Finland-hist-art - 3/26/98
"The History of Finland (years 500-1250)" by Pasi Malmi.
NOTE: See also the files: Finland-msg, Norse-msg, pst-Vik-Norse-msg,
Norse-crafts-bib, TEIO-Vikings-art, Norse-food-art, Norse-games-art.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set
of files, called StefanŐs Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at:
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be
reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first
or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris
AKA: Stefan li Rous
The History of Finland (years 500-1250)
By Pasi Malmi (1993, updated 1997)
1. Tacitus and the "Ski-finns"
According to Tacitus, the Roman historian, Finland was a place populated by
a tribe of extremely poor and primitive people who a) moved by skiing, b)
lived in huts that were dug onto the ground and c) herded some weird deer
(reindeer). This description suits very well the old Lapp way of life,
suggesting that Lapps lived relatively far south in the present geographical
However, when studying the language of the Finns it seems that the Lapps
were not alone in Finland at that time: According to linguists Finland was
populated by "Fenno-Ugric" tribes that had moved to Finland from the east
2. Allemanes - new ruling class?
Around year 500 a very tall tribe called "Allemanes" moved away from middle
Europe, seeking for more peaceful areas in the sparsely populated northern
Europe (source: Gregorius from Tours, France, early middle ages). According
to Eero Ojanen it seems probable that this tribe settled down to Finland -
as Finland was the first sparsely populated area for a tribe moving towards
This argument is also based on other facts:
1. Finland is called "The Land of the Giants" in old Icelandic sagas
(although the early, Fenno-Ugric and Lapp tribes that inhabited Finland
tended to be relatively short).
2. According to genetic studies show the majority of Finnish genes has
come from germanic sources (although the Finnish language has come from
3. According to Finnish and Estonian folklore, the area was overtaken by a
gigantic ruling class called the "sons of Kalev". (source: Ojanen +
4. Hundreads of ancient german words have been saved un the Finnish
language almost unchanged until the 20th century: Mahti = makt = might,
kunigaz = kung = king, skauniz = skonen = beautiful, meekja = sword;
source Veijo Meri).
5. According to the Widsith-chronicle Finland was ruled by king Caelic (=
Caeliv = Kalev?) during the meroving times.
6. According to german historic sources Finland was the leading "super
power" J at the Baltic sea during the meroving time - and that the
Finnish blacksmiths vere extremely skilled (as the franc blacksmiths of
that time, hinting to the movement of the franc tribe "allemanes").
7. According to Swedish sagas the kings of Finland had old relatives among
the kings of Denmark.
However, being so few in their number the Allemanes would have relatively
soon mixed with the earlier tribes and adopted the Finnish language.
3. Kvenland as the northern corner of the Finnish kingdom
According to Icelandic saga "the Fynndinn Noregr" the first and greatest
king of Finland was Fornjotr (the ancient giant). Also the Heimskringla saga
of Sweden mentions the giant kings of Finland. It might also be hypotesized
that Fornjotr is the same character as king Kalev of the Estonian mythos -
both were giants and had mighty gigantic sons.
The term "giant" needs not be just fairy tale stuff. It would be quite
understandable that that all people over 195 cm were called "giants" among
the common, 160-170 cm tall folks. (The idea of "giant tribes" is supported
by the fact that the Danish inhabitants of Greenland vere 190-195 cm tall on
average: source Glyptotek Museum, Denmark).
According to Fynndinn Noregr the Finnish kingdom consisted of two parts:
Finland (south-western part of present Finland) and Kvenland, a horse shoe
shaped area around the northern end of the Bothnic gulf. This dividion of
the Finnish tribe might have some connection to the Kalevalan idea of two
Finnish cultures: The Kalevalans and the "Bothnics / Nordics".
The location and history of Kvenland is more thoroughly described in Kyosti
Julku: Kvenland - Kainuunmaa (finnish). Of the historical sources, most
interesting is the story of Ottar (written down by the scribes of king
Alfred the Great of England). According to Ottar, Kvenland is situated at
the other side of the Scandinavian mountains, right east from Norway (note:
No northern Sweden is mentioned in between).
4. The founding of Norway
According to the saga "Fundinn Noregr" (the founding of Norway) the great
grand daughter of Fornjotr called Goi disappeared from Kvenland, her home
land. Her brothers Norr and Gorr organized large groups of men and started
searching for her. Gorr searched through all the islands of the Baltic.
Although he went all the way to Denmark (to meet some of his relatives) he
found no trace of Goi.
Norr started his journey from Kvenland towards west. His men traveled over
the Scandinavian mountains. He battled against the local inhabitants of
Trondheim and won the battle. Norr also sent some men south via Moeriana and
his men were victorious everywhere they went.
After a series of succesfull battles (at presicely mentioned geographical
places) Norr settled down to Sokni's valley by the North Sea. There he met
his brother Gorr, who had conquered all of the southern areas of the land.
Gorr and Norr divided all the lands among themselves. Gorr got all the
islands he had conquered and Norr got the continental areas.
Finally Norr traveled east towards Uppland (Sweden) to Heidmork. There he
met king Hrolfr and found out that Hrolfr had stolen Goi. Hrolfr and Norr
had a long and furious dual, but neither got wounded. After this marvelous
fight they made an agreement: Hrolfr married Goi and Norr married Hrolfr's
In the end Norr returned to his land, which has ever since been called
Norrge = Norrway - named after Norr.
- - -
Although the story of the saga is somewhat heroic and mystic, all references
to geographical places are extremely accurate. It must also be noted that
the islandic word "saga" does not mean "a fairy tale". It means "history".
Also, the writers of the saga emphasise that sagas must be accurate so that
they do not exaggerate the triumphs of kings: The exaggeration would be very
annoying and shameful for the persons whose actions are being referred to.
5. The later kings of Finland and Kvenland
The first Finnish kings mentioned in Heimskringla saga are the anonymous
giant kings of Finland (and Kvenland). The first specifically named one is
king Aude the rich, whose daughter married the swedish king. AudeŐs grand
sons were called Andur and Gisl. Later kings of Finland are mentioned in
Heimskringla, which may also be found in the Internet.
Many wars between Finns and Swedes took place. In earlier times, Finland was
also often victorous in several wars and raids: For example, Finns burned
the capital of Sweden at least 1-2 times. Gradually the Swedes started being
more and more succesfull in their military operations. Finland was put under
the rulership of the Swedes - but the exact year is debatable. According to
Eero Ojanen it is very possible that the Finns had an independant kingdom as
long as up to the year 1249.
The history of Kvenland is described in EgilŐs, saga which tells of chief
Torulf Kveldulfsson (around the turn of the tenth century). In Egil's saga
the location and geopolitical situation of Kvenland is described in full
Torulf Kveldulfsson, a great Norwegian chief, traveled east towards Kvenland
with 100 men at arms. He met Faravid, the king of Kvenland and heard that
the Carelians (or Bjarmians?) were raiding the north eastern areas of
Kvenland. Torulf decided to join forces with Faravid to beat the Carelians
and to share their treasures with Faravid.
Faravid gathered 300 men and headed east with Torulf and his 100 men.
Together the found the Carelians. The Carelians were not surprised and they
prepared for battle believing they could be victorious. However, when the
battle begun, the Norrwegians attacked with such force that lots of
Carelians soon fell down. The shields of the Norrwegians proved stronger and
superior to the ones of the Kvens and the Bjarmians. Battle was soon over
and Torolf and Faravid shared the treasures.
Torolf, who was now a friend of Faravid, returned back to his stronghold...
Later that year Faravid and Torolf organized a raid deep into Carelia.
King Alfred the Great of England (around year 890) has recorded down the
story of Ottar's journey to Bjarmia. Ottar a viking who served king Alfred -
told about his travel to Bjarmia.
Ottar started his journey to Bjarmia from Haalogaland (northern Norway). He
sailed north for a few days until the coast (of Norway) turned east. Ottar
east, following the coast of an uninhabited land - where only some hunters
operated. Finally the land turned south. Ottar sailed down for 5 days and
came to a great river. That was the place where the Bjarmians lived.
The tribe of Bjarmians was called by othern names among the eastern and
* Vepsalainen was the Finnish term
* Vepsi and Wezzi were the Arabic names for the Bjarmians
* Funndin Norgern (in Finnish)
* Kalevala (in Finnish)
* Heimskringla / Ynglinga-saga (in English)
* Salmon, Helmer (1938). Die Waffen der Merovingerzeit. (in German)
Copyright 1997. Pasi Malmi. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in
the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also
appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being
reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.
Copyright © Mark S. Harris (Lord Stefan li Rous)
All Rights Reserved
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