The Viking King and His Divine Dynasty
The Viking kings traced their lineage back to the gods. Their claim to power was founded on this kinship.
King of the Ynglings
Imagine yourself in Borre in the year 822. It is the seat of a king. We do not know his name, but he is of the Yngling dynasty. As other chieftains and petty kings, he can follow his lineage back to a mythical origin among the gods. In his instance to the god Freyr and the jotun woman Gerdr.
The divine union of Freyr and Gerdr in the grove at Barri led to their son Fjölnir being born. Fjölnir is the first king of the Yngling dynasty. His divine origins give him a claim to power. The dynasty spreads its sphere of influence from Uppsala in Sweden to Vestfold. The Ynglings bury their dead kings at Borre.
The king who has his seat at Borre in 822 is of divine lineage. From the hall he can look down to the burial site where his ancestors rest in their mounds. And he decorates the pillars of his hall to depict his family tree.
The hall – the divine king’s seat of power
The warrior aristocracy and the cult of Odin are central elements. Here there are kings, but also dominant female figures. Gifts are exchanged and marriage bonds are tied. Alliances are built – while heroes and monsters do battle around the pillars. In this magnificent hall power is meant to be visible and to be implemented.
In 822 the onlooker would have nodded in recognition, today we need more help to understand the images.
Here you can read more about each of the pillars
Reading tips (Norwegian)
- Beowulf-kvadet. Trans. by Jan W. Dietrichson 1976. H. Aschehoug & Co. (W. Nygaard), Oslo.
- Dedekam, Hans 1918: Odins træ: Et stykke Billedvæv fra Osebergfundet. Kunst og handverk, Nordiske studier til Johan Bøgh (s. 56–75). Kristiania.
- Edda-dikt. Trans. by Ludvig Holm-Olsen 1975. J.W.Cappelens Forlag as. Oslo.
- Christensen, Arne Emil og Nockert, Margareta (red.) 2006. Osebergfunnet- bind IV – Tekstilene. Kulturhistorisk museum, Universitetet i Oslo. ISBN 82-8084-024-9. Oslo.
- Saxo Grammaticus: Danmarks krønike. Trans. by Fr. Winkel Horn 1994. Sesam forlag. ISBN 87-7801-337-2. København.
- Seip, Didrik Arup 1929. Det norske grunnlaget for Bråvallaslaget hos Saxo. Norsk tidsskrift for sprogvidenskap, bind III (s. 5-20). Oslo.
- Snorres kongesagaer. Trans. by Anne Holtsmark og Didrik Arup Seip 1979. Gyldendal Norsk Forlag AS. Oslo.