The saga leaves us with a powerful image of war as a preternatural force -- not something we can control, but beyond our ken. It has a purifying quality to it, and it sparks a compulsive quest to understand it -- to find out what it is and why it does what it does. In a way, that's the same quest that inspired them all. Viking by Viking, they began as a unified people, but they didn't live in an idealistic, \"noble savage\" world. They were as practical as anyone, and they wanted to know what they were up against. They wanted to win, and they wanted to understand how it could be done. They were giants, but they were also men; they suffered, but they were also human. And they wanted to know what gave them their extraordinary capacity for hardship and courage. They weren't, in the end, simple-hearted believers in Fate. They knew that victory would also come with sacrifice, but they wanted to know where they had to sacrifice in the first place. In the first draft of his narrative, Njal is hardly distinguished from the others, but as the story grew over the years, he emerged as a tragic hero in his own right -- a loyal friend to his king, a caring father to his children, a distinguished judge and statesman, a witty and fearless wit. But ultimately, he never finds out what the original quarrel was all about, and in a curious way, he never really learns about war at all. He only learns why it must be fought, and why it has to be won. And he learns it all from a succession of veteran warriors and a stock-tippling dwarf. It's a brutal and frightening and awesome lesson -- and a magnificent one. More than any other character in the saga, Njal is its best illustration of war itself -- the undercurrent of its iron logic, the ultimate paradox of inexplicable suffering on one hand and victory on the other. On the one hand, a hero -- a king -- dies a horrible and senseless death. On the other, an epically skillful king and a warrior named \"Breida\" save the life of a king, and after an entire civilization has been leveled, he wins the victory. And then, to seal the lesson, he dies of a broken heart.