Old Norse Literature discussion

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Favorite Family saga(s)

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message 1: by Carl (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:27PM) (new)

Carl | 19 comments Mod
I'm going to gamble that other people will join this group, so I'm starting a discussion. What is your favorite family saga? If you can't limit it to one, try for two or three.
I would have to say Gisla saga, with Grettla and Egla (Grettis saga and Egils saga) coming in close behind.


message 2: by Joe (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:27PM) (new)

Joe | 3 comments Well so far I've only read Egils Saga, but I hope to have more input in the future. I love the conflict between the wild old vikings who don't take any crap (dishonor) from anyone and the new monarchs who are trying to crash their party.


message 3: by Carl (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:27PM) (new)

Carl | 19 comments Mod
Yeah, Egil's pretty awesome-- though he's kinda unique in the sagas (though I think most are agreed that Egils saga is one of the earliest, so that may explain why it is different). I think it is the only saga where the protagonist is unabashedly refered to as a viking, with that identity even being celebrated-- back then viking really just meant "pirate", and in the sagas is almost exclusively used to refer to someone else-- for example, if the protagonist is out raiding small coastal villages for the summer he is said to be "out on a viking voyage", or "viking" the abstract feminine noun, but he is not called a "vikingr", a viking-- however, if he is attacked by others in ships, the attackers are refered to as "vikingar", vikings, or if he attacks some other pirates, they are vikings, but he is not typically called by that name. Different in Egla, where he kills a boy when he is only 6 or so, and his mother tells him he will make a good viking! And of course there is the scene where he throws up on his host, who was trying to get him drunk, and then composes a poem-- and that I can write so much on that it's going to be in my dissertation!


message 4: by Christopher (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:36PM) (new)

Christopher | 5 comments Throws up on his host? What about cutting of the guys head and vommiting down his throat? Yes, for pure shock value, it's hard to lose with 'ol Skalagrimsson.

My favorite saga -- no, one of my favorite works of literature ever -- is Bennu Njals Saga (just "Njal's Saga" in most translations). It was the work that first drew me to Old Norse literature, and I'm constantly forcing it on friends. The typically terse Icelandic descriptions, Njal's calm acceptance of his fate, the moment when Gunnar decides he will not leave to go into exile: "Fögur er hlíðin svo að mér hefir hún aldrei jafnfögur synst, bleikir akrar en slegin tún, og mun eg ríða heim aftur og fara hvergi" (roughly: "The hillside looks more beautiful to me than it ever has before - the pale light falling on the wheat fields - I will ride back home and never leave again"). When I lived for Iceland for a year, I forced my friends to drive down to Bergþorakvold so I could look out at the empty field where the saga supposedly took place -- they thought I was nuts, but I still keep a picture on my desk.

After Njala, I would have to go with Laxdæla, then Gisli. I have a soft sport for Hrafnkels, but only because it was the first Old Norse I ever translated, and I have fond memories of struggling with Donke's dictionary and Gordan's "Introduction."


message 5: by Carl (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:38PM) (new)

Carl | 19 comments Mod
Brennu-Njals saga is what got one of my professors into the field as well-- Carol Clover. I think she was actually doing something like math or physics before that-- I can't remember exactly. Hrafnkels saga is also a fun one, and of course one that everyone reads in Gordon-- though I think at least one of my professors is sick of it by now. For those who don't read Norse, one of the collections you can find it in is Erik the Red and Other Sagas-- which also has Gunnlaug Wormtongue (Gunnlaugs saga Ormtongu), Hen-Thorir (Hoensathoris saga-- sorry, I'm not in the mood to find the Icelandic characters at the moment) and King Hrolf and his Champions (the fornaldursaga/legendary saga, I think named Hrolfs saga kraka ok kappa hans, or something like that).


message 6: by Shigi (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:39PM) (new)

Shigi | 1 comments I'm also a fan of Egil's and Njal's, though really, it's been a long time since I've read any of them. And Professor Clover is awesome - had her as a prof in undergrad. A great, great lady.


message 7: by Carl (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:39PM) (new)

Carl | 19 comments Mod
She is awesome-- theoretically she is "retiring", but I think that was just to get out of all those committees they kept putting her on-- she's still around so far, which is handy as I really want her input on my dissertation.


message 8: by Abi (new)

Abi | 12 comments My favourite is probably Laxdaela Saga, but Brennu Njal is close behind. Gunnar of Hliđarendi is one of the best characters in literature of all time.


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