Post by Dorothy J Heydt Post by email@example.com
Someone once directed me to the saga of burnt Njal as an
example of revenge in Norse history, so I recognized
the name when _The Wall Street Journal_ published this
appreciation, written by Stephan Beck, of the Njala in
The weekend _Journal_ has had a great deal of interesting
non-financial material ever since they started printing it.
I don't know what the problem is. I read this in the print
edition, then found it on-line. The link still works on the
computer I am using. Is it possible that the Journal's
management knows that I regularly buy the weekend edition and
therefore allows me on-line access? I've heard of stranger
things happening. Whatever, here are a few excerpts
from Mr. Stefan Becks piece on page C14 of the July 21-22,
2018 _Wall Street Journal_:
Northern Europe’s culture—at least, in its most charming,
IKEA-friendly manifestation—is in vogue in the English
speaking world. First there was hygge, the Danish art of
“coziness”; then lagom, the Swedish art of “just the right
amount”; Denmark’s lykke, which is evidently like happiness
but with more sweaters, mulling spices and decorative
wooden ponies; and döstädning, Swedish “death cleaning,”
which has sort of a Marie Kondo in earmuffs vibe.
. . .
Unlike the “Völsunga Saga,” which was such a profound
influence on Tolkien’s beloved books, the Njála features
no dragons and, unless one counts a subtle, ambiguous
sense of fate, vanishingly little of the supernatural.
Unlike the Homeric epics, it describes no divine meddling
in men’s affairs. Unlike Dante’s “Inferno,” its most ghastly
imagery is of human violence, often committed as casually
as knocking the mud from one’s boots. It is an impeccably
naturalistic, fine-grained account of unmistakably
. . .
The multigenerational blood feud at the heart of the Njála
resists summary. It could only be explained by some
intricate notation, like a long chess game between
grand masters. In this case, the players are Njal, trying
in vain to preserve peace, and everyone else. Suffice it
to say that the grinding mills of revenge are set in
motion by catalysts—insulting words, or such faux pas as
a demeaning seat assignment at a feast—that will seem
trivial to a modern audience. But greed, envy, malice,
overweening pride, the mechanics of tact, the vicissitudes of
social hierarchy, and even the politics of gift exchange
. . .
That Njal and his family will be burned alive in their home
does not, given the saga’s title, come as a surprise. It is
not even, however, much of a surprise to Njal, who is so
versed in psychology and logic that he can all but see the
future. If the wisdom of the Njála were boiled down to a
one-word concept, it might be langsýnn, a prescience that
the scholar William Ian Miller explains as “that kind of
rationality that does not sacrifice the long-term for the
temptations of the short-term…the stuff of intelligent
pragmatism.” That Njal’s intellect can take him only so
far in protecting his loved ones and promoting the general
good is unimportant. How he dies is out of his hands.
How he lives—how he thinks—is an art form.
I would be interested in any information on the correct
pronunciation of "Njal". I know that the Scandinavian
"j" is more of a variant of the "i", and I have a relative
Kajsa on the Swedish side of my family whose name is
pronounced "Ky-suh", but I am unfamiliar with the vowel