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Category: History

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.

Episode 26a - The Saga of the People of Kjalarnes (Part 1)

June 4, 2018


As we have mentioned recently on social media, the great Matt Smith has agreed to join the Saga Thing team and provide us with an original drawing for each saga episode. We’re excited to be working with him. You’ll get a fuller appreciation of each image he creates for us by listening to the episode. I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear that this image was inspired by one of the climaxes of the saga. One of the climaxes? Yes. Just one of many.  Thanks again to Matt for donating his time and talents. Matt wrote and illustrated Barbarian Lord, a graphic novel heavily inspired by the Icelandic Sagas.  You can see more of his work here: matt-illustrations.com. Welcome to the team, Matt! If you like what he's doing for Saga Thing, drop him a line and express your appreciation on Twitter, where he's @barbarianlord.

In this episode, we discuss the first half of Kjalnesinga saga (The Saga of the People of Kjalarnes). You’re not alone if the name doesn’t ring a bell. This saga isn’t widely read or commented upon, despite being full of interesting tidbits for further discussion. For example, Kjalnesinga saga is the only saga whose action takes place within the modern boundaries of Reykjavík.  If you’ve been to Iceland’s capital, then you’ve no doubt seen the impressive Mount Esja (Esjan) looming across the bay. This saga offers some clues about where the mountain and the places around it got their names, at least according to the saga author.  In addition to some fascinating toponomy, Kjalnesinga saga looks into the lives of the first two generations of settlers in Kjalarnes, starting with Helgi Bjolan and a group of Irish immigrants that he graciously welcomes into his land. The majority of the action concerns the children of these initial settlers.  Here’s a quick key for those of you who have trouble keeping track of all the names.


As if a genealogical tree wasn’t enough, we’ve also got a map of Kjalarnes for you, generously prepared for us by Rob from Totalus Rankium podcast, using Emily Lethbridge's Icelandic Saga Map.  to get a sense of the region and who lives where. Rob is an unofficial/official member of the Saga Thing team. We look forward to more awesome maps from Rob for future episodes. If you find these maps helpful, let Rob know on Twitter, where he's @TotalusRankium.


When you've finished digesting all this great info, give the episode a listen. Kjalnesinga saga features a vivid description of a pagan temple, rising tensions between Irish Christian immigrants and the just-a-little-less-recently-immigrated pagan Icelanders, one of our more violent slayings (which is really saying something), an official holmgang, and our first ever love quadrangle…or square, if you will. There’s plenty here for everyone.

Because we promised a link to our Saga Brief on the holmgang, as if you haven't already heard it, I'm providing it. John put no effort or time into providing this link, just as I suspected.

Music Credits:

Intro Music "Prelude and Action" by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Summary Music - "Galway" 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/