Oleg of Novgorod and his Horse

The Russian primary chronicles tell of a prophecy about Oleg of Novgorod and his Horse. The chronicle is perhaps the most significant indigenous source for the early history of Russia (Hall, 2007, pp. 96). Oleg, a Viking warrior who was the brother of the legendary Rurik of Novgorod, captured Kiev and made it the Rus capital. He is also portrayed in the popular History Channel show ‘Vikings’.

Oleg was the Grand Prince of Kiev, successor of his brother Rurik Prince of Novgorod. He loved his horse and looked after it well, yet he had never ridden the horse. 

Oleg was curious and one day asked a magician about his death, how would it happen? The magician told him that his horse would bring his death.

“Oh Prince, it is from the steed which you love and on which you ride that you shall meet your death” (Cross & Sherbowitz-Wetzor, 1953, pp. 69).

The magician’s prophecy made Oleg fearful towards the horse and he vowed never to lay eyes upon his beloved horse again. He sent the horse away and demanded he be fed properly and well cared but that it is always kept from his view.

After many years had passed after Oleg’s raids on the Greeks, he began to think about his horse again. He wondered what had happened to his once loved Horse. He was please to find out that the horse had died. He laughed, “Soothsayers tell untruths, and their words are naught but falsehood. This horse is dead, but I am still alive” (Cross et al, 1953, pp. 69).

Oleg declared that he must see the horse is dead himself and further mock the magician’s prophecy. After travelling to the horses grave he was pleased to see the bones of the dead horse. He mockingly kicked the skull of the horse, for it cannot kill him now. Alas, a snake slivered from the horse’s skull and bit Oleg on the foot. He later sickened and died thus fulfilling the ‘soothsayers’ prophecy.

Kiev mourned their Grand Prince, for he had ruled for 33 years. The tomb of Oleg still stands today, upon a hill called Shchekovista.


Cross, S. and Sherbowitz-Wetzor, O. (1954). The Russian Primary chronicle. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Mediaeval Academy of America.

Mitchell, R. and Forbes, N. (1914). The chronicle of Novgorod, 1016-1471. London: London Offices of the Society.


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