Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Asgarth (AHS-gahrth). Legendary homeland of the wandering warrior and king Odin, which is thought to be located somewhere in southwest Asia. Asgarth is considered to be the ancestral place of origin for the Norwegian royal line. Snorri thus obliquely links the kings of Norway with the generally accepted medieval belief that western European kingdoms were founded by expatriate members of the ancient Trojan nobility.


*Norway. Scandinavian kingdom whose governance is the central concern of the tales. The sagas detail how Norway is united by Harald Fairhair, converted to Christianity by Olaf Tryggvesson and Holy King Olaf, and subjected to foreign rule by Canute of Denmark. Many of Norway’s kings spend a great deal of time traveling through its mountainous regions in the north, with their fjords and islands in the west and fertile valleys in the south, ever seeking to maintain control by quelling discontented farmers and chieftains alike. In many ways the Norwegian kingdom itself is truly the main antagonist for all the central figures of the narratives.


*Nitharos (NIHTH-ah-rohs). Norwegian town founded by Olaf Tryggvesson that serves as a royal residence for numerous kings of Norway. After Tryggvesson’s martyrdom, his body is laid to rest in Nitharos’s Church of St. Clement, thereby elevating the city’s spiritual and symbolic significance.


*Sweden. Kingdom adjacent to Norway that appears throughout the sagas as both a rival to Norway and a place of refuge. At times Norway comes...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Bagge, Sverre. Society and Politics in Snorri Sturluson’s “Heimskringla.” Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991. Using modern methods of historiography, Bagge concentrates on the work “as a description of society” in thirteenth century Norway and Iceland, dealing primarily with the political conflicts depicted. Examines similarities to the medieval history of other European countries.

Ciklamini, Marlene. Snorri Sturluson. Boston: Twayne, 1978. A useful introduction to the author, intended for the general reader as well as for the scholar. The slim book includes chapters on Snorri’s life, “Snorri’s Literary Heritage,” the Prose Edda, and detailed summaries of and commentaries on Heimskringla.

Magnusson, Magnus, and Hermann Palsson, trans. King Harald’s Saga: Harald Hardradi of Norway, from Snorri Sturluson’s “Heimskringla.” Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1966. An extremely readable introduction begins this translation of one section of Heimskringla. King Harald fought Harold of England just before Harold’s defeat at the Battle of Hastings, and he may well have changed British history by preparing the way for William the Conqueror.

Parergon: Bulletin of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Renaissance Studies 15 (1976): 3-54. Special Issue on Snorri Sturluson, edited by Hans Kuhn. Four scholarly articles that include examinations of literary and historical aspects of Heim-skringla.

Sturluson, Snorri. The Stories of the Kings of Norway Called the Round of the World. Translated by William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson. London, Bernard Quaritch, 1905. Volume 4 contains a long historical and biographical introduction and three indexes, to persons, places, and subjects in the work.