Vikings Valhalla: Are Harekr and Jorundr Based on Real People?

Following the final years of the Viking age, Netflix’s ‘Vikings: Valhalla’ follows the story of three Vikings who tread individual paths to find their destinies. One of the protagonists is Freydis, whose journey as the Last Daughter of Uppsala leads her on a tumultuous path to find a place for herself and her people where they can live in peace. In the second season, she is taken to Jomsborg, where she meets people of the Old Religion who have carved a place for themselves and want to make Jomsborg the new Uppsala. This place is ruled by a Viking named Harekr and his nephew, Jorundr. While most of the characters in ‘Vikings: Valhalla’ are based on real people, the same does not hold true for the Jomsvikings we meet in Season 2. SPOILERS AHEAD

Harekr and Jorundr’s Storyline is Heavily Fictionalised

As a historical fiction series, ‘Vikings: Valhalla’ relies on history to dictate most of its plot. However, the series utilizes the holes that history hasn’t filled with concrete information and presents a heavily fictionalized version of events to suit the plot. This is what happens with Freydis’ storyline in the second season when she goes to Jomsborg and meets the Jomsvikings Jorundr and Harekr.

While Jomsborg is a pivotal location in the second and third seasons of the Netflix series, its authenticity has been contested by historians, with some dismissing it as nothing more than a legend. The place appears in Viking legends without proof of its location or existence. As for Jomsvikings, they are said to be a group of mercenaries who, like in the show, followed the old religion but, as hired swords were ready to fight for anyone, even Christians.

With no concrete markers for historical accuracy for Jomsborg or Jomsvikings, ‘Vikings: Valhalla’ takes a completely fictional route and uses names that have appeared in history. A king named Jorundr appears in Swedish history, but that was in the fifth century, more than five hundred years before the events portrayed in the show, so there is no connection between the real-life king and the Jomsviking in the show. With Harekr, things are a bit different.

The Real-Life Harekr Had a Different Arc

Harekr in ‘Vikings: Valhalla’ is most likely based on Hårek of Tjøtta, who lived around the same time period that the show focuses on. He was a local chieftain, a farmer, and an influential figure in the region he ruled. ‘Vikings: Valhalla’ seems to have drawn upon his history to concoct the arc for Harekr, but with Freydis added to the equation, the overall storyline differs significantly.

In the show, Olaf Haraldsson is killed by Freydis in Jomsborg. However, according to the real-life account, Olaf fell at the hands of Hårek of Tjøtta at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. In the show, Freydis kills Harekr before Olaf, who arrives in Jomsborg intending to kill her and finish off the people of the old religion for good. In real life, Hårek of Tjøtta is said to have died sometime in 1036 while visiting Olaf’s son Magnus in Trondheim. His death is considered as Magnus getting revenge for his father’s death, though he didn’t kill Hårek by his own hands.

Considering all this, it is clear that the writers of ‘Vikings: Valhalla’ decided to take creative license in presenting certain things in a different light, especially because it served the plot without actually impacting how the more significant historical events turned out. With Harekr and Jorundr being side characters who do not influence the overall fate of Vikings and the kingdoms of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and England, the writers felt they could do more justice to them via a fictional path rather than sticking to history where they remain vague figures at best.

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