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.