The Icelandic sagas are stories of the Middle Ages, when Vikings roamed and a nation was born. Written primarily in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the sagas are a history of Iceland told through sacrifice, battles and romance.
ABC Broadcaster Richard Fidler and author Kári Gíslason joined forces to travel through Iceland to the places where each folktale took place, to take in the atmosphere and majesty of the landscape as they retold the stories. More than that however, they also embarked on a personal journey to discover if Gíslason is a descendant of one of Iceland’s greatest saga writers.
The duo share three kinds of sagas, connected by the modern day saga of discovering Gíslason’s past. These are classic family sagas from 10th Century Iceland, the saga of one man from the 13th Century, and a variety of other Norse mythologies that form one of “the greatest bodies of literature”.
The duo share the narration, often having conversations when not telling a story. At times it can be difficult to tell their voices apart, but it’s not necessary because it’s easy to follow as they slip between their modern day adventure and folklore. Both men have beautiful speaking voices which suit the timbre of the tales, while their rapport is evident in the way they relate to each other.
Saga Land began as a four-part ABC radio series before evolving into this extraordinary collection of adventures and morals. The recording is accompanied by some musical underscoring and is far from the dry or dated content that one might assume to find. Gíslason’s search for his ancestry turns out to be almost as fascinating as the ancient sagas themselves, although far less bloody and tragic! The anthology flows nicely, telling a blended tale of old and new, where their personal quest segues into history rather than stopping and starting like most other anthologies.
The audiobook of Saga Land was released by Bolinda Audio in October 2017. It runs for approximately 13 hours and 51 minutes and is available on regular CD or MP3 CD.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 9