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Recap / A Thing Of Vikings Chapter 73 Harthacnut Is Better Than None

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Book III, Chapter 5

Harthacnut (Danish: Hardeknud), occasionally named as Canute III, was King of Denmark from AD 1035 to AD 1042, and King of England from AD 1040 to AD 1042. The son of King Canute the Great and Emma of Normandy, he was born, in July 1017, in England, shortly after their marriage. As part of the negotiations of surrender in the aftermath of King Canute's conquest of England, Harthacnut took precedence in inheritance over his older half-brothers from his parents' first marriages. When their father died in AD 1035, Harthacnut was left ruling Denmark, while his half-brother Svein (son of &A Elig;lfgifu of Northampton) was faced with a revolt in Norway, and Harold Harefoot (also son of &A Elig;lfgifu) took control in England.

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[...]popularly seen as little more than a brutal tyrant without virtue or redeeming value, Harthacnut has usually been presented in a highly moralistic fashion in most popular media over the centuries. In these stories, he is used as an archetypal figure of the corrupt and brutal nobleman whose own evils bring about his downfall, an almost idealized villainous figure from whose tyranny and grotesque abuses the populace are freed from.

As such, in contemporary media, there is little interest in conflicting perspectives on his family background and upbringing that produced him. This is not helped by the recorded accounts of his actions, including massacres, repressive taxation, executions, feasts in the midst of bad harvests, oathbreaking, violations of hospitality, loyalty purges, and even the posthumous beheading and disposal of Harold Harefoot, his paternal half-brother, in retribution for the death of &A Elig;lfred &A Elig;þeling, Harthacnut's maternal half-brother. His death on 11 June, AD 1042 is seen as appropriately fated, but even then, he is typically overshadowed by the other events of the day...

Dragons of the North: Profiles Of The Viking Lords, Waterford University Press, 1733
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Tropes That Appear In This Chapter:

  • The Anti-Nihilist: Stoick is apparently this trope.
    The jotunn were chaos personified, the essence of destruction, the rendering of all of mankind's hard-fought works out of spite or simple lack of concern for the little beings underfoot. Only by hewing to the gods, themselves at turns supportive or capricious, could mankind hope to survive in a world where a bored giant could spell the destruction of all of their works. And, in the end, it was futile anyway. All futile, doomed to destruction in Ragnarok. The work of mankind was ultimately meaningless… but that just meant that its meaning was in the resistance of destruction.
  • Content Warnings:
    Chapter Trigger Warnings: Explicit Acts of Violence (Warfare), Explicit Character Deaths (Warfare), Implied Attempts of Non-Con (Battlefield)
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: A few happen this chapter.
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    • Berk and Norway vs England, the combined Berkian and Norwegian forces beats Harthacnut's forces in less than a day.
    • 83 Viking ships of the Ua Imir vs the entirety of Berks wild dragon population, the battle is so one sided that calling it a battle at all seems too generous.
    • Danish rebels vs Sweyn's forces, it was a curb stomp against the rebels, then Dragon Riders showed up and it became a curb stomp in the rebels favor.
    • Roman Dragon Riders vs Maniakes' forces, the Dragon Riders won with Sigurd himself saying that it wasn’t even a battle.
    • Over 2000 Eirish warriors vs Vedrarfjord, the Eirish lose nearly the entire army while Vedrarfjord suffers 0 losses.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In Real Life Harthacnut died from a stroke, here he dies from an arrow to the eye.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Harthacnut assumes that Stoick's call for his surrender is because Stoick wants to deny him a noble death, he can’t fathom that Stoick just wants the killing to stop.
    Harthacnut looked at the dragon and his rider, appalled. He knew the old tales, for all that he followed Christ. Stoick was trying to cheat him of Valhalla, denying him a valorous death in battle... and, more pragmatically from Harthacnut's perspective, denying them a heroic last stand that would make them martyrs of Christ.
  • It Can Think: This chapter shows that the dragons have their own language.
  • Karmic Death: Harthacnut is killed by Alfric Hofferson, who lost her husband and two out of her three children during his attack on Berk.
  • Mythology Gag: After Hiccup and his allies defeat the Eirish army attacking Vedrarfjord, Hiccup looks at the devastated army and sadly mutters, "I did this."
  • Not Me This Time: Harthacnut had nothing to do with the ambush that killed Fritjof and his dragon and injured Hiccup and his group. However, since the truth was that he was planning a completely separate ambush, there was nothing he could say to escape retaliation.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: After Hiccup fire bombs the Eirish army that came to sack Vedrarfjord the survivors run for their lives.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Downplayed with Harthacnut who in Real Life died on 8 June, 1042, here he survives for an additional 3 days.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The combined Berkian and Norwegian forces battling the English, or as Stoick describes it "using a warhammer to crack an egg."
  • Villains Never Lie: Averted, Harthacnut doesn't even try to tell Stoick that he had nothing to do with the ambush on Hiccup because he knows that he won't be believed.
    What could he tell Stoick? That the ambush was the fault of his earl and not him, because his own ambush hadn't been ready yet? He snorted. Yes, as if that would have a prayer of working.


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