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Heimskringla: or, The Lives of the Norse Kings

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,228 ratings  ·  41 reviews
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.
Paperback, 770 pages
Published May 1st 1990 by Dover Publications (first published 1230)
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Feb 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: norse
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
Sep 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
P.D. Maior
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
Everett Darling
Jan 11, 2008 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Morten Kristensen
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 Kongesaga
Timons Esaias
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 t
Nicki Markus
Dec 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-non-fiction
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 readersh ...more
Jul 28, 2013 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1200s
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. ...more
Jun 01, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Billy Roper
Apr 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It is from Snorri the Icelander that we received the written inheritance of the sagas, tales of the Norse, and these collections of Viking religious and philosophical thought read like a northern Proverbs.
Maire Carmack
Jun 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book.

Great stories of the Lords of Norway. Went into great detail of battles as well. It doesn't go into modern history though but this doesn't bother me.
Heidi Bakk-Hansen
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ar ...more
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I would not expect everyone who picks up Heimskringla to read it in its entirety. However if you do, you will find fantastic stories of intrigue, cunning, heroism, and war. Besides all this, the reader will gain valuable insight into Viking and Norse history. I particularly enjoyed the stories of Olaf Tryggvason and Harald Hardrada; though any reader should at least start with Harald Fairhair, in order to appreciate the full scope of later stories, and so you are not too overwhelmed by names.
Clarke Owens
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating history of Northern Europe (Norway, Denmark, Sweden) in (mostly) 10th to 12th Centuries.
Sep 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A must read for anyone interested in this era of history or old Norse literature
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The history of The King's of Norway by Snorri Sturluson. Great History! I picked this up in 1993 just after I graduated from college. ...more
Avis Black
Dec 30, 2020 marked it as dnf
Sturluson, Snorri has convinced me I need to leave the rhapsodizing over ancient sagas to guys like Tolkien. He was paid to do it, and I'm not. ...more
Jason Rusbult
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lots of history

This book contains the oldest history of the Norwegian kings and of the Norse people. Anyone who has Norwegian heritage needs to read this book!
Andrew Tanner
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mythology
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 vi
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a good book and a beautiful edition.
I read the Norwegian "Storm" edition.

Good book but a hard read. Mostly because the narrative style or flow were that of old texts from about the 1100s and the book itself were worked on and rejigged in the late 1800s.

Very interesting if you're into this sort of thing.

Yes I took a long time to get through it but hey I wasn't doing it for school or anything. just for my own personal reasons.
Sep 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of my greatest literature discoveries from my university days. As a book-nerd, I used to prowl every last corner of the university library, soaking in the knowledge; wandering through bits of the library nobody else visited, from love of books. I read books nobody had picked up for 50 years, with blank spaces where date stamps of borrowers should be...
I made some great finds that my home town library had never seen. The complete multi volume Golden Bough, the rise and fall of the Roman Empir
Oct 24, 2007 rated it liked it
was going through a phase where i'd read everything by tolkein. and had started into the ancient texts that had inspired him. The heimskringla, the kalevala, beowulf, and such. there are elements of epic storytelling that you will find very familiar, and that make it easier to read than you'd think.

and learned that my scandanavian ancestors were pretty brutal.
Marts  (Thinker)
Dec 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is quite an interesting read and to think I just came upon it whilst reading Jules Verne's 'Journey to the Center of the Earth'. Actually at first I had no idea that the text existed but finally decided to look it up. ...more
Oct 12, 2008 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: only specially interested
Recommended to Lars by: My highschool history teacher
This 'brick' of a book is historically interesting. Recommended for anyone who may strive for further understanding of the creation of the Norway as one nation in the viking era and beyond. ...more
Britta Stumpp
This is the definitive saga of the Norwegian kings. It's enormous, so it may take quite a long time to get through, but my trip inspired me to explore all things Scandinavian. ...more
Rick Davis
Amazing. Review to follow when I have time.
Sep 12, 2013 added it
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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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