The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, Heimskringa
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"Heimskringla" is a collection of tales about Norwegian kings, a chronicle. It contains much information of how Scandinavia was christened in the Viking Age (AD ca. 800-1066) and afterward. The Chronicle was written in Old Norse by the Icelandic historian and poet Snorre Sturlason (c.1179-1241) in AD 1225, approximately. He had visited Norway and Sweden.
The first parts of the work go back to mythological times for the Danes, Swedes and Norwegians, to be followed by sagas from the 800s CE up to the death of the pretender Eystein Meyla in 1177.
The Heimskringla consists of several sagas. A saga is a prose narrative of historic or legendary figures and events, and may contain quite detailed accounts, ficticious or otherwise. The first of the Chronicle sagas traces Odin and his followers from Asgard to their settlements in Scandinavia. The sagas that follow tell of contesting kings and nobles and Viking expeditions. The Saga of Olaf Haraldsson is the longest. It was edited by monks.
In the 1800s Norwegians strove for independence after centuries of union with Denmark and Sweden, and the ancient stories of the independent Norwegian medieval kingdom became greatly popular in Norway, even a national symbol. In 1900 the Norwegian parliament subsidised new translations of Heimskringla.
Heimskringla as a historical source is not much trustworthy, for Snorri's work was written several centuries after most of the events it describes. So Edvard Bull proclaimed that "we have to give up all illusions that Snorri's mighty epic bears any deeper resemblance to what actually happened". Yet Heimskringla has continued to be used as a historical source, but with caution: Historians tend to see little to no historical truth behind the first few sagas.
The texts that follow, stem ultimately from the English translation by Samuel Laing (1844). A second edition, revised, with notes by Rasmus B. Anderson, was published in London by the Norroena Society in 1889. And many Internet presentations of the work are from the still later Heimskringla: A History of the Norse Kings (Norroena Society, London, 1907), which lacks the Ynglinga Saga.
The work has been modernised and slightly corrected here. But just a few trifles have been added to the meaning of the main text.
- Tormod Kinnes
The Heimskringla, or Chronicle of the Kings of Norway: Translated from the Islandic of Snorro Sturleson, with a Preliminary Dissertation by Samuel Laing. 3 Vols. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1844.
A Norwegian edition:
Hødnebø, Finn, og Hallvard Magerøy, eds: Norges kongesagaer, Vols 1-4. Oslo: Gyldendal, 1979.
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