King Herlaug’s Fatally Grave Response To Harald Finehair, The First King Of All Norway


Using poetic and prose sources, Snorri Sturluson (c. 1179-1241) determined in his Heimskringla (History of the Kings of Norway) that there were two sibling kings of Naumu Dale, named Herlaug and Hrollaug, who had the misfortune of being contemporaries of Harald Finehair (c. 850-940), the man who would bring all of Norway under one monarchy. The kings of Naumu Dale, a region north of Trondheim, probably encountered King Harald during the early years of his rule, but placing the events of King Harald’s reign on a timeline can be tricky and controversial. For that reason, we will tentatively place the date of Naumu Dale’s submission as occurring well before the year 900, by which point Harald Finehair had enforced his position as King of all Norway in the decisive battle of Hafrsfjord.

According to Snorri Sturluson, by the time Harald Finehair began his march to Naumu Dale, he was already one of the most powerful chiefs in Norway. Harald’s power was so great that the co-kings of Naumu Dale did not even consider raising their forces to confront the king who was invading their land. Yet, even though the two brothers knew they could not beat Harald in battle, they had differing opinions on how they should react to Harald’s sudden appearance. According to the tale, the king named Hrollaug ultimately went to his seat of power, and, before all of his followers, he abdicated his kingship and demoted himself to the rank of Jarl (or Earl). Hrollaug then swore fealty to Harald Finehair, who, in thanks, allowed Hrollaug to continue ruling Naumu Dale on the behalf of the new king.

The other co-king of Naumu Dale, however, was not willing to be demoted and had no intention of groveling before Harald Finehair. Instead, Herlaug decided to die as a king. Therefore, before King Harald’s arrival, Herlaug reportedly gathered eleven trusted companions and, carrying a decent amount of provisions, they all entered a burial mound that the kings of Naumu Dale had spent three years preparing. Finally, after he, his companions, and his finite amount of food and drink were in the burial mound, Herlaug had the tomb sealed shut.

Written by C. Keith Hansley.

Picture Attribution: (Scene from the Saga of Magnus the Good, by Halfdan Egedius (1877–1899), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).


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