1995-09-14: Eyrbyggja Saga

Eyrbyggja Saga (~1275, tr 1989)

tr Hermann Pálsson (1921-2002) & Paul Edwards (-)

I read this saga after enjoying Njal’s Saga. I did not enjoy this as much.

The two sagas are rather different in tone and structure. Njal’s Saga is a tragedy, masterfully plotted and told.  Eyrbyggja Saga is a series of incidents of conflict between two extended families, with little structure or emotional impact. The historical setting serves as a framework for numerous small stories, including famous ghost stories. At the end is a tale of an encounter in the New World before 1030, apparently told in the 1200s!

The society depicted is essentially the same as in Njal’s Saga, although some institutions appear to have been invented by its author, as they are never mentioned in other sources. Lacking here is the sense that the society is suffering from the excesses allowed by its own institutions. The contrast between mediation and blood feud, so prominent in Njal’s Saga, is entirely lacking here. (Of course, both approaches to conflict are mentioned; they are not contrasted.)

I believe I understand the reasons that Rexroth recommended Njal’s Saga.

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