Thursday, October 15, 2009

Since We're on a Historical Kick Lately...

One of my favorite stories, Norwegian or otherwise, is that of the Birkebeiners. It's a story I'm sure most everyone reading this is familiar with, but if not you definitely need to check out the Lise Lunge Larson book about their flight and rescue of a future king.

Basically it goes like this, in Norway during the 1200's there were two groups claiming monarchy over Norway. On one side was the ruling family of King Sverre and on the other side were the Baglers. Battles were fought between them over land, ideals and succession, but in the end the fate of Norway fell to a newborn named Håkon Haakonsson.

Håkon was born in territory which was controlled by the Bagler faction, and his mother's claim that he was a birkebeiner royal son placed them both in a very dangerous position. When in 1206 the Bagler tried to take advantage of the situation and started hunting Håkon, a group of Birkebeiner warriors fled with the child, heading for King Inge II of Norway, the birkebeiner king in Nidaros (now Trondheim). On their way they came into a blizzard, and only the two mightiest warriors, Torstein Skevla and Skjervald Skrukka, continued on skis, carrying the child in their arms. They managed to bring the heir to safety.

This event still is commemorated in one of Norway's most important annual skiing event, the Birkebeiner ski race.

Maybe its the father in me, or maybe its the romantic, but there's just something about this story that always stirs up strong emotion. Think about it: two men/warriors facing overwhelming odds are entrusted with a helpless infant who, in their minds, represents hope for the future. Its really an amazing story.

That's why I was stoked to read that the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation is searching for two tough cross country skiers to dress as Birkebeiner warriors and ski the 54 kilometer journey from Cable to Hayward, Wis., as part of this year's American Birkebeiner.

If you are interested in learning more, you can contact the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation by clicking here.

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