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For the son of Canute the Great see Harthacnut (Cnut III)

Harthacnut or Cnut I (Danish: Hardeknud) (born c. 890) was a legendary King of Denmark. He is alternatively given as the son of an otherwise unknown "Sweyn," or, as presented by Ragnarssona þáttr, of the semi-mythic viking chieftain Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, himself one of the sons of the legendary Ragnar Lodbrok. Historians have suggested that Harthacnut was a grandson of Sigurd rather than a son; both claims are impossible to verify.[citation needed]



In the 890s, according to clergyman Adam of Bremen who came from Germany to record the history of the Archbishops of Bremen, king Helge was deposed and Denmark was conquered by Swedes led by Olof the Brash. He, along with two of his sons, Gyrd and Gnupa took the realm "by force of arms,"[1] and ruled it together, thus founding the House of Olaf in Denmark. Adam reports that they were followed by a Sigtrygg. That he was son of Gnupa by a Danish noblewoman Asfrid, is shown by on two runestones near Schleswig, Schleswig-Holstein erected by his mother after his death.[2]

Rise to power

Adam tells that after Sygtrigg reigned a short time, during the tenure of Archbishop Hoger of Bremen (909-915/917), Harthacnut (Danish: Hardeknud) came from "Northmannia," the "land of the Northmen," by which he may have meant Norway, or Normandy, which had recently been colonized by Danish Vikings. Harthacnut immediately deposed the young king Sigtrygg, and then ruled unopposed for approximately thirty years. However, the Saxon chronicles of Widukind of Corvey report the defeat and forced baptism of the Danish king Chnuba in 934 at the hands of German king Henry.[3] Likewise, Olav Tryggvasson's Saga tells of Gnupa's defeat by Gorm the Old.[4] Some historians (e.g. Storm) have taken these as indications that Sigtrygg's father Gnupa still ruled at least part of Denmark much later than credited by Adam of Bremen.

Adam of Bremen as only source

The only primary source about Harthacnut of Denmark are two clauses from Adam of Bremen (1,52 and 1,55).

1,52 reads: king Sveins son, Hardegon in the oldest manuscript which was later changed to king Sveins son, Harthacnut but also changed to king Sveins son, Athelstan.[5]

1,55 says Hardecnudth Vurm, a double name not uncommon in that era, later changed to Hardecnudths son, Vurm but also changed to Athelstan Vurm.[6]

The interview by king Sweyn Estridsson is very likely fictitious. The reliability of Adam as a source is called into question since he omits any reference to Sweyn I's exile in Scotland.[7]


Historians generally agree that Vurm (English: worm or serpent) is a German translation of the Danish name: Gorm.

  1. ^ Adam of Bremen, trans. and ed. Francis Joseph Tschan, Timothy Reuter, History of the archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen, Columbia University Press, 2002, p. 44.
  2. ^ Asfriþr karþi kumbl þaun aft Siktriku sun sin aui Knubu (Asfrith carved this gravestone after Sigtrygg, her son and Gnupa's); Ui Asfriþr karþi kubl þausi tutir Uþinkars aft Sitriuk kununt sun sin auk Knubu (Holy Asfrith carved this gravestone, Odinkar's daughter, after Sigtrygg, king, her son and Gnupa's). A. V. Storm, "Pages of Early Danish History, from the Runic Monuments of Sleswick and Jutland", The Saga=Book of the Viking club, vol. 2, pp. 328-347.
  3. ^ Saxo Grammaticus. trans. Peter Fisher. Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson and Peter Fisher, eds. The history of the Danes, books I-IX, DS Brewer, 1998, v. 2, p. 162
  4. ^ Storm
  5. ^ Adam af Bremens krønike, ISBN 87-89531-01-9
  6. ^ Adam af Bremens krønike, ISBN 87-89531-01-9
  7. ^ Adam af Bremens krønike, page 77,79. ISBN 87-89531-01-9
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Sigtrygg Gnupasson or
Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye

as Semi-legendary king of Denmark
King of Denmark
Succeeded by
Gorm the Old


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