Part 30 - King Hakon's Battle Array
When King Hakon had drawn up his men, it is told of him that he threw off his armour before the battle began.
So sings Eyvind Skaldaspiller, in Hakmarmal: —
"They found Blorn's brother bold
Under his banner as of old,
Ready for battle. Foes advance, —
The front rank raise the shining lance:
And now begins the bloody fray!
Now! now begins Hild's wild play!
Our noble king, whose name strikes fear
Into each Danish heart, — whose spear
Has single-handed spilt the blood
Of many a Danish noble, — stood
Beneath his helmet's eagle wing
Amidst his guards; but the brave king
Scorned to wear armour, while his men
Bared naked breasts against the rain
Of spear and arrow, his breast-plate rung
Against the stones; and, blithe and gay,
He rushed into the thickest fray.
With golden helm, and naked breast,
Brave Hakon played at slaughter's feast."
King Hakon selected willingly such men for his guard or court-men as were distinguished for their strength and bravery, as his father King Harald also used to do; and among these was Thoralf Skolmson the Strong, who went on one side of the king. He had helmet and shield, spear and sword; and his sword was called by the name of Footbreadth. It was said that Thoralf and King Hakon were equal in strength.
Thord Sjarekson speaks of it in the poem he composed concerning Thoralf: —
"The king's men went with merry words
To the sharp clash of shields and flame swords,
When these wild rovers of the sea
At Fitlar fought. Stout Thoralf he
Next to the Northmen's hero came,
Scattering wide round the battle flame
For in the storm of shields not one
Ventured like him with brave Hakon."
When both lines met there was a hard combat, and much bloodshed. The combatants threw their spears and then drew their swords. Then King Hakon, and Thoralf with him, went in advance of the banner, cutting down on both sides of them.
So says Eyvind Skaldaspiller: —
"The body-coats of naked steel,
The woven iron coats of mail,
Like water fly before the swing
Of Hakon's sword — the champion-king.
About each Gotland war-man's head
Helm splits, like ice beneath the tread,
Cloven by the axe or sharp swordblade,
The brave king, foremost in the fight,
Dyes crimson-red the spotless white
Of his bright shield with foemen's gore. —
Amidst the battle's wild uproar,
Wild pealing round from shore to shore."