Sutherland and Caithness in Saga-Time
Writing arrived in Sutherland and Caithness very late, and was not even then a common indigenous product. Clerks, or scholars who could read and write, were at first very few, and in the north of Scotland hardly any such were known before the twelfth century of our era, save perhaps in the Pictish and Columban settlements of hermits and missionaries. Of their writings, if they ever existed, little or nothing of historical value is extant at the present time. But the _Orkneyinga, St. Magnus_, and _Hakon's Sagas_, when they take up their story, present us with a graphic and human and consecutive account of much which would otherwise have remained unknown, and their story, though tinged here and there with romance through the writers' desire for dramatic effect, is, so far as the main facts go, singularly faithful and accurate, when it can be tested by contemporary chronicles.
Until the twelfth or the thirteenth century, save for these Sagas, we learn hardly a