A Viking love story – the Saga of Frithiof

Do you know the legend of the Norwegian hero Frithiof? It’s become an immortal Scandinavian tale – several variations of it exist, and composers and artists throughout history have been inspired by the story it tells.

Below, we look at some portrayals of the tale by the Swedish painter August Malmström, created in the 19th century.

The world of the Vikings is brought to life through the journey of Frithiof and his ardent love for the beautiful Ingeborg, daughter of Bele, the King of Sogn at the Sognefjord in Norway. Frithiof grew up in the companionship of Ingeborg and her brothers. After Ingeborg’s father dies, Frithiof who has long loved Ingeborg, asks Ingeborg’s brothers for her hand in marriage. 

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Frithiof and Ingeborg. Nationalmuseum Sweden, CC BY-SA, Frithiof’s marriage proposal. Nationalmuseum Sweden, CC BY-SA

The brothers, however, refuse, and marry Ingeborg off to the old king Ring. Frithiof, angered and humiliated by these new brother-kings, insults them, and is banished to live in exile.

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Ingeborg’s lament. Nationalmuseum Sweden, CC BY-SA, Frithiof goes into exile. Nationalmuseum Sweden, CC BY-SA

In exile, Frithiof becomes rich, and earns glory through his reputation as a sea fighter. He sets off to meet King Ring and see the woman he has loved for so long. As a noble champion, Frithiof wins the love of the old King and he promises Frithiof his wife after his death.

After Ring’s death, Frithiof and Ingeborg are at last reunited, and Frithiof returns home to avenge his wounded pride by defeating the brother kings.

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Frithiof comes to King Ring. Nationalmuseum Sweden, CC BY-SA, King Ring’s death. Nationalmuseum Sweden, CC BY-SA

If these paintings about this epic tale of love and valour have made you curious to see more depictions of Scandinavian art, you can explore our Pinterest board dedicated to the Vikings. Enjoy!

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