Land Waster


Tomorrow will be the 951 anniversary of the death of one of my heroes. Hero? Hmm, that might be a little strong. I did admire him but I’m not sure he was a good man.
His very name is translated as “hard ruler”, and he was also known as “Land Waster”, after his famous raven banner.
I’m referring to the historical Norwegian, King Harald who died on September 25, 1066. Yep, the very same year that William the Conqueror fought at Hastings.
Harald Hardradi won the first battle in front of York, and with the help of a lone Viking on Stamford Bridge, he almost won the second battle, until he took an arrow in the throat.
Point of fact, King Harold Godwinson of England beat King Harald of Norway and then ten days later King Harold tried to defend against William at Hastings. Despite losing more than half of his best men fighting the Norwegians, King Harold almost beat William the Bastard, but took an arrow in the eye and died. Death by arrow seems to be common.
William then prevailed, and changed his name to the William the Conqueror. I don’t know that he thanked Harald Hardradi, but he should have.
So history was still changed by Harald’s existence, just not in the way that he thought. This is probably true for every person that steps on the world stage. Famous for consequences initially unknown.
There are many very good articles on the exploits of Harald Hardradi, well worth researching for future reading.
My personal connection to Harald is trifold. I descend from Norwegians, I love history, and I am a fan of Conan the Barbarian. Not the movie, (although I did like that as well), but the book series written by Robert E. Howard. (Conan is loosely based on Harald Hardradi).
Howard is probably the Father of Sword & Sorcery in fiction, his other characters of Kull and Solomon Kane are also famous. In Conan though, his talents are remarkable. Very few fictional characters are bigger than life, and beetle-browed Conan certainly fits that image.
So September 25 is remembered, for Stamford Bridge, the lone nameless Berserker Viking, the death of Harald Hardradi, and maybe even the fictional life of Conan the Barbarian.