History Files

European Kingdoms

Northern Europe


Naumudal (Namdale) (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 Naumudal (also known variously as Namdale or Namdalen). The Old Norse version was Naumudalr, which came from the River Nauma (now the Namsen), plus the suffix '-dair' meaning 'dale, valley'. It was located in the centre of modern Norway, to the extreme north of early settlement up to the Viking age.

All of the kings of early Naumudal 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 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 Most of these kings cannot be pinned down by historical documents or other such reliable methods, so they essentially enjoy a semi-legendary status which probably reflects (and glorifies) a more earthly reality.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), 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 which is of dubious reliability), and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), and Visit Norway, and Submission no alternative (ThorNews).)



Jarl. Father (grandfather) of Ketil Trout of Iceland.


Two of the sons of Grjotagard Herlaugsson of Hålogaland (although another source claims they are sons of Grjotagard's father, 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)

c.860 - 866

Herlaug Grjotgardsson

Of Hålogaland. Accepted burial alive.

c.860 - 866

Hrollaug Grjotgardsson

Brother & co-ruler. Accepted Haraldr, became jarl.

866 - 872

There is internecine war between the minor Norwegian kingdoms. Haraldr Hárfagri (or Harfarger) 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, King Gryting is defeated and sworn in.

Then the Gaulardal and Strind districts are conquered and their two kings killed in a great battle. Stjoradal is next, followed by the four unnamed kings of Veradal, Skaun, the Sparbyggja district, and Eyin Idre (Inderoen). Some of them fall and some flee, but Haraldr is the victor. All of these victories take place in or near the Throndhjem district (modern Trondheim). Possibly the tiny neighbouring kingdom of Söndmör is taken at the same time.

Then comes Naumudal and its two kings, far to the north of the Throndhjem. The two brothers, Herlaug and Hrollaug, have spent three summers raising a mound or tomb of stone, lime, and wood on the island of Leka. Upon hearing of Haraldr's advance, Herlaug fills the mound with food and drink, enters it with eleven companions, and then seals them all in. Hrollaug performs a ceremonial acceptance of his new role as a jarl (early) under Haraldr and hands over the kingdom without a fight.

Naumudal's burial mound of Herlaug
Herlaug's burial mound on the isle of Leka was examined, with the skeleton being found of what was presumed to be King Herlaug himself

866 - 871

Hrollaug Grjotgardsson

Jarl of Naumudal. Former joint king. Now sole ruler.

fl 880s - 890s

Ketil Trout Thorkelsson

Son of Thorkel. Early settler of Iceland.


Presumably named for his grandfather (or, sometimes, father), ruler of Hrafnista in the mid-ninth century, Ketil Trout is an important early settler of Iceland. Following a family feud which gets out of ends and results in deaths, he decides to emigrate. His family and followers embark on two longships, finding an early encampment near the River Ytri-Rangá before moving to permanent quarters and possessions to the east of the river.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.