Asaf Bartov (ijon) wrote,
Asaf Bartov

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A course I'll be taking next year has a lot of assigned reading, and ravell advised me to read some of the books in advance. Thus I find myself reading Njal's Saga (Njálssaga), an Icelandic epic, translated by Robert Cook (pub. Penguin).

I'm rather ignorant of Norse mythology and epics (I mean, yes, I know Loki and Thor, and I'm familiar with the principal events of the Völssungsaga through Wagner's adaptation of the Nibelungenlied, but not much else), and was expecting something along the lines of Homer: heroism, bloodshed, strife, minus Homer's breathtaking humanism, plus some Norse motifs.

Was I in for a surprise. The flavor is quite different. I mean, sure, you have your brawny axe-wielding men worrying about their honor and all, but you also have, um, elements that Homer would have probably balked at. One of them is an unconsummated marriage. The woman, imagine that, complains about her husband's inability to please her, including graphic descriptions of where the fault lies, and actually divorces him unilaterally! And we're talking pagan 10th century Iceland! Whoo!

Anyhow, it's quite nice so far. The translation seems adequate, and there are helpful footnotes, genealogical charts, maps, etc. Neat.

Lest I wrong Hrut's manly reputation, I must add that his virility failed only with regard to his lawfully-wedded, and that due to a curse laid upon him by a lascivious queen-mother. The fun never stops at Medieval Iceland!

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