Published September 6, 2017
To celebrate the return of the world’s favorite fantasy-violence-porn series to its favorite fantasy-violence-porn TV station, I’ve decided to recap the closest thing that the Icelandic sagas have to a fantasy-violence-porn trilogy. It’s got it all: blood-splatter, steamy infidelity, fire-breathing dragons, and hair growing on unlikely body parts. If that doesn’t intrigue you, then fuck off. Part One of the Sagas of Hrafnista is the Saga of Ketill Salmon and yes, it does involve traveling a great distance and returning home to breed.
Fishing for compliments
So there’s this island off the coast of Norway called Hrafnista. A guy named Hallbjörn Half-Troll has a son named Ketill. Hallbjörn and Ketill don’t get along. When Ketill’s a kid, he runs away and returns three days later with a very nice chair. He gives this to his mother just to tell her how much he loves her, and not his father. His father tells him not to go to the north but he does anyway. There he sees a dragon that gets all up in his face, breathing fire and shit, so Ketill chops it right in half with his axe. When he returns home and his father asks if he encountered any hostility, Ketill tells him that he chopped a salmon in half, earning him his nickname.
There is a famine, so Ketill’s dad sends him off to some fjords to fish. In one fjord Ketill finds a hut and outside of it, some pits filled with meat, including salted human carcasses. Let’s call them Donner Party Kebabs! That sounds cute, doesn’t it? Anyway, Ketill is grossed out, so he trashes the food and cuts off the head of the offending giant when he returns to his hut. In the other fjord, Ketill ends up killing another giant who keeps stealing Ketill’s fish. When he returns, his father asks if he stayed in peace during his journeys and Ketill replies simply, “Yes.”
Out with the old, Finn with the new
Ketill sets out on another fishing expedition and a huge storm blows him north into Finnmark, the land of the “Finns,” which is what Icelanders called the Saami people. Here he meets a man nice giant named Brúni, who lets Ketill sleep with his daughter Hrafnhildur. Brúni throws a skin over them so they may bone in peace because he has some Finns coming over to pick up butter. For some reason, throughout the sagas, both “Finns” and trolls are frequently paid in butter. Finally, an economic system we can agree on!
Ketill stays the winter there, learning the art of archery from Brúni and the art of gland-to-gland combat from Hrafnhildur. When he’s ready to leave, Brúni warns Ketill not to take a certain path for fear of encountering the Gusir, King of the Finns who lurks in the woods, so Ketill promptly takes it and runs into him. They exchange a series of shitty poems, like:
Ur an asshole
A smelly one
I’mma kill u
No, I’mma win
Ur a bitch or whatever
Then they shoot arrows at each other and Gusir dies, which means that Brúni is now King of the Butterocracy of Finnmark.
Hrafnhildurs and Hrafnhildon’ts
Ketill returns home to his father. One day Hrafnhildur shows up with their baby, Grímur, who was born with half of his face hairy. Despite being half-troll himself, Hallbjörn is prejudiced against giantesses and forces her away. She promises to return in three years. Although Ketill is still in love with Hrafnhildur, Hallbjörn forces him to marry another woman with whom he promptly has a daughter and names her—you guessed it—Hrafnhildur. When Giantess-Hrafnhildur returns, Ketill invites her to live with them but she returns home with a broken heart.
When Human-Hrafnhildur grows up, some dude called Framarr asks to marry her. She’s like, “Nah,” and he’s like so many shitty dudes are when women “nah” them: he gets all aggro and challenges her father to a duel. The night before the duel, Ketill is freezing outside and a man named Böðmóður invites him inside, offering to hold a shield for Ketill during the battle. With his help, Ketill faces off against Framarr, who is magically impervious to metal. They yell lame poems at each other until Ketill thinks to use the other side of his sword, which inexplicably manages to cut Framarr open. He dies with a final, Rihanna-inspired poem:
I have been killed by Salmon
Ella, ella, ella
Eh, eh, eh
Killed by salmonella
Böðmóður marries Human-Hrafnhildur and they live happily ever after… until the drama continues in the next issue with the Saga of Grímur Hairy-Cheek.
Morals of the story:
1. If you love your parents, show them with well-made furniture.
2. If you don’t love your parents, date someone they would hate.
Read more Saga Recaps here.