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.
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!
In this episode, we turn from Egil’s exciting adventures abroad to more serious matters back home. After the tragic deaths of his sons Bodvar and Gunnar, Egil descends into a pit of despair. Cutting himself off from society and family, Egil locks himself in his room to await death. After a clever trick by his daughter foils his plans to end it all, Egil finds solace in poetry once again. In an effort to eulogize his sons and come to terms with his grief, Egil composes what might be his very best and most famous poem, the Sonatorrek (Loss of Sons).
With the mead of poetry once again flowing, Egil composes a praise poem to his best friend Arinbjorn. The Arinbjarnarkviða may not be as powerful as the Sonatorrek, but it’s a great poem in its own right. As you’d expect, we spend most of our time discussing these two incredible poems.
In this episode, we welcome Hákon Aðalsteinsfóstri Haraldsson (aka
King Haakon the Good) to the throne of Norway. And with the deposed
Eirik trying to find a new life for himself in Northumbria, you’d think
there wouldn’t be time to mess around with ol’ Egil Skallagrimsson
anymore. But Gunnhild holds a grudge. Cursing Egil to a restless life
until he crosses paths with her once more, Gunnhild makes sure that
she’ll get the chance to avenge her son’s death. Of course, she’ll have
to accomplish this vengeance through her husband, Eirik, and things
don’t always go as planned when Gunnhild puts Egil’s head in Eirik’s
hands. Find out what happens when Egil meets Eirik and Gunnhild in York.
You’ve probably noticed that our latest episodes have been lacking
the brilliant illustrations of our pal Matt Smith. That’s because Matt’s
a success. He’s got plenty of paid work to do with real deadlines.
We’re excited to see all the stuff he’s been working on and look forward
to his eventual return to Saga Thing illustration. In the meantime,
we’d love to see more illustrations of the saga scenes and characters we
encounter here at Saga Thing. If you feel inspired to illustrate
something you’ve heard on the podcast, please send it to us through
social media or our email address. Use the hashtag #SagaThingArt when
posting on social media. If we get enough, I’ll put together a special
gallery on our website organized by saga. Any scene or character from
any saga we’ve covered is fair game.
Finally, for those of you looking for a deeper dive into what we’re talking about, check out our updated bibliography page here.
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.
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.
The Saga of Grettir the Strong continues. In this episode, Grettir arrives home in Iceland only to discover that his father has passed away, his brother has been slain by Thorbjorn Oxen-might, and that he himself has been outlawed for the accidental burning of Thorir of Gard’s sons in Norway. That’s a lot to take in all at once. As an outlaw, Grettir is forced to lurk in the wilds, hide in caves, and rely on the kindness of others for food. Since Grettir’s not terribly kind himself, he usually just steals what he needs. Join us as we discuss the last of Grettir’s adventures, including amazing feats of strength, battles with a troll-hag and a giant, and a rocky encounter with a witch. Will Grettir get stumped by the witch’s black magic? Will he go out in a blaze of glory? And will he ever recover from the embarrassment of his exposed manhood? Find out in this episode of Saga Thing.
Drangey Island in Skagafjörður fjord, where Grettir and Illugi spent their final years.
In this episode we follow Grettir through three of his most famous battles against an undead Kar the Old, a giant Norwegian bear, and Iceland’s most famous draugr, Glam. We also catch Grettir stumbling in a clumsy fight for fire that will eventually seal his fate as an outlaw forever. This one runs a little longer than the average episode of Saga Thing, but with so much excellent material to cover, we just couldn’t resist.
In this epic multi-part episode, we tell the story of Iceland’s most famous and longest surviving outlaw, Grettir Asmundarson. Join us as we trace his life, from its tempestuous beginning to its tragic end. Before we delve into his amazing exploits as an adult, we must look back to his origins. In traditional saga fashion, we begin with his great grandfather, Onund Treefoot. We follow Onund’s efforts to resist the increasing power of King Harald Fairhair and his struggles to come to terms with the loss of his property and his leg. Forced to redefine his own identity and to make a new life in foreign lands, he emerges as the truest hero in the saga, renowned as “the bravest and most agile of all the one-legged men in Iceland.” From Onund, we wend our way through battles over whale corpses, murder, and legal cases in the genealogy until we arrive at Grettir himself. We’ll look briefly at Grettir’s inglorious youth, his troubled relationship with his father, Asmund, and the events leading up to his first outlawry. Will Grettir learn to control his temper and put his strength to good use? Or will he flout the norms of society and continue to make his own way more difficult? Find out as Saga Thing takes on Grettir’s Saga (chapters 1-20).
Join us for the second half of the epic tale of the Vatnsdal chieftains and their family over six generations. In this episode, we clumsily attempt to trace the final three generations of this remarkable family. We’ve crammed a lot into this episode and we barely scratch the surface.
We pick up the story with the seven children of Ingimund Thorsteinsson (led by the bickering brothers Thorstein and Jokul) as they seek revenge against their father’s killer and begin a career as luck-favored witch-killers. Along the way, they encounter a particularly impressive villain named Thorolf Sledgehammer and his clowder of ornery cats. With the district safe from evil-doers, the saga shifts to the next generation.
This section begins with the sons of Thorstein Ingimundarson, Ingolf and some other guy. Ingolf Thorsteinsson is the important one. He’s the handsome Don Juan of Iceland who melts hearts and enrages menfolk across the north of Iceland. Ingolf may be a bit narcissistic, but he backs up his boasts with impressive feats of derring-do (see picture above, and note the rock strapped to his chest).
The final generation is represented by Thorkel Scratcher, who we discussed briefly in Hallfred’s Saga Troublesome-poet. Despite his humble origins as an illegitimate son abandoned to the elements as an infant, Thorkel Scratcher rises to become one of the great figures of Iceland. But great men often have jealous enemies…
This episode is filled to bursting with berserkers, half-giants, demonic pumas, missionaries, witches, outlaws, legendary swords, legendary lovers, and the occasional bloodbath. How does one man with twenty enormous black cats keep the litterbox clean? What are the three tests of a chieftain hero? Can one man singlehandedly take out eighteen bandits if he has big enough stones? Is there room for two berserkers in a single family? And can a Norwegian companion ever survive a saga battle?
After a brief discussion of betrothal customs in medieval Iceland, John and Andy put Viglund’s Saga on trial. Will Viglund’s axe juggling skills win him an award? Or will he be upstaged by his own horse? Who will be outlawed? Who will earn a spot as thingman? And how does Viglund’s Saga compare to the other Warrior Poet sagas we’ve covered? What value does it have as a saga? So much to think about, so much to learn. Stop wondering and download the Judgments episode now.