Medieval Studies Chronicles (East Norse, Rhymed Chronicles)
Simon Skovgaard Boeck
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 May 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0335


The East Norse rhymed chronicles form a literary complex of historical, political, and literary texts. They can be split in two groups, one wherein the time span dealt with is restricted to events recent to their composition, and another beginning in legendary times. Among the former the Old Swedish Erikskrönikan (Chronicle of Duke Erik), probably written in the 1320s, stands out as the older, and as a significant literary and historical source. It is the first preserved major contribution to Swedish historiography. Erikskrönikan is preserved in nineteen manuscripts from the fifteenth century onward. Together with Förbindelsedikten (Connecting Composition), Karlskrönikan (Chronicle of Karl), and Sturekrönikan (Chronicle of Sture), it presents Swedish history from 1230 to 1496. A disputed Engelbrektskrönika might be preserved as the first part of Karlskrönikan, contributing to making this by far the largest of the East Norse rhymed chronicles, with 9,628 verses. Karlskrönikan survives in an early manuscript (from c. 1452) and in later copies, the short Förbindelsedikten (632 verses) covers the period between Erikskrönikan and Karlskrönikan, and is a later supplement in some manuscripts. Sturekrönikan consists of two sections with partly contradictious ideals, but this is disguised in the surviving ten manuscripts (the oldest of which is from c. 1500). The texts of the latter group are less important as sources to historical events. Moreover, these texts—the Old Swedish Lilla rimkrönikan (Smaller Rhymed Chronicle), Yngsta rimkrönikan (Younger Rhymed Chronicle), and the Old Danish Rimkrønike (Rhymed Chronicle)—share a monologic form, in which former kings reflect on their lives, vices, and virtues, clearly making these texts useful as moral-didactic exempla. Lilla rimkrönikan survives in several manuscripts, the oldest dated of these is from 1457. The oldest text witness of the Old Danish Rimkrøniken is a fragment from the middle of the fifteenth century, the first complete version is an incunable from 1495, and the text also survives in a Middle Low German translation. All the rhymed chronicles are politically biased and they propagate courtly values and aristocratic or royal politics. The Swedish texts often display a harsh anti-Danish sentiment; in the only Old Danish text that is turned around. Knittel (doggerel verse) is the predominant, and apart from stanzaic divisions of the Old Danish text, almost the only type of versification. The titles are modern designations; they have however, become standard. The compound term (Sw. rimkrönika, Da. rimkrønike) is not attested before the beginning of the seventeenth century. The genre had a post-medieval bloom in the sixteenth century.

General Overviews

As sources of historical information and as literary witnesses, the East Norse rhymed chronicles are of course referred to in historical and literary surveys of the Middle Ages, for instance in Harrison 2009; Harrison and Eriksson 2010; Dahlerup 1998; and Larsson, et al. 2010. Rona 1956–1978 offers overview articles on Nordic medieval society, culture, and literature. Updated information on the most important East Norse rhymed chronicles can be found in Dunphy 2010, Jansson 1993, and Schück 1993. An overview of Nordic chronicles with an emphasis on prose chronicles is given in Bagge 2016. Andersson 1928 offers a broader introduction to the Swedish texts, with a focus on politics. Gejrot 2022 is an updated online resource with bibliographical information on Old Swedish texts, manuscripts, and secondary studies; a similar resource for Old Danish philology does not exist.

  • Andersson, Ingvar. Källstudier till Sveriges historia 1230–1436: Inhemska berättande källor jämte Libellus Magnipolensis. Lund, Sweden: C. W. Lindströms Bokhandel, 1928.

    Even though much research has been done since the publication of Andersson’s study, it remains an important point of departure for the study of Swedish rhymed chronicles.

  • Bagge, Sverre. “Skandinavische Chroniken (1100–1500).” In Handbuch Chroniken des Mittelalters. Edited by Gerhard Wolf and Norbert H. Ott, 543–576. Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2016.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110341713-017

    This article in an international handbook places the East Norse rhymed chronicles among its Nordic predecessors, in particular Latin historias and West Norse sagas.

  • Dahlerup, Pil. Dansk Litteratur: Middelalder. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1998.

    The most recent literary history of the entire medieval Danish literature. The chapter on Rimkrøniken is more detailed than in later surveys.

  • Dunphy, Graeme, gen. ed. Encyclopaedia of the Medieval Chronicle. 2 vols. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010.

    This major, international work of reference contains articles on six East Norse rhymed chronicles: on Erikskrönikan, Karlskrönikan, Lilla rimkrönikan, Sturekrönikan, and Yngsta rimkrönikan by Olle Ferm, and on Rimkrøniken by Lars Boje Mortensen.

  • Gejrot, Claes, gen. ed. Old Swedish Bibliography. Diplomatarium Suecanum, The Swedish National Archives. 2022.

    An online bibliography with information on Old Swedish manuscripts, texts, and secondary studies. Covers the period to 2022 and is regularly updated.

  • Harrison, Dick. Sveriges historia 600–1350. Stockholm: Norstedts, 2009.

    The second part of the most recent general history of Sweden; describes the historical, societal, and cultural background for Erikskrönikan, which is also used as a source.

  • Harrison, Dick, and Bo Eriksson. Sveriges historia 1350–1600. Stockholm: Norstedts, 2010.

    The third part of the most recent general history of Sweden; describes the historical, societal, and cultural background for the late-medieval Old Swedish rhymed chronicles, which are also used as sources.

  • Jansson, Sven-Bertil. “Chronicles, Rhymed.” In Medieval Scandinavia: An Encyclopedia. 83–84. New York and London: Routledge, 1993.

    A short overview article with comprehensive bibliography in a single-volume introduction to medieval Nordic culture and literature, where focus otherwise mainly is on West Norse literature.

  • Jansson, Sven-Bertil. “Medeltidens rimkrönikörer—historia och propaganda på vers.” In Svenska historiker: Från medeltid til våra dagar. 45–54. Stockholm: Norstedt, 2009.

    A comprehensive overview of the Old Swedish rhymed chronicles, in particular to those belonging to the group of historical accounts of the recent past (the chronicles of Erik, Engelbrekt, Karl, and Sture).

  • Larsson, Inger, Sven-Bertil Jansson, Rune Palm Barbro Söderberg, eds. Den medeltida skriftkulturen i Sverige: Genrer och texter. Stockholm: Sällskapet Runica et Mediævalia, 2010.

    A survey of Old Swedish literature with a chapter on secular literature including rhymed chronicles.

  • Rona, Georg, gen. ed. Kulturhistorisk Leksikon for Nordisk Middelalder. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger, 1956–1978.

    This encyclopedia contains both an overview article on “Rimkrønikor” (Vol. 14) and more detailed articles on the most important East Norse rhymed chronicles. Articles are written in Swedish, Danish, or Norwegian and include bibliographic references. Despite its age, the encyclopedia is still an important work of reference in the study of medieval Nordic society and culture.

  • Schück, Herman. “Chronicles: Sweden.” In Medieval Scandinavia: An Encyclopedia. Edited by Phillip Pulsiano, 81–83. New York and London: Routledge, 1993.

    A short introduction to medieval Swedish chronicles, and in particular to the rhymed chronicles. With comprehensive bibliography.

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