Icelandic Sagas (4302 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

  • Diana Whaley (University of Newcastle upon Tyne)


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Emanating from the farmsteads and monasteries of a large, windswept island in the North Atlantic and composed mainly in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Icelandic sagas are among the most extraordinary literary products of the Middle Ages. They are not novels or secular dramas, they are neither truly egalitarian nor wholly realistic, but they are closer to all of these things than almost any pre-modern European writings. They attest to a passionate and continuous interest among Icelanders in story, and in the past, both of the Nordic and wider worlds.

In Icelandic, the word saga (plural sögur), related to segja 'to say, tell', denotes a narrative, something told, as well as the events narrated,…

Whaley, Diana. "Icelandic Sagas". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 30 April 2003
[, accessed 25 October 2016.]

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  1. Literary Genres and Modes