Niels Ebbesen
Niels Ebbesen was a Danish
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 squire and national hero
Folk hero
A folk hero is a type of hero, real, fictional, or mythological. The single salient characteristic which makes a character a folk hero is the imprinting of the name, personality and deeds of the character in the popular consciousness. This presence in the popular consciousness is evidenced by...

, known for his killing of Count Gerhard III
Gerhard III
Gerhard III of Holstein . Sometimes called “Gerhard the Great”. In Denmark also known as “Count Gert” or “den kullede greve” . A German prince who was the ruler of most part of Denmark during the Interregnum 1332–1340.His father was Henry I of Schauenburg and Holstein-Rendsburg...


Little is known of Ebbesen's background. He seems to have belonged to the Jutlandish gentry
Gentry denotes "well-born and well-bred people" of high social class, especially in the past....

. Like many other of his class, he probably supported the Holstein occupiers during the years of chaos but later turned against them and when Count Gerhard
Gerhard III
Gerhard III of Holstein . Sometimes called “Gerhard the Great”. In Denmark also known as “Count Gert” or “den kullede greve” . A German prince who was the ruler of most part of Denmark during the Interregnum 1332–1340.His father was Henry I of Schauenburg and Holstein-Rendsburg...

 campaigned in Jutland
Jutland , historically also called Cimbria, is the name of the peninsula that juts out in Northern Europe toward the rest of Scandinavia, forming the mainland part of Denmark. It has the North Sea to its west, Kattegat and Skagerrak to its north, the Baltic Sea to its east, and the Danish–German...

 in 1340 Ebbesen supported the Jutlandish guerrillas
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

. On April 1, he and 47 of his warriors entered Randers
Randers is a city in Randers municipality on the Jutland peninsula in central Denmark. It is Denmark's sixth-largest city, with a population of 60,656 . Randers city is the main town of the municipality and the site of its municipal council.-Overview:Randers municipality has 94,750 inhabitants...

 and hid until nightfall. They got into the Count's headquarters and entered his bedroom. They cut off the count's head over the end of the bed. Not wishing the act to be secret, Ebbesen's men beat a drum and shouted that the Count had been executed. When the Holsteiners gave chase, Ebbesen and his men fled toward the bridge over the River Guden. Svend Trost, one of Ebbesen's men had weakened the bridge, and as soon as Ebbesen and his followers had crossed, they pulled the bridge down and made their escape, losing just a single man.

During the following rebellion, Niels Ebbesen played a main role in the resistance but he was killed the same year during a fight against the Germans. 2000 Danes laid siege to Skanderborg
Skanderborg, with a population of 18,253 , is a town in Denmark just southwest of Aarhus. It is more or less a suburb today, located in Skanderborg municipality, Jutland.Skanderborg municipality has a population of 57,303 ....

 Castle in April 1340. A relief force of 600 German knights and a simultaneous attack from the castle drove the Danes back into their wagon fort
Wagon fort
A Laager, also known as a wagon fort, is a mobile fortification made of wagons arranged into a rectangle, a circle or other shape and possibly joined with each other, an improvised military camp....

ress on Nun Hill
Nonnebakken is a hill in Odense, Denmark. It is the site of one of Denmark's six former Viking ring castles, built during the reign of Sweyn Forkbeard, who had forced his father Harold Bluetooth to leave the country and seek refuge by the Jomsvikings on Wollin around 975...

. The ring of wagons was breached, and Ebbesen and his men were surrounded and butchered by the Germans.

A ballad dealing with the killing of Count Gerhard by Ebbesen is translated into English in Alexander Gray
Alexander Gray (poet)
Professor Sir Alexander Gray CBE, FRSE was a Scottish civil servant, economist, academic, translator writer and poet.-Life and work:...

's Historical Ballads of Denmark (Edinburgh University Press, 1958).

Traditionally, Niels Ebbesen has been regarded one of the great heroes of medieval Danish history; the "tyrant slayer" whose action marked the beginning of the liberation
Liberty is a moral and political principle, or Right, that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions...

 of Denmark. Yet others disapproved of his act, regarding it as simply murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

. Whether his motives were purely national or partly private is impossible to know. This has not prevented both romantic
Romantic poetry
Romanticism, a philosophical, literary, artistic and cultural era which began in the mid/late-1700s as a reaction against the prevailing Enlightenment ideals of the day , also influenced poetry...

 Danish poetry and modern ballads from praising him as a freedom fighter.

In 1942, during the German occupation of Denmark in the Second World War, a play about Ebbesen's rebellion was penned by the dramatist Kaj Munk
Kaj Munk
Kaj Harald Leininger Munk was a Danish playwright and Lutheran pastor, known for his cultural engagement and his martyrdom during the Occupation of Denmark of World War II...

. The Nazi occupiers banned the play and executed its playwright.

External links

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