Book review of The Story of Burnt Njal – The Illustrated Edition by unknown Icelanders
At some point the Vikings settled an uninhabited Iceland and were seemingly unperturbed by how freaky that place is. They immediately set to work doing what Vikings did best – farming, sailing around Europe on raids, fighting endless feuds with each other and writing epics about it.
This is such an epic.
In a land without a state monopoly on violence – that is, barbarism – a master morality reigns, with free men living and thriving upon their own reputation for ferocity, and that of their extended family. A tiny incident like a comment about a daughter or a wife’s sharp tongue about a neighbor can lead to decades-long tit-for-tat killing between childhood friends or even relatives.
In such a world it pays to be reasonable, honourable, and dependable, and known to be so. Nevertheless, marriage to a troublemaking lady will soon land you right back in the thick of it. If a court finds in your favour at the Thing, you’ll only receive that justice if you’re prepared to dish it out yourself. Anyone who blinks is considered weak and thereafter will be pushed around, robbed and humiliated by everyone.
Wimps like me would not last a minute. You can see why people had surnames like ‘Bloodaxe’.
The plot, apparently based on true events, is far too convoluted to relate in full, but it begins with Hrut needing to go and fight for his inheritance, but then a powerful lady calls Gunnhillda invites him over. He is told that if he goes to her she will look after the whole dispute for him (in return for certain entertainments provided on his part), while refusal would mean he and his family would be driven from their land. So off he goes.
Various feuds break about between multifarious parties, and as one hero dies on the dueling island, another emerges to continue the story. The body count reaches hundreds. Finally Christianity arrives in the brutal little island, via the conversion of the King of Norway. Does this calm things down? Well, the ones who refuse to convert thereby create new feuds and are murdered by the freshly-minted Bible-bashers. Viking’s gunna Viking. And in the end a bunch of them turn up in Constantinople as guardians of Christianity.
Guess they were all gone by the time the Turks rocked up.
Oh, and Njal gets burnt.
‘Hard times beget strong men.’ But at what cost? Pre-civilized society is one long battle of all against all, with the average man often dying in a duel or skirmish or raid. Anyone not prepared to live such a life becomes a slave or is treated with contempt by everyone. Modern women would love to live in such a world, stirring up their menfolk against each other and sexually favouring the victors – look at their passion for the non-politically correct TV shows they twiddle their little beans to, like Game of Thrones, Mad Men et al.
But would any modern man want to go back to such a time? Perhaps the criminally-inclined might, they being a type that has presumably declined over the centuries as civilization gradually hung and beheaded that sort of fellow. The type who want to join Isis or bikie gangs.
As for us normies, we’d rather just eat pizza, drink beer and watch X-Videos.
Civilization makes life so much more peaceful and content for the ordinary man. But, at what cost? Look at the Scandinavian countries today. Vikings no longer, they are led by women, sit down to piss, and soon they’ll be fully colonized by the same Islamic civilization (?) that overthrew the Byzantine empire.
Such is life: short and brutish or long and feeble. But in this Viking saga there is contained a warning: we of Northern stock were once quite different from how we are today, and we could return to that state in the future.
But it is not as simple as ‘civilized = weak, barbaric = strong’. There are twists and roundabouts in this story.
Ancient Rome triumphed over many barbaric tribes because, being civilized, they were larger, better armed and more organized. Civilized government allows a state to exist on a massive scale. That is, I guess, the point.
On the other hand, when Rome finally let in too many Goths all at once, the newcomers found that the Romans had grown weak after having the state protect them from criminals for so long, and that if they strode into Romans towns they could take what they wanted without meeting any resistance. So they did, and the empire collapsed.
A millennium later European civilization recovered and was easily able to sweep away primitive cultures wherever in the world they found them.
And today, civilization’s strength is again waning, with both East and West suffering unsustainably low birthrates and staring down the barrel of disappearance or replacement. It seems that it is barbarity’s turn again.
Charles Murray warned long ago that the New Left, puritanical as it is about anything remotely touching upon race, sex and that sort of thing, might one day break its cognitive dissonance in an extreme and dangerous over-correction. Perhaps it is from that side, not the hard right, that our people might again plunge into savagery.
Personally, I’d rather just stick with civilization. But suit yourselves.