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Bjaðok, also known as Bjaðök and Biadoc, was a twelfth-century woman who was the mother of Eysteinn Haraldsson, King of Norway. In the first half of the twelfth century, Eysteinn was brought to Norway and claimed to be the son of the previous king, Haraldr gilli. The latter was himself the son of a Gaelic mother and claimed to be a son of an earlier king. The claims of Bjaðok and Eysteinn were accepted and the latter went on to rule as king for fifteen years. Bjaðok's name appears to be an Old Norse form of a Gaelic name, and she may well have been a member of a prominent family. According to modern tradition, Haraldr gilli's wife was an aunt of Somairle mac Gilla Brigte, King of the Isles.

Bjaðok, Eysteinn's mother[edit]

Eysteinn Haraldsson (died 1157) was a son of Bjaðok and Haraldr gilli, King of Norway (died 1136).[1] Following Haraldr gilli's death, two of his sons, Sigurdr munnr (died 1155) and Ingi (died 1161), jointly ruled the Norwegian realm as kings.[2] According to Haraldssona saga, within the saga-compilation Heimskringla, in 1142, the sixth year of the reigns of Haraldr gilli's co-ruling sons, Sigurdr munnr (died 1155) and Ingi (died 1161), as an adult, Eysteinn was brought to Norway from west over sea by Árni sturla, Þorleifr Brynjólfsson, and Kolbeinn hrúga. Bjaðok accompanied the men to Norway, and Eysteinn was put forward as a son of Haraldr gilli who deserved a share of the kingdom. Once his claim was accepted, Eysteinn was recognised as king.[3] Fagrskinna and Morkinskinna give similar accounts although these sources do not identify Bjaðok by name.[4] Bjaðok's Old Norse name appears to correspond to either the Gaelic Blathach,[5] Bláthóc[6] or Bethóc.[7] It is conceivable that Eysteinn and Bjaðok had powerful relatives who backed their claims. Despite his Gaelic background, there is no hint of Eysteinn's interest in his homeland upon his arrival in Scandinavia.[8]

Eysteinn's grandmother[edit]

Nineteenth-century depiction of Gillikrist undergoing the ordeal to prove his paternity.[9]

Haraldr gilli's own mother appears to have been Gaelic as well. According to Magnússona saga, within the saga-compilation Heimskringla, Hallkell húkr, a Norwegian baron, voyaged from Norway to the Isles, and encountered a man from Ireland named Gillikrist (died 1136) who claimed to be a son of Magnús Óláfsson, King of Norway (died 1103). Gillikrist was accompanied by his mother, and stated that his second name was Haraldr. Both Gillikrist and his mother were subsequently conveyed to Norway by Hallkell húkr, who presented them to Sigurðr Jórsalafari, King of Norway (died 1130).[10] Fagrskinna and Morkinskinna give a similar accounts, with the latter source calling him Haraldr gillikrist.[11] Historia de Antiquitate Regum Norwagiensium, by Theodoricus monachus, states that, after Gillikrist's arrival in Norway from Scotia, Sigurðr had Gillikrist undergo an ordeal in which the latter was to walk upon nine red-hot ploughshares. According to Theodoricus, it was believed that Gillikrist was divinely aided since he emerged from his ordeal unburnt.[12][note 1]

Later tradition[edit]

According to a much later tradition, dating to turn of the twentieth century and perhaps traced as early as the late eighteenth century, the grandfather of Somairle mac Gilla Brigte, King of the Isles (died 1164), Gilla Adamnáin, had a daughter who married a Norwegian king seemingly corresponding to Haraldr gilli.[15] Although there is no way to confirm the claim itself, such a union is not implausible, and may correspond to Bjaðok and Haraldr gilli.[16] Certainly, Somairle himself had a daughter named Bethóc.[17] Be that as it may, the said tradition postdates the printing of Heimskringla, which could suggest that this source influenced ideas of a familial connection.[18]


  1. ^ Scandinavian sources relevant to Haraldr gilli reveal that he was regarded as a foreigner by Norwegians. Specifically, he is stated to have spoken the Norwegians' native language poorly.[13] Both Eysteinn and his grandfather, Haraldr gilli, were noted to have been darker than their peers. For example, appearance (including his dark hair and eyes) is noted; whilst Eysteinn's dark and curly hair is contrasted with the fair hair of his half-brother, Sigurdr munnr.[14]


  1. ^ Waßenhoven (2006) p. 240.
  2. ^ Taylor (1965) p. 121.
  3. ^ Hollander (2009a) ch. 13; Salvucci (2005) p. 162; Sellar (1966) pp. 129–130; Anderson (1922) pp. 204–205; Storm (1899) pp. 599–600 ch. 13; Unger (1868) pp. 737–738 ch. 13.
  4. ^ Salvucci (2005) p. 162; Finlay (2004) p. 262; Andersson; Gade (2000) p. 389 § 95; Jónsson (1932) p. 441; Jónsson (1903) p. 351.
  5. ^ Power (2005) p. 21 n. 20; Craigie (1897) p. 444.
  6. ^ Sellar (1966) p. 130 n. 1; Anderson (1922) p. 205 n. 1.
  7. ^ Power (2005) p. 21; Sellar (1966) p. 130.
  8. ^ Power (2005) pp. 21–22.
  9. ^ Storm (1899) p. 564.
  10. ^ Aalto (2010) p. 95; Hollander (2009b) ch. 26; Salvucci (2005) p. 124; Sellar (1966) p. 129; Anderson (1922) pp. 171–172; Storm (1899) pp. 562–563 ch. 26; Unger (1868) pp. 691–692 ch. 34.
  11. ^ Aalto (2010) p. 95; Power (2005) p. 18; Finlay (2004) pp. 257–258 § 93, 257 n. 757; Salvucci (2005) pp. 124, 136–137; Andersson; Gade (2000) p. 325 § 76; Jónsson (1932) p. 391; Anderson (1922) pp. 172–173 n. 2; Jónsson (1903) p. 334 § 78; Unger (1867) p. 192.
  12. ^ McDougall; McDougall (2006) pp. 53 § 34, 114 n. 324; Finlay (2004) p. 257 n. 757; Sellar (1966) p. 129; Anderson (1922) pp. 172–173 n. 2.
  13. ^ Aalto (2010) p. 95.
  14. ^ Aalto (2010) pp. 95, 95 n. 39, 139 n. 176; Taylor (1965) p. 121.
  15. ^ Sellar (1966) p. 130; MacDonald; MacDonald (1896) p. 36; MacDonald; MacDonald (1904) p. 178; Johnstone (1786) p. 152.
  16. ^ Power (2005) p. 21 n. 20; Sellar (1966) pp. 129–130.
  17. ^ Power (2005) p. 21; Sellar (1966) pp. 129–130.
  18. ^ Power (2005) p. 21 n. 20.



Primary sources[edit]

Secondary sources[edit]