Laxdaela Saga Criticism - Essay

W. P. Ker (essay date 1908)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Ker, W. P. “Tragic Imagination.” In Epic and Romance: Essays on Medieval Literature, pp. 207-24. New York: Dover Publications, 1908.

[In the following essay, Ker describes the tragic quality of Icelandic sagas, with particular reference to the Laxdaela Saga as a historical and epic romance.]

In their definite tragical situations and problems, the Sagas are akin to the older poetry of the Teutonic race. The tragical cases of the earlier heroic age are found repeated, with variations, in the Sagas. Some of the chief of these resemblances have been found and discussed by the editors of Corpus Poeticum Boreale. Also in many places where there is...

(The entire section is 2441 words.)

Thorstein Veblen (essay date 1925)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Veblen, Thorstein. Introduction to The Laxdaela Saga, translated by Thorstein Veblen, pp. v-xv. New York: B. W. Huebsch, Inc., 1925.

[In the following introduction to his English translation of the Laxdaela Saga, Veblen enumerates the underlying characteristics of the work, including its depiction of a blood feud, its rendering of a society situated between paganism and Christianity, and its idiomatic status as the product of thirteenth-century Iceland.]

It has been something of a convention among those who interest themselves in Icelandic literature to speak well of the Laxdæla Saga as a thing of poetic beauty and of high literary merit. So,...

(The entire section is 3348 words.)

A. Margaret Arent (essay date 1964)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Arent, A. Margaret. Introduction to The Laxdoela Saga, translated by A. Margaret Arent, pp. xv-xlii. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1964.

[In the following excerpt from her introduction to her English translation of the Laxdaela Saga, Arent probes the work's literary contexts, authorship, manuscript history, and sources, then concludes by providing an overview of its plot, structure, and style.]


With the Christianization of Iceland (a.d. 1000), a new era in the life and letters of the nation can be said to have begun, although the conversion was not marked by any great upheaval, politically or...

(The entire section is 10102 words.)

Peter Foote (essay date 1964)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Foote, Peter. Introduction to The Laxdale Saga, translated by Muriel Press, pp. v-xvi. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1964.

[In the following excerpt from his introduction to a revised edition of Muriel Press's 1899 translation of the Laxdaela Saga, Foote discusses the epic subtext of the poem, its idealized characters, and its generally clear, unassuming style.]

Laxdæla saga, the saga of the men of Salmon-river-dale, was written in Iceland about a.d. 1250. The author was at home in the Dales, the inner districts of Breiðifjörðr, the scene of most of the action of the story.

The saga is the work of a mature and...

(The entire section is 2921 words.)

Magnus Magnussen (essay date 1969)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Magnussen, Magnus. Introduction to Laxdaela Saga, translated by Magnus Magnussen and Hermann Pálsson, pp. 9-44. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1969.

[In the following excerpt, Magnussen summarizes the plot, theme, style, and historical and literary contexts of the Laxdaela Saga.]

Of all the major Icelandic sagas, Laxdæla Saga has always stirred the European imagination the most profoundly. More than any other of the classical prose sagas of medieval Iceland it is essentially a romantic work; romantic in style, romantic in taste, romantic in theme, culminating in that most enduring and timeless of human relationships in story-telling, the...

(The entire section is 10821 words.)

A. Margaret Arent Madelung (essay date 1972)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Madelung, A. Margaret Arent. “Literary Perspectives.” In The Laxdoela Saga: Its Structural Patterns, pp. 147-96. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972.

[In the following excerpt, Madelung presents a detailed structural analysis of the Laxdaela Saga, emphasizing such features as balance, symmetry, recurrence, comparison, and temporal patterning in various elements of the work.]


Although knowledge of the historical, social, and cultural background of a literary work often contributes appreciably to the better understanding of it, an artistic interpretation may, conversely, illuminate...

(The entire section is 12032 words.)

Arnold R. Taylor (essay date 1974)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Taylor, Arnold R. “Laxdaela Saga and Author Involvement in the Icelandic Sagas.” Leeds Studies in English 7 n.s. (1974): 13-21.

[In the following essay, Taylor investigates the subtle use of authorial intrusion in the Laxdaela Saga, focusing principally on the author's characterization of Gudrun through the use of her prophetic dreams.]

Laxdæla saga has recently attracted detailed consideration by many eminent scholars who have concerned themselves either with the date of composition or the name of its author.1 What I have to say will also relate to the author, though I am not concerned with his name nor with the rival...

(The entire section is 4090 words.)

Florence S. Boos (essay date 1983)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Boos, Florence S. “Morris' Radical Revisions to the Laxdaela Saga.Victorian Poetry 21 (1983): 415-20.

[In the following essay, Boos details Morris's reworking of the second half of the Laxdaela Saga into his poem “The Lovers of Gudrun,” calling it the transformation of “a feud-narrative of property negotiations and family rivalries into an exemplum of doomed friendship and heterosexual love.”]

“The Lovers of Gudrun” provides one of the most interesting examples of Morris' reworking of an earlier narrative, for both the Laxdaela Saga and “The Lovers of Gudrun” are in their divergent ways impressive literary works....

(The entire section is 2497 words.)

Paul Schach (essay date 1984)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Schach, Paul. “Major Sagas about Icelanders.” In Icelandic Sagas, pp. 97-130. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1984.

[In the following essay, Schach offers a brief overview of the subject, story, and artistry of the Laxdaela Saga.]


Like Egils saga, the “story of the people of the Laxárdal” begins at the time when Harald Fairhair is extending his dominion over the whole of Norway, and the picture of the king is similar in both sagas. The introduction is equally long in both works, although considerably more intricate in Laxdæla. Greed for money and power, which motivated most of Egil's deeds and...

(The entire section is 2167 words.)

Jonna Louis-Jensen (essay date 2002)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Louis-Jensen, Jonna. “A Good Day's Work: Laxdaela Saga, ch. 49.” In Cold Counsel: Women in Old Norse Literature and Mythology, edited by Sarah M. Anderson, pp. 189-99. New York: Routledge, 2002.

[In the following essay, Louis-Jensen attempts to correct possible textual corruptions in Laxdaela Saga chapter 49 in order to unveil a subtle, ironic reading of Gudrun's character in her response to Kjartan's death.]


A notable feature of the “saga style” is the emphatic phrase (apophthegm, laconism), which marks the dramatic peak of a dialogue, and thereby of a scene. Well-known examples are the heroic understatements...

(The entire section is 4857 words.)