Harald Hardrada

Harald Sigurdsson (1015 – September 25, 1066), later given the epithet Hardrada (Old Norse: roughly translated as “stern counsel” or “hard ruler”) was the king of Norway from 1047 until 1066. He also claimed to be the King of Denmark until 1064, often defeating King Sweyn’s army and forcing him to leave the country. Many details of his life were chronicled in the Heimskringla and other Icelandic sources. Among English speakers, he is generally remembered for his failed invasion of England in 1066. Harald’s death at the Battle of Stamford Bridge which brought an end to that invasion is often recorded as the end of the Viking Age.

*excerpt taken from source on wikipedia, which actually has a lot of good references and sources about Harald

Additional reading:

Archaeologists hunt for Viking heritage in Sherwood Forest

From the BBC News:

The land surrounding a mysterious ancient monument in Sherwood Forest is to be researched after a local history group received a £50,000 lottery grant.

A Thynghowe or Thing, an open-air meeting place where Vikings gathered to discuss the law, was discovered in Sherwood Forest seven years ago.

Experts surveyed the site this year and suggested the wider area be looked at.

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Amateur treasure hunter unearths ancient viking king

From Fox News:

A British man rewrote medieval history on his lunch break when he unearthed evidence of a previously-unknown Viking king.

Darren Webster, a metal detector enthusiast, stopped by a field near Canforth, northern England, to practice his hobby and uncovered a hoard of silver Viking treasure buried three feet (0.9 meters) below the earth, The (London) Times reported Thursday.

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Magical Viking stone may be real

From The Telegraph:

A Viking legend which tells of a glowing “sunstone” that, when held up to the sky, disclosed the position of the Sun on a cloudy day may have some basis in truth, scientists believe.

The ancient race are believed to have to discovered North America hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus.

Now experiments have shown that a crystal, called an Iceland spar, could detect the sun with an accuracy within a degree – allowing the legendary seafarers to navigate thousands of miles on cloudy days and during short Nordic nights.

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Rural Irish village site of Vikings settlement is confirmed

From IrishCentral.com:

A tiny County Louth village has been confirmed as home to one of the most important Viking sites in the world.

Carbon testing on trenches at a ‘virgin’ site in Annagassan have revealed that the small rural community once housed a Viking winter base, one of only two in Ireland.

The other went on to become Dublin but the Annagassan site, 50 miles north of the capital, was believed to be the stuff of mythology and folklore until now.

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Interview with Bernard Cornwell on Death of Kings

Death of Kings is the latest installment in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon series. It is set for release January of 2012.

Product Description:

The master of historical fiction presents the iconic story of King Alfred and the making of a nation.As the ninth century wanes, England appears about to be plunged into chaos once more. For the Viking-raised but Saxon-born warrior, Uhtred, whose life seems to shadow the making of England, this presents him with difficult choices.King Alfred is dying and his passing threatens the island of Britain to renewed warfare. Alfred wants his son, Edward, to succeed him but there are other Saxon claimants to the throne as well as ambitious pagan Vikings to the north.Uhtred‘s loyalty – and his vows – were to Alfred, not to his son, and despite his long years of service to Alfred, he is still not committed to the Saxon cause. His own desire is to reclaim his long lost lands and castle to the north. But the challenge to him, as the king’s warrior, is that he knows that he will either be the means of making Alfred’s dream of a united and Christian England come to pass or be responsible for condemning it to oblivion.This novel is a dramatic story of the power of tribal commitment and the terrible difficulties of divided loyalties.This is the making of England magnificently brought to life by the master of historical fiction.

Invasion of the Viking women unearthed

From USA Today:

So much for Hagar the Horrible, with his stay-at-home wife, Helga. Viking women may have equaled men moving to England in medieval invasions, suggests a look at ancient burials.

Vikings famously invaded Eastern England around 900 A.D., notes Shane McLeod of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Western Australia in the Early Medieval Europe journal, starting with two army invasions in the 800’s, recounted in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. The Viking invaders founded their own medieval kingdom, ‘the Danelaw’, in Eastern England.

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Review of The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell

The Burning Land by Bernard CornwellThe Burning Land is the fifth installment in Cornwell’s Saxon Stories. Set in late 9th century Britain, King Alfred the Great is close to death, and Uhtred breaks his oath to Alfred to ride north to Northumbria in order to reclaim his ancestral home of Bebbanburg from his uncle. To reclaim his land, he needs money and soldiers, and after seeing the the defenses of Bebbanburg, he decides to journey across the sea to Scandinavia to steal the treasure of local lord. The local lord is the former husband of a Danish woman who joins Uhtred’s company, at the disapproval of many of Uhtred’s men who claim she is a witch.

Uhtred returns to Northumbria with a small treasure, and there he rejoins with his life-long friend Ragnar, son of Ragnar, the man who captured Uhtred as a boy and raised him as his own son. Uhtred and Ragnar make plans to attack Bebbanburg, but the Norns who determine the fates of men have other plans for Uhtred.

Once again, Uhtred is pulled south by his oath, not his oath to Alfred but rather his oath to Alfred’s daughter, Ethelflaed.

As usual, Cornwell does a a fantastic job with depicting battle scenes, and his dialogue is gritty, sharp, and earthy. He is an excellent storyteller, always on point with his historical research (with a bit of artistic liberty taken here and there) and recreation of the medieval setting. He also does a nice job of keeping the reader guessing where the story is going next.

Where he has taken criticism in the past has been his use of women characters and their lack of development in his stories. Most of his women characters come off as being fairly flat. Personally, I felt in The Burning Land, Cornwell did some of his best work in developing characters like Ethelflaed and Skade, to make you love the one and hate the other. Ethelflaed is in my opinion one of his best female characters, and I hope he continues to flesh her out more in the next novel in the series, Death of Kings, which is supposedly coming out this year.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Did Vikings navigate by polarized light?

An interesting post from Medieval News, with reference articles.

A Viking legend tells of a glowing ‘sunstone’ that, when held up to the sky, revealed the position of the Sun even on a cloudy day. It sounds like magic, but scientists measuring the properties of light in the sky say that polarizing crystals — which function in the same way as the mythical sunstone — could have helped ancient sailors to cross the northern Atlantic.