The Greatest Viking
The Life of Olav Haraldsson
About the Book
A national hero in his native land, Olav Haraldsson has as much resonance for the Norwegians as King Arthur does for the British. Unlike Arthur, however, Olav was a real historical figure: a ruthless Viking warrior who named his axe after the Norse goddess of death and took part in Svein Forkbeard’s invasion of England, during which he pulled down London Bridge and sacked Canterbury (and watched its archbishop stoned to death). Later, the loot amassed from years of plunder helped him win the throne of Norway.
Yet in a personal vendetta against the old Norse gods, Olav made Norway Christian, though cutting out the tongues and gouging out the eyes of anybody who remained pagan. Canonised after his death, his tomb became a national shrine, and churches were dedicated to him throughout Scandinavia and beyond.
With reference to Norse sagas and early chronicles, veteran historian Desmond Seward has written a vivid, colourful and insightful account of a remarkable man and the times in which he lived.
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