- Styrbjörn the Strong
between Styrbjörn and king Eric the Victorious.
It is believed that there once was a larger saga on Styrbjörn, but most of what is extant is found in the short story "
Styrbjarnar þáttr Svíakappa". Parts of his story are also retold in " Eyrbyggja saga", " Gesta Danorum" (book 10), " Knýtlinga saga" and in " Hervarar saga". He is moreover mentioned in the " Heimskringla" (several times), and in " Yngvars saga víðförla" where Ingvar the Far-Travelledis compared to his kinsman Styrbjörn. He is also mentioned by Oddr Snorrasonin " Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar" (c. 1190), where Oddr writes that Styrbjörn was defeated with magic. In modern days, he is also the hero of a novel called "Styrbiorn the Strong" by the English author Eric Rücker Eddison(1926), and he figures in " The Long Ships", by Frans G Bengtsson.
The extant poetry on Styrbjörn is found in "Styrbjarnar þáttr Svíakappa", where the following stanza mentions Styrbjörn. Skaldic poems are generally held to be contemporary documentation:
:Eigi vildu Jótar:reiða gjald til skeiða,:áðr Styrbjarnar stœði:Strandar dýr á landi ;:nú's Danmarkar dróttinn:í drengja lið genginn ;:landa vanr ok lýða:lifir ánauðr hann auðar. [http://skaldic.arts.usyd.edu.au/db.php?table=verses&id=1314]
His battle against king Eric was also described by the contemporary
Þórvaldr Hjaltason, in the following lausavísur:
"Styrbjarnar þáttr Svíakappa"
Styrbjörn was unusually big, strong and unruly (for a
Viking) and although he was only a little boy he managed to kill a courtierwho accidentally had hit him on the nose with a drinking horn.
When he was 12 years old he asked his uncle for his birthright, but when he was denied the co-rulership of Sweden he sulked for a long time on his father's mound.
When he was 16 the Ting decided that he was too unruly to be king of Sweden. As a compensation his uncle Eric gave him 60 well-equipped
longships whereupon the frustrated Styrbjörn took his sister Gyridand left.
He ravaged the shores of the
Baltic Seaand when he was twenty, he conquered the stronghold of Jomsborgfrom its founder Palnetoke, and became the ruler of the Jomsvikings.
After some time he allied with the Danish king
Harold Bluetoothand married his sister Gyridto him. Styrbjörn married Harold's daughter Tyra, whom he was given by Harold for conquering Jomsborg. (Styrbjörn had the son Torkel Styrbjörnssonwith Tyra. Torkel had a daughter named Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, who married Godwin, Earl of Wessexand became the mother of Harold II of England).
Harold gave him even more
warriors and now Styrbjörn was about to reclaim the throneof Sweden. He sailed with a huge force which included 200 Danish longships in addition to his own Jomsvikings. When they arrived at "Föret" ( Old Norse: "Fyris") in Upplandhe burnt the ships in order to force his men to fight to the end. The Danish force changed its mind and returned to Denmark.
Styrbjörn marched alone with his Jomsvikings to
Gamla Uppsala. His uncle was, however, prepared and had sent for reinforcements in all directions.
During the first two days, the battle was even. In the evening, Eric went to the statue of
Odinat the Temple at Uppsalawhere he sacrificed. He promised Odin that if he won the battle, he would belong to Odin and arrive at Valhallain ten years from then.
The third day, Eric threw his spear over the enemy and said "I sacrifice you all to
Odin". Styrbjörn and his sworn men stayed, and died.
Eyrbyggja saga" has a short summary of Styrbjörn's career in connection with one of its protagonits:
Hervarar saga" gives an even shorter summary of Styrbjörn and his battle with his uncle Eric:
Knýtlinga saga" tells that Styrbjörn was the son of the Swedish king Olaf. When Harald Bluetoothruled in Denmark, Styrbjörn was making war in the east ("í hernaði í Austrveg") and came to Denmark where he took Harald captive. Harald gave his daughter Tyrato Styrbjörn and joined him on his expedition to Sweden. When Styrbjörn had arrived, he set his own ships on fire, but when Harald saw that Styrbjörn no longer had any ships he sailed back out on Mälaren("Löginn") and back to Denmark. Styrbjörn fought his uncle Eric on the Fyrisvellirand he fell together with most of his men. Some of his men fled and this the Swedes called the "Fyriselta", the chase of the Fyris.
A more pro-Danish version is told in "
Gesta Danorum" (book 10). In this source the Danish chronicler Saxo Grammaticustells that Styrbjörn was the son of the Swedish king Björn. Styrbjörn had an uncle named Olaf whose son Eric had taken the Swedish kingdom from Styrbjörn. Styrbjörn went to Harald Bluetooth bringing his sister Gyrithe with him, and humbly asked Harald for help. Harald decided to be friends with Styrbjörn and married his sister Gyrithe. Harald then conquered the land of the Slavs and took the stronghold Julin ( Jomsborg), which he gave to Styrbjörn to command with a strong force. Styrbjörn and his force (the Jomsvikings) dominated the seas winning many victories, and they were more beneficial to Danmark than any force on land would have been. Among the warriors were Bue, Ulf, Karlsevne and Sigvald.
Styrbjörn wanted revenge and asked Harald for help to take the throne of Sweden. Harald wanted to help Styrbjörn and to this end he sailed to
Halland, but was informed that the German emperor Otto had attacked Jutlandand Harald was more eager to defend his own country than to attack another one. When Harald had driven away the Germans, Styrbjörn had already rashly departed to Sweden with his own force where he fell.
Runestones are counted as historic documents about the events of the Viking Age in Scandinavia. The following four runestones may mention Jomsvikings who died with Styrbjörn the Strong. Note that the first runestone mentions a warleader named Toki Gormsson and he may be a son of the Danish king Gorm the Old, an interpretation which fits the fact that Styrbjörn was allied with another son of Gorm, Harald Bluetooth.
*One of the
Hällestad Runestoneslabelled DR 295 in Skånesays: "Áskell placed this stone in memory of Tóki Gormr's son, to him a faithful lord. He did not flee at Uppsala. Valiant men placed in memory of their brother the stone on the hill, steadied by runes. They went closest to Gormr's Tóki."
Sjörup Runestone, Skåne, relates: "Saxi placed this stone in memory of Ásbjörn Tófi's/Tóki's son, his partner. He did not flee at Uppsala, but slaughtered as long as he had a weapon".
Högby Runestone, it says "The good freeman Gulli had five sons. The brave champion Asmund fell on the Fyris."
Karlevi Runestonewas raised by Danish warriors in memory of the war chief on the island of Ölandnear the waterway which was passed by the Jomsvikings when they went to Uppsala and back. The stone is contemporary with the battle mentioned on the previous runestones and it is consequently possible that the stone was raised by Jomsvikings in memory of their lord. [The article " [http://runeberg.org/nfbm/0557.html Karlevistenen] " in " Nordisk familjebok" (1910).]
*Henrikson, Alf: "Stora mytologiska uppslagsboken".
* [http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC02978003&id=9OtSutSW5uoC Jómsvíkíngasaga ok Knytlínga] 1828 edition
* [http://runeberg.org/svenhovd/071.html A chapter in Swedish from Verner von Heidenstam's "Svenskarna och deras hövdingar" where he recounts the tale of Styrbjörn]
* [http://www.nordals.hi.is/Apps/WebObjects/HI.woa/wa/dp?detail=1004490&name=nordals_en_greinar_og_erindi "Philology and Fantasy before Tolkien", by Andrew Wawn (this scholar only knows of two sources for Styrbjörn)]
* [http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~alvismal/8pater.pdf "Cultural Paternity in the Flateyjarbók Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar" by Elizabeth Ashman Rowe (this scholar has got Eric's agreement with Odin slightly wrong. Eric did not promise 10 years to Odin, he promised to belong to Odin after 10 years)]
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