Harald Fairhair: King of Norway never combed his hair

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Harald Fairhair: King of Norway never combed his hair

Harald Fairhair was the first true king of Norway. His greatest achievement in life was unifying most of the small tribes in the Norwegian territory as one kingdom under his control. Though he was savage to the enemies, he was a fair and wise king for his people. Harald Fairhair is among the best Viking hero who carries within himself the Viking warrior spirit. He rose to his power by his bravery and wits and Harald Fairhair never broke his solemn vow. 

Uphill childhood to cement power

Harald Fairhair spent much of his time battling and thinking how to battle, nothing much about him was written down. The sources we have about this king come from mythology and tales. But one thing we are sure is that this king is historical. 

Back to the 9th century, Norway was not a unified country. Rather, it was a divided territory with many kings. There was neither the national identity nor a potential king. Such minor bearded kings ruled over their towns and villages assuming their power was greater than they actually were. It was during the time that such minor Viking kings met their tragic death. One died because of overdrinking mead. One was captured by the Swedish and became the human sacrifice for the gods. One got burned alive and some were attacked while sleeping. 

Harald Fairhair in the TV Series "Vikings"

Modern reconstruction of King Harald Fairhair in TV Series "Vikings"

Harald's father who was also a king of a minor territory met his fate when he was riding on a fleet. His ship crashed into an iceberg and no one ever saw Harald the Black again. At that time, Harald the Son was 10 and he definitely had no idea that his future nickname would be "Fairhair". 

A 10-year-old child becoming a king? This was nothing but a joke to many jarls who were about to overthrow Harald. This beard-less young king did not deserve the throne as many jarls thought. But they forgot the constant companion of Harald's family, Duke Guthorm - a real killing machine and the right arm of the deceased Harald the Black. Duke Guthorm helped Young Harald a lot to cement his power in his early years. 

All Harald did when he took the power prioritized the military. He prepared for the upcoming battles. 

Harald and his journey to be Fairhair

Harald's rise to power began with his first opponent King Gandalf. At this time, Gandalf was attempting to seize the power of Harald quickly before this little young son could defend himself. But Harald was not a type that hesitated a second when it came to battle. Indeed, Gandalf was quick but Harald and Guthorm were quicker. They secretly visit the army of Gandalf, attacked them, cut their escape, and killed Gandalf and his son. 

This young Harald came back to his territory only to hear about someone trying to overthrow him. Immediately, he sent his warriors to sneak into the castle of that dude and set everything on fire in the middle of the night. As this petty king and his men ran out from the castle, they got trapped into the spears of Harald. 

After years of battling and cementing his power, Harald knew it was about time to settle down. He sent his men to the neighbouring kingdom to ask for the hand of their princess, Gyda. The princess who was beautiful somehow replied: "yeah, I do not think so". She believed that she deserved a better husband. At least, her husband should be a king of a unified kingdom like Gorm the Old.

Princess Gyda and Harald Fairhair

The neighbouring princess Gyda and King Harald Fairhair

As this news reached Harald, he did not show a sign of anger. Rather, he appreciated what Princess Gyda thought. Harald vowed not to cut and comb his hair until he finally brought all the petty kingdoms under his control. 

Not many Vikings could vow like Harald. Because the Vikings loved combing their hair. It was a part of their culture. The Vikings loved to take care of their appearance so much. But for Harald, reaching the highest position meant more than combing his hair everyday. As a Viking war-band leader, Harald did not go back on his words. 

The bloody ten-year-long campaign just passed and Harald became the first king of Norway. Enemy kings put the white flags along their walls as soon as they saw the army of Harald approaching. Anyone daring to oppose to Harald should meet him in the field of battle. 

Savage with the enemies as he might be, he treated his people right. He respected what was decided in the Thing - the Viking court. He left most everything to the jarls and the people. He only demanded two things: the tax and the warriors. He made his people pay him tax for being their king ensuring them peace to farm. The jarls were supposed to collect the tax and they could keep one-third of it. He demanded the warriors for the army as well. According to the tales, Harald had for himself a group of elite berserkers who feared nothing and desired nothing but battle. 

Statue of Viking king Harald Fairhair

Statue in memory of the first Viking King of Norway - Harald Fairhair

At the end of the day, Harald Fairhair stood at the head of his dragon ship. He finally conquered what he wanted the most in his life. His hair was flinging back and his floor-reaching-length beard. He was Harald Tanglehair at that time.

After cutting his hair, Harald gained "Fairhair" for he became a handsome man that every woman desired. He married Princess Gyda but she was not the only wife of Harald Fairhair. He had roughly 10 women who gave him around 20 children. 

His reign lasted for half a century. He died at his 80s and buried in his favourite land as his wish. 

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