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The Saga of Half and His Heroes

The Saga of Half & His Heroes

Translated by Peter Tunstall
© 2005 Peter Tunstall

1. Of King Alrek

There was a king called Alrek who lived at Alreksstadir. He ruled over Hordaland. He married Signy, the daughter of a king from Vors. Alrek had a retainer called Koll, and Koll went north with the king to Sogn and he spoke a great deal to the king about the beauty of Geirhild Drif's daughter--he'd seen her brewing ale, you see--and he told the king he thought they'd make a good match.

As Geirhild was dressing, Hood (who was really Odin) came to her. He made a bargain with her, that King Alrek would marry her, but she must call on Hood in all things. The king saw her on his way home, and they were wed that same autumn.

The king rewarded Koll well for his loyalty and made him a jarl and a gave him a residence at Kollsey, south of the Hard Sea, and that's a well populated district.

King Alrek couldn't keep both wives, because of their squabbles, and so he said he'd keep the one who made the best ale for him when he came home from his summer's raiding. They competed at the brewing. Signy prayed to Freyja, and Geirhild to Hood. He spat on the yeast and said he'd be back for what was between the tub and her. And that proved good ale. Then Alrek said:

“Geirhild, girl,
good is this ale,
I can't complain
unless there's a catch.
I see hanging
on high gallows
your son, woman,
sold to Odin.”

Within the year, Vikar was born, the son of Alrek and Geirhild.

2. The Fall of King Ogvald

Ogvald king of Rogaland stayed at Rogi on Josur Heath. That's between Rogaland and Telemark. It's now called The Woods. He went deer hunting. His court came with him, and the queen had a son there, who was called Josur. He was fostered by Gunnvald the Jarl of Stord. Haekling the viking came with his raiders against King Ogvald. In that battle King Ogvald fell and he was buried at Ogvaldsnes.

Finn the Rich of Akranes, the settler, put in at Ogvaldsnes on his way to Iceland and asked how long it was since King Ogvald died. He heard this verse1 intoned in the howe:

“It was long ago
they laid a course
here in their hundreds,
Haekling's men,
sailed the salty
sea-trouts' track.
That's when they crowned me
king of this mound.”

3. The Fall of King Alrek and of Koll

Jarl Gunnvald and Koll both asked to marry the same woman, and Gunnvald got her. After that, Koll came in secret with a great army to Stord, and they set fire to Gunnvald of Rogi's house. Gunnvald came out and was killed.

Josur had been king then for a while. Later he went with a great army to avenge his foster father, and when Koll saw his sails, he ran to his warships and sailed north round the Hard Sea into Grafdal Bay. Then King Alrek met King Josur, but with only a few men, because he wasn't expecting battle. They fought then, Josur against Alrek, and King Alrek and Koll fell with the better part of their army. Vikar, Alrek's son, didn't get back from mustering his forces before King Josur left. In that expedition, Josur took all the land that had been Koll's.

4. Vikar Avenged his Father

Many years later, King Vikar came with many men against Josur, while he was in the land that Koll had owned, and they fought a battle, and King Josur fell first and with him all the landowners of the district. That's why it's called Kvinnherad, or Women's County, as only widows lived there after that. Then Vikar took possession of all the land that Koll had owned. For that, Hjor Josursson went against Vikar in battle, and they struggled a long while--first one, then the other getting the upper hand--and at last they came to a settlement. Vikar's son was Vatnar, who was buried in Vatnar's Howe--his sons were Snjal and Hjal, who lie in the Brothers' Howe.

5. King Hjorleif's Trip to Bjarmaland

King Hjor Josursson was a powerful king and died of sickness and was buried in Rogaland. His son was King Hjorleif of Hordaland. He also ruled over Rogaland and was a very powerful king. He was called Hjorleif the Ladies' Man. He married Aesa the Fair, the daughter of Jarl Eystein of Valdres.

Hjorleif's wealth was used up with his generosity. He had a ship made with special care and went to Bjarmaland. Hogni the Wealthy lived on Njardey island at the mouth of the Namsfjord. He welcomed King Hjorleif who stayed there three nights and got to marry Hild the Slender, Hogni's daughter, before he left, and she went with him to Bjarmaland along with her brother Solvi.

And when King Hjorleif came to the mouth of the Dvina, he split his crew into three groups. There were ninety men in all on his ship. He fought the locals with one third of his crew--another lot kept watch on the ship with the skipper--and the third group broke into a barrow with the forecastleman, and they got a great deal of treasure.

One night, in the Gjardey Gulf, in the southern part of Finnmark, Hjorleif laid anchor, and the lads had a fire on shore, and two men went to get water from a brook that fell from a nearby outcrop. They saw a brunnmigi 2 there and told Hjorleif. Then the king heats a speartip in the fire and threw it at him. The king called:

“Out the water!
Don't wind me up.
Off home with you, thrall,
pathetic thing!
Hey wretch, I'll send
a singeing spear.
That'll wet
your whiskers with blood.”

When the monster shot into the cliff they got their water. But later, as they sat by the fire, the boggart answered in verse from the rock:

“She doesn't know,
not exactly,
what awaits her,
your woman, king,
or what'll halt
her happy days.
You've pleased us, Hild:
best keep your king
close to the fire.”

Then Hjorleif threw the same spear and hit the troll in the eye.

Hogni asked for Solvi and Hild3 to stay behind with him, but the king didn't want them to. Two servant women went with Hild, and twenty men with Solvi. Aesa was unhappy with the king and his companions, but everyone else was happy.

6. Hjorleif Married Hreidar's Daughter

Now taking this ship of his in which he'd sailed to Bjarmaland, King Hjorleif went to Konungahella. Hreidar, king of Zealand, and his men pitched their shelters nearby. Heri, King Hreidar's son, got friendly with King Hjorleif. Having met, he urged his father to invite King Hjorleif home. King Hreidar said no good would come of that, but still he gave his leave and offered to pay the expenses. They sailed together for Denmark. At the banquet, Hjorleif saw Hringja, Hreidar's daughter, and asked for her hand. Heri encouraged this match, and she left with Hjorleif and a shipful of crew and cargo as dowry.

In the Skagerrak, King Hjorleif lay becalmed. And at sunrise he saw in the north a great mountain come up from the sea, shaped just like a man. It intoned:

“I see a barrow
built for Hringja,
and Heri killed
by a keen spear.
I see fetters
forged for Hjorleif,
on Hreidar's neck
a noose quite soon.”

The ships wouldn't go. So the king ordered them to take to the oars. Then Hringja felt ill. They put up the oars. She died a day after she'd taken ill, and her coffin was cast overboard, and she went back south so fast, it seemed like it was being rowed with six oars. Heri found the casket washed up not far from his father's boatsheds and told him, and said King Hjorleif must have murdered her.


1. Virtually the same verse is uttered by a giant moss-grown ‘wooden man’ in the final chapter of Ragnar’s Saga.
2. A fox-spirit, literally ‘one who urinates in springs’. In Norse folklore foxes were thought to pollute drinking water in this way, or worse...
3. When Hjorleif stops by on his return journey.

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