Heyday in Medieval Iceland
There was a great increase in Icelandic saga writing during the thirteenth-century. At that time, the Íslendingasögur (literally the Sagas of Icelanders but generally referred to as the family sagas in English) were written, without doubt the best-known and most popular of all Old Icelandic literature. Family saga events occur in the period from settlement to the middle of the eleventh-century, but were put down in writing much later, in the thirteenth- and fourteenth-centuries.
The family sagas are about the lives of Icelanders and are, for the most part, set in Iceland. They illuminate the hostilities and conflicts between people; human status and honour were the most important social factors of all. The style of the sagas, their narrative skill, and their use of characterization have secured their popularity over the centuries, not just amongst Icelanders but throughout the world. The most famous of them is Brennu-Njáls saga, or Njáls saga as it is also called. Njála (the more informal name which Icelanders have given the saga) is, like other Old Icelandic literature, written on vellum made from calfskin.
Gunnar Hamundarson lived at Hlidarendi in Fljotshlid. He was big and strong and an excellent fighter. He could swing a sword and throw a spear with either hand, if he wished, and he was so swift with a sword that there seemed to be three in the air at once. He could shoot with a bow better than anyone else, and he always hit what he aimed at. He could jump higher than his own height, in full fighting gear, and just as far backward as forward. He swam like a seal, and there was no sport in which there was any point in competing with him. It was said that no man was his match.
He was handsome and fair of skin and had a straight nose, turned up at its tip. He was blue-eyed and keen-eyed and ruddy-cheeked. His hair was thick, blond, and well-combed. He was very courteous, firm in all ways, generous and even-tempered, a true friend but a discriminating friend. He was very well off for property.
(Translation by Robert Cook. The Complete Sagas of Icelanders. Volume 3. Reykjavík: Leifur Eiríksson Publishing, 1997, page 24.)
Thus, Gunnar Hámundarson, one of the greatest heroes of the Icelandic family sagas, is described in Brennu-Njáls saga.