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20. Sweyn Forkbeard

22. Canute the Great

Denmark's History

21. Harald 2. Svenson

1. Introduction 2. Harald Svenson
3. Olav the Holy 4. Animal Ornamentation
5. Literature

1. Introduction

Harald Svendson is the Danish king since Gorm the Old, about whom we know least. He is mentioned only incidentally in some sagas as Sweyn Forkbeard's son, and only in Encomium Emmae Reginae is told that he was King of Denmark.

Timeline of Royal dynasties in Denmark

Timeline of Royal dynasties in Denmark - Close to all kings descend from "Hardegon, the son of a certain Sven" that captured at least some parts of Jutland around the year 917, as told by Adam of Bemen under bishop Hoger. But it is advantageous for an understanding of the history to divide the line of kings and thereby Denmark's history into some manageable groups or dynasties, as it gives a good overview.
The Knytlings have got their name from a Hardecnut, most likely , as told by Adam under Unni. son of Hardegon. He is called Knud 1. and was the father of the king 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 Sweyn Estridson and his sons and grandsons. Sweyn Estridson was the grandson of Sweyn Forkbeard.
The mutually struggling kings, Svend, Knud and Valdemar, were all royal princes descending from Sweyn Estridson; the historic period appears as an interregnum to the period of the Valdemars.
Many historians, probably most, only regard Valdemar 1. the Great, his son Knud 6. and Valdemar 2. Sejr as the Valdemars. But no one has a patent on that definition, and it seems the author natural also to include their direct male descendants - including Erik I4. Plovpenning, Abel and Christoffer 1. - until Christoffer 2. who was the last king before the period without a king.
Valdemar 4. Atterdag was not a union king, but his grandson Oluf was, and his daughter Margrete 1. became ruling queen of the Scandinavian Union. One can say - with good will - that Valdemar 4. Atterdag by reinstalling Danish monarchy made 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 in short periods.
The civil war, The Count's Feud - that took place at the same time as the Lutheran Reformation - was an important turning event in Denmark's history. As a result of the Reformation, the kings took over the third of Denmark's land that belonged to the church. This tremendous wealth made it possible for the kings to push the old nobility aside and establish the absolute monarchy that became a main cause of Denmark's historic decline. A Democratic Constitution was peacefully introduced in 1848 without bloodshed or civil war.
In 1863 the Royal line of the Oldenborgs died out with the childless Frederik 7. He was succeeded by Christian 9. of Glucksborg.

The Knytlings

The royal succession of the Dynasty of the Knytlings - Adam recounts "Hardegon, son of Svend", and afterwards "Hardecnudt Wurm". Several historians believe that a "filius" are omitted from Adam's text so that it should have been "Hardecnudt filius Wurm", meaning Wurm, Hardecnudt's son. It is supported by that Canute 4. the Holy in 1085 in his donation letter to the church of Lund calls himself Knud 4. from which it follows that there must have been a Knud 1. or a Hardeknud 1. prior to Gorm, which Adam also says. The author believes that the names Hardegon and Hardecnudt are too different and do not represent the same person.

The most important event of Harald's reign was his brother Canute's reconquest of England, probably with the full support of Harald. The brothers had their full attention to England and spent probably all resources in the war there. Olav Digre, who later got the epithet the Holy, took advantage of this to establish himself as the king of Norway.

2. Harald Svendson

Only Encomium Emmae Reginae says Sweyn Forkbeard's son became King of Denmark after his death: "He had two sons of excellent qualities; and he took the elder in his own company, placing the younger at the head of the government of the whole kingdom, and attaching to him a military force and a few of his chief men to instruct the boy wisely, and be a wall to him by their counsel and arms."
Detail of illustration in Encomium Emmae Reginae

Detail of illustration in Encomium Emmae Reginae showing Queen Emma receiving the manuscript from a monk, probably the author, who was an anonymous monk of St Bertin's or St Omer's monastery in Normandy. Her sons Hardicanute and Edward the Confessor look on in the background. It was probably written in 1042 or 1043.

Later in the same script in the story of Canute's retreat from England after his father's death, Sweyn Forkbeard's second son is named Harald: " - not because he was fleeing afraid of the harsh outcome of war, but in order to consult his brother Haraldr, the king of the Danes, about so weighty a matter."

Besides, Encomium Emmae repeats several times that Canute was the eldest of the two brothers, which, in all likelihood, is not true, " - a swiftly spreading rumor suddenly filled the palace of King Haraldr, saying that his elder brother Knutr had reached his shores." - "When each was describing his own fortune and asking about that of his brother, Knutr, who was the elder, addressed his brother thus - ".

We must believe that Sweyn left the government of Denmark in the hands of his eldest son, and Harald was probably elected king by the news of his father's death, because Sweyn himself had appointed him as the leader in his absence, and because he was the eldest. Besides, Saxo lets Canute be the son of Sveyn Forkbeard's second and later wife, namely Sigrid the Haughty, which also indicates that Canute was a few years younger than Harald, who was indisputably son of his first wife, Gunhild. It seems likely that Encomium Emmae lets Canute be the oldest to increase his dignity.

Also Knytlinge Saga lets Canute be the son of Gunhild, "King Svend was married to Gunhild - daughter of king Burislav of the Slaws - and their sons were Knud and Harald. Kong Svend was later married to Sigrid the Haughty - daughter of Skøgul-Toste and mother of the Swedish king Olaf."
The Pitney brooch found at Pitney in Somerset

The Pitney brooch found at Pitney in Somerset, England. An animal and a snake entwined in a fight. Dated to about the year 1000 - Photo Pinterest.

It is told in the saga that Sweyn Forkbeard's arve-beer for his father was held two years after Harald Bluetooth's defeat around the year 987, which should be around 989. In the long saga about Olav Trygvason is told about Sigvald Jarl's abduction of Svend and the subsequent double wedding in Jomsborg ahead the story of Sweyn's arve-beer, indicating that Sweyn married Gunhild quite early in his first difficult time. In a normal marriage between two healthy young people, it is likely that the first child comes within one or two years after the wedding. Therefore, we can believe that Harold earliest may have been born around 986 to 987, and he would, therefore, have been about 27 years old when Canute came back from England in 1014.

It is also difficult to guess Canute's age. Anglo Saxon Chronicle tells that Canute died in 1035 and by that time he was "forty years old", or "hardly filled forty years". Which means that he was born in 995, or a few years later. Following this calculation he would thus have been 17-19 years old in 1014.

Viking Ship is pulled over land

Viking Ship is pulled over land. Photo from Alan Robert Lancaster hubpages - unfortunately, unknown artist.

Encomium Emmae says that when Canute met his brother, King Harald, he made demands on half of Denmark: "I have come, oh brother, partly out of my love for you, and partly to avoid the unforeseen audacity of barbarous fury, which had raised against me, however, not because I feared war, which to my glory I will seek again, but in order that instructed by a pronouncement from you and supported by your protection I may go back certain of victory. But there is one thing, which you will first do for me, if you begrudge me not the glory, which is mine, that is to divide with me the kingdom of the Danes, my heritage, which you hold alone, and afterwards we will add the kingdom of the English to our heritage, if we can do so by our joint efforts".

King Harald rejected Canute's demands but promised his brother support to regain England: "I rejoice, brother, at your arrival, and I thank you for visiting me, but what you say about the division of the kingdom is a serious thing to hear. It is my part to rule the heritage, which our father gave me with your approval; as for you, if you have lost a greater one. I regret it, but though prepared to help you, I will not endure that my kingdom to be divided."

Rig's journey

Rig at Olde-mother and Olde-father - Wikipedia.
The ancient poem, Rig's Journey, is a tale of how the god Hejmdal wandered in Middle-Earth as the mortal man Rig. It gives a good idea about how the society was organized in the Viking Age.

Rig first came to a poor cottage, where a couple, ragged dressed, was sitting, Olde-mother and Olde-father, worn both. Between them, he was lying in the middle of the bed. From those nights passed nine months, a son the woman got, whose name was Thrall.
Best-Mother and Best-Father place it was. The man in the house cut wood to loom, his beard was cut, briskly the woman took spinning-wheel and spun, measured finished thread and weaved. Between them, he was lying in the middle of the bed and on each side host and housewife. From these nights passed nine months. A boy got Best-Mother, he was called Bonde (peasant).
He came to a hall, with a south-facing door, its door bolted, adorned with a ring. Father saw Mother freely in the eyes, the man in the house tied bowstring, shafted arrows, his woman showed her beautiful arms, smoothing her sleeves. Between them, he was lying in the middle of the bed, on each side, host and housewife. From those nights passed nine months, son Mother got, Earl, the boy was called.

The poem describes how Heimdal was the ancestor of the three layers in society, namely thralls, free men and earls. Thus, in Viking time the population was divided into three castes, as mentioned above. The individual's position was hereditary, a man married within his social group, and originally he had probably not many opportunities to work his way up in society.

A somewhat similar social order can be found in the many Germanic codes of law from the Migration Period 300 to 500 years before the Viking era and from Procopius' works about the same period. The Germanic peoples, including the Goths, were basically divided into three casts: free men, freedmen and thralls. However, one gets the impression that the group of free men in the migration time was far more numerous than the group of earls in the Viking Age, and also the Viking peasants enjoyed more esteem than the migration era's freed men.

From the English Doomsday Book of 1086, some have deduced that 10% of people in England were thralls. In Denmark, during Harald Svenson's reign in 1014 the proportion of thralls has probably been somewhat higher.

This whole tripartite division of society can remind about the condition in the countryside in Denmark more than a century ago, when there were three informal ranks, namely farmers, smallholders and rural workers.

Canute accepted this solution, probably because there was a good understanding between the brothers, but perhaps also because he had no choice, as his own army and his reputation were in a sorry state after the defeat in England.

Now we remember that Harald Bluetooth was faced with a similar demand when his nephew Gold-Harald returned from Viking raids with great fame and demanded co-kingship. Harald Bluetooth was not afraid to make needed but unpleasant decisions, and he made sure to that Gold-Harald was hanged at Limfjorden.

Perhaps Harold Svendsøn was a competent leader of his people and made the right decisions; at least it can be supported by that no setbacks or disasters are known from Denmark in his time. In fact, there are no reports at all on what happened in Denmark in Harald Svenson's time. We must believe that "no news is good news" as it is said.

About 60 years later, Harald Hen should be elected Danish king at Isøre in the Isefjord on condition that he would comply with "Harald's laws". It is not clear which Harald it was about, but we can probably exclude Harald Bluetooth, who was killed by rebellious subjects, which brings Harald Svenson into focus as a law maker.

Encomium says that Harald and Canute together went to the Land of the Slaws to fetch Gunhild, their mother: "They also, in fact, went to the land of the Slavs, and brought back their mother, who resided there." But their business has probably also been to recruit men and ships for the coming attack on England.

Moreover, together the brothers buried their father, Sweyn Forkbeard, who originally had been buried in York, but was brought to Denmark by: "a certain woman, who, even though a native, undug that guarded body and sent it on a ship towards the fatherland's bear stars, that is to the northern land," as Thietmar of Merseburg wrote.

Model of a knar

Model of a knar in Museum Haithabu. It was a typical merchant ship in the Viking Age - Wikipedia.

On the whole, the brothers seem to have had a good mutual relationship. Thitmar of Merseburg says that also Harald participated in the attack on England: "Ethelred king of the Angles died in the year 1016 after the incarnation of the Lord, and in July of the same year the said brothers Harald and Canute arrived in England together with their leader Thurgut and three hundred and fourty ships. They immediately started the siege of the town called London, where the queen stayed with her garrison, mourning after the death of her husband and defender, together with her sons Edelsthan and Edmund, two bishops and other lords of the state."

Thietmar thought that Sweyn was indeed a monster, and his sons was a kind of dragon offspring:"Because nobody is able to comprehend either the curiosities of that northern land, which are unfolded in their prodigious form by nature herself, or the cruel deeds of its people, I will omit them and will only devote a few words to that lizard's brood, that is to the sons of the said Svein, the persecutor. They were born to him by a daughter of Duke Mieszko and sister of his son and successor Boleslaw. Expelled by her husband for a long time, she had to bear many hardships together with others. Her sons took after their father in every respect."

Many historians write that Harald Svendsøn died in 1018 - by all accounts, childless. It is not known how he died, and his grave is not known. He was succeeded on the throne by his brother Canute the Great.

3. Olav the Holy

It was in the very last time of Harald Svendson's reign that Olav Haraldsson arrived in Norway and grab for power there.

Olav the Holy's Saga

Olav the Holy's Saga. Drawing by G.Munthe in Heimskringla.

Olav Haraldsson was son of Harald Grenske, who was a grandson of Harald Fairhair. According to Olav Trygvasson's Saga, Harald Grenske was burned to death along with other suitors when he proposed marriage to Sigrid the Haughty - despite the fact that he was already married with Åsta, who was then pregnant with Olav. In every-day talking he was called Olav Digre, probably because he was a bit portly. After his death, and exaltation to a saint, he was given the name Olav the Holy.

Olav grew up with his stepfather Sigurd Syr, who was a kind-hearted, rich and very practical and earthly farmer with a big estate. Apparently, he enjoyed particularly the love of his mother and was brought up as something very special - probably because of his supposed royal ancestor Harald Fairhair.

Olav den Hellige på Hedeby mønt Olav den Hellige på Hedeby mønt

Left: Olav the Holy on Hedeby Coin - Frontpage. It is assumed that the coin was minted because of Magnus the Good's victory over the Vends in the battle of Lyrskov Hede 1043. The night before the battle, Olav had shown himself for his son in a dream and predicted victory. Many of his warriors certainly believed that they had heard the bell from Olavs grave church in Nidaros during the battle. Therefore, the coin must be manufactured at a time, when people, who had known Olav alive and could tell how he looked, still lived, and therefore we can believe that there is some portrait likeness.
He seemed to have had a rather large round head, with a straight nose and rather close-set eyes. He had a well-groomed full beard. His hair was arranged in small braids, two of which hung down in front of each ear.
Right: Olav the Holy on Hedeby Coin - Backside. The coin is minted by a coin master named IOLI. photo: Pinterest.

Olav the Holy's Saga tells of an episode, where the young Olav let shine through that he felt superior to ordinary peasants: "There was a time that King Sigurd would ride from the farm, and there was no one at home on the farm; he asked then his stepson Olav to saddle a horse for him. Olav went to the goat house, took the biggest male goat, brought it home and put the king's saddle on it, then went and told him that he had made the steed ready for him. When King Sigurd came and saw, what Olav had done. He said: "It is easy to see that you will refuse my orders; it will probably also seem your mother appropriate, that I do not order you to do something that you don't like. It is easy to see that we two are not equal in mind; you are probably more high minded than I am." Olav said little, but laughed and walked away."

Olav the Holy on a mural

Medieval mural of the Holy Olav in Øverselø Church in Sweden.

One can believe that the mother showered the young Olav with love at the expense of her other children, and he thus developed a kind of narcissistic personality, which included a notion to be destined to change the course of history and being other people superior. Olav had such devastating self-confidence that assassins blushed and fumbled when they faced him.

He was most likely a difficult boy, and he left home already at age 12: "Olav Haraldsøn was 12 winters old when he first entered a warship. His mother Åsta made Rane, who was called king's foster; to lead the army and be accompanied by Olav, for Rane had often before been in Viking."

The saga tells of Olav: "When Olav Haraldsøn grew up, he was not tall, but medium of growth, powerful, strong, fair-haired, square figured, light and with a ruddy face, had very good eyes, beautiful eyes, sharp eyes, so that you may be dismayed to see him in the eyes, when he was angry. Olav was a great athlete in many disciplines, could well handle a bow and shot extremely well with hand-bow, swam well, was handy and had talents in all crafts, whether he worked alone or together with others."

Olav liked to work with his own hands. It is said that he had built the ship Visenten, which was adorned with a bison head in the bow, which he had cut himself.

He was, by all accounts, an imaginative and creative man. The saga recounts that when he was trapped in Mälaren, because the Swedish King Olav had blocked the entrance with iron chains, he slipped out by letting his ships flush over a strip of land that was flooded due to heavy rain. He broke down London bridge by letting roofed ships towing a rope between them pulling the pillars from under the bridge. It is reported that he took the young Håkon Jarl prisoner by pulling a rope under the water between his two ships and when Hakon Jarl's ship was just over the rope, he pulled it with windlasses from both ships, so that Håkon Jarl's ship was pulled out of the water and capsized. It is also said that he dammed the water in Helegå, and when Canute's ships anchored in the mouth of the river, he broke down the dam and triggered thereby a devastating flood.

Olav breaks down London Bridge

Olav breaks down London Bridge by pulling the pillars from under it. Unfortunately, unknown artist - hubpages.com.

English children still sing: "London Bridge is falling down" so that with the bridge is probably true. But one can doubt that time ships had whole decks, on which were fitted windlasses. Aso, people, who have been in the mouth of the river Helgåen, do not think that the landscape conditions permit a dam as described; and moreover, could it really be built in such a short time?

Olav Haraldsen took part in Thorkel the Tall's invasion of England in 1009-11. When Æthelred returned to England in connection with Sweyn Forkbeard's death in 1014, Olav and his men immediately went into his service: Olav the Holy's Saga says: "But when Adelråd England king learned of this, he immediately returned to England. But when he came back to the country, he sent word to all men, who would accept payment for helping him to win the country; then a large number of people gathered around him." He participated in the counter-offensive against the Danes and also in the subsequent fightings against King Canute and Thorkel the Tall (on which will be told in the following sections of King Canute)

Olav the Holy

Saint Olav on a mural in Sigtuna Mariakyrkan, Uppland in Sweden. Painted around 1340 - 1360. Foto Lennart Karlsson

It is commonly assumed that Olav reigned in Norway for 15 years because Snorre wrote so quoting Ari the Wise and Sigvat Skjald. However, the historian Ian Howard has analyzed Olav the Holy's Saga in light of the years given in Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and had come to the result that Olav the Holy was king of Norway in less than 10 years.

Howard points out that Æthelred's sons, according to Anglo-Saxon Chronicle fled to Normandy in the year 1016. Olav the Holy's Saga says:"The sons of King Adalråd came from England to Ruda in Valland to their mother's brethren the summer, when Olav Haraldsson came eastward from Viking, and they were all that winter in Normandy" - "and joined cooperation and agreed that King Olav should have Northumberland, if they won England from the Danes. Then King Olav in that harvest sent Rane, his foster father, to England, to the people there, and the Adelråd-sons he sent with portent to their friends and kinsmen; but King Olav gave him many precious things with him in order to tempt people to join them, and Rane was during the winter in England," - which brings us to 1017 - "and got promises of many great men, and people in the country would rather have country-men for kings, but all the same the Danes had now so much power in England that people in the country were forced under them." This means that first in the spring of 1017 Olav gave up changing the political conditions in England on the behalf of the Æthelred-sons.

The saga continues, we must believe that it speaks of the same year, 1017: "In the spring they all came from the west, King Olav and the Adalråd-sons, they came to England to a place called Jungufurda, and they disembarked immediately and went to the castle with their army. There were many of the men, who had promised them help; they won the fortress and killed many men. But when King Canute's men experienced this, they drew an army together and became soon so strong that King Adalråds sons did not have the strength to resist; they saw as no other way out than to steer away and back west to Ruda again. Then King Olav parted from them and would not sail to Valland. He sailed north along England right to Northumberland, he lay in a port, which is called Furuwald. There he battled with the townsfolk and got victory and much goods."

Olav lets the fleet blow to be assembled prior to the Battle of Nesjar

Olav Haraldsen lets the fleet blow to be assembled prior to the Battle of Nesjar against Svend Jarl, Einar Tambeskælver and Erling Skjalgsøn off some promontories in Viken called Nesjar by Nevlunghavn near Larvik between the mouths of Langesundfjord and Tønsbergfjord. Olav won, and thus the way was paved for his dominion in Norway. The battle took place perhaps in the year 1019.

Then the saga continues, in which must still be 1017: "King Olav left there the longships, but equipped two knars and then had two hundred twenty men, chosen people in chain mail. He sailed north in the ocean during the harvest, and got a huge storm at sea, so it stood them around their waist, but as they had good crews and the king's luck additionally, then it went well." Then is described how Olav lands in the middle of Norway late in the year and in a snap overcomes Erik Jarl's son Håkon Jarl.

Most agree that Olav was chased away from Norway in the year 1028 giving him a time in Norway of 11 years.

However, he did not become king of all Norway immediately. Olav used some years to gain control of Norway's extensive coastline, inlets, islands and valleys: "King Olav the Digre now headed eastwards along with the land and held ting with the farmers all around" - "Therefore Olav now rushed east to Viken and sailed with his army in there and put his ships upon land there and hurried up into the country" - "in the harvest he went up into the country to King Sigurd, his stepfather" - As Olav arrived in Norway after the harvest in 1017, we must now be in 1018.

"Svend Jarl was then inside Trondheimen on Steinkjer and letting the Christmas feast there prepare" - which brings us to the beginning of 1019. Later is told, " - but when it became spring, he drew an army together, and sailed into Viken." - Which must be spring 1019, when shortly before Easter a great battle took place in Viken at Nesjar between Olav and Erling Skjalgsson, Svend jarl and Einar Tambarskjelve. Olav won victory, and the earl and his men fled.

The Opland kings go to negotiation

The Opland kings go to private meeting and negotiation - In the beginning, the Opland kings accepted Olav as king of Norway, but later they regretted. They met and decided to resist Olav because of his brutal actions: "Thus the five kings met in Hedemark on a place called Ringsaker; Ring was the fifth king, the brother of King Rørek. The Kings went first in private to talk together."

Somewhat later, probably the same year, on the Oplands ting was stated: "Then it ended that they gave Olav kingship over the whole country (Opland), and the country was given to him according to the Opland laws."

Thereafter it is said: " - he went west to Viken - and he was taken as king at the tings. In the same way, he went to Lindesnes." Further, it is said: " - he got good wind and rushed north to Trondheim because he thought that it was there the whole strength of the country was if he could get this in his power while the earl was out of the country. But when King Olav came to Trondheim, there was not made any uprising against him, and he sat down in the harvest in Nidaros - ."

It lasted most likely five years before Olav got time to take an interest in the northernmost part of Norway, called Haalogaland. The saga says: "Then he had been king for 5 winters" and later: "Then the king declared that he was thinking this summer to go north to Haaloga-land and to the very end of the land, but the Haalogians thought very different about this journey." Olav never got full control of Haalogaland.

When Olav, in the beginning, was elected king on the Norwegian county-tings, he did not stress Christianity very much, but after he had won power in most of the country, he changed his tune: "The King traveled south along with the country and stopped in each county and held ting with the peasants, but on every ting he had read aloud of the Christian laws", the saga says. "But the king promised those men a rough ride that would not abide by the Christian law."

Everywhere Olav gave the ting-peasants the choice to choose him as king and become Christians or fight him. In the few cases, where the peasants chose to fight against him, the case was settled for Olav's advantage by his chainmail-clad veterans, who had followed him from England.

The Opland king Rørek and his kinsman Svein

King Olav sat a man named Svein to care for the blinded Opland king. Svein was Rørek's kinsman: "Rørek continued his usual manner with sullenness and in the same way with his lonely walks. But when he and Svein were alone together Rørek was merry and talkative". He persuaded Svein to murder Olav, but it went wrong: "But when the king went out of the room, he went quicker against him than Svein expected, and he saw the king in his face; then he turned pale, became white as a corpse, and his hands sank."

King Olav decided that he would go to the Oplands the following winter: "He wanted this winter to go for guest ting in the Oplands because the ancient kings had the habit of going on the guest tings through the Oplands every third winter. He departed on the journey in the harvest from Borg". "He ransacked their Christian studies, and where he thought that improvements were needed, he taught them the right ways and rebuked them so strictly - if there was anyone, who would not give up their pagan beliefs - that he chased some out of the country - some he let mutilate on the hands or feet or poke out their eyes, some he let hang or behead, but no one he let unpunished that would not serve God."

The Opland kings heard about this and planned to turn against Olav, but he heard about it and took action in advance against them," - he let Rørek blind in both eyes and took him away, and he let the tongue cut out of Gudrød Dale-king. Ring and the other two he made swear that they would depart from Norway and never come back, but the lendermen and peasants, who were complicit in this treason, he chased some- out of the country, some he let mutilate, and from some he received settlements."

The king ordered the now blind Opland king Rørek to be brought with him, wherever he went: "King Olav had with him king Rørek the blind. When his wounds were healed, King Olav put two men to the service of him, and let him sit in the seat of pride with him and kept him with drink and clothes as well as he had previously kept himself. Rørek was a man of few words, and answered quite sullen and short when he was spoken to."

Rørek and Olav Haraldsen

The saga says: "When King Olav had sat down, King Rørek put his hand on his shoulder and shook; he then said:" Pell-clothes you have now, kinsman." - "Then king Rørek jumped up quickly and hard and then stabbed King Olav with such a knife, called a ryting." - "for this reason, Rørek had touched King Olav's shoulder with the hand, he wanted to know if he had chain mail on." - Painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo.

The old king Rørek did not give up in spite of his disability, he tried several times to get Olav killed, which failed. Eventually, Olav sent the old blind man to Iceland where he died, depressed and deprived of all hope. He is the only king, who is buried in Iceland.

Later it is said: "He let take all the best men both in Lesjar and Dovrar, and they had to take on Christianity or suffer death or escape, who could manage to do so. But those who took on Christianity, gave their sons to the king as hostages for their fidelity."

In reality, Olav never got control of all Norway. Erling Skjalgsøn ruled Rogaland around Stavanger and Haugesund, and Olav never won complete power in his area. When Olav sailed south along the coast in the year 1026 to attack Denmark in alliance with the Swedish king Anund, he found that Erling had already departed with his ships to England to join King Canute.

Erling Skjalgsøn constantly developed Rogaland's economy, it is said: "Erling had all-time at home on the farm 30 thralls, and also other thralls; he determined the day's work for his thralls and furthermore gave them time and allowed, all who wanted, to work in the twilight or nights; He gave them arable land to plant grain for themselves and letting the crop be to their own gain. He determined worth and ransom money for all of them; many succeeded to buy themselves free after the first year or the second, but everybody, who had some qualities, freed themselves in three winters. With this money, Erling bought other thralls, but some of his freedmen he helped to start herring fishing and some he helped to other trades; some chopped down woodland and made themselves farms there, and everybody he, in some way, helped to get started in a good way." There is nothing to that Erling should have been a particularly devout Christian.

Tore shows King Olav King Canute's ring

Tore shows King Olav King Canute's ring. Later Olav got him killed.

After the Battle of Helgeå against the Danes - also in 1026, perhaps in September - Anund and Olav fled against the east, and they were not pursued. The Danes placed guard-ships in Øresund, and in order to avoid to share the fate of Olav Trygvasson, Olav Digre chose to leave the Norwegian ships in Sweden and return to Norway on foot - which must have been a tough ride so late in the year.

As a king without ships, he was severely handicapped in the geographically vast and mountainous Norway. In addition, it must have been rather humiliating for a great king - at least in his own opinion - to return home without ships. Olav made himself even more unpopular by killing some young people, whom he suspected of having sympathy with King Canute.

There was a battle between Erling Skjalgsøn and Olav Digre at Store Bokn near Haugesund, where Erling and all his men fell. Pursued by a large army, led by Håkon Jarl, Kalv Arneson, Erling's sons and many other great men, Olav finally fled into Storfjorden behind Ålesund and from there over land to Sweden. It happened in the year 1028.

4. Germanic Animal Ornamentation

Viking Age artists could not unrestrainedly give in to their imagination and inspiration. They had to express themselves restricted by the narrow limits of the actual artistic style. A couple dancing the tango cannot uninhibitedly indulge themselves in free dance following only their own whims, they must unfold only within the framework of the tango rhythm, the special steps and the uniqueness of the dance. Similarly, Viking artists had to keep themselves within the characteristics of the contemporary artistic style.

In his book, "Die Altgermanische Tier Ornamentation" of 1907 the Swede Bernhard Salin divided the Germanic animal ornamentation in three styles, namely I, II and III.

Still I was a fusion of the Nydam, Søsdala and Kragehul styles that were the forerunners of the true Germanic animal ornamentation, which occurred in the latter half of the 400 years probably in Scandinavia and quickly spread to other European peoples, which according to their ancient myths, once had emigrated from the island of Skandia or another island in the ocean.

Salin's characteristic shapes of the animals' heads in style III

Salin used the characteristic shapes of the animals' heads and feet as definitions of his three style. This is the main characteristic forms of heads in his style III. From "Die Altgermaniche Thiereornamentik" by Bernhard Salin.

Style I was characterized by that the entire surface was filled with a multitude of human and animal figures. They were pure fantasy creatures. There appeared stylized people and four feet animals standing crawling, walking, forward-looking or backward-looking. There could be animal heads with beaks like birds of prey, with mouth or muzzle as horses or with wide open mouths like wolves. Mixed with these could be face masks of men or women. The German scientist Gunther Haseloff has further analyzed Salin's style I into four phases called A, B, C and D.

Around the year 600, occurred Style II, which included that the former plastic reliefs were replaced by flat surface covering patterns composed of both animal motifs and plaited ribbon - or vine motifs. Ornaments in Style II were generally more complicated than ornaments in style I. You could say that animal motif was dimmed, but it was still a pronounced animal ornamentation. The animals were not disintegrated, but they were extended and joined in an often complicated and yet symmetrical manner. Each animal was complex and intertwined. They were very abstract and cannot immediately, at first sight, be recognized as animals.

Salins graphical analysis of animal ornament from Oland

Salin's graphical analysis of an animal ornament from the island of Øland, maybe a belt buckle. It is not immediately clear, when you look at the buckle, that there are at least four different animals intertwined. It has been a challenge for Salin to separate the animals, but the Viking artist made an even greater intellectual and artisanal achievement to design and manufacture the buckle. From "Die Altgermaniche Thiereornamentik" by Bernhard Salin.

Salins style III emerged mainly in Scandinavia in the late 700 years. It can also be called Viking animal ornamentation. The connections between the animals, where they occur, are less regular and more complex, and the animals are usually seen in profile, but twisted, exaggerated and surreal, with detached body parts that detailed fill every available space, creating an intense and energetic atmosphere. Grabbing animals, seizing each other, frames and vines are typical of style III.

Salin did not himself provide years of his styles, but many later researchers have attempted to pinpoint the styles I-III in time, and they are not all in agreement.

Viking styles

Viking artistic styles, which also includes Salin's style III. The style can be further divided into Oseberg/Broa, Berdal, Borre, Jelling, Mammen, Ringrike and Urnes styles. From Kunststile der Wikingerzeit by Stefan Bollmann Wikipedia.

Salins style III and many finds from the Viking period, which he did not deal with, are traditionally by other researchers divided into the Oseberg/Broa, Berdal, Borre, Jelling, Mammen, Ringrike and Urnes styles.

The Oseberg style, also called early Viking style or Broa style after a finding place on Gotland, is named after the finds from the ship's Tomb at Oseberg in Vestfold in the Oslo fjord, which is dated to the year 834. As in several other styles, it is characterized by stylized animal figures together with braided bands, plant vines and rounded shapes. There is great variation, but the animals are generally pictured semi-naturalistic and in profile, being immediately recognizable precisely as animals. There are also people, plant vines and geometric shapes, including circles, triangles and spirals. Grabbing animals seizes frames and vines.

Bronze-jewelry in Borrestil found  in Hedeby and the London animal on a tombstone in St. Paul's cemetery in London

Left: Bronze jewelry in Borre style found in Hedeby. Photo Wikiwand.
Right: The London animal in Ringrike style on a tombstone in St. Paul's cemetery in London. An animal - probably a lion - is fighting snakes.

Related and same time as the Oseberg style the Berdal style occurred, which is named after the most important finding place in western Norway. It was especially common in Jutland and Norway. The animals are always presented in full, with distinct front and rear bodies and four paws or claws, which seizes vines and frames, hence the name gripping animal style. The heads are often depicted in profile, with staring eyes and neck tassel.

The Borre style is named after a collection of harness fittings from the ship burial at Borre in Horten in the Oslo Fjord. The find consisted of jewelry and small objects made of bronze, gold and silver. The style differs from the Oseberg style by that there are two types of gripping animals, namely dog-like animal with dog-heads and twisted, ribbon-shaped bodies, and an almost naturalistic animal with back turned head in profile, neck tassel and thigh spiral. A second motive is the Borre head, which is triangular with semicircular ears and round eyes.

The motif animals fighting snake from China and Asia Minor The motif animals fighting snake from China and Jelling

The motif animals fighting snake from China, Asia Minor and Jelling.
Upper left: Relief from the third or fourth century before Christ on a soapstone found in China - British Museum.
Upper right: An animal that fights against a snake on a small relief in gold - Hermitage St. Petersburg - found in Asia Minor. From verasir.dk.
Lower left: A belt buckle with a many-headed animal, who fights against snakes. Found in Shaanxi province in China - from the 5-6 century before Christ. It was there that the kingdom of Qin was, which later conquered all of China. Fengxiang Museum.
Lower in the middle: An animal that fights against a snake found on a coffin lid in Qinghai Province of China from the Tang Dynasty - that is the years 618-907. Found on the Chinese Internet.
Bottom right: The large Jelling stone, depicting an animal that fights against a snake surrounded by plant vines.
The animals must certainly imagine lions, although the artists have never seen this animal. Lions lived throughout Eurasia at the end of the Pleistocene 10,000 years ago, and there is still a tiny endangered population in India. Many lion populations became extinct in historic times. In Babylon's ruins is a lifelike mosaic depicting a lion.
Though the motif is widespread in both England and Scandinavia, historians have failed to identify a myth or legend, which the motif illustrates. One might think that the spread of the motif illustrates the Aesir's origin in Asia.

The Jelling style is named after the little silver cup that was found in the North Mound in Jelling in Jutland. This style is a pure animal style and is characterized by highly stylized, banded animals in profile, which meander between each other, and bird-like animals.
The Mammen ax

Drawing of the motif on one side of the Mammen ax. The Mammen style is named after the splendid ax with silver inlay, which was found in a grave at Mammen east of Viborg. The motif is the cock Gyldenkam that must awake Odin's warriors at Ragnarok. Drawing from: Viking Art and Cosmology.

The Mammen style is named after the magnificent silver inlaid ax, which was found in a grave at Mammen east of Viborg. It contains plant motifs combined with animals. The animals are easily recognizable and more realistic than animals in other styles. The motifs of a lion fighting against a snake and the Christ-like figure on the large Jelling stone are also attributed to the Mammen style.

The Ringerike style is named after the geological name for an area north of Oslo, where there is a special type of sandstone that has been used as the material for bautastones with ornamented image motifs. It is characterized by showing animals, birds and snakes in full motion surrounded by plant patterns, spirals, and auricles. Cross are common elements.

The Urnes style is named after wood carvings at Urnes stave church in Luster at the Sognefjord in Norway. It is characterized by its elegant four-legged animals surrounded by thin thread-like ribbons that sometimes are found to be snakes with heads.

5. Links og Literature

Olav den helliges saga Heimskringla
Den store saga om Olaf Tryggvesøn Heimskringla
Olaf Tryggvesøns Saga Heimskringla
Roskildekrøniken Heimskringla
Adam af Bremens Kirkehistorie Heimskringla
Svend Aggesen Heimskringla
Kong Knuts Liv og Gerninger Heimskringla - også kaldet Encomium Emmae Reginae.
Heimskringla: Olav Tryggvasons saga Nettsted olhov.net
Heimskringla og andre sagaer Nettsted olhov.net
Return of the Danes I: Unready From Dot to Domesday - English History
Encomium Emmae Reginae Allistair Campell - Royal Historical Society.
Olav den hellige Store norske leksikon
Germanischer Tierstil Wikiwand
Dyreornamentikk Wikipedia
Nordisk dyreornamentik Wikitrans
Canute the Great and the Rise of Danish Imperialism during the Viking Age Laurence Marcellus Larson
Salin's Style I By Gunther Haseloff
Danmarks Historie 3 - Peter Sawyer - Gyldendal og Politikken.
Snorres Heimskringla - Nationaludgave Oslo 1930.
Adam af Bremens krønike - oversat af Allan A. Lund Wormanium.
Saxo Grammaticus oversat af Fr. Winkel Horn - Sesam.
Illustreret Danmarkshistorie for Folket 8. del af Claus Deluran - Ekstrabladets Forlag.
Swein Forkbeards Invasions and the Danish Conquest of England 991-1017 by Ian Howard
Die Altgermanicher Thiereornamentik - Bernhard Salin - Wahlstrøm & Widstrand Stockholm 1934.
Til start

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