Raud the Strong
The Heimskringla (The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway) tells of a famed Warrior and Blot Priest name Raud the Strong. Not only was Raud a Blot Priest, but he was also a seafaring warrior. Raud was known for having the largest and fastest ship of the time. It was also said when he sailed the Gods granted him favored winds.
It is unclear on Raud’s date of birth however we do know he most likely died around 1000 CE. Known as a large landowner Raud lived in Gylling and Haering which are part of the Godey Isles near present day Bodo, Norway. Raud was also known to have a strong connection to the Sami People. The Sami are indigenous people of the northernmost parts of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia.
Olaf Tryggvason was King of Norway from 995 to 1000 CE. Olaf was known for his brutality and demanded that his citizens were baptized, even if it was by force. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the poem Tales of Wayside Inn descried Olaf Tryggvason’s reign as he “Preached the Gospel with the Sword.” Those who refused to baptism were tortured and/or killed.
Once Raud heard that Olaf was headed in his direction he boarded his ship Ormurinn (the Serpent) and sailed out to face him on the water. It is interesting to note that Ormurinn was said to be the largest ship of its time, bigger than any of Olaf’s ships, and the dragon head was gold plated. Once he engaged in battle with Olaf on the sea he was overwhelmed. Raud retreated using various sailing techniques allowing him to sail against the wind. He was able to escape, and it is believed that his escape was aided by Thor.
Raud made it home and was ambushed by Olaf and his men under the cover of darkness. Olaf proceeded to torture Raud trying to get him to agree to be baptized. Raud took the torture and was said to be mocking and hurling insults at Olaf and his beliefs until Olaf forced a snake down Raud’s mouth killing him. Some accounts say the snake ate its way out of Raud’s side, other accounts say that a horn had to be placed over the snake for it to go down. Olaf ended up stealing Ormurinn
Main take aways:
The Saga of the Volsungs has a reoccurring theme of “you can not cheat your death day.” The Saga of Raud the Strong is a great example of this. He may have died in the end, but he never betrayed the Gods. He went out as a proud man. All the way to the end Raud stood up for the Gods and honored them. In life you are never going to win all your battles, you should go down fighting.
We honor Raud as a folk hero for his Steadfastness, his courage for facing down the enemies, and for his devotion to the Gods.