The Saga of Bard the God of Snowfell (Ep. 31): This saga has a surprising number of people whose names have already been covered in other sagas; Ketil Haeng, Arnor Hairy-nose, Thorbjorg Ship-breast etc. Also the wonderful place-name of dritvik, or ‘Turd’s Bay’. Not a nickname, but a great story.
This time around we have another compromise win: Bork blátannarskegg (Bluetoothbeard). The name possibly refers to a tooth that is highly visible through a bear, either due to a facial injury or disfigurement such as a cleft palate.
The Saga of Hord and the Holm-Dwellers (Ep. 30): This saga is a bit underwhelming in terms of nichnames: Out of 36 given, only 8 are worth looking into. Beating out rich knobs and crafty sorceresses is Helga jarlsdóttir. While by Norwegian perspective her and Hord’s statuses would be miles apart, by Icelandic judgement, they’re on equal footing, both as children of the leadership caste in their countries. The name stays with her, marking her out as a person of distinction and nobility. She won because while each chose her as their second choice, John and Andy decided that she was selected by committee (with all the enthusiasm that suggests) due to interest in class distinctions and so they could move on to another category.
The Saga of Egil Skallagrimsson (Ep. 29): This saga leaves us significantly spoiled for choice. There are nicknames related to color, location, physical features, mannerisms, unique skills, probably some inside jokes. Out of the fray, one name stood out above the rest: Thora of the Embroidered Hand / Þóra hlaðhönd. ‘Hlað’ itself is a cognomen of the English ‘lace’, but also refers to some sort of adornment in general. This nickname is a compelling choice, because it could have so many meanings. Is she a master of needlework? Does she always wear ornamentation on her hands and wrists? Is it a reference to a scar or birthmark? A tattoo? Possibly a combination thereof? It’s the enigmatic nature of this nickname which leads us to give it the prize.
The “Saga” of Ale-Hood (Ep. 28): This short saga came with a proportionate number of nicknames. Some (like Snorri Goði) had been discussed in previous episodes, while others (such as Guðmund the Powerful) were fairly self-explanatory. This saga’s winner goes to a name which was used so much that characters legitimately forgot what his full name was. It became a convenient shorthand for who was being talked about – in this case ‘that squinty curmudgeon with the hood who sells beer.’ ‘Alehood/Ölkofri’ is also one of the few nicknames we get to see come into being as its story develops. Since he won’t win anything else for this saga, we might as well give him the nickname award: Thorhall Ölkofri, come on down!
The Saga of the People of Floi (Ep. 27): With roughly three dozen nicknamed individuals, this saga doesn’t lack for naming variety. Many of them were fairly straightforward, being based on age, color, or physical description. Despite fierce competition from a dullard Homebody (heimski), a Stonecutter (helluflagi), and a Shapeshifter (tvennumbrúni), the award had to go to Asgeir Norwegian-scarer (austmannaskelfis). When your name is based on making an entire portion of Scandinavia afraid of you, it’s clear that you’re not someone people want to get on the wrong side of or meet unexpectedly in the dark. Congratulations, Asgeir! We’ll have a Swede present the award.
The Saga of the People of Kjalarnes (Ep. 26): This time around the award for Best Nickname goes to Helgi Bjolan, for his Celtic agnomen serving an alternative function in an Icelandic context.
The Saga of Ref the Sly (Ep. 25): This saga didn’t offer us many impressive nicknames (although ‘the bald guy from Vik’ did show a good use of nicknames in a local context), but what it lacked in numbers it sort of made up for in versatility. For its evolution throughout its brief existence, Ref ‘inn ragi’ is our winner.
Second Quarter Court Results (Ep. 24): While Ivar Beytil (horse-cock) came in proud second, our winner was the epicurean Thorgeir Butter-Ring. Congratulations Thorgeir! Have a congratulatory meal!
The Saga of Droplaug’s Sons (Ep. 23): This saga was full of interesting nicknames, like Thorgrim Dung-beetle (tordýfill), Thord Cormorant, and Thorarin Mold-Grub. While we both thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Mr. Dung-beetle, there was no competing with Thorgrim Skin-cap (skinnhúfa) once we got talking about him. John suggested that húfa, usually translated as “cap” or “hood” could be interpreted as clothes, thus rendering the nickname very loosely as “Birthday suit” in reference to his nude journey across the heath. I recommended “skin suit” as a possibility. Thorgrim won the prize, but I’m not so sure he deserved it. Having looked into the name since recording, I don’t see how húfa can be rendered as anything but “cap” or “hood.” The whole skin-suit theory is pretty weak. Don’t tell John that I said so.
The Saga of the People of Vopnafjord (Ep. 22): This one’s worth listening to for John and Andy’s musings on what the nickname Stick-starer might mean. There’s enough potential in this nickname to earn it the award. Well done Thormod. Way to keep your eyes on the prize!
Thorstein the White’s Saga (Ep. 21): Not much here worth discussing for John, but he does spend some time with a few good ones. Among the possible candidates are Thorkel Flettir (braids), Brodd Helgi (ice-spur), Hrani Gold-hat, Steinbjorn Kort (short), and Ketil Thrym (battle-din or he’s named after the giant Thrymr). Ketil attracted some interest, but Andy wasn’t about to let Hrani Gold-hat leave without a shiny new trophy to add to his headgear.
Njal’s Saga (Ep. 20): So many nicknames to choose from. John listed a ton here and still didn’t dent the surface of what could be done with nicknames for this saga. Among the finalists were Ketil Smooth-talker, although John hadn’t mentioned him, Thorolf Pus-nose, and Ulf the Unwashed. Though each of these had their charms, the Dungbeardlings took the prize for being both clever and significant to the saga itself.
The Saga of the People of Reykjadal and Killer-Skuta (Ep. 19): There were a number of good candidates to choose from, including Thorir Goat-beard and Thorodd Grinder. We narrowed the choices down to three: Thorstein Fishingpole, Ingvild Everyone’s-Sister, and Thorgeir Butter-ring. Though we knew the true best nickname belongs to Ingvild, we were just so charmed by Thorgeir Butter-ring that we couldn’t let him go home empty handed. Congrats, Thorgeir. We’re hoping you can turn your newfound fame into a dining hall full of buttery baked goods.
The Saga of Finnbogi the Mighty (Ep. 18): As John noted at the start of the section, there aren’t many nicknames in this saga. Those that we do see, John laments, feature few interesting “innovations.” I’m not sure what he means by that, but I’m guessing he was disappointed with the rather straightforward nature of the nicknames in this saga. Take Finnbogi’s nickname, the strong/mighty, for example. No mystery there. Nonetheless, John managed to pull together an interesting list of nicknames worthy of some consideration. Finnbogi himself appeared 3 times on the list, which gives you a sense of the situation. Andy started day-dreaming during the recitation of Dream Finni and lost track of the candidates. With a quick refresher from John, the two final candidates were Thorvald Moðskegg (where moð = refuse from hay or possibly mud; skegg = beard) and Finnbogi’s original name, Urðarkött (often translated as Wildcat, but urð/urðar can refer to a pile of stones or even one driven by fate). We liked Urðarkött best.
The Saga of the Greenlanders (Ep. 17): For the first time in Saga Thing history, John struggled to offer up his usual abundance of nicknames and learned discourse on their meanings. But John did himself proud by grasping for any and every potential nickname in the saga. When it came time to choose, there were only a few real candidates. John argued for Eyjolf the Beshitten. He lost on a technicality, since his name only appears in the oft excluded first chapter of the saga. And so, the winner was Thorfinn Karlsefni, with John noting that Thorfinn’s nickname (The Makings of a Man) is the most interesting thing about him. Sure. Whatever, John. 😉
Grettir’s Saga (Ep. 16): John talked about nicknames in this episode for 20 minutes. That’s no exaggeration. And I cut some out in editing. As much as we liked Thorgeir Bottleback and the story of his nickname, our boyish sense of humor ultimately won out and gave the award to a character named in passing. The winner was Ivar Beytil, whose name is often left untranslated in English editions. If you want to find out what that’s all about, you’ll have to listen to John’s explanation (if you can find it in that endless section of Grettir’s Judgment episode).
Quarter Court Results (Ep. 15): Halfdan the Open-Handed-but-Stingy-with-Meat won this category, but Thorbjorg Ship-breast not far behind. It’s hard to beat Halfdan, though. His nickname is a real mouthful.
Vatnsdœla Saga (Ep. 14): While Andy argued for Thorkel Scratcher to win again (he won for Hallfred’s Saga), John insisted on keeping things fresh. Three true contenders emerged in Thorir Goat-thigh, Thorbjorg Pride-of-the-Farm, and Thorolf Sledgehammer. As impressive as the former two are, they were inevitably crushed by Thorolf. He’s just so metal. [Incidentally, the recording of nicknames for this episode ran too long and had to be cut down a bit. If you want to listen to the complete and mostly uncut version, it’s all here for your listening pleasure.]
Viglund’s Saga (Ep. 13): Thorkel Skin-Swathed (or Skinhood) has an odd nickname and an even odder appearance. Both are explained in Bard’s Saga, which we’ll get to eventually. Thorkel has a bit part in Viglund’s Saga as the guy who takes care of Viglund when the witch’s storm leaves him shipwrecked.
The Saga of Bjorn Champion of the Hitardal People (Ep. 12): Oddny Isle-candle, whose tapered figure won the hearts and minds of Bjorn, Thord, and the men of Saga Thing. Of course, there is some dispute between the hosts as to the nature of Oddny’s figure and its relevance for her nickname.
Kormak’s Saga (Ep. 11): Thorkel Tooth-gnasher took the prize this time. His nickname has links to one of Thor’s goats and has the distinguishing quality of being an excellent name for a death metal band.
Hallfred Troublesome-Poet’s Saga (Ep. 10): Thorkel Scratcher, who earned his nickname at a very very young age.
Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue’s Saga (Ep. 9): A split decision this time because John and Andy were too stubborn to agree. John chose Goat-Bjorn. Andy picked the eponymous hero Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue. Which do you prefer?
Bandamanna saga (Ep. 8): In a saga that just doesn’t seem to want to play the usual nickname games, the pedestrian moniker of “Beard”-Broddi Bjarnason sneaks off with top marks.
Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok and his Sons (Ep. 7): No judgments here, but we’d definitely have chosen Ragnar Lothbrok (Shaggy Breeches). It’s a great name with a great story behind it.
Hen-Thorir’s Saga (Ep. 6): It wasn’t that tough. “Hen”-Thorir the chicken man wins easily.
Gisli’s saga Sursson (Ep. 5): The flame-retardant nickname of Thorbjorn “Sur” (Whey), father of the Surssons, barely eked out a win here.
Eirik the Red’s saga (Ep. 4): The impressive profile of Thorbjorg Ship-Breast enhances our winner’s circle.
Eyrbyggja Saga (Ep. 3): The husband-and-wife team of Thorgrima Witch-Face and Thorir Wood-Leg make for a winning combination.
Hrafnkel’s saga (Ep. 2): Halfdan the Open-Handed-but-Stingy-With-Meat, narrowly beating out his father, Eystein Fart!