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Egil's Saga (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 26, 2005


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About the Author

Bernard Scudder lives in Reykjavík as a full-time translator. His translations encompass sagas, ancient and modern poetry, and leading contemporary novels and plays. In 1998 two novels in his translation were short-listed for the European Union's Aristeon Literary Prize. Svanhildur Óscarsdóttir has a research post at the Árni Magnússon Institute in Reykjavík. Bernard Scudder lives in Reykjavík as a full-time translator. His translations encompass sagas, ancient and modern poetry, and leading contemporary novels and plays. In 1998 two novels in his translation were short-listed for the European Union's Aristeon Literary Prize. Svanhildur Óscarsdóttir has a research post at the Árni Magnússon Institute in Reykjavík. She has published on Icelandic literature, medieval and modern.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (April 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447709
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447705
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Ian M. Slater on September 6, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
[February 2014: Amazon has, from time to time, attached my old (2006) review of the earliest translation of "Egil's Saga," with comments on the later ones, to those other translations, blocking me from individually reviewing many of the others. I've now done some extended editing, and included additional information, so it should be more useful -- and certainly fairer to the translators.]

The story of Egil son of Grim the Bald (Skalla-Grim) is one of the prose works from medieval Iceland known as sagas, and of the major sagas it probably most closely approximates the image popularly associated with the word. The story is multi-generational (it opens in the late 850s, and extends beyond Egil's death around 990). It features Viking adventures, and its primary hero is a devotee of Odin, god of kings, warriors, and poets. The hero's grandfather is rumored to be a werewolf, and the hero, himself both warrior and skald (poet), has thrilling encounters with berserkers and assassins, and engages in a feud with a (perfectly historical) king, Eric Bloodaxe, whose wife (later the Queen-Mother) is a sorceress.

Anyone expecting the hero to be a handsome Norseman from a storybook is going to be in for a shock, though. There are several such, including Egil's beloved brother, Thorolf (name for an uncle who is the hero of the opening chapters), but, like his father, Egil himself is actually outstandingly ugly. And his behavior varies from the admirable to the repellent -- even in Viking-Age eyes. (An explanation for some of this has been proposed recently, pointing out stray details in the verse and prose that suggest a now-recognizable medical disorder, possibly genetic.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Cal Saurheled on January 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
Egil's Saga, most likely written by Snorri Sturlusson, an Icelandic chieftain, scholar, writer, and storyteller, is a tale regarding his ancestor - a man called Egil Skallagrimsson. This (famously ugly) man was himself well-versed in the arts of poetry, but also had the benefit of being a fierce warrior with a rough sense of honor and something of a soft (shy?) spot for women and children. That isn't to say that some of his deeds were heinous by modern standards, as is to be expected from many noteworthy men from the ages described the saga, but in spite of that one can't help but root for Egil in his personal ventures of achieving respect, wealth, and his (in some ways striking) concept of justice.

(INTRODUCTION TO STORY - SPOILERS)

Like many of the Icelandic Sagas, the tale does not begin in Iceland but rather in Norway - King Harald Tangle-Hair is finishing up the job of uniting the counties of his country under one king and one of the king's who opposes him wants a notable man of his realm, Kveldulf, to support him in an alliance against Harald's enroachment. Kveldulf suspects that King Harald is fated to rule Norway (a prominent theme in Saga literature) and that his own king doesn't have enough luck to fill the palm of his hand (and these are basically the words right out of his mouth). As such, Kveldulf stays home and his king goes to battle and (predictably) loses.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By ThorBjorn on November 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
Egil Skallagrimson, ...an unusually large, dangerous, and ugly man, but also a glorious poet!

Egil was a source of trouble and grief even in his early youth.
He commited his first murder before he was even ten years of age.
His father once told the five year old Egil that he was not allowed come with him to a local farmer's feast: "You do not know how to compose yourself where there is heavy drinking, ...you are enough trouble when you are sober!"

By sixteen, Egil was a loud, angry, boisterous, dangerous and drunken lout. His ale-besotted indiscretions with sword or axe in hand eventually resulted in a life-long feud with none other than Erik Bloodaxe, King of Norway!

...but Egil was no fool.
He was an ingenious Skald, gaining great reknown for reciting his epic verse.
He was a survivor and an invincible warrior.
Although he spent much of his life with a price on his head, outlawed, hunted by numerous adversaries, ...no one would live to claim that bounty.

A veteran of battles, Viking raids, and many, many duels, ...Egil prevailed against all comers, hunting those who hunted him! He died of old age on his farm in Iceland...

I am hard-pressed to single out any Saga as the ultimate, but the Saga of Egil is surely a prime candidate.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Miriam Sagan on May 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Egil's Saga

I'm going to Iceland at the end of June (Lord willing and the volcano don't erupt). I'll be spending two weeks in a writer's colony. In preparation, I read one of the Icelandic sagas. The hero is described as warrior-poet Egil Skallagrimsson. That is, he is ugly, strong, an occasional psycho-killer, and a composer of renowned verse. I read the Penguin Classics translation by Bernard Scudder.
This is a real window into the Viking world. Written several hundred years after the events it portrays, the saga is still Pagan. What comes through is not just violence, drinking, and fighting over property, although there is certainly a lot of that. But this is also a highly practical world. It is a bit like "Lake Woebegone" in that all women are beautiful and wise (if occasionally descended from trolls), most men seem to be taller than their fellows, and everyone is introduced as being well-liked. Hero Egil is a bit of an exception-he is moody, given to what looks like seasonal depression, strong but not good looking, and a poet who is in love with his brother's wife. He is a it ahead of his time, perhaps more Shakespearian than his compatriots.
Ships are described as dragon-headed, and extremely beautiful. Vikings literally go berserk-become impervious to weapons and bite their shields in a killing frenzy. A few are considered werewolves, a state which is treated naturalistically and whose major symptom is late afternoon crankiness. Farms are large and prosperous, and kings are troublesome. Ancient Iceland had no executive branch and wasn't big on subservience-so kings ranging from Norway to Britain present a problem.
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