Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN POINT ZERO
18.0 THE SECOND BATTLE OF STIKLASTAD PART ONE (JULY 29, 1030 AD)
“Olaf, Harald Grenske’s son, was brought up by his stepfather Sigurd Syr and his mother Asta. Hrane the Far-travelled lived in the house of Asta, and fostered this Olaf Haraldson. Olaf came early to manhood, was handsome in countenance, middle-sized in growth, and was even when very young of good understanding and ready speech.”
From The Saga of Olaf Haraldson in ‘The Heimskringla Saga’
(1030 AD) When Jarl Olaf ‘the Stout’ Haraldson learned of the death of Jarl Haakon of Norway from a secret messenger sent to him by Hearse Einar ‘Thong-Shaker’, he knew it was time to take his personal retinue and his Varangian Guard regiment back north, up through Hraes’, and then to Sweden to prepare his attack upon the Jarls of Norway who now ruled his former kingdom. He told his men that King Olaf Tryggvason had come to him in a dream and had told him it was time to retake his kingdom. He gathered his men about him and they prayed to King Olaf Tryggvason for guidance and blessings. The rivers of Hraes’ were still frozen over, so it would be a hard journey, but Olaf wanted to traverse Hraes’ before the great merchant fleet came down the Dan’Way rivers and might prevent him from achieving his goal. He knew that the fleet’s leader, Prince Hraerik ‘Bragi’ of Gardariki, was of the same ‘Old Fridleif/Frodi’ line of Danish kings that Canute ‘the Old’ was birthed from and he knew that the Prince would stop him, even kill him, if given the chance.
The Dnieper River south of Kiev was first to begin breaking up, so light Roman biremes took the retinue and regiment up through the ice to Kiev. Jarl Olaf stayed with Prince Ivaraslav and his sister-in-law, Princess Ingigerd, in Kiev for a week and they showed him and his followers the greatest of hospitality. It is said that Olaf miraculously cured a young Danish Kievan boy of a boil on his neck that threatened his life, but a very skilled Roman physician was attached to the Guard regiment, and he may have helped. Olaf left his young son Magnus in his aunt, Princess Ingigerd’s care there and Prince Ivaraslav provided the troop with horses, because the rivers north were still frozen over. The horses were shod with iron ice-pick horseshoes and pulled heated and covered sledges full of men and gear up the rivers north to the Baltic. From there Olaf hired ships to take his men to Sweden. When they stopped at the Island of Gotland they heard news that Jarl Haakon of Norway had been missing all winter and no one knew what had happened to him. Fortunately for Olaf, the Gotland merchant fleet had already sailed off to Roskilde to join up with the great merchant fleet there, so no one could inform the Prince of Olaf’s whereabouts.
Meanwhile, in Norway, Hearse Einar ‘Thong-Shaker’ and his son, Eindride, sailed out of Trondheim for England to lay claim to the power King Canute had invested in Jarl Haakon. Valdamar had promised Einar titles and honour and, now that Haakon had gone missing, it was Einar, his killer, who was first in line to inherit his title. King Canute told Einar that he had already promised his son, Svein, all Jarl Haakon’s Norse titles. Ever the gentleman, Valdamar offered Einar and his son lands in England and Einar accepted them. He was the only Norwegian who definitely knew King Olaf was returning for his crown and England seemed like a good place to be when Norway erupted and began spewing lives.
The Jarls of Norway had their spies in Sweden and Denmark watching out for the approach of Olaf. If his ears were spotted, his teeth would not be far off. Some jarls said he would come through Sweden and others said he would come from Jomsburg, so the regiment of Norman knights that Duke Robert had sent them were split up with one thousand stationed in south Norway to cover a sea approach and the other thousand in Lade, in the Trondheim Fjord, in case Olaf came by land from Sweden. Their spies in Sweden were the first to spot the ears of the royal wolf when Jarl Olaf arrived in Birka and met with his wife, Queen Astrid and his daughter, Princess Ulfhild, meaning Battle Wolf. They had not seen each other in two years so, there was much celebrating in the court of King Anund Jakob and the king welcomed the husband of his sister, Astrid. Olaf sent spies into Norway and they established contact with his supporters there, including his half-brother, Harald Sigurdson, who was only fifteen but very stout, strong and warlike. Six hundred men travelled east with Harald to join up with his brother, King Olaf, in Sweden. King Anund offered Olaf another four hundred men and another two hundred or so more joined as they progressed through Sweden. A relative through Harald Fairhair, Prince Dag and his son, Hring, brought another twelve hundred from Sweden as they joined up with their king. King Anund would have offered Jarl Olaf more men, but he had given King Canute hostages to keep peace between them and all knew what happened to Canute’s hostages when peace was broken. He and his sister, Astrid, both pleaded with Olaf not to enter Norway with such a sparse host, but Olaf told them that the Varangian Guard he had brought with him was worth a whole army of bondesmen that would just break up at the first sign of a hard fight. “My Guardsmen will put the bondes to flight,” he assured them.
King Olaf and his men set off across Sweden and sent messages ahead to all inhabited places he passed, that men who could fight and wished a share of booty, should follow him and more men joined his army. Through forest and over desert moors and across large lakes they progressed; dragging boats from lake to lake as required. And, as always, many followers joined the king, some foresters, some thieves, many vagabonds. He proceeded without break until he came to Jamtaland, from which he marched north over Norway’s keel, the ridge of land after which began a descent to the sea coast. The men spread themselves across the land and over the hamlets, proceeding in a scattered fashion, but always, when so dispersed, the Varangian Guard accompanied the king. Prince Dag proceeded with his men on another line of march, and the Swedes on a third column. As they progressed into Norway, locals told them of a large bond army that was forming to meet them.
King Olaf mustered his men, and reckoned he had added more than three thousand men to the retinue and Varangian Guard regiment he had brought up from Roman lands, which made up one great army to field. Then the king made the following speech to the people: “We have a great army, and excellent troops and weapons and armour, and now I will tell you, my men, how I will have our force drawn up. I will lead my banner forward in the center, and my personal retinue and Varangian Guardsmen shall follow it, together with the war forces that joined us from the Uplands, and also those who may come to us here in the Trondheim district. On the right hand of my banner shall be Prince Dag Hringson, with his son, Hring, and all the men he brought to our aid; and he shall have the second banner. And on the left hand of our line shall be the men the Swedish King Anund gave us, together with all the people who came to us in Sweden, and they shall have the third banner. I will also have the people divide themselves into distinct cohorts and maniples, so that relatives and friends can be together; for thus they defend each other best, and know each other. We will have all our men distinguished by a mark, so as to be a field-token upon their helmets and shields, by painting the holy cross thereupon with white colour. When we go into battle we shall all have one countersign and field-cry,—’Forward, forward, Christian men! Cross men! King’s men!’ We must draw up our men in thinner ranks, because we have fewer and stronger people, and I do not wish to let them surround us with their men. Now you men divide yourselves into separate cohorts and then maniples, and then each maniple into ranks, and my Guardsmen will help, then let each man observe well his proper place, and take notice what banner he is drawn up under. Then we shall remain drawn up in array; and our men shall be fully armed, night and day, until we know where the battle will be between us and the bondes.” When the king had finished speaking, the Guardsmen arrayed and arranged the army according to the king’s orders.
Then the king had a meeting with the chiefs of the different formations, and while they met, the men whom the king had sent out into the neighbouring districts to demand men from the local bondes returned. They brought word that all the country around them was stripped of all men able to carry arms, as all the people had joined the bondes’ army; and where they did find any they got but few to follow them, for the most of them answered that they stayed at home because they would not follow either party: they would not go out against the king, nor yet against their own relations. Thus they had got but few people. So the king asked these men what they should now do. Fin Arneson answered, “I will say what should be done if I may advise. We should go with armed men over all the inhabited places, plunder all the goods, and burn all the habitations, and leave not a hut standing, and thus punish the bondes for their treason against their sovereign. I think many a man will then cast himself loose from the bondes’ army, when he sees smoke and flame at home on his farm, and does not know how it is going with children, wives, or old men, fathers, mothers, and other connections. I expect also, that if we succeed in breaking the assembled host, their ranks will soon be thinned; for so it is with the bondes, that the counsel which is the newest is always the dearest to them all, and most followed.” When Fin had ended his speech it met with general applause, for many thought well of such a good occasion to make booty, and all thought the bondes well deserved to suffer damage; and they also thought it probable, what Fin said, that many would in this way be brought to forsake the assembled army of the bondes.
Now when the king heard the warm expressions of his people he told them to listen to him, and said, “The bondes have well deserved that it should be done to them as you desire. They also know that I have formerly done such, burning their habitations, and punishing them severely in many ways, but then I proceeded against them with fire and sword because they rejected the true faith, betook themselves to sacrifices, and would not obey my commands. We had then God’s honour to defend. But this treason against their sovereign is a much less grievous crime, although it does not become men who have any manhood in them to break the faith and vows they have sworn to me. Now, however, it is more in my power to spare those who have dealt ill with me, than those who dealt ill with God. I will, therefore, have my people proceed gently, and commit no ravage. First, I will proceed to meet the bondes; if we can then come to a reconciliation, it is well, but if they will fight with us, then there are two things before us: either we fail in the battle, and then it will be well advised not to have to retire encumbered with spoil and cattle, or we gain the victory, and then you will all be the heirs of all who fight now against us, for some will fall, and others will fly, but both will have forfeited their goods and properties, and then it will be good to enter into full houses and well-stocked farms, but what is burnt is of use to no man, and with pillage and force more is wasted than what turns to use. Now we will spread out far through the inhabited places, and take with us all the men we can find able to carry arms. Then men will also capture cattle for slaughter, or whatever else of provision that can serve for food, but not do any other ravage. But I will see willingly that you kill any spies of the bonde army you may come upon. Prince Dag and his people shall go by the north side down along the valley, and I will go on along the country road, and so we shall meet in the evening, and all have one night together.”
When King Olaf had drawn up his men in battle order, he made a shield rampart with his Varangian Guard regiment that would defend him in battle, for they were the strongest and best trained force. Then he had called his skalds together, and ordered them to go in within the shield defence. “You shall remain here, and see history unfold for yourselves, and then you will not have to follow the reports of others in what you afterwards tell or sing concerning the battle.” There were Thormod Kolbrunarskald, Gissur Gulbraskald, a foster-son of Hofgardaref, and Thorfin Mun. Then Thormod said to Gissur, “Let us not stand so close together, brother, that Sigvat ‘the Skald’ should not find room when he comes. He must stand before the king, and the king will not have it otherwise.” The king heard this, and said, “You need not sneer at Sigvat, because he is not here. Often has he followed me well, and now he is praying for us, and that we greatly need.” Thormod replied, “It may be, sire, that you now require prayers most, but it would be thin around the banner-staff if all thy court-men were now on the way to Rome.”
Thereafter the skalds talked among themselves that it would be well to compose a few songs of remembrance about the events which would soon be taking place.
Then Gissur sang:
“From me shall bonde girl never hear
A thought of sorrow, care, or fear:
I wish my girl knew how gay
We arm us for our Viking fray.
Many and brave they are, we know,
Who come against us there below;
But, life or death, we, one and all,
By Norway’s king will stand or fall.”
And Thorfin Mun made another song:
“Dark is the cloud of men and shields,
Slow moving up through Verdal’s fields.
These Verdal folks presume to bring
Their armed force against their king.
On! let us feed the carrion crow,
Give her a feast in every blow;
And, above all, let Trondheim’s hordes
Feel the sharp edge of true men’s swords.”
And Thormod sang:
“The whistling arrows pipe to battle,
Sword and shield their war-call rattle.
Up! brave men, up! the faint heart here
Finds courage when the danger’s near.
Up! brave men, up! with Olaf on!
With heart and hand a field is won.
One Viking cheer!—then, stead of words,
We’ll speak with our death-dealing swords.”
These songs were immediately memorized by heart by the army.
Thereafter the king made himself ready, and marched down through the valley. His whole forces took up their night-quarter in one place, and lay down all night under their shields, but as soon as day broke the king again put his army in order, and that being done they proceeded down through the valley. Many bondes then came to the king, of whom most joined his army; and all, as one man, told the same tale: that the lendermen had collected an enormous army, with which they intended to give battle to the king.
The king took many marks of silver, and delivered them into the hands of a bonde, and said, “This money you shall conceal, and afterwards hand out, some to churches, some to priests, some to alms-men, as gifts for the lives and souls of those who fight against us, and may fall in battle.”
The bonde replied, “Should you not rather give this money for the soul saving of your own men?”
The king said, “This money shall be given for the souls of those who stand against us in the ranks of the bondes’ army, and fall by the weapons of our own men, for their souls are forfeit because they go against their king which is the same as going against God. The men who follow us to battle, and fall therein, will all be saved because fighting for their king is the same as fighting for God.”
That night the king lay with his army around him on the field and lay long awake in prayer to God and slept very little. Towards morning a slumber fell on him, and when he awoke daylight was shooting up. The king thought it too early to awaken the army, and asked where Thormod the skald was. Thormod was at hand, and asked what was the king’s pleasure. “Sing us a song,” said the king. Thormod raised himself up, and sang so loud that the whole army could hear him. He began to sing the old “Bjarkamal”, of which these are the first verses:—
“The day is breaking,
The house cock, shaking
His rustling wings,
While priest-bell rings,
Crows up the morn,
And touting horn
Wakes thralls to work and weep;
Ye sons of Adil, cast off sleep,
Wake up! wake up!
Nor wassail cup,
Nor maiden’s jeer,
Awaits you here.
Hrolf of the bow!
Har of the blow!
Up in your might! the day is breaking;
‘Tis Hild’s game that bides your waking.”
Then the troops awoke, and when the song was ended the people thanked him for it; and it pleased many, as it was suitable to the time and occasion, and they called it the house-carle’s whet. The king thanked him for the pleasure, and took a gold ring that weighed half a mark and gave it him. Thormod thanked the king for the gift, and said, “We have a good king; but it is not easy to say how long the king’s life may be. It is my prayer, sire, that you should never part from me either in life or death.” The king replied, “We shall all go together so long as I rule, and as you will follow me.”
Thormod said, “I hope, sire, that whether in safety or danger I may stand near you as long as I can stand, whatever we may hear of Sigvat travelling with his gold-hilted sword.” Then Thormod made these lines:
“To thee, my king, I’ll still be true,
Until another skald I view,
Here in the field with golden sword,
As in thy hall, with flattering word.
Thy skald shall never be a craven,
Though he may feast the croaking raven,
The warrior’s fate unmoved I view,
To thee, my king, I’ll still be true.”
King Olaf led his army farther down through the valley, and Prince Dag and his men went another way, and the king did not halt until he came to Stiklestad. There he saw the bonde army spread out all around; and there were so great numbers that people were going on every footpath, and great crowds were collected near and far. They also saw there a troop which came down from Veradal, and had been out to spy. They came so close to the king’s people that they knew each other. It was Hrut of Viggia, with thirty men. The king ordered his followers to go out against Hrut, meaning ram, and make an end of him, to which his men were instantly ready. The king said to the Icelanders, “It is told me that in Iceland it is the custom that the bondes give their house-servants a sheep to slaughter; now I give you a ram to slaughter.” The Icelanders laughed at the king’s jest, and then went out with a few men against Hrut, and killed him and the troop that followed him. When the king came to Stiklestad he made a halt and told those riding to alight from their horses and get ready for battle and the people did as the king ordered. Then he placed his army in battle array, and raised his banner. Prince Dag had not yet arrived with his men, so that his wing of the battle array was missing, so the king sent some Upland men to hold in their place, and raise their banner there. “It appears to me advisable,” said the king, looking around to his half-brother, “that Harald, my brother, should not be in the battle, for he is still tender in years.” Harald replied, “Certainly I shall be in the battle, for I am not so weak that I cannot handle a sword; and as to that, I have a notion of tying the sword-handle to my hand. None is more willing than I am to give the bondes a blow; so I shall go with my comrades.” It is said that Harald made these lines:
“Our army’s wing, where I shall stand,
I will hold good with heart and hand;
My mother’s eye shall joy to see
A battered, blood-stained shield from me.
The brisk young skald should gaily go
Into the fray, give blow for blow,
Cheer on his men, gain inch by inch,
And from the spear-point never flinch.”
Harald got his way and was allowed to be in the battle.
A bonde by the name of Thorgils Halmason, father to Grim the Good, dwelt on Stiklestad farm. Thorgils offered the king his assistance, and was ready to go into battle with him and the king thanked him for the offer, but, “I would rather,” said the king, “that you should not be in the fight. Do us rather the service of taking care of the people who are wounded, and of burying those who have fallen, when the battle is over. Should it happen, bonde, that I fall in this battle, bestow the care on my body that may be necessary, if that be not forbidden thee.” Thorgils promised the king what he desired.
After King Olaf had drawn up his army in battle array, he made a speech to raise the spirit and courage of his followers, to go boldly forward, when came the battle. “We have,” he said, “many good men, and although the bondes may have a somewhat larger force than we, it is fate that rules over victory. This I will make known to you solemnly, that I shall not fly from this battle, but shall either be victorious over the bondes, or fall in the fight. I will pray to God that the lot of the two may befall me which will be most to my advantage. With this we may encourage ourselves, that we have a more just cause than the bondes, and likewise that God must either protect us and our cause in this battle, or give us a far higher recompense for what we may lose here in the world than what we ourselves could ask. Should it be my lot to have anything to say after the battle, then I shall reward each of you according to his service, and to the bravery he displays in the battle, and if we gain the victory, there will be land and plunder enough to divide among you, which are now in the hands of your enemies. Let us from the start make the hardest onset, for then the loyalty of the bondesmen to each other will be put to the test. There being a great difference in the numbers, we have to expect victory from a sharp assault only; and, on the other hand, it will be heavy work for us to fight until we are tired, and unable to fight longer; for we have fewer people to relieve with than they, who can come forward at one time and retreat and rest at another. But if we advance so hard at the first attack that those who are foremost in their ranks are turned round, then the one will fall over the other, and their greater numbers will make for their greater destruction. The Romans often say a stout few are better than a wavering many and we have Roman trained Varangian Guard legions in our vanguard!” When the king had ended his speech it was received with loud applause, and the one encouraged the other.
King Olaf stood before his host armed thus: He had a gold worked helmet on his head, a white shield with holy cross inlaid in gold in one hand and in his other he had a lance. In his belt he had a sword called Hneiter, which was remarkably sharp, and of which the handle was inlaid in gold. He had also a strong coat of ring-mail.
Now when King Olaf had drawn up his men, the army of the bondes had not yet come near upon any quarter, so the king said the people should sit down and rest themselves. He sat down himself, and the people sat around him in a widespread crowd. He leaned down, and laid his head upon Fin Arneson’s knee. There a slumber came upon him, and he slept a little while; but at the same time the bondes’ army was seen advancing with raised banners, and the multitude of these was very great.
Fin woke the king and said that the bonde-army was advancing against them.
The king opened his eyes and said, “Why did you wake me, Fin, and not allow me to finish my dream?”
“You should not be dreaming but, rather, you should awaken and prepare yourself for the enemy host that is coming upon us, or, do you not see the whole bonde army coming?”
The king replied, “They are not yet so near to us, and it would have been better to have let me sleep.”
Then Fin asked, “What was the dream, sire, of which you dearly wished to finish?”
Now the king told his dream, that he seemed to see a high ladder, upon which he went so high in the air that heaven was open, for so high did reach the ladder. “And when you woke me, I was just coming to the highest step towards heaven.”
Fin replied, “This dream does not appear to me so good as it does to thee. I think it means that thou art fey, unless it be mere want of sleep that has worked upon thee.”
When King Olaf arrived at Stiklestad, it happened that a man came to him from the local districts who was so tall that none stood higher than up to his shoulders, and very handsome he was in countenance, and had beautiful fair hair. He was well armed, had a fine helmet, and ring armour; a red shield; a superb sword in his belt, and in his hand was a gold-mounted spear, the shaft of it so thick that it was a handful to grasp. The man went before the king, saluted him, and asked if the king would accept his services.
The king asked his name and family, also what countryman he was.
He replied, “My family is in Jamtaland and Helsingjaland, and my name is Arnliot Gelline; but this I must not forget to tell you, that I came to the assistance of those men you sent to Jamtaland to collect scat, and I gave into their hands a silver dish, which I sent you as a token that I would be your friend.”
Then the king asked Arnliot if he was a Christian or not. He replied, “My faith has been this, to rely upon my power and strength, and which faith has hitherto given me satisfaction; but now I intend rather to put my faith, sire, in thee.”
The king replied, “If you will put faith in me you must also put faith in what I will teach thee. You must believe that Jesus Christ has made heaven and earth, and all mankind, and to him shall all those who are good and rightly believing go after death.”
Arnliot answered, “I have indeed heard of the white Christ, but neither know what he proposes, nor what he rules over, but now I will believe all that you tell me, and lay down my lot in your hands.”
Thereupon Arnliot was baptized. The king taught him so much of the holy faith as appeared to him needful, and placed him in the front rank of the order of battle, in advance of his banner, where also Gauka-Thorer and Afrafaste, with their men, were.
Of the bonde army that had been raised against Jarl Olaf, for he was a jarl, having given up his throne to King Canute, it consisted of Norway’s foremost jarls and hearses and lendermen and bondes, as well as freemen and tradesmen and labourers who had little experience in warcraft. But they did have a thousand Norman knights who were very well trained and tempered in Roman warfare and wanted nothing better than to train their blades upon Varangian Guardsmen of the New Romans of Constantinople.
When King Canute had laid all Norway under his power, he set Jarl Haakon to manage it, and gave the jarl a court-bishop, Sigurd, by name, who was of Anglish Danish descent, and had been long with King Canute. This bishop was of a very hot temper, and particularly obstinate, and haughty in his speech, but he supported King Canute all he could in conversation, and was a great enemy of King Olaf. He was now also in the bondes’ army, spoke often before the people, and urged them much to insurrection against Jarl Olaf.
When Jarl Haakon went missing, Canute placed his foremost man, Jarl Kalf Arneson, in charge and he had organized the raising of the bonde army. But when Jarl Haakon had returned to Norway from his exile in England, his foremost witch, Hallveig, had returned with him and resumed dwelling at her five large steads around the village of Hell, and her two Jomsviking captives in York returned with her and joined the three Jomsvikings she had left in Norway to run her estates during the rule of King Olaf. And her Aesir Jomsvikings had married many wives with her blessings and had many sons by them who had followed the warrior’s way of Jomsburg. Because the village of Hell and her surrounding steads were between the city of Lade and the stead of Stikla, the famous warrior maiden of the Norse, Hallveig surmised that, if Jarl Olaf gained a victory against the bondes army, the Jarls of Norway would fall back to defend the Trondheim, leaving her estates to be plundered by the former Christian king, so she had gathered up her Jomsvikings and their sons and had joined the bondes army to help ensure its success, and Jarl Kalf welcomed her help, though the Christian bishop did not.
At a House-thing, at which a great many people were assembled, the Bishop Sigurd desired to be heard, and made the following speech: “Here are now assembled a great many men, so that probably there will never be opportunity in this poor country of seeing so great a native army, but it would be desirable if this strength and multitude could be a protection; for it will all be needed, if this Olaf does not give over bringing war and strife upon you. From his very earliest youth he has been accustomed to plunder and kill, for which purposes he drove widely around through all countries, until he turned at last against this, where he began to show hostilities against the men who were the best and most powerful, and even against King Canute, whom all are bound to serve according to their ability, and in whose scat-lands he set himself down. He did the same to Olaf the Swedish king. He drove Earl Haakon away from his heritage; and was even most tyrannical towards his own connections, as he drove all the kings out of the Uplands, although, indeed, it was but just reward for having been false to their oaths of fealty to King Canute, and having followed this King Olaf in all the folly he could invent, so their friendship ended according to their deserts, by this king mutilating some of them, taking their kingdoms for himself, and ruining every man in the country who had an honourable name. You know full well yourselves how he has treated the lendermen, of whom many of the worthiest have been murdered, and many obliged to fly from their country, and how he has roamed far and wide through the land with robber-bands, burning and plundering houses, and killing people. Who is the man among us here of any consideration who has not some great injury from him to avenge? Now he has come hither with a foreign troop of the Guard and auxiliaries, consisting mostly of forest-men, vagabonds, and such marauders. Do you think he will now be more merciful to you, when he is roaming about with such a bad crew, after committing devastations which all who followed him dissuaded him from? Therefore it is now my advice, that you remember King Canute’s words when he told you, if King Olaf attempted to return to the country you should defend the liberty King Canute had promised you, and should oppose and drive away such a vile pack. Now the only thing to be done is to advance against them, and cast forth these malefactors to the wolves and eagles, leaving their corpses on the spot they cover, or drag them aside to out-of-the-way corners in the woods or rocks. No man would be so imprudent as to remove them to churches, for they are all robbers and evil-doers.” When he had ended his speech it was hailed with the loudest applause, and all unanimously agreed to act according to his recommendation.
The jarls and lendermen who had come with their followers consulted together how they should draw up their troops, and who should be their leader. Kalf Arneson said, “Harek of Thjotta is best fitted to be the chief of this army, for he was descended from Harald Fairhair’s race. Jarl Olaf is also particularly enraged against him on account of the murder of Grankel, and therefore he would be exposed to the severest fate if Olaf recovered the kingdom, and Harek is a man well experienced in battles, and a man who does much for honour alone.”
Harek replied, that the men best suited for war are in the flower of their age. “I am now an old and decaying man, not able to do much in battle. Besides, there is near relationship between myself and Olaf and, although he seems not to put great value upon that tie, it would not beseem me to go as leader of the hostilities against him, before any other in this meeting. On the other hand, you, Thorer, are well suited to be our chief in this battle against Olaf; and you have distinct grounds for being so, both because you must avenge the death of your relation, and have also been driven by him as an outlaw from your property. You have also promised King Canute to avenge the murder of your Asbjorn, and do you suppose there ever will be a better opportunity than this of taking vengeance on Olaf for all these insults and injuries?”
Thorer replied thus to his speech: “I do not confide in myself so much as to raise the banner against King Olaf, or, as chief, to lead on this army; for the people of Trondheim have the greatest part in this armament, and I know well their haughty spirit, and that they would not obey me, or any other Halogaland man, although I need not be reminded of my injuries to be roused to vengeance on King Olaf. I remember well my heavy loss when King Olaf slew four men, all distinguished both by birth and personal qualities; namely, my brother’s son Asbjorn, my sister’s sons Thorer and Grjotgard, and their father Olver; and it is my duty to take vengeance for each man of them. I will not conceal that I have selected eleven of my house-carles expressly for that purpose, being those who are most daring, and I do not think we shall be behind others in exchanging blows with Jarl Olaf, should opportunity be given.”
Witch Hallveig watched from the back of the hall and gave Jarl Kalf a look that told him you lead a wavering many, but Kalf already knew that. The only troops he had confidence in were his own retinue, the Norman knights and her Jomsviking warriors. But without the wavering many, they were sorely outnumbered.
Then Kalf Arneson desired to speak. “It is highly necessary,” he said, “that this business we have on hand do not turn out a mockery and child-work now that an army is collected. Something else is needful, if we are to stand battle with Jarl Olaf, then that each should shove the danger from himself, for we must recollect that, although Olaf has not many people compared to this army of ours, the leader of them is intrepid, and the whole body of them, particularly the Varangian Guardsmen, will be true to him, and obedient in battle. But if we, who be the leaders of this army show any fear, and will not encourage the army and go at the head of it, it will happen that courage of our people, the spirit, will leave their hearts, and the next thing will be that each will seek his own safety. Although we have now a great force assembled, we shall find our destruction certain, when we meet Jarl Olaf and his troops, if we, the chiefs of the people, are not confident in our cause, and have not the whole army confidently and bravely going along with us. If it cannot be so, we had better not risk a battle, and then it is easy to see that nothing would be left us but to shelter ourselves under King Olaf’s mercy, however hard it might be, as then we would be less guilty than we now may appear to him to be. Yet I know there are men in his ranks who would secure my life and peace if I would seek it. Will you now all adopt my proposal: that shall you, friend Thorer lead the left banner, and you, Harek, go under the right banner and then I will lead the center banner which we will all of us raise up, and then follow. Let us all be speedy and determined in the resolution we have taken, and put ourselves so at the head of the bondes’ army that they see no distrust in us; for then will the common man advance with spirit when we go merrily to work in placing the army in battle-order, and in encouraging the people to the strife.”
When Kalf had ended they all concurred in what he proposed, and all would do what Kalf thought of advantage. All desired Kalf to be the leader of the army, and to give each what place in it he chose. When the people left the hall Kalf took aside Hallveig and the Norman captain, Hugh de Hauteville, and he expressed his concerns about the wavering many. Then he told Hugh, “I know that you wished to go tete-a-tete against Olaf’s Varangian Guardsmen, but I think it best if we break up your formation to lead under each banner, a cohort at center and half cohorts on each flank. This will give backbone to our separate groups.”
Captain Hugh protested of course. “We’ve come solely to fight the Varangers,” he said, “for the pain they’ve inflicted on our brothers in Italy. I allowed you to split up our regiment because it ensured that at least half our men would go against the Guard, whether they attacked from the south or the east, and I have confidence that my half regiment of Norman knights can defeat a full regiment of the Varangian Guard, but a mere cohort against them is asking too much!”
“And what do you say, Witch Hallveig?” Jarl Kalf asked.
“I have seen that our messages arrived in the south,” she told him, “and Captain Hugh will be pleased to hear that his southern cohorts have already sailed up into Trondheim Fjord and are presently riding here.”
“That is great news!” Captain Hugh shouted.
“But they do not arrive in time,” Hallveig added. “We need to make a sacrifice and call on the goddess Irpa for help, or all is lost.”
Jarl Kalf and Captain Hugh looked at each other in disbelief, or what they wished was disbelief, but Kalf was still Aesir and he believed Hallveig, and Hugh was Norman and, though Christian, they had their Witches of Rouen that they often consulted and Captain Hugh knew that of all foreign witches, it was Witch Hallveig of York that the Norman witches, themselves, consulted most.
“What sacrifice does the goddess require?” Kalf asked.
“She wants the body of King Olaf,” Hallveig said.
“You mean Jarl Olaf,” Kalf said. “She wants us to kill Jarl Olaf.”
“No. She specifically wants the corpse of King Olaf,” Hallveig said with determination.
“Then we shall give her King Olaf’s body,” Hugh told her. “Even if my Norse cohort has to cut its way through a regiment of the Varangian Guard!”
“I shall bolster your cohort with my Jomsvikings,” Hallveig offered.
“Your Joms warriors shall be welcome on the flanks of my cohort,” the captain said in thanks.
Kalf Arneson raised his center banner, and drew up his personal retinue along with one cohort of the Norman knights and those that wished to follow him of the bondes army fell in behind his force.
Harek of Thjotta and his men raised their banner on the right and a half cohort of Norman knights gathered under it and those that wished to follow him did just that. Thorer Hund, with his troop, was at the head of the left banner; and the remaining half cohort of knights stood behind him and on both sides of Thorer was a chosen body of bondes, all of them the most active and best armed in the forces. Behind Jarl Kalf Arneson and his banner, the center of the array was long and thick, and in it were drawn up the Trondheim people and behind Harek of Thjotta and his right banner, the many Halogalanders and behind Thorer Hund were the southern folk from Rogaland, Hordaland, the Fjord districts, and Sogn, and they had the left banner.
There was a man called Thorstein Knarrarsmid, who was a merchant and master ship-carpenter, stout and strong, very passionate, and a great manslayer. He had been in enmity against King Olaf, who had taken from him a new and large merchant-vessel he had built, on account of some manslaughter-mulct, incurred in the course of his misdeeds, which he owed to the king. Thorstein, who was with the bondes’ army, went forward in front of the line in which Thorer Hund stood, and said, “Here I will be, Thorer, in your ranks; for I think, if I and King Olaf meet, to be the first to strive a weapon at him, if I can get so near, to repay him for the robbery of the ship he took from me, which was the best that ever went on merchant voyage.” Thorer and his men received Thorstein, and he went into their ranks.
When the bondesmen and array were drawn up the lendermen addressed the men, and ordered them to take notice of the place to which each man belonged, under which banner each should be, who there were in front of the banner, who were his side-men, and that they should be brisk and quick in taking up their places in the array; for the army had still to go a long way, and the array might be broken in the course of the march. Then they encouraged the people; and Kalf invited all the men who had any injury to avenge on King Olaf to place themselves under the banner which was advancing against King Olaf’s own banner. They should remember the distress he had brought upon them and, he said, never was there a better opportunity to avenge their grievances, and to free themselves from the yoke and slavery he had imposed on them. “Let him,” he said, “be held a useless coward who does not fight this day boldly; and they are not innocents who are opposed to you, but people who will not spare you if you spare them.”
Kalf’s speech was received with loud applause, and shouts of encouragement were heard through the whole army.
Thereafter the bondes’ army advanced to Stiklestad, where King Olaf was already with his people. Kalf and Harek went in front, at the head of the army under their banners. But the battle did not begin immediately on their meeting; for the bondes delayed the assault, because all their men were not come upon the plain, and they waited for those who came after them. Thorer Hund had come up with his troop the last, for he had to take care that the men did not go off behind when the battle cry was raised, or the armies were closing with each other; and therefore Kalf and Harek waited for Thorer. For the encouragement of their men in the battle the bondes had the field-cry—”Forward, forward, bondemen!” King Olaf also made no attack, for he waited for Prince Dag and the people who followed him. At last the king saw Dag and his men approaching. It is said that the army of the bondes was not less on this day than a hundred times a hundred men.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year read:
A.D. 1030. This year returned King Olave into Norway; but the
people gathered together against him, and fought against him
in Stiklastad. Before this, in the same year, died Hacon
the doughty earl, at sea.
The Prince Hraerik’s New Chronicle of the Hraes’ for the year read:
(1030 AD). Ivaraslav captured Bel’z. To Ivaraslav was born his
fourth son, and he named him Vsevolod. In this year, Ivaraslav
attacked the Chuds and conquered them. He thus founded the city of
Yur’ev. At this same time, after Boleslav ‘the Great’ had died in Poland,
there was a revolt in the Polish country. The people arose and
killed the bishops, the priests, and the boyars, and there was rebellion