Einarr "Turf" Rögnvaldsson, Orkneyjarl

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Einarr "Turf" Rögnvaldsson, Orkneyjarl

Also Known As: "Turf-Einar", "Norse Earl of Orkney", "Blood Eagle", "Einar "Turf" Rognvaldsson", "Jarl of Orkney"
Birthplace: Møre og Romsdal, Norway
Death: 910 (57-59)
Kirkwall, Pomona Island, Orkney Islands, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Immediate Family:

Son of Ragnvald Eysteinsson, Earl of Møre and NN Frille (Mistress/es) of Ragnvald Mørejarl, mother/s of Torf-Einar, Hrollaug and Hallad
Husband of NN wife of "Turf-Einar” Rǫgnvaldsson; mother of Thorfinn, Arnkel & Erland
Father of Arnkel Of Turf-Einarsson, Earl Of Orkney; Erland Of Einarsson, Earl Of Orkney; Thorfinn 'Skull-Splitter', Jarl of Orkney and Thordis Torv-Einarsdatter
Brother of Hallad Ragnvaldsson, Orkneyjarl; Hrollager Rognvaldsson and Hrollaug Ragnvaldsson Eyjafjörður, Íslands
Half brother of Ivar Ragnvaldsson Mørejarl; Gange-Hrólfr 'Rollo' Ragnvaldsson; Tore "Teiande" Ragnvaldsson and Gutum Ragnvaldson

Occupation: Earl of Orkney, Jarl På Orkny
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Einarr "Turf" Rögnvaldsson, Orkneyjarl

https://archive.org/details/early_kings_norway_0807_libtivox1 Link to a book that holds much more accurate detail than what is found in the Wikipedia.

Torv-Einar Ragnvaldsson (Torf-Einarr Rǫgnvaldsson)

Torf-Einarr Rǫgnvaldsson Tilnavn / fordanskning: Tørve-Einar Jarl Lokalitet: Orkneyøerne Relationer: Havde datteren Tordis Kilder: Landnamabogen: 202, 221, 270


Einarr Rǫgnvaldsson, called Tórf-Einarr (died 910) was one of the Norse Earls of Orkney. He was son of Ragnvald Eysteinsson of Møre, Norway. His son Thorfinn became the next earl.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turf-Einar,_Earl_of_Orkney
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torf-Einarr
  3. http://lind.no/nor/index.asp?lang=&emne=asatru&vis=s_e_harald_harfa...
  4. http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/vikingorkney/torfeinar.htm

List of Earls of Orkney:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earl_of_Orkney#Norse_Earls_of_Orkney
  2. http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/NORWEGIAN%20NOBILITY.htm#_Toc189913825
  3. http://fmg.ac/Projects/MedLands/SCOTTISH%20NOBILITY.htm#EinarIJarlO...


1. RAGNVALD "the Wise", son of EYSTEIN "Glumra/Clatterer" Jarl in Norway & his wife ---] (-[894]). Orkneyinga Saga names “Eystein the Clatterer, father of the wise counsellor Earl Rognwald the Powerful…”, adding that “Earl Rognwald campaigned with King Harald Fine-Hair who gave him charge of North More, South More and Romsdale”[784]. Snorre names "Ragnvald Earl of More, a son of Eystein "Glumra" when recording that he had become a supporter of King Harald who had invested him with the districts of North More and Raumsdal[785]. Snorre records that he was created Jarl of North and South Möre and of Raumsdal in Norway by Harald I "Hårfagre" King of Norway after his victory at Solskiel [869] against Hunthiof King of Möre and Nokve King of Raumsdal[786]. Orkneyinga Saga and Snorre both record that King Harald granted Shetland and Orkney to Ragnvald in compensation for the death of his son Ivar[787]. The Historia Norwegie records that "principi Rogwaldi" crossed the Solund Sea, destroyed the peoples of the Orkney islands, in the days of "Haraldi Comati regis…Norwegie"[788]. Snorre records that Ragnvald was ambushed in his hall and burned alive by Halfdan Haaleg and Gudred Liomi, two of King Harald's sons[789]. (Cawley's Medlands)

a) for other children: see Cawley’s NORWEGIAN NOBILITY.
b) HALLAD . Orkneyinga Saga names “Hallad, Hrollaug and the youngest Einar” as “natural sons” of “Earl Rognwald”[790]. Snorre names "Hallad, the second Einar, the third Hrollaug" as the three sons of "Earl Ragnvald" by concubines, adding that they were all "grown men" when their legitimate brothers were still children[791]. Jarl [of Orkney]. Orkneyinga Saga records that Ragnvald sent “his son Hallad west to the islands” after hearing of the death of his brother and nephew, and that Harald I "Hårfagre" King of Norway gave “the title of earl” to Hallad who “came to Orkney and took up residence on Mainland”[792]. Snorre records that Earl Ragnvald installed his son Hallad as Jarl of Orkney after the death of his brother Sigurd, but that he resigned the earldom and returned to Norway[793]. Orkneyinga Saga records that, following complaints by farmers about Viking raids, Hallad “tiring of his rule, gave up the earldom and went back to Norway as a common landholder” which “made him a laughing stock”[794].
c) EINAR "Turf-Einar” . Orkneyinga Saga names “Hallad, Hrollaug and the youngest Einar” 797]. Snorre names "Hallad, the second Einar, the third Hrollaug" as the three sons of "Earl Ragnvald" by concubines, adding that they were all "grown men" when their legitimate brothers were still children[798]. Jarl [of Orkney]. Orkneyinga Saga records that Ragnvald sent his “youngest son Einar” to “the islands” after his brother Hallad returned to Norway and that Harald I "Hårfagre" King of Norway gave “the title of earl”, adding that his mother was “slave-born on each side of her family”, and stating that he killed “Thorir Tree-Beard and Kalf Scurvy” and succeeded in imposing his authority in Orkney where “he was the first man to dig peat for fuel…at Tarbat Ness in Scotland”, and that he “was tall and ugly…and…one-eyed”[799].]Orkneyinga Saga records that “Halfdan Long-Leg and Gudrod Gleam, King Harald´s sons by Snæfrid” attacked “Earl Rognvald of More, killed him and assumed his authority”, that Halfdan left for Orkney and “conquered the islands and set himself up as king over them”, Jarl Einar “fled the islands over to Scotland” but returned “later in the year…[and] came out as victor”, and that Halfdan´s body was found in the sea and mutilated (including graphic details of the mutilation)[810]. Orkneyinga Saga records that the ensuing dispute with King Harald was settled by payment of a tax of “sixty gold marks” to the king, which Einar paid “out of his own pocket on condition that he should hold all the estates [in Orkney] in fee”[811]. It should be noted that there are considerable chronological difficulties with the career of Turf-Einar and his sons, as reported in Orkneyinga Saga. The starting point for the analysis of these problems is the date of the battle in Northumbria in which Turf-Einar´s two oldest sons were killed, which can with reasonable accuracy be placed in the early 950s. If these two sons were at least in their late thirties or forties when they died (a difficult assumption to make considering that they had no reported direct heirs), their births could not be placed before [905/15] at the earliest. The likelihood would then be that their father, Turf-Einar, was not born much earlier than [975/95]. The difficulty is that this date is completely incompatible with (a) the fact that the illegitimate sons of Ragnvald were reported as “grown men” when their legitimate half-brothers were children, and (b) that the date when Ivar, the oldest legitimate son, was killed is estimated to [874]
- (see Cawley’s NORWEGIAN NOBILITY for further details concerning the reported events in the lives of Turf-Einar´s ancestors). (Cawley's Medlands)
m ---. The name of Einar´s wife is not known.
Einar [& his wife] had [three] children:

1. ARNKEL (-killed Stainmore, Westmoreland 954). Orkneyinga Saga names “ArnkelErlend and…Thorfinn Skull-Splitter” as the three sons of Einar[812]. Snorre names "Earls Arnkel and Erlend, the sons of Earl Torfeinar" when recording that they accompanied King Eirik "Blodøks" from Orkney to plunder the Hebrides and Ireland, but were defeated and killed with King Eirik[813]. Joint Jarl of Orkney with his brothers. Snorre records that "Arnkel, Erlend and Thorfin Hausakljufer" succeeded their father but that the first two were killed "in a war expedition"[814]. Orkneyinga Saga records that “Earls Arnkel and Erlend, the sons of Turf-Einar” joined ex-King Eirik after he was expelled from Northumbria by Edmund King of England and that they sailed to the Hebrides, looted in Ireland and Strathclyde, until they were killed in battle against Olaf King of Northumbria [815].] (Cawley's Medlands)
2. ERLEND (-killed Stainmore, Westmoreland 954). Orkneyinga Saga names “ArnkelErlend and…Thorfinn Skull-Splitter” as the three sons of Einar[816]. Snorre names "Earls Arnkel and Erlend, the sons of Earl Torfeinar" when recording that they accompanied King Eirik "Blodøks" from Orkney to plunder the Hebrides and Ireland, but were defeated and killed with King Eirik[817]. Joint Jarl of Orkney with his brothers. Snorre records that "Arnkel, Erlend and Thorfin Hausakljufer" succeeded their father but that the first two were killed "in a war expedition"[818]. Orkneyinga Saga records that “Earls Arnkel and Erlend, the sons of Turf-Einar” joined ex-King Eirik after he was expelled from Northumbria by Edmund King of England and that they sailed to the Hebrides, looted in Ireland and Strathclyde, until they were killed in battle against Olaf King of Northumbria [815].] (Cawley's Medlands)
3. THORFINN "Hausakliffer/Skullcleaver" ([910/20]-[soon after 977], bur Hoxa, North Ronaldsway). Orkneyinga Saga names “ArnkelErlend and…Thorfinn Skull-Splitter” as the three sons of Einar[820]. Snorre names "Thorfin Hausakljufer, a son of Torfeinar" when recording that he was Jarl in Orkney when the islands were invaded by the sons of King Eirik "Blodøks" [821]. Joint Jarl of Orkney with his brothers. Sole Jarl of Orkney 954, and 955-976. Orkneyinga Saga records that “Earl Thorfinn Skull-Splitter…died in his bed” and was “laid in a burial mound at Hoxa in North Ronaldsway”[822]. The Complete Peerage estimates Thorfinn´s death to “soon after 977” which appears broadly consistent with the events in which his children are reported as involved[823].
m ([941]%29 GRELAD of Caithness, daughter of DUNGAD [Duncan] Mormaer of Caithness & his wife Groa. Snorre names "Grelad, a daughter of Earl Dungad of Caithness…[and of] Groa, a daughter of Thorstein Raud" as mother of the five sons of Thorfin "Hausakljufer"[824].]

"He was called Torfeinar, because he cut peat for fuel, there being no firewood, as in Orkney there are no woods. He afterwards was earl over the islands, and was a mighty man. He was ugly, and blind of an eye, yet very sharp-sighted withal." (from Harald Hårfagre's saga, see link below)

"Han ble kalt Torv-Einar, fordi han lot skjære torv og brukte den til ved, for det var ingen skog på Orknøyene. Siden ble Einar jarl på øyene, og han var en mektig mann; han var stygg og enøyd; men han så likevel skarpere enn mange andre."


Ragnhild "Hild" Nefja was not the mother of Torf-Einar, he was the illegitimate son of Ragnvald, no records exist of his mother. In the Orkney saga, the brothers Einar, Hallad (Haddad) and Ivar are referred to as "frillesønner", sons of a frille (=literally mistress, or partner - "concubine" is not a good term for Nordic countries). Whether Ragnvald's four illegitimate sons Einar, Hrollaug, Hallad and Ivar had the same mother is not known, but highly unlikely.


"Ragnvald Mørejarl var den kjæreste venn kong Harald hadde, og kongen satte ham høyt. Ragnvald jarl var gift med Hild, datter til Rolv Nevja; deres sønner var Rolv og Tore. Ragnvald jarl hadde noen frillesønner også; en het Hallad; en annen Einar og en tredje Rollaug; de var voksne da de ektefødte brødrene deres var barn ennå. Rolv var en stor viking; han var så svær av vekst at ingen hest kunne bære ham, derfor gikk han til fots overalt. Han ble kalt Gange-Rolv. Han herjet ofte i austerveg." (Harald Hårfagres saga)


From Harald Hårfagres (Fairhair) saga:

"Earl Ragnvald was King Harald's dearest friend, and the king had the greatest regard for him. He was married to Hild, a daughter of Rolf Nefia, and their sons were Rolf and Thorer. Earl Ragnvald had also three sons by concubines, -- the one called Hallad, the second Einar, the third Hrollaug; and all three were grown men when their brothers born in marriage were still children Rolf became a great viking, and was of so stout a growth that no horse could carry him, and wheresoever he went he must go on foot; and therefore he was called Rolf Ganger. He plundered much in the East sea.


When Earl Ragnvald in More heard of the death of his brother Earl Sigurd, and that the vikings were in possession of the country, he sent his son Hallad westward, who took the title of earl to begin with, and had many men-at-arms with him. When he arrived at the Orkney Islands, he established himself in the country; but both in harvest, winter, and spring, the vikings cruised about the isles plundering the headlands, and committing depredations on the coast. Then Earl Hallad grew tired of the business, resigned his earldom, took up again his rights as an allodial owner, and afterwards returned eastward into Norway. When Earl Ragnvald heard of this he was ill pleased with Hallad, and said his son were very unlike their ancestors. Then said Einar, "I have enjoyed but little honour among you, and have little affection here to lose: now if you will give me force enough, I will go west to the islands, and promise you what at any rate will please you -- that you shall never see me again." Earl Ragnvald replied, that he would be glad if he never came back; "For there is little hope," said he, "that thou will ever be an honour to thy friends, as all thy kin on thy mother's side are born slaves." Earl Ragnvald gave Einar a vessel completely equipped, and he sailed with it into the West sea in harvest. When he came to the Orkney Isles, two vikings, Thorer Treskeg and Kalf Skurfa, were in his way with two vessels. He attacked them instantly, gained the battle, and slew the two vikings. Then this was sung: --

"Then gave he Treskeg to the trolls,

Torfeinar slew Skurfa."


Halfdan Haleg came very unexpectedly to Orkney, and Earl Einar immediately fled; but came back soon after about harvest time, unnoticed by Halfdan. They met and after a short battle Halfdan fled the same night. Einar and his men lay all night without tents, and when it was light in the morning they searched the whole island and killed every man they could lay hold of. Then Einar said "What is that I see upon the isle of Rinansey? Is it a man or a bird? Sometimes it raises itself up, and sometimes lies down again." They went to it, and found it was Halfdan Haleg, and took him prisoner.

Earl Einar sang the following song the evening before he went into this battle: --

"Where is the spear of Hrollaug? where

Is stout Rolf Ganger's bloody spear!

I see them not; yet never fear,

For Einar will not vengeance spare

Against his father's murderers, though

Hrollaug and Rolf are somewhat slow,

And silent Thorer sits add dreams

At home, beside the mead-bowl's streams."

Thereafter Earl Einar went up to Halfdan, and cut a spread eagle upon his back, by striking his sword through his back into his belly, dividing his ribs from the backbone down to his loins, and tearing out his lungs; and so Halfdan was killed. Einar then sang: --

"For Ragnvald's death my sword is red:

Of vengeance it cannot be said

That Einar's share is left unsped.

So now, brave boys, let's raise a mound, --

Heap stones and gravel on the ground

O'er Halfdan's corpse: this is the way

We Norsemen our scat duties pay."

Then Earl Einar took possession of the Orkney Isles as before. Now when these tidings came to Norway, Halfdan's brothers took it much to heart, and thought that his death demanded vengeance; and many were of the same opinion. When Einar heard this, he sang: --

"Many a stout udal-man, I know,

Has cause to wish my head laid low;

And many an angry udal knife

Would gladly drink of Eina's life.

But ere they lay Earl Einar low, --

Ere this stout heart betrays its cause,

Full many a heart will writhe, we know,

In the wolf's fangs, or eagle's claws."


King Harald now ordered a levy, and gathered a great force, with which he proceeded westward to Orkney; and when Earl Einar heard that King Harald was come, he fled over to Caithness. He made the following verses on this occasion: --

"Many a bearded man must roam,

An exile from his house and home,

For cow or horse; but Halfdan's gore

Is red on Rinansey's wild shore.

A nobler deed -- on Harald's shield

The arm of one who ne'er will yield

Has left a scar. Let peasants dread

The vengeance of the Norsemen's head:

I reck not of his wrath, but sing,

Do thy worst! -- I defy thee, king! --'"

Men and messages, however, passed between the king and the earl, and at last it came to a conference; and when they met the earl submitted the case altogether to the king's decision, and the king condemned the earl Einar and the Orkney people to pay a fine of sixty marks of gold. As the bondes thought this was too heavy for them to pay, the earl offered to pay the whole if they would surrender their udal lands to him. This they all agreed to do: the poor because they had but little pieces of land; the rich because they could redeem their udal rights again when they liked. Thus the earl paid the whole fine to the king, who returned in harvest to Norway. The earls for a long time afterwards possessed all the udal lands in Orkney, until Sigurd son of Hlodver gave back the udal rights."


Full text with Norwegian, English and Icelandic versions:


Han ble kalt Torv-Einar. Han var frillesønn.

Turf-Einar Ragnvaldsson, Earl of Orkney (1)

M, #104785

Last Edited=28 Oct 2002

    Turf-Einar Ragnvaldsson, Earl of Orkney is the son of Ragnvald I 'the Wise' Eysteinsson, Earl of More and Groa (?). (1)
    Turf-Einar Ragnvaldsson, Earl of Orkney was also known as Earl of Orkney. (1)

Forrás / Source:


På Orknøyene ble han kalt for Torv-Einar for han lot skjære torv som brensel for det vokste ikke trær der. Han ble jarl på Orknøyene og en mektig mann, enøyd og stygg å se på.

His name was Einar, but was known as Torf-Einer because he introduced "turf" (peat) as a fuel to the islanders. After his brother, Hallad, failed to control the Danish pirates, he asked his father to let him try. He not only freed the Orkneys from Danish pirates but also fought Halfdan Haaleg (a son of Harald Hårfagre who had killed Einar's father, Ragnvald). Halfdan had invaded the Orkneys but Einar prevailed. In an old viking rite, he carved an eagle on the back of Haldan and sacrificed him to Odin. Harald Hårfagre, came and demanded compensation for Halfdan's death but allowed him to remain ruler of the Orkneys. Although Einar is described as ugly, he is remembered as a strong ruler.




Einarr Rögnvaldarson, Torf-Einarr or Turf-Einar (fl. early 890s–c. 910) was one of the Norse Earls of Orkney. His rise to power is related in sagas which apparently draw on verses of Einarr's own composition for inspiration. After battling for control of the Northern Isles of Scotland, Einarr founded a dynasty which retained control of the islands for centuries after his death.

According to the Norse Heimskringla and Orkneyinga sagas, Rögnvald had little regard for his youngest son Einarr because Einarr's mother was a slave. The sagas record that Rögnvald agreed to provide Einarr with a ship and crew in the hope that he would sail away and never return. Einarr sailed to the Scottish islands, where he defeated two Danish warlords, Þórir Tréskegg (Thorir Treebeard) and Kálf Skurfa (Kalf the Scurvy), who had taken residence there, and established himself as earl.[3] It is unclear whether the account in the sagas of Einarr's conquest is accurate. Though the Historia Norvegiæ, written at the same time as the sagas but from a different source, confirms that Rögnvald's family conquered the islands, it gives few details. The scene in the sagas where Einarr's father scorns him is a literary device which often figures in Old Norse literature. Much of Einarr's story in the sagas appears to be derived from five skaldic verses attributed to Einarr himself.[2]

Apart from the five verses recorded in the sagas, no other examples of Torf-Einarr's poetry are known to survive, though they appear to be part of a larger body of work.[9] A couplet that commemorates Einarr's defeat of the two pirate Vikings, Þórir Tréskegg (Thorir Treebeard) and Kálf Skurfa (Kalf the Scurvy),

   Hann gaf Tréskegg trollum,
   Torf-Einarr drap Skurfu.
   He gave Treebeard to the trolls,
   Torf-Einarr slew Scurvy.

has a matching metre and alliterative similarities to the attributed verses.[9] Einarr must have had some fame as a poet, as his name is used in the Háttatal, an examination of Old Norse poetry written in the thirteenth-century, to refer to a specific type of metre, Torf-Einarsháttr.[9]

The remainder of Einarr's long reign was apparently unchallenged, and he died in his bed of a sickness, leaving three sons, Arnkel, Erlend and Thorfinn. The sagas describe Einarr as tall, ugly and blind in one eye, but sharp-sighted nonetheless.[10] Despite these apparent disabilities, as well as his low-born mother, Einarr established a dynasty which ruled the Orkney Islands until 1470.[2]

Ari Þorgilsson quotes a short section from the now lost Torf-Einar’s Saga in the Landnámabók. It begins:

   '''Earl Turf-Einar (of Orkney) had a daughter in his youth, she was called Thordis. Earl Rognvald brought her up and gave her in marriage to Thorgeir Klaufi, their son was Einar, he went to Orkney to see his kinsmen; they would not own him for a kinsman; then Einar bought a ship in partnership with two brothers, Vestman and Vemund, and they went to Iceland.'''

and goes on to make brief reference to young Einar's travels there. It also lists his two sons, Eyjolf and Ljot, and some details about them and their descendents.[11][1]

The sagas incorrectly claim that the Earl of Orkney was called "Turf-Einarr" because he introduced the practice of burning turf or peat to the islands since wood was so scarce. The real reason for the nickname is unknown.[2] While depletion of woodland could have caused a cultural shift from burning timber to peat, potentially the name arose because the sequestration of the common or allodial rights of the islanders by Einarr forced them away from coppicing towards cutting turves.[12]

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Einarr "Turf" Rögnvaldsson, Orkneyjarl's Timeline

Møre og Romsdal, Norway
Of Maer, More og Romsdal
Orkney Islands, Scotland
Orkney Islands, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Orkney Islands, Norse Orkney
- 946
Age 41
Orkney, Orkney Islands
Age 58
Kirkwall, Pomona Island, Orkney Islands, Scotland (United Kingdom)
Orkney - aka Torv Einar (teacher of the turf)