Episode 16 – Grettir’s Saga (Part 1)

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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).

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 This handy genealogy will help you keep some of the names straight in your minds
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Pick up a copy of Grettir’s Saga and discover all the stuff we left out!

Grettir's Saga

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)

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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 12a – The Saga of Bjorn Champion of the Hitardal People

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The title is a mouthful, but some might call this saga an underappreciated gem of medieval Iceland.  Like the other warrior poet’s sagas, we’ve got a love triangle.  This time Bjorn, a dashing swashbuckler who sports the impressive title “Champion of the Hitardal People,” loses the girl to his conniving rival, Thord Kolbeinsson.  But this isn’t your average warrior poet saga.  Rather than a series of duels and fights, these men trade verbal barbs in some of the raunchiest poetry saga literature has to offer.  It isn’t all taunts and insulting verses, however.  This saga has some depth and strong characterizations that make it an instant favorite for the men of Saga Thing.

You can read along in your own copy of The Sagas of Warrior-Poets


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Episode 11a – Kormak’s Saga

SteingerdIf you’re a fan of erotic poetry and dueling, then this is the saga for you.  Join us as we follow Kormak as he pursues the lovely-soled object of his affection, Steingerd.  Yes, I said soled and I meant it.  She’s got nice feet and Kormak is just into that sort of thing.  Who are we to judge?  Along the way, you’ll meet the scoundrel Narfi, a witch in a questionable relationship with a walrus, and a surprising visit from a Scottish giant.  Yes, this saga has a bit of everything.  So what are you waiting for.  It’s time for Kormak’s Saga!

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Episode 9a – The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue

Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue is a talented warrior-poet torn between his love for Helga the Fair and his quest for fame and fortune in the courts of Northern Europe.  Helga’s father, Thorstein, gives him 3 years to travel and make a name for himself before his claim on Helga is forfeit.  Things get complicated when a rival for Helga’s hand emerges in Hrafn the Skald, a court poet eager to get the best of Gunnlaug.  Will Gunnlaug win the hand of his fair maiden, or will hearts be broken?  Join us as we discuss one of saga literature’s most successful romances, The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue.  Along the way, you’ll learn about this fascinating sub-genre of the Sagas of the Icelanders, the harsh reality behind exposing newborns to the elements, and why a King of Norway would hide in a pigsty.

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If you like what you hear, pick up a copy of this great volume and enjoy

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Sagas of Warrior-Poets