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 34 - Battle At Helganes

Now, when Svein heard that King Magnus had gone to Norway he rode straight down, and had many people out of Svithjod with him. The people of Scania received him well, and he again collected an army, with which he first crossed over into Seeland and seized upon it and Fyen, and all the other isles.

When King Magnus heard of this he gathered together men and ships, and sailed to Denmark; and as soon as he knew where Svein was lying with his ships King Magnus sailed to meet him. They met at a place called Helganes, and the battle began about the fall of day. King Magnus had fewer men, but larger and better equipt vessels.

So says Arnor, the earls' skald: —

"At Helganes — so goes the tale —
The brave wolf-feeder, under sail,
Made many an ocean-elk [1] his prey,
Seized many a ship ere break of day.
When twilight fell he urged the fight,
Close combat — man to man all night;
Through a long harvest night's dark hours,
Down poured the battle's iron showers."

The battle was very hot, and as night advanced the fall of men was great. King Magnus, during the whole night, threw hand- spears.

Thiodolf speaks of this: —

"And there at Helganes sunk down,
Sore wounded, men of great renown;
And Svein's retainers lost all heart,
Ducking before the flying dart.
The Norsemen's king let fly his spears,
His death-wounds adding to their fears;
For each spear-blade was wet all o'er,
Up to the shaft in their life-gore."

To make a short tale, King Magnus won the victory in this battle, and Svein fled. His ship was cleared of men from stem to stern; and it went so on board many others of his ships.

So says Thiodolf: —

"Earl Svein fled from the empty deck,
His lonely ship an unmann'd wreck;
Magnus the Good, the people's friend,
Pressed to the death on the false Svein.
Hneiter [2], the sword his father bore,
Was edge and point, stained red with gore;
Swords sprinkle blood o'er armour bright,
When kings for land and power fight."

And Arnor says :-

"The cutters of Bjorn's own brother
Soon changed their owner for another;
The king took them and all their gear;
The crews, however, got off clear."

A great number of Svein's men fell, and King Magnus and his men had a vast booty to divide.

So says Thiodolf: —

"Where the Norsemen the Danish slew,
A Gautland shield and breast-plate true
Fell to my share of spoil by lot;
And something more i' the south I got:
(There all the summer swords were ringing)
A helm, gay arms, and gear worth bringing,
Home to my quiet lovely one
I sent — with news how we had won."

Svein fled up to Scania with all the men who escaped with him; and King Magnus and his people drove the fugitives up through the country without meeting any opposition either from Svein's men or the bondes.

So says Thiodolf: —

"Olaf's brave son then gave command,
All his ships' crews should quickly land:
King Magnus, marching at their head,
A noble band of warriors led.
A foray through the land he makes;
Denmark in every quarter shakes.
Up hill and down the horses scour,
Carrying the Danes from Norsemen's power."

King Magnus drove with fire and sword through the land.

So says Thiodolf: —

"And now the Norsemen storm along,
Following their banner in a throng:
King Magnus' banner flames on high,
A star to guide our roaming by.
To Lund, o'er Scania's peaceful field,
My shoulder bore my useless shield;
A fairer land, a better road,
As friend or foe, I never trod."

They began to burn the habitations all around, and the people fled on every side.

So says Thiodolf: —

"Our ice-cold iron in great store,
Our arms, beside the king we bore:
The Scanian rogues fly at the view
Of men and steel all sharp and true.
Their timbered houses flame on high,
Red flashing over half the sky;
The blazing town flings forth its light,
Lighting the cowards on their flight."

And he also sang: —

"The king o'er all the Danish land
Roams, with his fire-bringing band:
The house, the hut, the farm, the town,
All where men dwelt is burned down.
O'er Denmark's plains and corn-fields,
Meadows and moors, are seen our shields:
Victorious over all, we chase
Svein's wounded men from place to place.

"Across Fiona's moor again,
The paths late trodden by our men
We tread once more, until quite near,
Through morning mist, the foes appear.
Then up our numerous banners flare
In the cold early morning air;
And they from Magnus' power who fly
Cannot this quick war-work deny."

Then Svein fled eastwards along Scania, and King Magnus returned to his ships, and steered eastwards also along the Scanian coast, having got ready with the greatest haste to sail.

Thiodolf sings thus about it: —

"No drink but the salt sea
On board our ships had we,
When, following our king,
On board our ships we spring.
Hard work on the salt sea,
Off Scania's coast, had we;
But we laboured for the king,
To his foemen death to bring."

Svein fled to Gautland, and then sought refuge with the Swedish king, with whom he remained all winter (A.D. 1046), and was treated with great respect.

Footnotes and references:


Ship. — L.


This was the name of Saint Olaf's sword, which Magnus had recovered. — L.

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