Saga Thing

Discover what Vikings did when they were at home in this fun medieval history and literature podcast about the Icelandic sagas. Hosted by two medieval literature professors with beards.

February 4th, 2019    

Episode 29a - Egil’s Saga (Part 1)



A few months ago we once again put the fate of Saga Thing in your hands. You had the option to choose our next saga, selecting between two of Iceland's greatest literary monuments and The Saga of the Foster-Brothers. The will of the people was made manifest and we got to work. You've been waiting patiently. Join us now for the first of many episodes on our listener selected saga of 2019, Egil's Saga.

In this episode, we cover chapters 1-6. Here the dramatic tension revolves around King Harald Tangle-Hair's rise to power as he seeks to become sole ruler of Norway. One by one, the best men of Norway fall like dominoes before him, dying in battle, fleeing to new lands, and even burying themselves in mounds to avoid submitting to King Harald. Some embrace the seemingly inevitable and join the swelling ranks of King Harald's supporters. 

You won't run into Egil Skallagrimsson in this episode. This one is all about setting up the world into which he will be born. But you will meet Egil's grandfather, Kvelduf, his father, Grim, and his uncle, Thorolf. You'll also meet Kari of Berle, Kveldulf's best friend, and his sons Eyvind Lamb and Olvir Hump. How will these men respond to calls to either join Harald or risk their lives fighting against him? There's only one way to find out (assuming you can't read the saga yourself for some reason).  E1_-_Grim_Kveldulf_and_Thorolf_Matt_Smith_1-31-19_.jpg

Please feel free to submit any questions or comments you'd like us to address from this episode. We'll set aside some time at the end of each episode going forward to tackle those. You can send them to us via email, twitter, or facebook.

When you're finished, be sure to check out our Select Bibliography for Egil's Saga on our blog site. There you'll find citations for all the articles and books we mention throughout our journey through Egil's Saga. We'll be adding to it as we go.

As always, a special thanks to our Saga Thing illustrator, Matt Smith for the portraits of Kveldulf and his sons.  We look forward to seeing what he does with the rest of Egil's Saga. If you like the work Matt's been doing for us, check out his latest project Metal Quest, a collaboration with Tom Pappalardo. You can keep up with Matt's latest doodles, drawings, and progress on Twitter.

Music Credits:

Intro Music "Prelude and Action" by Kevin MacLeod (

Preview Music - A blend of "Procession of the King" and "Mountain Emperor" by Kevin MacLeod (

Outro Music - "Stormfront" by Kevin MacLeod (

Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

January 16th, 2019    

Episode 28 - The Saga of Ale-Hood



In this episode, Thorhall Ale-Hood burns down his woodlands making charcoal. Unfortunately for him, he also burns down the neighboring woods that belong to 6 of Iceland's most powerful chieftains. The woods aren't terribly important to them, but when Iceland's bully chieftains see a financial opportunity, they take it. This short saga tells the story of Ale-Hood's attempt to defend himself against the chieftains. If you liked Bandamanna Saga, then you'll love The "Saga" of Ale-Hood. It's a quick one, but it's full of laughs.

Thanks, as always, to Matt Smith for another original drawing. This one depicts Thorkel Fringe, one of the saga's bad guys, in a compromising position. Listen to the episode to find out more. You can visit Matt's webpage and follow him on Twitter to see more of his work.

We managed to do both the summary and the judgments for this one. It's been a while since that happened. Judgments start at 1:03:31.

Music Credits:

Intro Music "Prelude and Action" by Kevin MacLeod (

Summary Music - "Crowd Hammer" by Kevin MacLeod (

Outro Music - "Stormfront" by Kevin MacLeod (

Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License



December 20th, 2018    

Episode 27d - Floamanna Saga (Judgments)



At long last, it's time to put Flóamanna saga on trial. In this episode we debate the literary merits of Flóamanna saga, trying to determine if there are any at all. Along the way, we highlight the saga's best moments, including some gems from little Thorfinn. There's also some of the usual bickering over the quality of our thingman selections. This was a fun one to record, probably because we were finally finished with this wacky saga once and for all. Is this the saga that sets the low bar for all the family sagas? Will John and Andy punish it with a final rating of 1 for the pain it inflicted upon them while trying to prepare the summaries? Listen now and all will be revealed!

Music Credits:

Intro Music "Prelude and Action" by Kevin MacLeod (

Outro Music - "Stormfront" by Kevin MacLeod (

Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

December 13th, 2018    

Saga Brief 15 - Ivar the Boneless



In this episode, we tackle the life of Ragnar’s fiercest and most complex son, Ivar the Boneless. We begin with an investigation into Ivar’s birth and enigmatic nickname. From there we trace the path of his illustrious military career. Our journey will take us from Denmark to Ireland, where Ivar conquers Dublin and goes head to head with the High King of Ireland, Mael Sechnaill. From Dublin, we’ll follow Ivar to Anglo-Saxon England with the Great Heathen Army. There Ivar and company topple kingdom after kingdom with ruthless efficiency. Join us as we dive deep into the medieval chronicles, legends, and tales to uncover the stories behind Vikings’ most compelling character, Ivar the Boneless, King of the Vikings in Ireland and Britain.

Previous Vikings Related Episode Links:

Saga Thing 7: The Saga of Ragnar Loðbrok and His Sons

Saga Brief 1: The Blood-Eagle

Saga Brief 3: Krákumál

Saga Brief 5: The Story of Rollo the Viking

Saga Brief 11: The Lesser Ragnarssons

Interested in learning more about Mael Sechnaill and the Irish side of the Viking invasions? Check out this episode of the Irish History Podcast – Vikings in 9th century Ireland.

Select Bibliography for this Episode:

Æthelweard. Chronicon Æthelweardi. Edited and Translated by Alistair Campbell. New York: Oxford University Press, 1962.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Translated by Michael Swanton. New York: Routledge, 1998.

The Annals of Ulster. Edited and Translated by Pádraig Bambury and Stephen Beechinor. Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition. Cork: Ireland, 2000.

Asser, John. Alfred the Great: Asser’s Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources. Edited and Translated by Simon Keynes and Michael Lapidge. New York: Penguin Books, 1983.

Brink, Stefan and Neil Price. The Viking World. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Clarke, Howard B. and Ruth Johnson. The Vikings in Ireland and Beyond: Before and After the Battle of Clontarf. Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts Press, 2015.

Crawford, B. E. Scandinavian Scotland. Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1987.

Downham, Clare. Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland: The Dynasty of Ívarr to A.D. 1014. Edinburgh: Dunedin, 2007.

Fragmentary Annals of Ireland. Edited and Translated by Joan Newlon Radner. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1978.

Jones, Gwynn. A History of the Vikings. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968.

McTurk, Rory. Studies in Ragnars Saga Loðbrokar and its Major Scandinavian Analogues. Medium Ævum Monographs. New Series XV. Exeter: Short Run Press,  1991.

Saxo Grammaticus. The History of the Danes. Edited and Translated by Peter Fisher and H. R. Ellis Davidson. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1996.

Smyth, Alfred P. Scandinavian Kings in the British Isles, 850-880. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.

Stenton, Frank M. Anglo-Saxon England. 2nd edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Valante, Mary A. The Vikings in Ireland: Settlement, Trade, and Urbanization. Portland, OR: Four Courts Press, 2008.

Waggoner, Ben. The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok. New Haven, CT: 2009.


Episode Credits:

Intro - VioDance cover of "If I Had A Heart" by Fever Ray with Hardanger Violin

Closing Music - Logan Kendell's folk cover of "If I Had A Heart" by Fever Ray. To purchase a copy of the song, visit Logan Kendell's bandcamp page. Be sure to check out his other music while you're there. As a big fan of outlaws, I recommend his cover of "Not in Nottingham" from Disney's Robin Hood

November 23rd, 2018    

Episode 27c - Floamanna Saga (Part 3)



In this episode we rejoin Thorgils Scar-Leg’s Step-son on the icy shores of Greenland. Of the 35 men and women who traveled with him to Greenland, his only companions are his son Thorleif and a pair of helpful brothers, Kol and Starkað. And then there’s the child, Thorfinn, nourished by his father’s love and bloody breast milk. Together these castaways must battle the elements on land and sea to make their way home again. Along the way they’ll encounter troll women, a polar bear, terrible Vikings, and more than one opportunity to duel. There’s even a guest appearance by everyone’s favorite grumpy pagan, Eirik the Red.

Nearly a decade after being shipwrecked in Greenland, Thorgils finally returns to Iceland. He’s greeted by his daughter Thorney, now grown into a beautiful young woman. In his absence, Thorny was married to Bjarni of Grof, an arrangement that Thorgils finds less than ideal. And when he attempts to take the lovely Helga as his own bride, Thorgils ends up feuding with a rival suitor, Asgrim Ellida-Grimsson, a familiar name from Njal’s Saga. This conflict threatens to disrupt the relative peace of the region and prompts one of John’s thingmen into action.

Will young Thorfinn survive the journey from Greenland? Does Thorstein the red-shirted Norwegian companion ever die? Will Thorgils manage to rearrange his daughter’s marriage to his liking? Does Helga choose Thorgils or Asgrim? Or is her opinion not worth a hill of beans? And which thingman emerges from John’s mead hall to settle the dispute over her hand?

Find out in the sometimes thrilling but poorly told conclusion to Floamanna Saga!

Thanks as always to Matt Smith for contributing another original drawing. Check out his webpage or Twitter account to keep up with Matt's latest projects.

Music Credits:

Intro Music "Prelude and Action" by Kevin MacLeod (

Review Music - "Some Smoke" by National Promenade Band

Summary Music - "Black Vortex" by Kevin MacLeod (

Outro Music - "Stormfront" by Kevin MacLeod (

Selections from music by Kevin MacLeod licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License


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