The Oddson's Saga

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
 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
 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
 "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
 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

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
 "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
 "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
 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

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
 - 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
 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

 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.


Last modified: Mon Jun 2 22:12:57 2003