Vikings Valhalla historical accuracy: What happened to the real Jarl Haakon?

Vikings: Valhalla trailer released by Netflix

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Vikings: Valhalla has finally arrived on Netflix and the historical TV drama follows on from the original Amazon Prime Video series. The story features the familiar lands of Kattegat, which are now ruled by the fierce but kind Jarl Haakon (played by Caroline Henderson). Is the character entirely fictional or was she inspired by a real historical figure?


What happened to the real Jarl Haakon?

In Vikings: Valhalla, Jarl Haakon is introduced as the new ruler of Kattegat.

She is firm but fair and gives Freydis Eiríksdóttir (Frida Gustavsson) a fair opportunity to speak out against Olaf Haraldsson (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson).

Haakon is faithful to her gods but is an advocate for peace and religious harmony.

Throughout the series, she becomes a mentor to Freydis and teaches her the ways of a shieldmaiden.

She is determined to protect Freydis at all costs as she knows how valuable the female warrior is.

Sadly at the end of the season, she was killed during Jarl Kåre’s (Asbjørn Krogh Nissen) war against Kattegat.

There was a real Jarl Haakon, known as Haakon Sigurdsson, who was a male historical figure.

He is believed to have been born around the year 937 and lived until 995.

Haakon was the de facto ruler of Norway for the last 20 years of his life.

He was described as having descended from a race of giants and was extremely powerful.

Professor Clare Downham, an exper in Viking history, told “Jarl Haakon was the son of the Norwegian jarl of Lade, but his father was killed by the men of Harold Greycloak (King of Norway) in 961.

“Haakon then went into exile in Denmark and conspired with the Danish king Harold Bluetooth against Harold Greycloak (although the two men were former allies).

“Haakon and Harold Bluetooth conspired to cause the death of Harald Greycloak when he visited Denmark in 970, then Haakon engaged in a civil way in Norway and was victorious.

“Thereafter he ruled Norway, initially as a vassal of Harold Bluetooth, but in the 970s after undergoing baptism at Harold Bluetooth’s command, he renounced his allegiance.

“Haakon is presented as an unpopular ruler and when a rival to the throne Olaf Tryggvasson arrived in Norway in 995, Haakon quickly lost support and was killed (allegedly by a slave in a pigsty but this is perhaps a story invented to present an ignoble death).”

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There is no female leader of the same name, therefore Henderson’s character was created specifically for the series.

Henderson addressed her character’s authenticity, saying: “Haakon is fictional, purely fictional.

“So it’s not like a male character, it’s a fictional character but of course, she’s inspired and based on both male and female characters.”

In the series, Estrid Haakon is an invented character whose Viking grandfather met her royal African grandmother in Egypt.

They fell in love and returned to Kattegat, eventually passing on ruling duties to her.

The actress said she recalled her own multicultural heritage when playing the leader.

She told Tudum: “I can really relate to Jarl Haakon. As a child I was a little bit confused, I must admit.

“But I think I can really relate to her. I am Jarl Estrid Haakon, just a thousand years on.”

Series creator Jeb Stuart explained how Vikings were multicultural and multiracial.

The male Jarl Haakon was also known as Haakon the Powerful or Haakon Bad.

Vikings: Valhalla is on Netflix now.

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