Heimskringla, the Chronicle of the Kings of Norway

Contents:
Author: Snorri Sturluson

71. Hjalte Skeggjason While He Was in Svithiod.

One day Hjalte, and the skalds with him, went before the king, and he began thus: — "It has so happened, king, as is known to you, that I have come here after a long and difficult journey; but when I had once crossed the ocean and heard of your greatness, it appeared to me unwise to go back without having seen you in your splendour and glory. Now it is a law between Iceland and Norway, that Iceland men pay landing due when they come into Norway, but while I was coming across the sea I took myself all the landing dues from my ship’s people; but knowing that thou have the greatest right to all the power in Norway, I hastened hither to deliver to you the landing dues." With this he showed the silver to the king, and laid ten marks of silver in Gissur Black’s lap.

The king replies, "Few have brought us any such dues from Norway for some time; and now, Hjalte, I will return you my warmest thanks for having given yourself so much trouble to bring us the landing dues, rather than pay them to our enemies. But I will that thou shouldst take this money from me as a gift, and with it my friendship."

Hjalte thanked the king with many words, and from that day set himself in great favour with the king, and often spoke with him; for the king thought, what was true, that he was a man of much understanding and eloquence. Now Hjalte told Gissur and Ottar that he was sent with tokens to the king’s daughter Ingegerd, to obtain her protection and friendship; and he begged of them to procure him some opportunity to speak with her. They answered, that this was an easy thing to do; and went one day to her house, where she sat at the drinking table with many men. She received the skalds in a friendly manner, for they were known to her. Hjalte brought her a salutation from the earl’s wife, Ingebjorg; and said she had sent him here to obtain friendly help and succour from her, and in proof whereof produced his tokens. The king’s daughter received him also kindly, and said he should be welcome to her friendship. They sat there till late in the day drinking. The king’s daughter made Hjalte tell her much news, and invited him to come often and converse with her. He did so: came there often, and spoke with the king’s daughter; and at last entrusted her with the purpose of Bjorn’s and his comrade’s journey, and asked her how she thought the Swedish king would receive the proposal that there should be a reconciliation between the kings. The king’s daughter replied, that, in her opinion, it would be a useless attempt to propose to the king any reconciliation with Olaf the Thick; for the king was so enraged against him, that he would not suffer his name to be mentioned before him. It happened one day that Hjalte was sitting with the king and talking to him, and the king was very merry and drunk. Then Hjalte said, "Manifold splendour and grandeur have I seen here; and I have now witnessed with my eyes what I have often heard of, that no monarch in the north is so magnificent: but it is very vexatious that we who come so far to visit it have a road so long and troublesome, both on account of the great ocean, but more especially because it is not safe to travel through Norway for those who are coming here in a friendly disposition. But why is there no one to bring proposals for a peace between you and King Olaf the Thick? I heard much in Norway, and in west Gautland, of the general desire that this peace should have taken place; and it has been told me for truth, as the Norway king’s words, that he earnestly desires to be reconciled to you; and the reason I know is, that he feels how much less his power is than yours. It is even said that he intends to pay his court to your daughter Ingegerd; and that would lead to a useful peace, for I have heard from people of credit that he is a remarkably distinguished man."

The king answers. "Thou must not speak thus, Hjalte; but for this time I will not take it amiss of thee, as thou dost not know what people have to avoid here. That fat fellow shall not be called king in my court, and there is by no means the stuff in him that people talk of: and thou must see thyself that such a connection is not suitable; for I am the tenth king in Upsala who, relation after relation, has been sole monarch over the Swedish, and many other great lands, and all have been the superior kings over other kings in the northern countries. But Norway is little inhabited, and the inhabitants are scattered. There have only been small kings there; and although Harald Harfager was the greatest king in that country, and strove against the small kings, and subdued them, yet he knew so well his position that he did not covet the Swedish dominions, and therefore the Swedish kings let him sit in peace, especially as there was relationship between them. Thereafter, while Hakon Athelstan’s foster-son was in Norway he sat in peace, until he began to maraud in Gautland and Denmark; on which a war-force came upon him, and took from him both life and land. Gunhild’s sons also were cut off when they became disobedient to the Danish kings; and Harald Gormson joined Norway to his own dominions, and made it subject to scat to him. And we reckon Harald Gormson to be of less power and consideration than the Upsala kings, for our relation Styrbjorn subdued him, and Harald became his man; and yet Eirik the Victorious, my father, rose over Styrbjorn’s head when it came to a trial between them. When Olaf Trygvason came to Norway and proclaimed himself king, we would not permit it, but we went with King Svein, and cut him off; and thus we have appropriated Norway, as thou hast not heard, and with no less right than if I had gained it in battle, and by conquering the kings who ruled it before. Now thou canst well suppose, as a man of sense, that I will not let slip the kingdom of Norway for this thick fellow. It is wonderful he does not remember how narrowly he made his escape, when we had penned him in in the Malar lake. Although he slipped away with life from thence, he ought, methinks, to have something else in his mind than to hold out against us Swedes. Now, Hjalte, thou must never again open thy mouth in my presence on such a subject."

Hjalte saw sufficiently that there was no hope of the king’s listening to any proposal of a peace, and desisted from speaking of it, and turned the conversation to something else. When Hjalte, afterwards, came into discourse with the king’s daughter Ingegerd, he tells her his conversation with the king. She told him she expected such an answer from the king. Hjalte begged of her to say a good word to the king about the matter, but she thought the king would listen as little to what she said: "But speak about it I will, if thou requirest it." Hjalte assured her he would be thankful for the attempt. One day the king’s daughter Ingegerd had a conversation with her father Olaf; and as she found her father was in a particularly good humour, she said, "What is now thy intention with regard to the strife with Olaf the Thick? There are many who complain about it, having lost their property by it; others have lost their relations by the Northmen, and all their peace and quiet; so that none of your men see any harm that can be done to Norway. It would be a bad counsel if thou sought the dominion over Norway; for it is a poor country, difficult to come at, and the people dangerous: for the men there will rather have any other for their king than thee. If I might advise, thou wouldst let go all thoughts about Norway, and not desire Olaf’s heritage; and rather turn thyself to the kingdoms in the East country, which thy forefathers the former Swedish kings had, and which our relation Styrbjorn lately subdued, and let the thick Olaf possess the heritage of his forefathers and make peace with him."

The king replies in a rage, "It is thy counsel, Ingegerd, that I should let slip the kingdom of Norway, and give thee in marriage to this thick Olaf. - No," says he, "something else shall first take place. Rather than that, I shall, at the Upsala Thing in winter, issue a proclamation to all Swedes, that the whole people shall assemble for an expedition, and go to their ships before the ice is off the waters; and I will proceed to Norway, and lay waste the land with fire and sword, and burn everything, to punish them for their want of fidelity."

The king was so mad with rage that nobody ventured to say a word, and she went away. Hjalte, who was watching for her, immediately went to her and asked how her errand to the king had turned out. She answered, it turned out as she had expected; that none could venture to put in a word with the king; but, on the contrary, he had used threats; and she begged Hjalte never to speak of the matter again before the king. As Hjalte and Ingegerd spoke together often, Olaf the Thick was often the subject, and he told her about him and his manners; and Hjalte praised the king of Norway what he could, but said no more than was the truth, and she could well perceive it. Once, in a conversation, Hjalte said to her, "May I be permitted, daughter of the king, to tell thee what lies in my mind?"

"Speak freely," says she; "but so that I alone can hear it."

"Then," said Hjalte, "what would be thy answer, if the Norway king Olaf sent messengers to thee with the errand to propose marriage to thee?"

She blushed, and answered slowly but gently, "I have not made up my mind to answer to that; but if Olaf be in all respects so perfect as thou tellest me, I could wish for no other husband; unless, indeed, thou hast gilded him over with thy praise more than sufficiently."

Hjalte replied, that he had in no respect spoken better of the king than was true. They often spoke together on the same subject. Ingegerd begged Hjalte to be cautious not to mention it to any other person, for the king would be enraged against him if it came to his knowledge. Hjalte only spoke of it to the skalds Gissur and Ottar, who thought it was the most happy plan, if it could but be carried into effect. Ottar, who was a man of great power of conversation, and much beloved in the court, soon brought up the subject before the king’s daughter, and recounted to her, as Hjalte had done, all King Olaf’s excellent qualities. Often spoke Hjalte and the others about him; and now that Hjalte knew the result of his mission, he sent those Gautland men away who had accompanied him, and let them return to the earl with letters (1) which the king’s daughter Ingegerd sent to the earl and Ingebjorg. Hjalte also let them give a hint to the earl about the conversation he had had with Ingegerd, and her answer thereto: and the messengers came with it to the earl a little before Yule.

ENDNOTES: (1) This seems the first notice we have in the sagas of written
letters being sent instead of tokens and verbal messages. —
L.

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Chicago: Snorri Sturluson, "71. Hjalte Skeggjason While He Was in Svithiod.," Heimskringla, the Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, ed. CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb and trans. Stanley Young in Heimskringla, the Chronicle of the Kings of Norway (New York: The Modern Library Publishers, 1918), Original Sources, accessed January 20, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PB57857RJMH146X.

MLA: Sturluson, Snorri. "71. Hjalte Skeggjason While He Was in Svithiod." Heimskringla, the Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, edited by CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb, and translated by Stanley Young, in Heimskringla, the Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, New York, The Modern Library Publishers, 1918, Original Sources. 20 Jan. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PB57857RJMH146X.

Harvard: Sturluson, S, '71. Hjalte Skeggjason While He Was in Svithiod.' in Heimskringla, the Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, ed. and trans. . cited in 1918, Heimskringla, the Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, The Modern Library Publishers, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 20 January 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=PB57857RJMH146X.