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King Harald's Saga

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  739 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
This compelling Icelandic history describes the life of King Harald Hardradi, from his battles across Europe and Russia to his final assault on England in 1066, less than three weeks before the invasion of William the Conqueror. It was a battle that led to his death and marked the end of an era in which Europe had been dominated by the threat of Scandinavian forces. Despit ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published July 29th 1976 by Penguin Classics (first published 1230)
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Aug 17, 2015 Edward rated it really liked it
Note on the Translation

--King Harald's Saga

Genealogical Tables
Glossary of Proper Names
Chronological Table, 1030-66
Elliott Bignell
Dec 20, 2015 Elliott Bignell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every British schoolchild learns the date 1066, when the Norman Conquest and the Battle of Hastings took place. As a child I visited the Bayeux Tapestry with my school exchange group. Most of us then stop listening, so it came as some surprise to this one to find that an equally epic battle was won by Harold less than three weeks earlier. This was the Battle of Stamford Bridge, at which a Viking invasion force under Harald was all but annihilated by the English in a pyrrhic victory which probabl ...more
Mar 09, 2013 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Apparently, a big part of the reason that William of Normandy was able to successfully defeat King Harold of England in 1066 is that he attacked just three weeks after Harold beat the pants of King Harald of Norway, who'd tried to invade the opposite end of the country. I had no idea! Well, this cool bit of Norse history told me all about it, and about the life of the guy who tried, from his teens in exile through the decades that followed as he became a powerful king by virtue of being a right ...more
Mar 08, 2008 Rod rated it it was amazing
King Harald Hardradi of Norway was the biggest, baddest, most unstoppable war monger of the Viking era. He was also the brother of St. Olaf. When Harald was campaigning to take the English throne, after the death of Edward the Confessor, he was struck down by an arrow to the throat. Had he survived the ill-prepared-for battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, he would have battled William the Conquerer, setting up one of the most spectacular battles in warfare history. (Yes, I went to Westminster Abbe ...more
The saga of one of the most interesting figures of the medieval world, young Harald flees from Norway, travels to southern Europe, serves in the varangian guard, goes back home, consolidates power and then tries to conquer another kingdom. My only complaint is how short the section of him in the south was, I wanted it to have more of that.
Nov 04, 2016 Shane rated it it was amazing
Found a new favorite poet in King Harald Hardradi

Now I go creeping from forest
To forest with little honor;
Who knows my name may yet become
Renowned far and wide

I see Sailing through the town
With a host of warlike followers
Generously paunched Einar,
Skilled plougher of the ocean.
The stout chief of Norway;
Even kings, I sometimes feel,
Keep smaller courts than his.

Einar of the failing sword
Will drive me from this country
Unless I first persuade him
To kiss my thin-lipped ax.

Now I have caused the
Jacob Aitken
This text is a critically-annotated selection from Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla. The translators, Magnusson and Palsson, provide a running commentary on Snorri’s text.

Snorri tells the story of one of the last “Viking” leaders, albeit a somewhat Christianized one. Our protagonist is Harold Siggurdson. To the degree that Snorri’s narrative can be trusted--and we have no way of honestly knowing that--Harold in many ways typified and recapitulated the late Viking ideal--a ferocious warrior, cunn
Kelly W.
Dec 11, 2015 Kelly W. rated it it was amazing
I read this for an Old Norse-Icelandic literature course in which we translated some of the original text and read the entirety of it in translation. Needless to say, most things the Nose-Icelandic authors write are wild, even when it's a historical saga, like this one. Readers should be aware going in that this is not a straight up history - Snorri Sturluson certainly adds his own flair to historical events, and not everything is completely accurate. Still, it's a fun read for history buffs and ...more
The book is carefully written and a masterful piece of scholarly work; I'm giving it only three stars because its source material was so one-dimensional in nature it made it impossible for the book to be more rounded.
It's the story of King Harald Sigurdsson, also sometimes called Harald Hardrada, of Norway, a historical figure who's fascinated me since I was in high school. A larger-than-life figure in some ways; Harald was reportedly nearly seven feet tall and tremendously powerful and energeti
Nov 30, 2009 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: completed
Although I thought this book was about the English King Harold when I picked it up at a library book sale, it was about King Harold of Norway, who was defeated by King Harald in 1066, just a week or two before William the Conqueror swept into England from Normandy.

I managed to learn some history and some legend about Harald and his part in setting up England for defeat at the hands of the Normans.

This book, originally written in the 1100's, was a serious attempt at telling Harald's story and ge
1066 was a landmark year in English/European history - William the Conqueror, the Battle of Hastings, etc. But what often gets left out is the fact that, just 19 days before the Battle of Hastings, the English king fought (and won) a battle against another invader, King Harald Sigurdsson (Hardrada) of Norway. It's one of my favourite historical "what ifs" - what if Harald had won at Stamford Bridge? Or what if King Harold of England hadn't force-marched his army to meet William at Hastings after ...more
Dec 13, 2011 Ensiform rated it really liked it
Translated and annotated, with an introduction by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson. It is a brief excerpt from Snorri’s Heimskringla, his complete history of Norway. It tells the story of Harald Sigurdsson, half-brother of St. Olaf, who through cunning and treachery became king of Norway, then in 1066 vied for the English throne with Harold of England, just before the latter was defeated by William the Bastard. Although Snorri doesn’t preach the moral of the story, it becomes clear that Hara ...more
Misha Hoekstra
Feb 07, 2010 Misha Hoekstra rated it really liked it
Another great classic from Iceland, but what I want to call attention to here is not the compelling character studies or the always compelling presence of everyday violence in the sagas but two points about the role of poets.

The first is that Snorri Sturluson builds the saga up primarily from poems rather than sagas or histories because he actually finds the court poets more reliable. They may exaggerate, he suggests, but they will not lie. Moreover, the complex musical form tended to preserve
russell barnes
Britain's most famous Icelander is at it again, only this time telling the tale of the last great Viking king, Harald, who ruthlessly subjugated Norway and attempted to invade England in 1066. Confusingly he was beaten by King Harold at the battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire, and Harold was then beaten by Harald's nephew (?) at the Battle of Hastings. This is not the end of being confused in an admittedly very-slim volume.

The sheer amount of pillaging, double-dealing, trickery, chicanery an
Dec 11, 2008 Cwn_annwn_13 rated it it was amazing
Highly recomended! The only disapointment this saga brings is that because Harald Hardradi lived after the conversion to Christianity in Norway (at least by the upper classes) so you don't get the glimpses into how the Norse Heathen religion was practiced like you do in nearly all the other sagas. Other than that this is one of the better sagas. You get entertaining recounts of Haralds wild adventerous life and his political manuverings and skullduggery. Also this is a source for info on my favo ...more
Desiree Wallen
Oct 09, 2012 Desiree Wallen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For an "account" of a king's life written in the mid-1200's, this is pretty well-constructed by Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson. The translation by Magnus Magnusson (a man whose name is indicative of the badassery in this book) is really swell, complete with footnotes of really obscure references and potential language disputes. Some "events" were mind-blowing (using birds with lit matches strapped on their back to burn down a town? Not sure how that's possible, but I liked it), but others ...more
Jeremiah Carlson
Mar 02, 2014 Jeremiah Carlson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Really good history and story here, the Snorri has brought us very good insight to the men of his recent past. King Harald's life story was remarkable and there was more than just his story to tell. A very good history read indeed. It did get a little dry at times but I'm reading things very relentlessly since I want to read so much this year, so it took only a couple of days. I recommend this to people who don't know [much] about the battle of Hastings (like myself before hand), those intereste ...more
This is a solid, serviceable translation of part of the Heimskringla. I'll admit that medieval Scandinavian history is not my strong point, so I can't speak to how accurately it captures the sense of the original, but it read clearly and easily (even though I didn't like how the footnotes were arranged). I would have appreciated more and better integrated/connected genealogical tables, though; the kinship relationships were clearly extremely important to medieval Icelandic/Norse society, but it ...more
Magnus Magnuson is the king of scandinavian translation, by far my favourite. This book is maybe not the best of sagas in story telling but it is an indispensable for Norwegian and Anglo-saxon history. It IS still fairly reliable as a historical text as corroborated by other sources. A fascinating insight in to a fascinating (though sometimes brutal) man. For those intersted in the Byzantine empire and the ellusive Varangians it is worth a read for these parts alone.
Colin Bruce Anthes
Jun 20, 2010 Colin Bruce Anthes rated it really liked it
I'm left dreaming in the land of "what if?" This would have made for some fantastic Shakespearian plays, a King Harald part I, II, and III, instead of Henry VI. Though scholars have found many errors in Snorri's telling of King Harald's Saga (he seems to mostly reference poetry as is source of information, which, as a storyteller himself, makes sense), one can easily see that the fiction comes from a genuine place. A remarkable story for anyone interested in this sort of thing.
Feb 17, 2013 Tony rated it liked it
A lively story about the Norwegian king of the mid-11th century. Typical from a medieval Icelandic author, the protagonist is neither heroic nor villainous, though he is great. Good translation and an appropriate amount of footnoted information, especially comparing the facts of the story against Byzantine and English sources. I'd put it a notch below the saga of burnt Njal and the Nibelungenlied in this class of books, but it's still quite good and worth the short investment to read.
May 19, 2013 Rob rated it really liked it
I have enjoyed these Icelandic sagas (although this one is not in Iceland but uses Icelandic poets for the information). Fascinating picture of another perspective on the wars between Denmark and Norway and the later battles in England ending with the well known confrontation at Stamford Bridge and later at Hastings. Good translation and a good read.
Feb 22, 2015 Csenge rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite sagas, and a great edition. Clear translation, very interesting and detailed introduction, family trees included, and extensive footnotes explaining dates, details, confusions, and adding info on many of the characters. Not my first read of the saga, but still a lot of new things in it to discover!
Fascinating mix of legend and history and a quick road trip around the Europe of the 11th Century.

Fuller review now on my blog here for the interested.
وسام الدين محمد
Sep 09, 2009 وسام الدين محمد rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A fantastic saga about this warrior Harald Hardrada from the north Constantinople to Kiev to North.
Garrett Cash
Dec 31, 2014 Garrett Cash rated it it was amazing
Not just an excellent piece for medieval scholarship, but a compelling story that I can't believe hasn't been picked up by Hollywood yet.
Jul 10, 2012 Colin rated it really liked it
A fascinating saga of the man who might have been king of England had he defeated Harold and William in 1066 C.E.
Jason Freeze
Mar 04, 2013 Jason Freeze rated it liked it
A little more disjointed than the other Norse sagas I have read, but well worth the time and enjoyable. The translator's notes and historical corrections were positive and not over done.
Libby Walen
Libby Walen rated it really liked it
Sep 20, 2016
Graham Lee
Apr 13, 2014 Graham Lee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, fiction
Harald Sigurdsson seems to have been a bit of a Cnut then.
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Snorri Sturluson (also spelled Snorre Sturlason) was an Icelandic historian, poet and politician. He was twice elected lawspeaker at the Icelandic parliament, the Althing. He was the author of the Prose Edda or Younger Edda, which consists of Gylfaginning ("the fooling of Gylfi"), a narrative of Norse mythology, the Skáldskaparmál, a book of poetic language, and the Háttatal, a list of verse forms ...more
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