Laxdæla saga holds a special place in the world of medieval Icelandic literature. Of all the Sagas of Icelanders, Laxdæla saga is second only to Njáls saga in the number of surviving manuscripts, suggesting an evergreen enthusiasm and interest in the saga from the time of its composition to the 21st century. While we don’t know for sure who wrote this incredible work of art, many have speculated that it might have been Snorri Sturluson himself. Others posit that it must have been one of Snorri’s nephews, either Óláfr Þórðarson hvítaskáld or Sturla Þórðarson. Given the saga’s interest in the lives of women, others have argued that it must be the work of an unknown female author. Whoever wrote Laxdæla saga, one thing is clear, it is among the most beloved and well-studied of all the Icelandic sagas. We’re very excited to finally set sail on this journey through the saga with you.
In this episode, we explore the first seven chapters of the saga, following the life of Auðr djúpúðga Ketilsdóttir, also known as Unnr. Listeners will recognize her as Auð the Deep-minded, daughter of Ketill flatnefur (Ketil Flatnose). She appears in or is referenced in many sagas, including Eyrbyggja saga, Njáls saga, Grettis saga, and Eiríks saga rauða. Here in Laxdæla saga, more than anywhere else, Auð emerges as the matriarch of Settlement Age Iceland’s leading families. As you’ll discover, Auð’s long arm of influence extends well beyond Iceland.
Join us as we celebrate the life of Auð and the start of Laxdæla saga!
Jacob Foust, @skarphedin_illustrator, has provided us with this handy genealogy to help you keep track of the many characters. It can’t possibly include everyone in the saga, of course, but it’s a useful tool for mapping out the relationships between some of the saga’s major characters.
Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod
Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod
One thought on “Episode 36a – Laxdaela Saga (chapters 1-7)”
Since I am not on social media I decided to send a note by pigeon to my friend Josh who is a graduate student in Reykjavík and have him fold the note up in the mouth of a shark and bury it knowing that Jon will be in Iceland for a bit and may try his hand at a local delicacy.
Back up plan is post here.
I have been along for the ride since eyrbyggja saga back when? 2008? and have been waiting a while for you to get to laxdeala saga. I am interested to hear what scholar suggested Unn could be a shortened form of her name coinciding with similarly formed names of her sisters. I thought of that for a story of mine a decade back, made sense to me. (I named her Ingunn).
Also you said Unn married off her granddaughter in Orkney to Thorfinn Skullsplitter but I think generations do not line up. Aud’s son Thorstein the red campaigned in Scotland with Thorfinn’s great uncle Sigurd Eyesteinsson, and Thorstein’s daughters would be Turf-Einar’s generation. My translation says “Groa was the mother of Grelod, the wife of Thorfinn, the son of Turf-Einar…” So Unn married off Groa to an unknown person in Orkney, they had a daughter Grelod, that married into the ruling family.