The Orkneyinga saga An important source for understanding the history of Norse Earldom of Orkney lies in the Icelandic sagas. Of these, the Orkneyinga saga is one of the most famous and certainly the most specific to Orkney. Compiled sometime between and by an unknown Icelandic scribe, or scribes, the Orkneyinga Saga presents an interpretation of the first conquest of Orkney by Norway and the subsequent history of the Earldom. Within its pages, the reader is drawn into the semi-legendary world of Earldom Orkney. The saga is thought to have been compiled, over the years, from a number of sources, combining oral tradition, artistic licence and historical fact.
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And when that month passed away Thorri made them take to sacrifice, and sacrifice for this, that they might know surely where Goi was hidden away. Each of those brothers had many men with him. But Norr his brother bided till snow lay on the heaths, and it was good going on snow-shoon.
After that he fared forth from Kvenland and inside the sea-bight, and they came thither where those men were who are called Lapps, that is at the back of Finmark. There was a gathering of folk against them, and they straightway made ready to battle with Norr, and their quarrel fared as was to be looked for. All that folk either fell or fled, but Norr and his men overcame them as weeds over cornfields. Norr fared round all the firth and laid it under him, and made himself king over those districts that lay there inside the firth.
Then he turns west again on to the fell, because it had been told him that his men had come off worsted before that king whose name was Sokni. Then they came into that district which they called Valders. Norr went hard forward, and he and Sokni came to handstrokes. There fell Sokni and many of his folk. After that Norr fared on into the firth that goes north from Sogn. There Norr tarried a long time, and that is now called Norafirth.
There came to meet him Gorr his brother, and neither of them had then heard anything of Goi. Gorr too had laid under him all the outer land as he had fared from the south, and then those brothers shared the lands between them. Norr had all the mainland, but Gorr shall have all those isles between which and the mainland he passes in a ship with a fixed rudder. He sat himself on the poop and held the tiller in his hand, and claimed for his own all that land that then lay on the larboard, and that is many tilths and much land.
Rognvald had also base-born sons, their names were Hallad and Hrollaug and Einar, he was the youngest. Harold fair-hair fared one summer west across the sea to chastise the Vikings, when he was weary at the peacelessness of those who harried in Norway in summer, but were in the winter in Shetland or the Orkneys. He had there many battles, and took as his own lands so far west that no king of Norway has ever owned land further west since. The king gave Sigurd the title of earl when he went from the west, and Sigurd stayed behind there in the west.
These two agreed between themselves to meet, Sigurd and Melbricta toothy the Scot-earl, that they should meet and settle their quarrel at a given place, each with forty men. And when the day named came, Sigurd thought to himself that the Scots were faithless. And then they rode home, and boasted of their victory.
Hrolf was then out warring. Thorir bade him see about his passage. There a battle arose, and both those Vikings fell. Turf-Einar slew Skurvy. He first of men found out how to cut turf out of the earth for firewood on Turfness in Scotland, for they were ill off for wood in the isles. Einar was a tall man and ugly, one-eyed, and yet the sharpest-sighted of men. But when king Harold heard that, he grew very wrath, and went out against his sons. King Harold gave Thorir as an atonement for his father, Alofa harvest-heal his daughter, and the title of earl, and all that his father left behind him.
Halfdan long-leg came into the Orkneys, and as soon as it was known that a son of king Harold was come thither, then men became full of fear. Halfdan laid the isles under him, and made himself king over them. King Harold laid a fine upon the isles, and bade them pay sixty marks of gold. Einar paid up the fine, and so it was long after that the earls had all the allodial lands, till earl Sigurd gave back to the Orkneyingers their allodial lands.
King Harold fared back to Norway, but earl Einar ruled over the Orkneys a long time, and died of sickness. He had three sons. When Harold the fair-haired breathed his last, Eric blood-axe was king two winters.
He sailed west over the sea, and harried in Scotland and England. He said also that he would set him at one with king Hacon his foster son. But for that, Eric had little land and many men, he grew short of money. And one spring king Eric fared north along Scotland, and thence to the Orkneys, and took with him the earls of the Orkneys, the sons of Turf-Einar, Arnkell and Erlend.
Thence he fared to the Southern Isles, and there too he got a great force. Thence he fared to Ireland and harried, and he did the like in Bretland Wales. Thence he fared to England, and there he harried as he had done elsewhere. Olaf was the name of the king whom Edmund had set there to ward the land. But for that Eric had a great force, he landed and went up away from his ships. Olaf also gathered an overwhelming force and fared against king Eric, and there was a mighty battle.
At the beginning of the day the Englishmen fell fast, but where one fell three came in his stead. But towards the close of the day the loss of men turned on the side of the Northmen, and the end of it was that king Eric fell and five kings with him. Thorfinn Skullsplitter was then earl there. Then the sons of Gunnhilda took the isles under them, and were there in the winters but fared a-warring in the summers. Then they began their voyage to the Dane king. But before they fared out of the Orkneys they gave away Ragnhilda, the daughter of king Eric and Gunnhilda, to Arnfinn the son of earl Thorfinn, and then Thorfinn took up his seat established his rule in the isles.
Thorfinn had five sons. He was a great chief, and had a great following, and went a-warring in the summers. Ljot took the earldom, and became a mighty chief.
Einar hardchaft had now slain his kinsman, but was no nearer the earldom than before. And then Skuli rides down from Scotland with a mighty host, which the Scot-king and earl Macbeth had given him, and he and Ljot met in the Dales in Caithness, and there arose a mickle battle.
And the Scots were most hot at the beginning of the fight. Earl Ljot bade his men to keep under their shields, but still to stand as fast as they could. But when the Scots could do nothing, Ljot egged on his men, and was himself the hottest. Ljot took Caithness under him, and then there was strife between the King of Scots and earl Ljot, for the Scots were ill pleased at their bad luck.
Ljot turned back with victory, but his men were much wounded. Earl Ljot also had gotten that wound which led him to his death, and his death was much mourned. That is, were panic stricken and rushed wildly about.
Now Hedemark. They stretch north-eastward along the coast from Stadt to Naumdale. The banks of the Oikel in Sutherland. The Run. The text of this account of Eric blood-axe has been turned into Icelandic from the Danish Translation, aided by the Heimskringla. In Fl. Gunnhilda and her sons fared afterwards to the Orkneys, and took them under her, and dwelt there awhile. Then they fared to Denmark, but before they went gave away Ragnhilda, daughter of Eric and Gunnhilda, to Arnfinn, son of earl Thorfinn, and earl Thorfinn established himself in the isles.
Now Stennis. He held by main force Caithness against the Scots, and had a host out every summer. He harried in the Southern Isles, in Scotland and Ireland. Take thou here hold of this banner which I have made for thee with all my cunning and I ween it will bring victory to those before whom it is borne, but speedy death to him who bears it.
Earl Sigurd was very wrath at the words of his mother, and gave the Orkneyingers their allodial holdings for their help, and so he fared to meet earl Finnleik on Skidmoor, and each drew up his host in battle array. And when the battle was joined, the banner bearer of earl Sigurd was shot to death. The earl bade another man go and bear the banner, and after they had fought a while that man fell.
So three banner bearers of the earl fell, but he had the victory, and then the Orkneyingers got back their allodial rights.
Thence he fared to England read Ireland and got there to wife Gyda, the daughter of Kvaran the Irish king. After that he stayed a while in Dublin until earl Hacon sent Thorir the whiner to lure him thence. Olaf sailed from the west with four ships and came first to the Orkneys. The king then let him be baptized, and took as a hostage his son whose name was Hound or Whelp, but the king let him be baptized in the name of Hlodvir. Then all the Orkneys became Christian. But king Olaf then sailed east to Norway, and Hlodvir fared with him, but he lived a short while.
But after that earl Sigurd yielded no obedience to king Olaf. He went into a marriage with a daughter of Malcolm the king of the Scots, and their son was earl Thorfinn. Earl Sigurd had before had three sons who were then alive, the name of one of them was Summerled, of the second Brusi, the third Einar. A little while after the agreement between king Olaf and earl Sigurd Hlodverson, the earl took to wife the daughter of Malcolm, the Scot-king, and their son was earl Thorfinn.
Earl Sigurd had three other sons, one was called Brusi, the second Summerled, the third Einar wry-mouth. But when earl Sigurd came to Ireland, he and king Sigtrygg marched with that host to meet Brian, the Irish king, and their meeting was on Good Friday. Then it fell out that there was no one left to bear the raven banner, and the earl bore it himself, and fell there, but king Sigtrygg fled.
King Brian fell with victory and glory. After the fall of earl Sigurd, his sons took the realm and shared it into trithings among Summerled, Brusi, and Einar. Thorfinn was with the Scot-king five winters old when his father Sigurd fell.
Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney
It tells the story of the earls of Orkney and other famous Vikings, focusing primarily on their character and deeds Anderson Much of the history that the saga relates is hundreds of years old, so where did the saga-writer get the information and how accurate is it? In some cases, contemporary skalds would share historical songs and oral recitations that had been passed down for generations. The saga-writer then expounded upon these stories Anderson With this in mind, there are at several areas in which accuracy of the historical account is at risk, both in terms of production of the story, transfer of the story orally and eventually to writing, and in interpretation. This could include the translation into other languages. Accuracy of the skalds who originally composed the oral recitations was a concern of saga writers.
The Orkneyinga Saga: It’s purpose and accuracy
Start your review of Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney Write a review Shelves: read-in-translation , british-isles , medieval-history , scandinavia , 13th-century , vikings , non-fiction At the back of this edition there is a map. And you can see that if you start from Bergen and take a big step to the west you stand on Shetland view spoiler [ is you are wearing your league wading boots with extra thick platform heels hide spoiler ], a further half step to the south-west and you are on the Orkneys, from there you can step directly on to northernmost Scotland - Caithness, off to the west are the Hebrides and from there you can skip down the coast as far as Wales or over to At the back of this edition there is a map. The basis of their way of life was not much like that of typical twenty somethings today, raiding was a crucial supplement to the farming and fishing, given the frequent fighting I imagine that slave raiding was particularly important to maintain a labour force to do the ploughing, manuring, milking, sheering and fish gutting. In common with Icelandic stories there is an intense emphasis on names and family connections so I expected some relationship to a patron or the composer of this work, but none was made explicit. A common technique of the author is to dump all the names and interrelationships of an entire generation of Orcadian power players into the text and then slowly fold them into the saga with a long spoon over the following dozen pages. Mostly the saga is the sorry tale of the Earls of Orkney. They hold their title from the King of Bergen, their obligations to him seem to be none and for the most part the Kings of Norway are not terribly fussed about who is knitting what in Fair isle or whether a cathedral is built in Kirkwall or not.