Saturday, 25 January 2014

Film trilogy about Harald Hardrada: A real game of thrones

If last autumn's rumours are true, a tree-part movie - a film trilogy - will be made about Harald Hardrada. That is a rumour that I - with my choice of profile image - really hope is true. Harald Hardrada (hard ruler) is one of my favourite Viking figures; he lived a fantastic life and died a most spectacular death. He was the great Norwegian warrior king who tried to conquer England in 1066.

Harald Hardrade in a tree-part movie
Harald Hardrada talking with Sweyn Estridsson while they
were still friends. Sweyn later became King of Denmark and
Harald's enemy. Harald, who became King of Norway,
 meant he had a legitimate claim to the Danish throne.
(This drawing is from Snorri's Heimskringla and the
observant reader will see that my profile image (illustrating
 John Snow, my pen name) is built on this drawing.)

According to the Norwegian newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad, Barrie Osborne will produce a film trilogy based on Harald Hardrada's life. Barrie Osborne is the well-known producer of Matrix and The Lord of the Rings. It is not clear if this film project is the same as Warner Brother's King Harald in which Leonardi DiCaprio is rumoured to play Harald Hardrada.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Harald
Hardrada in planned movie?

A real game of thrones

Harald Hardrada is famous for his defeat at Stamford Bridge on 25th September 1066. In the battle he lost to Harold Godwinson who a few days later lost to William the Conqueror in the Battle of Hastings. Even if William and the Normans were of Viking decent, they brought French culture and language to England. The events in 1066 ended the Saxon hegemony in England and also mark the end of the Viking Age.

When Harald Hardrada took on England, he was a much feared warrior. At the age of 15 he fought beside his half-bother Saint Olav in the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. In the battle Olav tried to retake the Norwegian throne, but when Olav lost and died, Harald had to flee to Sweden and later to Kiev. In Kiev he became a great military leader under King Yaroslav, whose daughter, Elisiv, he later wed.

As commander of the Varangian Guard in Constantinople, Harald made conquests in Greece and Sicily, plundered gold in North Africa, and made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. With his immense wealth he travelled back north and fought and bought his way to the Norwegian throne. Despite a parallel claim to the Danish throne, he never managed to defeat Sweyn Estridsson, the elected Danish king. When Edward the Confessor died in London in 1066, Harald Hardrada also had a claim to the English throne.

So, he set off with a huge army to take the throne from Harold Godwinson, who had seized power in England. When the Norwegians came to Northumbria, Harald Hardrada's fleet counted 300 ships. After the defeat at Stamford Bridge, the army returned to Norway with 25 ships and without their king, utterly beaten. No Viking army ever tried to take England again. The Viking Age had ended.

Lord of the Ring producer Berrie Osborn wants to make a
trilogy about the Norwegian warrior-king Harald Hardrada
The Lord of the Rings producer Berrie Osborn wants to make
 a trilogy about the Norwegian warrior-king Harald Hardrada.

Harald Hardrada has got his own saga in Snorri Sturlusons Heimskringla (History of the Kings of Norway), translated by Lee M. Hollander, and for Norwegian readers Halvor Tjønn has written a portrait of Harald in the book Harald Hardråde. Historical fiction writer Peter C. Whitaker is also writing a very readable trilogy about the events in England in 1066. The first book, The War Wolf, tells the story of the Battle of Fulford (a kind of prelude to the Battle of Stamford) in which Harald Hardrada crushed his Northumbrian opponents. In the book the war wolf is, yes, Harald Hardrada.


  1. Oh please.. dear god, no DiCaprio playing one of my ancestors..

  2. Anonymous7/25/2014

    Lord of the Rings producer.... perhaps even with DiCaprio they make finally the Viking movie of the century, he just needs to change his accent and movie needs a lot of facial hair too :D

  3. It will be a megahit! Go leo

  4. ok but hardrada height is about 2.10 cm. Being "one feet" smaller than a berserker measuring 2.40 cm.