A TALE OF TWO VIKING KINGS: THE RIVALRY OF NORSE CO-KINGS MAGNUS OLAFSSON AND HARALD HARDRADA

A TALE OF TWO VIKING KINGS:
THE RIVALRY OF NORSE CO-KINGS MAGNUS OLAFSSON AND HARALD HARDRADA

James J. S. Johnson, JD, ThD, CNHG

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. (PROVERBS 15:1)

King Magnus was Harald’s nephew,
But Harald claimed royal right, too;
Harald’s might was well-known,
So he soon shared the throne —
Thus, the co-kings of Norway were two.

Of the other, each king was jealous,
They both, for glory, were zealous;
Once, for a dock spot…
King Magnus got hot!
(At least, that’s what Snorri would tell us.)

“Weapons!” – Magnus’ men went to arm!
But Harald foresaw needless harm;
Harald yielded his space,
Found a new “parking” place,
And withdrew – with a diplomat’s charm.

‘Twas not that Harald feared, to fight,
Nor was timid, to cast a sound-bite;
Though Harald was strong,
The showdown was wrong —
So (for now) he backed down, from the slight.

“Harald parked first!” — someone prattles,
“Ja, let’s fight!” — a sword soon rattles;
But ignoring the nuisance,
King Harald used prudence;
Said Harald:  “you must pick your battles.”
><>  JJSJ

He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. (PROVERBS 16:32)

COMMENTARY: One of the tense moments, during the unesay co-kingship of Magnus and Harald Hardrada, occurred when Hardrada “parked” his boat in the best docking spot. Oalf insited that Hardrarad move his boat to allow Olaf to “park” there. Before a fight broke out Hardrada conceded to Olaf’s haughty demand – although, interestingly, Olaf died (maybe accidently) soon afterwards, leaving Harald Hardrada as sole king of Norway.

How did this situation arise? Norway’s King Magnus (“the Good”) Olafsson was the illegitimate son of Norway’s King Olaf II (“the Holy”), but he did not promptly ascend to the throne at his father’s death. Rather, Magnus then fled Norway — and the Norwegian kingdom was ruled by the powerful Knut the Great (a/k/a “Canute”, who ruled Norway, Denmark, and England, till he died in AD1035); Knut was himself son of Denmark’s King Sveyn Forkbeard, who was son of the famous Viking Harald Bluetooth, king of Denmark and Norway. After Knut died in AD1035, Magnus immediately became king of Norway – and in AD1042 added the kingdom of Denmark to his realm. However, during AD1046, the wealthy Norwegian Viking Harald Hardrada returned from his exploits in Russia (and in the Byzantine Empire, where he had also been adventuring, for years), and Hardrada demanded a rulership interest in Norway, considering his own claim to the Norwegian throne to be superior to that of King Magnus (Hardrada’s nephew). A co-kingship arrangement was negotiated, so that Norway was jointly ruled by King Magnus and (co-king) Harald Hardrada, with Olaf having first rank of the pair. Friction and jealousy routinely infected the relationship, or course, and – ironically – Magnus died in late AD1047, with the cause of his death still being questioned. King Harald Hardrada himself died in battle, at Stamford Bridge, on 25 September, AD1066, while trying to invade England. Harald Hardrada’s linear descendants include England’s King James I, sponsor of the KING JAMES BIBLE.  (See JJSJ’s “Impact of Norway’s King Harald Hardrada on the British Isles”, posted at https://www.norwegiansocietyoftexas.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Hardrada-Somerled.JJSJ-family-tree-CHART.pdf ), with further information on Hardrada’s family lineage (through King Somerled’s progeny) being reported within JJSJ’s “To Globally Sow His Word, Did God Use Vikings?”, posted at https://www.norwegiansocietyoftexas.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/VikingHistory-KingJames-ancestry.corrected-AD2012.pdf .)

For more on the Viking history of Norway’s co-kings Olaf and Harald Hardrada, see pages 67-77 of Snorri Sturluson’s KING HARALD’S SAGA: HARALD HARDRADI OF NORWAY (Penguin Classics, 1966, a translation by Magnus Magnusson & Hermann Pálsson, of part of Sturluson’s HEIMSKRINGLA: HISTORY OF THE KINGS OF NORWAY).   This episode form Viking history illustrates the timeless wisdom of PROVERBS 15:1 & 16:32, i.e.:  “Pick your battles” strategically;  don’t just fight over a parking spot!

ON THE CHRISTIAN CONVERSIONS OF OLAF TRYGGVASON, LEIF EIRIKSSON, AND OTHER VIKINGS: FROM VALKYRIE BATTLE-CHANTS TO ANGELIC CHORUSES

Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (LUKE 15:10, quoting the Lord Jesus Christ)

ON  THE  CHRISTIAN  CONVERSIONS  OF  OLAF  TRYGGVASON,  LEIF EIRIKSSON,  AND  OTHER  VIKINGS:  FROM  VALKYRIE  BATTLE-CHANTS  TO  ANGELIC  CHORUSES

Col. John Eidsmoe  &  Dr. James J. S. Johnson,   co-authors

(borrowing the tune of “WHEN IRISH EYES ARE SMILING”)

ORIGINAL CHORUS:
When Viking eyes are smiling,
Ja, ‘tis like a day in spring;
In the din of Viking plunder
You can hear the valkyries sing.

Yet Viking ears kept hearing
Of life lived a better way,
And when Viking ears were listening
Some the Gospel would obey.

1st STANZA:
Vikings made many cry,
And it’s no surprise why:
They were vicious, as they were tall;
Seizing loot made them smile,
As their victims they’d rile:
Viking swords doomed many to fall.

But laughter is wrong,
When it fills pirate song:
As pillaging underlies glee.
As some lauded Thor,
They spilt others’ gore:
Such woe! – And such tragedy!

CHORUS REPEAT:
When Viking eyes are smiling,
Ja, ‘tis like a day in spring;
In the din of Viking plunder
You can hear the valkyries sing.

Yet Viking ears kept hearing
Of life lived a better way,
And when Viking ears were listening
Some the Gospel would obey.

2nd STANZA:
Olaf T. played a part,
Sharing truth from his heart:
Preaching Christ, Olaf shone a true light;
And it was, before long,
Lucky Leif joined the song:
Trusting Christ, Leif believed what was right.

Telling father, mother,
Sister, and brothers:
Soon Leif, on Vinland, had landed;
Ja, on ocean-wave foam,
Leif sailed east, for home:
Yet stopped, to save some who were stranded.

LATTER CHORUS:
Viking eyes now kindly smiled,
Good news at the Althing;
Unto God now reconciled,
Christian songs Vikings sing!

Thus Viking hearts had real joy,
Unto idols no more to pray;
For when Viking hearts are Christian,
It’s a feasting holiday!

Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (LUKE 15:10, quoting the Lord Jesus Christ)

THORBJORN, THE EMIGRANT, MAN OF FAITH AND ACTION

3000123_BVR_Vikingos en la Tierra Verde

THORBJORN,  THE  EMIGRANT,  MAN  OF  FAITH  AND ACTION

With good wealth Thorbjorn had been blessed,
But that changed — his lot was distressed;
Since change was a must,
In God he did trust
Shipped out, he and his, sailing west.

COMMENTARY: See Acts 17:11-12 (regarding demographic migrations). See also Ruth 1:1-2 & 1:6 (illustrating how necessities of life lead to family migrations). The adventures of Thorbjorn the Viking are reported in Snorri Sturluson, THE VINLAND SAGAS: THE NORSE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA (Penguin Classics, 1965; translated by Magnus Magnusson & Hermann Palsson), at pages 78-94.

THE FALL OF KING HARALD HARDRADA: A LONG STRING OF VICTORIES IS KILLED BY ONE RECKLESS FAILURE

3000123_BVR_Vikingos en la Tierra Verde

English soil Harald came to assail;
Bold he was, and not known to fail;
An arrow hit his throat
With death he was smote;
OOPS — Harald wasn’t wearing his mail.

COMMENTARY: See 1st Corinthians 10:12 & Ephesians 6:16. See pages 144-163 of Snorri Sturluson’s KING HARALD’S SAGA: HARALD HARDRADA OF NORWAY (Penguin Classics, 1966, a translation by Magnus Magnusson & Hermann Palsson, of a portion of Sturluson’s HEIMSKRINGLA: HISTORY OF THE KINGS OF NORWAY).   The limerick about the Battle of Stamford Bridge (on September 25th of AD1066) only refers to Viking king Harald Hardrada’s demise — but it should also be appreciated that King Harald’s son Olaf Kyrre survived the battle, providentially, and Olaf Kyrre later sired a lineage of descendants that include King James I of England (a/k/a King James VI of Scotland) — of King James Bible fame  —  as noted in “Christmas, Vikings, and the Providence of God”, posted at  http://www.icr.org/article/christmas-vikings-providence-god/  .

SAFE IN CHRIST, AWAITING ‘SHORE DUTY’ AT THE ULTIMATE HAVEN OF REST

3000123_BVR_Vikingos en la Tierra Verde

Sailing through life, with heart sin-laden
Viking warrior, tired of invadin’;
Now sings he new songs,
For to Christ he belongs:
Forgiven! — at peace, he’s done raidin’!

COMMENTARY:  See Ephesians 4:28 & Acts 20:35. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Giving is worth more than taking, in light of time and eternity.  Even some of the Vikings, historically, learned this valuable lesson, as is recorded, repeatedly, in the old Viking sagas.  (The original idea for this limerick came from “Dunraidin”, the Viking Longhouse model constructed by historian Dr. Bill Cooper.)

viking-longhouse-model