Fractured Fairy Tales: 'The Sagas And Shit' Rewrites History - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Fractured Fairy Tales: ‘The Sagas And Shit’ Rewrites History

Fractured Fairy Tales: ‘The Sagas And Shit’ Rewrites History

Published May 13, 2019

Andie Fontaine
Photos by
Elín Elísabet

Tackling the Icelandic Sagas can be a daunting task. Many of them are prefaced with complex descriptions of lineage and familial relations, and the writing can in many parts read dry and academic, even in modern translations. This can be discouraging for those who want to delve into these crowning achievements of medieval literature, which is a shame; along the way, these tales recount plenty of drama, intrigue, sex, violence, and impossible feats of human strength.

Perhaps this is why Saga Recap—a series from the Grapevine of short, funny summaries of the Sagas which focuses only on the best bits—has been so successful. So successful, in fact, that not only has Saga Recap creator Grayson del Faro been tasked with applying the same winning formula to the Eddas, Grayson’s delightful, snarky recaps of the Icelandic Sagas have at last been compiled in a book.

From porn to apocalypse

“The Sagas And Shit: Icelandic Literature Crudely Abridged”, published by Forlagið, promises to deliver “the most famous masterpieces of Icelandic literature alongside some of the weirdest, most fucked-up sagas and skips straight to the good shit.”

“Óðinn’s hottest son, Baldur, gets the kiss of death from his little brother, who shanks him with mistletoe. Then shit gets metal.”

If you were under the impression the Sagas contained little more than one Viking battle after another, wow are you ever in for a surprise. Take a closer look, and you will find gems like the downright pornographic Saga of Bosi and Herrauður; the over-the-top tall tales in the Saga of Gréttir the Strong, whose feats put Paul Bunyon and Pecos Bill to shame; and the mind-bending weirdness of Völuspá, a Norse origin/apocalyptic story that makes the Book of Revelation read like the terms of service on a housing loan.

Monsters from hell and its suburbs

“Spoiler: they all die,” Grayson wrote of that Saga for his recap. “Óðinn’s hottest son, Baldur, gets the kiss of death from his little brother, who shanks him with mistletoe. Then shit gets metal. There is blood and weeping, betrayal and anarchy (the bad kind), and the tree at the center of the universe quivers in fear. There are rivers of knives, beaches of corpses, a black sun, and all kinds of monsters from hell and its suburbs.”

You probably shouldn’t use “The Sagas And Shit” as a study guide if you’re cramming for a test on the Icelandic Sagas, but it is worth mentioning that these takes are written by someone who actually studied them in an academic setting, so we can guarantee the summations are 100% accurate albeit with Grayson’s characteristic panache. For added goodness, Grayson’s recaps are replete with illustrations from the incomparable Elín Elísabet Einarsdóttir.

‘The Sagas And Shit’ is out now, both on the shelves of Icelandic bookstores and through the Grapevine’s web store.

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