Monday, December 17, 2007

No. 1 (for 2008), No. 49 (for 2007) - Njal's Saga

translated by Lee M. Hollander

Started: December 17, 2007
Finished: January 16, 2008

Notes: I've had this one a while and been meaning to get to it, so here goes. This is the first saga of Iceland I've gotten into, and one reason I'm interested in it is because one of my characters (Belgad) comes from a somewhat similar background. So, here's to learning new things.

Mini review: Boy, am I glad to be done with this one. Honestly, I think I skimmed through the last hundred pages as fast as I could. There's a lot of intersting information here, but the stories are soooooooo repetitive. There's only so many tales about feuding Icelanders I can read before they all start sounding the same. And there's not as much sword fighting as you might think. There's some, but a lot of times it was just plain old murder. And then there are lawsuits upon lawsuits. Basically, as far as I can tell, a man could kill another man as long as it was during the day and the victim sort of knew the attack was coming, and it would only be considered manslaughter at worst; then, the murdered guy's family could sue the killer, and once the money was paid, usually everything was fine and everyone went on with their lives. The few times this didn't work was when the long family feuds started. To be fair, though, I'm thinking Icelandic doesn't translate well into English, and I'm not sure this translation was very good because it seemed extremely modern in some places. I might give another saga a try, but I'd probably be tempted to go with a different translator for variety's sake if nothing else.


Howard von Darkmoor said...

and that's a very cool reason to read it then, Ty! I picked up a hardcover anthology of Scandinavian folk and fairy tales and it covers that whole region of the world, about 500 pages of that fine print they used in olden days :)

Ty Johnston said...

I'm already finding of interest the differences between this Icelandic world and Belgad's homeland of Dartague. The Iceland as portrayed in this saga would have been more akin to Dartague a few hundred years before Belgad's time. There's also the philosophical differences. Though he has a temper and his upbringing sometimes temporarily gets the best of him, Belgad isn't one to believe in the feud (a major topic in Njal's Saga); to Belgad, feuding is stupid. Killing over anger and honor is simply a waste of time and resources, in Belgad's opinion. Killing for money and power, on the other hand ...