Erling Skjalgsson på Sola
- Born: 960, Norway
- Marriage: Astrid Trygvesdatter
- Died: 21 Dec 1028 at age 68
Erling came into conflict with Olav II Haraldsson (St. Olav) when Olav claimed to be the single king of Norway. Erlings father was king over Rogaland, and subsequently Erling demanded this right for himself. The marriage with Olav Trygvesson's sister certainly was a try to make peace between these two kings, but it didn't last long. Olav II was Christianising the whole country, and Erling was representing the old Åsa-religions. Erling was Christianized before his marriage, but always kept close to the old religions. When Olav denied Erling the right to freely sell grain, Erling went out with a strong army of 1000 men against Olav and surrounded Olav while he was praying inside the church of Avaldnes on Karmøy. This was of cause questioning the power of King Olav.
The final fate of Erling Skjalgsson is legendary. Erling fought extremely bravely in this battle on Baknafjord and was the only one of this army left. King Olav offered him Pardon. Erling responded proudly: "Face to face will eagles meet!" He then laid down his helmet and his sword. King Olav slashed his neck with his axe saying: "Thus I brand the betrayer of the king." In that moment, one of Erling's biggest opponents, his second cousin Aslak Fitjaskalle, rushed forward and split Erlings skull with his axe. Erling died instantly and fell over . King Olav cried: "Now you have struck Norway out of my hands." In the Saga, the killing of Erling Skjalgsson with the axe sealed Olav's own fate and only one and a half year later Olav den Hellige was killed in the battle of Stiklestad.
Erling Skjalgsson (d. 1028), Norwegian political leader of the late 10th and early 11th century. Traditionally, he is seen as this period's foremost defender of the traditional Norwegian social system. Erling fought for the traditional small, autonomous kingdoms and the þing system, against the reformists of the Fairhair family line.
Erling was established as a political front figure by the farmers of Gulaþing in 996. They demanded that he be married to Olav Tryggvason's sister Astrid as a part of a settlement. Astrid initially refused, but later bowed, and Erling thus became an important ally the remaining four years of Olav's reign.
The three-way rule of Norway during the years after the battle of Svolder suited Erling well. His own power base was strong enough that he could maintain his own autonomy. However, the relative stability of this arrangement was well and truly scuppered by the arrival of Olav Haraldsson on the stage. At the battle of Nesjar, Erling fought in Svein jarl's losing army. A settlement was arranged later the same year, though Erling had to accept lesser terms than granted him by Olav Tryggvason and Svein jarl.
However, Erling kept enforcing his power on the Western coast of Norway. Olav tried to split his powers by introducing new local nobles, but these were quickly pushed out by Erling's traditional clout. In 1022, the king arrested Erling's nephew for murder. Erling replied by raising a 1,000-man army and circling the king at Avaldnes. The king gave up and released the nephew. But this episode was a body blow to the relationship between the two men. During 1027 it finally broke down, as Erling travelled to England to seek the support of Canute the Great.
He returned during autumn the same year, and rallied an army with the intention to fight Olav. However, as his army was shipborne, Erling was trapped on a single ship by Olav's fleet. The ship was overwhelmed, Erling was captured and his ship was cleared. Just as Olav was set to pardon him, Erling himself was killed by one of the king's men (Aslak Fitjaskalle), who cleaved Erling's head with an axe.
According to Heimskringla, Olav said to the killer, "You fool! Now you hewed Norway off my hands!" And the king's prediction turned true. Backed by Canute the Great, Erling's allies went on to drive Olav out of the country, and then finally kill him at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030.
Erling married Astrid Trygvesdatter, daughter of Trygve Olafsson small king in Norway and Astrid Eiriksdatter. (Astrid Trygvesdatter was born about 960 in Norway.)