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Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas

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Selected by Gwyn Jones--the eminent Celtic scholar--for their excellence and variety, these nine Icelandic sagas include "Hen-Thorir," "The Vapnfjord Men," "Thorstein Staff-Struck," "Hrafnkel the Priest of Frey," "Thidrandi whom the Goddesses Slew," "Authun and the Bear," "Gunnlaug Wormtongue," "King Hrolf and his Champions," and the title piece.


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Selected by Gwyn Jones--the eminent Celtic scholar--for their excellence and variety, these nine Icelandic sagas include "Hen-Thorir," "The Vapnfjord Men," "Thorstein Staff-Struck," "Hrafnkel the Priest of Frey," "Thidrandi whom the Goddesses Slew," "Authun and the Bear," "Gunnlaug Wormtongue," "King Hrolf and his Champions," and the title piece.

30 review for Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas

  1. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Ideiosepius

    This collection is best reviewed as individual stories, which is after all what they are. Some of the characters and places are in common between the individual sagas but from a reader point I feel they are discrete. Having read a few sagas I can say that the editors and translators are what make or break a collection and this editor does am amazing job. The introduction is almost as interesting as the sagas themselves and one can get so much out of it! Gwyn Jones brings the translation to life This collection is best reviewed as individual stories, which is after all what they are. Some of the characters and places are in common between the individual sagas but from a reader point I feel they are discrete. Having read a few sagas I can say that the editors and translators are what make or break a collection and this editor does am amazing job. The introduction is almost as interesting as the sagas themselves and one can get so much out of it! Gwyn Jones brings the translation to life eloquently and vividly, the beautiful turns of phrase make these sagas clear and almost contemporary in feeling. While I do not have the bloodthirst code of honour of the Icelanders in the stories, the fact that they have a code and that it is deeply important to them, even when problematic to live by, is clear in every saga. I won’t review all the stories, but I will say that the one I had most looked forward to, The Vapnfjord Men, was the one I found most problematic. It is quite long with too many people and circumstances and places to easily keep straight in my head. There was a lot or re-reading as I tried to create a linear picture of something that quite clearly should have been a spoken word experience. I hope one day I get to hear it told, rather than reading it. Also, has this ever been a movie or Teeve series? If not why on earth not? It would be spectacularly brilliant in that medium. I adored the fun storytelling of Authun and the Bear, Eirik The Red (so different from the children’s book I loved as a child, but even better) and Thorstein Staff-Struck.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    Read this for Myth & Saga. It's a little difficult to understand the sagas, at first. The names are all unfamiliar and often sound the same (lots of Thorsomethings), and the placenames are all odd, and I don't know the background history and context of them as well as I'd like. This translation seems relatively clear, though, and aside from the confusing names, it's easy to read. The history you get glimpses of, the Viking encounters with Native Americans, is interesting -- I think I knew a Read this for Myth & Saga. It's a little difficult to understand the sagas, at first. The names are all unfamiliar and often sound the same (lots of Thorsomethings), and the placenames are all odd, and I don't know the background history and context of them as well as I'd like. This translation seems relatively clear, though, and aside from the confusing names, it's easy to read. The history you get glimpses of, the Viking encounters with Native Americans, is interesting -- I think I knew a bit about it before, but it's interesting to actually read literature about those encounters. Probably, since I'm studying it, I should reread the relevant sagas soon, to get a better grip on them. When I do, since I'll have more experience with reading sagas by then, and I'll have been to all the lectures, I might add something to this review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    Some of the sagas in this collection really wouldn't have been out of place in Tolkein's Unfinished Tales. They read very much like rough early drafts of tales from Middle Earth. The first few sagas drag somewhat. They mostly consist of vast genealogies (though apparently the translator Gwyn Jones removed some of the extraneous family-tree parts) and then a drawn out blood feud wherein two families will take it in turns avenging some crime that has long since been forgotten. Amongst these is Eirik Some of the sagas in this collection really wouldn't have been out of place in Tolkein's Unfinished Tales. They read very much like rough early drafts of tales from Middle Earth. The first few sagas drag somewhat. They mostly consist of vast genealogies (though apparently the translator Gwyn Jones removed some of the extraneous family-tree parts) and then a drawn out blood feud wherein two families will take it in turns avenging some crime that has long since been forgotten. Amongst these is Eirik the Red, a saga famous for recording the settling of Greenland and an Icelandic expedition to North America; it's also a pretty good read. The best saga is saved till last. King Hrolf and his Champions is by far the longest tale in the collection — albeit still only a hundred pages or so. But this is ample time to actually get involved in the story and allow it to build to a fine climax. The final battle in this saga that closes the book is both suitably epic in scale and surprisingly moving. A fine book overall.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Kay Silva

    I was not impressed with the translator. Of course since this was the only translation I was able to find, its hard to say if its entirely the translators fault or the fault of the work itself. I just was not very impressed with the language use in this collection, it lacked any poetic quality (even the short snippets of verse seemed to lack a poetic feel). I think that at least a couple of these stories were very memorable, King Hrolf standing out significantly here. The first story was I was not impressed with the translator. Of course since this was the only translation I was able to find, its hard to say if its entirely the translators fault or the fault of the work itself. I just was not very impressed with the language use in this collection, it lacked any poetic quality (even the short snippets of verse seemed to lack a poetic feel). I think that at least a couple of these stories were very memorable, King Hrolf standing out significantly here. The first story was terrible. Such petty squabbles, and simple minded concerns were difficult to relate to. Perhaps these types of feuds were in fact the main concerns of peasants in this sort of environment, who am I to say? If it was I can't say it makes for terribly interesting literature. The latter stories in this collection were more interesting by far.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    This collection tells the tales of the mortal men of Iceland and the surrounding areas showing how the culture and communities of the time valued their ancestry and their honour above all is. The sagas are a engrossing collection of blood-feuds, chivarly, honour and revenge and, once you get past all the similar sounding names and the same characters coming up in a few different places, they are surprisingly readable. These sagas also deal with the discovery of America by the Icelandic people This collection tells the tales of the mortal men of Iceland and the surrounding areas showing how the culture and communities of the time valued their ancestry and their honour above all is. The sagas are a engrossing collection of blood-feuds, chivarly, honour and revenge and, once you get past all the similar sounding names and the same characters coming up in a few different places, they are surprisingly readable. These sagas also deal with the discovery of America by the Icelandic people and of the introduction of Christianity and how this changed the culture and religion of the Icelandic communities. Overall an interesting and engrossing collection that is well translated and accessible to any reader whether they have a previous knowledge of the Icelandic culture or not

  6. 4 out of 5

    Billy Roper

    Yes, it's 'Eirik', not 'Eric', or close enough, in modern English. I wrote about him in my "Glome's Saga" book, one of the more memorable Viking era characters and a great pitch-man. Want new settlers to come to a place, sight unseen? Call it "Greenland", even if it isn't, so much. Of course his son Leif, considered lucky, helped popularize the re-discovery an exploration of Vinland. His daughter might have been the toughest of the bunch, though, and the meanest.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Douglas

    Wonderfully entertaining...and even a bit mysterious because in one of the stories written over 1,000 years ago the writer describes with a high degree of accuracy the northeast coast of North America including what seems to be present-day Massachusetts!

  8. 4 out of 5

    David

    Never met an Icelandic saga i didn't like and this is no exception. Entertaining and enlightening to the culture of the time.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    If you like Tolkien, dig deeper.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    As the Gen Y would say, "Lit AF." Horse thieves, shady real estate developers, in/famous kings, water, boats, helmets, and so on. So good. End tales move towards true-ish-not-true-at-all-come-on. But undead battle!!!!! Language proves fair well challenging at times. Sometimes a street battle passage at a time. In other cases, the whole darn tale. Suspect on the part of multiple authors across a span of time since the translation is singularly perform. By nameplate, at least. If you're ready to take As the Gen Y would say, "Lit AF." Horse thieves, shady real estate developers, in/famous kings, water, boats, helmets, and so on. So good. End tales move towards true-ish-not-true-at-all-come-on. But undead battle!!!!! Language proves fair well challenging at times. Sometimes a street battle passage at a time. In other cases, the whole darn tale. Suspect on the part of multiple authors across a span of time since the translation is singularly perform. By nameplate, at least. If you're ready to take your reading game to the next level then step up on it!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Larry Shackley

    Read this as a follow-up to a video course on great discoveries. The "Eirik" section is fairly short; most of these sagas are hard to follow and/or boring.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Claire Martin

    Brilliant insight into human nature I will reread this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Clare Walker

    All right, I couldn’t be bothered finishing it when I left norway. It’s ok. Might pick it up again one day when I’m in the region.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Heather Forensky

    I like learning more about some vikings. Erik is one of them

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    A collection of sagas covering roughly the tenth and eleventh centuries, written down in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, these stories range from an account of the Norse discovery of North America to the various feuds that are said to have taken place between different families. The later sagas also cover the conversion of the Icelandic and Norse peoples to Christianity although this is given little more than a brief mention. Tales have inevitably been exaggerated in the telling - what A collection of sagas covering roughly the tenth and eleventh centuries, written down in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, these stories range from an account of the Norse discovery of North America to the various feuds that are said to have taken place between different families. The later sagas also cover the conversion of the Icelandic and Norse peoples to Christianity although this is given little more than a brief mention. Tales have inevitably been exaggerated in the telling - what may have started off as historical accounts have been embellished with the sort of monsters and magic that have inspired the works of later writers. Fans of fantasy writers such as Tolkien will clearly be able to see parallels - such as the man cursed to spend half his time as a bear. I found it difficult at times to keep up with the family trees and who was related to whom - some of the names are very similar and while it may have been interesting for the story-tellers and writers (and their audiences) to explain everyone's lineage in great detail, it's headache-inducing for a modern reader. The stories highlight the sort of values that Icelanders and Norse people of that era were supposed to hold - although the focus is mainly on male heroes here and little attention is given to women except to describe how beautiful they were and/or how many children they produced (and on odd the occasion where we do see a woman in power, she is usually portrayed as evil!). Again, while it shows us what people's priorities and attitudes were in the 10th-11th centuries, it's frustrating for a modern reader to keep coming across the same cliched depictions - I'm sure they must have already been cliches 1000 years ago. Overall a reasonable read with some interesting historical elements, but you can clearly see where the story-tellers used certain formulas when composing/reciting their tales which makes them repetitive in a collection like this one.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Darth

    Certainly chock full of classic from +/- 1000 years ago. A few were a little hard for me to get through - they seemed more focused on telling confusing lineages of similarly named people only vaguely connected to the story. Almost biblical in those points. On the whole though, rollicking good times were had reading about the Scandahoovians and Icelanders - especially the ones telling of going to the new world hundred of years ahead of that other fellow who gets all the credit in popular culture.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Robert Giambo

    In the end this was tough reading. It was interesting to see a whole bunch of old stories that basically had no supernatural or magical elements - just stories about real people. Of course, the real people were always fighting and killing each other. However, the stories at times were difficult to follow because there were just too many characters introduced as relations to the central characters.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Fascinating stuff, and particularly enjoyed reading the tales of Eirik the Red arriving in Greenland and the north west coast of America a millenium ago. In many of the stories people seem to travel between Sweden, England, Iceland, Ireland, Orkney Isles, etc at the drop of a hat, as you clearly do. Some other tales included here tend towards complicated family tree and wedding match stories.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I tried to read this and couldn't get past all of the names.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    A fascinating contemporary account of the Norse in North America including tantalizing glimpses of the indigenous peoples encountered.

  21. 4 out of 5

    John Robinson

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stacy Kidd

  23. 4 out of 5

    Arith Härger

  24. 5 out of 5

    Raymond Walker

  25. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  26. 4 out of 5

    Julian Jenkinson

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sonali

  29. 5 out of 5

    Teleri

  30. 4 out of 5

    Finn

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