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''Heimskringla'' () is the best known of the Old Norse
kings' sagas Kings' sagas ( is, konungasögur, no, kongesagaer) are Old Norse sagas which principally tell of the lives of semi-legendary and legendary (mythological, fictional) Nordic king King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of ...
. It was written in
Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia Scandinavia; : ''Skades ...
in
Iceland Iceland ( is, Ísland; ) is a Nordic Nordic most commonly refers to: * Nordic countries, written in plural as Nordics, the northwestern European countries, including Scandinavia, Fennoscandia and the List of islands in the Atlantic Ocean#N ...

Iceland
by the poet and historian
Snorri Sturluson Snorri Sturluson (Old Norse: ; ; 1179 – 23 September 1241) was an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician. He was elected twice as lawspeaker of the Icelandic parliament, the Althing. He is commonly thought to have authored or compiled port ...
(1178/79–1241) 1230. The name ''Heimskringla'' was first used in the 17th century, derived from the first two words of one of the manuscripts (''kringla heimsins'', "the circle of the world"). ''Heimskringla'' is a collection of
saga Sagas are prose Prose is a form of written (or spoken) language that usually exhibits a natural speech, natural flow of speech and Syntax, grammatical structure—an exception is the narrative device stream of consciousness. The word "prose" f ...

saga
s about Swedish and Norwegian
king King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen regnant, queen, which title is also given to the queen consort, consort of a king. *In the context of prehistory, antiquity and contempora ...

king
s, beginning with the saga of the legendary Swedish dynasty of the
Yngling The Ynglings were a semi-historical dynasty of kings, first in Sweden and later in Norway, primarily attested through the poem ''Ynglingatal''. The dynasty also appears as Scylfings (Old Norse ''Skilfingar'') in ''Beowulf''. When ''Beowulf'' and ...

Yngling
s, followed by accounts of historical Norwegian rulers from
Harald Fairhair Harald I Fairhair (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian was a North Germanic languages, North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and their Viking expansion, overseas settlements from about the 7 ...
of the 9th century up to the death of the pretender
Eystein Meyla Eystein Meyla (Øystein Øysteinsson Møyla) was elected a rival King King is the title given to a male in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is , which title is also given to the of a king. *In the context of prehistory, ant ...
in 1177. The exact sources of his work are disputed, but included earlier kings' sagas, such as
Morkinskinna ''Morkinskinna'' is an Old Norse language, Old Norse kings' sagas, kings' saga, relating the history of Norway, Norwegian kings from approximately 1025 to 1157. The saga was written in Iceland around 1220, and has been preserved in a manuscript f ...

Morkinskinna
,
Fagrskinna ''Fagrskinna'' (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia ...
and the 12th-century Norwegian synoptic histories and oral traditions, notably many
skald A Skald, or skáld (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic languages, North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken b ...
ic poems. Snorri visited Norway and Sweden. For events of the mid-12th century, he explicitly names the now lost work ''
Hryggjarstykki ''Hryggjarstykki'' (Mid 12th c. Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of S ...
'' as his source. The composition of the sagas is Snorri's.


Name

The name ''Heimskringla'' comes from the fact that the first words of the first saga in the compilation (''
Ynglinga saga ''Ynglinga saga'' ( ) is a Kings' saga, originally written in Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old N ...
'') are ''Kringla heimsins'', "the orb of the Earth".


Manuscript history

The earliest parchment copy of the work is ''Kringla'', now in the Reykjavík National Library, catalogued as Lbs fragm 82. It is a single vellum leaf from c. 1260, a part of the Saga of St. Olaf; the rest of the manuscript was lost to fire in 1728.


Summary

''Heimskringla'' consists of several sagas, often thought of as falling into three groups, giving the overall work the character of a
triptych A triptych ( ; from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population i ...

triptych
. The saga narrates the contests of the kings, the establishment of the kingdom of Norway,
Norse Norse is demonym for Norsemen, a medieval North Germanic ethnolinguistic group ancestral to modern Scandinavians, defined as speakers of Old Norse from about the 9th to the 13th centuries. Norse may also refer to: Culture and religion * Norse m ...
expeditions to various European countries, ranging as far afield as
Palestine Palestine ( or ) most often refers to: * State of Palestine, a ''de jure'' sovereign state in the Middle East * Palestine (region), a geographical and historical region in the Middle East Palestine may also refer to: * Palestinian National Aut ...
in the saga of
Sigurd the Crusader Sigurd I Magnusson (1089 – 26 March 1130), also known as Sigurd the Crusader (Old Norse: ''Sigurðr Jórsalafari'', Norwegian language, Norwegian: ''Sigurd Jorsalfar''), was King of Norway from 1103 to 1130. His rule, together with his half-br ...
, where the Norwegian fleet is attacked by Arab Muslim pirates, referred to as Vikings. The stories are told with energy, giving a picture of human life in all its dimensions. The saga is a prose epic, relevant to the history of not only Scandinavia but the regions included in the wider medieval
Scandinavian diaspora
Scandinavian diaspora
. The first part of the ''Heimskringla'' is rooted in
Norse mythology Norse or Scandinavian mythology is the body of myths Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions common to that culture, subculture or group. ...
; 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, the
Yngling The Ynglings were a semi-historical dynasty of kings, first in Sweden and later in Norway, primarily attested through the poem ''Ynglingatal''. The dynasty also appears as Scylfings (Old Norse ''Skilfingar'') in ''Beowulf''. When ''Beowulf'' and ...

Yngling
s traces the interweaving lineages of
Freyr Freyr (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia S ...

Freyr
of the Vanir and
Odin Odin (; from non, Óðinn, ) is a widely revered god in Germanic mythology Germanic mythology consists of the body of myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundat ...

Odin
of the Æsir, described here as the most noble spirits of human kind recurring in cyclic patterns encompassing the nations of Europe and beyond (including Ethiopia) indicating a complex philosophical array of
metempsychosis Metempsychosis ( grc-gre, μετεμψύχωσις), in philosophy, refers to transmigration of the soul In many religious, philosophical, and myth Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives that play a fundamental role in a soci ...
(i.e.
reincarnation Reincarnation, also known as rebirth or transmigration, is the philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with p ...
) and death-defiance (i.e. the story of Örvar Odd). The traces come from the east, with
Asgard Asgard (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia S ...
at it's source, the mother of cities for the legendary Asians which Snorri Sturlasson, knows as the
Æsir The Æsir (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia ...
. But something dramatically has emerged, distinguishing the coming from the succession of things chronological taking things bit by bit as before the war between the Vanir and Æsir was instigated. That Snorri identifies with Troja that fell. While afterwards Snorri locates Asgard along Tanakvisl, (
Dniepr } The Dnieper or Dnipro () is one of the major list of rivers of Europe, rivers of Europe, rising in the Valdai Hills near Smolensk, Russia, before flowing through Belarus and Ukraine to the Black Sea. It is the longest river of Ukraine and ...
), a possible precursor to Kœnugard (Kiev). The subsequent sagas are (with few exceptions) devoted to individual rulers, starting with
Halfdan the Black Halfdan the Black (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia ...
. A version of '' Óláfs saga helga'', about the saint
Olaf II of Norway Olaf or Olav (, , or British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British identity and com ...
, is the main and central part of the collection: Olaf's 15-year-long reign takes up about one third of the entire work. Thereafter, the saga of
Harald Hardrada Harald Sigurdsson, also known as Harald of Norway (; – 25 September 1066) and given the epithet ''Hardrada'' (; modern no, Hardråde, roughly translated as "stern counsel" or "hard ruler") in the saga Sagas are prose Prose is a form ...
narrates Harald's expedition to the East, his brilliant exploits in
Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germa ...

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 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.


Contents

''Heimskringla'' contains the following sagas (see also List of Norwegian monarchs): # ''
Ynglinga saga ''Ynglinga saga'' ( ) is a Kings' saga, originally written in Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old N ...
'' # Saga of Halfdan the Black, Halfdanr svarti ("the Black") # Saga of Harald I of Norway, Haraldr hárfagi ("finehair") (died ca. 931) # Saga of Haakon I of Norway, Hákon góði ("the Good") (died 961) # Saga of King Harald II of Norway, Haraldr gráfeldr ("Greycloak") (died 969) # Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar, ''Saga of King Óláfr Tryggvason'' (died 1000) # Óláfs saga helga, ''Saga of King Óláfr Haraldsson'' (died 1030), excerpt from ''conversion of Dale-Gudbrand'' # Saga of Magnus the Good, Magnús góði ("the Good") (died 1047) # Saga of Harald III of Norway, Haraldr harðráði ("Hardruler") (died 1066) # Saga of Olaf III of Norway, Óláfr Haraldsson kyrri ("the Gentle") (died 1093) # Saga of Magnus Barefoot, Magnús berfœttr ("Barefoot") (died 1103) # Saga of Sigurd Jorsalfar, Sigurðr Jórsalafari ("Jerusalem-traveller") (died 1130) and his brothers # Saga of Magnus IV of Norway, Magnús blindi ("the Blind") (dethroned 1135) and of Harald Gilli, Haraldr Gilli (died 1136) # Saga of Sigurd Haraldson, Sigurðr (died 1155), Eystein Haraldson, Eysteinn (died 1157) and Inge Haraldson, Ingi (died 1161), the sons of Haraldr # Saga of Hakon II of Norway, Hákon herðibreiðs ("the Broadshouldered") (died 1162) # Saga of Magnus V of Norway, Magnús Erlingsson (died 1184)


Sources

Snorri explicitly mentions a few prose sources, now mostly lost in the form that he knew them: ''
Hryggjarstykki ''Hryggjarstykki'' (Mid 12th c. Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of S ...
'' ('spine pieces') by Eiríkr Oddsson (covering events 1130-61), ''Skjǫldunga saga'', an unidentified saga about Knútr inn gamli, and a text called ''Jarlasǫgurnar'' ('sagas of the jarls', which seems to correspond to the saga now known as ''Orkneyinga saga''). Snorri may have had access to a wide range of the early Scandinavian historical texts known today as the 'synoptic histories', but made most use of: * ''Ágrip af Nóregs konunga sǫgum'' (copying its account of Harald Fairhair's wife Snæfríðr almost unchanged). * ''
Morkinskinna ''Morkinskinna'' is an Old Norse language, Old Norse kings' sagas, kings' saga, relating the history of Norway, Norwegian kings from approximately 1025 to 1157. The saga was written in Iceland around 1220, and has been preserved in a manuscript f ...

Morkinskinna
'' (the main source for the years 1030–1177, which he copied almost verbatim except for removing many of the anecdotal ''þættir''). * Possibly ''
Fagrskinna ''Fagrskinna'' (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germanic dialects before their final divergence into separate Nordic languages. Old Norse was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia ...
'', itself based on ''Morkinskinna'', but the much shorter. * His own ''Separate saga of St Óláfr'', which he incorporated bodily into ''Heimskringla''. This text was apparently based primarily on a saga of Olaf from about 1220 by Styrmir Kárason, now mostly lost. * Oddr Snorrason's ''Life of Óláfr Tryggvason'', and possibly a Latin life of the same figure by Gunnlaugr Leifsson. Snorri also made extensive use of skaldic verse which he believed to have been composed at the time of the events portrayed and transmitted orally from that time onwards, and clearly made use of other oral accounts, though it is uncertain to what extent.


Historical reliability

Up until the mid-19th century, historians put great trust in the factual truth of Snorri's narrative, as well as other old Norse sagas. In the early 20th century, this trust was largely abandoned with the advent of ''saga criticism'', pioneered by Lauritz Weibull, Lauritz and Curt Weibull. These historians pointed out that Snorri's work had been written several centuries after most of the events it describes. In Norway, the historian Edvard Bull, Sr., Edvard Bull famously proclaimed that "we have to give up all illusions that Snorri's mighty epic bears any deeper resemblance to what actually happened" in the time it describes. A school of historians has come to believe that the motives Snorri and the other saga writers give to their characters owe more to conditions in the 13th century than in earlier times. ''Heimskringla'' has, however, continued to be used as a historical source, though with more caution. It is not common to believe in the detailed accuracy of the historical narrative and historians tend to see little to no historical truth behind the first few sagas, however, they are still seen by many as a valuable source of knowledge about the society and politics of medieval Norway. The factual content of the work tends to be deemed more credible where it discusses more recent times, as the distance in time between the events described and the composition of the saga was shorter, allowing traditions to be retained in a largely accurate form, and because in the twelfth century the first contemporary written sources begin to emerge in Norway.


Influence

Whereas prior to ''Heimskringla'' there seems to have been a diversity of efforts to write histories of kings, Snorri's ''Heimskringla'' seems thereafter to have been the basis for Icelandic writing about Scandinavian kings, and was expanded by scribes rather than entirely revised. ''Flateyjarbók'', from the end of the fourteenth century, is the most extreme example of expansion, interweaving Snorri's text with many ''þættir'' and other whole sagas, prominently ''Orkneyinga saga'', ''Færeyinga saga'', and ''Fóstbrœðra saga''. The text is also referenced in ''Journey to the Center of the Earth'' by Jules Verne; the work is the one Professor Liedenbrock finds Arne Saknussem's note in.


Editions and translations


History of translations

By the mid-16th century, the Old Norse language was unintelligible to Norwegian, Swedish or Danish readers. At that time several translations of extracts were made in Norway into the Danish language, which was the literary language of Norway at the time. The first complete translation was made around 1600 by Peder Claussøn Friis, and printed in 1633. This was based on a manuscript known as ''Jofraskinna''. Subsequently, the Stockholm manuscript was translated into Swedish and Latin by Johan Peringskiöld (by order of Charles XI of Sweden, Charles XI) and published in 1697 at Stockholm under the title ''Heimskringla'', which is the first known use of the name. This edition also included the first printing of the text in Old Norse. A new Danish translation with the text in Old Norse and a Latin translation came out in 1777–83 (by order of Frederick VI of Denmark, Frederick VI as crown prince). An English translation by Samuel Laing (travel writer), Samuel Laing was finally published in 1844, with a second edition in 1889. Starting in the 1960s English-language revisions of Laing appeared, as well as fresh English translations. In the 19th century, as Norway was achieving independence after centuries of union with Denmark and Sweden, the stories of the independent Norwegian medieval kingdom won great popularity in Norway. Heimskringla, although written by an Icelander, became an important national symbol for Norway during the period of romantic nationalism. In 1900, the Norwegian parliament, the Stortinget, Storting, subsidized the publication of new translations of Heimskringla into both Norwegian written forms, nynorsk, landsmål and bokmål, riksmål, "in order that the work may achieve wide distribution at a low price".''"forat verket ved en lav pris kan faa almindelig udbredelse".'' Snorre Sturlason, ''Kongesagaer'' (Kristiania, 1900).


Editions

* ''Heimskringla eða Sögur Noregs konunga Snorra Sturlusonar'', ed. by N. Linder and H. A. Haggson (Uppsala: Schultz, 1869-72)
HTMLGoogle Books vols 1-2Google Books vol. 3
* Snorri Sturluson, ''Heimskringla'', ed. by Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson, Íslenzk fornrit, 26–28, 3 vols (Reykjavík: Hið Íslenzka Fornritafélag, 1941–51).


Translations

The most recent English translation of ''Heimskringla'' is by Alison Finlay and Anthony Faulkes and is available open-access. * Snorri Sturluson,
The Heimskringla: Or, Chronicle of the Kings of Norway
', trans. by Samuel Laing (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1844)
HTML
(repr. Everyman's Library, 717, 722, 847). * ''The Saga Library: Done into English out of the Icelandic'', trans. by William Morris and Eiríkr Magnússon, 6 vols (London: Quaritch, 1891-1905), vols 3-6. * Snorri Sturluson, ''Heimskringla: Sagas of the Norse Kings'', trans. by Samuel Laing, part 1 rev. by Jaqueline Simpson, part 2 rev. by Peter Foote, Everyman's Library, 717, 722, 847 (London: Dent; New York: Dutton, 1961). * Snorri Sturluson, ''Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway'', trans. by Lee M. Hollander (Austin: Published for the American-Scandinavian Foundation by the University of Texas Press, 1964). * Snorri Sturluson, ''Histoire des rois de Norvège, première partie: des origines mythiques de la dynastie à la bataille de Svold'', trans. by François-Xavier Dillmann (Paris: Gallimard, 2000). * Snorri Sturluson, ''Heimskringla'', trans. by Alison Finlay and Anthony Faulkes, 3 vols (London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 2011-15) (second edition 2016-)
vol 1 (1st edn)vol 1 (2nd edn)vol 2vol. 3


Bibliography

* . A reprint of the 1932 Cambridge edition by W. Heffer. *


References


External links

* *
Images of the Kringla Leaf on the manuscripts website of the National and University Library of Iceland


{{Authority control 1230s books Sources of Norse mythology Kings' sagas Works by Snorri Sturluson