Hákon Hákonarson: friðarkonungur eða fúlmenni?
This article compares and contrasts the portrait of King Hákon Hákonarson of Norway painted by modern historians with that of the 13th century historian Sturla Þórðarson in his works Íslendinga Saga (the Saga of the Icelanders) and Hákonarsaga (the Saga of Hákon Hákonarson). The views of modern historians have tended to be uniform, blaming the king for the fall of the Commonwealth in 1262-64 and the subsequent „decline". It was generally accepted by historians that Hákon, in his bid to bring Iceland under his rule, had tricked the Icelandic chieftains, playing them one against the other and was thus responsible for the hostilities leading to the end of the Commonwealth. He was also thought to have forced the Icelanders to accept Norwegian bishops who were actively engaged in furthering his aims and was further blamed for the killing of the historian Snorri Sturluson. When the two 13th century sagas are carefully examined another picture emerges, however. In these works there is no suggestion that Hákon played a role in the hostilities in Iceland or that he used treachery and intrigue to bring Iceland under his rule. There are on the contrary many examples of Icelandic chieftains approaching Hákon on their own initiative, and there is no evidence that he sought to gain possession of Iceland before 1247. When he did so it was done openly and peacefully. Neither saga mentions any other reason for his policy than a genuine wish to establish peace in Iceland. In fact both these accounts describe Hákon Hákonarson in a very favourable light, and the traits in the description of his character are in full accordance with the concept of the ideal ruler which was prevalent in the Middle Ages.