Sacred Texts Index  Northern European Index  Index  Previous  Next 

The Danish History, Introduction
Part II


"Weapons". -- The sword is the weapon par excellence in Saxo's narrative, and he names several by name, famous old blades like our royal Curtana, which some believed was once Tristrem's, and that sword of Carlus, whose fortunes are recorded in Irish annals. Such are "Snyrtir", Bearce's sword; "Hothing", Agnar's blade; "Lauf", or "Leaf", Bearce's sword; "Screp", Wermund's sword, long buried and much rust-eaten, but sharp and trusty, and known by its whistle; Miming's sword ("Mistletoe"), which slew Balder. Wainhead's curved blade seems to be a halbert; "Lyusing" and "Hwiting", Ragnald of Norway's swords; "Logthe", the sword of Ole Siward's son.

The "war-club" occurs pretty frequently. But it is usually introduced as a special weapon of a special hero, who fashions a gold-headed club to slay one that steel cannot touch, or who tears up a tree, like the Spanish knight in the ballad, or who uses a club to counteract spells that blunt steel. The bat- shapen archaic rudder of a ship is used as a club in the story of the Sons of Arngrim.

The "spear" plays no particular part in Saxo: even Woden's spear Gungne is not prominent.

"Bows and arrows" are not often spoken of, but archer heroes, such as Toki, Ane Bow-swayer, and Orwar-Odd, are known. Slings and stones are used.

The shield, of all defensive armour, is far the most prominent. They were often painted with devices, such as Hamlet's shield, Hildiger's Swedish shield. Dr. Vigfusson has shown the importance of these painted shields in the poetic history of the Scandinavians.

A red shield is a signal of peace. Shields are set round ramparts on land as round ships at sea.

"Mail-coats" are worn. Frode has one charmed against steel. Hother has another; a mail-coat of proof is mentioned and their iron meshes are spoken of.

"Helmets" are used, but not so carefully described as in "Beowulf's Lay"; crested helmets and a gilded helmet occur in Bearca-mal and in another poem.

"Banners" serve as rallying points in the battle and on the march. The Huns' banners are spoken of in the classic passage for the description of a huge host invading a country. Bearca- mal talks of golden banners.

"Horns" (1) were blown pp at the beginning of the engagement and for signalling. The gathering of the host was made by delivery of a wooden arrow painted to look like iron.

"Tactics". -- The hand-to-hand fight of the wager of battle with sword and shield, and the fighting in ranks and the wedge-column at close quarters, show that the close infantry combat was the main event of the battle. The preliminary hurling of stones, and shooting of arrows, and slinging of pebbles, were harassing and annoying, but seldom sufficiently important to affect the result of the main engagement.

Men ride to battle, but fight on foot; occasionally an aged king is car-borne to the fray, and once the car, whether by Saxo's adorning hand, or by tradition, is scythe-armed.

The gathered host is numbered, once, where, as with Xerxes, counting was too difficult, by making each man as he passed put a pebble in a pile (which piles survive to mark the huge size of Frode's army). This is, of course, a folktale, explaining the pebble-hills and illustrating the belief in Frode's power; but armies were mustered by such expedients of old. Burton tells of an African army each man of whom presented an egg, as a token of his presence and a means of taking the number of the host.

We hear of men marching in light order without even scabbards, and getting over the ice in socks.

The war equipment and habits of the Irish, light armoured, clipped at back of head, hurling the javelin backwards in their feigned flight; of the Slavs, small blue targets and long swords; of the Finns, with their darts and skees, are given.

Watches are kept, and it is noted that "uht", the early watch after midnight, is the worst to be attacked in (the duke's two- o'clock-in-the-morning courage being needed, and the darkness and cold helping the enemy).

Spies were, of course, slain if discovered. But we have instances of kings and heroes getting into foeman's camps in disguise (cf. stories of Alfred and Anlaf).

The order of battle of Bravalla fight is given, and the ideal array of a host. To Woden is ascribed the device of the boar's head, hamalt fylking (the swine-head array of Manu's Indian kings), the terrible column with wedge head which could cleave the stoutest line.

The host of Ring has men from Wener, Wermland, Gotaelf, Thotn, Wick, Thelemark, Throndham, Sogn, Firths, Fialer, Iceland; Sweden, Gislamark, Sigtun, Upsala, Pannonia.

The host of Harold had men from Iceland, the Danish provinces, Frisia, Lifland; Slavs, and men from Jom, Aland, and Sleswick.

The battle of Bravalla is said to have been won by the Gotland archers and the men of Throndham, and the Dales. The death of Harald by treachery completed the defeat, which began when Ubbe fell (after he had broken the enemy's van) riddled with arrows.

The defeated, unless they could fly, got little quarter. One- fifth only of the population of a province are said to have survived an invasion. After sea-battles (always necessarily more deadly) the corpses choke the harbours. Seventy sea-kings are swept away in one sea-fight. Heads seem to have been taken in some cases, but not as a regular Teutonic usage, and the practice, from its being attributed to ghosts and aliens, must have already been considered savage by Saxo, and probably by his informants and authorities.

Prisoners were slaves; they might be killed, put to cruel death, outraged, used as slaves, but the feeling in favour of mercy was growing, and the cruelty of Eormenric, who used tortures to his prisoners, of Rothe, who stripped his captives, and of Fro, who sent captive ladies to a brothel in insult, is regarded with dislike.

Wounds were looked on as honourable, but they must be in front or honourably got. A man who was shot through the buttocks, or wounded in the back, was laughed at and disgraced. We hear of a mother helping her wounded son out of battle.

That much of human interest centered round war is evident by the mass of tradition that surrounds the subject in Saxo, both in its public and private aspects. Quaint is the analysis of the four kinds of warriors: (a) The Veterans, or Doughty, who kill foes and spare flyers; (b) the Young men who kill foes and flyers too; (c) the well-to-do, landed, and propertied men of the main levy, who neither fight for fear nor fly for shame; (d) the worthless, last to fight and first to fly; and curious are the remarks about married and unmarried troops, a matter which Chaka pondered over in later days. Homeric speeches precede the fight.

"Stratagems of War" greatly interested Saxo (probably because Valerius Maximus, one of his most esteemed models, was much occupied with such matters), so that he diligently records the military traditions of the notably skillful expedients of famous commanders of old.

There is the device for taking a town by means of the "pretended death" of the besieging general, a device ascribed to Hastings and many more commanders (see Steenstrup Normannerne); the plan of "firing" a besieged town by fire-bearing birds, ascribed here to Fridlev, in the case of Dublin to Hadding against Duna (where it was foiled by all tame birds being chased out of the place).

There is the "Birnam Wood" stratagem, by which men advanced behind a screen of boughs, which is even used for the concealment of ships, and the curious legend (occurring in Irish tradition also, and recalling Capt. B. Hall's "quaker gun" story) by which a commander bluffs off his enemy by binding his dead to stakes in rows, as if they were living men.

Less easy to understand are the "brazen horses" or "machines" driven into the close lines of the enemy to crush and open them, an invention of Gewar. The use of hooked weapons to pull down the foes' shields and helmets was also taught to Hother by Gewar.

The use of black tents to conceal encampment; the defence of a pass by hurling rocks from the heights; the bridge of boats across the Elbe; and the employment of spies, and the bold venture, ascribed in our chronicles to Alfred and Anlaf, of visiting in disguise the enemy's camp, is here attributed to Frode, who even assumed women's clothes for the purpose.

Frode is throughout the typical general, as he is the typical statesman and law-giver of archaic Denmark.

There are certain heathen usages connected with war, as the hurling of a javelin or shooting of an arrow over the enemy's ranks as a "sacratio" to Woden of the foe at the beginning of a battle. This is recorded in the older vernacular authorities also, in exact accordance with the Homeric usage, "Odyssey" xxiv, 516-595.

The dedication of part of the spoils to the god who gave good omens for the war is told of the heathen Baltic peoples; but though, as Sidonius records, it had once prevailed among the Saxons, and, as other witnesses add, among the Scandinavian people, the tradition is not clearly preserved by Saxo.

"Sea and Sea Warfare." -- As might be expected, there is much mention of Wicking adventure and of maritime warfare in Saxo.

Saxo tells of Asmund's huge ship (Gnod), built high that he might shoot down on the enemy's craft; he speaks of a ship (such as Godwin gave as a gift to the king his master), and the monk of St. Bertin and the court-poets have lovingly described a ship with gold-broidered sails, gilt masts, and red-dyed rigging. One of his ships has, like the ships in the Chansons de Geste, a carbuncle for a lantern at the masthead. Hedin signals to Frode by a shield at the masthead. A red shield was a peace signal, as noted above. The practice of "strand-hewing", a great feature in Wicking-life (which, so far as the victualling of raw meat by the fishing fleets, and its use raw, as Mr. P. H. Emerson informs me, still survives), is spoken of. There was great fear of monsters attacking them, a fear probably justified by such occasional attacks of angry whales as Melville (founding his narrative on repeated facts) has immortalised. The whales, like Moby Dick, were uncanny, and inspired by troll-women or witches (cf. "Frithiof Saga" and the older "Lay of Atle and Rimegerd"). The clever sailing of Hadding, by which he eludes pursuit, is tantalising, for one gathers that, Saxo knows the details that he for some reason omits. Big fleets of 150 and a monster armada of 3,000 vessels are recorded.

The ships were moved by oars and sails; they had rudders, no doubt such as the Gokstad ship, for the hero Arrow-Odd used a rudder as a weapon.

"Champions". -- Professed fighting men were often kept by kings and earls about their court as useful in feud and fray. Harald Fairhair's champions are admirably described in the contemporary Raven Song by Hornclofe --

     "Wolf-coats they call them that in battle
     Bellow into bloody shields.
     They wear wolves' hides when they come into the fight,
     And clash their weapons together."

and Saxo's sources adhere closely to this pattern.

These "bear-sarks", or wolf-coats of Harald give rise to an O. N. term, "bear-sarks' way", to describe the frenzy of fight and fury which such champions indulged in, barking and howling, and biting their shield-rims (like the ferocious "rook" in the narwhale ivory chessmen in the British Museum) till a kind of state was produced akin to that of the Malay when he has worked himself up to "run-a-muck." There seems to have been in the 10th century a number of such fellows about unemployed, who became nuisances to their neighbours by reason of their bullying and highhandedness. Stories are told in the Icelandic sagas of the way such persons were entrapped and put to death by the chiefs they served when they became too troublesome. A favourite (and fictitious) episode in an "edited" Icelandic saga is for the hero to rescue a lady promised to such a champion (who has bullied her father into consent) by slaying the ruffian. It is the same "motif" as Guy of Warwick and the Saracen lady, and one of the regular Giant and Knight stories.

Beside men-warriors there were "women-warriors" in the North, as Saxo explains. He describes shield-maidens, as Alfhild, Sela, Rusila (the Ingean Ruadh, or Red Maid of the Irish Annals, as Steenstrup so ingeniously conjectures); and the three she- captains, Wigbiorg, who fell on the field, Hetha, who was made queen of Zealand, and Wisna, whose hand Starcad cut off, all three fighting manfully at Bravalla fight.


"Feasts". -- The hall-dinner was an important feature in the old Teutonic court-life. Many a fine scene in a saga takes place in the hall while the king and his men are sitting over their ale. The hall decked with hangings, with its fires, lights, plate and provisions, appears in Saxo just as in the Eddic Lays, especially Rigsmal, and the Lives of the Norwegian Kings and Orkney Earls.

The order of seats is a great point of archaic manners. Behaviour at table was a matter of careful observance. The service, especially that of the cup-bearer, was minutely regulated by etiquette. An honoured guest was welcomed by the host rising to receive him and giving him a seat near himself, but less distinguished visitors were often victims to the rough horseplay of the baser sort, and of the wanton young gentleman at court. The food was simple, boiled beef and pork, and mutton without sauce, ale served in horns from the butt. Roast meat, game, sauces, mead, and flagons set on the table, are looked on by Starcad as foreign luxuries, and Germany was credited with luxurious cookery.

"Mimes and jugglers", who went through the country or were attached to the lord's court to amuse the company, were a despised race because of their ribaldry, obscenity, cowardice, and unabashed self-debasement; and their newfangled dances and piping were loathsome to the old court-poets, who accepted the harp alone as an instrument of music.

The story that once a king went to war with his jugglers and they ran away, would represent the point of view of the old house- carle, who was neglected, though "a first-class fighting man", for these debauched foreign buffoons.


GODS AND GODDESSES. -- The gods spring, according to Saxo's belief, from a race of sorcerers, some of whom rose to pre-eminence and expelled and crushed the rest, ending the "wizard-age", as the wizards had ended the monster or "giant-age". That they were identic with the classic gods he is inclined to believe, but his difficulty is that in the week-days we have Jove : Thor; Mercury : Woden; whereas it is perfectly well known that Mercury is Jove's son, and also that Woden is the father of Thor -- a comic "embarras". That the persians the heathens worshipped as gods existed, and that they were men and women false and powerful, Saxo plainly believes. He has not Snorre's appreciation of the humorous side of the mythology. He is ironic and scornful, but without the kindly, naive fun of the Icelander.

The most active god, the Dane's chief god (as Frey is the Swede's god, and patriarch), is "Woden". He appears in heroic life as patron of great heroes and kings. Cf. "Hyndla-Lay", where it is said of Woden: --

     "Let us pray the Father of Hosts to be gracious to us!
     He granteth and giveth gold to his servants,
     He gave Heremod a helm and mail-coat,
     And Sigmund a sword to take.
     He giveth victory to his sons, to his followers wealth,
     Ready speech to his children and wisdom to men.
     Fair wind to captains, and song to poets;
     He giveth luck in love to many a hero."

He appears under various disguises and names, but usually as a one-eyed old man, cowled and hooded; sometimes with another, bald and ragged, as before the battle Hadding won; once as "Hroptr", a huge man skilled in leechcraft, to Ragnar's son Sigfrid.

Often he is a helper in battle or doomer of feymen. As "Lysir", a rover of the sea, he helps Hadding. As veteran slinger and archer he helps his favourite Hadding; as charioteer, "Brune", he drives Harald to his death in battle. He teaches Hadding how to array his troops. As "Yggr" the prophet he advises the hero and the gods. As "Wecha" (Waer) the leech he woos Wrinda. He invented the wedge array. He can grant charmed lives to his favourites against steel. He prophesies their victories and death. He snatches up one of his disciples, sets him on his magic horse that rides over seas in the air, as in Skida-runa the god takes the beggar over the North Sea. His image (like that of Frey in the Swedish story of Ogmund dytt and Gunnar helming, "Flatey book", i, 335) could speak by magic power.

Of his life and career Saxo gives several episodes.

Woden himself dwelt at Upsala and Byzantium (Asgard); and the northern kings sent him a golden image ring-bedecked, which he made to speak oracles. His wife Frigga stole the bracelets and played him false with a servant, who advised her to destroy and rob the image.

When Woden was away (hiding the disgrace brought on him hy Frigga his wife), an imposter, Mid Odin, possibly Loke in disguise, usurped his place at Upsala, instituted special drink-offerings, fled to Finland on Woden's return, and was slain by the Fins and laid in barrow. But the barrow smote all that approached it with death, till the body was unearthed, beheaded, and impaled, a well-known process for stopping the haunting of an obnoxious or dangerous ghost.

Woden had a son Balder, rival of Hother for the love of Nanna, daughter of King Gewar. Woden and Thor his son fought for him against Hother, but in vain, for Hother won the laity and put Balder to shameful flight; however, Balder, half-frenzied by his dreams of Nanna, in turn drove him into exile (winning the lady); finally Hother, befriended hy luck and the Wood Maidens, to whom he owed his early successes and his magic coat, belt, and girdle (there is obvious confusion here in the text), at last met Balder and stabbed him in the side. Of this wound Balder died in three days, as was foretold by the awful dream in which Proserpina (Hela) appeared to him. Balder's grand burial, his barrow, and the magic flood which burst from it when one Harald tried to break into it, and terrified the robbers, are described.

The death of Balder led Woden to seek revenge. Hrossthiof the wizard, whom he consulted, told him he must beget a son by "Wrinda" (Rinda, daughter of the King of the Ruthenians), who should avenge his half-brother.

Woden's wooing is the best part of this story, half spoilt, however, by euhemeristic tone and lack of epic dignity. He woos as a victorious warrior, and receives a cuff; as a generous goldsmith, and gets a buffet; as a handsome soldier, earning a heavy knock-down blow; but in the garb of a women as Wecha (Wakr), skilled in leechcraft, he won his way by trickery; and ("Wale") "Bous" was born, who, after some years, slew Hother in battle, and died himself of his wounds. Bous' barrow in Bohusland, Balder's haven, Balder's well, are named as local attestations of the legend, which is in a late form, as it seems.

The story of Woden's being banished for misbehaviour, and especially for sorcery and for having worn woman's attire to trick Wrinda, his replacement by "Wuldor" ("Oller"), a high priest who assumed Woden's name and flourished for ten years, but was ultimately expelled by the returning Woden, and killed by the Danes in Sweden, is in the same style. But Wuldor's bone vessel is an old bit of genuine tradition mangled. It would cross the sea as well as a ship could, by virtue of certain spells marked on it.

Of "Frey", who appears as "satrapa" of the gods at Upsala, and as the originator of human sacrifice, and as appeased by black victims, at a sacrifice called Froblod (Freys-blot) instituted by Hadding, who began it as an atonement for having slain a sea-monster, a deed for which he had incurred a curse. The priapic and generative influences of Frey are only indicated by a curious tradition mentioned. It almost looks as if there had once been such an institution at Upsala as adorned the Phoenician temples, under Frey's patronage and for a symbolic means of worship.

"Thunder", or "Thor", is Woden's son, strongest of gods or men, patron of Starcad, whom he turned, by pulling off four arms, from a monster to a man.

He fights by Woden's side and Balder's against Hother, by whose magic wand his club (hammer) was lopped off part of its shaft, a wholly different and, a much later version than the one Snorre gives in the prose Edda. Saxo knows of Thor's journey to the haunt of giant Garfred (Geirrod) and his three daughters, and of the hurling of the iron "bloom", and of the crushing of the giantesses, though he does not seem to have known of the river- feats of either the ladies or Thor, if we may judge (never a safe thing wholly) by his silence.

Whether "Tew" is meant by the Mars of the Song of the Voice is not evident. Saxo may only be imitating the repeated catch-word "war" of the original.

"Loke" appears as Utgard-Loke, Loke of the skirts of the World, as it were; is treated as a venomous giant bound in agony under a serpent-haunted cavern (no mention is made of "Sigyn" or her pious ministry).

"Hela" seems to be meant by Saxo's Proserpina.

"Nanna" is the daughter of Gewar, and Balder sees her bathing and falls in love with her, as madly as Frey with Gertha in Skirnismal.

"Freya", the mistress of Od, the patroness of Othere the homely, the sister of Frey-Frode, and daughter of Niord-Fridlaf, appears as Gunwara Eric's love and Syritha Ottar's love and the hair- clogged maiden, as Dr. Rydberg has shown.

The gods can disguise their form, change their shape, are often met in a mist, which shrouds them save from the right person; they appear and disappear at will. For the rest they have the mental and physical characteristics of the kings and queens they protect or persecute so capriciously. They can be seen by making a magic sign and looking through a witch's arm held akimbo. They are no good comates for men or women, and to meddle with a goddess or nymph or giantess was to ensure evil or death for a man. The god's loves were apparently not always so fatal, though there seems to be some tradition to that effect. Most of the god-sprung heroes are motherless or unborn (i.e., born like Macduff by the Caesarean operation) -- Sigfred, in the Eddic Lays for instance.

Besides the gods, possibly older than they are, and presumably mightier, are the "Fates" (Norns), three Ladies who are met with together, who fulfil the parts of the gift-fairies of our Sleeping Beauty tales, and bestow endowments on the new-born child, as in the beautiful "Helge Lay", a point of the story which survives in Ogier of the Chansons de Geste, wherein Eadgar (Otkerus or Otgerus) gets what belonged to Holger (Holge), the Helga of "Beowulf's Lay". The caprices of the Fates, where one corrects or spoils the others' endowments, are seen in Saxo, when beauty, bounty, and meanness are given together. They sometimes meet heroes, as they met Helgi in the Eddic Lay (Helgi and Sigrun Lay), and help or begift them; they prepare the magic broth for Balder, are charmed with Hother's lute-playing, and bestow on him a belt of victory and a girdle of splendour, and prophesy things to come.

The verse in Biarca-mal, where "Pluto weaves the dooms of the mighty and fills Phlegethon with noble shapes," recalls Darrada-liod, and points to Woden as death-doomer of the warrior.

"Giants". -- These are stupid, mischievous, evil and cunning in Saxo's eyes. Oldest of beings, with chaotic force and exuberance, monstrous in extravagant vitality.

The giant nature of the older troll-kind is abhorrent to man and woman. But a giantess is enamoured of a youth she had fostered, and giants carry off king's daughters, and a three-bodied giant captures young children.

Giants live in caves by the sea, where they keep their treasure. One giant, Unfoot (Ofoti), is a shepherd, like Polyphemus, and has a famous dog which passed into the charge of Biorn, and won a battle; a giantess is keeping goats in the wilds. A giant's fury is so great that it takes twelve champions to control him, when the rage is on him. The troll (like our Puss-in-Boots Ogre) can take any shape.

Monstrous apparitions are mentioned, a giant hand (like that in one story of Finn) searching for its prey among the inmates of a booth in the wilds. But this Grendel-like arm is torn off by a giantess, Hardgrip, daughter of Wainhead and niece possibly of Hafle.

The voice heard at night prophesying is that of some god or monster, possibly Woden himself.

"Dwarves". -- These Saxo calls Satyrs, and but rarely mentions. The dwarf Miming, who lives in the desert, has a precious sword of sharpness (Mistletoe?) that could even pierce skin-hard Balder, and a ring (Draupnir) that multiplied itself for its possessor. He is trapped by the hero and robbed of his treasures.


"Barrow-burials". -- The obsequies of great men (such as the classic funeral of "Beowulf's Lay", 3138-80) are much noticed by Saxo, and we might expect that he knew such a poem (one similar to Ynglingatal, but not it) which, like the Books of the Kings of Israel and Judah, recorded the deaths and burials, as well as the pedigrees and deeds, of the Danish kings.

The various stages of the "obsequy by fire" are noted; the byre sometimes formed out of a ship; the "sati"; the devoted bower- maidens choosing to die with their mistress, the dead man's beloved (cf. The Eddic funerals of Balder, Sigfred, and Brunhild, in the Long "Brunhild's Lay", Tregrof Gudrumar and the lost poem of Balder's death paraphrased in the prose Edda); the last message given to the corpse on the pyre (Woden's last words to Balder are famous); the riding round the pyre; the eulogium; the piling of the barrow, which sometimes took whole days, as the size of many existing grass mounds assure us; the funeral feast, where an immense vat of ale or mead is drunk in honor of the dead; the epitaph, like an ogham, set up on a stone over the barrow.

The inclusion of a live man with the dead in a barrow, with the live or fresh-slain beasts (horse and bound) of the dead man, seems to point to a time or district when burning was not used. Apparently, at one time, judging from Frode's law, only chiefs and warriors were burnt.

Not to bury was, as in Hellas, an insult to the dead, reserved for the bodies of hated foes. Conquerors sometimes show their magnanimity (like Harald Godwineson) by offering to bury their dead foes.

The buried "barrow-ghost" was formidable; he could rise and slay and eat, vampire-like, as in the tale of Asmund and Aswit. He must in such case be mastered and prevented doing further harm by decapitation and thigh-forking, or by staking and burning. So criminals' bodies were often burnt to stop possible haunting.

Witches and wizards could raise corpses by spells to make them prophesy. The dead also appeared in visions, usually foretelling death to the person they visited.

OTHER WORLDS. -- The "Land of Undeath" is spoken of as a place reached by an exiled hero in his wanderings. We know it from Eric the traveller's S., Helge Thoreson's S., Herrand and Bose S., Herwon S., Thorstan Baearmagn S., and other Icelandic sources. But the voyage to the Other Worlds are some of the most remarkable of the narratives Saxo has preserved for us.

"Hadding's Voyage Underground". -- (a) A woman bearing in her lap angelica fresh and green, though it was deep winter, appears to the hero at supper, raising her head beside the brazier. Hadding wishes to know where such plants grow.

(b) She takes him with her, under cover of her mantle, underground.

(c) They pierce a mist, get on a road worn by long use, pass nobly-clad men, and reach the sunny fields that bear the angelica: --

     "Through griesly shadowes by a beaten path,
     Into a garden goodly garnished."
     -- F.Q. ii. 7, 51.

(d) Next they cross, by a bridge, the "River of Blades", and see "two armies fighting", ghosts of slain soldiers.

(e) Last they came to a high wall, which surrounds the land of Life, for a cock the woman brought with her, whose neck she wrung and tossed over this wall, came to life and crowed merrily.

Here the story breaks off. It is unfinished, we are only told that Hadfling got back. Why he was taken to this under-world? Who took him? What followed therefrom? Saxo does not tell. It is left to us to make out.

That it is an archaic story of the kind in the Thomas of Ercildoune and so many more fairy-tales, e.g., Kate Crack-a-Nuts, is certain. The "River of Blades" and "The Fighting Warriors" are known from the Eddic Poems. The angelica is like the green birk of that superb fragment, the ballad of the Wife of Usher's Well -- a little more frankly heathen, of course --

     "It fell about the Martinmas, when nights are long and mirk,
     The carline wife's three sons cam hame, and their hats were
          o' the birk.
     It neither grew in syke nor dyke, nor yet in ony sheugh,
     But at the gates o' Paradise that birk grew fair eneuch."

The mantel is that of Woden when he bears the hero over seas; the cock is a bird of sorcery the world over; the black fowl is the proper gift to the Underground powers -- a heriot really, for did not the Culture god steal all the useful beasts out of the underground world for men's use?

Dr. Rydberg has shown that the "Seven Sleepers" story is an old Northern myth, alluded to here in its early pre-Christian form, and that with this is mixed other incidents from voyages of Swipdag, the Teutonic Odusseus.

"Thorkill's Second Voyage to Outgarth-Loke to get Knowledge". -- (a) Guthrum is troubled as to the immortality and fate of the soul, and the reward of piety after death. To spite Thorkill, his enviers advised the king to send him to consult Outgarth- Loke. He required of the king that his enemies should be sent with him.

(b) In one well-stored and hide-defended ship they set out, reached a sunless, starless land, without fuel; ate raw food and suffered. At last, after many days, a fire was seen ashore. Thorkill, setting a jewel at the mast-head to be able to regain his vessel easily, rows ashore to get fire.

(c) In a filthy, snake-paved, stinking cavern he sees two horny- nebbed giants, (2) making a fire. One of the giants offers to direct him to Loke if he will say three true things in three phrases, and this done, tells him to row four days and then he would reach a Dark and Grassless Land. For three more true sayings he obtains fire, and gets back to his vessel.

(d) With good wind they make Grassless Land, go ashore, find a huge, rocky cavern, strike a flint to kindle a fire at the entrance as a safeguard against demons, and a torch to light them as they explored the cavern.

(e) First appears iron seats set amid crawling snakes.

(f) Next is sluggish water flowing over sand.

(g) Last a steep, sloping cavern is reached, in a chamber of which lay Outgarth-Loke chained, huge and foul.

(h) Thorkill plucks a hair of his beard "as big as a cornel-wood spear." The stench that arose was fearful; the demens and snakes fell upon the invaders at once; only Thorkill and five of the crew, who had sheltered themselves with hides against the virulent poison the demons and snakes cast, which would take a head off at the neck if it fell upon it, got back to their ship.

(i) By vow to the "God that made the world", and offerings, a good voyage was made back, and Germany reached, where Thorkill became a Christian. Only two of his men survived the effects of the poison and stench, and he himself was scarred and spoilt in the face.

(k) When he reached the king, Guthrum would not listen to his tale, because it was prophesied to him that he would die suddenly if he heard it; nay, he even sent men to smite him as he lay in bed, but, by the device of laying a log in his place, he escaped, and going to the king as he sat at meat, reproached him for his treachery.

(l) Guthrum bade him tell his story, but died of horror at hearing his god Loke foully spoken of, while the stench of the hair that Thorkill produced, as Othere did his horn for a voucher of his speech, slew many bystanders.

This is the regular myth of Loke, punished by the gods, lying bound with his own soils' entrails on three sharp stones and a sword-blade, (this latter an addition, when the myth was made stones were the only blades), with snakes' venom dripping on to him, so that when it falls on him he shakes with pain and makes earthquakes -- a Titan myth in answer to the question, "Why does the earth quake?" The vitriolic power of the poison is excellently expressed in the story. The plucking of the hair as a token is like the plucking of a horn off the giant or devil that occurs in some folk-tale.


There is a belief in magic throughout Saxo's work, showing how fresh heathendom still was in men's minds and memories. His explanations, when he euhemerizes, are those of his day.

By means of spells all kinds of wonders could be effected, and the powers of nature forced to work for the magician or his favourite.

"Skin-changing" (so common in "Landnamaboc") was as well known as in the classic world of Lucian and Apuleius; and, where Frode perishes of the attacks of a witch metamorphosed into a walrus.

"Mist" is induced by spells to cover and hide persons, as in Homer, and "glamour" is produced by spells to dazzle foemen's sight. To cast glamour and put confusion into a besieged place a witch is employed by the beleaguerer, just as William the Conqueror used the witch in the Fens against Hereward's fortalice. A soothsayer warns Charles the Great of the coming of a Danish fleet to the Seine's mouth.

"Rain and bad weather" may be brought on, as in a battle against the enemy, but in this, as in other instances, the spell may be counteracted.

"Panic Terror" may be induced by the spell worked with a dead horse's head set up on a pole facing the antagonist, but the spell may be met and combatted by silence and a counter-curse.

"Magic help" may be got by calling on the friendly magician's name. The magician has also the power of summoning to him anyone, however unwilling, to appear.

Of spells and magic power to blunt steel there are several instances; they may be counteracted (as in the Icelandic Sagas) by using the hilt, or a club, or covering the blade with fine skin. In another case the champion can only be overcome by one that will take up some of the dust from under his feet. This is effected by the combatants shifting their ground and exchanging places. In another case the foeman can only be slain by gold, whereupon the hero has a gold-headed mace made and batters the life out of him therewith. The brothers of Swanhild cannot be cut by steel, for their mail was charmed by the witch Gudrun, but Woden taught Eormenric, the Gothic king, how to overcome them with stones (which apparently cannot, as archaic weapons, be charmed against at all, resisting magic like wood and water and fire). Jordanis tells the true history of Ermanaric, that great Gothic emperor whose rule from the Dnieper to the Baltic and Rhine and Danube, and long reign of prosperity, were broken by the coming of the Huns. With him vanished the first great Teutonic empire.

Magic was powerful enough even to raise the dead, as was practised by the Perms, who thus renewed their forces after a battle. In the Everlasting battle the combatants were by some strange trick of fate obliged to fulfil a perennial weird (like the unhappy Vanderdecken). Spells to wake the dead were written on wood and put under the corpses' tongue. Spells (written on bark) induce frenzy.

"Charms" would secure a man against claw or tooth.

"Love philtres" (as in the long "Lay of Gudrun) appear as everywhere in savage and archaic society.

"Food", porridge mixed with the slaver of tortured snakes, gives magic strength or endues the eater with eloquence and knowledge of beast and bird speech (as Finn's broiled fish and Sigfred's broiled dragon-heart do).

"Poison" like these hell-broths are part of the Witch or Obi stock-in-trade, and Frode uses powdered gold as an antidote.

"Omens" are observed; tripping as one lands is lucky (as with our William the Norman). Portents, such as a sudden reddening of the sea where the hero is drowned, are noticed and interpreted.

"Dreams" (cf. Eddic Lays of Attila, and the Border ballads) are prophetic (as nine-tenths of Europeans firmly believe still); thus the visionary flame-spouting dragon is interpreted exactly as Hogne's and Attila's dreams. The dreams of the three first bridals nights (which were kept hallowed by a curious superstition, either because the dreams would then bold good, or as is more likely, for fear of some Asmodeus) were fateful. Animals and birds in dreams are read as persons, as nowadays.

A "curse" is powerful unless it can be turned back, when it will harm its utterer, for harm someone it must. The "curse" of a dying man on his slayer, and its lack of effect, is noted.

Sometimes "magic messengers" are sent, like the swans that bore a token and uttered warning songs to the hero.

"Witches and wizards" (as belonging to the older layer of archaic beliefs) are hateful to the gods, and Woden casts them out as accursed, though he himself was the mightiest of wizards. Heathen Teutonic life was a long terror by reason of witchcraft, as is the heathen African life to-day, continual precautions being needful to escape the magic of enemies. The Icelandic Sagas, such as Gretter's, are full of magic and witchcraft. It is by witchcraft that Gretter is first lamed and finally slain; one can see that Glam's curse, the Beowulf motif, was not really in the original Gretter story.

"Folk-medicine" is really a branch of magic in old days, even to such pioneers of science as Paracelsus.

Saxo's traditions note drinking of a lion's blood that eats men as a means of gaining might and strength; the drinking of bear's blood is also declared to give great bodily power.

The tests for "madness" are of a primitive character, such as those applied to Odusseus, who, however, was not able, like Hamlet, to evade them.

The test for death is the red-hot iron or hot brand (used by the Abyssinians of to-day, as it was supposed in the thirteenth century to have been used by Grimhild. "And now Grimhild goes and takes a great brand, where the house had burnt, and goes to Gernot her brother, and thrusts the burning brand in his mouth, and will know whether he is dead or living. But Gernot was clearly dead. And now she goes to Gislher and thrusts the firebrand in his mouth. He was not dead before, but Gislher died of that. Now King Thidrec of Bern saw what Grimhild is doing, and speaks to King Attila. `See how that devil Grimhild, thy wife, is killing her brothers, the good warriors, and how many men have lost their lives for her sake, and how many good men she has destroyed, Huns and Amalungs and Niflungs; and in the same way would she bring thee and me to hell, if she could do it?' Then spake King Attila, `Surely she is a devil, and slay thou her, and that were a good work if thou had done it seven nights ago! Then many a gallant fellow were whole that is now dead.' Now King Thidrec springs at Grimhild and swings up his sword Eckisax, and hews her asunder at the middle").

It was believed (as in Polynesia, where "Captain Cook's path" was shown in the grass) that the heat of the hero's body might blast the grass; so Starcad's entrails withered the grass.

It was believed that a severed head might bite the ground in rage, and there were certainly plenty of opportunities for observation of such cases.

It was believed that a "dumb man" might be so wrought on by passion that he would speak, and wholly acquire speech-power.

Little is told of "surgery", but in one case of intestines protruding owing to wounds, withies were employed to bind round the trunk and keep the bowels from risk till the patient could be taken to a house and his wounds examined and dressed. It was considered heroic to pay little heed to wounds that were not dangerous, but just to leave them to nature.

Personal "cleanliness" was not higher than among savages now. A lover is loused by his lady after the mediaeval fashion.

CHRISTIANITY -- In the first nine books of Saxo, which are devoted to heathendom, there is not much save the author's own Christian point of view that smacks of the New Faith. The apostleships of Ansgarius in Denmark, the conversion of King Eric, the Christianity of several later Danish Kings, one of whom was (like Olaf Tryggwason) baptised in Britain are also noticed.

Of "Christian legends" and beliefs, besides the euhemerist theory, widely held, of the heathen gods there are few hints, save the idea that Christ was born in the reign of Frode, Frode having been somehow synchronised with Augustus, in whose reign also there was a world-peace.

Of course the christening of Scandinavia is history, and the mythic books are little concerned with it. The episode in Adam of Bremen, where the king offers the people, if they want a new god, to deify Eric, one of their hero-kings, is eminently characteristic and true.


There might be a classification of Saxo's stories akin to that of the Irish poets, Battles, Sieges, Voyages, Rapes, Cattle Forays, etc.; and quite apart from the historic element, however faint and legendary, there are a set of stories ascribed by him, or rather his authorities, to definite persons, which had, even in his day, probably long been the property of Tis, their original owners not being known owing to lapse of time and the wear of memory, and the natural and accidental catastrophies that impair the human record. Such are the "Dragon-Slayer" stories. In one type of these the hero (Frithlaf) is cast on a desolate island, and warned by a dream to attack and slay a dragon guarding treasure. He wakes, sees the dragon arise out of the waves, apparently, to come ashore and go back to the cavern or mound wherein the treasure lay. His scales are too hard to pierce; he is terribly strong, lashing trees down with his tail, and wearing a deep path through the wood and over the stones with his huge and perpetual bulk; but the hero, covered with hide-wrapped shield against the poison, gets down into the hollow path, and pierces the monster from below, afterward rifling its underground store and carrying off its treasure.

Again the story is repeated; the hero (Frode Haddingsson) is warned by a countryman of the island-dragon and its hoard, is told to cover his shield and body with bulls' hides against the poison, and smite the monster's belly. The dragon goes to drink, and, as it is coming back, it is attacked, slain, and its treasure lifted precisely as before. The analogies with the Beowulf and Sigfred stories are evident; but no great poet has arisen to weave the dragon-slaying intimately into the lives of Frode and Frithlaf as they have been woven into the tragedy of Sigfred the wooer of Brunhild and, if Dr. Vigffisson be right the conqueror of Varus, or into the story of Beowulf, whose real engagements were with sea-monsters, not fiery dragons.

Another type is that of the "Loathly Worm". A king out hunting (Herod or Herraud, King of Sweden), for some unexplained reason brings home two small snakes as presents for his daughter. They wax wonderfully, have to be fed a whole ox a day, and proceed to poison and waste the countryside. The wretched king is forced to offer his daughter (Thora) to anyone who will slay them. The hero (Ragnar) devises a dress of a peculiar kind (by help of his nurse, apparently), in this case, woolly mantle and hairy breeches all frozen and ice-covered to resist the venom, then strapping his spear to his hand, he encounters them boldly alone. The courtiers hide "like frightened little girls", and the king betakes him to a "narrow shelter", an euphemism evidently of Saxo's, for the scene is comic. The king comes forth when the hero is victorious, and laughing at his hairy legs, nick-names him Shaggy-breech, and bids him to the feast. Ragnar fetches up his comrades, and apparently seeks out the frightened courtiers (no doubt with appropriate quip, omitted by Saxo, who hurries on), feasts, marries the king's daughter, and begets on her two fine sons.

Of somewhat similar type is the proud "Maiden guarded" by Beasts. Here the scene is laid in Gaulardale in Norway. The lady is Ladgerda, the hero Ragnar. Enamoured of the maiden by seeing her prowess in war, he accepts no rebuffs, but leaving his followers, enters the house, slays the guardian Bear and Dog, thrusting one through with a spear and throttling the other with his hand. The lady is won and wed, and two daughters and a son (Frithlaf) duly begotten. The story of Alf and Alfhild combines several types. There are the tame snakes, the baffled suitors' heads staked to terrify other suitors, and the hero using red-hot iron and spear to slay the two reptiles.

The "Proud Lady", (cf. Kudrun and the Niebelungen, and Are's story of the queen that burnt her suitors) appears in Hermintrude, Queen of Scotland, who battles and slays her lovers, but is out-witted by the hero (Hamlet), and, abating her arrogance, agrees to wed him. This seems an obvious accretion in the original Hamlet story, and probably owing not to Saxo, but to his authority.

The "Beggar that stole the Lady" (told of Snio Siwaldson and the daughter of the King of the Goths), with its brisk dialogue, must have been one of the most artful of the folk-tales worked on by Saxo or his informants; but it is only half told, unfortunately.

The "Crafty Soaker" is another excellent comic folk-tale. A terrible famine made the king (Snio) forbid brewing to save the barley for bread, and abolished all needless toping. The Soaker baffled the king by sipping, never taking a full draught. Rebuked, be declared that he never drank, but only sucked a drop. This was forbidden him for the future, so he sopped his bread in ale, and in that inconvenient manner continued to get drunk, excusing himself with the plea that though it was forbidden to drink or sip beer, it was not forbidden to eat it. When this was in turn prohibited, the Soaker gave up any pretence, and brewed and drank unabashed, telling the angry king that he was celebrating his approaching funeral with due respect, which excuse led to the repeal of the obnoxious decree. A good Rabelaisian tale, that must not have been wide-spread among the Danish topers, whose powers both Saxo and Shakespeare have celebrated, from actual experience no doubt.

The "Magician's tricks to elude pursuit", so common an incident in our fairy tales, e.g., Michael Scot's flight, is ascribed here to the wonder-working and uncanny Finns, who, when pursued, cast behind them successively three pebbles, which become to their enemies' eyes mountains, then snow, which appeared like a roaring torrent. But they could not cast the glamour on Arngrim a third time, and were forced to submit. The glamour here and in the case of the breaking of Balder's barrow is akin to that which the Druid puts on the sons of Uisnach.

The tale of the king who shuts up his daughter in an "earth- house" or underground chamber with treasures (weapons and gold and silver), in fear of invasion, looks like a bit of folk-tale, such as the "Hind in the Wood", but it may have a traditional base of some kind here.

A folk-tale, very imperfectly narrated, is the "Clever King's Daughter", who evidently in the original story had to choose her suitor by his feet (as the giantess in the prose Edda chooses her husband), and was able to do so by the device she had practised of sewing up her ring in his leg sometime before, so that when she touched the flesh she could feel the hardness of the ring beneath the scar.

Bits of folk-tales are the "Device for escaping threatened death by putting a log in one's bed" (as in our Jack the Giant-Killer). The device, as old as David's wife, of dressing up a dummy (here a basket with a dog inside, covered outside with clothes), while the hero escapes, is told of Eormenric, the mighty Gothic King of Kings, who, like Walter of Aquitaine, Theodoric of Varona, Ecgherht, and Arminius, was an exile in his youth. This traditional escape of the two lads from the Scyths should be compared with the true story in Paul the Deacon of his little ancestor's captivity and bold and successful stroke for freedom.

"Disguise" plays a great part in the folk-tales used by Saxo. Woden disguises himself in a cowl on his earthly travels, and heroes do the same; a king disguises himself as a slave at his rival's court, to try and find occasion of slaying him; a hero wraps himself up in skins, like Alleleirah.

"Escaped recognition" is accordingly a feature in many of these simple but artistic plots. A son is not known by his mother in the story of Hrolf.

Other "Devices" are exemplified, such as the "booby-trap" loaded with a millstone, which slays a hateful and despised tyrant, imposed by a foreign conqueror; evasion by secret passages, and concealment in underground vaults or earth-houses. The feigning of madness to escape death occurs, as well as in the better-known Hamlet story. These stratagems are universal in folk-history.

To Eric, the clever and quick of speech, is ascribed an excellent sailor's smuggling trick to hide slaughtered cattle, by sinking them till the search is over.

The "Hero's Mighty Childhood" (like David's) of course occurs when he binds a bear with his girdle. Sciold is full grown at fifteen, and Hadding is full grown in extreme youth. The hero in his boyhood slays a full-grown man and champion. The cinder- biting, lazy stage of a mighty youth is exemplified.

The "fierce eyes" of the hero or heroine, which can daunt an assassin as could the piercing glance of Marius, are the "falcon eyes" of the Eddic Lays.

The shining, effulgent, "illuminating hair" of the hero, which gives light in the darkness, is noticed here, as it obtains in Cuaran's thirteenth century English legend.

The wide-spread tale of the "City founded on a site marked out by a hide cut into finest thongs", occurs, told of Hella and Iwarus exactly as our Kentishmen told it of Hengist, and as it is also told of Dido.

The incidents of the "hero sleeping by a rill", of the guarded king's daughter, with her thirty attendants, the king's son keeping sheep, are part of the regular stock incidents in European folk-tales. So are the Nausicaa incident of the "king's daughter going a washing", the hero disguising himself as a woman and winding wool (like a second Heracles).

There are a certain number of stories, which only occur in Saxo and in our other Northern sources with attributions, though they are of course legendary; such are:

The "Everlasting Battle" between Hedhin and Hogne, a legend connected with the great Brisinga-men story, and paralleled by the Cordelia-tale among the Britons.

The story of the "Children preserved" is not very clearly told, and Saxo seems to have euhemerized. It is evidently of the same type as the Lionel-Lancelot story in the Arthurian cycle. Two children, ordered to be killed, are saved by the slaying of other children in their place; and afterwards by their being kept and named as dogs; they come to their own and avenge their wrongs.

The "Journey to Hell" story is told of Eric, who goes to a far land to fetch a princess back, and is successful. It is apparently an adventure of Swipdag, if everyone had their rights. It is also told of Thorkill, whose adventures are rather of the "True Thomas" type.

The "Test of Endurance" by sitting between fires, and the relief of the tortured and patient hero by a kindly trick, is a variant of the famous Eddic Lays concerning Agnar.

The "Robbers of the Island", evidently comes from an Icelandic source (cf. The historic "Holmveria Saga" and Icelandic folk- tales of later date), the incident of the hero slaying his slave, that the body might be mistaken for his, is archaic in tone; the powerful horse recalls Grani, Bayard, and even Sleipner; the dog which had once belonged to Unfoot (Ofote), the giant shepherd (cf. its analogues in old Welsh tales), is not quite assimilated or properly used in this story. It seems (as Dr. Rydberg suspects) a mythical story coloured by the Icelandic relater with memory full of the robber-hands of his own land.

The stratagem of "Starcad", who tried even in death to slay his slayer, seems an integral part of the Starcad story; as much as the doom of three crimes which are to be the price for the threefold life that a triple man or giant should enjoy. The noose story in Starcad (cf. that told of Bicce in the Eormenric story), is also integral.


No one has commented upon Saxo's mythology with such brilliancy, such minute consideration, and such success as the Swedish scholar, Victor Rydberg. More than occasionally he is over- ingenious and over-anxious to reduce chaos to order; sometimes he almost loses his faithful reader in the maze he treads so easily and confidently, and sometimes he stumbles badly. But he has placed the whole subject on a fresh footing, and much that is to follow will be drawn from his "Teutonic Mythology" (cited here from the English version by Rasmus B. Anderson, London, 1889, as "T.M.").

Let us take first some of the incontestable results of his investigations that affect Saxo.

SCIOLD is the father of Gram in Saxo, and the son of Sceaf in other older authorities. Dr. Rydberg (97-101) forms the following equations for the Sciolding patriarchs: --

     a. Scef -- Heimdal -- Rig.
     b. Sciold -- Borgar -- Jarl.
     c. Gram -- Halfdan -- Koming.

Chief among the mythic tales that concern Saxo are the various portions of the Swipdag-Myth, which Dr. Rydberg has been able to complete with much success. They may be resumed briefly as follows: --

Swipdag, helped by the incantations of his dead mother, whom he had raised from the dead to teach him spells of protection, sets forth on his quests. He is the Odusseus of the Teutonic mythology. He desires to avenge his father on Halfdan that slew him. To this end he must have a weapon of might against Halfdan's club. The Moon-god tells him of the blade Thiasse has forged. It has been stolen by Mimer, who has gone out into the cold wilderness on the rim of the world. Swipdag achieves the sword, and defeats and slays Halfdan. He now buys a wife, Menglad, of her kinsmen the gods by the gift of the sword, which thus passes into Frey's hands.

How he established a claim upon Frey, and who Menglad was, is explained in Saxo's story of Eric, where the characters may be identified thus: --

     Swipdag -- Eric
     Freya -- Gunwara
     Frey -- Frode III
     Niord -- Fridlaf
     Wuldor -- Roller
     Thor -- Brac
     Giants -- The Greps
     Giants -- Coller.

Frey and Freya had been carried off by the giants, and Swipdag and his faithful friend resolve to get them back for the Anses, who bewail their absence. They journey to Monster-land, win back the lady, who ultimately is to become the hero's wife, and return her to her kindred; but her brother can only be rescued by his father Niord. It is by wit rather than by force that Swipdag is successful here.

The third journey of Swipdag is undertaken on Frey's behalf; he goes under the name of Scirner to woo giant Gymer's daughter Gerth for his brother-in-law, buying her with the sword that he himself had paid to Frey as his sister's bride-price. So the sword gets back to the giants again.

Swipdag's dead foe Halfdan left two young "avengers", Hadding and Guthorm, whom he seeks to slay. But Thor-Brache gives them in charge of two giant brothers. Wainhead took care of Hadding, Hafle of Guthorm. Swipdag made peace with Guthorm, in a way not fully explained to us, but Hadding took up the blood-feud as soon as he was old enough.

Hadding was befriended by a woman, who took him to the Underworld -- the story is only half told in Saxo, unluckily -- and by Woden, who took him over-sea wrapt in his mantle as they rode Sleipner over the waves; but here again Saxo either had not the whole story before him, or he wished to abridge it for some reason or prejudice, and the only result of this astonishing pilgrimage is that Woden gives the young hero some useful counsels. He falls into captivity, entrapped by Loke (for what reason again we are left to guess), and is exposed to wild beasts, but he slays the wolf that attacks him, and eating its heart as Woden had bidden him, he gains wisdom and foresight.

Prepared by these adventures, he gets Guthorm to join him (how or why the peace between him and Swipdag was broken, we know not), and they attack their father's slayer, but are defeated, though Woden sunk Asmund Swipdag's son's ship, Grio, at Hlessey, and Wainhead and Hardgrip his daughter fought for Hadding.

Hadding wanders off to the East with his foster-sister and mistress and Hardgrip, who is slain protecting him against an angry ghost raised from the Underworld by her spells. However, helped by Heimdal and Woden (who at this time was an exile), Hadding's ultimate success is assured.

When Woden came back to power, Swipdag, whose violence and pride grew horribly upon him, was exiled, possibly by some device of his foes, and took upon him, whether by will or doom, a sea- monster's shape. His faithful wife follows him over land and sea, but is not able to save him. He is met by Hadding and, after a fierce fight, slain. Swipdag's wife cursed the conqueror, and he was obliged to institute an annual sacrifice to Frey (her brother) at Upsale, who annuls the curse. Loke, in seal's guise, tried to steal the necklace of Freya at the Reef of Treasures, where Swipdag was slain, but Haimdal, also in seal- skin, fought him, and recovered it for the gods.

Other myths having reference to the goddesses appear in Saxo. There is the story of "Heimdall and Sol", which Dr. Rydberg has recognised in the tale of Alf and Alfhild. The same tale of how the god won the sun for his wife appears in the mediaeval German King Ruther (in which title Dr. Ryuberg sees Hrutr, a name of the ram-headed god).

The story of "Othar" (Od) and "Syritha" (Sigrid) is obviously that of Freya and her lover. She has been stolen by the giants, owing to the wiles of her waiting-maid, Loke's helper, the evil witch Angrbode. Od seeks her, finds her, slays the evil giant who keeps her in the cave; but she is still bewitched, her hair knotted into a hard, horny mass, her eyes void of brightness. Unable to gain recognition he lets her go, and she is made by a giantess to herd her flocks. Again found by Od, and again refusing to recognise him, she is let go again. But this time she flies to the world of men, and takes service with Od's mother and father. Here, after a trial of her love, she and Od are reconciled. Sywald (Sigwald), her father, weds Od's sister.

The tale of the vengeance of Balder is more clearly given by the Dane, and with a comic force that recalls the Aristophanic fun of Loka-senna. It appears that the story had a sequel which only Saxo gives. Woden had the giantess Angrbode, who stole Freya, punished. Frey, whose mother-in-law she was, took up her quarrel, and accusing Woden of sorcery and dressing up like a woman to betray Wrind, got him banished. While in exile Wuldor takes Woden's place and name, and Woden lives on earth, part of the time at least, with Scathe Thiasse's daughter, who had parted from Niord.

The giants now resolved to attack Ansegard; and Woden, under the name of Yggr, warned the gods, who recall him after ten years' exile.

But for Saxo this part of the story of the wars of the gods would be very fragmentary.

The "Hildiger story", where a father slays his son unwittingly, and then falls at his brother's hand, a tale combining the Rustam and the Balin-Balan types, is one of the Hilding tragedies, and curiously preserved in the late "Saga of Asmund the Champions' bane". It is an antithesis, as Dr. Rydberg remarks, to the Hildebrand and Hadubrand story, where father and son must fight and are reconciled.

The "story of Orwandel" (the analogue of Orion the Hunter) must be gathered chiefly from the prose Edda. He was a huntsman, big enough and brave enough to cope with giants. He was the friend of Thor, the husband of Groa, the father of Swipdag, the enemy of giant Coller and the monster Sela. The story of his birth, and of his being blinded, are lost apparently in the Teutonic stories, unless we may suppose that the bleeding of Robin Hood till he could not see by the traitorous prioress is the last remains of the story of the great archer's death.

Great part of the troubles which befell the gods arose from the antagonism of the sons of Iwalde and the brethren Sindre and Brokk (Cinder and Brank), rival artist families; and it was owing to the retirement of their artist foster-parents that Frey and Freya were left among the giants. The Hniflung hoard is also supposed to have consisted of the treasures of one band of primaeval artists, the Iwaldings.

Whether we have here the phenomenon of mythological doublets belonging to different tribes, or whether we have already among these early names that descent of story which has led to an adventure of Moses being attributed to Garibaldi, given to Theodoric the king the adventures of Theodoric the god, taken Arthur to Rome, and Charles the Great to Constantinople, it is hard to say.

The skeleton-key of identification, used even as ably as Dr. Rydberg uses it, will not pick every mythologic lock, though it undoubtedly has opened many hitherto closed. The truth is that man is a finite animal; that he has a limited number of types of legend; that these legends, as long as they live and exist, are excessively prehensile; that, like the opossum, they can swing from tree to tree without falling; as one tree dies out of memory they pass on to another. When they are scared away by what is called exact intelligence from the tall forest of great personalities, they contrive to live humbly clinging to such bare plain stocks and poles (Tis and Jack and Cinderella) as enable them to find a precarious perch.

To drop similitudes, we must be prepared, in unravelling our tangled mythology, to go through several processes. We must, of course, note the parallelisms and get back to the earliest attribution-names we can find. But all system is of late creation, it does not begin till a certain political stage, a stage where the myths of coalescing clans come into contact, and an official settlement is attempted by some school of poets or priests. Moreover, systematization is never so complete that it effaces all the earlier state of things. Behind the official systems of Homer and Hesiod lies the actual chaos of local faiths preserved for us by Pausanias and other mythographers. The common factors in the various local faiths are much the majority among the factors they each possess; and many of these common factors are exceedingly primitive, and resolve themselves into answers to the questions that children still ask, still receiving no answer but myth -- that is, poetic and subjective hypothesis, containing as much truth as they can receive or their inventors can grasp.

Who were our forbears? How did day and night, sun and moon, earth and water, and fire come? How did the animals come? Why has the bear no tail? Why are fishes dumb, the swallow cleft- tail? How did evil come? Why did men begin to quarrel? How did death arise? What will the end be? Why do dead persons come back? What do the dead do? What is the earth shaped like? Who invented tools and weapons, and musical instruments, and how? When did kings and chiefs first come?

From accepted answers to such questions most of the huge mass of mythology arises. Man makes his gods in his own image, and the doctrines of omen, coincidence, and correspondence helped by incessant and imperfect observation and logic, bring about a system of religious observance, of magic and ritual, and all the masses of folly and cruelty, hope and faith, and even charity, that group about their inventions, and seem to be the necessary steps in the onward path of progressive races.

When to these we add the true and exaggerated memories of actual heroes, the material before the student is pretty completely comprised. Though he must be prepared to meet the difficulties caused in the contact of races, of civilisations, by the conversion of persons holding one set of mythical ideas to belief in another set of different, more attractive, and often more advanced stage.

The task of arriving at the scientific, speculative ethic, and the actual practice of our remote ancestry (for to that end is the student of mythology and folk-lore aiming) is not therefore easy. Nor is the record perfect, though it is not so poor in most cases as was once believed. The Brothers Grimm, patriarchs alike as mythologists and folk-lorists, the Castor and Pollox of our studies, have proved this as regards the Teutonic nations, just as they showed us, by many a striking example, that in great part folk-lore was the mythology of to-day, and mythology the folk-lore of yesterday.

In many cases we are helped by quite modern material to make out some puzzle that an old tale presents, and there is little doubt but that the present activity in the field of folklore will not only result in fresh matter but in fresh methods freshly applied.

The Scandinavian material, at all events, is particularly rich: there is the extensive Icelandic written literature touching the ninth and tenth and eleventh centuries; the noble, if fragmentary remains of Old Northern poetry of the Wickingtide; and lastly, the mass of tradition which, surviving in oral form, and changing in colour from generation to generation, was first recorded in part in the seventeenth, and again in part, in the present century; and all these yield a plentiful field for research. But their evidence gains immensely by the existence of Saxo's nine books of traditional and mythic lore, collected and written down in an age when much that was antique and heathen was passing away forever. The gratitude due to the Welshman of the twelfth century, whose garnered hoard has enriched so many poets and romances from his day to now, is no less due to the twelfth- century Dane, whose faithful and eloquent enthusiasm has swept much dust from antique time, and saved us such a story as Shakespeare has not disdained to consecrate to highest use. Not only Celtic and Teutonic lore are the richer for these two men, but the whole Western world of thought and speech. In the history of modern literature, it is but right that by the side of Geoffrey an honourable place should be maintained for Saxo, and

"awake remembrance of these mighty dead."

-- Oliver Elton


(1) A horn and a tusk of great size are described as things of price, and great uroch's horns are mentioned in Thorkill's Second Journey. Horns were used for feast as well as fray.

(2) Such bird-beaked, bird-legged figures occur on the Cross at Papil, Burra Island, Shetland. Cf. Abbey Morne Cross, and an Onchan Cross, Isle of Man.