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European Kingdoms

Northern Europe

 

Møre, Raumsdal, & Nordmøre (Norway)

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 minor kingdoms which was eventually subjugated by the growing power of that early Norwegian royal house was that of Møre and Raumsdal. It was located along the western coast of modern Norway, to the north of Bergen. By the ninth century it had divided into (or was always composed of) three smaller kingdoms, these being South Møre, Raumsdal, and North Møre, from south to north respectively. The overall territory was contained to the north by Hålogaland and the Throndhjem region, and to the south by Firdafylke and Sogn. The mountainous uplands to the east generally remained uninhabited until later, depite the presence of small valley-sized kingdoms such as Söndmör.

The name Møre (not to be confused with Möre in Sweden) is an ancient one, probably stemming from the Old Norse 'Mœrr'. This would seem to derive from the word 'marr'. meaning 'ocean, sea' and thereby providing a meaning for Møre of 'coastal region'. Raumsdal (otherwise shown as Romsdale or Romsdal) lay directly to the north of it, and it was this name which became dominant.

From 1660, 'Romsdal' was used to describe the entire district until a twentieth century replacement of it with Møre caused some controversy. To resolve the problem, in 1936 it was relabelled as 'Møre og Romsdal' (Møre and Romsdal). Immediately beyond Raumsdal (to the north) was Nordmøre (shown as North More in English), and its creation led to Møre itself becoming known as the Sunmøre, the 'South Møre' (South More in English).

All of the kings of early Møre and Raumsdal 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.

(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.)

fl  late 700s

Raum (I) 'the Old'

King of Møre, Raumsdal, & Thelemark.

c.800

Raum 'the Old' is father to Hadding Raumsson who becomes king of Hallingdal, perhaps its first king. Another 'son of Raum' who rules another territory - Gudbrandsdal - at the same time is Gudbrand Raumsson. Normally acclaimed as a son of the legendary (mythical?) King Raum of Norway, he could instead be a son of Raum the Old, ruler of Møre, Raumsdal, and Thelemark. Raum's daughter is Bryngerd, wife of Alf of Alfheim.

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)

Jötunbjörn Raumsson 'the Old'

Son. King of Møre & Raumsdal.

Raum (II) Jötunbjörnsson

Son. King of Møre & Raumsdal.

Hrossbjörn

Son. King of Møre & Raumsdal.

Orm 'Broken-Shell'

Son. King of Møre & Raumsdal.

Knatti

Son. Not in all genealogies. King of Møre & Raumsdal.

fl  late 700s

Thórolf

Son. Not in all genealogies. King of Møre & Raumsdal.

fl  late 700s

Ketil Raumr

Brother and co-ruler. Elsewhere stated as son of Orm.

The son of Halfdan Hvitbeinn of Oppland is Eystein. He succeeds his father as king in the newly-acquired kingdoms of Raumarike and Vestfold. A brother of his is Ivar Halfdansson, who continues to rule in Oppland and Hedmark while also apparently gaining control in Møre and Raumsdal. His own son, Eystein, appears to inherit Raumsdal while his brother (another Eystein) secures Oppland. Thórolf's own immediate descendants are claimed as settlers of Iceland.

fl c.800s?

Ivar Halfdansson

King of Oppland and Hedmark.

fl c.840s

Eystein Ivarsson

Son. King of Møre & Raumsdal.

Whatever happens in Møre and Raumsdal after the reign of Eystein Ivarsson seems to be unknown. Either his possible successor delegates authority to sub-kings, or there is an official division of territory. Either way, three kings rule during the mid-century battles against Haraldr Hárfagri.

Søkkunda in Hedmark
The Søkkunda in Hedmark is a tributary of Norway's River Glomma, with the latter being known by the Vikings as the Raum which marked Aflheim's northern border

? - 867

Hunthjof / Hunthjóf / Hunthiof

King of North Møre & Raumsdal. Killed in battle.

? - 867

Nokve

Brother-in-law. King of Raumsdal. Killed in battle.

? - 867

Arnvid

King of South Møre. Killed in battle.

867

Haraldr Hárfagri of Agder 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.

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]'.

Now in the second year of his quest to unite all of Norway under his rule, Haraldr attacks the Møre region. The kings of North Møre, Raumsdal, and South Møre assemble an army and the two sides meet at Solskel. A great battle ensues in which Haraldr is the victor. Glymdrapa records the action, mentioning two kings being killed - Arnvid clearly escapes to fight another day. Solve Klofe, the son of Hunthjof, also escapes the defeat and flees south to join Arnvid.

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

867 - 868

Solve Hunthjofsson 'Klofe'

Son of Hunthjof. King of South Møre. Killed in battle.

867 - 868

Having subdued North Møre and Raumsdal, Haraldr must defeat Solve in South Møre in the spring of 868. Solve has spent the winter raiding Haraldr's posts in North Møre, killing many of his men and burning and plundering. Now he heads south to Firdafylke to enlist the help of Audbjørn.

The expanded joint army, together with Arnvid's forces, 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 and Arnvid. Solve flees again, this time to become 'a great sea king [who] often did great damage in King Harald's dominions'. 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. They appear to have settled in Oppland by the late 700s.

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.

Map of Eastern Europe AD 862-882
Haraldr's final rebellion against his rule came shortly after Scandinavian expansion into the east took place at Novgorod, with other Rus princes at Izborsk and Beloozero (click or tap on map to view full sized)

868 - 894

Ragnvald Eysteinsson 'the Wise'

Jarl of South Møre, Raumsdal, & North Møre. A Kven?

c.875

Haraldr Hárfagri campaigns across the seas to hunt down those opponents who had fled Norway in opposition to his unification of the country. They have been raiding Norway's coast since then, causing considerable damage. Haraldr has been carrying out regular summer expeditions against them, but around this year, having tired of simply chasing them away, he pursues them to their western bases.

His forces storm the islands of Hjaltland (Shetland) and clear them of hostile Vikings. Then he does the same on the Orkneys, plunders the Sudreys (Hebrides), chases down Vikings across Scotland, and finds that Vikings on the Isle of Man have fled before him. As compensation for the death in battle of Ivar, son of Jarl Ragnvald, Haraldr gives Ragnvald the Orkney and Shetland Isles. He in turn hands them to Sigurd, his brother, who remains there to govern them.

894 - early 900s

Thorir Rognvaldsson

Son. Jarl of South Møre, Raumsdal, & North Møre.

c.900

During his reign, Haraldr Hárfagri divides responsibility for the management of the kingdom. The original holdings in the south-east are given to sons (at least twelve) and kinsmen, the south-west coastal region remains under Haraldr's direct control as high king, the long north-western coastal strip is governed by the earls of Lade, while the earls of Møre govern a much smaller region between Lade and the south-west.

Viking village
The Vikings who settled in Normandy (possibly from Raumsdal) would have seemed a rough and ready lot to the relatively sophisticated French court, but they proved their worth as loyal vassals and renowned fighters

The earls of Lade prove to be important players in the rule of Norway later in the century. They also create two important offshoots of Norse power, although the claim of Hrolf ('Rollo') Gangr, brother of Thorir Rognvaldsson being the founder of Normandy is disputed with Denmark. Another brother, Turf-Einar, is the ancestor of the jarls of Orkney.