Alternate History

Svart Rúnar (The Kalmar Union)

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Svart Runar (The Kalmar Union)

Svart Rúnar (right) overpowering a royal baliff. Illustration from 1943 collection.

Svart Rúnar is a figure from Vinlandic Folklore. He first appears in tales during the reign of Hafdis III, which was marked by a high level of banditry in the sparsely populated Hafsvaedaland. Probably a conflation of several robber-kings, or perhaps a moniker that they collectively used to evade the authorities, the supposed career of Svart Rúnar has changed over the centuries through re-telling.

Originally a villainous character, by the mid-18th century he had become a righteous figure striking out against the perceived abuses of Hafdis III's agents, both clerics and laity, in the Hafsvaedaland. In this re-telling he became a defender of the peasantry as opposed to the greedy criminal he originally was. He lost his trademark crossbow, a 'cowardly' weapon in the eyes of medieval chroniclers, and instead received an axe or a sword.

By the beginning of the 20th century, chiefly thanks to the novels of Birgir Bjarkisson, he had received a large band of followers, a passing acquaintance with Kristjana IV and love interests the length and breadth of Vinland. His history expanded as well, becoming a member of Hjortur Elvarsson's expedition to discover the Roasjoinn or a dispossessed farmer.

Several counties of Sud-Hafsvaedaland claim ownership of the legendary figure, with the oak forests of Hvíturýkorniflý often most associated with the legend in the public mind. Meanwhile a weekly scripted wireless program following the adventures of Svart Rúnar are currently extremely popular amongst both children and adults alike.

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