On the Scandinavian origin of
As for the origin of Rahvalod, the “Tale of the Bygone Years” chronicle specifies it in a brief way, i.e. “Rahvalod came from across the sea, and he had his own domain back in Polatsk…”. In compliance with the Moscow Chronicle Code of the end of the 15th century, “in the reign of Sviatoslav Igorevich, a father of Grand Duke Vladimir, some prince came from across the sea, whose name was Rahvalod and who became the grand duke of Polatsk”. Rahvalod was also known to have a daughter Rahneda and, possibly, a brother Turi or Tur.
The name of Rahvalod has a Slavic form and a convincing Slavic etymology. However, the overseas origin of Rahvalod, attributed to him by the author of the “Tale…” Chronicle, persuades the supporters of the Norman origin of Rahvalod to search for the Scandinavian equivalents of this name. They usually specify this name as Ragnvald/Rognvald (on analogy with Rahneda< Ragneidr, Ragnhild, and Turi<Tore).
Based on the very assumption that Rahvalod/Ragnvald was a representative of the Scandinavian kings clan (the Slavic “knyaz’” complies with the Scandinavian word “konung”) we tried to ascertain what that specific clan was which the Polatsk king could have originated from. Universally known and accessible sources as well as adaptations of the history of Vikings have been applied in this study. O. Pritsak, Yu. V. Konovalov, T. Baranauskas, C. Zuckerman can be specified as the authors whose conclusions were directly associated with the issue of the origin of Rahvalod and/or their works suited the main purpose of this study best of all
The most well-known contact of the Scandinavians with the Dzvina region had been described in the “Gutasaga”. This is the name of the chronicle from the Gotland Island which was written approximately in 1220. According to it, the population of Gotland became so numerous that all of them together could not survive within their lands anymore. Based on casting of lots each third male was sent out of the country and initially they began looking for a place to live along the Baltic Sea coast. In their search they sailed down to the Dzvina (Düna) River across the „ryza land” (i. e. Russia) and finally reached the “Greekland” (i. e. Constantinople). Archaeologists confirm this exodus and date it back to the end of the 5th – beginning of the 6th century. At the same time, one can not confirm any more or less permanent presence of the Gutts on the banks of the Dzvina, the latter having disappeared for some time from the eyes of the Scandinavians in the sea mist as well.
Geographus Ravennatus of the end of the 7th century quotes the words of the Goth philosopher Markomir (Ìàrcus-Mirrus). According to the philosopher, “Denmark gives birth to very courageous and learned people, but they are not as enterprising as the same Danes, residing along the banks of the Dzvina (Dina) River”. They date Geographus Ravennatus’ works back to the end of the 10th century; however, the scholar refers to the point of view of Markomir which speaks in favour of early presence of Danes in the area of the Dzvina River.
Danish scholar Saxo Grammaticus specifies that military campaigns of Danes were headed by legendary Ragnar Lodbrok. According to Saxo Grammaticus, Ragnar fought on the banks of the Dzvina against the „Hellespontians”, the latter being probably the Latvian tribe of Semigalians. Ragnar defeated the Hellespontians’ kings Dian and Daxon as well as their ally, the king of Ruthenia. ‘Ruthenians’ is an anachronism here, which, nevertheless, specifies the territory within which the war was on.
In compliance with one of the versions of this legend by Saxo Grammaticus, Ragnar appointed his son Hvitserk as a king of Scythians, the latter obviously comprising Slavs. Daxon hid his warriors in the merchants’ carts and killed Hvitserk. Historians tend to usually associate legendary Ragnar Lodbrok with the Viking Ragnar (Regnar), who attacked Paris in 845. According to one song, dedicated to Ragnar, he fought on the banks of the Dzvina when he was twenty, i.e. it happened approximately in 840. However, in reality it could have happened either much earlier or a bit later.
According to Saxo Grammaticus, the following leader of the Vikings, Hading, fought against the „Hellespontians” (Semigalians) and won the victory over their king. Following that victory, he defeated many more eastern forces. Hading is usually associated with Hasting, who together with Bjorn Jersida lead the historic campaign of the Vikings to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in 859-862. In 860 he applied a tremendous war ruse and occupied the city of Luna in northern Italy. He pretended to be sick and asked for a favour to be baptised. Then he seemed to have died and his worriers bluffed into burying him in the town cathedral. Thanks to that trick the Vikings penetrated into the city and destroyed it.
According to Saxo Grammaticus, Hading’s son Frothi I, the king of Denmark, whom the historian names as „victor Angliae”, occupied Polatsk and later on London, using the same war ruse as in Luna. Campaign in Rus’, which ended up in occupation of Polatsk, was placed by Saxo between the raid on the Curonians and the „Hellespontians”. According to T. Baranauskas, the overall plot enables to conclude that this is the same very legend, in which Hading was the main hero. The plot with the false baptising and burial was obviously borrowed by Saxo (who knew nothing specific about occupation of Polatsk and London by Frothi I) from the famous story about occupation of Luna by Hasting and London (Lundonia) here is <Luna.
In contrast to Saxo, O. Pritsak is of the idea, that Frothi is the nickname of Halfdan Ragnarson, the historical leader of the Scandinavian occupation of England and London, and Hading-Hasting was his son. According to O. Pritsak, Hasting is the same Askold from the “Tale of the Bygone Years”. He states that Hasting and Bjorn Jersida (according to O. Pritsak the latter was Dir, who was mentioned about in chronicles) met together in Polatsk on the eve of the campaign down to Constantinople which, by mistake, was dated in the „Tale ...” chronicle to 865/866. In spite of the profound nature of his research, O. Pritsak did not pay attention to some elements of legendary history of Eastern Europe, conveyed in sagas.
The adventurous “Halfdan Eysteinson saga” specifies that Eystein the Old, the Norway king, killed the king of Aldeigjuborg (Staraya Ladoga in Russian) Hergeir. Hergeir was an old man. He had a wife, Isgerd, and a daughter, Ingigerd, who was an extremely beautiful and educated girl. Eystein replaced Hergeir and married Isgerd. Ingigerd married his foster son Ulfkell, who became the Earl of Alaborg. Eystein was killed by the “two men from Rus’” who came to Aldeigjuborg to stay for the winter. Later on the war between the sons of Eystein, i.e. Ulfkell and Ulf, on the one side, and Halfdan, on the other one, began. Halfdan won the war.
According to the Swedish sources Eystein was a brother of Ragnar Lodbrok. Their father was supposed to be Sigurd Hring, the king of Sweden and Denmark. Ancestors of Sigurd had been continuously mentioned about in the sagas, i.e. Randver, a father and the king of Sweden; Radbard, a grandfather. Radbard was supposed to be the king of Holmgard and the son of Skyra, the king of Holmgard as well. According to Yu. V. Konovalov, the names of Skira and Radbard are not typical for Scandinavian linguistic traditions. Skyra was obviously the eponym, and not the name. This eponym shows that Radbard originated from the clan of Skyrs. One of the Germanic tribes of the 5th-6th century had such a name. Odoaker was known to be the most legendary representative of the Skyrs who got rid of the Western Roman Empire.
The enumeration of the kings of Sweden seems to be obviously artificial. O. Pritsak is definitely right having stated that it goes here about the Cold Sweden, i.e. Western Europe in general, and about Staraya Ladoga (Aldeigjuborg), in particular. Nevertheless, it sounds pretty accurate that Ragnar Lodbrok and Eystein the Old were full brothers. O. Pritsak, being aware of the fact that scald Bragi, the author of “Ragnarsdrappa”, was the scald of both Eystein the Old and Bjorn Jersida, was mistaken in his assumption that Bjorn killed Eystein, the latter being his alien precursor in Ladoga. Taking into account the fact that Eystein was a brother of Ragnar and Bjorn was the son of Ragnar, it is natural that Bragi served both of them. It follows that the glorious Hasting (whose name was interpreted by the western chroniclers as Haestein), who joined Bjorn in their common campaign along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, was nobody else but Eystein the Old. According to the chronicles, Hasting was the “preceptor” of Bjorn, i.e. he could not be the son of Halfdan Ragnarson; as an uncle could suit perfectly the position of a “preceptor”. More than that, Eystein was much younger than Ragnar. He got his nickname “Old” because of the Halfdan Eysteinson saga, which specifies the events that happened much later. He was also called the “beli”, i. e. „white”. The name of Askold originates probably from <Hoskuldr, i.e. „grey-head”. “Hoss” usually implies a wolf-the grey. Nevertheless, it can also be attributed to the grey hair. The name of Hvitserk can also be specified in this row of names as his name could mean the ”white-skinned”. All the above mentioned individuals who had similar nicknames were said to be murdered in a traitorous way.
Eystein-Hasting could be the son of Ragnar, but it could hardly be possible for him to be a grandson. Whatever can be assumed, he originated from the same clan. The fact that both Ragnar and Eystein named their sons as Halfdan can by implication signify that one of their ancestors could be named as Halfdan. Alternation of Halfdan and Eystein names is known to be characteristic for the clan of Norway kings that gave birth to Harald Harfagre, the first king of the whole Norway. However, it is more reasonable to assume that the name of Eystein was connected with the other Norwegian clan. In compliance with the same Swedish family tree, according to which Eystein the Old was a brother of Ragnar, a grandson of Eystein the Old was Eystein the Noisy. The Orkneyinga saga contradicts this assumption as according to it a father of Eystein the Noisy was Ivar the Uplanders earl and a grandfather was Halfdan the Old. Besides, Ragnar Lodbrok was the contemporary of Eystein the Noisy. Eystein the Noisy was a father of Ragnvald Maerejarl (Ragnvald Earl of Maeren), a friend of Harald Harfagre and the founder of the dynasty of earls of Orkney Islands. The Orkneyinga saga considers the glorious Ganging Hrolf (whom the saga associates with the invasion of Normandy) to be the son of Ragnvald Maerejarl. Nevertheless, the tradition of relative ties, according to which Ragnar, Eystein the Old and Eystein the Noisy are relatives, can be true. As the Orkneyinga saga specifies only direct ancestors of Eystein the Noisy, Ragnar and Eystein the Old could easily originate from Halfdan the Old. It can be indirectly confirmed by the historical ties of Hasting with Rollo, the conqueror of Normandy, as well as by similar timing of legendary campaigns of Ganging Hrolf and Eystein the Old against the leaders of Aldeigjuborg.
The subsequent adventurous saga, i.e. the “Ganging Hrolf saga”, begins with the story about King Hregvidr, who resided in the kingdom of Holmgard which was also called Gardariki. He possessed all the distinctive features of a real warrior, i.e. he was tall, had strong will and mind. He had a daughter, Ingigerd by name, who was very beautiful and educated. When Hregvidr was young he was a Viking and, therefore, invaded numerous countries situated along the banks of the Dzvina (Dyna) River, and brought them under the control. From there he continued his assaults down to the Eastern kingdom (Austriki). He spent there seven years and the people thought he had died already, but he returned back to Gardariki and had a long life there.
As for the Dzvina River, the “Ganging Hrolf saga” specifies that it flows across the kingdom of Gardariki and as for its length, it is considered to be the third or the forth largest river in the world. Its headwaters had been discovered by glorious Ingvar within the course of his travels. The said Ingvar was the glorious Ingvar Vittfarne, the hero of another adventurous saga. In other part of this saga it is said that Ganging Hrolf was bringing his warriors to fight against King Eric and they picked up the fight not far from Aldeigjuborg. The King’s army was huge. Among his earls Imi was known to be the tallest and strongest one and he originated from Gardariki. His stepbrother Randolf was also there and his body build and strength could be compared to the ones of a giant; he originated from Alaborg, a motherland of his mother, where he grew up.
Stories about Hregvidr/Randolf from the “Ganging Hrolf saga” and Hergeir from the “Halfdan Eysteinson saga” associate with one and the same person; it was a common thing to mix up names in sagas; some of those names could simply be nicknames. Their hero was a stepbrother of King Imi from Gardariki, grew up in Alaborg, and in his youth he was a Viking and for seven years (a symbolic figure) he had fought and robbed the people along the banks of the Dzvina River; however, nothing had been said about the foundation of a strong state on the banks of the Dzvina by him. He returned to his motherland and became the king of Aldeigjuborg. He married Isgerd who gave birth to Ingigerd, the latter being known all over Gardariki for her beauty and wisdom. In old age he was killed by Eystein.
Scholars attribute the events, specified in the sagas to the period of time ranging from the 9th to the 11th century. Nevertheless, both sagas attribute the events to the times of King Harald Harfagre who reigned from about 860 to about 930 (i.e. when his father Halfdan the Black died he was only ten years old).
The sagas truly motivate the details on how the Norwegians pushed the Swedes from Gardariki. Ragnar Lodbrok and Hasting were obviously attributed to the Dutch history because one of Ragnar’s sons, Sigurd, became the King of Denmark, and to the Swedish history because “Cold Sweden” (Rus’) had been mixed up with the real Sweden. It obviously started with the assault of Ragnar down to the Dzvina River. Hregvidr-Randolf-Hergeir could also be the king of Rus’ (that would mean Russians - Swedes) as he was defeated by Ragnar. However, that was most probably a brother of Ragnar, Eystein-Hasting-Askold, who actually pushed the Swedes from Polatsk and Staraya Ladoga.
As for Hasting, he would show up and disappear again for several years. Within those couple of years he could easily be in Eastern Europe. Assuming that Hasting was Eystein and Askold and Bjorn Jersida was actually Dir, and then they were the ones who attacked Constantinople in 860 within the course of the Mediterranean campaign.The story of the Byzantine historian about the Viking leader who was baptized supports the above idea. Hasting was obviously trying to apply the same war strategy which helped him conquer the city of Luna, but having evaluated the seize of Constantinople, he gave the idea to bring his plan into being. The Vikings had only 62 ships. Nevertheless, the deed of Hasting-Askold served as the reason for the legend about the first baptism of Rus’.
Polatsk was attacked obviously right after the campaign along the banks of the Mediterranean Sea, as after that particular crusade Bjorn Jersida had never been seen in the West again. It was already at the beginning of the 10th century when the Arab chroniclers called the Russian state as ad-Dir. That is why the year of 865, specified in the „Tale of the Bygone Years” is close to be true.
Hasting/Haestein acted as the leader of the campaign in Britain for the last time in 894-896. Having been defeated by King Alfred the Great, he sailed down to France and later on disappeared from the West at all. The old Viking, having been defeated by King Alfred the Great, had obviously headed down to Austrvegr and invaded Aldeigjuborg (Staraya Ladoga).
Taking into account that settlement of Eystein in Ladoga happened obviously right after 896, it does not contradict the events, specified in the „Tale of the Bygone Years” about Rurik, as the latter had been already dead by that time. It is close to be true that Eystein-Askold and Bjorn-Dir made an assault to Gardariki together with Rurik.
In compliance with the „Tale of the Bygone Years”, Askold and Dir were murdered in Kiev by Oleg. We support the idea of Pritsak that it is not true concerning death of Askold as Eystein-Askold had definitely perished in Staraya Ladoga and, following his death, his son Halfdan became the King of Aldeigjuborg.
As Oleg<Helgi was probably the nickname, and not the actual name, it could be applied to Halfdan Eysteinson as well. In this case the „Tale of the Bygone Years” is not only a cloudy reproduction of the story about mutual disputes between descendants of Ragnar and Eystein, presented in the “Halfdan Eysteinson saga”. There are reasons to believe that the clan of Eystein survived in Ladoga until the 11th century, although being only the earls of Ladoga. Earl Ulf of Ladoga can be treated as an ancestor of Eystein the Old, who, according to his name, could be easily a grandson of Ulf Eysteinson. According to the Russian historian Tatishchev, Ulf, Earl of Ladoga, was murdered by Vladimir in 970. Tatishchev can hardly serve as a reliable source of information, but, nevertheless, Ladoga definitely had its own earls. The best known of them, Ragnvald, is considered to be the son of Ulf, who returned from Sweden back to Ladoga in 1019 and became the earl there. Another Russian historian, Shakhmatov, supposed that Rahvalod was murdered and Rahneda was captured by Vladimir just in 970. One can guess, that Rahvalod/Ragnvald from Polatsk could be the relative of Ulf. It seems that the whole clan had been liquidated as they tried to question the authority of Rurikides upon Rus’.
O. Pritsak has a different point of view regarding relations of Oleg. According to him, Oleg related to Helgi, the king of Denmark and the part of Jelling dynasty, the latter being known for their legendary ancestor Hermanaric, the king of Goths. In about 900 Helgi was removed from power by the Swedes. Assuming that Helgi was obviously a nickname, O. Pritsak equates him with the Dutch king Lota Knut and attributes to him not only ruling of Polatsk but also formation of the Crivitians (Krivichi people) out of the forced settlers from the isles of Jutland. O. Pritsak is of the opinion, that Oleg-Helgi founded both Polatsk and Smolensk. According to H. Łowmianski, Oleg was initially the Duke of Smolensk. When it goes about Smolensk, in both cases it is the Vikings’ settlement of Gnezdovo (Scandinavian Syrnes). The chronicle says that Oleg occupied it as the result of a grand assault. Unfortunately, there are no Scandinavian sources that could mention about Helgi or Lota Knut, ruling mainly Polatsk.
As for Polatsk, the archaeologists have not yet found anything definite during their archaeological dig that could enable to treat the city as the first capital of Viking Oleg. At the same time, 10% of the territory of the initial Polatsk, i.e. the so-called site of ancient settlement of Rahvalod, has been already explored by the archaeologists. As for Olga, who was obviously a daughter of Oleg, the chronicler specifies that she originated from Pskov. Within the course of archaeological dig in Izborsk a huge number of samples of West Slavic materials had been found; they correspond to the story about colonization conducted by Lota Knut. Polatsk, Smolensk, Pskov, Izborsk – these are the towns of the Crivitians. Thus, it is quite possible that Oleg-Helgi was initially the leader of the Crivitian tribal union.
According to Pritsak, the Jelling dynasty belonged to the clan of Ylfingar, i.e. the descendants of a mythical wolf Ulfhamr. Pritsak also associates the Polatsk Duke Usiaslau the Magician, the descendant of Rahvalod; he was believed to be not only a magician but a werewolf as well.
C. Zuckerman, in his brilliant research of the Russian 941 assault to Byzantium, made all his conclusions on the basis of the Greek and Jewish sources; in compliance with them he specifies 945 as the year of death of Oleg. According to C. Zuckerman, the 941 campaign was headed by both Helgi and Igor. After they lost the battle Igor ran away to Kiev and usurped all power in his hands. Oleg, having not enough warriors to take his power back by force, concluded the agreement with the Khazars and attempted to gain the new reign in the town of Berdaa on the bank of the Caspian Sea (modern Azerbaijan), but he was killed by the Moslems in 945. Also, the Cukerman’s version can be supported by the fact that Polatsk was not mentioned in agreement of Igor with Byzantium in 944. Polatsk had not obviously recognized usurpation of Igor. Thus, Rahvalod could be either the son of Oleg or some kind of an overseas relative, who was invited from Denmark by the Polatsk citizens to come and occupy the deserted throne. As for the Jeling dynasty, the Danish throne was returned back to them by Hard Knut, a grandson of Helgi.
The third possible proof of the Scandinavian origin of Rahvalod was given by Yu. B. Konovalov. Reconstructing the clan relations of the Russian Scandinavians, he came to the conclusion that Ragnvald the Glorious (whom Thiodolf the Wise dedicated his “Ynglinga saga” to) could be the possible Scandinavian representative of the dynasty. According to the said saga, Ragnvald the Glorious was a cousin of Harald Harfagre, the Norwegian King and the son of Olaf Geirstadir’s Alf, in other words, he could not be Rahvalod. Nevertheless, Konovalov paid attention to the fact that there were two Olafs who had the similar specific nickname, i.e. Geirstadir’s Alf. The younger Olaf Geirstadir’s Alf was one of the sons of Harald Harfagre and a grandfather of Olaf Tryggvason. Thus, Ragnvald the Glorious, i.e. Rahvalod, could be an uncle of Olaf Tryggvason.
Members of that family would frequently bear the name of Ragnhild. A mother of Harald Harfagre was Ragnhild. One of the wives of Ragnhild the Mighty as well. One of the granddaughters, i.e. a daughter of Eric Bloodaxe, was also Ragnhild.
One of the wives of Harald Harfagre was Svanhild, a mother of Olaf Geistradir’s Alf II. Konovalov considers her to be the sister of Ragnvald of Maeren, the son of Eystein the Noisy. Thus, among the descendants of Olaf Geirstadir’s Alf II the name of Ragnvald could be given to representatives of the female line, and Ragnhild – to the representatives of the male and female line as well.
Olaf Geirstadir’s Alf II, whom Konovalov considers to be the real father of Ragnvald the Glorious, was killed by his brother Eric Bloodaxe in about 945 in the battle of Tunsborg. That was probably at that time when his son could go to Polatsk to gain the throne after Oleg’s death. In that case he would need some time to have gained the big glory for Thiodolf, the scald of his grandfather, to have enough time to dedicate the Ynglinga saga to him. Konovalov finds the way out by means of transference of the activities of Thiodolf from the court of Harald Harfagre to the court of Harald the Gray Coat who was his grandson and the King of Norway in 960-975. Unfortunately, Ragnvald the Glorious is the only representative of the Ynglings clan whom Thiodolf the Wise said nothing about. He only mentioned about the fact that he was the King of Westfold. The reason for fact that the saga contains no information about Ragnvald the Glorious is explained by Konovalov in the way that the saga had been written at the times when Ragnvald was still alive and it could not contain the information about his death and burial place. Nevertheless, Ragnvald had already been given the nickname of Glorious which could mean that he had already achieved some special things in his life, for example, had become the king. However, the saga says nothing about him. Although, according to Konovalov, that would be a very strange way to treat a person like Ragnvald who would be active in Norway and its surroundings. However, in case Ragnvald had become famous for his deeds faraway from Norway, Thiodolf the Wise could not hear about his nickname and know about the conditions of his life.
Reasoning of Konovalov in this respect does not seem to be convincing. Sagas tend to narrate about initiatives of their heroes on the periphery of the well-known world. How could not Thiodolf the Wise be aware of the initiatives of Ragnvald the Glorious dedicating the “Ynglinga saga” to him? In such cases the only reasoning is left, which was actually used by Konovalov, i.e. the fragment about Ragnvald the Glorious had been lost within the long period of oral existence of the saga.
In spite of all doubts and uncertainties, hypothesis of Konovalov about Rahvalod being the part of the Ynglings clan sounds very attractive.
The tradition to create sagas survived from the end of the 12th to the beginning of the 16th century. Sagas were known to primarily be the literary works but the historical ones. The stories kept travelling from people to people and would get added with new topics. Such heroes like Rollo, the conqueror of Normandy, were highly appreciated by various clans and wanted to have him among his people as well. The Polatsk Rahvalod is known only from one single source, i.e. the “Tale of the Bygone Years”, which according to its accuracy fact wise can hardly be better than the works of scalds and early Scandinavian historians.
According to scholars who studied the “Tale…” in details, it had been written within at least several decades. In the middle of the 11th century the core of the chronicle, dealing with christening of Russia, had been initially completed. In 1160s-1170s the fragments about the first grand dukes, i.e. Rurik, Oleg, Igor and Olga, are believed to have been added by Nikon. That was obviously mainly Nikon who added to the chronicle the story about Rahvalod and marriage of Vladimir and Rahneda. At the beginning of the 12th century someone (traditionally he is called Nestor) created the new chronicle instead of the old one. We can not be sure who had actually created the „Tale of the Bygone Years”, as authorship of Nestor is recognized to be very problematic. Hypothetical the chronicle is believed to be written in the second half of the 11th – beginning of the 12th century. However, it reached modern times in the form of two versions, i.e. the Lavrent’yevskaya chronicle of 1377 and the Ipatyevskaya one (1420s). So much could be added and composed within all that period of time. From the scientific point of view only Igor, mentioned about by the Byzantium author Constantine Porfirogenitus, can be treated as the first historical representative of Rurikides, specified in the “Tale of the Bygone Years”.
The legendary ancestor of Rurikides had to be a Viking leader Rurik, who came to the Great Novgorod with his brothers Sineus and Truvor. Rurik is often identified by many of the historians as Roric from Jutland or Frieseland. Unfortunately, neither Scandinavian scalds nor historians had ever mentioned about the activities of any Rurik in Gardariki. The Old Scandinavian „Reriks” stands for the one who is „rich in glory”. Such a nickname could be attributed to any outstanding leader of Vikings. “Sine hus thru varing” means „with his clan and the retinue”. And the latter means that Rurik had no brothers named Sineus and Truvor. It is quite possible that „Rurik, Sineus and Truvor” are no more than a literary image, created by Nikon in order to prove noble origin of Igor. In case there was no Rurik with his brothers Sineus and Truvor in reality, then we can really doubt about the existence of Rahvalod with his brother Turi and a daughter Rahneda. The actual historical documents comprise no such names.
At the time when the „Nikon’s” part of the „Tale of the Bygone Years” chronicle was being composed, Guillaume le Bâtard from Normandy conquered England and became known as William the Conqueror. His clan was definitely spoken about through the whole Europe. Different stories were told about the initial origin of William the Conqueror; some of them had definitely reached the Dnieper River as well. The names of Ragnvald Maerejarl, his wife Ragnhild and son Tore could be learned by the chroniclers from the “Orkneyinga saga”. The author of the “Tale of the Bygone Years”, who interpreted the “sine hus thru varing” phrase like “with brothers Sineus and Truvar”, could as easily transfer Ragnvald Maerejarl into Rahvalod „from across the sea” (as “more” in Russian stands for the “sea”). In this case replacement of a wife with a daughter and a son with a brother seems to be a minor detail, no more.
As for locating them in the area of the Dzvina River, the chronicler could do that under the influence of the stories about Hregvidr from the “Ganging Hrolf saga”. A daughter of Hregvidr suits perfectly the prototype of a glorious daughter of Rahvalod.
The two famous Ragnvalds served Yaroslav the Wise, the king of Rus’. The first one, i.e. Ragnvald of the earls from Ladoga, whose clan can originate from Eystein the Old, a killer of Hregvidr. Another Ragnvald, Brusason, is known to originate from Ragnvald Maerejarl. The author of the “Tale of the Bygone Years” could have borrowed the names of Rahvalod and Rahneda from the “Orkneyinga saga”; more than that Olaf Tryggvason and Harald Hardrade happened to come to Rus’ as well.
The story about Rahvalod could be attached to the “Tale of the Bygone Years” on advice of the Polatsk dukes. However, the same “Tale…” contains the proof that it was not the case. The name of Rahvalod appears to be among the “Rahvalod’s grandchildren”, i.e. the dynasty of Rahvalod at the beginning of the 12th century, i.e. after the “Tale...” had been finished. We face similar situation in the Polish history as well. The first Polish historian, Anonymous (later on called Gallus), defined the origin of the Polish dukes as the one that begins with Piast, whose descendants (as if!) were Siemowit and Lestko (Leszko) and Siemomysł; the son of the latter was the first Mieszko, duke of Gniezno. It was probably the way it was specified by the historian but the descendants of “Piast” did not obviously know about it; they began to call their sons Siemowit and Lestko (Leszko) only after “Gallus” finished the above mentioned work. Today it is problematic for us to believe that even dukes could not know the names of their great grandfathers, but that was the way it was. Constantine Porfirogenitus could give only the name of his grandfather, an ordinary Macedonian peasant. On analogy with the story about Russian dukes of the 11th century, the same thing happens about the Lithuanian dukes of 13th and even 14th century. Who can definitely specify the name of at least a father of Mindowg, the first King of Lithuania, or the one of Grand Duke Gedimin? And they have founded their states in the eyes of the whole Europe, both the Eastern and the Western one.
Rahvalod of Polatsk as well as all the above mentioned possible ancestors of him remain to be the legendary figures. Nevertheless, the Scandinavian scalds and historians could be more accurate as compared to the author of the “Tale of the Bygone Years”. Speaking about the legends, we should also remember about the fact that among the participants of the famous battle of Bravalla, i.e. among the forces of the Danish King, Harald the War Tooth, and his cousin Sigurd Hring, the Swedish King, one could also find King Ragnvald the Ruthenian.
The Bellum Bravicum is known to be the apocalyptic battle among all the forces of Northern World. Its participants comprised not only Scandinavian warriors but also all the peoples of the Baltic region. Among the warriors one could also find gods, mythological heroes of numerous peoples. We have the right to see the legendary Ragnvald-Rahvalod, the King of Polatsk, among them.
Translated by Ivan Burlyka
1. O. Pritsak, The Origin of Rus’, Vol. 1. Old Scandinavian sources other than
the Sagas, Harvard 1981; T. Baranauskas, Saxo Grammaticus on he Balts // Saxo
and the Baltic Region, Odense, 2004; Yu. V. Konovalov, Russko-skandinavskiye
sviazi serediny IX- serediny XI v.v. (Russian and Scandinavian ties of the
middle of the 9th – the middle of the 11th century., Istoricheskaya
genealogiya, # 5, 1995; K. Zukerman, Pro datu nevernenia hozar do iudaizmu y pro
hronologiuyu kniaziovannia Olega ta Igorya. Doslidzennia anonimnoho hozarskoho
lista z Kairskoii genizu, Ruthenica, V. II, 2003. Unfortunately, we could not
get an access to the work by R. Edberg, Vikingaresan till Polteskiuborg, Popular
arkeologi, T. 3 (19), p. 36-37.o
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