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Harald Bluetooth and Palnatoke

Harald Bluetooth and his son Sweyn Forkbeard both appear in the Danish poet Adam Oehlenschläger’s tragedy ’Palnatoke’ of 1809. The action takes place in Roskilde in 991 and the characters include Popo, Bishop of Schleswig and Palnatoke, Earl of Funen, Vendsyssel and Bretland. It is Palnatoke who kills King Harald in the fourth act.

The costumes

The costumes from the production of Palnatoke at the Royal Danish Theatre in 1826 are found in the book Danish Theatre Costumes, illustrated and published by Christian Bruun (1828). They give an impression of the popular ideas of the time about the kings and princes of the Viking Age. The older, thoughtful Harald is dressed in a cloak with ermine trimmings, whilst the young Sweyn wears breast armour and a crown. The costumes have a historical and royal look and Sweyn’s appearance is reminiscent of that of Harald Bluetooth in the painting located in the choir of Roskilde Cathedral. However, they are far removed from today’s perceptions about dress in the Viking Age.

Adam Oehlenschläger

Oehlenschläger (1779-1850) debuted as a poet at the age of 20 in 1799. One of his most well-known works was the poem ‘The Golden Horns’. This was written in November 1802 after the theft in May of that year of the two famous golden horns of the Germanic Iron Age from the Royal Art Museum. Oehlenschläger also found inspiration for his later works in Nordic prehistory.


Palnatoke was written during a stay in Paris in 1807 after the completion of the tragedy ‘Hakon the Rich Earl’. The latter was about the pagan Hakon, who defended the old Nordic religion against Christianity, represented by the young King Olaf Tryggvason. People, story lines and themes connect the two tragedies together. On the same foreign travels of 1805-9 Oehlenschläger also wrote ’Thor’s Journey to Jotunheim’ and ’Balder the Good’.