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(1845) Author: Erik Gustaf Geijer Translator: John Hall Turner
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The battle of Fyrisvall was fought in 983. The
share which the Danish king Harald Gormson,
although against his own will, had taken in the
contest, afterwards produced a war between
Sweden and Denmark, in consequence of which the son
of Harald, Swen Fork-beard, was driven from his
dominions, and Eric remained in possession of both
kingdoms until his death [1]. This sovereign was
certainly one of the most powerful who governed
Sweden during the heathen age, yet he remarked
to an envoy from Norway, speaking of a rich
peasant his subject, who had given shelter to a
fugitive Norwegian princess; “He is more powerful
than I in many matters, and it was not long ago
that he had more to say than I, when we were at
strife [2].” Adam of Bremen also says, “The Swedes
have kings of ancient lineage, but their power is
dependent on the people. What these resolve is
confirmed by the king; sometimes, although
reluctantly, they renounce their own opinion for his.
At home they pride themselves on their equality;
when they go into the field all obey the king.”
The first consort of Eric the Victorious was Sigrid,
named the High-minded, on account of her haughty
disposition. Although the king separated from her,
she continued to be a personage of importance, and
her voice after his death was most potential. She
contracted a new marriage with king Swen in
Denmark, who through this alliance in the end
recovered his father’s kingdom.

Olave, the son of Eric the Victorious by Sigrid,
was, it is said, still an infant in his mother’s lap
when the people offered their homage, and thence
received the surname of the Lap-king (sköt-ko-nung) [3].
If this were so, the ceremony must have
been performed during his father’s life-time; for
the war in which Olof bore an active part shortly
after his accession, proves that he was then no
longer in his childhood. In Norway a great change
had taken place. The dominion of Harald the
Fair-haired was divided among his many sons, who
destroyed each other in mutual contests. At length
the Norwegian earl Haco invited over Harald
Gormson, king of Denmark, who became the
nominal ruler of the country, while Haco himself
really exercised the supreme power. The boy
Olave Tryggwason, saved in his mother’s arms
upon her flight from Norway, had meanwhile
grown up to man’s estate amidst many singular
chances, and by his exploits in foreign lands had
gained himself a great name for bravery and
fortune. He returned to Norway, overthrew the
power of earl Haco, and preferred his claims to
the crown as a descendant of Harald the
Fair-haired. The earl was killed by his bondsmen; his
sons fled to Sweden, and found a protector in Olave
the lap-king. About 995, Olave Tryggwason
established himself on the Norwegian throne, though
one portion of his subjects, dissatisfied with this
revolution, as well as with the headlong zeal with
which he sought to enforce Christianity, seem to
have placed themselves under Swedish superiority [4].
This prince had been a suitor of the powerful
queen Sigrid of Sweden, and had found greater
favour in her eyes than his kinsman Harald
Grenske, whom she caused to be seized and burned
alive, in order, as she declared, to unteach the petty
kings from their habits of wooing. But when he
had obtained her consent, Olave demanded that she
should receive baptism, and on her refusing, he
struck her on the face with his glove, accompanying
the act with insulting expressions. “That will be
thy death,” exclaimed Sigrid, and she did not lose
sight of her menace. She espoused afterwards, as
already mentioned, king Swen of Denmark, whose
sister was given in marriage to Olave Tryggwason.
The latter some years afterwards resolved upon
an expedition against the Veneders, or Vandals, of
Pomerania, at the desire of his wife, in order to
win back domains she had formerly possessed in
that territory. Sigrid now formed an alliance
between her husband king Swen of Denmark, her
son king Olave of Sweden, and the sons of earl
Haco, and a plan was laid to attack the Norwegian
king on his return with their united forces. A
great fleet under the command of the allied princes
was assembled, his ships were unexpectedly
surrounded, and after a desperate resistance
overpowered. Olave himself, that he might not fall
into the hands of his enemies, plunged into the sea,
and was seen no more. The battle was fought near
the isle of Swolder (probably Ruden) on the
Pomeranian coast, in the year 1000. Norway was divided
among the conquerors, who invested the sons of earl
Haco with the government of the largest portion.

Olave the lap-king, it is said in the catalogue of
sovereigns annexed to the old law of West Gothland,
was the first Christian monarch of Sweden,
and was baptized in the well of Husaby in West
Gothland by the holy bishop Sigfrid. Christian
teachers had visited Sweden from time to time,
some of them Danes sent by the archbishop of
Bremen, others Englishmen, prompted by their
own spontaneous zeal. Sigfrid was invited from
England by Olave; he had probably become
inclined to embrace Christianity during his stay in
Denmark with his father, who had received
baptism in that country, though he afterwards
relapsed [5]. This missionary, the second apostle of
the North, for next to Anskar Sigfrid deserves that
name, devoted a long life to the preaching of
Christianity among the Swedes and Norsemen [6], and
died at a great age in the hundred of Verend in
Smaland, where upon his arrival he had first
planted the cross [7]. Olave was baptized before the
year 1000. That he had become a Christian
previously to the battle of Swolder is plain from the
statement of Adam of Bremen, that when Swen
regained his kingdom by Olave’s help, its
restoration was accompanied by a covenant between the
kings, whereby Swen, the former foe of Christianity,
bound himself to the diffusion of the faith [8]. His

[1] Ad. Brem. ii. c. 21, 26, 27.
[2] Olof Tryggvason’s Saga. Stockholm, 1691, p. 11.
[3] Olave is said to have endowed the church with lands.
His surname has also been referred to the verb skota, donare,
from sköt, sinus (because transference of property was
accomplished by delivering an armfull of turf), and would thus
be explicable as the donor-king. T.
[4] Id. p. 170.
[5] Adam of Bremen was so informed by the Danish king
Swen; Hericum post susceptam Christianitatem denuo
relapsum fuisse.
[6] Sigafridus, qui et apud Svedos et Nordmannos juxta
prædicavit; isque duravit usque ad nostram ætatem. Ibid.
He lived, therefore, to the time of Adam of Bremen.
[7] Historia S. Sigfridi (written in 1205), Script. Rer. Suec.
Medii Ævi, ii. 344.
[8] Olaph, qui post obitum patris sui Herici regnum super
Sueones accepit, cum exercitu superveniens infelicem Svein
iterum a regno expulit et Daniam obtinuit. Restituitque
eum Olaph in regnum suum, eo quod matrem suam habuerit
uxorem. Feceruntque pactum ad invicem firmissimum,
ut christianitatem in regno suo plantatam retinerent et in
exteras nationes effunderent. Ad. Brem. ii. c. 29.

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