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)

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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.

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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Pick up a copy of Grettir’s Saga and discover what we left out!

Grettir's Saga

Episode 16 – Grettir’s Saga (Part 1)

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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

Pick up a copy of Grettir’s Saga and discover all the stuff we left out!

Grettir's Saga

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 3b: Eyrbyggja Saga (Judgments)

In this second go at Eyrbyggja saga, we answer the burning questions left unasked by our first episode:

Will Thrand Stigandi’s ostentatious attack at Ospak’s farm be enough to win Best Bloodshed?

How many bodies hit the floor, and why is it so difficult to come up with a consistent count?

In a saga with names like Thorstein Cod-Biter, Thorolf Bladder-bald, and Sigurð Snake-in-the-Eye, who can possibly win Best Nickname?

Who will be banished from Iceland forever?

Will Andy get to honor his hero Snorri by choosing him as thingman?

What do we really think of Eyrbyggja Saga?

Find out in the latest installment of Saga Thing!
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Get in on the action and let us know who you would choose for your thingman: