The Legendary Kings of Hedeby

A list of Kings of Hedeby also known as Haithabu, they ruled over the Danish lands with Hedeby as their economic centre. The early King lists of Hedeby have a lot of duplicate entries, which contradict each other and do not match with the contemporary historical records. It was a turbulent time with various families competing for the throne with at least two civil wars, one in 812-814 and another in 854. These were the legendary Kings of the Danes who ruled over Denmark and much of Norway in the late 8th Century and early 9th century. There was another Royal line who ruled over Sweden that were eventually defeated by the Loðbrók dynasty in 860.

  1. Harald Wartooth (Died in 772).
  2. Sigurd “Hring” Ranversson (Died in 798).
  3. Harald Goldbeard (Died in the Irish Sea in 804).
  4. Gudrød “The Magnificent” (Murdered in 810).
  5. Hemming (Killed in 812 by the sons of Gudrød).
  6. Harald Klak with his brothers (Exiled in 814).
  7. The sons of Gudrød (A brief rule from 814-820).
  8. Harald Klak ( Returned in 820 until he was again exiled in 826).
  9. Hrørik Gudrødsson (Ruled from 827 until his violent death in 854).
  10. Hrørik the Younger (Died in abt 867 with the Great Heathen army).
  11. Sigurd “Snake in the Eye” (Ruled jointly with his brothers from 867).
  12. A period of instability while the Loðbrók dynasty focused on the British isles.
  13. Harald “Fine Hair” (In 871 he took advantage of the instability in Denmark and for a couple of years ruled both Norway and Denmark).
  14. the Loðbrók dynasty (Returned to Denmark in 873 and started a very long conflict with King Harald that lasted generations).
  15. Another period of instability when Sigurd “Snake in the Eye” around 890 left Denmark to rule Lochland creating instability once again in Denmark.
  16. Olaf the Brash (Conquered Denmark and founded the House of Olaf).
  17. Gyrd and Gnupa.
  18. Sigtrygg Gnupasson.
  19. Cnut I son of Sigurd successfully defeated the House of Olaf and became King of all Denmark.

Harald Wartooth King of The Danes


Harald Wartooth at the Battle of Bråvalla. Illustration by the Danish Lorenz Frølich in a 19th-century book.

King Harald was King of the Danes and ruled over all of Scandinavia, he was a feared warrior and through his marriage to Hilda, daughter of Ivar the Wide Fathom he became undisputed heir to the Danish thrown. While there have been many humorous opinions of why he carried the name “War Tooth” it is most likely that he was a Great War hero who had a taste for war, he just loved getting his teeth into a good battle. It is said that his empire stretched as far south as the Mediterranean.

He was the son of Hrørik the Ring Slinger, who held land in Zealand and the grandson of Hódr, the sagas fall fairly silent about these two personages, except for a few references to Hrørik. However the Frankish annals give plenty of detail for these two individuals.

Theuderic IV from Guillaume Rouillé’s Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum

Famous for being the grandfather of Hamlet, Hrørik was none other than Theodoric IV (Thierry IV), the Duke of Narbonne from 739 when Charles Martel insisted that the King of Baghdad dispatch a Jew of the seed of David to rule Narbonne. The King of Baghdad sent Rabbi Makhir Todros (Thierry/Theodoric) and made him the Duke of Narbonne after he captured it from the Ishmaelites in 739. Also known as Aymeri de Narbonne a legendary Frankish hero, he ruled as the Duke of Septimania and married Charles Martel’s daughter Alda, known as Auðr the deep minded in the sagas.

Rather than being son of Odin, Hódr was the famous Odo (Eudes/Eudo) le Grande duke of Aquitaine, the ancestor to a many great dynasties including the infamous Corbyn family. He was a great leader and fought a great many battles in Francia against the Ishmaelites. Many historians argue over his ancestry, however rather than being a Merovingian, he was in fact of the seed of David and a Babylonian Exilarch known as Judah Zakkai son of Ahunai of the Holy Land. Battle and conquest certainly ran deep in this family.

Harald Wartooth was the grandfather of Gudrød the Magnificent king of the Danes, he was succeeded by Sigurd Hring after he was defeated and killed during the Battle of Bråvalla. It was in fact King Harald’s suggestion they fight a great battle, Harald was very old and desired to die in battle rather than dying in bed of sickness.

Sigurd and Harald encouraged their warriors to attack, the lur horns sounded and the battle cries rose up. Warrior fought against warrior. Blind, old King Harald rode out into the fray with a sword in each hand and struck away at the enemy. Harald fell in the battle with his son Rørek and when Sigurd Ring heard that his opponent had fallen, he instantly gave the sign that the fighting should cease. The day after the battle he sought out King Harald’s body and put it onto a funeral pyre along with his horse. Sigurd Ring stood before the fire and bade Harald ride straight to Valhalla and secure lodging for those who had perished.

  1. Ahunai of the Holy Land (Hernaut de Beauland) m. St. Clothilda Queen of Austrasia
  2. Odo le Grande (Judah Zakkai ben Ahunai) m. Sussanah le Blanchfleur.
  3. Theodoric IV Duke of Narbonne (Rabbi Machir Todros) m. Alda (Auðr) daughter of Charles Martel Mayor of the Palace.
  4. Harald Wartooth  (Menachem ben Machir) m. Hilda daughter of Ivar the Wide Fathom King of the Danes.

Gudrød the Hunter King of the Danes

In 804 a new King came to the throne in Denmark Gudfred, most scholars theorise he was the son of Sigfred. However in this period in Danish history their was an awful lot of civil war and conflict, rival families disputing land and titles, resulting in numerous struggles for the Danish thrown. It is highly unlikely he was King Sigfred’s son, there is no historical evidence for this.

Harald Wartooth
Harald Wartooth at the Battle of Bråvalla. Illustration by the Danish Lorenz Frølich in a 19th-century book.

In fact King Gudfred was none other than the legendary King of Vestfold, Gudrød the Hunter ancestor of Harald Finehair, also known as Gudrød the Magnificent. Legend records him as the son of Halfdan the Mild and the grandson of King Harald Wartooth who had inherited the Kingdom of Denmark legitimately through his wife Hilda, daughter of Ivar the Wide Fathom, the last male line descendant of Odin. King Ivar ruled over all the northern kingdoms but had no male heirs. Harald Wartooth was feared across Europe but Harald eventually died in a battle against his brother in law Sigurd Hring, Harald was an old man and wanted to die in battle. Sigurd Hring took the Danish throne and ruled for several years until 798 when the crown was passed to Gudrød’s uncle Harald who was later killed in the Irish sea in 804.

This brings us to the man in question Gudrød the Hunter King of Vestfold. Vestfold was just north of Denmark on the southernmost coast of Norway and his father Halfdan the Mild had died two years earlier of sickness, so it fell to his eldest son Gudrød the Magnificent.

Gudrød was a ruthless ruler and faced very little competition when making his claim for the throne. He spent most of his rule fearing invasion from the Franks, he made many improvements to the security of Denmark. A wall was built with an earthen embankment topped by a wooden stockade and protected from the south by a deep ditch. Denmark’s most important town, Hedeby was expanded and garrisoned with Danish soldiers and the early sections of the wall were designed to protect it.

His rule was a tyrannical one, forcing many settlements and towns to accept him as overlord and forcing taxes upon them and he even forced taxes upon his kinsman. By the end of his rule, he failed to negotiate a peace treaty with Charlemagne.

Gudrød had two wives, his first wife was Alfhild, daughter of Alfarin King of Alfheim and his second wife was Åsa, who he took by force after her father King Harald Red beard (Ráðbarðr) of Agder refused his request to marry her. He arrived by night and King Harald fought well but was eventually defeated and killed. He and Åsa had at least one son who was known as Halfdan the Black.

Murder of King Gudrød
Gudrød is murdered (Illustration by Gerhard Munth)

He ruled Denmark for 6 years until his premature death in 810, when after a long night of celebrations one of his men thrust a spear through his heart killing him instantly. It turned out to be Åsa’s page-boy, she admitted that he was acting for her and she fled with her son Halfdan back to her father’s Kingdom in Agder where she ruled as queen regnant.

Gurød the Magnificent was succeeded by his kinsman Hemming who ruled for two years and successfully made peace with the Franks.

Sources:

  1. Heimskringla by Snorri Sturluson
  2. Ynglingatal
  3. Historia Norvegiae
  4. De Carolo Magno, Book II, Chapter 13
  5. Danmarks Riges Krønike by Huitfeldt, Arild
  6. Danernes Sagnhistorie
  7. Norsk biografisk leksikon