Olof the Brash

Olof was a king who, according to a late source, ruled in Denmark in about 900 after usurping power. Evidence for his historicity is only circumstantial, since he belongs to a period of Danish history when very little is known from textual sources.

Olof the Brash
Reignc. 900
SuccessorGyrd and Gnupa
Born9th century
DynastyHouse of Olaf
ReligionNorse paganism

Arrival from SwedenEdit

Our only source for the reign of Olof is the ecclesiastic chronicle of Adam of Bremen (c. 1075). Adam's information is allegedly drawn from an interview with the Danish king Sweyn Estridson (1047-1076) who "enumerated his forefathers". Towards the end of the 9th century Danish Viking armies suffered a series of major defeats in the Frankish kingdoms and in England. This resulted in a serious loss of manpower. Frankish chronicles are silent about political conditions in Denmark in this period and up to the 930s, which contrasts with the rather regular information in the period 777-873. This possibly implies that no strong royal power existed during these decades. After the death of the Viking rulers Sigfred and Gudfred at the battle of Leuven in 891, Denmark was, according to Adam of Bremen, ruled by a certain Helge. Then the kingdom was attacked by an intruder named Olof, coming from the land of the Swedes. Olof conquered the land and made himself king. No further details of his reign are given, except that he founded the House of Olof which reigned for three generations.[1] He had numerous sons, of whom Gnupa and Gyrd were able to gain the throne after the death of their father.[2] Later on the dynasty ended with Sigtrygg Gnupasson who is mentioned on the two Sigtrygg Runestones (DR2 and DR4) erected by his mother after his death. Sigtrygg was ousted by Hardeknud I who inaugurated the Jelling Dynasty.

Controversy about the "Swedish rule"Edit

Since Gnupa is mentioned in a chronicle as having ruled in 934,[3] Olof's reign probably falls in the early 10th century. Although he is not documented by contemporary sources, his son and grandson, Gnupa and Sigtrygg, are mentioned on rune stones, which speaks for his historicity. The passage in Adam's account is often taken to mean that there was a period of Swedish rule in Denmark or part of Denmark. A number of arguments have been put forward to support this, including the existence of a rune stone in Saedinge on Lolland that mentions Swedes.[4] Archaeologists have also wished to identify a Swedish population element in Hedeby.[5] The placement of the rune stones associated with the dynasty has led to the conclusion that the kings ruled from Hedeby in South Jutland, one of the most important commercial centers in Viking Age Scandinavia. However, these conclusions have been hotly debated.[6] Adam does not actually say that Olof was Swedish, only that he operated from a Swedish base. Moreover, Adam depicts the kings of the Olof Dynasty as ruling Denmark in its entirety and not merely South Jutland.[7]

The epithet Olof the Brash, which is sometimes used, is based on a speculative association of Olof with the legendary Ale (Olo) the Brash who, according to Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1200) was sent by his cousin Hring of Sweden to rule Skåne and later the rest of Denmark.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sawyer, P. (2002). Da Danmark blev Danmark: fra ca. 700 til 1050. Gyldendal og Politikens Danmarkshistorie (in Danish). Gyldendal. p. 218. ISBN 978-87-89068-23-7. Retrieved 6 July 2018. Derfor har man hævdet, at Gnupa tilhørte et svensk dynasti; men Asfrid rejste en anden sten i Hedeby til minde om Sigtryg, ... Olaf "fra Sverige" og hans søn Gnupa Man ved ikke mere om Helge, Olaf og Gurd end Adam fortæller, men Gnupa ...
  2. ^ Adam av Bremen (1984), Historien om Hamburgstiftet och dess biskopar. Stockholm: Proprius, p. 52-3 (Book I, Chapter 48). In another passage (Book I, Chapter 52), Adam says that Olof ruled Denmark with his sons.
  3. ^ In one opinion the year 934 is too late and Gnupa was dead by c. 917; see Bent Østergaard (1994), "Sven Estridsens danmarkshistorie. Danmarks politiske historie ca. 890-965", Jyske samlinger [1]
  4. ^ Erik Moltke (1986), "Det svenske Hedebyrige og Danmarks samling", Aarbøger for Nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historie 1985, p. 16-28.
  5. ^ Heiko Steuer (1984), "Zur ethnischen Gliederung der Bevölkerung von Haithabu anhand der Gräberfelder", p. 209 [2]
  6. ^ Niels Lund (1982), "Svenskevældet i Hedeby", Aarbøger for Nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historie 1980, p. 114-25.
  7. ^ Bent Østergaard (1994), "Sven Estridsens danmarkshistorie. Danmarks politiske historie ca. 890-965", Jyske samlinger [3]
  8. ^ Saxo Grammaticus, Danmarks kronike, Book 8 [4]; [5]
Preceded by King of Denmark Succeeded by