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, city, Japan
Saga (säˈgä), city (1990 pop. 169,963), capital of Saga prefecture, W Kyushu, Japan. It is a railroad and coal-distribution center. Cotton textiles and ceramics are produced in the city. A castle town in feudal times, Saga was the center of a rebellion in 1874. Saga prefecture (1990 pop. 877,865), 946 sq mi (2,450 sq km), is known for its advanced techniques in growing rice and oranges, as well as for its dairy farming and cattle raising.


, in Old Norse Literature
saga, in Old Norse literature, especially Icelandic and Norwegian, narrative in prose or verse, centering on a legendary or historical figure or family. Sagas may be divided into sagas of the kings, mainly of early Norwegian rulers; Icelandic sagas, both biographical and historical; contemporary sagas, which were also Icelandic and were written about living persons; legendary sagas of the distant past; and sagas that were translations of foreign romances. Sagas were composed from about the early 11th to the mid-14th cent. and were first written down c.1200. Scholars disagree as to the extent to which written versions borrowed from earlier oral compositions. The sagas vary greatly in length. The greatest attention has been given to the history sagas (e.g., Sturlungasaga), the family sagas (e.g., Njála, tr. by G. W. Dasent, 1861; M. Magnusson and P. Palsson, 1960), and the mythical heroic sagas (e.g., Völsungasaga, tr. by William Morris, 1870). In all these the epic element is strong, and the milieu of a heroic society is made vivid. Historical accuracy was often a major aim of the saga, although reworking, interjection of the supernatural, and other changes caused distortion. The historical approach is felt in the careful selection of events and the great emphasis on cause and effect. Among other noted sagas are the Heimskringla of Snorri Sturluson (tr. by L. Hollander, 1964); the Laxdœla, translated in Earthly Paradise by William Morris; the Grettla, translated by the same author; the Frithjof, translated by Esaias Tegnér; and Gisli, translated by R. B. Allen.


See The Sagas of the Icelanders (2000) for a selection of the sagas. See also S. Einarsson, A History of Icelandic Literature (1957); P. Hallberg, The Icelandic Saga (tr. 1962); L. Lönnroth, Njáls Saga (1976); C. Clover, The Medieval Saga (1982); P. Schach, Icelandic Sagas (1984).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a prefecture in Japan, in the northwestern part of the island of Kyushu. Area, 2,400 sq km. Population, 826,000 (1973), more than 50 percent of which is urban. The capital is the city of Saga. The prefecture is part of the Kitakyushu economic region.

In Saga, 80,000 hectares are under cultivation, of which more than one-half is sown with rice; the rice harvest was 244,000 tons in 1972. Other crops are barley, wheat, and millet; mandarins (harvest of 193,000 tons), mulberry, pears, and plums are grown on the mountain slopes. There are tea plantations in the vicinity of Ureshino. The area has truck farming, and there is coastal fishing and marine trade.

Saga has a food industry, accounting for one-third of the cost of industrial production in Saga Prefecture; there are also textile, woodworking, and glass and ceramics industries. Industrial porcelain products are made in the areas near Arita and Imari. Also in the Imari area are a shipyard and a wood-veneer factory. Hard coal is mined in the Karatsu basin. The city of Genkai is the site of an atomic power plant (1975; power output, 559 megawatts).

The prefecture is a center for tourism: it has the Genkai National Park, the Nanatsugama caves, and the Nijino Matsubara walkway (in the city of Karatsu). There are hot mineral springs at Takeo and Ureshino.




a city in Japan, on northwestern Kyushu, on the fertile Saga plain. Administrative center of Saga Prefecture. Population, 148,000 (1973). Saga is a transportation junction. Industry includes electrical machine building, machine tool construction, instrument-making, and production of porcelain and ceramic wares, food, and textiles. There is also fish farming. A museum of commerce and industry is located in Saga.



an Old Icelandic prose tale.

The only extant sagas were set down in writing between the second half of the 12th century and the 14th century. The most original are the family sagas, or “sagas about the Icelanders”; these are the sagas most often referred to when “Icelandic sagas” or simply “sagas” are spoken of. Family sagas are characterized by historical realism, faithful portrayals of daily life, and epic simplicity. Their deep psychological nature derives from the lively dialogue and the descriptions of the heroes’ feats. The basic plot outline of almost every saga of this type is a family feud. The family sagas are full of the fatalism that characterizes paganism. Authorship has not been determined. The influence of the oral tradition is most evident in the early works, whereas some of the later sagas may be seen as works first composed in writing.

A second group of sagas are the kings’ sagas, or “sagas about the kings of Norway.” Two authors are known by name: Snorri Sturluson (1178–1241) and Sturla Thordarson (died 1284). The sources for the royal sagas were oral legends, the poetry of the skalds, tales of eyewitnesses, and documents. A third group comprises sagas about bishops and the leaders of Iceland. These sagas were written mainly by people who witnessed the events that are recounted. They have the character of chronicles, and some exhibit noticeable religious and moralistic tendencies.

Prose translations of tales of chivalry are also called chivalric sagas. The word saga is used in Russian to apply to Irish epic poetry as well.


Islandskie sagi. Moscow, 1956.


Steblin-Kamenskii, M. I. Islandskaia literatura. Leningrad, 1947.
Steblin-Kamenskii, M. I. Mir sagi. Leningrad, 1971.
Olgeirsson, E. Izproshlogo islandskogo naroda. Moscow, 1957.
Gurevich, A. Ia. Istoriia i saga. Moscow, 1972.
Andersson, T. M. The Problem of Icelandic Saga Origins: A Historical Survey. New Haven, Conn.-London, 1964.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. any of several medieval prose narratives written in Iceland and recounting the exploits of a hero or a family
2. any similar heroic narrative
3. a series of novels about several generations or members of a family
4. any other artistic production said to resemble a saga
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(WPI) A cuspy but bogus raving story about N random broken people.

Here is a classic example of the saga form, as told by Guy Steele (GLS):

Jon L. White (login name JONL) and I (GLS) were office mates at MIT for many years. One April, we both flew from Boston to California for a week on research business, to consult face-to-face with some people at Stanford, particularly our mutual friend Richard Gabriel (RPG).

RPG picked us up at the San Francisco airport and drove us back to Palo Alto (going logical south on route 101, parallel to El Camino Bignum). Palo Alto is adjacent to Stanford University and about 40 miles south of San Francisco. We ate at The Good Earth, a "health food" restaurant, very popular, the sort whose milkshakes all contain honey and protein powder. JONL ordered such a shake - the waitress claimed the flavour of the day was "lalaberry". I still have no idea what that might be, but it became a running joke. It was the colour of raspberry, and JONL said it tasted rather bitter. I ate a better tostada there than I have ever had in a Mexican restaurant.

After this we went to the local Uncle Gaylord's Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor. They make ice cream fresh daily, in a variety of intriguing flavours. It's a chain, and they have a slogan: "If you don't live near an Uncle Gaylord's - MOVE!" Also, Uncle Gaylord (a real person) wages a constant battle to force big-name ice cream makers to print their ingredients on the package (like air and plastic and other non-natural garbage). JONL and I had first discovered Uncle Gaylord's the previous August, when we had flown to a computer-science conference in Berkeley, California, the first time either of us had been on the West Coast. When not in the conference sessions, we had spent our time wandering the length of Telegraph Avenue, which (like Harvard Square in Cambridge) was lined with picturesque street vendors and interesting little shops. On that street we discovered Uncle Gaylord's Berkeley store. The ice cream there was very good. During that August visit JONL went absolutely bananas (so to speak) over one particular flavour, ginger honey.

Therefore, after eating at The Good Earth - indeed, after every lunch and dinner and before bed during our April visit --- a trip to Uncle Gaylord's (the one in Palo Alto) was mandatory. We had arrived on a Wednesday, and by Thursday evening we had been there at least four times. Each time, JONL would get ginger honey ice cream, and proclaim to all bystanders that "Ginger was the spice that drove the Europeans mad! That's why they sought a route to the East! They used it to preserve their otherwise off-taste meat." After the third or fourth repetition RPG and I were getting a little tired of this spiel, and began to paraphrase him: "Wow! Ginger! The spice that makes rotten meat taste good!" "Say! Why don't we find some dog that's been run over and sat in the sun for a week and put some *ginger* on it for dinner?!" "Right! With a lalaberry shake!" And so on. This failed to faze JONL; he took it in good humour, as long as we kept returning to Uncle Gaylord's. He loves ginger honey ice cream.

Now RPG and his then-wife KBT (Kathy Tracy) were putting us up (putting up with us?) in their home for our visit, so to thank them JONL and I took them out to a nice French restaurant of their choosing. I unadventurously chose the filet mignon, and KBT had je ne sais quoi du jour, but RPG and JONL had lapin (rabbit). (Waitress: "Oui, we have fresh rabbit, fresh today." RPG: "Well, JONL, I guess we won't need any *ginger*!")

We finished the meal late, about 11 P.M., which is 2 A.M Boston time, so JONL and I were rather droopy. But it wasn't yet midnight. Off to Uncle Gaylord's!

Now the French restaurant was in Redwood City, north of Palo Alto. In leaving Redwood City, we somehow got onto route 101 going north instead of south. JONL and I wouldn't have known the difference had RPG not mentioned it. We still knew very little of the local geography. I did figure out, however, that we were headed in the direction of Berkeley, and half-jokingly suggested that we continue north and go to Uncle Gaylord's in Berkeley.

RPG said "Fine!" and we drove on for a while and talked. I was drowsy, and JONL actually dropped off to sleep for 5 minutes. When he awoke, RPG said, "Gee, JONL, you must have slept all the way over the bridge!", referring to the one spanning San Francisco Bay. Just then we came to a sign that said "University Avenue". I mumbled something about working our way over to Telegraph Avenue; RPG said "Right!" and maneuvered some more. Eventually we pulled up in front of an Uncle Gaylord's.

Now, I hadn't really been paying attention because I was so sleepy, and I didn't really understand what was happening until RPG let me in on it a few moments later, but I was just alert enough to notice that we had somehow come to the Palo Alto Uncle Gaylord's after all.

JONL noticed the resemblance to the Palo Alto store, but hadn't caught on. (The place is lit with red and yellow lights at night, and looks much different from the way it does in daylight.) He said, "This isn't the Uncle Gaylord's I went to in Berkeley! It looked like a barn! But this place looks *just like* the one back in Palo Alto!"

RPG deadpanned, "Well, this is the one *I* always come to when I'm in Berkeley. They've got two in San Francisco, too. Remember, they're a chain."

JONL accepted this bit of wisdom. And he was not totally ignorant - he knew perfectly well that University Avenue was in Berkeley, not far from Telegraph Avenue. What he didn't know was that there is a completely different University Avenue in Palo Alto.

JONL went up to the counter and asked for ginger honey. The guy at the counter asked whether JONL would like to taste it first, evidently their standard procedure with that flavour, as not too many people like it.

JONL said, "I'm sure I like it. Just give me a cone." The guy behind the counter insisted that JONL try just a taste first. "Some people think it tastes like soap." JONL insisted, "Look, I *love* ginger. I eat Chinese food. I eat raw ginger roots. I already went through this hassle with the guy back in Palo Alto. I *know* I like that flavour!"

At the words "back in Palo Alto" the guy behind the counter got a very strange look on his face, but said nothing. KBT caught his eye and winked. Through my stupor I still hadn't quite grasped what was going on, and thought RPG was rolling on the floor laughing and clutching his stomach just because JONL had launched into his spiel ("makes rotten meat a dish for princes") for the forty-third time. At this point, RPG clued me in fully.

RPG, KBT, and I retreated to a table, trying to stifle our chuckles. JONL remained at the counter, talking about ice cream with the guy b.t.c., comparing Uncle Gaylord's to other ice cream shops and generally having a good old time.

At length the g.b.t.c. said, "How's the ginger honey?" JONL said, "Fine! I wonder what exactly is in it?" Now Uncle Gaylord publishes all his recipes and even teaches classes on how to make his ice cream at home. So the g.b.t.c. got out the recipe, and he and JONL pored over it for a while. But the g.b.t.c. could contain his curiosity no longer, and asked again, "You really like that stuff, huh?" JONL said, "Yeah, I've been eating it constantly back in Palo Alto for the past two days. In fact, I think this batch is about as good as the cones I got back in Palo Alto!"

G.b.t.c. looked him straight in the eye and said, "You're *in* Palo Alto!"

JONL turned slowly around, and saw the three of us collapse in a fit of giggles. He clapped a hand to his forehead and exclaimed, "I've been hacked!"

[My spies on the West Coast inform me that there is a close relative of the raspberry found out there called an "ollalieberry" - ESR]

[Ironic footnote: it appears that the meme about ginger vs. rotting meat may be an urban legend. It's not borne out by an examination of mediaeval recipes or period purchase records for spices, and appears full-blown in the works of Samuel Pegge, a gourmand and notorious flake case who originated numerous food myths. - ESR]
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