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 10 - A Bonde Who Understood The Language Of Birds

One summer, when King Olaf's men had gone round the country collecting his income and land dues, it happened that the king, on their return home asked them where on their expedition they had been best entertained.

They said it was in the house of a bonde in one of the king's districts.

"There is an old bonde there who knows many things before they happen. We asked him about many things, which he explained to us; nay, we even believe that he understands perfectly the language of birds."

The king replies,

"How can ye believe such nonsense?"

and insisted that it was wrong to put confidence in such things.

It happened soon after that the king was sailing along the coast; and as they sailed through a Sound the king said,

"What is that township up in the country?"

They replied,

"That is the district, sire, where we told you we were best entertained."

Then said the king,

"What house is that which stands up there, not far from the Sound?"

They replied,

"That house belongs to the wise old bonde we told you of, sire."

They saw now a horse standing close to the house.

Then said the king,

"Go there, and take that horse, and kill him."

They replied,

"We would not like to do him such harm."

The king:

"I will command. Cut off the horse's head; but take care of yourselves that ye let no blood come to the ground, and bear the horse out to my ship. Go then and bring to me the old man; but tell him nothing of what has happened, as ye shall answer for it with your lives."

They did as they were ordered, and then came to the old man, and told him the king's message.

When he came before the king, the king asked him,

"Who owns the house thou art dwelling in?"

He replies,

"Sire, you own it, and take rent for it."

The king:

"Show us the way round the ness, for here thou must be a good pilot."

The old man went into his boat and rowed before the king's ship; and when he had rowed a little way a crow came flying over the ship, and croaking hideously. The peasant listens to the crow.

The king said,

"Do you think, bonde, that betokens anything?"

"Sire, that is certain,"

said he.

Then another crow flies over the ship, and screeches dreadfully. The bonde was so ill hearing this that he could not row, and the oars hung loose in his hands.

Then said the king,

"Thy mind is turned much to these crows, bonde, and to what they say."

The bonde replies,

"Now I suspect it is true what they say."

The third time the crow came flying screeching at its very worst, and almost settling on the ship. Now the bonde threw down his oars, regarded them no more, and stood up before the king.

Then the king said,

"Thou art taking this much to heart, bonde; what is it they say?"

The peasant —

"It is likely that either they or I have misunderstood — "

"Say on,"

replied the king.

The bonde replied in a song: —

"The 'one-year old'
Mere nonsense told;
The 'two-years' chatter
Seemed senseless matter;
The three-years' croak
Of wonders spoke.
The foul bird said
My old mare's head
I row along;
And, in her song,
She said the thief
Was the land's chief."

The king said,

"What is this, bonde! Wilt thou call me a thief?"

Then the king gave him good presents, and remitted all the land- rent of the place he lived on.

So says Stein: —

"The pillar of our royal race
Stands forth adorned with every grace.
What king before e'er took such pride
To scatter bounty far and wide?
Hung round with shields that gleam afar;
The merchant ship on one bestows,
With painted streaks in glowing rows.

"The man-at-arms a golden ring
Boasts as the present of his king;
At the king's table sits the guest,
By the king's bounty richly drest.
King Olaf, Norway's royal son,
Who from the English glory won,
Pours out with ready-giving hand
His wealth on children of the land.

"Brave clothes to servants he awards,
Helms and ring-mail coats grace his guards;
Or axe and sword Har's warriors gain,
And heavy armour for the plain.
Gold, too, for service duly paid,
Red gold all pure, and duly weighed,
King Olaf gives — be loves to pay
All service in a royal way."

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