Episode 36b – Laxdæla Saga (chapters 7-13)

With the death of Aud the Deep-Minded and the marriage of her son Olaf Feilan at the end of last episode, you’d expect that we’d be following up on the trajectory of Olaf’s life in this one. Instead, we stick to the saga’s structure and dive into the life of Olaf’s nephew, Hoskuld, the son of Dala-Koll and Olaf’s sister, Thorgerd. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of drama to delight you, even if the saga is still holding back on the bloodshed.

In this episode, the widow Thorgerd finds true love, and a new baby, in the arms of a Norwegian. Will this complicate things for her first-born son Hoskuld? You bet it will. And speaking of Hoskuld. How will he handle the responsibilities of running his late father’s farm and acting as a leading man in the district? If you guessed that he would sail off to Norway on a shopping trip to make some home improvements, you were right!

But the real drama of this episode starts when Hoskuld brings home a bit more than lumber. What could he have brought back to Iceland that sends his wife Jorunn into a sock-flailing rage? Listen and find out!

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If you’re looking to keep track of the growing genealogical tree of Aud’s family, look no further. Andy’s put together a family tree for chapters 1-13 for you. Now you can figure out how exactly everyone is related. And yes, they’re all related.

For those of you who stuck around to the end of the episode, here’s a link to The Travels of Reverend Olafur Egilsson: The Story of the Barbary Corsair Raid on Iceland in 1627.

And for those of you who love a bit of bibliography, here are some of the sources mentioned and used during this episode:

Brady, Lindy. “An Irish Sovereignty Motif in Laxdaela saga.” Scandinavian Studies 88 (2016), 60-76.

Sayers, William. “Kjartan’s Choice: The Irish Disconnection in the Sagas of the Icelanders.” Scandinavian-Canadian Studies 3 (1988), 89-114.

Sayers, William. “An Irish Descriptive Topos in Laxdaela saga.” Scripta Islandica 41 (1990), 18-34.

Torfi H. Tulinius, “The Matter of the North: Fiction and Uncertain Identities in thirteenth-century Iceland.” Old Norse Literature and Society. Edited by Margaret Clunies-Ross. Cambridge University Press, 2000. 242-265.

Thanks as always to Jacob Foust, otherwise known as @skarphedin_illustrator on Instagram, for his continued efforts to illustrate the sagas along with us. If you’re looking to get one of his illustrations on a shirt or in a print, visit his Etsy page.

Music Credits

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4236-prelude-and-action
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Review Music “The Royal Vagabond Medley” by Jocker’s Dance Orchestra

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4421-stormfront
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Saga Brief 24 – The Northman Interview with Robert Eggers and Sjón

In this episode, John and Andy sit down with Robert Eggers and Sjón to chat about the stories behind their recently released saga-inspired film The Northman. That’s right, we’re talking to the director and co-writers of the biggest Viking film to be released since Kirk Douglas was a star! Stick around for the last 20-30 minutes where the four of us work together to put The Northman on trial Saga Thing style.

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Warning: This conversation is full of spoilers from the very beginning. If you haven’t seen the film yet, you’ll want to run out and see it before listening. If you’re on the fence about seeing it, then give the episode a listen. Either way, we hope this interview will help you to better appreciate something of the process of creating a large-scale Viking epic for the 21st century and the unparalleled effort to accurately and respectfully adapt Viking Age culture and saga literature for the big screen. The attention to detail in The Northman reflects a great deal of careful research, time, and a genuine love for the rich literary tradition of the Icelandic sagas and Old Norse mythology.

Our thanks to Robert and Sjón for the generous gift of their time and good humor on the Monday morning after the film’s release. And a special thank you to Garrett for helping to set it all up.

Music Credits

Opening song – Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur

Outro – Ólafur Liljurós

Episode 36a – Laxdaela Saga (chapters 1-7)

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.

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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.

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Music Credits

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4236-prelude-and-action
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4421-stormfront
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Episode 35b – Third Quarter Court (Results)

You voted for your favorites. Now it’s time to hear the results. We discuss your choices and then answer some listener questions. Check out the results for yourself on our Third Quarter Court Results page here.

Here are the Rus sources we mentioned:

The Russian Primary Chronicle

The Place of the Rus in Medieval Europe by Christian Raffensperger

Music Credits

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4236-prelude-and-action
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4421-stormfront
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Saga Brief 23 – Drinking in the Viking Age and the Sagas (Part II – How They Drank)

Skál! It’s time for the second part of our Saga Brief series on Drinking in the Viking Age and the Sagas. We’ve already covered what they drank. Now it’s time to look into how they drank. In this episode, we discuss what they drank from and what they did while drinking. Of course, we can only scratch the surface here. There’s so much more to say.

Grab a glass of your favorite beverage and join us for another good time.

Music Credits

Opening song – Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur

Outro – Ólafur Liljurós

Episode 35a – The Third Quarter Court (Review)

After 5 action packed years, it’s time to meet once again at the Saga Thing Quarter Court. In this episode, we review the judgment winners and a few interesting facts about our journey through the last 10 sagas. Now it’s time for you to rank the sagas and vote.

Visit our polls here (Third Quarter Court in our Past Judgments Tab) and make your choices as you listen or after you’ve heard it all.  

The polls are open until March 15th (The Ides of March!)

Pick your favorite moment of Best Bloodshed, the best Nickname, and the memorable Notable Witticism. You can also vote on which of our Outlawry candidates is worse than all the others. Most important, you get to choose which group of Thingmen you find most impressive according to whatever categories you think best. John’s got a lot of impressive bruisers this time around, led by none other than Egil Skallagrimsson, and Andy’s stocked his hall with the most loyal and capable men, women, trolls, and dogs he could find. Finally, you have the opportunity to share your opinions of our Final Ratings by ranking the top 3 sagas of the Third Quarter (or you can rank all 10). Among the sagas you’ll have to choose from are:

The Saga of Ref the Sly (Króka-Refs saga) – March 2018

The Saga of the People of Kjalarnes (Kjalnesinga saga) – June-July 2018

The Saga of the People of Floi (Flóamanna saga) – September-December 2018

The “Saga” of Ale-Hood (Ölkofra saga/þáttr) – January 2019

The Saga of Egil Skallagrimsson (Egils saga Skallagrímssonar) – February 2019-March 2020

The Saga of Hord and the Holm-Dwellers (Harðar saga ok Hólmverja) – May-August 2020

The Saga of Bard the God of Snowfell (Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss) – September-November 2020

The Saga of Thord Menace (Þórðar saga hreðu) – January-April 2021

The Saga of the Sworn Brothers (Fóstbrœðra saga) – June-November 2021

The Saga of Gunnar the Fool of Keldugnup (Gunnars saga Keldugnúpsfífls) – January-February 2022

It’s been a lot of fun working our way through the first 30 Sagas of Icelanders. We’ve only got 10 left! And since we’re starting with Laxdæla saga, it could be another 5-10 years before we call the Fourth and final Quarter Court. Whatever happens, we know we’ll have a great time doing it. We’re glad you’re sharing this journey with us!

Music Credits

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4236-prelude-and-action
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4421-stormfront
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Saga Brief 22: Drinking in the Viking Age and the Sagas of Icelanders (Part I: What Were They Drinking?)

In this long overdue Saga Brief, we discuss drinking in the Viking Age and the Sagas of Icelanders. This first part looks at what they were drinking and how it was perceived culturally. In the second part, coming soon, we’ll look into the culture of drinking as we explore where and how they drank.

Here is a short bibliography of the texts and studies referred to, either directly or indirectly, in this episode:

Etting, Vivian. The Story of the Drinking Horn: Drinking Culture in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages. Publications of the National Museum of Denmark v.21, 2013.

Dineley, Graham, and Merryn Dineley. “Where Were the Viking Brew Houses?” EXARC 2013/2 (2013). https://exarc.net/ark:/88735/10117

Hallgerður Gisladottir, ‘The Use of Whey in Icelandic Households’, in Milk and Milk Products from Medieval to Modern Times: Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Ethnological Food Research, Ireland. J992, ed. Patricia Lysaght (Canongate Academic, 1994), pp. 123-29.

Mark, Joshua J. “Norse Alcohol and the Mead of Poetry.” World History Encyclopedia. Published January 7, 2019. https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1307/norse-alcohol–the-mead-of-poetry/ .

Riseley, Charles. Ceremonial Drinking in the Viking Age. MA Thesis. University of Oslo, 2014.

Rodriguez, Jesús Fernando Guerrero. Old Norse Drinking Culture. PhD Dissertation. University of York, 2007.

Rood, Joshua. Drinking with Óðinn: Alcohol and Religion in Heathen Scandinavia. Háskoli Íslands, 2014.

Vuorisalo, Timo, et al. “High Lactose Tolerance in North Europeans: A Result of Migration, not In Situ Milk Consumption.” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 55:2 (2012), 163-174.

Winroth, Anders. The Age of the Vikings. Princeton UP, 2016.

Music Credits

Opening song – Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur

Poetry music – Midnight Tale by Kevin MacLeod
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Outro – Ólafur Liljurós

Episode 34c – The Saga of Gunnar the Fool of Keldugnup (Judgments)

It’s time to put The Saga of Gunnar the Fool of Keldugnup on trial! And as much fun as it is to say Gunnars saga Keldugnúpsfífls, it’s not one of medieval Iceland’s better literary artifacts. We finally get to say what we’ve been thinking in our Final Ratings. But that’s not all! Listen in and find out who wins Best Bloodshed, Notable Witticisms, and a hotly contested Nicknames. Speaking of hotly contested, you won’t want to miss a rare Saga Thing argument that develops over who is most deserving of Outlawry. Never fear, it all ends happily when John and Andy both get the Thingmen they were hoping for.

Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about the Body Count. This time around we get some help from a listener in rounding out the body count. We also wrestle once again with the blámaðr and the all important question of whether trolls should be included in the body count.

This is the last saga before our third quarter court. It’s been a long time coming.

Music Credits

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4236-prelude-and-action
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4421-stormfront
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Episode 34b – The Saga of Gunnar of Keldugnup (chapters 6-11)

When last we left you, Gunnar had just killed a troll woman and a seemingly intelligent bear in an unknown frozen land (check out Jacob’s great illustration of this and more of his work on his Instagram page). The troll woman’s sister seemed kind enough and even warned Gunnar that there were more trolls about. In this episode, we find out how Gunnar does against a family of trolls and what kind of impression he makes on Fala’s father. From there, we’ll follow Gunnar to the court of Hákon Sigurðarson, the Jarl of Lade (Hlaðir). We’ve met Hákon before in the Saga of Finnbogi the Mighty. Things go pretty much the same for Gunnar the Fool of Keldugnup as they did for Finnbogi. Whether he survives the encounter or not, this saga’s coming to a close pretty quickly. Listen and find out if Gunnar can impress the jarl with his wrestling skills or if he succumbs to the jarl’s ill-temper. This is a strange but fun one.

Music Credits

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4236-prelude-and-action
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4421-stormfront
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Episode 34a – The Saga of Gunnar the Fool of Keldugnup (chapters 1-5)

In this episode, we dive way down deep into the bag of Sagas of Icelanders to pull out a story that is rarely discussed or even read by experts much less casual fans of medieval Icelandic literature. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad saga, even if it’s a little rough around the narrative edges. This one’s got a lot of the fan favorites, including wrestling, surprise killings, a secret love affair, storms at sea, trolls, and a bear who understands Old Norse! Join us as we begin our journey through The Saga of Gunnar the Fool of Keldugnup (Gunnars saga Keldugnúpsfífls).

As you can see from the illustration by Jacob Foust (aka skarphedin_illustrator), Gunnar is a real charmer!

Music Credits

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4236-prelude-and-action
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4421-stormfront
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license