The World of the Sagas
The Complete Sagas of Icelanders include extensive
but unobtrusive reference and background material for a deeper understanding of
the world of the Sagas.
by Dr. Robert Kellogg
(Vol. I, xxviii-lv)
The comprehensive introduction depicts the world of the Sagas, their subject material,
the location and society where they take place, their artistry and, not least,
their characters, and assesses their place in world literature.
(Vol. V, pp. 387-393)
Following the course
of events, such as the voyages of discovery to Vinland, or finding the scene of
a conflict on the detailed maps puts the Sagas in a new perspective.
(Vol. V, pp. 405-417)
A large number of key
concepts have been translated consistently from one Saga to the next. As an aid
to understanding, they are given in italics in the first instance they occur in
each saga and comprehensive explanations are given in the glossary.
(vættur): There were various kinds of nature spirits that the Icelanders
(and other Scandinavians) believed in, and sometimes gave sacrifices to. There
are early references to elves (álfur) in mainland Scandinavia. Like their
modern-day equivalents, the "hidden people" (an expression used in both
Norway and Iceland), these would have been of human size..."
A NOTE ON POETIC IMAGERY
(Vol. V, pp. 418-420)
One of the most important
features of many Sagas are the verses, often recited by principal characters in
the stories. This is a linguistically complex poetry, full of imagery and energy,
which often includes rich and diverse references to Norse mythology. Explanations
are provided alongside the translation in
the Sagas themselves for the metaphorical word-puzzles known as kennings, while
more background and detail are found in this separate reference entry.
CROSS-REFERENCE INDEX OF CHARACTERS
(Vol. V, pp. 425-446)
All told, the Sagas
of Icelanders have a cast of thousands of men, women and children. This index
lists some 700 persons who appear in two or more Sagas.
ILLUSTRATIONS AND DIAGRAMS
(Vol. V, pp. 395-403)
Explanatory diagrams show
details of ships, houses, etc. together with a survey of Saga society.
(Vol. V, pp. 387-393)
indicate, among other things, the reigns of the principal Norwegian monarchs of
the period, historical events taking place in Iceland and the terms of office
of the leaders of the Icelandic commonwealth, the Lawspeakers.