The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue is the story of a promising young man named Gunnlaug who achieves fame for his bravery and poetry in the courts of kings and earls throughout the Norse world.
The story tells of poems praising kings and earls in verses received as gifts, in a culture where gift giving was a well established and important means of settling disputes, showing respect, and gaining favor and honor. However, a prophetic dream foretells the love rivalry and betrayal between Gunnlaugr Ormstunga, Hrafn Önundarson, and Helga the Fair, ending in tragedy.
The Gunnlaug saga belongs to the category of Icelandic sagas, which there are about 40, written in the 13th and 14th centuries, but disclose events that happened a long time before. Some of them even tell about a Viking settlement in the late 9th century, but also of places in the second half of the 10th century and all the way to the first part of the 11th. In Gunnlaug’s history , events occur near the 1000s, which are related to Christianity. The story is written in the latter part of the 13th century. Nothing is known about the author, but that he is a learned man who has known for many characters; perhaps he was in a priesthood.
Gunnlaug’s story is not preserved in original, but other Icelandic sagas, but two handwritten manuscripts exist, another from the 14th and the other from the 15th century. A younger paper handwriting has been run from these skins.
“A tale from Iceland, 800 years ago.
In a dream of quarrels and death
The birth of fair Helga is told
Cross the north seas ventured for fame
At the call of kings, hearth bereft
Wounded pride, spawn’d of a sensed slight
When tongues fail, sharper blades prevail
Falcon soothes the cloak wrapt wound
Fair one pines and fades from the light.” – Summary by Fritz