Snorri Sturluson Additional Biography

Biography

Scion of a family of powerful Icelandic chiefs, Snorri Sturluson (SNAWR-ee STUR-luh-suhn) was Iceland’s most widely influential medieval writer, an adviser to and historian of the Norse kings, and the author of the most coherent Scandinavian cosmography composed in the Middle Ages. When he was three years of age, a legal settlement between his father (a forceful arbitrator) and Jón Loptsson (Iceland’s single most powerful citizen) caused Snorri to become Loptsson’s foster son. Snorri’s benefits from this fosterage cannot be underestimated. Loptsson’s home was a center of learning, and he had connections to continental cultural centers. Snorri was trained not only in ecclesiastical curricula but also in law, history, and Iceland’s rich tradition of saga literature and skaldic poetry.{$S[A]Sturluson, Snorri;Snorri Sturluson}

Snorri became a lawyer, eventually rising to the position of president of the Icelandic legislative assembly and of the highest court of the land. Still seeking power and adventure, he journeyed to Norway, where he curried favor from Norwegian rulers by composing his own skaldic poetry, nearly all of which has been lost. The young King Hákon Hákonarson (1217-1263) appointed him skutilsveinn (page or chamberlain) and later titled him a baron. Returning to Iceland as Hákon’s vassal, Snorri became embroiled in the sturlungaöld, a long period of political turmoil that culminated (in 1262, after Snorri’s death) in Iceland’s subjugation to Norway. He ended a second stay in Norway by returning to Iceland in open defiance of the Norwegian king’s order. Although it is not entirely clear whether the king ordered Snorri to be executed, Snorri was killed by the king’s emissaries at Reykjaholt in 1241.

For all his ambition and avarice, Snorri was apparently regarded by his contemporaries as pious and patriotic. Certainly the Heimskringla indicates his diligent striving after historical accuracy and his desire to immortalize the deeds and characters of the great Norse kings, beginning in the days of the...

(The entire section is 854 words.)

Bibliography

Andersson, Theodore M. “The Politics of Snorri Sturluson.” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 93 (1994). Useful for understanding the political turmoil through which Snorri wrote and led his public career.

Bagge, Sverre. Society and Politics in Snorri Sturluson’ Heimskringla. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991. Explores the social and political life of Iceland as Snorri presents it in the Heimskringla. Includes an extensive bibliography and an index.

Byock, Jesse. Medieval Iceland: Societies, Sagas, and Power. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990. Helpful...

(The entire section is 617 words.)