Icelandic Sagas Vol. 3
51. Now it must be told about earl Hacon, that he summoned to him a great company, and has many warships, and all manned and trimmed as though they were to run out to battle. And when the force came together, the earl makes it clear to the men that he meant at that meeting so to settle matters between himself and earl Magnus, that they should not both of them be over the Orkneys. Many of his men showed themselves well pleased at this purpose, and added many fearful words; and they, Sigurd and Sighvat sock, were among the worst in their utterance. Then men began to row hard, and they fared furiously. Havard Gunni's son was on board the earl's ship, a friend and counsellor of the earls', and a fast friend to both alike. Hacon had hidden from him this bad counsel, which Havard would surely not join in. And when he knew the earl was so steadfast in this bad counsel, then he jumped from the earl's ship and took to swimming, and swam to an isle where no man dwelt. Earl Magnus came first to Egil's isle with his company, and when they saw Hacon coming, they knew that treachery must be meant. Earl Magnus then betook himself up on the isle with his men, and went to the church to pray, and was there that night, but his men offered to defend him. The earl answers: "I will not lay your life in risk for me, and if peace is not to be made between us two kinsmen, then be it as God wills." Then his men thought that what he had said when the billow fell on them was coming true. Now for that he felt sure as to the hours of his life beforehand, whether it was rather from his shrewdness or of godly foreshadowing, then he would not fly nor fare far from the meeting of his foes. (1) He prayed earnestly, and let a mass be sung to him.
52. Hacon and his men jumped up in the morning and ran first to the church, and ransacked it, and did not find the earl. He had gone another way on the isle with two men into a certain hiding place. And when the saint earl Magnus saw that they sought for him, then he calls out to them, and says where he was; he bade them look nowhere else for him. And when Hacon saw him, then they ran thither with shouts and crash of arms. Earl Magnus was then at his prayers when they came to him, and when he had ended his prayers, then he signed himself (with the cross), and said to earl Hacon, with steadfast heart: "Thou didst not well, kinsman, when thou wentest back on thy oaths, and it is much to be hoped that thou doest this more from others badness than thine own. Now will I offer thee three choices, that thou doest some one of these rather than break thy oaths and let me be slain guiltless." Hacon's men asked what offer he made. "That is the first, that I will go south to Rome, or out far as Jerusalem, and visit holy places, and have two ships with me out of the land with what we need to have, and so make atonement for both of our souls. This I will swear, never to come back to the Orkneys." To this they said "Nay" at once. Then earl Magnus spoke: "Now seeing that my life is in your power, and that I have in many things made myself an outlaw before Almighty God, then send thou me up into Scotland to some of both our friends, and let me be there kept in ward, and two men with me as a pastime. Take thou care then that I may never be able to get out of that wardship." To this they said "Nay" at once. Magnus spoke: "One choice is still behind, which I will offer thee, and God knows that I look more to your soul than to my life; but still it better beseems thee than to take away my life. Let me be maimed in my limbs as thou pleasest, or pluck out my eyes, and set me in a dark dungeon." Then earl Hacon spoke: "This settlement I am ready to take, nor do I ask anything farther." Then the chiefs sprang up and said to earl Hacon: "We will slay now either of you twain, and ye two shall not both from this day forth rule the lands." Then answers earl Hacon: "Slay ye him rather, for I will rather rule the realm and lands than die so suddenly." So says Holdbodi, a truthful freeman from the Southern isles, of the parley they had. he was then with Magnus, and another man with him, when they took him captive.
53. So glad was the worthy earl Magnus as though he were bidden to a feast; he neither spoke with hate nor words of wrath. And after this talk he fell to prayer, and hid his face in the palms of his hands, and shed out many tears before God's eyesight. When earl Magnus the saint was done to death, Hacon bade Ofeig his banner-bearer to slay the earl, but he said "Nay" with the greatest wrath. Then he forced Lifolf his cook to kill Magnus, but he began to weep aloud. "Thou shalt not weep for this," said the earl, "for that there is fame in doing such deeds; be steadfast in thy heart, for thou shalt have my clothes, as is the wont and law of men of old (2) and thy will, and he who forces thee misdoes more than thou." But when the earl had said this, he threw off his kirtle and gave it to Lifolf. After that he begged leave to say his prayers, and that was granted him. He fell to earth, and gave himself over to God, and brought himself as an offering to him. He not only prayed for himself or his friends, but rather there and then for his foes and banemen, and forgave them with all his heart what they had misdone towards him, and confessed his own misdeeds to God, and prayed that they might be washed off him by the outshedding of his blood, and commended his soul into God's hand, and prayed that God's angels would come to meet his soul, and bear it into the rest of Paradise. Some men say that he took the Lord's Body when the mass was sung to him. When the friend of God was led out to slaughter, he spoke to Lifolf: "Stand thou before me, and hew me on my head a great wound, for it beseems not to chop off chiefs' heads like thieves'; strengthen thyself, wretched man, for I have prayed for thee to God that he may have mercy on thee." After that he signed himself (with the cross), and bowed himself to the stroke. And his spirit passed to heaven.
54. That spot was before mossy and stony. But in a little after the worthiness of earl Magnus before God was so bright that there sprung up a green sward where he was slain, and God showed that, that he was slain for righteousness' sake, and inherited the fairness and greenness of Paradise, which is called the earth of living men. Earl Hacon did not allow the earl to be borne to the church. The death-day of earl Magnus is two nights after Tiburce mass. He had then been earl over the Orkneys seven winters, he and Hacon both together. There had then passed since the fall of king Olaf seventy four winters. Sigurd and Eystein and Olaf were the kings over Norway. There had been passed since the birth of Christ one thousand and ninety and one winters. (3)
55. After the meeting, Thora, the mother of earl Magnus, had bidden both earls to a feast, (4) and now came earl Hacon to the feast after the slaying of earl Magnus the saint. Thora went about waiting on the guests herself, and bore drink to the earl and his men, those who had been at the slaying of her son. And when the drink took hold of the earl, then Thora went before him and said: "Now art thou come hither alone, lord, but I looked for you both; wilt thou now gladden me before the witness of God and men; be now to me in a son's stead, and I will be to thee in a mother's stead; I much need now thy pity, and that thou givest me leave that my son may be borne to church; be now so with me in my prayers as thou wouldest wish God to be with thee at doomsday." The earl holds his peace and thinks over the matter, and was sorry for those ill deeds when she begged so meekly with tears that she might have her way about bearing her son to church. He looked at her, and dropped tears, and said to her: "Bury thy son where it pleases thee." After that earl Magnus was borne to Hrossey, and buried at that Christchurch (in Birsay) which earl Thorfinn made them make. Straightway after that a heavenly light was often seen shining over his grave. Afterwards men began to call upon him often, if they were placed in danger, and their matter was granted at once as they prayed. In the same way a heavenly fragrance was often perceived at his grave, and sick men got back their health thence. Then next men made journeys thither both from the Orkneys and Shetland, who were in weak health, and watched at the tomb of earl Magnus the saint, and got healing for their ailments. But yet men did not dare to spread this abroad while earl Hacon lived. It is also so said, that those men who were most in the treachery against earl Magnus the saint, most of them died ill and harrowing deaths. At that time William was bishop in the Orkneys; he was the first bishop there. The bishop's seat was then at Christchurch in Birsay. William was bishop sixty-six years. He doubted long the holiness of earl Magnus. (5) After the slaying of earl Magnus, Hacon took all the realm under him in the Orkneys; he then made all men take an oath to him who had before served earl Magnus; then he became a great chief, and laid heavy burdens on the friends of earl Magnus, whom he thought had been most against him in their quarrels. But some winters after, Hacon began his voyage out of the land, and fared south to Rome; in that journey he fared out to Jerusalem, thence he sought the halidoms, and bathed in the river Jordan, as is palmers' wont. After that he turned back to his own land, and took under him the realm in the Orkneys. He then became a good ruler, and kept his realm well at peace. Then he set up in the Orkneys new laws, which pleased the freemen much better than those that had been before. With such things his friendships began to grow; and so it came about that the Orkneyingers cared for nothing else than to have Hacon for their chief, and his offspring after him.
1. The Danish Translation here adds "He did not go into the church for any other reason than that he wished to preserve his life. (sic) There he made his prayers heartily to God, and commended himself into his hands. Early the morning after he went out of the church, and two others with him by another way down to the shore into a secret place, and then said his prayers again to God." [Back]
2. The Danish Translation adds, "that he shall have one's weapons and clothes who puts him to death." [Back]
3. This date is wrong, to agree with the others it should be 1116. [Back]
4. Instead of this sentence the Translation runs thus: --- "Wise men say that in the spring after they should have been set at one, Thora, the mother of Magnus, had bidden them both to be her guests, and they were to come straightway to her when they were reconciled, and came back from Egil's isle." [Back]
5. Fl. adds, "until his worthiness was so plainly revealed that God let his holiness wax higher in the same proportion as it was more tried, as is said in his Book of Tokens and Wonders." [Back]