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Wolves, ravens and troll-women: 1066 in Old Norse History and Literature

Tuesday 31 January 2017, 6.00PM

Speaker(s): Erin Goeres (University College London)

The defeat of King Haraldr harðráði of Norway at the Battle of Stamford Bridge looms large in Scandinavian history and literature. King Haraldr was a popular figure in the medieval period: playful and generous, an accomplished warrior and lover of poetry, he is the hero of numerous sagas chronicling his long reign and exotic adventures. However, his unexpected death in England posed a challenge to every author who attempted to tell his story: how could such an accomplished king fail so spectacularly? Old Norse authors wrote and re-wrote the narrative of Haraldr’s defeat in the centuries following 1066, and this lecture will explore the different ways they attempted to make sense of his downfall. From prosaic historical accounts to tall tales of bloody portents, the Old Norse sagas demonstrate that the challenge of writing the great king’s defeat offered surprising opportunities for creativity and literary innovation. 

Part of the Normans in the North Lecture Series, sponsored by the Centre for Medieval Studies and the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past.

Location: K/133, King's Manor, Exhibition Square, York