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The Sagas of Icelanders: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) [Paperback]

Various , Jane Smiley , Robert Kellogg
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 1 2001 0141000031 978-0141000039
A unique body of medieval literature, the Sagas rank with the world's greatest literary treasures--as epic as Homer, as deep in tragedy as Sophocles, as engagingly human as Shakespeare. Set around the turn of the last millennium, these stories depict with an astonishingly modern realism the lives and deeds of the Norse men and women who first settled Iceland and of their descendants, who ventured further west--to Greenland and, ultimately, the coast of North America itself.

The 10 Sagas and seven shorter tales in this volume include the celebrated "Vinland Sagas," which recount Leif Eiriksson's pioneering voyage to the New World and contain the oldest descriptions of the North American continent.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

The Icelandic Sagas are among the masterpieces of world literature whose composition stretches from about the year 1000 to 1500. Presenting the adventures of Norse and Viking heroes, the sagas are told with ritual simplicity and a realism that anticipate the modern novel. This volume offers nine full sagas and six tales, all new translations by various hands and all part of The Complete Sagas of the Icelanders, also edited by Thorsson. Published to mark the 1000th anniversary of Leif Ericksson's voyage to North America, as told in the Vinland Sagas, this selection includes (along with the Vinland Sagas) the famous Egil's Saga and that of Gisli Sursson. The volume also offers a preface by novelist Jane Smiley and a scholarly introduction by Robert Kellogg of the University of Virginia. Wonderful for anyone interested in world literature, this selection is recommended for public and academic libraries.
-Thomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, GA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"One of the great marvels of World Literature.... This is a dream come true." --Ted Hughes

"A testimony to the human spirit's ability not only to endure what fate may send it but to be renewed by the experience." --Seamus Heaney

"The glory of the Sagas is indisputable." --Milan Kundera

"Generally excellent, accurate and readable, these translations are sure to become the standard versions." --The Times Literary Supplement (London)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Egil's Saga is acknowledged as one of the masterpieces of the genre, a magnificently wrought portrait of poet, warrior and farmer Egil Skallagrimsson. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Riviting, but missing something in the edition... March 3 2001
The Icelandic sagas bear repeated readings--these texts are a heritage of ancient European culture that belong on the "canon lists" with Homer and Shakespeare. Their influences and histories are that important, anyone who speaks English should certainly read these stories, they are distantly related to us and are at once familiar and very strange. This massive volume is the best single-source for the sagas, and the translations are all new and take into account the most recent scholarship on the sagas. Five stars for the work and the translations, and a sixth star for the best reason to own this book, the reference section, a book in its own right: illlustrations and diagrams, historical charts, glossary (Icelandic-English), up-to-the-minute and large bibliography, maps, family ties and trees, ages of icelandic history, and essays on the social and political structure that is so important to really understading the sagas and the culture that produced them.
However, I have to subtract a few of my stars, with the proviso that I do recommend this book as a must-own for anyone interested. This may raise a few hackles, but I really think that the "Tales" could have been omitted, and included should have been two sagas that inexplicably were left out: Njal's Saga and the Eyrbyggja Saga. How a book on the poetry of the North Atlantic could have left out these two sagas I do not know, but it is almost reason enough not to buy the book. It cannot claim to be a book on "The Sagas" because it leaves out these two fundamental sagas. The inclusion of these sagas would mean something had to go, and I think that the sagas can stand without the Tales to augment them. This was a sad mistake, and makes this book at best a "Selection of the Sagas of the Icelanders.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Primer on the Sagas Feb. 15 2004
By A Customer
This is an outstanding and inexpensive collection of the Sagas. It is a bargain at it's list price, and any discount thrown on top of that is just a little more icing on the cake.
The collection is a good sampling of all of the available sagas, with a good mix of short and long.
Egil's Saga is, at least based on date of occurence, the first of the Sagas and is a must-read. It's long, and the poetry will take a few times to get, but it is a classic.
Also of note in this collection are the Vinland Sagas, which tell the tales of the Icelanders who made it to present day North America, some 4 centuries before Columbus.
When picking from the plethora of 40 Sagas, something is going to be left out. Njal's Saga is noticeably missing, but to their defense Njal's is also the largest saga and it probably would have meant cutting 4-5 of the other sagas out of this book. As I understand it, this is planned to be a series of books and undoubtedly will be part of the next book.
Overall, this is a good inexpensive way to get into the sagas.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent! March 24 2003
My historian Father sent me this after I made some sort of witless comment about Leif the Lucky, & when it arrived I was somewhat taken aback -it is HUGE, close to 800 pages if you include index & glossary-but once you dive in, it is hard to put it down. Here we get the stories of the Viukings of the Northwest Atlantic -the Icelanders of the title plus the doomed expeditions to Greenland and Vineland-told in all their wild glory. Of course one wishes one could read it in the original, of course one wishes to hear it sung, but this is the story of a real "other" history that all too often gets left out of the standard texts. This collection contains 10 sagas and several Tales by different translators. While having a number of different folks doing the translation makes for a somewhat uneven "voice" overall I found myself slipping from saga to saga with no trouble. The book includes a nice introduction, several useful maps, plus some simple diagrams of Norse ships and buildings. Anyone with an interest in sea-farers and the history of the north would be well advised to hit their "one-click" buttons right now, then, as soon as the box comes, throw an extra log or two on the fire, pour yourself a flagon of the closest you can get to mead & kiss the rest of the day goodbye -you are in for a treat!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After reading the first saga, I was hooked April 21 2004
Admittedly, the first is Egil's, which is perhaps second only to Njal's saga (not included in this selection), but I just devoured all the other sagas in the book in no time and have been collecting more and more ever since. What a great introduction to the fascinating world of the Vikings! The sagas represent different styles and geographical locations, giving a good idea of the breadth and depth of the genre. The introductions, annexes and maps are extremely clear and helpful in understanding the context of the time in which the sagas are set. If you read this review, you are probably already somehow interested in the subject: BUY THIS BOOK, YOU WON'T REGRET IT!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A bargain by any means March 23 2001
For the price offered ($16) this is an amazing bargain. For the cost of two Penguin translations (2 Sagas) you get 9 sagas and multiple tales. Speaking as a person that bought the hardback the paperback is not missing anything as far as I can tell by comparing tables of contents. However, earlier criticisms that it is missing some very classic sagas such as, _Njal's Saga_ though valid should not deter you from getting this book. I will conjecture that the length of those definitive sagas were too much to put into a one volume collection.
Get the book - no shelf should be without the sagas and it is a thrifty choice.
The collection that both the hardback and softback are taken from is a large collection called _Sagas of the Icelanders_ which is about ~$600 so you might also keep that in mind when buying. By no means is this all the sagas from that massive collection but it is a good survey and there is a good further sources section.
For those who are saga junkies be aware that the Sagas of the Icelanders (Islendasogur) is only the Icelandic family sagas and not any of the Bishop Sagas nor Heroic/Mythic Sagas e.g., Saga of Hralf Kraki. So if you are hoping to score the Saga of Harold or any saga whose action is outside of Iceland or not related to one of the great families look elsewhere. Also, for saga junkies these translations do not footnote the geneaology of the characters which the Penguin translations usually did. So you get more of the original feel with "son of...daughter of.."
Overall, if you have become enthralled with the sagas or just taking the plunge for the first time this is a very good and economical choice. Be aware that it is a very thick paperback and not as sturdy as it could be. But by all means get it.
Highly recommended. If you like this set then get Njal's Saga.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This is really epic stuff!
Published 3 months ago by Trevor Sabourin
5.0 out of 5 stars An EXCELLENT book of Sagas, but Njal's Saga isn't included
All but one of my favorite Sagas are in this collection, with good notes and maps to accompany them. The only thing missing is Njal's Saga, which is arguably the best of the lot.
Published on March 24 2004 by Todd Dwyer
2.0 out of 5 stars distorted biased view of Ancient Iceland
Icelanders and others reading these Sagas should be aware that vital and even more amazing parts of Iceland's history from 930-1262AD were left out. Read more
Published on Dec 20 2003 by David J. Heinrich
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent translation
The Icelandic sagas are interesting in their own right, but much better when the translation is done well. Read more
Published on Dec 10 2003 by William Creedle
5.0 out of 5 stars A huge collection--great for beginners
This is simply a great collection of Sagas--a treasure-trove for the beginning student of Norse Studies. At 700+ pages, you essentially can't go wrong.
Published on May 21 2003 by PipBoy
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good for those who like such things...
This book reads like a soap opera crossed with Genesis... as most stories begin by telling the line of the characters involved. Read more
Published on April 16 2003 by Preston Halcomb
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thorough Look at the Vikings
I loved this book, because it lets you get in touch with the vikings psychologically. One can understand their ways after reading this book. Read more
Published on Nov. 30 2002 by crystyl
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Norse Literature
The Sagas of the Icelanders is an excellent collection of nordic literature in an affordable and attractive book. Read more
Published on Nov. 21 2002 by Rachel E. Watkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes me want to hop into a longship and go raiding.
A collection of the Icelandic Sagas as translated by various scholars on the subject. A range of years are covered starting with pre-Christian paganism and finishing in Christian... Read more
Published on Nov. 12 2002 by BH
5.0 out of 5 stars An Awesome Collection of history
The Sagas have got to be one of the greatest historical/literary works. An unbias view of a world of pagan men and women, the world they lived in and how they lived. Read more
Published on Nov. 7 2002 by "northwolf1"
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