The Burning of King Olaf, also called the Fire Festival, is a yearly (weekly, if Tending the Flames is completed) festival performed in Solitude by the Bards College, and has been performed for a very long time in Skyrim's history. The festival includes the burning of an effigy meant to represent King Olaf One-Eye, who was sentenced to be burned for betraying Solitude.
If the Last Dragonborn wishes to become a member of the Bards College, Viarmo, the headmaster, will send them to find the last remaining King Olaf's Verse, a heretical poem written by Svaknir, hoping to prove to Jarl Elisif that the College has a legitimate claim to holding the festival.
After the return of the dragons, around 4E 201, Elisif, Jarl of Solitude, prohibited the practice of the ritualistic burning. She felt the celebration was too gruesome, given the death of her husband, High King Torygg, which preceded the Civil War between the Stormcloaks and the Imperial Legion. If the Last Dragonborn aids the college, the ban on the festival is lifted by Elisif, who instead institutes that the Burning becomes a weekly festival.
The quest begins inside the Bards College with Viarmo (same person who asks the Last Dragonborn to return a book from the bard in Windhelm). Upon speaking to him, the Dragonborn is given a dialog option to ask for admission to the college. He then tells the story of King Olaf's Verse, which was thought to be lost when Olaf ordered the copies destroyed. However, one copy is suspected to be with the bard at Dead Men's Respite. Viarmo then asks the Dragonborn to retrieve the book from the dungeon, causing the marker for the respite to show up on the map.
- The Burning of King Olaf One-Eye is a direct parallel to Guy Fawkes Night, a similar event in the UK, where a "traitor of the people"—Guy Fawkes—is burned in effigy annually for their perceived betrayal.