Haakon I of Norway
Haakon I (c. 920–961), given the byname the Good, was the third king of Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 and the youngest son of Harald Fairhair
Harald I of Norway
Harald Fairhair or Harald Finehair , , son of Halfdan the Black, was the first king of Norway.-Background:Little is known of the historical Harald...

 and Thora Mosterstang.

Early life

King Harald determined to remove his youngest son out of harm's way and accordingly sent him to the court friend, King Athelstan of England
Athelstan of England
Athelstan , called the Glorious, was the King of England from 924 or 925 to 939. He was the son of King Edward the Elder, grandson of Alfred the Great and nephew of Æthelflæd of Mercia...

. Haakon was fostered by King Athelstan, as part of a peace agreement made by his father, for which reason Haakon was nicknamed Adalsteinfostre.
The English king brought him up in the Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...


On the news of his father's death King Athelstan provided Haakon with ships and men for an expedition against his half-brother Eirik Bloodaxe, who had been proclaimed king.


Upon his arrival back in Norway, Haakon gained the support of the landowners by promising to give up the rights of taxation claimed by his father over inherited real property. Eirik Bloodaxe soon found himself deserted on all sides, and saved his own and his family's lives by fleeing from the country. Eirik jad fled to the Orkney Islands
Orkney Islands
Orkney also known as the Orkney Islands , is an archipelago in northern Scotland, situated north of the coast of Caithness...

 and later to the Kingdom of Jorvik
Scandinavian York is a term, like the terms Kingdom of Jórvík or Kingdom of York, used by historians for the kingdom of Northumbria in the late 9th century and first half of the 10th century, when it was dominated by Norse warrior-kings; in particular, it is used to refer to the city controlled by...

, eventually meeting a violent death on Stainmore
Battle of Stainmore
The Battle of Stainmore was a battle, likely between the Earldom of Bernicia, led by Osulf, and the forces of the last Norse king of Jórvík , Eric Bloodaxe...

, Westmorland
Westmorland is an area of North West England and one of the 39 historic counties of England. It formed an administrative county from 1889 to 1974, after which the entirety of the county was absorbed into the new county of Cumbria.-Early history:...

, in 954 along with his son, Haeric.

In 953, Haakon had to fight a fierce battle at Avaldsnes
Avaldsnes was an ancient centre of power on the west coast of Norway and is the site of one of Norway’s more important areas of cultural history...

 against the sons of Eirik Bloodaxe. The battle is said to have been at the Bloodheights (Blodheia) which gained its name from this event. Haakon won the battle at which Eirik's son Guttorm died. One of Haakon's most famous victories was the Battle of Rastarkalv
Battle of Rastarkalv
The Battle of Rastarkalv took place in AD 955 on the island of Frei in the county of Møre og Romsdal, Norway.This was one of several battles between the forces of King Haakon the Good and those of the sons of Eirik Bloodaxe...

 (near to Frei
Frei is a village, island, and former municipality in Møre og Romsdal county, Norway. It is located in the present-day municipality of Kristiansund between the Kvernesfjord and Freifjord...

) in 955. By placing ten standards far apart along a low ridge, he to gave the impression his army was bigger than it actually was. He managed to fool Eirik’s sons into believing that they were out-numbered. The Danes fled and were slaughtered by Haakon’s army. The sons of Eirik returned in 957, with support from the Danish king, Gorm the Old
Gorm the Old
Gorm the Old , also called Gorm the Sleepy , was the first historically recognized King of Denmark, reigning from to his death . He ruled from Jelling, and made the oldest of the Jelling Stones in honour of his wife Thyra. Gorm was born before 900 and died .-Ancestry and reign:Gorm is the reported...

. But again they were defeated by Haakon's effective army system.

Haakon was frequently successful in everything he undertook except in his attempt to introduce Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, which aroused an opposition he did not feel strong enough to face. So entirely did even his immediate circle ignore his religion that Eyvindr Skáldaspillir
Eyvindr Skáldaspillir
Eyvindr Finnsson skáldaspillir was a 10th century Norwegian skald. He was the court poet of king Hákon the Good and earl Hákon of Hlaðir. His son Hárekr later became a prominent chieftain in Norway.His preserved works are:...

, his court poet
The skald was a member of a group of poets, whose courtly poetry is associated with the courts of Scandinavian and Icelandic leaders during the Viking Age, who composed and performed renditions of aspects of what we now characterise as Old Norse poetry .The most prevalent metre of skaldic poetry is...

, composed a poem, Hákonarmál
Hákonarmál is a skaldic poem which the skald Eyvindr skáldaspillir composed about the fall of the Norwegian king Hákon the Good at the battle of Fitjar and his reception in Valhalla. This poem emulates Eiríksmál and is intended to depict the Christian Hákon as a friend to the pagan gods...

, on his death representing his welcome by his ancestors' gods into Valhalla
In Norse mythology, Valhalla is a majestic, enormous hall located in Asgard, ruled over by the god Odin. Chosen by Odin, half of those that die in combat travel to Valhalla upon death, led by valkyries, while the other half go to the goddess Freyja's field Fólkvangr...



Three of the sons of Eirik Bloodaxe (Gamle, Harold, and Sigurd) landed unnoticed on Hordaland
is a county in Norway, bordering Sogn og Fjordane, Buskerud, Telemark and Rogaland. Hordaland is the third largest county after Akershus and Oslo by population. The county administration is located in Bergen...

 in 961 and surprised the king at his residence in Fitjar
Fitjar is a municipality in the county of Hordaland, Norway. The municipality covers the northern part of the island of Stord and surrounding islands, while the municipality of Stord covers the southern part of the island.-History:...

. Haakon was mortally wounded at the Battle of Fitjar
Battle of Fitjar
The Battle of Fitjar took place in Fitjar at Stord in the county of Hordaland, Norway.-Background:The Battle of Fitjar at Stord was the last battle in a war between the sons of Eric Bloodaxe and their uncle King Haakon the Good for power over Norway.It also formed part of a contest between Norway...

 (Slaget ved Fitjar) after a final victory over Eirik’s sons. The King’s arm was pierced by an arrow and he died later from his wounds. He was buried in the burial mound (Håkonshaugen) in the village of Seim in Lindås
Lindås is a municipality in the county of Hordaland, Norway.-Background:The parish of Lindaas was established as a municipality on 1 January 1838 . Masfjorden was separated from Lindås on 1 March 1879. Austrheim was separated from Lindås on 1 January 1910...

 municipality in the county of Hordaland
is a county in Norway, bordering Sogn og Fjordane, Buskerud, Telemark and Rogaland. Hordaland is the third largest county after Akershus and Oslo by population. The county administration is located in Bergen...

. After Haakon's death, Harald Greycloak, third son of Eirik Bloodaxe, jointly with his brothers became kings of Norway. However, they had little authority outside Western Norway. Harald, by being the oldest, was the most powerful of the brothers. The succession issue was settled when he ascended the throne as Harald II
Harald II of Norway
Harald II Greycloak was a king of Norway.Harald Greycloak was the son of Eirik Bloodaxe and a grandson of Harald Fairhair...

. Subsequently the Norwegians were severely tormented by years of war. In 970, Harald II was tricked into coming to Denmark and killed in a plot planned by Sigurd Haakonsson's son Haakon Sigurdsson
Haakon Sigurdsson
Haakon Sigurdarsson was the de facto ruler of Norway from about 975 to 995.-Background: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, Earl of Møre...

, who had become an ally of Harold Bluetooth.

Modern references

  • Haakon’s Park (Håkonarparken) in Fitjar is the location of a sculpture of Haakon the Good sculpted by Anne Grimdalen
    Anne Grimdalen
    Anne Grimdalen was a Norwegian sculptor. She was born on the mountain farm Grimdalen in Skafså, Telemark, and later also lived and worked in the so-called Kunstnerdalen in Asker. She worked mainly with granite, and also bronze...

    . The statue was erected during 1961 at the one thousand year commemoration of the Battle of Fitjar.
  • Haakon I is a major character in Mother of Kings
    Mother of Kings
    Mother of Kings is a historical novel by Poul Anderson. It was first published in 2001 by Tor Books. The book is an account of the life of Gunnhild, Mother of Kings, a tenth-century queen of Norway and wife of King Eirik Bloodaxe. It is based largely on the accounts of Gunnhild's life given in...

    by the Danish-American writer Poul Anderson
    Poul Anderson
    Poul William Anderson was an American science fiction author who began his career during one of the Golden Ages of the genre and continued to write and remain popular into the 21st century. Anderson also authored several works of fantasy, historical novels, and a prodigious number of short stories...

  • Hakon is also the protagonist of Eric Schumacher's book God's Hammer.


External links

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