Sverris saga is one of the kings' sagas. Its subject is King Sverre Sigurdsson (r. 1177–1202) of Norway and it is the main source for this period of Norwegian history. As the foreword tells us, the saga in its final form consists of more than one part. Work first began in 1185 under the king’s direct supervision. It is not known when it was finished, but presumably it was well known when Snorri Sturluson began writing his Heimskringla in the 1220s since Snorri ends his account where Sverris saga begins. Thus the saga is contemporary or near-contemporary with the events it describes. The saga is obviously written by someone sympathetic to Sverre’s cause, but the strict demands of the genre ensure some degree of impartiality.
Authorship and composition
The first distinct part of the saga is called Grýla and describes the events until the aftermath of Sverre's first major victory at the Battle of Kalvskinnet in 1179. Central to this part is Sverre's claim to be the son of King Sigurd Munn and his struggle against his rival claimant Magnus Erlingsson. According to the foreword, Grýla was written by Karl Jónsson from Þingeyrar monastery in Iceland. Karl Jónsson is known to have visited Norway from 1185 to c. 1188. Sverre is supposed to have served as Grýla’s main source and decided what should be written. Grýla is written in a unique style that to some degree seems to be inspired by the long medieval tradition of hagiography.
The style and focus of Sverris saga is very unlike that of the earlier Norwegian synoptics. Instead of narrowly focusing on the king and major events of state, Sverris saga is a detailed and rich biography with a large cast of characters, elaborate scenes and dialogue. The saga is particularly detailed when it comes to Sverre's speeches, as well as his battles and military strategy.
- Ármann Jakobsson 2005:392.
- Ármann Jakobsson. 2005. Royal Biography, in A Companion to Old Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture. Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-23502-7