“If you don’t dream, don’t bother to call on me again.”
– Thyri Haraldsdóttir, a noblewoman, to a medieval king
The story of Thyri
from the Icelandic sagas, is a beautiful example of how dreaming can make us
wiser, and opens the way of the heart. Thyri [written in Icelandic as Þyri]
was the daughter of an earl in
Gormur, king of
“If you don’t dream, don’t bother to call on me again,” Thyri told him firmly.
Gormur remembered his dreams, and the content satisfied Thyri, because she consented to marry him. The dreams were recounted at the wedding feast.
In the first dream, three white boars came out of the sea, fed on the grass, and went back to the sea. In the second, three red boars came out of the sea, and did the same. In the third dream, three black boars with great tusks did the same, but when they returned to the sea, there was such a loud rush of the waves returning to the land that the noise could be heard throughout Denmark.
Thyri's interpretation was that the three white boars represented three very cold, snowy winters which would kill "all the fruits of the ground." The red boars meant there would next be three mild winters, while the black boars with tusks indicated there would be wars in the land. The fact that they all went back into the sea showed that their effect would not be long-lasting. The loud noise as the waves of the sea rolled back on the Danish shores meant that "mighty men would come on the land with great wars, and many of his relations would take part."
She said that had he dreamed of the black boars and the rushing waves the first night, she would not have married him, but now, since she would be available to provide advice, there would be little injury from the wars. We might wonder whether the writer who recorded this narrative was familiar with the tale in Genesis of Pharaoh's dream and how Joseph's interpretation saved Egypt from famine.
In a region of strong women, Thyri became the wisest of queens, remembered as "The Pride of Denmark". Through dreaming, she helped the king to scout the future and read the true factors at work behind the surface of events. Decisions of state were based on these dreams.
Source: The story of Thyri Haraldsdóttir is in the version of Ólafs Saga Tryggvasónar in the 14th century Icelandic Flateyjarbók. While Thyri is not actually Icelandic, her story comes to us through Icelandic tradition. I am indebted to Valgerður Hjördis Bjarnadóttir, a gifted Icelandic dreamer and scholar who is helping to revive the ancient dreamways, for bringing this wonderful story to my attention, and for the translation on which this summary is based. You can read more about Icelandic dreaming, both medieval and modern. in The Secret History of Dreaming.
Image: Viking queen from "The World of the Vikings" exhibition at the National Museum of Denmark