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The Saga of Yngvar the Traveller
10. Battle with Heathens
After this, Svein returned to his ships, and now they go on their way. And they'd not gone far when it's said that they saw ten men leading a creature behind them over the course of the day. It seemed rather strange to them, because they saw a great tower made of wood standing on the creatures back. Then fifty men went ashore, those who were most curious to know what nature of this beast was. But when the people leading the creature saw the crew, they let go the beast and hid. Svein's men went to the beast and tried to lead it after themselves, but it stuck its head down and wouldn't budge, even though they all tugged on the ropes that were round the creature's head. Then they thought these people must have had some trick they didn't understand, by which the ten of them were able to lead the creature. So they searched for a plan, and left the creature and went to hide in the reeds, so that they could find out all about the creature. And after a bit, the locals stood up and went to the creature. They took hold of the reins and placed them on either side of the neck, drawing them back through a hole in a cross-beam on the tower, and so pulled up the creature's head, because there was a pulley in the hole.
When Svein's men saw the creature standing up, they ran to it as fast as they could. They took the creature then and led it about wherever they wanted. But as they didn't know the nature of the creature or what it needed to eat, they stabbed it with spears till it fell dead. Then they went down to the ships and rowed off.
Next they saw a great crowd of heathens up on the land, who walked down to the shore and made a sign of peace to them. Svein and his crew put in to shore without delay. There was a good harbour there. And now they held a market between them, and Svein bought many precious things there. Then the heathens invited their fellow traders to a house for a feast, and to that they agreed. And when they came to the house, they saw all sorts of delicacies laid on and plenty to drink of the finest quality. And when Svein's men sat down at the table, they blessed themselves, but when the heathens saw them make the sign of the cross, they went mad and rushed at them. Some struck them with their fists, while others incited them, and each side called for support.
And when Svein heard the call of his men and saw what was going on, he said, Who knows what this means, unless the feast has turned into a great disaster for us.
Then he set off after them and ordered all his men to arm themselves. But when Svein had drawn up his forces, they saw where the heathens had also drawn up their forces and that they bore a blood-stained man before their troops and had him as their standard. Then Svein took counsel with Bishop Rodgeir, on what course he should take.
The bishop said, If the heathens expect victory from the image of some wicked man, let's just consider what assistance we ought to expect from heaven, where the Lord Christ himself lives and shows his mercy, he who is chief of all Christians and the guardian of all the living and the dead. Bear before you the victory-token of our crucified Christ and call on his name, and we can expect victory from that, but the heathens only to lose their lives.
After this encouragement from the bishop, they took the holy cross with the image of the Lord and had that for their standard and bore it before their troops. Then they went unafraid to meet the heathens while the clerics prayed. And when the armies clashed, the heathens went blind and many panicked and quickly fled away and scattered, running hither and thither, some into the river, and some into bogs or woods. Many thousands of heathens perished there.
And when the fleeing enemy had been pursued, Svein had them bury the bodies of those who had fallen. But when this was done, Svein told his crew to beware of taking an interest in heathen men's customs, because, he said, it has led to a greater rise in casualties than profits.
11. Svein Defeated the Dragon
Then Svein set out from there, and they went on till they thought they saw a half moon standing on the earth. They put in to shore there and go up onto the land. Then Ketil tells Svein what had happened when he was here with Yngvar. Svein now told his men to charge up from the ships to meet the dragon. So off they go and come to a great wood that stood by the dragon's lair, and hid themselves there. Then Svein sends some young men to spy on the dragon and see how things stood there. They saw that the serpents were sleeping, and they were legion. But Jakulus lay in a ring around all the others. Then one of them started to reach in with his spear-shaft towards a gold ring that happened to be there. And the shaft touched a little baby snake. But when this one woke up, it woke others next to it, and next thing they were all waking up one after another until Jakulus rose up. Svein stood by a great oak and laid an arrow to his string, and tinder was put on the arrow-tip, as big as a man's head with consecrated fire, and when Svein saw Jakulus rising aloft and making for their ships with gaping mouth, he shoots the arrow with the consecrated fire into the mouth of the worm, and it pierced all the way to its heart, so that in an instant it fell down dead. And when they saw that, they praised God with joy.
12. Svein Married Silkisif
After this, Svein told them to hurry away from the stench and stink that came off it. They steer their ships quickly away then, and they all made it except for six men who went to look at the dragon out of curiosity, and they fell down dead. But many more men than that were badly affected by the stench, although no one else died of it.
So Svein left that place in a hurry and he goes on till he comes to the realm of Queen Silkisif. She comes to meet them and shows them great honour. And as soon as Svein and his men step from their ships, Ketil goes on ahead of them to meet the queen, but she paid no heed to him and turned to Svein and wanted to kiss him, but he pushed her away and said he didn't want to kiss her, a heathen woman, and why do you want to kiss me, anyway?
She answers, Because you alone have Yngvar's eyes, it seems to me.
Then they were received with all honour and respect. But when she learnt that a bishop had arrived, she was glad. Then the bishop preached the faith to her, and they had an interpreter between them, because the bishop didn't know how to speak the language that she spoke, and she soon gained an understanding of spiritual wisdom and let herself be baptised. And in that same month the whole population of the city was baptised.
Not long afterwards, the queen in consultation with her people called a great council. And when a great multitude had assembled there, Svein Yngvarsson was robed in purple and a crown placed upon his head, and all declared him their king. And with that the queen was given in marriage to him.
13. Svein Built a Church
After the wedding feast, King Svein travelled through his realm together with the queen and a great following. The bishop is there too, on the journey, and clerics, for King Svein is having the land converted to Christianity, and all those realms which the queen had once ruled. And as it came round to summer, and God's power had so manifested itself in that land, that it had become entirely Christian, then King Svein and his companions wanted to make their preparations and be off home to Sweden and let his kinsfolk know the truth about his journey. But when the queen became aware of this intention, she asked him to send his crew home but that he stay here safe and sound with her.
Svein answered, I don't want to send off my men on their own, because there's a lot of danger for them, of many sorts, for those who must undertake this journey, as we know from before, when there was no leader and the whole force perished or strayed in various directions.
But when the queen heard these words of the king and saw what he wanted to do, she said, You shan't go in such a rush, if I may have my way, because it might be that you won't want to visit this kingdom again, or that you'll perish on this journey which is so very dangerous, as you said yourself. And this is what would be more fitting for you: to strengthen the Christian faith and have churches built, because first you must have a church built inside the city, a big and worthy one, and if this turns out as I wish, then your father's body shall be buried there. But when three years have passed, then you shall go in peace.
Well, he does as the queen asks. King Svein tarries there for three years. And by the third winter the great church was finished in the city. Then the queen asked the bishop to come.
But when the bishop was vested up, he asked, In whose name, my queen, do you wish this church to be dedicated?
She answered, To the glory of the holy King Yngvar, who rests here, shall this church be dedicated.
The bishop answered, Why so, my queen? Has Yngvar shone with miracles after his death? Because we only call those people saints who shine with miracles when their bodies are buried in the earth.
She answered, From your own mouth I have heard that in the eyes of God there is more worth in true steadfast faith and regular practice of holy love, than in the glory of miracles. But in my opinion, as I saw with my own eyes, Yngvar was steadfast in holy love of God.
When the queen had determined what should happen, the bishop consecrated the temple, dedicating it to the glory of God and all the saints in the name of Yngvar. Then a new sarcophagus was cut from stone and the body of Yngvar placed inside, and a precious cross placed over it, magnificently adorned. Then the bishop had masses said often for the soul of Yngvar and even permitted the people to call the place Yngvar's Church.
14. Of the Sources
When all these things were done, Svein gets ready to leave and travelled north till he came to Sweden. His countrymen welcomed him with joy and honoured him greatly. He was offered the country. But when he heard that, he refused at once, and said he'd come by a much better land, more temperate and more fruitful, to which he would return.
And after two years, Svein sails from Sweden, but Ketil stayed behind, and he professed to have heard it said that Svein spent the winter in the Russian kingdom and got ready to leave in the spring and sailed out from Russia at midsummer, and was last seen sailing along the river.
But Ketil went to Iceland to see his kin and settled there, and he was the first to tell of all this. But we gather that some story-tellers have it that Yngvar was the son of Eymund Olafsson, because they think it does him more honour to say that he was the son of a king. But Onund would gladly have given up his whole kingdom if he could buy back Yngvar's life, because all the chiefs in Sweden would have rather had him as king over them. And yet some people may still ask: why wouldn't Yngvar be the son of Eymund Olafsson? But to that we would like to answer in this way: Eymund, son of Olaf, had a son who was called Onund. He was much like Yngvar in many respects and most of all in his distant travels, which are mentioned in the book called Gesta Saxonum, and there it is written: For it is said that Emandus, king of the Swedes, sent his son, Onundus, over the Baltic Sea, that son who ultimately came to the Amazons and was killed by them.
Some say that Yngvar and his crew went for two weeks where they saw nothing unless they lit candles, because the cliffs closed in over the river, and it was like rowing in a cave for a fortnight. But wise people think that can't be true, unless the river flowed through such a narrow gorge that the cliffs met overhead, or the woods were so dense the branches touched between the overhanging cliffs. But although this is possible, it's not very likely.
But we have heard this story and written it according to the account of that book which Brother Odd the Wise had made at the dictation of wise men, those he himself names in his letter which he sent to Jon Loptsson and Gizur Hallsson. But let any who feel they know more detail, add it, where our version now seems lacking. This story, Brother Odd says, he heard first from the priest Isleif, and secondly from Glum Thorgeirsson, and his third source was called Thorir. From their dictation, he took what he thought most noteworthy. And Isleif said that he heard Yngvar's story from a merchant, who learnt it at the court of the king of Sweden. Glum had got it from his father, and Thorir from Klakka Samsson, and Klakka had heard it told by older people in his family.
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