Hrolf Kraki's Saga

by Poul Anderson
Reviewed date: 2007 Sep 16
Rating: 2
277 pages
cover art

Hrolf Kraki's Saga is Poul Anderson's retelling of the Danish legends. The legends are not complete, so Anderson fills in the gaps with his own bits of fiction. The result is a unique story. It reads very much like Beowulf--which is no surprise, because Beowulf makes an appearance in the Danish legends.

As a novel, it's unsatisfying. It's tedious. But it does portray a non-Western culture, so it's interesting in that regard. The Scandinavian culture glorifies violence, views powerful women as witches, and expects its kings and heros to father numerous illegitimate children. The kings often employ berserkers to complement their warriors, but the berserkers are universally reviled. Strong fighting men were above the law; in a world before modern weapons, a great warrior could kill anyone who crossed him. Even the kings were terrified of their own warriors.

Hrolf Kraki's Saga is probably a great way to learn about Danish legends. As a novel, I am generous to give it a rating of two.

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