Saga 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 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.
The saga is populated by memorable and complex characters like Njáll Thorgeirsson, a lawyer and sage, 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. Gunnar’s wife instigates a feud that leads to the death of many characters over several decades including the killing by fire of the eponymous ‘Burnt Njáll’.
The saga deals with this process of blood feuds in the Icelandic Commonwealth, showing how the requirements of honour could lead to minor slights spiralling into destructive and prolonged bloodshed. Insults where a character’s manhood is called into question are especially prominent. Another characteristic of the narrative is the presence of omens and prophetic dreams.
This Penguin Classics edition includes an introduction, chronology, index of characters, plot summary, explanatory notes, maps, and suggestions for further reading.