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Heimskringla

The Chronicle of The Kings of Norway

Part 95 - Building Of The Ship Long Serpent

The winter after, King Olaf came from Halogaland (A.D. 1000), he had a great vessel built at Hladhamrar, which was larger than any ship in the country, and of which the beam-knees are still to be seen.

The length of keel that rested upon the grass was seventy- four ells. Thorberg Skafhog was the man's name who was the master-builder of the ship; but there were many others besides, — some to fell wood, some to shape it, some to make nails, some to carry timber; and all that was used was of the best.

The ship was both long and broad and high-sided, and strongly timbered.

While they were planking the ship, it happened that Thorberg had to go home to his farm upon some urgent business; and as he remained there a long time, the ship was planked up on both sides when he came back. In the evening the king went out, and Thorberg with him, to see how the vessel looked, and everybody said that never was seen so large and so beautiful a ship of war. Then the king returned to the town.

Early next morning the king returns again to the ship, and Thorberg with him. The carpenters were there before them, but all were standing idle with their arms across.

The king asked,

"what was the matter?"

They said the ship was destroyed; for somebody had gone from, stem to stern, and cut one deep notch after the other down the one side of the planking.

When the king came nearer he saw it was so, and said, with an oath,

"The man shall die who has thus destroyed the vessel out of envy, if he can be discovered, and I shall bestow a great reward on whoever finds him out."

"I can tell you, king,"

said Thorberg,

"who has done this piece of work." —

"I don't think,"

replies the king,

"that any one is so likely to find it out as thou art."

Thorberg says,

"I will tell you, king, who did it. I did it myself."

The king says,

"Thou must restore it all to the same condition as before, or thy life shall pay for it."

Then Thorberg went and chipped the planks until the deep notches were all smoothed and made even with the rest; and the king and all present declared that the ship was much handsomer on the side of the hull which Thorberg, had chipped, and bade him shape the other side in the same way; and gave him great thanks for the improvement

. Afterwards Thorberg was the master builder of the ship until she was entirely finished. The ship was a dragon, built after the one the king had captured in Halogaland; but this ship was far larger, and more carefully put together in all her parts.

The king called this ship Serpent the Long, and the other Serpent the Short. The long Serpent had thirty-four benches for rowers. The head and the arched tail were both gilt, and the bulwarks were as high as in sea-going ships. This ship was the best and most costly ship ever made in Norway.

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