Arni the Bitter: The man who killed Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson

Arni the Bitter, whose Icelandic name was Arni Thorarinsson, was a historical figure known for his role in the death of the renowned Icelandic poet and historian, Snorri Sturluson.

In the article below, World History Edu presents a brief overview of this historical event:

Who was Snorri Sturluson?

Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) was an Icelandic poet, historian, and politician known for his significant contributions to Old Norse literature. He authored several important works, including the Prose Edda, which remains a valuable source for understanding Norse mythology and sagas.

Political Intrigue

During the 13th century, Iceland was in a state of political turmoil and conflict. Snorri Sturluson was a chieftain and held various political positions, often aligning himself with different factions in Iceland’s power struggles.

Snorri Sturluson’s Conflict with King Haakon IV

Snorri’s political maneuvering and involvement with Norwegian King Haakon IV Haakonsson strained his relations with the Norwegian crown. King Haakon (Hákon) aimed to assert greater control over Iceland, which was still largely independent at the time.

Snorri’s Assassination

In 1241, King Haakon ordered the assassination of Snorri Sturluson, as the Icelandic poet’s political activities were seen as a threat to Norwegian interests in Iceland. Arni the Bitter was among those tasked with carrying out the order.

Death of Snorri Sturluson

Snorri was killed at his farm, Reykholt, in western Iceland, by Arni and his accomplices. He was struck down in his home, marking the tragic end of one of Iceland’s greatest literary figures.

Despite his untimely death, Snorri Sturluson’s works, particularly the Prose Edda, continued to influence literature and scholarship throughout the centuries. He is celebrated today as one of Iceland’s literary giants.

Arni the Bitter’s role in the death of Snorri Sturluson remains a significant historical event, highlighting the complex political dynamics of medieval Iceland and the impact of Norwegian influence on the region during that era.

Reykholt, Iceland

Reykholt, once a prominent intellectual hub, was home to one of Iceland’s most important schools in its heyday.

Renowned poet and politician Snorri Sturluson resided in Reykholt during the Middle Ages, and his writings on Old Norse language and mythology remain invaluable to contemporary scholars. Visitors can explore the remains of his farm, including a hot pot and a tunnel connecting the bath to the house.

On September 6, 1988, the Snorrastofa Cultural/Research Centre was established in Reykholt, marked by the presence of Iceland’s President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and King Olaf V of Norway at the opening ceremonies.

What happened to Arni the Bitter?

Arni the Bitter met his fate in another battle, known as the Flugumýrarbrenna, where he was captured and subsequently executed. He faced his fate with unwavering resolve, refusing to plead for mercy. The final words uttered about him were attributed to Kolbeinn Dufgusson, who remarked, “If you are to be spared, nobody will remember Snorri Sturluson.”

Questions and Answers about Snorri Sturluson’s death

Who led the raid on Sturluson’s house?

Gissur Þorvaldsson (1208 – 1268), the leader of the group, and his men of about sixty-five conducted a surprise raid on Snorri Sturluson’s house. The element of surprise was essential in their plan.

Gissur Þorvaldsson, also known as Gissur the White, was a powerful Icelandic chieftain [of the Haukdælir family clan] and one of the major political figures in medieval Iceland during the 13th century. He played a significant role in the Sturlung Era, a period of intense power struggles and conflicts among Icelandic chieftains. Gissur was a prominent supporter of the Norwegian king Hákon Hákonarson and played a key role in the internal strife in Iceland, often siding with King Hákon against other rival chieftains.

It’s been said that Gissur played a prominent role in advancing the Old Covenant (Icelandic: Gamli sáttmáli), a treaty that ultimately placed Iceland under the authority of the Norwegian monarchy in 1264. This agreement is occasionally referred to as Gissur’s Covenant or Gissurarsáttmáli.

Did you know…?

It’s been said that Gissur was the great-grandson of Jón Loftsson (112 – 1197), a powerful Icelandic chieftain of Oddi at Rangárvellir in the south part of Iceland. Interestingly, Snorri Sturluson was educated by Loftson. Therefore, it is likely that Gissur and Snorri’s paths crossed many times before Gissur led assassins to Snorri’s house.

Did Sturluson put up any fight?

When the attackers arrived at Snorri’s house, he realized the danger and attempted to flee from them. He sought refuge in the cellar of his house, likely in an effort to evade capture or harm.

Among the attackers, a man named Símon knútur played a significant role. It was Símon who had a critical decision to make when they cornered Snorri in the cellar.

What were Snorri Sturluson’s last words?

In the cellar, Snorri Sturluson made a plea to Símon knútur, saying, “Eigi skal höggva!” This phrase can be translated as “Do not strike!” or “Do not hit me!” It appears that Snorri was attempting to negotiate or plead for his life.

Símon knútur responded firmly to Snorri’s plea by saying, “Högg þú!” This can be translated as “You strike now!” It appears that Símon was instructing someone, possibly Arni the Bitter, to strike or attack Snorri.

READ MORE: Last Words of Famous Figures in World History

Where is Reykholt?

Depiction of Snorri Sturluson’s Bathhouse at Reykholt.

Reykholt is a historic site and a village located in southwestern Iceland. It is situated in the Borgarfjörður region, which is known for its natural beauty and historical significance. Reykholt is particularly notable for its connection to the medieval Icelandic historian and poet Snorri Sturluson, who lived there during the 13th century.

Today, Reykholt is a tourist destination where visitors can explore the historical sites associated with Snorri Sturluson and enjoy the scenic surroundings of Borgarfjörður.

Location of Reykholt in Iceland

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *