This evening my son asked me to read to him about a bowman, and so I took down my copy of the Heimskringla, and read him this:
118. OF EINAR TAMBARSKELVER.Once, long ago, I told you that someone had bought my son this Viking ship model from Playmobil. We had it out tonight, so that during the course of the ship battle I could show him where each point of action was happening on the ship, and he could visualize the fight between King Olav and the Jarl.
Einar Tambarskelver, one of the sharpest of bowshooters, stood by
the mast, and shot with his bow. Einar shot an arrow at Earl
Eirik, which hit the tiller end just above the earl's head so
hard that it entered the wood up to the arrow-shaft. The earl
looked that way, and asked if they knew who had shot; and at the
same moment another arrow flew between his hand and his side, and
into the stuffing of the chief's stool, so that the barb stood
far out on the other side. Then said the earl to a man called
Fin, -- but some say he was of Fin (Laplander) race, and was a
superior archer, -- "Shoot that tall man by the mast." Fin shot;
and the arrow hit the middle of Einar's bow just at the moment
that Einar was drawing it, and the bow was split in two parts.
"What is that," cried King Olaf, "that broke with such a noise?"
"Norway, king, from thy hands," cried Einar.
"No! not quite so much as that," says the king; "take my bow,
and shoot," flinging the bow to him.
Einar took the bow, and drew it over the head of the arrow. "Too
weak, too weak," said he, "for the bow of a mighty king!" and,
throwing the bow aside, he took sword and shield, and fought
119. OLAF GIVES HIS MEN SHARP SWORDS.
The king stood on the gangways of the Long Serpent. and shot the
greater part of the day; sometimes with the bow, sometimes with
the spear, and always throwing two spears at once. He looked
down over the ship's sides, and saw that his men struck briskly
with their swords, and yet wounded but seldom. Then he called
aloud, "Why do ye strike so gently that ye seldom cut?" One
among the people answered, "The swords are blunt and full of
notches." Then the king went down into the forehold, opened the
chest under the throne, and took out many sharp swords, which he
handed to his men; but as he stretched down his right hand with
them, some observed that blood was running down under his steel
glove, but no one knew where he was wounded.
120. THE SERPENT BOARDED.
Desperate was the defence in the Serpent, and there was the
heaviest destruction of men done by the forecastle crew, and
those of the forehold, for in both places the men were chosen
men, and the ship was highest, but in the middle of the ship the
people were thinned. Now when Earl Eirik saw there were but few
people remaining beside the ship's mast, he determined to board;
and he entered the Serpent with four others. Then came Hyrning,
the king's brother-in-law, and some others against him, and there
was the most severe combat; and at last the earl was forced to
leap back on board his own ship again, and some who had
accompanied him were killed, and others wounded. Thord
Kolbeinson alludes to this: --
"On Odin's deck, all wet with blood,
The helm-adorned hero stood;
And gallant Hyrning honour gained,
Clearing all round with sword deep stained.
The high mountain peaks shall fall,
Ere men forget this to recall."
He made me read the entire rest of the saga of King Olav Trygvasson, and then asked me to read the next saga (which, being the Saga of St. Olav, would take a week). I told him I would read him more later, but for now, I wanted him to reflect on the great archer, Einar Tambarskelver, and the great fight, and other things. If I read on he would forget, but I hope he will remember.
Here is something to remember too: the way the war ended.
The earls Eirik and Svein bothIt is in this way -- in allowing for differences, and showing respect for the several traditions -- that peace was made for a time in Norway, among a fighting folk.
allowed themselves to be baptized, and took up the true faith;
but as long as they ruled in Norway they allowed every one to do
as he pleased in holding by his Christianity. But, on the other
hand, they held fast by the old laws, and all the old rights and
customs of the land, and were excellent men and good rulers.