Episode 24b – Second Quarter Court Results

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The Second Quarter of our Saga Thing comes to a close with the results episode. In this special episode, John and Andy review your choices for Best Bloodshed, Nicknames, Notable Witticisms, Outlawry, Thingmen, and Final Ratings. Will Skarpheðin emerge as the poster boy for Saga Thing’s Best Bloodshed and Notable Witticism categories?  What role might the Russians have played in the Thingmen voting? Does Njal’s Saga maintain its position on the throne of saga literature? Or will another contender leave Njal’s Saga in the dust on the way to the Fifth Court?  Along the way, we answer listener questions on a variety of fun topics.

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References for Grettir and servant girl discussion:

Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir. “‘How Do You Know if it is Love or Lust?’ On Gender, Status, and Violence in Old Norse Literature.” Interfaces 2 (2016): 189-209.

Karras, Ruth Mazo. Sexuality in Medieval Europe: Doing Unto Others. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2017. Grettir’s Saga discussion at 155-56.

Ljungqvist, Fredrik Charpentier. “Rape in the Icelandic Sagas: An Insight in the Perceptions about Sexual Assaults on Women in the Old Norse World.” Journal of Family History 40, no. 4 (2015): 431-47.

Scudder, Bernard. Introduction to The Saga of Grettir the Strong, ix-xxxviii. New York: Penguin Classics, 2005.

Short, William R. “The Role of Women in Viking Society.” Hurstwichttp://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/society/text/women.htm (accessed October 10, 2017).

References for discussion of literacy in medieval Iceland:

Hermann, Pernille. “Literacy.” In The Routledge Research Companion to the Medieval Icelandic Sagas, edited by Ármann Jakobsson, Sverrir Jakobsson, 34-47. New York: Routledge, 2017.

Quinn, Judy. “From Orality to Literacy in Medieval Iceland.” In Old Icelandic Literature and Society, edited by Margaret Clunies Ross, 30-60. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Sigurðsson, Gísli. “Orality and Literacy in the Sagas of Icelanders.” In A Companion to Old-Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture, edited by Rory McTurk, 285-301. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005.

Music Credits:
Intro Music – “Prelude and Action” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Outro Music – “Stormfront” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Episode 18b – The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong (Part 2)

Viking Violence

Join us for the thrilling conclusion of The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong.  In the first part of this episode, we discuss Finnbogi’s evolving relationship with the Norwegian Earl Haakon, his trip to Constantinople, and his pursuit of Alf’s daughter Ragnhild.  Yes, Finnbogi’s got his eye on the daughter of the man he killed on the way to Haakon’s court.  The second part of this episode takes us back to Iceland, where Finnbogi finds that fame isn’t all its cracked up to be.  With rivals emerging everywhere he goes, Finnbogi is forced to move from district to district in search of peace.  That turns out to be a real challenge after he crosses a powerful lunatic like Jokul Ingimundarson, who you might remember from the second part of our episode on Vatnsdæla saga.  There are many many feuds and fights in this part of the story.  We do our best to cover the ones that really matter.  We hope you enjoy this final part of our summary of The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong.  It was a lot of fun for us, which is why this episode ended up so long.

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Incidentally, since Finnbogi does make his way down to Constantinople and we often find ourselves in Byzantium, our listeners might be interested in The History of Byzantium podcast.  He hasn’t covered Emperor John yet, but he’s getting closer to the period of the Varangian Guard.  We’re looking forward to that.  In the meantime, check out his special episode on the city of Constantinople.  It covers the founding of the city, it’s geographical significance, and the daily life of its people.  Great stuff!

Episode 18a – The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong (Part 1)

Mother and Child

The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong tells the tale of a farmer’s son who overcomes an ignoble birth and rises to become one of Iceland’s greatest men, or so the saga author would have you believe.  This obscure and rarely discussed 14th century saga is thought to have been written in response to Vatnsdæla Saga, where Finnbogi comes off rather poorly.  In his own saga, Finnbogi proves to be an upright and noble figure who almost always does the right thing.  With superhuman strength, he’s capable of dispatching an angry bull with his bare hands, snapping the spine of an angry Norwegian bear, and coming out ahead in a seemingly endless feud with Vatnsdæla Saga’s brutish Jokul Ingimundarsson.   Finnbogi’s Saga deserves more attention than it has gotten in the past.  And that’s why you come to Saga Thing.

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References:

John Kennedy, Review of Bachman/Erlingsson Translation of The Saga of Finnbogi the Strong, in Scandinavian Studies 64 (1992), 149.

Phillip Pulsiano and Kirsten Wolf, Medieval Scandinavia: An Encyclopedia (1993), 194.

Paul Schach, Icelandic Sagas (Boston, 1980), 155-56.

Music for the brief summary: “Nerves” by Kevin MacLeod (incopetech.com).  Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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)

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

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

Grettir's Saga

Episode 14b – The Saga of the People of Vatnsdal (Part 2)

Ingolf and the Outlaws

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?

Listen in and find out!

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In honor of the many Norwegian companions who have fallen in the name of saga violence, we’ve created a special shirt in our Saga Thing store.  Get one for your own Norwegian companion.

  Norwegian Companion ~ 317    ~ 2206

And grab a coffee mug for yourself while you’re at it.  All that and more, available here: Saga Thing store.

Episode 14a – The Saga of the People of Vatnsdal (Part 1)

Harald Fair-Hair

King Harald Fairhair

The Saga of the People of Vatnsdal tells the story of one family over 5 generations (though John will insist on counting 6).  We begin with Ketil the Large challenging his son, Thorstein, to find out what’s lurking in the woods and killing everybody.  Thorstein turns out to be a very lucky fellow who is soon married to the daughter of a famous earl in Gotland.  Thorstein’s son, Ingimund, is the central figure of this episode of Saga Thing.  We follow Ingimund from his noble youth, through his glory days as a Viking, all the way to his eventual death in the Vatnsdalur region of northern Iceland.  Will his life end peacefully or will he suffer a violent death?  There’s only one way to find out. This episode features giants, witches, and transcendental Laplanders.  We’ve also got epic battles, or at least references to epic battles, seduction, or at least clumsy attempts at seduction, and bloodshed…there’s definitely bloodshed.

[audio http://sagathing.podbean.com/mf/web/xpg6dc/Episode14a-TheSagaofthePeopleofVatnsdalPart1.mp3 ]

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If you like what you hear, pick up a copy of The Sagas of Icelanders from Penguin Books and read the saga for yourself.