Sunday, May 15, 2011

It runs in the family II: Harald Hårfagre (Harald Finehair)

This old possible ancestor of ours had many names, Harald Hårfagre (Harald Finehair, Harald Fairhair, Harald the Fairhaired, Harold Haarfarer), Harald Halvdansson, and Harald I of Norway. He was born in 852 and died in 933, at age 83. These old Vikings had great names, such as his father, named Halvdan Svarte (Halfdan the Black) Gudrödarson. Harald had several wives, including a 'Snøfrid' (‘Snow peace”).

His most famous claim to fame was as the winner of the battle of Hafrsfjord in 872, which united Norway as one country for the first time. There is a giant sculpture at this place in Norway commemorating this event shaped as three swords stuck in solid rock, with the tallest sword representing Harald.

The long-haired tale is that the woman that Harald wanted to marry said she would not marry him until he was king of all of Norway, so then Harald vowed not to cut his hair until this was accomplished. This took a few years, so he got known for his long, blond hair, and earned nicknames such as "Shockhead" or "Tanglehair" (I think there was a lack of shampoo back then…).

Harald left a mess after himself, with something between 11 and 20 sons with 7 mothers (one of them a maid) fighting over the inheritance and the kingdom, and sometimes the sons were killing off each other. Over half of them considered themselves kings at some point in their lives, and the son our family traces back to is Olav Haraldsson. Olav died only one year after his father, in 934, at a battle in Norwegian Tønsberg, which might be the first founded city in Scandinavia. Both Harald and his half-brother Sigrød Haraldsson are buried here, and their killer was their half-brother Eric Bloodaxe, who again united Norway under one ruler . These Vikings really have a bloody history, and we haven’t even gotten to the arrival of Christianity around 1000.

Of course Harald and Snofrid have a Norwegian stamp – but look at them, don’t you think they are arguing? Over what? And that is that man behind them doing with his finger on his nose?

Previous blog posts on this topic:
Finding your (possible) roots in deep time

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