The Chronicle of The Kings of Norway
By Snorri Sturlson – (c.1179-1241) – Translation by Samuel Laing (London, 1844)
The name Heimskringla comes from the fact that the first words of the first saga in the compilation (Ynglinga saga) are Kringla heimsins, “the orb of the Earth”
Originally written in Old Norse, app. 1225 A.D., by the poet and historian Snorri Sturlson. English translation by Samuel Laing (London, 1844).
The text of this edition is based on that published as “Heimskringla: A History of the Norse Kings” (Norroena Society, London, 1907), except for “Ynglinga Saga”, which for reasons unknown is curiously absent from the Norroena Society edition. “Ynglinga Saga” text taken from Laing’s original edition (London, 1844).
The earliest parchment copy of the work is referred to as Kringla, now catalogued as Reykjavík, National Library, Lbs fragm 82. This is now a single vellum leaf from c. 1260; the rest of the manuscript was lost to fire in 1728.
The “Heimskringla” of Snorri Sturlason is a collection of sagas concerning the various rulers of Norway, from about A.D. 850 to the year A.D. 1177.
Heimskringla consists of several sagas, often thought of as falling into three groups, giving the overall work the character of a triptych. The saga narrates the contests of the kings, the establishment of the kingdom of Norway, Viking expeditions to various European countries, ranging as far afield as Palestine in the saga of Sigurd the Crusader. The stories are told with a life and freshness, giving a picture of human life in all its reality. The saga is a prose epic, relevant to the history not only of Scandinavia but the regions included in the wider medieval Scandinavian diaspora. The first part of the Heimskringla is rooted in Norse mythology; as the collection proceeds, fable and fact intermingle, but the accounts become increasingly historically reliable.
The first section tells of the mythological prehistory of the Norwegian royal dynasty, tracing Odin, described here as a mortal man, and his followers from the East, from Asaland and Asgard, its chief city, to their settlement in Scandinavia (more precisely to east-central Sweden, according to Snorri). The subsequent sagas are (with few exceptions) devoted to individual rulers, starting with Halfdan the Black.
A version of Óláfs saga helga, about the saint Olaf II of Norway, is the main and central part of the collection: Olaf’s 15-year-long reign takes up about one third of the entire work.
There after, the saga of Harald Hardrada narrates Harald’s expedition to the East, his brilliant exploits in Constantinople, Syria, and Sicily, his skaldic accomplishments, and his battles in England against Harold Godwinson, the son of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, where he fell at the battle Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 only a few days before Harold fell at the Battle of Hastings. After presenting a series of other kinds, the saga ends with Magnus V of Norway.
The Sagas covered in this work are the following:
- Ynglinga Saga
- Halfdan the Black Saga
- Harald Harfager’s Saga
- Hakon the Good’s Saga
- Saga of King Harald Grafeld and of Earl Hakon Son of Sigurd
- King Olaf Trygvason’s Saga
- Saga of Olaf Haraldson (St. Olaf)
- Saga of Magnus the Good
- Saga of Harald Hardrade
- Saga of Olaf Kyrre
- Magnus Barefoot’s Saga
- Saga of Sigurd the Crusader and His Brothers Eystein and Olaf
- Saga of Magnus the Blind and of Harald Gille
- Saga of Sigurd, Inge, and Eystein, the Sons of Harald
- Saga of Hakon Herdebreid (“Hakon the Broad-Shouldered”)
- Magnus Erlingson’s Saga
While scholars and historians continue to debate the historical accuracy of Sturlason’s work, the “Heimskringla” is still considered an important original source for information on the Viking Age, a period which Sturlason covers almost in its entirety.
Original Text: Athalbjarnarson, Bjarni (ed.): “Heimskringla” vol. I-III (Reykjavik, 1946-51).
- Hollander, Lee M.: “Heimskringla” (University of Texas Press, 1964)
- Magnusson, Magnus and Hermann Palsson: “King Harald’s Saga” (Penguin Classics, London, 1966). “Saga of Harald Hardrade” only.
- Morris, William and Eirikr Magnusson: “Heimskingla”, in “Saga Library”, vol III-VI (London, 1893).
Jones, Gwyn: “A History of the Vikings” (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1968; Revised, 1984).
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