|Maria Kvilhaug - aka LadyoftheLabyrinth|
MESS NOT WITH THE PEASANT WARRIORS - SOME KINGS/RULERS WHO WERE OVERTHROWN BY THEIR OWN PEOPLE IN PRE-CHRISTIAN SCANDINAVIA
DOMALDI – Domaldi was a Ynglinga king of Uppsala, who, if he lived for real, would have lived sometime between the 3rd and 5th centuries in what today is Sweden. Domaldi had the misfortune of being king during a time of famine and bad harvests.
The Svear people sacrificed oxen one year, but the harvest failed. The next year, they sacrificed people, but the harvest got worse.
The next year, the people gathered at the parliament of Uppsala and voted to sacrifice the king himself, since the king clearly had not the divine favor that a king needed. He was laid on the sacrificial altars and they were colored red with his blood.
The next year, under a new king (Domaldi´s son), the harvest were good again.
OLAF THE TREE-FELLER – lived roughly during the 6th-7th centuries, another Ynglinga king of Uppsala, and the hapless son of one Ingjald the Bad Ruler.
The Bad Ruler had attempted to conquer all of Sweden beneath himself, but was finally overthrown by a young prince from Scania (this was when “Sweden” still consisted of several smaller states, such as Scania), Ivarr, who had the support of the people of other former nations within the borders of what we today know as Sweden, and who did not accept the “foreign” ruler from Uppsala as their high king.
Ivarr Rules Widely did not return the lands to their peoples as he had promised in return for their support. He assumed the role of High King over all of Sweden himself, and assimilated Denmark too, as the first king to rule a Scandinavian empire.
His daughter, Aud the Deep Minded, became the mother of a new, Danish dynasty.
Olaf, the son of the king who had been conquered by Ivarr, had to flee, and went into hiding in the forests of Värmland. He was followed by a large gathering of Svear, who believed that the Ynglingar, descended from Freyr, were the only true kings of Uppsala and the Svear. They started to build in the forests, and from this, Olaf got his nickname, the Tree-Feller.
However, Olaf the Tree-Feller did not have the favor of the gods either. Bad harvests and illnesses over the course of three years led the Svear to gather once more for Parliament, where they decided to sacrifice Olaf to Odin for a good year.
After killing Olaf, the Svear formally elected his son as their new king, and spurred him to go into the Norwegian kingdoms to find a wife there. Apparently, marrying a Norwegian princess could make him a king in her regional kingdom. His son and grandson kept using this tactique of marrying Norwegian princesses, gathering more and more land in Norway through such marriages. Their descendants became the ancestors of the first royal house of a unified Norwegian nation.
SIGURD SLEVA (“The Drooler”) - Raped the wife of one of his hersir (lords/regional chiefs) and was overthrown as a result.
This is told of in three sources: In Heimskringla and the Saga of Olaf Tryggvason in Flateyiarbok, the story goes:
After sending his hersi Thorkell Klypp on a mission on his behalf, King Sigurd the Drooler went to visit his wife, Álof. This would have been ca the 960s.
In the night, the king went and raped Álof. She did not stay silent about it or try to hide it, and the news caused an uproar against an already unpopular, tyrant regional king.
When this was known, the peasants raised an army of their own class (the karlir – peasant warriors) and went to attack the king. The king fled.
When Thorkell Klypp came home and was told what the king had done to his wife, he went to the rebel army of peasants and led them in yet another attack against the Drooler king. He killed the king but was himself killed by one of the kingsguard.
In Flateyiarbok´s “Short Story of Sigurd Sleva”, the story is slightly different. This version is much later than the others, and was commissioned by a great great grandson of the woman Álof, who was raped by the king, and evidently wants to emphasize how great a woman she was. In this story, the king did not assault Álof one night, but forced her to share his bed for several weeks. The saga makes a point out of how unwilling she was, but was clearly not in position to defend herself.
In this story, the rebellious peasant warriors who wanted to avenge her and other wrongs caused by the king, are not in – the story is later, however.
Here, Thorkell Klypp returns home, and his wife tries to tell him while urging him to stay calm and not fight the powerful king. Klypp refuses to take her back as his wife (this does not happen in the earlier versions and seems to reek of medieval morals) and goes to the king on his own and kills him.
He is then killed by a kingsguard, and only this is where the people revolt and kill the kingsguard, while lawmen decide that Klypp had been in the right to avenge his wife and his own honor. The story was part of a general educational book for young kings, meant to enlighten the kings about not abusing their power or disrespecting their subjects.
In this story, after the death of the king and her husband, Klypp, Álof travels with her (and Klypp´s) daughter to Iceland, and both are considered the best of marriage options, and become the mothers of great Icelandic lineages, also to Jón Hákonsson who commissioned the story in 1385.
ERLEND EIRIKSSON/GUNNHILDSSON – the 960s-70s: King Erlend was one of the many sons of Eirik Blood-Axe and Gunnhild the witch queen.
The Eirikssons are usually referred to as the Gunnhildssons in the saga literature, because Gunnhild played such an important part in their rise to power (and in their fall).
The region of Trøndelag in Norway had been ruled by the Earls of Hlaðir for centuries, descended from the kings of Hálogaland, and regarded themselves as the descendants of Odin and Skadi and their descendant Trond, who gave name to Trondheim (Trøndelag).
After the death of Harald Hair-Fair, his son Eirik Blood-Axe fought hard against his brothers to hold the position of High King.
His sons, the Gunnhildssons, were more cooperative between themselves, and tried to share their power over Norway, each holding the title of king, but had to fight hard against Hákon Jarl, who by right was the ruler of Trøndelag.
The Gunnhildssons forced the Earl of Hlaðir (Hákon Jarl) to flee to Denmark. Meanwhile, Erlend took up position as king of Trøndelag.
However: The people of Trøndelag were used to partake in the ruling process via the democratic parliament at Frosta, where all free landowning men (including the peasant warrior class) had a right to vote – for example, vote over who they wanted as their king.
They also remembered their Óðal – a right to own land that was an ancient tradition reaching back into prehistory. Harald Hair Fair and Eirik Blood Axe had taken their Óðal away, and with it, their voting rights.
The peasant warriors had long since (in 930-33) elected the young king, Hákon the Good because he had promised to return their right to Óðal. He kept good his promise, and in this way, he stopped the process towards feudalization in Norway, the feudal system being the dominant system in Europe at the time.
The Norwegian peasants were unhappy when Erlend Gunnhildsson once more tried to deprive them of their land-owning and voting rights. Even more unhappy they went when he tried to go hard against them with punishments and high taxes. Now the winters became worse, the harvests failed, and they starved, and there was much outlawry.
The peasant warriors of Trøndelag went to attack Erlend and had him killed, and with him all his men. The people ruled themselves while awaiting the return of their very popular and favorite ruler, the last great Earl of Hlaðir; Hákon Jarl (who, by the way, was the greatest defender of paganism against the new religion in his time).
HÁKON JARL – Hákon was a devoted pagan and fought hard against the Christian conversion process of the last part of the 900ds. He was also very popular, especially in his native Trøndelag, and he was a seiðr-practitioner, regarded as a wise man.
Although he never took the title of king, he returned to Norway when the Gunnhildssons had been destroyed and reclaimed the seat of Earl at Hlaðir in Trøndelag. From there, he assumed power in all of Norway, and was quite popular, although not so popular with the Christian minorities, since he was hostile towards the new religion.
He ruled as king for 30 years, with the title of earl.
Hákon was the last obstacle to power for the young and ambition Christian missionary king, Ólaf Tryggvason. Perhaps the memory of how Sigurd Sleva had been overthrown gave Ólaf an idea?
A rumor was set out that Hákon Earl had raped a woman.
We do not know if this is true or not, but Hákon had been very popular for thirty years, which would have been unlikely if he had kept abusing women.
In any case, the people revolted again. Hákon Earl had to flee.
Olaf Tryggvason landed in Norway, presented himself as the one who would bring down the rapist tyrant, and found Hákon. Hákon Jarl was beheaded before he could have any legal trial, his head was put on a stake and declared a niðing (“lowling, shameling” = rapist), and his head was stoned by a crowd of men.
The path towards Christendom in Norway had suddenly opened up.
ÓLAF THE HOLY – 1030 (July 29th): On this day, a large army of peasant warriors from Hálogaland (northern Norway) and Trøndelag, went to fight against the tyranny of Ólafr Digri ("the large" - later known as the Holy) at Stiklestad after conflicts following the king´s blockage of food supplies to the starving people.
The Trøndelag chief Thorir Hund, still a pagan, disobeyed the king and went out to find food for his people. He simply went out and bought grains – something the king had forbidden, in order to punish them for their paganry and rebelliousness.
For this, several of Thorir´s friends and relatives were executed. Religion was not the primary reason for this exact conflict, but certainly played a role. The people of northern Norway and Trøndelag were, to a great degree, the last defenders of paganism at this time.
However, the conflict went beyond religion, and there were both Christians and Pagans in the rebel army.
Thorir Hund was later smeared by his enemies, he was the evildoer who killed the saintly king. But from his point of view, he was fighting a tyrant.
The skald Sigvat (who was there as a witness) composed a poem:
"He is wrong who says
Thorir feared, I think
Who has seen a great of soul Dog (Hund) perform a greater deed?
The stout, shield-clad champion (Thorir)
found his way in battle
He dared to raise his sword
to cleave the King himself"
The new religion imported a belief in the king as God´s representative and instilled in the people a high degree of obedience to authority that did not exist in pre-Christian times, when people usually voted their favorite kings in and thought they had the right to sacrifice or overthrow him if he abused his power or failed to provide good harvests, peace and health.
After this event, it is not known that any Scandinavian king was ever again overthrown by any commoners´ army.