It’s time to put the Saga of Bard the God of Snowfell on trial! Critics and saga enthusiasts are often divided on this one. Where will John and Andy rank Bard’s Saga? Who will win Best Bloodshed? Why is Andy suddenly contributing to Nicknames? And which of the heroic figures in this saga will be honored with the title of Thingman? Listen and find out!
Before we judge Bard’s Saga, we take a short break to speak about this crazy story with our good friend Will Biel, a PhD candidate in Medieval Studies at the University of Connecticut. Will brings his expertise on Bard’s Saga, medieval European romance literature, and Dungeons and Dragons to our table for a fascinating discussion. We think you’ll enjoy this fun interview!
In the thrilling conclusion to Bard’s Saga, Gest makes his way to the court of King Olaf Tryggvason in Norway. Despite the king’s best efforts to convert his Icelandic guest, the son of Bard is reluctant to abandon the old gods. Gest’s faith will be tested when he accepts a mission to break into the burial mound of an old Viking called Raknar in Greenland. Along the way, he’ll encounter Odin, argue with a priest, battle against 500 undead oarsmen, and wrestle with Raknar himself. Does Gest have what it takes to defeat the devilish draugr? Will the old gods provide the strength he needs to claim the treasure? Or will Gest discover the true power of the Christian god? Find out on this exciting episode of Saga Thing!
Ever wonder what happens when trolls, giants, and ogres get together for a party? Be our guest in this fun episode as we follow Bard’s son Gest to a Yule feast hosted by a troll-woman and then to a wedding bash in the cave hall of Kolbjorn the ogre. Learn all about fun party games like “skin-throwing” and “joint-toss.” And if that’s not enough for you, we’ve also got missing sheep, a damsel in distress, a heroic dog, and a battle for the ages! All that and more in one episode of your favorite podcast about medieval Icelandic literature, Saga Thing!
Thanks again to Bryan Foust for his exciting illustrations for this saga. You can see more of his work on his Instragram page, where he is @skarphedin_illustrator. Click on the link and follow him!
In this short episode, John and Andy got together for a drink and a chat to celebrate after Saga Thing reached the 1 million downloads milestone. Sure it took 7 years to get there. But we’re still surprised that anybody’s listening. Thanks for joining us on this journey.
In this episode, we begin our summary and discussion of the fantastical Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss, The Saga of Bard the Snowfell God. This saga is set in the rugged and fantastic landscape of Snaefellsnes in West Iceland. Here you’ll discover how trolls and giants migrated to Iceland alongside the humans. One of them, Bard Dumbsson, becomes a guardian spirit who wanders the land “in a grey cloak and hood with a belt of walrus-hide, carrying a two-pronged staff in his hand with a long spike for walking on the ice.” We follow the saga of Bard and his family through multiple generations and quite a few calamities.
A special thanks to our guest illustrator, Jacob Foust, who will be working with us through Bard’s Saga. You can find on Instagram as @skarphedin_illustrator. Jacob just recently started sharing his illustrations of the sagas and Norse myths. We find them absolutely delightful. Follow him on Instagram and let him know how much you love his work.
If you haven’t seen it already on social media, here’s Bard and giving his nephews a piece of his mind.
And Helga drifting out to sea:
I’d put the bibliography John mentioned in right here if John had given me any. Alas, John left me hanging. Oh well.
In this episode, John and Andy sit down (virtually) with Dana Dalicsek to talk about sailing in the Viking Age, life onboard a ship, and the methodologies of modern maritime archaeologists who dive deep beneath the ocean’s surface to excavate and study the shipwrecks the Vikings left behind. We hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did.
It’s time to put the Saga of Hord and the Holm-Dwellers on trial. As usual, we’ll select winners in the following categories: Best Bloodshed, Nicknames, and Notable Witticisms. We’ll also offer a Body Count for this surprisingly bloody saga. Plus there’s Outlawry, Thingmen, and Final Ratings!
Does Hord have what it takes to make it into our group of Thingmen? Or has he pushed things too far and earned himself an official Saga Thing sentence of outlawry? There’s only one way to find out!
It’s time for the thrilling conclusion to The Saga of Hord and theHolm-Dwellers. In this episode, Hord and his followers continue to raid the farms of Hvalfjord like a bunch of unruly Vikings. Things don’t go as planned when they target the livestock of Indridi, husband of Hord’s sister Thorbjorg. Things get heated as Hord attempts to set fire to his kinsman’s home. And while those flames are soon extinguished, the embers of hostility soon flare up into a wildfire that threaten to consume Hord and his outlaw companions.
In this exciting and action packed episode, Hord returns to Iceland with a rich wife and an enhanced reputation. After he inherits land from his father, Grimkel, things seem to be looking good for Hord and his young family. But things take a turn for the worse when the gods turn their backs on him and Hord’s luck quickly begins to run out. An incident with some horses and a very sharp sword send him into outlawry. But Hord won’t be going into the wilderness alone. Find out who goes with him and how they set up a base of operations on the island now known as Geirsholm (featured in the photo I took from the shore near Bjarteyarsundur).
If you’re interested in visiting the stomping grounds of Hord and his men, then I highly recommend you spend the night at Bjarteyarsundur farm. You can camp in the field or stay in one of their cottages for a very reasonable price. And you can’t beat the views and hospitality.
For those of you who like to hike, then you’ll want to experience the nearby Glymur Falls hike. Here’s one of many amazing vistas you get to see on the way up to one of Iceland’s tallest and most beautiful waterfalls (note Geirsholm in the distance).
Join us for a chat with Dr. Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir, author of Valkyrie: Women of the Viking World. We speak about Valkyries, shield-maidens, and famous women of Icelandic saga and legend. We also talk about the important contributions of Viking Age women to the success of medieval Scandinavian households, raiding parties, and armies. And since we’re all medievalists, we inevitably get around to discussing the thrills and frustrations of working with medieval sources and the importance of interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving. We hope you enjoy.
It’s time to start another saga! This time, we’ve decided to finish off the last of the “outlaw sagas.” We’re headed to south-western Iceland for the thrilling post-classical Saga of Hord and the Island-Dwellers, also known as Harðar saga og Hólmverja. In this episode, we meet all the principle characters (there are a lot) and get to know our protagonist a bit before he dives headlong into the life of a medieval Icelandic outlaw. This section of the saga features a troubled marriage, prophetic dreams, an abandoned child, a thrilling fight with an undead Viking, and an amazing head of hair. We hope you enjoy!
Warning: This episode may not be suitable for young children
It’s winter in Norway, a time when most people huddle together with family and friends to share warmth, tell stories, and await the coming of spring. But the Christian king Olaf the Stout has heard word about strange goings-on at a farm in the north, where the lady of the house has found a new way to pass the time—she’s starting her own religious cult. So the king and his friends must travel through the winter weather in disguise to learn just what this household is worshiping in the woods—and what they find is something altogether more ridiculous than they could have imagined.
This one’s unlike anything else we’ve read on the podcast so far—it’s got a well-endowed horse, a boy who’s given to shouting dirty poetry, an open-mike of verse-making at the farmhouse, three men who all choose the same disguise, and a dog who’s hungry for a good time. And what on earth is the farmer’s wife keeping in that long box that smells of leeks and herbs? Enjoy the strange world of Völsa þáttr!
You’d better not say “Who’s there?” Strange things are afoot during the Winter Nights feast at Hall of Siða’s homestead. Thorhall the Prophet warns everyone to stay inside. But some do-gooders simply can’t help themselves when they hear a knock at the door. Find out who’s there in this chilling episode of Saga Shorts.
What happens when Thorarin Nefjolsson and his friend Thorstein Ragnhildarson leave the court of King Cnut to visit his rival King Olaf? One of them will have to prove his loyalty by submitting to a trial by ordeal. What is a trial by ordeal, you ask? How does it work? Listen and find out!
What happens when a few 19th century scholars, a baking powder magnate, a transcendental poet, and a pair of Norwegian archaeologist explorers start looking for the real site of Vinland? John and Andy spoke at Bridgewater State University and the Scandinavian Cultural Center in West Newton, MA to answer that question. In this live episode, we review the Vinland sagas and then explore the efforts of prominent 19th century gentlemen to locate Vinland in the Boston area. If you’ve never visited Norumbega Tower, Dighton Rock, or “Krossanes beach” in Duxbury, you’ll want to after this.
Our thanks to Bridgewater State University’s English department for helping Andy travel from Oxford, Mississippi. And to the Scandinavian Cultural Center in West Newton, MA for hosting this live event.
The presentation we used and some photos we took follow:
After a full year of summary and discussion, the time has come to put Egil’s Saga on trial. If you don’t remember how judgments work, we totally understand. In this episode we review candidates for the following categories: Best Bloodshed, Nicknames, Notable Witticisms, Outlawry, and Thingmen. We also provide a tally of the saga’s untimely deaths and offer a final rating of the saga. Will your favorite moment of saga violence make the cut? Will John keep his Nicknames section under 20 minutes? Will Egil survive the outlawry section? And does Egil’s Saga have what it takes to join Njal’s Saga as a perfect 20? There’s only one way to find out!
In this episode, we finally put Egil Skallagrimsson to rest. But before he goes, Egil still has a few tricks up his gold-embroidered sleeve. He’s got plans for those two chests of silver given to him by King Athelstan of England. Then, after shuffling off this mortal coil, Egil’s bones leave a lasting legacy that has people of the 12th century and modern archaeologists, physicians, and medievalists talking. We discuss those bones and the now popular theory that Egil may have suffered from Paget’s Disease of the Bone. John the possibility of Egil’s impairment from a disability studies perspective and even makes a noteworthy addition to the theory. Andy remains skeptical of a diagnosis based on a 13th century literary character and the reported assumptions of 12th century Icelanders after finding some bones they thought a bit odd looking. Finally, in true saga fashion, we take a brief look at Egil’s descendants. They’re a worthy bunch who leave their mark on medieval Iceland’s history.
If you’re interested in reading more about Egil and Paget’s Disease, we recommend the following open access articles:
In this episode of Saga Thing, John and Andy celebrate the penultimate summary episode…again. Things got out of hand when Andy took over preparations and he made a whole episode out of the story of Egil’s son, Thorstein. Never fear, it’s a great episode all the same. This one will feel more like a family saga than what we’ve had so far in Egil’s Saga. We’ve got property disputes, arguments over who can graze their cattle where, slaves doing bad things in the name of their master, bloodshed, lawsuits, and regional politics. All the things you’ve been missing since we started Egil’s adventures in Norway. We promise you won’t be disappointed with this one.
And, we’ve got a special announcement. Come see Saga Thing Live at the Scandinavian Cultural Center in West Newton, MA on Friday, January 31st at 7pm. John and Andy are uniting live and in person to revisit the subject of The Vikings in the New World. It’s free! Register now:
In this episode, we turn from Egil’s exciting adventures abroad to more serious matters back home. After the tragic deaths of his sons Bodvar and Gunnar, Egil descends into a pit of despair. Cutting himself off from society and family, Egil locks himself in his room to await death. After a clever trick by his daughter foils his plans to end it all, Egil finds solace in poetry once again. In an effort to eulogize his sons and come to terms with his grief, Egil composes what might be his very best and most famous poem, the Sonatorrek (Loss of Sons).
With the mead of poetry once again flowing, Egil composes a praise poem to his best friend Arinbjorn. The Arinbjarnarkviða may not be as powerful as the Sonatorrek, but it’s a great poem in its own right. As you’d expect, we spend most of our time discussing these two incredible poems.
Put down the curds and loosen your belt. There’s
fancier fair on the menu today, friends. This episode provides a hearty
feast of adventure and in-your-face surprises as Egil accepts an
impossible mission to collect some long overdue tribute from Earl Arnvid
in Varmland. After the king’s men abandon him in hostile territory,
Egil is forced to make his own way through the harshest of winter
conditions toward the court of Earl Arnvid. Along the way, he’ll make a
few new friends and plenty of new enemies. Egil will also expose the
dangers of playing with runes and make a little magic of his own.
At the end of the episode, we dip into the Rune Sack to share a few observations and insights from our devoted listeners.
This is our action packed dueling episode! Egil suits up for battle against a pale-skinned Swedish berserker hell bent on destroying the family of Arinbjorn’s sister. Then he tackles Atli the Short, whose magical invulnerability to weapons forces Egil to get creative in battle. And if the duels weren’t enough, Egil and Arinbjorn go on a series of Viking raids in Saxony and Frisia.
In this episode, we welcome Hákon Aðalsteinsfóstri Haraldsson (aka
King Haakon the Good) to the throne of Norway. And with the deposed
Eirik trying to find a new life for himself in Northumbria, you’d think
there wouldn’t be time to mess around with ol’ Egil Skallagrimsson
anymore. But Gunnhild holds a grudge. Cursing Egil to a restless life
until he crosses paths with her once more, Gunnhild makes sure that
she’ll get the chance to avenge her son’s death. Of course, she’ll have
to accomplish this vengeance through her husband, Eirik, and things
don’t always go as planned when Gunnhild puts Egil’s head in Eirik’s
hands. Find out what happens when Egil meets Eirik and Gunnhild in York.
You’ve probably noticed that our latest episodes have been lacking
the brilliant illustrations of our pal Matt Smith. That’s because Matt’s
a success. He’s got plenty of paid work to do with real deadlines.
We’re excited to see all the stuff he’s been working on and look forward
to his eventual return to Saga Thing illustration. In the meantime,
we’d love to see more illustrations of the saga scenes and characters we
encounter here at Saga Thing. If you feel inspired to illustrate
something you’ve heard on the podcast, please send it to us through
social media or our email address. Use the hashtag #SagaThingArt when
posting on social media. If we get enough, I’ll put together a special
gallery on our website organized by saga. Any scene or character from
any saga we’ve covered is fair game.
Finally, for those of you looking for a deeper dive into what we’re talking about, check out our updated bibliography page here.
In this episode, Egil mourns the death of his brother, Thorolf, at least until someone offers him enough money to feel better about the whole thing. Shortly after that, our hero heads home and slips into a love-sick depression. While composing poetry helps him deal with his feelings, he won’t feel better until the wedding bells ring (or is it until the wedding horn blows in this case?). Meanwhile, a new rival arrives to challenge Egil for Asgerd’s Norwegian inheritance. Berg-Onund has married Asgerd’s sister and takes the property that belonged to their father, claiming Asgerd is nothing more than a king’s slave-woman. This insult forces Egil into action, resulting in a number of significant deaths and a sentence of full-outlawry from King Eirik and Queen Gunnhild. Along the way he manages to curse the spirits of Norway. The story is heating up. Come along for the ride!
In this very special Saga Brief, we are joined by Graham and Ali of Rex Factor for a discussion of the Battle of Brunanburh. This decisive battle pitted the Anglo-Saxons of Mercia and Wessex against the Scots, the Welsh, and the Vikings of the Danelaw and the Hiberno-Norse. It was the largest battle to be fought on English soil up to that time. Five kings and thousands of men lost their lives that day as King Athelstan of Wessex eliminated the threat to his growing kingdom and secured Anglo-Saxon control of Northumbria. The Battle of Brunanburh served as a rallying cry to the Anglo-Saxons who sought to reassert their claim over Britain and the establishment of a new national English identity.
This episode opens with a reading of the poem found in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for the year 937. After that, the conversation ranges from the tensions leading up to the battle, including a Welsh prophecy of victory, to the mystery of the battle’s location, the little we know of the battle itself, and then to its aftermath and legacy.
For those looking to dive deeper into the source material, we recommend Michael Livingston’s wonderful book, The Battle of Brunanburh: A Casebook, where you can read all the sources from the Welsh prophecy of the Anglo-Saxons’ defeat to the later, more imaginative histories we talk about.
In this episode, Egil and Thorolf arrive in King Athelstan’s England. The good news – Athelstan really likes the Skallagrimssons. The bad news – Anglo-Saxon England is about to go to war with King Olaf and his massive army of Scots, Danes, Irish-Norwegians, and Welsh. We’ll get a front row seat as Egil and Thorolf command Athelstan’s Viking troops in the Battle of Wen Heath! If you’re not familiar with the Battle of Wen Heath, then perhaps you know this incredibly significant engagement as the Battle of Brunanburh! That’s right, Egil and Thorolf will both play a significant role in the battle that would seal England’s fate. Are both Egil and Thorolf battle-savvy enough to survive the onslaught of King Olaf’s forces? There’s only one way to find out.
Along the way, we talk about the major figures of the Battle of Brunanburh and the saga author’s fictionalized stand-ins. You’ll hear all about King Olaf Guthfrithsson of Dublin, King Constantine II of Scotland, King Owain of Strathclyde, the earls of Northumbria, Godric and the swift-footed Alfgeir, and the earls of Britain, Hring and Adils. We also touch on the origins of Alfred the Great’s famous epithet and the life of his dynamic daughter, Æthelflæd (see the picture from Matthew Paris’ Additamentorum episode below). Click here for an excellent biography of Æthelflæd by the boys at Rex Factor.
Finally, we announce the identity of the very special guests we invited to join us for a Saga Brief on the Battle of Brunanburh. That’s right, we’ve got a special episode coming for you soon with some guests we think you’ll all love.
And thanks to Danheim, a Nordic folk/Viking inspired music project, for letting us use his music. Check the credits below for links to the songs. If you’re interested in hearing more from Danheim, visit his webpage or Youtube channel.
In this episode, Egil and Thorolf go a-Viking across the Baltic Sea
and then up the coast of Sweden. Along the way, Egil falls into a trap
set by some clever Curonians, Thorolf makes friends with yet another
nobleman, and Queen Gunnhild hatches a plot to kill the sons of
Skallagrim. We also discuss torture in the sagas, Viking ethics, time
fudging in saga narratives, and the character of the Branno Islands
across multiple sagas. We don’t cover a lot of chapters in this one (get
used to it), but we have a lot of fun.
In this episode, Egil arrives in Norway. While his brother Thorolf kisses up to Norwegian royalty and works his way into the families of Norway’s most powerful influencers, Egil will travel to Atloy Island to help Olvir the Farmhand with a bit of rent collecting. When Atloy Bard, their gracious host tells them that there’s no ale or meat to be spared, they happily make due with curds and whey. But something feels off. Atloy Bard is on edge and he keeps going in and out all night. Egil soon learns that Atloy Bard is also hosting King Eirik Bloodaxe and Queen Gunnhild in the main hall. And there’s plenty of ale and fine food for everyone. Find out how Egil responds to his inhospitable host in this very special episode of Saga Thing.
We also talk about the culture and expectations of gift exchange in medieval Scandinavia, structural patterns in Egil’s Saga, the quality of Egil’s poetry, and the pronunciation of Egil’s name. There’s something here for everyone!
Thanks, as always, to Matt Smith for another brilliant illustration from Egil’s Saga. We think he captured the mood of Atloy-Bard’s party quite nicely. If you’d like to know more about Matt and his work, visit his website and follow him on Twitter.
And thanks to Danheim, a Nordic folk/Viking inspired music project, for letting us use his music. Check the credits below for links to the songs. If you’re interested in hearing more from Danheim, visit his webpage or Youtube channel.
We were recently asked to join Luke and Dan from the Northern Myths Podcast for a chat about Saga Thing and our love of medieval Icelandic culture. This interview covers a lot of topics from the origins of the podcast to our favorite scenes in the sagas. We even talk about anthropology, the value of literature, and wax philosophical about human nature. Good times!
In this episode, we follow Thorolf Skallagrimsson to Norway with his newfound friend, Bjorn Brynjolfsson. While visiting Bjorn’s father-in-law, Thorir the Hersir, they encounter a young Eirik Bloodaxe, heir to the throne of an aging King Harald Fairhair. Eirik and Thorolf soon become close friends and history appears poised to repeat itself. But there’s something different about the future King Eirik. He’s willing to befriend Thorolf against his father’s better judgment. And he even offers his father’s former foe, Skallagrim Kveldulfsson, a fine axe as a gesture of friendship. Perhaps things will turn out different this time? Along the way, we’ll also encounter an old Saga Thing favorite, Queen Gunnhild Mother of Kings. Stay tuned to the end of the episode for a refresher on Gunnhild’s greatest hits from previous episodes of Saga Thing.
We don’t cover a lot of chapters in this one, but we make up for it in discussion. You’ll hear our first impressions of Egil, discussion of the parallel structuring of Egil’s Saga, a listener theory about the three seashells Egil received from his grandfather, and several interpretations of King’s Gift, the axe King Eirik sends to Skallagrim. Here are the promised images of the Mammen axe head:
Thanks, as always, to Matt Smith for the great Egil’s Saga character portraits. If you’d like to know more about Matt and his work, visit his website and follow him on Twitter.
And thanks to Danheim, a Nordic folk/Viking inspired music project, for letting us use his music. Check the credits below for links to the songs. If you’re interested in hearing more from Danheim, visit his webpage or Youtube channel.
We finally made it! The fourth episode of Egil’s Saga actually takes place in Iceland (for the most part)! After burying his father, Skallagrim quickly establishes himself in Borgarfjorð, distributing land to all and sundry. We also get to meet his sons, Thorolf and Egil. That’s right, Egil is on the scene. And young Egil makes quite a splash, providing us with some impressive poetry and a few killings to keep us entertained. This episode may not be packed with the same kind of adventure and action you’ve gotten used to in the past few chapters, but it’s got plenty to offer all the same, including an abduction and secret marriage, the boyish hi-jinks of Egil, a family feud, and some disturbing deaths as Egil and Skallagrim go tit-for-tat to annoy each other. Enjoy!
And since I visited Borgarfjorð and young Egil’s stomping grounds
this past August, I thought I’d share a few pictures of the monument to
the slave, Thorgerd Brak, killed by Skallagrim in his feud with Egil.
A special thanks to Danheim, a Nordic folk/Viking inspired music
project, for letting us use his music in this and future episodes. Check
the credits below for links to the songs. If you’re interested in
hearing more from Danheim, visit his webpage or Youtube channel.
As always, thanks to Matt Smith, our Saga Thing illustrator for providing us with yet another series of original portraits from Egil’s Saga.
And a very very special thanks to Sebastian Anderson (Andy’s son), for providing the voice of young Egil.
Those pesky Hildiridarsons are up to their same old tricks in this episode, causing further tension between King Harald Fairhair and the rapidly rising Thorolf Kveldulfsson. When King Harald learns that Thorolf has a large cargo ship laden with expensive English goods returning to Norway, he dispatches his most-trusted henchmen, Sigtrygg Travel-quick and Hallvard Travel-hard, to intercept and seize the ship. With that betrayal things reach a breaking point between the two men. Will Thorolf make the right moves and restore his lord’s faith in him, or will he light the match that brings about his own destruction?
Along the way, we talk about the theme of kingship in the saga, the logic (or lack thereof) behind Thorolf’s choices, the value of understanding Scandinavian geography, some interesting nicknames, and the effects of a berserker rage. Somewhere in there we manage to toss in some references to old movies, Thundercats, and “Yakety Sax.” Join us for the fun.
A special thanks to Danheim, a Nordic folk/Viking inspired music project, for letting us use his music in this and future episodes. Check the credits below for links to the songs. If you’re interested in hearing more from Danheim, visit his webpage or Youtube channel.
As always, thanks to Matt Smith, our Saga Thing illustrator for providing us with the above image of the Travel Brothers.
Our journey through Egil’s Saga continues with chapters 7-15. This time, we’re following the meteoric rise of Thorolf Kveldulfsson. Against his father’s better judgment, Thorolf makes his way to the court of King Harald soon-to-be Fairhair. It’s no surprise to anyone when Thorolf distinguishes himself and becomes Harald’s most trusted and successful follower. But like Icarus, Harald flies too close to the sun. With all his success, he’s managed to gather extensive landholdings, abundant wealth, and a lot of followers. Before long, rivals at court are working to undermine him and sully his good name with King Harald. Who are these rivals? What cause do they have to hate this paragon of Norwegian virtue? And will King Harald fall under their spell? There’s only one way to find out!
This episode includes the famous and decisive Battle of Hafrsfjord, where King Harald vanquishes his enemies and unites Norway (at least a significant portion of it) under a single crown (or so legendary history would have us believe). The battle places Thorolf, Olvir Hump, Eyvind Lamb, and their new fried Bard Brynjolfsson at the prow of King Harald’s ship. We’ve covered this battle before, but never from this perspective. Perhaps you’ll encounter a familiar face on the enemy side if you pay attention.
A few months ago we once again put the fate of Saga Thing in your hands. You had the option to choose our next saga, selecting between two of Iceland’s greatest literary monuments and The Saga of the Foster-Brothers. The will of the people was made manifest and we got to work. You’ve been waiting patiently. Join us now for the first of many episodes on our listener selected saga of 2019, Egil’s Saga.
In this episode, we cover chapters 1-6. Here the dramatic tension revolves around King Harald Tangle-Hair’s rise to power as he seeks to become sole ruler of Norway. One by one, the best men of Norway fall like dominoes before him, dying in battle, fleeing to new lands, and even burying themselves in mounds to avoid submitting to King Harald. Some embrace the seemingly inevitable and join the swelling ranks of King Harald’s supporters.
You won’t run into Egil Skallagrimsson in this episode. This one is all about setting up the world into which he will be born. But you will meet Egil’s grandfather, Kvelduf, his father, Grim, and his uncle, Thorolf. You’ll also meet Kari of Berle, Kveldulf’s best friend, and his sons Eyvind Lamb and Olvir Hump. How will these men respond to calls to either join Harald or risk their lives fighting against him? There’s only one way to find out (assuming you can’t read the saga yourself for some reason).
Please feel free to submit any questions or comments you’d like us to address from this episode. We’ll set aside some time at the end of each episode going forward to tackle those. You can send them to us via email, twitter, or facebook.
As always, a special thanks to our Saga Thing illustrator, Matt Smith for the portraits of Kveldulf and his sons. We look forward to seeing what he does with the rest of Egil’s Saga. If you like the work Matt’s been doing for us, check out his latest project Metal Quest, a collaboration with Tom Pappalardo. You can keep up with Matt’s latest doodles, drawings, and progress on Twitter.
In this episode, Thorhall Ale-Hood burns down his woodlands while making charcoal. Unfortunately for him, he also burns down the neighboring woods that belong to 6 of Iceland’s most powerful chieftains. The woods aren’t terribly important to them, but when Iceland’s bully chieftains see a financial opportunity, they take it. This short saga tells the story of Ale-Hood’s attempt to defend himself against the chieftains. If you liked Bandamanna Saga, then you’ll love The “Saga” of Ale-Hood. It’s a quick one, but it’s full of laughs.
Thanks, as always, to Matt Smith for another original drawing. This
one depicts Thorkel Fringe, one of the saga’s bad guys, in a
compromising position. Listen to the episode to find out more. You can
visit Matt’s webpage and follow him on Twitter to see more of his work.
We managed to do both the summary and the judgments for this one.
It’s been a while since that happened. Judgments start at 1:03:31.
At long last, it’s time to put Flóamanna saga on trial. In this episode we debate the literary merits of Flóamanna saga, trying to determine if there are any at all. Along the way, we highlight the saga’s best moments, including some gems from little Thorfinn. There’s also some of the usual bickering over the quality of our thingman selections. This was a fun one to record, probably because we were finally finished with this wacky saga once and for all. Is this the saga that sets the low bar for all the family sagas? Will John and Andy punish it with a final rating of 1 for the pain it inflicted upon them while trying to prepare the summaries? Listen now and all will be revealed!
In this episode, we tackle the life of Ragnar’s fiercest and most complex son, Ivar the Boneless. We begin with an investigation into Ivar’s birth and enigmatic nickname. From there we trace the path of his illustrious military career. Our journey will take us from Denmark to Ireland, where Ivar conquers Dublin and goes head to head with the High King of Ireland, Mael Sechnaill. From Dublin, we’ll follow Ivar to Anglo-Saxon England with the Great Heathen Army. There Ivar and company topple kingdom after kingdom with ruthless efficiency. Join us as we dive deep into the medieval chronicles, legends, and tales to uncover the stories behind Vikings’ most compelling character, Ivar the Boneless, King of the Vikings in Ireland and Britain.
In this episode we rejoin Thorgils Scar-Leg’s Step-son on the icy shores of Greenland. Of the 35 men and women who traveled with him to Greenland, his only companions are his son Thorleif and a pair of helpful brothers, Kol and Starkað. And then there’s the child, Thorfinn, nourished by his father’s love and bloody breast milk. Together these castaways must battle the elements on land and sea to make their way home again. Along the way they’ll encounter troll women, a polar bear, terrible Vikings, and more than one opportunity to duel. There’s even a guest appearance by everyone’s favorite grumpy pagan, Eirik the Red.
Nearly a decade after being shipwrecked in Greenland, Thorgils finally returns to Iceland. He’s greeted by his daughter Thorney, now grown into a beautiful young woman. In his absence, Thorny was married to Bjarni of Grof, an arrangement that Thorgils finds less than ideal. And when he attempts to take the lovely Helga as his own bride, Thorgils ends up feuding with a rival suitor, Asgrim Ellida-Grimsson, a familiar name from Njal’s Saga. This conflict threatens to disrupt the relative peace of the region and prompts one of John’s thingmen into action.
Will young Thorfinn survive the journey from Greenland? Does Thorstein the red-shirted Norwegian companion ever die? Will Thorgils manage to rearrange his daughter’s marriage to his liking? Does Helga choose Thorgils or Asgrim? Or is her opinion not worth a hill of beans? And which thingman emerges from John’s mead hall to settle the dispute over her hand?
Find out in the sometimes thrilling but poorly told conclusion to Floamanna Saga!
Thanks as always to Matt Smith for contributing another original drawing. Check out his webpage or Twitter account to keep up with Matt’s latest projects.
Just in time for Halloween, John and Andy return for the second part of Flóamanna saga. When last we left you, our hero, Thorgils had battled two restless spirits. This time around, he’s taking on berserks, madmen, and everyone’s favorite hammer-wielding deity. As if that wasn’t scary enough for you, Thorgils also contends with a shipwreck in Greenland, starvation, the walking dead, and a hungry baby.
This is the saga of the hero Thorgils Scar-leg’s Stepson. In this episode, you’ll encounter a number of Thorgils’ ancestors, starting with Atli the Slender, who was given charge of Sogn in Norway by Halfdan the Black. The story of Thorgil’s family is tied to this land and their claim of sovereignty over it despite the objections of several generations of Norwegian royalty.
You’ll also meet Thorgils’ great-grandfather, Hallstein Atlason, a noble chieftain who was forced to flee Norway due to rising tensions with King Harald Fair-hair and the results of a hastily made oath to be a fair-minded judge. But don’t worry about Hallstein. Things turn out well for him in Iceland, where he marries the lovely Thora Olvisdöttir and becomes both popular and quite powerful. After he dies happily in his old age, we’re introduced to his son, Atli, a meddlesome man who enjoys wielding power and influence. In the end, Atli gets caught up in a property dispute that proves fatal.
Fortunately, Atli’s young son, Thord proves a capable avenger. Young Thord survives just long enough to father our saga’s hero, Thorgils, before disappearing at sea.
Thorgils has a bit of a rough start in Iceland, but he’s soon off adventuring, making friends with Norwegian royalty, and wrestling with the walking dead. Yes, Thorgils is a monster killer. But he’s more than that. Learn all about his life, his adventures, and the miracles he performs as Saga Thing takes on Flóamanna Saga!
As always, a special thanks to our resident Saga Thing Artist, Matt Smith, for bringing these stories to life through his talents. This time around, we’ve got the restless corpse of Audun’s mother, Gyda, popping out of her coffin to get one last hug from her baby boy.
In this special episode of Saga Briefs, our side project here at Saga Thing, John and Andy sit down with Patricia Gonsalves and Stephen Fox for a chat about archery in the Viking world. But the conversation isn’t limited to medieval Scandinavia. Patricia and Stephen, both experts in archery and its history, have travelled the world learning everything they can about the subject. We take full advantage of their expertise as we cover everything from Gunnar Hamundarson’s request for a lock of hair to make a bowstring to cinema’s best archers. Along the way, we learn about fletch mites and the last official kill by a longbow in wartime (hint: it involves dead Nazis). This is our longest interview yet, but it’s an informative and fun one from beginning to end. We hope you enjoy Patricia and Stephen as much as we do.
[auido https://sagathing.podbean.com/mf/play/pieibt/Saga_Brief_14_-_Medieval_Archery_Interview_with_Patricia_Gonsalves_and_Stephen_Fox.mp3%5DDownload this episode (right click and save)
Patricia currently works as the archery consultant for the popular television series Arrow and The Flash, among other shows. While she works behind the scenes, you’ll have seen her work in the skilled and realistic approach to archery she’s trained into every actor who draws an arrow on the shows. Patricia grew up imagining herself in the shoes of literature’s most famous archer, Robin Hood. Today, she not only gets to play with bows and arrows every day, she gets to help make television’s Robin Hood look cool. You can follow Patricia’s adventures on her Facebook page, TheEpicArcher.
Stephen Fox studied Experimental Archaeology and Viking Archery at University College Dublin. If you want to know anything about how bows are made, Stephen is your guy. He’s toured the world studying archery, working at excavation sites and Viking museums. An expert in Viking bow-making, Stephen spent two seasons working at the Lofotr Viking Museum in Norway, where he built his own workshop in the chieftain’s longhouse and crafted bows from scratch. Stephen currently works with Patricia as an archery technician for Arrow.
If you’re interested in getting some hands-on training in historical or traditional archery, you’re in luck. Patricia is the founder and lead instructor at Lykopis Archery, located in Vancouver, Canada. Stephen also works there as an instructor and administrator. In addition to teaching introductory archery classes to youths and adults, Lykopis offers detailed instruction in the Four Disciplines of Archery, including:
The Lithics Discipline: This discipline concentrates on bows and arrows that were used in the Stone Age and throughout prehistory.
The Asiatic Composite Bow: Examines the composites of the Steppe, Eastern Asian bows and the styles used in Mounted Horseback Archery.
The Longbow: Studies the theory and application Viking Longbow and the Tudor/Welsh Warbow and and the heavy draw technique that allowed warriors to pull up to 100 lbs in draw weight.
The Flatbow: Focuses onFirst Nations and Native American bows, flatbows of the 20th Century and techniques applicable for stealth and for hunting.
In this special episode, we pick up right where Kjalnesinga saga left off. Bui Andridson is lying dead on the ground, his ribcage crushed from the wrestling match with his son. Ashamed of his dastardly deed, Jokul Buason flees Iceland. And while Kjalnesinga saga assures us that there are no other stories about Jokul, one grouping of manuscripts appends a fun þáttr (tale) about where Jokul went and what became of him.
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Follow along as Jokul gets stranded at sea and then shipwrecked in strange lands. If you like trolls, then you’ll want to tune in. If you like wrestling, this is the episode for you. If you’re a fan of silly voices, you’re in the right place. Join John and Andy as they review Jökuls þáttr Búasonar.
Emanuel Bowen’s Map of Greenland
Looking for a copy of The Tale of Jokul Buason so you can read about his adventures for yourself? If the 5 volume set of Sagas of Icelanders isn’t in your budget, then grab a copy of Ben Waggoner’s Sagas of Giants and Heroes. In addition to this tale, you’ll get Kjalnesinga Saga and several other great ones as well. I may have indicated in the conclusion to this episode that the volume also includes Floamanna Saga (our next saga). I was mistaken. But the other contents more than make up for my blunder. It has several sagas mentioned in our previous episode, like The Saga of Halfdan Brana’s Fosterling. And who could pass up the opportunity to read The Tale of Asmund Ogre-Lucky?
And thanks to Matt Smith, aka @barbarianlord, for contributing another brilliant original illustration. We think he captures Gnipa and Geit perfectly. Follow him on Twitter to see more of his work or visit his webpage, matt-illustrations.com.
It’s time to put The Saga of the People of Kjalarnes on trial. Listen in as Andy and John bicker over the severity of Bui’s crimes. Will Bui be outlawed or redeemed and welcomed into the thingman group of one of your esteemed hosts? Will John find enough nicknames in the bare cupboards of this saga to fill his usual 20 minute lecture? And will Andy talk himself into another high score for a saga that no one has read? There’s only one way to find out.
Be sure to check out the recommended reading for this episode:
In this episode, John and Andy continue to follow the adventures of the increasingly unlikable Bui Andridsson. We begin with a much needed change of scenery as Bui flees Iceland. I turns out that some people still hold a grudge for Bui’s slaying of Thorstein. In Norway, Bui meets with a somewhat hostile King Harald Fairhair and his foster-father, King Dofri. Oh, and he happens to be a giant who lives in a mountain. What kind of shenanigans will Bui get up to this time? Will Bui reunite with his beloved Olof? And will he ever reconcile with the powerful family of Thorgrim the goði? And who is the striking young stranger wrestling with Bui at the end of the saga? Find out as we wrap up our summary of Kjalnesinga Saga.
Thanks to Matt Smith for sharing his talents. This original drawing shows Bui meeting the imposing, but strangely seductive Frið. As you’ll hear, she proves to be a bit more woman than Bui can handle. Matt wrote and illustrated Barbarian Lord, a graphic novel heavily inspired by the Icelandic Sagas. You can see more of his work here: matt-illustrations.com. Again, if you like what he’s doing for Saga Thing, drop him a line and express your appreciation on Twitter, where he’s @barbarianlord.
Be sure to listen through to the end, because we finally announce the winners of our Promote Saga Thing Contest. Winners should get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org with info on where to send the Saga Thing t-shirt.
As we have mentioned recently on social media, the great Matt Smith has agreed to join the Saga Thing team and provide us with an original drawing for each saga episode. We’re excited to be working with him. You’ll get a fuller appreciation of each image he creates for us by listening to the episode. I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear that this image was inspired by one of the climaxes of the saga. One of the climaxes? Yes. Just one of many. Thanks again to Matt for donating his time and talents. Matt wrote and illustrated Barbarian Lord, a graphic novel heavily inspired by the Icelandic Sagas. You can see more of his work here: matt-illustrations.com. Welcome to the team, Matt! If you like what he’s doing for Saga Thing, drop him a line and express your appreciation on Twitter, where he’s @barbarianlord.
In this episode, we discuss the first half of Kjalnesinga saga (The Saga of the People of Kjalarnes). You’re not alone if the name doesn’t ring a bell. This saga isn’t widely read or commented upon, despite being full of interesting tidbits for further discussion. For example, Kjalnesinga saga is the only saga whose action takes place within the modern boundaries of Reykjavík. If you’ve been to Iceland’s capital, then you’ve no doubt seen the impressive Mount Esja (Esjan) looming across the bay. This saga offers some clues about where the mountain and the places around it got their names, at least according to the saga author. In addition to some fascinating toponomy, Kjalnesinga saga looks into the lives of the first two generations of settlers in Kjalarnes, starting with Helgi Bjolan and a group of Irish immigrants that he graciously welcomes into his land. The majority of the action concerns the children of these initial settlers. Here’s a quick key for those of you who have trouble keeping track of all the names.
As if a genealogical tree wasn’t enough, we’ve also got a map of Kjalarnes for you, generously prepared for us by Rob from Totalus Rankium podcast, using Emily Lethbridge’s Icelandic Saga Map. to get a sense of the region and who lives where. Rob is an unofficial/official member of the Saga Thing team. We look forward to more awesome maps from Rob for future episodes. If you find these maps helpful, let Rob know on Twitter, where he’s @TotalusRankium.
When you’ve finished digesting all this great info, give the episode a listen. Kjalnesinga saga features a vivid description of a pagan temple, rising tensions between Irish Christian immigrants and the just-a-little-less-recently-immigrated pagan Icelanders, one of our more violent slayings (which is really saying something), an official holmgang, and our first ever love quadrangle…or square, if you will. There’s plenty here for everyone.
Because we promised a link to our Saga Brief on the holmgang, as if you haven’t already heard it, I’m providing it. John put no effort or time into providing this link, just as I suspected.
In this special episode of Saga Thing, John sits down with Cat Jarman, bio-archaeologist at University of Bristol, for a Saga Brief about the Viking burials near Wystan’s church at Repton in Derbyshire. The graves, containing roughly 300 individuals, have long been associated with the Viking Great Army that wintered in Repton in AD 873-74. While radiocarbon dating should have confirmed that link between these graves and the 9th century Viking invaders, results from select skeletons have been frustratingly inconsistent. That’s where Dr. Jarman and her colleagues come in. Find out how Dr. Jarman helped to resolve the problem by taking into account the “marine reservoir effect.”