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'In two I'll slice the hair-seat / of Helga's kiss-gulper' In this epic tale from the Viking Age that ranges across Scandinavia and Viking Britain, two poets compete for the love of Helga the Fair - with fatal consequences. Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classic 'In two I'll slice the hair-seat / of Helga's kiss-gulper' In this epic tale from the Viking Age that ranges across Scandinavia and Viking Britain, two poets compete for the love of Helga the Fair - with fatal consequences. Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions. The Icelandic Sagas were oral in origin and written down in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Other Icelandic Sagas available in Penguin Classics include Njal's Saga, Egil's Saga, Sagas of Warrior-Poets, Gisli Sursson's Saga and the Saga of the People of Eyri, The Saga of Grettir the Strong, The Saga of the People of Laxardal and Bolli Bollason's Tale, The Vinland Sagas and Comic Sagas from Iceland.


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'In two I'll slice the hair-seat / of Helga's kiss-gulper' In this epic tale from the Viking Age that ranges across Scandinavia and Viking Britain, two poets compete for the love of Helga the Fair - with fatal consequences. Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classic 'In two I'll slice the hair-seat / of Helga's kiss-gulper' In this epic tale from the Viking Age that ranges across Scandinavia and Viking Britain, two poets compete for the love of Helga the Fair - with fatal consequences. Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions. The Icelandic Sagas were oral in origin and written down in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Other Icelandic Sagas available in Penguin Classics include Njal's Saga, Egil's Saga, Sagas of Warrior-Poets, Gisli Sursson's Saga and the Saga of the People of Eyri, The Saga of Grettir the Strong, The Saga of the People of Laxardal and Bolli Bollason's Tale, The Vinland Sagas and Comic Sagas from Iceland.

30 review for The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue

  1. 5 out of 5

    Imogen Kathleen

    Essentially an Icelandic mythology Rap Battle, this one was quite fun once you get past the barrage of names at the start. I haven't read any Icelandic mythology before, but I did enjoy this so maybe I'll look into reading some more. The starting few pages with a million different names was, however, incredibly dull and confusing. Essentially an Icelandic mythology Rap Battle, this one was quite fun once you get past the barrage of names at the start. I haven't read any Icelandic mythology before, but I did enjoy this so maybe I'll look into reading some more. The starting few pages with a million different names was, however, incredibly dull and confusing.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Leonard Gaya

    This is one small specimen of the vast Icelandic literature that flourished between the 10th and the 14th century AD. Vikings had been settling in Iceland since the 8th century, but literary production began after the Christianisation of the island (around 999). Between that time and the annexation by the Norwegian crown (in the late Middle Ages), Iceland enjoyed a sort of literary golden age: the age of the sagas —a term that means “tale”, “story”, “narrative”. These sagas, for the most part, re This is one small specimen of the vast Icelandic literature that flourished between the 10th and the 14th century AD. Vikings had been settling in Iceland since the 8th century, but literary production began after the Christianisation of the island (around 999). Between that time and the annexation by the Norwegian crown (in the late Middle Ages), Iceland enjoyed a sort of literary golden age: the age of the sagas —a term that means “tale”, “story”, “narrative”. These sagas, for the most part, recount the stories of the old families living on the island, the adventures, the romance, the rivalries, the friendships. They also provide a glimpse into medieval Icelandic society and culture, such as the clans, the Althing (assembly of the heads of families), the laws and honour code. The texts are often crisp and to the point, discarding any side note, any embellishment or pathos, but with hints of a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour —which perhaps had some influence on the British genius. Some sagas cover events such as the voyages of Erik the Red or the discovery of North America. Most famous of all are the remarkable sagas written by Snorri Sturluson, author of The Prose Edda and the Heimskringla: or, The Lives of the Norse Kings. This Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue is a text of the late period (end of 13th century), and primarily a romantic tragedy: Gunnlaug is in love with Helga the Fair. Her father agrees to give her away to him. But Gunnlaug first wants to embark on a voyage around the North Sea, from Norway to Britain. In the end, things don’t turn out quite as planned. It may be that this star-crossed lovers story was influenced by the Anglo-Norman tradition (Chrétien de Troyes, for instance)? Surely sagas such as this one have had a direct or indirect influence (through Saxo Grammaticus) on Shakespeare’s tragedies. Finally, it is important to note that the characters are all said to be both mighty warriors as well as skilled poets. As a result, this saga, like many others, is interspersed with skaldic poetry, a genre that is very specific, due to the extensive use of coded metaphors —the famous kenningar, which have fascinated J.L. Borges.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sean Barrs

    When the reader has first adjusted himself to the torrent of names, so frequently dumped on his lap, he will begin to enjoy this short tale. There are many sons of great men that are mentioned constantly, but that is the style of the saga. Much weight is put on the deeds of one’s forbears, and to criticise the tale because of this is to ignore a tale that is worthy of merit in its own right. The plot of the book is centred upon the rivalry of Gunnlaug and Hrafn. Gunnlaugh loves Helga and has so When the reader has first adjusted himself to the torrent of names, so frequently dumped on his lap, he will begin to enjoy this short tale. There are many sons of great men that are mentioned constantly, but that is the style of the saga. Much weight is put on the deeds of one’s forbears, and to criticise the tale because of this is to ignore a tale that is worthy of merit in its own right. The plot of the book is centred upon the rivalry of Gunnlaug and Hrafn. Gunnlaugh loves Helga and has sorted her father’s permission for marriage. His answer is, essentially, come back when you’re a bit more mature and then you can have my daughter. Hrafn finds out about the arrangement and tries to steal Helga for a perceived slight against his honour. A love triangle is created which ends in blood and neither man getting the girl. This is an entertaining story, but not an overly memorable one. However, what from reading this I have found a new form of literature that I would like to read more of: the saga. Penguin Little Black Classic- O3 The Little Black Classic Collection by penguin looks like it contains lots of hidden gems. I couldn’t help it; they looked so good that I went and bought them all. I shall post a short review after reading each one. No doubt it will take me several months to get through all of them! Hopefully I will find some classic authors, from across the ages, that I may not have come across had I not bought this collection.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "I'm ready to tread the isle where combat is tried - God grant the poet victory - a drawn sword in my hand; into two I'll slice the hair-seat of Helga's kiss gulper; finally, with my bright sword, I'll unscrew his neck from his head." - Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue Vol 3 of my Penguin Little Black Classics Box Set. Think of this as an epic poet rap battle between two Icelandic Vikings. In one corner, you have DJ Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue, son of Illugi the Black, the son of Hallkel Hrosskelsson. In the other c "I'm ready to tread the isle where combat is tried - God grant the poet victory - a drawn sword in my hand; into two I'll slice the hair-seat of Helga's kiss gulper; finally, with my bright sword, I'll unscrew his neck from his head." - Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue Vol 3 of my Penguin Little Black Classics Box Set. Think of this as an epic poet rap battle between two Icelandic Vikings. In one corner, you have DJ Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue, son of Illugi the Black, the son of Hallkel Hrosskelsson. In the other corner you have DJ Hrafn Onundarson, kinsman to Skafti the Lawspeaker, son of Onund of Mosfell. Once you get past all the geneology, the story itself is fascinating. It shows the trade and relationships between Iceland, Norway, Sweden, England, and Ireland. It also shows these areas as Christianity begins to spread among the people. This one story does make me more likely to bust into my Penguin copy of The Sagas of Icelanders. It also makes me miss Denmark and Sweden a bit. One of these days I'm going to need to get back to Norway and Iceland methinks.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lea

    I did my BA in Scandinavian Studies/Northern European Studies and had several modules on medieval history as well as literature, so I'm no stranger to Icelandic sagas but I had not read this one before. I was however already used to the style they are written in and therefor not surprised by it. Sagas can seem rather clunky and tiresome at first and they take some time to get used to. It does seem counterintuitive to a good story to always have a character dream what will happen, as it takes awa I did my BA in Scandinavian Studies/Northern European Studies and had several modules on medieval history as well as literature, so I'm no stranger to Icelandic sagas but I had not read this one before. I was however already used to the style they are written in and therefor not surprised by it. Sagas can seem rather clunky and tiresome at first and they take some time to get used to. It does seem counterintuitive to a good story to always have a character dream what will happen, as it takes away any form of suspense. But there is also something funny about all the names and family relations that are mentioned that have nothing to do with the story itself. Or that several times when a character is last mentioned in the saga this is explicitly spelled out ("He went away in the summer and appears no more in this story"). I enjoyed this short saga but I can completely understand why others would find the structure and sometimes the sentences hard to get through. I'll admit it takes some getting used to and certainly the story could be told in a much more exciting way. As always with sagas I like I wonder what the characters felt and thought about, but it's also fun imaging it yourself!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Liz Janet

    Does anyone know where exactly I can find a complete work of this? I have read many Viking texts, but that was so long ago that I barely recall any, particularly if it is a different translation, and since I enjoyed this one, I wish to read more. This is the story of a man from Iceland, of one rich family, that goes on a journey across the world before returning home to marry his betrothed, and in doing so, wherever he visits, he receives some poetry and receives favours in the form of jewelry a Does anyone know where exactly I can find a complete work of this? I have read many Viking texts, but that was so long ago that I barely recall any, particularly if it is a different translation, and since I enjoyed this one, I wish to read more. This is the story of a man from Iceland, of one rich family, that goes on a journey across the world before returning home to marry his betrothed, and in doing so, wherever he visits, he receives some poetry and receives favours in the form of jewelry and animal skin. But then, some things happen that the guy is not okay with, and he should not, and a RAP BATTLE ENSUES. I was not pleased with the ending, for I am a romantic.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marjolein (UrlPhantomhive)

    Read all my reviews on http://urlphantomhive.booklikes.com The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue is the third of Penguin's Little Black Classics, and it is because of titles like this one that I picked up the series, as they represent the kind of books I would maybe not have read otherwise. The story was quite enjoyable. A young Icelandic noble holds a gap-year (several in fact) traveling to the courts of Europe, where they all love his poetry and shower him with gifts. When he eventually returns Read all my reviews on http://urlphantomhive.booklikes.com The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue is the third of Penguin's Little Black Classics, and it is because of titles like this one that I picked up the series, as they represent the kind of books I would maybe not have read otherwise. The story was quite enjoyable. A young Icelandic noble holds a gap-year (several in fact) traveling to the courts of Europe, where they all love his poetry and shower him with gifts. When he eventually returns he finds that a fellow poet has sneakily stolen his betrothed and he's not pleased with this at all. While the story is easy to follow it wasn't always an easy read. Because of it being a saga there is a lot of attention for everyone's father and their father and their fathers before them (you get the idea). This combined with the feeling that there were rather a lot repetitive senses made that the flow wasn't really that nice and makes that I wouldn't quickly pick up a full length work of Icelandic sagas. But I think it works quite well in small doses. Little Black Classic #3

  8. 5 out of 5

    ~Madison

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. [re-read] ive only read about 30 little black classics but out of all of them.. this one is the BEST one, ---- [first read] I might update this to a 5 stars later when I let the story sink in Honestly so interesting and gunnlaugs death had my jaw hanging, it was so sudden and helgas death was also so sudden and unexpected and she died knowing she loved gunnlaug more than anything :(

  9. 5 out of 5

    Iza Brekilien

    Reviewed for Books and livres Congratulations, Gunnlaug, you earned my first 1 star review of the year ! Usually, I rate 2 stars a book that I was able to finish but didn't like, but this time, I had to rate it lower. I was puzzled that it may happen because the book is roughly 50 pages long ! It took me a whole day to finish it ! I kept putting it down then forcing myself to take it back because hey, how hard can it be to read 50 pages in one day ? One the whole, this Xth century saga was a macho Reviewed for Books and livres Congratulations, Gunnlaug, you earned my first 1 star review of the year ! Usually, I rate 2 stars a book that I was able to finish but didn't like, but this time, I had to rate it lower. I was puzzled that it may happen because the book is roughly 50 pages long ! It took me a whole day to finish it ! I kept putting it down then forcing myself to take it back because hey, how hard can it be to read 50 pages in one day ? One the whole, this Xth century saga was a macho contest. Hardly any mention of women here, except if they are mothers or the one girl they're all fighting over. The protagonists appear to have only brothers - that would be explained because baby girls (except if they're very decorative) are usually left to die somewhere while baby boys are kept. It's a wonder if there were women enough to reproduce, but no wonder that when men see one, they fight over her ! The guys in there are all about boasting, arguing, brawling (by the way, a horse thief doesn't compensate a guy whose horse he was trying to steal, but the owner of the horse has to compensate the thief because he struck him : logical) or writing poems that suck to kings, licking their boots so that they could spend a season in their kingdom as their guests ! I've never read northern sagas before, but I've read Middle-Ages texts and had no problem with them, even much, much longer ones. I read them for pleasure ! I know, obviously, that women back then were expected to reproduce and serve beers, I wouldn't have minded so much if the men had at least a few brain cells. But they apparently don't know what a brain is. Hence my 1 star !

  10. 4 out of 5

    Krystal

    I had misgivings to start with because there's a whole bunch of hard-to-pronounce names (unless you're from that geographical region, I imagine) and sons- and fathers-of which is pretty hard to keep track of. But once our G starts out on his overseas adventure, it's actually a fun tale. At first, I wasn't a huge fan of the guy. He seems a bit arrogant, but at the same time I liked that he was unafraid to go after what he wanted. I'm not entirely sure why he pissed off the first king but then was I had misgivings to start with because there's a whole bunch of hard-to-pronounce names (unless you're from that geographical region, I imagine) and sons- and fathers-of which is pretty hard to keep track of. But once our G starts out on his overseas adventure, it's actually a fun tale. At first, I wasn't a huge fan of the guy. He seems a bit arrogant, but at the same time I liked that he was unafraid to go after what he wanted. I'm not entirely sure why he pissed off the first king but then was friendly with the ones who came after? But I liked that he made friends - it makes him more likable because suddenly other people like him, too. So basically if you can figure out (or happily ignore) all the names except for the handful of important ones, this is a fun little adventure story. Kinda strange, and full of random, short poems, but I liked it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Suvi

    On top of everything else, I'm participating in a saga course at uni, where we read four sagas during the two months and discuss generally about Icelandic sagas and their features. This type of introduction is priceless, because it helps to understand how and why sagas are an integral part of Iceland and its history (even today they influence Icelandic authors, and twenty years ago The Book of Icelanders was read as fact in elementary schools). I somewhat grew to like the simplicity. William Morr On top of everything else, I'm participating in a saga course at uni, where we read four sagas during the two months and discuss generally about Icelandic sagas and their features. This type of introduction is priceless, because it helps to understand how and why sagas are an integral part of Iceland and its history (even today they influence Icelandic authors, and twenty years ago The Book of Icelanders was read as fact in elementary schools). I somewhat grew to like the simplicity. William Morris's translation is still terse, but also flows beautifully, and the archaic expressions add texture to the language. The form does take time to get used to, but the context and purpose of the sagas explain the presence of family trees, whose presence might seem pointless at first. It's debatable as to how much of the historical aspect of the sagas is true, but they were originally intended as records of history as much as stories about the exploits of certain Icelanders (saga genres vary from family, kings', romances, bishops' etc.). The family lists in Gunnlaug places it in the family saga department, but I don't think it's necessary to remember all the characters, as some of them are there for other than storytelling purposes. After all, when everything else except the basic storyline is stripped away, what's left is an entertaining and tragic story of Gunnlaug's efforts to be a better man and win Helga as his wife. People throughout the ages have had similar worries and desires, so when Gunnlaug's proposal is rejected by Helga's father, because Gunnlaug is too restless and about to go abroad, some of us can recognize the father's need to want only what's best for his daughter. Gunnlaug therefore departs, and I assume he's welcomed as Helga's fiancé only when he has gained experience and capital. Echoing Greek tragedies, there's foreshadowing, and the idea of fate eventually catching up on you is carried throughout the story. Foreshadowing can be off-putting sometimes, but in this case it was interesting to see how the events unfolded into the inevitable tragic outcome. Dreams reveal the life of your son, the suffering your loved ones will endure, and no matter how hard you try to escape them, you will be caught by the superior forces that inhabit your enemies. The saga of Gunnlaug still focuses surprisingly little on what the various family members mentioned did, but I expect some of them will be explained in other sagas. The historical context is only brushed lightly upon by explaining with a few sentences what's going on in the countries where Gunnlaug's travelling. King Ethelred seems to have no problems with Icelanders, but warns Gunnlaug of a Norwegian viking who lends some money from Gunnlaug. Really though, how stupid are you that you just decide to lend money to a complete stranger, because he does after all promise to pay it back! Christ... Speaking of Christ, the writer of the saga seems to have a problem with pagan traditions: "Next to this befell those tidings, the best that ever have befallen here in Iceland, that the whole land became Christian, and that all folk cast off the old faith". Perhaps not surprising, but the era of Christianizing the Nordic countries is fascinating. Obviously I disagree with the author, but at least his own misgivings and attitudes towards "heathens" don't interrupt the story too much. When in doubt, just wield your axe and all your problems are solved (or not.) The characters are mostly described in black and white terms, but Gunnlaug's perfection does suffer a small dent when you start to think about the purpose of his journey. Who cares if you forget your promises made at home and wander around in kings' houses and enjoy their hospitality for way longer than you were supposed to, even though poetry is clearly not appreciated anymore? Maybe there's a diplomatic aspect I don't understand, but Gunnlaug adds a sense of ambiguity to the saga's characterizations. Overall, the fairy-tale like repetition and redundancy won't stop me from reading more sagas. This one at least had a quality of magic and adventure, and something about the pagan era fascinates me to no end. In this case, simplicity leaves more room for imagination.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Charles van Buren

    Charles van Buren TOP 1000 REVIEWER 5.0 out of 5 stars A relatively easy to read Icelandic saga. March 21, 2019 Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase This review is of the free Kindle Edition: Publication date: May 11, 2012 Language: English ASIN: B0082RAOCC Many classical and modern writers have been inspired by the Icelandic Sagas. J.R.R. Tolkien and David Drake come to mind. If you want to sample them for yourself, this one is free from Amazon, relatively short and easy to read. Keep in mind that ea Charles van Buren TOP 1000 REVIEWER 5.0 out of 5 stars A relatively easy to read Icelandic saga. March 21, 2019 Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase This review is of the free Kindle Edition: Publication date: May 11, 2012 Language: English ASIN: B0082RAOCC Many classical and modern writers have been inspired by the Icelandic Sagas. J.R.R. Tolkien and David Drake come to mind. If you want to sample them for yourself, this one is free from Amazon, relatively short and easy to read. Keep in mind that easy to read is relative. There are many unfamiliar names of which to keep track. There is also Norse terminology and some archaic language as this edition was translated in 1875. Reading on a Kindle or similar device with a good built-in dictionary makes things easier.

  13. 4 out of 5

    nora⁷

    I read this for school, and actually found it quite interesting. It's amazing how this was written in the middle ages. Honestly, it was a bit tough to get through because of all the name and family drops, but otherwise it was interesting to analyse and discuss this saga :D I read this for school, and actually found it quite interesting. It's amazing how this was written in the middle ages. Honestly, it was a bit tough to get through because of all the name and family drops, but otherwise it was interesting to analyse and discuss this saga :D

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shazia Noor

    ⚔️When one has finally settled himself to the flood of names, repeatedly poured on you , he will begin to enjoy this short saga. There are many sons of great men. Book focuses on rivalry of Gunnlaug and Hrafn. Gunnlaug loves Helga and somehow get his father's permission for marriage. But before marriage Gunnlaug decides to go on a voyage which, eventually, turns out to be a great opportunity for Hrafn to take down Gunnlaug's honour. A love triangle is made which ends in blood. ~ ✨Entertaining stor ⚔️When one has finally settled himself to the flood of names, repeatedly poured on you , he will begin to enjoy this short saga. There are many sons of great men. Book focuses on rivalry of Gunnlaug and Hrafn. Gunnlaug loves Helga and somehow get his father's permission for marriage. But before marriage Gunnlaug decides to go on a voyage which, eventually, turns out to be a great opportunity for Hrafn to take down Gunnlaug's honour. A love triangle is made which ends in blood. ~ ✨Entertaining story! ✍🏻Different writing style! 💓It was something very different from what I used to read. It took me a little time to get through at the beginning but once I got into it. I totally liked it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Charles van Buren

    Charles van Buren TOP 1000 REVIEWER 5.0 out of 5 stars A relatively easy to read Icelandic saga. March 21, 2019 Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase This review is of the free Kindle Edition: Publication date: May 11, 2012 Language: English ASIN: B0082RAOCC Many classical and modern writers have been inspired by the Icelandic Sagas. J.R.R. Tolkien and David Drake come to mind. If you want to sample them for yourself, this one is free from Amazon, relatively short and easy to read. Keep in mind that ea Charles van Buren TOP 1000 REVIEWER 5.0 out of 5 stars A relatively easy to read Icelandic saga. March 21, 2019 Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase This review is of the free Kindle Edition: Publication date: May 11, 2012 Language: English ASIN: B0082RAOCC Many classical and modern writers have been inspired by the Icelandic Sagas. J.R.R. Tolkien and David Drake come to mind. If you want to sample them for yourself, this one is free from Amazon, relatively short and easy to read. Keep in mind that easy to read is relative. There are many unfamiliar names of which to keep track. There is also Norse terminology and some archaic language as this edition was translated in 1875. Reading on a Kindle or similar device with a good built-in dictionary makes things easier.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elida (elidaleser)

    Not my cup of tea, but okay.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Billy O'Callaghan

    Helga, the daughter of a nobleman, whose birth led to a prophesy that her beauty would cause men to kill for her, falls in love with Gunnlaug, a cocky young poet from a wealthy and honourable family, with a particular hunger for adventure. Her father is reluctant about the match, but eventually agrees to wait three years for Gunnlaug to travel the world before being free to marry Helga to someone else. But when the three years pass, a deal is struck with another poet, Gunnlaug's rival, Hrafn. He Helga, the daughter of a nobleman, whose birth led to a prophesy that her beauty would cause men to kill for her, falls in love with Gunnlaug, a cocky young poet from a wealthy and honourable family, with a particular hunger for adventure. Her father is reluctant about the match, but eventually agrees to wait three years for Gunnlaug to travel the world before being free to marry Helga to someone else. But when the three years pass, a deal is struck with another poet, Gunnlaug's rival, Hrafn. Helga is unhappy, but Gunnlaug's return coincides with the wedding. The Icelandic Sagas rank among the greatest treasures of world literature, ancient texts that resonate well with the modern mind. They really are quite masterfully told. Historical facts stand as a touchstone, but the sense of drama is unwavering. Blood feuds, love triangles, passion, sorcery, adventure and a constant sense of poetry make for captivating reading, but what marks them out from other ancient writing is the realism, particularly with regard to the characters, who come across as genuinely human, full of easy-to-relate-to hopes, flaws and sprung emotions. These sagas have long fascinated me, and I am determined to explore them in greater depth. 'The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue' is believed to have been written in the second half of the 13th century and based on a story first created some quarter of a millennium earlier. In common with other sagas I've read, it is necessary to wade through an initial battery of barely pronounceable names and genealogies, but once you get a few pages in the story quickly becomes addictive. Given that it has endured for so many centuries, it's kind of hard to class it as anything less than a masterpiece. Measuring it against some of the other sagas I've read it's still, comfortably, a four-star read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Daren

    A short Icelandic saga. Follows the travels of Gunnlaug Serpent Tongue, as he travels from Iceland to various places, including England and Norway. He leaves betrothed to the lovely Helga by arrangement that he return in a set timeframe. He doesn't return in the agreed time, and events unfold from there. No more without spoilers I would think, it is a short book! A short Icelandic saga. Follows the travels of Gunnlaug Serpent Tongue, as he travels from Iceland to various places, including England and Norway. He leaves betrothed to the lovely Helga by arrangement that he return in a set timeframe. He doesn't return in the agreed time, and events unfold from there. No more without spoilers I would think, it is a short book!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ανδρέας Μιχαηλίδης

    This is a very interesting little book (50 pages in all), which illustrates a great number of things. It is purportedly a transcript of the saga (as told by priest Ari Thorgilsson the Learned) which begins with the birth of Helga the Fair, daughter of Thorstein Egilsson and the book mentions that among Egil's descendants there were many great people, including Snorri Sturluson, who wrote down the Eddas! The story is basically the life's chronicle of two warrior-poets, Gunnlaug and Hrafn, as they This is a very interesting little book (50 pages in all), which illustrates a great number of things. It is purportedly a transcript of the saga (as told by priest Ari Thorgilsson the Learned) which begins with the birth of Helga the Fair, daughter of Thorstein Egilsson and the book mentions that among Egil's descendants there were many great people, including Snorri Sturluson, who wrote down the Eddas! The story is basically the life's chronicle of two warrior-poets, Gunnlaug and Hrafn, as they intersect for want of Helga's hand in marriage. The story was put down to paper around the end of the 13th century, but the events take place in the late 10th-early 11th, around the peak of the Viking Age (there is even a mention that at the time Danish was the prevalent language in England, whereas it became French after William the Bastard - William the Conqueror - who was of French descent). There is the mention (and commenting on) the shift to Christianity, the outlawing of duels in Iceland (the last one ever supposedly being the one between Gunnlaug and Hrafn) and most of all, an entirely novel (though ancient) way to look at the Bards we are used to in fantasy settings. The taunting, the composing and reciting of poems for sovereigns, who often reward the poet richly. It is also a tour of the Viking World, with detailed names, family associations and historical remarks, all incorporated into the saga. However, that same name-dropping is the reason for rating it 4 instead of 5, as it can be a bit tiresome in a some places.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Summer SSS

    2 stars because that's the Goodreads rating for "okay". This is very reminiscent of when my mom tries to tell me a story from work: a lot of tangents and a lot of names and backstory to keep track of for very little actual story (sorry mom). Also I never for a second was able to suspend my belief enough to believe that people ever regarded poetry & poets that highly lmao. (and I say that as someone who does like poetry) It's cool how authentically Icelandic this is though, a fun little folk tale 2 stars because that's the Goodreads rating for "okay". This is very reminiscent of when my mom tries to tell me a story from work: a lot of tangents and a lot of names and backstory to keep track of for very little actual story (sorry mom). Also I never for a second was able to suspend my belief enough to believe that people ever regarded poetry & poets that highly lmao. (and I say that as someone who does like poetry) It's cool how authentically Icelandic this is though, a fun little folk tale for sure.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sofia

    I was really impressed by how much I felt in this story unfortunately for me the end seemed told as if in a hurry...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rikke

    Quite humorous – though often unintended.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laure

    Simply one of the best - if not the best - sagas I've ever read. Simply one of the best - if not the best - sagas I've ever read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Curie

    Before I even say anything about this book, I have to admit to being an absolute sucker for anything even remotely related to Iceland. Since I have been learning the language and through that getting to know the culture better for about two years now, the sole prospect of reading this little saga already got me excited. The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue was written down around 1270-1300, even though it would have circulated much earlier in oral form. It's the heroic story of two poets competin Before I even say anything about this book, I have to admit to being an absolute sucker for anything even remotely related to Iceland. Since I have been learning the language and through that getting to know the culture better for about two years now, the sole prospect of reading this little saga already got me excited. The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue was written down around 1270-1300, even though it would have circulated much earlier in oral form. It's the heroic story of two poets competing for the love of fair Helga. I guess if you'll enjoy reading this volume mostly depends on how interested you are in sagas in general, because if you do, this gives you everything you might ask for. A saga is generally defined as "a long story of heroic achievement, especially a medieval prose narrative in Old Norse or Old Icelandic." If unfamiliar with this genre, I would consider it a brilliant entry point to Norse Mythology, providing a good understanding of court culture and basic story telling of that period. The language is easy and simple to understand and the little poets that are included are well-translated and contain explanations of unusual wordings, which makes this a light and enjoyable quick read. The directness of the writing style has an (unintended) humor of its own, I thought that it's explicitly stated when a character is not going to appear in this saga again a rather funny way of storytelling; as is the fact that you're just being bombarded with irrelevant names of everyone's relatives. Roughly a year ago Penguin introduced the Little Black Classics series to celebrate Penguin's 80th birthday. Including little stories from "around the world and across many centuries" as the publisher describes, I have been intrigued to read those for a long time, before finally having started. I hope to sooner or later read and review all of them!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    The Icelandic poet Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue contracts to marry Helga the Beautiful, but puts it off in favour of travelling around Scandinavia and the British Isles. He meets Sigtrygg Silkbeard of Ireland and becomes a follower King Æthelred the Unready as he prepares to fight off King Cnut and gets outlawed by a Norwegian earl for being too insulting with his poems. Anyways, Hrafn, a rival Icelandic poet, marries Helga, but she's not into it. So Gunnlaug starts a feud with Hrafn when they meet a The Icelandic poet Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue contracts to marry Helga the Beautiful, but puts it off in favour of travelling around Scandinavia and the British Isles. He meets Sigtrygg Silkbeard of Ireland and becomes a follower King Æthelred the Unready as he prepares to fight off King Cnut and gets outlawed by a Norwegian earl for being too insulting with his poems. Anyways, Hrafn, a rival Icelandic poet, marries Helga, but she's not into it. So Gunnlaug starts a feud with Hrafn when they meet at the Law Rock during the Althing, but their relatives put a stop to it because duelling is banned now that they're suddenly all christians. So they agree to go to Norway to fight a duel. Gunny chops off Hrafn's leg. Hrafn sticks his leg on a tree stump and says he can live if he has some water, so Gunny dips his helmet in the fjord, but of course it's a trick and Hrafn strikes him a grievous wound. Hrafn dies first and Gunnlaug follows him soon after. Helga has to content herself with a lesser husband and the families feud for a while. And there's a guy named Goat-Bjorn.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Charles van Buren

    Charles van Buren TOP 1000 REVIEWER 5.0 out of 5 stars A relatively easy to read Icelandic saga. March 21, 2019 Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase This review is of the free Kindle Edition: Publication date: May 11, 2012 Language: English ASIN: B0082RAOCC Many classical and modern writers have been inspired by the Icelandic Sagas. J.R.R. Tolkien and David Drake come to mind. If you want to sample them for yourself, this one is free from Amazon, relatively short and easy to read. Keep in mind that ea Charles van Buren TOP 1000 REVIEWER 5.0 out of 5 stars A relatively easy to read Icelandic saga. March 21, 2019 Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase This review is of the free Kindle Edition: Publication date: May 11, 2012 Language: English ASIN: B0082RAOCC Many classical and modern writers have been inspired by the Icelandic Sagas. J.R.R. Tolkien and David Drake come to mind. If you want to sample them for yourself, this one is free from Amazon, relatively short and easy to read. Keep in mind that easy to read is relative. There are many unfamiliar names of which to keep track. There is also Norse terminology and some archaic language as this edition was translated in 1875. Reading on a Kindle or similar device with a good built-in dictionary makes things easier.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mark Ryan

    After getting used to the writing style I really enjoyed this story of personal growth and fighting over love and pride. There is alot of family names and it can get confusing but I loved hearing about all the families and fjords. Also there is an underlying humour which I think was unintended but came about through the translation

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Jane

    3.5 Stars. I really liked this, although I'd like it better if I understood the language and the way the Icelandic people wrote. 3.5 Stars. I really liked this, although I'd like it better if I understood the language and the way the Icelandic people wrote.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Pretty interesting. This Viking-age epic was written down around 1270-1300, which is cool. It features a landscape of kings, goddesses and warrior-poets, which I loved. In that society, poetry and fighting prowess are equally prized, which is awesome -- writers for the win! -- and the poems throughout the book were quite lovely. Overall it was an interesting look at an old and brutal world.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sara Alvestad

    Read for school. Didn't understand many of the words, as it's written in Norse, and not Norwegian. Therefore i didn't get much of the plot. Also confusing due to all the irrelevant names added, although I understand why it's written that way. Read for school. Didn't understand many of the words, as it's written in Norse, and not Norwegian. Therefore i didn't get much of the plot. Also confusing due to all the irrelevant names added, although I understand why it's written that way.

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