It’s time to put The Saga of Droplaug’s Sons on trial. We’ve got spears flying through dung beetles and testicles left and right in this episode. If that’s not enough for you, there’s a man running across the heath in nothing but a bed sheet. And don’t even get me started about Helgi D.’s heroics on the battlefield or his brother Grim’s hole digging prowess. But will either brother make it out of our outlawry section and into the ranks of Andy and John’s thingmen? And if you had to guess, is John more of a Grim or a Helgi kind of guy? There’s only one way to find out!
It’s time for the thrilling conclusion to The Saga of Droplaug’s Sons. This episode begins with an ambush as Helgi Asbjarnarson finally catches up with Helgi Droplaugarson. You won’t want to miss this epic battle. It provides some of the more detailed descriptions of battle we’ve encountered on this podcast. If you follow us on Twitter, then you already know something of who gets hit where. Poor, poor, Thord Cormorant. If you listen carefully, you can still hear the shrieking.
And if that’s not enough, we’ve also got Helgi D. doing his best impression of Lurtz, a secret resurrection, and murder most foul. And just because we love you, we’ll throw in some hnefatafl, a timely fart, meditations on the character of Vikings in the sagas, and John reading from the Middle English Geste of Robyn Hode. Follow the link and scroll down to the bottom (lines 1787-1820) so you can follow along. Heck, we’ve even got an appearance by Don Knotts as Mr. Furley from Three’s Company.
Welcome to the first episode of Saga Shorts, a side project of Saga Thing where John and Andy review the þættir of medieval Iceland. In this episode, we provide a brief introduction to þættir and the difficulties one faces when trying to define the genre. If you’re not interested in those technical details, just skip ahead to 10:10, where we begin our review of Þorsteins þáttr stangarhöggs (The Tale of Thorstein Staff-struck). This fun little tale tells the story of an old Viking’s son named Thorstein who gets into some trouble with Bjarni Brodd-Helgisson, the local goði, after killing 3 of his farmhands.
Harris, Joseph. “Genre and Narrative Structure in Some Íslendinga þættir.” Scandinavian Studies 44 (1972): 1-27.
Harris, Joseph. “Þættir.” In Dictionary of the Middle Ages, vol. 12, edited by Joseph R. Strayer, 1-6. New York: Charles Scribner, 1989.
Jakobsson, Ármann. “The Life and Death of the Medieval Icelandic Short Story.” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 112 (2013): 257-91.
Kristjánsson, Jónas. “Íslendinga þættir.” In Eddas and Sagas: Iceland’s Medieval Literature, translated by Peter Foote, 299-309. Reykjavík: Hið íslenska bókmenntafélag, 1997.
Miller, William Ian. “A Case Study of the Sagas as Sources: Þorsteins Þáttr stangarhöggs and the Politics of Accident.” In Bloodtaking and Peacemaking: Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland, 51-76. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990.
Rowe, Elizabeth Ashman. “The Long and the Short of It.” In The Routledge Research Companion to the Medieval Icelandic Sagas, edited by Ármann Jakobsson, Sverrir Jakobsson, 151-63. New York: Routledge, 2017.
Rowe, Elizabeth Ashman and Joseph Harris. “Short Prose Narrative (þáttr).” In A Companion to Old-Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture, edited by Rory McTurk, 462-78. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005.
It’s time to put the Saga of the People of Vopnafjord on trial. Who will go home with the honor of Best Bloodshed? Does this saga have the numbers to overtake the Saga of the Greenlanders in Body Count Density? Who has the best Nickname? Was anyone witty enough to earn the prize? Will Brodd-Helgi make it through Outlawry? And who will be selected to join John and Andy as thingmen?
Along the way, we get into a few digressions (I know, you’re shocked). Among the more interesting digressions is a brief follow up on our Viking spearheads discussion from Njal’s Saga. We delve into the terminology once again and review different types of spearheads as well as their appearances in the sagas, with special emphasis on Egil’s Saga. You can find lots of information out there on Viking spearheads if you look. Most of it isn’t terribly helpful in identifying what each of the original terms actually means. We recommend Hurstwic’s page on the subject as a good primer. They’ve got a great page on Viking spears and a more specific page on the types of spears discussed in this episode.
We also pause to talk about the exciting new exhibit at the Reykjavik City Museum, Viking Animals, which opened this week. The exhibition is based on the research of Lara Hogg, who shares my fascination with the place of animals in early Icelandic life.
Just look at all those cattle skulls. I wonder if Brodd-Helgi helped her prepare this part of the exhibit. If you’re in Iceland any time soon, swing by the Reykjavik City Museum and check it out. If not, then follow the exhibit’s progress on Twitter @VikingAnimals or on the exhibit’s blog.
Next time on Saga Thing, we’ll play with the Tale of Thorstein Staff-Struck in our new side series tentatively titled Saga Shorts. That will be followed soon after by a two-part episode on The Saga of Droplaug’s Sons, which features many of the same characters from the Vopnafjord episode.
The epic journey through Njal’s Saga finally comes to an end. In this episode, we follow Kari Solmundarson on his quest to avenge the deaths of everyone he was forced to leave behind in the burning house. His targets are Flosi and the Burners. With so many against him, the odds aren’t in his favor. But Kari is known throughout Iceland for his unmatched bravery and fearlessness. His pursuit of the burners carries him from Iceland to the British Isles and then on to Rome. Along the way, we’ll take a brief detour to Ireland for a glimpse at the historic Battle of Clontarf. Though this may be the end for our little summer saga, there’s plenty here for everyone to enjoy. In addition to the revenge, the battles, and the blood, you’ll want to keep listening for the world’s strangest mathematics word problem and a brief discussion on Entish naming practices. Enjoy!
In this, the penultimate episode in the Njal’s Saga summary, we follow Flosi and the Burners as they bounce around the region seeking support for the inevitable legal case against them. Meanwhile, a slightly singed, but recovered Kari Salmundarson prepares his own case against the burners. And who better to help him than Thorhall Asgrimsson, the young protégé of Njal himself. Unfortunately, Thorhall’s got a nasty infection in his leg and the case falls to Morð Valgardsson. The threat of violence permeates the proceedings as Morð and Eyjolf trade legal barbs and try to out maneuver one another. Will justice be served as cooler heads prevail? Or will the hallowed site of the Alþing be desecrated with the blood of those too slow to dodge an incoming spear? Find out as Saga Thing takes on Njal’s Saga, chapters 133-145.
This episode is full of interesting scholarly tidbits and legal minutiae. We’ve also got the usual nonsense, like old movie references and bad jokes.
Thanks to George Hook for the picture of the Althing from his trip to Iceland. This image is on the information sign for Snorri’s Booth.
In the second part of our Saga Brief on the conversion of Iceland, we discuss the conversion tactics of King Olaf Tryggvason, the Icelanders’ controversial decision at the Althing of 1000, and the effects of Christianity on Icelandic culture. You might notice that Andy is a bit more subdued than usual in this one. He was sick during recording.
In this episode of Saga Thing, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in Iceland’s history as the fierce Thangbrand arrives on a mission from King Olaf Tryggvason to convert Iceland once and for all. It turns out John and Andy aren’t the only ones who love a good digression. This section of the saga is book-ended by action and violence brought on by the slaying of Thrain Sigfusson, but it’s mostly about Thangbrand’s visit to Iceland and the resulting divide between the growing number of Christians and those who remain loyal to Odin. This episode features its usual share of bloodshed and wit, but we’ve also got some blasphemous poetry for you, a bit of history, a miracle, and an important test for a berserk. There’s something for everyone!
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.