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Customer Review

on 2 August 2010
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.

DASSENT: Thorgrim the Easterling went and began to climb up on the hall; Gunnar sees that a red kirtle passed before the windowslit, and thrusts out the bill, and smote him on the middle. Thorgrim's feet slipped from under him, and he dropped his shield, and down he toppled from the roof.
Then he goes to Gizur and his band as they sat on the ground.
Gizur looked at him and said--
"Well, is Gunnar at home?"
"Find that out for yourselves," said Thorgrim; "but this I am sure of, that his bill is at home," and with that he fell down dead.

Compare also this: later, as the attack progresses, Gunnar asks his wife to cut off a lock of her renowned long fair hair and twist it into a bowstring, as his life depends on it.

COOK: "Then I'll recall," she said, "the slap you gave me, and I don't care whether you hold out a for long or a short time."
"Everyone has some mark of distinction," said Gunnar, "and I won't ask you again."

DASSENT: "Well!" she says, "now I will call to thy mind that slap on the face which thou gavest me; and I care never a whit whether thou holdest out a long while or a short."
"Every one has something to boast of," says Gunnar, "and I will ask thee no more for this."

As I remember, Magnusson rendered this as, "Everyone seeks their own reason for fame. You won't be asked again." But my memory could fail me. This is one of the most famous lines of the saga.
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