Dear Viking Answer Lady:
the Viking Answer Lady
but remains the copyright of Herskerinde Gunnora,
the Viking Answer Lady
Wales did not experience significant Viking settlement such as occurred
in Ireland and in England, still Wales felt the blows of the Northerners.
Wales was repeatedly raided, especially by the Norse from the Hiberno-Norse
kingdoms of Dublin and Limerick. During the period of the Viking attacks,
Wales was divided into several independent kingdoms which were constantly
engaged in internal struggles and internecine warfare, which rendered the
Welsh unable to present a united front to ward off the new threat from
overseas with complete success.
Kings like Rhodri ap Merfyn, known as Rhodri Mawr (the Great, 844 to 878 C.E.) and Hywel Dda (the Good, 900 to 950 C.E.) were able to rally large numbers of Welshmen to the defense of their lands with a stubborn resistance, preventing the formation of large Norse kingdoms such as existed elsewhere in the British Isles. Eventually Wales became a place of pilgrimage and religious instruction in later years for the Christianized descendants of the Norse raiders.
in Wales is available below:
Christian Norsemen and Wales
The first certain notice of a Viking raid upon Wales occurs in all the Welsh Chronicles (Annales Cambriae, Brut y Tywysogion and Brut y Saeson) in the annals for the year 850 C.E. (note 1), when a certain Cyngen died on the swords of "the Heathen." Some scholars believe that Viking incursions into Wales began even earlier, suggesting that the Vikings who raided the Church on Recru or Lombay Island in 795 C.E. had sailed there from Wales. The inhabitants of Cornwall, known as the West Welsh, were in contact with the Viking raiders as early as 835 C.E., when they contracted with the Danes to fight against the Anglo-Saxon King Ecgberht who had subjugated the Cornish in 823. This alliance of Northman with Welshman against the English was to recur again many times in the coming years. Traditional Welsh poetry also records the Scandinavian presence in Wales; For example, the Arymes Prydein Vawr or "Omen of Great Britain" composed sometime between 835 and 1066 C.E. and preserved in the 13th century manuscript known as The Book of Taliesin states:
Achymot kymry agwyr dulynpredicting that the day will come when Cadwalladr and Cynan shall return to deliver the Welsh from their hated Saxon oppressors and peace shall reign over the land. To bring this about, a great confederation of the Scandinavians of Dublin, the Irish, the people of Anglesey, Scotland, Cornwall and Strathclyde shall join the Welsh to deliver the Cymry from their Saxon foes.
When the sagas mention Wales, it is called Bretland in Old Norse. Landnámabók says that the Venerable Bede wrote that the position of the Island of Thule, or Iceland, was "six days sailing north of Bretland."
Heimskringla recounts that Harald Harfagra gave his favorite
son, Eirík Bloodaxe, the ships and men to go viking when the boy
was only twelve years old: "King Harald gave him five warships, and he
went raiding, first in the Baltic, then south around Denmark and around
Frísland and Saxland, and he was four years on this expedition.
After that he sailed west across the sea, harrying in Scotland, Bretland,
Ireland, and Valland, and passed four more years there", ca. 905 to 910
C.E. Later, Heimskringla tells us that Haraldr outfitted his other
sons, Ţórgísl and Fróđi, in the same manner,
and "they went on Viking expeditions to the West, harrying in Scotland,
Bretland, and Ireland."
Coin of Eirik Bloodaxe. The legend reads "ERIC REX" (King Eric) (at British Museum)
Eirík Bloodaxe followed his father Haraldr to the Norwegian throne around 930 C.E., but was forced to flee to England by his half-brother Hakon in about 935. The English king Ćţelstan gave York to Eirík in return for Eirík's conversion to Christianity. While King of York, Heimskringla recounts that Eirík's "land was small in size, and therefore he always went on plundering expeditions in summer, harrying in Scotland, the Hebrides, Ireland, and Bretland, and thus gained wealth for himself." But when Ćţelstan's brother Eadmund succeeded him to the English throne, Eirík found that Eadmund "did not care for Norwegians. He and Eirík were no friends. . .when King Eirík heard of that he went on a viking expedition to the west. From the Orkneys he had with him Arnkel and Erlend, the sons of Turf-Einar. From there he sailed to the Hebrides, and there were many vikings and warrior chieftains who joined his expedition. Then he sailed first to Ireland with all his forces, and took with him as many men from there as he could get. Thereupon he sailed to Bretland and harried there."
Egils saga Skallagrimssonar also mentions Bretland in connection
with the Battle of Vinheiđr, which may be the same battle that is described
in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as the Battle of Brunanburh in 937
C.E.: "Two brothers, Hringr and Ađils, ruled over Bretland, and they
paid tribute to King Ćţelstan. It was part of their service
that when they were in the king's army they and their people should be
in the front ranks in the company with the king's standard. These brothers
were fine warriors and not young men." The brothers were probably from
Strathclyde Wales, and their tale may represent Scandinavian settlement
and rule in some parts of Wales. It is certainly known that Scandinavians
did travel through Strathclyde at times, on the Roman road from York to
Carslile. There was also a Norse settlement in Cumberland which was probably
a part of the Strathclyde Welsh kingdom. It was almost certainly to stop
the Welsh and Norse settlers in Wales from aiding the Norsemen who challenged
Saxon sovreignity that caused King Eadmund to overrun Strathclyde in 944
C.E. and give it to Malcolm King of Scots in exchange for Malcom's promise
to keep the Norse and Welsh in check
King Harald was quite old by the time Thorolf and Bjorg had stayed with Bjorg’s father Brynjolf. The king had several large estates but stayed that winter in the north. He had, among many older sons, one young son named Eirik Bloodaxe. He was being raised by Thorir Hroaldson and quite often stayed at Fjord Province. ~ Source
Norse settlements in Wales are also indicated by The Saga of the Jómsvíkings, ca. 930 to 935 C.E.: "At that time a jarl ruled in Bretland whose name was Stefnir. He had a beloved daughter named Álof. She was wise and much beloved. Palnatóki landed there with his fleet and intended to harry Stefnir's land. But when they learned of that, Álof and her counsellor, Björn inn breski (the Welshman), contrived the plan of asking Palnatóki to come to a banquet in his honor so that he should consider this a land of friends and not harry there. Palnatóki accepted the invitation and came to the feast with all his company. And at that feast Palnatóki asked for the hand of Álof, nor was it hard to win. And straightaway they prepared for their marriage, and at the wedding Jarl Stefnir bestowed on Palnatóki the title of jarl and half his land; and after the jarl's death Palnatóki was to have the whole of the land. Palnatóki stayed there both that summer and the winter following." Palnatóki was the foster-father of Svein Forkbeard, who later became King of Denmark.
Svein Forkbeard was said in Ólafs saga Tryggvassonar
later to have visited his foster-father Palnatóki in Bretland, after
which he went raiding elsewhere in Wales, "For once upon a time Swein was
plundering in Bretland, and at first was victorious, getting possession
of much booty; but as he advanced far into the country to a distance from
his ships, he was met by a force on horseback, too numerous to be withstood;
he himself was taken prisoner, bound, and cast into prison, with Ţórvaldr
Kodranson and many other distinguished and important men. The next day
there came a powerful duke to the dark dungeon with a large force to fetch
Ţórvaldr out of prison; because when his own sons had been
captured a short time before, Ţórvaldr had given them their
freedom and sent them home to their father. The duke ordered Ţórvaldr
to come forth and go away free; but Ţórvaldr swore that he
would on no account leave the place alive unless King Svein were released
and set free with all his men, and the duke permitted this for Ţórvaldr's
sake." The Welsh Chronicles verify Svein's expedition, mentioning that
in 995 C.E. that "Svein the son of Haraldr plundered in Manaw," probably
Anglesey but perhaps this may be the Isle of Man.
Brennu-Njáls saga also describes Viking raids into Wales by the sons of Njáll, Helgi and Grímr. While sailing towards Iceland, the brothers are set upon by Earl Hákon and captured. Kári Sölmundarson, a retainer of Jarl Sigurđr Hlöđvisson, rescued Helgi and Grímr. Later, Kári asks them to raid with him into Wales: "After that, Kári and the Njálssons sailed to Orkney, where Jarl Sigurđr gave them a cordial welcome. They stayed with Jarl Sigurđr that winter. In the spring, Kári asked the Njálssons to come raiding with him, but Grímr would only agree if Kári came to Iceland with them afterwards. Kári gave his promise, and so they went raiding with him. They raided around Anglesey in the south and all round the Hebrides, then made for Kintyre and landed there. They fought the inhabitants and gathered rich booty before returning to their ships. From there they went to Bretland."
In Orkneyinga saga, Jarl Ţórfinnr Sigurđarson
of Orkney put together a huge raiding fleet with the help of King Magnús
Barefoot, which engaged the Welsh in the Battle of Menai Straight: " It
was a long hard battle, fought first with bows, then hand-to-hand. For
a good while no one could tell which way the tide would turn. King Magnús
was using a handbow and there was another archer with him, from Halogaland.
Hugh the Proud was putting up a brave fight, and was so well-armored that
only his eyes were exposed, so King Magnus suggested to the archer that
they should both shoot at Hugh together, and that is what they did. One
arrow struck Hugh's noseguard, but the other entered the eyehole and pierced
his head, and there Hugh the Proud fell. The King got credit for it. The
Welsh lost a great many troops and in the end they had to run. King Magnús
had won a famous victory . . ."
THE OLD MARLOVIAN by Johannes Werth
The first raiders were Norwegians, known to the Irish as Finn Gaill, for in 854, the chronicles record a new type of Northman appearing upon the Welsh shores. Like the Irish, who called the Danes Dubh Gaill or "black foreigners," the Welsh called the new sea-rovers appearing upon their shores various names describing them as "black":
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Hroald and Ohtar raided Wales from Brittany they were defeated by Anglo-saxons and Hroald was killed. ~ Source
Wales, in its central position, situated between the Viking kingdoms of Ireland and the Danelaw, was certain to receive the attentions of the Norse sea-raiders. The Welsh coastline, and particularly the island of Anglesey, was a particular target for Hiberno-Norse aggression, being situated conveniently close to the Norse colony of Dublin. Anglesey was attractive to the raiders, not only being the home of the monastic establishments of Penmon, Ynys Seirol and Caer Gybi, but also as Giraldus Cambrensis states in his Descripto Kambriae,
Sicut enim montes Ereri cunctis Walliae fertur totius armentis in unum coactis ad pascua, sic insula Moniae triticei graminis fertilitate toti Walliae fertur aliquamdiu sufficere posse.
Just as, for instance, Mount Snowdon could produce pasture for all the herds of Wales , thus the isle of Mona is so fertile in wheat and meadows to be able to supply produce for some time for the whole of Wales.It is uncertain whether or not the Norse settled the island, but it seems likeley when one considers that the original Welsh name for the island, Mona, was completely replaced by the Old Norse Öngulsey or Anglesey (though Welsh texts continue to use "Mona" until the present day).
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A raiding party of Vikings referred to as Dub Gint or black pagans under the command of Ingimundr
attacked the Welsh in a battle at Ros Meilon or Osmeliavn, perhaps near Holyhead. ~ Source
Wales : A large Viking fleet arriving from the Éuropean continent ravaged Gwent as far inland
as Archenfield, capturing the bishop of Llandaff, named Cameleac, who was later ransomed
by the Wessex king Edward the Elder for a sum of forty pounds. ~ Source
Wales: Vikings have been wintering at Quatford , but in the spring they attacked the Southern Wales kingdoms of Brycheiniog, Gwent, and the Gwynllg region of Glywyssing. Asser recorded that Elisedd of Brycheiniog requested help from Alfred the great, but another reason for this may also be due to pressure from Anarawd ap Rhodri, the powerful king of Gwynedd and Deheubarth who is keen on expanding his areas of control. Dyfed's Hyfaidd ap Bledrig may be another southern Welsh king who, during his lifetime, similarly appeals to Alfred for aid and support to ward off Anarawd. ~ Source
On Welsh Art, Music and Literature
King Gruffydd ap Cynan of Gwynedd ~ Source
King Gruffydd ap Cynan of Gwynedd, of Norse ancestry himself and raised in the Norse court at Dublin, did much to introduce Scandinavian influences into Welsh art, music, and literature. Gruffydd brought Norse-Irish skalds to court as well as patronizing Welsh bards.
Literary parallels between the Welsh Mabinogion and Irish sagas display borrowings by the Welsh tales from the Irish. Scandinavian influences also played a significant role, especially in the tale of Branwen ferch Llyr or The Mabinogi of Branwen, which shows themes from the Nibelungeleid and the Guđrun cycles, Volsunga saga, and Ţidreks saga. Scandinavian themes also find a place in the History of Gruffydd ap Cynan, where Gruffydd's ancestry is said to include King Haraldr Harfagra, the famous Viking Rollo, and Saint Óláfr the King.
Musical traditions in Wales were also influenced by Gruffydd's taste
for the Irish pipes, as well as for harping in the Hiberno-Norse style.
Gruffydd maintained a royal harper, Gellan or Crellan, until the musician
was killed in a raid. Gruffydd's court also sponsored competitions for
musicians and minstrels, among whom transplanted Norse and Norse-Irish
Coat of Arms retroactively attributed to Gryffudd ap Cynan ~ Credit: AlexD
Gruffudd ap Cynan - Wikipedia
Due to the fact that the Welsh managed such a dogged resistance to invasion, the Scandinavians never established the large and prosperous settlements in Wales such as they had in England and Ireland. It is widely accepted that a colony of Scandinavians settled on both sides of the great fjord of Milford Haven in South Pembrokeshire. There may also have been a Norse colony in Gower, the peninsula that extends about 18 miles westward of Swansea. Another Scandinavian settlement in Wales was situated in the low-lying coastal plain between Neath, Cardiff, and Newport, which was a part of the kingdoms of Morgannwg and Gwent. In Glamorgan, the evidence of charters shows a significant number of Norse names, indicating a Scandinavian settlement in that area as well.
Many of the Scandinavians living in Wales were traders. The commodities
that they dealt in were varied, but the largest and most lucrative trade
was in Welsh slaves. After slaves, the next most valuable trade was in
wheat, for Ireland imported all its wheat, and a goodly portion came from
Wales. Another expensive Welsh trade item were the fine Welsh horses, for
which there was a flourishing trade. Other commodities that were handled
by Scandinavian merchants included honey, malt, wine, furs, hides, whale
oil, butter, and woolen cloth.
Caldey Abbey from the village green
Some modern Welsh locations which bear Norse names, or which had Norse names in the medieval period include:
Amroth Castle, located near medieval Eirwere, Eyewer, Erwere, or Earewear. The name is probably derived from O.N. eyrr, "sand bank or gravel bank" and O.N. ver or O.E. wer, "weir".
Caldey Island, known previously as Caldea alias insula, Insula Caldei, Caldei, Kaldey, Caldey, Calday, or Chalde Isle. "Cold Isle," from O.N. kald, "cold" and O.N. -ey, "island." The Welsh knew this island as Ynys Pyr prior to the arrival of the Norse.
Colby, also known as Coleby or Colbi, from the O.N. proper name Kolli and Danish -by or O.N. -býr, "a farm".
Derby, also known as Darby, from the O.N. diur, "deer" and Danish -by or O.N. -býr, "a farm".
Emsger, a small rock in the island group known as the Bishop and his Clerks. Also known as Emskir or Emskyr. The second element is from O.N. sker, "a skerry, an isolated rock in the sea."
Fishguard in North Pembrokeshire, was also known as Fissigart, Fisgard, Fysgard, Fiscarde, Fiscard, Ffiskard, Fishgard, Fyshcard, Fisshecard, Fishingard, Fissingard, Fyshingegard, Fysshyngarde, Fyshinggard, Ffishingard or Ffishinggard. From O.N. fiskr, "a fish" and garđr, "an enclosure." Fistard, on the southwest of the Isle of Man, is identically derived. The name probably refers to the location as being an ideal one for catching fish, and the harbor at Fishguard is an excellent one that would have attracted Hiberno-Norse traders.
Freystrop, also known as Hechfreysstrop, Hegh Freistrop, Freysthorp, Freysthrop, Ffreystrop, Freystrep, Freystrope, Freistrop, Freystroppe, Ffreistroppe, Ffraistrop, Ffrestrope, or High Frestropp. Freyr could have been either the god's name or the personal name of a Norse settler, while the second element is O.N. or O.E. ţorp, "a village or hamlet", or in Danish, "hamlet, or a daughter settlement from an older village."
Gateholm, also known as Gotholm, Goteholme, Gatholme, or Gatoholme, meaning "Goat Island" from O.N. geit "sheep" or O.E. gat "a goat" while the second element is hólmr, "an island."
Gelliswick, also known as Gelyeswiche, Gellyswycke, Gellyswyck, Gellys weeke, or Gelliswik maning "Gelli's Bay." From the O.N. name Gellir and O.N. vík, "a bay." Other "-vik" names in Pembrokeshire include Helleswick, Little Wick, and Wick in Skomer Island.
Goultrop Roads, also known as Goldhap, Goldetoppe, Goltopp, Galtopp or Galtop roade. This name probably was originally Galdhop, from O.N. goltr, "a boar or hog" and O.N. hóp, "an inlet or bay". Galtres, another Welsh placename, also derives from goltr with the second element being O.N. hris, "brushwood."
Grassholm, also known as Gresse Holme, Gresholme or Crasum, meaning "Grass Island. From O.N. gras or O.E. gćrs, "grass" and O.N. hólmr, "an island." The Old Norse name has suuplanted the original Welsh name of Gwales in Penvro.
Hasguard, also known as Huscart, Huscard, Huscarde, Hustarde, Houscard, Hascarde, Haskard, Haiskard or Hascard. The first element is O.N. hús, "house," and the second element seems to be O.N. skarđ, "notch, cleft, mountain pass."
Haverfordwest, also known as Haverfordia, Haverford, Hareford, havreford, Havriford, Harford or Haresford. From O.N. hafri, "oats," or O.N. hafr or O.E. hćfer, "buck, he-goat," and O.N. fjörđr, "fjord or firth" or O.E. ford, "ford, river-crosssing." Since the river Cleddau can be forded at this location at low tide, the name probably meant "Goat-Ford."
Lydstep, also known as Loudshope, Ludsopp, Ludesope, or Ludsop Haven. The first part is probably an O.E. personal name, Hlud, while the last part is from O.N. hóp, "an inlet or bay".
Midland Island, also known as Middelholm, Midelholm, Middelesholme, Myddelholm, Middleholm, Mydland Island, or Mydlande Ilande, meaning "Middle Island" from O.N. međal, "middle," and O.N. hólmr, "an island." Midland Island lies between Skomer Island and the mainland, separated from the mainland by Jack Sound and from Skomer Island by Little Sound.
Milford, also known as de Milverdico portu, Mellferth, Melford, Meleford, Melford Haven, Milleford, Mylleford, Mylford Havon, Muleford, Mulleford, or Mulford, from O.N. melr, "sandbank, sandhill" and O.N. fjörđr, "fjord or firth," since the name refers to the fjord formed by the estuary of the Cleddau.
Musselwick, also known as Muskelwik, Musselwyk, or Moslewyk, meaning "Mussel Bay." The first element seems to be from O.E. muscle, "a mussel" and O.N. vík, "a bay."
Ramsey Island, also known as insula de Ramesey, Ramesey, or Ramsey, from the O.N. personal name Hrafn, "raven," and O.N. -ey, "island." The old Welsh name was Ynys Tyfanog.
Skokholm Island, also known as Scogholm, Schockholm, Scokholm, Skokeholme, Scoulkholme, Stockholm, Scokum, Stokeholm, Scopeholme, Scoupholme, Scugholm or Slowcom Iland, with original spellings probably being "Stockholm" with a "t" rather than the "k". This would make the name derive from O.N. stokkr, "log, tree, treetrunk, chest. If the correct spelling is with the "k", then the word might derive from O.N. skokkr, "A trunk or chest, a ship's hulk." The second element is O.N. hólmr, "an island," giving a meaning of something like "Island of Logs."
Skomer Island, also Skalmeye, Skalmey, Scalmey, Skalney, Scalme, Schalmey or Scomer, from O.N. skálm, "a short-sword" based on the shape of the island, which appears to have been "cloven" by a sword where two inlets, North and South HAven, cut into the island forming a narrow area called The Neck. The second element is O.N. hólmr, "an island," giving a meaning of "Cloven Island."
Steynton, also Steintona, Steinton, Steynton, Staynton or Stanton, from O.N. steinn, "stone" or the proper name, Steinn and O.N. or O.E. -tun, "farm," giving a meaning of either "Steinn's farm" or "farm built of stone."
Swansea, also Sweynesse, Sueinesea, Sweinesei, Castra de Sweines, Sueinnesha, Sweinesheie, Sweyneseye, Swayneseye, Suenesel, Castellus de Swenes, Swenishie, Sweness Castrum, Suineshć or Swaensey, from a first element based on the O.N. personal name Sveinn, "boar or swine," although jusgjing by the early spellings, the first element may instead have been from O.N. sćr, sjar, sjor or O.E. sć, "sea", and the last element is O.N. -ey, "island," thus either "Sveinn's Island" or "Sea Island."
Burry Holmes, also St. Kenyth atte Holmes, Holmes en Gower or the Holmes, from O.N. hólmr, "an island."
Worms Head, also Wormeshead, from O.N. örmr, "snake, serpent, dragon." Great Orme's Head in North Wales has the same derivation.
Clakkeston, from the O.N. personal name Klakkr and O.N. or O.E. -tun, "farm," meaning "Klakkr's Farm".
Homri, also Hornby or Hornbye, from the O.N. personal name Horni and Danish -by or O.N. -býr, "a farm," maning "Horni's Farm".
Laleston, also Lagelest, Lagelstun, Lagelston, Laghelestune, Lachelestone, Lawelstone, Laleston, Laliston, Llalliston, Laelston or Lahelestuna, from the O.N. nickname Lageles, derived from O.N. löglauss"lawless." The second element is O.N. or O.E. -tun, "farm."
Lamby, also Langby, from O.N. langr, "long," and Danish -by or O.N. -býr, "a farm," meaning "Long Farm".
Womanby, also Hundemanby, Houndemanneby, Homandesby, Homanby, Homanbye, Whomanby, or Woman baye, from O.N. hundasveinn, "dog-keeper or kennel-boy", and Danish -by or O.N. -býr, "a farm," making the original name "Dog-keeper's Farm".
As Christianity became more widespread in Northern Europe, eventually even the fierce Northmen were converted to the Christian faith. Although the Welsh did not contribute extensively to the conversion of the northern pagans, some Scandinavians came to Wales on pilgrimage, for religious instruction, and to enter holy orders.
At Penmon in Anglesey was the most celebrated religious seminary in Gwynedd, which eventually became a popular location for Christian Norsement to attend. The institution of Penmon had a subordinate house on Ynys Lannog, which by medieval times was being called Ynys Seriol, after Saint Seriol, the founder of the Penmon house, but this secondary location was so heavily patronised by Norse converts that it eventually became known only by the Norse name Priesthólm.
(2) From about 1040 C.E., the Welsh chronicles are two years behind
the true reckoning. In other words, if the Welsh Chronicle states that
an event occurred in 1040, the actual date should be 1042 C.E.
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