Norman Stories

Rognvald and the Dunrossness Man

  This story was first written down in 1873 in a publication of 
the Scottish Historical Society, vol., page 173-175

  "It so happened one day south in the Dunrossness sea, 
Dynraust-ness Voe, in Hjaltland, that an old and poor country 
man (bondi) was waiting long for his boatman, while all the 
other boats that were ready rowed off. Then came a man with a 
white cowl to the old country man, and asked him why he did 
not row off to the fishing as the other men did. The country 
man replied that his mates had not come. 'Bondi', said the man
of the cowl, 'would you like me to row with you?' 'That will 
I,' says the country man, 'but I must have a share for my boat, 
for I have many children (bairns) at home,and I must work for 
the as much as I can.' 

  So they rowed out in front of Dynraust-head and inside Hundholm.
There was a great stream of tide where they were and great 
whirling eddies and they were to keep in the eddy, but to 
fish outside the raust, that is the Raust of Sumburgh, still 
so called, a fierce tideway, but a favorite fishing-ground. 
The cowl-man sat in the front of the boat and pulled and 
the country man was to fish. 

  The country man bade him take care not to be borne into 
the raust; and he said that he was quite alive to the danger. 
So a little after this they bore into the raust and the country 
man was much frightened, and said, 'Miseraable was I and unlucky
when I took thee today to row, for here I must die and my folk 
are at home helpless and in poverty if I am lost.' And the 
country man was so frightened that he wept and feared his end 
was come. The cowl-man answered, 'Be cheery, man, and don't 
cry, for we must find our way out of the raust as we got 
into it' 

  Then they rowed to the land and pulled up the boat. And 
the country man bade the cowl-man to go and part the fish. But 
the cowl-man bade the country man part it as he liked and said 
he would have no more than his third. There were many people 
come to the shore, both men and women and a number of poor 
folk. The cowl-man gave to the poor men all the fish that 
had fallen to his share that day and prepared to go on his 

  At that place the way was up a cliff, and a number of women 
were sitting there. As he went up the cliff he slipped his 
foot, for it was slippery with rain, and fell down the cliff. 
A woman saw that first, and laughed much at him and so did 
the other folk. And when the cowl-man heard that, said 

'The girl mocks my dress,
 And laughs more than becomes a maid,
 I put to sea early this morning
 Few would know an earl in a fisher's weeds.'

  Then the cowl-man went his way,and afterwards men became 
aware that this cowl-man had been Earl Rognvald. And it 
became known to many men, that these were great tricks of 
his, creditable before God, and interesting to men. And men 
knew it for a proverb, as it stood in the stanza, 'Few know 
an earl in fisher's weeds.'"

  King Harold Fairhair, first king of Norway and Rognvald's 
cousin, was born @850 and began his reign (under regents) 
in 860. He reigned over seventy years, dying in battle at age 
83. During his twelve years of conquests, he subdued the Vikings 
of the out-islands, Orkneys, Shetlands, Hebrides and Man and 
sent fighters to Iceland, and the Faroe Islands as well.

  The exploits of this time are described in the writings of 
Snorri Sturleson. During these campaigns, Rognvald was made Earl of Mere.

  In Danish and in Norse genealogies, Odin was the first 
ancestor, having arrived in @ BC 568, during the reign of 
King Haddig. The Yngling saga gives twenty nine generations

from Rognvald to Odin. The Danish genealogy counts fifty three generations.

One of Rollo's descendants, William (The Bastard), Duke of Normandy was, like William
Longsword, born of a pagan mother. By conquering England, he changed history as well as his
name, becoming William The Conqueror.

William Longsword
(Guillaume) was brought up by the clergy who legitimized his claim as
his father's heir during this time of change from Norse religion to Christianity. "The Hammer and
the Cross" series of books by Harry Harrison (Tor Books 1994-) describes, in a fantasy setting, this period of time.

William Longsword, Duke of Normandy, married Esporta de Senlis, daughter of Herbert,
Count of Senlis. Their son, Richard I, Duke of Normandy (surnamed The Grand and The
Fearless) married a Danish wife Gunnor, of noble birth and a christian wife, Esme or Emma,
second daughter of Hugh, Duke de France and Burgoyne. Clarence Pearsall states on page 73 of the
family history: "...the Danish marriage was the most conservative and in every way the most
binding ceremony except in the opinion of the priests whose interests led them to decree otherwise."

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