Thorolf Kveldulfsson

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This is an Icelandic name. The last name is a patronymic, not a family name; this person is properly referred to by the given name Þórólfur or Thorolf.


Thorolf Kveldulfsson (modern Icelandic: Þórólfur Kveld-Úlfsson) is the oldest son of Kveldulf Bjalfasson and the brother of the Norwegian/Icelandic goði and skald Skalla-Grimr. His ancestor, Hallbjorn, was Norwegian-Sami.[1]

He served as a retainer of Harald I of Norway (Harald Fairhair). Thorolf is a hero of the early part of Egils saga.

The following is based on the Icelandic saga "Egils Saga"; like many sagas, it can be unreliable as a source of historical fact.

Early life[edit]

Thorolf is the eldest son of Kveldulf and Salbjorg. Taking after his father in stature, he grows up tall and strong. His character, however, resembles that of his mother's side of the family, and he is described as being attractive, accomplished, friendly, energetic, and popular with everyone he meets. When he hits age 20, he begins raiding, taking out longboats during the summer with a band of men and his maternal uncles Olvir Hnufa (Hump) and Eyvind Lamb. He spends winters at home with his father, and summers conducting lucrative raids.

Service Under Harald-Fairhair[edit]

Upon conquering Fjordane, Harald demands the service of all the landowners in the province. Against his better judgement and despite a premonition that Harald will not bring good fortune to his family, Kvedulf sends Thorolf to join Olvir in the King's service. Thorolf thus serves as a retainer of Harald I of Norway and fights on the latter's own ship at the Battle of Hafrsfjord. After Harald's conquest of Norway Thorolf becomes his governor over the northern region of Norway and is responsible for collecting tribute from the Saami to the north. In this capacity he takes part in an expedition by King Faravid of Kvenland against the Karelians.

Inheritance and Quarrel with Harald-Fairhair[edit]

Bjorgolf, a widowed, old land holder in Halogaland, bestows all his responsibilities to his son, Brynjolf. After meeting Hildirid, the daughter of a wealthy farmer at a feast, Bjorgolf traveled to her father’s farm where he pays an ounce of gold to take her back home. Her father knows that he does not have any other choice. She has two sons, Harek and Hraerek. Brynjolf strongly disapproved so after his fathers death, he forced Hildirid and he sons to leave without allow them any inheritance from their father. Brynjolf’s son Bard enters King Harold’s court after Harold makes Brynjolf a landholder and gives him the right to collect tributes. In the court, Bard and Thorolf Kveldulfsson become close friends. When Bard is seriously injured in battle he leaves all of his wealth, including his wife and son to Thorolf. The king makes Thorolf a landholder. Some time later he is approached by Hildirid’s sons, who claim rights to the inheritance. Thorolf refuses because he does not believe that they have any birthright, since the rumor is that Hilgrid was taken by force, not in exchange for a bride-price. Thorolf gets into the good favor of the King by producing impressive gifts and tribute. Hildirid’s sons also become close to the king and begin to slander Thorolf’s loyalty to the king, they suggest that Thorolf has been holding out on the king, and that his large following of men is a threat. The king eventually seizes Thorolf’s land and duties and grant them to Hildird’s sons. The brothers continue to slander Thorolf by claiming that he prevented tribute collection in the lands they hold. Thorolf plunders the land of some of the Kings companions and ultimately, fearful of Thorolf's growing power, King Harald has him surrounded in his hall at Sandness and killed. This is the beginning of the feud between the Kveldulf and Harold families, brought on by the distrust caused by the accusations of Hildirid’s sons.

Retaliation for Death[edit]

Skalla Grimr goes with Olvir Hnufa, his maternal uncle, to King Harald after Thorolf's murder. He demands compensation, which results in his being chased out of the king's court. Together with his father Kveldulf and their kinsman Ketil Trout, Skalla-Grimr takes revenge by killing those of Harald's servants who took part in Thorolf's killing before fleeing to Iceland.


  1. ^ Pálsson, Hermann. "The Sami People in Old Norse Literature." Nordlit 3.1 (2012): 29-53. "The following nouns were used about people of mixed parentage:".."halftroll 'a half troll'. This is used as the nickname of Hallbjorn of Ramsta in Namdalen, father of Ketill hoengr, and ancestor of some of the settlers of Iceland, including Skalla-Grimr."

External links[edit]

  • Thorsson, Örnólfur, et al. "Egil's Saga." The Sagas of the Icelanders. trans: Bernard Scudder (Penguin Classics, 2000).