Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu

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Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu (About this sound listen ) or the Saga of Gunnlaugr Serpent-Tongue[1] is one of the Icelanders' sagas. Composed at the end of the 13th century[citation needed] it is preserved complete in a slightly younger manuscript. It contains 25 verses of skaldic poetry attributed to the main characters. It is an important work in both Norwegian and Icelandic literary history.

The saga relates the story of two Icelandic poets Gunnlaugr ormstunga and Hrafn Önundarson, and their competition for the love of Helga the Fair, granddaughter of Egill Skallagrímsson. The story opens with a prophetic dream of two eagles fighting over a swan, prefiguring the love triangle in the story. The narrative then follows Gunnlaugr and is sympathetic towards him as it describes his ambitious career as a court poet across Scandinavia and the British Isles. He first competes with Hrafn in verse and later in battle.

The saga has similarities to earlier sagas of poets, such as Kormáks saga and Bjarnar saga, but it is more refined and elegant with strong characterization and emotional impact. Long considered a masterpiece, the saga is often read by beginning students of Old Norse literature.[2] Printed with a Latin translation and commentary in 1775, it was the first of the Icelanders' sagas to be published in a scholarly edition.[3]


  1. ^ Gunnlaugr is sometimes Anglicized as Gunnlaug. The cognomen can also be translated as Worm-Tongue or Snake-Tongue.
  2. ^ Poole 2001:2.
  3. ^ Hansen 2005:62.


  • Hansen, Anne Mette et al. (2005). The Book As Artefact : Text And Border. Rodopi. ISBN 90-420-1888-7
  • Poole, Russell (2001). Skaldsagas: Text, Vocation, and Desire in the Icelandic Sagas of Poets. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-016970-3
  • "The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue" translated by Katrina C. Attwood in The Sagas of Icelanders edited by Örnólfur Thorsson (2001), pp. 558-94. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-100003-1

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