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Brennu-Njáls Saga (Hardcover)
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Brennu-Njáls Saga (Hardcover)

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  2,326 ratings  ·  172 reviews
"Full of dreams, strange prophecies, sexual slander, violent power struggles & fragile peace settlements, Njal's Saga is a compelling chronicle of a 50-year blood feud." Written in the late 13th century, it is the most powerful & popular of the great Icelandic Family Sagas & teems with memorable & complex characters such as Gunnar of Hlidarendi, a great war ...more
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published 1971 by Prentsmiðja Jóns Helgasonar Hf. (first published 1290)
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Lorelie Mansur no, this saga is by anon. Snorri Sturluson wrote the Prose Edda and Egils saga.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nikki
I really enjoyed this one. There's some likeable characters -- even from my soft-hearted modern point of view -- who I really got to care about, which isn't always the case with sagas. I was kind of sad when they went out of the saga. The translation is good, clear and easy to read, and there's helpful footnotes, a good introduction, and other helpful supplementary material. As with all sagas, there's an awful lot of names, but it's still pretty easy to follow.

I found some of it amusing in a som
...more
Andrew
It is one of the greatest crimes of recent literature that Penguin has replaced this -- one of the truly great English translations of any work by anyone -- with a horrendously execrable translation whose only distinguishing characteristic is that it was done more recently. Seek out Magnus Magnusson's translation (thankfully there are oodles and oodles of them second hand due to it being assigned in college courses for decades) at all costs.

This book is really in a class by itself. It might be a
...more
Abi
May 10, 2008 Abi rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those willing to branch out
One of the best sagas, without a doubt. Epic in scale, but still intensely human, the story of burnt-Njal is dramatic, moving and highly entertaining. The saga style takes some getting used to if you've never experienced it before. It is terse, to the point, characterisation and description is kept to a bare minimum, the plot races along at break-neck speed, there's a plethora of characters (a lot of whom have very similar names). It requires... concentration, and you'll almost certainly have to ...more
Duntay
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'
Larou
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 (The Sagas of Icelanders) - 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 o ...more
Tailers Tail
The original Kill Bill
Brandon Pearce
In the tradition of Icelandic sagas it is very violent and barbaric. Tons of fun in other words, and based on a true story by all accounts. Lots of modern law practice goes back to the people and principles described in this book. My favorite part is the vision of the Valkyries at the end. Delightfully macabre!
Hannah Notess
So engrossing that I missed my bus stop once while reading on the bus. I think that is a good sign.

Basically guys hack each other to pieces for 50 years until eventually the only two dudes left finally make peace. People who are all like "Oh our culture is so violent nowadays" should read this for a little perspective. Because a guy will be like "Where's so-and-so?" And another guy will be like "Oh, I severed his head." And the first guy will be like "Oh, that seems like something you'd do." And
...more
John Snow
I'm a hopeless reader. When I read a good book, I tend to read it over again – several times. As I write this review, I'm reading Njal's Saga for the second time in a row. The book is fantastic; it is the longest and probably the best of all the Old Icelandic family sagas. The thing is, I have read it before: three or four times in Norwegian and parts of it in the Old Icelandic language. These are the first times I read the saga in English.

Composed in the thirteenth century by an anonymous Icela
...more
Douglas Dalrymple
In the modern era most generations of most families tend to pass their time in unremarkable ways. We’re born. We go to school. We work. We marry and maybe have children or even grandchildren. Then we die. Along the way we move house two or three times and take up a hobby. You are likely to be disappointed in reviewing the list of your known ancestors if you want to discover evidence of blood feuds, rapine, piracy, and superior skills in hand-to-hand combat involving axes and halberds. If we’re t ...more
Brian Delaney
Viking family sagas are just as badass as they sound.
Briana
The storyline of Njal’s Saga can seem hopelessly complicated at first glance. The tales are based on historical events, so there are a number of people who play only minor roles, there are long lists of characters’ ancestries, and there are people who share the same name. However, just a little way into the book, the reader should be able to pick out and focus on the key characters with ease, and once he does, he will become wonderfully invested in their lives. The cast of Njal’s Saga is quite f ...more
Adam
On one hand it’s soap opera--often seedy, sometimes petty, and capitalizing on an interminable progression of taboo, jealousy, and revenge. And on the other hand the book is an incisive, monumental exploration of humanity’s tragic predicament. It would be too intimidating a project to count the number of times, in this saga, that we witness weddings, vengeance killings, and the negotiation of blood-money settlements. Yet the saga’s author uses these repetitions to build a foundation, a broad pla ...more
Shane
This was shockingly good. I had heard about this a year ago and attempted to read it, but found it boring and quickly moved on to something else. A year later I return and find it to be one of the greatest works of literature I have ever read. *shrug*

It's sort of silly at parts, like a norseman leaping over a river, landing on ice, sliding to a man and axing his head causing his molars to fly out, proceeding to slide across the ice block, past 12 armored men, and escape free. But it seriously is
...more
Chris
I really enjoyed this.
At some point, a researcher summed up the Icelandic Sagas in four words: "Farmers came to blows". This story was like that.Tthere is a blood feud that accounts for rounds of slayings. The surviving combatants then are required to pay indemnities at the annual Assembly, not that that resolves anything. There are still scores to settle. The climax comes when Njal's homestead is burned along with Njal, his wife and their sons. (A foster son escapes to continue the revenge). P
...more
Viky S. Deneault
I did not like the translation ( I wish names of people and places stayed in Icelandic).
This tale was sometimes hard to follow because there are many characters introduced, but complex stories are definitely interesting. It's a wonderful saga! The Middle Ages are often looked upon as being a very dark period, but the sagas prove that there is much more to this time period than one might expect. Great read if you are interested in Northern Europe's history. Certain characters travel a lot and you
...more
Jan-Maat
Often when thinking about the rise of the European novel there's a tendency to look to Cervantes or maybe back to "The Golden Ass". Yet longer sagas like Njal's saga seem to be very much like novels to me.

This is an amazing work. Partially based on fact and factual events such as the coming of Christianity to Iceland the saga traces a quarrel. As it gets out of hand and men reach for weapons calmer heads build settlements. However the causes of unhappiness cause the quarrel to break out repeated
...more
Annathelle26
It was an interesting read. Definately deeper, more complex and more intriguing than the Volsunga Saga which I had read before.

The good part was the rich and detailed presentation of the Norse way of life: their customs, their social structure, their beliefs, their everyday life and activities... and most of all, their legal procedures. All that was very interesting to learn about. Another good thing was the way the stories of the characters intertwined, the result being a web of complex long-t
...more
Edelweiss
For what I was expecting, this was a surprisingly interesting and intriguing saga. While I do not speak the original text's language, it did seem to have a good translation with an interesting story, and not merely smiting. Never fear, for there's plenty of smiting along with the court battle that literally end in a brawl. The women throughout seemed to have less variation than the men, as they were varying shades of spite, but the men seemed very realistic despite their high honor, frequent mur ...more
Bruce
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
...more
Jon
Somewhere in Iceland, sometime around the Christian conversion of the island, there were more heads than axes, and someone had to do something about it. A romp written in beautifully abrupt language.
Inga Ingvarsdóttir
Jun 27, 2007 Inga Ingvarsdóttir rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This story has captivated me like no other. It's hard to believe that it was written over seven hundred years ago because it's incredibly sophisticated in so many ways. And is even relevant today.
William
Museum literature, for sure. Not a trip to the beach, but it's good. I like it more than Beowulf or The Odyssey. The individual parts and pieces are goofy as hell and written as if by an idiot, but the whole thing pulls together in the end. It's almost like... it wraps up like a horror story. I specifically want to say a home-invasion film like Straw Dogs. Things just build and build and there's a big scene that gets a little crazy. Not bad, but, of course, nothing I'd really recommend to anyone ...more
Marie Østvold
I have to admit, I couldn't really follow it at times, because of all the names and familiy linages- but that doesn't mean anything. It's a very good read, and a must if you're interested in nordic history. It's a viking soapopera, with perspectives of loyalty, wars and family feuds, and an interesting courtsystem. Not to mention the introduction of Christianity, which I find to be one of the more interesting elements in the saga (also, because I can link it to what happended in Norway). In this ...more
Igor
This saga deserves much more to be written about then I'm in mood for but let's just say - get it and read it.
Joseph Jupille
I couldn't put this down. Wow. I am especially intrigued by the working of the law and its relationship to violence in 10th century Iceland. And I absolutely adore the unadorned prose. "They made for Thrain's men. Grim and Helgi singled out Hrapp and attacked him at once. Hrapp swung his axe at Grim, but Helgi, seeing this, hacked off Hrapp's arm. The axe fell to the ground. Hrapp said, 'What you have done certainly needed doing; that hand has brought harm and death to many.' 'This will put an e ...more
Stephen
Hands down one of the most-accessible and memorable of the Icelandic sagas.
Margrét
Aug 08, 2009 Margrét rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Iceland, patient people, people who like good sagas
This was the fourth Icelandic saga I've read, they've all been for school. I have also read Laxdæla, Hrafnkela and Gísla saga.

I read Njála in Icelandic, so I don't know anything about this translation. But the old-fashioned Icelandic can be really hard. I understand everything, but It's definitely not a fast read.

The thing I have noticed about the sagas is that they are really great - when I have finished them. They're not quite as fun while I'm still reading them, trying to force myself to cont
...more
Jemma
Sadly, this is one of the most disappointing books I've ever read. If only I'd read the introduction before purchasing, where the reviewer summed it up as "Icelanders fall to blows". This is possibly the most accurate pithy description of a book you might ever find because that is all it is about. Seriously, this Icelander kills or maims that one, so another kills and maims someone else and so it goes on... and on... and on... About the only people who could love this book would be Mafioso types ...more
Fellows
Njal's Saga was given to me as a birthday present at university by a friend who was studying Anglo-saxon and Nordic literature. Expecting that it might be heavy going I left it for several years... More fool I! The saga is interesting for many reasons. The portrayal of combat, humour and stoicism is unlike anything I have read before. On the page the words seem stark and unembelished ('he made a sweep with his sword and hit Thorkel on the neck, and the head flew off'), almost plain. In much mode ...more
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