The Saga of Bard the God of Snowfell (Ep. 31): Despite giving different weight to each half of the saga in their judgements, John and Andy came out with very similar ratings in the end.
John would like to go on record as saying that he’s completely changed his mind about this saga from when they started it. He can’t, but he’d like to. Bard’s saga is a bit of a unicorn: there really isn’t anything else like it in the Icelandic Family Saga corpus. The question is whether or not that’s a good thing. For various reasons, he’s tempted to say that there being only one of these is a Good Thing.
The first half of the narrative is scattered, lacking a coherent structure, and Bard’s status as a land spirit/saint/troll lacks definition and never really pays off the promise of its premise. The story feels like a mess of motifs and half-told tales.
If the first half falls flat, the second half is compelling, with Gest shown as a man whose life is shaped by the feuds of a previous generation, but not defined by them. His halting and distant relationship with their younger brothers is shown in a slightly different way than we’ve seen before. His rejection of the spiritual world that -both literally and figuratively – absorbed his father, is a new take on the conversion narrative and the stresses surrounding that religious shift.
The writing is very spare, and what humour there is seems to be an accident of composition. Most of what it has to say about the conversion is a pastiche of well-worn tropes. The saga strives to be well-constructed, but John doesn’t think it actually succeeds. Not necessarily something for the saga-uninitiated, but there are things there for someone who is already a saga fan.
At one point there had been concern over whether or not to include it in the Family Sagas, but he’s happy they did because the charms that the saga does have are found in its ‘betwixt and between’ nature. It shares some qualities with the Family Sagas, Bishops tales or Saints’ Lives, and most closely resembles the Legendary tales (fornaldarsögur). It has interests that seem independent of any particular context: the focus on the various traumas suffered by women is an unexpected prize in the saga, one which he’s surprised isn’t referenced more frequently in the scholarship.
He also finds personal interest in the hagiographical characteristics of the narrative. Bard is situated as a nature godling, and set up with the intercessory powers of a saint. John feels that studying this situation more will yield rewards for the person who delves deeper into it.
It’s a middle of the pack saga, with points demoted for the narrative shambles, but added for its interest in female trauma, and stone troll boats.
John’s Score: 4.5
Andy finds that this is a divisive saga, and a lot there bothers him, but its all in the first half. The first half doesn’t represent the whole, but a lot of the chapters feel like piles of names with very little narrative tying them together. As we progress, the author seems more interested in creating links to other sagas than to storytelling. There are reports of people and actions from other sagas, but they aren’t incorporated into the story itself. It feels a bit like a sketch rather than a completed saga.
At least, that is, until you come to Gest’s saga. Andy points out that while they wrapped up the first half in one episode with very little to say, they spent three talking about the second half, and there’s a lot there which legitimately interests him. He likes the sagas dynamic approach to the family saga as told through the lens of trolls or ogres, or whatever you want to call them. He likes the idea of a family saga where the family is made up of odd figures like Bard and Gest and the myriad of other characters who make up the story. There’s a vague understanding of ‘otherness’ in the saga that can be read in interesting ways if you want to push it in that direction. Also a sympathetic appreciation for the experiences of women in early Icelandic culture and an interest in pushing back against that in the figure of bard’s daughter Helga, a physically strong woman who can handle herself against most men. Bard’s saga can be read as social commentary, and is worthy of some points for it.
He stresses that once it gets rolling, the saga has some entertaining moments. It has experiences with trolls, the battle with Kolbjorn, Snati the Wonder Dog – a dog who fights battles not like a dog, but as a human companion would, the appearance of Odin as a pushy pagan preacher who gets clobbered and drowned. (Though it is as of yet unconfirmed that the old man was Odin, Andy finds that the fact that it’s even a question is something worth clinging to.) and finally the battle with Raknar, where the climax is an unusual saintly appearance by King Olaf! A lot of good stuff! Not even to mention the iron shoes…
The saga has a lot to offer, and its worth reading, so long as you get through the fist part.
Andy’s Rating: A solid 5.5, with the .5 given because he wants to hint that Bard’s saga is a Little Better Than ‘Okay’ in his book.
Total Score: A very even-handed 10.
The Saga of Hord and the Holm-Dwellers (Ep.30): When it comes to final ratings, when it comes to Hord’s Saga things are… complicated.
John found this one of the toughest sagas yet to evaluate. He notes that it is clearly a part of the subset of Outlaw Sagas, but also not as good as the rest, in fairly obvious ways. It lacks the tension and social complexity of Gisli’s saga, and the pathos and world-building of Grettir’s saga, and is saddled with a protagonist who’s far less sympathetic than either one. Hord’s only redeeming feature is his ability to see things how they truly are – his ability to see through the lies and deceit that surround him but remaining powerless to disrupt his fate is interesting. If that had been the focus, we could have had a better saga. Instead, the meat of the text is a highly literary collection of set pieces, with outlaws stealing things – mostly incompetently. It could have been a story of a protagonist wrestling with his moral sense while being forced by circumstance into leading a gang of criminals. Instead, Hord’s moral compass doesn’t present him from behaving horrifically most of the time – such as killing the grieving father of a man his friend killed, or massacring mainlanders for the crime of wanting to keep their own possessions, to making a spirited attempt to burn his sister and her family to death in their farmhouse, there is no argument to be made that the author is trying to present a morally-complex figure. This saga’s best features appear in the last few chapters, with the spiraling cycles of revenge encompass an entire generation of a district, most instigated by Thorbjorg, Helga, or Helga’s son, Bjorn. While he wants to know more about all of them, John finds these offerings to be ‘too little, too late.’ While it’s not an uninteresting saga, it doesn’t reach the heights of the genre it so badly wants to be a part of. For a lack of fulfilled potential, John gives this one a 6.
Andy agrees with John about many of the sagas shortfalls, including the fact that it’s a good saga, but not a great one. He agrees that the characters are less compelling and the story less artfully-developed than those of Grettir and Gisli. However, instead of arguing that these make it lesser, he feels the author does a nice job complicating the idea of the Outlaw Saga, and the idea of the ‘heroic’ outlaw. While at first it seems to be guiding us down a familiar path, where the hero’s life will be disrupted by an injustice perpetrated by a rival. The author wants the audience to be expecting a narrative where the protagonists gathers a band of outlaws and clever rogues about him, fights against corrupt officials, and creates a better world in the wild, far from civilized society, as in many medieval outlaw tales. Or, like Gisli and Grettir, Hord’s outlawry would highlight the complexity of the legal system, prompting questions about the nature of right and wrong, and contemplating the social mores of the author’s culture. However, he finds that the author of Hords saga isn’t interested in most of that, instead he flips the outlaw genre on its head by asking why we would ever celebrate and outlaw at all. Hord’s outlawry is wholly just, and Torvi’s suspicions about his character proven true as he sets about disrupting the peace of the region for years, threatening both the lives and livelihoods of the people who live there. What he finds truly remarkable about this version of the outlaw story is that no one – with the possible exception of Thorbjorg and Helga – emerges from the saga with clean hands. Nearly everyone is exposed as being selfish, treacherous, and potentially violent in horrifying ways. It reveals the dark side of humanity in a fairly unflinching manner, which makes for a very different kind of experience when reading than other outlaw tales. Andy admires what he interprets the author as intending to do. He wants to give it credit for creating a narrative which challenges the standard conventions of saga writing, exposing ills of Icelandic society and human nature itself. However, he finds that it lacks the bits of fun and lightheartedness that make other sagas pop while they tackle serious subjects. Hord’s saga is almost nihilistic, cynical from start to finish. He wouldn’t recommend it to someone seeking to wade into this genre of literature, but can appreciate the walk on the Goth side and the attention paid to female characters that we don’t often see in other sagas.
It’s a dark story about a dark world. His heart says it’s a six, while his brain says it’s a seven. Instead of splitting the difference, Andy trusted his head over his heart, and so gave Hord’s saga a seven, for doing something different. Not a fun seven, but then again, he’s not always looking for fun.
Andy’s Score: 7
Total score: 13
The Saga of Egil Skallagrimsson (Ep. 29): Without a doubt, this saga has everything you could want. After spending a year of discussion and barely scratching the surface of what this saga has to offer, it’s bittersweet to put it to rest.
Andy’s judgement was short and sweet. He gave it a perfect 10 (only because ’11’ was not an option.)
John’s words were longer, but the end result was no different. He rightly judges it as being one of the most fascinating pieces of literature for any age. It has a hero who is a study in contradictions – a warrior who faces a constant challenge in keeping his emotions in check, a poet who can create beautiful works as much from blood and battle as vomit. His story, and those of the other cast members in this saga, is full of deeply-relatable emotional moments. For all its complexities, he gives it 10.
The “Saga” of Ale-Hood (Ep. 28): This saga came with some confusion as to how to rate it. Should it be judged as a short story, which it is a great example of, or a saga, which it’s called but doesn’t have the structure for? It was decided that since the complete collection of the sagas of the Icelanders was their guide, and it states that this is indeed a saga, it was decided it would be judged as such.
Andy felt that it really is a great story. The author managed to accomplish a lot in what will definitely be the shortest saga. He found that it has well-drawn characters, a carefully-constructed and engaging plot which the author managed to pack with humor, wit, and social commentary relevant to the age the author’s writing in. Andy felt that the inclusion of the deeply unlikable Ale-Hood as the lead character made for a far more poignant look at the human condition than the utilization of a purely noble protagonist could have accomplished. However, while he felt it was a wonderful short story, a good example of what a saga is and should be it was not. Although he really enjoyed it, Andy had to ride the fence when it came to this judgement, giving the Saga of Ale-Hood a 5.
John also agreed that this piece made for a really good short story. It offered a well-executed double-cross, a good set-piece in the form of a flyting, interesting characterizations, and a quick wrap-up. However, it does have several loose ends. While he found that these work in the idiosyncratic rules of a short story, where the consequences of the narrative cease when the story itself is finished, they do not sit well with the formal expectations of the saga genre. As satire, he felt that it was an entertaining, extended lampoon of an oligarchic, self-important ruling class and their disregard for any claims on truth which extended beyond their own flexible and disposable ethics. While it made for an excellent satire, John felt that since this is a podcast about judging sagas, The Saga of Ale-Hood needed to be judged according to those standards, not those of a short story. Despite it being an enjoyable piece of unique comic prose, he found that as a saga it lacked much of what would give a saga both shape and purpose. Despite this, due its overall literary merit and the fact that the author accomplished what he set out to do, John gave this saga a 6.
The Saga of the People of Floi (Ep. 27): After spending three episodes explaining the faults of the saga, John and Andy were both happy to let you know what they really think of the saga, and to put Floamanna saga in the Saga Thing vault for good. It was a surprisingly long journey, especially considering the relatively short length of the saga itself.
In his assessment, John decided to pursue the line of reasoning that ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.’. While this saga had a lot of problems, the most frustrating one was its unfulfilled potential. A saga where you find a man slashing his breast to create milk to feed his instant son, a duel fought in a keg, a malevolent spirit which causes the dead to rise and make cast-aways go mad, rebellious servants murdering their mistress with a sharpened piece of iron, and a raid in which thirty outlaws are killed really should be filled with memorable moments and fascinating detail. However, due to the author’s overall lack of description, John found that most of these narrative opportunities went unfulfilled. While he agreed that the author can occasionally use clever phrasing, has some reasonably-well drawn secondary characters, and creates a sense of time and place which many other sagas lack, the author’s tendency to go for quantity of events vs quality of description left the narrative a bit wanting. Not wanting to leave the sagas few good moments unacknowledged, John awarded 1 point for the Greenland horrors, another for Thorgils breastfeeding his son, and 1/2 point for the keg duel, for a combined score of 2.5.
Andy’s initial impulse was to give Floamanna saga a 1 – partly in order to set the low bar for which to judge future sagas against, and partly just to say that he did it. However, despite the sagas many, many flaws, he found that the narrative’s few touching moments were worthy of acknowledgement. He found that there are few scenes more touching in saga literature than Thorgils’ saving his infant son by willing his breasts to create milk. For all that it was a disappointingly short scene, Andy found that the emotional core was there. Due to the author’s ability to create a few touching moments, he granted Floamanna saga 2 points.
A saga for completionists as opposed to novices or enthusiasts, it’s potential was lost for want of a better narrator.
The Saga of the People of Kjalarnes (Ep. 26): Although Andy initially saw this saga as being derivative, with several genre-shifts and multiple loose ends, upon further reflection he found that the author painted vivid descriptions, with complex characters and situations. Bui’s treatment and rejection of Olof put a bad taste in his mouth, but served to show how the author twists our perception of Bui, changing him from a sympathetic to problematic character. The author twists saga-writing on its head to show us a new way at looking at how others should be treated and how situations could/should be handled differently. In showing us a saga from the bad guy’s perspective, Andy felt the author showed intention and a level of story-craft that makes this saga worthy of a read, especially in a post-classical context. Andy’s rating for this saga overall was a 7.
John holds the view that this is a saga which suffers under our judgement system. The things it does well, such as riffing on legends and playing with ironic parallels don’t really get shown off to best effect in our categories. At the same time, he’s not sure how deliberate some of the parallels are, or what the author’s aims were in invoking a hagiographic moment by having Thorstein’s brains dashed out while he was praying. While the author demonstrates a keen sense of fun, and his exposure of the fragility of masculinity in Bui’s relationship with Frid, he felt the author was weak when it come to writing memorable characters. While Frid is interesting, Bui’s a cipher. The author’s use of Bui in shifting him from a heroic to problematic figure is interesting to read, but it also makes our understanding of him as a character suffers. With this in mind, John gave a rating of 5.5.
The Saga of Ref the Sly (Ep. 25): Andy found himself to be impressed with Ref – and by proxy, the author’s – ingenuity. Because of the fun of Ref’s fire-proof house, fold-out boat launch, and wearing a fake bears over a real one, his initial impulse was to give this saga a 7. However, as the saga continued, he became less certain of how to rate it. The saga doesn’t fit well into our understanding of the family-saga genre, but should that be a reason to dock it points? It ended up being more due to the cracks in the author’s craftsmanship once Ref leaves Greenland for Norway, where it feels a little weak. On the whole, Andy felt it was worth a 6.
John found this saga to be a delightful palate-cleanser. It was a treat to read, with the super-human figure of Ref building a boat with only a toy to use as a reference, a unique fire-suppression system, and an amphibious boat with a mechanical launch. Until the end, it was well-paced. However, the characters are simple and generally archetypal, and it feels like the author is uncertain about how to end the story. It doesn’t represent the family-sagas well as a genre, but instead fits in a continuum between the Legendary Sagas and the Saga of Icelanders. However, due to its fun and overall charm, he gave this saga a 6.5.
The Saga of Droplaug’s Sons (Ep. 23): While both agreed that the first few chapters were daunting but worthwhile for those who wished to get more involved in the Icelandic sagas, there was a difference of opinion regarding the final score.
Andy viewed this saga as ‘a mess with meaning embedded in its layers’, enjoying the different set pieces and the revenge/outlaw story which was the second half of the saga. However, he felt it lacked the overall character and plot development he really eanted. Despite a growing fondness for it, Andy gave a ‘very cheerful’ rating of 6.5.
John was surprised by Andy’s reaction, given how well the author had done with what he’d set out to do. He felt that it was a fairly well-contained story about a feud between two brothers and their local chieftain. He enjoyed the early court cases, the masterful final battle, and the overall humor of the saga (especially when the author relates how his own grandfather knocked over a hnefatafl board and then farted in the face of the game’s participants in his childhood.). He found it had good character moments, and was overall an enjoyable and worthwhile read, earning a rating of 8.
The Saga of the People of Vopnafjord (Ep. 22): John wasn’t impressed with this one and held the saga accountable in his final rating for all that was missing in the lacuna. He believes it might have been a good saga once, but couldn’t offer it better than a 4 in its current condition.
Andy didn’t disagree on the score, though he wondered why John would rate this reasonably well-written saga lower than the much less impressive Saga of Thorstein the White.
Thorstein the White’s Saga (Ep. 21): John waxed poetic about this short sagas value as an introductory saga, even going so far as to suggest it as a worthy alternate to Hrafnkel’s Saga. He gave it a 5.5.
Andy was shocked by John’s fondness for such an uninspired and barebones saga. He gave it a 3.
Njal’s Saga (Ep. 20): This one earned a perfect score from both Andy and John. If you don’t know why, then you haven’t been paying attention to our podcast for the many months we spent praising this saga.
The Saga of the People of Reykjadal and Killer-Skuta (Ep. 19): Both John and Andy felt that the saga was missing something. John suggested that the narrative felt more like a draft than a complete saga, but concluded that this was ultimately the final effort of a less than talented storyteller. He pointed to some strong moments, highlighting the Thorgeir Butter-ring episode in particular, but lamented all of the missed opportunities for good storytelling. John can only recommend The Saga of the People of Reykjadal to those on a mission to read all of the sagas. Everyone else should skip it. John gave it a 3.5.
Andy wasn’t quite so harsh. While he didn’t like the bare-bones narrative style of the saga and its underdeveloped characters, he wondered if this was part of the author’s effort to present a text that read more like history. He doesn’t necessarily believe that, but Andy likes to look for excuses to rate sagas higher than they deserve (says John). The saga deserves some credit for developing and balancing out a complex story of an evolving regional feud. Because of that, Andy gave it a 4.
The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong (Ep. 18): Andy liked Finnbogi’s Saga a bit more than John. While acknowledging the formulaic and folk-motif driven nature of the storytelling, Andy waxed poetic about the complexity of Finnbogi’s character, calling him a “forthright and upstanding hero trapped in an age of suspicion and aggression. He regretted saying that after John chose Finnbogi as thingman. Andy gave the saga a “strong 7.”
John was less impressed. He felt that the characters were flat and unbelievable, highlighting both Finnbogi and Jokul as caricatures of good and evil. The saga, he argued, was unbalanced in its effort to “bend and blend genres.” This is particularly true when Finnbogi travels abroad. For John, the weirdness of these sections doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. Because of this, he gave it a 5. This disturbed Andy, prompting further conversation in which Andy tried to persuade John to bring his score up to a 6 to reward the quality of the reading experience this saga offers. John refused.
After the mics were off, however, things changed. Andy and John continued to debate the merits of the saga. They also reviewed previous scores. All of this led to a minor adjustment in the score. Andy changed his rating to 6.
The Saga of the Greenlanders (Ep. 17): John put it best when he observed, “Never has so much been written about so little.” Both John and Andy agree that the saga has an important place in literary history, primarily for its historical significance. It’s literary merit, however, is another story. It’s not a terribly impressive saga, but it’s worth reading all the same. John scored it at 4.5. Andy gave it a 3.5. While Andy claimed to like Greenlanders’ Saga better than Eirik’s Saga, he still scored it lower. But that was only accidental as he didn’t remember what score he gave Eirik’s Saga.
Grettir’s Saga (Ep. 16): John loved Grettir’s Saga and spoke eloquently about its merits, calling it a love letter to saga literature’s greatest accomplishments. He even snuck in a Sound of Music reference in his rating. As amazing as Grettir’s Saga is, John wasn’t unaware of the saga’s failings. He gave it a 9.
Andy agreed with much of John’s assessment. He was less forgiving of the saga’s failings, however. He compared Grettir’s Saga to Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One for its many cameos and its overwhelming obsession with the past. He concluded that Grettir’s Saga is a kind of literary masterpiece, not so much for its plot or characterizations, but for what it accomplishes as a work of art. As high as that praise might sound, he gave it a 9 because the story itself just isn’t as good as it could be.
Quarter Court Results (Ep. 15): For the Quarter Court, we asked our listeners to vote for their favorite saga from the first quarter of Saga Thing‘s coverage of the Saga of the Icelanders. The listeners responded and voted overwhelmingly for Gisli’s Saga. A fair choice.
Vatnsdœla Saga (Ep. 14): Both Andy and John loved this saga back in grad school. Their opinions were complicated by this closer examination. The saga is often and justly criticized for its contrasting of unachievable ideals and stock villains, but this critique seems to only account for the beginning of the narrative. Andy saw a much more nuanced story with characters who get more complex as the saga progresses. He doesn’t enjoy every moment of the saga, but he’s a fan of sagas that speak to the historical moment in interesting ways. Vatnsdœla Saga, in Andy’s opinion, provides a much needed commentary for contemporary audiences about moral leadership. That said, the saga isn’t as accessible as some other texts we’ve read. Andy gave it a 6.5.
John was frustrated by the cardboard cutout villains of the saga and the lack of nuance in the text. He also felt the saga lacked cohesion and grew tired of loosely connected episodes, which is why he gave it a 7.
Viglund’s Saga (Ep. 13): John and Andy were both surprised by how much they liked Viglund’s Saga. John, a saga purist, sometimes felt the saga too clumsily incorporated continental romance themes and styles. It spoke to the end of the golden age of saga literature in Iceland. But, as he said, if you skip over all the “love stuff” then it’s a pretty good saga with some carefully drawn characters. In the end, John respected the saga author’s craft and experimentation and gave it a 7.
Andy wanted to be brief, but gave an impromptu lecture on the saga that even called on scholarship from the late 19th century. After a careful read of the saga and a bit of research, Andy clearly found a lot to love in the post-classical saga. Looking at the saga on its own terms, this one has a lot to offer and he thought it a hidden gem of late saga literature. He scored the saga with an 8.
The Saga of Bjorn Champion of the Hitardal People (Ep. 12): This was an interesting final rating section with some minor disagreements. Like in theHallfred’s Saga episode, they had very different takes on the saga’s quality, but ended up scoring it exactly the same. John argued that Bjorn’s Saga suffered from many of the same problems that Andy held against Kormak’s Saga. He concluded that the saga is full of boring or undeveloped characters, eventually dubbing it a “poor man’s” Egil’s Saga.
Andy disagreed with John’s reading completely, noting that, if anything, the saga could be considered a “poor man’s” Gunnlaug’s Saga. Ultimately, Andy felt that the saga does an effective job of building a good prose narrative with entertaining characters, though he admited that it isn’t perfect. Despite their differences, both arrived at a score of 6.
Kormak’s Saga (Ep. 11): John thoroughly enjoyed himself in Kormak’s Saga, despite the choppy nature of the narrative. Though he finds Kormak a troublesome character (and then selected him as thingman?), he’s more impressed by the author’s treatment of Bersi and Steingerd. John gave it a generous 6.5.
Andy put some distance between himself and his initial enjoyment of the saga, concluding that it gets more credit than it deserves because of the tradition that places Kormak’s Saga as one of the earliest family sagas. Among his major complaints is the fact that the prose is often constructed rather carelessly around the poetry. Both Andy and John also felt that the saga really belonged to Bersi. Andy gave it a somewhat harsh 4.5. Total: 11
Hallfred Troublesome-Poet’s Saga (Ep. 10): John and Andy seemed to disagree about the quality of the saga, but somehow scored it exactly the same. John isn’t a huge fan of the poet’s sagas generally. He found Hallfred somewhat uninspiring as a character and grew frustrated with the episodic nature of the saga as a whole. Andy didn’t agree with him here, arguing instead that Hallfred was an engaging and complex character who evolved in interesting ways over the course of the narrative. John did, however, appreciate the variety of social, cultural, and spiritual issues explored in the saga. Andy wholeheartedly agreed on that point. Both concluded that this short saga has a lot to offer both students and teachers of medieval Icelandic literature, history, and culture. Hallfred’s Saga earned a 6 from John and a 6 from Andy.
Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue’s Saga (Ep. 9): Andy was torn. He didn’t like the saga at first and found the genre inconsistencies problematic. John likewise felt the saga narrative was simply too muddled to achieve anything worthy of a high score. Andy wondered, however, if the author intentionally muddled the genre motifs (which made John groan). Andy and John did agree that the saga wasn’t awesome. Andy gave it a 5.5 (with the .5 representing the hope that the saga author was just being clever). John was less hopeful. He gave it a bland 5. And so, Gunnlaug’s Saga earned an unimpressive 10.5, which could be somewhat generous in retrospect.
Bandamanna saga (Ep. 8): John enjoys the saga for its cynicism and wry social commentary, but withheld points due to the lack of many expected saga characteristics; he awarded it a 7.5, but wishes it could be higher. Andy was slightly more impressed, awarding the saga an 8 for being one of the finer short sagas and for the fun of Ofeig’s clever plots and one-liners. The total, 15.5, is quite noteworthy for such an oddball saga.
Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok and his Sons (Ep. 7): No ratings, but we loved it all the same.
Hen-Thorir’s Saga (Ep. 6): Andy liked the saga and gave it a 7, which surprised him a bit. He felt the saga had a strong start, but rushed through the second half and missed some great opportunities. John enjoyed the saga much more than he thought he would. He wished that the characters were more sympathetic, dismissing even poor Blund-Ketil as flat. John gave the saga a 6.5 and acknowledged that it was a hidden gem. He’d recommend Hen-Thorir, but cautions that it feels too much like Norwegian propaganda. The combined score of 13.5 is, perhaps surprisingly, a full point higher than we gave the much more well-known Hrafnkel’s saga!
Gisli’s saga Sursson (Ep. 5): John praised the saga’s psychological depth, spare narrative, and intricate juxtaposition of social institutions. He rewarded it with the first 10 given by either of us. Andy loved the saga for its nuanced portrayal of the central figures and its bloodthirsty ways, and gave it a very respectable 9. The total score of 19 is a new high for us, beating out Eyrbyggja by a mere point. But Andy’s tough stance means that there’s still room at the top…
Eirik the Red’s saga (Ep. 4): In our harshest review yet, John noted the lack of central feuds or characters in the saga as well as the general thinness of detail; in the end , he gave it a slender 3.5. Andy thought John was being a little harsh–he enjoyed the Vinland elements of the story, but agreed that the story lacks depth or memorable characters. He gave it a 4. The total, 7.5, is our lowest yet. But don’t let that stop you from reading and enjoying the saga yourself!
Eyrbyggja Saga (Ep. 3): Both John and Andy disregarded the general critical consensus against Eyrbyggja. Andy penalized the saga one point for its lack of focus on Snorri Goði, giving it a 9. John, to his own surprise, ended up giving the saga a much higher score than he’d anticipated–another 9. The total, 18, is a very respectable score, and sets a high mark that’ll be tough to beat!
Hranfkel’s saga (Ep. 2): John gave it a grudging 6, while Andy was slightly more generous at 6.5. The combined score is therefore 12.5.
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