| 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 |
GYDA'S SAUCY MESSAGE
OW Harald heard men talk of Gyda, the daughter of King
"She is very beautiful," they said, "but she is very
proud, too. She can both read and make runes. No other
woman in the world knows so much about herbs as she
does. She can cure any sickness. And she is proud of
Now when King Harald heard that, he thought to himself:
"Fair and proud. I like them both. I will have her for
So he called his uncle, Guthorm, and said:
"Take rich gifts and go to Gyda's foster-father
tell him that I will marry Gyda."
So Guthorm and his men came to that house and they told
the king's message to the foster-father. Gyda was
standing near, weaving a rich cloak. She heard
speech. She came up and said, holding her head high and
curling her lip:
''I will not waste myself on a king of so few people.
Norway is a strange country. There is a little king
here and a little king there—hundreds of them scattered
about. Now in Denmark there is but one great king over
the whole land. And it is so in Sweden. Is no one brave
enough to make all of Norway his own?"
She laughed a scornful laugh and walked away. The men
stood with open mouths and stared after her. Could it
be that she had sent that saucy message to King Harald?
They looked at her foster-father. He was chuckling in
his beard and said nothing to them. They started out of
the house in anger. When they were at the door, Gyda
came up to them again and said:
"Give this message to your King Harald for me: I will
not be his wife unless he puts all of Norway under him
for my sake."
"I will not be his wife unless he puts all of Norway under him for my sake"
So Guthorm and his men rode homeward across the
country. They did not
 talk. They were all thinking. At
last one said:
"How shall we give this message to the king?"
"I have been thinking of that," Guthorm said; "his
anger is no little thing."
It was late when they rode into the king's yard; for
they had ridden slowly, trying to make some plan for
softening the message, but they had thought of none.
"I see light through the wind's-eyes of the feast
hall," one said.
"Yes, the king keeps feast," Guthorm said. "We must
give our message before all his guests."
So they went in with very heavy hearts. There sat King
Harald in the high seat. The benches on both sides were
full of men. The tables had been taken out, and the
mead-horns were going round.
"Oh, ho!" cried King Harald. "Our messengers! What
Then Guthorm said:
"This Gyda is a bold and saucy girl,
 King Harald. My
tongue refuses to give her message."
The king stamped his foot.
"Out with it!" he cried. "What does she say?"
"She says that she will not marry so little a king,"
Harald jumped to his feet. His face flushed red.
Guthorm stretched out his hand.
"They are not my words, O King; they are the words of a
"Is there any more?" the king shouted. "Go on!"
"She said: 'There is one king in Denmark and one king
in Sweden. Is there no man brave enough to make himself
king of all Norway? Tell King Harald that I will not
marry him unless he puts all of Norway under him for my
The guests sat speechless, staring at Guthorm. All at
once the king broke into a roar of laughter.
"By the hammer of Thor!" he cried, "that is a good
message. I thank you, Gyda. Did you hear it, friends?
 of all Norway! Why, we are all stupids. Why did we
not think of that?"
Then he raised his horn high.
"Now hear my vow. I say that I will not cut my hair or
comb it until I am king of all Norway. That I will be
or I will die."
Then he drank off the horn of mead, and while he drank
it, all the men in the hall stood up and waved their
swords and shouted and shouted. That old hall in all
its two hundred years of feasts had not heard such a
"Ah, Harald!" Guthorm cried, "surely Thor in Valhalla
smiled when he heard that vow."
The men sat all night talking of that wonderful vow.
On the very next day King Harald sent out his
war-arrows. Soon a great army was gathered. They
marched through the country north and south and east
and west, burning houses and fighting battles as they
went. People fled before them, some to their own kings,
some inland to the deep woods and hid there. But some
went to King Harald and said:
 "We will be your men."
"Then take the oath, and I will be friends with you,"
The men took off their swords and laid them down and
came one by one and knelt before the king. They put
their heads between his knees and said:
"From this day, Harald Halfdanson, I am your man. I
will serve you in war. For my land I will pay you
taxes. I will be faithful to you as my king."
Then Harald said:
"I am your king, and I will be faithful to you."
Many kings took that oath and thousands of common men.
Of all the battles that Harald fought, he did not lose
Now for a long time the king's hair and beard had not
been combed or cut. They stood out around his head in a
great bushy mat of yellow. At a feast one day when the
jokes were going round, Harald's uncle said:
"Harald, I will give you a new name. After this you
shall be called Harald Shockhead. As my naming gift I
give you this drinking-horn."
 "It is a good name," laughed all the men.
After that all people called him Harald Shockhead.
During these wars, whenever King Harald got a country
for his own, this is what he did. He said:
"All the marshland and the woodland where no people
live is mine. For his farm every man shall pay me
Over every country he put some brave, wise man and
called him Earl. He said to the earls:
"You shall collect the taxes and pay them to me. But
some you shall keep for yourselves. You shall punish
any man who steals or murders or does any wicked thing.
When your people are in trouble they shall come to you,
and you shall set the thing right. You must keep peace
in the land. I will not have my people troubled with
The earls did all these things as best they could; for
they were good strong men. The farmers were happy. They
 "We can work on our farms with peace now. Before King
Harald came, something was always wrong. The vikings
would come and steal our gold and our grain and burn
our houses, or the king would call us to war. Those
little kings are always fighting. It is better under
But the chiefs, who liked to fight and go a-viking,
hated King Harald and his new ways. One of these chiefs
was Solfi. He was a king's son. Harald had killed his
father in battle. Solfi had been in that battle. At the
end of it he fled away with two hundred men and got
"We will make that Shockhead smart," he said.
So they harried the coast of King Harald's country.
They filled their ships with gold. They ate other men's
meals. They burned farmhouses behind them. The people
cried out to the earls for help. So the earls had out
their ships all the time trying to catch Solfi, but he
was too clever for them.
In the spring he went to a certain king, Audbiorn, and
said to him:
 "Now, there are two things that we can do. We can
become this Shockhead Harald's thralls, we can kneel
before him and put our heads between his knees. Or else
we can fight. My father thought it better to die in
battle than to be any man's thrall. How is it? Will you
join with my cousin Arnvid and me against this young
"Yes, I will do it," said the king.
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