Episode 20e – Njal’s Saga (Part 5)

Death of Gunnar and Hallgerd's Shame

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.

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Image taken from the beautiful Njal Tapestry.  Visit http://www.njalurefill.is/ for more information.

Music Credits:

Intro MusicPrelude and Action by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Previous Episode Review “The Mooche” by Duke Ellington

Episode Summary“Enchanted Journey” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Gunnar’s PoemRitual by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Outro Music – Stormfront by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Episode 20d – Njal’s Saga (Part 4)

Gunnar's Bow2

Gunnar has been told that he will live to be an old man if he can avoid killing two men from the same bloodline and if he never breaks a settlement.  Achieving this is easier said than done, especially since Gunnar’s personal body count increases every time a challenger appears.  In this episode, Gunnar’s patience will be tested as Morð Valgardsson, Thorgeir Starkaðarson, and Thorgeir Otkelsson plot to finish off their rival once and for all.  But will they have what it takes to bring down Iceland’s champion?  Will Njal be able to rescue his friend once again?  And will Hallgerð forgive Gunnar for the slap, or will she once again seek vengeance?  Find out in part 4 of Njal’s Saga!

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If you’re interested in contributing to our bibliography, please contact us at sagathingpodcast@gmail.com.

If you are interested in writing about women in Njal’s Saga or any other saga for the Medieval Congress at Western Michigan University, submit an abstract and paper proposal form for our panel “The Second Sex: Women and Power in Old Norse-Icelandic Literature.”  Again, please use our email: sagathingpodcast@gmail.com

Njal's Saga

Purchase your own copy of Njal’s Saga

Music Credits
Intro Music
Prelude and Action by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Previous Episode Review
Bert Firman – Hangin’ Around

Episode Summary
Adrian von Ziegler – Ótroðinn

Outro Music
Stormfront by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Episode 20c – Njal’s Saga (Part 3)

Gunnar at Ranga

In the third part of Njal’s Saga, we find Gunnar suffering an identity crisis after being pulled into a series of feuds.  As Njal tells him, this is the beginning of Gunnar’s career in killing.  In addition to a lot of fighting, this episode also features a discussion of saga-age masculinity, cheese theft, horse fighting, and famine survival.  Yes, that’s right.  I said cheese theft.  Listen and learn, people.  Listen and learn.
Click here if you’re interested in any of the bibliography we mention. Get in touch with us if you’d like to get involved in the bibliography and resource building for this or any other saga.

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 Njal's Saga
If you’re an academic type who wants to write about women in the sagas for our panel “The Second Sex: Women and Power in Old Norse-Icelandic Literature” at the Medieval Congress at Western Michigan University, submit an abstract and paper proposal form to sagathingpodcast@gmail.com
Music Credits
Intro Music
Previous Episode Review
Episode Summary
Outro Music
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Episode 19c – The Saga of the People of Reykjadal and Killer-Skuta (Judgments)

Reykjadalur

In this fun-filled episode, John and Andy offer their judgments on The Saga of the People of Reykjadal and Killer-Skuta.  Listen and learn how a leather thong can really improve your spear-throwing distance.  It’s true.  You’ll also learn about the wonders of hearth bread with butter and be introduced to the BCDM, our newest method for calculating a saga’s body count.  It’s an action packed episode with plenty of laughs and some good discussion of history and literature.  Those of you who prefer a steady flow of action and laughs will have to forgive us for our scholarly tangents, but those with a genuine interest in saga literature will get what they came here for.

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For those interested in the ankyle, we recommend the following:

“Throwing the Greek Dory: How Effective is the Attached Ankyle at Increasing the Distance of the Throw”

There are a number of videos featuring the use of the ankyle/amentum.  We’ve selected the following two as the most reasonable illustrations of the tool.

As promised, I’m including the recipe for hearth bread that John mentions in Notable Witticism:

Thorgeir Butter-Ring’s Bread

Ingredients

3 cups whole wheat or rye flour

2 cups white or all-purpose flour

3/4 cup steel-cut or rolled oats

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

2 cups water

Items Needed

Baking Stone

Large Bowl

Wooden Spoon

Oven (I mean, go ahead and hearth-bake the bread if you want to be a stickler for accuracy).

Instructions

Mix together both kinds of flour, the oats, the salt, and the baking soda in a large bowl.

Gradually add water while stirring with a wooden spoon until it is stiff and difficult to stir further. NOTE: do not use an automatic mixer for this step. Seriously, how many 10th century Icelanders do you think had a KitchenAid?

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough (you may want to wet or flour your hands for this step). Stop when dough is malleable and thoroughly integrated.

Form the dough into a round or oval shape on a baking stone and place it in the oven. NOTE: The oven is still cold at this point.

Now set the oven to 375 degree Fahrenheit (190 Celsius), and bake for 55-70 minutes (depending on elevation and oven).

Take the bread out of the oven when it looks, you know, bready (I’m not a cook. Also, it’s unlikely that actual 10th century Icelanders, who cooked their bread in fire ashes or on a hearth-stone, were overly fussy about exact timing. Eyeball it). Let it cool on a rack.

Eat the bread while it’s warm. And of course, Thorgeir Butter-Ring recommends using plenty of butter, but I found cheese, honey, or apple slices works fine too.

 

 

Episode 19b – The Saga of the People of Reykjadal and Killer-Skuta (Part 2)

MyvatnIsland

Come to Mývatn, where the scenery stuns, the flies bite, and swords sting!  In this episode, we welcome Killer-Skúta back to Iceland.  Not bound by the conditions of the settlement established by Áskel, on his deathbead, Skúta is free to wreak vengeance upon those who dishonored his family.  He’ll also have to contend with the various families in the region who don’t take so kindly to his handling of their kin folk.  And that’s the story, more or less.  Killer-Skúta certainly earns his nickname in this one.  Along the way, you’ll also learn the worst way to die in Mývatn.

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Episode 19a – The Saga of the People of Reykjadal and Killer-Skuta (Part 1)

Lake Mývatn, Iceland

In this episode, we travel to the northern districts of Thingey and Eyjafjord where the Askel the goði spends most of his time working out settlements to save the skin of his nephews.  You won’t meet a more saintly Icelander than the wise Askel goði, but you might question his loyalty to Vemund Fjorleifarson.  But, as Vemund’s uncle, poor Askel is caught between a rock and a hard place.  Will his support of Vemund cost Askel the ultimate price in the end, or will he make an honest man of his wayward nephew?  Find out as Saga Thing takes on the first half of The Saga of the People of Reykjadal and Killer-Skuta.

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In the introduction, we mention the excellent blog The Saga-Steads of Iceland.  You can visit Emily Lethbridge’s post on Reykjadal here.

And, lastly, here’s my favorite video featuring midges in Mývatn.  It’s worth watching all the way through.

Episode 18b – The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong (Part 2)

Viking Violence

Join us for the thrilling conclusion of The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong.  In the first part of this episode, we discuss Finnbogi’s evolving relationship with the Norwegian Earl Haakon, his trip to Constantinople, and his pursuit of Alf’s daughter Ragnhild.  Yes, Finnbogi’s got his eye on the daughter of the man he killed on the way to Haakon’s court.  The second part of this episode takes us back to Iceland, where Finnbogi finds that fame isn’t all its cracked up to be.  With rivals emerging everywhere he goes, Finnbogi is forced to move from district to district in search of peace.  That turns out to be a real challenge after he crosses a powerful lunatic like Jokul Ingimundarson, who you might remember from the second part of our episode on Vatnsdæla saga.  There are many many feuds and fights in this part of the story.  We do our best to cover the ones that really matter.  We hope you enjoy this final part of our summary of The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong.  It was a lot of fun for us, which is why this episode ended up so long.

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Incidentally, since Finnbogi does make his way down to Constantinople and we often find ourselves in Byzantium, our listeners might be interested in The History of Byzantium podcast.  He hasn’t covered Emperor John yet, but he’s getting closer to the period of the Varangian Guard.  We’re looking forward to that.  In the meantime, check out his special episode on the city of Constantinople.  It covers the founding of the city, it’s geographical significance, and the daily life of its people.  Great stuff!

Episode 17b – The Saga of the Greenlanders (Judgments)

John and Leif

John surveys the land with Leif Eiriksson at L’Anse aux Meadow

The Saga of the Greenlanders might be the shortest saga John and Andy have tackled, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to say about it.  In this episode, your stalwart hosts run through the usual categories and discuss the motivations behind Freydis’ attack on Helgi and Finnbogi, debate the quality of Thorfinn Karlsefni’s character, review some competing theories on Norse settlements in the North America, and share some recent scholarship that challenges our understanding of the conditions the Vikings dealt with in Greenland. There’s a fair amount of nonsense as well.  Join us as we conclude our trip through the Vinland sagas.


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Episode Notes:

Click here if you’re interested in reading the article “Glacier Maxima in Baffin Bay during the Medieval Warm Period coeval with Norse settlement

If you’ve got a picture of yourself with a statue or relevant landmark from the world of saga literature, remember to post it on Twitter, Facebook, or send it to our sagathingpodcast@gmail.com.

And lastly, there’s this picture.   My microsoft paint skills are pretty impressive.  It won’t make sense until you finish the episode.

John Hall and Andy Oates

Episode 16e – Grettir’s Saga (Judgments)

Flensingthewhale.jpeg

At long last, it is time to put Grettir’s Saga on trial.  Does the fight atop a whale carcass have enough appeal to win Best Bloodshed?  Will Grettir’s Saga break the Body Count record currently held by Eyrbyggja Saga?  Will Andy and John outlaw Grettir or take him on as thingman?  Does Andy finally decide whether Grettir’s Saga is better or worse than Gisli’s Saga?  And will John ever stop talking about Nicknames?  This saga is full of memorable moments, witticisms, and wonders, which is why this judgment section ended up being so long.  But don’t worry, there’s plenty to laugh about and plenty to learn here.

We hope you enjoy this conclusion to Grettir’s Saga as much as we enjoyed making it.  The journey’s been long, but well worth the time spent.  We’ll get to the Saga Brief about Grettir and Beowulf sometime soon.  For now, we need a break from this saga.  It’s on to the Saga of the Greenlanders next and then Finnbogi the Mighty.  Until then!

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Episode 16d – The Saga of Grettir the Strong (Part 4)

Tristan and Isolde

In the thrilling conclusion to Grettir’s Saga, we follow the slender armed Thorstein Dromund on his quest to avenge his brother.  Thorstein’s adventures carry him from the shores of Norway to the bustling city of Constantinople, where the exiled King Harald Hardrada leads a rag tag bunch of Scandinavians called the Varangian Guard.  And if you thought the Grettir’s Saga author would pass up the chance to throw in another giant of saga literature, you were sorely mistaken.  Sadly, Harald is only featured in a cameo.  The real story of the Grettir’s Saga epilogue is the love affair of Thorstein and Spes.  Often referred to as the Spésar þáttr (The Tale of Spes “Hope”), the epilogue contrasts the epic ethos of the saga world with the more playful spirit of the continental romances.  If you have ever encountered the famous story of Tristan and Isolde, where the two lovers consistently outwit Isolde’s bumbling husband, King Mark, you’ll feel right at home in the Spésar þáttr.  Join us as we review this deceptively simple epilogue and discuss its potential value for understanding the rest of Grettir’s Saga.

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Along the way, we make reference to a few items of interest.  First among these are the blog sites featuring Drangey Island.  There are some pretty impressive pictures on these blogs and stories about Drangey:

  1. http://stuckiniceland.com/north/the-outlaws-paradise/
  2. http://fooface.blogspot.com/2006/07/epic-climb.html

Drangey Ladder

And if you want to take our advice and visit Drangey for yourself, tours are available here: http://www.drangey.net/

Interested in the Brother Robert’s 13th century Saga of Tristram and Isond?  Click on the book and buy a copy:

Or perhaps you’d like to start with Béroul’s The Romance of Tristan:

And finally, we make reference to one of our favorite scholarly articles on Grettir’s Saga, Kathryn Hume’s “The Thematic Design of Grettis Saga” from The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 73.4 (1974): 469-86.  It’s quite fascinating and worth a read.  Free to everyone with access to JSTOR.