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Orvar-Oddr (Old Norse: Ǫrvar-Oddr [ˈɔrwɑz̠-ˌodːz̠], "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.

Plot summary[]

Oddr was the son of Grímr Loðinkinni and the grandson of Ketill Hængr (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 three hundred (which may very well signify 360, as a hundred by the time was a unit of numbers denoting 120, not 100 - which have been called a petty hundred).

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, Holmgård, Constantinople and Jǫtunheimr, he fought successfully against several Vikings.

However, when he encountered the Swedish champion Hjálmarr, 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 Arngrímr, Örvar-Oddr had to bring the dead Hjalmar (killed by Angantýr) 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, he pretended to be baptised in Sicily, 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 the death of Oleg (also of Varangian origin) in similar terms. Oleg's death from "the skull of a horse" is also the subject of one of the best known ballads in the Russian language, written by Alexander Pushkin in 1826.


  1. Boer, R. C. (1888). Örvar-Odds saga. Leiden: E. J. Brill. pp. 132. OCLC 462860153.
  2. Hermann Palsson, Paul Edwards (1985). Seven Viking Romances. 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2: Penguin Books Canada Ltd. pp. 86. ISBN: 978-0-14-044474-2 .

External links[]

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