The Northern Way

The Saga of Yngvar the Traveller - Translation by Peter Tunstall

© Peter Tunstall, 2005

1. Of Aki and King Eirik

There was a king called Eirik who ruled over Sweden. 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.

At that time, Jarl Hakon ruled over Norway 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 Sweden, 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.

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 Sweden. 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 his own terms, except for outlawry and confiscation of his estates, and they agree to that. The king now makes preparations for the wedding and invites the chieftains of the land: naming Aki, his son-in-law, first, and the eight chiefs who were allied to him.

2. Of Eymund and the Killing of Aki

On the appointed day, Jarl Hakon came from Norway to Sweden, and there were great multitudes of people at Uppsala, for all the most important men in Sweden 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.

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 King Eirik 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 Norway 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.

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 Russia 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 last Burizleif was taken captive and blinded and brought to the king. Eymund won 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 Novgorod, 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.

Now Eymund sets out from Russia, much honoured and respected by the whole people, and comes now to Sweden 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.

Word of this came to King Olaf of Sweden, 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.

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. Then Yngvar asked his father if he might go to see the king and the other lords of Sweden. 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.

Now Yngvar's fame travels all over Sweden 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.

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 to Eymund. 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 to Eymund'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. Onund spent the winter there.

In the spring, he got ready to leave together with Yngvar. Then Eymund gave Onund a 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 said Eymund 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 Olaf Tryggvason, who was the most renowned man there ever was or will be in the northlands, for ever and aye, both before God and men.

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