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Njal's Saga (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 6 Dec 2001


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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (6 Dec. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780140447699
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447699
  • ASIN: 0140447695
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 50,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Robert Cook is Professor of English at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik.

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There was a man named Mord whose nickname was Gigja. Read the first page
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Too many books on 2 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
Njal's Saga is as good as the best that people say about it, and better. A major classic of world literature, and easily readable.

I originally read the Magnus Magnusson translation, and it made a big impression on me at the time. As I remember, the Lee Hollander translation was also good. I don't have either to hand, but I do feel they were better than Cook's. You make up your own mind. On the web, I can only find George Webbe Dassent's 19th-century translation into Scots. Compare him however, with Cook:

Several men plot the death of the hero Gunnar:

COOK: Mord said that they would not take Gunnar by surprise unless they seized a farmer named Thorkel from the neighbouring farm, and forced him to come along with them and go up to Gunnar's farm, alone, to take the dog Sam.

DASSENT: Mord said that they could not come on Gunnar unawares, unless they seized the farmer who dwelt at the next homestead, whose name was Thorkell, and made him go against his will with them to lay hands on the hound Sam, and unless he went before them to the homestead to do this.

The conspirators launch the attack:

COOK: Thorgrim the Norwegian went to the hall while the others sat down on the ground. Gunnar saw a red tunic at the window and made a thrust with his halberd and hit Thorgrim in the waist. The Norwegian lost his grip on his shield, his feet slipped and he fell off the roof and then walked to where Gizur and the others were sitting on the ground.
Gizur looked at him and spoke: "Well, is Gunnar at home?"
Thorgrim answered, "Find that out for yourselves, but I've found out one thing - that his halberd's at home."
Then he fell down dead.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Snow on 11 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm a hopeless reader. When I read a good book, I tend to read it over again – several times. As I write this review, I'm reading Njal's Saga for the second time in a row. The book is fantastic; it is the longest and probably the best of all the Old Icelandic family sagas. The thing is, I have read it before: three or four times in Norwegian and parts of it in the Old Icelandic language. These are the first times I read the saga in English.

Composed in the thirteenth century by an anonymous Icelandic writer, Njal's Saga is the story of long-lasting tenth century family feud. The blood feud was going on for generations. In the first part of the book, the families of Njal and Gunnar stand against each other, even if Njal and Gunnar are friends. It is their wives, Bergthora and Hallgerd, who are goading their people to fight, and a fatal spiral of law suits, killings and avenges gets more and more bloody and serious, until Gunnar himself is killed in a fierce battle.

During this initial struggle over power and honour, many of Njal's and Gunnar's family members are dragged into the conflict, and in the second part of the book Njal's sons stand against Sigfus's sons, kinsmen of Gunnar. The feud gets out of all proportions and climaxes with the burning of Njal and all his family inside their hall. Now it is up to Kari, Njal's son-in-law, to avenge the burning, and he does a thorough job, to say the least. Reconciliation is first reached after the remaining fifteen of the burners are killed in the Battle of Clontarf in Ireland in 1014.

I like Robert Cook's English translation.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I first read the Pengun Classic's Njal's Saga when I was 15 years old. That's over 50 years ago. I still love it. The version I read was that by Magnus Magusson (sp?), and maybe naturally enough it's the one I prefer; but the Leifur Ericksson version of Snorri Sturrlesson's (sp?) masterpiece is a worthy enough follower.
I hate it when people write simply that it's a "good tale", and leave it at that - although it IS a great tale. It's just that it's so much more than that.
Njal's saga covers a turbulent time in Icelandic history, and its scope extends way beyond that - to my own native Ireland, and the Battle of Clontarf, where some of the Burners fetched up (and one of whom subsequently prayed for deliverance for the river, was granted it, and walked to Rome as a penance and received forgiveness there).
Though the first part of the story covers Iceland's greatest warrior hero, Gunnar of Hliderend, and the means of his death (he was sentenced to exile, but a chance broken girth on Gunnar's pony as he rides to the boat causes him to look up and see the beauty of the land, the fields, and declare that he will return home and never leave) , that sub-story is actually an essential part of the greater one: the events leading to the climax which sees Njal (the prescient, wise, Law Speaker of his time) and Njal's family, burnt to death in their home by a consortium of vengeance seekers led by Flosi. That climax is a result of a whole series of killings: early on, there's the death of Hjort, Gunnar's younger brother. Then there's Gunnar himself. And others, including that of Hoskuld, Gunnar's kin fostered as his own by Njal, and killed by Njal's own sons led by that other great warrior Skarp Hedin ("Sharp Blade").
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