General Question

fundevogel's avatar

Which Nordic sagas are good for the uninitiated?

Asked by fundevogel (15477points) June 29th, 2010

I’d like to read some classic Nordic literature, but I’m not really sure where to start. I have only a slight familiarity with Nordic history and mythology so I need something that doesn’t require too much prerequisite knowledge.

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10 Answers

mammal's avatar

Beowulf, except that i’m not sure whether this is more Anglo Saxon, although it is set in Scandinavia.

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cazzie's avatar

Anything by Ibsen would be an obvious literary choice, but you want ancient stuff?

As for the very ancient Sagas: Some of the very old Viking or Norse Sagas were actually written in Iceland. This page has several of the Icelandic Sagas translated..Here’s Egils:

The Icelandic language is the closest thing in the world to the language the Northern Vikings spoke in the early centuries. Norway was taken over by the Danish after the Black Death and they ruled for 400 years, changing the language spoken here forever. So, the Icelandic became ‘defacto caretakers’ of many of the old stories and certainly the language.

A book suggestion:

If you don’t want to do the ancient Saga stuff, you can read something a bit more contemporary. One of my favourite novels is Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. It’s a proper novel, written in 1922, but set in the Middle Ages. Truly falls under the ‘romantic novel’.

I would say that Beowulf was an ancient Saga, but it’s Old English. May have had some origin in the verbal storytelling from the Norse Countries. It’s set in Götaland (today Götaland is the name of the lower part of Sweden). Hamlet is still an English Play, though it’s set in Denmark, right? Anyway….

Kraken's avatar

I too would say Beowulf as learned in English and tried to learn in Olde English so you can join discussion groups afterwards.

laureth's avatar

Hi! My husband is an Asatruer. If you want a quick overview in one book, he recommends The Sagas Of Icelanders. If you just want one or two stories, a couple he suggests are “Egil’s Saga” (which is in the book I referenced), or “Burnt Njal’s Saga” which is its own book here.

connellc's avatar

Look up Project Runeburg on the internet. It’s along the same lines of Project Gutenburg, and it might be a good starting point for electronic resources for Nordic literature.

cazzie's avatar

Finnish literature is not Scandinavian. Oh.. I get it. That first link was better than that last one.

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