Olaf was born somewhere in East Anglia; it is not clear where. He was a schemer and a bit of a rogue, but he did have an eye for opportunity. By the time he was twenty he had reputedly sold his parents' home and made off with the family jewels. They were, in fact, more like family stones. None of them had any significant value. His father, Cedric, had only stored them in a wooden box and told stories of their incredible value, to stop himself thinking about the family's poverty. This left Olaf feeling rather stupid, but did provide some gem dealers with weeks of laughter and general merriment.
In 841, Olaf saw another opportunity: the Vikings had started raiding coastal villages and towns from Lindsay to Kent and beyond. Olaf had learned a great deal about people in the two rather difficult years since he'd tried to flog his family's gravel and granite. The folk of the east coast knew that the raiders from across the sea had sacked the Monastery at Lindisfarne and raided Northumbria, causing carnage some fifty years earlier. They were nervous and ripe for exploitation. Olaf became an instant expert on making villages viking-proof; this was a commercial opportunity he could let pass him by. He was, perhaps, the first viking consultant.
He went from village to village giving presentations on how his five-step program would keep the population safe. It was a simple plan.
1.Carry out an anti-viking dance and sacrifice a pig to whichever god it was that you worshiped;
2.Paint your village green; the vikings were repulsed by the colour, associated it with the devil, and would run a mile if they saw it;
3.Put a sign up on the road to the village indicating that plague was in the area;
4.Listen to Olaf's expert talk on the culture of the vikings and significant flaws in their battle plans; and
5.Put up Olaf's accreditation symbol (a white clenched fist on a black background) on the gates of the village. This would surely show that the village was well prepared and that any self-respecting viking should retreat rather than suffer the consequences.
The unwritten sixth step was to pay Olaf a great deal of money for his services and then watch the dust rise as he departed.
Olaf went up and down the coast for ten years, all the time spruiking his five-step plan to anybody who would listen. In his wake he left a legacy of burning villages, mass graves, and fat wealthy vikings. Then, in 851, he was negotiating a contract with King Brihtwulf of Mercia, when 350 viking ships entered the Thames estuary. Brihtwulf remarked that he felt like he needed a shower after the negotiations, and felt the inexplicable urge to count all his gold rings after he shook hands with Olaf.
He put Olaf in charge of the defence of Canterbury with strict instructions to his army commanders; if all else failed, they were to send Olaf to negotiate with the vikings, given his broad knowledge of them. Alfred, Brihtwulf's commander, was no fool; he decided the best course of action was to send Olaf to negotiate before the attack. When Olaf said that he was on a tight schedule and needed to head up to Lindsay where he had another appointment, Alfred insisted he negotiate. He did this by tying him a horse and sending him galloping to his fate. Alfred was from East Anglia and had heard of Olaf and his five-step plan.
This was not, however, the end of Olaf. He immediately tried to persuade the viking commander, Knutr, that, for a fee, he would consult for the vikings on the best way to rout the English. Knutr considered this for a day or so, while he raped, pillaged, and burned his way through Canterbury with no assistance at all from his new consultant. He then decided that Olaf could be trusted about as far as he could be thrown - this proved to be about 10 metres horizontally and 160 metres vertically off what is now known as Beachy Head.