Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Arrow-Odd's Odder Religion (Seven Viking Romances)

About twenty pages from the end of this first Viking Romance (Seven Viking Romances, Hermann Pálsson, Penguin, 1985) Odd exchanges some poetry with a priestess of Frey, that goes like this*:

Priestess: Whose the leader of this monstrous army?!
Odd: Me! and I burned all your temples, destroyed your idols, and couldn't care less!
Priestess: Frey will smite you, and so will the other gods, who will support me, their priestess!
Odd: I'm not afraid of you or your gods! God is my God!
"Who fostered you
to be such a fool,
as not to offer
sacrifice to Odin?"
Odd: Ingjald, what of it? I was totally ungrateful and rude to him, too.**
Priestess: WOE! my husband is dead!
Odd: And I killed him! HA!
Priestess: Who helped you, you monster?!
Odd: Just my wicked sweet magic arrows from this random mysterious guy I was drawn to sup with, AND, I never worshipped YOUR worthless gods! because they're worthless!
"These gutless gods
ran like scared goats
before a wolf
wherever I worried them.
Odin's bad
as a bosom friend:
so we'll do away
with devil-worship."
Priestess: WOE! *flees to hide in a temple*
Odd: Ha HA!

Odd then proceeds to be nervous about entering said temple, and ends up killing the priestess by throwing a giant boulder through the skylight, so he doesn't have to go in after her, in spite of the fact that he just proclaimed her gods totally made of lame.

But earlier in this story, a number of things take place which kind of makes all this anti-Odin stuff a little, well, odd.

1) Odd says he doesn't really believe in or worship ANY gods, though admittedly he states explicitly that he does not worship Odin.
2) Odd confesses that among the Christians, after his baptism (which he only agreed to upon the condition that he could keep on killing all the peoples in this matter-of-fact, I-guess-I-will-get-baptized-since-you-people-will-not-leave-me-alone moment that inspires no one), that he's "never been so bored in my life." And he SNEAKS AWAY to go back to his raiding, murdering, ungrateful ways.
3) One of his blood-brothers, "Red-Beard" is theorized in the story to be Odin, Himself, who gives Odd all kinds of help and good advice, and is repeatedly praised for giving good advice.
5) After his baptism, Odd proceeds to go on for 40 pages without the slightest reference to Christianity or his supposed faith and trust in God.
6) This Norse-God loving priestess appears to have lived in Antioch, and Odd? he was fighting for Greece.

On this basis, I am going to call shenanigans on this insertion of religion into the story, and the whole "devil-worship" bit. Odd is easily the LEAST Christian person in the history of men baptized for convenience. Now, Odd's story does get recorded late -- the end of the 13th century or so. But reading this, I have a really hard time believing Odd's story didn't originate much earlier, with the Christian bits as an overlay, added at the time it was written down. Why else is Odd hanging around with Odin and going to Giantland where he's making babies with Giant-Ladies, even though he only comes up to their hip in height?

That said, I don't know what the scholarly consensus is, regarding these stories, so, maybe I'm way off base with my thoughts. Maybe Odd really is just a really bad Christian in a time of really bad Christians.

But I still say he is REALLY weird.

*forgive my paraphrasing
**this second part is my own addition

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