Snorri Sturluson

The chieftain and historian Snorri Sturluson (1179–1241) is one of the most important figures in medieval Icelandic history, and he was one of the main chroniclers of Norse sagas and histories. Snorri was born at Hvammur near Búðardalur (further north), was raised and educated at the theological centre of Oddi near Hella, and later married the heir to the historic farm Borg á Mýrum near Borgarnes. He eventually left Borg and retreated to the wealthy church estate at Reykholt. At the time, Reykholt was home to 60,000 to 80,000 people and was an important trade centre at the crossroads of major routes across the country. Snorri composed many of his most famous works at Reykholt, including Prose Edda (a textbook of medieval Norse poetry) and Heimskringla (a history of the kings of Norway). Snorri is also widely believed to be the hand behind Egil’s Saga, a family history of Viking skald (court poet) Egil Skallagrímsson.

At the age of 36, Snorri was appointed lögsögumaður (law speaker) of the Alþingi (Icelandic parliament). In the following decades he endured heavy pressure from the Norwegian king to promote the ruler's private interests but, instead, Snorri busied himself with his writing until the unhappy Norwegian king Hákon finally snapped and issued a warrant for his capture – dead or alive. Snorri’s political rival and former son-in-law Gissur Þorvaldsson saw his chance to impress the king and possibly snag the position of governor of Iceland in return. He arrived in Reykholt with 70 armed men on the night of 23 September 1241 and hacked the historian to death in the basement of his farmhouse.