Saga Brief 11 – The Lesser Ragnarssons

Ragnarssons (children)

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.

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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.

We hope you enjoy!

Credits:

Intro – VioDance cover of “If I Had A Heart” by Fever Ray with Hardanger Violin

Closing Music – Logan Kendell’s folk cover of “If I Had A Heart” by Fever Ray. To purchase a copy of the song, visit Logan Kendell’s bandcamp page. Be sure to check out his other music while you’re there. I highly recommend his cover of Cruzados’ “La Flor de Mal.”

Episode 20e – Njal’s Saga (Part 5)

Death of Gunnar and Hallgerd's Shame

This episode of Saga Thing is all about revenge. We conclude the Gunnar section of Njal’s Saga with a look into the aftermath of our hero’s death, the vengeance he demands, and the fate of his brother, Kolskeggi.  If Njal wants to avenge his friend and secure his position in the region, he’ll have to act fast.  Fortunately, he’s got his son, Skarphedin, and Gunnar’s son, Hogni, as willing swords.  Gunnar’s ghost helps get things moving.  While we don’t cover a lot of ground in the saga this time around, we do explore some important issues that inform our reading of the first half of the saga and give us something to look for as we embark on the saga’s dark second half.  We discuss Gunnar’s pride, the ethics of Njal’s behavior, and we finally tackle the “halberd” controversy.  Hallgerð gets her fair share of our attention as well.

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Image taken from the beautiful Njal Tapestry.  Visit http://www.njalurefill.is/ for more information.

Music Credits:

Intro MusicPrelude and Action by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Previous Episode Review “The Mooche” by Duke Ellington

Episode Summary“Enchanted Journey” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Gunnar’s PoemRitual 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 20d – Njal’s Saga (Part 4)

Gunnar's Bow2

Gunnar has been told that he will live to be an old man if he can avoid killing two men from the same bloodline and if he never breaks a settlement.  Achieving this is easier said than done, especially since Gunnar’s personal body count increases every time a challenger appears.  In this episode, Gunnar’s patience will be tested as Morð Valgardsson, Thorgeir Starkaðarson, and Thorgeir Otkelsson plot to finish off their rival once and for all.  But will they have what it takes to bring down Iceland’s champion?  Will Njal be able to rescue his friend once again?  And will Hallgerð forgive Gunnar for the slap, or will she once again seek vengeance?  Find out in part 4 of Njal’s Saga!

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If you’re interested in contributing to our bibliography, please contact us at sagathingpodcast@gmail.com.

If you are interested in writing about women in Njal’s Saga or any other saga for the Medieval Congress at Western Michigan University, submit an abstract and paper proposal form for our panel “The Second Sex: Women and Power in Old Norse-Icelandic Literature.”  Again, please use our email: sagathingpodcast@gmail.com

Njal's Saga

Purchase your own copy of Njal’s Saga

Music Credits
Intro Music
Prelude and Action by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Previous Episode Review
Bert Firman – Hangin’ Around

Episode Summary
Adrian von Ziegler – Ótroðinn

Outro Music
Stormfront by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Episode 19c – The Saga of the People of Reykjadal and Killer-Skuta (Judgments)

Reykjadalur

In this fun-filled episode, John and Andy offer their judgments on The Saga of the People of Reykjadal and Killer-Skuta.  Listen and learn how a leather thong can really improve your spear-throwing distance.  It’s true.  You’ll also learn about the wonders of hearth bread with butter and be introduced to the BCDM, our newest method for calculating a saga’s body count.  It’s an action packed episode with plenty of laughs and some good discussion of history and literature.  Those of you who prefer a steady flow of action and laughs will have to forgive us for our scholarly tangents, but those with a genuine interest in saga literature will get what they came here for.

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For those interested in the ankyle, we recommend the following:

“Throwing the Greek Dory: How Effective is the Attached Ankyle at Increasing the Distance of the Throw”

There are a number of videos featuring the use of the ankyle/amentum.  We’ve selected the following two as the most reasonable illustrations of the tool.

As promised, I’m including the recipe for hearth bread that John mentions in Notable Witticism:

Thorgeir Butter-Ring’s Bread

Ingredients

3 cups whole wheat or rye flour

2 cups white or all-purpose flour

3/4 cup steel-cut or rolled oats

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

2 cups water

Items Needed

Baking Stone

Large Bowl

Wooden Spoon

Oven (I mean, go ahead and hearth-bake the bread if you want to be a stickler for accuracy).

Instructions

Mix together both kinds of flour, the oats, the salt, and the baking soda in a large bowl.

Gradually add water while stirring with a wooden spoon until it is stiff and difficult to stir further. NOTE: do not use an automatic mixer for this step. Seriously, how many 10th century Icelanders do you think had a KitchenAid?

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough (you may want to wet or flour your hands for this step). Stop when dough is malleable and thoroughly integrated.

Form the dough into a round or oval shape on a baking stone and place it in the oven. NOTE: The oven is still cold at this point.

Now set the oven to 375 degree Fahrenheit (190 Celsius), and bake for 55-70 minutes (depending on elevation and oven).

Take the bread out of the oven when it looks, you know, bready (I’m not a cook. Also, it’s unlikely that actual 10th century Icelanders, who cooked their bread in fire ashes or on a hearth-stone, were overly fussy about exact timing. Eyeball it). Let it cool on a rack.

Eat the bread while it’s warm. And of course, Thorgeir Butter-Ring recommends using plenty of butter, but I found cheese, honey, or apple slices works fine too.

 

 

Episode 19b – The Saga of the People of Reykjadal and Killer-Skuta (Part 2)

MyvatnIsland

Come to Mývatn, where the scenery stuns, the flies bite, and swords sting!  In this episode, we welcome Killer-Skúta back to Iceland.  Not bound by the conditions of the settlement established by Áskel, on his deathbead, Skúta is free to wreak vengeance upon those who dishonored his family.  He’ll also have to contend with the various families in the region who don’t take so kindly to his handling of their kin folk.  And that’s the story, more or less.  Killer-Skúta certainly earns his nickname in this one.  Along the way, you’ll also learn the worst way to die in Mývatn.

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Episode 19a – The Saga of the People of Reykjadal and Killer-Skuta (Part 1)

Lake Mývatn, Iceland

In this episode, we travel to the northern districts of Thingey and Eyjafjord where the Askel the goði spends most of his time working out settlements to save the skin of his nephews.  You won’t meet a more saintly Icelander than the wise Askel goði, but you might question his loyalty to Vemund Fjorleifarson.  But, as Vemund’s uncle, poor Askel is caught between a rock and a hard place.  Will his support of Vemund cost Askel the ultimate price in the end, or will he make an honest man of his wayward nephew?  Find out as Saga Thing takes on the first half of The Saga of the People of Reykjadal and Killer-Skuta.

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In the introduction, we mention the excellent blog The Saga-Steads of Iceland.  You can visit Emily Lethbridge’s post on Reykjadal here.

And, lastly, here’s my favorite video featuring midges in Mývatn.  It’s worth watching all the way through.

Episode 18c – The Saga of Finnbogi the Mighty (Judgments)

vikings-s4

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!

Saga Brief 5: The Story of Rollo the Viking

Smiling Rollo

In this episode, we celebrate the life and accomplishments of the historical Rollo.  Known to many as the envious brother of the incomparable Ragnar Loðbrok in the History Channel’s Vikings.  While the historical Rollo may not have been Ragnar’s brother, Vikings gets a lot of things right.  As an exile from his homeland, Rollo earned the nickname “the Walker” by wandering throughout northern Europe raiding and conquering everything in his path.  Among his most significant conquests would come to be known as Normandy, a territory in northern France named for the Northmen led by Rollo in the late 9th or early 10th century.  Fearing further Viking aggression, the French King Charles the Simple turned over the city of Rouen over to Rollo and his men.  This simple act (get it?) provided the French with a buffer against future Viking attacks from the north.  Or so they hoped.  In this case, it worked out nicely.  Rollo and his fellow Vikings quickly rebuilt the territories they had ravaged and assimilated into French culture.  Rollo’s descendants would go on to play a very significant role in European history.  As the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror, Rollo’s blood flows through many veins of later European royalty.
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If you’re interested in learning more about that part of the story, we recommend the following episodes of Rex Factor, our very favorite podcast:

Rex Factor – William the Conqueror

Rex Factor – William Rufus

Looking for more Vikings and Saga Thing cross-over?  We’ve got a few episodes that might interest you:

The Saga of Ragnar Loðbrok and His Sons – where we review the medieval stories behind the Vikings hero.

The Blood Eagle – where we discuss the Viking practice of splitting a man open and its historical veracity.

The Krákumál – a detailed look at the famous death song of Ragnar

And if that’s not enough for you, then it’s time to hit the books.  Here’s our select bibliography for the episode.

Episode 16e – Grettir’s Saga (Judgments)

Flensingthewhale.jpeg

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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