Erik Bloodaxe


Erik Bloodaxe (885-954) was the king of Norway from 930 to 934/935 (he was overthrown by his brother Haakon the Good), king of Northumbria (York) in 947-948 and 952-954.

Son of Harald Fairhair, father of King Harald II the Greyhide, representative of the Horfager dynasty.

Erik received his nickname - Bloodaxe - for his numerous atrocities. In one of the Latin texts he was called fratris interfector - "fratricide".

History of Erik Bloodaxe

Erik was the favorite son of Harald Fairhair. He lived with his father for long periods of time, and he made no secret of the fact that he wanted to make Erik his successor. Erik was tall, stately, handsome and very warlike, but wildly violent, unfriendly and taciturn.

Around 927 Erik went on a campaign to Bjarmaland. On his return he came to his brother Bjorn Haraldsson the Seafarer and demanded that he pay him the tribute and taxes which were owed to Harald Fairhair King by the inhabitants of Westfall.

But it was customary for Bjørn to take the taxes himself to the king or to send them to him with his men. He wanted to do so this time too, and did not give the tribute to Erik. Having failed to get his way, Erik left the city. When Bjørn went to Sæheim, Erik followed him, attacked him during the dinner, and killed him.

In 930 Harald Fairhair, who had grown old, divided the country among his sons, giving the power of the great konung to his favorite son Erik. But all power passed to Erik after Harald's death in 933.

The following winter after Harald Fairhair passed away, Erik took all the taxes owed to the king in the center of the country. His brother Olaf collected taxes in Viken, and his other brother Sigrid collected taxes in Trøndelag. Erik was very angry at this and decided to restore the sovereignty of the country by force.

Gathering a large army, he loaded it onto ships and sailed to Viken. Thanks to a fair wind he got there before his brothers heard about the start of the campaign. Because of his numerical superiority he defeated Olaf and Sigrid in battle. Both brothers were killed, and Erik subjugated Viken.

Meanwhile Hakon, who had been brought up in England by King Ethelstan, returned to Norway and proclaimed himself konung in Trondheim. Because of his reputation as a good and just man, he gathered a large retinue.

Many people who had been offended by Harald and Erik sided with him. Erik soon realized that he could not stand up to Hakon. With a small group of men, he boarded ships and sailed west. First he landed on the Orkney Islands and gathered a large army there.

With it he sailed to the north of England. In memory of his friendship with Harald, King Ethelstan offered Erik the possession of Northumbria, where since the time of Ragnar Lodbrok the Vikings had been the majority of the population. In return, Erik promised to protect England from the raids of the Scots.

But in 939, Aethelstan died, and his brother Edmund I, who disliked Normans, became king of England, and wanted to install another ruler in Northumbria.

Assembling a large army again, Erik went on a campaign to Ireland. There he fought the local king Olaf, but he was outnumbered. Erik and many of his warriors fell in the battle.

On learning of her husband's death, Gunhild and her sons left Northumbria, taking with them all who were willing to follow them. They took possession of the Orkney Islands and began to live there, raiding Scotland and Ireland in the summer.

Erik Bloodaxe in Popular Culture

  • Erik the Bloody Axe is a minor character in the second and fourth books of Philip José Farmer's Riverworld pentalogy.
  • Erik the Bloody One appears as the main character in Viking Kingdom (2013)
  • Erik the Bloody Axe is a drafted Servant of the Berserker class (which the player can control) in the game Fate/Grand Order