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The sagas usually explain it as referring to Eric's slaying of his half-brothers in a ruthless struggle to monopolise his rule over Norway; Theodoricus gives the similar nickname fratrum interfector (killer of brothers).
When the latter had subjugated the island, he was in the end betrayed and killed by the Northumbrians." Even if Eric's rise and fall had been the inspiration for the story, the names are not identical and Harald Bluetooth's floruit does not sit well with Eric's.
The skaldic poems ascribed to Egill Skallagrímsson may offer further reassurance that the sagas are on the right track, although doubts have been expressed about the date and integrity of the verses in the form in which they have survived.
One of Egill's lausavísur speaks of an encounter in England with a man of “Harald's line” (Haralds áttar), while the Arinbjarnarkviða envisages a ruler at York (Jórvik) who is a descendant of Halfdán (Halfdanar) and of the Yngling dynasty (ynglings burar).
According to Heimskringla, Harald had appointed his sons as client kings over the various districts of the kingdom, and intended Eric, his favourite son, to inherit the throne after his death.
Some texts maintain that towards the end of his life, Harald allowed Eric to reign together with him (Heimskringla, Ágrip, Fagrskinna).