The Chronicle of The Kings of Norway

by Snorri Sturlson | c.1179-1241 | 320,198 words

The "Heimskringla" of Snorri Sturlason is a collection of sagas concerning the various rulers of Norway, from about A.D. 850 to the year A.D. 1177....

Part 1 - Magnus Olafson's Journey From The West

After Yule Magnus Olafson began his journey from the East from Novgorod to Ladoga, where he rigged out his ships as soon as the ice was loosened in spring (A.D. 1035). Arnor, the earls' skald, tells of this in the poem on Magnus: —

"It is no loose report that he,
Who will command on land and sea,
In blood will make his foeman feel
Olaf's sword Hneiter's sharp blue steel.
This generous youth, who scatters gold,
Norway's brave son, but ten years old,
Is rigging ships in Russia's lake,
His crown, with friend's support, to take."

In spring Magnus sailed from the East to Svithjod. So says Arnor: —

"The young sword-stainer called a Thing,
Where all his men should meet their king:
Heroes who find the eagle food
Before their lord in arms stood.
And now the curved plank of the bow
Cleaves the blue sea; the ocean-plough
By grey winds driven across the main,
Reaches Sigtuna's grassy plain."

Here it is related that when King Magnus and his fellow- travellers sailed from the East to Svithjod, they brought up at Sigtuna. Emund Olafson was then king in Svithjod. Queen Astrid, who had been married to King Olaf the Saint, was also there. She received very gladly and well her stepson King Magnus, and summoned immediately a numerous Thing of Swedes at a place called Hangtar.

At the Thing Queen Astrid spoke these words:

"Here is come to us a son of Olaf the Saint, called Magnus, who intends to make an expedition to Norway to seek his father's heritage.

It is my great duty to give him aid towards this expedition; for he is my stepson, as is well known to all, both Swedes and Norwegians.

Neither shall he want men or money, in so far as I can procure them or have influence, in order that his strength may be as great as possible; and all the men who will support this cause of his shall have my fullest friendship; and I would have it known that I intend myself to go with him on this attempt, that all may see I will spare nothing that is in my power to help him."

She spoke long and cleverly in this strain; but when she had ended many replied thus:

"The Swedes made no honourable progress in Norway when they followed King Olaf his father, and now no better success is to be expected, as this man is but in years of boyhood; and therefore we have little inclination for this expedition."

Astrid replies,

"All men who wish to be thought of true courage must not be deterred by such considerations. If any have lost connections at the side of King Olaf, or been themselves wounded, now is the time to show a man's heart and courage, and go to Norway to take vengeance."

Astrid succeeded so far with words and encouragement that many men determined to go with her, and follow King Magnus to Norway. Sigvat the skald speaks of this: —

"Now Astrid, Olaf's widowed Queen, —
She who so many a change had seen, —
Took all the gifts of happier days,
Jewels and rings, all she could raise,
And at a Thing at Hangrar, where
The Swedes were numerous, did declare
What Olaf's son proposed to do,
And brought her gifts — their pay — in view.

"And with the Swedes no wiser plan,
To bring out every brave bold man,
Could have been found, had Magnus been
The son himself of the good queen.
With help of Christ, she hoped to bring
Magnus to be the land's sole king,
As Harald was, who in his day
Obtained o'er all the upper sway.

"And glad are we so well she sped, —
The people's friend is now their head;
And good King Magnus always shows
How much be to Queen Astrid owes.
Such stepmothers as this good queen
In truth are very rarely seen;
And to this noble woman's praise
The skald with joy his song will raise."

Thiodolf the skald also says in his song of Magnus: —

"When thy brave ship left the land,
The bending yard could scarce withstand
The fury of the whistling gale,
That split thy many-coloured sail;
And many a stout ship, tempest-tost,
Was in that howling storm lost
That brought them safe to Sigtuna's shore,
Far from the sound of ocean's roar."

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