'The King is dead' : the thanatology of kings in the Old Norse synoptic histories of Norway, 1035-1161
The Old Norse Synoptic Histories of Norway can make a valuable contribution to thanatology (the study of attitudes towards death) and the history of medieval thought. This piece of research is an attempt to analyse how the new blend of Christian faith with ancient heroic ideals is reflected in accounts of the deaths of eleventh- and twelfth century Norwegian kings, as described in those Old Norse sagas that deal with the stories of medieval Scandinavian royalty. The period covered in this study runs from 1035, the date of the accession to the Norwegian throne of Magnús gὁoi, the son of St. Óláfr, to the death of Ingi Haraldsson in 1161. This period seems to have seen very important changes and to have been full of clashing ideas and attitudes, most of which were due to the conversion of Norway to Christianity in the immediately preceding period. The major texts covered are Theodoricus's Historia de Antiquitate Regum Norwagiensium, Ágrip af Noregskonungasögum, Morkinskinna, Snorri Sturluson's Heimskringla and Fagrskinna. A comparison between these five major sources shows how their authors often convey their political judgements on kings by the ways in which they describe their deaths, and how they were involved in the cultural and religious environment of medieval Europe, in which the discussion about Purgatory was being developed and changes in burial customs were taking place.