The Voyage of the Norwegians Torulf and Egil To Estonia in 925

By Eddi Tomband

Their voyage was made in the time of King Eirik Bloodaxe to Kuraland on the north-east coast of Latvia. It gives a good picture of local life and conditions. But let the saga tell the tale:

“Another time Torulf and Egil sailed together in a big ship to the Baltic Sea, fought many battles and carried off much plunder. They sailed also to Kuraland. Here they held a truce for two weeks and traded with them during that time. After the truce, they fought and plundered again. Once they came to a big river. There they went ashore and divided into 12- men groups. Not far behind a forest was a village. They robbed it and killed so many that no-one could hope to fight against them. At night Torulf stopped his group in the forest, but Egil with his men didn’t turn up. It was dark and they couldn’t find each other.But Egil had walked with is 12 men through the whole forest and found another village.

Nearby was a farm with many buildings. The Norwegians rushed in at once. Nobody was to be seen. They took with them every kind of booty and nobody challenged them. On their way back, between the house and the forest, many men attacked them. There was a high wooden fence alongside the forest and Egil commanded his men to move along it all together, using it as a shield. The Kurlanders threw arrows and spears, but didn’t come close enough to fight hand- to-hand. But Egil’s men didn’t notice a cross-fence. It stopped them. There the Kurlanders attacked from both sides and all the Norwegians were  wounded and taken prisoner. They were taken back to the farm. The farmer was strong and rich. He wanted to kill them at once, but his son said that it would be better to wait until morning.  They were tied up and put into prison. Egil was tied hand and foot and bolted into a log-house.

The Kurlanders went to the dining hall where they ate and drank and had a merry feast. Egil got free from the ropes, freed the others, and started to look for a way out. On one side was a board-wall which they broke through and got into another log-walled room. From the other side they heard human voices. A trapdoor led down to a deep cellar. There they could see three men. They were three Danes – Aki with his two sons, whom the Kurlanders had taken prisoner the summer before. Aki said he had worked last winter on the farm and was treated well. But his sons didn’t want to be slaves and planned to escape. The plan was discovered and they were put into the cellar. Aki told the Norwegians to break through another wall to the corn-barn where the door was open. On Aki’s advice they went further to the loft-room, where the farmer usually slept. From the ladder leading up to the loft, they saw a light in the room and some servants making up beds. Some of the Norwegians rushed in, grabbed some weapons of which  there were plenty and killed all of them.  Every man armed himself well and in one cellar they found more silver and other treasure. Everybody took what he could; Egil even took with him a money chest. They stopped in the nearby forest. Egil set fire to the roof of the dining hall and the Norwegians hurried to the ships, where Egil demanded for himself the money chest full of silver”.

But not all the voyages had a happy ending. The worst fate befell the sons of Norwegian King Harald Fairhair. One of his twin sons, Haldan the White, was killed in battle against the Estonians.