Sæmundr fróði

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This is an Icelandic name. The last name, Sigfússon, is a patronymic, not a family name; this person is properly referred to by the given name Sæmundur.
Sculpture by Ásmundur Sveinsson in front of the main building of the University of Iceland of Sæmundur killing a diabolical seal.

Sæmundur Sigfússon (or Sæmundur fróði) (Sæmundur the Learned) (1056–1133) was an Icelandic priest and scholar. Sæmundur is known to have studied abroad. Previously it has generally been held that he studied in France, but modern scholars rather believe his studies were carried out in Franconia. In Iceland he founded a long-lived school at Oddi. He was a member of the Oddaverjar clan and had the son Loftur Sæmundsson.

Sæmundur wrote a work, probably in Latin, on the history of Norwegian kings. The work is now lost but was used as a source by later authors, including Snorri Sturluson. The poem Nóregs konungatal summarizes Sæmundur's work. The authorship of the Poetic Edda, or, more plausibly, just the editor's role in the compilation, was traditionally attributed to Sæmundur but is not accepted today.

In Icelandic folklore, Sæmundur is a larger-than-life character who repeatedly tricks the Devil into doing his bidding. For example, in one famous story Sæmundur made a pact with the Devil that the Devil should bring him home to Iceland from Europe on the back of a seal. Sæmundur escaped a diabolical end when, on arrival, he hit the seal on the head with the Bible, killing it, and stepping safely ashore.[1]


  1. ^ Gísli Sigurðsson, 'Icelandic National Identity: From Romanticism to Tourism', in Making Europe in Nordic Contexts, ed. by Pertti J. Anttonen, NIF Publications, 35 (Turku: Nordic Institute of Folklore, University of Turku, 1996), pp. 41--76 (p. 52).
  • Aðalsteinsson, Jón Hnefill (1994). "Sæmundr Fróði: a medieval master of magic". Arv: Nordic Yearbook of Folklore 50: 117–32. 
  • Paasche, Fredrik (1956). Norsk Litteraturhistorie I: Norges og Islands Litteratur (2nd ed.). Oslo: Aschehoug. pp. 273–6.