Harald "Bluetooth" Gormsson (Old Norse: Haraldr Blátǫnn Gormsson;[2] Danish: Harald Blåtand Gormsen, died c. 985/86) was a king of Denmark and Norway.

Harald Bluetooth
Harald being baptized by Poppo the monk, in a relief dated to c. 1200[1]
King of Denmark
Reignc. 958 – c. 986
PredecessorGorm the Old
SuccessorSweyn Forkbeard
King of Norway
Reignc. 970 – c. 985/986
PredecessorHarald Greycloak
SuccessorOlaf Tryggvason
RegentHaakon Sigurdsson (de facto ruler)
HouseHouse of Gorm
FatherGorm the Old
ReligionChalcedonian Christianity

He was the son of King Gorm the Old and of Thyra Dannebod. Harald ruled as king of Denmark from c. 958 – c. 986. Harald introduced Christianity to Denmark and consolidated his rule over most of Jutland and Zealand. Harald's rule as king of Norway following the assassination of King Harald Greycloak of Norway was more tenuous, most likely lasting for no more than a few years in the 970s. Some sources say his son Sweyn Forkbeard forcibly deposed him from his Danish throne before his death.

Name edit

Curmsun disc with "Harald" inscription (Arald Curmsun) at the top lines

Harald's name is written as runic haraltr : kunukʀ (ᚼᛅᚱᛅᛚᛏᚱ ᛬ ᚴᚢᚾᚢᚴᛦ) in the Jelling stone inscription. In normalized Old Norse, this would correspond to Haraldr konungr, i.e. "Harald king". The Latinized name as given in the medieval Danish chronicles is Haraldus Gormonis filius (Harald, Gorm's son). The given name Haraldr (also Haralldr) is the equivalent of Old English Hereweald, Old High German Heriwald, from hari "army" and wald- "rule".[3] Harald's name is also inscribed on the so-called Curmsun disc, rediscovered in 2014 (but part of a Viking hoard previously discovered in 1841 in the crypt of the Groß-Weckow village church in Pomerania, close to the Viking Age stronghold of Jomsborg), as +ARALD CVRMSVN + REX AD TANER + SCON + JVMN + CIV ALDIN, i.e. "Harald Gormson, king of Danes, Scania, Jumne, [in] Bishopric of Aldinburg [de]".[4]

The first documented appearance of Harald's nickname "Bluetooth" (as blatan; Old Norse *blátǫnn) is in the Chronicon Roskildense (written c. 1140), alongside the alternative nickname Clac Harald.[5] Clac Harald appears to be a conflation of Harald Bluetooth with the legendary or semi-legendary Harald Klak, son of Halfdan. The byname is given as Blachtent and explicitly glossed as "bluish or black tooth" (dens lividus vel niger) in a chronicle of the late 12th century, Wilhelmi abbatis regum Danorum genealogia.[6] The traditional explanation[according to whom?] is that Harald must have had a conspicuous bad tooth that appeared "blue" (i.e. "black", as blár "blue" meant "blue-black", or "dark-coloured"). Another explanation, proposed by Scocozza (1997), is that he was called "blue thane" (or "dark thane") in England (with Anglo-Saxon thegn corrupted to tan when the name came back into Old Norse).[7]

Reign edit

Harald's kingdom (in red) and his vassals and allies (in yellow)[a]

During his reign, Harald oversaw the reconstruction of the Jelling runic stones, and numerous other public works. The most famous is fortifying the fortress of Aros (nowadays Aarhus) which was situated in a central position in his kingdom in the year 979. Some believe these projects were a way for him to consolidate economic and military control of his country and the main city. Ring forts were built in five strategic locations with Aarhus perfectly in the middle: Trelleborg on Zealand, Borrering in eastern Zealand (the inner construction of this fort is still yet to be established), Nonnebakken on Funen, Fyrkat in Himmerland (northern Jutland) and Aggersborg near Limfjord. All five fortresses had similar designs: "perfectly circular with gates opening to the four corners of the earth, and a courtyard divided into four areas which held large houses set in a square pattern."[8] A sixth Trelleborg of similar design, located at Borgeby, in Scania, has been dated to about 1000 and may have been built by King Harald and a second fort named Trelleborg is located near the modern town of Trelleborg in Scania in present-day Sweden, but is of older date and thus pre-dates the reign of Harald Bluetooth. [citation needed]

He constructed the oldest known bridge in southern Scandinavia, the 5-metre (16 ft) wide and 760-metre (2,490 ft) long Ravning Bridge at Ravning meadows.[citation needed]

While quiet prevailed throughout the interior, he turned his energies to foreign enterprises. He came to the help of Richard the Fearless of Normandy in 945 and 963, while his son conquered Samland, and after the assassination of King Harald Greycloak of Norway, managed to force the people of that country into temporary subjugation to himself.

The Norse sagas present Harald in a rather negative light. He was forced twice to submit to the renegade Swedish prince Styrbjörn the Strong of the Jomsvikings- first by giving Styrbjörn a fleet and his daughter Thyra, the second time by giving up himself as hostage, along with yet another fleet. When Styrbjörn brought this fleet to Uppsala to claim the throne of Sweden, Harald broke his oath and fled with his Danes to avoid facing the Swedish army at the Battle of Fýrisvellir.[9]

Harald's Rebellion edit

In the wake of Otto I's death, Harald attacked Saxony in 973. Otto II counter-attacked Harald in 974, conquering Haithabu, Dannevirke and possibly large parts of Jutland.[10] Harald regained some of the seized territory in 983 when Otto II was defeated by the Saracens.[10]

As a consequence of Harald's army having lost to the Germans at the Danevirke in 974, he no longer had control of Norway, and Germans settled back into the border area between Scandinavia and Germany. They were driven out of Denmark in 983 by an alliance of Obodrite soldiers and troops loyal to Harald, but soon after, Harald was killed fighting off a rebellion led by his son Sweyn. He is believed to have died in 986, although several accounts claim 985 as his year of death. According to Adam of Bremen he died in Jumne/Jomsborg from his wounds.[11] His body was brought back to the Trinity Church in Roskilde where he was buried.[12]

The Curmsun Disc, found in Groß-Weckow, Pomerania, (after 1945 Wiejkowo) is inscribed with "ARALD CVRMSVN" (Harald Gormson), calling him, in abbreviated Latin, "king of Danes, Scania, Jomsborg, town of Aldinburg". Based on this, Swedish archaeologist Sven Rosborn has proposed that Harald is buried at the church there, close to Jomsborg, in what is now Poland.[13][11][14]

From 1835 to 1977, it was wrongly believed that Harald ordered the death of the Haraldskær Woman, a bog body previously thought to be Gunnhild, Mother of Kings until radiocarbon dating proved otherwise.[15]

The Hiddensee treasure, a large trove of gold objects, was found in 1873 on the German island of Hiddensee in the Baltic Sea. It is believed that these objects belonged to Harald's family.[16]

Harald introduced the first nationwide coinage in Denmark.[17]

Conversion to Christianity edit

King Harald Bluetooth's conversion to Christianity is a contested bit of history, not least because medieval writers such as Widukind of Corvey and Adam of Bremen give conflicting accounts of how it came about.

Widukind of Corvey, writing during the lives of King Harald and Otto I (ruled 962–973), claims that Harald was converted by a "cleric by the name of Poppa" who, when asked by Harald to prove his faith in Christ, carried a "great weight" of iron heated by a fire without being burned.[18] According to 12th-century Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus in his work Gesta Danorum, Poppo performed his miracle for Harald's son Sweyn Forkbeard after Sweyn had second thoughts about his own baptism.[19] Harald himself converted to Catholicism after a peace agreement with the Holy Roman Emperor (either Otto I or II).[20]

Adam of Bremen, writing 100 years after King Harald's death in "History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen", finished in 1076, describes Harald being forcibly converted by Otto I, after a defeat in battle.[21] However, Widukind does not mention such an event in his contemporary Res gestae saxonicae sive annalium libri tres or Deeds of the Saxons. Some 250 years after the event, the Heimskringla relates that Harald was converted with Earl Haakon, by Otto II (ruled 973 – 983).[22]

A cleric named Poppa, perhaps the same one, also appears in Adam of Bremen's history, but in connection with Eric of Sweden, who had supposedly conquered Denmark (the fact that Eric conquered Denmark during the realm of Sweyn Forkbeard is explained by Saxo as a punishment of Sweyn's apostasy).[23][24] The story of this otherwise unknown Poppo or Poppa's miracle and baptism of Harald is also depicted on the gilded altar piece in the Church of Tamdrup in Denmark (see image at top of this article). The altar itself dates to about 1200.[25] Adam of Bremen's claim regarding Otto I and Harald appears to have been inspired by an attempt to manufacture a historical reason for the archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen to claim jurisdiction over Denmark (and thus the rest of Scandinavia); in the 1070s, the Danish king was in Rome asking for Denmark to have its own arch-bishop, and Adam's account of Harald's supposed conversion (and baptism of both him and his "little son" Sweyn, with Otto serving as Sweyn's godfather) is followed by the unambiguous claim that "At that time Denmark on this side of the sea, which is called Jutland by the inhabitants, was divided into three dioceses and subjected to the bishopric of Hamburg."[21]

As noted above, Harald's father, Gorm the Old, had died in 958, and had been buried in a mound with many goods, after the pagan practice. The mound itself was from c. 500 BCE, but Harald had it built higher over his father's grave, and added a second mound to the south. Mound-building was a newly revived custom in the 10th century, perceivably as an "appeal to old traditions in the face of Christian customs spreading from Denmark's southern neighbors, the Germans".[26]

The larger Jelling stone, showing the inscription concerning Harald

After his conversion, around the 960s, Harald had his father's body reburied in the church next to the now empty mound.[27] He had the Jelling stones erected to honour his parents.[28] The biography of Harald Bluetooth is summed up by this runic inscription from the Jelling stones:

King Harald bade these memorials to be made after Gorm, his father, and Thyra, his mother. The Harald who won the whole of Denmark and Norway and turned the Danes to Christianity.

Harald undoubtedly professed Christianity at that time and contributed to its growth, but with limited success in Denmark and Norway.[29]

Marriages and children edit


  1. Gunhild
  2. Thora (Tova) the daughter of Mistivir in 970. She raised the Sønder Vissing Runestone after her mother.
  3. Gyrid Olafsdottir


Bluetooth technology edit

The Bluetooth logo

The Bluetooth wireless specification design was named after the king in 1997,[30] based on an analogy that the technology would unite devices the way Harald Bluetooth united the tribes of Denmark into a single kingdom.[31][32][33] The Bluetooth logo consists of a Younger Futhark bind rune for his initials, H () and B ().[34]

See also edit

  • Hagrold, a 10th-century Danish Viking in Normandy, mentioned as a Danish king, who became conflated with Harald Bluetooth in a later historical account.

Footnotes edit

  1. ^ As set forth in Heimskringla, Knytlinga Saga, and other medieval Scandinavian sources.

References edit

  1. ^ "Tamdrup Kirke". Den store danske. Archived from the original on 20 September 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  2. ^ Fagrskinna ch. 7 (ed. Finnur Jónsson 1902–8, p. 31) af Harallde Gormssyne (dative), ch. 14 (p. 58) við Haralld konong Gorms sun (accusative).
  3. ^ A. Förstemann, Altdeutsches Namenbuch (1856), 631f.
  4. ^ Sven Rosborn. "A unique object from Harald Bluetooth´s time. (2015)". Archived from the original on 1 February 2017. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  5. ^ Mortuo patre, [Haraldus] quinquaginta annos regnavit. Hic Christianus extitit cognomine Blatan sive Clac Harald. ed. Langebek (1772) p. 375 Archived 14 April 2023 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ ed. Ludewig, Reliquiæ Manuscriptorum, vol. IX, 591–650: Haraldus, hinc cognomento Blachtent, id est, dens lividus, vel niger
  7. ^ Scocozza, Benito (1997), Politikens bog om danske monarker, København: Politikens Forlag, ISBN 87-567-5772-7
  8. ^ Fortehad, Oram and Pedersen, Viking Empires Archived 5 April 2023 at the Wayback Machine, Cambridge University Press (2005) p. 180. ISBN 0-521-82992-5
  9. ^ Williamson, Jonathan (15 August 2023). "Harald Bluetooth Gormsson: The Viking king who connected kingdoms". The Viking Herald. Retrieved 28 February 2024.
  10. ^ a b Bagge, Sverre (2009). Early state formation in Scandinavia. Vol. 16. Austrian Academy of Sciences Press. p. 148. ISBN 978-3-7001-6604-7. JSTOR j.ctt3fgk28. Archived from the original on 25 June 2021. Retrieved 22 June 2021.
  11. ^ a b Rosborn, Sven (2015) A unique object from Harald Bluetooth´s time? Malmö: Pilemedia, pp. 4–5 Archived 1 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine www.academia.edu
  12. ^ Skovgaard-Petersen, Inge (2003), Helle, Knut (ed.), "The making of the Danish kingdom", The Cambridge History of Scandinavia: Volume 1: Prehistory to 1520, Cambridge University Press, p. 176, ISBN 978-0-521-47299-9, archived from the original on 8 January 2022, retrieved 8 January 2022
  13. ^ Monika Scislowska (31 July 2022). "Is Danish king who gave name to Bluetooth buried in Poland?". StarTribune. AP. Archived from the original on 10 August 2022. Retrieved 10 August 2022.
  14. ^ "Har svensk arkæolog bevist, at Harald Blåtand blev begravet med kæmpeskat i Polen?". videnskab.dk (in Danish). 19 August 2022. Archived from the original on 25 August 2022. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  15. ^ " Haraldskaer Woman: Bodies of the Bogs Archived 21 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine", Archaeology, Archaeological Institute of America, 10 December 1997
  16. ^ Pontus Weman Tell (2016), The Curmsun Disc – Harald Bluetooth´s Golden Seal? Archived 20 November 2018 at the Wayback Machine www.academia.edu
  17. ^ Moesgaard, Jens Christian (2015). King Harold's Cross Coinage: Christian Coins for the Merchants of Haithabu and the King's Soldiers. University Press of Southern Denmark. ISBN 978-87-7602-323-2. Archived from the original on 14 April 2023. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  18. ^ Widukind, Res gestae Saxonicae 3.65, ed. Paul Hirsch and Hans-Eberhard Lohmann, MGH SS rer. Germ. in usum scholarum (Hanover, 1935), pp. 140–141. Translated from Latin by Anders Winroth, 2006.
  19. ^ Zeeberg, Peter (2000). Saxos Danmarkshistorie (e-book ed.). Gads Forlag. pp. 924–925. ISBN 978-87-12-04745-2.
  20. ^ Zeeberg, Peter (2000). Saxos Danmarkshistorie (e-book ed.). Gads Forlag. p. 1069. ISBN 978-87-12-04745-2.
  21. ^ a b Adam of Bremen, History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen Archived 14 April 2023 at the Wayback Machine, trans. Francis J. Tschan (New York, 2002), pp. 55–57.
  22. ^ "Heimskringla". Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  23. ^ Adam of Bremen, History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen Archived 14 April 2023 at the Wayback Machine, trans. Francis J. Tschan (New York, 2002), pp. 77–78.
  24. ^ Zeeberg, Peter (2000). Saxos Danmarkshistorie (e-book ed.). Gads Forlag. p. 1100. ISBN 978-87-12-04745-2.
  25. ^ Anders Winroth, Viking Sources in Translation, 2009.
  26. ^ Anders Winroth, Viking Sources in Translation, in text drawing on a caption by Anders Winroth in Barbara Rosenwein, Reading the Middle Ages, (Peterborough, Ontario, 2006). p. 266.
  27. ^ Rose, Mark. "Gorm the Old Goes Home". Archaeology. Archaeological Institute of America. Archived from the original on 9 November 2022. Retrieved 9 November 2022.
  28. ^ C. Michael Hogan, "Jelling Stones" Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Megalithic Portal, editor Andy Burnham
  29. ^ Latourette, Kenneth Scott (1975). A History of Christianity. New York: HarperCollins. p. 87. ISBN 0-06-064952-6. Archived from the original on 14 April 2023. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  30. ^ Kardach, Jim (3 May 2008). "Tech History: How Bluetooth got its name". EE Times. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  31. ^ "'So, that's why it's called Bluetooth!' and other surprising tech name origins". PCWorld. Archived from the original on 6 August 2017. Retrieved 16 August 2017.
  32. ^ Kardach, Jim (5 March 2008). "Tech History: How Bluetooth got its name". eetimes. Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  33. ^ Forsyth, Mark (2011). The Etymologicon. London N79DP: Icon Books Ltd. p. 139.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  34. ^ The story behind how Bluetooth® technology got its name, [1] Archived 28 December 2020 at the Wayback Machine .

External links edit

Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Denmark
Succeeded by
Preceded by King of Norway