Saga Shorts 2: The Tale of Thorstein Bull’s-Leg

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For our second episode of Saga Shorts, we’ve chosen the brilliant “Tale of Thorstein Bull’s-leg” (Þorsteins Þáttr uxafóts).  As one of the longer þættir, this one defies categorization. It tells the story of Thorstein Oddnyarson, a child abandoned at birth who grows up to be a hero in the court of King Olaf Tryggvason.  Along the way, he’ll find his parents, do battle with the undead, raid the home of a troll family, experience a miracle, almost drown in vomit, and fight a pagan bull.  It’s got everything you could want in a saga and more, all wrapped in a nice little Þáttr sized package.
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For this episode, we used George Clark’s translation, “The Tale of Thorstein Bull’s-Leg,” in The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, Vol. 4, ed. Vidar Hrinsson (Reykjavik: Leifur Eiriksson Publishing, 1997), 340-54.

We mention Elizabeth Ashman Rowe’s “Þorsteins þáttr uxafótsHelga þáttr Þórissonar, and the Conversion þættir,” Scandinavian Studies 76, no. 4 (2004): 459-74.

Music Credits:

Intro: From “Death Awaits” by Billy Malmstrom

Outro: From “Óðinn” by Krauka

Episode 16e – Grettir’s Saga (Judgments)

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At long last, it is time to put Grettir’s Saga on trial.  Does the fight atop a whale carcass have enough appeal to win Best Bloodshed?  Will Grettir’s Saga break the Body Count record currently held by Eyrbyggja Saga?  Will Andy and John outlaw Grettir or take him on as thingman?  Does Andy finally decide whether Grettir’s Saga is better or worse than Gisli’s Saga?  And will John ever stop talking about Nicknames?  This saga is full of memorable moments, witticisms, and wonders, which is why this judgment section ended up being so long.  But don’t worry, there’s plenty to laugh about and plenty to learn here.

We hope you enjoy this conclusion to Grettir’s Saga as much as we enjoyed making it.  The journey’s been long, but well worth the time spent.  We’ll get to the Saga Brief about Grettir and Beowulf sometime soon.  For now, we need a break from this saga.  It’s on to the Saga of the Greenlanders next and then Finnbogi the Mighty.  Until then!

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Episode 16c – Grettir’s Saga (Part 3)

GrettirandThorirRed-Beard The Saga of Grettir the Strong continues.  In this episode, Grettir arrives home in Iceland only to discover that his father has passed away, his brother has been slain by Thorbjorn Oxen-might, and that he himself has been outlawed for the accidental burning of Thorir of Gard’s sons in Norway.  That’s a lot to take in all at once.  As an outlaw, Grettir is forced to lurk in the wilds, hide in caves, and rely on the kindness of others for food.  Since Grettir’s not terribly kind himself, he usually just steals what he needs.  Join us as we discuss the last of Grettir’s adventures, including amazing feats of strength, battles with a troll-hag and a giant, and a rocky encounter with a witch.  Will Grettir get stumped by the witch’s black magic? Will he go out in a blaze of glory? And will he ever recover from the embarrassment of his exposed manhood?  Find out in this episode of Saga Thing.

Drangey Island in Skagafjörður fjord, where Grettir and Illugi spent their final years.

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Pick up a copy of Grettir’s Saga and discover what we left out!

Grettir's Saga

Episode 16 – Grettir’s Saga (Part 1)

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In this epic multi-part episode, we tell the story of Iceland’s most famous and longest surviving outlaw, Grettir Asmundarson.  Join us as we trace his life, from its tempestuous beginning to its tragic end.  Before we delve into his amazing exploits as an adult, we must look back to his origins. In traditional saga fashion, we begin with his great grandfather, Onund Treefoot.  We follow Onund’s efforts to resist the increasing power of King Harald Fairhair and his struggles to come to terms with the loss of his property and his leg.  Forced to redefine his own identity and to make a new life in foreign lands, he emerges as the truest hero in the saga, renowned as “the bravest and most agile of all the one-legged men in Iceland.”  From Onund, we wend our way through battles over whale corpses, murder, and legal cases in the genealogy until we arrive at Grettir himself.  We’ll look briefly at Grettir’s inglorious youth, his troubled relationship with his father, Asmund, and the events leading up to his first outlawry.  Will Grettir learn to control his temper and put his strength to good use? Or will he flout the norms of society and continue to make his own way more difficult?  Find out as Saga Thing takes on Grettir’s Saga (chapters 1-20).

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 This handy genealogy will help you keep some of the names straight in your minds
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Pick up a copy of Grettir’s Saga and discover all the stuff we left out!

Grettir's Saga