Foreword By Giles Kristian:
'I have always admired Harald Sigurdsson by-named Hardrada, who was the king of Norway and whose death at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 marks the end of what we call the Viking Age. Hardrada is remembered for his ill-fated invasion of England and his death at Stamford Bridge, but these events simply mark the end of an incredible life, a great journeying arc of warfare spanning thirty-five years and which must have made Harald Sigurdsson one of the most widely travelled men of his age. What I like about Harald, other than him being a sort of über Viking (albeit a Christian one) in terms of his wander-lust, his martial prowess and his obvious charisma, is that he had an ambition and never let go of it. 17 years after his first battle, at Stiklestad, he became sole ruler of Norway, a prize he had had his eye on for so many years.
Of course he met a tragic end, if a very Viking one, when his army was caught lounging in the sun without their mail and war gear. Harald himself fought to the last and was cut down with his loyal men all around him. The losses the Norwegians suffered were so horrific that only 24 ships from the fleet of over 300 were needed to carry the survivors away.
Here I have written some lines dedicated to the great man. I wanted this piece to have the feel of the old sagas and so filled it with kennings, For example, some kennings for blood are: ‘battle-sweat’, ‘slaughter’s dew’, ‘wound-sea’. A kenning for a ship might be a ‘wave-steed’ or ‘fjord-elk.’ Pretty evocative aren’t they?
I was honoured when film director Philip Stevens agreed to narrate this piece. I’m sure you will agree that he brings it alive and makes it shine like a treasure hoard. His rendition makes me want to set the fire, fill the horns with mead and listen to the old tales with good friends.
I hope you enjoy it. And may the Norns weave you a fine wyrd. Skål!'
‘So much taller and stronger than most men, and so shrewd that he won the victory wherever he fought, and so rich in gold that no-one had ever seen the like of it.’
Snorri Sturluson – Harald’s saga.
Written By Giles Kristian
Read By Philip Stevens
Recorded By Lee Gretton
Edited By Lewis Gemmill