Home > cultural commentary > Vikings and sagas – an appreciation

Vikings and sagas – an appreciation

Just caught the BBC programme The Viking Sagas, which is now available on the BBC iPlayer, and will be there until 17 May.

Some of the stuff I knew, actually, but a lot I didn’t despite having read different sagas at various times. I knew for example that many of them relate the stories of actual people and real historical events. But I didn’t know that many of the places mentioned are still identifiable, so a farmer can easily point to a bend in a fjord and say ‘Oh yes, Gudrun’s house was just there – 1000 years ago. And the valley where her husband killed his brother is a short walk away and the dip in the ridge that he hid in while waiting to ambush his brother is still there.’

I also found the attitude to language inspirational. There are obvious close links between language and magic, because saying words can put chains of events into effect and change the way we define and even perceive things. And this comes out in the sagas. Plus, when you hear extracts, as offered in this programme, the rhythm and rhyme and power of the sagas becomes far more evident than it is if you’re simply reading them in translation.

I also didn’t know, and find it amazing, that about 10% of the Icelandic adult population are published authors, the highest figure anywhere in the world.

On a side note – there was an event outside my house yesterday that might yet turn into a saga. Two guys having an argument, and when I heard the shouting and began to pay attention, the words I heard one say to the other were ‘And you shouldn’t ever forget that when we were inside [i.e. prison], you were my bitch!’ The power of words, eh? Don’t be surprised to see me use that line sometime in a story… I might add that thankfully this kind of thing is not common where I live…

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  1. May 11, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Whahaha! Send me a notice when you use that one.

  2. May 11, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Hah! Will do…

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