6. King Olaf Trygvasons Saga

1. Olaf Trygvason’s Birth

King Trygve Olafson had married a wife who was called Astrid. She was a daughter of Eirik Bjodaskalle, a great man, who dwelt at Oprustader. But after Trygve’s death (A.D. 963) Astrid fled, and privately took with her all the loose property she could. Her foster-father, Thorolf Lusarskeg, followed her, and never left her; and others of her faithful followers spied about to discover her enemies, and where they were.

Astrid was pregnant with a child of King Trygve, and she went to a lake, and concealed herself in a holm or small island in it with a few men. Here her child was born, and it was a boy; and water was poured over it, and it was called Olaf after the grandfather. Astrid remained all summer here in concealment; but when the nights became dark, and the day began to shorten and the weather to be cold, she was obliged to take to the land, along with Thorolf and a few other men.

They did not seek for houses unless in the night-time, when they came to them secretly; and they spoke to nobody. One evening, towards dark, they came to Oprustader, where Astrid’s father Eirik dwelt, and privately sent a man to Eirik to tell him; and Eirik took them to an out-house, and spread a table for them with the best of food.

When Astrid had been here a short time her travelling attendants left her, and none remained, behind with her but two servant girls, her child Olaf, Thorolf Lusarskeg, and his son Thorgils, who was six years old; and they remained all winter (A.D. 964).


2. Of Gunhild S Sons

After Trygve Olafson’s murder, Harald Grafeld and his brother Gudrod went to the farm which he owned; but Astrid was gone, and they could learn no tidings of her. A loose report came to their ears that she was pregnant to King Trygve; but they soon went away northwards, as before related.

As soon as they met their mother Gunhild they told her all that had taken place. She inquired particularly about Astrid, and they told her the report they had heard; but as Gunhild’s sons the same harvest and winter after had bickerings with Earl Hakon, as before related, they did not seek after Astrid and her son that winter.


3. Astrid’s Journey

The spring after (A.D. 964) Gunhild sent spies to the Uplands, and all the way down to Viken, to spy what they could about Astrid; and her men came back, and could only tell her that Astrid must be with her father Eirik, and it was probable was bringing up her infant, the son of Trygve.

Then Gunhild, without delay, sent off men well furnished with arms and horses, and in all a troop of thirty; and as their leader she sent a particular friend of her own, a powerful man called Hakon.

Her orders were to go to Oprustader, to Eirik, and take King Trygve’s son from thence, and bring the child to her; and with these orders the men went out. Now when they were come to the neighbourhood of Oprustader, some of Eirik’s friends observed the troop of travellers, and about the close of the day brought him word of their approach.

Eirik immediately, in the night, made preparation for Astrid’s flight, gave her good guides, and send her away eastward to Svithjod, to his good friend Hakon Gamle, who was a powerful man there. Long before day they departed, and towards evening they reached a domain called Skaun. Here they saw a large mansion, towards which they went, and begged a night’s lodging.

For the sake of concealment they were clad in mean clothing. There dwelt here a bonde called Bjorn Eiterkveisa, who was very rich, but very inhospitable. He drove them away; and therefore, towards dark, they went to another domain close by that was called Vidar. Thorstein was the name of the bonde; and he gave them lodging, and took good care of them, so that they slept well, and were well entertained.

Early that morning Gunhild’s men had come to Oprustader, and inquired for Astrid and her son. As Eirik told them she was not there, they searched the whole house, and remained till late in the day before they got any news of Astrid. Then they rode after her the way she had taken, and late at night they came to Bjorn Eiterkveisa in Skaun, and took up their quarters there.

Hakon asked Bjorn if he knew anything about Astrid, and he said some people had been there in the evening wanting lodgings;

"but I drove them away, 
and I suppose they have gone to some 
of the neighbouring houses."

Thorstein’s labourer was coming from the forest, having left his work at nightfall, and called in at Bjorn’s house because it was in his way; and finding there were guests come to the house, and learning their business, he comes to Thorstein and tells him of it.

As about a third part of the night was still remaining, Thorstein wakens his guests and orders them in an angry voice to go about their business; but as soon as they were out of the house upon the road, Thorstein tells them that Gunhild’s messengers were at Bjorn’s house, and are upon the trace of them. They entreat of him to help them, and he gave them a guide and some provisions.

He conducted them through a forest to a lake, in which there was an islet overgrown with reeds. They waded out to the islet, and hid themselves among the reeds. Early in the morning Hakon rode away from Bjorn’s into the township, and wherever he came he asked after Astrid; and when he came to Thorstein’s he asked if she had been there.

He said that some people had been there; but as soon as it was daylight they had set off again, eastwards, to the forest. Hakon made Thorstein go along with them, as he knew all the roads and hiding-places. Thorstein went with them; but when they were come into the woods, he led them right across the way Astrid had taken.

They went about and about the whole day to no purpose, as they could find no trace of her, so they turned back to tell Gunhild the end of their travel. Astrid and her friends proceeded on their journey, and came to Svithjod, to Hakon Gamle (the Old), where she and her son remained a long time, and had friendly welcome.


4. Hakon’s Embassy To Sweden

When Gunhild, the mother of the kings, heard that Astrid and her son Olaf were in the kingdom of Svithjod, she again sent Hakon, with a good attendance, eastward, to Eirik king of Sweden, with presents and messages of friendship. The ambassadors were well received and well treated.

Hakon, after a time, disclosed his errand to the king, saying that Gunhild had sent him with the request that the king would assist him in getting hold of Olaf Trygvason, to conduct him to Norway, where Gunhild would bring him up. The king gave Hakon people with him, and he rode with them to Hakon the Old, where Hakon desired, with many friendly expressions, that Olaf should go with him.

Hakon the Old returned a friendly answer, saying that it depended entirely upon Olaf’s mother. But Astrid would on no account listen to the proposal; and the messengers had to return as they came, and to tell King Eirik how the matter stood. The ambassadors then prepared to return home, and asked the king for some assistance to take the boy, whether Hakon the Old would or not.

The king gave them again some attendants; and when they came to Hakon the Old, they again asked for the boy, and on his refusal to deliver him they used high words and threatened violence.

But one of the slaves, Buste by name, attacked Hakon, and was going to kill him; and they barely escaped from the thralls without a cudgelling, and proceeded home to Norway to tell Gunhild their ill success, and that they had only seen Olaf.


5. Of Sigurd Eirikson

Astrid had a brother called Sigurd, a son of Eirik Bjodaskalle, who had long been abroad in Gardarike (Russia) with King Valdemar, and was there in great consideration.

Astrid had now a great inclination to travel to her brother there. Hakon the Old gave her good attendants, and what was needful for the journey, and she set out with some merchants. She had then been two years (A.D. 965-966) with Hakon the Old, and Olaf was three years of age.

As they sailed out into the Baltic, they were captured by vikings of Eistland, who made booty both of the people and goods, killing some, and dividing others as slaves. Olaf was separated from his mother, and an Eistland man called Klerkon got him as his share along with Thorolf and Thorgils. Klerkon thought that Thorolf was too old for a slave, and that there was not much work to be got out of him, so he killed him; but took the boys with him, and sold them to a man called Klerk for a stout and good ram.

A third man, called Reas, bought Olaf for a good cloak. Reas had a wife called Rekon, and a son by her whose name was Rekone. Olaf was long with them, was treated well, and was much beloved by the people. Olaf was six years in Eistland in this banishment (A.D. 987-972).


6. Olaf Is Set Free In Eistland

Sigurd, the son of Eirik (Astrid’s brother), came into Eistland from Novgorod, on King Valdemar’s business to collect the king’s taxes and rents. Sigurd came as a man of consequence, with many followers and great magnificence.

In the market-place he happened to observe a remarkably handsome boy; and as he could distinguish that he was a foreigner, he asked him his name and family. He answered him, that his name was Olaf; that he was a son of Trygve Olafson; and Astrid, a daughter of Eirik Bjodaskalle, was his mother. Then Sigurd knew that the boy was his sister’s son, and asked him how he came there.

Olaf told him minutely all his adventures, and Sigurd told him to follow him to the peasant Reas. When he came there he bought both the boys, Olaf and Thorgils, and took them with him to Holmgard. But, for the first, he made nothing known of Olaf’s relationship to him, but treated him well.


7. Klerkon Killed By Olaf

Olaf Trygvason was one day in the market-place, where there was a great number of people. He recognized Klerkon again, who had killed his foster-father Thorolf Lusarskeg.

Olaf had a little axe in his hand, and with it he clove Klerkon’s skull down to the brain, and ran home to his lodging, and told his friend Sigurd what he had done. Sigurd immediately took Olaf to Queen Allogia’s house, told her what had happened, and begged her to protect the boy.

She replied, that the boy appeared far too comely to allow him to be slain; and she ordered her people to be drawn out fully armed. In Holmgard the sacredness of peace is so respected, that it is law there to slay whoever puts a man to death except by judgment of law; and, according to this law and usage, the whole people stormed and sought after the boy. It was reported that he was in the Queen’s house, and that there was a number of armed men there.

When this was told to the king, he went there with his people, but would allow no bloodshed. It was settled at last in peace, that the king should name the fine for the murder; and the queen paid it. Olaf remained afterwards with the queen, and was much beloved. It is a law at Holmgard, that no man of royal descent shall stay there without the king’s permission.

Sigurd therefore told the queen of what family Olaf was, and for what reason he had come to Russia; namely, that he could not remain with safety in his own country: and begged her to speak to the king about it. She did so, and begged the king to help a king’s son whose fate had been so hard; and in consequence of her entreaty the king promised to assist him, and accordingly he received Olaf into his court, and treated him nobly, and as a king’s son.

Olaf was nine years old when he came to Russia, and he remained nine years more (A.D. 978-981) with King Valdemar. Olaf was the handsomest of men, very stout and strong, and in all bodily exercises he excelled every Northman that ever was heard of.


8. Of Hakon Earl Of Hlader

Earl Hakon, Sigurd’s son, was with the Danish king, Harald Gormson, the winter after he had fled from Norway before Gunhild’s sons. During the winter (A.D. 969) the earl had so much care and sorrow that he took to bed, and passed many sleepless nights, and ate and drank no more than was needful to support his strength.

Then he sent a private message to his friends north in Throndhjem, and proposed to them that they should kill King Erling, if they had an opportunity; adding, that he would come to them in summer. The same winter the Throndhjem people accordingly, as before related, killed King Erling. There was great friendship between Earl Hakon and Gold Harald, and Harald told Hakon all his intentions.

He told him that he was tired of a ship-life, and wanted to settle on the land; and asked Hakon if he thought his brother King Harald would agree to divide the kingdom with him if he asked it.

"I think,"

replied Hakon,

"that the Danish king would not deny thy right; 
but the best way to know is to speak to the king himself. 
I know for certain so much, 
that you will not get a kingdom 
if you don't ask for it."

Soon after this conversation Gold Harald spoke to the king about the matter, in the presence of many great men who were friends to both; and Gold Harald asked King Harald to divide the kingdom with him in two equal parts, to which his royal birth and the custom of the Danish monarchy gave him right.

The king was highly incensed at this demand, and said that no man had asked his father Gorm to be king over half of Denmark, nor yet his grandfather King Hordaknut, or Sigurd Orm, or Ragnar Lodbrok; and he was so exasperated and angry, that nobody ventured to speak of it to him.


9. Of Gold Harald

Gold Harald was now worse off than before; for he had got no kingdom, and had got the king’s anger by proposing it. He went as usual to his friend Hakon, and complained to him of his fate, and asked for good advice, and if he could help him to get his share of the kingdom; saying that he would rather try force, and the chance of war, than give it up.

Hakon advised him not to speak to any man so that this should be known;


said he,

"it concerns thy life: 
and rather consider with thyself 
what thou art man enough to undertake; 
for to accomplish such a purpose 
requires a bold and firm man, 
who will neither stick at good nor evil 
to do that which is intended; 
for to take up great resolutions, 
and then to lay them aside, 
would only end in dishonour."

Go1d Harald replies

"I will so carry on what I begin, 
that I will not hesitate to kill Harald with my own hands, 
if I can come thereby to the kingdom he denies me, 
and which is mine by right."

And so they separated.

Now King Harald comes also to Earl Hakon, and tells him the demand on his kingdom which Gold Harald had made, and also his answer, and that he would upon no account consent to diminish his kingdom.

"And if Gold Harald persists in his demand, 
I will have no hesitation in having him killed; 
for I will not trust him if he does not renounce it."

The earl answered,

"My thoughts are, 
that Harald has carried his demand so far 
that he cannot now let it drop, 
and I expect nothing but war in the land; 
and that he will be able to gather a great force, 
because his father was so beloved.

And then it would be a great enormity 
if you were to kill your relation; 
as things now stand, 
all men would say that he was innocent.

But I am far from saying, 
or advising, 
that you should make yourself 
a smaller king than your father Gorm was, 
who in many ways enlarged, 
but never diminished his kingdom."

The king replies,

"What then is your advice,
if I am neither to divide my kingdom, 
nor to get rid of my fright and danger?"

"Let us meet again in a few days,"

said Earl Hakon,

"and I will then have considered the matter well, 
and will give you my advice upon it."

The king then went away with his people.


10. Councils Held By Hakon And Harald

Earl Hakon had now great reflection, and many opinions to weigh, and he let only very few be in the house with him. In a few days King Harald came again to the earl to speak with him, and ask if he had yet considered fully the matter they had been talking of.

"I have,"

said the earl,

"considered it night and day ever since, 
and find it most advisable that you retain 
and rule over the whole of your kingdom 
just as your father left it; 
but that you obtain for your relation Harald another kingdom, 
that he also may enjoy honour and dignity."
"What kind of kingdom is that,"

said the king,

"which I can give to Harald, 
that I may possess Denmark entire?"
"It is Norway,"

said the earl.

"The kings who are there are oppressive 
to the people of the country, 
so that every man is against them who has tax 
or service to pay."

The king replies,

"Norway is a large country, 
and the people fierce, 
and not good to attack with a foreign army. 
We found that sufficiently when Hakon defended that country; 
for we lost many people, 
and gained no victory. 
Harald the son of Eirik is my foster-son, 
and has sat on my knee."

The earl answers,

"I have long known 
that you have helped Gunhild's sons with your force, 
and a bad return you have got for it; 
but we shall get at Norway much more easily 
than by fighting for it with all the Danish force.

Send a message to your foster-son Harald, 
Eirik's son, 
and offer him the lands and fiefs 
which Gunhild's sons held before in Denmark.

Appoint him a meeting, 
and Gold Harald will soon conquer for himself 
a kingdom in Norway from Harald Grafeld."

The king replies, that it would be called a bad business to deceive his own foster-son.

"The Danes,"

answered the earl,

"will rather say that it was better 
to kill a Norwegian viking than a Danish, 
and your own brother's son."

They spoke so long over the matter, that they agreed on it.