Illustrated by Simon Noyes
Punctuated by a series of eerie illustrations by Simon Noyes, these great Nordic stories of mythology, exploration and violence are chosen and prefaced by Magnus Magnusson.
‘Only now can I fully appreciate my own deep debt as a story-teller to Icelandic writers of long ago’
These tales of love, honour, revenge, exile and death describe adventures from the height of the Viking age. The original Viking settlers fled the harsh rule of Norway and braved the oceans to build new lives for themselves in Iceland and beyond. The sagas tell their stories in a potent mixture of fact and fiction, and they range from charming tales, like that of Audun and his polar bear, through sagas of exploration, such as the settlement of the Orkney Islands and Leif Eriksson’s discovery of America, to the epic tale of Njal – the story of a family conflict that spins out of control and ends, after 50 years, in terrible death. They tell of the men and women who held – in Ted Hughes’s words – ‘the thrilling balance between ultimate human violence and judicious sage control’. They are still highly readable now, hundreds of years on, both as glimpses of a long-abandoned way of life and as terrific stories of battles and vengeance at the edge of the known world.
‘The Icelandic Sagas are almost like the intimate diary of a whole nation … they are one of the great treasures of world literature’
Simon Noyes’s vivid illustrations capture the intimate relationship between the Nordic people and their stories: a corpse is placed in a ship for Viking burial, his weapons and other possessions by his side; at the bottom of a page four men are sinking beneath the sea, while above them their spirits feast in a long hall; a glittering axe sinks into the water, lost forever. In a time when life was rife with danger, the world of myth was only ever half a heartbeat away.
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