In this episode, we continue our series of stories from the Northeast of Iceland. This time around, Helgi Droplaugarson goes head to head with the powerful chieftain Helgi Asbjarnarson. While Helgi D. makes life difficult for his rival by undercutting him at every chance he gets, Helgi A. takes it all with patience. Does Helgi A. have a good reason for holding back? Or is he just biding his time as he waits for the right moment to attack? There’s only one way to find out. Listen, as Saga Thing presents The Saga of Droplaug’s Sons!
The first part of this episode, much like the saga itself, is a bit heavy on social dynamics and genealogical connections. To help you navigate these relationships, Andy has prepared this handy genealogy using Family Echo. Be sure to click on different names in the genealogy to see where it takes you. The connections are fascinating if you pay attention.
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!
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.
Our grand quest to put the sagas of the Icelanders on trial begins with an acknowledged classic–the relatively brief (but totally epic) Hrafnkels saga Freysgoði. This is the timeless story of a harsh chieftain who falls from power and rises again, the men who band together against him, and the horse at the center of it all. Hrafnkel’s saga offers a listener-friendly introduction to the complex and blood-drenched world of the Icelandic sagas. And it comes with torture! But is bloodshed and torture enough to earn this saga a top score from John and Andy? Or will the saga be judged harshly for its lack of scope and poor treatment of animals? Find out now!
Now that you’re an expert in medieval Icelandic history, you’re probably wondering about Icelandic literary expression. Why wouldn’t you? In this episode, John and Andy answer the question they probably ought to have covered right away…what is a saga, exactly? Strap yourself in for a whirlwind introduction to the genre of saga literature. Expect to hear an overview of the different kinds of sagas medieval Icelanders produced. Along the way, you’ll find out the difference between a family saga and a lying saga, discover the wonders of bookprose and freeprose theory, and learn a little something about a guy named Njal. All in all, it’s good clean fun for the whole family.
In this second part of our first episode, we explore the socio-political structure of Commonwealth Iceland, its conversion to Christianity, and the end of the Commonwealth era. How does a man kill his enemy politely? Why was Iceland’s religious future decided under a blanket fort? Who killed Snorri Sturluson in the basement with the knife? And what happens when John lets his sheep loose on Andy’s lawn? Find out here!
Our podcast begins with an introduction to the Settlement Age of Iceland (c.870-930 A.D.), a combination of Scandinavian migration and land-grab that led to an unprecedented consensus-based medieval Commonwealth. The story of anti-authoritarian Norsemen fleeing the expansionist wars of Norwegian king Harald Fair-Hair is only one part of a wave of settlement that saw shiploads of men, women, children, and livestock suddenly transplanted onto a volcanic island in the north Atlantic. Join Andy and John in a discussion of the life-or-death questions faced by these hardy souls as they learned to thrive in this challenging new land. They brought their swords, their livestock, and their high-seat pillars, so they were ready for anything…or so they thought. But were the new settlers prepared to deal with one another?