When I was a child, three old oak trees stood in “Nordskoven” (The North Forest) in the part of Denmark called Horns Herred. Sadly, only one of them remains today, since the two “younger” ones have died. Storkeegen (meaning the Stork’s Oak, so named from an old painting where a couple of storks were nesting in it) fell during a storm in November 1981, and the last part of Snoegen (meaning the Twisted Oak) withered and died in 1991.
However, Kongegen – the name means “The King’s Oak” – is still standing, with a bit of help from the “crutches” its human friends have given it.
According to our history, Denmark was unified by king Gorm the Old around 960 AD. At his time, the King’s Oak was already a large and old oak tree. We can’t say for sure just how large, because its age is not known with certainty. At this time it will have been between 400 and 1000 years old.
It is a good question how it survived, seeing that oak wood is in high demand. But it stands in an area that has always been swampy and difficult to access. Later it has been worthless as timber, since it was already rotting on the inside.
Today it stands among younger, taller trees. In the summer, their leaves are depriving it of sunlight, slowly killing the old oak.
This is the plaque on the fence surrounding the tree:
In English it reads,
THE KING’S OAK
Age: 1400-2000 years.
Once 14 meters in circumference
A main branch broke off in 1973
Please help us protect the old tree
by remaining on this side of the fence.
To put its age into perspective, it may be older than Christ. It definitely broke from the ground before the first Vikings set sail. And with a little luck it will still be standing by the time I leave this world.