Heimskringla, the Chronicle of the Kings of Norway

Author: Snorri Sturluson

148. Stein’s Story.

The Icelanders, Thorod Snorrason and Stein Skaptason, were illpleased at not being allowed to do as they liked. Stein was a remarkably handsome man, dexterous at all feats, a great poet, splendid in his apparel, and very ambitious of distinction. His father, Skapte, had composed a poem on King Olaf, which he had taught Stein, with the intention that he should bring it to King Olaf. Stein could not now restrain himself from making the king reproaches in word and speech, both in verse and prose. Both he and Thorod were imprudent in their conversation, and said the king would be looked upon as a worse man than those who, under faith and law, had sent their sons to him, as he now treated them as men without liberty. The king was angry at this. One day Stein stood before the king, and asked if he would listen to the poem which his father Skapte had composed about him. The king replies, "Thou must first repeat that, Stein, which thou hast composed about me." Stein replies, that it was not the case that he had composed any. "I am no skald, sire," said he; "and if I even could compose anything, it, and all that concerns me, would appear to thee of little value." Stein then went out, but thought he perceived what the king alluded to. Thorgeir, one of the king’s land-bailiffs, who managed one of his farms in Orkadal, happened to be present, and heard the conversation of the king and Stein, and soon afterwards Thorgeir returned home. One night Stein left the city, and his footboy with him. They went up Gaularas and into Orkadal. One evening they came to one of the king’s farms which Thorgeir had the management of, and Thorgeir invited Stein to pass the night there, and asked where he was travelling to. Stein begged the loan of a horse and sledge, for he saw they were just driving home corn.

Thorgeir replies, "I do not exactly see how it stands with thy journey, and if thou art travelling with the king’s leave. The other day, methinks, the words were not very sweet that passed between the king and thee."

Stein said, "If it be so that I am not my own master for the king, yet I will not submit to such treatment from his slaves;" and, drawing his sword, he killed the landbailiff. Then he took the horse, put the boy upon him, and sat himself in the sledge, and so drove the whole night. They travelled until they came to Surnadal in More. There they had themselves ferried across the fjord, and proceeded onwards as fast as they could. They told nobody about the murder, but wherever they came called themselves king’s men, and met good entertainment everywhere. One day at last they came towards evening to Giske Isle, to Thorberg Arnason’s house. He was not at home himself, but his wife Ragnhild, a daughter of Erling Skjalgson, was. There Stein was well received, because formerly there had been great friendship between them. It had once happened, namely, that Stein, on his voyage from Iceland with his own vessel, had come to Giske from sea, and had anchored at the island. At that time Ragnhild was in the pains of childbirth, and very ill, and there was no priest on the island, or in the neighbourhood of it. There came a message to the merchant-vessel to inquire if, by chance, there was a priest on board. There happened to be a priest in the vessel, who was called Bard; but he was a young man from Westfjord, who had little learning. The messengers begged the priest to go with them, but he thought it was a difficult matter: for he knew his own ignorance, and would not go. Stein added his word to persuade the priest. The priest replies, "I will go if thou wilt go with me; for then I will have confidence, if I should require advice." Stein said he was willing; and they went forthwith to the house, and to where Ragnhild was in labour. Soon after she brought forth a female child, which appeared to be rather weak. Then the priest baptized the infant, and Stein held it at the baptism, at which it got the name of Thora; and Stein gave it a gold ring. Ragnhild promised Stein her perfect friendship, and bade him come to her whenever he thought he required her help. Stein replied that he would hold no other female child at baptism, and then they parted. Now it was come to the time when Stein required this kind promise of Ragnhild to be fulfilled, and he told her what had happened, and that the king’s wrath had fallen upon him. She answered, that all the aid she could give should stand at his service; but bade him wait for Thorberg’s arrival. She then showed him to a seat beside her son Eystein Orre, who was then twelve years old. Stein presented gifts to Ragnhild and Eystein. Thorberg had already heard how Stein had conducted himself before he got home, and was rather vexed at it. Ragnhild went to him, and told him how matters stood with Stein, and begged Thorberg to receive him, and take care of him.

Thorberg replies, "I have heard that the king, after sending out a message-token, held a Thing concerning the murder of Thorgeir, and has condemned Stein as having fled the country, and likewise that the king is highly incensed: and I have too much sense to take the cause of a foreigner in hand, and draw upon myself the king’s wrath. Let Stein, therefore, withdraw from hence as quickly as thou canst."

Ragnhild replied, that they should either both go or both stay.

Thorberg told her to go where she pleased. "For I expect," said he, "that wherever thou goest thou wilt soon come back, for here is thy importance greatest."

Her son Eystein Orre then stood forward, and said he would not stay behind if Ragnhild goes.

Thorberg said that they showed themselves very stiff and obstinate in this matter. "And it appears that ye must have your way in it, since ye take it so near to heart; but thou art reckoning too much, Ragnhild, upon thy descent, in paying so little regard to King Olaf’s word."

Ragnhild replied, "If thou art so much afraid to keep Stein with thee here, go with him to my father Erling, or give him attendants, so that he may get there in safety." Thorberg said he would not send Stein there; "for there are enough of things besides to enrage the king against Erling." Stein thus remained there all winter (A.D. 1027).

After Yule a king’s messenger came to Thorberg, with the order that Thorberg should come to him before midsummer; and the order was serious and severe. Thorberg laid it before his friends, and asked their advice if he should venture to go to the king after what had taken place. The greater number dissuaded him, and thought it more advisable to let Stein slip out of his hands than to venture within the king’s power: but Thorberg himself had rather more inclination not to decline the journey. Soon after Thorberg went to his brother Fin, told him the circumstances, and asked him to accompany him. Fin replied, that he thought it foolish to be so completely under woman’s influence that he dared not, on account of his wife, keep the fealty and law of his sovereign.

"Thou art free," replied Thorberg, "to go with me or not; but I believe it is more fear of the king than love to him that keeps thee back." And so they parted in anger.

Then Thorberg went to his brother Arne Arnason, and asked him to go with him to the king. Arne says, "It appears to me wonderful that such a sensible, prudent man, should fall into such a misfortune, without necessity, as to incur the king’s indignation. It might be excused if it were thy relation or foster-brother whom thou hadst thus sheltered; but not at all that thou shouldst take up an Iceland man, and harbour the king’s outlaw, to the injury of thyself and all thy relations."

Thorberg replies, "It stands good, according to the proverb, — a rotten branch will be found in every tree. My father’s greatest misfortune evidently was that he had such ill luck in producing sons that at last he produced one incapable of acting, and without any resemblance to our race, and whom in truth I never would have called brother, if it were not that it would have been to my mother’s shame to have refused."

Thorberg turned away in a gloomy temper, and went home. Thereafter he sent a message to his brother Kalf in the Throndhjem district, and begged him to meet him at Agdanes; and when the messengers found Kalf he promised, without more ado, to make the journey. Ragnhild sent men east to Jadar to her father Erling, and begged him to send people. Erling’s sons, Sigurd and Thord, came out, each with a ship of twenty benches of rowers and ninety men. When they came north Thorberg received them joyfully, entertained them well, and prepared for the voyage with them. Thorberg had also a vessel with twenty benches, and they steered their course northwards. When they came to the mouth of the Throndhjem fjord Thorberg’s two brothers, Fin and Arne, were there already, with two ships each of twenty benches. Thorberg met his brothers with joy, and observed that his whetstone had taken effect; and Fin replied he seldom needed sharpening for such work. Then they proceeded north with all their forces to Throndhjem, and Stein was along with them. When they came to Agdanes, Kaff Arnason was there before them; and he also had a wellmanned ship of twenty benches. With this war-force they sailed up to Nidaros, where they lay all night. The morning after they had a consultation with each other. Kalf and Erling’s sons were for attacking the town with all their forces, and leaving the event to fate; but Thorberg wished that they should first proceed with moderation, and make an offer; in which opinion Fin and Arne also concurred. It was accordingly resolved that Fin and Arne, with a few men, should first wait upon the king. The king had previously heard that they had come so strong in men, and was therefore very sharp in his speech. Fin offered to pay mulct for Thorberg, and also for Stein, and bade the king to fix what the penalties should be, however large; stipulating only for Thorberg safety and his fiefs, and for Stein life and limb.

The king replies, "It appears to me that ye come from home so equipped that ye can determine half as much as I can myself, or more; but this I expected least of all from you brothers, that ye should come against me with an army; and this counsel, I can observe, has its origin from the people of Jadar; but ye have no occasion to offer me money in mulct."

Fin replies, "We brothers have collected men, not to offer hostility to you, sire, but to offer rather our services; but if you will bear down Thorberg altogether, we must all go to King Canute the Great with such forces as we have."

Then the king looked at him, and said, "If ye brothers will give your oaths that ye will follow me in the country and out of the country, and not part from me without my leave and permission, and shall not conceal from me any treasonable design that may come to your knowledge against me, then will I agree to a peace with you brothers."

Then Fin returned to his forces, and told the conditions which the king had proposed to them. Now they held a council upon it, and Thorberg, for his part, said he would accept the terms offered. "I have no wish," says he, "to fly from my property, and seek foreign masters; but, on the contrary, will always consider it an honour to follow King Olaf, and be where he is." Then says Kalf, "I will make no oath to King Olaf, but will be with him always, so long as I retain my fiefs and dignities, and so long as the king will be my friend; and my opinion is that we should all do the same." Fin says, "we will venture to let King Olaf himself determine in this matter." Arne Arnason says, "I was resolved to follow thee, brother Thorberg, even if thou hadst given battle to King Olaf, and I shall certainly not leave thee for listening to better counsel; so I intend to follow thee and Fin, and accept the conditions ye have taken."

Thereupon the brothers Thorberg, Fin, and Arne, went on board a vessel, rowed into the fjord, and waited upon the king. The agreement went accordingly into fulfillment, so that the brothers gave their oaths to the king. Then Thorberg endeavored to make peace for Stein with the king; but the king replied that Stein might for him depart in safety, and go where he pleased, but "in my house he can never be again." Then Thorberg and his brothers went back to their men. Kalf went to Eggja, and Fin to the king; and Thorberg, with the other men, went south to their homes. Stein went with Erling’s sons; but early in the spring (A.D. 1027) he went west to England into the service of Canute the Great, and was long with him, and was treated with great distinction.


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Chicago: Snorri Sturluson, "148. Stein’s Story.," 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=PC1JH57KN5CPQSH.

MLA: Sturluson, Snorri. "148. Stein’s Story." 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=PC1JH57KN5CPQSH.

Harvard: Sturluson, S, '148. Stein’s Story.' 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=PC1JH57KN5CPQSH.