The Tale of
Eirek the Traveller
© Peter Tunstall, 2005
1. Eirek’s Vow
Thrand is the name of the first king to rule over Thrandheim. He had a son called Eirek, a well-liked man even from a young age. He was strong in body, brave and excelled at everything; grew up big.
It’s told that one Yule Eve, Eirek
made a solemn vow to travel the whole world in search of the place which heathen
men call The Deathless Acre, and Christians the
The following summer, Eirek fits
out a magnificent ship and sets sail for
They sailed now and headed for Miklagard, and they arrive there just as the Greek king was raising an army to fight against raiders who were making frequent attacks on his realm. And when the king of the Greeks heard of the Norsemen’s arrival he asks to see them and received them with honour, asking them who they were and where they came from and which way they were bound. Eirek says that they’re Norsemen, kings’ sons, and that they mean to travel widely, exploring the world.
Then the Greek king honoured them exceedingly well in all respects. And when they’d been there for some time they performed many great deeds, with boldness and much good sense, and defended the realm of the Greek king very well. And when the king saw that they were stronger than just about any other men in the land, he prized them highest of all and bestowed on them ranks and distinctions and honours, and even took them into his service, and he employed them on the best terms out of all his men. It’s said that this was the first time Norsemen took honours out in Miklagard.
2. Eirek Stayed in Miklagard
It’s said that one day Eirek of Norway asked the king, “Who made heaven and earth?”
The king says, “One made them both.”
Eirek asked, “Who is that?”
The king answers, “God Almighty who is one God but of three aspects.”
Eirek said, “What are these three aspects?”
The king says, “Consider the sun. In it there are three aspects: fire, brightness and heat, and yet it’s all one sun. So also in God: there’s Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and yet he’s one in his omnipotence.”
Eirek said, “He is a great god, this one, to have made heaven and earth. Tell me now something of his greatness.”
The king said, “God is one, alone, without equal and unsurpassable. He’s above all things and endures all things, and he holds the ends of the earth in his hand.”
Eirek said, “Does God know all things?”
The king says, “He alone knows all before him.”
And when the king had said that, Eirek wondered much at the greatness of God.
Eirek said, “Where does God live, in heaven or earth?”
The king says, “He rules in the heavens and that is his kingdom. There’s neither sickness nor weeping there, nor death, no sadness and no grief. There is always joy and everlasting bliss and gladness and heavenly pleasures without end.”
Eirek said, “Who live there with God?”
The king said, “Holy angels live there. God made them as servants
for himself at the beginning of time. God Almighty made himself a bright hall.
He called that hall the
Eirek said, “What is that pit which you say is in the earth?”
The king said, “That’s the land of death which is prepared for sinful men, and it’s called hell. In that place is every sort of torment with everlasting fire. There wicked men are punished.”
Eirek asked, “Who are they?”
The king says, “Heathens all, and traitors to God.”
Eirek asked, “Why are all heathens bad?”
The king says, “Because they will not worship God, their maker.”
Eirek said, “Do we not worship Gods?”
The king says, “They’re not God, for wretched things are told of them, how wickedly they died and what criminal lives they lived. Their souls are now in eternal fire and unquenchable torments.”
Eirek said, “I’ve never heard of anything like this about them before now.”
The king says, “That’s why your beliefs are mistaken, because you never heard of this, but if you wish to believe in everlasting God who is in trinity, then after death you will go to him in eternal bliss.”
Eirek said, “I would like that, to get eternal life after death.”
The king says, “You will achieve this wish if you believe in everlasting God and then take holy baptism, and you will then be brought to life in his body and blood and become a friend of God. Accept Christ and praise him well in all things.”
Eirek said, “I’ll do exactly what you urge. But tell me what I ask you: Where is hell?”
The king says, “Under the earth.”
Eirek asked, “What is above the earth?”
“Sky,” says the king.
Eirek asked, “What is above the sky?”
“The Firmament-Heaven. In that heaven are all the stars like burning fire.”
Eirek said, “What is above the firmament?”
“Waters are fixed there, as cloud.”
“What is above the waters?”
“The Spiritual Heaven, and it’s believed that angels live here.”
“What is above that heaven?”
“The Heaven of Intellect. In that heaven God himself and his kingdom may be seen by those who are deserving of this.”
Then Eirek was amazed at how wise the king was and said, “How great and sublime and unsurpassable your wisdom is. Tell me, if you know, how great is the breadth of the earth?”
The king says, “You’re curious, Eirek, and you want to know many things which are irrelevant and unusual and very obscure. But to answer your question, hear what I say and learn: The circumference of the earth, wise men tell, is a hundred and eighty thousand leagues, and it’s not held up by any pillars but by God’s omnipotence.”
Eirek asked, “How far is it between heaven and earth?”
“You are curious, Eirek,” says the king, “From earth to the highest heaven it’s said to be one hundred thousand, three hundred and eighty-five miles.”
Eirek asked, “What lies around the outside of the earth?”
“A great sea which is called Ocean.”
Eirek asked, “What is the most distant land in the southern part of the world?”
The king answered, “India-land, we say, marks the ends of the earth in that part of the world.”
Eirek asked, “Where is that place which is called The Deathless Acre?”
The king says, “We call that
Eirek asked, “Where is it situated?”
The king says, “The country is east of furthest
Eirek asked, “Can I get there?”
“I don’t know about that,” says the king, “A wall of fire stands before it which reaches right up to heaven.”
And when the king had told Eirek all that and much more besides, Eirek fell at the king’s feet and said, “I beg you, best of kings, for your help to speed my journey, for I stand in great need on account of my vow, for I solemnly vowed to go south through the world in search of The Deathless Acre, and I know that I have no chance of getting there without your help.”
The king says, “Stay the next three years here with us and then go, since you’re in need of my help, and you must heed all my warnings. Be baptised and I will assist you.”
Eirek quizzed the king about the rewards of righteousness and the pains of hell. He asked too about the peoples and regions of the world, about seas and distant lands and all about the eastern and southern parts of the world, about mighty kings and various islands, about deserts and about those places they had to cross, about strange and wondrous races, and how they dressed, and the customs of many nations, about vipers and winged dragons and all sorts of animals and birds, about great hoards of gold and jewels. The king answered these enquiries and many others well and wisely. After this, they were baptised, Eirek and his men.
3. Eirek Went to
When three years had passed, and Eirek
had received such information and much more besides, they headed with their crew
And when they’d travelled as much as forty-four miles through
the regions of
Danish Eirek said, “I beg you, best friend, don’t throw your life away; come back with us instead, because you’ll surely die if you go on.”
Eirek said he wouldn’t turn back, and they both wished each other good luck. Now Eirek of Norway draws his sword and grasps it in his right hand and takes one of his companions by the left hand. They rush up and leap into the mouth of the dragon, and it looked to Eirek the Dane as if the dragon swallowed them both. He turns back now with his companions, back the way they came, and after many years he comes home to his own land. Then he reported what was the last he’d seen of Eirek the Norwegian, what had happened, as it seemed to him. Now this man gets to be famous because of his travels, and he was regarded as a splendid man, and that’s the end of his story.
4. Beyond the Dragon
But when Eirek the Norwegian and his companion had leapt into the dragon’s mouth, it seemed like they were wading through smoke. And when they came out of the smoke, they saw a beautiful land, lush and bright as satin, with sweet scents and tall flowers, and streams of honey ran all over the land, in every direction. That country was broad and flat. There was constant sunshine there, so that it never got dark and never cast so much as a shadow. The air was calm but with just a little breeze on the ground, so that they smelt the sweet scent even more than before. They walked for a long time and wondered if they would see any habitations or populated districts, or how far it went on.
They then saw what looked for all the world like a column suspended in the air with nothing holding it up. As they got closer they saw it was a tower hanging in the sky with no props. A ladder stood against the south side of the tower. They were amazed at the strength of whatever power was making this possible, and it all seemed very strange to them. Then they went up the ladder and into the tower.
They saw that it was furnished with the most beautiful and opulent satins and velvet. There was a table standing there, beautifully prepared, and on it stood a silver dish. On that there were all sorts of tasty treats, and it was loaded with white sweet-scented bread. There was a jug set with gold and gemstones. There was a goblet full of wine. There were beds, well made and spread with cloth of gold and fine velvet.
Then Eirek said, “See here is The Deathless Acre, that we travelled so many roads and faced such trials and troubles to see.”
They praised God and said, “Great and good is God for letting us see all this.”
And after that they enjoyed the food and then went to sleep.
And as Eirek slept, there appeared to him a youth, bright and handsome, who said to him, “Great is the firmness of your faith, Eirek. Tell me, how do you like this land?”
“Very well—it’s all I could have wished for. And of all the lands I’ve seen, this is the one I like the best. But who are you? And there’s a big difference between your knowledge and mine, because you know me and call me by my name, but I don’t know who you are.”
Then the young man smiled and said, “I’m God’s angel, one
of those who guard the gates of
Then Eirek asked the angel, “Where do you live?”
The angel says, “We live in heaven where we gaze on the face of God, but out of necessity we are sent to earth to offer our service to humans, as you can well believe.”
Eirek said, “What holds up this tower which seems to hang in the air?”
The angel says, “God’s strength alone holds it up. From signs like this you should have no doubt that God made the world from nothing.”
Eirek said, “I’ll not doubt that.”
The angel asked Eirek, “Which would you rather: stay here, or go back to your own country?”
Eirek answers, “I want to go back.”
The angel said, “Why so?”
Eirek says, “Because I want to tell the people I know about these glorious demonstrations of God’s power, and because if I don’t come back, they’ll be sure I died a horrible death.”
The angel said, “Although there is now worship of heathen gods in the northern lands, the time will come when those people will be freed from delusion, and God will call them to his faith. Now I give you leave to go back to your own land and tell your friends about God’s grace, what you saw and heard of it, because they’ll believe in God’s word and his commandments sooner when they hear such tales as this. Pray often. I will come after you some years hence and bear your soul into bliss, and I will guard your bones in that place where they are to await the Judgment. Stay here six days and rest yourselves and then take provisions for the journey and head back north at last.”
Now the angel seemed to vanish from his sight. Eirek did just as the angel said regarding his stay and departure.
5. Eirek’s Return
After resting as long as the angel said, they climbed down
from the tower and they go on till they reach the river. Then a great darkness
comes over them. They come up out of the dragon’s mouth and resume their journey
and see many wonders—but even so, no harm befalls them—and they become enlightened
with much wisdom, and after four years they come to Miklagard. And Eirek tells the king
of his travels, and the king is amazed he made it back, and has him stay for three
years. After that Eirek gets ready and leaves Miklagard and goes north to
And he who set this adventure down first in this book, which he wrote, did so because he wants everyone to know that there is no real help except through God. Because, though heathen men may get great fame by their deeds and feats of valour, there’s a big difference, when they get to the end of this temporary life, since they’ve had their reward from human praise for their courage, but they can expect nothing but punishments for their sins and lack of faith, as they didn’t recognise their maker. But those who have loved God and put all their faith in Him and acted according to the spirit of holy Christianity, they will get more praise from the wisest men, and also—what’s more—when they’ve gone forth through the universal door of death, from which no flesh may save itself, then they’ll have their reward. That is the difference: everlasting life with Almighty God without end, just like this Eirek, of whom we have just now said.