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Monday, November 26, 2007

Of Cabbages And Kings -or- History 101

My mother has always been big on the genealogy of our family, and to a certain extent, so have I. And I know of at least one other relative in my family that has worked extensively to trace our roots. It was "Uncle" Ralph Harrelson who came up with the realization that we were descended from hearty Nordic stock and had, in fact, been Vikings. Now, I don't know about the regular readers of this blog, but I'm mighty proud of my heritage. In fact, for the last census, I registered as a "Viking-American." I figured I'd be the only one to do so, but found out later that there was around 50 other kindred souls who registered the same way. Now the truth can come out.

Tracing our ancestry back, it was found that we were related to the first Viking King to unite all of Norway, and he did so in the year 872. His name? Harald Haarfager. The name "Haarfager" translates to mean "fair hair." Back in those days, sons were named after the father, usually by just tacking on the moniker son to the end of the name. Therefore, one of his relations became known by the name of "Haraldsson." That was the first beginnings of our name in how it looks today - "Harrelson."

Pictured from a 14th century Icelandic manuscript known as Flateyjarbók, you see the young Harald:

Harald receives the kingdom out of his father's hands

Harald's father was named Halfdan the Black and controlled a few areas in the southeast portion of Norway. But it was actually Harald who united all of the country and become it's first true ruler. One fascinating story surrounding Harald happened before he was crowned King. There was a princess he loved and he vowed to never cut his hair until he could have her hand in marriage. This went on for ten years and he became known as Shockhead for awhile. When she finally consented, he had it trimmed and from then on, was known by the more familiar name of Fairhair. As you can see in another picture of Harald, his hair was indeed "fair":

Harald prepares to slay another enemy

Harald ruled his country wisely until he grew old. By then, his favorite son had acquired his own nickname, Eric "Bloodaxe," by killing 7 of his 8 brothers, so he inherited the job of King of Norway. What better person to turn the kingdom over to? Harald lived until the year 933, when he was 84 years old.

The Viking Age lasted until the mid-12th century when, by that time, they had mostly been converted over to Christianity. Their pillaging and plundering way of life became a thing of the past and Vikings settled down to be farmers or herders. I prefer to think that there are still a few of us left out there. And one day, the Vikings will rise again! (Mwaahhaahhaahhaa!)

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