About 10,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age, Norway was covered by a (4 kilometer thick) layer of ice. When that ice finally retreated (or melted) its movement across the land formed many islands, and innumerable lakes and streams. It also etched out deep valleys that then filled with seawater forming Norway's fjords.
Subsequently, the exposed lands turned green and fertile, wildlife returned in large numbers, and early man arrived to hunt for food. Archaeological finds and ruins spread across Norway indicate that it was continually settled through the Neolithic Stone Age and Bronze Age.
Across Norway in the late 700's AD, a few scattered, independent communities (or kingdoms) had formed. The country's first ruler, King Harold Fairhair, united much of this rugged land and its people. Over time these rugged, sea-going adventurers (known as Vikings) began to raid and colonize many areas of Europe, with their main focus the nearby British Isles.
Accomplished sailors, the Vikings explored the North Atlantic Ocean, settling in Greenland and Iceland. Leif Eriksson, born in Iceland, is widely considered the first European to explore the coast of North America, coming ashore in Canada at the dawn of the 11th century.
In 1015, Olaf II Haraldsson, declared himself King of Norway after returning from war with the Danes. In time, he converted his people to Christianity, and is now revered as Saint Olav, the patron saint of Norway.
In 1018, Canute the Great, King Harald's brother (and a former Viking warrior) was the King of England and Denmark. He returned to Norway, captured it and placed his son in charge. Canute died in 1035 and Viking history would soon come to an end.
In 1066, with a reported 300 ships and thousands of men, King Harald Hardrada invaded England. The Battle of Stamford Bridge would prove to be a disaster; King Hardrada was killed in battle, Norwegian losses were considerable and less than 25 ships returned to Norway. The glorious Viking Age was over.
For the next 200 years, or so, Norway experienced a long series of personal land and power disputes, as well as civil wars, all fought between rival kings and those wanting to be King of Norway.
In the middle of the 13th century Greenland and Iceland were incorporated as dependencies, and Oslo was blossoming as Norway's power center. All bets were off by the 1350's as the Black Plague, the planet's most devastating pandemic, killed millions in Europe and much of Norway's population.
In 1397, a weakened Norway entered into a union (of sorts) with Denmark and Sweden. This Kalmar Union of mostly self-serving dynasties dissolved in 1524 when Sweden withdrew. A somewhat subservient Norway was now all but controlled by Denmark.
In the early 16th century, after Martin Luther nailed his (95 Theses) to the door of the Wittenberg Castle's Church, the Reformation began. Civil War and religious persecution swept western Europe, and Denmark and Norway, now joined in union, were not immune.
In 1814, during Napoleon Bonaparte's conquest of Europe, Denmark was defeated and forced to cede Norway to Sweden. Well, rightfully proud Norway continually resisted and wrote its own constitution. Norwegians begrudgingly accepted the Swedish King but (people power) was the determining factor when Norway finally left Swedish control in 1905, and Prince Carl of Denmark was crowned King Haakon VII.
Though neutral during World War I, Norway secretly sided with Britain by delivering much-needed supplies. Ignoring Norway's expressed neutrality during World War II, the Germans attacked Oslo and other cities. King Haakon and his government left for England and the Norwegian civil-resistance movement aggressively fought back. Norway (and many others) stood strong and tall, and the Germans surrendered in 1945.
At the end of that world-changing war, the royal family returned and a new day began. In 1945 Norway joined NATO, huge deposits of oil and gas were discovered offshore in the late 1960's, and the country's economic future was all but certain.
Though it joined the European Free Trade Association, Norway rejected joining the European Union (EU) as its citizens and government remain hesitant and protective, and they refuse to lose their fishing rights and change their standard of living. In fact, Norway still has the highest standard of living in the modern world.
This thoughtful and respectful "we against the world" attitude may eventually be modified, however, the unbelievable beauty of Norway will never change, and if you're ever fortunate enough to travel to this "Land of the Vikings" and the "Midnight Sun," you will quickly discover for yourself why Norwegians are so proud and so determined not to change a thing.