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The Story of Egil Skallagrimsson

An Icelandic Family History of the Ninth and Tenth Centuries

264 pages
Library of Alexandria
It is now more than thirty years since Dasent by the story of Burnt Njal delighted many readers and awakened in England an interest in the Icelandic Sagas. The introduction to Burnt Njal trats ably and fully of Icelandic history and literature, pointing out their especial value to us Englishmen. And this the same author has further done in his introduction to Vigusson's Dictionary. Other Sagas have since been made accessible in English: e.g., the story of Gisli the outlaw, by Dasent; Grettir's Saga, by Magnusson and Morris; and recently some others in the series entitled 'The Saga Library.' Dasent put before us the best first, for of Iceland's Sagas the Njala undoubtedly bears the palm. But the next best has hitherto not been open to English readers—the Egilssaga to wit. Second only to the Njala in interest and merit is the Egla, and second (in my judgement) after no long interval. For though no one character enlists our sympathy in Egil's story so much as does the wise and good Njal so underservedly cut off, yet the whole story is in stle and force little, if at all, inferior. Nay it has more variety of scene and adventure, more points of contact with history, than has the Njala; it is to Englishmen especially interesting, as one part of it is much concerned with England. The narrative takes us to many lands; all over Norway, to Sweden, to Finmark, and the lands beyond, Kvenland, Bjarmaland, the shores of the White Sea; in company with the Vikings we go 'the eastward way' to the Baltic, to Courland in Russia; we visit Holland, Friesland, Jutland; [iv] westwards and southwestwards we cruise about Shetland, the Orkneys, Scotland; England is reached by our hero Egil; York is the scene of his most perilous venture; he comes even as far as London. The earlier part of the Saga, the scene of which is in Norway, with the account of Harold Fairhair's obtaining sole dominion there, is of great interest, and agrees with other accounts of the same. It is well known that Harold's tyranny (as they deemed it) drove many Norsemen of good familyto seek Iceland and freedom.