Haakon Sigurdsson

Haakon Jarl
Christian Krohg

Haakon Sigurdarson (Haakon Jarl) (Old Norse: Hákon Sigurðarson, Norwegian: Håkon Sigurdsson) (c. 937 – 995) was the de facto ruler of Norway from about 975 to 995.[1]


Haakon was the son of Sigurd Haakonsson, Jarl of Lade and ruler of Trøndelag and Hålogaland. His mother was Bergljot Toresdatter, daughter of Tore Ragnvaldsson, Jarl of Møre. Adam of Bremen wrote that he was "of the stock of Ivar (possibly Ivar the Boneless) and descended from a race of giants".[2] In the sagas, Haakon claimed descent from the divine lineage of Sæming, son of Odin. The Hakon Jarl Runestones in Sweden may refer to him.


Battle between Haakon Jarl and brothers of Harald Greycloak
Christian Krogh (1899)
Haakon Jarl commands the clergymen to return ashore
Christian Krogh (1899)

Haakon became earl after his father was killed by King Harald Greycloak's men in 961. He warred with King Harald for some time, until he was forced to flee to Denmark and Harald Bluetooth. In Denmark he conspired with Harald Bluetooth against Harald Greycloak.

Haakon Jarl arranged the death of Harald Greycloak around 971 with the connivance of Harald Bluetooth, who had invited his foster-son to Denmark to be invested with new Danish fiefs. Civil war broke out between Haakon Jarl and the surviving brothers of Harald Greyhide, but Haakon proved victorious.[3] After this, Haakon Jarl ruled Norway as a vassal of Harald Bluetooth, but he was in reality an independent ruler. For Harald, he attacked Götaland and killed its ruler Jarl Ottar. When Haakon was in Denmark, Harald Bluetooth forced him to accept baptism and assigned him clergymen to take to Norway to spread Christianity. When a favourable wind came for Haakon to leave, he commanded the clergymen to return ashore.[4]

Around 973-974, he went to Denmark to help Harald Bluetooth of Denmark in his defense against the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II. Otto's forces successfully opposed an attempt by Harald to throw off the German yoke. After that Haakon paid no taxes to Denmark.

Haakon was a strong believer in the old Norse gods, and when Harald Bluetooth attempted to force Christianity upon him around 975, Haakon broke his allegiance to Denmark. In 977 Vladimir I of Kiev fled to him, collecting as many of the Viking warriors as he could to assist him to recover Novgorod, and on his return the next year marched against Yaropolk I of Kiev. In 986, a Danish invasion fleet led by the fabled Jomsvikings was defeated at the Battle of Hjörungavágr.

In 995, a quarrel broke out between Haakon and the Trønders just as Olaf Tryggvason, a descendant of Harald Fairhair arrived. Haakon quickly lost all support, and was killed by his own slave and friend, Tormod Kark, while hiding in the pig sty in the farm Rimul in Melhus. Jarlshola is the location in Melhus thought to have been the hiding place of Haakon Jarl and Tormod Kark on their last night before the infamous murder at Rimul. After his death, Haakon Jarl's two sons Eirik Håkonson and Sveinn Hákonarson, fled for protection to the king of Sweden, Olof Skötkonung.

A number of (textually related) sources also recount Earl Haakon's predilection for raping women, whether the daughters of nobles or of commoners.[5]



Haakon Jarl received news of victory over the Jomsvikings
Christian Krogh (1899)

According to Skáldatal, Haakon had the following poets at his court:


Haakon Jarl is a central figure in Håkon og Kark which is performed annually at the Korsvikaspillet festival in Korsvika in Trondheim. The play is based on the story of Haakon Jarl and Tormod Kark as portrayed in the Sagas by Snorri Sturluson. The first play was a poetic tableau that was made in connection with the 800-year anniversary of the Lade Church (Lade kirke) in 1989 and repeated two years later. In 1995, Idar Lind wrote a new script. The music is composed by Frode Fjellheim.

Primary sources

Source basis for Haakon Jarl are considerable. He was given coverage in several sagas, including by Snorri Sturluson in Heimskringla, Ágrip af Nóregskonungasögum and more. According to Hallfreðar saga the poet Hallfreðr composed a drápa on the earl. Several disjoint stanzas by Hallfreðr in Skáldskaparmál are often thought to belong to this otherwise lost poem.

Oehlenschläger tragedy

Haakon Jarl's life also received literary treatment by Danish poet Adam Oehlenschläger, in his tragedy Hakon Jarl, written in six weeks in 1805 during a stay in Halle, after reading Snorri's Heimskringla. The theme is the conflict between paganism and Christianity. There is an English translation by J. C. Lindberg.[6] Oehlenschläger's play later formed the basis for Smetana's symphonic poem Hakon Jarl.[7]


  1. Cawley, Charles (August 2012), Haakon Sigurdsson (Norway Nobility), Medieval Lands database, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy,
  2. Adam of Bremen, Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum II xxv (§ 22), tr. Francis J. Tschan, History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen. New York, 1959.
  3. Sturluson, Snorri ; Eiríkr Magnúson (trans.) ; Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar, chapters 12 to 14, in Heimskringla. History of the Kings of Norway, 1905
  4. Haakon Sigurdsson, Jarl of Lade (The Unification of Norway ca. 820 to ca. 1020 AD)
  5. See John McKinnell, ‘On Heiðr’, Saga-Book of the Viking Society, 25 (2001), 394-417, www.vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/Saga-Book XXV.pdf#page=420.
  6.  Gisle Bothne (1920). "Hakon Jarl". In Rines, George Edwin. Encyclopedia Americana.
  7. DeLong, Kenneth (1998). "Hearing His Master's Voice: Smetana's 'Swedish' Symphonic Poems and their Lisztian Models" in Michael Saffle (ed.), Liszt and His World, pp. 295–334. Pendragon Press.

Other sources

External links

Haakon Sigurdsson
Died: 995
Political offices
Preceded by
Sigurðr Hákonarson
Jarl of Hlaðir
Succeeded by
Eiríkr Hákonarson
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Harald Greycloak
Ruler of Norway
with Harald Bluetooth (971–975)
Succeeded by
Olaf Tryggvason
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