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Title: The Story of Norway
Author: Boyesen, Hjalmar H.
Language: English
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The Story of Norway

by Hjalmar H. Boyesen





















    For prospectus of the series see end of this volume



    The Story of the Nations








    The Knickerbocker Press




    Press of


    New York




It has been my ambition for many years to write a history of Norway,
chiefly because no such book, worthy of the name, exists in the English
language. When the publishers of the present volume proposed to me to
write the story of my native land, I therefore eagerly accepted their
offer. The story, however, according to their plan, was to differ in
some important respects from a regular history. It was to dwell
particularly upon the dramatic phases of historical events, and concern
itself but slightly with the growth of institutions and sociological
phenomena. It therefore necessarily takes small account of proportion.
In the present volume more space is given to the national hero, Olaf
Tryggvesson, whose brief reign was crowded with dramatic events, than to
kings who reigned ten times as long. For the same reason the four
centuries of the Union with Denmark are treated with comparative
brevity. Many things happened, no doubt, during those centuries, but
"there were few deeds." Moreover, the separate history of Norway, in the
time of her degradation, has never proved an attractive theme to Norse
historians, for which reason the period has been generally neglected.

The principal sources of which I have availed myself in the preparation
of the present volume, are Snorre Sturlasson: _Norges Kongesagaer_
(Christiania, 1859, 2 vols.); P. A. Munch: _Det Norske Folks Historie_
(Christiania, 1852, 6 vols.); R. Keyser: _Efterladte Skrifter_
(Christiania, 1866, 2 vols.); _Samlede Afhandlinger_ (1868); J. E. Sars:
_Udsigt over den Norske Historie_ (Christiania, 1877, 2 vols.); K.
Maurer: _Die Bekehrung des Norwegischen Stammes zum Christenthume_
(München, 1856, 2 vols.), and _Die Entstehung des Isländischen Staates_
(München, 1852); G. Vigfusson: _Sturlunga Saga_ (Oxford, 1878, 2 vols.);
and _Um tímatal í Islendinga sögum i fornöld_ (contained in _Safn til
sögu Islands_, 1855); G. Storm: _Snorre Sturlasson's Historieskrivning_
(Kjöbenhavn, 1878); C. F. Allen: _Haandbog i Fædrelandets Historie_
(Kjöbenhavn, 1863); besides a large number of scattered articles in
German and Scandinavian historical magazines. A question which has
presented many difficulties is the spelling of proper names. To adopt in
every instance the ancient Icelandic form would scarcely be practicable,
because the names in their modernized forms are usually familiar and
easy to pronounce, while, in their Icelandic disguises, they are to
English readers nearly unpronounceable, and present a needlessly
forbidding appearance. Where a name has no well-recognized English
equivalent, I have therefore adopted the modern Norwegian form, which
usually differs from the ancient, in having dropped a final letter. Thus
Sigurdr (which with an English genitive would be Sigurdr's) becomes in
modern Norwegian Sigurd, Eirikr, Erik, etc. Those surnames, which are
descriptive epithets, I have translated where they are easily
translatable, thus writing Harold the Fairhaired, Haakon the Good, Olaf
the Saint, etc. Absolute consistency would, however, give to some names
a too cumbrous look, as, for instance, Einar the Twanger of Thamb (Thamb
being the name of his bow), and I have in such instances kept the Norse
name (Thambarskelver).

It is a pleasant duty to acknowledge my indebtedness for valuable
criticism to my friends, E. Munroe Smith, J.U.D., Adjunct Professor of
History in Columbia College, and Hon. Rasmus B. Andersen, United States
Minister to Denmark, without whose kindly aid in procuring books, maps,
etc., the difficulties in the preparation of the present volume would
have been much increased. I am also under obligation to Dr. W. H.
Carpenter, of Columbia College, and to the Norwegian artist, Mr. H. N.
Gausta, of La Crosse, Wis., who has kindly sent me two spirited original
compositions, illustrative of peasant-life in Norway.

    NEW YORK, April 15, 1886.





    The Aryan migrations, 1-3--The physical characteristics of
    Norway, 4, 5--Early tribal organization and means of livelihood,
    6-10--Sense of independence and aptitude for self-government,



    Theories regarding the origin of the Scandinavian gods, 13-16--The
    Eddaic account of the creation of the world and of
    man, 16-18--The world-tree Ygdrasil, 18--The _Aesir_, their
    functions and their dwellings, 19-23--Loke the Evil-Doer
    and his terrible children, 23, 24.



    The Norsemen launch forth upon the arena of history, 25--The
    origin of the viking cruises, 25-27--Kingship among
    the Scandinavian tribes, 27, 28--The three periods of the
    viking age, 28-30--The contribution of the vikings to the
    political life of Europe, 30, 31--Sigfrid of Nortmannia, 31--Godfrey
    the Hunter, 31, 32---Charlemagne's prophecy in
    regard to the vikings, 32-34--Hasting's stratagem, 34-36--Ragnar,
    Asgeir, and Rörek, 36, 37--Thorgisl in Ireland,
    38, 39--Olaf the White, 40, 41--The vikings in England,
    41--Simeon of Durham's account of the vikings, 42--The
    character of the vikings at home and abroad, 43, 44.



    The descent of the Yngling race, 45--The sacrifices of Aun
    the Old, 45--Olaf the Wood-cutter, Halfdan Whiteleg, and
    Godfrey the Hunter, 46--Birth of Halfdan the Swarthy, 46
    Sigurd Hjort and the _Berserk_ Hake, 47, 48--Halfdan the
    Swarthy weds Ragnhild, 48--Ragnhild's dream, 48--King
    Halfdan's dream, 49--Birth of Harold the Fairhaired, 49--The
    Finn's trick, 50--King Halfdan's death, 51.



    Harold the Fairhaired woos Gyda, 52, 53--Harold's vow,
    53--Herlaug and Rollaug, 54--Harold's policy toward the
    conquered kings, 54, 55--The feudal state, 55--Taxation
    and the peasants' loss of allodial rights, 55, 56--Haakon
    Grjotgardsson and Ragnvald, Earl of Möre, 56--Kveld-Ulf
    and his sons, 56, 57--Erik Eimundsson's invasion of Norway,
    57--His meeting with King Harold, 58--The battle of
    Hafrs-Fjord, 59--Earl Ragnvald cuts King Harold's hair,
    59--Harold marries Gyda, 59, 60--Harold's treachery to
    Thorolf Kveld-Ulf's son, 60-62--Kveld-Ulf's vengeance
    and migration to Iceland, 62, 63--Duke Rollo in Norway
    and France, 64, 65--Emigration of discontented magnates,
    65, 66--Snefrid, 67--Queen Ragnhild, 68--Erik Blood-Axe's
    feuds with his brothers, 69-71--Guttorm Sindre, 71,
    72--Birth of Haakon the Good, 72--Haakon is sent to
    Ethelstan, 72, 73--Death of Harold, 73.


    ERIK BLOOD-AXE    74-86

    Erik's meeting with Gunhild, 74-76--Erik kills his brothers,
    Sigfrid and Olaf, 76--Thorolf, Bald Grim's son, 77--Egil,
    Bald Grim's son, kills Baard, 78--Egil kills Berg-Anund,
    79, 80--Egil's pole of dishonor, 80--Egil ransoms his head
    by a song, 81-85--Erik is exiled, 86.


    HAAKON THE GOOD    87-101

    Character of Haakon, 87--Proclaimed king of Norway, 88--Legislative
    reforms and restoration of allodium, 89--Signal
    fires, 90--First attempt to introduce Christianity, 90-92--Speech
    of Asbjörn of Medalhus, 92--The king eats horse-flesh,
    92-94--The sons of Erik Blood-Axe make war upon
    Norway, 94, 95--Battles of Sotoness and Agvaldsness, 95,
    96--Egil Woolsark, 96, 97--Battle of Fraedö, 96-98--Failure
    of attempt to Christianize the country, 98--Battle
    of Fitje (Eyvind Scald-Spoiler), 98-101--Death of Haakon
    the Good, 101.



    Unpopularity of the sons of Erik, 102-104--Their characters,
    104--Harold Greyfell and Eyvind Scald-Spoiler, 105--Treachery
    of Harold toward Earl Sigurd, 105, 106--Independence
    of Earl Haakon, 106, 107--Murder of Tryggve
    Olafsson, 107, 108--Birth of Olaf Tryggvesson, 108--Adventures
    of Aastrid and Thoralf Lousy-Beard, 108-110--Sigurd
    Sleva insults Aaluf, 111--Earl Haakon's intrigues in
    Denmark, 111, 112--Gold-Harold slays Harold Greyfell,
    112--Expulsion of the sons of Erik, 113, 114.


    EARL HAAKON    115-133

    Earl Haakon defends Dannevirke, 115, 116--Harold Bluetooth,
    117--Haakon's devastations in Sweden and in Viken,
    118--Earl Erik and Tiding-Skofte, 119--The funeral feast
    of the Jomsvikings, 120, 121--Battle in Hjörungavaag,
    121-125--The Jomsvikings on the log, 125, 126--Haavard
    the Hewer, 127--The power and popularity of Earl Haakon,
    127, 128--Gudrun Lundarsol, 129--Revolt of the peasants,
    130--The earl hides under a pigsty, 130, 131--"Why art
    thou so pale, Kark?" 131--Kark murders the earl, 132--Haakon's
    character, 132, 133.



    Aastrid's flight to Russia, 134, 135--Olaf is sold for a ram,
    135--He is taken to Vladimir's court, 135, 136--King
    Burislav and Geira, 136, 137--The wooers' market in England,
    137--Marriage with Gyda, 137, 138--Olaf's warfare in
    England, 138, 139--Thore Klakka tries to entrap Olaf, 139,
    140--Return to Norway and proclamation as king, 140-142.


    OLAF TRYGGVESSON    143-172

    Olaf Christianizes Viken, 143, 144--Character of old Germanic
    Christianity, 144-146--Thangbrand the pugnacious
    priest, 147--The chiefs of Haalogaland, 148--Ironbeard
    and the peasants of Tröndelag, 149, 150--The Yule-tide
    feast at Möre, 150-152--Olaf woos Sigrid the Haughty,
    152-154--He marries Thyra, 154--Thore Hjort, Eyvind
    Kinriva, and Haarek of Thjotta, 154-158--Thangbrand
    in Iceland, 158, 159--Olaf's character, 160--Thyra's tears
    for her lost possessions, 161--"The Long-Serpent," 161--King
    Olaf sails to Wendland, 162, 163--Earl Sigvalde's
    treachery, 163--Battle of Svolder, 164-172--King Olaf's
    death. 171, 172.



    Division of Norway between the victors at Svolder, 173--Erling
    Skjalgsson of Sole, 174-176--Earl Erik's character,
    176--And attitude toward Christianity, 176, 177--Revival
    of the viking spirit, 177--Earl Erik abdicates in favor of his
    brother and son, 178, 179--Bjarne Herjulfsson's glimpse of
    America, 179--Leif Eriksson's expedition to Vinland, 180,
    181--Thorfinn Karlsevne and Gudrid, 181.


    OLAF THE SAINT    182-224

    Birth and childhood of Olaf the Saint, 182, 183--Viking
    cruises, 183--Return to Norway, 184--He captures Earl
    Haakon, 185--His reception by Aastrid and Sigurd Syr,
    186, 187--Family council, 187, 188--Support of the shire-kings,
    188--The Trönders recognize Olaf as king, 189--Surprised
    by Earl Sweyn in Nidaros, 190--Battle of Nessje,
    190, 192--Earl Sweyn's flight and death, 192--Quarrel with
    King Olaf the Swede, 193, 194--Björn Stallare's mission,
    194-196--Speech of Thorgny the Lawman, 196, 197--Olaf
    marries Aastrid, 198--Conspiracy of the shire-kings and
    their punishments, 199--The play of the sons of Sigurd Syr,
    199, 200--Rörek's hard fate, 201--His attempt to murder
    Olaf, 202--The attitude of the tribal aristocracy toward
    Olaf, 202, 203--Paganism _versus_ Christianity, 204, 205--"Where
    are my ancestors?" 205--Olaf's character and appearance,
    205-207--Dale-Guldbrand, 207-210--Slaying of
    Aasbjörn Sigurdsson, 211--Knut the Mighty bribes the
    Norse chieftains, 212, 213--Anund Jacob refuses the bribe,
    213, 214--Battle of Helge-aa, 214, 215--Death of Erling
    Skjalgsson, 216--Olaf goes to Russia, 217--Björn Stallare's
    confession, 218--Olaf returns to Norway, 218--His vision,
    220, 221--Battle of Sticklestad, 221, 222--Thormod Kolbruna-Scald,
    222-224--Burial of St. Olaf, 224.


    SWEYN ALFIFASSON    225-229

    Alfifa and the Norse chiefs, 225--Unpopular and oppressive
    laws, 226--King Olaf canonized, 227--Tryggve Olafsson's
    defeat, 228--Einar Thambarskelver rebukes Alfifa, 228--Magnus
    Olafsson returns from Russia, 229--Expulsion of
    Sweyn, 229.


    MAGNUS THE GOOD    230-250

    Circumstances of Magnus' birth, 230--Magnus and Harthaknut,
    231--Jealousies of the chieftains, 232--Magnus and
    Kalf Arnesson at Stiklestad, 233--Sighvat Scald's Lay of
    Candor, 234--Sweyn Estridsson rebels, 236, 237--Battle of
    Lyrskog's Heath, 237--Thorstein Side-Hall's son, 238--Einar
    Thambarskelver's disagreement and reconciliation
    with Magnus, 238, 239--Arrival of Harold Sigurdsson, 240--His
    adventures abroad, 240-242--Magnus' reception of
    Harold, 243--Harold's alliance with Sweyn Estridsson, 244--Agreement
    to share the government, 245--The peasant
    Toke's speech, 246, 247--Expeditions of Magnus against
    Sweyn Estridsson, 247, 247--Death of Magnus the Good,
    249, 250.


    HAROLD HARD-RULER    251-272

    The tribal chieftains and the hereditability of the crown,
    251, 252--Harold decides to conquer Denmark, 252--Determination
    to break the power of the aristocracy, 253--Einar
    Thambarskelver's hostility, 254, 255--Harold marries
    Thora, 255--St. Hallvard and the founding of Oslo, 256--Burning
    of Heidaby, 257--Sweyn's pursuits and Harold's
    stratagems, 257-259--Battle of Nis-aa, 259--Peace of
    Götha Elv, 260--Feuds with Einar Thambarskelver, 260,
    261--Harold tests the loyalty of the chieftains, 261, 262--Högne
    Langbjörnsson, 262, 263--Murder of Einar and his
    son, 264--Harold's treachery to Kalf Arnesson and Haakon
    Ivarsson, 265-267--Arrival of Earl Tostig in Norway, 268--Battles
    of Fulford and Stamford Bridge, 268-270--Styrkaar
    and the yeoman, 270-272--Position of the Norwegian
    Church, 272.



    Olaf and Magnus divide the country, 273--War with Sweyn
    Estridsson, 273, 274--Death of Magnus, 274--Character of
    Olaf the Quiet, 275, 276--Gradual cessation of viking
    cruises, 276, 277--Gradual abolition of serfdom, 278--Vikings
    and merchants, 278, 279--Appearance and appointments
    of dwellings, 280, 281--Increased splendor of the
    court, 281, 282--Establishment of guilds, 282, 283--Skule
    Tostigsson, 283--Death of Olaf the Quiet, 284.



    The Trönders proclaim Haakon king, 285--Magnus' expedition
    to Scotland and Ireland, 285, 286--Death of
    Haakon, 286--Punishment of his partisans, 286, 287--War-like
    spirit of Magnus, 287--War with Sweden, 288--War
    with Ireland, 289--Death of Magnus in Ulster, 290.



    Division of the land, 291--Sigurd's crusade, 292, 293--Eystein's
    meritorious activity at home, 294--Hostility of the
    brothers, 295--The case of Sigurd Ranesson, 295, 296--Borghild
    of Dal, 297--The "man-measuring," 297-301--Death
    of Eystein, 301--Ottar Birting, 301-303--Arrival of
    Harold Gille, 303--Cecilia, 303--Death of Sigurd, 304, 305.



    Character of Magnus and of Harold, 306--Battle of Fyrileiv,
    307--Magnus captured and maimed, 307, 308--Sigurd
    Slembedegn, 308--Harold Gille murdered, 309--Burning of
    Konghelle by the Wends, 310.



    The sons of Harold Gille proclaimed kings, 311--Sigurd
    Slembedegn allies himself with Magnus the Blind, 311, 312--Inge
    Crookback's first experience of war, 312--Battles of
    Krokaskogen, 312, and Holmengraa, 313--Sigurd Slembedegn's
    fortitude, 313--Arrival of Eystein Haroldsson, 314--Feuds
    between the brothers, 314-316--Character and appearance
    of Sigurd Mouth, 314-316--Death of Sigurd, 316--Death
    of Eystein, 317--Erling Skakke and Gregorius
    Dagsson, 318-320--Fall of Inge at Oslo, 320--The cardinal's
    visit, 320, 321.



    Christina bribes the priest, 322--Erling Skakke's intrigues,
    323--Seeks aid in Denmark, 323, 324--Battle of Sekken,


    MAGNUS ERLINGSSON    326-349

    Rebellion of the "Sigurd party," 326, 327--Battle of Ree,
    327--Erling's alliance with Archbishop Eystein, 327--Magnus
    takes the land in fief from St. Olaf, 327, 328--Magnus
    crowned, 328--King Valdemar's expedition to Norway, 328,
    329--The rebellion of the Hood-Swains, 329--Battle of
    Djursaa, 330--Erling accepts an earldom from Valdemar,
    330--Kills his stepson Harold, 332--Eystein Meyla and the
    Birchlegs, 333, 334--Childhood and youth of Sverre Sigurdsson,
    334-337--Sverre becomes the chief of the Birchlegs,
    337--Vicissitudes and adventures of the Birchlegs,
    337-341--Battle of Kalvskindet, 341-343--Death of Erling
    Skakke, 343--Social revolution inaugurated by Sverre, 343-345--Battle
    at Nordness, 346--Warfare between Birchlegs
    and Heklungs, 346-348--Battle of Norefjord and death of
    Magnus, 348, 349.


    SVERRE SIGURDSSON    350-378

    A dangerous precedent, 350--Erik Kingsson, 351--The
    lawmen and prefects, 351, 352--The new democracy, 352,
    353--Rebellion of the Kuvlungs, 353, 354; the Varbelgs,
    354; and the Oyeskeggs, 354-357--Sverre's controversy
    with the Church, 357, 358--Nicholas Arnesson, 358--Sverre
    is put in the ban, 359--Origin of the Bagler party,
    360, 361--Nicholas shows the white feather, 361--Treason
    of Thorstein Kugad, 362--The Baglers besiege the block-house
    in Bergen, 362-365--Burning of Bergen, 365--The
    traitor's return, 366--The Papal bull and Sverre's defence,
    366-368--The Bagler's defeated at Strindsö, 369--The
    great peasant rebellion, 370-373--Sverre's magnanimity,
    374--Aristocracy _versus_ Democracy, 374, 375--Siege and
    surrender of Tunsberg, 375, 376--Death of Sverre, 376, 377--His
    character, 377, 378.


    HAAKON SVERRESSON    379-384

    Peace with the Church, 379--Popularity of Haakon, 380--Discontent
    of the queen-dowager, 381--Abduction of Princess
    Christina, 381, 382--The fatal Yule-tide feast, 382,
    383--Death of Haakon by poison, 383--Flight of Queen
    Margaret, 384.



    The Bagler troop reorganized under Erling Stonewall, 385--Successful
    ordeal, 386--Death of Guttorm Sigurdsson by
    poison, 387--Inge Baardsson proclaimed king, 388--Society
    disorganized by the civil wars, 388, 389--Unbidden guests
    at the bridal feast, 389, 390--Philip Simonsson made king
    of the Baglers, 390--Birth and childhood of Haakon
    Haakonsson, 391, 392--Compromise of Hvitingsöe, 393--The
    intrigues of Haakon Galen, 394, 395--Helge Hvasse
    and the boy Haakon, 396, 397--Discontent of the Birchlegs,
    398--Death of King Inge, 399.



    Haakon proclaimed king, 400--Rebellion of the Slittungs,
    401--Effects of the civil war, 401, 402--The intrigues of
    Earl Skule, 402-404--Inga of Varteig carries glowing irons,
    404-406--Rebellion of the Ribbungs, 407, 408--Skule's
    double-dealing, 408-410--Assembly of notables in Bergen,
    410--Bishop Nicholas' hypocrisy, 411--Sigurd Ribbung renews
    the rebellion, 412--Haakon's campaign in Vermeland,
    412, 413--Duke Skule's leaky ships, 413--Death of Bishop
    Nicholas and Sigurd Ribbung, 414--Squire Knut as the
    chief of the Ribbungs, 416--Skule's "Crusade," 416, 417--Skule
    allies himself with Valdemar the Victorious, 417, 418--Skule
    called to account, 418-420--Intrigues at the Roman
    Curia, 420, 421--The plot revealed, 421, 422--Skule proclaims
    himself king, 423--Battle of Laaka, 424--Skule defeated
    at Oslo, 425--Death of Skule, 426, 427--Coronation
    of Haakon, 427-429--His power and fame at home and
    abroad, 429-431--Expedition to Scotland, and death, 431,



    Snorre Sturlasson's _Heimskringla_, 433, 434--Snorre's parentage
    and youth, 434--Character of Snorre, 434--Reykjaholt,
    436--Brother feuds, 436--Snorre's visit to Norway, 437--Plots
    and counterplots, 437-440--Snorre's death, 440--Sturla
    Thordsson, 440, 441.


    MAGNUS LAW-MENDER    442-450

    Cession of Man and the Shetland Isles to Scotland, 442--Reasons
    for and against the cession, 443--Condition of Icelandic
    society and submission of the island to Norway, 444--Magnus
    as a law-giver, 445-447--The tribal aristocracy
    and the court nobility, 447, 448--Concessions to the Church,
    448, 449--Degeneracy of the old royal house, 450--Death
    of Magnus, 450.


    ERIK PRIEST-HATER    451-456

    The barons increase their power, 451--Quarrels with the
    clergy, 452--The false "Maid of Norway," 453--Depredations
    of "Little Sir Alf," 453, 454--War with Denmark and
    the Hansa, 454, 455--Capture and death of Little Sir Alf,
    456--Death of King Erik, 456.


    HAAKON LONGLEGS    457-460

    Sir Audun's treason, 457--The dukes Erik and Valdemar
    458--Complications with Sweden, 459--War with Denmark,
    460--Death of Haakon, 460.



    Magnus Smek becomes king of Norway and Sweden, 461--Duchess
    Ingeborg's unpopularity, 461, 462--Discontent with
    Magnus, 462--Alliance with Valdemar Atterdag, 462, 463--Magnus
    deposed in Sweden, 463--Haakon's war with Albrecht
    of Mecklenberg, 464--The power of the Hansa in
    Norway, 464--Death of Magnus, 465--The Black Death,
    465, 466--Olaf the Young, 466.



    Margaret unites the three kingdoms, 467-469--The Kalmar
    Union, 469, 470--Reasons for its disastrous consequences,
    470-472--Death of Margaret, 472--Erik of Pomerania's
    misrule and extortions, 472, 473--Christopher of Bavaria,
    473, 474.



    The condition of Norway and Denmark during the union
    compared, 475, 476--Charles Knuttson elected king of Sweden,
    478--Christian I.'s war with Charles Knutsson, 479,
    480--Misrule in Norway, 480--The Scottish Isles pawned,
    480, 481--King Hans, 481, 482--Christian II.'s accession,
    482--His attempt to humble the nobility, 483--The carnage
    of Stockholm, 483, 484--His vain appeal to the bourgeoisie,
    484, 485--Christian's flight, 485--Frederick I., 485, 486--Struggle
    about the succession, 486, 487--Christian III., 487,
    488--Norway becomes a province of Denmark, 488.



    The Reformation introduced, 489, 490--The power of the
    Hansa broken, 490-492--Frederick II., 492-494--Christian
    IV.'s interest in Norway, 494--The Kalmar War, 495--Participation
    in the Thirty Years' War, 495, 496--The
    Hannibal's feud, 496--Frederick III.'s disastrous war with
    Sweden, 498--Absolutism introduced, 499, 500--Christian
    V., 500, 501--Frederick IV.'s accession, 501--The Great
    Northern War, 502-504--Tordenskjold, 503, 504--Christian
    VI., 506-508--Frederick V, 508--Christian VII., 508-512--The
    armed neutrality, 509, 510--Frederick VI. mounts
    the throne, 512--War with Sweden, 512, 513--Christian
    August as viceroy, 512-514--The Treaty of Paris, 513--Protest
    of the Norsemen, 514--Separation from Denmark, 515.



    Christian Frederick as viceroy, 516-518--Constitutional convention
    at Eidsvold, 518-520--War with Sweden, 520, 521--Armistice
    at Moss, 521--Charles XIII. accepts the constitution,
    522--Charles XIV. John becomes king of Norway,
    522--His controversies with the _Storthing_, 522-526--Henrik
    Wergeland, 526, 527--Count Wedel-Jarlsberg as
    viceroy, 527--Oscar I., 528-530--The character of the
    Norse peasantry, 528-530--Charles XV., 530, 531--Oscar
    II., and the constitutional struggle, 531-534--Impeachment
    of the ministry Selmer, 534--"The Pure Flag," 535--Present
    condition of Norway and her place among the nations,
    536--Literature and science, 536-538.






    STONE KNIFE    8


    STONE WEDGE    9



    BRONZE SWORD    14




















    CHURCH AT EGILÖ      103




    OBLONG BUCKLE      133


    OLD NORSE LOOM      145








    ST. OLAF AND THE TROLDS      223




    THE OLD MAN OF HOY      271





    HORNELEN      339

    THORGHÄTTEN      363

    HÖNEFOSS      371










    CHRISTIAN I.    479


    THE NORTH CAPE    493







    SKEE-RUNNING    525

    BRIDE AND GROOM    529








The Norsemen are a Germanic race, and belong, accordingly, to the great
Aryan family. Their next of kin are the Swedes and Danes. Their original
home was Asia, and probably that part of Asia which the ancients called
Bactria, near the sources of the rivers Oxus and Jaxartes. Not only the
Norsemen are supposed to have come from this region, but the ancestors
of all the Aryan nations which now inhabit the greater portion of the
civilized world. Among the first to leave this cradle of nations were
the tribes which settled upon the eastern islands and peninsulas of the
Mediterranean, and, under the name of Hellenes, developed, long before
the Christian era, an art and a literature which are, in some respects,
yet unrivalled. The early Italic tribes, from which sprung in time the
world-empire of Rome, trace their descent from the same ancestry; as do
also the Kelts, who in ancient times inhabited England, Ireland, and
France; the Slavs who settled in the present Russia, Bohemia, and the
northern Turkish provinces; and the Germans, who occupied the great
central regions of the European continent. Among Asiatic nations, the
Iranians inhabiting Persia, and the Hindoos in India, have Aryan blood.

It seems almost incredible that persons differing so widely in
appearance, habits, and disposition, as, for instance, a Hindoo and an
Englishman, should, if you go sufficiently far back, have the same
ancestry. And yet there cannot be the slightest doubt that such is the
case. The question, then, naturally arises: "If they were once alike,
what can have made them so different?" And the answer is: "The climate,
the soil, and the general character of the countries in which they

The country from which the first Aryans emigrated was mountainous, with
fertile valleys, and an even, temperate climate. There was no excessive
heat to make men drowsy and indolent, nor excessive cold to stunt them
in their growth and paralyze their energies. The earth did not, as in
the tropics, produce a luxurious vegetation which would support the
inhabitants without labor, but it offered sustenance to herds of cattle
which, with the proper care, would supply the simple needs of primitive
men. The race, thus situated, progressed physically as well as mentally,
until it became superior to all the tribes inhabiting the neighboring
regions. War followed, in which the weaker succumbed. The Aryans,
increasing rapidly in numbers, took possession of the conquered
territories, enslaved the indigenous population, or drove it back into
localities where the conditions of life were less favorable. It is not
positively known when the first migration on a large scale took place;
but some scholars have supposed that the Hindoos separated from the
parent race as early as 1500 B.C. The dates of the Greek, Italic,
Keltic, and Slavic migrations are likewise uncertain, and the period
which has been fixed upon for the Aryan occupation of Germany is also
conjectural. The same uncertainty prevails regarding the earliest
history of the Scandinavian tribes; although there is a strong
probability that their invasion of the countries which they now inhabit
must have taken place during the second century preceding the Christian
era. It is not unlikely that they left their Asiatic home simultaneously
with the Germans, with whom they were then almost, if not entirely,
identical, and that their conquering hordes spread northward, subduing
the Finns and Lapps, whom they found in possession of the land, partly
exterminating them, partly forcing them up into the barren mountains of
the extreme North. Among the tribes whose path of conquest was turned in
this direction, the Goths (_Gauter_), the Swedes (_Svear_), and the
Danes (_Daner_) were the most prominent, though several other names are
mentioned, both by native and foreign authors. The name Norseman, or
Northman, is not found among these, because it refers not to any of the
Aryan tribes, but is solely derived from the country in which they
settled. Their country soon became known as Norway (Noregr or Norvegr),
_i. e._, the Northern Way. It is the long strip of territory extending
north and south between the mountain chain Kjölen, which separates it
from Sweden and the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. It looks on the map like
a big bag slung across the shoulders of Sweden.

It is a wonderful country--this land of the Norsemen. The ocean roars
along its rock-bound coast, and during the long, dark winter the storms
howl and rage, and hurl the waves in white showers of spray against the
sky. Great swarms of sea-birds drift like snow over the waters, and
circle screaming around the lonely cliffs. The aurora borealis flashes
like a huge shining fan over the northern heavens, and the stars glitter
with a keen frosty splendor. But in the summer all this is changed,
suddenly, as by a miracle. Then the sun shines warmly, even within the
polar circle; innumerable wild flowers sprout forth, the swelling rivers
dance singing to the sea, and the birches mingle their light-green
foliage with the darker needles of the pines. In the northern districts
it is light throughout the night, even during the few hours while the
sun dips beneath the horizon; the ocean spreads like a great burnished
mirror under the cloudless sky, the fishes leap, and the gulls and
eider-ducks rock tranquilly upon the shining waters. All along the coast
there are excellent harbors, which are free of ice both winter and
summer. A multitude of islands, some rocky and barren, others covered
with a scant growth of grass and trees, afford hiding-places for ships
and pasturage for cattle. Moreover, long arms of the ocean--the
so-called fiords--penetrate far into the country, and being filled with
water from the gulf-stream which strikes the western coast of Norway,
tend greatly to moderate the climate. About the shores of these fiords
narrow strips of arable land stretch themselves, with many
interruptions, along the edge of the water, and here the early Germanic
settlers built their houses and began their fight for existence. Behind
them and before them the great snow-hooded mountains rose threateningly,
sending down upon them avalanches, floods, and sudden whirlwinds. But,
nothing daunted, they clung to the soil, explored the land and the sea,
and selected the most favorable sites for their permanent dwellings.


It is tolerably certain that the Aryan settlers in Norway knew at that
time very little of agriculture, but made their living by hunting,
fishing, and cattle-raising. The huts which they built of logs were rude
contrivances which could be easily torn down and moved. But, as at a
very early period, they began to devote themselves more to the culture
of the ground, their dwellings were made larger, and were built with
greater care. When a horde of warriors invaded a valley their first task
was to clear away the forests which grew dense and dark up over the
mountain sides. Their chieftain then built a _hov_ or temple for the
gods, where sacrifices were made at certain stated times. Whether it was
the chieftain's task to allot to each his share of land, or whether each
one chose according to his own preference, is not known, but the former
is the more probable; for the Norsemen, proud and pugnacious as they
were, subordinated themselves, in historic times, readily to their local
chiefs, and accorded them great honor. This sense of kinship within the
tribe and willing recognition of authority was the more important in
Norway, because the character of the ground there compelled the people
to live far apart on scattered _gaards_ or farms, between which
communication was often difficult. It would therefore have been easy for
the _bönder_ or peasants to forget all public concerns and gradually to
lapse into isolation and savagery. But here their Germanic nature, which
had in it the germs of social progress, asserted itself. As the
centuries passed the people were bound more strongly together by common
pursuits and common interests. First of all, their religious observances
brought them together, then the necessity of defence against external
enemies. Life and property were in those days insecure possessions, and
it was only by acting in concert, under the leadership of a valiant
chief, that the scattered peasants could hope to preserve either. Men
had then fiercer and more inflammable passions than they have now, and
only fear of retaliation could teach them self-restraint.

[Illustration: STONE HAMMER.]


It happened in this way that almost every separate valley in Norway
became a little kingdom by itself. Such a diminutive kingdom was called
a _fylki_. There was not always a king, but a chief there was always,
and sometimes more than one. To the king belonged the leadership in war.
He was in some district called a _jarl_ or earl, though this name came
in later times to mean not an independent ruler, but rather a
land-grave, a royal governor. The king could not tax the peasants for
his support, nor impose any burden upon them which they did not of their
own free choice accept. As a rule, his dignity was inherited by his son,
though the people were at liberty, in case they disapproved of the heir,
to select another. This right was repeatedly exercised in historic
times, both in Sweden and Norway. Sometimes, when the crops failed or
bad weather destroyed their herds, the peasants sacrificed their king to
their gods. All public misfortunes they interpreted as a sign that the
gods were angry, and craved bloody atonement. If the crops were good it
was evident that their king was in favor with the gods.

[Illustration: STONE KNIFE.]

It thus appears that the royal dignity among the early Norsemen was
burdened with unpleasant responsibilities. It involved more duties than
privileges, for, besides commanding in war, the king had also to conduct
the public sacrifices at the great pagan festivals. He was thus priest
as well as king. In fact, as before stated, he built the _hov_ or temple
himself, and it was chiefly his ownership of this, which raised him to a
dignity superior to that of other chieftains. It was by dint of this
same authority that he acted as judge at the _fylkis thing_, or popular
assembly, where all freeman met to consult concerning public and private
affairs. The _fylkis thing_ was neither a parliament nor a court of law,
but both combined. Private quarrels were settled, blood-wites or fines
agreed upon for homicides and other injuries, and resolutions taken
concerning peace and war. It was not a representative assembly, the
members of which were elected by vote, but rather a county meeting
(_shiremote_) where every man who could bear arms had a right to make
himself heard. You would scarcely wonder that where so many fierce and
turbulent warriors were gathered, breaches of the peace were frequent.
But when swords were drawn, it was impossible to judge and deliberate.
Therefore the _fylkis thing_ was hallowed, and to break the peace of the
_thing_ was regarded as the greatest of crimes. If a man killed another,
and publicly proclaimed himself his slayer, the crime could be atoned
for by money (blood-wite) paid to the nearest surviving relative of the
dead man. If the relatives accepted the blood-wite, they were not at
liberty to seek revenge. But in ancient times it was regarded as more
honorable to refuse the money and resort to the sword. If a man slew
another secretly and denied the crime he was held to be a murderer, and
could not offer blood-wite. He was then outlawed, and every man who saw
him was at liberty to slay him.

[Illustration: ADZE OF ELK-HORN.]

[Illustration: STONE WEDGE.]


Such were the Norsemen during the first centuries after their
settlement in their present home. In spite of their violence and
proneness to bloodshed, you will yet admit that they had many traits
which were admirable. They could recognize authority, and yet preserve
their sturdy sense of independence. Simple and imperfect as their
_fylkis things_ were, they suffice to show an aptitude for
self-government, and a recognition of the people itself, as the source
of authority. These tall blonde men with their defiant blue eyes, who
obeyed their kings while they had confidence in them, and killed them
when they had forfeited their respect, were the ancestors of the Normans
who under William the Conqueror invaded England, and founded the only
European state which has since reached the highest civilization and the
highest liberty, through slow and even stages of orderly development.






The Icelander Snorre Sturlasson wrote in the thirteenth century a very
remarkable book, called the Heimskringla, or the Sagas of the Kings of
Norway. In this book he says that Odin, the highest god of the Norsemen,
was the chief who first led the Germanic tribes into Europe. He was a
great warrior and was always victorious. Therefore, when he was dead,
the people made sacrifices to him and prayed to him for victory. They
did not believe, however, that he was actually dead, but that he had
returned to his old home in Asia, whence he still watched their fortunes
and occasionally visited them in person. Many tales are told in the
sagas of people who had seen Odin, particularly when a great battle was
to be fought. He was represented as a tall, bearded man with one eye,
and clad as a warrior. He had two brothers, Vile and Ve, and many sons
and daughters who were worshipped like him and became gods and
goddesses. Odin and his children were called _Aesir_, which Snorre says
means Asia-men; and their home _Asgard_, or _Asaheim_, likewise
indicates their Asiatic origin. During their migrations the _Aesir_ came
in contact with another people, called the _Vanir_, with whom, after an
indecisive battle, they formed an alliance. The _Vanir_ then made common
cause with the _Aesir_ and were worshipped like them.

[Illustration: BRONZE SWORD. (Vestergötland in Sweden.)]

Whether there is any basis of truth in this tradition, is difficult to
determine. We know that primitive nations usually make gods of their
early kings and chieftains, and worship them after death. Every year
that passes makes them look greater and more mysterious. In storms and
earthquakes, in thunder and lightning, they hear their voices and see
the manifestations of their power. More and more they become identified
with the elements which they are supposed to rule; the mighty attributes
of the sun, the sky, and the sea are given to them, and to each is
allotted his particular sphere of action. The chieftain who has been a
valiant warrior in his life-time is supposed to give victory to those
who call upon him. He who has excelled in the arts of peace continues to
rule over the seasons, and to give good crops and prosperity to those
who, by sacrifices, secure his good-will. This may have been the origin
of the Scandinavian gods; although many scholars maintain that they were
from the beginning personifications of the elements, and have never had
an actual existence on earth. But whether they were originally men or
sun-myths, interesting legends have been told about them which may be
worth recounting.

[Illustration: LOOR OR WAR HORN OF BRONZE. (Skaane.)]

In the beginning of time there were two worlds, Muspelheim, the world of
fire, whose king was Surtur, and Niflheim, the world of frost and
darkness. In Niflheim was the spring Hvergelmer, where dwelt the
terrible dragon Nidhögger. Between these two worlds was the yawning
chasm Ginnungagap. The spring Hvergelmer sent forth twelve icy rivers,
which were called the Elivagar. These gradually filled up the chasm
Ginnungagap. As the wild waters rushed into the abyss, they froze and
were again thawed by the sparks that were blown from the fiery
Muspelheim. The frozen vapors fell as hoar-frost, and the heat imparted
life to them. They took shape and fashioned themselves into the Yotun or
giant Ymer, from whom descends the evil race of frost-giants.
Simultaneously with Ymer the cow Audhumbla came into being. She licked
the briny hoar-frost, and a mighty being appeared with the shape of a
man. He was large and beautiful, and was named Bure. His son was Bör,
who married the daughter of a Yotun, and got three sons, Odin, Vile, and
Ve. These three brothers slew the Yotun Ymer, and in his blood all the
race of Yotuns was drowned except one couple, from whom a new race of
giants descended. Then Odin and his brothers dragged the huge body of
Ymer into the middle of Ginnungagap, and fashioned from it the world.
Out of the flesh they made the earth, the bones became stones and lofty
mountains, and his blood the sea. From his hair they made the trees, and
from his skull the great vault of the sky. His brain they scattered in
the air, where its fragments yet float about in queer, fantastic shapes,
and are called clouds. The flying sparks from Muspelheim they gathered
up and fashioned them into sun, moon, and stars, which they flung up
against the blue vault of the sky. Then they arranged land and water so
that the ocean flowed round about the entire earth, and beyond the
watery waste they fixed the abode of the Yotuns. This cold and barren
realm beyond the sea is therefore called Utgard or Yotunheim. From the
earth to the sky they suspended a bridge of many colors, which they
named Bifrost or the rainbow. The Yotun woman Night married Delling (the
Dawn) and became the mother of Day, who rode in his shining chariot
across the sky, always followed by his dark mother. The latter drove a
huge black horse named Hrimfaxe, from whose foamy bit dropped the dew
that refreshed the grass during the hours of darkness, while Day's
horse, Skinfaxe, spread from his radiant mane the glorious light over
the earth. It is further told that the heat bred in Ymer's body a
multitude of maggots, which assumed the shapes of tiny men and were
called gnomes or dwarves. They live in caves and mountains, and know of
all the treasures of gold and silver and precious stones in the secret
chambers of the rocks. They also have great skill in the working of
metals, but they cannot endure the light of the sun. Last of all man was
created. One day when the three gods, Odin, Höner, and Lodur were
walking on the shores of the sea they found two trees, and from these
they made a man and a woman, named Ask and Embla (ash and elm). Odin
gave them the breath of life, Höner, speech and reason, Lodur, blood and
fair complexions.

[Illustration: BRONZE SWORD. (Sandherred.)]

The old Norsemen conceived of the world as an enormous ash tree, named
Ygdrasil, the three roots of which extend, one to the gods in Asgard,
another to Yotunheim, the third to Niflheim. On the third gnaws
continually the dragon Nidhögger. In the top of the tree sits an eagle;
among the branches four stags are running; and up and down on the trunk
frisks a squirrel who carries slander and endeavors to make mischief
between the eagle and the dragon. Under the root which stretches to
Yotunheim is the fountain of the wise Yotun Mimer, to whom Odin gave one
of his eyes in return for a draught from his fountain. For whoever drank
from its water became instantly wise. Under the second root of the ash,
which draws its nourishment from heaven, is the sacred fountain of Urd,
whither the gods ride daily over the bridge Bifrost. Here they meet the
three Norns--Urd, Verdande, and Skuld (Past, Present, and Future), the
august goddesses of Fate, whose decrees not even the gods are able to
change. The Norns pour the water of the fountain over Ygdrasil's root,
and thereby keep the world-tree alive. They govern the fates of gods
and men, giving life or death to whomever they please.


Odin dwells with all the other gods in Asgard, where he receives in his
shining hall Valhalla all those who have died by the sword. He is
therefore called Valfather, and those fallen warriors whom he chooses to
be his guests, are known as _einheriar_, _i. e._, great champions.
Valhalla is splendidly decorated with burnished weapons. The ceiling is
made of spears, the roof is covered with shining shields, and the walls
are adorned with armor and coats of mail. Hence the champions issue
forth every day and fight great battles, killing and maiming each other.
But every night they wake up whole and unscathed and return to Odin's
hall, where they spend the night in merry carousing. The maidens of
Odin--the Valkyries, who, before every battle, select those who are to
be slain, wait upon the warriors, fill their great horns with mead, and
give them the flesh of swine to eat.

The great gathering-place of the gods in Asgard is the plains of Ida.
Here is Odin's throne, where he sits looking out over the whole world.
At his side sit the two wolves--Gere and Freke, and on his shoulders the
ravens, Hugin and Munin, who daily fly forth and bear him tidings from
the remotest regions of the earth. If he wishes to travel, he mounts his
eight-footed horse Sleipner, which carries him far and wide with
wonderful speed. When the father of gods and men rides to battle he
wears a helmet of gold and a suit of mail, which shines dazzlingly from
afar. He carries also his spear Gungner, which he sends forth whenever
he wishes to arouse men to warfare and strife. But, besides being the
god of war, Odin also delights in poetry and sage counsel. He is the god
of the scalds or poets; for he had drunk of Suttung's mead, which
imparted the gift of song. He is well skilled in sorcery, and has taught
men the art of writing runes.

Thor, the son of Odin, lives in Thrudvang. He is the strongest of all
the gods, and has an enormous hammer, Mjolner, with which he carries on
a ceaseless warfare against the Yotuns, or mist-giants. He rides in a
cart drawn by two rams across the Gjallar bridge (the resounding
bridge), which leads to Yotunheim, and the rattling of the cart and the
noise of his hammer, as he hurls it at the heads of the fleeing giants,
make the vault of the sky tremble. This is what men call thunder. When
Thor is hungry, he kills his rams and eats their flesh, but he is always
careful to gather up the bones and to throw them back into the skins.
Then, the next morning, the rams are as frisky as ever and ready for
service. Thor has a wife named Sif, whose hair is of gold.

Balder, the good and the beautiful, is also the son of Odin. He is wise
and gentle, and kindness beams from his countenance. His wife is Nanna,
and his dwelling Breidablik.

Njord is ruler of the sea, and can raise storms and calm the waves at
his pleasure. He is of the race of the Vanir, but is yet worshipped as a
god. He is the owner of great wealth, and can give prosperity to those
who obtain his favor. Njord was married to the Yotun woman, Skade, but
was again separated from her. His abode is at Noatun, from which he has
wide view of the sea.

Frey, the son of Njord, rules over the seasons, and gives peace and good
crops. Fields and pastures grow, and the cattle thrive in the sunshine
of his favor. He lives with his wife Gerd in Alfheim. Tyr is the god of
courage, whom men call upon as they are about to go into battle. He has
but one hand, having thrust the other into the mouth of the
Fenris-Wolf, who bit it off. Brage is the god of song, and of vows and
pledges. He has a long beard, and, is possessed of wisdom and eloquence.
When men drained the horn in his honor, they made vows of daring deeds
which they would perform, and called the god to witness that they would
keep them. Many were those who, while drunk, pledged themselves to
foolhardy undertakings, and perished in the attempt to carry them out.
Brage's wife is the ever-young Idun. She has in her keeping the
wonderful apples, which the gods eat to preserve the beauty and vigor of
an eternal youth.

The watchman of the gods is named Heimdal. His senses are so keen that
nothing can escape him. He can see hundreds of miles, and he can hear
the grass grow. When he blows his Gjallar horn (the resounding horn),
its rousing call is heard throughout the world. Heimdal's dwelling is
Himinbjarg at the Bifrost Bridge.

Among gods of less consequence may be mentioned Uller, the step-son of
Thor, who is a master in running on snow-shoes; Forsete, the son of
Balder, who makes peace between those who have quarrelled; Höder, the
blind god, who shot Balder; and the silent Vidar.

Foremost among the goddesses is Frigg, the wife of Odin, who dwells in
Fensal. She shields from danger those who call upon her. Freya, the
Northern Venus, is the goddess of beauty. She is the daughter of Njord,
and was forsaken by her husband Odd, and is ever hoping for his return.
She travelled far and wide in search of him, and wept because she could
not find him. Her tears turned into gold, and gold is therefore by the
poets called the tears of Freya. Her chariot, in which she drives over
the sky, is drawn by cats, though at times she flies in the guise of a
swan and visits distant lands. Her necklace, Brising, made by
wonder-working gnomes, is of dazzling splendor. The dwelling of Freya is
Folkvang, and thither ascend the prayers of lovelorn swains and maidens.
Freya's daughter, Hnos, is of marvellous beauty and a sweet disposition.
Her name is still used in the nursery as a pet-name for babes.

The dominion of the sea does not belong entirely to Njord. The Yotun
Aeger rules over the towering waves, and lashes them into fury, until
Njord again curbs them and bids them be still. Yet Aeger is the friend
of the gods, and is at times visited by them in his magnificent
submarine hall, where ale and mead flow abundantly. He is himself
peaceably disposed toward men, but is overruled by his terrible wife
Ran, who with her nine daughters (the waves) causes shipwrecks and draws
the drowned men down to her watery abode.

One dweller in Asgard is still to be mentioned, and that is the evil
Loke, who disturbs the peace of the gods, and will work their final
ruin. He was born among the Yotuns, but gained the confidence of Odin by
his agreeable presence and his fair speech. He delighted in mischief and
loved evil-doing. He had three terrible children--the wolf Fenris, the
world-serpent, and Hel. As these monsters grew up, the gods foresaw that
their presence in Asgard would cause trouble. The wolf Fenris was,
therefore, after having broken the strongest chains, tied with a
magical cord, made of the noise of cats'-paws, women's beard, roots of
mountains, and other equally intangible things. This cord he could not
break. The world-serpent was thrown into the ocean, where it continued
to grow until it encircled all the earth and at last bit its own tail.
Hel was banished to Helheim, where she became the ruler of the dead, and
the goddess of the under-world.





The Norsemen had up to the middle of the eighth century played no part
in the world's history. Their very existence had been unknown or but
vaguely known to the rest of Europe. But towards the close of the eighth
century they broke like a destructive tempest over the civilized lands,
spreading desolation in their path. When their fast-sailing ships with
two square sails were sighted at the river-mouths, people fled in
terror, and the priests prayed in vain: "Deliver us, O Lord, from the
rage of the Norsemen."


There were several reasons for this sudden warlike activity on the part
of the Norsemen. They had waged war from immemorial times; because war
was with them the most honorable occupation. As Tacitus says of their
kinsmen, the Germans: "They deemed it a disgrace to acquire by sweat
what they might obtain by blood." But previous to the viking period they
had fought each other. One earl or king made foraging expeditions into
the land of his neighbors, and carried away with him whatever booty he
could lay hands on. But in this perpetual warfare one or the other must
at length become exhausted, and the stronger would be likely to oust or
vanquish the weaker. This was what happened in the north. Large tracts
of land, made up of small conquered kingdoms, were united under one
successful chief, who, of course, made haste to prevent depredations
within his own boundaries. With the growing power of these local kings,
it became more and more risky to attack them, and the field for domestic
warfare thus became constantly narrower. But war was the very condition
of the chieftain's existence among the early Norsemen. His honor was
dependent upon the number of his followers and the splendor of their
equipments, and to gain the means to entertain and to equip them he was
obliged to wage war. When he could no longer do it at home, he
naturally went abroad. It was neither ferocity nor excessive avarice
which impelled him to draw the sword; but the desire to preserve his
honor among men, which, in a warlike state, is merely another form of
the instinct of self-preservation. The high-born chieftain had to make
himself formidable in order to protect his life and property. He had to
live in accordance with his rank, if he wished to live at all. His
men-at-arms were his body-guard as well as his army. He had to behave
royally toward them in order to preserve their good-will; and next to
personal valor, liberality in giving was the first duty of a king. The
king is therefore called the breaker of rings (large solid arm-rings of
gold being used for purposes of payment) and the hater of gold.[A]

[Footnote A: Munch (Det Norske Folk's Historie, 1-124) derives the word
king (old Norse, konungr; Anglo-Saxon, cyning; O. H. German, chuninc and
chunig) from Kun or Kon, meaning race, descent; and interprets the word
as meaning (like Lat., generosus) of high birth or descent.]

There is in the earliest Germanic times no sharp distinction between the
titles "earl" and "king." The viking cruises, however, helped to
establish a distinction. The earl who, having gathered a large number of
warriors about him, went abroad for purposes of conquest, was hailed by
his men as king. A number of vikings, of high birth, assumed the name of
kings, when starting on warlike expeditions; but were known as
sea-kings, in contra-distinction to those who ruled at home over a fixed
domain. The number of these sea-kings increased (for the reasons cited
above) enormously toward the close of the eighth century. They harried
not only the coasts of the neighboring lands, but they crossed the
North Sea and the Baltic, carrying away or slaughtering the inhabitants
and destroying the cities. Churches and monasteries they plundered,
scattering the bones of the saints to the four winds; all that Christian
men held sacred they trod under foot. And yet we must bear in mind that
all we know about these early vikings is derived from the writings of
their enemies, who were smarting under the injury they had done them.
That they were fierce and brutal is credible enough. The warlike state
is in itself brutalizing. It arouses all the slumbering savagery in man,
and smothers his gentler impulses. But certain moral qualities even
their hostile chroniclers concede to them. They admit that the Norse
barbarians were, as a rule, faithful to their oaths and kept their

Three periods [A] are recognizable in the viking age, though there are,
in point of time, no sharp divisions between them. It would, perhaps, be
more correct to say that there were three kinds of vikings. The first
cruises were more or less tentative and irregular. Chieftains gather
about them crews for a few ships and sail over to England, Denmark, or
Flanders, where they attack a city or a monastery, and return home with
their booty. The second period shows an advance in the art of war and in
military experience. Several vikings attack in company some exposed
point, take possession of it, erect fortifications, and make forays into
the surrounding country. During the third period the Norsemen abandon
their character of pirates and assume the rôle of conquerors. With
large fleets, counting from one to five hundred ships, they storm and
sack cities, assume the government of the conquered territories, treat,
as regular belligerents, with kings and emperors, and establish
themselves permanently in the conquered land. Of the two first classes
of vikings we have only scattered and unreliable accounts. To go on
viking cruises is a recognized occupation in the Norse sagas, and it was
regarded as a kind of liberal education for a young man of good birth to
spend some years of his youth on such expeditions. His honor was thereby
greatly increased at home, and his position in society assured. Royal
youths of twelve or fifteen years often went abroad as commanders of
viking fleets, in order to test their manhood and accumulate experience
and knowledge of men.

[Footnote A: Sars: "Udsigt over den Norske Historie," 1-90.]


The third class of vikings, the conquerors, have found their historians
both at home and abroad; and the different narratives, though not
strictly accurate, supplement and correct each other. It is these
conquering vikings who have demonstrated the historic mission of Norway,
and doubly indemnified the world for the misery they brought upon it.
The ability to endure discipline without loss of self-respect, voluntary
subordination for mutual benefit, and the power of orderly organization,
based upon these qualities, these were the contributions of the Norse
vikings to the political life of Europe. The feudal state, which, with
all its defects, is yet the indispensable basis of a higher
civilization, has its root in the Germanic instinct of loyalty--of
mutual allegiance between master and vassal; and the noble spirit of
independence which restrains and limits the power of the ruler, and at a
later stage leads to constitutional government, is even a more
distinctly Norse than Germanic characteristic. While Norway, up under
the pole, has developed a democracy, Germany, coming at too early a
period into contact with Rome, has developed a military despotism under
constitutional forms. The breath of new life which the vikings infused
into history lives to-day in Norway, in England, and in America.

Among the earliest conquests of the Norse vikings was a portion of the
present Sleswick which after them was called Nortmannia. It is possible
that they recognized the sovereignty of the kings of Denmark, though
there is no direct evidence that they regarded themselves as vassals.
The first intelligence we obtain concerning them is that their king
Sigfrid, in the year 777, received hospitably the Saxon chieftain
Widukind, who, when summoned to meet Charlemagne in Paderborn, fled
northward and sought refuge with his Norse co-religionists. This Sigfrid
belonged to the renowned race of the Ynglings, from whom descended
Harold the Fairhaired, and through him a long line of Norwegian kings. A
later king of Nortmannia, who also had great possessions in Norway, was
Gudröd or Godfrey the Hunter. He came, through the friendship of the
Saxons, repeatedly into collision with Charlemagne, and even threatened
to attack the emperor in Aachen. It is told that he was killed by his
own men in the year 809. He had about a year before attacked and slain
the king of Agder, whose daughter Aasa he married. She bore him a son
named Halfdan the Swarthy, but avenged her father's death by inducing
her servant to kill her husband while he was drunk. One of Godfrey's
sons, Erik, carried on an intermittent warfare with Charlemagne's son,
Louis the Pious, sent embassies to Aachen, and in 845, during the reign
of Louis the German, sacked and burned the city of Hamburg. St.
Ansgarius, the apostle of the North, who had been established by the
emperor as archbishop of Hamburg, fled with all his priests; and the
church and the monastery which he had founded were utterly destroyed.

It was not only in his remote northern domains that Charlemagne came in
contact with the vikings. The chronicles of the Monks of St. Gall relate
that he also encountered them in his Mediterranean provinces. Once, as
he was visiting a city in Gallia Narbonensis, some fast-sailing Norse
ships with square sails were seen out in the harbor. Soon a message was
brought to the emperor that the crews had landed and were plundering the
shore. Nobody then knew to what nationality these ships belonged, some
conjecturing that they were Jewish, others African, and again others
that they were British merchant vessels.

"No," said Charlemagne, "these ships are not filled with merchandise,
but with the most pugnacious foes."

Hearing this everybody seized his weapons and hastened to the harbor;
but the vikings had in the meanwhile learned that the emperor was in the
city, and as they were not strong enough to fight with him, they fled
to sea.


It is related that Charlemagne, as he stood at his window and watched
their flight, wept. Remarking the wonder of his men, he said:

"I do not weep because I fear that these miscreants can do me any harm;
but I am grieved that, while I am alive, they have dared to show
themselves upon this coast; and I foresee with dread all the evil they
will do to my descendants."[A]

[Footnote A: Munch (Det. Norske Folks Historie 1-414) questions the
credibility of this story, because the Norsemen did not show themselves
in the Mediterranean as early as the chronicle here indicates; in fact
not before 800 A.D.]

This story, endowing the emperor with prophetic vision, has a certain
legendary flavor, and may be a monkish invention. Similar prophecies,
dating after the event, are found in other ecclesiastical authors, and
show sufficiently the feeling with which the Norsemen were regarded. It
is especially one typical viking, the renowned Hasting, who figures both
in sacred and profane chronicles. He sailed up the Loire in 841, with a
large fleet, burned the city of Amboise, and besieged Tours. The
inhabitants, however, carried the bones of their patron saint up on the
walls; and, according to the story, by the intervention of the saint,
the vikings were put to flight. In 845, Hasting is reported to have
attacked Paris, in company with Björn Ironside, the son of Ragnar
Lodbrok. To the Baltic and even to the shore of the Mediterranean this
fearless marauder extended his ravages, and as success attended his
banner, he grew more daring and determined to lay siege to Rome.

He even aspired to put the imperial crown upon his brow. With as large a
fleet as he could muster he sailed through the Pillars of Hercules, but
before he reached the mouth of the Tiber, a storm drove his ships to the
city of Luna, near Carrara. Being poorly versed in geography, Hasting
mistook this city for Rome, and resolved to capture it by strategem.


He sent word to the bishop that he was very ill and desired to be
baptized, so that he might die a Christian. The bishop, as well as the
commander of the town, fell into the trap. Delighted at the prospect of
gaining so valuable a convert, they opened the gates and invited the
Norsemen to enter. These, in the meanwhile, declared, that since sending
his message, Hasting had died; and with great pomp they bore his coffin,
followed by a funeral procession of enormous length, into the cathedral
where the bishop stood ready to read the mass for the repose of the
viking's soul. Suddenly, however, as the coffin was deposited before the
altar and the mass commenced, Hasting sprang up, flung away his shroud,
and stood in flashing armor before the astonished populace. His men, at
this signal, also flung off their mourning cloaks and drew their
swords. The bishop and his priests were killed, and blood flowed in
torrents through the sacred aisles. A terrible carnage ensued, and the
city was captured. Having accomplished this enterprise, Hasting
discovered that, while deceiving, he had himself been deceived. It was
not Rome he had taken after all. Whether he accepted this as an omen or
not, he lost his desire to make his entry into the eternal city. Content
with the booty he had accumulated, he turned his prows toward France
where he became the vassal of Charles the Bald, from whom he received
valuable fiefs.[A]

[Footnote A: The Norse Sagas make no mention of Hasting, and Munch
(1-429) gives several reasons for questioning whether he was an
historical character.]

Many other vikings are mentioned in chronicles of later date, who by
their incessant attacks upon the coasts, taxed the energy of the weak
Carolingian kings to the utmost. One of them, named Ragnar, is said to
have plundered Paris in 845, and another, named Asgeir, had four years
earlier sacked and burned Rouen and the monastery Jumièges. He spent
eleven years ravaging the coasts of France, and finally, in 851, sailed
up the Seine, destroyed the monastery Fontenelle and burned Beauvois. On
his return to the sea he was defeated by the French, and had to hide
with his men in the woods, but succeeded in recapturing his ships and
making good his escape. Of a third one, Rörek, it is told that about the
year 862 he accepted Christianity, without, as it appears, experiencing
any perceptible change of heart. After having ravaged Dorestad and
Nimwegen, two flourishing cities on the Rhine, and having defended
himself heroically against King Lothair, the younger, he made peace
(873) with Louis the German, and refrained from further depredations.


There is a certain uniformity in the deeds of the vikings, whether they
be Norsemen or Danes, which makes further description superfluous. Only
a few of their more daring enterprises may be briefly alluded to.

To Ireland the Norsemen had been attracted at a comparatively early
period. In the last decade of the eighth century they destroyed the
monastery of Iona or Icolmkill, and between the years 810 and 830 they
spread terror and devastation along the entire coast. In the year 838
they sailed with one hundred and twenty ships up to Dublin and conquered
the city, under the leadership of Thorgisl, who still lives in Irish
song and story under the names of Turges and Turgesius.

"After many sharp fights," says an old author,[A] "he conquered in a
short time all Ireland, and erected, wherever he went, high
fortifications of masonry with deep moats, of which many ruins are yet
to be seen in the country." At last he fell in love with the daughter of
Maelsechnail, king in Meath, and demanded of him that he should send her
to him, attended by fifteen young maidens. Thorgisl promised to meet her
with the same number of high-born Norsemen on an island in Loch Erne.
But instead of maidens Maelsechnail sent fifteen beardless young men,
disguised as women and armed with daggers. When Thorgisl arrived he was
attacked by these and slain. On a previous occasion Maelsechnail had
asked Thorgisl what he should do to get rid of some strange and
injurious birds that had got into the country. "Destroy their nests,"
said Thorgisl. Accordingly Maelsechnail began at once to destroy the
Norse castles, while the Irish slew or chased away the Norsemen.

[Footnote A: Giraldus Cambrensis, _De Topogr. Hiberniæ_, cap. 37. Quoted
from Munch, 1-438.]


It appears probable that Thorgisl's reign in Ireland lasted from 838 to
846, although a much longer period is given by the above-quoted
chronicler. A more enduring sway over the country was gained by the
Norse sea-king Olaf the White, who belonged to the great Yngling race.
In 852 a company of Danish vikings had possession of Dublin; but Olaf
defeated them and compelled them to send him hostages. He then
established himself in the city, built castles, and taxed the
surrounding country. Two other Norsemen, the brothers Sigtrygg and Ivar,
founded about the same time kingdoms--the former in Waterford, the
latter in Limerick--without, however, being able to compete with Olaf in
splendor and power. The dominion of the Norsemen in Dublin is said to
have lasted for three hundred and fifty years. From Irish sources a
somewhat different account is derived of these remarkable events. It is
told that the Norsemen often sailed up the rivers, not as warriors, but
as peaceful merchants, and that the Irish found it advantageous to trade
with them. They thus gained considerable possessions in the cities, and
when the vikings came there was already a party in the larger cities who
favored them and made their conquests easy.

From Dublin Olaf the White made two cruises to Scotland, laid siege to
Dumbarton, sailed southward to England, plundering and ravaging, and
returned to Dublin with two hundred ships laden with precious booty. The
Orkneys, the Hebrides, and the Faroe Isles were also, during this
period, repeatedly visited by the vikings, and even to Iceland
expeditions were made, which did not, however, result in permanent
settlement. The Irish hermits and pious monks, who had retired from the
world into the Arctic solitude, were disturbed in their devotions by the
unwelcome visitors, and the majority returned to Ireland, while some are
said to have remained until the island was regularly settled by the

To England the Norsemen went for the first time with hostile intent in
787. During the reign of King Beorthric in Wessex a small flock of
vikings landed in the neighborhood of Dorchester, killed some people,
and were driven away again. The Anglo-Saxon chronicle [A] relates the
incident in these words:

[Footnote A: _Monum. Hist. Brit._, pp. 336, 337. Quoted from Munch, i.,

"In this year (787) King Beorthric married Eadburg, daughter of King
Offa. In those days came for the first time Northmen and ships from
Heredhaland. The _gerêfa_ (commander) rode down to them and wished to
drive them to the king's dwelling. For he knew not who they were; but
they slew him there. These were the first ships belonging to Danish men
which visited England."

It is noticeable that the ships are said in the same breath to have
belonged to Northmen and to Danes, and it is obvious that the chronicler
supposes the terms to be synonymous. The Heredhaland from which the men
came was in all probability Hardeland in Jutland, where the Norsemen had
at that time a colony.

The next attack of which we have an account was directed against the
coast of Northumberland, and took place in the year 794. The monk
Simeon of Durham,[A] who lived in the beginning of the twelfth century,
writes as follows:

[Footnote A: Simeon of Durham, _Monum. Hist. Brit._, p. 668. Quoted from
Munch, i., 417.]

"The heathen came from the northern countries to Britain like stinging
wasps, roamed about like savage wolves, robbing, biting, killing not
only horses, sheep, and cattle, but also priests, acolytes, monks, and
nuns. They went to Lindisfarena church, destroying every thing in the
most miserable manner, and trod the sanctuary with their profane feet,
threw down the altars, robbed the treasures of the church, killed some
of the brothers, carried others away in captivity, mocked many and flung
them away naked, and threw some into the ocean. In 794 they harried King
Ecgfridh's harbor, and plundered the monastery of Donmouth. But St.
Cuthbert did not permit them to escape unpunished; for their chieftain
was visited with a cruel death by the English and, a short time after,
their ships were destroyed by a storm, and many of them perished; a few
who swam ashore were killed without pity."

It is an odd circumstance that while an incessant stream of Norse
vikings, during the first half of the ninth century, poured southward,
devastating the shores of the Baltic and the Mediterranean, only a
comparatively small number found their way to England. We hear in the
Sagas of many individual warriors who visited the Saxon kings in England
and took service under them, and of several who sailed up the Thames and
put an embargo on the trade of the river, capturing every ship that
ventured into their clutches. But as a field for conquest they left
England (probably not from any fraternal consideration) to their
kinsmen, the Danes, while they themselves turned their attention to
France, Ireland, and the isles north of Scotland. In the Hebrides, the
Orkneys, the Shetland Islands, and the Faeroe Isles, their descendants
are still living, and Norse names are yet frequent.


Another notable circumstance in connection with the vikings is, that
the very men whom foreign chroniclers describe as stinging wasps and
savage wolves, and of whom the greatest atrocities are related during
their sojourn abroad, became, as a rule, after their return home, men of
weight and influence, with respect for tradition and law--men who,
according to the standard of the time, were moral and honorable. There
were exceptions, of course, but they go to prove the rule. The
explanation is not far to seek. Religion in those days was tribal, and
morality had no application outside the tribe. Every people is the
chosen people of its own god or gods. As the Jews divided humanity into
Jews and Gentiles, and the Greeks into Greeks and barbarians, so the
Norsemen retaliated towards Jews and Greeks, by including them with all
other nations in the Norse equivalent for barbarians. English, Irish,
and Germans, often men of high birth, were constantly brought to Norway
by the vikings as thralls, bartered and sold and forced to menial tasks.
No law extended its protection to them; and yet maltreatment of thralls
was, both in Iceland and Norway, regarded as unworthy of a freeman. For
all that, the vikings were children of their age, and practised only the
rude morality which their religion prescribed. The humanitarian
sentiment which regards all men as brethren and creatures of the same
God is a comparatively modern growth, and it would be unfair to judge
the old Norsemen by any such advanced standard. It is therefore quite
credible that the vikings may have been guilty of deeds abroad which
they would not have committed at home.




The Yngling race traced its ancestry from the god Frey. Snorre
Sturlasson, in his famous work, "The Sagas of the Kings of Norway,"[A]
mentions a long line of kings who were descended from Fjölne, a son of
Frey, and reigned in Sweden having their residence in Upsala. Yngve was
one of the god's surnames, and Yngling means a descendant of Yngve. One
of the Ynglings, named Aun the Old, sacrificed every ten years one of
his sons to Odin, having been promised that for every son he sacrificed,
ten years should be added to his life. When he had thus slain seven
sons, and was so old that he had to be fed like an infant, his people
grew weary of him and saved the eighth son, whom he was about to
sacrifice. Ingjald Ill-Ruler, when he took the kingdom on the death of
his father Anund, sixth in descent from Aun the Old, made a great
funeral feast, to which he invited all the neighboring kings. When he
rose to drink the Brage goblet,[B] he vowed that he would increase his
kingdom by one half toward all the four corners of the heavens, or die
in the attempt. As a preliminary step he set fire to the hall, burned
his guests, and took possession of their lands. When he died, about the
middle of the seventh century, he was so detested by his people that
they would not accept his son, nor any of his race, as his successor.
The son, whose name was Olaf, therefore gathered about him as many as
would follow him, and emigrated to the great northern forests, where he
felled the trees, gained much arable lands, and thereby acquired the
nickname The Wood-cutter.[C] He and his people became prosperous, and a
great influx of the discontented from the neighboring lands followed. In
fact, so great was the number of immigrants that the country could not
feed them, and they were threatened with famine. This they attributed,
however, to the fact that Olaf was not in the favor of the gods, and
they sacrificed him to Odin.

[Footnote A: "The Heimskringla, or the Sagas of the Kings of Norway," by
the Icelander Snorre Sturlasson, was written in the twelfth century, and
continued by his nephew Sturla Thordsson, is the principal source of the
history of Norway up to the middle of the thirteenth century.]

[Footnote B: The toast to the god Brage.]

[Footnote C: Tretelgja.]

His son, Halfdan Whiteleg,[A] was a great warrior. He conquered
Raumarike in Norway and the great and fertile district called Vestfold,
west of the fjord called Folden (now the Christiania Fjord). Here he
founded a famous temple in Skiringssal, which soon became a flourishing
trading station and a favorite residence of the Norwegian kings. The
third in descent from him was the great viking Godfrey the Hunter, who
waged war against Charlemagne, and Godfrey's son was Halfdan the

[Footnote A: Hvitbein.]

Halfdan was but a year old in 810 when his father was killed. At the
age of eighteen, he assumed the government of Agder, which he inherited
from his maternal grandfather. By warfare and by marriage he also
increased the great possessions he had received from his father, and,
was, beyond dispute, the mightiest king in all Norway. It is told of him
that he was a man of great intelligence, who loved justice and truth. He
gave laws which he himself kept and compelled every one else to keep. In
order that no one should with impunity tread the law under foot, he
fixed a scale of fines which offenders should pay in accordance with
their birth and dignity. This code was the so-called Eidsiva-Law, which
had great influence in politically uniting the southern districts of
Norway which Halfdan had gathered under his sway.

About King Halfdan's second marriage a story is told, which, whether
originally true or not, has obviously been the subject of legendary
adornment. It runs as follows:

There was a king in Ringerike whose name was Sigurd Hjort. He was a
large and strong man. He had a daughter named Ragnhild, who was very
beautiful, and a son named Guttorm. While Sigurd Hjort was out hunting
he was attacked by the _berserk_ [A] Hake and thirty men. He fought
desperately, and slew twelve of his assailants, and cut off Hake's hand,
but in the end he had to bite the dust. The berserk then rode to his
house and carried away Ragnhild and Guttorm, besides much valuable
property. He determined to marry Ragnhild and would have done so at
once, if his wound had not grown constantly more painful. At Yule-tide,
when King Halfdan came to feast in Hedemark, he heard of the outrage and
resolved to punish it. He sent one of his trusted warriors, named Haarek
Gand, with a hundred armed men to Hake's house; they arrived in the
early morning before any one was awake. They set sentinels at all the
doors, then broke into the sleeping-rooms and carried off Sigurd Hjort's
children and the stolen goods. Then they set fire to the house and
burned it up. Hake escaped, but seeing Ragnhild drive gayly away over
the ice with King Halfdan's men, he threw himself upon his sword and
perished. Halfdan the Swarthy became enamored of Ragnhild, as soon as he
saw her, and made her his wife.

[Footnote A: Berserks or berserkir were champions of extraordinary
strength, who in battle were possessed with a sanguinary fury which made
them irresistible. Many of them were reputed to be were-wolves, and to
be invulnerable.]

While Queen Ragnhild was with child she dreamed marvellous dreams. Once
she seemed to be standing in the garden, trying to take a thorn out of
her chemise, but the thorn grew in her hand until it was like a long
spindle--the one end of which struck root in the earth, while the other
shot up into the air. Presently it looked like a big tree, and it grew
bigger and bigger and taller and taller, until she stood in its shade
and her eye could scarcely reach to the top of it. The lower part of the
tree was red as blood; further up the trunk was green and fair, and the
branches were radiantly white like snow. They were, however, of very
unequal size, and it seemed to her that they spread out over the whole
kingdom of Norway.

King Halfdan was much puzzled at hearing this dream, and perhaps a
little jealous too. Why was it that his wife had such remarkable dreams,
while he had none? He consulted a wise man as to the cause of this, and
was by him advised to sleep in a pig-sty; then he would be sure to have
remarkable dreams. The king did as he had been told, and dreamed that
his hair was growing very long and beautiful. It fell in bright locks
about his head and shoulders, but the locks were of unequal length and
color; some seemed like little curly knots just sprouting from his
scalp, while others hung down over his back, even unto the waist. But
one lock there was that was brighter and more beautiful than all the

The king related this dream to his sage friend, who interpreted it to
mean that a mighty race of kings should spring from him, and that his
descendants, though some of them should attain to great glory, should be
unequal in fame. But one of them should be greater and more glorious
than all the rest. The longest and brightest lock, says Snorre, was
supposed to indicate Olaf the Saint.

When her time came, the queen bore a son who was named Harold. He grew
rapidly in stature as in intelligence, and was much liked by all men. He
was fond of manly sports and won admiration by his strength and his
beauty. His mother loved him much, while his father often looked upon
him with disfavor. Of his childhood many tales are told which cannot lay
claim to credibility. Thus, it is said, that once, while King Halfdan
was celebrating Yule-tide on Hadeland, all the dishes and the ale
suddenly disappeared from the table. The guests went home, and the king,
full of wrath, remained sitting. In order to find out who had dared thus
to trifle with his dignity, he seized a Finn, who was a sorcerer, and
tormented him. The Finn appealed to Harold, who, contrary to his
father's command, rescued him and followed him to the mountains. After a
while, they came to a place where a chieftain was having a grand feast
with his men. There they remained until spring, and when Harold was
about to take his leave, his host said to him: "Your father took it much
to heart that I took some meat and beer away from him last winter; but
for what you did to me I will reward you with glad tidings. Your father
is now dead, and you will go home and inherit his kingdom. But some day
you will be king of all Norway."


When Harold returned home, he found that the chieftain had spoken the
truth. His father had been drowned while driving across the ice on the
Randsfjord (860). He was mourned by all his people; for there had been
good crops during his reign, and he had been a wise ruler and much
beloved. When it was rumored that he was to be buried in Ringerike, the
men of Hadeland and of Raumarike came and demanded that the corpse be
given to them for burial. For they believed that the favor of the gods
would rest upon the district where the king's barrow was. At last they
agreed to divide the body into four parts. The men of Ringerike kept the
trunk; the head was buried at Skiringssal in Vestfold; and the rest was
divided between Hadeland and Hedemark. For a long time, sacrifices were
made upon these barrows, and King Halfdan was worshipped as a god.





Harold was only ten years old when his father died, and the kings whom
Halfdan had conquered thought that the chance was now favorable for
recovering what they had lost. But Harold's guardian Guttorm, his
mother's brother, conducted the government with power and ability, and
assisted his nephew in his efforts to put down his enemies. A long
series of battles was fought in which Harold was usually victorious. It
was but natural that the young king, flushed with success, should
resolve to extend his domain. He knew that there was no king in Norway
whose power and resources were equal to his own, and the determination
to conquer the whole country may therefore have naturally ripened in his
mind. Snorre, however, tells a different story, and as it is a very
pretty one, it may be worth repeating.

There was a maid named Gyda, the daughter of King Erik of Hördaland; she
was being fostered by a rich yeoman in Valders. When Harold heard of her
beauty, he sent his men to her and asked her to become his mistress. The
maid's eyes flashed with anger while she listened to this message, and
throwing her head back proudly she answered: "Tell your master that I
will not sacrifice my maidenly honor for a king who has only a few
counties to rule over. Strange it seems to me that there is no king here
who can conquer all Norway, as King Erik has conquered Sweden and King
Gorm Denmark."[A]

[Footnote A: King Gorm had not at that time conquered Denmark.]

The messengers, amazed at her insolence, warned her to give a more
conciliatory answer. King Harold was surely good enough for her, they
thought; but she would not listen to them. When, at last, they took
their leave, she followed them out and said:

"Give this message from me to King Harold. I will promise to become his
wedded wife, on this condition, that he shall for my sake conquer all
Norway, and rule over it as freely as King Erik rules over Sweden and
King Gorm over Denmark. For only then can he be called the king of a

[Footnote B: Tjodkonungr.]

When the messengers returned, they advised the king to break the girl's
pride by sending them to take her by force. But the king answered: "This
maid has not spoken ill and does not deserve to be punished. On the
contrary, she deserves much thanks for her words. She has put something
into my mind, of which I wonder that it has not occurred to me before.
But this I now solemnly vow, and call God to witness who made me and
rules over all, that I will not cut or comb my hair until the day when I
shall have conquered all Norway; or if I do not, I shall die in the

Guttorm praised Harold for these words, saying, that he had spoken like
a king.

In accordance with his promise, the young king now set about the task
which he had undertaken. He went northward with an army and conquered
Orkdale and Tröndelag, the district about the Drontheim Fjord. In
Naumdale, north of Drontheim, there were two kings named Herlaug and
Rollaug. The former, when he heard of Harold's march of conquest, built
a great barrow, into which he entered with eleven of his men and had it
closed behind him. Rollaug, his brother, ordered his royal high-seat to
be carried to the top of a hill, and an earl's seat to be placed below,
at the foot of the hill. He seated himself in the royal seat, but when
he saw Harold approaching, he rolled from the king's seat into the
earl's seat, thereby declaring himself to be King Harold's vassal.
Harold tied a sword about his waist, hung a shield about his neck, and
made him Earl of Naumdale.

Wherever he went, Harold pursued the same policy. The old kings who
acknowledged his overlordship he reinstated as his earls in their former
dominions. Those who opposed him be killed or maimed. The earls were
really governors or representatives of the king's authority. They
administered justice in the king's name, and collected taxes, of which
they were entitled to keep one third on condition of entertaining sixty
warriors, subject to the king's command. Each earl had under him four or
more _hersir_ (sub-vassals), who held in fief a royal estate, of an
income of twenty marks, on condition of keeping twenty warriors ready to
serve the king. It will be seen that the feudal principle was the basis
of Harold's state. He deprived the peasants of their allodium, and
declared all land to be the property of the king. The cultivators of the
soil, from having been free proprietors, became the tenants of the king,
and in so far as they were permitted to retain their inherited estates,
derived this privilege no more from allodial but from feudal right. It
followed that the king could levy a tax on all land, and that every man
who refused to pay the tax forfeited his title. Also a personal tax,
which the peasants derisively called the nose-tax (because it was levied
in every household according to the number of noses), is said to have
been exacted by Harold, and to have caused much dissatisfaction. It is
added that many of the former kings who accepted earldoms from him,
found themselves in a better position, both financially and as to
authority, than they had been before. And this is scarcely to be
wondered at. Their royal title had conferred upon them no rights except
such as their people voluntarily conceded to them, and their chief
privilege amounted to a usage rather than a right to assume command in
war, and conduct the public sacrifices. Still it was only in rare cases
that they were willing to exchange this shadowy authority for the real
power which Harold, by right of conquest, conferred upon them.

A still greater antagonism did the introduction of the feudal land
tenure arouse among the free yeomanry, who in their fierce independence
could not endure any relation of enforced obedience and subordination.
Therefore rebellions against the royal authority, on a smaller or
greater scale, were of constant occurrence during the first half of
Harold's reign, and there are even indications that they continued much
longer. Many of his provinces he had to conquer twice, and it was only
the enormous odds in his favor, and the promptness and severity of his
punishments, which at length forced the disloyal to accept his sway. It
required an energy and resolution such as his to make a nation of all
these scattered, predatory, and often mutually hostile tribes; and his
uniform and systematic policy, as well as his uncompromising sternness,
in dealing with resistance, show that he was fully conscious of the
magnitude of his task.

It would be tedious to enumerate the battles he fought and the victories
he won. With every year that passed he approached nearer to his goal--to
be the ruler of all Norway. Many of the mightiest men in the land who
had hitherto held aloof now offered him their services, and were glad to
accept honors at his hands. Among these were the earl Haakon
Grjotgardsson of Haalogaland, and Ragnvald, late earl of Möre, who was
the father of Duke Rollo of Normandy, and through William the Conqueror
the ancestor of the kings of England. Ragnvald was a brave and sagacious
man, who assisted the king with counsel and with deeds, and became his
most intimate friend and adviser.

Less readily did the men of the great Rafnista family accept Harold's
overtures. Kveld-Ulf (Night-Wolf) pleaded old age, when the king sent
messengers to him, requesting him to enter his service. This was the
more disappointing to Harold, because he had counted on Kveld-Ulf's
using the great influence which he wielded, in his favor. He sent
messengers once more and offered Kveld-Ulf's son, Bald Grim, high
dignities if he would become his vassal. But Bald Grim replied that he
would accept no dignity which would raise him in rank above his father.
Then the king's patience was exhausted, and he would have resorted to
other arguments than verbal ones, if Kveld-Ulf's brother-in-law, Oelve
Nuva, had not interceded in his behalf. Oelve finally obtained the old
chieftain's consent to have his second son Thorolf enter the king's
service if he saw fit. Thorolf was then out on a viking cruise with
Oelve's brother, Eyvind Lambe, but he was expected home in the autumn.
On their return, both accepted Harold's offer and became his men.
Thorolf particularly rose rapidly in the king's favor, on account of his
intelligence, beauty, and courtly manners. The old Kveld-Ulf, however,
looked with suspicion upon their friendship, and hinted that he expected
that nothing good would come of it.

The kings of Sweden had from of old had claims on that part of Norway
which is called Viken.[A] Also Vermeland, which since the days of Olaf
the Woodcutter had belonged to the Ynglings, was declared to be an
integral part of Sweden, and the Swedish king, Erik Eimundsson, seized
the opportunity, while Harold was occupied with his conquests in the
north, to invade the latter province, besides Ranrike and portions of

[Footnote A: Viken was the country about the present Christiania Fjord,
and was divided into Vestfold, Vingulmark, and Ranrike (the present
Bohuslen in Sweden).]

When these tidings reached Harold, he hastened southward, fined and
punished those of the peasants who had promised allegiance to his enemy,
and finally went northward to Vermeland where, by a singular
coincidence, he met the Swedish king at a great feast given by the
mighty yeoman Aake. Probably to avoid bloodshed, the two kings and their
warriors were entertained in separate buildings; but while Harold and
his men were lodged in the new mansion and made to eat and drink out of
new horns and precious dishes, Erik's party were made to enjoy their
cheer in an old building, and their horns and dishes, though artfully
wrought, were not new. When the time came for leaving, Aake brought his
son to Harold and begged him to take him into his service. At this Erik
grew very wroth and rode away. Aake hastened to accompany him; and when
asked why he had made such a difference in the entertainment, he replied
that it was because Erik was old, while Harold was young.

"Thou must indeed remember that thou art my man," said King Erik.

"When thou sayest that I am thy man," answered the yeoman, "then I may
say with equal right that thou art my man."

This answer so angered the king that he drew his sword and killed Aake.
Harold, when he heard of his death, pursued his slayer but did not
succeed in overtaking him.

The princes and chieftains who had opposed Harold had, so far,
accomplished nothing but their own ruin. Those who still retained their
lands concluded that separately they could never hope to prevail
against him, and they therefore united and met the conqueror in 872 with
a great fleet in the Hafrs-Fjord.[A] The war-horns were blown, and King
Harold's ship was foremost, wherever the fight was hottest. In its prow
stood Thorolf, the son of Kveld-Ulf, who fought with splendid bravery,
and the brothers Oelve Nuva and Eyvind Lambe. The issue seemed long
doubtful, and many of the king's best men were slain; spears and stones
rained down in showers, and the arrows flew hissing through the air. At
last, Harold's _berserks_, seized with a wild fury, stormed forward, and
boarded the enemies' ships. The carnage was terrible, and one by one the
chieftains fell or fled. King Harold here won (as the sagas relate) one
of the greatest battles that was ever fought in Norway; and there was
from this day no longer any formidable opposition to him. Among the many
who were wounded at Hafrs-Fjord was Thorolf, and in fact all who had
stood before the mast in the king's ship, except the _berserks_. The
scald Thorbjörn Hornklove made a song about the victory, fragments of
which are still extant.

[Footnote A: Hafrs-Fjord is a little fjord in Jaederen, west of the
present city of Stavanger]

At a feast which shortly after the battle was given in his honor,
Harold's hair was cut by Ragnvald, the earl of Möre, and all marvelled
at its beauty. While he had formerly been called Harold Lufa, _i. e._,
the Frowsy-headed, he was now named Harold the Fairhaired. Having now
accomplished what he had set out to do, he married Gyda. The romance is,
however, spoiled by the fact that he had some years before married
Aasa, the daughter of the earl, Haakon [A] Grjotgardsson, and had by her
three sons--Halfdan the White, Halfdan the Swarthy, and Sigfrid. The
sons Gyda bore him were named Guttorm, Haarek, and Gudröd.

[Footnote A: The letter _aa_ in Norwegian (Icelandic _á_) is pronounced
like the English _aw_ in _hawk_. Haakon is therefore pronounced Hawkon;
Aasa, Awsa, etc. The modern Icelanders pronounce the sound like _ou_ in
_out_, _rout_. They say Houkon, Hourek, etc.]

In his relations with men Harold was no more faithful than in his
relations with women. He was a man of indomitable will and courage,
sagacious and far-seeing; shunning no means for the accomplishment of
his ends. He could not, however, endure the characteristics in others
which he valued in himself. When his jealousy was once aroused, it was
not easily again allayed. As is the manner of tyrants, he was apt to
humiliate those the most whom he had most exalted, and his suspicion
often fell upon those who least deserved it. The first victim of his
jealousy was Thorolf, the son of Kveld-Ulf, who, after the battle of
Hafrs-Fjord, had stood especially high in his favor.

Thorolf had by a wealthy marriage and by inheritance accumulated a large
fortune and lived in princely style. His liberality and winning exterior
made him hosts of friends, and his thrift and ability procured him the
means to practise a magnificent hospitality. The king had made him his
_sysselmand_, or bailiff, in Haalogaland, and Thorolf particularly
distinguished himself by the energy and shrewdness which he displayed
in collecting the tax from the Finns, who, as a rule, were not anxious
to make contributions to the royal treasury. During a journey which
Harold made through Haalogaland, Thorolf made a feast for him, the
splendor of which had never been equalled in those parts of the country.
There were in all eight hundred guests--five hundred of whom Thorolf had
invited, while three hundred were the attendants of the king. To the
astonishment of his host, Harold sat, dark and silent, in the high-seat,
and seemed ill-pleased with the efforts that were made to entertain him.
Toward the end of the feast he repressed his ill-humor, however, and
when his host at parting presented him with a large dragon-ship with
complete equipment, he seemed much pleased. Nevertheless, it was not
long before he deprived him of his office as royal bailiff, then
espoused the cause of his enemies, and used all sorts of contemptible
slanders as a pretext for attacking him on his estate, Sandness, and
burning his house. When Thorolf broke out through the burning wall, he
was received with a hail-storm of spears. Seeing the king he rushed
toward him, with drawn sword, and cut down his banner-bearer; then, when
his foe was almost within reach of his sword, fell, crying: "By three
steps only I failed." It was said that Harold himself gave him his
death-wound, and he later avowed himself as his slayer to the old
Kveld-Ulf. When he saw his former friend lying dead at his feet, he
looked sadly at him; and when a man passed him who was busy bandaging a
slight wound, he said: "That wound Thorolf did not give thee; for
differently did weapons bite in his hands. It is a great pity that such
men must perish."

When Kveld-Ulf heard of his son's death, his grief was so great that he
had to go to bed. But when he heard that it was the king who had slain
him, and that he had fallen prone at his slayer's feet, he got up and
was well content. For when a dying man fell on his face, it was a sign
that he would be avenged. In the meanwhile, being far from powerful
enough to attack Harold openly, the old man gathered all his family and
his goods and set out for Iceland; but lingered long along the coast of
Norway, in the hope of finding some one of Harold's race upon whom he
could wreak vengeance. In this he was successful. The two sons of
Guttorm, Harold's uncle and former guardian, were sailing northward with
two of the king's men. These Bald Grim and Kveld-Ulf attacked, killed
the king's cousins, and captured the ship. Then, wild with exultation,
Bald Grim mounted the prow and sang:

    Now is the Hersir's vengeance
    On the king fulfilled.
    Wolf and eagle tread on
    Yngling's children.
    Seaward swept flew Halvard's
    Lacerated corpse,
    And the eagle's beak
    Tears Snarfare's wounds.

From that time forth, there was a blood-feud between the Yngling race
and Kveld-Ulf's descendants, and the famous saga of Egil, Bald Grim's
son, tells of a long chain of bloody deeds which all had their origin in
the king's treachery to Thorolf.

Kveld-Ulf and Bald Grim were not the only chieftains who sought refuge
abroad from Harold's oppression. After the battle of Hafrs-Fjord, when
the king proceeded with uncompromising rigor to enforce the feudal
system, several thousand men, many of whom belonged to the noblest
families of the land, crossed the sea, and found new homes in the
Orkneys and the Hebrides, whence again many found their way to Iceland.
A great number also sailed direct for the latter country, and the
so-called Landnama book (the Domesday Book of Iceland) has preserved the
names, and, at times, bits of the history of the most important original
settlers. Much as we may sympathize with the indomitable spirit which
made these men sacrifice home and country for a principle, there is also
another view of the case which has to be considered. Harold the
Fairhaired was founding a state, which would support a higher
civilization than could possibly be developed among a loose
agglomeration of semi-hostile tribes. The idea of a national unity,
which was the inspiration of his work, required the enforcement of an
organic system which to the independent chieftains must have appeared
extremely oppressive. The payment of taxes, which to the citizen of the
modern state is not apt to appear humiliating, seemed to the Norse
chieftains unworthy of a freeman. When Harold commanded them to refrain
from robbing and plundering expeditions within the confines of his
kingdom, they felt outraged, and could see no reason why they should
submit to such unwarrantable curtailment of time-honored privileges.
One of them, Rolf, or Rollo, son of the king's friend, Ragnvald, Earl of
Möre, defied the order, made _strand-hug_ [A] in Viken, and was declared
an outlaw. Neither his father's influence, nor his mother's prayers,
could save him. Just on account of his high birth, Harold was determined
to make an example of him.

[Footnote A: Strand-hug was an enforced provisioning of the viking fleet
from the nearest inhabited country. It was the common practice of
vikings to make strand-hug, wherever they might happen to be.]

Rollo is known in the Norse sagas as Rolf the Walker, because he was so
tall and heavy that no horse could carry him. With a large number of
followers he sailed southward to France, and after having harried the
country for several years, made in 912 a compromise with King Charles
the Simple, by which he was to accept Christianity and receive a large
province in fief for himself and his descendants. This province was
named Normandy; and has played a large rôle in the history of the world.
It is told of Rollo that when he was requested to kiss the king's foot
in token of fealty, he answered: "I will never bend my knee before any
man; nor will I kiss any one's foot." After much persuasion, however, he
permitted one of his men to perform the act of homage for him. His proxy
stalked sullenly forward, and pausing before the king, who was on
horse-back, seized his foot and lifted it to his lips. By this manoeuvre,
the king came to make a somersault, at which there was great laughter
among the Norsemen. Rollo did literally, like the poor boy in the fairy
tale, marry the princess and get half the kingdom. For, it is told,
that Charles gave him for a bride his daughter Gisla, who, however, died
childless. He ruled his duchy with a rod of iron; and he must have
learned a useful lesson from King Harold, for it is said that he
restrained robbery with a firm hand, and hanged the robbers. So great
was the public security in his day, that the peasants could leave their
ploughs and tools in the field over night without fear of losing them.
Rollo's son was William Longsword, who was the father of Richard the
Fearless, who again had a son of his own name. This latter Richard,
surnamed the Good, had a son named Rollo, or Robert [A] the Magnificent,
who was the father of William the Conqueror.

[Footnote A: The first Duke Rollo had, when he was baptized, assumed the
name Robert.]

The emigration of the discontented yeomen and chieftains removed the
last obstacle to the organization of Harold's feudal state. According to
an approximately accurate calculation, about eight hundred heads of
families went with their households to Iceland, to the Scottish isles,
and to Jemteland, leaving behind them estates which were promptly
confiscated by the king. Those who endeavored to sell their lands met
with small success; for to buy the property of emigrants was considered
as an act hostile to the king. Great wealth was thus accumulated in
Harold's hands, and the means of rewarding his friends at the expense of
his enemies were at his disposal. The emigrants were, therefore, doubly
instrumental in cementing the state which they had endeavored to
destroy. A large number of officials were needed to superintend the
great landed estates, and Harold chose these from his immediate
dependents. The so-called Aarmaend were merely superintendents or
stewards, who took charge of the crown lands, and forwarded to the king
his share of the income. They were often thralls or freedmen, and were
looked down upon by the yeomanry as their inferiors. The earls, on the
other hand, who belonged to the old tribal aristocracy, held their land
in fief, and were, in a limited sense, proprietors, though their sons
could not, by any absolute right, claim to inherit them. It was,
however, the custom to continue such estates from father to son. The
third class of property was the land which the yeomanry had formerly
held by allodial right, and which they now held with as much security
and right of inheritance, as the king's nominal tenants. As long as they
paid their taxes, it was of course in the king's interest to leave them

It was natural that with his great wealth Harold should keep a court of
exceptional splendor. He was fond of song and story and always kept
scalds about him who sang his praise and glorified his deeds. He could
be generous when the occasion demanded, and would then scatter his gold
with royal liberality. But in little things he was reputed to be mean;
and it was a common complaint among his courtiers that they did not get
enough to eat. Some legends recounted by Snorre show that with all his
stern inflexibility toward men, he was easily deceived by women. Thus,
it is related that once, while he was at a Yule-tide feast, in
Guldbrandsdale, a Finn came to him and persuaded him to accompany him
to his tent. There he showed the king a girl named Snefrid, whose beauty
made a great impression upon him. He chatted with her for a while; then
drank a goblet of mead which the Finn brought him. No sooner had he
swallowed the liquid than he became so enamoured of Snefrid that he
refused to leave her, and demanded that she should that very day become
his wife. He loved her with such abandonment and passion that he
neglected the government and lived only for her. She bore him five sons
in rapid succession, and then died. Harold's grief knew no bounds. He
refused to have her buried, but sat staring at her beautiful corpse,
night and day. For, oddly enough, it is told that Snefrid's beauty
remained unchanged after death, and there was no sign of decay. All the
king's men feared that he had lost his reason, and one of them finally
persuaded him, on some pretext, to have the corpse moved. But the very
instant it was touched, the most hideous change occurred. The flesh
turned blue, and a terrible stench filled the room. The king then
recovered his reason, and ordered the body to be burned. But when it was
placed on the pyre, snakes, adders, toads, and horrible creeping things
teemed in and about it, so that no one could endure the sight of it.
Then Harold comprehended that he had been the victim of sorcery; and he
grew so angry that he chased away from him the children Snefrid had
borne him. And yet, strangely enough, it was this branch which endured
the longest, and from which a long line of kings descended. The names
of Snefrid's sons were Sigurd Rise (Giant), Gudröd Ljome, Halfdan
Haalegg (Longlegs), and Ragnvald Rettilbeine.

The only one of King Harold's wives who was of royal birth was Ragnhild,
the daughter of King Erik the Younger in South Jutland. She replied,
when he first sent messengers to woo her, that she would not marry the
mightiest king in all the world, if she had to put up with one thirtieth
part of his affection. To a second message she replied that she would
marry King Harold if he would put away all his other wives. This he
consented to do, and made Ragnhild his queen. She lived, however, only
three years after her marriage; and Harold then took back several of his
former wives and mistresses. Ragnhild had left him one son, Erik, whom
he loved the most of all his children.

Marriage was entirely a civil contract during the days of Germanic
paganism and was in no wise associated with religion or religious
ceremonies. It was an easy thing for a husband to obtain a divorce from
his wife, but it was customary to go through with this formality before
marrying a second. Open polygamy, as practised by Harold, was contrary
to custom and must have been regarded with reprobation by the people.
For all that, Harold was, during the latter part of his reign, a popular
ruler and well beloved both by yeomanry and chieftains.

As his children grew up, Harold began to reap some of the disadvantages
of his scattered family relations. His sons, having different mothers,
and having been fostered by yeomen in different parts of the country,
could scarcely be strongly conscious of their kinship. They were jealous
of each other, and particularly jealous of the mighty earls who sat like
little kings upon their estates ruling over land and people. It was to
give vent to this feeling that Halfdan Longlegs and Gudröd Ljome,
without any warning, attacked Ragnvald, the Earl of Möre, and burned him
up with sixty of his men. When Harold heard of this dastardly deed, he
gathered an army and resolved to punish his sons. Gudröd, who had taken
possession of the earldom after Ragnvald, surrendered without fighting,
while Halfdan Longlegs sailed with three ships for the Orkneys, where he
chased away Turf-Einar, the son of the Earl of Möre, and made himself
king of the islands. Turf-Einar returned, however, surprised Halfdan,
and put him to death in a barbarous manner. Although Halfdan had been a
rebel against the king's authority, and Turf-Einar in slaying him had
avenged his own father, Harold had no choice but to wreak vengeance upon
the slayer of his son. He accordingly sailed with a fleet for the
Orkneys, opened negotiations with Turf-Einar, and accepted as
"blood-atonement" sixty marks in gold. Whether it was on the same
occasion that he made a cruise to Scotland, harrying the coast, is
perhaps, doubtful. His chief purpose, as on a previous cruise in the
same waters, was to break up the various nests of vikings, who from this
convenient retreat made frequent attacks upon the coast of Norway during
the summer months.

A fertile cause of disagreement among Harold's sons was their jealousy
of Erik, whom their father conspicuously favored. When he was twelve
years old, Erik was given five ships to command, and with a choice crew
went on viking cruises. Much did the old king delight in hearing the
tales of his prowess, and the daring enterprises in which he had played
a part. The ominous surname "Blod-Oexe" (Blood-Axe) which the lad
acquired by his deeds in battle only endeared him the more to his
father. It was his love of this favorite son which induced him in his
fiftieth year (900) to commit an act, whereby he virtually undid the
great work of his life and brought misery upon unborn generations. He
called a _thing_ or general assembly of the people, probably at
Eidsvold, and made all his sons kings, on condition that they should,
after his death, acknowledge Erik as their overlord. To each he gave a
province to govern, permitting him to keep one third of the revenues for
himself, leaving one third for the earls, and sending one third to the
sovereign. The royal title should be inherited by all his direct
descendants in the male line, legitimate or illegitimate birth making no
difference. To the sons of his daughters he gave earldoms. In this
disastrous act of Harold, making no distinction between legitimate and
illegitimate children, lies the germ of the civil wars and terrible
internecine conflicts which ravaged the kingdom he had established and
exhausted its powers, until for four hundred years it sank out of sight,
and its name seemed to have been blotted out from among the nations. It
seems incredible that the wisdom and energy which had built up a great
state could be coupled with the unwisdom and the weakness which in the
end broke it down again. Harold evidently looked upon the royal office
as a piece of personal property which he had by his sword acquired, and
which all his male descendants had an equal right to inherit. At the
same time he must, after the experience he had had with his sons, have
known them too well to suppose that they would peacefully acquiesce in
his decision, living together in fraternal unity. If he cherished any
illusion, Erik lost no time in dispelling it. He first killed Ragnvald
Rettilbeine, the son of Snefrid, because he was said to be a sorcerer.
Next he attacked his brother Björn the Merchant (Farmand) because he
declined to pay him tribute, killed him and plundered his house. Halfdan
the Swarthy (Svarte) in Drontheim resolved to avenge this outrage,
concluding that none of Harold's sons were safe, as long as Erik was
permitted, with impunity, to take the law into his own hands. While Erik
was feasting at the farm, Selven, Halfdan surrounded the house and set
fire to it. Erik succeeded in escaping with four men, and he hastened
southward to complain to his father. King Harold, it is told, was
greatly incensed, collected his fleet and sailed to Drontheim, where
Halfdan, though with an inferior force, stood ready to meet him. The
battle was about to begin, when the scald, Guttorm Sindre, reminded the
two kings of a promise they had made him. Once he had sung a song in
their honor, and as he refused all the gifts they offered him, they both
swore that whatever he should ask of them, they would fulfil. "Now," he
said, "I have come to claim the guerdon of my song."

Hard as it was, they could not break their royal promise. Peace was
made, and father and son separated. Halfdan was permitted to keep his
province, but had to vow solemnly that he would henceforth make no
hostile demonstration against Erik. For all that the hatred between the
two lasted, though curbed for a while by the fear of the king.


When Harold was nearly seventy years old, he took for his mistress Thora
of Moster, who on account of her great height was surnamed Moster-stang
(Moster-pole). She bore him a son who was named Haakon. Much
dissatisfaction was there among the king's other sons when this
late-comer made his appearance, and he would probably not have grown to
manhood, if an incident had not occurred which removed him beyond their
reach. The story told by Snorre in this connection is full of interest,
but sounds incredible. Once, it is told, messengers arrived from King
Ethelstan in England, bringing a precious sword to King Harold, who
accepted it and returned thanks.

"Now," said the messengers, "thou hast taken the sword, as our king
wished, and thou art therefore his sword-taker or vassal."

Harold was angry at having been thus tricked, but did not molest the
messengers. The next year, however, he sent his young son Haakon with an
embassy to Ethelstan. They found the king in London, and were well
received by him. The spokesman of the embassy then placed the boy,
Haakon, on Ethelstan's knee, saying, "King Harold begs thee to foster
this child of his servant-maid."

Ethelstan angrily drew his sword, as if he would kill the child; but the
spokesman said: "Now that thou hast once put him upon thy knee, thou
mayst murder him, if it please thee; but thereby hast thou not slain all
King Harold's sons."

To foster another man's child was in Norway regarded as an
acknowledgment of inferiority; and Harold had thus repaid Ethelstan in
his own coin. There are, however, several circumstances which make the
story suspicious. In the first place Ethelstan and his ancestors had had
too severe an experience of Norsemen and Danes to wish to challenge the
mightiest of them by a wanton insult; and again, it is more credible
that Harold sent his youngest son out of the country for his own
safety,[A] than in order to play an undignified trick upon a foreign
king. At all events, Haakon was treated with the greatest kindness by
the English king, and won his affection.

[Footnote A: See Munch, i., 591.]

When Harold the Fairhaired was eighty years old, he felt no longer able
to bear the burden of the government. He therefore led Erik to his royal
high-seat, and abdicated in his favor. Three years later he died (933),
after having ruled over Norway for seventy-three years.



ERIK BLOOD-AXE (930-935).

While Harold's despotism had been civilizing and, on the whole,
beneficent, that of Erik Blood-Axe was disorganizing and destructive.
With him the old turbulent viking spirit ascended the throne. Power
meant with him the means of gratifying every savage impulse. Brave he
was, delighting in battle; cruel and pitiless; and yet not without a
certain sense of fairness and occasional impulses of generosity. In
person he was handsome, of stately presence, but haughty and taciturn.
Unhappily he married a woman who weakened all that was good in him and
strengthened all that was bad. Queen Gunhild possessed a baneful
influence over him during his entire life. She was cruel, avaricious,
and treacherous, and was popularly credited with all the ill deeds which
her husband committed. There are strange legends about her, attributing
to witchcraft the power she had over every one who came in contact with
her. According to Snorre, Erik met her in Finmark, whither she had been
sent by her parents to learn sorcery. For the Finns were in those days
credited with a deep knowledge of the black art. The two sorcerers with
whom she was staying were both determined to marry her, and like the
princess in the fairy-tale, she concealed Prince Erik in her tent, and
begged him to rid her of her troublesome suitors. This, in spite of many
difficulties, Erik did, carried Gunhild away to his ships, and made her
his wife. She was, it is said, small of stature, insinuating, and of
extraordinary beauty; but she was the evil genius of her husband, egging
him on to deeds of treachery and violence which made him detested by his
people. It was in great part the disfavor with which she was regarded
which raised rebels against Erik's authority in various parts of the
country and brought popular support to his brothers in their endeavor to
cast off his yoke. In spite of his father's efforts, Erik's sovereignty
had not been universally recognized, and no sooner was King Harold dead
than Halfdan the Swarthy declared himself to be sovereign in Tröndelag
and Olaf [A] in Viken. A few years after that, however, Halfdan died
suddenly, and the rumor said that he had been poisoned by Queen Gunhild.
The men of Tröndelag then chose his brother Sigfrid for their king, and
Erik found his kingdom gradually shrinking both from the north and the
south. Being prepared for an attack from Erik, Sigfrid and Olaf
determined to join their forces, and to complete all arrangements, the
former went to visit the latter in Tunsberg. When Erik heard of this, he
went in haste to the town with a large number of men, and surprised and
killed both his brothers. Olaf's son Tryggve escaped, however, and was
kept in concealment, as long as Erik was master in the land.

[Footnote A: Olaf was the son of King Harold and Svanhild, a daughter of
Earl Eystein of Hedemark and Vestfold.]


Erik had now killed four of his brothers, if not five, and it was the
common opinion that Gunhild would not rest until she had exterminated
all the race of Harold the Fairhaired outside of her husband's line.

While Erik was a youth, he had made the acquaintance of an Icelander
named Thorolf, the son of Skallagrim (Bald Grim) and nephew of Thorolf
Kveld-Ulf's son, whom King Harold had treacherously slain. This Thorolf,
like his uncle and namesake, was a tall and handsome man, of fine
presence and winning manners. He had made Erik a present of a ship, very
beautifully built and decorated, and had thereby gained his friendship.
In return Erik had obtained from his father permission for Thorolf to
remain unmolested in the country. The handsome Icelander made many
friends in Norway, among whom two mighty men named Thore Herse and Björn
the Yeoman. When he returned to Iceland he brought with him, as a gift
from the king to his father, an axe with a handle of precious
workmanship. But Bald Grim, though he received his son well, treated
King Erik's gift with contempt, and finally, when Thorolf again made a
cruise to Norway, he sang an insulting verse and begged to have it
reported to Erik. The axe he also wished to have returned. Thorolf, who
was determined not to revive the ancient feud, threw the axe into the
ocean, and conveyed his father's thanks and greeting to the king. If he
had had his way, the blood-feud would have been at an end. But he had a
younger brother named Egil,[A] who insisted upon bearing him company,
and he soon fanned the dying embers into flame.

[Footnote A: Pronounced _Agil_, "g" hard, as in gimlet, gilt, etc.]

Egil was the very incarnation of the old untamable Norse spirit, the
turbulent and indomitable individualism, which is incapable of
considering any but personal aims, and of submitting to any kind of
discipline. Like his father, Bald Grim, he was large of stature,
swarthy, and ill-favored, and displayed in his childhood a fierce and
revengeful spirit, but also a rare gift of song, which, no less than his
foolhardy deeds, brought him fame during his long and adventurous

The two brothers arrived safely in Norway and became the guests of Thore
Herse, between whose son Arinbjörn and Egil a warm friendship sprung up.
While Thorolf went to be married to Aasgerd, the daughter of Björn the
Yeoman, Egil was forced by a severe illness to remain at home. When he
became convalescent, he accompanied one of Thore's overseers to a royal
steward named Baard, and met there King Erik and Queen Gunhild. Baard,
in his zeal to please the king, neglected the Icelander, and when the
latter became unruly, at a hint from the queen, mixed soporific herbs in
his beer. Egil's suspicion was aroused, however, and he poured out the
beer and killed Baard. Then he ran for his life, swam out to an island
in the fjord, and when the island was searched, killed some of those who
had been sent to find him; whereupon he made his escape in their boat.
Although King Erik was very angry, he accepted the atonement in money
which Thore Herse offered for Baard's death, and was persuaded to allow
Egil to remain in the land. Queen Gunhild was much incensed at his
forgiving spirit, and asked if he counted the slaying of Baard as
naught; to which the king replied: "For ever thou art egging me on to
violence; but my word, once given, I cannot break."

As no persuasions availed, Gunhild made up her mind to use some one else
as the instrument of her retaliation. It is told that she had been fond
of Baard, whom Egil had slain; but as he was a man of low birth, it was
scarcely this personal fondness, but rather a sense of outraged dignity
which impelled her to persevere in her plans of vengeance. At a great
sacrificial feast, at the temple of Gaule, she made her brother, Eyvind
Skreyja, promise to kill one of Bald Grim's sons; but as no chance
presented itself, he slew instead one of Thorolf's men; in return for
which he was outlawed by Erik, as a _vargr [=i] veum_--_i. e._, wolf in the
sanctuary. The two brothers now went on viking cruises, took service
under Ethelstan, in England, and fought under his standard a great
battle, in which Thorolf fell. Egil now married his widow, Aasgerd, and
returned with her to Iceland. He had then been abroad for twelve years.
Hardly had he settled down, however, when he learned that his
father-in-law, Björn the Yeoman, was dead, and that one of Gunhild's
favorites named Berg-Anund, had taken possession of his property. He
therefore lost no time in returning to Norway, and with his friend
Arinbjörn's aid pleaded his case at the _Gulathing_, in the presence of
the king and queen. But the _thing_ broke up in disorder, and Egil had
to sail back to Iceland without having accomplished his purpose.
Considerations of prudence had, however, no weight with him, and before
long he started for the third time for Norway, surprised Berg-Anund, and
killed not only him, but the king's son Ragnvald, who was his guest. In
order to add insult to injury, he mounted a cliff, and raised what was
called a shame-pole, or pole of dishonor, to Gunhild and the king. On
the top of the pole he put the head of a dead horse, while he called out
in a loud voice: "This dishonor do I turn against all the
land-spirits [A] that inhabit this land, so that they may all stray on
wildering ways, and none of them may chance or hit upon his home, until
they shall have chased King Erik and Gunhild from the land."

[Footnote A: The land-spirits were _genii loci_; the alliterative
formula which Egil pronounced was supposed to have magic power.]

Thereupon he cut these words, in runes, into the pole, and sailed back
to Iceland. It seemed, too, as if the curse took effect. For when Erik
had been four years upon the throne, his youngest brother, Haakon,
landed in Tröndelag, and the following year was made king. The news ran
like wildfire through the country, and was everywhere received with
jubilation. Erik made a desperate effort to raise an army, but the
people turned away from him, and he was obliged to flee with his wife
and children, and a few followers. Among those who remained faithful to
him was Egil's friend, Arinbjörn. He now sailed about as a viking,
harrying the coasts of Scotland and England, and finally accepted a
portion of Northumberland in fief from King Ethelstan, on condition of
defending the country against Norse and Danish vikings. It was also
stipulated that he should be baptized and accept Christianity. Although
the different sagas which deal with Erik's later life give somewhat
conflicting accounts, it is obvious that he was no more popular in
England than he had been in Norway. It appears that he was once, or
probably twice, expelled from Northumberland, but again returned. By a
most singular chance, a tempest here drove his mortal enemy right into
his clutches.

Egil, it is told, was restless and discontented at home; and the common
belief was that Gunhild by sorcery had stolen his peace of mind. He
wandered uneasily along the strand and looked out for sails, and took no
pleasure in his wife and children. Finally, when he could stay at home
no longer, he equipped a ship and sailed southward to England. He was
shipwrecked at the mouth of the Humber, lost his ship, but saved himself
and his thirty warriors. From people whom he met, he learned that Erik
Blood-Axe ruled over the country; and knowing that there was slight
chance of escape, he rode boldly into York and sought his friend
Arinbjörn. Together they went to Erik, who inquired of Egil how he could
be so foolish, as to expect any thing but death at his hands. Gunhild,
when she saw him demanded impatiently, that he should be killed on the
spot. She had thirsted so long for his blood; she could not endure a
moment's delay in her hotly-desired vengeance. Erik, however, granted
the Icelander a respite until the next morning; Arinbjörn begged him, as
a last bid for life, to spend the night in composing a song in honor of
Erik. This Egil promised; and Arinbjörn had food and drink brought to
him and bade him do his best. Being naturally anxious, he went to his
friend in the night and asked him how the song was progressing. Egil
replied that he had not been able to compose a line, because there was a
swallow sitting in the window whose incessant screaming disturbed him,
and he could not chase it away. Arinbjörn darted out into the hall, and
caught a glimpse of a woman, who ran at the sight of him. At that very
instant, too, the swallow disappeared. To prevent her from returning,
Arinbjörn seated himself outside of Egil's door and kept watch through
the night. For he knew that the swallow was none other than the queen,
who by sorcery had assumed the guise of the bird.

The next morning Egil had finished his song and committed it to memory.
Arinbjörn now armed all his men, and went with Egil and his warriors to
the king's house. He reminded Erik of his fidelity to him, when others
had forsaken him, and asked, as a reward for his services, that his
friend's life be spared. Gunhild begged him to be silent; and the king
made no response. Then Arinbjörn stepped forward and declared that Egil
should not die, until he and his last man were dead.

"At that price," answered the king, "I would not willingly buy Egil's
death, although, he has amply deserved whatever I may do to him."

Suddenly, when the king had spoken, Egil began to recite with a clear,
strong voice, and instantly there was silence in the hall. This is a
portion of his song:



    Westward I sailed o'er the sea.
    Vidrar [A] himself gave me
    The ichor of his breast,[B]
    And with joy I roamed.
    As the ice-floes broke,[C]
    Forth I launched the oak;[D]
    For my mind's hull [E]
    Of thy praise was full.

    For thy fame, O king,
    Made me fain to sing;
    And to England's shore,
    Odin's mead [F] I bore.
    Lo, in Erik's praise,
    Loud my voice I raise.
    May my song resound
    The wide earth around.

    List to me, my king,
    Well remembering
    What I sing to thee
    Now, unquailingly.
    For the world knows well
    How men round thee fell;
    Glad has Odin seen
    The field where thou hast been.

    Burst the shield and bayed
    Deep the battle-blade.
    At its ruddy draught
    The Valkyrias laughed.[G]
    Lo, the sword-stream swayed
    Like a wild cascade.
    O'er the fields away
    Rang the steel's strong lay.

    Men with eager feet
    Sprang their foe to meet;
    None thy band knew save
    Heroes true and brave.
    For in heart and frame
    Bright burned valor's flame;
    'Neath their thund'ring tread
    Shook the earth with dread.

    'Mid the weapons' clank
    Men in death-throes sank:
    From the heaps of slain
    Rose thy fame amain.

[Footnote A: Odin.]

[Footnote B: The gift of song.]

[Footnote C: In the spring.]

[Footnote D: The ship.]

[Footnote E: Literally: In my mind's ship (_i. e._, in my breast) bore I
this draught of praise.]

[Footnote F: Odin's mead is the gift of poetry.]

[Footnote G: The maids of Odin, the choosers of the slain, the
Valkyrias, had to keep watch of Erik, to receive the souls of the many
whom he slew, and conduct them to Valhalla.]

Erik sat immovable while Egil sang, watching his face narrowly. When the
song was at an end, the king said: "The song is excellent, and I have
now considered what I will do for Arinbjörn's sake. Thou, Egil, shalt
depart hence unharmed; because I will not do the dastardly deed to kill
a man who gave himself voluntarily into my power. But from the moment
thou leavest this hall, thou shalt never come before my eyes again, nor
before the eyes of my sons. Nor is this to be regarded as a
reconciliation between thee and me or my sons and kinsmen." Thus Egil
bought his head by his song, and the song is therefore called
"Höfudlausn," or "The Ransom of the Head."

Egil then took his leave, visited Ethelstan once more; went to Norway
and had many adventures, before he returned to Iceland, where he died
between 990 and 995. He was then over ninety years old.[A] Another of
his poems, called Sonartorek, "The Loss of the Son," is the most
beautiful poem in the Icelandic language.

[Footnote A: His life is minutely related in Saga Egils

Erik Blood-Axe remained in England and suffered many vicissitudes of
fate, until he fell in battle in 950 or 954. He is repeatedly mentioned
by the English chroniclers under the name of Erik Haroldson. After his
death Gunhild had a _draapa_ composed in his honor, an interesting
fragment of which is still extant. She then went to Denmark with her
sons, and was well received by the Danish king, Harold Bluetooth
(Blaatand), the son of Gorm the Old.




HAAKON THE GOOD (935-961).

Haakon, though he was outwardly his father's image, did not resemble him
in spirit. He was of a conciliatory nature, amiable, and endowed with a
charm of manner which won him all hearts. It is said that his
foster-father had given him the counsel at parting never to sit glum at
the festal board, and it is obvious that he took the lesson to heart.
When he landed in Tröndelag, people flocked about him, and he won the
chieftains for his cause by friendliness and promises which he
afterwards conscientiously kept. He took part in the games of the young,
and in the serious discussions of the old, excelled in all manly sports,
and won admiration no less by his beauty than by his intelligence and
generous disposition. The rumor of his arrival spread like fire in
withered grass, and people said that old King Harold had come back once
more to his people, gentler and more generous than before, but no less
mighty and beautiful.

The first chieftain whose influence Haakon sought to enlist in his
behalf was the powerful Sigurd, Earl of Hlade, who had been the friend
and protector of his mother, and the guardian of his infancy. The earl
received him well, and promised to support his claims to the kingdom.
With this view he called, in Haakon's name, a great meeting of the
peasants in Tröndelag, and made a speech in which he denounced the
cruelty of Erik Blood-Axe and declared his allegiance to Haakon. When
the earl had finished, Haakon arose and offered, in case the peasants
would make him their king, to restore to them their allodium, of which
his father had deprived them. This announcement was received with great
rejoicing; and from all parts of the plain came cries of homage and
approval. Amid joyful tumult Haakon was made king, and immediately
started southward with a large train of warriors. Wherever he went, the
people flocked about him and offered him allegiance. The Oplands [A]
followed the example of Tröndelag, and in Viken both chieftains and
peasants eagerly espoused his cause. As already related, Erik made a
desperate attempt to gather an army, and, failing in this, fled with his
family and a few faithful followers to the Orkneys, and thence to

[Footnote A: See map.]

It was consistent with Haakon's conciliatory disposition that he did not
molest or depose his nephews, Gudröd Björnsson and Tryggve Olafsson, but
confirmed them as kings in Viken. It appears, however, that, nominally
at least, they recognized his overlordship. Other sons and grandsons of
Harold the Fairhaired he met with the same friendliness, giving to each
what he considered to be his due. As soon as peace was thus established,
and there was no one left to dispute his power, Haakon devoted himself
energetically to the improvement of the internal administration of his
kingdom. He divided the country into _Thing-Unions_, or judicial
districts, and by the aid of wise and experienced men greatly improved
the laws. One famous code, called the Gulathings-law, has particularly
shed lustre upon his name, and the enlargement and improvement of the
Frostathings-law is also, by some of the sagas, attributed to him. The
only radical change which he introduced was the breaking up of his
father's feudal state, by the restoration of the allodium to the
peasants. But this one change necessitated many others. When the king
relinquished his right to tax the land, he thereby deprived himself of
the ability to keep an army, and had to consign, in part, to the
peasants themselves the defence of their respective districts. It was
naturally the sea-coast which was most exposed to attack; and in the
absence of all but the most primitive means of communication it became
possible for an enemy to ravage long stretches of land, before the
intelligence of his presence reached the king. In order to remedy this,
Haakon ordered _varder_ or signal-fires to be lighted, at fixed
intervals, all along the coast at the approach of an enemy; but he
partly counteracted the good effect of the reform by the severe
punishment with which he threatened those who, without adequate cause,
lighted the _varder_. In order to obtain the means to defend the coast,
he divided it into marine districts, each of which was bound, on demand,
to place a fully manned and equipped ship of war at the disposal of the
king. This was, of course, but another form of taxation, but was less
distasteful to the peasants, because its purpose and necessity were
obvious, and no degrading dependence was implied, since the people had
again become the free possessors of the soil. Nevertheless there are
indications that the personal tax, derisively called the nose-tax, which
had been introduced by Harold, was continued, at least for a while, by
Haakon; as it is expressly stated that his first ships of war were built
by the income of the nose-tax.


Having arranged the military and judicial affairs of his kingdom, Haakon
turned his attention to a matter which he had long had at heart. He had
been christened in his childhood in England, and was an earnest votary
of the Christian religion. But, coming, as he did, to the kingdom of his
father, not as a conqueror, but as a candidate for the people's favor,
he did not venture at once to attack the national faith. His friend,
Earl Sigurd of Hlade, was a fanatical adherent of the Asa-faith, and
Haakon might have counted on his enmity rather than his support, if he
had exhibited an ill-considered zeal for the displacement of the old by
a new religion. Haakon, therefore, temporized, and it was not until the
fifteenth or sixteenth year of his reign (950-951), when his unbonded
popularity seemed to warrant any venture, that he took a decisive step
in behalf of Christianity. He sent to England for a bishop and a number
of priests, and published a decree, forbidding the people to sacrifice
to the old gods, and demanding of them that they should accept the faith
in Christ. He called upon the peasants to meet him at Drontheim, where
he repeated his demand. But the peasants refused to declare themselves;
and begged the king to have the matter legally settled at the
_Frosta-thing_. Here there was a great concourse of people; and when the
assembly had been called to order, Haakon rose and in an earnest and
dignified speech begged the peasants to forsake the old heathen gods who
were but wood and stone, and to believe in the one living God and be
baptized in His name. An ominous murmur ran through the crowd at these
words, and the peasant Aasbjörn of Medalhus arose and answered in these


"When thou, King Haakon, didst call thy first assembly here in
Drontheim, and we took thee for our king, we believed that heaven itself
had descended upon us; but now we do not know whether it was liberty we
gained, or whether thou wishest to make us thralls once more, by thy
strange demand that we shall forsake the faith which our fathers and all
their forefathers have had before us. * * * They were sturdier men than
we are; and yet their faith has done well enough for us. We have learned
to love thee well, and we have allowed thee to share with us the
administration of law and justice. Now, we peasants have firmly
determined and unanimously agreed to keep the laws which thou didst
propose here at the _Frosta-thing_, and to which we gave our assent. We
all wish to follow thee, and to have thee for our king, as long as a
single one of us peasants is alive--if only thou, king, wilt show
moderation, and not demand of us things in which we cannot follow thee,
and which it would be unseemly for us to do. But if thou hast this
matter so deeply at heart that thou wilt try thy might and strength
against ours, then we have resolved to part from thee and take another
chieftain who will aid us in freely exercising the religion which
pleases us. Choose now, O king, between these two conditions, before the
assembly has dispersed."

[Illustration: OVAL BRONZE BUCKLE.]

Loud shouts of approval greeted this speech; and it was, for a while,
impossible for any one to make himself heard. At last, when the tempest
had subsided, Earl Sigurd of Hlade, probably after consultation with
Haakon, rose and said that the king would yield to the wishes of the
peasants and would not part with their friendship. Encouraged by this
first concession, the peasants now demanded that the king should
participate in their sacrifices and preside at the sacrificial feast.
Much against his will, Haakon was again induced to yield, but tried to
pacify his conscience by making the sign of the cross over the horn
consecrated to Odin. During the following year he was also compelled to
eat horse-flesh at the Yule-tide sacrifice, and to omit the sign of the
cross when drinking the toasts of the heathen gods. Full of wrath he
departed, intimating that he would soon come back with an army large
enough to punish the Trönders for the humiliation they had put upon him.
There is little doubt that he would have carried out this threat, if
external enemies had not directed his energies in another direction.

The sons of Erik Blood-Axe had, after their father's death, sought
refuge with King Harold Bluetooth in Denmark. The two elder, Gamle and
Guttorm, had roamed about as vikings, ravaged the coasts of Norway and
the lands about the Baltic, while the third son, Harold, was adopted by
his namesake, the Danish king, and received his education at his court.
They were all valiant warriors, but were much governed by their shrewd
and cruel mother, Gunhild. They naturally cherished no good-will toward
their uncle Haakon, who had dispossessed them of their kingdom; and
while they were not yet strong enough to wage regular war, they seized
every opportunity to annoy and harass him. They fought many battles with
Tryggve Olafsson, who, as king in Viken, was charged with the defence of
the southern coast, and were sometimes victorious and sometimes
vanquished. In the year 952, when Tryggve was absent, Haakon took
occasion to deliver an effective blow at the Danish vikings who were
infesting this part of the country (though the sons of Erik were not
this time among them), pursued them southward, and harassed the coasts
of Jutland and the Danish isles. It appears, however, that this mode of
retaliation did not permanently discourage the vikings, and as long as
Harold Bluetooth showed open hostility against Norway, by espousing the
cause of Gunhild and her sons, it is quite natural that the warlike zeal
and rapacity of the Danes should be directed against the neighboring
kingdom. It is obvious, too, that Haakon, by his attack upon Danish
soil, gave a more personal character to the animosity which the Danish
king entertained toward him, and Gunhild lost no time in profiting by
this change of feeling. From this time forth her sons appear no longer
as warlike adventurers, bent upon private vengeance, but as commanders
of fleets and armies, and formidable pretenders to the Norwegian throne.
In 953 they defeated Tryggve Olafsson at Sotoness, and compelled him to
abandon his ships and save himself by flight. When the news of this
disaster reached Haakon, he hastily made peace with the Trönders who had
forced him to sacrifice, and called upon Earl Sigurd to aid him with all
the ships and men at his command. Earl Sigurd promptly obeyed and sailed
southward to meet the king. At Agvaldsness they overtook the sons of
Gunhild and vanquished them in a hotly contested battle. Haakon slew
with his own hand his nephew Guttorm Eriksson, and cut down his
standard. The surviving brothers fled with the remnants of their army to
Denmark, and kept the peace for two years. But in 955 they returned once
more with a largely increased force and surprised King Haakon at Fraedö
in Nordmöre. The signal fires had not been lighted, and no intelligence
of the presence of the enemy had reached the king until it was too late.
He asked his men whether they preferred to stay and fight or avoid
battle, until they had gathered a sufficient force. To this an old
peasant named Egil Uldsaerk (Woolsark) made answer: "I have been in many
battles with thy father, King Harold. Sometimes he fought with a
stronger and sometimes with a weaker foe. But he was always victorious.
Never have I heard him ask counsel of his friends as to whether he
should run; nor will we give thee such counsel. For we think that we
have in thee a brave chieftain, and trusty aid shalt thou receive from


When the king praised these words and declared himself ready to fight,
Egil cried out joyously: "In this long season of peace I have been
afraid that I should die of old age on the straw of my bed--I who never
asked any thing better than to follow my chieftain and die in battle!
Now, at last, I shall have my wish fulfilled."


As soon as the sons of Erik had landed, the battle commenced. They had
six men for every one of King Haakon's. Seeing that the odds were so
heavily against his lord, Egil Woolsark took ten standard-bearers aside
and stole up a slope of land in the rear of Gamle Eriksson's
battle-array. He made them march with long intervals, so that only the
tops of their standards could be seen above the slope, and not the men
themselves. The Danes, spying the waving banners, supposed that a fresh
force was coming to cut them off from their ships, and they raised a
great cry and fled. It was in vain that Gamle, who had discovered the
stratagem, shouted with a loud voice commanding them to stay. Panic had
seized them, and their commander himself was swept away with the
hurrying mass, until he reached the beach, where he made a final stand.
Here Egil Woolsark attacked him and received his death-wound after a
desperate conflict. Haakon too rushed in upon Gamle, who defended
himself bravely, but having received terrible wounds, threw himself into
the ocean and was drowned. The other brothers swam to their ships and
returned to Denmark.

This victory secured peace to Norway for six years. Haakon had thus an
opportunity to resume his efforts to Christianize the country. But his
experience of the peasants' temper had apparently discouraged him.
Personally he remained a Christian, and induced many of his friends to
forsake the heathen faith. He lacked, however, the uncompromising vigor
and the burning zeal of a martyr and propagandist. He preferred gentle
to harsh measures, and shrank from antagonizing those who had been
faithful to him in time of need. It is probable, too, that the counsel
of his friend, Earl Sigurd, tended to cool his ardor, by emphasizing the
political phase of the religious question. The result of this
conciliatory policy, in connection with the good crops which prevailed
during his reign, was to make King Haakon universally beloved. It is
doubtful if a king has ever sat upon the throne of Norway who has been
closer to the hearts of the people. Therefore, as an expression of their
affection for him, they named him Haakon the Good.

In the twenty-sixth year of his reign (961) Haakon was summering with
his men-at-arms on his estate Fitje in Hördaland. A large number of
guests were with him, among whom the scald Eyvind Skaldespilder
(Scald-Spoiler),[A] who was on his mother's side a great-grandson of
Harold the Fairhaired. The king was seated at the breakfast-table, when
the sentinels saw a large fleet of ships sailing in through the fjord.
They called the scald Eyvind aside, and begged him to decide whether
those were not hostile ships. Eyvind sprang into the hall where the king
was sitting, and sang a verse, announcing the approach of the sons of
Erik. Haakon arose and looked at the ships. Then he turned to his men
and said: "Here many ships are coming against us, and our force is but
small. It is plainly to be seen that we shall have to fight against
heavier odds than ever before; for the sons of Gunhild come with a
larger force to-day than on previous occasions. Loath I am to bring my
best men into too great a danger; and loath I am, too, to flee, unless
wise men decide that it would be foolhardy to await the foe."

[Footnote A: Skaldespilder means waster or spoiler of scalds, because no
other scald could bear comparison with him.]

Eyvind Scald-Spoiler replied in verse that it would ill befit a man like
King Haakon to flee from the sons of Gunhild. "Manly speech is that, and
in accordance with my mind," answered the king; and when the other
warriors with one accord clamored for battle, he put on his armor,
buckled his sword about his loins, and seized spear and shield. On his
head he wore a golden helmet which flashed in the sun. Beautiful he was
to behold, with his mild and noble countenance, and his bright hair
streaming down over his shoulders. Upon the fields without he arranged
his men in battle array, and raised his standards. The sons of Erik
disembarked with a large army, commanded by the third of the brothers,
Harold, and his two uncles, Eyvind Skreyja and Alf Askman. The battle
which now commenced was wild and bloody. The army of the sons of Gunhild
was six times as numerous as that of King Haakon. But Haakon, knowing
his Norsemen well, did not lose heart. Wherever the fight was hottest,
there flashed his golden helmet. He joked with Eyvind, the scald, when
he passed him, and improvised a verse in reply to the one with which he
was greeted. The fiercer the conflict grew, the higher rose the king's
spirits. At last, when the heat oppressed him, he flung away his armor
and stormed forward at the head of his men. The supply of spears and
arrows soon ran short, and the hostile ranks clashed together and
fought, hand to hand, with their swords. The shining helmet made the
king very conspicuous, and Eyvind Scald-Spoiler noticed that it served
as a target for the Danish spears. He therefore took a hood and pulled
it over the helmet. Eyvind Skreyja, who was just rushing forward to meet
the king, thereby lost sight of him, and he cried out: "What has become
of the king of the Norsemen? Does he hide himself, or is he afraid? No
more do I see the golden helmet?" "Keep on as thou art steering, if thou
wishest to find the king of the Norsemen," shouted Haakon, and throwing
away his shield, seized his sword with both hands, and sprang forward
where all could see him. Eyvind Skreyja bounded forward with uplifted
sword, but one of the king's men caught the blow upon his shield, and in
the same instant Haakor, cleft Eyvind's head and neck down to the
shoulders. The example of their king fired the Norsemen's courage,
while the fall of their greatest champion brought confusion to the
Danes. The former charged with renewed fury, while the latter were
pressed down to the beach, and leaped into the ocean; many were killed
or drowned, but a few, including Harold Eriksson, saved themselves by
swimming, and were picked up by the ships. While pursuing the fleeing
foe, Haakon was hit in his right arm by a peculiarly shaped arrow, and
all efforts to staunch the blood proved in vain. It was said that
Gunhild had bewitched this arrow and given it to her chamberlain, with
the charge that he should shoot it off against King Haakon. As night
approached, the king grew weaker and weaker, and fainted repeatedly. One
of his friends offered to take his body over to England, when he was
dead, so that he might be buried in Christian soil. But Haakon replied:
"I am not worthy of it. I have lived like a heathen, and therefore it is
meet that I should be buried like a heathen."

Thus died Haakon the Good and, as the saga says, was mourned alike by
friends and foes. His last act before dying was to send a ship after the
sons of Gunhild, and beg them to come back and take the kingdom; for he
had himself no sons, and his only daughter, Thora, could not, according
to the law, succeed to the throne.

Eyvind Scald-Spoiler made a song in King Haakon's honor, called
_Haakonarmaal_, in which he praised his virtues and described his
reception in Valhalla.




The sons of Gunhild lost no time in taking possession of the kingdom of
their fathers. It was not, however, the entire Norway to which they
succeeded, but only the middle districts. In Viken, Tryggve Olafsson and
Gudröd Björnsson, both grandsons of Harold the Fairhaired, ruled as
independent kings, and in Tröndelag Earl Sigurd, of Hlade, refused to
acknowledge the supremacy of the race of Erik Blood-Axe. Undoubtedly the
brothers were only biding their time until they should be strong enough
to punish these contemptuous rebels; but so bitter was the feeling
against them, even in the provinces which they nominally ruled, that
they had all they could do in maintaining their authority within the
narrow limits which had from the beginning been assigned to them. One of
the chief causes of their unpopularity was their dependence upon the
Danish king, by whose aid they had gained the kingdom, and to whom they
apparently stood in a relation of vassalage. As a consequence of this,
they took no pains to gain the favor of the Norwegian people, but
surrounded themselves with a great throng of Danish warriors who
constituted their court and the main-stay of their strength. Very
unfortunate, too, was the influence which their mother Gunhild exercised
over them. Scarcely had she returned to Norway, when she resumed her
baneful activity, egging her sons on to cruel and treacherous deeds, by
which they forfeited the people's respect and undermined their own
power. Misfortune had not taught her caution, nor had age softened the
fierce malignity of her temper.


The oldest surviving brother, Harold, surnamed Graafeld (Grayfell)
resembled, in appearance his father, Erik Blood-Axe. He was haughty,
avaricious, and revengeful; tall of stature, finely built, and of lordly
presence, but for all that a weak and vacillating character. He lacked
entirely that kindliness and _bonhommie_ which had made his uncle Haakon
the Good beloved of all the people. Of the other brothers we have no
definite knowledge; they seem, however, all to have inherited their
share of the traits which made their parents odious. Two of them, Gudröd
and Sigurd Sleva, proved themselves worthy sons of the malicious
Gunhild. The others are usually spoken of collectively, and their names
are variously given.

It may have been the sense of his unpopularity which induced Harold
Grayfell to make overtures to the former courtiers of King Haakon.
Several of them, it appears, entered his service, but felt themselves
ill at ease among the foreign warriors who enjoyed his favor and
confidence. Jealousies and petty bickerings were the order of the day;
every allusion to King Haakon's virtues gave offence, and when the song
of Eyvind Scald-Spoiler, praising his former lord, reached the king's
ears, he exclaimed angrily: "You love King Haakon yet, and it is best
that you follow him and become his men."

The men then departed, not suddenly, but one by one, and made the names
of the sons of Gunhild still more detested throughout the land. Eyvind
Scald-Spoiler in a noble verse refused to be King Harold's court poet,
and after his departure made a song in which he compared Haakon with
Harold, much to the latter's disadvantage. There was in that year (962)
a great dearth of food in the land; crops and fisheries failed, and the
cattle had to be fed with leaf-buds instead of grass. In some districts
snow fell in the middle of summer. The people who believed that the gods
had sent these evil times because of their anger at the kings, gave vent
to their discontent in loud murmuring. Harold Grayfell and his brothers,
it appears, had been baptized in their youth in England and were
nominally Christians. They refrained from sacrificing, and broke down
and destroyed many heathen temples. But they made no effort to enlighten
the people regarding the new religion; and probably considered questions
of faith as being of small moment. Surrounded, as they were, by enemies
on all sides, their first ambition was naturally to re-conquer the
kingdom which Harold the Fairhaired had bequeathed to their father. It
became, therefore, a political necessity to break the power of Earl
Sigurd of Hlade, as well as of Tryggve Olafsson and Gudröd Björnsson in
Viken. To do this in open warfare was out of the question; and Gunhild,
therefore, persuaded her sons to resort to treachery. By flattery and
promises, Harold bribed Grjotgard Haakonsson, a younger brother of Earl
Sigurd, to send him word when a favorable opportunity should present
itself for killing the earl. At the same time the king sent messengers
with gifts and friendly assurances to the intended victim, but failed
for awhile to lead him into any trap. At last, when these repeated
protestations of friendship had, perhaps, made him relax his vigilance,
Harold Grayfell and his brother Erling, having received notice from
Grjotgard, surprised the earl in the night, while he was away from home,
and burned him and all his retinue. By this deed, however, they raised
up against themselves an enemy who proved more dangerous to them than
the one they had slain. Earl Sigurd's son, Haakon, was twenty-five years
old, when his father died, and a man splendidly equipped in body and
mind. He was a great warrior, handsome in person, sagacious, resolute,
and friendly and affable in his demeanor. His family was, in some
respect, as good as any king's; for he belonged to the old tribal
aristocracy which had maintained its authority in Tröndelag from the
earliest Germanic times. When he was born, King Haakon the Good, who
happened just then to be his father's guest, had poured water upon his
head and given him his own name.

When the intelligence of Earl Sigurd's death reached him, Haakon called
the Trönders together, and a great multitude responded to his summons.
They clamored for vengeance upon the treacherous sons of Gunhild,
confirmed Haakon in the dignity which his father had possessed, and
declared themselves ready to follow him. With a great fleet he sailed
out of the Drontheim fiord; but the sons of Gunhild fled southward and
did not venture to give battle. The Trönders, having given their
allegiance to Earl Haakon, refused to pay taxes to Harold Grayfell, who,
after some indecisive fights, was compelled virtually to recognize his
rival's independence. Haakon, however, was well aware what such a
concession must have cost the haughty king, and he knew, too, that his
independence would last only so long as he was able to defend it. With a
view to strengthening his position, he therefore formed an alliance with
the two kings in Viken, which only had the effect of speedily bringing
down upon the latter the vengeance of Gunhild's sons. Harold Grayfell
and his brother Gudröd made a pretence of quarrelling, and feigned a
furious hostility to each other. A viking cruise which they were about
to undertake together was accordingly deferred, and Gudröd, complaining
of his brother's conduct, sent a friendly message to Tryggve Olafsson,
begging him to accompany him on his cruise. Tryggve accepted the
invitation, and on arriving at the appointed place of meeting was foully
murdered with all his men. King Gudröd Björnsson (the son of Björn the
Merchant) was about the same time surprised at a banquet by Harold
Grayfell, and slain after a desperate resistance. After these exploits,
Harold and Gudröd re-united and took possession of Viken. They hastened
to King Tryggve's dwelling in the hope of exterminating his whole race.
But Tryggve's widow, Aastrid, anticipating their intention, had fled
with her foster-father, Thorolf Luse-skjegg, (Lousy-Beard), and a few
attendants. She was then with child, and on a little islet in the Rand's
fiord, where she was hiding, she bore her son Olaf Tryggvesson. Wherever
she went Gunhild's spies pursued her. Hearing that she had borne a son,
the wily queen spared no effort to get her in her power. During the
entire summer Aastrid was compelled to remain on the solitary islet,
venturing out only in the night, and hiding among the underbrush in the
daytime. When toward autumn the nights began to grow darker, she went
ashore with her attendants, travelling only when the darkness protected
them. After many hardships she reached her father Erik Ofrestad's estate
in the Oplands; but even here the wily Gunhild left her no peace. A man
named Haakon was despatched with thirty armed attendants to search for
her and her child; but Erik of Ofrestad got news of their mission in
time to send his daughter and grandson away. Disguised as beggars,
Aastrid and Thoralf Lousy-Beard travelled on foot from farm to farm, and
came toward evening to the house of a man named Björn. They asked for
food and shelter, but were rudely driven away by the inhospitable
peasant. At a neighboring farm, however, they were kindly received by a
peasant named Thorstein. Gunhild's emissaries, having searched in vain
at Ofrestad, got on the track of the fugitives, and learned at the house
of Björn that a handsome woman in poor attire, bearing a babe in her
arms, had applied for shelter early in the evening. This conversation
one of Thorstein's servants happened to overhear, and on arriving home,
related it to his master. Thorstein immediately, with loud chiding and
pretended wrath, roused the supposed beggars from their sleep, and drove
them out into the night. This he did in order to deceive the servants
and other listeners. But when Aastrid and Thoralf were well under way,
he told them that Gunhild's hired assassins had arrived at the
neighboring farm, and that his only desire was to save them. He also
gave them a trusted attendant who could show them the best hiding-places
in the forest. At the shores of a lake they concealed themselves among
the tall bulrushes.


Thorstein, in the meanwhile, sent their pursuers in the opposite
direction, and led them a dance through forest and field in a vain
search for the fugitives. The next night, when Haakon and his men had
given up the search, he sent food and clothes to Aastrid, and furnished
her with an escort to Sweden, where she found a place of refuge with a
friend of her father's named Haakon the Old. Gunhild, however, was not
to be discouraged. She sent two embassies to King Erik of Sweden,
demanding the surrender of Olaf Tryggvesson, and received each time
permission to capture the child, without interference on the part of the
king. But Haakon the Old was a mighty man, and determined to defend his
guests. The threats of Gunhild's embassador did not frighten him. While
the latter was speaking, a half-witted thrall, named Buste, seized a
dung-fork, and rushed at him, threatening to strike. The embassador,
fearing to be soiled, took to his heels, and was pursued by the thrall.
How the queen received him on his return is not recorded.

Of the internal enemies of Gunhild's sons, Earl Haakon of Hlade now
alone remained; and it was not an unnatural desire on their part to
reduce him to subjection. Anticipating, as usual, their action, the earl
was on the look-out for them; but having ascertained the size of their
fleets, he saw the hopelessness of his cause, and forthwith sailed to
Denmark, where he was well received by King Harold Bluetooth (964). It
will thus be seen that the friendship between Harold Grayfell and the
Danish king had not endured the strain of diverging interests. The
former, as soon as he felt secure in his power, refused to recognize the
latter's claim to Viken, and paid him no taxes. Harold Bluetooth,
therefore, allied himself with Earl Haakon, the bitterest enemy of the
sons of Gunhild, hoping, by his aid, to regain his lost dominion. What
particularly encouraged him in this expectation was the continued
dearth which prevailed in Norway, and the resulting unpopularity of the
kings which, with every year, grew more pronounced. It was of no avail
that Harold Grayfell almost every summer went on viking cruises, gaining
a great fame as a warrior and bringing home rich treasures. The people
hated him only less than they hated his mother Gunhild. An exploit of
his brother Sigurd Sleva aroused a demonstration of wrath which came
near culminating in open rebellion. Sigurd Sleva had paid a visit to a
mighty yeoman named Klypp Thorsson, and had, in the absence of the
master of the house, been hospitably received by his beautiful wife
Aaluf. He had become enamoured of his hostess, and had grievously
insulted her. Klypp, on his return, learned what had occurred; and swore
to avenge the shame which had been brought upon him by Gunhild's son.
When Harold Grayfell and Sigurd, in the autumn of 964, held a _thing_ at
Vors, they were attacked by the enraged peasants, and had to save
themselves by flight. Klypp, with a number of his friends, pursued
Sigurd, slew him with his own hand, and was himself slain by one of
Sigurd's men.

Earl Haakon, who, from his Danish retreat, watched the events in Norway,
heard these tidings with satisfaction. The sudden check which his
ambition had received had made him ill, and for some time he appeared
listless, refusing to eat and drink, or to communicate with anybody. But
when his plans of vengeance were matured, he rose from his bed, strode
forth with his old vigor, and proceeded to weave a complicated net of
intrigues. Harold Bluetooth had at that time a difficulty with his
nephew Gold-Harold, who demanded a share in the government; and, having
confidence in the sagacity of the earl, he asked his advice. The earl
saw here his opportunity, and had no scruple in availing himself of it.
He dissuaded the king from killing his nephew, because such a deed would
arouse indignation and alienate the great party in Denmark, who desired
to see Gold-Harold on the throne. Far better would it be if he employed
Gold-Harold to punish Harold Grayfell and his brothers, and in the end
reward him with the throne of Norway. Thereby the king would increase
his own power, and convert a dangerous rival into a friend and ally.
This advice seemed good to Harold Bluetooth, and after some persuasion
he found courage to act upon it. He sent a friendly message to his
foster-son, Harold Grayfell, inviting him to come and take possession of
his old fief in Denmark, the income of which he might, indeed, need
during the hard times that prevailed in Norway. Harold Grayfell, after
some vacillation, accepted this invitation, and sailed to Denmark with
three ships and two hundred and forty men; but no sooner had he set foot
upon Danish soil than he was attacked by Gold-Harold, who slew him and
nearly all his men.

This was the first act in the drama which Earl Haakon had planned. The
second contained a surprise. The earl went to Harold Bluetooth, and
represented to him that his nephew, as king of Norway, would become a
more dangerous rival than he had been before; and frankly offered to
kill him, if the king would promise not to avenge his death.
Furthermore, he demanded, as his reward, the kingdom of Norway in fief,
under the overlordship of the king. All this seemed very tempting to
Harold Bluetooth; and like all weak and vicious men, he made objections
only for the purpose of having them overcome. In the end he gave his
consent; and Gold-Harold was immediately attacked and killed by Earl
Haakon. With a large army the two conspirators now sailed for Norway,
and won the whole country without striking a blow. So great was the
hatred of Gunhild and her sons, that not a man drew his sword in their
defence. The two surviving brothers, Gudröd and Ragnfred, made a
pretence of resistance, rallying a few followers about them; but did not
venture to give battle. Seeing the hopelessness of their cause, they
fled with their mother to the Orkneys (965). Ragnfred, however, returned
the following year with a considerable fleet, largely made up of vikings
who had gathered about him, and fought an indicisive battle with Earl
Haakon. He even succeeded in reconquering four of the northwestern
shires. For nearly a year Haakon made no effort to expel him. It was not
until the spring of 967, that he felt himself strong enough to appeal to
arms once more; and this time Ragnfred and his brother Gudröd, who in
the meantime had joined him, were defeated at Dingeness, and driven into
exile. According to the most reliable accounts, they went to Scotland,
but continued for several years to harass the coast of Norway by sudden
attacks. They were, however, no longer sufficiently formidable to cause
the earl any serious inconvenience, although he was not slow to seize
upon their attacks as a pretext for discontinuing the payment of the tax
which he had pledged to the Danish king. Gunhild died, in all
probability, either in Scotland or the Orkneys, although one of the
sagas relates, that she was enticed to Denmark by Harold Bluetooth,
under promise of marriage, and at his command drowned in a swamp




EARL HAAKON (970-995).

By his daring intrigue Earl Haakon had attained the goal of his desires.
He had avenged his father's death, humiliated his enemies, and gained a
power far beyond that of any of his ancestors. With a nature like his,
however, no goal is final. The ease with which he had managed Harold
Bluetooth and his nephew--using them as tools for his own ends--had, no
doubt, inspired him with a supreme confidence in his ability, and a
corresponding contempt of those whose shrewdness was inferior to his
own. The purpose therefore soon matured in his mind to repudiate his
obligations to the Danish king, and make himself the independent ruler
of Norway. The opportunity for carrying this purpose into effect soon
presented itself. The Emperor Otto I. of Germany, who claimed
sovereignty over Denmark, died in 973, and was succeeded by his young
son, Otto II. Harold Bluetooth, who had always resented the emperor's
claim, even though he was forced to recognize it, made extensive
preparations for a campaign against Otto II., and sent messengers to his
vassal, Earl Haakon, commanding him to come to his aid with all the
forces at his disposal. Earl Haakon, whatever his inclinations may have
been, did not deem it advisable to disobey, and in the spring of the
year 975 sailed southward with a large fleet and army. He did duty for a
while in defending the wall of Dannevirke, and actually beat the emperor
in a great battle. Then, feeling that his task had been accomplished, he
boarded his ships and prepared to sail homeward. The emperor, however,
hearing that Dannevirke was deserted by its defenders, returned for a
second attack, and forced his way into Jutland. Whether Harold Bluetooth
fought with him does not appear. We only know that he accepted a
humiliating peace, reaffirming his vassalage, and, according to a
creditable source, promising to introduce the Christian religion, both
in his own kingdom and in Norway. It is probable that both Harold and
his son, Sweyn Forkbeard, had been baptized before, but continued in
their hearts to be devoted to the Asa faith. It was scarcely zeal for
Christianity, but fear of the emperor, which induced Harold to send for
Earl Haakon and force him to accept baptism and to promise to convert
his countrymen to the new religion. It is strange that a man as shrewd
as Haakon, after his recent desertion of Dannevirke, should have obeyed
this summons. In all likelihood the victorious battle which he had
fought gave him confidence in his power to justify himself; and there
may also have been circumstances connected with the affair which changed
its aspect to contemporaries. It is not inconceivable, however, that he
really wished for a plausible pretext for rebellion, and deliberately
took his chances.

[Illustration: HAROLD BLUETOOTH.]

With a ship-load of priests Haakon departed from this fateful meeting
with the Danish king. But no sooner was he out of Harold's sight, than
he put his priests ashore, and began to harry on both sides of the
Sound. On the rocky cliffs of Gautland he made a grand sacrificial
feast, to counteract the effect of his recent baptism, and stood
watching for a response from the old gods, that they looked upon him
with favor, and would give him success in the war he was about to
undertake. Then two ravens came and followed his ships, "clucking"
loudly. The ravens were the birds of Odin, and Haakon saw in their
flight a happy augury. A warlike fury seems now to have possessed him.
With a recklessness which in so prudent a man is inconceivable (except
under high religious excitement), he burned his ships, landed with his
army on the coast of Sweden, and marched northward, ravaging the land
with fire and sword. A broad track of blood and desolation followed his
destructive progress. Even in the Norwegian province Viken, which Harold
Bluetooth had given to Sweyn Forkbeard, he continued his devastations in
pure wantonness, as if to advertise his defiance of the Danish king and
all that belonged to him. From Viken he took his way overland to
Drontheim, where he henceforth lived as an independent sovereign; though
for some reason he refrained from assuming the royal title.

It was probably some time before Harold Bluetooth could raise an army
strong enough to pursue the earl and defeat him in his own stronghold.
There is some doubt, however, whether his campaign to Norway, for the
purpose of punishing his rebellious vassal, took place in 976 or two or
three years later. Following Haakon's example, he laid the land waste,
killing and burning every thing in his path. In Laerdal in Sogn, he left
only five houses unburned. When, however, Earl Haakon sailed southward
to meet him with a numerous fleet, the king suddenly lost his courage,
set sail, and made for home. It is said that Harold Bluetooth had on
that occasion no less than twelve hundred ships.

Earl Haakon had now peace for some years. He had, as soon as he had
conquered the sons of Gunhild, married the beautiful Thora, daughter of
the powerful chieftain Skage Skoftesson: and had by her two sons, Sweyn
and Heming, and a daughter, Bergljot. Considerably older than these
children, was the earl's illegitimate son, Erik, who, according to one
account, was born when his father was but fifteen years old. There is,
however, good reason for questioning this statement. Erik was a stubborn
and turbulent youth, who could not be induced to respect the authority
of his father. When he was ten or eleven years old, he got into a
dispute with Haakon's brother-in-law Tiding-Skofte, about the right to
anchor his ship next to the earl's. Tiding-Skofte, who was a great
favorite of the earl's, had been especially granted this privilege and
was inclined to insist upon it. To avenge this insult Erik watched his
chance and slew him a year later. He thereby incurred the hostility of
his father, and fled to Viken, where Sweyn Forkbeard gave him a cordial

It was scarcely to be expected that Harold Bluetooth should quietly
accept the humiliation which Earl Haakon had put upon him. He was,
indeed, getting too old himself to measure strength again with his
powerful antagonist; and he therefore delegated the task of punishing
him to his friends and allies. Among the latter were the celebrated
Jomsvikings, who lived at Jomsborg, on the island of Wollin, at the
mouth of the river Oder. These vikings were a well-disciplined company
of pirates, who made war their exclusive business, living by rapine and
plunder. They were bound by very strict laws to obey their chief, to
spurn death and danger, to aid each other, and to endure pain
uncomplainingly. Like the Italian condottieri, they were willing to
serve any master with whom their chief could make satisfactory
arrangements. For women they professed contempt, and no woman was
permitted to enter their burgh. These formidable marauders Harold
Bluetooth endeavored to stir up against his rebellious vassal. At a
funeral feast which their chief, Earl Sigvalde, made in honor of his
father, a great throng of warriors were present; the ale and mead flowed
abundantly, and there was much good cheer in the hall. When Earl
Sigvalde rose to drink the toast to Brage, he vowed that before three
winters were past he would kill Earl Haakon or expel him from his realm,
or himself die in the attempt. The other vikings, not wishing to be
outdone by their chief, made vows scarcely less daring; and the
enthusiasm rose to such a pitch that no achievement seemed beyond their
strength. When they woke up the next morning, the affair wore a
slightly different aspect; but having once promised, they could not
retreat. So they made a virtue of necessity, and prepared in haste for
the attack. The rumor of their vows had, however, preceded them, and
reached Erik, the son of Earl Haakon. Disregarding his father's
hostility, he hurried northward to Drontheim with all the men he could
gather, and placed them at the disposal of the earl. The Jomsvikings, in
the meanwhile, occupied themselves in plundering the coasts of Norway,
sailing slowly northward with a well-manned fleet of sixty ships. The
number of their warriors was between seven and eight thousand. They met
Earl Haakon and his sons Erik, Sweyn, Sigurd, and Erling at
Hjörungavaag in Söndmöre. The earl had one hundred and eighty ships,
the majority of which were inferior in size and equipment to those of
his enemies; and according to a probable calculation, his force amounted
to ten or eleven thousand men. So many men and ships had scarcely ever
before been seen together in the North, and the sagas relate that the
fight in Hjörungavaag (986) was the greatest battle that has ever been
fought in Norway.


As Earl Haakon saw the first of the Jomsvikings sailing up the sound, he
disposed his own ships in battle-array. He gave his oldest son Erik
command of the right wing, placed Sweyn on the left, and himself
commanded the centre. Opposite to Sweyn were the ships of the famous
Jomsviking Vagn Aakesson, whose impetuosity and daring had made him
dreaded far and wide. The young Earl Sweyn was no match for such an
antagonist, and after a gallant resistance he began to retreat. His
brother Erik, seeing the imminent danger, rowed around to his wing,
drove Vagn back, and forced his brother to resume his position. Then he
hastened back to his own wing, and came just in time to check the
progress of Bue the Big (Digre), who commanded the corresponding wing of
the Jomsvikings. The battle now grew furious, and the carnage on both
sides was tremendous. The spears and arrows fell in rattling showers
about Earl Haakon, as he stood in the prow of his ship, and so many hit
him that his shirt of mail was torn into strips, and he was forced to
throw it away. The ships of the vikings were higher than those of the
Norsemen, and the advantage which this afforded the former told at
first heavily against the latter. Then, it is told, Earl Haakon suddenly
disappeared, and the legend relates that he took his youngest son
Erling, went ashore with him, and sacrificed him to the gods for
victory. Instantly the skies grew black, and a violent hail-storm beat
down, pelting the faces of the Jomsvikings and almost blinding them.
Every grain of hail, says the saga, weighed two ounces. Some even
declared that they saw the maidens of Odin, the Valkyrias, Thorgerd and
Irp, standing in the prow of Earl Haakon's ship, sending forth a
deadlier hail of unerring arrows. The Jomsvikings fought half blindly,
fell on the slippery decks in a slush of blood and melting hail, but in
spite of the twilight and confusion yet held their own. Then suddenly
their chief, Earl Sigvalde, turned and fled. Vagn Aakesson, who saw him,
cried out in a frenzy of rage: "Why dost thou flee, thou evil hound, and
leave thy men in the lurch? That shame shall cling to thee all thy
days." Earl Sigvalde made no reply; and it was well for him that he did
not; for in the same instant a spear was hurled forth from Vagn's hand,
transfixing the man at the helm. A moment before Vagn had seen his
chieftain there, and it was for him the spear was intended. Confusion
now became general; and all Earl Sigvalde's men, seeing that his
standard was gone, fell out of line and fled. At last only Vagn Aakesson
and Bue the Big were left. Earl Haakon pulled up alongside the ship of
the latter and a combat ensued, which, in wildness and fury, has
scarcely a parallel in the records of the sagas. Two great champions of
the Jomsvikings, Haavard the Hewer (Huggende) and Aslak Rock-skull
(Holmskalle), vaulted over the gunwale of the earl's ship and made
tremendous havoc, until an Icelander seized an anvil which was used for
sharpening the weapons and dashed it against Aslak's head, splitting his
skull. Haavard had both his feet cut off, but fought on furiously,
standing on his knees. The spears whizzed about the earl's ears and the
arrows flew past him with their angry twang. His men fell and the
Jomsvikings were pressing forward. Then, in the nick of time, came his
son Erik, and, with a throng of his men, boarded the galley of Bue the
Big. In their first onset Bue received a terrible cut across the nose.
"Now," he cried, "I fear the Danish maidens will no more kiss me." Then,
seeing that resistance was vain, he seized two chests full of gold and
shouted: "Overboard all Bue's men," and leaped into the sea. Vagn
Aakesson's galley was likewise boarded, and there was a repetition of
former scenes of carnage. When all but thirty of his men were dead he at
last surrendered. The captives were brought ashore and ordered to sit
down in a row upon a long log. Their feet were tied together with a
rope, while their hands remained free. One of Earl Erik's men, Thorkell
Leira, whom Vagn at that memorable funeral feast had promised to kill,
was granted the privilege to reciprocate the intended favor toward Vagn.
With his axe uplifted he rushed at the captives, and, beginning at one
end of the log, struck off one head after another. He meant to keep Vagn
until the last, in order to increase his agony. But Vagn sat chatting
merrily with his men; and there was much joking and laughter.

"We have often disputed," said one, "as to whether a man knows of any
thing when his head is off. That we can now test, for if I am conscious,
after having lost my head, I will stick my knife into the earth."

When his turn came all sat watching with interest. But his knife fell
from his nerveless grasp, and there was no trace of consciousness. One
of the vikings on the log seemed particularly in excellent spirits. He
laughed and sang, as he saw the bloody heads of his comrades rolling
about his feet. Just at that moment Earl Erik approached and asked him
if he would like to live.

"That depends," answered the viking, "upon who it is who offers me

"He offers who has the power to do it," said the earl; "Earl Erik

"Then I gladly accept," the viking replied.

The next in order, as the executioner walked up to him, made an
equivocal pun, which, however, pleased Earl Erik so well that he set him
free. Eighteen had now been beheaded and two pardoned. The twenty-first
was a very young man with long, beautiful hair and a handsome
countenance. As Thorkell Leira paused before him he twisted his hair
into a coil and begged him not to soil it with his blood. In order to
humor him, Thorkell told one of the bystanders to take hold of the coil
while he struck off the head. The man consented; but just as the axe
was descending, the Jomsviking pulled his head violently back, and the
obliging assistant had both his hands cut off.

"Some of the Jomsvikings are alive yet," he cried, as he raised his head

Earl Erik, who had witnessed this scene, asked him his name.

"I am said to be a son of Bue," he answered.

"Very likely is that," said the earl; "do you wish to live?"

"What other choice have I?" asked the young viking.

When Thorkell Leira observed that Earl Erik was in a forgiving mood, he
grew very wroth. Fearing that he might be thwarted in his vengeance on
Vagn Aakesson, he sprang past the remaining men and, with his axe raised
above his head, rushed toward his enemy. One of the men on the log,
however, seeing his chief's danger, flung himself forward so that
Thorkell stumbled over his body and dropped his axe. Instantly Vagn was
on his feet, seized the axe and dealt Thorkell such a blow that the axe
went through the neck, and the blade was buried in the earth. Thus Vagn
Aakesson was the only one of the Jomsvikings who accomplished what he
had vowed to do. Earl Erik, full of admiration of his feat, now had his
bonds removed and gave him his liberty. The other prisoners who were yet
alive were also set free at the earl's command.

Not far from the spot where this occurred sat Earl Haakon with many of
his chieftains. Suddenly the loud twang of a bow-string was heard, and
in the same instant Gissur the White, from Valders, who sat next to the
earl and was more magnificently dressed than he, fell dead, pierced by
an arrow. Many men hastened down to the ship whence the arrow had come,
and found Haavard the Hewer, who, half dazed with loss of blood, stood
on his knees with his bow in his hands. "Tell me, lads," he said, "did
any one fall over there at the tree?"

He was told that Gissur the White had fallen.

"Then I was not so much in luck as I had hoped," he remarked; "for that
arrow was meant for the earl."

It was plain that the favorable result of this great battle was due
chiefly to the intrepidity and circumspection of Earl Erik. His father
would perhaps have recognized this fact, if the son had not apparently
superseded his authority in sparing the life of so important a man as
Vagn Aakesson without consultation with the commander-in-chief. He did
not, however, venture to disregard Earl Erik's pardon, but loudly
expressed his discontent, and parted from his son in anger. Vagn
followed his rescuer southward, and became his familiar friend and

Earl Haakon's power was now so well confirmed that no one ventured to
dispute his supremacy. Crops and fisheries were good. The people enjoyed
many years of peace and contentment. The earls of the Orkneys paid
Haakon tribute, as if he had been a king, and a king he was in every
thing except the name. His family had always been associated with the
ancient temple and earldom of Hlade; and it was a matter of pride with
him to retain his ancestral dignity. This is significant when we
consider how he was in all things a man of the old dispensation. At a
time when heathenism was slowly crumbling away, and the faith in the old
gods was losing its hold upon the upper classes, Haakon was a devout and
sincere heathen. The continual intercourse of Norway with England and
the lands of the South had half imperceptibly weakened the old
superstitions and made the legends of Odin and Thor appear to many like
nursery tales which grown-up men could scarcely be expected to believe.
Repudiation of all supernaturalism and a proud reliance upon his own
good sword was at this time characteristic of the Norse viking, who
prided himself upon his knowledge of the world and his deeds in distant
lands. For all that the Asa faith as later events will prove, had yet a
sufficient number of sincere believers to make the progress of the new
faith slow and sanguinary. Nevertheless so atrocious an act as the
sacrifice of one's own child could not have failed to arouse indignation
even among the worshippers of Odin and Thor. Such horrors were tolerated
far back in the gloom of primeval antiquity, but must have been felt in
the tenth century as a hideous anachronism. How much Earl Haakon's
heathen fanaticism contributed to his downfall is difficult to
determine. The sacrifice of Erling during the battle with the
Jomsvikings, though it was generally regarded as a fact, was not the
original cause of the rebellion which cost the earl his throne and his
life. The vices by which he forfeited his early popularity were of a
kind which assert their sway over men, irrespective of religions.

In the year 995 Earl Haakon was travelling in Gauldale, collecting
taxes. His son Erlend, of whom he was very fond, lay with some ships out
in the fiord, waiting to receive the treasure. One evening the earl sent
a company of thralls to the house of the powerful peasant Brynjulf,
commanding him to send him his wife, who was renowned for her beauty.
Brynjulf refused, and the earl in great anger sent the thralls back with
this message to the indignant husband, that he had the choice between
death and the surrender of his wife. The peasant was obliged to yield,
and with a heavy heart let his wife depart with the thralls. But no
sooner was she gone than he recovered his manhood and swore vengeance.
He summoned the inhabitants of the valley from far and near, and told
them of the shame the earl had put upon him. All promised him their
help, and resolved to hold themselves in readiness, awaiting the first
opportunity for attacking the daring profligate. The earl, in the
meanwhile, being quite ignorant of their designs, played into their
hands. Very soon after his adventure with Brynjulf's wife, he sent a
message of similar purport to Orm Lyrgja, whose wife Gudrun, on account
of her beauty, was surnamed "Lundarsol" (the Sun of Lunde).[A] Orm, who
was a man of great authority in his valley, sent word to all his
neighbors, and after having feasted the earl's thralls, in order to
detain them, refused to comply with their demand. Gudrun, who saw them
depart, cried jeeringly after them: "Give the earl my greeting, and
tell him that I will not go to him unless he sends Thora of Rimul to
fetch me." Thora of Rimul was one of the earl's mistresses, whom his
favor had made rich and powerful.

[Footnote A: Lund means a grove, and her name might thus be rendered:
"The Sun of the Grove."]

War-summons was now sent from farm to farm and a great band of armed
peasants came together, and marched toward Medalhus where Haakon was
staying. He sent in haste a message to his son Erlend, to meet him at
Möre, whither he intended to go, as soon as the army of the peasants had
dispersed. Then his time for vengeance would be at hand. In the
meanwhile he would be obliged to dismiss his men and hide, until the
excitement should have subsided. With a single thrall named Kark, whom
he had received as tooth-gift [A] and who had been his playmate in his
boyhood, he fled across the Gaul river, rode his horse into a hole, and
left his cloak upon the ice, in order that his pursuers might believe
that he had been drowned. Then he hastened to his mistress, Thora of
Rimul, who hid him and the thrall in a deep ditch under her pigsty.
Food, candles, and bedclothes, were given them, whereupon the ditch was
covered with boards and earth, and the pigs were driven out over it. As
it happened, Olaf Tryggvesson, whose young life Queen Gunhild had vainly
endeavored to destroy, had just then landed in Tröndelag and had slain
the earl's son Erlend. The peasants, hearing that he was of the race of
Harold the Fairhaired, received him with delight and accompanied him to
Rimul, where they thought it likely that the earl must be hidden.

[Footnote A: It was customary to give to infants of high birth a thrall
or some other valuable gift when it got its first tooth. This gift was
called a tooth-gift.]

After a vain search Olaf called them together, and mounting a big stone,
close to the pigsty, declared in a loud voice that he would give a great
reward to him who would find the earl and slay him.

In his damp and malodorous hiding-place the earl sat, gazing anxiously
at his thrall. Every word of Olaf's speech he could plainly hear, and by
the light of the candle which stood on the earth between them, he saw
that Kark, too, was eagerly listening.

"Why art thou now so pale?" asked the earl, "and now again as black as
earth. Is it not because thou wilt betray me?"

"No," replied Kark.

"We were both born in the same night," said the earl, after a pause;
"and our deaths will not be far apart."

They sat for a long time in shuddering silence, each distrusting the
other. From the stillness above they concluded that night was
approaching; but neither dared to sleep. At last Kark's weariness
overpowered him; but he tossed and mumbled excitedly in his sleep. The
earl waked him and asked him what he had been dreaming.

"I dreamed," answered Kark, "that we were both on board the same ship
and that I stood at the helm."

"That must mean that thou rulest over thine own life as well as mine. Be
therefore faithful to me, Kark, as behooves thee, and I will reward thee
when better days come."

Once more the thrall fell asleep and labored heavily, as in a nightmare.
The earl woke him again and asked him to relate his dream.

"I thought I was at Hlade," said Kark, "and Olaf Tryggvesson put a
golden ring about my neck."

"The meaning of that," cried the earl, "is that Olaf Tryggvesson will
put a red ring [A] about thy neck, if thou goest to seek him. Therefore,
beware of him, Kark, and be faithful to me. Then thou wilt enjoy good
things from me, as thou hast done before."

[Footnote A: The red ring means, of course, a ring of blood; _i.e._,
Olaf would cut Kark's head off.]

The night dragged slowly along and each sat staring at the other, with
rigid, sleepy eyes, which yet dared not close. Toward morning, however,
the earl fell backward and sleep overwhelmed him. But the terrors of his
vigil pursued him sleeping. His soul seemed to be tossed on a sea of
anguish. He screamed in wild distress, rolled about, rose upon his knees
and elbows, and his face was terrible to behold. Then Kark sprang up,
seized his knife and thrust it into his master's throat. Soon after he
presented himself before Olaf Tryggvesson with the earl's head, claiming
the reward. But Olaf verified the murdered man's prophecy. He put not a
ring of gold, but one of blood about the traitor's neck (995).

Earl Haakon was the last champion of paganism upon the throne of Norway.
He was a man of great natural endowment, fearless yet prudent,
formidable in battle, and in his earlier years justly popular for his
kindliness and liberality. It appears, however, as if the dignity and
power which he conquered by his own ability intoxicated him and
disturbed the fine equilibrium of his mind. Morally, he was, barring the
profligacy of his later days, a legitimate product of the old Germanic
paganism and the conditions of life which must of necessity prevail in a
militant community. The shrewdness and faithlessness which we are apt to
censure in the heroic types of this age, were, in reality, enforced by
the hostile attitude of man to man and the resultant necessity for
distrust and simulation. Candor and veracity were virtues which,
according to the old Norse code, were only to be practised between
friends, while mendacity and deceit were legitimate weapons against
enemies. Earl Haakon was, however, even according to his code, culpable
in not discriminating between friend and foe. He rose by faithlessness,
and by faithlessness he fell.





The story of Olaf Tryggvesson's youth, as related in the sagas, is so
marvellous that it can scarcely claim absolute credibility. The
wonder-loving tradition seized upon him from his very birth as its
favorite hero, and adorned every incident of his career with a multitude
of romantic details. To separate the framework of fact from the
embellishments of fiction is, under such circumstances, no easy task.
That Olaf's career, even stripped of all fanciful additions, was as
remarkable as any romance, there can be no question. We have seen how
Queen Gunhild with untiring vigilance tracked him through forests and
wildernesses while he was an infant, and how his mother Aastrid finally
found a place of refuge with Haakon the Old in Sweden. Her sense of
security could scarcely have been increased when Earl Haakon succeeded
the sons of Gunhild; for the earl was not of royal blood, and must fear,
no less than Gunhild, a scion of the race of Harold the Fairhaired.
Aastrid therefore determined to go with her son to Gardarike, or Russia,
where her brother, Sigurd Eriksson, held a position of authority under
King Vladimir. She took passage for herself, her son, and their
attendants, upon a merchant-ship bound for a Russian port, but the ship
was captured by vikings, who killed some of the passengers and sold
others as slaves. The young Olaf, his foster-father Thoralf Lousy-Beard,
and the latter's son Thorgills, became the property of a viking named
Klerkon, who killed Thoralf because he was too old to command any price
in the slave-markets. The two boys he bartered away in Esthonia for a
big ram. The purchaser again disposed of them for a coat and a cape to a
man named Reas, who treated Olaf kindly, while he put Thorgills to hard
labor. With him Olaf remained for six years. His mother, Aastrid, in the
meanwhile, had been found at a slave-market by a rich Norse merchant
named Lodin, who had recognized her in spite of her miserable
appearance, and offered to ransom her on condition of her becoming his
wife. She had gladly given her consent and had returned with him to

One day Olaf's uncle, Sigurd Eriksson, had occasion to visit the town in
Esthonia where his nephew was living. He was just riding across the
market-place, when his attention was attracted to a group of boys who
were playing. There was especially one of them whose appearance struck
him, and he called to him and asked him his name. The boy said that his
name was Olaf. Sigurd now discovered by further questioning that it was
his nephew he was addressing. He made haste to buy him and his
foster-brother Thorgills, and took them with him to his house. He
enjoined upon Olaf to say nothing about his race and birth, and the boy
promised to be silent. One day, however, when he was out walking, he
caught sight of the viking Klerkon who had slain his foster-father.
Without a moment's reflection, he went up and split his skull with an
axe which he happened to have in his hand. Now the penalty for breaking
the public peace was death, and a crowd of people rushed together,
demanding that the boy should be killed. His uncle, in order to save
him, took him to the queen, Olga, or Allogia, told her who he was, and
implored her protection. The queen became greatly interested in the
beautiful boy, and had him educated, as behooved a king's son, in the
use of arms and all athletic sports. At the age of twelve he received
men and ships from Vladimir, and spent some years roaming about as a
viking. He is said to have done important service to his benefactor,
reconquering a province which had rebelled; but the favor which he
enjoyed raised him up enemies who slandered him, representing him as a
dangerous rival of the king in the affections both of the queen and the
people. Olaf then, at the advice of Olga, left Russia with his men and
ships and went to Wendland,[A] where he was received with distinction by
King Burislav. He did not, however, reveal himself as an heir to the
throne of Norway, but travelled under the name Ole the Russian.
Burislav's eldest daughter, or, more probably, sister, Geira, fell in
love with him, and he married her, performed many valiant deeds in the
service of his father-in-law, and finally, at the death of his wife,
sailed once more in search of adventures. He was then twenty-one years
old. A dream induced him to go to Greece and accept Christianity, and he
is also said to have sent a bishop to Russia who converted Vladimir and
Olga to the Christian faith. Thence Olaf went to Northumberland,
Denmark, Scotland, and France, and had adventures without number. At the
age of twenty-five he found himself in England, and was summoned to
appear before Princess Gyda, sister of the Irish king, Olaf Kvaran. She
had been the wife of an earl, but was yet a young and beautiful woman. A
great many wooers were importuning her, among whom a certain Alfvine, a
great champion and man-slayer. A day had been fixed on which Gyda had
promised to choose a husband, and many high-born men had come together,
hoping to be chosen. All were splendidly attired, and glittered in
scarlet and gold. Olaf, with a few companions, came sauntering up to the
market-place, and stationed themselves somewhat apart from the rest as
if merely to look on. He had pulled a fur hood and cape over his head
and shoulders, and was otherwise plainly clad. Gyda, after having
somewhat listlessly regarded the ranks of her wooers, caught sight of
the tall stranger with the fur hood. She approached him, lifted up his
hood, and looked long and earnestly into his eyes.

[Footnote A: The present Baltic provinces of Prussia. The Wends were a
Slavonic people, and not identical with the Vandals, with whom they have
often been confounded. The latter, according to the best authority, were
of Germanic origin.]

"If thou wilt have me," she said, "then I choose thee for my husband."

Olaf replied that he was not unwilling to take her at her word; and
their betrothal was forthwith published. Alfvine in great wrath now
challenged the Norseman, fought, and was conquered. The wedding was then
celebrated, and Olaf spent several years in England and Ireland. He
became here more intimately acquainted with Christianity, was baptized,
and became a zealous defender of the faith. In Greece, he had, according
to the legend, only been _primsigned_--_i.e._, marked with the sign of
the cross. This was regarded as a sort of compromise between the old
faith and the new, and was supposed to secure a certain favor from
Christ the White, without entirely forfeiting the good-will of the old

The Anglo-Saxon annals contain repeated references to Olaf Tryggvesson,
and name him as the chieftain of a great viking fleet, which, in the
year 994, ravaged the coasts of Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Hampshire. He
even landed with a considerable army, and put up his winter quarters in
Southampton, levying supplies from the neighboring country. The unhappy
proposition was then made to King Ethelred II. to buy immunity from
further depredations, and the sum of £10,000 was paid to Olaf and by him
apportioned among his men. Sweyn Forkbeard, the son of Harold Bluetooth,
then exiled from his native land, is also named as one of the chieftains
concerned in this expedition, though in the treaty of peace between King
Ethelred and the vikings, which is yet preserved, his name does not
occur. At the confirmation of Olaf, which took place with great pomp in
the same year, King Ethelred was present, and it is said that Olaf
solemnly vowed, on that occasion, that he would henceforth never more
molest the inhabitants of England. This promise he appears to have kept.
Sweyn, however, tempted by the great sums of money which he had
extorted, returned again and again, expelled Ethelred for a time from
his kingdom, and for many years was the virtual ruler of England.

The fame of Olaf Tryggvesson's deeds spread far and wide, and also
reached Norway, where Earl Haakon anxiously listened to every rumor
regarding him. That this daring young adventurer would, as soon as he
felt himself strong enough, lay claim to his paternal kingdom, the earl
could not doubt; and as his own popularity waned, he looked forward with
increasing uneasiness to the conflict. He well knew the devotion of the
people to the race of Harold the Fairhaired, and the thought took
possession of him that his own safety demanded Olaf Tryggvesson's death.
He confided his plan to his friend, Thore Klakka, and begged him to sail
to Dublin, where Olaf was then staying, and either kill him, if the
chance presented itself, or entice him over to Norway where he could
easily destroy him. Thore Klakka accepted this mission, met Olaf in
Dublin, and readily gained his confidence. The young man was eager for
information concerning his native land, and the earl's emissary lost no
opportunity to urge him to sail thither, the sooner the better, and take
possession of his inheritance. The earl, said Thore Klakka, was indeed
powerful, but if the peasants heard that a descendant of Harold the
Fairhaired was in the land, they would all forsake him and join the
legitimate king. Olaf was easily persuaded to believe these flattering
assurances, and in the spring of the year 995 sailed with five ships for
Norway. In accordance with Thore Klakka's treacherous advice, he went
straight to the northwestern shires where Earl Haakon's power was the
greatest, and landed on the island Moster in Hördaland. He raised his
tent, planted the cross on the beach, and had the mass celebrated. Being
convinced of Thore's disinterestedness, he also accepted his advice not
to reveal who he was, but sail northward to Tröndelag in order to attack
the earl unawares and slay him. Great must have been Thore's surprise
when, on landing at the mouth of the Drontheim fjord, he found that he
had truthfully represented the condition of the country. The peasants
were united in open rebellion against his master, and Olaf had only to
make himself known in order to secure immediate allegiance. Of his
speech at Rimul, and the ignominious death of the earl, we have already
spoken. All the chieftains and peasants of Tröndelag were now summoned
to meet at the Oere-_thing_, at the mouth of the river Nid, and here
Olaf Tryggvesson was formally proclaimed King of all Norway. The
Trönders from this time forth reserved for themselves the right to
proclaim the king in the name of the whole country, and even to this day
the sovereigns of Norway are crowned in Drontheim. Nevertheless, the
king was required to travel from district to district and receive the
allegiance of the people. This Olaf now did, and was everywhere
greeted with enthusiastic homage.


The above narrative exhibits several improbabilities, which, however, do
not of necessity vitiate its essential truthfulness. Of Olaf's sojourn
in Russia there can be no doubt, although, to be sure, the Vladimir who
at that time reigned in Novgorod had no wife named Allogia or Olga, and
if it was his grandmother Olga to whom reference is made, the king's
jealousy seems altogether unreasonable. Likewise Olaf's visit to
Wendland and his marriage there are capable of proof from contemporary
poems, while the deeds which are attributed to him in King Burislav's
service have a suspiciously legendary character. The adventure with Gyda
in England also conceals a framework of fact under its mythical





King Olaf's first endeavor, after having ascended the throne, was to
Christianize the country. He was by nature well adapted for this task,
being zealous in the faith, resolute, and uncompromising. Where gentle
means did not avail he had no hesitation in employing sword and fire.
Vehement as he was by temperament, brooking no argument, he wasted no
time in weighing the probabilities of success or failure, but in the
conviction of the sanctity of his cause stormed resistlessly onward and
by his impetuosity and ardor, bore down all opposition. His first
appearance as the champion of the new religion was in Viken, where he
called his relations and adherents together and told them, that it was
his intention to convert the whole kingdom of Norway to faith in Christ
the White, even though he were to lose his life in the attempt. In Viken
lived at that time his mother and his step-father, Lodin, who had a
large following of friends and relations. Some of these were, no doubt,
already Christians, or had been _primsigned_, as Christianity had,
twenty-five years before, been preached for a short time in this part of
the country by two Germans. No particular opposition was therefore
offered to the king's command, and within a brief period Olaf had the
satisfaction of seeing all of Viken--the old kingdom of his father,
Tryggve--nominally, at least, converted to Christianity. It is not to be
inferred, however, that the converts, in accepting baptism, renounced
their faith in the gods whom they had previously worshipped. On the
contrary, they continued to believe in their existence, and perhaps even
secretly to worship them. The Christian priests themselves professed
belief in Odin and Thor, but represented them as evil powers who had
been conquered by Christ and thrown into the outer darkness. As Christ
had now all power in heaven and earth, it was futile to invoke the favor
of the vanquished gods by sacrifice. In this practical shape the new
religion unquestionably appealed to many whom otherwise it could not
have reached. The relation to the old gods had been in its essence a
contract for protection and good crops, in return for certain tangible
values sacrificed. As Christianity was then preached, it was in many
respects the same thing under a different name. Prayers formerly
addressed to Odin or Frey were now addressed to Christ and the Virgin
Mary, and though offerings of horses and bullocks were discontinued, the
fragrant incense was still supposed to rise to the nostrils of the new
god and propitiate his favor. The salient and essential difference
between the old and the new faith, and the only one which the Norsemen
in the beginning vividly apprehended, was the great doctrine of peace
upon earth and good-will among men. While Odin and Thor took pleasure
in bloodshed and rejoiced in war, Christ the White loved peace and
accorded no merit to the man-slayer.


That this doctrine, though it was slow to affect the lives of the new
converts, nevertheless from generation to generation wrought a change in
the moral consciousness of the Norsemen, can scarcely be questioned. The
old Asa faith was inconsistent with any kind of civilization, because it
meant, in the end, universal destruction. As long as killing was _per
se_ meritorious and secured the favor of the gods and honor among men,
no trade but that of arms could flourish, and every peaceful industry
became impossible. In Iceland, where the spirit of the old Germanic
paganism survived, even long after the introduction of Christianity,
internecine feuds of the most atrocious character prevailed for
centuries, resulting in a gradual decadence, followed by stagnation and
decay. The result in Norway, as the subsequent narrative will show, was
scarcely better. A universal exhaustion followed the long carnival of
bloodshed, and a heavy lethargy, lasting for four hundred years, settled
upon the people.

It would be vain to pretend that Olaf Tryggvesson, when he undertook the
task of destroying the Asa faith, had any conception of the superior
sociological value of the new faith over the old. Not even the
conception of one God, instead of many, seems to have been emphasized in
the preaching of those days. On the contrary, the Christian religion was
adapted, as far as possible, to the pre-existing polytheistic notions,
and a new hierarchy, consisting of the Trinity, the Virgin Mary, and a
host of saints, was exalted as objects of worship instead of the old
gods. If the character of the religious teaching is to be inferred from
the character of the teachers, it is safe to conclude that the early
Germanic Christianity was ethically not far removed from the religion
which it came to supplant. Thus we hear much in the Saga of Olaf
Tryggvesson of a priest named Thangbrand, whose violence, pugnacity, and
readiness to kill must have made him an odd exponent of the gospel of
peace. Thangbrand was a Saxon, and had been sent north with many other
missionaries to assist in converting the Danes. Bishop Siric, of
Canterbury, presented him during a visit with a curiously wrought
shield, upon which was the image of the crucified Christ. Shortly after
this occurrence, Thangbrand made the acquaintance of Olaf Tryggvesson,
who admired the shield greatly and desired to buy it. The priest
received a munificent compensation, and finding himself suddenly rich,
went and bought a beautiful Irish girl, whose charms had beguiled him. A
German warrior who saw the girl claimed her, and when his demand was
scornfully refused challenged the priest. A duel was fought and the
German was killed. Some ill feeling was aroused against Thangbrand by
this incident, and he fled to his friend, Olaf Tryggvesson, and became
his court chaplain. As such he was under the authority of Bishop Sigurd,
an Anglo-Saxon, probably of Norse descent, whom Olaf had brought with
him from England. Bishop Sigurd was a man of grave and gentle spirit and
a striking contrast to the ferocious court chaplain.

The Christianization of Viken was followed by that of Agder. Any decided
opposition the king did not meet until he came to South Hördaland, where
a number of mighty chieftains had gathered in the hope of intimidating
him. His fearless and resolute behavior, however, impressed them so much
that, after some negotiations, they accepted the faith and were
baptized. In return for this concession, they demanded of the king that
he should give his sister Aastrid in marriage to the young and
high-born chief, Erling Skjalgsson of Sole; and as the king thought this
marriage in every way desirable, he gave his consent. Encouraged by his
success, Olaf hastened on to Tröndelag, where was the old and
magnificent temple of Hlade, the principal sanctuary of Norse paganism.
Impelled by holy zeal, and heedless of the consequences, he broke down
the altar of the gods, burned their images, and carried off their
treasures. The Trönders promptly responded to this challenge by sending
the war-arrow [A] from house to house, and preparing to fight with the
king. Olaf, who had but a small force with him, did not venture to offer
them battle; but sailed northward to Haalogaland, where another armed
band, under the command of Thore Hjort and Haarek of Thjotta, stood
ready to receive him. As discretion was here the better part of valor,
the king was in no haste to land, but returned to Tröndelag, where the
peasants in the meanwhile had dispersed, and began to build a church in
the place where the old temple had stood. He meant to show the Trönders
that he was neither discouraged nor frightened, that neither threats nor
arms could induce him to desist from his undertaking. With the desire to
strengthen his power here, where it most needed strengthening, he began
also the building of a royal residence, and laid the foundation of the
future city of Nidaros or Drontheim (996).

[Footnote A: The war-arrow (_hærör_) was carried by every man to his
next neighbor and stuck into his door, as a sign that war was at hand.
To send or to cut the war-arrow is, therefore, to send a war message.]

At the beginning of the winter he again summoned the peasants to meet
him at the _Frostathing_, and they again responded by an armed
concourse, much greater than the preceding one. When the assembly was
called to order, the king rose and eloquently expounded the new faith,
repeating his demand that the Trönders should accept baptism and cease
to sacrifice. But he had not spoken long when the peasants began to
interrupt him by angry shouts, threatening to attack him and chase him
out of the country, unless he was silent. One of them, a chieftain named
Skegge Aasbjörnsson or Ironbeard (Jernskjegge) was especially active in
denouncing the king and exciting the people against him. Olaf came to
the conclusion that nothing was to be accomplished here by persuasion,
and he resolved reluctantly to postpone his propaganda until a more
propitious time. He then began to talk in a more conciliatory spirit;
promised the peasants to be present at their sacrificial feast at
Yule-tide, and discuss further with them the change of faith. This
promise was received with great satisfaction, and the assembly
peacefully dispersed.

Shortly before the time appointed for the sacrifice, Olaf invited the
chieftains and the most powerful peasants from all the neighboring
shires, to meet him at a feast at Hlade. He placed thirty well-manned
ships out in the fjord, where he could summon them in case of need. The
guests were royally entertained, and as the night advanced became very
drunk. In the morning the king ordered his priests to celebrate the
mass, and a crowd of armed men arrived from the ships to attend the
religious service. The guests, who were scarcely in a condition to
profit by the worship, observed with growing uneasiness the size of the
congregation. When the service was at an end, the king rose and
addressed them as follows:

"When we held _thing_ the last time, at Frosten, I demanded of the
peasants that they should accept baptism; and they, on the other hand,
demanded of me that I should sacrifice with them, as Haakon, Ethelstan's
foster-son, had done. I made no objection to this, but promised to be
present at the sacrificial feast at Möre. However, if I am to sacrifice
with you, then I am minded to make a sacrifice of the biggest kind that
has ever been made. I will not take thralls and criminals; but I will
sacrifice the most high-born men and the mightiest peasants."

He then named six of the most powerful chieftains present, who had been
his most active opponents, and declared that he meant to offer them up
to Odin and Frey for good crops. Before they had time to recover from
their astonishment, they were seized, and presented with the alternative
of being baptized, or sacrificed to their own gods. They did not
meditate long before choosing the former. When the ceremony was
finished, they begged to be allowed to depart, but the king declared
that he would detain them, until they had sent him their sons or
brothers as hostages.

At the Yule-tide sacrifice at Möre, the king arrived with a large number
of followers. The peasants, too, came in full force, armed to the teeth,
and defiant as ever. Conspicuous among them was the burly form of
Ironbeard, who was everywhere active and seemed the head and front of
the opposition. The king endeavored to speak, but the noise was so great
that nobody could hear him. After a while, however, the tumult subsided,
and he repeated his former demand, that all present should accept
baptism, and believe in Christ the White; to which Ironbeard haughtily
responded, that the peasants were here to prevent the king from breaking
the law, that sacrificing to the gods was in accordance with the law,
and that Olaf, whether he would or not, would have to sacrifice, as his
predecessors had done. The king listened patiently to this speech; and
declared himself ready to keep his promise. Accompanied by many men he
entered the temple, leaving his arms without; for no one was allowed to
enter the sanctuary, bearing arms. The king carried, however, in his
hand a stout stick with a gold head. He inspected the images of the gods
carefully; lingering especially before that of Thor, which was adorned
with rings of gold and silver. Suddenly, while all were looking at him,
he raised his stick and gave the god a blow, so that he fell from his
pedestal and broke into many pieces. At the very same instant his men
struck down the other idols; and Ironbeard who was outside was slain. It
was all evidently pre-arranged; and the peasants, who stood aghast at
the magnitude of the sacrilege, scarcely knew whither to turn or how to
resent it. They looked to Ironbeard to give voice to their outraged
feeling, but Ironbeard was dead; and there was no one among the rest who
had any desire to speak. When the king, therefore, for the third time,
repeated his demand that they be baptized, or fight with him on the
spot, they chose the former alternative. After having given hostages for
their perseverance in the faith, and their abandonment of heathen
practices, they made haste to return to their homes. For the slaying of
Ironbeard, Olaf offered to pay a large "atonement" to his relatives, and
to marry his daughter Gudrun. On the wedding-night, however, Gudrun
attempted to murder him, and was returned to her kinsmen. He can
scarcely have regretted her much, as he immediately prepared for a new
matrimonial venture.

This time his attention was directed to Sigrid the Haughty, the widow of
King Erik the Victorious of Sweden. Sigrid was rich and wielded a large
influence, being the mother of King Olaf the Swede, and the possessor of
great landed estates in Gautland. She was, therefore, much afflicted
with wooers, who came from many countries to share her heart and her
possessions. One descendant of Harold the Fairhaired, Harold Grönske
(the Greenlander), she had burned up, in order to punish his presumption
in offering himself to her.

"I'll teach little kings the risks of proposing to me," she said, as she
ordered the hall where her wooers slept to be fired.

Olaf Tryggvesson's overtures, which were conducted by negotiations, she
received favorably, and agreed to meet him at Konghelle, near the
boundary line between Norway and Sweden. Olaf sent in advance, as a
present, a large gold ring which he had taken from the door of the
temple at Hlade. It was admired, but on being tested was found to be
filled with copper. This incensed Sigrid, but she still concluded to
keep her appointment with Olaf. They accordingly met and discussed the
terms of the marriage. Olaf demanded, as an indispensable condition,
that Sigrid should be baptized, to which Sigrid strenuously objected.
Then the king sprang up in great wrath and struck her with his glove in
the face, crying: "What do I want with thee, thou old heathen jade?" She
arose, speechless with anger, but when she had reached the door she
turned back, saying: "That shall be thy death."


A short time after this meeting, Sigrid married Sweyn Forkbeard, of
Denmark, possibly with a view to accomplishing her vengeance upon Olaf.
Sweyn's sister Thyra, whom he had married against her will to the Wendic
King Burislav, fled immediately after the wedding and arrived in Norway,
imploring Olaf's protection. It is possible that he had met her before,
and was well disposed toward her. At all events, he solved the problem
by marrying her (998), although she was fully as old as Sigrid the
Haughty, and had had two husbands before.

After this brief interval, devoted to personal affairs, Olaf returned
once more to the task to which he had consecrated his life. The
chieftains of Haalogaland, who had prevented him from landing when he
came to convert them, still remained unsubdued; and the time was now
convenient for teaching them a lesson in submission. There were
especially three, viz.: Thore Hjort, Eyvind Kinriva, and Haarek of
Thjotta, the son of Eyvind Scald-Spoiler, who were the chieftains and
leaders of the tribal aristocracy of those regions. It was natural
enough that these men, who derived much of their dignity from their
priesthoods and consequent identification with the old religion, should
be most tenacious in their adherence to the faith which was the
foundation of their power. Haarek, who descended from a daughter of
Harold the Fairhaired, felt himself to be quite as great a man as King
Olaf, and he was in no wise disposed to submit without a trial of
strength. It so happened that two men from Haalogaland, named Sigurd and
Hauk, had been captured by the king and escaped. These, pretending to
be the king's enemies, sought refuge with Haarek, and were well received
by him. One day they proposed a sailing tour, to which their host
willingly assented. They took provisions and beer with them in the boat,
set sail, and steered for Nidaros, where they delivered Haarek into the
power of the king. He stubbornly refused to be baptized, but was,
nevertheless, after a brief detention, given a ship and permitted to
return unmolested to his home. From that day, however, Haarek, though
making no pretence of friendship, acted as the ally of the king. He even
helped to betray his friend, Eyvind Kinriva, into Olaf's hands. The king
presented Eyvind with the usual alternative of baptism or death, but
with the unusual result that the latter was preferred. Thore Hjort was
now alone left; he allied himself with Raud the Strong, who had the
reputation of being a wizard, and delivered a regular battle in which he
was defeated by the king. Raud escaped on his fleet dragon-ship, while
Thore was pursued by Olaf, who set a dog named Vige on his track,


"Vige, catch thou the stag."[A]

[Footnote A: Hjort means a stag.]

The dog did actually overtake Thore, and the king cut him down with his
own hands. Olaf strove in vain to get on the track of Raud, but the
weather was so terrible that he did not venture to go to sea. He began
to suspect, after a while, that it was Raud himself who, by his
witchcraft, had aroused the elements; and after having waited for
several days and nights for a change in the weather, he called Bishop
Sigurd to him and asked his advice. The bishop, it is told, raised up a
crucifix, surrounded by lighted tapers, in the prow of the king's ship,
"The Crane," and stood himself beside it, clad in sacerdotal vestments,
praying and scattering holy water. Instantly the storm ceased about "The
Crane," though it still roared wildly under the heavens, and the smoke
of the lashed waves stood like a wall on either side. The men now seized
the oars and rowed in toward the island where Raud was living, "The
Crane" keeping the lead and the other ships following in the smooth
water in her wake. Raud was surprised while asleep, and as he still
refused to become a Christian, was tortured until he died. The king
forced an adder down his throat, according to the legend; and it cut its
way through his side, killing him by its poison.

There is much in this story which is obviously legendary. But there is
one circumstance which stamps the adventure itself as essentially true,
viz.: the detailed description of Raud's ship, "The Serpent," which the
king took, and which figures later in the battle of Svolder. One may be
reluctant to believe that a man so chivalrous and noble as Olaf
Tryggvesson on other occasions proved himself to be, can have been
guilty of the cruelty which is here attributed to him. This instance is,
however, not a solitary one. Eyvind Kinriva, when he refused to be
baptized, had glowing coals put upon his stomach, at the king's command,
and expired under horrible tortures. Olaf's fanaticism led him to
believe that praise rather than censure was due to him for thus
punishing the enemies of God. It is, indeed, probable that a man of
gentler calibre, and more squeamish in the selection of his means, would
never have accomplished even the nominal Christianization of Norway. In
fact, so great was Olaf's zeal, and so single his purpose, that he
subordinated all other concerns to this one great object, the thought of
which filled him with a noble enthusiasm.

Even before he had secured the allegiance of the surviving chief of
Haalogaland, Haarek of Thjotta, who, with all his household, accepted
the Christian faith, he sent messengers to the Faeroe Isles, Iceland,
and Greenland, and commanded the chieftains there to renounce their old
religion. Sigmund Bresteson, the Earl of the Faeroe Isles, whom he
summoned to him, arrived in Norway (999) and was baptized. Thangbrand,
who was sent to Iceland to preach the gospel, had at first a
considerable success, baptizing such important chiefs as Hall of the
Side, and Gissur the White, and the great lawyer Njaal of Bergthor's
knoll. The pugnacious priest, however, soon got into difficulties by his
readiness to draw his sword, killed several men, was outlawed, and
compelled to leave the island. In Norway, where Olaf had given him the
church at Moster, he had, previous to his departure for Iceland, found
it inconvenient to live on his income, and in order to increase his
revenue, had been in the habit of making forays into the neighboring
shires, replenishing his stores at the expense of the heathen. This
freebooting propensity incensed the king, and Thangbrand's missionary
expedition to Iceland was undertaken as a penance for his misbehavior.
It had, however, far greater results than either Olaf or the priest
could have anticipated. The public sentiment in Iceland, after
Thangbrand's flight, changed with astonishing rapidity in favor of the
new faith, which was legally accepted at the _Althing_ June, A.D. 1000.


Olaf's great achievement, as the first successful propagandist of
Christianity on the throne of Norway, surrounded his name with a halo
which dazzled his biographers and disposed them to exalt him beyond his
deserts. For all that, it is a fact that his contemporaries, many of
whom had small reason to love him, were no less dazzled by his brilliant
personality than his biographers. In the first place, his manly beauty
and his resemblance to Haakon the Good, which was frequently commented
upon, predisposed the people in his favor. Secondly, his natural
kindliness and winning manners attracted every one who came in contact
with him. Last, but not least, his extraordinary skill in athletic
sports and the use of arms was greatly admired. He could, as Snorre
relates, use his right and his left hand equally well in shooting; he
could play with three spears at once, so that one was always in the air;
he could run forward and backward on the oars of a ship while the men
were rowing. In daily intercourse he was affable and generous, fond of a
joke, and easily moved to laughter and to wrath. In anger he could do
things which he later regretted; and we have seen how, when fired with
holy zeal, he committed acts which he ought to have regretted, though
there is no evidence that he did. His love of splendor in attire and
surroundings may be accounted a weakness, but it served, nevertheless,
to endear him to his people.

Although surrounded by enemies on all sides, Norway suffered but little
from foreign wars during the brief reign of Olaf Tryggvesson. Gudröd,
the last surviving son of Erik Blood-Axe, made an attack upon Viken in
the summer of 999, but was defeated and slain in the king's absence by
his brothers-in-law, Thorgeir and Hyrning. Much more dangerous to King
Olaf proved the hostility of Sigrid the Haughty, who was watching for an
opportunity to take revenge upon him. Although he must have been well
aware of the risks, he did not hesitate to furnish this opportunity. His
queen, Thyra, had great estates in Wendland and Denmark, and was
dissatisfied, because she was deprived of the revenues which they had
formerly brought her. Whenever he spoke to her, she always contrived to
bring in something about these estates, and by appeals to his vanity egg
him on to war with her brother Sweyn Forkbeard, who withheld from her
her rightful property. When these tactics failed, she resorted to
prayers and tears, until her husband's patience was wellnigh exhausted.
If only for the sake of domestic peace, an expedition to Wendland began
to be discussed as an approaching possibility. One Sunday in March--it
was Palm Sunday--the king met a man in the street who sold spring
vegetables. He bought a bunch and brought it to the queen, remarking
that these vegetables were large, considering the earliness of the
season. The queen, who was, as usual, weeping for her estates in
Wendland, thrust the vegetables contemptuously away, and with the tears
streaming down her face, cried: "Greater gifts did my father, Harold
Gormsson, give me when, as a child, I got my first teeth; he came hither
to Norway and conquered it; while thou, for fear of my brother Sweyn,
darest not journey through Denmark in order to get me what belongs to
me, and of which I have been shamefully robbed."

To this King Olaf wrathfully replied: "Never shall I be afraid of thy
brother Sweyn, and if we meet, he shall succumb."

Summons was now sent through all the shires of the land, calling upon
the chieftains to join the king with as many ships as were by law
required of them. He had himself just finished a ship of extraordinary
size and beauty, called "The Long-Serpent," the fame of which spread
through all the lands of the North. It was 56 Norwegian ells, or about
112 feet from prow to stern, had 52 oars on either side, and could
accommodate 600 warriors. The crew was made up of picked men, none of
whom must be over 60 and less than 20 years of age. Only one exception
was permitted to this rule in the case of Einar Eindridsson surnamed
Thambarskelver, who was but 18 years old, but the most skilful archer in
all Norway. With his bow, called Thamb, from which he derived his
surname, he could shoot a blunt arrow through a raw ox-hide, depending
from a pole.

In order to distinguish "The Long-Serpent" from the dragon-ship he had
taken from Raud the Strong, Olaf called the latter "The Short-Serpent."
He had many other excellent ships besides, and his brothers-in-law,
Erling Skjalgsson of Sole, Thorgeir, and Hyrning, joined him, each with
a large and finely-equipped galley.

When he steered southward to Wendland, he had about 60 ships of war
besides a similar number of smaller transports. King Burislav, in spite
of his union with Thyra, received him well, possibly on account of the
earlier relationship through Geira, or on account of their common
hostility to Sweyn Forkbeard in Denmark. The question of the estates was
amicably settled and Olaf, after having been splendidly entertained,
prepared to start homeward. The rumor, in the meanwhile, had gone abroad
that he was in Wendland, and his enemies, in order to gather a
sufficiently large force to destroy him, employed Earl Sigvalde, the
chief of the Jomsvikings, to detain him and lull him into a false
security. In this the treacherous earl succeeded. He gained Olaf's
confidence, scouted the thought that Sweyn Forkbeard should ever dare
attack him; and finally offered to escort him on the way with his own
fleet and pilot him through the dangerous waters along the Wendic coast.
It was of no avail that Sigvalde's wife, Aastrid, the night before
Olaf's departure, warned him against her husband as openly as she dared,
and proposed to send a ship along in case of danger. A strange
infatuation bound him to his false friend. At Sigvalde's advice he even
permitted part of his fleet to start in advance, as the straits between
the islands were narrow. The traitor, in the meanwhile, was in constant
communication with King Sweyn, at whose request he agreed to separate
Olaf from his main force and lead him into the trap which his foes had
prepared for him. Besides King Sweyn there were Earl Erik, who had the
death of his father, Earl Haakon, to avenge, and King Olaf the Swede,
the son of Sigrid the Haughty. All these were lying in wait with about
sixty or seventy war galleys, behind the little island of Svolder,
between the island Rügen and the present Prussian province, Pomerania.
From their hiding-place they looked for several days in vain for the
Norse ships, and began to grow impatient. They had gone ashore with
their crews in order to while away the time, and the three commanders
were standing together, sweeping the horizon with their glances, when,
to their delight, the Norse transport fleet hove in sight, spreading its
sails before the favoring breeze.

The day was fair. The sun shone brightly, and the surface of the water
barely curled into slight undulations. Gayly the proud ships stood out
to the sea, one larger and finer than the other. When King Sweyn saw the
beautiful ship of Erling Skjalgsson of Sole, he was sure that it must be
"The Long Serpent," though it had no dragon-head in its prow. "Afraid is
Olaf Tryggvesson to-day," he said, "since he dares not carry a head on
his dragon." "This ship I know well by its striped sails," said Earl
Erik; "it does not belong to the king, but to Erling Skjalgsson. Let it
pass; for if, as I suppose, he is himself on board, we shall be best
served, if he and his band are not found among those with whom we are to
fight to-day."

By twos and threes the great ships of the Norse chieftains passed by,
and every time the Swedish and the Danish king were sure that one of
them must be "The Long Serpent." Presently Sigvalde's fleet of eleven
ships became visible, and having received signals from the allied
princes, turned its course suddenly around the island, to the great
astonishment of Thorkill Dyrdill, who was steering the king's ship, "The
Crane," right in its wake. King Sweyn, at the sight of this splendid
galley, could no more be restrained, but ordered his men aboard, in
spite of Earl Erik's warning. He even insinuated that the latter was a
coward who had no ambition to avenge his father; to which the earl
replied, that before the setting of the sun it would be seen who was the
more eager for battle, the Swedes and Danes, or he and his men.

Thorkill Dyrdill dropped the sails of "The Crane," and, taking in the
situation at a glance, determined to await the arrival of King Olaf.
Then came "The Short Serpent," casting golden gleams across the water
from its shining dragon-head; and King Sweyn cried exultingly: "Loftily
shall the Serpent bear me to-night, and I shall steer her."

Earl Erik, in whom King Sweyn's recent taunt was rankling, replied:
"Even if Olaf Tryggvesson had no larger ship than this, Sweyn, with all
his army of Danes, could not win it from him."

When at last "The Long Serpent" reared its flaming prow against the
horizon, shooting long beams in the sun, the three princes marvelled at
its beauty. Many a one trembled, too, with fear, when he saw the
majestic ship approaching, and the dense rows of polished shields and
swords flashing from afar.

"This glorious ship," said Earl Erik, "is fitting for such a king as
Olaf Tryggvesson; for it may, in sooth, be said of him, that he is
distinguished above all other kings as 'The Long Serpent' above all
other ships."

All King Olaf's fleet, with the exception of eleven ships, were now out
of sight, and many of his chieftains advised him not to fight against
such heavy odds. He would not listen to their counsel, but ordered the
ships to be bound together and every thing to be prepared for battle.

"Down with the sails," he cried with a loud voice, which could be
clearly heard across the waters; "never have I yet fled from any battle.
God rules over my life. Never will I flee; for he is no king who shuns
his foes because of fear."

The whole hostile fleet now rowed forward from behind the island, and it
seemed as if the sea was covered with ships as far as the eye could
reach. King Sweyn, with his sixty galleys, became first visible.

"What chieftain is that right opposite to us?" asked King Olaf.

"That is King Sweyn with the Danish army," answered one of his men.

"I have no fear of them," said the king. "Never yet have Danes beaten
Norsemen, and they will not beat us to-day. But to what chieftain belong
the standards there on the right?"

He was told that they belonged to Olaf, the king of the Swedes.

"The Swedes," said he, "would find it more agreeable to sit at home and
lick their sacrificial bowls,[A] than to meet our arms to-day on 'The
Long Serpent.' Scarcely do I think that we need be afraid of those
horse-eaters. But whose are those large ships on the left side of the

[Footnote A: This is meant as a taunt at the Swedes, who were yet

"That," answered his informant, "is Earl Erik, Earl Haakon's son."


"From them we may expect a hard battle; for, methinks, Earl Erik has
considerable reason for attacking us; and he and his men are Norsemen
like ourselves,"

While the king was speaking, Queen Thyra, who had accompanied him, came
up on deck. Seeing the enormous hostile fleet before her, and the
smallness of her husband's force, she burst into tears.

"Now thou must not weep," said King Olaf; "for now thou hast, indeed,
gotten what was due to thee in Wendland; and to-day I mean to demand of
thy brother Sweyn thy tooth-gift which thou hast so often asked me for."

King Sweyn was the first to attack, but after a short and stubborn fight
was compelled to retreat. One of his galleys was disabled after the
other, and there was a great carnage. King Olaf himself stood on the
poop royal [A] of "The Long Serpent," where all could see him, directing
the defence, and himself fighting with spears and arrows. His helmet and
his shield, which were gilt, shone in the sun. Over his armor he wore a
short tunic of scarlet silk. While the Danes were in full retreat, the
Swedes hastened to their rescue, and they now bore for a while the brunt
of the battle. For every Swede or Dane that fell there were ten ready to
take his place; while the Norsemen, surrounded on all sides by hostile
ships, had to endure an incessant shower of spears and arrows, and the
shock of repeated onsets that had to be repelled by the sword in
hand-to-hand conflicts. However tired and thirsty they were, they could
give themselves no respite. Every man that fell or was disabled by
wounds left a gap that could not be filled. And yet, in spite of the
great numerical superiority of their foes, they would have carried the
day at Svolder, if Earl Erik had not commenced a destructive attack upon
the right wing, while the Swedes and the Danes were engaging the centre.
In fact, the latter were again retreating in disorder before the furious
bravery of King Olaf's men, when Earl Erik rowed up alongside the
outermost ship on the right, with his great galley, "The Iron Ram," and
made a vigorous onslaught. Here Norseman met Norseman, and the numbers
had to decide. The men on the king's ship fought desperately, but were
overpowered, and leaped into the sea, or saved themselves on board the
next ship. The first was then cut adrift, and Erik, in accordance with a
well-matured plan, engaged the next and the next. At last all of King
Olaf's ships except "The Long Serpent" were cut adrift, and their
defenders slain. Then a space was cleared in front of "The Iron Ram,"
and she was rowed forward with tremendous force, striking "The Long
Serpent" amidships. The good ship creaked in all her beams; but as there
was scarcely any wind no great damage was done. Einar Thambarskelver,
who stood before the mast on "The Long Serpent," saw Earl Erik standing
near the prow of "The Iron Ram," covered by many shields. He bent his
bow and sent an arrow whizzing over his head, and in the next instant
another, which flew between the earl's arm and his body. The earl,
turning to the archer, Finn Eyvindsson, said: "Shoot that tall man on
the forward deck."

[Footnote A: _Löftingen_ is the elevated deck in the stern of an old
war-galley, and corresponds very nearly to the poop royal of French and
Spanish men-of-war of the thirteenth century.]

Finn aimed an arrow at Einar just as he was bending his bow for a third
shot at the earl; the arrow hit the bow in the middle, and it broke with
a loud crash.

"What was it that broke?" asked Olaf.

"Norway from thy hands, my king," cried Einar.

"So great was not the breach, I hope," the king made answer; "take my
bow and shoot with that."

He flung his own bow to the archer, who seized it, bent it double, and
flung it back. "Too weak is the king's bow," he said.

Earl Erik was now preparing for the final attack, and he could not doubt
its result.

King Olaf's men were in a desperate strait, from which no escape was
possible. The king flung forth his spears, two at a time, from his
station on the poop, and many men were transfixed by his keen shafts. He
watched at the same time the combat on the forward deck, whither the
earl was just directing his attack, and it seemed to him that his men
made no headway.

"Do you wield your swords with so little strength," he cried, "since
they bite so poorly?"

"No," answered a warrior; "but our swords are dull and broken."

The king then hastened to the forward deck, where there was a large
chest of arms. He opened it and took out armfuls of bright, sharp
swords, which he flung to his men. As he stooped down, the blood
trickled down over his hands from under his armor. His men then knew
that he was wounded, but it was no time then for nursing any one's
wounds. The earl's men were storming forward, and the tired Norsemen
fell in heaps, and could no longer keep them back. The arrows rained
thick and fast about the king, and it was obvious he could not hold out
much longer. He was visible to all; for he made no attempt to hide or
shelter himself. One of his trusted men, Kolbjörn Stallare, who saw his
danger, sprang upon the poop and placed himself at his side. His
resemblance to the king had often been remarked upon; moreover, he was
of the same height, and was similarly dressed. The storm of missiles was
now directed against both, and, as they raised their shields, they were
thickly fringed with arrows. The clash of arms, the groans of the dying,
and the whizzing of flying missiles, filled the air. The king let his
shield drop and looked out over the ship. There were but eight men
alive, besides himself and Kolbjörn. He raised the shield above his head
and leaped overboard. Kolbjörn followed his example, but was picked up
by the earl's men, who mistook him for the king. That the latter was
drowned, there can be no reasonable doubt, although there is a legend,
which was fondly cherished, that he swam to the galley which Aastrid,
Earl Sigvalde's wife, had sent out for his rescue. According to this
story, he made a pilgrimage to Rome, and lived long as a hermit in the
Holy Land.

King Olaf Tryggvesson was thirty-six years old when he died (1000).
Queen Thyra, who, with good reason, held herself responsible for his
death, was inconsolable. When she came up on deck, after the battle, and
saw the destruction she had wrought she broke into lamentation. Earl
Erik was moved by her sorrow and spoke kindly to her, assuring her that
if she would return to Norway she would be accorded the honor which was
due to her as the widow of so great a king. She thanked him for his
offer, but said that she had no heart to survive her lord. On the ninth
day after the battle she died.





After King Olaf's death at Svolder, the allied princes divided his
kingdom between them. To Earl Erik were given all the shires along the
western coast from Finmark to Lindesness,[A] with the exception of
seven, which were allotted to King Olaf the Swede. All the shires from
Lindesness, including Agder, to the Swedish boundary, with the exception
of Ranrike, came into the possession of Sweyn Forkbeard. Ranrike (which
is now a part of Sweden) was given to the Swedish king, who again gave
it, as well as his other possessions in Norway, in fief to his
brother-in-law, Earl Sweyn, the brother of Earl Erik, on condition of
his paying one half of the royal revenues to his feudal overlord, and
placing a specified number of troops at his disposal in case of war. On
similar conditions Earl Erik received the eastern shires, Raumarike and
Vingulmark, in fief from Sweyn Forkbeard.

[Footnote A: Lindesness is the southernmost point in Norway.]

Though a man of ability and many noble qualities, Earl Erik never
succeeded in asserting his sway over Norway as his father, Earl Haakon,
had done; and Earl Sweyn could boast even less authority than his
brother. In the Oplands semi-independent kings of the race of Harold the
Fairhaired were still living; and in Rogaland Olaf Tryggvesson's
brother-in-law, Erling Skjalgsson of Sole, refused to recognize the
supremacy of either the earls or the kings whom they represented. He
surrounded himself with a court which, in magnificence, equalled that of
the earls, if it did not surpass it. Ninety warriors constituted his
daily household, and when occasion demanded he kept 240 or more. Of
thralls he kept thirty for his daily attendance, besides a large number
who cultivated his lands. He was a good master, stimulating them to
thrift and economy. He demanded of each a certain fixed amount of labor,
and gave him a piece of land for cultivation. When the required task was
over the thrall's time was his own, and he was at liberty to apply it
for his own advantage. The products of his land he sold to his master at
the market rates, and was thus enabled to buy his freedom within one,
two, or three years. Over his freedmen Erling continued to exercise a
supervising care, employing them at wages or on shares in the fisheries,
in the reclaiming of land from the forests, or in other branches of

Clinging, as he did, tenaciously to the authority which Olaf Tryggvesson
had conferred upon him, Erling could not avoid coming into collision
with the authority of the earls. He exacted a land-tax from the peasants
of Rogaland, and, as Earl Erik did the same, the poor landowners had to
pay a double tax, unless they were prepared to offer resistance.


But both the earl and Erling were too powerful to make such a course
advisable. It is, indeed, strange that Erik, with his great connections
abroad, should have tolerated the defiance of this small potentate
without in some way trying to break his power. It is true, Erling had a
large number of mighty kinsmen and supporters in many of the
coast-shires; and he would have been able to make a strong resistance.
But it is scarcely credible that he could have maintained himself
against Earl Erik, if the latter had seriously resolved to punish him.
In fact, Earl Erik, although his early life had been passed in the
tumult of war, was essentially a conciliatory character. A mighty
warrior he was when duty or diplomatic necessity forced him to fight;
but he hesitated to draw his sword, except on extreme provocation. It
was his misfortune, by his birth and the circumstances which brought him
into power, to represent an age and a régime which were destined to pass
away. It was the so-called "heroic" age--that is, the age of turbulent
individualism, opposed to the modern conception of the state. It is
obvious that Erik had no sympathy with the feudalism instituted by the
conquests of Harold the Fairhaired; probably he did not comprehend the
progressive idea which dignified King Harold's ambition and made him the
conscious or unconscious agent of advancing civilization. It is proof
enough of this to state, that Erik allowed the dependencies of Norway,
the Orkneys, and the Shetland Isles to detach themselves from the
motherland, and made no attempt to force them back to their allegiance.
There was no inspiring tradition in his family, as in that of Harold
the Fairhaired, demanding a great and united kingdom; but, on the
contrary, a local separatistic tradition, identifying him with the
greatness and fame of a special locality. To have carried out this
tradition completely, the Earls Erik and Sweyn ought to have remained
pagans as their father was before them. They seem, indeed, to have been
conscious of a certain inconsistency in accepting Christianity, for they
made not the faintest attempt to assert their faith in their relation to
the people, or to check the relapse into paganism, which became very
prevalent during their reign.

Quite in keeping with the general reactionary character of the earls'
government, was the revival of the viking cruises which, during the
reign of Olaf Tryggvesson, had been diminishing in frequency. Earl Erik
himself had been a valiant viking in his youth, and probably could see
no harm in the careless and predatory life in which the old Germanic
paganism found its most characteristic expression. A great impetus must
have been given to this mode of life by Sweyn Forkbeard's repeated
expeditions to England, in which a large number of Norsemen
participated. It makes little difference if the aggressors were
nominally Christians; their actions were an outburst of the old, tribal
pagan spirit, which respected no right but that of might.

It was natural that the earls, if they expected to make their dominion
permanent, should endeavor to extend their connections beyond Tröndelag.
The strength of a government in those days depended largely upon the
support which it received among the chieftains or tribal aristocracy,
whose sentiments were usually reflected by the peasants. It was
therefore necessary in some way to conciliate the late adherents of Olaf
Tryggvesson, whose influence upon public opinion could be utilized to
advantage. It may have been some such consideration which restrained
Earl Erik from attacking Erling Skjalgsson. It is obvious that the
overtures which he made to Einar Thambarskelver had the same end in
view. We have seen how the young archer came within an inch of ending
the earl's days at Svolder, thereby exciting the admiration of Erik for
his skill and bravery. After the battle, the earl, with his usual
generosity, spared his life, and sought in many ways to secure his
friendship. He married him to his sister, the high-minded Bergljot, and
gave him large fiefs, so that no chieftain in Tröndelag could rival him
in power.

Toward his brother, Sweyn, Earl Erik behaved with the same magnanimity
that he showed toward all who had claims on him. Sweyn was dissatisfied
because of the disparity in their positions; he ruling over one third of
the country as the vassal of the Swedish king, while Erik held two
thirds as an independent sovereign. These complaints were repeated with
growing importunity, until Erik resolved to abandon the government. He
called together the chieftains and the mightiest peasants of the
country, and abdicated (1015) in favor of his son Haakon and his brother
Sweyn, between whom he divided his share of the land in equal portions.
As Haakon was not yet of full age, Einar Thambarskelver was appointed
his guardian. In the autumn of the year 1015, Earl Erik set sail for
England, and assisted Knut the Mighty in the subjugation of that
country. He was joined later by his son Haakon, who was expelled from
Norway by Olaf Haroldsson, and was compelled to swear that he would
never renew his claims to the kingdom. Earl Erik died in England, from
the effect of a surgical operation, in 1023 or 1024. Before their
expulsion, the Earls Sweyn and Haakon made peace with Erling Skjalgsson,
confirming him in the possession of the fiefs which he had received from
Olaf Tryggvesson, embracing all the coast-shires from the Sogne-fiord to
Lindesness. To cement their friendship, Earl Sweyn gave his daughter,
Sigrid,[A] in marriage to Erling's son, Aslak.

[Footnote A: Her name is differently given as Sigrid and Gunhild.]

It was during the reign of the earls that the North American continent
was first visited by the Norsemen. An Icelander named Bjarne
Herjulfsson, during a voyage to Greenland (986), was blown out of his
course, and discovered, while sailing northward, an unknown land on his
left. He concluded that it could not be Greenland, as there were no
glaciers, but only low, wooded heights sloping gently toward the ocean.
On his arrival in Greenland, Bjarne told of the new country he had seen,
but was much ridiculed because he had not gone ashore and explored it.
His story made a great impression, however, upon the adventurous Leif,
son of Erik the Red. He bought Bjarne's ship, and, with a crew of
thirty-five men, set sail for the unknown shore in the West (1000). The
first land he saw was on his right as he sailed southward. It was full
of glaciers and had no grass. He called it Helluland, because it seemed,
at the foot of the glaciers, to be one flat expanse.[A] This must have
been the present Labrador. Continuing his southward course, Leif came to
a country which was well wooded, and had long, smooth beaches. He called
it Markland (Woodland), and the supposition is that it was Nova Scotia.
With a stiff northeaster, he made considerable headway, and came, after
another day's voyage, to an island where a river flowed into the sea. As
it was ebb-tide he could not land, but so eager were the men to explore
the country, that they jumped overboard and waded ashore. The statement
that the sun rose in this region, on the shortest day of the year, at
half-past seven and set at half-past four, indicates a latitude of 41°
24' 10"; Leif, accordingly, must have landed somewhere in the
neighborhood of Cape Cod or Fall River, Mass. He found the country
possessed of many advantages. It was so mild in the winter that cattle
would require no stable-feeding. The rivers abounded in salmon and the
woods in game. A German, named Tyrker, became so enthusiastic over the
discovery of grapes, that he relapsed into his native tongue, and was
supposed, by the crew to be intoxicated. Leif and his men put up some
booths and spent the winter in the new land, which they called Vinland,
but set sail the following spring for Greenland.

[Footnote A: _Helle_, in Norwegian, means a great flat stone.]

It is evident from the description here given that there is either some
mistake in regard to the latitude, or the climate of New England must
have grown severer during the last nine centuries. Cattle could scarcely
be left in the open air in the Cape Cod region nowadays. Nor do grapes
of any choice variety grow wild in the chill blasts which now gambol
about the Massachusetts coast; and the tart fox grape, it seems, could
scarcely rouse enthusiasm even in the breast of a German.

A second expedition to Vinland was undertaken in 1006 by the Icelander
Thorfinn Karlsevne and his wife Gudrid. Among their followers, who
numbered 160, were Erik the Red's son Thorwald and his daughter Freydis.
This was the first expedition which was undertaken with a view to
colonizing the country. Cattle were therefore taken along, and
preparations made for a permanent settlement. Thorfinn found without
difficulty the booths abandoned by Leif, and himself added to their
number. A strange people, whom the Norsemen called _Skraellings_, came
to them in light boats made of skin and offered furs in exchange for
cloth, ornaments, and weapons. Karlsevne, however, refused to sell them
weapons; and when, during the negotiations, a bull came out of the woods
and began to roar, the Skraellings became frightened and hastened away.
From that time forth they became hostile to the settlers and attacked
them repeatedly, killing several of their number. This perpetual state
of insecurity disheartened the survivors, and after a sojourn of three
years in Vinland, they returned to Greenland.



OLAF THE SAINT (1016-1030).

We have seen that Christianity did not advance in Norway during the mild
and lax government of the earls. Olaf Tryggvesson, with all his zeal and
vigor, could not in the short space of five years eradicate paganism
from the Norsemen's hearts; and after his death a great number of those
whom he had compelled to profess the Christian name relapsed into their
former practices. It was not until King Olaf Haroldsson by his life, and
still more by his death, took the imagination of the Norsemen captive,
that Christianity became securely established in the land.

Olaf was the son of Harold Grönske and a grandson of Björn the Merchant,
who was slain by his brother, Erik Blood-axe. It was accordingly a new
branch of the race of Harold the Fairhaired who with him ascended the
throne. His father, as we have seen, was burned to death by Sigrid the
Haughty, whom he had the presumption to woo, regardless of the fact that
he had a wife named Aasta, who was then expecting her confinement. Olaf
was born in the house of his maternal grandfather and passed his
childhood with Sigurd Syr, king in Ringerike, whom his mother married.
Sigurd Syr was a grandson of Sigurd the Giant, a son of Harold the
Fairhaired and Snefrid, and had accordingly as much right to the throne
as Olaf Tryggvesson, who was then reigning. He was, however, a quiet and
unpretentious man, who was contented to raise his crops and superintend
his large estates, without troubling himself with ambitious projects.
During the infancy of his step-son, Sigurd Syr entertained Olaf
Tryggvesson at his house and was induced by him to accept Christianity.
It is said that King Olaf on this occasion stood sponsor at the baptism
of his namesake and kinsman.

When Olaf Haraldsson was ten years old, his step-father begged him, one
day, to go and saddle his horse for him. Olaf went to the stable and put
the saddle on a large billy-goat, which he led up to the door where
Sigurd stood waiting. When questioned as to the meaning of this joke, he
replied that the billy-goat was good enough for Sigurd, who resembled
other kings about as much as the goat resembled a war-horse.

In his games Olaf was hot-tempered and imperious, proud of his birth,
and determined to assert himself above every one. At the age of twelve
he went on viking cruises and distinguished himself greatly by his
prowess and daring. He ravaged the coasts of Sweden in order to avenge
his father's death, and during a cruise to England helped the sons of
Ethelred against the Danes (1008). This wild, roaming life, with its
constant vicissitudes, matured his character, giving him a wide
experience of men and developing his inborn faculty for leadership. The
departure of Earl Erik from Norway in 1015 gave him the desired
opportunity to assert his claim to the throne, and he lost no time in
embarking for the land of his birth. He proceeded in this matter,
however, with characteristic caution. Knowing that the sentiment of the
people toward him would have to determine his action, he did not wish to
commit himself without having ascertained beforehand the chances of
success. He therefore left his galleys of war behind him in England and
sailed across the North Sea with two merchant-ships. As he disembarked,
his foot slipped and he fell upon the beach.

"There, I fell," he cried, dreading, probably, the bad omen.

"No," answered one of his men, "thou didst plant thy foot in Norway's

He sailed southward along the coast, no one knowing him or suspecting
his errand. One day, as he was sitting in his tent on the beach,
whittling a spear handle, a peasant entered and looked hard at him.

"Who art thou?" he asked.

"I am a merchant," said Olaf.

"Likely enough," rejoined the peasant, "art thou a merchant; but I know
the eyes of Olaf Tryggvesson, and I believe that thou wilt soon meet
Earl Haakon and win a great victory."

"If it be true, as thou sayest," responded the prince, "thou mayst come
to me and thou shalt profit by my victory."

The shrewdness of Olaf's plan to avoid all warlike display was
demonstrated by the issue. In Saudung Sound he succeeded in capturing
the young Earl Haakon, who, without thought of danger, was sailing along
with a single ship and a small retinue. When Olaf saw him he marvelled
at his beauty. The earl was but seventeen years old, tall, and well
shaped. His hair fell in golden curls upon his shoulders and shone like
silk. About his head he wore a fillet of gold.

"It is true what is said about you and your race," said Olaf, "you are
indeed very beautiful. But now your luck has forsaken you."

"I see no sign that our luck has forsaken us," answered the youth
proudly; "even if such a thing as this may happen. It is ever so, that
sometimes the one is victorious and sometimes the other. I myself am
young and inexperienced, and I was expecting no breach of the peace, and
could therefore make no defence. Another time, perhaps, I shall do

"But art thou not aware," retorted Olaf, "that from this time forth
there can be no question either of victory or defeat in thy case?"

"That all depends upon you," said the earl, fearlessly.

"What wilt thou do, if I let thee depart unscathed?"

"Let me know what you demand."

"Only this, that thou shalt leave the country and renounce thy dominion
over it. And, moreover, thou shalt swear an oath that thou wilt never
wage war against me."

The earl having no choice agreed to these terms, and forthwith sailed to
his uncle, King Knut, in England.

Before taking up the combat with Earl Sweyn, Olaf found it advisable to
sound the popular sentiment and to secure supporters among the powerful
peasants and chieftains. To this end he visited his step-father, Sigurd
Syr, in Ringerike, and asked his counsel. The story of his reception by
his mother, Aasta, which is circumstantially related by Snorre, is full
of vivid details, and throws a strong light upon the customs and manners
of the age. When the rumor of her son's approach reached Aasta, she
arose and prepared to give him a fitting reception. She ordered four
maid-servants to drape the walls with hangings of cloth and likewise to
cover the benches. Tables were put up and an abundance of food and beer
was provided. Messengers were sent in haste to invite guests from far
and near; and each was requested to appear in his best clothes; and to
those who had no good clothes, fitting apparel was given. King Sigurd
was, as usual, in the field superintending his laborers. It was just in
the midst of the harvest, and every hour was precious. He wore a blue
tunic, of coarse cloth, blue breeches, high shoes, a gray cloak, and a
broad-brimmed gray hat. In his hand he carried a staff with a gilt
silver head. When his wife's messengers brought him the tidings of his
step-son's return, he probably did not relish the interruption. Still
less was he pleased with the admonition which they brought him in her
name, that he prove himself, on this occasion, as a true descendant of
Harold the Fairhaired. He made a little speech in the field, in which he
cloaked his ill-humor as well as he might. Then he sat down and
exchanged his every-day garments for the splendid attire which Aasta had
sent him. While the field-hands stood about staring, he pulled on a
silken tunic, breeches to match, and Cordovan boots, with spurs of gold.
A sword of beautiful workmanship was buckled about his loins, a gilt
helmet put upon his head, and a scarlet cloak hung over his shoulders.
Thus arrayed and with a train of thirty attendants he sallied forth to
meet his step-son. As he rode down over the fields, he saw Olaf and his
train of 120 warriors approaching from the other side. They marched up
into the court-yard with waving banner, and there Sigurd greeted the
returned viking and welcomed him home. His mother kissed him, invited
him to stay with her as long as he wished, and placed all that was
hers--land, people, and money--at his disposal.

In the family council that was held, after the feast of welcome was
over, Sigurd Syr pledged his aid to Olaf, and promised to employ his
influence in his favor. On the other hand, he cautioned him to proceed
with prudence, and dissuaded him from measuring strength with Earl
Sweyn, until he had a sufficient force of adherents. In the end he did
not question his success.

"The multitude," he said, "always love change. Thus it proved to be,
when Olaf Tryggvesson arrived. All became fond of him, although, to be
sure, he did not long enjoy his kingdom."

To this the proud Aasta replied that she would rather have her son die
young, after a brief and glorious career, like Olaf Tryggvesson, than
die old, after a long and deedless one, like Sigurd Syr.

Among the small shire-kings, who lived like rich landholders in
different parts of the Oplands, there were many who were descendants of
Harold the Fairhaired. All these Sigurd Syr summoned to a meeting, made
them acquainted with Olaf's design, and begged them to assist in its
accomplishment. One of them, named Rörek, refused, declaring that the
people and the shire-kings were usually better off the farther away the
overlord was. The kings of Denmark and Sweden, in whose names the earls
had governed, were very good rulers, because they were too far away to
do much mischief. Rörek was, therefore, inclined to let well enough
alone, and he advised the rest to do the same. His brother Ring spoke in
quite a different spirit.

"I would fain once more see our race at the helm in the land," he said;
* * * "if our kinsman, Olaf, becomes overlord over the kingdom, that man
will be best off who has the greatest claim upon his friendship."

The other shire-kings were of the same opinion, and all pledged their
kinsman their support. The people were immediately summoned to a
_thing_, at which Olaf eloquently affirmed his right to the throne and
was proclaimed king. In return he promised, according to ancient usage,
to rule in accordance with the laws, and to protect the land against
external enemies. A great multitude of warriors thronged forward to
enroll themselves under his banner, and his following became so great as
to cause him inconvenience. For food was not abundant, and the levying
of supplies from the country might easily alienate the people. Again, if
he meant to surprise Earl Sweyn, who was at that time sojourning at
Steinker in Tröndelag, it was important to attract as little attention
as possible, and to choose unfrequented routes over mountains and
through wildernesses. Nevertheless, he succeeded in penetrating into
Orkdale [A] with about 360 men, and to induce an army of 900 peasants,
which had been sent against him by Einar Thambarskelver, to swear him
allegiance. Earl Sweyn, hearing of this disaster, fled southward to
Frosten and escaped only by a stratagem from falling into his pursuer's
hands. The Trönders were now summoned to meet Olaf at the _thing_ and
compelled to recognize him as their king (1015). But they did this
reluctantly, being strongly attached to the race of the earls of Hlade.
Many of the most powerful chieftains, among them Einar Thambarskelver,
were absent from the _thing_, preferring to make common cause with the

[Footnote A: Orkdale is a part of Tröndelag.]

In spite of the insecurity of his position, King Olaf determined to
celebrate Christmas in Nidaros, the town founded by Olaf Tryggvesson,
and later known as Drontheim. The earls, caring little for commerce, had
allowed this trading-post to go to ruin; and of its former prosperity
there was scarcely a vestige left. Olaf, emphasizing here as ever his
rôle as the legitimate heir of his great kinsman, began to repair the
dilapidated houses and arranged himself as well as he could with his
retinue. He might, however, have saved himself the trouble; for no
sooner had he moved his goods up from the ships than Earl Sweyn and
Einar Thambarskelver descended upon him in the night with 2,400 men, and
would have made an end of his career, if his sentinels had not warned
him in the nick of time of the impending danger. He made his escape
southward to the Oplands, where he was again well received by his
step-father. His one endeavor now was to raise an army large enough to
crush his rival. Sigurd Syr's popularity and influence stood him in good
stead, and many chieftains who had hitherto held aloof were induced to
join him. Among these was Ketil Calf of Ringeness. The remainder of the
winter was occupied in ship-building and in securing resources for a
decisive campaign. It was at this time that the great galley
"Karlshoved" (Churl's Head) was built, the prow of which was adorned
with a man's head, which the king himself had carved. In the spring, as
soon as the ice broke up, he sailed out of the Folden Fjord with about
twenty ships and from 1,500 to 2,000 men.

Earl Sweyn, in the meanwhile, had strained all his powers to meet the
emergency. With the aid of Erling Skjalgsson of Sole and Einar
Thambarskelver he had got together a fleet of forty-five well-equipped
ships, manned with about 3,000 warriors. With this formidable force he
met Olaf at Nessje, a head-land on the coast of Vestfold. It was Palm
Sunday (March 25, 1016), and, according to the story, Olaf sent a
messenger to the earl requesting him to grant a truce until the next
day. The earl, however, who had no scruples on account of the holiday,
refused the request, and the battle commenced. As was the custom in
naval battles, the ships were tied together with ropes, "The
Churl's-Head" occupying the centre and the smaller crafts the extreme
wings. On board the king's ship were 120 picked men, all clad in ring
armor and with French helmets on their heads. Their shields were white,
with crosses of red or blue or gilt; crosses of the same colors also
adorned their helmets. The king instructed his men to appear at first to
act on the defensive, saving their spears until the enemy had thrown
away theirs. This stratagem proved effective; for, as the king's
battle-array bore down upon that of the earl, he was received with a
storm of missiles. His men, however, were only at pains to protect
themselves, thereby redoubling the martial zeal of their opponents, who
imagined they were afraid. Then, when spears and arrows grew scarce on
the earl's side, a vehement onslaught from the king met with no adequate
resistance. Olaf took advantage of the momentary surprise to steer up to
the earl's ship and engage him at close quarters. The fight there was
long and bitter, and men fell in heaps on both sides. At last Earl
Sweyn's men began to waver, and one by one the ships were cut loose and
prepared to flee. But Olaf's men held them fast with boat-hooks until
Sweyn ordered the prows to be cut off; even thus he would not have
escaped with his life, if his brother-in-law, Einar Thambarskelver, had
not flung an anchor aboard to him, and by means of the rope attached to
it hauled him out of the line of battle. For all that, he managed to
collect his ships further out in the fjord, and for a while it looked as
if a fresh attack was imminent. Sigurd Syr urged Olaf not to let the
opportunity escape of utterly destroying Erling Skjalgsson and Einar

"For," said he, "I well foresee that thou with thy character and
ambition, wilt scarcely ever reach the point, when thou canst trust
those magnates who are accustomed to bid defiance to chieftains."

Before Olaf had time to answer, the earl's fleet suddenly scattered, and
the opportunity for destroying the chiefs was lost. The king's first act
after the battle was to kneel upon the strand and thank God for the

Earl Sweyn, though he had yet a large following and sufficient resources
to continue the struggle, sailed eastward to Sweden where he was well
received by his brother-in-law, King Olaf the Swede. He seems to have
contemplated a fresh campaign against Norway, and was encouraged by the
Swedish king to avenge his defeat. Instead of that, however, he
undertook during the following summer a warlike expedition into Russia,
probably to replenish his treasury, was taken ill and died on the way

Olaf availed himself of the earl's absence to extort oaths of allegiance
from the peasantry along the coast; he hesitated, however, for some
reason to attack Erling Skjalgsson and passed by the provinces which he
held in fief without landing. He returned to Nidaros, rebuilt the ruined
"king's hall," and the Church of St. Clement. From his sojourn abroad
he had learned a lesson in regard to the advantages of commercial
intercourse, and he encouraged merchants and artisans to take up their
abode in the resuscitated city. He had small confidence in the good-will
of the Trönders; and therefore liked to surround himself with men who
were free from local ties and traditions. The death of Earl Sweyn,
however, as soon as the rumor of it reached Norway, changed the
situation. The Trönders, having now no chieftain of their own, began to
send the king friendly messages and in various ways to court his favor.
Presently he felt himself safe in summoning chiefs and peasantry to meet
him at the _thing_, and his formal recognition as king followed in all
the shires of Tröndelag. But it will be remembered that four of these
shires, besides the adjacent provinces of Nordmöre, Raumsdale, and
Söndmöre, had after the battle of Svolder been awarded to the king of
Sweden, in whose behalf Earl Sweyn had governed them. A great wrath,
therefore, possessed King Olaf the Swede, when he heard that the
Trönders had sworn allegiance to "Olaf the Big." This was the nickname
which he had conferred upon his opponent on account of his stoutness and
burly frame. He could never refer to him except with oaths and
opprobrious terms. His threats and insults, however, brought no
response, and finally he determined to send a party of tax-gatherers
into his former provinces. Having vainly solicited the tax, they sought
an audience with King Olaf, who commanded them to go home and invite the
King of Sweden to meet him at the boundary between the two countries.
"Then," he said, "he may, if he chooses, come to an agreement with me,
on the condition that each keeps the kingdom to which his birthright
entitles him."

Twelve of the tax-gatherers who ventured to disobey his command, were
captured and hanged. Such an insult the Swedish king could not allow to
pass unavenged, and Olaf made preparations to receive him. He built a
rude fortress on a headland projecting into the river Glommen, near the
cataract Sarpen. In connection with these fortifications he founded a
city called Borg or Sarpsborg, built a "king's hall," and offered
protection to traders who came to settle there. The expected invasion
from Sweden would naturally be directed through this district, and the
site of the new city was therefore chosen chiefly for its strategic
value. For a while, however, no decisive action was taken by the king of
Sweden, who contented himself with killing Olaf's tax-gatherers in
Jemteland in retaliation. The fact was that the feud was purely a
personal one between the two kings, while their subjects, having no
grudge against each other, desired peace. The king's friend and marshal,
Björn Stallare, was induced to speak in the people's cause, and was
finally commissioned to go as Olaf's embassador to Sweden, proposing
peace on the conditions already named. But this embassy involved great
danger, as Olaf the Swede, in his fury, did not even permit the name of
his enemy to be mentioned in his presence. Björn therefore sent his
friend, the Icelander, Hjalte Skeggesson, in advance to prepare the way
for him, while he himself tarried with Ragnvald, the earl of
Vestergötland, who had married the sister of Olaf Tryggvesson.
Ragnvald's foster-father was the mighty peasant, Thorgny Thorgnysson,
the law-man.[A] By securing the friendship of the earl, Björn
accordingly assured himself of protection, in case the king should
attempt violence against him. At the great winter _thing_ in Upsala,
where the king was present, he suddenly rose out of the throng of the
people and said in a loud voice; so that all could hear him: "King Olaf
sends me hither to offer the king of Sweden peace and the boundary which
from ancient times has been between Norway and Sweden."

[Footnote A: _Laga-madr_ is not a lawyer in the modern sense, but rather
a kind of judge. The office had a slightly different significance in
Sweden from what it acquired in Norway when introduced there by King

When Olaf the Swede heard the name of King Olaf, he first supposed that
the speaker referred to himself; but when he began to see the
connection, he rose and called out, in great wrath, that the man who was
speaking should be silent, as such speech would not be tolerated. Björn
then sat down; but instantly Earl Ragnvald arose and said that his
people had suffered greatly from the interruption of commercial
intercourse with Norway, and were all of opinion that the king should
accept the proposal of Olaf the Big; and, as guaranty of peace, give him
his daughter, Ingegerd, in marriage. The king, on hearing this,
declared, angrily, that he would hear of no peace; he called the earl a
traitor who deserved to be driven out of the country, and berated him
for having married a woman who sympathized with the king's enemies. In
the hope that the matter would now be dropped, he resumed his seat. Then
up rose Thorgny the Lawman. He was very large of stature, gray-haired,
and broad-chested, and his beard fell like a cataract down to his
girdle. The moment he was on his feet, the people thronged forward with
great noise and rattle of arms. "Quite different are the kings of Sweden
now," Thorogny began, "from what they were in earlier times. Thorgny, my
grandfather, could remember Erik Eimundsson, and told of him that, while
he was in his best years, he went in warfare every summer to different
lands, and subjugated Finnland, Karelen, Esthonia, Kurland, and many
other eastern lands. Men may yet see the earthworks and other great
enterprises he undertook; and yet he was not too proud to listen to
people who had necessary things to say to him. Thorgny, my father, was
for a long time with King Björn, and knew his manner of behaving. In
Björn's time, the kingdom was very powerful and suffered no loss; he was
very easy to get along with, to his friends. I can myself remember King
Erik the Victorious, and I was with him in many a war. He increased the
realm of the Swedes and bravely defended it. He, too, accepted good
counsel from us. But this king whom we now have will suffer no man to
speak to him, unless he speaks that which he likes. This he insists upon
with all his might; but he suffers provinces to be lost for want of
briskness and enterprise. He wishes to conquer the realm of Norway--a
thing which no Swedish king has hitherto desired,--and this causes many
a man disquietude. Now, it is the wish of us, the peasants, that thou,
King Olaf, makest peace with Olaf the Big, the King of Norway, and
givest him thy daughter, Ingegerd, in marriage. * * * If thou wilt not
consent to this, then we will attack thee and kill thee, and no longer
suffer breach of the peace and breach of law from thee. Thus our
forefathers did in days of old. They flung five kings down into a swamp
at the Mora _thing_, because they were too inflated with pride--just as
thou art. Tell us now, in this hour, which of these conditions thou wilt

The peasants signified loudly, by rattle of arms, their approval of this
sentiment; and the king, quite overawed, rose and said that he would
yield and let the peasants have their way in this matter. The conditions
of peace were thus accepted, and the time for the wedding was fixed.
Björn and his men returned to Norway and received valuable gifts from
King Olaf, for having successfully accomplished a difficult mission.
Unhappily, however, the Swedish king, as soon as the danger was removed,
began to reconsider his promise; and it gave him, no doubt, satisfaction
to hear of his enemy's discomfort when, after vainly waiting for his
bride on the boundary, he returned to Sarpsborg (1018). It did not occur
to him that his own subjects, who had demanded the cessation of
hostilities, might resent his undignified trick; and he was both
surprised and alarmed when a revolt broke out, which came very near
costing him his crown. Once more he had to make concessions, promise to
make peace with the king of Norway, and accept his twelve-year-old son,
Anund Jacob, as co-regent. King Olaf, of Norway, had, in the meanwhile,
contrary to the will of her father, married Aastrid, a younger sister of
Ingegerd. At the peace of Konghelle (1019), where the two kings finally
met, this marriage was recognized by the king of Sweden, and friendly
relations were established. The province of Jemteland remained in the
possession of Olaf of Norway.

This is the first time that Norway, as an integral kingdom, treats with
a foreign power. The kings of Sweden and Denmark who claimed descent
from Ragnar Lodbrok and through him from the gods, had never until now
recognized the descendants of Harold the Fairhaired as rulers of a
united realm and their own equals in dignity. Norway was to them merely
a collection of small, scattered communities which, having once been
united, made haste to fall to pieces again, and had at different times
recognized the overlordship of the kings of Sweden and Denmark. The
reluctance of the Swedish king to give his daughter in marriage to Olaf
Haroldsson is therefore quite comprehensible.

Olaf Haroldsson was, undoubtedly, the first king, since Harold the
Fairhaired, who had any clear conception of a national unity. The
thought may have been present in the mind of Olaf Trygvesson, but he
died too soon to carry it out. Olaf Haroldsson, on the other hand, set
to work with deliberate purpose to unite all Norway under the cross of
Christ. With 300 armed men he travelled from shire to shire, and
severely punished those who secretly or openly sacrificed to the old
gods or indulged in any pagan practice. Some were outlawed and their
property confiscated, others were maimed, and a few hanged or beheaded.
Fugitives spread the report of the king's violence; and alarm and
resentment filled the minds of all who were yet devoted to the Asa
faith. Five shire-kings in the Oplands, all of whom had given allegiance
to Olaf, formed a conspiracy, under the leadership of King Rörek, to
murder him. But Ketil Calf of Ringeness got wind of their purpose, and
hastened with the tidings to Olaf, who crossed the lake Mjösen in the
night, surprised the conspirators, and captured them. Rörek was blinded,
Gudröd, the king of Hadeland and Raumarike, had his tongue cut out, and
the others were punished with similar severity. The death of Sigurd Syr
(1018) called Olaf to Ringerike where he spent some days arranging the
affairs of his widowed mother. Aasta had three sons by Sigurd
Syr--Guttorm, Halfdan, and Harold. These she brought into the hall to
make them acquainted with their half-brother, the king. Olaf, it is
told, put Guttorm and Halfdan on his knees, and made such a fierce face
at them that they grew frightened and ran away. He then took the
youngest boy, Harold, and stared at him with the same stern expression.
The boy, instead of running away, made a face as stern as the king's and
stared back at him. Olaf, to test him further, pulled his hair; but
Harold, nothing daunted, retaliated by pulling the king's beard. The
next day Olaf and Aasta stood watching the boys at play. Guttorm and
Halfdan had built barns and stables, and made figures representing cows
and sheep; while Harold had started a fleet of chips and shavings on a
pond, and delighted in seeing them drift before the wind. The king asked
him what they were meant to represent.

"Ships of war," answered the boy.

"I should not wonder, kinsman," said Olaf, "if some day thou wouldst
command ships of war."

Guttorm was now called and asked what he desired most of all.

"Land," he replied.

"How much?" asked the king.

"I wish," said the boy, "to sow as much every summer as would cover the
headland that sticks out into the water there."

The headland included ten large farms.

"Much grain could grow there," observed the king.

Halfdan declared that what he wished most of all was cows, and so many
of them that in drinking they would cover the shores of Guttorm's

"But what do you wish, Harold?" asked Olaf, turning to the youngest boy.

"Men,"[A] answered Harold.

[Footnote A: The word used is _hus-karler, i. e._, house-carles,
retainers. What the boy meant to say was that he wished to have men
under his command.]

"How many?"

"So many that they would in a single meal eat up all my brother
Halfdan's cattle."

"There, mother," said Olaf, laughing, as he turned to Aasta, "thou art
fostering a king."

This prophecy was verified, for Harold Sigurdsson became king of

From Ringerike Olaf went southward to Tunsberg, where he intended to
celebrate Easter. He carried the blind King Rörek with him, and seemed
inclined by kindness to make him forget his hard fate. He gave him
servants and money and the seat at table next to his own. But Rörek
could not forget that he was of the race of Harold the Fairhaired, and
that he had once been king. For a long while he disguised his feelings,
appearing careless and jolly, while in his heart he was nursing plans of
vengeance. First he induced his servant, Sweyn, to attempt the life of
the king. But when in the critical moment the king looked hard at him,
Sweyn grew pale, fell at Olaf's feet, and implored forgiveness. From
that time Rörek was no longer allowed to sit at the king's table; but he
continued to be well treated, although he had to submit to the company
of two keepers, who were made responsible for his actions. These he
killed by the aid of his friends, and made a futile effort to regain his
liberty. But even after he had been brought back, the king took no
vengeance upon him. On Ascension Day, 1018, Olaf attended mass, and
Rörek accompanied him. When Olaf knelt down, the blind man laid his
hands upon his shoulder, saying: "Thou hast ermine on to-day, kinsman."
"Yes," said the king, "for to-day we celebrate a great festival in
memory of Christ's ascent from earth to heaven."

"You tell me so much about Christ," said Rörek, "which I don't
understand, and therefore can't remember; although, to be sure, many
incredible things may have happened in ancient times."

When the mass commenced, Olaf arose, raised his hands above his head,
and bowed toward the altar, so that his cloak fell from his shoulders.
Swift as a flash Rörek sprang forward and made a lunge with his dagger
at the place where the king had stood. The cloak was rent in twain, but
the forward inclination of the king's body saved him. Rörek made a
second thrust, but Olaf had by this time rushed out upon the floor, and
was beyond his reach.

"Fleest thou now, Olaf the Big," shouted Rörek, "from me who am blind?"

He had put his hand on the king's shoulder merely to feel if he wore
armor. The would-be murderer was now seized, but though many urged him,
Olaf refused to put him to death. Being, however, compelled to protect
himself from his machinations, he sent Rörek to Iceland, where, a few
years later, he died. All the shire-kings had now lost their power, and
for the first time in the history of Norway, no one had royal title in
all the country except the king. It was as the representatives of a
narrow local patriotism, which was shared by a large number of the
people, that these men had been formidable, and to weld all the
scattered tribes into one nation would have been impossible, without
first breaking their power. But as has already been observed, to break
their power, as long as the Asa faith was the national religion, was out
of the question; because the old tribal chieftainships embraced also the
priesthoods, and the hereditary dignity of the local priest-kings was
thus hallowed by all the religious as well as the political traditions
of the tribe. King Olaf's zeal for the Christianization of the country
had, therefore, its political as well as its religious aspect; and it
was no mere coincidence that he directed his energy simultaneously
against the old gods and the men who derived the chief benefit from
their worship. During the years of peace from 1020-1026 he devoted
himself with unflagging ardor to this task of eradicating every vestige
of heathenism, and bringing the laws and institutions of the land into
conformity with the religion of Christ. It was a noble task and, if we
overlook a certain tendency to violence which was in the spirit of the
age, nobly performed. To perform it completely would have been a
superhuman labor. The ideals and sentiments of men, of which their
institutions are but the expression, do not change radically in the
course of one or two generations. There are traces of a gradual change
of sentiment, even before the days of Olaf Haroldsson, in favor of
gentler and more peaceful ideals. Not only by bloody deeds was honor
acquired, but a man could by just and honorable conduct, and
particularly by insight into the law, make for himself a respected
position, even if he was reluctant to unsheath the sword. Instances of
this kind are, however, rare, and to draw general inferences from them
would be hazardous. War was the Norseman's occupation, and his gods were
war-gods. A life full of warlike achievements, and after death an
honorable fame, he had been taught to regard as the worthiest objects of
aspiration. Asceticism and humility he looked upon with pitying disdain,
and the sublimity of self-sacrificing suffering, as revealed in Christ,
could scarcely appeal to him. A god who consented to be slain by his
enemies must have appeared to him quite an incomprehensible being, whose
feebleness contrasted strikingly with the grandeur of the thundering
Thor. The joys of Valhalla, the _valkyrias_ with the mead-horns, the
daily diet of pork, the exhilarating tumult of never-ending combat, and
the glorious companionship with departed heroes, were in conformity with
the ideas of happiness which his life and training had fostered; while
the Christian heaven, with its prospect of unending praise, in the
company of saints who had no taste for fight or craving for honor, must,
by comparison, have appeared ineffably dreary. It is told of a Frisian
chieftain, who was about to be baptized, that he suddenly turned to the
priest and asked him where his brave forefathers were who had died


"They are in hell," answered the priest.

"Then," said the chief, flinging off his baptismal robe and stepping out
of the water, "I will rather be in hell with Odin and my forefathers,
who were brave and noble men, than in heaven with cowardly Christians
and bald-headed monks."

It will be seen, then, that the relapse into paganism which followed the
death of Olaf Tryggvesson was what might have been expected; and the
general reaction against the new faith which set in during the reign of
the earls was also quite natural. Olaf, Haroldsson, therefore, had, in a
large measure, to do the work of his kinsman over again, and he did it
with such energy that, in the end, he forced the expiring Asa faith, and
the tribal magnates who founded their power upon it, into a mortal
combat in which he himself succumbed, while the religion of Christ rose
from his tomb, victorious.

King Olaf was by nature well equipped for his mission. He had a robust
frame, indomitable will, and great endurance. There was something in
his very build and look which indicated that he was not to be trifled
with. It was not the youthful enthusiasm of an Olaf Tryggvesson which
inspired his measures for the propagation of the faith; but rather a
firm, dogged determination to accomplish a task, the moral and political
importance of which had strongly impressed him. We need not question his
sincerity because in serving God he also served himself. All his habits
and actions seem to show that he was by conviction and temperament a
religious man. But a fanatic he was not; and the legends which in later
times clustered about his name have, by attributing to him an undue
ardor, distorted his image. He was, in spite of his later sainthood, a
strong-willed, ambitious, and worldly-wise man; far-seeing in his plans,
business-like in his methods, relentless in his hates, ruthless in his
punishments. And yet, as we have seen him in his treatment of Rörek, he
was by no means devoid of pity, and could, when occasion demanded, show
himself magnanimous.

His severity, which the sagas comment upon, was never wanton; but was in
proportion to the magnitude of the offence. Robbers, thieves, and
vikings who plundered within the land he punished with death, no matter
whether their birth was high or low; because the extirpation of the old
predatory spirit with its internecine feuds was the first condition for
the establishment of a united nationality.

In appearance King Olaf was of middle height, large-limbed,
broad-necked, of florid complexion, and inclined to corpulence. He wore
a full red beard, and his eyes were piercing and of great brilliancy.
In spite of his stoutness, he was brisk in his motions and of active
habits. He was a good judge of men, and staunch in his friendship to
those who did him faithful service. He selected Bishop Grimkel, an
Englishman, though probably of Norse blood, to elaborate a Christian
law, and revise the previous legislation so as to bring it into accord
with the teaching of Christ. Although himself no scholar, he valued
theological learning, and showed great favor to the priests whom he
brought over from England to instruct the people. Such instruction was
indeed needed; for during the journeys which the king undertook through
the length and breadth of the land for the purpose of "inquiring into
the condition of Christianity," he made the most disheartening
discoveries. During his sojourn in Nidaros he ascertained that the
Trönders, in spite of their assertions to the contrary, were in the
habit of celebrating the old pagan festivals and offering up sacrifices
to Odin and Frey for good crops. The chieftain, Oelve of Egge, who had
twice deceived the king in regard to the practices of the peasants, and
himself participated in them, was slain, and a great number of others
who had been similarly guilty were killed, maimed, or outlawed, and
their estates confiscated. In Guldbrandsdale the peasants had the
hardihood to send eight hundred armed men against the king, under the
leadership of Alf, son of Dale-Guldbrand, the first chieftain in the
valley. The battle was, however, scarcely opened when the peasants fled,
and Dale-Guldbrand invited Olaf to hold _thing_ with them and
deliberate concerning the change of faith. To the king's request that
the men of Guldbrandsdale should believe in the one God and be baptized,
Dale-Guldbrand replied:

"We know not of whom thou art speaking; for thou callest him a god whom
neither thou canst see nor any one else. I cannot ask help of any one
whom I do not see or know. Then we have a very different kind of god
whom we can look at every day. The reason why he is not out to-day is
that it is raining so hard. But I dare say that when you get sight of
him you will be frightened, nay, quite terrified because of his might.
But if there is any truth in what thou sayest, that thy God is so
powerful, then let him arrange it so that to-morrow we shall have cloudy
weather but no rain."

The next morning the _thing_ again met, and the sky was overcast, but no
drop of rain fell. The king ordered the mass to be celebrated by Bishop
Sigurd, who preached to the peasants about the miracles which Christ had
wrought when he was on earth. On the third day the people again came to
the _thing_, this time bearing a great image of the god Thor, which they
placed upon the green. The weather was still cloudy, but without rain.
From out of the throng of the peasants Dale-Guldbrand arose and said:

"Where is now thy god, king? He wears his chin beard pretty low now, and
methinks that thou art not so bold as thou wast yesterday, nor is the
horned man at thy side who is called the bishop. For now our god has
come who rules over all things, and he is looking at you with his
fierce eyes. I see now that you are full of fear and scarcely dare look
into his eyes. Therefore give up your folly and believe in our god who
holds your fate in his hand."

To this the king replied:

"Many things thou hast spoken to us this day, and thou art wondering
that thou canst not see our God. But I think he will soon come to us.
Thou wishest to frighten us with thy god, who is both deaf and blind,
and can save neither himself nor others; who cannot stir from the spot
unless he is carried. Now I have a foreboding that he will soon come to
grief. For, behold! Look eastward! There our God is coming with much

Just at that moment the sun burst through the clouds, and the peasants
all turned toward the east. But instantly Kolbjörn the Strong, at a sign
from the king, struck the idol with his club, so that it burst into many
pieces. Out leaped rats as big as cats, snakes, and lizards, which had
fattened on the delicacies with which the god had daily been fed. A
terrible consternation seized the peasants when they saw what their god
contained. They fled to the river; but Olaf, who had foreseen this, had
bored holes in their boats so that they were unable to float them. Quite
subdued in spirit, they were compelled to return to the _thing_-meadow,
where the king addressed them in these words: * * * "Now you see what
power there was in your god, to whom you bore silver and gold and bread
and meat, and who it was that enjoyed it all. It was mice and snakes,
vipers and toads. * * * Take now your gold and ornaments, which lie
scattered on the ground, and bring them home to your wives, but hang
them no more on logs and stones. Now I will give you the choice of two
things. Either you shall accept the Christian faith or you shall fight
with me this day. He will win to whom the god in whom we trust will give

The peasants were in no mood to fight; and therefore, after the
discomfiture of their god, declared their faith in Christ and were
baptized by the king's bishop. Priests were left behind to instruct
them, and Dale-Guldbrand built the first church in Guldbrandsdale.

After having with the same firm hand put down paganism in Hedemarken and
Raumarike, Olaf called a great _thing_ at Eidsvold, where the Eidsivia
law was proclaimed and adopted for all the Oplands. It was his intention
to revise the laws of all the judicial districts in the same spirit, and
he naturally turned his attention to the western coast-shires, which
belonged under the jurisdiction of the _Gula-thing's_ law. But these
shires were part of Erling Skjalgsson's fief, which extended from
Lindesness to the Sogne Fjord. Having small faith in Erling's
friendship, which on a previous occasion had been pledged to him, Olaf
prepared to travel with a large force through his shires; and as the
crops had partly failed in the northern shires, he forbade all
exportation of grain from the districts which he meant to traverse. This
was merely a measure of self-protection, and though oppressive in its
effect, was prompted by no unfriendly motive. Erling's nephew, the
young chief Aasbjörn Sigurdsson, of Haalogaland, in spite of the
prohibition, with the connivance of his uncle, bought malt and grain of
the latter's thralls, and was in consequence deprived of his cargo by
the king's steward, Thore Sel, at Agvaldsness. In return for this he
killed the steward in the king's presence, was seized, and sentenced to
death, but forcibly liberated by his uncle. Enraged by this unexampled
audacity, the king came near taking summary vengeance upon Erling, but
allowed himself to be persuaded by Bishop Sigurd to make peace, on
condition that Aasbjörn should surrender himself to his mercy. The
second sentence was, however, according to the notions of those days,
severer than the first. Olaf demanded of the young chief that he should
perform the service of the man he had slain. Any personal service, even
under a king, was held to be degrading and unworthy of a freeman. The
royal stewards were usually men of low birth; sometimes even thralls or
sons of thralls. For a man of illustrious lineage to take the place of
such a minion would be tantamount to accepting a badge of servitude.
Aasbjörn, therefore, broke his promise, relying upon Erling Skjalgsson,
and his father's brother, the powerful Thore Hund of Bjarkö, to shield
him from the king's vengeance. In this, however, he made a
miscalculation. For one day, as he was sailing in his fine ship along
the coast, another ship passed him, from which a spear was hurled forth
that transfixed him. This spear was thrown by a friend of the king.
Aasbjörn's mother, Sigrid, made a great funeral feast over her son, and
gave each of the guests gifts by which to remember him. Only Thore Hund
of Bjarkö received no gift. But when the time came for departing, Sigrid
accompanied him down to his ship and gave him a spear inscribed with
strange runes.

"This spear it was," she said, "which pierced my son Aasbjörn. It is yet
sticky with his blood. * * * It would be a brave deed, if thou didst
part with this spear in such wise that it stuck in the heart of Olaf the
Big, and I declare thee as a nithing before all men, if thou dost not
avenge Aasbjörn."

Thore Hund remembered this injunction, six years later, at the battle of

There could now no longer be any question of peace between Olaf and the
race of Erling Skjalgsson. A decisive conflict was inevitable, and each
party began to make preparations for utterly crushing the other. King
Knut the Mighty, of England and Denmark, took advantage of this state of
things, and by bribes and promises encouraged the discontented
chieftains throughout the land to unite in revolt against the tyrannical
king. Secret messengers from Knut were sent with presents to nearly all
the heads of the tribal aristocracy, and the friendliest reception
awaited those of them who went to England. Two of Erling Skjalgsson's
sons, who visited Knut in London, were quite dazzled by the splendor and
friendliness of the English king. In thus maturing the revolt, Knut's
first purpose was to punish Olaf for his insolence in refusing to
consider his claim to Norway, which in an embassy (1024) he had
threatened to enforce. Secondly, it tallied well with his ambitious
dream of uniting England and the three Scandinavian countries in one
grand monarchy, which in the north might counterbalance the German and
French power in the south.

Olaf did not long remain ignorant of King Knut's machinations; and he
took immediate measures to protect himself. He spent the winter
(1025-1026) in Sarpsborg, and not, as usual, in Nidaros; for he had
learned that Knut was in Denmark and contemplated an invasion of Norway.
Viken, being the province nearest Denmark, and having formerly belonged
to the Danish kings, would naturally be exposed to the first attack. In
order to strengthen himself further, he entered into an alliance with
his brother-in-law, the Swedish King Anund Jacob, impressing upon him
the probability that his own turn would come next, in case Knut gained
possession of Norway. When Knut heard of this, he too sent an embassy to
Anund Jacob, for the purpose of winning his friendship, or at least
secure his neutrality. The embassadors supported their arguments with
splendid gifts; and King Anund was no doubt sorely tempted to listen to
them. First they put two candlesticks of gold on the table.

"A very pretty toy is that," said Anund, "but I will not, in order to
get it, break with Olaf."

A golden platter of rare workmanship, and set with jewels, was placed
before him. He gazed longingly at it; but finally cried out: "A glorious
treasure is that; but I will not sell King Olaf for a dish."

The spokesman of the embassy, talking eagerly in his master's behalf,
at last pulled out two gorgeous rings.

"King Knut has much shrewdness," ejaculated Anund, "for he knows that I
would fain win treasure, and that I know little of courtly custom. But
King Olaf I have known since I was a boy, and learned to love him so
much, that I cannot now forsake him."

Possibly it was this staunch attitude of Anund Jacob which discouraged
Knut from waging open war against Olaf. At all events he went (1026) as
a pilgrim to Rome, not as conqueror to Norway. In the meanwhile, his
brother-in-law, Earl Ulf,[A] headed a rebellion against him in Denmark,
and entered into an alliance with Olaf Haroldsson and Anund Jacob. Both
thought this a convenient opportunity for striking a blow at the
threatening power of Knut, and gathered a fleet with which they ravaged
the coasts of Halland and Skaane. They even in some places summoned the
people to the _thing_ and received their homage. These tidings reached
Knut who promptly returned from his pilgrimage, and came within a hair
of capturing the two kings who did not suspect that he was near. Knut's
ships were so greatly superior both in size, number, and equipment, that
it would have been folly to remain and await battle. Olaf and Anund,
therefore, hastened along the coast of Skaane toward Swedish territory,
hotly pursued by Knut. They put up in the Helge-aa, a short river,
uniting a series of lakes, near what was then the boundary between
Sweden and Denmark. Olaf made haste to dam up the river where it issued
from the lake, and filled the river-bed with a mass of trees and other
obstructions. Late in the afternoon Knut sailed into the harbor, and
found it deserted. The allies lay with their fleet outside the harbor,
apparently ready for battle. It was, however, too late in the day to
begin the fight, and Knut left part of his fleet outside to watch them.
In the night the command was given to break the dam, and an enormous
volume of water rushed down upon the Danish and English fleet, which
broke from its moorings, and drifted seaward in disorder. A considerable
number of people were drowned, but the ships though much damaged were
not wrecked. The confusion was, on the whole, less than had been
anticipated, and Earl Ulf, seeing that there was a chance that Knut
might save himself, turned traitor once more and went to his rescue. The
Swedes and the Norsemen, perceiving that the Danish king with this
accession of strength was too formidable, sailed away without making an
attack (1027). Knut, instead of pursuing them further, sailed back to
England, but in the following year returned with a greatly increased
force. He had by his extensive system of bribes effectually secured the
friendship of the disaffected Norse chiefs, and therefore steered
without hesitation to Nidaros where he was proclaimed king of Norway. He
appointed his nephew Earl Haakon, the son of Earl Erik, regent in his

[Footnote A: Ulf Jarl, the ancestor of a long line of Danish kings, was
the grandson of Thyra, the sister of Sweyn Forkbeard, by her first
husband the Swedish Prince Styrbjörn. He was, accordingly, through his
grandmother, a descendant of Gorm the Old, and of Ragnar Lodbrok.]

For Olaf there was now really nothing to do but to leave the country. He
determined, however, to make a last effort to maintain himself and
sailed with a few ships, and as many men as remained faithful to him, up
along the coast, hoping that he might yet be able to rally a sufficient
force to expel Earl Haakon. When Erling Skjalgsson heard of his
approach, he called together his household troops, and manned his fleet.
The king, however, who had no desire to fight with Erling, had already
slipped by, but was no further in advance than that he could easily be
overtaken. Erling, accordingly, started in pursuit, but allowed himself
by a stratagem to be separated from his main force, and after a heroic
fight lost all his men and was captured by Olaf. As he stood alone among
a heap of the slain, his gray locks falling down over his shoulders, the
king called to him:

"Thou settest thy face straight against us to-day, Erling." "Face to
face do eagles fight," answered Erling; "wilt thou give me peace?"

Olaf, after some deliberation, declared that he would; but on second
thought half repented of his generosity. He took his axe and gently
scratched the old man's cheek, saying: "Something must be done to mark
the traitor to his king."

One of the king's men who stood by suddenly raised his axe and cleft
Erling's skull, saying:

"This is the way to mark a traitor to his king."

Thus died the mightiest chieftain in all Norway. No representative of
the tribal aristocracy, before or since, ever possessed such power as
Erling Skjalgsson.

Olaf continued his voyage northward to Söndmöre where a great number of
his followers left him, while at the news of Erling's death enemies
blocked his way wherever he turned. He saw that his last hope was gone;
and with a few friends fled through Valdalen across the mountains into
Sweden, where he left his wife and daughter. Thence he travelled to
Russia (1029), where he was warmly welcomed by his brother-in-law, King
Jaroslav, who had married Ingegerd, the sister of Anund Jacob.

Norway was now a province of a foreign power. The separatistic
tendencies of the old tribal magnates had triumphed over the national
idea represented by King Olaf. It was they and not King Knut who, in
order to gratify their own greed for power, had destroyed the national
unity. In order to secure their own independence, each in his own shire,
they sacrificed the national independence. It was natural that Knut, who
based his dominion upon their support, should make them large
concessions. He flattered Einar Thambarskelver, hinting that if Earl
Haakon had not been his nephew he would have made Einar regent of
Norway. Kalf Arnesson, the mightiest chief among the In-Trönders, he
called over to England and assured him, too, that he was the man for the
earl's place. For Earl Haakon, he said, was too conscientious to break
his oath to Olaf Haroldsson, in case the latter should return and
attempt to regain his kingdom. It may have been true that he vaguely
distrusted the earl; for on a slight pretext he summoned him to England
and sent him on an expedition, the nature of which is not entirely
clear. From this expedition, however, Earl Haakon never returned, and it
was reported that he had been drowned at sea with all his men. Björn
Stallare, Olaf's friend, hastened to Russia with this intelligence, and
found his old master at King Jaroslav's court. Olaf asked him for
tidings of home, and how his friends had kept their oath of allegiance.

"Some well and some poorly," answered Björn, and threw himself at the
king's feet, embracing his knees; "every thing is in God's power and in
yours, king. I have received money from Knut's men and sworn him
allegiance; but now I will follow thee and not forsake thee as long as
we are both alive."

"Few men have remained faithful to me in Norway," said the king, sadly,
"when such men as thou art have been led astray. * * *"

He was not at first ready to accept Björn's invitation to return to his
kingdom. In his forced inactivity a resolution had half matured in his
mind to become a monk and go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. An offer
from Jaroslav to accept a Russian province in fief he declined.
Religious meditations occupied much of his time; and he acquired the
reputation of being a holy man. While in this frame of mind, he had a
vision in which he saw Olaf Tryggvesson who commanded him to go back to
Norway and conquer it or die. He could now no longer hesitate. Much
against the advice of Jaroslav and Ingegerd, he started out for Norway,
leaving his young son Magnus at the Russian court. In Sweden he received
permission from King Anund to collect whatever recruits he could; but
while he accepted robbers and outlaws, if they would only be baptized,
he had the courage to reject large bands of brave men who refused to
renounce paganism.


Tradition has preserved with minute fidelity a number of incidents of
King Olaf's progress through Sweden to the fatal field of Vaerdalen.
There is a melancholy radiance, as of the setting sun, about his figure
as he returns with the gospel of Christ to his people who had rejected
him. First, Bishop Sigurd came to meet him and strongly dissuaded him
from entering his kingdom. But he would listen to no remonstrance.
Through forests and wildernesses he broke his way; cheerful amid the
greatest hardships, encouraging his people and never showing, except on
a single occasion, the foreboding that cast its shadow over his soul.
When he crossed the mountains between Norway and Sweden, and he caught
the first glimpse of the land of his birth with its rivers, mountains,
and sunny valleys, he reined his horse and sat gazing, lost in thought,
on the beautiful sight. A profound sadness was expressed in his
features. At last the bishop roused him from his reverie, asking him
what he was thinking.

"Strange things," answered the king, "have for a while been borne past
me. It seemed to me, as if I looked not only out over Drontheim, but
over all Norway; and the longer the vision lasted, the wider it grew,
until I surveyed the whole world, both land and ocean. Then it seemed to
me that I recognized all the places where I had ever been before; even
as plainly I saw places where I had never been before;--nay even some of
which I had never even heard--both inhabited and uninhabited, as far as
the world goes."

It is then told that the bishop, dismounting from his horse and
embracing the king's foot, said: "It is a holy man whom we are

Among the few Norsemen of rank who had joined Olaf before he crossed the
boundary, was his half-brother Harold, the son of Sigurd Syr. He was
only fifteen years old, but large for his age. He led 720 men under his
banner. When the king's entire army was mustered, the day before the
battle, it was found to number 4,100 men; but 500 of these were sent
away because they were heathen, and many of them no doubt joined the
hostile army. The king woke early on the morning of the battle, and
called the poet, Thormod Kolbruna-Scald, and asked him to sing to him.
Thormod stood up and sang with a ringing voice the ancient Bjarkemaal,
which resounded over forest and field. The army woke and was arranged in
battle array on the heights of Stiklestad in Vaerdalen; the peasant
army, 10,000 strong being seen approaching in the distance. With the
battle-cry: "Forward, Christ's men, Crusaders, the King's men!" Olaf's
warriors rushed down the hill-sides, and the peasant army stormed to
meet them with the cry: "Forward, forward, peasant-men!" The fight was
long indecisive, though the king's men, on account of the advantage of
their position, had the upper hand in the first onset. The peasants,
however, fought with dogged determination, and their superior number
told, the longer the battle raged. Olaf's ranks wavered and grew
thinner. Then, with desperate courage, the king broke forth from the
shield-burgh that surrounded him, and followed by a small band of
devoted men, dashed against the front of the peasant host. One by one
his men fell about him, and again and again his standard-bearer was cut
down. Severely wounded, he stood leaning against a boulder, when Thore
Hund sprang forward and plunged his spear into his abdomen. In the next
moment Kalf Arnesson gave him a cut across the throat, which was the
immediate cause of his death, though Thore Hund's spear had already
dealt him a mortal wound. Then, so runs the record, the sun grew
blood-red, and a strange red sheen spread over the landscape. Darkness
fell upon the fighting hosts, and the sun grew black. A great terror
took possession of the peasants, who saw in the eclipse [A] an evidence
of the wrath of Olaf's God.

[Footnote A: This eclipse--lasting from 1 o'clock 31' P.M. to 4 o'clock
58', Aug. 31, 1030--fixes definitely the date of the battle. It was
total in Vaerdalen.]

With the king's death the battle was virtually at an end. The peasants
remained in possession of the field. Wounded warriors of both parties
crawled about among the trees and stones, and some reached a hut where a
woman surgeon was busy washing and bandaging their wounds. Hither came
also Thormod Kolbruna-Scald, whose left side had been pierced by an
arrow. He sat down on a bench, and a man of the peasant army who stood
by said to him: "Why art thou so pale? Art thou badly wounded?" He
answered in verse that he had got his wound from Danish weapons--a
mocking allusion to the alliance of the peasants with the Danish king.
The woman, not knowing how serious his hurt was, asked him to go out and
get an armful of firewood. When he returned he looked white as a ghost.
She begged to see his wound, and with a pair of tongs attempted to pull
out the arrow, the shaft of which was broken off. But her attempts were
futile. Then the scald took from his arm the heavy gold ring which the
king had given him for his song and handed it to her.


"It came from a good man," he said; "King Olaf gave it to me this

Taking the tongs, he clenched them over the stump of the arrow and
pulled it out. Pieces of flesh and red and white fibres adhered to the
barbs. He looked at them for a moment and said: "The king has fed us
well, for I am yet fat about the heart-roots"; then fell back and died.

The king's body was found by a peasant named Thorgils, who before the
battle had promised Olaf to bury him if he fell. As later tradition
reports, many miracles were wrought by the king's blood and by the mere
touch of his lifeless hand. Tales without number were told of his
marvellous powers in life as well as in death, and legends attributing
to him the work of the Thundering Thor, have clustered luxuriantly about
his name. He slew the trolds whom his church-bells annoyed, and turned
them to stone. St. Olaf, with the flame-red beard, became not only the
national saint, but also the national hero. The tragic circumstances of
his death, no less than his valiant work for the cause of Christ,
imbedded his memory deeply in the people's hearts.





King Knut could not, with his extensive possessions, devote much time to
the government of Norway. He therefore had his son Sweyn proclaimed King
of Norway in his stead. Sweyn's mother, who accompanied him to his new
kingdom, was Aelgifa, the daughter of an ealdorman in Northampton. The
Norsemen, however, called her Alfifa, and her son Sweyn Alfifasson. This
was, accordingly, what the chiefs had gained by their rebellion--to be
openly governed by the mistress of a foreign king and a boy who was and
could be nothing but a tool in her hands. It was a humiliation which
they could ill brook. If Alfifa had had the faintest comprehension of
the people whom she undertook to govern, she might possibly for a time
have maintained her son upon the throne; but when she proceeded to
remodel the Norse legislation in the feudal spirit, she struck a blow at
the very men who were the main-stay of her power. What the chiefs had
desired was local independence--the right to manage their own affairs
with as little interference as possible. They had hoped to obtain this
liberty under a king who was too far away to trouble them. But now came
Sweyn, and with him a number of Danes who became very important
personages, and induced the king to modify the Norse laws so as to bring
them more nearly into conformity with the laws of Denmark. It was then
enacted that no one should have the right to leave the country without
the king's permission, and that confiscation of property should be the
punishment for transgression. Man-slaying was likewise to be punished by
confiscation. So also an inheritance coming to an outlawed man should go
into the king's treasury. Ships, fisheries, pasture-land, nay, even the
peasant's hearthstones were taxed, and a system of extortion was
instituted which was galling to the spirit of free men. Even the
Christmas gifts which the peasants were to give the king, were fixed by
law. The chief end of government seemed to be to transfer money from the
people's pockets to those of the king. It was even asserted, though
there was no law to that effect, that during Sweyn's reign the testimony
of one Dane was sufficient to invalidate that of ten Norsemen.

The central principle in this legislation was the feudal idea that all
land belonged to the king, and that the possessors, as his tenants, had
to pay for the usufruct. It was the same appropriation by the king of
all allodial rights, which was encountered for the first time during the
reign of Harold the Fairhaired.

Alfifa, whom the people regarded as the author of the odious enactments,
may have had her share in them; but far less than was popularly
supposed. It was, no doubt, Knut who meant to crush the rebellious
spirit of the Norse chiefs, by which he had himself profited, and Sweyn
and Alfifa were merely his agents.

Under these circumstances it was but natural that the chieftains began
to repent of their rebellion against King Olaf. Einar Thambarskelver,
who prided himself on his absence from the battle of Stiklestad, was
especially active in awakening regret among the Trönders at his death,
and indignation at the rule of the Danes. He sent for Bishop Grimkel,
who was living as an exile in Sweden, and agreed with him upon a plan of
action. The bishop sent for the peasant Thorgils, who revealed the spot
where he had buried the king. Permission was obtained from King Sweyn to
bring the corpse to Nidaros, where it was placed in a splendid
sarcophagus and interred under the altar in the Church of St. Clement
(Aug. 1031). Although nearly a year had elapsed since the first burial,
it was asserted that there was no trace of decay on the body and that
the hair and the nails had grown. Einar and the bishop, at all events,
encouraged such reports, and they grew in number and minuteness of
convincing details. Grimkel now declared Olaf to be a saint, and Sweyn
and Alfifa, though they raised many objections, dared no longer profess
their disbelief. The 29th of July was set apart for the commemoration of
his martyrdom. For the first time in their history the Norsemen felt
themselves as one nation, united in their indignation against their
foreign rulers and in their regret and veneration for the martyred

If Sweyn and Alfifa were aware of the sentiment with which they were
regarded, they chose to ignore it. They were, however, not prepared for
open defiance, and the events of 1033 must have taken them by surprise.
In that year, a young man calling himself Tryggve, and professing to be
a son of Olaf Tryggvesson and his wife Gyda, came from England or
Ireland with a band of warriors and claimed the throne of Norway as his
inheritance. Sweyn called upon the chiefs to aid him in punishing the
pretender, but Einar Thambarskelver, Kalf Arnesson, and many other
magnates, refused to follow him. With those who still recognized his
authority the king sailed southward and defeated Tryggve in a short
battle in Sognesund. On his return he and Alfifa met the Trönders at the
_thing_ and listened to their complaints, but could give them no
satisfaction. Then Einar Thambarskelver said aloud and in the hearing of
many: "I was not a friend of King Olaf; but the Trönders proved
themselves to be poor merchants when they sold their king and got in his
place a mare with her colt. The king cannot speak, and his mother only
wishes what is bad and has the power to do it."

Alfifa rose to speak, but she could get no hearing. Einar Thambarskelver
taunted her openly, and so hostile was the sentiment that she dared not
take him to task. A sense of insecurity took possession of the king, and
he and his whole household left Tröndelag and took up their abode in the
southern part of the country. His authority had practically ceased,
though in name he yet remained king. In 1034, Einar Thambarskelver,
Kalf Arnesson, and several other chiefs started for Russia and invited
Magnus, King Olaf's only son, to return with them and become king of
Norway. They asked and received his forgiveness for their hostility to
his father, and swore to be faithful to him and to shield him from all
harm. Magnus, who was then ten years old, accompanied them back to his
native land, and was received with enthusiastic homage at Oere-_thing_,
where he was proclaimed king. Sweyn and Alfifa made vain efforts to
raise an army, but as no one heeded their summons, were forced to flee
to Denmark. Here Sweyn died in the year 1036. As his father, Knut, had
died in 1035, his half-brother, Harthaknut, became the heir to his claim
to Norway, and, as we shall see, soon took measures to enforce it.




MAGNUS THE GOOD (1035-1047).

MAGNUS OLAFSSON was an illegitimate child, his mother, Alfhild, being,
according to one report, an Englishwoman of high birth; according to
another, the queen's laundress. When he was born he was so small and
feeble that it seemed as if he could not live many hours. It was in the
middle of the night and no one dared to wake the king. His friend,
Sighvat Scald, was therefore called, and he assumed the responsibility
of naming the child Magnus, after Carolus Magnus, the German emperor. A
priest was then found who baptized it. When the king heard of the
occurrence he was very wroth, and chided the scald. There was no one in
his family named Magnus, and perhaps he even suspected that Sighvat had
made a mistake in selecting the Latin surname of the emperor rather than
his real name, Karl. It was under these unpropitious circumstances that
the boy was born who became the heir to St. Olaf's kingdom and the love
which a repentant people lavished upon his memory. He was not quite
eleven years old when he was proclaimed king at the Oere-_thing_, but
well grown and intelligent. He allowed himself, during the first years
of his reign, to be guided by the counsel of Einar Thambarskelver and
Kalf Arnesson; but soon gained sufficient independence of judgment to
assert his own will.

It was but a short time after the proclamation of Magnus as king that
Harthaknut prepared to invade Norway. Magnus, who was eager to punish
the race of Knut for their insidious plottings against his father, also
made warlike preparations, apparently with the intention of invading
Denmark. Whether any actual fighting took place is not known. It is not
improbable that some insignificant skirmishing may have been done; but
before any decisive battle was fought, the chieftains in both countries
interfered and persuaded the two youthful combatants to make peace. At a
meeting at the Brenn Islands, at the mouth of the Götha Elv, an
agreement was made in accordance with which each made the other his heir
and successor, in case he died, without issue (1038). This might,
indeed, seem to be a remote contingency, but it actually came to pass
four years later (1042) when Harthaknut died and Magnus was, without
opposition, proclaimed king of Denmark at the Viborg-_thing_, and
received the allegiance of the people. Thus Norway and Denmark were for
the first time united, and the descendants of Harold the Fairhaired were
recognized by the Danish branch of Ragnar Lodbrok's race as their
equals, as they already had been recognized by the branch governing

Magnus must have been aware that it was to the sainthood of his father
that he owed this recognition, and he lost no opportunity to show his
reverence for his memory. He commenced the erection of a church in
Nidaros, which was to bear St. Olafs name, and made him a new
sarcophagus, adorned with gold and silver and precious stones. It was
natural enough that he should take pleasure in the society of those who
had been nearest to his father and stood at his side at Stiklestad. But
the hostility aroused by the battle and the events that led to it
existed, in some measure, yet; and one party began to fan the
smouldering embers of distrust in the king's mind and incite him to
vengeance against the other. Young as Magnus was, it is scarcely to be
wondered at that he allowed himself to be influenced by this evil
counsel. In spite of the amnesty which he had in Russia given to those
who had borne arms against St. Olaf, he began now to punish all the
leaders in the rebellion with great harshness. It was the Trönders,
particularly, who had to bear the brunt of his wrath; because it was
they who had made common cause with Knut and had been foremost in
driving the sainted king into exile. Kalf Arnesson was among the first
to experience the changed temper of King Magnus. Jealousies had early
arisen between him and Einar Thambarskelver, both of whom called the
king their foster-son and prided themselves on possessing his
confidence. Once, it is said, Kalf had seated himself in Einar's seat
next to the king, whereupon Einar sat down upon Kalf's shoulder, saying:

"It behooves an old bull to be stalled before the calf."

At a party at the estate Haug, in Vaerdalen, the king uttered to Einar
a desire to visit the field where his father had fallen.

"I can give you no information about that," answered Einar, "as I was
not present. But let Kalf ride along with you. He can give you full

"Then thou shalt accompany me, Kalf," said the king; and Kalf, though he
was very reluctant, was obliged to follow.

When they reached the battle-field the king dismounted and asked to be
shown the spot where his father had received his death-wound.

"He lay here," said Kalf, pointing with his spear.

"Where didst thou stand then, Kalf?" asked Magnus.

"Here where I am now standing."

"Then thy axe could well reach him," cried the king, flushing violently.

"My axe did not reach him," Kalf replied, jumped on his horse and rode
away. He had already given orders to have his ship in readiness, loaded
with all his movable goods. And as soon as he reached home he put to sea
and sailed for the Orkneys. The great possessions which he left behind
were confiscated by Magnus.

Thore Hund escaped punishment by making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem from
which he never returned. Haarek of Thjotta was slain with the king's
consent by a private enemy, and many others were deprived of their
cattle and otherwise molested. The odious laws which had been given by
Sweyn Alfifasson were not repealed; and the king acted as if he
regarded himself as the master of every one's goods, life, and liberty.
But the Norsemen were not accustomed to endure arbitrary conduct in
their kings. A general dissatisfaction spread through the country, and
threatened to break out in open rebellion. In Sogn the peasants were
already under arms, and in Tröndelag a largely attended meeting was held
at which the bitterest denunciation of the king found utterance.
Happily, however, some were present who were yet kindly disposed to
Magnus, and these determined to let him know how the people felt toward
him. The question then arose as to who was to undertake this hazardous
mission, for Magnus was hot-tempered and had, moreover, made up his mind
to inflict exemplary punishment upon the rebellious Sognings. His
friends determined to let chance decide. They drew lots, and the lot
fell upon Sighvat Scald, who, in a song called the Lay of Candor, took
the king earnestly to task for his inconsiderate harshness, warned him
of the consequences, and reminded him of his duties to the people, who
had of their own accord made him their king. The song made a deep
impression upon Magnus, and he was from that day a changed man. He gave
up all plans of vengeance, became gentle and forgiving, and governed the
land in accordance with the law. His kindness and charm of manner made
him now so popular that scarcely enough could be said in his praise. The
people called him Magnus the Good.


When Magnus, in 1042, had become King of Denmark, his ambition led him
as the heir of Harthaknut, also to assert his claim to the crown of
England. Edward the Confessor, who was called to the throne at the death
of Harthaknut, was in honor bound to disregard such a claim; but it
compelled him to keep a fleet in readiness to repel an expected Norse
invasion. There is little doubt but that Magnus would have made the
attempt to oust him, if the events in Denmark had not taken a turn which
obliged him to abandon, for a time, all thought of conquest. Among the
Danes who swore allegiance to Magnus and endeavored to win his favor was
Sweyn Estridsson, the son of Earl Ulf and Estrid, the sister of Knut the
Mighty. He was both on his father's and his mother's side descended from
the race of Ragnar Lodbrok, and was therefore better entitled to the
Danish throne than the King of Norway. Sweyn was like his father Ulf, a
shrewd intriguer, smooth of speech, and fair of face, but false and
treacherous. He was loud in protestations of devotion to Magnus and
succeeded in gaining his confidence. Contrary to the advice of his
friends, Magnus made him his vassal and appointed him his earl, giving
him the same fiefs that his father had had before him. It was to be his
special duty to defend Jutland against the Wends and the Saxons. When
the ceremony of investiture took place, Einar Thambarskelver cried out
to the king: "Too great earl, foster-son; too great earl!" to which the
king replied angrily: "You do not credit me with any judgment or
knowledge of men. I do not know what you mean by regarding some earls as
too great, and some as nothing at all."

Sweyn was scarcely out of Magnus' sight, before he made haste to justify
Einar's apprehension. Having regained his father's fiefs and the power
which they gave him, he called the Danish chieftains together at the
_thing_ in Viborg, and was proclaimed King of Denmark. Magnus, incensed
at his treachery, started with a large fleet to punish him; but Sweyn
ran away, first to Sweden and later to the Wendic provinces along the
Baltic. No opposition was, therefore, offered to Magnus, and after
having chastised many who had acknowledged Sweyn as king, he started for
Jomsborg, which had also rebelled against his authority. He stormed and
destroyed the old viking nest, and killed and scattered its occupants.
In the meanwhile an enormous army of Wends, among the chiefs of which
was Sweyn Estridsson himself, was pouring in over Sleswick and met
Magnus at Lyrskogs Heath (1043) where, in spite of their superior
numbers, they were overwhelmingly defeated. It is told that 10,000
corpses covered the battle-field. The victory, which was in a large
measure due to King Magnus' personal bravery, gained him a great
prestige, and what was more, stemmed the tide of Slavonic migration in
the North. If the Wends had then gained a foot-hold in Jutland, Denmark
would probably to-day have been a Slavonic country, and the whole
destiny of the Scandinavian North would have been changed. Magnus took
up his winter-quarters in Sleswick; but no sooner had he dismissed part
of his army than Sweyn was again in arms, and was defeated by Magnus in
two naval battles at Aaros and Helgeness. In the spring of 1044, when
Magnus was twenty years old, he returned to Norway. His fame filled the
North; for so great things scarcely any king of his race had achieved at
so early an age. In spite of his hot temper, he was well beloved by all
his people; for with all his vehemence, he was upright, generous, and
noble. A pleasant story is told of him, which throws much light upon his

In Magnus' guard there was a high-born Icelander, named Thorstein, son
of Side-Hall. Like most of his countrymen he was not amenable to
discipline, and offended the king by going to Dublin without his
permission. In return for this he was outlawed; but, relying upon his
friends and family connections, he returned to Norway, paying no heed to
the judgment of outlawry. He brought with him some fine stud-horses, and
offered them as a gift to Einar Thambarskelver, whose influence with the
king was known to be great. Einar declined them; but his son Eindride,
not knowing of his father's refusal, accepted them with joy. He even
invited Thorstein to be his guest for the winter and had the hardihood
to bring him in his company to the king's Yule-feast. He was, however,
persuaded by his father to return home with the outlaw, before the king
had seen him. On the fourth day after Christmas, Einar, who was sitting
at Magnus' side, ventured to put in a good word for Thorstein, to which
the king answered:

"Let us talk of something else: for I would not willingly anger thee."

Four days later, Einar again mentioned the Icelander; but the king with
a perfectly friendly manner dismissed the subject. Then Einar let five
days pass; and once more asked that the Icelander be forgiven.

"We will not speak of that," said Magnus, with some irritation; "I do
not understand how thou canst presume to protect a man who has provoked
my wrath."

"That was my son Eindride's doing rather than mine," replied Einar; "but
I did think that my prayer for a single man would have some weight with
thee; when we in all things have done and will continue to do what will
promote thy honor. * * * I, my lord, shall be in an evil plight, if you
will not accept atonement in money from my son for Thorstein, instead of
fighting with him. For I cannot bring it over my heart to carry arms
against you. But this will I say, that I do not perceive that you
remember how I went to find you east in Russia, became your
foster-father, and have since supported and strengthened your kingdom,
thinking late and early of how I could advance your honor. Now I will
depart from the land, and no more aid thee. But there will be those who
will say that thou wilt not be the gainer by all this."

Thus spoke Einar, in anger, jumped up from his seat, and went toward the
door. But the king arose, hurried after him, and flung his arms about
his neck.

"Come back, my dear foster-father," he cried; "never shall aught,
whatever it be, have the power to break our friendship. Take the man in
peace, as it may please thee."

When Magnus had been king nine years, his uncle Harold Sigurdsson, the
son of Sigurd Syr and Aasta, came to Norway and demanded half of the
kingdom. Harold had, as we have seen, at the age of fifteen fought at
Stiklestad, and had been severely wounded. After his recovery he betook
himself to Russia, where for some years he held a command under
Jaroslav, and went thence to Constantinople, where he became the captain
of the Varangians, the foreign body-guard kept by the Greek emperors. He
was a man of gigantic frame, fair of face, with long blonde hair, and an
imperious glance which betrayed the race from which he had sprung.
According to the sagas, he made a sensation in Constantinople by his
mere appearance, and his wit, strength, and reckless bravery opened for
him a brilliant career. As the chieftain of the Varangians, he
participated in many campaigns against the Saracens in Asia and in
Sicily, and accumulated great treasures. That some antagonism must have
existed between him and the Greek General-in-chief, Georgios Maniakes,
is evident from the anecdotes preserved in the sagas, all of which
accord to Harold the glory for all victories, and express the contempt
with which the Norsemen regarded the most exalted personage of the
Southern nations. That Harold's importance in these campaigns has been
exaggerated by his Norse followers, to whom the saga-men were indebted
for their accounts, is natural enough; but even allowing for
exaggerations, it is evident that he made a great name for himself, and
was powerful enough to bid defiance, when he was so disposed, to the
Greek commander. He chose, however, if the saga account is reliable,
to outwit Maniakes rather than openly resist him.


Harold's adventures in Sicily, where he invented ingenious stratagems
for the capture of cities; his love adventures with Maria, a relative of
the Empress Zoë, the latter's jealousy and attempt to ruin him, his
imprisonment, fight with the serpent, flight, vengeance upon the
emperor, etc., are all of the typical kind and, therefore, more or less
suspicious. Many Germanic heroes, both Norse and German,[A] had
adventures of this order, when they visited the Orient, and there was a
curious uniformity in the fates that befell them, both in love and war.
To make the similarity complete, it was to make himself worthy of
Elizabeth or Ellisif, the daughter of Jaroslav, that Harold set out in
quest of fame and riches; and he did not fail to claim her on his
return, and bring her back with him to the land of his fathers. He met
his nephew, King Magnus, in Denmark, as he was sailing through the Sound
along the coast of Skaane. His ship, in which he carried his treasures,
was the most magnificent that had ever been seen in the North; and made
a sensation wherever it appeared. Magnus, when he saw the beautiful
galley, sent men aboard to find out whence it came and to whom it
belonged. A very tall and handsome man, with courtly manners stepped
forward, and said that he was an embassador from Harold Sigurdsson,
King Magnus' uncle, and his errand was to learn how the king would
receive his master. In response to this, the generous Magnus sent a
message that he would receive his uncle with open arms, as he would
expect to find a strong friend and supporter in a kinsman like him. The
tall man was none other than Harold himself. A meeting was then
arranged, and the two kinsmen were well pleased with each other. One
there was, however, who was not pleased and that was Einar
Thambarskelver. He foresaw what was coming, and when Harold presently
advanced his claim to half the kingdom, he could scarcely restrain his
wrath. Nevertheless, the king, who was most closely concerned in this
demand, answered gently that he would not hastily dismiss his kinsman's
request, but would be guided by the opinion of his counsellors. Einar,
as the most important, was now asked for his advice and he arose, saying
that if King Magnus was to cede half the kingdom of Norway to Harold, it
was only fair that Harold should share his treasures with Magnus. This
proposal did not prove agreeable to Harold; he had not, he said, braved
dangers and gathered wealth for the purpose of enriching his nephew's

[Footnote A: The German stories of "Herzog Ernst" and "Hugditrich," and
particularly that of "King Rother," have many features in common with
the saga records of Harold Sigurdsson.]

"But," rejoined Einar aptly, "thou wast far away, Harold, when we won
the land back from the race of Knut, and no desire have we now to divide
it between the chieftains. Hitherto we have only served one king at a
time, and thus it shall continue to be, as long as King Magnus is alive
and governs. I will do all I can to prevent thee from getting any share
in the kingdom."

The other counsellors agreed that this judgment was sound, and declared
themselves in the same spirit. This was the beginning of the bitter
enmity between Harold Sigurdsson and Einar Thambarskelver which led to
so many unhappy events in the near future. Harold, who in his victorious
career had been unaccustomed to rebuffs, resented keenly his nephew's
attitude toward him; and, for the purpose of bringing him to terms,
formed an alliance with Sweyn Estridsson. With his great wealth he had
no difficulty in raising a considerable force, with which, in Sweyn's
company, he attacked Denmark, ravaging Seeland and Funen with ruthless
cruelty. But the moment he learned that Magnus was approaching with his
fleet, he separated from his ally and returned in haste to Norway. To
justify this breach of faith, he spread the rumor that Sweyn had tried
to assassinate him. A man did actually, in the dead of night, row over
from Sweyn's ship to that of Harold, and steal into the latter's cabin.
But Harold, pretending to expect an attempt upon his life, had put a log
in his bed, covering it carefully with the bedclothes. The assassin,
creeping across the floor, struck his axe into the log and made his
escape. The next morning Harold showed the log with the axe yet sticking
in it to his men, and denouncing Sweyn's faithlessness, set sail for
Norway. There was, however, a suspicion that he had himself arranged the
whole affair.

On his arrival in Norway, Harold sought his old friends and kinsmen in
Ringerike, offering them great rewards if they would recognize him as
king. But, partly because Magnus was so generally beloved, partly for
fear of the consequences, the chieftains held aloof from the new
pretender and discouraged his aspirations. In Guldbrandsdale he met with
a better reception, and succeeded in gathering a band of partisans who
were ready to share his fortunes. Here he summoned the people to a
_thing_, where his cousin Thore of Steig, a youth of fifteen years,
proclaimed him king. As soon as Magnus heard of his uncle's doings, he
sailed to Viken. Here a battle seemed imminent, as Harold and his men
were coming southward to attack the king. Magnus, however, was reluctant
to fight against his father's brother, and, after some negotiations, it
was agreed that the two kinsmen should both be kings, govern together,
and share equally the income from taxes and the royal estates (1046).
Norway was, accordingly, not divided into equal parts, each with a
separate king, but the royal dignity was divided between two kings, who
both exercised authority over the entire land. It was, as the future
proved, a most disastrous precedent, which, however, Harold the
Fairhaired himself had been the first to establish.

In return for his nephew's concession, Harold consented to share with
him his wealth, which is said to have been very great, thus enabling
Magnus to prosecute with the greater vigor his war with Sweyn
Estridsson. The friendship between the two kings was, however, but of
short duration. Not only their interests were in many points
conflicting, but their characters were such as to invite antagonism.
Harold's greed of money, his extortion of the peasants, and his jealous
insistence upon every right which Magnus had of his own accord bestowed
upon him, must have aroused in the latter's mind many bitter
reflections. And still, with his innate generosity and forbearance,
Magnus refused to credit the many complaints that reached his ears. He
was so averse to quarrelling that, where his dignity permitted, he
rather ignored an affront than resented it. It seems, on the other hand,
as if Harold foresaw that so strained a relation could not last, and
perhaps even desired to put an end to it. To his imperious temperament
it was galling to suffer any restraint in the exercise of power.

Many incidents are related of his controversies with Magnus and his men.
Thus, on one occasion, Einar Thambarskelver, in order to convince his
foster-son of Harold's untrustworthiness, went to a _thing_, which the
latter had summoned, and witnessed the proceedings. Einar wore a gilt
helmet and was accompanied by sixty armed men. Harold, irritated by his
presence, surpassed himself in the severity of his demands upon the
peasants, and aroused much indignation. An old peasant named Toke, rose
and said: "I have now lived and borne the name of peasant in the reigns
of several kings, but I supposed when we had one king who with full
right had accepted the kingdom and been proclaimed at Oere-_thing_,
according to the counsel of the chiefs and with the consent of the
people, and a man came later demanding the name and power of a king,
that it is the former and not the latter who has the most power over us,
his _thegns_. My advice is, therefore, ye peasants, that we await King
Magnus' decision in regard to King Harold's demands and extortions, and
that we continue in all things to accord honor to King Magnus."

When the old man had finished, Einar Thambarskelver arose and thanked
him and all the peasants for their friendly disposition toward King
Magnus. This was more than King Harold could endure. He sprang up and
cried angrily: "Loftily dost thou wear thy helmet now, Einar, and always
thou showest thyself as my opponent. Happy will the day be when thy
helmet shall be laid low. As thou now art a head taller than others,
thou shalt then be a head shorter."

Disagreements, of a more or less serious character, between the kings
themselves were of frequent occurrence, and it was usually the prudence
and self-control of Magnus which prevented an open rupture. No record
has been preserved of the war which they waged together against Sweyn
Estridsson. It is to be inferred that the greater number of the Danes
took the part of Magnus against Sweyn, and that no battle of any
consequence was fought. It is told that one day while the Norse fleet
was lying close under land, a horseman, in splendid armor, came riding
out of the forest, and began to exhibit his horsemanship, to the great
admiration of the Norse warriors. When he had thus amused them for a
while, he rode down to the edge of the water, and shouted: "I am a
traitor to King Magnus, but so is King Harold to me; there is an immense
difference between these kings."

At that moment King Magnus came on deck, and recognized Sweyn. But Sweyn
spurred his horse and vanished among the trees. No attempt was made to
pursue him.

"Sweyn Ulfsson is a goodly man," said Magnus, "and if he had as much
people as he has courage and intrepidity, he would win more victories."

It was the bitterness that rankled in Magnus' heart against his uncle
which made him lenient in his judgment of Sweyn. And we shall see how
this sentiment presently affected his action. He had one day gone ashore
with many of his men, and was riding in the neighborhood of the village
Alsted, in Seeland, when his horse took fright and threw him. He was
flung with his head against a stump, and was stunned, but afterward
apparently recovered. Nevertheless, a morbid feeling took possession of
him, and a foreboding of death darkened his mind. A dream which he had
was rather the result than the cause of his melancholy presentiment. It
seemed to him that his father, St. Olaf, came to him and gave him the
choice between two things--viz., either to follow him now, or to live
long and be the mightiest of kings, but load upon his soul a sin which
hardly, if at all, could be forgiven.

"Choose thou for me, father," he seemed to answer.

"Then follow me now," said St. Olaf.

It is not hard to guess what the mortal sin was. That the temptation to
resort to violence against his burdensome rival must have been
frequently present to Magnus' mind, is scarcely to be wondered at. That
the temptation was resisted, is rather a matter of wonder.

A few days passed, during which Magnus pondered the dream. Then, one
morning, he woke up, burning with fever. Einar Thambarskelver, who stood
at his bedside, asked if he was ill.

"Not very ill, yet, dear foster-father," he answered.

"It would be a sorrow which we could never get over if we were to lose
thee," said Einar.

Magnus begged to be moved from one part of the ship to another; but
changed his mind again and wished to be taken back to where he had first
lain. Then Einar took alarm.

"Say to thy friends now, my lord, that which is nearest to thy heart,"
he said. "Give us good counsel; for mayhap our converse will not be

"Dear friend," the king replied, "I fear that this illness will soon
make an end of our intercourse."

When the rumor spread that King Magnus was ill, Harold came aboard his
ship and inquired about his condition.

"Yes, in sooth I am ill, kinsman," said the king, "and I have one prayer
to you, that you will not show disfavor to my friends."

"That is only my duty for your sake," replied Harold, "but there are
some of them who seem eternally sufficient unto themselves, and overlook

"What boots it to speak of such things now?" said Einar; "whatever
Harold may promise, he has already determined in his mind what he will

Little was lacking that Harold got into a dispute with the dying king
about the throne of Denmark, which Magnus had destined for Sweyn
Estridsson, and the gold which they had shared between them when they
shared the government. After having distributed gifts and keepsakes to
his men, King Magnus died (1047), twenty-four years old, after having
governed Norway for twelve years and a half, and Denmark for five years.
No sooner had he closed his eyes than Harold sent men to intercept the
messengers which had been despatched to Sweyn Estridsson to inform him
of his succession to the Danish throne.

The death of King Magnus was announced to the fleet by the blowing of
_loors_,[A] and the saying was indeed true, in his case, that he was
mourned by all the people.

[Footnote A: Loors are long Alpine horns, made of wood bound with
birch-bark, or of metal. They give a powerful sound.]





As Magnus the Good left no sons behind him, Harold Sigurdsson was the
only remaining descendant in the male line of Harold the Fairhaired, and
therefore undisputed heir to the throne. For, although the monarchy in
Norway had not from the earliest times been strictly hereditary, the
idea had gradually gained acceptance that the land belonged by allodial
right to the male descendants of its first conqueror. In apparent,
though not in real, conflict with this idea, was the custom of
proclaiming the king separately at the _thing_ in each shire and
personally swearing him allegiance, on condition of his promising to
rule in accordance with law and ancient usage. As we have seen, on many
occasions, the tribal aristocracy never gave so blind an adherence to
the hereditary principle as to renounce the practice of dictating
conditions and, in many instances, deciding the choice between the
various aspirants for the crown. If it had not been for the unhappy
precedent, established by Harold the Fairhaired, that not one but all
the sons of a king, legitimate and illegitimate, should succeed him on
the throne, this balance of power would have prevented an arbitrary use
of his authority, on the part of the king, and thus in the end have
proved beneficial. In fact, the great principle of constitutional
liberty is involved in this conflict of interests, and the natural
opposition of an aristocracy to the encroachments of the crown. The
situation in Norway, as well as the temperament of the people, was
favorable to the gradual and uninterrupted development of a
constitutional monarchy, such as the English, and if the long civil wars
growing out of the claims of rival heirs to the throne had not exhausted
the land, four hundred years of political extinction would not have
preceded the resurrection of the nation in the present century.

Harold Sigurdsson soon showed that he appreciated the advantages of his
position as the sole heir both of Harold the Fairhaired and St. Olaf.
For St. Olaf's sanctity had shed new lustre upon the royal house, and
greatly strengthened its hold upon the people. In fact, the later kings
refer the source of their authority more frequently to their heirship of
St. Olaf than to that of Harold the Fairhaired. When the tidings of King
Magnus' death had gone abroad, his successor called a _thing_ together
and declared that it was not his intention to abide by his late nephew's
decision to leave Denmark to Sweyn Estridsson. Denmark was his by right
of inheritance, and he meant to go at once to Viborg-_thing_ and
proclaim himself king of the Danes. This declaration was not well
received by the friends of King Magnus, and Einar Thambarskelver voiced
their feelings, when he reminded Harold that it was his first duty to
take the corpse to Nidaros and bury it with the proper honors. The fleet
then broke up, and Harold having but a small force left, had no choice
but to accept Einar's advice. At Borgar-_thing_, and later at
Oere-_thing_, he was, according to ancient custom, proclaimed king, no
opposition being offered to his succession. But cheerfully the peasants
did not offer him their allegiance, for they knew him well and expected
nothing good of him. His ideas of government he had imbibed among the
Southern races, which patiently bore tyranny, because they lacked the
sense of dignity and the sturdy manhood of the North. He had, indeed, a
more definite political programme than any of his predecessors, but it
was not a programme which was in accord with the genius of a free
Germanic people.

Harold's first object, and the one which he pursued with indefatigable
zeal throughout his reign, was to break the power of the tribal
aristocracy. The influence, authority, and calm defiance of those
miniature kings were perpetually a thorn in his flesh. His tall growth
and great physical strength, no less than the ease with which he had so
far achieved all that he had striven for, had inspired him with a
supreme self-reliance and a corresponding contempt for all forces and
interests opposed to his own. The ruthlessness with which he carried out
his purposes made him many enemies and procured for him the surname
_Haardraade_,[A] _i. e._, the hard ruler, the tyrant. What enabled him
to maintain so stern a sway over a people, so jealous of their rights,
was his superior intellect. "He was," says Snorre, "extremely
intelligent, so that all men are agreed that there has never been a more
intelligent king in the North. Moreover, he was an excellent swordsman,
strong, and skilled in the art of war, and altogether a man who knew how
to accomplish his purposes."

[Footnote A: Harold is referred to in English history as Harold the
Haughty. German histories call him H. der _Unbeugsame_ (H. the

Interesting in this connection is also his fondness for poetry and his
skill as a scald. It is told that he sat up half the night with the
blind Icelandic scald, Stuf Katson, and would not sleep as long as Stuf
could recite to him. This little trait adds a vivid touch to his
character and brings it closer to our sympathy and comprehension.

As the leader of the opposition to Harold, Einar Thambarskelver had long
been prominent. As the son-in-law of Earl Haakon, the friend of Earl
Erik and the foster-father of King Magnus, he occupied an exceptional
position and was highly respected. His personal qualities were also such
as to increase the esteem with which he was regarded. In natural
endowments he was fully King Harold's match, and in imperiousness and
proud self-assertion he did not yield much to him. Moreover, he was well
skilled in the law, and when the king, as often happened, demanded more
of the peasants than was his right, Einar rose as the people's spokesman
and checked the arbitrary exaction. It was not to be wondered at that
Harold hated him, but it is a striking tribute to the esteem in which he
was held, that the king refrained so long from molesting him. But
rashness was not among Harold's faults. He was fully capable of
forecasting the results of his actions. As yet he felt that too great a
risk would be involved in an attempt to rid himself of his enemy, who
lived on a war-footing and was prepared to meet emergencies. With a view
to weakening his power, Harold, therefore, made the Icelander Ulf
Uspaksson his liegeman, and gave him far greater fiefs in Tröndelag than
Einar had. Again, in order to break the solid front of the tribal
magnates in that part of the country and divide their interests, he
married the beautiful Thora, the sister of Eystein Orre, of the great
race of the Arnmodlings.[A] The king was not then divorced from his
first wife, Queen Ellisif, and it has therefore been supposed, that
Thora was only his mistress. But it is not likely that her proud kinsmen
would have allowed her to occupy such a position,[B] and it appears that
the title of queen was everywhere accorded her. It is therefore
impossible to escape the conclusion that Harold had, at the same time,
two lawful wives.

[Footnote A: To this family belonged Finn Arnesson, who fought at St.
Olaf's side at Stiklestad, and Kalf Arnesson, whom Magnus the Good

[Footnote B: See Munch: "Det Norske Folks Historie," ii., p. 180.]

The tendency to subordinate all other considerations to policy, which
Harold showed in his marriage, was also visible in his efforts to
establish a rival saint to St. Olaf in the south of the country. The
presence of the sanctuary of the national saint in Tröndelag had tended
to increase the natural predominance of that province over the southern
districts and to foster jealousies, which, in an imperfectly
amalgamated nationality, are always rife. Viken, which had formerly
belonged to Denmark, had never become intimately attached to the kingdom
and race of Harold the Fairhaired; and Harold Sigurdsson judged rightly
that a local saint of his own family would accomplish the double
purpose. Such a saint was soon found in the person of Hallvard, the son
of Vebjörn, and a cousin of the king. His history was not very
remarkable, nor was his martyrdom, even with all its legendary
embellishments, sufficient to warrant canonization. But it served the
king's purpose well, and the regulation miracles began to manifest
themselves in the usual fashion at St. Hallvard's shrine. Without
submitting the question to the Pope, "the people" then proclaimed him a
saint, and the king founded the town of Oslo, probably to shelter the
new sanctuary (1051 or 1052). The site of the town was chosen with
excellent judgment at the end of the Folden Fjord, where Christiania,
the capital of Norway, is now situated.

When we consider the restless energy and power with which King Harold
carried out his plans, both in internal and in foreign affairs, we
cannot but derive a high idea of his ability. Whether, on the other
hand, his activity was for the welfare of his subjects, is another
question. Certainly, his long-continued war with Denmark was disastrous,
both to himself and his people. His annual summer amusement consisted,
for some time, in surprising the exposed ports on the Danish coast and
harrying them with savage cruelty. At last, when both sides grew tired
of this aimless destruction, it was agreed that Sweyn Estridsson should
meet Harold at the mouth of the Götha Elv, and that the issue of the
battle should decide in regard to the latter's claim to the throne of
Denmark. At the time appointed, however, Sweyn failed to make his
appearance, and Harold, after having waited for him in vain, sailed
southward with his fleet, ravaging the coast of Jutland, burning the
great city of Heidaby (Sleswick), and carrying away a number of
high-born women, besides an enormous booty (1049). He was far from
expecting to be pursued by the Danes, and, accordingly, allowed his
ships to scatter on their homeward way. Head-winds and foggy weather
delayed the Norsemen, and one morning when they were laying to under the
island of Lesö, they saw a sudden flash through the fog which caused
alarm. The king was called and asked what he supposed it to be.

"The Danish fleet is upon us," he said; "that which shines is the golden
dragon-heads which flash in the morning sun."

Resistance was not to be thought of, and flight seemed also hopeless.
But the king's presence of mind did not desert him. He ordered the men
to the oars, but the ships, which were heavy and swollen from having
been long in the water, made little headway, and, as the fog lifted, the
Danish fleet, counting several hundred galleys, was seen bearing down
upon them. Harold then commanded his men to nail bright garments and
other precious things to logs and throw them overboard. The Danes, who
could not resist the temptation to stop and pick them up, thereby lost
time, and were rebuked by Sweyn for their folly. Again the pursuit
began, and Harold was obliged to throw overboard malt, beer, and pork,
in order to lighten his ships. Nevertheless, Sweyn was still gaining
upon him, and Harold's own dragon-ship, which was the hindmost, was in
danger of being captured. Then, in sheer desperation, he made rafts out
of barrels and boards, put the Danish matrons and maidens upon them, and
lowered them into the sea. One after another of these rafts was sent out
at intervals, and the pursuers seeing their wives and daughters
stretching out their arms to them, crying to be rescued, and some even
struggling in the water, could not forbear to pause and save them. Thus
Harold escaped, and Sweyn cursed his ill-luck. Nevertheless, when he
captured some laggards among the Norse galleys, he refused to take
vengeance upon them.

During a later expedition to Denmark (1060) Harold displayed again the
same presence of mind, and daring invention. He had just beaten Sweyn in
the battle of Djursaa, and felt perfectly safe in entering the long and
narrow Lim-Fjord for purposes of plunder. But Sweyn, hearing that his
antagonist had gone into such a trap, hastily gathered what forces he
could command and laid to at Hals, where the fjord is so narrow that a
few ships could easily engage a much superior number. Harold, perceiving
that he was caught, gave orders to sail in through the fjord to the very
end. Here a narrow isthmus separates the fjord from the North Sea. With
enormous difficulty he now dragged his ships across the isthmus, and
sailed gaily northward while Sweyn lay guarding the empty cage from
which he had escaped. To make, however, an end of this wasteful and
unprofitable warfare, Harold proposed to Sweyn that they should stake
their kingdoms in a decisive battle in the Götha Elv.

It is not perfectly clear whether Sweyn accepted this challenge, though
there is a probability that he did, as Harold would scarcely otherwise
have gone to the place appointed for the battle. As on the former
occasion, however, he waited in vain for the foe, and, dismissing the
greater part of his force, sailed with one hundred and eighty ships down
along the coast of Skaane until he came to Nis-aa, where he was
surprised by Sweyn with a fleet of three hundred and sixty ships. A
bloody battle was fought, lasting through an entire night (1062), and
ending with the complete rout of the Danes. The victory was in a large
measure due to the Norse chieftain Haakon Ivarsson, a man whom Harold
had treated with harshness, but who, in the king's need, nevertheless,
came to his rescue. Sweyn, too, owed his safety to Haakon, on board
whose ship he sought refuge, and by whose aid he made his escape.

Great as the victory at Nis-aa was, its results, as far as Harold was
concerned, proved insignificant. It was vain to suppose that Sweyn, as
long as he had any power of resistance, would renounce his throne; and
even if he had been willing to abide by such an agreement, the
Norsemen's many plundering expeditions had made them so hated in Denmark
that an army of occupation would have been needed to keep the land
under their sway. They were, however, no less weary than the Danes of
the incessant hostilities, and much against his will, Harold was forced
to make peace at Götha Elv in 1064. He recognized Sweyn as king of
Denmark, and promised no more to molest him.

The excessive burdens which Harold had imposed upon his people, in order
to obtain the means to carry on this war, had produced great discontent
among the peasants, and the important domestic events which preceded the
peace will now claim our attention. During the prosecution of the war
nothing irritated the king more than the captious criticism and
opposition of the chieftains, and particularly of their leader, Einar
Thambarskelver. Einar, with his six hundred men-at-arms, following him
wherever he went, was the personified defiance of the king's authority;
and Harold, when he once saw him land at the pier in Nidaros, flaunting
his power in his face, is said to have exclaimed in verse: "Here I must
see the haughty Einar land with a band of _hus-carles_ so large that
many an earl would have been satisfied with less. He thinks, perhaps,
himself to mount the throne; and he will not stop until he has deprived
me of my kingdom, unless he has first to kiss the thin lips of the axe."

Though this supposition may have been unfounded, it is very sure that
Einar shunned no opportunity for manifesting his hostility to the king.
Once he broke up a meeting when Harold was present, and with his armed
retinue freed a convicted thief who had once been in his service.
Another time he forced the king, by threatening an attack, to surrender
a great treasure which once had been found in the ground, although the
law adjudged all property thus acquired to the king. Einar, however,
claimed that some runes on the lid of the chest, containing the
treasure, showed it to have belonged to his father-in-law, Earl Haakon,
whose only surviving heir was his wife Bergljot.

The king could scarcely be blamed for resenting such insolence, but the
means he chose to get even with his enemy was unworthy of him. He had,
by chance, captured some Danish men who had in their possession King
Sweyn's seal. It is not improbable that they were secret emissaries from
the Danish king, who was perhaps trying the tactics of his uncle Knut,
whose bribes had once alienated the Norse chieftains from Olaf the
Saint. It now occurred to Harold that he might use these men to test the
disposition of the chieftains toward him and, what was especially
important, gain a just reason for destroying those who should prove to
be traitors. It was particularly against Einar Thambarskelver that this
plot was directed. The men, purporting to come from King Sweyn, brought
forged letters full of flattering assurances, and a large sum of money
which they offered Einar as a pledge of the king's friendship. But he
was equal to the test. "Every one knows," he said, "that King Harold is
not my friend, while King Sweyn often speaks kindly of me, and I would
fain be his friend. But if he comes to Norway with an army to fight King
Harold and harry his kingdom, I will make him all resistance in my
power, and I will help King Harold, with all the force at my command, to
defend his kingdom."

When the Danes returned with this message to King Harold, he said:

"It was to be expected that he would answer like a man of honor, though
not out of love for me."

There were other surprises in store for the king on this occasion. His
friend and kinsman, Thore of Steig, who had first recognized his claim
to the kingdom, accepted the bribe, and when informed that Harold was
coming to punish him, he went cheerfully to meet him, and handed him the
money, saying: "A short while ago, there were some Danish men at my
house who brought me friendly letters and money from King Sweyn. I
accepted the money, because I found it proper that you should receive
what foreign kings were using to steal your country from you."

This was so shrewd an act that it extorted from Harold, even if he did
see through it, a reluctant admiration.

A third man,--a peasant, named Högne Langbjörnsson--to whom the
emissaries came, made them this answer:

"I did not think King Sweyn had heard of me, who am only a common
peasant, but my answer to him is this: that if he comes to Norway with
war-shield, no peasant's son shall do him more harm than I."

When this reply was reported to Harold he was greatly pleased, and
presently offered Högne, as a reward for his fidelity, the title of
liegeman, which was the highest dignity next to that of earl. But Högne
was also proof against this temptation.

"All the friendship which you show me, my lord," he said, "I accept with
thanks. But the title of liegeman I will not have, for I well know how
things will go. When the liegemen came together they would say: 'Högne
shall have the lowest seat, for he is only of peasant race, and thus the
lowest of the liegemen.' My dignity would then not bring me honor, but
shame. Far greater honor it is to be called a peasant and have the
peasants say when they come together, that Högne is the foremost among

It is this sturdy sense of independence among peasants which makes
Norwegian history unlike the history of any other country, and Norway
the fountain-head of constitutional liberty in Europe. It was upon this
rock that feudalism was wrecked in Norway, while it sailed triumphant
down the current of history in Sweden, in Denmark, and all other
European lands.

King Harold could not help recognizing this proud integrity, even when
found in his enemies. He was more kindly disposed even toward Einar
Thambarskelver after having become assured of his loyalty. In order to
put an end to all differences between them, he invited the old man to a
feast at the royal mansion in Nidaros, gave him the seat of honor next
to himself, and entertained him in princely fashion. The horns were
industriously drained, and Einar, who was nearly eighty years old, grew
sleepy. As ill-luck would have it, the king was just then telling of
his adventures in Constantinople, and he regarded the sleepiness of his
guest as a mark of disrespect. He directed one of his men to play a
rough trick on the sleeper, in return for which Einar, the next day, had
the man slain. The old enmity then broke out afresh; and Harold, weary
of the humiliations he had had to suffer, determined to rid himself of
his foe. Under pretence of wishing to make peace with him, he invited
him to a meeting. Einar came with his son Eindride and a large crowd of
followers. The king, having concealed assassins in the hall, had covered
up the smoke-hole so as to exclude the light. As Einar entered, leaving
his son at the door outside, he expressed his astonishment at the

"Dark it is in the king's hall," he said.

The murderers immediately fell upon him and cut him down.

"Sharp are the fangs of the king's hounds," he cried.

Eindride, hearing his father's voice, rushed in to defend him, but was
instantly surrounded and slain. In a few minutes the king strode out of
the hall, and ordered his men to prepare themselves for an attack; but
Einar's followers stood irresolute, and made no sign to pursue him, as
he walked down to the river with his guard and rowed out to the fjord.
The old Bergljot, when she heard of the king's treachery, rushed through
the streets of the town, vainly calling upon the people to avenge her
husband and son. She arrived at the king's mansion just in time to see
Harold's boat gliding down the river. "Now we miss my kinsman Haakon
Ivarsson," she cried; "for if he stood here on the slope, Einar's
slayer would not be rowing down the river."

Harold acted wisely in betaking himself away after having aroused the
wrath of the Trönders by this dastardly deed. He went to his kinsman by
marriage, Finn Arnesson, and persuaded him to use his influence to quiet
the people; in return for which he promised to recall his brother Kalf,
and restore to him his property and dignities, of which King Magnus had
deprived him. Moreover, Finn had to undertake a mission to Haakon
Ivarsson, and induce him to forego his vengeance for the slaying of his
kinsmen, and accept, as blood-wite, any favor which it was in the king's
power to bestow. Finn accomplished both these missions with success;
quieted the Trönders, and reconciled Haakon, who, as the price of peace,
demanded the hand of Ragnhild, the daughter of Magnus the Good, in
marriage. Nevertheless, the king had lost much in the estimation of the
people by murdering Einar. The slaying itself they would readily have
condoned; but the breach of faith they regarded as a crime, unworthy of
an honorable warrior. Harold's disregard of faith and honor brought
about a general disregard of moral obligations. Toward a treacherous
king treason seemed pardonable. One after another of his liegemen,
discovering his duplicity, turned away from him, left their country, and
went to King Sweyn in Denmark, who received them well. The first who
took this course was Finn Arnesson; Kalf, his brother, was a brave and
able man, and King Harold seemed after his return to be kindly disposed
toward him. For all that, during an expedition to Denmark, he sent him
ashore with a small band of men and commanded him to attack a much
superior Danish force, promising to come to his aid, if necessary. Kalf
obeyed, and was killed with nearly all his men. Then, at last, when
there was no need of it, the king landed and made an incursion for
plunder into the country. Later, he boasted of having caused the death
of thirteen men, and Finn was not wrong in supposing that his brother
was one of them. He was so incensed at the king's treachery that he
could no more endure to meet him face to face. He sailed with all his
movable possessions to Denmark, where King Sweyn made him Earl of
Halland, a province which now belongs to Sweden, and borders on the
Norwegian province Viken.

A similar experience with King Harold had Haakon Ivarsson. He wooed
Ragnhild, the daughter of King Magnus, but received the reply that she
would not wed any man less than an earl. Haakon then begged the king to
make him an earl; but Harold answered that he did not wish to have more
than one earl at the time in his kingdom. Full of wrath, Haakon then
betook himself to King Sweyn; but in the battle of Nis-aa again joined
Harold, and saved him from defeat. His obligations toward Sweyn he also
discharged by rescuing him after the battle, and sending him in safety
to his friends. The fame which Haakon acquired by these exploits, so far
from bringing him the favor of the king, rather excited his hostility.
Harold did, indeed, persuade Ragnhild to marry him, and positively
promised to make him an earl; but, after the wedding had taken place,
he put him off on one pretext or another, and when Haakon pressed him
for an answer, gave him a blank refusal. His wife, who had expected a
different result, cried out to him joyously, as he returned: "Welcome,
my Earl." He was forced to tell her what had occurred; and as he would
not have the appearance of having won her under false pretences, he
offered her divorce, and the right to keep all his property. This was a
generous offer, but Ragnhild refused to accept it. Haakon, then, began
secretly to dispose of his property, in the hope of escaping from the
country without attracting the king's attention. Harold, however, got
wind of his purpose, and started out with two hundred and forty men, in
the night, to kill him. Being warned by a friend, he made his escape
into Sweden, and thence to Denmark. Sweyn made him Earl of Halland after
Finn Arnesson's death; and the Swedish king, Steinkil, gave him the two
large provinces, Vestgötland and Vermeland. Haakon was now in possession
of almost royal power, and he availed himself of his position to do as
much damage to King Harold as possible. In the Oplands he had always
been popular, while the king was much disliked for having deprived the
peasants of certain privileges, bestowed upon them by Olaf the Saint.
Haakon, therefore, had the audacity to levy taxes in this province, and
when the king's tax-gatherers came, they were informed that there was no
money due to him, as the taxes had been paid to Earl Haakon. But King
Harold was not the man to pocket such insults. He gathered an army,
invaded Sweden, and defeated Haakon and the Vestgoths; and the Oplanders
he punished with exemplary severity.

In the year 1066, Earl Tostig, the brother of the English King Harold
Godwineson, came to Norway to enlist Harold Sigurdsson's aid in an
attempt to conquer England. He had been on a similar errand in Denmark,
but had there met with small success. Sweyn Estridsson declared that he
had no ambition to imitate the deeds of his uncle, Knut the Mighty; but
would be quite content if he could keep and defend his own kingdom.
Harold Sigurdsson, who never was averse to adventurous undertakings,
lent a more favorable ear to the earl's representations, and in
September, 1066, sailed for England with the largest fleet which up to
that time had ever left the shores of Norway. About twenty thousand
warriors embarked, and with the contingent which he exacted from the
earls of the Orkneys, and Earl Tostig's own contribution, the entire
force must have amounted to three hundred or three hundred and fifty
ships and thirty thousand men. His queen, Ellisif, and his two
daughters, Maria and Ingegerd, whom he had brought with him, he left on
the Orkneys, and himself sailed down along the coast of Scotland to
Northumberland. At Fulford he was met by an army under the Earls Markere
and Eadwine, and won a great victory, whereupon the city of York
surrendered. He encamped at Stamford Bridge, about seven miles from
York; but left about one third of his army, under command of his son
Olaf, to guard the ships. The weather was warm, and the men, having no
thought of danger, did not wear their armors. At Stamford Bridge,
however, they were surprised by a large army, led by Harold Godwineson.
Tostig advised a speedy return to the ships; but Harold Sigurdsson,
being too proud to turn his back to any foe, gave orders to await the
attack of the English. While the army was being arranged in battle
array, twenty English horsemen came riding toward them, and one of them
asked if Earl Tostig was present.

"It is not to be denied that you will find him here," answered Tostig.

"We bring thee this greeting from thy brother Harold," said the
Englishman, "that he offers thee peace and Northumberland; nay, he is
not indisposed to grant thee one third of his kingdom, if he can gain
thy friendship on no other terms."

"This, in sooth, is another offer than the scorn and strife which were
offered me last autumn. * * * Suppose, now, that I accept this proposal;
what does then my brother offer the King of Norway?"

"He has intimated how large a piece of England he will grant to King
Harold Sigurdsson; it is the space of seven feet, or so much more as he
is taller than other men."

"If such is the case," Tostig rejoined, "then ride back and bid King
Harold commence the battle."

Harold Sigurdsson, who had listened to this colloquy, asked Tostig who
the spokesman of the Englishmen was.

"That was my brother, Harold Godwineson himself," answered the earl.
"Too late did I learn that," said King Harold.

The English cavalry made the first onslaught, but were repulsed.
Thinking that their retreat indicated a general flight, the Norsemen
started in pursuit, thus breaking up their battle array, which it was
the king's intention to preserve until the expected reinforcements
arrived from the ships. King Harold fought with _berserkir_ fury,
rushing into the thick of the fray and hewing savagely about him. The
English ranks broke, and every thing indicated a victory for the
Norsemen, when the king's throat was pierced by an arrow, and he fell
from his horse dying. Tostig now assumed command, after having refused
an armistice, offered by his brother. He fought bravely for a while, and
the Norsemen, weary and wounded though they were, shouted their
battle-cry and rushed forward once more, eager to avenge their king.
Then Tostig, too, was cut down, and the wide battle-field was covered
with the bodies of the slain. Just then, Eystein Orre, King Harold's
brother-in-law, arrived with reinforcements, and a short and desperate
combat ensued, until he, too, fell. Under cover of the twilight a small
remnant of the great army succeeded in reaching the ships. One man,
named Styrkaar Stallare, had got hold of a horse and dashed furiously
away over the fields, arrayed in his shirt and a helmet. His clothes had
been torn off him in the heat of the combat. A cold wind was blowing,
and chilled him to the bone. On his way, he met an English yeoman,
dressed in a warm jerkin of sheepskin. Styrkaar asked him how much he
would take for the garment.

"I won't sell it to thee," answered the yeoman, "for I know thee by thy
speech that thou art a Norseman."

"If that's so," said Styrkaar, "what wilt thou then do?"


"I'll kill thee; but unhappily I have no weapon that will avail me."

"Well, since thou seest that thou canst not kill me," rejoined the
Norseman, "let me try if I can't kill thee."

And raising his sword, he struck off the yeoman's head and made off with
his jerkin.

For many years after this battle, heaps of human bones lay scattered
over the fields, for no one stayed to bury the dead. The landing of
William the Conqueror (September 29th) called Harold Godwineson to
Hastings, where the fruits of the victory at Stamford Bridge were lost.

Olaf Haroldsson, Harold Sigurdsson's son, steered his course first to
the Orkneys, where his half-sister Maria, in the meanwhile, had died.
There he remained during the winter and spring, and sailed the following
summer, with Queen Ellisif and his sister Ingegerd, to Norway. Of all
the splendid fleet with which his father had sailed away only
twenty-four ships returned.

King Harold was fifty-one years old when he fell. In spite of the
discontent of the chiefs, Norway took great strides, during his reign,
toward a settled internal condition. The tribes were being welded into a
people. In every branch of the administration the king's strong hand was
felt. His wars, though in one sense disastrous, tended, on the whole, to
give Norway a secure place among the nations. A long controversy which
he had concerning ecclesiastical affairs with Archbishop Adalbert of
Bremen ended in his triumph, and though no formal decision was made, the
Norwegian Church ceased, for a while, to recognize the supremacy of the
see of Bremen. If King Harold had been as noble as he was able, he would
have left a greater name behind him.




On his return to Norway, Olaf Haroldsson found his elder brother Magnus,
who had already been acknowledged as king before his father's death, in
possession of the government. After some negotiations it was agreed that
the two brothers should divide the kingdom between them--Magnus taking
the larger portion toward the north and west, and Olaf contenting
himself with Viken. If this division was founded upon the equal allodial
rights of the brothers, it was obviously unfair. But Olaf, being averse
to quarrelling, accepted it, as far as we know, without protest.

The campaign to England had largely exhausted the resources of the
country; and Sweyn Estridsson of Denmark thought that the opportunity
was now favorable for avenging the wrongs which he had suffered at the
hands of King Harold. The brothers then made levy in mass from all the
country, but Sweyn succeeded in engaging Olaf with his division of the
fleet, off the coast of Halland (1067), before Magnus had joined him.
The battle must have been indecisive; for both sides claimed a victory.
It is, however, probable that Olaf suffered the more, as he was the
first to propose peace. Magnus had, in the meanwhile, come, and their
allied fleets were, in all probability, equal or superior to Sweyn's. At
all events, Sweyn had suddenly lost the desire to prosecute the war; and
a peace was made at Konghelle (1068), at which assurances of friendship
and good-will were exchanged. Olaf is said to have borne his part in the
negotiations with a firmness and intrepidity which inspired Sweyn with
respect. As a first result of the meeting, two marriages were arranged,
viz.: one between Harold Hard-ruler's widow, Ellisif, and King Sweyn,
and the other between Olaf and Sweyn's daughter, Ingrid.

It is not known whether Magnus was present at the peace of Konghelle. If
he was, his ill health must have prevented him from transacting any
business; for only Olaf's name is mentioned in connection with the
treaty. During the following year, too, all public business devolved
upon Olaf; for Magnus lay ill in Nidaros and finally died in the spring,
1069. He left one son, Haakon, who was but an infant and was fostered by
Thore of Steig. No one put forth any claim to the kingdom in his name,
and Olaf thus became king of the whole country.

With the exception of the little ripple of martial excitement during the
first years after his accession, Olaf Haroldsson's reign of twenty-seven
years presents not a single warlike event. His saga is a saga of
peace--a long and honorable record of achievements in the service of
civilization. The key-note of his character was prudent moderation. He
was religious, but not fanatical; devout, but not bigoted. Easy-going by
temperament, yet negligent of no duty, cheerful but not jolly, calm but
not indolent, he is indeed a unique but none the less attractive figure
among the martial descendants of Harold the Fairhaired. He is the more
remarkable because his leading traits of character contrast so
strikingly with those of the prevailing type of man in his age. Serenity
of soul shines out of those of his utterances which the sagas have
thought it worth while to preserve. There seems to be a conscious
conviction, far in advance of his century, in a saying like this:

"Why should I not be happy, since I am sitting here with you at a feast,
which is consecrated to my kinsman St. Olaf, and I see both joy and
liberty among my subjects? In the days of my father this people lived
under much compulsion and fear. Then most of them hid away their gold
and treasures, but now I see shine upon every one the ornaments which he
possesses. Your freedom and joy are my feast and my delight."

The surname _Kyrre, i. e._, the tranquil, the quiet one, which the
people gave him, whether originally meant as a compliment or not,
became, in the course of time, an honorable distinction; for during the
century of strife and bloodshed which followed, all looked upon his
bloodless reign as upon a golden age of peace.[A] As a later author [B]
says: "He was in favor both with God and men; he laid great stress upon
peace and tranquillity; let every man keep what was his own, and
suppressed nothing but what was evil. * * * There were then excellent
crops and manifold splendor, so that Norway had never since Harold the
Fairhaired been in such a prosperous condition, as in his days. All the
people loved him warmly; for he conceded many a thing for their
convenience which Harold had insisted upon with harshness and enforced
with severity. He was liberal with gold and silver and good ornaments;
but only tenacious of land; the reason of this was his intelligence; for
he saw that it was for the welfare of the kingdom."

[Footnote A: See Munch, ii., p. 430.]

[Footnote B: Thjodrek Munk, Cap. 29. Quoted from Munch Det Norske Folk's

The story of Olaf the Quiet occupies but a few pages in the sagas, while
that of his father and his son, both great warriors, fills much space.
The work of destroying lives, in which the latter were accomplished,
appealed more to the warlike historian of the kings of Norway than the
quiet activity for the preservation of life and the amelioration of its
ills, to which Olaf devoted his energies. The little that Snorre says
about him is, indeed, all in his praise, and very likely there was no
one in those days who thought of singing songs or otherwise preserving
other deeds than those of the sword. The scald who has sung Olaf's
praise has, therefore, dwelt chiefly upon his participation in his
father's foolhardy expedition to England, and his battle with Sweyn

It was natural that a man of Olaf's character should have small sympathy
with the viking spirit which was yet to a certain extent prevalent; and
though we do not know what he did to discourage viking cruises, we hear
that this form of piracy became very much rarer during his reign. One
circumstance which must have been discouraging to the vikings was the
greatly increased risk which they ran, on account of the consolidation
and increased power of the states which they were wont to attack.
England under William the Conqueror was no longer a congenial
stopping-place for Norse pirates, and France, Spain, and Germany had
likewise taken measures for the protection of their coasts, which
greatly interfered with the summer amusements of the Norse chieftains. A
trip to Ireland, to be sure, still offered some inducements in the way
of slaves and plunder; but along the Swedish and the Russian coasts of
the Baltic, the native tribes had proved apt pupils of the vikings, and
had commenced plundering on their own account, thus diminishing the
chances of profit for the Norsemen. That the influence of Christianity
may also have been active in weaning men from their predatory habits we
would fain believe, if the long carnival of bloodshed which followed did
not seem to prove the contrary. The material considerations just cited,
were evidently the more powerful; though in the case of the king, who
himself set the example of devotion to peaceful industries, there is no
doubt that his religion influenced his life by strengthening the
unwarlike side of his character. He manifested his sincerity as a
Christian, not only by his fondness for the priests, whose vestments he
often assisted in putting on, but more particularly by his efforts to
change and suppress every thing which he believed to be antagonistic to
the spirit of the religion of Christ. Thus he was the first king of
Norway who endeavored to put an end to serfdom. He gave the law, that
every shire in the kingdom should annually manumit one thrall. His first
object in giving this order, however, was to get citizens for his towns,
and thereby encourage commerce and peaceful occupations. Many of the
thralls were artisans, and a large number of those who had been
enthralled as prisoners of war were men of intelligence and enterprise.

Commerce had, even previous to the reign of Olaf the Quiet, enjoyed
periods of prosperity. The vikings were often merchants as well as
pirates, and bought for money or goods what they could not take with the
sword. Merchants, on the other hand, who were not vikings, had always to
have the sword at hand to defend their cargoes. A very sharp distinction
between the warrior caste and that of the merchants, did not therefore
exist, and we find that great chieftains, nay even kings themselves,
engaged in commerce, and were not ashamed of the profit they reaped by
mercantile enterprise. Thus we hear that Olaf the Saint went into
partnership, for one voyage, with the merchant Gudleik Gerdske, and
Harold Hard-ruler made the trade with the Finns a royal monopoly which
he farmed out to his underlings. A considerable exchange of commodities
by barter took place between Norway and Denmark, Sweden and England, and
as piracy declined, and the precious metals came into general use, a
more regular commercial intercourse. These first effects of a more
orderly social organization were beginning to be visible during the
reign of Olaf the Quiet, and it is owing to this fact, that we hear so
much about the promotion of commerce and the prosperity of the towns.
The city of Björgvin (now Bergen) was founded by him (1070-1075) and
very soon became a commercial centre of great importance.


As long as their occupation was war and industrial pursuits were left to
thralls, the Norsemen could not be expected to have much sense for
domestic comfort. And the fact is that, before the days of Olaf the
Quiet, even the wealthiest of them lived in a primitive way, on coarse
food and with rude surroundings. Their houses contained but one room,
with closed alcoves along the walls for beds. As floor, served the bare
earth, stamped hard and covered with straw, and along the middle of it
burned fires which sent gusts of smoke and sparks through the room. In
the roof was a large hole for the escape of the smoke, and also for the
admission of light. There were no ceilings; but the smoke-encrusted
rafters from which often depended fishing-tackle, skins, and articles of
clothing, stretched from wall to wall. Near the eaves there were square
holes in the roof, closed with shutters. On both sides of the fire were
tables and benches which extended lengthwise through the hall. In the
middle of each of the two benches which ran along the walls was a more
elaborately carved seat with tall posts, called the high-seat. The
high-seat on the north wall, facing south, belonged to the master of the
house; that on the south wall was assigned to distinguished guests. The
walls were, in the houses of chieftains, decorated with finely wrought
weapons and hangings of colored cloth. Besides the principal dwelling
(_skâli_) there were a number of smaller houses, such as the bath-house,
kitchen, woman's bower, servant's hall, and sometimes a guest-house.
Among the out-houses the store-house, the barn, and the cow-stables were
the most important. It will be seen from this that the farm of a
well-to-do peasant must have had the appearance of a small village.

In these arrangements Olaf made certain changes, all tending toward
increased comfort. In the first place, he removed the fire-place from
the middle of the floor into a corner, and had a chimney built for the
escape of the smoke. It thus became possible to have floors of stone or
wood, and this innovation immediately followed. Windows were cut in the
walls and furnished with panes of glass or translucent membranes.
Ceilings were made to enable one to keep the room at a more even
temperature; and gradually several rooms were gathered under one roof.
The master's high-seat was removed to a cross-bench on the western(?)
wall; and in the king's hall, it was placed upon a raised dais, reserved
for the king, the queen, and persons of distinction. While in former
times, the feasters had contented themselves with the light from the
fire, Olaf introduced candles and tapers, and stationed as many
taper-bearers in front of the royal table as there were persons of
princely blood present. Courtiers were appointed to wait upon the
guests; and to members of the _hird_, or court, who filled this office
was accorded a higher rank than the rest.

These innovations were undoubtedly a departure from the old democratic
simplicity. A more lavish expenditure was necessitated in connection
with the court, and we find that Olaf increased the number of courtiers
(_hirdmennir_) from 60, which had hitherto been the legal number, to
120. A more elaborate ceremonial was a direct consequence of the greater
luxury, and artificial distinctions in rank were more emphasized than
formerly. The king's even good-nature and gentleness disguised to a
great extent the true meaning of all this, and prevented people from
seeing any harm in it. In fact, the Norsemen were in those days fond of
splendor, and with all their fierce sense of independence they were
greatly attracted by glitter and show. The magnificence of Olaf's
household tended to increase his popularity, for he did not impose
greater burdens upon the people in order to defray his increased

We have heard that Olaf the Quiet was a zealous Christian, and took a
warm interest in the moral welfare of his people. With a view to
softening their manners and preventing the bloody frays which were then
apt to disturb social intercourse, he instituted clubs or associations,
which were made subject to rigid regulations. These clubs or guilds, as
they were called, met at first in the houses of their members, but
gradually, as they increased in prosperity, built separate club-houses,
or even churches, in honor of their patron saints. St. Olaf was their
favorite patron, but guilds were also formed under the protection of
other saints. The clergy had supervision over the members; and a
peaceful and conciliatory behavior was strenuously insisted upon.
Weapons were not permitted in the guild-halls; and all disputes had to
be settled, when both parties had had time to cool off. To prevent
brawls, by placing a restraint upon the behavior of the turbulent, women
of good repute were made eligible, and brief religious ceremonies opened
the meetings. The only objects of the gatherings were at first social;
but as the guilds grew more powerful, it was impossible to prevent them
from assuming a semi-political character. The laws pledged the members
to mutual protection, and often to avenge each other's death. They might
have become dangerous to the state, if the king and his principal
advisers had not, themselves, been members and thus able to control
their action.

The artisans' guilds, which in later medieval times begin to gain
political importance, were developed from these social guilds, which did
not, however, from the beginning, confine themselves to people of one
trade or profession.

We hear very little about the tribal chieftains during Olaf's reign,
probably because many of the most eminent of them had fallen at Stamford
Bridge, and the king's popularity made it seem inadvisable to those who
remained to oppose him. One of the few men whose doings are recorded is
Skule, the son of Earl Tostig, whom Olaf had brought with him from
England after his father's death. Skule was in 1069 sent on a mission to
William the Conqueror, for the purpose of bringing Harold Hard-Ruler's
body back to Norway, and accomplished this to the king's satisfaction.
He was the ancestor of King Inge Baardsson, and the arch intriguer,
Skule, who vainly aspired for the throne.

Olaf the Quiet died on his estate, Haukby in Ranrike, September 22,
1093. His body was brought to Nidaros and interred in the Christ-Church
which he had himself built.





When the tidings of King Olaf's death had gone abroad, the inhabitants
of Viken acknowledged his son, Magnus, as king, while the Trönders made
haste to proclaim his nephew, Haakon Magnusson. The country was,
accordingly, once more divided; two thirds, including Tröndelag, the
Oplands, and all the northern shires, belonging to Haakon, and about one
third to Magnus. The latter was scarcely prepared to find a rival to the
throne in his cousin, who during his father's long reign had given no
evidence that he cherished such an ambition. Only ignorance, on his
part, of Haakon's intentions can explain his departure on an adventurous
expedition to Scotland. The restless, warlike spirit of his grandfather
dwelt in him, and he had chafed under the restraint which his father's
peaceful policy imposed upon him. Now that he was free, he could afford
to lose no more time in dallying. He therefore started, as soon as he
had his hands free, on a wild-goose chase for glory; helped the Scottish
king, Donald Bane, in his warfare against Eadgar the Etheling and his
brother, Malcolm's children; asserted (apparently with success) his
claim to the Scottish isles, which, during Harold Hard-Ruler's reign,
had made themselves independent; aided the Irish King Muirkertach
against the earl, Gudröd Meranagh; and finally returned home in the
summer of 1094 to find two thirds of his kingdom in the hands of a
rival. He sailed directly to Nidaros with seven ships and took up his
abode in the new royal mansion, resolved to make the Trönders feel the
weight of his wrath. Haakon and his foster-father, Thore of Steig, also
hastened to the city and put up at the old royal mansion. The relation
between the two parties was strained, and every day people expected an
outbreak of hostilities. Finally Haakon opened negotiations with his
cousin, offering to divide the kingdom with him in equal parts; but
Magnus repelled his overtures, refusing to recognize his title to any
share in the government. Suddenly, in the middle of the night (February,
1095), Magnus had great fires made around the city, and Haakon's men,
expecting an attack, seized their arms and rushed into the streets. No
attack was, however, made, and both parties left the city without any
hostile collision. Haakon, in crossing the Dovre Mountain on snow-shoes,
was taken ill and died.

One would have supposed that the Trönders had now no longer any pretext
for persevering in their opposition to Magnus. But apparently they both
hated him, and feared that he would mete out severe punishments to them
for the support they had given his cousin. Therefore they gave heed to
the counsel of Thore of Steig, who demanded their allegiance to a
pretender named Sweyn, a Dane by birth, and not related to the royal
house of Norway. The rebels found many adherents in the Oplands, among
whom the liegeman Egil Aaslaksson. Under the leadership of Thore and
Sweyn they started out, ravaging and plundering in Nordmore and
Tröndelag. They gave the peasants the choice either to join them or have
their houses burned over their heads; and there were many who preferred
the former alternative to the latter. Magnus' liegeman and devoted
friend, Sigurd Wool-String (Ullstreng), sent out war summons, but his
force, which was quite inadequate, was utterly defeated by the rebels.
He fled to Magnus, who instantly started in pursuit, captured Thore of
Steig and Egil, and hanged them. Many others who had participated in the
rebellion were killed or deprived of their property; and as a punishment
to the Trönders, the laws of Sweyn Alfifasson were re-enacted.

Magnus was now undisputed master of all Norway and devoted himself with
much energy to the maintenance of order by meting out relentless justice
to evil-doers. To sit at home in inglorious ease, punishing rebels and
marauders, was not, however, in accordance with his taste. He hated
peace as much as his father had loved it. Without any special
provocation he, therefore, determined to pay a second visit to Scotland
and Ireland for the purpose of securely founding his dominion in those
lands. It appears that he was also cherishing a plan for invading
England and avenging the death of his grandfather at Stamford Bridge.
Haakon Paulsson, a son of Earl Paul of the Orkneys, who came to Norway,
stimulated his ambition, hoping himself in some way to profit by it.
With a fleet of 160 ships and upward of 14,000 men the warlike king
sailed in the spring of 1098 for the Orkneys, and thence to the
Hebrides, where he harried with remorseless cruelty. He conquered also
the English islands of Man and Anglesey, and made great efforts to
colonize the latter island. In the summer of 1099 he returned to Norway,
but managed within a year to get himself into a promising quarrel with
King Inge of Sweden, one of whose provinces (Dalsland) he claimed on a
flimsy pretext. He won a great victory over the Swedes at Fuxerne, and
left a garrison of 360 men in a fortress which he built on an island in
Lake Wener. But King Inge forced this garrison to surrender, on
humiliating terms, during the winter; and Magnus, to avenge this
disgrace, invaded Sweden a second time, and was defeated not far from
Trollhättan. He came then near losing his life, but was saved by Agmund
Skoftesson, who changed cloaks with him, and, starting conspicuously
away from the other fugitives, drew the pursuers after him. This kind of
warfare was, of course, sheer waste of life and treasure, and by the
mediation of the Danish king, Erik Eiegod, peace was concluded at
Konghelle, (1100). Magnus was to marry King Inge's daughter Margaret,
who was to receive the disputed province as her dowry. The marriage,
however, was without issue, and Dalsland became, at the death of Magnus,
again a part of Sweden. Queen Margaret, because she was the bringer of
peace, was called by the Norsemen, _Fridkulla, i.e._, the peace-maker.

It was not to be expected that Magnus should rest contented with the
fame he had now gained, and turn his mind to the pursuits of peace. His
sentiments in that regard are well expressed in his saying: "A king
should rather strive for glory than for a long life." In his anxiety to
find a pretext for war he finally, as it is told, sent a pair of his
shoes to King Muirkertach, in Ireland, with the request that he should
carry them on his shoulders, on Christmas Day, in the presence of the
Norse ambassadors, as a sign that he recognized Magnus at his overlord.
The Irish were greatly incensed at this demand; but Muirkertach, who
knew something of Magnus' style of warfare, declared that he would not
only carry the shoes, but that he would eat them too, rather than
receive another visit from the king of Norway. This humility did not,
however, save him from the dreaded visitation. Magnus had determined
upon the conquest of Ireland, and forthwith sailed (1102) westward with
a large fleet. After having touched at the Orkneys, he landed on Man,
where he had his son, Sigurd, proclaimed king and married to
Muirkertach's nine-year old daughter, Biadmuin. He fought for a while
with varying success in Ulster, nominally in alliance with Muirkertach,
though there is every reason to believe that the latter was only
watching for a chance to destroy him. Such a chance finally presented
itself, while Magnus was waiting on the coast of Ulster for a herd of
cattle that had been promised him. He had gone ashore with a small part
of his force in a swampy region, and was suddenly surrounded by the
Irish, who had hid in the underbrush, and who, on account of their
knowledge of the ground, had a great advantage. Here Magnus fell after a
heroic combat, and the remnant of his army made haste to return to

Magnus was but thirty years old at the time of his death. He was a tall
and well-grown man, of fine features and a commanding appearance. His
surname Barefoot or Bareleg was given to him because, after his return
from his first Scotch campaign, he adopted the Highland costume, wearing
kilts instead of trousers.





In accordance with established custom, the three sons of Magnus Barefoot
were proclaimed kings, and the land was divided between them. There is,
however, a probability that this division pertained chiefly to the royal
estates, from which the kings derived their principal revenue, but did
not involve a division of the country itself into separate kingdoms.
Eystein was at the time of his proclamation fourteen years old, Sigurd
thirteen, and Olaf three or four. They were all illegitimate, but had
been acknowledged by their father. There was, at that time, a great
agitation throughout Europe on account of the crusades. Kings, knights,
and even children, in their anxiety to save their souls, threw reason to
the winds, and, relying upon supernatural aid, started with insufficient
preparations on adventurous undertakings. This grand religious
enthusiasm did not reach the North until its force was partly spent.
Some of the men who had visited Jerusalem returned home, but apparently
were but little affected by religious phases of the war against the
unbelievers. They talked rather of the chances for worldly fame and
gain which the crusade presented, and aroused a desire in many of their
countrymen to win both heavenly and earthly glory by an expedition to
the Holy Land. It was the general desire that one of the princes should
command the expedition, and Sigurd, who had inherited his father's
spirit, willingly consented. In order to fit himself out properly he
needed money, and this he could not get without the good-will of the
people. He had the wisdom to see, that the success of his enterprise
could be better advanced by concession than by extortion, and he
therefore abolished, once for all, the oppressive laws of Sweyn
Alfifasson, and gained thereby a great popularity. Eystein assisted his
brother energetically in his equipments, and, in the autumn of 1107,
Sigurd sailed away with a fleet of sixty large ships and ten thousand
men. He paid first a friendly visit to England, where he was received
with great distinction by King Henry I. Thence he steered his course to
Spain, where he had many adventures, fought against the Moors, and
destroyed a pirate's nest on the island Formentera. In Italy he was
magnificently received by Robert Guiscard's son, Duke Roger, who was
proud of his Norse descent, and greeted the king of Norway as he would a
kinsman. He even (if the saga account is to be trusted) acknowledged
Sigurd as his overlord, and consented to receive the royal title from
his hands. Duke Roger died, however, soon after and had no opportunity
to assert his new dignity. It was not until August, 1110, that Sigurd
reached the Holy Land. He landed at Joppa, where he was met by King
Baldwin, who accompanied him to Jerusalem, and showed him the holy
sepulchre and all the places that are associated with the Saviour's life
and death. The Patriarch of Jerusalem presented Sigurd with a splint of
the true cross to be preserved at St. Olaf's shrine, on condition that
the king, on his return, should impose tithes for the support of the
church. Before starting on his homeward way, Sigurd assisted Baldwin and
Count Bertrand of Tripolis, at the sieges of Sidon and Akron, and
received his share of the booty. He then betook himself to
Constantinople, where games were celebrated in his honor by the Emperor
Alexius, and a lavish magnificence was displayed in his entertainment,
the like of which the Norsemen had never beheld. Sigurd forbade them,
however, to show surprise at any thing they saw, lest the Greeks should
conclude that they were barbarians, unaccustomed to luxury. In July,
1111, the king returned to Norway after an absence of three years and a
half. He received henceforth the surname the Crusader (Jorsalfar).

The thirst for glory which animated Sigurd was in striking contrast to
the peaceful spirit which dwelt in his brother, Eystein. Upon the former
had descended the restless ambition of Magnus Barefoot, while the latter
had inherited his grandfather Olaf the Quiet's taste for building and
calm delight in well-doing. While Sigurd scoured sea and land in search
of fame, Eystein sat quietly at home, building churches, encouraging
trade and industry, and improving the laws. By sheer dint of persuasion,
gifts, and appeals to their self-interest, he gained the allegiance of
the inhabitants of the Swedish province, Jemteland, which in the reign
of Haakon the Good had belonged to Norway. Knowing the importance of the
fisheries, as a source of national wealth, he had booths erected in
Vaagen for the accommodation of the fishermen, and a church and
parsonage for their spiritual welfare. At Agdeness, where many ships
were wrecked, he made an artificial harbor by the construction of a
mole. As a guide to sailors along the dangerous coast, he put up
sea-marks and primitive light-houses, in the shape of fires which were
lighted, after dark, on certain rocks and promontories. For the shelter
of pilgrims to St. Olaf's shrine and other travellers, he built taverns
on the Dovre Mountain, the passage of which had hitherto been perilous,
on account of the snow and the absence of roads. Among the many churches
which were erected by him were the Church of the Apostles, and St.
Michael's in Bergen, St. Nicholas in Nidaros, and the rich Benedictine
Monastery, Munkeliv.

With all their devotion to war and tendency to violence, the Norsemen
could not help loving this wise and peaceful king, whose constant care
was their welfare. That their old bellicose ideals were being superseded
by gentler and nobler ones is indicated by their devotion for their two
unwarlike kings, Olaf the Quiet and Eystein Magnusson. Of these two
Eystein was, in point of intellect and strength of character, the more
eminent. He seems to have pursued his policy of construction, instead of
destruction, not merely from temperamental bias, but from clear-sighted
conviction. His fondness for the study of law and the importance he
attached to legal knowledge are, in this respect, significant. The sound
sense and moderation which distinguished his grandfather he also
possessed in a marked degree, besides the same gentleness and charm of
manner. In appearance he was like most of his race, large and handsome;
he had blue eyes, blonde, curly hair, and a dignified presence.

It was scarcely to be expected that two brothers, so antagonistic in
disposition as Sigurd and Eystein, could avoid clashing. Sigurd felt
himself as a man of the world, who had cut a brilliant figure in foreign
lands, and he looked upon Eystein as a stay-at-home, who could boast of
no such experience. He scarcely appreciated the fact that his brother,
though he might have put obstacles in his path, received him heartily,
on his return, and willingly shared his authority with him. It was
incomprehensible to him that a quiet man like Eystein, who had no great
deeds to boast of, should enjoy as much consideration and respect as
himself. Above all, it was Eystein's insistence upon legal methods, in
all relations between subject and king, which seemed to Sigurd an
interference with his authority, and, therefore, irritated him. A
serious disagreement soon arose from this source. Once, when Sigurd was
in Tröndelag, he insulted the beautiful Sigrid, the wife of the
liegeman, Ivar of Fljod, after having sent the latter on a dangerous
expedition to Ireland. This Sigrid's brother, Sigurd Ranesson, resented,
and was, by way of revenge, accused by the king of embezzlement in the
Finn-trade, which had been farmed out to him by Magnus Barefoot. In his
need he appealed to King Eystein, who, when he heard the story, promised
him his assistance. Three times Sigurd Ranesson was now summoned to
court by King Sigurd, but every time Eystein's superior knowledge of the
law saved him. The legal procedure, which is recorded in detail, is full
of interest, and shows a remarkable development of the social
organization, considering the time. In the end, however, Eystein had not
only to assume the conduct of the case, but became a party to the suit,
in his client's place. King Sigurd was greatly incensed, and Sigurd
Ranesson, in order to avoid bloodshed, went late in the evening on board
of his enemy's ship, fell on his knees before him, and said: "I will
not, my lord king, that you and your brother shall be at strife on my
account. * * * Rather I surrender myself and my head to your power and
mercy, * * * for I would rather die than be the cause of hostility
between you and King Eystein."

The king, after having pondered long, answered: "In sooth thou art a
noble man, Sigurd, and thou hast chosen the way which will be best for
us all. Know that * * * I had firmly resolved to-morrow to go up to the
Ilevolds with all my men, and fight with King Eystein."

He now gave judgment that his antagonist should pay fifteen marks in
gold, which should be divided between the three kings, but as Eystein
and Olaf both refused to accept their share of the money, Sigurd, not
wishing to be outdone in generosity, likewise renounced his claim.

Though there was now no danger of war, the relation between the
brothers was yet far from cordial. A fresh source of disagreement soon
arose, for which Sigurd, as usual, was to blame. The rumor came to him
that Eystein was very fond of a maiden, named Borghild, the daughter of
the powerful peasant, Olaf of Dal; that he loved to sit at her side and
talk with her, and that his predilection for her society had been the
cause of scandalous reports. Borghild, in order to prove her innocence,
walked on glowing plough-shares, and endured the test. Sigurd, seeing
that here was an opportunity to pay his brother back for his protection
of Sigurd Ranesson, abducted Borghild and made her his mistress. She
became the mother of Magnus, who, for a short time, was king after his
father's death. Eystein took this affair much to heart, but made no
effort to avenge the wrong he had suffered. That he felt sore about it
was, however, natural enough, and this feeling burst forth on one
occasion most unexpectedly; though, to be sure, no allusion was made to
the real grievance.

It happened once, during the winter, that the two kings were feasting
together at one of Eystein's estates. King Sigurd's men, reflecting the
spirit of their master, behaved arrogantly toward King Eystein's people,
and were fond of exalting the one brother at the other's expense. Many
complaints were brought to Eystein, but he refused to take note of them.
The strained relation between the two parties, however, spoiled the
cheer of the table, and the men sat sullen over their cups and were ill
at ease. Then Eystein, with perhaps a deeper purpose than the apparent
one, proposed a so-called "man-measuring," or comparison of merits,
which was a favorite social pastime in those days. It is to be remarked,
that etiquette did not then forbid a man to boast of his own deeds and
accomplishments. On the contrary, the custom survived from the age of
paganism to emphasize frankly one's merits, and when occasion demanded,
to hurl tremendous volleys of vituperation against an adversary.

"Dost thou remember," Sigurd began, in response to his brother's
challenge, "how I threw thee in wrestling, * * * although thou wast a
year older than I?"

"I remember also," Eystein replied, "that thou wast my inferior in

Step by step they now advanced through childhood and youth, comparing
each other's proficiency in swimming, skating, shooting, skee-running,
and in personal appearance. Finally, Sigurd touched the main point at
issue, when he said:

"It has been generally acknowledged that the campaign, which I made in
foreign lands, was in sooth worthy of a chieftain, while thou sattest at
home in thy country like thy father's daughter."

"* * * I think I also remember," Eystein rejoined, "that it was I who
fitted thee out from home for that campaign, as I would have done a

"But I went to the Holy Land and to Africa, but there I saw thee not. I
won eight battles. Thou wast not in one of them. I went to the sepulchre
of Christ; there I saw thee not. I went to the River Jordan, by the
same road that our Lord had gone, and I swam across; but I saw thee not
there. I tied a knot for thee in the underbrush on the river-bank, and
it is yet waiting for thee to untie it. I conquered the city of Sidon
with the king of Jerusalem, without thy aid or counsel."


Eystein listened imperturbably to this long list of his brother's deeds,
and finally answered: "I have indeed heard, that thou didst fight some
battles abroad, and what I have to match against such deeds is but
trifles. North in Vaagen I put up booths for the fishermen, so that poor
people may find shelter and earn their living. I had a church erected,
appointed a priest, and gave land for the support of the church. * * *
Those who enjoy the benefit of this will remember that Eystein was king
in Norway. * * * Across the Dovre Mountain there was much travel. There
people lay out on the rocks and suffered hardships. I built an inn and
endowed it. The travellers, who now reap the benefit of this, will
remember King Eystein. At Agdeness there was a dangerous coast and no
harbor, so that ships were often wrecked. There I constructed a harbor,
where there is excellent anchorage for all ships. * * * I likewise built
a church there and put up sea-marks on the high mountains. * * * All
these things are now of service to fishermen and merchants who carry the
products of the land from place to place, and they, while benefiting by
them, will remember me. * * * The inhabitants of Jemteland I made
subject to this realm, not by violence, but by gentle words and rational
negotiations. * * * All these things are perhaps of small moment, but I
do not believe that they are of less benefit to my country and people,
and will profit my soul less, than it will profit thine to have sent
Moors to the devil, and expedited them head over heels to hell. * * *
Now, as regards the knot thou didst tie for me, then, methinks, I might
have tied such a knot for thee that thou wouldst never have been king in
Norway, when thou returnedst from thy campaign, and didst sail hither
with but a single ship. Let, now, intelligent men judge, what advantage
thou hast over me, and know ye, ye purse-proud braggarts, that there are
yet men in Norway, who dare hold themselves your equals."

This was the end of the "man-measuring"; and both kings were very wroth.

Several other incidents are recorded, which show that Sigurd's jealousy
of his brother would, at length, have brought about a breach of the
peace, if death had not suddenly made an end of their intercourse.
Eystein died at the age of thirty-three, August 29, 1122. The youngest
brother, Olaf, had died (1115) before he reached manhood, and Sigurd was
accordingly the sole ruler in the land. He was now free from the
restraint, which Eystein's pacific disposition had imposed upon him, and
he presently availed himself of his liberty to make a crusade into the
Swedish province Smaaland, where paganism yet lingered (1123). He
attacked the town of Kalmar, from which incident the war has been called
the Kalmar War. Whether he succeeded in converting the pagans is not
known; nor are any other results of the crusade recorded. After his
return from this campaign, a great calamity befell him. Once, it is
told, when he was in his bath, he called out, that there was a fish in
the bath-tub, and ran about trying to catch it. It was the first symptom
of the insanity which darkened the remaining years of his life. He was
often sane for long periods; but, at times, he would sit and brood with
wildly rolling eyes, or break out into paroxysms of wrath. Once, on the
day of Pentecost, when his madness came upon him, he took a precious
book,[A] which he had brought with him from Constantinople, and, gazing
gloomily at Queen Malmfrid, who was sitting at his side, said: "How many
things can change in a man's lifetime! When I returned to my country, I
owned two things which seemed to me most precious,--this book and the
queen. Now the one seems only more worthless than the other. The queen
does not know how hideous she is; for a goat's horn is sticking out of
her head. * * * And this book here is good for nothing."

[Footnote A: A codex written in letters of gold, containing probably a
portion of the Bible.]

Then he rose, gave the queen a slap, and flung the book into the fire.
But in the same instant, a young taper-bearer, named Ottar Birting,
jumped forward, snatched the book from the flames, and stepped
fearlessly before the king. "Different it is now, my lord," he said,
"from the time, when thou didst sail with pomp and splendor to Norway,
and all thy friends hastened with joy to meet thee. * * * Now the days
of sorrow have come upon us; for to this glorious feast many of thy
friends have come, but they cannot be glad because of thy sad condition.
Be now so kind, good my lord, to accept this advice. Rejoice by thy
gentleness first the queen, whom thou hast so sorely offended, and then
all thy chieftains, thy men-at-arms, thy friends, and thy servants."

"How darest thou, ugly, low-born tenant's son, give me counsel?" cried
the king, springing up and drawing his sword.

All the guests expected, in the next moment, to see Ottar's head roll on
the floor. But Ottar stood, gazing calmly into the king's face, and did
not stir from the spot. Then Sigurd suddenly stayed his hand and let the
sword fall gently upon his shoulder. He rebuked his liegemen, for not
having protested against his insane acts, and thanked the youth for his

"Go, therefore, Ottar," he finished; "and take thy seat among the
liegemen. Thou shalt no more wait upon any one."

Ottar Birting became in later years a man of great fame and authority.

It may have been due to the unsoundness of his mind that Sigurd, in the
last years of his life committed an act, which, however generous it may
seem, was scarcely politically defensible. In the year 1129, a young
Irishman named Harold Gilchrist arrived in Norway and declared that he
was a son of Magnus Barefoot. It was known that King Magnus had had a
mistress in Ireland, and during his last battle he is said to have
recited a verse about an Irish girl, whom he loved above all others. It
is therefore probable that Harold Gilchrist was, or at least believed
himself to be, heir to the throne of Norway. He went to King Sigurd, who
listened to his story, and allowed him to prove the truth of his
statement by submitting to the ordeal by fire. He walked over the
red-hot ploughshares and endured the test successfully. It was the
priests who had charge of such ordeals, and it was believed that they
had the result in their power. Harold Gilchrist, or Gille, as the
Norsemen called him, was now acknowledged by the king as his brother, on
condition that he should make no claim to the government, as long as
Sigurd or his son Magnus was alive. It was, however, no easy task for
the king to secure for the long-necked, thin-legged, and lanky Irishman
the respect which was due to a member of the royal family. In the first
place Harold's appearance was against him, and in the second place, he
stammered and could scarcely make himself understood in Norwegian. The
king's son, Magnus, hated and ridiculed him, and among the liegemen
there were many who believed him to be an unscrupulous adventurer. A few
years before his death, Sigurd put away Queen Malmfrid, disregarding the
warning of Bishop Magne, and married a beautiful and high-born woman,
named Cecilia. He did not long survive this marriage. Many of his
friends urged him, for the good of his soul, to dissolve it. But the
fascination, which Cecilia exercised over him, was so great, that he
could not bear the thought of losing her. At last, when he was taken
ill, she herself suggested a separation.

"I did not know that thou, too, didst despise me like the rest," he
answered sadly. His face flushed purple, and he turned away from her.
His illness now took a turn for the worse, and on March 26, 1130, he
died, forty years old. Dissipations had undermined his health, and his
insanity had long unfitted him for the cares of government. For all
that, there seems to be a halo about his name, partly on account of his
early fame, and partly because of the good crops and commercial
prosperity which prevailed during his reign. He seemed to the people a
grand figure, and, in spite of his great faults, every inch a king. What
may have contributed more than any thing else to endear his memory to
later generations was the evil times that broke over the land at his
death. He seemed himself to have a foreboding of this, when he said:

"Ye are badly off, ye Norsemen, for you have a mad king; and yet
methinks that, in a short while, you will be willing to give the red
gold to have me as your king, rather than Harold or Magnus; for the
former is cruel; the latter is devoid of sense."




MAGNUS THE BLIND (1130-1135) AND HAROLD GILLE (1130-1136).

When the tidings of his father's death reached him, Magnus hastened to
summon a _thing_ in Oslo and have himself proclaimed king of the whole
country. Harold, who had been waiting for this opportunity to break his
oath, did the same at Tunsberg; only he contented himself preliminarily
with half the kingdom. Magnus naturally refused to recognize his claim,
and the people were soon divided into two parties, one of which sided
with Magnus, while the other supported Harold.

In point of character they were both equally unfitted for the leadership
of a nation. Magnus was a coarse, avaricious, and arrogant roisterer,
addicted to drink, and incapable of any noble impulse. Harold was a weak
and vacillating man, jolly, liberal, and easy-going, in whom the Irish
characteristics predominated. He was pliable as wax in the hands of the
liegemen, to whom he left all the cares of state, while he himself
conceived of the royal dignity as a mere privilege to live high, wear
good clothes, and enjoy certain honors in daily intercourse. The tribal
magnates, who had long been excluded from the power which they believed
to be their due, were therefore attracted to him, while Magnus repelled
them by his haughtiness and avarice.

For three years the two rivals kept the peace; but the fourth winter
after their accession, Magnus began to collect troops, and attacked
Harold at Fyrileiv (1134) in Viken, winning a great victory. He was so
elated at his success that, contrary to the advice of the liegemen, he
dismissed his army and betook himself to Bergen, where he lived
riotously, paying no heed to Harold's movements. The latter, in the
meanwhile, had found a refuge in Denmark, and had received the province
of Halland in fief. He soon gathered a sufficient force to invade
Norway, and as he sailed northward to Bergen, he gained many adherents
in the coast-shires. Magnus, when he heard of his approach, lost his
head completely, rejected the counsel of his friend, Sigurd Sigurdsson,
and contented himself with scattering about the city a kind of sharp,
iron "foot-hooks," which in the end only injured his own men, and
locking the harbor with iron chains, whereby he prevented his own
escape, when shortly afterward the town fell into his enemy's hands.
Most of his men then abandoned him, while he himself, with his faithful
friend, Ivar Assersson, remained on his ship, until it was boarded by
Harold's men.

It is scarcely an excuse for Harold Gille to say, that his friends
induced him to commit the atrocity, of which he was now guilty. He did
not content himself with putting Magnus' eyes out, but he cut off one of
his legs and subjected him to another still more revolting mutilation.
Ivar Assersson, who strikingly resembled King Magnus, was asked whether
he would now care to resemble him; and the brave man answered
unflinchingly that he would, whereupon he too was blinded. The miserable
Magnus was now dressed in a monk's garb and shut up in the monastery of
Nidarholm. Bishop Reinald, who was suspected of having the royal
treasures in his keeping, was hanged because he would not reveal their

These misdeeds did not long remain unavenged. In the summer of 1136 came
a man, named Sigurd, to Norway, who also claimed to be a son of Magnus
Barefoot. Sigurd was a man of great intelligence, courage, and ambition;
and in those respects, at least, a much worthier pretender than the
weak, vicious Harold Gille. He had led a very adventurous life, played
an important role in the feuds between the Earls of the Orkneys, visited
Rome and the Holy Land, and bathed in the Jordan. The ability of Harold
Hard-Ruler and the restless and enterprising spirit of Magnus Barefoot
seemed to be united in him. His mother, Thora Saxe's-Daughter, is said
to have kept the secret of his paternity from him until he was grown,
because Magnus Barefoot had had a child by her sister, and a sense of
shame had therefore kept her silent. As a boy, Sigurd had an
ungovernable disposition, and in order to tame his wildness, his
foster-father had him educated and consecrated to the church. When he
finally kicked through the traces, he was therefore called Sigurd
Slembedegn, _i.e._, the Bad Priest.

On his return to Norway in 1136 Sigurd went to Harold Gille, after
having procured a safe-conduct, and announced his origin. There was now
a chance for Harold to return the generosity, which Sigurd the Crusader
had shown to him when he came, as a poor and unknown youth from Ireland,
and proclaimed himself heir to the throne of Norway. But, although
Sigurd Slembedegn could bring apparently satisfactory proof of the truth
of his assertion, Harold was perhaps, on this account, only the more
afraid of him. His advisers among the liegemen who were now governing
without restraint, in the king's name, had cause to fear a man like
Sigurd who would make short work of their pretensions. They therefore
advised the king to rid himself of the new aspirant to the throne, by
fair means or foul. On the pretence of punishing him for his alleged
participation in a slaying, Harold made an attempt to capture him; but
Sigurd escaped by swimming, and returned the king's breach of faith by
killing him in the house of his mistress, Thora Guttorm's-Daughter. He
then called the citizens of Bergen together, and, standing upon his
ship, avowed the murder and asked them to make him their king. Contrary
to his expectation, however, a great indignation was aroused against
him, and the liegemen artfully fanned the excitement, until it was no
longer safe for him to remain in the city. "If thou art the son of King
Magnus," the citizens said, "then it is thy brother whom thou hast
assassinated." And they forthwith outlawed the regicide and all his
adherents. Sigurd fled in haste northward on his ships and arrived in
Nordhördland. Harold Gille was thirty-two years old, when he was slain.
He was one of the most unworthy kings that ever disgraced the throne of
Norway. It was a short while before his death (1136) that the Wends,
under their prince, Ratibor, sacked and burned the flourishing town of
Konghelle, which Sigurd the Crusader had enlarged and beautified.





Queen Ingerid, the widow of Harold Gille, availed herself of the general
indignation against Sigurd Slembedegn, to have her own two-year-old son,
Inge, proclaimed king. She also sent a swift ship to Nidaros, with the
request to the Trönders that they give their allegiance to King Harold's
son, Sigurd, who had reached the age of five. The powerful liegemen, to
whom this arrangement was highly agreeable, made haste to secure the
recognition of the two boys throughout the land.

Sigurd Slembedegn's chances of becoming king were thus very slight. But,
hoping to revive the indignation against Harold Gille and thereby
mitigate his own offence, he took the blind and maimed Magnus, Sigurd
the Crusader's son, out of the monastery, and tried to rally his old
friends and followers about him. In this he had some success, but less
than he had expected. He therefore sailed to the Hebrides for the
purpose of increasing his force, leaving Magnus in charge of Björn
Egilsson and Gunnar of Gimse. Before Sigurd had returned, however,
Magnus had been attacked at Minne, in the Oplands, by King Inge's
guardian, Thjostulf Aalesson, and defeated in a bloody battle (1137).
Thjostulf, either to encourage his men, or because he was afraid to
trust him to anybody else, carried the two-year-old king in his girdle
during the battle, while he himself fought with a sword and spear, and
the deadly missiles fell in showers about him. The poor boy, who was
unequal to such hardships, soon began to show the effects of his
premature experience of war. A hump grew on his back and one of his legs
withered away. He therefore received the surname "Crook-Back."

Magnus the Blind fled after the battle into Sweden, where he persuaded
the earl, Charles Sunesson, of Vestergötland, to come to his assistance;
but was again overwhelmingly beaten at Krokaskogen by Thostulf Aalesson
(1137). The little king, Inge, was again carried under his guardian's
cloak, and heard, though scarcely without fear, the clash of arms and
the fierce tumult of battle. This time Magnus fled to Denmark and
succeeded in inducing King Erik Emune to sail to Norway with a fleet of
240 ships. The Norsemen, however, defended their coast so well that the
Danish king for a long while did not venture to land. At last he burned
the city of Oslo, but was immediately afterward attacked by King Inge
and his liegeman, Aamunde Gyrdsson, at Hornboresund, and all his great
fleet routed. Sigurd Slembedegn, in the meanwhile, had returned from the
Hebrides and was cruising about in the Baltic, fighting in viking
fashion with Wendic pirates, and occasionally harrying on the coasts of
Norway, and injuring the friends of the young kings. He was soon joined
by Magnus, and the two were met by the fleet of the kings, Sigurd and
Inge, at Holmengraa (1139). The battle was fought with great vehemence
on both sides, until suddenly all the Danes fled, and left their allies
in the lurch. Hoping to save the blind Magnus, Reidar Grjotgardsson
lifted him from the bed upon which he was lying, and tried to carry him
on board another ship. But a spear pierced both from behind and they
fell down, dying. Magnus exclaimed as he felt the steel in his vitals:
"That comes seven years too late."

Sigurd Slembedegn leaped overboard and would have escaped, if he had not
been betrayed by one of his own men. He was put to death by the liegemen
with the most horrible tortures. He was scourged until his skin hung in
tatters about him; then his bones were crushed with stones; and at last
he was hanged. His marvellous fortitude during his agony filled even his
executioners with admiration. He talked in a perfectly natural voice,
and not a muscle of his face betrayed what he suffered. Several times he
sank into a swoon; but when he revived, he was calm and unmoved. Never
did a man meet a more horrible death with more heroic equanimity. Sigurd
Slembedegn had the stuff in him for a great king, and if Sigurd the
Crusader had sat upon the throne, when he advanced his claim, instead of
the Irishman, Harold Gilchrist, the history of Norway would have taken a
different turn, and his might have been one of the great names in its
pages. It was true what many, both friends and foes, said after his
death, that "there was no man more capable in all things than Sigurd *
* * but he was born under an unlucky star."

The country now had peace for some years; chiefly because the kings were
too small to have serious quarrels. In 1142, however, came Eystein, a
third son of Harold Gille, from Scotland, and claimed his share of the
kingdom. He was considerably older than the others, and must have been
often mentioned by his father during his lifetime; for no one thought of
disputing his claim, nor was any proof required as to his origin. He was
a dark-haired, corpulent, and somewhat indolent youth, avaricious in the
extreme, and devoid of all personal attractions. Some time elapsed
before he exerted any influence upon the affairs of the country, and we
shall therefore leave him, until his quarrels with his brothers demand
our attention.

The first cause of discord in the royal family was the marriage of the
queen dowager, Ingerid, to the above-mentioned liegeman, Ottar Birting.
King Inge thereby came under the guardianship of his step-father,
whereby the jealousy of other liegemen was aroused. Especially was King
Sigurd indignant, because Ottar had hitherto been one of his most
powerful adherents; while now he became attached to the fortunes of
Inge. Amid this agitation, Ottar Birting was suddenly assassinated, and
it became clear to every one that King Sigurd had caused his death. Many
other circumstances conspired to make Sigurd unpopular, and his personal
qualities were, indeed, such as to repel all who came in contact with
him. It was particularly his immorality which alienated his friends.
When he was but fifteen years old, he had a son, named Haakon, whose
mother was a pretty servant-girl. Many pretenders appeared later, who
claimed him as their father. In appearance he was more of a Norseman
than his brothers--light-haired, blue-eyed, tall of stature, and of
great vigor. His beauty was, however, marred by a pair of ugly thick
lips, from which he derived the surname Mouth (Mund).


He hated his brother Inge, whose popularity caused him uneasiness; and,
as Eystein shared this sentiment, he approached the latter and opened
negotiations with him, with a view to thrusting Inge from the throne.
They were soon agreed, and would perhaps have carried out their plan, if
Inge's faithful friend, Gregorius Dagsson, who had taken Ottar Birting's
place as his guardian and adviser, had not got wind of their purpose.
When, therefore, King Sigurd arrived in Bergen, he found Inge prepared
to receive him; and he contented himself with killing one of his
men-at-arms and threatening "to roll the golden helmet of Gregorius in
the dust," but denied that any agreement existed between him and Eystein
to Inge's detriment. Neither Inge nor Gregorius put any trust, however,
in his assurances; and, after many bickerings and hostile acts on both
sides, Gregorius received Inge's permission to attack his brother.
Sigurd was then surprised in his house and slain (1155), after having
vainly begged for mercy. It is told that the men, whose wives he had
insulted, rushed at him, eager for vengeance, and ran him through with
their swords. He was then but twenty-one years old. Eystein, who knew
that his turn would come next, gathered in haste as many men as he could
induce to join him, in order to take vengeance on Gregorius. But
Gregorius learned of his approach in time to escape with all his men.
His family estate, Bratsberg, was, however, burned by Eystein and his
cattle hewn down. Next, Inge's excellent dockyards, which had been built
by Eystein I., were given over to the flames, and war seemed unavoidable
between the two kings, when Eystein, seeing his brother's superior
strength, proposed to make peace. He agreed to pay Inge 360 marks in
silver, one third of which was to be given to Gregorius as compensation
for the destruction of Bratsberg. This fine, however, he failed to pay;
and, repenting of his placability, sent Inge hostile messages, accusing
him of breach of faith. At last, when they had been exchanging this kind
of civilities for about a year, they met with hostile fleets near Fors
in Ranafylke (1157) and prepared for battle. The greater part of
Eystein's force, however, abandoned him, leaving him no choice but
flight. He was captured by his brother-in-law, Simon Skaalp, who, after
having allowed him to hear mass, coolly murdered him. There is a legend
that a spring with healing powers burst forth on the spot where he was
slain, and there were some who believed him to have been a saint.

Inge was now lord of all the kingdom, although the noble and capable
Gregorius Dagsson conducted the government and was the virtual ruler. A
warm friendship bound the two together, based not only upon community
of interests but upon real attachment. Inge's bad health, which unfitted
him for action in the many serious crises of his life, made him
dependent upon his sagacious and resolute adviser, and Gregorius, who
was equal to his responsibility, kept a vigilant watch upon the king's
enemies, and at the same time exercised, with a wise moderation, the
power which had been put into his hands. It was natural that a man
occupying such a position had many ill-wishers. There were those, of
course, who envied him the place he held in the confidence of the king.
Thus the great chieftain, Erling Skakke (the Lop-Sided), who had married
Sigurd the Crusader's daughter, Christina, thought that he was entitled
to the first place among the liegemen of the land. Erling traced his
descent from the mighty Hörda-Kaare (who lived in the reigns of Halfdan
the Swarthy and Harold the Fairhaired), and was thus in kinship with
Erling Skjalgsson of Sole, who played so great a part in the times of
Olaf Tryggvesson and Olaf the Saint. He had made a crusade and fought
the Saracens in the Mediterranean, and had received a wound in the neck,
which compelled him to carry his head on one side. His wealth and fame
made him now a conspicuous figure in the land, and it was obvious that
whichever party he should join might thereby gain a preponderance.
Erling was, indeed, himself aware of that fact, and refrained, for this
reason, for a while, from committing himself. He was understood to be
favorably disposed to King Inge and paid him the customary civilities,
but there are indications that Inge did not trust him. At all events,
he had no intention of buying Erling's unequivocal adherence at the only
price at which it could be bought, viz., the dismissal of Gregorius.

This was the situation of affairs when, after King Eystein's death, the
remnants of his and Sigurd Mouth's party rallied around the latter's
ten-year-old son, Haakon, and demanded for him a third part of the
kingdom. Inge answered by outlawing his nephew and all his adherents.
Gregorius was at that time in Konghelle, occupied with defending the
frontier against the rebellious partisans of Haakon who had found a
refuge in Sweden, and Erling Skakke availed himself of his absence to
approach the king. Although the relation between the two liegemen was
constantly growing more strained, the common danger, to which they were
exposed from Haakon's party, made them postpone hostilities. A decisive
battle was at last fought between the latter and King Inge at Konghelle
(1159), and Haakon was defeated. Both Erling and Gregorius were present
and to their valor the victory was largely due. A very slight
provocation was now needed to bring them into collision, and this was
supplied by a quarrel between their men, which soon became a general
fight, and would have become a battle, if King Inge had not personally
interfered. In the meanwhile Haakon, who had gathered under his banner
robbers, outlaws, and all sorts of adventurers, began to ravage the
frontier shires in Viken, and the presence of Gregorius was again needed
to keep him in order. He made an attack upon the estate of Haldor
Brynjulfsson, Gregorius' brother-in-law, and the latter's sister,
Sigrid, was compelled to flee in her night clothes from the burning
house, carrying her five-year-old son in her arms. This wanton
destruction Gregorius resolved to avenge, but during his pursuit of
Haakon's robber band, he ventured too far out upon the insecure ice of
the Bevje-Aa, fell through, and while struggling to get ashore was
killed by an arrow (1161). King Inge wept like a child, when he heard of
his friend's death, and swore either to avenge him or to die in the
attempt. Scarcely a month had elapsed, when he was attacked by Haakon's
band at Oslo, and fought a bloody battle upon the ice of the Folden
Fjord. Here he fell, defending himself desperately, after having been
deserted by King Gudröd of the Hebrides, who by his treason decided the
battle in Haakon's favor (1161).

Inge Crookback was the only one of Harold Gille's sons who was an
honorable man. In spite of his physical weakness, he had courage and
pluck, and a strong sense of loyalty to those who served him well. He
was but twenty-five years old when he died.

It was during his reign, but while his brothers still were alive, that
the Cardinal Nicolas Breakspeare was sent to Norway (1152) by Pope
Eugene III., to arrange the ecclesiastical affairs of the country. He
established an archiepiscopal see in Nidaros, under the jurisdiction of
which were included Norway and all its dependencies among the Scottish
Isles, besides Iceland, Greenland, the Faeroe Isles, and the Isle of
Man. As the first archbishop he appointed, in accordance with the wishes
of King Inge, the Bishop of Stavanger John Birgersson. The bishopric of
Hamar at Lake Mjösen also owes its foundation to the cardinal's visit.
Nicolas Breakspeare became, later, Pope under the name Hadrian IV., and
always preserved a lively interest in the welfare of the Church in





Haakon Sigurdsson lost no time in proclaiming himself king of all
Norway, though he dispensed preliminarily with the ceremony of a formal
proclamation at Oere-_thing_. As he was but a boy of fourteen, it was,
of course, his advisers who dictated his actions. He was a tool in the
hands of a few ambitious liegemen, who had staked their fortunes on the
chance of his ascendancy. For the purpose of portioning out lucrative
offices among his adherents, he called a secret meeting in the church of
St. Hallvard in Oslo. As it was of great importance to Erling Skakke to
know how these men felt toward him, his wife Christina bribed the priest
who kept the keys of the church, to conceal one of her friends where he
could hear the proceedings. She then sent a messenger to her husband,
enjoining him under no circumstances to trust Haakon or his party. But
Erling was too conspicuous a man to be allowed to preserve neutrality;
and as he could not declare for Haakon, he was obliged to declare
against him. He then proposed, though scarcely in good faith, to make
the child, Nicholas Simonsson, the son of Simon Skaalp and Harold
Gille's daughter Maria, the head of the opposition and to proclaim him
king. There were, however, serious objections to this course; and after
many consultations, Erling allowed himself to be urged to do, what had
been his intention from the beginning, viz., to proclaim his own son
Magnus. Magnus, to be sure, was not of royal birth, but he had royal
blood in his veins, being the grandson of Sigurd the Crusader. By shrewd
manoeuvres, Erling succeeded in rallying the greater part of King Inge's
party about his son, who was but five years old, and to induce the
liegemen to swear him allegiance. A _thing_ was then summoned to meet in
Bergen, and Magnus was formally acknowledged as king (1161).

The land was now divided between two tolerably evenly balanced parties,
and only the sword could decide to which of the two the government
should belong. After the great defeat at Oslo, however, Inge's party had
lost much of its prestige, and Erling felt that foreign help was needed
to secure its predominance. He, therefore, sailed with his son and a
large following of high-born men to Denmark and obtained the promise of
help from King Valdemar the Great on condition of ceding to him the
greater part of Viken. Haakon availed himself of his absence to take
possession of the fleet which had belonged to Inge and to have himself
proclaimed king at Oere-_thing_. His friend Sigurd of Reyr he raised to
the dignity of earl, and delegated to him the task of watching for
Erling, whose return from Denmark was expected. Erling was, however, a
shrewd man who did what was least expected of him. He did, indeed,
return from Denmark, but by a singular route. He crossed from Skagen in
Jutland to Agder, and thence steered northward to Bergen, where he
killed or otherwise punished many who had given their allegiance to
Haakon. Then, before Earl Sigurd had yet heard of his arrival, he
attacked Haakon in Tunsberg and beat him. Having accomplished this and
secured the recognition of his son in Viken, Agder, Rogaland, and
Hördaland, he returned to Bergen where he spent the winter. Haakon, who
found his strongest support in Tröndelag, went into winter quarters in

It was merely a question of time when the two rival kings, or the men
who represented them, should meet for a final contest. Therefore, as
soon as the ice broke up, preparations began on a grand scale. Erling's
cunning again stood him in good stead, for by a stratagem he succeeded
in surprising Haakon at Sekken, in Söndmöre, and utterly destroying him
(1162). The poor boy, who was but fifteen years old, jumped from his
ship on board the one which lay nearest, and found himself unexpectedly
among enemies. He told the men who he was, and surrendered himself to
their mercy. The battle was then virtually at an end; but when Erling
found that the men to whom Haakon had surrendered were determined to
guard his life, he began a fresh attack, and managed it so that, in the
tumult, the boy-king was slain. His own former candidate for the throne,
Nicholas Simonsson, whom he had forcibly abducted from Bergen, he also
contrived to get rid of in the same battle, and there can be little
doubt that he was responsible for his death. Haakon Sigurdsson was king
of Norway for about a year and three months. He was large for his age,
and on account of the slenderness of his waist and the breadth of his
shoulders, was called Haakon the Broad-Shouldered (_Herdebred_).





Erling Skakke had effectually cleared the way to the throne for his son,
by killing every descendant of the royal house whom he could lay hands
on. There was, however, another undoubted son of Sigurd Mouth left, whom
he had not got into his power, besides several whose claims had not yet
been pronounced upon. The bitterness between the party of Erling and
that of Haakon was indeed so great, that a reconciliation was not to be
thought of, and the latter, therefore, seized the opportunity to rally
about a king whose royal descent was unquestioned. This new claimant was
a boy named Sigurd Marcusfostre (the foster-son of Marcus), probably ten
or twelve years old, who had been brought up by Marcus of Skog, a friend
and kinsman of Earl Sigurd of Reyr. Another magnate, the much-travelled
Eindride the Young, transferred his allegiance to Sigurd, and a large
number of proud and adventurous men, who could not tolerate Erling's
supremacy, joined the new party. The peasants, however, who had hitherto
suffered but little from the feuds of the kings, now began to find these
roving bands troublesome, especially when they levied contributions and
foraged wherever they went. Erling availed himself of this circumstance
to excite their indignation against the "Sigurd party," as it was
called, and he presently succeeded in forcing the hostile chieftains to
give battle at Ree, near Tunsberg. Here Earl Sigurd fell, and Eindride
the Young, Marcus of Skog, and the boy-king Sigurd were captured and

Although no formidable pretender was now left, Erling, whose ambition
was nothing less than the founding of a new dynasty, did not feel secure
in his possession of power. The Trönders, who had been partisans of
Sigurd Mouth, were yet at heart devoted to the party which represented
him, and the Danish king Valdemar was incensed, because Erling had not
kept his promise in regard to the cession of Viken. To fortify himself
against the contingencies arising from this situation, Erling found it
necessary to cast about him for new allies, and the choice which he made
was exceedingly shrewd.

The Archbishop of Nidaros, at that time, was the able and imperious
Eystein Erlendsson, who descended from a mighty Tröndelag family, and
therefore, apart from his episcopal office, was a man of great
influence. He shared the political sympathies of the community in which
he lived, and was therefore more disposed to be Erling's enemy than his
friend. The sagacious chieftain, however, succeeded in propitiating him
and in forming an alliance with him for mutual advantage. The result of
their negotiations was, that a great meeting was called in Bergen, at
which Norway was declared to be St. Olaf's heritage and property, and
the bishops, as his representatives, acquired the right to reject any
legitimate heir to the throne, in case they held him to be unworthy. The
clerical and secular magnates were, at the death of a king, to select
among his heirs the one who was to succeed him, the presumption being
always in favor of the eldest son born in wedlock, unless he was
declared unworthy. In case of disagreement, a majority of votes was to
decide the choice, but only in so far as the archbishop and the other
bishops gave their consent. If the king left no heirs of whom the
magnates approved, they were at liberty to elect any one whom they
regarded as fit to guard "the right of God and the laws of the land."

It is obvious that the secular and the clerical magnates here united for
the spoliation of the crown, and in return for the concessions which
Erling had made, as the nominal representative of the latter, the
archbishop crowned Magnus in Bergen (1164), thereby repairing, in the
eyes of many, the deficiency of his title. He had the friendship of the
Church, which had it in her power to influence the people in his favor.
He could therefore look forward without fear to meeting the Danish king,
who was preparing to take forcible possession of the province which had
been promised him. In order to test the sentiment of the people toward
Magnus, Valdemar sent secret messengers with presents and friendly
greetings to many prominent Trönders, some of whom committed themselves
in writing to join him, in case he invaded Norway. Their letters,
however, fell into Erling's hands, and the offenders were punished with
severity. Some were killed, others outlawed, and again others were
sentenced to pay enormous fines. When King Valdemar finally, in 1165,
sailed with a large fleet to Norway he received a different reception
from what he had expected. The number of the disaffected who were ready
to do him homage was very small, compared to the number of those who
were ready to fight him. He, therefore, returned to Denmark, without
awaiting Erling's arrival. It is said that he suffered from lack of
provisions; and was indisposed to harry in a province which he hoped
soon to lay under his crown.

Before Erling had time to return this visit, a band of rebels was
organized in the Oplands under the leadership of Olaf Guldbrandsson, a
grandson on the mother's side of King Eystein I., the brother of Sigurd
the Crusader. This new pretender attempted to rally the discontented
chieftains under his banner. His adherents were called the Hood-Swains
(Hettesveiner), and he himself got the surname, the Unlucky (Ugæva),
because he came within an ace of capturing Erling at the farm, Rydjökel,
north of Lake Oieren, but failed through mischance (1166). The
Hood-Swains then for some time eked out a precarious existence in forest
and field; for the fear of Erling was so great that few who had any
thing to lose dared to make common cause with them. He would probably
have put an end to them without delay, if the hostilities with Denmark
had not demanded his attention. It was, just then, the favorable moment
for attacking Valdemar's kingdom, as he was himself absent in Wendland
and his kinsman, Buris Henriksson, who had the greater part of Jutland
in fief, had promised to co-operate with the Norsemen and even to
capture and kill the king on his return. Erling accordingly sailed with
his fleet to Denmark and beat the Danes at Djursaa; but was prevented,
by the resolute conduct of Bishop Absalon, from reaping any benefit from
his victory. A second campaign of Valdemar in Norway was as indecisive
as the first, and finally, when both parties were tired of the aimless
warfare, peace was concluded (1171), on condition that Erling should
govern Viken as Valdemar's vassal and accept from him the title of earl.
It is probable that Erling, after his return, made known only in part
the terms of this peace; for the national feeling had now begun to
assert itself in Norway; and it is scarcely credible that the people of
Viken, who had, but a short time ago, manifested their hostility to the
Danish king, should now willingly submit to becoming his subjects. What
Erling did was really to confirm his own power and that of his son, at
the expense of the integrity and the independence of his country. But in
that respect he only followed the traditions of his class. The
aristocracy of Norway usually (though there were many honorable
exceptions) regarded their own independence and power as more important
than those of their country. It was not the first time that the tribal
magnates bartered away faith and honor for personal gain. In the olden
time, when Norway was but a loose agglomeration of tribes, who felt
their kinship to the Danes and Swedes more strongly than they did
their own geographical isolation, such conduct was often excusable. But
in the days of Erling Skakke, the Norsemen were a nation, quite distinct
from their neighbors, and the cession of a fertile province, like Viken,
gave the Danes a foot-hold on the peninsula, and meant in the future, as
Erling was shrewd enough to know, infinite complications, wars, and the
possible loss of independence.


Having thus placated his foreign foes, Erling set himself to the task of
exterminating the domestic ones. Olaf the Unlucky he had already, before
the conclusion of the negotiations, beaten in two fights (at Stanger and
at Dav, 1168), and had destroyed his band. Olaf had fled to Denmark,
where he died (1169). There were, however, several pretenders left who
had as much right to the throne as Magnus Erlingsson; and Erling did not
choose to wait until they became dangerous, before relieving himself of
their presence. Sigurd Mouth's daughter, Cecilia, he sent to Vermeland
and made her the mistress of a man, named Folkvid the Lawman. His own
step-son, Harold, an illegitimate son of his wife Christina, and
accordingly a grandson of Sigurd the Crusader, he beheaded, in spite of
King Magnus' prayers and protests. That kind of clemency which involved
future danger he professed not to understand.

"If I let him live," he said to his son, "they will all want him for
their king, and thee to kiss the lips of the axe."

In spite of all his precautions, however, there was one scion of the
royal house, and that the most dangerous of all, who escaped his
attention. There was, at that time, living in the Faeroe Isles a youth
named Sverre Sigurdsson, and the history of Norway for the next thirty
years is chiefly his story. But before he enters upon the scene, a
pretender named Eystein Meyla (Little Girl), who professed to be a son
of Harold Gille's son Eystein, made a little stir and gathered about him
the remnants of the rebellious party. He tried to obtain aid in Sweden,
and was well received by Earl Birger in Götland, who had married Harold
Gille's daughter, Brigida. He could, however, not sustain himself
against Erling's power, and was obliged to roam about with his band on
mountains and in wildernesses, robbing and plundering in order to keep
from starving. His men thereby got a bad name, and on account of their
dilapidated appearance and their habit of using birch-bark for shoes,
the peasants called them derisively Birkebeiner, _i. e._, Birchlegs. The
discipline of hardship and danger which their arduous life imposed upon
them stood them, however, in good stead; and insignificant though they
were in number, they were, as Erling found to his cost, not a foe to be
despised. However often he beat them, they would never stay beaten. With
wonderful intrepidity and endurance they rallied after each defeat, and
fought again, whenever there was a chance of fighting. Many of them were
undoubtedly little better than highwaymen, and to treat them as a
political party would be an extravagant compliment. Their chief
political purpose was, for a good while, to keep body and soul together.
Gradually, however, their band was increased by political malcontents
and even by men of high birth, who had quarrelled with Erling, or had
the death of kinsmen to avenge. In the summer of 1176 they were numerous
enough to surprise the city of Nidaros and have their chieftain, Eystein
Meyla, proclaimed king at the Oere-_thing_; but the following year their
luck deserted them, and in the battle of Ree, near Tunsberg, they were
overwhelmingly defeated by King Magnus, and Eystein Meyla was slain
(1177). The band then broke up, and the Birchlegs would perhaps never
have been heard of again, if their fortunes had not become identified
with those of a great man--Sverre Sigurdsson.

Sverre was born in the Faeroe Isles. His mother Gunhild was, according
to the legend, cook in the service of King Sigurd Mouth. She was not
particularly handsome, but quick-witted and intelligent. The king begged
her to kill her child, as soon as it was born; and being unwilling to
listen to such a proposition, she fled on a ship to the Faeroe Isles,
where she took service as milkmaid with Bishop Mathias. Here she bore a
son, whom she named Sverre. A smith or combmaker named Unas came, the
following spring, from Norway, and she suspected him of having been sent
by the king to kill her child. She therefore hid it in a cave, which is
yet called Sverre's Cave. Unas, however, followed her and discovered
where the child was hidden, but promised not to harm it, if she would
marry him. She consented, though reluctantly, and returned with him to
Norway. Sigurd Mouth was then dead, and she had nothing to fear. When
the boy was five years old, he returned to the Faeroe Isles with his
mother and step-father. The latter's brother, Roe, had been made bishop
after the death of Mathias, and Unas was not insensible to the advantage
of living in a neighborhood, where he had such an influential relative.
Sverre grew up in the belief that he was the son of Unas, and Bishop
Roe, who took a fancy to him on account of his extraordinary
intelligence, began to educate him for the priesthood. His ambition, as
he himself asserts, did not then extend beyond a bishopric, or possibly
a cardinal's hat. But when he was ordained as _diaconus_ (which is one
of the lower grades of the priesthood), his mother burst into tears, and
to his question why she was displeased at the honor conferred upon him,
she answered: "This is but a paltry honor, compared to that which by
right belongs to thee. Thou art not the son of him whom thou thinkest,
but of King Sigurd in Norway. I have kept this from thee, until thou
shouldst reach the age of manhood."

From that day Sverre's peace of mind was gone. Great thoughts tossed and
whirled about in his soul and his life seemed poor and meaningless. His
ambition kept him awake in the night and bright vistas of future
achievements beckoned him from afar.

"If I am born to a crown," he said to his mother, "then I will strive to
win it, whatever it may cost me. Life has no more joy for me without it,
and therefore I will stake life on it."

Disregarding the warnings of the bishop he embarked for Norway, and,
without revealing who he was, spent some time in investigating the
sentiments of the people toward King Magnus. This is highly
characteristic of Sverre. He made no leap in the dark, but computed
carefully the strength of the enemy whom he was to combat. What he
learned was, however, far from encouraging. The people seemed everywhere
devoted to King Magnus and well contented with his rule. Sverre also
made the acquaintance of Erling Skakke, studied him thoroughly, and
talked with his men-at-arms, who found the priest from the Faeroe Isles
a droll and entertaining fellow, and freely told him all the gossip of
the royal household. To enter the lists, alone and penniless, against a
power so formidable as this, seemed madness. Sverre was too shrewd not
to see that such an undertaking was hopeless. At the same time, he was
not minded to return, after his dream of royalty, to his obscure
priesthood on the bleak isles in the North Sea. He knew that Earl Birger
in Sweden was married to a sister of Sigurd Mouth, and, as a forlorn
hope, he crossed the frontier, revealed his origin to the earl, and
begged him for aid. The earl, it appears, who had reaped no glory from
his alliance with Eystein Meyla, did not receive Sverre's request
graciously, suspecting that he had been sent by Erling to mock him.
Sverre, then, betook himself to his half-sister, Cecilia, who was the
mistress of Folkvid the Lawman, and met here with a better reception.
The rumor that a son of Sigurd Mouth had made his appearance in Sweden
had, in the meanwhile, gone abroad and had reached the remnants of the
Birchleg band. They made haste to find Sverre and requested him to be
their chief; but Sverre, seeing what condition they were in, declined.
He made them a little speech, in which he remarked that the only thing
he had in common with them was poverty; and advised them, in conclusion,
to select as their chief one of Earl Birger's sons, who were, like
himself, descendants of Harold Gille. The Birchlegs acted upon this
advice, but received no encouragement from the earl.

He told them, perhaps not without a humorous intention, that Sverre was
their man, and advised them, in case he persisted in his refusal, to
threaten him with death. Back they went, accordingly, to Sverre, and
this time he yielded to their persuasions. He must then have been
twenty-four or twenty-five years old. And thus, with two empty hands and
seventy ragged and badly armed men, he began the fight for the crown of
Norway. He started from Vermeland southward for Viken, and so many
gathered about him on the way, that by the time he arrived in the
Saurbygd, he had 420 men. These proclaimed him, in spite of his protest,
king, and touched his sword in token of allegiance. But when he forbade
them to rob and plunder the peasants, the majority grew discontented and
left him. In order to test them he ordered them back to Vermeland, but
by the time he reached the Eidskog, his band had shrunk to the original
seventy. Sverre was now in a serious dilemma. He had announced himself
as a claimant to the throne, thereby making himself fair game for any
one who could slay him. And to wage war against King Magnus and Erling
Skakke with seventy men was too absurd to be considered. In his
extremity he sent messengers to Thelemark, where he had heard that some
Birchlegs had sought refuge after the battle of Ree, and where there was
said to be much dissatisfaction with King Magnus. Wherever he appeared,
the peasants met him with hostile demonstrations, and many were those
who wished to earn the gratitude of Earl Erling by destroying the
runaway priest and his robber band. But it was in these desperate
emergencies that the wonderful resources of Sverre's mind became
apparent. Though he often had to live on bark and frozen berries, which
were dug up from under the snow, his courage never failed him. Though in
his journeys through pathless mountain wildernesses, his men dropped
dead about him from exposure and hunger, and he had to cover himself
with his shield and allow himself to be snowed down, he kept a stout
heart in his bosom and rebuked those who talked of suicide. It is told
of him that during his march from Sweden to Nidaros, he came to a large
mountain lake which it was necessary to cross. Rafts were made, but the
men were so exhausted, that it took them a good while to fell the logs.
One by one the rafts were launched and rowed across. Sverre himself
boarded the last, but it was already so heavily loaded, that the water
reached above his ankle. One man, however, who was half dead with
weariness, had been left. He crawled down to the edge of the water and
begged the king to take him along, as otherwise he must perish. The
Birchlegs grumbled loudly, but Sverre commanded them to lay to and take
the man aboard. The raft then sank still deeper and the king stood in
the icy water up to his knees. It looked for awhile as if they would go
to the bottom. But Sverre did not change a mien. They reached, at last,
the further shore, where an enormous pine had fallen into the water. The
men, eager for safety, scrambled over into the tree, and Sverre was the
last to leave the raft, which, the moment his foot was off it, sank.
This incident was regarded by the Birchlegs as a miracle, and
strengthened their faith in Sverre's mission.


At last, after incredible hardships, Sverre arrived early in June, 1177,
at the goal of his journey. He had then 120 men, but fortunately his
message to Thelemark brought him a reinforcement of eighty more. With
these he performed the most amazing manoeuvres--dodging a force of
fourteen hundred men which the partisans of Erling had sent against him.
He anticipated with ease what his enemies would do, while they never
could form the remotest conception of what he meant to do. Therefore the
peasant army scattered in its search for him, and was easily beaten in
separate detachments. It seems incredible that with his 200 or 250
warriors he could have beaten six or seven times their number, and the
explanation lies near, that many of the Trönders in secret sympathized
with him, though fear of Erling deterred them from openly espousing his
cause. Their success now gave the Birchlegs courage, and they thronged
joyously out to Oere-_thing_, whither Sverre had summoned twelve
representatives from each of the eight shires of Tröndelag. Here he was
proclaimed king of Norway (1177).

The rejoicings of the Birchlegs were however, a little premature. Erling
Skakke was, by no means, dead yet, and he had no sooner heard of
Sverre's performances in Tröndelag than he gathered a large fleet and
sailed northward to have a reckoning with him. Sverre did not care to
meet the relentless earl just then, and he therefore sought refuge again
in the mountains. For two years he led, most of the time, a life which
no dog would have envied him; now descending into the valleys on
foraging expeditions, now again retiring into the wilderness and
suffering untold privations. Occasionally hunger drove him to play a
practical joke on the peasants, surprising them as an uninvited guest at
their Yule-tide feasts, sitting down with his Birchlegs at the
banqueting boards and devouring their holiday fare. Altogether his
hardships were not unrelieved by humor. Like Robin Hood and his Merry
Men, he had pity on the small, and often dispensed a kind of rough
justice to the great. His name was cursed from one end of the kingdom to
the other; as he himself remarked, many believed him to be the devil
incarnate. Nurses scared naughty children with the threat that Sverre
would come and take them, and the girls when they pounded the wet
clothes at the river brink never failed to wish that Sverre's head was
under the pounder. At the same time, a certain admiration for the power
of the man and his undauntable spirit can scarcely have failed to affect
those who had not directly suffered by his depredations. His many
battles and guerilla fights with King Magnus and his liegemen, his
second and unsuccessful attempt to capture Nidaros, and his skirmishing
with the peasants cannot here be described in detail, though the saga,
which was prepared under his own supervision, enables us to follow all
his movements with tolerable accuracy. It was not until June, 1179, that
he fought a battle which gave a decisive turn to his future. Then, he
made a sudden descent from Gauldale upon Erling, who was feasting in

"Would that it were true," said the earl, when the approach of the
Birchlegs was announced to him; "they shall then get their deserts, but
for that matter, we may sleep soundly to-night, for I have been told
that they have already retired into the mountains, and Sverre will not
venture to attack us, when we are watching for him, as we are doing

Accordingly he told his men to go to bed; and this they did in a
condition which made it no easy task to wake them. When Sverre, who, as
usual, was well informed, was about to make his attack, he addressed his
men as follows:

"Now it is necessary to fight well and bravely; for a beautiful victory
is to be won. I will tell you what you can now obtain by your bravery.
He who can prove by truthful witnesses that he has slain a liegeman
shall himself become a liegeman; and every man shall get the title and
dignity of the man who falls by his hand."

The Birchlegs needed no further encouragement. Poorly armed though they
were, they stormed down over the hill-sides into the city. One fellow
who was rushing along with a wooden club in his hand was asked what he
had done with his weapons.

"They are down in the town," he answered; "as yet, the earl's men have
got them."

The alarm was now given, and bewildered and heavy with sleep, the earl's
warriors tumbled out into the streets. King Magnus was also present, but
the confusion was so great that he had much difficulty in rallying his

Many of the chieftains advised Erling to flee on board his ships and
make his escape.

"I don't deny," he answered, "that that might seem to be the best; but I
can't endure the thought that that devil of a priest, Sverre, should put
himself in my son's place."

He therefore retired outside the city to Kalvskindet and there awaited
the attack; but though his force was far greater than Sverre's, he could
not maintain himself against the furious onslaught of the Birchlegs.
After a brief defence the earl was slain, and the flight became general.
King Magnus, when he saw his father's bloody face upturned against the
sky, paused in his flight, stooped down and kissed him.

"We shall meet again, father mine, in the day of joy," he said, and
hastened reluctantly away.

Great was the rejoicing among the Birchlegs when it became known, that
Earl Erling was dead. Sverre, who rarely missed a chance to make a
speech, and who, moreover, was duly qualified for the office of
conducting obsequies, made a funeral oration over his fallen foe. He
drew the moral of the earl's life, and said some things which, no doubt,
were true. But as he went on he gave more and more play to his caustic
irony, and was, perhaps, less generous than he could have afforded to be
in his judgment of the dead chieftain.

From this time forth, Sverre had the upper hand, and though the war
lasted for several years more, it changed its character. It was no
longer a fight between law and order on one side and a handful of
outlawed adventurers on the other. It was rather a civil war between two
well-matched parties. Personally Magnus was indeed no match for Sverre,
but as the representative of the old order of things--a monarchy
deriving its power and support from the tribal aristocracy,[A]--he was
no mean opponent. With Sverre and his Birchlegs a lower stratum of
society arose--an uncouth and hungry democracy,--demanding its share of
the good things of life, which had not hitherto been within its reach.
It is Sverre's merit that he knew how to discipline these fierce and
greedy elements, and force them into subjection to law and order. While
before the battle at Kalvskindet he stimulated their cupidity by
offering each man the honors and dignities of the man whom he slew, he
took good care, when the victory was won, to keep this cupidity within
bounds. He kept his promises, raised men of low degree to high offices,
rewarded fidelity and valor, and revolutionized society in a democratic
spirit. But, considering the time in which he lived and the completeness
of his victory, he showed remarkable moderation. He meant the new order
of things which he founded to be lasting, and instead of turning his
victorious Birchlegs loose to prey upon the state, he charged them with
the maintenance of law and order, invested them with responsibility, and
punished them if they exceeded their authority. He could do this without
peril, because his men loved and admired him as much as they feared him.
His power over them was complete. He had shared the evil days with them,
braved dangers and hardships, and tested their manhood.

[Footnote A: Munch: Det Norske Folks Historie, iii., 107. Sars: Udsigt
over den Norske Historie, ii., cap. iv.]

An intimate comradeship and attachment had grown up between them, which,
however, did not exclude authority on one side, and respect and
obedience on the other.

How much Magnus had lost by the battle of Kalvskindet is indicated by
the fact that his adherents now get a party name and sink to the
position formerly occupied by their opponents. They were called
"Heklungs," because it was told of them that they had once robbed a
beggar woman whose money was wrapped up in a cloak (_hekl_).
"Birchlegs," from having been a term of reproach, now became an
honorable appellation which Sverre's veterans were not a little proud

[Footnote A: Munch: iii., 106.]

Magnus spent the year after his defeat mostly in Bergen where he had
many adherents, went thence to Viken, and made every effort to gather an
army with which to destroy his enemies. He must have had considerable
success, for when he went northward to Nidaros, he had a force much more
numerous than the one Sverre could muster. Nevertheless he suffered an
ignominious defeat at the Ilevolds (1180), near Nidaros, and had to flee
head over heels to Bergen. Thither Sverre followed him, and came near
being caught in a trap by one of Magnus' followers, Jon Kutiza, who came
with an army of peasants to kill that "devil's priest." The devil's
priest was, however, as usual, too clever for the Heklungs, and sent
them flying, as soon as he lifted his sword. Magnus, in the meanwhile,
had sought refuge in Denmark, where King Valdemar received him well,
and this kingdom became the base of operations against Sverre. Long time
did not elapse before the Heklungs were again on the way northward with
thirty-two ships, and came within an ace of making an end of Sverre in
the Saltö Sound; but as usual he slipped out of the trap by a daring
stratagem. Soon after, Magnus overtook the Birchlegs at Nordness (1181),
near Bergen, and this time Sverre, who was anxious not to lose his
prestige, determined to stay and give battle, although his fleet was but
half as large as that of his enemies. The Birchlegs were, as a rule, not
good sailors, and never fought as well on the sea as on dry land. The
Heklungs made a fierce onset, and were gradually gaining several
advantages, when Sverre stepped forward where the fight was hottest,
lifted his hands toward the sky, and sang in a loud, clear voice the
Latin hymn, "Alma chorus domini." Hostile missiles beat like hail about
him; but though he had no shield, he remained unharmed. Just then
Magnus, flushed with warlike zeal, stormed forward and was on the point
of boarding one of the hostile ships, when he received a wound through
the wrist. The pain made him pause abruptly, and in so doing he slipped
upon the bloody deck and fell backward. The Birchlegs sent up a
tremendous shout of victory, and Orm King's-Brother (a half-brother of
Harold Gille's sons), hearing that the king was slain, cried: "Then the
fate of the realm is decided."

Instantly he cut the ropes which held the ships together, and, breaking
the battle-line, fled as fast as he could. Magnus, getting on his feet,
called vainly to his men that he was alive, and begged them not to flee
from a victory. But the confusion soon became general, and Sverre, who
was quick to take advantage of it, captured ship after ship and forced
the rest into ignominious flight.

The war was still continued for three years with changing fortunes. In
fact, Magnus, whenever he returned from Denmark, where he sojourned in
the intervals between his defeats, seemed as formidable as ever, and had
little difficulty in gathering an army under his banner. Sverre,
therefore, in order to put an end to an internecine conflict which was
draining the resources of the country, proposed to share the kingdom
with him, and, when this proposal was rejected, that they should reign
alternately for a term of three years each. This well-meant offer Magnus
likewise repelled, and, after repeated interviews and fruitless
negotiations, hostilities were resumed. Three times during the years
1181 and 1182 the Heklungs attacked Nidaros, where the Birchlegs had
their head-quarters, and fought with variable success. In 1183 Sverre
assumed again the offensive, surprised Magnus in Bergen, and compelled
him to flee to Denmark, abandoning his fleet, his treasures, and the
crown regalia. Archbishop Eystein, who had been one of the staunchest
partisans of the Heklungs, had, some years before, fled to England, and
had hoped to injure Sverre by declaring him in the ban of the church.
Sverre was, however, not in the least disturbed by the ban, while the
archbishop was greatly disturbed by the loss of his see. Perceiving that
Magnus' chances of regaining his power were diminishing, the wily
prelate opened negotiations with the excommunicated king and received
him back into the bosom of the Church, on condition of being restored to
his dignities.

A last attempt to recover what he had lost was made by Magnus in the
summer of 1184. He then sailed northward to Bergen with a fleet of
twenty-six ships and about three thousand two hundred men. He learned
that Sverre had sailed up into the Norefjord (a narrow arm of the
Sognefjord) with a few ships and a small force of men, for the purpose
of punishing the Sognings, who had killed his prefect, Ivar Darre.
Sverre was, as a rule, not easily surprised. But in the present instance
he had not the faintest suspicion of danger until he saw the galleys of
the Heklungs steering right down upon him. Escape was not to be thought
of. He was shut in on all sides. The Heklungs, seeing that he had but
fourteen ships, and that his force scarcely numbered more than half of
theirs, were disposed to give thanks to God for having at last delivered
their enemies into their hands. But it is sometimes a doubtful blessing
to have such enemies as the Birchlegs delivered into one's hands. At all
events, Magnus began to have doubts, as soon as battle had commenced, as
to who were the captors and who the captives. The Birchlegs fought with
heroism, and the Heklungs fell in great numbers and many leaped into the
sea. Among the latter was King Magnus. It was midnight before the bloody
work was at an end, and by that time two thousand men had lost their
lives. All the ships of the Heklungs and much booty fell into Sverre's
hands. When the morning broke there could be seen through the clear
waters of the Sognefjord the corpses of slain chieftains lying
outstretched on the bottom, while the fishes swam around them. The
corpse of King Magnus was not found until two days after the battle, and
was then taken to Bergen, where it was buried with great solemnity.

In the battle of Norefjord fell, beside the king, the flower of the
Norse aristocracy. King Inge's son Harold, Orm King's-Brother and his
son Ivar Steig, and a large number of proud chieftains, were among the
slain. They had pinned their hope to King Magnus, and with his death
their dominion was at an end. With Sverre Sigurdsson's reign begins a
new epoch in the history of Norway.





It was a dangerous precedent Sverre established when, without any other
proof of his royal birth than his own assertion, he ascended the throne
of Norway. The prospect was thus opened to any ambitious adventurer,
skilled in mendacity and the use of arms, to snatch the crown at the
point of the sword. The mere fact that a doubt existed in the minds of
many, as to Sverre's origin, was in itself demoralizing. It destroyed
that bond of loyalty which had hitherto bound the people to the
descendants of Harold the Fairhaired, and made it easy for unscrupulous
pretenders, by the prospect of booty, to entice men into rebellion. We
see, therefore, during Sverre's reign and that of his immediate
successors, an abundant crop of pretenders and rebellious bands start up
in different parts of the country, only to be cut down after a more or
less extended existence by the constituted authority.

That Sverre, in a measure, had himself to thank for this state of things
he must have been well aware; and the frequency of his insistence upon
his mission to deliver Norway from the illegal sway of Erling Skakke's
son shows how anxious he was, lest the same thought should occur to
others. Even though he was the son of Sigurd Mouth (which, is indeed,
probable), he must have seen that the people were suffering no hardships
from Magnus' mild exercise of his power, while the wars which were
directly and indirectly inflicted upon the realm by his own
pretendership shook it to its very core. In the rôle of a deliverer
Sverre was therefore scarcely sincere, and a certain insecurity in his
position, springing, perhaps, from an inward doubt, made him at times
appear with less dignity than we might expect in a man of his genius and
power. Thus, when in 1181 a man named Erik, whose origin seems wrapped
in obscurity, obtained permission to prove by ordeal that he was Sigurd
Mouth's son, Sverre insisted upon inserting in his oath the words "and
Sverre's brother," thereby obtaining, as it were, a surreptitious proof
of his own descent from the royal house. Erik, however, objected to
assuming this double responsibility, but succeeded in proving the truth
of his assertion in regard to himself. He was from this time named Erik
Kingsson; but pledged himself never to aspire to the crown. Sverre gave
him first command of his household troops and made him later Earl of

Sverre's first endeavor, after having become sole ruler in the land, was
to strengthen the foundation of his throne. An alliance with the
aristocracy who had hitherto wielded the greatest influence was out of
the question, first because the magnates had been the partisans of
Magnus, and secondly, because to the Birchlegs, to whom Sverre owed his
power, such an alliance would have been odious. He therefore determined
to seek the supports of his kingship among the same class, from which
his Birchlegs had come, viz., the tenants, small farmers, and, in
general, among the lower strata of the population. These men had
hitherto been at the mercy of the chieftains; and though it was in the
interest of the latter not to injure or maltreat them, their position
was one of dependence and penury. They were practically beyond the pale
of the law; because, if wronged by one of their superiors they lacked
the means and influence to prosecute him at the _thing_. In order to
improve the position of these lowly people and thereby gain their
friendship, Sverre appointed a new class of officers, the so-called
lawmen, whose business it should be to procure justice for the oppressed
at small expense and without delay. As one of the first appointed
lawmen, Gunnar Grjonbak in Tröndelag, said: "King Sverre, when he gave
me this office, bade me administer justice among cottagers, not among
chieftains." The lawmen were thus judges who, backed by the authority of
the crown, were charged with the interests of the small, both in their
mutual quarrels and in their quarrels with the great. That their
appointment was a shrewd act, on Sverre's part, is obvious.

Another class of officers who, though they were not first appointed by
Sverre, had more definite functions and duties assigned to them by him,
were the prefects (_syslu-madr_ [A]). They were not, like the liegemen,
royal vassals who held land in fief and exercised independent authority,
but servants of the king and the representatives of his power.[B] They
collected the royal revenues in their districts, and watched over the
interests of the crown. They thus deprived the liegemen of their
principal functions and a large share of their income. As a measure
intended to weaken the influence of the aristocracy, the appointment of
these prefects was therefore most effective. Sverre was not minded to
share his power with these haughty magnates, many of whom had not
hesitated to barter away provinces and enter into alliances with foreign
princes against their own king. He wished the crown to be strong enough
to curb this unruly element, and by the aid of the small prevent the
great from growing above his head. With great shrewdness and
statesmanlike insight he began this work, which in one way or another
absorbed his time and energy during his entire reign.

[Footnote A: Vigfusson translates _syslu-madr_, "prefect, bailiff,
king's steward"; but he also translates _gjald-keri_ and _ar-madr_ with
steward, and in this case correctly. The only English term I know for an
officer whose functions correspond approximately to those of the
_syslu-madr_ is prefect, as the office now exists in France. Even this
term is, however, imperfect.]

[Footnote B: Munch, iii., 108.]

Seeing that the king meant to deprive them of their ancient privileges,
the remnants of the liegemen's party began to look about for a new
pretender, whom they could put in the field against Sverre. Such a one
was soon found in the person of a monk named Jon, who professed to be a
son of King Inge Crookback. Though his story was evidently mendacious,
there gathered about him a considerable band, which received the name
Kuvlungs or Cowlmen. Not all the former adherents of Magnus did, by any
means, join this band, but yet a sufficient number to make it
formidable. Now began the usual depredations along the coast, attacks
upon Bergen and Nidaros, indecisive fights and sudden retreats,
occasional victories, and a great deal of destructive guerilla warfare.
There was a suspicion that Archbishop Eystein, who hated Sverre, was the
power that kept the Kuvlungs in motion, and it was obvious that he
secretly favored them. The archbishop, however, died in 1188 having, as
Sverre asserted, made peace with him on his death-bed. Soon after, the
rebel band was destroyed in Bergen (1188) and their leader slain.

If Sverre had expected to sit at ease in the enjoyment of his power, he
must by this time have been undeceived. He had indeed sown the wind, and
he reaped the whirlwind. No sooner were the Kuvlungs out of the way than
a new band, called the Varbelgs (Wolf Skins), was organized by the
chieftain Simon Kaaresson, who picked up a pretender in the person of a
child, named Vikar. This boy, who was but a few years old, was born in
Denmark, and was alleged to be a son of King Magnus Erlingsson. But the
deception was a little too barefaced to gain credence, and the Varbelgs
came to an inglorious end at Bristein, near Tunsberg (1190), where both
the little Vikar and Simon Kaaresson were slain. Rebellion had by this
time grown so popular that any plausible impostor, who chose to take the
risks, might expect to gain a considerable number of adherents. The many
who were unable or indisposed to put up with the new order of things,
preferred to stake all on a desperate chance rather than submit meekly
to the terms of Sverre's amnesty. It was, therefore, of small
consequence who headed the rebellion; the rebellious spirit which was
abroad was sure to find expression, and was never in want of a leader.
The successors of the Varbelgs were called Oyeskeggs (the Islanders),
because their band was recruited largely from the Orkneys, where Earl
Harold favored them. Their chieftains were Hallkel Jonsson, a
brother-in-law of King Magnus, Sigurd Jarlsson, an illegitimate son of
Erling Skakke, and Olaf, a brother-in-law of Earl Harold, of the
Orkneys. All these had nominally submitted to Sverre and had received
many favors at his hands. Nay, even after they had hatched their
conspiracy, Olaf continued to act as the king's friend and sit at his
table. Sverre was, however, not deceived by his duplicity. One day when
they were talking together the king said: "Thou, Olaf, oughtest to have
been faithful to me."

"Why do you say that, my lord?" asked Olaf.

The king, instead of answering directly, made a thrust with his knife in
the air and said: "The followers of our foes are now swarming about us."

At this the traitor took alarm and quickly left the hall. Outside he met
his foster-son Sigurd, who was said to be a son of King Magnus, and was
later pushed into the rôle of a pretender by the Oyeskeggs.

"There we narrowly escaped a trap, foster-son," said he, as he took the
boy by the hand and hurried away. He immediately set sail for the
Shetland Islands, where he could mature his plans without interference.
In the summer of 1193 he appeared with Hallkel and Sigurd Jarlsson and a
large flock of rebels in Viken, where shire after shire submitted to
them without resistance. There were, probably, no royal troops in Viken
at this time, and the inhabitants, who had formerly been partisans of
King Magnus, had not recently acquired any deep sense of loyalty to
Sverre. When provisions became scarce, the rebel chieftains went aboard
their ships and began to prey upon the shipping in the Belts. In this
way they gained such large amounts of goods and money that they became
known as the "Goldlegs" (_Gullbeiner_). In the autumn of 1193 they
sailed northward, full of courage, hoping soon to make an end of Sverre,
who was understood to have but few people about him. They met him at
Florsvaag, near Bergen, and prepared for battle. His force amounted to
about twelve hundred men, while the Oyeskeggs had two thousand. As it
was too late to fight, when the fleets first approached each other,
Sverre betook himself to the city with a few followers in order to get
reinforcements. On his way back, it occurred to him that it might be a
good plan to pay the rebels a visit. In a small boat he rowed
stealthily, under cover of the darkness, up to the ship where the
chieftains were having a council of war, and had the pleasure of hearing
Hallkel Jonsson unfold the whole plan of the battle. He took his own
measures accordingly, and by his well-calculated manoeuvres frustrated
their plans. The battle was, however, a bloody one, and fiercely
contested. It looked badly for the Birchlegs for a while, but the
arrival of ninety well-armed men from the city decided the day in
Sverre's favor. The king of the Oyeskeggs leaped overboard, but was
pierced by a spear while he was swimming shoreward. All the rebel
chieftains, except Sigurd Jarlsson, and nearly all the men were slain

While thus indefatigably engaged in quelling rebellion, Sverre had
another struggle on his hands which made even heavier demands upon his
vigilance and energy. The church is not apt to look with favor upon one
who deserts it, even for a throne, and the fact that the king had been
admitted to the lowest order of the priesthood, so far from reconciling
the priests to his authority, placed them in a hostile attitude to him.
In spite of this, however, there is little doubt but that he could have
bought their friendship by making the proper concessions. If he had been
willing to ratify the agreement between Archbishop Eystein and Erling
Skakke, hold his crown in fief from St. Olaf, which was but another name
for the hierarchy, and give the bishops the right to exact similar
conditions from his successors, his former deaconship would have proved
no obstacle to his receiving the support of the Church. Sverre knew,
however, too well the spirit of the priesthood to venture upon such
concessions. It was his policy to make the monarchy strong enough to
quell the unruly spirit of the aristocracy and give peace and security
to the people. The Church had from the beginning taken sides against
him, and secretly or openly aided every band of rebels which had
endeavored to overthrow his government. No wonder that, apart from all
other considerations, he was not favorably disposed toward the Church.

When Archbishop Eystein died, after having made a pretended peace with
the king, Bishop Erik, of Stavanger, was elected as his successor. It is
said that Eystein, on his death-bed, obtained Sverre's reluctant consent
to this choice. At all events, Erik was chosen, and was no sooner warm
in his seat, than he showed his disposition toward the king. Without
consulting Sverre, he named for his successor to the bishopric of
Stavanger one of his bitterest enemies, Nicholas Arnesson, a
half-brother of King Inge Crookback. Sverre naturally objected, first
because Nicholas had never taken orders, secondly because his election
had taken place in an illegal manner, the king having not been present.
For all that, he agreed in the end to waive his objections, because his
queen, Margaret (a sister of the Swedish king, Knut Eriksson),
interposed in Nicholas' behalf. The latter, who was a master of
intrigue, had, by his humility and flatteries, gained the favor of the
queen, and even Sverre, who was ordinarily a keen judge of men, was made
to waver in his distrust of him. He was, however, soon to have his eyes
opened. As soon as Nicholas had received his investiture, he again
joined the ranks of the king's enemies, making common cause with the
archbishop, who was indefatigably quarrelling with Sverre about the
alleged prerogatives of his office. First, he wanted the fines and
penances, payable to the Church in Tröndelag, to be rendered according
to actual weight in silver, and not in the coin of the realm, which was
but worth half its nominal value. Secondly, he wished to reserve for
himself and his fellow bishops the right of making all clerical
appointments, and thirdly, he claimed the privilege of surrounding
himself with a kind of ecclesiastical court, and keeping ninety to one
hundred men-at-arms in his service, although the law only allowed him
thirty. To settle these points, Sverre summoned the archbishop to
Frosta-_thing_, and, after having read him the law, decided against him.
Full of wrath, the haughty prelate left the country, seeking refuge with
Archbishop Absalon in Denmark, who received him cordially. Here he
composed a letter to the Pope in which he bitterly complained of the
king's usurpations and infringements of the rights of the Church. The
Pope responded by putting Sverre in the ban and releasing his subjects
from their oath of allegiance. Before the bull reached Norway, however,
Sverre had induced the bishops, remaining in the country, to crown him
at Bergen (June 29, 1194). Even Bishop Nicholas, who had recently been
transferred from Stavanger to Oslo, had participated in this ceremony,
though probably much against his will. Sverre treated the papal bull, at
first, as a mere fraudulent invention of archbishops, Erik and Absalon,
but that he was far from believing this to be the case is shown by the
fact that he sent embassadors to Rome to present counter charges against
the archbishop, and to explain the causes of the controversy from his
point of view. As far as we know these embassadors accomplished
nothing, and on their homeward way they died suddenly in Denmark (1197),
having probably been poisoned. Soon after, a falsified papal bull was
published by Sverre, in which the ban was revoked. It is not improbable
that he was himself responsible for this falsification. It was a
question of "to be or not to be" with him, and he had been long enough
connected with the Church to know how to soothe his conscience in such a
matter. It is, moreover, scarcely credible that any one else would have
committed the fraud in his favor.

Seeing that they could not destroy Sverre by spiritual weapons only, his
enemies resorted once more to the sword, and this time chance played
into their hands in a most remarkable manner. The Byzantine emperor
Alexius sent, in 1195, a Norseman named Reidar the Messenger
(_Sendemand_), to Norway to hire him 200 mercenaries, and Sverre, though
he was of opinion that Norway had no troops to spare, was persuaded to
permit the emperor's emissary to enlist such as desired to follow him.
Reidar went to work without delay and gathered a considerable force, but
in the meanwhile Bishop Nicholas had approached him and induced him to
enter into a league for the overthrow of Sverre's government. Next to
Nicholas himself, the most important man in the league was Sigurd
Jarlsson, the son of Erling Skakke, and formerly a chief of the
Oyeskeggs. A boy named Inge, alleged to be the son of King Magnus
Erlingsson, was their candidate for the throne. The band received the
name of _Bagler_, _i.e._, Crookmen, after _bagall_, a crook or bishop's
staff. They were, owing to the accession of Reidar's mercenaries, much
more formidable than any of the former bands which had risen in
rebellion against Sverre. In the first battle which the king fought with
them, they had no less than 125 ships and 5,000 men. This encounter,
which took place in Saltö Sound, in Viken (1196), was indecisive, though
some advantage seems to have been gained by the Baglers. At all events,
Sverre dared not remain in Viken, but steered northward to Nidaros,
leaving the rebels masters of all the southern provinces. They had here
the sympathy of the population, and experienced no difficulty in having
the pretender Inge proclaimed king at Borgar-_thing_. Sverre, in the
meanwhile, levied troops in the northern provinces, and in the summer of
1197 attacked the rebels at Oslo, where they suffered a crushing defeat.
Here his prudent foresight and strategic skill insured him a splendid
success, while Nicholas showed himself a cowardly braggart, devoid of
generalship. He tried to make his men believe that the swords of the
Birchlegs would not bite, because they were in the ban, and when this
lie had been effectually disproved, the bishop was among the first to
take to his heels.

"Ride forth hard now, my lord," one of the Baglers called to him. "Our
men sorely need your help and exhortation; for, methinks, in sooth, that
the swords of the Birchlegs bite pretty well."

"No, let us ride away as fast as we can," Nicholas made answer; "for now
the Devil is loose."

After the battle the prelate sent a priest to Sverre with offers of
peace; but the latter, who knew the treacherous character of his foe,
would not treat with him, unless he appeared in person. He promised him
safe-conduct, averring that he had other means of gaining fame than by
killing a man like him. Nicholas made no response to this proposition;
but instead of presenting himself before the king, hastened with his men
overland to Nidaros, attacked the city, burned Sverre's fleet, which was
lying in the fjord, and besieged the block-house, which finally fell by
the treason of its commander, Thorstein Kugad. This was a severe blow to
the king, and placed him in the subsequent contest at a great
disadvantage. To meet the rebels on the sea with the small ships which
were now left to him, was hazardous, as the battle of Thorsberg, near
the mouth of the Drontheim fjord, during the following year plainly
showed (1198). The Birchlegs were here worsted, in spite of their
splendid bravery, and many of the king's staunchest friends and
adherents were slain. Sverre hastened thence to Bergen, where the Bagler
chief, Sigurd Jarlsson, in the meanwhile had been raging with fire and
sword. He had burned those of Sverre's ships which he had found in the
harbor, as well as the houses of the Birchlegs in the city, and he now
laid siege to the block-house, where Queen Margaret was with all her
household. As this rude fort was built of wood, his first intention was
to fire it, and he began, for this purpose, to pile up wood for an
enormous bonfire close to the walls. Sigurd Borgarklett, the commander
of the fort, succeeded in lighting the wood-pile, before it was large
enough to do any harm. The Baglers began to pile up wood once more, but
again the besieged flung burning barrels of tar down upon them and drove
them off. After many fruitless attempts, Sigurd Jarlsson gave up the
plan of firing the block-house.


It was not, however, only his enemies without, who gave Sigurd
Borgarklett trouble. The queen, at the sight of the fire, grew frantic
and insisted upon surrendering; and all her women surrounded the brave
commander, tearfully imploring him not to expose them to being burned
alive. A friend of Sverre, named Aura-Paul, to whose care the queen had
especially been entrusted, feared that the lamentations of the women
might have a discouraging effect upon the garrison, and in order to save
the commander from their importunities, he persuaded them to enter the
room above the gate, which had been used as a jail, and there await the
issue of the negotiations with the Baglers. To this they readily
consented; and were forthwith locked up, with full permission to wail to
their hearts' content. When, however, the danger from fire was past,
Aura-Paul went to the queen and asked her, what she would give him if he
could induce the Baglers to depart. She offered him a great sum of
money; whereupon he begged the loan of her seal. He now sat down and
wrote a letter in the queen's name to two priests in the city, urging
them to use every means in their power to detain the enemy, as the king
was coming with a large force the next day and would be sure to make an
end of them. This communication he despatched by a small boy who managed
to be caught by the Baglers and, on being searched, had to deliver up
the letter. Sigurd Jarlsson, without suspecting the deceit, hurried away
as fast as he could, not, however, without having punished the two
priests, who, though professing friendship for him, yet were in
communication with the queen. This was regarded by the Birchlegs as a
delightful joke; for the priests were, like most of their order, enemies
of the king. But to make this comedy of errors complete, Sverre did
actually, to the surprise of his friends, arrive on the day appointed in
the letter. Nevertheless, it was fortunate that Sigurd Jarlsson had
taken to his heels; for the main force of the Baglers were pursuing the
king southward, and if the two divisions had effected a junction in
Bergen, Sverre would scarcely have been able to hold his own against

The summer of 1198, which became known among the people as the Bergen
summer, was passed by the hostile armies in and about the latter city,
and there was almost an incessant skirmishing, besides some hard
fighting. A battle at the Jonvolds resulted in favor of the Birchlegs,
but was not decisive enough to destroy the Baglers' power of resistance.

The summer passed, neither party gaining any decided advantage. Then
Bishop Nicholas, despairing of destroying the Birchlegs as long as they
had the town to fall back upon, determined to deprive them of this
shelter. He accordingly set fire to the town and burned the greater part
of it. The Birchlegs had enough to do in saving the block-house, and
could give but little aid to the citizens in their efforts to limit the
conflagration. It is doubtful, however, if the Baglers gained any thing
by this unwarrantable destruction, for the citizens of Bergen, a large
number of whom had been favorably inclined toward them, became from this
day their enemies. Sverre was, indeed, compelled to abandon his
position, leaving, however, a garrison in the block-house. But the
Baglers scarcely profited by his departure, as the country round about
had been denuded of provisions, and want compelled them to move. Bishop
Nicholas then sailed northward to Nordmöre and Haalogaland, where he met
with no opposition; and desertion from the ranks of the Birchlegs
increased his army until its very magnitude caused him embarrassment.
Oddly enough, at this very time, when the king's fortune was at its
lowest ebb, the traitor, Thorstein Kugad, who had surrendered the
block-house in Nidaros, returned to him. He flung himself at Sverre's
feet, embraced his knees, and cried:

"Happy I am now, my lord, that I am so near you--that I can touch you. *
* * Dear my lord, receive me, and let me never more part from you."

Though his former comrades demanded his death, Sverre gave him full
pardon. The king's desperate position was indeed sufficient guaranty of
the sincerity of Thorstein's repentance. The whole country, outside of
Tröndelag, was now in the hands of the rebels. The royal fleet was
burned, and even many of the veteran Birchlegs had deserted. Then, as
the final crushing blow, came the bull of Pope Innocent III., laying the
country under interdict, prohibiting the celebration of public worship
and the administration of the sacraments, in all those parts of the
kingdom that yet remained faithful to Sverre. If the vicar of Christ had
contented himself with hurling the thunderbolt of divine wrath against
the king, he might perhaps have achieved his destruction. But the Pope,
finding that the bull of his predecessor had been practically
ineffective, aimed this time to affect the popular conscience, and he
addressed to it certain arguments which showed how completely he had
allowed himself to be deceived by Sverre's enemies. In his bull he
described the king in a manner which must have appeared absurd to those
who knew him; he attributed to him crimes which all knew that he had
never committed; and exposed thereby--not Sverre's wickedness, but his
own fallibility and partisanship. The king, instead of meekly submitting
to an unfair sentence, felt, therefore, justified in coming forward in
his own defence. He wrote or caused to be written, under his immediate
supervision, a polemical brochure, in which he reviewed his relation to
the Church and ably defended his conduct. The behavior of the clergy he
subjected to a scathing criticism, showed the inconsistency of their
position, as the partisans of Baglers, and exposed the true motive of
their actions. The author's shrewdness, ability, and learning are
manifest in every page, and the lucidity of expression and the plain
common-sense arguments seem to reveal the well-known personality of
Sverre. That it had the effect of preventing many from leaving him, who
otherwise might have been frightened into desertion, is very probable.
The disloyal clergy had, however, better facilities for reaching the
people than the few who were yet faithful, and they improved their
opportunity in inciting the peasants to an unreasoning, fanatical
hostility to the excommunicated king. The Pope, in the meanwhile, was
active in stirring up foreign enemies against him, and wrote the most
urgent letters to the kings of Sweden and Denmark, exhorting them to
merit the gratitude of God and his vicar, the Pope, by destroying the
sacrilegious monster, Sverre. Happily, these exhortations had no effect;
for King Knut of Denmark had his hands full at home, and King Sverke of
Sweden was rather favorably inclined toward his neighbor.

In this desperate strait Sverre's true greatness revealed itself. He had
been accustomed to fight against heavy odds, and the sense of danger
served to bring all his energies into play. With undaunted resolution he
set to work to repair his losses and to equip himself once more to meet
his foes. His first task was to build a fleet instead of the one which
the Baglers had destroyed; for without ships he would have been at their
mercy. The Trönders whom he called upon for help assisted him
faithfully; and by the beginning of spring (1199) he had eight large
galleys ready to be launched. Besides these he expected a number of
others which the peasants were building for him throughout Tröndelag.
The city of Nidaros he fortified with a large new block-house, and built
hurling-machines which were used for throwing stones at the enemy. Early
in June the Baglers appeared in the fjord with a large fleet, and the
usual skirmishing commenced. All their efforts to capture the city were,
however, unavailing, and in the battle at Strindsö (June, 1199) their
great fleet, which had formerly given them an advantage over the
Birchlegs, fell into Sverre's hands. The battle was stubbornly
contested, and both parties were wrought up to a warlike fury which
refused to give or to take quarter. The king, whose gentleness and
humane sentiments had made his stern resolution and courage the more
admirable, put here a blot upon his fair name. He yielded to the
importunities of his men, and allowed them to avenge the death of their
kinsman upon the prisoners. It is but fair to ascribe this single act of
cruelty to the momentary ferment of his blood and the hate that flared
up uncontrollably against the authors of all his misfortunes.

After the battle of Strindsö the Baglers fled southward with the few
ships that were left to them, and were pursued by Sverre, who did not,
however, succeed in overtaking them. They found, as usual, a refuge in
Denmark, where they continued to plot mischief. They felt themselves, in
point of strength and resources, so superior to Sverre that it seemed to
them merely a question of time, when they should gain possession of the
entire land. Even in Nidaros, where the king was yet able to hold his
own, the rebels had many sympathizers among the clergy. After his
victory at Strindsö, Sverre sailed southward and went into
winter-quarters in Oslo. The Baglers took advantage of his absence to
visit Nidaros where they fought indecisively with an army of 1,800
peasants who undertook to defend the city. In the meanwhile a storm was
drawing up over Sverre's head more menacing than any which he had
hitherto weathered. The preaching of the disloyal clergy was beginning
to show its effects. The peasants of Viken and the Oplands rose in
rebellion, and poured in great torrents toward Oslo, for the purpose of
destroying the excommunicated king. From three different directions
their armies came marching, intending to effect a junction near the
city, and by their greatly superior numbers overwhelm Sverre. The king
had then only three thousand men, while the forces of the peasants, all
told, must have numbered forty or fifty thousand. To fight against such
odds would seem to be simple madness. Nevertheless he determined to sell
his life dearly. Never did his genius shine more brightly than in the
hour of danger. Calmly and confidently he addressed his men, assigning
to each commander his task, and exhorting his Birchlegs to be brave, and
to trust in God. Then, by a series of swift manoeuvres, he prevented the
junction of the hostile armies, leaving his sons, Sigurd Lavard and
Haakon, to guard his rear, while he engaged and defeated the two main
divisions of the peasant army. The force under Sigurd and Haakon, which
only numbered four hundred and eighty men, had in the meanwhile been
routed by the third division, numbering twenty-four hundred, and the
king would have had small chance of escape, if the peasants had had the
wit to follow up their advantage. Instead of that they began carousing
in the city, and even refrained from firing the royal fleet, which was
in their power, because they regarded it already as their own. When,
however, the sanguinary battle which was in progress out on the ice was
at an end, the hilarious peasants discovered their mistake. Sverre came,
not as vanquished, but as victor. Then there was hurly-burly of battle
once more--fight, flight, and pursuit. The yeomen, sturdy fellows though
they were, and not unaccustomed to war, lacked discipline, and above all
they lacked a competent commander. Sverre chased them so hotly that they
had to fling away their shields and trust for safety to their speed

[Illustration: HÖNEFOSS.]

The exhausted Birchlegs had now need of rest, and the king ordered the
famous _loor_ Andvake to be blown, and gathered the army about him. Food
and drink were brought from the city and the hungry warriors were about
to refresh themselves, when they perceived that the fugitives of the
several peasant armies had united, and were returning to challenge once
more the fortune of battle. The rebels had discovered that they were
yet, with a proper plan of attack, formidable enough to destroy the
Birchlegs. Their chief purpose now was to kill Sverre, because they
supposed that if he were dead, the resistance of his party would soon
collapse. Reluctant though they were to fight again, the Birchlegs
responded bravely to their king's exhortation. They stormed down to the
frozen fjord, where the peasants were forming their battle line, and
made a fierce onset. Sverre, as was his wont, rode about among them, was
now at the front, now in the rear, and with his clear eye directed each
manoeuvre. The peasants, when they saw him, cried out: "Stab him, hew
him down, kill him, cut his horse from under him." And from all sides
resounded hoarsely the shout: "Stab him, kill him." But in their
eagerness to slay Sverre, they neglected to preserve order. Their battle
array broke up into a series of wild and irregular charges, the weak
points of which Sverre was not slow to detect. The Birchlegs rushed in
among them and routed them with great carnage. A liegeman, named Aale
Hallvardsson, whom the rebels mistook for the king, because he was
similarly dressed, fell after a brave defence, and an exultant shout was
heard, that the king was slain. The Birchlegs were for a moment stricken
with terror, and stopped in their pursuit. But suddenly Sverre came
dashing forward on his horse; the warriors rallied joyously about him,
the _loor_ was blown for a fresh attack, and at the head of his men the
king charged once more and broke the last resistance of the discomfited

This was the greatest victory that Sverre ever won, and altogether one
of the most extraordinary battles ever fought in Norway. For the
peasants a day of accounting was now at hand, and the king made them
feel the heavy hand of his wrath. A policy of gentleness and amnesty
they would have mistaken for fear; only severity could inspire them with
respect. Many farms were burned and great fines in money and provisions
were exacted from those who had taken part in the rebellion. One
incident will suffice to show, however, how little Sverre's heart was in
this work. As he was approaching a farm, a little boy came running out
of the woods and begged him piteously not to burn his home.

"Nay, surely it shall be spared, since thou askest," answered Sverre,
gently; "and if the peasants had stayed at home and begged for peace, no
farm would have been burned. Tell them now, that the rest will be

Forthwith he gave orders to his men to refrain from further destruction.

The heroic endurance which Sverre had developed in this long and
exhausting struggle had indeed weakened the cause of the Baglers, but
had by no means deprived them of their courage. A civil war and
particularly a war of classes, such as this was, arouses fiercer hates
and passions than international contests, and must therefore continue,
until one party or the other is utterly humbled or destroyed. The Norse
magnates, who formed the bone and sinew of the Bagler party, hated
Sverre, not only because they believed him to be an upstart and an
adventurer, but as the destroyer of the old oligarchic government, in
which they had secured the lion's share of power. A class, so formidably
intrenched both in the institutions and the traditions of the country,
could not be overthrown at one blow; nor could it be humbled by
misfortunes and reverses. It was not in his clerical capacity, but as
the most eminent representative of the old aristocracy, that Bishop
Nicholas became their leader; and the adherence of the clergy to the
Bagler party was not so much the result of a personal sympathy with him,
as of a common animosity to the democratic king, the leveller of
distinctions, the champion of the rabble. These proud descendants of
the great historic families of Norway were of the same blood as the
Norman nobility of England, and though they did not live in castles, nor
dress in satin and ermine, yet they were animated by the same spirit.
They were ready to fight for their rights, whether real or imagined,
even against their own king and country.

In the spring of 1201 Sverre called fresh levies from the ever faithful
North, and sailed again southward, leaving a garrison in Bergen under
the command of his friend, Dagfinn Peasant, and his son-in-law Einar,
surnamed the Priest. He learned that the Bagler chief, Reidar Messenger,
with about two hundred and forty men had taken possession of the
block-house at Tunsberg, and he thought the opportunity a favorable one
for annihilating one of his most dangerous enemies. To this end he laid
siege to the block-house, which, however, from its situation on the
mountain, overlooking the town, was wellnigh impregnable. His attempt to
take it by storm failed, and his various ingenious stratagems were
likewise unsuccessful. After a siege of twenty weeks, the Baglers were
reduced to such a strait that for their Christmas dinner they had to eat
boiled and chopped ropes, made out of walrus and sealskin. They could
not endure this long; one by one they began to desert, in the dead of
night, and instead of being slain, as they expected, they were received
with kindness by the king. The Birchlegs grumbled loudly at his
forbearance, but he rebuked them sternly, and they had to own that he
was right. Last of all came Reidar Messenger with the little band that
had remained with him. Sverre not only spared his life, but he treated
him with the greatest consideration. He warned the Baglers not to eat
too heartily after their long fast, and cared for those among them who
were ill. Many who disregarded his advice died; while others dragged
themselves through life with ruined health. The chief himself also
suffered much, although Sverre exerted all his medical skill to cure

The incessant hardships of war and the strain upon his energies which
they involved had, in the meanwhile, undermined the king's strength, and
he was after a while compelled to take to his bed. When he left Tunsberg
in January or February, 1202, he had his bed made on the raised poop of
the deck, and that of the Bagler chief was placed at his side. And there
lay, side by side, the conqueror and the conquered, gazing up into the
wintry sky, and watching the clouds that chased each other under the
wind-swept vault. Often they talked pleasantly together, and each
learned to admire the remarkable qualities of the other. Reidar, who had
been a crusader, told of his adventures and observations in
Constantinople, and the Holy Land; and the days passed quickly to the
king, while he listened to the entertaining narrative. On the arrival of
the fleet in Bergen, the king was moved to the royal mansion where his
bed was made in the great hall. When he felt that his death was near, he
called some of his trusted friends to him and declared solemnly, in
their presence, that he had but one son living, namely Haakon, and if
any one else claimed to be his son, he was a rebel, and an impostor.
Then he ordered a letter, which he had dictated to Haakon, to be read
and sealed, and he charged his nephews, Haakon Galen, and Peter Steyper,
to deliver it into his hands.

"I wish," he said, "before receiving the extreme unction, to be lifted
into my high-seat, and there await life or death."

When the sacrament, in spite of his excommunication, had been
administered to him, he continued: "My kingship has brought me more
tribulation, disquietude, and danger, than ease and pleasure, and
methinks that mere envy has impelled many to become my enemies, which
sin may God now forgive them, and judge between them and me and in my
whole cause."

King Sverre expired March 9th, 1202. He was in point of genius the
greatest king who has ever ruled over Norway. A bright, clear, and
resolute spirit dwelt within his small frame. His presence of mind and
his wonderful fertility of resource saved him out of the most desperate
situations. Firmness, and gentleness were admirably united in his
character. A clear-sighted policy, based upon expediency as well as upon
conviction, governed his actions from the beginning of his reign to its
end. He possessed the faculty of attaching men to him, even when he
punished them and restrained their lawless passions. Though he did not
possess the beauty or the magnificent physical presence of the earlier
kings of Norway, he knew how to inspire respect as well as love. The
charm of his conversation, and his affability of manner impressed every
one who came in contact with him. "What especially makes his personality
interesting," says Munch,[A] "is the remarkable mingling of seriousness
and humor, which seems to be peculiar to the Norse national character,
and which, in his demeanor, was so striking that he may almost be
regarded as its embodiment."

[Footnote A: Munch, iii., 391.]

In many respects he was much in advance of his age. Thus, it is told of
him that, so far from regarding the national vice, drunkeness, as an
amiable weakness, for which no man was any the worse, he endeavored
earnestly to check it, and punished with severity those who committed
excesses under the influence of drink. As far as his constant occupation
with war permitted him, he encouraged trade and all industrial pursuits.
For learning he had a high regard; was himself a good Latin scholar and
well read in the law, and displayed much zeal in procuring for his sons
the best educational advantages that the time afforded. In spite of the
hardships and dangers, to which he was constantly exposed, he lived to
be fifty years old,--an age which, since the death of Harold the
Fairhaired, but one king of Norway had reached.




In his dying message to his son Sverre advised him to make peace with
the Church. He foresaw that the interdict which was weighing heavily
upon the land would be an increasingly powerful weapon in the hands of
the Baglers, and would continue to alienate the hearts of the people
from the king. Haakon, who had not personally been engaged in the
controversy, could, without loss of dignity, make overtures for a
reconciliation, and might, if necessary, make concessions. The bishops
were, however, so tired of their long exile and dependence upon foreign
bounty, that they accepted with eagerness his offer of peace and
hastened to return to their bishoprics. What the terms of the
reconciliation were we do not know. The old Archbishop Erik, who was now
blind and decrepit, was especially glad to return home, as his patron,
Archbishop Absalon, had recently died, and his position in Denmark, as a
dependent of the king, was scarcely an agreeable one. No sooner had he
set foot on Norse soil than he declared the interdict revoked, without
even awaiting the Pope's consent--a rashness for which he was later
rebuked by Innocent III. The Pope, however, though he no doubt enjoyed
wielding the tremendous weapons of his wrath, acquiesced in the terms of
the peace, and had no fault to find with the new king's attitude toward
the Church. The fact was, Haakon Sverresson was a gentle and lovable
character, who delighted in peace rather than war. All the people, weary
of the long and bloody civil feud, felt drawn toward him and hastened to
acknowledge him. After his proclamation as king at Oere-_thing_, and the
revocation of the interdict, he was undisputed master of the land; and
the star of the Baglers seemed forever to have set. Many of their
influential chiefs deserted to Haakon; and their so-called king, Inge,
was slain on an island in Mjösen by his own men and the peasants. Bishop
Nicholas exchanged temporarily the helmet for the mitre, and kept as
quiet as his restlessly intriguing mind would permit. Reidar Messenger
had, after his capitulation at Tunsberg, sworn fidelity to Sverre, and
meant to keep faith with his son. It seemed therefore that, at last, all
dangers were removed, and that the young and popular king had a prospect
of a long and happy reign. Then, as a bolt of lightning out of a sunny
sky, came a calamity which suddenly plunged the country again into war
and misery.

We have heard that Sverre married Margaret, the daughter of the Swedish
king, Erik the Saint. He had with her no sons, but a daughter,
Christina. His two sons, Sigurd Lavard, who died before his father, and
Haakon, were born on the Faeroe Isles; and their mother was Astrid, the
daughter of Bishop Roe. It is probable that Sverre was married to her,
but it is told that he did not bring her to Norway, because she had been
unfaithful to him. According to a tradition, however, she was brought to
Norway by her son, who gave her a large estate near Nidaros and treated
her with consideration and kindness. This act Haakon's step-mother, the
queen-dowager Margaret, regarded as an insult to her, and determined to
leave the country. Being a passionate and imperious woman, proud of her
birth and relentless in her hate, she imagined that she was not accorded
the honor that was her due at the court, and she particularly took
offence because the king claimed precedence before her. Being averse to
strife, he did his best to conciliate her, but with small success. The
queen-dowager betook herself to Oslo with her daughter, intending thence
to proceed to Sweden, where she owned large estates. The king, though he
did not dispute her right to leave, denied her right to take with her
his half-sister, whose natural guardian he was; and sent his cousin,
Peter Steyper, to induce her to desist from her resolution. The queen,
however, remained obdurate. She would not concede that Haakon had any
right over her child. Finding threats and persuasion unavailing, Peter
Steyper attempted a stratagem. He burst into the princess' room, while
her mother was taking a bath, crying at the top of his voice that the
Baglers had come to town. Christina implored him in terror to save her;
whereupon he seized her in his arms and ran with her down to the piers,
jumped on board of his ship, and set sail. The queen, as soon as she
heard the noise, rushed into the street, and reached the pier just as
the ship was gliding from its moorings. Beside herself with wrath, she
screamed after the Birchlegs: "Would that I may live to see the day when
I shall cause you as great a sorrow as you to-day have caused me."

Much more that she cried they did not hear, for her voice came more
faintly to them through the wind, as the distance increased. From that
day she hated the king, though it is by no means clear that he approved
of Peter Steyper's violence. Finding her position in Sweden less
agreeable than she had expected, she was soon induced to return to
Norway, where she became a centre of mischievous intrigue. Among her
partisans was the king's cousin, Haakon Galen, a son of Sigurd Mouth's
daughter Cecilia and Folkvid the Lawman, a brave and reckless youth who
was deeply in love with the queen's niece, Mistress Christina.[A] Over
him the two women, both of whom were arch-plotters, had considerable
influence, and the desire rose in them to put him on the throne in his
cousin's place. King Haakon, who, if he had suspected his stepmother's
design, would have been on his guard, furnished her now with the
opportunity for accomplishing her evil purpose. He invited her and her
daughter to his Yule-tide feast, offering her the high-seat at his own
side. So far from being conciliated by this offer, the queen burst forth
vehemently: "Long shall I remember how I sat in the high-seat with my
lord, King Sverre, on Christmas Eve. Bring my greeting to King Haakon,
and tell him that I shall not share his high-seat to-night."

[Footnote A: Not the same as the Princess Christina, Sverre's and
Margaret's daughter.]

The king was aggrieved at this rebuff, and sent a second message,
begging her at least to allow his sister Christina to grace his feast by
her presence. The messenger added that the king was very wroth.

"Does he suppose," cried Margaret, "that I do not remember how he caused
my daughter to be torn away from me at Oslo, without his reminding me of
it into the bargain?"

To everybody's surprise, however, she began to dress for the feast, and
soon both mother and daughter entered the banqueting hall, where they
were received with much honor.

The feast was a merry one and good cheer reigned in the hall. Toward the
evening of the day after Christmas, however, the king began to feel
indisposed, and grew worse as the night advanced. He had himself bled,
but the illness made rapid progress, until he lost consciousness. His
body turned blue and swelled up terribly. On New Year's Day, 1204, he
died. It was evident that he had been poisoned, and the rumor soon got
abroad that it was the queen who had killed him. Although Haakon Galen
did his best to lead suspicion away from her, a general clamor arose
that she should prove her innocence by carrying glowing irons. This the
queen refused to do, and in consideration of her rank obtained
permission to appoint a substitute who should submit to the ordeal in
her place. This substitute, however, though he betrayed no fear of the
result, was found to have been badly burned, and the belief now became
general that the queen was guilty. The excitement against her was so
great that Haakon Galen was obliged to conduct her secretly away from
Nidaros, and to hide her in the house of one of his kinsmen in the
country. Later she made her escape to Sweden, where she probably passed
the rest of her days on her estates. Both the Princess Christina and her
cousin Christina remained in Norway, the latter as Haakon Galen's

The death of Haakon Sverresson plunged the country in deep grief, not
only because he was personally beloved, but because it was supposed that
he left no issue.

The opportunity was now at hand for a new crop of pretenders to fight
for the crown and spread once more anarchy and desolation over the land.





The legitimate heir to the throne after Haakon's death was his nephew,
Guttorm Sigurdsson, a son of his brother, Sigurd Lavard. In spite of his
tender age, the Birchlegs made haste to elect him, with the
understanding that Haakon Galen, with the title of earl, should conduct
the government. There were, however, some of the Birchlegs who were
dissatisfied with this arrangement, partly because they were jealous of
Haakon Galen, partly because they felt that, in such troublous times, a
king was needed, who should be something more than a name or a
figure-head. The Baglers, too, strange to say, were ill at ease, because
they feared that, Haakon Sverresson's restraining influence being
removed, the Birchleg chiefs would give free rein to their passions of
avarice and vengeance. Half in self-defence they, therefore, reorganized
their troop under the leadership of an impostor, calling himself Erling
Stonewall (Steinvegg), who pretended to be a son of King Magnus
Erlingsson. A pretender of this name had, during the reign of Sverre,
made some little stir, and had been imprisoned by King Knut of Sweden in
a tower, whence he had escaped by means of a rope, made out of his
bed-clothes. The rope proved, however, to be too short, and in letting
himself drop to the ground, Erling broke his hip. He was overtaken, on
his flight, by Sverre's men and in all probability slain. Nevertheless,
it required audacity rather than proof of royal birth, in those days, to
figure as a pretender; and the second Erling Stonewall, though probably
few at first believed in him, soon had a considerable following. It was
of no use that Bishop Nicholas opposed him, and urged his own nephew,
Philip, a grandson of Harold Gille's queen, Ingerid, for the
chieftainship. When Erling demanded the right to prove his birth by the
ordeal of fire, the bishop told him bluntly that the result was in his
hands. Under such circumstances, the pretender found it more to his
advantage to make terms with the bishop and receive his assurance that
the ordeal should turn out successfully. Erling, on his side, promised,
when he became king, to make Philip his earl, and in other respects
satisfied the prelate's demands. The latter had, in the meanwhile, by
conferences with his peasants, ascertained that Philip's candidacy was
regarded with great disfavor, because he neither had nor pretended to
have a drop of royal blood. The peasants utterly refused to recognize
him, and threatened to rebel, in case he was elected. It was therefore
to the bishop's advantage to keep faith with Erling. The ordeal
accordingly took place with great solemnity in the presence of the
Danish king, Valdemar the Victorious, and proved successful. Erling was
then proclaimed king, and received as a present from Valdemar a fleet of
thirty fine ships. In return he recognized him as his feudal overlord
and gave him hostages. The party of the magnates was thus faithful to
its traditions, in sacrificing patriotism to private interests. With the
aid of the powerful Danish king the party had, indeed, a good prospect
of crushing the disheartened and disunited Birchlegs, who just at that
time received a fresh blow in the death of their newly elected king.
Christina, Haakon Galen's mistress, could not allow so slight an
obstacle, as the life of a child, to stand between her and the goal of
her wishes. If Guttorm were dead, her lover would have the best chance
of succeeding him, being on his mother's side a grandson of Sigurd
Mouth. It was, therefore, no mere accident that Guttorm died; and with
all the symptoms of poisoning. He said that the "Swedish woman" had
taken him upon her lap and stroked him caressingly over his whole body.
Soon after he felt, as if needles were piercing his flesh, and before
long he expired in great agony. Though Christina's guilt was obvious,
her lover had yet sufficient influence to have the matter hushed up; and
in order to give her the full benefit of his protection, he married her
soon after. A meeting was now called in Nidaros to elect a new king.
Earl Haakon, who was a favorite with the army, seemed to have every
chance in his favor; and he would probably have been the choice of the
Birchlegs, if Archbishop Erik had not opposed him, on account of his
relation to Christina. The guilt thus defeated its own object. Several
candidates were discussed, some of whom were related to Sverre only on
his mother's side and thus had no consanguinity with the royal house.
The most prominent among these was Peter Steyper, who had the additional
advantage of having married a daughter of King Magnus Erlingsson. After
long deliberations, the chiefs finally decided to leave the choice to
the peasants, who would then be sure to stand by the king whom they
themselves elected. The peasants were according summoned to Oere-_thing_
where they conferred the royal dignity upon Inge Baardsson, a younger
half-brother of Haakon Galen and like him, on the maternal side, a
grandson of Sigurd Mouth. No sooner did the Baglers hear that the
Birchlegs had chosen a new king than they started northward from
Tunsberg, in order to test his mettle. The caution of Bishop Nicholas
prevailed, however, over the counsel of the more warlike chiefs, and
after some unimportant fights in and about Bergen, the rebels betook
themselves to Denmark, where they had always a safe place of refuge.
King Inge and Earl Haakon, therefore, found no opposition, when they
visited Viken, and the peasants, though the great majority of them
sympathized with the Baglers, had no scruple in swearing them
allegiance. In fact, the long war was having a demoralizing influence
upon the people, and its barbarizing effects began to be visible in many
ways. To save their lives, the yeomen were obliged to feign friendship
for every pretender who came along with his band, and swear him
fidelity, or fly to the woods, leaving their farms a prey to the
marauders. Even the ties of blood which had been exceptionally strong
among the Norsemen, began to be disregarded, as members of the same
family were impelled, by diverging interests, to join different parties.
It was no rare occurence that brother fought against brother, and father
against son. Thus it is told of a Bagler that during the attack upon
Nidaros in 1206, he was hotly pursuing a Birchleg whom he finally
killed. As he stooped over the dying man, in order to deprive him of his
arms and garments, he discovered that it was his own brother. A great
laxity in all moral obligations resulted from this state of things.
Kings and chieftains broke their words; enemies who had surrendered on
promise of pardon were ruthlessly slain; murder and rapine filled the

Under these circumstances it was no great privilege for the young and
inexperienced Inge to wear a crown which merely put a price upon his
head. In the spring of 1206, while he was in Nidaros celebrating the
wedding of his sister, the Baglers surprised him in the night and slew a
large number of his men. The king himself escaped by pure chance, threw
himself into the river, and swam, half-clad, in the icy water, out to a
ship, and clung for a while to the anchor cable. More dead than alive he
reached the shore, and would probably have perished from exposure, if
the Birchleg, Reidulf, who was also fleeing, had not found him, wrapped
him in his cloak, and carried him on his back to a place of safety. Yet
Inge never overcame the effects of this terrible night. He grew morose
and despondent, and never regained his former light-heartedness. It was
not merely that he felt discredited as a chieftain by the disgrace of
having been surprised by his enemies in a drunken sleep, in the house of
his mistress; his health, too, had suffered a shock from which it was
slow to recover.

On their return from Nidaros, the Baglers paid a visit to Bergen, where
they expected to starve the Birchleg garrison in the block-house into
surrender. But here they reckoned without their host. Earl Haakon,
though he had not been present at the assault upon his brother in
Nidaros, felt impelled to avenge it. He therefore sailed southward with
a small fleet and about seven hundred men, overtook the rebels in Bergen
and inflicted upon them a severe defeat. Thus blindly pursuing partisan
advantage, Baglers and Birchlegs kept killing each other, forgetting
that they were all Norsemen, who would, in the end, suffer by the
devastation and exhaustion of their common country. Year after year they
continued surprising each other in Nidaros, Bergen, Tunsberg, and Oslo,
burning each other's ships, and robbing each other's treasures; but they
appeared to avoid a decisive battle which would have given an
overwhelming advantage to one party or the other, thereby securing peace
to the land. The death of Erling Stonewall in 1207 enabled Bishop
Nicholas to carry out his desire to make his nephew, Philip Simonsson,
king of the Baglers. But Philip made no change in the policy of his
predecessor, persevering in the same aimless marauding, which could
scarcely be dignified by the name of war. The parties were, indeed, so
evenly matched, that it seemed hopeless for the one to destroy the
other, for which reason the political stake in the struggle was almost
lost sight of, while immediate profit yet furnished a motive for
continuing in arms.

It was while anarchy was thus rioting and despondency reigning
throughout the land, that a hope suddenly sprang up, like a star out of
the depth of night. It was well known that King Haakon Sverresson,
during his visit to Sarpsborg in 1203, had become enamoured of the
beautiful Inga of Varteig, and it had also been whispered that she had
reciprocated his love. Soon after Haakon's death, she had borne a son,
and though it was taken for granted that the king was his father, the
matter had been hushed up, lest the Baglers, who were masters in Viken,
should hear that an heir had been born to the throne. The priest,
Thrond, in whose house Inga gave birth to the boy, baptized him and gave
him the name Haakon, after his father; but advised the utmost secrecy,
and let no one but his immediate family know of the child's existence.
Such a secret is, however, hard to keep, and, after a while, the priest
took Erlend of Huseby, a man of good repute and a friend of Sverre's
house, into his confidence. Erlend rejoiced that King Sverre's race was
not extinct; but found the boy's position, in the midst of the enemies'
land, perilous. He therefore persuaded Thrond to send him and his mother
to King Inge, and himself offered to take them across the mountains. The
boy Haakon was then (December, 1205,) about a year and a half old. There
must have been some imminent danger at hand which impelled the priest,
after having waited so long, to choose the most inclement season of the
year for the journey across the trackless, snow-covered wilderness. The
two friends started northward with their precious charge and arrived,
after infinite hardships, in Nidaros, where they were well received by
King Inge. The boy now, for a while, sojourned with his mother at court
and was kindly treated. The old Birchlegs came often to see him and
playfully took him between them and pulled him by the arms and legs in
order to make him grow faster. For they were impatient to serve, once
more, a king of the old royal race. Haakon Galen, too, took a great
fancy to his young kinsman, though his demonstrations of love were, no
doubt, looked upon with fear by those who had the boy's welfare at
heart. Nevertheless, it appears that the earl was actually sincere, and
felt moved, perhaps, by the very helplessness of the boy to protect him.
A kind Providence seemed to be watching over him; for though living in
the midst of the intrigues and plottings of rival chiefs, all of whom
must have seen in him their most dangerous rival, his life was
preserved, and he escaped unharmed from many dangers. Even the Baglers
refrained from killing him, when in 1206 he fell into their hands, at
the surrender of the block-house in Bergen. It is perhaps not safe to
assume that a half-latent consciousness asserted itself, that in this
boy Norway's future was bound up; that upon him depended the country's
deliverance from the scourge of civil war. More likely it is that his
beauty and winning ways appealed to friends and foes alike, while on
the other hand, the love of the Birchlegs was his best guard, because it
convinced his ill-wishers that disaster would swiftly overwhelm any one
who should venture to harm him.

Of the many small victories and defeats, sieges and surrenders, flights
and pursuits, which filled the years 1206 and 1207, without according
any decisive advantage to either party, it is not necessary to speak at
length. They were a series of barren futilities, resulting in loss of
life, and waste of the resources of the land, without lastingly
benefiting any one. Under these circumstances, it is not strange that
both Birchlegs and Baglers began to long for a reconciliation. Even to
so bitter a partisan as Bishop Nicholas, it became evident that a
continuance of the war would mean mutual destruction, and that the prize
of victory would be a devastated land and a barbarized people. King
Inge, too, was heartily tired of the aimless hostilities, and even his
pugnacious brother, Haakon Galen, was not disinclined to listen to
proposals of peace. The new archbishop, Thore, acted as mediator between
the parties and used his influence and his eloquence to extort from both
the necessary concessions. At last, when the conditions were well
understood on both sides, a meeting of the Birchleg and Bagler chiefs
was held at Hvitingsöe (1208), at which Philip Simonsson, the king of
the Baglers, swore allegiance to Inge, and became his earl. In return he
received Viken and the Oplands in fief, and was wedded to Sverre's
daughter, Christina.

The restoration of peace was not hailed as an unmixed boon by many of
those who had lost their property by the war, and could only hope to
enrich themselves by the same means. Others had carried arms so long, as
to have lost all inclination for peaceful industry. A great number of
these, irrespective of parties, started on an old-fashioned Viking
expedition to the Orkneys, Hebrides, and Man, ravaged and plundered, and
compelled the earls of those isles, once more, to acknowledge the
supremacy of the crown of Norway. In spite of this service which they
had done to the king, they were severely censured on their return, and
forced by the bishops to surrender their booty to the Church.

The last years of King Inge's reign were embittered by his strained
relation to Earl Haakon. The latter, feeling his superiority to Inge in
all the qualities that grace a king, could not reconcile himself to his
subordinate position. He began intriguing behind his brother's back, and
privately sounded the sentiments of the prominent peasants and chiefs,
in regard to his pretensions. From many he received a favorable answer,
and the plot was in a fair way to succeed, when it was unexpectedly
discovered by the king. Inge, who had had perfect confidence in his
older brother, was more shocked than angered by the proof of his
treachery. He summoned all his men to a house-_thing_ and called upon
them to stand by him, declaring that he would tolerate no other king in
the land, as long as he was alive. This speech won general approval and
compelled Haakon henceforth to weave his plots with greater secrecy.
Whether he was the instigator of the attempt upon the king's life,
which was made a year later, is not known, but that either he or his
wife Christina was in some way implicated in it, is evident from the
king's unwillingness to have the would-be assassin tried or punished.
When his brother, Skule Baardsson, urged him to make an example of the
wretch, he promised to have the matter investigated, to exile the
criminal, etc., but as nothing was done, Skule lost his patience and
killed him on his own responsibility.

It was, on the whole, a laudable spirit on Inge's part which impelled
him to avoid an open rupture with Earl Haakon, even at the cost of
personal sacrifice. He knew the horrors of civil war and would not take
the responsibility of precipitating a breach of the peace, as long as it
was in his power to prevent it. The fact that his health was poor, and
that there was a chance that Haakon might succeed him, may also have
disinclined him to discredit the latter in the eyes of the people. Among
Haakon's partisans was Archbishop Thore, to whose intervention it was
chiefly due that the king and the earl in 1212 made a compact, in
accordance with which illegitimate children were to be excluded from the
succession, and the one of the brothers who survived the other should
inherit the throne. This agreement, which was proclaimed at
Oere-_thing_, and sanctioned by the bishops and the magnates of the
land, was chiefly aimed against the young prince, Haakon Haakonsson,
who, though a direct descendant in the male line of the old royal house,
was of illegitimate birth. It excluded also, for the same reason, Inge's
son Guttorm, and transferred the succession to Haakon Galen and his
legitimate son, Knut. But in making this compact, they underestimated
the strength of the sentiment which bound Sverre's veterans to the boy
Haakon. One of them, Helge Hvasse, who was in the habit of going
frequently to see the prince, and playing with him, grew very wroth when
he heard of the agreement. When Haakon ran up to him to have his usual
romp, he pushed him roughly away and bade him begone. The boy,
unaccustomed to such treatment, looked reproachfully at him, and asked
why he was angry.

"Begone," cried Helge; "to-day thy paternal heritage was taken from
thee, and I don't care for thee any more."

"Where was that done, and who did it?" asked Haakon.

"It was done at Oere-_thing_, and they who did it were the two brothers,
King Inge and Earl Haakon."

"Do not be angry with me, mine own Helge," said the boy; "and be not
troubled about this; their judgment cannot be valid, as my guardian was
not present to answer in my behalf."

"Who, then, is thy guardian?" inquired Helge.

"My guardians are God, and the Holy Virgin, and St. Olaf," exclaimed
Haakon solemnly; "into their keeping I have given my cause, and they
will guard my interests, both in the division of the country and in all
my welfare."

Much moved, the veteran seized the boy in his arms and kissed him.

"Thanks for those words, my prince," he said; "such words are better
spoken than unspoken."


When this occurrence was reported to Christina, she scolded Haakon, and
henceforth treated him harshly. But she dared not show her evil
disposition toward him in the presence of her husband. For the earl,
though he had no scruples in barring the boy's way to the throne, was
yet attached to him, and would not allow him to come to harm. Haakon's
remarkable precocity amused him, as it did all his men. Several
anecdotes are preserved of his droll sayings and doings. Thus, when once
the weather was so cold that the bread could not be buttered, the little
prince took a piece of bread and bent it around the butter, saying: "Let
us tie the butter to the bread, Birchlegs."

This saying became a proverb in the camp of the Birchlegs.

The king's indulgence to his brother in the matter of the succession had
not quieted but rather stimulated the latter's ambition. By incessant
intriguing he succeeded in fomenting a peasant's rebellion in Tröndelag
which was, however, quelled without serious loss of life. Soon after
this exploit, he was taken ill and died in Bergen 1214, aged
thirty-eight years. His wife, who knew that the Birchlegs had a long
score to settle with her, made haste to quit the country with her son.
Haakon Haakonsson, who had been fostered in the earl's house, was now
transferred to the court, where he was treated as became his rank. There
the Birchlegs flocked again about him, watching jealously every one who
approached him. They were in many ways discontented with King Inge, whom
they held to be an aristocrat, and by his poor health and peaceful
disposition unfitted for the chieftainship. Besides, his brother Skule
was openly intriguing to push Haakon aside and place himself in the line
of succession. The disaffection then became so great that a number of
Birchlegs under the leadership of Andres Skjaldarband endeavored to
persuade Haakon to place himself at the head of a rebellion. But Haakon
refused to give ear to such counsel.

As the king's health declined and he perceived that his death was
approaching, he loved to have the boy about him and to listen to his
droll and vivacious talk. All public business passed, during this time,
through the hands of Skule Baardsson, whom Inge made his earl, and the
guardian of his son. The king died in April, 1217, being but thirty
years old.





The first act of the Birchlegs, after the death of King Inge, was to
give Haakon a body-guard, which was to follow him night and day. Earl
Skule, on his side, opened a campaign of intriguing and chicanery, in
which he was faithfully supported by the new archbishop, Guttorm, and
the canons of the cathedral chapter in Nidaros. In spite of all their
underhand measures, however, Haakon was proclaimed king at Oere-_thing_
by the Birchlegs, and Skule, who did not feel himself strong enough to
defy the general sentiment, had to acquiesce in what he could not
prevent. It was of no avail that the canons of the chapter locked up the
shrine of St. Olaf upon which the king was to swear to keep the laws;
the Birchlegs determined to dispense with the shrine rather than to
dispense with their king. Nor did the negotiations of the earl with
Philip, the so-called king of the Baglers, lead to anything; for Philip
died shortly after King Inge, leaving no children; and Haakon sailed
southward with a large fleet and took possession of Viken and the
Oplands, which since the treaty of Hvitingsöe in 1208 had been under the
dominion of the Baglers. By a wise policy of conciliation he induced
the chiefs of the rebels to acknowledge his overlordship, on condition
of their being permitted to keep one half of the fiefs which had been
granted to Philip. The following year, they also consented to give up
their old party name, which recalled the times of civil dissension and
strife, and to fight side by side with the Birchlegs, against a new band
of rebels, called the Slittungs (Ragamuffins), which had been organized
under the leadership of a priest, named Benedikt or Bene Skindkniv
(Skin-knife). This arrant impostor professed, like so many of his
predecessors, to be the son of King Magnus Erlingsson, and in spite of
the utter improbability of his story, upwards of a thousand men soon
gathered about him and began robbing and plundering. It was merely to
furnish an excuse for a breach of the peace that they professed belief
in Bene's pretensions. Robbers, footpads, and all sorts of nomadic
vagabonds could, in those days, give themselves a semblance of
respectability by providing themselves with a candidate for the throne.
A great many credulous people could then be induced to join them and
their depredations were called war instead of robbery.

A war, and especially a civil war, always drags in its wake a long train
of disastrous consequences. The longer it lasts, the more difficult is
the return to peace. The miserable internecine strife which had lasted,
with brief interruptions, since Harold Gille's ascension of the throne
(1130), had weaned a whole generation from the pursuits of peace,
accustoming it to scenes of bloodshed and violence. It had added to the
natural risks of industrial occupations, and made rebellion, as it
were, a legitimate profession. The thousands of homeless vagabonds who
infest every imperfectly organized society, and the numerous class who,
by nature, are criminally inclined, will always seize such an
opportunity to support themselves, at the expense of society, and will
far rather endure the dangers and hardships of a perpetual war than the
wearing routine and sustained activities of peace. The material was
therefore at hand for continued rebellion, and as long as the supply of
pretenders showed no signs of giving out, there was every prospect that
the king would have his hands full. Only the gradual destruction of the
turbulent and the greater chances of the survival of the friends of
order would, in the end, decide the struggle in favor of the latter. The
problem is, however, more complicated than it appears to be, for the
gradual destruction of the turbulent came, in the course of time, to
mean the destruction of the warlike spirit itself. And a century after
peace had been concluded, a period of decline set in, which continued
for four hundred years.

A greater danger than the rebellion of the Slittungs was, however,
threatening King Haakon from one who called himself his friend. The rôle
of intriguer and mischief-maker, which during King Inge's reign had been
filled by Haakon Galen, appeared to have devolved with his other
dignities upon his brother, Earl Skule. To see royal honor bestowed upon
a fourteen-year-old boy, who had done nothing to merit it, galled his
proud soul. Like Haakon Galen, he had long stood so near to the throne,
that he could not comprehend, why it should always remain beyond his
reach. After the brief campaign against the Slittungs, he began again
his machinations, aided as usual by the archbishop and the clergy, who
seemed yet to cherish their ancient grudge against Sverre's house. When
Haakon arrived in Nidaros, two weeks before Easter (1218), the
archbishop treated him with studious discourtesy, while he did every
thing in his power to distinguish the earl. When the king on Palm Sunday
went up to place his offering upon the altar, the prelate did not even
turn toward him, or in any way appear to be conscious of his presence.
When taken to task for his incivility, he replied boldly that he was
acting deliberately on the advice of all the bishops and many
chieftains, who, like himself, had doubts as to whether the king was the
son of Haakon Sverresson. Haakon, young as he was, saw at once the plot
that was here concealed. But so great was his confidence in the justice
of his cause, that he consented to have his mother bear glowing irons,
to prove his origin. Inga had before offered to submit to this ordeal,
but had been prevented by the archbishop, who for some reason did not
then desire to pronounce upon her son's claim, possibly because he had
not yet arranged his terms with Skule. It was of course unheard of, that
a king, actually in possession of the realm, should be put to the
humiliation of proving who he was; and his friend Dagfinn Peasant
expressed the general sentiment when he said: "It will be hard to show
another instance of such a case; that the sons of peasants and cottagers
have ventured to prescribe such humiliating terms to an absolute king.
* * * I think it were just as well to bear another kind of iron, viz.,
cold steel, against the king's foes, and then let God judge between


As Earl Skule's plot seemed now in a fair way to succeed, he became
suddenly affable and affectionate toward the king. He felt positive that
his clerical friends would manage to have the ordeal result in
accordance with his wishes. Nevertheless, to make assurance doubly sure,
he bribed a foreigner in his service, named Sigar of Brabant, to
approach the king's mother, and offer her an herb which, he asserted,
had the power to heal burns; but a guard of devoted Birchlegs, among
whom was Dagfinn Peasant, surrounded the church in which she was
fasting, preparatory to the ordeal, and the earl's emissary was,
therefore, compelled to confide his errand to the latter. Dagfinn
replied: "No art or healing will we employ here, except such as Christ
in his mercy will grant. Begone with thy twaddle, or disaster will
overtake thee, if thou darest again utter such speech."

Inga was then warned of the plot and told to be on her guard. For if it
could be proved that she had used healing herbs, the test would be
invalid, and opprobrium would have overwhelmed both her and her son. All
the machinations of her enemies, however, came to naught; she endured
the ordeal triumphantly. It is difficult to explain how this result came
about, for the odds were certainly against her. The earl had, perhaps,
from over-confidence, neglected some link in his long chain of
precautions. However that may be, he had, after this severe check, to
start all over again--to spin, with painstaking care, a fresh web of
intrigue, in order slowly to undermine the king's power. His plan seems
to have been to alienate Haakon's trustiest friends from him, or to get
them removed to such a distance that they could no longer be of any help
to him; then to set them by the ears mutually, so that one slew the
other and the king punished the survivor. But ingenious as this plot
was, it was not entirely successful. The king's forgiving disposition,
and a suspicion, on his part, that the earl was really at the bottom of
these mysterious enmities and slayings, impelled him to act contrary to
the latter's expectation. It was obvious to all that he bought the
earl's pretended friendship at too high a price, and many of his men
would have preferred open warfare to this suppressed suspicion and
hypocritical good-will. There was, indeed, ample opportunity for strife
between the two parties, and quarrels and bloody fights between the
"earl's-men" and the "king's-men" were of frequent occurrence. All the
conditions for another civil war were, in fact, at hand, and it was only
the disinclination of the king to let loose, once more, the dogs of war,
which preserved even the semblance of peace. The fact that the king was
under the guardianship of a man who spent his time in plotting against
them, seemed to the Birchleg chiefs to call for precautions, on their
part; and the idea occurred to them to convert Skule's hostility into
friendship, by identifying his interests with those of the king. For
this purpose they proposed a marriage between Haakon and the earl's
ten-year-old daughter, Margaret. The king, though he was not eager for
such a marriage, yielded to the representations of his counsellors, and
Skule, after some hesitation, consented to have the betrothal take place
(1219). The actual marriage was preliminarily postponed, on account of
the tender age of the bride. But those who had supposed that Skule could
be made to abandon his scheming, because the king was his son-in-law,
had made a miscalculation. Circumstances, however, compelled him, soon
after the betrothal, to fight in defence of the crown, against a new
band of rebels, called the Ribbungs, who had absorbed their
predecessors, the Slittungs, and added largely to their number. This
band owed its origin to the former Bagler chief, Gudolf of Blakkestad,
who had been appointed a prefect by Haakon, but had later been deprived
of his office, on account of his unpopularity with the peasants. To
avenge himself, he raised the banner of rebellion, and provided himself
with a candidate for the throne in the person of Sigurd, an alleged son
of the Bagler king, Erling Stonewall. All those who had a real or an
imagined cause for discontent, and many who were merely intent upon
plunder, now rushed together under the standard of the Ribbungs. These
made considerable progress in Viken, defeated and chased away the royal
prefects, and gained much booty. They were secretly supported by that
hoary mischief-maker, Bishop Nicholas, who, in spite of his professions
of friendship, yet remained consistent in his hatred of Sverre's race.
The earl, too, who was sent to destroy the rebels, was less energetic
than he might have been, giving himself an appearance of zeal in his
master's behalf, but being really disinclined to strike an effective
blow. It was, rather, in his interest to keep them in the field, for the
purpose of injuring the king and preventing him from growing too
powerful. In the various fights which he had with the Ribbungs in Viken
(1221), he did, indeed, inflict considerable injury upon them, and in
the battle of Svang, at Lake Mjösen (1222), killed one hundred and fifty
of their number. But immediately afterward he made peace with Sigurd
Ribbung, who had the impudence to demand one third of the kingdom and
the earl's daughter for his wife. Skule replied that neither had he
brought up his daughter to live in the woods, nor was he minded to give
up any part of his fiefs. But if the king was inclined to consider
Sigurd's proposition, the earl promised to use whatever influence he had
with his son-in-law in his behalf. On these conditions the rebel chief
dismissed his band, and, on the promise of safe-conduct, betook himself
to the earl's camp where he was treated with great distinction. The
moment for pushing his claim was, however, not a favorable one, as the
relation between the king and the earl, at this time, took a sudden turn
for the worse. It appeared that Skule had levied troops and
contributions, outside of his own fief, accordingly in the king's
domain, and Haakon was so incensed at this fresh infringement of his
rights that he wrote him a letter, in which he threatened him with war,
in case he persevered in disregarding their agreement. The earl
replied to this letter by immediately setting sail for Denmark. He had
evidently taken a great resolution. What this resolution was is easy to

[Illustration: OLD NORSE CAPITALS.]

The kings of Denmark had, since the days of Harold Bluetooth, claimed
overlordship over Viken, and they had repeatedly fomented rebellion in
Norway for the purpose of regaining the lost province. Skule's intention
was now to thrust Haakon from the throne by the aid of Valdemar the
Victorious, and to take the entire country in fief from him. But to his
unutterable astonishment, when he arrived in Denmark, Valdemar was
nowhere to be found. He had been captured, five days before, by Count
Henrik of Schwerin, and was now languishing with his son in a prison in
Mecklenburg. Bitterly disappointed, Skule returned home, and was
compelled to resume his mask of benevolent interest in his son-in-law's
affairs. The latter had just filled his eighteenth year, which, in the
case of princes, was regarded as the age of majority. He needed,
therefore, no longer a guardian, and custom seemed to demand some
ceremony on his formal assumption of the government. An assembly of
notables was therefore summoned to meet in Bergen (1223), where
Archbishop Guttorm, who, in the meanwhile, by concessions, had been
bribed to take the king's side, solemnly reaffirmed his right to the
throne. Sigurd Ribbung's claim was pronounced invalid, as was also that
of Squire Knut, the son of Haakon Galen and Christina, who had sent
representatives to the meeting. Earl Skule saw from the beginning that
the sentiment of the assembly was so overwhelmingly in Haakon's favor,
that it would be of no use for him to urge his pretensions. He therefore
contented himself with extorting as favorable terms for himself as
possible at the renewal of his compact with the king. After many
negotiations he exchanged his southern fief for the northern third of
the country, extending from the North Cape to the southern boundary at
Söndmöre. But he still remained, in name at least, a royal vassal, and
was compelled to swear allegiance to the king; although he enjoyed all
the royal revenues from his fiefs, and paid no tax or tribute to any

In accordance with this agreement Haakon now moved southward and took up
his residence in Oslo. This city, which had recently been burned down,
he rebuilt with great care, and came thereby into frequent contact with
the ancient enemy of his race, Bishop Nicholas. This venerable scoundrel
succeeded actually in gaining his confidence for a time, and obtained
during this brief friendship substantial advantages for himself and his
see. Haakon always took pleasure in showing his zeal for religion by
liberality toward the Church, and the wily bishop was the man to take
advantage of such a disposition. He persuaded him on the death of
Archbishop Guttorm (1223) to give the weight of his recommendation to
his enemy, Peter of Husastad, who, in accordance with the advice of
Nicholas, feigned friendship, until he had got the mitre securely on his

It was not in accordance with the earl's plans to let the king sit
quietly in Viken, increasing his popularity and power. He was therefore
scarcely grieved, when he heard of Sigurd Ribbung's flight; nay, it is
even probable, that he gave the rebel chief the opportunity to escape,
if he did not actually persuade him to renew the rebellion. The
Ribbungs, who were not loath to resume their former activity, gathered
again in large numbers about their leader, and began plundering and
killing the king's adherents as of old. Whenever they were pursued, they
made their escape across the frontier into the Swedish province,
Vermeland, only to return as soon as their pursuers had turned their
backs on them. King Haakon wrote repeatedly to the Swedish king, or
rather to his guardians, as he was himself a child, complaining of the
protection which Sweden afforded his enemies. Prominent among the
counsellors of King Erik was then Eskil Lawman, who had married
Christina, the widow of Haakon Galen. This unscrupulous woman, who had
hated Haakon from his childhood, now exerted her influence against him
at the Swedish court; the consequence was that the counsellors
disregarded his remonstrance, and continued to give the Ribbungs an
asylum. Their audacity naturally grew, in proportion as they became
conscious of this protection; and Haakon was at last compelled to invade
Vermeland with an army of 2,400 men, in the middle of winter (1225). He
burned many farms, and ravaged several parishes, but had no chance to
fight any decisive battle, either with the Ribbungs or the Swedes. The
latter had fled to the woods, and the former had availed themselves of
the king's visit to Sweden to make a foray into Vestfold, and attack
Tunsberg. The former Bagler chief, Arnbjörn Jonsson, who was close on
their heels with his troops, was detained in Oslo by Bishop Nicholas,
who by his double dealing succeeded in insuring the escape of the

In April, 1225, the king, in the midst of his protracted campaign
against the Ribbungs, celebrated his wedding in Bergen with his
betrothed, Earl Skule's daughter. The bride was then about seventeen
years old, the groom twenty. If it was Skule's intention, when he gave
his consent to the marriage, to secure himself an ally at court, he was
disappointed. For Margaret, from the moment she became queen, made
common cause with her husband, and in no wise favored her father's
schemes. She was a gentle and affectionate wife and a good mother.

The Ribbungs in the meanwhile continued their guerilla warfare, having
taken possession of the Helgeö, an island in Lake Mjösen, whence they
made forays into the fertile parishes that border on the lake, and
practically controlled the Oplands. Earl Skule, who was again sent out
to quell the rebellion, dawdled as usual, nursing his secret treason and
being at heart more anxious to injure the king than his enemies. In
order to destroy the Ribbungs, it was necessary to reach the island, and
ostensibly for this purpose he began to build ships on the shores of the
lake. He built them, however, deliberately in such a fashion that they
leaked, and could scarcely be kept afloat. The Ribbungs, instead of
being frightened by his preparations, grew daily bolder, and sent
messengers to the king in Oslo, proposing to give him battle. Haakon
accepted the offer, and advanced with his army to the appointed place of
meeting (Eidsvold), while the earl, instead of hastening to meet him,
took the road across the mountains to Nidaros, after having burned his
worthless ships. Here was the most incontrovertible proof of treason;
and there are also indications that in a correspondence between Bishop
Nicholas and the Ribbungs which had fallen into the king's hands, the
earl was seriously compromised. Nevertheless, Haakon chose to feign
blindness rather than call the traitor to account. Possibly he did not
feel himself strong enough to fight Skule and the Ribbungs at the same
time, preferring to get rid of one enemy before engaging the other.

After having waited in vain for the Ribbungs at Eidsvold, Haakon
returned with his army to Oslo, where he learned that Bishop Nicholas
was lying upon his death-bed. The old prelate, with whom falsity and
double-dealing had become a second nature, seemed yet to feel some
anxiety as to his fate in the hereafter. He therefore summoned the king
to his bedside, made him a full confession (not, however, until the king
had shown him the evidence of his treason), and implored his
forgiveness, which was readily granted. The bishop died in November,
1225, seventy-five years old, having spent his long life in fomenting
rebellion, and in ravaging and destroying his native land. His great
talents proved a curse both to himself and his people. Not long after
his demise, Sigurd Ribbung died (1226), and Haakon Galen's son, Squire
Knut, was induced by his guileful mother to take his place. He brought
with him a large band of Swedes, thereby giving his warfare the
appearance of a foreign invasion, and arousing the hostility of the
peasantry of the Oplands, who had formerly been friendly to the
Ribbungs. In a fight at Aker he was defeated by a united army of
Birchlegs and peasants, and during the following months he suffered
repeated disasters, and was deserted by many of his best men. After a
dastardly attempt to capture the king by inviting him to a conference,
under promise of safety,--an attempt which failed by the merest
chance,--Squire Knut dismissed his band (1227), submitted to Haakon, who
not only forgave him, but for his father's sake gave him fiefs, and
treated him with distinction. The young man, as soon as he was removed
from his mother's influence, gave up all thought of rebellion, married,
some years later, a younger daughter of Earl Skule, and became one of
the king's most devoted friends.

[Illustration: ON THE SOGNE FJORD.]

As the Ribbungs were now out of the way and could no longer be made to
serve his purposes, the earl hatched a new plot which, on account of its
ingenuity, ran less risk of premature detection. He professed a desire
to take the cross, and began warlike preparations on a grand scale. He
obtained from the Pope permission to exact one twentieth of all the
ecclesiastical revenues of the province of Nidaros in aid of his
enterprise, and satisfied his conscience by endowing the Church, in
return, with his great family estate, Rein, which was converted into a
nunnery. Extreme caution was characteristic of Skule; and he meant,
this time, to leave nothing to chance. He began at once to build ships,
and to gather warriors about him from all parts of the country. As the
Danish king, Valdemar the Victorious, had now regained his liberty, he
could also count upon his aid, and a formal agreement was made between
them in accordance with which Skule should assist the king in recovering
his lost provinces. In return for this service Valdemar promised to put
Skule on the throne of Norway. That some such agreement must have
existed is obvious from the fact that the earl actually set sail for
Denmark (1227), without asking Haakon's permission, but was met on his
way by the latter and informed of the disastrous defeat of his ally at
Bornhöved. He then concluded to await developments; as he would run too
great a risk in visiting Denmark, while Valdemar's enemies had the upper
hand. Putting on a bold face, he joined his fleet to that of his
son-in-law and returned to Bergen. The king, although he did not deceive
himself as to Skule's purposes, kept his counsel and feigned ignorance.
Nay, he even carried his generosity so far as to lend the traitor ships
and provisions when, the following year, (1228) he set out once more to
visit the king of Denmark. Since his defeat at Bornhöved, Valdemar was
indeed much less formidable than before his captivity, and the warlike
spirit had wellnigh left him. Haakon may therefore have suspected that,
surrounded as he was with enemies, both on the south and the west, he
would scarcely care to add another on the north. Moreover, Haakon had by
this time secured the friendship of the German emperor, Frederick II.,
who was a bitter enemy of Denmark, and he might, therefore, have a
chance to keep Valdemar in check, in case he should lend a favorable ear
to the earl's persuasions. Under these circumstances he hardly exposed
himself to any risk, nay hoped, perhaps, by facilitating his
father-in-law's approach to the Danish king, to convince him of the
futility of all his plottings. If that was his intention, he must have
been disappointed in the result. For when Skule returned he had added to
his power for mischief, by obtaining the northern half of the Danish
province of Halland in fief, thereby becoming the vassal of a foreign
prince, who, moreover, was the enemy of his own king.

One would have supposed that he was now ready for a decisive blow. But
he hesitated again, and seemed half inclined to retrace his steps. There
was always something lacking in the completeness of his preparations,
and another delay was always necessary. He is, indeed, an interesting
figure, this wily and ambitious intriguer, who has the courage to plot
treason, nay takes pleasure in perfecting all the details of his plot,
but always pauses before taking the irretrievable step. Like Schiller's
Wallenstein, he fondles the thought, plays with it, utters it cautiously
and hypothetically, but leaves himself always, as he supposes, a path of
retreat, until his own acts spin a web about him and bar him the road
back to safety. Year by year he compromises himself more irretrievably;
his treasonable letters fall into the hands of the king, and when, after
twenty-two years of covert treason, he drifts into open rebellion, it is
because there is apparently no other alternative left to him.

[Illustration: A STORM ON THE FJORD.]

In the meanwhile, the king left no means untried to keep the earl to his
allegiance. In 1233 he summoned him to an assembly of notables in Bergen
(_Rigsmöde_), at which the archbishop, the bishops, and a great number
of secular dignitaries were present. The king here called his
father-in-law formally to account for his actions, and the liegemen
rose, one after the other, and cited proofs of the earl's disloyalty.
When the turn came to Skule to defend himself, he began in this wise:

"I know a ditty: 'The eagle sat on a stone,' and I also know another
which runs like this: 'The eagle sat on a stone,' and a lot more which
all run the same way. Thus it is here to-day. Every one talks in his own
way, but they all finish up with the same ditty, viz.: to bring
accusations against me."

He made a long and eloquent speech, and, as it is said, defended himself
with great adroitness. It is doubtful, however, if anybody believed him,
and it was only the king's reluctance to resort to the sword, which
saved him, on this as on many previous occasions. A new agreement was
drawn up which was no more effective in restraining the earl's
treasonable scheming than the previous ones had been. On the contrary,
he was no sooner left to his own devices than he resumed his activity
for the overthrow of the king. His purpose this time was to involve
Haakon in a quarrel with the Church, in order afterward to crush him
with the formidable weapons which the Church had at its command. He
shrewdly provided himself with a cat's paw in the person of Bishop Paul
of Hamar, who was his devoted adherent. The archbishop, at this time,
Sigurd Tavse, was a partisan of the king, but zealous for the welfare of
the Church, and therefore, as Skule reasoned, capable of being alienated
by a controversy in which the interests of the Church and those of the
king were in conflict. Bishop Paul accordingly produced a document,
alleged to have been issued by the Bagler king, Inge, in 1226, in which
the Helgeö in Mjösen, which was the property of the crown, was presented
to the episcopal see of Hamar. The king naturally contested the validity
of this document, as Inge, a rebel chief, had no right to give away the
property of the crown which had never been his. An appeal was now made
to the Pope, Gregory IX., and a campaign of intrigue and mendacity was
begun. The excellent and honorable Haakon was systematically reviled and
slandered, until the Pope came to believe that he was a villain of the
deepest dye. Bishop Paul, virtually as the ambassador of the earl,
though nominally in the interest of the Church, betook himself to Rome,
where he succeeded in prejudicing Gregory IX. against all the king's
adherents, and even against his own superior, the archbishop. Skule, on
the other hand, was represented in the most flattering light, as the
munificent friend of the Church, and its defender against the
encroachments of the unscrupulous king. The object was to procure a
ban-bull against Haakon.

The plot was spoiled, however, by being prematurely revealed. An
Icelander, named Sturla Sighvatsson, a nephew and an active enemy of the
historian Snorre Sturlasson, met Bishop Paul in Rome and started
homeward in his company. Whether he gained the confidence of his
travelling companion, or otherwise obtained an insight into his
intrigues at the Roman Curia, is not known. At all events, he
immediately sought the king, on his arrival in Norway, and acquainted
him with the doings of his enemies. The king summoned the earl once more
to meet him in Bergen; but this time Skule's courage failed him. Instead
of going to Bergen, he went with his army to Nidaros, and thence across
the mountains to the Oplands, which was the king's territory. This was
about equivalent to a declaration of war, but as usual, he took only
half measures, hesitated, talked threateningly, but refrained from
actual hostilities. At the intercession of Archbishop Sigurd, he was
induced to promise to keep the peace during the winter (1235-6) on
condition of receiving one third of the royal prefectures (_Sysler_) in
the Oplands and Viken. It seems to indicate weakness on Haakon's part
that he was willing to make such concessions; and his readiness to yield
had naturally the effect of encouraging the earl's adherents and making
them screw their demands still higher. During the following year (1237)
a new agreement was made, in accordance with which Skule was confirmed
in the possession of his territory in the south, and was raised to the
rank of duke--a rank which had never before been conferred upon any man
in Norway. There was but one title, however, which could satisfy Skule's
ambition, and as long as Haakon refused to grant that, he felt himself
justified in continuing his agitation. With increasing recklessness he
defied the king's will, gathered great numbers of warriors about him,
built ships, and conducted himself in every way as an independent ruler.
It became the fashion at his court to ridicule the king as a cowardly
busybody who only talked, but lacked the heart to strike. The
Varbelgs [A]--thus the partisans of the duke were called--invented for
him the nickname, Haakon Sleepy. His reluctance to assume the
responsibility for civil war, they mistook for fear, and his
conscientiousness for pusillanimity.

[Footnote A: The same name had been borne by another band of rebels
which, under the boy Vikar, had fought against King Sverre.]

When the spirit of rebellion which the duke had bred in his surroundings
had thrown away all restraint, it began to react upon himself, spurring
him on to deed, and counteracting his natural indecision of character.
He was now nearly fifty years old, and if he ever were to gain the
crown, there was no time to be lost. Accordingly he mustered courage in
1239 to summon the Trönders to Oere-_thing_, and to proclaim himself
king of all Norway. When the canons of the cathedral refused to permit
the shrine of St. Olaf to be used for the ceremony, Skule's son,
Peter,[B] jumped up on the altar, pulled the coffin up, and had it
removed, by force, to the _thing_. In order that Haakon should gain no
intelligence of what had taken place, all the roads which led out of the
city were guarded, but for all that, one man, named Grim Keikan, managed
to make his escape and to warn the king of the threatening danger. It
was in the middle of the night that the king received this message, and
he went instantly to the queen's rooms and demanded admittance. The
queen, aroused from her sleep, asked anxiously what news he brought.

[Footnote B: Peter was an illegitimate child. His mother was the wife of
Andres Skjaldarband.]

"Only this trifle," he said, "that there are now two kings in Norway."

"Only one is the right king," she answered gravely, "and that one are

It had been Skule's first plan to surprise Haakon in Bergen, and capture
him. But he soon learned that the king had heard of his exploits, and
was prepared to receive him. He then sent out bands of warriors to
different parts of the country to kill the royal prefects and all
prominent friends of the king. A great many excellent men, who were
utterly unprepared for hostilities, were thus foully murdered; churches
were violated, and many atrocities committed. The duke, in the
meanwhile, remained quietly in Nidaros where he occupied himself in
writing letters to foreign princes and potentates, informing them of the
step he had taken, and endeavoring to stir up difficulties for Haakon by
unscrupulous misrepresentations. When, however, he learned that the king
was coming with a large force to attack him, he started (Feb., 1240)
with six hundred men across the mountains to the Oplands. Here he was
met by his son-in-law, Squire Knut, who had been appointed earl in his
place, and defeated him and the able commander, Arnbjörn Jonsson, at
Laaka. It was now high time for the king to appear upon the scene, if he
were to prevent the rebellion from assuming such proportion, as to be
beyond his power to quell it. The danger suddenly developed in him a
decision and promptness of action, which went far to raise the sinking
courage of his men. He declined the archbishop's offer to open
negotiations once more; arrived, after a voyage of unprecedented
rapidity, in Viken, and rowed, under cover of a fog, up the Folden Fjord
to Oslo. In view of the possibility of his death, he had made all
preparations for the succession, but he was resolved to sell his life
dearly. The Varbelgs, who had not the faintest suspicion that he was
near, were sleeping soundly after a night's carouse, when suddenly the
war-horn resounded, and the storm-bell rang. The prows of the royal
fleet were then seen emerging from the fog and making for the piers. The
duke, as soon as the alarm was given, tumbled out of bed and flung on
his clothes. The dawn was just reddening in the east, and the fog was
lifting. The ships were now at the piers, and the troops were
disembarking. The Varbelgs supposed, at first, that it was Earl Knut,
who had come to revenge his defeat at Laaka. But they were soon
undeceived. When they caught sight of the royal banner they knew that
King Haakon was not far away. Strangely enough, though they saw him
storming forward, every moment exposing himself to danger, nay, even
rushing on ahead of his men, they were not eager to kill him. They
feared that the duke's cause was lost, and though they fought bravely,
they had no hope of victory. The duke fled and was pursued by the
Birchlegs; but they did not succeed in overtaking him. Many men fell in
that fight, but many more sought refuge in the churches and were

It was, indeed, the duke himself, as we have seen, who was the
originator as well as the leader of the rebellion. He was not the
expression and embodiment of a disloyal feeling among the people, as
many previous pretenders had been, but the rebellion was solely due to
his own personal ambition. As long as he was alive, therefore, the
brands of civil war might at any moment be rekindled. It was this
reflection which prompted the king, in this instance, to smother all
natural feeling for his father-in-law and not to shrink from punishing
him as he had deserved. Seven days after the battle of Oslo he sent
fifteen well-manned ships to Nidaros, whither the duke had fled, under
the command of Aasulf of Austraat, a resolute man and one of Skule's
bitterest enemies.

On his arrival in Nidaros, Skule fled to the woods, roaming about for
two days and nights with a few friends who would not desert him. At last
the friars of the monastery of Elgeseter took pity on him, provided him
and his followers with cowls, and hid them in a tower. The tidings soon
reached Aasulf that some strange-looking monks had been seen to enter
the cloister, and he immediately set out with his men and demanded their
surrender. When the friars refused, some of the Birchlegs set fire to
the monastery. Others endeavored to put out the fire, but their efforts
were futile. The smoke and the heat now compelled the duke and his
companions to descend from the tower. As he stepped out of the gate he
held his shield above his head, saying: "Hew me not in the face; for it
is not meet thus to treat chieftains." Instantly the Birchlegs fell
upon him and slew him (1240).

The death of Skule ended the rebellion. There was now no man in Norway
who was strong enough to contest the power of the king; probably no one
who had the desire. It is a remarkable fact, considering the duration of
the civil war, since the death of Sigurd the Crusader, that the country
apparently recovered so soon from its effects. The period of stagnation
and decline did not occur until nearly a century later, and may then
have been in part attributable to other and more immediate causes. The
seed, however, of destruction had been sown during this disastrous
epoch, even though it required a century to sprout.

The return of peace left the king free to further an ambition which he
had long had at heart. In a half unacknowledged way, he regarded his
illegitimate birth as a blot upon his 'scutcheon which he was anxious to
have removed. For this purpose he desired to be crowned. He had made an
effort to gain the Pope's consent to such a ceremony during Skule's
lifetime, but his ever-active enemy had frustrated his plan. Gregory IX.
was now dead, as was also his successor, Celestin IV., and St. Peter's
chair was occupied by Innocent IV., who had no prejudice against Haakon.
The bishops, as usual, endeavored to exact fresh privileges, in return
for their good offices in this matter, proposing that the king, on
assuming the crown, should swear the same oath as Magnus Erlingsson had
sworn, acknowledging himself the vassal of the Church, and taking the
crown in fief from St. Olaf. But here they were met by a firm refusal.

"If I should swear such an oath as King Magnus swore," Haakon replied,
"then methinks my honor in being crowned would be diminished, instead of
increased. For King Magnus did not care what he did in order to attain
that to which he had no right. But by God's help I shall not need to buy
of you what God has rightly chosen me to be, after my father and my

When the Pope's consent was obtained, Cardinal William of Sabina was
sent to Norway to set the crown upon the king's head. But on arriving,
he, too, incited by the native prelates, was disposed to exact
conditions. Haakon, however, secure in his right, maintained his
attitude with firmness and dignity, and in the end the cardinal had to
accept his terms. The coronation took place with great pomp on St.
Olaf's Day, July 29, 1247, in Christ's Church in Bergen. The guests at
the banquet which followed the ceremony were so numerous that the royal
mansion could not hold them, and it became necessary to fit out a huge
boat-house as a temporary banqueting hall. The feast continued for three
days, and outdid in magnificence any thing that had hitherto been seen
in the North. Then followed a five days' _fête_ in honor of the cardinal
and the other dignitaries. When the festivities were at an end, a
meeting was called at which affairs of state were discussed, and the
king voluntarily made several concessions to the clergy. The right of
the Church to choose its own servants was confirmed, as also its right
of separate jurisdiction. Ordeals were solemnly abolished, because, as
the cardinal expressed it, it was not seemly for Christian men to
challenge God to give his verdict in human affairs.

At his departure from Norway, the cardinal received a present of 15,000
marks sterling, or about half a million francs, for his master the Pope,
besides a munificent compensation for his own services.

The remainder of Haakon's reign was externally uneventful, and for that
very reason beneficial to the country. The king was wise enough to see
that the noisy deeds of war bring no enduring blessing, while the
industries of peace produce sound prosperity and progress. He therefore
devoted himself with unflagging energy to the furtherance of agriculture
and trade. His chief interest was, however, architecture. Cloisters,
churches, and fortifications were built in different parts of the
country. His love of splendor he indulged in the erection of a
magnificent royal mansion in Bergen, and his benevolence in the erection
of a hospital for lepers. In Tromsö he put up a church, which long
enjoyed the distinction of being the northernmost church in the world.
The laws of succession were so amended as to exclude illegitimate sons;
the civil and criminal codes were improved, and the number of lawmen
increased to eleven. A well-equipped fleet of 300 ships was maintained,
which, in the hands of a peace-loving king, was a guaranty of peace
rather than a menace of war. By embassies, by exchanges of gifts with
foreign princes, and by the power and splendor which he displayed at
home and abroad, Haakon gained a place among the rulers of Europe,
which had been accorded to no Norwegian king before him. The German
emperor, the noble and gifted Frederick II., sought his friendship, and
maintained communication with him until his death. The Russian grand
duke, Alexander Newsky, applied for the hand of his daughter, Christina,
for his son, and King Alfonso the Wise of Castile wooed her for his
brother. The suit of the latter was accepted, and Christina married in
1257 the Spanish prince, Don Philip. The Pope, Alexander IV., endeavored
to extort from Haakon a promise to participate in a crusade, and the
king of France, Louis IX., offered him, "in view of his power and
experience on the seas," the command of an allied Norse-French fleet;
and to crown his honors, it is said that the Pope in 1256 urged him as
his candidate for emperor of Germany.

What gave King Haakon, in spite of the remoteness of his country, this
extraordinary influence abroad was particularly his fleet. During a
brief war with Denmark in 1256 and 1257, the awe which the sight of this
strong naval force inspired was so great, that it induced the Danish
king, Christopher, to make peace on Haakon's terms without venturing a
battle. The Icelanders, enfeebled and brutalized by perpetual
internecine feuds, acknowledged his supremacy and promised to pay him
tribute (1261). The few and scattered inhabitants of Greenland likewise
recognized his overlordship. A dispute concerning the Orkneys and the
Shetland Isles led to war with the Scottish king, Alexander III. Haakon,
determined to maintain his power over these distant dependencies, which
had already cost Norway so much blood and treasure, started with his
fleet for Scotland (1263), but suffered severely from a storm which
wrecked many of his ships. He sailed around to th western side of
Scotland, ravaged the coasts of Cantire and Bute, and fought a battle at
Largs (near the entrance to the Firth of Clyde), in which, according to
the account of the Scots, the Norsemen were defeated, while, according
to the sagas, they were victorious. At best, however, the battle
afforded them no advantage. For Haakon retired, immediately after, to
the Orkneys, where he determined to spend the winter, hoping to renew
the campaign again in the spring. Here he was suddenly taken ill and
died in Kirkevaag, December 15, 1263. During his illness he had the
sagas of his ancestors read aloud to him, from Halfdan the Swarthy down
to the days of his grandfather, King Sverre. During the reading of
Sverre's saga he passed quietly away.


All records agree in the judgment that Haakon Haakonsson was a wise and
noble king. He was not a man of genius, not endowed with the brilliant
gifts of his grandfather. But he was what we call a safe man. He
possessed strong common-sense; was generous and forgiving, yet resolute
and firm where justice demanded severity. His noble heart and his
clear-sighted intelligence led him invariably to choose the right. He
was therefore a great king, without being necessarily a great man,
unless a well-balanced combination of all average good qualities
constitutes in itself greatness. His enemy, Duke Skule, was in many
respects a more brilliant personality, and yet what a misfortune it
would have been to Norway, if Skule had displaced Haakon!

In appearance Haakon resembled his grandfather. He was, like him, of
middle height, and had the same large and wondrously expressive eyes. He
looked taller when he sat than when he stood, but his presence was
always dignified and impressive. He was fifty-nine years old when he
died, and had ruled over Norway forty-six years.



During the reign of Haakon Haakonsson lived the renowned Icelandic
historian, Snorre Sturlasson. It is due to him that the ancient history
of Norway has been saved from oblivion. His great work, called
_Heimskringla_ (the Circle of the Earth), after the words with which it
begins, is a coherent and in the main reliable record of the events
which took place in Norway from the time of Harold the Fairhaired down
to the Battle of Ree in 1177. The more or less mythical history which
precedes the reign of Harold is also included, though it can scarcely,
in many features, lay claim to credibility. The style is clear and
vigorous, and the characterizations are extremely vivid. Scaldic lays
are introduced into the text as evidences of the veracity of the
narrative, and anecdotes are preserved which throw a strong light upon
the characters of the heroes. The Heimskringla is, accordingly, not a
loose conglomeration of fact and fiction, such as monkish chroniclers in
the Middle Ages were in the habit of composing, but a historic work of
high rank, betraying a mature critical spirit and artistic taste, in
style and arrangement. Several scaldic lays are also attributed to
Snorre, besides portions of the Younger Edda--a collection of myths and
legends, dealing with the traditions of the ancient Asa faith. It is as
editor and collector, however, not as author, that he is here entitled
to credit.

Snorre Sturlasson was born in Iceland in 1178, and was, at the age of
three, adopted by the great chieftain, Jon Loftsson, a grandson of
Saemund the Learned. His father was Sturla Thordsson, a high-born but
turbulent man, and his mother, Gudny Bödvar's daughter. Jon Loftsson had
inherited a very considerable collection of historical MSS. from his
grandfather, Saemund, and his house was the home of the best culture
which the island at that time possessed. Snorre, though any thing but a
book-worm, became interested in the myths and tales of paganism, and by
intercourse with his foster-father imbibed a taste for historical
research. After the death of the latter in 1198, he found himself
penniless, his mother having wasted his paternal inheritance. In order
to maintain his dignity, he was therefore obliged to look about for a
rich marriage, and by the aid of his brothers succeeded in gaining the
hand of the wealthiest heiress in Iceland. He now devoted himself to the
task of increasing his power. By shrewd bargaining, by intimidation, and
by open violence he gained possession of six large estates and amassed
an enormous fortune. Iceland, at that time, was torn with factional
feuds, and Snorre understood to perfection the art of fishing in
troubled waters. He was a man of energetic and determined character--a
man of large plans and few scruples. There is a vigorous worldliness
visible in all his acts, and a prudent adaptation of means to ends. At
his residence, Reykjaholt, which he fortified, improved, and beautified
in a manner, the like of which had never been seen in Iceland, he lived
like a prince, maintaining an armed force which seemed to threaten the
republic. Ruins of his bath-house are yet to be seen, and yet bear his
name (Snorrelaug). The bath was built of hewn stones, and the hot water
was conducted by a stone aqueduct from the neighboring geysers.


Snorre had two brothers, Thord and Sighvat. The former was of a quiet
disposition, and not over-ambitious, while the latter was Snorre's
counterpart, and like him engaged in increasing his fortune by trickery
and violence.

Two men, thus constituted, would scarcely be restrained by their
fraternal relation, when their interests clashed; and before long, we
find Sighvat and Snorre at swords' points.

By the weight of his influence, Snorre gradually absorbed the more
important offices in the gift of his countrymen. Thus he was, in 1215,
elected speaker of the law, and in this capacity came in conflict with
his foster-brother, Saemund Jonsson, who took exception to one of his
rulings. The Icelandic Althing was both a legislative assembly and a
supreme court, and it was the duty of the speaker in legal cases to
decide what was law. If any of the contending parties rejected the
decision of the Althing, an appeal to the sword was always open to him.
The law was a consultative, not an absolute power, and depended upon
its fairness for its authority. Snorre, whose duty it was to give weight
to the law, had so small respect for his office, that he appeared with
eight hundred and forty armed men, determined to overawe his opponents.
A compromise was with difficulty arranged, but the seed of mischief had
been sown, and was not slow to sprout and bear fruit.

Snorre's fame had, in the meanwhile, reached Norway, and many honorable
invitations were extended to him from the foremost chieftains of the
land. Accordingly he set sail in 1218, with a large train of followers,
visited King Haakon and Earl Skule, and gained the latter's friendship.
The king made him his liegeman, and it is said that Snorre promised
Skule to bring Iceland under the dominion of the mother country. The
plan was a tempting one. If by the surrender of the liberties of the
island, he could attain the dignity of Earl of Iceland, he could, at one
blow, by Skule's aid, crush all his enemies, and reign undisputed as the
first man in the land. On his return home, however, he discovered that
the obstacles in his way were greater than he had anticipated. It
appears, even, that he repented of his rash promise, and was anxious to
postpone the day of its fulfilment. Whether, in his subsequent
machinations, he meant to secure his own predominance, as a means to
carrying out his bargain with the earl, is difficult to determine.

In 1222 Snorre's rival and bitterest enemy, Saemund Jonsson, died, and
his children, who were at variance about an inheritance from their
uncle, Orm Jonsson, called upon Snorre to arbitrate between them. They
did this, not because they loved him and had confidence in his fairness,
but because they feared him and were anxious to have the old feud
terminated. Snorre understood this perfectly, and had no hesitation in
taking advantage of his position. Having recently been separated from
his wife, he saw a chance of further enriching himself by marrying the
beautiful Solveig, the sister of the contending brothers. He accordingly
divided the inheritance so as to give her the lion's share; but just as
he seemed to have made sure of his game, his nephew, Sturla Sighvatsson,
stepped up and snatched the girl from his expectant arms. By his unfair
arbitration, he thus benefited the man who was henceforth to become his
most dangerous enemy. Nothing daunted, however, Snorre turned his
attention to another and far wealthier heiress, whom he succeeded in
marrying. By a series of bargains, in which he made an unscrupulous use
of the fear which his name inspired, he continued to increase his
wealth, until his power overshadowed that of all other chieftains in the
island. Sturla, who in shrewdness and daring was more than a match for
his uncle, pursued a similar course, and with the perpetual clashing of
interests their hostility grew more pronounced. Snorre had, in the
meanwhile, by his friendship for Earl Skule, incurred the enmity of King
Haakon. Sturla on his return from a pilgrimage to Rome, succeeded in
gaining the king's confidence, and in deepening his distrust of Snorre.
He made now the same bargain with the king that his uncle had previously
made with Skule, promising, in return for the dignity of Earl of
Iceland, to bring the country under the Norwegian crown. On his return
home, he did not, however, at once venture to attack his rival, but
contented himself with picking quarrels with his son, Urökja, and his
son-in-law, Gissur Thorvaldsson. The former he captured and maimed, but
in his conflict with the latter he succumbed. In a regular battle, which
was fought in 1238, both Sturla and his father, Sighvat, were killed.
Snorre was at that time in Norway, where he had the imprudence to commit
himself as a partisan of Skule, and thereby still further incensed the
king. Contrary to the command of the latter, he returned to Iceland,
where his predominance seemed now secured. But King Haakon, who
henceforth regarded him as an open enemy, became the means of his
destruction. Snorre had already, by his rapacity and greed, incurred the
hostility of his son-in law, Gissur Thorvaldsson, and with him the king
opened negotiations, demanding of him that he should either kill his
father-in-law or send him as a prisoner to Norway. Gissur accordingly
attacked Snorre at Reykjaholt with seventy armed men, and slew him


Snorre's nephew, Sturla Thordsson, who at one time was a great chieftain
and a defender of Icelandic independence, continued the Heimskringla in
his uncle's spirit, writing the Saga of Haakon Haakonsson. This is a
model biography, clearly and vigorously written, and abounding in
interesting details. Another remarkable book, which was written in
Norway during Haakon's reign, is the so-called King's Mirror
(Konungsskuggsjá). It contains, in the shape of a dialogue between
father and son, moral teachings and rules of life and conduct. Its
maxims of worldly wisdom and rules of etiquette give a vivid insight
into the modes of life and thought in the thirteenth century.



MAGNUS LAW-MENDER (1263-1280).

With the death of Haakon Haakonsson, the continuous story of the sagas
ceases. A fragment of the life of his son, Magnus Law-Mender
(Lagaböter), written by Sturla Thordsson, is preserved, but the greater
portion has unhappily been lost. What is known concerning the later
kings, during the period of independence, is derived from many scattered
and often unreliable sources. A period of decline, at first gradual and
imperceptible, set in with the reign of King Magnus, and culminated in
the loss of independence.

Magnus had been proclaimed king during his father's lifetime, and as he
was of age, the government passed into his hands without dispute. Being
indisposed to continue the expensive war with Scotland, he sent his
chancellor, Askatin, to Alexander III. and obtained peace on the
condition of ceding the Island of Man and the Shetland Isles, receiving
in return 4,000 marks sterling, besides an annual tribute of 100 marks.
The latter stipulation was intended to save appearances, as an annual
tribute might well be interpreted as a continued recognition of the
supremacy of the king of Norway.

It has often been questioned whether Magnus acted wisely in refusing to
draw the sword to preserve the integrity of his kingdom. That the
Scottish isles already had cost Norway more in blood and treasure than
they were worth, is generally conceded; and the chances were that, as
Scotland increased in power, still greater efforts would be required to
assert the sway of Norway over the remote dependencies. Moreover, as
England later rose to become a European power and absorbed Scotland, it
was merely a question of time when Norway would be compelled to relax
its hold upon the islands. Whether it was a mere native disinclination
to fight, or a careful counting of the cost, which induced Magnus to
depart from his father's policy, time seems to have justified the wisdom
of his course. For all that, it is undeniable that the respect and
influence abroad which Norway had gained by Haakon's assertion of the
national dignity, were much diminished by the unwarlike spirit of his
son. He had indeed the satisfaction to add Iceland to his possessions.
But even this was in no wise due to his skill or merit. It was
apparently the result of King Haakon's interference in the feuds of the
Sturlungs, but in a deeper sense it was due to causes which do not lie
so near the surface. The descendants of the proud men who, during the
reign of Harold the Fairhaired, emigrated from Norway, merely because
they would not surrender their allodial rights, would not have
surrendered liberty itself without resistance, if they had not sadly
degenerated from their ancestors.

Liberty had in Iceland long ago degenerated into license. No law had
the power to bind the strong. It is a mistake to suppose that the
institutions of the country were democratic. Though theoretically the
rights of every free man were recognized, in practice they soon came to
amount to very little. Icelandic society early separated itself into a
yeomanry or peasantry and an aristocracy. The latter, who had the
government entirely in their hands, proceeded by a series of bloody
feuds to exterminate each other, until, of the fifty or more ruling
families, scarcely half a dozen were left in possession of their dignity
and power. As a matter of course, these half a dozen then endeavored to
cut each other's throats, and, as the struggle grew fiercer, welcomed
aid from any source and at any price. All public interests were lost
sight of in the furious strife for personal ascendency. The proud sense
of independence, which had been the glory of the race, developed into a
mere ferocious passion for power, and a savage determination to crush
out rivalry. Civic rights, moral obligations, and the bonds of blood
were equally disregarded; brother waged war against brother and father
against son. Murder and arson were every-day occurrences. Complete
anarchy prevailed. Of this state of things Haakon Haakonsson took
advantage, and by aiding one faction against the other secured the
allegiance of the conquering party and thereby the submission of the
island itself to the crown of Norway. Snorre's son-in-law and slayer,
Gissur Thorvaldsson, was the first Earl of Iceland. He received the
dignity from King Haakon (1258), before his countrymen had yet
recognized the latter's overlordship. If it be true that the happiest
nations are those which have no history, it may be safe to conclude that
the happiest periods of a nation's life are the most uneventful. If so,
the reign of Magnus Haakonsson afforded every chance of happiness to his
subjects. The peasant cultivated contentedly his fields, and,
undisturbed, the merchant and the artisan pursued their avocations. The
development of the resources of the country afforded the king
satisfaction, and he did all in his power to further every peaceful
industry. To this end he also interested himself in legislation, and
spent many years of his life in revising the laws and making them
uniform. Formerly the country had been divided into four judicial
districts, each with its own _thing_ and its own laws. The
Frosta-_thing's_ code was the law of Tröndelag, the Gula-_thing's_ code
was valid on the western coast, the Eidsivia code in the Oplands, and
the Borgar-_thing's_ code in Viken. Out of these four, Magnus now caused
a new general code to be elaborated for the whole country, abolishing
what was antiquated, removing inconsistencies and adapting the spirit of
the legislation to the needs of the age. For four hundred years his laws
remained in force, and a few of them have remained until recent times.
All things, great and small, relating to civic life interested him; and
a certain over-confidence in the power of law to regulate all human
concerns is traceable in his labors. For the cities he elaborated a
municipal law, and for his vassals and courtiers a court law
(_Hirdskraa_), which was, however, an adaptation of a previously
existing code, dating from the days of Sverre. The court law dealt with
the feudal duties and privileges of vassals, prescribed rules for
courtly intercourse, and a fixed ceremonial for the proclamation of a
king, the conferring of the feudal dignities, etc. Among other things it
ordained that no longer, as of old, should a peasant, as the
representative of the people, confer the royal dignity upon the heir to
the throne, but the man of highest rank present.

An inclination is visible in King Magnus' legislation to break with the
democratic past, and to remodel Norway, as nearly as possible, after
foreign patterns. It was particularly England, with its feudal
institutions, which seemed to him and his surroundings worthy of
imitation. Although it was by no means a pure democracy which had
prevailed in Norway hitherto, there had yet been a recognition of the
people as the source of power, and the old stubborn sense of
independence which characterized the peasantry had never been
eradicated. Hitherto the laws had been submitted to the people at the
_things_, where every free-born man could make himself heard. Now this
venerable custom was abolished, and the king and his council reserved
for themselves the right to make and repeal laws, without consulting the
people. That this decree was accepted without protest, nay appears to
have caused no particular excitement, shows plainly the change that had
come over the spirit of the Norsemen. If a king had proposed such a law,
in the days of Haakon the Good or Olaf Tryggvesson, he would have risked
his throne and his life. Whether it was because royalty had risen to
such dignity and power that it seemed hopeless to oppose it, or because
the tribal aristocracy, instead of making common cause with the people,
had attached itself to the crown, certain it is that the supine
acceptance of so radical a change argued a degeneracy which explains the
subsequent events.

It is scarcely to be wondered at that the rise of feudalism throughout
Europe, during the thirteenth century, also had its effect upon the
institutions of Norway. The ideas which Magnus embodied in his laws
were, so to speak, in the air; and the commercial intercourse with
England had familiarized the Norsemen with the titles and the pomp and
circumstance of chivalry. Thus the Royal Council, consisting of the
chancellor, the earls, and the liegemen, was obviously copied after the
English institution of the same name, and, to make the resemblance
complete, the ancient title of liegeman was abolished and that of baron
substituted. The court officials were made knights and squires.[A] A
privileged class was thus raised distinctly above the people; and the
foundation laid for a hereditary nobility. A partial immunity from taxes
was granted to barons and knights, and the lucrative offices in the gift
of the crown were parcelled out among them. Though some elements of the
ancient tribal aristocracy were absorbed in the new order, there was
also a large element which owed its rise purely to royal favor. It is
thus to be noted, that the new nobility of Norway was in the main a
court nobility, which depended upon the crown for its dignity, and could
not be expected, when occasion demanded, to antagonize the king in the
interest of the people. It therefore shared the fate of royalty and lost
its power when the royal house became extinct. For the later rulers, the
Danish kings, were surrounded by a hungry aristocracy of their own,
whose fortunes they were bound to push, and the Norse candidates for
their favor had to be neglected. Thus it happened that the Norse
aristocracy again returned to the people, from which it had originally
risen. It was gradually absorbed by and identified with the peasantry,
which thereby gained more than the nobles lost. "A compact class of
allodial freeholders was formed, which, on account of their numbers and
their remoteness from public affairs, may be styled a peasantry, but by
reason of their liberty and self-assertion almost maintained the rank of
a nobility."[B]

[Footnote A: It is impossible to give an adequate translation of the
word _herra_ in this connection. It is a lower title than baron and

[Footnote B: J. Sars: Udsigt over Norge's Historie, ii., 399.]

It is this proud peasant-nobility which until this day have constituted
the strength of the Norse people and the bulwark of its re-arisen
liberty. They have at all times, even during the darkest days of the
union with Denmark, constituted a force with which the government had to

In spite of his conciliatory disposition, King Magnus' reign had its
share of quarrels and disturbances. Chief among these was his
controversy with the Church, which ended, on his part, with an abject
surrender. The archbishop, at that time, was the haughty and ambitious
Jon the Red (Röde), who, before consenting to a change in the law of
succession, which the king had much at heart, extorted from him a series
of humiliating concessions. At a meeting of notables in Tunsberg (1277),
Magnus bound himself to abstain from all interference in the selection
of bishops, and to surrender to the latter the right of filling, in
accordance with their pleasure, all the clerical offices. He conceded,
moreover, to the archbishop the privilege of coining money and to have a
hundred men in his personal service, who should be exempt from feudal
obligations to the king.

In his relation to foreign powers Magnus was equally unsuccessful in
maintaining the dignity of his crown. When his brother-in-law, the
Swedish king, Valdemar, begged him for help against his brother Magnus,
who had deprived him of the greater part of his kingdom, preparations
were indeed made for a grand campaign, but after several futile meetings
and much talk, the Norwegian fleet was ordered home again and the
Swedish king was left to his fate. To a proud and adventurous people
like the Norsemen, jealous of their dignity at home and abroad, this
unconquerable reluctance to draw the sword must have appeared
humiliating. A high regard for honor and a genius for war had
characterized the race up to this time; and however much one may
disapprove of war, one cannot deny that peace may be bought at too high
a price. The right to hold one's head high; to feel proud of one's
history and one's country, is a precious privilege, without which no
race ever achieved great things. King Magnus, by lessening the prestige
which the country had enjoyed during the reign of his father, therefore
contributed much toward the decadence which followed.

Physically as well as mentally, signs of degeneracy are beginning to be
perceptible in the royal race of Norway. King Magnus was, indeed,
endowed with a good intellect and his morals were blameless. But for all
that, he was a far less sturdy and impressive personality than his
father, and a still greater distance separated him from his
great-grandfather, the wise, brave, gentle, unconquerable Sverre. Many
of his imprudent acts are explained by the fact that his health was
never vigorous. While he was yet in the prime of life, he began to
suffer from ailments which warned his councillors that his days were
numbered. He died in 1280, at the age of forty-one.




ERIK PRIEST-HATER (1280-1299).

The barons, who had acquired extensive privileges during the reign of
King Magnus, had a chance to establish their power still more securely
during the minority of his son Erik, who, at his father's death, was but
twelve years old. A great influence was also wielded by the imperious
queen-dowager, Ingeborg, who made common cause with the barons and was
the real soul of the regency. Of her two surviving sons, Duke Haakon,
the younger, was the more fitted, by strength of body and mind, to
occupy the throne. He received great fiefs, and though recognizing
Erik's overlordship, conducted himself as an independent sovereign. He
issued decrees, coined money, and made independent alliances with
foreign princes. His brother was a weak, good-natured man who never knew
how to assert his will against that of his mother and his high-handed
councillors. The latter, among whom the barons, Hallkell Agmundsson,
Audun Hugleiksson, and Bjarne Erlingsson of Giske and Bjarkö, were the
most eminent, disapproved highly of the concessions which King Magnus
had made to the Church, and were watching for an opportunity to check
the power and arrogance of the clergy. They found it necessary,
however, to conceal their plans, until the king had been crowned by
Archbishop Jon, and they even consented to have him include in the
coronation oath the promise "to yield all due honor to the clergy and
the bishops, and to repeal all bad laws, especially such as might
conflict with the liberty of the Church."

The archbishop interpreted this promise literally, and demanded after
the coronation the repeal of the laws in question. The queen and the
barons were, however, not disposed to yield a single point, but rather
welcomed the opportunity to measure strength with the domineering
prelates. It was of no use that the archbishop put Hallkell Agmundsson
in the ban; his colleagues only honored him more conspicuously, and when
Queen Ingeborg and Bjarne Erlingsson received the same punishment, they,
as well as the people, showed an indifference, which left the archbishop
powerless. After having vainly appealed to the Pope, and having been
foiled at the Roman Curia by ambassadors from the barons, Jon the Red
and two other bishops were outlawed and compelled to leave the country.
The archbishop died in exile in Sweden in 1282.

The king, who was yet a mere boy, was neutral in this struggle. If the
decision had rested with him, he would probably have continued his
father's policy of concession, and the epithet "Priest-Hater," which has
been attached to his name, is therefore undeserved.

When Erik was fourteen years old, he was married to Margaret of
Scotland, the daughter of his grandfather's enemy, King Alexander III.
The young queen died, however, a year later, after having given birth to
a daughter, who, on the death of King Alexander (1284), was acknowledged
as the heir to the throne of Scotland. While yet a child (1290), the
Maid of Norway, as she was called, embarked for the land which she was
to rule, but died before reaching it. Her father then, as his daughter's
heir, laid claim to the Scottish crown, but the armed interference of
King Edward I. of England compelled him to abandon his candidacy. He had
at that time another controversy on his hands, which threatened serious

The queen-dowager, Ingeborg, was the daughter of the Danish king, Erik
Plowpenny. His nephew, Erik Glipping, who succeeded his father,
Christopher I., refused to surrender her inheritance, which consisted in
landed estates in different parts of the kingdom. Magnus Law-Mender had
vainly insisted upon the surrender of the property, and Erik, at the
instigation of his mother, resumed negotiations, and, when these
resulted in nothing, made threatening demonstrations. The Norse baron,
Sir Alf Erlingsson, a special favorite of the queen, began to prey upon
the shipping in the Sound, and by his recklessness and daring, made his
name dreaded among seamen and merchants. He did, indeed, inflict much
injury upon Danish commerce, and ravaged the coasts of Jutland and
Halland; but the principal sufferers were the cities of the Hanseatic
League, which, by the concessions of Magnus Law-Mender, had obtained a
virtual monopoly of the foreign trade of Norway. Their ships were now
seized without mercy by the noble pirate, who added insult to injury by
once appearing incognito among them in an open boat, and bargaining with
them about the price which they had set upon his head. It was of no use
that the League sent out ships of war to capture him; he out-manoeuvred
them, deceived them, sent them on a wild-goose chase, and ended by
capturing his would-be captors. Though not officially authorized to
carry on war in this fashion, Sir Alf perceived that his performances
were winked at by the queen-dowager, who was actually so gratified at
his success, that she had him created an earl, and induced the king to
use him as his ambassador to England. As allies of the King of Denmark,
the Hanseatic cities were, in the queen's opinion, entitled to no
consideration, but she forgot in her blind hostility that they had it in
their power to take revenge. Partly on account of the risk, partly as a
measure of retaliation, the Hansa forbade the importation of grain and
other staples of food to Norway, and the result was famine and misery.
The hostilities with Denmark in the meanwhile continued, but were, after
the death of Queen Ingeborg (1287), conducted, not by piracy, but by
open warfare. A conspiracy was formed against the life of King Erik
Glipping, and he was murdered, while on the chase (1286), by Marshal
Stig, Count Jacob of Halland, and others. The murderers, who were
outlawed in Denmark, found a refuge in Norway, and accompanied King Erik
on his campaign against their native country in 1289. The city of
Elsinore was burned, and the Norwegian fleet lay for four weeks near
Copenhagen, serving as a basis of operations for the outlawed
king-slayers, who satisfied their private vengeance by burning cities
and castles. Three similar expeditions, during the following six years,
brought Erik neither honor nor profit in proportion to the cost of the
enterprise; although, in the end, the Danish king, Erik Menved, was
compelled to conclude an armistice for three years at Hinsgavl, in Funen
(1295), at which he made a definite promise of the surrender of the
disputed property. The king-slayers were permitted to return unmolested
to their homes, and their estates were to be restored to them.

The war with the Hanseatic cities had come to an end long before, by the
peace of Kalmar, (1285). The formidable weapon which they wielded, in
their ability to cut off supplies, gave them so great an advantage that
King Erik had no choice but to accept their terms. King Magnus of
Sweden, who, according to mutual agreement, had been selected as umpire
negotiated peace, on the conditions that King Erik should return to
their owners all ships which had been captured, pay an indemnity of six
thousand marks and greatly extend the commercial privileges of the
Hansa. Thus the lawless valor of "Little Sir Alf," as the pirate earl
was called, proved no less disastrous to his country than it did to
himself. He did not appreciate the difference which the death of the
queen had made in his position; but continued to tread law and honor
under foot with defiant heedlessness. The baron, Sir Hallkell
Agmundsson the commander of Oslo Castle, had for some reason incurred
his hostility; and Earl Alf gathered, in the ancient fashion, a band of
adventurers about him and commenced a rebellion, as it appears, against
Duke Haakon, who was Sir Hallkell's protector. He even had the audacity
to attack Oslo, set fire to the town, capture his foe, and after a brief
imprisonment executed him. This daring murder brought upon him a
sentence of outlawry; and he was forced to seek refuge in Sweden, where
King Magnus took him under his protection. His luck had, however,
deserted him, for when again he appeared as a corsair in Danish waters,
he was captured and brought in irons into the presence of Queen Agnes.
According to the ballad, she twitted him on the smallness of his
stature; to which he replied that she would never live to see the day
when she could bear such a son. Another and still more insolent remark
made the queen so furious that she struck her fist against the table and
declared that Little Sir Alf should be tortured on the rack, and his
bones broken on the wheel. The sentence was executed the following day

After the death of his first queen, King Erik had married Isabella
Bruce, the sister of Robert, who later became King of Scotland. He had
by this marriage a daughter, Ingeborg, who became the wife of Duke
Valdemar, the brother of the Swedish king, Birger Magnusson. King Erik
died at the age of thirty-one (1299), after having been king for
nineteen years.




Duke Haakon, the second son of Magnus Law-Mender, succeeded his brother
without opposition. He was then twenty-nine years old, tall and of
stately appearance. He had not been long upon the throne, before he
showed the haughty barons that he meant to have a reckoning with them.
He first summoned Sir Audun Hugleiksson to meet him in Bergen, tried him
for treason, and had him executed (1302). A woman from Lübeck had, two
years before, appeared in Norway and created much excitement by claiming
to be the Princess Margaret, "The Maid of Norway," who had died on the
Orkneys. Her trial proved her to be an impostor, and she was burned at
the stake. According to one conjecture, Sir Audun was in some way
compromised by her trial, and it is not unlikely that he may have
encouraged her pretensions. The legend, however, relates that Sir Audun
suffered death for having insulted the king's bride, Countess Euphemia
of Arnstein, whom, in 1295, he brought over from Germany.

It must have been an unpleasant surprise to the barons, who had had
their own way so long, to find a stern and determined master in the new
king, and it is the more to his credit that, in spite of their
hostility, he induced them to consent to a change in the law of
succession in favor of his daughter Ingeborg and her issue. As he was
the only male descendant in the direct line of the old royal house, it
was a source of uneasiness to him that he had no sons, and he foresaw
that the only means of averting civil war, after his death, was to
secure the succession to the prospective sons of his daughter, and in
case she had none, to herself. Princess Ingeborg was, while a mere
child, promised in marriage to the brilliant and ambitious Duke Erik,
the second son of King Magnus Birgersson of Sweden. By this betrothal,
King Haakon became involved in the quarrels of the dukes Erik and
Valdemar with their brother, Birger Magnusson, whom they were
endeavoring to dethrone. The dukes hated the king, and the king, who was
jealous of Erik's popularity and eminence in chivalrous accomplishments,
reciprocated their feelings. The long-smouldering hostility at last
blazed forth, in 1306, when the dukes treacherously assaulted their
brother and held him captive for about eighteen months. King Haakon was
induced to take their part in the struggle, perhaps chiefly because his
enemy, the king of Denmark, made common cause with King Birger. The good
understanding between them did not, however, last long, for when it
began to look as if Duke Erik aimed at the union of the three
Scandinavian kingdoms under his own sceptre, Haakon, as an interested
party, could scarcely remain inactive. He demanded the restoration of
the fiefs which he had granted the duke during his exile. When this was
refused, he opened negotiations with the king of Denmark, who was the
brother-in-law of King Birger, and concluded a preliminary treaty at
Copenhagen (1308) in accordance with which the Princess Ingeborg was to
marry Magnus, the son of King Birger. Duke Erik then invaded Norway with
an army, took Oslo and vainly besieged the fortress of Akershus. The
province of Jemteland was also attacked by the Swedes, and the duke had
in 1309 an indecisive fight with a portion of the Norwegian fleet in
Kalfsund. Finally, after another fight, in which Erik gained the upper
hand, negotiations were resumed, and by mutual concessions peace was
reëstablished (1310). Duke Erik had a powerful ally at the Norwegian
court in Queen Euphemia, whose love for him was not of an entirely
maternal character. He had thus little difficulty in conciliating King
Haakon and getting again the promise of his daughter's hand. The wedding
was finally celebrated with much splendor in Oslo in 1312. Duke Valdemar
married the same day the king's niece, Ingeborg, the daughter of King
Erik Priest-Hater. About four years later, when the hope had almost been
abandoned, each of the duchesses bore a son. King Haakon's joy at this
happy event was great, for it relieved him of his anxiety for the
succession. But his joy was of short duration. There was one man in
Sweden who was not rejoiced at the birth of the young princes, and that
was King Birger. He feigned, however, delight, and invited his brothers
to a great feast of reconciliation at the castle of Nyköping. When the
festivities were at an end, the dukes were thrown into prison and
deprived of their lives. As there was no sign of violence on their
bodies, the rumor went abroad that they had been starved to death. This
was probably true. The tidings of this calamity gave King Haakon such a
shock that he never recovered from it. He died, 1319, aged forty-nine
years. With him the male line of the race of Harold the Fairhaired
became extinct.

The war with Denmark which had lasted twenty-eight years, was continued
in a desultory fashion during Haakon's reign, but no important battles
were fought. He used his fleet mainly as a threat to enforce his claims.
All that he gained was the temporary possession of the province of
Northern Halland, as security for the final surrender of his maternal

In internal affairs King Haakon exhibited, according to the ideas of his
age, no mean degree of statesmanship. His administration was both
prudent and vigorous. He checked the usurpations of the Hanseatic
cities, which were driving native merchants out of the foreign trade,
and deprived them of some of their privileges. An honest intention to do
right, coupled with considerable ability, characterized both his public
and private life. For all that, his despotic temper tended to alienate
the people from public affairs; and thus prepared the way for the
following centuries of humiliation.



YOUNG (1381-1387).

Magnus Eriksson, the son of Duke Erik and Ingeborg, was only three years
old when his grandfather died, and the government therefore fell into
the hands of a regency, the members of which had already been designated
by King Haakon. Shortly before, a rebellion had broken out in Sweden
against King Birger, who, on account of the murder of his brothers, was
detested by his people. He was deposed and his son Magnus, though he was
in no wise responsible for his father's crimes, was executed. At the
instance of the regent, Mats Kettilmundsson, Magnus Eriksson was
proclaimed king; and Norway and Sweden were thus for the first time
united under one ruler. The union was a mere nominal one, the two
countries having separate laws and administrations, and nothing in
common except the king, who was to divide his time equally between them.
During Magnus' minority, however, his mother, Duchess Ingeborg, governed
in Norway with the utmost recklessness, making great scandal by her love
of the Danish nobleman Knut Porse, duke of Halland, whom she later
married. To enrich him she squandered the revenues and forfeited her
popularity. When the treasury was on the verge of bankruptcy and loud
murmurs of discontent were heard from all sides, the duchess was at last
deprived of her power, and Sir Erling Vidkunsson of Bjarkö and Giske was
made regent in her place.

When King Magnus, surnamed Smek, reached his majority, he assumed the
government in both countries (1332). Being born a Swede, he lacked
comprehension of the Norsemen, and showed little interest in their
affairs. He was a weak and good-natured man, anxious to please all, and
therefore succeeded in pleasing no one. In Sweden he had his hands full,
in endeavoring to control the unruly nobility, whose pretensions were
supported by his oldest son, Erik. He therefore rarely came to Norway,
and made no adequate provision for the government during his absence.
Erling Vidkunsson then made himself the spokesman of the universal
discontent, and with other magnates compelled the king, at a meeting in
Bergen (1350), to take his second son, Haakon, as co-regent and to
abdicate the crown of Norway, in his favor, as soon as he should have
reached his majority. It was then understood that Erik would be his
father's successor in Sweden. But unforseen events frustrated this
expectation. In 1359 Magnus and his queen, the wily and malicious Blanca
of Namur, made a visit to King Valdemar Atterdag in Copenhagen. It was
there arranged that Haakon should marry Valdemar's eldest daughter and
heir, Margaret, and that the Danish king should extend his protection
to Queen Blanca's favorite, Bengt Algotsson, whom Erik had declared to
be a public enemy and was determined to destroy. At the instigation of
King Valdemar, she chose, however, an easier way to accomplish her
baneful purposes. She poisoned her son. Haakon was now heir both to
Norway and Sweden, and his and Margaret's issue, presumptively, to
Denmark. The Swedes were by no means pleased with this arrangement, and
the Norwegian magnates would, if they had been consulted, have expressed
themselves no less strongly against it. They must have foreseen in this
union the inevitable decay of the Norse national spirit and the gradual
extinction of their nationality. The Swedes, being a larger people, had
less to fear from it, but yet regarded it as prejudicial to their
interests. Their feeling toward Denmark was not, just then, of a
friendly character, chiefly owing to the pusillanimity of their king, in
ceding the provinces Skaane, Halland, and Blekinge to the latter
country, without any adequate return, unless it was a pledge of aid from
King Valdemar against his own subjects. So secure felt Magnus in his new
alliance, that he actually helped the Danish king to conquer the Swedish
island Gottland, and permitted him to sack the town of Visby, which was
one of the principal depots of the Baltic trade.

Now, the patience of the Swedes was at last exhausted. The Royal
Council, supported by the nobility, declared that King Magnus, as well
as his son Haakon, had forfeited their rights to the crown (1363), and
called Duke Albrecht of Mecklenburg to the succession. Weak as he was,
however, Magnus was not minded to give up his kingdom without a
struggle. With whatever troops he could scrape together from the
provinces which were yet faithful to him, he attacked King Albrecht at
Enköping, but was defeated and taken prisoner. Haakon, dangerously
wounded, made his escape into Norway. Though the Norwegians cared little
for Magnus, they were too loyal to refuse Haakon their aid in his
attempt to liberate him from the horrible prison in which he was
languishing. The war was therefore continued with varying success until
the Hanseatic League interfered and came near deciding it in Albrecht's
favor. The German merchants had, during the feeble government of Magnus,
obtained so great a power in Norway that they trod justice under foot,
slew their enemies, refused to accept the king's money (which was not
good), and leagued together to defy the laws and protect each other from
punishment. The king was so incensed at their arrogant conduct, that he
issued a decree expelling all Germans from the country. Unhappily he had
not the power to enforce obedience to this mandate, and when the Hansa
made war upon him, he was obliged to buy peace by further concessions.
This left him comparatively free, however, to prosecute the war with
King Albrecht, and when all negotiations had proved futile, he advanced
with an army upon Stockholm, laying the country waste as he progressed.
Here, at last, peace was concluded (1371) on the condition that Haakon
should pay a ransom of twelve thousand marks for his father and renounce
his claim to the throne of Sweden. In return, Magnus was to receive
Skara-Stift, Vestergötland, and Vermeland. The old king was, however,
not to enjoy long his dearly bought liberty. Three years later he was
drowned in the Bömmelfjord in Norway (1374), and his son only survived
him six years. Like so many of the kings of Norway, he died in his prime

The reigns of Magnus Eriksson and his son were a period of great
disaster to Norway. In 1344 the Gula-Elv suddenly changed its course,
owing to the fall of an enormous rock into its bed, and forty-eight
farms were destroyed, and two hundred and fifty people and a multitude
of cattle were drowned. In Iceland an earthquake and a great eruption of
Hekla spread alarm and desolation. But the worst of all calamities was
the Black Death, a terrible pestilence, which, after having ravaged
Germany, England, and Southern Europe, reached Norway in 1349. An
English merchant vessel first brought the pestilence to Bergen, whence
it spread with great rapidity over the entire land. In Drontheim the
archbishop and all the canons of the cathedral chapter died, except a
single one, who then alone elected the new archbishop. In many districts
the entire population was swept away; horses and cattle starved to
death, for want of attendance, or perished in the woods. The results of
the labor of centuries were destroyed. Where once there had been fertile
valleys and animated human intercourse, the forest grew up unheeded. The
fox barked in the deserted farm-houses, and the wolf prowled in the
empty churches. In many places the dead lay unburied, until, by the slow
process of dissolution, the earth reclaimed them. Sloth and
indifference took possession of the survivors. The peasant neglected to
till his fields, because he could procure neither horses nor laborers to
assist him. Famine and death were the result. All industries stagnated,
and what there was left of Norwegian commerce fell completely into the
hands of foreigners. As is usually the case in the times of great
plagues, when the restraints of social order are relaxed, vice grew
riotous, and every extreme of lawless passion was wantonly displayed.
Centuries elapsed before the country recovered from the results of this
terrible calamity. But there were other causes which combined with the
pestilence in producing the political impotence and social barbarism
which followed. There is a danger in doing injustice, even to the Black
Death, and it has, until recently, been the fashion to make it solely
responsible for the eclipse of Norway's glory.

Olaf, the only son of Haakon Magnusson and Margaret, was proclaimed King
of Norway at his father's death. Five years earlier he had, after the
death of his maternal grandfather, been elected king of Denmark. As he
was yet a child, his mother Margaret and the Council of the Regency
conducted the government in his name. Thus commenced the union of Norway
and Denmark, which lasted without interruption for 434 years, and which
proved so disastrous to the former country. Olaf died at the age of
seventeen at Falsterbro in Skaane.




Olaf was succeeded both in Denmark and Norway by his mother, Margaret,
who became reigning queen. The real heir to the Norwegian throne was, in
accordance with the law of succession, the Lord High Steward (Drost)
Haakon Jonsson, a grandson of Agnes, an illegitimate daughter of Haakon
Longlegs. But he did not possess the power to assert his claim against
Margaret, who, by skilful intriguing, had induced the archbishop,
Vinald, and the majority of the clergy to take her side. The Norwegian
Council of Regency, in which the partisans of the queen likewise
preponderated, seemed ready to do any thing which she demanded, and even
yielded to her wish in pledging themselves to choose her grand-nephew,
Erik of Pomerania, as her successor (1388). In accordance with this
promise they declared Erik, during the following year (1389), king of
Norway, under the guardianship of Margaret, until he should reach his

The ambitious queen now turned her attention to Sweden, where she had a
bitter and determined foe in Albrecht of Mecklenburg. He was remotely
related to the royal house of Norway, and therefore believed himself to
be the nearest heir to the throne. He was boiling over with animosity
toward Margaret, whom he called "Queen Breechless," and never referred
to, except with opprobrious epithets. As this kind of harmless
ammunition produced no effect, however, he boldly assumed the title of
king of Denmark and Norway, and prepared to enforce his claim. But he
had reckoned without his host, when he supposed that the Swedes would
support him in this enterprise. The Swedish nobility, which possessed
greater power than the king, had long been dissatisfied with Albrecht,
because he had surrounded himself with Germans, to whom he had given
fiefs and posts of honor. They had long desired to rid themselves of
him, and when Margaret made overtures to them, they seized the
opportunity to accomplish their purpose. In February, 1389, Albrecht had
to confront a united Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian army. The battle,
fought at Falköping, in Vestergötland, was fraught with great results.
Albrecht, who was unacquainted with the region, ventured with his heavy
cavalry out upon a frozen marsh, fell through, and was taken prisoner.
Margaret had him now in her power and determined to make him pay the
penalty for the liberty he had taken with her name. Instead of the crown
of Denmark, which he had meant to wear, she put upon his head a fool's
cap with a tail 28 feet long, and mocked him mercilessly. He was then
imprisoned in the castle of Lindholm, in Skaane, where he spent six

After the battle of Falköping Margaret's army met with no resistance in
the southern provinces; but Stockholm had to be subjected to a long
siege, during which it suffered greater depredations from internal than
from external foes. Bloody feuds between two contending parties raged
within the city. A brotherhood of pirates, the so-called Vitalie
Brethren, furnished the citizens with provisions, thereby delaying their
surrender. These pirates had for the nonce entered into an alliance with
Rostock and Wismar, two cities of Mecklenburg, which sympathized with
the imprisoned Albrecht. In the end Stockholm was forced to open its
gates to Queen Margaret, in accordance with a compromise which was
concluded in 1395. Albrecht was to pay a ransom of sixty thousand marks,
and in case of his failure to provide this sum, within three years, he
should either return to his prison or surrender Stockholm. He chose to
do the latter.

Margaret had now reached the goal of her desires. She was the ruler of
the whole Scandinavian race. She might have placed the triple crown upon
her head, but preferred to secure this proud prize to her nephew, Erik
of Pomerania, by having him crowned while she was yet alive. To this end
she summoned representatives of the three kingdoms to a meeting in
Kalmar, where a draft was made for a constitution, upon which the union
was to be based. Although the document was signed by the Norwegian,
Swedish, and Danish magnates present, it was scarcely legally binding
upon their countrymen. It bears the date of July 20, 1397, and contains
the following stipulations:

1. The three kingdoms were to be eternally united under one king.

2. If the king died without issue, the magnates of the three kingdoms
should come together and peaceably elect a successor.

3. Each kingdom should be governed in accordance with its own laws and
customs; but if one of the kingdoms was attacked, the two others should,
in good faith, assist in its defence.

4. The king and his councillors from the three kingdoms should have the
right to enter into foreign alliances, and whatever they agreed upon
should be binding upon the three countries.

This was the famous Kalmar Union, which might have been a blessing to
the brother kingdoms, but which to two of them, at least, became a
curse. At first sight, it seemed a rational arrangement which promised
success. The three nations were so closely akin, that they understood
without effort each other's languages, which were but slight
modifications of the same original tongue. If the forces which had been
wasted in mutual wars and rivalries could have been combined for mutual
help and common purposes, the kingdom of Scandinavia would have risen in
prosperity and strength and would have taken a place among the European
powers. Under a wise and far-sighted policy, the society of the three
kingdoms could have been gradually amalgamated, its similarities and
common interests emphasized, its differences slowly obliterated. If the
kings of the Union had had the slightest conception of the task that was
presented to them, and had been capable of viewing themselves apart
from their Danish nationality, such results might have been achieved.
But they were, with a single exception, utterly destitute of political
ability and foresight. They were determined to raise the Danish to the
position of a dominant nationality and to reduce Norway and Sweden to a
provincial relation. Hereby they aroused again the ancient jealousies.
They sent a troop of Danish and German nobles to prey upon the latter
countries, which they seemed to regard as conquered territory. The
Swedes complained of their being obliged to pay taxes, in order to
defray the expenses of Danish wars, and they were vehement in their
denunciation of the extortion of the Danish officials who plundered
their provinces like Roman proconsuls.

[Illustration: QUEEN MARGARET.]

The Norwegians were preliminarily disposed to be more patient, chiefly
because they lacked spokesmen, the remnants of their old nobility being
too powerless to assert themselves against the Danes. Nor can it be said
that, during Queen Margaret's life, the conditions were intolerable. She
died, however, in Flensborg (1412) aged 59 years, leaving her wide
dominions in the feeble hands of Erik of Pomerania.

Erik had inherited from Margaret a war with the dukes of Sleswick, which
lasted for twenty-five years, exhausting the resources of his realm and
completely revealing his incapacity for government. The Swedes grumbled
at the taxation which the war necessitated, and rebelled under the
leadership of Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson. A Danish prefect, Jösse
Eriksson, had been guilty of great cruelty to the peasants in Dalarne,
taking their horses and oxen from the plow, hitching their pregnant
wives to hay-loads, and horribly maiming all who dared to complain.
Engelbrekt went twice to Denmark and asked the king to remove this
malefactor, but was the first time put off with promises and the second
time bluntly rebuffed. He then placed himself at the head of a
rebellion, which spread from Dalarne over the whole kingdom. In Norway a
similar, though less formidable, revolt broke out under Amund
Sigurdsson Bolt (1436), who likewise sought to obtain redress against
the Danish magistrates. The king, however, who saw his advantage in
allowing considerable latitude to his creatures, wearied of the eternal
complaints, and, carrying with him whatever money was left in the
treasury, took up his residence in a fortified castle on the island of
Gottland (1438). He was now formally deposed both in Denmark and Sweden,
while in Norway the regent, or governor, Sigurd Jonsson, continued for a
while to conduct the government in his name. When it became generally
known, however, that the king had become a pirate, the Norwegians, too,
revoked their allegiance (1442). For ten years Erik lived in his castle
in Gottland, supporting himself by piracy, but was finally driven away.
He then returned to Pomerania, where he died in 1459.

During the reign of this unworthy king, the city of Bergen was twice
sacked and partly burned by the Vitalie Brethren, who murdered the
citizens, plundered the churches and the episcopal residence, and
carried away a rich booty.

With the tenacious fidelity peculiar to their race, the Norwegians
adhered to the cause of Erik, even after he himself had abandoned it.
They had, however, no choice but to recognize as his successor his
nephew, Christopher of Bavaria, who had already been proclaimed king in
Denmark and Sweden. In the latter country Charles Knutsson Peasant
(Bonde), who, after the murder of Engelbrekt, had become the leader of
the rebellion, and later regent, had vainly endeavored to break the
Union. The clergy made common cause with Christopher, and were
instrumental in securing his election.

Christopher was a jolly and good-natured man, who had no aptitude for
affairs of state. When the Swedes complained of the piracy of Erik of
Pomerania, he answered merrily: "Our uncle is sitting on a rock; he,
too, must earn his living."

He deserves, however, as far as Norway was concerned, the credit of good
intentions. He made an effort, though a futile one, to deprive the
Hanseatic cities of their monopoly of trade, by giving equal privileges
to the citizens of Amsterdam. The League was then less formidable than
it had been, owing to the successful rivalry of the Dutch in other
markets. It is difficult to say what the issue of the struggle would
have been, if Christopher had lived. Death overtook him in 1448, when he
was but thirty-two years old.





It has been said that, during the union with Denmark, Norway had no
history, and this is partly true. The history of the Oldenborg kings,
with their wars, and court intrigues and mistresses, is in no sense the
history of Norway. Nor was the social development of Norway parallel
with that of Denmark, during the reign of these kings. Though oppressed
and politically powerless, the remoter kingdom escaped the utter misery
and degradation which overtook its oppressor. The Danish nobility,
though, like hungry wolves, they consumed the people's substance, did
not succeed in reducing the Norse peasantry to serfdom, as they did
their own. The so-called _Vornedskab_[A] in Denmark was but another name
for serfdom. The nobles, who held the land, in a hundred ways oppressed
and maltreated their peasants; they could sell, though they were not at
liberty to kill them. Denmark, being an elective and not an hereditary
kingdom, afforded the nobility opportunities for continually
strengthening their position, by exacting an increase of their
privileges of each candidate for the throne, before consenting to elect
him. This contract or charter granted by the kings to the nobles
(_Haandfestning_) became a terrible instrument for the oppression of
those estates which were either unrepresented or without influence in
the Royal Council. From having been a body, subordinate to the king, the
council gradually became co-ordinate with him, and at last his superior.
From this state of things it followed that the king needed some
counterbalancing support against its overweening influence, and this
support he sought in Norway. Here the election was a mere form, the
succession being based upon hereditary right. The king could, if he was
minded to redress the grievances of the people, rely upon their loyalty.
Even if he was deaf to their complaints, they were disposed to excuse
him, and hold his councillors responsible for his shortcomings. But, as
a rule, the kings of the house of Oldenborg did pay more attention to
the complaints of their Norse subjects than to those of their own, and
they did this--first, because it was important to them to preserve the
loyalty of the Norsemen; secondly, because the Norsemen, if their
petitions were unheeded, stood ready to take up arms. They knew their
rights from of old, and a continued infringement of them, on the part of
the foreign officials, made sooner or later the war-arrow fly from farm
to farm; and the king was confronted with an armed rebellion. Again and
again the obnoxious magistrates, who had imagined that these sturdy
mountaineers were as meek and long-suffering as their Danish brethren,
were mercilessly beaten, maimed, or killed. Repeatedly the government
was forced to concede to rebels what they had not yielded to
supplicants. Unpopular laws were revoked, oppressive burdens removed,
and promises made of improved administration.

[Footnote A: Prof. J. E. Sars: "Norge under Foreningen med Danmark."
Nordisk Universitets-Tidskrift for 1858 and 1861.]

And yet, in spite of these ameliorating circumstances, Norway's
condition during the Danish rule was miserable. The revenues of the
country were spent in Copenhagen, and the people were heavily taxed to
support a foreign court and a hungry brood of foreign officials, whose
chief interest was to fill their own pockets. Danish nobles married into
the great Norwegian families, and secured, by bribery and intrigue in
Copenhagen, a virtual franchise for unlimited ill-doing. Great estates
were accumulated in the hands of men like Vincentz Lunge, Hartvig
Krummedike, and Hannibal Sehested, and the courts were prostituted to
favor the land-grabbing schemes of noble adventurers. The public spirit
which, in times of old, had jealously watched over the interests of the
realm, had already been weakened by the incipient despotism of the last
national kings; and what there was left of it now gradually expired. A
most striking proof of this is the fact that when, in 1537, Norway lost
the last vestige of her independence, being declared to be a province of
Denmark, the decree was accepted without protest, and caused no
perceptible excitement. So gradually had the change taken place, that no
one was surprised. The same peasants who boldly resented any
encroachment upon their personal rights and killed the magistrate who
overtaxed them, heard without a murmur of the extinction of their
nationality. It has been surmised, as a cause of their lethargy, that
they did not hear of it--at least, not simultaneously, but gradually and
casually, in the course of years; and it is not improbable that the
imperfect means of communication was responsible for their apparent

No attempt will be made in the following pages to relate the history of
Denmark, except in so far as it directly affected that of Norway, and
the plan of the present work excludes any but the most general
characterization of the social conditions. The story of the Union will,
therefore, be disproportionately short.

The death of Christopher of Bavaria afforded the Swedes an opportunity
to assert again their independence. The common hatred of the Danes
enabled the hostile estates to forget their differences and to unite in
electing Charles Knutsson Peasant king of Sweden. The Norsemen had a
candidate for the throne of Norway in the regent, Sigurd Jonsson, a
descendant of Agnes, the daughter of Haakon Longlegs, but they failed to
support him. One party desired to make common cause with Sweden and
elect Charles Knutsson, while another favored Count Christian of
Oldenborg, who had just been elected in Denmark. This latter party,
supported by the Danish nobles, who already wielded a great influence,
was victorious. King Christian I. (1450-1481) arrived in Norway in the
summer of 1450, and was crowned in the cathedral of Drontheim. At a
meeting of the Council of Regency in Bergen, it was resolved that Norway
was to remain eternally united with Denmark under one king, but that
each kingdom should be free and the other's equal, and should be
governed in accordance with its own laws and by native-born officials.

[Illustration: Christianus. I. _Rex Daniæ._]

Christian could not give up the thought of reëstablishing the Kalmar
Union, and he therefore waged war for several years with King Charles
Knutsson. In 1452 the latter invaded Norway and conquered Drontheim, but
the commandant in Bergen, Sir Olaf Nilsson, again drove him back across
the frontier. Soon internal dissensions in Sweden enabled Christian to
defeat Charles and expel him from his country (1457); and, in 1458, the
three kingdoms were thus again united. Christian's extortions and
shameless breaches of faith made him, however, soon so detested both
among peasants and nobles, that a rebellion broke out; Charles was
recalled, and, though he did not at once become master of the situation,
he succeeded in keeping the Danes at bay. He died as King of Sweden in
1470. When Christian during the following year made an attempt to
conquer Sweden, he was overwhelmingly beaten at Brunkeberg near
Stockholm by the regent, Steen Sture the Elder.

In Norway Christian broke his promises with the same cynical disregard
as he did in Sweden. Instead of appointing native officials, he allowed
the Danish nobles to plunder as of old, and made no effort to discipline
them. The German merchants in Bergen also became constantly more
insolent in their behavior toward the citizens, whom they drove away
from the wharves and treated like conquered people; but Christian did
not dare to restrain them in their violations of law and order, because
he feared that the Hansa might avenge itself by interfering in his war
with Sweden. Even when the Germans murdered Sir Olaf Nilsson, his
friend, Bishop Thorleif, and sixty other citizens, and burned the
cloister of Munkeliv, the king refrained from punishing them.

Highly characteristic of the way the Danish kings regarded Norway was
Christian's transaction with James III. of Scotland. A marriage was
arranged with the latter and Christian's daughter Margaret, and the
dower was fixed at 60,000 gülden. As the Danish king was unable to pay
this amount, he remitted the tribute due from Scotland for the
Hebrides, pawned the Orkneys for 50,000 gülden and the Shetland Isles
for an additional amount. Thus Norway lost these ancient dependencies;
for it is needless to say that they were never redeemed.

Christian I. was succeeded by his son Hans or Johannes (1483-1513). The
Norsemen, who had now had a sufficient taste of Danish rule, were not
anxious to be governed by him, and a rebellion broke out, which,
however, was short-lived. The Danish nobles, who, by marrying Norwegian
women, could obtain citizenship, had by this time secured a
preponderating power in the Council of Regency, and had small difficulty
in getting their king acknowledged. The Swedes resisted until the year
1497, when Hans defeated Steen Sture's army and was declared king of
Sweden. Three years later, however, he suffered a terrible defeat in
Ditmarsken (1500), whose inhabitants opened the dikes and called in the
ocean as their ally. Four thousand Danes were here slain or drowned, and
enormous treasures were lost. This was the signal for renewed risings
both in Sweden and in Norway. The Norse knight, Sir Knut Alfsson, of
Giske, who derived his descent from the old royal house, united with the
Swedes and defeated Duke Christian, the king's son, in Vestergötland.
Then he invaded Norway and captured the fortresses Tunsberghus and
Akershus; but was besieged in the latter place by the Danes under Henrik
Krummedike. Seeing small chance of taking the fortress, the Danish
general invited Sir Knut to a conference, under safe-conduct, but foully
slew him and threw his body into the water. The wretched king
apparently approved of this treason, for instead of punishing Sir
Henrik, he heaped honors upon him, and declared the great possessions of
the murdered man to be forfeited to the crown.

Once more the Norsemen attempted to throw off the detested Danish yoke
(1508), under the leadership of the peasant Herluf Hyttefad, but the
country was already too divided between the foreign and the native
interest to afford sufficient support for a successful rising. Duke
Christian came with a Danish army and quelled the rebellion, and
executed its leaders. He did not, however, satisfy himself with this. He
was a believer in radical measures. In order to break the rebellious
temper of the Norsemen, once for all, he captured and murdered as many
of the representatives of the great Norse families, as he could lay hold
of. With atrocious cruelty he raged in Norway until every trace of the
rebellion seemed extinct.

The Swedes were more fortunate in their resistance to this blood-thirsty
tyrant. After the death of Steen Sture the Elder (1503), they elected
Svante Nilsson Sture regent, and after his death, his son, Steen Sture
the Younger. These brave and patriotic men conducted the government with
wisdom and energy, and succeeded in maintaining themselves against the
power of the Danes during the remainder of the reign of King Hans.

Christian II. (1513-1523, d. 1559), was forced, on mounting the throne,
to grant a charter to the nobility, which nearly deprived him of all
power. The rule of the nobles had by this time become so great a curse,
both in Denmark and Norway, that any measure for its curtailment seemed
justifiable. Their principle of government was that of hawks in a
poultry-yard. Whatever the citizens undertook for their advancement was
checked by the interference of the privileged classes; commerce and
industry were discouraged, lest the bourgeoisie should gain power enough
to assert itself. The peasantry were given absolutely into the barons'
power, and their degradation was made complete by the so-called "right
of neck and hand," which Christian II. granted as the price of his
crown. By this concession the nobles acquired the right to sentence and
punish their peasants at their own discretion, without the intercession
of the courts. The king, however, felt the humiliation of this
concession scarcely less than its victims. He determined to prepare
himself for a life and death struggle with the nobility; and with this
in view strove to increase his power. He secured foreign alliances and
married the wealthiest princess in Europe, Isabella, sister of the
German Emperor Charles V. In order to reach that summit of power from
which he should be able to crush the refractory magnates he deemed it
important to regain the crown of Sweden, and at Bogesund he defeated
Steen Sture the Younger, who fell in the battle (1520). The latter had
had a bitter enemy in the wily archbishop, Gustavus Trolle, who made
common cause with Christian, and crowned him king of Sweden. The
archbishop thought this a good chance to avenge himself upon his
enemies, of Steen Sture's party, and at his instigation Christian
executed fifty of the most eminent men in Sweden, among whom were two
bishops, thirteen members of the Council of Regency, and many brave

This was the notorious Carnage of Stockholm. Secure in the thought that
the Swedes were now cowed into submission, Christian II. returned to
Denmark; but his dastardly deed had an unforeseen effect. A young
nobleman, Gustavus Eriksson Wasa, whose father had been beheaded and who
had himself been captured by Christian, escaped from his prison and
became the deliverer of his country. The common indignation against the
tyrant united once more all warring factions; the Danes were everywhere
defeated, and Gustavus Wasa became first, regent, and later, king of
Sweden (1523). From that time forth, the power of the Danes in Sweden
was at an end.

The failure of his plans abroad discredited Christian II. at home. His
overweening self-esteem and impetuosity led him to commit rash acts,
whereby he gave his enemies an advantage. Also in inaugurating reforms,
which would have been beneficial, if they could have been carried into
effect, he failed to measure the strength of the opposition which he
would be sure to encounter. He issued a decree abolishing serfdom,
encouraged commerce and industry, and hoped in the impending struggle to
find support among the bourgeoisie and peasants, whose gratitude he had
earned. Nor did he in this respect deceive himself. But long oppression
had made the people timid, and their support was largely passive, and
could not, without energetic leaders, be made to assert itself. The
upper estates were yet too powerful. Christian had, by his devotion to
Luther's teachings, also added the clergy to the number of his enemies,
and by his championship of Dutch and native commerce he had incensed the
Hansa. His uncle, Duke Frederick, of Holstein, took advantage of his
many blunders, made alluring promises to the nobility, allied himself
with the Hansa and began a war against his nephew. Christian summoned an
assembly of notables to meet him at Viborg, but the nobles of Jutland,
fearing that he might repeat the Carnage of Stockholm, sent him a
letter, revoking their allegiance. Christian lost his courage, and
instead of summoning the citizens to his support gathered all his
treasures and fled to Holland (1523).

Duke Frederick, of Holstein, now ascended the throne under the name of
Frederick I. (1524-1533), and by the aid of the Danish nobleman,
Vincentz Lunge, soon succeeded in gaining Norway. Sir Vincentz, who was
a highly-cultivated but rapacious and unscrupulous man, had married the
daughter of the Norse knight, Sir Nils Henriksson, whose wife, Inger
Ottesdatter, was related to the old royal house. This remarkable woman,
commonly known as Mistress Inger of Oestraat, played a prominent rôle in
her day, but, unhappily, threw the weight of her wealth and influence on
the side of the oppressors. One of her daughters married the Danish
nobleman Erik Ugerup, another Nils Lykke, and a fourth was betrothed by
her ambitious mother to a Swedish impostor who pretended to be a son of
Steen Sture and a candidate for the Swedish throne.

The doctrines of Luther were at that time being zealously preached in
Sweden and Denmark, and were favored by the king and the greater portion
of the nobility. In Norway there was no effort made to introduce the
Reformation, and the people there remained devoted to the Catholic
faith. Christian II. saw in this circumstance a chance of regaining his
lost throne. He had previously inclined toward Luther, but he now
declared himself the champion of the old faith, arrived in Norway with a
fleet (1531), and gained a large number of adherents. But the same
incapacity and imprudence, which had wrecked his fortunes before, again
precipitated his downfall. In the critical moment, when resolution and
courage were required, Christian, as usual, showed himself a poltroon.
When the fortress of Akershus, which he was besieging, was relieved by
the Lübeckers, and a Danish fleet arrived under the command of Knut
Gyldenstjerne, he began to despair and finally betook himself to Denmark
under safe-conduct, in order to negotiate with his uncle. On arriving
there he was unceremoniously thrown into prison. Frederick I., although
he had pledged his royal honor, at the request of the nobility, broke
his promise and Christian was held a prisoner until the day of his death

The Norsemen were severely punished for their alliance with the deposed
king, although Frederick I. had promised them immunity, on condition of
their returning to their allegiance.

At the death of Frederick I. an interregnum of four years occurred
(1533-1537), before a successor was chosen. It was the religious
question which had divided Denmark into two hostile camps. Christian,
the oldest son of the late king, was devoted to Protestantism, while
Hans, the younger, had been brought up in the Catholic faith. The
nobles, accordingly, favored the former, and the clergy the latter,
while the lower estates desired to reinstate Christian II. in the
possession of his throne. In Norway there were but two parties, one
headed by Vincentz Lunge, favoring Duke Christian, and a Catholic party,
which pinned its hopes upon the imprisoned king. A sudden show of
strength was imparted to the latter's faction, when the Lübeckers took
up his cause, and their general, Count Christopher of Oldenborg, invaded
Denmark, and gave the peasantry a chance to avenge themselves upon their
oppressors. This opportunity was eagerly embraced; castles were sacked
and destroyed, noblemen murdered, and the wildest atrocities committed.
For a while civil war raged in Denmark with all its horrors, and in the
presence of this calamity the opposing parties buried their differences
and elected Christian III. king (1537-1559). By the aid of King Gustavus
in Sweden he succeeded in defeating and expelling Count Christopher,
after whom this war is called the Count's Feud. The Norwegians were not
disposed to recognize the validity of King Christian's election,
concerning which they had not been consulted; and when, after the
capitulation of Count Christopher, the cause of Christian II. seemed
hopelessly lost, they declared in favor of his son-in-law, Count
Palatine Frederick, whose candidacy was supported by the German
Emperor. The Danish nobles, headed by Vincentz Lunge, were, of course,
adherents of Christian III., while the archbishop, Olaf Engelbrektsson,
was the leader of the opposition. At a meeting in Bergen, called for the
purpose of electing a king, the people grew furious at the sight of the
Danish magnates, attacked them and murdered Sir Vincentz Lunge. Many
others were imprisoned and otherwise maltreated. If the Count Palatine
had now arrived in Norway and supported his adherents, there might have
been a chance of his success. But unhappily he lacked money and was not
effectually aided by the emperor. The archbishop had therefore no choice
but to offer his allegiance to Christian III. on condition of his
respecting the ancient liberties of the land. But the Danish King,
though he seemingly acquiesced, had no intention of granting such easy
terms. He sailed to Norway with his fleet (1537), and although he met
with no opposition, he seemed to think that he had conquered the country
and had the right to do with it as he chose. He abolished the Norwegian
Council of Regency and henceforth administered the government through a
viceroy and a chancellor, both of whom were Danes. The last vestige of
Norwegian independence was thus lost, and Norway became a province of

Archbishop Olaf, without awaiting the king's arrival, fled to Holland,
taking with him the treasures of the cathedral, and died in exile.




During the reign of Christian III. the Lutheran faith was introduced
into Denmark, and its introduction into Norway followed as a matter of
course. The new Danish ecclesiastical law, called the Ordinance, was
also made to apply to the provinces. The landed estates which had
belonged to the Church were confiscated by the crown or distributed
among royal favorites. In fact, the plunder of churches and monasteries
was the only evidence of religious zeal which the Danes exhibited in
Norway. The Catholic bishops were removed; but many of the priests were
allowed to remain, as Lutheran pastors were hard to obtain and were
needed at home. Gradually, however, the change took place; and
everywhere aroused discontent among the peasantry. Many parishes were
left, for long periods, without any kind of religious teaching, and when
Lutheran pastors were sent up from Denmark, they were usually ignorant
or vicious men who could not be used at home. Ex-soldiers, ex-sailors,
bankrupt traders, and all sorts of vagabonds, who were in some way
disqualified for making a living, were thought to be good enough to
preach the word of God in Norway. The majority of them were utterly
destitute of theological training, and it is said that there were some
who could not even read. No one, then, ought to wonder at the reception
they received from their parishioners. Some of them were killed, others
driven away and horribly beaten. At last physical strength became the
prime requisite for holding a pastorate in the Norse mountain valleys,
and the surest road to popularity for a parson was to thrash the
refractory members of his congregation. That inspired respect and
inclined the rest more favorably toward his preaching. Great credit
deserves the first Lutheran bishop in Bergen, Gjeble Pedersson, for his
efforts to educate a native Protestant clergy. The Danish language,
however, remained the language of the Norwegian church; all religious
instruction was imparted in it, and at the present day, all who lay
claim to culture in Norway speak Danish.

The depredations committed by the Danish nobles, during the reign of
Christian III., defy description. It was the darkest period in the
history of Norway, and, as far as the people were concerned, very nearly
the darkest, too, in the history of Denmark. The power of the nobles
reached such a height that the king himself was merely the tool of their
will and was used by them, as an instrument for the most cruel and
heartless oppression.

The discomfiture of the Lübeckers in the Count's Feud was the first
serious check which the Hansa received in the North, and it never
regained its former power. The Danish nobleman, Christopher Valkendorf,
who was governor (_Lensherre_) in Bergen, succeeded in destroying the
monopoly of the Germans in the fish trade, which now fell into the hands
of native merchants.


Christian III. was succeeded by his son Frederick II. (1559-1588), a
vain and worthless man, whose fondness for drink shortened his life. He
waged a long and costly war with Sweden about the right to carry the
Swedish "three crowns" in the Danish coat-of-arms. The Norwegians,
although their sympathies were at the outset with the Swedes, suffered
greatly from the inroads of hostile armies, which burned cities and
ravaged the land. Sweden, regarding Norway merely as a Danish province,
thought to injure its foe, by destroying whatever belonged to him or
acknowledged his sway. Thus the cathedral of Hamar was burned; the
fertile districts of Aker were harried, and the city of Drontheim was
taken. The Danes burned Oslo in order to prevent it from falling into
the hands of the Swedes.

Two Danish governors, Ludwig and Erik Munk, became notorious for their
unheard of cruelties and extortions. The peasants sent repeated
complaints to the king and threatened rebellion. At last Erik Munk was
sentenced to return all taxes which he had illegally collected, and to
restore to a peasant his property, of which he had unlawfully taken
possession. Later he was deprived of his office, and committed suicide
while in prison.

The city of Frederickstad, which was forced into existence, after the
burning of the ancient Sarpsborg, bears the name of Frederick II.

[Illustration: THE NORTH CAPE.]

Christian IV. (1588-1648) had not inherited his father's infirmities. He
was a man of many excellent qualities; desirous of furthering the
welfare of his subjects, but crippled in his efforts by the opposition
of the arrogant nobility. What particularly deserves notice was his good
disposition toward the Norsemen. Unlike his predecessors, he paid
frequent visits to their country, once even penetrating within the
Arctic Circle. He listened to the complaints of the people, and punished
with fines and imprisonment the Danish officials who ventured to exceed
their rights. The old law of Magnus Law-Mender which, on account of the
change of the language, was now hard to comprehend, he abolished, and
elaborated, in its stead, a Norse law, some regulations of which are yet
in force. Also the ecclesiastical law or Ordinance was altered and
adapted to the needs of the country. The present capital of Norway,
Christiania, was founded by him, as also the city of Christiansand. The
discovery of silver at Kongsberg, and of copper at Röraas, gave an
impetus to the mining industries of the country, and thereby started the
growth of two small towns.

By his kindness, his love of justice, and his interest in their affairs,
Christian IV. won the hearts of the Norsemen, as no king of the house of
Oldenborg, before or since. Sometimes he dropped in at a peasant's
wedding, and drank the health of the bride; watched the games upon the
German wharf in Bergen, and attended a party at the apothecary's where
the jolly guests smashed all the windows. He had a pair of eyes which
nothing escaped; and an active and alert mind which turned his
observations to good account. All economical questions interested him;
whatever he undertook, he supervised with the most minute care every
detail of its execution. With level and square in his pocket he walked
about testing the soundness of the work of his carpenters, masons, and

Three great wars, two of which concerned Norway, disturbed the reign of
Christian IV. The first, the so-called Kalmar War (1511-1513),
occasioned an invasion of Scotch mercenaries hired by the king of
Sweden. These came, however, to grief at Kringen in Guldbrandsdale,
where the peasants attacked them, and at the first shot killed their
commander, Colonel Sinclair. Of the entire force, numbering nine
hundred, not one man, it is said, escaped. More fortunate was Colonel
Mönnikhofen, who landed with eight hundred Dutch mercenaries in
Söndmöre, and made his way, ravaging and plundering, across the
frontier. The cause of this war was the assumption, on the part of the
Swedish king, Charles IX., of the title of King of the Lapps, and his
claim to the Norwegian province of Finmark. Charles died during the
hostilities, and his son Gustavus Adolphus made peace at Knaeröd,
abandoning both the claim and the title.

The participation of Christian IV. in the Thirty Years' War, as the ally
of the oppressed German Protestants, brought him no glory. After his
defeat by Tilly at Lutter and Barenberge, the imperial armies overran
Sleswick and Jutland, and at the Peace of Lübeck (1629), Christian had
to promise nevermore to meddle in German politics. After this
humiliation, he could not see, without alarm, the progress of the Swedes
in Germany; and could not refrain from placing obstacles in their way.
The war was being continued, after the death of Gustavus Adolphus, by
able generals and diplomats, who resolved to anticipate the Danish king
in his efforts to thwart them. Before Christian suspected that his
intentions were revealed, General Torstenson crossed the southern
frontier, invaded Holstein, and advanced into Jutland (1643). The Danes
were utterly unable to resist the conquering host, and though they hotly
contested two naval battles, their inability to cope with the Swedes
soon became apparent. Peace was, therefore, concluded at Brömsebro; and
Norway was made to pay the costs of Danish incapacity and
miscalculation. The two great Norse provinces Jemteland and Herjedale
were ceded to Sweden; as also the island of Gottland, which had latterly
belonged to Denmark (1647).

In Norway this war was named Hannibal's Feud, after the viceroy Hannibal
Sehested, a son-in-law of the king, who, with the aid of the brave
parson, Kjeld Stub, guarded the frontier.

One might have supposed that the nobles, at the death of Christian IV.
would have rested content with the excessive privileges which they
already possessed, and allowed his son Frederick III. (1648-1670) to
ascend the throne, without stripping himself of the last remnant of his
power. But as long as there was any thing left to grab, it seemed worth
grabbing. Frederick III. was, therefore, compelled to grant a more
humiliating charter than any of his predecessors, and would have been,
if he had long acquiesced in the agreement, a mere shadow king. The
arrogance and greed of the nobles, fostered by long security in
aggression, became, however, the cause of their downfall. The Royal
Council, which was the real governing power in the state, had the
imprudence to declare war against Sweden, on the strength of a rumor,
that the Swedish king, Charles X. Gustavus, had suffered an overwhelming
defeat in Poland. This rumor proved to be false, and Charles conquered
in a short time both Jutland and Funen, and threatened Copenhagen.
Denmark was completely at his mercy, and the Council was compelled to
buy peace at Roskilde (1658) by the cession of Skaane, Halland,
Blekinge, Bornholm, and the Norwegian provinces, Viken and Drontheim.
And yet in Norway the only success of the war had been won, the
Norwegian general Bjelke having conquered Jemteland. It seemed as if
Charles Gustavus, after having obtained these enormous advantages,
regretted that he had not made an end of Denmark altogether. He
hesitated to quit Danish territory, renewed the war, and was, by aid of
the Dutch and Austrians, who feared his overweening power, defeated at
Nyborg and repulsed at Copenhagen. In Norway the Trönders revolted
successfully against the Swedish rule, and the Bornholmers likewise
drove away the invaders. At the Peace of Copenhagen (1660), Charles
Gustavus was forced to relinquish his hold upon these provinces, while
keeping his other conquests.


It was plain that it was chiefly the nobles composing the Royal Council
who were responsible for the degradation which these wars had brought
upon Denmark. And yet, although they were in possession of great wealth,
gained by pillaging the lower estates, they refused to bear any share of
the public burdens. The condition of the country was now so desperate
and the misery so great that but a breath was needed to kindle the
smouldering indignation into flame. The public debt had reached an
enormous amount, and there was no prospect of paying it without
increased taxation. The king then summoned a diet to meet him at
Copenhagen, and invited representatives of the clergy and the
bourgeoisie to participate in its deliberations. These entered into an
alliance with him against the nobles, and the latter, fearing an
outbreak of violence, did not at first dare offer any resistance. When
they picked up their courage again, the citizens of Copenhagen locked
the gates and compelled them to come to terms. It was then resolved that
Denmark should henceforth be an hereditary kingdom, and that the Royal
Council should be abolished. All fiefs were revoked and a new system of
administration was introduced, with royal officials, responsible to the
king. It was agreed that a constitution should be adopted, and its
elaboration was, very unwisely, entrusted to the king. Frederick III.
was thus master of the situation, and as the matter seemed to have been
left to his discretion, he preferred to rule without any constitution.
The so-called Royal Law, which he endeavored to pass off as such, was
rather intended to make his power secure, than to subject it to
limitations. Thus absolutism pure and simple was introduced into Denmark
(1660). The Danes had jumped from the frying-pan into the fire; and yet,
though their condition was not enviable, there was a relief in having
one master instead of many.

In Norway the effects of absolutism were chiefly perceptible in placing
the country more nearly upon an equal footing with Denmark, and in
producing a somewhat improved administration. The nobles continued to
hold many lucrative offices, but the king was able to exercise a more
restraining influence over them now that his authority was absolute. The
fiefs were changed into counties (_amter_) and administered by royal
officials with well-defined functions. A chance was presented to
citizens to rise in the service of the state, and was improved by
several able Norsemen, among whom the naval hero, Kort Adeler, was
preëminent. After an honorable career in Dutch and Venetian service,
against the Turks, he was made admiral in the Danish Navy, and greatly
increased its efficiency.

Frederick III. visited Norway but once. The city of Frederickshald bears
his name.

Although the royal revenues had been quintupled by the revocation of the
fiefs, Frederick's son, Christian V. (1670-1699), was always in want of
money. He spent his time in all sorts of costly amusements, hoping to
rival the splendor of the French king, Louis XIV., whom he had taken for
his model. In order to counteract the influence of the old Danish
nobility, which, on account of its wealth, was yet formidable,
Christian V. created a new court nobility of counts and barons, most of
whom were Germans. German became the language of the court, and lands
and lucrative offices were given away to German favorites. In order to
procure money wherewith to imitate the glittering vices of Versailles,
Christian V. sold his subjects, both Norwegians and Danes, as
mercenaries for foreign service. He had an able adviser in his
chancellor, Griffenfeld, who rose from poverty to the highest position,
in order as suddenly to be plunged into misery. His enemies aroused the
fickle king's suspicions as to his loyalty; and he was condemned to
death, but his sentence, on the scaffold, was commuted to imprisonment
for life. "Oh mercy more cruel than death," he exclaimed. Toward the end
of his life he was, however, pardoned.

Christian V. had a new code of laws elaborated for Norway, which is yet
partly in force. He waged a futile war with Sweden which cost blood and
treasure, but brought no advantage to either of the combatants.

Frederick IV. (1699-1730) ascended the throne like his father, by right
of inheritance, but did not in other respects follow in his footsteps.
He was a shrewd, but ignorant man; penurious, industrious, and
heartless. By his feud with the Duke of Holstein, he came into collision
with the latter's brother-in-law, Charles XII., of Sweden, and after a
brief and unsuccessful campaign, made peace on unfavorable terms at
Travendal (1700). When, however, Charles XII., in 1709, lost the battle
of Pultawa, in Russia, Frederick thought his opportunity had come for
regaining what he had lost; wherefore he entered into an alliance with
Russia and Poland and began the Great Northern War (1709-1720). Sixteen
thousand Danish troops invaded Skaane, but were beaten by the Swedish
general, Magnus Stenbock (1710). In the naval battle of Kjögebugt, the
Norseman, Ivar Hvitfeldt, who commanded the ship Dannebrog, made a
valiant attack upon the Swedish fleet. His ship, however, took fire, and
although he might have saved himself by beaching it, such a course would
have endangered the rest of the Danish fleet, which lay nearer shore.
Hvitfeldt, therefore stayed where he was, sending volley after volley
against the Swedes, while death was staring him in the face. When the
fire reached the powder magazine, he, with five hundred men, was blown
into the air.

On his return to Sweden in 1715 Charles attempted to conquer Norway and
penetrated by three different routes into the country. He himself
commanded the division which entered Höland (1716). The Norwegian
Colonel Kruse met him with 200 men, who fought with such heroism, that
Charles, brave as he was himself, was filled with admiration.

"Has my brother, King Frederick, many such officers as thou?" he asked
the colonel, as he lay wounded at his feet.

"Oh, yes," answered Kruse, "he has plenty of them, and I am far from
being among the ablest."

In his blindness, Frederick had, in order to raise money, hired out a
large number of the country's defenders as mercenaries, leaving only a
wretched little, half-naked and half-starved force of 6,000 men under
General Lützow. Charles with his well-drilled troops expected to make
short work of such paltry opponents. But he failed to take account of
the Norsemen's temper. Every man, young and old--nay, many a woman, too,
was ready to defend hearth and home against the foe. Colonel Löwen, whom
he had sent with 600 men to destroy the silver mines of Kongsberg, was
captured with 160 Swedes, by the Norsemen at the parsonage in Ringerike,
after having been hoodwinked by the parson's wife, the intrepid and
quick-witted Anna Kolbjörnsdatter. When, suspecting that he was trapped,
Löwen put the pistol to her head, she asked, coolly:

"Do you serve your king in order to kill old women?"

Charles captured Christiania, but could accomplish nothing against the
fortress of Akershus. The citizens of Frederickshald burned their town,
so that it might not afford a shelter for the Swedes against the cannon
of the fortress Fredericksteen. Here the two brave and patriotic
brothers, Peter and Hans Kolbjörnsson, half-brothers of Anna,
distinguished themselves, and, with their hardy volunteers, harassed the
enemy incessantly. It became evident to Charles that he could not take
the Norse fortresses without artillery, and he expected a convoy from
home with field-cannon and other munitions of war. But this expectation,
too, failed. His fleet was destroyed in Dynekilen by a daring deed of
Tordenskjold, the greatest naval hero that Norway has produced.
Tordenskjold, having learned from some fishermen that the Swedish
admiral was to have a banquet on board, that night, concluded that the
officers would scarcely be in condition for fighting, after having risen
from the table. He cried to his lieutenant, Peter Grib:

"I hear that the Swedish admiral is going to have a carousal on his
fleet. Would it not be advisable if we went with our ships and became
his guests, though unbidden? The pilot says we have wind."

Under a rattling fire from the shore batteries Tordenskjold ran into
Dynekilen and attacked the hostile fleet. He was right in his
supposition that the enemy had imbibed heavily. But the danger sobered
them. After three hours of heavy cannonading, the Swedish admiral
capitulated with 44 ships and 60 cannon. When this intelligence reached
the king, he began his retreat from Norway. But he could not give up the
thought of conquering a country which was so poorly equipped for
defence. In 1718 he sent General Armfelt with 14,000 men against
Drontheim and moved, himself, against Fredericksteen with 22,000. The
outer redoubt was stormed and taken and trenches were dug toward the
main fortress. In one of these trenches Charles was standing, when he
was hit in the head by a bullet from the fortress and fell dead.
Armfelt, on receiving this intelligence, immediately retreated toward
the frontier, but lost a great number of men, who froze and starved to
death upon the mountains. Thus the war was at an end, and peace was
concluded in Fredensborg (1720).


The fortitude of the Norsemen had saved Denmark from a great danger.
Frederick IV. rewarded their staunchness and intrepidity by subjecting
them to further pillaging. In order to raise money for Danish needs, he
sold all the churches of Norway to private parties, contending that, if
the people owned them, they must have deeds and papers proving their
right of property. By this miserable quibble, he pretended to give a
show of legality to his spoliations. The trade with Finmark he sold to
three citizens of Copenhagen, who interpreted their monopoly as a
license for unlimited extortion. The population sank into misery and

During the reign of Frederick IV. lived the Norseman Ludvig Holberg, who
was born in Bergen, 1684. He spent his life, however, in Denmark,
writing a great number of excellent comedies, in Molière's style,
mock-heroic poems, satires and historical works. The life of the first
half of the eighteenth century is vividly portrayed and satirized in his

Christian VI. (1730-1746) was an extreme pietist, and surrounded himself
with Germans who sympathized with his morbid and lugubrious religion. He
was lavish in his expenditures, built costly palaces, and introduced a
rigid ceremonial at his court. The one meritorious act of his reign was
the issue of a decree ordering confirmation in the Lutheran faith, and
thus indirectly compelling all classes of the people to learn to read.
Well-meant, but misdirected, were his efforts to encourage trade and
manufactures, and positively disastrous was his decree forbidding the
inhabitants of southern Norway to import grain from any other country
than Denmark.


Frederick V. (1746-1766) was a man of kindly nature, but limited
intelligence. He opened the theatres, which his father had closed, and
abolished the many arduous regulations for the keeping of the Sabbath.
He came within a hair of having war with Russia, and was only saved by
the murder of the emperor, Peter III. But the great preparations he had
made necessitated an increase of taxation, which especially fell heavily
upon the poor Norse peasants. In Bergen, the "extra-tax" led to a
revolt. The peasants broke into the city, and insulted and maltreated
the magistrates, whereupon the tax was abolished. The Norwegian Military
Academy in Christiania was founded during the reign of this king, as
also the Academy of Sciences in Drontheim.

Christian VII. (1766-1808) succeeded to the throne at the age of
seventeen, and wasted his youth in the wildest dissipation. His vitality
was accordingly used up before he reached mature manhood, and insanity
followed. During a journey abroad, he became much attached to his body
physician, a German, named Struensee, and, after his return, made him
prime-minister, and left the government entirely in his hands. Struensee
was a man of great ability, penetrated with the ideas of Voltaire and
Rousseau, and rather headlong in the reforms which he introduced. The
nobles and the queen-dowager, Juliana Maria, hated him, and, by their
influence, the king was induced to sign an order for his arrest. From
the prison to the block the road was short. A favorite of the
queen-dowager, named Ove Guldberg, carried on the government during the
next twelve years, and revoked all Struensee's liberal measures. He
endeavored to abolish the very name of Norseman, insisting that no such
nationality existed, all being citizens of the Danish State.

During the reign of the last three kings, Norway had, owing to the
peace, steadily advanced in material prosperity. The population had, in
one hundred years, nearly doubled, being, in 1767, 723,000; and the
merchant marine had, since the destruction of the Hanseatic monopoly,
grown from 50 to 1,150 ships. A class of native officials, educated at
the University of Copenhagen, began to replace the Danish, and, by the
sale of the estates of the crown, the number of freeholders among the
peasants was largely increased.

As the insanity of the king made him unable to attend to the government,
his son, Crown Prince Frederick, became, in 1784, the responsible
regent, and made an excellent selection of a premier in Andreas
Bernsdorff (1784-1797). This capable and enlightened man piloted Denmark
and Norway safely through the stormy times of the French Revolution. In
the latter country four provincial superior courts were established, and
a peculiar institution called "commissions of reconciliations," intended
to prevent litigation. In 1800 Denmark had the imprudence to conclude a
treaty of armed neutrality with Russia and Sweden, with a view to
resisting the right, which England demanded, of searching the ships of
non-combatants for munitions of war. It was the aim of England to cut
France off from all commercial intercourse with the rest of the world
and, as munitions of war were regarded not only guns and powder, but
grain and all kinds of provisions. The Norwegian and Danish merchant
marines, which were then doing a great business as carriers, were
injured by this arbitrary interpretation. The government was, however,
not strong enough to bid defiance to England, and after the battle in
Copenhagen harbor (April 2, 1801) Denmark was forced to retire from the
"armed neutrality." The crown prince, Frederick, seemed, however, to
have a poor idea of the power of England, for his policy soon again
began to show symptoms of friendliness for the emperor of the French.
According to a secret agreement between Napoleon and Alexander of Russia
(1807) at the Peace of Tilsit, the former was to take possession of the
Danish fleet, and by means of it dispute England's dominion over the
sea. The English government soon got wind of this plan, and immediately
demanded the temporary surrender of the Danish fleet, guaranteeing its
return as soon as peace was reëstablished. When this demand was refused,
the English landed troops on Seeland and surrounded Copenhagen, while
from the sea side they bombarded the city for three days and a half
(1807). The Danes then had no choice but to surrender their fleet, but,
owing to their resistance, it was never returned. This second battle of
Copenhagen threw Denmark more completely into the arms of Napoleon, and
when the emperor's star declined and set, his ally was left helpless at
the mercy of his enemies.

Owing to the isolation of Denmark during the war and the difficulty of
maintaining communication, Norway was temporarily governed by a
commission, or council of regency, under the presidency of Prince
Christian August of Augustenborg.

[Illustration: PEASANTS DANCING.]

When Frederick VI. (1808-1814), at the death of his insane father,
mounted the throne, the condition of his two countries was deplorable.
His wrong-headed policy had placed him in a position which was wellnigh
desperate. The war with England had put an embargo upon all commerce,
and famine and misery were the result. Norway, which, without being
consulted, had been dragged into this maze of difficulties, suffered
from constant naval attacks, to which it was, by its long coast-line,
particularly exposed. The finances were in hopeless disorder. To add to
the confusion, a war broke out with Sweden, which, in time, had seen its
advantage in seeking an English alliance. General Armfelt once more
invaded the country, but Christian August did not lose his courage. The
Council of Regency unfolded a heroic activity in carrying out his
measures for the defence of the land, and divisions of Norwegian troops
beat the Swedes in three successive fights (Toverud, Trangen, and
Prestebakke). Simultaneously Sweden was attacked by Russia, which had
guaranteed to enforce the stipulations of the Peace of Tilsit, one of
which was the blockading of the Swedish ports against the English. But
the obstinate king, Gustavus IV., would not give his consent to this
measure, in consequence of which the Russians invaded Finland, and,
after several hotly contested engagements, drove the Swedes out. The
result of these disasters was the dethronement of the king and the
election of his brother, Charles XIII., as his successor. As the latter
was childless, he was induced to adopt the regent of Norway, Prince
Christian August, as his heir, and there was thus a chance of the
peaceful union of Norway and Sweden under an able and popular king. But,
unhappily, this beloved prince died very soon after, at a review of
troops in Skaane (1809). At the Peace of Frederickshamn, Sweden was
obliged to cede Finland to Russia, but by the Treaty of Paris was
guaranteed possession of Pomerania, on condition of its adhering to
Napoleon's so-called "continental system." This naturally involved war
with England, which was the one unconquered and irreconcilable enemy of
the emperor; but as long as Sweden refrained from actively aiding
Napoleon, England, which had its hands full elsewhere, assumed an
expectant attitude and exercised no hostilities. But this
semi-neutrality was far from satisfying Napoleon. Enraged by the
indecision of Charles XIII., he again occupied Pomerania, thereby giving
Sweden a pretext for openly siding with his enemies. Peace was concluded
with England at Oerebro (1812), and soon after Sweden joined the great
European alliance, which had for its object the overthrow of Napoleon.

This change of policy was, no doubt, to a large extent, due to Jean
Baptiste Bernadotte, Prince of Pontecorvo, who had risen from the ranks
in Napoleon's service, had become a field marshal, and after the death
of Christian August, had been made crown prince of Sweden (1812). At a
meeting with Alexander of Russia at Aabo, he was promised Norway, as a
reward for his adherence to the cause of the allies; and the same
promise was later repeated by England.

The condition of Norway, during this period, was aggravated by the
continued blockading of her ports by the English. In 1812 a famine broke
out, and the people were obliged to grind birch bark into flour and bake
it into bread. The depreciation of the Danish paper money swept away the
savings of thousands of families, and demoralized all commercial
relations. Everywhere the greatest discontent prevailed at the union
with Denmark, which had brought the country to such a strait. The tardy
grant of a charter for a Norwegian University (1811) which had before
been refused, caused a temporary enthusiasm, but did not allay the
discontent. The political sense which seemed to have been dormant for
centuries, began to awake again, and a feeling of independence and a
desire for national self-assertion found expression in the Society for
Norway's Welfare, (1810), in the liberal contributions to the
University, and in a sudden patriotic ferment, which pervaded the land.
The native official class came to the front as the leaders and exponents
of these political aspirations, and rendered important service by
formulating the people's desires and leading them toward rational aims.
To be disposed of, like chattels, by foreign powers, which had no
sympathy with Norway's traditions, nor interest in her welfare, was
revolting to their self-respect, and amid all the insecurity, which the
various moves upon the foreign diplomatic chess-board produced, a
stubborn determination to resist to the utmost asserted itself among the
thinking classes of the people.

As long, however, as Norway was a mere appendage of Denmark, it could
not escape being involved in the consequences of King Frederick's
policy. When, after Napoleon's disastrous campaign in Russia, the allies
demanded the surrender of Norway to Sweden, the king refused and sent
his cousin, Prince Christian Frederick, to govern the country as
viceroy. But Napoleon's defeat at Leipsic and Bernadotte's invasion of
Holstein, at the head of a large army, compelled him to come to terms.
At the Peace of Kiel, (January 14, 1814) he ceded Norway to Sweden, and
soon after released the Norsemen from their allegiance to him, giving up
all claim upon their country for himself and his descendants.





The indignation which the Peace of Kiel aroused in Norway was evidence
that the Norsemen had awakened from their long hibernating torpor and
meant to assert their rights. They were quite ready to give up their
allegiance to Frederick VI., but contended that he had no right to
dispose of it to any one else. Remembering how their country had without
its own consent, contrary to law and treaties, become a dependency of
Denmark, they held that the sovereignty, which Frederick renounced,
reverted to the people who were thus in position to bestow it upon whom
they chose. The viceroy, Christian Frederick, finding this sentiment
very general, refused to abide by the decision of the powers and
summoned several representative men to meet him at Eidsvold (1814). It
had been his first intention to claim the crown of Norway by hereditary
right and to govern as absolute monarch. But yielding to the advice of
Professor Sverdrup and other patriotic men, he declared himself ready to
accept the crown from the people and to govern in accordance with the
constitution which the people should adopt. In order to explore the
sentiment throughout the country, the prince had travelled in the
middle of winter across the Dovre Mountain to Drontheim, and there were
many who believed that it had been his intention to have himself crowned
at once in the ancient city of kings. In Guldbrandsdale he stopped to
read the inscription upon the monument, erected to commemorate the
destruction of Sinclair and his Scottish mercenaries:


"Woe to the Norseman whose blood does not course more warmly through his
veins when he looks upon this stone."

"Are you, too," he asked the peasants who had come to see him, "like
your forefathers, willing to sacrifice life and blood for your country?"

The result of the deliberations at Eidsvold was the summoning of a diet,
consisting of representatives of the people from all parts of the
country. The place of meeting was again Eidsvold, and the number of
representatives was 112, most of whom were officials. A constitution,
which was extremely liberal in its provisions, was adopted May 17, 1814,
and Prince Christian Frederick was elected king. Norway was declared to
be a free and independent country, but there was a division of opinion
as to whether it should seek a union with Sweden or maintain a king of
its own. The so-called party of independence, which was led by Judge
Falsen, Professor Sverdrup, and Captain Motzfeldt, largely outnumbered
the friends of Sweden, prominent among whom were Count Wedel-Jarlsberg,
Chamberlain Peder Anker, Iron-master Jacob Aal, and the Rev. Nicolai
Wergeland. The latter were not desirous of surrendering the liberty of
the country, believing, on the contrary, that liberty was securer in a
union with a stronger power. The smallness of Norway and the inability
of the people to maintain an army adequate for its defence would, in
their opinion, ultimately make the country the prey of any foreign power
that chose to pick a quarrel with it. The Norwegian constitution,
which, slightly amended, is yet in force, provides that:

1. Norway shall be a limited, hereditary, monarchy, independent and
indivisible, whose ruler shall be called king.

2. The people shall exercise the legislative power through their

3. The people shall alone have the right to levy taxes through their

4. The king shall have the right to declare war and to make peace.

5. The king shall have the right of pardon.

6. The judicial authority shall be separated from the executive and the
legislative power.

7. There shall be liberty of the press.

8. The evangelical Lutheran religion shall be the religion of the state
and of the king.

9. No personal or hereditary privileges shall, in future, be granted to
any one.

10. Every male citizen, irrespective of birth, station, or property,
shall be required, for a certain length of time, to carry arms in
defence of his country.

The representatives at Eidsvold were not unaware that the step which
they had taken involved war with Sweden. For Bernadotte would scarcely
regard the resolutions of a deliberative assembly as an obstacle to the
possession of the prize, which he had earned by assisting in the
overthrow of Napoleon. In the meanwhile, it was a happy circumstance to
the Norsemen, that this overthrow had not yet taken place, and that the
emperor for several months kept the army of the allies busy, thereby
preventing Bernadotte from turning his immediate attention to Norway. It
was a surprise to him to find the Norsemen determined to defend their
rights, as he imagined that their long dependence upon Denmark had
accustomed them to obedience and subordination. A letter which Charles
XIII. had sent them, previous to the diet at Eidsvold, offering them a
constitution and a Swedish viceroy, had been received with indignation,
but after the surrender of Paris (March 31st) and the abdication of the
emperor, the Napoleonic drama seemed preliminarily at an end, and there
were no more foreign complications to prevent the Swedes from enforcing
the paragraph in the treaty of Kiel, relating to Norway. The
intelligence now arrived that the great powers had promised Bernadotte
to compel Norway to accept the treaty, and envoys were sent from the
various courts, commanding the Norsemen forthwith to submit themselves
unconditionally to the king of Sweden. This the Norsemen refused to do,
and soon after a Swedish army under Bernadotte crossed the frontier. The
newly elected king now began to waver, and, being destitute of warlike
spirit, he ordered the surrender of the fortress Fredericksteen to the
Swedish fleet, without having fired a shot in its defence. The Norwegian
army, ill-provided though it was with food and ammunition, was eager for
fight, but the faint-spirited king showed his generalship chiefly in
retreating. A second division of the Swedish army under Gahn was beaten
in Lier by the Norwegians, under Colonel Krebs, and after a second
assault at Matrand was forced to retire across the frontier. It became
obvious that, without bloodshed, the conquest of the country was not to
be accomplished, and as the Swedes, after their German campaign, were no
less desirous of peace than the Norsemen, an armistice was concluded at
Moss (August 14, 1814), in accordance with the terms of which the king
should summon an extraordinary _Storthing_ or Parliament, for the
negotiation of a permanent peace. This _Storthing_, which met October
7th, accepted King Christian Frederick's renunciation of the Norwegian
crown and elected Charles XIII. king, on condition of his recognizing
the independence of Norway and governing it, in accordance with the
constitution given at Eidsvold. These terms Bernadotte accepted, in
behalf of the king of Sweden (November 4th), and swore allegiance to the
constitution. The Swedish troops then evacuated the country, and
Christian Frederick returned to Denmark, where, at the death of his
cousin, he became king under the name of Christian VIII. The following
year a convention was negotiated with Sweden, fixing the terms of the
union (_Rigsakten_). The Bank of Norway was established in Drontheim,
and a Supreme Court in Christiania.


To all appearances Norway had now regained her independence. Considering
the desperate position in which the country was placed in 1814,
resisting single-handed the decree of the powers, there can be no doubt
that the terms of the union were more favorable than there was reason to
expect. For all that, there was one feature of it which was incompatible
with the idea of independence, and that was the presence in the capital
of a Swedish viceroy (_Statholder_), representing the authority of the
king. Bernadotte, who, at the death of Charles XIII. (1818), succeeded
to the throne under the name of Charles XIV. John (1818-1844), scarcely
regarded, at first, the independence of Norway seriously, but rather
allowed the Norsemen to deceive themselves with an illusion of liberty,
as long as their illusion was harmless. But he showed plainly his
irritation when he found that the _Storthing_ began to oppose his
measures, and to insist upon a stricter interpretation of the
constitution. One of the first causes of contention was the question of
the payment by Norway of a part of the Danish public debt which Charles
John had guaranteed in the treaty of Kiel. The _Storthing_ was of
opinion that, as Norway had never accepted the treaty of Kiel, it could
not be bound by any of its stipulations. A compromise was finally
effected by which the king renounced his civil list from Norway for ten
years for himself and his son, the crown prince, and the _Storthing_ of
1821 agreed to pay about three million dollars. Simultaneously came the
struggle about the abolition of the nobility. Three successive
_Storthings_ passed a law, abolishing noble titles and privileges, and
the king, who feared a conflict with the powerful nobility of Sweden, in
case he sanctioned it, made repeated efforts to induce the _Storthing_
to abandon its position. He urged that Norway was watched by the powers
of Europe, and that the democratic spirit which manifested itself in its
legislative assembly would arouse suspicion and hostility abroad. The
_Storthing_, however, remained inflexible, and finally the law was
promulgated, though in a slightly modified form. Those of the privileges
of the nobility which were in conflict with the constitution were
forthwith abolished; their exemption from taxation and all personal
privileges should cease on the demise of the nobles then living, and
should not be inherited by their descendants. This postponed the final
abolition of nobility for one generation.

A number of other laws and proposals for laws, concerning which the
king and the _Storthing_ differed, caused ill-feeling and excitement
during the reign of Charles John. And it is indeed marvellous,
considering the comparative inexperience of the representatives in
political life, that they dared present so bold a front and insist so
strenuously upon their rights. To these intrepid men Norway owes the
position she occupies to-day. For, if they had been meek and
conciliatory, accepting gratefully what the king was pleased to grant
them, their country would inevitably have sunk into a provincial
relation to Sweden, as it had formerly to Denmark. The manly ring and
fearless self-assertion, which resound through the debates of those
early _Storthings_, show that the ancient strength was still surviving,
and could, indeed, never have been dead. No inert and degraded nation
can draw such representatives from its midst; and the fact that Norway
has continued to draw them, up to the present time, shows that she is
truly represented by manliness and fearless vigor--that she is worthy of
the liberty she gained.

The attitude which the Norwegian _Storthings_ assumed toward the king is
illustrated by the determination with which they resisted his efforts to
extend the royal authority. Though he had been trained in the school of
the French Revolution, Charles John was no believer in democracy or "the
rights of man." He was an able ruler, a skilful diplomat, and a man of
honorable intentions. But he had been too little in Norway to comprehend
the spirit of the Norwegian people; and he was forced, in order to
maintain his position among his brother monarchs, to sympathize with
the reactionary tendencies which asserted themselves throughout Europe
after the overthrow of Napoleon. In 1821 he proposed ten amendments to
the constitution, which were unanimously rejected by the _Storthing_ of
1824. Among these amendments was one giving the king an absolute instead
of, as formerly, a suspensive veto; another, conferring upon him the
right to appoint the presiding officer of the _Storthing_, and a third,
authorizing him to dissolve the _Storthing_ at pleasure. The former
minister of state, Christian Krogh, gained great popularity by
recommending the rejection of these propositions, and the king's
persistence in bringing them up before several successive _Storthings_
did not secure them a more favorable reception.


An eminent figure in the political struggles of those days was the poet
Henrik Wergeland, who, as the leader of the students, persisted in
celebrating the anniversary of the constitution (May 17th) contrary to
the king's command, instead of the anniversary of the union with Sweden
(November 4th). The king exaggerated the importance of this
demonstration and in 1829 called out troops, which dispersed, by force
of arms, the multitude celebrating the national holiday. Wergeland,
though he personally professed reverence for the king, did not evince
the same reverence for his policy, and by his indefatigable activity in
prose and verse nourished the defiant and aggressive patriotism of his
countrymen. In an intoxication of patriotic pride he sang the praise of
liberty and celebrated the beauties of forest, mountain, and fjord; and
a chorus of minor poets declaimed about Norway's Lion, and the rocks of
Norway which "defied the tooth of time." There was a good deal that was
boyish and irrational in this enthusiasm; but it was wholesome and
genuine and politically useful.

That Charles John did not only hold up the powers as a scarecrow, with
which to frighten the Norsemen, but was himself restrained in his policy
by a regard for their opinion, is obvious enough. The political ferment
which, after the July Revolution (1830) in France, spread throughout
Europe and also reached Norway, caused him much apprehension, and in
order to intimidate the steadily progressing democracy, he suddenly
dissolved the _Storthing_ of 1836. The _Storthing_, regarding this
dissolution as contrary to law, indicted the Minister of State,
Löwenskjold, before the high court of the realm (_Rigsret_), and
sentenced him to pay a fine for not having dissuaded the king from
violating the constitution. This boldness, instead of impelling the king
to further measures of repression, induced him to make a concession. He
conciliated the Norsemen by appointing their countryman, Count
Wedel-Jarlsberg, as viceroy. This was a great step toward real
independence and made the king justly popular. During the last years of
his life, after he had given up the hope of stemming the tide of
democracy, Charles John won the hearts of the Norsemen and he was
sincerely mourned at his death (1844).

The remnants of subordination in Norway's relation to Sweden were one by
one removed during the reign of Charles John's son, Oscar I.
(1844-1859). He gave to Norway a flag of her own, carrying, as a symbol
of the union, the blended colors of both countries in the upper corner;
and what was more, he practically abolished the viceroyalty, though
permanently it was not abolished until 1873. Peace and prosperity
reigned in the land; the population increased rapidly, and all
industries were in a flourishing condition. It had, hitherto, been
chiefly the official and the mercantile class which had participated in
the public life, but now the peasants, too, began to assert themselves
and to send representatives from their own midst to the _Storthing_. The
political awakening penetrated to all strata of society; and many sturdy
figures appeared in the halls of the legislative assembly, fresh from
the plough and the harrow. Eminent among these were Ole Gabriel Ueland
and Sören Jaaboek. A prudent moderation, coupled with a tough tenacity of
purpose, is characteristic of these modern peasant chieftains. Good
common-sense, incorruptibility, and a stern regard for the useful have
enabled them to render valuable service to the nation. Eloquent they are
not; nor are they, in the conventional sense, cultivated. But they have
usually, by experience, accumulated a considerable store of facts, which
in its application to the legislative business is more valuable than
loosely acquired book-learning. Their struggles with a rough climate and
a poor soil have made them economical; and they naturally apply their
parsimonious habits to the business of state. Being the principal
tax-payers of the country they have the right to influence its fiscal
policy; and Norway has profited by their careful husbanding of her
resources. They know, however, when to spend as well as when to save;
and the many costly railroads, highways, schools, and other
improvements, which have come into existence since the peasant party
commanded a majority in the _Storthing_, give evidence of a prudent
liberality and a well-balanced regard for the public weal, which one
might scarcely have expected in people, whose chief experience is
derived from the tilling of the soil. The majority of them, however,
bring with them some practice in public life from home, as since the
establishment of parish and municipal councils (_Formandskaber_),
(1837), the management of local affairs is almost entirely in the hands
of local tax-payers.

[Illustration: BRIDE AND GROOM.]

The first Sleswick-Holstein war, between Germany and Denmark, occurred
during King Oscar's reign (1848), and induced him to make a military
demonstration in Skaane; and during the following year, when the war,
after an armistice, broke out anew, to occupy North Sleswick with
Swedish and Norwegian troops, pending the negotiations for peace. In the
Crimean War, King Oscar sided with England and France, which, by a
treaty of 1855, guaranteed their aid, in case of hostilities with

King Oscar died at the age of sixty (1859), and was succeeded by his
oldest son, Charles XV. (1859-1872). He was a chivalrous character, and
endowed with literary and artistic talents. The same good-will toward
Norway which animated his father had been inherited by him, and all
efforts, on the part of the _Storthing_, to further the welfare of the
land, were readily seconded. The Norwegian merchant marine, which is one
of the largest in the world, carried the flag of Norway to the remotest
ports; the lumber trade increased, and the wealth obtainable in
manufactures and commerce stimulated the energy of Norse merchants, and
quickened everywhere the pulses of life. Religious liberty was increased
by the law concerning dissenters (1845), although there is, in this
respect, yet much to be accomplished. In 1851, the paragraph of the
constitution excluding Jews from the country was repealed, owing
largely to the agitation commenced, some years before, by the poet
Wergeland. The telegraph was introduced, and soon extended from the
North Cape to Lindesness. In 1869, a law was passed, making the
_Storthings_ annual, instead of, as hitherto, triennial.

Charles XV. died in the prime of life, and, having no sons, was
succeeded (1872) by his brother, Oscar II., who is still reigning. The
progress toward a more complete and consistent democracy, which had been
going on, since the adoption of the constitution, has recently reached a
crisis, which might have had disastrous consequences, if the king had
not wisely made concessions to the parliamentary majority. There were
really two points at issue, viz., the absolute veto in constitutional
questions and the control of the government. As regards the former, the
king held that the Norwegian constitution was a contract between him and
the Norwegian people, prescribing the terms of the union. Accordingly,
it could not be altered without the consent of both parties. He had,
therefore, the right to insist upon the terms of the contract, and to
forbid any alteration of it, that did not meet with his approval. There
can be no doubt but that legally this point was well taken; and the
faculty of law in the University sustained the king's position. Another
question is, whether such a contract, if eternally enforced, would not
cripple the nation's progress, and in time become as great a curse, as
once it had been a blessing. If the framers of the constitution, when
they submitted it to Charles John, failed to provide for its amendment,
they committed a serious error, which may, perhaps, be binding upon
their descendants, in point of law, but scarcely in point of equity. No
constitution, however excellent, is fitting for all times; and the
constitution of Eidsvold is no exception to the rule.

This struggle over the absolute veto was occasioned by the king's
refusal to sanction a law, passed by three successive _Storthings_,
admitting the cabinet ministers to participation in the debates of the
house, so as to establish a closer _rapport_ between the people and the
government. This seemed especially desirable, as long as the king and a
division of the cabinet were resident in Stockholm, and, accordingly,
were in danger of losing sight of the needs of the people whom they were
governing. The king declared himself ready to sign this law, if the
ministers were given the right to vote, and the right was granted him to
dissolve the _Storthing_ at will. It seemed to him a disturbance of the
balance of power to introduce one feature of English parliamentarism,
giving an advantage to the legislature, without also granting the other,
which enabled the executive to exert a restraining influence. The
_Storthing_ was, however, unwilling to grant this right, being of
opinion that there was no need of governmental restraint, where
elections were triennial. The ministry, Selmer, which maintained the
attitude here ascribed to the king, was impeached by the _Storthing_
before the high court of the realm, for having refused to promulgate the
law concerning the participation of the ministers in the deliberations
of the house, and for failing, in other points, to carry out the will of
the _Storthing_.

[Illustration: OSCAR II.]

The other phase of the question was scarcely less important. A certain
antagonism had early developed itself between the official class, which
had been accustomed to take the lead in public affairs, and the
peasantry, which became every year more conscious of its power. The
king, who is naturally conservative, chose his advisers from those,
whose political views accorded with his own, irrespective of
parliamentary majorities. The constitution did not limit his liberty of
choice, and the _Storthing_ could scarcely do it, without passing an
amendment, which he would be sure to veto. The conservative ministry,
Stang, conducted the government for many years with a hostile majority
in the _Storthing_, and the ministry, Selmer, which succeeded it (1880),
had even less popular support. The result was a deadlock; legislative
business threatened to come to a standstill. The impeachment and
conviction of Mr. Selmer and his colleagues brought a fresh ministry of
officials into power, which, after a few months, resigned. The king then
sent for Mr. Sverdrup, the leader of the "left," or liberal party, and
effected a compromise, in accordance with which he agreed to sanction
the law in question, and to summon a ministry, representing the party of
the majority, without, however, surrendering, in principle, his right to
an absolute veto in constitutional questions. Since then the executive
and the legislative power have worked together in harmony, and the
former good relation between the king and the people has been in a
measure re-established.

It will be seen from the above, that Norway has, through the conflicts
of seventy years, gradually attained to perfect independence and
equality with the brother kingdom. All attempts to amalgamate the two
nations have failed, and have, long since, been abandoned. Politically,
the person of the king expresses the union. He is king of Norway and he
is king of Sweden, but he governs each country in accordance with its
own laws and through distinct and separate ministries. Each country has
its own parliament; no Swede holds office in Norway, and no Norseman in
Sweden. The only offices which are open to citizens of both countries
are those of the diplomatic and consular service. The general sentiment
in Norway is opposed to a closer union. A stubborn insistence upon every
feature of national distinctness has characterized the people, since the
separation from Denmark.

Thus an effort has been made to get rid of the "union mark" in the
Norwegian flag; because it seemed vaguely to hint at a provincial
relation. A separate literature has sprung up in the Norse dialects
(_Maalsträv_), because the Danish, which is yet spoken, with some
modifications, by the cultivated classes, is a reminder of the period of
degradation, and is not the language of the people. Popular high
schools, aiming to build the intellectual life of the people upon a
strictly national basis, have been started by devoted and patriotic men,
in nearly all the provincial parishes, and have produced excellent
results. The national literature, under the lead of men like
Björnstjerne Björnson, and Henrik Ibsen, is moving in the same
direction, its language being continually enriched from the dialects,
and its themes largely drawn from the ancient sagas and the life of the
people. The aggressive and declamatory patriotism of Wergeland, and the
æsthetic and more cosmopolitan patriotism of his opponent, Welhaven,
seem equally alien to the Norsemen of to-day. The frank national
self-assertion of the present poets is that of a people, proud of its
past, and secure in its national existence. The Norseman, having
obtained what is his due, has cause for jealousy neither of Sweden nor
of Denmark.

In an age when strength, bravery, and an adventurous spirit made a
nation eminent, Norway played a great rôle upon the arena of the world,
founding and destroying kingdoms, mingling her vigorous blood with that
of other nations, and infusing her love of liberty, restrained by law,
into their souls. Since powder and modern strategy have subordinated
heroism to discipline and numbers, Norway must resign herself to the
fate which her numerical weakness imposes upon her. A people of scarcely
two millions can cut no very great figure in the world, as it is now
constituted. It must either rest upon its laurels or win new ones in
other fields. As the militant organization of society, with its needless
bloodshed and oppression, slowly yields to the industrial, history will
find another gauge of merit than that of Krupp guns and heavy
battalions. Then, perhaps, there will again be a chance for small
nations to assert themselves.


Norway has made a beginning in this direction by her contributions,
during recent years, to science and literature. The astronomer
Hansteen (d. 1873), the mathematicians Abel and Sophus Lie, the
zoölogist Sars, the historians Munch, Keyser, Sars, and Storm, and the
philologist Ivar Aason, have gained recognition, beyond the boundaries
of their own country. The painters Tidemand (d. 1876) and Gude have
interpreted in colors the poetry of Norse popular life and scenery. The
musicians Ole Bull (d. 1880), Nordraak, and Grieg have made the
melancholy strains of their native mountains resound through the
concert-halls of Paris and London, and the poets Björnson, Ibsen, Jonas
Lie, and Alexander Kielland have made Norway known to the world and the
world known to Norway. They have broken down the wall which so long
hedged in their country, and excluded it from the intellectual life of





Aabo, 514

Aachen, 31, 32

Aake, the Yeoman, 58

Aal, Jacob, 518

Aale Hallvardsson, 373

Aaluf, 111

Aamunde Gyrdsson, 312

Aaros, 237

Aasa, 32

Aasa, Haakon Grjotgardsson's daughter, 60

Aasbjörn Sigurdsson, 211, 212

Aasbjörn of Medalhus, 92

Aasen, Ivar, 538

Aasgerd, wife of Egil Baldgrim's son, 78, 79

Aasta, mother of Olaf the Saint,182, 186, 187, 188, 199, 200,240

Aastrid, queen of Olaf the Saint,197

Aastrid, Olaf Tryggvesson's mother, 108, 109, 134, 135

Aastrid, Olaf Tryggvesson's sister,148

Aastrid, daughter of Thirik, 153

Aastrid, wife of Earl Sigvalde,163, 171

Aasulf of Austraat, 426

Abel, mathematician, 538

Absalon, Bishop, 330, 359, 379

Adalbert of Bremen, 272

Adeler, Kort, 500

Aeger, 23

Aelgifa, see Alfifa

Aesir, 13, 14

Africa, 32, 298

Agdeness, 294, 300

Agder, 32, 47, 147, 173, 324

Agmund Skoftesson, 288

Agnes, Queen of Denmark, 456

Agnes, daughter of Haakon Longlegs, 478

Agvaldsness, 95, 211

Aker, 416, 492

Akershus, 459, 481, 486, 503

Akron, 293

Albrecht of Mecklenburg, 463, 464, 467, 468, 469

Alexander Newsky, 430

Alexander IV., Pope, 430

Alexander I., Emperor of Russia,510, 514

Alexander III., King of Scotland,430, 442, 453

Alexius I., Comnenus, 293

Alexius III., Angelus, 360

Alf Askman, 100

Alf Erlingsson, 453-456

Alf Guldbrandsson, 207

Alfheim, 21

Alfhild, mother of Magnus the Good, 230

Alfifa, 225-229

Alfonso the Wise, 430

Alfvine, 137, 138

Allogia, see Olga

Almannagjaa, 439

Alsted, 248

_Althing_, 159, 436

Amboise, 34

America, 31, 179

Amsterdam, 474

Amund Sigurdsson Bolt, 473

Andres Skjaldarband, 399, 423

Andvake, 372

Anglesey, 288

Anglo-Saxon, 41, 138, 147

Anker, Peder, 518

Anna Kolbjörnsdatter, 503

Ansgarius, St., 32

Anund, 145

Anund Jacob, King of Sweden, 198, 213, 214, 217, 218

Apostles, Church of the, 294

Arctic Circle, 494

Arinbjörn Thoresson, 78, 82, 85

Armfelt, General, 504, 512

Arnbjörn Jonsson, 413, 424

Arnmodlings, 255

Aryans, 1, 2, 3, 5

Asaheim, 13

Asgard, 13, 18, 19, 20, 23

Asgeir, 36

Asia, 1, 13, 240

Ask, 18

Askatin, 442

Aslak Erlingsson, 179

Aslak Rock-Skull, 124

Astrid, Sverre's first wife, 380

Audhumbla, 16

Audun Hugleiksson, 451, 457

Aun the Old, 45

Aura-Paul, 364

Austrian, 498


Baard, steward of Erik Blood-Axe, 78, 79

Bagler, 360-401, 407, 413

Balder, 21, 22

Bald Grim, 57, 62, 63, 77, 78, 79

Baldwin, 293

Baltic, the, 94, 237, 277, 312, 463

Bank of Norway, 522

Beauvois, 36

Belts, the, 356

Bene Skindkniv, 401

Bengt Algotsson, 463

Beorthric, 41

Berg-Anund, 79, 80

Bergen, 280, 294, 307, 309, 316, 323, 324, 327, 328, 345, 346,347, 348,
349, 354, 356, 359,362, 365, 366, 375, 376, 388, 390, 392, 398, 410,
413, 417, 420, 422, 424, 428, 429,457,462, 465, 473, 478, 480, 488,492,
494, 506

Bergljot, 119, 178, 261, 264

Bergthor's Knoll, 158

Bernadotte, Jean Baptiste, 513, 515, 519-528, 531

Bernsdorff, Andreas, 509

Bertrand of Tripolis, 293

Bevje-Aa, 320

Biadmuin, 289

Bifrost, 17

Birchlegs, 333-407, 414, 425, 426, 427

Birger, Earl of Götland, 333, 336, 337

Birger Magnusson, King of Sweden, 456, 458, 459, 461

Bjarkemaal, 221

Bjarkö, 211, 212, 451, 462

Bjarne Erlingsson, 451, 452

Bjarne Herjulfsson, 179

Bjelke, General, 498

Björgvin, see Bergen

Björn, King of Sweden, 196

Björn Egilsson, 311

Björn Ironside, 34

Björn, a peasant, 109

Björn the Merchant, 71, 182

Björn Stallare, 194, 195, 197, 218

Björnson, Björnstjerne, 535, 537, 538

Björn, the yeoman, 77, 78, 79

Black Death, the, 465, 466

Blanca of Namur, 462, 463

Blekinge, 463, 498

Bör, 16

Bogesund, 483

Bohemia, 1

Borg, see Sarpsborg

Borgar-_thing_, 253, 361, 445

Borghild, daughter of Olaf of Dal, 297

Bornhöved, 417

Bornholm, 498

Brage, 22, 45, 120

Bratsberg, 155, 317

Breidablik, 21

Bremangerland, 339

Bremen, 147, 272

Brenn Islands, 231

Brigida, Harold Gille's daughter, 333

Brising, 23

Bristein, 354

Brömsebro, 496

Brunkeberg, 480

Brynjulf, 129

Bue the Big, 122-126

Bugge, Prof. Sophus, 153

Bull, Ole, 538

Bure, 16

Buris Henriksson, 330

Burislav, 136, 142, 154, 162

Buste, 110

Bute, 431

Byzantine, 360


Candor, Lay of, 234

Canterbury, 147

Cantire, 431

Cape Cod, 180, 181

Capercailzie, the, 505

Carolingians, 36

Carrara, 34

Catholic, 487, 489

Cecilia, second queen of Sigurd the Crusader, 304

Cecilia, daughter of Sigurd Mouth, 332, 336, 382

Celestin IV., Pope, 427

Charlemagne, 31, 32, 33, 230

Charles the Bald, 36

Charles the Simple, 64, 65

Charles Knutsson Peasant, 473, 478, 479, 480

Charles Sunesson, 312

Charles V., Emperor of Germany, 483

Charles IX., King of Sweden, 495

Charles X. Gustavus, 498

Charles XII., King of Sweden, 501, 502, 503

Charles XIII., 513, 520, 522

Charles XIV. John, see Bernadotte

Charles XV., King of Norway and Sweden, 530, 531

Christ-Church, 284, 428

Christian I., 478-481

Christian II., 481-487

Christian III., 487-492

Christian IV., 494-496

Christian V., 500, 501

Christian VI., 506

Christian VII., 508

Christian VIII., see Christian Frederick

Christian August, of Augustenborg, 512, 513

Christian Frederick, 515-522

Christiania, 256, 494, 503, 508, 522

Christiania Fjord, 46

Christiansand, 494

Christina, wife of Erling Skakke, 318, 322, 332

Christina, Sverre's daughter, 380, 381, 383, 384, 393

Christina, wife of Haakon Galen, 382, 384, 387, 395, 398, 410, 412

Christina, daughter of Haakon the Old, 430

Christopher I., King of Denmark, 430, 453

Christopher of Bavaria, 473, 474, 478

Christopher, Count of Oldenborg, 487

Churl's Head, the, 190, 191

Clement, St., 193, 227

Clyde, Firth of, 431

Constantinople, 240, 264, 293, 302, 376

Conqueror, see William the

Copenhagen, 219, 455, 459, 462,477, 498, 499, 506, 509, 510

Count's Feud, the, 487, 490

Cowlmen, see Kuvlungs

Crane, the, 157, 164, 165

Crimean War, the, 530

Crookmen, see Baglers

Curia, the Roman, 422, 452

Cuthbert, St., 42


Dagfinn Peasant, 375, 404, 405

Dalarne, 472

Dale-Guldbrand, 207, 208, 210

Dalsland, 288

Dannebrog, the, 502

Dannevirke, 116

Dav, 332

Delling, 17

Dingeness, 113

Ditmarsken, 481

Djursaa, 258, 330

Domesday Book, 63

Donald Bane, 285

Donmouth, 42

Dorchester, 41

Dorestad, 36

Dovre Mountain, 286, 294, 300, 517

Drontheim, 54, 91, 92, 118, 121, 140, 148, 189, 219, 220, 403, 465, 478,
479, 492, 498, 504, 508, 517, 522

Drontheim Fjord, 54, 71, 107, 140, 362

Dublin, 38, 40, 139, 238

Dumbarton, 40

Durham, see Simeon of

Dutch, 474, 485, 495, 498, 500

Dynekilen, 503, 504


Eadburg, 41

Eadgar the Etheling, 285

Eadwine, Earl, 268

Ecgfridh, 42

Edda, the Younger, 434

Edward the Confessor, 236

Edward I., 453

Egil Aaslaksson, 287

Egil, Bald Grim's son, 62, 77-84

Egil Woolsark, 96, 97

Eidsivia Law, the, 47, 210, 445

Eidskog, 337

Eidsvold, 70, 210, 414, 516, 518, 519, 520, 522, 532

Einar Thambarskelver, 162, 169, 170, 178, 179, 189, 190, 191, 192, 217,
227, 228, 229, 231, 232, 233, 236, 237, 238, 239, 243, 244, 246, 247,
249, 252, 254, 260, 261-265

Einar the Priest, 375

Eindride Einarsson, 238, 239, 264

Eindride the Young, 327, 328

Elgeseter, 426

Elivagar, 16

Ellisif, queen of Harold Hard-Ruler, 242, 235, 260, 272, 274

Elsinore, 455

Embla, 18

Engelbrekt Engelbrektsson, 472, 473

England, 1, 12, 28, 31, 40, 41, 42, 43, 72, 79, 80, 81, 84, 88, 90, 91,
128, 137, 138, 139, 142, 147, 177, 179, 183, 184, 185, 207, 212, 213,
217, 228, 236, 268, 273, 276, 277, 278, 283, 287, 292, 347, 375, 443,
446, 447, 453, 454, 465, 509, 510, 512, 513, 514, 530

Enköping, 464

Erik, Archbishop, 358, 379, 387

Erik Blood-Axe, 68, 70-86, 88, 94, 95, 99, 102, 160, 182

Erik Eiegod, 288

Erik Eimundsson, 57, 58, 196

Erik Emune, 312

Erik Eriksson Lisp, King of Sweden, 412

Erik Glipping, 453, 454

Erik Gudrödsson, 32

Erik Haakonsson, Earl, 119, 121-127, 163-181, 184, 215, 254

Erik, King of Hördaland, 52

Erik Kingsson, Earl, 351

Erik Magnusson, Duke, 458, 459, 461

Erik Magnusson, son of Magnus Smek, 462, 463

Erik Menved, 455

Erik of Ofrestad, 108

Erik Plowpenny, 453

Erik of Pomerania, 467-474

Erik Priest-Hater, 451-456, 459

Erik the Red, Archbishop, 179, 181

Erik the Saint, 380

Erik the Victorious, King of Sweden, 152, 196

Erik the Younger, King of South Jutland, 68

Erlend of Husaby, 391

Erlend Haakonsson, 129, 130

Erling Eriksson, 106

Erling Haakonsson, 121, 123, 128

Erling Skakke, Earl, 318, 319,322-343, 350, 355, 357, 360

Erling Skjalgsson of Sole, 148, 162, 164, 174, 176, 178, 179, 190, 192,
210, 211, 212, 216, 217, 318

Erling Stonewall, 385, 386, 387, 390

Erling Vidkunsson, 462

Erne, Loch, 38

Ernst, Herzog, 242

Eskil Lawman, 412

Essex, 138

Esthonia, 135, 196

Estrid, daughter of Sweyn Forkbeard, 236

Ethelred II., 138, 139, 183

Ethelstan, 72, 73, 79, 80, 85, 150

Eugene III., Pope, 320

Euphemia of Arnstein, 457, 459

Europe, 465, 483, 523, 526, 527, 538

Eystein, Earl of Hedemark and Vestfold, 76

Eystein Erlendsson, 327, 347, 354, 357, 358

Eystein Haroldsson, 314-317

Eystein Magnusson, 291-301, 317, 329

Eystein Meyla, 333, 334, 336

Eystein Orre, 255, 270

Eyvind Kinriva, 154, 156, 157

Eyvind Lambe, 57, 59

Eyvind Scald-Spoiler, 98, 99, 100, 105, 154

Eyvind Skreyja, 79, 100


Faeroe Isles, 40, 43, 158, 159, 320, 333, 334, 336, 380

Falköping, 468

Fall River, 180

Falsen, Judge, 518

Falsterbro, 466

Fenris-Wolf, 21, 23

Fensal, 22

Finland, 196, 512, 513

Finmark, 74, 173, 495, 506

Finn Arnesson, 255, 265, 266, 267

Finn Eyvindsson, 170

Finns, 3, 50, 61, 67, 74, 278, 295

Fitje, 98

Fjölne, 45

Flanders, 28

Flensborg, 472

Florsvaag, 356

Folden, 46, 190, 256, 320, 425

Folkvang, 23

Folkvid the Lawman, 332, 336, 382

Fontenelle, 36

Formentera, 292

Fors, 317

Forsete, 22

Fraedöe, 96

France, 1, 36, 43, 64, 137, 277, 430, 509, 527, 530

Fredensborg, 504

Frederick, Count Palatine, 487, 488

Frederick I., 485, 486

Frederick II., Emperor of Germany, 418, 430

Frederick II., King of Denmark and Norway, 492

Frederick III., 496-500

Frederick IV., 501, 502, 506

Frederick V., 508

Frederick VI., 509-516

Frederickshald, 500, 503

Frederickshamn, 513

Frederickstad, 492

Fredericksteen, 503, 504, 520

Freke, 20

Frey, 21, 45, 144, 150, 207

Freya, 22, 23

Freydis, 181

Fridkulla, 288

Frigg, 22

Frisian, 205

Frosta-_thing_, 88, 91, 92, 149, 359, 445

Frosten, 150, 189

Fulford, 268

Funen, 245, 455, 498

Fuxerne, 288

Fyrileiv, 307


Gahn, Colonel, 520

Gall, St., 32

Gallia Narbonensis, 32

Gamle Eriksson, 94, 97

Gardarike, see Russia

Gauldale, 129, 341

Gaule, 79

Gaul River, see Gula Elv

_Gauter_, see Goths

Gautland, 118, 152

Geira, 136, 162

Georgios Maniakes, 240, 242

Gerd, 21

Gere, 20

German, 3, 25, 31, 44, 430, 464, 468, 471, 480, 483, 488, 492, 494, 495,
496, 501, 506, 508, 521

Germany, 115, 277, 430, 457, 465, 496, 530

Ginnungagap, 16

Giske, 451, 462, 481

Gisla, wife of Duke Rollo, 65

Gissur the White, 127

Gissur the White, 158

Gissur Thorvaldsson, Earl, 440, 444

Gjallar Bridge, 21

Gjallar Horn, 21, 22

Gjeble Pedersson, Bishop, 490

Glommen, 194

Godfrey the Hunter, see Gudröd

Gold-Harold, 112, 113

Goldlegs, 356

Gorm the Old, 53, 86, 214

Götha Elv., 231, 257, 259, 260

Götland, 333

Gottland, 463, 473, 496

Goths, 3

Gran, 153

Great Northern War, the, 502

Greece, 137, 138

Greeks, 3, 44, 240, 293

Greenland, 158, 179, 180, 181, 320, 430

Gregorius Dagsson, 316, 317-320

Gregory IX., Pope, 421, 427

Grib, Peter, 504

Grieg, J., 538

Griffenfeld, 501

Grim, see Bald Grim

Grim Keikan, 423

Grimkel, Bishop, 207, 227

Grjotgard Haakonsson, 106

Gude, J., 538

Gudleik Gerdske, 278

Gudny Bödvar's daughter, 434

Gudolf of Blakkestad, 407

Gudrid, wife of Thorfinn Karlsevne, 181

Gudröd Björnsson, 88, 102, 105, 107

Gudröd Eriksson, 104, 107, 113, 160

Gudröd Haroldsson, 60

Gudröd the Hunter, 31, 32, 46

Gudröd, King of Hadeland, 199

Gudröd, King of the Hebrides, 320

Gudröd Ljome, 68, 69

Gudröd Meranagh, 286

Gudrun, daughter of Ironbeard, 152

Gudrun Lundarsol, 129

Gula Elv, 120, 465

Gula-_thing_, 79, 89, 210, 445

Guldberg, Ove, 508

Guldbrandsdale, 207, 208, 210, 245, 495, 517

Gungner, 20

Gunhild, Queen of Erik Blood-Axe, 74-86, 94, 95, 99, 100, 101, 102,
104-114, 130, 134

Gunhild, mother of Sverre, 334

Gunnar of Gimse, 311

Gunnar Grjonbak, 352

Gunvor, 153

Gustavus Adolphus, 495, 496

Gustavus IV., 512

Gustavus Trolle, 483

Gustavus Wasa, 484, 487

Guttorm, Archbishop, 400, 410, 411

Guttorm Eriksson, 94, 95

Guttorm Haroldsson, 60

Guttorm Ingesson, 395

Guttorm, son of Sigurd Hjort, 47, 48, 52, 53, 62

Guttorm Sigurdsson, 385, 387

Guttorm Sigurdsson, 199, 200

Guttorm Sindre, 71

Gyda, wife of Harold the Fairhaired, 52, 53, 59, 60

Gyda, wife of Olaf Tryggvesson, 137, 142, 228

Gyldenstjerne, Knut, 486


_Haakonarmaal_, 101

Haakon Eriksson, Earl, 178, 179,184-186, 215-218

Haakon Galen, 377, 382-398, 402, 410, 412, 414

Haakon Grjotgardsson, 56, 60

Haakon, Gunhild's emissary, 109

Haakon Haakonsson the Old, 391-433, 437-444

Haakon Ivarsson, 259, 264-268

Haakon Jonsson, Lord High Steward, 467

Haakon Longlegs, 451, 456, 457-461

Haakon Magnusson, son of King Magnus Haroldsson, 274, 285, 286

Haakon Magnusson, son of King Magnus Smek, 461-466

Haakon Paulsson, 287

Haakon Sigurdsson, Earl, 106, 107, 110-134, 139, 163, 166, 173, 254, 261

Haakon Sverresson, King of Norway, 370, 377, 379-385, 391, 404

Haakon the Broad-Shouldered, 316, 319, 320, 322-326

Haakon the Good, 72, 73, 80, 87-101, 105, 106, 150, 160, 294, 446

Haakon the Old, a Swedish Peasant, 110, 134

Haalogaland, 56, 60, 148, 154, 155, 158, 211, 366

Haarek Gand, 48

Haarek Haroldsson, 60

Haarek of Thjotta, 148, 154-156, 158, 233

Haavard the Hewer, 124, 127

Hadeland, 50, 51, 153, 199, 203

Hadrian IV., Pope, see Nicholas Breakspeare

Hadulaik, 121

Hafrs-Fjord, 59, 60, 63

Hagustald, 121

Hake, a Berserk, 47, 48

Haldor Brynjulfsson, 320

Halfdan Haalegg (Longlegs) 68, 69

Halfdan Sigurdsson, 199, 200

Halfdan the Swarthy, Gudrödsson, 32, 46-52, 318, 432

Halfdan the Swarthy, Haroldsson, 60, 71, 72, 76

Halfdan the White, 60

Halfdan Whiteleg, 46

Halland, 214, 266, 267, 273, 307, 418, 453, 454, 460, 462, 463, 498

Hallkel Agmundsson, 451, 452, 456

Hallkel Jonsson, 355, 356

Hall of the Side, 158

Hallvard Vebjörnsson, St., 256, 322

Hals, 258

Hamar, 321, 420, 421, 492

Hamburg, 32

Hampshire, 138

Hannibal's Feud, 496

Hans, King of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, 481, 482

Hans, son of Frederick I., 487

Hans Kolbjörnsson, 503

Hansa, see Hanseatic League

Hanseatic League, 453, 454, 455, 460, 464, 474, 480, 485, 490, 509

Hansteen, astronomer, 538

Hardeland, 41

Harold, Earl of the Orkneys, 355

Harold, grandson of Sigurd the Crusader, 332

Harold Bluetooth, 86, 94, 95, 110-120, 138, 161, 410

Harold Gille, 303-311, 313, 314, 320, 322, 333, 337, 346, 382, 386

Harold Godwineson, 268, 269, 272

Harold Greyfell, 94, 100, 102-114

Harold Grönske, 152, 182

Harold Hard-Ruler, 199, 200, 201, 221, 240-274, 278, 283, 286, 308

Harold Ingesson, 349

Harold the Fairhaired, 31, 49, 50-74, 87, 88, 99, 105, 130, 134, 139,
140, 152, 155, 174, 176, 177, 182, 183, 187, 188, 198, 201, 226, 231,
245, 251, 252, 256, 275, 276, 318, 350, 378, 433, 460

Harthaknut, 229, 231, 234, 236

Hasting, 34, 35, 36

Hastings, 272

Haug, 232

Hauk, 155

Haukby, 284

Hebrides, 40, 43, 63, 288, 311, 312, 394, 480

Hedemark, 48, 51, 76, 203, 210

Heidaby, 257

Heimdal, 22

Heimskringla, 13, 45, 433, 440

Hekla, 465

Heklungs, 345-348

Hel, 23, 24

Helge Hvasse, 396, 397

Helge-aa, 215

Helgeness, 237

Helgeö, 413, 421

Helheim, 24

Hellenes, 1

Helluland, 180

Heming Haakonsson, 119

Henrik of Schwerin, 410

Henry I., King of England, 292

Hercules, Pillars of, 34

Heredhaland, 41

Herjedale, 496

Herlaug, King in Naumdale, 54

Herluf Hyttefad, 482

Hettesveiner, see Hood-Swains

Himinbjarg, 22

Hindoos, 2, 3

Hinsgavl, 455

_Hirdskraa_, 445

Hitterdale Church, 299

Hjalte Skeggesson, 194

Hjörungavaag, 121, 122

Hlade, 127, 132, 148, 149, 152, 189

Hnos, 23

Höder, 22

Höfudlausn, 85

Högne Langbjörnsson, 262, 263

Höland, 502

Hönefoss, 371

Höner, 18

Hörda-Kaare, 318

Hördaland, 52, 98, 140, 147, 324

Hörgadal, 435

Holberg, Ludvig, 506

Holland, 485, 488

Holmengraa, 313

Holstein, 485, 496, 501, 515, 530

Holy Land, 171, 218, 292, 298, 308, 376

Hood-Swains, 329

Hornboresund, 312

Hornelen, 339

Hrimfaxe, 17

Hugditrich, 242

Hugin, 20

Humber, 81

Hvergelmer, 16

Hvitingsöe, 393, 400

Hyrning, 161, 162


Ibsen, Henrik, 535, 538

Iceland, 40, 44, 62, 63, 77, 79, 80, 85, 146, 158, 159, 202, 320, 430,
433-441, 443, 444, 465

Icolmkill, 38

Ida, plain of, 20

Idun, 22

Ilevolds, 296, 345

India, 2

Inga of Varteig, 391, 404, 405

Inge Baardsson, 284, 385-400, 402

Inge Crookback, 311-321, 323, 349, 353, 358

Inge, chief of the Baglers, 360, 361, 380, 421

Inge, King of Sweden, 288

Ingeborg, queen of Magnus Law-Mender, 451, 452, 453, 454

Ingeborg, daughter of Erik Priest-Hater, 456, 459

Ingeborg, daughter of Haakon Longlegs, 458, 459, 461

Ingegerd, daughter of Harold Hard-Ruler, 268, 272

Ingegerd, daughter of Olaf the Swede, 195, 197, 217, 218

Inger of Oestraat, 485

Ingerid, Queen of Harold Gille, 311, 314, 386

Ingjald Ill-Ruler, 45

Ingrid, queen of Olaf the Quiet, 274

Innocent III., Pope, 366, 379

Innocent IV., Pope, 429

Iona, 38

Iranians, 2

Ireland, 1, 38, 39, 40, 41, 43, 138, 228, 277, 287, 289, 295, 303, 309

Irishman, 303, 304, 313

Iron Ram, 169

Ironbeard, 149, 151, 152

Irp, Valkyria, 123

Isabella Bruce, queen of Erik Priest-Hater, 456

Isabella, queen of Christian II., 483

Italic tribes, 1, 3

Italy, 292

Ivar, King in Limerick, 40

Ivar Assersson, 307, 308

Ivar Darre, 348

Ivar of Fljod, 295

Ivar Steig, 349


Jaaboek, Sören, 528

Jacob, Count of Halland, 454

Jaederen, 59

James III., King of Scotland, 480

Jaroslav, 217, 218, 240, 242

Jaxartes, 1

Jemteland, 194, 198, 294, 300, 459, 496, 498

Jerusalem, 233, 291, 293

Jews, 32, 44, 530

Jösse Eriksson, 472

Johannes, see Hans

Jomsborg, 120, 237

Jomsvikings, 120-128, 163

Jon Birgersson, Archbishop, 321

Jon, chief of the Kuvlungs, 353

Jon Kutiza, 345

Jon Loftsson, 434

Jon the Red, Archbishop, 448, 452

Jonvolds, 365

Juliana Maria, queen of Frederick V., 508

Jumièges, 36

Jutland, 41, 68, 95, 116, 236, 237, 257, 324, 330, 453, 485, 495, 496,


Kalf Arnesson, 217, 222, 228, 229, 231, 232, 233, 235, 255, 265, 266

Kalfsund, 459

Kalmar, 301, 455, 467, 469, 470, 479, 495

Kalvskindet, 343, 344, 345

Karelen, 196

Kark, 130, 131, 132

Karlsevne, 181

Karlshoved, 190

Kelts, 1

Kent, 138

Ketil Calf, 190, 199

Keyser, Rudolf, 538

Kiel, 515, 516, 520, 523

Kielland, Alexander, 538

King's Mirror, 441

Kirkevaag, 432

Kjögebugt, 502

Kjölen, 4

Klerkon, 135, 136

Klypp Thorsson, 111

Knaeröd, 495

Knut Alfsson, 481

Knut Eriksson, King of Sweden, 358, 385

Knut Haakonsson (Squire K.), 396, 410, 416, 424, 425

Knut the Mighty, 179, 185, 212-218, 225, 226, 229, 231, 232, 236, 243,
261, 268

Knut Porse, 461

Knut VI., King of Denmark, 368

Kolbjörn Stallare, 171

Kolbjörn the Strong, 209

Konghelle, 152, 198, 274, 288, 310, 319

Kongsberg, 494, 503

Krebs, Colonel, 502

Kringen, 495

Krogh, Christian, 526

Krokaskogen, 313

Krummedike, Hartvig, 477

Krummedike, Henrik, 481, 482

Krupp, 536

Kruse, Colonel, 502

Kurland, 196

Kuvlungs, 353, 354

Kveld-Ulf, 56-63, 77


Laaka, 424, 425

Labrador, 180

Laerdal, 119

Landnama Book, 63

Laps 3, 495

Largs, 431

"Lars," 491

Latin, 378

Leif Eriksson, 179, 180, 181

Leipsic, 515

Lesö, 257

Lie, Jonas, 538

Lie, Sophus, 538

Lier, 520

Limerick, 40

Lim Fjord, 258

Lindesness, 173, 179, 210, 531

Lindholm, 468

Lindisfarena, 42

Lodin, 135, 143

Lodur, 18

Löwen, Colonel, 563

Löwenskjold, 527

Lofoten, 315, 331

Loire, 34

Loke, 23

London, 73, 538

Long-Serpent, The, 162, 164-169

Lothair, 37

Louis the German, 32, 37

Louis the Pious, 32

Louis IX., 430

Louis XIV., 500

Lübeck, 457, 486, 487, 490, 495

Luna, 34

Lunge, Vincentz, 477, 485, 487, 488

Luther, 485, 486

Lutheran, 489, 490, 506, 519

Lutter and Barenberge, 495

Lützow, General, 503

Lykke, Nils, 485

Lyrskogs Heath, 237


Maelsechnail, King of Meath, 38, 39

Magne, Bishop, 304, 305

Magnus Barefoot, 285-290, 295, 303, 308

Magnus Birgerson Barnlock, King of Sweden, 449, 455, 456, 458

Magnus Birgerson, the Younger, 459, 461

Magnus Eriksson Smek, King of Norway and Sweden, 461-465

Magnus Erlingsson, King of Norway, 323-349, 351, 355, 356, 385, 388,
401, 427, 428

Magnus Haroldsson, 273, 274

Magnus Law-Mender, 442-451, 453, 457, 494

Magnus the Blind, 297, 305-313

Magnus the Good, 218, 229-250, 251, 254, 255, 265

Maid of Norway, The, 453, 457

Malcolm, 285

Malmfrid, 302, 304

Man, island of, 288, 289, 320, 394, 442

Maniakes, see Georgios

Marcus of Skog, 326, 327

Margaret, see Maid of Norway

Margaret, queen of Magnus Barefoot, 288

Margaret, queen of Sverre, 358, 362, 381, 382, 383

Margaret, queen of Haakon the Old, 407, 413

Margaret, queen of Erik Priest-Hater, 452

Margaret, Reigning Queen of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, 462, 463, 466,

Margaret, daughter of Christian I., 480

Maria, relative of the Empress Zoë, 242

Maria, daughter of Harold Hard-Ruler, 268, 272

Maria, daughter of Harold Gille, 322

Markere, Earl, 268

Markland, 180

Massachusetts, 180, 181

Mathias, Bishop, 334, 335

Matrand, 521

Mecklenburg, 410, 463, 467, 469

Medalhus, 130

Mediterranean, 318

Michael, Church of St., 294

Military Academy, 508

Mimer, 18

Minne, 311

Mjölner, 20

Mjösen, 199, 321, 380, 408, 413, 421

Molière, 506

Mönnikhofen, Colonel, 495

Möre, 56, 59, 64, 69, 130, 150

Moors, 292, 300

Mora, 197

Moss, 521

Moster, 72, 140, 158, 167

Mosterö, 167

Motzfeldt, Captain, 518

Muirkertach, 286, 289

Munch, P. A., Prof., 378, 538

Munin, 20

Munk, Erik, 492

Munk, Ludvig, 492

Munkeliv, 294, 480

Muspelheim, 16, 17


Nanna, Balder's wife, 21

Napoleon I., 510, 513, 515, 519, 520, 526

Naumdale, 54

Nessje, 190

New England, 181

Nicholas Arnesson, Bishop, 358-362, 365, 366, 374, 380, 386, 388, 390,
393, 407, 411, 413, 414

Nicholas Breakspeare, Cardinal, 320, 321

Nicholas, Church of St., 294

Nicholas Simonsson, 322, 324

Nid River, 140

Nidarholm, 308

Nidaros, 148, 156, 189, 192, 207, 213, 215, 227, 232, 253, 260, 262,
274, 284, 286, 294, 311, 320, 324, 334, 338, 341, 345, 347, 354, 361,
362, 366, 368, 369, 381, 384, 387, 389, 390, 392, 400, 404, 413, 416,
422, 424, 426

Nidhögger, 16, 18

Niflheim, 16, 18

Nils Henriksson, 485

Nimwegen, 36

Nis-aa, 259-266 Njaal, 158

Njord, 21, 22, 23

Noatun, 21

Nordfjord, 339

Nordhördland, 309

Nordland, 363

Nordmöre, 96, 193, 287, 366

Nordness, 346

Nordraak, Richard, 538

Norefjord, 348, 349

Normandy, 64

Normans, 12

Norns, 18

Northampton, 225

North Cape, 411, 493, 531

North Sea, 184, 258, 336

Northumberland, 41, 80, 81, 137, 268, 269

Nortmannia, 31

Norway's Lion, 527

Norway's Welfare, Society for, 514

Nyborg, 498

Nyköping, 459


Odd, 22

Oder, 120

Odin, 13, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 45, 46, 84, 118, 123, 128, 144,
150, 205, 207

Oelve Nuva, 57, 59

Oelve of Egge, 207

Oerebro, 513

Oere-_thing_, 140, 229, 230, 246, 253, 322, 323, 334, 346, 380, 388,
395, 396, 400, 423

Offa, 41

Ofrestad, 108, 109

Oieren, Lake, 329

Olaf, son of Harold the Fairhaired, 76

Olaf, Chief of the Oyeskeggs, 355

Olaf of Dal, 297

Olaf Engelbrektsson, Archbishop, 488

Olaf Kvaran, 137

Olaf Magnusson, 291, 296, 301

Olaf Nilsson, Sir, 479, 480

Olaf the Quiet, 268, 272-285, 293, 294

Olaf the Saint, 49, 179, 182-224, 227-232, 248, 252, 255, 261, 267, 275,
278, 282, 293, 294, 318, 327, 357, 396, 400, 423, 428

Olaf the Swede, 152, 163, 166, 173, 192, 193, 194, 195, 197

Olaf Tryggvesson, 108, 130-174, 177, 178, 179, 182, 183, 184, 187, 188,
189, 195, 198, 205, 206, 218, 228, 318, 446

Olaf the Unlucky, 329, 332

Olaf the White, 40

Olaf the Woodcutter, 46, 57

Olaf the Young, 461, 466

Oldenborg, 475, 476, 478, 487, 494

Ole the Russian, 136

Olga, 136, 137, 142

Oplands, 88, 174, 188, 190, 199, 210, 267, 268, 285, 287, 329, 370, 393,
400, 413, 416, 422, 424, 445

Ordinance, the, 489, 494

Orient, the, 242

Orkdale, 54, 189

Orkhaugen, 279

Orkneys, 40, 43, 63, 69, 88, 113, 114, 127, 176, 233, 268, 272, 279,
288, 289, 308, 355, 394, 430, 432, 457, 481

Orm Jonsson, 437

Orm King's-Brother, 346, 349

Orm Lyrgja, 129

Oscar I., 528-530

Oscar II., 531-538

Oslo, 256, 306, 312, 320, 322, 323, 359, 361, 369, 370, 381, 383, 390,
411, 413, 414, 425, 426, 456, 459, 492

Ottar Birting, 302, 303, 314, 316

Otto I., Emperor of Germany, 115

Otto II., Emperor of Germany, 115

Oxus, the, 1

Oyeskeggs, 355, 356, 357, 360


Paderborn, 31

Paris, 36, 513, 520, 538

Paul, Bishop of Hamar, 420, 421

Paul, Earl of the Orkneys, 288

Persia, 2

Peter III., Emperor of Russia, 508

Peter Kolbjörnsson, 503

Peter of Husastad, 411

Peter Skulesson, 423

Peter, St., 427

Peter Steyper, 377, 381, 382, 388

Philip, Don, 430

Philip Simonsson, 386, 390, 393, 400, 401

Piraeus, 241

Poland, 498, 502

Pomerania, 163, 473, 513

Pontecorvo, 513

Prestebakke, 512

Protestantism, 487, 495

Prussia, 136, 163

Pultawa, 501


Rafnista race, 56

Raft Sund, 331

Ragnar, a viking, 36

Ragnar Lodbrok, 34, 198, 214, 231, 236

Ragnfred Eriksson, 113

Ragnhild, queen of Harold the Fairhaired, 68

Ragnhild, queen of Halfdan the Swarthy, 47, 48

Ragnhild, daughter of Magnus the Good, 265, 266, 267

Ragnvald, Earl of Möre, 56, 59, 64, 69

Ragnvald, son of Erik Blood-Axe, 80

Ragnvald Rettilbeine, 68, 71

Ragnvald, Earl of Vestergötland, 195

Ran, 23

Ranafylke, 317

Randsfjord, 51, 108

Ranrike, 57, 173, 284

Ratibor, 310

Raud the Strong, 156, 157, 162

Raumarike, 46, 51, 173, 199, 210

Raumsdale, 193

Reas, 135

Ree, 327, 334, 338, 433

Reformation, the, 486

Reidar Grjotgardsson, 313

Reidar Messenger, 360, 361, 375, 376, 380

Reidulf, a Birchleg, 389

Rein, 416

Reinald, Bishop, 308

Revolution, the French, 509, 524

Revolution, the July, 527

Reykjaholt, 436, 440

Rhine, The, 37

Ribbungs, 407, 408, 412-416

Richard the Fearless, Duke of Normandy, 65

Richard the Good, Duke of Normandy, 65

Rimul, 131, 140

Ring, King, 188

Ringeness, 190, 199

Ringerike, 47, 51, 183, 186, 199, 244, 503

Robert Bruce, 456

Robert Guiscard, 292

Robert the Magnificent, Duke of Normandy, 65

Robin Hood, 341

Roe, Bishop, 335, 380

Rörek, King, 188, 199, 201, 202, 206

Rörek, Viking, 36

Rogaland, 174, 324

Roger, Duke, 292

Rolf the Walker, see Rollo

Rollaug, King in Naumdale, 54

Rollo, Duke of Normandy, 56, 64, 65

Rome, 1, 31, 34, 36, 171, 214, 308, 359, 421, 422, 438

Roskilde, 498

Rostock, 469

Rother, King, 242

Rouen, 36

Rousseau, 508

Rügen, 163

Russia, 1, 134-137, 142, 192, 217, 218, 229, 232, 239, 240, 277, 501,
502, 508, 509, 510, 512, 513, 514, 515, 530

Rydjökel, 329

Ryfylke, 121


Saemund Jonsson, 436, 440

Saemund the Learned, 434

Saltö Sound, 346, 361

Sandness, 61

Saracens, 240, 318

Sarpen, 194

Sarpsborg, 194, 197, 213, 391, 492

Sars, Prof., 538

Sars, J. E. Prof., 538

Saudung Sound, 185

Saurbygd, 337

Saxons, 31, 42, 146, 236

Scandinavia, 470

Schiller, Friedrich, 418

Sciences, Academy of, 508

Scotland, 40, 43, 80, 113, 114, 137, 268, 285, 287, 314, 431, 442, 443,
452, 456, 480

Seeland, 244, 248, 510

Sehested, Hannibal, 477, 496

Seine, The, 36

Sekken, 324

Selmer, Chr. August, Prime Minister, 532, 534

Selven, 71

Serpent, The, 157

Shetland Islands, 43, 176, 355, 430, 442, 481

Short-Serpent, The, 162, 165

Sicily, 240, 241

Side-Hall, 238

Sidon, 293, 299

Sif, 21

Sigar of Brabant, 405

Sigfrid, King of Nortmannia, 31

Sigfrid Haroldsson, 60, 76

Sighvat Scald, 230, 234, 260, 261, 262

Sighvat Sturlasson, 436, 440

Sigmund Brestesson, 158

Sigrid the Haughty, 152, 154, 161, 163, 169, 182

Sigrid, daughter of Earl Sweyn, 179

Sigrid, sister of Thore Hund, 212

Sigrid, wife of Ivar of Fljod, 295

Sigrid, wife of Haldor Brynjulfsson, 320

Sigtrygg, King in Waterford, 40

Sigurd, Bishop, 147, 157, 208, 211, 220

Sigurd of Haalogaland, 155

Sigurd Borgarklett, 362, 364

Sigurd the Crusader, 289, 291-305, 309, 310, 313, 318, 323, 329, 332,

Sigurd, Earl of Hlade, 87, 90, 93, 95, 98, 102, 105, 106

Sigurd Eriksson, 134, 135

Sigurd Haakonsson, 121

Sigurd Hjort, 47, 48

Sigurd Jarlsson, 355-357, 360, 362, 364, 365

Sigurd Jonsson, 473, 478

Sigurd Lavard, 370, 380, 385

Sigurd Marcusfostre, 326

Sigurd Mouth, 311-321, 326, 327, 332, 334, 335, 336, 351, 382, 387, 388

Sigurd, alleged son of Magnus Erlingsson, 355

Sigurd Ranesson, 295, 296, 297

Sigurd Ribbung, 407, 408, 410, 412, 414

Sigurd of Reyr, 323, 324, 326, 327

Sigurd Rise, 68

Sigurd Sigurdsson, 307

Sigurd Slembedegn, 308, 309, 311-314

Sigurd Sleva, 104, 111

Sigurd Syr, 182, 183, 186-190, 192, 199, 221, 240

Sigurd Tavse, Archbishop, 421, 422

Sigurd Wool-String, 287

Sigvalde, Earl, 120, 123, 163, 164, 171

Silgjord, 155

Simeon of Durham, 42

Simon Kaaresson, 354

Simon Skaalp, 317, 322

Sinclair, Colonel, 495, 518

Siric, Archbishop of Canterbury, 147

Skaane, 214, 242, 259, 463, 466, 468, 498, 502, 513, 530

Skade, 21

Skage Skoftesson, 119

Skagen, 324

Skara Stift, 464

Skegge Aasbjörnsson, see Ironbeard

Skinfaxe, 17

Skiringssal, 46, 51

Skraellings, 181

Skuld, 18

Skule Baardsson, Duke, 284, 395-427, 432, 437, 438, 440

Skule Tostigsson, 283

Slavs, 1, 237

Sleipner, 20

Sleswick, 31, 237, 257, 472, 495, 530

Slittungs, 401, 402, 404, 407

Smaaland, 301

Smaalenene, 11

Snarfare, 62

Snefrid, wife of Harold the Fairhaired, 67, 68, 71, 183

Snorre Sturlasson, 13, 45, 49, 52, 66, 72, 74, 160, 186, 254, 276, 421,
433-441, 444

Snorrelaug, 436

Söndmöre, 122, 193, 217, 324, 411, 495

Sogn, 119, 234

Sognefjord, 179, 210, 348, 349, 415

Sognesund, 228

Sognings, 348

Solveig, 438

Sonartorek, 85

Sotoness, 95

Sound, The, 118, 242, 453

Stamford Bridge, 268, 269, 272, 283, 287

Stang, F., Prime-Minister, 534

Stanger, 332

Stavanger, 59, 321, 358, 359

Steen Sture the Elder, 480, 481, 482

Steen Sture the Younger, 482, 483, 485

Steinker, 189

Steinkil, King of Sweden, 267

Stenbock, Magnus, 502

Stig, Marshal, 454

Stiklestad, 212, 221, 227, 232, 235, 240, 255

Stockholm, 464, 469, 480, 484, 485, 532

Storm, Prof. Gustav, 538

_Storthing_, 521-534

Strand, 121, 183

Strindsö, 369

Struensee, 508, 509

Stub, Rev. Kjeld, 496

Stuf Katsson, 254

Sturla Sighvatsson, 421, 438, 440

Sturla Thordsson, father of Snorre Sturlasson, 434

Sturla Thordsson, nephew of Snorre Sturlasson, 45, 440, 442

Sturlungs, The, 433-441, 443

Styrbjörn, 214

Styrkaar Stallare, 270, 271

Supreme Court, 522

Surtur, 16

Sussex, 138

Suttung, 20

Svang, 408

Svanhild, daughter of Earl Eystein, 76

Svante Nilsson Sture, 482

Sverdrup, Prof, 516, 518

Sverdrup, John, Prime-Minister, 534

Sverke, King of Sweden, 368

Sverre Sigurdsson, 195, 333-379, 382, 385, 386, 388, 391, 393, 396, 404,
407, 423, 432, 446, 450

Svolder, 157, 163, 173, 178, 193

Sweyn, a pretender, 287

Sweyn Alfifasson, 225-229, 233, 287, 292

Sweyn Estridsson, 236, 237, 244, 245, 247, 248, 250, 252, 257, 258, 259,
265, 266, 267, 268, 273, 274, 276

Sweyn Forkbeard, 116, 118, 119, 138, 139, 154, 161-166, 168, 173, 177,

Sweyn Haakonsson, Earl, 119, 121, 122, 173-181, 186, 187, 189, 190-193

Sweyn, Rörek's servant, 201


Tacitus, 25

Taylor, Bayard, 491

Tegelsmora, 223

Telemark, 338, 340

Thamb, 162

Thames, The, 42

Thangbrand the priest, 146, 147, 158, 159

Thirty Years' War, 495

Thjostulf Aalesson, 311, 312

Thor, 20, 21, 22, 128, 144, 151, 204, 208, 209, 224

Thora, wife of Earl Haakon, 119

Thora, wife of Harold Hard-Ruler, 255

Thora Guttorm's daughter, 309

Thora Moster-Pole, 72

Thora of Rimul, 130

Thora Saxe's daughter, 308

Thoralf Lousy-Beard, 108, 109, 135

Thorbjörn Hornklove, 59

Thord Sturlasson, 436

Thore, Archbishop, 393, 395

Thore Herse, 77, 78

Thore Hjort, 148, 154, 156

Thore Hund, 211, 212, 222, 233

Thore Klakka, 139, 140

Thore Sel, 211

Thore of Steig, 245, 262, 274, 286, 287

Thorfinn Karlsevne, 181

Thorgeir, brother-in-law of Olaf Tryggvesson, 161, 162

Thorgerd, Valkyria, 123

Thorghaettan, 363

Thorgils Thoralfsson, 135

Thorgils, 224, 227

Thorgisl, 38, 39, 40

Thorgny the Lawman, 195, 196

Thorkell Dyrdill, 164, 165

Thorkell Leira, 124, 125, 126

Thorleif, Bishop, 480

Thormod Kolbruna-Scald, 221, 222

Thorolf, Bald Grim's son, 77, 78, 79

Thorolf, Kveld-Ulf's son, 57-60

Thorsberg, 362

Thorstein, a peasant, 109

Thorstein Kugad, 362, 366

Thorstein, son of Side-Hall, 238, 239

Thorvald Eriksson, 181

Thrond the Priest, 391

Thrudvang, 20

Thyra, queen of Olaf Tryggvesson, 154, 161, 168, 171, 214

Tiber, 34

Tidemand, Adolf, 538

Tiding-Skofte, 119

Tilly, General, 495

Tilsit, treaty of, 510, 512

Toke, a peasant, 246

Tordenskjold, 503, 504

Torstenson, General, 496

Tostig Godwineson, Earl, 269, 270, 283

Tours, 34

Toverud, 512

Trangen, 512

Travendal, 501

Tröndelag, 54, 76, 80, 87, 88, 102, 106, 130, 140, 148, 177, 178, 189,
193, 220, 234, 255, 285, 287, 324, 327, 340, 352, 358, 366, 368, 398,

Trönders, 94, 95, 106, 107, 148, 149, 189, 193, 207, 227, 228, 232, 265,
285, 286, 311, 327, 328, 340, 368, 423, 498

Trollhaettan, 288

Tromsö, 429

Tryggve Olafsson, son of Olaf Haroldsson, 76, 88, 94, 95, 102, 105, 107,
108, 144

Tryggve Olafsson, son of Olaf Tryggvesson, 228

Tunsberg, 201, 306, 324, 327, 334, 354, 375, 376, 380, 388, 390, 413,

Tunsberghus, 481

Turf-Einar, 69

Turges, 38

Turks, 2, 500

Tyr, 21

Tyrker, 180


Ueland, Ole Gabriel, 528

Ugerup, Erik, 485

Ulf Thorgilsson, Earl, 214, 215, 236

Ulf Uspaksson, 255

Uller, 22

Ulster, 289

Unas, 334, 335

University of Norway, 514

Upland, 223

Upsala, 45, 195

Urd, 18

Urökja Snorresson, 440

Utgard, 17


Vaagen, 294, 299

Vaerdalen, 220, 221, 222, 232

Vagn Aakesson, 122-127

Valdalen, 217

Valdemar Atterdag, 462, 463

Valdemar Birgersson, King of Sweden, 449

Valdemar, the Great, 323, 327-330, 345

Valdemar Magnusson, Duke, 456, 458, 459

Valdemar the Victorious, 386, 387, 410, 417, 418

Valders, 52, 127

Valfather, 19

Valhalla, 19, 84, 101, 204

Valkendorf, Christopher, 490

Valkyries 19, 84, 123, 204

Vandals, 136

Vanir, 14, 21

Varangians, 240, 241

Varbelgs, 354, 355, 423, 425

Ve, 13, 16

Vebjörn, 256

Venice, 241

Venetian, 500

Venus, 22

Verdande, 18

Vermeland, 57, 58, 267, 332, 337, 412, 464

Versailles, 501

Vesteraalen, 331

Vestergötland, 195, 267, 312, 464, 468, 481

Vestfjord, 331

Vestfold, 46, 51, 57, 76, 190, 412

Vestgoths, 268

Viborg, 485

Viborg-_thing_, 231, 237, 252

Vidar, 22

Vidrar, 84

Vige, 156

Vikar, Chief of the Varbelgs, 354, 423

Viken, 57, 64, 76, 88, 94, 102, 105, 107, 110, 118, 119, 143, 144, 147,
160, 213, 245, 256, 266, 273, 285, 307, 319, 323, 324, 327, 330, 332,
337, 345, 351, 356, 361, 370, 388, 391, 393, 400, 407, 408, 410, 411,
422, 425, 445, 498

Vile, 13, 16

Vingulmark, 57, 173

Vinland, 180, 181

Vinold, Archbishop, 467

Virgin Mary, The, 144, 146, 396

Visby, 463

Vitalie Brethren, 469, 473

Vladimir, 134, 136, 137, 142

Voltaire, 508

_Vornedskab_, 475

Vors, 111


Wallenstein, 418

Waterford, 40

Wedel-Jarlsberg, Count, 518, 527

Welhaven, J. S., 536

Wendland, 136, 142, 161, 162, 163, 168, 237, 330

Wends, 236, 237, 310, 312

Wener, Lake, 288

Wergeland, Henrik, 526, 531, 536

Wergeland, Rev. Nicolai, 518

Wessex, 41

Widukind, 31

William the Conqueror, 12, 56, 65, 272, 277, 283

William Longsword, 65

William of Sabina, Cardinal, 428

Wismar, 469

Wollin, 120


Ygdrasil, 18

Ymer, 16, 17

Ynglings, 31, 40, 45, 57, 62

Yngve, 45

York, 81, 268

Yotun, 16, 17, 21, 23

Yotunheim, 17, 18, 21


Zoë, Empress, 242


The Story of the Nations.

MESSRS. G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS take pleasure in announcing that they have
in course of publication a series of historical studies, intended to
present in a graphic manner the stories of the different nations that
have attained prominence in history.

In the story form the current of each national life will be distinctly
indicated, and its picturesque and noteworthy periods and episodes will
be presented for the reader in their philosophical relation to each
other as well as to universal history.

It is the plan of the writers of the different volumes to enter into the
real life of the peoples, and to bring them before the reader as they
actually lived, labored, and struggled--as they studied and wrote, and
as they amused themselves. In carrying out this plan, the myths, with
which the history of all lands begins, will not be overlooked, though
these will be carefully distinguished from the actual history, so far as
the labors of the accepted historical authorities have resulted in
definite conclusions.

The subjects of the different volumes will be planned to cover
connecting and, as far as possible, consecutive epochs or periods, so
that the set when completed will present in a comprehensive narrative
the chief events in the great STORY OF THE NATIONS; but it will, of
course, not always prove practicable to issue the several volumes in
their chronological order.

The "Stories" are printed in good readable type, and in handsome 12mo
form. They are adequately illustrated and furnished with maps and
indexes. They are sold separately at a price of $1.50 each. The
following is a partial list of the subjects thus far determined upon:

     "   "  " *CHALDEA. Z. A. RAGOZIN.
     "   "  " *GREECE. Prof. JAMES A. HARRISON,
                       Washington and Lee University.
     "   "  " *ROME. ARTHUR GILMAN.
     "   "  " *THE JEWS. Prof. JAMES K. HOSMER,
                        Washington University of St. Louis.
     "   "  " *CARTHAGE. Prof. ALFRED J. CHURCH,
                        University College, London.
     "   "  "  BYZANTIUM.
     "   "  "  THE GOTHS. HENRY BRADLEY.
     "   "  " *THE NORMANS. SARAH O. JEWETT.
     "   "  " *PERSIA. S. G. W. BENJAMIN.
     "   "  " *SPAIN. Rev. E. E. and SUSAN HALE.
     "   "  " *GERMANY. S. BARING-GOULD.
     "   "  "  HOLLAND. Prof. C. E. THOROLD ROGERS.
     "   "  " *NORWAY. HJALMAR H. BOYESEN.
     "   "  " *HUNGARY. Prof. A. VÁMBÉRY.
     "   "  "  THE ITALIAN KINGDOM. W. L. ALDEN.
     "   "  "  EARLY FRANCE. Prof. GUSTAVE MASSON.
     "   "  " *ALEXANDER'S EMPIRE. Prof. J. P. MAHAFFY.
     "   "  " *ASSYRIA. Z. A. RAGOZIN.
     "   "  "  MEXICO. SUSAN HALE.
     "   "  "  IRELAND. Hon. EMILY LAWLESS.
     "   "  "  PH[OE]NICIA.
     "   "  "  SWITZERLAND.
     "   "  "  RUSSIA.
     "   "  "  WALES.
     "   "  "  SCOTLAND.

* (The volumes starred are now ready, April, 1887.)

                      G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
           NEW YORK                       LONDON

_The first volume, comprising the Hebrew Story from the Creation to the
Exile, is now ready. Large 12mo, cloth extra, red edges, $1.50._

_G. P. PUTNAM'S SON'S, New York and London._





    (For Description of the Work see Prospectus, Page 17.)


_Extracts from Letters_:


"I congratulate you on the issue of a work which, I am sure, will find a
wide welcome, and the excellent features of which make it of permanent


"The 'Scriptures for Young Readers' is admirably conceived and admirably
executed. It is the Bible story in Bible words.... It is the work of
devout and scholarly men, and will prove a help to Bible study. I have
examined it with great satisfaction, and have found on almost every page
the marks of original investigation and wise judgment."


"Its excellence for its purpose has surprised me, and I give it my
hearty commendation."


"It more than meets my expectations; in fact, is so attractive that I
have set myself to its perusal from end to end."


"The work seems to me adapted to be useful in the education of the young
in Biblical history and the great moral truths embodied in it."


"I have carefully examined the first volume of the 'Scriptures for Young
Readers,' and am deeply impressed by the learning and skill shown by the
authors. They undertook a very difficult work, and have accomplished it
in a scholarly manner. If interest in the book is an evidence of youth,
many will find from reading this 'Introduction to the Study of the
Bible' that they are not as old as they supposed they were."

       *       *       *       *       *

** Transcribers Notes **

- minor punctuation errors corrected - minor spelling / printer typos
corrected - spelling of fiord/fjord left intact

-Illustrations relocated to between paragraphs - list of illustrations
may not point to exact page of relocated illustration

-Footnotes have, where possible, been placed immediately following the
paragraph that refers to them

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Story of Norway" ***

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