Ever wonder what happens when trolls, giants, and ogres get together for a party? Be our guest in this fun episode as we follow Bard’s son Gest to a Yule feast hosted by a troll-woman and then to a wedding bash in the cave hall of Kolbjorn the ogre. Learn all about fun party games like “skin-throwing” and “joint-toss.” And if that’s not enough for you, we’ve also got missing sheep, a damsel in distress, a heroic dog, and a battle for the ages! All that and more in one episode of your favorite podcast about medieval Icelandic literature, Saga Thing!
Thanks again to Bryan Foust for his exciting illustrations for this saga. You can see more of his work on his Instragram page, where he is @skarphedin_illustrator. Click on the link and follow him!
Before we get back to the sagas of the Icelanders, we’re pausing once again to provide you with some of the more interesting history and stories behind the History Channel’s Vikings.
We’ve got two lengthy Saga Briefs for you chock full of Vikings goodness ripped straight from the medieval sources that inform the show. We’ve already covered The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok, his death poem, Rollo and the Vikings in Paris, and the mythology surrounding the blood-eagle.
This time around we’ve got our eyes on the Ragnarssons. As you’ll learn, there are a lot of them. So many, in fact, that we don’t even get to your favorites in this episode. That’s right, you’ll have to wait until next time to hear all about Ivar the Boneless, Ubbe, Bjorn, and Hvitserk. But never fear, there’s plenty here to keep you entertained. Learn all about the origins of Sigurd’s Snake-in-the-Eye. Discover the daring deed of Rognvald Ragnarsson. Ooh and aah over Ulvi’s brief moment in the sun. Hear all about Hastein Ragnarsson, one of Ragnar’s greatest and most trusted sons. And then there’s Eirik and Agnar, Fridleif, Radbard, Dunwat, and even a few daughters to consider. There’s also a good bit in here about Lagertha.
It’s time to put The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong on trial. Join us as we review the saga’s more violent moments, count up the dead, and shed some light on a few nicknames. Who will be outlawed? Who will be chosen as thingman? Will Andy and John agree on the quality of the saga? You’ll learn all this and more in the Final Judgments.
The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong tells the tale of a farmer’s son who overcomes an ignoble birth and rises to become one of Iceland’s greatest men, or so the saga author would have you believe. This obscure and rarely discussed 14th century saga is thought to have been written in response to Vatnsdæla Saga, where Finnbogi comes off rather poorly. In his own saga, Finnbogi proves to be an upright and noble figure who almost always does the right thing. With superhuman strength, he’s capable of dispatching an angry bull with his bare hands, snapping the spine of an angry Norwegian bear, and coming out ahead in a seemingly endless feud with Vatnsdæla Saga’s brutish Jokul Ingimundarsson. Finnbogi’s Saga deserves more attention than it has gotten in the past. And that’s why you come to Saga Thing.
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!
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.
Download this episode (right click and save)
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:
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.
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).