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Title: Orvar-Odd  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Tyrfing, Samsø, Oleg of Novgorod, Self-fulfilling prophecy, Yngvi and Alf, Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks, Legendary saga, Fornsigtuna, Hjalmar and Ingeborg, Tyrfing Cycle
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Örvar-Oddr (Old Norse Ǫrvar-Oddr, "Arrow-Odd" or "Arrow's Point") is a legendary hero about whom an anonymous Icelander wrote a fornaldarsaga in the latter part of the 13th century. Örvar-Odds saga, the Saga of Örvar-Odd, became very popular and contains old legends and songs. He also appears in Hervarar saga and, concerning the battle on Samsø, in Gesta Danorum.

Oddr was the son of Grim Lodinkinni and the grandson of Ketil Höing (both of whom have their own sagas) of Hålogaland. When he was an infant, a völva predicted that he would be killed by his own horse Faxi, at the place where he was born, at the age of 300.

In order to undo the prediction, he killed his horse, buried it deep in the ground and left his home intending never to return again. As he was leaving, his father gave him some magic arrows (Gusisnautar) which soon earned him the cognomen arrow. After a voyage to Finnmark, Bjarmaland and Jotunheim, he fought successfully against several Vikings.

However, when he encountered the Swedish champion Hjalmar, he met his match. The fight was even and the two warriors not only became friends, but entered sworn brotherhood.

The two heroes fought many battles together (for more see Hjalmar), until after the famous battle of Samsø against the sons of Arngrim, Örvar-Oddr had to bring the dead Hjalmar (killed by Angantyr) to Uppsala and his betrothed Ingeborg, the daughter of the Swedish king.

Örvar-Oddr travelled in the South fighting against the corsairs of the Mediterranean, had himself baptised, was shipwrecked and arrived alone in the Holy Land.

While seeking vengeance against Ogmund Tussock for the murder of his blood-brother Thord, Oddr is accompanied by his giant son Vignir. During their voyage, they encounter two large sea-creatures[1] as described by Vignir:[2]

…these were two sea-monsters, one called Sea-Reek, and the other Heather-Back. The Sea-Reek is the biggest monster in the whole ocean. It swallows men and ships, and whales too, and anything else around. It stays underwater for days, then it puts up its mouth and nostrils, and when it does, it never stays on the surface for less than one tide.

These creatures later described in an Old Norwegian scientific work Konungs skuggsjá (c. 1250), were to come to be understood as what the Norse regarded as the Kraken. This is seemingly one of the first references to the Kraken.

Dressed as an old man, he arrived in Hunaland, where his true identity was soon revealed due to his heroic actions. After defeating the king of Bjalkaland ("pelt country"), who used to pay tribute to the king of Hunaland, he married the princess Silkisif and became the next king.

After all this, he became homesick and went back home. Walking over the grave of Faxi, he mocked the old prophecy, but tripped over the skull of a horse from which a snake appeared. The snake bit him and he died.

The saga includes several stories, such as the voyage of Ottar from Hålogaland to Bjarmaland, the legend of Hjalmar's foster-brother (originally named Söte), Starkaðr, Ketil Höing, Odysseus and Polyphemus, Sigurd Jorsalfare and the Rus' ruler Oleg of Novgorod (the attack on Bjalkaland).

The motive of Örvar-Oddr's mocking the prophecy and death has parallels in the Primary Chronicle, which describes the manner of Oleg's death in similar terms. Oleg's death from "the skull of a horse" is the subject of one of the best known ballads in the Russian language, written by Alexander Pushkin in 1826.


  • The Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus on Orvar-Odd
  • Tunstall's translation of the battle with the sons of Arngrim, from Orvar-Odd's saga
  • The Old Norse text of the Saga

External links

public domain.

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