Maxwell, Ian Ramsay. Pattern in ''Njáls saga''

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  • Author: Maxwell, Ian Ramsay
  • Title: Pattern in Njáls saga
  • Published in: Saga-Book of the Viking Society 15
  • Year: 1957
  • Pages: 17-47
  • E-text:
  • Reference: Maxwell, Ian Ramsay. “Pattern in Njáls saga.” Saga-Book of the Viking Society 15 (1957-61): 17-47.

  • Key words:


I.R. Maxwell’s “Patterns in Njáls saga” presents an analysis of the complexity of Njáls saga, and defends the author from common criticisms of the work. He argues that there are overarching patterns of moral unity within the saga. Maxwell focuses his analysis as a dispute with the critique of Einar Ól. Sveinsson, which builds on the ideas of Albert Ulrik Bååth. Maxwell uses this as a platform to frame his own argument. Maxwell’s primary topics of analysis are: the extensive development of genealogies within the saga, the apparent digression of the Conversion, and the break between the first and second parts of the saga. Maxwell’s analysis supports what he refers to as the ‘narrative rhetoric’ (p. 46), which promotes the idea that the author shaped the overall narrative through the mindful progression of the different story arcs and specific details placed throughout the work. This was done intentionally to conglomerate the saga as a unified entity.


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See also


Chapter 92: Eftir er enn yðvar hluti : " In chapter 92, when the brothers go out to kill Þráinn, the axe rings again on the panel...and Skarphebin's curt words to Kári remind us that Þórðr Leysingjason is not forgotten...The climax to the first phase of Part I - the only incident in which Njál's sons play a full part - is therefore strikingly emphasised and clearly connected with its sequel in Part II. (p. 32)"


  • Written by: Jacob Ikaika Liphart
  • Icelandic/English translation: