Runes, Knives and Vikings: The Valdemarian Kings and the Danish Past in a Comparative Perspective
One of the central aspects of Michael Gelting’s contribution to Danish medieval studies has been his emphasis on the importance of studying medieval Denmark in a European context. Rather than manifestations of a unique ‘Nordic’ society, Gelting has urged medievalists to view the particular characteristics of medieval Denmark as ‘variations on a common European pattern’.1 This chapter, however, focuses on Gelting’s other, less frequently remembered observation: that Danish court culture throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries continued to take part in a ‘shared Nordic princely culture’. And that, paradoxically, the same period that saw the Danish elite adopting Western European cultural forms also saw a celebration of the distinctiveness of Danish culture and history.2 The Danish historiographical revolution of the twelfth century is a well-studied field; much less interest, however, has focussed on the oral and material engagement with the past in the period.3 This article will investigate the way in which the Danish kings, Valdemar I and his sons, Knud VI and Valdemar II, sought to mobilize
1 See the introduction to this volume. I am grateful to Erik Niblaeus for commenting on a draft of this article.