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Heimskringla

or

The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway

by

Snorri Sturlson

c.1179-1241

 

From The Editor

 

The Heimskringla, or Chronicle of the Kings of Norway is a far more important historical document than has ever been given credit in modern times. It is not just a tale of the royalty of Norway, but a history of all northern European-descended people. While some dismiss it's recounting of the early Ynglinga Saga as mere fable, or a fantasy genealogy for a later generation of people, I argue that it's telling of the origin of Odin and the people of the Aesir and Vanir is a oral history that was passed down by a people as fact. The Saga says that Odin's people originated in the Black Sea area, in the area that is today Northern Turkey and Georgia. Modern archaeological discoveries have proven that a prehistoric empire did exist in that region, and then disappeared. The Saga also indicates that these people migrated north and west, seeking better territory. We know that there was a migration age, and this too fits the story. Is the story 100% perfectly factual? Probably not. Anytime a story gets passed from one person to another, it loses something in the telling, and sometimes gains something as well. The Norse relied heavily on orally recited history and law in their society, and I would wager that they stuck pretty close to facts. In any case, you will be reading some of the earliest known history of mankind, and at the very least, it will provide one with food for thought about where we began. The latter portions of this book deal with historical people that we know did exist without question. Because of the nature of the Norsemen, their history is also the history of other nations, and this book is very valuable for understanding non-Norse peoples as well.

 

 

 

PREFACE OF SNORRE STURLASON

 

In this book I have had old stories written down, as I have heard them told by intelligent people, concerning chiefs who have held dominion in the northern countries, and who spoke the Danish tongue; and also concerning some of their family branches, according to what has been told me.  Some of this is found in ancient family registers, in which the pedigrees of kings and other personages of high birth are reckoned up, and part is written down after old songs and ballads which our forefathers had for their amusement.  Now, although we cannot just say what truth there may be in these, yet we have the certainty that old and wise men held them to be true.

 

Thjodolf of Hvin was the skald of Harald Harfager, and he composed a poem for King Rognvald the Mountain-high, which is called "Ynglingatal."  This Rognvald was a son of Olaf Geirstadalf, the brother of King Halfdan the Black.  In this poem thirty of his forefathers are reckoned up, and the death and burial-place of each are given.  He begins with Fjolner, a son of Yngvefrey, whom the Swedes, long after his time, worshipped and sacrificed to, and from whom the race or family of the Ynglings take their name.

 

Eyvind Skaldaspiller also reckoned up the ancestors of Earl Hakon the Great in a poem called "Haleygjatal", composed about Hakon; and therein he mentions Saeming, a son of Yngvefrey, and he likewise tells of the death and funeral rites of each.  The lives and times of the Yngling race were written from Thjodolf's relation enlarged afterwards by the accounts of intelligent people.

 

As to funeral rites, the earliest age is called the Age of Burning; because all the dead were consumed by fire, and over their ashes were raised standing stones.  But after Frey was buried under a cairn at Upsala, many chiefs raised cairns, as commonly as stones, to the memory of their relatives.

 

The Age of Cairns began properly in Denmark after Dan Milkillate had raised for himself a burial cairn, and ordered that he should be buried in it on his death, with his royal ornaments and armour, his horse and saddle-furniture, and other valuable goods; and many of his descendants followed his example.  But the burning of the dead continued, long after that time, to be the custom of the Swedes and Northmen.  Iceland was occupied in the time that Harald Harfager was the King of Norway.  There were skalds in Harald's court whose poems the people know by heart even at the present day, together with all the songs about the kings who have ruled in Norway since his time; and we rest the foundations of our story principally upon the songs which were sung in the presence of the chiefs themselves or of their sons, and take all to be true that is found in such poems about their feats and battles: for although it be the fashion with skalds to praise most those in whose presence they are standing, yet no one would dare to relate to a chief what he, and all those who heard it, knew to be a false and imaginary, not a true account of his deeds; because that would be mockery, not praise.

 

 

 

 

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