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The Complete Sagas of Icelanders Including 49 Tales: Five Volume Set in a Presentation Box [Hardcover]

Vidar Hreinsson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

10 Aug 1997
The Sagas of Icelanders are forty narratives of adventure and conflict, set in the Viking Age but written down in the vernacular by anonymous authors in Iceland several hundred years later, during the 13th and 14th centuries.

Their action spans the whole world known to the Vikings, but the stories mainly centre on the unique society they founded in Iceland, depicting the men and women who settled there and their descendants.

For sheer narrative artistry and skill of characterisation, the finest Sagas rank with the world’s greatest literary treasures – as epic as Homer, as deep in tragedy as Sophocles, as engagingly human as Shakespeare. The Sagas of Icelanders form a unique literary genre
and have served as a source of inspiration for many outstanding writers of later times – such diverse authors as Walter Scott, Jorge Luis Borges and W. H. Auden.

Deeply rooted in the real world of their day, concise and
straightforward in style, the Sagas explore perennial human problems and conflicts: love and hate, fate and freedom, honour and feud, crime and punishment, travel and exile. In saga narrative we may identify the budding of a literary technique that, centuries later, would develop into the great European novel. While steeped in the spirit of Viking Age oral tradition, the Sagas tell of the lives and deeds of Icelanders during the decades immediately before and after the year
1000, when they abandoned the Germanic gods such as Odin and Thor and adopted Christianity. In this period, too, Icelanders ventured farther westwards, to explore and settle Greenland; the culmination of
this venture was Leif Eiriksson’s voyage to North America.

Despite their traditional origins, the Sagas are first and foremost works of consciously created literary art. They are also, in a sense, frontier literature, in which the descendants of settlers reflect on their origins, identity, legends and myths, whilst grappling with troublesome
contemporary realities, not least a 13th century civil war. For the saga writers, the settlement period was something of a Golden Age, the era of a unique commonwealth of free chieftains with no king, dominated by Viking traditions of honour and blood vengeance.

The Sagas of Icelanders are not typical heroic literature, but rather stories of flesh-and-blood humans burdened with a heroic legacy. These were steely-minded men and domineering women in search of worldly wealth and power, fame and love. Typically, a feud could start with a minor slight to a man’s honour and escalate into a chain of revenge and counter-revenge, culminating in a major battle or in the heroic death of a great champion. For the modern Saga reader, it is the psychological intensity and depth of the characters as much as the codes of honour and ethics which capture the imagination. And though strong men dominate the Saga stage, it is often clever and beautiful women who manipulate the course of events behind the scenes and outspokenly voice their opinions on the players involved in it.

The horizons of the Saga writers extended to the limits of the Viking world: westward to Greenland and Vinland, east to Russia and north to Lapland, south and east to Constantinople and Jerusalem Icelanders and other Vikings sailed to the shores of Ireland, upriver to the cities of Rouen and London, all along the Baltic coast Everywhere we see that the world lies at the feet of Saga heroes: witty poets become the companions of kings and earls, fierce and successful fighters never lack the attentions of noble ladies. But though these champions reign victorious on foreign shores they almost always turn their backs on the honours heaped upon them, in order to return home to their Icelandic farms nestled under towering mountains in lonely fjords and valleys.

If the Sagas can be compared to novels, the Tales are the medieval equivalent of short stories. Their narrative may have a smaller scale but there is no loss of dramatic force, humour or deftness of character portrayal. Preserved either as independent narratives or as parts of larger works, most Tales tell of young Icelanders journeying abroad where they have a variety of encounters with men of power and influence. Their journeys represent a kind of rite of passage which tests the mettle of a potential hero. Tales range from brief anecdotes, sketched with a few masterful narrative strokes and terse dialogue, to light-hearted comedies in which royalty is gently mocked.

In The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, the Sagas and Tales have been grouped on broad thematic principles and divided accordingly among the five volumes of the set. Although overlapping is inevitable in a genre of such diversity, a central distinction can be established between Biographies and Sagas of Feuds. The Biographies tell of exceptional individuals – poets, outlaws and champions – and the stories spotlight these "odd men out" as they pit their strength against a society they stand out from and defy. At the heart of the Sagas of Feuds are wealth, power, regional status and the inevitable conflicts that result from life in a singular society which sets its own laws and metes out a hard justice. Each of the five volumes, then, is thematically self-contained and offers a particular angle of approach
for exploring and navigating the vast and fascinating world of the Sagas.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 2313 pages
  • Publisher: Leifur Eiriksson Publishing Ltd (10 Aug 1997)
  • ISBN-10: 9979929308
  • ISBN-13: 978-9979929307
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,979,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"...I should warn you that they are addictive – ... it's hard to go past The Complete Sagas." -- Danny Yee's Book Reviews, 2001

"At the end of Volume Five the reader leaves an intensely-imagined world, comparable in realistic effect with Hardy or Dickens." -- The Times Literary Supplement, 34.6.1998

"Collectively, the sagas of Icelanders provide a window to history and culture that is unique..." -- Speculum - A Journal of Medieval Studies, Oct. 1998

"TCSI" presents fresh, new, highly readable versions. ...regarded as the most "modern" works of medieval European literature" -- The Denver Post, April 29, 2001

...the recent publication in English translations of the Complete Sagas of Icelanders(...), erects a milestone on the international publishing scene. -- The New York Review of Books, December 20, 2001

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format:Hardcover
I'm sure the publishers won't object to me simply copying their original press release here. I bought this set several years ago and can vouch for every word of this:

"The Sagas of Icelanders are forty narratives of adventure and conflict, set in the Viking Age but written down in the vernacular by anonymous authors in Iceland several hundred years later, during the 13th and 14th centuries. Their action spans the whole world known to the Vikings, but the stories mainly center on the unique society they founded in Icleand, depicting the men and women who settled there and their descendants. For sheer narrative artistry and skill of characterization, the fiest Sagas rank with the world's greatest literary treasures--as epic as Homer, as deep in tragedy as Sophocles, as engagingly human as Shakespeare. The Sagas of the Icelanders form a unique literary genre and have served as a source of inspiration for many outstanding writers of later times--such diverse authors as Walter Scott, Jorge Lius Borges and W.H. Auden.

"Deeply rooted in the real world of their day, concise and straightforward in style, the Sagas explore perennial human problems and conflucts: love and hate, fate and freedom, honor and feud, crime and punishment, travel and exile. In saga narrative we may identify the budding of a literary technique that, centuries later, would develop into the great European novel. While steeped in the spirit of Viking age oral tradition, the Sagas tell of the lives and deeds of Icelanders during the decades immediately before and after the year 1000, when they abandoned the Germanic gods such as Odin and Thor and adopted Christianity.
Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You must get this if you are serious about sagas 1 Jan 2002
By Jadepearl - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This set though steep in cost is worth every dime. All of the Icelandic family sagas are found here translated into English. Why does it get 4 stars? Well, first it does not include the Bishop sagas (biskopsogur), King Sagas (Konungsogure) nor the Knight sagas (ridarsogur). So if you are hoping to see something like Jomsviking saga or the Saga of Hralf Kraki you will be disappointed, but you will have the sagas that relate to the families of Iceland including Egil, Njal's, Grettir and so on. It is unfortunate that a complete set of the Norse sagas can only be found in either Norse or German. English readers are out of luck unless they have command of those languages.
Second, if you want extended essays on the sagas you maybe better served by the Penguin translations which focus on a particular saga's themes and dimensions. This set has short introductions but no extended essays on par with a study set. But get this collection because it is translated to the highest quality, in a beautiful 5 volume slipcased set, and it is wonderful addition to any book collector's library.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Violence, Law, and Vikings---- What more could you ask? 22 Jun 2004
By S. Lewis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A composite collection of Scandinavian culture and history, the Sagas of the Icelanders stands out in Medieval-Germanic literature as being (for the most part) historically accurate, socially developed, and (perhaps most importantly!) gruesomely exciting to read.
The sagas are filled with graphic depictions of human frailties, vengeance, murder, epic battles, sublime heroism, and fatal betrayals. Kingdoms rise and fall. Political machinations of the most Machiavellian-type cruelty and legal thrillers rivaling Gresham's tales abound, as the authors calmly expose the reader to their stark and grim world.
Each of the volumes contains sagas that fluctuate wildly in style and subject. Volume one chronicles the Vinland sagas, the Warriors and Poets sagas, and the Greenland sagas. Volume two recounts the sagas of Outlaws, Nature spirits, and the Supernatural. Volume three contains the most poignant masterwork of them all, Njal's saga, as well as those of Champions, Rogues, and Adventures. Volume four includes the Regional feuds, and Volume five holds the sagas pertaining to religious conflicts, wealth and power, and one Epic.
The books are wonderfully bound and printed, with clear and well formatted type (for those who care about such things), and are attractive with their blue and gold covers----hey, if you never read them, at least they'll look good on the shelf. Right? Right?
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Classic compilation of sagas -- but don't buy it here!!! 11 Feb 2009
By Webistrator - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This library-bound five-volume set contains almost all of the Icelandic sagas. Published in Iceland in 1998, it is the first real consolidation of the majority of Icelandic sagas and tales. The only other English works you'd be missing would be the Sturlunga sagas (Sturlunga Saga: 2).

Many public libraries have these five volumes for your review. Should you choose to buy them they are available for around $300 U.S. from the publisher in Iceland, Leifur Eiriksson Publishing ([...]). For the price that's being asked here, you could fly to Iceland and buy the set and still come out ahead!

A 11/15/09 postscript: a previous postscript I made saying that this set was no longer being offered is no longer true. Leifur Eiriksson Publishing has begun offering the set again through their website for $299 plus $50 shipping.

--Webbie
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complete list of contents 8 May 2013
By Stephen L. Powell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I had difficulty acquiring a copy of this set. Back in late 2006 or early 2007 I started looking for this set and found the publisher's website, but at the time they didn't have a way to purchase the product online, just pictures and a description. So, I sent them an email inquiring about purchasing a copy. I didn't get a response. I figured they either never got my email, the person responsible for the email couldn't read English (they are in Iceland after all), or they just didn't feel like responding. Over two years later out of the blue I get a response asking if I'm still interested, because they had been out of stock and had finally got some back from a distributor. I'd lost hope over ever getting a copy, so I jumped at the chance. I think I paid $495 for my set, they have dropped the price since then, oh well. Interesting side note, if you order something for almost $500 in the middle of the night from Iceland, your credit card company will probably call you up suspecting some sort of fraud.

Here is a list of the complete contents.

Eirik the Red's Saga
The Saga of the Greenlanders
Egil's Saga
Kormak's Saga
The Saga of Hallfred the Troublesome Poet
The Saga of Bjorn, Champion of the Hitardal People
The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue
The Tale of Arnor, the Poet of Earls
Einar Skulason's Tale
The Tale of Mani the Poet
The Tale of Ottar the Black
The Tale of Sarcastic Halli
Stuf's Tale
The Tale of Thorarin Short-Cloak
The Tale of Thorleif, the Earl's Poet
The Tale of Audun from the West Fjords
The Tale of Brand the Generous
Hreidar's Tale
The Tale of the Story-Wise Icelander
Ivar Ingimundarson's Tale
Thorarin Nefjolfsson's Tale
The Tale of Thorstein from the East Fjords
The Tale of Thorstein the Curious
The Tale of Thorstein Shiver
The Tale of Thorvard Crow's-Beak
Gisli Sursson's Saga
The Saga of Grettir the Strong
The Saga of Hord and the People of Holm
Bard's Saga
Killer-Glum's Saga
The Tale of Ogmund Bash
The Tale of Thorvald Tasaldi
The Saga of the Sworn Brothers
Thormod's Tale
The Tale of Thorarin the Overbearing
Viglund's Saga
The Tale of the Cairn-Dweller
The Tale of the Mountain-Dweller
Star-Oddi's Dream
The Tale of Thidrandi and Thorhall
The Tale of Thorhall Knapp
Njal's Saga
The Saga of Finnbogi the Mighty
The Saga of the People of Floi
The Saga of the People of Kjalarnes
Jokul Buason's Tale
Gold-Thorir's Saga
The Saga of Thord Menace
The Saga of Ref the Sly
The Saga of Gunnar, the Fool of Keldugnup
Gisl Illugason's Tale
The Tale of Gold-Asa's Thord
Hrafn Gudrunarson's Tale
Orm Storolfsson's Tale
Thorgrim Hallason's Tale
The Saga of the People of Vatnsdal
The Saga of the Slayings on the Heath
Valla-Ljot's Saga
The Saga of the People of Svarfadardal
The Saga of the People of Ljosavatn
The Saga of the People of Reykjadal and of Killer-Skuta
The Saga of Thorstein the White
The Saga of the People of Vopnafjord
The Tale of Thorstein Staff-Struck
The Tale of Thorstein Bull's Leg
The Saga of Droplaug's Sons
The Saga of the People of Fljotsdal
The Tale of Gunnar, the Slayer of Thidrandi
Brandkrossi's Tale
Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson's Saga
Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson's Tale
Thorstein Sidu-Hallsson's Dream
Egil Sidu-Hallsson's Tale
The Saga of the People of Laxardal
Bolli Bollason's Tale
The Saga of the People of Eyri
The Tale of Halldor Snorrason I
The Tale of Halldor Snorrason II
Olkofri's Saga
Hen-Thorir's Saga
The Saga of Hrafnkel Frey's Godi
The Saga of the Confederates
Odd Ofeigsson's Tale
The Saga of Havard of Isafjord
The Tale of Hromund the Lame
The Tale of Svadi and Arnor Crone's-Nose
The Tale of Thorvald the Far-Travelled
The Tale of Thorsein Tent-Pitcher
The Tale of the Greenlanders
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly incredible... The only way to go! 2 Aug 2009
By Kathy J. Olson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As you are reading this review, you are probably already aware of what this product is all about. It is the essential collection for any other fans of the sagas. The translations are very good, and accessible to practically any reader. Though the price is somewhat high, the collection of tales and sagas you recieve is unbeatable. The quality of the books is fantastic. The only downside to this product is the type of leather covers that are used. Though it is authentic leather, the leather is almost paper-thin, and not as substantial as I expected. In this case, the leather is used as a decorative sort of cover, but not with the intent of necessarily making the books more durable, which is usually what leather is used for. Other than that, the books are of very high quality, and they are very readable. They are an absolute must for anyone who wants to be the proud owner of all 40 family sagas, PLUS the 49 TALES OF ICELANDERS which cannot be found anywhere else. This set of books deserves the highest of honors! Buy it while you can, because anyone with interest in the sagas will not regret it!
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