Great Game XIX: Mongols!

Here is Olaf Halkjellson, who later became a much more powerful King-under-the-Mountain trope. Here when writing of his actual deeds, though, I am being pretty dismissive – three paragraphs! It seems even saga writers don’t always recognise a legend in his own lifetime. Perhaps I was in a hurry with packing.


55. WAR IN THE EAST (1250)

Now as has been told, the armies of Prester John had come from the seas of grass to the east, and in that war the Piasts of Poland were forced to give up much land in Gardarike. But Jurchedei of Yaik, who led the Mongol armies, had signed no treaty with the West-kings; and now his horsemen came in like a flood from the steppes, and conquered the Parvuna kings of Rus, and also continued his war with the Piasts. But at this Olaf grew worried, for if he was no friend of the Piasts, also he did not wish to see all of Gardarike fall to one man, whoever he might be. And therefore he mustered all the men of the Three Crowns, and sailed for Finland to defend the realm.

Now this was a hard struggle, for the Finnish lands – though they breed hardy men and powerful sorcerers – are not wealthy, and snow comes early and leaves late. More men died of frostbite and fever than in battle with the Mongols; for though the horse-archers were brave and skilled, their light ponies could not stand against the great chargers Olaf had brought from Germany, nor did their bows outrange the Norwegian peasants’ archery. So they were driven back from Finland and the Seal Coast was retaken, although the cost was fearful. And in this campaign King Olaf was taken with a fever, and that was his bane.

King Olaf was widely mourned in the land, for he had made Norway rich, and had ruled wisely and well. There are some who say that Norway has never had so good a King before or since; and the bønder tell that he sleeps under Dovre mountain, ready to return in Norway’s hour of need.

Here ends the saga of Olaf Halkjellson Yngling.


Now after the death of Olaf, the jarls who had marched to Finland held Ting, and as they all agreed that a king must be found quickly lest the realm be weakened in time of war, Trond Olafsson was elected. Trond was not as great either in wisdom or strength as his father Olaf; but still he was a clever and powerful man, who had fought well against Poland and the Mongols both.

Translator’s note : Here, unfortunately, the Morkenskinna lives up to its name, and several pages are illegible. Thus the record of Norway’s tribulations in the next decades are lost to us. We can only hope that the missing pages will show up in some Icelander’s attic; meanwhile, alas, the years between 1250 and 1295 are, as the skald would have it, ‘out of the saga’.

OOC : Or in other words, this is where I had to drop for some weeks due to my move. As I understand it, there was a war with Poland in these weeks, in which I lost the Brandenburg area after trying to intervene in a French-Flandern war on the French side; but apart from that, no major harm was done.


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