Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Eirik the Red

Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas, ed. Gwyn Jones

I've had this little old collection of sagas sitting on my bookshelf for years--longer than I had realized, in fact, since inside it I found a receipt from Black Oak Books (now sadly closed), dating from 1995.  I probably bought it on a date with the guy who is now my husband.  Like the Tolstoy  book I just read, it's an old hardbound Oxford World Classics title from the 1960s, very small and engaging, but with the price cut out of the book jacket.

This is a collection of  eight sagas about Icelandic people--mostly their feuds--and one "saga of times past."  The historical sagas are careful-sounding records that give lots of detail about exactly where farms were and just who owned them, and the stories contained in them all sound like the Hatfields and the McCoys.  A feud will start with something small and escalate very fast, until it all ends in someone's manor going up in flames with everyone inside it.  It's honestly kind of depressing.  But Eirik the Red does get a saga too, about how he settled Greenland and then people tried to live in Vinland, but the Skraelings were too tough and scary.  That's quite a good one, and "Gunnlaug Wormtongue" was interesting too.

I really much preferred the saga of times past, which was about King Hrolf and his champions.  Each champion got a story to himself, and then they all went to war and died gloriously, rather like Scandinavian knights of the Round Table.  These stories were more fantastic and featured enchantments and magic weapons and Odin in disguise--much more fun than dreary feuds.

2 comments:

Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

This is what I'm talking about. I say, let's read Icelandic sagas and folks say, okay, how about Haldor Laxness or a novel published three years ago.

That will be cryptic for anyone who has not looked at my latest blog post.

What I am trying to say is, I am happy to see you reading this. I should look for the King Hrolf cycle.

Jean said...

Yes, you should! King Hrolf was the best part. :)