Jul 1, 2007

My First Saga

Where goest thou, oh blogger?

a) finishing up work at school before summer vacation
attending a library conference
college orientation with son & assorted friends
all of the above

You choose. --Now on to the good stuff:

Eyrbyggja Saga. Translated with an introduction and notes by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards. New York: Penguin, 1989. 179 pgs.

My dear husband, sensitively attuned to my growing interest in Iceland, bought me my first Icelandic saga—was it Christmas? Valentines’ Day? It was probably the only saga at the bookstore, but it was still a most excellent choice. Eyrbyggja Saga has all those elements that so endear the sagas to us. Yes, I’m talking love, hate, jealousy and revenge. Bloody fights, heroism and sacrifice; petty cruelty and betrayal. But enough of the blathering--let’s have some fine examples to tempt the saga-hungry reader!

Bjorn takes leave of his love, probably forever:

From fair golden daybreak
to deep blue darkness,
long should the day have lasted,
my delight, my despair!
As the day is dying
a drink I’ll pledge
to the pain-filled memory
of passing pleasures.

The droll, laconic conversation so typical of sagas is found throughout this one as well. Snorri the Priest is talking to Thorstein at the Assembly about Thorstein’s lawsuits. “’I daresay you’d like us to be as helpful to you with your cases as you and the men of Borgarfjord were to me last summer?’ asked Snorri. ‘No, I don’t think I would,’ said Thorstein.”

Or, this exchange between Ospak and Alf: “Then Alf the Short stepped forward and asked Ospak not to take the whale. ‘You’d better keep out of this, Alf,’ said Ospak, ‘you have a thick skull, and I’ve a heavy axe’…It was good advice, and Alf took it.”

How to banish too many ghosts at Frodriver?

It seems that Thorodd and other ghosts were sitting by the fire, every night. They were making it very difficult for the people who lived there. The solution: take the ghosts to court. Each of the ghosts was summonsed for “…trespassing on the home and robbing people of life and health."

As sentence was being passed on Thorir Wood-Leg, he rose to his feet, ‘I sat here as long as people would let me,’ he said, then went out through the other door where the court was not being held.

After that, sentence was passed on the shepherd, and he stood up. ‘I’ll go now,’ he said, ‘and it seems I should have gone sooner.’

When Thorgrima Witch-Face heard her sentence, she stood up, too. ‘I stayed as long as you let me,’ she said.

…Thorodd was the last to be sentenced. When he heard the judgment, he stood up. ‘There’s no peace here,’ he said, ‘we’d best all be on our way.’ And with that he walked out.

Epic battles are immortalized in poetry, such as the Lay of the Raven:

Two were slain
by the stout-hearted soldier,
south of the stream
rang the swords:
seven more spirits
slept, robbed of life,
at Thors Ness, slaughtered
for all to see.

And these are just a few highlights! Read Eyrbyggja Saga and see for yourself.


Shannon said...

Oooh...I'll have to get that one! Here's a book you should look for "The Sagas of Icelanders" ISBN: 0965477703 Egil's Saga is wonderful if you haven't read it yet.

Hospital??? Please fill us in!!!

Rose said...

I agree with you! I love Egil's Saga--I'm glad none of my children turned out quite like him. My husband did a sketch of Egil that I really like, here:

As you can see above, the only thing better than "Sagas..." is the "Complete Sagas of Icelanders." My birthday is April 11, if anyone wants to get it for me...

We're out of the hospital and hopefully not going back! The interesting thing is that St. Mary's resembled a luxury hotel more than a hospital. Except that I haven't stayed in any luxury hotels that have crucifixes in each room.

Shannon said...

I'm sure you can find a hotel somewhere in this world where there is a crucifix in every room. You'll just have to do a bit of searching.

It appears I need to read your blog from the beginning. I've missed a lot by coming in so late in the game. I just read your review of Sally Magnusson's book...now I want it! And I'm still struggling along with "The Woman and the Raven". I guess I'm just never satisfied with what I've got. =)

Rose said...

Shannon,don't feel you have to finish Woman and the Raven...I didn't.
There are several blogs I want to read from beginning to present, but it's hard to find the time, isn't it. -And my three kids aren't little, either ;-) Sally's book is really excellent; if you don't find a copy nearby I'll loan you mine when we visit in Richmond or Chesapeake.