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.

Episode 13b – The Saga of Viglund the Fair (Judgments)

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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.

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Episode 13a – The Saga of Viglund the Fair

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The story of Viglund the Fair and his lady Ketilrid is a saga for lovers.  This fifteenth century tale, the last of our warrior poet’s sagas, covers several generations.  Each generation features a case of true love coming up against the secular tradition of arranged marriage.  Can Viglund and Ketilrid overcome the obstacles set in their way and join at last in wedded bliss?  It never worked out for the other warrior poets, so why would this one be any different?  Listen to find out, if you dare!  This is a remarkable, if somewhat late, work of saga literature.  While the passage of time has clearly affected the style and structuring of the warrior poet genre, in some ways this is the warrior poet saga you’ve been waiting for.  Join us as we examine the romance of Viglund and Ketilrid on this episode of Saga Thing.
Read along with your own copy of The Sagas of Warrior Poets.

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Episode 11a – Kormak’s Saga

SteingerdIf you’re a fan of erotic poetry and dueling, then this is the saga for you.  Join us as we follow Kormak as he pursues the lovely-soled object of his affection, Steingerd.  Yes, I said soled and I meant it.  She’s got nice feet and Kormak is just into that sort of thing.  Who are we to judge?  Along the way, you’ll meet the scoundrel Narfi, a witch in a questionable relationship with a walrus, and a surprising visit from a Scottish giant.  Yes, this saga has a bit of everything.  So what are you waiting for.  It’s time for Kormak’s Saga!

Click here to get your copy of Sagas of Warrior-Poets

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Episode 9b – The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue (Judgments)

In this episode, Andy and John wonder about Gunnlaug and Hrafn’s motivations, the quality of their poetry, and evaluate their swordsmanship.  We also take a closer look at their love of Helga the Fair.  As always, we count up the bodies and offer praise to the wittiest saga lines before getting down to the more difficult choices.  With no clear villain in the story, who will be outlawed?  Would either Gunnlaug or Hrafn make a good thingman?  There’s one clear gem of thingman in this saga, but John’s choosing first.  What happens when Andy doesn’t get his way? Find out in the Judgment section for The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue.

Gunnlaug and Helga - Charles Fairfax Murray

Gunnlaug and Helga by Charles Fairfax Murray

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Episode 9a – The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue

Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue is a talented warrior-poet torn between his love for Helga the Fair and his quest for fame and fortune in the courts of Northern Europe.  Helga’s father, Thorstein, gives him 3 years to travel and make a name for himself before his claim on Helga is forfeit.  Things get complicated when a rival for Helga’s hand emerges in Hrafn the Skald, a court poet eager to get the best of Gunnlaug.  Will Gunnlaug win the hand of his fair maiden, or will hearts be broken?  Join us as we discuss one of saga literature’s most successful romances, The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-Tongue.  Along the way, you’ll learn about this fascinating sub-genre of the Sagas of the Icelanders, the harsh reality behind exposing newborns to the elements, and why a King of Norway would hide in a pigsty.

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If you like what you hear, pick up a copy of this great volume and enjoy

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Sagas of Warrior-Poets