Ynglinga saga

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Ynglinga Saga
Ynglingesaga 9 Gerhard Munthe.jpg
An illustration by Gerhard Munthe for Ynglinga saga
Full titleYnglinga Saga or The Story of the Yngling Family from Odin to Halfdan the Black
Author(s)Snorri Sturluson
LanguageOld Norse
Dateabout 1225
Period covereduntil 1177
TextYnglinga Saga at Wikisource

Ynglinga saga (modern Icelandic pronunciation: ​[ˈiŋliŋka ˈsaːɣa]) is a Kings' saga, originally written in Old Norse by the Icelandic poet and historian Snorri Sturluson about 1225. It is the first section of his Heimskringla. It was first translated into English and published in 1844 by Samuel Laing.[1]

Snorri Sturluson based his work on an earlier Ynglingatal which is attributed to the Norwegian 9th-century skald Þjóðólfr of Hvinir, and which also appears in Historia Norwegiae. It tells the most ancient part of the story of the House of Ynglings (Scylfings in Beowulf). Snorri described the descent of the kings of Norway from this royal house of Sweden.

Ynglinga saga is the first part of Snorri's history of the ancient Norse kings, the Heimskringla. Snorri's work covers the history of the Norwegian kings from the mythical prehistoric age until 1177, with the death of the pretender Eystein Meyla. Interwoven in this narrative are references to important historical events.

The saga deals with the arrival of the Norse gods to Scandinavia and how Freyr founded the Swedish Yngling dynasty at Uppsala. Then the saga follows the line of Swedish kings until Ingjald (Ingjald illråde), after which the descendants settled in Norway and became the ancestors of the Norwegian King Harald Fairhair.


Hrólf Kraki Tradition

Hrólf Kraki's saga
Ynglinga saga
Lejre Chronicle
Gesta Danorum
Hrólfr Kraki
Bödvar Bjarki

Swithiod the Great[edit]

The saga begins with a description of the "earth's circle" inhabited by human race and divided by great seas running into the land from the "out-ocean". The Black Sea divides the earth into three parts: Asia in the east, Europe in the west and "Swithiod the Great, or the Cold" in the north (Chaper 1). The saga distinguishes between Swithiod the Great (literally "Sweden the Great"), where the opening scenes are laid, and Sweden proper, in Scandinavia, where the Yingling's reign starts. These lands differ in a metaphorical sense as well, since the former is also called Godheim or the home of gods, while the latter is called Mannheim or the place where people live.

Swithiod the Great is a vast territory populated by many "races of men", and divided from other lands by a large mountain ridge going from northeast to southwest (Chaper 5). This mountain ridge lies "outside of all inhabited lands" but its southern part is not far to "Turkland". On the southern side of the mountains runs the river Tanais, formerly known as Tanaquisl or Vanaquisl (the modern day Don), which falls into the Black Sea and marks the border between Europe and Asia.

Vanaland and Asaland[edit]

People on the Tanais live in a country called Vanaland or Vanaheim. East of the river, in Asia, stretches a country called Asaland or Asaheim. The main city of Asaland is Asgaard, where Odin is a chief. Twelve temple priests, called Diar, direct sacrifices in Asgaard and also judge the people, who serve and obey them. Odin is a great warrior, who conquers many kingdoms in all parts of the world, never losing a battle. His men are used to receive his blessing before going into battle, and to call upon his name when fighting, in order to inspire themselves (Chaper 2).

Odin wages war against Vanaland people, but cannot win over them. After doing great damage to each other, both sides agree to a truce and exchange hostages. Thus the best people of Vanaland are sent to Asaland as hostages: Njord the Rich, with his son Frey and daughter Freya as well as the wisest man in Vanaland called Kvase. The people of Asaland, in their turn, send a wise man called Mime along with a stout handsome man called Hone, who is allegedly very suitable to become a chief, to Vanaland. Hone is immediately made a chief in Vanaland, but people there realize how bad he actually is at taking decisions when not advised by Mime. They decapitate Mime and send his head to Asaland, where Odin smears it with herbs and sings incantations over it giving it the power to speak and reveal many secrets to Odin (Chaper 4).

Arrival of Odin in Scandinavia[edit]

Replica of the Viking ship Skidbladner at Haroldswick

Odin has a foresight about the new dwelling place in the north and goes there "with all the gods and a great many other people", leaving his two brothers, Vilje and Ve, to rule in Asgaard. First, Odin and his companions wander westwards to Gardarike and from there - south to Saxland, where Odin's sons start to rule. Then Odin goes towards the sea in the north, to the lands of the king Gylve in Scandinavia. There Odin settles at the Maelare lake, in the Old Sigtun, and sets his men to rule in the neighboring places around (Chaper 5).

Odin is described as a great sorcerer in the saga. He can shape-shift, speaks only in verse, and lies so well that everything he says seems true. He strikes enemies blind and deaf and when his own men fight they go berserk and cannot be harmed (Chaper 6). Odin has a ship Skidbladnir that can be folded together like a cloth. He relies on two talking ravens to gather intelligence, and he keeps Mime's head by him which tells him the news from other worlds. Odin teaches magic, runes and incantations. He can even awaken the dead from the earth and cause death or disease to anyone. People worship Odin and the other twelve chiefs from Asaland as their gods (Chaper 7).

Death of Odin[edit]

Odin establishes the laws that have been previously observed in Asaland: dead men should be burned with their belongings, a mound should be raised to memorize distinguished men, sacrifices should be held on special days in winter and in summer. Short before his death, Odin says he is going to Godheim (the other name of "Swithiod the Great" in the saga). He dies in his bed in Swithiod and is burned with honor. Snorri says: "The Swedes believed that he was gone to the ancient Asgaard, and would live there eternally" (Chaper 10).

Njord starts to rule over the Swedes after Odin. During this time, marked by peace and prosperity, all the gods die. When Njord dies himself, Frey takes the power and makes Upsal his capital. Frey has also another name, Yngvi, which is started to be used as an honorific title by his descendants. Thus they are called Ynglinger. When Frey dies of illness, his men keep it in secret and place his body into a great mound with three windows. People think Frey is still alive and continue to pay tribute to him, putting gold through the one window, silver through the other one and copper coins through the third one (Chapter 11). The Swedes eventually discover the truth but do not burn the Frey's body, since they believe the peaceful time goes on thanks to his presence in Sweden. They treat him as a god and sacrifice to him (Chapter 13).

Yngling dynasty[edit]

Frey's son Fjolne inherits the power and peacefully rules over the Swedes until he visits a great celebration in the house of Fredfrode, a ruler of Leidre. There Fjolne accidentally falls into a big vessel with mead and drowns himself (Chapter 14). Swegde, Fjolne's son, takes the kingdom, but decides to seek Godheim and Odin, so he sets out on a 5-year travel for that. Swegde comes to Turkland and then to the Great Svithiod. He does not find Odin, but gets a wife in Vanaland called Vana, who gives birth to their son Vanlande. When Swegde returns to Sweden with his family he is still determined to seek Godheim. During his second journey Swegde meets a dwarf, who tricks him into entering a big hollow stone, where Swegde is trapped forever (Chapter 15).

Vanlande becomes a king in Upsal. As a great warrior, he ventures out to many lands and gets a wife in Finland called Driva. They have a son Visbur, but then Vanlande leaves his family for a long time. Driva sends Visbur to Sweden and asks the witch Huld to either force Vanlande to return to Finland or kill him with her witchcraft. Vanlande does not return, and thus is killed in his sleep by the Mara (Chapter 16).

Visbur succedes his father and marries the daughter of Aude the Rich, who gives birth to their two sons Gisle and Ond. However, Visbur leaves his family and takes another wife, with whom he has a son Domald. Gisle and Ond grow up and demand their mother's dower of Visbur, but he refuses to pay. They revenge by burning Visbur in his own house, assisted by the Huld's sorcery (Chapter 17).

After his fathers's death, Domald becomes a king. His rule is marked by great famine and distress, and Swedes make many offerings of sacrifice in a hope to end the times of scarcity. When they see that nothing helps they sacrifice Domald himself to the gods (Chapter 18).

Then the Domald's son, called Domar, reigns peacefully over the Swedes for a long time. When he dies in Upsal his body is moved to Fyrisvold and burned on the river bank. The power is taken by his son Dygve of whom "nothing is said", according to the saga, except for that he dies then "in his bed" (Chapter 20).

King Dygve is succeeded by his son Dag, who is so wise that he can understand the language of birds. To get news he uses a sparrow, which is killed with a stone one day, in a farm called Varva, in Reidgotaland. Infuriated Dag plunders Varva out of revenge and kills many people there. On his way back Dag crosses a river at a place called Skjotan's Ford, where a slave worker throws a hayfork at the Dag's troop, killing the king instantly (Chapter 21).

The remaining chapters of the saga describe the rule of Yngling dynasty down to the Rongvald the Mountain-High.


  • Krag, Claus Ynglingatal og Ynglingesaga- en studie i historiske kilder (1991)
  • Nerman, Birger Det svenska rikets uppkomst (Stockholm, 1925)
  • Åkerlund, W. Studier över Ynglingatal (Lund, 1939)


  1. ^ Sturluson, Snorri. "The Heimskringla; or, Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, Volume 1". Translated by Laing, Samuel. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans.

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