Thursday, May 15, 2008

Harald Hardradi

In conducting some research for my next book, I spent some time reading about the Norse King Harald Sigurdsson or Harald Hardradi. Three things about him impressed me. One, he was a poet, writing both poetry and sagas; two, he was a traveler and a mercenary, who served in the Varangian Guard in Byzantium and with the Normans in the war against the Arabs in Sicily in 1038; and, three, he possessed an indomitable spirit.

At the age of fifteen, Harald fought with his half-brother, King Olaf the Saint at the battle of Stiklestad. Olaf died in battle and Harald was severely wounded. During his convalescence, he wrote the following poem:

From copse to copse
I crawl and creep
now, worthless.
Who knows
how highly
I'll be prized
some day.

Even in the face of defeat, wounded and hounded, Harald intuits he will be a great man. I find this psychologically and historically interesting primarily because some men blind to their fate and future, facing overwhelming odds and convincing evidence that they are at an end, defeated and despoiled, still have not only hope but the temerity to foresee their future greatness.

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