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Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney

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3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  279 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Written around AD 1200 by an unnamed Icelandic author, the Orkneyinga Saga is an intriguing fusion of myth, legend and history. The only medieval chronicle to have Orkney as the central place of action, it tells of an era when the islands were still part of the Viking world, beginning with their conquest by the kings of Norway in the ninth century. The saga describes the s ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 30th 1981 by Penguin Classics (first published 1200)
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The Prose Edda by Snorri SturlusonEgil's Saga by AnonymousNjal's Saga by AnonymousThe Poetic Edda by UnknownThe Saga of the Volsungs by Anonymous
Old Norse-Icelandic literature
7th out of 139 books — 33 voters
Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëFrankenstein by Mary ShelleyThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre DumasWuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Penguin Classics
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Community Reviews

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Darrell
Orkneyinga Saga chronicles the history of Orkney during the Viking Age from the ninth to thirteenth century. Located between Scotland and Norway, the islands of Orkney were a base from which vikings looted and pillaged the British Isles. This saga focuses on the Earls of Orkney who sometimes ruled peacefully, but all too often fought amongst each other for control of the islands.

This book's accounts of various claimants to the throne killing each other and fighting over which gets to rule make y
...more
Terry
Fascinating, and wonderful before or after a visit to Orkney itself, with the connections to the place and its rich history. Like other readers, I found that it often was a recitation of a chronology of rulers struggling for control, punctuated with battles, enriched by stories of piety contrasted with lust, envy, greed, and gluttony. Definitely worth the effort, but not an easy read.

Duntay
I can't really rate this on it's readability - I'll be the first to admit there is no real plot and I have difficulty keeping all of the names straight.

But I started reading this in Orkney and it is given extra cache to know that Viking ships hid in the bay we could see from our window waiting to attack passing boats on the way to Caithness..

There are also some classic literary scenes - the post-mortem revenge of the Earl of the Scots on the cheating Earl Sigurd..poisoned cloaks and fatal banne
...more
Edward
Introduction

--Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney

Genealogy of the Earls of Orkney
Glossary of Personal Names
Glossary of Place Names
Maps
Jana
My copy of the Penguin Classic published in 1981 has a picture of a chessman in the form of a knight with big teeth and wild eyes. No wonder they called them Beserkers.

I read this as part of preparation for a trip to Orkney, Sept 2013, and anticipation heightened my interest. The short chapters and descriptive titles made it easy to read in short bits and at least remember the theme of what you read last.

I found the editorial apparatus, such as the Glossary of Personal Names and the Geneaology
...more
John
May 05, 2008 John rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Norse/Viking fans, Scottish history fans
Note: My copy is a different edition, judging from the cover.
Reading this, I was impressed by the viciousness with which the Orkney jarls and their warriors fought over what most would consider very uninviting real estate. At the same time, I noted that, as in the Icelandic sagas, those who were willing to make reasonable compromises and avoid bloodshed seemed to be respected by much local opinion, though this did not guarentee their survival. The best parts of this had a grim heroism that match
...more
Peter Milligan
Cool book. Read and visit Orkney!
M.J.
Now, you have to be in the right frame of mind to read this.

It is a terse narrative, rich in detail and names. It meanders along at it's own little pace and is a fascinating insight into a culture which thrived so long ago. The people in it feel real, a little twisted at times, but this is, after all, a story of people who lived possibly hundreds of years before the author was alive.

Read this if you love all things Viking and Norse or if you're interested in the history of early Scotland.
Cwn_annwn_13
The general concensus by many people is that the Vikings became instant pussies when they finally converted to Christianity. Well think again. This is an almost all post pagan epic and they are as bloodthirsty in this one as they are in any. Lots of inter family killings for the right to have domain over the Orkney Isles, lots of raiding, lots political skullduggery, everything you know and love about these Viking sagas.
Richard Thomas
A good early set of sagas well translated.
Shiloh (Fantastic Reading)
I didn't have to read the entire book for my dissertation, but what I did read was very interesting. Written by an Icelandic author about the cultural blending in the Orkney Isles, it's got quite the flavor to it. Very cool.
Annette
Extraordinary insight into Viking Life. Written in the 1200s by an Icelandic poet (skald). I am related to most of the Viking Earls of Orkney so reading this was an amazing experience.
Jess
One of my favourite of the ancient sagas...amazed me what these folks got up to and how far they travelled. Good old Snori Snorelsson was a firm favourite.
Jeff
Not a "good read," by any modern definition, but oddly exciting in some places and really interesting to discuss in the context of other sagas.
Summer
Jun 13, 2008 Summer marked it as to-read
This might be interesting. The only place that I can find where the same event is recorded in both Norse and Celtic mythology
Kio Stark
I am not sure this would get four stars in the abstract, but I read it in Orkney, and that changes everything. Viking drama.
Colin
A fine saga, mostly focused on the jarls of Orkney.
Kim Wilkins
Some good Viking gore among the politics
Amy
Feb 28, 2010 Amy added it
It's interesting to see how people lived in Iceland in the 11th century. The narrative is not particularly well-developed but you wouldn't really expect it to be. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who is curious about medieval European sagas.
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Books can be attributed to "Anonymous" for several reasons:

* They are officially published under that name
* They are traditional stories not attributed to a specific author
* They are religious texts not generally attributed to a specific author

Books whose authorship is merely uncertain should be attributed to Unknown.
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Holy Bible: King James Version The Arabian Nights Holy Bible: New International Version The Epic of Gilgamesh The Quran

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