Havelok the Dane Characters

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Havelok, the son and heir of the king of Denmark. Exiled and reared in England by an old fisherman, he is a typical hero of the popular romances, renowned for his strength, his athletic prowess, his size, and his gentle nature rather than for his intellectual acumen.


Goldeboru, his wife, the lovely heiress to the English throne. Unwillingly married to an unknown kitchen boy, she rejoices to find him in reality a king, and she supports him in his successful attempts to regain his own throne and hers.


Athelwold, Goldeboru’s father, the brave, just, and devout king of England. He entrusts his young daughter to his noblemen on his deathbed.


Godrich, a treacherous lord, named regent and Goldeboru’s guardian by Athelwold. He marries the rightful queen to Havelok to secure the throne for himself and ultimately is burned at the stake for this act of treason.


Birkabeyn, the good king of Denmark, whose only fault is his lack of judgment in leaving his three children in Godard’s hands at his untimely death.


Godard, the Danish regent, who murders two of his charges and sends the third, Havelok, to be drowned. His tyrannical reign is brought to a close by Havelok’s return.


Grim, Havelok’s loyal guardian, an old fisherman who rears the prince as one of his own children.


Ubbe, a powerful Danish lord. He protects Havelok and Goldeboru when they arrive in his country, and he rallies the gentry and nobility to the cause of their rightful ruler.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bradbury, Nancy Mason. “The Traditional Origins of Havelok the Dane.” Studies in Philology 90 (Spring, 1993): 115-142. Looks at the layers of earlier myth, legend, and history that are preserved in the epic. Useful in separating the Danish, Continental, and insular English elements upon which the poem drew.

Gadomski, Kenneth H. “Narrative Style in King Horn and Havelok the Dane.” The Journal of Narrative Technique 15 (Spring, 1985): 133-145. The most aesthetically sensitive of all recent critiques of the poem. Useful for the reader interested in a primarily literary and artistic approach to the work.

Levine, Robert. “Who Composed Havelok for Whom?” Yearbook of English Studies 22 (1992): 95-104. Speculates on the class, cultural, and social backgrounds of both the author and the audience of Havelok the Dane. The article is influenced by reception theory and sociohistorical criticism.

Smithers, G. V. “The Style of Havelok.” Medium Aevum, 1988, 190-219. This formal and quantitative analysis looks not only at the literary but also the linguistic elements of the poem’s style. Some technical linguistic knowledge is required to fully appreciate the piece.

Wilson, R. M. The Lost Literature of Medieval England. New York: Methuen, 1952. Conveys a sense of the storehouse of native English myth and lore of which Havelok the Dane is one of the few extant examples. Provokes many speculations about the place of Havelok the Dane in the canon of English legend.