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

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).

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