THE BOY VIKING—OLAF II OF NORWAY
By E. S. Brooks
Old Rane, the helmsman, whose fierce mustaches and shaggy shoulder-mantle
made him look like some grim old Northern wolf, held high in air
the great bison-horn filled with foaming mead.
"Skoal to the Viking! Hael was-hael!"[Footnote: "Hail and health
to the Viking!"] rose his exultant shout. From a hundred sturdy
throats the cry re-echoed till the vaulted hall of the Swedemen's
conquered castle rang again.
"Skoal to the Viking! Hael; was-hael!" and in the centre of that
throng of mail-clad men and tossing spears, standing firm and
fearless upon the interlocked and uplifted shields of three stalwart
fighting-men, a stout-limbed lad of scarce thirteen, with flowing
light-brown hair and flushed and eager face, brandished his sword
vigorously in acknowledgment of the jubilant shout that rang once
again through the dark and smoke-stained hall: "Was-hael to the
sea-wolf's son! Skoal to Olaf the King!"
Then above the din and clash of shouting and of steel rose the voice
of Sigvat the saga-man, or song-man of the young viking, singing
loud and sturdily:
"Olaf the King is on his cruise,
His blue steel staining,
Rich booty gaining,
And all men trembling at the news,
Up, war-wolf's brood! our young fir's name
O'ertops the forest trees in fame,
Our stout young Olaf knows no fear.
Though fell the fray,
He's blithe and gay,
And warriors fall beneath his spear.
Who can't defend the wealth they have
Must die or share with the rover brave!"
A fierce and warlike song, boys and girls, to raise in honor of so
young a lad. But those were fierce and warlike days when men were
stirred by the recital of bold and daring deeds—those old, old
days, eight hundred years ago, when Olaf, the boy viking, the pirate
chief of a hundred mail-clad men, stood upon the uplifted shields
of his exultant fighting-men in the grim and smoke-stained hall of
the gray castle of captured Sigtun, oldest of Swedish cities.
Take your atlas and, turning to the map of Sweden, place your
finger on the city of Stockholm. Do you notice that it lies at the
easterly end of a large lake? That is the Maelar, beautiful with
winding channels, pine-covered islands, and rocky shores. It is
peaceful and quiet now, and palace and villa and quaint Northern
farmhouse stand unmolested on its picturesque borders. But channels,
and islands, and rocky shores have echoed and re-echoed with the
war-shouts of many a fierce sea-rover since those far-off days
when Olaf, the boy viking, and his Norwegian ships of war ploughed
through the narrow sea-strait and ravaged the fair shores of the
Maelar with fire and sword.
Stockholm, the "Venice of the North," as it is called, was not then
in existence; and little now remains of old Sigtun save ruined walls.
But travellers may still see the three tall towers of the ancient
town, and the great stone-heap, alongside which young Olaf drew his
ships of war, and over which his pirate crew swarmed into Sigtun
town, and planted the victorious banner of the golden serpent upon
the conquered walls.
For this fair young Olaf came of hardy Norse stock. His father,
Harald Graenske, or "Gray-mantle," one of the tributary kings of
Norway, had fallen a victim to the tortures of the haughty Swedish
queen; and now his son, a boy of scarce thirteen, but a warrior
already by training and from desire, came to avenge his father's
death. His mother, the Queen Aasta, equipped a large dragon-ship or
war-vessel for her adventurous son, and with the lad, as helmsman
and guardian, was sent old Rane, whom men called "the far-travelled,"
because he had sailed westward as far as England and southward to
Nörvasund (by which name men then knew the Straits of Gibraltar).
Boys toughened quickly in those stirring days, and this lad,
who, because he was commander of a dragon-ship, was called Olaf
the King—though he had no land to rule—was of viking blood, and
quickly learned the trade of war. Already, among the rocks and
sands of Sodermann, upon the Swedish coast, he had won his first
battle over a superior force of Danish war-vessels.
Other ships of war joined him; the name of Olaf the Brave was
given him by right of daring deeds, and "Skoal to the Viking!" rang
from the sturdy throats of his followers as the little sea-king of
thirteen was lifted in triumph upon the battle-dented shields.
But a swift runner bursts into the gray hall of Sigtun. "To your
ships, O king; to your ships!" he cries. "Olaf, the Swedish king,
men say, is planting a forest of spears along the sea-strait, and,
except ye push out now, ye may not get out at all!"
The nimble young chief sprang from the upraised shields.
"To your ships, vikings, all!" he shouted. "Show your teeth, war-wolves!
Up with the serpent banner, and death to Olaf the Swede!"
Straight across the lake to the sea-strait, near where Stockholm
now stands, the vikings sailed, young Olaf's dragon-ship taking the
lead. But all too late; for, across the narrow strait, the Swedish
king had stretched great chains, and had filled up the channel with
stocks and stones. Olaf and his Norsemen were fairly trapped; the
Swedish spears waved in wild and joyful triumph, and King Olaf,
the Swede, said with grim satisfaction to his lords: "See, jarls
and lendermen, the Fat Boy is caged at last!" For he never spoke
of his stout young Norwegian namesake and rival save as "Olaf
Tjocke"—Olaf the Thick, or Fat.
The boy viking stood by his dragon-headed prow, and shook his
clenched fist at the obstructed sea-strait and the Swedish spears.
"Shall we, then, land, Rane, and fight our way through?" he asked.
"Fight our way through?" said old Rane, who had been in many another
tight place in his years of sea-roving, but none so close as this.
"Why, king, they be a hundred to one!"
"And if they be, what then?" said impetuous Olaf "Better fall as
a viking breaking Swedish spears than die a straw-death [Footnote:
So contemptuously did those fierce old sea-kings regard a peaceful
life that they said of one who died quietly on his bed at home:
"His was but a straw-death."] as Olaf of Sweden's bonder-man. May
we not cut through these chains?"
"As soon think of cutting the solid earth, king," said the helmsman.
"So; and why not, then?" young Olaf exclaimed, struck with
a brilliant idea. "Ho, Sigvat," he said, turning to his saga-man,
"what was that lowland under the cliff where thou didst say the
pagan Upsal king was hanged in his own golden chains by his Finnish
"'Tis called the fen of Agnefit, O king," replied the saga-man,
pointing toward where it lay.
"Why, then, my Rane," asked the boy, "may we not cut our way out
through that lowland fen, to the open sea and liberty?"
"'Tis Odin's own device," cried the delighted helmsman, catching at
his young chief's great plan. "Ho, war-wolves all, bite ye your way
through the Swedish fens! Up with the serpent banner, and farewell
to Olaf the Swede!"
It seemed a narrow chance, but it was the only one. Fortune favored
the boy viking. Heavy rains had flooded the lands that slope down
to the Maelar Lake; in the dead of night the Swedish captives and
stout Norse oarsmen were set to work, and before daybreak an open
cut had been made in the lowlands beneath Agnefit, or the "Rock of
King Agne," where, by the town of Sodertelje, the vikings' canal
is still shown to travellers; the waters of the lake came rushing
through the cut, and an open sea-strait awaited young Olaf's fleet.
"Unship the rudder; hoist the sail aloft!" commanded Bane the
helmsman. "Sound war-horns all! Skoal to the Viking; skoal to the
wise young Olaf!"
A strong breeze blew astern; the Norse rowers steered the rudderless
ships with their long oars, and with a mighty rush, through the new
canal and over all the shallows, out into the great Norrstrom, or
North Stream, as the Baltic Sea was called, the fleet passed in
safety while the loud war-horns blew the notes of triumph.
So the boy viking escaped from the trap of his Swedish foes, and,
standing by the "grim, gaping dragon's head" that crested the prow
of his warship, he bade the helmsman steer for Gotland Isle, while
Sigvat, the saga-man, sang with the ring of triumph:
"Down the fiord sweep wind and rain;
Our sails and tackle sway and strain;
Wet to the skin
We're sound within.
Our sea-steed through the foam goes prancing,
While shields and spears and helms are glancing.
From fiord to sea,
Our ships ride free,
And down the wind with swelling sail
We scud before the gathering gale."
What a breezy, rollicking old saga it is! Can't you almost catch
the spray and sea-swell in its dashing measures, boys?
Now, turn to your atlases again and look for the large island of
Gotland off the southeastern coast of Sweden, in the midst of the
Baltic Sea. In the time of Olaf it was a thickly peopled and wealthy
district, and the principal town, Wisby, at the northern end, was
one of the busiest places in all Europe. To this attractive island
the boy viking sailed with all his ships, looking for rich booty,
but the Gotlanders met him with fair words and offered him so great
a "scatt," or tribute, that he agreed not to molest them, and rested
at the island, an unwelcome guest, through all the long winter.
Early in the spring he sailed eastward to the Gulf of Riga and spread
fear and terror along the coast of Finland. And the old saga tells
how the Finlanders "conjured up in the night, by their witchcraft,
a dreadful storm and bad weather; but the king ordered all the
anchors to be weighed and sail hoisted, and beat off all night to
the outside of the land. So the king's luck prevailed more than
the Finlander's witchcraft."
Then away "through the wild sea" to Denmark sailed the young pirate
king, and here he met a brother viking, one Thorkell the Tall. The
two chiefs struck up a sort of partnership; and coasting southward
along the western shores of Denmark, they won a sea-fight in the
Ringkiobing Fiord, among the "sand hills of Jutland." And so business
continued brisk with this curiously matched pirate firm—a giant
and a boy—until, under the cliffs of Kinlimma, in Friesland,
hasty word came to the boy viking that the English king, Ethelred
the Unready, was calling for the help of all sturdy fighters to
win back his heritage and crown from young King Cnut, or Canute
the Dane, whose father had seized the throne of England. Quick to
respond to an appeal that promised plenty of hard knocks, and the
possibility of unlimited booty, Olaf, the ever ready, hoisted his
blue and crimson sails and steered his war-ships over the sea to
help King Ethelred, the never ready. Up the Thames and straight
for London town he rowed.
"Hail to the serpent banner! Hail to Olaf the Brave!" said
King Ethelred, as the war-horns sounded a welcome; and on the low
shores of the Isle of Dogs, just below the old city, the keels of
the Norse war-ships grounded swiftly, and the boy viking and his
followers leaped ashore. "Thou dost come in right good time with
thy trusty dragon-ships, young king," said King Ethelred; "for the
Danish robbers are full well entrenched in London town and in my
father Edgar's castle."
And then he told Olaf how, "in the great trading place which
is called Southwark," the Danes had raised "a great work and dug
large ditches, and within had builded a bulwark of stone, timber,
and turf, where they had stationed a large army.
"And we would fain have taken this bulwark," added the king, "and
did in sooth bear down upon it with a great assault; but indeed we
could make naught of it."
"And why so?" asked the young viking.
"Because," said King Ethelred, "upon the bridge betwixt the castle
and Southwark have the ravaging Danes raised towers and parapets,
breast high, and thence they did cast down stones and weapons upon
us so that we could not prevail. And now, sea-king, what dost thou
counsel? How may we avenge ourselves of our enemies and win the
Impetuous as ever, and impatient of obstacles, the young viking
said: "How? why, pull thou down this bridge, king, and then may ye
have free river-way to thy castle."
"Break down great London Bridge, young hero?" cried the amazed king.
"How may that be? Have we a Duke Samson among us to do so great a
"Lay me thy ships alongside mine, king, close to this barricaded
bridge," said the valorous boy, "and I will vow to break it down,
or ye may call me caitiff and coward."
"Be it so," said Ethelred, the English king; and all the war-chiefs
echoed: "Be it so!" So Olaf and his trusty Rane made ready the
war-forces for the destruction of the bridge.
Old London Bridge was not what we should now call an imposing
structure, but our ancestors of nine centuries back esteemed it
quite a bridge. The chronicler says that it was "so broad that two
wagons could pass each other upon it," and "under the bridge were
piles driven into the bottom of the river."
So young Olaf and old Rane put their heads together, and decided
to wreck the bridge by a bold viking stroke. And this is how it is
told in the "Heimskringla," or Saga of King Olaf the Saint:
"King Olaf ordered great platforms of floating wood to be tied
together with hazel bands, and for this he took down old houses;
and with these, as a roof, he covered over his ships so widely that
it reached over the ships' sides. Under this screen he set pillars,
so high and stout that there both was room for swinging their
swords, and the roofs were strong enough to withstand the stones
cast down upon them."
"Now, out oars and pull for the bridge," young Olaf commanded; and
the roofed-over war-ships were rowed close up to London Bridge.
And as they came near the bridge, the chronicle says: "There were
cast upon them, by the Danes upon the bridge, so many stones and
missile weapons, such as arrows and spears, that neither helmet nor
shield could hold out against it; and the ships themselves were so
greatly damaged that many retreated out of it."
But the boy viking and his Norsemen were there for a purpose, and
were not to be driven back by stones or spears or arrows. Straight
ahead they rowed, "quite up under the bridge."
"Out cables, all, and lay them around the piles," the young sea-king
shouted; and the half-naked rowers, unshipping their oars, reached
out under the roofs and passed the stout cables twice around the
wooden supports of the bridge. The loose end was made fast at the
stern of each vessel, and then, turning and heading down stream,
King Olaf's twenty stout war-ships waited his word:
"Out oars!" he cried; "pull, war-birds! Pull all, as if ye were
Forward and backward swayed the stout Norse rowers; tighter and
tighter pulled the cables; fast down upon the straining war-ships
rained the Danish spears and stones; but the wooden piles under
the great bridge were loosened by the steady tug of the cables,
and soon with a sudden spurt the Norse war-ships darted down the
river, while the slackened cables towed astern the captured piles
of London Bridge. A great shout went up from the besiegers, and
"now," says the chronicle, "as the armed troops stood thick upon
the bridge, and there were likewise many heaps of stones and other
weapons upon it, the bridge gave way; and a great part of the men
upon it fell into the river, and all the others fled—some into
the castle, some into Southwark." And before King Ethelred, "the
Unready, "could pull his ships to the attack, young Olaf's fighting-men
had sprung ashore, and, storming the Southwark earthworks, carried
all before them, and the battle of London Bridge was won.
And the young Olaf's saga-man sang triumphantly:
"London Bridge is broken down—
Gold is won and bright renown.
Hildar shouting in the din!
Odin makes our Olaf win!"
And perhaps, who knows, this wrecking of London Bridge so many
hundred years ago by Olaf, the boy viking of fifteen, may have
been the origin of the old song-game dear to so many generations
"London Bridge is fallen down, fallen down, fallen down—
London Bridge is fallen down, my fair lady!"
So King Ethelred won back his kingdom, and the boy viking was honored
above all others. To him was given the chief command in perilous
expeditions against the Danes, and the whole defence of all the
coast of England. North and south along the coast he sailed with
all his warships, and the Danes and Englishmen long remembered the
dashing but dubious ways of this young sea-rover, who swept the
English coast and claimed his dues from friend and foe alike. For
those were days of insecurity for merchant and trader and farmer,
and no man's wealth or life was safe except as he paid ready tribute
to the fierce Norse allies of King Ethelred. But soon after this,
King Ethelred died, and young Olaf, thirsting for new adventures,
sailed away to the south and fought his way all along the French
coast as far as the mouth of the River Garonne. Many castles
he captured; many rival vikings subdued; much spoil he gathered;
until at last his dragon-ships lay moored under the walls of old
Bordeaux, waiting for fair winds to take him around to the Straits
of Gibraltar, and so on "to the land of Jerusalem."
One day, in the booty-filled "fore-hold" of his dragon-ship, the
young sea-king lay asleep; and suddenly, says the old record, "he
dreamed a wondrous dream."
"Olaf, great stem of kings, attend!" he heard a deep voice call;
and, looking up, the dreamer seemed to see before him "a great and
important man, but of a terrible appearance withal."
"If that thou art Olaf the Brave, as men do call thee," said the
vision, "turn thyself to nobler deeds than vikings' ravaging and
this wandering cruise. Turn back, turn back from thy purposeless
journey to the land of Jerusalem, where neither honor nor fame
awaits thee. Son of King Harald, return thee to thy heritage; for
thou shalt be king over all Norway."
Then the vision vanished and the young rover awoke to find himself
alone, save for the sleeping foot-boy across the cabin door-way.
So he quickly summoned old Rane, the helmsman, and told his dream.
"'Twas for thy awakening, king," said his stout old follower. "'Twas
the great Olaf, thine uncle, Olaf Tryggvesson the king, that didst
call thee. Win Norway, king, for the portent is that thou and thine
shall rule thy fatherland."
And the war-ships' prows were all turned northward again, as the
boy viking, following the promise of his dream, steered homeward
for Norway and a throne.
Now in Norway Earl Eric was dead. For thirteen years he had usurped
the throne that should have been filled by one of the great King
Olaf's line; and, at his death, his handsome young son, Earl Hakon
the Fair, ruled in his father's stead. And when young King Olaf
heard this news, he shouted for joy and cried to Rane:
"Now, home in haste, for Norway shall be either Hakon's heritage
"'Tis a fair match of youth 'gainst youth," said the trusty helmsman;
"and if but fair luck go with thee, Norway shall be thine!"
So from "a place called Furovald," somewhere between the mouths of
Humber and of Tees, on the English coast, King Olaf, with but two
stout war-ships and two hundred and twenty "well-armed and chosen
persons," shook out his purple sails to the North Sea blasts, and
steered straight for Norway.
As if in league against this bold young viking the storm winds came
rushing down from the mountains of Norway and the cold belt of the
Arctic Circle and caught the two war-ships tossing in a raging sea.
The storm burst upon them with terrific force, and the danger of
shipwreck was great. "But," says the old record, "as they had a
chosen company and the king's luck with them all went on well."
"Thou able chief!"
sings the faithful saga-man,
"With thy fearless crew
Thou meetest with skill and courage true
The wild sea's wrath
On thy ocean path.
Though waves mast-high were breaking round,
Thou findest the middle of Norway's ground,
With helm in hand
On Saelo's strand."
Now Sael was Norse for "lucky" and Saelo's Island means the lucky
"I'll be a lucky king for landing thus upon the Lucky Isle," said
rash young Olaf, with the only attempt at a joke we find recorded
of him, as, with a mighty leap, he sprang ashore where the sliding
keel of his war-ship ploughed the shore of Saelo's Isle.
"True, 'tis a good omen, king," said old Rane the helmsman, following
But the soil of the "Lucky Isle" was largely clay, moist and
slippery, and as the eager young viking climbed the bank his right
foot slipped, and he would have fallen had not he struck his left
foot firmly in the clay and thus saved himself. But to slip at all
was a bad sign in those old, half-pagan, and superstitious times,
and he said, ruefully: "An omen; an omen, Rane! The king falls!"
"Nay,'tis the king's luck," says ready and wise old Rane. "Thou
didst not fall, king. See; thou didst but set fast foot in this
thy native soil of Norway."
"Thou art a rare diviner, Rane," laughed the young king, much
relieved, and then he added solemnly: "It may be so if God doth
will it so."
And now news comes that Earl Hakon, with a single war-ship, is
steering north from Sogne Fiord; and Olaf, pressing on, lays his two
ships on either side of a narrow strait, or channel, in Sandunga
Sound. Here he stripped his ships of all their war-gear, and stretched
a great cable deep in the water, across the narrow strait. Then he
wound the cable-ends around the capstans, ordered all his fighting-men
out of sight, and waited for his rival. Soon Earl Hakon's war-ship,
crowded with rowers and fighting-men, entered the strait. Seeing,
as he supposed, but two harmless merchant-vessels lying on either
side of the channel, the young earl bade his rowers pull between
the two. Suddenly there is a stir on the quiet merchant-vessels.
The capstan bars are manned; the sunken cable is drawn taut. Up
goes the stern of Earl Hakon's entrapped warship; down plunges her
prow into the waves, and the water pours into the doomed boat. A
loud shout is heard; the quiet merchant-vessels swarm with mail-clad
men, and the air is filled with a shower of stones, and spears,
and arrows. The surprise is complete. Tighter draws the cable; over
topples Earl Hakon's vessel, and he and all his men are among the
billows struggling for life. "So," says the record, "King Olaf took
Earl Hakon and all his men whom they could get hold of out of the
water and made them prisoners; but some were killed and some were
Into the "fore-hold" of the king's ship the captive earl was led a
prisoner, and there the young rivals for Norway's crown faced each
other. The two lads were of nearly the same age—between sixteen
and seventeen—and young Earl Hakon was considered the handsomest
youth in all Norway. His helmet was gone, his sword was lost, his
ring-steel suit was sadly disarranged, and his long hair, "fine
as silk," was "bound about his head with a gold ornament." Fully
expecting the fate of all captives in those cruel days—instant
death—the young earl nevertheless faced his boy conqueror proudly,
resolved to meet his fate like a man.
"They speak truth who say of the house of Eric that ye be handsome
men," said the king, studying his prisoner's face. "But now, earl,
even though thou be fair to look upon, thy luck hath failed thee
"Fortune changes," said the young earl. "We both be boys; and thou,
king, art perchance the shrewder youth. Yet, had we looked for such
a trick as thou hast played upon us, we had not thus been tripped
upon thy sunken cables. Better luck next time."
"Next time!" echoed the king; "dost thou not know, earl, that as
thou standest there, a prisoner, there may be no 'next time' for
The young captive understood full well the meaning of the words.
"Yes, king," he said; "it must be only as thou mayst determine.
Man can die but once. Speak on; I am ready!" But Olaf said: "What
wilt thou give me, earl, if at this time I do let thee go, whole
"'Tis not what I may give, but what thou mayst take, king," the
earl made answer. "I am thy prisoner; what wilt thou take to free
"Nothing," said the generous young viking, advancing nearer to his
handsome rival. "As thou didst say, we both be boys, and life is
all before us. Earl, I give thee thy life, do thou but take oath
before me to leave this my realm of Norway, to give up thy kingdom,
and never to do battle against me hereafter."
The conquered earl bent his fair young head.
"Thou art a generous chief, King Olaf," he said. "I take my life
as thou dost give it, and all shall be as thou wilt."
So Earl Hakon took the oath, and King Olaf righted his rival's
capsized war-ship, refitted it from his own stores of booty, and
thus the two lads parted; the young earl sailing off to his uncle,
King Canute, in England, and the boy viking hastening eastward to
Vigen, where lived his mother, the Queen Aasta, whom he had not
seen for full five years.
It is harvest-time in the year 1014. Without and within the long,
low house of Sigurd Syr, at Vigen, all is excitement; for word has
come that Olaf the sea-king has returned to his native land, and is
even now on his way to this his mother's house. Gay stuffs decorate
the dull walls of the great-room, clean straw covers the earth
floor, and upon the long, four-cornered tables is spread a mighty
feast of mead and ale and coarse but hearty food, such as the old
Norse heroes drew their strength and muscle from. At the door-way
stands the Queen Aasta with her maidens, while before the entrance,
with thirty "well-clothed men," waits young Olafs stepfather,
wise Sigurd Syr, gorgeous in a jewelled suit, a scarlet cloak, and
a glittering golden helmet. The watchers on the housetops hear a
distant shout, now another and nearer one, and soon, down the highway,
they catch the gleam of steel and the waving of many banners; and
now they can distinguish the stalwart forms of Olaf's chosen hundred
men, their shining coats of ring-mail, their foreign helmets, and
their crossleted shields flashing in the sun. In the very front
rides old Rane, the helmsman, bearing the great white banner blazoned
with the golden serpent, and, behind him, cased in golden armor,
his long brown hair flowing over his sturdy shoulders, rides the
boy viking, Olaf of Norway.
It was a brave home-coming; and as the stout young hero, leaping
from his horse, knelt to receive his mother's welcoming kiss, the
people shouted for joy, the banners waved, the war-horns played their
loudest; and thus, after five years of wandering, the boy comes
back in triumph to the home he left when but a wild and adventurous
little fellow of twelve.
The hero of nine great sea-fights, and of many smaller ones, before
he was seventeen, young Olaf Haraldson was a remarkable boy, even
in the days when all boys aimed to be battle-tried heroes. Toughened
in frame and fibre by his five years of sea-roving, he had become
strong and self-reliant, a man in action though but a boy in years.
"I am come," he said to his mother and his step-father, "to take
the heritage of my forefathers. But not from Danish nor from Swedish
kings will I supplicate that which is mine by right. I intend rather
to seek my patrimony with battle-axe and sword, and I will so lay
hand to the work that one of two things shall happen: Either I
shall bring all this kingdom of Norway under my rule, or I shall
fall here upon my inheritance in the land of my fathers."
These were bold words for a boy of seventeen. But they were not
idle boastings. Before a year had passed, young Olaf's pluck and
courage had won the day, and in harvest-time, in the year 1015,
being then but little more than eighteen years old, he was crowned
King of Norway in the Drontheim, or "Throne-home," of Nidaros, the
royal city, now called on your atlas the city of Drontheim. For
fifteen years King Olaf the Second ruled his realm of Norway.
The old record says that he was "a good and very gentle man"; but
history shows his goodness and gentleness to have been of a rough
and savage kind. The wild and stern experiences of his viking days
lived again even in his attempts to reform and benefit his land.
When he who had himself been a pirate tried to put down piracy, and
he who had been a wild young robber sought to force all Norway to
become Christian, he did these things in so fierce and cruel a way
that at last his subjects rebelled, and King Canute came over with
a great army to wrest the throne from him. On the bloody field of
Stiklestad, July 29, 1030, the stern king fell, says Sigvat, his
"beneath the blows
By his own thoughtless people given."
So King Canute conquered Norway; but after his death, Olaf's son,
Magnus the Good, regained his father's throne. The people, sorrowful
at their rebellion against King Olaf, forgot his stern and cruel
ways, and magnified all his good deeds so mightily that he was at
last declared a saint, and the shrine of Saint Olaf is still one
of the glories of the old cathedral in Drontheim. And, after King
Magnus died, his descendants ruled Norway for nearly four hundred
years; and thus was brought to pass the promise of the dream that,
in the "fore-hold" of the great dragon-ship, under the walls of
old Bordeaux, came so many years before to the daring and sturdy
young Olaf of Norway, the boy viking.