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!

5 thoughts on “A Viking love story – the Saga of Frithiof

  1. Very nice o find this–I am Swedish born, so I looked for something on Ingeborg…
    I sent this story to a friend, who became grandmother to a little Ingeborg. She was very pleased as was the mother.

    It is so Scandinavian and reasonable that Ring plans for his wife to marry Frithiof after his own death. (Of course, these heavy- handed brother were not so nice….bu—so common in old stories.

    Updike wrote and of a Danish princes married off for convenience…

    1. Thank you for your comment on Frithiof’s Saga – your comments are an interesting glimpse of the life and customs of an era that is very different from the present. In some ways, we have come far – and, in others, not…

  2. Today I was looking at a book handed down through my family by my grandfather (Norwegian-born Canadian), originally given in 1921 as a 16th birthday present to my mother, whose given name was Ingeborg. She did not like the name, but retained its use until after my grandfather’s passing in 1957. In re-ordering my bookshelves I opened Frithiof’s Saga, (in English translation) and came across the inscription by my grandfather. With the availability of Google (a marvellous tool in many ways) I read a summary of the book’s plot, and other background – which determined me to move the book to my night-table in order to (finally) read it.

    I was interested as well to see that Kristina (quoted above) had, as lately as March 2019, been following the same theme – perhaps a reminder that the “old tales” retain a living presence for us from the 8th century origins of this saga, to the present day.

    Let us hope that the printed word does not pass away…


    1. Dear Bernie, thank you for your lovely comment. Glad you liked our blog, and we hope you will enjoy reading the book.

      By the way, your grandfather’s story sounds really interesting – we have a project where we invite people to share memories and histories of migration to, from and within Europe. Your grandfather’s story would make an interesting contribution if you would like to share? You can go to https://migration.europeana.eu/share to do that. Thanks!

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