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European Kingdoms

Northern Europe

 

Hålogaland / Trøndelag (Norway)
Incorporating the Adogit & Haleygir, and the jarls of Lade

FeatureThe birth of the modern Norwegian nation took place following the Viking age, along with the simultaneous arrival of Christianity in Scandinavia and Fennoscandia (see feature link for an examination of the origins of 'Scandinavia' as a name). Before that, the Scandinavians were contained entirely within the southernmost third of Sweden and Norway. Initial settlement and the spread of early kingdoms largely followed the rivers, with inland areas being only sparsely inhabited. The rest was part of a poorly-defined (and poorly understood) territory known as Kvenland, which stretched all the way east into modern Russia. As with early Denmark and Sweden, the rulers of Norway (the Norsemen) emerged from legendary origins, but the royal house that eventually dominated was probably founded by a refugee noble from the kingdom of the Swedes, fleeing his homeland during a period of Danish superiority.

One of the larger petty kingdoms which was eventually subjugated by the growing power of that early Norwegian royal house was that of Hålogaland. It was located on a long, deep stretch of the northern Norwegian coastline, covering the western sides of the modern counties of Nord-Trøndelag and Nordland and perhaps the southern edge of Tromsø. Bordering the Throndhjem region to the south, it maintained a strong tradition of independence even in the face of Norwegian unification. In later pre-unification years its king could also be referred to as ruler of Trøndelag.

In fact its very origins may have lain in its southernmost border, in the Throndhjem in which the royal residence of Lade was to be found following Norwegian unification. The early kings of Hålogaland are termed the Haleygir (the dominant tribal group here: Old Norse háleygir) or the Hladir, the folk of Lade. The later version of the name can be produced by removing the plural suffix '-ir' from Hladir and also the semi-silent 'h' prefix to produce 'lade'. It seems that Hålogaland may have been populated from Lade, which would make sense as such a progression produces a south-north drift along the Norwegian coastline, with settlements springing up along the way.

A sub-domain which was often ruled on an independent or semi-independent basis was Hrafnista (Ramsta), a territory on the island of Nærøy in Nord-Trøndelag, northern Norway. This domain produced several heroes in the sagas, along with important early settlers of Iceland. Hålogaland itself in the sixth century amounted to little more than a few coastal ports, while the greater part of it was still vaguely attached to the concept of a single great territory known as Kvenland. The Adogit of the far north around the AD 550s as mentioned by sixth century Byzantine historian, Jordanes, could be a form of háleygir, possibly linking them to the eventual appearance of a kingdom here.

All of the kings of early Hålogaland are known primarily from early Norse sagas, supplemented by patches of other surviving information. Some of this, such as the writings of Saxo Grammaticus, probably used the sagas as their basis, or at least tried to make sense of some of the more mythological episodes in the sagas. Despite this, the mist around early events can be parted to reveal a list of petty kings of Norway and Sweden, and their various heroic deeds can be pieced together. Most of these kings cannot be pinned down by historical documents or other such reliable methods, so they essentially enjoy a semi-legendary status which probably reflects (and glorifies) a more earthly reality. The early names of Hålogaland's kings appear in the Ynglinga Saga, often as kings of the (tribal) Haleygir.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from Gautreks Saga, from Fridthjófs saga ins frækna, from The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, Jordanes, from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), from The Heimskringla: Or, Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, Volume 1, from Glymdrapa, Hornklofe, from Saga: Six Pack 6, A Scandinavian Sextet (various authors), from Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, and from External Links: Kvenland (a detailed overview of the existence of Kvenland before it was absorbed into Norway, Sweden, and Finland, although with some content that is of dubious reliability), and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), and Visit Norway, and Pre-Viking Iron Age settlement (Ancient Origins), and Sæming Genealogy.)

fl c.260s (380s?)

Sæming

Ruler of Hålogaland and Lade. 'King of the Norse'. An Angle?

Sæming of Hålogaland and Lade is claimed not as a founder or king of Norway as such - although he is labelled 'king of the Norse' (a people), not Norway (a northwards route or collection of territories). Instead in the genealogies his father is given as Woden (Odin), a substantial ancestor figure in the genealogy of Anglian kings.

Odin Rides to Hel
This woodcut is entitled 'Odin Rides to Hel', being an illustration by WG Collingwood from The Elder Edda or Poetic Edda

FeatureWoden is claimed as an ancestor figure by many of the Anglian, Jutish and Saxon tribes which later migrate to Britain (see feature link). Is it possible that this semi-mythical figure represents a powerful Anglian king whose many sons - or even just close followers - and their descendants find or create positions of power as the Anglian peoples fragment before and during their migration in the fifth century AD?

The calculated timeline for Sæming of Hålogaland which counts back from about AD 800 places him a century earlier than Woden, but those calculations could very well be too generous. Reducing each generation's period of influence by just five years or so would remove the disparity, placing him in or about the 380s. Sæming aside, those claiming Woden as an ancestor include the descendants of Baeldaeg, Benoc, Caser, Waegdaeg and Wehta, while the kings of Lindsey also claim direct descent from him.

fl c.290s

Godhjalt (or Thrand)

Son. (Or Thrand/Thrond, of seventh century Hedmark.)

fl c.310s

Sverdhjalt (or Eystein)

Son. (Or Eystein, of seventh century Hedmark.)

fl c.330s

Hoddbrodd (or Halfdan)

Son. (Or Halfdan, of seventh century Hedmark.)

fl c.360s

Himileig Hoddbroddsson

Son.

376 - 378

The Visigoths are defeated by the Huns and flee across the Danube to seek shelter in the Roman empire. Badly treated and starved of supplies, they revolt and ravage the land south of the Danube, killing Emperor Valens in battle. Peace is restored and they are allowed to settle in northern Greece, in Thrace and Moesia, charged with defending the Danube. The Ostrogoths and Rugians, who by now seem to have a kingdom in Austria, are subjugated and made Hunnic clients.

Huns
The approach of the Huns into Central Europe spread terror and fear, and not without good reason as their unfamiliar battle tactics defeated opponent after opponent

fl c.380s

Vedurhals Himileigsson

Son.

fl c.410s

Havard Vedurhalsson

Son.

fl c.430s

Godgest Havardsson

Son.

fl c.460s

Hemgest Godgestsson

Son.

fl c.500s

Gudlaugur / Gudlog / Gudlaog

Son. Hanged by Swedish princes.

c.500

The Swedish princes, Jorund and his brother Eric, remain on their warships while Hugliek is king of the Swedes, and they prove to be great warriors. They maraud in Norway where they fight and capture King Gudlog of Hålogaland, an early appearance of Norsemen in this northern territory which must have been occupied solely by Kvens until very recently. The princes hang Gudlog at Stomones and allow his men to raise a mound over him.

At this time Throndhjem's Ørland peninsula is recovering from the most recent ice age. The land had been greatly pushed down by the weight of the ice and is still in the process of rising up. A bay has resulted (which today is dry land thanks to the process continuing), and a pre-Viking settlement has formed around it.

This strategically-located site includes three large longhouses which are arranged in a U-shape, one of which has several fire pits which are possibly used for cooking, keeping warm, and for handwork. Excavations in 2015 show the occupants of the site to be relatively wealth traders.

Archaeological excavations on the Ørland peninsula
Archaeologist Synne H Rostad operates a standing sieve which is used to sift out smaller bones and objects from the general soil

fl c.540s

Mundil Gyllaugsson

Son.

fl c.550s

Hersi / Herse Mundilsson

Son.

550s

According to Jordanes, the tribe of the Adogit live in the far north of Norway, while the Grannii (Grenland), Augandzi (Agder), Eunixi, Taetel, Rugii (Rogaland), Arochi (Hordaland, possibly linked to the Charudes), and Ranii occupy central and southern Norway at this time, along with the Raumarici (the later kingdom of Raumarike) close to modern Oslo.

Roduulf rules the Ranii until, apparently despising his own kingdom and seeking adventure, he flees to join Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths. The Adogit of the far north could be a form of háleygir, possibly linking them to the later petty Norse kingdom of Hålogaland, which is probably still part of the nebulous territory of Kvenland at this time outside of a few coastal ports.

Höðr (often Anglicised as Höd) is a Norse god. The King Höðr of Hadeland, however, can be assumed to be a founder figure - legendarily or semi-historically - of Hadeland. This Höðr is linked through his deeds with King Helgo of the Haleygir (shown below).

Finland
Despite occasional descriptive references from early writers such as Tacitus, pre-Viking Kvenland is shrouded in the mystery of a people with no writing and a lost oral tradition

fl c.580s

Brand Hersesson

Son.

fl c.590s

Helgi / Helgo

Connection unknown. Contemporary of Höðr of Hadeland.

Helgi, otherwise shown in Old Norse as Hölgi, is counted as the founder and namesake of Hålogaland. This possibly serves to cover the period in which tribal domination of the area becomes more organised as a pre-Viking kingdom. He is also noted as being the father of Þorgerðr (Thorgerdr). Þorgerðr is a divine figure in the sagas, seemingly being known across Norse lands.

fl c.590s

Hagen Lade

A claim of a founder figure for Lade?

fl c.600s

Brynjolf Brandsson

Son of Brand Hersesson.

c.620s?

The Swedes control of areas of Norway at this time, suggesting increasing Swedish power, but also the likelihood that there is something worth conquering and ruling in Norway. Many minor kingdoms are known, but little is recorded of their history or rulers outside of early sagas until they come into contact with the Yngling kings, and are subsequently conquered or absorbed.

fl c.630s

Bard Brynjolfsson

Son. Outlived his son?

fl c.680s

Havard Hergilsson

Grandson. Son of Hergils, son of Bard.

fl c.700s

Harald (I) 'Trygil' Havardsson

Son.

fl c.730s

Thrond Haraldsson

Son.

fl c.760s

Harald (II) Throndsson

Son.

fl c.790s

Herlaug Haraldsson

Son.

fl c.820s - 860s

Grjotagard Herlaugsson

Son. Last king of Hålogaland (also known as Trøndelag).

c.860

Two of Grjotagard's sons (although another source claims they are sons of Harald (II) Throndsson), Herlaug and Hrollaug, assume command in Naumudal. However, Haraldr Hárfagri (or Harfarger) of Agder is working his way through the petty Norse kingdoms in his quest to unify then under his rule. Naumudal's turn comes within the decade.

Map of Norway
This map shows a host of the many petty Norwegian kingdoms in eighth and ninth century Scandinavia, most of them arranged along the coastline, although penetration into the interior is clearly beginning (click or tap on map to view full sized)

866 - 867

There is internecine war between the minor Norwegian kingdoms. Haraldr Hárfagri of Agder slowly becomes dominant, forcing the kingdoms to acknowledge his rule which, by 872, is complete. He starts his campaigns in 866 by visiting the Oppland and Orkadal, attacking anyone who does not swear allegiance to him. In Orkadal (or Orkdalen), King Gryting is defeated and sworn in. Then the Gaulardal and Strind districts are conquered and their two unnamed kings killed in a great battle. Stjoradal is next, followed by the four unnamed kings of Veradal, Skaun, the Sparbyggja district, and Eyin Idre together. Possibly the tiny neighbouring kingdom of Söndmör is taken at the same time.

Some kings fall and some flee, but Haraldr is the victor. All of these victories across eight battles take place in or near the Throndhjem district (modern Trondheim). Then falls Naumudal and its two Hålogaland-born kings, far to the north of the Throndhjem. All of the surviving kings who swear allegiance to Haraldr are recreated as jarls of their territories, but with greater power and income than they previously enjoyed. Haraldr's firm supporter, Jarl Hakon Grjotgardson, is granted Strind, and Haraldr also marries his daughter, Asa, to seal the bond.

Independently-minded Hålogaland in the north of Norway continues to be a thorn in the king's side for quite some time. The first jarl of Hålogaland appears in the late 800s, but he is the son of its last king, Grjotagard Herlaugsson, so the Lade jarls are shown here for ease of access rather than under the entry for Throndhjem. From 866 Haakon 'the Rich' is jarl of Strind and Firdafylke, with Lade coming soon after, if not at the same time. Born in Yrjar in Iceland, he is eventually killed in battle.

866 - 869

Haakon (I) Grjotagardsson 'the Rich'

Son. First Lade jarl of Hålogaland. Also in Strind & Firdafylke.

867

Haraldr Hárfagri spends the winter at his new royal residence of Lade in the Throndhjem region before embarking on his next campaign. Prior to leaving he is forced to engage in a second battle against the people of Orkadal, clearly demonstrating the resistance to central authority being exhibited by the locals of this region.

Haraldr Hárfagri Halfdansson of Norway
Haraldr Hárfagri united all the minor kingdoms of Norway in the later ninth century through a mixture of force of arms and diplomacy, although the former seemed to involve most of his time

The men of Orkadal may be under the command of Nokve of Raumsdal at this time, but the resistance is soon crushed. Hornklofe's poem Glymdrapa records 'And Novke's ship, with glancing sides, must fly to the wild ocean's tides - must fly before the king [Haraldr] who leads Norse axe-men in their ocean steeds [their longships]'.

867 - 868

Next, having subdued North Møre and Raumsdal, Haraldr must defeat Solve in South Møre in the following spring (868). An army made up of men from South Møre and Firdafylke meets Haraldr's forces at Solskel again, although this time the Heimskringla describes ships being lashed together, stem to stem, marking this out as a naval encounter. In the end, Haraldr storms the flagship, forces the defenders to scatter, and kills both Audbjørn of Firdafylke and Arnvid of South Møre. Grjotgard and Herlaug, the sons of Jarl Hakon of Lade, are both killed while fighting in support of Haraldr.

Now Haraldr selects Ragnvald 'The Wise' to be jarl (earl) of North Møre, South Møre, and also Raumsdal. Ragnvald is the descendant of the original line of 'kings' of Kvenland who seem to have left their homeland in the time of Gor Thorrasson 'Sea King' in the late seventh century to find a new home amongst the Norwegians. In the following year, Jarl Ragnvald captures Firdafylke by burning down a 'house' in Naustdal in which is King Vemund with ninety of his men (more likely to be a royal hall). Firdafylke now joins Haraldr's new kingdom of Norway, commanded by Hakon Grjotgardson.

869

Having gained Firdafylke, Jarl Hakon Grjotgardson demands that Jarl Atle Mjove gives up Sogn and returns to his former post in Gaular district (Gaulardal in the Throndhjem), claiming that Haraldr Hárfagri of Agder wants Hakon to govern over Sogn. Atle refuses until Haraldr can provide guidance, and the quarrel escalates until the two sides come to battle. The fight at Fialar, in Stavanger fjord, results in the death of Hakon in combat and Atle from his wounds.

Haraldr Hárfagri and the giant Dofri
In his younger days, Haraldr Hárfagri ('Fairhair' or 'Fine Hair') cuts the bonds of the giant Dofri so that the giant can become his foster father in the Norse sagas - from the collection of Icelandic sagas, the Flateyjarbók

c.880s

Baron Bjorgolf hails from Torgar, within the former kingdom of Hålogaland. He becomes the earliest-known tax collector in the Finnmark. Egil's saga relates that at a banquet is a beautiful woman named Hildirida, the daughter of a low-born but wealthy farmer named Hogni.

Bjorgolf, now an aged widower, is charmed by the maiden, so he marries her despite the ill pleasure this generates in his son, Brynjolf. The pair have two sons, Harek and Hærek, although Bjorgolf dies not long after their births. Brynjolf immediately banishes Hildirida and her sons and ensures that they will not receive any inheritance.

c.900 - 962

Sigurd Haakonarson

Son. Burned to death supporting Haakon I the Good.

962 - 995

Haakon (II) Sigurdsson 'den mektige'

Son. Ally of Harold Bluetooth of Denmark (957-991). Killed.

976 - 977

The accession of Haakon Sigurdsson of Lade as ruler of the Norse lands may cause some disharmony in the Norwegian nobility. From about 976, Harald Gudrødsson Grenske, father of King Olaf II, can be found ruling Agder, Vestfold, and Viken, although it is not clear if he is claiming a kingship or remains subject to the king's authority.

995 - 1014

Eric / Eiríkr Haakonarson

Son. Ruler of Norway (1000-1014). Earl of York (1016-1023?).

995 - 1015

Sven / Sweyn Haakonarson

Brother and co-ruler. Died in Sweden, defending Norway.

1013

Olaf Haraldson is allied to King Ethelred of England, and fights with him against the Danes in this year. Olaf also reunites Norway and achieves hegemony over the Sámi of Kvenland who border the earldom of Lade along a long coastal strip to the north of Sweden and Norway.

Danish axe head
There was heavy fighting around London Bridge between Danes and English during the early 1000s, and this axe head was found with many others at the bridge's north end, possibly lost in battle or thrown into the Thames in celebration (courtesy Museum of London)

1014 - 1015

Haakon (III) Ericsson

Son of Eric. Viceroy of Norway (1000-15). Regent (1028-29).

1016 - c.1020

Following the death of Uchtred, earl of York and high reeve of Bamburgh, the high reeves lose their position of power in York as the arrival of the new Danish kings of England changes the political balance of power in the country. Eric of Hlathir - Eiríkr Haakonarson of Lade - is one of Canute's men, recently ousted as jarl of Lade following the change of power in Norway.

Control of Lade is uncertain in this period, with the old house having fled, largely to England under Danish control. Haakon Ericsson himself in this period is acclaimed as the king of the 'Isles' (Suðreyjar), Man, the Hebrides, and the Firth of Clyde islands. A sub-king rules Man itself, at least: Swein Kennethson. In Lade an apparent 'foreigner' is placed in command.

fl c.1020 - 1030

Eric of Thjotta

No relation to the previous rulers.

fl c.1024 - 1028

Asmundr Grankelsson

Murdered nephew of Thórir Hund and killed in revenge.

fl 1028 - 1030s

Thórir Hund 'the Hound'

Powerful pagan warlord. Marginalised after Stiklestad (1035).

c.1028

Karli is the tax collector for Olaf II of Norway, although his family connections are not mentioned in The Heimskringla. Tasked with collecting revenue for the king, he travels through Oppland and north through the mountains to board a vessel that will take him to the Finnmark.

He is joined on the long voyage by Thórir Hund (the 'Hound'), king of Hålogaland, who brings along a greater number of men than the tax collector despite agreeing to equal numbers for an equal share of the gain. It seems that Karli collects the taxes from the Finnmark before the pair sail further to Bjarmaland.

Thorir Hund
This woodcut depicts Thórir Hund and his men returning to their ship after raiding the wealth of a recently-deceased 'Permian', with Karli's vessel also shown alongside it

Thórir acquires an abundance of furs there, but once the trading is over and the agreed truce for the period is also ended, he leads the other Norsemen into a night raid to plunder the wealth of a dead man before it can be shared out according to the custom of the 'Permians' (the Finno-Ugric Finn or Sámi inhabitants).

This they do, but they also plunder from a statue of the native god, Jómali (from the Finnish Jumala, effectively meaning 'God'). Escaping from the vengeful natives, Karli refuses to handle the redistribution of their gains until they reach a safe port. Thórir runs him through with a spear and steals the rest of the loot, while Karli's brother, Gunnstein, and his men avoid being killed themselves.

1028 - 1035

Later in the same year as the adventure of Karli and Thórir into the far north, Norway falls under the rule of Denmark. The country is governed first by Haakon Ericsson as regent (see above), and then directly by Canute himself. Finally it is ruled by Canute's son, Sweyn, and his mistress, Aelfgifu, in his name until his death.

Olaf II returns in 1030 to reclaim his throne but is killed by the Norwegian lords who oppose him at the Battle of Stiklestad. Chief among these seems to be the independently-minded kings and lords of the north who largely refuse to accept Christianity even under torture. Thórir Hund of Hålogaland is marked out as the man who strikes Olaf the fatal blow, while Thórir himself is protected under his reindeer cloak, made invulnerable by the magic of his powerful friends in the north (largely Sámi natives who bind magic with paganism to an otherworldly extent).

Map of Scandinavia AD 1000
St Olaf II Haraldson
Early in life Olaf Haraldson took part in Viking raids on England, before securing his election as a king of Norway and pursuing a passion to Christianise his countrymen, something which ended in the rebellion of his subjects, while above is a map of Scandinavia around AD 1000 showing the extent of the Norwegian kingdom (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Unfortunately for Thórir, his political importance wanes sharply after the battle. His position is weakened, his fate is unknown, and a united Norway seems to absorb his territory. One Njal Finnsson, grandson of Haakon Grjotagardsson of the late 800s, is sometimes shown on modern lists as his successor, but Njal is known to die in 1011. Another name which crops up is Thorgils, possibly a regional governor from 1180, but unlikely to be an independent ruler.