All seven stories in this volume exemplify the outstanding qualities of realistic fiction in medieval Iceland. They date from the 13th century and fall into two distinct groups. Hrafnkel's Saga, Thorstein the Staff-Stuck, and Ale Hood are set in the pastoral society of native Iceland, the homely touch and stark realism giving the incidents a strong feeling of immediacy. The remaining four, Hreidar the Fool, Hallador Snorrason, Audun's Story, and Ivar's Story, were written without first-hand knowledge of Scandinavia, and describe the adventures of Icelandic poets and peasants at the royal courts of Norway and Denmark. Pagan elements tightly woven into the pattern of Christian ethics give these stories their distinctive character and cohesion.
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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