Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar

  • Country in which the text is set
    Norway Sweden Russia Estonia Poland Vindland Denmark British Isles
  • Featured locations

    Estonia               Estland
    Hólmgarðr            Novgorod

  • Impact

    Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar (The Saga of Olaf Tryggvason) is a part of the Heimskringla compilation, allegedly written by the Icelandic chieftain Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) around 1230. It belongs to the kings' sagas, which constitute one of the saga-genres of medieval Iceland. The earliest extant version of Heimskringla is found on ten medieval vellum manuscripts, some of which are only fragments. Individual sagas from the compilation have also been preserved in a number of other manuscripts. Heimskringla was translated into Danish by Peder Claussøn Friis in 1600 and printed in 1633 but the the Old Norse text was first published in Sweden in 1697, although the excerpt reproduced here is taken from the Íslensk fornrit edition, which is now regarded as the standard edition of medieval Icelandic texts.

    Heimskringla relates the history of Norway and the Norwegian kings from their supposedly mythological origins among pagan gods until 1177. It comprises a prehistory and 16 separate individual rulers, including King Olaf Tryggvason, who reigned from 995 to 1000.

    Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar is the second-longest saga in the Heimskringla compilation and describes a king who was a ruthless and cruel Viking warrior, plundering in the British Isles as well as the Baltic, but who was also a devout adherent of Christianity, which was gaining ground in Norway at the time. He died in a famous battle at Svold, standing in the prow of his long ship Ormrinn langi (The Long Serpent). His cruel behaviour was regarded as the cause of this final defeat.

    The tale begins with the death of King Tryggvi Olafsson in an ambush in the year 968. His pregnant wife, Astrid, flees with all the money she can carry, accompanied by Thorolf Louse-Beard. While hiding on an island in a lake, Astrid gives birth to her son Olaf Tryggvason. She remains in hiding over the following six years in order to protect her son from King Harald Greycloak, who is intent on capturing King Tryggvi’s heir. After spending some years in Sweden, Astrid decides to visit her brother Sigurd, who is serving as one of King Valdimar’s men in Gardariki (Russia).While sailing across the Baltic, they are captured by Estonian Vikings, and is this episode that is recounted in the excerpt presented here.

    Heimskringla is renowned for its terse and realistic style, its critical attitude towards the various sources it draws on, the author’s political insights, nuanced and memorable character portrayals, as well as a number of highly memorable scenes. The importance attributed to it in Iceland is based largely on its literary qualities, but in Norway it is regarded as a national treasure due to the part it has played in shaping the country’s national identity and sense of independence. The international impact of the sagas is important as a key source of knowledge about the Viking period in general, and thus an inspiration for a number of modern writers.

  • Balticness

    The tale clearly refers to the raids carried out by Vikings around the Baltic Sea, but they also had other dealings with the people there.

    Viðar Hreinsson

  • Bibliographic information

    Snorri Sturluson. Heimskringla I. Íslensk fornrit XXVI Ed. By Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. Hið íslenska fornritafélag, Reykjavík 1941
    First compiled in early thirteenth century, c. 1230-1240

  • Translations
    Language Year Translator
    Danish 1551 Laurents Hanssøn
    Danish 1599 Peder Claussøn Friis
    Danish 1777-78 Gerhard Schöning 
    Danish 1876 Frederik Winkel Horn
    Danish 1948 Johannes V. Jensen & Hans Kyrre
    Danish 2012 Jesper Lauridsen
    English 1844 Samuel Laing
    English 1893-94 W. Morris & E. Magnússon
    English 1967 Lee M. Hollander
    English 1990 Erling Monsen and A. H. Smith
    Finnish 1960 J. A. Hollo
    German 1837 Gottlieb Mohnike
    German 1922 Felix Niedner
    German 2006 Hans-Jürgen Hube
    Latin 1697 Johan Peringskiöld
    Norwegian 1833 P. A. Munch
    Norwegian/Danish 1838-39 Jacob Aall
    Norwegian 1874-79 Steinar Schjøtt
    Norwegian 1899 Gustav Storm
    Norwegian 1929 Gustav Storm & Alexander Bugge
    Norwegian 1934 Anne Holtsmark & Didrik Arup Seip
    Russian 1839 / 1875 S. T. Sabinin
    Russian 1980 / 1995 Aron Jakovlevítsj Gúrevítsj et. al.
    Swedish 1697 Johan Peringskiöld
    Swedish 1816-29 Johan Gabriel Richert & Gabriel Guldbrand
    Swedish 1869-71 Hans Olof Hildebrand
    Swedish 1919-26 Emil Olson
    Swedish 1961 Åke Ohlmarks
    Swedish 1991 Karl G. Johansson
  • Year of first publication
  • Place of first publication

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