| 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 |
THE TOOTH THRALL
HEN Harald was seven months old he cut his first
tooth. Then his father said:
"All the young of my herds, lambs and calves and colts,
that have been born since this baby was born I this day
give to him. I also give to him this thrall, Olaf.
These are my tooth-gifts to my son."
The boy grew fast, for as soon as he could walk about
he was out of doors most of the time. He ran in the
woods and climbed the hills and waded in the creek. He
was much with his tooth thrall, for the king had said
"Be ever at his call."
Now this Olaf was full of stories, and Harald liked to
"Come out to Aegir's Rock, Olaf, and tell me stories,"
he said almost every day.
So they started off across the hills. The man wore a
long, loose coat of white
 wool, belted at the waist
with a strap. He had on coarse shoes and leather
leggings. Around his neck was an iron collar welded
together so that it could not come off. On it were
strange marks, called runes, that said:
"Olaf, thrall of Halfdan."
But Harald's clothes were gay. A cape of gray velvet
hung from his shoulders. It was fastened over his
breast with great gold buckles. When it waved in the
wind, a scarlet lining flashed out, and the bottom of a
little scarlet jacket showed. His feet and legs were
covered with gray woolen tights. Gold lacings wound
around his legs from his shoes to his knees. A band of
gold held down his long, yellow hair.
It was a wild country that these two were walking over.
They were climbing steep, rough hills. Some of them
seemed made all of rock, with a little earth lying in
spots. Great rocks hung out from them, with trees
growing in their cracks. Some big pieces had broken off
and rolled down the hill.
 "Thor broke them," Olaf said. "He rides through the sky
and hurls his hammer at clouds and at mountains. That
makes the thunder and the lightning and cracks the
hills. His hammer never misses its aim, and it always
comes back to his hand and is eager to go again."
When they reached the top of the hill they looked back.
Far below was a soft, green valley. In front of it the
sea came up into the land and made a fiord. On each
side of the fiord high walls of rock stood up and made
the water black with shadow. All around the valley were
high hills with dark pines on them. Far off were the
mountains. In the valley were Halfdan's houses around
their square yard.
"How little our houses look down there!" Harald said.
"But I can almost—yes, I can see the red dragon on the
roof of the feast hall. Do you remember when I climbed
up and sat on his head, Olaf?"
He laughed and kicked his heels and ran on.
At last they came to Aegir's Rock and walked up on its
flat top. Harald went to the edge and looked over. A
ragged wall of rock reached down, and two hundred feet
below was the black water of the fiord. Olaf watched
him for a while, then he said:
"No whitening of your cheek, Harald? Good! A boy that
can face the fall of Aegir's Rock will not be afraid to
face the war flash when he is a man."
"Ho, I am not afraid of the war flash now," cried
He threw back his cape and drew a little dagger from
"He threw back his cape and drew a little dagger from his belt"
"See!" he cried; "does this not flash like a sword? And
I am not afraid. But after all, this is a baby thing!
When I am eight years old I will have a sword, a sharp
tooth of war."
He swung his dagger as though it were a long sword.
Then he ran and sat on a rock by Olaf.
"Why is this Aegir's Rock?" he asked.
"You know that Asgard is up in the sky," Olaf said. "It
is a wonderful city where the golden houses of the gods
 in the golden grove. A high wall runs all around
it. In the house of Odin, the All-father, there is a
great feast hall larger than the whole earth. Its name
is Valhalla. It has five hundred doors. The rafters are
spears. The roof is thatched with shields. Armor lies
on the benches. In the high seat sits Odin, a golden
helmet on his head, a spear in his hand. Two wolves lie
at his feet. At his right hand and his left sit all the
gods and goddesses, and around the hall sit thousands
and thousands of men, all the brave ones that have ever
"Now it is good to be in Valhalla; for there is mead
there better than men can brew, and it never runs out.
And there are skalds that sing wonderful songs that men
never heard. And before the doors of Valhalla is a
great meadow where the warriors fight every day and get
glorious and sweet wounds and give many. And all night
they feast, and their wounds heal. But none may go to
Valhalla except warriors that have died bravely in
battle. Men who die from sickness go with women and
children and cowards
 to Niflheim. There Hela, who is
queen, always sneers at them, and a terrible cold takes
hold of their bones, and they sit down and freeze.
"Years ago Aegir was a great warrior. Aegir the
Big-handed, they called him. In many a battle his sword
had sung, and he had sent many warriors to Valhalla.
Many swords had bit into his flesh and left marks
there, but never a one had struck him to death. So his
hair grew white and his arms thin. There was peace in
that country then, and Aegir sorrowed, saying:
" 'I am old. Battles are still. Must I die in bed like a
woman? Shall I not see Valhalla?'
"Now thus did Odin say long ago:
" 'If a man is old and is come near death and cannot die
in fight, let him find death in some brave way and he
shall feast with me in Valhalla.'
"So one day Aegir came to this rock.
" 'A deed to win Valhalla!' he cried.
"Then he drew his sword and flashed it over his head
and held his shield high
 above him, and leaped out into
the air and died in the water of the fiord."
"Ho!" cried Harald, jumping to his feet. "I think that
Odin stood up before his high seat and welcomed that
man gladly when he walked through the door of
"So the songs say," replied Olaf, "for skalds still
sing of that deed all over Norway."
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