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European Kingdoms

Northern Europe

 

Solor / Solør (Soløyjar) (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 Solor (more accurately Solør, or in Old Norse Soløyjar). It was located in a valley which lies between Elverum to its north and Kongsvinger to its south, and which today is part of the county of Innlandet. Much of this during the Viking age fell under the control of Hedmark and Oppland.

Details about the only known kings of Solor come from a mixture of Norse sagas and vague history, 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.

(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 that is of dubious reliability), and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), and Visit Norway.)

late 7th century

Sölve

King of Soløyjar. Killed by Swedes from Värmland.

The name Sölve appears Celtic, or at least Celtic inspired. It could come from 'selg', meaning 'hunt', thereby referring to him as 'the hunter'. The word is cognate with the British regional name Solway which originates in the Selgovae tribe, also 'hunters'. The 'g' in that name became a 'y' over time and then vanished.

Värmland in Sweden
Today Värmland is located in western-central Sweden, but in the Viking age it was a border territory which was often more Norse than Swedish

Some Swedes in Värmland don't agree with the act of blaming and killing King Olaf Tretelgia for a famine. Disillusioned with their recently-founded kingdom, they migrate through the Ed Forest which separates Värmland from Hedmark. They kill King Sölve of what would seem to be the very minor Soløyjar kingdom, raising Olaf's son, Halfdan Hvitbeinn, in his place.

late 7th century

Halfdan Hvitbeinn / Halfdan I Whitelegs

King of Hedmark. m Åsa, dau of Eystein of Oppland.

c.670s?

Starting out from his stronghold in Soløyjar, Halfdan Hvitbeinn becomes one of pre-unification Norway's most powerful kings. Having obtained Raumarike, Hedmark and then Oppland, he also conquers Hadeland, Toten (a minor kingdom within Oppland), and part of Vestfold.

In addition he inherits Värmland (which had been founded by his father, Olaf Tretelgia, on the border between the Swedes and Norway about AD 655) upon the death of his half-brother, Ingjald Olafsson.

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)

Halfdan Hvitbeinn's son is Eystein. He succeeds his father as king in Raumarike and Vestfold. Married to Hilde, a daughter of Eric Agnarson, the latter kingdom is clearly inherited through his wife while the former appears to be due to a conquest. The Soløyjar kingdom seemingly disappears from history, its territory merged into that of bigger petty Norse kingdoms.