Berger, Alan J. The meaning of "Njáls saga"

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  • Author: Berger, Alan J.
  • Title: The Meaning of Njáls saga
  • Published in: Skandinavistik 11
  • Year: 1981
  • Pages: 1-8
  • E-text:
  • Reference: Berger, Alan J. "The Meaning of Njáls saga." Skandinavistik 11 (1981): 1-8.

  • Key words:



Alan Berger addresses the question of authorial intent in Njáls saga through the analysis of the plot structure, and the identification of thematically relevant motives that appear at key-moments of the narrative. According to him, the author of Njáls saga alternates climactic and anti-climactic episodes, thus "reversing and re-reversing the tragic plot" (p. 5), in order to trigger a reflection on the ambiguity of the concepts of friends and enemies and the dysfunctional nature of socially consecrated modes of reconciliation. The absence of authorial statements invites the reader to draw personal interrogations and questionings from the saga.


Texta vantar

See also


Chapter 74: rjúfa sættir: "The reader had been expecting no such easy solution to Gunnarr's problems. Njáll had explained to Gunnarr what conditions would lead to his death, and Gunnarr had fulfilled those conditions, but oddly, a mere three-year exile emerged from the action. Gunnar's death, which had seemed imminent, suddenly recedes as a possibility." (p. 5).

Chapter 159: Kári þá það: "Although there are other episodes in the sagas wherein enemies are forced together by bad weather and so come to recognize each other as friends, nowhere do such great enemies so suddenly befriend each other." (p. 6).


  • Written by: Ermenegilda Müller
  • Icelandic/English translation:
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