Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories
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Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  317 ratings  ·  21 reviews
They date from the thirteenth century and fall into two distinct groups. Hrafnkel's Saga, Thorstein the Staff-Struck, and Ale Hood are set in the pastoral society of native Iceland, the homely touch and stark realism giving the incidents a strong feeling of immediacy.

The remaining four -Hreidar the Fool, Halldor Sorrason, Audun´s Story, and Ivar´s Story- were written witho...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published 1976 by Penguin Classics (first published 1971)
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12th out of 139 books — 31 voters

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Community Reviews

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Hrafnkel is a saga writ small, but with all the propelling blunt force of its lengthier cousins. This simple story told in starkly realistic prose draws a vivid picture of tenth-century Iceland: snow-capped mountains, mires, and grassy slopes dotted with the homesteads of tetchy farmers, who hold honor more dear than life. The story begins with a murder of a poor peasant, who yielded to the temptation to ride his master’s sacrosanct horse. From this grim beginning, the saga branches into a swift...more
I have not actually read this whole book, I just read Hraknkel's Saga in the larger collection of Icelandic Sagas I am going through and wanted a venue to review it on its own. This is a much shorter tale than Egil's Saga, which I read a few weeks ago, and probably much more accessible for that. If Egil's is a novel, then Hrafnkel's is a short story and all the better for it. Told with an economy of information that makes the material timeless and appealingly opaque, this is one of the best piec...more
Back in my teens (during the 1980s) I collected Penguin Classics. I bought a dozen Viking Sagas but never got round to reading any of them. At long last I've decided to remedy the situation and this is the first of them. *Hrafnkel's saga* is one of the shortest major sagas but it's a remarkable work... nonetheless, one of the first examples of "realism" in world literature, though it's a curiously alien realism by modern standards... This book contains six other stories dating from the 13th Cent...more
Matt Poland
A good, short introduction to Icelandic sagas. The stories, especially "Thorstein the Staff-Struck," emblematize those things that are so good about the sagas: the collocation of Christian and pagan ideas (and the tension between them), clear-eyed realism and seriousness of tone, and wry humor. I would argue that anyone who grew up in a rural area, in Iceland or elsewhere, will recognize these hard-headed people, and feel at least somewhat welcome in their community.
Wow. These Icelandic Sagas are so much more fun to read than I would have guessed. I'm looking forward to finding and reading more of them.
The stories in this collection of Icelandic sagas date from the 13th century but take place centuries before that. They're fascinating! I expected Homeric but they're a little more...homey. They're full of characters named Thord and Thorarin, Thorhall and Thorvald (many of whom have bad tempers and handy weapons), and tell of fights among relatives, lawsuits, drinking contests, and staged horse fights. I liked the flawed characters, and I liked that some of them grew and changed while others did...more
Travis Ferber
An interesting book for its insight into the world of medieval Iceland. This was a world from whence our judicial system was derived, yet despite these laws the ultimate arbiter of any issue was force in Iceland. From a cultural perspective, the issues and concerns of the characters in the sagas were very similar to our modern day concerns. However, the jilted nature of the linear narrative, plodding along often to anticlimactic ends could be a bit perturbing. It left me thinking how unfortunate...more
The title story is much more consciously literary than the other stories in this short collection. It's a tale of broken oaths, murder, revenge, legal drama and redemption in medieval Iceland.

Several of the other stories have similar themes but have a somewhat different tone, being more like a cross between a short biography of an individual and the anecdotes about him that would get told down the pub on a long winter's night.

The latter-most stories take a wider look at the Norse world as they t...more
Mar 28, 2007 Tynan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: badasses
Hrafnkel's Saga (pronounced roughly like "Hrapket's Saga") is a very rare work indeed, focusing on the average Old Icelandic farmer rather than the heroes, kings, and poets of the day. It's pretty good to boot. The eponymous hero even strings up a group of men through holes he pokes between their achilles tendons and heel bones.

The Other Icelandic Stories are the real gems, though. They range from cutesy to tragic and are just good fun reads, some of them almost mini-sagas.

I would suggest this b...more
John Jackson
Very good stories! It is always nice to see legends and stories of another country and just how similar they are to our own.
I really enjoyed this short book. The stories in it are interesting without having any sort of pretense or grandeur.

They're not cautionary tales, or epics involving heroic acts, but much more mundane. They are stories of people, albeit odd people, and stories of Iceland. A great window into the laws of the time and the attitude of he people.
Thoroughly enjoyable
An interesting work on the tales of Iceland. It helps if you know who a few historical characters are, especially Harold the Ruthless and his war with Denmark. He comes up frequently. Now, if you’re looking for dragons and elves, this is not the place. These stories read a lot more like the Wild West.
Jason Freeze
Nice collection of short stories, all of them with a morality component. Unfortunately, the style of the Nordic sagas makes these brief narratives less enjoyable in my opinion as the bulk of the tale revolves around heritage and ancestry. Worth the time if you enjoy this style of writing though.

It's like the Godfather, except with families of Vikings. Having never read any sagas before this one, I have to say I was quite pleasantly surprised. A lot more politics involved than you'd expect.
An interesting collection of 7 stories, some pretty good (Hrafnkel's Saga is very good), others somewhat boring (like Ivar's Story). Worth reading, but not the best sagas, by any means . . .
Heather Clitheroe
The sagas seem to involve a number of men killing each other in fits of foolish anger, but they are quite amusing. A good, readable translation.
As someone with a legal background, I really enjoyed the descriptions of the Althing and other legal proceedings.
Ellis L.
May 18, 2012 Ellis L. added it
Shelves: history
Stark Nordic tales. A browse through the name index will show you where Tolkien snagged at least some of his names.
Aug 11, 2007 Brad rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: epic
Seven thirteenth century examples of starkly realistic Icelandic fiction.
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