Haakon’s Hatchet: A Legacy of Iron

Haakon’s Hatchet is a popular Iron Banner weapon and continues to see a great deal of use in 6v6. 

But who was Haakon? What do we know about him? Why did he have an Auto Rifle for a hatchet?

History Lesson

The truth is, there’s not much to go on. We can theorize that Haakon and the other new names belong to the second band of historic Guardians known as the Iron Wolves.

Redditor Child_of_Scorn recently posted a massive article detailing many connections between Destiny’s Iron Banner lore and Norse mythology. However, I’d like to point you instead toward Norwegian history: a bit of research reveals that Haakon is a modern Norwegian form of the Old Norse name Hákon, which meant “high son” from há “high” and konr “son, descendant.”

It was the name of seven kings of Norway (and incidentally is the name of the current Crown Prince of Norway), and that I think is where Bungie’s writers may have found their inspiration.

I’ve reviewed (in brief) the histories of all seven, and two of them stand out as the most likely inspirations for this weapon – the first and the last to rule by that name.

In the year 931, Haakon the First, the youngest of between 16 and 20 sons of the Viking King Harald Fairhair – a figure legendary largely for having produced so many children during the dark ages – was living in the court of the king of England when he heard that his father had died and his half-brother, Eric Bloodaxe, had killed many of their other brothers and claimed the throne.

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Now Eric was known as a fierce warrior (hence the Bloodaxe bit) and according to legend he began a very successful career as a pirate and raider at the age of 12, and kept right on killing his way to wealth and power for the next 30 years before claiming the throne. So needless to say, the fact that Haakon set sail with support from the English to try and overthrow his brother shows either incredible bravery or utter foolhardiness.

But Haakon was clever. Perhaps knowing that seeking direct conflict with Eric Bloodaxe would have been shortsighted and risky, and certainly knowing that Eric’s reputation as king was a harsh and despotic one, he instead negotiated with the Viking jarls – the nobility of Norway – and managed to seize the throne by, of all things, reducing taxes.

With no allies left, Eric Bloodaxe, fearsome Viking pirate, was forced to flee the country and live out his days in exile following a bloodless coup. But Haakon’s reputation doesn’t end there, and his underhanded ouster of his half-brother would come back to haunt him more than once.

Haakon ruled in relative peace for many years, and was by all accounts a good and just king, but the sons of Eric Bloodaxe did not forget the way he had deposed their father. In 953 they raised a considerable army and attacked Haakon’s main trading port, but were driven off by his defensive forces.

They attacked again two years later, sailing their fleets to the island of Frei in an attempt to seize it as a base. However, the clever King Haakon had set up a warning system of cairns (huge piles of firewood) that were set on fire to alert him to approaching war fleets.

Rather than confront his enemies directly, he again used strategy to outwit them. After allowing them to land on the island, he placed ten standards far apart along a low ridge where they would see them after they disembarked, giving the impression that his army was much bigger than it actually was. This fooled Eric’s sons into believing that they were out-numbered, and their army fled back to the beach and right into a trap – Haakon’s forces had pushed their ships out to sea while they marched and set on them from behind, slaughtering them to a man.

But like their father, the old King Harald, Eric Bloodaxe had many sons. They fought many battles against King Haakon in the years after this, but were always defeated by his well-organized army and cunning strategies, until at last they took a page from his own book.

Eric Bloodaxe’s last surviving sons landed undetected and snuck into King Haakon’s residence, surprising him there. In the fight that followed, all three were killed, but Haakon was mortally wounded by an arrow. According to Viking legend he was welcomed into Valhalla by the Valkyries and eight of his brothers who had preceded him there.

And he might well be the inspiration for the weapon so many of us wield in battle, fellow Guardians – hopefully we live up to the old Viking King’s cunning strategies, and don’t go the way of Eric Bloodaxe and his sons.

However, he is not the only King Haakon worthy of remembering – there is another.

Born Christian Frederik Carl Georg Valdemar Axel – yes, you read that right – King Haakon VII ascended to the kingship of Norway in 1906, following a selection by the Norwegian parliament and a referendum of the people. He took the name in remembrance of the many famous kings of that name, most notably Haakon the Good, whose cunning victory over the sons of Eric Bloodaxe he later honored in a special ceremony.

However, he was not himself a warrior, but a man possessed of character and principle whose generosity and conviction earned him the love and respect of all the people of Norway in the years that followed. He also had a heck of a mustache.

Haakon VII had his moment of truth on April 9th, 1940, when Nazi forces invaded Norway by sea and air and seized control of the country. However, a staunch defense of the capital resulted in the deaths of most of the Gestapo agents and administrators who were supposed to take control, which allowed King Haakon and his government to escape.

 

When the Nazi ambassador demanded that the king surrender and appoint a puppet government under the rule of Adolf Hitler, Haakon stalled, insisting that he had to consult the elected leaders of the government. In his meeting with them, he said the following:

“I am deeply affected by the responsibility laid on me if the German demand is rejected. The responsibility for the calamities that will befall people and country is indeed so grave that I dread to take it. It rests with the government to decide, but my position is clear.

For my part I cannot accept the German demands. It would conflict with all that I have considered to be my duty as King of Norway since I came to this country nearly thirty-five years ago.”

 

He went on to say that while he would respect their decision to surrender if they felt they had to, he would be forced to abdicate if they did so, as he could not go along with it. Needless to say, the Norwegian leaders were so moved that they quickly sent word to the Germans to stuff it and announced to their people that they would resist as long as they could and were confident the people would as well.

The Germans responded by attempting to wipe out the Norwegian King and his fellow leaders via carpet bombing several towns. However, the King and his ministers escaped into the woods, where they spent a few months living in simple log cabins before being rescued by British forces.

As the war went on, King Haakon broadcast many inspirational messages to the Norwegian people and was considered a central figure in the Norwegian resistance, many of whom wore his H7 monogram as a symbol of defiance against the Nazi occupation. Hitler tried many times to turn the Norwegian government against the King, but only succeeded in getting them to ask him to abdicate when he threatened to send every adult Norwegian male to German concentration camps. The King called Hitler’s bluff and politely declined by saying that the parliament was under duress and he could not accept their request. The Germans failed to carry out their threat, and instead gave up the fight and simply dissolved the parliament instead.

Today, King Haakon VII is regarded by many as one of the greatest Norwegian leaders of the pre-war period, managing to hold his young and fragile country together in unstable political conditions and standing up to one of the greatest tyrants in history. Truly a man worth remembering.

 

So there you have it, Guardians – the greatest Haakons of history who may well have served as inspiration for Destiny’s Haakon, the Iron Wolf who helped to defend the Last City in its early years.

Haakon is not the only name remembered by the Iron Banner though – what of Ashraven, Finnala, Bretomart, Nirwen, Tormod, Colovance, Deidris, and Weyloran? Their names also live in myth and history in the real world, I have no doubt: a Legacy of Iron which Guardians everywhere honor, even if they don’t know it.

So what did you think of the historical references behind Haakon’s Hatchet? Do you want to hear about more of the real world lore behind the Iron Banner references? Let me know in the comments and I’ll keep this series going!

Jonathon V

I love talking about Weapons, Perks, Stats, Lore, and all things Destiny. Find me as Kyt_Kutcha on PSN and Reddit, or listen to me co-hosting the Massive Breakdown podcast on Soundcloud and iTunes.

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