Icelandic Sagas Vol. 3
SHORT MAGNUS SAGA
BEGINS THE SAGA OF MAGNUS THE ISLE-EARL.
1. That earl ruled over the Orkneys whose name was Thorfinn, the son of Sigurd
Hlödver's son; he had to wife Ingibjorg, who was called earl's-mother,
she was a daughter of earl Finn Arni's son, but her mother was Bergliot, the
daughter of Halfdan, the son of Sigurd sow and Asta. The sons of those two,
earl Thorfinn and Ingibjorg were Paul and Erlend, who took the realm in the
Orkneys after their father. They were great men and fair, and took much after
their mother's kindred, wise men and meek-hearted. Earl Pau got to wife a daughter
of earl Hacon Ivar's son and Ragnhilda the daughter of king Magnus the good;
their son was earl Hacon. Earl Erlend had to wife a woman named Thora, she was
the daughter of Somerled the son of Ospak. The mother of Ospak was Thordis,
a daughter of Hall of the Side. The sons of Erlend were called Erling and Magnus,
but their daughters were Cecilia and Gunnhilda; she, Gunnhilda, was the mother
of earl Rognvald-Kali.
2. But when those brothers Paul and Erlend ruled over the Orkneys, then was there good agreement between them. But when their sons got to be full grown men they were very overbearing, that is to say Hacon and Erling, but Magnus was the quietest of them. They were all strong and proper men. But Hacon would be first and foremost, for he thought he was of better birth by his mother's side. But that did not suit them at all, and it so came about that they could not be together, for there was always risk of their falling out. Then the earls took part in setting them at one again, and meeting was settled. But as soon as the earls began to talk it was seen that each leaned towards his own son, and thus no settlement was made. Then their friends tried what they could do, and set them at one again on such terms as that the isles were shared into halves between those brothers, as they had been of old time; and then things stood so for awhile. But after some time had passed since the settlement, then Hacon grew so unfair a man, and pressed so hard on those men who served earl Erlend, that they fell out again and fared the one side against the other with a host of men. Then Havard Gunni's son and other friends of the earls again brought about a meeting for an atonement between them, but earl Erlend would not agree to any terms if earl Hacon were by. But for that it seemed to their friends that there was great peril in their quarrels, then the freemen besought earl Hacon and his friends that he would not let that stand in the way, but rather fare away out of the isles. They said 'twere good counsel if he fared east across the sea to seek his friends, so many and so noble as he had both in Norway and Sweden. So at the persuasions of men, and also because there was envy in the heart of Hacon against his kinsmen there in the isles, and because he thought it good to learn the customs of other chiefs, he fared away out of the isles east across the sea.
3. When Magnus barelegs king of Norway held on with his host west across the sea, as is written in his Saga, and when he came to the Orkneys, he took prisoners the earls Paul and Erlend, and sent them east to Norway, but he set his son Sigurd over the isles, and gave him a council, and said thus, that the earls should never have the realm in the Orkneys while he was king in Norway. Thence he fared to the Southern isles, and took along with him Erling and Magnus, the sons of earl Erlend. Then also was with him there Hacon Paul's son. And when he had got under the lee of Scotland there came against him a mighty host in Anglesea-sound, and two earls, Hugh the proud, and Hugh the stout, ruled over that fleet. They were brothers and sons of Kostnomi king in Ireland. And when they met the king made ready to battle against them. But while men were arming themselves, Magnus sat him down. The king asked him why he sat and did not take his arms. Magnus said he had no quarrel with any man there. "And that is why I will not fight," says he. "Then take thy weapons and help thyself," says the king. He answers, "Let God shield me: I shall not die if he wills that I should live; I will rather die than wage a wrongful battle." The king said, "Get thee down under the planks, and lie not under the feet of men if thou darest not to fight; for I think not that thou doest this for faith's sake." Magnus took a psalter and sang while they fought, but did not shield himself, and yet was not wounded. This battle was both hard and long, and ended thus, that Hugh the proud fell there. After that the Welchmen fled, and had lost much people, but king Magnus had the victory, and yet he lost many men of rank, and some died afterwards of their wounds.
4. King Magnus had made Magnus Erlend's son his trencher-page, and he always served at the king's board. But after the battle the king laid great hatred on him, and says that he had behaved there like a craven. It fell on a night, as the king lay off Scotland, that Magnus Erlend's son ran away from the ship, when he thought he had the best chance of flying from the king. He swam to land, and ran off into the wood, and had on only his linen underclothes. He struck his foot and hurt himself as he was barefoot, and then he could fare no further. But he had so made up his berth that it seemed as though a man were lying there. He came to the wood to a great tree and clomb up into its branches and bound up his foot, and so lay hid in the branches for a while. But the day after when men went to the board on the king's ship, the king asked where Magnus Erlend's son might be. He was told that he lay in his berth and slept. Then the king bade them wake him up, and said more must be under it than sleep alone, when he lay longer than he was wont. But when they came to the berth then he was missed, and the king bade them search for him, and made them let slip after him the slot-hounds. But when the slot-hounds were let loose, they followed up his trail and ran off to the wood, and came to that tree, in the branches of which Magnus was. Then one hound ran round the tree in a ring and bayed. Magnus had a wooden staff in his hand and threw it at the hound, and smote it on the side; but the hound put his tail between his legs and ran off to the ships, and the others after. So the king's men could not find Magnus. He lay hid for a while in the wood, and came after a time to the court of Malcolm, the Scot-king, and stayed there a while, but sometimes with a bishop in Wales. Then again he was in England in various places with his friends, and came not to the Orkneys while king Magnus lived.
5. But when king Magnus came back to the Orkneys from his warfare, he heard of the death of earl Erlend, east across the sea. He had breathed his last in Nidaros, and is there buried. But earl Paul had died in Bergen, and is buried there. In the spring, king Magnus married Kol, the son of Kali Seabear's son, to Gunnhilda, earl Erlend's daughter, as an atonement for his father's death, for Kali had died of those wounds which he got in Anglesea-sound. Along with Gunnhilda followed certain estates as her dower in the Orkneys and a homestead in Paplay. Some men say that Erling son of earl Erlend fell in Anglesea-sound. Snorri Sturla's son says he has fallen in Ulster, in Ireland, with king Magnus. But when Sigurd, son of king Magnus, heard of his father's fall in the Orkneys, where he then was and had the government of the land as his father had arranged, then he thought there was small outlook for peace if he sat there west across the sea, and so he fared at once that harvest east to Norway with that force which had come to him, and which had been of his father's following to Ireland. And when he came to Norway he was taken to be king along with his brothers, Eystein and Olaf.
6. One winter or two after the fall of king Magnus, Hacon Paul's son came to Norway from the west across the sea. He fared to see those brothers, and they took to him kindly, for he had been a dear friend of their father, king Magnus. Those brothers, sons of king Magnus, gave Hacon the title of earl, and such power in the Orkneys as he could claim by birth. After that he fared west across the sea, and took under him the whole realm in the isles, and so he ruled over it for a while. And when Hacon had ruled over the Isles but a short time, then came Magnus Erlend's son from Scotland and begged to take the inheritance of his father. That was well pleasing to the freemen, for every man was his friend there. Besides he had there many kinsfolk and connexions, who were ready to stand by him in his claim to rule. A noble man, named Sigurd, had married his mother, Thora; their son was Hacon carle, and they had their abode in Paplay. But when earl Hacon learned that Magnus was come thither, he gathered a force together, and would not split his realm. After that their friends came between them, and tried to bring about an atonement. And so it came about that they were made friends on these terms, that earl Hacon should give up half the realm of the Orkneys if that were the will of the kings of Norway, and so they agreed. After that Magnus fared east to seek Eystein and Olaf, for king Sigurd had fared to Jerusalem. Those kings greeted Magnus well, and gave up to him the heritage of his father, half the Orkneys and the title of earl. Then he fared west over the sea to his realm, and all the people were fain to see him. Then he and Hacon got on well together. And then were there good crops and sure peace so long as the friendship of those kinsmen lasted.
7. Magnus was the most famous man in his chieftainship. He was virtuous and dutiful, victorious, and a sage in wit; a good speaker and lordly tempered, and his praise was in every man's mouth. He was generous of his goods, and a good counsellor, bold in battle, and a sure friend. He was ever chastising theft and robbery, and other misdeeds. He had vikings and wrongdoers slain. Often he gave great gifts to chiefs, but unfailingly gave to needy men much comfort for God's sake. In all things he strictly held God's commandments, and was unmerciful against his own self. So it is said that he abode with his wife for ten years, so that they kept their purity of life; but when he felt temptation coming over him he went into cold water and begged for support of God. Those kinsmen, earl Magnus and Hacon, had the wardship of the land in the Orkneys for some time, during which they were well agreed. It is so said in those songs which have been made on them that they fought against a chief, called Duffnjal, was the son of earl Duncan, who was the earl's first cousin once removed, and slew him. Thorbjorn was the name of a noble man whom they slew in Borgarfirth (Burrafirth) in Shetland, but it is so said that they took the house over his head and burnt him inside it.
8. When earl Magnus and Hacon had not long ruled over the Orkneys, it came about as often happens, that ill willing men spoil their kinship, and earl Hacon fell into the hands of those wicked men who did their best to spoil their friendship; for he was already very jealous of the friendships and lordiness of earl Magnus. Two men are named who were with earl Hacon, who played the worst part between them. The one's name was Sigurd, and the others Sighvat sock. This backbiting went so far, that those kinsmen gathered force together and each fared against the other, and both shaped their course for Hrossey. There was the place of meeting of the Orkneyingers. And when they came thither each side went on land and made them ready to battle. There were then with the earls nearly all the great chiefs. There, too, were friends of both, who went between them with good will and tried to set them as one again. This meeting was in Lent, a little before Palm Sunday. And so it was because men of good intent took part in the atonement, that it was settled that the earls should be atoned on those terms, that well disposed men should settle matters between them, and the meeting for the full atonement was to be in Egelsha, after Easter week. Each of them was to have but two ships at this meeting, and just as many men as the other. Both took oaths to keep the atonement which should be then declared.
9. After Easter they made ready to this voyage. It is so said that earl Magnus summoned to him all the best men who were in his realm, and who seemed to him likeliest to mend matters between them. And when he was ready he held on for Egelsha and they were rowing in a calm sea. Then it so fell out that a billow rose alongside the ship which the earl steered, and fell aboard the ship, and into the stern where he sat. Men wondered at this, as no man thought a sea could have fallen there, and the water was deep under the ship. The earl said, "This is not wonderful, though ye wonder at this thing which has happened and which is so strange; but it is my foreboding that this is a token of my life's end. May be that now is coming to pass which was spaed aforetime, that Paul's son should do a mighty misdeed. We must now look upon our business," says he, "as though my kinsman Hacon means mischief against us." The earl's men grew frightened at his words and bade him guard his life, and not fare to meet earl Hacon. He answers, "Of a surety will I go." May all that befalls us on our journey be after God's will.
10. Now must be told of earl Hacon that he summons a great band, and had eight warships, and all manned for battle. And when the company gathered together he gave it out plainly to the people that he meant at that meeting to settle matters once for all between those kinsmen, so that both of them should not be able to tell the tale afterwards. Many of his men were well pleased at this plan, and added many unseemly words to those; and Sigurd and Sighvat sock they were still the worst of all. And so they rowed mightily. Havard Gunni's son was on board earl Hacon's ship; he was a great friend of both of them and their connexion, and Hacon had hidden from him this ill counsel. But when he knew that the earl had set his heart on doing this he would not join in it, and leapt overboard and swam to a little isle where no man dwelt.
11. Now when earl Magnus saw the coming of Hacon and how he had eight ships, they thought they knew that he meant to play them false. Then earl Magnus landed on the island with all his company and to the church, and he was there during the night. His men offered to guard him, but he answered, "I will not lay your lives in peril for me, and if there is not to be peace fixed between us kinsmen, then let God's will be done." Then his men thought how true that was which he had said to them when the billow fell on the ship. But because he knew beforehand as to his life's end, whether it was from his own wit or from heavenly revelation, so he would not fly from meeting his foes; and for faith's sake he sought the church and prayed there vigorously out loud, and gave himself over into God's hand. Next morning he went out of the church with two men up into the island and down to the shore to a certain hiding place, and there he prayed to God. Some men say that earl Magnus made them say mass to him ere he went from the church, and that he took the Lord's Body.