Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sagas of Icelanders

 A while back I received this awesome collection of Icelandic Sagas.  I'm not going to get into the details for each saga like I did for Njal's Saga or Sir Gawain and the Green Giant, though I probably will at a later date.  Instead, I just want to talk about this collection in general.

One thing that I like about this, and Penguin Classics in general, is their inclusion of scholarly notes.  The stories by themselves are great, but all the extras really do enhance the sagas.  The content of the notes range anywhere from meanings of particular rituals, characters crossing over from one saga to the next, and details about life in general in medieval Norse society.

The Icelandic Sagas break down into six general categories: Greenland Sagas, Poets and Warriors, Regional Sagas, Outlaws, Champions, and the Sagas of Wealth and Power.  Sagas of Icelanders contain examples from each.

Egil's Saga
The Saga of the People of Vatnsdal
The Saga of the People of Laxardal
Bolli Bollason's Tale
The Saga of Hrafnkel Frey's Godi
The Saga of the Confederates
Gisli Sursson's Saga
The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue
The Saga of Ref the Sly
The Saga of the Greenlanders
Eirik the Red's Saga

Some of them, like Egil's Saga, while others, like The Saga of the Confederates, are more forgettable.  Some, like The Saga of the People of Vatnsdal, were much better than I thought they would be.  Others, like Eirik the Red's Saga, weren't nearly as entertaining as I hoped.

Njal's saga is by far the best of the sagas that I've read.  I don't think I will be able to find another saga (or many other books for that matter) that will equal it in scope and plot.  That being said, The Sagas of the Icelanders was a worthwhile read.  It's a good selection of the various types of sagas, and the Greenland Sagas are earliest sources that tell of the Norse expedition to North America.  Not the best, but worth it.

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