The Conversion of Norway

In yesterday’s blog post, Kingdom History:  1000 A.D., I mentioned that a number of conversions of European leaders leading up to the end of the first millennium changed the course of history.  This is the story of one of those conversions.

The English had been repeatedly attacked and plundered by the Vikings. So, on September 8, 944 A.D., when he stood before London after beaching his ships at the mouth of the Thames, King Olaf Trygvesson of Norway expected a large tribute from the English king, Ethelred.  Olaf and his men rode through the hills of Sussex and Hampshire burning villages, “laying waste the lands, putting numbers of people to death by fire and sword, without regard to sex, and sweeping off an immense booty,” records one English chronicler.  Finally, Ethelred gave in and agreed to pay an enourmous sum of money to King Olaf.

While waiting for the deal to be consummated, Olaf heard of the skills of  a local prophet and decided to test the prophet’s skills.  King Olaf dressed one of his men of similar build in his royal attire and sent him to the prophet.  The prophet said, “You are not the king, but I advise you to be faithful to the king.”

Olaf, intrigued by the story, decided to check out the prophet for himself.  The prophet told Olaf he would be a “renowned king and do celebrated deeds.”  He then told Olaf he would soon suffer a mutiny, would be wounded and carried to his ship on his shield, but after seven days he would recover and be baptized a Christian.  The prophet added, “Many men will you bring to faith and baptism.”

Shortly thereafter, the mutiny took place, Olaf was wounded and recovered in seven days just as the prophet had predicted. When King Olaf returned and asked how the prophet had obtained such wisdom, he replied, “The God of the Christian has blessed me.”  With that, King Olaf was baptized.

King Olaf and King Ethelred then met as brothers in Christ at Andover and Olaf promised never again to make war against England.  King Olaf then returned to Norway to Christianize the pagan land.   GS