Monday, May 4, 2020

Blog Tour Guest Post by Eric Schumacher, Author of Forged by Iron

Please join me in welcoming Eric Schumacher to Let Them Read Books! Eric is touring the blogosphere with his new release, Forged by Iron, and I'm happy to have him here today with a guest post about Olaf Tryggvason. Read on and enter to win a paperback copy of Forged by Iron!

From the bestselling author of Hakon’s Saga comes Forged by Iron, the first in a series of thrilling tales about Olaf Tryggvason, one of the most legendary and enigmatic kings of the Viking Age.

Norway, AD 960. The fabric that has held the Northern realm together is tearing. The sons of Erik Bloodaxe have returned and are systematically killing all opposition to the High Seat. Through treachery, Harald Eriksson slays Jarl Trygvi, an heir to the throne, and then he comes for Trygvi’s wife, Astrid, and son, Olaf.

Astrid and Olaf flee their home with the help of Astrid’s foster father, Torolv Loose-beard, and his son, Torgil, who are oath-sworn to protect them. The group escapes east, through the dark, forested land of the Swedes and across the treacherous East Sea, all the while evading the clutches of Harald’s brutal henchmen.

But the gods are fickle and the group is torn apart, leaving them to fend for themselves in Forged by Iron, a must-read for all who enjoy action-packed historical fiction.


The Origins of Olaf Tryggvason
by Eric Schumacher

In my latest novel, Forged by Iron, I have the pleasure of bringing my readers into the world and life of Olaf Tryggvason, one of the most legendary and enigmatic kings of the Viking Age. He is described as a leader of men, “exceeding fair and tall to look upon and of mighty stature and of great strength. And in prowess in sports, so it is told, was he the best of all the Norsemen.” But he is also seen as vicious and cruel to those who oppose his will, especially those who resist his attempts to convert them to Christianity. His life covers a lot of ground (literally) and is filled with adventure. For all of these reasons, I thought he would be a fascinating character to bring to life in my books.

So where did Olaf Tryggvason come from and what set him on his life’s path? That’s what I’ll explore in this post.

The Lineage of Olaf Tryggvason

If you take Snorre Sturlasson’s Heimskinrgla at face value, then Olaf Tryggvason is the son of Trygvi Olafsson, who is the ruler of a district in Viking Age Norway called Vingulmark. It is an area he had been granted to rule by his uncle, Hakon Haraldsson (or Hakon the Good), the youngest son of the infamous King Harald Fairhair. Trygvi Olafsson is in turn the son of Olaf Haraldsson, the older half-brother of Hakon who was killed by another half-brother, Erik Bloodaxe, the favorite of their mutual father Harald. Snorre makes this family tree clear in Heimskringla, presumably in an effort to legitimize Olaf Tryggvason’s claim to the High Seat of Norway, though we do not yet know if it is actually true, in part because Heimskringla was written ~250 years after Olaf Tryggvason lived.

There are other, earlier, mentions of Olaf, such as the poems of Hallfreðr Óttarsson the Troublesome, a contemporary skald who served in Olaf’s court, and Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum ("Deeds of the Bishops of Hamburg"), written ~70 years after Olaf’s death, neither of which dive into the details of Olaf’s lineage.

Still, even if you take Heimskringla to be moderately true, that is, to think of Olaf maybe not as a direct descendent of Harald Fairhair, but more as the son of a nobleman in Vingulmark, then you have to think of Olaf as at least noble, and maybe someone with designs for something greater.

The Norway of Olaf Tryggvason’s Youth

Olaf Tryggvason was born at a tumultuous time in the history of Norway. Years before, Hakon Haraldsson (Hakon the Good) wrested the Northern kingdom from his half-brother, Erik Bloodaxe. Erik fled with his family to the Orkney Islands, never to return. Upon his death, the sons of Erik came back to reclaim what was taken from their father. Backed by the Danes, those sons fought a series of battles against Hakon the Good, eventually defeating him in ca. AD 960. The senior surviving sons of Erik settled in the west of Norway along with their mother, Gunnhild.

However, in defeating Hakon, those sons failed to exterminate the nobility who supported Hakon, namely, Jarl Sigurd in Trondheim, Gudrod Bjornson in the Vestfold, and Trygvi Olafsson in the Ostfold. All of them either kin or friends to Hakon Haraldsson. Pushed by their mother, Erik’s sons embark on their next campaign to rid the land of those men. This they did, using ruses and covert methods to kill them, one by one.

The last of Hakon’s supporters to fall is Trygvi, Olaf Tryggvason’s father.

The Birth of Olaf Tryggvason

There is much debate about how, when, and where Olaf’s birth actually happened. If you believe Heimkringla, then Olaf was born on an island in the middle of a lake in Vingulmark as his mother hid from the agents of Erik’s sons. It is a story that reminds us of another birth, this one in the Gospel of Luke in a manger. Since the church approved of Olaf’s later conversion of Norway, it is quite possible it wanted to build up Olaf’s reputation as some sort of savior, hence they drew the parallel.

It is just as likely that Olaf was born at home and probably some years before his father was killed. I say this primarily because of the timeline of events. Olaf’s father is killed by Erik’s sons in ca. AD 963. We do not know exactly when Trygvi was born, but it is believed he is older than his uncle, Hakon. Even if he is even one year older, i.e. born in AD 917, he would be 46 at the time of his death and his son’s birth. That, of course, is not inconceivable (after all, Harald Fairfair purportedly had Hakon when he was 70), but it is unlikely. It is more likely that Olaf is a boy or at least a child at the time of this father’s death at the hands of Erik’s sons, and flees as a youth with his mother to Sweden.

The Aftermath

Olaf escapes to Sweden with revenge on his mind, leaving behind a realm ruled Erik’s sons, vassals to Denmark. Yet to avenge his father, Olaf must first survive his flight to the land of the Rus, where his maternal uncle lives, then build his reputation, his wealth and his following. It is a journey that takes years and sees Olaf through innumerable adventures as he traverses much of the Viking world.

The first step of that journey is what I tell in Forged by Iron. I hope you like it!

About the Author:

Eric Schumacher (1968 – ) is an American historical novelist who currently resides in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife and two children. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended college at the University of San Diego.

At a very early age, Schumacher discovered his love for writing and medieval European history, as well as authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Those discoveries continue to fuel his imagination and influence the stories he tells. His first novel, God’s Hammer, was published in 2005.

To date, Schumacher has published three novels, collectively known as Hakon’s Saga, and one novella. More information about him and his books can be found on his website. You can also connect with Schumacher on TwitterFacebookGoodreads, and AuthorsDB.

Forged by Iron is on a blog tour!


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a paperback copy of Forged by Iron!
To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules:

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on May 10th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.

– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen. Forged by Iron


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