Episode 36e – Laxdaela Saga (chapters 24-31)

In this episode, Olaf Peacock takes center stage as Hoskuld’s life comes to a peaceful close. But don’t think Hoskuld shuffles off this mortal coil before getting one last jab in at his estranged brother Hrut. This episode features an impressive parade, a somewhat lackluster haunting, a trip to Norway, and funeral and wedding feasts. If that’s not enough for you, then you’ll want to stay tuned to hear how Egil Skallagrimsson’s daughter handles a disagreement with her husband.

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Thanks again to Jacob Foust (aka @skarphedin_illustrator) for providing us with an original illustration of Olaf’s encounter with Hrapp. You can find more of his work here on Instagram.

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

Episode 36d – Laxdaela Saga (chapters 20-24)

In this episode, little Olaf Peacock travels to Norway and then to Ireland on a journey to meet his grandfather Myrkjartan. But how will he pay for it? Traveling overseas in the 10th century isn’t cheap (it still isn’t). How will King Myrkjartan and the Irish welcome the Icelandic son of the long lost Melkorka? And what familiar figure from Saga Thing past pops in for a visit and a quick marriage arrangement? There’s only one way to find out!

We also discuss the presumed burial mounds of Thord Goddi and Skallagrim Kveldulfsson. We explore John’s fascination with the Campbell’s monomyth and similarities between Olaf Peacock and Anakin Skywalker (yes, you read that correctly).  For the runesack, we address a funny little stick with strange scratches on it that leads us into yet another conversation about Celtic influences on medieval Icelandic culture and a chat about the origins of our names. There’s a lot going on here!

As promised, here’s a pictures of Andy’s great-grandfather, Andrew Kormos:

And a picture of John’s namesakes:

[forthcoming???]

As always, thank you to Jacob Foust (aka @skarphedin_illustrator) for another original illustration. You can find more of his work here on Instagram.

And finally, some promised bibliography, including works we referenced and some that were used while prepping the episode:

Clover, Carol J. The Medieval Saga. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987.

Gísli Sigurđsson. Gaelic Influence in Iceland: Historical and Literary Contacts: A Survey of Research. Reykjavík: Bókaútgáfa Menningarsjóđs. 1988.

Hastrup, Kirsten. Culture and History in Medieval Iceland: An Anthropological Analysis of Structure and Change. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985.

Kellogg, Robert. “Introduction.” In The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection, edited by Robert Kellogg, pp. xv-lvii. New York: Viking, 2001.

Kress, Helga, “‘You Will Find It All Rather Monotonous’: On Literary Tradition and the Female Experience in Laxdaela saga.” The Nordic Mind: Current Trends in Scandinavian Literary Criticism. F. E. Andersen and John Weinstock, eds. University Press of America, 1986. 181-195.

Kristjánsson Jónas, and Peter Foote. Eddas and Sagas: Iceland’s Medieval Literature. Reykjavík: Hiđ íslenska bókmenntafélag, 1997.

Morris, William. The Lovers of Gudrun. A Poem. Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1870.

Robinson, Peter. “Vikings and Celts.” In Introductory Essays on Egils saga and Njáls saga, edited by John Hines and Desmond Slay, pp. 125-139. London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 1992.

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

Episode 36c – Laxdæla saga (chapters 14-19)

We’re back with the third installment of Laxdæla saga! In this lengthy episode, we meet a bunch of minor characters who play a role in the developing tensions in Laxárdalur (the Salmon River Valley). This surprisingly fun section starts with a little disagreement between two former friends over a stack of fish. That disagreement erupts into a violent altercation that drags in the major power players of the district, puts a husband and wife at odds, and eventually leads to an opportunity that Hoskuld Dalla-Kollsson simply can’t pass up.

If that’s not enough for you, we’ve got Hrut’s arrival in Iceland and a suspicious (and frankly rude) seal giving unasked for advice to a helpless family. Not since “whack-a-ghost-seal” have we laughed this hard!

Thanks as always to @skarphedin_illustrator for bringing the text to life. Here we see Hrut fully “aroused” into a frenzy battling for his inheritance. 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.

  • Foust_-_Laxdaela_Saga_-_Genealogy_4-16-22_16u...

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

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 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

Saga Short 10 – The Tales of Thormod and Thorarin the Overbearing

If you thought we were done with The Saga of the Sworn Brothers, you were mostly correct. In this episode, we fill in a few gaps in the story of what happened around Thorgeir Havarsson’s death. We start with Thormod’s þáttr, a tale about Thormod’s visit to the court of King Cnut and his first meeting with his future BFF, King Olaf of Norway. We follow that up with Thorarin the Overbearing’s þáttr, which tells of Thorarin’s activities following his ambush on Thorgeir.

Along the way, we talk about the messy manuscript traditions associated with each tale, the characterization of King Cnut in the tales and sagas of Icelanders, the wonders of quantum cake, and our vague memories of George Burns’ Oh, God! trilogy. We conclude the episode with a bit of fan fiction as we speculate on how the fragmentary tale of Thorarin the Overbearing might end and how it could tie into what we know from Fóstbrœðra saga.

Thanks to Jacob Foust for another great original illustration inspired by the stories of medieval Iceland. Follow him on Instagram where he’s @skarphedin_illustrator.

Music Credits:

Intro: from “Death Awaits” by Billy Malmstrom

Poetry Music: “Death Awaits” by Billy Malmstrom

Outro: From “Óðinn” by Krauka