Harald Fairhair


Haraldr Hálfdanarson, born in 850 BCE, was the first king to unify all of Nóregr, or Norway as we know it today. He was the son a petty king called Hálfdan Svarti. Svarti, for non-Norse people, means ‘the black’. He was given that name either due to his black hair, or because he was very cruel. We don’t know completely. 

Haraldr became petty king at the age of 10 due to the death of his father. Haraldr was bigger, stronger, more handsome than other children his age, and very wise.

Haraldr Hárfagri, is now known as Harald fairhair or finehair, but that was not his first nickname. He was called þǫngull, meaning tanglehair, at first because he swore to neither comb nor cut his hair until he had unified all of Nóregr. 

The reasoning behind wanting to unify Nóregr was because he wanted the hand of a girl named Gyða Eiríksdóttir, but she told him he wasn’t good enough. Therefore, he told Gyða he would prove himself to her. 

For several years, he fought many battles. The defining battle which officially made him king of all Nóregr was the battle of Hafrsfirði in 880 BCE. The main enemies of this battle was king Eiríkr of Hǫrðalandi and Kjǫtvi hinn auðgi of Agðir. Kjǫtvi brought his son þórir Haklangr who was a berserkr. 

Haraldr with his army met his enemies north of Jaðar and went into Hafrsfirði, where Haraldr was waiting with his forces. The battle began. It was long and hard, but at last Haraldr gained the upper hand. King Eiríkr fell in battle, and þórir Haklangr, the great berserkr, laid his ships against Harald’s. The battle was almost lost, but then þórir fell and thereafter all his men were cleared. King Kjǫtvi fled to a little isle which had a fortress. Later, all his men fled to their ships, towards the land, and some south over the land of Jaðar.

Haraldr would not have succeeded in his conquest if it were not for the help of úlfhéðnar and berserkir as shock troops in his armies.

After this, Haraldr had no resistance in Nóregr, his enemies having either fallen or fled to other lands. The lands north of Niðarós called Háleygjafylki, which ends at the border of Finnmǫrk, Haraldr got through marriage instead of conflict. 

So after Haraldr united Nóregr and became king, he finally married Gyða, got his hair cut, and thereafter became known as Hárfagri. Later, however, he married other women again, and again got several children, the most famous being Eiríkr Blóðǫx and Hákon Góði.