'Why is your axe bloody?': A Reading of Njáls Saga

Michigan Law Authors
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Book, Whole

Njáls saga is acknowledged as the greatest of the Icelandic sagas, and it rightly deserves acclaim as one of the great masterpieces of all time. The author’s reading reveals not only the saga’s sublime artistry, but also its pragmatic and tough-minded analysis of the complex tactics and strategies that inform feud and law. Unforgettable fully-rounded characters abound—their motives, their inner lives subtly revealed by a narrator who describes motive and psychology in a way that mirrors how we understand them in our own lives: not by magical access into a person’s head, but by close observation of what they do, says, and how and when they do or say it. Nothing previously written even approaches the nuances of thought and action that the author shows to be right there in the text. His book makes the law accessible, and demonstrates how the saga reveals the economic constraints that limit or finance conflict. The author’s writing style entertains as well as instructs.

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