Best Norse & Icelandic Sagas in 2022

How to Read Norse and Icelandic Sagas

How to read Norse & Icelandic Sagas? First, you must know the genres. There are several categories of these stories, including Courtrooms, Characters, and Nick or bynames. Then, you can begin to learn about them. This article will introduce you to the most important features of these stories. You can also find information on each of them by clicking on the links at the end of the article.


Norse and Icelandic sagas are stories written by Vikings. They are similar to Western genres, with themes of living on the fringe of civilization, the challenges of creating a functional society without an all-powerful authority, and the conflict between Order and Chaos. Here are a few examples of different genres in Norse and Icelandic sagas:

Vinland Sagas tell the story of Leif Ericson's explorations of Greenland. Erik the Red, a Greenlandic explorer, is also featured in the Vinland Sagas. There are also stories about a Norse folk belief known as fate. Those who are lucky in one lifetime may be born unlucky. The story of Grettir Asmundarson, the first European to settle in Greenland, is an example of a "Born Unlucky" character.

Legendary Sagas (or Fornaldarsogur) depict events from Iceland's remote past before the Norse people began to settle the country. These stories were not intended to be factual, but were often believed to have a core of truth. These stories are sometimes based on oral tradition, and are contested. However, in most cases, the stories of heroic outlaws are the most popular among sagas.

The swords of the Norse and Icelandic sagas are very different. In the Skofnung, a legendary Danish king's sword is stolen. The sword is named Skofnung, as it was stolen by a thief during his youth. A few hundred years later, the sword is returned to Skeggi, who is not only a hero, but a hero.


The Norse and Icelandic sagas were written in a different style than the other literature of the time. While medieval literature was composed primarily of formal poetry, it focused on the tales of the elite, the Icelandic sagas featured ordinary people as protagonists. As a result, the stories have become famous as important for understanding the development of world literature. Today, the Norse and Icelandic sagas are an important part of the world's history.

Traditionally, free males carried weapons when they left the home. In the sagas, there are numerous examples of common weapons, including axes, short-swords, spears, and long swords. Halberds and axes were rare, but common in battle. In the sagas, the protagonists were expected to be fearless and to not fear death, although famous last words are often present along with their deaths.

The Aesir are among the most important characters of the Norse & Icelandic sagas. While the aristocracy of the time ruled by "Asskicking Equals Authority," Icelandic heroes often rub shoulders with Norwegian royalty. But this does not mean that literary talent is incompatible with fighting talent. The Icelandic sagas also feature heroes who made their names by insulting their enemies, and their enemies retaliated violently.

The Icelandic sagas are divided into genres, based on their subject matter. Heroic/legendary sagas feature fantastic elements, while kings' sagas are based on historical events. A typical saga is about a king, with the most famous being Heimskringla. A few Icelandic sagas contain dialogue.

A tale from the Book of Flatey (c. 1390) involves a Christian Thorstein meeting an imp from Hell, introducing himself as Thorkel the Thin. Thorkel the Thin was a famous warrior in pagan times. He later dies in the Battle of Bravellir. However, despite his fame as a warrior, Thorkel the Thin was a devoted homesteader. In the days of the Vikings, farming was the main source of income and was the predominant way of life.

Young males of Iceland would often travel abroad before they married to gain experience and money. They might also be seeking fame and social status. Unfortunately, many outlaws turn out to be unlucky and violent, leading to a tragic Love Triangle. However, this does not mean that they aren't heroes. There are also plenty of sagas containing stories about noble people who had to sacrifice themselves for the good of others.


The Norse and Icelandic Sagas courtrooms give us an interesting and unique window into ancient law. During this period, law was enacted through collective action and cooperation. Iceland did not have a centralized legal system or police force, so the Vikings used customary rules and practices to resolve disputes. They gathered together in assemblies called Things and voted on sentences for wrongdoers. Avenging kinsmen was common, and it was understood that family was not limited to blood relations. Kinship could include biological siblings, foster children, and even close friends.

The exact location of the Thingvellir law council is unknown. The Gragas states that the council met where it had long met. According to the Gragas, there were three concentric rings of benches, with the godar in the middle row and the advisors sitting in the two rows in front and behind. While it is not certain that the courtrooms were exactly the same, we can infer that they were held at different locations.

The written saga tradition begins in the Age of the Sturlungs, which spans between 1200 CE and 1262 CE. As Iceland became under Norwegian sway, chieftains became more powerful and rich, and their clans expanded to become the most influential clan in Iceland. In medieval Iceland, it was still a small agricultural society, and feuds were frequent. As a result, many sagas are courtroom tales.

The Norse and Icelandic Sagas courtrooms can also be seen as virtual court transcripts. A case like the Brennu-Njals saga contains numerous claims of wrong procedures, counter-claims, and external force. The story of the saga also contains tales of bribery and violence. In many cases, the godi involved in contentious litigation had a larger following and the ability to back up their discussions with lethal force.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Icelandic and Norse Sagas is their courtrooms. There are many ruins that date to this era that serve as courtrooms. At the base of the Law Rock, the law-speaker held public speeches and announcements. The voice of the law-speaker was directed by the cliff to guide the proceedings. The godi was required to attend these courtrooms, as were the interested parties.

Nick- or bynames

Most of the nicknames of Norse & Icelandic saga characters are derived from their physical characteristics and mental states. Often, nicknames are negative or insulting and were given posthumously. In some instances, these names are even comical, such as Ragnarr's nickname, Billy Goat Bjorn. Regardless of the source, a study of Norse and Icelandic saga characters' nicknames will provide a deeper understanding of their personalities.

Norwegian and Icelandic sagas are frequently interwoven, and some saga characters are known by nicknames. Wolf the Unwashed and Njal the Unwashed are two examples of such characters. During the Saga Age, the male beauty ideal included Manly Facial Hair. The absence of a beard was considered effeminous. This lack of facial hair, however, becomes a plot point in Njal's Saga. Many of these multigenerational sagas start with episodes of settlement, which often form the opening chapters.

The sagas also contain fabled creatures. For example, Jomsvikingar is a legendary creature from the Baltic Sea, while the Varangian Guard of Constantinople was an elite unit of the Byzantine army made up of Icelanders. Asskicking equals authority in Norse culture, and every king was necessarily a Warrior Prince.

Another example of a fictitious character is Harald Hardrada, whose archer Hemingr challenges him to shoot a hazelnut off his brother Bjorn's head. Harald Hardrada believed that everything was predetermined. And he was not the only one to have a name that was given to the heroes of his stories.

Another example of a fictional character is Hallgerdr, whose wife is known as the Long Pants. Her unusual height and long pants have led to her being nicknamed Hallgerdr. This legend also reflects the feuding family system that was prevalent in the Norse and Icelandic sagas. However, the sagas do not have the usual narrative filigree, so any character introduced will play a central role sooner or later.

Other examples of nick or bynames in Norse and Icelandic sagas are the names of legendary characters. Hrolf Kraki, for instance, is a legendary figure who appeared in the sagas of Hafrsfirth and Rogaland. Throughout his life, he was surrounded by men and swarms of vikings.

Andrea Lopez

International student since the age of fifteen. Varied cultural awareness and broad perspective of the academic world through several experiences abroad: Spain, Ireland, the UK, Guatemala, and Japan. Organised, highly adaptable, impeccable customer service skills and excellent rapport building abilities.

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