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 16c – Grettir’s Saga (Part 3)

GrettirandThorirRed-Beard 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.

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Grettir's Saga

Episode 16b – Grettir’s Saga (Part 2)

Grettir and Kar the Old

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.

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Grettir's Saga

Episode 16 – Grettir’s Saga (Part 1)

OnundTree-foot.jpg
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).

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 This handy genealogy will help you keep some of the names straight in your minds
GrettirsFamilyTree.jpg

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Grettir's Saga

Episode 13a – The Saga of Viglund the Fair

Ten-Reasons-Why-a-Man-Should-Not-Get-Mar
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!

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