The Saga of
Yngvar the Traveller
© Peter Tunstall, 2005
1. Of Aki and King Eirik
There was a king called Eirik who ruled over
. He was called Eirik the Victorious. He married Sigrid the Proud but separated from her because of her difficult moods, for she was a very quarrelsome woman and made an issue out of everything that happened. He gave her Gautland. Their son was Olaf the Swede. Sweden
At that time, Jarl Hakon ruled over
and had many children, but we will just say something about one of his daughters who was called Aud. King Eirik had a daughter too who is not named. A Swedish chieftain called Aki asked for her hand, but the king didn’t much rate the idea of giving away his daughter to a commoner. Shortly afterwards a district king from Russia in the east asked for her and Eirik saw fit to give the girl to him, and she went east with him to Russia. A bit later, Aki came unannounced, took this king by surprise, killed him and carried off Eirik’s daughter back home with him to Norway , and married her. Eight chieftains made a pact with Aki, in this plot, and they remain thus for a while under King Eirik’s displeasure, as the king didn’t want to fight with them and thereby cause great loss of life among his own people within the land. Aki and his wife had a son who was called Eymund. Sweden
After this, Aki offers to make peace with the king for his rashness. The king was agreeable to that. And now, when this had come to pass, King Eirik asks for Aud, the daughter of Jarl Hakon of Norway. The Jarl assented, although he made it known that he would have preferred not to have Eirik let his self-appointed son-in-law sit with impunity as high as himself in
. Now the woman was promised and the wedding arranged, and now messages are once again exchanged between Aki and the king. And Aki invites the king to set whatever terms he wished except for banishment, and they agree to that. The king now makes preparations for the wedding and invites the chieftains of the land; and the first he asked were Aki, his son-in-law, and the eight chiefs who were allied to him. Sweden
2. Of Eymund and the Killing of Aki
On the appointed day, Jarl Hakon came from
to Norway , and there were great multitudes of people at Sweden , for all the most important men in Uppsala were there. There were a lot of big halls put up there since many chieftains with large followings had come, although Aki’s following was the largest, excepting those of King Eirik and Jarl Hakon. So the second biggest hall was prepared for Aki. The king’s daughter wasn’t there, or their son, because the king’s offer didn’t seem trustworthy. Sweden
Now they sit at the banquet for a time with much cheer and mirth. At the beginning of the feast, Aki had kept a good look out for his own safety, but less so as the wedding went on, till the feast was nearly done and there was just one night left. Then KingEirik takes them all by surprise and killed all eight of the chiefs who’d been opposed to him, and Aki likewise. After this, the feast was broken up. Jarl Hakon went to
and everyone to their own homes. This plot is attributed by some to Jarl Hakon, and some say that he himself was among the killers. Norway
Now the king takes possession of all the lands and goods that those eight chiefs had owned. He brought Eymund and his mother home with him. Eymund grew up with the king, who treated him with great honour, till finally King Eirik died. Then Olaf took the kingdom and treated Eymund with the same respect as his father had done.
But when Eymund was fully grown, he called to mind his loss, because he saw his property right there before his eyes every day and he felt deprived of all honour, because the king took all the tribute from his properties. King Olaf had a daughter who was called Ingigerd. She and Eymund loved one another dearly, on account of their kinship, for she was a fine woman in all respects. Eymund was a man of great stature and strength, and the very best knight there was.
Eymund now considers his case, and redress for his grief seemed slow in coming, and he thought it better to endure a quick death than a life of shame. When he learnt that twelve of the king’s retainers had gone to collect the revenues in the lands and estates his father had owned, he has an idea. He goes with twelve men to the wood that lay in their path, and they fought there, and that was a hard fight he had with them.
That same day, Ingigerd happened to be going through those woods, and she found them all dead except for Eymund, and he was sorely wounded. She had him laid in her wagon and drove off with him and healed him in secret. But when King Olaf heard these tidings, he called an assembly and declared Eymund guilty and outlawed him from the whole of his kingdom. And when Eymund had got well, Ingigerd secretly provided him with a ship, and he sails out raiding and does well for money and men.
3. A Truce of Kings
Some years later, King Jarizleif of
asked to marry Ingigerd. She was given to him, and she went east with him. And when Eymund heard these tidings, he goes east to Russia , and King Jarizleif receives him well, as does Ingigerd, for there was at this time a serious conflict in Russia , because Burizleif, the brother of King Jarizleif, was making attacks on the kingdom. Against him Eymund fought five battles, and in the final battle Burizleif was taken captive and blinded and brought to the king. Eymundwon immense wealth there: gold and silver and many kinds of treasures and precious items. Then Ingigerd sent men to meet with King Olaf, her father, and asked that he give up those lands which belonged to Eymund, and make peace with him rather than having to live with the constant threat of attack from him—and Olaf agreed, after a fashion. At that time, Eymund was in Holmgard, which is Russia , and often engaged in battles and had victory in every one and won back much tribute-land for the king. Then Eymund was eager to visit his own properties, and he has a great army, and well equipped, since they lacked for neither goods nor arms. Novgorod
Now Eymund sets out from
, much honoured and respected by the whole people, and comes now to Russia and takes up residence on his own land and properties, and soon gets himself a wife and marries a rich man’s daughter, and they had one son who was called Yngvar. Sweden
Word of this came to King Olaf of
, that Eymund had come to the country with a great host and plenty of wealth and had settled down on the land that once belonged to his father and those eight chieftains. And this seemed grave news to him, but he doesn’t feel confident enough to make a move, because every day he hears much spoken of Eymund’s daring and his deeds. And each sits tight now, as neither wants to bow down to the other. Sweden
Eymund stays in his land now, managing and governing it like a king, and increases his realm, coming to rule a great many people. He had a great hall built for himself and fitted out in style and dines there every day with an immense retinue, for he had many knights and naval forces. He lives this way in peace now.
Now Yngvar grew up at home with his father, till he was nine years old. ThenYngvar asked his father if he might go to see the king and the other lords of
.Eymund gave him permission to go and made preparations for him to travel in fitting style. Yngvar took his father’s helm, the best he owned—it was gilded and set with gemstones—and a sword adorned with gold, and he had with him many other treasures.Yngvar went now with fourteen of his fathers men, and all their horses were armoured, as they themselves were. And they had shields and gilt helms, and all their weapons were adorned with gold and silver. And with his company thus arrayed, off he goes west through Sweden . News of his journey gets around, and chieftains from far and wide come to him and invite him to feast with them. He accepts, and they give him good gifts, and he them. Sweden
Now Yngvar’s fame travels all over
and comes to the ears of King Olaf. He had a son called Onund, a most promising young man, who was more or less the same age as Yngvar. He begged his father’s leave to go and meet his kinsman Yngvar and welcome him will all due honours, and this was granted just as he’d asked, and he went to meet Yngvar and showed him much honour, and that was a joyful meeting indeed. Then they go to see the king, and he went to meet them and welcomed them warmly,Yngvar included, and leads him into the hall and seats Yngvar next to himself and bade him stay there for a long time and be welcome and all his companions too. Yngvar says he’ll stop there a while. Sweden
Then he brings out those treasures which were mentioned earlier, the helm and the sword, and spoke thus: “My father sent you these gifts to strengthen peace and seal friendship.”
The king received the treasures with thanks, though he said Eymund hadn’t sent them for him. Yngvar stayed the whole winter there and was valued above all other men by the king. In the spring, Yngvar got ready to go home together with Onund. Then the king gave Yngvar a good horse, a gilt saddle and a fine ship.
So Yngvar and Onund set off in great favour from King Olaf and travel now toEymund. And when they come to Eymund’s house, he was told who had arrived, but he pretended not to hear. Now they come to the hall, and Onund wanted to dismount, but Yngvar said they should ride into the hall. They do so, riding in right up toEymund’s high-seat. He greets them well and asks what’s new, and, for that matter, why they have the cheek to carry on like louts and come riding into his hall.
Then Yngvar answered, “When I arrived at King Olaf’s, he came to meet me with all his retinue and welcomed me warmly and worthily, but you will not now do any honour to his son, when he visits you. So now you know: this is why I rode into your hall.”
Eymund sprang up then and took Onund in his arms off the horse and kissed him and set him down and said everyone inside the hall would serve him. Now Yngvar brought the gifts to his father, saying that King Olaf had sent them to him to seal the peace. That’s the horse and saddle and ship. Eymund said that King Olaf hadn’t sent them for him, though he praised him much for having given such worthy gifts to Yngvar. Onundspent the winter there.
In the spring, he got ready to leave together with Yngvar. Then Eymund gave Onunda golden coloured hawk, and they depart thus and come to King Olaf, and he welcomes them warmly and is glad at their return. Then Onund brought him the hawk and saidEymund has sent it for him.
The king blushed at this and said Eymund might have mentioned him when he gave the hawk after all, “so maybe he did have that in mind.”
A little later, he calls Onund and Yngvar to him and said, “Now you must go back and bring to Eymund what I want to give him, and it’s a battle-standard, because I have no more precious gifts to give him than this. It’s a property of this standard that whoever has it borne before them into battle can always count on certain victory. And this token shall be the sign and standard of the peace between us.”
They go back now and brought the standard to Eymund along with the king’s words of friendship. Eymund received it with thanks, the king’s gift, and told them to go straight back and invite King Olaf back there to visit him, “And you shall say: ‘Eymund, your servant, invites you to a feast with good will, and will be pleased if you accept.’”
They go to King Olaf and gave him Eymund’s invitation. Then King Olaf became very happy and went with a great host of people. Eymund received him well and did him much honour, and they spoke together and pledged their friendship and held to it well.
Then the king went home with good gifts and Yngvar was always with the king, because the king loved him no less than his own son. Yngvar was a man great in stature, handsome and strong and fair-faced, wise and well-spoken, kind and generous with his friends, but grim with his enemies, courteous and quick and alert, so that wise men have likened him in accomplishments to his kinsman Styrbjorn, or to King OlafTryggvason who was the most renowned man there ever was or will be in the northlands, for ever and aye, both before God and men.
4. Yngvar Demanded Tribute
When those kinsmen, Onund and Yngvar were in the prime of their youth, there was a dispute between King Olaf and that people who are called the Semigallians, and they had not paid tax for some time. Then King Olaf sent Onund and Yngvar with three ships to demand tribute. They reach land and call a meeting with the inhabitants, and there they demanded tribute from their king. Yngvar demonstrated his great skill in speaking there, so that the king and many other chiefs saw no choice but to pay the tax which was demanded, all except three chiefs who did not want to follow the king’s advice and refused to pay the tax and raised an army. But when the king heard what they were up to, he asked Onund and Yngvar to fight them and gave them troops. They fought, and there was great loss of life there before they put the chiefs to flight. In the route, the chief who had most opposed the paying of tribute was taken captive, and they strung him up, but the other two got away. They took much booty there and claimed all the tributes, and, that done, they sail back to King Olaf and bring him a great wealth of gold and silver and good treasures, and Yngvar’s reputation was greatly increased by this voyage, so much so that the king set him above all the other chiefs in
. Yngvar took himself a mistress and had a son with her who was called Svein. Sweden
Yngvar remained with King Olaf, enjoying his favour, until he was twenty. Then he became unhappy so that he hardly spoke a word from his mouth. The king thought this a great shame and asks why.
Yngvar answers, “If you think it’s a shame that I’m unhappy and you wish me as well as you say, then give me the title of king with all the dignity that entails.”
The king answers, “Anything else you ask, wealth or honours, I will give. But this I cannot, for I am no wiser than my forbears, and I can do no better than my kin who came before me.”
This thing became a bone of contention between them, for Yngvar was forever demanding the title of king and didn’t get it.
5. Of Yngvar’s Expedition
Then Yngvar got ready to leave the country to seek out a kingdom abroad and he selected men from the land and thirty ships, all fully equipped. Word of that Yngvarwas preparing for a journey reached King Olaf now, and he sent men to meet withYngvar and begged him to stay and accept the title of king. Yngvar said he would have accepted it if he’d had the chance earlier, but he was ready to sail, he said, as soon as the wind was right.
Soon afterwards, Yngvar sailed out from
with thirty ships and they didn’t stop sailing till they came to Sweden , and King Jarizleif received him well and honoured him greatly. Yngvar was there for three years and learnt to speak many languages there. He heard talk that three rivers flowed out of the east through Russia , and the middle one was the biggest. Then Yngvar travelled widely in the east, asking if anyone knew where that river flowed from, but no one could say. Russia
Then Yngvar got ready to leave
and he meant to try and explore the length of this river. He had a bishop bless his flint and fire-axe. Four men are named amongYngvar’s companions on the journey: Hjalmvigi and Soti, Ketil who was called Garda-Ketil—he was an Icelander—and Valdimar. Anyway, after that, they set out onto the river with thirty ships, and Yngvar turned the prows to the east and made a rule that no one should go ashore without his leave. And if anyone did, they would lose a hand or a foot. Someone had to stay awake at night on every ship. Russia
When they’d been following the river for a while, it’s said that one night it fell toKetil to keep watch, and when everyone had been asleep for a long time he felt bored, and he became curious and went ashore to have a look around and happened to go further than he intended. He stopped and listened. He saw up ahead of him a tall house and walked towards it and into the house, and there he was amazed to see a silver pot over the fire. He took the pot and ran back towards the ships. But when he’d been going for a little while, he looked back and saw a terrible giant tearing after him. Ketilquickened his pace, but still the giant was getting closer. He pulls off the handle and drops the pot, and runs then as fast as he can, glancing back though now and then. He sees the giant stop when it comes to the pot. It walks now towards it, now away, but finally picks up the pot and goes home. And Garda-Ketil walked to the ship and broke up the handle and put it in his luggage box.
But in the morning, when the men woke up and went ashore, they saw tracks leading from the ships, because there’d been a dew, and they told Yngvar. He asked Ketil if it was him, since Ketil wasn’t naming anyone else, and said he wouldn’t kill him if he told the truth. He did so and begged to be excused for his disobedience, and for his life to be spared, and showed him the handle. Yngvar told him not to do it again and left it at that.
They sailed then for many days and through many regions till they saw that the colours and lifestyles of the animals had changed, and from this they knew they were far from home. One evening, they in the distance what looked like a half moon standing on the earth. That night Valdimar held watch. He goes ashore in search of the place where they saw it. He came to what looked like a hill looming up before him the colour of gold, and he saw the reason: it was covered in serpents. But since they were asleep, he reached in with his spear-shaft to where a gold ring was, and pulled it out towards himself. Then a little baby snake woke up, and it instantly woke up those beside it, and they all woke their neighbours, snake after snake, till they woke Jakulus.
Valdimar raced back to the ships and told Yngvar the whole truth. Now Yngvarordered his men to make ready for the serpent and steer the ships to another mooring-site across the river, and so they do. Then they see a dreadful-looking dragon flying towards them over the river. Many hid in fear. And when Jakulus came over the ship that was captained by two priests, he spewed so much venom that both ship and men were destroyed. Then he flew back across the river to his abode.
Yngvar follows the river now for many days. Then towns and big buildings rose into view, and then they see a magnificent citadel. It was built of white marble. As they neared the citadel, they saw great crowds of men and women. They marvelled then at the beauty which they saw there, and the grace of the women, for many were strikingly beautiful. But one among them stood out both for dress and beauty. That fine woman signalled to Yngvar and his men that they should come to meet with her. Then Yngvarstepped from the ship and met that noble lady. She asked who they were and also what they were doing, but Yngvar said nothing, because he wanted to test whether she knew how to speak other languages. And it turned out that she could speak Roman, German, Norse and Russian and many others which were current in the east.
But when Yngvar had learnt that she spoke these languages, he told her his name and enquired after hers and asked what title she held.
“I am called Silkisif,” she said, “and I am queen of this land and realm.”
Then she invited Yngvar into the town with her, together with all his company. He accepted. And the townspeople take their ships with all the rigging and carried them up to the city. Yngvar fitted out a hall for all his men to stay in and locked it carefully, as the surrounding area was full of idolatry. Yngvar warned them not to have any dealings with the heathens and refused entry to any women apart from the queen. Some of his men took little notice of his warning, and he had them killed, and after that no one dared disobey his commands.
Yngvar stayed that winter as an honoured guest, for the queen sat talking to him every day along with her wise men and councillors, and they told the other of many things. Yngvar was always telling her about almighty God, and it appealed to her, this faith. She loved Yngvar so much that she offered him the whole kingdom and the title of king, and finally offered to give herself to him if he would stay there, but he explained that first he wanted to explore the length of the river and would accept after that.
When spring came, Yngvar got ready to leave, and he bade farewell to the queen and her people. Yngvar continued upriver till he came to a great waterfall and a narrow ravine. There were high cliffs there, so they hauled their ships up with ropes. Then they lowered them back to the river and went on like this for some time without seeing anything of note. But one day as summer was drawing to a close, they saw many boats rowing towards them. They were all of them round with oars on every side. They steered towards them so that Yngvar had no choice but to wait there for them, because their boats went as fast as flying birds. But before they met, a man stood up on one of the boats. He was robed in the robes of a king and spoke many tongues. Yngvar made no reply. Then he said a few words of Russian. Yngvar understood that he was calledJolf and was from the city of
. And when the king learnt Yngvar’s name and where he’d come from and where he was bound, he invited him home with him to stay the winter in his city. Yngvar declared that it didn’t suit his plans to delay and refused. Then the king insisted that he accept his hospitality and stay the winter. Yngvar said they’d just have to stay then. After that they came with their company to the harbour and went ashore and up to the city. And when they looked back, they saw the townsmen carrying their ships on their shoulders right up to the city, to where they could be locked up. They saw great idolatry on all the streets there. Yngvar told his men to be diligent in prayer and steadfast in their faith. Jolf gave them a hall, and that winter Yngvar watched his men so closely that not one of them was lost through intercourse with women or other heathenry. But when did have to go out, they went fully armed and locked the hall behind them. No one was allowed in except the king. He sat every day talking with Yngvar, and they told each other many things about their respective lands, past and present. Heliopolis
Yngvar asked Jolf if he knew where this river came from, and Jolf said he knew for sure that it flowed from the spring, “which we call Lindibelti. Another river also flows from that spring to the
Red Sea, to the great whirlpool there which is called Gapi. Between the sea and the river lies the headland of Siggeum. The river doesn’t have far to flow before it plummets over a cliff into the Red Sea, and we consider that the ends of the earth. But on this river you’ve been following, there lurk malefactors in big ships which they disguise with reeds, so that people mistake them for islands, and they have all sorts of weapons and flame-shooters, and they wipe out more men with fire than they do with their weapons.”
But now the townsfolk felt that their king wasn’t attending to their needs, being distracted by Yngvar, and threatened to drive him from the land and take for themselves another king. And when Yngvar heard this, he asked the king to do as his people wished. The king did. He asked Yngvar to lend him support to fight his brother. His brother was the mightier of the two and inflicted much injustice on the king.Yngvar promised to lend his support when he returned.
6. Battles with Giants and Pirates
When winter was over, Yngvar sets out with all his men in good health from the
. And when they’d been going for a while, they came to a great waterfall of such ferocity they had to make for the shore. But when they reached land, they saw the footprint of a terrible giant. It was eight feet long. The cliffs were too high there for them to haul their ships up with ropes, so they steered on alongside the cliffs to where the river curved with the current. A small gap was spotted in the cliffs there, and they went ashore there, and the ground there was flat and damp. Yngvar told them to fell trees and make tools for digging, and this they did, after which they began digging, measuring out the depth and breadth of the channel from the point where the river was to flow into it. It took some months of this before they could pass along it in their ships. kingdom of Jolf
And when they’d been travelling for a long time, they saw a house and a terrifying giant beside it, so ugly they thought it was the devil himself. They became very afraid and prayed to God to have mercy on them. Then Yngvar told Hjalmvigi to sing hymns to the glory of God, since he was a good cleric, and they promised a six day fast with prayers. Finally the giant went away from the house, in the opposite direction along the river. And when he’d gone, they went to the house and saw that it was surrounded by a stout wall. And when they went inside, they saw that the house was held up by a single pillar. It was built of mud. Then they took to chopping at the pillar all round its base, till the whole house shook with every blow. Yngvar told them to get big stones and bring them to the house. This they did. And as dusk came on, Yngvar told them to go inside the ramparts and hide in the reeds.
And late that evening they saw the giant coming, and he had many men hanging under his belt. He securely locked up the outer gate and the house. Then he ate. As time passed, they went to see what he was up to, and heard his mighty snoring. Now Yngvartold them to take out the stones they’d brought, and they threw them at the pillar so that the house collapsed. The giant struggled hard, managing to get one of his feet out from under it. Yngvar and his companions came up and hacked at the foot with axes—because it was hard as a tree. And when it was done, they realised that he was dead. They dragged the foot to the ship and preserved it in white salt.
They went on till the river divided, and there they see five islands moving and coming towards them. Yngvar ordered his men to get ready. He had fire lit with the consecrated flint. Soon one of the islands came up and launched a shower of stones at them, but they shielded themselves and shot back. But when the pirates saw what they were up against, they began pumping with bellows into the furnace where the fire was, and a great roar came forth. There was also a bronze tube there, and a great jet of fire poured out of it, hitting one of their ships, and in a short time it all burnt to ashes. When Yngvar saw this, he grieved at his loss and told them to fetch him the tinder with the consecrated fire. Then he bent his bow and strung an arrow and had them put the tinder onto its tip, with the consecrated fire. And this arrow flew from the bow with fire into the tube that stuck out of the furnace, and the fire turned on the heathens themselves. And in the blink of an eye, the island had all burnt up, men and ships together.
And the other islands have come up. But as soon as Yngvar hears the blast of the bellows, he shot consecrated fire and so destroyed those folk of the devil with God’s help, so that they came to nothing but ash.
Soon afterwards Yngvar came to the source of the river. There they saw such a dragon, the like of which they’d never seen before, in terms of size, and much gold lying under it. They landed nearby and all stepped up onto the shore and walked on till they reached the place where the dragon was wont to crawl down to the water. That path was very wide. Then Yngvar told them to sprinkle salt along the way and drag the giant’s foot there, and said he expected the dragon would be held up there for a while. They kept their voices down and took cover. And when the time came for the dragon to crawl to the water, and when he came onto the path, he saw salt on the path in front of him, and he started licking. And when he came to where the giant’s foot stood, he swallowed it at once. The journey took him longer than usual, because three times he turned back to drink after getting half way. Meanwhile Yngvar and his companions went to the dragon’s lair, and there they saw much gold, as hot as if it had just been melted in a forge. They cut gold off the lump with their axes, and it was a great deal of wealth that they got there. Then they saw that the dragon was approaching. They made off with much treasure and hid it. There were a lot of reeds there. Yngvar ordered them to ignore the dragon. They did as he said, except for a few men who stood up and saw that the dragon was angry at his loss. He reared up on his tail and made a noise like a man whistling and span round in a circle on the gold. They told what they had seen and then fell down dead.
7. Of Yngvar and King Jolf
After all this, Yngvar and his men went away and explored this headland they’d come to. They found a castle there and saw standing within it a great hall. And when they entered the hall they saw that it was richly decorated and found a great hoard of treasure and valuables there. Then Yngvar asked if anyone wanted to stay behind and spend the night there and see what he could find out. Soti said he wouldn’t mind doing that. And when evening came on, Yngvar went back to the ships with his men, and Sotihid himself somewhere.
And when it had got late, the devil appeared to him in the form of a man and said, “Siggeus was a man, both strong and mighty. He had three daughters. To them he gave much gold. But when he died, he was buried there where you saw the dragon just now. After his death, the eldest grudged her sisters gold and treasure. She killed herself. The second sister met the same fate. The third of them lived the longest and took her father’s inheritance and the guardianship of this place, and not just while she lived. She named this ness and called it Siggeum. She fills the hall each night with a crowd of devils, and I am one of them, sent to bring tidings to you. But dragons ate the king’s cadaver and the bodies of his daughters. Some believe they’ve turned into dragons. Know this, Soti, and tell your king, Yngvar, that King Harald of
came this way long ago and perished in the whirlpool of the Sweden Red Sea together with his company, and he has now come to be the guardian here. And as proof of my tale, here is kept in this hall the standard of King Harald, and Yngvar shall have that and send it to , so that they are not in ignorance concerning what became of their king. This too you shall tell Yngvar, that on this journey he will die together with a great part of his crew. But you, Soti, are unrighteous and faithless, and so you shall stay behind with us. ButYngvar will be helped by that faith which he has in God.” Sweden
When the devil had said this, he was silent. There was a great din and shouting the whole night long. But when morning came, Yngvar arrived, and Soti told him what he had seen and heard. And when Soto had finished his tale, there with everyone watching he dropped down dead.
Now Yngvar takes the standard that stood in the hall, and goes with his men to his ships. He turns around now and gave a name to that great waterfall and called itBelgsoti. Nothing else much happened till they came to the realm of King Hromund, which was another name for Jolf.
And when they come sailing a second time to the city of Heliopolis, King Jolf went out to meet them with a fleet of ships and told Yngvar to lower his sails, “for now you must give me help against my brother Bjolf, who is also called Solmund, because he and his eight sons want to steal the kingdom from me.”
Then Yngvar went to the city, and they prepared for battle. Yngvar had big wheels built with sharp points and spikes fixed all round. He also had caltrops forged.
Now both kings gather their forces and come to the place they’ve decided on between them. And even when Yngvar had formed up his troops, Bjolf had by far the most men. King Jolf drew up his forces against his brother. And when both sides were ready, they roared the battle-cry. Yngvar and his men pushed forward the wheels, with all their specially-prepared armaments, and caused great loss of life, and the enemy ranks were broken. Then Yngvar came at them on their unprotected flank and killed all the sons of King Bjolf, and Bjolf himself fled.
King Jolf then pressed home hard and pursued the fleeing host, but Yngvar ordered his men to stay behind and told them not to go too far from the ships, “as our enemies could take them. Better for you to get a great haul of booty from those enemies of ours that we’ve killed here.”
They gathered treasures of many kinds and much booty and took it to the ships. ThenJolf came with his army, and he draws up his battle-lines and strikes up the war-cry, and this took Yngvar by surprise, and he ordered his men to pull back. But as they did so, he had them throw caltrops under the feet of their foes. Without knowing what was happening, Jolf’s men could do nothing to protect themselves. And when they felt the sharpness of the spikes, they thought they were up against magic. But Yngvar was back at the tents, and they picked out for themselves a mass of treasure there. Then they saw a great crowd of women who started playing beautiful music and came to the tents. ButYngvar told them to avoid the women as if they were the worst sort of poisonous snakes. But when evening came on and the army got ready to go to bed, the women came into the tents to them, and the lady who was highest in rank picked Yngvar’s bed and climbed in beside him. He got angry then and took his knife and stabbed her in the private parts. And when his men saw what he did, they began to push away these shameful women, although there were some of them who were no match for their charms and devilish enchantments and lay with them. But when Yngvar heard of this, his joy at the silver and pleasure in wine turned to great grief, for by morning, when they called the roll, eighteen men lay dead. Then Yngvar ordered them to bury the dead.
8. Yngvar’s Death
Well, after this, Yngvar made ready with all haste and left with all his men, and they go on their way now, and travel night and day now, as fast as they can. But such a sickness begins to spread in their crew that all their best people died, and more died than lived. Yngvar took sick too, and by then they’d come to the realm of Silkisif. He called his men to him then and told them bury to those who were dead.
Then he called Garda-Ketil to him, and his other friends and said, “I’ve taken sick, and I see that it will be the death of me, and I’ll have got then such an end I have earned. But with God’s mercy I hope that God’s son will grant me his promise, because with all my heart I take refuge in the arms of God every day, my soul and body, and I looked after these people as best I knew how. But this I want you to know, that by God’s just judgement we’ve been smitten with this plague, and this is the worse plague and enchantment that’s inflicted on me, for when I am dead, then the sickness will pass. And this I ask of you, and you Ketil most of all, that you bring my body to
and have me buried at church. But my wealth, that which I have here of gold and silver and costly clothes, that I want dividing into three parts: One third I give to the churches and preachers, another I give to poor people. The third part my father and sons will have. Greet Queen Silkisif for me. But for the sake of everything, I want to ask you to be at peace with one another. But if you disagree over which course to take, let Garda-Ketil decide, as he has the best memory out of all of you. Sweden
Then he bade them farewell till they met in joy on the day of resurrection. He was spoken of well in many respects and lived a few more days.
They prepared his body with care and laid it in a casket, then continued on their way and landed at the town of
. And when the queen recognised their ship, she went to meet them with great splendour. But when she saw them come ashore, she became downcast, and it seemed to her that much must have happened, and she couldn’t see him, that man who meant more to her than any other. She asked them for tidings and questioned them carefully about the details of Yngvar’s passing and where they’d put his body. They told her they’d buried it in the earth. She said they lied and that threatened to have them killed if they didn’t tell the truth. Then they told her what arrangements Yngvar had made with them for the disposal of his body and wealth. Then they gave Yngvar’s body to her. She had him borne into the city with great honour and prepared for burial with costly unguents. Citopolis
Then the queen bade them farewell with the blessing of God and Yngvar. “Your God is my God. Take my greetings to Yngvar’s kin when you come to
, and ask some of them to come here with preachers and christen this people, and then a church shall be built here, where Yngvar shall rest. Sweden
And when Yngvar breathed his last, 1041 years had passed since the birth of Jesus Christ. He was twenty-five when he died. It was eleven years after the fall of King OlafHaraldsson the Holy.
Ketil and the others got ready to leave and bade the queen farewell, continuing on their way now, and they had twelve ships. And when they’d been going for a while, they had a disagreement over which way to take, and they split up because no one wanted to follow anyone else. But Ketil had the right course and came to
, whileValdimar made it with one ship to Miklagard. We can’t say for sure where the other ships ended up, because most are thought to have perished, and of Yngvar we can say no more. And yet we know that he performed many great deeds on this expedition, which wise men will most likely have told in detail. Russia
This Ketil we’ve spoken of, stayed the winter in
and went to Russia the following summer and told tidings of what had passed on that voyage, and broughtYngvar’s treasure there to his son, who was called Svein, and conveyed to him the queen’s greetings and message. Svein was young in years but great in stature. He was a strong man and most like his father. He wanted to test himself first and started raiding. And after a few years had passed, he came with a large force east to Sweden and stayed the winter there. Russia
9. The Expedition of Svein Yngvarsson
It’s said now that that winter Svein went to school and learnt to speak many tongues which were known to be used in the east. Then he got thirty ships ready and said he’d go with that force to see the queen. He had many priests with him. Foremost among them was a bishop called Rodgeir. The bishop thrice blessed lots and cast the lots three times. And each time the lots fell, they showed that God wanted him to go. The bishop said he would go gladly.
Now Svein set out from
. But when they’d been gone two days along the river, heathens took them by surprise with ninety ships of the sort Norsemen call galleys. Without further ado, the heathens prepare for battle, and Svein’s party likewise, but neither side understood what the other way saying. But while they were donning their armour, Svein put himself in God’s hands and cast lots to see what God’s will was, whether they should fight or flee from such overwhelming odds. But the lot told them to fight, and Svein vowed to give up plundering if God granted him victory. After this, they began to fight, and Svein and his men were able to kill the heathens at will. And in the end, the heathens fled in twenty ships, but all the rest were killed. Svein’s crew though suffered little loss of life, and won as much treasure as they could wish for of gold and all sorts of valuables. Russia
So they went on their way till they came to the land where Ketil had got the pot-handle. Then Svein ordered the greater part of his crew to put on their armour, and they did so. And they hadn’t gone far when they saw a large farmhouse and beside it a large man, and he called out in horrible voice. Then reinforcements rushed in from all sides. These sort of people are called Cyclopses. They had clubs in their hands, as big as beams. They swarmed together and had no proper weapons or protection.
Then Svein told archers to shoot at them as fast as they could, and said this was no time to stand around, “because they’re as strong as the lion and as high as a houses or woods.”
They shot at them and killed many and wounded others. Then an amazing thing happened, because the strongest ones now fled. Svein forbade them to go in pursuit and said there wouldn’t be any cover. Instead, they ran into the farm and made off with a fortune of furs and clothes and silver and every precious metal, then went back to their ships and continued on their way.
When they’d gone a long way, Svein saw an inlet cutting into the bank. He told them to steer the ships in that direction. This they were happy to do, since many of them were young men. And as they neared land, they saw castles and many farms. They saw eight men running and were amazed at their speed. One of the locals had a feather in his hand and held up the stem of the feather, and then the blade. This they took for a sign of peace. Then Svein made a sign of peace with his hand. Eventually they reached the shore and the locals crowded together under a cliff with various wares for trading.Svein ordered his men to step ashore, and they traded with the inhabitants, though neither party understood what the others were saying.
The next day, Svein’s men went again to trade with the locals, and they bartered together for a while. But then a Russian man wanted to cancel a bargain he’d just made with one of them over some pelts. The heathen got angry and punched him on the nose so that blood spattered the ground. Then the Russian drew his sword and cut the heathen in two. Then the natives ran away with great screaming and shouts, and next thing an immense host of them gathered. Then Svein told his men to put their armour on and go to meet them, and a hard and fierce battle ensued, and a great many heathens fell, as they had nothing to protect themselves with. And when they saw they were being overwhelmed, they ran away. Meanwhile Svein and his men collected a mass of valuables which the locals had left behind, and carried them to the ships.
Anyway, after this incident, Svein and his men go on, leaving that place, and praise God for their victory. They go on for a while now, till they saw a great herd of swine on a headland under a crag that jutted over the river, and a few men wanted to kill them and jumped ashore, and they did kill some pigs. But the rest then began to squeal loudly as they got away and ran up onto the land. And next thing they saw a great army coming down from the land to the ships, and one man going on somewhat ahead of the host. This man had three apples and threw one up in the air, and it came down at the feet of Svein, and then the next one after it—that fell in the same place.
Then Svein said he wasn’t going to wait for the third apple: “There’s some devilish power behind this and strong belief.”
Svein put an arrow to his string and shot. The arrow hit the man on the nose and they heard a noise like snapping horn. He flung back his head, and they saw that he had a bird’s beak. Then he screams very loud and ran back towards his troops and they all raced back inland as fast as they could, for as long as they could be seen.
with Heathens Battle
After this, Svein returned to his ships, and now they go on their way. And they’d not gone far that day when, so it’s said, they saw ten men leading a creature behind them. It seemed rather strange to them, because they saw a great tower made of wood standing on the creatures back. Then fifty men went ashore, those who were most curious to know what nature of this beast was. But when the people leading the creature saw the crew, they let go the beast and hid. Svein’s men went to the beast and tried to lead it after themselves, but it stuck its head down and wouldn’t budge, even though they all tugged on the ropes that were round the creature’s head. Then they thought these people must have had some trick they didn’t understand, by which the ten of them were able to lead the creature. So they searched for a plan, and left the creature and went to hide in the reeds, so that they could find out all about the creature. And after a bit, the locals stood up and went to the creature. They took hold of the reins and placed them on either side of the neck, drawing them back through a hole in a cross-beam on the tower, and so pulled up the creature’s head, because there was a pulley in the hole.
When Svein’s men saw the creature standing up, they ran to it as fast as they could. They took the creature then and led it about wherever they wanted. But as they didn’t know the nature of the creature or what it needed to eat, they stabbed it with spears till it fell dead. Then they went down to the ships and rowed off.
Next they saw a great crowd of heathens up on the land who walked down to the shore and made a sign of peace to them. Svein and his crew put in to shore without delay. There was a good harbour there. And now they held a market between them, andSvein bought many precious things there. Then the heathens invited their fellow traders to a house for a feast, and to that they agreed. And when they came to the house, they saw all sorts of delicacies laid on and plenty to drink of the finest quality. And whenSvein’s men sat down at the table, they blessed themselves, but when the heathens saw them make the sign of the cross, they went mad and rushed at them. Some struck them with their fists, while others incited them, and each side called for support.
And when Svein heard the call of his men and saw what was going on, he said, “Who knows what this means, unless perhaps the feast has turned into a great disaster for us.”
Then he set off after them and ordered all his men to arm themselves. But whenSvein had drawn up his forces, they saw where the heathens had also drawn up their forces and that they bore a blood-stained man before their troops and had him as their standard. Then Svein took counsel with Bishop Rodgeir, on what course he should take.
The bishop said, “If the heathens expect victory from the image of some wicked man, let’s just consider what assistance we ought to expect from heaven, where the Lord Christ himself lives and shows his mercy, he who is chief of all Christians and the guardian of all the living and the dead. Bear before you the victory-token of our crucified Christ and call on his name, and we can expect victory from that, but the heathens only to lose their lives.”
After this encouragement from the bishop, they took the holy cross with the image of the Lord and had that for their standard and bore it before their troops. Then they went unafraid to meet the heathens while the clerics prayed. And when the armies clashed, the heathens went blind and many panicked and quickly fled away and scattered, running hither and thither, some into the river, and some into bogs or woods. Many thousands of heathens perished there.
And when the fleeing enemy had been pursued, Svein had them bury the bodies of those who had fallen. But when this was done, Svein told his crew to beware of taking an interest in heathen men’s customs, “because,” he said, “it has led to a greater rise in casualties than profits.”
11. Svein Defeated the Dragon
Then Svein set out from there, and they went on till they thought they saw a half moon standing on the earth. They put in to shore there and go up onto the land. ThenKetil tells Svein what had happened when he was here with Yngvar. Svein now told his men to charge up from the ships to meet the dragon. So off they go and come to a great wood that stood by the dragon’s lair, and hid themselves there. Then Svein sends some young men to spy on the dragon and see how things stood there. They saw that the serpents were sleeping, and they were legion. But Jakulus lay in a ring around all the others. Then one of them started to reach in with his spear-shaft towards a gold ring that happened to be there. And the shaft touched a little baby snake. But when this one woke up, it woke others next to it, and next thing they were all waking up one after another until Jakulus rose up. Svein stood by a great oak and laid an arrow to his string, and tinder was put on the arrow-tip, as big as a man’s head with consecrated fire, and when Svein saw Jakulus rising aloft and making for their ships with gaping mouth, he shoots the arrow with the consecrated fire into the mouth of the worm, and it pierced all the way to its heart, so that in an instant it fell down dead. And when they saw that, they praised God with joy.
12. Svein Married Silkisif
After this, Svein told them to hurry away from the stench and the stink that came off it. They head quickly away to their ships, and virtually all of them did so, except for six men who went to look at the dragon out of curiosity, and they fell down dead. But the stench still greatly troubled many men, although no more died from it.
So Svein left that place in a hurry and he goes on till he comes to the realm of QueenSilkisif. She comes to meet them and shows them great honour. And as soon as Sveinand his men step from their ships, Ketil goes on ahead of them to meet the queen, but she paid no heed to him and turned to Svein and wanted to kiss him, but he pushed her away and said he didn’t want to kiss her, a heathen woman, “and why do you want to kiss me anyway?”
She answers, “Because you alone have Yngvar’s eyes, it seems to me.”
Then they were received with all honour and respect. But when she learnt that a bishop had arrived, she was glad. Then the bishop preached the faith to her, and they had an interpreter between them, because the bishop didn’t know how to speak the language that she spoke, and she soon gained an understanding of spiritual wisdom and let herself be baptised. And in that same month the whole population of the city was baptised.
Not long afterwards, the queen in consultation with her people called a great council. And when a great multitude had assembled there, Svein Yngvarsson was robed in purple and a crown placed upon his head, and all declared him their king. And with that the queen was given in marriage to him.
13. Svein Built a Church
After the wedding feast, King Svein travelled through his realm together with the queen and a great following. The bishop is there too, on the journey, and clerics, for King Svein is having the land converted to Christianity, and all those realms which the queen had once ruled. And as it came round to summer, and God’s power had so manifested itself in that land that it had become entirely Christian, then King Svein and his companions wanted to make their preparations and be off home to Sweden and let his kinsfolk know the truth about his journey. But when the queen became aware of this intention, she asked him to send his crew home but that he stay here safe and sound with her.
Svein answered, “I don’t want to send off my men on their own, because there’s a lot of danger for them, of many sorts, for those who must undertake this journey, as we know from before, when there was no leader and the whole force perished or strayed in various directions.”
But when the queen heard these words of the king and saw what he wanted to do, she said, “You shan’t go in such a rush, if I may have my way, because it might be that you won’t want to visit this kingdom again, or that you’ll perish on this journey which is so very dangerous, as you said yourself. And this is what would be more fitting for you: to strengthen the Christian faith and have churches built, because first you must have a church built inside the city, a big and worthy one, and if this turns out as I wish, then your father’s body shall be buried there. But when three years have passed, then you shall go in peace.”
Well, he does as the queen asks. King Svein tarries there for three years. And by the third winter the great church was finished in the city. Then the queen asked the bishop to come.
But when the bishop was vested up, he asked, “In whose name, my queen, do you wish this church to be dedicated?”
She answered, “To the glory of the holy King Yngvar, who rests here, shall this church be dedicated.”
The bishop answered, “Why so, my queen? Has Yngvar shone with miracles after his death? Because we only call those people saints who shine with miracles when their bodies are buried in the earth.”
She answered, “From your own mouth I have heard that in the eyes of God there is more worth in true steadfast faith and regular practice of holy love, than in the glory of miracles. But in my opinion, as I saw with my own eyes, Yngvar was steadfast in holy love of God.”
When the queen had determined what should happen, the bishop consecrated the temple, dedicating it to the glory of God and all the saints in the name of Yngvar. Then a new sarcophagus was cut from stone and the body of Yngvar placed inside, and a precious cross placed over it, magnificently adorned. Then the bishop had masses said often for the soul of Yngvar and even permitted the people to call the place Yngvar’sChurch.
14. Of the Sources
When all these things were done, Svein gets ready to leave and travelled north till he came to
. His countrymen welcomed him with joy and honoured him greatly. He was offered the country. But when he heard that, he refused at once, and said he’d come by a much better land, more temperate and more fruitful, to which he would return. Sweden
And after two years, Svein sails from Sweden, but Ketil stayed behind, and he professed to have heard it said that Svein spent the winter in the Russian kingdom and got ready to leave in the spring and sailed out from Russia at midsummer, and was last seen sailing along the river.
But Ketil went to
to see his kin and settled there, and he was the first to tell of all this. But we gather that some story-tellers have it that Yngvar was the son ofEymund Olafsson, because they think it does him more honour to say that he was the son of a king. But Onund would gladly have given up his whole kingdom if he could buy back Yngvar’s life, because all the chiefs in Iceland would have rather had him as king over them. And yet some people may still ask: why wouldn’t Yngvar be the son ofEymund Olafsson? But to that we would like to answer in this way: Eymund, son ofOlaf, had a son who was called Onund. He was much like Yngvar in many respects and most of all in his distant travels which are mentioned in the book called GestaSaxonum, and there it is written: “For it is said that Emandus, king of the Swedes, sent his son Onundus over the Baltic Sea, that son who ultimately came to the Amazons and was killed by them.” Sweden
Some say that Yngvar and his crew went for two weeks where they saw nothing unless they lit candles, because the cliffs closed in over the river, and it was like rowing in a cave for a fortnight. But wise people think that can’t be true, unless the river flowed through such a narrow gorge that the cliffs met overhead, or the woods were so dense the branches touched between the overhanging cliffs. But although this is possible, it’s not very likely.
But we have heard this story and written it according to the account of that book which Brother Odd the Learned had made at the dictation of wise men, those he himself names in his letter which he sent to Jon Loptsson and Gizur Hallsson. But let any who feel they know more detail, add it, where our version now seems lacking. This story, Brother Odd says, he heard first from the priest Isleif, and secondly from GlumThorgeirsson, and his third source was called Thorir. From their dictation, he took what he thought most noteworthy. And Isleif said that he heard Yngvar’s story from a merchant who learnt it at the court of the king of
. Glum had got it from his father, and Thorir from Klakka Samsson, and Klakka had heard it told by older people in his family. Sweden
And there we end this saga.
The Saga of Yngvar the Traveller
archived 28 Jun 2012 21:00:14 UTC