King Halfdan The Black Falling To His Death Through Ice, By Erik Werenskiold (1855–1938)

This image, created by the Norwegian artist Erik Werenskiold (1855–1938), depicts the demise of a specific king from Norway’s early medieval history. Shown above is King Halfdan the Black and his entourage traversing the frozen surface of Lake Randsfjorden in Norway. Little did the regal party know that the ice on which they were traveling had been critically weakened by sunlight and herds of livestock. As told by the Icelandic historian, Snorri Sturluson (c. 1179-1241), “when the king drove over that stretch, the ice broke under him, and he perished with many of his followers” (Heimskringla, Saga of Halfdan the Black, chapter 9). Halfdan was succeeded by his young son, Harald Finehair (ruled approximately c. 860-940), who is considered the first true king of Norway.

Written by C. Keith Hansley



  • Heimskringla, by Snorri Sturluson and translated by Lee Hollander. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964, 2018.

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