The Story of Burnt Njal Analysis

Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Iceland. North Atlantic island on whose southwestern corner most of events of the saga take place. Between the mountain ridges, near the Eyjafell Glacier, are fertile pastures of river valleys that are dotted with the farmsteads inhabited by powerful chieftains and the people—free and slave—who owe them allegiance. These farmsteads with their main halls constructed of sod, wood, and stone, and their open hearths and few interior chambers are the literal and symbolic centers of family life and activity. There, political alliances are forged, and plans of revenge or retaliation are hatched. These halls are also the last refuges for the main characters when cornered by overwhelming adversaries. For the most part, however, it is in Iceland’s open spaces, its frozen rivers, sparse woods, or rugged paths, that violent deeds against foe are carried out in surprise attacks or ambush.


*Bergthorsknoll (BERG-thors-nohl). Farmstead of the title character, Njal, and his extended family. It is often frequented by neighboring chieftains, especially Gunnar, who seek Njal’s sage advice and legal counsel. Within his hall, Njal and his family grimly accept their fate to be burned alive at the hands of their attackers. Inside the smoking hall, the saga author is able to present the ultimate expression of the fatalistic northern warrior as Skarp-Hedin, Njal’s bravest and fiercest son, utters humorous...

(The entire section is 572 words.)


(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Schach, Paul. The Icelandic Saga. Translated and with an introduction by Paul Schach. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1962. The chapter “Several Individual Sagas” contains a discussion of The Story of Burnt Njal.

Tucker, John. Sagas of the Icelanders: A Book of Essays. New York: Garland, 1989. Three different essays, on pages 272 to 322, discuss The Story of Burnt Njal in detail. An excellent reference for further research.