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Romsdal is the name of a traditional district in the Norwegian county Møre og Romsdal, located between Nordmøre and Sunnmøre. The district of Romsdal comprises Aukra, Fræna, Midsund, Molde, Nesset, Rauma, Sandøy, and Vestnes. It is named after the valley of Romsdalen, which covers part of Rauma.
The largest town is Molde, which also is the seat of Møre og Romsdal County Municipality. Åndalsnes is a town located near the mouth of the river Rauma in the municipality of Rauma. The Rauma Line comes from Dombås and terminates at Åndalsnes.
The Norse form of the name was Raumsdalr. The first element is the genitive case of a name *Raumr m, probably the old (uncompounded) name of the Romsdalsfjord, again derived from the name of the river Rauma, i.e. "The Dale of Rauma".
The name Rauma is itself a mystery, but a tantalizing clue may be found in the works of the Gothic historian Jordanes. He mentions a tribe called "Raumii", which might be the origin of both the landscape Romerike (o.no raumariki) and the river Rauma.
The Romsdal Valley, through which the Rauma river passes to the Romsdalfjord, has been described as a worthy rival for Yosemite, being surrounded by the mountain range Romsdalsalpene. The 1,550 meter tall Romsdalhorn has been compared to the Matterhorn, while the Trolltindane peaks, according to legend a bridal procession of trolls turned to stone by the morning light, stands opposite across the Rauma. The North Face of Trollryggen peak (1,740 m), Trollveggen (Troll Wall), is the tallest vertical cliff in Europe. Norway's most famous hair-pin road is Trollstigen, or "Troll's Trail", which leads to the south out of Åndalsnes to the beautiful Geirangerfjord.
The Rauma river originates in Lesjaskogsvatnet, a lake with outlets at both ends, in the adjacent mountain municipality of Lesja. A dam was constructed by the Lesja Iron Works in the 1660s to improve transportation obstructed the Rauma and caused the water to flow both west to the Rauma and eastward into the river Lågen.
According to legend, Romsdal is an eponym after Raum the Old, son of the equally eponymous king Nor, legendary founder of Norway.
Jøtunbjørn ('Giant-bear') the Old, was the son of Raum the Old and Bergdis, a giant’s daughter. He inherited Raumsdal (modern: Romsdal) from his father, and was again the father of King Raum, who is the father of Hrossbjörn, who is the father of Orm Broken-shell, who is the father of Knatti, who had two sons: Thórolf and Ketill Raum (in one version, Thórolf and Ketill Raum are sons of Orm).
Among Thórolf’s descendents, according to legend, came some of the first settlers on Iceland.
The Laxdaela Saga claims that Raumsdal was the home of Ketill Flatnose, a descendent of Ketill Raum. In the 850s CE Ketil was a prominent viking chieftain. He conquered the Hebrides and the Isle of Man. Some sources refer to him as "King of the Sudreys" (Hebrides), but there is little evidence that he himself claimed that title. The Norwegian king appointed him the ruler of these islands, but he failed to pay tribute to Harald Fairhair and was outlawed.
He and his family left Norway and fled westwards across the sea, to Scotland, then Ireland, where he married off his daughter, Aud the Deep-Minded, to Olaf the White, king of Dublin. Aud went eventually to Iceland where she began that country's shift to Christianity. The crosses she had erected to mark her places of prayer are still to be seen in their original locations.
Ragnvald Eysteinsson (830–890) (Norwegian: Ragnvald Mørejarl), was jarl (earl) of Møre, approximately of today's Møre og Romsdal. He died at the Orkney Islands. He was son of King Eystein "Glumra (the Noisy)" Ivarsson of Oppland, and a contemporary of king Harald Fairhair, whom he supported in the unification process, and received his fiefdom from. He is likely to have resided on or nearby the important township of Veøya, Romsdal's Viking Age hub for commerce and communication.
With Ragnhild Rolfsdaughter, he had the sons Hrolf Ganger, and Tore Teiande who inherited the earldom after his father’s death. Another, illegitimate, son was Turf-Einar, ancestor of the earls of Orkney. Although historians are divided on this, Hrolf Ganger might be identical with Rollo of Normandy, and if so the great-great-great-grandfather of William I of England.
The legend says Ragnvald was the one to cut the hair of king Harald Fairhair after he became king over all of Norway.
At Veøy, an island in the middle of the Romsdalfjord that had been in time immemorial a religious place, a church dedicated to St. Peter was constructed directly over an ancient site of heathen sacrifice at the close of the 12th century.
In 1600 two new trading centers were opened in Romsdal: Romsdal market and Devold near Åndalsnes, and Molde ladestad. The former was an important outlet for the ironworks at Lesja, providing an outlet for their products as well as a source of supplies. Molde inherited the ancient role formerly held by Veøy as the principal market town for the region.
In the 1658 Treaty of Roskilde the Trondheim region of Norway was ceded to Sweden, down to the north bank of the Romsdalfjord. The Romsdal farmers defied the Swedish taxes and military conscription, and the Swedish governor was forced to send a full company of soldiers, and 50 cavalry besides, to collect taxes. Following the attack on Copenhagen and the city's successful defence, and the reconquest by Norwegian forces of Trondheim, the Treaty of Copenhagen in 1660 restored that province to Norway. The few months of experience with Swedish taxation and conscription left such a bitter taste that it strengthened Norwegian unity and patriotism, making resistance to Swedish invasions of Norway stronger over the next 80 years.
- Adventure Roads in Norway by Erling Welle-Strand, Nortrabooks, 1996. ISBN 82-90103-71-9
- West Norway and its Fjords by Frank Noel Stagg, George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1954.
- The Heart of Norway by Frank Noel Stagg, George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1953.