One of the most spectacular Vikings of his time, Olav Tryggvason is surrounded by myth and legend. The most plausible account of his early days has his mother fleeing Norway with her son when he was about three years old, ending up in exile in Sweden and ultimately Russia. Thereafter, Tryggvason cut his Viking spurs in a series of piratical raids, before leading a large fleet in an attack on England in 991. The English bought him off, then again three years later, and the two payments of this “Danegeld” made him extremely rich. Part of the deal for the second payment was that he become a Christian and, against all expectations, the Viking chieftain seems to have taken his new faith seriously. Tryggvason then hot-footed it back to Norway, where he quickly wrested control of most of the country and founded Trondheim in 997. His brutal imposition of Christianity, however, infuriated many of his subjects – the Tronders, in particular, were determined to hang onto their pagan gods and were especially hacked off by Olav’s bloody attempts to force them to be Christians. Few mourned when, after just five years as king, Tryggvason was ambushed and killed.

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