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Explore 10 Fascinating Icelandic Sagas You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Icelandic sagas are among the most captivating medieval texts from Europe. Written down in the 13th and 14th centuries, these sagas preserve the oral stories of earlier centuries. They chronicle the epic tales of Iceland’s early settlers, including family feuds, heroic outlaws, and mysterious monsters from the uncharted wilderness.

While many are familiar with classics like Egil’s Saga and Njal’s Saga, there are countless other sagas worth exploring. Here are ten lesser-known Icelandic sagas that offer intriguing narratives and rich historical insights. All of these sagas are available in English translations, though finding a copy might be a bit of a treasure hunt:


1. The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong

The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong is a thrilling Icelandic saga that follows the life of Finnbogi Asbjornson, a renowned hero of the 10th century known for his extraordinary physical strength. The story begins with Finnbogi’s dramatic abandonment by his mother, only for him to be rescued and raised by another family. From a young age, Finnbogi exhibits incredible feats of strength, such as breaking a bull’s neck at twelve and defeating a bear in combat. The saga details his adventures in Norway and the Byzantine Empire, showcasing his heroic battles and personal conflicts, echoing the epic themes of sagas like Egil’s Saga. It offers a deep dive into Viking-age valour, exploring themes of honour, vengeance, and the challenges faced by Icelandic heroes.

The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong was translated by Bryant W. Bachman in 1990.

2. The Saga of Gunnlaugur Snake’s Tongue

The Saga of Gunnlaugur Snake’s Tongue is a classic medieval Icelandic saga that centers around a dramatic love triangle. The story follows two rival suitors, Gunnlaugur and Hrafn, who vie for the affection of the same beautiful woman, Helga the Fair. Their rivalry escalates into a deadly duel, a traditional way of resolving disputes in Icelandic sagas. This saga combines romance, conflict, and the cultural norms of 10th-century Iceland. With its intense personal rivalries and ultimate resolution through a dramatic combat, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the chivalric and legal practices of the time.


The Saga of Gunnlaugur Snake’s Tongue was translated by Katrina C. Attwood as part of The Sagas of Icelanders edited by Örnólfur Thorsson in 2001.

3. Audun’s Story

Audun’s Story follows the journey of a poor Greenlandic farmhand named Audun who embarks on an extraordinary quest to present a polar bear as a gift to the King of Denmark. Despite his humble beginnings, Audun’s determination and courage drive him across treacherous landscapes and through intricate political negotiations. Here in animated version of the story:

Audun’s Story can be found in Audun and the Polar Bear: Luck, Law, and Largesse in a Medieval Tale of Risky Business, by William Ian Miller.

4. Magnus’ Saga

Magnus’ Saga offers a brief but vivid account of the life of St. Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney, who ruled from 1075 to 1116. The saga details Magnus’s rise to power, the internal strife with his co-ruler, and his eventual capture and execution. However, the saga’s narrative also explores the miraculous events surrounding Magnus’s death and his subsequent canonization as a saint. The story not only recounts his martyrdom but also highlights the miracles attributed to him, emphasizing his saintly legacy. For readers interested in saintly legends and the historical context of medieval sainthood, this saga provides a rich and spiritual exploration of Magnus’s life and miracles.


Magnus’ Saga: The Life of St Magnus, Earl of Orkney 1075–1116, is translated by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards.

5. Viga-Glums Saga

Viga-Glums Saga is a powerful Icelandic saga from the 10th century that tells the story of Glum, a chieftain known for his ruthless ambition and cunning strategies. The saga chronicles Glum’s efforts to gain power and influence, revealing his willingness to use both legal and violent methods to achieve his goals. It explores themes of power, revenge, and legal conflict within the Viking Age society. Readers interested in the complexities of Icelandic legal systems and power struggles will find this saga both engaging and insightful. A 19th-century translation is available through the Icelandic Saga Database, offering a classic take on this tale of ambition and justice.

Viga-Glums Saga can be found in this version translated by John McKinnell, this translation by George Johnston, and in The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, Including 49 Tales.


6. Heidarviga Saga

Heidarviga Saga (also known as The Story of the Heath-Slayings) centres on Bardi Gudmundson, whose life is marred by a violent feud that culminates in a fierce battle on a moor in 1018. The saga vividly portrays the intensity of Viking-era feuds, focusing on Bardi’s personal vendetta and the bloody conflict that ensues. Fans of Egil’s Saga would have added interest in this text as it recounts the lives of some of Egil Skallagrímsson’s descendants.

Heidarviga Saga was translated by W. Bryant Bachman and Gudmundur Erlingsson.

7. The Saga of the Confederates

Also known as Bandamanna saga, it is a humorous and engaging tale set in 11th-century Iceland. The story follows Odd, a successful businessman, and his father Ofeig, a poor farmer. When the eight most powerful chieftains of Iceland form a confederacy to outlaw Odd and seize his wealth, it is Ofeig who steps in with clever strategies to save his son. The saga combines comedy with a critique of Icelandic legal and political systems, showcasing a father’s devotion and ingenuity. Those interested in Icelandic humor and societal critique will appreciate the clever plot and character dynamics.

The Saga of the Confederates can be found in The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection.

8. Gongu-Hrolfs Saga

Gongu-Hrolfs Saga is a captivating Icelandic romance saga featuring a young Norwegian warrior’s quest to save a Russian princess from a dire fate. The princess is cursed to marry the man who killed her father, and only a true hero can break the curse. The saga is rich with magical elements, including sorcery, demons, and daring feats. It combines romance with fantastical adventures, featuring dramatic battles and mythical creatures. Readers interested in epic tales of heroism and romance will find this saga’s rich narrative both entertaining and inspiring.


Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards did an English translation of Gongu-Hrolfs Saga.

9. Svarfdale Saga

Svarfdale Saga follows the lives of three generations of a family from Norway and Sweden, eventually settling in the Svarfdale region of Iceland. The saga depicts their ongoing feuds and quests for revenge across generations, exploring themes of familial loyalty, conflict, and justice. While it lacks the literary sophistication of sagas like Njal’s Saga, it offers a detailed portrayal of Viking-era family dynamics and societal norms. It also has some fun proverbs in it, including: “Someone who loses his gloves cannot be happy even if he gets another pair.”

Bryant W. Bachman and Gudmundur Erlingsson did a translation of Svarfdale Saga.

10. The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki

The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki is a rich mythic saga that recounts the legendary life of King Hrolf, a 6th-century Danish ruler. The saga features a mix of historical events and mythical elements, including wizards, berserkers, and epic battles. It explores Hrolf’s heroic deeds, conflicts with enemies, and the legendary figures in his life. For enthusiasts of Norse mythology and epic sagas, this tale offers a vivid and adventurous story filled with dramatic and fantastical elements.

Jesse L. Byock did a translation of this saga for Penguin Classics.