Saga Brief 6 – The Conversion of Iceland (Part 1)

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In this first part of our Saga Brief, we look at the story behind the conversion of Iceland.

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Music:
Opening:Rúnatal” by An Danzza with selections from History Channel’s Vikings.
Saga Brief Intro: from Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur
Outro:  Ólafur Liljurós

Episode 20g – Njal’s Saga (Part 7)

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In this episode of Saga Thing, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in Iceland’s history as the fierce Thangbrand arrives on a mission from King Olaf Tryggvason to convert Iceland once and for all.  It turns out John and Andy aren’t the only ones who love a good digression.  This section of the saga is book-ended by action and violence brought on by the slaying of Thrain Sigfusson, but it’s mostly about Thangbrand’s visit to Iceland and the resulting divide between the growing number of Christians and those who remain loyal to Odin.  This episode features its usual share of bloodshed and wit, but we’ve also got some blasphemous poetry for you, a bit of history, a miracle, and an important test for a berserk.  There’s something for everyone!

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Music Credits:
Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Previous Episode Review – “Moten Swing” by Harry James and his Orchestra
Episode Summary“Crusade” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) and Deum Verum performed by Psallentes
Poems – “Hell edar asar” by Leiungr
Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Episode 20e – Njal’s Saga (Part 5)

Death of Gunnar and Hallgerd's Shame

This episode of Saga Thing is all about revenge. We conclude the Gunnar section of Njal’s Saga with a look into the aftermath of our hero’s death, the vengeance he demands, and the fate of his brother, Kolskeggi.  If Njal wants to avenge his friend and secure his position in the region, he’ll have to act fast.  Fortunately, he’s got his son, Skarphedin, and Gunnar’s son, Hogni, as willing swords.  Gunnar’s ghost helps get things moving.  While we don’t cover a lot of ground in the saga this time around, we do explore some important issues that inform our reading of the first half of the saga and give us something to look for as we embark on the saga’s dark second half.  We discuss Gunnar’s pride, the ethics of Njal’s behavior, and we finally tackle the “halberd” controversy.  Hallgerð gets her fair share of our attention as well.

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Image taken from the beautiful Njal Tapestry.  Visit http://www.njalurefill.is/ for more information.

Music Credits:

Intro MusicPrelude and Action by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Previous Episode Review “The Mooche” by Duke Ellington

Episode Summary“Enchanted Journey” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Gunnar’s PoemRitual by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Outro Music – Stormfront by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Episode 16d – The Saga of Grettir the Strong (Part 4)

Tristan and Isolde

In the thrilling conclusion to Grettir’s Saga, we follow the slender armed Thorstein Dromund on his quest to avenge his brother.  Thorstein’s adventures carry him from the shores of Norway to the bustling city of Constantinople, where the exiled King Harald Hardrada leads a rag tag bunch of Scandinavians called the Varangian Guard.  And if you thought the Grettir’s Saga author would pass up the chance to throw in another giant of saga literature, you were sorely mistaken.  Sadly, Harald is only featured in a cameo.  The real story of the Grettir’s Saga epilogue is the love affair of Thorstein and Spes.  Often referred to as the Spésar þáttr (The Tale of Spes “Hope”), the epilogue contrasts the epic ethos of the saga world with the more playful spirit of the continental romances.  If you have ever encountered the famous story of Tristan and Isolde, where the two lovers consistently outwit Isolde’s bumbling husband, King Mark, you’ll feel right at home in the Spésar þáttr.  Join us as we review this deceptively simple epilogue and discuss its potential value for understanding the rest of Grettir’s Saga.

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Along the way, we make reference to a few items of interest.  First among these are the blog sites featuring Drangey Island.  There are some pretty impressive pictures on these blogs and stories about Drangey:

  1. http://stuckiniceland.com/north/the-outlaws-paradise/
  2. http://fooface.blogspot.com/2006/07/epic-climb.html

Drangey Ladder

And if you want to take our advice and visit Drangey for yourself, tours are available here: http://www.drangey.net/

Interested in the Brother Robert’s 13th century Saga of Tristram and Isond?  Click on the book and buy a copy:

Or perhaps you’d like to start with Béroul’s The Romance of Tristan:

And finally, we make reference to one of our favorite scholarly articles on Grettir’s Saga, Kathryn Hume’s “The Thematic Design of Grettis Saga” from The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 73.4 (1974): 469-86.  It’s quite fascinating and worth a read.  Free to everyone with access to JSTOR.

Episode 16b – Grettir’s Saga (Part 2)

Grettir and Kar the Old

In this episode we follow Grettir through three of his most famous battles against an undead Kar the Old, a giant Norwegian bear, and Iceland’s most famous draugr, Glam.  We also catch Grettir stumbling in a clumsy fight for fire that will eventually seal his fate as an outlaw forever.  This one runs a little longer than the average episode of Saga Thing, but with so much excellent material to cover, we just couldn’t resist.

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

Grettir's Saga

Episode 14b – The Saga of the People of Vatnsdal (Part 2)

Ingolf and the Outlaws

Join us for the second half of the epic tale of the Vatnsdal chieftains and their family over six generations. In this episode, we clumsily attempt to trace the final three generations of this remarkable family.  We’ve crammed a lot into this episode and we barely scratch the surface.

We pick up the story with the seven children of Ingimund Thorsteinsson (led by the bickering brothers Thorstein and Jokul) as they seek revenge against their father’s killer and begin a career as luck-favored witch-killers. Along the way, they encounter a particularly impressive villain named Thorolf Sledgehammer and his clowder of ornery cats.  With the district safe from evil-doers, the saga shifts to the next generation.

This section begins with the sons of Thorstein Ingimundarson, Ingolf and some other guy.  Ingolf Thorsteinsson is the important one.  He’s the handsome Don Juan of Iceland who melts hearts and enrages menfolk across the north of Iceland. Ingolf may be a bit narcissistic, but he backs up his boasts with impressive feats of derring-do (see picture above, and note the rock strapped to his chest).

The final generation is represented by Thorkel Scratcher, who we discussed briefly in Hallfred’s Saga Troublesome-poet.  Despite his humble origins as an illegitimate son abandoned to the elements as an infant, Thorkel Scratcher rises to become one of the great figures of Iceland. But great men often have jealous enemies…

This episode is filled to bursting with berserkers, half-giants, demonic pumas, missionaries, witches, outlaws, legendary swords, legendary lovers, and the occasional bloodbath. How does one man with twenty enormous black cats keep the litterbox clean? What are the three tests of a chieftain hero? Can one man singlehandedly take out eighteen bandits if he has big enough stones? Is there room for two berserkers in a single family? And can a Norwegian companion ever survive a saga battle?

Listen in and find out!

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In honor of the many Norwegian companions who have fallen in the name of saga violence, we’ve created a special shirt in our Saga Thing store.  Get one for your own Norwegian companion.

  Norwegian Companion ~ 317    ~ 2206

And grab a coffee mug for yourself while you’re at it.  All that and more, available here: Saga Thing store.

Episode 13b – The Saga of Viglund the Fair (Judgments)

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After a brief discussion of betrothal customs in medieval Iceland, John and Andy put Viglund’s Saga on trial.  Will Viglund’s axe juggling skills win him an award? Or will he be upstaged by his own horse? Who will be outlawed?  Who will earn a spot as thingman?  And how does Viglund’s Saga compare to the other Warrior Poet sagas we’ve covered?  What value does it have as a saga?  So much to think about, so much to learn.  Stop wondering and download the Judgments episode now.

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Episode 13a – The Saga of Viglund the Fair

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The story of Viglund the Fair and his lady Ketilrid is a saga for lovers.  This fifteenth century tale, the last of our warrior poet’s sagas, covers several generations.  Each generation features a case of true love coming up against the secular tradition of arranged marriage.  Can Viglund and Ketilrid overcome the obstacles set in their way and join at last in wedded bliss?  It never worked out for the other warrior poets, so why would this one be any different?  Listen to find out, if you dare!  This is a remarkable, if somewhat late, work of saga literature.  While the passage of time has clearly affected the style and structuring of the warrior poet genre, in some ways this is the warrior poet saga you’ve been waiting for.  Join us as we examine the romance of Viglund and Ketilrid on this episode of Saga Thing.
Read along with your own copy of The Sagas of Warrior Poets.

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Episode 12b – The Saga of Bjorn Champion of the Hitardal People (Judgments)

Lumpfish Poem

In the second part of Saga Thing’s look at The Saga of Bjorn Champion of the Hitardal People, John and Andy discuss the merits of the text, argue over the size and ferocity of the dragon, investigate Thord’s ill-fated encounter with a stranded seal, and share some interesting tidbits from Icelandic law codes about pornographic sculptures and naughty poetry.  We also outlaw a rather deserving villain, choose our thingmen, and offer our thoughts on the saga’s overall quality.  It’s a full episode with a nice balance of humor, scholarship, and speculation.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Icelandic legal definitions of níð and ýki as they relate to Bjorn’s Saga, follow this link to Alison Finlay’s excellent article on the subject: Monstrous Allegations: An Exchange of ýki in Bjarnar saga Hítdælakappa.  

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Episode 10a – The Saga of Hallfred Troublesome-Poet

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In this episode, we continue our journey through the Sagas of Warrior-Poets in The Saga of Hallfred Troublesome-Poet. Though you’ve never heard of him, this court poet for 3 of Scandinavia’s greatest rulers is actually quite famous. As his nickname suggests, Hallfred’s poetry often lands him in hot water. He’s a suave lover, a witty poet, and a capable warrior. We’ll sample some of the poetry that made him famous, examine his difficult conversion to Christianity, and cheer as he gouges out the eyes of his enemies. There’s plenty of action and adventure here, with a fair amount of hot lovin’ too. But it’s Hallfred’s relationship with King Olaf Tryggvason that really makes this one special. We hope you enjoy.

Listen Now:

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