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Harald, son of Sigurd Syr, was born in the year A.D. 1015, and left Norway A.D. 1030. He was called Hardrade, that is, the severe counsellor, the tyrant, though the Icelanders never applied this epithet to him. Harald helped the Icelanders in the famine of A.D. 1056, and sent them timber for a church at Thingvol. It was the Norwegians who gave him the name tyrant in contrast to the "debonairete" of Magnus. He came to Norway in A.D. 1046, and became sole king in A.D. 1047. He died in A.D. 1066, and his son and successor Magnus died in A.D. 1069.
His saga is to be compared with "Agrip", "Fagrskinna", and "Morkinskinna".
The skalds quoted are: Thiodolf, Bolverk, Illuge Bryndalaskald, Stuf the skald, Thorarin Skeggjason, Valgard o' Val, Od Kikinaskald, Grane Skald, Thorleik the Fair, Stein Herdison, Ulf the Marshal, Arnor the earls' skald, Thorkel Skallason, and King Harald Hardrade himself.
1. HARALD ESCAPES FROM THE BATTLE OF STIKLESTAD.
Harald, son of Sigurd Syr, brother of Olaf the Saint, by the same mother, was at the battle of Stiklestad, and was fifteen years old when King Olaf the Saint fell, as was before related. Harald was wounded, and escaped with other fugitives. So says Thiodolf: --
"At Haug the fire-sparks from his shield
Ragnvald Brusason led Harald from the battle, and the night after the fray took him to a bonde who dwelt in a forest far from other people. The peasant received Harald, and kept him concealed; and Harald was waited upon until he was quite cured of his wounds. Then the bonde's son attended him on the way east over the ridge of the land, and they went by all the forest paths they could, avoiding the common road. The bonde's son did not know who it was he was attending; and as they were riding together between two uninhabited forests, Harald made these verses:
"My wounds were bleeding as I rode;
He went eastward over the ridge through Jamtaland and Helsingjaland, and came to Svithjod, where he found Ragnvald Brusason, and many others of King Olaf's men who had fled from the battle at Stiklestad, and they remained there till winter was over.
2. HARALD'S JOURNEY TO CONSTANTINOPLE.
The spring after (A.D. 1031) Harald and Ragnvald got ships, and went east in summer to Russia to King Jarisleif, and were with him all the following winter. So says the skald Bolverk: --
"The king's sharp sword lies clean and bright,
King Jarisleif gave Harald and Ragnvald a kind reception, and made Harald and Ellif, the son of Earl Ragnvald, chiefs over the land-defence men of the king. So says Thiodolf: --
"Where Ellif was, one heart and hand
Harald remained several years in Russia, and travelled far and wide in the Eastern land. Then he began his expedition out to Greece, and had a great suite of men with him; and on he went to Constantinople. So says Bolverk: --
"Before the cold sea-curling blast
3. OF HARALD.
At that time the Greek empire was ruled by the Empress Zoe the Great, and with her Michael Catalactus. Now when Harald came to Constantinople he presented himself to the empress, and went into her pay; and immediately, in autumn, went on board the galleys manned with troops which went out to the Greek sea. Harald had his own men along with him. Now Harald had been but a short time in the army before all the Varings flocked to him, and they all joined together when there was a battle. It thus came to pass that Harald was made chief of the Varings. There was a chief over all the troops who was called Gyrger, and who was a relation of the empress. Gyrger and Harald went round among all the Greek islands, and fought much against the corsairs.
4. OF HARALD AND GYRGER CASTING LOTS.
It happened once that Gyrger and the Varings were going through the country, and they resolved to take their night quarters in a wood; and as the Varings came first to the ground, they chose the place which was best for pitching their tents upon, which was the highest ground; for it is the nature of the land there to be soft when rain falls, and therefore it is bad to choose a low situation for your tents. Now when Gyrger, the chief of the army, came up, and saw where the Varings had set up their tents, he told them to remove, and pitch their tents elsewhere, saying he would himself pitch his tents on their ground. Harald replies, "If ye come first to the night quarter, ye take up your ground, and we must go pitch our tents at some other place where we best can. Now do ye so, in the same way, and find a place where ye will. It is, I think, the privilege of us Varings here in the dominions of the Greek emperor to be free, and independent of all but their own commanders, and bound only to serve the emperor and empress." They disputed long and hotly about this, and both sides armed themselves, and were on the way to fight for it; but men of understanding came between and separated them.
They said it would be better to come to an agreement about such questions, so that in future no dispute could arise. It came thus to an arbitration between them, at which the best and most sagacious men should give their judgment in the case. At this arbitration it was determined, with the consent of all parties, that lots should be thrown into a box, and the Greeks and Varings should draw which was first to ride, or to row, or to take place in a harbour, or to choose tent ground; and each side should be satisfied with what the drawing of the lots gave them. Accordingly the lots were made and marked. Harald said to Gyrger, "Let me see what mark thou hast put upon thy lot, that we may not both mark our lots in the same way." He did so. Then Harald marked his lot, and put it into the box along with the other. The man who was to draw out the lots then took up one of the lots between his fingers, held it up in the air, and said, "This lot shall be the first to ride, and to row, and to take place in harbour and on the tent field." Harald seized his band, snatched the die, and threw it into the sea, and called out, "That was our lot!" Gyrger said, "Why did you not let other people see it?" Harald replies, "Look at the one remaining in the box, -- there you see your own mark upon it." Accordingly the lot which was left behind was examined, and all men saw that Gyrger's mark was upon it, and accordingly the judgment was given that the Varings had gained the first choice in all they had been quarrelling about. There were many things they quarrelled about, but the end always was that Harald got his own way.
5. HARALD'S EXPEDITION IN THE LAND OF THE SARACENS (SERKLAND).
They went out all on a campaign in summer. When the whole army was thus assembled Harald kept his men out of the battle, or wherever he saw the least danger, under pretext of saving his men; but where he was alone with his own men only, he fought so desperately that they must either come off victorious or die. It thus happened often that when he commanded the army he gained victories, while Gyrger could do nothing. The troops observed this, and insisted they would be more successful if Harald alone was chief of the whole army, and upbraided the general with never effecting anything, neither himself, nor his people. Gyrger again said that the Varings would give him no assistance, and ordered Harald to go with his men somewhere else, and he, with the rest of his army, would win what they could. Harald accordingly left the army with the Varings and the Latin men, and Gyrger on his side went off with the Greek troops. Then it was seen what each could do. Harald always gained victories and booty; but the Greeks went home to Constantinople with their army, all except a few brave men, who, to gain booty and money, joined themselves to Harald, and took him for their leader. He then went with his troops westward to Africa, which the Varings call Serkland, where he was strengthened with many men. In Serkland he took eighty castles, some of which surrendered, and others were stormed. He then went to Sicily. So says Thiodolf: --
"The serpent's bed of glowing gold
So says also Illuge Bryndala-skald: --
"For Michael's empire Harald fought,
Here it is said that Michael was king of the Greeks at that time. Harald remained many years in Africa, where he gathered great wealth in gold, jewels, and all sorts of precious things; and all the wealth he gathered there which he did not need for his expenses, he sent with trusty men of his own north to Novgorod to King Jarisleif's care and keeping. He gathered together there extraordinary treasure, as is reasonable to suppose; for he had the plundering of the part of the world richest in gold and valuable things, and he had done such great deeds as with truth are related, such as taking eighty strongholds by his valour.
6. BATTLE IN SICILY.
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The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway -by- Snorri SturlsonBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.