Oddr monachus

From medieval

by Gottskálk Jensson

Oddr munkr Snorrason was a monk of the Benedictine order at the monastery of Þingeyrar, in northern Iceland, writing in the latter half of the twelfth century. Oddr wrote in Latin the earliest full account of the deeds of King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway (ruled ca. 995-1000), of which a single fragment and a complete, but interpolated, Norse translation are still extant. He wrote as well the Latin original of the Norse saga of the Swedish warrior Yngvarr the Far-traveler, Yngvars saga víðförla. With his writings Oddr may have intended to lend indirect support to King Sverre of Norway in his conflict against the universal church.


Oddr monachus’s dates of birth and death are unknown, but he was certainly active in the latter half of the twelfth century. His location at Þingeyrar, his ordination as priest, his authorship of the deeds of King Olaf Tryggvason, and his sources and aids are mentioned in passages of the three redactions of the Norse saga, which translate the explicit of the Latin original (HALLDÓRSSON (ed.) 2006, 362, 358 and 374); and at three places in Óláfs saga Tryggavasonar en mesta (HALLDÓRSSON (ed.) 2000, 3:57, 64, 66), where another monk at Þingeyrar, >Gunnlaugr Leifsson, is mentioned together with Oddr as the author of an account in Latin about King Olaf Tryggvason. At the end of the Norse Yngvars saga víðförla (OLSON (ed.) 1912, 48-49), Oddr is identified as the author of the original “book” from which the saga was translated. In Landnámabók (BENEDIKTSSON (ed.) 1986, 199, 211-12) Oddr’s genealogy is traced from named Icelandic settlers, as is the case in Grettis saga (JÓNSSON (ed.) 1936, 269-70). S. RAFNSSON has recently examined scattered references to Oddr’s relatives in Sturlunga (a brother praised for seamanship in 1180; an uncle on his mother’s side, killed in 1148; an aunt on his mothers side, whose brother died in 1175; a first cousin, whose affairs with women ca. 1155 are mentioned, another one, who killed a man at the same, and a third one who took over a farm in 1171) and concludes that Oddr may have been born before 1130 (RAFNSSON 2005, 225-26). The S-version (Stockholm 18, 4°) of Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar eptir Odd munk Snorrason adds after the explicit, in a lacunose text, that “men say” Oddr had miraculous visions and saw King Olaf. And when he was tempted to leave the monastery, he had a vision of Christ: “When he entered the church, he saw […] spreading his arms and inclining his head. He spoke sorrowfully: ‘You may now see here […] I have suffered for your sake, and I think you will wish to endure your trials for the sake of my name” (HALLDÓRSSON (ed.) 2006, 358-59).


Oddr’s two works presented the acts of one Norwegian and one Swedish royal missionary through a curious mixture of Christian polemics and local legend. Scholars have seen Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar and Yngvars saga víðförla, the Norse texts derived from Oddr’s Latin works, as respectively a hybrid between a king’s saga and a saint’s life (CORMACK 2000, 307-8) and standing “on the margin between konungasögur and fornaldarsögur... commonly classified as belonging to the latter genre” (WOLF 1993). Oddr treats the Swedish Yngvarr as a landless king and Christian missionary, voyaging up river into Scythia magna, and he draws clear parallels between him and the missionary king of Norway, Olaf Tryggvason. Both kings could, in HOFMANN’s words, have provided Oddr with “eine Art Lösung des Problems der Heiligenverehrung ohne Wunder” (HOFMANN 1981, 217). Following the suggestion of LÖNNROTH 1963, 90-93, scholars have argued that Oddr’s lives of missionary warrior kings, in which the pontiffs of the church feature in auxiliary roles only, might have been intended as historical exempla, to provide ideological support to King Sverre of Norway, in his fierce conflict with the church (cf. Oratio contra clerum Norvegiae).

(1) Gesta Olaui filii Tryggua

The Gesta Olaui filii Tryggua (The saga of Olaf Tryggvason, Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar eptir Odd munk Snorrason) has been called “the true inception of king’s saga writing in Iceland” (ANDERSSON 2004, 155) and its Norse saga-translation has a claim to being “the first full-length saga in Iceland” (ANDERSSON 2003, VII). The Latin text was the direct or indirect source of the later sagas of King Olaf Tryggvason.

The earliest full account of the deeds of King Olaf Tryggvason is extant only in three incompletely preserved redactions of a manuscript tradition, which presumably goes back to a single Norse translation (AM 310 4°, from the third quarter of the thirteenth century, missing the beginning; Stockholm 18, 4°, from ca. 1300, abbreviated and with large lacunae; DG 4-7, two folios containing the final chapters). From the Latin text exists a single fragment, a stanza of eight lines (Nec nominabo pene monstrabo / curuus est deorsum nasus in apostata / qui Suein regem de terra seduxit / et filium Tryggua traxit in dolo), which incidentally preserves the form of King Olaf’s patronymic, which is also used by Theodoricus (see HOFMANN 1981, 210-211, for a brief discussion of the treatment of Norse names in Oddr and Theodoricus), and thus most of the original Latin title.


“Heyri þér, bræðr enir kristnu ok feðr“ (cf. Act. 7,2; 22,1, Viri fratres et patres, audite).


“Hér þrýtur nú sögu Óláfs konungs Tryggvasonar, er að réttu má kallast postoli Norðmanna [apostolus Norwagiensium], ok svá ritaði Oddr munkr er var at Þingeyrum ok prestur at vígslu til dýrðar almáttkum Guði, en þeim til minnis er síðar eru, þó at eigi sé gert með málsnilld“ (cf. Theodoricus 68, rudi licet stylo).

(“Here ends the saga of King Olaf Tryggvason, who may rightly be called the apostle of the Norwegians. Thus wrote the monk Oddr, who was at Þingeyrar, a priest by ordination, for the glory of Almighty God, and as a reminder to those who will come later, although (it is) composed without elegance of style.”] AM 310 4° (cf. end of chapter 69 in Stockholm 18, 4°, and final passage of Uppsala De la Gardie 4-7, cf. HALLDÓRSSON 2006, 358 and 374).


190 (?) standard pages (of 1200 characters). The actual size can only be estimated approximately, since none of the three Norse redactions of the text, although they are likely to derive from one archetype, preserve this archetype intact, and they contain interpolated material to an uncertain extent.


  • • HALLDÓRSSON, Ó. (ed.) 2006: Færeyinga saga – Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar eptir Odd munk Snorrason (Íslenzk fornrit 25), Reykjavík. [A normalised text edition based on all three manuscripts.]
  • HOLTSMARK, A. (ed.) 1974: Olav Tryggvasons saga etter AM 310 qv. (CCN, ser. 4., vol. 5), Oslo. [A facsimile of AM 310 4°.]
  • JÓNSSON, F. (ed.) 1932: Saga Óláfs Tryggvasonar af Oddr Snorrason munk, Copenhagen. [Based on all three manuscripts.]
  • JÓNSSON, G. (ed.) 1957: “Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar,” in Konunga sögur 1, 1-200. Reykjavík. [A normalised text based on AM 310 4° and supplemented by Stockholm 18, 4°.]
  • GROTH, P.O. (ed.) 1895: AM 310 4to: Det Arnamagnæanske Haandskrift 310 qvarto. Saga Olafs konungs Tryggvasonar er ritadi Oddr muncr. En gammel norsk bearbeidelse of Odd Snorresøns paa latin skrevne Saga om Kong Olaf Tryggvason, Christiania [Oslo]. [Based on this one manuscript.]
  • MUNCH, P.A. (ed.) 1853: Saga Olafs konungs Tryggvasonar forfattet paa Latin henimod Slutningen af det tolfte aarhundrede af Odd Snorresøn ... og siden bearbeidet paa Norsk. Efter en hidtil ubenyttet Membrancodex i det kgl. Bibliothek i Stockholm, tilligemed et anhang, indeholdende et brudstykke af samme saga, efter en Membrancodex i Upsala Universitets-Bibliothek, Christiania [Oslo]. [Based on Stockholm 18, 4°, supplementing the lacunae in “Anmerkninger” (72-107) with AM 310 4°, and printing the fragment in De la Gardie 4-7.]
  • RAFN, C.C. & MAGNÚSSON, F. (eds.) 1835: Saga Ólafs konúngs Tryggvasonar rituð af Oddi Snorrasyni, Kaupmannahöfn, vol. 10, 216-376. [Based on AM 310 4°]
  • REENHJELM, J.I. (ed. and trans.) 1691: Saga om K. Oloff Tryggwaszon i Norrege, hwilken hafwer warit den berömligste och lofligste Konungh i Norlanden och därsammestädes Christendomen först och lyckeligst utwidgat . . . Nu på nya Swenskan sampt det Latiniske språket öfwersatt, Uppsala. [Based on AM 310 4° and De la Gardie 4-7 with Swedish and Latin translations and “Notæ” in Latin, 1-116.]
  • VERELIUS, O. (ed.) 1665: Itt Stycke Af Konvng OLAF TRYGGJASONS Saga hwilken ODDUR MUNCK: På Gammal Götska Beskrifwit hafwer Af itt Gammalt Pergamentz Manuscripto Aftryckt, Uppsala. [First publication of the fragment in De la Gardie 4-7.]


  • (English) ANDERSON, T.M. 2003: Oddr Snorrason: The saga of Olaf Tryggvason translated from the Icelandic with introduction and notes by T. M. Anderson (Islandica 52), Ithaca. *[English translation by JÓNSSON 1932 with “Notes to the text”, 137-49.]
  • (Norwegian, nynorsk) RINDAL, M. 1977: Soga om Olav Tryggvason, (Norrøne bokverk 46), Oslo.
  • (Latin) EGILSSON, S. 1841: Historia brevior Olavi Tryggvidæ, secundum Oddum Monachum, in Scripta historica Islandorum de rebus gestis veterum Borealium Latine reddita, Copenhagen, vol. 10, 201-349. [A Latin translation of text printed in RAFN & MAGNÚSSON 1835.]
  • (Danish) PETERSEN, N.M. 1836: “Olaf Tryggvesøns saga af Odd Munk”, in Oldnordiske Sagaer. Vol. 10:174-328. Copenhagen. [A Danish translation of text in RAFN & MAGNÚSSON 1835.]
  • (Swedish and Latin) REENHJELM, J.I. (ed. and trans.) 1691: Saga om K. Oloff Tryggwaszon i Norrege, hwilken hafwer warit den berömligste och lofligste Konungh i Norlanden och därsammestädes Christendomen först och lyckligst utwidgat . . . Nu på nya Swenskan sampt det Latiniske språket öfwersatt. Uppsala. [Swedish and Latin translations of AM 310 4° and De la Gardie 4-7, with “Notæ” in Latin, 1-116.]

Date and place

It is safe to assume that the Gesta Olaui filii Tryggua was composed in the monastery of Þingeyrar (founded 1112). The Latin work is conventionally dated to 1190 but this is no more than a mean between an early and a late estimate. Dating is made problematic by the loss of almost all the original Latin text, while the Norse translation is interpolated to an unknown extent from other sources. The usual points of reference for the dating are the following: (1) In the chapters on the sacred history of the island Selja (HALLDÓRSSON 2006, 214-20), the two redactions covering this part of the Norse translation of Oddr’s account of Olaf Tryggvason incorporate a text which is obviously related to the extant Latin legend of >Sancta Sunniva and her companions, the archetype of which is dated to the time of her translation to Bergen in 1170 (AÐALBJARNASON 1937, BORGEHAMMAR 1997, 274-75). It is usually assumed that this text was already incorporated in Oddr’s Gesta Olaui filii Tryggua, but, as scholars have pointed out, the extant legend as transmitted is clearly written after the death of Bishop Páll of Bergen (“uenerabilis memorie”) in 1194, and it cannot be shown that it is older. RAFNSSON, indeed, argues that the Sunniva material is an interpolation in the Norse redactions of Oddr’s account of King Olaf and was not in Oddr’s Latin text (RAFNSSON 2005, 29, 217-22). (2) There are obvious similarities between Oddr’s work and the account of King Olaf Tryggvason in the Historia de Antiquitate Regum Norwagiensium (chs. 4-14), which the author, Theodoricus, dedicated to Archbishop Eystein of Nidaros (d. 1188), but despite much scholarly debate no definitive arguments have so far been advanced as to which text is older. (3) In the Norse texts, Sverre Sigurdsson is referred to as king (HALLDÓRSSON 2006, 342), which he was from 1177, when he started his struggle for power, or from 1184, when he became sole ruler, until his death in 1202. Sverre is either said to criticize King Olaf’s manner of fighting, or possibly to doubt the account (Oddr’s?) of his final battle. The reference to Sverre may, however, be an interpolation from one of the later accounts of Olaf Tryggvason. (4) It is assumed that Oddr wrote before Gunnlaugr Leifsson, who showed his own Latin treatise on King Olaf Tryggvason to Gizurr Hallsson (d. 1206). The relation these two contemporary Latin histories about King Olaf, both from Þingeyrar monastery, have to the stay of Abbot Karl Jónsson of Þingeyrar, at the court of King Sverre Sigurdsson of Norway, from 1185-1188, to write at least the first part of the king’s Norse biography, Sverris saga, is not clear either.

Summary of Contents

Oddr’s text began with a prologue, arguing that King Olaf Tryggvason was to St. Olaf what John the Baptist was to Christ, and ended with a short epilogue or explicit, calling King Olaf “the Apostle of the Norwegians”. Tryggve becomes king of Norway in times of paganism and is killed by the lawless sons of Gunnhild. His queen, Astrid, seeks refuge with her father in Skaun, and gives birth there to the son Olaf, after which she goes into exile in Sweden. Three winters later, King Håkon the Old of Sweden sends Olaf and his mother to Russia, to stay with Sigurd, Astrid’s brother, but they are captured by Estonian pirates. Olaf is separated from his mother, who is sold from land to land, and he himself is owned by three masters, until, at the age of nine, he is recognized by his uncle, Sigurd. After his presence in Russia is felt by local prophets, and King Valdemar’s (Vladimir I of Kiev – see summary of Gesta Inguari for his son Jaroslav I, d. 1054) mother has prophesied his future as king of Norway, Queen Allogia (Olga?) identifies him in a crowd by his eyes. Fostered thereafter by the queen and king of Russia, at twelve he is given command of military troops, and wins back “pagan” towns and fortresses. Olaf spends three years in Wendland with Queen Geira, daugther of King Boleslav I of Poland (d. 1025? – see below summary of Gesta Inguari), marries her and fights for her until she dies suddenly. Grief stricken he heads back to Russia with a stop in Denmark, where his life is miraculously saved by the mark of the cross.

In Russia he has a vision of heaven and hell, and departs for Greece, where he is instructed in Christianity and prime-signed. Returning with a Greek bishop he Christianizes Russia. Olaf seeks further instruction on the isle of Scilly off Ireland, and is baptized with his men. He joins forces in England with Earl Sigurd of Northumbria. (An interpolation from Jómsvíkinga saga, in AM 310 4°, has Olaf join forces with Emperor Otto II, to Christianize Denmark.) He now harries heathen Britons, Irish and Scots, acquires his dog Vige, is married to Gyda, sister of Olaf Kvaran, king over the Scots, and by her has the son Tryggve. Olaf is now summoned from Russia (!) to Norway to take the throne with a false report on the death of the heathen ruler Håkon Earl, whose treachery is revealed upon Olaf’s arrival. Håkon is killed by his own slave, and at thirty-two Olaf is proclaimed king of Norway. He converts the Orkney Islands. (In an interpolation from the St. Sunniva legend, he discovers the mortal remains on Selja.) In Norway, he converts Hordaland, Vik and Trøndelag, pleading with and threatening death to those who resist. The treason of Earl Sigvald against Sven Forkbeard is related. Olaf deceives and burns sorcerers in a banquet hall on Nidarnes. Olaf slaps Sigrid the Imperious, a pagan, to whom he was betrothed. He takes the sons of Icelandic chieftains as hostages, to aid the conversion of Iceland through missionaries. He is tempted by the devil in the guise of Odin (AM 310 4° Oddinerus; cf. GKS 2845 4° Roddgerus with HOFMANN 1981, 211), deafeats an unclean spirit, and has his dog Vige kill a sorcerer. Olaf marries Tyre, the Christian sister of King Sven of Denmark, who had been coerced into marrying her to the heathen King Boleslav of Wendland.

King Olaf’s prowess is described. Olaf regularly prays to God in the woods, light comes over him and he receives the blessing of two figures, amid angelic song and a wonderful fragrance. In his high-seat he vanishes from view, is then seen in the middle of the hall, and reappears in his high-seat. He is thought to be an angel sent by God, to preach about Christ to the peoples of Norway, Shetland, Orkney, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland, but no signs or miracles are connected to him. After him came St. Olaf, who firmly established the faith. Olaf has his ship, the longus draco or serpens constructed. Olaf uses excessive cruelty in punishing the Icelandic Sigurðr, by urging Vige on him. He is reprimanded by his bishop and repents. Queen Sigrid the Imperious, who is now married to King Sven of Denmark, plots her revenge against Olaf for the blow he struck her. Earl Sigvald is sent for. Meanwhile, Olaf journeys with a great army to Wendland to claim the property of Queen Tyre. King Boleslav of Wendland is well disposed towards his former son-in-law, and pays him in movable goods.

The sons of Håkon Earl, Eirik and Svein, together with the Danish King Sven and King Olaf the Swede, son of Sigrid the Imperious, now plan to ambush the king, sending Earl Sigvald to detach him from his troops, and allay his suspicion of ambush. Now comes the Latin stanza, Nec nominabo, on Sigvald’s betrayal. King Sven, King Olaf the Swede, and Earl Eirik ambush the Serpent, and after a difficult battle, when the Earl has rejected Thor and put the cross on the prow of his ship, he takes the Serpent. (The account of the battle is interpolated with verses by Halldór enn ókristni and Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld.) After the disappearance of King Olaf, the Serpent proves useless to Earl Eirik, and is burned, while his wife Tyre and the dog Vige starve themselves to death. Thus the Norwegians lost their four greatest prized possessions, as had been prophesied. Some say Olaf escaped from the battle and dwelt in a monastery in Greece or Syria to repent of the misdeeds of his youth.

Composition and Style

It is fraught with difficulty to evaluate the style of a lost text. Like Theodoricus, Oddr excuses his rude style at the end, although this is certainly a conventional topos. JÓNSSON 1932, II, doubts Oddr’s competence in Latin, based on a comparison of the last line of the stanza Nec nominabo with the corresponding last line of the Norse stanza (traxit in dolo = á tálar dró), which is preserved alongside it in the manuscripts. The adverbial in dolo is, however, frequent in the Vulgate, and, given its meaning, can hardly translate the Norse (draga) á tálar, to seduce. Although scholars usually assume the opposite, the Norse stanza can be shown to be a translation of the Latin stanza, which is indeed how the manuscript Stockholm 18, 4°, refers to them (JENSSON 2006, 46-53). Remnants of Latin and Latinate constructions in the Norse text are discussed in the introductory chapters of HOLTSMARK 1974 and GROTH 1895.


Oddr gathered his material from both oral and written sources, among them Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiæ Episcopum (>Adamus Bremensis) the now-lost works of Sæmundr Sigfússon and Ari Þorgilsson, Norse skaldic poetry, and, possibly, Theodoricus.

Literary models

Oddr’s Latin text evidently began with a citation of the Acts of the Apostles, and ended by calling King Olaf the “the apostle of the Norwegians”. Several biblical citations have been identified throughout the Norse translations, and judging from these, Oddr very likely used scriptural texts such as the Acts as his main stylistic and literary model.

Purpose and Audience

Oddr’s chief concern was to glorify King Olaf Tryggvason as the first missionary king of Norway, and the man who Christianized Iceland; as John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ, Olaf Tryggvason was the forerunner of St. Olaf, not a saint himself, but chosen by God for the salvation of Norsemen from the delusion of heathendom. The work is addressed to Oddr’s Christian “brothers and fathers” and may have been intended as a contribution to the king’s cause in the struggle between King Sverre and the Church.

(2) Gesta Ingvari late peregrinantis

The Deeds of Yngvar the Far-traveler (Yngvars saga víðförla) is an account of the marvellous expedition to Scythia magna of King Yngvar, the Swedish viking and missionary, in the early eleventh century (the death of Yngvar is dated by the text to 1041), in search of the origins of an unnamed, great river flowing from the east through Russia. Apart from one brief Latin fragment, the work is extant in Norse translation only, preserved in two defective medieval manuscripts (AM 343a 4° and GKS 2845 4°) supplemented by two seventeenth and eighteenth century copies (AM 343c 4° and Rask 31). The Norse translation of Gesta Inguari late peregrinantis is commonly classified as belonging to the genre of legendary or mythic-historical sagas, which makes it the earliest known written example of this type. However, approximately thirty Swedish rune stones, commemorating the men who fell “in the East with Yngvar”, testify to the historicity of the expedition.


The prologue is missing from the Norse translation of the work but according to the epilogue this seems to have been in the form of a letter addressed to two learned Icelandic chieftains (see below).


“En þessa sögu höfum vér heyrt ok ritat eftir forsögn þeirar bækr, at Oddr munkr inn fróði hafði gjöra látit at forsögn fróðra manna, þeira er hann segir sjálfr í bréfi sínu, því er hann sendi Jóni Loptssyni ok Gizuri Hallssyni. En þeir er vita þikjast innvirðuligar, auki við, þar sem nú þykir á skorta. Þessa sögu segist Oddr munkr heyrt hafa segja þann prest, er Ísleifr hét, ok annan Glúm Þorgeirsson, ok inn þriði hefir Þórir heitit. Af þeirra frásögn hafði hann þat, er honum þótti merkiligast. En Ísleifr sagðist heyrt hafa Yngvars sögu af einum kaupmanni, en sá kveðst hafa numit hana í hirð Svíakongs. Glúmr hafði numit at föðr sínum. En Þórir hafði numit af Klökku Sámssyni, en Klakka hafði heyrt segja ina fyrri frændur sína. Ok þar lyktum vér þessa sögu.“

(We have heard and composed this history, following a reading of the book, which the monk Oddr the Wise had made, based on the accounts of erudite men, whom he himself names in his letter, which he sent to Jón Loptsson and Gizurr Hallsson. But let those, who pretend to be more knowledgeable, add to the account where they deem it lacking. Oddr munkr says that he heard this saga related by a priest named Ísleifr and by another one, Glúmr Þorgilsson, and by a third, called Þórir. From their account he took what seemed to him most significant. Ísleifr claimed to have heard the saga of Yngvar from a certain merchant, who in turn had picked it up at the royal court of Sweden. Glúmr was informed by his father. But Þórir had the story from Klakka Sámsson, and Klakka had heard it told by his older kinsmen. And here we conclude this saga.)


Ca. 34 standard pages (of 1200 characters)


  • HELGASON, J. (ed.) 1955: The Saga Manuscript 2845, 4to in the Old Royal Collection in the Royal Library of Copenhagen (Manuscripta Islandica 2), Copenhagen.
  • JÓNSSON, G. (ed.) 1954: “Yngvars saga víðförla”, in Fornaldar sögur Norðurlanda, 4 vols. Akureyri, vol. 2, 423-59.
  • • OLSON, E. (ed.) 1912: Yngvars saga víðfõrla jämte ett bihang om Ingvarsinskrifterna, (Samfund til udgivelse af gammel nordisk litteratur 39), Copenhagen.


  • PÁLSSON, H. & EDWARDS, P. 1989: Vikings in Russia: Yngvar’s saga and Eymund’s saga, Edinburgh.

Date and place

The letter to Jón Loptsson (d. 1197) and Gizurr Hallsson (d. 1206) shows that the Gesta Inguari belongs to the last quarter of the twelfth century. Most likely it was composed at Þingeyrar monastery. The Norse translation appears to have been made already before 1200 (HOFMANN 1981).

Summary of contents

Assuming that the Latin prototype of the Norse Yngvars saga opened with a prefatory letter to Jón Loptsson and Gizurr Hallsson (cf. Theodoricus monachus’s letter to Archbishop Eystein), the narrative commenced with an account of the dealings of King Erik of Sweden and the Swedish chieftain Åke, grandfather of Yngvar Emundarson. King Erik divorced Queen Sigrid the Imperious, because of her bellicose temperament. Their children were King Olaf the Swede (in the Gesta Olaui, he and Queen Sigrid are Olaf Tryggvason’s pagan enemies) and an unnamed daughter. Åke asks for the daughter’s hand in marriage, but is refused on account of his supposed inferior social status. Åke does not accept this and, after killing the Russian satrap, to whom the princess had subsequently been married, abducts her and marries her nevertheless. He is backed by eight Swedish chieftains. With Erik’s daughter Åke has the son Emund. Åke is invited to Uppsala, to the wedding of King Erik with Aud, daughter of Håkon Earl, ruler of Norway. At the wedding, Åke and his eight loyal chieftains are all killed, probably on the advice, and possibly with the help of Håkon Earl (in Gesta Olaui, another pagan enemy of Olaf Tryggvason).

Erik confiscates their landed property and movable goods, and takes his daugther and Emund with him to Uppsala, where the boy is raised in respect by the king. When Erik dies, his son Olaf the Swede succeeds him, and holds Emund in the same respect as his father, until the boy attempts to interrupt the king’s tax collectors on his father’s land, and is exiled. With the help of Ingerid, daughter of Olaf the Swede, Emund finds success as an independent viking. Ingerid is now married to King Jaroslav of Russia (Jaroslav I of Kievan Rus, d. 1054, son of Vladimir I above in the summary of Gesta Olaui), to whom Emund goes as well. Russia is under attack by the king’s brother, Boleslav of Wendland (see above the summary of Gesta Olaui), and with him Emund fights five battles, capturing the king in the last one, and blinding him, before handing him over to his brother Jaroslav. Backed by Queen Ingerid, Emund claims his father’s land and that of the eight chieftains, returns to his state in Sweden, marries the daughter of a Swedish chieftain, and begets Yngvar. Emund conducts himself as king, but Olaf the Swede dares not attack him.

At the age of nine, Yngvar is hailed as he journeys to Uppsala, while Önund, Olaf the Swede’s son, comes to meet him and he is received well by the king. With clever deceptions Yngvar manages to reconcile his father with King Olaf the Swede. Yngvar is described and compared to King Olaf Tryggvason, “the most glorious man who has, and ever will live in the Nordic countries, both in the eyes of God and men” (ch. 3). Yngvar and Önund collect taxes for Olaf the Swede. Yngvar fathers a son, Sven, with his concubine. When Yngvar reaches the age of twenty, he requests the title of king from Olaf, but is refused. He then decides to leave Sweden, in search of a “foreign” kingdom to make his own. Ready to embark he is, too late, offered a king’s name by Olaf the Swede, but declines.

Yngvar spends three winters with King Jaroslav of Russia, and learns to speak many languages. He hears rumour of three rivers running through Russia from the east, the middle one being the greatest. Despite travelling widely in the east, he finds no one who can tell him of the origin of this river. With thirty ships Yngvar undertakes an expedition to find the source of the unnamed river. Among his companions on the expedition is an Icelander, Ketill, by-named Garða-Ketill (Russian kettle), who goes ashore one night and steals a silver kettle, and is chased by a giant back to the ship. Another of Yngvar’s men steals a ring from a poisonous flying dragon called Jaculus (cf. Lucanus 9,822; Isidorus’s Orig. 12.4), who sinks a ship steered by two priests. They sail through inhabited areas with many cities and come to the beautiful city of Scythopolis, built from white marble and ruled by Queen Silkisif (Elisiv/Elisabeth of Kiev, d. ca. 1070), whose knowledge of Roman, German, Danish, Greek and many other tongues Yngvar is able to test. Yngvar forbids his men to mingle with the pagans and has those of his men who violate the ban rigorously put to death. He spends the winter with the Queen and teaches her about the omnipotence of God. She asks him to become her king and husband. Yngvar postpones this until after the exploration of the river, and continues his voyage. On the river they are met by King Jólfr of Heliopolis, who speaks many tongues besides Greek. King Jólfr is able to tell Yngvar that the source of the river is the fountain Lindibelti, from which another river flows into the Red Sea, at the end of the world. There is also the vortex Gap and the peninsula Siggeum (Sigeum on the Hellespont?).

Yngvar stays the winter. In order to save Jólfr’s kingship, he kills a giant and cuts of his foot, treating it with salt, and he fights vikings. At the source of the river, he feeds the salty foot to a dragon guarding a hoard of gold. They explore a castle on Siggeum peninsula. A demon in the castle tells Yngvar’s man Sote about Siggeus, whose family may have turned into dragons. He also informs him that King Harald of Sweden came there long ago and was killed in the Red Sea Vortex, and now rules in the castle. Yngvar is to take Harald’s sign (merki) and send it back to Sweden. Finally, the demon foretells that Yngvar will die on this voyage with a great part of his men. They return to the kingdom of Jólfr (“called Hrómundr by another name”). Jólfr bids Yngvar aid him against his brother Bjólfr (“called Sölmundr by another name”), and Yngvar kills his eight sons, while Bjólfr flees with Jólfr in pursuit. When Jólfr returns, he attacks Yngvar, who is able to resist. Yngvar’s men now encounter a group of women. Yngvar likens the women to poisonous snakes, and angrily stabs their leader in her genitals, when she climbs into his bed. Many of his men, however, are unable to resist the women’s blandishments and diabolical magic, and die from intercourse with them. Subsequently, half the company falls victim to a fatal sickness, and Yngvar dies at the age of twenty-five, in 1041, “eleven winters after the death of St. Olaf” (AM 343a 4° has “nine years”), after appointing Ketill the Icelander as leader.

The rest of his company leaves the body with Queen Silkisif, who asks them to send her priests, when they return home, so that her people can be converted to Christianity. Yngvar’s son, Sven, who has learned many eastern tongues in school, decides to join the requested missionaries, and the final part of the saga (chs. 9-14) tells of his adventures. They fight pagans, Cyclopes, and bird-men, and when they come to the place where Yngvar’s men had encountered the Jaculus, Sven is able to kill it, by shooting an arrow tipped with consecrated fire into its mouth. Sven’s bishop, Róðgeirr (GKS 2845 4to Roddgerus; cf. AM 310 4° Oddinerus with HOFMANN 1981, 211), instructs Silkisif in the faith and she becomes a Christian, thus paving the way for Sven to marry the woman, who had loved his father, and become king. After a church has been built for Yngvar to be buried in, Sven returns to Sweden for two years, and then sails from Russia, again up the river, intending to return to his wife. After that nothing more is heard of him. The saga ends by claiming that the story has been derived from a book by a learned monk called Oddr, and Oddr’s sources are traced back to an informant at the Swedish royal court.

Almost nothing is preserved of Oddr’s original Gesta Inguari, which makes stylistic analysis impossible. However, the organizing principles of the composition, as well as the generally unpretentious style of the Norse Yngvars saga, justify the assumption that what was said above about the Gesta Olaui could just as well apply to this text.

Taken at face value, the epilogue of Yngvars saga indicates that Oddr’s sources were non-literary. However, in the fourteenth and last chapter of Yngvars saga, when the narrator wrestles with the problem of whether Yngvar was the son of Emund Åkeson or Önundr Olafsson (OLSON 1912, 47-48), a written source, entitled Gesta Saxonum, is cited in Latin in the otherwise Norse text of the extant Yngvars saga:

Fertur, quod Emundus, rex Sueonum, misit filium suum Onundum per mare Bal[tic]um, qui postrem[o] ad Amazon[a]s [perveniens] ab eis interfectus est. (It is claimed, that Emund, king of the Swedes, sent his son Önund accross the Baltic sea, who, arriving finally to the Amazons, was killed by them.)

HOFMANN 1981, 205-6, argues that, with the title Gesta Saxonum, Oddr could well have meant Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum, known in Icelandic medieval manuscripts under various titles (e.g. Hamborgar ystoria and Cronica Bremensium). This very anecdote is, indeed, told by Adam (3,16), and then repeated in scholion 123 (ad 4,19), in words even closer to the passage of Yngvars saga. Oddr appears to have related the story in his own words, while his translator assumed that he was quoting verbatim and thus, out of respect for the source, inadvertently preserved a small fragment of the Latin text of Monk Oddr of Þingeyrar embedded in the Norse saga. At the very least, HOFMANN’s reading of the passage strongly supports the saga’s epilogue as well as a Latin hypotext. It also proves that Adam of Bremen’s Gesta was an important direct source for Gesta Ingvari just as it was for the Gesta Olavi. A comparison of the two shows that the two works have several characters in common, e.g. Håkon Earl and Sigrid the Imperious, along with her son, King Olaf the Swede, who in both texts play significant roles as adversaries. Aud Håkonardóttir and the brothers Boleslav and Jaroslav (in Gesta Olaui Jaroslav’s father, Vladimir I of Kievan Rus) seem also to have been prominent in both of Oddr’s texts (the Schythian brothers Bjólfr and Jólfr in Yngvars saga are likely to be their fabulous doublets). The general likeness of the two narratives speaks for a common author.

The Gesta Ingvari seems to have been received as history by medieval Icelandic clerics, judging from an entry on Yngvar’s death for the year 1041 in Icelandic annals (STORM 1888, 108, 250). It is quite possible that Gesta Ingvari had direct or indirect influence on vernacular sagas, e.g. Örvar-Odds saga and Ynglinga saga (HOFMANN 1981, 195-97).


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