So, story time.
For this month’s consummate badass, we’re going to look at a figure in history who, though unnamed, nevertheless had stones formed from actual granite; the nameless Viking on Stamford Bridge.
For any of you not familiar with the events of the Battle of Stamford Bridge, here is a small recap: essentially, because King Edward the Confessor of England, in his infinite wisdom, opted not to procreate in the years preceding his death in 1066, leaving the throne up in arms. This caused a couple of claims to float around. Harold Godwinson, some Anglo-Saxon demagogue who’d promised not to take the throne, capitalized on sheer proximity and proclaimed himself King of England. This understandably annoyed the living crap out of Harald Hardrada (or ‘Hard Ruler’), the King of Norway, who’d also staked a claim to the throne.
Then there was some Frenchy called William the *******, but he’s irrelevant for now.
Anyhow, being understandably a bit annoyed that his soon-to-be retirement home had been snatched away by some dung-farming Saxon, Harald did what any self-respecting Norseman would do and declared never-ending war on Harold Godwinson. A good idea, right off the bat; the Norsemen flooded into the North and began a massacre that would have made a butcher cringe. They sacked monasteries, burned towns, and slaughtered livestock. They destroyed Scarborough; swings and roundabouts, I guess. Everything was going great, before Harold Godwinson pulled his finger out and took off at a flat run for Stamford Bridge, where the Norsemen were camped; he dragged the entire Saxon army behind him. It took them four days to make a 180 mile trip which, for a full-fledged army, is kind of insane.
We approach the main point of this story; for now, the Norsemen were shafted. They were a day’s march away from a good third of their army, as well as the armour and weapons necessary for a pitched battle, and on the wrong damn side of the River Derwent. As most smart people would do, Harald ordered a retreat across the bridge, because Norsemen were basically running into a grinder with regards to the Saxon army. The aforementioned army pursued the Norwegians, of course, because running after people who are fleeing was something of a theme in 1066; although they ran into a little problem on the bridge.
Our eponymous hero. Described as a ‘giant’ by both the Norse Skalds and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, it’s supposed that he wielded a two-handed Dane axe, the equivalent of a Short-Range Ballistic missile in Medieval terms. Given permission by Harald to ascend to Valhalla through a glorious death in combat, this Berserker stood on the narrow bridge and held off the entirety of the Saxon army for close to an hour, killing at least forty men and mortally wounding many others. He shrugged off wounds, hewed through armour, and shifted not a damn inch from the bridge’s cobbles.
Nothing ever ends well though, and he ended up dead because some craven Saxon floated in a barrel underneath the bridge and shanked him in the nads with a spear. You can’t always win, but in this case, it seems that our Norse hero sort of did; he’d given his army enough time to form a shield wall to face the Saxons (though it proved to be of little profit in the end) and now, with his death, ascended to Valhalla to chill with Odin and Thor and hot Valkyries and drink. Bit of a win-win, really.
To quote, ‘sometimes the Gods point down at a small child and decree ”This one shall have balls of pure granite”.’ I think we can safely say that this is one such case, all things considered.
So! Was the unnamed viking really a badass? Let us know what you think in the comments!
Note: This is, I think, the start of a monthly series extolling the virtues of some historical and contemporary badasses, if anyone at all is interested. Feedback appreciated.
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