It had been an old custom in Norway that the sons of lendermen, or other great men, went out in war-ships to gather property, and they marauded both in the country and out of the country. But after King Olaf came to the sovereignty he protected the country, so that he abolished all plundering there; and even if they were the sons of powerful men who committed any depredation, or did what the king considered against law, he did not spare them at all, but they must suffer in life or limbs; and no man's entreaties, and no offer of money-penalties, could help them. So says Sigvat: --
"They who on viking cruises drove With gifts of red gold often strove To buy their safety -- but our chief Had no compassion for the thief. He made the bravest lose his head Who robbed at sea, and pirates led; And his just sword gave peace to all, Sparing no robber, great or small."
"Great king! whose sword on many a field Food to the wandering wolf did yield, And then the thief and pirate band Swept wholly off by sea and land -- Good king! who for the people's sake Set hands and feet upon a stake, When plunderers of great name and bold Harried the country as of old. The country's guardian showed his might When oft he made his just sword bite Through many a viking's neck and hair, And never would the guilty spare. King Magnus' father, I must say, Did many a good deed in his day. Olaf the Thick was stern and stout, Much good his victories brought out."
He punished great and small with equal severity, which appeared to the chief people of the country too severe; and animosity rose to the highest when they lost relatives by the king's just sentence, although they were in reality guilty. This was the origin of the hostility of the great men of the country to King Olaf, that they could not bear his just judgments. He again would rather renounce his dignity than omit righteous judgment. The accusation against him, of being stingy with his money, was not just, for he was a most generous man towards his friends; but that alone was the cause of the discontent raised against him, that he appeared hard and severe in his retributions. Besides, King Canute offered great sums of money, and the great chiefs were corrupted by this, and by his offering them greater dignities than they had possessed before. The inclinations of the people, also, were all in favour of Earl Hakon, who was much beloved by the country folks when he ruled the country before.
Earl Hakon had sailed with his fleet from Throndhjem, and gone south to More against King Olaf, as before related. Now when the king bore away, and ran into the fjord, the earl followed him thither; and then Kalf Arnason came to meet him, with many of the men who had deserted King Olaf. Kalf was well received. The earl steered in through Todar fjord to Valdal, where the king had laid up his ships on the strand. He took the ships which belonged to the king, had them put upon the water and rigged, and cast lots, and put commanders in charge of them according to the lots. There was a man called Jokul, who was an Icelander, a son of Bard Jokulson of Vatnsdal; the lot fell upon Jokul to command the Bison, which King Olaf himself had commanded. Jokul made these verses upon it: --
"Mine is the lot to take the helm Which Olaf owned, who owned the realm; From Sult King Olaf's ship to steer (Ill luck I dread on his reindeer). My girl will never hear the tidings, Till o'er the wild wave I come riding In Olaf's ship, who loved his gold, And lost his ships with wealth untold."
We may here shortly tell what happened a long time after. -- that this Jokul fell in with King Olaf's men in the island of Gotland, and the king ordered him to be taken out to be beheaded. A willow twig accordingly was plaited in with his hair, and a man held him fast by it. Jokul sat down upon a bank, and a man swung the axe to execute him; but Jokul hearing the sound, raised his head, and the blow struck him in the head, and made a dreadful wound. As the king saw it would be his death-wound, he ordered them to let him lie with it. Jokul raised himself up, and he sang: --
"My hard fate I mourn, -- Alas! my wounds burn, My red wounds are gaping, My life-blood escaping. My wounds burn sore; But I suffer still more From the king's angry word, Than his sharp-biting sword."