VIKING STORIES OF ROGNVALD'S FAMILY


The name "viking" derived from "vik" or bay. Every freeman was bound by law to be enrolled for military service and to contribute to the building of a longship. These set sail by order of the king from the Hafn or harbor. They were authorized to kill, burn and destroy in lawful war. Those who set off from the open bay or "vik" on raids of their own design came to be called "vikings".

On board each Norman vessel was a chest of hawks and ravens and when the vikings were uncertain in what direction lay the land, they would let one of the birds fly, knowing he would instinctively make for the nearest coast. Our ancestor Rollo followed this course before settling in Normandy.

The old vikings had long beards and hair. There came a time when ways began to change and that fashion changed as well. King Harold Fairhair, first king of Norway was given his name by our ancestor, Earl Rognvald. It happened in this way:

King Harold was at a feast at Rognvald's holding at More and prepared for it by having a bath and having his long hair washed. Earl Rognvald cut his hair which had been uncut and uncombed for 10 years and had caused his name "Lufa" or "Rough Matted Hair". Such beautiful, abundant, fair hair was revealed after the washing that Rognvald gave him the name "Harold Harfager" (Harold Fairhair). All present agreed. This was described in the Hiemskringla by Snorri Sturleson. The great story of the kings of Norway.

SIGURD, brother of Rognvald:

While fighting in the Orkneys and Shetlands and subduing them to Norman rule, Ivar, son of Rognvald was killed in battle. King Harold gave Rognvald these islands in compensation for the loss of his son. Rognvald in turn, ceded these to his brother who was willing to remain behind and rule them. Harold gave Sigurd the earldom of these countries.

In partnership withThorstein the Red, Olaf the White and Auld the Wealthy, he plundered in Scotland, conquering Caithness, Sunderland, and lands as far as Ekkjalsbakke. He left his son Guthorn to rule these lands. In his last battle in Scotland, Sigurd killed Earl Melbridge Tooth and hung his head to his stirrup leather. "...But the calf of his leg was scratched by the teeth, which were sticking out from the head and the wound caused inflammation in his leg, of which the earl died. He was laid in a mound at Ekkjalsbakke. I have not found the site of Ekkjalsbakke on any historical record as yet, but here is a curious bit of history:

"Pagan Viking Graves"

Of the numerous burials of the pagan Norse excavated in the Northern Isles, the most important are those found in a cemetery at Pierowall on Westray in Orkney. Here in an area near the modern village known as the Links, storms blew away the sand during the nineteenth century to reveal at least sixteen graves. These were investigated between 1839 and 1862, but unfortunately were not carefully recorded with the result that it is now not always certain which objects were associated with which grave, a task further complicated by the dispersal of may of the finds into numerous nineteenth century collections. All appear to date from the ninth century, though a sword from one grave may perhaps be eighth century in date and was presumably an heirloom when it was buried"

" A curious feature of several of the Pierowall graves was the presence of horse burials. In one case, Grave 7, the headless skeleton of a man was found, with the thigh bones crossed. Adjoining it was the entire skeleton of a horse, on its belly, with its head pointing toward the sea. A dig's skeleton (or rather part of it) came fro the same grave, as well as a bridle bit with one of its rings in the horse's mouth, a buckle and some indeterminate pieces of iron and bone" (Orkney and Shetland by Lloyd Laing , David and Charles 1974, pp. 173,174)

SONS OF ROGNVALD

IVAR: fell in the battle for the Orkneys and Shetlands.

HALLAD: Rognvald sent Hallad with an army to take over the rule of Orkney and Shetlands after the death of Sigurd. He established his rule there, but continued "both in harvest, winter and spring" to plunder the coast of Scotland. Hallad, third Earl of Orkney married Tora, daughter of Find the Squinteyed, a great Lord of Norway. They had a son, Ragenwald, Lord of Eivy, who married Gunhela daughter of Toraport

Lord of Hilgaland, or Heligoland. Hallad grew tired of governing and resigned to go raiding full time. His father was displeased and said that his son was not much like his ancestors. He called together his sons to choose who would go to Orkney and Shetlands.

THORIR: said he was willing to go. Ragnvald said that he was to be his successor at More and should remain there to learn the ruling of it.

ROLLO: stepped forward to volunteered to go to Orkney. Rognvald said it "suited him well as he was both strong and valiant, but he was minded to think that his temper was too wild for him to settle down now already in the rule of the lands" (The Pearsall Family v.1 p 43)

As our ancestor, Rollo has a special section. I will here quote in entirety the translated poem about him from "Harold Harfager's Saga"

Think'st thou, King Harold in thy anger,

To drive away my brave Rolf Ganger,

Like a mad wolf, from out the land?

Why Harold, raise thy mighty hand?

Why banish Nefia's gallant name-son,

The brother of brave udal-men?

Why is thy cruelty so fell?

Bethink thee, monarch, it is ill

With such a wolf at wolf to play

Who driven to the wild woods away,

May make the king's best deer his prey

(Ibid. p.45)

"Rollo Ganger went afterwards over sea to the West to the Hebrides or Sudreys; and at last farther west to Valland, where he plundered and subdued for himself a great earldom, which he peopled with Northmen from which that land is called Normandy."

HROLLAUG: (Ingolfr) "...stepped forward and asked if it was his will that he should go; but Rognvald said he would not be likely to become an Earl; thy ways lead out to Iceland; in that land thou wilt be deemed a noble man and become prosperous in thy kindred, but here destiny hath nought in store for thee." (Ibid. p 43) According to the Icelandic sagas, Hrollauf, called there Ingolf, had journeyed to Iceland some years before and was already familiar with it's challenges and opportunities.

"After this Hrollaug betook himself to King Harold and stayed with him for a while because father and son could not agree together. Hrollaug went to Iceland by the advice of King Harold, and had with him his wife and sons. He came up in the east at Horn and there cast overboard his High Seat Pillars, which were borne to land at Horn-Firth, but he himself was driven away beyond the land to the westward and fell in with a rough tossing about with the scarcity of water. They landed in Miry Creek, in the Nesses; there he was the first winter. Then he had news of his High Seat Pillars, and from thence he went to the east; he was for another winter under Ingolf's fell. Thence he went eastward to Hornfirthand took land eastward of Horn in westward to Foldsriver, and resided first under Skard-brink in Hornfirth , but afterwards he abode at Breidabols-stead in Fellshverfi. By then he had parted with those lands which were north fro Borgarhofn, but he retained until the day of his death the lands which were south from Hreggsgerdismuli. Hrollaug was a great lord and kept up friendship with King Harold, but never went abroad. King Harold sent to Hrollaug a sword, an alehorn and a gold ring which weighed five ounces." (Ibid. p.44)

"Afterwards, Kol, son of Side Hall, owned the sword, and Kolskegg'Deep-in-lore had seen the horn. Hrollaug was father of Ozur Keilis-elk,who married Gro, the daughter of Thord Evilmind; their daughter was Throdis, the mother of Hall O'Side. Another son of Hrollaug was Hroald, father of Ottar Hvalro, the father of Gudlaug, the mother of Valgerd, the mother of Bodvar, the father of Gudny, the mother of the Sturlungs. Onaund was the third son of Hrollaug. Hall O'Side had for wife Joreid, the daughter of Thidrandi; their son was Thorstein the father of Magnus, the father of Einar, the father of Magnus the Bishop. Another son of Hall was Egil, father of Thorgerd, the mother of Bishop John the Holy. Thorvard, the son of Hall, was the father of Thordis, the mother of Jorun, the mother of Hall the Priest, the father of Gizur, the father of Bishop Magnus, and of Thorvald, the father of Earl Gizur. Ynvild, the daughter of Hall was the mother of Thorey, the mother of Saemund the Priest Deep-in lore, Thorstein the son of Hall was the father of Gudrid, the mother of Joreid, the mother of Ari, the Priest Deep-in Lore. Thorgerd, the daughter of Hall was the mother of Yngvild, the mother of Ljot, the father of Jarngerd, the mother of Valgerd, the mother of Bodvar, the father of Gudnay, the mother of the sons of Sturla (The Book of the Settlement of Iceland, by T. Ellwood, 1908)" (ibid. pp. 44-45)

From this account, you can see that our family was related to many of the pioneers of Iceland. Also, that ancestry was traced through female as well as through male lines.

HROLLAUF'S THIRD SON ONUND: According to legend Onund was called Rolf Thorstein and accompanied Rollo to France where he became the ancestor of Hugh Lupus, de Goz, de Avranches, whom the Conqueror made Earl of Chester and of Isabella his sister who married our ancestor Gilbert de Corbeil. The name Thorstein, so common to the descendants of Hrollaug would seem to confirm to this account.

EINAR: "...stepped forward and said: '... let me go to Orkney, and I will promise thee what thou wilt deem the best, that thereafter I shall never come within the sight of thine eyes.' The Earl answers: 'I am well content that thou go away, however scanty hope I have about thee, for all thy mother's kin is thrall-born.' Thereupon Einar fared west and subdued unto him the islands as is told in his saga. (Noble British Families by Drummond, London 1844. The Viking Age, by Paul Du Challeau.)"

"Another account says:-Then said Einar, 'I have enjoyed but little honor among you, and have little affection here to lose: now if you will give me force enough I will go west to the islands, and promise you what at any rate will please you-that you shall never see me again.' Earl Rognvald replied that he would be glad if he never came back; 'For there is little hope,' said he, 'that thou will ever be an honor to thy friends, as all thy kin on thy mother's side are born slaves.' Earl Rognvald gave Einar a vessel completely equipped and he sailed into the West sea in harvest. When he came to the Orkney Isles, two vikings, Thorer Treskeg and Kalf Skurfa, were in his way with two vessels. He attacked them instantly, gained the battle and slew the two vikings."

"Then was sung:-

Then gave he Treskeg to the trolls,

Torfeiner slew Skirfa"

"Einar afterwards was earl over the islands , and was a mighty man. He was ugly, and blind of an eye, yet very sharp witted withal." According to "The Vikings" (National Geographic 1972 pp. 90-91) Einar was responsible for teaching the Orkney Scots to cut and burn peat and was called for this: "Turf Einar". Thus, our viking ancestor brought warmth to the homes of the shivering Celts and Picts who inhabited the area. It is remembered to this day.

It was long after this conquest before the descendants of this son of Rognvald ceased to occupy a commanding position in Scottish and English History. (Heimskringla, or Chronicles of the Kings of Norway by Snorri Sturleson)" (ibid. p 44)

THE DEATH OF ROGNVALD

"The sons of Harold Fairhair reached adulthood. They were jealous of the old warriors who had been given jarldoms in the conquered lands. They considered the jarls of inferior birth. The princes, Halfdan Haleg and Gudred Ljome set off one spring with a "great force". They journeyed to More and surrounded the house of Earl Rognvald. They set fire to the house and killed Rognvald and sixty men either in the house or as they tried to escape the fire and smoke. After that, Halfdan took three longships and fitted them out, and sailed into the West sea; but Gudrod set himself in the land which Rognvald formerly had."

"Now when King Harold heard this, he set out with a great force against Gudrod, who had no other way left but to surrender, and he was sent to Agder. King Harold then set Earl Rognvald's son Thorir over More and gave him his daughter Alof, called Arbot in marriage. Earl Thorir, called "the Silent", got the same territory his father Earl Rognvald had possessed." (Heimskringla, or The Chronicles of the Kings of Norway by Snorri Sturleson)

The prince who escaped, Halfdan Haleg, continued on to the Orkneys where he intended to kill Rognvald's son, Earl Einar in the same way he had killed Rognvald and then take his land.

EINAR'S REVENGE

"-Halfdan Haleg came very unexpectedly to Orkney, and Earl Einar immediately fled; but came back soon after, about harvest time, unnoticed by Halfdan. They met, and after a short battle, Halfdan fled the same night. Einar and his men lay all night without tents, and when it was light in the morning, they searched the whole island, and killed every man they could lay hold of. Then Einar said, "What is that I see upon the isle of Rinansey? Is it a man or a bird? Sometimes it raises itself up, and sometimes lies down again." They went to it, and found it was Halfdan Haleg, and took him prisoner. This is the battle song of earl Einar:

Where is the spear of Hrollaug? Where

Is stout Rolf Ganger's bloody spear!

I see them not; yet never fear,

For Einar will not vengeance spare

Against his father's murderers, though

Hrollaug and Rolf are somewhat slow,

And silent Thorir sits and dreams

At home beside the mead-bowl's streams.

Thereafter Earl Einar went up to Halfdan, and cut a spread eagle upon his back, by striking his sword through his back into his belly, dividing his ribs from the backbone down to his loins, and tearing out his lungs; and so Halfdan was killed. Einar then sang:

For Rognvald's death my sword is red;

Of vengeance it cannot be said.

That Einar's share is left unsped.

So now brave boys, let's raise a mound:-

Heap stones and gravel on the ground

O'er Halfdan's corpse; this is the way

We Norsemen our scat duties pay.

The other sons of Harold Fairhair demanded vengeance. Einar threatened to bring Rognvald's family against them. Einar fled to Caithness and entered into negotiations. Punishment against Einar was exchanged for a heavy fine which the citizens of Orkney and Einar paid, thus ending the feud." (Heimskringla, or Chronicles of the Kings of Norway)

So One Eyed Einar, the surly son of the slave woman, sent from his father's house to Orkney became a good ruler as well as the avenger of his murdered father. He ruled the islands for many years and established law and the settlements and the system of government and taxation which have elements surviving to this day. In those lands, they still burn the peats as he taught them. Einar's saga is part of the Norse history.

A descendant of Einar was Thorfin, Earl of the Orkneys. As a young boy he was fostered out, as was the custom, to the home of another warrior to learn the skills of seafaring, fighting and the leadership of men. We have the name of the foster father, Thorkil Fostri. This viking fought beside Thorfinn in later battles as he became a ruler.

Thorfin is the subject of "King Hereafter" by Dorothy Dunnett. He was the ruler called Macbeth in the Shakespeare play. He did unite much of Scotland and the Orkneys and Shetlands under his rule and was a great warrior. He defeated King Duncan and killed him. He was the ruler during the early days of the christianizing of Scotland and, as did the family of Rollo, took a christian name. He was the first ruler of Scotland to visit the pope.

He is described as an ugly, sturdy man with a ready wit.It is probable that in his final battle with Malcolm, he was already badly crippled from a life on the battlefield. Shakespeare was writing for the winning side and did scant justice to Macbeth (or for Richard III). And made of these rulers villains who play well on the stage and whose poetic utterances echo well in large halls. Discovering a connection in one's family to these men inclines the mind to further study. Much is still to be learned.

Thorfinn was the last Earl of the Orkneys who was descended from Einar, son of Rognvald the Wolf.

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