Óláfr Tryggavason attends a feast at Ǫgvaldsnes, where he is visited by a mysterious stranger who turns out to be Óðinn.
64. Frá Ólafi konungi og vélum Óðins
Svo er sagt þá er Ólafur ...
[status: unverified copy]
37. [Óláfr at Ögvaldsnes]
Ok nú er svá mikinnn framgang hǫfðu haft dýrðarverk Óláfs konungs, þá ǫfundaði þat óvinr alls mannskyns, er ávallt sitr um menn at gera þeim nǫkkura meinsamliga hluti. Ok er Óláfr konungr tók veizlu á Ǫgvaldsnesi jólaaptaninn, þá kom þar einn maðr síð um kveld, gamall ok eldiligr, einsýnn, ok kunni frá mǫrgu at segja, ok var þat konungi sagt. Ok hann rœddi mart við hann, ok kunni hann at segja mǫrg tíðendi af orrostum ok fornum atburðum.
Konungr mælti: ‘Kanntu nǫkkut at segja frá konungi, Ǫgvaldi, er byggt hafir nesit þetta?’
Hann mælti: ‘Ek veit hverr hann var. Hér réð hann fyrir ok elskaði mjǫk kú eina, ok fór hon með honum á veizlur, ok drakk hann mjólk hennar, ok því er þat mælt at allt ferr saman kýr ok karl. En þá, konungr’, sagði hann, ‘átti hann ófrið við konunginn Várin á Skǫrustrǫnd, ok bǫrðusk þeir, ok fell Ǫgvaldr konungr, ok er hann hér heygðr á nesinu, ok í ǫðrum haugi er kýr hans.’
Ok er hann hafði frá þessu sagt mǫtuðusk menn drukku.
Ok er konungr kom í rekkju kallaði hann til sín gestinn ok spurði hann tiðenda. Hann sagði langt á kveldit fram, ok sofnuðu menn, en hann gestrinn hjá konungi. Byskup minnti konung á at mál var at sofa ok kvað eigi víst við hvern hann mælti. Ok er á leið stundina, þá sofnaði konungr. Ok er hann vaknaði, þá mælti hann: ‘hvar er gestrinn?’ Þá var leitat, ok fannsk hann eigi.
Þá mælti konuungr: ‘Kalli til mín hǫfuðsteikarann.’ Ok svá var gert.
Konungr mælti: ‘Kom nǫkkurr maðr til þín er þú bjótt vistir til matar oss?’
Hann kvað koma mann til sín ok mæla: ‘Eigi eru þessi konunglig atfǫng, er mǫgr ein slátr eru, ok gakk með mér,’ sagði hann. ‘Ok svá gerða ek. Vit kómum í eitt hús, ok sá ek þar kýrslátr svá feit at slíkt hefi ek aldregi sét, ok hefi ek þat nú brytjat á diska.’
Konungr mælti: ‘Drag út, tú, ok gef engum manni þat.’
Ok er hundr var til látinn, dó hann þegar. Síðan var þat brennt, ok eptir þat váru tíðir ok þrjár messur.
Ok síðan var leitat til haugsins, ok fannsk þar kýrbein í ǫðrum haugi.
Þá mælti konungr: ‘Mjǫk hefir Guð leyst oss af miklum háska, en auðsætt er at fjándinn hefir brugðizk í líki Óðins ok vildi blekkja oss: fyrst at taka vǫku frá oss um tíðir ok sofa ǫndverða nótt, en síðan at fœra oss þetta djǫfuliga eitr, at þat fengi oss bana hǫrmuligan, ok eigum vér þetta mjǫk Guði at þakka.’
Byskup sannaði þat ok kvazk þat hugr um segja, þá er gestrinn mælti við hann lengst um kveldu.
And now that the valuable work of King Óláfr had made such great progress, the enemy of all mankind was filled with envy, he who always besieges men in order to do some harmful thing to them. And when King Óláfr was receiving a feast at Ögsvaldsnes on Yule eve, a man came there late in the evening who was old and aged-looking, with one eye, and who knew how to tell of many things – and the King was told about that. And he spoke much with the man, and he was able to tell much information about battles and ancient events.
The King said: ‘Can you tell me anything about the King Ögvaldr who lived on this headland?’
He spoke: ‘I know who he was. He ruled here and was very devoted to a cow, and she went to feasts with him, and he drank her milk, and that is why it is said that, “everything goes together, cow and carl”. But then’, he said, ‘he had a dispute with King Várinn at Sköruströnd, and they fought, and King Ögvaldr fell, and he is buried in a mound on the headland here, and his cow is in another mound.’
And when he had told about this, people met and drank.
And when the King got into his bed he summoned the visitor and asked him for information. He spoke far into the evening, and people went to sleep, but the visitor (sat) beside the King. The bishop reminded him that it was time to sleep, and said that it was not certain who he was speaking with. And as time passed, the King went to sleep. And when he woke, he said: ‘Where is the visitor?’ Then a search was made, and he was not found.
Then the King said: ‘Summon the chief cook to me.’ And that was done.
The King said: ‘Did anyone come to you while you were preparing the food for our meal?’
He said that a man had come to him and had said: ‘These provisions are not suitable for a king, because all the meat is lean, so come with me’, he said. ‘And so I did. We came into a building, and there I saw such fat beef that I have never seen the like, and I have now chopped it up onto dishes.’
The King said: ‘Bring it out, you, and don’t give it to anyone.’
And when a dog was allowed at it, it died at once. Then the meat was burned, and after that there were religious services and three masses.
And then the mound was investigated, and cattle bones were found in the second mound.
Then the King said: ‘God has released us from great danger, and it is easy to see that the fiend transformed himself into the shape of Óðinn and wanted to trick us, first by depriving us of wakefulness during the service and of sleep last night, and then by bringing us this devilish poison, so that it would bring about a grievous death for us, and we must thank God greatly for this.’
The Bishop confirmed that and said that that had been his impression when the guest had talked with the King for such a long time the previous evening.
Narrated as part of Óláfr Tryggvason’s campaign to convert the people of western Norway. Between the main part of this episode and the final breaking open of the mounds there is the narrative of Óláfr’s capture and execution of the heathen magician Eyvindr kelda.
This is probably the earliest surviving version of this incident.
Ǫgvaldsnes: it is not clear why the story should be attached to this farm, but the fact that there actually were two bautarsteinar there may have given rise to it; the name Ǫgvaldr seems to mean ‘causer of terror’, which would be almost synonymous with Yggr, a common name for Óðinn. However, Ǫgvaldr’s milk-drinking, violent death and relation to the land make him resemble the primeval giant Ymir. Várinn (perhaps ‘the one bound by treaty’?) or Varinn (‘the cautious one’?) and Skorustrǫnd (probably ‘jutting out shore’, but possibly ‘challenge-shore’) are otherwise unknown, though the place-name is a believable one (cf. Skara Brae, Orkney).
The old man’s intrusion into the hall and his command of information about kings, battles and ancient events suggest that the writer is using an established story-pattern (cf. e.g. Vafþrúðnismál, Grímnismál, Gátur Gestumblinda), but with a reversal of audience sympathies which require the demonic Óðinn figure to lose the contest (cf. Inter Diabolus et Virgo, some versions of Svend Vonved).
After §10, a paragraph is omitted in which the heathen magician Eyvindr kelda arrives with five ships, intending to attack Óláfr and his men in revenge for Óláfr’s earlier attempt to burn him in his hall. However, when they land on the island, Eyvindr and his men suddenly become blind, and are captured; when they refuse to accept Christianity, they are then taken out to some rocks in Karmsund and drowned there.
Ólafur Halldórsson (ÍF 25, 251, footnote) suggests that the meat offered to the chief cook by the stranger is that of Ǫgvaldr’s cow and that the building into which the cook is taken is the cow’s funeral mound. This would increase the relevance of the story of Ǫgvaldr and supply a parody of the Christian sacrament, but it is not stated or hinted at either in this text or in any other version of the story; one must be wary of reading too much into the text.
(Contributed by John McKinnell.)
Main text: Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar by Oddr Snorrason
Attributes: stranger intrudes into hall