Friday, October 14, 2016

Legendary Kings of Scandinavia

We discussed the paternal ancestry of Odin in an earlier blog (Chart #11). In Chart #13 I am showing Odin's maternal ancestry as well as Njord's paternal ancestry. Njord married his sister - as can be seen in the diagram. According to Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), Odin and Njord belonged to two warring nations on the east side of the Black Sea. They had devastated each other's lands so much they called a truce and traded hostages. Thus Njord and his son Yngve-Frey were sent by the Vanaheim people to Asaland (Asgaard), who were installed by Odin as their priests.
But Odin having foreknowledge, and magic-sight, knew that his posterity would come to settle and dwell in the northern half of the world. He therefore set his brothers Ve and Vilje over Asgaard; and he himself, with all the gods and a great many other people, wandered out, first westward to Gardarike (Russia), and then south to Saxland (northern Germany). He had many sons; and after having subdued an extensive kingdom in Saxland, he set his sons to rule the country. He himself went northwards to the sea, and took up his abode in an island which is called Odins in Fyen (called Odense today in modern day Denmark)...
Odin took up his residence at the Maelare lake, at the place now called Old Sigtun (not far from modern day Stockholm, Sweden). There he erected a large temple, where there were sacrifices according to the customs of the Asaland people. He appropriated to himself the whole of that district, and called it Sigtun. [Hiemskringla]
Along the left hand side of Chart #13, I show several of Odin's sons who were the ancestors of several Anglo-Saxon kings who attacked Britain from Southern Scandinavia in the years following the fall of the Roman Empire. I will continue all the lines shown except for Sexneat because he does not show up as a direct ancestor, although I show several generations of his descent in my on-line database.

The Ynglinga Saga portion of the Heimskringla tells the story of each king from Njord down to Halfdan the Black, father of Harald Fairhair (or Hårfagre). Most scholars trust this history beginning at only a few generations earlier than Harald. My thoughts are that there may be some historical basis to some of the stories, but even if there is no truth at all, it is a fun read. So maybe I will mention a few stories.

After Odin's death, Njord ruled at Sigtuna (not far from Stockholm, Sweden). During Njord's reign the "days were peace and plenty, and such good years, in all respects, that the Swedes believed Njord ruled over the growth of seasons and the prosperity of the people." Fjolne, Njord's grandson, died by drowning in a vat of mead. Vanlande was killed by a night mare (horse) that was sent to him as a curse from his wife. Dag was called "the Wise" because he could understand the language of birds.

Attils the Great was called Eadgils in the Poem Beowulf, the son of Ohþere (Ottar). Snorri Sturluson relates that Eadgils (Adils) loved good horses and had the best horses in his day. The Gothic scholar Jordanes also noted that the Swedes were famed for their good horses. Attils was married to Yrsa a daughter of Helge from Lejre, the old capital of Denmark. Later when Helge attacked Sweden, he kidnapped Yrsa and married her not realizing that she was his own daughter. They had a son called Hrólf (Rolf) Krake, also mentioned in Beowulf. Helge's brother was Hroðgar (Hroar) who built the great hall in Denmark at the time that Beowulf came to slay the monster Grendel. We will revisit Beowulf in a later blog.

Olof Tretelgia was the first of the Ynglings to settle in Norway after fleeing Uppsala from problems caused by his father. When the Swedes heard that Olav was clearing the forests for farmland, they laughed at him and called him the "Trelgia" meaning "Tree-feller".

Halfdan the Black gained the kingship over Vestfold, Norway (830 CE) after his uncle, Olof.  Halfdan first married Ragnhild, the daughter of Harald Goldenbeard, King of Sogn. Since Harald had no sons, he gave the kingship to his son-in-law, Halfdan.  Although he was the first to tax the people, they considered him a fair and wise ruler. His second wife was Ragnhild Sigurdsdatter, whose father, Sigurd Hart, was killed by the berserker Haki, who planned on having her for his wife. But Halfdan sent men to kidnap Ragnhild and her younger brother, while Haki was still recovering from battle wounds. Haki died on the way to take his revenge against Halfdan. He conquered Opplandene and Viken (inner part of Oslofjord). He was also King of Agde and Sogn in Norway from 827-860.

Halfdan and Ragnhild were the parents of the famous Harald Hårfagre, the first king of a United Norway. The stories that Snorri Sturluson tells about Harald always seem to be centered around romancing one of his many wives. I show 7 in my genealogy. The story goes that Harald wanted Gyda, daughter of King Erik in Hordaland (Norway), but she refused saying he was too petty of a king. So Harald took a vow not to cut or comb his hair until he conquered all of Norway. After he accomplished this Gyda became one of his wives. In my genealogy I am descended from two daughters of Harald and Gyda, as well as children from his other wives: Eric Bloody-Axe, Sigurd Rise, Bjørn Farmann, Olaf Geirstadalf and Ingebjørg who married the Earl of Finnmark. I will probably discuss some of these in later blogs.

Here are links to some of the key people in my online genealogy database:

Here are some links to help you learn more:

Here are some useful books to read pertaining to the subjects in this blog:

Cumberland Family Software:

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