A number of people have asked me over the years why I chose Hakon Haraldsson (aka “Hakon the Good”) as the protagonist of my debut series, Hakon Saga. While we don’t know all of the facts of Hakon’s life, we do know that even if marginally true, Hakon’s story takes many of the norms of Viking literature and turns them on their head.
Here are a few examples of what I mean:
Hakon’s strength is of a different sort
The sagas and literature are bursting with tales of strong, fearsome Viking warriors. Yet Hakon returns from England at a young age to fight for the High Seat. We presume, though don’t know for sure, he’s approximately fourteen. In other words, his body is not fully developed. While he may have been strong or large for his age (we have no way of knowing), he is anything but the Beowulf-esque champion we think of when he think of a challenger to the throne of Norway.
What Hakon lacked in physical strength, he must surely have made up for with internal strength. A strength of will. During his life, the Norse worshiped the “old gods”, and many stories speak of Viking raids on Christian realms and churches. Yet Hakon was fostered in the Christian court of King Athelstan and raised in the Christian faith. When he returns to the North, he does so as a Christian king and there is no indication that he immediately sheds that faith. His “pagan” countrymen look at him askance and urge him to convert, yet Hakon holds fast to his beliefs. That type of courage, to me, is a fascinating spin on the traditional Viking yarn.
Hakon has the traditional qualities, too.
But lest we forget, Hakon the Good is a Northman. His ambition to rule his father’s realm is no different than the ambition of the brother he seeks to dethrone. And those who would seek to depose him are no less numerous than any other king of his time. To succeed and to survive, Hakon must have had incredible drive, battlefield prowess, and cunning.
Did Hakon’s strength lead to his doom?
That said, Hakon the Good’s strength in many ways is also his greatest weakness. While his inability, or his refusal, to relinquish his Christian faith show strength, it also kindled the ire in those he ruled. How easy it could have been for him to shed his beliefs and earn the favor of his countrymen. But he didn’t, and it plagues him.
All of this conflict and internal strife grabbed me, so much so that I wrote an entire series about the man history has come to know as Hakon the Good.
About the Author:
Eric Schumacher is a bestselling author of Viking historical fiction. His first series tells of the rise and reign of King Hakon the Good. You can learn more about his books here or by clicking on the individual links below.