Jolabokaflod

Christmas Book Flood | Recommending reading

The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki

Legend; K Hrolf; PCLegendary Saga

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 in 2016.

Synopsis

Composed in medieval Iceland, The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki is one of the greatest of all mythic-legendary sagas, relating half-fantastical events that were said to have occurred in fifth-century Denmark. It tells of the exploits of King Hrolf and of his famous champions, including Bodvar Bjarki, the ‘bear-warrior’: a powerful figure whose might and bear-like nature are inspired by the same legendary heritage as Beowulf.

Depicting a world of wizards, sorceresses and ‘berserker’ fighters – originally members of a cult of Odin – this is a compelling tale of ancient magic.

Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian traditions describe King Hrolf as a Danish Scylding, the nephew of Hroðgar and the grandson of Healfdene. The consensus view is that these accounts describe the same people. Whereas the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf and Widsith do not go further than treating his relationship with Hroðgar and their animosity with Froda and Ingeld, the Scandinavian sources expand on his life as the king at Lejre and on his relationship with Halga, Hroðgar’s brother. In Beowulf and Widsith, it is never explained how Hroðgar and Hroðulf are uncle and nephew, but in the Scandinavian tradition, Halga conceived Hroðulf by raping Yrsa, not knowing that she was his own daughter.

The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki is a work of timeless power and beauty, it offers both a treasury of Icelandic prose and a masterful gathering of epic, cultic memory, traditional folk tale and myths from the Viking age and far earlier.