In addition to Body Count, we will now also track each saga’s Body Count Density Measurement (BCDM). This brilliant idea came to us from Greg Rice, who thought that some form of deaths-per-page density measurement might provide a more useful way of tracking the bloodsheddyness of the sagas. We liked the idea enough to adopt it, though we’ve elected the far more reasonable and accurate deaths-to Hrafnkels ratio for our Body Count Density Measurement. Special thanks to Greg for the idea and to Peter Larsen for keeping track of our Hrafnkel stats from previous episodes.
The Saga of Droplaug’s Sons (Ep. 23): The body count here was pretty straightforward, though there was some discussion of whether or not to include Eindridi, the son of Hallstein, and Asbjorn Skerry-blaze. We elected to count the former, but not the latter. This left us with a total of 21 plus the 2 oxen who fell through the ice with Droplaug #2.
21 deaths / 1.05 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 20
The Saga of the People of Vopnafjord (Ep. 22): At little more than a Hrafnkel, we didn’t expect a high body count here. Total 17 plus many cattle, all killed by Brodd-Helgi.
17 deaths / 1.05 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 16.2
Thorstein the White’s Saga (Ep. 21): This tiny saga couldn’t possibly have offered much in the way of body count without an impressive massacre. Alas, it was a feud saga focusing on a brief period of hostility. This left us with a body count of only 7.
7 deaths / 0.39 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 17.9
Njal’s Saga (Ep. 20): As the biggest and most epic of the family sagas, Njal’s Saga didn’t disappoint when it came to Body Count. With a series of violent feuds knitting the narrative together, the bloody Battle of Clontarf, and Kari’s revenge, Njal’s Saga easily has the highest body count of any saga we’ve covered so far. The total was 221 plus 4 animals (2 dogs and 2 horses).
221 deaths / 10.94 Hrafnkels = BCDM 20.2
The Saga of the People of Reykjadal and Killer-Skuta (Ep. 19): 51 + 2 oxen – It should have been a straightforward count. John stepped in and mucked up the works with a count of 52. The discrepancy was the death of Alfhild, a non-character whose death is reported as an aside. We also introduced a Body Count innovation in this episode called the Body Count Density Measurement (BCDM), which is explained above.
51 deaths / 2.60 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 19.62
The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong (Ep. 18): 54 + 3 animals (2 bears and a bull) – Not much controversy here. Finnbogi was an active player in many of the deaths. We applaud Finnbogi for becoming the first saga hero to be a repeat ursacide. We’re impressed.
54 deaths / 2.60 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 20.77
The Saga of the Greenlanders (Ep. 17): 50 – Freydis took care of the bulk of the Body Count here with 35 killings in Vinland, but don’t tell anyone you know about that or she’ll get you too. Battles with skraelings and a bit of disease and famine also play a significant role in the many deaths in this saga. If only the author would have given us more numbers while reporting on all these deaths. At only 0.71 Hrafnkels, 50 untimely deaths is pretty impressive.
50 deaths / .71 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 70.42 [Currently highest BCDM – Will be hard to beat]
Grettir’s Saga (Ep. 16): 146.5 + 5 unnatural beings + 4 or more animals. The numbers in this saga are a bit wonky, since the author himself sometimes can’t seem to keep track of how many men are in a group of attackers and how many die. With some diligent counting, we determined a rough number of 146.5. The .5 is perhaps the most tragic death we’ve encountered. It is the result of Thorbjorn Hook beating his step-mother to death. She was rumored to be pregnant at the time, thus the .5. Grettir also killed 5 supernatural or unnatural beings, including the draugar of Kar the Old and Glam, an assumed demonic spirit in the shape of a child, a troll hag, and a giant. We would be remiss if we didn’t also mention Grettir’s fondness for killing animals. Beating the giant bear was an incredible feat. Murdering geese, flaying Kengala the horse, and playfully leaving his own horse to be ravaged by Glam are among his less glamorous efforts.
146.5 deaths / 6.92 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 21.17
Quarter Court Results: The total number of deaths in the 10 sagas covered so far is 342. Not too bad, but less impressive when you consider that Eyrbyggja Saga and Gisli’s Saga account for half of those. Bandamanna Saga really hurt us here, with only 4 untimely deaths. That’s right, 4.
342 total deaths / 400 total Hrafnkels = First Quarter Court BCDM of 0.855 (Not terribly impressive)
Vatnsdœla Saga (Ep. 14): 41 – Now that we’re done with the sagas of warrior poets, we can get back to some more impressive body count numbers. No controversies here.
41 deaths / 3.21 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 12.77
Viglund’s Saga (Ep. 13): 17 – The saga author kept things nice and neat for our body count. Minor controversy as John tried to make a case for saga characters who had no role in the saga at all, but that was easily dismissed. Andy tried to make the case for counting the 2 horses and 2 oxen killed, but that was also dismissed for some reason.
17 deaths / 1.38 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 12.32
The Saga of Bjorn Champion of the Hitardal People (Ep. 12): 14 – No controversy this time. One could include the dragon and the seal, but that would just be ridiculous. Right?
14 deaths / 2.24 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 6.25
Kormak’s Saga (Ep. 11): 24 or 22. Andy and John disagree again. At issue here were the deaths of Ogmund’s first wife and son, Helga and Frodi. Andy argues that their deaths are untimely and that they do affect the narrative. John heartlessly disregards their deaths as unimportant. As always, he favors violent deaths only, the savage.
24 deaths / 1.42 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 16.90
Hallfred Troublesome-Poet’s Saga (Ep. 10): 27 or 26 – A bit of a debate here over what counts as an untimely death. Andy argued that the death of Ingibjorg, wife of Hallfred, should count. John scoffed at the idea.
27 deaths / 1.16 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 23.28
Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue’s Saga (Ep. 9): 14 total – Not terribly impressive, but better than Bandamanna.
14 deaths / 1.11 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 12.61
Bandamanna saga (Ep. 8): 4 confirmed killings, a new low. Despite the slaughter of cows and horses in the final chapter, Bandamanna’s lack of bloodshed means that it’s likely to hold the “least bloody saga” title for a while…
4 deaths / 1.24 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 3.23 [Current lowest BCDM]
Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok and his Sons (Ep. 7): No count taken for this special episode. The saga features a lot of pitched battles, but numbers aren’t usually recorded.
Hen-Thorir’s Saga (Ep. 6): 26 confirmed, with several unconfirmed in the burning of Blund-Ketil’s house and, of course, the disappearance of Tungu-Odd’s sons.
26 deaths / .98 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 26.53
Gisli’s saga Sursson (Ep. 5): 75–though the saga seems a bit confused about the number of men killed at Gisli’s last stand.
75 deaths / 2.19 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 34.25
Eirik the Red’s saga (Ep. 4): 39 confirmed (30 Scandinavians and 9 Skraelings), with another “almost 50″ men and women lost when Bjarni Grimjolfsson’s ship goes down at sea.
39 deaths / .87 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 44.83
Eyrbyggja saga (Ep. 3): 101 (after a long, complicated process of sorting out whose deaths count toward a total)
101 deaths / 4.29 Hrafnkels = BCDM of 23.54
Hrafnkel’s saga (Ep. 2): 18 (plus one very important horse)
18 deaths / 1 Hrafnkel = BCDM of 18