Auðunar þáttr vestfirzka
Auðunar þáttr vestfirska ('the story of Auðun of the Westfjords') is a short tale (or þáttr) preserved in three distinct versions as part of the saga of Harald III of Norway (reigned 1047-66, a.k.a. Haraldr inn harðráði Sigurðsson), as the saga is told in the manuscripts Morkinskinna, Flateyjarbók, and several others. Widely translated and anthologised, it is admired for its beautifully simple account of a poor Icelander from the Westfjords, the harshest region of the country, who decides to take a polar bear as a present to Sweyn II of Denmark (reigned 1047-74/76, a.k.a. Sveinn Úlfsson). Auðun sticks to his task despite having to pass through the court of Haraldr, who is continually at odds with Sweyn, and proceeds on a pilgrimage to Rome. Auðun's mixture of determination, audacity and humility leads him to gain the respect of both kings, and through him their respect for one another increases also.
Although ostensibly historical, the work is more plausibly to be seen as 'a historified folktale'.
- Gwyn Jones, in the introduction to his Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas, Oxford, 1961, which includes it, calls it "so seeming-simple, . . . the best of all Icelandic þættir and one of the most flawless short stories ever written" (p. xv).
- Marlene Ciklamini, "Exempla in an Old Norse Historiographic Mold", Neophilologus, 81.1 (1997), 71-87, doi:10.1023/A:1004216615263, at p. 72.