Ágrip af Nóregskonungasögum, Battle of Stiklastaðir (1030) and Campaign of King Magnus Barelegs against the British Isles (1102-3)

Ágrip af Nóregskonungasögum wrote his account of the history of the Norwegian kings around 1190.  Along with Theodoricus Monachus’ Historia de Antiquitate Regum Norwagiensium and the anonymous Historia Norvegiae, this work represents one of the earliest surving accounts of the history of Norway and the Scandanavian region.  The two following sections are the brief descriptions of thebattle of Stiklastaðir, fought on July, 29, 1030, and the campaign of King Magnus Barelegs against the British Isles in 1102-3.

Battle of Stiklastaðir (July, 29, 1030)

Later St Óláfr returned to Norway through Sweden and came from Jamtaland to þrandheimr and came down in Veradalr, and then Kalfr of Egg, because of his malevolence and eagerness to fight, rose against him and prepared for battle with all his might. He gained the support of many men, mostly those who wished to keep Óláfr’s Christian preaching from the country, for they knew that he would again preach it and support it with all his power as he had done before. But Kalfr gave as his pretext that the sons of good men should not be held hostage and fought King Óláfr in battle at Stiklastaðir.

These were the chieftains leading the Þrœndir’s army with Kalfr: Þorir hundr, Erlendr of Gerði, Áslákr of Finneyjar. On Óláfr’s side were his brother Haraldr, fifteen years of age, a handsome man of great stature, Rognvaldr Brúsason and Bjorn digri.

In that battle Erlendr of Gerdi fell first of the Þœndir’s army. It was also early in the battle that King Óláfr fell. He had a sword in his hand, but had neither helmet nor mailcoat. He was wounded in the knee by one of Kalfr’s men. He sank down and prayed and threw down his sword. Þorir hundr and Þorsteinn knarrasmiðr dealt King Óláfr his death blow. And thus in that battle St Óláfr rose from this kingdom to the kingdom of heaven. Bjorn digri fell before the king and Porsteinn knarrasmiðr was killed right on the king’s heels. In this battle Áslákr of Finneyjar fell and many men of the Þrœndir’ s army.

Campaign of King Magnus Barelegs against the British Isles (1102-3)

Thereafter King Magnús made for Orkney with an army. These chieftains were with him: Dagr, the father of Gregóríús, Viðkunnr Jóansson, Úlfr Hranason, the brother of Sigurðr, who was Nikulaus’s father, and many other important chieftains.  In Orkney he took with him Jarl Erlendr and his eighteen-year old son Magnús, who is now a saint.  They harried the coasts of Scotland and Wales, and on that expedition killed a jarl named Hugi digri. He was shot in the eye and died as a result. The one who shot the arrow threw the bow to the king and, according to some accounts, remarked: “Well shot, Sir,” thus attributing it to the king.  Magnús returned home from this expedition with his ships laden with gold, silver and costly things.

A few years later he set out west to Ireland with a fleet of ships, taking a large force of men, intending to conquer that country.  He won a part of it straight away and as a result grew bolder and then became more unwary, because all went well for him in the beginning, just as it had for his grandfather Haraldr, when he fell in England. And the same treachery drew him to his death, for the Irish raised in secrecy an overwhelming army against King Magnús on St Bartholomew’s Eve, when he and his men had gone ashore from their ships to make a strand-raid. The first thing they knew was that the army had come between them and their ships. The king and his men had little armour, for the king had gone ashore wearing a silk doublet and on his head a helmet, girt with a sword and with a spear in his hand, and he wore gaiters, as was his custom. King Magnús fell on this expedition and many men with him. Where he died is called Ulster, and Eyvindr Finnsson died there with him, along with many other great chieftains.

Víðkunnr stood nearest to the king and received three wounds, and King Magnús asked him to save himself by flight when he saw for certain that he himself would die. Víðkunnr and the others who managed to escape returned to their ships and then back home to Norway. For having behaved so well Víðkunnr later received great honour from the sons of Magnús.

These two sections come from, Ágrip af Nóregskonungasögum, edited by M.J. Driscoll (London, 1995).  We thank Professor Driscoll for allowing to publish this section.

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