In this Saga Short, we journey with Auðun of the Westfjords, an Icelander who gives everything he has to purchase a polar bear in Greenland. Why buy a polar bear, you ask? Well, what makes a more impressive gift for a king than a polar bear? In this brilliant and widely anthologized þáttr, Auðun will travel throughout Scandinavia, suffer the pangs of hunger and poverty, visit Rome, survive a debilitating illness, gain the love of a wealthy benefactor, and get the better of a certain hard-minded king. Join us for this holiday gift-giving special as we discuss The Tale of Auðun and the Bear!
When you’re finished you might enjoy watching this cute animated version of the story.
And if you’re one of those types that like to peruse some good bibliography:
Antonsson, Haki. “The Construction of Auðunar þáttr Vestfirzka: A Case of Typological Thinking in Early Old Norse Prose.” Scandinavian Studies 90, no. 4 (2018): 485-508.
Fichtner, Edward G. “Gift Exchange and Initiation in the ‘Auđunar Þáttr Vestfirzka’.” Scandinavian Studies 51, no. 3 (1979): 249-72.
Miller, William Ian. Audun and the Polar Bear: Luck, Law, and Largess in a Medieval Tale of Risky Business. 1. Vol. 1. Medieval Law and Its Practice. Boston, MA: Brill, 2008.
Pálsson, Hermann, ed. Hrafnkel’s Saga: and Other Stories. Translated by Hermann Pálsson. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1971.
There ya go.
Intro: From “Death Awaits” by Billy Malmstrom