A Fictional Account of Early Iceland Essay

A Fictional Account of Early Iceland Essay

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A Fictional Account of Early Iceland

"The origin and evolution of saga writing in Iceland are largely matters for speculation. A common pastime on Icelandic farms, from the 12th century down to modern times, was the reading aloud of stories to entertain the household, known as sagnaskemmtun ("saga entertainment"). It seems to have replaced the traditional art of storytelling" (Hermann Palsson, pg. 1). Njal's Saga uses Old Icelandic writing convention and historical data to give a fictional account of a generation's lifestyle and struggles.
Icelandic literature has become very valuable because historians have realized the great amount of truth that can be found in each saga. According to one historian, the sagas have proven to be of "valuable insight into the fabric of a unique medieval community" (Gary Martin, pg.1). During the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, there were about "forty sagas written by various anonymous Icelanders" (Gary Martin, pg.1). Each used a combination of historical facts and drama to create
sagas that tracked generations of people. Historically, the first people to travel to Iceland were from Norway. According to Gary Martin, they were "surprised to find such a plentiful land" (pg.1). Not only did they farm, but they also collected food and supplies from the nearby ocean.
There are quite a few sagas that reveal the true historical society of Iceland. "Egil's Saga records how, on arrival, the settler Skallagrim and his companions 'went out fishing and seal-hunting, and collecting the eggs of wild foul, for there was plenty of everything" (Gary Martin, pg.1). In Iceland, the immigrants held to the farming traditions that they had in Norway, so not much changed in the transition. One histo...

... middle of paper ...

...f this saga, the splendid portrayal of characters, the use of spiritual elements, and the historical
data contribute to the author's unparalleled style. Njal's Saga is undoubtedly unique, and speaks of the traditions and virtues upheld by the very first Icelanders.


Works Cited
Lonnroth, Lars. Njal's Saga: A Critical Introduction. Berkeley: U of California P, 1976.
Martin, Gary. Food and Feud in Saga Iceland. 1998. University of Adelaide. 10 Apr.,

Njal's Saga. Trans. Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson. London: Penguin, 1960.
Palsson, Hermann. Saga. 1999-2001. Britannica.com Inc. 25 Apr., 2001.

Turville-Petre, E.O.G. Introduction. The Story of Burnt Njal. Trans. Sir George Webbe
Dasent. London: Aldine P, 1911. 5-11.
Turville-Petre, G. Origins of Icelandic Literature. Oxford: Clarendon, 1967. 249-253.

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