Fragment of a Saga about Certain Early Kings in
© Peter Tunstall, 2008
1. Aud Given in Marriage to Hroerek
[...] to refuse. The kings answers, “I see that what’s needed here is to keep it quiet that you have any suitors, for it was the way of king’s daughters of old to let three or more suitors come, and not to accept the first. There are many kings of better breeding than Helgi.”
Aud answers, “It doesn’t make much difference whether you ask me about this or anything else, because I know that you will have made up your mind in advance that I won’t have my way. I doubt you’re going to present me with a better offer. I think you have something else in mind for me.”
The king stood up, and he answers, “You guess right there. You’ll never marry King Helgi; all the less so, given how much you want to.”
He meets with King Helgi now and tells him he’s discussed the matter with his daughter, and that he’s done it with great care, but that her answer was a silly one, for all the time they’d spent discussing it. He said there wasn’t a king’s son she considered would make a good enough match for her, so much greater is her pride. But still, he said he’d keep trying to talk her round for him, “But with things as they stand, it won’t do any good.”
Helgi goes home. And his brother Hroerek hears of that. And as he was staying home in their own country, Hroerek’s friends urge him to get married. That advice is to his liking. And they tell him to ask for the hand of the daughter of King Ivar who was the finest of kings. He said he doubted that he’d get that match which his brother, who outdid him in every way, hadn’t. They said he wouldn’t get a good match if he didn’t ask, and told him there wasn’t any shame in it if the woman was refused him. So he goes to his brother about the matter and asked his advice, and his brother said it was a splendid idea if he did succeed. And Helgi said he didn’t know who would succeed, but said that it would be a lucky man who did.
Now Hroerek asks Helgi to go to ask for the woman on his behalf. Helgi said he would go, but that most likely he’d have no more success than before.
Helgi goes to King Ivar in
Helgi insisted that his brother was in no wise inferior to him. It was only because he was always at home in their own country that he wasn’t as famous, and that’s why less was heard tell of him. And he asks King Ivar to present the offer to Aud. The king seemed less than eager and said he expected an unfavourable response just like last time. The next day, he calls his daughter to him for a private talk and tells her that King Helgi has come to ask for her hand on behalf of his brother, “and he would like an answer from you in respect of this matter.”
She answers, saying that it wouldn’t happen again that she’d do Helgi such a dishonour, after his journey, that she’d give such a positive response to this suit that she’d let herself be married to Hroerek.
The king answers, “Your reply strikes me as silly. I can’t imagine where you expect to get an offer you like when you refuse every king who asks for you. I expect you’ll quickly become a little tyrant to us if you won’t accept our advice.”
She answers, “I doubt it’ll make any more difference this time than last, you talking this matter over with me, since you’ve already made up your mind which offer I’m to take, and it doesn’t make any difference whether I’m married to Hroerek or any other man, since the only sort of match I’m going to get from you is a bad one.”
The king leaves her, and he and Helgi meet. Helgi asks how his request was received. King Ivar answers, saying, “Word has it that my daughter is the wisest of women, but she’d be the biggest fool to insist on refusing you, such a king as you are, and I value you much more highly than Hroerek. But I think she’ll most likely get what she asks for.”
And they conclude the matter with him promising his daughter to Hroerek, and she prepared to leave with Helgi.
They go on their way now. And when they left
2. King Ivar’s Cunning Scheme
It happened one summer that King Ivar came west with his
And in the evening, when King Hroerek goes to bed, Aud had had a new bed prepared and put in the middle of the floor, and she told the king to sleep in it and to take note of what he dreamt, “and tell me in the morning.” And she found another bed for herself.
And in the morning, Aud comes and asks about his dreams.
“I dreamt I was stood next to a wood,” he says, “and there was a plain beside it, smooth and fair, and I saw a hart standing there on the plain. Then a leopard ran out of the wood, and it seemed to me that his fur was like gold, and the hart thrust its horns under the creature’s shoulder, and it fell down dead. Next thing, I saw a great dragon flying, and it came to the hart and grasped it at once in its claws and ripped it to shreds. Then I saw a bear with a young cub, and the dragon wanted to take her cub, but the bear protected him, and then I woke up.”
She said, “That is a telling dream, and you should be on your guard against my father King Ivar in case he tricks you when you meet him, for there you have seen the fetches of kings, and they will fight a battle between them, and it would be better if you weren’t the one the hart you saw stood for, but I think you most likely are.”
That same day, he set out with many men to meet King Ivar and went aboard the king’s ship and stood before the poop-deck and greeted him. King Ivar didn’t answer and made as if he didn’t see him. Then Hroerek says that he’s had a feast prepared for him and wants to invite him home with him. King Ivar answered, saying that he’s made a bad match for his daughter, and that it was therefore no wonder she’d behaved badly towards him.
He answers, saying that he was well content and that he didn’t think she was unsatisfied with her lot.
Then King Ivar responded angrily. He says he doesn’t know exactly what how they’re treating him, Helgi and Aud, but that it was on everyone’s lips that Harald was King Helgi’s son, and that boy was the spitting image of him. He said that was the reason he came, to let him know about this treachery, and said it didn’t seem right to him that they should both be her husband, “and I’d rather you gave her to your brother than that you carry on like this without daring to take revenge.”
Hroerek pretended not to have heard. But he doesn’t want to let go his wife, no matter what, so he asked King Ivar to advise him. King Ivar said he didn’t know what else to suggest but that he should kill Helgi. He said the matter would never be resolved between them otherwise, unless of course he gave up his wife for Helgi. It wasn’t easy, he said, with things as they stood. Hroerek said he’d never give up his wife but rather take revenge. He rides away with his men, while King Ivar goes south to Reidgotaland.
In the autumn, when Helgi came home, Hroerek was so miserable that no one could get a word out of him. But Aud had a magnificent feast prepared for his homecoming. And at that feast, there were many kinds of games, and it seemed a great shame to Helgi that his brother was so unhappy, and he asked him to take part in the games with him. But Hroerek said he wasn’t going to play games with things as they stood. Helgi told him to cheer up, “and let’s take our horses and go tilting as we usually do.”
Hroerek leapt up. He went to his men without a word, takes his weapons, helm and hauberk and sword and lance, and rides out. Other men rode with blunt lances. His brother Helgi comes riding towards him with a blunt lance. Hroerek thrusts his lance under Helgi’s arm and runs him through, and he falls dead from his horse. Now everyone there rides up, and they ask him why he’s committed such a terrible deed. He told them there was cause enough, and that it was true what they’d heard, that Helgi had seduced his wife. They all denied this and said it was a great lie.
And when Aud hears of this, she made it plain that she knew this was her father’s doing, “although not everything has come about yet quite as he thought,” as would soon be seen. She took her son Harald and rode away with many men, and Hroerek attended feasts as usual.
And a little while after that, King Ivar came north. And when Hroerek hears that, he rode to meet him. And when King Ivar hears that Helgi had been killed, he calls it a despicable act and orders his men to arm themselves fast and avenge their friend King Helgi. And he learns that Hroerek intends to come to meet him, and prepares his forces for an attack. They head up inland and into a wood which was on the route that they expected Hoerek to ride down. And he came down to the sea. And King Ivar went ashore himself with the forces that were left by the ships, and raised his standard, and advanced against Hroerek and his company. And when they met, they fought. Hroerek fell there will all his men. And then King Ivar demanded that the kingdom be given into his charge, and all those who where nearby became his subjects.
A little while later, his daughter Aud the Deep-Minded came
down to the coast with all the men she could muster. And because King Ivar
didn’t have a big enough army to fight with the native army at that time, he left
and went home to
That winter, Aud gathers to her all the gold and valuables she could find in the land that King Hroerek had owned, and sent it out to Eygotaland. And as soon as it was spring, she prepares for a journey and sets out with her son Harald, and many important people of the realm leave the country with her, and she takes all the treasure she could come by, and went first to Eygotaland, and thence to Gardariki. Ruling there was a king called Radbard. He received her well along with her company and invited her to stay with him together with all her company and assured her that she would be treated with good favour. She accepts this.
King Ivar took control of all the land that the brothers had owned.
Meanwhile King Radbard proposes to Aud, and as she’d been
driven into exile from
3. Ivar’s Death. Harald Came to the Throne
And when news of Aud’s wedding reaches King Ivar, he thinks
King Radbard has some gall to marry her without his leave. So he gathers a
great host from all over his realm,
It happened that one night, as the king was sleeping on the poop-deck of his ship, that he dreamt that a great dragon flew out of the sea, sparks from it soaring into the sky like sparks from a forge, lighting up all the lands around it. And after it flew all the birds he thought there were in the Northlands. Next he saw a great cloud come up from the north, and he sees that it brings with it such great rain and gales that he thought all woods and all land would be washed away in the water that rained down. There was thunder and lightning with it. And when that great dragon flew from the sea onto the land, there came at him the rain and the storm and such great darkness that in a moment he could see neither the dragon nor the birds, though he heard a great din of the thunder and the storm, and it all went south and west over the land, and engulfed the whole of his realm. And he thought he looked towards the ships then, and they were nothing but whales now, all of them, and they swim out to sea.
And then he awoke and called to him his foster father Hord and tells him his dream and asks him to interpret it. Hord declares himself too old to know how to understand dreams. He was stood on a rock under the head of the pier while the king lay on the poop-deck, lifting the edges of the tent, as they spoke.
The king was in a foul mood and said, “Come aboard, Hord, and interpret my dream.”
Hord said he couldn’t come aboard, “but your dream needs no
interpreting. You can see for yourself what it means, and most likely it won’t
be long before there’s a change of rulers in
The king said, “Come here and speak your prophesies of doom!”
Hord said, “Here will I stand and from here speak them.”
The king said, “Who was Halfdan the Brave among the Aesir?”
Hord replies, “He was Baldr among the Aesir, and all the gods wept, not like you.”
“You speak well,” said the king. “Come here and tell me your tidings.”
Hord replies, “Here will I stand and from here tell them.”
The king asks, “Who was Hroerek among the Aesir?”
Hord replies, “He was Hoenir who was the most scared of the Aesir, though he was bad to you.”
“Who was Helgi the Bold among the Aesir,” says he king.
Hord replies, “He was Hermod who had the best of courage, and no good to you.”
The king asked, “Who was Gudrod among the Aesir?”
Hord replies, “He was Heimdall, who was the most foolish of the Aesir, though he was bad to you.”
The king said, “Who am I among the Aesir?”
Hord replies, “You must be the serpent that’s worst in the world, the one they call the Midgard Serpent.”
The king answers, very angry, “If you pronounce my doom, then let me tell you you’ll live no longer, for I know you where you stand, you big boggart.  So get you to the Midgard Serpent, and let’s see which of us is best when push comes to shove.”
Then the king sprang from the poop-deck, and he was so angry that he sprang out through the bottom edge of the tent. Hord dropped from the rock and plunged into the sea, and that was the last the watchmen aboard the king’s ship saw of either of them.
After these events had come to pass, trumpets are blown and the army called ashore for council. Word of the king’s death spreads now through the whole force, and they wonder how to proceed with this great force. It seemed to them, since King Ivar is dead, and they have no quarrel with King Radbard themselves, that each of them should make his way home as fast as the good breeze allowed. That course of action was agreed on, the expeditionary force split up, and each one sails to his own land.
And when King Radbard learns of this, he sets his son
Harald over an army. Harald takes his force to
Harald had a troublesome kingdom in the early days. Because he was a young man, men who’d been deposed by King Ivar or King Ingjald reckoned it would be easier for them to seek their patrimonies.
4. Of King Harald’s Realm
Harald was fifteen years old when he acceded to the throne,
and because his friends knew that he’d have to fight hard to defend the land, since
he was a young man, they decided to resort to mighty spells, and Harald was
enchanted so that no iron could pierce his skin, and afterwards he never
carried a shield in battle, and no weapon ever found purchase on him. He soon
became a great warrior and fought so many battles that there was no one among
his kin who fought as many in the land as him, and so he was called Harald
Wartooth. He gained through battles and raids all the territory that King Ivar
had owned, and so much more that there wasn’t a king in
5. Hildir Came to his Father’s Throne
And at that time, when King Harald Wartooth was
establishing himself in
And when the king was very old, he fell mortally ill. And as his time drew near, he called his son to him and offered him many wise counsels. The first, he says, is that he should marry his sister off to someone far away, and—besides that—that he should share no part of his lands with her, and thirdly that he should give her no servants whereby she and her followers might act with authority.
“Now our ways must part. Keep the same friends that I had, since you are a young man and lack the foresight to manage a kingdom.”
The king died, and the barons hold a well-attended council according to the laws of the land. And at the council, they set the king’s son Hildir on the throne and name him king. They swear allegiance to him, and he swears to them that he’ll uphold the law of the land. And after that, he holds a great feast in memory of his father, and a merry banquet for his friends, bestowing more titles on all his friends and the nobles who’d been with the old king.
And when the kingdom had been set thus in order, the princess Hild goes to her brother, bows to him and greets him with fair and pleasant words, saying also [...]
6. Of King Hring
[...] raiding. And one autumn, he went to see his father’s brother King Harald and was warmly received there and stayed there awhile enjoying the king’s favour. And because Harald was getting very old, he gave charge of his army to his kinsman Hring to keep his lands in order, and Hring tarried with Harald for a long time.
And as age bore down on the king, he appointed his kinsman
Hring to rule over
7. The Kings’ Muster
And when Harald Wartooth had grown so old that he was a hundred and fifty years of age, he lay in his bed and couldn’t walk, and vikings raided widely in his lands. And then his friends thought the kingdom was faring badly, as the government was falling apart, and many considered him plenty old enough, and certain noblemen resolved to place wood over him as he bathed in his tub and cover it with stones and so smother him.
And when he learnt of their plot to kill him, he ordered himself taken out of the bath.
“I know that you think me too old. It’s true. And I may well be fit to die. But I do not want this death, to die in the bath. I want to die much more royally.”
Then his friends came and took him away.
And shortly after that, he sent men to King Hring in Sweden with the message that he should muster men from all the realm in his care and come to meet him at the border and fight with him, and had the whole tale related to him of what had happened and how the Danes thought him too old.
And after that, King Hring musters men from all over
Now King Harald musters an army from all over
8. Of the Kings’ Champions
It’s said that in King Harald’s host there was a commander called Bruni. He was the wisest of all those who were with him. King Harald had Bruni draw up the ranks and organise the commanders under their standards. King Harald’s banner stood in the middle of the battle line, and around his standard were his personal retainers.
These champions were with King Harald: Svein, Sam, Gnepi
the Old, Gard, Brand, Blaeng, Teit, Tyrfing and Hjalti. They were King Harald’s
skalds and champions. On the expedition from King Harald’s retinue were: Hjort,
Borgar, Beli, Barri, Beigard and Toki. Present there were the shield-maidens
Visma and Heid, and they’d come with a great host to King Harald. Visma bore
his standard. With her were these champions: Kari and Milva. There was another
shield-maiden called Vebjorg who’d come to King Harald with a great host from
And in the other wing of King Harald’s host was the shield-maiden Heid with her standard, and she had with her a hundred champions. Her berserks were called Grim, Geir, Holmstein, Eysodul, Hedinn the Slim, Dag of Lifland and Harald Olafsson. There were many commanders in that wing with Heid. In that wing was a commander called Haki Cut-Cheek, and a standard was born before him. There were many kings and champions with him. Present there were Alfar and Alfarin, the sons of King Galdalf, who previously had been courtiers and retainers to King Harald. King Harald was in a wain, for he wasn’t capable of bearing arms, so he couldn’t go into battle.
The king sent Bruni and Heid to see how Hring had disposed his forces and whether he was ready for battle.
Bruni says, “It seems to me that Hring and his host are most likely ready to fight. He’s disposed his forces strangely. He’s drawn them up in a wedge formation, and it won’t be good to fight with him.
Then says King Harald, “Who can have taught Hring the wedge formation? I though no one knew it but me and Odin. Has Odin’s generosity with victories finally failed me? That has never been the case yet, and again I beseech him not to let it be so now. But if he doesn’t wish to grant me victory, then let him cause me to fall in battle with all my host, if he doesn’t wish the Danes to triumph as before. And all the dead who fall on this field, I give to Odin.”
It was as Bruni said, that Hring had drawn up his whole army into a wedge formation. Their ranks then seemed all the deeper for the wedge projecting like a snout at the front, but one wing reached as far as the River Var, and the other down to Bravik.
King Hring had brought to the battle with him many kings and
champions. Foremost among them was King Ali the Bold who had a great host
of warriors, including many other renowned kings and champions. With him was
that most famed of all the champions in tales of yore, Starkad the Old, the
son of Storverk, who was raised in Hordaland in
And when all this army was ready for battle, trumpets were blown on each side, and they roared out their battle cries with all the strength they had. Then the two armies closed for battle, and that fight was of such ferocity and magnitude that, as it says in all the old sagas, there hasn’t been a battle fought in all the Northlands with so many men or so fine a selection of warriors.
And when the battle had been going on for a little while, that champion in King Harald’s army who was called Ubbi the Friesian advanced to attack the tip of the wedge in King Hring’s line, and he fought the first combat with Rognvald Radbard, and theirs was a ferocious encounter, and fearsome blows could be seen traded there in the host when these dauntless heroes clashed. Each dealt the other many heavy blows, but Ubbi was such a great champion that he didn’t let up till their duel was over with Rognvald having fallen at his hand. And thereupon he rushed at Tryggvi and dealt him a deadly wound. And when the sons of Alrek see how fearsomely he fares through the host, they go up against him and fight with him, but he was such a hardy and great champion that he slays them both, and then he slays Yngvi. And then he went charging so furiously through the host that nothing could withstand him, and he struck down all who stood in the wedge, except for those who gave way and backed off towards the other champions.
And when King Hring sees this, he urges his army on not to let one man overcome them all, such lordly men as were with him, “And where is the champion Starkad who till now has never suffered defeat. Win us victory!”
He answered, “We’ll have our work cut out,” he says, “but we’ll try to win such a victory as we can. But that man Ubbi is someone who could test a man to the full.”
But at the urging of the king, he charges forward through the host at Ubbi, and there took place there a mighty battle between them with heavy blows and great strength, as both were dauntless heroes. And so it went on for a while, and Starkad dealt him a terrible wound. And in return, Starkad received six wounds, all grave, and he didn’t think he’d ever been so hard pressed by one man. And because the opposing lines were each so strong, they were tossed about now one way, now the other, and were separated in the crush, and so their fight was broken up.
Then Ubbi slays the champion called Agnar, and hews to either side of him, constantly clearing a path for himself, and both his arms were bloody to the shoulders. And then he attacked the men of Telemark.
And when they see him, they say, “We needn’t look for a target anywhere else in the army now. Instead let’s direct our arrows at this man for a time, and before [...] the victory, and as little expectation as everyone has of us, let’s make so much the more of a mark for ourselves now and show ourselves to be valiant men.”
The finest of the Telemarkers begin to shoot at him, Hadd the Hard and Hroald Toe, and they were such fine archers that they shot at him two dozen arrows that pierced his breast, and he didn’t roll over without a fight. These men dealt death to him, and before that he’d slain six champions, and dealt grave wounds to eleven more, and slain sixteen of Swedish and Gautish men who stood in the front rank.
And at that time, the shield-maiden Vebjorg attacked the Swedes and Gauts hard. She advanced on that champion called Assault-Soti, and she’d so accustomed herself to helm and byrnie and sword that she was foremost in the knightly arts, as Starkad the Old says. She deals heavy blows to the champion and doesn’t let up her attack for a long time. And with one blow, she slashes through his cheek and cuts through the jaw and slices off his chin. He thrust his beard into his mouth and bit on that and so held on to his chin. And she performed many great feats in the host. A little later, she encountered King Hring’s champion Thorkel the Stubborn, and they fought a hard battle, and by the time it was over, he’d slain her with many wounds and great gallantry.
Now there comes to pass much of note in a short space of time, and each side has the upper hand by turns. Many a man was never to return home from that field, and many were maimed, on either side.
Now Starkad attacks the Danes. He advances on a champion called Hun, and they fight a battle, and in the end Starkad slew him, and shortly thereafter the man who sought to avenge him, who’s name was Ella. And then he attacked Borgar, and theirs was a hard-fought encounter, and it ended in Borgar’s death. Starkard charges on now through the ranks with his sword drawn and hews them down one after another. And next he struck down the one called Hjort, and then he met the shield-maiden Visma, who bore King Harald’s standard. Starkad attacks her fiercely.
She said to Starkad then, “Now the greed of the grave has come over you, and now you’re going to die, you boggart.”
He answered, “First you’ll lower King Harald’s standard,” and hacked off her left hand.
And then a man called Brai came at him to avenge her. He was Saekalf’s father. And Starkad runs him through with his sword. And all through the host there could now be seen great heaps of the slain. A little later, there came against Starkad a great champion by the name of Gnepja, and they fought hard, and Starkard dealt him his death-wound. Thereupon he killed the champion Haki, and received then many grave wounds in that exchange. He was cut between his neck and shoulder so deep his insides could be seen. And he had a wound on the front of his chest so great that his lungs were falling out, and he’d lost one finger on his right hand.
And when King Harald saw such great loss of life among his retinue and champions, he raised himself up onto his knees and took two short-swords and lashed on with a will the horse that pulled his wain, and was thrusting to either side of him with his short-swords, and dealt death to many a man, though he couldn’t walk or sit on a horse. The battle went on now for a while with the king accomplishing many great deeds.
And towards the end of this battle, King Harald Wartooth was struck on the head with a club so that his skull was cracked apart, and that wound was the death of him, and Bruni was his killer. And then King Hring saw King Harald’s wain empty and guessed that the king must be fallen. He had the trumpets blown and called on his army to cease fighting. And when the Danes became aware of this, the battle came to a halt, and King Hring offered truce to all of King Harald’s army, and they all accepted it.
And on the morning of the following day, King Hring had the dead searched for the body of his kinsman King Harald, and a great host of slain men lay over the place where his body lay. It was midday when the body was found and the dead cleared. And then King Hring had the body of his kinsman King Harald taken and the blood washed off it, and had it prepared with every honour after the old custom. He had the body laid in the wain that King Harald had used for the battle. And after that, he had a great mound raised, and had King Harald’s body driven into the mound in the same wain, drawn with the same horse, that he’d had in the battle, and then the horse was killed. And then King Hring had the saddle fetched that he himself had ridden on, and offered it to his kinsman King Harald and bade him do whichever he wished, ride to Valhall on horseback or in his wain. And then he had a great feast prepared to see off his kinsman King Harald.
And before the mound was sealed, King Hring bids all the nobles and all the champions who were stood there to cast into the grave big arm-rings and good weapons in honour of King Harald Wartooth. And after that, the mound was closed with all due care.
10. Of King Sigurd Hring
Sigurd Hring succeeded Harald Wartooth as king of
And when King Hring began to get old and infirm, his realm
began to dwindle, and that dwindled most which had belonged to him first. There
was a king called Adalbrikt, of the line of that King Ella who slew Halfdan
Ylfing and took possession of that part of
When Sigurd Hring was old, it happened one autumn that, as he’d been riding around his realm of West Gautland to judge men according to the law of the land, his inlaws, the sons of Gandalf, came to him and asked him to lend them support that they might ride against a certain King Eystein who ruled the land then called Vestmarar, which is now called Vestfold. Then there was held a sacrificial feast in Skiringssal which was attended from all over Oslofjord. [...]