Colonization in “Egil’s Saga”

Chapter 3


King Harald inherited the titles of his father Halfdan the Black and swore an oath not to cut or comb his hair, until he had become sole king of Norway. He was called Tangle-hair.* He did battle with the neighbouring kings and defeated them, as is told in long accounts. Afterwards he took over Oppland, and proceeded northwards to Trondheim where he fought many battles before gaining full control of all Trondheim district. [...]

* Harald became known as Fair-hair after unifying Norway.

[...] Once King Harald had taken over the kingdoms he had recently won, he kept a close watch on the landholders and powerful farmers and everyone else he suspected would be likely to rebel, and gave the options of entering his service or leaving the country, or a third choice of suffering hardship or paying with their lives; some had their arms and legs maimed. King Harald took over all the estates and all the land, habited or uninhabited, and even sea and lakes. All the farmers were made his tenants, and everyone who worked the forests and dried salt, or hunted on land or at sea, was made to pay tribute to him.

Chapter 4


Many people fled the country to escape his tyranny and settled various uninhabited parts of many places, to the east in Jamtland and Halsingland [northern provinces, now part of Sweden], and to the west in the Hebrides, the shire of Dublin, Ireland, Normandy in France, Caithness of Scotland, the Orkney Isles and Shetland Isles, and the Faroe Islands. And at this time Iceland was discovered.

King Harald mounted a massive expedition, assembling a fleet of warships and gathering troops from all over the country, then left Trondheim and headed south. He had heard that a great army had been gathered in Agder and Rogaland and Hordaland, mustered far and wide from the inland regions and Vik, with which many men of rank intended to defend their land against him. [...] They clashed in Havrsfjord in Rogaland, in the greatest battle King Harald ever fought [...].

Chapter 9


This was the last battle King Harald fought in Norway, for he met no resistance afterwards and gained control of the whole country. [...]

[...] Then Skallagrim explored the land from mountain to shore, all of the Myrar marshland out to Selaon (Seal lagoon) and the land up to the Borgarhraun lava field, and south to the Hafnarfjoll mountains, and all the land crossed by the rivers down to the sea. The following spring he brought his ship south into the bay closest to where Kveldulf had been washed ashore, built a farmstead there and called it Borg. He called the fjord Borgarfjord, and they named the entire district after it. [...] Skallagrim gave land to members of the crew. Ani was given the land between the Langa and Hafslaek rivers, and lived at AnabrŠkka; his son was Onund Sjnoi (Keen-sighted). [...]

Chapter 28


Skallagrim explored the uplands of the district, travelling along Borgarfjord until he reached the head of the fjord, then following the western bank of the river which he named Hvita (White river) because he and his companions had never seen water from a glacier before and thought it had a peculiar colour. [...] They noticed that every river was full of fish; and they returned to Borg.

Source: Bernard Scudder, trans., "[Colonization 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: Probably by Snorri Sturluson c. 1220-1240 about events 850-1000. Snorri was a descendant of Egil. Translations first published in "The Complete Sagas of Icelanders," volumes I-V (forty-nine tales), Leifur Eiriksson Publishing, Ltd., Iceland, 1997.

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