“Life, Simple and Heroic” : H. Rider Haggard's Unfulfilled Nordic Vision

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-449
Journal / PublicationEnglish Studies
Issue number4
Online published15 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


This essay reads H. Rider Haggard's adaptation of the Icelandic Sagas, Eric Brighteyes, as an ultimately unsuccessful imaginative flight from modernity. Haggard simplifies the saga model to create a fictional world free of what he sees as modernity's complexity and corruption. However, this anti-modern vision of the past is consistently undercut by the very ambiguities Haggard seeks to avoid. The titular protagonist of the novel is an equivocal hero whose adventures can be described as a series of betrayals and failures. He is a mighty warrior, but is unable to control his capacity for violence; a romantic lover, but is unable to repress his carnal proclivities; a hyper-masculine figure who wavers between assertive heteronormative behaviour and a homosocial identity; and a fatalist unable to resign himself to his destiny. Haggard's fictional saga-world is a modern, transitional space in which religious and social ideals are under increasing pressure.

Research Area(s)

  • gender, H. Rider Haggard, Icelandic sagas, modernity, Viking novels