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18. Gorm the Old
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19. Denmarks's History - Harald Bluetooth

Introduction - Harald Bluetooth - The Viking Ring Fortresses - Ravning Bridge - Kovirke - The Jelling Site - Harald in Normandy - Denmark and Norway - Jomsborg - Denmark and Sweden - Denmark and the Holy Roman Empire - Harald Bluetooth's Death and Burial - Links og Litterature

Introduction

Harald Bluetooth belonged to the royal line the Knytlings. He united the eastern kingdom on the islands and Scania, which Ottar called Denemearce, with his own Knytlinge kingdom in Jutland.
Timeline of history of Denmark
Timeline of history of Denmark based on Royal dynasties - They all descend from "Hardegon, the son of a certain Sven" that captured at least part of Denmark around the year 917. It is of advantage to divide the list of kings and thereby Denmark's history into some manageable groups or dynasties, as it gives a good overview.
The Knytlings have got their navn from Hardecnut, søn of Hardegon. He is called Knud I and was father of Gorm the Old. Magnus the Good was the son of the Norwegian Catholic saint, Olav the Holy; His reign appears as an interregnum to the rule of Svend Estridsen and his sons and grandsons. Svend Estridsen was the grandson of Svend Tveskæg.
The rivaling kings, Sven, Knud and Valdemar, were all the candidates for kingship descending from Svend Estridsen, but the period appears as an interregnum to the period of the Valdemars.
Many historians, probably most, only considers Valdemar I the Great, his son Knud VI and Valdemar II Sejr (victory) as the Valdemars. But no one has a patent on the definition, and it seems the author natural and appropriate also to include their direct male descendants - including Erik IV Plovpenning, Abel and Christoffer I - until Christoffer II, who was the last king before the period without king.
Valdemar IV Atterdag was not a union king, but it was his daughter Margrete I and his grandson Oluf. You could say that Valdemar IV Atterdag laid the foundations of the Kalmar Union with Norway and Sweden.
The first kings of the dynasty of the Oldenborgs were also Union kings but only for short periods.
The Oldenborg line died out with the childless Frederik VII in 1863. The throne was then taken over by Christian IX of Glücksborg.

The Knytlings The royal line of the Knytlings - Adam recounts Hardegon, son of Sven, and a little later Hardecnudt Wurm. Some historians believe that a "filius" are omitted from Adams text, so that it should have been Hardecnudt filius Wurm, meaning Wurm, Hardecnudt's son. It is supported by that Canute IV the Holy in his donation letter to the cathedral in Lund from 1085 calls himself Knud IV, from which it follows that there must have been a Knud I or a Hardeknud I, prior to Gorm, which Adam also tells. The author believes that the names Hardegon and Hardecnudt is too different and not the same person.


Many believe that Harald Bluetooth became king in Jelling in 958, when his father, Gorm the Old, died. At some point thereafter he managed to be elected as king also on Sjælland and the rest of eastern Denmark. In partnership with his friend and ally Haakon Jarl he also became king of Norway for a period.

In his time the large constructions the Viking Ring Fortresses, The Jelling site and Ravning Bridge were built and Danevirke was reinforced. He founded the fortress Jomsborg on the southern shore of the Baltic, probably in the Oder estuary, where he is believed to have had a certain domination. He erected the great Jelling stone in memory of his parents Gorm and Thyra, on which he wrote that he made the Danes Christians.

Harald died in battle against his rebellious son Svein Forkbeard between the years 985 and 987.

Harald Bluetooth

In most sagas he is known as Harald Gormson. The nickname Bluetooth first appears in the Roskilde Chronicle; we must believe that it is due to a tooth with a root problem, which was slightly darker than the others. To the author's knowledge there are not handed down other direct descriptions of how he looked like.

sonder Vissing rune stone
Rune stone found in sonder Vissing west of Skanderborg. The text reads: "Tove, Mistivis daughter, Harald the Good, Gorm's son's wife, did make Kuml after her mother." The stone was found in the cemetery dyke, where it served as side stone to the gate. Photo Roberto Fortuna, commisioned by the Danish National Museum - Wikipedia.

On a rune stone found in sonder Vissing he is called "Harald the Good". The historian Palle Lauring believed that this epithet refers to particular religious achievements, and it is derived from the old name for a man with a religious responsibility at a pagan cult site, a "gode". Harald shares the nickname with Magnus the Good, who was the son of a Catholic saint and also a devout Christian.

It is striking that no one in the sagas felt the urge to praise Harald's skills in sport and games, his beauty and eloquence, which was otherwise customary for kings. We remember the sagas' description of his sister Gunhild as: "The most beautiful among women, but small in stature." Harald may have been a slender type as his sister, not very big or strong, nor particularly outgoing and articulate, but cunning, unrelenting and uncompromising - like his sister.

The somewhat later Knytlinge Saga admittedly says: "Very wise, he was not (Knud the Great), any more than King Svend, whom he in all was like, or as before Harald and Gorm, who neither were particular wise." But Widukind, who was his contemporary, says of Harald Bluetooth: "He was eager to listen, dilatory to speak."

It is known that King Harald had a big brother named Knud, who was Gorm's, his father's, favorite. He fell, however, on a raid on England or Ireland, and therefore he did not become king. The great saga of Olaf Tryggvesson says that he was nicknamed Dana-ast: "With his wife Tyra he begat two sons, of whom the eldest was called Knud, the youngest Harald. Knud Gormsson was the most wonderful man you had ever seen; he was already in his childhood so kind and polite that the king loved him above all others, and besides, he was liked by all the people, so that everyone loved him dearly; he was also called Knud Dana-ast, it is: the Danes' love. Harald was like his maternal kinsmen, and his mother Tyra loved him as much as Knud."
The big Jelling stone's three sides
The big Jelling stone's three sides. Harald Bluetooth erected the great Jelling Stone. It is believed that the stone's motifs originally have been colored. From left to right:
The widest part is reserved for the inscription: "King Harald ordered this stone made after Gorm his father and Thyra his mother that Harald who won - "
- On the second side the text continues: " - the whole of Denmark and Norway - " together with an animal fighting against a snake. We can guess that the animal is a lion; it looks a bit special, because the artist most likely had rather vague notions about how a lion looks like. This motif can be found from Gansu and Qinghai in modern China over the Asia Minor to several finds in Scandinavia and England, including the London animal and as here on the Jelling stone. Until now it has not been possible to identify a myth or story that illustrates the motif.
Perhaps the motif is a kind coat of arms of the Knytlinge lineage. We can believe that the snake is a symbol of the forces of evil, just think of the Midgard Worm and the snake that tempted Eve in the Bible. The author recalls no noble coat of arms, which includes a snake as the main motif. The lion on the other hand represents the brave, the noble and righteous and appeares on numerous nobles and royal coats of arms.
- On a third side the text continues: "- and made the Danes Christians," together with a Christ-like figure with outstretched arms, as bound with some ribbons. There is not shown any cross, and his expression is determined, it is not the suffering Christ. It may be Odin hanging in the tree sacrified to himself, or it might be Jesus on the cross. In the context, we must believe that he is Jesus. We can also imagine that he looks like Harald himself and the motif also expresses that he had acted forced and bound by the objective historical necessity for the sake of Denmark - a sort of apology to his parents for having arranged their grandchildren killed and put the Knytlinge Royal line opposed to the people due to extensive forced labor.
The Jelling monuments are Unesco world heritage.

Harald's father, Gorm the Old, ruled in all probability only a part of, what now is Denmark, perhaps Jylland and Fyn. While Sjælland, Scania and nearby islands were called Denmark. Thyra was a princess from that Denmark, which made her sons of royal Danish blood; therefore Knud's epithet could have represented Gorm's hope that his eldest son would be elected king also in eastern Denmark. It is easy to see that Dana-ast means: Dana - as (Aesir) - aet (kin); Dana from his mother's and As from his father's kin.

Urnes Stave Church's north portal
Urnes Stave Church's north portal. Here is also the motif an animal that fights against a snake. Photo: Aase og Thorkilds hjemmeside.

Saxo tells about Knud's death: "And after having enriched themselves by getting much prey on viking raids, they put with the greatest bravery their hopes on attacking Ireland. While they besieged Dublin, which was said to be the country's capital, the king went with a few people, who were extremely good in archery, into a forest that was near the town. Here was Knud with a large number of his warriors occupied by watching plays, which was held at nighttime; and the king surrounded him then in such a deceitful manner and shot from far away an arrow against him, it hit him in the chest and gave him a fatal wound."

The big saga of Olaf Tryggveson tells that the king's sons Knud and Harald sailed on an expedition to Nordhumberland, and there Knud fell while swimming in the sea: "After him came Adelbrikt; he was a good king, and grew old. At the end of his days an army of Danes came to England, led by the brothers Knud and Harald, Gorm hin Old's sons. They raided widely in Nordhumberland, and subjugated a large piece of land claimed that they were entitled to the entire country, which Lodbrog's sons and many of their ancestors had possessed. King Adelbrikt gathered a large army, and received them, and met them on the north of Klifland (Cleveland), where he killed many Danes. Shortly after Gorm's sons went up at Skardeborg (Scarborough) and delivered battle, and they were victorious. Then they went against south down the coast and intended to go to Jorvik; all the people submitted to them, so they now no danger feared any longer. Now it happened that one day was warm and sunny, and the men jumped out from the ships and swam; and because now the kings were out swimming, people ran down from the land and shot on them. Knud then was hit by an arrow and killed; and his men took the body, and lifted it up into the ship. But when the people of the country experienced that, there at once gathered a great army; and as now King Adelbrikt came, all the people, who before had submitted to the Danes, turned to him; and now the Danes could not manage to make landfall anywhere, because the people were gathered, but sailed back home to Denmark."

Gunhild motivates her sons
Gunhild motivates her sons to kill Sigurd Jarl, Haakon Jarl's father. Drawing Halvdan Egedius.

But before his death, Knud had a son named Harald, who later in his life was called Gold-Harald because of all the gold that he had scraped together during his Viking raids. He should later become a problem for Harald.

Harald Bluetooth also had a sister named Gunhild; following Historia Norwegiae she married the Norwegian King Harald Fairhair's eldest son, Erik. That she really was the daughter of Gorm and Thyra is confirmed by that she called one of her many sons Gorm, which otherwise was a rare name. Besides the case that her sons was called for Gunhild's sons - and only sometimes for Erik's sons - indicates that the mother was of particularly distinguished lineage.

Erik quickly got the nickname Bloodaxe, and he became king of Norway after his father, but he acted so violently toward his brothers that the Norwegians chased him away after a few years. He then went on Viking expeditions, and Erik and Gunhild became king and queen of York. Erik Bloodaxe fell in the Battle of Stainmore in the year 954, and that ended the Vikings rule in York, and Queen Gundhild and her many sons fled to Orkney. Gundhild was accused of being sorceress.

Gunhild's sons were then Harald Bluetooth's nephews. They went to Denmark and later to Norway in the beginning with help from their Danish uncle, killing their fathers brother, Haakon Adelstensfostre and divided Norway between them. The rule of Gunhild sons was a bloody, difficult and poor time for Norway.

The Gunhild sons' Saga
The Eirik Sons' Saga is part of Heimskringla. They were sons of Erik Bloodaxe and Gunhild and then Harald Bluetooth's nephews. They are often called the Gunhild sons. Drawing Halvdan Egedius.

Adam says that Harald Bluetooth's wife was called Gunhild, and they had a son, who was baptized Sven Otto: "Harold himself received immediately after baptism together with his wife Gunhild and their young son, whom our king stood godfather naming him Svein Otto." Later he repeats this with the words: "The memory of him and his wife Gunnhild will live forever among us." This son is confirmed by both Knytlinge Saga as well as Heimskringla: "People say that Emperor Otto was godfather to Svein, son of King Harald, and he gave him his name, so he was baptized Otto Svein."

Saxo, on the other hand, says that Sven's mother was named Gyrithe. He recounts that Harald married Gyrithe, who was the daughter of the Swedish King Bjoern and sister of Styrbjoern, who was Haralds first chief of Julin, which may be the beginning of Jomsborg: "It is reported that Harold had two sons with Gyrithe. The oldest Hakon outshone his brother Svend by his admirable talents and glorious gifts of nature. However, the admirable Hakon attacked the Semberians with his men, and they became so impressed by the Semberian women that they chose never to return home" - "stucking to the foreign women by bigger desire" - "and the Semberians think not wrongly that they have descended from the Danish people." The Semberians country is considered to be Samland, which is the Zemlandsky Peninsula near Kaliningrad.

Harald order runestone to be fetched
Harald orders runestone to be dragged - Illustration to Saxo made by Louis Moe.

However, it is firmly proved that Harald's queen was named Tove; it is attested by something as solid as a rune stone, namely the above mentioned rune-stone from sonder Vissing: "Tove, Mistivis daughter, Harald the Good, Gorm's son's wife, did make Kuml after her mother." It can not be misunderstood.

It is striking that Harald's first queen, according to Adam, was named Gunhild, as his sister and also later Svend Forkbeard's queen. There is the possibility that Adam or his source has mixed up the names; he wrote almost one hundred years after the events. Harald would thus first have been married to Gyrithe and later to Tove.

As mentioned above, Adam and several sagas state that King Harald and Queen Gunhild or Gyrithe had a son named Svend Otto, who thus was born in wedlock.

Conversely, in Olav Tryggvesson's Saga Hakon Jarl says to Gold-Harald: "First receive this kingdom (Norway). King Harald is old and has only one son, he is not particularly fond of him, and he is also born out of wedlock."

Jomsvikinge Saga recounts that the king made love with a peasant girl on Fyn, "large in stature and with a manly appearance", named Aesa. She gave birth to a boy, who was named Svend. The king refused to acknowledge the child, but Palnatoke received the mother and the boy and brought him up as his own son.

Thyra Haraldsdaughter cries
Thyra Haraldsdaughter cries and asks Olav Tryggvason to go to Venden and get her properties there back. This raid became King Olav's death, as his many enemies lay in wait for him behind the island of Svold.

We know from later Danish history that it was very common that the kings had sons with women all over the country, just think of Svend Estridsen. Therefore, it is very likely that Harold had a son out of wedlock on the island of Fyn named Svend. He does not have to be the same as that Sven Otto, who was baptized with the emperor as godfather.

Adam mentions a third or fourth son, named Hiring: "England remained as above annotated, and as it is written in the English chronicles, after Gudreds death from his sons Anlaf, Sigtryg and Reinald to count, nearly 100 years under the rule of the Danes. But then Harald sent his son Hiring with an army to England. He subjugated the island, but was eventually betrayed and killed by the Northumbrians." No sagas or other chronicles mentions Hiring.

In addition, Harald Bluetooth had two daughters named Gunhild and Thyra.

Gunhild married Pallig Tokesen Earl of Devonshire in England. She was killed with her husband in the Skt. Brictus' day massacre, which took place November 13, in the year 1002, when the English King Ethelred 2. gave the order to kill all Danes in England.

Thyra Haraldsdaughter was, according to Olav Tryggvessons Saga, married to Burislav King of the Vends, but she ran away and traveled secretly to Norway and married to Olav Tryggvason against her brother's, Sven Forkbeard, will. Harald Bluetooth must have got her in a very late time in his life.

The Viking Ring Fortresses

In 1934, motorcycle enthusiasts in Slagelse applied for permission to use a ring shaped dyke in some distance from the town at a place called Trelleborg as training course. In connection with the authorities' handling of the application an archeological survey was performed, which revealed that the place really was a Viking Age fortress.

In order to remedy unemployment in the postwar period in 1945, the government initiated an excavation of Aggersborg north of the Limfjord at Loegstoer.

Trelleborg at Slagelse
Lay out of Trelleborg at Slagelse. Trelleborg has been dated to the years 980 - 981. Photo: Instoria rivista online di storia & informazione.

The archaeologist Poul Norlund pointed out already in 1948, a noticeable similarity between Trelleborg and the over-plowed ring dyke called Fyrkat located on a small promontory in Onsild river valley near Hobro. But first, in 1950 the National Museum and Hobro Municipality started a real excavation. The fortress has been dated to the years 979 - 981.

Only Trelleborg, Aggersborg and Fyrkat are clear examples of Viking ring-shaped Trelleborg-type fortifications, although there are detected several other ring shaped dykes in Scandinavian from same time, which may be - or even probably - have been of this or very similar type.

Compared to other northern European ring-forts the Trelleborg-types are generally characterized by:

- The very accurate geometric shape of the circular rampart and the surrounding ditch, the inner buildings and wood-paved streets from port to port.
- The location and the perfect geometrical shape of the whole installation without any adaptation to the surrounding terrain.
- The location of the four gates with only a few degrees deviation from the four compass directions.
- The surrounding circular ditch with V-profile.
- They roofed gates.
- The inclined outer side of the rampart ring, protected by vertical oak planks.
Graphic reconstruction of a viking ring fortress
Graphic reconstruction of a viking ring fortress. Unfortunately, unknown artist. Photo: forum.paradoxplaza.com.

The ramparts and the surrounding ditches do not differ many cm from the perfect circle and the inner streets were as build after a string. All three fortresses have been safely dated to about the year 980.

Valloe Borgring
Borrering also called Valloe Borgring near Koege. Graphic processed satellite photo. Photo danskebjerge - Wikipedia.

Aggersborg's excavator, architect Schultz, noted that: "They must carefully had followed firm incorporated military regulations", which were implemented consistently without regard to the surrounding natural terrain. The result could only be reached "with strict discipline and superior expert leadership" and he transfered rightly this to include the Viking raids' "amazing results in general." These facilities required such a concentration of power, organizational skills and superior technical mathematical culture that "sweeps all previous imaginations of the Vikings' simple and primitive organization off the table."

In addition to these initial three well-known Viking ring fortresses clear traces of several other ring forts have been found: Nonnebakken in Odense was originally detected on old engravings of the city of Odense. Borg Ring at Koege, also called Valloe Borgring, has recently been found using new, precise laser measurements of the landscape.
Copper engraving of Odense from 1598
Copper engraving of the city of Odense, Braun & Hogenberg from 1598: "Civitates Episcopalis Othenarum". In the very bottom slightly to the left is the round viking fortress called Nundeborrig. In the picture it has only two ports.

The ring fortresses in Trelleborg and Borgeby in Scania were first found in 1988 and 1997. Trelleborg in Scania has been partially rebuilt, a quarter of the fortress has been reconstructed with palisades, gate and a medieval house inside the courtyard. In 1997 a circular rampart was detected in Borgeby, probably another Scanian ring fort. However, the place has not yet been fully investigated.

In the area north of the city of Lille Hammar, on the western shore of Foteviken in Scania - only 10 km from Trelleborg - infrared satellite recordings have for quite recently found traces of a ring-shaped fortress with a diameter of 240 m, which shows great similarity with Aggersborg.

Trelleborg in Scania
The reconstructed Trelleborg in Scania during wintertime - Photo: Photorator

Inspired by old engravings and recent excavations yet another Scanian viking ring fortress has been detected in Helsingborg.

A satellite image from Lyby in Rygge, oestfold in Norway has exposed a circle of 140 m in diameter, that may be a ring fortress.

The legendary Jomsborg was also built by Harald Bluetooth. No one know with certaincy, where it was located, and there is not handed down detailed descriptions of how it looked like. But from the same period have been found so many ring fortresses, then one must assume that also Jomsborg was a ring fortress. Many believe that this stronghold was located in the Oder estuary, for example, near the modern Polish town of Wolin.

All these fortresses were built on the same template during a surprisingly short period of time under a ruler with great power, organizational skills, and not least great economic resources, as these projects must have required an army of workers, large quantities of timber and many talented carpenters and supplies for all of these. Some of the viking ring fortresses have been dated to the year 980, and there can be no doubt that the ruler, who ordered them built, was king Harald Bluetooth.

Attila's camp
The old circular Celtic rampart at La Cheppe, called "Le Camp d'Attila". It is assumed that this was the Katalunian fields, where the battle between Attila and the last Roman Aetius and the Western Goths took place. - Photo Patrimoine Culturel.

Circular ramparts were not something very special in Northern Europe in the early Middle Ages. It is believed that only in Ireland, South Wales and Cornwall are registered well over 50,000 circular ramparts, which were in use up to around the year 1000.

Some ancient Celtic cities were fortified with a circular rampart, such as "Le Camp d'Attila" near la Cheppe in northern France.

On the island of Walcheren in the river Schelde's delta remains of as many as five ring forts from the 800's years have been found. They are called Oost Souburg, Middelburg, Domburg, Burgh Haamstede bij and Oostburg. Oost Souburg has been excavated and reconstructed; it has been dated to around the year 850. The ring dyke is strictly circular with an inner diameter of roughly the same size as Trelleborg onSjælland. It had wood paved cross streets and probably four gates, of which only two has been excavated. The fortress was surrounded by water-filled ditches. Remains of buildings have been identified, but not in four-winged blocks as in the Danish fortresses.

Oost-Souburg ring castle
Aerial view of the reconstructed ring castle in Oost-Souburg. Photo: Stichting Cultureel Erfgoed Zeeland.

Walcheren is known as a stronghold for Vikings; Therefore, the circular ramparts, especially of Oost Souburg, may well have been built by Scandinavians. Many Viking fortresses were located on islands or promontories in estuaries. Rollo and his men first settled in the Seine estuary, Hastings and Bjoern Ironside departed on an expedition in the Mediterranean Sea from a base in the mouth of the river Loire. Walcheren in the Schelde estuary would have been a perfect base for Vikings.

In fact, ring fortresses from that time have been found all over Northern Europe. In Brittany is Camp de Péran, which is also believed to have been built by vikings. In Ditmarsken is Stellerburg from the Iron Age or early Viking period. Lembecksborg on the island of Föhr has a diameter of 140 m and a 10 m high ring rampart.

Ismantorps Borg, Eketorp and Graaborg on Öland are all ring forts, which have been in use in the Viking Age. The huge fortress on Gotland, Torsburgen, is a kind of ring fortress, but the rampart's form is far from a perfect circle.

Estonia has the ring fort Varbola 60 km south of Tallin from around the years 1000 to 1200.
Inside diameter of ring fortresses Camp de Péran
Left: Inside diameter of different ring fortresses. Some from Wikipedia or other sources on the internet, some calculated from area declarations or estimated from photographs or sketches by the author.
Right: Aerial photo of Camp de Péran in Brittany - Photo Maurice Gautier og Philippe Guigon.

In Obodrit area are many ring fortresses, which has been used for a long time. One of the largest concentrations of Slavic ring fortresses is located in the area Launitz, about 100 km south of Berlin, where remains of nearly 40 circular fortresses from the Viking Age have been documented, each surrounded by a water-filled ditch. However, only few of them have completely circular shape. The inner diameters are between 50 and 100 m.

Bökelnburg
The Ring Fortress Bökelnburg in the town of Burg about 10 km. north of Brunsbuttel at the Elbe estuary. A cemetery has been arranged in the fortress' interior. Photo: Cultural Entities Schleswig-Holstein.

Some Danish historians have sought to explain the Scandinavian ring fortresses that the Vikings took inspiration from the caliph's Baghdad, which was surrounded by a circular wall. As you can see from the above examples there is no need at all to look so far away to find inspiration. The Danes have built ring fortresses ever since the Roman Iron Age.

In Denmark circular fortresses were built already in Roman Iron Age, such as Troldborg Ring west of Vejle, Hagenshoej north of Skive and Smoel Vold north of Broager. They can not compare with the later Viking fortresses, but it is interesting that ring fortresses very early were a tradition in Denmark.

Amminius wrote that when Emperor Valnes' legions year 378 approached the Gothic wagon fort at Hadrianople, "the wagons were arranged in a perfect circle; as made on a lathe." This shows that Germanic military leaders very early wanted to utilize that the circle is the geometric figure in which the circumference is shortest with respect to the internal area.

Esefeld
Layout of Esefeld at Itzehoe north of the Elbe. As one can see it was far from perfect circular. There has been a railway running right through it. Photo: Instant Trout Company.

The Franks built a circular fortress in Holstein in the area north of the Elbe called Esefeld. In the year 817 it was attacked by Danes and Obodrits led by Godfred's sons. The fortress held out but the Franks abandoned it a few years later and established instead themselves in a newly built fort at the Elbe, Hammarburg, which was located 60 km further south. On that occasion Danes must have experienced that ring fortresses can be hard to take.

The viking ring fortresses are something of a mystery. They are so large and so many, and they must have been impossible to overlook the landscape in the early Middle Ages. But still they are not mentioned with a single word, not by Saxo, not by Snorre or any other saga, legend or history. It's like the Chinese terra-cotta soldiers that are unique, but also not mentioned in any historical sources.

We feel no doubt that all the other ring fortresses in Northern Europe have been defense fortresses, which should either protect the population in case of attack or keep an area in a king's hand. It was for example typically the case with Esefeld which clearly was aimed to establish and maintain the emperor's power in the area north of the Elbe.

Fyrkat
Aerial view of Fyrkat at Hobro - Photo vikingeborge.dk

There has been much discussion about, what the purpose of Viking ring fortresses might have been. Some believe that they were training camps for the army, which was to conquer England, others believe that they were forced fortresses, which purpose was to maintain Harald Bluetooth's power over the newly unified Denmark. However, many are inclined to the view that they were defensive fortresses, which were meant to defend the country against a potential imperial crusade against North.

The famous archaeologist Poul Noerlund leaned to the theory that the fortresses were training camps and winter quarters for the army, which was intended for attacks on England. To this we must say that they have been very expensive training camps. It sounds incredible that they had spent so large amounts of labor and oak timber and peeled the turf of so many hectares of fertile arable land to make training camps; since there was no danger that the Angles would attack the unprepared warriors an early morning. Furthermore, no sources tell that time armies needed training. The sagas tell only that the king ordered leding, that is maritime warfare, and he rallied the army or navy. It was assumed that all adult men were able to use weapons, and that they already had weapons and knowledge to use them.

Viking ring fortress in Helsingborg
Viking ring fortress in Helsingborg - Plan for fortification of Helsingborg from 1644. Note the semi-circle to the left supposedly with a thinner paralel line outside this. The circle is complemented by a dashed line below. The St. Clemens Church is indicated by a cross. Drawing supplied by Margareta Weidhagen-Hallerdt.

In several articles it is repeated that they were forced fortresses, showplaces or symbols of power, which should ensure the various provinces loyalty to a tyrannical monarchy. But this theory also has problems.

In the last century, Great Britain as a whole had the financial capacity to maintain the smaller area, Northern Ireland, in the empire - involving military and police. After the Scanian wars Sweden had the overall economic capacity to hold the Scania provinces despite Snapphane guerilla activities. But to imagine that the Knytlings based on their original kingdom around Jelling in central Jylland should have the economic power to keep the rest of Denmark - which is a larger area - in an iron grip by forced fortresses is clearly unrealistic.

There is no reports that Harald subjugated eastern Denmark with "violence and weapons" as Svend Estridsen reported that the Svea king Olaph did. On the contrary, Saxo tells that Harald inherited the kingdom.

Aggersborg at Limfjorden
Lay-out of Aggersborg at Limfjorden. It were the greatest of all Viking ring fortresess. As in all the other fortresses there are four main streets from the center and leading to each of the four gates in the four compass directions. The gates were roofed. Between rampart and the grave was about 8 meters. In between the houses in each quadrant of the circle were several small cross streets. It is believed by some that in the 48 longhouses was room for about 5,000 men. Aggersborg has a strategic location as the fjord in the viking period was open for navigation between the Kattegat and the North Sea like today. Moreover Aggersborg was located at one of ancient army road's three passes over the Limfjorden - Drawing: Statsministerium fur Wissenschaft und Kunst Freistat Sachsen.

Therefore, all other ring fortresses in Northern Europe appear clearly as defense fortresses; why should it be different with the Danish Viking ring fortresses? Ever since Godfred sons' days the Danish kings' policy in relation to the imperial Germany had alternated between strength and appeasement. The Viking ring fortresses must have been an element of demonstration of military force, and receiving Christian missionaries and acceptance of Christianity have been elements of cooperation and appeasement.

None of Harald's impressive buildings show signs that they ever have been repaired; they were only allowed to live a very short period. After 20 years, all the ring fortresses were abandoned and destroyed. Fyrkat was destroyed by a fire and never rebuilt. Only Jomsborg had a little longer lifetime. It was first destroyed by Magnus the Good around the year 1043.

Excavations have shown that only a few of the buildings were inhabited in the lifetime of the fortresses, the rest were apparently used as workshops and warehouses.

Skjold found at Trelleborg near Slagelse
Skjold found at Trelleborg near Slagelse. It is made of pine felled in Norway - Foto Pinterest.

A full manning of all the fortresses in peacetime would probably also have been expensive and unaffordable, and it was not necessary. A hostile army approaching from the south, would have a cruise speed of perhaps about 20 km a day, and it would give ample time to mann and supply the fortresses from the local area.

Recent isotope analysis of skeletal material from 48 individuals from the excavation of Trelleborg showed that 32 were born outside South Scandinavia. The three women studied were all originally from abroad, and the younger men originated primarily from either Norway or the Slavic area. We must believe that they were professionals, the basic crew of the fortress, who was in the king's service.

There came no new attack from the Emperor, and the fortresses were never tested in combat. Therefore, we believe that the fortresses fulfilled their mission and acted discouragingly to a possible imperial crusade against Scandinavia.

The Ravning Bridge

In connection with the drainage of Ravning Meadows and straightening of the river Vejle aa in the latter half of the 1900's, rows of oak posts were discovered, which rose up in the terrain. The draining of the moist meadows removed the water, and made the meadow's surface level to sink. In several places the surface level has sunk more than a meter since the 1950's.

Ravning Enge Bridge
Artistic presentation of the Ravning Bridge, which gives a good illustration of its construction. Unfortunately, unknown artist - Billed Galleri Mille & Soeren.

A 760 m long and 5 m wide bridge of solid oak rose from the the mud. It crossed the marshy river valley at Ravning ten kilometers south of Jelling. The wood consumption and consumption of manpower have been enormous.

Careful dendro-chronological examinations of the tree rings in the wood have shown that the trees have been felled around the years 979 - 980, during which time Harald Bluetooth was king of Denmark. It was thus built in the same period as the Viking ring fortresses, and its construction exhibit the same championship in precision and symmetry and uncompromising lack of adaptation to the surrounding terrain.
Ravning Enge Bridge
Reconstruction of the bridge's location at Ravning across the widest part of Vejle river valley. Photo: Malcolm Bott.

The archaeological excavations have shown that the bridge itself was very precisely built, taking in consideration the tools available. Each span consisted of four vertical posts that supported a horizontal cross-member, the outer vertical posts were further supported by inclined struts. Rope tied to hazel rods had guided the bridge builders with such accuracy that the greatest deviation from a straight line in the location location of the vertical posts are 5 cm. This accuracy made the excavation in 1972 easy because the archaeologists always knew exactly, where the next span had to be found.

Cross section of the bridge span, respectively the Ravning Bridge and a similar but smaller bridge at Risby
Cross section of the bridge span, respectively the Ravning Bridge and a similar but smaller bridge at Risby between Koebnhavn and Roskilde. From "Dagligliv i Middelalderen" by Else Roesdal.

The transverse frames were located with about 2.4 m distance with variations of up to half a meter. In the longitudinal direction the bridge frames were connected by the longitudinal girders, and on top of these were fitted the bridge deck, which was made of multiple layers of half a meter wide planks; everything were joined with wooden nails.

It is assumed that the 1,120 tapered bridge pillars was lowered into the water until they reached solid ground and then cut off at the top in the same level. It sounds simple, but it is probably not, as oak has buoyancy.

Three mysteries are connected to Ravning Bridge:

- This magnificent piece of engineering became forgotten after a few years. Archaeologists have estimated its lifespan to five years. It was never repaired or maintained; probably it has been completely useless after a few decades. Despite the zealous perfectionistic diligence that to the full measure was used in its construction, no evidence have been found that it has ever been repaired - just like the Viking ring fortresses. It is not mentioned in any chronicles or sagas; one gets the idea that the ancients were ashamed of it.
View of Ravning Enge
View of Ravning Enge. There is not much to see; the remains of the bridge has again been covered with soil. It is the broad stripe of green grass slightly to the right in the picture. In the foreground is a reconstruction of a few spans done by Vejle Museum in cooperation with the Cultural Heritage Authority and Nature Agency. Photo: Malcolm Bott.

- The bridge is very oversized. What has it been used for? The carrying capacity has been designed for an axle load of 5 tons.

- It does not represent a shortcut. A large bridge over the marshy Vejle Valley should aim to save north-south travelers - included armies - big detours and days of travel. But travelers in the Jutland longitudinal direction could just as well have used the ancient Army Road, which is dry and smooth and runs only 10 kilometers west of the Ravning Bridge.

Access road on the north side of Ravning Bridge
Access road on the north side of Ravning Bridge. On the north side of the bridge were found carriage-roads covered with stone and branches, and further up on the hill is a double sunken road. Excavations have shown that the road had been covered with paving stones with a soft middle part, where the horses could step. Photo: vikingeborge.dk

Several historians have suggested that the bridge was built as a kind of pastime; so that the hard physical work of building bridges should maintain discipline in the army. Against this must be objected that in Harald's time, by all accounts, had been no standing armies - except the household troops, which kings and other great men always surrounded themselves with.

It has also been suggested that Ravning Bridge was in fact a kind of pier for seagoing vessels, as the water level in the Worlds oceans back then was 0,5 to 1.0 m higher than today, as the Viking period was warmer than the present. It also seems unrealistic; even if Vejle aa really has been navigable at that time, there may not have been a need for 750 m. quay length.

It is also not entirely clear, who built the bridge. There is no doubt that the years 979 - 980 were in Harald Bluetooth's reign, but both Adam of Bremen and some sagas tell that Emperor Otto defeated Harald and the imperial army reached all the way to Limfjorden. One can imagine that Ravning Bridge was built by - or on the order of Emperor Otto. Against this - one can argue that the zealous perfectionism, which characterized the building, shows its kinship with the Viking ring fortresses. Besides, if it was an imperial bridge, you would expect to find remains of similar bridges in the emperor's home country, Germany, which the author does not know about.

Kovirke

Dannevirke is a system of defensive ramparts located some km north of the river Ejder. The defence dyke system connects the narrow fjord Slien with a wetland around Hollingstedt, which was impassable until modern times.
Danevirke
Dannevirke is not only one defence rampart, but a whole system of ramparts, built in the Iron Age and Viking time over a period of more than 500 years. In addition, the ramparts were improved and expanded in the 1860's. The oldest woodwork in the main rampart has been dated to the year 737. Photo: clioonline - historiefaget.

The most mysterious part of the Dannevirke system is Kovirke, which is the complete straight defence dyke, which cuts through the landscape from Selk Nor in the east to the wetland around Rheide aa. It fulfills its purpose with a length of only 6.5 km and thus is considerably more economical than the other sections of dykes.

Cross section of Kovirke
Cross section of Kovirke. The earth ramparts were 1.7 to 2.0 meters high and equipped with palisades, which also provided the parapet. The front was lined with a sloping plank coating. About 3.5 m in front of the rampart was a 4 meter wide and 3 meter deep pointed ditch. Photo: Graenseforeningen.

As for the viking ring fortresses and the Ravning Bridge the rampart is not mentioned directly in any sagas or chronicles. The Ryd Monestary's yearbook from the year 1200 refers to the defensive dyke for the first time: "The dyke that is called Kovirke".

Kovirke has been pretty safely dated to the years 980-983, which is simultaneously with the viking ring fortresses and Harald Bluetooth's reign. This dating is supported by the rampart's pronounced resemblance to the viking ring fortresses, suggesting the same builders. The rampart and ditch are with zealous perfectionism built in a completely straight line without any adaptation to the surrounding terrain.

Kovirke at Jagel Airfield
Kovirke and Kograv at Jagel Airfield. Foto: Volknei - Wikipedia.

Just like the Viking ring fortresses the Kovirke appears only to have been in use for a short time. It has only been maintained for a few years. The dyke is completely without later repairs, and in the ditch can not be traced dredging.

Kovirke is located 2 km south of Dannevirke Museum. A large part of it was demolished in connection with the construction of a military airfield in Jagel in 1935.

By analyzing growth rings of excavated timber it has been shown that Forbindelsesvolden further north were built or reinforced already in the years 964-968, in which year Harald was the King of Denmark. But he must have thought that it was not enough, and therefore he built also Kovirke, most likely in the year 983.

Also the semicircle ramparts around the trading towns of Haithabu and Aarhus have been built during Harald's reign.

The Jelling Site

Sagas, myths and chronicles tell much about the kings of Lejre onSjælland, while the Knytlings' royal seat of Jelling is hardly mentioned, although the large burial mounds and rune stones clearly testifies that the place was an important political center in the Viking Age.
Copper engraving of Jelling 1591
Governor of the duchies Henrik Rantzau ordered in 1591 an engraving of the monuments in Jelling made - the oldest known image of the mounds and the great Jelling stone. Notice that a stone is placed on the South Mound, which must be the small Jelling stone.

Only in the year 1185 Svend Aggesen mentions Jelling in his history of Denmark: " - When that illustrious queen along with her husband, the king, had finished her term of years, then their son Harald Bluetooth, who also inherited the crown, following his pagan ancestors' custom ordered both parents buried in two identical twin mounds as proud monuments, close to the kings' dwelling in Jelling."

Engraving from 1821 showing the burial chamber in the North Mound
In 1820 local peasants in Jelling found a timbered burial chamber of oak in the North Mound. In the middle can be seen the dividing plank, which divided the wide chamber into two parts, as it was designed for two persons. Engraving from 1821 after tuch drawing by H.G.F. Holm.

Saxo, who was his almost contemporaneous, does not mention Jelling directly, when he talks about Harald's burial of the mother Thyra, "- Harald let her to rest with the greatest splendor and buried her near his father's grave amid general mourning, because there was no house, where one did not mourn bitterly over her death and believed that at her death the country's welfare were perished. Where now the church stands, you see the two spouses graves, one on each side of it."

There is little doubt that in the early Christian period, say, the Middle Ages, many priests and monks must have regarded the period before Christianity as some not important paganism, which did not matter.

First in 1586 Frederik II's govenor in Koldinghus, Caspar Markdanner, erected the great Jelling stone, so it again came to honor and dignity. It had hitherto been lying overturned, with the text facing down.

A bauta stone is taken up in Jelling cemetery
A bauta stone is taken up from Jelling cemetery in the early 1900's. A common way to get rid of large stones that lay in the way of cultivation, were digging a large hole next to the stone and then turn it down the hole. This is precisely what have happened with many of the bauta stones in Jelling Cemetery. Findings of burned bricks in the holes shows that the removals have been completed long after the Viking Age. Photo: Jelling Monumenterne by Sten Hvass.

The North Mound was built up over a bronze-age mound. From ancient times it has been called the Queen Thyra's mound. In 1820, local peasants found an empty grave chamber, which has been dated to the winter of 958-959. It is generally believed that the tomb originally contained Gorm the Old human remains that already in Harald's time were moved to a Christian burial in the church.

The South Mound, which from ancient times has been called King Gorm's tomb, was the subject of extensive excavations in 1941-42. The excavators dug down to the bottom and found no grave. At the bottom, however, two slightly curved rows of very large stones were found. On the stones were preserved moss and and similar vegetation, which showed that they had been there for some time before the South Mound was built. A few bits of wood found in the bottom of the mound have been dated to the year 970. On Henrik Rantzau's engraving from 1591 is shown a stone on top of the mound, which the author thinks is the small Jelling stone.
Ship tumulus in Glavendrup
Ship tumulus at Glavendrup west of Otterup on the island of Fyn from the same period as the Jelling mounds. The big stones are set up in the form of a ship at each end is a little mound. On one of these stands the Glavendrup rune stone. In Jelling was a similar stone ship with a mound at one end, namely, the South Mound, only the stones and the mound are much larger. One may imagine that the small Jelling stones in the same way has been on this mound. Photo: Kaare Thor Olsen Wikipedia.

The Ship Tumulus - The two slightly curved rows of standing stones in the bottom of the South Mound made some to think about that also in other places in the area very large stones had been encountered, and they could be part of a ship tumulus. Using a cemetery map, a tombstone protocol and old accounts Steen Wulff Andersen from Vejle Museum managed to locate the occurrence of even more large stones, which together turned out to be a 370 m long ship tumulus. The ship tumulus has not been convincingly dated, but it must necessarily have been built before the construction of the South mound year 970. It seems very likely that it was built prior to or in connection with the erection of the North Mound in the years 958-959.

The Jelling Site seen from the air
The Jelling Site seen from the air. The North Mound to the right and the South Mound to the left. The rune stones are located behind the church and is not visible in this photo. The ship tumulus, palisades and house-remnant are also not visible. However, the course of the palisadens and the floorplan of the long houses have been marked in white concrete with support from the A.P. Moeller Fond. Photo A.P. Moeller Fonden.

In 1771 the cartoonist Soeren Abildgaard visited Jelling and in his diary he wrote: "On the eastern side of the Queen's mound in Lars Sognefoged's piece of land, where some large boulders lie in a row from the South to the North - ".

It is said that the small Jelling rune Stone in the late Middle Ages was used as a kind of bench at the church door and was first moved to its present location at some time between 1627 and 1639. It is not known with certainty, where it originally stood. On Henrik Rantzau's engraving from 1591 is shown a stone on top of the South Mound, which most likely is the the small Jelling Stone. The text on the stone reads in modern language: "King Gorm made these runes after Thyra his wife Denmark's bod."

The big Jelling rune stone was in many ways a modern stone for its time. The decoration is cut as free-relief carved, that is outstanding from the rest of the stone, and the runes to be read by rows from left to right like in a book. In most other rune stones runes should be read vertically. It has been shown that it is placed in its original position or very close to this. Saxo recounts that Harald let the stone made late in his life and his reign: "There was in fact on the coast of Jutland found an unusually large stone, with which he wanted to decorate his mother's grave, and he ordered it to be dragged thither by men and oxen. However, those that together with Svend had the command of the fleet, were fed up with Harald's rule, partly because he was favorably disposed towards Christianity, partly because he put unusual burdens on the common people."
The Jelling Site seen from the air
The Jelling Site seen from the air. The white dotted lines indicate the course of the ship tumulus and the rhombus-shaped the palisade. The thin yellow lines are diagonals of the rhombus, which cut each other very perfectly in the North Mound's burial chamber, which thus is the geometric center of the entire site. After Hvass 2011.

The palisade - In connection with the excavation of the ship tumulus in 2006 archaeologists found traces of a very strongly built palisade that surrounded the entire Jelling site. That is about a stockade with a total length of 1.4 km, which deviates only a few meters from a perfect rhombus shape; The sides are almost parallel with the longitudinal axis of the ship tumulus and the rhombus' diagonals intersect at a right angle very precisely right in the burial chamber in the North Mound. The side length of the palisade-fence is pretty close to 360 m, so that it exactly fences in the ship tumulus. We recognize the zealous geometric perfectionism that characterize also the Viking ring fortresses, Ravning Bridge and Kovirke.

Post holes from the palisade in Jelling
Post holes from the palisade in Jelling. For each about one meter there was support posts, which undoubtedly have had connection with horizontal members higher up the palisade. Photo: Jelling Monumenterne by Sten Hvass.

The individual vertical posts had a cross section of 15 x 35 cm. They were dug 1.20 to 1.5 m deep into the ground with stone and clay on both sides, which indicates a height of about 3 m. On both sides of the palisade support posts were placed with about one meter in between, which, no doubt, have had connection with horizontal longitudinal members, that kept the vertical planks in allignment.

In the northern part of the palisade has been a gate. Outside and inside the gate were postholes, suggesting that it has been covered.

Post holes from a house of Trelleborg type
Post holes from a house of Trelleborg type found in Jelling. The Jelling houses had "porches" at the entrances. Photo: Jelling Monumenterne by Sten Hvass.

Pieces of wood from the palisade, which were preserved in the pond Smededammen, have been dated to year 968.

Houses of Trelleborg type - Post holes from three longhouses with the distinctive curved walls were also found inside the palisade. One of the longhouses is located in line with another longhouse, which was found in 2007 along the north palisade at a distance of approximately 13 m from the palisade. The two other longhouses are situated along the eastern part of the palisade. They have the same layout and size as the houses in the Viking ring fortress Trelleborg, but differ in that they have a sort of porch at the entrances, and the two interior partitions are located a little differently.

Remnants of the palisade in the pond Smededammen
Remnants of the palisade in the pond Smededammen. Photo: Medieval Histories.

The North Mound with the burial chamber came into being in the winter of 958-959. The ship tumulus is not dated, but we can believe that it latest was built in connection with the North Mound. The palisade was built in the year 968. The South Mound came in 970. The houses are not exactly dated.

In the ship tumulus in Glavendrup at Otterup on the island of Fyn the rune stone is erected on a mound in one end of the stone ship. We must believe that the funeral was in the middle of the ship, as it would be in a real Viking ship, such as the Ladby ship. The ship tumulus in Jelling also has a mound at one end, namely the South Mound - but no rune stone on that mound. However, we have a stray rune stone that nobody knows with certainty where originally has been placed, namely the small Jelling stone.

It would be very logically, if the small Jelling rune stone had been located on the South Mound, which is located exactly in one end of the ship. The inscriptions on the Glavendrup stone and the small Jelling stone also recalls each other, "Ragnhild erected this stone after Alle -" and "King Gorm made these runes after Thyra - " and they are both found in connection with a stone ship. Besides, on Rantzau's engraving from year 1591 is shown a stone on top of the mound, which most likely is the small Jelling Rune Stone.

The burial chamber in the North Mound
The reconstructed burial chamber in the North Mound made by the cartoonist Jacob Kornerup in 1861 in connection with king Frederik VII's excavation led by Worsaae. There is a dividing-plank in the middle of the room seperating it into two departments - as it was designed for two persons.

Let us pursue the idea that the small Jelling stone was originally placed on top of the South Mound and see, where the logic will take us.

The South Mound was built in 970, and we must so believe that Thyra died this year. Gorm was then still alive and set a rune stone after Thyra in the same way, as Ragnhild erected a stone after Alle in Glavendrup.

We must then believe that Thyra was originally buried in the chamber in the North Mound because funerals in real viking ships were in the middle section of the ship. Also the North Mound has for hundreds of years been called Queen Thyra's mound. The burial chamber must most likely have been built in advance in 958-959, while Gorm and Thyra were still alive.

The chamber was very large, about 2.6 x 6.75 m or 17 m2. It is actually rather big for one person, even a king. It must have been built in advance to accommodate both King Gorm and his queen. It would be entirely consistent with the fame, that Thyra in general was surrounded with, to be buried alongside her husband, the king. In addition, on a number of old drawings a partition board is shown in the middle of the chamber, indicating it was designed for two persons.

Moreover, it is not unusual that a ruler starts building his tomb, when he is still alive. The first Qin emperor in China began building his tomb immediately after he became emperor, 13 years old. And already now preparations for her Majesty Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik's final resting place are being done in Roskilde Cathedral.
Graphical reconstruction of Jelling site
Graphical reconstruction of the Jelling site. There are very large areas within the palisade, which are empty; the houses are located very scattered. It gives the impression that there was planned something more, which, however, never materialized. Drawing: National Geographic

It is now uncertain, when Gorm died, as we can no longer rely on the dating of the woodwork in the burial chamber. But he is not mentioned in any historical sources in connection with the war against Emperor Otto, and we can believe that he died shortly after his wife, who passed away in 970 following this theory, and he was inserted with her in the North Mound. Many believe that he a few years later was transferred to a Christian burial under the the church floor.

Harald Andersen has in an article in the historical magasine Skalk in 1988 argued that the person under the the church floor very likely is not Gorm. He believes that the reason why human bones have not been found in the North Mound is that human bones are thinner - than for example horse bones - and therefore Gorm's mortal remains are completely broken and disappeared. The access-hole in the mound is simply done by grave robbers sometime in the Middle Ages.

The author believes that also Thyra was inserted into the royal burial chamber about the year 970, and her remains are also long since completely degraded.

A longer life for Queen Thyra would also allow her to have played a role in the expansion and improvements of Danevirke, which took place precisely in these years, as tradition says that she did. Moreover, a long period in which Harald had co-kingship with his father, will explain the nickname "the old", since Gorm would be the older of the two kings. Such a fellow kingship is supported by the Roskilde Chronicle: "This Gorm was Harald's father, Harald ruled in his father lifetime the kingdom for 15 years, and after his father's death, he reigned for 50 years."

Modified viking teeth
The Swedish archeologist Caroline Arcini has analyzed 557 Viking skeletons dating from the years 800 to 1050 and discovered that 24 of them bore deep, horizontal grooves across their upper front teeth. This kind of destroyed tooth enamel will easily turn black.
We remember that they called black for blue; they called for example negroes for "blåmænd" (blue-men). Some had speculated that Harald Bluetooth may have got his epithet from this kind of tooth modification. Photo: Daily Mirror from an exhibition in British Museum.

However, a later demise of Gorm and Thyra will cause problems with the skeleton of the man, who was found under the floor of Jelling Church. He was about 35-50 years old, when he died. If this is Gorm, and he died immediately after year 970, he would in best case have been younger than 15 years old, when bishop Unni visited him around 935, and it can not be true. Also, a lifespan of only about 50 years leaves no room for a lengthier fellow kingship with his son. Besides, his age will not comply with his son's age.

When Bishop Unni visited the Dane king's court a few years before his death in 936, maybe in the years 934-35, Worm was king, and Harald was his son, on whom Adam says: "But when the God's confessor came to the land of the Danes, where as I said, the cruel King Worm then was ruling, he did not manage to change the faith of the king, because of his innate savagery. In return, he should have won the king's son Harold to his side by his preaching."

Harald was still able to go to war and carry weapons at his death in year 986, then we must believe that he can not have been much older than 65 at that time. Although Svend Estridsen told Adam: By his death, Harald was "aged and physically weak." An age of 65 at his death implies that he would have been 10-15 years old - a real teen-ager - at Bishop Unnis visit in the year 934. But maybe other Danish leaders realized that it was not wise to be too confrontational to the Holy Roman Empire and therefore showed some understanding of Unni and his cause.

Hedeby
Hedeby was surrounded by a half circular rampart like Aarhus and Julin. Photo: Exploring Britains Viking Heritage.

The king of York, Erik Bloodaxe, fell in 954. His wife Gunhild and many sons fled to Orkney and later sailed to Denmark, where - according to Heimskringla - they was received by king Harald Bluetooth. It is not known how long they stayed in Orkney. Gunhildsonnerne took power in Norway around the year 961, perhaps they came to Denmark around 958, the year for finishing the North Mound. By this time Harald can have been a fellow king with his father Gorm.

It is often seen that a junior, who have long time been overshadowed by an experienced and renowned leader, is acting rashly and unwisely, when he finally comes to power, because he eagerly wants to surpass his senior. Just think of Jes Soederberg and Mc-Kinney Moeller.

We can believe that Gorm died shortly after his queen between the years 970 and 973, and Harald then became the only king. He immediately wanted to demonstrate his power and determination and ordered the massacre in Hedeby, which had disastrous results. Adam tells that the Danes themselves started the war: "It was the Danes, who wanted war: They killed namely in Heidiba King Otto's envoys together with the border count, wiping out the entire Saxonian colony completely." This should, according to many statements have played out in year 973.

Emperor Otto then waged war against the Danes: "- he devastated with fire and sword the entire landscape up to the outer sea, which separates Nordmanns from Danes -" and further "On the way back, he was met by Harold at Sliaswig".

The Jelling style origins from the silver cup found in the North Mound in Jelling
The Jelling style is a Germanic animal ornamentation style from the Viking Age. It derives its name from animal ornamentation on the silver cup found in the burial chamber in the North Mound in Jelling. The ribbon-like animals with only two front legs or hands and some sort of ponytails, which meander between each other and grab another. The Jelling style is otherwise difficult to define.

Harald in Normandy

Already in the late 800's Vikings led by Rollo settled in the Seine estuary. Many other Vikings had built their fortresses in an estuary, such as in the mouths of the Schelde, Loire and Garonne. Rollo and his men secured their stronghold, looted and destroyed monasteries far up the Seine and besieged Paris. The King of the Western Franks, Charles the Simple, resorted to a traditional solution and agreed with Rollo in the year 911 to give him the area around the Seine estuary as a fief in return for defending the country against other Vikings.

Duke Rollo
Rollo in the Six Dukes statue on the square in Falaise. Photo Michael Shea - Wikipedia.

The monk Dudo of St. Quentin wrote Normandy's history under the first dukes: The first Duke was Rollo, who was succeeded by his son Wilhelm Longsword, who already for some years before his father's death had been co-ruler. However, in the year 942 Wilhelm was murdered by some Frankish noble men under the pretext of negotiation and reconciliation. The French king Louis 4. took advantage of that Wilhelm's son Rikard was only a child, and that Normandy therefore had no leader and easily may have been taken back to the French crown, and he therefore took the boy's person in possion. In their distress the Norman nobles sent men with message to Haigrold, Dacia's king with a plea to: "- He would rush to help Rikard, the great Duke Wilhelm's son, his family relative" - "- for the love of his kinsman Rikard the high-minded King Harald of Dacia received the Norman messenger with honor, and having built ships and filled them with food and warriors, he came as fast as he could with an immense amount of warriors to Sabina Corbonis, where Dive's strong current flows into the unruly sea. When the men from Coutances and Bayeux heard of King Harald's arrival for the help of the little Rikard, they went in his service."

If we believe that Harold was about 65 years old, when he fell in battle in the year 988, he must have been well twenty years old, when he went to Normandy at the head of the Danish expedition.

In a great battle at the river Dive the united Danes and Normans triumphed over the Franks, and king Louis was taken prisoner: "As the sun warmed in the third hour, the forces from Coustances and Bayeux began to go over Dive." - "There were also King Harald with the people from Coustance and Bayeux and near King Louis with the Franks around him. But there were also the Dacians' chosen youth leaning to their lances with shields in hands."

Map of France showing Normandy
Maps of France showing the area that Charles the Simple gave the Normans led by Rollo in the year 911 - Pinterest.com.

"They were just looking for an excuse to kill the Franks and the king." The Normans saw Duke William's murderer among King Louis' followers: "With a cry of anger that rose to the sky, all the Dacians swung their weapons and pushed in blind rage over the murder of their master against the count Herluin and killed him without blinking." - "Eventually surrounded on all sides by the countless crowd of enemies from Coustances and Bayeux as well as the pagans, they were cruelly cut down and slashed to death like sheep by wolves. Thus, in the deadly struggle eighteen noble counts were struck by death and fell in the battle on the King Louis' side."

"When King Ludvig saw himself abandoned by his Frankish bodyguard and had acknowledged the danger of continued fight, he sought rescue in a late escape. When King Harald discovered that Ludvig was no longer on the battle field, he pursued him quickly with a half platoon on horseback. King Ludvig flickered to and fro on his flight, because the reins had become detached from the horse's head, and he sat with only the loose reins in his hand. King Harold sought soon Ludvig, who was so severely hampered. With his hand on his flashing sword hilt, he drew his sword from its scabbard, leaving Ludvig to his warriors with orders that he must not escape or be killed. As he congratulated himself with the king's capture, he rode quickly back to the battlefield and slew nearly all the Franks."

The Norman noble Bernard of Senlis confirmed Harald's achievements: "Let it now be known as a given thing that king Harald of Dacia for Rikard, my sister's son and his kinsman, have fought against king Ludvig and in this battle killed sixteen counts and Count Herluin and his brother Lambert, yes, during this terrible carnage in the Frankish kingdom even chased the king on the run taking him prisoner and put him in prison in Rouen under guard by Bernhard the Dane."
Typically Viking Scandinavian brooch Use of Viking Age brooches
Left: Typical Scandinavian brooches from the Viking Age found at Pitres south of Rouen. Photo: Musée Normandie fibules tortues de Pîtres. Wikipedia.
Right: Use of the brooches: Illustration by Charlotte Rimstad in "Vikinger i Uld og Guld".

Twenty years later, in year 965, the small Norman duchy was again cornered by a French king, who was now named Lothar. The boy Rikard had then grown up and become a skilled military commander, but he thought anyway that it was wisest once again to seek the help of his kinsmen in Denmark. A large fleet from Denmark arrived in Rouen, and King Lothar's land was devastated wide over. This expedition was not led by king Harald.

Viking Ships on the Bayeux tapestry.
Viking Ships on the Bayeux tapestry.

It's pretty clear that Haigrold/Harald came from Danish territory. However, some prominent Danish historians have doubted that Haigrold/Harald is identical with Harald Bluetooth as a young man, I do not know their arguments.

It can not be excluded that Haigrold came from the eastern part of present Denmark, queen Thyra's homeland, which the merchant Ottar called Denemearce, where Harald by all accounts was a traditional king's name. Dudo mentions that Rollo came from eastern Dacien. That could also explain the Normans' gradually cooler relations to the Danes under king Knud's sons, namely that they thought that the Denmark, to which they initially felt attached, had been taken over by parvenus and vikings that is the Knytlings. We do not know at which time Harald Bluetooth "won the whole of Denmark."

In fact, so many things can not be ruled out, and so many theories can be made. Everybody that came from Scandinavia, were indiscriminately called Normans or Danes and probably Dacians. The Knytlings originated from Vikings in England, who returned to the land of their fathers and took power there. They may well have had close relationships with other Viking areas and bridgeheads in Western Europe, such as Normandy in France.

Denmark and Norway

Gunhild was Harald Bluetooth's sister, she was married to Erik Bloodaxe of York. He fell at the Battle of Stainmore in the year 954, and Queen Gunhild fled to Orkney with her many sons. Their names were Gamle, Harald, Erling, Gudroed, Sigurd, Ragnfred and possibly more.

Orkney map with old names of Nordic origin
Orkney map with old names of Nordic origin - Kortbilag til Olav den Helliges Saga ved Udvalget for Folkeoplysnings Fremme, Kjoebenhavn 1906.

The Norwegian king Haakon Adelstensfostre was the boys' uncle, the brother of their father. Haakon the Good's Saga says that he had some disagreements with the Danes "After this King Haakon ravaged Sjælland wide over and robbed many; he killed some, but some he caught; from some he took large fines and met no resistance. So Guthorm Sindre says: Since the King Haakon sailed east along Scania's coast and ravaged everywhere, took money and taxes of the country, killing all Vikings, where he found them, both Danes and Vends."

It gave cause for worry of Harald Bluetooth, but immediately he did nothing, "King Harald Gormson ruled Denmark; he liked little that King Haakon had ravaged his country, and the word went about that the Dane king certainly would revenge, but it did not happen very soon."

But the rumor of problems between Denmark and Norway came to Orkney to Gunhild and her sons: "But when Gunhild's sons experienced that there was discord between Denmark and Norway, they and Gunhild made ready to travel eastward." - "But when Gunhild came to Denmark with her sons, she travelled to King Harald and got a good reception; King Harald gave them land-based resources in his kingdom, so large that they could well keep their men around them, but he took Harald, Eirik's son, to his foster-son and placed him on his knees; he was brought up there in the household troop of the Dane king. " - "They became earlier handsome men and adults in physical strength and skills than this years."

Harald Bluetooth had not forgotten Haakon's looting in Denmark: When King Haakon Adalstensfostre had been king of Norway in 26 years after the Norwegians had expelled his brother, Erik Bloodaxe, it happened that his watch men saw that many ships came sailing from south. It was Gunhild's sons, who came to claim Norway after their father. It was around the year 961.
Haakon the Good
Haakon the Good, also called Haakon Adelstensfostre, painted by Peter Nicolai Arbo in the 1800's.

Haakon the Good's Saga wrote that: "Harald Erikson then became leader of the brothers after Gamle's fall; they had a large army with them from south from Denmark." Saxo is talking about that "Harald Bluetooth gave Harald Gunhildsson Eyvind og Karlshoved as comrades in arms and a fleet of sixty ships."

The Gunhild Sons fled, but King Haakon had got a fatal wound. On his death-bed, he recommended the Norwegians to choose the eldest, Harald Greycloak as king. They then established themselves in Norway. "Gunhild, the mother, took much part in the government of the country together with them; she was then called kings' mother". the Eirik Sons' Saga says.

Haakon Adelstensfostre in battle against Gunhild's sons
Haakon Adelstensfostre in battle against Gunhild's sons with his sword Kvaernbit. King Haakon was easily recognizable by his golden helmet. One of his men put a cap over the helmet to protect the king - but in vain. Drawing by Halvdan Egidius in Heimskringla 1930.

They were poor king's sons, who had never lived in royal abundance: "All Gunhild's sons were called greedy, and it was the talk that they stored values in the ground."

"The Gunhild's sons accepted as before written, Christianity in England, but when they came to power in Norway, they came nowhere to christian the people in the country, then wherever they came, they broke down the shrines and disrupted the offerings, hence they got many enemies. It was in their days, that the prosperity of the country was wasted, for there were many kings, and each of them surrounded himself with household troops, which required many expenses; they were also very greedy and they did not comply with many of the laws that King Haakon had given, other than those, which they liked. They were all very beautiful men, big and strong and mighty sports-men."

Gunhild urged his sons to do something about Earl Sigurd in Trondelag in the north: "I find it odd that you every summer are sailing on Viking expeditions to other countries, while you in your own country let an earl take your father's inheritance from you. Harald - your grandfather (Harald Fairhair) whom you are named after - would count it nothing to put an earl from power and life - the one that won the whole of Norway and later ruled it until his old age."

Haakon Jarl
Hakon Jarl in deep thought. Created by the painter Christian Krogh (1852 - 1925) - Wikipedia. .

Two of the kings - Harald Greycloak and Erling - did something about the problem: "They sailed at night by starlight." - "In the end of the night they came to aaglo - where Earl Sigurd were visiting. They set fire to the house and burned the farm and the Earl inside with all his people."

Harald Bluetooth decided to change horse in Norway. He invited Sigurd Jarl's son Haakon Jarl to stay with him in Denmark.

At Harald Bluetooth also stayed Gold-Harald, who was the son of his brother Knud, who fell in England. He had his nickname because of all the gold he had gathered on his Viking expeditions. Gold-Harald claimed half the kingdom, which made Harald Bluetooth very angry, following Olav Tryggveson's Saga he said: " - that has no man demanded of King Gorm, the father of mine, that he should be half-king of Denmark, nor of his father, Horda-Knut or of Sigurd Snake-in-eye or Regnar Lodbrog."

It is said in several sagas that Harald Bluetooth and Haakon Jarl founded their friendship by baking a fox-cake together: Harald Bluetooth invited the Norwegian King Harald Greycloak to Denmark. Haakon and Gold-Harald had to wait for him with all their men at Hals in Limfjorden to kill him. Gold-Harald attacked Harald Greycloak first with superior strength and slew him. But after the battle moved Haakon Jarl forward with fresh forces and attack Gold-Harald, grabbed him and hanged him in a gallow. Haakon Jarl was quickly forgiven by Harald Bluetooth for having killed his nephew.

Thus Harald Bluetooth avoided to get blood on his hands with the death of his nephew, Gold-Harald and his other nephew and foster son, Harald Greycloak. At the same time Haakon Jarl paved the way for his return to power in Norway in cooperation with Harald Bluetooth.

Knytlinga Saga recounts: "King Harald Gormson managed by deceit to end the days of the Norwegian King Harald Gunhildson; he fell at Hals in Limfjorden, as it is told in the Saga about the Norwegian kings; but thereafter King Harald sailed to Norway with his army and conquered the whole country, and put the Earl Haakon Sigurdson as a governor over it."

Haakon Jarl is hiding under a pigsty
Haakon Jarl is hiding under a pigsty. When Haakon Jarl was about 65 years old, Olav Tryggvason approached and wanted to kill this heathen. He went to his good female friend, Tora, who hid him in a burrow under a pigsty together with his thrall, Kark. While he slept, he was killed by Kark, who presented his head to Olav Tryggvesson, who, however, paid him by also to be beheaded.
In Olav Tryggvessons Saga is said about Haakon Jarl: "Haakon Jarl was the most generous of men, and it was the greatest misfortune that led such a chieftain to his death. But the reason why it that happened like this is mostly because the time had come, when offerings and heathen priests were to be condemned, and instead came the right faith and the right customs."


Haakon Jarl was killed many years later in connection with that Olav Tryggesson became king of Norway. Haakon Jarl's Saga describes him: "Haakon Jarl was also very handsome in appearance, not tall, but strong and a great athlete, clever and a great army man."

Adam of Bremen knew many bad things about him, including that he descended from the Jotuns: "In Norwegien Hakkon was ruler until the Nortmanns expelled him, because he behaved quite arrogantly. Harold got him reinstated by force and made him sympathetic towards Christ's followers. The cruel Hakkon was of Ingvar's lineage and descended from the Giants' kin."

Several sagas tell that he was very fond of woman. Olav Tryggvessons Saga says about this: "But when Haakon Jarl began to be old, it went very far with his promiscuity, yes in the end it came to that he let noble men's wives and daughters bring home to him, lay with them a week or two, and then sent them home again, and it caused him much unfriendliness from these women's kinsmen."

Jomsborg

Jomsborg was a legendary fortress, particularly described in Jomsvikinge Saga and Knytlinge Saga. No traces of it has ever been found, but it is widely accepted that it was located in the Oder estuary on the island of Wollin and Usedom - which today is divided between Germany and Poland.

The island Dänholm
The island Dänholm is located at the entrance to the channel, which separates the island of Usedom and Wollin from the mainland. The name Dän-holm is interesting, bacause in Danish "holm" means a small island; then the name literally means Dane-island. It is really very strategically located opposite to Peenemunde at the inlet to the channel, which separates the island of Usedom-Wollin from the mainland. Here Jomsborg could well have been located.
In the Long Saga of Olav Tryggvason the Jomsviking Sigvald Jarl says to King Burislaf of the Wends: "It is known for you my lord that we have spent a time in this country to protect you and your kingdom, and our fortress has a long time been like a lock for your kingdom, but we have left our own kingdom and our properties in Denmark." Which points to that Jomsborg may have been located on the strategically located island Dänholm.

Adam of Bremen tells of the famous city Jumne: "On the other side of the Leuticians, also known as the Wilzers, meets us the river Oddara, which is Slavonien's water richest river. At the mouth of this river, where it meets the Scythian marshes, lies the famous city Jumne (Jomne). Which is a frequently visited anchorage place for both barbarians and Greeks living along the nearby coasts. This town is praise and many great things are told about it, I find it appropriate here to add a couple of credible things."

"It is truly the greatest of all cities in Europe and inhabited by Slavonians along with other nations, both Greeks and barbarians. For also the visiting Saxonians are allowed to live there on equal terms, provided that in the duration of their stay they do not publicly profess their Christianity. They all are still controlled by their pagan rites and delusions. But you will not find any more honorable or more hospitable people. Jumne is the richest store place for goods from all the Northern countries, and the city has everything that is great or rare. There is Vulcan's pot, which the inhabitants call the Greek fire, which also Solin mentions."

He clearly refers to the city to be situated on an island, as he continues, "There you can see Neptune in three figures. For the island is washed by three inlets, one should be green of green appearance, the second whitish, while the third is in constant turbulence because of raging storms." Which fits with Wollin-Usedom.
Peenemunde
Old engraving of Peenemunde. It is uncertain whether it is Dänholm, which is seen in the foreground. Some believe that the island lies further to the right and the Swedish rampart in the picture is on the headland just north-west of Dänholm. But the picture illustrates the inlet to the bay behind Usedom and the Oder river has always been a very strategic area, and during the history it had been dug through many times. It did not help that the German firing of the V1 and V2 rockets took place from Peenemunde, and the area has been heavily bombarded by English and Americans bombers during the Second World War.

Most Viking fortresses lay at the mouths of rivers or creeks on island or peninsulas. The island of Usedom-Wolin in the Oder estuary at the Baltic Sea seems to have been a really perfect location for a Viking fortress.

Knytlinga Saga tells that Harald Bluetooth founded Jomsborg: "Harald Gormson was taken to king in Denmark after his father; he was a mighty king and great warrior. He seized Holseteland in Saxland; also he had a large Earldom in Vindland, there he ordered Jomsborg to be built and put there a significant crew, to whom he gave wages and laws; they subdued him the country; in summer they were on war expeditions, but in winter they were at home; they were called Jomsvikings."

Viking graves at Altes Lager in western Pommern
Boat graves at Altes Lager near Anklam in western Pommern. There are also many small stone ships on the Udedom island. Photo: timeslipsblog.wordpress.com

Saxo tells about Harold's rule south of the Baltic: "Then Harald seized Slavonian Land and laid a strong crew in Julin, the most prominent city in the country, and as the leader of the warriors he appointed Styrbjoern. Their war-raids, in which they showed the biggest bravery and little by little victoriously spread to the neighboring countries, eventually became so terrible that they filled all seas with continuous defeat." He seems to think that the Jomsvikings - although he did not call them that - had their garrison within the city.

In his description of Harold's death Adam of Bremen lets us understand that his men in Jumne was particularly loyal to him: "In this unfortunate war that was worse than a civil war, Harold and his men suffered defeat. He himself fled wounded from the battlefield, went aboard a ship and escaped to the Slavonian city of Jumne. Against all expectations he welcomed there - the population were pagans - but hospitable towards him. However, he was greatly weakened by his wounds, and a few days after he died professing himself to Christ." Which makes it probable that Harold had a special connection to this city and that it really was him, who founded Jomsborg. Both in fighting against Eric the Victorious and in the last fight against his son, Svend Forkbeard's rebellion we find the Jomsvikings as Harald Bluetooth's faithful supporters.

Which is confirmed by Saxo: " - and wounded he was by his men brought back to Julin, where he soon after died".
The Curmsun Disc
The Curmsum Disc - Coin like gold disc found near Wolin 150 years ago. Around 1840 the ruins of the medieval church was tored down in the village Wiejkowo about three kilometers east of the town of Wolin in the northwest of modern Poland, afterwards the site was excavated. On this occasion many objects were found. There is talking of volumes of Arab silver coins, but also other things that were characterized as "scrap". The area around the church belonged to the German family von Ploetz. The family was clearly not interested in the findings, which were conferred the local priest. One hundred years later, when World War II was in the final stage, many residents fled from the Russians. The priest sold some of the objects to the current owner's grandfather in order to finance his escape. The new owners settled later in Malmoe, and a 14-year-old daughter of the family found in 2014 the disc in an old box, brought it to her school and showed it to her history teacher. In the same part of the find was also a coin from Otto I's time - death 973 - which dates the finding to Harald Bluetooth's time.
The disc is of gold and has a diameter of about 4.5 cm and weighs 25 grams. It is molded in a one-time wax form and are therefore not a coin. The text on the front reads: +ARALDCVRMSVN+REX AD TANER+SCON+IVMN+CIVALDIN+ which can be translated to: "Harald Gormson king of the Danes, Scania, Jumne, Staden Aldiburg". Obodritternes capital was Oldenburg, which was then called Aldinburg. On the back is an equilateral cross with dashes on the tips, reminding of a Byzantine cross, for example, the Dagmar cross. Equilateral crosses do not necessarily need to be Christian crosses; on bracteates from Germanic Iron Age also appear equilateral crosses; but in the context, we must believe that it is a Christian cross. Photo. pinterest.

Trelleborg Trelleborg onSjælland was the first Viking Ring fortress that was found. It has given its name to this type of ring forts. All the other fortresses, which Harald Bluetooth built, was geometrically very perfect ring forts, we must believe that Jomsborg also has been. Photo: Wikipedia

Sven Aggesen tells directly that Harald founded Jomsborg: "This Harald controlled for a long time the kingdom as its king. He was the first who rejected the idolatry abominations and worshiped the cross of Christ. While he sent the army to pull the immense stone, which he had determined to put as a memorial on his mother grave mound, an uprising erupted in the country, partly because of the new religious customs, partly also because of the intolerable yoke of bondage, they suffered, and commoners went so far in their rage that they urged the king to leave the country and kingdom. Quickly he found his way, for fear gives feet wings, and he took the road to Wendland, where he found a peaceful reception, and where he should have laid the foundation for the city, now called Jomsborg - This city's walls were since by Archbishop Absalon leveled to the ground: what I myself was an eyewitness to."

The name Jomsborg is found in Knytlinge Saga and Jomsvikinge Saga, but Adam of Bremen says Jumne and Saxo Julin. The German researcher Adolf Hofmeister has demonstrated that they are all names for one and the same place, incidentally with several varying spellings, indeed, as most other place names at this time.

Jomsvikinge Saga recounts that Palnatoke gave the following laws for Jomsborg:

- In Palnatoke community no man must be admitted that was older than fifty years or younger than eighteen years.

- And if anybody was admitted, who had killed one of the previous admitted's brother or father or any of his close relatives, and it was discovered after, he was admitted into the community, then Palnatoke was to pass judgment in this case.

- Kinship or friendship should not be considered, if any, that did not correspond to those provisions, wanted to be admitted.

- If some of men, who already were Jomsvikings, invited somebody to join, who did not correspond to those provisions, it would not benefit them anything.

- Absolutely no man had to be there, who stepped back confronting an equally combative and equally equipped man.

- Everyone who came into their community, should give solid promise that they would avenge each other, as table companions or brothers.

- Most important nobody was allowed to spread vicious rumors among people.

- No one was allowed to express any anxious word, or fear anything, no matter how dangerous it may look.

- Absolutely no man might have a woman with him in the fortress.

- No one could without Palnatoke's orders or permission stay longer than three nights away from the fortress.

- All the booty, which they took in the war, they had to, whether it was little or large, to be carried to the pole to be shared, also everything that could be assessed in money.

- If someone was found to act against that now listed, in violation of those laws, then he immediately had to be expelled and banished from their community - Whether he was a greater or lesser man.

(Gently edited from Jomsvikinge Saga)
As mentioned, no traces of Jomsborg have ever been found, nobody knows for sure how the fortress looked like, some believe that it did not exist.

The fortress is often associated with the present city Wolin on the southeastern tip of the island of Wolin, probably located on the Silberberg hill north of town. Other theories place Jomsborg northwest of the island of Usedom in places that now have been flooded by the sea. The small islands in this area are the remains of a long stripe of land between Usedom and Rügen, which fell victim to storms and floods in the early part of 1300 years. Assumed sites in this area are the Veritas Banks between the small islands Ruden and Greifswald Oie and Peenemunde bank. Although Viking jewelry have been found there, an archaeological assessment of these sites has not yet been possible.

All Haralds other fortresses were very distinctive ring forts, making it very likely that Jomsborg also was.

Only in Jomsvikinge Saga is a more detailed description of the fortress: "A great and strong sea fortress, which was subsequently called Jomsborg. In this castle he let make a harbor that was so large that at the same time three hundred longships could be there so that they all were confined in the fortress. It was decorated with much art at the inlet, ports were fitted on it, and a large stone-arch was above and in front of the openings were iron doors, which were locked from the inside, and up on stone-arch was built a large fort, in which was balistas. One part of the castle was out in the sea, the fortresses, which are built so, are called sea fortresses, and in this way the harbor was inside the fortress."

Denmark and Sweden

Hällestad Rune stone One of three rune stones, which have been found used as wall stones in Hällestad church in Torna-Hällestad about 20 km east of Lund in Skaane. The text reads: "Áskell erected this stone in memory of Toki Gormr's son, him a faithful man. He did not flee at Uppsala. Brave men sat in memory of their brother the stone on the mound, marked with runes. They went close to Gormr's Toki."
It is assumed that Toki fell on Fyrisvellir in the battle against Erik the Victorious. When talking about their brother it must mean brother in arms. The term "went close to" must mean that the warriors formed a ring around their leader in a difficult situation. We can believe that Toki was a jomsviking. Photo Kallerdis Wikipedia

Saxo says that the Swedish prince Styrbjoern sought out Harald for help against his uncle King Erik the Victorious, "By that time came Styrbjoern, a son of the Swedish king Bjoern, after his uncle, Olaf's son Erik, had separated him from the kingdom, together with his sister Gyrithe to Harald, Thyras Son, humbly asking for help, and he found him so much more willing to make friends with him, as he willingly agreed to give him his sister in marriage. Then Harald seized the Slavonian land by force of arms and laced a strong crew in Julin, the most prominent city in the country, and as chief of the warriors he set Styrbjoern."

Knytlinge Saga recounts that Styrbjoern was less humble: "Styrbjoern came with his army to Denmark, and took King Harald prisoner; then Harald gave him his daughter Thyra to wife, and sailed even himself with Styrbjoern to Sweden."

Styrbjoern did not trust his men's bravery: "Styrbjoern set fire to all his ships, before he went ashore, but when King Harald experienced this, that Styrbjoern was without ships, he kept with his ships out of Loegen (Mälaren) and since away back to Denmark. Styrbjoern made battle on Fyrisvalle against his uncle, the Swedish king Erik the Victorious; who fell Styrbjoern and the biggest part of his men, but some fled; this escape is called the Swedish Fyriselta." Such an all or nothing strategy has probably not been in Harald Bluetooth's taste.

Styrbjoern's attack on his uncle failed completely. The prince should have fought valiantly, while many Danish are said shamefully to have sought escape. Styrbjoern perished, and King Erik won a great victory that earned him a great reputation; it is said that it was this battle that gave him the epithet Victorious.

Sjörup Rune stone
Sjörup Rune stone near Ystad in Scania. The rune stone in Sjoerup was known already by Ole Worms in the 1620's. Nevertheless, it was cut in six pieces in the 1800's and used as building material for a bridge. But in the 1990's, the pieces were taken out from the bridge and again put together to the original rune stone and erected near the church in Sjoerup. The inscription reads: "Saxe erected this stone after aasbjörn, his companion, Toke's son. He did not flee at Uppsala. But fougth as long as he had weapons." Photo Ole E. Henriksen Wikipedia.
There are also two other runestones on the island of Öland and in West Goetaland that might be interpreted as set for men, who fell at Fyris.

The Jomsvikings participated in the attack under Styrbjoern together with his own Swedes. In Eyrbyggja Saga Bjoern Kappe comes to Jomsborg: "He was in Jomsborg, at the time when Styrbjoern the Strong took it. Likewise, he went to Sweden, when the Jomsvikings helped Styrbjoern; and he was in the battle of Fyris, where Styrbjoern fell, and fled to the forest together with the other Jomsvikings."

Saxo tells that Harald Bluetooth supported Styrbjoern in attacking the Swedish kingdom from Halland, but there he heard about the Emperor Otto's attack on Jutland and interrupted therefore the campaign against Sweden: "Harald went for that matter to Halland, but then he got the message that the Germans under Emperor Otto had made incursions into the kingdom. As he was less eager to attack a foreign country than defending his own, he preferred to take care of things at home rather than fight abroad."

There is no reports that Harald the rest of his reign had nothing but good relations with Erik the Victorious and Sweden.

Denmark and the Holy Roman Empire

At Harald's time the emperor for some time had ruled Hedeby and an area around the city. In "Rex Saxonum Gestae" of Widukind of Korvey from the year 970 is told that Henrik I Fowler fought against the Danes in the year 934 and forced king "Chnuba" to be baptized. Adam says about this: "Thus established the victorious Henrik the kingdom's borders at Slesvig, which today is called Hedeby, he introduced a border count and decreed colonists from Saxen to be settled there." The Christian Saxons can not have been very many, as the Arab traveler al-Tartushi, who visited Hedeby in the mid 900's, says: "Its inhabitants worship Sirius except for a small number, who are Christians, and who have a church there."
The northwestern Europe the year 1000
The northwestern Europe the year 1000. Photo: Histoire de l'Europe Euratlas.

There are some letters from the German Emperor Otto I the Great, which may indicate that he had supremacy in Denmark in the mid 900's. He issued June 26. 965 a document, which exempted the churches in Slesvig, Ribe and Aarhus for: "- any tax or service that may belong to Us, and we imposes and commands unwavering these goods must belong to these bishoprics without threats from our counts and tax bailiffs."

Otto 1. hands over the church of Magdeburg to Christ.
Otto 1. hands over the church of Magdeburg to Christ. Ivory relief from around 970's Photo: heiligenlexikon.de

It's hard to get this letter in line with that beyond reasonable doubt there existed a Danish royal seat of Jelling. We must believe that the Emperor was head of the Catholic Church on the Pope's behalf and therefore had the right to issue decrees in ecclesiastical matters, which priests and bishops wanted to follow. A bit like the national West European Communist parties in the last century followed decrees from Moscow; but this did not meant that Western Europe was part of the East Block. The Catholic Church has always been an international organization that is controlled centrally across borders.

In 968 Emperor Otto sent a letter from Italy to the Saxons, where he urged them to attack a troubled Slavic neighboring tribe. At a meeting in Werla the letter was read aloud for a Saxon assembly, and they decided to leave their neighbors in peace: " - because a war against the Danes was imminent, and there was not enough manpower to wage two wars simultaneously." It is not known, if they really felt threatened by the Danes, or whether they were planning a push to the north, but the episode testifies that the relationship between Denmark and the empire was tense.

The Danes under King Harald and probably also the older king, Gorm, were preparing thoroughly. Many construction works in the Danevirke defence dyke are attributable to Harald Bluetooth's early period; It is about improvements of the main rampart, Forbindelsesvolden, Dobbeltvolden, Krumvolden and other defence dykes.
Danevirke on Carta Marina
Dannevirke on Carta Marina of 1539 by Olaus Magnus. Photo: Arne List - Wikipedia. Taken in i Viking Museum of Haithabu 2004.

Emperor Otto I the Great, died in May 973 and was succeeded by his son Otto II. Harald Bluetooth, who was now sole king of Denmark, must have thought that now the chance was there with a new and inexperienced emperor. Harald took without problems Hedeby, which was an old Danish town, founded by King Godfred in the year 808.

The golden altar in Tamdrup Church
The golden altar in Tamdrup Church near Horsens is decorated with gilded copper reliefs, the existing in the church are copies of the original. The plates can be divided into four stories, which correlates well with a four-sided shrine. The dating of the plates is uncertain. The historical narrative that they portray, namely Popos ordeal and Harald Bluetooth's baptism took place in the late 900's, but by comparison with other golden altars Tamdrup altar has been dated to around year 1200.

Adam of Bremen recounts what happened in Bishop Adeldags time around the year 973: "After he then had subjected nearly all the kingdoms that after Karl's death had broken away, he took up arms against the Danes, those his father had already subdued. The latter were decided on war, had in Hedeby massacred Otto's envoys together with the margrave and utterly destroyed the Saxon colony. For in this respect to avenge the injury the king with an army immediately pushed into Denmark, and as soon as he had crossed those of the Danes at Slesvig formerly erected borders, he devastated with fire and sword the country right up to the outer sea that divides the Danes from the Normanns, and to this day after the king's victories is called Ottesund. " - "After that, on both sides there had been fought bravely the Saxons won the victory, and the conquered Danes retreated to their ships. At last they agreed the peace terms: Harald accepted Otto's conditions, he received from him his kingdom and promised to let Christianity apply in Denmark. And imidiately Harald himself was baptized along with his wife Gunhild and their young son, whom our king hold during the baptism and named Svend Otto."

The Italian king Berengar bow before Otto 2.
The Italian king Berengar bow before Otto 2. Manuscriptum Mediolanense, about the year 1200.

If Adams report is true, the emperor Otto must have used some years to "subjugate almost all of the realms that after Karl's death had broken away." We can guess that the attack against Denmark perhaps took place around AD 974-975. German annals says Harald in 973 undertook an attack beyond the Elbe, but was forced to make peace, pay a charge and deliver his son as hostage. Thietmar of Merseburg informs for the years 974 that Otto 2. defeated "the rebellious Daner" by breaking through the Saxon border defence dyke and build a new, forwarded border fortress.

In Jomsvikinge Saga Haakon Jarl comes to the Danes support "because he found that necessity required that people in Denmark and other Nordic countries should not be forced to accept Christianity and renounce the faith and customs of their fathers." The emperor attacked also here several times. Harald and Haakon fought several battles against the emperor. Then they reinforced the Danevirke, and after 3 years the emperor attacked again. As thanks for help from the Norwegians Harald canceled all outstanding and future taxes to him. The emperor met a man, who called himself Ole, who advised him to set fire to Dannevirke. After that the defence dyke has been burnt down, the emperor moved into Denmark. Harald and the emperor fought several battles, but finally Harald accepted Christianity. It turned out that Ole in fact was Olav Tryggvesson.

Also The Roskilde Chronicle writes about the appointment of the three bishops: "The pious king, who eagerly believed in Christ, not only let himself baptize, but requested even by messengers that there had to be inserted bishops in his kingdom. As an answer to his prayer the archbishop of Bremen, Adaldag, rejoiced and inaugurated by the king's and the pope's advice 3 bishops to Denmark, namely Erik to Slesvig, Ljufdag to Ribe, Regibrand to aarhus."

Popo and Harald on the golden altar in Tamdrup church
Popo and Harald on two of the plates of the golden altar in Tamdrup church near Horsens. Left: Poppo carrying ordeal by fire.
Right: Poppo shows King Harald the unharmed hand.
The plates in the present Tamdrup Church are replicas. The originals are in the National Museum.
There are many accounts of how Harald was converted to Christianity. Some sagas assign Poppo's ordeal by fire to the island of Mors during the negotiations between Otto 2. and Harald.
Widukind, who lived in same period as Harald, recounts: "The Danes were from ancient times Christians, but nevertheless they worshiped idols following pagan customs. Now it once happened at a party, where the king was present, there was much discussion about worshiping. The Danes claimed that Christ probably was a God, but that there were also other gods that were bigger than him, because they let people see far greater signs and miracles than Christ. Against this testified a priest, who had devoted his life to God, a bishop named Poppo. He said there was only one true God and Father and his only begotten son our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, while the idols were demons and not gods. King Harald, of whom it is said that he was eager to listen, but slow to talk, asked him if he was willing to prove his faith on himself, to which Poppo without hesitation answered yes. The king ordered therefore the priest put under guard until the following day. When morning came, he ordered a large piece of iron to be heated, and ordered the cleric to carry this for his faith's sake. The Christ's confessor grip without hesitation the iron and carried it, as long as the king wanted and showed then his hand, which was undamaged, and convinced therefore everyone of the truth of the Catholic faith. Therefore the king converted, and he decided to honor only Christ as God and instructed the people, whom he ruled, to reject idols. He showed priests and servants of God, great honor."


Knytlinge Saga also has the story of Harald's baptism: "In King Harald Gormson's days Otto the Red was Emperor in Saxland; he had strife with the Danish king, and ordered the Danish to be Christian, but the Danish king had an army out against him, and would in no way believe Christianity. King Harald Gormson held a big battle against the Emperor Otto to the south of Danevirke, in which also Haakon Jarl of Norway was present together with the Danish king. The emperor lost the battle, but he took the country some time after, and chased King Harald and Haakon Jarl on escape to Limfjorden and straight out on Morsoe. Since King Harald accepted Christianity, and the emperor stood godfather to his son Svend, and gave him his name, with which he was baptized, and he came to be called Otto Svend. All of Denmark was then Christianized, and before the Emperor did not go away."

Silver chain with Thor Hammer excavated in Trelleborg
Silver chain with Thor Hammer excavated in Trelleborg. The crews on the Viking Ring Fortresses must have been the king's most loyal men, yet there have not been found any traces of Christianity. Fra Vikingerne by Johannes Broendsted, Gyldendal 1960.

The big Saga about Olav Trygvesson has a long description of the course of the war: Emperor Otto attacked several times Denmark on land and on sea - but without success. Danevirke was bravely defended by Norwegians under Haakon Jarl. But finally a man, who called himself Ole, payd a visit to the emperor. He told the emperor how he could burn down the Danevirke defence dykes with wooden chips soaked in tar. After this was done, the emperor's army crossed the fjord Slien and pursued Harald straight to Limfjorden. Peace talks took place on the island of Mors. "It is said that Emperor Otto stood godfather to king Harald's son Svend, and gave him his name, and he was baptized with the name Otto Svend." It turned out that Ole, who had given the emperor victory, in fact was Olav Tryggvesson. This saga has no details about the contents of the peace treaty, except that Harald was baptized.

Olav Trygvesson's Saga in Heimskringla recounts: "Emperor Otta drew together a large army, he had men from Saxland, Frankland and Friesland and from Wendland King Burislav followed him and together with him was Olav Tryggvesson, his brother in law. The emperor had a great army of horse people and a much larger army of foot soldiers, also from Holtseteland he had a large army. Harald Dane king sent Haakon Jarl with the army of Norwegians, who followed him, against south to Danevirke to defend the country there. Emperor Otta came with the armies from south to Danevirke, but Haakon Jarl defended the fortress-dyke with his army. Haakon Jarl sat platoons of all fortress-joints, but the bulk of the army he arranged to rush along the fortress-dyke, where the fighting was hardest. There many of the Emperor's army fell, but they did not take any part of the defence dyke. Emperor Otta turned now with the army against the Slien and summoned a fleet, and with the army he crossed over the fjord to Jylland. But when Harald Dane King experienced this, he rushed against him with his army, and there was a great battle there, and finally the Emperor got victory; but the Danish king fled to Limfjorden and crossed to the island of Mors." Then is told about Popos ordeal by fire and Harald's conversion, Harald's baptism and that Emperor Otta held Harald's son during baptism and named him Otta Svein.

Sea Battle in the Viking Age
Sea Battle in the Viking Age. Here the battle in Hrafsfjord, which made Harald Fairhair king of Norway. When there was danger of war, the king could call the leding that is a conscripted navy, where each district had to supply so and so many ships with men and weapons. The warriors could possibly go ashore and fight on foot. But a real cavalry they could not put up with, and it may have been Harald Bluetooth problem in the confrontation with the emperor's cavalry, as the saga mentions. Picture from forum.paradoxplaza. Unfortunately, unknown artist apart from a signature in the bottom right corner.

Only Adam leaves a hint about what the peace terms also were about: "On that occasion Denmark on this side of the sea, which the inhabitants call Jutland, was divided into three dioceses and subject to the arch-seat in Hamburg. In Bremen church is stored a royal letters, which shows that King Otto thus had owned Denmark that he has even had given away bishop positions." - "In addition, he has given Adeldag his apostolic authority to, in his place to consecrate bishops for Denmark as well as for the other peoples in the North. As a result of this our blessed father was the first to be consecrated bishops of Denmark, namely Horit or Hared for Slesvig, Livdag for Ribe, Reginbrandt for Aarhuus."

All accounts are different, but it is nevertheless possible to extract the main scenario: The Empire occupied Hedeby and some areas around this city already in the year 934. The Danes wanted to take it back. For some time they had prepared themselves by repairing Danevirke. The older king, Gorm, died shortly after the year 970, and Harald was now sole king. Pretty early, he had been elected king also on the Danish islands and Skaane. He wanted to demonstrate action and surpass his father. When Otto I the Great died and was succeeded by a new and inexperienced Emperor Otto II, Harald thought that now the chance was there. The Danes took Hedeby and massacred the emperor's representatives and the Saxon colony in the city.

However, Harald made a serious mistake in his judgement of Otto II. The young Emperor craved also to exceed his father by winning new areas for Christianity and the empire. The Danes unprovoked attack offered him a unique opportunity. The emperor pulled forces together from all over his empire, Harald summoned his friend Haakon Jarl and the Norwegians.

Map of Viking ring fortresses
Map of Viking ring fortresses and bishop sites. Sure, probable and possible viking ring fortresses are marked in red. Indications of a viking ring fortress have also been found at Lyby near Oslo, Norway - which is not on this map.
Adam of Bremen wrote in connection with Emperor Otto II's victory over the Danes and Harald's baptism that a document existed which proved that Otto 2. had owned Denmark. He told about that the emperor authorized bishop Adeldag to appoint bishops in Denmark.
It catch ones eye that in the area, where the archbishop Adeldag appointed bishops, there is no Viking ring fortresses. Maybe Harald for a period did not have full authority over Jutland South of Limfjorden and Himmerland.

The emperor attacked Danevirke with superior forces, but were beaten off by Hakon Jarl and his men. Instead the emperor crossed the fjord Slien with ships, which by the way was, what general de Meza feared in 1864. On the other side of the fjord was fought a battle between the Emperor Otto and Harald that the Emperor won. The German forces pushed up in Jutland fighting more battles, where the emperor most likely had great advantage of his cavalry.

First by Limfjorden Emperor Otto had to halt his advance. At the peace talks on the island of Mors Otto declared himself as master of Jutland up to Limfjorden, but gave the area back to Harald on condition that he received baptism and promised to introduce Christianity throughout his kingdom.

Viking warrior
Typical viking warrior armed with sword, spear and a shield of wood that will not easily split. The sword was an expensive weapon, ordinary peasant soldiers were often armed with ax, which was a Danish specialty.
Wilhelm of poiters reports that Rollo and his men in Normandy came in combat against a group of Frankish noblemen led by Charles the Simple. In the following negotiations that led to Saint-Claire-sur-Epte Treaty in the year 911, it is stated: "This Agreement the Franks had asked for, as they no longer with their swords could withstand the Danes' axes."
After the first day's fighting in the Battle of Hastings the Normans became discouraged, and they said to their leader, Wilhelm, who later was nicknamed the conqueror, that they were tired of the Danish axes.
The description of the battle of Stiklestad in Olav the Holy's Saga seems quite down to earth and realistic. Men became fatally exhausted by fighting desperately for their lives for hours: "Many were badly wounded, but many were so tired that they were good for nothing" - Some fell unconscious of fatigue. Kalv Arneson found his brothers on the battlefield: "They looked after their wounds, but they did not have any fatal wounds, they were heaped so by weapons that they had fallen from fatigue."
The description of the battle of Stamford Bridge in Harald Hardrada's Saga is characterized by a similar realism: "Oeystein and his men had rushed with such haste from the ships that they already were so tired that they were unfit for battle, before they came to the battlefield, but since they became so wild that they did not protect themselves with shields, as long as they could stand on their feet. Finally they threw of the chain mails. Then it was easy for the Englishmen to find the cutting points on them; bluntly, some blew themselves up and died unwounded." Picture from forum.paradoxplaza. Unfortunately, unknown artist.

It seems unlikely that Otto II with high costs and loss of soldiers had waged war against the Danes, and then he let himself be satisfied with that the king received baptism. It is more likely that he also demanded a kind of submission, which he had obtained in all the other areas, that he has recaptured, according to Adam.

We know that later in history the Danish kings reigned in Slesvig-Holsten as dukes for hundreds of years and had - in principle - these areas as a fief of the German emperor. The term "- and his kingdom was subject to King Otto, but he got it back from him on condition that he introduced Christianity among the Danes", brings to mind such a scheme. All the other areas, that Otto 2. captured, were subjected to the emperor, as Adam put it, "- subdued almost all the kingdoms that after Karl's death had broken away." So, why should the Danes have been a unique exception?

The Thorulv rune stone The Skarde rune stone
Left: The Erik rune stone is also called the Thorulv stone or Haddeby 1. It was found in 1796 in Vedelspang near by Hedeby. It lay in a field partially sunk into the ground between two mounds. The text reads in modern language: "Thorulv, Sven's hirdman, erected this stone after his companion Erik, who found death when drenge (warriors) besieged Hedeby, but he was a styrmand (officer), a very good dreng." We can believe that Hedeby was recaptured in the years 983-984 and that Svend was his father's fellow-king. Photo Arild Hauges Runer.

Right: The Skarde rune stone also called Haddeby 3. It was found in 1857 between two mounds near Danevirke not far from the Erik stone. The owner of the field handed it over to a stonemason from Slesvig for splitting. When the stonemason discovered the runes, he handed the stone to the Danish government, which let the stone transport back to the place. The text reads in modern language: "King Sweyn erected stone after his hirdmand (member of household troop, body guard) Skarde who had traveled west, but now found death at Hedeby." Here is specifically mentioned that Sweyn was king. The rune stones are exhibited in the Viking Museum Hedeby. Foto: viciarg Wikipedia.

In addition, Harald was clever, flexible but enduring and he may have thought as the later Henry of Navarre in France with a rewrite: "Denmark is well worth a Mass", to fight another good day, where the chances of victory were better.

Harald and his advisers must have feared that Otto would one day would come back from Italy and finish the job and include the rest of Denmark in the Empire and Christianity. He immediately began a giant work to make the rest the country into an impregnable hedgehog position by building Viking ring fortresses in the areas, which he still ruled freely, regardless of huge economic and political costs.

The Norsemen in Greenland
Precisely about this time, when the reconquest of Hedeby was in full swing, a man named Erik the Red was outlawed in Iceland for killing two people. He went west, where other sailors, who had been off course, had seen land, which they had called Gunnbjoern's Rocks. He found Greenland in the year 983 and spent some years exploring the country. He found the West Coast's ice-free fjords. The land along the fjords was green and lush with good grazing. Therefore, he gave the country the name Greenland. Later he returned to Iceland, and in 986 he sailed with 25 ships, 700 people, animals and household items back to Greenland. Only 14 ships arrived.

However, already in the year 982 Otto 2. suffered a catastrophic defeat by invading Muslims at Cotrone in Southern Italy. He was preparing for a new campaign, but died in Rome in a young age in 983 and was succeeded by his three-year old son Otto 3. triggering civil unrest and rebellions among the Slavonian Wends east of the Elbe led by Harald's father in law, Mistivois. Harald is said to have been on the Slavonian side and probably on that occasion recaptured southern Jutland including Hedeby.

Thietmar of Merseburg mentions that a Danish fortress was conquered by the Saxons in 974, but reconquered by the Danes in 983. Two rune stones found near Slesvig may be associated with the Danish reconquest of Hedeby.

Harald Bluetooth's Death and Burial

In an elective monarchy the king reigned until his death, and if some wanted to get rid of him earlier, they had to actively make sure that he died. This option has been used several times, for example by the Goths in Italy. It was precisely that solution that Svein Forkbeard and the country's best men chose for diposing Harald Bluetooth. Following Jomsvikinge Saga the arrow, that gave Harald his mortal wound, was "easily recognized because it was wrapped in gold".

Palnatoke kills king Harald with a gold-wrapped arrow
Palnatoke aiming to kill King Harald with a gold-wrapped arrow. Drawing Jenny Nystroem 1895. Wikipedia.

Adam of Bremen wrote that Sweyn rebelled against his father, supported by the kingdom's noblemen: "In the Archbishop's very last time our position among the barbarians was weakened, and unrest emerged among the Christian Danes. Because of envy of the divine faith's beautiful growth a hostile man tried to saw weed. Svein Otto, the great Dane king Harald's son, first tried several attacks against his father and planned then with them, whom he had forced to accept Christianity to depose the now aging and frail king." - "In this unfortunate war that was worse than a civil war, Harald and his men suffered defeat. He himself fled wounded from the battlefield, boarded a ship and escaped to the Slavonians' city Jumme."

There is some disagreement about, where the decisive battle took place.

Knytlinge Saga and the Great Saga of Olaf Tryggvesson says that the battle took place in Isefjord: Sweyn "steered with his ships toSjælland and into Issefjord, where his foster father Palnatoke met him with a large fleet. King Harald, Svein's father, was there already in the fjord with men and ships, and intended to take off on maritime warfare. Svend navigated to battle against his father, and it was a tough skirmish. Then flocked so much people to King Harald, that Svein had to give in to the superior force and flee; but King Harald had got several wounds that caused his death, and Palnatoke should following the legend had given him these wounds."

Jomsvikinge Saga writes that the events took place at Bornholm; but Saxo is sure that Harald and Svein met at Helgenaes off Mols.

However, almost all sources agree the Harald was wounded in battle, and his men brought him to Jomsborg, where he died from his wounds around the year 987.

Adam of Bremen also tells that Harald was brought wounded to Jumme after the battle, he died there and was then buried in Roskilde: "Against expectations - the population was the pagans - they received him hospitably. However, he was weakened by his wounds, and a few days after he died professing himself to Christ. The army tranported his body to his homeland, where it was buried in the town of Roscald in the church, which he had built in honor of the Holy Trinity."
Proposal for a timeline of Harald Bluetooth
Proposal for a time-line for Harald Bluetooth. No one knows for sure, when Harald was born. But he fell in battle around the year 987, so he may not have been completely decrepit at this time, although Svend Estridsen talked about him to Adam of Bremen Harald as "the now aging and frail king". Therefore, a shot from the hip, he may have been about 65 years old, when he died around 987. He can thus have been born around 922. That Harald, who came his country men in Normandy to help about 945, was referred to as a king. He may have had co-kingship with his father, it was quite common at that time.
One can believe that the stone ship in Jelling was similar the Glavendrup stone ship in that respect that the rune stone was placed on a mound at one end of the ship and the actual burial in midship. This will lead to that the small Jelling stone had been erected on the top of the South Mound, which was built around 970, which means that Thyra died around this year, and at that time Gorm was still alive, as he erected the rune stone. She must then have been buried in the double chamber in the North Mound, where she most likely shortly after was joined by Gorm. Later, they both were moved from the North Mound. Gorm possibly to the church and Thyra to an unknown place, maybe Roskilde church. The uncomfortable element of this theory is that then both Gorm and Thyra would have been alive, when the Harald got their grandson Gold-Harald killed. It may not have been popular. But a long life for Thyra will make plausible that she really had something to do with the expansion of Dannevirke, which took place during this time, as the legend says that she had. Besides, this theory gives problems with the skeleton found in the church.
We must believe that the Jelling dynasty originally ruled Jutland and later the whole area of Denmark. Harald must have won "all Denmark" before Trelleborg was built, for they are the same all over the country, and probably before Emperor Otto attacked Jylland for the Eastern Danes would not have chosen such a loser king; but apart from that, it is impossible to say, when he became king over "all of Denmark and Norway".

A few sagas and chronicles suggest the reason for Svend Forkbeard's rebellion.

Sven Aggesen indicates that there were two reasons, namely the new religion, which many could not accept, and the great workload, which Harald put on the people by the construction of the Viking ring fortresses, defence dykes and bridges: "While he sent the army to drag the immense stone, which he had determined to put as a memorial on his mothers grave mound, an uprising erupted in the country, partly because of the new religious customs, partly also because of the intolerable yoke of bondage, they suffered, and commoners went so far in their rage that they compelled the king to leave the country and the kingdom. Quickly he came away, for fear loaned feet wings, and took the way to Wendland, where he found a peaceful reception, and where he should had laid the foundation for the city, which is now called Jomsborg."

Aggesens almost contemporary, Saxo, indicates a similar reason: "However, they, who together with Svend were leaders of the fleet, was fed up with Harold's rule, partly because he was favorably minded to Christianity, partly because he placed extraordinary burdens on the common people".

Claus Deluran's version of Harald's death
Claus Deluran points out that most versions of Harold's death are handed down from his enemies. He has combined Saxo and Jomsvikinge Sagas descriptions of Harold's death, both of which are quite hostile to Harald. Saxo writes: "When Harald trusting for the upcoming agreement went around, as if there was peace and no danger, and came into the forest thicket, where he sat down among the bushes to relieve himself, he was wounded by an arrow by Toke, who burned by covetousness to avenge the wrongs that he had inflicted on him." Jomsvikinge Saga writes that Palnatoke lurked in the bushes, and when the king leaned forward to warm himself by the fire, "and he laid the arrow on the string, and shot to the king, and then the most knowledgeable men tell that the arrow flew straight into the butt of the king and along through him and came out from the mouth, and the king immediately fell dead to the ground, as one might expect."

When he for sure took refuge in Jumme, we must believe that the Jomsvikings were among his most loyal supporters. We may also expect that the king's professional warriors were most loyal to him.

It is also fairly certain that he was buried in Roskilde church.

The reason for that his grave can not be found in the church, and that he was not elevated to saint, which Sven Aggesen mentions almost in passing, was that Harald renounced Christianity in his last days in Jumme: "In his exile his son Svend nicknamed Forkbeard was taken as a king in his place. The belief in the holy Trinity, as the father during his exile had rejected, he assumed with a sincere heart."

Links and Litterature

Den store saga om Olaf Tryggveson Heimskringla
Rimbert: Ansgars Levned Heimskringla
Roskildekroeniken Heimskringla
Saxos Danmarkshistorie Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab & G.E.C.Gads Forlag.
Adam af Bremens Kirkehistorie Heimskringla
Dronning Edels Familie Per Ullidtz - Google Books
Jelling-Monumenterne Steen Hvass
Saxo Grammaticus om Harald Blaatand Heimskringla.
Danske runeindskrifter fra vikingetid Arild Hauges Runer.
I. Jelling - hvori Jelling reduceres til midlertidig familiegravplads Kristian Andersen Nyrup
Jomsvikinge Saga Jomsborg Vikingelaug
Poppos jernbyrd Kristian Andersen Nyrup
Eyerbygga Saga Heimskringla
Saxo Grammaticus om Harald Blaatand Heimskringla
Svend Aggesen Heimskringla
Da fortaellingen om Danmark blev udfordret Specialestuderende: Hans Bjerregaard Christoffersen
Dannevirke Wikipedia
Stavkirken Moesgaard Museum.
Arkeologi i nord Frans-Arne H. Stylegar
Courtenay-haandskriftet Det Kongelige Bibliotek
Knud den Stores kroenike paa Det Kongelige Bibliotek Historie-online.dk
Trelleborg (cirkelborg) Wikipedia
Castrum Warbole and its Contingent of Danes Dansk-Estisk Seminar 2007
Ringfort Wikipedia
A possible Ringfort from the late Viking period in Helsingborg Margareta Weidhagen-Hallerdt
To skaanske ringborge fra vikingetiden Poul Erik Lindelof
Vikingebroen i Ravning Fortidens Jelling.
Ravningbroen Wikipedia
Palisade in Jelling Medieval Histories
Vikingetidens byggerier Byggerier fra Harald Blaatands Regeringstid
The Jelling monument - Contemporary fortresses and settlements Leiden University
The Trelleborg-type fortresses Anne-Christine Larsen
Mellem vikingetid og Valdemarstid - Et forsoeg paa en syntese Aksel E. Christensen
Aggersborg vikingeborge.dk
Martin Geisler Online Adventures with computers
Aggersborg GWZO
Middelalder- og Renaessancearkaeologi aarhus Universitet Philip Hoejen Broennum Hansen
Norske stavkirker Aase og Thorkilds hjemmeside
Galleri: Vikingernes monumenter og skatte National Geographic
The Curmsun Disc The Curmsun Disc
Ny undersoegelse: Jelling-palisade ER fra Harald Blaatands tid Nationalmuseet
Ett unikt objekt fraan Harald Blaatands tid? Sven Rosborn.
Die Schiffssetzungen im Flächennaturdenkmal "Altes Lager" in Menzlin Großsteingräber und Megalithbauwerke.
En arabisk koebmands beretning om Hedeby Nationalmuseet
Det gyldne alter fra Tamdrup Kirke Biopix
Histoire de l'Europe Cartes d'histoire
Danmarks Oldtid - Yngre Jernalder og Vikingetid - Joergen Jensen - Gyldendal.
Danmarks Historie 3 - Peter Sawyer - Gyldendal og Politikken.
Snorres Heimskringla - Nationaludgave Oslo 1930.
Adam af Bremens kroenike - oversat af Allan A. Lund Wormanium.
Danmark i Europa 750-1300 - Nils Hybel -Museum Tusculanums Forlag.
Roskildekroeniken oversat af Michael H. Gelting - Wormanium 1979.
Saxo Grammaticus oversat af Fr. Winkel Horn - Sesam.
Dudo - Normandiets Historie under de foerste Hertuger - Erling Albrectsen - Odense Universitetsforlag.
"Danmark og Normandiet" af Erling Albrectsen - Skalk nr. 1 1986.
Illustreret Danmarkshistorie for Folket 8. del af Claus Deluran - Ekstrabladets Forlag.

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