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

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3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  245 ratings  ·  14 reviews
This is the story of the Orkneymen of Norwegian extraction who established an Earldom of Norway in the Northern Scottish Isles a thousand years ago, & whose descendants held sway over the Hebrides & Northern Mainland of Scotland for several centuries.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 30th 1981 by Penguin Classics (first published 1200)
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Old Norse-Icelandic literature
7th out of 138 books — 31 voters
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Norse Mythology
57th out of 133 books — 255 voters


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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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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