Monday, 24 December 2012

A Strong King Or A Strong Country?

While reading Volumes I and II of Poul Anderson's The Last Viking Trilogy, I make a negative judgement about the title character, Harald Hardrada, who sees no difference between strengthening his country and strengthening himself. In order to prevent his own family from ever being killed by raiders or invaders, he himself raids and invades and that is morally wrong.

Yet he cannot rule without support. It is helpful to consider why some of his followers see him as a good ruler. One of them says that Harald:

built churches and a whole new town;
strengthened the country;
increased wealth, foreign trade and inner peace and safety;
is openhanded to friends;
sent four ships with low-priced meal to Iceland during a famine;
let Icelanders move to Norway;
did not hinder one Icelander who was en route to his enemy, Svein of Denmark;
later treated that Icelander well on his return.

This is an impressive list of good deeds. However, increasing the inner peace and safety of Norway simply does not undo the evil of killing and burning in Denmark.

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