Christ church yard;
but King Harald laid his vessels first at Nordnes.  Now when King
Magnus and his people saw that, they turned round towards the
town, and to the end of the shore; but as they passed through the
streets many of the burgesses ran into their houses and homes,
and those who went across the fields fell into the foot-traps.
Then King Magnus and his men perceived that King Harald had rowed
with all his men across to Hegravik, and landed there, and had
gone from thence the upper road up the hill opposite the town.
Now Magnus returned back again through the streets, and then his
men fled from him in all directions; some up to the mountains,
some up to the neighbourhood of the convent of nuns, some to
churches, or hid themselves as they best could.  King Magnus fled
to his ship; but there was no possibility of getting away, for
the iron chains outside prevented the passage of vessels.  He had
also but few men with him, and therefore could do nothing.  Einar
Skulason tells of this in the song of Harald: --

     "For a whole week an iron chain
     Cut off all sailing to the main:
     Bergen's blue stable was locked fast, --
     Her floating wains could not get past."

Soon after Harald's people came out to the ships, and then King
Magnus was made prisoner.  He was sitting behind in the
forecastle upon the chests of the high-seat, and at his side
Hakon Fauk, his mother's brother, who was very popular but was
not considered very wise, and Ivar Assurson.  They, and many
others of King Magnus's friends, were taken, and some of them
killed on the spot.


Thereafter King Harald had a meeting of his counsellors, and
desired their counsel; and in this meeting the judgment was given
that Magnus should be deposed from his dominions, and should no
longer be called king.  Then he was delivered to the king's
slaves, who mutilated him, picked out both his eyes, cut off one
foot, and at last castrated him.  Ivar Assurson was blinded, and
Hakon Fauk killed.  The whole country then was reduced to
obedience under King Harald.  Afterwards it was diligently
examined who were King Magnus's best friends, or who knew most of
his concealments of treasure or valuables.  The holy cross King
Magnus had kept beside him since the battle of Fyrileiv, but
would not tell where it was deposited for preservation.  Bishop
Reinald of Stavanger, who was an Englishman, was considered very
greedy of money.  He was a great friend of King Magnus, and it
was thought likely that great treasure and valuables had been
given into his keeping.  Men were sent for him accordingly, and
he came to Bergen, where it was insisted against him that he had
some knowledge of such treasure; but he denied it altogether,
would not admit it, and offered to clear himself by ordeal.  King
Harald would not have this, but laid on the bishop a money fine
of fifteen marks of gold, which he should pay to the king.  The
bishop declared he would not thus impoverish his bishop's see,
but would rather offer his life.  On this they hanged the bishop
out on the holm, beside the sling machine.  As he was going to
the gallows he threw the sock from his foot, and said with an
oath, "I know no more about King Magnus's treasure than what is
in this sock;" and in it there was a gold ring.  Bishop Reinald
was buried at Nordnes in Michael's church, and this deed was much
blamed.  After this Harald Gille was sole king of Norway as long
as he lived.


Five years after King Sigurd's death remarkable occurrences took
place in Konungahella (A.D. 1135).  Guthorm, a son of Harald
Fletter, and Saemund Husfreyja, were at that time the king's
officers there.  Saemund was married to Ingebjorg, a daughter of
the priest Andres Brunson.  Their sons were Paul Flip and Gunne
Fis.  Saemund's natural son was called Asmund.  Andres Brunson
was a very remarkable man, who carried on divine service in the
Cross church.  His wife (1) was called Solveig.  Jon Loptson, who
was then eleven years old, was in their house to be fostered and
educated.  The priest Lopt Saemundson, Jon's father, was also in
the town at that time.  The priest Andres and Solveig had a
daughter by name Helga, who was Einar's wife.  It happened now in
Konungahella, the next Sunday night after Easter week, that there
was a great noise in the streets through the whole town as if the
king was going through with all his court-men.  The dogs were so
affected that nobody could hold them, but they slipped loose; and
when they came out they ran mad, biting all that came in their
way, people and cattle.  All who were bitten by them till the
blood came turned raging mad; and pregnant women were taken in
labour prematurely, and became mad.  From Easter to
Ascension-day, these portentous circumstances took place almost
every night.  People were dreadfully alarmed at these wonders;
and many made themselves ready to remove, sold their houses, and
went out to the country districts, or to other towns.  The most
intelligent men looked upon it as something extremely remarkable;
were in dread of it; and said, as it proved to be, that it was an
omen of important events which had not yet taken place.  And the
priest Andres, on Whit Sunday, made a long and excellent speech,
and turned the conclusion of it to the distressing situation of
the townspeople; telling them to muster courage, and not lay
waste their excellent town by deserting it, but rather to take
the utmost care in all things, and use the greatest foresight
against all dangers, as of fire or the enemy, and to pray to God
to have mercy on them.

(1)  The Catholic priests appear to have had wives at that time
     in Norway, and celibacy to have been confined to the monks.
     -- L.


Thirteen loaded merchant ships made ready to leave the town,
intending to proceed to Bergen; but eleven of them were lost, men
and goods, and all that was in them; the twelfth was lost also,
but the people were saved, although the cargo went to the bottom.
At that time the priest Lopt went north to Bergen, with all that
belonged to him, and arrived safely.  The merchant vessels were
lost on Saint Lawrence eve (August 10).  The Danish king Eirik
and the Archbishop Assur, both sent notice to Konungahella to
keep watch on their town; and said the Vindland people had a
great force on foot with which they made war far around on
Christian people, and usually gained the victory.  But the
townspeople attended very little to this warning, were
indifferent, and forgot more and more the dreadful omens the
longer it was since they happened.  On the holy Saint Lawrence
day, while the words of high mass were spoken, came to the
Vindland king Rettibur to Konungahella with 550 Vindland cutters,
and in each cutter were forty-four men and two horses.  The
king's sister's son Dunimiz, and Unibur, a chief who ruled over
many people, were with him.  These two chiefs rowed at once, with
a part of their troops, up the east arm of the Gaut river past
Hising Isle, and thus came down to the town; but a part of the
fleet lay in the western arm, and came so to the town.  They made
fast their ships at the piles, and landed their horses, and rode
over the height of Bratsas, and from thence up around the town.
Einar, a relation of priest Andres, brought these tidings up to
the Castle church; for there the whole inhabitants of the town
were gathered to hear high mass.  Einar came just as the priest
Andres was holding his discourse; and he told the people that an
army was sailing up against the town with a great number of ships
of war, and that some people were riding over Bratsas.  Many said
it must be the Danish king Eirik, and from him they might expect
peace.  The people ran down into the town to their properties,
armed themselves, and went down upon the piers, whence they
immediately saw there was an enemy and an immense army.  Nine
East-country trading vessels belonging to the merchants were
afloat in the river at the piers.  The Vindland people first
directed their course toward these and fought with the merchants,
who armed themselves, and defended themselves long, well, and
manfully.  There was a hard battle, and resistance, before the
merchant vessels were cleared of their men; and in this conflict
the Vindland people lost 150 of their ships, with all the men on
board.  When the battle was sharpest the townsmen stood upon the
piers, and shot at the heathens.  But when the fight slackened
the burgesses fled up to the town, and from thence into the
castle; and the men took with them all their valuable articles,
and such goods as they could carry.  Solveig and her daughters,
with two other women, went on shore when the Vindlanders took
possession of the merchant vessels.  Now the Vindlanders landed,
and mustered their men, and discovered their loss.  Some of them
went up into the town, some on board the merchant ships, and took
all the goods they pleased; and then they set fire to the town,
and burnt it and the ships.  They hastened then with all their
army to assault the castle.


King Rettibur made an offer to those who were in the castle that
they should go out, and he would give them their lives, weapons,
clothes, silver, and gold; but all exclaimed against it, and went
out on the fortification; some shot, some threw stones, some
sharp stakes.  It was a great battle, in which many fell on both
sides, but by far the most of the Vindlanders.  Solveig came up
to a large farm called Solbjorg, and brought the news.  A message
war-token was there split, and sent out to Skurbagar, where there
happened to be a joint ale-drinking feast, and many men were
assembled.  A bonde called Olver Miklimun (Mickle Mouth) was
there, who immediately sprang up, took helmet and shield, and a
great axe in his hand, and said, "Stand up, brave lads, and take
your weapons.  Let us go help the townspeople; for it would
appear shameful to every man who heard of it, if we sit here
sipping our ale, while good men in the town are losing their
lives by our neglect."

Many made an objection, and said they would only be losing their
own lives, without being of any assistance to the townspeople.  

Then said Olver, "Although all of you should hold back, I will go
alone; and one or two heathens, at any rate, shall fall before I

He ran down to the town, and a few men after him to see what he
would do, and also whether they could assist him in any way. 
When he came near the castle, and the heathens saw him, they sent
out eight men fully armed against him; and when they met, the
heathen men ran and surrounded him on all sides.  Olver lifted
his axe, and struck behind him with the extreme point of it,
hitting the neck of the man who was coming up behind him, so that
his throat and jawbone were cut through, and he fell dead
backwards.  Then he heaved his axe forwards, and struck the next
man in the head, and clove him down to the shoulders.  He then
fought with the others, and killed two of them; but was much
wounded himself.  The four who remained took to flight, but Olver
ran after them.  There was a ditch before them, and two of the
heathens jumped into it, and Olver killed them both; but he stuck
fast himself in the ditch, so that two of the eight heathens
escaped.  The men who had followed Olver took him up, and brought
him back to Skurbagar, where his wounds were bound and healed;
and it was the talk of the people, that no single man had ever
made such a bloody onset.  Two lendermen, Sigurd Gyrdson, a
brother of Philip, and Sigard, came with 600 men to Skurbagar; on
which Sigurd turned back with 400 men.  He was but little
respected afterwards, and soon died.  Sigard, on the other hand,
proceeded with 200 men towards the town; and they gave battle to
the heathens, and were all slain.  While the Vindlanders were
storming the castle, their king and his chiefs were out of the
battle.  At one place there was a man among the Vindlanders
shooting with a bow, and killing a man for every arrow; and two
men stood before him, and covered him with their shields.  Then
Saemund Husfreyja said to his son Asmund, that they should both
shoot together at this bowman.  "But I will shoot at the man who
holds the shield before him."  He did so, and he knocked the
shield down a little before the man; and in the same instant
Asmund shot between the shields, and the arrow hit the bowman in
the forehead, so that it came out at his neck, and he fell down
dead.  When the Vindlanders saw it they howled like dogs, or like
wolves.  Then King Rettibur called to them that he would give
them safety and life, but they refused terms.  The heathens again
made a hard assault.  One of the heathens in particular fought so
bravely, and ventured so near, that he came quite up to the
castle-gate, and pierced the man who stood outside the gate with
his sword; and although they used both arrows and stones against
him, and he had neither shield nor helmet, nothing could touch
him, for he was so skilled in witchcraft that weapon could not
wound him.  Then priest Andres took consecrated fire; blew upon
it; cut tinder in pieces, and laid it on the fire; and then laid
the tinder on the arrow-point, and gave it to Asmund.  He shot
this arrow at the warlock; and the shaft hit so well that it did
its business, and the man of witchcraft fell dead.  Then the
heathens crowded together as before, howling and whining
dreadfully; and all gathered about their king, on which the
Christians believed that they were holding a council about
retreating.  The interpreters, who understood the Vindland
tongue, heard the chief Unibur make the following speech: "These
people are brave, and it is difficult to make anything of them;
and even if we took all the goods in their town, we might
willingly give as much more that we had never come here, so great
has been our loss of men and chiefs.  Early in the day, when we
began to assault the castle, they defended themselves first with
arrows and spears; then they fought against us with stones; and
now with sticks and staves, as against dogs.  I see from this
that they are in want of weapons and means of defense; so we
shall make one more hard assault, and try their strength."  It
was as he said, that they now fought with stakes; because, in the
first assault, they had imprudently used up all their missile
weapons and stones; and now when the Christians saw the number of
their stakes diminishing, they clave each stake in two.  The
heathens now made a very hot attack, and rested themselves
between whiles, and on both sides they were exhausted.  During a
rest the Vindland king Rettibur again offered terms, and that
they should retain the weapons, clothes, and silver they could
carry out of the castle.  Saemund Husfreyja had fallen, and the
men who remained gave the counsel to deliver up the castle and
themselves into the power of the heathens; but it was a foolish
counsel; for the heathens did not keep their promises, but took
all people, men, women, and children, and killed all of them who
were wounded or young, or could not easily be carried with them.
They took all the goods that were in the castle; went into the
Cross church, and plundered it of all its ornaments.  The priest
Andres gave King Rettibur a silver-mounted gilt sceptre, and to
his sister's son Dunimiz he gave a gold ring.  They supposed from
this that he was a man of great importance in the town, and held
him in higher respect than the others.  They took away with them
the holy cross, and also the tables which stood before the altar,
which Sigurd had got made in the Greek country, and had brought
home himself.  These they took, and laid flat down on the steps
before the altar.  Then the heathens went out of the church.
Rettibur said, "This house has been adorned with great zeal for
the God to whom it is dedicated; but, methinks, He has shown
little regard for the town or house: so I see their God has been
angry at those who defended them."  King Rettibur gave the priest
Andres the church, the shrine, the holy cross, the Bible, the
altar-book, and four clerks (prisoners); but the heathens burnt
the Castle church, and all the houses that were in the castle. 
As the fire they had set to the church went out twice, they hewed
the church down, and then it burnt like other houses.  Then the
heathens went to their ships with the booty; but when they
mustered their people and saw their loss, they made prisoners of
all the people, and divided them among the vessels.  Now priest
Andres went on board the king's ship with the holy cross, and
there came a great terror over the heathens on account of the
portentous circumstance which took place in the king's ship;
namely, it became so hot that all thought they were to be burnt
up.  The king ordered the interpreter to ask the priest why this
happened.  He replied, that the Almighty God on whom the
Christians believed, sent them a proof of His anger, that they
who would not believe in their Creator presumed to lay hands on
the emblem of His suffering; and that there lay so much power in
the cross, that such, and even clearer miracles, happened to
heathen men who had taken the cross in their hands.  The king had
the priest put into the ship's boat, and the priest Andres
carried the holy cross in his grasp.  They led the boat along
past the ship's bow, and then along the side of the next ship,
and then shoved it with a boat-hook in beside the pier.  Then
Andres went with the cross by night to Solbjorg, in rain and
dreadful weather; but brought it in good preservation.  King
Rettibur, and the men he had remaining, went home to Vindland,
and many of the people who were taken at Konungahella were long
afterwards in slavery in Vindland; and those who were ransomed
and came back to Norway to their udal lands and properties,
throve worse than before their capture.  The merchant town of
Konungahella has never since risen to the importance it was of
before this event.


King Magnus, after he was deprived of sight, went north to
Nidaros, where he went into the cloister on the holm, and assumed
the monk's dress.  The cloister received the farm of Great Hernes
in Frosta for his support.  King Harald alone ruled the country
the following winter, gave all men peace and pardon who desired
it, and took many of the men into his court-service who had been
with King Magnus.  Einar Skulason says that King Harald had two
battles in Denmark; the one at Hvedn Isle, and the other at
Hlesey Isle: --

     "Unwearied champion! who wast bred
     To stain thy blue-edged weapons red!
     Beneath high Hvedn's rocky shore,
     The faithless felt thy steel once more."

And again, thus: --

     "On Hlesey's plain the foe must quail
     'Fore him who dyes their shirts of mail.
     His storm-stretched banner o'er his head
     Flies straight, and fills the foe with dread."


King Harald Gille was a very generous man.  It is told that in
his time Magnus Einarson came from Iceland to be consecrated a
bishop, and the king received him well, and showed him much
respect.  When the bishop was ready to sail for Iceland again,
and the ship was rigged out for sea, he went to the hall where
the king was drinking, saluted him politely and warmly, and the
king received him joyfully.  The queen was sitting beside the

Then said the king, "Are you ready, bishop, for your voyage?"

He replied that he was.

The king said, "You come to us just now at a bad time; for the
tables are just removed, and there is nothing at hand suitable to
present to you.  What is there to give the bishop?"

The treasurer replies, "Sire, as far as I know, all articles of
any value are given away."

The king: "Here is a drinking goblet remaining; take this,
bishop; it is not without value."

The bishop expressed his thanks for the honour shown him.

Then said the queen, "Farewell, bishop!  and a happy voyage."

The king said to her, "When did you ever hear a noble lady say so
to a bishop without giving him something?"

She replies, "Sire, what have I to give him?"

The king: "Thou hast the cushion under thee."

Thereupon this, which was covered with costly cloth, and was a
valuable article, was given to the bishop.  When the bishop was
going away the king took the cushion from under himself and gave
it him, saying, "They have long been together."  When the bishop
arrived in Iceland to his bishop's see, it was talked over what
should be done with the goblet that would be serviceable for the
king; and when the bishop asked the opinion of other people, many
thought it should be sold, and the value-bestowed on the poor.
Then said the bishop, "I will take another plan.  I will have a
chalice made of it for this church, and consecrate it, so that
all the saints of whom there are relics in this church shall let
the king have some good for his gift every time a mass is sung
over it."  This chalice has since belonged to the bishopric of
Skalholt; and of the costly cloth with which the cushions given
him by the king were covered, were made the choristers' cloaks
which are now in Skalholt.  From this the generous spirit of King
Harald may be seen, as well as from many other things, of which
but a few are set down here.


There was a man, by name Sigurd, who was brought up in Norway,
and was called priest Adalbrikt's son.  Sigurd's mother was
Thora, a daughter of Saxe of Vik, a sister of Sigrid, who was
mother of King Olaf Magnuson, and of Kare, the king's brother who
married Borghild, a daughter of Dag Eilifson.  Their sons were
Sigurd of Austrat and Dag.  Sigurd of Austrat's sons were Jon of
Austrat, Thorstein, and Andres the Deaf.  Jon was married to
Sigrid, a sister of King Inge and of Duke Skule.  This Sigurd, in
his childhood, was kept at his book, became a clerk, and was
consecrated a deacon; but as he ripened in years and strength he
became a very clever man, stout, strong, distinguished for all
perfections and exercises beyond any of his years, -- indeed,
beyond any man in Norway.  Sigurd showed early traces of a
haughty ungovernable spirit, and was therefore called
Slembidjakn.  He was as handsome a man as could be seen, with
rather thin but beautiful hair.  When it came to Sigurd's ears
that his mother said King Magnus was his father, he laid aside
all clerkship; and as soon as he was old enough to be his own
master, he left the country.  He was a long time on his travels,
went to Palestine; was at the Jordan river; and visited many holy
places, as pilgrims usually do.  When he came back, he applied
himself to trading expeditions.  One winter he was in Orkney with
Earl Harald, and was with him when Thorkel Fostre Summarlidason
was killed.  Sigurd was also in Scotland with the Scottish king
David, and was held in great esteem by him.  Thereafter Sigurd
went to Denmark; and according to the account of himself and his
men, he there submitted to the iron ordeal to confirm his
paternal descent, and proved by it, in the presence of five
bishops, that he was a son of King Magnus Barefoot.  So says Ivar
Ingemundson, in Sigurd's song: --

     "The holiest five
     Of men alive, --
     Bishops were they, --
     Solemnly say,
     The iron glowing
     Red hot, yet showing
     No scaith on skin,
     Proves cause and kin."

King Harald Gille's friends, however, said this was only a lie,
and deceit of the Danes.


It is told before of Sigurd that he passed some years in merchant
voyages, and he came thus to Iceland one winter, and took up his
lodging with Thorgils Odson in Saurby; but very few knew where he
was.  In autumn, when the sheep were being driven into a fold to
be slaughtered, a sheep that was to be caught ran to Sigurd; and
as Sigurd thought the sheep ran to him for protection, he
stretched out his hands to it and lifted it over the fold dyke,
and let it run to the hills, saying, "There are not many who seek
help from me, so I may well help this one."  It happened the same
winter that a woman had committed a theft, and Thorgils, who was
angry at her for it, was going to punish her; but she ran to
Sigurd to ask his help, and he set her upon the bench by his
side.  Thorgils told him to give her up, and told him what she
had committed; but Sigurd begged forgiveness for her since she
had come to him for protection, and that Thorgils would dismiss
the complaint against her, but Thorgils insisted that she should
receive her punishment.  When Sigurd saw that Thorgils would not
listen to his entreaty, he started up, drew his sword, and bade
him take her if he dared; and Thorgils seeing that Sigurd would
defend the woman by force of arms, and observing his commanding
mien, guessed who he must be, desisted from pursuing the woman,
and pardoned her.  There were many foreign men there, and Sigurd
made the least appearance among them.  One day Sigurd came into
the sitting-room, and a Northman who was splendidly clothed was
playing chess with one of Thorads house-servants.  The Northman
called Sigurd, and asked him his advice how to play; but when
Sigurd looked at the board, he saw the game was lost.  The man
who was playing against the Northman had a sore foot, so that one
toe was bruised, and matter was coming out of it.  Sigurd, who
was sitting on the bench, takes a straw, and draws it along the
floor, so that some young kittens ran after it.  He drew the
straw always before them, until they came near the house-
servant's foot, who jumping up with a scream, threw the chessmen
in disorder on the board; and thus it was a dispute how the game
had stood.  This is given as a proof of Sigurd's cunning.  People
did not know that he was a learned clerk until the Saturday
before Easter, when he consecrated the holy water with chant; and
the longer he stayed there the more he was esteemed.  The summer
after, Sigurd told Thorgils before they parted, that he might
with all confidence address his friends to Sigurd Slembidjakn.
Thorgils asked how nearly he was related to him, on which he
replies, "I am Sigurd Slembidjakn, a son of King Magnus
Barefoot."  He then left Iceland.


When Harald Gille had been six years (A.D. 1136), king of Norway,
Sigurd came to the country and went to his brother King Harald,
and found him in Bergen.  He placed himself entirely in the
king's hands, disclosed who his father was, and asked him to
acknowledge their relationship.  The king gave him no hasty or
distinct reply; but laid the matter before his friends in a
conference at a specially appointed meeting.  After this
conference it became known that the king laid an accusation
against Sigurd, because he had been at the killing of Thorkel
Fostre in the West.  Thorkel had accompanied Harald to Norway
when he first came to the country, and had been one of Harald's
best friends.  This case was followed up so severely, that a
capital accusation against Sigurd was made, and, by the advice of
the lendermen, was carried so far, that some of the king's
pursuivants went one evening late to Sigurd, and called him to
them.  They then took a boat and rowed away with Sigurd from the
town south to Nordnes.  Sigurd sat on a chest in the stern of the
boat, and had his suspicions that foul play was intended.  He was
clothed in blue trousers, and over his shirt he had a hood tied
with ribands, which served him for a cloak.  He sat looking down,
and holding his hood-strings; and sometimes moved them over his
head, sometimes let them fall again before him.  Now when they
had passed the ness, they were drunk, and merry, were rowing so
eagerly that they were not taking notice of anything.  Sigurd
stood up, and went on the boat's deck; but the two men who were
placed to guard him stood up also, and followed him to the side
of the vessel, holding by his cloak, as is the custom in guarding
people of distinction.  As he was afraid that they would catch
hold of more of his clothes, he seized them both, and leaped
overboard with them.  The boat, in the meantime, had gone on a
long way, and it was a long time before those on board could turn
the vessel, and long before they could get their own men taken on
board again; and Sigurd dived under water, and swam so far away
that he reached the land before they could get the boat turned to
pursue him.  Sigurd, who was very swift of foot, hied up to the
mountains, and the king's men travelled about the whole night
seeking him without finding him.  He lay down in a cleft of the
rocks; and as he was very cold he took off his trousers, cut a
hole in the seat of them, and stuck his head through it, and put
his arms in the legs of them.  He escaped with life this time;
and the king's men returned, and could not conceal their
unsuccessful adventure.


Sigurd thought now that it would be of no use to seek any help
from King Harald again; and he kept himself concealed all the
autumn and the beginning of the winter.  He lay hid in Bergen, in
the house of a priest.  King Harald was also in the town, and
many great people with him.  Now Sigurd considered how, with his
friends' help, he might take the king by surprise, and make an
end of him.  Many men took part in this design; and among them
some who were King Harald's court-men and chamberlains, but who
had formerly been King Magnus's court-men.  They stood in great
favour with the king, and some of them sat constantly at the
king's table.  On Saint Lucia's day (December 13), in the evening
when they proposed to execute this treason, two men sat at the
king's table talking together; and one of them said to the king,
"Sire, we two table-companions submit our dispute to your
judgment, having made a wager of a basket of honey to him who
guesses right.  I say that you will sleep this night with your
Queen Ingerid; and he says that you will sleep with Thora,
Guthorm's daughter."

The king answered laughing, and without suspecting in the least
that there lay treachery under the question, that he who had
asked had lost his bet.

They knew thus where he was to be found that night; but the main
guard was without the house in which most people thought the king
would sleep, viz., that which the queen was in.


Sigurd Slembe, and some men who were in his design, came in the
night to the lodging in which King Harald was sleeping; killed
the watchman first; then broke open the door, and went in with
drawn swords.  Ivar Kolbeinson made the first attack on King
Harald; and as the king had been drunk when he went to bed he
slept sound, and awoke only when the men were striking at him.
Then he said in his sleep, "Thou art treating me hardly, Thora."
She sprang up, saying, "They are treating thee hardly who love
thee less than I do."  Harald was deprived of life.  Then Sigurd
went out with his helpers, and ordered the men to be called to
him who had promised him their support if he should get King
Harald taken out of the way.  Sigurd and his men then went on,
and took a boat, set themselves to the oars, and rowed out in
front of the king's house; and then it was just beginning to be
daylight.  Then Sigurd stood up, spoke to those who were standing
on the king's pier, made known to them the murder of King Harald
by his hand, and desired that they would take him, and choose him
as chief according to his birth.  Now came many swarming down to
the pier from the king's house; and all with one voice replied,
that they would never give obedience or service to a man who had
murdered his own brother.  "And if thou are not his brother, thou
hast no claim from descent to be king."  They clashed their
weapons together, and adjudged all murderers to be banished and
outlawed men.  Now the king's horn sounded, and all lendermen and
courtmen were called together.  Sigurd and his companions saw it
was best for them to get way; and he went northward to North
Hordaland, where he held a Thing with the bondes, who submitted
to him, and gave him the title of king.  From thence he went to
Sogn, and held a Thing there with the bondes and was proclaimed
king.  Then he went north across the fjords, and most people
supported his cause.  So says Ivar Ingemundson: --

     "On Harald's fall
     The bondes all,
     In Hord and Sogn,
     Took Magnus' son.
     The Things swore too
     They would be true
     To this new head
     In Harald's stead."

King Harald was buried in the old Christ church.

Continue to next saga