Sigurd Jorsalfar   
Sigurd Jorsalfar

Drama by Bjørnstjerne Martinius Bjørnson (1832-1910)


Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson’s historical drama Sigurd Jorsalfar was written in 1872 and set to music by Evard Grieg Opus 22 much in the same manner as he had to Ibsen’s Peer Gynt.

The world premiere took place on April 10, 1872, in Oslo. Due to its immediate success, was performed nine times that spring alone.

When King Magnus (II) Barefoot died in the beginning of the 12th century his two sons Eystein (I) Magnusson and Sigurd (I) Magnusson became rulers. The former was peace-loving, the latter a warrior. Sigurd left Norway with 60 ships for a four-year crusade to the Holy Land. Eystein stayed home and proved to be a wise ruler.

The drama opens with the return of Sigurd the Crusader in all his glory.

On one occasion their vassals met in the palace of King Eystein and, as was customary, the men had a mannjamning – measuring of their masters’ accomplishments. The ‘winner’ is determined by the assemblage or a ‘fair maiden.’

Borghild – the maiden Eystein loves, but who believes he has forgotten her – is asked by Eystein to judge between the two. She casts her lot with Sigurd.

The breach between the rulers seems irreparable, but through the words of his taper-bearer, Sigurd is made to see that he has wronged his brother. More background…

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, winner of the 1903 Nobel Prize for literature, was Norway’s national poet.

Norrønafolket (ends Act 2)
The Norsemen will travel,
They will bring strength to others
The battle’s sword throws luster,
The honor increases the people’s work.

Kongekvadet (conclusion of the final act – Act 3)
Hail to you heirs of Harald’s tribe,
Hail to you brave brother-kings,
One in the beautiful wrapping of peace,
One with the battle’s crown of victory.
Norway’s past, Norway’s future
In their handshake meet.
Hail to you brave brother-kings!
Hail! Hail! Hail!