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Literature / The Chronicle of Duke Erik

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The Chronicle Of Duke Erik (Swedish: "Erikskrönikan") is a medieval Swedish Chronicle written sometime in the early to mid 14th century (but most likely based on much earlier sources) by an unknown author. It is the oldest written chronicle in which aims to provide an overview of Swedish politics, from about 1229 to 1319. It is a work of classic chivalric poetry, written in rhyme by an author who was very familliar with old and contemporary European poetry in the same style, for example the French "Chanson de geste".
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Although the chronicle begins under the rule of Eric the Lisp And Lame in the 1220's, it's main focus is the period between 1250 and 1319 ending with the ascension of Magnus "The Caresser" Eriksson in 1319. Between that the Chronicle also touches upon the life of the father of the Swedish state, Birger Jarl note , The Folkunge note  Rebellion, The so called "Brothers War" between the sons of Magnus Ladulås, The founding of Stockholm and the wars with Russia (Novgorod) among other things.

Like many Medieval sources The Chronicle Of Duke Erik has come under criticism from modern historians. In this case it is said by some that the chronicle is simply propaganda in favour of it's eponymous character: Duke Erik Magnusson of Södermanland, in order to portray his clan (Bjälbo) as upstanding noblemen, perfect Knights and all-around badass cool dudes. Still most of the chronicle is held to be historically correct and a very important source to Swedens medieval history.

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The chronicle has so far never been translated into modern Swedish. A "annotated" version was released in the 1990's wich had a glossary for some of the more difficult phrases but other than that kept the medieval spelling intact. An English translation was released in 2012.


The chronicle provides examples of:

  • A House Divided: Bjälbo.
  • Ancestral Weapon:
    "Now many an old Father's Sword was take down from their nails, where they for a long time had hung"
  • Artistic License – History: The Russians are lumped together with the Karelians and the other Finnic peoples as "heathens". Russia had been Christian for several hundred years by this time, probably longer than Sweden had actually. On the other hand the Russians were Orthodox while the Swedes were Catholic, and both sides sometimes tended to view the other side as not quite Christian.
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  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In a taste of what's to come, King Birger calls upon his brothers, to answer to a list of accusations he has of them. They include illegally exporting foodstuffs, riding together with the king's enemies, having struck a castle guard and participating in tournaments with excessively large followingsnote .
  • Burial at Sea: Erik Plogpenning of Denmark is murdered and his floating body is discovered by two fishermen.
  • Captain Obvious: About the famine at Landskrona castle:
    "They then incurred a serious disease: scurvy does not anybody please"
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: See below.
  • The Clan: Bjälbo, the Folkungs.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: It basically makes Game of Thrones look like a Utopia.
  • End of an Age: For the Folkungs. Birger Jarl's campaign destroyed the Autonomy they had enjoyed since The Viking Age. The extremely treacherous way he defeated them probably didn't make them feel any better, either.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Birger Magnusson cries out "Chamberlain! Holy spirit bless! Now all of Sweden i possess!" After the banquet at Nyköping. In the original language text he says: "Nu hawer iak Swerighe i minne hand!" which literally translates to "now I have Sweden in my hand!"
  • Servile Snarker: ...Upon which a knight called Sir Knut quips that "in all other respects, i think you will lose."
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Hope you are really into who's who in Medieval Swedish Nobility for a span of 80 years, cause your going to meet them all.
  • Nasty Party: "The Banquet Of Nyköping"
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Livonian Brothers Of The Sword are called "The Knights Of God" for some reason.
  • Off with His Head!: Happens too many times to too many people to count.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Birger Jarl, Young Lord Karl.
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: Young Lord Karl and the Knights of God are described as standing "with blood up to their ankles" when fighting a Battle in the Baltic Crusades. Since they presumably fought outside, that's gotta be a lot of blood.
  • Patriotic Fervor: In the prologue. It even goes as far as to claim that Swedish Warriors once fought Theoderic The Great which has no basis in reality.
    • Magnus Ladulås is also heavily criticized for having "foreign favourites".
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Done by the Swedes in the aftermath of one of the war campaigns against Novgorod. It's portrayed as a good thing.
    • The German mercenaries in Duke Eriks retinue, does this to the peasants of Söderköping. So the peasants revolt. Then the Germans do it even worse.
  • Royally Screwed Up: Blood is NOT thicker than water for the Bjälbos.
  • Too Dumb to Live: A Swedish warrior named Karl Haak accidentally kills one of his own comrades during the showdown at Landskrona. The victim was dressed in Russian clothing when he tried to gain entry to the others. No explanation is given as to why he did that or why he thought it would be a good idea.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Young Lord Karl and the Knights of God takes a moment, seemingly in the middle of battle, to have a pissing contest about which of them loves God the most.
  • The High Middle Ages: Altough ironically this is what's called "The Young Middle Ages" in Swedennote .
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: During the Crusade in Tavastland:
    "Innumerable gilded prows aligned, the heathen men saw lying there, causing them less to laugh than fear."
  • Throwing Down the Gauntlet: Mats Kettilmundsson does this against the Russian frontline during Torgils Knutssons campaign as a challenge to Single Combat. Nobody takes him up on it.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Even though the chroniclers job is to glorify the Bjälbo clan as much as possible, it is obvious that the writer feels pity for the Folkungs after Birger Jarl treacherously destroyed them at Herrevadsbro. "They were betrayed in their right faith" indeed.
  • You Said You Would Let Them Go. Birger Jarl lied. He promised the Folkungs safe conduct at the battle of Herrevadsbro if they only laid down their weapons and surrendered. They did and Birger Jarl had all of them beheaded. To add insult to injury he later decided to rename his own clan (Bjälbo) after the Folkungs, effectively erasing them from the records.
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