Harald Wartooth

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Harald Wartooth
Legendary kings of Denmark
Reign c. 715 - c. 770
Predecessor Randver
Successor Sigurd Hring
Born 7th century
Religion Norse paganism
Harald Wartooth at the Battle of Bråvalla. Illustration by the Danish Lorenz Frølich in a 19th-century book.

Harald Wartooth or Harold Hiltertooth (Old Norse: Haraldr hilditǫnn; Modern Swedish and Danish: Harald Hildetand; Modern Norwegian: Harald Hildetann; flourished 8th century) was a legendary king of Denmark who is mentioned in several traditional sources. He is held to have succeeded his father as king of Zealand and to have expanded his realm. According to different sources, he may have ruled over Jutland, part of Sweden and the historical northern German province of Wendland. He is said to have been finally defeated and killed at the semi-legendary Battle of Bråvalla (c.770).


Saxo Grammaticus, in Gesta Danorum, gives two different accounts about why Harald had the name wartooth. According to one tradition, it was due to Harald having lost two of his teeth in battle against Veseti, the lord of Scania, after which two new teeth grew out. Saxo further tells that according to another opinion, the name was derived from Harald having protruding teeth. A scholarly view, however, holds the name to be derived from a name for "war hero".[1]


All sources describe him as the son of Ivar Vidfamne's daughter Auðr the Deep-Minded (but Hervarar saga calls her Alfhild). According to Sögubrot, Njal's Saga and the Lay of Hyndla, Harald was the son of Hrœrekr Ringslinger (slöngvanbaugi), the king of Zealand. Sögubrot relates that his mother later married Raðbarðr, the king of Garðaríki and they had the son Randver. However, according to Hervarar saga, both Harald and Randver were the sons of Valdar and Alfhild. Njal's Saga adds that Harald had the son Þrándr the Old (hinn gamli) who was the ancestor of one of the characters in the saga.[2] Sögubrot also mentions that he had a son named Þrándr the Old (gamli), but also adds a second son, Hrœrekr Ringslinger (slöngvandbaugi), who apparently was named exactly like his grandfather. Landnámabók informs that this Hrœrekr Ringslinger the younger had a son named Þórólfr (Thorolfur) "Váganef", who in turn had the son Vémundr Wordplane. Vémundr was the father of Valgarður (Valgardur), the father of Hrafn "heimski" (the Foolish). Hrafn was one of the first settlers in Iceland and settled on the southern coast, in Rangárvallasýsla (county of Rángárvellir).[3]

Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum does not mention any Ivar Vidfamne, and gives two different versions of Harald's ancestry. First Saxo writes that Harald was the son of the Scanian chieftain Borkar and a woman named Gro. Later Saxo has forgotten about this and writes that Harald was the son of Halfdan, Borkar's son, and a woman named Gyrid, the last member of the Skjöldungs.

Arild Hvitfeldt lists Harald's father as King Rørek of Zealand, who was murdered by his father-in-law, Ivar Vidfame, the King of Skåne in the last decades of the 600's. Harald Hildetand became king upon the death of Ivar Vidfame. During his long reign he became King of all Denmark, Vestfold in Norway, and all of southern Sweden. He also ruled Northumberland in England and Estonia in the east.

Claiming his inheritance[edit]

According to Sögubrot, he left Garðaríki at his grandfather Ivar Vidfamne's death, and went to Zealand, where he was accepted as king. Then he went to Scania, which his mother's family had ruled, and was well received and given much help in men and arms. Then he took his fleet to Sweden in order to claim his inheritance. However, many petty kings arrived to reclaim their kingdoms, which Ivar had taken from them. These petty kings thought it would be easy to fight Harald who was only 15 years old. Harald successfully reclaimed his grandfather's domains, so that in the end he owned more than his grandfather had, and there was no king in either Denmark or Sweden who did not pay him tribute or was his vassal. He subjugated all the parts of England that had belonged to Halfdan the Valiant and later Ivar. In England he appointed kings and jarls and had them pay him tribute. He also appointed Hjörmund, the son of Hjörvard Ylfing, the king of Östergötland. Hervarar saga also mentions that Harald retook his grandfather's domains, but it says that the conquests started out from Götaland (or Gotland depending on the manuscript). Gesta Danorum agrees with Sögubrot, by saying that the conquests began from Zealand.

The Battle of Bråvalla[edit]

When Harald realized that he was about to die of old age, he suggested to Sigurd Hring (c.750–c.804), king of Sweden, that a great battle should be fought between them. The place was chosen to be at the moor of Bråvalla, and so the legendary Battle of Bråvalla came to be. Harald hoped to die in this battle and go to Valhalla instead of dying in his bed and end up in Niflheim. Sigurd Hring came first to the battle site and bade his army to rest until the Danes arrived. This took time for the ships were so thick upon the Kattegat that one could walk across the Sound on the ships from Zealand to Skåne as if there was a bridge. The kings encouraged their warriors to attack without holding back. The lur horns sounded and the battle cries rose up. The battle began with an exchange of spears and arrows and even then, at the first, of the battle blood flowed upon the ground. Then swords were drawn and warrior fought against warrior. Stærkod, on Sigurd Hring's side, fought first with Ubbe the Frisian and received of him six wounds. Then he fought with the shield maiden, Veborg, who struck him in the face so that his beard dangled loose, but he bit his beard to hold on to it. Then he met the shield maiden, Visne. "You hurry to your death!" she shouted. "Now, you shall die!" "No," he cried, "not before you have lost King Harald's standard." At that instant he struck her hand and went on.

Blind, old King Harald rode out into the fray with a sword in each hand and struck away at the enemy. Harald fell in the battle, some say by Odin's own hand, along with 15 kings and 30,000 free-born men. When Sigurd Hring heard that his opponent had fallen, he instantly gave the sign that the fighting should cease. The day after the battle he sought out King Harald's body and put it onto a funeral pyre along with his horse. Sigurd Hring stood before the fire and bade Harald ride straight to Valhalla and secure lodging for those who had perished. Thereafter, all the chiefs walked around the pyre throwing weapons and gold onto it. Sigurd Hring, traditionally the father of Ragnar Lodbrok, became the ruler of both Denmark and Sweden but not, it seems, of Norway which was then a patchwork of petty kingdoms. Harald Hildtand fell the same day as his son, Rørek, in a fight with Sigurd Hring himself about the year 770 or 772.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Andersson, Ingvar. (1947). Skånes historia: till Saxo och Skånelagen. Norstedts, Stockholm. p. 212.
  2. ^ Njal's saga, on Valgard (see the note)
  3. ^ Landnámabók, p. 28, on the settlement of Hrafn the Foolish
  4. ^ Hvitfeldt, Arild. Danmarks Riges Krønike

Primary sources[edit]

Secondary source[edit]

Nerman, B. Det svenska rikets uppkomst. Stockholm, 1925. Andersson, Ingvar. (1947). Skånes historia: till Saxo och Skånelagen. Norstedts, Stockholm.

Legendary titles
Preceded by
Ivar Vidfamne
King of Sweden Succeeded by
Sigurd Hring
Preceded by
King of Denmark Succeeded by