Aslaug Sigurdsdóttir, (Swedish Aslög), nicknamed Kráka, Randalín, was a legendary Danish queen from the 9th century.

She is described in detail in the saga of Ragnar Lothbrok and mentioned in the Ragnarssona þáttr and the Snorra Edda.

Aslaug's youth

Aslaug is the daughter of Sigurd Fafnesbani (Siegfried the dragon slayer) and the Valkyrie Brynhild. After their violent death, Brynhild's foster father Heimir takes care of Aslaug.

Concerned for her safety, he has a large harp made in which he can hide the girl. The harp is also filled with precious clothes and gold. When the child cries, he plays for Aslaug to soothe her, for he is a great harp player.

Arriving at a mighty river, he washes the girl and gives her food. Disguised as a poor harpist, he travels through Norway until one day he comes to Spangereid in Lindesnes to the farm of Åke and Grima and asks for a night's lodging.

At first he is hospitably received and entertained. He leaves the harp near him, but Grima sees a scrap of precious cloth sticking out of the harp and a golden ring shimmering under Heimir's torn clothes.

Grima spurs her husband Åke to kill the strange guest in order to obtain the supposed riches. Åke hesitates at first, but when Grima hints that the stranger has approached her, he slays Heimir with an axe while he sleeps.

When they subsequently break open the harp by force, they discover Aslaug, who is as beautiful as they have ever seen a girl. They name her Kráka (Crow) after Grima's mother and raise Aslaug as their own daughter.

But since they are both ugly and do not want to arouse suspicion, they force the girl to blacken her face with soot and henceforth wear black clothes to hide her noble ancestry.

Kráka has to work hard for them and lives in poor conditions similar to Cinderella until she becomes queen by marrying Ragnar Lothbrok.

Aslaug's Nickname

Aslaug's epithet Kráka refers on the one hand to her dark appearance (black, dirty clothes, blackened face), reminiscent of a crow. But it may also refer to Aslaug's role as stepmother (to Agnarr and Eirekr, the sons of her husband Ragnar).

Thus, in Norwegian fairy tales wicked stepmothers bear the name Kråke (Kráka), while in Faroese fairy tales nasty stepsisters are called Krákudóttir. In any case, a bird name is obvious for someone who, like Aslaug - as an inheritance from her father - understands the bird language.

Aslaug and Ragnar Lothbrok

Aslaug meets Ragnar's men

After Ragnar's wife Thora dies, he sails to Norway and drops anchor in a small harbor off Spangereid in Lindesnes. He sends his men out to get food on land.

They see a small farm with a garden and think it will be easier to carry out their assigned task of baking bread there. At the farm they meet Grima and ask her to help them bake bread.

Grima informs them that her hands are too stiff for this work, but that she has a daughter named Kráka who can help them.

Aslaug had already seen the ships in the harbor early in the morning while tending sheep, and had washed against Grima's wishes, since no one should see how beautiful she was.

When Kráka returns to the farm, the men are amazed at her beauty and wonder if she is really the daughter of the ugly Grima.

The doubting men agree with the beautiful Aslaug that she kneads the dough while they bake the bread. Though the girl fulfills her part of the task, Ragnar's men cannot take their eyes off her, and the bread burns in the oven.

Aslaug's trial

When the men return to the ship with the burnt bread, they tell King Ragnar about the beautiful Aslaug and that they have never seen a more beautiful female in the world.

Ragnar, however, is sure that no woman could be more beautiful than his deceased Thora. He orders the girl to come to the ship.

To test her prudence, he decides that she must come neither hungry nor full, neither clothed nor naked, neither alone nor accompanied by a retainer. Kráka obeys Ragnar's command.

She wraps herself in a fish net over which her long hair falls. In this way she is neither naked nor clothed. She bites into an onion, which is not considered food, and shows that she is not hungry either.

At last she lets her dog follow and comes to Ragnar's ship neither alone nor in company of a human. Overwhelmed by her cleverness and beauty, Ragnar lovingly asks the girl to travel with him.

This Kráka refuses, and she also rejects the invitation to spend the night on the ship. This should not happen before Ragnar has carried out his planned journey, she lets him know. Therefore, she would not wear Thora's dress until Ragnar was sure that he wanted to marry her.

Aslaug's marriage to King Ragnar

King Ragnar Lothbrok returns from his journey and asks Aslaug to come with him. The girl leaves her foster parents and tells them that she knows who killed her foster father Heimir.

She curses them both and wishes that every day will be worse than the previous one. When Ragnar asks her to his bed, she refuses and demands that he marry her honorably first when they arrive in his kingdom.

Ragnar obeys this request and does not let Aslaug refuse him any further when she asks for three more days of postponement after the marriage to share his camp, otherwise a misfortune will happen.

Thus Kráka becomes the mythical progenitor of the Norwegian royal family of the Völsungen. She bears Ragnar four sons: Ivar Ragnarsson, Björn Ironside, Halfdan and Ubbe Ragnarsson.

All their sons are swift fighters and brave warriors. In addition, Aslaug takes care of her two stepsons Erik and Agner, Ragnar's sons with Thora from his first marriage. In the Ragnar saga, Aslaug is given the new epithet Randalín after accompanying her sons on war campaigns several times. The etymology of the name is uncertain.

The first part of the name Randa could be derived from Icelandic "rönd" meaning "edge of a shield" and Hlín could be associated with that of the patron goddess Frigg. Thus the name could mean shield-goddess or shield-maiden and be a kenning for Valkyrie.

Ragnar's secret engagement to Ingeborg

Ragnar's ally King Eystein of Sweden convinces Ragnar during his visit to get engaged to his daughter Ingeborg, because she is not only beautiful but also noble in contrast to his wife Aslaug.

When he returns home from the trip to Sweden, he forbids his men to tell anyone about his engagement to Ingeborg under threat of the death penalty.

Aslaug, however, notices that something is wrong with her husband, who always denies her inquiries as to whether anything is wrong. She tells him that three birds told her about his engagement, and confesses to him that she is of noble birth.

However, since Ragnar doubts this, she reminds him that she is expecting a child. She provides him with proof of her noble origins with the birth of her fifth child: she gives birth to son Sigurd, who has a family characteristic of the Völsungen: the "snake in the eye".

Ragnar then breaks off the engagement with the Swedish princess Ingeborg, and King Eystein consequently rejects King Ragnar as a friend and ally.

Aslaug's gift for Ragnar

When Ragnar, against Aslaug's advice, wants to conquer England with only two ships, she gives him a shirt to protect him from harm. She bids him farewell, suspecting that she will probably never see her husband again.

Ragnar is captured by King Ælla of Northumbria and dies of poisonous snakebites in a snake pit when the latter takes from him the protective shirt made by Aslaug. This circumstance is described in the Old Norse death song Krákumál.