Olaf Trygvesson’s Saga

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Olaf as King of Norway


Then Olaf proceeded to Tunsberg, and held a Thing, at which he declared in a speech that all the men of whom it should be known to a certainty that they dealt with evil spirits or in witchcraft should be banished from the land. Thereafter the king had all the neighborhood ransacked for such people, and called them all before him; and when they were brought to the Thing, there was a man among them called Eyvind Kellda, a sorcerer, and particularly knowing in witchcraft. Olaf let all these men be seated in one room, which was well adorned, and made a great feast for them and gave them strong drink in plenty. Now when they were all very drunk, he ordered the house to be set on fire, and all the people within it were consumed, except Eyvind Kellda, who contrived to escape by the smoke hole in the roof. And when he had got a long way off, he met some people on the road going to the king, and he told them to tell the king that Eyvind Kellda had slipped away from the fire and would never come again in Olaf’s power, but would carry on his arts of witchcraft as much as ever.

King Olaf went with all his forces into the Drontheim country; and when he came to Mære, all among the chiefs of the Drontheim people who were most opposed to Christianity were assembled, and had with them all the great bonders,1 who had before made sacrifice at that place. Now the king let the people be summoned to the Thing, where both parties met armed; and when the Thing was seated the king made a speech, in which he told the people to go over to Christianity. Jern Skiægge (Iron Beard) replied on the part of the bonders and said that the will of the bonders was now, as formerly, that Olaf should not break their laws. "We want, king," said he, "that thou shouldst offer sacrifice, as other kings before thee have done." All the bonders applauded his speech with a loud shout and said they would have all things according to what Jern Skiægge said. Then Olaf said he would go into the temple of their gods with them and see what the practices were when they sacrificed. The bonders thought well of this proceeding, and both parties went to the temple.

Now Olaf entered into the temple with a few of his men and a few bonders; and when the king came to where their gods were, Thor, as the most considered among their gods, sat there adorned with gold and silver. Olaf lifted up his gold-inlaid ax, which he carried in his hands, and struck Thor so that the image rolled down from its seat. Then the king’s men turned to and threw down all the gods from their seats; and while the king was in the temple, Jern Skiægge was killed outside of the temple doors, and the king’s men did it. When Olaf came forth out of the temple he offered the bonders two conditions — that all should accept Christianity forthwith, or that they should fight with him. But as Jern Skiægge was killed, there was no leader in the bonders’ army to raise the banner against Olaf; so they took the other condition, to surrender to his will and obey his order. Then Olaf had all the people present baptized and took hostages from them for their remaining true to Christianity; and he sent his men around to every district, and no man in the Drontheim country opposed Christianity, but all people took baptism.

Olaf was more expert in all exercises than any man in Norway whose memory is preserved to us in sagas; and he was stronger and more agile than most men, and many stories are written down about it. One is, that he ascended the Smalsar Horn and fixed his shield upon the very peak. Another is, that one of his followers had climbed up the peak after him until he came to where he could neither get up nor down; but the king came to his help, climbed up to him, took him under his arm, and bore him to the flat ground. Olaf could run across the oars outside of his vessel while his men were rowing it. He could play with three daggers, so that one was always in the air, and he took the one falling by the handle. He could walk all round upon the ship’s rails, could strike and cut equally well with both hands, and could cast two spears at once. Olaf was a merry, frolicsome man; gay and social; had great taste in everything; was very generous; was very finical in his dress, but in battle he exceeded all in bravery. He was distinguished for cruelty when he was enraged, and tortured many of his enemies. Some he burnt in fire; some he had torn in pieces by mad dogs; some he had mutilated, or cast down from high precipices. On this account his friends were attached to him warmly and his enemies feared him greatly; and thus he made such a fortunate advance in his undertakings, for some obeyed his will out of the friendliest zeal and others out of dread.

1 , chs. 69, 75–76, 92.

1 Landowners.

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Chicago: Olaf Trygvesson’s Saga in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 330–332. Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=YWUWMH4IPT1QJZK.

MLA: . Olaf Trygvesson’s Saga, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, pp. 330–332. Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=YWUWMH4IPT1QJZK.

Harvard: , Olaf Trygvesson’s Saga. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.330–332. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=YWUWMH4IPT1QJZK.