Audunn and the Bear


Read time: a minute

The story is about an Icelander Audunn. After working hard enough and saving up a bit of a fortune, he leaves that for his mother and sets asail to Norway and Greenland for work. It is here in Greenland that he finds a polar bear which he purchases with whatever money he has left. He decides to present this to King Sveinn of Denmark.

On his way, he passes by King Haraldr’s kingdom down south of Norway and makes sure he has safe passage to get through. This was enemy land.

He finally reaches Denmark and presents the bear to King Sveinn. He is rightfully rewarded for this too with the king giving him enough money for a pilgrimage to Rome. He falls sick when in Rome and returns to meet King Sveinn in the hope of getting some money to return to Iceland. The king rewards him with enough money and a ship to return home.

This piece contains a huge amount of backstory related to the folklore of Iceland. It is said that Icelanders used to visit kingdoms with presents for the kings and would stay and enjoy the royal treatment given to them. They are voyagers by heart and travel places.

It isn’t just a simple story about Audunn travelling all the way across lands to gift the bear to King Sveinn but the reward he knew he’d be gifted with, the kind of mishaps he is met with, the work of middlemen when there’s a price at the end, and they way he tackles King Haraldr’s invitation to get safe passage to Denmark through Norway.

Audunn wasn’t just a righteous man who wanted to gift the king a bear but knew what it had in store for him. He carefully tackled all the complications he was met with in this journey and eventually emerged as a man with some fortune.

It may be a story for children but every time you read it you end up getting a different perspective of the characters involved in the story. It made me go back and read more about the culture of the land.

Pooja Ram

Bibliophile, believer in the magic of the rain and mountains, an occasional realist.

Bangalore, KA