In this book I have had written the old narratives about the chiefs who have had realms in the Northlands and who spoke the Danish tonguenote , even as I have heard wise men, learned in history, tell, besides some of their family descents even as I have been taught them; some of this is found in the family successions in which kings and other men of great kin have traced their kinship; some is written according to old songs or lays, which men have had for their amusement. And although we know not the truth of these, we know, however, of occasions when wise old men have reckoned such things as true.
Snorri Sturluson, Preface to Heimskringla
The earth's round face, whereon mankind dwells, is much cleft because great gulfs run up into the land from the ocean. It is known that a sea stretches from Norvasundnote to Jorsalalandnote , and from the sea there goes towards the north-east a bight which is called the Black Sea. It is there that one finds the division between the three parts of the earth: to the east it is called Asia, but the land to the west is sometimes called Europa, sometimes Enea. But to the north of the Black Sea there stretches the great but icy Sweden; Sweden the Greatnote some men reckon as large as the great Serklandnote , others equate it with the great Blalandnote . The northern part of Sweden the Great lies unpeopled through frost and cold, just as the southern part of Blaland is wasted by the heat of the sun. In Sweden there are many great lordships, many kinds of people, and many tongues; there are giants and there are dwarfs and there are black men, and there are many kinds of strange creatures, there are great savage beasts and dragons.
"Saga of the Ynglings", beginning
"I have heard it said in olden tales that Gorm the Danish king was thought to be an excellent folk king, and he ruled over Denmark only, but the Danish kings who have been since do not seem to have been content with it. Now it has come about that Canute rules over Denmark and England and thereto he has subdued a great part of Scotland. Now he claims my inheritance from me. He should, however, learn to hold his greed in check, or does he think he will have sole rule over all the northern lands? Or does he think of eating up alone all the cabbages in England? He must first have the might to do it, ere I should bring him my head or show him any obedience."
"Saint" Olaf Haraldsson, "The Saga of Saint Olaf"
But when they came near the town, a great army rode out against them; they saw the smoke from the horses, and fair shields and white brynies. The king stopped his army, called Tosti the Jarl to him and asked him what army that might be. The jarl answered and said that he thought that there might be trouble, but it might also be that they were some of his kinsmen seeking mercy and friendship and vowing the king help and trustiness in return. The king then said that they should first stop and get to know more about this army. They did so, and the army grew greater the nearer it came, and it all looked like a sheet of ice when the weapons glistened.
King Harald Sigurdson then said: "Let us now decide upon a wise plan, for it cannot be hidden that there is trouble and that the king himself is there."
"Saga of Harald Hardrada": The Norwegians at Stamford Bridge get sight of the English army
Then said a rider [to Earl Tostig]: "Harold thy brother sends thee greeting and likewise word that thou shalt have peace and all Northumbria, and rather than thou shouldst refuse this offer, he will give thee a third of all his kingdom."
The jarl then answered: "This is somewhat different from the trouble and shame of last winter. If this behest had come then, many a man who is now dead would have been alive and the kingdom of England would have stood better. Now if I take this choice, what will he offer King Harald Sigurdson for his work?"
Then said the rider: "He has said something about what he will grant him in England: seven foot of ground or as much more as he is taller than other men."
"Saga of Harald Hardrada": Negotiations before the Battle of Stamford Bridge
"There is not much that I can speak of compared to what thou hast achieved. I have heard that thou hast won many battles in foreign lands, but it might have been more useful for the land what I meantime did at home. North at Vagar I built booths for the fishing folks, so that poor people could get help, and earn their living. There I founded a priest's garth and endowed the church. Before this the place was almost heathen. These men will remember that Eystein was King of Norway.
The road from Trondheim went once over Dovre-fell, where people were lost in bad weather or had to sleep out of doors and suffer hardships. There I built a mountain inn and gave it an income; those people will know that Eystein has been King of Norway.
At Agdenes there is a dangerous rocky coast and no harbour; and many ships were lost every year. There is now a harbour and a landing place for wintering ships, also a church. Afterwards I raised beacons on the high fells and this I hope will be useful for the country. I built at Bergen a king's hall and the church of the Apostles, with an underground passage between the two. The kings that come after me will remember my name for that.
I built St Michael's Church and a monastery besides. I have also, my brother, shaped the laws so that the people can now obtain justice, and when the laws are kept the country will be better ruled. I have set a warping pole with iron rings in Sinholm sound. The Jämtland people are again under the Norwegian king's rule, and this was brought about by blithe words and wise persuasion and not by force or fighting. Now these matters are of small importance, still I do not know if the people in the land are not better served by them, than if thou hast killed black men in Serkland and sent them to hell."
King Eystein Magnusson, "Saga of Sigurd the Crusader and His Brothers Eystein and Olaf"