Snorri Sturlson's Biography (Books)

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Snorri Sturluson (1179 - 23 September 1241) was an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician. He was elected twice as 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 Skaldskaparmal, a book of poetic language, and the Hattatal, a list of verse forms. He was also the author of the Heimskringla, a history of the Norwegian kings that begins with legendary material in Ynglinga saga and moves through to early medieval Scandinavian history. For stylistic and methodological reasons, Snorri is often taken to be the author of Egil's saga.

As a historian and mythographer, Snorri is remarkable for proposing the hypothesis (in the Prose Edda) that mythological gods begin as human war leaders and kings whose funeral sites develop cults (see euhemerism). As people call upon the dead war leader as they go to battle, or the dead king as they face tribal hardship, they begin to venerate the figure. Eventually, the king or warrior is remembered only as a god. He also proposed that as tribes defeat others, they explain their victory by proposing that their own gods were in battle with the gods of the others.

Snorri quickly became known as a poet, but was also a successful lawyer. In 1215, he became lawspeaker of the Althing, the only public office of the Icelandic commonwealth and a position of high respect. In the summer of 1218, he left the lawspeaker position and sailed to Norway, by royal invitation. There he became well acquainted with the teen-aged King Hakon Hakonarson and his co-regent, Jarl Skuli. He spent the winter as house-guest of the jarl. They showered gifts upon him, including the ship in which he sailed, and he in return wrote poetry about them. In the summer of 1219 he met his Swedish colleague, the lawspeaker Eskil Magnusson, and his wife, Kristina Nilsdotter Blake, in Skara. They were both related to royalty and probably gave Snorri an insight into the history of Sweden.

Snorri was mainly interested in history and culture. The Norwegian regents, however, cultivated Snorri, made him a skutilsvein, a senior title roughly equivalent to knight, and received an oath of loyalty. The king hoped to extend his realm to Iceland, which he could do by a resolution of the Althing, of which Snorri had been a key member.

In 1220, Snorri returned to Iceland and by 1222 was back as lawspeaker of the Althing, which he held this time until 1232. The basis of his election was entirely his fame as a poet. Politically he was the king's spokesman, supporting union with Norway, a platform that acquired him enemies among the chiefs. In 1224, Snorri married Hallveig Ormsdottir (c. 1199-1241), a granddaughter of Jon Loftsson, now a widow of great means with two young sons, and made a contract of joint property ownership (or helmingafelag) with her. Their children did not survive to adulthood, but Hallveig's sons and seven of Snorri's children did live to adulthood.

Snorri was the most powerful chieftain in Iceland during the years 1224-1230.

Perhaps Snorri's most enduring importance lies in the fact that without his writings, our possibilities for perceiving the views and thoughts of pagan North Europeans would be considerably more limited than they admittedly are. His writings provide information and indications concerning persons and events influencing the peoples inhabiting this region during periods of time concerning which information is scarce.

To an extent, the legacy of Snorri Sturluson also played a role in politics long after his death. His writings could be used in support of the claims of later Norwegian kings concerning the venerability and extent of their rule. Later, Heimskringla factored in establishing a national identity during the Norwegian national independence movement.

Icelandic perception of Snorri in the 20th century and to date has been colored by the historical views adopted when they sought to sever their ties with Denmark, any revision of which still has strong nationalistic sentiments to contend with. To serve such views, Snorri and other leading Icelanders of his time are sometimes judged with some presentism, on the basis of concepts that only came into vogue centuries later, such as state, independence, sovereignty, and nation.

Source: wikipedia

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