Harold Hardrada



Harald Hardrada was a legend even in his own lifetime.  Here are two of the stories which were told about him.

Study these two Sources, then answer the question sheet by clicking on the 'Time to Work' icon at the top of the page.


The following websites will help you research further:


Harald Hardrada:

English textbooks tend to underplay Harald Hardrada, who lived an amazing life - you can find out more about him here:

History on the Net - a short biography

The History Learning Site - longer and more difficult biography

YouTube 1 2 3 - a visual narrative of his life, though don't trust the images.



Judging others:

• This is the YouTube trailer which you might study at the end of your lesson.




Harald's claim to the throne:

One of the issues historians sometimes debate is what claim the three claimants had to the throne.  I have never thought this mattered much, since the matter was decided by warfare, and 'might was right' in the end.
However, if you are interested, this document evaluates Harald Hardrada's claim to the throne.


1  Harald Hardrada as a child

This extract is from Harald Hardrada’s Saga, written in about 1220 by the Icelandic historian and poet Snorri Sturluson.

Three brothers – Guttorm, Halfdan and Harald – were playing in a puddle with model boats.  King Olaf and the boys’ mother sat watching.


King Olaf called Guttorm and Halfdan to him, and he asked Guttorm: ‘What do you want most?’

Guttorm said: ‘A cornfield!  The whole field over there, jutting out into the lake.’

‘There would be a lot of corn there!’ said the king.


Then the king asked Halfdan: ‘And what would you most like to have?’ 

He said: ‘Cows!  So many, that when they go down to drink, they’ll stand all round the lake, side by side.’

‘That would be a very big farm,’ said the king.


Then the king said to Harald: ‘And what do you want most of all?’

‘Soldiers!’ said Harald.  ‘So many that they will eat all Halfdan’s cows at one meal!’

The king laughed and said: ‘You are bringing up a king here, mother!’ .


2  Harald Hardrada dies at Stamford Bridge, 1066

This extract is also from Harald Hardrada’s Saga, written in about 1220 by the Icelandic historian and poet Snorri Sturluson.

As the battle began, King Harald made up a poem:

          ‘In battle we should never

          hide behind a shield …

          My armour tells me: “Hold your head up,

          where sword meets skull.”’

He got very angry and ran in front of his men.

The Saxons ran away from him.

An arrow hit him in the chin, but he pulled it out.

Another arrow hit him in the throat.

Then he sat down.

A friend asked him if he was hurt.

Harald said: ‘lt’s just a small arrow, but it is doing its job.’

And then he died.