This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Runic Dictionary

login: password: stay logged in: help




(subheadings only)

1. Eiríkr blóðøx Haraldsson (r. c. 929-34)

Eiríkr blóðøx ‘Blood-axe’ was the son of Haraldr hárfagri (q. v.) and Ragnhildr, daughter of King Eiríkr of Jutland. During a short reign, some three years of which were shared with his father, he disposed of several of his half-brothers in his efforts to rebuild his father’s extensive kingdom. He owed his nickname either to these fratricides or to his Viking exploits (see Note to Eyv Lv 1/1-3, and Notes to Anon Nkt 10II for this and the duration of his reign). Highly unpopular, he was driven from Norway by the forces of Hákon góði (q. v.), fled to England and reigned at York until he was driven out c. 952-4 (on this date, see Sawyer 1995); his death in battle is widely dated c. 954. Eiríkr was married to Gunnhildr (Gunnh; see skald Biography), sister of the Danish king Haraldr blátǫnn ‘Blue-tooth’ Gormsson. Their sons, collectively the Eiríkssynir or Gunnhildarsynir, are prominent in the history of the next generation (see Haraldr gráfeldr below). Eiríkr and especially Gunnhildr are portrayed negatively in the sagas, and other information about him is scanty, though he is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ASC) s. a. 948 and 952-4. See Anon Nkt 10-11II (c. 1190); Theodoricus (MHN 7; McDougall and McDougall 1998, 5-6); HN (MHN 105-6; Kunin and Phelpstead 2001, 15); Ágr (ÍF 29, 7-12; Ágr 2008, 7-9, 16-17); Fsk (ÍF 29, 73-80; Finlay 2004, 54-60); Hkr (ÍF 26, 134-54; Hollander 1964a, 86-99). Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261, 273) lists Glúmr Geirason (Glúmr) and Egill Skallagrímsson (Egill) as Eiríkr’s skalds.

Events documented in poetry: Eiríkr gains land and gold with his sword (Glúmr EirIII); Eiríkr’s rivalry with his brother Hákon (Gunnh Lv); his military exploits in general (Egill Hfl 3-19V (Eg 36-52)); his dealings with the poet Egill (Egill Lv 7V, 18V, 21-3V, 26-9V (Eg 11, 25, 28-30, 33, 56-8)); his anger assuaged by Egill’s poem Hfl (Egill Arkv 3-9V (Eg 99-105)); his welcome as a hero into Valhǫll after his last battle (Anon Eirm). For the possibility that Glúmr Gráf 2-3 concern raids by Eiríkr, see Introduction to Gráf.

2. Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson (r. c. 1000-c. 1014)

Eiríkr shared with his father Hákon jarl Sigurðarson (q. v.) in the Norwegian victory against the Jómsvíkingar at Hjǫrungavágr (Liavågen), c. 985, and was one of the three allies who defeated Óláfr Tryggvason (q. v.) at the battle of Svǫlðr c. 1000. He then took over the rule of Norway together with his half-brother Sveinn Hákonarson (q. v.), and as a vassal of the Danish king Sveinn tjúguskegg (q. v.), whose daughter Gyða he married. The jarls ruled together, with a relatively light touch and with religious tolerance (Andersson 1977, 107-8), until Eiríkr was summoned to England c. 1014 to fight in the army of his brother-in-law Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson (q. v.). He was a jarl in Northumbria until at least 1023. His son Hákon Eiríksson (q. v.) and half-brother Sveinn were left to hold Norway, but eventually lost control to Óláfr Haraldsson (q. v.). See Anon Nkt 21-4II (c. 1190); Theodoricus (MHN 23-5; McDougall and McDougall 1998, 18-19, 21); HN (MHN 115, 118; Kunin and Phelpstead 2001, 21-2); Ágr (ÍF 29, 24; Ágr 2008, 34-5); Fsk (ÍF 29, 380 (index); Finlay 2004, 322 (index); ÓTHkr (ÍF 26, 377 (index); Hollander 1964a, 176-85, 221-4); ÓHHkr (ÍF 27, 30-2; Hollander 1964a, 259-62). Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 257, 266, 280-1) names Eiríkr’s skalds as Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld (Hfr), Gunnlaugr ormstunga (GunnlIV), Þórðr Kolbeinsson (ÞKolb) and Halldórr ókristni (Hókr); ms. 761ax alone adds Eyjólfr dáðaskáld (Edáð) and Skúli Þorsteinsson (Skúli), who are assigned in U to Sveinn jarl Hákonarson, and Þórðr Særeksson (ÞSjár); U alone adds Hrafn Ǫnundarson (HrafnǪV).

Events documented in poetry: Early victory over Tíðenda-Skopti (Edáð Banddr 1-2); Eiríkr stays in Denmark and is granted rule over Norwegian territory (Edáð Banddr 3); the battle of Hjǫrungavágr (Liavågen) c. 985 (ÞKolb Eirdr 1-5); the death of Hákon jarl, arrival of Óláfr Tryggvason in Norway and departure of Eiríkr to the Swedish court (ÞKolb Eirdr 6, 7); Eiríkr’s actions against the Gotar (Edáð Banddr 4), vikings off Staurr (Staver, Edáð Banddr 5), Aldeigja (Staraya Ladoga, Edáð Banddr 6), Danes in the Baltic (Edáð Banddr 7) and Gautar (Edáð Banddr 8); battle of Svǫlðr c. 1000 (Hókr Eirfl; ÞKolb Eirdr 8); consequences of the battle (ÞKolb Eirdr 9-10); Eiríkr joins Knútr in England on the death of Sveinn tjúguskegg c. 1014 (ÞKolb Eirdr 10-13); his campaign in England: attack by Eiríkr and Úlfkell on London (ÞKolb Eirdr 14); battle at Hringmaraheiði (Ringmere Heath, ÞKolb Eirdr 15); other action in England (ÞKolb Eirdr 16); military exploits in general (Edáð Banddr 9; ÞKolb Eirdr 17); kinship by marriage with Knútr (ÞKolb Eirdr 12); a poem offered to Eiríkr (Hfr EirdrV (Hallfr 31)). See also poetry about Hákon jarl Sigurðarson and Óláfr Tryggvason.

3. Hákon I inn góði Haraldsson (r. c. 934-c. 961)

Hákon góði ‘the Good’ was a younger son of Haraldr hárfagri (q. v); he lived c. 920-c. 961. As his alternative nickname Aðalsteinsfóstri ‘Æthelstan’s foster-son’ indicates, Hákon was sent for fostering to the English king Æthelstan, c. 925. Hákon heard the news of his father’s death some time in the 930s and sailed back to Norway to claim the kingdom. With the help of Sigurðr jarl of Hlaðir (Lade), son of his father’s ally Hákon jarl Grjótgarðsson, and the acclaim of the farmers of Þrándheimr (Trøndelag), whose hereditary rights he promised to restore, Hákon góði seized control of Upplǫnd (Opplandene) and Vík (Viken) and drove out his half-brother Eiríkr blóðøx (q. v.), who fled to England. The heartland of Hákon’s kingdom, however, was the south-western part of the country. Sigurðr jarl retained control over Trøndelag, and Hákon established Tryggvi Óláfsson and Guðrøðr Bjarnarson as rulers of the small kingdoms in the south-east. As Æthelstan’s foster-son, Hákon was raised a Christian (see Introduction to Eyv Hák), but any attempts to convert Norway were short-lived and he appears to have reverted to the pagan religion (Krag 2003b, 190). According to the kings’ sagas, Hákon established law federations and organised the leiðangr, the levy for naval defence. For some time Hákon succeeded in repelling attacks by the Eiríkssynir, sons of Eiríkr blóðøx, who enjoyed the support of their uncle King Haraldr blátǫnn of Denmark, and himself made several raids on Danish territories. In or about 960 the Eiríkssynir and their Danish supporters, led by the oldest surviving brother, Haraldr gráfeldr (q. v.), renewed their assaults and c. 961 they confronted their uncle Hákon at the battle of Fitjar on the island of Storð (Stord in Sunnhordland, south of Bergen at the mouth of Hardangerfjorden, western Norway). Storð was of strategic importance for defence of the trade route along the Norwegian coast, and Fitjar, already a chieftainly or royal centre by the late ninth century (Andersen 1977, 68), may have been a significant site for Hákon within his core territory in western Norway (Bagge 2004, 194). Hákon gained the victory but died of his wounds. He lacked a male heir, so Haraldr gráfeldr succeeded as king. The sources count Hákon’s rule as between twenty-four and twenty-seven years: see Note to Anon Nkt 12 [All]II; on his death and burial-place see Anon Nkt 14-15II and Notes. For overview, see Anon Nkt 10-15II (c. 1190); Theodoricus (MHN 9-10; McDougall and McDougall 1998, 5-7); HN (MHN 106-7; Kunin and Phelpstead 2001, 15-16); Ágr (ÍF 29, 7-11; Ágr 2008, 6-17); Fsk (ÍF 29, 74-6, 80-95; Finlay 2004, 55-7, 60-73); HákgóðHkr (ÍF 26, 150-97; Hollander 1964a, 96-127). Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261, 273) lists only Eyvindr skáldaspillir (Eyv) and Guthormr sindri (Gsind) as composing for Hákon.

Events documented in poetry: Hákon’s voyage to Norway and possession of Firðir (Fjordane, Gunnh Lv); his campaign against the Danes c. 950 (Gsind Hákdr 1-3); his raids on Gautland (Götaland, Gsind Hákdr 4); his establishment of his nephew Tryggvi Óláfsson as under-king in Vík (Viken, Gsind Hákdr 5); his battle with the Eiríkssynir off Ǫgvaldsnes (Avaldsnes, Rogaland) c. 953 (Gsind Hákdr 6-7); his victory over Gamli Eiríksson at Rastarkálfr on Fræði (Frei, Møre og Romsdal) c. 955 (Gsind Hákdr 8; Eyv Lv 6; ÞSjár Þórdr 2); his final battle at Fitjar c. 961 (Eyv Hák 2-9; ÞSjár Þórdr; Eyv Lv 1-5; Glúmr Lv); Hákon summoned and welcomed into Valhǫll (Eyv Hák 10-17); his preservation of pagan sanctuaries (Eyv Hák 18); his generosity (Eyv Lv 8-9); Hákon as outstanding king (Eyv Hák 19-20); the desolation of the land after his death (Eyv Hák 21; Eyv Lv 12-14); Hákon remembered as a just lawgiver (Sigv Berv 5II, c. 1038). Hákon is attributed with a stanza spoken at Fitjar, praising his men’s loyalty: Hákg Lv, a riposte to Eyv Lv 3.

4. Hákon jarl Eiríksson (r. c. 1014-c. 1015)

On the departure of his father Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson (q. v.) for England c. 1014, Hákon was left in control of Norway, in alliance with his uncle Sveinn Hákonarson, but after the arrival of Óláfr Haraldsson and an encounter with him in Sauðungssund (Sauesund) c. 1015 Hákon was forced to retreat to England. He became a commander of his uncle King Knútr’s forces and was appointed regent over Norway by him c. 1028. He seized ships of Óláfr Haraldsson, but drowned in 1029, on his way back to Norway from a visit to England. See Anon Nkt 25-6II (c. 1190); Theodoricus (MHN 25, 27, 30-1; McDougall and McDougall 1998, 19-20, 22); Ágr (ÍF 29, 24-5, 28; Ágr 2008, 34-7, 40-1); Fsk (ÍF 29, 167, 171-2, 191-3, 196-8; Finlay 2004, 131-3, 137-8, 152-5, 157-8); ÓHHkr (ÍF 27, 461 (index); Hollander 1964a, 836 (index)). Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 257, 266, 281) lists Hákon but only the U redaction names a skald: Bersi (Skáld-)Torfuson.

Events documented in the poetry: Encounter with Óláfr Haraldsson in Sauðungssund (Sauesund) c. 1015 (Sigv Víkv 15; Ótt Hfl 16); Knútr appoints his nephew to rule over Norway c. 1028 (Þloft Tøgdr 6).

5. Hákon jarl Sigurðarson (r. c. 970-c. 995)

Hákon, sometimes nicknamed inn ríki ‘the Mighty’ or inn illi ‘the Bad’, inherited the jarldom of Hlaðir (Lade), with power over the Þrándheimr (Trøndelag) and Hálogaland (Hålogaland) districts of northern Norway, after his father Sigurðr jarl Hákonarson was burned in his hall c. 962 at the instigation of King Haraldr gráfeldr (q. v.), leader of the Eiríkssynir. The sources’ estimates of the length of Hákon’s reign vary (see McDougall and McDougall 1998, 62), as do their accounts of the events following Sigurðr’s death. According to Fsk and Jvs, Hákon jarl fled from Norway and lived as a viking, while according to Hkr he maintained his rule in Trøndelag and made peace with the Eiríkssynir after some bloody conflicts; in this account he did not leave Norway until after he had avenged his father by arranging the murder of his uncle Grjótgarðr Hákonarson. Strengthened by his position as ally and vassal of the Danish king Haraldr blátǫnn, Hákon extended his sphere of influence and succeeded in bringing about the death of Haraldr gráfeldr at the battle of Háls in Limafjǫrðr (Limfjorden) c. 970, or as late as the mid 970s. He held Trøndelag and Hålogaland, defending them successfully against Ragnfrøðr Eiríksson. He then joined Haraldr blátǫnn in the defence of the Danevirke against the German Emperor Otto II, c. 974. The Danish side was apparently defeated, despite successes on Hákon’s part. He thereafter terminated the alliance, returned to Norway and effectively gained independent rule of most of the country, although Vík (Viken) remained under Danish control. A Danish-Wendish force spearheaded by warriors who figure in later tradition as the celebrated Jómsvíkingar invaded Norway, probably in the mid 980s, but Hákon and his son Eiríkr defeated them at the sea-battle of Hjǫrungavágr in western Norway. The site of the battle is uncertain but is usually identified with Liavågen in Møre og Romsdal (see Jvs 1962, 49-50; Jones 1984, 130; Krag 2003b, 191; Megaard 1999). The date is also highly contentious, the outer dates being c. 974 and c. 995 (the year of Hákon’s death; see Jvs 1962, xiv-xv), but c. 985 is a widely accepted traditional date which is used in this volume. More fundamentally, since no contemporary poetry refers directly to the Jómsvíkingar, their existence was questioned by Weibull (1911, 178-95; Weibull 1913, 79-88; see ÍF 26, cxi-cxii for summary of the debate; Jvs 1969, 28-51 on Jómsborg and the Jómsvíkingar; and Introduction to Bjbp Jóms for traditions about the battle). Hákon reigned until c. 995, when Óláfr Tryggvason (q. v.), son of a petty king from the south-east, invaded Norway with the intention of converting the country to Christianity. Hákon, also facing rebellion (Krag 2003b, 192), fled and was killed, according to legend, by his slave Karkr while hiding in a pigsty. Despite having accepted Christian baptism under duress, Hákon was an enthusiastic worshipper of the pagan gods and firmly resistant to the Christianizing efforts of Haraldr blátǫnn; several skalds depict him as enjoying the favour of the gods. The contrast he presents with the missionary king Óláfr Tryggvason may account for the sagas’ negative portrayal of his final years. See Anon Nkt 17-18II (c. 1190); Theodoricus (MHN 11-14, 17-19; McDougall and McDougall 1998, 7-11, 13-15); HN (MHN 111, 115; Kunin and Phelpstead 2001, 18, 20-1); Ágr (ÍF 29, 15-18; Ágr 2008, 18-25); Fsk (ÍF 29, 103-41; Finlay 2004, 80-111); Hkr (ÍF 26, 207-300; Hollander 1964a, 134-93). Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 256, 266, 280) lists nine skalds as composing for Hákon: Eyvindr skáldaspillir (Eyv), Einarr skálaglamm (Eskál), Tindr Hallkelsson (Tindr), Eilífr Goðrúnarson (Eil), Vígfúss Víga-Glúmsson (Vígf), Þorleifr jarlsskáld (Þjsk), Skapti Þóroddsson (SkaptiIII), Þórolfr/Þorfinnr munnr (Þorf) and the otherwise unknown Hvannár-Kálfr. No poetry for Hákon by the last three is known. Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld (Hfr) is not mentioned in connection with Hákon in Skáldatal.

Events documented in poetry: Hákon’s descent from the gods and the Háleygir (Eyv Hál); Hákon’s conflicts with the Eiríkssynir (Eskál Vell 6-8, 11); Hákon avenges his father (Eskál Vell 9-10); he causes the death of Haraldr gráfeldr (Eskál Vell 12); his conquest of the land (Eskál Vell 8, 12, 13, 16, 32; Hfr HákdrIII); his victory against the Jómsvíkingar at Hjǫrungavágr (Liavågen) c. 985 (Eyv Hál 11; Eskál Vell 33-4; Eskál Lv 3; Tindr Hákdr; Þskúm Lv; Vígf Hák; Vígf Lv; Vagn Lv; ÞKolb Eirdr 1-5; Anon (Fsk)); Hákon’s military exploits in general (Eskál Vell 35; Þjsk Hák); extent of his power (Eskál Vell 32, 37); Hákon fosters the pagan religion (Eskál Vell 14-15); peace and fertility result in Norway (Eskál Hákdr; Eskál Vell 17); two conflicts with Ragnfrøðr Eiríksson (Eskál Vell 18-20, 21-4); battle at the Danevirke (Eskál Vell 25-8); Hákon’s return to Norway via Gautland (Götaland, Eskál Vell 29-31); death of Hákon c. 995 (ÞKolb Eirdr 6); the exploits of the god Þórr against the giant Geirrøðr and his two daughters, which may possibly be an oblique tribute to Hákon (Eil ÞdrIII). Events of a more informal or individual kind: dealings with the poets Einarr skálaglamm (Eskál Vell 36; Eskál Lv 1a, 2a), Þorleifr jarlsskáld (Þjsk Jarl; Þjsk Lv 1-2; Svtjúg Lv; Hhal Lv), and Eilífr Goðrúnarson (Eil Þdr 23III). Historical (i.e. non-contemporary) poems on the battle of Hjǫrungavágr: ÞGísl Búdr; Bjbp Jóms.

6. Hálfdan svarti Guðrøðarson (c. 820-c. 860)

The son of Guðrøðr veiðikonungr ‘Hunting-king’, Hálfdan svarti ‘the Black’ is said to have succeeded to the rule of Agðir (Agder), the southern part of the Yngling kingdom (on the Ynglingar, see Þjóð Yt). He gained control of Vestfold to the east after the death of his half-brother Óláfr Geirstaðaálfr ‘Elf of Geirstaðir’, and from there subdued a number of small kingdoms in Upplǫnd (Opplandene, north of Oslofjorden), as well as claiming the district of Sogn in the west. He is the first Norwegian king to be the subject of an individual saga in Hkr and of an extensive narrative in Fsk. Hálfdan is said to have drowned in Lake Rǫnd (Randsfjorden, south-east Norway) at the age of forty, probably c. 860. He was succeeded by Haraldr hárfagri (q. v.), among whose numerous sons was another Hálfdan svarti. See Anon Nkt 4, 5II (c. 1190) and Notes; HN (MHN 103; Kunin and Phelpstead 2001, 14); Ágr (ÍF 29, 3; Ágr 2008, 2-3); Fsk (ÍF 29, 57-8; Finlay 2004, 41-2); HálfdSvHkr (ÍF 26, 84-93; Hollander 1964a, 51-8). No poetry dedicated to Hálfdan survives, and Skáldatal does not name him (it is his later namesake who is listed as patron of Guthormr sindri (Gsind; SnE 1848-87, III, 253)).

7. Haraldr II gráfeldr Eiríksson (r. c. 961-c. 970) and the Eiríkssynir

Haraldr gráfeldr ‘Grey-cloak’ became the leader of the Eiríkssynir or Gunnhildarsynir, originally seven sons of Eiríkr blóðøx (q. v.) and his queen Gunnhildr (Gamli, Guthormr, Haraldr, Ragnfrøðr, Erlingr, Guðrøðr and Sigurðr slefa ‘Saliva’ or ‘Mumbler’). The brothers raided widely, as well as opposing Hákon góði (q. v.) notably at Ǫgvaldsnes (Avaldsnes) c. 953, where Guthormr fell, and at the unidentified Rastarkálfr on the island of Fræði (Frei) c. 955, where Gamli fell as he retreated. Haraldr and the remaining brothers in turn confronted Hákon at the battle of Fitjar, c. 961. He was fatally wounded and they gained control over south-western Norway. This remained Haraldr’s power-base, but he and his brothers eliminated competitors elsewhere, killing Tryggvi Óláfsson and Guðrǫðr Bjarnarson, petty kings in the south-east, and burning Sigurðr jarl of Hlaðir (Lade) in his hall, c. 962. Haraldr led an expedition to the fur-rich northern regions of Hálogaland (Hålogaland) and up into Bjarmaland (Permia), and it is possible that his nickname ‘Grey-cloak’ may allude to this expedition (so Koht 1930-3, 24) or to the economic importance of furs paid by the Saami as tribute, though according to Hkr (ÍF 26, 211-12) it arose when Haraldr received a gift of a sheepskin from Icelandic merchants and set a trend by wearing it. Haraldr is also credited with raids against the Irish and the Gautar. His success was short-lived, however. His uncle, the Danish king Haraldr blátǫnn, transferred his support to Hákon jarl, son of the murdered Sigurðr jarl, probably with the intention of curtailing Haraldr gráfeldr’s power in Vík (Viken), which bordered the Danish kingdom. With Danish support Hákon lured Haraldr gráfeldr to Denmark where he was killed at the battle of Háls in Limafjǫrðr (Limfjorden) in north Jutland at some point between 970 and 976; the widely accepted date of c. 970 is adopted throughout this volume. Having been brought up in England or (in Haraldr’s case) at the Danish court of Haraldr blátǫnn, the Eiríkssynir were Christian, and they are reputed to have destroyed pagan places of worship and disrupted sacrifices, much-resented outrages that were blamed for unseasonable weather, bad harvests and famines. See Anon Nkt 16II (c. 1190); Theodoricus (MHN 10-11; McDougall and McDougall 1998, 7); HN (MHN 107-8; Kunin and Phelpstead 2001, 16-18); Ágr (ÍF 29, 12-14; Ágr 2008, 16-21); Fsk (ÍF 29, 81-116; Finlay 2004, 62-89); HgráfHkr (ÍF 26, 198-224; Hollander 1964a, 128-43). Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261, 274) lists Glúmr Geirason (Glúmr) and Kormákr Ǫgmundarson (KormǪV) as Haraldr’s poets, but no poetry for him by Kormákr survives.

Events documented in poetry: Haraldr’s campaigns in Skáney (Skåne) and Scotland (Glúmr Gráf 2), in Ireland (Glúmr Gráf 3), the Baltic (Glúmr Gráf 4), and against the Gautar (Glúmr Gráf 5); his victory against Hákon góði at Fitjar c. 961 (Eyv Hák 2-9; Eyv Lv 1-5; ÞSjár Þórdr; Glúmr Lv); his expedition to Bjarmaland (Permia) and the Vína (Dvina) (Glúmr Gráf 6); battle in Limafjǫrðr (Limfjorden, Glúmr Gráf 8-11); encounters between the Eiríkssynir and H´ákon jarl (Eskál Vell 6-11); Hákon jarl’s involvement in the death of Haraldr (Eskál Vell 12); Haraldr’s death mourned (Glúmr Gráf 15); Haraldr’s military exploits in general (Eyv Lv 7; Glúmr Gráf 7, 13; Glúmr Frag); admiration for Haraldr (Anon (Ágr)); his accomplishments (Glúmr Gráf 14); his meanness in contrast with Hákon góði (Eyv Lv 8-9); the desolation of the land during the reign of the Eiríkssynir (Eyv Hák 21; Eyv Lv 12-14); dealings with poets including Eyvindr (Eyv Lv 8-11). Events involving others of the Eiríkssynir: the defeat of Gamli Eiríksson at Rastarkálfr c. 955 (Gsind Hákdr 8; Eyv Lv 6; ÞSjár Þórdr 2); the dealings of two of Haraldr’s brothers with the poet Glúmr (Glúmr Gráf 12); the dealings of Sigurðr slefa with Þorkell klyppr (Þklypp Lv).

8. Haraldr I hárfagri Hálfdanarson (r. c. 860-c. 932)

The Yngling king Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ was the son of the petty king Hálfdan svarti (q. v.). According to Hkr, Haraldr succeeded Hálfdan as king of Vestfold in south-eastern Norway at the age of ten. He is said to have ruled for seventy or seventy-three years (see Note to Anon Nkt 8 [All]II). Scholars have dated his accession at some point in the period 860-80 but all the dates of his life and reign are highly contested and uncertain (see Andersen 1977, 80-3). Haraldr formed alliances with Hákon Grjótgarðsson, jarl of Hlaðir (Lade) and ruler of the far northern region of Norway, and with Rǫgnvaldr Eysteinsson, jarl of Mœrr (Møre) in the north-west, and fought successful campaigns against the petty kings of Upplǫnd (Opplandene) and Raumsdalr (Romsdalen), as well as regaining the eastern territory of Vermaland (Värmland) from the Swedish king Eiríkr Eymundarson. Haraldr’s territorial expansion culminated in the sea-battle of Hafrsfjǫrðr (Hafrsfjorden, Rogaland) against a coalition of kings and jarls, probably petty rulers from the south-western coastal regions of Hǫrðaland (Hordaland), Rogaland, and Agðir (Agder), though some scholars, such as von See (1961b, 105-11), have argued for more limited opposition; see Andersen (1977, 79-84) for a survey. The battle, traditionally dated c. 872, is often placed c. 885-c. 890 in more recent historiography, and that date-range is used throughout this volume. In the traditional view, Haraldr’s victory made him the effective ruler of all Norway, but the nature and extent of his power is disputed, and medieval claims about Haraldr’s significance in Norway’s progress towards unified statehood are now generally regarded as exaggerated.

Haraldr’s nickname lúfa ‘Shaggy-locks’ later gave way to hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’; both are attested from early poetry (see Index of Nicknames). The change of nickname is linked in some sources to Haraldr’s ambitions. Fsk (ÍF 29, 66) and Hkr (ÍF 26, 97) record a vow by Haraldr that he will not cut his hair until he has gained control of Norway, and HarHárf in Flat (1860-8, I, 569, 575) explicitly links the making of the vow to the nickname lúfa and the fulfilment of it to hárfagri. Ágr (ÍF 29, 3) on the other hand seems to assume an improvement in his looks.

Haraldr is said to have bestowed Shetland and Orkney on the family of his ally Rǫgnvaldr jarl, whose son Torf-Einarr (TorfE; see skald Biography) became the first Norse jarl there. However, Rǫgnvaldr was killed by Haraldr’s sons Hálfdan háleggr ‘Long-legged’ and Guðrøðr ljómi ‘Beam of Light’, provoking a feud, especially with Torf-Einarr. Haraldr had numerous sons – anywhere from nine to twenty, according to the sources (see Hkr 1991, III, 135; Driscoll in Ágr 2008, 84-5); their mothers were various wives, concubines, and servants, among them Ása, daughter of Hákon jarl Grjótgarðsson, and Ragnhildr, daughter of King Eiríkr of Jutland. For the story of Haraldr’s match with the Saami princess Snæfríðr, about whom he is implausibly said to have composed Hhárf Snædr, see Context to that poem. The unstable succession led to a fragmentation of power in Norway after Haraldr’s death c. 932. See Anon Nkt 4-9II, c. 1190; Theodoricus (MHN 6; McDougall and McDougall 1998, 5); HN (MHN 103-5; Kunin and Phelpstead 2001, 14-15); Ágr (ÍF 29, 3-7; Ágr 2008, 3-7); Fsk (ÍF 29, 58-74; Finlay 2004, 42-54); HhárfHkr (ÍF 26, 94-149; Hollander 1964a, 59-95). Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261, 273) lists the following as Haraldr’s skalds: Auðunn illskælda (Auðunn), Þorbjǫrn hornklofi (Þhorn), Ǫlvir hnúfa (Ǫlvir), Þjóðólfr ór Hvini (Þjóð), Úlfr Sebbason and Guthormr sindri (Gsind; no poetry for Haraldr extant).

Events documented in poetry: Battles against the Orkndœlir (Þhorn Gldr 1-2); two battles near Sólskel (Solskjel, Þhorn Gldr 3-5 (?)); campaign in the Götaälv (Þhorn Gldr 6-7); the battle of Hafrsfjǫrðr (Hafrsfjorden), c. 885-c. 890 (Þjóð Har 4; Þhorn Gldr 3-5 (?); Þhorn Harkv 7-12); Haraldr’s conquest of Norway (Anon Oddm); expedition to the British Isles (Þhorn Gldr 8); Haraldr’s change of nickname (Þjóð Har 5); his military exploits in general (Þhorn Gldr; Jór Send 1, 3); his war-band and life at his court (Þjóð Har 1-3; Þjóð Lv 1; Þhorn Harkv 5-6, 13, 15-23); dealings with (Gǫngu-)Hrólfr Rǫgnvaldsson (Hildr Lv); conflict between Haraldr and his son Hálfdan svarti and reconciliation through Guthormr sindri (Jór Send);  Haraldr’s attempt to suppress a sorcerer’s activities (Vitg Lv); his marriage to Ragnhildr (Þhorn Harkv 13-14); an anecdote featuring three of Haraldr’s skalds (Þhorn Lv; Auðunn Lv; Ǫlvir Lv). Events involving the sons of Haraldr: storm warning to Guðrøðr Haraldsson (Þjóð Lv 2); hostilities between Haraldr’s sons and Torf-Einarr Rǫgnvaldsson (Torf-Einarr Lv 1-5); Rǫgnvaldr réttilbeini accused of sorcery (Vitg Lv). See also Biographies of Eiríkr blóðøx and Hákon góði. Two stanzas are attributed to Haraldr: Hhárf Snædr on the death of Snæfríðr and Hhárf Lv on his retainers.

9. Óláfr II inn helgi Haraldsson (r. c. 1015-1030)

Óláfr helgi (S. Óláfr) was the son of Haraldr grenski ‘from Grenland’, a petty king in south-east Norway, and Ásta Guðbrandsdóttir. The younger saga tradition makes Óláfr a great-great-grandson of Haraldr hárfagri (q. v.), though as with similar claims about Óláfr Tryggvason (q. v.) this has been doubted by some scholars (see Andersen 1977, 115; Krag 1989; Krag 2002). Óláfr’s father died around the time of his birth (usually dated to 995, though quite possibly earlier), and Óláfr grew up with his mother and his stepfather Sigurðr sýr ‘Sow’, in Hringaríki (Ringerike). Óláfr apparently began his viking career at the traditional age of twelve, with raids around Scandinavia and the Baltic; he also fought in England, sharing the proceeds of some very large Danegeld payments, in France (he was baptised in Normandy), and seemingly in Spain. His career in England ‘has given an astonishing amount of trouble to English historians’ (Campbell 1998, 76). In 1015 he set out for Norway, with the intention of reclaiming his ancestral lands and spreading Christianity. By this time Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson (q. v.) had been summoned to England to fight in Knútr’s army, and his son Hákon jarl Eiríksson (q. v.) was in control, together with his uncle Sveinn jarl Hákonarson (q. v.). Óláfr landed at Selja (Selje) in southern Sogn. He captured and subjugated Hákon in Sauðungssund (Sauesund) c. 1015; Hákon departed for England shortly afterwards. Sveinn jarl, supported by the chieftains Erlingr Skjálgsson (see ‘Biographies of other dignitaries’ below) and Einarr þambarskelfir ‘Paunch-shaker’ (?) seems to have resisted Óláfr, for instance by burning down the Christian settlement of Niðaróss (Nidaros, Trondheim). Óláfr eventually defeated Sveinn’s forces at the battle of Nesjar (peninsulas between Langesundsfjorden and Tønsbergfjorden, Vestfold, Norway) on Palm Sunday 1016. Sveinn fled east, and did not return to Norway.

Óláfr converted the inland regions of Norway to Christianity, often by force, and brought them under centralised rule, while his bishops, many of them English, introduced church law and ecclesiastical administration. He won the support of northern and western coastal magnates including Erlingr Skjálgsson and Einarr þambarskelfir, and became the first king to rule directly over most of the territory of modern Norway. But by the early 1020s Knútr was king of both England and Denmark, while Óláfr allied with the Swedish king Ǫnundr (Jákob) Óláfsson, whose sister Ástríðr he had recently married. Óláfr and Ǫnundr fought Knútr’s fleet at the estuary of Á in helga (Helgeå) c. 1026, but the outcome of the battle was inconclusive. Helgeå is usually located in Skåne, but Uppland has also been suggested (Gräslund 1986; Moberg 1987 favours Skåne, while envisaging later action in Uppland; see further Note to Ótt Knútdr 11/3). Knútr responded by cultivating the Norwegian chieftains. Erlingr Skjálgsson turned against Óláfr and engaged with him at Bókn (Bokn in Boknafjorden, Rogaland) in December 1027 (1028 in some sources). Despite surrendering, Erlingr was killed by the king’s party. Óláfr’s support in the country collapsed after that and he fled to Jarizleifr (Jaroslav of Kiev-Novgorod), another brother-in-law. Knútr then claimed the Norwegian crown and reinstated Hákon Eiríksson as his jarl in Norway. But when Hákon drowned at sea in 1029, Óláfr returned from Russia to reconquer his kingdom. He enjoyed the support of Swedish troops supplied by Ǫnundr, and of the Árnasynir, Þorbergr, Finnr and Árni, his young half-brother Haraldr Sigurðarson (later harðráði ‘Hard-ruler’) and the Orcadian Rǫgnvaldr jarl Brúsason. The opposition, however, constituted the largest force the country had ever seen, according to the sagas. Norwegian magnates including Þórir hundr ‘Dog’, Hárekr ór Þjóttu ‘from Þjótta (Tjøtta)’ and Kálfr Árnason (dissenting from his brothers) had been antagonised by Óláfr and/or recruited by Knútr, and took command of a large army of aggrieved farmers from Trøndelag and elsewhere (see further Andersen 1977, 123-8, 129-32 on the factors leading to the conflict). The two sides met at the iconic battle of Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad) in inland Trøndelag (some 70 kilometres north-east of Trondheim) on 29 July 1030. Óláfr was killed and his army routed. Sources differ as to who dealt the king his fatal wounds (McDougall and McDougall 1998, 87), but Þórir hundr and Kálfr Árnason are prominent among those mentioned. Óláfr’s body was secretly moved to Niðaróss (Trondheim), where miracles were soon associated with it (see Turville-Petre 1951a, 159-64). After a year, the body was exhumed and found to be uncorrupted. Óláfr’s remains were duly enshrined near the high altar of the church at Niðaróss, and his cult flourished (see Cormack 1994, 143-4). Óláfr’s posthumous nickname inn helgi ‘the holy, Saint’ replaced an earlier nickname digri ‘the Stout’.

See Anon Nkt 25-31II (c. 1190); Theodoricus (MHN 21-3; McDougall and McDougall 1998, 19-23, 25-6, 29-31); HN (MHN 109, 119-24; Kunin and Phelpstead 2001, 23-5); Ágr (ÍF 29, 24-32; Ágr 2008, 34-47); Fsk (ÍF 29, 167-201; Finlay 2004, 133-58); ÓHLeg 1982; ÓHHkr (ÍF 27; Hollander 1964a, 245-537). Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261, 274) lists as Óláfr’s poets: Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv), Óttarr svarti (Ótt), Bersi Skáld-Torfuson (Bersi), Þórðr Kolbeinsson (ÞKolb), Þorfinnr munnr (Þorf), Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld (Þorm) and Hofgarða-Refr (RefrIII). Ms. 761ax alone (U being in error here) names Gizurr svarti (gullbrárskáld, Gizsv) and Þórðr Sjáreksson (ÞSjár), as well as Skapti Þóroddsson (SkaptiIII), by whom no poetry for Óláfr survives.

Events documented in poetry: Óláfr’s voyages to Denmark (Ótt Hfl 3) and the Baltic (Ótt Hfl 4); his early raids on vikings off ‘Sótasker’ in Sweden (Sigv Víkv 1), on Sweden and Gotland (Ótt Hfl 6, 7), Eysýsla (Saaremaa, Sigv Víkv 2; Ótt Hfl 7), the Finnar (Sigv Víkv 3), Suðrvík (Søndervik in Jutland, Sigv Víkv 4), ‘Kinnlimasíða’ (Sigv Víkv 5), London (Sigv Víkv 6; Ótt Hfl 8), Súðvirki (Southwark, Sigv Víkv 6), Hringmaraheiðr (Ringmere Heath, Sigv Víkv 7; Ótt Hfl 9), Kantaraborg (Canterbury, Sigv Víkv 8; Ótt Hfl 10), the ‘Partar’ (Sigv Víkv 8); ‘Nýjamoða’ in England (Sigv Víkv 9), the English (Ótt Hfl 11), ‘Hringsfjǫrðr’ and ‘Hóll’ in France (Sigv Víkv 10), ‘Gríslupollr’, ‘Fetlafjǫrðr’, ‘Seljupollar’ and ‘Gunnvaldsborg’, all in Spain (Sigv Víkv 11-13), Leira (Loire), ‘Varrandi’, Peita (Poitou) and Túskaland (Touraine), all in France (Sigv Víkv 14; Ótt Hfl 12); Óláfr’s assistance to King Æthelred (Ótt Hfl 13); his return to his ancestral lands in Norway (Ótt Hfl 14-16); his capture of Hákon jarl’s warship in Sauðungssund (Sauesund) c. 1015 (Sigv Víkv 15; Ótt Hfl 16); the battle of Nesjar c. 1016 (Sigv Nesv; Bersi Ólfl); Óláfr’s hanging of captured Swedes (Sigv ErfÓl 1); his acquisition of power in Upplǫnd (Opplandene, Sigv ErfÓl 2); his retribution against opponents in Hedmark (Ótt Hfl 17); his driving out of opponents and consolidation of territory (Ótt Hfl 18-19); his establishment of order in Norway (Sigv Óldr; Sigv ErfÓl 4-6); his rule over Shetland and Orkney (Ótt Hfl 20); his bid to annexe Grímsey resisted (Eþver Lv 1); Óláfr refuses a demand from Knútr (Sigv Lv 12); launching of the ship Visundr ‘Bison’ (Sigv ErfÓl 3); Óláfr sails a fleet south and, in alliance with King Ǫnundr of Sweden, attacks Denmark (Anon (ÓH); Sigv Knútdr 3-6); Knútr sails a great fleet through Limafjǫrðr (Limfjorden, Sigv Knútdr 7-8) and prevents them from plundering (Sigv Knútdr 9); the battle of Á in helga (Helgeå) c. 1026 (ÞSjár Róðdr; Sigv Knútdr 9 (?); Ótt Knútdr 11); Óláfr’s retainer Hárekr sails defiantly past Knútr’s fleets (Hár Lv 1-2); the bribing of Norwegian magnates by Knútr’s men (Sigv Lv 13-15); Óláfr’s fleet outnumbered by Knútr’s (Sigv Lv 16-17); Jǫkull Bárðarson gets command of Óláfr’s captured ship (Jǫk Lv 1), but later loses his head (Jǫk Lv 2); the power of Óláfr’s opponents Erlingr Skjálgsson and Dala-Guðbrandr (Sigv Erl); the power and prowess of Erlingr (Sigv Erlfl 9-10); Óláfr’s defeat of Erlingr at Bókn (Bokn) c. 1027 (Ólhelg Lv 6-7; Sigv Erlfl; BjHall Kálffl 1-2); Óláfr goes into exile in Garðar (Russia, BjHall Kálffl 3); the battle of Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad) in 1030 (Sigv ErfÓl 7-20; Gizsv Lv 1; Þorf Lv 2; Þorm Lv 18-25); Kálfr’s role in the battle (BjHall Kálffl 5); overview of Óláfr’s reign (Sigv ErfÓl 21-2). Events following Óláfr’s fall: distress at his death (Sigv ErfÓl 26; Sigv Lv 18, 20-4); Óláfr’s sanctity, and the miracles at his shrine (Sigv ErfÓl 23-5; Þloft Glækv 3-8); news of his son Magnús Óláfsson (Sigv Lv 25); Óláfr’s widow Ástríðr raises Swedish support for her stepson Magnús (Sigv Ást); Magnús’s return to Norway (Sigv Lv 28-9; BjHall Kálffl 6, 7); Álfhildr’s jealousy of Queen Ástríðr (Sigv Lv 30). Events of a more informal or individual kind: Sigvatr’s journeys, as Óláfr’s emissary, to Gautland (Västergötland) c. 1019 (Sigv Austv) and England c. 1025-7 (Sigv Vestv); Óláfr’s dealings with the poet Sigvatr (Sigv Lv 2-7, 9-11, 19); Óláfr’s dealings with the poets Óttarr svarti (Ótt Lv 1), Bersi Skáld-Torfuson (Bersi Lv) and Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld (Þorm Lv 15-16); his dealings with Brynjólfr úlfaldi (Brúlf Lv); Sigvatr exchanges a sword for a pilgrim’s staff (Sigv ErfÓl 27). Dating from c. 1153, ESkúl GeislVII, a hagiographical drápa of seventy-one stanzas, commemorates the battle of Stiklastaðir (in sts 14-17) and catalogues the miracles of Óláfr. Óláfr himself is credited with several lausavísur: on Halldórr Rannveigarson’s poor horsemanship (Ólhelg Lv 1, to which HalldR Lv is a riposte); love for a woman/women (Ólhelg Lv 2, 4, 5, 8-9); a message to stir up a certain Karli (Ólhelg Lv 3); the killing of Erlingr Skjálgsson (Ólhelg Lv 6-7). See also Introduction to Anon Liðs. The attribution of Anon (Vǫlsa) 13 to Óláfr is presumably not intended to be taken seriously. See also Biographies of Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson and Sveinn Álfífuson.


10. Óláfr I Tryggvason (r. c. 995-c. 1000)

Óláfr Tryggvason was born c. 968, the son of Tryggvi Óláfsson, a petty king in south-eastern Norway, and Ástríðr Eiríksdóttir. According to the sagas Óláfr was also the great-grandson of Haraldr hárfagri (q. v.), though some doubt has been expressed about this (Krag 2002; Krag 2003a). Tryggvi was killed by the Eiríkssynir (see Biography of Haraldr gráfeldr above) shortly before Óláfr was born, and the boy is said to have grown up in hiding, first in eastern Norway and Sweden, then in Hólmgarðr (Novgorod) under the protection of Valdamarr (Vladimir, r. 970-1015). For the tradition of Óláfr’s fostering in Garðar (Russia), see Note to HSt Rst 2/2, and for questioning of this, see Introduction to HSt Frag 1. What is relatively certain (not least from Hfr Óldr) is that he spent his youth as a highly successful viking in the Baltic, northern Europe and the British Isles. The Anlaf who features in the ASC s. a. 991 and 994, winning Danegeld alongside the Danish king Sveinn tjúguskegg (q. v.), is probably to be identified with Óláfr. The ASC says that Óláfr accepted Christian baptism from the English King Æthelred in 994 and promised never to raid England again. He set out for Norway in 995 well resourced and with a strong army, and was acclaimed king in Þrándheimr (Trøndelag), where a rebellion had already undermined the power of Hákon jarl Sigurðarson (q. v).

Between 996 and 999 Óláfr Christianized, and extended his power over, the coastal areas of western Norway. He is credited with the founding of churches (see Krag 2003b, 192), strategic marriages including that of his sister Ástríðr to the Rogaland chieftain Erlingr Skjálgsson (see ‘Biographies of other dignitaries’ below) and targeted killings, included that of Járn-Skeggi, possibly his father-in-law. He sent the German missionary Þangbrandr to Iceland, and the Icelanders accepted Christianity at the Alþingi c. 1000. Early prose sources say Óláfr converted Shetland, Orkney and the Faroes, and twelfth-century skalds add Greenland, but probably in error (on the conversion of Scandinavia, see Sawyer 1987).

Óláfr’s ambitions brought him into conflict with powerful enemies, an alliance of whom brought his short reign to an end. Óláfr’s hold on Vík (Viken) threatened the overlordship of Sveinn tjúguskegg, and Óláfr appears to have sided with the Wends rather than the Danes in the Baltic. Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson (q. v.), exiled son of the murdered Hákon jarl, aspired to reclaim his family lands in Trøndelag, together with his brother Sveinn jarl Hákonarson (q. v.); Eiríkr was married to Sveinn tjúguskegg’s daughter Gyða. Moreover, Óláfr sœnski ‘the Swede’ Eiríksson, Sveinn tjúguskegg’s stepson and ruler of the Svíar (Svear), was interested in extending his power in Gautland (Västergötland; Andersen 1977, 104). The result was the famous battle of Svǫlðr, in 1000 or possibly 999; the prose sources agree on September, specifying the 9th (which came to be widely celebrated as Óláfr’s anniversary), 10th or 11th (ÍF 25, 352 n.). Óláfr fought a spirited defence from his flagship Ormr inn langi ‘the Long Serpent’, but Sveinn, Eiríkr and Óláfr sœnski defeated him and his Gautish and Wendish allies. The location of the battle is the subject of a classic debate in Scandinavian historiography: it is placed either off the southern Baltic coast, or in the Øresund between Sjælland and Skåne (for summaries see Andersen 1977, 104-5; McDougall and McDougall 1998, 74-5; Rasmussen 2000; Andersson 2003, 147; and see Notes to Hfr ErfÓl 4/6 and Skúli Svǫlðr 2/7III). The name Svǫlðr is sometimes given in modern sources as Svolder but in the absence of a secure identification ‘Svǫlðr’ is used throughout this volume. Legends sprang up very soon after the battle of how Óláfr had miraculously escaped by swimming underwater and had travelled to the Holy Land. Óláfr is credited with marriages to the daughter of Járn-Skeggi (mentioned above) and to three princesses, but only a minor role in the subsequent history was played by the man claiming to be his son Tryggvi (see Sigv Tryggfl; Anon Sveinfl). After Svǫlðr, Norway was under Danish overlordship until 1015, with the jarls of Hlaðir (Lade) Eiríkr Hákonarson and Sveinn Hákonarson controlling the major part (the western coast and its hinterland). See Anon Nkt 19-22II (c. 1190); Theodoricus (MHN 13-21; McDougall and McDougall 1998, 10-18); HN (MHN 111-19; Kunin and Phelpstead 2001, 18-23); Ágr (ÍF 29, 19-24; Ágr 2008, 26-35); Fsk (ÍF 29, 141-162; Finlay 2004, 112-29); ÓTOdd (ÍF 25, 125-362); ÓTHkr (ÍF 26, 225-372; Hollander 1964a, 144-244); ÓT 1958-2000, I-III. According to Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261, 274), Hallfreðr vandræðaskald (Hfr) and Bjarni skáld (BjHall, specified as gullbrárskáld in U) were Óláfr’s poets. Ms. U also adds Gizurr gullbrá (probably Gizurr svarti or gullbrárskald, Gizsv) and Sigvatr skald (presumably Þórðarson, Sigv), while one redaction of ÓTOdd (ÍF 25, 370, 372) claims one ‘Sóti skald’ as an additional poetic source for Óláfr’s last moments. Only Hallfreðr’s poetry survives, though HSt Rst 34/8 credits ‘Bjarni’ with a drápa for Óláfr; there is no other evidence that Gizurr or Sigvatr were his skalds.

Events documented in poetry: Viking campaigns against the Jamtr, Wends and Gotar (Hfr Óldr 1-2), in Skáney (Skåne) and near Heiðabý (Hedeby, Hfr Óldr 2), against the Saxar and Frísar (Hfr Óldr 3), in ‘Hólmr’ (Bornholm (?)), Garðar (Russia), against the Valkerar and Flæmingjar (Hfr Óldr 4), in the British Isles (Hfr Óldr 5-6); arrival in Norway and departure of Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson to the Swedish court (ÞKolb Eirdr 6, 7); the battle of Svǫlðr c. 1000 (Hfr ErfÓl 1-24; Skúli SvǫlðrIII; Stefnir Lv 1; OSnorr Lv; Eþsk Cpt; Hókr Eirfl; ÞKolb Eirdr 8); consequences of the battle (ÞKolb Eirdr 9-10); desolation at Óláfr’s death (Hfr ErfÓl 25, 26a, 28). Óláfr as unequalled king (Hfr ErfÓl 27); Óláfr’s ban on heathen sacrifices (Hfr Lv 10V (Hallfr 13)); resistance by the pagan Bárðr (Bárðr Lv); an incident involving a missionary to Iceland during Óláfr’s reign (Anon (´ÓT) 1); Óláfr’s encounter with a mysterious man in a boat (Anon (´ÓT) 2-3). Events of a more informal or individual kind: Óláfr’s dealings with the poet Hallfreðr (Hfr Lv 4-5 V, 11V (Hallfr 5, 8, 14)); in a comic incident, Óláfr rows while his dog steers (Þór Lv). Óláfr himself is credited with two lausavísur: ÓTr Lv 1V (Hallfr 6), a response to Hfr Lv 4V (Hallfr 5), and ÓTr Lv 2 about a guest drinking from a horn. Historical (i.e. non-contemporary) poetry: Óláfr’s fostering in Garðar and command of a fleet there (HSt Rst 2); his departure from Garðar (HSt Rst 3; HSt Frag; Anon Óldr 4); his harrying in the west (HSt Rst 3); his revenge for his father’s death (HSt Rst 4); his attacks on the English (HSt Rst 4; Anon Óldr 5-6), the Wends (HSt Rst 5), the Irish and Scots (HSt Rst 6; Anon Óldr 6-7); his return to Norway and acceptance there (HSt Rst 7-8; Anon Óldr 8-9); his defeat of vikings (Hst Rst 8); his suppression of paganism and promotion of Christianity in Norway (HSt Rst 9; Anon Óldr 9-10; Anon Ól 2); his Christianization of five lands (HSt Rst 10-11; Anon Óldr 11-16); Óláfr’s generosity, hospitality and vigour (HSt Rst 12-14); the battle of Svǫlðr (HSt Rst 15-23; Anon Óldr 17-24); the desolation of the land under Eiríkr jarl (Anon Óldr 25); Óláfr’s marvellous skills (HSt Rst 25; Anon Ól 1); his rescue of a man from a crag (HSt Rst 26-8); Þorkell spies on Óláfr’s marvellous nocturnal visits ashore (Anon Ól 3-4); Óláfr pitches Þorkell overboard, then restores him and his clothes (Hst Rst 29-30; Anon Ól 5-7); Óláfr appears with angels in a building (HSt Rst 31); desolation at Óláfr’s death (HSt Rst 32); Óláfr summoned to bliss by Christ (HSt Rst 33). See also poetry about Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson.

11. Rǫgnvaldr heiðumhæri Óláfsson (later ninth century)

Rǫgnvaldr heiðumhæri ‘High with Honours’, son of Óláfr Geirstaðaálfr ‘Elf of Geirstaðir’ and cousin of Haraldr hárfagri (q. v.), was supposedly king of Vestfold or Grenland in south-eastern Norway in the ninth century. Þjóð Yt is said to have been composed for Rǫgnvaldr: see Prologue to Hkr (ÍF 26, 4; Hollander 1964a, 3); Yng (ÍF 26, 83, Hollander 1964a, 50); also Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 253, 261, 273). On the form of the nickname (heiðumhár or heiðumhæri), see Note to Þjóð Yt 27/7.

12. Sveinn Alfífuson (r. 1030-1035)

Sveinn Álfífuson or Knútsson, illegitimate son of Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson (Cnut the Great) and the English Álfífa (Ælfgifu of Northampton), ruled Norway for about five years after the fall of Óláfr Haraldsson at Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad) in 1030. In some sources the reign is dated from 1029, when Sveinn was installed in Norway by Knútr. Sveinn defeated the pretender Tryggvi Óláfsson at Bókn (Bokn) c. 1032. His unpopular rule, in which his mother was strongly involved, ended with his prompt departure from Norway on the return of Magnús Óláfsson from exile (see SkP II, lxxxvii). See Anon Nkt 32II (c. 1190); Theodoricus (MHN 34, 39, 44-5; McDougall and McDougall 1998, 25); HN (MHN 123; Kunin and Phelpstead 2001, 25); Ágr (ÍF 29, 31-2; Ágr 2008, 44-7); Fsk (ÍF 29, 201-2, 206-7; Finlay 2004, 161-2, 165-7); ÓHHkr (ÍF 27, 398-404, 406, 410-14); MgóðHkr (ÍF 28, 8, 10-12, 16; Hollander 1964a, 524-8, 534-6, 541-3, 545-6). Þórarinn loftunga (Þloft) is the only poet named in connection with Sveinn in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 258, 267, 283).

Events documented in poetry: The Danes travel to Norway (Þloft Glækv 1); Sveinn takes the throne in Þrándheimr (Trøndelag, Þloft Glækv 2); advice to Sveinn (Þloft Glækv 9); Sveinn’s defeat of Tryggvi Óláfsson c. 1032 at Bókn (Bokn, Sigv Tryggfl; Anon Sveinfl); infertility of Norway in the time of Álfífa (Sigv Lv 26).

13. Sveinn jarl Hákonarson (r. c. 1000-c. 1015)

Sveinn features less prominently in the sources than his half-brother Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson (q. v.), though it seems that he too fought at Hjǫrungavágr (Liavågen) c. 985 and at Svǫlðr c. 1000, and shared power in Norway after Svǫlðr. On Eiríkr’s departure to England (c. 1014), Sveinn ruled for up to two years with his nephew Hákon Eiríksson. Supported by the chieftains Erlingr Skjálgsson (see ‘Biographies of other dignitaries’) and Einarr þambarskelfir, Sveinn seems to have resisted Óláfr Haraldsson (q. v.), for instance by burning down the Christian settlement of Niðaróss (Nidaros, Trondheim) c. 1014 and engaging with him at Sauðungssund (Sauesund). Óláfr eventually defeated Sveinn’s forces at the battle of Nesjar c. 1016. Sveinn fled east (sources differ as to the destination), and never returned. See Anon Nkt 25-7II (c. 1190); Theodoricus (MHN 24-5, 27-8; McDougall and McDougall 1998, 18-21); Ágr (ÍF 29, 18, 211-6; Ágr 2008, 24-5, 27); Fsk (ÍF 29, 129, 131-2, 164, 167, 172-8; Finlay 2004, 102-3, 130, 133, 139-42); Hkr (ÍF 27, 39, 52-69, 71-2; Hollander 1964a, 266-7, 275-85, 287-8). In Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 257, 266, 281), the 761ax redaction names Bersi Skáld-Torfuson as skald to Sveinn jarl (assigned to Hákon jarl Eiríksson in U); Eyjólfr dáðaskáld and Skúli Þorsteinsson are assigned in U to Sveinn, but in error for Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson.

Events documented in poetry: Sveinn’s burning of Niðaróss (Trondheim) c. 1014 (ÞSjár Klœingr); the battle of Nesjar c. 1016 (Bersi Ólfl 1-3). See also poetry for Hákon jarl Sigurðarson, Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson and Óláfr Haraldsson.

© 2008-