The location of the fall of Olaf Tryggvason

The location of the fall of Olaf Tryggvason

By Sven Ellechoj

Thridji Vikingafundur [Third Viking Congress], edited by Kristján Eldjárn Ritsjóri (Reykjavik, 1958)

Olaf's ship, the "Long Serpent", is attacked during the Battle of Svolder (Illustration by Halfan Egedius)

Synopsis: Examines the accounts that describe the battle between King Olaf Tryggvason and the Danish king Svein Forkbeard and Swedish king Olof Skotkonung in the year 1000, which traditionally has been placed near the island of Svold.

Introduction: Why should we discuss the location of the defeat of the Norwegian king Olaf Tryggvason? Every child on this island knows, that Olaf fell in the year 1000 near the island of Svold in a battle with the Danish king Svein Forkbeard, the Swedish king Olof Skotkonung, and the Norwegian Jarl Eric Haakonsson.

Every child on this island has read the description of the battle of Svold that was given by their great countryman Snorri Sturluson more than 700 years ago. They have followed Olaf on his voyage to Wendland in order to fetch the possessions of his wife, and they have followed him on his way back accompanied by Sigvaldi, the treacherous Jarl of Jomsborg. They have read the tale about the talk of the chiefs who were standing on the heights of the island, surrounded by their retainers, and they have felt the impression which the sight of king Olaf’s ship, the Long Serpent, made on the warriors. They have heard Olaf’s contemptuous words about the Danes” “We are not afraid of those cowards; there is no courage in the Danes,” and about the Swedes: “It were better for them to stay at home and lick their blood bowls than to attack the Serpent under your weapons,” and his more appreciating words about Jarl Eric and his men: “From that troop we can expect a sharp onslaught; they are Norsemen, as we are.” They have been delighted to see the Danish and the Swedish kings disgracefully withdraw from the battle. They have read about Einar Tambarskelver and his broken bow, about the final victory of Jarl Eic, and about the uncertainty as regards the king’s fate after the battle.

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