Review of Feud in the Icelandic Saga

William I. Miller, University of Michigan Law School

Copyright 1984 The Medieval Academy of America. Originally published as Miller, William I. Review of Feud in the Icelandic Saga, by J. L. Byock. Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies 59, no. 2 (1984): 376-9. DOI:


Unlike Beowulf and the Commedia the Icelandic family sagas have not benefited from sustained able criticism. Saga criticism has been mired for years in inconclusive debates on origins, whether oral or written, and influences, whether Germanic or Christian. The sagas themselves have been virtually ignored. This is especially unfortunate because the sagas are as dense as an anthropologist's field notebook with histories of disputes and analyses of dispute systems. Yet for all this wealth of material the debate on saga historicity has centered on whether the sagas are accurate chronicles. Since they, of course, fail on that ground they were also held, without discussion, to fail as trustworthy or even useful documents for the study of social history, law, and dispute-processing institutions.