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.

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


October 26th, 2018    

Episode 27b - Floamanna Saga (Part 2)



Just in time for Halloween, John and Andy return for the second part of Flóamanna saga. When last we left you, our hero, Thorgils had battled two restless spirits. This time around, he's taking on berserks, madmen, and everyone's favorite hammer-wielding deity. As if that wasn't scary enough for you, Thorgils also contends with a shipwreck in Greenland, starvation, the walking dead, and a hungry baby.

Along the way, we talk about keg duels, a lucky Norwegian companion, and male lactation. Check out some of our sources:

Oren Falk, "Bystanders and Hearsayers First: Reassessing the Role of the Audience in Duelling," in A Great Effusion of Blood: Interpreting Medieval Violence edited by Mark D. Meyerson, Daniel Thiery, and Oren Falk. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004: 98-130.

Caroline Walker Bynum. Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages. Berkeley and Los Angeles: The University of California Press, 1982.

Barbara Orland. "Why Could Early Modern Men Lactate? Gender Identity and Metabolic Narrations in Humoral Medicine" in Medieval and Renaissance Lactations: Images, Rhetorics, Practices edited by Jutta Gisela Sperling. Burlington: Ashgate, 2013: 37-54.

Nikhil Swaminathan. "Strange but True: Males Can Lactate" Scientific American September 6, 2007.

A special thank you to Matt Smith, aka Barbarian Lord on Twitter, for sharing his talents with us once again. This original drawing will make more sense once you listen to the episode.

Music Credits:

Intro Music "Prelude and Action" by Kevin MacLeod (

Review Music - "On the Mississippi" by Prince's Band

Summary Music - A blending of "Classic Horror 2" and "Unease" by Kevin MacLeod (

Outro Music - "Stormfront" by Kevin MacLeod (

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

September 21st, 2018    

Episode 27a - Floamanna Saga (Part 1)



This is the saga of the hero Thorgils Scar-leg's Stepson. In this episode, you’ll encounter a number of Thorgils’ ancestors, starting with Atli the Slender, who was given charge of Sogn in Norway by Halfdan the Black. The story of Thorgil’s family is tied to this land and their claim of sovereignty over it despite the objections of several generations of Norwegian royalty.


You’ll also meet Thorgils’ great-grandfather, Hallstein Atlason, a noble chieftain who was forced to flee Norway due to rising tensions with King Harald Fair-hair and the results of a hastily made oath to be a fair-minded judge. But don’t worry about Hallstein. Things turn out well for him in Iceland, where he marries the lovely Thora Olvisdöttir and becomes both popular and quite powerful. After he dies happily in his old age, we’re introduced to his son, Atli, a meddlesome man who enjoys wielding power and influence. In the end, Atli gets caught up in a property dispute that proves fatal.

Fortunately, Atli’s young son, Thord proves a capable avenger. Young Thord survives just long enough to father our saga’s hero, Thorgils, before disappearing at sea.

Thorgils has a bit of a rough start in Iceland, but he’s soon off adventuring, making friends with Norwegian royalty, and wrestling with the walking dead. Yes, Thorgils is a monster killer. But he’s more than that. Learn all about his life, his adventures, and the miracles he performs as Saga Thing takes on Flóamanna Saga!

As always, a special thanks to our resident Saga Thing Artist, Matt Smith, for bringing these stories to life through his talents. This time around, we've got the restless corpse of Audun's mother, Gyda, popping out of her coffin to get one last hug from her baby boy.

Music Credits:

Intro Music "Prelude and Action" by Kevin MacLeod (

Summary Music - "Darkling" by Kevin MacLeod (

Outro Music - "Stormfront" by Kevin MacLeod (

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


August 17th, 2018    

A Quick Chat in Reykholt from the Saga Conference 2018



Greetings from Iceland! In this episode, John and Andy sit down in the lobby of the beautiful Fosshotel in Reykholt to chat about the conference and Andy's travels around Iceland. 

Music Credits:

Intro: Corvus Corax - Bibit Aleum

Outro: Rick Wakeman - Journey to the Center of the Earth

- Older Posts »