Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 2, by William Bottrell, , at sacred-texts.com
We find an interesting notice of Danish marauding expeditions
in Cornwall, and of King Olaf's conversion at Scilly, in Snorro Sturleson's "Heimskringla"—the "World's Circle"—which relates events from the early ages, when mythology and history were undistinguishably blended, down nearly to the period of Sturleson's birth in 1178.
The following is from Laing's translation of the "Saga," or story of King Olaf Tryggvesson, who reigned from about the year 995 to the year 1000.
Thereafter Olaf Tryggvesson sailed to England, and ravaged wide around the land. He sailed all the way north to Northumberland, where he plundered; and thence to Scotland, where he marauded far and wide. Then he went to the Hebrides, where he fought some battles; and then southward to Man, where he also fought. He ravaged far around in Ireland, and thence steered to Bretland, which he laid waste with fire and sword, and also the district called Cumberland. He sailed westward from thence to Valland and marauded there. When he left the west, intending to sail to England, he came to the islands called the Scilly Isles, lying westward from England in the ocean. Thus tells Halfred Vandrædaskalt of these events:—
Olaf Tryggvesson had been four years on this cruise, from the time he left Vendland till he came to the Scilly Isles.
While Olaf Tryggvesson lay in the Scilly Isles he heard of a seer, or fortune-teller, on the islands, who could tell beforehand things not yet done, and what he foretold many believed was really fulfilled. Olaf became curious to try this man's gift of prophecy. He therefore sent one of his men, who was the handsomest and the strongest, clothed him magnificently, and bade him say he was the king; for Olaf was known in all countries as handsomer, stronger, and braver than all others,
although, after he had left Russia, he retained no more of his name than that he was called Ola, and was Russian. Now when the messenger came to the fortune-teller, and gave himself out for the king, he got the answer. "Thou art not the king, but I advise thee to be faithful to thy king." And more he would not say to that man. The man returned, and told Olaf, and his desire to meet the fortune-teller was increased; and now he had no doubt of his being really a fortune-teller. Olaf repaired himself to him, and, entering into conversation, asked him if he could foresee how it would go with him with regard to his kingdom, or of any other fortune he was to have. The hermit replies in a holy spirit of prophecy, "Thou wilt become a renowned king, and do celebrated deeds. Many men wilt thou bring to faith and baptism, and both to thy own and others’ good; and that thou mayest have no doubt of the truth of this answer listen to these tokens: When thou comest to thy ships many of thy people will conspire against thee, and then a battle. will follow in which many of thy men will fall and thou wilt be wounded almost to death, and carried upon a shield to thy ship; yet, after seven days, thou shalt be well of thy wounds, and immediately thou shalt let thyself be baptised." Soon after Olaf went down to his ships, where he met some mutineers and people who would destroy him and his men. A fight took place, and the result was what the hermit had predicted, that Olaf was wounded, and carried upon a shield to his ship, and that his wound was healed in seven days. Then Olaf perceived the man had spoken truth,—that he was a true fortune-teller, and had the gift of prophecy. Olaf went once more to the hermit, and asked particularly how he came to have such wisdom in foreseeing things to be. The hermit replied that the Christian's God himself let him know all that he desired; and he brought before Olaf many great proofs of the power of the Almighty. In consequence of this encouragement Olaf agreed to let himself be baptised, and he and all his followers were baptised forthwith. He remained here a long time, took the true faith, and got with him priests and other learned men."
It is worthy of remark that various accounts hit this work, of the marauding expeditions of northern vikings on the shores of Bretland and Kauraland (Wales and Cornwall) confirm many traditions still lingering in the West Country, about the Danes, (all Northmen were called Danes) landing on Gwenvor Sands, burning Escols, their defeat in a battle on Velandruchar Moor, and how their ships remained in Whitsand Bay till "birds built in their rigging," &c.
Red-haired families are still often taunted with bearing on their heads a sign that some ancestress must have welcomed a
northern pirate to Kauraland with more warmth than discretion.
The "seer," or "fortune-teller," on the islands, was probably one of a similar class to the Cornish "pellar," or "white-wizzard," of the present day.
King Olaf's priest, taken from Scilly, is one of the most remarkable characters of the wonderful book.