Sunday, April 18, 2010

Vige, a Strange and Wise Dog

Dogs wearing names from ancient days are few, but one is mentioned in the Norse legend Heimskringla, written by the Icelandic Snorre Sturlasson ab. 1220. Olav Trygvasson is one of the kings in Snorre's tale who is most lifelike.

When he lived in England with his wife Gyda, who was the widow after an earl, he often went on Viking expeditions to Ireland. In such an expedition he achieved the dog Vige. Snorre says that they missed food on the ships, why it was necessary to do some poaching. His men went ashore and drove a great flock of cattle down to the beach. After the cattle followed a peasant, and he asked so urgently to have his cows back that Olaf allowed him to take them, if he could find them "But don't waste our time," he said to the peasant.

The peasant was followed by a large sheep dog, and he let it run into the cattle flock among hundreds of cows. The dog soon had gathered a flock, which were all marked in the same way, the same number the peasant had told Olaf. Everyone could see that this dog had done right and that it must really be a very wise dog. Olaf asked the peasant if he would give it to him. The peasant said yes and Olaf gave him a gold ring and promised him his friendship. The dog was named Vige and was the wisest among dogs.

The dog followed probably Olaf back to England. Shortly after was Olaf contacted by a man from Norway, Tore Klakke, who persuaded him to go to Norway to seek his fortune there. Olaf arrived in Norway at a time where the Norwegians were about to rebell the regent, Hakon Jarl. As a descendant of Harald Hårfager Olaf was received with open arms by the rebels. When Hakon Jarl had been defeated Olaf became king . He had some opponents, especially in the northernest part of Norway, in Hålogaland. Some chiefs had the power and will to oppose king Olaf, in his feud with one of those chiefs Olaf's dog played an important role.

A mighty peasant Red was very rich , and he had a good friend Tore. They were both great chiefs. They gathered an army when they heard that king Olaf would soon arrive with a large fleet. Red had a large dragonship with a golden head, also Tore had a large ship. They sailed south to meet king Olaf and a great battle arose with lots of slaughter. The chiefs from the north were not succesfull and Red rowed his dragonship out from the battle and sailed home.

Tore rowed his ships to the beach and he and his men went ashore. King Olaf followed them; he and his men went ashore too and persecuted the rebels and slashed them down. The king was in the front as always. He saw where Tore was running and Olaf run after him followed by his dog Vige. "Take the deer, Vige", cried the king. The dog run along after Tore and jumped at him. The king shot a spear towards him, just when Tore gave the dog a big wound with his sword. The spear hit Tore under the arm and went through his body. Tore died, but Vige was carried out to the ships. Vige is not mentioned anymore, so we don't know if it survived.

Many dog-skeletons found from Iron Age have traces from healed wounds and fractures. A dog who was worth a gold ring was probably given a good and considerate care.

Source: Archaeological Magazine "Skalk", February 2007, article by Eva Koch.

photo Moesgård Dec. 2008: grethe bachmann

1 comment:

Kittie Howard said...

What a good story. And even in that ruthless time, a dog warmed hearts.