Mrs. Kreul's Fourth Grade Class
Richards Elementary School
Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin

The Race of the Birkebeiners

Fourth graders at Richards School learn about the state of Wisconsin in Social Studies class so we looked for a story that would also allow us to include language arts and technology in an integrated unit. Our wonderful librarian Ms. Roberts suggested a newly purchased book titled The Race of the Birkebeiners, written by Lise Lunge-Larsen and illustrated by Mary Azarian, for the project.

The Birkebeiner is a cross-country ski race that commemorates the long-ago rescue of King Hakon of Norway from his enemies the Baglers in 1206. There are various Birkebeiner races around the world but only one is held in the United States. The US race is held right here in Wisconsin each winter in the city of Hayward. What a great connection!

We read the story together in a read aloud format two different times – the first time to simply enjoy the story and illustrations and the second time to work on making connections. Students were able to make many wonderful connections - to their own skiing experiences (text to self), to other books about winter, skiing, and rescues (text to text), and to Olympic ski competitions, (text to world) - among many others.

The class decided to write a sequel to The Race of the Birkebeiners titled The Return of King Hakon for the Kidspired Frosty Tales project. They met in small groups to brainstorm ideas for the theme of their story. Their decision was to make the main character King Hakon a four year old boy who was still being pursued by his enemies the Baglers.

The next step was for students to again meet in small groups to brainstorm the plot of the story based on the four main characters – Hakon, his mother Inga, the Baglers (the bad guys), and the Birkebeiners (the good guys). The teacher then created a Kidspiration story map that displayed their ideas and the connections between the characters and the plot. Students worked with their groups to add and delete ideas, proofread, again add and delete ideas, and proofread again. Finally the class worked together as a group to write a sequel using their Kidspiration story map.

During the story writing activity as students shared ideas and the teacher again modeled the use of Kidspiration as a tool for writing, students focused on making connections, using interesting words and phrases, and telling the story in a voice that matched the original story and the times in which the story was set. They were very pleased with the results!

These students have had very little or no previous work with Kidspiration so the accompanying activity is meant to introduce them to the graphics that are available in the program as well as the features which allow them to make connections between and among their ideas.

We hope you enjoy reading this wonderful winter story and exploring the possibilities which Kidspiration offers for student writing.

The Return of King Hakon

There was a fierce, winter snowstorm raging outside a large wooden house in the mountains of Norway. Hakon, a small boy of four and his mother, Inga, were inside sitting by the fire, having a hot drink and talking.

“Mama, tell me a story about when I was little,” Hokum said to his mother.

 “All right, son,” she said. “Before you were even born, your father was killed by the Baglers. Your father was the King of Norway but now you are the King of Norway.”

“The Baglers do not want you to be king, they want their own king to rule our country. When you were a baby, brave warriors called Birkebeiners saved you from those bad men.”

 “How did they save me, Mama?” asked little Hokum.

 “The Birkebeiners saved you from the Baglers in a very brave way. They carried you and kept you under their shields and skied to safety in Bergen. But the Baglers have not given up, they still want to have their king on the throne.”

“Am I still in danger, Mama?” the boy asked.

“Yes, you are, my son. Never go with strangers even if they are dressed as our brave Birkebeiners,” warned his mother.

 A few days later, Hakon and his mother were in the forest gathering firewood. A group of men, who had been hiding in the forest, skied up to them. They were dressed as Birkebeiners - but we know they were really Baglers in disguise.

The fake Birkebeiners asked, “Which path is the way to Bergen?” Inga was cautious of the strangers but Hakon went right up to them because he thought they were his heroes.

Hokum remembered the story about being protected under the shield when he was a baby. The men told the boy “If you want to see your special shield, come with us to Bergen.”

The Baglers took Inga by surprise, however, so she did not have time to protect her son. They quickly snatched Hakon and clumsily skied away. 

“I can ski myself, you know,” Hokum told the men. “But we have to get to Bergen in a hurry, so we will carry you,” replied one of the skiers in a gruff voice.

While they were traveling, Hokum noticed that they skied right past Bergen. “There’s Bergen! Why are we passing it?” asked Hokum in a confused voice.

“Umm...., we are taking a special path which is only fit for a king like you,” said one of the men importantly.

Hokum thought this was strange and began to wonder what was happening. He remembered that his mother said not to go with anyone she had not introduced him to. Who were these men?

 “There is only one path to Bergen,” Hokum said. “Who are you really and where are we going?”

“We are the Baglers and our king will rule the throne, not you!” said the leader importantly.

 “I am the true king of Norway!” shouted Hokum,  pounding his fists against the Bagger who was carrying him.

 “Put me down! Right now! I am the king!” he screamed over and over.

 The Baglers grew tired of all this screaming. The leader said “Let us abandon him right here. He will freeze and never be found then our man will be king.”

They left Hokum at the side of the path, without food or water.

Hokum was sad and scared but started to walk back down the path to Bergen.

Hokum got tired and hungry and thirsty and very cold but kept on walking. It seemed like he was walking for a very long time.

 Suddenly he saw skiers in the distance. He wondered if the skiers were Baglers or Berkibieners and didn’t know what to do. Should he hide or should he stay there?

Because he was fooled before, Hokum hid behind a tree and waited to see who the skiers were.

As they came closer, he spied his mother dressed in her queen’s cloak. But were the men the Baglers or the Birkibeiners? He couldn’t tell so he yelled “Leave my Mama alone, you bad men!”

Inga, his mama, gave him a big hug and said, “It is really me, your mama, do not be afraid. I am so glad you are safe!”

“These brave Berkibeiners saved me from the Baglers then we followed you by tracing the tracks made by your skis. Since you know who the Baglers are and why they took you, always remember to ask me before you go with anyone.”

Inga announced, “Brave and faithful friends, please come back to our home and join us for a small feast in honor of the Birkebeiner’s second rescue of King Hokum.”

Later that evening, everyone ate and drank and sang songs and told stories. This was all too much for the young King Hokum who fell asleep in his mother’s arms.

King Hokum, Inga, and the Birkibeiners lived in peace for many years and Hokum was the king of the land of Norway.

But....was this the end of the Baglers? What do you think?

Written Collaboratively by 4K

Kidspired Tales Internet Project

January 2003

Click on Image to View Full Size

Download Kidspiration Activity File


© Patricia Knox & Susan Silverman - Kidspired Frosty Tales 2003