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The family saga is a genre of literature which chronicles the lives and doings of a family or a number of related or interconnected families over a period of time. In novels (or sometimes sequences of novels) with a serious intent, this is often a thematic device used to portray particular historical events, changes of social circumstances, or the ebb and flow of fortunes from a multitude of perspectives.

The word saga comes from Old Norse, where it meant 'what is said, utterance, oral account, notification' and '(structured) narrative, story (about somebody)',[1] and was originally borrowed into English from Old Norse by scholars in the eighteenth century to refer to the Old Norse prose narratives known as sagas.[2][3]

The typical family saga follows generations of a family through a period of history in a series of novels. A number of subgenres of the form exist such as the AGA saga.

Successful writers of popular family sagas include Susan Howatch, R. F. Delderfield and Philippa Carr.


Film and television


  1. ^ Dictionary of Old Norse Prose/Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog (Copenhagen: [Arnamagnæan Commission/Arnamagnæanske kommission], 1983–), s.v. '1 saga sb. f.'.
  2. ^ "saw, n.2.", OED Online, 1st edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, December 2019).
  3. ^ "saga, n.1.", OED Online, 1st edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, December 2019).