• Lbs_747_fol

Hjalti and Gissur Meet the King

Guðlaugur Magnússon 1871-1875  

Christianity washed over the Nordic Countries like a wave after Scandinavians were introduced to the religion in their travels abroad and Christianity reached Iceland in the 10 th century. Olaf Tryggvason, king of Norway, sent his missionaries to Iceland which resulted in a few people taking up Christianity and getting baptised. Among them were Gissur the White and Hjalti Skeggjason who are both mentioned in Njáls saga. An image in a manuscript of Njáls saga from the 19 th century depicts the pair going to meet the king and the illustrator's vision of this meeting is quite interesting. Olaf was outspoken about his discontent with the slow progress in the Christianisation of Icelanders and Gissur and Hjalti wowed to speed things up. They went to Althing and explained the king's dissatisfaction. Good relations with foreign chiefs were very important to Icelanders during the first centuries after settlement, mainly because of the important business relations. The story goes that Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði was asked to rule in the matter at Althing in the year 1000 and that his decision was for Icelanders to take up Christianity.


The manuscript is written by brothers Guðlaugur and Guðmundur Magnússon between 1871 and 1875 and contains many of the Sagas of Icelanders and shorter stories, including Njáls saga. The brothers were workmen at Fellsströnd in Dalasýsla and wrote the manuscript in their spare time as stated on the title page. The manuscript is over 750 pages and the pages are large, decorated with various illustrations. They depict heroes such as Hjalti Skeggjason and Gissur the White dressed as gentlemen from the end of the 19 th century. Guðlaugur later moved to America and died there in 1917 but Guðmundur lived in Iceland his whole life, as a farmer in Breiðabólsstaður in Fellsströnd where he died in 1915.


Lbs 747 fol.

National and University Library of Iceland