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The Saga of Halfdan Eysteinsson


Translated by George L. Hardman

1 The Lineage of the Halfdan Kings

The king was named Thrand. Thrandheim in Norway is named after him. He was the son of King Saeming, son of Odin, who ruled Halogaland. Saeming married Nauma, after whom Naumadal is named. Thrand was a great chieftain. His wife was named Dagmaer, sister of Svanhvit, who was married to Hromund Gripsson. Their son was named Eysteinn, and the other Eirik the Wide-traveller. His mother is not named.

Eysteinn was married to the daughter of Sigurd Hjart, who was named Asa. Her mother was Aslaug, daughter of Sigurd Serpent-eye. Her dowry included Finnmark and Valdres, Thotn and Hadaland. He was powerful and a capable ruler. They had a son, who was named Halfdan. He was also fit to rule, and quite even-tempered and good looking, and excelled at an early age in all skills, which a gentleman might value, and which were better to have than to lack. He was faithful and trustworthy and particular about his friends, a very cheerful man, so that everyone was happy who was with him, but if he did not like someone, he was melancholy and unforgiving, and not of a hearty disposition. He grew up with his father, until he was fifteen years old. Then his mother took ill and died. The king thought that this was a great loss, as did all the others, and her funeral was done with propriety. From that time on, the king did not value his kingdom very much, and went plundering every summer.

There was a man named Svip. He was a rich farmer, and not very well liked. He had three sons. One was named Ulfkell, and was called Heroic. He was a very unfair man, and not very intelligent. He went plundering with King Eysteinn and had five ships at his disposal. The king thought much of him. The second son of Svip was called Ulfarr. He was a counselor to the king. He was a friendly man, and faithful, and always thinking of what would benefit the king and others. The youngest son of Svip was called Ulf. He was called Ulf the Evil. He plundered around the Baltic Sea, and Bjarmaland. He plundered over a wide area, and was unfriendly to everyone.

One summer King Eysteinn plundered in the East. Ulfkell the Heroic was with him, and also Halfdan, the son of the king. They had thirty ships, well arrayed. Ulfarr, the brother of Ulfkell, had power over the realm of King Eysteinn, while he was out plundering.

2 Of King Hergeir and Ingigerd

In that time, a king named Hergeir ruled Aldeigjuborg. He was elderly. His wife was named Isgerd. She was the daughter of King Hlodvi of Gautland. Her brothers were Sigmund, who was the forecastleman of King Harald Fair-haired, and Odd the Dandy, father of Gull-Thori, who is mentioned in the Landnamabok of Iceland. They had a daughter, who was named Ingigerd. She was the most beautiful of all maidens, and grown large, like a man. She was talented in most matters. She was fostered by an earl named Skuli. He ruled Alaborg, and the accompanying earldom. He was said to be the brother of Heimi, who fostered Brynhilda Budladottir, who is mentioned in the saga of King Ragnar Hairy-britches. Skuli was a great champion, and the wisest of men.

There was a man named Kol. He was Skuli's slave. He was a large man, and so strong, that he had the strength of twelve men, whomever he went against. It could be said, that he had the most influence with the earl. He was faithful to him. He had a daughter. She was named Ingigerd, and was the most beautiful of all maidens, and very much like Ingigerd, the king's daughter, both in size and appearance. However, their dispositions were not similar, since Ingigerd, the king's daughter, was quite refined, but her namesake was a great hag, even though she was well educated, since the king's daughter had taught her skills and she was industrious in her bower.

Earl Skuli loved his foster-daughter very much. Skuli was not married. He was so skilled that no one was his equal.

3 Eysteinn Felled King Hergeir

King Eysteinn had now come to Aldeigjuborg with his troops. King Hergeir was with a few of his followers. King Eysteinn went to the town with his troops. King Hergeir defended it well and valiantly, although he was not ready for battle. The conclusion was that King Hergeir fell as well as the greater part of his army. When the king had fallen, King Eysteinn offered pardon to all those who were left. The king had the city cleared. Afterward he had the queen brought before him, but she was in a bad mood.

The king looked at her for a time, and then said: "It is understandable," he said, "that all that has happened here should be of great concern to you, but there is recompense for everything, and I wish now be your husband, and not undervalued in comparison to him, since he was old."

"There was no disgrace to him in his old age" said the queen, "but I question, whether I will be true to those who had killed him."

"Now there are two choices," said the king, "One, that I will take you as a concubine, for as long as fate allows; the other, that you marry me and give the whole realm into my power, and I will give you great honor, and not have to fear that your treason will be the death of me, though I shall die."

The queen said, "That must come about which is most truly foretold: that my misery will be severe, and so I must choose to marry you."

The king said that was his intent. Afterward the matter was concluded, and this advice was taken, and everything will be told later.

4 The Mission of Ulfkell and Halfdan

Next, the king called all of his men together. He then spoke to Ulfkell the Heroic and to Halfdan, his son: "So have things transpired," he said, "that Earl Skuli shall rule in the north in Alaborg. Ingigerd, the daughter of King Hergeir, is being fostered by him. Skuli is a great champion, and I expect that he might come against us with an army. Therefore, you should go east against him, and take control of the land, but bring me the king's daughter, and if you are able to win the land, then Ulfkell shall be the earl because of his brave help, since he has followed me. I will get him a honorable marriage, but Halfdan shall marry Ingigerd, if he is so inclined."

Ulfkell and Halfdan now prepared their army, and did not stop until they came to Alaborg.

5 Halfdan and Ulfkell Achieved Victory

Earl Skuli had, by now, gotten the news of what had happened in Aldeigjuborg, and so he collected a large army. But when the army had come together, Skuli became gravely ill. By then he had true reports of the army of Ulfkell and Halfdan.

He said to Kol: "I wish," said Skuli, "that you should become the chieftain of the army. Take up my standard and clothes, and I will get you an earldom, and I will marry you to Ingigerd, my foster-daughter, if you achieve victory."

Kol said that he was entirely ready for this. Skuli now told the men, how they should conduct themselves. The troops thought that he was Skuli, when he was actually Kol. He then went with his army against Halfdan and Ulfkell. Earl Skuli lay in bed in a village, and was still in convalescence.

Ingigerd, the king's daughter, called her namesake, Ingigerd Kolsdottir, to her, and spoke to her: "I wish that you would accept my trust," she said, "and let no-one know, while you live. You shall take my clothes, since we are so much alike. You shall be called the daughter of King Hergeir, and I will take your clothes and go in flight with the other maidservants. You must never betray that trust, while we both live. But if those who have come are victorious, then Halfdan, the king's son, will propose to you, and you shall be fully married either to him, or otherwise to Ulfkell, and they are a good match, whatever happens."

She said that she would gladly do that, and so it proceeded.

Now Halfdan and Ulfkell arrived with their army. Kol had the town gates opened up, and went forth with all his troops. There was a battle, and he stood in great danger. Kol was strong and dealt heavy blows, and everyone thought that he was Earl Skuli. Earl Skuli had a friend named Herbjorn. He had a phalanx opposing Halfdan, and their battles were quite valiant, but it so ended, that Herbjorn fell. Their troops took flight. Halfdan pursued them all to the woods.

Now to speak of the dealings of Ulfkell and Kol. Kol had killed many men. The standard bearer of Ulfkell was called Snaeulf. He bore the standard courageously and fought bravely. Then Kol and Ulfkell met, and their combat was quite valiant, and they fought so long, that no one aided them, and their valiant shields were all struck from them. Kol struck a great blow to Ulfkell. It came far out on the helmet, and took off a quarter, along with the left ear, and the blow was so great that Ulfkell fell; but Snaeulf came and struck at Kol, and hit his face, and took off his nose and both his lips and chin, and his teeth fell down into the grass. Kol did not stay quiet, although he had been wounded. He struck Snaeulf on the neck, so that it took off his head. Ulfkell had by then come to his feet and lunged at Kol on the breast, piercing him to his shoulders. He fell down dead. His troops broke in flight.

Ulfkell pursued the fleeing troops, but Halfdan turned back. He saw two men going by. They were a man and woman. People spoke to them, and asked how the battle had gone. They described it in the greatest detail, and then they parted. The man was so stiff that he leaned on the woman's shoulders, and they trailed off into the woods. Halfdan asked his men, with whom they had spoken. They said it was some poor, wretched beggar.

"You have to be pretty careful, " he said, "that man is bad news for me, and would be better killed."

But they said that that would be a foul deed. He had gone into the wood by then, so that there was no point in looking for him

Halfdan then rode home to the town. Ulfkell then came to the town and went to the bower, where Ingigerd was, and she was brought before him.

"She spoke thus to Ulfkell: "You have now achieved a great victory," she said, "and killed the chieftain of the town. Now if you are a true gentleman, you will not act basely toward me or those other men, who are now leaderless, and let me now find my mother."

Ulfkell said, that -- "It shall be right, for we shall make up for that which we have done, both to you and your mother, if you will be true and faithful to us, obedient and pleasing, and do not deceive us."

"The way it is in my affairs," she said, "I don't think there is much room for pride."

They promised to be good to her. The treasure house was opened up. They took gold and silver and other things, which they wanted, and gave pardon to all the men. Afterward burial outfits were given to the dead, and Earl Skuli, who was actually Kol, was buried honorably. Then they took control of all the land and then prepared a meeting with King Eystein, and Ingigerd traveled with them.

6 Ulfkell Married Ingigerd

Now King Eystein got news of their return home, and the great victory they had achieved. He received them honorably and they entertained him with an account of their journey. The king thanked them well, and then asked Halfdan, how things were going with the king's daughter. He said that he was not paying much attention to women, but said that she was a beautiful woman. Ingigerd had now come into the hall of the queen, and she received her cordially, though with less friendliness than many expected. Then the king had the mother and daughter sent for.

And when they came before him, he said to Queen Isgerd: "Now your daughter has come here," he said, "and I now I wish, with your consent, to do all honor to both you and her. If Halfdan wishes to follow my advice, I would be very pleased if he marries her, if you and she wish it, oh queen."

"So she understands," said the Queen, "that she must well have an answer for such a matter."

Then Halfdan said: "I have not given much thought to marrying. I have also not seen many king's daughters, but it seems well to me that Ingigerd would be a good match, and I urge you to see a good match for her."

Then Ulfkell said: "I have served you for a long time, master, and I hope for good from you. It would be a great honor to me, if you will let me marry this maiden. I have actually spoken to her before this, and she has not refused me in this."

The king now asked Ingigerd, what she thought about such a match, but she said she would be well disposed to it, if her mother was not opposed, -- "and afterward I would wish that you, oh king, would increase Ulfkell's rank."

The king asked the queen, what she thought about the union, and she said that she would be most happy if he would come to an agreement, however he pleased.

After that, the king bethrothed Ulfkell to Ingigerd and gave him the title of earl and governance of Alaborg and the surrounding realm, and the wedding toast was drunk. Afterward Ulfkell traveled to Alaborg and took dominion over the realm, and was made chieftain over it and paid taxes to the king, and continued for a long time and grew more and more in love with Ingigerd.

7 Of the Two Grims

King Eystein now stayed in his realm. He loved Queen Isgerd very much. She behaved very much like a lady toward him, and so three winters passed.

It happened one time, that a large merchant ship sailed from the east before the Balagardssidu in bad weather. That ship disappeared, and no living souls were found from it, and people thought that the bad weather must have broken up that same ship. But one day in autumn, two men came to the court of King Eystein. They were large in stature, but not very well clothed. People could not look fully at their faces, since they had long drooping hats. They went before the king and addressed him respectfully, since he was most often in a good mood. He asked what men they might be. They said that they were both named Grim, and natives of Russia, and had lost all their money in the shipwreck. They asked the king for winter quarters.

The king asked the queen, what she would advise about that, and she said that he needed to decide for himself, but said however, that there were many strangers who prove to be rather bad, -- "but I can't be blamed for anything if I don't get involved."

The king said that she generally did not try to change his plans. "I am not inclined to deny them food, who have come from such a distance."

Seats were now set up, where the guests and retainers could meet. They were quiet with people, and got along well with everyone. The older Grim was strongly built, and few could compare with him. He was strong and nimble in all games, and often played at shooting and ball with the king's men. He did well with his strength, never mistreated anyone, but was not lacking in strength if others attacked him. The younger Grim was agile in all games, and good at shooting, but did not try much in trials of strength. He shot the best of everyone with the handbow and crossbow, and played chess so well, that no one was his equal.

The king's son, Halfdan, often competed with him, both in chess and archery, and he held the Grims in such high regard, that they did not sleep any nights that he did not wake and keep an eye on them. And so the winter progressed to yuletide.

8. The Grims Attack Halfdan

One day at yuletide, people were playing a ball game before the king. He sat on one chair, and the queen on the other. The Grims were playing, and no-one could play as well as the larger Grim, other than the king's son, Halfdan. The Grims had not spoken a word to the queen the whole winter. One time the older Grim struck out the ball, and the younger Grim had to look for it. The ball rolled up under the queen's chair. Grim went on all fours after the ball, and when he stood up, he spoke some words in the queen's ear, which made her blush.

The game broke up at the noon meal. Men then started to drink. The king served them abundantly during the day, and each man fell asleep in his seat, so that no-one dragged himself to bed. The king drank long into the evening. The queen sat next to him. The king asked her what Grim had said to her, but she said that she had not been offended by it. The king said that she wished to keep a lot to herself, and not give signs of very much. The queen bade him be on his guard. She then went away. The Grims were sleepy.

The king then went to sleep, and Halfdan, his son, with him. But when they came to the chamber, the queen was not there. The king lay down in the bed in his clothes, and laid his sword in front of him. The room attendants drew up the lantern. Halfdan went into the hall, where the two Grims lay sleeping. Halfdan saw that the smaller Grim had taken off his glove and his hand was bare. He thought that he had never seen a man's hand so beautiful. On it was a gold ring so beautiful, that he thought that he had never seen the like of it, most of all because of the stone, which was in it. He could not determine what kind it was. He took the gold off of the finger and put it in the glove, and afterward bade the lamp drawn up, and sat down next to the Grims. It was dark down in the hall. He held the glove in his hand.

Soon sleep overcame him, but he awoke when he realized that the light had been extinguished. The smaller Grim drew up the light before himself so brightly, that he could scarcely endure looking at it, and grabbed the glove away from him, and then said: "You shall search and yearn for this hand, gold and glove, and never get peace, until someone puts them in your hand just as willingly, as he now took them away." Afterward he flung the light toward the nearer door and ran to the one that was further away, and out.

  9: About King Eysteinn

Halfdan then sprang to his feet and ran to the door where the light had been thrown, but it was locked. He then turned to the doors, and called to the men, who were inside, that they should awaken. The doors were locked, and had to be broken down before they could come out.

Halfdan visited the royal chamber, and there the king was dead, lying with a sword through him, along with three small attendants. A fourth had gotten up on the crossbeam and said that the larger Grim had come there and killed the king and all of the others who were dead, and then called: "Say thus to Halfdan, that Vigfus and Ofeig have avenged King Hergeir." -- and then went outside.

At that time, the queen came to into the chamber, and got this news, which was so disturbing that she passed out, and people thought that she was about to die. There was now a great commotion in the town, and men were looking for the two Grims both at sea and on land, although neither of them were found. The search lasted for a month, and was spread out widely in the streets. However, things calmed down after a while. It was the will of most people, that Halfdan should be made king.

10: Halfdan Looks for the Slayer of his Father

A little later Halfdan addressed the assembly. When the chieftains had come, the men asked Halfdan to be their king, but he answered thus, that -- "because of the events that have come to pass here recently, it does not befit me to bear the name of a king, while it stands thus, since I am not nobly born to the kingdom here. Many would think that it would befit me better to avenge my father, and seek those who killed him. It seems to me to be good advice, that the queen should send for Sigmund, her brother, that he should come, whatever else we might decide to do, and I must go away and not return before I have found the slayer of my father, however it falls my lot to avenge him.

The queen said that it seemed to her that no one had served her kingdom better than he had. But whatever was said, it was determined that Halfdan should prepare to depart from the land with five ships, manned with good men. He first sailed to Austervegi, and succeeded well both with treasure and fame, but he never lay awake without seeing before his eyes the fair hand and the beautiful gold that he lost in Aldeigjuborg. Let him now sail for all of five years, as he will.

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