Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway

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University of Texas Press, 1964 - History - 854 pages
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Beginning with the dim prehistory of the mythical gods and their descendants, Snorri Sturluson tells us how scions of those descendants, the Swedish kings, colonised and subdued Norway, shire by shire, until King Harald Fairhair united the whole realm. The long line of his successors ruled Norway with varying fortunes, achieving, at one time, a far-flung dominion encompassing a major part of the British Isles and Denmark, besides the homeland. Great missionary kings, especially Olaf Haraldsson (who was later canonised and became the patron saint of Norway), introduced Christianity, and with it southern and western influences. Other rulers weakened the kingdom by their fratricidal struggles or wars with pretenders. Through the whole history, one senses the gradual rise of a national awareness.
Snorri Sturluson is, without compare, the greatest historian of the Middle Ages. His work reflects the attitudes of his own troubled times and country, the Iceland of the thirteenth century, torn by bloody feuds.

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About the author (1964)

Snorri Sturluson's fame as a historian---his main work is the 16 sagas included in Heimskringla (c.1230), a monumental history of Norway from its beginning until 1177---lies both in his critical approach to sources and in his fine, realistic exposition of event and motivation. A similar combination of scholarly and imaginative talent is seen in The Prose Edda (c.1220). Intended to be a handbook in skaldic poetry, it preserves invaluable mythological tales that were on the verge of being forgotten even in Sturluson's time. A large part of what we know about Nordic mythology stems from his Edda. The bibliography that follows also lists the anonymous Egil's Saga (1200--30), which many expert Scandinavian medievalists (e.g., Sigurdur Nordal and Bjorn M. Olsen) attribute to Sturluson. It is a fascinating account of life in Norway, England, and Iceland and of the poet-warrior Egil, whose skaldic verse is renowned for its unusual emotional and personal qualities. Snorri Sturluson's own life was as eventful as those about whom he wrote. Returning to Iceland from exile in 1239, he again became deeply involved in serious power struggles and was murdered in 1241.

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