Njal's Saga

Introduction

Njáls saga (modern Icelandic pronunciation:  listen ) (also Njála ( listen ), Brennu-Njáls saga ( listen ) or "The Story of Burnt Njáll") is a thirteenth-century Icelandic saga that describes events between 960 and 1020. The principal characters are the friends Njáll Þorgeirsson,[1] a lawyer and a sage, and Gunnar Hámundarson, a formidable warrior. Gunnar's wife instigates a feud that leads to the death of many characters over several decades including the killing by fire of the eponymous "Burnt Njáll". The saga deals with this process of blood feuds in the Icelandic Commonwealth, showing how the requirements of honor could lead to minor slights spiralling into destructive and prolonged bloodshed. Insults where a character's manhood is called into question are especially prominent and may reflect an author critical of an overly restrictive ideal of masculinity.[2] Another characteristic of the narrative is the presence of omens and prophetic dreams. It is disputed whether this reflects a fatalistic outlook on the part of the author.

The work is anonymous, although there has been extensive speculation on the author's identity. The major events described in the saga are probably historical but the material was shaped by the author, drawing on oral tradition, according to his artistic needs. Njáls saga is the longest and most highly developed of the sagas of Icelanders. It is often considered the peak of the saga tradition.[3]


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