The Story of Burnt Njál, or Njál’s Saga is a 13th century Icelandic work of prose that I began adapting into poetic form sometime after working on and performing Shakespeare’s Pericles at the Texas Shakespeare Festival.
Similar to Shakespeare’s epic, I used iambic tetrameter for the prologue/chorus and pentameter for most of the rest. The text I based my adaptation on is George Webbe Dasent’s 1861 English translation of the saga.
I ended up abandoning the project like a sinking Snekkja longship (no money in that kind of piffle) but here’s a look at my progress below.
I rather like the courtship bit between Hrut and Unna; it reminds me of how deeply I was into Shakespeare at the time as it’s very reminiscent (albeit so very much shorter) of his own many wooing scenes, like the one between Petruchio and Kate in The Taming of the Shrew.
(Note: If anyone wishes to use any of the scripts posted here for performance, please do! Just drop me a line to let me know they actually getting some use, and I’d appreciate being acknowledged in some way if the production is more substantial than scene-study work.)
In Broadfirth dales our story swells,
Where one by name of Hauskuld dwells.
Of stout and gen’rous heart this man,
And to a feast bids he the land.
His own half-brother Hrut he calls;
A handsome man, and strong, and tall,
Well-skilled in arms and temper mild
A counselor wise, but warrior wild.
This Hrut on brother now attends,
And sits beside him as he bends
His eyes to that same golden prize
which ‘cross the feasting hall now lies:
A daughter, plays amongst the girls,
Her silken hair hung all in curls,
So fair of face and tall of growth,
The pride of father and of host;
Hallgerda named, and mind you now
Remember at this moment how
One brother wise, with vision keen
Does make the future present seen.