Monday 3 January 2022

Book Review: The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki (Folklore & Myth)

Title: The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki
Author: Jesse L. Byock (translator)
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Publication Date: 1999 (1350)
Format: Paperback
Genre: Folklore & Myth
Source: Birthday Gift

Composed in medieval Iceland, Hrolf's Saga is one of the greatest of all mythic-legendary sagas, relating half-fantastical events that were said to have occurred in fifth-century Denmark. It tells of the exploits of King Hrolf and of his famous champions, including Bodvar Bjarki, the 'bear-warrior': a powerful figure whose might and bear-like nature are inspired by the same legendary heritage as Beowulf. Depicting a world of wizards, sorceresses and 'berserker' fighters - originally members of a cult of Odin - this is a compelling tale of ancient magic. A work of timeless power and beauty, it offers both a treasury of Icelandic prose and a masterful gathering of epic, cultic memory, traditional folk tale and myths from the Viking age and far earlier.


The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki is a fun, quick read that I finished in a single night. This is one of the legendary sagas, with a good dash of fantasy and plenty of fun moments. The translation reads smoothly, and it's easy to keep track of family relationships and events, making this another excellent choice for anyone new to reading the sagas, since it's both easy to follow and entertaining. There are definitely some moments that will stick with me, such as the hewing off of an opponent's buttocks during a confrontation. All up, this was such fun that I think it's one of my favourites of all the sagas I've read so far. The introduction and notes provided are also excellent and useful.

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