Short summary - Hakon Jarl - Adam Gottlob Oehlenschläger

Scandinavian literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - Hakon Jarl
Adam Gottlob Oehlenschläger

Norway at the end of the 10th century Jarl Hakon, who has subjugated the country, dreams of kingship: from a jarl, a free and prominent military leader, he wants to turn into a king, whose power is consecrated by dynastic tradition and popular habit, that is, undeniable. But on the way to the jarl is Olaf, the great-grandson of the first king and unifier of Norway, Harald the Fair-Haired. And although Olaf lives far away - he rules Ireland conquered by the Vikings - as long as he lives, Hakon's power is under threat: both old and young, all Norwegians understand this.

Hakon has already ordered a crown for himself. True, during the fitting it turns out to be large and literally “blinds” his eyes - the blacksmith Bergthor made it according to the model of the royal crown of Harald the Fair-Haired and is not going to change sizes: let the applicant grow to the crown, otherwise he has the right to wear it no more than a wimp - the slave Mushroom, who managed to try on the crown before Hakon and delivered a very successful throne speech.

The case forces Hakon to act. He learns that Olaf is in Norway, the ruler of Ireland went home with a small retinue. He goes to Gardarike (Rus), where he hurries to the son of the deceased Prince Valdemar (Vladimir) to help him establish himself in the principality. Hakon acts subtly and cautiously: he sends a small embassy to Olaf - his young cousins and his closest assistant, the merchant Klake. The latter, catching the master's unspoken desire, provokes Olaf - it is restless in Norway, the people are dissatisfied with Hakon and are ready to rebel at any moment. A worthy descendant of his glorious ancestors, Olaf could have regained the crown of Norway.

Previously not thinking about trouble, Olaf allows himself to be persuaded to speak out against Hakon. He is finally strengthened in his decision by the call of the priest Tagenbrand (Olaf carries a team of monks everywhere with him) - to baptize Norway, and after it the whole North!

As always, Hakon acts quickly and energetically and very soon lands on the island, where he stands with part of Olaf's squad. Like him, the jarl connects his desire for power with ideological motives - the protection of the pagan faith of his ancestors from Christianity advancing to the North.

The unexpected, but logical, happens - Olaf's cousins come to confess, they report: their deceit turned out to be true, the country revolted. From the very beginning, having achieved power, Jarl Hakon ruled wisely and fairly, but over time, the tyrant won more and more in him, and the arbitrariness and unceremonious womanly love he did brought his subjects to despair. The last straw was the kidnapping of the blacksmith's daughter (the one who forged his crown) who liked the jarl, right from her wedding feast. If the people knew that Olaf had arrived in the country, they would no doubt join him. Therefore, it is unlikely that Hakon will openly oppose Olaf, he prepared a trap for him: the merchant Clake promised the jarl to lure Olaf into the forest, take his life, and then secretly carry a basket with the severed head of the king into the forest hut to Hakon. Fortunately, the plan of Klake was betrayed to the brothers by the quick-witted slave of the merchant Grib, and they, who previously served the ruler of Norway faithfully, are outraged by such treachery and no longer believe the jarl. And they ask Olaf to punish them for trying to find out his plans, and also for the fact that, having lied, they told him the honest truth!

With true royal generosity, Olaf forgives his brothers. Clacke's plans are destroyed, and he himself is killed by the slave Mushroom, for which Olaf rewards him with freedom and the new name Grif. Wrapped in a cloak and pulling his hat over his eyes, Olaf appears in a hut with a basket (the noble Christian king refuses to put the severed head of his former master in it), Pretending to be a murderous slave, Olaf asks Hakon if the jarl wants to look at the head of your enemy? He refuses and orders to quickly bury it in the ground. The slave insists. He praises the head (“it’s just like a living one”) and reproaches the jarl for cowardice (“is he afraid of a powerless head blown off his shoulders?”). For convenience, he further states, he brought his head on his shoulders - Olaf opens his cloak and takes off his hat. Hakon's resistance is futile, the hut is surrounded, but the noble king does not want to use the too obvious advantage. He offers Hakon a choice: either complete submission, or death in the next battle if they happen to converge again.

Hakon chooses the latter. On the day of the decisive battle near Trondheim, the messenger informs him of the death of his eldest son - Olaf killed him, mistakenly mistaking his son for his father. Hakon is shocked by the news. What does the death of a beloved son mean? The weakness and decline of the gods (in their opposition to Christ) or Hakon's punishment for lack of faith? The jarl asks the gods of war to forgive him, and just at that moment they bring him a golden horn beaten off from Olaf’s squad with runes carved on it: “If you have sinned, / Happiness has turned away - / Sacrifice the best / And yourself to the almighty.” The best thing left for Hakon is his second young son, Erling. He sacrifices him, having learned about which even the most faithful and valiant of his warriors Einar leaves Hakon.

We overcome doubts and victorious Olaf. On the night before the battle, he talks in the forest with the one-eyed old man Auden who visited him. The elder defends paganism. Christianity is perhaps good for the pampered and bountiful South, which liberates from the struggle for existence and encourages the arts. But in the harsh North, paganism is necessary, it brings up courage, honor and an active principle. Olaf does not accept Auden's teachings, but treats his words with respect: from the riddles in his speech, he recognizes in the elder the supreme god of the Scandinavians Odin (Auden is a form of this name), even though the priest Tagenbrand assures him that Auden is just sent to them Hakon a pagan priest. As for the connection between paganism and the nature of the North, the priest continues, this is not so either. Faith in Odin came to these parts from the East.

The army of Jarl Hakon is defeated, but he does not die in battle. After killing his horse and leaving blood-splattered clothes on the battlefield, he hides with the former concubine of Torah. Hakon is doubly guilty before her: at one time he left her, seduced by the daughter of a blacksmith, now, in addition, he killed two of her brothers in battle (they wanted to avenge him for the disgrace of his sister). And yet, Thora forgives Hakon - she pities him: in front of her is the shadow of the former jarl, and if she refuses to help him, he will only have to throw himself on the sword with his chest. The jarl follows Torah to the shelter prepared for him, and it seems to him that it is his ghost that follows the queen of the underworld Hel into her domain.

The jarl is sitting in the underground with his servant - the slave Karker. From above, the cries of people searching for Hakon can be heard. The jarl is exhausted, but is afraid to fall asleep: the slave may well betray his master or kill him. The slave tells Hakon his last dream (and dreams in ancient Scandinavia were sometimes even more important than reality): he and the jarl are sailing in a boat driven by Karker. Hakon interprets the dream: Karker rules the Jarl's fate. Then, in a dream, “a black man grows out of the rock”, he informs the rowers that “all bays are closed” for them. Hakon's verdict is that both of them will not live long, the Jarl is forgotten in a slumber, and the slave sneaks up to him. Suddenly, remembering his terrible sacrifice, the jarl wakes up, jumps up and, unable to endure the torment for longer, puts a knife in Karker's hand, and he kills him.

The slave goes out to the people looking for the jarl: it is necessary to find Hakon - he can cause further confusion in the country. But the killer does not receive the promised reward. Olaf orders him to be hanged. Hakon's body is given to Thora. In the dungeon, she says the last word over his coffin: "A powerful soul / In striving for good, became a victim of fate / And the delusions of time."