by Liz Henry
[Work in Progress as of June 2, 2003] 1. Odd Ottarson There was a man called Odd. He was the oldest son of Ottar Thorbjornson who built a farm on the north side of Breidafjord in Iceland. Odd was married to Ragna Kjartandotter, called Ragna the Black. They had three sons. In his youth Odd made several successful raids on the Irish coast, returning home to his father's house each winter. Because of some killings he left with ten of his men and went to fight for the Emperor in the east. After many years they returned as wealthy men. Odd brought back an excellent sword, made from eastern sky-iron. He called this sword Thor's Gift, and carried it everywhere. On his return he inherited his father's farm. His sons soon returned from Norway, where they had made a name for themselves as retainers of Earl Halfdan. They rode to to the Althing together each year, and were great friends. Odd was a proud man, but bold and generous, and people said that luck was with him. His farm prospered. He became known as Odd Thorsgift, because of the sword. 2. People hear of the new lands People were talking about settling Greenland and the lands beyond. The discoveries are told of in Eirik's saga and elsewhere. One day a trader came to Odd's farm. He had been to Vinland, and spoke of its plentiful timber and rich farmlands. He described the Skraelings as eager for trade; though they had little gold, they would trade furs. They farmed, but not always in one place, so there was land for the taking. Olaf stayed up late drinking wiht this trader, Bjorn Olafson, and gave him a silver arm-ring. 3. Ragna's dream Ragna the Black, Odd's wife, was a witchsinger. Odd consulted her frequently and valued her advice. After the Greenland trader left, Odd went to Ragna where she was weaving with the household women. He said he wanted to sell their land and go to Vinland. "I have always known my bones would not rest here in Iceland" she said. "Give me a night and a day to think it over." Odd agreed. The next day Odd went up to Stjarnafell with some of the men to look for lost cattle. There was a house near the top of the mountain, where the herders stayed in the summer months; it had been Ragna's father's farm, and now belonged to her. It was excellent summer pasture. Near the end of the day Ragna walked up the mountain. She and Odd stood looking out over the valley and the farm below. "Which would you rather have, a long life, or a long life for your sons?" she asked Odd. "No man can know the future. But seeing one's own sons die would be a hard fate." Odd replied. "I dreamed a dream last night," Ragna said. "Our sons each captained a ship that rode among the clouds. A raven flew before them, carrying a human skull in its claws. Guided by the raven, the ships passed through a storm with towering thunderclouds, in safety." "A strange dream," said Odd. Ragna replied, "I think we should go to the new land, although I won't be the one to enjoy it for long." "You have not described my part in the dream," said Odd. But Ragna refused to say any more about it. 4. The voyage Odd sold his land to his sister's son Kjartan Longshanks. He consulted his relatives about what to bring with him, and invited the younger men to come along. Many people were eager to go to the new lands. Odd was unusual in that he refused to take outlawed men on his ships. On Ragna's advice, Odd laid in a large stock of seeds of every kind, cloth, and smithing tools. He loaded the ships with goats and sheep rather than cattle. From the talk of the Greenland trader he took two chests of red cloth, and many gold ornaments and weapons. One fourth of his wealth he left with Kjartan, for safekeeping. The division of Odd's wealth took place at a farewell feast given by his kinsman, who also had bought his godar status. It became clear to everyone that Odd was much wealthier than anyone had thought. People talked about it for a long time. Three ships were captained by Odd's three sons, and Odd took the fourth and largest ship. They had sixty-two men and women, whose names are told elsewhere. The voyage to Greenland was uneventful. There were many whales. At Herjolfsness in Greenland, five shipwrecked men wanted to go to Vinland to join the settlement at Leifsbudir. Their leader was named Hrapp the Troublesome. Odd allowed them aboard, although they had a bad reputation. They had been to Vinland before, and told Odd to sail straight out from the Vatnafell glacier, then sail south along the Rock Coast and Furdustrands. He did this, and it was just as they said. They had good weather all the way. 5. Odd visits Leifsbudir Odd and all his ships arrived safely at Leifsbudir. They were welcomed by the people there, who had been attacked recently by bear-men. It was spring and the streams were running with salmon. There was plenty of food. Some of the crew, and Odd's oldest son Ottar, wanted to stay at Leifsbudir. "This land is good, but something tells me that to the south we will find better," Odd told them. Trusting his luck, they began to repair the boats and hunt deer with the settlers, to build up their store of food. Odd went fishing in the river for salmon. He caught more in one day than he had seen in his entire life in Iceland. At twilight he was still at the stream's banks, and caught an enormous fish with red eyes. It spoke to him, saying "Put me back in the water, Odd." "A fine day when a fish calls me by name," Odd said. "If you don't spare my life, you will rue the day you destroyed the people of the river," said the salmon. "I have never regretted anything I have done," replied Odd. "Proud words from a hard man," said the fish, and it died in his hands. When this became known, people felt it was a bad omen, and asked Odd and his people to leave. 6. South to Longeysund The man from Norway, Hrapp the Troublesome, wanted to sail south to Longey, where his brother had a farm. A lot of settlers were talking about going there. Odd agreed to take them there. They sailed south, past a large bay and a long narrow headland. Cod were so thick in the water that Odd named the headland Viskaness, and the bay, Fishfleet. At Longeysund Hrapp joined his brother, Bjorn, who lived on the island. A man called Bron had settled on the north coast of the mainland there. He had many men working for him, and had built a substantial farm surrounded by earthen walls. Odd and his men visited Bron, who gave a feast in their honor and welcomed them to his halls. After the feast Bron and Odd sat up talking and playing chess. "Tell me why your farm has such high walls," said Odd. "What do you know of the Skraelings?" Bron asked him. "Very little," said Odd. "There are three kinds of Skraelings," Bron said. "The first are the northern ones, the Bear-men, who live in dirty, stinking caves. They are aggressive, but have poor weapons and make bad fighters. The second are the Lagakin, who live here. They are skilled at making light boats, and travel the rivers and lakes. We trade with them for fur. They are trustworthy, and their women are beautiful. " "And the third kind?" asked Odd. "The third kind I have only heard of, and not seen. They are the Skraelings of the west and south, the Redaxes: tall, fierce, and powerful; going on raids every summer and fall until the snow comes. They are formidable warriors, with axes of copper, and burn their prisoners alive." "That is bad to hear, but good to know," said Odd. 7. Odd chooses his land He sails up Longeysund -- there is a terrible storm - they sail up the river mouth. Ragna suggests he throw the doorposts overboard. Later the doorposts are found at a spit of rocky land under a mountain, a few miles up the river. Odd builds his house there, and a pier of rocks, and names it Bryggjafell, the Piermountain. As luck would have it, it was the first place where there was a break in the white cliffs of the west bank. Skraelings came there to trade and to cross the river... 8. Odd's sons ...describe odd's three sons: Ottar, a swift swimmer, good with boats, and a skilled hunter; Regn, the smith and formidable swordsman, persuasive and thoughtful, knowledgeable in law; and Orm, who loved to dress well and owned much gold- a brave man, but boastful - attractive to women. Although they are of such different temperaments the brothers are inseparable. Odd's son Regn takes some particularly good land across the river. It is free of trees and stones and the grass is tall and good for hay. 10. Good fences make good neighbors the next spring: Freydis (from eiriks saga) and her husband and people are shipwrecked and lose all their goods, on the other side of the river. They shelter under the boats. Svanhild Atli's daughter should come in here somewhere. She is beautiful and a good housekeeper, but has a terrible temper. She's Freydis's foster daughter. Later the boats are built into the roof of the house -- thus the name Tjaraholt (Tarrytown), used derisively by people at first, but then used obstinately and proudly by its inhabitants, who always seem to have a chip on their shoulder. Freydis is energetic, smart, and builds up wealth, but is also spiteful, sarcastic, and heartily disliked by everyone. She takes in outlaws and known killers, strengthening her household but alienating many families. Odd helps them get settled. Freydis resents his and Ragna's help and their wealth, and encourages her people to dispute with Odd's. She incites one of her guys to go across the river and steal livestock. (Livestock is very scarce, especially horses) 9. Groenholt is established on Manhattan A couple of years go by. Groenholt is established on Manhattan Island. 9. The raid on Brygjafell There is a raid by the Red-axes on Bryggjafell -- Odd is away at the first Althing -- the brothers fight fiercely and defend some Lagakin. The Lagakin chief, Uncas, is mortally wounded in the battle. Uncas' daughter comes to Brygjafell while the men are still out chasing and fighting the Redaxe horde. She calls Ragna "mother" in the Norse language and there is some spooky omen. Ragna says something ominous (as usual) but accepts her as a foster daughter and calls her Hrafna. Svanhild falls in love with Orm and gives him a golden arm ring, coiled like a snake. He values it highly. They have an affair. Ragna and Odd gave a feast this year and invited the main families of the area. There was a shooting competition. Hrafna the Lagakin shoots the best and splits Ottar's arrow in half in the center of the target. Ottar and Orm both are charmed by her beauty and great shooting. Svanhild notices Orm watching Hrafna. She asks for the bracelet back. He refuses, and she bitterly curses him, saying that trouble will follow any future union between their families. 11. Orm gets into trouble Ottar and his father Odd fight. Odd wants him to start helping to clear land and work the farm. Ottar says that he prefers farm like the Lagakin; the old country was a hard climate and needed hard work, but here, because of the benevolence of the corn goddess, grain is easy to grow and food plentiful. A man should not grub in the fields gathering hay to feed to stupid sheep - he should hunt and raid. Odd is disappointed in him. His brothers are more sympathetic, and to stop the family quarrel they suggest an exploratory voyage upriver. Before they leave on the trip, Orm visits Svanhild. She regrets cursing Orm and apologizes. They make up their differences. Some guys belonging to the Brygjafell household are killed or wounded by Freydis's men at her instigation. 13. The homecoming A year later, the brothers and their men returned in Lagakin-made canoes full of beaver and buffalo skins, and big chunks of copper. They also bring male and female captives. Orm gives his captives to his father, saying that they will help clear land and establish the landholding. Odd is somewhat mollified. In the meantime, though, Freydis has pressured Svanhild to marry one of her huscarls, Hrapp the Troublesome. Svanhild is very bitter about this. 14. The Feud grows bitter Odd doesn't talk openly about it but he derides his sons harshly in some way and makes an oblique reference to not seeing as many horses around as he used to. Ottar and Orm cross the river and kill some more guys and take a bunch of horses. Orm and Svanhild continue their affair. 15. Odd's fate Freydis's band of outlaws tries to burn down Brygjafell. Odd rides out on his horse with sword upraised and tramples several of the attackers. Hrafna prevents the house from burning by magically calling a rainstorm. Odd and his horse are struck by lightning and killed. The sword was laid in his hands when he was prepared for burial in a large cairn on top of the highest hill. But when they began the burial, the sword had disappeared. 16. The brothers retaliate The brothers ride to Tjaraholt and kill Svanhild's husband and some more of their people. Lots of people die. There should be some bit characters who say cynical things right before they die or who boast and then have their legs chopped right off. 17. Freydis makes some troublesome verses Freydis does or says something else awful. I can't think what. It must be especially nefarious. Maybe it is some scurrilous verse about Odd's death; how the brothers fought over who would steal the sword so they could give it to Hrafna Arrow in payment for sex "since she's not a normal woman and values only weapons." 18. The vengeance of Hrafna Hrafna goes alone and confronts Freydis and takes away her power of speech. Over the next 6 months Freydis wastes away terribly, but she slowly regains her ability to talk. 19. The arbitration Regn ends the feud with the help of the guys from Groenholt and Bron from Bronsstead. Regn offers Freydis all his lands on the Tjarahold side of the river as compensation for the Oddsons' killings. He asks in return only that Svanhild be given back her dowry and allowed to marry Orm. Freydis agrees, under much pressure, as there are over a hundred armed men on the Oddson's side. 20. Ragna the Black's blessings Ragna the Black on her deathbed foretells some more stuff and blesses her sons. She again calls Hrafna Arrow her true daughter and gives her the gift of vision. She also has something interesting to say to Svanhild. She foretells the exact moment of her own death, like "when that log burns completely through I'll die". Then she dies! More notes about Odd and sundry: Odd likes the Indians and wants to coexist peacefully, by making laws to severely limit Norse settlement. But he wants no mixing between the cultures. His sons want to merge cultures to some extent. - to live and hunt like the Lagakin, including religion (Ottar) - to adapt their laws and learn their language (Regn) - To have their standards of bravery (Orm) Regn counsels his brothers not to go a viking in any nearby lands. Instead they must explore far upriver, and trade peacefully. Hrafna Arrow ends up marrying Regn because she likes his level-headedness. Hrafna and her brother Hrafn Storm speak at the Althing. Odd proposes the Laws of Settlement. (Later, Regn invites Lagakin chiefs to be part of the Althing, as godar. --- the godi are the class of major landholders and family heads who basically part of parliament) Problems to work in: Odd must continue being rather proud and hard hearted or ambitious which helps contribute to his death. Bring the bear-men into it somehow. The three brothers might all be in love with Hrafna Arrow, or maybe just Ottar and Orm. What will their conflict look like? Or will they suppress it? I think Ottar has to die (like the otter guy who is Fafnir's brother) but it might be more like a tragic accident. Then Orm goes off to live with the Lagakin, maybe with Svanhild.