- Paperback: 782 pages
- Publisher: Viking Penguin; 1st edition (2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0965477703
- ISBN-13: 978-0965477703
- Package Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 133 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,260,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Sagas of Icelanders Paperback – 2000
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The prose literature of medieval Iceland is a great world treasure - elaborate, various, strange, profound, and as eternally current as any of the other great literary treasures - the Homeric epics, Dante’s Divine Comedy, the works of William Shakespeare or of any modern writer you could name. Mysteries surround these stories - how were they composed and by whom? what were the motives of the authors? Why were they written in prose when the currency of medieval literature was poetry? How did their contemporaries understand them - did they even read them, or did they hear them read aloud? But the questions fall away as we read the sagas and tales themselves. They are written with such immediacy and forthrightness and they concern such basic human dilemmas that for the most part they are readily accessible and seductive. Reading one creates the appetite for another and another. In the present volume, Penguin has drawn upon the newly translated and edited Complete Sagas of Icelanders to offer the English-speaking reader a rich selection of Icelandic prose. Long and short, complex and simple, fantastic and realistic - there is a taste of everything here, an abundant introduction to a world a thousand years separated from ours, both intensely familiar and intensely strange.
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My one gripe is that there is no list (that I could find at least) of which sagas and tales are included in this book, which happens to be some pretty important information for someone who's looking to quickly beef up their library with Norse Literature.
So, in order to save anyone I can some time, and possibly money, I've listed all the sagas and tales included in this book here:
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
The Tale of Thorstein Staff-Struck
The Tale of Halldor Snorrason II
The Tale of Sarcastic Halli
The Tale of Thorstein Shiver
The Tale of Audun from the West Fjords
The Tale of the Story-Wise Icelander
I hope that you find this list helpful!
First, to state what this book is not: it is not a collection which includes the semi-legendary sagas, such as Hrolf-Kraki and the Volsungs. It does not contain any King's sagas, such as in the Heimskringla. It is not concerned with any of the Sturlung Sagas of later Icelandic history. It does contain a very strong representative selection from among the Icelanders' Sagas, that is those that take place in Iceland, or whose protagonists are Icelanders abroad, during and just after the Viking Age. Finally, it does not contain every one of such sagas.
The book contains Egil's Saga, as well as the Vatnsdaela, the Laxardaela, Hrafnkel Frey's Godi, The Confederates, Gisli Sursson, Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue, Ref the Sly, and the Vinland Sagas, as well as 6 short prose tales of other Icelanders, usually in foreign service.
There is a great deal of supplementary information about the different kinds of sagas, Ages of Icelandic history, Viking ship types, Icelandic social and political structure, the Icelandic calendar, as well as a generous dose of genealogical tables and maps of Iceland, Norway, Vinland, etc. with detail maps showing the action of the separate sagas.
I won't waste space describing the sagas themselves, under the assumption that someone considering purchasing this book has read at least one saga, and so knows what to expect from the genre. But I can't resist quoting an Icelandic scholar referred to in the introduction, who describes the Icelandic sagas as "farmers at fisticuffs."
I also own Njal's Saga, and once I acquire the Book of Settlements, these two works in addition to the present collection will probably complete my Icelandic saga needs, because this work is so thoroughly and attractively assembled.
I also recommend Viking Age Iceland by Jesse Byock as a companion volume to this one.