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Eirik the Red: And other Icelandic sagas (The World's classics) Unknown Binding – 1961

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  • Unknown Binding: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (1961)
  • ISBN-10: 0192510061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192510068
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,776,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"With its account of the Norse discovery of North America and its fine translation of Hrolfs Saga (indispensable for any serious study of the mythic Beowulf), this text remains the single best saga intro. in print."--Stephen Glosecki, University of Alabama"I require my Beowulf students to read Hrolf Kraki's Saga, and GJ's translation in this book is both excellent . . . and readily available."--Marijane Osborn, University of California, Davis"Still the best single-volume collection of Viking tales in English."--James Massengale, University of California, Los Angeles"[Jones's] English has a yeasty Welshness in it that corresponds quite nicely to the idiomatic springiness of the original."--L. Michael Bell, University of Colorado --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Erik Cleves Kristensen on 11 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this on a boat from Denmark to Iceland, via the Faroe Islands, on the very routes the vikings had sailed, and then driving through Iceland by car.
Crossing Iceland, and its other-worldly landscapes, it was the perfect companion: the sagas came alive; the life the vikings lead, facing natural challenges, blood-feuds, love, and passions, for instance the saga of the Vapnfjord Men, from the eastern parts of Iceland.
The sagas have both historical value, as the saga of Eirik the Red give an insight into how two new world's met (without even knowing it), but are also able to reflect on human lives, as the saga of Authun and the bear.
Finally, there are the sagas of King Hrolf and his men, full of bloody battles, revenge and love-feuds, which are truly engaging.
After reading this, I only feel like reading more sagas!
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Rachel F-J on 25 Jun. 2008
Format: Paperback
The problem with any Scandinavian saga for a modern (non-academic) reader is that the culture no longer exists in which it is both a duty and a source of honour to recognise and glory in one's ancestors. Reading a saga becomes, therefore, either a study of medieval Icelandic culture or an engrossing tale of chivarly, blood-feuds and romance hiding beneath a thick layer of geneology.

This particular collection of Icelandic sagas deals enirely with mortal men, which may put off some of those looking primeraly for Odin and the like. What Eirik the Red provides is a detailed and insightful cross-section of Icelandic society after the invasion of the Norwegians fleeing their new-formed kingdom. Particularly interesting is the discovery of America by the Greenlanders, several centuries before Columbus. I would heartily recommend this collection for anyone with more than a passing interest in medieval Scandinavian culture, but would add that the plethora of names and places mentioned requires the reader to be fully awake!
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Some of the Icelandic people tell you about the Icelandic Sagas and thought I would buy this as a present for my other half,. It didn't disappoint and will possibly buy some more stgories in the Sagas
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By Matthew C. on 18 Sept. 2014
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Great great read!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
A Very Nice Compendium of Some of the Lesser Sagas 3 Dec. 2000
By Stuart W. Mirsky - Published on
Format: Paperback
Gwyn Jones here gives us his very smooth and stylish translations of some of the lesser, and lesser known, sagas in the Icelandic literary opus. From the title piece, "Eirik the Red's Saga", to his rendering of the Hrolf Kraki saga, these are all nicely wrought translations of some of the smaller gems in the old Norse literary tradition. Among my favorites are "The Vapnfjordmen" and the "Tale of Spike Helgi". These brilliantly demonstrate, in spare saga style, the way in which the best of these old Norse works capture and crystallize real people through an archaic and slightly clouded lense. But the images shining through are starkly real and resonate with our modern sensibility in a way which is surprising for such medieval fare. Of course, the title piece and the Hrolf Kraki piece which end the book go to the other extreme: the realm of legend and fantasy. Modern scholars tend to believe that the "Greenlanders' Saga" is an older and more reliable tale concerning the Norse excursions to Vinland than is the "Eirik's Saga" (this book's title piece) though "Eirik's Saga" is richer, by far, in literary motifs and more rife with fantastic elements, while yet being more literary overall than the plainer, sparer "Geenlanders' Saga" (which Jones did not choose to include here). And few will dispute that Hrolf Kraki's tale, this book's end-piece, is mainly one of myth and legend, albeit an exciting and well-told tale in its own right. In sum, Jones selected the most literary of the smaller sagas for this work, sandwiching in between two more legendary pieces, some more solidly realistic tales. But all with sufficient literary merit to warrant inclusion here. A nicely done collection for the saga aficionado!The King of Vinland's Saga
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Ian Myles Slater on: An Excellent Collection 26 Sept. 2013
By Ian M. Slater - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a review of "Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas," a mid-twentieth-century translation of medieval literature, with some reflections on the word "saga," and the various uses of it. (I've re-read the volume from time to time since the early 1970s, so I am more familiar with the contents than the limited amount of detail -- or of spoilers -- included here may indicate.)

Gwyn Jones (1907-1999) was a medievalist, a translator (from Welsh and Old Norse), a novelist and short-story writer, and at times an editor who published pieces by T.S. Eliot and J.R.R. Tolkien (in "The Welsh Review"). He should not be confused with, e.g., the Welsh novelist, short story writer, and poet Glyn Jones [1905-1995] -- See Wikipedia for both, plus several others with one or another of the two similar names (disambiguations).

Gwyn Jones' "Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas" (1961) is a short (318 pages of text), but remarkably varied, collections of both Sagas proper and shorter stories (thattr) usually founded embedded in other, longer, works. It was originally published as a small, blue-bound hardcover, in the original "World's Classics" series from Oxford University Press, and re-issued as a mass-market paperback in 1980. The present edition is under the "Oxford World's Classics" series title, in its slightly larger paperback format.

All of the material has been translated by others -- some pieces several time -- but Gwyn Jones' translations read well (I think), and are regarded as reliable representatives of the text editions he had available over half a century ago. It contains nine stories, eight of them about Icelanders (like the bulk of the sagas available in English), and, as the conclusion, one "legendary" saga set in early medieval Scandinavia (some of its characters have exact or approximate counterparts in the Anglo-Saxon poem "Beowulf").

Jones' short but informative Introduction includes the proper Icelandic titles of all of these. The contents are (using his English titles): "Hen-Thorir;" The Vapnfjord Men" and the related shorter tale, "Thorstein Staff-Struck;" "Hrafnkel the Priest of Frey;" "Eirik the Red" (the title piece, one of the two "Vinland Sagas" about Icelanders in North America); the very short "Thidrandi Whom the Goddesses Slew;" "Authun and the Bear," (a particularly charming short story); "Gunnlaug Wormtongue" (the story of a poet, and one of the handful of significant "love stories" in medieval Icelandic literature); and, in conclusion, the relatively long (almost 100 pages) "King Hrolf and His Champions" (otherwise known as "Hrolf Kraki's Saga").

As Jones points out, the last of these is much more like the common notion of a Norse saga than most of the saga literature, what with expectations of Viking adventures, Norse gods, trolls, and the like. (There is a more recent translation, as "The Saga of Hrolf Kraki," by Jesse L. Byock, in the Penguin Classics.) Until recently, translations were mostly confined to the "Sagas of the Icelanders," historical-looking accounts of the settlement of Iceland (around 800 AD) and disputes and feuds, and court adjudications of them, during the next several hundred years. And handful of older translations of legendary and fictional sagas, or images derived from them, seem to have made a lasting impression on "common knowledge."

Although "saga" was in fact used by the medieval Icelanders to describe just about any narrative, including translations of Latin Lives of Saints, the Tale of Troy, and French chivalric romances, a modern, slightly technical, use of the term is more restricted. It chiefly denotes stories originally written in Old Icelandic (and a few in Old Norwegian), especially those dealing with Icelanders at home and abroad; plus a few covering other Scandinavians, such as Norwegian Kings, and the Norse Earls of Orkney. They are notable for realism of content (allowing for the belief in the supernatural), and for an extremely lean prose, not always reflected in translations (Jones was very careful about this).

Also included are the "legendary sagas," such as "Hrolf Kraki," based on both Scandinavian and common-Germanic hero-tales (e.g., various versions of the story of Sigurd the Volsung). There are, too, invented adventure stories, often involving Icelanders, some not, which use the characteristic saga-style; surviving examples are apparently late, but they existed early on, and are legitimately classed as sagas. (For some examples see Penguin Classics' "Seven Viking Romances.")

It is not entirely inappropriate to refer to similar bodies of literature -- like Old Irish narratives -- as sagas, but the common use (observable in all-too-many blurbs) to call just about any purportedly exciting narrative a "saga" is just confusing. Somewhat more understandable is a term like "family saga" for a tale encompassing several generations, which is in fact characteristic of some Icelandic sagas.

Those interested in Gwyn Jones other work as a saga-translator may want to look for a copy of his version of the (much longer) major Saga of the Icelanders, "Egil's Saga" ("The Saga of Egil son of Skallagrim"), unfortunately out of print. I have reviewed other translations on Amazon, discussing Jones' treatment in passing.
A True Mini- Collection of Icelandic Sagas!!!! 2 Jun. 2014
By N. - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love, love, love this book!! Oxford Word's Classics are top quality!! I recommend this book to anybody who wants to learn about the Viking Age and Icelandic Sagas!! (And in general Vinland - Viking North America-) The book is great, the translation is great, the notes in the book are awesome and helpful!! If you want to buy an awesome book, for the right price. Buy this!! Fast shipping too!
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Tall tales 26 May 2014
By Larry N. Stout - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Folklore, though worthy of preservation, and of some attention and study by historians, philologists, and anthropologists, is invariably mythologized. The Icelandic Sagas in part may incorporate bits of actual history, but it is fragmental and distorted. Ethnocentric, prideful people place the highest value on folklore, as do some narrowly focused scholars, and, I suppose, romantics. To me, most of it warrants only a sardonic, "Do tell."
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