Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert

Princess Gyda of Ipswich



21.      “My father’s daughter          doughtily ground,

                        for the death of hosts          did she foresee;

                        even now the strong booms           burst from the quern,

                        the staunch iron stays–      yet more strongly grind!”

                                   Anonymous; Grottasongr, Prose Edda (Hollander)

(999-1000)  King Sweyn celebrated Yulefest in Roskilde with his wives and children and he learned through reports from King Burizleif’s agents, who were searching for his wife, Thora, that she had been spotted in Lade, Norway.  The agents even postulated that Queen Thora may have been smuggled to Norway through Denmark, possibly even through Roskilde city itself.

Then King Sweyn remembered the huge harp he had received as a gift from King Burizleif, brought to him by Jarl Sigvald and Princess Astrid, the king’s daughter, and then he remembered a tale he had heard about Queen Aslaug, King Hraegunar Lothbrok’s wife, who was also called the witch Kraka, and how she had been smuggled out of captivity in the body of a large harp.  He had a long talk with his wife, Queen Consort Gunhild, also a daughter of King Burizleif, and she broke down and admitted that she and her sister had smuggled Queen Thora out of Poland to get her out of the grasp of their aging father.  “She was so unhappy in Poland, we were afraid she was going to take her own life!” Gunhild cried.  “We have to get her out of Norway,” Sweyn replied.  “That crazy Jarl Olaf Tryggvason is Christianizing the whole country and is killing anybody who refuses to convert.  Her life is in danger there!”  He did not want to tell Gunhild that she was in danger because he was focking Olaf’s abandoned wife, Princess Gyda, in Angleland.  “And if your father’s agents find out you’ve been involved in Thora’s escape, your life could be in danger here.  We must keep this under wraps!”

Jarl Eirik was celebrating Yulefest with Princess Gyda in Ipswich and his loneliness was palpable.  His wives were all in Lade and he hadn’t been with Svein Buison in over a year.  Gyda had just put all her children to bed and the two were alone in the longhall and she could feel his longing for young Buison, for Sweyn had let it slip about the youthful warrior Eirik had spared and she admired his mercy.  She was glad he had found someone, for life could be lonely for someone of ‘the male’ persuasion.  She felt she had to cheer him up.  She was used to Yulefests alone.  Sweyn was never with her for Yule and she’d celebrated alone ever since her husband, Olaf, had left her to be king of Norway.  She had her children and that was enough for her, but she knew the loneliness that Eirik was experiencing.

Eirik was sitting upon the guest highseat and Gyda got a bottle of wine and two glasses and she sat beside him and poured the wine.  They drank and talked for a time and Gyda was very gay and happy, hoping her cheer would infect Eirik and when they ran out of wine, she got up to get another bottle.  Eirik watched her ass sway as she walked away and her red silk dress emphasized the sway in her hips.  When she returned with the wine he saw her beautiful smile and the whiteness of her teeth in the duskiness of the hall and he saw a lilt in her walk caused by the wine and she joined him on the highseat and poured them each another glass.  They talked and drank some more and Gyda was so sure of Eirik’s persuasion that she poured him another glass and she sat on his lap as she passed it to him.

She was very surprised to find that he was hard as a rock and when she got up her foot slipped and she sat right back down upon it.  Eirik held her close and he kissed her deeply and he pushed her down on the highseat and got on top of her and she struggled, but Eirik forced his way inside her and he was thrusting hard and she was about to scream, but she thought of her children in the bedrooms so, she began to plead for him to stop, but by then all that would come out were moans and she soon had her legs wrapped around his buttocks and she forced him deeper and deeper inside her as her wine took over.  He was frantic by then, thrusting in and out of her so fast she came three times before he exploded inside her.  She was drunk and dizzy as he picked her up and carried her to her master suite and he laid her on the bed and undressed her and covered her with a silk sheet and then he undressed himself and he slipped between the sheets and began caressing her all over her body.  He began sucking on her breasts and she thought of her children again and the room was spinning when he entered her again and he began thrusting more slowly and more gently this time and he told her he loved her and that he loved it when she watched him and that he had been watching her too and she felt him going off inside her again and then she passed out.

Gyda woke up in a panic early the next morning and tried to wake up Eirik, but he was still passed out from the wine.  Her children would be waking soon and she had to get him out of the room.  She rose slowly out of bed and stood beside him and she shook him and she could feel him oozing out of her and sliding down her legs and she remembered that they were drunk and hadn’t used a glove and she thought quickly about her last period and remembered it was two weeks ago and she went into her dressing room to wipe herself and she heard her daughters walk into the room and they saw Eirik in bed and not her.  She eased the dressing room door shut and she sat down and leaned with her back against it and she put her head into her hands.

She could hear her daughters tugging at Eirik and asking him where their mother was.  “She must be out in the hall,” he explained.  “I got sick last night so she tucked me in bed and was taking care of me.  She must be asleep out there somewhere.”  The girls ran out of the room and began searching the hall and Gyda whispered thanks as she went past the bed and she snuck out of the room into the hall so her daughters could find her.

Part 55 (100) – Olaf Gets Thora In Marriage  (circa 999)

It happened one night that Queen Thora and her foster-father, Ozur, ran away from King Burizleif, and, to be short in our story, came at last to Denmark.  But there Thora did not dare to remain, knowing full well that if King Sweyn heard of her, he would send her back directly to Wendland.  She went on, therefore, secretly to Norway, and never stayed her journey until she fell in with King Olaf, by whom she was kindly received.  Thora related to the king her sorrows, and entreated his advice in her need, and protection in his kingdom.  Thora was a well-spoken woman, and the king had pleasure in her conversation.

He saw she was a beautiful woman, young and fertile, and over a period of weeks it came into his mind that she would be a good match, so he finally turned the conversation that way, and asked if she would marry him.  Now, as she saw that her situation was such that she could not help herself, and considered what a luck it was for her to marry so celebrated a man, she bade him to dispose himself of her hand and fate; and, after nearer conversation, King Olaf took Thora in marriage.

This wedding was held in harvest after the king returned from Halogaland, and King Olaf and Queen Thora remained all winter at Nidaros.

The following spring Queen Thora complained often to King Olaf, and wept bitterly over it, that she who had so great property in Wendland had no goods or possessions here in the country that were suitable for a queen; and sometimes she would entreat the king with fine words to get her property restored to her, and saying that King Burizleif was so great a friend of King Olaf that he would not deny King Olaf anything if they were to meet.

But when King Olaf’s friends heard of such speeches, they dissuaded him from any such expedition.  It is related at the king one day early in spring was walking in the street, and met a man in the market with many, and, for that early season, remarkably large angelica roots.

The king took a great stalk of the angelica in his hand, and went home to Queen Thora’s lodging.  Thora sat in her room weeping as the king came in.  “Sit here, my queen,” the king said, “and here is a great angelica stalk, which I give you for your anxiety.”

She threw it away and said, “A greater present my father, King Harald Gormson, gave to me and he was not afraid to go out of the land and take his own.  That was shown when he came here to Norway, and laid waste the greater part of the land, and seized on all the scat and revenues; and you don’t even dare to go across the Danish dominions for fear of King Sweyn.”

As she spoke, King Olaf sprang up, and answered with a loud oath, “Never have I feared King Sweyn.  I have fought together with him but I have never fought for him and if we ever meet again he shall give way before me!  That is more than can be said about your father, Harald ‘Blue Tooth’!”

Part 56 (95) – Building Of The Ship Long Serpent  (circa 1000)

The winter after King Olaf came from Halogaland, he had a great vessel built at Hladhamrar, just off Lade, which was larger than any ship in the country, and of which the beam-knees are still to be seen.  The length of keel that rested upon the grass was seventy- four ells.  Thorberg Skafhog was the man’s name who was the master-builder of the ship; but there were many others besides, some to fell wood, some to shape it, some to make nails, some to carry timber; and all that was used was of the best.  The ship was both long and broad and high-sided, and strongly timbered.

While they were planking the ship, it happened that Thorberg had to go home to his farm upon some urgent business and, as he remained there a long time, the ship was planked up on both sides when he came back.  In the evening the king went out, and Thorberg with him, to see how the vessel looked, and everybody said that never was seen so large and so beautiful a ship of war.  Then the king returned to the town.

Early next morning the king returned again to the ship, and Thorberg with him.  The carpenters were there before them, but all were standing idle with their arms across.

The king asked, “what’s the matter?”

They said the ship was destroyed; for somebody had gone from, stem to stern, and cut one deep notch after the other down the one side of the planking.

When the king came nearer he saw it was so, and said, with an oath, “The man shall die who has thus destroyed the vessel out of envy, if he can be discovered, and I shall bestow a great reward on whoever finds him out.”

“I can tell you, king,” said Thorberg, “who has done this piece of work.”

“I don’t think,” replied the king, “that any one is so unlikely to find it out as you are.”

Thorberg says, “I will tell you, king, who did it.  I did it myself.”

The king then said, “You must restore it all to the same condition as before, or you shall pay for it with your life.”

Then Thorberg went and chipped the planks until the deep notches were all smoothed and made even with the rest, and the king and all present declared that the ship was much handsomer on the side of the hull which Thorberg, had chipped, and bade him shape the other side in the same way, and gave him great thanks for the improvement.  Afterwards Thorberg was the master builder of the ship until she was entirely finished.  The ship was a dragon, built after the one the king had captured in Halogaland; but this ship was far larger, and more carefully put together in all her parts.

The king called this ship Serpent the Long, and the other Serpent the Short.  The long Serpent had thirty-four benches for rowers.  The head and the arched tail were both gilt, and the bulwarks were as high as in sea-going ships.  This ship was the best and most costly ship ever made in Norway.  It was the culmination of Viking ship building, the final evolution of the longship, for there was a limit to the size that frameless shell planked ships could be taken to, and the Long Serpent was it.

Part 57 (103) – Iceland Baptized  (circa 1000)

When King Olaf had nearly rigged out his fleet in Nidaros, he appointed men over the Trondheim country in all districts and communities.

He also sent to Iceland Gissur the White and Hjalte Skeggjason, to proclaim Christianity there; and sent with them a priest called Thormod, along with several men in holy orders.  But he retained with him, as hostages, four Christian Icelanders whom he thought the most important; namely, Kjartan Olafson, Haldor Gudmundson, Kolbein Thordson, and Sverting Runolfson.

Of Gissur and Hjalte’s progress, it is related that they came to Iceland before the Althing, and went to the Thing; and in that Thing Christianity was introduced by law into Iceland, and in the course of the summer all the people were baptized.

Part 58 (104) – Greenland Baptized  (circa 1000)

The same spring King Olaf also sent Leif Eirikson back to Greenland to proclaim Christianity there, and Leif went there that summer.  In the great Atlantean Ocean he took up the crew of a ship which had been lost, and who were clinging to the wreck.  He also found Vinland the Good; arrived about harvest in Greenland; and had with him for it a priest and other teachers, with whom he went to Brattahild to lodge with his father Erik.

People called him afterwards Leif the Lucky: but his father Erik said that his luck and ill luck balanced each other; for if Leif had saved the crew of a wreck in the ocean, he had brought a harmful person with him to Greenland, and that was the priest.

Part 59 (105) – Ragnvald Sends Messengers To Olaf

The winter after King Olaf had baptized Halogaland, he and Queen Thora were newly married in Nidaros and soon she became pregnant, which surprised her because she had not gotten pregnant before with either King Sweyn or with King Burizleif.  But she lost the baby and the midwives had to take it out and it had been a boy child, which had been both stout and promising, and she called it Harald and they buried its body in Lade, in the backyard of Sweyn’s longhall there because the baby had not been born alive and had never been baptised and could not be buried in a Christian cemetery.

The king and queen had loved the prospective infant exceedingly, and had rejoiced in the pregnancy and both hoped that it would grow up and inherit the attributes of its father; but it was not to be, which both took much to heart.  Queen Thora was distraught by how things had turned out.  She had always wanted a baby and when Gunhilde had so many so easily with King Sweyn, her failure to conceive had been torture.  And when King Sweyn had sold her for a chest of gold to King Burizleif and his daughter, Gunhild, who came as part of the deal, started bearing King Sweyn babies, her failure to conceive had caused her severe depression, which had made it easier for Sweyn to send her off to Wendland and the old king there.  Only then, was her failure to conceive a blessing.  And then she’d escaped.  Burizleif’s daughter, Astrid, who was also part of the deal somehow, was also having trouble conceiving, and was equally envious of her sister, Gunhild’s, fertility and helped her escape and passed her troublesome step-mother off to her sister in Denmark.  Thora told Olaf that she had a chest of gold in Wendland, that was too heavy for four men to carry, that King Sweyn had given out as her dowry, and King Olaf started to give an ear to her complaints of all the property she had left in Wendland.

In that winter were many Icelanders and other clever men in King Olaf’s great longhall, which had belonged to Jarl Haakon, as before described.  His sister Ingebjorg, Trygve’s daughter, King Olaf’s sister, was also at the court at that time.  She was beautiful in appearance, modest and frank with the people, had a steady manly judgment, and was beloved of all.  She was very fond of the Icelanders who were there, but mostly of Kjartan Olafson, for he had been longer than the others in the king’s house, and he found it always amusing to converse with her, for she had both understanding and cleverness in talk.  The king was always gay and full of mirth in his intercourse with people, and often asked about the manners of the great men and chiefs in the neighbouring countries, when strangers from Denmark or Sweden came to see him.

The summer before Halfred Vandredaskald had come from Gotland, where he had been with Earl Ragnvald, Ulf’s son, who had lately come to the government of Vaster Gotland.  Ulf, Ragnvald’s father, was a brother of Sigrid the Haughty; so that King Olaf Skotkonung, the Swedish ruler, and Earl Ragnvald were brother’s and sister’s children.

Halfred told Olaf many things about the earl: he said he was an able chief, excellently fitted for governing, generous with money, brave and steady in friendship.  Halfred said also the earl desired much the friendship of King Olaf, and had spoken of making courtship with Ingebjorg, Trygve’s daughter.  The same winter came ambassadors from Gotland, and fell in with King Olaf in the north, in Nidaros, and brought the message which Halfred had spoken of, that the earl desired to be King Olaf’s entire friend, and wished to become his brother-in-law by obtaining his sister Ingebjorg in marriage.  Therewith the ambassadors laid before the king sufficient tokens in proof that in reality they came from the earl on this errand.

The king listened with approbation to their speech; but said that Ingebjorg must determine on his assent to the marriage. The king then talked to his sister about the matter, and asked her opinion about it.

She answered to this effect, “I have been with you for some time, and you have shown brotherly care and tender respect for me ever since you came to the country.  I will agree therefore to your proposal about my marriage, provided that you do not marry me to a heathen man.”

The king said it should be as she wished.  The king then spoke to the ambassadors, and it was settled before they departed that in summer Earl Ragnvald should meet the king in the east parts of the country, to enter into the fullest friendship with each other, and when they met they would settle about the marriage.  With this reply the earl’s messengers went westward, and King Olaf remained all winter in Nidaros in great splendour, and with many people about him.

Part 60 (101) – Olaf’s Levy For War

Olaf Tryggvason by PN Arbo c 1880

Soon after the king convoked a Thing in the town, and proclaimed to all the public, that in summer he would go abroad upon an expedition out of the country, and would raise both ships and men from every district; and at the same time fixed how many ships he would have from the whole Trondheim fjord.

Then he sent his war-token south and north, both along the sea-coast and up in the interior of the country, to let an army be gathered.  The king ordered the Long Serpent to be put into the water, along with all his other ships both small and great.

He himself steered the Long Serpent.  When the crews were taken out for the ships, they were so carefully selected that no man on board the Long Serpent was older than sixty or younger than twenty years, and all were men distinguished for strength and courage.  Those who were Olaf’s bodyguard were, in particular, chosen men, both of the natives and of foreigners, and the boldest and strongest.

Part 61 (102) – Crew On Board Of The Long Serpent

Ulf the Red was the name of the man who bore King Olaf’s banner, and was in the forecastle of the Long Serpent; and with him was: Kolbjorn the marshal, Thorstein Uxafot, and Vikar of Tiundaland, a brother of Arnliot Gelline.

By the bulkhead next the forecastle were: Vak Raumason from Gaut River, Berse the Strong, An Skyte from Jamtaland, Thrand the Strong from Telemark, and his brother Uthyrmer.

Besides these were, of Halogaland men, Thrand Skjalge and Ogmund Sande, Hlodver Lange from Saltvik, and Harek Hvasse; together with these Trondheim men: Ketil the High, Thorfin Eisle, Havard and his brothers from Orkadal.

The following were in the fore-hold: Bjorn from Studla, Bork from the fjords, Thorgrim Thjodolfson from Hvin, Asbjorn and Orm, Thord from Njardarlog, Thorstein the White from Oprustadar, Arnor from More, Halstein and Hauk from the Fjord district, Eyvind Snak, Bergthor Bestil, Halkel from Fialer, Olaf Dreng, Arnfin from Sogn, Sigurd Bild, Einar from Hordaland, and Fin, and Ketil from Rogaland and Grjotgard the Brisk.

The following were in the hold next the mast: Einar Tambaskelfer, who was not reckoned as fully experienced, being only eighteen years old, Thorstein Hlifarson, Thorolf, Ivar Smetta, and Orm Skogarnef.

Many other valiant men were in the Serpent, although we cannot tell all their names.  In every half division of the hold were eight men, and each and all chosen men, and in the fore-hold were thirty men.  It was a common saying among people, that the Long Serpent’s crew was as distinguished for bravery, strength, and daring, among other men, as the Long Serpent was distinguished among other ships.

Thorkel Nefja, the king’s brother, commanded the Short Serpent; and Thorkel Dydril and Jostein, the king’s mother’s brothers, had the Crane; and both these ships were well manned.  King Olaf had eleven large ships from Trondheim, besides vessels with twenty rowers’ benches, smaller vessels, and provision-vessels.

Part 62 (106) – Olaf Sends Expedition To Wendland

King Olaf proceeded in summer with his ships and men southwards along the land and past Stad.  With him were Queen Thora and Princess Ingebjorg, Trygve’s daughter, the king’s sister.  Many of his friends also joined him, and other persons of consequence who had prepared themselves to travel with the king.  The first man among these was his brother-in-law, Erling Skjalgson, who had with him a large ship of thirty benches of rowers, and which was in every respect well equipped.  His brothers-in-law Hyrning and Thorgeir also joined him, each of whom for himself steered a large vessel; and many other powerful men besides followed him.  With all this war-force he sailed southwards along the land; but when he came south as far as Rogaland he stopped there, for Erling Skjalgson had prepared for him a splendid feast at Sole.

There Earl Ragnvald, Ulf’s son, from Gotland, came to meet the king, and to settle the business which had been proposed in winter in the messages between them, namely, the marriage with Ingebjorg the king’s sister.  Olaf received him kindly; and when the matter came to be spoken of, the king said he would keep his word, and marry his sister Ingebjorg to him, provided he would accept the true faith, and make all his subjects he ruled over in his land be baptized.  The earl agreed to this, and he and all his followers were baptized.  Now was the feast enlarged that Erling had prepared, for the earl held his wedding there with Ingebjorg the king’s sister.  King Olaf had now married off all his sisters.  The earl, with Ingebjorg, set out on his way home and the king sent learned men with him to baptize the people in Gotland, and to teach them the right faith and morals.  The king and the earl parted in the greatest friendship.

Part 63 (107) – Olaf’s Expedition to Wendland  (c. 1000)

After his sister Ingebjorg’s wedding, the king made ready in all haste to leave the country with his army, which was both great and made up of fine men.  When he left the land and sailed southwards he had sixty ships of war, with which he sailed past Denmark, and in through the Sound, and on to Wendland.  He appointed a meeting with King Burizleif; and when the kings met, they spoke about the property which King Olaf demanded, and the conference went off peaceably, as a good account was given of the properties which King Olaf thought himself entitled to there.  He passed here much of the summer, and found many of his old friends.

Part 64 (108) – Conspiracy Against King Olaf

The Danish king, Sweyn Forkbeard, was married, as before related, to Sigrid the Haughty.  Sigrid was King Olaf Tryggvason’s greatest enemy, the cause of which, as before said, was that King Olaf had broken off with her, and had struck her in the face.  She urged King Sweyn often to give battle to King Olaf Tryggvason; saying that he had reason enough, as Olaf had married his sister Thora without his leave, “and that your predecessors would not have submitted to.”  Such persuasions Sigrid had often in her mouth; and at last she brought it so far that Sweyn resolved firmly on doing so.

Early in spring King Sweyn sent messengers eastward into Svithjod and Gardar, to his son-in-law Olaf Skotkonung, the Swedish king, to his son, Grand Prince Valdamar ‘the Great’ of Hraes’, and to Jarl Eirik in Ipswich, and informed them that King Olaf of Norway was levying men for an expedition, and intended in summer to go to Wendland.  To this news the Danish king added an invitation to the Swedish king and Jarl Eirik to meet King Svein with an army, so that all together they might make an attack; on King Olaf Tryggvason.  The Swedish king and Jarl Eirik were ready enough for this, and immediately assembled great fleets and armies, with which they sailed to Denmark, and arrived there after King Olaf Tryggvason had sailed to the eastward.

Haldor the Unchristian tells of this in his lay on Jarl Eirik:

“The king-subduer raised a host
Of warriors on the Swedish coast.
The brave went southwards to the fight,
Who love the sword-storm’s gleaming light;
The brave, who fill the wild wolf’s mouth,
Followed bold Eirik to the south;
The brave, who sport in blood — each one
With the bold earl to sea is gone.”

The Swedish king and Jarl Eirik sailed to meet the Danish king, and they had all, when together, an immense force.

Part 65 (109) – Earl Sigvald’s Treacherous Plans

At the same time that king Sweyn sent a message to Svithjod for an army, he sent Jarl Sigvald to Wendland to spy out King Olaf Tryggvason’s proceedings, and to bring it about by cunning devices that King Sweyn and King Olaf should fall in with each other.  So Sigvald set out for Wendland, first, going to Jomsborg, and then he sought out King Olaf Tryggvason.  There was much friendship in their conversation, and the jarl got himself into great favour with the king.  Astrid, the jarl’s wife, King Burizleif’s daughter, was a great friend of King Olaf Tryggvason, particularly on account of the connection which had been between them when Olaf was married to her sister Geira.

Jarl Sigvald was a prudent, ready-minded man and, as he had got a voice in King Olaf’s council, he put him off much from sailing homewards, finding various reasons for delay.  Olaf’s people were in the highest degree dissatisfied with this; for the men were anxious to get home, and they lay ready to sail, waiting only for a wind.

At last Jarl Sigvald got a secret message from Denmark that King Sweyn had returned from Baghdad and that the Swedish king’s army was arrived from the east, and that Jarl Eirik’s also was ready, some having arrived from Ipswich and some from Sweden; and that all these chiefs had resolved to sail eastwards to Wendland, and wait for King Olaf at an island which is called Svold.  They also desired the jarl to contrive matters so that they should meet King Olaf there.

Part 66 (110) – King Olaf’s Voyage From Wendland  (circa 1000)

There came first a flying report to Wendland that the Danish king, Sweyn, had fitted out an army; and it was soon whispered that he intended to attack King Olaf.  But Jarl Sigvald said to King Olaf, “It never can be King Sweyn’s intention to venture with the Danish force alone, to give battle to thee with such a powerful army; but if thou hast any suspicion that evil is afoot, I will follow thee with my force, and I will give thee eleven well-manned ships.”

The king accepted this offer; and as the light breeze of wind that came was favourable, he ordered the ships to get under way, and the war-horns to sound the departure.  The sails were hoisted and all the small vessels, sailing fastest, got out to sea before the others.  The jarl, who sailed nearest to the king’s ship, called to those on board to tell the king to sail in his keel-track: “For I know where the water is deepest between the islands and in the sounds, and these large ships require the deepest.”

Then the jarl sailed first with his eleven ships, and the king followed with his large ships, also eleven in number; but the whole of the rest of the fleet sailed out to sea.  Now when Jarl Sigvald came sailing close under the island Svold, a skiff rowed out to inform the jarl that the Danish king’s fleet was lying hidden in the harbour before them.  Then the jarl ordered the sails of his vessels to be struck, and they rowed in under shelter of the island.

Haldor the Unchristian says:

“From out the south bold Trygve’s son
With one-and-seventy ships came on,
To dye his sword in bloody fight,
Against the Danish foeman’s might.
But the false earl, the king betrayed;
And treacherous Sigvald, it is said,
Deserted from King Olaf’s fleet,
And basely fled, the Danes to meet.”

It is said here that King Olaf and Earl Sigvald had seventy sail of vessels: and one more, when they sailed from the south.  The one more was Princess Astrid’s personal warship that her father, King Burizleif had provided for her.  He told her to keep it out of any fight, for he feared that, if there was trouble, Jarl Sigvald and his famed Jomsvikings would be in the thick of it.

Part 67 (111) – Consultation Of The Kings

The Kings View Olaf’s Fleet as it Sails by Svolder by H Egedius 1897

The Danish King Sweyn, the Swedish King Olaf, and the Norwegian Jarl Eirik, were there with all their forces.  The weather being fine and clear sunshine, all these chiefs, with a great suite, went out on the isle beyond the harbour to see the vessels sailing out at sea, and many of them crowded together; and they saw among them one large and glancing ship.

The two kings said, “That is a large and very beautiful vessel: that will be the Long Serpent.”

Jarl Eirik replied, “That is not the Long Serpent.”

And he was right; for it was the ship belonging to Eindride of Gimsar.

Soon after they saw another vessel coming sailing along much larger than the first; then said King Sweyn, “Olaf Tryggvason must be afraid, for he does not venture to sail with the figure-head of the dragon upon his ship.”

Says Earl Eirik, “That is not the king’s ship yet; for I know that ship by the coloured stripes of cloth in her sail.  That is Erling Skialgson’s.  Let him sail; for it is the better for us that the ship is away from Olaf’s fleet, so well equipped as she is.”

Soon after they saw and knew Earl Sigvald’s ships, which turned in and laid themselves under the island.  Then they saw three ships coming along under sail, and one of them very large.

King Sweyn ordered his men to go to their ships, “for there comes the Long Serpent.”

Jarl Eirik said, “Many other great and stately vessels have they besides the Long Serpent.  Let us wait a little.”

Then said many, “Jarl Eirik will not fight and avenge his father; and it is a great shame that it should be told that we lay here with so great a force, and allowed King Olaf to sail out to sea before our eyes.”

But when they had spoken thus for a short time, they saw four ships coming sailing along, of which one had a large dragon-head richly gilt.  Then King Sweyn stood up and said, “That dragon shall carry me this evening high, for I shall steer it.”

Then said many, “The Long Serpent is indeed a wonderfully large and beautiful vessel, and it shows a great mind to have built such a ship.”

Jarl Eirik said under his breath, “If King Olaf had no other vessels but only that one, King Sweyn would never take it from him with his Danish force alone.”

Thereafter all the people rushed on board their ships, took down the tents, and in all haste made ready for battle.  While the chiefs were speaking among themselves as above related, they saw three very large ships coming sailing along, and at last after them a fourth, and that was the Long Serpent.  Of the large ships which had gone before, and which they had taken for the Long Serpent, the first was the Crane; the one after that was the Short Serpent; and when they really saw the Long Serpent, all knew, and nobody had a word to say against it, that it must be Olaf Tryggvason who was sailing in such a vessel, and they went to their ships to arm for the fight.

An agreement had been concluded among the chiefs, King Sweyn, King Olaf the Swede, and Jarl Eirik, that they should divide Norway among them in three parts, in case they succeeded against Olaf Tryggvason, but that he of the chiefs who should first board the Long Serpent should have her, and all the booty found in her, and each should have the ships he cleared for himself.

Jarl Eirik had a large ship of war which he used upon his viking expeditions, and there was an iron beard or comb above on both sides of the stem, and below it a thick iron plate as broad as the combs, which went down quite to the gunnel.

Part 68 (112) – Of King Olaf’s People

When Jarl Sigvald with his vessels rowed in under the island, Thorkel Dydril of the Crane, and the other ship commanders who sailed with him, saw that he turned his ships towards the isle, and thereupon let fall the sails, and rowed after him, calling out, and asking why he sailed that way.

The jarl answered, that he was waiting for King Olaf, as he feared there were enemies in the water.  They lay upon their oars until Thorkel Nefia came up with the Short Serpent and the three ships which followed him.

When they told them the same they too struck sail, and let the ships drive, waiting for King Olaf.

But when the king sailed past the isle, the whole enemies’ fleet came rowing within them out to the Sound.  When they saw this they begged the king to keep on his way, and not risk battle with so great a force, for he was still at full speed with a full sail up.  The king saw that he could outrun the Danes but that the ships that had slowed to wait for him could not, for they were now dead in the water thanks to Jarl Sigvald, so Olaf replied, high on the quarter-deck where he stood, “Strike the sails; never shall men of mine think of flight.  I have never fled from battle.  Let God dispose of my life, but flight I shall never take.”  It was done as the king commanded.

Halfred tells of it thus:

“And far and wide the saying bold
Of the brave warrior shall be told.
The king, in many a fray well tried,
To his brave champions round him cried,
‘My men shall never learn from me
From the dark weapon-cloud to flee.’
Nor were the brave words spoken then
Forgotten by his faithful men.”

Part 69 (113) – Olaf’s Ships Prepare For Battle

King Olaf ordered the war-horns to sound for all his ships to close up to each other side by side.  The king’s ship , the Long Serpent, lay in the middle of the line, and on one side lay the Serpent, and on the other the Crane; and as they made fast the top strakes together, the Long Serpent’s forestem and the Serpent’s were in line together; but when the king saw it he called out to his men, and ordered them to lay the larger ship more in advance, so that its stern should not lie so far out behind.  Then said Ulf the Red, “If the Long Serpent is to lie as much more ahead of the other ships as she is longer than them, we shall have hard work of it here on the forecastle.”

The king replied, “I did not think I had a forecastle man afraid as well as red.”

Said Ulf, “Defend your quarterdeck as I shall the forecastle.”  The king had a bow in his hands, and laid an arrow on the string, and aimed at Ulf.  Ulf said, “Shoot another way, king, where it is more needful: my work here is your gain.”

Part 70 (114) – Of King Olaf

King Olaf Tryggvason

King Olaf stood on the Serpent’s quarterdeck, high over the others.  He had a gilt shield, a helmet inlaid with gold and over his armour he had a short red coat, and was easily distinguished from other men.  When King Olaf saw the scattered forces of the enemy gather themselves together under the banners of their ships, he asked, “Who is the chief of the force right opposite to us?”

He was answered that it was King Sweyn with the Danish army.

The king replied, “We are not afraid of these soft Danes, for there is no bravery in them; but who are the troops on the right of the Danes?”

He was answered that it was King Olaf Skotkonung with the Swedish forces.

“Better it were,” said King Olaf, “for these Swedes to be sitting at home killing their sacrifices, than to be venturing under our weapons from the Long Serpent.  But who owns the large ships on the larboard side of the Danes?”

“That is Jarl Eirik Haakonson,” said they.

The king replied, “He, I think, has good reason for meeting us; and we may expect the sharpest conflict with these men, for they are Norsemen like ourselves.”

The Battle of Svolder by PN Arbo c1880

Part 71 (115) – The Battle Began

The kings now laid out their oars, and prepared to attack.  King Sweyn laid his ship against the forecastle of the Long Serpent.  Outside of him Olaf the Swede laid himself, and set his ship’s stern against the outermost ship of King Olaf’s line; and on the other side lay Jarl Eirik.  Then a hard combat began.  Jarl Sigvald held back with the oars on his ships, and did not join the fray.

So said Skule Thorsteinson, who at that time was with Jarl Eirik:

“I followed Sigvald in my youth,
And gallant Eirik, and in truth
The’ now I am grown stiff and old,
In the spear-song I once was bold.
Where arrows whistled on the shore
Of Svold fjord my shield I bore,
And stood amidst the loudest clash
When swords on shields made fearful crash.”

And Halfred also sings thus:

“In truth I think the gallant king,
Midst such a foemen’s gathering,
Would be the better of some score
Of his tight Trondheim lads, or more;
For many a chief has run away,
And left our brave king in the fray,
Two great kings’ power to withstand,
And one great earl’s, with his small band,
The king who dares such mighty deed
A hero for his skald would need.”

Part 72 (116) – Flight Of Sweyn And Olaf The Swede

This battle was one of the severest ever told of, and many were the people slain.  The forecastle men of the Long Serpent, the Little Serpent, and the Crane, threw grapplers and stem chains into King Sweyn’s ship, and used their weapons well against the people standing below them, for they cleared the decks of all the ships they could lay fast hold of; and King Sweyn, and all the men who escaped, fled to other vessels, and laid themselves out of bow-shot.  It went with this force just as King Olaf Tryggvason had foreseen.

Then King Olaf the Swede laid his ships beside them in their place, but when he came near the great ships it went with him as with them, for he lost many men and some ships, and was obliged to get away.

But Jarl Eirik, too, knew how to handle the big ships of King Olaf’s formation, for he remembered what had worked for the Jomsvikings at the Battle of Hjorungavagr, and he laid his ship side by side with the outermost of King Olaf’s ships, thinned it of men, cut the cables, and let it drive.  Then he laid alongside of the next, and fought until he had cleared it of men also.  Replacements streamed onto his ship from the rest of his fleet and soon all the people who were in the smaller ships of Olaf’s formation began to run into the larger, and the jarl cut them loose as fast as he cleared them of men.  The Danes and Swedes laid themselves now out of shooting distance all around Olaf’s ship; but Jarl Eirik lay always close alongside of the ships, and used his swords and battle-axes, and as fast as people fell in his vessel others, Danes and Swedes, came in their place.

So says Haldor, the Unchristian:

“Sharp was the clang of shield and sword,
And shrill the song of spears on board,
And whistling arrows thickly flew
Against the Serpent’s gallant crew.
And still fresh foemen, it is said,
Earl Eirik to her long side led;
Whole armies of his Danes and Swedes,
Wielding on high their blue sword-blades.”

Then the fight became most severe, and many people fell.  But at last it came to this, that all King Olaf Tryggvason’s ships were cleared of men except the Long Serpent, on board of which all who could still carry their arms were gathered. Then Earl Eirik lay with his ship by the side of the Serpent, and the fight went on with battle-axe and sword.

So says Haldor:

“Hard pressed on every side by foes,
The Serpent reels beneath the blows;
Crash go the shields around the bow!
Breast-plates and breasts pierced thro’ and thro!
In the sword-storm the Holm beside,
The earl’s ship lay alongside
The king’s Long Serpent of the sea —
Fate gave the earl the victory.”

Part 73 (117) – Of Jarl Eirik

Jarl Eirik was in the forehold of his ship, where a cover of shields had been set up.  In the fight, both hewing weapons, sword, and axe, and the thrust of spears had all been used; and all that could be used as weapons for casting were cast.  Some used bows, some threw spears with the hand.  So many weapons were cast into the Serpent, and so thick flew spears and arrows, that the shields could scarcely receive them, for on all sides the Long Serpent was surrounded by war-ships.

Then King Olaf’s men became so mad with rage, that they ran on board of the enemies ships, to get at the people with stroke of sword and kill them; but many did not lay themselves so near the Serpent, in order to escape the close encounter with battle-axe or sword; and thus the most of Olaf’s men went overboard and sank under their weapons, thinking they were fighting on plain ground.

So says Halfred:

“The daring lads shrink not from death;
O’erboard they leap, and sink beneath
The Serpent’s keel: all armed they leap,
And down they sink five fathoms deep.
The foe was daunted at the cheers;
The king, who still the Serpent steers,
In such a strait — beset with foes —
Wanted but some more lads like those.”

Part 74 (118) – Of Einar Tambarskelver

Einar Tambarskelver at the Battle of Svolder by C Krohg

Einar Tambarskelver, one of the sharpest of archers, stood by the mast, and shot with his bow.  Einar shot an arrow at Jarl Eirik, which hit the tiller end just above the earl’s head so hard that it entered the wood up to the arrow-shaft.  The jarl looked that way, and asked if they knew who had shot and at the same moment another arrow flew between his hand and his side, and into the stuffing of the chief’s stool, so that the barb stood far out on the other side.  Then said the jarl to a man called Fin, “Shoot that tall man by the mast!”

Fin shot; and the arrow hit the middle of Einar’s bow just at the moment that Einar was drawing it, and the bow was split in two parts.  “What is that.” cried King Olaf, “that broke with such a noise?”

“Norway, king, from thy hands,” cried Einar.

“No!  Not quite so much as that,” said the king.  “Take my bow, and shoot,” and he flung the bow to him.  Einar took the bow, and drew it over the head of the arrow.  “Too weak, too weak,” said he, “for the bow of a mighty king!” and, throwing the bow aside, he took sword and shield, and fought valiantly.

Part 75 (119) – Olaf Gave His Men Sharp Swords

The king stood on the gangways of the Long Serpent and shot the greater part of the day; sometimes with the bow, sometimes with the spear, and always throwing two spears at once.  He looked down over the ship’s sides, and saw that his men struck briskly with their swords, and yet wounded but seldom.

Then he called aloud, “Why do ye strike so gently that ye seldom cut?”

One among the people answered, “The swords are now blunt and full of notches.”

Then the king went down into the forehold, opened the chest under the throne, and took out many sharp swords, which he handed to his men; but as he stretched down his right hand with them, some observed that blood was running down under his steel glove, but no one knew where he was wounded.

Part 76 (120) – The Long Serpent Boarded

Battle of Svolder by O Sinding c1900

Desperate was the defence in the Long Serpent, and there was the heaviest destruction of men done by the forecastle crew, and those of the forehold, for in both places the men were chosen men, and the ship was highest, but in the middle of the ship the people were thinned.  Now when Jarl Eirik saw there were but few people remaining beside the ship’s mast, he determined to board; and he entered the Serpent with four others.  Then came Hyrning, the king’s brother-in-law, and some others against him, and there was the most severe combat; and at last the jarl was forced to leap back on board his own ship again, and some who had accompanied him were killed, and others wounded.

Thord Kolbeinson alludes to this:

“On Odin’s deck, all wet with blood,
The helm-adorned hero stood;
And gallant Hyrning honour gained,
Clearing all round with sword deep stained.
The high mountain peaks shall fall,
Ere men forget this to recall.”

Now the fight became hot indeed, and many men fell on board the Long Serpent; and the men on board of her began to be thinned off, and the defence to be weaker.  The jarl resolved to board the Serpent again, and again he met with a warm reception.  When the forecastle men of the Serpent saw what he was doing, they went aft and made a desperate fight; but so many men of the Serpent had fallen, that the ship’s sides were in many places quite bare of defenders; and the jarl’s men poured in all around into the vessel, and all the men who were still able to defend the ship crowded aft to the king, and arrayed themselves for his defence.

So says Haldor the Unchristian:

“Eirik cheers on his men,
‘On to the charge again!’
The gallant few
Of Olaf’s crew
Must refuge take
On the quarter-deck.
Around the king
They stand in ring;
Their shields enclose
The king from foes,
And the few who still remain
Fight madly, but in vain.
Eirik cheers on his men,
‘On to the charge again!'”

Part 77 (121) – The Serpent’s Decks Cleared

Kolbjorn the marshal, who had on clothes and arms like the king’s, and was a remarkably stout and handsome man, went up to king on the quarter-deck.  The battle was still going on fiercely even in the forehold.  But as many of the jarl’s men had now got onto the Serpent as could find room, and his ships lay all round her, and few were the people left in the Serpent for defence against so great a force; and in a short time most of the Serpent’s men fell, brave and stout though they were.

King Olaf and Kolbjorn the marshal both sprang overboard, each on his own side of the ship; but the jarl’s men had laid out boats around the Serpent, and killed those who leapt overboard.  Now when the king had sprung overboard, they tried to seize him with their hands, and bring him to Jarl Eirik; but King Olaf threw his shield over his head, and sank beneath the waters.  Kolbjorn held his shield behind him to protect himself from the spears cast at him from the ships which lay round the Serpent, and he fell so upon his shield that it came under him, so that he could not sink so quickly.  He was thus taken and brought into a boat, and they supposed he was the king.  He was brought before the jarl; and when the jarl saw it was Kolbjorn, and not the king, he gave him his life.  At the same moment all of King Olaf’s men who were still alive sprang overboard from the Serpent; and Thorkel Nefia, the king’s brother, was the last of all the men who sprang overboard.

It is thus told concerning the king by Halfred:

“The Serpent and the Crane
Lay wrecks upon the main.
On his sword he cast a glance, —
With it he saw no chance.
To his marshal, who of yore
Many a war-chance had come o’er,
He spoke a word — then drew in breath,
And sprang to his deep-sea death.”

Part 78 (122) – Report Among The People

Earl Sigvald, as before related, came from Wendland, in company with King Olaf, with ten ships; but the eleventh ship was manned with the men of Astrid, King Burizleif’s daughter, the wife of Jarl Sigvald.  Now when King Olaf sprang overboard, the whole army raised a shout of victory; and then Jarl Sigvald and his men put their oars in the water and rowed towards the battle.

Haldor the Unchristian tells of it thus:

“Then first the Vindland vessels came
Into the fight with little fame;
The fight still lingered on the wave,
Tho’ hope was gone with Olaf brave.
War, like a full-fed ravenous beast,
Still opened her grim jaws for the feast.
The few who stood now quickly fled,
When the shout told — ‘Olaf is dead!'”

But the Wendland cutter, in which Astrid’s men were, rowed back to Wendland; and the report went immediately abroad and was told by many, that King Olaf had cast off his coat-of-mail under water, and had swum, diving under the longships, until he came to the Wendland cutter, and that Astrid’s men had conveyed him to Wendland: and many tales have been made since about the adventures of Olaf the king.

Halfred speaks thus about it:

“Does Olaf live? or is he dead?
Has he the hungry ravens fed?
I scarcely know what I should say,
For many tell the tale each way.
This I can say, nor fear to lie,
That he was wounded grievously,
So wounded in this bloody strife,
He scarce could come away with life.”

But however this may have been, King Olaf Tryggvason never came back again to his kingdom of Norway.  Halfred Vandredaskald speaks also thus about it:

“The witness who reports this thing
Of Trygve’s son, our gallant king,
Once served the king, and truth should tell,
For Olaf hated lies like hell.
If Olaf ‘scaped from this sword-thing,
Worse fate, I fear, befell our king
Than people guess, or e’er can know,
For he was hemm’d in by the foe.
From the far east some news is rife
Of king sore wounded saving life;
His death, too sure, leaves me no care
For cobweb rumours in the air.
It never was the will of fate
That Olaf from such perilous strait
Should ‘scape with life! this truth may grieve,
‘What people wish they soon believe.'”

Part 79 (123) – Of Jarl Eirik, The Son Of Haakon

By this victory Jarl Eirik Haakonson became owner of the Long Serpent, and made a great booty besides; and he steered the Serpent from the battle.

So says Haldor:

“Olaf, with glittering helmet crowned,
Had steered the Serpent through the Sound;
And people dressed their boats, and cheered
As Olaf’s fleet in splendour steered.
But the descendent of great Heming,
Whose race tells many a gallant sea-king,
His blue sword in red life-blood stained,
And bravely Olaf’s long ship gained.”

Now when Sweyn the Danish king, Olaf the Swedish king, and Earl Eirik divided the kingdom of Norway between them, King Olaf got four districts in the Trondheim country, and also the districts of More and Raumsdal; and in the east part of the land he got Ranerike, from the Gaut river to Svinasund.

King Sweyn, as adopted son of Jarl Haakon, and Jarl Eirik’s blood brother, was called Jarl Svein and was engaged at this time to marry Princess Holmfrid, a daughter of King Olaf Skotkonung, the Swedish king.  Olaf gave these dominions into ‘Jarl Svein’s’ hands, on the same conditions as the sub kings or jarls had held them formerly from the upper-king of the country.  Jarl Eirik got four districts in the Trondheim country, and Halogaland, Naumudal, the Fjord districts, Sogn, Hordaland, Rogaland, and North Agder, all the way to the Naze.

So says Thord Kolbeinson:

“All chiefs within our land
On Eirik’s side now stand:
Erling alone, I know
Remains Jarl Eirik’s foe.
All praise our generous jarl, —
He gives, and is no churl:
All men are well content
Fate such a chief has sent.
From Veiga to Agder they,
Well pleased, the earl obey;
And all will by him stand,
To guard the Norsemen’s land.
And now the news is spread
That mighty Trygve’s son is dead,
And luck is gone from those
Who were the Norsemen’s foes.”

The Danish king Sweyn retained Viken as he had held it before, but he gave Raumarike and Hedemark to Jarl Eirik.  Jarl ‘Svein Haakonson’ got the title of Swedish jarl from Olaf the Swedish king along with his young daughter.  The Jarls Eirik and Svein both retained their Aesir faith, but as long as they ruled in Norway they allowed everyone to do as they pleased in the holding of Christianity or not.  But, on the other hand, they held fast by the old laws, and all the old rights and customs of the land, and were excellent men and good rulers.  Jarl Eirik had most to say of the two brothers in all matters of government in Norway.

Jarl Eirik and his men sailed the Long Serpent to Ipswich and he showed it to Princess Gyda and she was astounded by the size of it, and the quality of its finish, and by the gold gilt dragon’s head and tail, so pagan in their look and feel.  Eirik took her up on the high quarterdeck where King Olaf and his men had made their last stand and then further up onto the poop deck where Olaf and Kolbein had dove down into the waters to escape death.  “Jarl Olaf escaped to his death,” Eirik lamented, “but, his marshal, Kolbein was captured and I bent him over his shield and spared him his life.”  Gyda didn’t know what to say.  Half the soldiers of Angleland had been bent over their shields and taken from behind by the Danes or sent off to the eunuch armies in the east.  “Olaf should have fought me to the death and earned his place in Valhall, or should have at least bent before me o’er his shield, but he lept into the waters, depriving me of his death or supplication.  Now there is but one thing that I must do, and it shall pain us both.”

Gyda wanted to ask him what, but he had not offered, and she was afraid to press.

Princess Gyda of Ipswich

That night a great feast was held in the royal longhall in Ipswich and it went on late into the evening.  As midnight approached, Jarl Eirik and Princess Gyda retired to their great master suite and guards were posted at the double doors while the party went on without.  Jarl Eirik remembered the night when the two had gotten drunk and had first made love and he undressed Gyda who was tipsy from wine and he slid her between silk sheets.  He had been drinking as well, but he’d made her match him cup for cup and she was far more taken by it than he, so, he undressed himself and he slipped between the sheets and began caressing her all over her body.  He began sucking on her breasts and the room was spinning when he entered her and he began thrusting slowly and gently and he told her he loved her as he flowed inside her.  He was caressing her pretty face as there was a knocking at the door, and the guards entered with the two young daughters of Jarl Olaf.  They were in their nightclothes and the guards stripped them naked and left them standing, bewildered and frightened, by the side of the bed, and they returned to their posts.

“Come into bed,” Jarl Eirik said, “and join your mother.”

“Don’t!” Gyda pleaded, as the wine left her head.  “They’re just girls!”

“It is the Aesir way,” Eirik explained, “and his oldest has just reached marriageable age so, it must be done.”

“Just take the one,” Gyda bargained, fighting back the wine.

“Fine,” and Eirik pulled Olaf’s oldest girl on top of himself and he entered her with some force, but no blood came forth.  He pulled her around and got on top of her and he thrust into her gently as she cried and he focked her for some time before he came within her.  Then he tucked her between himself and Gyda and asked his wife how she had lost her virginity.  Gyda told him she had been playing with her personal things and had used her horse dildo upon herself out of curiosity.  “That is unfortunate,” Eirik said, grabbing Olaf’s younger daughter and placing her atop his hips.  “Don’t”, Gyda cried weakly as Eirik forced his way into the girl and her blood flowed freely.  His steed was not as big and hard the third time around so, the girl rode it bravely until he came again.  He then tucked her between himself and Gyda as well and he covered them all under blankets and they slept together all night.

Yulefest was again celebrated in Roskilde and people came from all over the northern land to celebrate the great victory of the Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians over Jarl Olaf Tryggvason.  Hraes’ princes and managers were invited and arrived from all over Hraes’ Trading Company controlled lands as well.  And all were invited to celebrate the marriage of King Sweyn, as Jarl Svein of Norway, to Princess Holmfrid of Sweden, as she had just turned twelve in November and was of marriageable age.  The marriage was one of alliance only and Sweyn was named Jarl Svein of Norway for rights of succession reasons to keep the Swedish throne free of Danish claim.  Still, Princess Holmfrid was a Swedish beauty quite like his mother so, Sweyn helped himself to the girl and took her virginity over the Yule festive season and the young girl was swept up in the honours and adulation of her new Norwegian royalty.  She was going to eventually live in Lade and rule over all Jarl Svein’s Norse holdings there and her decisions over northern matters were subject to her father’s approval.

A second marriage took place in King Sweyn’s study and it was a marriage of victory and necessity, for Jarl Olaf’s oldest daughter was pregnant and Jarl Eirik took her in matrimony as well.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:

‘A.D. 1000.  This year the king went into Cumberland, and nearly laid waste the whole of it with his army, whilst his navy sailed about Chester with the design of co-operating with his land-forces; but, finding it impracticable, they ravaged Anglesey.  The hostile fleet was this summer turned towards the kingdom of Richard.’