Saga Brief 9 – Thor: The Intersection of Viking Mythology and Popular Culture (Live)

Thor

In this Saga Brief, John and Andy visit Seminole State College to talk about Thor in all his incarnations, from the Proto-Germanic god of thunder to the hammer throwing stud of the Marvel Comic Universe.  You can access the PowerPoint slides here: Thor Presentation.

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Special thanks to Michael Mendoza for inviting us and organizing this event. We are also grateful to Aaron Hanlin and the Grindle Honors Insitute at Seminole State College for generously funding our travel. And thank you to the students of Seminole State for your kind attention and enthusiasm.

If you’re interested in having Saga Thing come to your university, contact us at sagathingpodcast@gmail.com.

Thor SlideMusic: 
Intro to Saga Brief – from Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur

 

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Episode 24b – Second Quarter Court Results

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The Second Quarter of our Saga Thing comes to a close with the results episode. In this special episode, John and Andy review your choices for Best Bloodshed, Nicknames, Notable Witticisms, Outlawry, Thingmen, and Final Ratings. Will Skarpheðin emerge as the poster boy for Saga Thing’s Best Bloodshed and Notable Witticism categories?  What role might the Russians have played in the Thingmen voting? Does Njal’s Saga maintain its position on the throne of saga literature? Or will another contender leave Njal’s Saga in the dust on the way to the Fifth Court?  Along the way, we answer listener questions on a variety of fun topics.

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References for Grettir and servant girl discussion:

Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir. “‘How Do You Know if it is Love or Lust?’ On Gender, Status, and Violence in Old Norse Literature.” Interfaces 2 (2016): 189-209.

Karras, Ruth Mazo. Sexuality in Medieval Europe: Doing Unto Others. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2017. Grettir’s Saga discussion at 155-56.

Ljungqvist, Fredrik Charpentier. “Rape in the Icelandic Sagas: An Insight in the Perceptions about Sexual Assaults on Women in the Old Norse World.” Journal of Family History 40, no. 4 (2015): 431-47.

Scudder, Bernard. Introduction to The Saga of Grettir the Strong, ix-xxxviii. New York: Penguin Classics, 2005.

Short, William R. “The Role of Women in Viking Society.” Hurstwichttp://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/society/text/women.htm (accessed October 10, 2017).

References for discussion of literacy in medieval Iceland:

Hermann, Pernille. “Literacy.” In The Routledge Research Companion to the Medieval Icelandic Sagas, edited by Ármann Jakobsson, Sverrir Jakobsson, 34-47. New York: Routledge, 2017.

Quinn, Judy. “From Orality to Literacy in Medieval Iceland.” In Old Icelandic Literature and Society, edited by Margaret Clunies Ross, 30-60. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Sigurðsson, Gísli. “Orality and Literacy in the Sagas of Icelanders.” In A Companion to Old-Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture, edited by Rory McTurk, 285-301. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005.

Music Credits:
Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Saga Shorts 2: The Tale of Thorstein Bull’s-Leg

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For our second episode of Saga Shorts, we’ve chosen the brilliant “Tale of Thorstein Bull’s-leg” (Þorsteins Þáttr uxafóts).  As one of the longer þættir, this one defies categorization. It tells the story of Thorstein Oddnyarson, a child abandoned at birth who grows up to be a hero in the court of King Olaf Tryggvason.  Along the way, he’ll find his parents, do battle with the undead, raid the home of a troll family, experience a miracle, almost drown in vomit, and fight a pagan bull.  It’s got everything you could want in a saga and more, all wrapped in a nice little Þáttr sized package.
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For this episode, we used George Clark’s translation, “The Tale of Thorstein Bull’s-Leg,” in The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, Vol. 4, ed. Vidar Hrinsson (Reykjavik: Leifur Eiriksson Publishing, 1997), 340-54.

We mention Elizabeth Ashman Rowe’s “Þorsteins þáttr uxafótsHelga þáttr Þórissonar, and the Conversion þættir,” Scandinavian Studies 76, no. 4 (2004): 459-74.

Music Credits:

Intro: From “Death Awaits” by Billy Malmstrom

Outro: From “Óðinn” by Krauka

The Second Quarter Court

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From 2015-2017 we covered a grand total of 10 sagas.  You listened.  You laughed.  You cried.  And when each saga was finished, you heard John and Andy pass judgment on the characters and their actions.  Now it’s your turn to be heard.

As always, the Quarter Court reviews the winners from the past 10 judgment episodes.  The polls will be open until September 30th.  At that time, John and I will close them down and review the results in the judgment section of the Second Quarter Court.

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Remember to send your questions for that special judgment episode.  You can reach us via email at sagathingpodcast@gmail.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

And now the voting!

Remember, voting closes on September 30th. Get in while you can.

Music Credits:
Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Episode 23c – The Saga of Droplaug’s Sons

You Complete Me1

It’s time to put The Saga of Droplaug’s Sons on trial.  We’ve got spears flying through dung beetles and testicles left and right in this episode.  If that’s not enough for you, there’s a man running across the heath in nothing but a bed sheet.  And don’t even get me started about Helgi D.’s heroics on the battlefield or his brother Grim’s hole digging prowess.  But will either brother make it out of our outlawry section and into the ranks of Andy and John’s thingmen?  And if you had to guess, is John more of a Grim or a Helgi kind of guy?  There’s only one way to find out!

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Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Episode 23b – The Saga of Droplaug’s Sons

Hnefatafl

It’s time for the thrilling conclusion to The Saga of Droplaug’s Sons.  This episode begins with an ambush as Helgi Asbjarnarson finally catches up with Helgi Droplaugarson.  You won’t want to miss this epic battle.  It provides some of the more detailed descriptions of battle we’ve encountered on this podcast.  If you follow us on Twitter, then you already know something of who gets hit where.  Poor, poor, Thord Cormorant.  If you listen carefully, you can still hear the shrieking.

And if that’s not enough, we’ve also got Helgi D. doing his best impression of Lurtz, a secret resurrection,  and murder most foul.  And just because we love you, we’ll throw in some hnefatafl, a timely fart, meditations on the character of Vikings in the sagas, and John reading from the Middle English Geste of Robyn Hode.  Follow the link and scroll down to the bottom (lines 1787-1820) so you can follow along. Heck, we’ve even got an appearance by Don Knotts as Mr. Furley from Three’s Company.

Furley

While this episode doesn’t dwell on genealogies like the first part, you still may want to consult Andy’s handy Droplaugarsona saga genealogy to help keep things in order.

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Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Episode Recap – “Perfect Rag” by Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton (1924)

Helgi’s Poem – “Drums of the Deep” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Grim’s Poem – “Bittersweet” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Episode 23a – The Saga of Droplaug’s Sons

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In this episode, we continue our series of stories from the Northeast of Iceland.  This time around, Helgi Droplaugarson goes head to head with the powerful chieftain Helgi Asbjarnarson.  While Helgi D. makes life difficult for his rival by undercutting him at every chance he gets, Helgi A. takes it all with patience.  Does Helgi A. have a good reason for holding back?  Or is he just biding his time as he waits for the right moment to attack?  There’s only one way to find out.  Listen, as Saga Thing presents The Saga of Droplaug’s Sons!

The first part of this episode, much like the saga itself, is a bit heavy on social dynamics and genealogical connections.  To help you navigate these relationships, Andy has prepared this handy genealogy using Family Echo.  Be sure to click on different names in the genealogy to see where it takes you.  The connections are fascinating if you pay attention.

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Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Episode Summary – “All This” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Saga Shorts 1 – Þættir Intro and The Tale of Thorstein Staff-Struck

Icelandic Horses Fighting

Welcome to the first episode of Saga Shorts, a side project of Saga Thing where John and Andy review the þættir of medieval Iceland.  In this episode, we provide a brief introduction to þættir and the difficulties one faces when trying to define the genre.  If you’re not interested in those technical details, just skip ahead to 10:10, where we begin our review of Þorsteins þáttr stangarhöggs (The Tale of Thorstein Staff-struck).  This fun little tale tells the story of an old Viking’s son named Thorstein who gets into some trouble with Bjarni Brodd-Helgisson, the local goði, after killing 3 of his farmhands.

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Bibliography

Harris, Joseph. “Genre and Narrative Structure in Some Íslendinga þættir.” Scandinavian Studies 44 (1972): 1-27.

Harris, Joseph. “Þættir.” In Dictionary of the Middle Ages, vol. 12, edited by Joseph R. Strayer, 1-6. New York: Charles Scribner, 1989.

Jakobsson, Ármann. “The Life and Death of the Medieval Icelandic Short Story.” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 112 (2013): 257-91.

Kristjánsson, Jónas.  “Íslendinga þættir.” In Eddas and Sagas: Iceland’s Medieval Literature, translated by Peter Foote, 299-309. Reykjavík: Hið íslenska bókmenntafélag, 1997.

Miller, William Ian. “A Case Study of the Sagas as Sources: Þorsteins Þáttr stangarhöggs and the Politics of Accident.” In Bloodtaking and Peacemaking: Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland, 51-76. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.

Rowe, Elizabeth Ashman. “The Long and the Short of It.” In The Routledge Research Companion to the Medieval Icelandic Sagas, edited by Ármann Jakobsson, Sverrir Jakobsson, 151-63. New York: Routledge, 2017.

Rowe, Elizabeth Ashman and Joseph Harris. “Short Prose Narrative (þáttr).” In A Companion to Old-Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture, edited by Rory McTurk, 462-78.  Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005.

Music Credits:

Intro: From “Death Awaits” by Billy Malmstrom

Outro: From “Óðinn” by Krauka

Episode 22b – The Saga of the People of Vopnafjord (Judgments)

It’s time to put the Saga of the People of Vopnafjord on trial.  Who will go home with the honor of Best Bloodshed?  Does this saga have the numbers to overtake the Saga of the Greenlanders in Body Count Density? Who has the best Nickname? Was anyone witty enough to earn the prize? Will Brodd-Helgi make it through Outlawry?  And who will be selected to join John and Andy as thingmen?

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spear_assortment

Along the way, we get into a few digressions (I know, you’re shocked). Among the more interesting digressions is a brief follow up on our Viking spearheads discussion from Njal’s Saga.  We delve into the terminology once again and review different types of spearheads as well as their appearances in the sagas, with special emphasis on Egil’s Saga.  You can find lots of information out there on Viking spearheads if you look.  Most of it isn’t terribly helpful in identifying what each of the original terms actually means.  We recommend Hurstwic’s page on the subject as a good primer. They’ve got a great page on Viking spears and a more specific page on the types of spears discussed in this episode.

Spears

We also pause to talk about the exciting new exhibit at the Reykjavik City Museum, Viking Animals, which opened this week.  The exhibition is based on the research of Lara Hogg, who shares my fascination with the place of animals in early Icelandic life.

Viking AnimalsJust look at all those cattle skulls.  I wonder if Brodd-Helgi helped her prepare this part of the exhibit.  If you’re in Iceland any time soon, swing by the Reykjavik City Museum and check it out.  If not, then follow the exhibit’s progress on Twitter @VikingAnimals or on the exhibit’s blog.

Next time on Saga Thing, we’ll play with the Tale of Thorstein Staff-Struck in our new side series tentatively titled Saga Shorts.  That will be followed soon after by a two-part episode on The Saga of Droplaug’s Sons, which features many of the same characters from the Vopnafjord episode.

Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Episode 22a – The Saga of the People of Vopnafjord

Vopnafjord Monument

Monument to Vopnfirðingasögu

The Saga of the People of Vopnafjord picks up where The Saga of Thorstein the White left off.  It tells the story of two friends, Brodd-Helgi Thorgilsson and Geitir Lytingsson, and their rise to power.  The two men share everything in the beginning, including a desire to have that which is not theirs.  Their friendship only deepens when Brodd-Helgi marries Geitir’s sister, Halla.  Later, their son Bjarni is given to Geitir as foster-son.  Things really couldn’t be better between the two leading men of Vopnafjord.

Map

But things fall apart, as they do in these stories, after Brodd-Helgi and Geitir begin to mistrust one another after a plot to rob a hapless Norwegian merchant crumbles.  Their relationship suffers further when Halla becomes ill and Brodd-Helgi wastes no time arranging another marriage for himself, this time to Thorgerd Silver.  The resulting animosity between Geitir and Brodd-Helgi proves too much for the district to bear.  Men from both sides are drawn into the conflict and some even lose their lives.  Though Geitir is reluctant to act as the aggressor, he is finally put on the offensive after some prodding by his thingmen.  What happens next is lost in the great gap left to us in the manuscript.  The saga picks things up again with the next generation from each family trying to pick up the pieces.  Here we find Bjarni, the son of Brodd-Helgi, going head-to-head with Thorkel, Geitir’s son.  The two are not only kinsmen, they had also grown up together at Krossavik.  Though Bjarni attempts to make peace with Thorkel, there’s little that can be done to assuage the thirst for vengeance.  Will Bjarni succeed in putting an end to this bloody and unfortunate feud? Or will Thorkel continue the cycle of violence and pass it on to the next generation?  There’s only one way to find out.


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stone_armor_defense (Hurstwic)

The Stone Armor Defense

The above image comes from Hurstwic’s recreation of Brodd-Helgi’s clever use of a stone slab to protect himself from Svart in chapter 2 of Vápnfirðinga saga.  Read all about this and other creative battle tactics here.

For some more on this saga and its background, check out:

Chapter 13 of Jesse Byock’s Viking Age Iceland – “Friendship, Blood feud, and Power: The Saga of the People of Weapon’s Fjord”

Alan Berger’s “Lawyers in the Old Icelandic Family Sagas: Heroes, Villains, and Authors” in Saga Book XX (1978-79): 70-79

And if you’re interested in traveling to Vopnafjord and taking in all the sights yourself, maybe take a gander at a waterfall or two and pause for some fishing, then start here at https://www.visitvopnafjordur.com/en

Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Episode Summary – “Clash Defiant” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/