Birkebeiner(redirected from Birkebein)
participants in the civil wars in Norway during the second half of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century, mainly impoverished peasant-bonders who were protesting against the oppression of the state and of certain feudal lords. The Birkebeiner movement began in the 1170’s. After a defeat in 1177, the insurgents took refuge in the forests; often they wore footwear made from birch bark, hence their nickname (Birkebeiner literally means “Birch-legs,” or bast-shoe wearers). Under the leadership of a pretender to the throne, Sverre, the Birkebeiner renewed their armed struggle, which ended in 1184 with the victory of Sverre (who became king). Some of the Birkebeiner seized the wealth of the aristocrats and received land and government positions; the ranks of Birkebeiner were enlarged by elements of the well-to-do class. The Birkebeiner made peace with their opponents, the Bagler.