Scandinavia in 1000 AD
Forkbeard & Sigrid's base
Olav & Thyra's base
Burislav of the Wends
The Battle of Svold, 1000 AD
What we know of the history....
The story is based on the "Battle of Svolder Island" which took place in Sept. 1000 AD. At this time, King Olav Tryggvason of Norway was ambushed by a huge combined fleet led by Forkbeard of Denmark. King Olav was severely overmatched by the attackers, a force of 90 ships including those of the Swedes, led by Forkbeard's wife Queen Sigrid Skotskonung and her son Ulff, and Norway, led by exiled Jarl Eirik Håkånsson.
The struggle between Olav Tryggvason and Svend Tveskaeg (Forkbeard) was a long standing rivalry, stemming from personal as well as political differences. Olav was attempting to Christianise his country "at the tip of a sword", whilst Sigrid and Forkbeard's people held fast to the old Pagan beliefs. At stake was the ultimate prize-control of England, which the Danes had tried to achieve for three hundred years, through vicious ongoing raids and colonisation. Forkbeard's victory in this battle made it possible for the Danes to at last conquer England and rule from 1014 to 1049 AD.
However, the "back story", i.e. the stories of jealousy, betrayal, revenge, pride, greed and lust that form the backbone of this musical retelling, are based upon the Icelandic and Norwegian Sagas accounts. Much of the history is left unclear and open to interpretation (and artistic license!).
Nonetheless, the epic story of the heroic battle and the events leading up to it, have long inspired poets (inc.Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) and Scandinavian playwrights and composers to re-tell the tale of Olav, a tragic, romantic hero. The legend of Olav's best archer Einar Tamberskelver and the fateful moment where his bow was broken, sealing Olav's fate, is oft-recounted in Danish and Norwegian folklore. ("Einar, Einar, Aim Your Bow"!) The author has spent many summers on the Danish island "Sejeroe" on the coastline where Forkbeard amassed his forces prior to the ambush, and reports that she often felt the "muse" provided perhaps by the ghosts of King Olav and his men who perished in its waters. Could it be they were speaking, demanding that their story be retold, one more time....?