After a very close inspection and lengthy investigation, we are finally ready to put Laxdaela Saga on trial. As it’s been over a year since we started, John and I take our time reviewing the candidates for our usual Saga Thing categories:
Our thanks to all of you out there who have listened, commented, and engaged with us as we worked our way through this massive and entertaining saga. We’re especially grateful to all of you who’ve been interacting over on our Official Unofficial Saga Thing Discord page. If you’re not involved over there, at least sign up and lurk. It’s pretty interesting stuff.
A very special thanks to Jacob for sticking with us through a whole year of illustrating for Saga Thing. It was a monumental effort and a pleasure to see his art evolve across the saga. Many thanks, Jacob! Check out more of his work on Instagram where he’s @skarphedin_illustrator.
We began our journey through Laxdaela Saga in April of 2022. A year and many many episodes later, we finally come to the end. Please join us as we discuss the final few chapters of the saga. It may be a little difficult to find the narrative thread if you’re expecting to follow Bolli or Gudrun through these last pages of the text. They’re certainly there, but the saga’s ending is designed to wrap up the story of Gudrun’s husbands and to look forward toward the genealogical connections to future generations.
Of course, Bolli and Gudrun get their moments in this conclusion, including Gudrun’s brief but riddling confession of who she loved most.
We wrap it all up with a lengthy summons of Gudrun and a detailed discussion of her character, something we’ve been waiting for a long time to do. I argued that we should devote a whole episode to Gudrun, but John reminded me that we’ve spent half a year commenting on her. Think of our summons as an invitation for further discussion, which you can do on our various social media platforms:
In this episode, Guðrún Ósvífsdóttir teaches Helgi Harðbeinsson all about loopholes in betrothal oaths. And if Helgi was feeling bad after getting let down by Guðrún, he feels that much worse when he sees his fylgja walking the opposite direction as he approaches the Althing. This episode also features a mysterious talking black cloak, Guðrún’s fourth wedding, and more machinations by Snorri goði.
We top it all off with a quick Saga Brief on the history of the famous sword known as Skofnung and an argument about how saga authors came up with the idiosyncratic rules for wielding Skofnung successfully.
While 12 years may have passed since the slaying of Bolli, not a day passed that Gudrun wasn’t thinking of getting her revenge on the Olafssons and their companions. Now that her two sons, Thorleik and Bolli, are old enough to avenge their father, Gudrun arranges a secret meeting with Snorri godi to lay out a cunning plan. Unfortunately for Gudrun, Snorri doesn’t share her enthusiasm for attacking the Olafssons, or most of the other Bolli-slayers for that matter. There is one man, however, whose death could satisfy the demands of Gudrun’s revenge and the honor of young Thorleik and Bolli.
In this episode, we trace the evolution and flawless execution of Snorri and Gudrun’s cunning plan, witness the oaths sworn at Gudrun’s fourth betrothal, meet a strange man calling himself Killer-Hrapp, and discuss his apparent reference to Reynard in most English translations of Laxdaela Saga.
In this episode, Bolli finds out what happens when you kill your foster brother. We discuss Thorgerd Egilsdottir’s lust for vengeance, how the avengers assemble, and Gudrun’s handling of yet another loss. This episode also features some special guest appearances by some familiar faces from Saga Thing past and the first appearance of Bolli Bollason.
When all is finished, we summons Bolli before the court and review the evidence to assess his character. Step into the conversation on our social media:
In this thrilling episode, Kjartan asserts his presence in the district (and gets a taste of revenge) by humiliating Bolli, Gudrun, and the Osvifssons. I’d love to tell you more in this teaser about how he goes about that, but I don’t want to spoil the fun. And even as Kjartan pushes back against his rivals at Laugar, Gudrun pushes back harder. All of this sets up one of the saga’s most exciting and moving climaxes as Bolli and Kjartan finally come to blows.
Because this is the saga’s first major climax, we take our time setting it up. And when it’s all finished, there’s a special summons at the end where we consider the good and bad of Kjartan’s character. Find us on social media and let us know how you feel about Kjartan (sagathingpod on Twitter, sagathingpodcast on Instagram/Facebook, or on our unofficial official Discord page).
Jacob Foust (aka @skarphedin_illustrator) composed the above illustration of Bolli and Kjartan sharing a quiet moment. It’s quite touching, especially when you know the story. If you don’t know the story, then listen to the episode. What are you waiting for?
It’s time to dive back into Laxdaela Saga! This time we’re going to wander away from Olaf Peacock and his family for just a little while. Why? Because it’s time to introduce Guðrún Ósvífsdóttir, one of the central figures of the saga! In this episode, we discuss Guðrún’s dreams, her troubled marriage, and some interesting scholarship on gender identity in the saga age.
While Andy’s away, John will play…a recording of his interview with Svanhildur Óskarsdóttirof the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies in Reykjavik. Join us for a discussion of Árni Magnússon’s status as the savior of saga literature and the work of the Institute still carrying on in his name. How important is Árni to Iceland? Well, we found this picture of him:
If that’s not enough, learn how a fire in Copenhagen nearly wiped out the sagas, how vellum pages “wander” from one library to another, who upset a sixteenth-century reader so much that they wrote “damn him!” in a manuscript’s margin, and why missing white gloves causes call-in complaints to Icelandic television.
Our thanks to Svanhildur for her time, expertise, and good humor. Enjoy the conversation, and we’ll be back to Laxdæla saga as soon as John can convince Andy to come home…
Check out the Árni Magnússon Institute’s website here.
In this episode, Olaf Peacock takes center stage as Hoskuld’s life comes to a peaceful close. But don’t think Hoskuld shuffles off this mortal coil before getting one last jab in at his estranged brother Hrut. This episode features an impressive parade, a somewhat lackluster haunting, a trip to Norway, and funeral and wedding feasts. If that’s not enough for you, then you’ll want to stay tuned to hear how Egil Skallagrimsson’s daughter handles a disagreement with her husband.
Thanks again to Jacob Foust (aka @skarphedin_illustrator) for providing us with an original illustration of Olaf’s encounter with Hrapp. You can find more of his work here on Instagram.
In this episode, little Olaf Peacock travels to Norway and then to Ireland on a journey to meet his grandfather Myrkjartan. But how will he pay for it? Traveling overseas in the 10th century isn’t cheap (it still isn’t). How will King Myrkjartan and the Irish welcome the Icelandic son of the long lost Melkorka? And what familiar figure from Saga Thing past pops in for a visit and a quick marriage arrangement? There’s only one way to find out!
We also discuss the presumed burial mounds of Thord Goddi and Skallagrim Kveldulfsson. We explore John’s fascination with the Campbell’s monomyth and similarities between Olaf Peacock and Anakin Skywalker (yes, you read that correctly). For the runesack, we address a funny little stick with strange scratches on it that leads us into yet another conversation about Celtic influences on medieval Icelandic culture and a chat about the origins of our names. There’s a lot going on here!
As promised, here’s a pictures of Andy’s great-grandfather, Andrew Kormos:
And a picture of John’s namesakes:
As always, thank you to Jacob Foust (aka @skarphedin_illustrator) for another original illustration. You can find more of his work here on Instagram.
And finally, some promised bibliography, including works we referenced and some that were used while prepping the episode:
Clover, Carol J. The Medieval Saga. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987.