Heroes of Iceland
In 10th century Iceland a spiraling sequence of blood feuds reached its tragic climax with a house-burning that the Icelandic nation never forgot. The memory of her people ultimately transmuted the history into powerful artistic representation in song and saga: certain men and women of noble stature had emerged from the evil events, and these were celebrated. Allen French’s book, Heroes of Iceland, takes that people’s greatest saga, The Story of Burnt Njal, and makes it vivid and accessible to the modern English-speaking public. Witty, pointed dialog reveals the characters in conflict; humor flashes out; pettiness and cowardice are exposed; and throughout, terse description moves the action forward in a compelling drama. Njal and his friend Gunnar ever strive for just settlement of their family disputes within the intricacies of Iceland’s tightly reasoned legal code; at every turn their generous cunning is opposed by the evil cunning of the greedy and violent. What will truly satisfy justice? The story is many-faceted and a large variety of characters affect the outcome.
On the downward course of violence, as deceit and unjust retribution play out, a great purging eventually will take place, even as the steadfast courage and honor of some will win them a name for the ages. Meanwhile, in the background, many have quietly begun to turn to a new Faith; of which the hero Njal had asserted, “If those men come hither to preach this faith, then I will back them well.”
Original Book: 297 pages