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Middle Age Sagas With Roots In The Myth Concerning The Lower World Erik Vidforle's Saga


Source: Teutonic Mythology

Far down in Christian times there prevailed among the Scandinavians the
idea that their heathen ancestors had believed in the existence of a
place of joy, from which sorrow, pain, blemishes, age, sickness, and
death were excluded. This place of joy was called Odainsakr,
the-acre-of-the-not-dead, Joerd lifanda manna, the earth of living men.
It was situated not in heaven but below, either on the surface of the
earth or in the lower world, but it was separated from the lands
inhabited by men in such a manner that it was not impossible, but
nevertheless exceeding perilous, to get there.

A saga from the fourteenth century incorporated in Flateybook, and with
a few textual modifications in Fornald. Saga, iii., tells the following:

Erik, the son of a petty Norse king, one Christmas Eve, made the vow to
seek out Odainsaker, and the fame of it spread over all Norway. In
company with a Danish prince, who also was named Erik, he betook
himself first to Miklagard (Constantinople), where the king engaged the
young men in his service, and was greatly benefited by their warlike
skill. One day the king talked with the Norwegian Erik about religion,
and the result was that the latter surrendered the faith of his
ancestors and accepted baptism. He told his royal teacher of the vow he
had taken to find Odainsaker,--"fra honum heyrdi ver sagt a voru
landi,"--and asked him if he knew where it was situated. The king
believed that Odainsaker was identical with Paradise, and said it lies
in the East beyond the farthest boundaries of India, but that no one was
able to get there because it was enclosed by a fire-wall, which aspires
to heaven itself. Still Erik was bound by his vow, and with his Danish
namesake he set out on his journey, after the king had instructed them
as well as he was able in regard to the way, and had given them a letter
of recommendation to the authorities and princes through whose
territories they had to pass. They travelled through Syria and the
immense and wonderful India, and came to a dark country where the stars
are seen all day long. After having traversed its deep forests, they saw
when it began to grow light a river, over which there was a vaulted
stone bridge. On the other side of the river there was a plain, from
which came sweet fragrance. Erik conjectured that the river was the one
called by the king in Miklagard Pison, and which rises in Paradise. On
the stone bridge lay a dragon with wide open mouth. The Danish prince
advised that they return, for he considered it impossible to conquer the
dragon or to pass it. But the Norwegian Erik seized one of his men by
one hand, and rushed with his sword in the other against the dragon.
They were seen to vanish between the jaws of the monster. With the other
companions the Danish prince then returned by the same route as he had
come, and after many years he got back to his native land.

When Erik and his fellow-countryman had been swallowed by the dragon,
they thought themselves enveloped in smoke; but it was scattered, and
they were unharmed, and saw before them the great plain lit up by the
sun and covered with flowers. There flowed rivers of honey, the air was
still, but just above the ground were felt breezes that conveyed the
fragrance of the flowers. It is never dark in this country, and objects
cast no shadow. Both the adventurers went far into the country in order
to find, if possible, inhabited parts. But the country seemed to be
uninhabited. Still they discovered a tower in the distance. They
continued to travel in that direction, and on coming nearer they found
that the tower was suspended in the air, without foundation or pillars.
A ladder led up to it. Within the tower there was a room, carpeted with
velvet, and there stood a beautiful table with delicious food in silver
dishes, and wine in golden goblets. There were also splendid beds. Both
the men were now convinced that they had come to Odainsaker, and they
thanked God that they had reached their destination. They refreshed
themselves and laid themselves to sleep. While Erik slept there came to
him a beautiful lad, who called him by name, and said he was one of the
angels who guarded the gates of Paradise, and also Erik's guardian
angel, who had been at his side when he vowed to go in search of
Odainsaker. He asked whether Erik wished to remain where he now was or
to return home. Erik wished to return to report what he had seen. The
angel informed him that Odainsaker, or joerd lifanda manna, where he
now was, was not the same place as Paradise, for to the latter only
spirits could come, and the land of spirits, Paradise, was so glorious
that, in comparison, Odainsaker seemed like a desert. Still, these two
regions are on each other's borders, and the river which Erik had seen
has its source in Paradise. The angel permitted the two travellers to
remain in Odainsaker for six days to rest themselves. Then they returned
by way of Miklagard to Norway, and there Erik was called vid-foerli,
the far-travelled.

In regard to Erik's genealogy, the saga states (Fornald. Saga, iii. 519)
that his father's name was Thrand, that his aunt (mother's sister) was a
certain Svanhvit, and that he belonged to the race of Thjasse's daughter
Skade. Further on in the domain of the real myth, we shall discover an
Erik who belongs to Thjasse's family, and whose mother is a swan-maid
(goddess of growth). This latter Erik also succeeded in seeing
Odainsaker (see Nos. 102, 103).

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