Magnus Barefoot’s Saga

The following extracts come from Magnus Barefoot’s Saga, which is in Heimskringla “The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway.” This volume was written by Snorri Sturluson in Old Norse in Iceland c. 1230:

King Magnus undertook an expedition out of the country, with many fine men and a good assortment of shipping. With this armament he sailed out into the West sea, and first came to the Orkney Islands. There he took the two earls, Paul and Erlend, prisoners, and sent them east to Norway, and placed his son Sigurd as chief over the islands, leaving some counsellors to assist him. From thence King Magnus, with his followers, proceeded to the Southern Hebrides, and when he came there began to burn and lay waste the inhabited places, killing the people and plundering wherever he came with his men; and the country people fled in all directions, some into Scotland-fjord, others south to Kintyre, or out to Ireland; some obtained life and safety by entering into his service. Bjorn Krephende says this:

In the Isle of Lewis with fearful blaze
The house-destroying fire plays;
To hills and rocks the people fly,
Fearing all shelter but the sky.
In Uist the king deep crimson made
The lightning of his glancing blade;
The peasant lost his land and life
Who dared to bide the Norseman’s strife.
The hunger battle-birds were filled
In Skye with blood of foemen killed,
And wolves on Tiree’s lonely shore
Dyed red their hairy jaws in gore.
The men of Mull were tired of flight;
The Scottish foemen would not fight,
And many an island-girl’s wail
Was heard as through the isles we strife sail.

King Magnus came with his forces to the Holy Island (Iona), and gave peace and safety to all men there. It is told that the king opened the door of Columba’s church there, but did not go in, but instantly locked the door again, and said that no man should be so bold as to go into that church hereafter; which has been the case ever since. From there King Magnus sailed to Islay, where he plundered and burnt; and when he had taken that country he proceeded south around Kintyre, marauding on both sides in Scotland and Ireland, and advanced with his foray to Man, where he plundered. So says Bjorn Krephende: –

On Sandey’s plain our shield they spy: From Islay smoke rose heaven-high, Whirling up from the flashing blaze The king’s men over the island raise. South of Kintyre the people fled, Scared by our swords in blood dyed red, And our brave champion onward goes To meet in Man the Norseman’s foes.