Taxes and Fur Trade in “Egil’s Saga

Chapter 7


[...] For a long time, Brynjolf and his father Bjorgolf had travelled to Finnmark [Lappland] collecting tribute. [...]

Chapter 8

That summer King Harald [...] made Brynjolf a landholder, granting him revenues in addition to those he already had, as well as the right to collect tribute and trade in Finnmark and collect taxes in the mountain regions. [...]

Chapter 9


[...] Thorolf asked his leave to go to Halogaland to take charge of the bequest which he had received in the summer from his kinsman Bard. The king granted him leave, giving him a message stating that Thorolf should take over everything Bard had left to him, with the king’s consent and will, and gave his tokens as proof. Then the king made Thorolf a landholder and granted him all the revenues that Bard had previously held, and the right to collect tribute from the Lapps [the Saami] on the same terms.[...]

Chapter 10


That winter Thorolf went up to the mountains and took a large band of men with him, no fewer than ninety in number. Previously the king’s agents used to take thirty men with them, or sometimes fewer. He also took a great quantity of goods to sell, soon arranged a meeting with Lapps, collected their taxes and traded with them. All their dealings were cordial and friendly, partly because the Lapps feared them.

Thorolf travelled at large through the forests, and when he reached the mountains further east he heard that the Kylfing people had been trading with the Lapps there, and plundering too. He posted some Lapps to spy on the Kylfings’ movements, then went off to seek them out. In one place he found thirty and killed them all without anyone escaping, then found a group of fifteen or twenty more. In all they killed almost one hundred men and took enormous amounts of booty before returning in the spring. Thorolf went back to his farm at Sandnes and stayed there for some time. That spring he also had a great longship built with a dragon head on the prow, equipped it lavishly and sailed it from the north.

Thorolf harvested large amounts of provisions for himself in Halogaland, sending his men to catch herring and cod. There were also good seal hunting and plenty of eggs to be gathered, all of which he had brought to him. Thorolf never had less than one hundred free-born men at his farm. He was generous and lavish with gifts and made friends with all local men of rank. He grew very powerful and set special store by equipping himself with the finest ships and weapons.

Chapter 13


[...] Before Thorolf went away, he had handed over to Thorgils all the tribute he had collected for the king [...] and told him to give it to the king. [...]Thorgils fitted out a great and fine cargo vessel belonging to Thorolf, loaded the tribute into it. [...] Olvir went to see the king and said, ‘Your friend Thorgils Boomer has arrived with the tribute due to you from Finnmark, much more than ever before and much better quality goods as well. [...] so please go and take a look, because such fine skins have never been seen before.’ [...] Thorgils gave the king several beaver skins that Thorolf sent along, and other precious things he had acquired in the mountains. [...]

Chapter 14


That winter Thorolf went to Finnmark again, taking almost a hundred men with him. Once again he traded with the Lapps and travelled widely through Finnmark. [...]

It was a law among the Kven people that their king received a third of his men’s plunder, but reserved all beaver skins, sables and martens for himself. [...]

[...] Finnmark is a vast territory, bordered by the sea to the west and the north, and all the way to the east with great fjords, while Norway lies to the south of it. It extends as far south along the mountains as Halogaland does down the coast. East of Naumdal lies Jamtland, then Halsinland, Kvenland, Finland and Karelia. Finnmark lies beyond all these countries, and there are mountain settlements in many parts, some in valleys and others by the lakes. In Finnmark there are incredibly large lakes with great forests all around, while a high mountain range named Kjolen extends from one end of the territory to the other.

Chapter 16


[...] the king granted Hildirid’s sons the agencies in Halogaland that Thorolf had previously held, and collection of tribute from the Lapps. [...]

Source: Bernard Scudder, trans., "[Taxes and Fur Trade in] Egil's Saga" in The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection, preface by Jane Smiley, introduction by Robert Kellogg, (New York, London, Victoria (Australia), Toronto, Auckland: The Penguin Group, 2000), 3-184. Notes: Translations first published in "The Complete Sagas of Icelanders," volumes I-V (forty-nine tales), Leifur Eiriksson Publishing, Ltd., Iceland, 1997. Probably by Snorri Sturluson c. 1220-1240 about events 850-1000. Snorri was a descendant of Egil.

Return to parent page