Haakon the Good
Name: Haakon Adalsteinsfostre or Haakon Haraldsson
Reign: 933–961 (approximate)
Born: approx. 918 at Håkonshella
Died: 961 at the Battle of Fitjar
Parents: Harald Fairhair and Thora Mosterstong
Children: Thora Haakonsdatter
Haakon Adalsteinsfostre was the first king who attempted to introduce Christianity into Norway, but his efforts met great resistance. The churches he built were burned, and his priests were killed.
He became known as Haakon the Good because he was the first King of Norway to defend the interests of farmers. Working closely with them, he established the leidang, a conscription-based coastal defence militia, and a network of beacons whereby forces could quickly be summoned upon an enemy attack.
Haakon is also known for reorganising the two major councils of farmer chieftains: Gulating in Western Norway, and Frostating in Trøndelag farther north.
Haakon the Good was mortally wounded in the Battle of Fitjar in 961. He died at Hella where he was born, and is buried at Seim in northern Hordaland.
Name: Olav Tryggvason
Born: approx. 968
Died: 1000 at the Battle of Svolder
Parents: Tryggve Olavsson and Astrid Eiriksdatter
Children: Tryggve Olavsson the Younger, died in childhood
«Olav now sailed east on the sea and reached the coast by Moster. There he first came to land in Norway and had mass sung there in a land tent; in that same spot a church was afterwards built.» (Snorri in Olav Tryggvason’s Saga)
According to the historian Snorri Sturluson, Olav Tryggvason reached Moster when he sailed for home in order to claim the throne and convert his people to the new faith.
Olav grew up in what is now Russia. He was quite young when he first sailed as a Viking, taking part in many battles in the Baltic, in England and Scotland, and in Ireland. On his travels he came into contact with Christianity, and in 995 he was baptised in England.
King Olav made conversion of Norway to Christianity the prime focus of his rule, although this was not completed during his reign. Olav soon became known as a harsh and brutal ruler, and many who refused to convert he put to the sword.
Olav Tryggvason fell in the Battle of Svolder in the year 1000.
Name: Olav Haraldsson
Born: 995 at Ringerike
Died: 1030 at the Battle of Stiklestad
Parents: Harald Grenske and Åsta Gulbrandsdatter
Children: Wulfhild, Duchess of Saxony (1020–1071), and Magnus Olavsson (1024–1047)
Olav’s father died before he was born; he grew up with his stepfather Sigurd Syr in Ringerike in eastern Norway. Only 12 years old, he joined his first Viking expedition. He was baptised in Rouen, Normandy, in 1013, and returned to Norway in 1015 and declared himself king.
In the Battle of Nesjar in 1016, Olav defeated three of his strongest enemies: Earl Sweyn, Einar Tambarskjelve and Erling Skjalgsson. The realm he ruled now stretched from the river Göta to the south to Finnmark in the far north, and from Sweden in the east to the western islands of Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides.
He is credited with organising the Norwegian church, and introducing Christian canon law at the council of Mostertinget in 1024.
His brutality against his opponents sparked much animosity, and as a result he was driven into exile. Cnut the Great, King of Denmark, England and Norway, then entrusted rule in the far north to Earl Haakon Eiriksson. But after Earl Haakon drowned in a shipwreck, King Olav returned to Norway. Soon he faced an army of rival chieftains and wealthy farmers, and according to the Sagas he died on 29 July 1030 at the Battle of Stiklestad. He was buried secretly by the Nidelva river. A year later, his grave was opened, and his body was still incorrupt. His coffin was moved to St. Clement’s Church in Nidaros, where he was venerated as Saint Olav.