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European Kingdoms

Northern Europe

 

Sondmor / Söndmör (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 Sondmor (Söndmör), located in or between the territories of Møre and Throndhjem, and contained to the north by the great expanse of Hålogaland. This region of Norway seems to have been rife with minor independent valley-sized kingdoms during the Viking age. When it came to Haraldr Hárfagri's ninth century campaigns of conquest he headed to this region in the first year of action, despite the fact that it was ruled by so many minor kings instead of one strong king.

Details about the only known kings of Sondmor 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, and Icelandic-English Dictionary (German Lexicon Project).)

c.800

Raum 'the Old' of Møre, Raumsdal, and Thelemark 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.

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)

Raum's daughter is Bryngerd, wife of Alf of Alfheim, while a small kingdom also appears in Söndmör from unknown origins and with a ruler whose ancestry is equally obscure. Most likely he is or has been a follower of another king before finding the opportunity to branch out on his own account.

mid-800s

Finnvid

Ancestry unknown. King of Sondmor. Founded Arnunge-Æt.

The name Finnvid is easily broken down. 'Finn' is obvious: it relates to the Finns themselves. 'Vid' is also found in the Norse deity name, Vithar, a son of Odin. This probably means 'up against, next to, towards', according to the Icelandic-English Dictionary. So the name means 'bordering the Finns', which seems a little odd for a personal name rather than a kingdom or territory. Could he be 'up against/next to a Finn', his mother perhaps?

mid/late 800s

Thorarin Finnvidsson Bullibak

Son.

fl 870s

Arnvid Thorarinsson

Son. Father of a tenth century jarl of Møre.

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 (or Orkdalen), King Gryting is defeated and sworn in.

Then the various other valley kingdoms of the Throndhjem are captured one-by-one. Possibly the tiny neighbouring kingdom of Söndmör is taken at the same time. Some of Haraldr's opponents fall and some flee, but Haraldr is the victor. Then falls Naumudal and its two 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. Norway is united under the rule of one single king.