’Twas the Night Before Christmas – A Visit from Glam

In this special Christmas episode of Saga Thing, John and Andy share a curious discovery from a very old journal. Few people know this, but ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (aka A Visit from St Nicholas) by Clement C. Moore was originally inspired by a famous Viking saga about a grumpy outlaw tangling with a supernatural monster. We discuss this exciting revelation and share the story in an effort to brighten your holiday season. Enjoy!

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (now with sleigh bells)
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4236-prelude-and-action
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Outro Music –  Sleðaferð by Skapti Ólafsson

Episode 33a – The Saga of the Sworn Brothers (chapters 1-7)

Fóstbrœðra saga (or The Saga of the Sworn Brothers) tells the story of two men, Thorgeir Havarsson and Thormod Bersason, who are more concerned with success in this life than glory in the next. Together, they wander the countryside of 11th century Iceland causing trouble, damaging property, and taking what they want. Like Grettir, they soon find that this approach to living is not only outdated, it’s a good way to turn a community against you. But, also like Grettir, Thorgeir and Thormod don’t really care.

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    In this episode, the two young men swear oaths of blood-brotherhood, avenge a fallen father, steal some whale meat and generally unsettle most everyone they encounter. Thorgeir also manages to impress with one of the finest examples of athleticism since Lane Myer skied the K-12. This is a serious contender for best bloodshed when we get to the third Quarter Court. The above picture by Jacob Foust, @skarphedin_illustrator on Instagram, should give you a pretty good idea of what happens.

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    We’ve also got some great listener observations to share with you at the end of the episode. One of them involves an Icelander proving that some of the incredible acts of bravery we see in the sagas aren’t just the stuff of fiction. Here are the articles we mention:

https://www.mbl.is/greinasafn/grein/786224/

An English version of this story can be found here:

https://guidetoiceland.is/connect-with-locals/regina/a-modern-day-viking-the-heroic-deed-of-the-fisherman-gudlaugur-fridthorsson-in-the-westman-islands

Music Credits

Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4236-prelude-and-action
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Time Travel Music – “Phantom from Space” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4210-phantom-from-space
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4421-stormfront
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Episode 24b – Second Quarter Court Results

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The Second Quarter of our Saga Thing comes to a close with the results episode. In this special episode, John and Andy review your choices for Best Bloodshed, Nicknames, Notable Witticisms, Outlawry, Thingmen, and Final Ratings. Will Skarpheðin emerge as the poster boy for Saga Thing’s Best Bloodshed and Notable Witticism categories?  What role might the Russians have played in the Thingmen voting? Does Njal’s Saga maintain its position on the throne of saga literature? Or will another contender leave Njal’s Saga in the dust on the way to the Fifth Court?  Along the way, we answer listener questions on a variety of fun topics.

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References for Grettir and servant girl discussion:

Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir. “‘How Do You Know if it is Love or Lust?’ On Gender, Status, and Violence in Old Norse Literature.” Interfaces 2 (2016): 189-209.

Karras, Ruth Mazo. Sexuality in Medieval Europe: Doing Unto Others. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2017. Grettir’s Saga discussion at 155-56.

Ljungqvist, Fredrik Charpentier. “Rape in the Icelandic Sagas: An Insight in the Perceptions about Sexual Assaults on Women in the Old Norse World.” Journal of Family History 40, no. 4 (2015): 431-47.

Scudder, Bernard. Introduction to The Saga of Grettir the Strong, ix-xxxviii. New York: Penguin Classics, 2005.

Short, William R. “The Role of Women in Viking Society.” Hurstwichttp://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/society/text/women.htm (accessed October 10, 2017).

References for discussion of literacy in medieval Iceland:

Hermann, Pernille. “Literacy.” In The Routledge Research Companion to the Medieval Icelandic Sagas, edited by Ármann Jakobsson, Sverrir Jakobsson, 34-47. New York: Routledge, 2017.

Quinn, Judy. “From Orality to Literacy in Medieval Iceland.” In Old Icelandic Literature and Society, edited by Margaret Clunies Ross, 30-60. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Sigurðsson, Gísli. “Orality and Literacy in the Sagas of Icelanders.” In A Companion to Old-Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture, edited by Rory McTurk, 285-301. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005.

Music Credits:
Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” 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/

The Second Quarter Court

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From 2015-2017 we covered a grand total of 10 sagas.  You listened.  You laughed.  You cried.  And when each saga was finished, you heard John and Andy pass judgment on the characters and their actions.  Now it’s your turn to be heard.

As always, the Quarter Court reviews the winners from the past 10 judgment episodes.  The polls will be open until September 30th.  At that time, John and I will close them down and review the results in the judgment section of the Second Quarter Court.

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Remember to send your questions for that special judgment episode.  You can reach us via email at sagathingpodcast@gmail.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

And now the voting!

Remember, voting closes on September 30th. Get in while you can.

Music Credits:
Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” 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 18c – The Saga of Finnbogi the Mighty (Judgments)

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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.

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Episode 18b – The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong (Part 2)

Viking Violence

Join us for the thrilling conclusion of The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong.  In the first part of this episode, we discuss Finnbogi’s evolving relationship with the Norwegian Earl Haakon, his trip to Constantinople, and his pursuit of Alf’s daughter Ragnhild.  Yes, Finnbogi’s got his eye on the daughter of the man he killed on the way to Haakon’s court.  The second part of this episode takes us back to Iceland, where Finnbogi finds that fame isn’t all its cracked up to be.  With rivals emerging everywhere he goes, Finnbogi is forced to move from district to district in search of peace.  That turns out to be a real challenge after he crosses a powerful lunatic like Jokul Ingimundarson, who you might remember from the second part of our episode on Vatnsdæla saga.  There are many many feuds and fights in this part of the story.  We do our best to cover the ones that really matter.  We hope you enjoy this final part of our summary of The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong.  It was a lot of fun for us, which is why this episode ended up so long.

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Incidentally, since Finnbogi does make his way down to Constantinople and we often find ourselves in Byzantium, our listeners might be interested in The History of Byzantium podcast.  He hasn’t covered Emperor John yet, but he’s getting closer to the period of the Varangian Guard.  We’re looking forward to that.  In the meantime, check out his special episode on the city of Constantinople.  It covers the founding of the city, it’s geographical significance, and the daily life of its people.  Great stuff!

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 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 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 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