Moonday’s Heroic Hunk: The Last Viking



     Harald Sigurdsson, known as Harald Hardrada (the Hard or Ruthless Ruler) was called the Last Viking. Snorri Sturluson told Harald’s saga in the Heimskringla, a 13th century history of the kings of Norway.
Snorri related that when young Harald’s half-brother King Olaf tugged his hair, Harald grabbed the king’s moustache and pulled it, the king predicted (rightly as it turned out): “You are likely to be vindictive when you grow up, kinsman.” Harald was not well-liked, even by his own people, because he was dishonest and untrustworthy. He stood over 6’6” with blond hair and was reported to be a vicious fighter, crafty leader and cruel (by our standards) ruler.     

      At fifteen, Harald fled Norway after being severely wounded in a battle in which King Olaf was killed. He found refuge with a relative, King Yaroslav of the Scandinavian kingdom of Novgorod in Russia. He soon took service in Constantinople under the Empress Zoe of Byzantium, in the Varangian Guard which he eventually led to victories in Italy, Sicily, North Africa, and Jerusalem. He sent all the plundered treasure he could gather (including what should have gone to the Empress) to King Jaroslav for safe-keeping.     





     The Empress denied him her niece, Maria’s, hand (Rumor was that Zoe wanted him for herself.) and imprisoned him for his offenses. Harald escaped, kidnapped Maria, attacked Zoe’s palace, captured and blinded the Emperor, stole a ship and sailed to Russia. Harald eventually sent Maria home with an “in your face” message to Empress Zoe.     



      Harald accepted his nephew (the king of Norway and Denmark) Magnus’s offer of half his kingdom in return for a share of Harald’s treasure. When Magnus died soon afterwards, Harald succeeded him but Denmark refused to accept him and chose Swein Ulfsson as their king. Harald spent the next 15 years warring, ravaging, plundering, and plotting to conquer Denmark. In 1064, Harald was compelled to sign a treaty with King Swein, recognizing him as King of Denmark. (Harald had to make do with Norway.)     





          Two years later, Tostig Godwinson sought Harald’s support to overthrow his brother Harold, the king of England. Probably bored after two years of inaction, possessing a slight claim to England’s throne himself, and needing to replenish his treasure, Harald decided to make one more conquest. After several early victories, on September 25, 1066 at Stamford Bridge, Harald was defeated and killed by an arrow to his windpipe by the English forces under King Harold Godwinson. His banner- ‘Landwaster’ – fell with him. Within the month, King Harold and his force were defeated by William “the Bastard” – next week’s Heroic Hunk.     



     Since no pictures of Harald survive (and we do love those pictures), take the Viking Challenge. Of the seven pics, four are re-enactors and three are actors in Viking or Vikingesque roles. Name the three actors and their movie roles. Which actor is of Scandinavian descent? Answers in Comment #4.


7 Responses

  1. Harold was a real SOB, huh? Not gonna try with the actors names because I think the last one looks kinda like Peter O’toole but I’m sure I’m wrong. Got up at 4 am to come to Tallahassee and the old noggin ain’t quite up to par this morning.

  2. Rita, I’m always amazed by your solid grasp on history. I know Vikings were large men, but was 6’6″ typical of the times? Frightening to think about an entire attacking force that size!

    I can’t place the actors, but they’re all hunks! Putting faces to events (even if not the original faces!) helps implant and retain information. Fantastic job, as usual! Love your posts!

  3. Ok, I think #7 is Kirk Douglas — I saw him in a Viking movie that was so cheesy we could have used it to bait a mousetrap, and this looks like a screencap from it. DDs still make fun of the accents in that movie. # 4 – Christopher Lambert maybe? #1 is also from a movie, I think. Darned if I know the titles, though.
    I’m liking the description of Vikings — 6 and a half feet of Scandinavian male! Of course, they never bathed. That’s a downside.

  4. I thought the hardest was #7 – Kirk Douglas; The Vikings (1958) but romancemama hit it dead on; #1 is Karl Urban in The Pathfinder (2007); #4 is Kevin Sorbo of Hercules and Andromeda TV programs in Kull the Conqueror (2004?). Sorbo is 6”3″ and of Scandinavian descent -born in Minnesota in 1958. Douglas was American of Russian-Jewish descent and Urban is from New Zealand
    Hardrada was tall even for Vikings. The Scandinavians, like the Anglo-Saxons who had invaded Britain in the 5th century, were of Germanic origin.. Latr, RitaVF

  5. […] is from Southern Sizzle Romance blog. Of […]

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