Saint Olaf (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: By consolidating and unifying Norway under a strong Christian monarchy, Olaf established his country’s first national government and permanently influenced the political and religious development of his land.
Olaf Haraldsson was the great-great-grandson of King Harald I Fairhair, the legendary warrior chief and first king in southeastern Norway. Olaf’s father, Harald Grenske, was a regional king in southeastern Norway and died while Olaf was still an infant. His mother, Áasta, daughter of a prominent man in the Uplands, was remarried to Sigurð Syr, a regional king in Ringerike. An anecdote concerning Olaf’s childhood, related by Snorri Sturluson in Heimskringla (c. 1220; History of the Kings of Norway, 1964), reveals something of the boy’s disposition and of his attitude toward his stepfather, Sigurð, an unpretentious, mild-mannered farmer. One day King Sigurð asked Olaf to go to the stable and saddle a horse for him. Olaf returned leading a large goat saddled with the king’s harness. Olaf not only thought the menial task unworthy of a chieftain and warrior but also repudiated the unmartial life of his stepfather by suggesting that this animal was as suitable for a farmer-king as horses are for other riders. From an early age, Olaf showed an unswerving desire to become a warrior and demonstrated contempt for any lesser life. He was hot-tempered, imperious, and...
(The entire section is 2707 words.)
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