The saga about how Jamtland was founded

author Bo Oscarsson
Original: Saga om hårre Jamtland komme te

A fary tale for children, told according to the Icelandic sagas.

The Icelandic sagas used:
Håkon den gode saga, chapt. 12
Harald Hårfager saga, chapt. 19
Olov Haraldsson
Eyrbyggja saga, chapt. 1-3
Egil, chapt. 4
Laxdala saga, chapt. 3
and also the published history of Jamtland

Bo Oscarsson

The saga about how Jamtland was founded

Translation Mats Bäckström, Östersund, 2004

Once upon a time, there was a man who lived in Sparbu in Trøndelag.
One day he had to go away to a war so he had to say goodbye to his son, Kjettil.

This took place a very long time ago, in the middle of the 8th century AD.
In those days there were many people who wanted to rule over Norway and
because of that there were many wars to be fought.

When Kjettil grew up he began to think about why there had to be war and trouble in the world.
Is there no way to end it he thought? Kjettil dreamed about peace and freedom, but everything seemed to be impossible.

Kjettil spoke with his friends about the problem with the unfriendly world, was it really impossible to reach an end to the trouble?
- "Yes it is, if you want peace you shouldn't live here." his friends said.
- "But where should you go then?" Kjettil asked.
One of his friends had heard of a big unsettled land east of the mountains, where there were big lakes, rivers and forests.

It was hard for them to decide to abandon their homes. The children worried about what their parents talked about.
Are they to leave for a land never seen before and never to see their homes again?

So came the day, the hope to find a place where you could live in peace made the trip over the mountains easier than they had thought.

When they reached the last mountain top and saw the land that laid before them Kjettil says
- "This was a flat (jamt) land!" Since that day the people who lived there has been called Jamtlanders,
and because the people are called Jamtlanders the land was called Jamtland! (it means the Flat land).

Kjettil, who now had taken the surname Jamte, settled down next to a lake and
started to build the houses so that he and his family would have roof over their heads when the snow had fallen.
There his children grew up, married and built houses of their own and raised their own children. The Jamtlanders grew in numbers
and the rumor of Jamtland was spread around the world. (In those days Scandinavia was the world)

So passed one hundred years with peace and freedom in Jamtland.
But in Norway men fought to get control over the Norwegian country and its inhabitants.
In the 870´s (870-880) the "worst" of them was a man called Harald Hårfager (Harald Fairhair) he had decided that he
would deprive the people their right to decide over themselves and rule over them himself.

Harald Hårfager ruthlessly began to battle against everybody that wanted to live in peace and freedom
and who wanted to rule over themselves. Harald was called Fairhair because he had such a long hair.

One of them who was beaten by Harald was a man called Kjallak Jarl.
He lived in the western part of Norway in a village named Sogn. Kjallak wanted to be free to rule over himself.
Because of that he had to flee the country. He had heard of the land that Kjettil Jamte had found and asked his people if they wanted to follow him there.
They took their Viking ships and sailed up to the Trondheim fjord with all that they could bring of people and cattle and started their walk over the mountain.

So they came wandering to Jamtland and settled down there and built their farms.
Kjallak Jarl was elected as a chief over the Jamtlanders. Kjallak Jarl lived until the year 884 AD.
His daughter, Gavlaug, went to Iceland. She is the first woman in Jamtland that we know the name of!

Now when the Jamtlanders had become so many, there was a need to meet in order to decide on what laws that they should obey in Jamtland.
There were no policemen in this day, there were no government either, so the Jamtlanders was to rule over themselves.
That they did once a year on the spring wintner, in March, because the lakes were still frozen and you could easily go to Frösön by travelling on the lake ice.
The Ting that was called Jamtamot, because they were Jamtlanders that met, was kept on the island hallowed to the god Frö (Frei), Frösön (Frei island).
The first Jamtamot that they had is belived to have taken place the year 935 AD. 170 years after Kjettil and his people came to Jamtland for the first time.

One of them who was punished at the ting Jamtamot was a man called Arnljot. He was from a place named Gällö.
He had killed a man an was sentenced to be a outlaw. It meant that anybody could kill Arnljot without punishment.
By this reason Arnljot had to leave his home and settle down at a place far away, where no one could find him.
So he escaped to the western part of Jamtland, close to the mountains.
Later, when king Olav came by on his way to Norway to reclaim his power as a king and to bring christianity to the norwegians, Arnljot wanted to fight with him.
The problem was that Anljot was a pagan. King Olav demanded him to adopt christianity, if he wanted to fight for him. So Arnljot took baptism.
This war ended with King Olav´s and Arnljot´s death at Stiklestad 29 of july AD 1030.
King Olav lost the battle, but however won in the end! Christianity has since that day ruled Norway.

N Tryn riste,
n Östman Gudfastsson latt reeis stein henn,
å gjæra brua henn,
å han latt kristn Jamtland.
N Åsbjörn gjoorl brua.
- akt sææn runan henn!

One of the biggest decisions taken on the Jamtamot probably was when they decided that they would leave the nordic Asa religion
and in stead embrace christianity.
It´s written on the Rune stone on Frösön. This happened about 100-years after the first Jamtamot.

In the old days we had the old Gods; Odin, Thor and Frei, that we belived in.
Now we should belive on a Jesus Christ, holy Ghost and a God Father.
With the new belief, christianity, came a new way of life. Now we had to build churches and the children
had to be baptized by the priest and be dipped into water. "I baptize you to ............, in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost," chants the priest.

The time went by. The Jamtlanders and Jamtland was taken by the Norwegian king Sverre in a war.
In 1274 the Norwegian king Magnus Lagaböter gave us the seal and his law, and we got the Law Ting at Sproteidet, Bynäset Frösön.
Several hundred years passed on under a Norwegian ruler. Then, in the 16th century, Norway was taken by the Danish king, then he ruled over us.
Finally, in the 17th century, came the swedish king to Jamtland and after a while managed to beat the Jamtlanders and steal Jamtland away.
Today we never meet on Frösön, because we´re no longer allowed to rule over ourselves anymore.
Where we used to meet before is nowadays fenced in by the military, so now we can´t even go to the place where our ancestors used to meet.

But still we remember Kjettil Jamte
that gave the name Jamtland to our land!

Jamtamot - the Jamtlander Ting, situated in front of the Bynäs mountain at Frösön (935 - 1500)
Sproteide - the Law Ting, situated at Dragedet, Bynäset, Frösön (1274 - 1644)

The seal, from the 13th century, given to the Jamtlandes by king Magnus Lagaböter AD 1274.
It shows a shield with the Norwegian lion. (note that the shield is uncrowned)
On each side, hunters with longbows are seen, aiming their arrows at squirrels, whos winter fur was used to pay the taxes to the norwegian crown.
The seal was used from 1274 to 1570 when the Danish king abolished the seal after the Swedish occupation of Jamtland 1564-70.
Documents including the seal are preserved from 1300 to 1561.

© Bo Oscarsson

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