Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2002-07 > 1028090464

From: "Stewart, Peter" <>
Subject: RE: Biolan
Date: Wed, 31 Jul 2002 14:41:04 +1000

Comments interspersed:

> -----Original Message-----
> From: [mailto:]
> Sent: Wednesday, 31 July 2002 13:26
> To:
> Subject: Re: Biolan
> On 30 Jul 2002 18:01:02 -0700, (Peter
> Stewart) wrote:
> > According to Norse accounts, Rollo of Normandy had a
> > daughter named Caðlin (Kathleen) who married Biolan,
> > called king and supposed to be established somewhere in
> > Scotland.
> Actually, these sources make Caðlín the daughter of a certain
> Gongu-Hrólfr, with no reason (other than the name) to connect this
> Gongu-Hrólfr to the founder of Normandy.

I'm certainly not advocating the identification of Rollo with Gongu-Hrólfr,
just using the former name for the sake of simplicity.

I see no reason to believe there was such a person as Gongu-Hrólfr in
reality rather than legend - the story that a man would have to go on foot
because he was too large to ride is ridiculous to anyone who has seen the
strong & hardy horses of Iceland, descended without admixture from the
Vikings' mounts. His alleged father Rognvaldr of Møre was supposed to be
descended from a giant, so excess measure was in the imaginary bloodline to
start with. No source mentions that Rollo of Normandy was oversized.
However, for any "Dacian" enthusiasts reading, such problems in the Norse
accounts don't in the least indicate that he was from Denmark and not from
Norway in the first place.

> > Biolan, or Beolan, was apparently an Irish name. I've seen
> > the suggestion that this man was possibly succeeded in his
> > conquered Scottish territory by Thorfinn the Red, son of
> > Olaf the White, king of Dublin (at the moment I can't
> > remember where, but it was not more specific or
> > detailed about an alleged Irish connection).

I should have written "Thorsteinn the Red", not "Thorfinn" (who was
purportedly a nephew of Gongu-Hrólfr, son of the gentleman who mutilated his
victim with the blood eagle).

The note I dimly remembered linking Thorsteinn to Biolan was made by Alan
Orr Anderson in _Early Sources of Scottish History AD 500 to 1286_, 2 vols
(Edinburgh, 1922), vol 1 p 396 note 2: "This Biolan, king of some district
in Scotland, may possibly have been a predecessor of Thorstein the Red". But
if Biolan had really been son-in-law to Rollo of Normandy, the chronological
order would probably have to be reversed, since according to Alfred P Smyth
in _Scandinavian Kings in the British Isles 850-880_ (Oxford, 1977),
Thorsteinn became king in northern Scotland ca 870, when Rollo was certainly
not old enough to have a daughter already married to a predecessor.

> To my knowledge, there is no unambiguous mention of this Béollán in
> any other place. The Irish sources mention a few individuals of that
> name, but I know of no good reason to identify any of them with the
> person in the Norse sources.

Is it certain that an Irish Biolan or Béollán is meant? For all I know, the
skaldic confusion might be deeper, as deep as the poet's bottle indeed:
Caðlin and Biolan are said to be parents of Niðbiorg who married Helgi. A
namesake of his is usually called Helgi Biola, although Alfred Smyth (op
cit) calls him "Helgi Bjolan". This man was a son of Ketill Flatnose, whose
family history - expulsion from Norway, conquest in the Orkneys/Hebrides -
has numerous similarities to that told of Rognvaldr of Møre & his sons.
Ketill's daughter Aud the Rich (or Deep-minded) was mother of Thorsteinn. I
wonder if it isn't conceivable that this Ketill was Richer's "Catillus",
supposed father of Rollo - in other words, that Richer got hold of one end
of a twisty stick, either by getting the right answer to the wrong question
or vice versa on seeking genealogical information from his clerical brethren
in the North.

Thanks (to Stewart) for the enlightening remarks about Biolan & Limerick.

Peter Stewart

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