Viking Romance

The Saga of Arrow-Odd

13th century, Old Norse.

Arrow-Odd dressed himself in birch-bark and claimed not to be able to remember much of the time before he went into the forest to live.

Following a third encounter with his enemy Ogmund Aythjof’s-Killer, the Viking Arrow-Odd, who is no stranger to Giantland, retires into a forest to live a solitary life among the trees. He cuts a suit of bark for himself and, dressed like this from head to foot, comes at last upon a district where he is introduced into the king’s hall.

'What is your name?' asks King Herraud.

'Barkman,' replies Odd.

'What sort of a man are you?'

'I can only tell you that I am older than you can imagine,' he says. 'But I have been living out in the woods for so long now that I cannot remember much that happened to me before I went into it.'

It is only following a series of contests in which, like the Irish champion Cú Chulaind and, for that matter, the Irish god Lugh, Odd proves himself to be a champion and master of numerous different activities – it is only following these contests that the bark is peeled off at last to reveal an immaculate red and gold tunic underneath.

Story fragment recounted from: Pálsson, Hermann, and Edwards, Paul, 1985, reprinted 2005. Seven Viking Romances. Translated from Medieval Icelandic with an introduction. Penguin Books Limited. Arrow-Odd. 24, King Herraud: 25, Hunting: 26, Contests: 27, A Drinking Contest, pp 92–109.

See for yourself

Icelandic saga – Wikipedia

Legendary sagas – Wikipedia

Örvar-Oddr – Wikipedia

Hidden origins

Metropolitan Line

artwork, clay figures ascending from the ground, badly out of focus
three standing stones against a blue sky

Navigate the tunnel