Thangbrand the Priest Goes to Iceland
When King Olaf Trygvason had been two years king of Norway (A.D. 997),
there was a Saxon priest in his house who was called Thangbrand, a
passionate, ungovernable man, and a great man-slayer; but he was a good
scholar, and a clever man. The king would not have him in his house upon
account of his misdeeds; but gave him the errand to go to Iceland, and
bring that land to the Christian faith. The king gave him a merchant
vessel: and, as far as we know of this voyage of his, he landed first in
Iceland at Austfjord in the southern Alptfjord, and passed the winter in
the house of Hal of Sida. Thangbrand proclaimed Christianity in Iceland,
and on his persuasion Hal and all his house people, and many other chiefs,
allowed themselves to be baptized; but there were many more who spoke
against it. Thorvald Veile and Veterlide the skald composed a satire
about Thangbrand; but he killed them both outright. Thangbrand was two
years in Iceland, and was the death of three men before he left it.
Source: Snorri Sturluson, King Olaf Trygvason's Saga, part II,
- Click here for the entire text of the
Heimskringla, the larger work from which this piece is taken.
- The conversion of Iceland to Christianity is described in substantial
detail in Njal's
Saga, chapters 100-105.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow composed a ballad describing the mission to
Thangbrand the Priest.
Return to D. L. Ashliman's
Revised March 10, 1997.