Harald I (b. ca 850 - d. ca 933), surnamed Fairhair (Hårfagre, of the beautiful/long hair), the founder and first king (872-930) over Norway, succeeded on the death of his father Halfdan the Black Gudrødsson in A.D. 860 to the sovereignty of several small and somewhat scattered kingdoms, which had come into his father's hands through conquest and inheritance and lay chiefly in south-east Norway.
The constitution of Norway is, according to a tale, somewhat of a love story. The tale begins with a marriage proposal that resulted in rejection and scorn from Gyda, the daughter of a neighbouring king. She said she refused to marry him before he was king over all of Norway. Harald was therefore induced to take a vow not to cut nor comb his hair until he was sole king of Norway, and that ten years later he was justified in trimming it; whereupon he exchanged the epithet "Shockhead" for the one by which he is usually known. In 866 he made the first of a series of conquests over the many petty kingdoms which then composed Norway; and in 872, after a great victory at Hafrsfjord near Stavanger, he found himself king over the whole country. His realm was, however, threatened by dangers from without, as large numbers of his opponents had taken refuge, not only in Iceland, then recently discovered, but also in the Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, Hebrides Islands and Faroe Islands, and in Scotland itself; and from these winter quarters sallied forth to harry Norway as well as the rest of northern Europe. Their numbers were increased by malcontents from Norway, who resented Harald's claim of rights of taxation over lands, which the possessors appear to have previously held in absolute ownership. At last Harald was forced to make an expedition to the west to clear the islands and Scottish mainland of Vikings. Numbers of them fled to Iceland, which grew into an independent commonwealth, while the Scottish isles fell under Norwegian rule.
The latter part of Harald's reign was disturbed by the strife of his many sons. He gave them all the royal title and assigned lands to them which they were to govern as his representatives; but this arrangement did not put an end to the discord, which continued into the next reign. When he grew old he handed over the supreme power to his favourite son Erik "Bloodaxe" (Eirik Blodøks), whom he intended to be his successor. Harald died in 933, having had eight wives and 23 children. Twelve of his sons became kings, two of them Erik Bloodaxe and Haakon the Good over the whole country.
Harald I was the grandfather of Harald II.
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.