Written around the thirteenth century AD by Icelandic monks, the seven tales collected here offer a combination of pagan elements tightly woven into the pattern of Christian ethics. They take as their subjects figures who are heroic, but do not fit into the mould of traditional heroes. Some stories concern characters in Iceland – among them Hrafknel’s Saga, in which a poor man’s son is murdered by his powerful neighbour, and Thorstein the Staff-Struck, which describes an ageing warrior’s struggle to settle into a peaceful rural community. Others focus on the adventures of Icelanders abroad, including the compelling Audun’s Story, which depicts a farmhand’s pilgrimage to Rome. These fascinating tales deal with powerful human emotions, suffering and dignity at a time of profound transition, when traditional ideals were gradually yielding to a more peaceful pastoral lifestyle.
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