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Monday, 28 November 2016

The Åsgardsreie

[Source: Landstad, M. B. Mystiske sagn fra Telemark.]

The Åsgardsreie does sometimes travel during the day, but it is most often out in the evening or at night, and then most commonly at Christmas. It is a large company of men and women. They ride great horses with jangling bridles, and wear huge suits of armour. You can hear the jangling from afar, before you meet them. They ride over both land and water, and yes, even in the air. Seen from the front, they are awe-inspiring and gorgeous; but from behind, they are hollow like troughs or aspen trees, or you just see Guro’s tail. At the head rides Guro (Gudrun) Åsgard, or as she is also known, Guro Rysserova (which means horse-tail [also ponytail]). She is large and terrible, her horse is black and called Skokse, but in Sigurd Svein’s ballad, it is called Skerting.1 Guro’s husband is called Sigurd.2 Sigurd is terribly old; and now he has become so weak that when he should look, they have to hook his eyes open, and when he should sleep, they have to help him close his eyelids again. Sigurd’s horse is called Grane.

There was a man from Natedal who had been in Hjartdal, and it happened that he went late home in the evening. When he came up in Ambjørndalen, it had grown dark; and when he came to Vallar, and towards Blengsdalen, it was the quietest of summer’s nights, and not even a single bird was to be heard. As he now walked, there came a terrible din behind him, and when he looked more closely, it was the Åsgardsreie that came towards him. Their jangling bridles and the noise of their weapons caused alarm, and there was great talking and arguing among them, besides. Guro’s company growled for food. But she replied that they would have to wait until they came to Natedal. There, they could satisfy both themselves and their horses, for there was both Friday-baked bread and Sunday-raked hay, she said.

The man felt ill when he heard this, for he understood well that they spoke of his stabbur and his hay barn. But now the procession had come so close to him that there could be no thought of getting away. He ran, therefore, out of the road, and threw himself backwards on to the ground, as he threw out his arms so that they formed a cross together with his body. When Guro came alongside him, she stopped and shouted: “Ho! Look at that sign of the cross!” They dared not ride past him, but took a long way around. When the man saw this, he got up and ran as quickly as he could. He got a little ahead, and hurried to draw crosses on the farm gate and on all the doors. In this way, Guro was cheated out of his hospitality, and she dared not ride into the farm.

Fridays were for feasting, in the old days, and then one should not do any noisy- or rolling- or swinging work, including baking flatbread. On Sundays, naturally one had to refrain from cutting- or raking hay, and any other physical work. That which was done against these rules was considered sinful and the trolls had power over it. Guro could therefore comfort her company with the promise of Friday-baked bread and Sunday-raked hay at Natedal. And she would have found it, too, had not the man put the cross in her way.

To the farm Dalen in Kviteseid, the Åsgardsreie came several times. Once, the whole company took their saddles off and threw the saddles on the cabin roof.3 After that time, there were seven deaths on the farm; there was never peace to be found from uproar and spectacle, at night; and the door to the hall never remained closed, no matter how they locked it.

Once, the folk were at a Christmas feast at Huvestad. No one was left at home; they had locked the doors, but the food stood on the table, as is the custom at Christmas. When the folk returned home again, a couple of days later, they noticed that the Åsgardsreie had been there again. They had drunk all the Christmas beer, and eaten the greater part of the Christmas fare, so that everything and the cake had been taken. But the worst thing was that a dead man hung from the beam across the hearth. He was wearing the clothes of someone from Numedal, and he had silver buttons on his waistcoat. The Åsgardsreie had taken him in Numedal, and brought him with them, and they had probably ridden so quickly that he had burst.4

There was a wife in Dalen, whose name was Signe. She heard the Åsgardsreie come, one time, flying in the air, with jingling and jangling. She went out to see where they had gone, and discovered that the whole procession was on its way straight to her farm—Guro Rysserova at the head, and all the others in a long line. She then ran out into the courtyard, as quickly as she could, and made a cross at all the corners of the farmyard. With that, the Åsgardsreie was hindered from coming in. How it happened, or did not happen, we shall leave unsaid, but when she also made a cross in the air, in their direction, they were turned to tree stumps that rolled across the ground. So it appeared to Signe, in any case, and she saw it quite clearly.

  1. She is often called Guro Åsgard; her nickname, Rysserova, probably came later, and then as a result of mixing her up with other tusse-women. 

  2. Others say that she is Odin’s wife, and that she came with him east from Åsgard, but this is apparently not the original folk lore. 

  3. In the old days, this was the usual place to keep the tack, as it still is today, at pasture. The houses were low, but the goat could not reach up to gnaw. 

  4. The beam in question reaches from the corner of the cabin, and all the way to the fire pit in the middle of the floor. The beam serves as a fastening for the hook that holds the cauldron over the fire. 

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