Vikings in Edda and Viking Sagas

This section contains references to and short reviews of some of the better known Viking Eddas and Viking Sagas. We have tried to identify what we consider to be the very best among the many translations and versions of these books in the market. Please give us feedback if any of our choices can be/ought to be improved or complemented.

  Title/author Description Order from:
    Edda ( Eddaic verse)  
Edda, Snorri Sturlason Edda (Everyman's Library) by Snorri Sturlason There are two chief sources for the Norse myths, the Elder (Poetic) Edda and the Younger (Prose) Edda. This is a translation of the Prose Edda and includes the creation of the earth from the remains of the giant Ymir, the death of Baldr, the twilight of the gods (Ragnarök), and certain stories of Sigurd and Brynhild (Siegfried and Brünnhilde in Wagner's operas). Most translations include only the parts that are "of interest to the general reader", but this one is complete and of very good quality. Amazon US
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The Poetic Edda The Poetic Edda, by Lee M. Hollander This beautiful and poetic translation of the Poetic Edda echoes the beauty of the original Old Icelandic. It would be better of course to read the Edda in the original, but if you don't speak Old Icelandic yet, this is the translation to use. It has the convenience of having numbered stanzas and so is suitable for study. If you are unfamiliar with the Poetic Edda's contents: The poems, dealing with the Norse Gods, are to the people of the North what the stories of Moses, Abraham and Isaac are to the peoples of the Middle East. Amazon US
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    Saga  
Heimskringla - The History of the Kings of Norway, Snorri Sturlason Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway, by Snorri Sturlason Snorri Sturluson speaks — as almost no other historian ever has spoken — with the authority of a man whose masterful skills would have made him one of the formidable, foremost in any of the events he records. Wherever you open the book, the life grips you and you read on.... (Ted Hughes, New York Review of Books )
Among the many contibutions to world literature that ancient Iceland has given us, Heimskringla stands out as one of the truly monumental works. Among medieval European histories in the vernacular it has no equal.
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Egil's Saga Egil's Saga (Penguin Classics) Anonymous One of the earliest known sagas, The story of Egil son of Grim the Bald (Skalla-Grim) is one of the major sagas, andprobably most closely approximates the image associated with the word. The story is multi-generational. It features Viking adventures, and its primary hero is a devotee of Odin, god of kings, warriors, and poets. The hero's grandfather is rumored to be a werewolf, and the hero, himself both warrior and skald (poet), has thrilling encounters with berserkers and outlaws, and engages in a feud with a (perfectly historical) king, Eric Bloodaxe, whose wife (later the Queen-Mother) is a sorceress. Amazon US
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Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories (Penguin Classics) Anonymous Hrafnkel's Saga is one of the classics of Icelandic literature. It tells the story of a man with a not-too-pleasant character who must endure the misfortune caused by his own actions. Hrankel's Saga is rich in terms of the insight it gives into Old Icelandic society and its understanding of honor and justice.
The writing style is spare and terse, and a close reading is often necessary to catch the subtleties of characterization. Because of its short length, Hrafnkel is a great place to begin saga reading
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The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki (Penguin Classics)
Anonymous
This is an interesting saga featuring semi-legendary Norse characters. It is presented and translated by the distinguished scholar of Icelandic history, Jesse Byock. It is a series of linked tales about the legendary Danish monarch, Hrolf Hraki. It is an Icelandic saga based on the legendary or semi-legendary Norse past. (See also Poul Anderson's Hrolf Kraki's Saga, a fictionalized version of this book!) Amazon US
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Njal's Saga Njal's Saga (Classics), Anonymous Another great Icelandic saga. Blood fueds, witchy supernatural prophecies coming true, coniving women, outlawry, and more blood fueds. Also provides a look at the legal system of Iceland during this time period. Njal's Saga, is a tale of hard men in a harsh land who push and pull at one another until the only recourse, in their grim pioneering culture, remains the blood-feud. And once unleashed, the blood-flow is literally unstoppable as noble heroes cut one another down. (This translation, by Magnus Magnusson is generally considered to be the best translation.) Amazon US
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The Saga of the Volsungs The Saga of the Volsungs (Penguin Classics), Anonymous Based on Viking Age poems and composed in thirteenth-century Iceland, The Saga of the Volsungs combines mythology, legend, and sheer human drama in telling of the heroic deeds of Sigurd the dragon slayer, who acquires runic knowledge from one of Odin's Valkyries. With its ill-fated Rhinegold, the sword reforged, and the magic ring of power, the saga resembles the Nibelungenlied Amazon US
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