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Vond-Åsmund Rygnestad or Åsmund the angry (or evil), is a legend in the history of Setesdal. He built and lived at the farm Rygnestadstunet. The legend states that he was blond, handsome, well built - strong and vigorous. The legend also tells that he had great courage, he was proud and bold, smart, literate, wise and a good man. He was a real Viking and a chief in Setesdal. He was very well liked in the community, particularly by the girls - no one could lead them on the dance floor as he could, and no one looked as good as him on his horse.
Commanded to war
Åsmund was still a young man when he was ordered by the Danish king to join the army. Ath the time the Danish king was involved in several wars, particularly against Sweden and Norwegians were conscripted because they were Danish citizens at the time. Going to war for the Danish crown was not very popular and many who were called-up fled instead to the Netherlands, which at the time had strong trade connections with Norway, buying wood for building their large fleet. Åsmund joined the Danish army but at the first opportunity he deserted and fled to the Netherlands. Ironically, he ended up fighting in the Dutch War of Independence which began in 1567 and continued to 1648 (though Åsmund was only involved for a few years).
Before he left, Åsmund went to a Christmas party in Viki, near Bykle. There he was involved in a fight and was stabbed in the arm. A girl named Hege pulled off her headscarf and tied it round his arm, thereby stopping the bleeding. It was love at first sight and they agreed to become engaged, much to the dismay of the girl's father and brother. Hege promised to wait three years for him until his military service was over.
Because of his desertion, many years passed before Åsmund dared to return to Rygnestad. Some stories say that Hege waited for the promised three years, others that she waited five or seven years. When Åsmund did not return she finally yielded to her family and agreed to marry the son of their neighbour. Meanwhile Åsmund landed at Agderstrandi, on the southern tip of Norway. Many things had delayed him but he still hoped that Hege was waiting for him. Somehow he learned of the proposed wedding and that spurred him to action. He got hold of a horse and rode it into the ground, then acquired another and by dint of furious riding arrived at Rygnestad the day before the wedding.
Hege was actually preparing for her wedding celebrations at a farm in Nodeland when she saw a man in a red coat riding furiously towards her. She recognised him immediately. Åsmund rode straight into the farmyard, causing the groom and the wedding guests to flee to avoid being ridden down. Hege ran down to him and he snatched her up onto his horse, shouting, "If anyone will dare to take my bride away, let him do it now!"
No one dared and Åsmund rode away with Hege. As a deserter and a bride's thief he was declared outlaw and he and Hege had to flee up into the mountains. The legend does not tell about how he returned to his farm, but years later Åsmund and Hege were living unmarried at Rygnestad. (Other sources give the name of Åsmund's wife as Jorunn Elvindsdatter Nomeland rather than Nodeland.)
-  According to this family tree, not only was Åsmund married but he and his wife had nine children!
- Løyland, Hallvard. Vond-Åsmund Rygnestad, leaflet, Arne Quist Trykkeri, Hønefoss, 1920.