Old Norse Literature discussion

King Harald's Saga

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message 1: by Joe (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:30PM) (new)

Joe | 3 comments The saga I've read beside's Egils saga is that of King Harald Hardradi. I thought it was great fun, but tragic that he lost to the Saxon's due to overconfidence. It is amazing that he paved the way for William the Conqueror (another Norwegian who just happened to speak French).

message 2: by Carl (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:33PM) (new)

Carl | 19 comments Mod
I'm not sure I've read KH's saga-- I tend to get a bit bored with King's sagas, but I think that's because the two I have the most experience with are the two Olafs, both of whom basically go around giving people two choices, to convert and become vassals or die, the entire saga. We've been stuck on these two in Saga club the entire time I've been there, and we've been doing St Olaf the entire time I've been secretary-- no wonder I want to quit! There's no way we'll get to anything else before I'm off somewhere else working or writing my diss, which is disappointing-- I'd like to think that Tolkien and the coalbiters read more exciting things. Still, there is a lot to learn from the King's sagas, and they certainly seem to have laid the foundation for the classical family sagas to some degree-- a short version would be that first there were saint's lives, which led to bishop's sagas in Iceland, that form being then adapted to King's sagas, the King's sagas containing significant amounts of narrative devoted to Icelandic characters, mostly skalds in the service of the king, then these skalds became important enough in their own right to lead to the Skald's sagas (which, if truly first, would have been the first of the family sagas, or rather, sagas of Icelanders), and then this was expanded to the classical family saga/saga of Icelanders as we know it, which are sometimes focused on one character in a biographical way, but are often more accurately described as being about protracted feuds centered around one or two kin-groups. Then of course we move into the legendary sagas and even plain old romances-- though my professor Carol Clover argues that much of the form of the classical prose saga is not unique to Iceland, but part of the larger phenomenon of Medieval prose romance all over Europe.
All that to say that I guess Kings sagas are alright-- but I need to read more of them outside Heimskringla (which is a late addition to the genre, though the collection most are familiar with).

message 3: by Joe (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:36PM) (new)

Joe | 3 comments Well, King Harald's saga seems much more entertaining than the Olafs, so I entreat you to give him a chance. I do believe it is in the Heimskringla, isn't it? If I remember correctly (cause it's been a few years) he is forced into exile as a young lad and visits is relatives in Russia (the Rus). He then spends a lot of time pillaging and conquering towns in the Mediterranean before being hired as a mercenary by the Byzantine Emperor. The saga goes into detail about all of Harald's clever schemes and strategies that he uses to capture towns and defeat more numerous foes (these were my favorite parts). Somehow he makes it back to Norway and becomes King (I don't remember much about that part) and eventually leads the fatal attack on King Harold of the Saxons. I love how the only reason they lost to the Saxons is because they were away from their boats without their armor (cause they didn't know the Saxons were about), but the battle was still close even though the Saxon pig-dogs had armor and were prepared. HA HA!

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

C. | 5 comments I have to say that I know at some point I've read all the King's sagas available in translation, but they've all sort of run together in my head. Hrolf Kraki has some wonderfully bizarre battles when the magical Lapp witches bring out some crazy monsters, and bits of Orkneyinga are interesting, but they tend to read a bit more like O.E. annals than my taste normally wants. There's a reason that when one refers to the "sagas" it's generally the íslindingur sögur that you think of.

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