A woman named Asgerd, along with her husband Ofeig, were said to have ruled a small realm in the region of Romsdal, Norway, during the later decades of the 9th century. Unfortunately, they lived during a time when Harald Finehair was expanding his influence over Norway’s patchwork of minor kings and chieftains. Harald was said to have become the ruler of a modest kingdom in southeast Norway around the year 860, when he was supposedly only ten years old. After surviving his precarious childhood, he grew up to be a formidable warrior-king whose ambition was to bring all of Norway under his authority. Unfortunately for regional rulers like Asgerd and Ofeig, their independent realms would have to be subjugated if Harald wanted to accomplish his goal. To the dismay of these chieftains wishing to hold on to their independence, Harald Finehair would prove up to the task of bringing Norway under the banner of a monarchy.
Asgerd and Ofeig were not high on the list of Norwegian power-players siding for or against Harald Finehair, but as they were regional chieftains who controlled a small realm in Norway, the couple were drawn into the conflict all the same. Forced to choose a side, Asgerd and Ofeig evidently aligned with the anti-Harald faction, but the level of their involvement in the wars in Norway at that time is unclear. Whatever the case, they stood out enough to become targets of Harald’s wrath. Sadly, this dangerous attention brought tragic consequences. Although the exact circumstances are unknown, Ofeig was ultimately killed at the hands of Harald’s warriors.
Ofeig was survived by his wife, Asgerd, as well as their five children—Thorgeir, Thorstein, Thorbjorn, Alof and Thorgerd. Although they were still alive for the time being, Asgerd knew that her family was on thin ice with Harald, whose ascendance over Norway showed no sign of stopping. In fact, Harald Finehair would soon crush the last vestige of Norwegian resistance in the Battle of Hafrsfjord, which occurred sometime between 872 and 900, and he would continue ruling as King Harald I of Norway until around the year 940. As for Asgerd, she gathered her family and convinced them to abandon their home in Romsdal. She, her children, and also her brother, Thorolf, packed up their belongings onto ships and sailed away for a new life in Iceland.
Asgerd led her clan to the Southern Region of Iceland, where they settled around the Markarfljót area. After building her homestead there, the former chieftainess decided to remarry. Asgerd chose as her new husband a man named Thorgeir the Hordalander. With him, Asgerd had two more children, named Thorgrim and Holta-Thor.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Cropped woman from Illustration till “Fjolners saga”. Plansch 15, by Fredrik Wilhelm Scholander, (c. 1816-1881), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the National Museum in Stockholm Sweden).
- The Book of Settlements (Sturlubók version) translated by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1972, 2006.