Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Saga Of King Hrolf Kraki

By: Anonymous
Translated: Jesse L. Byock

This saga tells some of the tales of King Hrolf, and his twelve champions. It is full of captivating tales of beasts attacking annually on Yuletide, an evil stepmother turning her stepson into a bear and having him killed, children born half man and half beast, and epic battles. The twelve champions are drawn to serve King Hrolf as he is considered a great ruler. He is liberal with rewards and fair to those that gain his trust, so these great warriors seek to prove themselves to him.

My friends picked out this book in Iceland for me. I really like reading the sagas. This was my first time reading King Hrolf Kraki's tale in full. It was recorded in the fourteenth century in Iceland by an anonymous author. The events that take place occur in fifth century Denmark. I found it intriguing that their are references to courtesy and being chivalrous in this tale. That is not typical in the sagas. It is an indication of an outside influence. These ideas were particularly popular with courtly romances in Europe. There were also christian references, but that would have been added by the author or a scribe, as the material predates christianity in this area.

I like the supplemental material Penguin included in this edition. There are general notes on the material, family trees, and a glossary of names. I always find it helpful to have the answers to my questions in the book. It was also interesting that some of the stories included are underlying tales in Beowulf, which I hope to read again soon to examine how the tales work together. I thought this saga was an engrossing read. The only problem is it's a short tale, so it is over too soon. I highly recommend this book if you like the sagas, tales of King Arthur and his knights, or fantasy.

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