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Heimskringla is the best known of the Old Norse kings' sagas. It was written in Old Norse in Iceland by the poet and historian Snorri Sturluson (1178/79–23rd sept. 1241) ca. 1230. The name Heimskringla was first used in the 17th century, derived from the first two words of one of the manuscripts (kringla heimsins - the circle of the world).

Heimskringla is a collection of sagas about the Norwegian kings, beginning with the saga of the legendary Swedish dynasty of the Ynglings, followed by accounts of historical Norwegian rulers from Harald Fairhair of the 9th century up to the death of the pretender Eystein Meyla in 1177. The exact sources of his work are disputed, but included earlier kings' sagas, such as Morkinskinna, Fagrskinna and the twelfth century Norwegian synoptic histories and oral traditions, notably many skaldic poems. Snorri had himself visited Norway and Sweden. For events of mid-12th century, Snorri explicitly names the now lost work Hryggjarstykki as his source. The composition of the sagas is Snorri's.


Manuscript history

The earliest parchment copy of the work is referred to as Kringla. It voyaged from Iceland to Bergen, Norway and was moved to Copenhagen, the University Library. At that time it had lost the first page, but the second (the current beginning of the Ynglinga Saga) starts Kringla heimsins, "the Earth's circle" of the Laing translation.[1]

In the 17th century copies were made by Icelanders Jon Eggertson and Asgeir Jonsson. Eggertson's copy went to the Royal Library at Stockholm. The Copenhagen manuscript was among the many valuables destroyed in the Copenhagen Fire of 1728. Only one leaf of the manuscript survived and it is now kept in the National and University Library of Iceland.


By the mid-16th century, the Old Norse language was unintelligible to Norwegian or Danish readers. At that time, several translations of extracts were made in Norway, into the Danish language, which was the literary language of Norway at the time. The first complete translation was made around 1600 by Peder Claussøn Friis, and printed in 1633. This was based on a manuscript known as Jofraskinna.

Subsequently the Stockholm manuscript was translated into Swedish and Latin by Johan Peringskiöld (by order of Charles XI) and published in 1697 at Stockholm under the title Heimskringla, which is the first known use of the name. This edition also included the first printing of the text in Old Norse. A new Danish translation with the text in Old Norse and a Latin translation came out in 1777-1783 (by order of Frederick VI as crown prince). An English translation by Samuel Laing was finally published in 1844, with a second edition in 1889. Other English translations followed.

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