The 'Things' from ca. 1350 to the early 1600s

From legislative authority and court to the lowest court

That locals gathered at the 'thing' is an ancient tradition in Norway and other Germanic countries. At the thing sentences were handed out and laws were passed, and it was here that the locals interfaced with the central authorities. But the system, power and authority of the 'thing' changed trough the centuries.

The 'Thing' at Åkrene and Hov

A 'tinglag' was a judicial district that included a local'thing'. In 1350 Fet was divided into two 'tinglag'.

Åkrene tinglag

West of the Glomma the 'tinglag' was called Åkrene and it included Falldalen, Åkrene and Rælingen. Where this 'tinglag' had its meeting place we do not know.

Fet tinglag

'Tinglaget' included Roven, Jaren and Dalen. The meeting place was at Hov.

Sworn in 'fetsokninger'

A judge decided the outcome of cases in Fet until the last half of the 1300s, after that he began to use jurors from localities around Fet as co-judges. The jurors were usually amongst the most highly respected men in their local area. In order to become a juror one had to swear an oath in front the judge in Oslo, one then became an authorized lay judge. In addition to being lay judges these men were usually spokesmen/representatives for the people from their local areas. They presented complaints to the authorities on behalf of the locals and answered questions the authorities had for the locals.

Spring and Fall 'thing'

It was such that the 'thing' was to meet once every season, the so-called winterthing, springthing, summerthing and fallthing, but it was most normal for the 'thing' to meet during the spring and fall. The local peasant authority called the 'thing' together. A jury of 6 or 12 men made Court decisions (on rare occasions 24 or 36 men). Criminal cases were still prosecuted by the judge in Oslo, while the local 'things' in Fet took care of the civil cases. The types of cases tried in the local 'things' were, for instance; road and bridge maintenance, rights concerning use of yards, property conflicts, passage of new laws, neighbor vs. neighbor conflicts concerning farm property lines. In the local'thing' the farmers could pay their taxes and it was here that the authorities collected their fines.

The local'thing' is weakened and disappears

In 1590 the local thing was reorganized and became the lowest court in a new hierarchical system. The earlier jury system was replaced by a regular peasant court at the 'thing'.

The official-writer could write!

In 1591 the office of 'official-writer' was created. The writer could help the jurors of the peasant court in their work and also serve as secretary for this level. The peasant jurors knew little of the law and could often not write, and the official writer, who was an expert at writing could help the locals write their judgements. After a while the official writer's duties expanded and he became the foreman of the court, then a co-judge and finally the sole judge.

The king creates the system

1. The Local 'thing' and the bailiff

In the beginning of the 1600s the country had a new court system. The lowest level was the local 'thing' which was administered by the bailiff. The official-writer was the judge.

2. The Lag'thing' and professional judges

The lag'thing', which had professional judges, was another level.

3. Council of Nobles (Supreme Court)

The highest level was 'the council of nobles' where a select few from the Danish National Council together with the King's most distinguished representatives in Norway passed judgement.

Translated by Steven Mohn, December 1999

Updated January 1st 2000 by The Local History Resource Centre, Fet, NORWAY