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Travel for Less

Snorri Sturluson

After the lava falls, we stopped off to visit some land Snorri Surluson owned.

Snorri Sturluson was a poet/historian/politician. Back in his day (1179-1241) it was kind of all one role. History was kept in the form of poetry. Lawmakers referred to history in their decision making. And Snorri was in the thick of it.

He was a major land holder with seven chieftainships, five profitable estates, and an harbor. His first wife was an heiress.

He was raised in an influential household, and descended from one of the heroes of epic poetry. It’s no wonder he should end up the “lawspeaker” at the Althing – Iceland’s political convention of the time.

But what ambitious man wants to settle for being a well respected member of a bunch of wild chieftains? Snorri went to Norway to meet the king, and maybe get more influential.

There he found the king more interested in Arthurian legend than his own Norse heritage. This spurred him into doing something radical. Something historical. Something that would win him a special place in history. He wrote it down.

The Edda. That’s what he wrote. There are actually two Eddas. The first is the poetic Edda, which is the written collection of all those epic poems that shape and inform not only Icelandic culture, but all of the cultures that stemmed from the Vikings. Like Norway.

Although writing the poetic Edda was huge, it wasn’t enough. Some of those poems are pretty tricky. Snorri went on to translate those poems, in writing, into a prose version. People who couldn’t understand the poetry did just fine with the prose form.

This simple effort on his part proved to be an enormous boon to Iceland, Norway, and the world in general. Had he not written it all down, there’s a very good chance the Norse gods would have been completely forgotten. Certainly many heroic stories would have fallen in time. Even now the Edda has a special place in literature.

Too bad Snorri himself wasn’t more like the heroes he wrote about. He was more inclined to flattery than good deeds. His silver tongue might have gotten him murdered. Some say the king of Norway ordered him killed. Some say the compliments he paid the king and his representatives resulted in his Icelandic neighbors thinking he sold them out.

The fact is that Gissur Þorvaldsson, a former son in law now turned enemy, rode over to Snorri’s home – Reykholt – for a little “discussion”. He brought seventy armed men along with him. He was hanging out in his hot tub at the time and tried to flee into the tunnel behind it, but got whacked anyway.

Snorri’s hot tub is the only Medieval structure still left. Since then they have built a hotel, library, and two churches on the property. In his day, the hot tub wasn’t just a place for him to sit and quaff beer. It was a major meeting place for influential Icelanders. Now it has keep out signs.

Actually, one of the churches was brought in and placed right over the old black smithy. A window in the floor looks down from the back of the congregation to the old smithy. You’d be amazed how much glass on the floor can shine and reflect so that you can’t take a picture of the dark chamber bellow.

It was a quick stop with just a little walking and a little talking, then back on the bus. We had many more places to see.


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