Part of the reason the Vikings hold such a fascination is that they are the last great pagan civilisation. But by the end of the era, they are no longer pagan but Christian Indeed the Eddas were transcribed by Snorri Snorrison in an attempt to preserve the dying culture. But how and why did this happen?
Olaf, if the sagas are to be believed, had a true rags to riches story. After his father was killed, his pregnant mother escaped Erik Bloodaxe’s wrath. In the escape, they were captured by Baltic pirates and Olaf sold into slavery for the price of a single goat. He worked as a farmhand in Estonia. The adult Olaf is first heard of in Russia where he slays a man in the Novgorod marketplace, apparently the man who had sold him into slavery. After a brief marriage to a Polish princess, he goes raiding in England and an old soothsayer tells him if he becomes Christian, he will become king. He duly becomes Christian and becomes an ally of Ethelred the Unready.
|Olaf arrives in Norway. Source: Wikipedia|
He then sets about Christianising Norway, in his own unique fashion — convert or die. For good measure, he took hostages of various noble families and threatened to kill them, if anyone reverted. Having subdued a good part of Norway, he sent a missionary to Iceland who had mixed success. However, when Olaf decided to close all Norwegian ports to pagans, the Icelanders had to convert. Iceland could not survive without the trade and so they did.