The Saga of Ulvhedin is a 132 pages long graphic novel set in the Viking Age. It is written and illustrated by Dag Frognes. It will be published by Frognes Media in Norway, in 6 installments (during 2018-2019), and then collected in one volume. Foreign rights are managed by Rights & Brands in Stockholm.
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SUMMARY Set in Norway during the Viking Age, in the years 871-72, The Saga of Ulvhedin tells the story of Ulvhedin Aunsson, a fearsome warrior. Amidst the power struggles of kings and earls for sole rulership over Norway, Ulvhedin is set on his own battle. Fighting as one of King Harald Halvdansson’s men, Ulvhedin acts as a spy and assassin. Believing himself to be sent by the Norse god Odin to revenge the slaughter of his family, Ulvhedin uses his position to hunt down his enemies, killing them one by one. However, as King Harald faces enemies from Denmark, England, Ireland and France in the fight to win his kingdom, Ulvhedin realizes that danger lurks everywhere – even among friends.
BACKGROUND It is the late 9th century. In the west of Norway king Harald Halvdansson, whom history will remember as Harald Finehair and first ruler of a united Norway, is fighting a series of brutal battles to conquer the petty kingdoms and earldoms along the west coast. From his maternal grandfather he has inherited the western kingdom of Sogn and from his father the inland kingdom of Opplandene. But Harald wants more.
He claims to have been visited by Odin himself in a dream. The all-father of the Norse gods has given him the task of uniting the different lands of Norway. Kings, earls and hersir; all must yield or die, according to Harald.
Most of them choose to fight. Their ideal of freedom from a central ruler is strong. Harald may well claim divine inspiration but most see only raw ambition and a hunger for power. The fact that very lucrative trade routes pass along the contested coast is also very much present in the various chieftains’ minds.
But these small kingdoms are not Harald’s main concern. More problematic is the mighty earl Håkon Grjtotgardsson of Lade, ruler of Trøndelag, further north. Håkon is fighting his own battles to conquer the northern lands, Hålogaland. The earl’s family stems from this area, and he seeks to control it. A loose alliance between Harald and Håkon has so far served both well, but a more permanent truce is necessary – for Harald to defeat Håkon in battle seems unlikely.
The largest threat to Harald’s plans, however, is the kingdom of the Danes, a day’s sailing to the south of Norway. Rich, powerful and ambitious, the Danish kings have for centuries exerted influence in the south-eastern parts of Norway. Local kings and earls have been vassals of the Danes. Uprisings have occurred, but for the most part, Danish might has kept the peace. Harald’s gradual rise to power is about to unsettle this state of affairs.
At this point in history, the Danes have one serious disadvantage in their coming struggle with Harald. They have already dispatched a large force of warriors to conquer England. The “Great Heathen Army” that invaded England in 865 has for several years been fighting, and defeating, various Saxon kingdoms. Still, the English keep resisting. The kingdom of Wessex does not fall and its new king, Alfred, is starting to fight back.
To Harald this is good news. At the same time, he has intelligence reports that indicate a Danish plan to unite the rulers of southeast Norway in a massive attack on Harald from the east. The rationale for the Norwegians being that it is better to be ruled by a far-away king in Denmark, mostly concerned with England, than a local ruler that to all appearances will exercise a harsh and direct regime on every one of his subjects. Further intelligence indicates that the Danes are about to strike a deal with the northern kings in Norway, who do not welcome a mighty ruler along their trade routes to Europe. And so Harald might face an attack from the north too. The positive thing about this, though, is that Harald and earl Håkon face a common enemy. That might make a deal between the two possible.
To complicate matters even further, Harald faces a third enemy: Scandinavian vikings and pirates in Ireland, Scotland, the Hebrides and the Orkneys. All dislike the prospect of a strong ruler in Norway. A ruler that has already started to give them problems. Plundering Norwegian waters is now difficult. The rich trade in furs and ivory and slaves from the North is impeded. Harald has even started to send his ships across the seas. Suddenly the vikings find themselves under attack. They seem to have a common cause with the Danes.
Thus, Harald faces an attack from three enemies, one in the east, one from the north and finally from across the sea in the west. And he has not yet consolidated power in his core area of interest.