[[quoteright:350:[[FlauntingYourFleets http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/KingOlafsShips_Krohg_2343.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:[[HornyVikings Those guys.]][[note]]Image is "King Olaf's wedding journey to Land's End" by Christian Krohg (1899)[[/note]] ]]

->''“A king shall stand for his country’s honour and glory, but not for long life.”''
--> '''King Magnus Barelegs''', ''Heimskringla''

''Heimskringla'' is a massive medieval history book, recounting the lives of the kings of UsefulNotes/{{Norway}} from the days when the [[NorseMythology Aesir]] dwelt among men to 1177 AD. It was written c. 1230 AD in UsefulNotes/{{Iceland}}, purportedly by the most famous medieval Icelandic author, Creator/SnorriSturluson.

In Asia, east of the Black Sea, lies the city of Asgard, home of the Aesir people and ruled by Odin, a near-invincible warlord. But when the [[AncientRome Romans]] start to conquer Asia, Odin uses his soothsaying skills and foresees that his destiny lies in the North. With many of his people, he emigrates from Asgard to carve out a new empire in the Northlands, and finally settle down in UsefulNotes/{{Sweden}}. When Odin dies, his kingdom is inherited by Njord, then by Freyr, also called Yngvi, and afterwards by Yngvi-Freyr’s descendants, the Ynglings. For twenty generations they rule Sweden, while their people worships the Aesir as gods.

But the Ynglings of Sweden come to an end through their descent into tyranny and kin-slaying, and only an exiled prince, Olaf the Tree-Feller, escapes westward, becoming the ancestor of a line of Norwegian petty kings that eventually spawns [[FounderOfTheKingdom Harald Finehair]], the man who unites Norway under his iron fist – for the love of a woman. But Harald has many sons, and it will take five generations, a hundred years of fighting and kin-slaying, and the coming of a new faith before the Norwegians learn to stand together and realize who their true enemy is: [[UsefulNotes/{{Denmark}} Those meddling Danes.]]

''Heimskringla'' is the single most famous work of the [[Literature/TheIcelandicSagas Icelandic Kings’ Sagas]]. The title is an artifact: It was formed in 1697 from the first two words of what was, at the time, the only manuscript in existence: ''“kringla heimsins”'', meaning “the circle of the earth”.[[note]]Some editions have preferred more descriptive titles like ''The Lives of the Norse Kings'', ''History of the Kings of Norway'', ''Chronicle of the Kings of Norway'' etc.[[/note]] The book consists of seventeen individual sagas, but it is internally consistent and forms a continuous narrative.

As there are very few sources on the history of Norway before it started to develop its own literature from the mid-12th century onwards, the Kings’ Sagas and especially ''Heimskringla'' for centuries formed the chief authority on Norwegian history of the [[HornyVikings Viking Age]] and the [[TheHighMiddleAges following 150-odd years]] after the [[UsefulNotes/{{Christianity}} Conversion]]. Only in the early 20th century, historians have acknowledged the artificial dimension of the sagas, and have come to see them as a mixture of fact and fiction rather, influenced by the time they were written in. From a modern perspective, it is, rather than a chronicle, a narrative moving from pseudohistory through {{historical fiction}} to history. Of course, at the time the book was written, there existed no formal distinction between these genres, as in Old Norse, ''saga'' can mean "history" as much as "story".

The climax and centrepiece of ''Heimskringla'' -- making up a third of the whole book -- is the saga of Saint Olaf, otherwise known as Olaf Haraldsson "the Stout", who, as the central figure of the Conversion, and supposedly restitutor of Harald Finehair’s kingdom, was by the 13th century considered Norway’s {{patron saint}} and national hero. Other high points that stand out and are sometimes published separately are the sagas of Olaf Tryggvason, Saint Olaf’s spiritual predecessor, and Harald Hardrada, whose ambitions to subdue England ended sordidly in 1066 on the battlefield of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire.

''Heimskringla'' ends rather abruptly in 1177, when a young King Magnus Erlingsson triumphed over the rebellious Birkebeinar (“Birchlegs”); this could be mere coincidence, but it is quite likely that ''Heimskringla'' was consciously devised as a {{prequel}} to ''Sverrir’s Saga'', which begins just where ''Heimskringla'' ends. So if you wanted to, you could start reading ''Heimskringla'', move on to ''Sverrir’s Saga'', then to the long version of ''Saga of the Baglers'' and finally the ''Saga of Hakon Hakonsson the Old'', and thus read a continuous history of medieval Norway from the TimeOfMyths to 1263 AD.

The 1907 translation of ''Heimskringla'' can be read online: [[http://omacl.org/Heimskringla/ here]] or [[http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Heimskringla here]].
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!!Tropes in ''Heimskringla'':

* AbsurdlySharpBlade: Hakon the Good once cleaved a millstone half in two with his sword Quernbiter (hence the name).
* AgeWithoutYouth: King Aun/Ani of Sweden prolongs his life by sacrificing his sons to Odin, even though he becomes increasingly decrepit nevertheless.
* ArchEnemy:
** Svein Forkbeard to Olaf Tryggvason, Canute the Great to Saint Olaf. Generally, Denmark under the Knytlings towards Norway.
** Olaf the Holy and Olof Skötkonung of Sweden. Olof the Swede hates Olaf with such a passion that everyone in his vicinity is forced to refer to the Norwegian king as "The fat man". After a long pointless war and a {{the reason you suck speech}} from [[BadassGrandpa Torgny the Lawspeaker ]], Olof is forced by the people at the thing to make peace with Norway. Olof promises to do so, but needless to say he breaks this promise too, and is promptly dethroned for it.
* AwesomeMomentOfCrowning: The crowning of Magnus Erlingson, the first crowning ceremony held in Norway.
* BadassArmy: The Jomsvikings who invade Norway in the reign of Jarl Håkon. The same story is told more in detail ([[PerspectiveFlip and from the opposite perspective]]) in ''Literature/SagaOfTheJomsvikings''.
* BadassCreed: Magnus Barelegs' creed “A king shall stand for his country's honour and glory, but not for long life.”
* BadassPreacher: The Saxon priest Thangbrand, who was sent as a missionary to Iceland and “was the death of three men before he returned”.
* BanOnMagic: Having been taught magic by the Aesir, the Swedes eventually realize that magic makes everything too easy and thus, men are becoming too soft. So they make a law that only women are allowed to learn magic.
* TheBard: Snorri relied extensively on the works of the skalds, i.e. the court poets of old. Some of these skalds play active parts in the narrative, such as Thorbjorn Hornklofi in the "Saga of Harald Finehair", Hallfred the Troublesome in "Saga of Olaf Tryggvason", Eyvind Skaldaspiller in "Saga of Hakon the Good", Sighvat the Skald in "Saga of Saint Olaf", and several others.
* BetterToDieThanBeKilled:
** King Ingjald of Sweden and his daughter Asa, who burn themselves in their hall rather than facing their enemy Ivar Widefathom in battle.
** When the Battle of Svold is lost, Olaf Tryggvason jumps overboard rather than letting himself be captured.
* TheCasanova: According to ''Heimskringla'', Harald Finehair produced at least 23 children with six women.
* TheConqueror: Harald Finehair, who conquers all of Norway, Orkney and Shetland. Also Magnus Barelegs with his plan to carve out a colonial empire on the British Isles, but his campaigns of conquest are cut short when he falls into an ambush in Ireland.
* ChasedByAngryNatives: "Saga of Saint Olaf" relates how a party of Norwegians loots a sanctuary of the god Jomali in Bjarmaland on the White Sea Coast. When they rob the precious collar worn by the statue of Jomali, the Bjarmians are mysteriously alerted, leading to the Norwegians getting chased back to their ships by the angry locals and escaping by a hair's breadth.
* CivilWar: The outdated succession laws (which allowed every son of a king to claim the royal title) lead to the outbreak of the long and bloody Norwegian Civil Wars, starting with Magnus Sigurdsson's attack on his uncle Harald Gille in 1134. They form the main theme of ''Heimskringla'''s later parts and were still not wholly over when the book was written.
* ConspicuousConsumption: During his stay in Constantinople, Sigurd the Crusader has his horse shoed with gold and orders a fire to be fueled with walnuts, for no other reason than to impress the Greeks.
* ConspicuouslyPublicAssassination: Ivar the White murders Jarl Ulf in church while the latter is waiting for Mass to begin, then walks away unhindered.
* CoolBoat: The Dragon (Harald Finehair), the Long Serpent, the Short Serpent, the Crane (Olaf Tryggvason), the Iron Ram (Jarl Erik), the Bison[[note]]In case you wonder, the animal in question is the European Bison or [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisent Wisent]].[[/note]] (Saint Olaf), and others.
* {{Demythification}}: One of the earliest examples of this trope on record. Snorri's account tells us that the Norse gods were originally human leaders who were deified by their followers over many centuries.
* DevilInDisguise: A mysterious old, one-eyed, seemingly all-knowing stranger visits Olaf Tryggvason at Agdvaldsnes, and when he departs leaves behind a hunk of meat that turns out to be poisonous. The man, of course, is Odin.[[note]]Snorri tells the episode in a way that leaves it ambiguous whether he believes in its factuality.[[/note]]
* DisproportionateRetribution: When a farmer kills King Dag of Sweden's pet sparrow in the town of Vörva of Reidgotaland[[note]]A land that is often mentioned in Old Norse legends, but cannot be identified conclusively.[[/note]], Dag mounts a war expedition to devastate Reidgotaland and burn down the town of Vörva.
* DreamingOfThingsToCome: Several, but most importantly the dream of Queen Ragnhild, which symbolically foretells the history of the Kingdom of Norway.
* DrowningPit: After inviting a bunch of sorcerers to a NastyParty, Olaf Tryggvason has them tied up and marooned at low tide on a skerry that is submerged at high tide.
* TheEmpire: The expansive Danish empire under the Knytling kings Harald Gormsson, Svein Forkbeard and Canute the Great, always trying to subdue Norway.
* EngagementChallenge: Princess Gyda of Hordaland makes it a condition that she will only marry Harald Finehair if he rules all of Norway. Within ten years, Harald fulfills the challenge.
* EpicCatalog: The Saga of Olaf Tryggvason lists part of the crew of the Long Serpent, Olaf 's flagship; no less than 42 names.
* EthnicMagician: "Finns" (by which the book means: Sami) are sorcerers, no exceptions.
* EvilMatriarch: Queen Gunhild Mother-of-Kings, wife of Erik Bloodaxe and the mastermind behind her sons Harald Greyfur and his brothers.
* EvilUncle: Inverted with Håkon the Good and his nephews, the sons of Erik Bloodaxe. The just and popular Håkon has supplanted his tyrannical brother Erik compliant to the will of the people, and his rule is challenged by the sons of Erik who are just as evil as their father.
* EyeScream: Harald Hardrada, as captain of the Varangian Guard, personally puts out the eyes of the deposed Emperor of Constantinople[[note]]Constantine Monomachos according to ''Heimskringla'', but this is a mix-up with Michael V[[/note]]. Magnus Sigurdson, when defeated by his uncle Harald Gilli, is blinded, thus becoming Magnus the Blind.
* FairySexy: Snefrid, daughter of the local Finn chieftain, is so attractive that king Harald Finehair loses his wits completely and is about to take her on the spot. Her father denies him this, claiming that he should marry her first. They do, and have four sons, while Harald dismisses his other wives and almost forgets to rule his country. When Snefrid dies, he sits grieving by her side for ''three years'', while her corpse seems to be in perfect shape all the time. Until a manservant suggests changing her bedsheets. Then, the {{glamour}} collapses, the body turns foul in a moment, and has to be burned. Snorri concludes that Harald got his wits back after this, realizing he was "betrayed by the finn".
** Bonus points when you realize that one of Snefrid`s sons became a sorcerer, another the great-grandfather of Harald Hardrada and eventually ancestor of the later line of Norwegian kings. What does that tell us about the later kings of Norway?
* FalseFriend: Jarl Håkon to Gold-Harald.
* AFateWorseThanDeath: Captured by his rival Harald Gilli, Magnus Sigurdson is maimed, blinded, castrated, and LockedAwayInAMonastery.
* FisherKing: In accordance with the ancient belief that the richness of the harvests are determined by the king's personal favour with the gods, the tyrannical rule of Harald Greyfur and his brothers causes a famine in Norway, while the harvests under Jarl Håkon, a devoted worshipper of the Aesir, are excellent. Curiously, the Christian Snorri seems to back up this intrinsically pagan idea.
* FlauntingYourFleets: When approaching Constantinople, Sigurd the Crusader makes all the ships of his fleet sail alongside each other in a single file, thus to make a greater impression on the Greeks.
* FlayingAlive: The fate of the pretender Sigurd Slembe.
* FounderOfTheKingdom: Harald Finehair.
* GodSaveUsFromTheQueen: Gunhild Mother-of-Kings, wife of Erik Bloodaxe, is a sorceress and, after Erik's death, the mastermind behind her sons, who establish an oppressive regime over Norway.
* GoodIsNotNice: Magnus the Good is not exactly a nice guy -- rather, a warrior king who pursues an aggressive expansionism.
* GoodIsNotSoft: Håkon the Good, the most popular of all Kings of Norway, but also the greatest warrior and best fighter of them all.
* TheGoodKing: Håkon the Good -- obviously. Whether you think Magnus the Good is this trope is more doubtful, due to ValuesDissonance. King Eystein Magnusson is also a really nice guy.
* HeroAntagonist: Jarl Erik to Olaf Tryggvason. Even though he allies with the Danes and (initially) opposes Christianity, he is morally faultless, as Olaf killed Erik's father and brother, and avenging them would be a duty for any son or brother.
* HeroOfAnotherStory: Hrolf the Walker is outlawed by Harald Finehair for pillaging in Norway, and thus sets sail to fight in France, where he becomes Rollo, the founder of Normandie.
* HeroicVow: Olaf Tryggvason announces that he will make all of Norway Christian "or else die". Later he also vows to never retreat from Svein Forkbeard, which becomes a plot point.
* HistoricalVillainUpgrade: Gunhild, wife of Eirik Bloodaxe. According to other sources, Gunhild was a Danish princess, and not ''that'' bad. In ''Heimskringla'', she is presented as a sorceress, daughter of a finn, and that is just the beginning of it. She is also presented this way in the ''Saga of Egill Skallagrimsson''.
** The Icelanders, especially Snorri himself (who ''also'' wrote the saga of Egill), seem to have hated her guts to a point where Snorri found it prudent to slander her good and proper.
* HonourBeforeReason:
** Harald Greyfur sails to Denmark on Harald Gormsson's invitation even though he realizes it is an ObviousTrap.
** Olaf Tryggvason refuses to retreat from superior numbers when he is waylaid by Svein Forkbeard and his allies at the island of Svold.
* HorribleJudgeOfCharacter: Gold-Harald seems to think Jarl Håkon is his best friend, even though the latter only manipulates him to his own advantage, and in the end kills him without qualms.
* HumanPincushion: The Birchleg rebel that sneaks into King Magnus Erlingson's camp right after the Battle of Re and attempts to kill him. He fails, "and then weapons were so thick round the Birchleg that he could hardly fall down."
-->''"They then saw that he dragged his guts after him over the floor and [[WorthyOpponent the man's hardiness was much praised.]]"''
* HumanSacrifice: When ancient Sweden is afflicted with a severe drought, the Swedes turn to sacrificing humans. When it doesn't help, they resolve to sacrifice their King Domaldi, and this helps.-- Also, King Aun of Sweden sacrifices his sons to Odin to prolong his life.
* HundredPercentAdorationRating: Håkon the Good is so popular that “both friends and foes wept over his death and said that never again would such a good king come to Norway.”
* IdenticalGrandson: Thorgnyr Thorgnyson, Lawspeaker of Sweden, all of whose forefathers have been lawspeakers before him. There is another Thorgnyr the Lawspeaker in "Literature/TheTaleOfStyrbjorn" who is either the father or grandfather of ''Heimskringla'''s Thorgnyr -- both are more or less the same character: An old and wise authority figure that defends the rights of the farmers against the overbearance of the kings.
* ImmortalityImmorality: King Aun a.k.a. Ani of Sweden one by one sacrifices nine of his sons to Odin to prolong his life. When he is about to sacrifice his tenth and last son, the Swedes stop him, causing him to die, two hundred years old.
* ImportantHaircut: King Harald Halfdansson vowed not to cut his hair until he ruled all of Norway. As the project took several years, he became known as Harald Shaggyhead[[note]]Depending on your translation, also "Shockhead" or "Tanglehair".[[/note]]. When he had completed the task, he had his hair cut publicly, thus transforming into Harald Finehair.
* TheKingdom: Norway.
* LastOfHerKind: Freyja is the last of the Aesir to die, outliving Odin, Njord, and her brother Freyr.
* LastStand: Erik Bloodaxe's last battle at Stainmore in England, Harald Greyfur's death in a Danish ambush at Limfjord in Denmark, Olaf Tryggvason in the naval battle of Svold.
* LockedAwayInAMonastery: After his defeat in the Civil War, Magnus the Blind is blinded and castrated and imprisoned in a monastery.
* MadeASlave: The child Olaf Tryggvason is captured by Estonian vikings and spends seven years as a slave in Estonia.
* ModestRoyalty: When Olaf Haraldsson returns from his viking trips, he finds his stepfather King Sigurd Syr[[note]]The nickname means "sow" and probably comes from him 'digging the earth' like a hog (= being a farmer).[[/note]] of Ringerike busy with farmwork. This serves to lampshade the contrast between the down-to-earth Sigurd and Olaf's high-flying ambitions.
-->''He was not fond of display and he was rather a man of few words.''
* MoeGreeneSpecial: In battle on the coast of Wales, Magnus Barelegs kills the Norman earl Hugh the Proud[[note]]Hugh of Montgomery, 2nd Earl of Shrewsbury[[/note]] by shooting an arrow through his eye.
* MutualKill: Alrek and Erik, the sons of King Agni of Sweden, strike each other dead with horse bridles quarreling over a horserace. The same way, Alrek's sons Yngvi and Alf inflict lethal wounds on each other when Alf's jealousy induces him to attack Yngvi.
* NamedWeapon: Hel, Saint Olaf's battle-axe, later wielded by his son Magnus. Quernbiter, the sword of Håkon the Good. Then, there's Harald Hardrada's mail armor called ... ''Emma''.
* NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast: Erik Bloodaxe.
* NastyParty: Many of them. "Invite them for a feast, get them sloshed, then set fire to the house while they are snoring and bar the exits" is a standard method to get rid of enemies in ''Heimskringla'', and even lauded rulers like Olaf Tryggvason and Saint Olaf are allowed to use it. The unsurpassed master of this trope is, however, Ingjald Ill-ruler, the last Yngling king of Sweden, who, over the course of his life, kills twelve other kings, most of the Swedish aristocracy and finally ''himself'', together with all his unsuspecting followers, in this way.
* NauticalKnockout: When his enemy King Skjöld of Varna makes a magical wind, King Eystein of Vestfold is swept overboard by a sail boom and drowns.
* NeverFoundTheBody: Olaf Tryggvason's body was not recovered after he jumped into the sea at the Battle of Svold, leading to rumors that he was still alive.
* NiceGuy: King Eystein. Even cares for lovesick bodyguards!
* NonActionGuy: Olaf Kyrre (the Peaceful) and Eystein Magnusson.
* PatronSaint: Olaf Haraldsson is promoted to Saint Olaf after his death.
* RatedMForManly
* RewardedAsATraitorDeserves: The slave Kark is enticed by Olaf Tryggvason's promises of rewards to murder his master Jarl Håkon; but when he brings Håkon's head to Olaf, the latter has him decapitated.
* RightInFrontOfMe: The English rider that negotiates with Earl Tostig and Harald Hardrada before the Battle of Stamford Bridge is, as Harald learns later, King Harold Godwinson himself.
* SketchySuccessor: Arrogant, greedy, and stupid Magnus Sigurdson (later Magnus the Blind) to his father, the famous war-hero Sigurd the Crusader. Magnus' shortcomings are instrumental in triggering the CivilWar after Sigurd's death.
* SoulsavingCrusader: Olaf Tryggvason and Saint Olaf, the two missionary kings.
* TheSouthpaw: Olaf Tryggvason fights equally well with both hands.
* TotalEclipseOfThePlot: Upon the death of Saint Olaf in the battle of Stiklestad, the sun eclipses.
* TrapIsTheOnlyOption: Even though he is aware that it is most likely a trap, Harald Greyfur is too proud to decline Harald Gormsson's invitation, and thus sails to Denmark where he is promptly ambushed.
* UndignifiedDeath: King Fjölnir of Sweden, son of Freyr, drowns in a vat of mead after a night of boozing with King Frode of Denmark.
* UntranslatedTitle: The book's original title, if it had one, is unknown, but ''"Heimskringla"'' has stuck. Alternative titles, like ''Lives of the Kings of Norway'' or something similar, are sometimes used, but the book is never called ''"The Circle of the Earth"''.
* UnwittingPawn: Poor Gold-Harald is manipulated by his cousin Harald Gormsson to off Harald Greyfur, then sold out by him to his own FalseFriend Jarl Hakon.
* VikingFuneral: The funeral of King Haki of Sweden in "Ynglinga Saga" is a textbook example.
* VillainousValour: Displayed by Erik Bloodaxe, Harald Greyfur, and Harald Hardrada in their respective {{Last Stand}}s.
* VillainProtagonist: While most of the kings are on the morally ambivalent side, and, due to ValuesDissonance some may appear as villains that were never intended to be such, this trope is nowhere more prevalent than in the saga of Harald Hardrada.
* WarriorPoet: Harald Hardrada likes to compose poetry.
* WarriorPrince: Most of them, in accord with the customs of the times -- it is much easier to list the kings that are {{Non Action Guy}}s.
* WeatherOfWar: During the naval battle of Hjörunga Bay, a hailstorm arises that is instrumental in turning the battle against the Jomsvikings and securing the Norwegians' victory.
* WonTheWarLostThePeace: Harald Hardrada fails in subduing Denmark, even though he is mostly victorious in battle with his rival Svein Estridsson, because Svein is popular with the Danes while they [[SarcasmMode curiously]] loathe Harald just the more the more he attacks them. The trope is later lampshaded by Earl Tostig in conversation with Harald.
* WorthyOpponent: Harold Godwinson to Harald Hardrada, Jarl Erik to Olaf Tryggvason.
* YoungestChildWins: From the twenty-odd sons of Harald Finehair, it is the youngest, Håkon the Good, that finally overthrows his evil older brother Erik Bloodaxe and inherits the kingdom.
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