A drama to rival Romeo and Juliet is enacted every two years on the beautiful island of Engeløya in Steigen. An impressive 130 volunteers and an audience of thousands gather on the Iron Age site to enjoy the superb costumes and contemporary scenery in a breath-taking landscape, but above all for an excellent story.
The saga of Hagbard and Signe is as romantic as it is tragic. Hagbard is the son of the King of Vågan, while Signe is the daughter of Sigar, King of Steig. They are secretly betrothed, but Sigar has other plans for his daughter, and has promised her to the King’s son Burislav in Holmgard (now Novgorod in Russia). The drama is set during the Steiger Assembly, where the people of Hålogaland have gathered to hold council, make sacrifices and feast.
A Suicide pact kept them bound
Hagbard disguises himself in women’s clothing and calls on Signe in secret. They agree to run away together but they also make a suicide pact, vowing that if one of them is caught, the other will die as well. The consequences are enormous, and blood feuds threaten to break out between the powerful ruling families.
Practical information about the
The next Sagaspill will take place in the Summer of 2021. To keep up to date with the programme you can check out their website. When dates are released it’s recommended to book accommodation as soon as possible in the area as places are quickly filled up.
To get to Engeløya you can take the ferry from Bodø and Svolvær (buy tickets here) or you can take the bus from Narvik.
The Visit Bodo webpage has all the information you need to know about the area including contact information if you have any questions during your stay.
It’s an ill-fated love story
Despite their precautions, a serving girl overhears the meeting between the lovers, and raises the alarm. Hagbard is captured and led to the place of execution on the islet of Hagbardholmen. But Signe stays true to their pact, and before Hagbard is hanged, he sees smoke rising from Signe’s bedchamber on Steig. Signe has set the house on fire, and the lovers meet death together.
The Legend was passed down by storytime
The saga was not written down until around 1700, but must have been passed down by word of mouth for centuries. Sigarhaugen, Hagbardholmen and Signelillsteinen are all place names in Steigen that are traditionally linked to the legend. However, good stories have a tendency to travel, so similar legends are linked to other places in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
Everyone in Steigen takes part in the saga
Every two years, the residents of Steigen rally to perform the saga in grand style, with a huge choir and 140 actors. They put an enormous effort into the rehearsals, costumes and staging, and when the event finally takes place, everyone in Steigen is involved in some way.
Sagaspill week is action packed
The saga is performed several times during “Sagaspill Week” at the end of July/beginning of August (Next in 2021). Visitors can also enjoy concerts featuring famous artists, story-telling for children, a market at the Steigen Rural Museum, and walks to the Batterie Dietl coastal fortification on the outer coast of Engeløya island.