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Icelandic Sagas

Icelandic Histories and RomancesIcelandic Histories and Romances. The Icelandic sagas, composed between the twelfth and the nineteenth centuries, are one of the world's great literary treasures. After an extended and lively introduction to the genre, Ralph O'Connor provides new translations for five of the greatest of these sagas. We encounter a humble Icelandic scholar dreaming of a Viking past, a royal adventurer evading the horrible lusts of troll-women, a demon popping out of a lavatory, the death spasms of the old Northern gods and unnatural acts in Muslim Germany. The sagas are evocatively illustrated by Anne O'Connor.

Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas (Oxford World's Classics). Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas. The remote and inhospitable landscape of Iceland made it a perfect breeding-ground for heroes. The first Norsemen to colonize it in 860 found that the fight for survival demanded high courage and tough self reliance; it also nurtured a stern sense of duty and an uncompromising view of destiny. The Icelandic sagas relate the adventurous lives of individuals and families between 930 and 1030, which began as oral tales but were skilfully documented in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and are now regarded as written literature.

"Hrafnkel's Saga" and Other Icelandic Stories (Classics). Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories. Written around the thirteenth century AD by Icelandic monks, the seven tales collected here offer a combination of pagan elements tightly woven into the pattern of Christian ethics. They take as their subjects figures who are heroic, but do not fit into the mould of traditional heroes. Some stories concern characters in Iceland among them Hrafknel's Saga, in which a poor man's son is murdered by his powerful neighbour, and Thorstein the Staff-Struck, which describes an ageing warrior's struggle to settle into a peaceful rural community. Others focus on the adventures of Icelanders abroad, including the compelling Audun's Story, which depicts a farmhand's pilgrimage to Rome. These fascinating tales deal with powerful human emotions, suffering and dignity at a time of profound transition, when traditional ideals were gradually yielding to a more peaceful pastoral lifestyle.

The Saga of Grettir the Strong (Penguin Classics). Saga of Grettir the Strong. Composed at the end of the fourteenth century by an unknown author, The Saga of Grettir the Strong is one of the last great Icelandic sagas. It relates the tale of Grettir, an eleventh-century warrior struggling to hold on to the values of a heroic age becoming eclipsed by Christianity and a more pastoral lifestyle. Unable to settle into a community of farmers, Grettir becomes the aggressive scourge of both honest men and evil monsters, until, following a battle with the sinister ghost Glam, he is cursed to endure a life of tortured loneliness away from civilisation, fighting giants, trolls and berserks. A mesmerising combination of pagan ideals and Christian faith, this is a profoundly moving conclusion to the Golden Age of the saga writing.

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