Heimskringla

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 74 - King Harald's Battle With Earl Hakon

King Harald was in Viken in the summer (A.D. 1064), and he sent his men to the Uplands after the scat and duty which belonged to him; but the bondes paid no attention to the demand, but said they would hold all for Earl Hakon until he came for it. Earl Hakon was then up in Gautland with a large armed force. When summer was past King Harald went south to Konungahella.

Then he took all the light-sailing vessels he could get hold of and steered up the river. He had the vessels drawn past all the waterfalls and brought them thus into the Wener lake. Then he rowed eastward across the lake to where he heard Earl Hakon was; but when the earl got news of the king's expedition he retreated down the country, and would not let the king plunder the land.

Earl Hakon had a large armed force which the Gautland people had raised for him. King Harald lay with his ships up in a river, and made a foray on land, but left some of his men behind to protect the ships. The king himself rode up with a part of the men, but the greater part were on foot. They had to cross a forest, where they found a mire or lake, and close to it a wood; and when they reached the wood they saw the earl's men, but the mire was between them. They drew up their people now on both sides.

Then King Harald ordered his men to sit down on the hillside.

"We will first see if they will attack us. Earl Hakon does not usually wait to talk."

It was frosty weather, with some snow-drift, and Harald's men sat down under their shields; but it was cold for the Gautlanders, who had but little clothing with them. The earl told them to wait until King Harald came nearer, so that all would stand equally high on the ground. Earl Hakon had the same banner which had belonged to King Magnus Olafson.

The lagman of the Gautland people, Thorvid, sat upon a horse, and the bridle was fastened to a stake that stood in the mire. He broke out with these words:

"God knows we have many brave and handsome fellows here, and we shall let King Steinkel hear that we stood by the good earl bravely.

I am sure of one thing: we shall behave gallantly against these Northmen, if they attack us; but if our young people give way, and should not stand to it, let us not run farther than to that stream; but if they should give way farther, which I am sure they will not do, let it not be farther than to that hill."

At that instant the Northmen sprang up, raised the war-cry, and struck on their shields; and the Gautland army began also to shout. The lagman's horse got shy with the war-cry, and backed so hard that the stake flew up and struck the lagman on the head.

He said,

"Ill luck to thee, Northman, for that arrow!"

and away fled the lagman. King Harald had told his people,

"If we do make a clash with the weapons, we shall not however, go down from the hill until they come nearer to us;"

and they did so. When the war-cry was raised the earl let his banner advance; but when they came under the hill the king's army rushed down upon them, and killed some of the earl's people, and the rest fled. The Northmen did not pursue the fugitives long, for it was the fall of day; but they took Earl Hakon's banner and all the arms and clothes they could get hold of. King Harald had both the banners carried before him as they marched away.

They spoke among themselves that the earl had probably fallen. As they were riding through the forest they could only ride singly, one following the other. Suddenly a man came full gallop across the path, struck his spear through him who was carrying the earl's banner, seized the banner-staff, and rode into the forest on the other side with the banner.

When this was told the king he said,

"Bring me my armour, for the earl is alive."

Then the king rode to his ships in the night; and many said that the earl had now taken his revenge.

But Thiodolf sang thus: —

"Steinkel's troops, who were so bold,
Who the Earl Hakon would uphold,
Were driven by our horsemen's power
To Hel, death goddess, in an hour;
And the great earl, so men say
Who won't admit he ran away,
Because his men fled from the ground,
Retired, and cannot now be found."

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