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Egil's Saga (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Leifur Eiriksson , Svanhildur Oskarsdottir
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Sep 2004 Penguin Classics
Egil's Saga tells the story of the long and brutal life of tenth-century warrior-poet and farmer Egil Skallagrimsson: a morally ambiguous character who was at once the composer of intricately beautiful poetry, and a physical grotesque capable of staggering brutality. The saga recounts Egil's progression from youthful savagery to mature wisdom as he struggles to avenge his father's exile from Norway, defend his honour against the Norwegian King Erik Bloodaxe, and fight for the English King Athelstan in his battles against Scotland. Exploring issues as diverse as the question of loyalty, the power of poetry, and the relationship between two brothers who love the same woman, Egil's Saga is a fascinating depiction of a deeply human character.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (30 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447709
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447705
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 12.7 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 47,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Bernard Scudder lives in Reykjavík as a full-time translator. His translations encompass sagas, ancient and modern poetry, and leading contemporary novels and plays. In 1998 two novels in his translation were short-listed for the European Union's Aristeon Literary Prize. Svanhildur Óscarsdóttir has a research post at the Árni Magnússon Institute in Reykjavík.

Bernard Scudder lives in Reykjavík as a full-time translator. His translations encompass sagas, ancient and modern poetry, and leading contemporary novels and plays. In 1998 two novels in his translation were short-listed for the European Union's Aristeon Literary Prize.

Svanhildur Óscarsdóttir has a research post at the Árni Magnússon Institute in Reykjavík. She has published on Icelandic literature, medieval and modern.


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There was a man named Ulf, the son of Bjalfi1 and of Hallbera, the daughter of Ulf the Fearless. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate "Picaresque" biography 12 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback
What can one say of "Egil's Saga"? Journeying in 10th Century Scandinavia and Iceland must have resembled a walk through a field with unexploded mines. Danger and violence were ever present, even if dormant. The book can be read at so many levels: for the adventures, for the action, for the social and political history, for glimpses of banal features of every day life at that time.

The only other books which come to my mind when considering "Egil's Saga", are the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey", for all three have a distinctive world view. There are no prizes for guessing which I prefer! The feeling that "Egil's Saga" promotes more than anything, is Skirnir's comment to the herdsman in "Skirnir's Saga": "Fearlessness is better than a faint heart for any man who puts his nose out of doors. The length of my life and the day of my death were fated long ago".

As for Egil, love him (unlikely), loathe him (most probably), the man was a hero of his world in his time. He was also, probably, the best poet of his age.

Ignore the ever present genealogical recitals. This is a magnificent work. A book that one feels better, uplifted and encouraged in the battle of everyday life for simply having read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Important for all seriousTolkien enthusiasts 30 Jan 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This saga makes demanding reading at times but provides invaluable information and insights into the more extreme aspects of the northernness that forms such an important background to Tolkien's creative work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Warrior Poets 9 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Egil, the Troll-like figure, rough, outsized and violent epitomises the warrior poet. As he recounts, in verse (song) his exploits with an egotistic verve be see beyond the "thug" and glimpse a highly sophisticated, fearless man of deep sympathies and with a defined sense of honour and justice. His presence dominates the Saga and the reader is teased into extending their reading beyond this Saga to others, such as Nyal's Saga and beyond. Many are great but none have the resonance of Egil. In his character comprises the best and worst of the warrior nation. Many of the Sagas refer to the gargantuan feats of their heroes such that one might be drawn to conclude these references to be at best hyperbole, but often modern events have proved this feats to be true. Egil the spiritual, crapulent, the warrior poet, the lawyer, friend, enemy and lover - all these contradictions are poised so well in Egil the man. Many years after his death when an outsized skull was found near the site where Egil fell, and another celebrity of the era (Snorri the Priest) laid fall his axe upon it with enormous force - the skull turned a milky white, no more than that, almost as if Egil, larger than life, defiant beyond the grave laid bare his challenge.
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