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 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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Saga Brief 3: Krákumál

Krákumál is an autobiographical poem of the legendary Viking hero Ragnar Loðbrók, composed and spoken while Ragnar awaits his death in the snakepit of King Ælla.  We discuss the content and form of the poem, compare it to the Saga of Ragnar Loðbrók and His Sons, and examine the place of the History Channel’s Vikings in the literary tradition of this legendary figure.  There’s also some discussion of kennings, quirks of early modern scholarship, and the evolution of literary fads throughout history.  We also tackle the question “Unicorns: Fact or Fiction?” in a nearly serious manner.Ragnar_Lodbroks_d%C3%B6d_by_Hugo_Hamilto

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Go to vikingnorse.com for more information about Jesse Byock’s Viking Language series, or just click the links below the images to purchase a copy through Amazon.

Viking LanguageViking Norse 2

Viking Language 1 Learn Old Norse, Runes, and Icelandic Sagas (Viking Language Series)

Viking Language 2: The Old Norse Reader (Viking Language Series) (Volume 2)

Click Krakumal Translations to read a .pdf of the verses covered in this episode.

If you’d like to have your very own copy of Krákumál, pick up a copy of Ben Waggoner’s The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok

And to prove the poem’s lasting popularity, check out this performance of Peder Syv’s (1631-1702) adaptation of the 12th century Krákumál from Velbastað on the Faroe Islands in 1959 (at least that’s what the tag on the YouTube video says).  Now that’s an impressive journey through the ages.