Njal’s Saga

The more Icelandic sagas I read, the more I cannot believe that they are not taught alongside Shakespeare and Beowulf in schools. While all the sagas offer characters that are extraordinarily psychologically complex as well as discussions about justice, revenge, and the legal system, Njal’s Saga stands out as the most skillfully written. The hero, Njal, is an intellectual and lawyer, though not a great warrior. The author follows Njal’s role in the social politics surrounding him. Njal’s Saga is filled with insights into the complex legal system in Iceland around 1000, and also contains the strange story of the Icelandic conversion to Christianity. The author’s skeptic attitude toward religion, the presence of incredibly strong women characters, the extraordinary level of competition in the society, and the brilliant political moves the characters execute in order to get ahead all contribute to make reading the saga an amazing experience.

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