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Olaf I of Norway

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Óláfr Tryggvason, also called Olaf Tryggvason, (963 – September 9, 1000), was King of Norway from 995 to 1000. He was the son of Tryggve Olafsson, king of Viken, (Vingulmark and Ranrike), and the great-grandson of Harald Fairhair, first King of Norway.

Olaf played an important part in the conversion of the Vikings to Christianity. He is said to have built the first church in Norway in 995 and to have founded the city of Trondheim in 997.

Birth and Early LifeEdit

Olaf was born on an islet in Fjærlandsvatnet, where his mother Astrid daughter of Eirik Bjodaskalle, was hiding from her husband's killers, led by Harald Greycloak, the son of Eirik Bloodaxe, who had seized the throne from Haakon the Good. Astrid fled to her father Erik Biodaskalde's home in Oppland, then went on to Sweden where she thought she and Olaf would be safe. Harald sent emissaries to the king of Sweden, and asked for permission to take the boy back to Norway, where he would be raised by Greyhide's mother Gunhild. The Swedish king gave them men to help them claim the young boy, but to no avail. After a short scuffle Astrid (with her son) fled again. This time their destination was Gardarike, where Astrid's brother Sigurd was in the service of King Valdemar. Olaf was three years old when they set sail on a merchant ship for Novgorod. The journey was not successful - in the Baltic Sea they were captured by Estonian pirates, and the people aboard were either killed or taken as slaves. Olaf became the possession of a man named Klerkon, together with his foster father Thorolf and his son Thorgils. Klerkon considered Thorolf too old to be useful as a slave and killed him, and then sold the two boys to a man named Klerk for a stout and a good ram. Olaf was then sold to a man called Reas for a fine cloak.

Life in NovgorodEdit

Six years later when Sigurd Eirikson traveled to Estonia to collect taxes on behalf of Valdemar, he spotted a remarkably handsome boy, who did not appear to be a native. He asked the boy about his family, and the boy told him he was Olaf, son of Tryggve Olafson and Astrid Eiriksdattir. Sigurd then went to Reas and bought Olaf and Thorgils out from slavery, and took the boys with him to Novgorod to live under the protection of Valdemar.

One day in the Novgorod marketplace Olaf encountered Klerkon, his enslaver and the murderer of his foster father. Olaf killed Klerkon with an axe blow to the head. A mob followed the young boy as he fled to his protector Queen Allogia, with the intent of killing him for his misdeed. Only after Allogia had paid blood money for Olaf did the mob calm down.

As Olaf grew older, Valdemar made him chief over his men-at-arms, but after a couple years the king became wary of Olaf and his popularity with his soldiers. Fearing he might be a threat to the safety of his reign, Valdemar stopped treating Olaf as a friend. Olaf decided that it was better for him to seek his fortune elsewhere, and set out for the Baltic.

Olaf the VikingEdit

After leaving Novgorod, Olaf raided settlements and ports with success. In 982 he was caught in a storm and made port in Vindland, where he met Geira a daughter of King Burislav of the Wends. She ruled the part of Vindland in which Olaf had landed, and Olaf and his men were given an offer to stay for the winter. Olaf accepted and after courting the Queen, they were married. Olaf began to reclaim the baronies that while under Geira rule had refused to pay taxes. After these successful campaigns, he began raiding again both in Skåne and Gotland.

Fighting for Otto IIIEdit

The Holy Roman Emperor Otto III had assembled a great army of Saxons, Franks, Frisians and Wends to fight against the heathen Danes. Olaf was part of this army as his father-in-law was king of Vindland. Otto's army met the armies of King Harald I of Denmark and Haakon Jarl the ruler of Norway under the Danish king, at Danevirke, a great wall near Schleswig. Otto's army was unable to break the fortification, so he changed tactics and sailed around it landing in Jutland with a large fleet. Otto won a large battle there, and forced Harald and Haakon with their armies to convert to Christianity. Otto's army then returned to their homelands. Harald would hold on to his new faith, but Haakon began worshiping the old gods when he got home.

The Death of Geira and ConversionEdit

After Olaf had spent three years in Vindland, his wife fell sick and died. He felt so much sorrow from her death that he could no longer bear to stay in Vindland, and set out to plunder in 984. He raided from Frisland to the Hebrides, until after four years he landed on one of the Scilly Isles. He heard of a seer who lived there. Desiring to test the seer, he sent one of his men to pose as Olaf. But the seer was not fooled. So Olaf went to see the hermit, now convinced he was a real fortune teller. And the seer told him:

Thou wilt become a renowned king, and do celebrated deeds. Many men wilt thou bring to faith and baptism, and both to thy own and others' good; and that thou mayst have no doubt of the truth of this answer, listen to these tokens. When thou comest to thy ships many of thy people will conspire against thee, and then a battle will follow in which many of thy men will fall, and thou wilt be wounded almost to death, and carried upon a shield to thy ship; yet after seven days thou shalt be well of thy wounds, and immediately thou shalt let thyself be baptized.

After the meeting Olaf was attacked by a group of mutineers, and what the seer had foretold happened. So Olaf let himself be baptised by the hermit. After his conversion Olaf stopped looting in England. It is because of his conversion to Christianity that many modern day Asatruar call him Olaf the Traitor.

Marriage to GydaEdit

In 988 Olaf sailed to England, because a Thing had been called by Queen Gyda, sister of the King of Dublin, Olaf Cuaran. She had been widowed by an earl, and was searching for a husband. A great many men had come, but Gyda singled out Olaf, despite the fact he was wearing his bad weather clothes, and the other men wore their finest clothing. They were to be married, but another man by the name of Alfvine took objection, and challenged Olaf and his men to holmgang. Olaf and his men fought Alfvine's crew and won every battle, but did not kill any of them, instead they bound them. Alfvine was told to quit the country and never come back again. Gyda and Olaf married, and spent half their time in England and the other half in Ireland.

Ascent to the Throne of NorwayEdit

In 995 rumours began to surface in Norway about a king in Ireland of Norwegian blood. This caught the ear of Haakon II, who sent Thorer Klakka to Ireland posing as a merchant, to see if he was the son of Tryggve Olafson. Haakon told Thorer that if it were him, to lure him to Norway, so Haakon could have him under his power. Thorer befriended Olaf and told him of the situation in Norway, that Haakon had become unpopular with the populace, because he often took daughters of the elite as concubines, which was his right as ruler. He quickly grew tired of them and sent them home after a week or two. He had also been weakened by his fighting with the Danish king, due to his rejection of the Christian faith.

Olaf seized this opportunity, and set sail for Norway. When he arrived many men had already started a revolt against Haakon and he had gone into hiding in a hole dug in a pigsty, together with one of his slaves, Kark. When Olaf met the rebels they accepted him as their king, and together they started to search for Haakon. They eventually came to the farm where Haakon and Kark were hiding, but could not find them. Olaf held a meeting just outside the swine-sty and promised a great reward for the man who killed the Jarl. The two men in the hole heard this speech, and Haakon became distrustful of Kark, fearing he would mutilate him to claim the price. He could not leave the sty, nor could he keep awake forever, and when he fell asleep Kark took out a knife and cut Haakon's head off. The next day the slave went to meet Olaf and presented with the head of Haakon. The king did not reward him, and instead beheaded the slave.

After his confirmation as King of Norway, Olaf traveled to the parts of Norway that had not been under the rule of Haakon, but that of the King of Denmark; they too swore rudely at him. He then demanded that they all be baptised, and most reluctantly agreed. Those that did not were tortured or killed.

Rule as KingEdit

In 997 Olaf founded his seat of government in Trondheim, where he had first held thing with the revolters against Haakon. It was a good site because the River Nid twisted itself before going in to the fjord, creating a peninsula, that could be easily defended against land attacks by just one short wall.

Olaf's ambition was to rule a united Christian Scandinavia, and he made overtures of marriage to Sigrid the Haughty, queen of Sweden, but negotiations fell through due to her steadfast heathenism. Instead he made an enemy of her, and did not hesitate to involve himself in a quarrel with King Sweyn I of Denmark by marrying his sister Thyra Haraldsdotter, who had fled from her heathen husband Styrbjörn the Strong in defiance of her brother's authority.

Both his Wendish and his Irish wife had brought Olaf wealth and good fortune, but, according to the sagas, Thyra was his undoing, for it was on an expedition undertaken in the year 1000 to wrest her lands from Styrbjörn that he was waylaid off the island Svold, by the combined Swedish, Danish and Wendish fleets, together with the ships of Haakon's sons. The Battle of Svolder ended in the death of the Norwegian king. Olaf fought to the last on his great vessel the Long Serpent (Ormurin Langi), the mightiest ship in the North, and finally leapt overboard and was seen no more.

See AlsoEdit

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