After a full year of summary and discussion, the time has come to put Egil’s Saga on trial. If you don’t remember how judgments work, we totally understand. In this episode we review candidates for the following categories: Best Bloodshed, Nicknames, Notable Witticisms, Outlawry, and Thingmen. We also provide a tally of the saga’s untimely deaths and offer a final rating of the saga. Will your favorite moment of saga violence make the cut? Will John keep his Nicknames section under 20 minutes? Will Egil survive the outlawry section? And does Egil’s Saga have what it takes to join Njal’s Saga as a perfect 20? There’s only one way to find out!
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:
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:
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.
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.
This is our action packed dueling episode! Egil suits up for battle against a pale-skinned Swedish berserker hell bent on destroying the family of Arinbjorn’s sister. Then he tackles Atli the Short, whose magical invulnerability to weapons forces Egil to get creative in battle. And if the duels weren’t enough, Egil and Arinbjorn go on a series of Viking raids in Saxony and Frisia.
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’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.
In this episode, Egil mourns the death of his brother, Thorolf, at least until someone offers him enough money to feel better about the whole thing. Shortly after that, our hero heads home and slips into a love-sick depression. While composing poetry helps him deal with his feelings, he won’t feel better until the wedding bells ring (or is it until the wedding horn blows in this case?). Meanwhile, a new rival arrives to challenge Egil for Asgerd’s Norwegian inheritance. Berg-Onund has married Asgerd’s sister and takes the property that belonged to their father, claiming Asgerd is nothing more than a king’s slave-woman. This insult forces Egil into action, resulting in a number of significant deaths and a sentence of full-outlawry from King Eirik and Queen Gunnhild. Along the way he manages to curse the spirits of Norway. The story is heating up. Come along for the ride!
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.
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.
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.