Three New Halls at Jelling


One of the most beloved novels in the Swedish language is Frans G. Bengtsson’s Viking story Röde Orm (1941), transl. Red Orm / The Long Ships (1943). And one of the most beloved scenes in the novel are the Yuletide celebrations at the court of King Harold Bluetooth at Jelling in Jutland toward the end of the 10th century. It’s got the lines “There’s thyme in it, said Toki in a cracked voice” and “He’s done pissing now”, and a duel that ends in a man’s severed head landing in a tub of mead. (You can see why Bengtsson is one of my favourite writers.)

I recently complained about Skalk running a lot of rather uninteresting material about Jelling’s archaeology. But now something really cool has once more been unearthed there: the foundations of three large buildings of the Trelleborg type, dating from the reign of Harold or his son, Sven Forkbeard. Maybe that’s where the Yuletide feast was? The palisaded enclosure at Jelling with the buildings inside is enormous: the excavators compare it to Amalienborg, placing the 10th century enclosure’s area at six times that of the 18th century palace in Copenhagen.

Via Åsa of Ting & Tankar.

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  1. #1 Thinker
    June 18, 2010

    … a duel that ends in a man’s severed head landing in a tub of mead.

    From one Röde Orm fan to another: as I recall, it was ale, not mead… which of course completely changes the story(/nitpick)

    On a slightly more important note: how much has our knowledge of Harald’s day and age evolved since Frans G. Bengtson wrote his books? Are there things we know now which in any way would have effected how an author would write a fictional story like that if he wanted it to fit well with current knowledge? Or is the setting Bengtson used essentially still OK?

  2. #2 Martin R
    June 18, 2010

    Bengtsson didn’t care much about archaeology, and there is little in the two novels that would be directly falsifiable by such means. An archaeologist already in Bengtsson’s day would feel that he mentions all too few sites by name and doesn’t pay enough attention to material detail. But the general reader, who loves the books, can’t really be wrong IMHO.

  3. #3 Jonathan Jarrett
    June 20, 2010

    This is awesome news, Martin; do you have any idea where it will be published, or is it too soon for that?

  4. #4 Martin R
    June 21, 2010

    Dunno. But I’m pretty sure that Skalk will have the story before there’s a formal paper or book.

  5. #5 Martin S
    June 21, 2010

    The Times wrote “probably one of the best adventure books ever written”. The episode where Orm and Krok meets Styrbjörns ship on the ocean still gives me goose bumbs every time.

  6. #6 dveej
    June 28, 2010

    Based on this post, I went to my local library and checked out an old, old copy of The Long Ships. Wow! I’m really glad you recommended it!
    I suspect the archeology might be less than wonderful, but it’s written for a much higher maturity level than Jean Auel’s books.
    Thanks, Dr. R!

  7. #7 Martin R
    June 28, 2010

    Hey, that makes me very happy!

    (I quite liked Auel though when I was twelve, hehe.)

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