Essay 3 - Albert Ho GERST 103 Viking Madness Essay#3...

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Albert Ho March 16, 2004 GERST 103 – Viking Madness Essay #3 - Military Affairs in Egil’s Saga Throughout Egil’s Saga , many conflicts arise between characters that lead to inevitable grand-scale conflicts. Much of the saga describes the exploits of King Harald Fair-Hair, who unites the lands of Norway by means of military conquest. From the very beginning of the saga until his death, King Harald applies his exceptional strategic mind to achieve success and demonstrate his ability to lead his countrymen to battle. During his conflict with Olaf and the Scots, King Athelstan of England employs the leadership services of the brothers Egil and Thorolf, both of whom also display an impressive and effective use of military tactics in the field of battle. The nature of military thinking exemplified by these men in Egil’s Saga is analogous to that of Sun-Tzu, author of one of the greatest military texts ever written: The Art of War . Although not directly familiar with the Art of War , Harald, Athelstan, Egil and Thorolf are extremely successful in their military affairs in Egil’s Saga because of their exploitive use of the strategies of Sun-Tzu. In the Art of War , Sun-Tzu explains the tactical advantage of terrain, changing of seasons, numbers, field formation, alliances and other extremely important military considerations that contribute to the success of a great leader. For King Harald’s unification of Norway in the beginning of Egil’s Saga , the most applicable strategies come from the offensive strategies detailed in the Art of War . Later in the saga, Olaf of the Scots invades England and annexes all of Northumbria, a victory that earns him the 1
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loyalty of English nobles who add to his numbers. Egil and King Athelstan of England are then faced with the challenge of defeating an invading force much larger than their own, and their military disposition becomes a defensive situation. In this way, they make use of the defensive strategies detailed in the Art of War . Harald, Athelstan and Egil cunningly implement the strategies found in Sun-Tzu’s Art of War to the Viking battlefield and are ultimately successful in their military campaigns because of them. When King Harald conquers the states of Norway, he does so by arranging his invasions in an array: “He did battle with the neighboring kings…he took over Oppland, and proceeded northwards to Trondheim...” (p. 9, Icelanders). His movements are erratic to some degree; he first conquers the northern states of Norway in a series but then sails from the north to conquer More in the south. In the Art of War , Sun-Tzu cites this situation in which “I determine the enemy’s disposition of forces [hsing] while I have no perceptible form” (Vacuity and Substance, Sun-Tzu). Since Harald has the advantage of concentrating his forces while the enemy is divided into a series of Norwegian states, he employs Sun-Tzu’s following solution: “If we are concentrated into a single force while he is fragmented into ten, then we attack him with ten times his strength. Thus we are
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