Gudbrandsdalen (English: Gudbrand Valley) is a valley and
traditional district in the Norwegian county of Oppland. The valley is
oriented in a north-westerly direction from
Lillehammer and the lake
of Mjøsa, extending 230 kilometers (140 mi) toward Romsdalen.
The river of
Gudbrandsdalslågen (Lågen) flows through the valley,
Lesjaskogsvatnet and ending at Mjøsa. The Otta river
flowing through Otta valley is a major tributary to Lågen. The
valleys of the tributary rivers such as Otta and Gausa (Gausdal) are
usually regarded as part of Gudbrandsdalen. The total area of the
valley is calculated from the areas of the related municipalities.
Gudbrandsdalen is the main valley in a web of smaller valleys. On the
western (right hand) side there are long adjacent valleys: Ottadalen
stretches 100 km from Otta village,
Gausdal some 50 km from
Heidal some 40 km from Sjoa.
Glomma river and Østerdalen, Lågen and the Gudbrand
Valley forms Norway's largest drainage system covering major parts of
East Norway. The Gudbrand
Valley is home to
Dovre Line and the E6
road, and is the main land transport corridor through South Norway,
Oslo and central eastern lowlands to
Trondheim and Møre og
The valley is divided into three parts: Norddalen (the municipalities
of Lesja, Dovre, Skjåk, Lom,
Vågå and Sel), Midtdalen (the
municipalities of Nord-Fron,
Sør-Fron and Ringebu), and Sørdalen
(the municipalities of Øyer,
Gausdal and Lillehammer). The valley has
two district courts, north and south. Until 2016 the valley was
also a police district. The
Gudbrandsdalen district covers about
60 % of
The main character in Henrik Ibsen's play
Peer Gynt was inspired by a
real or legendary person living in the valley in the 18th or 17th
century. Ibsen travelled through the valley in 1862 and collected
local stories, legends and poems. Ibsen also made drawings from his
trip, including "Elstad in Gudbrandsdalen".
4.1 Legendary history
4.2 Older history
4.3 Modern history
6 Mountain areas close to the valley
7 See also
9 External links
Depiction of King Olaf II speaking to peasants at the thing, Hundorp.
Halfdan Egedius, 1899.
Gudbrandsdalen means 'the valley/dale of Gudbrand'. Gudbrand
Old Norse Guðbrandr) is an old male name compounded of guð, 'god'
and brandr, 'sword'. The name may be derived from a chief (hersir)
called Gudbrand. According to
Snorri Sturluson the district was also
referred to as i Dalom ("in the valleys") because of the many
Dale-Gudbrand settled in Hundorp, Sør-Fron. At the
Halfdan the Black
Halfdan the Black there was a "chief Gudbrand north in
Gubrandsdalen" (Gudbrand herse nord i Dalom). Later
Eric Bloodaxe had
an opponent called Dale-Gudbrand. According to the sage Olaf II of
Norway met one Dale-Gudbrand, supposedly the last Dale-Gudbrand, in
1021. Historians believe there was a regional centre at
the Viking era and that the name Gudbrand was used for many
generations by the ruling family. Burial mounds (tumulus) at Hundorp
suggest that powerful men are buried there.
Valley includes the most arid area in Norway. At
average annual precipitation is only 278 mm. Gudbrand Valley
sits in the rain shadow of the mountains West (including Jotunheimen),
North and East of the valley. The valley is less incised than the
valleys of western Norway. Farming is mostly confined to the
relatively narrow valleys.
Gudbrandsdalen and adjacent valleys are
surrounded by wide uplands and mountain plateaus traditional used as
seter or summer farms.
Patchwork farmland created by draining the shallow lake at
of the church.
A 1799 hand-drawn map of the valley. The previous lake at Lesja
In July 1789 the
Storofsen flood disaster occurred and
Gudbrandsdalslågen overflooded. This is the largest flood recorded in
Norway and the valley was particularly affected. 61 people perished.
About 3000 houses were totally damaged and some thousand livestock
drowned. All bridges disappeared. Lågen rose up to 7 meters
above its normal level and covered most of the valley floor. A
number of farmers abandoned their damaged farms and settled in
Troms county. The second largest flood occurred in
the summer of 1995 and again the valley floor was largely covered by
Storofsen the valley floor upstream from
changed into bogs and shallow lakes because stone and gravel changed
the flow of Lågen. From around 1910 drainage efforts left some 500
hectar dry farmland on what is still known as the
Sel bogs. The toxic
cicuta virosa thrived on those bogs before they were drained and are
known in Norwegian as selsnepe (literally
Sel turnip). The valley
Lesja (between Dombås and Lora) were originally covered by a
shallow lake. Drainage efforts from 1860 abolished the lake and left
some 1000 hectar farmland. The central part of the valley is
covered by the Losna lake, some 50–60 meters deep.
The valley of
Gudbrandsdalen is of considerable antiquity considering
the overall development of the relief of Norway. The valley runs
across the height axis of the southern
Scandinavian Mountains —a
characteristic that could be indicating that the valley formed before
the tectonic uplift of Norway. The valley is one of several
valleys of southern
Norway that existed already as part of the ancient
Paleic relief but had at the time gentler slopes. Gudbrandsdalen
formed and developed originally as a valley of fluvial origin. Only
millions of year later was the valley re-shaped by glaciers during the
Quaternary period. As the Fennoscandian Ice Sheet melted and
retreated during the end of the last ice age a large but ephemeral
ice-dammed lake formed in the valley.
Valley was shaped by the recent ice age and rivers from
the present glacial areas in
Jotunheimen and Dovre. Bones and teeth
from mammoths and musk oxen, living in the area at that time, are
found in the valley. Several traces of hunters from the
Stone Age are
found in the valley (and in the mountain areas around). There is a
rock carving of elks in the northern part of Lillehammer.
Gudbrandsdalen has always hosted the main road between
the central eastern lowlands. In
Old Norse known as þjóðvegr
(tjodvei), "people's road" or "everybody's road".
The Battle of Kringen, depicted by Georg Nielsen Strømdal (1856-1914)
Raum the Old was the father of Dale-Gudbrand, and he settled in
Hundorp. The Gudbrand
Valley is mentioned extensively in the
Heimskringla (Chronicle of the Kings of Norway) by Snorri Sturluson.
The account of King Olaf's (A.D. 1015-1021) conversion of
Christianity is popularly recognized. According to
the saga Gudbrand built a church there "in the valleys", possibly at
Haave farm near
Hundorp where archaeological evidence indicates what
may have been the first church in the valley. In 1206, the heir to
the Norwegian throne, Håkon Håkonsson, was saved by birkebeiners
with a ski-run from
Lillehammer to Rena.
Black Plague settlement expanded and new farms were
established at outskirts. Farms with names -gard, -rud, -hus, and -li
are mostly from this expansion period. During the High Middle Ages
about 40 churches existed, most built in wood except for instances
masonry churches in Easter
Gausdal and Follebu. Hamar episcopal see
was established in 1152 and its jurisdiction included Gudbrandsdalen.
Garmo stave church
Garmo stave church and
Ringebu Stave Church are examples of ancient
Fåvang stave church
Fåvang stave church and
Vågå Church include parts
from older churches. The
Black Plague reduced the population in
Gudbrandsdal by 50 to 70 % during 1349 to 1350. Saksum, Brekkom,
Skåbo, Venabygd and other districts were left largely deserted for
centuries. Inhabitants from marginal areas presumably relocated to the
main valley and other areas with vacant land. A large number of clergy
also perished during the plague and churches fell into disrepair.
During the 1600s the population again reached the same level as in
1300. During the 1500s the area had about 6000 inhabitants. No census
was taken before 1665 and population figures are based on
estimates. This resulted in a temporary improvement for the lower
classes as crofters became scarce and the poor were able to rent the
During the Reformation in 1537, the Church of
Norway was subordinated
to the lendmenn or sheriffs. Church property was appropriated by the
Crown and the King became the biggest landowner in the Gudbrand
Battle of Kringen
Battle of Kringen took place in 1612, near Otta, Norway,
and the local "Gudbrandsdøls" defeated a Scottish mercenary army. The
legends of this battle live on to this day, including the story of how
the peasant girl
Prillar-Guri lured the Scots into an ambush by
playing the traditional ram's horn. The 1665 census
indicates a population of 13,000.
German Ju-52 shot down at Dombås, April 1940
In 1670 to 1725, most of the royal property was sold off to pay for
war debts, first to established property holders, but increasingly to
peasant proprietors. A freeholders' era began and a new "upper class"
of land holders was formed. Storofsa happened in 1789, and is the
greatest flood recorded in the Gudbrand Valley; several farms were
devastated, and many people died.
In 1827, the city of
Lillehammer is established. The paddle steamer
Hovedbanen (the first railroad in Norway)
connected the Gudbrand
Valley to Christiania in 1856. The
Hamar-Selbanen railway was completed to
Tretten in 1894.
Hamar-Selbanen changed its name to the
Dovre Line 1921, and the new
main railway between
Oslo and Trondheim, was completed through the
Gudbrand Valley. The outdoor museum of Maihaugen, exhibiting old
houses from all parts of the Gudbrand Valley, opened at
From around 1865 the population declined substantially because of
emigration to North-America. Until 1946 the majority of inhabitants
worked in farming.
There was severe fighting in the valley at
Tretten and Kvam, as well
as in Dombås, during World War II. The
Battle of Dombås
Battle of Dombås was an
attempt to stop the German advance. British troops engaged German
troops in land battles for the first time in World War 2 after many
months of Phoney War.
1994 Winter Olympics
1994 Winter Olympics were celebrated at Lillehammer.
Mountain areas close to the valley
Dølahest (Dole Gudbrandsdal)
^ Jenkins, J Geraint. 1972. The Use of Artifacts and Folk Art in the
Folk Museum. In: Richard M. Dorson (ed.), Folklore and Folklife: An
Introduction, pp. 497–516. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p.
^ Hesse, David. 2014. Warrior Dreams: Playing Scotsmen in Mainland
Europe. Manchester: Manchester University Press, p. 147.
^ Art of California. 1990. Saint Helena, CA: Greg Saffell
Communications. p. 59.
^ a b https://snl.no/Gudbrandsdalen
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Gudbrandsdalen. Oslo: Gyldendal, 1974.
^ Meyer, Michael. 1974. Ibsen: A Biography. Abridged edition. Pelican
Biographies ser. Harmondsworth: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-021772-X.
^ Østvedt, Einar (1967). Med
Henrik Ibsen i fjellheimen. Skien: Oluf
^ "dialekter i Gudbrandsdalen". snl.no. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
^ "Gudbrandsdalen". snl.no. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
^ "Norges våteste og tørreste steder". NRK (in Norwegian).
2013-07-11. Retrieved 2017-01-21.
^ a b Østmoe, Arne (1985). Stor-ofsen 1789. Værsystemet som førte
til den største flomkatastrofen i Norge (in Norwegian). Ski:
Oversiktsregisteret. ISBN 8273790010.
^ a b c Bonow, Johan Mauritz; Lidmar-Bergström, Karna; Näslund,
Jens-Ove (2007). "Palaeosurfaces and major valleys in the area of
Kjølen Mountains, southern
Norway – a concequence of uplift and
climatic change". Norwegian Journal of Geography. 57: 83–101.
^ a b c Andersen, Bård (1996). Flomsikring i 200 år. [Oslo]: Norges
vassdrags- og energiverk. ISBN 8241002637.
^ a b Mardal, Marius A. "Storofsen". In Godal, Anne Marit. Store
norske leksikon (in Norwegian). Oslo: Norsk nettleksikon. Retrieved 20
^ Lidmar-Bergström, Karna; Ollier, C.D.; Sulebak, J.R. (2000).
"Landforms and uplift history of southern Norway". Global and
Planetary Change. 24: 211–231.
^ Garnes, K.; Bergersten, O.F. (1980). "Wastage features of the inland
ice sheet in central South Norway". Boreas. 9: 251–269.
^ Dirk Levsen: Mikrogeschichte als Besatzungsgeschichte. Der deutsche
Feldzug durch das Guldbrandsdal und das Romsdal im Frühjahr 1940.
Historiographie und museale Präsentation. In Robert Bohn, (Hrsg.):
Die deutsche Herrschaft in den "germanischen" Ländern 1940–1945 (=
Historische Mitteilungen der Ranke-Gesellschaft, Beiheft 26). Steiner,
Stuttgart 1997 ISBN 3-515-07099-0. S. 113f.
Information about the Gudbrand Valley
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Gudbrandsdalen.
Coordinates: 61°08′N 10°21′E / 61.133°N 10.350°E /
Municipalities of Oppland