I didn’t know much about the Icelandic sagas—or indeed much about Iceland itself, as it turned out—before opening Richard Fidler and Kari Gislason’s Saga Land. I’d be surprised if I’m alone in learning something new in its pages.
I’d made some of the same assumptions that Fidler once mistakenly made as well. The ABC broadcaster admits early in this collaborative effort with the Australian-Icelandic writer that he had thought the tales in question were about the old Norse gods and mythological heroes in the vein of Beowulf in the English tradition.
But the sagas are less foundational myths than family histories, concerned with flesh-and-blood people even when they read like fables, passed down like oral (and later, luckily, written) family albums, albeit with a certain melodramatic, and often very bloody, bent.