Battle of Brávellir
The Battle of Brávellir or the Battle of Bråvalla was a legendary battle that is described in the sagas as taking place on the Brávellir between Sigurd Hring, king of Sweden and the Geats of Västergötland, and his uncle Harald Wartooth, king of Denmark and the Geats of Östergötland.
|Battle of Brávellir|
Battle of Brávellir, painting by August Malmström
|Swedes, Estonians and Western Geats||Danes and Eastern Geats|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Sigurd Hring||Harald Wartooth†|
This battle is said to have taken place c.770 and it is retold in several sources such as the Norse sagas Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks, Bósa saga ok Herrauðs and Sögubrot af nokkrum fornkonungum, but it is most extensively described in the nationalistic Danish history Gesta Danorum of Saxo Grammaticus.
King Harald Hiltertooth claimed inheritance and the status of High King of all of Sviþjoð and the realms of King Ivarr Viðfaðma, through his mother Auðr in Djúpúðga daughter to High King Ivarr in Viðfaðma, who had killed his father King Hrœrekr Slöngvanbaugi of Zealand (Denmark). Some sources identify this Hrórekr with the eponymous anchestor of the Rurik Dynasty and the origins of Russia. On the opposing side is King Sigurd Hring of Eastern Gautland (according to Bósa Saga and Herrauðr, a nephew of King Harald Hiltertooth (aka Wartooth). Bósa Saga ok Herrauðs does not mention any Ivarr, which may indicate that Ivarr Viðfaðme is King Hring. Here it is quite obvious that King Hring is father of Sigurd Hring, who elsewhere is given as the son of King Ivarr Viðfaðme. Queen Auðr the Deep-Minded is mentioned as mother of both King Harald Hiltertooth and Randvér, alternatively Randvér's father Ráðbarðr. Both kings Harald Hiltertooth and Sigurd Hring are claimants to the inheritance of king Hring and/or Ivar Vidfamne. King Harald Hiltertooth is associated with Denmark and East Götaland, whereas his and nephew King Sigurd Hring, is associated with Sweden and West Götaland.
According to Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks did the realm of Ivar ins Viðfaðma comprise not only all of Sviaveldi (Commonwealth of Sviþjoð, Sweden), but also Danaveldi (Commonwealth of the Danes), Kúrland (the Land of the Curonians), Saxland (Land of the Saxons), Old Saxony, comprising Eastphalia, Westphalia and Angria); and Eistland (Estonia, aka Land of the Oeselians), all the way to the eastern realms of Garðaríki. In this saga has King Harald Hiltertooth won all of King Ivarr Viðfaðma's realms, except the Danish Commonwealth (also referred to as Scania), still in possession of King Randvér, after the death of their father, here King Valdar. King Randvér is the father of Sigurd Hring, and brother to King Harald Hiltertooth. The brothers are sons of Queen Alfhild (cf. Auðr in Djúpúðga) and King Valdar. According to a later version of the legend, Harald Wartooth realised that he was growing old and might die of old age and therefore not go to Valhalla. He consequently asked Sigurd if he would let him leave this life gloriously in great battle.
Otherwise it is Oðinn himself who is the schemer behind the events leading to the battle. This is related to Auðr in Djúpúðga marrying Randvér, or Ráðbarðr, who in Sögubrot af nokkrum fornkonungum is father of Randvér, son of King Valdar of Zealand (Danaveldi), against the will of her father King Ivarr Viðfaðma.
The legend of Blenda was that a local Swedish woman named Blenda that according to legend invited the Danish invaders for dinner and promised them sex and food the next day when their husbands were gone. Then during the night, the local Swedish women murdered every single Danish invader when they went to sleep.
According to Saxo Grammaticus, both hosts prepared for seven years, and mustered armies of 200 000 men. Harald was joined by the legendary heroes Ubbe of Friesland, Uvle Brede, Are the One-eyed, Dag the Fat, Duk the Slav, Hroi Whitebeard and Hothbrodd the Indomitable as well as 300 shieldmaidens led by Hed, Visna of the Slavs and Hedborg. Sigurd recruited the legendary heroes Starkad, Egil the Bald, Grette the Evil (a Norwegian), Blig Bignose, Einar the Fatbellied and Erling Snake. Famous Swedes were Arwakki, Keklu-Karl, Krok the peasant, Gummi and Gudfast from Gislamark. They were joined by scores of Norwegians, Slavs, Finns, Estonians, Curonians, Bjarmians, Livonians, Saxons, Angles, Frisians, Irish, Rus' etc... All picking their sides. Whole forests were chopped down in order to build 3000 longships to transport the Swedes. Harald's Danes had built so many ships that they could walk across The Sound.
The Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks speaks of "Brávelli í eystra Gautlandi" (Bråvalla in East Götaland) and in Sǫgubrot af nokkrum fornkonungum the battle is said to have taken place south of Kolmården, which separated Svealand (Sweden proper) from East Götaland and is where Bråviken is located: "Kolmerkr, er skilr Svíþjóð ok Eystra-Gautland ... sem heitir Brávík". Saxo ends his account by saying "thus ended the battle of Bråvik". Most historians have held the battle to have taken place near Bråviken, but in the 17th century a minority view appears to have located it in Småland at Lake Åsnen.
The accounts found in Gesta Danorum and the Sǫgubrot saga are essentially the same.
At first the two armies fought collectively, but after a while Ubbi was in the centre of attention. He slew first Ragnvald the Wise Councilor, then the champion Tryggvi and three Swedish princes of the royal dynasty.
Humbled, King Sigurd Hring sent forth the champion Starkad, who managed to wound Ubbi but was himself even more seriously wounded. Then Ubbi killed Agnar, and took the sword in both hands and slashed a path through the Swedish host, until he fell riddled with arrows from the archers of Telemark. Then the shieldmaiden Veborg killed the champion Soti and managed to give additional wounds to Starkad, who was greatly angered. She was killed by the champion Thorkell.
Furious, Starkad went forth in the Danish army, killing warriors all around him, and cut off the shieldmaiden Visna's arm, which held the Danish banner. Starkad then proceeded to slay the champions Brai, Grepi, Gamli and Haki.
When Harald had observed these heroic feats, he stood on his knees in his chariot with one sword in each hand and killed a great many warriors both to his left and to his right. After a while, Harald's steward Bruni deemed that his liege had amassed enough glory and crushed the king's skull with a club.
The general agreement on the historicity of the battle has turned back and forth during the last two centuries depending on what was the prevalent ideology among Scandinavian historians. In 1925, the Swedish archaeologist Birger Nerman summarized the ebbs and tides of its historicity. He stated that older scholarship had treated the accounts of the battle uncritically and perceived the accounts as largely historical. During the last decades of the 19th century, however, the hypercritical school considered the battle as entirely fictional and considered even the area where it took place as mythical. The pendulum turned and during the first decades of the 20th century, the opinion was once again in favour of its historicity, although the contemporary scholarship regarded it as a fictionalized historic event. In 1990, the Swedish encyclopedia Nationalencyklopedin summed up the debate by claiming that the historicity of the battle is impossible to verify. There is also a hypothesis relating the battle to the events of 827 when Harald Klak was expelled from Denmark.
- Ohlmarks, Åke (1994). FornNordiskt lexikon. Tiden. p. 44. ISBN 978-91-550-4044-4.
- Henrikson, Alf; Törngren, Disa; Hansson, Lars (1998). Stora mytologiska uppslagsboken: hexikon. Forum. p. 82. ISBN 978-91-37-11346-3.
- Nerman, B. (1925:253):
I äldre tid uppfattade man okritiskt berättelserna om Bråvallaslaget såsom i stort fullt historiska. Under de senare årtiondena av 1800-talet kom så den hyperkritiska riktningen och gick till motsatt överdrift. Den gjorde rent hus i fråga om Bråvallatraditionernas värde som historiska källor. Bakom sagorna om Bråvallatraditionerna fanns, förklarade man, icke ett spår av historisk verklighet, och några Bråvallar hade aldrig existerat. [...] I våra dagar har så slaget återförts till verkligheten, ehuru den modärna uppfattningen är fullt medveten om, att detaljerna i berättelserna om slaget i stor utsträckning äro uppdiktade. In older times the accounts of the Battle of Bråvalla were uncritically perceived as largely historical. During the later decades of the 19th century, the hypercritical approach arrived and went to opposite exaggerations. It cleaned up in the question of the historic value of the Bråvalla traditions, and any Bråvalla had never existed. [...] In our days the battle has been taken back to reality, although the modern perception is completely aware of the fact that the details in the accounts of the battle are largely fiction.
- Bråvallaslaget in Nationalencyklopedin (1990):
Bråvallaslaget, enligt sägnen en drabbning som skulle ha utkämpats på "Bråvalla hed" mellan danerna under kung Harald Hildetand och svearna under kung Sigurd Ring, som segrade sedan Oden ingripit och dödat Harald. Slaget omtalas i medeltida källor, bl.a. av Saxo Grammaticus i hans "Gesta Danorum" ("Danernas bedrifter") från ca 1200. Man har i äldre forskning försökt lokalisera slaget till Skatelövs socken i Småland eller till trakten av Bråviken i Östergötland och daterat det till 700-talet. Sägnens eventuella verklighetsbakgrund är dock omöjlig att fastställa. The Battle of Bråvalla, according to legend a battle which would have been fought on the "Moors of Bråvalla" between the Danes under king Harald Wartooth and the Swedes under king Sigurd Ring, who was victorious after Odin intervened and killed Harald. The battle is treated in medieval sources, e.g. by Saxo Grammaticus in his "Gesta Danorum" ("Deeds of the Danes") from c. 1200. Older scholarship has tried to localize the battle to the parish of Skatelöv i Småland or to the region of Bråviken in Östergötland and dated it to the 8th century. The possible historic basis for the legend is however impossible to establish.
- Baranauskas T. Saxo Grammaticus on the Balts, Saxo and the Baltic Region. A Symposium, edited by Tore Nyberg, [Odense:] University Press of Southern Denmark, 2004, p. 63–79.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Battle of Brávellir.|
- Sögubrot af Nokkrum fornkonungum í Dana ok Svíaveldi - kap 7,9: ..Kolmerkr, er skilr Svíþjóð ok Eystra-Gautland ... sem heitir Brávík..
- Hervarar saga og Heiðreks - kap 15: ..Brávelli í eystra Gautlandi..
- Saxo: The Danish History, Book Eight Part I - Saxo on the Battle of Bråvalla.