The Saga of Canute ‘the Great’ Sweynson Ch. 14.0


Book 7, Chapter 14.0,  The Battle of the Holy River  (Circa 1026 AD), Excerpts:

(1026 AD)  In the spring, the Newfoundland tallships sailed west under Captain Hugh and then Prince Hraerik led the English merchant fleet east with the Irish and Norman components and they began assembling in Roskilde harbour under the noses of the Norwegian invaders as though nothing abnormal was happening.  The Norwegian merchant fleet joined it and the Swedish merchant fleet joined up with it on the Baltic.  It was business as usual for the Hraes’ Trading Company, and the great merchant fleet was too large and powerful for any one country to trifle with.

King Canute had taken his new war fleet out for spring manoeuvres and his shieldship sported two masts and a hundred and twenty oars, while the flanking ships of Prince Godwin and Earl Haakon had tall single masts and eighty oars each.  Six slightly smaller tallships trailed them and then the rest of the standard longships of the fleet followed.  The English and Danish legions embarked on the ships at Southampton and they then departed for Denmark.  When Canute arrived there, he went up the Jutland coast to Jelling and he found Jarl Ulf and Prince Hardeknute in King Gorm’s old palace.  The young prince quickly apologized to his father for usurping the throne and was just as quickly forgiven.  Jarl Ulf begged forgiveness as well, but it was not so easily forthcoming.  “Just be ready to defend Denmark when I need you,” King Canute told the jarl.  “We may make peace after this war.”

King Canute sent Exeyes officers from his Danish legion to Zealand to reconnoitre and he learned that King Olaf had come south in the fall with four hundred and eighty ships, but over the winter many had gone back to Norway and remained on call.  Olaf ‘the Stout’ had retained only sixty of his largest longships in Roskilde over the winter and when he’d sent for the rest to return in the spring, they were very tardy in responding.  Many of Olaf’s supporting jarls had received gold and gifts from England over Yule and the rebellious jarls even more.

King Olaf, meanwhile, had posted scouts in western Zealand to watch for any signs of King Canute and he kept his sixty dragonships ready to sail on a moment’s notice.  One day, while the Norse king was addressing the Danes of Roskilde at a public assembly to win their support, sentries rushed up and reported that they had seen several ships approaching from the west.  An old Dane in the crowd came forth and assured the King that the ships were merchant knars only; but when sails in growing numbers began to flood the horizon, he added that they were full of merchants who had come to buy back Denmark with iron.

I have just posted a first draft of Chapter 14.0,  The Battle of the Holy River  (Circa 1026 AD), of Book Seven of ‘The Lying Sagas of Denmark’ Series, “The Saga of King Canute ‘the Great’ Sweynson” to the website under the Book Seven Heading.

But Olaf and Anund kept themselves busy by constructing a trap for King Canute and his fleet near the mouth of Holy River, a short stream in the eastern part of Skane that formed the outlet of a group of lakes just inland.  King Anund commanded the fleet while King Olaf, who had learned Roman military engineering while serving in the Varangian Guard, went inland with the army to build a trap for the Danes.  He built a frangible dam of cut logs and turf, and he bolstered the outlet flows of some of the smaller lakes, to fill the dam more quickly.  The army spent weeks working according to King Olaf’s directions, but it kept the Swedes occupied while they awaited the attack of King Canute.  When word finally came that Canute had arrived, the Swedes and Norsemen hastened to their ships.

It was late in the afternoon when Anund’s scouts finally caught sight of the great warfleet approaching from the west and couriers were dispatched to inform Olaf, who immediately prepared to break the dam, at the same time filling the course with large tree trunks left over from the construction.  King Canute saw the enemy drawn up in line east of the river mouth, but it was by then too late in the day to attack; so the Dane therefore refused battle that day.  Finding the harbour at the river mouth empty, he had his longships sail into it, as many as could be accommodated; and the tallships all remained anchored just outside the estuary.

At dawn the next morning, a large part of Canute’s longships were still beached and the troops were eating breakfast and conversing when, without the least warning, the waters of the river came bursting forth in torrents, dashing the floating logs against the beached ships as the riverbanks were inundated.  Many ships were damaged and many men drowned, but many had already been on their ships getting ready to sail, so, those who were able to, cut their ropes and allowed their ships to be swept out to sea with the deluge.  The tallships that were anchored at sea were swept out before them and great tallship that Canute himself commanded was foremost among these and was swept out toward the expectantly waiting enemy fleets.  When the allied fleets recognised the ship, they immediately surrounded it and attempted to board, but it was not easily attacked, for the ship was high like a castle and had a very large number of men on board, who had been carefully chosen, thoroughly armed, and very well trained.  While the entire Swedish and Norwegian fleets were engaging the English fleet of tallships, the damaged longships along the Holy River were righted and made seaworthy and began assembling for battle.  King Canute was at the forecastle of his ship and he waved directions to his princes at the forecastles of their ships and arrows flew down from tallships into the lower longships and their crews huddled under shields and took many casualties from the fierce attacks.

Jarl Ulf had a dream in the middle of the night and he saw his fylgja floating up above his bed and thought that he would be attacked in his room and he was not far off in his thinking.  Canute ordered Earl Godwin to go up to Jarl Ulf’s suite and slay him with his sword, not wanting to deprive him of Valhall, should heaven, as was likely, not have him.  But Jarl Ulf was nowhere to be found, so Godwin called up all his security officers and had them conduct a search throughout Roskilde.  In the morning it was learned that the jarl had sought sanctuary in the Holy Trinity Church nearby.  Earl Godwin dared not slay Ulf on holy ground, so Canute sent Ivar ‘the White’, one of his Centuriata guardsmen, a Norseman who was Jarl Eirik’s nephew, the man who had seen Eirik’s spirit while at the Vatican and he sent him to carry out the executive order.  Ivar soon returned to his king with a bloody sword as evidence that his daughter’s husband was no more.

But a life had been taken in God’s own house; blood had been shed before the holy altar; and, even though the king had ordered it, the Church could not overlook the crime.  The priests immediately closed the church; but on the king’s command, it was reopened and mass was said as before.  Canute blessed the church with gold and gifts to get this done.  He also gave his daughter, the divorced and now widowed Princess Estrid, large, landed estates.  But after the killing, she quickly sent her young son Sweyn, prudently off to her brother, Prince Ivaraslav, in Novgorod.

Please Note: This website is about Vikings and Varangians and the way they lived over a thousand years ago.  The content is as explicit as Vikings of that time were and scenes of violence and sexuality are depicted without reservation or apology.  Reader discretion is advised.

‘The VARANGIANS’ Series (AKA ‘The Lying Sagas of Denmark’ Series):

‘The Varangians’ series (‘AKA ‘The Lying Sagas of Denmark’ series) of five (seven) books is about the Danish Varangian Princes of early Rus’ (Ukraine), based on The Nine Books of Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus and the Rus’ Primary Chronicle of Nestor.  The Rus’ monk Nestor asserts that Rus’ was founded by three brothers, Rurik, Sineus and Truvor, but the Danish names in Book 5 of Saxo’s work are Erik, Sigfrodi (King Frodi) and Roller, three brothers from Denmark and Norway.

Book One of the five book Varangians Series places the Saga of King Frodi the Peaceful from Book Five of The First Nine Books of the Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1200) into its proper chronological location in history.  In 1984, when I first started the book, I had placed the main character, Erik’s (Hraerik’s) birth at circa 800 CE, but have since revised it to 810 to better fit with the timelines of the following books in the series.  Saxo had originally placed the saga at the time of Christ’s birth and later experts have placed the story at about 400 CE to correspond with the arrival of the Huns on the European scene but when Attila was driven back to Asia, the Huns didn’t just disappear, they joined the Khazar Empire north of the Caspian Sea and helped the Khazars control the western end of the famous Silk Road trade route.

When King Frodi’s Danes started their ninth century ‘Southern Way’ incursions into the rivers of present day Russia, they ran into the Khazar Khaganate that was controlling Silk Road trade there and cooperation looked promising when he married King Hun’s daughter, Princess Hanund.  But she cheated on him and he sent her back to Khazaria in disgrace and things got ugly, fast.  Two Norwegian princes, Hraerik and Hraelauger Hraegunarson, sons of the famous Hraegunar Lothbrok, visited Frodi’s court in Liere with a dangerous plan to protect their own Nor’Way trade route to Khazaria, but that plan changed when Prince Hraerik fell in love with and married Princess Gunwar, King Frodi’s sister.

When news arrived in Liere that the Huns planned to attack Denmark, Prince Hraerik convinced King Frodi to assemble a Varangian Army of the North and lead a pre-emptive strike against the Khazar Empire.  Following the capture of Kiev, the three brothers, Frodi, Hraerik and Hraelauger established the Hraes’ (Rus’) Trading Company and built an empire that exists in many forms to this very day, including Russia, Normandy, Great Britain and L’Anse Aux Meadows in America.  The wealth of the Hraes’ Trading Empire they created powered the prolific Viking expansion in Medieval Europe that still fascinates us today.

Book One, “The Saga of Hraerik ‘Bragi’ Hraegunarson,” recreates Book Five of Saxo’s work to illuminate the origins of the name Rus’ and how it evolved from Hraes’ in ninth century Russia and how the name Varangians originally meant Va Rangers or Way Wanderers of the Nor’Way.  The book examines the death of Princess Gunwar (Hervor) at the hands of the Hunnish Prince Hlod and how it drives Prince Hraerik ‘Bragi the Old’ Hraegunarson (Hraegunar Lothbrok’s son) to write a famous poem of praise that both saves his head and rallies the northern kingdoms to fight the infamous Battle of the Goths and the Huns on the Don Plain of Gardariki (Gnita Heath of Tmutorokan).

Book Two, “The Saga of Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ Hraerikson,” recreates Arrow Odd’s Saga of c. 1200 to illustrate how Arrow Odd was Prince Helgi (Oleg in Slavic) Hraerikson of Kiev, by showing that their identical deaths from the bite of a snake was more than just coincidence.  The book investigates the true death of Hraegunar Lothbrok by poisoned blood-snakes (kenning for swords) and how his curse of ‘calling his young porkers to avenge the old boar’ sets up a death spiral between swine (Sveinald) and snakes (Gorm ‘the Old’) that lasts for generations.  It then goes on to depict the famous Battle of the Berserks on Samso, where Arrow Odd and Hjalmar the Brave slay the twelve berserk grandsons of King Frodi on the Danish Island of Samso, setting up a death struggle that takes the Great Pagan Army of the Danes from the ravaged coast of Norway to England and on to Helluland in Saint Brendan’s Newfoundland.

Book Three, “The Saga of Ivar ‘the Boneless’ Hraerikson,” reveals how Ivar ‘the Boneless’ Ragnarson was actually Prince Eyfur (Ivar in Danish, Igor in Slavic) Hraerikson of Kiev and then King Harde Knute of Denmark.  By comparing a twenty year lacuna in the reign of Prince Igor in the Russian Chronicles with a coinciding twenty year appearance of a King Harde Knute I (Hard Knot or Knytling) of Denmark in European Chronicles, Prince Igor’s death by sprung trees, which reportedly tore his legs off, may have rather just left him a boneless and very angry young king.  Loyal Danes claimed, “It was a ‘hard knot’ indeed that sprung those trees,” but his conquered English subjects, not being quite as polite, called him, Ivar ‘the Boneless’. And the Danish ‘Knytling’ line of kings carried on for ‘the Old’ Fridleif/Frodi line of kings.

Books Four, Five and Six, “The Saga of Svein ‘the Old’ Ivarson“, “The Saga of Valdamar ‘the Great’ Sveinson” and “The Saga of Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ Ivarson” demonstrate how Prince Sviatoslav ‘the Brave’ of Kiev was really Prince Svein Ivarson of Kiev, who later moved to Norway and fought to become King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ of Denmark and England.  But before being forced out of Russia, the Swine Prince sated his battle lust by crushing the Khazars and attacking the great great grandfather of Vlad the Impaler in a bloody campaign into the Heart of Darkness of Wallachia that seemed to herald the coming of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse with the 666 Salute of the Army of the Impalers.  The campaign was so mortifying that the fifteen thousand pounds of gold that the Emperor of Constantinople paid him to attack the Army of the Impalers seemed not nearly enough, so Prince Svein attacked the Eastern Roman Empire itself.  He came so close to defeating the greatest empire in the world, that later Danish Christian Kings would call his saga, and the sagas of his kin, “The Lying Sagas of Denmark” and would set out to destroy them, claiming that, “true Christians will never read this saga”.

Book Seven, “The Saga of Canute ‘the Great’ Sweynson”, establishes how Grand Prince Vladimir ‘the Great’ of Kiev was also known as Prince Valdamar Sveinson of Gardar, who supported his father, Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’, in attacks upon England and later became King Canute ‘the Great’ of England and also King Knute ‘the Great’ of Denmark and Norway.  Unlike his father, he came to the aid of a Roman Emperor, leading six thousand picked Varangian cataphracts against Anatolian rebels, and was rewarded with the hand of Princess Anna Porphyrogennetos, a true Roman Princess born of the purple who could trace her bloodline back to Julius and Augustus Caesar.  She was called Czarina, and after her, all Rus’ Grand Princes were called Czars and their offspring were sought matrimonially by European royalty.


By recreating the lives of four generations of Russian Princes and exhibiting how each generation, in succession, later ascended to their inherited thrones in Denmark, the author proves the parallels of the dual rules of Russian Princes and Danish Kings to be cumulatively more than just coincidence.  And the author proves that the Danish Kings Harde Knute I, Gorm ‘the Old’ and Harald ‘Bluetooth’ Gormson/Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’ were not Stranger Kings, but were Danes of the Old Jelling Skioldung Fridlief/Frodi line of kings who only began their princely careers in Rus’ and returned to their kingly duties in Denmark with a lot of Byzantine Roman ideas and heavy cavalry and cataphracts.

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