Greenway, John L.. The Wisdom of Njál

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  • Author: Greenway, John L.
  • Title: The Wisdom of Njál: The Representation of Reality in the Family Sagas
  • Published in: Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal 4, 2
  • Year: 1970
  • Pages: 15-26
  • E-text: JSTOR
  • Reference: Greenway, John L.. “The Wisdom of Njál: The Representation of Reality in the Family Sagas.” Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal 4, 2 (1970): 15-26.

  • Key words:



Greenway explains how the representation of reality in the Family Sagas essentially differs both from medieval Christian symbolism and from modern rational, empirical realism he goes on to talk about how saga narratives mediate between the demand for plausibility and the interaction of irrational and non-empirical elements in the human experience of the world. While analysing how supernatural elements are treated in the texts, especially in Njáls saga, he explains how mythical cognition of reality and its principles of time and space affect the apprehension of truth and the perception of reality itself. In its resistance to abstraction and incorporation of the surreal, this unified perception and intensification of reality highlights how the sagas emphasise the paradox between the concepts of mythological fate and disorder and characters’ heroism and freedom of choice.


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See also


Chapter 041: munt þú séð hafa fylgju þína : "Though Njál can not see the goat, he accepts the fact that Thord sees it; in this perception – which admits both the empirical and non-empirical – there is apparently no sense of inconsistency or contradiction. Njál also knows that the goat is a fylgja." (p.18)


  • Written by: Barbara Laconi
  • Icelandic/English translation:
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