Raids in “Egil Saga”

Chapter 1

- 8-9 -

[...] Ulf was so big and strong that no man was a match for him; and he was still only a youth when he became a Viking and went raiding. His companion was Kari from Berle [...]

When they gave up plundering, Kari returned to his farm on Berle, a very wealthy man. [...]

Thorolf was an attractive and highly accomplished man. [...] When Thorolf was twenty, he made ready to go raiding, and Kveldulf gave him a longship. Kari’s sons Eyvind and Olvir joined him, with a large band of men and another longship. In the summer they went raiding and took plenty of booty which they shared out among themselves. They went raiding for several summers, spending winters at home with their fathers. Thorolf brought many precious things back to give his parents, for in those days it was easy to win both wealth and reknown. [...]

Chapter 32

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There was a powerful hersir [leader of warriors serving a chieftain or king] in Sognefjord called Bjorn, who lived at Aurland; his son Brynjolf inherited everything from him. Brynjolf had two sons, Bjorn and Tjord, who were quite young when this episode took place. Bjorn was a great traveller and a most accomplished man, sometimes going on Viking raids and sometimes trading. [...]

Chapter 70

- 133-134 -

Arinbjorn spent the winter on his lands, and the following spring he announced that he wanted to go on some Viking raids. He owned a good selection of ships and prepared three longships for the journey that spring, all of them large, and took a crew of three hundred with him. The ship he went on was well manned with people from his household and many local farmers’ sons. Egil joined him at the helm of one of the ships, taking many of the band of men he had brought with him from Iceland. Egil sent the merchant ship he had brought from Iceland on to Vik [Oslo], where he took on men to guard his cargo. Arinbjorn and Egil sailed their longships south along the coast, heading with their men for Saxony, where they stayed during the summer and won great wealth. When autumn arrived they went north of more raids, and moored their ships off Frisia.

One night when the weather was calm they anchored in a large estuary, since there were few places to harbour there, and the tide was far out. On the shore were great rolling plains, with a forest a short distance away. It had been raining heavily and the fields were wet.

Then they set off for land, leaving one-third of the men behind to guard the ships. They went along the riverbank, with the forest on their other side, and soon came across a village where a lot of farmers lived. All the villagers ran for their lives when they noticed the raiders, and the Vikings set off in pursuit. Then they found another village, and a third. Everyone who was able to do so fled from them. The land was flat, with great plains. Ditches had been dug in many places and were full of water. These were meant to separate the fields and meadows, but in some places there were bridges for crossing over, made of logs with planks on the floor. All the villagers fled to the forest.

Once the Vikings had ventured quite deep inland, the Frisians mustered forces in the woods, and then there were more than three hundred of them they set off to confront the Vikings and fight them. A fierce battle ensued, and in the end the Frisians fled and the Vikings chased after them. The fleeing villagers spread out in all directions, and so did their pursuers. Eventually they all split up into groups of a few men. [...]

The Vikings took a great deal of plunder inland and cattle as well. When they reached their ships, some of them slaughtered the cattle or took their booty out to the ships, while the others formed a wall of shields in front of them, because a large band of Frisians had come back down to the shore and they were firing arrows at them. Then the Frisians received more support. And when Egil reached the shore and saw what was going on, he ran towards the crowd at full pelt with his halberd in front of him and his shield thrown over his back. As he lunged out with his halberd, everyone jumped back and cleared the way for him through the column. [...]

Source: Bernard Scudder, trans., "[Raids 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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