The Schemers and Viga-Glum: Two Sagas of Icelanders


197 pages
Contains Maps, Index
ISBN 0-88984-189-6
DDC 839'.63008





Translated by George Johnston
Reviewed by Koos A. de Beer

Koos A. de Beer is an ESL instructor in Vancouver, B.C.


George Johnston’s translation of these two sagas is a job well done.
The first saga is the story of Ofeig and his son Odd. Odd has made
himself into a wealthy sea trader. Upon returning from one of many
voyages, Odd falls out with Ospak, who has been supervising his estate.
The following winter, Odd accuses Ospak of thievery. Odd’s right-hand
man, Vali, is sent to investigate, only to be killed, accidentally, by
Ospak. At the next Althing meeting, Odd brings a charge of manslaughter
against Ospak, but the case is thrown out. Ofeig, now an old man, steps
in and gets the courts to declare Ospak an outlaw. Two of the lawmakers
feel betrayed and they plot to have Odd charged with bribery. The
remainder of the saga tells of how Ofeig outwits the two schemers and
thus saves his son from losing his wealth.

The second saga is the story of Viga-Glum and his rise and fall from a
position of wealth. He is charged with murder after he slays the man who
has appropriated some of his family’s land. The story tells of
Viga-Glum’s battles to maintain his position in society while
defending his family’s honor. In the end, Viga-Glum loses his battle
and spends his remaining days as an outlaw.

Both sagas are well translated. Johnston has tried to maintain some of
the unique characteristics of style employed in the original works (the
odd use of tenses, the storylike qualities, etc.), but his inconsistent
method of transliterating some Icelandic letters is frustrating. As
well, his decision to transliterate the two -th sounds with -th and -d
has led to confusion with respect to the pronunciation of certain names
and places. Finally, the notes sections, which provide information how
Icelandic society operated in the Viking period, would have been more
usefully placed at the front of the book.


Schem, “The Schemers and Viga-Glum: Two Sagas of Icelanders,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,