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European Kingdoms

Northern Europe

 

Värmland (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.

At a time at which the kings of the Denes were conquering his homeland, that refugee noble, Olaf Tretelgia, is said to have fled the kingdom of the Swedes. Settling in Norway he founded its first (historical) royal house around AD 655. However, although perhaps dominant in Norway, Olaf did not rule a single, unified Norwegian kingdom. The historical existence of his descendants of the eighth and early ninth centuries is doubted by some scholars, but the names probably reflect real persons, even if the stories surrounding them may be fanciful. Olaf's territory was known as Värmland (or variously, Værmeland, Varmeland, or Vermaland), which was situated on the modern border between Norway and Sweden. The kingdom was neighboured by the Vestfold to the west.

All of the kings of early Värmland 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 Most of these kings cannot be pinned down by historical documents or other such reliable methods, so they essentially enjoy a semi-legendary status which probably reflects (and glorifies) a more earthly reality.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), 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 c.655 - ?

Olaf / Olav Tretelgia 'Tree-Cutter'

Kingdom founder. Former king of the Yngling Swedes.

c.655

At a time at which the kings of the Denes are conquering his homeland, Olaf Tretelgia is said to flee the kingdom of the Swedes and, settling in Norway, founds its first (historical) royal house. However, although perhaps dominant in Norway, Olaf cannot be said to be the ruler of a single kingdom. Instead he creates a kingdom on the border between modern Norway and Sweden called Värmland.

King Ingjald Illrade of the Swedes
Olav Tretelgia 'Tree-Cutter', son of the Ingjald Illrade who slaughtered his own kin as shown in this engraving, was ousted from his inheritance by a Danish invasion so that he had to found his own small territory on the border with the Norwegian kingdoms

There, he and his followers find that a good life can be had, and Olaf gains his epithet from the work done in clearing an area of forest near the River Klar for their initial settlement. Olaf also gains himself a wife in the form of Solva (or Solveig), a daughter of Halfdan Guldtand, son of Solve Solvesson, son of Solve the Old who had first settled the Soloer Islands in the west.

fl c.660s?

Ingjald Olafsson / Ingiald

Son. Died.

c.670s?

Starting out from his stronghold in Soløyjar, Halfdan Hvitbeinn becomes one of pre-unification Norway's most powerful kings. Having obtained Hedmark and then Oppland, he also conquers Hadeland, Toten (a minor kingdom within Oppland), and part of Vestfold. In addition he inherits Värmland upon the death of his half-brother, Ingjald Olafsson. He raises scatt (a form of land tax) from the land, placing earls over it for the rest of his life.

late 7th century

Halfdan Hvitbeinn / Halfdan I Whitelegs

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

c.700 - 869

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. Eystein's brother, Ivar, inherits Oppland and Hedmark. Given the lack of named kings for Värmland, it is likely that it remains attached to Vestfold or Hedmark.

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)

869

After conquering Firdafylke at the start of the campaigning season, Haraldr Hárfagri of Agder learns that King Eric Anundsson of the Swedes has taken command of Värmland and is collecting scatt from the forest settlers. He has clearly taken advantage of the fact that Haraldr has been campaigning on the western shores of the Norwegian lands for the past four years.

He has claimed the whole country in that region north to Svinasund and west along the sea, and is referring to it as West Götaland (or Gautland), making it an extension of the western Geat district (Svinasund or Svinesund forms part of the modern Norwegian-Swedish border).

868? - 870

Hrane Gauzke

Jarl of Värmland under Eric of the Swedes. Killed by Haraldr.

869 - 870

Haraldr Hárfagri discovers that King Eric Anundsson is also claiming Raumarike, the Vestfold, Vingulmark, and additional territory as a restoration of the eighth century Swede kingdom of Sigurd Ring. Many of the chiefs of these lands have already given obedience to Eric, so Haraldr summons them to face punishment or fines. He processes through Raumarike and Vestfold in the summer, restoring his hold over them. Then he advances into Värmland and seizes it, killing all of Eric's men that he can find and continuing to Vingulmark to restore his power there.

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

870 - ?

Guthorm

Jarl of Värmland under Haraldr Hárfagri of Norway.

872

The kingdoms of Agder (presumably under Haraldr's sub-king there), Hordaland, Rogaland, and Thelemark, along with chieftains from the Sognefjord region, all oppose Haraldr and are all defeated, most being killed. Many surviving nobles who refuse to accept the defeat now emigrate to Iceland while the defeated states are forced to join Haraldr's new kingdom of Norway.