Clontarf is an epic story that spans Europe and its implications can still be felt across Europe today. It’s a tale of a christian Irish king vanquishing the Viking invaders and saving Ireland form the dark ages. Or so we have been told for the last 1000 years since it took place on Good Friday 1014.
It may be an Irish saga but brings in elements from Iceland, Denmark, Britain and beyond. And there is a woman right at the heart of it all. A woman scorned, a schemer, who is seemingly hell bent on revenge. But why? What has driven her to seek such a battle with a powerful Irish king. She is likened to Helen of Troy and according to the Icelandic Njal’s Saga she was “...endowed with great beauty but utterly wicked”. And her name was Gormlaith.
Clontarf retells this great epic, it will strip away the myth and reveal the true new facts about King Brian Boru, the “utterly wicked” Gormlaith and the Battle of Clontarf.
The Battle of Clontarf wasfought between the Irish led by King Brian Boru and the Norsemen or Vikings led by Sitric Silkenbeard, the Norse king of Dublin. It took place on Clontarf strand on Good Friday 1014 and after this great battle Brian finally drove the Vikings out of Ireland. We all know that. But was it really so simple? Can we believe all that we have been taught before? The simple answer is no! Most of this is historically incorrect and in Clontarf we will set the record straight.
The traditional, nationalist Irish interpretation of the Battle of Clontarf as the culmination of a war between Irish and Vikings is incorrect. Every Irish schoolchild has heard the story of the Viking Brodur murdering Brian at the end of the battle while the elderly Irish king was praying devoutly in his tent. But there’s actually no hard evidence to suggest that Brian died in this way. A very similar story was told about the Saxon king Alfred, and it may have been a sort of motif used to make a king appear more devout than he really was.
However, the myth of the battle as a final victory of the Irish over an invading enemy has proved to be an exceptionally powerful one down through the centuries. This is probably because of our later experience of conquest under the English. In the darkest days of invasion and colonisation, the Irish looked back on Brian as a heroic figure, and looked forward to the time when his like would come again to deliver the country from the foreigners.
But as we will find out all the myth making of Brian is somewhat of a propaganda tool spun out by his victorious relations in the aftermath of the Battle. PR was as much a part of life 1000 years ago as it is today.
Clontarf is a 2 x 1 hour full HD series and was funded by TG4 and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland through its Sound & Vision scheme.
Producer - Pierce Boyce
Director - Niamh Sammon