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The Danish History, Books I-IX* by Saxo Grammaticus ("Saxo the Learned")

Part 6 out of 9

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the swelling of the battered body; inasmuch as the skin was torn
and bruised with the flints, so that all the features were
blotted out, bloodless and wan. This exasperated the champions
who had just promised Fridleif to see that the robbers were
extirpated: and they approached the perilous torrent, that they
might not seem to tarnish the honour of their promise by a craven
neglect of their vow. The rest imitated their boldness, and with
equal ardour went to the river, ready to avenge their king or to
endure the worst. When Fridleif saw them he hastened to lower
the bridge to the mainland; and when he had got the champions he
cut down the watch at the first attack. Thus he went on to
attack the rest and put them to the sword, all save Biorn; whom
he tended very carefully and cured of his wounds; whereupon,
under pledge of solemn oath, he made him his colleague, thinking
it better to use his services than to boast of his death. He
also declared it would be shameful if such a flower of bravery
were plucked in his first youth and perished by an untimely

Now the Danes had long ago had false tidings of Fridleif's death,
and when they found that he was approaching, they sent men to
fetch him, and ordered Hiarn to quit the sovereignty, because he
was thought to be holding it only on sufferance and carelessly.
But he could not bring himself to resign such an honour, and
chose sooner to spend his life for glory than pass into the dim
lot of common men. Therefore he resolved to fight for his
present estate, that he might not have to resume his former one
stripped of his royal honours. Thus the land was estranged and
vexed with the hasty commotion of civil strife; some were of
Hiarn's party, while others agreed to the claims of Fridleif,
because of the vast services of Frode; and the voice of the
commons was perplexed and divided, some of them respecting things
as they were, others the memory of the past. But regard for the
memory of Frode weighed most, and its sweetness gave Fridleif the
balance of popularity.

Many wise men thought that a person of peasant rank should be
removed from the sovereignty; since, contrary to the rights of
birth, and only by the favour of fortune, he had reached an
unhoped-for eminence; and in order that the unlawful occupant
might not debar the rightful heir to the office, Fridleif told
the envoys of the Danes to return, and request Hiarn either to
resign the kingdom or to meet him in battle. Hiarn thought it
more grievous than death to set lust of life before honour, and
to seek safety at the cost of glory. So he met Fridleif in the
field, was crushed, and fled into Jutland, where, rallying a
band, he again attacked his conqueror. But his men were all
consumed with the sword, and he fled unattended, as the island
testifies which has taken its name from his (Hiarno). And so,
feeling his lowly fortune, and seeing himself almost stripped of
his forces by the double defeat, he turned his mind to craft, and
went to Fridleif with his face disguised, meaning to become
intimate, and find an occasion to slay him treacherously.

Hiarn was received by the king, hiding his purpose under the
pretence of servitude. For, giving himself out as a salt-
distiller, he performed base offices among the servants who did
the filthiest work. He used also to take the last place at meal-
time, and he refrained from the baths, lest his multitude of
scars should betray him if he stripped. The king, in order to
ease his own suspicions, made him wash; and when he knew his
enemy by the scars, he said: "Tell me now, thou shameless bandit,
how wouldst thou have dealt with me, if thou hadst found out
plainly that I wished to murder thee?" Hiarn, stupefied, said:
"Had I caught thee I would have first challenged thee, and then
fought thee, to give thee a better chance of wiping out thy
reproach." Fridleif presently took him at his word, challenged
him and slew him, and buried his body in a barrow that bears the
dead man's name.

Soon after FRIDLEIF was admonished by his people to think about
marrying, that he might prolong his line; but he maintained that
the unmarried life was best, quoting his father Frode, on whom
his wife's wantonness had brought great dishonour. At last,
yielding to the persistent entreaties of all, he proceeded to
send ambassadors to ask for the daughter of Amund, King of
Norway. One of these, named Frok, was swallowed by the waves in
mid-voyage, and showed a strange portent at his death. For when
the closing flood of billows encompassed him, blood arose in the
midst of the eddy, and the whole face of the sea was steeped with
an alien redness, so that the ocean, which a moment before was
foaming and white with tempest, was presently swollen with
crimson waves, and was seen to wear a colour foreign to its

Around implacably declined to consent to the wishes of the king,
and treated the legates shamefully, declaring that he spurned the
embassy because the tyranny of Frode had of old borne so heavily
upon Norway. But Amund's daughter, Frogertha, not only looking
to the birth of Fridleif, but also honouring the glory of his
deeds, began to upbraid her father, because he scorned a son-in-
law whose nobility was perfect, being both sufficient in valour
and flawless in birth. She added that the portentous aspect of
the sea, when the waves were suddenly turned into blood, simply
and solely signified the defeat of Norway, and was a plain
presage of the victory of Denmark. And when Fridleif sent a
further embassy to ask for her, wishing to vanquish the refusal
by persistency, Amund was indignant that a petition he had once
denied should be obstinately pressed, and hurried the envoys to
death, wishing to offer a brutal check to the zeal of this brazen
wooer. Fridleif heard news of this outrage, and summoning
Halfdan and Biorn, sailed round Norway. Amund, equipped with his
native defences, put out his fleet against him. The firth into
which both fleets had mustered is called Frokasund. Here
Fridleif left the camp at night to reconnoitre; and, hearing an
unusual kind of sound close to him as of brass being beaten, he
stood still and looked up, and heard the following song of three
swans, who were crying above him:

"While Hythin sweeps the sea and cleaves the ravening tide, his
serf drinks out of gold and licks the cups of milk. Best is the
estate of the slave on whom waits the heir, the king's son, for
their lots are rashly interchanged." Next, after the birds had
sung, a belt fell from on high, which showed writing to interpret
the song. For while the son of Hythin, the King of Tellemark,
was at his boyish play, a giant, assuming the usual appearance of
men, had carried him off, and using him as an oarsman (having
taken his skiff over to the neighbouring shore), was then sailing
past Fridleif while he was occupied reconnoitering. But the king
would not suffer him to use the service of the captive youth, and
longed to rob the spoiler of his prey. The youth warned him that
he must first use sharp reviling against the giant, promising
that he would prove easy to attack, if only he were assailed with
biting verse. Then Fridleif began thus:

"Since thou art a giant of three bodies, invincible, and almost
reachest heaven with thy crest, why does this silly sword bind
thy thigh? Why doth a broken spear gird thy huge side? Why,
perchance, dost thou defend thy stalwart breast with a feeble
sword, and forget the likeness of thy bodily stature, trusting in
a short dagger, a petty weapon? Soon, soon will I balk thy bold
onset, when with blunted blade thou attemptest war. Since thou
art thyself a timid beast, a lump lacking proper pith, thou art
swept headlong like a flying shadow, having with a fair and
famous body got a heart that is unwarlike and unstable with fear,
and a spirit quite unmatched to thy limbs. Hence thy frame
totters, for thy goodly presence is faulty through the overthrow
of thy soul, and thy nature in all her parts is at strife. Hence
shall all tribute of praise quit thee, nor shalt thou be
accounted famous among the brave, but shalt be reckoned among
ranks obscure."

When he had said this he lopped off a hand and foot of the giant,
made him fly, and set his prisoner free. Then he went
straightway to the giant's headland, took the treasure out of his
cave, and carried it away. Rejoicing in these trophies, and
employing the kidnapped youth to row him over the sea, he
composed with cheery voice the following strain:

"In the slaying of the swift monster we wielded our blood-stained
swords and our crimsoned blade, whilst thou, Amund, lord of the
Norwegian ruin, wert in deep slumber; and since blind night
covers thee, without any light of soul, thy valour has melted
away and beguiled thee. But we crushed a giant who lost use of
his limbs and wealth, and we pierced into the disorder of his
dreary den. There we seized and plundered his piles of gold.
And now with oars we sweep the wave-wandering main, and joyously
return, rowing back to the shore our booty-laden ship; we fleet
over the waves in a skiff that travels the sea; gaily let us
furrow those open waters, lest the dawn come and betray us to the
foe. Lightly therefore, and pulling our hardest, let us scour
the sea, making for our camp and fleet ere Titan raise his rosy
head out of the clear waters; that when fame noises the deed
about, and Frogertha knows that the spoil has been won with a
gallant struggle, her heart may be stirred to be more gentle to
our prayer."

On the morrow there was a great muster of the forces, and
Fridleif had a bloody battle with Amund, fought partly by sea and
partly by land. For not only were the lines drawn up in the open
country, but the warriors also made an attack with their fleet.
The battle which followed cost much blood. So Biorn, when his
ranks gave back, unloosed his hound and sent it against the
enemy; wishing to win with the biting of a dog the victory which
he could not achieve with the sword. The enemy were by this
means shamefully routed, for a square of the warriors ran away
when attacked with its teeth.

There is no saying whether their flight was more dismal or more
disgraceful. Indeed, the army of the Northmen was a thing to
blush for; for an enemy crushed it by borrowing the aid of a
brute. Nor was it treacherous of Fridleif to recruit the failing
valour of his men with the aid of a dog. In this war Amund fell;
and his servant Ane, surnamed the Archer, challenged Fridleif to
fight him; but Biorn, being a man of meaner estate, not suffering
the king to engage with a common fellow, attacked him himself.
And when Biorn had bent his bow and was fitting the arrow to the
string, suddenly a dart sent by Ane pierced the top of the cord.
Soon another arrow came after it and struck amid the joints of
his fingers. A third followed, and fell on the arrow as it was
laid to the string. For Ane, who was most dexterous at shooting
arrows from a distance, had purposely only struck the weapon of
his opponent, in order that, by showing it was in his power to do
likewise to his person, he might recall the champion from his
purpose. But Biorn abated none of his valour for this, and,
scorning bodily danger, entered the fray with heart and face so
steadfast, that he seemed neither to yield anything to the skill
of Ane, nor lay aside aught of his wonted courage. Thus he would
in nowise be made to swerve from his purpose, and dauntlessly
ventured on the battle. Both of them left it wounded; and fought
another also on Agdar Ness with an emulous thirst for glory.

By the death of Amund, Fridleif was freed from a most bitter foe,
and obtained a deep and tranquil peace; whereupon he forced his
savage temper to the service of delight; and, transferring his
ardour to love, equipped a fleet in order to seek the marriage
which had once been denied him. At last he set forth on his
voyage; and his fleet being becalmed, he invaded some villages to
look for food; where, being received hospitably by a certain
Grubb, and at last winning his daughter in marriage, he begat a
son named Olaf. After some time had passed he also won
Frogertha; but, while going back to his own country, he had a bad
voyage, and was driven on the shores of an unknown island. A
certain man appeared to him in a vision, and instructed him to
dig up a treasure that was buried in the ground, and also to
attack the dragon that guarded it, covering himself in an ox-hide
to escape the poison; teaching him also to meet the envenomed
fangs with a hide stretched over his shield. Therefore, to test
the vision, he attacked the snake as it rose out of the waves,
and for a long time cast spears against its scaly side; in vain,
for its hard and shelly body foiled the darts flung at it. But
the snake, shaking its mass of coils, uprooted the trees which it
brushed past by winding its tail about them. Moreover, by
constantly dragging its body, it hollowed the ground down to the
solid rock, and had made a sheer bank on either hand, just as in
some places we see hills parted by an intervening valley. So
Fridleif, seeing that the upper part of the creature was proof
against attack, assailed the lower side with his sword, and
piercing the groin, drew blood from the quivering beast. When it
was dead, he unearthed the money from the underground chamber and
had it taken off in his ships.

When the year had come to an end, he took great pains to
reconcile Biorn and Ane, who had often challenged and fought one
another, and made them exchange their hatred for friendship; and
even entrusted to them his three-year-old son, Olaf, to rear.
But his mistress, Juritha, the mother of Olaf, he gave in
marriage to Ane, whom he made one of his warriors; thinking that
she would endure more calmly to be put away, if she wedded such a
champion, and received his robust embrace instead of a king's.

The ancients were wont to consult the oracles of the Fates
concerning the destinies of their children. In this way Fridleif
desired to search into the fate of his son Olaf; and, after
solemnly offering up his vows, he went to the house of the gods
in entreaty; where, looking into the chapel, he saw three
maidens, sitting on three seats. The first of them was of a
benignant temper, and bestowed upon the boy abundant beauty and
ample store of favour in the eyes of men. The second granted him
the gift of surpassing generosity. But the third, a woman of
more mischievous temper and malignant disposition, scorning the
unanimous kindness of her sisters, and likewise wishing to mar
their gifts, marked the future character of the boy with the slur
of niggardliness. Thus the benefits of the others were spoilt by
the poison of a lamentable doom; and hence, by virtue of the
twofold nature of these gifts Olaf got his surname from the
meanness which was mingled with his bounty. So it came about
that this blemish which found its way into the gift marred the
whole sweetness of its first benignity.

When Fridleif had returned from Norway, and was traveling through
Sweden, he took on himself to act as ambassador, and sued
successfully for Hythin's daughter, whom he had once rescued from
a monster, to be the wife of Halfdan, he being still unwedded.
Meantime his wife Frogertha bore a son FRODE, who afterwards got
his surname from his noble munificence. And thus Frode, because
of the memory of his grandsire's prosperity, which he recalled by
his name, became from his very cradle and earliest childhood such
a darling of all men, that he was not suffered even to step or
stand on the ground, but was continually cherished in people's
laps and kissed. Thus he was not assigned to one upbringer only,
but was in a manner everybody's fosterling. And, after his
father's death, while he was in his twelfth year, Swerting and
Hanef, the kings of Saxony, disowned his sway, and tried to rebel
openly. He overcame them in battle, and imposed on the conquered
peoples a poll-tax of a coin, which they were to pay as his
slaves. For he showed himself so generous that he doubled the
ancient pay of the soldiers: a fashion of bounty which then was
novel. For he did not, as despots do, expose himself to the
vulgar allurements of vice, but strove to covet ardently
whatsoever he saw was nearest honour; to make his wealth public
property; to surpass all other men in bounty, to forestall them
all in offices of kindness; and, hardest of all, to conquer envy
by virtue. By this means the youth soon won such favour with all
men, that he not only equalled in renown the honours of his
forefathers, but surpassed the most ancient records of kings.

At the same time one Starkad, the son of Storwerk, escaped alone,
either by force or fortune, from a wreck in which his friends
perished, and was received by Frode as his guest for his
incredible excellence both of mind and body. And, after being
for some little time his comrade, he was dressed in a better and
more comely fashion every day, and was at last given a noble
vessel, and bidden to ply the calling of a rover, with the charge
of guarding the sea. For nature had gifted him with a body of
superhuman excellence; and his greatness of spirit equalled it,
so that folk thought him behind no man in valour. So far did his
glory spread, that the renown of his name and deeds continues
famous even yet. He shone out among our own countrymen by his
glorious roll of exploits, and he had also won a most splendid
record among all the provinces of the Swedes and Saxons.
Tradition says that he was born originally in the country which
borders Sweden on the east, where barbarous hordes of Esthonians
and other nations now dwell far and wide. But a fabulous yet
common rumour has invented tales about his birth which are
contrary to reason and flatly incredible. For some relate that
he was sprung from giants, and betrayed his monstrous birth by an
extraordinary number of hands, four of which, engendered by the
superfluity of his nature, they declare that the god Thor tore
off, shattering the framework of the sinews and wrenching from
his whole body the monstrous bunches of fingers; so that he had
but two left, and that his body, which had before swollen to the
size of a giant's, and, by reason of its shapeless crowd of limbs
looked gigantic, was thenceforth chastened to a better
appearance, and kept within the bounds of human shortness.

For there were of old certain men versed in sorcery, Thor,
namely, and Odin, and many others, who were cunning in contriving
marvellous sleights; and they, winning the minds of the simple,
began to claim the rank of gods. For, in particular, they
ensnared Norway, Sweden and Denmark in the vainest credulity, and
by prompting these lands to worship them, infected them with
their imposture. The effects of their deceit spread so far, that
all other men adored a sort of divine power in them, and,
thinking them either gods or in league with gods, offered up
solemn prayers to these inventors of sorceries, and gave to
blasphemous error the honour due to religion. Hence it has come
about that the holy days, in their regular course, are called
among us by the names of these men; for the ancient Latins are
known to have named these days severally, either after the titles
of their own gods, or after the planets, seven in number. But it
can be plainly inferred from the mere names of the holy days that
the objects worshipped by our countrymen were not the same as
those whom the most ancient of the Romans called Jove and
Mercury, nor those to whom Greece and Latium paid idolatrous
homage. For the days, called among our countrymen Thors-day or
Odins-day, the ancients termed severally the holy day of Jove or
of Mercury. If, therefore, according to the distinction implied
in the interpretation I have quoted, we take it that Thor is Jove
and Odin Mercury, it follows that Jove was the son of Mercury;
that is, if the assertion of our countrymen holds, among whom it
is told as a matter of common belief, that Thor was Odin's son.
Therefore, when the Latins, believing to the contrary effect,
declare that Mercury was sprung from Jove, then, if their
declaration is to stand, we are driven to consider that Thor was
not the same as Jove, and that Odin was also different from
Mercury. Some say that the gods, whom our countrymen worshipped,
shared only the title with those honoured by Greece or Latium,
but that, being in a manner nearly equal to them in dignity, they
borrowed from them the worship as well as the name. This must be
sufficient discourse upon the deities of Danish antiquity. I
have expounded this briefly for the general profit, that my
readers may know clearly to what worship in its heathen
superstition our country has bowed the knee. Now I will go back
to my subject where I left it.

Ancient tradition says that Starkad, whom I mentioned above,
offered the first-fruits of his deeds to the favour of the gods
by slaying Wikar, the king of the Norwegians. The affair,
according to the version of some people, happened as follows: --

Odin once wished to slay Wikar by a grievous death; but, loth to
do the deed openly, he graced Starkad, who was already remarkable
for his extraordinary size, not only with bravery, but also with
skill in the composing of spells, that he might the more readily
use his services to accomplish the destruction of the king. For
that was how he hoped that Starkad would show himself grateful
for the honour he paid him. For the same reason he also endowed
him with three spans of mortal life, that he might be able to
commit in them as many abominable deeds. So Odin resolved that
Starkad's days should be prolonged by the following crime:
Starkad presently went to Wikar and dwelt awhile in his company,
hiding treachery under homage. At last he went with him sea-
roving. And in a certain place they were troubled with prolonged
and bitter storms; and when the winds checked their voyage so
much that they had to lie still most of the year, they thought
that the gods must be appeased with human blood. When the lots
were cast into the urn it so fell that the king was required for
death as a victim. Then Starkad made a noose of withies and
bound the king in it; saying that for a brief instant he should
pay the mere semblance of a penalty. But the tightness of the
knot acted according to its nature, and cut off his last breath
as he hung. And while he was still quivering Starkad rent away
with his steel the remnant of his life; thus disclosing his
treachery when he ought to have brought aid. I do not think that
I need examine the version which relates that the pliant withies,
hardened with the sudden grip, acted like a noose of iron.

When Starkad had thus treacherously acted he took Wikar's ship
and went to one Bemon, the most courageous of all the rovers of
Denmark, in order to take up the life of a pirate. For Bemon's
partner, named Frakk, weary of the toil of sea-roving, had lately
withdrawn from partnership with him, after first making a money-
bargain. Now Starkad and Bemon were so careful to keep
temperate, that they are said never to have indulged in
intoxicating drink, for fear that continence, the greatest bond
of bravery, might be expelled by the power of wantonness. So
when, after overthrowing provinces far and wide, they invaded
Russia also in their lust for empire, the natives, trusting
little in their walls or arms, began to bar the advance of the
enemy with nails of uncommon sharpness, that they might check
their inroad, though they could not curb their onset in battle;
and that the ground might secretly wound the soles of the men
whom their army shrank from confronting in the field. But not
even such a barrier could serve to keep off the foe. The Danes
were cunning enough to foil the pains of the Russians. For they
straightway shod themselves with wooden clogs, and trod with
unhurt steps upon the points that lay beneath their soles. Now
this iron thing is divided into four spikes, which are so
arranged that on whatsoever side chance may cast it, it stands
steadily on three equal feet. Then they struck into the pathless
glades, where the woods were thickets, and expelled Flokk, the
chief of the Russians, from the mountain hiding-places into which
he had crept. And here they got so much booty, that there was
not one of them but went back to the fleet laden with gold and

Now when Bemon was dead, Starkad was summoned because of his
valour by the champions of Permland. And when he had done many
noteworthy deeds among them, he went into the land of the Swedes,
where he lived at leisure for seven years' space with the sons of
Frey. At last he left them and betook himself to Hakon, the
tyrant of Denmark, because when stationed at Upsala, at the time
of the sacrifices, he was disgusted by the effeminate gestures
and the clapping of the mimes on the stage, and by the unmanly
clatter of the bells. Hence it is clear how far he kept his soul
from lasciviousness, not even enduring to look upon it. Thus
does virtue withstand wantonness.

Starkad took his fleet to the shore of Ireland with Hakon, in
order that even the furthest kingdoms of the world might not be
untouched by the Danish arms. The king of the island at this
time was Hugleik, who, though he had a well-filled treasury, was
yet so prone to avarice, that once, when he gave a pair of shoes
which had been adorned by the hand of a careful craftsman, he
took off the ties, and by thus removing the latches turned his
present into a slight. This unhandsome act blemished his gift so
much that he seemed to reap hatred for it instead of thanks.
Thus he used never to be generous to any respectable man, but to
spend all his bounty upon mimes and jugglers. For so base a
fellow was bound to keep friendly company with the base, and such
a slough of vices to wheedle his partners in sin with pandering

Still Hugleik had the friendship of Geigad and Swipdag, nobles of
tried valour, who, by the lustre of their warlike deeds, shone
out among their unmanly companions like jewels embedded in
ordure; these alone were found to defend the riches of the king.
When a battle began between Hugleik and Hakon, the hordes of
mimes, whose light-mindedness unsteadied their bodies, broke
their ranks and scurried off in panic; and this shameful flight
was their sole requital for all their king's benefits. Then
Geigad and Swipdag faced all those thousands of the enemy single-
handed, and fought with such incredible courage, that they seemed
to do the part not merely of two warriors, but of a whole army.
Geigad, moreover, dealt Hakon, who pressed him hard, such a wound
in the breast that he exposed the upper part of his liver. It
was here that Starkad, while he was attacking Geigad with his
sword, received a very sore wound on the head; wherefore he
afterwards related in a certain song that a ghastlier wound had
never befallen him at any time; for, though the divisions of his
gashed head were bound up by the surrounding outer skin, yet the
livid unseen wound concealed a foul gangrene below.

Starkad conquered, killed Hugleik and routed the Irish; and had
the actors beaten whom chance made prisoner; thinking it better
to order a pack of buffoons to be ludicrously punished by the
loss of their skins than to command a more deadly punishment and
take their lives. Thus he visited with a disgraceful
chastisement the baseborn throng of professional jugglers, and
was content to punish them with the disgusting flouts of the
lash. Then the Danes ordered that the wealth of the king should
be brought out of the treasury in the city of Dublin and publicly
pillaged. For so vast a treasure had been found that none took
much pains to divide it strictly.

After this, Starkad was commissioned, together with Win, the
chief of the Sclavs, to check the revolt of the East. They,
having fought against the armies of the Kurlanders, the Sembs,
the Sangals, and, finally, all the Easterlings, won splendid
victories everywhere.

A champion of great repute, named Wisin, settled upon a rock in
Russia named Ana-fial, and harried both neighbouring and distant
provinces with all kinds of outrage. This man used to blunt the
edge of every weapon by merely looking at it. He was made so
bold in consequence, by having lost all fear of wounds, that he
used to carry off the wives of distinguished men and drag them to
outrage before the eyes of their husbands. Starkad was roused by
the tale of this villainy, and went to Russia to destroy the
criminal; thinking nothing too hard to overcome, he challenged
Wisin, attacked him, made even his tricks useless to him, and
slew him. For Starkad covered his blade with a very fine skin,
that it might not met the eye of the sorcerer; and neither the
power of his sleights nor his great strength were any help to
Wisin, for he had to yield to Starkad. Then Starkad, trusting in
his bodily strength, fought with and overcame a giant at
Byzantium, reputed invincible, named Tanne, and drove him to fly
an outlaw to unknown quarters of the earth. Therefore, finding
that he was too mighty for any hard fate to overcome him, he went
to the country of Poland, and conquered in a duel a champion whom
our countrymen name Wasce; but the Teutons, arranging the letters
differently, call him Wilzce.

Meanwhile the Saxons began to attempt a revolt, and to consider
particularly how they could destroy Frode, who was unconquered in
war, by some other way than an open conflict. Thinking that it
would be best done by a duel, they sent men to provoke the king
with a challenge, knowing that he was always ready to court any
hazard, and that his high spirit would not yield to any
admonition whatever. They fancied that this was the best time to
attack him, because they knew that Starkad, whose valour most men
dreaded, was away on business. But while Frode hesitated, and
said that he would talk with his friends about the answer to be
given, Starkad, who had just returned from his sea-roving,
appeared, and blamed such a challenge, principally (he said)
because it was fitting for kings to fight only with their equals,
and because they should not take up arms against men of the
people; but it was more fitting for himself, who was born in a
lowlier station, to manage the battle.

The Saxons approached Hame, who was accounted their most famous
champion, with many offers, and promised him that, if he would
lend his services for the duel they would pay him his own weight
in gold. The fighter was tempted by the money, and, with all the
ovation of a military procession, they attended him to the ground
appointed for the combat. Thereupon the Danes, decked in warlike
array, led Starkad, who was to represent his king, out to the
duelling-ground. Hame, in his youthful assurance, despised him
as withered with age, and chose to grapple rather than fight with
an outworn old man. Attacking Starkad, he would have flung him
tottering to the earth, but that fortune, who would not suffer
the old man to be conquered, prevented him from being hurt. For
he is said to have been so crushed by the fist of Hame, as he
dashed on him, that he touched the earth with his chin,
supporting himself on his knees. But he made up nobly for his
tottering; for, as soon as he could raise his knee and free his
hand to draw his sword, he clove Hame through the middle of the
body. Many lands and sixty bondmen apiece were the reward of the

After Hame was killed in this manner the sway of the Danes over
the Saxons grew so insolent, that they were forced to pay every
year a small tax for each of their limbs that was a cubit (ell)
long, in token of their slavery. This Hanef could not bear, and
he meditated war in his desire to remove the tribute. Steadfast
love of his country filled his heart every day with greater
compassion for the oppressed; and, longing to spend his life for
the freedom of his countrymen, he openly showed a disposition to
rebel. Frode took his forces over the Elbe, and killed him near
the village of Hanofra (Hanover), so named after Hanef. But
Swerting, though he was equally moved by the distress of his
countrymen, said nothing about the ills of his land, and revolved
a plan for freedom with a spirit yet more dogged than Hanef's.
Men often doubt whether this zeal was liker to vice or to virtue;
but I certainly censure it as criminal, because it was produced
by a treacherous desire to revolt. It may have seemed most
expedient to seek the freedom of the country, but it was not
lawful to strive after this freedom by craft and treachery.
Therefore, since the deed of Swerting was far from honourable,
neither will it be called expedient; for it is nobler to attack
openly him whom you mean to attack, and to exhibit hatred in the
light of day, than to disguise a real wish to do harm under a
spurious show of friendship. But the gains of crime are
inglorious, its fruits are brief and fading. For even as that
soul is slippery, which hides its insolent treachery by stealthy
arts, so is it right that whatsoever is akin to guilt should be
frail and fleeting. For guilt has been usually found to come
home to its author; and rumour relates that such was the fate of
Swerting. For he had resolved to surprise the king under the
pretence of a banquet, and burn him to death; but the king
forestalled and slew him, though slain by him in return. Hence
the crime of one proved the destruction of both; and thus, though
the trick succeeded against the foe, it did not bestow immunity
on its author.

Frode was succeeded by his son Ingild, whose soul was perverted
from honour. He forsook the examples of his forefathers, and
utterly enthralled himself to the lures of the most wanton
profligacy. Thus he had not a shadow of goodness and
righteousness, but embraced vices instead of virtue; he cut the
sinews of self-control, neglected the duties of his kingly
station, and sank into a filthy slave of riot. Indeed, he
fostered everything that was adverse or ill-fitted to an orderly
life. He tainted the glories of his father and grandfather by
practising the foulest lusts, and bedimmed the brightest honours
of his ancestors by most shameful deeds. For he was so prone to
gluttony, that he had no desire to avenge his father, or repel
the aggressions of his foes; and so, could he but gratify his
gullet, he thought that decency and self-control need be observed
in nothing. By idleness and sloth he stained his glorious
lineage, living a loose and sensual life; and his soul, so
degenerate, so far perverted and astray from the steps of his
fathers, he loved to plunge into most abominable gulfs of
foulness. Fowl-fatteners, scullions, frying-pans, countless
cook-houses, different cooks to roast or spice the banquet -- the
choosing of these stood to him for glory. As to arms,
soldiering, and wars, he could endure neither to train himself to
them, nor to let others practise them. Thus he cast away all the
ambitions of a man and aspired to those of women; for his
incontinent itching of palate stirred in him love of every
kitchen-stench. Ever breathing of his debauch, and stripped of
every rag of soberness, with his foul breath he belched the
undigested filth in his belly. He was as infamous in wantonness
as Frode was illustrious in war. So utterly had his spirit been
enfeebled by the untimely seductions of gluttony. Starkad was so
disgusted at the excess of Ingild, that he forsook his
friendship, and sought the fellowship of Halfdan, the King of
Swedes, preferring work to idleness. Thus he could not bear so
much as to countenance excessive indulgence. Now the sons of
Swerting, fearing that they would have to pay to Ingild the
penalty of their father's crime, were fain to forestall his
vengeance by a gift, and gave him their sister in marriage.
Antiquity relates that she bore him sons, Frode, Fridleif,
Ingild, and Olaf (whom some say was the son of Ingild's sister).

Ingild's sister Helga had been led by amorous wooing to return
the flame of a certain low-born goldsmith, who was apt for soft
words, and furnished with divers of the little gifts which best
charm a woman's wishes. For since the death of the king there
had been none to honour the virtues of the father by attention to
the child; she had lacked protection, and had no guardians. When
Starkad had learnt this from the repeated tales of travellers, he
could not bear to let the wantonness of the smith pass
unpunished. For he was always heedful to bear kindness in mind,
and as ready to punish arrogance. So he hastened to chastise
such bold and enormous insolence, wishing to repay the orphan
ward the benefits he had of old received from Frode. Then he
travelled through Sweden, went into the house of the smith, and
posted himself near the threshold muffling his face in a cap to
avoid discovery. The smith, who had not learnt the lesson that
"strong hands are sometimes found under a mean garment", reviled
him, and bade him quickly leave the house, saying that he should
have the last broken victuals among the crowd of paupers. But
the old man, whose ingrained self-control lent him patience, was
nevertheless fain to rest there, and gradually study the
wantonness of his host. For his reason was stronger than his
impetuosity, and curbed his increasing rage. Then the smith
approached the girl with open shamelessness, and cast himself in
her lap, offering the hair of his head to be combed out by her
maidenly hands.

Also he thrust forward his loin cloth, and required her help in
picking out the fleas; and exacted from this woman of lordly
lineage that she should not blush to put her sweet fingers in a
foul apron. Then, believing that he was free to have his
pleasure, he ventured to put his longing palms within her gown
and to set his unsteady hands close to her breast. But she,
looking narrowly, was aware of the presence of the old man whom
she once had known, and felt ashamed. She spurned the wanton and
libidinous fingering, and repulsed the unchaste hands, telling
the man also that he had need of arms, and urging him to cease
his lewd sport.

Starkad, who had sat down by the door, with the hat muffling his
head, had already become so deeply enraged at this sight, that he
could not find patience to hold his hand any longer, but put away
his covering and clapped his right hand to his sword to draw it.
Then the smith, whose only skill was in lewdness, faltered with
sudden alarm, and finding that it had come to fighting, gave up
all hope of defending himself, and saw in flight the only remedy
for his need. Thus it was as hard to break out of the door, of
which the enemy held the approach, as it was grievous to await
the smiter within the house. At last necessity forced him to put
an end to his delay, and he judged that a hazard wherein there
lay but the smallest chance of safety was more desirable than
sure and manifest danger. Also, hard as it was to fly, the
danger being so close, yet he desired flight because it seemed to
bring him aid, and to be the nearer way to safety; and he cast
aside delay, which seemed to be an evil bringing not the smallest
help, but perhaps irretrievable ruin. But just as he gained the
threshold, the old man watching at the door smote him through the
hams, and there, half dead, he tottered and fell. For the smiter
thought he ought carefully to avoid lending his illustrious hands
to the death of a vile cinder-blower, and considered that
ignominy would punish his shameless passion worse than death.
Thus some men think that he who suffers misfortune is worse
punished than he who is slain outright. Thus it was brought
about, that the maiden, who had never had parents to tend her,
came to behave like a woman of well-trained nature, and did the
part, as it were, of a zealous guardian to herself. And when
Starkad, looking round, saw that the household sorrowed over the
late loss of their master, he heaped shame on the wounded man
with more invective, and thus began to mock:

"Why is the house silent and aghast? What makes this new grief?
Or where now rest that doting husband whom the steel has just
punished for his shameful love? Keeps he still aught of his
pride and lazy wantonness? Holds he to his quest, glows his lust
as hot as before? Let him while away an hour with me in
converse, and allay with friendly words my hatred of yesterday.
Let your visage come forth with better cheer; let not lamentation
resound in the house, or suffer the faces to become dulled with

"Wishing to know who burned with love for the maiden, and was
deeply enamoured of my beloved ward, I put on a cap, lest my
familiar face might betray me. Then comes in that wanton smith,
with lewd steps, bending his thighs this way and that with
studied gesture, and likewise making eyes as he ducked all ways.
His covering was a mantle fringed with beaver, his sandals were
inlaid with gems, his cloak was decked with gold. Gorgeous
ribbons bound his plaited hair, and a many-coloured band drew
tight his straying locks. Hence grew a sluggish and puffed-up
temper; he fancied that wealth was birth, and money forefathers,
and reckoned his fortune more by riches than by blood. Hence
came pride unto him, and arrogance led to fine attire. For the
wretch began to think that his dress made him equal to the
high-born; he, the cinder-blower, who hunts the winds with hides,
and puffs with constant draught, who rakes the ashes with his
fingers, and often by drawing back the bellows takes in the air,
and with a little fan makes a breath and kindles the smouldering
fires! Then he goes to the lap of the girl, and leaning close,
says, `Maiden, comb my hair and catch the skipping fleas, and
remove what stings my skin.' Then he sat and spread his arms
that sweated under the gold, lolling on the smooth cushion and
leaning back on his elbow, wishing to flaunt his adornment, just
as a barking brute unfolds the gathered coils of its twisted
tail. But she knew me, and began to check her lover and rebuff
his wanton hands; and, declaring that it was I, she said,
`Refrain thy fingers, check thy promptings, take heed to appease
the old man sitting close by the doors. The sport will turn to
sorrow. I think Starkad is here, and his slow gaze scans thy
doings.' The smith answered: `Turn not pale at the peaceful
raven and the ragged old man; never has that mighty one whom thou
fearest stooped to such common and base attire. The strong man
loves shining raiment, and looks for clothes to match his
courage.' Then I uncovered and drew my sword, and as the smith
fled I clove his privy parts; his hams were laid open, cut away
from the bone; they showed his entrails. Presently I rise and
crush the girl's mouth with my fist, and draw blood from her
bruised nostril. Then her lips, used to evil laughter, were wet
with tears mingled with blood, and foolish love paid for all the
sins it committed with soft eyes. Over is the sport of the
hapless woman who rushed on, blind with desire, like a maddened
mare, and makes her lust the grave of her beauty. Thou deservest
to be sold for a price to foreign peoples and to grind at the
mill, unless blood pressed from thy breasts prove thee falsely
accused, and thy nipple's lack of milk clear thee of the crime.
Howbeit, I think thee free from this fault; yet bear not tokens
of suspicion, nor lay thyself open to lying tongues, nor give
thyself to the chattering populace to gird at. Rumour hurts
many, and a lying slander often harms. A little word deceives
the thoughts of common men. Respect thy grandsires, honour thy
fathers, forget not thy parents, value thy forefathers; let thy
flesh and blood keep its fame. What madness came on thee? And
thou, shameless smith, what fate drove thee in thy lust to
attempt a high-born race? Or who sped thee, maiden, worthy of
the lordliest pillows, to loves obscure? Tell me, how durst thou
taste with thy rosy lips a mouth reeking of ashes, or endure on
thy breast hands filthy with charcoal, or bring close to thy side
the arms that turn the live coals over, and put the palms
hardened with the use of the tongs to thy pure cheeks, and
embrace the head sprinkled with embers, taking it to thy bright

"I remember how smiths differ from one another, for once they
smote me. All share alike the name of their calling, but the
hearts beneath are different in temper. I judge those best who
weld warriors' swords and spears for the battle, whose temper
shows their courage, who betoken their hearts by the sternness of
their calling, whose work declares their prowess. There are also
some to whom the hollow mould yields bronze, as they make the
likeness of divers things in molten gold, who smelt the veins and
recast the metal. But Nature has fashioned these of a softer
temper, and has crushed with cowardice the hands which she has
gifted with rare skill. Often such men, while the heat of the
blast melts the bronze that is poured in the mould, craftily
filch flakes of gold from the lumps, when the vessel thirsts
after the metal they have stolen."

So speaking, Starkad got as much pleasure from his words as from
his works, and went back to Halfdan, embracing his service with
the closest friendship, and never ceasing from the exercise of
war; so that he weaned his mind from delights, and vexed it with
incessant application to arms.

Now Ingild had two sisters, Helga and Asa; Helga was of full age
to marry, while Asa was younger and unripe for wedlock. Then
Helge the Norwegian was moved with desire to ask for Helga for
his wife, and embarked. Now he had equipped his vessel so
luxuriously that he had lordly sails decked with gold, held up
also on gilded masts, and tied with crimson ropes. When he
arrived Ingild promised to grant him his wish if, to test his
reputation publicly, he would first venture to meet in battle the
champions pitted against him. Helge did not flinch at the terms;
he answered that he would most gladly abide by the compact. And
so the troth-plight of the future marriage was most ceremoniously

A story is remembered that there had grown up at the same time,
on the Isle of Zealand, the nine sons of a certain prince, all
highly gifted with strength and valour, the eldest of whom was
Anganty. This last was a rival suitor for the same maiden; and
when he saw that the match which he had been denied was promised
to Helge, he challenged him to a struggle, wishing to fight away
his vexation. Helge agreed to the proposed combat. The hour of
the fight was appointed for the wedding-day by the common wish of
both. For any man who, being challenged, refused to fight, used
to be covered with disgrace in the sight of all men. Thus Helge
was tortured on the one side by the shame of refusing the battle,
on the other by the dread of waging it. For he thought himself
attacked unfairly and counter to the universal laws of combat, as
he had apparently undertaken to fight nine men single-handed.
While he was thus reflecting his betrothed told him that he would
need help, and counselled him to refrain from the battle, wherein
it seemed he would encounter only death and disgrace, especially
as he had not stipulated for any definite limit to the number of
those who were to be his opponents. He should therefore avoid
the peril, and consult his safety by appealing to Starkad, who
was sojourning among the Swedes; since it was his way to help the
distressed, and often to interpose successfully to retrieve some
dismal mischance.

Then Helge, who liked the counsel thus given very well, took a
small escort and went into Sweden; and when he reached its most
famous city, Upsala, he forbore to enter, but sent in a messenger
who was to invite Starkad to the wedding of Frode's daughter,
after first greeting him respectfully to try him. This courtesy
stung Starkad like an insult. He looked sternly on the youth,
and said, "That had he not had his beloved Frode named in his
instructions, he should have paid dearly for his senseless
mission. He must think that Starkad, like some buffoon or
trencherman, was accustomed to rush off to the reek of a distant
kitchen for the sake of a richer diet." Helge, when his servant
had told him this, greeted the old man in the name of Frode's
daughter, and asked him to share a battle which he had accepted
upon being challenged, saying that he was not equal to it by
himself, the terms of the agreement being such as to leave the
number of his adversaries uncertain. Starkad, when he had heard
the time and place of the combat, not only received the suppliant
well, but also encouraged him with the offer of aid, and told him
to go back to Denmark with his companions, telling him that he
would find his way to him by a short and secret path. Helge
departed, and if we may trust report, Starkad, by sheer speed of
foot, travelled in one day's journeying over as great a space as
those who went before him are said to have accomplished in
twelve; so that both parties, by a chance meeting, reached their
journey's end, the palace of Ingild, at the very same time. Here
Starkad passed, just as the servants did, along the tables filled
with guests; and the aforementioned nine, howling horribly with
repulsive gestures, and running about as if they were on the
stage, encouraged one another to the battle. Some say that they
barked like furious dogs at the champion as he approached.
Starkad rebuked them for making themselves look ridiculous with
such an unnatural visage, and for clowning with wide grinning
cheeks; for from this, he declared, soft and effeminate
profligates derived their wanton incontinence. When Starkad was
asked banteringly by the nine whether he had valour enough to
fight, he answered that doubtless he was strong enough to meet,
not merely one, but any number that might come against him. And
when the nine heard this they understood that this was the man
whom they had heard would come to the succour of Helge from afar.
Starkad also, to protect the bride-chamber with a more diligent
guard, voluntarily took charge of the watch; and, drawing back
the doors of the bedroom, barred them with a sword instead of a
bolt, meaning to post himself so as to give undisturbed quiet to
their bridal.

When Helge woke, and, shaking off the torpor of sleep, remembered
his pledge, he thought of buckling on his armour. But, seeing
that a little of the darkness of night yet remained, and wishing
to wait for the hour of dawn, he began to ponder the perilous
business at hand, when sleep stole on him and sweetly seized him,
so that he took himself back to bed laden with slumber. Starkad,
coming in on him at daybreak, saw him locked asleep in the arms
of his wife, and would not suffer him to be vexed with a sudden
shock, or summoned from his quiet slumbers; lest he should seem
to usurp the duty of wakening him and breaking upon the sweetness
of so new a union, all because of cowardice. He thought it,
therefore, more handsome to meet the peril alone than to gain a
comrade by disturbing the pleasure of another. So he quietly
retraced his steps, and scorning his enemies, entered the field
which in our tongue is called Roliung, and finding a seat under
the slope of a certain hill, he exposed himself to wind and snow.
Then, as though the gentle airs of spring weather were breathing
upon him, he put off his cloak, and set to picking out the fleas.
He also cast on the briars a purple mantle which Helga had lately
given him, that no clothing might seem to lend him shelter
against the raging shafts of hail. Then the champions came and
climbed the hill on the opposite side; and, seeking a spot
sheltered from the winds wherein to sit, they lit a fire and
drove off the cold. At last, not seeing Starkad, they sent a man
to the crest of the hill, to watch his coming more clearly, as
from a watch-tower. This man climbed to the top of the lofty
mountain, and saw, on its sloping side, an old man covered
shoulder-high with the snow that showered down. He asked him if
he was the man who was to fight according to the promise.
Starkad declared that he was. Then the rest came up and asked
him whether he had resolved to meet them all at once or one by
one. But he said, "Whenever a surly pack of curs yelps at me, I
commonly send them flying all at once, and not in turn." Thus he
let them know that he would rather fight with-them all together
than one by one, thinking that his enemies should be spurned with
words first and deeds afterwards.

The fight began furiously almost immediately, and he felled six
of them without receiving any wound in return; and though the
remaining three wounded him so hard in seventeen places that most
of his bowels gushed out of his belly, he slew them
notwithstanding, like their brethren. Disembowelled, with
failing strength, he suffered from dreadful straits of thirst,
and, crawling on his knees in his desire to find a draught, he
longed for water from the streamlet that ran close by. But when
he saw it was tainted with gore he was disgusted at the look of
the water, and refrained from its infected draught. For Anganty
had been struck down in the waves of the river, and had dyed its
course so deep with his red blood that it seemed now to flow not
with water, but with some ruddy liquid. So Starkad thought it
nobler that his bodily strength should fail than that he should
borrow strength from so foul a beverage. Therefore, his force
being all but spent, he wriggled on his knees, up to a rock that
happened to be lying near, and for some little while lay leaning
against it. A hollow in its surface is still to be seen, just as
if his weight as he lay had marked it with a distinct impression
of his body. But I think this appearance is due to human
handiwork, for it seems to pass all belief that the hard and
uncleavable rock should so imitate the softness of wax, as,
merely by the contact of a man leaning on it, to present the
appearance of a man having sat there, and assume concavity for

A certain man, who chanced to be passing by in a cart, saw
Starkad wounded almost all over his body. Equally aghast and
amazed, he turned and drove closer, asking what reward he should
have if he were to tend and heal his wounds. But Starkad would
rather be tortured by grievous wounds than use the service of a
man of base estate, and first asked his birth and calling. The
man said that his profession was that of a sergeant. Starkad,
not content with despising him, also spurned him with revilings,
because, neglecting all honourable business, he followed the
calling of a hanger-on; and because he had tarnished his whole
career with ill repute, thinking the losses of the poor his own
gains; suffering none to be innocent, ready to inflict wrongful
accusation upon all men, most delighted at any lamentable turn in
the fortunes of another; and toiling most at his own design,
namely of treacherously spying out all men's doings, and seeking
some traitorous occasion to censure the character of the

As this first man departed, another came up, promising aid and
remedies. Like the last comer, he was bidden to declare his
condition; and he said that he had a certain man's handmaid to
wife, and was doing peasant service to her master in order to set
her free. Starkad refused to accept his help, because he had
married in a shameful way by taking a slave to his embrace. Had
he had a shred of virtue he should at least have disdained to be
intimate with the slave of another, but should have enjoyed some
freeborn partner of his bed. What a mighty man, then, must we
deem Starkad, who, when enveloped in the most deadly perils,
showed himself as great in refusing aid as in receiving wounds!

When this man departed a woman chanced to approach and walk past
the old man. She came up to him in order to wipe his wounds, but
was first bidden to declare what was her birth and calling. She
said that she was a handmaid used to grinding at the mill.
Starkad then asked her if she had children; and when he was told
that she had a female child, he told her to go home and give the
breast to her squalling daughter; for he thought it most uncomely
that he should borrow help from a woman of the lowest degree.
Moreover, he knew that she could nourish her own flesh and blood
with milk better than she could minister to the wounds of a

As the woman was departing, a young man came riding up in a cart.
He saw the old man, and drew near to minister to his wounds. On
being asked who he was, he said his father was a labourer, and
added that he was used to the labours of a peasant. Starkad
praised his origin, and pronounced that his calling was also most
worthy of honour; for, he said, such men sought a livelihood by
honourable traffic in their labour, inasmuch as they knew not of
any gain, save what they had earned by the sweat of their brow.
He also thought that a country life was justly to be preferred
even to the most splendid riches; for the most wholesome fruits
of it seemed to be born and reared in the shelter of a middle
estate, halfway between magnificence and squalor. But he did not
wish to pass the kindness of the youth unrequited, and rewarded
the esteem he had shown him with the mantle he had cast among the
thorns. So the peasant's son approached, replaced the parts of
his belly that had been torn away, and bound up with a plait of
withies the mass of intestines that had fallen out. Then he took
the old man to his car, and with the most zealous respect carried
him away to the palace.

Meantime Helga, in language betokening the greatest wariness,
began to instruct her husband, saying that she knew that Starkad,
as soon as he came back from conquering the champions, would
punish him for his absence, thinking that he had inclined more to
sloth and lust than to his promise to fight as appointed.
Therefore he must withstand Starkad boldly, because he always
spared the brave but loathed the coward. Helge respected equally
her prophecy and her counsel, and braced his soul and body with a
glow of valorous enterprise. Starkad, when he had been driven to
the palace, heedless of the pain of his wounds, leaped swiftly
out of the cart, and just like a man who was well from top to
toe, burst into the bridal-chamber, shattering the doors with his
fist. Then Helge leapt from his bed, and, as he had been taught
by the counsel of his wife, plunged his blade full at Starkad's
forehead. And since he seemed to be meditating a second blow,
and to be about to make another thrust with his sword, Helga flew
quickly from the couch, caught up a shield, and, by interposing
it, saved the old man from impending destruction; for,
notwithstanding, Helge with a stronger stroke of his blade smote
the shield right through to the boss. Thus the praiseworthy wit
of the woman aided her friend, and her hand saved him whom her
counsel had injured; for she protected the old man by her deed,
as well as her husband by her warning. Starkad was induced by
this to let Helge go scot-free; saying that a man whose ready and
assured courage so surely betokened manliness, ought to be
spared; for he vowed that a man ill deserved death whose brave
spirit was graced with such a dogged will to resist.

Starkad went back to Sweden before his wounds had been treated
with medicine, or covered with a single scar. Halfdan had been
killed by his rivals; and Starkad, after quelling certain rebels,
set up Siward as the heir to his father's sovereignty. With him
he sojourned a long time; but when he heard -- for the rumour
spread -- that Ingild, the son of Frode (who had been
treacherously slain), was perversely minded, and instead of
punishing his father's murderers, bestowed upon them kindness and
friendship, he was vexed with stinging wrath at so dreadful a
crime. And, resenting that a youth of such great parts should
have renounced his descent from his glorious father, he hung on
his shoulders a mighty mass of charcoal, as though it were some
costly burden, and made his way to Denmark. When asked by those
he met why he was taking along so unusual a load, he said that he
would sharpen the dull wits of King Ingild to a point by bits of
charcoal. So he accomplished a swift and headlong journey, as
though at a single breath, by a short and speedy track; and at
last, becoming the guest of Ingild, he went up, as his custom
was, in to the seat appointed for the great men; for he had been
used to occupy the highest post of distinction with the kings of
the last generation.

When the queen came in, and saw him covered over with filth and
clad in the mean, patched clothes of a peasant, the ugliness of
her guest's dress made her judge him with little heed; and,
measuring the man by the clothes, she reproached him with
crassness of wit, because he had gone before greater men in
taking his place at table, and had assumed a seat that was too
good for his boorish attire. She bade him quit the place, that
he might not touch the cushions with his dress, which was fouler
than it should have been. For she put down to crassness and
brazenness what Starkad only did from proper pride; she knew not
that on a high seat of honour the mind sometimes shines brighter
than the raiment. The spirited old man obeyed, though vexed at
the rebuff, and with marvellous self-control choked down the
insult which his bravery so ill deserved; uttering at this
disgrace he had received neither word nor groan. But he could
not long bear to hide the bitterness of his anger in silence.
Rising, and retreating to the furthest end of the palace, he
flung his body against the walls; and strong as they were, he so
battered them with the shock, that the beams quaked mightily; and
he nearly brought the house down in a crash. Thus, stung not
only with his rebuff, but with the shame of having poverty cast
in his teeth, he unsheathed his wrath against the insulting
speech of the queen with inexorable sternness.

Ingild, on his return from hunting, scanned him closely, and,
when he noticed that he neither looked cheerfully about, nor paid
him the respect of rising, saw by the sternness written on his
brow that it was Starkad. For when he noted his hands horny with
fighting, his scars in front, the force and fire of his eye, he
perceived that a man whose body was seamed with so many traces of
wounds had no weakling soul. He therefore rebuked his wife, and
charged her roundly to put away her haughty tempers, and to
soothe and soften with kind words and gentle offices the man she
had reviled; to comfort him with food and drink, and refresh him
with kindly converse; saying, that this man had been appointed
his tutor by his father long ago, and had been a most tender
guardian of his childhood. Then, learning too late the temper of
the old man, she turned her harshness into gentleness, and
respectfully waited on him whom she had rebuffed and railed at
with bitter revilings. The angry hostess changed her part, and
became the most fawning of flatterers. She wished to check his
anger with her attentiveness; and her fault was the less,
inasmuch as she was so quick in ministering to him after she had
been chidden. But she paid dearly for it, for she presently
beheld stained with the blood of her brethren the place where she
had flouted and rebuffed the brave old man from his seat.

Now, in the evening, Ingild took his meal with the sons of
Swerting, and fell to a magnificent feast, loading the tables
with the profusest dishes. With friendly invitation he kept the
old man back from leaving the revel too early; as though the
delights of elaborate dainties could have undermined that staunch
and sturdy virtue! But when Starkad had set eyes on these
things, he scorned so wanton a use of them; and, not to give way
a whit to foreign fashions, he steeled his appetite against these
tempting delicacies with the self-restraint which was his
greatest strength. He would not suffer his repute as a soldier
to be impaired by the allurements of an orgy. For his valour
loved thrift, and was a stranger to all superfluity of food, and
averse to feasting in excess. For his was a courage which never
at any moment had time to make luxury of aught account, and
always forewent pleasure to pay due heed to virtue. So, when he
saw that the antique character of self-restraint, and all good
old customs, were being corrupted by new-fangled luxury and
sumptuosity, he wished to be provided with a morsel fitter for a
peasant, and scorned the costly and lavish feast.

Spurning profuse indulgence in food, Starkad took some smoky and
rather rancid fare, appeasing his hunger with a bitter relish
because more simply; and being unwilling to enfeeble his true
valour with the tainted sweetness of sophisticated foreign
dainties, or break the rule of antique plainness by such strange
idolatries of the belly. He was also very wroth that they should
go, to the extravagance of having the same meat both roasted and
boiled at the same meal; for he considered an eatable which was
steeped in the vapours of the kitchen, and which the skill of the
cook rubbed over with many kinds of flavours, in the light of a

Unlike Starkad Ingild flung the example of his ancestors to the
winds, and gave himself freer licence of innovation in the
fashions of the table than the custom of his fathers allowed.
For when he had once abandoned himself to the manners of
Teutonland, he did not blush to yield to its unmanly wantonness.
No slight incentives to debauchery have flowed down our country's
throat from that sink of a land. Hence came magnificent dishes,
sumptuous kitchens, the base service of cooks, and all sorts of
abominable sausages. Hence came our adoption, wandering from the
ways of our fathers, of a more dissolute dress. Thus our
country, which cherished self-restraint as its native quality,
has gone begging to our neighbours for luxury; whose allurements
so charmed Ingild, that he did not think it shameful to requite
wrongs with kindness; nor did the grievous murder of his father
make him heave one sigh of bitterness when it crossed his mind.

But the queen would not depart without effecting her purpose.
Thinking that presents would be the best way to banish the old
man's anger, she took off her own head a band of marvellous
handiwork, and put it in his lap as he supped: desiring to buy
his favour since she could not blunt his courage. But Starkad,
whose bitter resentment was not yet abated, flung it back in the
face of the giver, thinking that in such a gift there was more
scorn than respect. And he was wise not to put this strange
ornament of female dress upon the head that was all bescarred and
used to the helmet; for he knew that the locks of a man ought not
to wear a woman's head-band. Thus he avenged slight with slight,
and repaid with retorted scorn the disdain he had received;
thereby bearing himself well-nigh as nobly in avenging his
disgrace as he had borne himself in enduring it.

To the soul of Starkad reverence for Frode was grappled with
hooks of love. Drawn to him by deeds of bounty, countless
kindnesses, he could not be wheedled into giving up his purpose
of revenge by any sort of alluring complaisance. Even now, when
Frode was no more, he was eager to pay the gratitude due to his
benefits, and to requite the kindness of the dead, whose loving
disposition and generous friendship he had experienced while he
lived. For he bore graven so deeply in his heart the grievous
picture of Frode's murder, that his honour for that most famous
captain could never be plucked from the inmost chamber of his
soul; and therefore he did not hesitate to rank his ancient
friendship before the present kindness. Besides, when he
recalled the previous affront, he could not thank the
complaisance that followed; he could not put aside the
disgraceful wound to his self-respect. For the memory of
benefits or injuries ever sticks more firmly in the minds of
brave men than in those of weaklings. For he had not the habits
of those who follow their friends in prosperity and quit them in
adversity, who pay more regard to fortune than to looks, and sit
closer to their own gain than to charity toward others.

But the woman held to her purpose, seeing that even so she could
not win the old man to convivial mirth. Continuing with yet more
lavish courtesy her efforts to soothe him, and to heap more
honours on the guest, she bade a piper strike up, and started
music to melt his unbending rage. For she wanted to unnerve his
stubborn nature by means of cunning sounds. But the cajolery of
pipe or string was just as powerless to enfeeble that dogged
warrior. When he heard it, he felt that the respect paid him
savoured more of pretence than of love. Hence the crestfallen
performer seemed to be playing to a statue rather than a man, and
learnt that it is vain for buffoons to assail with, their tricks
a settled and weighty sternness, and that a mighty mass cannot be
shaken with the idle puffing of the lips. For Starkad had set
his face so firmly in his stubborn wrath, that he seemed not a
whit easier to move than ever. For the inflexibility which he
owed his vows was not softened either by the strain of the lute
or the enticements of the palate; and he thought that more
respect should be paid to his strenuous and manly purpose than to
the tickling of the ears or the lures of the feast. Accordingly
he flung the bone, which he had stripped in eating the meat, in
the face of the harlequin, and drove the wind violently out of
his puffed cheeks, so that they collapsed. By this he showed how
his austerity loathed the clatter of the stage; for his ears were
stopped with anger and open to no influence of delight. This
reward, befitting an actor, punished an unseemly performance with
a shameful wage. For Starkad excellently judged the man's
deserts, and bestowed a shankbone for the piper to pipe on,
requiting his soft service with a hard fee. None could say
whether the actor piped or wept the louder; he showed by his
bitter flood of tears how little place bravery has in the breasts
of the dissolute. For the fellow was a mere minion of pleasure,
and had never learnt to bear the assaults of calamity. This
man's hurt was ominous of the carnage that was to follow at the
feast. Right well did Starkad's spirit, heedful of sternness,
hold with stubborn gravity to steadfast revenge; for he was as
much disgusted at the lute as others were delighted, and repaid
the unwelcome service by insultingly flinging a bone; thus
avowing that he owed a greater debt to the glorious dust of his
mighty friend than to his shameless and infamous ward.

But when Starkad saw that the slayers of Frode were in high
favour with the king, his stern glances expressed the mighty
wrath which he harboured, and his face betrayed what he felt.
The visible fury of his gaze betokened the secret tempest in his
heart. At last, when Ingild tried to appease him with royal
fare, he spurned the dainty. Satisfied with cheap and common
food, he utterly spurned outlandish delicacies; he was used to
plain diet, and would not pamper his palate with any delightful
flavour. When he was asked why he had refused the generous
attention of the king with such a clouded brow, he said that he
had come to Denmark to find the son of Frode, not a man who
crammed his proud and gluttonous stomach with rich elaborate
feasts. For the Teuton extravagance which the king favoured had
led him, in his longing for the pleasures of abundance, to set to
the fire again, for roasting, dishes which had been already
boiled. Thereupon he could not forbear from attacking Ingild's
character, but poured out the whole bitterness of his reproaches
on his head. He condemned his unfilial spirit, because he gaped
with repletion and vented his squeamishness in filthy hawkings;
because, following the lures of the Saxons, he strayed and
departed far from soberness; because he was so lacking in manhood
as not to pursue even the faintest shadow of it. But, declared
Starkad, he bore the heaviest load of infamy, because, even when
he first began to see service, he forgot to avenge his father, to
whose butchers, forsaking the law of nature, he was kind and
attentive. Men whose deserts were most vile he welcomed with
loving affection; and not only did he let those go scot-free,
whom he should have punished most sharply, but he even judged
them fit persons to live with and entertain at his table, whereas
he should rather have put them to death. Hereupon Starkad is
also said to have sung as follows:

"Let the unwarlike youth yield to the aged, let him honour all
the years of him that is old. When a man is brave, let none
reproach the number of his days.

"Though the hair of the ancient whiten with age, their valour
stays still the same; nor shall the lapse of time have power to
weaken their manly heart.

"I am elbowed away by the offensive guest, who taints with vice
his outward show of goodness, whilst he is the slave of his belly
and prefers his daily dainties to anything.

"When I was counted as a comrade of Frode, I ever sat in the
midst of warriors on a high seat in the hall, and I was the first
of the princes to take my meal.

"Now, the lot of a nobler age is reversed; I am shut in a corner,
I am like the fish that seeks shelter as it wanders to and fro
hidden in the waters.

"I, who used surely in the former age to lie back on a couch
handsomely spread, am now thrust among the hindmost and driven
from the crowded hall.

"Perchance I had been driven on my back at the doors, had not the
wall struck my side and turned me back, and had not the beam, in
the way made it hard for me to fly when I was thrust forth.

"I am baited with the jeers of the court-folk; I am not received
as a guest should be; I am girded at with harsh gibing, and stung
with babbling taunts.

"I am a stranger, and would gladly know what news are spread
abroad by busy rumour; what is the course of events; what the
order of the land; what is doing in your country.

"Thou, Ingild, buried in sin, why dost thou tarry in the task of
avenging thy father? Wilt thou think tranquilly of the slaughter
of thy righteous sire?

"Why dost thou, sluggard, think only of feasting, and lean thy
belly back in ease, more effeminate than harlots? Is the
avenging of thy slaughtered father a little thing to thee?

"When last I left thee, Frode, I learned by my prophetic soul
that thou, mightiest of kings, wouldst surely perish by the sword
of enemies.

"And while I travelled long in the land, a warning groan rose in
my soul, which augured that thereafter I was never to see thee

"Wo is me, that then I was far away, harrying the farthest
peoples of the earth, when the traitorous guest aimed craftily at
the throat of his king.

"Else I would either have shown myself the avenger of my lord, or
have shared his fate and fallen where he fell, and would joyfully
have followed the blessed king in one and the same death.

"I have not come to indulge in gluttonous feasting, the sin
whereof I will strive to chastise; nor will I take mine ease, nor
the delights of the fat belly.

"No famous king has ever set me before in the middle by the
strangers. I have been wont to sit in the highest seats among

"I have come from Sweden, travelling over wide lands, thinking
that I should be rewarded, if only I had the joy to find the son
of my beloved Frode.

"But I sought a brave man, and I have come to a glutton, a king
who is the slave of his belly and of vice, whose liking has been
turned back towards wantonness by filthy pleasure.

"Famous is the speech men think that Halfdan spoke: he warned us
it would soon come to pass that an understanding father should
beget a witless son.

"Though the heir be deemed degenerate, I will not suffer the
wealth of mighty Frode to profit strangers or to be made public
like plunder."

At these words the queen trembled, and she took from her head the
ribbon with which she happened, in woman's fashion, to be
adorning her hair, and proffered it to the enraged old man, as
though she could avert his anger with a gift. Starkad in anger
flung it back most ignominiously in the face of the giver, and
began again in a loud voice:

"Take hence, I pray thee, thy woman's gift, and set back thy
headgear on thy head; no brave man assumes the chaplets that
befit Love only.

"For it is amiss that the hair of men that are ready for battle
should be bound back with wreathed gold; such attire is right for
the throngs of the soft and effeminate.

"But take this gift to thy husband, who loves luxury, whose
finger itches, while he turns over the rump and handles the flesh
of the bird roasted brown.

"The flighty and skittish wife of Ingild longs to observe the
fashions of the Teutons; she prepares the orgy and makes ready
the artificial dainties.

"For she tickles the palate with a new-fangled feast; she pursues
the zest of an unknown flavour, raging to load all the tables
with dishes yet more richly than before.

"She gives her lord wine to drink in bowls, pondering all things
with zealous preparation; she bids the cooked meats be roasted,
and intends them for a second fire.

"Wantonly she feeds her husband like a hog; a shameless whore,

"She roasts the boiled, and recooks the roasted meats, planning
the meal with spendthrift extravagance, careless of right and
wrong, practising sin, a foul woman.

"Wanton in arrogance, a soldier of Love, longing for dainties,
she abjures the fair ways of self-control, and also provides
devices for gluttony.

"With craving stomach she desires turnip strained in a smooth
pan, cakes with thin juice, and shellfish in rows.

"I do not remember the Great Frode putting his hand to the sinews
of birds, or tearing the rump of a cooked fowl with crooked

"What former king could have been so gluttonous as to stir the
stinking filthy flesh, or rummage in the foul back of a bird with
plucking fingers?

"The food of valiant men is raw; no need, methinks, of sumptuous
tables for those whose stubborn souls are bent on warfare.

"It had been fitter for thee to have torn the stiff beard, biting
hard with thy teeth, than greedily to have drained the bowl of
milk with thy wide mouth.

"We fled from the offence of the sumptuous kitchen; we stayed our
stomach with rancid fare; few in the old days loved cooked

"A dish with no sauce of herbs gave us the flesh of rams and
swine. We partook temperately, tainting nothing with bold

"Thou who now lickest the milk-white fat, put on, prithee, the
spirit of a man; remember Frode, and avenge thy father's death.

"The worthless and cowardly heart shall perish, and shall not
parry the thrust of death by flight, though it bury itself in a
valley, or crouch in darkling dens.

"Once we were eleven princes, devoted followers of King Hakon,
and here Geigad sat above Helge in the order of the meal.

"Geigad used to appease the first pangs of hunger with a dry rump
of ham; and plenty of hard crust quelled the craving of his

"No one asked for a sickly morsel; all took their food in common;
the meal of mighty men cost but slight display.

"The commons shunned foreign victual, and the greatest lusted not
for a feast; even the king remembered to live temperately at
little cost.

"Scorning to look at the mead, he drank the fermented juice of
Ceres; he shrank not from the use of undercooked meats, and hated
the roast.

"The board used to stand with slight display, a modest salt-
cellar showed the measure of its cost; lest the wise ways of
antiquity should in any wise be changed by foreign usage.

"Of old, no man put flagons or mixing-bowls on the tables; the
steward filled the cup from the butt, and there was no abundance
of adorned vessels.

"No one who honoured past ages put the smooth wine-jars beside
the tankards, and of old no bedizened lackey heaped the platter
with dainties.

"Nor did the vainglorious host deck the meal with little salt-
shell or smooth cup; but all has been now abolished in shameful
wise by the new-fangled manners.

"Who would ever have borne to take money in ransom for the death
of a lost parent, or to have asked a foe for a gift to atone for
the murder of a father?

"What strong heir or well-starred son would have sat side by side
with such as these, letting a shameful bargain utterly unnerve
the warrior?

"Wherefore, when the honours of kings are sung, and bards relate
the victories of captains, I hide my face for shame in my mantle,
sick at heart.

"For nothing shines in thy trophies, worthy to be recorded by the
pen; no heir of Frode is named in the roll of the honourable.

"Why dost thou vex me with insolent gaze, thou who honourest the
foe guilty of thy father's blood, and art thought only to take
thy vengeance with loaves and warm soup?

"When men speak well of the avengers of crimes, then long thou to
lose thy quick power of hearing, that thy impious spirit may not
be ashamed.

"For oft has the virtue of another vexed a heart that knows its
guilt, and the malice in the breast is abashed by the fair report
of the good.

"Though thou go to the East, or live sequestered in the countries
of the West, or whether, driven thence, thou seek the midmost
place of the earth;

"Whether thou revisit the cold quarter of the heaven where the
pole is to be seen, and carries on the sphere with its swift
spin, and looks down upon the neighbouring Bear;

"Shame shall accompany thee far, and shall smite thy countenance
with heavy disgrace, when the united assembly of the great kings
is taking pastime.

"Since everlasting dishonour awaits thee, thou canst not come
amidst the ranks of the famous; and in every clime thou shalt
pass thy days in infamy.

"The fates have given Frode an offspring born into the world when
gods were adverse, whose desires have been enthralled by crime
and ignoble lust.

"Even as in a ship all things foul gather to the filthy hollow of
the bilge, even so hath a flood of vices poured into Ingild.

"Therefore, in terror of thy shame being published, thou shalt
lie crushed in the corners of the land, sluggish on thy foul
hearth, and never to be seen in the array of the famous.

"Then shalt thou shake thy beard at thine evil fate, kept down by
the taunts of thy mistresses, when thy paramour galls thy ear
with her querulous cries.

"Since chill fear retards thy soul, and thou dreadest to become
the avenger of thy sire, thou art utterly degenerate, and thy
ways are like a slave's.

"It would have needed scant preparation to destroy thee; even as
if a man should catch and cut the throat of a kid, or slit the
weazand of a soft sheep and butcher it.

"Behold, a son of the tyrant Swerting shall take the inheritance
of Denmark after thee; he whose slothful sister thou keepest in
infamous union.

"Whilst thou delightest to honour thy bride, laden with gems and
shining in gold apparel, we burn with all indignation that is
linked with shame, lamenting thy infamies.

"When thou art stirred by furious lust, our mind is troubled, and
recalls the fashion of ancient times, and bids us grieve sorely.

"For we rate otherwise than thou the crime of the foes whom now
thou holdest in honour; wherefore the face of this age is a
burden to me, remembering the ancient ways.

"I would crave no greater blessing, O Frode, if I might see those
guilty of thy murder duly punished for such a crime."

Now he prevailed so well by this stirring counsel, that his
reproach served like a flint wherewith to strike a blazing flame
of valour in the soul that had been chill and slack. For the
king had at first heard the song inattentively; but, stirred by
the earnest admonition of his guardian, he conceived in his heart
a tardy fire of revenge; and, forgetting the reveller, he changed
into the foeman. At last he leapt up from where he lay, and
poured the whole flood of his anger on those at table with him;
insomuch that he unsheathed his sword upon the sons of Swerting
with bloody ruthlessness, and aimed with drawn blade at the
throats of those whose gullets he had pampered with the pleasures
of the table. These men he forthwith slew; and by so doing he
drowned the holy rites of the table in blood. He sundered the
feeble bond of their league, and exchanged a shameful revel for
enormous cruelty; the host became the foe, and that vilest slave
of excess the bloodthirsty agent of revenge. For the vigorous
pleading of his counsellor bred a breath of courage in his soft
and unmanly youth; it drew out his valour from its lurking-place,
and renewed it, and so fashioned it that the authors of a most
grievous murder were punished even as they deserved. For the
young man's valour had been not quenched, but only in exile, and
the aid of an old man had drawn it out into the light; and it
accomplished a deed which was all the greater for its tardiness;
for it was somewhat nobler to steep the cups in blood than in
wine. What a spirit, then, must we think that old man had, who
by his eloquent adjuration expelled from that king's mind its
infinite sin, and who, bursting the bonds of iniquity, implanted
a most effectual seed of virtue. Starkad aided the king with
equal achievements; and not only showed the most complete courage
in his own person, but summoned back that which had been rooted
out of the heart of another. When the deed was done, he thus

"King Ingild, farewell; thy heart, full of valour, hath now shown
a deed of daring. The spirit that reigns in thy body is revealed
by its fair beginning; nor did there lack deep counsel in thy
heart, though thou wert silent till this hour; for thou dost
redress by thy bravery what delay had lost, and redeemest the
sloth of thy spirit by mighty valour. Come now, let us rout the
rest, and let none escape the peril which all alike deserve. Let
the crime come home to the culprit; let the sin return and crush
its contriver.

"Let the servants take up in a car the bodies of the slain, and
let the attendant quickly bear out the carcases. Justly shall
they lack the last rites; they are unworthy to be covered with a
mound; let no funeral procession or pyre suffer them the holy
honour of a barrow; let them be scattered to rot in the fields,
to be consumed by the beaks of birds; let them taint the country
all about with their deadly corruption.

"Do thou too, king, if thou hast any wit, flee thy savage bride,
lest the she-wolf bring forth a litter like herself, and a beast
spring from thee that shall hurt its own father.

"Tell me, Rote, continual derider of cowards, thinkest thou that
we have avenged Frode enough, when we have spent seven deaths on
the vengeance of one? Lo, those are borne out dead who paid
homage not to thy sway in deed, but only in show, and though
obsequious they planned treachery. But I always cherished this
hope, that noble fathers have noble offspring, who will follow in
their character the lot which they received by their birth.
Therefore, Ingild, better now than in time past dost thou deserve
to be called lord of Leire and of Denmark.

"When, O King Hakon, I was a beardless youth, and followed thy
leading and command in warfare, I hated luxury and wanton souls,
and practiced only wars. Training body and mind together, I
banished every unholy thing from my soul, and shunned the
pleasures of the belly, loving deeds of prowess. For those that
followed the calling of arms had rough clothing and common gear
and short slumbers and scanty rest. Toil drove ease far away,
and the time ran by at scanty cost. Not as with some men now,
the light of whose reason is obscured by insatiate greed with its
blind maw. Some one of these clad in a covering of curiously
wrought raiment effeminately guides the fleet-footed (steed), and
unknots his dishevelled locks, and lets his hair fly abroad

"He loves to plead often in the court, and to covet a base
pittance, and with this pursuit he comforts his sluggish life,
doing with venal tongue the business entrusted to him.

"He outrages the laws by force, he makes armed assault upon men's
rights, he tramples on the innocent, he feeds on the wealth of
others, he practices debauchery and gluttony, he vexes good
fellowship with biting jeers, and goes after harlots as a hoe
after the grass.

"The coward falls when battles are lulled in peace. Though he
who fears death lie in the heart of the valley, no mantlet shall
shelter him. His final fate carries off every living man; doom
is not to be averted by skulking. But I, who have shaken the
whole world with my slaughters, shall I enjoy a peaceful death?
Shall I be taken up to the stars in a quiet end? Shall I die in
my bed without a wound?"


We are told by historians of old, that Ingild had four sons, of
whom three perished in war, while OLAF alone reigned after his
father; but some say that Olaf was the son of Ingild's sister,
though this opinion is doubtful. Posterity has but an uncertain
knowledge of his deeds, which are dim with the dust of antiquity;
nothing but the last counsel of his wisdom has been rescued by
tradition. For when he was in the last grip of death he took
thought for his sons FRODE and HARALD, and bade them have royal
sway, one over the land and the other over the sea, and receive
these several powers, not in prolonged possession, but in yearly
rotation. Thus their share in the rule was made equal; but
Frode, who was the first to have control of the affairs of the
sea, earned disgrace from his continual defeats in roving. His
calamity was due to his sailors being newly married, and
preferring nuptial joys at home to the toils of foreign warfare.
After a time Harald, the younger son, received the rule of the
sea, and chose soldiers who were unmarried, fearing to be baffled
like his brother. Fortune favoured his choice; for he was as
glorious a rover as his brother was inglorious; and this earned
him his brother's hatred. Moreover, their queens, Signe and
Ulfhild, one of whom was the daughter of Siward, King of Sweden,
the other of Karl, the governor of Gothland, were continually
wrangling as to which was the nobler, and broke up the mutual
fellowship of their husbands. Hence Harald and Frode, when their
common household was thus shattered, divided up the goods they
held in common, and gave more heed to the wrangling altercations
of the women than to the duties of brotherly affection.

Moreover, Frode, judging that his brother's glory was a disgrace
to himself and brought him into contempt, ordered one of his
household to put him to death secretly; for he saw that the man
of whom he had the advantage in years was surpassing him in
courage. When the deed was done, he had the agent of his
treachery privily slain, lest the accomplice should betray the
crime. Then, in order to gain the credit of innocence and escape
the brand of crime, he ordered a full inquiry to be made into the
mischance that had cut off his brother so suddenly. But he could
not manage, by all his arts, to escape silent condemnation in the
thoughts of the common people. He afterwards asked Karl, "Who
had killed Harald?" and Karl replied that it was deceitful in him
to ask a question about something which he knew quite well.
These words earned him his death; for Frode thought that he had
reproached him covertly with fratricide.

After this, the lives of Harald and Halfdan, the sons of Harald
by Signe the daughter of Karl, were attempted by their uncle.
But the guardians devised a cunning method of saving their wards.
For they cut off the claws of wolves and tied them to the soles
of their feet; and then made them run along many times so as to
harrow up the mud near their dwelling, as well as the ground
(then covered with, snow), and give the appearance of an attack
by wild beasts. Then they killed the children of some bond-
women, tore their bodies into little pieces, and scattered their
mangled limbs all about. So when the youths were looked for in
vain, the scattered limbs were found, the tracks of the beasts
were pointed out, and the ground was seen besmeared with blood.
It was believed that the boys had been devoured by ravening
wolves; and hardly anyone was suffered to doubt so plain a proof
that they were mangled. The belief in this spectacle served to
protect the wards. They were presently shut up by their
guardians in a hollow oak, so that no trace of their being alive
should get abroad, and were fed for a long time under pretence
that they were dogs; and were even called by hounds' names, to
prevent any belief getting abroad that they were hiding. (1)

Frode alone refused to believe in their death; and he went and
inquired of a woman skilled in divination where they were hid.
So potent were her spells, that she seemed able, at any distance,
to perceive anything, however intricately locked away, and to
summon it out to light. She declared that one Ragnar had
secretly undertaken to rear them, and had called them by the
names of dogs to cover the matter. When the young men found
themselves dragged from their hiding by the awful force of her
spells, and brought before the eyes of the enchantress, loth to
be betrayed by this terrible and imperious compulsion, they flung
into her lap a shower of gold which they had received from their
guardians. When she had taken the gift, she suddenly feigned
death, and fell like one lifeless. Her servants asked the reason
why she fell so suddenly; and she declared that the refuge of the
sons of Harald was inscrutable; for their wondrous might
qualified even the most awful effects of her spells. Thus she
was content with a slight benefit, and could not bear to await a
greater reward at the king's hands. After this Ragnar, finding
that the belief concerning himself and his wards was becoming
rife in common talk, took them, both away into Funen. Here he
was taken by Frode, and confessed that he had put the young men
in safe keeping; and he prayed the king to spare the wards whom
he had made fatherless, and not to think it a piece of good
fortune to be guilty of two unnatural murders. By this speech he
changed the king's cruelty into shame; and he promised that if
they attempted any plots in their own land, he would give
information to the king. Thus he gained safety for his wards,
and lived many years in freedom from terror.

When the boys grew up, they went to Zealand, and were bidden by
their friends to avenge their father. They vowed that they and
their uncle should not both live out the year. When Ragnar found
this out, he went by night to the palace, prompted by the
recollection of his covenant, and announced that he was come
privily to tell the king something he had promised. But the king
was asleep, and he would not suffer them to wake him up, because
Frode had been used to punish any disturbance of his rest with
the sword. So mighty a matter was it thought of old to break the
slumbers of a king by untimely intrusion. Frode heard this from
the sentries in the morning; and when he perceived that Ragnar
had come to tell him of the treachery, he gathered together his
soldiers, and resolved to forestall deceit by ruthless measures.
Harald's sons had no help for it but to feign madness. For when
they found themselves suddenly attacked, they began to behave
like maniacs, as if they were distraught. And when Frode thought
that they were possessed, he gave up his purpose, thinking it
shameful to attack with the sword those who seemed to be turning
the sword against themselves. But he was burned to death by them
on the following night, and was punished as befitted a
fratricide. For they attacked the palace, and first crushing the
queen with a mass of stones and then, having set fire to the
house, they forced Frode to crawl into a narrow cave that had
been cut out long before, and into the dark recesses of tunnels.
Here he lurked in hiding and perished, stifled by the reek and

After Frode was killed, HALFDAN reigned over his country about
three years, and then, handing over his sovereignty to his
brother Harald as deputy, went roving, and attacked and ravaged
Oland and the neighbouring isles, which are severed from contact
with Sweden by a winding sound. Here in the winter he beached
and entrenched his ships, and spent three years on the
expedition. After this he attacked Sweden, and destroyed its
king in the field. Afterwards he prepared to meet the king's
grandson Erik, the son of his own uncle Frode, in battle; and
when he heard that Erik's champion, Hakon, was skillful in
blunting swords with his spells, he fashioned, to use for
clubbing, a huge mace studded with iron knobs, as if he would
prevail by the strength of wood over the power of sorcery. Then
-- for he was conspicuous beyond all others for his bravery --
amid the hottest charges of the enemy, he covered his head with
his helmet, and, without a shield, poised his club, and with the
help of both hands whirled it against the bulwark of shields
before him. No obstacle was so stout but it was crushed to
pieces by the blow of the mass that smote it. Thus he overthrew
the champion, who ran against him in the battle, with a violent
stroke of his weapon. But he was conquered notwithstanding, and
fled away into Helsingland, where he went to one Witolf (who had
served of old with Harald), to seek tendance for his wounds.
This man had spent most of his life in camp; but at last, after
the grievous end of his general, he had retreated into this
lonely district, where he lived the life of a peasant, and rested
from the pursuits of war. Often struck himself by the missiles
of the enemy, he had gained no slight skill in leechcraft by
constantly tending his own wounds. But if anyone came with
flatteries to seek his aid, instead of curing him he was
accustomed to give him something that would secretly injure him,
thinking it somewhat nobler to threaten than to wheedle for
benefits. When the soldiers of Erik menaced his house, in their
desire to take Halfdan, he so robbed them of the power of sight
that they could neither perceive the house nor trace it with
certainty, though it was close to them. So utterly had their
eyesight been dulled by a decisive mist.

When Halfdan had by this man's help regained his full strength,
he summoned Thore, a champion of notable capacity, and proclaimed
war against Erik. But when the forces were led out on the other
side, and he saw that Erik was superior in numbers, he hid a part
of his army, and instructed it to lie in ambush among the bushes
by the wayside, in order to destroy the enemy by an ambuscade as
he marched through the narrow part of the path. Erik foresaw
this, having reconnoitred his means of advancing, and thought he
must withdraw for fear, if he advanced along the track he had
intended, of being hard-pressed by the tricks of the enemy among
the steep windings of the hills. They therefore joined battle,
force against force, in a deep valley, inclosed all round by
lofty mountain ridges. Here Halfdan, when he saw the line of his
men wavering, climbed with Thore up a crag covered with stones
and, uprooting boulders, rolled them down upon the enemy below;
and the weight of these as they fell crushed the line that was
drawn up in the lower position. Thus he regained with stones the
victory which he had lost with arms. For this deed of prowess he
received the name of Biargramm ("rock strong"), a word which
seems to have been compounded from the name of his fierceness and
of the mountains. He soon gained so much esteem for this among
the Swedes that he was thought to be the son of the great Thor,
and the people bestowed divine honours upon him, and judged him
worthy of public libation.

But the souls of the conquered find it hard to rest, and the
insolence of the beaten ever struggles towards the forbidden
thing. So it came to pass that Erik, in his desire to repair the
losses incurred in flight, attacked the districts subject to
Halfdan. Even Denmark he did not exempt from this harsh
treatment; for he thought it a most worthy deed to assail the
country of the man who had caused him to be driven from his own.
And so, being more anxious to inflict injury than to repel it, he
set Sweden free from the arms of the enemy. When Halfdan heard
that his brother Harald had been beaten by Erik in three battles,
and slain in the fourth, he was afraid of losing his empire; he
had to quit the land of the Swedes and go back to his own
country. Thus Erik regained the kingdom of Sweden all the more
quickly, that he quitted it so lightly. Had fortune wished to
favour him in keeping his kingdom as much as she had in regaining
it, she would in nowise have given him into the hand of Halfdan.
This capture was made in the following way: When Halfdan had gone
back into Sweden, he hid his fleet craftily, and went to meet
Erik with two vessels. Erik attacked him with ten; and Halfdan,
sailing through sundry winding channels, stole back to his
concealed forces. Erik pursued him too far, and the Danish fleet
came out on the sea. Thus Erik was surrounded; but he rejected
the life, which was offered him under condition of thraldom. He
could not bear to think more of the light of day than liberty,
and chose to die rather than serve; lest he should seem to love
life so well as to turn from a slave into a freeman; and that he
might not court with new-born obeisance the man whom fortune had
just before made only his equal. So little knows virtue how to
buy life with dishonour. Wherefore he was put in chains, and
banished to a place haunted by wild beasts; an end unworthy of
that lofty spirit.

Halfdan had thus become sovereign of both kingdoms, and graced
his fame with a triple degree of honour. For he was skillful and
eloquent in composing poems in the fashion of his country; and he
was no less notable as a valorous champion than as a powerful
king. But when he heard that two active rovers, Toke and Anund,
were threatening the surrounding districts, he attacked and
routed them in a sea-fight. For the ancients thought that
nothing was more desirable than glory which was gained, not by
brilliancy of wealth, but by address in arms. Accordingly, the
most famous men of old were so minded as to love seditions, to
renew quarrels, to loathe ease, to prefer fighting to peace, to
be rated by their valour and not by their wealth, to find their
greatest delight in battles, and their least in banquetings.

But Halfdan was not long to seek for a rival. A certain Siwald,
of most illustrious birth, related with lamentation in the
assembly of the Swedes the death of Frode and his queen; and
inspired in almost all of them such a hatred of Halfdan, that the
vote of the majority granted him permission to revolt. Nor was
he content with the mere goodwill of their voices, but so won the
heart of the commons by his crafty canvassing that he induced
almost all of them to set with their hands the royal emblem on
his head. Siwald had seven sons, who were such clever sorcerers
that often, inspired with the force of sudden frenzy, they would
roar savagely, bite their shields, swallow hot coals, and go
through any fire that could be piled up; and their frantic
passion could only be checked by the rigour of chains, or
propitiated by slaughter of men. With such a frenzy did their
own sanguinary temper, or else the fury of demons, inspire them.

When Halfdan had heard of these things while busy roving, he said
it was right that his soldiers, who had hitherto spent their rage
upon foreigners, should now smite with the steel the flesh of
their own countrymen, and that they who had been used to labour
to extend their realm should now avenge its wrongful seizure. On
Halfdan approaching, Siwald sent him ambassadors and requested
him, if he was as great in act as in renown, to meet himself and
his sons in single combat, and save the general peril by his own.
When the other answered, that a combat could not lawfully be
fought by more than two men, Siwald said, that it was no wonder
that a childless bachelor should refuse the proffered conflict,
since his nature was void of heat, and had struck a disgraceful
frost into his soul and body. Children, he added, were not
different from the man who begot them, since they drew from him
their common principle of birth. Thus he and his sons were to be
accounted as one person, for nature seemed in a manner to have
bestowed on them a single body. Halfdan, stung with this
shameful affront, accepted the challenge; meaning to wipe out
with noble deeds of valour such an insulting taunt upon his
celibacy. And while he chanced to be walking through a shady
woodland, he plucked up by the roots all oak that stuck in his
path, and, by simply stripping it of its branches, made it look
like a stout club. Having this trusty weapon, he composed a
short song as follows:

"Behold! The rough burden which I bear with straining crest,
shall unto crests bring wounds and destruction. Never shall any
weapon of leafy wood crush the Goths with direr augury. It shall
shatter the towering strength of the knotty neck, and shall
bruise the hollow temples with the mass of timber. The club
which shall quell the wild madness of the land shall be no less
fatal to the Swedes. Breaking bones, and brandished about the
mangled limbs of warriors, the stock I have wrenched off shall
crush the backs of the wicked, crush the hearths of our kindred,
shed the blood of our countrymen, and be a destructive pest upon
our land."

When he had said this, he attacked Siwald and his seven sons, and
destroyed them, their force and bravery being useless against the
enormous mass of his club.

At this time one Hardbeen, who came from Helsingland, gloried in
kidnapping and ravishing princesses, and used to kill any man who
hindered him in his lusts. He preferred high matches to those
that were lowly; and the more illustrious the victims he could
violate, the more noble he thought himself. No man escaped
unpunished who durst measure himself with Hardbeen in valour. He
was so huge, that his stature reached the measure of nine ells.
He had twelve champions dwelling with him, whose business it was
to rise up and to restrain his fury with the aid of bonds,
whenever the rage came on him that foreboded of battle. These
men asked Halfdan to attack Hardbeen and his champions man by
man; and he not only promised to fight, but assured himself the
victory with most confident words. When Hardbeen heard this, a
demoniacal frenzy suddenly took him; he furiously bit and
devoured the edges of his shield; he kept gulping down fiery
coals; he snatched live embers in his mouth and let them pass
down into his entrails; he rushed through the perils of crackling
fires; and at last, when he had raved through every sort of
madness, he turned his sword with raging hand against the hearts
of six of his champions. It is doubtful whether this madness
came from thirst for battle or natural ferocity. Then with the
remaining band of his champions he attacked Halfdan, who crushed
him with a hammer of wondrous size, so that he lost both victory
and life; paying the penalty both to Halfdan, whom he had
challenged, and to the kings whose offspring he had violently

Fortune never seemed satisfied with the trying of Halfdan's
strength, and used to offer him unexpected occasions for
fighting. It so happened that Egther, a Finlander, was harrying
the Swedes on a roving raid. Halfdan, having found that he had
three ships, attacked him with the same number. Night closed the
battle, so that he could not conquer him; but he challenged
Egther next day, fought with and overthrew him. He next heard
that Grim, a champion of immense strength, was suing, under
threats of a duel, for Thorhild, the daughter of the chief
Hather, and that her father had proclaimed that he who put the
champion out of the way should have her. Halfdan, though he had
reached old age a bachelor, was stirred by the promise of the
chief as much as by the insolence of the champion, and went to
Norway. When he entered it, he blotted out every mark by which
he could be recognized, disguising his face with splashes of
dirt; and when he came to the spot of the battle, drew his sword
first. And when he knew that it had been blunted by the glance
of the enemy, he cast it on the ground, drew another from the
sheath, with which he attacked Grim, cutting through the meshes
on the edge of his cuirass, as well as the lower part of his
shield. Grim wondered at the deed, and said, "I cannot remember
an old man who fought more keenly;" and, instantly drawing his
sword, he pierced through and shattered the target that was
opposed to his blade. But as his right arm tarried on the
stroke, Halfdan, without wavering, met and smote it swiftly with
his sword. The other, notwithstanding, clasped his sword with
his left hand, and cut through the thigh of the striker,
revenging the mangling of his own body with a slight wound.
Halfdan, now conqueror, allowed the conquered man to ransom the
remnant of his life with a sum of money; he would not be thought
shamefully to rob a maimed man, who could not fight, of the
pitiful remainder of his days. By this deed he showed himself
almost as great in saving as in conquering his enemy. As a prize
for this victory he won Thorhild in marriage, and had by her a
son Asmund, from whom the kings of Norway treasure the honour of
being descended; retracing the regular succession of their line
down from Halfdan.

After this, Ebbe, a rover of common birth, was so confident of
his valour, that he was moved to aspire to a splendid marriage.
He was a suitor for Sigrid, the daughter of Yngwin, King of the
Goths, and moreover demanded half the Gothic kingdom for her
dowry. Halfdan was consulted whether the match should be
entertained, and advised that a feigned consent should be given,
promising that he would baulk the marriage. He also gave
instructions that a seat should be allotted to himself among the
places of the guests at table. Yngwin approved the advice; and
Halfdan, utterly defacing the dignity of his royal presence with
an unsightly and alien disguise, and coming by night on the
wedding feast, alarmed those who met him; for they marvelled at
the coming of a man of such superhuman stature.

When Halfdan entered the palace, he looked round on all and
asked, who was he that had taken the place next to the king?
Upon Ebbe replying that the future son-in-law of the king was
next to his side, Halfdan asked him, in the most passionate
language, what madness, or what demons, had brought him to such
wantonness, as to make bold to unite his contemptible and filthy
race with a splendid and illustrious line, or to dare to lay his
peasant finger upon the royal family: and, not content even with
such a claim, to aspire, as it seemed, to a share even in the
kingdom of another. Then he bade Ebbe fight him, saying that he
must get the victory before he got his wish. The other answered
that the night was the time to fight with monsters, but the day
the time with men; but Halfdan, to prevent him shirking the
battle by pleading the hour, declared that the moon was shining
with the brightness of daylight. Thus he forced Ebbe to fight,
and felled him, turning the banquet into a spectacle, and the
wedding into a funeral.

Some years passed, and Halfdan went back to his own country, and

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