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Runic Dictionary

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(subheadings only)

1. Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson (r. 1014-1035)

Knútr (Cnut the Great) was the younger son of Sveinn tjúguskegg Haraldsson (q. v.). He came to rule a North Sea empire spanning Denmark, England and Norway, partially delegating power to earls or jarls. He ruled Denmark after the death of his brother Haraldr (r. 1014-18). From 1016 Knútr was based chiefly in England, where he secured sole rule after the deaths of his father Sveinn (1014) and the English king Æthelred (1016). He married Emma, widow of Æthelred, and distinguished himself as a patron of the church. He was involved, directly or indirectly, in some of the major events of the period including the battles of Á in helga (Helgeå) c. 1026 and Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad) in 1030 (see Biography of Óláfr Haraldsson). See Theodoricus (MHN 25, 29-31, 34; McDougall and McDougall 1998, 19, 22, 25); HN (MHN 121-3; Kunin and Phelpstead 2001, 24-5); Ágr (ÍF 29, 26-8; Ágr 2008, 38-41); Fsk (ÍF 29, 166-7, 172, 182-93, 198, 202-5; Finlay 2004, 133, 138, 147-54, 162-5, 170); Hkr (ÍF 27, 466 (index); Hollander 1964a, 841 (index)); Knýtl (ÍF 35, 100-17, 119-27). Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 258, 267, 282-3) names Sigvatr (Þórðarson, Sigv), Óttarr svarti (Ótt), Þórarinn loftunga (Þloft), Hallvarðr háreksblesi (HallvIII), Bersi Skáld-Torfuson (Bersi) and Arnórr jarlaskáld (ArnII) as poets of Knútr; also Steinn Skaptason and Óðar-keptr, by whom no poetry survives.

Events documented in the poetry: Killing of English king Ælla (ON Ella) by Knútr’s ancestor Ragnarr loðbrók (Sigv Knútdr 1); Knútr’s English campaign 1015-16: Knútr launches his fleet from Denmark (Ótt Knútdr 1-2; Hallv Knútdr 1-3III); he attacks England (Ótt Knútdr 3-4; Hallv Knútdr 4-5III; Anon Liðs 1-3); fights battles in Lindisey (Lindsey) and Hemmingaborg (Hemingbrough, Ótt Knútdr 5), by the Thesa (Tees) and in Skorsteinn (Sherston, Ótt Knútdr 6), an unidentified place (Anon Liðs 4), Brandfurða (Brentford, Ótt Knútdr 7), by the Temps (Thames, Ótt Knútdr 8; Anon Liðs 5-10), in Norðvík (Norwich, Ótt Knútdr 9), Assatún (Ashingdon) and Danaskógar (the Forest of Dean, Ótt Knútdr 10); Knútr’s expulsion of the sons of Æthelred (Sigv Knútdr 2); kings of Fíf (Fife) submit to Knútr, but Óláfr Haraldsson does not (Sigv Lv 12); Óláfr Haraldsson and Ǫnundr Óláfsson attack Danish territories (Sigv Knútdr 3-6); Knútr sails a great fleet east through Limafjǫrðr (Limfjorden, Sigv Knútdr 7-8); he curtails their plundering (Sigv Knútdr 9); the battle of Á in helga (Helgeå) c. 1026 (ÞSjár Róðdr; Sigv Knútdr 9 (?); Ótt Knútdr 11). Norwegian magnates bribed to support Knútr (Sigv Lv 13-15); Knútr’s superior fleet (Sigv Lv 16-17); his voyage from Limafjǫrðr (Limfjorden) and up the Norwegian coast to Niðaróss (Trondheim) c. 1028 (Þloft Tøgdr 1-5); Knútr appoints his nephew (Hákon Eiríksson) to rule Norway and his son (Hǫrða-Knútr) to rule Denmark (Þloft Tøgdr 6); Knútr’s pilgrimage to Rome (Sigv Knútdr 10-11); extent of his territory (Ótt Lv 2; Hallv Knútdr 6III); general praise (Þloft Hfl). Events of a more individual or informal kind: dealings with the poets Þormóðr Kolbrúnarskáld (Þorm Lv 10-11) and Þórarinn loftunga (Þloft Tøgdr 7-8); Kálfr Árnason’s service of Knútr (BjHall Kálffl 3-4). See also poetry about Óláfr Haraldsson.

2. Sveinn tjúguskegg Haraldsson (r. 986-1014)

Sveinn tjúguskegg ‘Fork-beard’, son of Haraldr blátǫnn Gormsson, reigned over Denmark and enjoyed intermittent control over south-east Norway. With his stepson, the Swedish king Óláfr Eiríksson, and his son-in-law Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson of Norway, he won a decisive victory against Óláfr Tryggvason at Svǫlðr c. 1000. He made large-scale raids on England for two decades from the early 990s onwards, exacting massive Danegeld payments. He was formally accepted as ruler of England in 1013, reigning briefly until his death in 1014 (see further Lund 1993). See Theodoricus (MHN 23-4; McDougall and McDougall 1998, 18); HN (MHN 117-21; Kunin and Phelpstead 2001, 21-4); Ágr (ÍF 29, 22-4; Ágr 2008, 20-1); Fsk (ÍF 29, 124-5, 146-53, 163, 166; Finlay 2004, 96-8, 115-21, 130, 132); Hkr (ÍF 26, 272-4, 302, 340-3, 349-54, 357, 359, 370-2, ÍF 27, 13-14; Hollander 1964a, 174-5, 195, 224-6, 228-36, 244, 251); Knýtl (ÍF 35, 96-9). Sveinn also figures in the ASC and the works of Adam of Bremen and Thietmar of Merseburg. Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 258, 267, 282) names only Óttarr svarti (Ótt) as a skald of Sveinn.

Events documented in poetry: Sveinn deceived by Sigvaldi jarl (Stefnir Lv 1; OSnorr Lv); the battle of Svǫlðr c. 1000 (see Biography of Óláfr Tryggvason); military exploits in England (Þjsk Sveindr); Sveinn’s death (ÞKolb Eirdr 10). Sveinn himself is credited with a stanza about Þorleifr jarlsskáld’s revenge against Hákon jarl (Svtjúg Lv).

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