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The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue

(Íslendingasögur/Sagas of Icelanders)

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3.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,540 ratings  ·  191 reviews
'In two I'll slice the hair-seat / of Helga's kiss-gulper'

In this epic tale from the Viking Age that ranges across Scandinavia and Viking Britain, two poets compete for the love of Helga the Fair - with fatal consequences.

Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classic
...more
Paperback, Little Black Classics, #03, 53 pages
Published February 26th 2015 by Penguin Classics (first published 1200)
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Average rating 3.19  · 
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 ·  1,540 ratings  ·  191 reviews


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Leonard Gaya
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is one small specimen of the vast Icelandic literature that flourished between the 10th and the 14th century AD. Vikings had been settling in Iceland since the 8th century, but literary production began after the Christianisation of the island (around 999). Between that time and the annexation by the Norwegian crown (in the late Middle Ages), Iceland enjoyed a sort of literary golden age: the age of the sagas —a term that means “tale”, “story”, “narrative”.

These sagas, for the most part, re
...more
Imogen Kathleen
Mar 15, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021, classics
Essentially an Icelandic mythology Rap Battle, this one was quite fun once you get past the barrage of names at the start.
I haven't read any Icelandic mythology before, but I did enjoy this so maybe I'll look into reading some more. The start with a million different names was, however, incredibly dull and confusing.
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Sean Barrs
When the reader has first adjusted himself to the torrent of names, so frequently dumped on his lap, he will begin to enjoy this short tale. There are many sons of great men that are mentioned constantly, but that is the style of the saga. Much weight is put on the deeds of one’s forbears, and to criticise the tale because of this is to ignore a tale that is worthy of merit in its own right.

description

The plot of the book is centred upon the rivalry of Gunnlaug and Hrafn. Gunnlaugh loves Helga and has so
...more
Darwin8u
"I'm ready to tread the isle
where combat is tried
- God grant the poet victory -
a drawn sword in my hand;
into two I'll slice the hair-seat
of Helga's kiss gulper;
finally, with my bright sword,
I'll unscrew his neck from his head."

- Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue

description

Vol 3 of my Penguin Little Black Classics Box Set. Think of this as an epic poet rap battle between two Icelandic Vikings. In one corner, you have DJ Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue, son of Illugi the Black, the son of Hallkel Hrosskelsson. In the other c
...more
Liz Janet
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
Does anyone know where exactly I can find a complete work of this? I have read many Viking texts, but that was so long ago that I barely recall any, particularly if it is a different translation, and since I enjoyed this one, I wish to read more. This is the story of a man from Iceland, of one rich family, that goes on a journey across the world before returning home to marry his betrothed, and in doing so, wherever he visits, he receives some poetry and receives favours in the form of jewelry a ...more
Marjolein
Read all my reviews on http://urlphantomhive.booklikes.com

The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue is the third of Penguin's Little Black Classics, and it is because of titles like this one that I picked up the series, as they represent the kind of books I would maybe not have read otherwise.

The story was quite enjoyable. A young Icelandic noble holds a gap-year (several in fact) traveling to the courts of Europe, where they all love his poetry and shower him with gifts. When he eventually returns
...more
Lea
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I did my BA in Scandinavian Studies/Northern European Studies and had several modules on medieval history as well as literature, so I'm no stranger to Icelandic sagas but I had not read this one before. I was however already used to the style they are written in and therefor not surprised by it. Sagas can seem rather clunky and tiresome at first and they take some time to get used to. It does seem counterintuitive to a good story to always have a character dream what will happen, as it takes awa ...more
Iza Brekilien
Reviewed for Books and livres

Congratulations, Gunnlaug, you earned my first 1 star review of the year ! Usually, I rate 2 stars a book that I was able to finish but didn't like, but this time, I had to rate it lower.

I was puzzled that it may happen because the book is roughly 50 pages long ! It took me a whole day to finish it ! I kept putting it down then forcing myself to take it back because hey, how hard can it be to read 50 pages in one day ?

One the whole, this Xth century saga was a macho
...more
Krystal
I had misgivings to start with because there's a whole bunch of hard-to-pronounce names (unless you're from that geographical region, I imagine) and sons- and fathers-of which is pretty hard to keep track of. But once our G starts out on his overseas adventure, it's actually a fun tale.

At first, I wasn't a huge fan of the guy. He seems a bit arrogant, but at the same time I liked that he was unafraid to go after what he wanted. I'm not entirely sure why he pissed off the first king but then was
...more
nora 🪐
Sep 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-read
I read this for school, and actually found it quite interesting. It's amazing how this was written in the middle ages. Honestly, it was a bit tough to get through because of all the name and family drops, but otherwise it was interesting to analyse and discuss this saga :D ...more
~Madison
Jan 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Suvi
On top of everything else, I'm participating in a saga course at uni, where we read four sagas during the two months and discuss generally about Icelandic sagas and their features. This type of introduction is priceless, because it helps to understand how and why sagas are an integral part of Iceland and its history (even today they influence Icelandic authors, and twenty years ago The Book of Icelanders was read as fact in elementary schools).

I somewhat grew to like the simplicity. William Morr
...more
Charles  van Buren
Charles van Buren

TOP 1000 REVIEWER

5.0 out of 5 stars

A relatively easy to read Icelandic saga.

March 21, 2019

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

This review is of the free Kindle Edition:
Publication date: May 11, 2012
Language: English
ASIN: B0082RAOCC

Many classical and modern writers have been inspired by the Icelandic Sagas. J.R.R. Tolkien and David Drake come to mind. If you want to sample them for yourself, this one is free from Amazon, relatively short and easy to read. Keep in mind that ea
...more
Shazia Noor
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
⚔️When one has finally settled himself to the flood of names, repeatedly poured on you , he will begin to enjoy this short saga. There are many sons of great men.
Book focuses on rivalry of Gunnlaug and Hrafn. Gunnlaug loves Helga and somehow get his father's permission for marriage.
But before marriage Gunnlaug decides to go on a voyage which, eventually, turns out to be a great opportunity for Hrafn to take down Gunnlaug's honour. A love triangle is made which ends in blood.
~
✨Entertaining stor
...more
Charles  van Buren
Charles van Buren

TOP 1000 REVIEWER

5.0 out of 5 stars

A relatively easy to read Icelandic saga.

March 21, 2019

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

This review is of the free Kindle Edition:
Publication date: May 11, 2012
Language: English
ASIN: B0082RAOCC

Many classical and modern writers have been inspired by the Icelandic Sagas. J.R.R. Tolkien and David Drake come to mind. If you want to sample them for yourself, this one is free from Amazon, relatively short and easy to read. Keep in mind that ea
...more
Elida (elidaleser)
Not my cup of tea, but okay.
Billy O'Callaghan
Dec 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Helga, the daughter of a nobleman, whose birth led to a prophesy that her beauty would cause men to kill for her, falls in love with Gunnlaug, a cocky young poet from a wealthy and honourable family, with a particular hunger for adventure. Her father is reluctant about the match, but eventually agrees to wait three years for Gunnlaug to travel the world before being free to marry Helga to someone else. But when the three years pass, a deal is struck with another poet, Gunnlaug's rival, Hrafn. He ...more
Daren
A short Icelandic saga. Follows the travels of Gunnlaug Serpent Tongue, as he travels from Iceland to various places, including England and Norway. He leaves betrothed to the lovely Helga by arrangement that he return in a set timeframe. He doesn't return in the agreed time, and events unfold from there. No more without spoilers I would think, it is a short book! ...more
Ανδρέας Μιχαηλίδης
This is a very interesting little book (50 pages in all), which illustrates a great number of things. It is purportedly a transcript of the saga (as told by priest Ari Thorgilsson the Learned) which begins with the birth of Helga the Fair, daughter of Thorstein Egilsson and the book mentions that among Egil's descendants there were many great people, including Snorri Sturluson, who wrote down the Eddas!

The story is basically the life's chronicle of two warrior-poets, Gunnlaug and Hrafn, as they
...more
Sofia
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was really impressed by how much I felt in this story unfortunately for me the end seemed told as if in a hurry...
Rikke
Quite humorous – though often unintended.
Laure
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Simply one of the best - if not the best - sagas I've ever read. ...more
Michelle Curie
Before I even say anything about this book, I have to admit to being an absolute sucker for anything even remotely related to Iceland. Since I have been learning the language and through that getting to know the culture better for about two years now, the sole prospect of reading this little saga already got me excited.

The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue was written down around 1270-1300, even though it would have circulated much earlier in oral form. It's the heroic story of two poets competin
...more
Adam
The Icelandic poet Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue contracts to marry Helga the Beautiful, but puts it off in favour of travelling around Scandinavia and the British Isles. He meets Sigtrygg Silkbeard of Ireland and becomes a follower King Æthelred the Unready as he prepares to fight off King Cnut and gets outlawed by a Norwegian earl for being too insulting with his poems. Anyways, Hrafn, a rival Icelandic poet, marries Helga, but she's not into it. So Gunnlaug starts a feud with Hrafn when they meet a ...more
Charles  van Buren
Charles van Buren

TOP 1000 REVIEWER

5.0 out of 5 stars

A relatively easy to read Icelandic saga.

March 21, 2019

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

This review is of the free Kindle Edition:
Publication date: May 11, 2012
Language: English
ASIN: B0082RAOCC

Many classical and modern writers have been inspired by the Icelandic Sagas. J.R.R. Tolkien and David Drake come to mind. If you want to sample them for yourself, this one is free from Amazon, relatively short and easy to read. Keep in mind that ea
...more
Mark Ryan
May 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
After getting used to the writing style I really enjoyed this story of personal growth and fighting over love and pride.

There is alot of family names and it can get confusing but I loved hearing about all the families and fjords.

Also there is an underlying humour which I think was unintended but came about through the translation
Rebecca Jane
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics-poetry
3.5 Stars.
I really liked this, although I'd like it better if I understood the language and the way the Icelandic people wrote.
...more
Emily
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Pretty interesting. This Viking-age epic was written down around 1270-1300, which is cool. It features a landscape of kings, goddesses and warrior-poets, which I loved. In that society, poetry and fighting prowess are equally prized, which is awesome -- writers for the win! -- and the poems throughout the book were quite lovely. Overall it was an interesting look at an old and brutal world.
Henrik Keeler
Sep 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: norse
This is a beautiful and short saga about a dramatic love triangle. Helga the fair is the granddaughter of Egil Skallagrimsson, the main character of the excellent Egil's Saga. When she is born, her father has a dream about a beautiful swan. The swan is accompanied by a dashing eagle, and they seem to revel in each other's company. When a second eagle flies in to the picture, the two eagles fight to their bloody death. At that point a falcon flies in to sit next to the swan, and they eventually f ...more
Lukas Sotola
A very good, quick read. Gunnlaug and Hrafn are both noble-born poets and bitter rivals for the hand of Helga, the beautiful, noble-born woman both men desire but who really loves Gunnlaug. The main plot of the story involves the two men’s mutual dislike and resulting duel stemming from an incident where Gunnlaug criticizes a poem that Hrafn composes—and their shared desire to marry Helga, of course.

The plot is fast-paced and Gunnlaug has a very strong personality, both of which kept me turning
...more
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Other books in the series

Íslendingasögur/Sagas of Icelanders (1 - 10 of 34 books)
  • Njal's Saga
  • Egil's Saga
  • Laxdæla Saga
  • The Saga of Grettir the Strong
  • Gísla Saga Súrssonar
  • Eyrbyggja Saga
  • Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas
  • Vatnsdæla saga
  • Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories
  • Greenland Saga

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