World at a Glance: Snorri’s hot tub

Do you remember I mentioned Snorri Sturluson in this post? Teller of tales, scribe of sagas, author of adventures, narrator of novels, editor of epics? Some say he was the most important writer of all in medieval times.

Without Snorri, we wouldn’t know much about the Vikings – or Odin, Thor, Loke and the other Norse gods. But not only was he responsible for telling the tales of my forebears. Snorri was also a lawspeaker at Thingvellir. And what, pray, is a lawspeaker, you ask? A uniquely Scandinavian post; a wise person reciting laws. A proper office it was.

It is no surprise that Snorri was also interested in mythology. His theory was that the gods were dead kings and generals recreated. Makes sense, really. A leader becomes greater in death, his good sides are remembered and expanded upon; his not so great sides are diminished and even forgotten. Why not promote him to the divine?

Snorri Sturluson's hot tub

Famous words

Snorri lived at Snorrastofa in Reykholt, and he was murdered in Reykholt. That is what happens when you disobey a direct order from the Norwegian king.

It’s a long story: Once the king’s man in Iceland, Snorri swapped allegiances and supported Skúli, King Håkon IV’s rival to the throne. The king wanted to keep an eye on that pesky poet and politician, and told him to remain in Norway. But Snorri said út vil ek! (I want out), and home to Iceland he went. Famous words!

Now, Snorri was known as a man of many pleasures. Bit of a cad, actually. He liked comfort, he liked to show off. And he might not have taken the threat to his life very seriously. His home in Reykholt was fortified, but more for show than security. Style over substance, you could say. On 23 September 1241, the king’s men caught up with him. In his PJs, in the cellar. Eigi skal höggva! said Snorri. (Do not strike). Famous last words!

Snorri Sturluson’s hot tub

But before that, he was very fond of his hot tub. In fact, his Tinder profile might have read something like this: “Enjoys long, hot baths, women, ale & song. Married? No prob. So am I.”

A scoundrel – and a storyteller.

If you’re ever at Snorrastofa, you’ll notice a stone-encrusted pool a little ways from the houses at the estate. That’s Snorri’s hot tub. Heated with earth-borne heat, it is connected to one of Iceland‘s numerous thermal springs through a stone pipeline. And see the door there? That’s a private tunnel leading from his home to the tub.

Today, nearly 800 years later, Snorri Sturluson’s hot tub still stands. Stick your feet in!

The stone surrounding it may not have looked exactly like this on that fateful autumn day in 1241 when he had his last bath before being assassinated, but still… Remarkable!

World at a Glance is a series of short articles here on Sophie’s World, with a single photo, portraying curious, evocative, happy, sad, wondrous or unexpected little encounters.

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