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....

Harald Gille was a tall, slender-grown man, of a long neck and face, black eyes, and dark hair, brisk and quick, and wore generally the Irish dress of short light clothes. The Norse language was difficult for Harald, and he brought out words which many laughed at. Harald sat late drinking one evening. He spoke with another man about different things in the west in Ireland; and among other things, said that there were men in Ireland so swift of foot that no horse could overtake them in running.

Magnus, the king's son, heard this, and said,

"Now he is lying, as he usually does."

Harald replies,

"It is true that there are men in Ireland whom no horse in Norway could overtake."

They exchanged some words about this, and both were drunk. Then said Magnus,

"Thou shalt make a wager with me, and stake thy head if thou canst not run so fast as I ride upon my horse, and I shall stake my gold ring."

Harald replies,

"I did not say that I could run so swiftly; but I said that men are to be found in Ireland who will run as fast; and on that I would wager."

The king's son Magnus replies,

"I will not go to Ireland about it; we are wagering here, and not there."

Harald on this went to bed, and would not speak to him more about it. This was in Oslo. The following morning, when the early mass was over, Magnus rode up the street, and sent a message to Harald to come to him. When Harald came he was dressed thus. He had on a shirt and trousers which were bound with ribands under his foot-soles, a short cloak, an Irish hat on his head, and a spear-shaft in his hand. Magnus set up a mark for the race.

Harald said,

"Thou hast made the course too long;"

but Magnus made it at once even much longer, and said it was still too short. There were many spectators. They began the race, and Harald followed always the horse's pace; and when they came to the end of the race course, Magnus said,

"Thou hadst hold of the saddle-girth, and the horse dragged thee along."

Magnus had his swift runner, the Gautland horse. They began the race again, and Harald ran the whole race-course before the horse. When came to the end Harald asked,

"Had I hold of the saddle-girths now?"

Magnus replied,

"Thou hadst the start at first."

Then Magnus let his horse breathe a while, and when he was ready he put the spurs to him, and set off in full gallop. Harald stood still, and Magnus looked back, and called,

"Set off now."

Then Harald ran quickly past the horse, and came to the end of the course so long before him that he lay down, and got up and saluted Magnus as he came in."

Then they went home to the town. In the meantime King Sigurd had been at high mass, and knew nothing of this until after he had dined that day. Then he said to Magnus angrily,

"Thou callest Harald useless; but I think thou art a great fool, and knowest nothing of the customs of foreign people. Dost thou not know that men in other countries exercise themselves in other feats than in filling themselves with ale, and making themselves mad, and so unfit for everything that they scarcely know each other?

Give Harald his ring, and do not try to make a fool of him again, as long as I am above ground."

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