Saga Brief 24 – The Northman Interview with Robert Eggers and Sjón

In this episode, John and Andy sit down with Robert Eggers and Sjón to chat about the stories behind their recently released saga-inspired film The Northman. That’s right, we’re talking to the director and co-writers of the biggest Viking film to be released since Kirk Douglas was a star! Stick around for the last 20-30 minutes where the four of us work together to put The Northman on trial Saga Thing style.

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Warning: This conversation is full of spoilers from the very beginning. If you haven’t seen the film yet, you’ll want to run out and see it before listening. If you’re on the fence about seeing it, then give the episode a listen. Either way, we hope this interview will help you to better appreciate something of the process of creating a large-scale Viking epic for the 21st century and the unparalleled effort to accurately and respectfully adapt Viking Age culture and saga literature for the big screen. The attention to detail in The Northman reflects a great deal of careful research, time, and a genuine love for the rich literary tradition of the Icelandic sagas and Old Norse mythology.

Our thanks to Robert and Sjón for the generous gift of their time and good humor on the Monday morning after the film’s release. And a special thank you to Garrett for helping to set it all up.

Music Credits

Opening song – Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur

Outro – Ólafur Liljurós

Saga Brief 22: Drinking in the Viking Age and the Sagas of Icelanders (Part I: What Were They Drinking?)

In this long overdue Saga Brief, we discuss drinking in the Viking Age and the Sagas of Icelanders. This first part looks at what they were drinking and how it was perceived culturally. In the second part, coming soon, we’ll look into the culture of drinking as we explore where and how they drank.

Here is a short bibliography of the texts and studies referred to, either directly or indirectly, in this episode:

Etting, Vivian. The Story of the Drinking Horn: Drinking Culture in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages. Publications of the National Museum of Denmark v.21, 2013.

Dineley, Graham, and Merryn Dineley. “Where Were the Viking Brew Houses?” EXARC 2013/2 (2013). https://exarc.net/ark:/88735/10117

Hallgerður Gisladottir, ‘The Use of Whey in Icelandic Households’, in Milk and Milk Products from Medieval to Modern Times: Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Ethnological Food Research, Ireland. J992, ed. Patricia Lysaght (Canongate Academic, 1994), pp. 123-29.

Mark, Joshua J. “Norse Alcohol and the Mead of Poetry.” World History Encyclopedia. Published January 7, 2019. https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1307/norse-alcohol–the-mead-of-poetry/ .

Riseley, Charles. Ceremonial Drinking in the Viking Age. MA Thesis. University of Oslo, 2014.

Rodriguez, Jesús Fernando Guerrero. Old Norse Drinking Culture. PhD Dissertation. University of York, 2007.

Rood, Joshua. Drinking with Óðinn: Alcohol and Religion in Heathen Scandinavia. Háskoli Íslands, 2014.

Vuorisalo, Timo, et al. “High Lactose Tolerance in North Europeans: A Result of Migration, not In Situ Milk Consumption.” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 55:2 (2012), 163-174.

Winroth, Anders. The Age of the Vikings. Princeton UP, 2016.

Music Credits

Opening song – Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur

Poetry music – Midnight Tale by Kevin MacLeod
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Outro – Ólafur Liljurós

Saga Brief 21 – Interpreting the Past (Part 1) – Modern Perceptions of the Viking Age with Verena Höfig and Zachary Melton

Welcome to the first in a series of special Saga Briefs on Interpreting the Past, a series that looks at modern interpretations and perceptions of the medieval. In this episode, John and Andy welcome two scholars, Dr. Verena Höfig (Assistant Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) and Zachary Melton (Ph.D. student at the University of Iceland).

We cover a range of topics, including the appeal of Viking Age culture and mythology to modern religious and political movements; the role of literature, history, and social media in the construction of individual and group identities; and the challenges that we face, both as scholars and as citizens of this world, coming to terms with the many differences of interpretation that divide us. 

As that list suggests, this isn’t the usual light stroll through the sagas. This episode is short on jokes and heavy on substantive discussion of important issues. Whether you’re an expert or an enthusiast, this one’s worth your time. We hope you enjoy and we look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Here is a bibliography of the texts and studies referred to, either directly or indirectly, in this episode:

American Heathens: The Politics of Identity in a Pagan Religious Movement by Jennifer Snook

“Ethnicity as Cognition” by Rogers Brubaker, Mara Loveman, and Peter Stamatov

Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism by Mattias Gardell

Huginn’s Heathen Hof and Declaration 127

Karl Seigfried on Ásatrú, Anti-Racism, and Rescuing the Past – quote taken from “What To Do When Racists Try To Hijack Your Religion” in The Atlantic

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild

“William Cullen Bryant’s American Antiquities: Medievalism, Miscegenation and Race in The Prairies” by Andrew Galloway

Music Credits

Opening song – Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur

Outro – Ólafur Liljurós

Saga Short 7 – The Tale of the Volsi

Warning: This episode may not be suitable for young children

It’s winter in Norway, a time when most people huddle together with family and friends to share warmth, tell stories, and await the coming of spring. But the Christian king Olaf the Stout has heard word about strange goings-on at a farm in the north, where the lady of the house has found a new way to pass the time—she’s starting her own religious cult. So the king and his friends must travel through the winter weather in disguise to learn just what this household is worshiping in the woods—and what they find is something altogether more ridiculous than they could have imagined.

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This one’s unlike anything else we’ve read on the podcast so far—it’s got a well-endowed horse, a boy who’s given to shouting dirty poetry, an open-mike of verse-making at the farmhouse, three men who all choose the same disguise, and a dog who’s hungry for a good time. And what on earth is the farmer’s wife keeping in that long box that smells of leeks and herbs? Enjoy the strange world of Völsa þáttr!

Music Credits:

Intro: From “Death Awaits” by Billy Malmstrom

Outro: From “Óðinn” by Krauka

Northern Myths Podcast Interview with Saga Thing

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We were recently asked to join Luke and Dan from the Northern Myths Podcast for a chat about Saga Thing and our love of medieval Icelandic culture. This interview covers a lot of topics from the origins of the podcast to our favorite scenes in the sagas. We even talk about anthropology, the value of literature, and wax philosophical about human nature. Good times!

Saga Brief 9 – Thor: The Intersection of Viking Mythology and Popular Culture (Live)

Thor

In this Saga Brief, John and Andy visit Seminole State College to talk about Thor in all his incarnations, from the Proto-Germanic god of thunder to the hammer throwing stud of the Marvel Comic Universe.  You can access the PowerPoint slides here: Thor Presentation.

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Special thanks to Michael Mendoza for inviting us and organizing this event. We are also grateful to Aaron Hanlin and the Grindle Honors Insitute at Seminole State College for generously funding our travel. And thank you to the students of Seminole State for your kind attention and enthusiasm.

If you’re interested in having Saga Thing come to your university, contact us at sagathingpodcast@gmail.com.

Thor SlideMusic: 
Intro to Saga Brief – from Icelandic Folk Music: Tröllaslagur