Episode 29o – Egil’s Saga (Part 15)

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In this episode, we finally put Egil Skallagrimsson to rest. But before he goes, Egil still has a few tricks up his gold-embroidered sleeve. He’s got plans for those two chests of silver given to him by King Athelstan of England. Then, after shuffling off this mortal coil, Egil’s bones leave a lasting legacy that has people of the 12th century and modern archaeologists, physicians, and medievalists talking. We discuss those bones and the now popular theory that Egil may have suffered from Paget’s Disease of the Bone. John the possibility of Egil’s impairment from a disability studies perspective and even makes a noteworthy addition to the theory. Andy remains skeptical of a diagnosis based on a 13th century literary character and the reported assumptions of 12th century Icelanders after finding some bones they thought a bit odd looking. Finally, in true saga fashion, we take a brief look at Egil’s descendants. They’re a worthy bunch who leave their mark on medieval Iceland’s history.

If you’re interested in reading more about Egil and Paget’s Disease, we recommend the following open access articles:

“Egil’s Bones” by Jesse Byock

“Egill Skallagrímsson: The first case of Van Buchem disease?” by P Stride

Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Review Music “Pepper Pot One Step” by National Promenade Band

Poetry Music – “Valravn” by Danheim

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 29n – Egil’s Saga (Part 14)

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In this episode of Saga Thing, John and Andy celebrate the penultimate summary episode…again. Things got out of hand when Andy took over preparations and he made a whole episode out of the story of Egil’s son, Thorstein. Never fear, it’s a great episode all the same. This one will feel more like a family saga than what we’ve had so far in Egil’s Saga. We’ve got property disputes, arguments over who can graze their cattle where, slaves doing bad things in the name of their master, bloodshed, lawsuits, and regional politics. All the things you’ve been missing since we started Egil’s adventures in Norway. We promise you won’t be disappointed with this one.

And, we’ve got a special announcement. Come see Saga Thing Live at the Scandinavian Cultural Center in West Newton, MA on Friday, January 31st at 7pm. John and Andy are uniting live and in person to revisit the subject of The Vikings in the New World. It’s free! Register now:

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Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Review Music “Who’s Sorry Now?” by Memphis Five

Preview Music –  “Gungnir” by Danheim

Poetry Music – “Floki’s Last Journey” by Danheim

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 29m – Egil’s Saga (Part 13)

Relief of Egil and Bodvar by Ann Marie Carl-Nielsen near Skallagrim’s burial mound in Borg
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In this episode, we turn from Egil’s exciting adventures abroad to more serious matters back home. After the tragic deaths of his sons Bodvar and Gunnar, Egil descends into a pit of despair. Cutting himself off from society and family, Egil locks himself in his room to await death. After a clever trick by his daughter foils his plans to end it all, Egil finds solace in poetry once again. In an effort to eulogize his sons and come to terms with his grief, Egil composes what might be his very best and most famous poem, the Sonatorrek (Loss of Sons).

With the mead of poetry once again flowing, Egil composes a praise poem to his best friend Arinbjorn. The Arinbjarnarkviða may not be as powerful as the Sonatorrek, but it’s a great poem in its own right. As you’d expect, we spend most of our time discussing these two incredible poems.

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Skallagrim’s burial mound in Borg

If you’d like to hear the Sonatorrek sung, Wardruna has recorded the lament. It’s worth listening to, especially if you read along with the Old Norse original and a good translation.

For those of you who want to go deep with the Arinbjarnarkviða, you can access the Old Norse version here. I also recommend you consult Þorgeir Sigurðsson’s recent dissertation, The Unreadable Poem of Arinbjorn: Preservation, Meter, and a Restored Text. It’s an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the poem.

Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Summary Music “The Vamp” by the Rega Dance Orchestra

Preview – “Fornheim” by Danheim

Poetry Music – “Valravn” by Danheim

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 29l – Egil’s Saga (Part 12)

Put down the curds and loosen your belt. There’s fancier fair on the menu today, friends. This episode provides a hearty feast of adventure and in-your-face surprises as Egil accepts an impossible mission to collect some long overdue tribute from Earl Arnvid in Varmland. After the king’s men abandon him in hostile territory, Egil is forced to make his own way through the harshest of winter conditions toward the court of Earl Arnvid. Along the way, he’ll make a few new friends and plenty of new enemies. Egil will also expose the dangers of playing with runes and make a little magic of his own.

At the end of the episode, we dip into the Rune Sack to share a few observations and insights from our devoted listeners.

Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Summary Music “The Great One Step” by The Victor Dance Orchestra

Preview – “Jotunheim” by Danheim

Poetry Music – “Fornheim” by Danheim

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 29j – Egil’s Saga (Part 10)

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 In this episode, we welcome Hákon Aðalsteinsfóstri Haraldsson (aka King Haakon the Good) to the throne of Norway. And with the deposed Eirik trying to find a new life for himself in Northumbria, you’d think there wouldn’t be time to mess around with ol’ Egil Skallagrimsson anymore. But Gunnhild holds a grudge. Cursing Egil to a restless life until he crosses paths with her once more, Gunnhild makes sure that she’ll get the chance to avenge her son’s death. Of course, she’ll have to accomplish this vengeance through her husband, Eirik, and things don’t always go as planned when Gunnhild puts Egil’s head in Eirik’s hands. Find out what happens when Egil meets Eirik and Gunnhild in York.

You can read Egil’s “head ransom” poem here in the original. Pick up a copy of Egil’s Saga in translation here and read along with us.

You’ve probably noticed that our latest episodes have been lacking the brilliant illustrations of our pal Matt Smith. That’s because Matt’s a success. He’s got plenty of paid work to do with real deadlines. We’re excited to see all the stuff he’s been working on and look forward to his eventual return to Saga Thing illustration. In the meantime, we’d love to see more illustrations of the saga scenes and characters we encounter here at Saga Thing. If you feel inspired to illustrate something you’ve heard on the podcast, please send it to us through social media or our email address. Use the hashtag #SagaThingArt when posting on social media. If we get enough, I’ll put together a special gallery on our website organized by saga. Any scene or character from any saga we’ve covered is fair game.

Finally, for those of you looking for a deeper dive into what we’re talking about, check out our updated bibliography page here.

Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Summary Music “Rainy Day Blues” by Joseph C. Smith Orchestra

Preview Music – “Floki’s Last Journey” by Danheim

Poetry Music“Fornheim” by Danheim

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 29h – Egil’s Saga (Part 8)

In this episode, Egil and Thorolf arrive in King Athelstan’s England. The good news – Athelstan really likes the Skallagrimssons. The bad news – Anglo-Saxon England is about to go to war with King Olaf and his massive army of Scots, Danes, Irish-Norwegians, and Welsh. We’ll get a front row seat as Egil and Thorolf command Athelstan’s Viking troops in the Battle of Wen Heath! If you’re not familiar with the Battle of Wen Heath, then perhaps you know this incredibly significant engagement as the Battle of Brunanburh! That’s right, Egil and Thorolf will both play a significant role in the battle that would seal England’s fate. Are both Egil and Thorolf battle-savvy enough to survive the onslaught of King Olaf’s forces? There’s only one way to find out.

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Along the way, we talk about the major figures of the Battle of Brunanburh and the saga author’s fictionalized stand-ins. You’ll hear all about King Olaf Guthfrithsson of Dublin, King Constantine II of Scotland, King Owain of Strathclyde, the earls of Northumbria, Godric and the swift-footed Alfgeir, and the earls of Britain, Hring and Adils. We also touch on the origins of Alfred the Great’s famous epithet and the life of his dynamic daughter, Æthelflæd (see the picture from Matthew Paris’ Additamentorum episode below). Click here for an excellent biography of Æthelflæd by the boys at Rex Factor.

Finally, we announce the identity of the very special guests we invited to join us for a Saga Brief on the Battle of Brunanburh. That’s right, we’ve got a special episode coming for you soon with some guests we think you’ll all love.

And thanks to Danheim, a Nordic folk/Viking inspired music project, for letting us use his music. Check the credits below for links to the songs. If you’re interested in hearing more from Danheim, visit his webpage or Youtube channel.

Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Summary Music “Wild Cherry Rag” by The Victor Orchestra

Preview Music – “Hringrás” by Danheim

Poetry Music – Poem 1 from “Vanheimr” and Poem 2 from “Hringrás” by Danheim

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 29g – Egil’s Saga (Part 7)

In this episode, Egil and Thorolf go a-Viking across the Baltic Sea and then up the coast of Sweden. Along the way, Egil falls into a trap set by some clever Curonians, Thorolf makes friends with yet another nobleman, and Queen Gunnhild hatches a plot to kill the sons of Skallagrim. We also discuss torture in the sagas, Viking ethics, time fudging in saga narratives, and the character of the Branno Islands across multiple sagas. We don’t cover a lot of chapters in this one (get used to it), but we have a lot of fun.

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Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Summary Music “Don’t Be That Way” by the Chick Webb Orchestra

Preview Music – “Intended Force” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Poetry Music – Edited selection from “Skjolborg” by Danheim

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 29f – Egil’s Saga (Part 6)

In this episode, Egil arrives in Norway. While his brother Thorolf kisses up to Norwegian royalty and works his way into the families of Norway’s most powerful influencers, Egil will travel to Atloy Island to help Olvir the Farmhand with a bit of rent collecting. When Atloy Bard, their gracious host tells them that there’s no ale or meat to be spared, they happily make due with curds and whey. But something feels off. Atloy Bard is on edge and he keeps going in and out all night. Egil soon learns that Atloy Bard is also hosting King Eirik Bloodaxe and Queen Gunnhild in the main hall. And there’s plenty of ale and fine food for everyone. Find out how Egil responds to his inhospitable host in this very special episode of Saga Thing.

We also talk about the culture and expectations of gift exchange in medieval Scandinavia, structural patterns in Egil’s Saga, the quality of Egil’s poetry, and the pronunciation of Egil’s name. There’s something here for everyone!

Thanks, as always, to Matt Smith for another brilliant illustration from Egil’s Saga. We think he captured the mood of Atloy-Bard’s party quite nicely. If you’d like to know more about Matt and his work, visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

And thanks to Danheim, a Nordic folk/Viking inspired music project, for letting us use his music. Check the credits below for links to the songs. If you’re interested in hearing more from Danheim, visit his webpage or Youtube channel.

Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Summary Music “Some Smoke” by National Promenade Band

Preview Music – “Ginnung” by Danheim

Poetry Music“Berserkir” by Danheim

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 29e – Egil’s Saga (Part 5)

In this episode, we follow Thorolf Skallagrimsson to Norway with his newfound friend, Bjorn Brynjolfsson. While visiting Bjorn’s father-in-law, Thorir the Hersir, they encounter a young Eirik Bloodaxe, heir to the throne of an aging King Harald Fairhair. Eirik and Thorolf soon become close friends and history appears poised to repeat itself. But there’s something different about the future King Eirik. He’s willing to befriend Thorolf against his father’s better judgment. And he even offers his father’s former foe, Skallagrim Kveldulfsson, a fine axe as a gesture of friendship. Perhaps things will turn out different this time? Along the way, we’ll also encounter an old Saga Thing favorite, Queen Gunnhild Mother of Kings. Stay tuned to the end of the episode for a refresher on Gunnhild’s greatest hits from previous episodes of Saga Thing.

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We don’t cover a lot of chapters in this one, but we make up for it in discussion. You’ll hear our first impressions of Egil, discussion of the parallel structuring of Egil’s Saga, a listener theory about the three seashells Egil received from his grandfather, and several interpretations of King’s Gift, the axe King Eirik sends to Skallagrim. Here are the promised images of the Mammen axe head:

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Mammen Axe Head (tree motif)
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Mammen Axe Head (animal figure)

Thanks, as always, to Matt Smith for the great Egil’s Saga character portraits. If you’d like to know more about Matt and his work, visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

And thanks to Danheim, a Nordic folk/Viking inspired music project, for letting us use his music. Check the credits below for links to the songs. If you’re interested in hearing more from Danheim, visit his webpage or Youtube channel.

Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Summary Music “The Vamp” by the Rega Dance Orchestra

Preview Music – “Gungnir” by Danheim

Poetry Music“Ulfhednar” by Danheim

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 29d – Egil’s Saga (Part 4)

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We finally made it! The fourth episode of Egil’s Saga actually takes place in Iceland (for the most part)! After burying his father, Skallagrim quickly establishes himself in Borgarfjorð, distributing land to all and sundry. We also get to meet his sons, Thorolf and Egil. That’s right, Egil is on the scene. And young Egil makes quite a splash, providing us with some impressive poetry and a few killings to keep us entertained. This episode may not be packed with the same kind of adventure and action you’ve gotten used to in the past few chapters, but it’s got plenty to offer all the same, including an abduction and secret marriage, the boyish hi-jinks of Egil, a family feud, and some disturbing deaths as Egil and Skallagrim go tit-for-tat to annoy each other. Enjoy!

And since I visited Borgarfjorð and young Egil’s stomping grounds this past August, I thought I’d share a few pictures of the monument to the slave, Thorgerd Brak, killed by Skallagrim in his feud with Egil.

A special thanks to Danheim, a Nordic folk/Viking inspired music project, for letting us use his music in this and future episodes. Check the credits below for links to the songs. If you’re interested in hearing more from Danheim, visit his webpage or Youtube channel.

As always, thanks to Matt Smith, our Saga Thing illustrator for providing us with yet another series of original portraits from Egil’s Saga.

And a very very special thanks to Sebastian Anderson (Andy’s son), for providing the voice of young Egil.

Music Credits:

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Summary Music “The Royal Vagabond Medley” by Jockers Dance Orchestra

Preview Music – “Gripir” by Danheim, from the album Mannveigr

Poetry Music“Hefja Blot” by Danheim, from the album Fridr

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/