Olav Ugjæva

Olav Ugjæva (Old Norse: Ólafr úgæfa) (died 1169) was a pretender to the Norwegian throne during the civil war era in Norway. Olaf was named king in 1166, but was subsequently defeated by King Magnus V of Norway (Magnus Erlingsson) and forced to flee the country.[1]


Olav Gudbrandsson was the son of Gudbrand Skavhoggsson (Guðbrandr Skafhǫggsson) and Maria Øysteinsdotter (María Eysteinsdóttir), the daughter of King Eystein I of Norway and his wife Ingebjørg Guttormsdatter. Olav was fostered by Sigurd Agnhatt (Sigurðr agnhǫttr) in the Oppland region of eastern Norway. In the late 1160s, Norway was ruled by earl Erling Skakke, during the minority of his son, King Magnus V of Norway (Magnus Erlingsson). Erling had succeeded in placing his son on the throne after lengthy fighting against several rivals to the throne since the mid 1150s.[2]


In 1166, Sigurd Agnhatt and his foster son Olav raised a force in Oppland, and had Olav proclaimed king, while earl Erling was away in Denmark. After Erling returned to Norway to fight this uprising, Olav and his men attacked Erling in an ambush at Rydjokul in Sørum (Overfallet på Rydjøkul) on 2 February 1167. Erling was wounded, and barely escaped. According to the Sagas, it was said that Olav was unlucky not to have defeated Erling in this fight, and from that he got his nickname, Olav the Unlucky. In 1168 Olav and his men ventured south to the Oslofjord area, but were there defeated in Battle at Stanger, near Våler in Østfold (Slaget på Stanger i Våler). Sigurd Agnhatt was killed in the battle, but Olav Ugjæva escaped and went to Denmark. The next year, Olav fell ill and died there. [3]

Norwegian civil wars

During the civil wars period of Norwegian history (1130–1240) there were several interlocked conflicts of varying scale and intensity. The background for these conflicts were the unclear Norwegian succession laws, social conditions and the struggle between church and king. There were then two main parties, firstly known by varying names or no names at all, but finally condensed into parties of Bagler and Birkebeiner. The rallying point regularly was a royal son, who was set up as the head figure of the party in question, to oppose the rule of king from the contesting party.


Primary sources

The story of Ugjæva is mentioned in the Kings' sagas Heimskringla and Fagrskinna. These two sagas state he died in Denmark, but disagree on whether he died in Århus or Ålborg.[4]


  1. Fagrskinna, a Catalogue of the Kings of Norway (Alison Finlay, editor and translator. Brill Academic. 2004)
  2. Det norrøne samfunnet (Jon Vidar Sigurdsson, author. Forlaget Pax, Oslo: 2008)
  3. Norges historie i arstall: Fra steinalderen til i dag (Nils Petter Thuesen, author. Orion, 1997)
  4. Olav Ugjæva (Store norske leksikon)

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