Facts and Events
Rognvald Eysteinsson (fl. 865) sometimes referred to with the bynames of "the Wise" or "the Powerful" was the Earl of Møre in Norway and a key figure in the founding of the Earldom of Orkney. Three quite different sources for the creation of the Norse earldom on Orkney and Shetland exist. The best known are those in the Norse Sagas but older evidence is found in the Historia Norvegiae and the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland. This last source refers to a "Ragnall son of Albdan" who was active in Orkney in 865. The Historia includes a brief reference to Rognvald, which events are also referred to in the saga material.
The saga sources have much to say about Rognvald, his relationship to the Norwegian king Harald Fairhair, his brother and sons, and the founding of the Orkney and Møre earldoms. However, these are not contemporary, having been written down some three centuries after the events described, and must be treated with considerable care.
These complications have led to a variety of interpretations of the saga texts. Various conclusions have been reached as to the historical authenticity of Rognvald's role and the great voyage he is said to have undertaken to the south and west, led by King Harald, is now widely believed to date from a period some decades before Harald's reign. The meanings behind the sagas have also been interpreted in various ways and recurring themes, including strife between brothers, have been identified. Other scholars have emphasised brief contemporary accounts that may relate to the founding of the Orkney earldom, especially Irish sources, at the expense of the saga material.