| Viking Tales|
|by Jennie Hall|
|We follow the fortunes of Harald from the time he is given his own thrall at the cutting of his first tooth, through his exploits as a viking adventurer, to his crowning as King of Norway. Then population pressures at home and eagerness for adventure and booty from other lands combine to drive some of the bolder Vikings to set forth from their native land. Sailing ever westward across the Atlantic, they hop along the chain of islands that loosely connects Norway with America in search of home and adventure. Ages 6-9 |
OW King Halfdan had many foes. When he was alive they
were afraid to make war upon him, for he was a mighty
warrior. But when Harald became king, they said:
"He is but a lad. We will fight with him and take his
So they began to make ready. King Harald heard of this
and he laughed and said:
"Good! 'Foes'-fear' is thirsty, and my legs are stiff
with much sitting."
He called three men to him. To one he gave an arrow,
"Run and carry this arrow north. Give it into the hands
of the master of the next farm, and say that all men
are to meet here within two weeks from this day. They
must come ready for war and mounted on horses. Say also
that if a man does not obey this call, or if he
receives this arrow and does not carry
 it on to his
next neighbor, he shall be outlawed from this country,
and his land shall be taken from him."
He gave arrows to the other two men and told them to
run south and east with the same message.
So all through King Harald's country men were soon busy
mending helmets and polishing swords and making
shields. There was blazing of forges and clanging of
anvils all through the land.
On the day set, the fields about King Harald's house
were full of men and horses. After breakfast a horn
blew. Every man snatched his weapons and jumped upon
his horse. Men of the same neighborhood stood together,
and their chief led them. They waited for the starting
horn. This did not look like our army. There were no
uniforms. Some men wore helmets, some did not. Some
wore coats of mail, but others wore only their jackets
and tights of bright-colored wool. But at each man's
left side hung a great shield. Over his right shoulder
went his sword-belt and held his long sword under his
left hand. Above most men's heads shone
 the points of
their tall spears. Some men carried axes in their
belts. Some carried bows and arrows. Many had ram's
horns hanging from their necks.
King Harald rode at the front of his army with his
standard-bearer beside him. Chain-armor covered the
king's body. A red cloak was thrown over his shoulders.
On his head was a gold helmet with a dragon standing up
from it. He carried a round shield on his left arm. The
king had made that shield himself. It was of brass. The
rivets were of silver, with strangely shaped heads. On
the back of Harald's horse was a red cloth trimmed with
the fur of ermine.
King Harald looked up at his standard and laughed
"Oh, War-lover," he cried, "you and I ride out on a gay
A horn blew again and the army started. The men shouted
as they went, and blew their ram's horns.
"Now we shall taste something better than even King
Harald's ale," shouted one.
Another rose in his stirrups and sniffed the air.
 "Ah! I smell a battle," he cried. "It is sweeter than
those strange waters of Arabia."
So the army went merrily through the land. They carried
no tents, they had no provision wagons.
"The sky is a good enough tent for a soldier," said the
Norsemen. "Why carry provisions when they lie in the
farms beside you?"
After two days King Harald saw another army on the
"Thorstein," he shouted, "up with the white shield and
go tell King Haki to choose his battle-field. We will
wait but an hour. I am eager for the frolic."
So Thorstein raised a white shield on his spear as a
sign that he came on an errand of peace. He rode near
King Haki, but he could not wait until he came close
before he shouted out his message and then turned and
"Tell your boy king that we will not hang back," Haki
called after Thorstein.
King Harald's men waited on the hillside and watched
the other army across the valley. They saw King Haki
 and saw twenty men ride off as he pointed. They
stopped in a patch of hazel and hewed with their axes.
"They are getting the hazels," said Thorstein.
"Audun," said King Harald to a man near him, "stay
close to my standard all day. You must see the best of
the fight. I want to hear a song about it after it is
This Audun was the skald who sang at the drinking of
King Halfdan's funeral ale.
King Haki's men rode down into the valley. They drove
down stakes all about a great field. They tied the
hazel twigs to the stakes in a string. But they left an
open space toward King Harald's army and one toward
King Haki's. Then a man raised a white shield and
galloped toward King Harald.
"We are ready!" he shouted.
At the same time King Haki raised a red shield. King
Harald's men put their shields before their mouths and
shouted into them. It made a great roaring war-cry.
 "Up with the war shield!" shouted King Harald. "Horns
There was a blowing of horns on both sides. The two
armies galloped down into the field and ran together.
The fight had begun.
All that day long swords were flashing, spears flying,
men shouting, men falling from their horses, swords
clashing against shields.
"Victory flashes from that dragon," Harald's men said,
pointing to the king's helmet. "No one stands before
And, surely, before night came, King Haki fell dead
under "Foes'-fear." When he fell, a great shout went up
from his warriors, and they turned and fled. King
Harald's men chased them far, but during the night came
back to camp. Many brought swords and helmets and
bracelets or silver-trimmed saddles and bridles with
"King Haki fell dead under 'Foe's-fear' "
"Here is what we got from the foe," they said.
The next morning King Harald spoke to his men:
"Let us go about and find our dead."
 So they went over all the battle-field. They put every
man on his shield and carried him and laid him on a
hill-top. They hung his sword over his shoulder and
laid his spear by his side. So they laid all the dead
together there on the hill-top. Then King Harald said,
"This is a good place to lie. It looks far over the
country. The sound of the sea reaches it. The wind
sweeps here. It is a good grave for Norsemen and
Vikings. But it is a long road and a rough road to
Valhalla that these men must travel. Let the nearest
kinsman of each man come and tie on his hell-shoes. Tie
them fast, for they will need them much on that hard
So friends tied shoes on the dead men's feet. Then King
"Now let us make the mound."
Every man set to work with what tools he had and heaped
earth over the dead until a great mound stood up. They
piled stones on the top. On one of these stones King
Harold made runes telling how these men had died.
 After that was done King Harald said:
"Now set up the pole, Thorstein. Let every man bring to
that pole all that he took from the foe."
So they did, and there was a great hill of things
around it. Harald divided it into piles.
"This pile we will give to Thor in thanks for the
victory," he said. "This pile is mine because I am
king. Here are the piles for the chiefs, and these
things go to the other men of the army."
So every man went away from that battle richer than he
was before, and Thor looked down from Valhalla upon his
full temple and was pleased.
The next morning King Harald led his army back. But on
the way he met other foes and had many battles and did
not lose one. The kings either died in battle or ran
away, and Harald had their lands.
"He has kept his vow," men said, "and ground his
father's foes under his heel."
So King Harald sat in peace for a while.
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