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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035

1. Eiríkr blóðøx Haraldsson (r. c. 929-34)
2. Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson (r. c. 1000-c. 1014)
3. Hákon I inn góði Haraldsson (r. c. 934-c. 961)
4. Hákon jarl Eiríksson (r. c. 1014-c. 1015)
5. Hákon jarl Sigurðarson (r. c. 970-c. 995)
6. Hálfdan svarti Guðrøðarson (c. 820-c. 860)
7. Haraldr II gráfeldr Eiríksson (r. c. 961-c. 970) and the Eiríkssynir
8. Haraldr I hárfagri Hálfdanarson (r. c. 860-c. 932)
9. Óláfr II inn helgi Haraldsson (r. c. 1015-1030)
10. Óláfr I Tryggvason (r. c. 995-c. 1000)
11. Rǫgnvaldr heiðumhæri Óláfsson (later ninth century)
12. Sveinn Alfífuson (r. 1030-1035)
13. Sveinn jarl Hákonarson (r. c. 1000-c. 1015)

(Vol. I. Poetry for Scandinavian Rulers 1: From Mythological Times to c. 1035 > 8. Volume Introduction > 4. Biographies > 4.1. Ruler biographies > 4.1.a. Kings and jarls of Norway > 1. Eiríkr blóðøx Haraldsson (r. c. 929-34))

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.

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