The Birkebeiner races - the historical background There was a civil war in Norway. Faction pitted itself against faction in fight for the throne. One faction was the birkebeiners. They were the underdogs, often in such dire need that they had nothing but the bark of the birch-trees as foot-wear. The word birkebeiner, birch-leg, has come to mean a man strong in adversity, never daunted by trials and hardship. The birkebeiners had gained ascendancy over great parts of the country, but the rival faction, the baglers, prevailed in the East of Norway. After the birkebeiner chieftain Haakon died on New Years Day in 1204, the baglers saw a dangerous rival pretender in his son Haakon Haakonsson , who was born in 1204, a few weeks after his fathers death. His life was at stake, and the birkebeiners wanted to bring him to safety in Trondheim. On Christmas Day in 1205 the party came to a small farm at Lillehammer, where they stayed in hiding over Christmas. They found it too risky to follow the route up the Gudbrandsdal valley, so they cut across the mountains to the neighbour valley in east, Østerdalen. Due to bad weather and difficult snow conditions the two best skiers. Torstein Skevla and Skjervald Skrukka had to go ahead with the two year old prince. "On this trip they suffered much from the cold, snow and wind". Behind this succinct account of the saga lies a deed of valour and strength with an appeal to skiers of all ages and nations. The 3,5 kilo pack carried by the present day birkebeiners symbolizes the prince, who later became king Haakon. He made an end of the civil war, and under him Norway had a heyday in the Middle Age. The birkebeiner expedition made history. Good luck to you in that royal trail across the mountains !!
- Last Updated: 07/11/2017
- Source: Visit Lillehammer
Birkebeinerrennet - the world's largest ski race!
- March 17, 2018 - March 17, 2018
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