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To understand Shita, you must understand the saga tradition. The word 'saga' means: 'a story' or 'a history.' The sagas of Nordic history are the sagas that we know best. This is the corpus of fact and poetry that is our richest source of knowledge of the historical development of Norway and Denmark between the 8th and 12th centuries, our only historical record of Iceland during those years, and a vital resource for the historical understanding of England, Greenland, North America and the Orkney Islands.
In the early saga days, court poets were historians. Their poetry was expected not merely to praise, but to present an honest account of deeds of war and statecraft. For the skaldic poets and the later saga writers, the essence of their art was that in the saga one saw the outlines of human nature: the saga was intended as a reflective, large story even as it told one specific tale.
The greatest sagas were written in the century after the sagas age it self come too close. These were the Icelandic sagas sometimes known as family sagas because they told the stories of the great families of Iceland from the years before the settlement through the late l3th century. These were the stories of heroes and great woman, their travels and their deeds, their feuds, their triumphs and defects. These sagas were essentially historical, as Shakespeare's histories were, but they became larger art works, as Shakespeare’s histories did. Because they recount the history of Iceland, rather than that of England, their subject matter has been deemed less universal in a world which has counted Anglo American history as global history and English as the second language of the world. In this world, the kingly sagas focus on Northern European events, some on the forming of the English notion.
The family sagas are not as well known as the history sagas, simply because fewer people have been obliged to draw on them as primary sources. Even so, they rank among the greatest of the world’s literary masterpieces-sagas of heroic individuals such as Egil's Saga, the life of Iceland's great poet-warrior, Egil Skallagrimsson; stories of the great families of the republic, such as the Laxdaela Saga and Brennu-Njal's Saga; the short sagas of heroes and outlaws such as Viga-Glam and Grettir the Strong.