The Saga of Odin/Chapter Five: Olav and Annika
Olav and Annika
We are sitting near a fire in the woods. Its calm flame gives us warmth and comfort.
It is a chilly spring morning. The sun recently began to rise above the horizon. The new day is awake, and the birds greet the dawn with their songs that decorate the silence of the forest!
Odin began to speak:
“Love between a soul and God usually has a story that lasts more than one earthly life. I took care of you, as well as of many other people, for many lives.
“I watched over your development in this life from the very beginning! I bathed you in My lakes! I taught you to admire the beauty and to love everything around you! I sat with you near many fires without you noticing Me or recognizing Me.
“And then many of your years of studying Me have united us even more firmly.
“Now I am telling you stories about earthly love and about Heavenly Love. With the Waves of My Tenderness, I again and again embrace you and every one who reads these lines!
“By using the emotions of the heroes of this saga, I want to embrace everyone with My Light and submerge everyone in My Depths! Now let the words sound in which one can hear the voices of seagulls and feel the splashes of the waves against the sides of the boat!
“May the fragrance of the flowers and the salty taste of the drops of the sea reach every soul!
“May the expanse of My northern lands be so palpable that, by only reading, one can expand oneself over this vastness, loving every pebble and every pine, which found the strength to take root in a crag and not fall from the strong bursts of the winter wind!”
Odin easily opens the image of His northern lands before my inner vision. There, granite rocks rise on both sides of the fjord; the streams of the waterfalls fall in some places of the cliffs; the pines manage to keep their trunks with their strong roots in the steep slopes; the crystalline surface of the water reflects the sky with the delicate tracery of the white clouds.
It seems like we are flying, as consciousnesses, above the surface of this mirror of water! I begin to hear the sounds of oars touching the water!
* * *
The ship glided smoothly over the waters entering into the fjord. The movements of the rowers were harmonious and rhythmic. It seemed that the cliffs, covered with trees in some places, floated to the right and to the left.
Ahead, an entrance to a small bay opened up. The small and long houses of the Vikings were lodged here, protected from the winds by the large cliffs.
Not many merchants dared to enter these fjords, because those who lived here were accustomed to taking what the merchant ships carried with the aid of arms. The one who dared to offer his or her merchandise in this place, especially that expensive merchandise which Olav brought, had to have great courage and strength.
Olav’s lightweight and agile ship flew in like a seagull in the bay. The boardwalks touched the small pebbles. Olav disembarked and walked towards the armed people who left their houses.
“We have come in peace! From my travels to faraway lands, I have brought you my merchandise: golden wheat, white rice, fabrics, and jewels. If the owner of these lands allows me, I offer to your warriors and to your mothers and wives all that they desire!”
The jarl Ingvar, who was the head of the clan, the governor of that community, and the owner of those lands and of some drekkars, personally went out to meet Olav:
“Well, merchant! Bring your goods and we will look at them!”
The companions of Olav began to empty the trunks and sacks and put the merchandise inside the main house of that community.
Meanwhile, the jarl asked Olav:
“Why are you not afraid that I will take away everything that you brought and your life for good measure?”
“Those who live in fear hide themselves in their houses instead of sailing the oceans! You are a warrior and you know that fear leads to defeat in a battle!
“Fear is destructive not only in the battlefield, but it also brings undertakings into ruin.
“Brave people, however, ‘go after the horizon’ and God is behind their back, as a Protector, and shows them the way!
“If we reach an agreement, I will come back to your hospitable bay after one year and after two years and I will bring the new exotic goods that destiny will send to me.”
“You are brave and speak in a beautiful way! We respect the brave! You are right! We will gladly listen to you in the future!”
Meanwhile, they began to hear the excited voices of the women who were inspecting the fabrics and jewels displayed on the tables.
* * *
Annika was the only daughter of the jarl Ingvar.
She was as beautiful as a tender and delicate spring flower, slender with long blonde hair up to her waist, tied back by a thin ribbon around her head. Her blue eyes were the same color as the clear sky. She wore a white dress with the fine embroidery of blue flowers around her neck, and a belt made with threads surrounded her precious waist.
Fragile and tender compared to the people around her, she was different and special.
She saw Olav, and from this moment on, she did not look at the brocade or the precious stones, or the fine drawings on the buckles, or the different necklaces, or the earrings, or the little filigree chains. Now she only looked at him until their eyes met.
And when this happened, what people call “love at first sight” occurred. A radiance ignited in the souls, that radiance which attracts one soul to the other!
“Who is she?” Olav asked the jarl Ingvar after a time that seemed to be an eternity.
“She is my daughter Annika. But do not look at her like that! She is not for you, merchant! I am going to marry her to the owner of some nearby lands. This kinship will bring me great luck! I will be the supreme sovereign of all the local jarls!”
Olav did not answer, because first he had to make sure that she wanted to unite her life with his. And if this were the case, there would be no obstacles!
* * *
The jarl Ingvar invited Olav and his crew to stay several days to rest from their long sea voyage. In addition, he decided to hold a feast with a competition between the friends of Olav and his warriors. He wanted to show his superiority over these foreigners.
Olav did not have anything against this, because his friends also agreed to rest there, to participate in the competition, and to show their mastery in the handling of swords and bows.
On the day of the competition, while everyone was preparing for the tournament, Olav and Annika moved away from the others and headed for the shore where they could talk alone having hidden themselves from curious eyes.
The most important thing had already been said between them with their words, with their looks, with their touches, and with the tenderness of the love that was burning stronger and stronger!
Annika looked at Olav in such a way that he no longer had any doubts that fate had given him a mutually experienced love!
It was as if they had begun living in another world that illuminated everything around them with a state of growing happiness rising from mutual understanding and unity of souls in the shining Light!
“Tell me about yourself, Olav! I want to know everything about you! Where were you born? Where did you live? And what is important to you?”
“But you yourself have not told me anything about you.”
“Why should I if you can see me like the palm of your hand? Besides, my life is so simple that I do not have anything to tell! My years passed by each one like the next! I rejoiced with the arrival of spring, with the flocks of swans that fly above my house, with the flowers that open themselves up. Then summer arrived, and the tender sun warmed both me and all of nature, which also rejoiced in the short northern heat. Then autumn and winter arrived, and I spent many sunsets near the flame of the fire doing sewing chores. So, I have nothing to tell. You, on the other hand, have seen and known much!”
“I was born in the lands of the north, much further east than here. I became an orphan very early, and destiny brought me to the southern lands. There a person, who later became my adoptive father, educated and taught me.”
“What God do you worship? How should I pray for your wellbeing and protection?”
“In my travels, I was able to study the many beliefs that exist in different countries and among different people.
“Through these studies, I recognized the sovereignty of one God Who governs the entire universe. It does not matter if one calls Him Odin, Allah, or Elohim! I believe that to each people He sends His Messengers, which is why there are many Who are called Gods. Those who know the Primordial as the Truth, the Wisdom, the Love, the Perfection, and the Omnipotence also know that just as all rivers, seas, and oceans consist of water, all beliefs are similar to the sounds of the different languages used to designate the One Divine Power.
“No doubt, there exists what the people themselves added to the legends about God and His Messengers, and this is why many misinterpretations of the Truth arose in the beliefs of people.
”It is similar to a reflection in the water. Without wind, this reflection is perfect, but when there is wind, the movement on the surface of the water creates alterations, and if the waves are very strong, you cannot see anything anymore. In spite of this, that which is reflected does not cease to exist, it does not matter if we can see the reflection or not.”
“You speak so well, Olav! Tell me, how did you decide to come here with such expensive merchandise?”
“I dreamed about returning here for many years. So, I assembled a team of brave sailors and faithful friends. I will introduce you to each one of them! We have stayed in many places, and no one has created an obstacle for the peace and friendship that I have proposed.”
“And in all these places the beautiful women could not keep their eyes off of you?” Annika jokingly asked.
“Possibly. But I found you!
“Love is the most beautiful state of the human soul! And you gave me the happiness of being able to love you!”
“Why do you not seek to participate in this competition that my father organized? Your friends also want this entertainment. Are you not afraid that they will think you are weak? Do you really want to be here with me and not there?”
“Yes, I want to be with you and not be separated from you even for a moment!
“I control the sword and the bow fairly well, but I believe that one should not use arms without extreme necessity. I am not afraid to appear weak because I know my strength. But I saw several times how my loved ones perished.
“It is difficult for me to explain it now with words, but I learned the law of the Creator that calls on us to not cause unjustified harm to anyone.
“Therefore, one should not even tear out a small flower without extreme necessity!
“Right now, looking at these forget-me-nots near the water, I see in each one of them a small manifestation of the marvelous beauty of the entire Earth, this beautiful Creation of God!
“And the plants not only manifest the beauty of the Creation that delights us, but they also feed our flesh with their fruits, and, through this, their strength adds to the strength of each one of us.
“The suffering and the pain of assassinated animals or the suffering of people due to enmity among themselves is, in my opinion, what violates the Laws that please the Lord Who created all of this.”
“Do you really believe that there can be Perfection on Earth?” asked Annika.
“How can you doubt this, experiencing the delight of the love that has brought us together?”
They embraced each other and united their lips.
Later, when they continued their conversation, Olav said:
“It is important to understand that what people consider to be an ideal for themselves does not always really bring them closer to the authentic Perfection.
“Many consider kindness and mercy as weakness, while force, cruelty, and certainty in the right to avenge oneself are considered to be bravery. It is not easy to change these convictions.
“The victories in this tournament will entertain the pride of many. For some, these victories will serve as lessons in the art of combat, while for others they will be a motive for envy.”
“But I believe that this tournament will not cause harm to anyone! If you triumph, it will be more likely that my father will agree to marry me with you!”
“I am not sure of this, Annika, but we can try it. Alright, let this competition be for me too! Let’s go!”
They held hands and walked happily towards the crowd of spectators and participants. When they arrived, the jarl looked at his daughter disapprovingly, but she gave him a brave and firm look back. The happiness and love made her fearless. Then the jarl understood that now it would be difficult for him to get the obedience of his daughter and he regretted having started this feast. However, it was too late.
* * *
The entire community, from children to adults, gathered to see the duels. Even the women with children who were breastfeeding came to see how the foreigners fought.
Among the friends of Olav, there were some Africans and their dark skin was the subject of wonder. Everyone was also interested in the armament of the friends of Olav, who had lightweight swords and sabers, as well as thin armor that shined like scales.
Every person wondered if this armor would resist the strong blows and also how these foreigners would fight.
In the beginning, each fighter competed in shooting bows.
Later, the duels with swords began. Whoever lost left the competition, and whoever won continued to compete.
Olav beat everyone. No one could compare with him in the speeds of his attacks and his defenses. It seemed that he predicted every movement of his adversary before that person could even move. The attacks of Olav were so precise that he did not even injure his opponent. Instead he simply put his sword in such a position that the next movement would be fatal for his rival.
Initially, Ingvar wanted to fight with this merchant to give him a lesson, but, seeing how his best warriors were defeated one after another, he decided not to participate in the tournament.
Together with all the others, he greeted the victor saying:
“Ask for any prize, merchant! You are, truly, a powerful warrior!”
“I ask you for the most beautiful treasure in the whole world! Let me marry your daughter, jarl Ingvar!”
“You are bold, stranger! But these matters are not resolved so quickly!
“You will give me a great ransom for my daughter! You will bring your boat filled with gold and jewels to this bay once again! And only then will we celebrate the marriage. Of course, you will leave me what my people did not buy now as an advance payment. You promised to come here again. So, I will wait for you for one year. Are you rich enough to gather such a ransom?”
“I have enough gold and jewels to fulfill this. But let your daughter marry me now. My word is as firm as the blows of my sword. And later you will receive what you want!”
“No, merchant! First bring me the gold! There is no other way! And hurry! For if you do not return after one year, I have another candidate, the union with which will give me the same influence as your gold!
“Now let’s feast! Prepare the tables with the food!”
Everyone ate, and the young skald Roon sang his beautiful songs about brave warriors and about the heroes of the legends of different people. He sang about the love of the bride waiting for her fiancé.
He not only sang the ancient songs, but he composed new lines listening to them in the world known only by poets. Everyone applauded him, for in these lands the art of the skalds was appreciated in almost the same way as the valor of the warriors.