After a very close inspection and lengthy investigation, we are finally ready to put Laxdaela Saga on trial. As it’s been over a year since we started, John and I take our time reviewing the candidates for our usual Saga Thing categories:
Our thanks to all of you out there who have listened, commented, and engaged with us as we worked our way through this massive and entertaining saga. We’re especially grateful to all of you who’ve been interacting over on our Official Unofficial Saga Thing Discord page. If you’re not involved over there, at least sign up and lurk. It’s pretty interesting stuff.
A very special thanks to Jacob for sticking with us through a whole year of illustrating for Saga Thing. It was a monumental effort and a pleasure to see his art evolve across the saga. Many thanks, Jacob! Check out more of his work on Instagram where he’s @skarphedin_illustrator.
We began our journey through Laxdaela Saga in April of 2022. A year and many many episodes later, we finally come to the end. Please join us as we discuss the final few chapters of the saga. It may be a little difficult to find the narrative thread if you’re expecting to follow Bolli or Gudrun through these last pages of the text. They’re certainly there, but the saga’s ending is designed to wrap up the story of Gudrun’s husbands and to look forward toward the genealogical connections to future generations.
Of course, Bolli and Gudrun get their moments in this conclusion, including Gudrun’s brief but riddling confession of who she loved most.
We wrap it all up with a lengthy summons of Gudrun and a detailed discussion of her character, something we’ve been waiting for a long time to do. I argued that we should devote a whole episode to Gudrun, but John reminded me that we’ve spent half a year commenting on her. Think of our summons as an invitation for further discussion, which you can do on our various social media platforms:
In this episode, Guðrún Ósvífsdóttir teaches Helgi Harðbeinsson all about loopholes in betrothal oaths. And if Helgi was feeling bad after getting let down by Guðrún, he feels that much worse when he sees his fylgja walking the opposite direction as he approaches the Althing. This episode also features a mysterious talking black cloak, Guðrún’s fourth wedding, and more machinations by Snorri goði.
We top it all off with a quick Saga Brief on the history of the famous sword known as Skofnung and an argument about how saga authors came up with the idiosyncratic rules for wielding Skofnung successfully.
While 12 years may have passed since the slaying of Bolli, not a day passed that Gudrun wasn’t thinking of getting her revenge on the Olafssons and their companions. Now that her two sons, Thorleik and Bolli, are old enough to avenge their father, Gudrun arranges a secret meeting with Snorri godi to lay out a cunning plan. Unfortunately for Gudrun, Snorri doesn’t share her enthusiasm for attacking the Olafssons, or most of the other Bolli-slayers for that matter. There is one man, however, whose death could satisfy the demands of Gudrun’s revenge and the honor of young Thorleik and Bolli.
In this episode, we trace the evolution and flawless execution of Snorri and Gudrun’s cunning plan, witness the oaths sworn at Gudrun’s fourth betrothal, meet a strange man calling himself Killer-Hrapp, and discuss his apparent reference to Reynard in most English translations of Laxdaela Saga.
In this episode, Bolli finds out what happens when you kill your foster brother. We discuss Thorgerd Egilsdottir’s lust for vengeance, how the avengers assemble, and Gudrun’s handling of yet another loss. This episode also features some special guest appearances by some familiar faces from Saga Thing past and the first appearance of Bolli Bollason.
When all is finished, we summons Bolli before the court and review the evidence to assess his character. Step into the conversation on our social media:
In this thrilling episode, Kjartan asserts his presence in the district (and gets a taste of revenge) by humiliating Bolli, Gudrun, and the Osvifssons. I’d love to tell you more in this teaser about how he goes about that, but I don’t want to spoil the fun. And even as Kjartan pushes back against his rivals at Laugar, Gudrun pushes back harder. All of this sets up one of the saga’s most exciting and moving climaxes as Bolli and Kjartan finally come to blows.
Because this is the saga’s first major climax, we take our time setting it up. And when it’s all finished, there’s a special summons at the end where we consider the good and bad of Kjartan’s character. Find us on social media and let us know how you feel about Kjartan (sagathingpod on Twitter, sagathingpodcast on Instagram/Facebook, or on our unofficial official Discord page).
Jacob Foust (aka @skarphedin_illustrator) composed the above illustration of Bolli and Kjartan sharing a quiet moment. It’s quite touching, especially when you know the story. If you don’t know the story, then listen to the episode. What are you waiting for?
Happy Holidays to all you amazing Saga Thing listeners out there! Over the past couple years we’ve put out a Holiday Special on or around Christmas Eve. It started with The Saga of Gudmund the Grunch. And then last year we gave you the little known origins of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas in “A Visit From Glam.”
This year we managed to find a fun short story to share with you about a man called Frosti Jónsson, known affectionately to all in medieval Iceland as Frosti snjókarlinn. If you’re familiar with the Rankin/Bass Frosty the Snowman special, you’ll probably recognize some of the names and events of this long forgotten origin of the Frosti legend.
This episode is all about Kjartan coming to terms with Bolli’s betrayal. As he comes to realize his relationship with Gudrun came to an abrupt and unexpected end while he was overseas, Kjartan finds solace in his family and in the arms of a new (and much better) woman. But just when everything seems to be moving in the right direction, feast season begins and some rather important gifts from Norwegian royalty go missing. Now who would want to steal from Kjartan and his lovely new bride? Find out as Saga Thing takes on chapters 43-46 of Laxdaela Saga!
Thanks, as always, to Jacob Foust (aka @skarphedin_illustrator) for providing us with another original illustration for this episode of Laxdaela Saga. Here we see Kjartan bidding a fond farewell to his beloved Hrefna as he prepares to do some sort of manly business. You know these saga boys are always riding off, waving goodbye to their wives and mothers. Hopefully Kjartan makes it back in time for the next episode of our saga. He won’t want to miss it. Then again, he just might want to skip that one if he knows what’s good for him.
And I know that John promised some sort of bibliography would come with this episode. Email him and ask where it is, because he never sent it to me. Typical John.
In this episode, Kjartan and Bolli say goodbye to Gudrun and to the safety of Iceland as they travel overseas to make a name for themselves in Norway. Unfortunately for them, Norway is in the midst of a political and religious transition as the country and all who enter it find themselves under the influence of King Olaf Tryggvason. The new king is eager to convert all and sundry to Christianity, often by any means necessary. Along with all the other Icelanders in Nidaros, including our old friend Hallfred the Trouble-some Poet, Kjartan and Bolli are not allowed to leave the port until they turn their backs on the old faith and embrace Christ. Will Kjartan and Bolli resist the pressure to abandon Odin and Thor? Or will King Olaf charm them into accepting the new faith? And how does Gudrun feel about her new beau heading off to Norway for 3 years? There’s only one way to find out!
Thanks, as always, to Jacob Foust (aka @skarphedin_illustrator) for providing us with an original illustration for this episode of Laxdaela Saga.
In this episode we go back to chapter 35 to pick up on the story of the Hebridean sorcerers. I don’t think you’ll be surprised to find out that they’re not exactly welcomed with open arms by the Icelanders. To be fair, this family of sorcerers are particularly bad.
As these illustrations by @skarphedin_illustrator suggest, it doesn’t turn out too well for them.
We also get a chance to check in with some old friends in Laxardal and put an end to a longstanding rivalry.