Tales of Ragnar Ulfgarsson
My Introduction to Uncle Ragnar
by Hallgeirr Olafsson, February 2018
At the first Siege of the Abbey, Seawinds had an idea to make Shire coinage and give each person in attendance a bag of varying denominations. Attendees were encouraged to acquire more through various endeavors like service work, wagers, bardic performances, etc. The winning side in the melees would receive a chest full to be distributed by the winning commander, and the coinage was to be used during a live auction held Sunday. Friday night, I was near the bridge waiting for late arrivals needing help to get unloaded when an older man came by and asked if my compatriots and I would like to hear a story... for a nominal fee. As we were charging the same nominal fee to help folk unload, we thought "Why not?". I had been in the SCA a year or so, and had no idea who this man was, or how AWESOME his stories were! We may, or may not have been, fully in our cups when he came by, but by the time he finished, we definitely were. After the first few stories, whenever he would finish one, we would plaintively cry, like a group of hungry children, "Tell us another one, Uncle Ragnar!" After an hour or so, and however many stories he told, we were tapped out. He had gotten from us every single coin we had earned that night.
As he stood to go, a young lady came by and asked us the same question Ragnar had asked: "Would you like hear a story? I'm just learning this and will need to read parts of it, but I need to try in front of an audience."
"Certainly!" we replied.
She told a tale about a selkie that I am not ashamed to say reduced me to tears. When she finished, Ragnar took the pouch from his belt that held his coin and emptied it onto the table. I had never seen an act such as this in my life. His generosity touched my young soul and helped shape the man I have become, both in the SCA, and in the Mundane world.
Birthday Remembrances of Ragnar (03/07/2019)
Garvin Wyther of Bryn Gwlad
So many fine moments I had because of Ragnar. One morning after Candlemas, Ragnar, Moonbear, and I were the only ones who showed up at a fighter practice scheduled early for the convenience of our visitors. We spent a couple of hours trading stories, songs, libations, and solutions to all the problems of the Knowne Worlde. Hail Ragnar, bard and hero!
Ragnar sits in valhalla entertaining the gods. Those of us who knew him were blessed. Those who have only heard of him will never understand. I raised my horn to him on this the day of his birth. All I ask is that we never stop telling stories of a true hero of Ansteorra!
Ragnar doesn't dance, so says Ragnar. But, Ragnar danced with Maleah, because she grabbed his cloak and gave him no choice! NSTIW!
A scop wanders.
These are warriors,
a council meet.
and stories flow.
The hall is tall,
the heroes many,
Axebeak: A Legend of Bjornsborg
or How Ragnar Lost his Axe
by Hrabia Jan w Orzeldom
Across the western ocean and time, Ragnar came to live among the Bjornlings, close by their famous fortress. With wry pride he would explain his accomplishments by saying, “but I… am a Norwegian!” His accomplishments were many. He was skald of great fame. Crowds would form, boisterous mead halls would hush, as old and young, powerful and humble would laugh or gasp as his verses and songs led them. He was called Morkwulf, though the board of tyrants and their minion officials would later deny his name and he was enrolled as “Ulfgarson.”
In those days, it was the custom of the Bjornlings to expend great amounts of labor and treasure to host a great tournament each year. A tournament like no other: The Tournament of the Lions. It was so named because the revered Order of the Lions of Ansteorra encouraged and participated in its spirit and proceedings. And as at any great tournament, bold warriors proved their worth by feats of arms. Reigning kings, their heirs, and the high nobility of the lands of the Sable Star would test the mettle of the knights and warriors. Receiving challenges and leading assaults and defenses allowed those with spirit to add luster to their renown.
Ragnar rarely participated in the shield splittings of other Ansteorran gatherings, but the nobility of the Lions contestants and the taste of chivalry in the air inspired him to pay a scribe to forward his intent to enter the list and be feasted by the host. His deeds won notice and applause. On the “day of challenges” he felled three consecutive foes, each with a single stroke of his axe. He joined a successful assault on a bridge held by a greater number of defenders. At the barrier, the gateway, even the grand melee à cheval, he distinguished himself. He even fought in the dreaded à outrance challenges, where wounds were retained, and emerged unscathed.
This great tourney ended with the selection of the best of the best as the Pride of the Lions, who took the field against all other comers. Knights and nobles of renown, judges throughout the day, conferred and named Ragnar as one of that year’s Pride. As the sun cast very long shadows, he joined the heroic and nearly hopeless rearguard hill defense of the chosen Pride against everyone not chosen.
After the glory of the Pride’s final battle, trestles were brought and a feast was laid on the well-trampled list field. The feast at Lions was, as always, hearty and well washed down. Afterward, Ragnar and his friends went, as usual, in quest of diversion. After a long night of being received, toasted, and cajoled for performances at the many campfires and evening gatherings of the sprawled encampment, Ragnar found himself alone and picking his way back to his campsite, under a cloudy sky. It was very dark under the trees. And by that point, as I have been told… it had gotten “a little bit drunk out.”
Out of the inky darkness came the honking of geese. Ragnar gathered his wits and, in delicate Viking innuendo, bid them to shut up and suggested other pastimes for them to go and engage in. Then, almost miraculously, almost as if in response – the clouds broke. He could see the path ahead. It ran between two scaly tree trunks. He took a step, into legend. A tooth-rattling “HONK!” accompanied by a blast of stale breath billowed his cloak out behind him. He staggered back. Wiping his eyes, Ragnar suddenly beheld that the path went not between two trees – but between the legs of a gigantic goose. A Troll Goose! It sounded its battle honk again, echoed by many others in the blackness.
This was an apparition to strike terror into the stoutest heart – but realizing that a true Norwegian berserk would not retreat from weapons or fire – and that a Pride member would never live down fleeing “a goose in the dark” – Ragnar stood his ground. He fumbled for his weapon, and drew…his great… drinking horn! Wait, no, that’s not right! He loosed the horn, which swung on its strap as he drew his axe from his belt. Only slightly losing his balance, the hero took aim and hurled his axe at the demon spawn, flying true toward its target. The clouds again covered the moon. Looking up the muddy path, Ragnar saw only darkness. The honking was quieter and farther off. He had driven the Troll Goose from his path – but at a cost.
Ragnar searched for his axe in the dark, but found it not. The next day searches were made – before, during, and after the artisans breakfast and the prize court – but no trace of the axe was ever found. There was also no trace of blood, proving the Troll Goose was not of this world. Bjornlings speculated that it must have caught the hero’s weapon in midflight and borne it away. In later years the area would be searched many times, but the axe had vanished.
The encounter with Axebeak entered into Bjornsborg legend and would occasionally crop up in song, story, and fireside jokes.
This is as true a tale as Ragnar ever told, given to me by the skald himself many times by a fire over ale.