Great classic by Icelandic poet/chieftain chronicles the reigns of 16 high kings descended from the warrior-wizard god Odin. Major section on 15-year reign of Olav II Haraldson, patron saint of Norway. Based on earlier histories, oral traditions, plus new material by author, all presented with intelligence, warmth and objectivity. Over 130 illustrations and 5 maps.
The is a revised update of an early Everyman edition of Snorri's Heimskringla that was originally translated by Samuel Laing in the 1840s. The revisions are done by Jacqueline Simpson and Peter Foote, who for some strange reason revise the prose texts and supply new introductions but leave Samuel Laing's strange verse adaptions of Scaldic Poetry untouched, which in my opinion would have benefited from from a complete rewrite.
This huge compilation of Norse Kings Sagas is made up of sixteen sagas that begin in the legendary Scandivian past at terminate in the thirteenth century. I found the Ynglinga saga to be the most interesting because it recounts the legendary history of the Norwegian kings and tells the story of the war between the Æser and Vaner. Also enjoyable was Harald Hardrada's saga, which tells of his invasion of and death in Yorkshire, prior to the Battle of Hastings.
If my book collecting wasn't mostly focused on Medieval Literature, I would collect the Everyman editions and probably save myself a fortune because they're so inexpensive to find. Many years ago, I worked voluntary in a charity shop and the company policy was to throw all Everyman Classics away because there was so many of them and people didn't want them. which I just found sinful. So I rescued/stole this edition from the bin and have lovingly treasured it ever since.
First of all, let me say that I can't imagine reading this on a Kindle. It's 800+ pages long and, if you're looking for action, boring.
But it is a wonderful example of Scandinavian medieval literature. If you can get into the rhythm of it, the translator has done an excellent job of making it easy to read.
Because it is medieval, it's hard sometimes to keep track of who is who. The author assumes you know (or remember from previously) who so-and-so is. Also there are little "stories" put in the middle of a king's saga that don't really relate to the rest. They just happened during that king's reign and were, to the author, important to mention.
Since I have a degree in medieval literature (European rather than Scandinavian), I really enjoyed the book. I didn't have trouble when the author swings into a poem written to commemorate a particular action (kind of like a musical, I guess - time to break into song!!!). But it won't be for everyone since it is history and not action-packed.
If you are of Norwegian descent or a reader of medieval literature or interested in the medieval point of view of kingship and Scandinavian society, pick it up. It's worth it.
Heimskringla - it sounds like a good curse word to say when you accidentally hit your finger with a hammer: “Heimskringla!”
I think that also pretty much summmarizes the mood old “Snorri” - the author of this work (who lived from the 1170’s-1240’s AD) - angrily puts one in after reading the farcical abbreviation he hammered over the lines of the true Ancient Kings of the North.
He mostly passes off the over four thousand year old Norse Gothic King Line’s with just some recently deceased usurpers of half danish origin who were, at best, living in the 850’s to 950’s AD, just three centuries before him (like Harald Fairhair; he with his famed and oh so noble “scat” as he calls it: “land-tax” p.19, that he enforced on all deliciously (sic)). This would be like us replacing the most archaic and noble Indian Chieftains in America (mentioned by the Hopi and Rafinesque) with the English King George as the progenitor of all their King Lines. It is insane it passes as “early” history today.
Being taught under the most holy initiate the Icelander Saemunder Frodi - recorder of the extremely ancient Elder Edda (in my top 40 fav books for life) and the author whose history of the Norwegian Kings is now conveniently “lost” or shall we say “appropriated” by this violent, short-sited, war-monger Snorri (who began his battles when Saemunder’s daughter refused him in marriage) - Snorri does, as if by accidental osmosis (being near Saemunder in his youth) actually have a good knack for revealing *very* archaic sacred geo-mysteries on forgotten lands contained in symbol within the god-lore of the North in his Prose Edda, however. So I give him that, but only that. Yet one finds this universally: among the Greeks on Atalas and among the Hindu’s on Idaspati and his “steppe isle’s thrice times removed” too and so on and so on.
So overall I would say Snorri is not so unique but rather fits what Napoleon said: “History is written by the victors who are usually notorious liars.” However if Napoleon believed “all” history was subjective like the modern Foucult lovers would have you convinced, then why did Champollion - one of the most immenent historians of his day - say Napoleon often corrected him on many fine points in history he had himself forgotten? No Napoleon only believed some of history is lies, the rest truth - as do I.
Yes there were many better historians than Snorri, but much crumbled through and on into his works despite him; so there is no reason to fully discount his works, just shoot the messenger and his abbreviations.
Now Snorri in this work would have you believe this Harald Fairhair the pseudo-dane, pseudo-avar (truly half Chunni and half-dane per a British record I once came across - oh and his imaginary father is euphemistically called “halfdan”), this usurper - who was part of the movement that desecrated the last vestige of true king lines all over Norway as this book shows, and who really got the evil “dane-law” going after destroying all the monastaries in Northern France, Briton and Ireland in the late 800’s (a century earlier than commonly thought when one looks close) - was the true “King” of all Norway; or of as old as he could go back. No, the Northern Kings did not come from him, they were murdered and replaced by him and his ilk. Such group came in among the Danes.
Snorri’s lie is the same lie Johannes Magnus says Saxus Grammaticus made making all stem from some recent half “Danish” (sic) Kings. Nothing could be further from the truth. These were the usurpers of the Kings.
All this period of Fairhair and a little before; He and Lodbrok and Harald Wartooth (if he is not the same as Fairhair, everywhere Northern chronologies were conflated by exactly 100 years at this period) were all of this same ilk: mercenaries of violence and half chunni avar in descent, not of royal lines. Such was the motif in the North then from 530-930 AD.
Adam of Brehmen is a better source on events in the North than this Snorri and lived two centuries before him. He confirms what I am saying, of this migration of violent peoples from the Northeast into Gothland and Germany and on further west. Johannes Magnus of the early 1500’s though spoke the truth about these types of so called Danes, being more near them. He says the Norwegians were mostly peaceful for thousands of years internally before they came. Because of this his works have been restricted until recently as somehow anti-danish (how I don’t know if one is opposed to those who overtook the beautiful and gracious Danes). They are still today untranslated.
Some will try to make Snorri’s “early king” Harald as being in the court of Yaroslav the Wise (of the double eagle insignia) and in the time of the Gardarike Varangian holy founders of Russia who defeated the pseudo-Kievans. I could not believe it because St Simeon the New Theologian was a frighteningly conscious wiseman in such court so I knew there was no way on earth two such beings could co-exist politically. So I looked into it and Yaroslav kicked Harald Fairhair out for being too much a warmonger almost immediately after associating with him.
Snorri, a few centuries after Harald Fairhair, was part of this still ongoing Pseudo-Danish warlord led mercenary cult usurpment of all holy king-lines in the North. But when he left it, it was too late, they came after him. He had already done their bidding though however much meaning to or no, he abbreviated the more ancient King lines (later more correctly recollected by the true Goth Norwegian Johannes Magnus) in this work of his, the Heimskringla, to fit this movements’ purposes of a more recent historical character by appropriating archaic kings’ names at times in this rewrite and applying them to them.
Charlemagne, the century before Snorri’s Fairhair of the 850-950 AD range, was recorded weeping at his death bed in 814 AD looking into the North and realizing not only should he not have so harshly persecuted the universal noumenalist pagans but also, more importantly, he should have stopped the Hun Avar take over in the North because he saw from there would be launched next, behind their hollowed out Northern people’s visage and king lines co-opted, further depradations upon all the West. And indeed this is what happened. Fredegar in the 600’s AD speaks of the Huns making “belfaulci” (forced war mercenary laborors) of the the Northern Goths and Germans at such century before Charlemagne, against their will. So what Charlemagne was seeing increase is not just fictional opinion of Charlemagne.
It occured before Charlemagne and after - he was just a brief holding force. Before him were two major sweeps, one in the 430’s-530’s with Attila on Catalaunian fields against the Heruli Goths in France; and then the sons of Attila’s brother: Henghist and Horsa (who were in the 530’s not 430’s) behind King Mrdred invading as the golden armored Avar Huns in the first Invasion on Briton after Germans/Saxony/Saxons had already been peacefully in colonies there a hundred years. The Huns ever came up the Sava/Avar river into the Oder on unto Hamberg and to a certain two regions of Daneland or Denmark - one being juteland and the other of the Angles; then they kept taking over parts of Norway first - but they hated above all the Germans and followed them wherever they fled. If the British later called them Saxon’s who came into Angle’s lands and then on to them (Anglo-Saxon), this was just euphemistic descriptions of peoples based on the lands they migrated through, not their actual blood-line. For the earliest British and Irish records called them Avars (which many early writers say is synonomous with “Huns.” They describe them as coming in with little coracle boats just as the Huns had as well).
Those two overthrows of the peoples of the North before Charlemagne were nothing though compared to the Fie-King Khazars (pseudo-Vikings) after him whom he foresaw while dying, they who obliterated many of the true holy Norwegian Goth Valh-Kings and married into the rest doing the same in Daneland as they did to Norway in their hey day in the 800’s, then came down into all the West with their dragon ships and up into the Isles. Such was the movement Harald Fairhair and Snorri Sturleson were part of. They were not of the movement of Charlemagne or the true Norwegian and British Kings of old; nor of Islam growing east and swapping sons’ upbringings with the courts of Charlemagne; nor of Saemunder and many others. They were as different from all of these as oil and water. The old Norse work the Volsunga Saga speaks of the enemies ships, the evil oarers, as having dragons on them (Fie-King)!
The Heimskringla is more an end record of a usurpment period trying to make it pretty and glorify it by half types incorporated into it.
Archeologists find, confirming the take over of the Norse by foreign people’s, burned houses everywhere in Norway from the 550-850’s and strange Hunnish and Arabic coin mixed cache’s (for the Hun Khazars traded with the Arabs, those same Arabs who joined the Quareyshi and Zaidi Arabs who later with Jafar’s good Kufic Hindu early islamists and Kurdish King David, all from 650-850 became more confirmed enemies of the Hun Kafirs; these Khazars and their Khaganates persecuting them from day one in Yemen even as they did to the early Gnostic Christians. Such were coming now from 530-930 from the forests of the Urals as Fie-Kings all upon the Northwest as Adam of Brehmen and Johannes Magnus report).
It is sad today Norwegians speak proudly of being bloody, spoiling Vikings like some dumb moderns and forget who they were before as true, holy, noble, gothic, “peaceful till outright attacked,” Norse (previous to these Vikings who overtook their culture).
Also, one cannot fault esoteric Hebrews, or even exoteric one’s for these quasi Russians, Viking Khazarian Avar Huns - other than the latter taking such canaanites of spirit and even possible descent as “their own” per the medieval historians (...I have found maps showing the Hebrews calling such lands the Huns came from: “Canaanae”). Nor can one fault esoteric Christians who saw through all this increasing tendency toward mercenary violence for spoil in their day moving west.
But exoteric Christians; one can fault them quite a bit for all this happening. For their virus of converting people by bloody, violent force of inquisition - begun with that dead soul Maximus the Pseudo-Roman Emperor up in Briton unto these times in the 850-950 AD range was going on everywhere in the North by then; and Snorri records many of the terrible details of it. So in reaction there were exoteric pagans coming and killing exoteric christian kings and peoples. Such created a divide and conquer that left a vaccuum for the Avar Kings to come in and take over the West for spoil and land-tax dominance as indeed they did and as indeed is the new modus operandi for all in place still today (i.e. morally dead corporations running our governances globally with no spiritual overtones to them whatsoever).
So, in conclusion, if one wants to really learn of the ancient Nord Goth Kings of heroic valour and tales of old then read elsewhere; if one wants to know what really happened in brief in the North from 500-1,000 AD morally, politically and spiritually and not just “strategically,” I have just shown that; but if one wants a lot of further battle details on a gruesome, pedantic, legalist, savage, war-mongering, mercenary culture of once holy westerners corrupted by influence from an anciently evil culture beyond human imagining that came out from the upper Urals and in among them changing all them through psychic trauma (while the exoteric Christians were converting by the sword sweeping up from southwest) then read on into the Heimskringla.
Really interesting and a really valuable link to the past, but my eyelids hung heavy and often and getting through this was more of a chore than a pleasure. I wouldn't attempt this if you are new to the saga's if only for it's sheer size. Start with The Vinland Sagas. It's much more intruiging, with less focus on the kings, and more on commoner's--of the highly entertaining kind--lives and voyages, and it's a one-sitting kind of saga whereas the Heimskringla will soon become a new appendage.
Reading Snorre is sorta like reading the Bible - you know that it's a good read, and you know it's been amazingly influential - but still it's difficult to get in to. All Norwegian children know at least some of the highlights - King Olav's glorious death, Harald Hårfagre's vow to conquer Norway or die hairy. But they are true highlights. Reading Snorre means reading about all the less memorable kings and their doings as well. That said, Snorre is an historian first and foremost, and the Kongesagaer is a work of history written with care for detail and a very modern sense of criticism. It's difficult to rate on a five-star system (again, kinda like the Bible), but as a read, I have. As an historical document it would rate five. Easily.
Har lenge føltes som obligatorisk lesning, men ikke lett å komme seg igjennom. Enorme mengder karakterer presenteres med familiebånd og titler og stopper all framgang i plottet når de skal presenteres. Plutselig innskutte historier og hendelser florerer overalt: En person presenteres med fullt navn og tittel og detter av en robåter og drukner på neste side, en enorm svensk landeveisrøver setter spydet sitt fast i en trollkjerring etter at denne plutselig dukker opp og eter 12 kjøpmenn. En Svensk væring selger Olav den Helliges sverd til den bysantiske keiseren. Alt dette fører til at det er lett å miste tråden og helt glemme hva som egentlig foregår. Dette tar helt av i løpet av den siste sagaen hvor flere Magnuser surrer rundt og det i starten virket for meg som Erling Skakkes eneste mål var å ødelegge for alle med navnet Magnus.
Samtidig er det også mye bra historier opp i dette, og det politiske klimaet som skildres er spennende og lese om. Man får også mye nyttig livsvisdom, som at man aldri skal stole på en nordisk konges vennskap, han vil på ett eller annet tidspunkt komme ridende og brenne deg inne på gården din, hvis han ikke allerede har fått noen til å drepe deg fordi du ikke lar han jukse i sjakk.
This is one of the gems of Medieval literature, and an excellent tool for fiction writers wanting exposure to the ins-and-outs of that culture (and yes, it was a prime source for Game of Thrones), but I know very few people who've actually read it.
I first stuck my nose into it in college, both in the original Old Icelandic and English translation, and I always meant to read it cover-to-cover. Well, it took about half a century, but I've finally done it. It was compiled and probably composed by that Icelandic skald, scholar, politician and scoundrel, Snorri Sturluson. Snorri also produced the Prose Edda, invaluable to the understanding of Northern European poetics, and was possibly the author of Egil's Saga.
I love the very first line, which captures the Norse/Viking view of the world, utterly fjord-centric: The earth's round, on which mankind lives, is much indented. And one of the secret values of this book is that it slowly reveals the premises of that culture, through what it presumes, and what it doesn't see.
This thing starts with legend, but quickly brings the tale into history, including the simultaneous Norse invasions of England in 1066 -- one that succeeded, and one that failed -- from the Norse point of view. (Including, seeing the English Harold as just another Viking chieftain, since his mother was a Danish noblewoman.)
What we learn is that there are three different societies in the Norse-Swedish-Danish world. There are farmers, who have some power, and who pay the real taxes, and whose parliaments can control whole countries. There is a richer class of landowner, often also involved in merchant ventures, who frequently act as an oligarchy, and have private bands of troops, and often fund both trade ventures and Viking raids. And there are the chieftains, including the kings, who are pretty much armed thugs selling the landowners and farmers a protection racket. But it's a protection racket in a world where bad actors often do show up, and the protection is needed.
Often, though, the chieftains are a bigger threat to the farmers and landowners than any enemy, which leads to a constantly changing balance of tensions between the three groups; not to mention tribal and regional conflicts. So much conflict! So much uncertainty! (Yep, perfect for studying the shifting tensions that can be used in fiction.)
One of the fascinating sub-tales in this is the saga of King Sigurth Magnusson, one of three brothers who split the Norwegian throne, by agreement. Sigurth decided to put together a big Viking expedition, intended also to go to the Holy Land. (We now call it the Norwegian Crusade, but this book makes no such reference.) He fights infidels in Lisbon, infidels in the Straits of Gibraltar, infidels in North Africa, infidels and whatnot in the Mediterranean islands. He hangs out with Roger in Sicily (the Vikings held Sicily) then goes to help out the King of Jerusalem. He tours the Holy Land, picks up some bits of the True Cross, and then takes a tour of Greece and Byzantium, hanging out in Constantinople for a time, trading gifts with the Emperor. He then gives the Emperor his whole fleet as a present, and returns to Norway overland, through Eastern and Central Europe.
All in a lifetime's work, for your Viking warrior-king.
This is a collection of sagas, though they do string together in a historical order. One need not read them all at once. It's not that kind of book. But really, it should be required for most literate persons. I should especially note that it is much more "historical" and far less "legendary" than almost anything else being written in Europe at the time.
I got a copy of this book as I have a huge interest in the Viking era. And to that end, this is a great work to add to my library. On reflection, I maybe should have dipped into it in between other books, rather than read through it in one go. After a few chapters, it all started to become a little bit familiar and stodgy - one king harried here and there, married, and then died; then the next king harried here and there, married, and then died. I do not think this is a book for general readership per se - those looking for exciting Viking tales should try the Icelandic sagas instead - but for the history buff, this is a good work to add to one's collection.
Ignore the rather suspect black gothic text against a red background - this is an interesting book.
So far, the first bit, "The Saga of the Ynglings" consists of along series of basically crap kings who rule for about five minutes each. They all die in a ludicrous manner - one drowns in a vat of mead while wandering around (drunk) to look for a place to take a pee, one gets lured into a cleft in a rock by a dwarf (while drunk) and is never seen again and others die by bull attack and nightmare.
If Snorri's the Herodotus of the Middle Ages, this is his "Histories." Meaning, it's THE masterwork of epic nonfiction narrative prose for its time. Debate its accuracy all you like: it's a goddamn awesome read. This edition, from U of Texas Press, translated by Lee Hollander, is the one to get. Anything Scandinavian from Hollander or U of TX is top-notch, actually: the best edition of the Poetic Edda, for instance. Try the Saga of the Jomsvikings, too.
I've seen this compared to Herodotus's Histories, which I think is a surprisingly perfect comparison. Snorri and Herodotus are analogous. Yes. That makes a delightful amount of sense. Just making shit up in order to sound cool.
Ynglinga saga is the best and (probably unintentionally) funniest part of the Heimskringla. A million ways to die in the North. Lee Hollander's translation is the best in my opinion.
For anyone interested in the Norse history and literature this book is a must. However, it takes the patience of a historian to follow all the details on the lives of kings of Norway - a patience I did not have.
Jeg tror det som forhindret meg fra å like Norges Kongesagaer er at jeg var ute etter noe veldig andelenes enn det jeg leste: Jeg ville lese historie og endte opp med å lese noe historisk.
Hva jeg mener med det er at Norges Kongesagaer ikke fungerer som noe man kan utdanne seg med om historie, med mindre spørsmålet man prøver å svare er hvordan man fortalte historie før. Boka vil for eksempel ofte anta at man har viten om enkelte personer eller hendelser uten å forklare dem, noe som sikkert hadde vært et mye større problem for meg om jeg ikke visste hva det var snakk om.
Ikke at den er forferdelig, langt ifra. Det er interessant å se hvordan man pleide å prioritere hva som var viktig informasjon, som når de beskriver profetiske drømmer i store detaljer, men vil ofte bare si hvem som vant hvilket slag.
Jeg tror at Norges Kongesagaer er perfekt for de som har en historisk interesse i historiefortelling, men om man er interessert i å lære historie finnes det mange bedre bøker om perioden.
Je mi tazko hodnotit tuto knihu. Na jednej strane je to uzasny zdroj, na druhej strane som si z neho odniesla malo. Pred citanim som vedela co to o vikingskej mytologii a Ragnarovi. No a este som hrala AC Valhalla. Sagy vsak siahaju ovela dalej a posobia ako jednoduche zhrnutia dlhych pribehov, co pre mna nebolo velmi zazivne citanie. Treba poznamenat, ze to nie je adaptacia, ale preklad povodnych sag. Snorri bol sam vikingom a stretaval sa s kralmi. V knihe je navyse uplne iny prepis mien, na aky som zvyknuta zo sucasnosti (Tsór, Ódzin, Ástridz). Mnohe su navyse prelozene do slovenciny. Na konci su nastastie vysvetlivky. Podla popisu to navyse nie su vsetky sagy, ale iba vyber. Mam pocit, ze som pred ich citanim mala mat seversku historiu viac preskumanu.
Fantastiska historier om de gamla nordiska kungarna. Det blir rätt segt med liknande historier om erövring bland ett hundratal kungar genom ett hundratal år, men då och då framkommer några riktigt härliga, udda historier. Sättet som snorre sammanfattar personernas olika resor och färder är väldigt roande. Kortfattade fraser där allt icke-essentiellt är borttaget. Ett exempel saxat ur en liknande bok: (islendingabók/the settlers of Iceland). "Thorgeir cheek-wound: at the Battle of fitjar he got a wound on the cheek and a great reputation". Går att slå upp var som helst för att börja läsa några avsnitt. Svårt att läsa hela rakt igenom, då det är en väääldans mängd personer som nämns.
You know when you tried to read the Bible when you were a kid, and you got bogged down in the "begats"? That's kind of what it's like to read Heimskringla all the way through. It's more interesting because it's about Vikings and kings and murders and plunders, but it's also insanely repetitive because they're sagas. So. I confess I started skimming about halfway through, and it still took me like three years, despite having added it here only last year. Also, King Olaf was an asshole and went around killing anyone who didn't follow Christianity to his liking. Which was depressing. But hey, you wouldn't read Shakespeare all the way through either. So still a reference to keep on the shelf.
Well, it’s really long. And yet, it’s not terribly detailed. We have a lot of men, many of whom are named Olaf or Magnus, killing people and going to war over several centuries for obscure reasons. Women feature very little (surprise, surprise) and anything about daily life or music or food or art or even much about the church is also very sparse. For all that, it was still kind of interesting to pick this book up for small doses of the distant past and work my way slowly through it.
I'm still not sure if this book is supposed to be fiction or history. It seems to go on forever and only copious amounts of alcohol got me to the end. It's dull and bland most of the time but occasionally has fascinating plot points.
I feel like reading this was generally a waste of time.
This isn't a light read by any means, but if you have an interest in early and pre-Christian Norse society, the works of Icelanders like Snorri Sturluson (who I credit in my own work, Bringing Ragnarok) represent our only literary window into the broader Germanic and Northern/Eastern European traditions.
Frankly, I find the Norse skalds and authors better recorders than Christian monks like Bede. Sure this isn't formal history in the modern sense, where all dates and actions are supposed to be viewed from multiple angles, but it is as close as we can really get 2000 years later, when Christian culture has mostly overwritten what our ancestors lived for thousands of years prior.
The Heimskringla is a must read for any one interested in Norse history and Lore....however this is a large body of work comprising the lives of the Norse rulers and it is not for the light hearted and in my opinion you must have more than a passing interest in Norse history to a) fully commit to this book and b) fully appreciate its contents. To the potential reader I would recommend to first read the Eddas (certainly the Prose Edda) and get a few Sagas - be they legendary or Icelandic - under your belt (Laxdaela Saga, Volsunga Saga or Egils Saga would be my recommendations) before attempting the Heimskringla purely to get an understanding of Norse mythology and literature and to get used to the form, prose and construction of the literature. Having said that, though the stories told are Sagas in their own right, the Heimskringla is also much unlike the Icelandic Sagas in its content and is of a much more epic scope akin to the Gesta Danorum. It is very much a fulfilling read, however it does take some time to accomplish. I have this edition in my library, however it is an old translation that definately needs sprucing up as it can seem quit dry....I have heard good things about the L. Hollander translation which may make for a lesser labour intensive read.