Egil's Saga

Snorri Sturluson

Preview: Issue 1 of 25

Translated by W.C. Green

Chapter 1 - Of Kveldulf and his sons.

There was a man named Ulf, son of Bjalf, and Hallbera, daughter of Ulf the fearless; she was sister of Hallbjorn Half-giant in Hrafnista, and he the father of Kettle Hæing. Ulf was a man so tall and strong that none could match him, and in his youth he roved the seas as a freebooter. In fellowship with him was one Kari of Berdla, a man of renown for strength and daring; he was a Berserk. Ulf and he had one common purse, and were the dearest friends.

But when they gave up freebooting, Kari went to his estate at Berdla, being a man of great wealth. Three children had Kari, one son named Eyvind Lambi, another Aulvir Hnuf, and a daughter Salbjorg, who was a most beautiful woman of a noble spirit. Her did Ulf take to wife, and then he too went to his estates. Wealthy he was both in lands and chattels; he took baron's rank as his forefathers had done, and became a great man. It was told of Ulf that he was a great householder; it was his wont to rise up early, and then go round among his labourers or where his smiths were, and to overlook his stalk and fields, and at times he would talk with such as needed his counsel, and good counsel he could give in all things, for he was very wise. But everyday as evening drew on he became sullen, so that few could come to speak with him. He was an evening sleeper, and it was commonly said that he was very shape strong. He was called Kveldulf.

Kveldulf and his wife had two sons, the elder was named Thorolf, the younger Grim; these, when they grew up, were both tall men and strong, as was their father. But Thorolf was most comely as well as doughty, favoring his mother's kin; very cheery was he, liberal, impetuous in everything, a good trader, winning the hearts of all men. Grim was swarthy, ill-favoured, like his father both in face and mind; he became a good man of business; skilful was he in wood and iron, an excellent smith. In the winter he often went to the herring fishing, and with him many house-carles.

But when Thorolf was twenty years old, then he made him ready to go a harrying. Kveldulf gave him a long-ship, and Kari of Berdla's sons, Eyvind and Aulvir, resolved to go on that voyage, taking a large force and another long-ship; and they roved the seas in the summer, and got them wealth, and had a large booty to divide. For several summers they were out roving, but stayed at home in winter with their fathers. Thorolf brought home many costly things, and took them to his father and mother; thus they were well-to-do both for possessions and honour. Kveldulf was now well stricken in years, and his sons were grown men.

Chapter 2 - Of Aulvir Hnuf.

Audbjorn was then king over the Firthfolk; there was an earl of his named Hroald, whose son was Thorir. Atli the Slim was then an earl, he dwelt at Gaula; he had sons - Hallstein, Holmstein, and Herstein; and a daughter, Solveig the Fair. It happened one autumn that much people were gathered at Gaula for a sacrificial feast, then saw Aulvir Hnuf Solveig and courted her; he afterwards asked her to wife. But the earl thought him an unequal match and would not give her. Whereupon Aulvir composed many love-songs, and thought so much of Solveig that he left freebooting, but Thorolf and Eyvind Lambi kept it on.

Chapter 3 - The beginning of the rule of Harold Fairhair.

Harold, son of Halfdan Swarthy, was heir after his father. He had bound himself by this vow, not to let his hair be cut or combed till he were sole king over Norway, wherefore he was called Harold Shockhead. So first he warred with the kings nearest to him and conquered them, as is told at length elsewhere. Then he got possession of Upland; thence he went northwards to Throndheim, and had many battles there before he became absolute over all the Thronds. After that he purposed to go north to Naumdale to attack the brothers Herlaug and Hrollaug, kings of Naumdale. But when these brothers heard of his coming, Herlaug with twelve men entered the sepulchral mound which they had caused to be made (they were three winters at the making), and the mound then was closed after them. But king Hrollaug sank from royalty to earldom, giving up his kingdom and becoming a vassal of Harold. So Harold gained the Naumdalesmen and Halogaland, and he set rulers over his realm there. Then went he southwards with a fleet to Mæra and Raumsdale. But Solvi Bandy-legs, Hunthiof's son, escaped thence, and going to king Arnvid, in South Mæra, he asked help, with these words:

'Though this danger now touches us, before long the same will come to you; for Harold, as I ween, will hasten hither when he has enthralled and oppressed after his will all in North Mæra and Raumsdale. Then will the same need be upon you as was upon us, to guard your wealth and liberty, and to try everyone from whom you may hope for aid. And I now offer myself with my forces against this tyranny and wrong. But, if you make the other choice, you must do as the Naumdalesmen have done, and go of your own will into slavery, and become Harold's thralls. My father though it victory to die a king with honour rather than become in his old age another king's subject. Thou, as I judge, wilt think the same, and so will others who have any high spirit and claim to be men of valour.'

By such persuasion king Arnvid was determined to gather his forces and defend his land. He and Solvi made a league, and sent messengers to Audbjorn, king of the Firthfolk, that he should come and help them. Audbjorn, after counsel taken with friends, consented, and bade cut the war-arrow and send the war-summons throughout his realm, with word to his nobles that they should join him.

But when the king's messengers came to Kveldulf and told him their errand, and that the king would have Kveldulf come to him with all his house-carles, then answered he:

'It is my duty to the king to take the field with him if he have to defend his own land, and there be harrying against the Firthfolk; but this I deem clean beyond my duty, to go north to Mæra and defend their land. Briefly ye may say when ye meet your king that Kveldulf will sit at home during this rush to war, nor will he gather forces nor leave his home to fight with Harold Shockhead. For I think that he has a whole load of good-fortune where our king has not a handful.'

The messengers went back to the king, and told him how their errand had sped; but Kveldulf sat at home on his estates.

Chapter 4 - Battle of king Harold and Audbjorn.

King Audbjorn went with his forces northwards to Mæra; there he joined king Arnvid and Solvi Bandy-legs, and altogether they had a large host. King Harold also had come from the north with his forces, and the armies met inside Solskel. There was fought a great battle, with much slaughter in either host. Of the Mærian forces fell the kings Arnvid and Audbjorn, but Solvi escaped, and afterwards became a great sea-rover, and wrought much scathe on Harold's kingdom, and was nicknamed Bandy-legs. On Harold's side fell two earls, Asgaut and Asbjorn, and two sons of earl Hacon, Grjotgard and Herlaug, and many other great men. After this Harold subdued South Mæra. Vemund Audbjorn's brother still retained the Firthfolk, being made king. It was now autumn, and king Harold was advised not to go south in autumn-tide. So he set earl Rognvald over North and South Mæra and Raumsdale, and kept a numerous force about himself.

That same autumn the sons of Atli set on Aulvir Hnuf at his home, and would fain have slain him. They had such a force that Aulvir could not withstand them, but fled for his life. Going northwards to Mæra, he there found Harold, and submitted to him, and went north with the king to Throndheim, and he became most friendly with him, and remained with him for a long time thereafter, and was made a skald.

In the winter following earl Rognvald went the inner way by the Eid-sea southwards to the Firths. Having news by spies of the movements of king Vemund, he came by night to Naust-dale, where Vemund was at a banquet, and, surrounding the house, burnt within it the king and ninety men. After that Karl of Berdla came to earl Rognvald with a long-ship fully manned, and they two went north to Mæra. Rognvald took the ships that had belonged to Vemund and all the chattels he could get. Kari of Berdla then went north to king Harold at Throndheim, and became his man.

Next spring king Harold went southwards along the coast with a fleet, and subdued firths and fells, and arranged for men of his own to rule them. Earl Hroald he set over the Firthfolk. King Harold was very careful, when he had gotten new peoples under his power, about barons and rich landowners, and all those whom he suspected of being at all likely to raise rebellion. Every such man he treated in one of two ways: he either made him become his liege-man, or go abroad; or (as a third choice) suffer yet harder conditions, some even losing life or limb. Harold claimed as his own through every district all patrimonies, and all land tilled or untilled, likewise all seas and freshwater lakes. All landowners were to be his tenants, as also all that worked in the forest, salt-burners, hunters and fishers by land and sea, all these owed him duty. But many fled abroad from this tyranny, and much waste land was then colonized far and wide, both eastwards in Jamtaland and Helsingjaland, and also the West lands, the Southern isles, Dublin in Ireland, Caithness in Scotland, and Shetland. And in that time Iceland was found.

Chapter 5 - The king's message to Kveldulf.

King Harold lay with his fleet in the Firths, whence he sent messengers round the land to such as had not come to him, but with whom he thought he had business. The messengers came to Kveldulf, and were well received. They set forth their errand, said that the king would have Kveldulf come to him.

'He has heard,' said they, 'that you are a man of renown and high family. You will get from him terms of great honour, for the king is very keen on this, to have with him such as he hears are men of mark for strength and bravery.'

Kveldulf answered that he was an old man, not fit for war or to be out in warships. 'I will now,' said he, 'sit at home and leave serving kings.'

Upon this the messengers said, 'Then let your son go to the king; he is a tall man and a likely warrior. The king will make you a baron,' said they to Grim, 'if you will serve him.'

'I will be made baron under none,' said Grim, 'while my father lives; he, while he lives, shall be my liege-lord.'

The messengers went away, and when they came to the king told him all that Kveldulf had said before them. Whereat the king looked sullen, but he spoke little; these men, he said, were proud, or what were they aiming at? Aulvir Hnuf was standing near, and he bade the king not be wroth. 'I will go,' said he, 'to Kveldulf; and he will consent to come to you, as soon as he knows that you think it a matter of moment.'

So Aulvir went to Kveldulf and told him that the king was wroth, and it would not go well unless one of the two, father or son, came to the king; he said, too, that he would get them great honour from the king if they would but pay homage. Further he told them at length, as was true, that the king was liberal to his men both in money and in honours.

Kveldulf said, 'My foreboding is that I and my sons shall get no luck from this king: and I will not go to him. But if Thorolf returns this summer, he will be easily won to this journey, as also to be made the king's man. Say you this to the king, that I will be his friend, and will keep to his friendship all who heed my words; I will also hold the same rule and authority from his hand that I held before from the former king, if he will that it continue so still, and I will see how I and the king agree.'

Then Aulvir went back and told the king that Kveldulf would send him his son, and he (said Aulvir) would suit better; but he was not then at home. The king let the matter rest. In the summer he went inland to Sogn, but in autumn made ready to go northwards to Throndheim.

Chapter 6 - Thorolf resolves to serve the king.

Thorolf Kveldulf's son and Eyvind Lambi came home from sea-roving in the autumn. Thorolf went to his father, and father and son had some talk together. Thorolf asked what had been the errand of the men whom Harold sent thither. Kveldulf said the king had sent them with this message, that Kveldulf or else one of his sons should become his man.

'How answeredst thou?' said Thorolf.

'I spake what was in my mind, that I would never take service with king Harold; and ye two will both do the same, if I may counsel: this I think will be the end, that we shall reap ruin from that king.'

'That,' said Thorolf, 'is quite contrary to what my mind tells me, for I think I shall get from him much advancement. And on this I am resolved, to seek the king, and become his man; and this I have learnt for true, that his guard is made up of none but valiant men. To join their company, if they will have me, seems to me most desirable; these men are in far better case than all others in the land. And 'tis told me of the king that he is most generous in money gifts to his men, and not slow to give them promotion and to grant rule to such as he deems meet for it. Whereas I hear this about all that turn their backs upon him and pay him not homage with friendship, that they all become men of nought, some flee abroad, some are made hirelings. It seems wonderful to me, father, in a man so wise and ambitious as thou art, that thou wouldst not thankfully take the dignity which the king offered thee. But if thou thinkest that thou hast prophetic foresight of this, that we shall get misfortune from this king, and that he will be our enemy, then why didst thou not go to battle against him with that king in whose service thou wert before? Now, methinks it is most unreasonable neither to be his friend nor his enemy.'

'It went,' said Kveldulf, 'just as my mind foreboded, that they marched not to victory who went northwards to fight with Harold Shockhead in Mæra; and equally true will this be, that Harold will work much scathe on my kin. But thou, Thorolf, wilt take thine own counsel in thine own business; nor do I fear, though thou enter into the company of Harold's guards, that thou wilt not be thought capable and equal to the foremost in all proofs of manhood. Only beware of this, keep within bounds, nor rival thy betters; thou wilt not, I am sure, yield to others overmuch.'

But when Thorolf made him ready to go, Kveldulf accompanied him down to the ship and embraced him, with wishes for his happy journey and their next merry meeting.

Chapter 7 - Of Bjorgolf, Brynjolf, Bard, and Hildirida.

There was a man in Halogaland named Bjorgolf; he dwelt in Torgar. He was a baron, powerful and wealthy; in strength, stature, and kindred half hill-giant. He had a son named Brynjolf, who was like his father. Bjorgolf was now old, and his wife was dead; and he had given over into his son's hands all business, and found him a wife, Helga, daughter of Kettle Hæing of Hrafnista. Their son was named Bard; he soon grew to be tall and handsome, and became a right doughty man.

One autumn there was a banquet where many men were gathered, Bjorgolf and his son being there the most honourable guests. In the evening they were paired off by lot to drink together, as the old custom was. Now, there was at the banquet a man named Hogni, owner of a farm in Leka, a man of great wealth, very handsome, shrewd, but of low family, who had made his own way. He had a most beautiful daughter, Hildirida by name; and it fell to her lot to sit by Bjorgolf. They talked much together that evening, and the fair maiden charmed the old man. Shortly afterwards the banquet broke up.

That same autumn old Bjorgolf journeyed from home in a cutter of his own, with thirty men aboard. He came to Leka, and twenty of them went up to the house, while ten guarded the ship. When they came to the farm, Hogni went out to meet him, and made him welcome, invited him and his comrades to lodge there, which offer Bjorgolf accepted, and they entered the room. But when they had doffed their travelling clothes and donned mantles, then Hogni gave orders to bring in a large bowl of beer; and Hildirida, the daughter of the house, bare ale to the guests.

Bjorgolf called to him Hogni the goodman, and said, 'My errand here is this: I will have your daughter to go home with me, and will even now make with her a hasty wedding.'

Hogni saw no choice but to let all be as Bjorgolf would; so Bjorgolf bought her with an ounce of gold, and they became man and wife, and Hildirida went home with Bjorgolf to Torgar. Brynjolf showed him ill-pleased at this business. Bjorgolf and Hildirida had two sons; one was named Harek, the other Hærek.

Soon after this Bjorgolf died; but no sooner was he buried than Brynjolf sent away Hildirida and her sons. She went to her father at Leka, and there her sons were brought up. They were good-looking, small of stature, naturally shrewd, like their mother's kin. They were commonly called Hildirida's sons. Brynjolf made little count of them, and did not let them inherit aught of their father's. Hildirida was Hogni's heiress, and she and her sons inherited from him and dwelt in Leka, and had plenty of wealth. Bard, Brynjolf's son, and Hildirida's sons were about of an age.

Bjorgolf and his son Brynjolf had long held the office of going to the Finns, and collecting the Finns' tribute.

Northwards, in Halogaland is a firth called Vefsnir, and in the firth lies an island called Alost, a large island and a good, and in this a farm called Sandness. There dwelt a man named Sigurd, the richest man thereabouts in the north; he was a baron, and wise of understanding. He had a daughter named Sigridr; she was thought the best match in Halogaland, being his only child and sole heiress to her father. Bard Brynjolf's son journeyed from home with a cutter and thirty men aboard northwards to Alost, and came to Sigurd at Sandness. There he declared his business, and asked Sigridr to wife. This offer was well received and favourable answered, and so it came about that Bard was betrothed to the maiden. The marriage was to take place the next summer. Bard was then to come north for the wedding.

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