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European Kingdoms

Northern Europe

 

Vestmar / Grenland (Norway)
Incorporating the Grannii

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 Vestmar (Anglicised as Westmare or Westmor). Otherwise known as Grenland, it was a minor coastal kingdom which was part of the larger region of Grænafylket (or Grenafylket), situated within the modern county of Telemark (ancient Thelemark) in the south-west of Norway. According to popular theory, the name Grenland descends from the tribe of the Grannii, mentioned in passing by Jordanes in the mid-sixth century but with nothing further known about them.

Details about the only known king of Vestmar come from a mixture of Norse sagas and vague history, supplemented by patches of other surviving information. Some of the background material, 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.)

550s

Jordanes, a bureaucrat in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople, writes of the barbarian tribes in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, mentioning a wide number of them which include the following for Norway: the Adogit live in the far north. Further south are the Grannii (Grenland), Augandzi (Agder), Eunixi, Taetel, Rugii (Rogaland), Arochi (Hordaland, who have been linked to the Charudes) and Ranii, with the Raumarici (the later kingdom of Raumarike) close to modern Oslo.

late 8th century

Dag

King of Vestmar. Kingdom inherited by his son-in-law.

The king of Vestmar is Dag (meaning 'day' or 'daybreak'). It is his daughter, Liv (Hlif, meaning 'protection of the life') who marries Halfdan hinn Mildi of Raumarike and Vestfold. Vestmar is seemingly added to Halfdan's territory, probably upon Dag's death. Called 'the Mild' he apparently rewards his followers well with gold where other kings would use silver, but is a parsimonious host at the feasting table.

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)

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 8th century

Halfdan Hvitbeinn / Halfdan I Whitelegs

Son-in-law. Perhaps merged kingdom into other territories.

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 kingdom of Vestmar seemingly disappears from history, its territory merged into that of bigger petty Norse kingdoms.