Hámundarson vs the family of Gissur the White In Icelandic sagas, life is given its relish by family feuds. In Njál’s saga, there are several (all the more dizzying because of inter-marriage, divorce and foster-parenting). The main feud is begun when Njáls’s friend Gunnar Hámundarson kills two members of the same family (one might have been forgivable). He is told to leave Iceland, but cannot bear to do so.
Montague vs Capulet The model for many a fictional family feud was established in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The two top families in Verona hate each other and their young bucks regularly scrap. Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet naturally fall for each other.
Ravenswood vs Ashton In Walter Scott’s tragic bestseller The Bride of Lammermoor, source of Donizetti’s opera, Edgar Ravenswood has inherited his father’s hatred of the Ashton family, responsible, he thinks, for their ruin. But then he falls in love with Lucy Ashton. Her appalled family decide to marry her off to an obnoxious laird. Murder and madness follow.
Piombo vs Porta Balzac’s novel La Vendetta is a gloomy tale of Corsican mores. At its heart is the doomed marriage of Ginevra Piombo to Luigi Porta. Most of Luigi’s family have already been wiped out by the rival Piombo clan and Ginevra’s father is appalled to see his beloved daughter hitched to a Porta. He lets them sink into destitution and relents too late to save Ginevra and her baby.
Doone vs Ridd Set in the 17th century, RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone tells of the love between members of two Exmoor families who hate each other. John Ridd loves Lorna Doone, even though the Doones have murdered his father. She is promised as a wife to the ferocious Carver Doone. When, after many adventures, John and Lorna are wed, Carver bursts into the church and shoots her.
Grangerford vs Shepherdson The young hero of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn escapes from his drunken father and flees down the Mississippi with runaway slave Jim. When their raft sinks our two adventurers are helped by the Grangerfords, and get sucked into their decades-long vendetta against the neighbouring Shepherdsons.
The Bridegroom’s family vs the Felixes In Lorca’s Blood Wedding, the main characters are not named, except for the Felix family, apparently responsible, several years earlier, for killing the father of a young man who is about to get married. On the wedding night, the bride elopes with Leonardo Felix. The lovers flee to the forest, where Death appears in the guise of a beggar woman. The outlook is not good.
Corleone vs Tattaglia Before it was ever a film The Godfather was a novel by Mario Puzo centring on the murderous vendetta between two New York mafia families. After a quarrel over control of the heroin trade, the killings begin . . .
Atreides vs Harkonnen The names sound like a mix of Greek tragedy and Icelandic saga, but this is the sci-fi world of Frank Herbert’s Dune (and its many sequels). A feud has raged between these families for thousands of years on the desert planet Arakis, only source of the priceless spice mélange. The politics of this murderous struggle are byzantine, and only for the devoted reader.
Kryeqyqe vs Berisha Ismail Kadare’s Broken April tracks the murderous customs of Albanian mountain folk. The Kanun (traditional Albanian law) dictates that young Gjorg Berisha must avenge the death of his brother by killing a member of a rival family. The two clans have been murdering each other for more than half a century. His own life is forfeit in return, though he gets a 30-day truce before he becomes the next victim.