Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2000-02 > 0951627062

From: "Lyle R. (Andy) Anderson" <>
Subject: Re: Gorm's wife and children
Date: Sat, 26 Feb 2000 20:51:02 -0800


I know I'm not much help on this, however, from someplace
in my reading it appears there could be some confusion in the old
Sagas on Gunnhild. I have read someplace that the daughter of
Ozur Tote, Gunnhild was married to an Erik, who was a King in Sweden.

Does this mean there were two Gunnhilds of that era marrying Kings
named Eirik / Erik ? One for Eirik Bloodaxe (Gorm's daughter) and
Erik of Sweden (Ozur's daughter)

Maybe our Scandinavian friends can help us out on that question.

Lyle R. (Andy) Anderson
New Westminster, BC, Canada

Stewart Baldwin wrote:

> Various secondary sources give Gorm of Denmark a wife Thyre and as
> many as four children. I will start off with a brief discussion of
> the primary documentation (or lack thereof) for these individuals, and
> we can then discuss any of these cases in more detail if there is
> interest in doing so.
> Her name, the fact that she was the wife of Gorm and the mother of
> Harald, and that she died before Gorm, are are well documented facts
> from the contemporary Jelling runestones quoted in my three part Gorm
> posting on the 5th of this month. Thus, the main question is her
> parentage. There are two main claims:
> 1. Saxo (Book 9) makes her a daughter of Aethelred of England (d.
> 871).
> 2. Various Icelandic sources (Heimskringla, Jomsviking saga, etc.)
> make her a son of Klakk-Haraldr or Harald Klak, a king in Jutland.
> Later sources identify him with the Danish king Harald who begins to
> appear in the Frankish annals in the year 812.
> The chronological problems with both of these claims are evident.
> Although one might be able to concoct birthdates for Thyre and her son
> Harald that are within the realm of possibility for either of these
> two scenarios, such dates would still give an improbably long
> chronology, and both accounts must be considered unlikely. Although
> it is possible that either one of the above accounts might contain
> some garbled version of the truth, it is not possible to discern what
> that truth might be without further evidence, and Thyre's parentage
> must be reagrded as unknown.
> HARALD, king of Denmark.
> The case for his parentage is quite clear, and presents no problems.
> He stated himself to be a son of Gorm and Thyre on a contemporary
> runestone, which gives us contemporary evidence of very high quality
> for his parentage. Other later sources give the same parentage.
> Unfortunately, all three of the other alleged children of Gorm present
> serious problems, which cause one to doubt their attachment to Gorm,
> and in the case of one alleged son, his very existence. Thus, if one
> wishes to limit oneself to the children for whom there is clear proof,
> Harald is the only child in that category. Since the evidence for the
> other three alleged children of Gorm comes from different sources,
> their cases can be discussed separately.
> The source for Toke is the Hällestad Stone in Skåne, which is in
> memory of a certain Toke, son of Gorm, stating that he did not flee at
> Uppsala, presumably referring to a battle at which he distinguished
> himself [See Erik Moltke, "Runes and their origin - Denmark and
> Elsewhere" (Copenhagen, 1985)]. The problem is that "Gorm" is not a
> rare name, so the case depends on the assumption that the Gorm who was
> father of Toke was the famous Gorm, and not another of the same name.
> This is a classic case of the "names-the-same" problem. In the
> absence of clear evidence that Toke's father Gorm and the famous Gorm
> should be identified, Toke should not be included in the list of
> children of Gorm of Denamrk.
> Gunnhild was the wife of Erik "Bloodaxe", king of Norway, and later of
> York. Although Erik himself appears in contemporary (or nearly so)
> English sources [Anglo-Saxon Chronicle], I am unaware of any source
> prior to the twelfth century which gives the name of Erik's wife. The
> Icelandic sources all agree in making her the daughter of a certain
> Ozurr, and make no mention of any connection between her and the royal
> family of Denmark. The only primary source to my knowledge which
> makes her a daughter of Gorm is "Historia Norvegiae", a Latin history
> of Norway, of uncertain date (perhaps late 12th or 13th century),
> existing only in a single manuscript of 1500 or later. (An English
> translation is supposed to be forthcoming, but I have not seen it on
> the bookselling websites.) Although many secondary sources obviously
> prefer the account in which Gunnhild was the daughter of Gorm, it is
> not clear why the unique testimony of "Historia Norwegiae" should
> outweigh the contrary sources. Another negative indicator is that
> some sources [e.g., Theodoricus Monachus and Ágrip, both pre-1200
> sources, neither of which states Gunnhild's parentage] state that
> Gorm's son Harald offered his hand in marriage to Gunnhild, something
> that would not have happened if Harald and Gunnhild were siblings.
> Thus, in my opinion, Gunnhild's status as a child of Gorm should be
> considered unlikely.
> To my knowledge, no source written prior to the end of the twelfth
> century mentions the alleged son of Gorm named Knud. He appears in
> Saxo, plus several Norwegian and Icelandic sources of late date, all
> over 200 years after the time of his alleged existence. His main
> occurrence in the sources is with regard to a tale about the death of
> Gorm [e.g., Saxo, Jomsviking saga], which is known to be a fabrication
> (because an important part of the story has Thyre surviving Gorm,
> something we know to be false). Given the general unreliability of
> the sagas for Danish history of this period and earlier, and the
> demonstated falseness of the main story in which he appears, the very
> existence of this son must be regarded as uncertain, in my opinion.
> It appears that Gorm of Denmark's complete well documented family
> group consists of his wife Thyre and son Harald. The claimed
> documentation for all of the other alleged children of Gorm has very
> serious problems. I would be interested in hearing any reasons why
> any of the doubtful cases should be added to the list of Gorm's
> children.
> Stewart Baldwin

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