Christmas Book Flood | Recommending reading

Hrafnkel’s Saga

Ice; Hrafnkel's; PCSaga of Icelanders

This book is included in The Icelanders Cometh crowdfunding campaign run by the Jolabokaflod Book Campaign to raise money for UK libraries to spend on titles translated into English by Icelandic authors to mark World Book Night and UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day.


Written around the thirteenth century AD by Icelandic monks, the seven tales collected in Hrafnkel’s Saga and Other Stories offer a combination of pagan elements tightly woven into the pattern of Christian ethics. They take as their subjects figures who are heroic, but do not fit into the mould of traditional heroes.

Some stories concern characters in Iceland – among them ‘Hrafknel’s Saga’, in which a poor man’s son is murdered by his powerful neighbour, and ‘Thorstein the Staff-Struck’, which describes an ageing warrior’s struggle to settle into a peaceful rural community.

Others focus on the adventures of Icelanders abroad, including the compelling ‘Audun’s Story’, which depicts a farmhand’s pilgrimage to Rome.

These fascinating tales deal with powerful human emotions, suffering and dignity at a time of profound transition, when traditional ideals were gradually yielding to a more peaceful pastoral lifestyle.