For our second episode of Saga Shorts, we’ve chosen the brilliant “Tale of Thorstein Bull’s-leg” (Þorsteins Þáttr uxafóts). As one of the longer þættir, this one defies categorization. It tells the story of Thorstein Oddnyarson, a child abandoned at birth who grows up to be a hero in the court of King Olaf Tryggvason. Along the way, he’ll find his parents, do battle with the undead, raid the home of a troll family, experience a miracle, almost drown in vomit, and fight a pagan bull. It’s got everything you could want in a saga and more, all wrapped in a nice little Þáttr sized package. Download this episode (right click and save)
For this episode, we used George Clark’s translation, “The Tale of Thorstein Bull’s-Leg,” in The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, Vol. 4, ed. Vidar Hrinsson (Reykjavik: Leifur Eiriksson Publishing, 1997), 340-54.
We mention Elizabeth Ashman Rowe’s “Þorsteins þáttr uxafóts, Helga þáttr Þórissonar, and the Conversion þættir,” Scandinavian Studies 76, no. 4 (2004): 459-74.
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!