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Njal's Saga by Anonymous

Njal's Saga

by Anonymous

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,855195,635 (3.94)40
  1. 11
    Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich von Kleist (andejons)
    andejons: Both are stories dealing with legal procedure and violence.

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English (16)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Republication of Dasent's 1861 translation. ( )
  aodha | Mar 18, 2019 |
Njal's Saga is epic tale of toxic masculinity spiraling out of control as a 50 year blood feud builds to greater and greater acts of vengeance over insults like gifts of silk and manliness being called into question. Many people are murdered and an entire family is burnt down in their home. Peace is finally achieved when a man marries a widow. One man is given a bracelet worth 19 cows.

Medieval Icelanders were petty AF. ( )
1 vote Zoes_Human | Nov 17, 2018 |
Here’s a family saga that makes the Hatfields and the McCoys seem like amateurs, genealogical narratives that make those in the Bible seem brief, and grisly descriptions of hand to hand combat that are the equal of the Iliad. In the introduction to this edition of the English translation by Bayerschmidt and Hollander, Þorsteinn Gylfason notes, “An Icelandic scholar of the eighteenth century said that all the sagas of the Icelanders could be summed up in four words, 'Farmers came to blows.'"

But between these dismemberments are the stories of resentment and craftiness that precede the gore, and more fascinating to me, the legal suits and maneuverings in the Althing, the medieval Icelandic assembly, to award compensation to the families of the slain in exchange for a pledge of peace. Then after all parties were satisfied, the plotting of the next round of the vendetta starts just as soon as all have returned home. Equally fascinating to me is that in the middle of all this feuding and strife—in the year 1000 by our current calendar—everyone converts to Christianity, and then continues on exactly as they did as worshipers of the old Norse gods. ( )
1 vote MaowangVater | Dec 6, 2017 |
A legal saga with gratuitious violence, revenge,strong characters and what I would call magical realism. It makes me want to visit the site of Njal's farm in Iceland - a country I am fascinated by but only get to pass through .

And our cat is now called 'Ragnar Hairy - Breeks' ( )
2 vote dylkit | Feb 3, 2014 |
Njal's Saga is by far the longest of the sagas of the Icelanders, and it appears to be the general agreement that it is also the best among them, an assessment that I am not going to deviate from. In principle, Njal's Saga is just like the other sagas - it has their freshness and immediacy that are striking for texts that are hundreds of years old, it has their sparse, laconic style, their reliance on action and dialogue, their absence of psychology and their emphasis on geographical and genealogical placement of their characters. In short, it has everything the other sagas have - only more so.

This is not just a matter of length - what I found most striking about Njal's Saga is how very vivid it is. It's language is not any more florid than of the other sagas, but just as reduced and simple, and yet it somehow manages to paint a much more colourful picture of the events it relates - it rather feels like the widescreen Technicolor version of a saga. It probably does have something to do with its length, and that it dwells just that tiny but decisive bit longer on what a character is dressed in or what exactly he does in a fight, but I don't think that quite suffices to explains why people and events in this sage possess such an immense plasticity that makes their down-to-earth-ness almost tangible for the reader as if the book's pages were just a thin, icy mist behind which we catch glimpses of the untamed, violent Norsemen feasting, sailing and fighting each other.

Njal's Saga is also somewhat clearer structured than most other sagas - it consists of two quite distinct parts, the first being about Gunnar, the various strifes he got involved in and his final downfall, and the second the story of his friend Njal, his death and the vengeance for it. The first part takes place before the arrival of Christianity in Iceland, the second after its Christianization, in the first part most conflicts are solved peacefully, in the second most end in violence - one can't help but wonder whether there might not be be some implied reflection on Christianity on part of the anonymous author implied in that. Another thing that places Njal's Saga apart is the uncommon emphasis it puts on the law - not only is it stated several times that it is the law that keeps a society together and that it will come apart if the law fails (as is demonstrated by events in the saga), not only are there an uncommon lot of trials in this saga, but they are also described in unusual (and, it has to be said, occasionally tiresome) detail, to the point where Njal's Saga reads almost like the Medieval Icelandic version of courtroom drama.

There are some issues with this saga for the modern reader, chiefly its repetitiveness - basically, events here consist of a seemingly endless succession of slayings, trials, and vengeance which causes more slayings, more trials and more vengeance. There is not much difference in the way those events unfold either, so things can get somewhat tedious if one tries to read too much of the saga in one go, and therefore judicious rationing is strongly recommended. And with the length of the saga, it becomes even more difficult to keep track of all the persons and there relations to each - thankfully, the Penguin Classics edition I was reading is not only excellently translated (as far as I can judge that, of course) but also very well-edited, with a helpful introduction and footnotes.

This is definitely the saga one should read if one wants to read only one of them, although it is hard to imagine anyone wanting to stop after this one, they're as addictive as crisps (at least unless they tried to read the whole thing at once - just like crisps one can easily overstuff oneself), but significantly more nutritious. And while I don't usually don't do quote, I just have to put in this one, showing how just names mentioned in passing already are stories in a nutshell:

"A man name Hoskuld lived there, the son of Dala-Koll. His mother was Thogerd, te daughter of Thorstein the Red, who was the son of Olaf the White, the son of Ingiald, the son of Helgi. Ingiald's mother was Thorn, the daughter of Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye who was the son of Ragnar Shaggy-breeches. Thorstein the Red's mother was Unn the Deep-minded; she was the daughter of Ketil Flat-nose, the son of Bjorn Buna."

I doubt that ever before or after genealogy has been more fun. And maybe that is the reason why Njal's Saga impresses itself so vividly on the reader's mind: with all the fighting, the deaths and the maimings (there is an astonishing amount of limbs getting cut off in the course of the saga), with all the underlying fatalism, there also is an air of joyousness blowing through these tales, a boundless glorying in life and its pleasures; and no matter how rough those might appear to the modern reader some of that exuberance jumps over like an electric spark across the centuries and makes this saga so much fun to read.
2 vote Larou | Feb 3, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (103 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anonymousprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Örnólfur Thorsson,Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cook, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dasent, George WebbeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drummond, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lönnroth, LarsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lucas, E. V.Prefatory Notesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magnusson, MagnusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Otten, MarcelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pálsson, HermannTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sveinsson, Einar Ol.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tuuri, AnttiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Einar Ólafur Sveinsson
First words
There was a man named Mord whose nickname was Gigja.

translated by Robert Cook (1997)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140447695, Paperback)

Written in the thirteenth century, Njal's Saga is a story that explores perennial human problems-from failed marriages to divided loyalties, from the law's inability to curb human passions to the terrible consequences when decent men and women are swept up in a tide of violence beyond their control. It is populated by memorable and complex characters like Gunnar of Hlidarendi, a powerful warrior with an aversion to killing, and the not-so-villainous Mord Valgardsson. Full of dreams, strange prophecies, violent power struggles, and fragile peace agreements, Njal's Saga tells the compelling story of a fifty-year blood feud that, despite its distance from us in time and place, is driven by passions familiar to us all. This Penguin Classics edition includes an introduction, chronology, index of characters, plot summary, explanatory notes, maps, and suggestions for further reading.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:22 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Full of dreams, strange prophecies, sexual slander, violent power struggles and fragile peace settlements, Njal's Saga is a compelling chronicle of a fifty-year blood feud." "Written in the late thirteenth century, it is the most powerful and popular of the great Icelandic Family Sagas and teems with memorable and complex characters such as Gunnar of Hlidarendi, a great warrior with an aversion to killing, the Iago-like Mord Valgardsson, and the wise and prescient Njal himself. Alongside the heroism and prowess there is also blood spilt in acts of cowardice and cruelty. Despite its distance from us in time and place, Njal's Saga explores perennial human problems: from failed marriages to divided loyalties, from the law's inability to curb human passions to the terrible consequences when decent men and women are swept up in a tide of violence quite beyond their control."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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