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Rögnvald the Powerful

Rögnvald the Powerful

(p.19) 3 Rögnvald the Powerful
Between History and Myth
Bruce Lincoln
University of Chicago Press

This chapter focuses on a Heimskringla account of Harald Fairhair’s haircut just after the decisive victory at Hafrsfjörð that made him sole ruler of Norway. In the story, King Harald attended a feast given by Earl Rögnvald in Mæri. The king let Earl Rögnvald cut his hair, which previously had been uncut and uncombed for a decade. After removing the king’s dreadlocks, Rögnvald gave him the nickname “Harald the Fairhair,” a sobriquet by which he is still known to history. This chapter examines why the narrative assigns this role to Rögnvald, rather than to some other character, and highlights the relationship between aristocracy and monarchy. It also illustrates the dangers that kingship posed to earls and other nobles. Finally, it considers Orkneyinga Saga’s description of Harald’s reaction to Rögnvald’s murder.

Keywords:   haircut, Heimskringla, Harald Fairhair, Norway, Earl Rögnvald, kingship, aristocracy, monarchy, Orkneyinga Saga, nobles

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