Stavoren is in ieder geval één keer geplunderd door de Vikingen. Dit gebeurde in het jaar 991, zo blijkt uit de Hildesheim Annalen. Letterlijk staat daar, onder het betreffende jaar:
“Piratae etiam Staverun depredando vastaverunt aliaque in litore loca perdiderunt.”
(transcriptie door George Waitz 1878)
Los vertaald staat hier zoiets als ‘de piraten verwoestten ook Stavoren om het te plunderen, net als andere plaatsen langs de kust.’.
We weten verder weinig over deze plundertocht van de Vikingen. Waar de plunderende Vikingen precies vandaan kwamen is onduidelijk. Een aantal historici zeggen dat de Noorse koning Olaf Trygvason verantwoordelijk was voor de plunderingen. Zo staat er in de Heimskringla, een verzameling saga’s opgeschreven door de 13e eeuwse IJslandse dichter Snorri Sturluson, dat koning Olaf een aantal jaar daarvoor geplunderd had in Friesland:
Olaf’s Journey from Vindland
Olaf Trygvason was three years in Vindland (A.D. 982-984) when Geira his queen fell sick, and she died of her illness. Olaf felt his loss so great that he had no pleasure in Vindland after it. He provided himself, therefore, with warships, and went out again a plundering, and plundered first in Frisland, next in Saxland, and then all the way to Flaemingjaland (Flanders). So says Halfred Vandredaskald: —
“Olaf’s broad axe of shining steel
For the shy wolf left many a meal.
The ill-shaped Saxon corpses lay
Heaped up, the witch-wife’s horses’ prey.
She rides by night: at pools of blood.
Where Frisland men in daylight stood,
Her horses slake their thirst, and fly
On to the field where Flemings lie.
The raven-friend in Odin’s dress —
Olaf, who foes can well repress,
Left Flemish flesh for many a meal
With his broad axe of shining steel.”
Een levendige beschrijving van een plundertocht van de Vikingen in Frisia staat ook in Egils Saga; een IJslandse saga over het leven van een 10e eeuwse boer en Viking: Egill Skallagrimsson. De saga is waarschijnlijk tussen 1220 en 1240 door Snorri Sturluson geschreven. De beschrijving van Friesland in het onderstaande stuk slaat waarschijnlijk op Oost-Friesland, tussen de Wezer en Elbe (huidig Duitsland).
(Vertaling van het Oud-Noors naar het Engels door W.C. Green, 1893)
But Arinbjorn and Egil with the war-ships held a southward course along the coast; then took their force still southwards to Saxland, where they harried in the summer and got wealth. As autumn came on they came back northward harrying, and lay off Friesland. One night when the weather was calm they went up a large river-mouth, where was bad harbourage, and the ebb of the tide was great. There up on land were wide flats with woods hard by. The fields were soaked because there had been much rain. They resolved to go up there, and left behind a third of their force to guard the ships. They followed up the river, keeping between it and the woods. Soon they came to a hamlet where dwelt several peasants. The people ran out of the hamlet into the fields, such as could do so, when they perceived the enemy, but the freebooters pursued them. Then they came to a second village, and a third; all the people fled before them. The land was level, flat fields everywhere, intersected by dykes full of water. By these the corn-lands or meadows were enclosed; in some places large stakes were set, and over the dyke, where men should go, were bridges and planks laid. The country folk fled to the forest. But when the freebooters had gone far into the settled parts, the Frisians gathered them in the woods, and when they had assembled three hundred men, they went against the freebooters resolved to give them battle. There was then some hard fighting; but the end was that the Frisians fled and the freebooters pursued the fugitives. The peasants that escaped were scattered far and wide, and so were their pursuers. Thus it happened that on either side few kept together.
Egil was hotly pursuing, and a few with him, after a numerous company that fled. The Frisians came to a dyke, over which they went, and then drew away the bridge. Then came up Egil and his men on the other bank. Egil at once went at the dyke and leapt it, but it was no leap for other men, and no one tried it. But when the Frisians saw that but one man was following, they turned back and attacked him, but he defended himself well, and used the dyke to cover him behind so that they could not attack him on all sides. Eleven men set on him, but the end of their encounter was that he slew them all. After that Egil pushed out the bridge over the dyke, and crossed it back again. He then saw that all his people had turned back to the ships. He was then near the wood, and he now went along the wood towards the ships so that he had the choice of the wood if he needed its shelter. The freebooters had brought down to the shore much booty and cattle. And when they came to the ships, some slaughtered the cattle, some carried out the plunder to the ships, some stood higher up and formed a shield-burgh; for the Frisians were come down in great force and were shooting at them, being also in battle array. And when Egil came down and saw how matters stood, he ran at full speed right at the throng. His halberd he held before him grasped in both hands, and slung his shield behind his back. He thrust forward his halberd, and all before him started aside, and so gat he a passage right through their ranks. Thus he dashed down to his men, who looked on him as recovered from the dead.
Then they went on ship-board, and loosed from land. They sailed then to Denmark.