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The sun dazzled upon the water. On the far bank, a figured sprawled in the sun, his flat-bottom boat beside him. "Hey," yelled Thor, "you over there! Are you the ferryman? And whose ferry is that?" The figure sat up. He cupped his hands, and shouted: "Híldoll, the slaughtered wolf entrusted it to me, and he has given me my orders! So, if you want to cross here, tell me your name!", demanded the ferryman. "Hmph! I'll tell you! I am the son of Odin, the strongest god of all. So, ferryman, you are talking to Thor." The god's words made waves across the water. They broke at the ferryman's feet. "Now tell me your name!", said Thor. The ferryman... he stood up, and he shouted: "My name is Harbard; I seldom hide it."

Ragnar Lothbrok telling the Lay of Harbard to his children, Mercy

Harbard (meaning Greybeard in Old Norse) is a wanderer, a mysterious man who is not what he seems.[src] He turns up unexpectedly in Kattegat when Ragnar and most of the men of the town are away raiding. Harbard will have a profound effect on Aslaug, Siggy, and Helga, all of whom have had the same dream, presaging his arrival.[src]

Biography

Harbard is hinted to be a manifestation of some God. Harbard is said to be another name for the god Odin. This is explained in Season 3 episode 5 by Floki in a conversation with Ragnar.

Season 3

He first appears in a dream of Aslaug, Siggy, and Helga, seen as holding a ball of snow on fire with a bleeding hand. He then appears in Kattegat in front of Helga, asking for help with a wound on his hand. He presents himself as a wanderer and a storyteller, and he is well received by Aslaug and Helga, especially after being able to cure Ivar's pain. He then has sex with Aslaug (though she is reluctant) and he is received with suspicion by Siggy. After her death, he is received coldly by both Aslaug and Helga before he takes his leave. At the end, Helga watches his departure as he vanishes in the fog, suggesting he is indeed a supernatural being.

Season 4

Harbard appears again at the door of the Great Hall during Queen Aslaug's desperation and solitute. He explains to her that he has heard her calls beyond oceans and has come to answer them. He asks to see Ivar first, and when his mother asks him if he still remembers Harbard, the boy laughs. Later, Harbard presents himself as a husband to his mother, and Ivar starts to become disturbed. Sigurd then discovers that Harbard is sleeping with most of the women in Kattegat. When Queen Aslaug, who already has suspicions about Harbard's behavior, discovers it, she is enraged and destroys everything in the Great Hall. Harbard appears to speak to her despite her anger and jealousy. He peacefully tells her not to try to possess or control him before vanishing again.

Trivia

  • "Harbard" is one of the names used for Odin.[1] Harbard is also the ferryman in the Eddic poem The Hárbarðsljóð (Lay of Harbard). Early theories suggested the ferryman was Loki, but today it's universally accepted by scholars that the ferryman is Odin.

References

  1. Klaus Von See, et al., editors, Kommentar zu den Liedern der EddaISBN 3-8253-0534-1, 2:155; Carol Clover, "Hárbardsljóð as Generic Farce", in The Poetic Edda, Essays on Old Norse Mythology. Edited by Paul Acker and Carolyne Larrington, 2002, ISBN 0-8153-1660-7, pp. 117-18, n.55.

Appearances

Season three appearances
Mercenary The Wanderer Warrior's Fate Scarred The Usurper
Born Again Paris To the Gates! Breaking Point The Dead
Season four appearances
A Good Treason Kill the Queen Mercy Yol Promised
What Might Have Been The Profit and the Loss Portage Death All 'Round The Last Ship
The Outsider The Vision Two Journeys In the Uncertain Hour Before the Morning All His Angels
Crossings The Great Army Revenge On the Eve The Reckoning