Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson was a 10th century King of Denmark from 958-986 and King of Norway from 970-986.
His father Gorm the Old became the first King of Denmark in 936. His mother was Thyra, who had reportedly led her husbands army against the Germans.
His parents ruled from Jelling in modern day Denmark and upon the death of his mother, his father the King erected a rune-stone in her memory. Today this memorial is known as the “Jelling Stones.”
Then when his father died in 958, Harold became King of Denmark.
He buried his father in a mound with many good, after the pagan practice of the time. Mound building had become a revived custom in the 10th century, perceivably as an “appeal to old traditions in the face of Christian customs spreading from Denmark’s southern neighbors, the Germans.”
King Harold’s nickname “Bluetooth” may have referred to a conspicuous bad tooth that had turned blue (”blue” meant dark in Old Norse).
Another explanation is that he was referred to as a “Thegn” in England (thegn meant chief). This was then corrupted from dark chieftain to “Bluetooth.”
A third theory, according to curator at the Royal Jelling Hans Ole Mathiesen, was that Harald went about clothed in blue. The blue color was in fact the most expensive, so walking in blue underlined Harald’s royal dignity.
Conversion to Christianity
King Harald Bluetooth’s conversion to Christianity is a contested bit of history.
The medieval writer Widukind of Corvey, writing during the lives of King Harald and Otto I, claimed that Harald was converted by a “cleric by the name of Poppa” who, when asked by Harald to prove his faith in Christ, carried a “great weight” of iron heated by a fire without being burned.
Four hundred years later, the Heimskringla relates that Harald was converted with Earl Haakon, by Otto II.
In any event, Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson undoubtedly professed Christianity at the time and contributed to its growth.
To commemorate his conversion, Harald had his father’s body reburied in the church next to the now empty mound, and erected a much larger runestone in memory of both of his parents at Jelling, celebrating his conquest of Norway and his conversion of the Danes to Christianity.
Today, these “Jelling Stones” and their runic inscriptions are considered the most well known in Denmark:
“King Harald bade these memorials to be made after Gorm, his father, and Thyra, his mother. The Harald who won the whole of Denmark and Norway and turned the Danes to Christianity.”
As a consequence of Harald’s army having lost to the Germans at the Danevirke in 974, he no longer had control of Norway, and Germans settled back into the border area between Scandinavia and Germany. They were driven out of Denmark in 983 by an alliance of Obodrite soldiers and troops loyal to Harald, but soon after, Harald was killed fighting off a rebellion led by his illegitimate son Swein. He is believed to have died in 986, although several accounts claim 985 as his year of death.
Since the legend of Bluetooth had the 10th century king uniting Danish tribes with those of Norway for the first time, as well as introducing Christianity, he became known as a “Unifier.”
Then in 1997, Jim Kardach developed a system that would allow mobile phones to communicate with computers. At the time of his proposal, Jim Kardach was reading Frans Gunnar Bengtsson’s historical novel “The Long Ships” about Vikings and King Harald Bluetooth. Jim’s implication became that his modern Bluetooth technology does the same with communication protocols as Harald Bluetooth did in the 10th century. It unites them into on universal standard.
The name stuck and even today, the Bluetooth logo consists of the Nordic rune initials H and B, referring to Harald Bluetooth’s initials.
Now WE know em