| 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 |
T another time Harald asked:
"What is your country, Olaf? Have you always been a
The thrall's eyes flashed.
"When you are a man," he said, "and go a-viking to
Denmark, ask men whether they ever heard of Olaf the
Crafty. There, far off, is my country, across the
water. My father was Gudbrand the Big. Two hundred
warriors feasted in his hall and followed him to
battle. Ten sons sat at meat with him, and I was the
youngest. One day he said:
" 'You are all grown to be men. There is not elbow-room
here for so many chiefs. The eldest of you shall have
my farm when I die. The rest of you, off a-viking!'
"He had three ships. These he gave to three of my
brothers. But I stayed that spring and built me a boat.
I made her for only twenty oars because I
 thought few
men would follow me; for I was young, fifteen years
old. I made her in the likeness of a dragon. At the
prow I carved the head with open mouth and forked
tongue thrust out. I painted the eyes red for anger.
" 'There, stand so!' I said, 'and glare and hiss at my
"In the stern I curved the tail up almost as high as
the head. There I put the pilot's seat and a strong
tiller for the rudder. On the breast and sides I carved
the dragon's scales. Then I painted it all black and on
the tip of every scale I put gold. I called her
'Waverunner.' There she sat on the rollers, as fair a
ship as I ever saw.
"The night that it was finished I went to my father's
feast. After the meats were eaten and the mead-horns
came round, I stood up from my bench and raised my
high and spoke with a great voice:
" 'This is my vow: I will sail to Norway and I will
harry the coast and fill my boat with riches. Then I
 me a farm and will winter in that land. Now
who will follow me?'
" 'He is but a boy,' the men said. 'He has opened his
mouth wider than he can do.'
"But others jumped to their feet with their mead-horns
in their hands. Thirty men, one after another, raised
their horns and said:
" 'I will follow this lad, and I will not turn back so
long as he and I live!'
"On the next morning we got into my dragon and started.
I sat high in the pilot's seat. As our boat flashed
down the rollers into the water I made this song and
" 'The dragon runs.
Where will she steer?
Where swords will sing,
Where spears will bite,
Where I shall laugh.'
"So we harried the coast of Norway. We ate at many
men's tables uninvited. Many men we found overburdened
with gold. Then I said:
" 'My dragon's belly is never full,' and on board went
 "Oh! it is better to live on the sea and let other men
raise your crops and cook your meals. A house smells of
smoke, a ship smells of frolic. From a house you see a
sooty roof, from a ship you see Valhalla.
"Up and down the water we went to get much wealth and
much frolic. After a while my men said:
" 'What of the farm, Olaf?'
" 'Not yet,' I answered. 'Viking is better for summer.
When the ice comes, and our dragon cannot play, then we
will get our farm and sit down.'
"At last the winter came, and I said to my men:
" 'Now for the farm. I have my eye on one up the coast a
way in King Halfdan's country.'
"So we set off for it. We landed late at night and
pulled our boat up on shore and walked quietly to the
house. It was rather a wealthy farm, for there were
tables and a storehouse and a smithy at the sides of
the house. There was but one door to the house. We went
to it, and I struck it with my spear.
 " 'Hello! Ho! Hello!' I shouted, and my men made a great
"At last some one from inside said:
" 'Who calls?'
" 'I call,' I answered. 'Open! or you will think it Thor
who calls,' and I struck my shield against the door so
that it made a great clanging.
"I struck my shield against the door so that it made a great clanging"
"The door opened only a little, but I pushed it wide
and leaped into the room. It was so dark that I could
see nothing but a few sparks on the hearth. I stood
with my back to the wall; for I wanted no sword
reaching out of the dark for me.
" 'Now start up the fire,' I said.
" 'Come, come!' I called, when no one obeyed. 'A fire!
This is cold welcome for your guests.'
"My men laughed.
" 'Yes, a stingy host! He acts as though he had not
"But now the farmer was blowing on the coals and
putting on fresh wood. Soon it blazed up, and we could
see about us. We were in a little feast hall,
its fire down in the middle of it. There
 were benches
for twenty men along each side. The farmer crouched by
the fire, afraid to move. On a bench in a far corner
were a dozen people huddled together.
" 'Ho, thralls!' I called to them. 'Bring in the table.
We are hungry.'
"Off they ran through a door at the back of the hall.
My men came in and lay down by the fire and warmed
themselves, but I set two of them as guards at the
" 'Well, friend farmer,' laughed one, 'why such a long
face? Do you not think we shall be merry company?'
" 'We came only to cheer you,' said another. 'What man
wants to spend the winter with no guests?'
" 'Ah!' another then cried out, sitting up. 'Here comes
something that will be a welcome guest to my stomach.'
"The thralls were bringing in a great pot of meat. They
set up a crane over the fire and hung the pot upon it,
and we sat and watched it boil while we joked. At last
the supper began. The farmer sat gloomily on the bench
and would not
 eat, and you cannot wonder; for he saw us
putting potfuls of his good beef and basket-loads of
bread into our big mouths. When the tables were taken
out and the mead-horns came round, I stood up and
raised my horn and said to the farmer:
" 'You would not eat with us. You cannot say no to half
of my ale. I drink this to your health.'
"Then I drank half of the hornful and sent the rest
across the fire to the farmer. He took it and smiled,
" 'Since it is to my health, I will drink it. I thought
that all this night's work would be my death.'
" 'Oh, do not fear that!' I laughed, 'for a dead man
sets no tables.'
"So we drank and all grew merrier. At last I stood up
" 'I like this little taste of your hospitality, friend
farmer. I have decided to accept more of it.'
"My men roared with laughter.
" 'Come,' they cried, 'thank him for that, farmer. Did
you ever have such a lordly guest before?'
"I went on:
 " 'Now there is no fun in having guests unless they keep
you company and make you merry. So I will give out this
law: that my men shall never leave you alone. Hakon
there shall be your constant companion, friend farmer.
He shall not leave you day or night, whether you are
working or playing or sleeping. Leif and Grim shall be
the same kind of friends to your two sons.'
"I named nine others and said:
" 'And these shall follow your thralls in the same way.
Now, am I not careful to make your time go merrily?'
"So I set guards over every one in that house. Not once
all that winter did they stir out of sight of some of
us. So no tales got out to the neighbors. Besides, it
was a lonely place, and by good luck no one came that
way. Oh! that was fat and easy living.
"Well, after we had been there for a long time, Hakon
came in to the feast one night and said:
" 'I heard a cuckoo to-day!'
" 'It is the call to go a-viking,' I said.
 "All my men put their hands to their mouths and
shouted. Their eyes danced. Big Thorleif stood up and
" 'I am stiff with long sitting,' he said. 'I itch for a
"I turned to the farmer.
" 'This is our last feast with you,' I said.
" 'Well,' he laughed, 'this has been the busiest winter
I ever spent, and the merriest. May good luck go with
" 'By the beard of Odin!' I cried; 'you have taken our
joke like a man.'
"My men pounded the table with their fists.
" 'By the hammer of Thor!' shouted Grim. 'Here is no
stingy coward. He is a man fit to carry my
drinking-horn, the horn of a sea-rover and a
sword-swinger. Here, friend, take it,' and he thrust it
into the farmer's hand. 'May you drink heart's-ease
from it for many years. And with it I leave you a name,
Sif the Friendly. I shall hope to drink with you
sometime in Valhalla.'
"Then all my men poured around that
 farmer and clapped
him on the shoulder and piled things upon him, saying:
" 'Here is a ring for Sif the Friendly.'
" 'And here is a bracelet.'
" 'A sword would not be ashamed to hang at your side.'
"I took five great bracelets of gold from our treasure
chest and gave them to him.
"The old man's eyes opened wide at all these things,
and at the same time he laughed.
" 'May Odin send me such guests every winter!' he said.
"Early next morning we shook hands with our host and
boarded the 'Waverunner' and sailed off.
" 'Where shall we go?' my men asked.
" 'Let the gods decide,' I said, and tossed up my spear.
"When it fell on the deck it pointed up-shore, so I
steered in that direction. That is the best way to
decide, for the spear will always point somewhere, and
one thing is as good as another. That time it pointed
us into your father's ships. They closed in battle with
us and killed
 my men and sunk my ship and dragged me
off a prisoner. They were three against one, or they
might have tasted something more bitter at our hands.
They took me before King Halfdan.
" 'Here,' they said, 'is a rascal who has been harrying
our coasts. We sunk his ship and men, but him we
brought to you.'
" 'A robber viking?' said the king, and scowled at me.
"I threw back my head and laughed.
" 'Yes. And with all your fingers it took you a year to
"The king frowned more angrily.
" 'Saucy, too?' he said. 'Well, thieves must die. Take
him out, Thorkel, and let him taste your sword.'
"Your mother, the queen, was standing by. Now she put
her hand on his arm and smiled and said:
" 'He is only a lad. Let him live. And would he not be a
good gift for our baby?'
"Your father thought a moment, then looked at your
mother and smiled.
" 'Soft heart!' he said gently to her; then to Thorkel,
'Well, let him go, Thorkel!'
 "Then he turned to me again, frowning.
" 'But, young sharp-tongue, now that we have caught you
we will put you into a trap that you cannot get out of.
Weld an iron collar on his neck.'
"So I lived and now am your tooth thrall. Well, it is
the luck of war. But by the chair of Odin, I kept my
"Yes!" cried Harald, jumping to his feet. "And had a
joke into the bargain. Ah! sometime I will make a brave
vow like that."
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