The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Hakon Jarl

Edition of 1920. See also Haakon Sigurdsson on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

HAKON JARL. Oehlenschläger, after reading Snorre's ‘Heimskringla,’ during a stay in Halle in 1805, wrote ‘Hakon Jarl,’ his famous tragedy, in six weeks. The theme is the conflict between Paganism and Christianity. The characters, especially that of Earl Hakon, are described in masterly fashion by Snorre, who gives us the tense, dramatic scenes. This rich historical material supports most appropriately the fine, poetical structure of the dramatist, and serves to give the principal character the true stamp of human greatness. In the character of Hakon, the author wished to do full justice to the strength of the heathen ideal; and yet arouse sympathy for the victorious faith and strong personality of King Olaf. It was Oehlenschläger's conviction that the best thing to do for Danish poetry was to give new life to the literature of the Eddas and the Sagas, and that he could do it. After the production of this tragedy, in 1808, all agreed with him. It is true that the rhetorical eloquence of Hakon does not fit the heroes of saga times, when swords spoke the most and the loudest, and that the saga heroes as depicted by Bjornson and Ibsen are much more true to life. But we are impressed by the beauty, the poetical power and wealth of ‘Hakon Jarl,’ as it pictures the conflict between Paganism and Christianity, between Hakon and Olaf. It was a great advance beyond any historical drama produced before in Scandinavian literature. There is an English translation by J. C. Lindberg, University Studies (Nebraska).