“Doglings” was one amusing way (at least to the ears of English speakers) by which Danish royals were sometimes referred to by medieval writers. The title linked Denmark’s kings and princes to the reign of a certain legendary King Dag the Powerful. This enigmatic figure and his dynasty reportedly ruled contemporaneously with the similarly famous and legendary Yngling Dynasty. In fact, according to the family trees and chronology presented by the Icelandic scholar Snorri Sturluson (c. 1179-1241), King Dag’s daughter, Dageith (or Dageid), became the mother of a certain King Alf (nicknamed Elfsi), who was said to have been the fourteenth or fifteenth king from the line of the Ynglings. On this connection, Snorri Sturluson wrote, “He was called Elfsi. He was a taciturn man, imperious and of a morose disposition. His mother was Dageith, the daughter of King Dag the Powerful, from whom the Doglings are descended” (Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla, Saga of the Ynglings, chapter 21). Dogling was apparently in use as a label during the prosperous era of King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark (r. 958-985), as well as his conquering son, Sweyn Forkbeard (r. 987-1014), and grandson—mighty Canute [or Knut] the Great (King of England r. 1016-1035, Denmark r. 1019-1035, and Norway r. 1028-1035). Snorri Sturluson also cited the poem, Glælognskvitha, by the 11th-century skald Thórarin Loftunga (or Praise-Tongue), in which the poet used the term, Dogling, to refer to King Canute’s son, Svein. Thórarin Loftunga wrote:
“No one doubts
what dapper band
of Danes were
with the Dogling”
(Thorarin Loftunga’s Glælognskvitha, cited in Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla, Saint Olaf’s Saga, chapter 239).
Such is one example (or perhaps two, counting both Snorri Sturluson and his source, Thórarin Loftunga) of medieval Nordic writers referring to Danish royals as Doglings. Therefore, although the word “Dogling” could conjure up images of small and cute pups to the minds of English speakers, the label can actually be applied to mighty Viking-age Danish kings. Though not be the most enlightening piece of trivia, but it is an interesting tidbit from history, nonetheless.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Image labeled “Odin Illustration til Fabricius’ Danmarks historie 1, 112,” by H. C. Henneberg, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the Statens Museum for Kunst.jpg).
- Heimskringla, by Snorri Sturluson and translated by Lee Hollander. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1964, 2018.