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

Part 7 out of 9

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being childless he bequeathed the royal wealth by will to Yngwin,
and appointed him king. YNGWIN was afterwards overthrown in war
by a rival named Ragnald, and he left a son SIWALD.

Siwald's daughter, Sigrid, was of such excellent modesty, that
though a great concourse of suitors wooed her for her beauty, it
seemed as if she could not be brought to look at one of them.
Confident in this power of self-restraint, she asked her father
for a husband who by the sweetness of his blandishments should be
able to get a look back from her. For in old time among us the
self-restraint of the maidens was a great subduer of wanton
looks, lest the soundness of the soul should be infected by the
licence of the eyes; and women desired to avouch the purity of
their hearts by the modesty of their faces. Then one Ottar, the
son of Ebb, kindled with confidence in the greatness either of
his own achievements, or of his courtesy and eloquent address,
stubbornly and ardently desired to woo the maiden. And though he
strove with all the force of his wit to soften her gaze, no
device whatever could move her downcast eyes; and, marvelling at
her persistence in her indomitable rigour, he departed.

A giant desired the same thing, but, finding himself equally
foiled, he suborned a woman; and she, pretending friendship for
the girl, served her for a while as her handmaid, and at last
enticed her far from her father's house, by cunningly going out
of the way; then the giant rushed upon her and bore her off into
the closest fastnesses of a ledge on the mountain. Others think
that he disguised himself as a woman, treacherously continued his
devices so as to draw the girl away from her own house, and in
the end carried her off. When Ottar heard of this, he ransacked
the recesses of the mountain in search of the maiden, found her,
slew the giant, and bore her off. But the assiduous giant had
bound back the locks of the maiden, tightly twisting her hair in
such a way that the matted mass of tresses was held in a kind of
curled bundle; nor was it easy for anyone to unravel their
plaited tangle, without using the steel. Again, he tried with
divers allurements to provoke the maiden to look at him; and when
he had long laid vain siege to her listless eyes, he abandoned
his quest, since his purpose turned out so little to his liking.
But he could not bring himself to violate the girl, loth to
defile with ignoble intercourse one of illustrious birth. She
then wandered long, and sped through divers desert and circuitous
paths, and happened to come to the hut of a certain huge woman of
the woods, who set her to the task of pasturing her goats. Again
Ottar granted her his aid to set her free, and again he tried to
move her, addressing her in this fashion: "Wouldst thou rather
hearken to my counsels, and embrace me even as I desire, than be
here and tend the flock of rank goats?

"Spurn the hand of thy wicked mistress, and flee hastily from
thy cruel taskmistress, that thou mayst go back with me to the
ships of thy friends and live in freedom.

"Quit the care of the sheep entrusted to thee; scorn to drive the
steps of the goats; share my bed, and fitly reward my prayers.

"O thou whom I have sought with such pains, turn again thy
listless beams; for a little while -- it is an easy gesture --
lift thy modest face.

"I will take thee hence, and set thee by the house of thy father,
and unite thee joyfully with thy loving mother, if but once thou
wilt show me thine eyes stirred with soft desires.

"Thou, whom I have borne so oft from the prisons of the giants,
pay thou some due favour to my toil of old; pity my hard
endeavours, and be stern no more.

"For why art thou become so distraught and brainsick, that thou
wilt choose to tend the flock of another, and be counted among
the servants of monsters, sooner than encourage our marriage-
troth with fitting and equal consent?"

But she, that she might not suffer the constancy of her chaste
mind to falter by looking at the world without, restrained her
gaze, keeping her lids immovably rigid. How modest, then, must
we think, were the women of that age, when, under the strongest
provocations of their lovers, they could not be brought to make
the slightest motion of their eyes! So when Ottar found that
even by the merits of his double service he could not stir the
maiden's gaze towards him, he went back to the fleet, wearied out
with shame and chagrin. Sigrid, in her old fashion, ran far away
over the rocks, and chanced to stray in her wanderings to the
abode of Ebb; where, ashamed of her nakedness and distress, she
pretended to be a daughter of paupers. The mother of Ottar saw
that this woman, though bestained and faded, and covered with a
meagre cloak, was the scion of some noble stock; and took her,
and with honourable courtesy kept her by her side in a
distinguished seat. For the beauty of the maiden was a sign that
betrayed her birth, and her telltale features echoed her lineage.
Ottar saw her, and asked why she hid her face in her robe. Also,
in order to test her mind more surely, he feigned that a woman
was about to become his wife, and, as he went up into the bride-
bed, gave Sigrid the torch to hold. The lights had almost burnt
down, and she was hard put to it by the flame coming closer; but
she showed such an example of endurance that she was seen to hold
her hand motionless, and might have been thought to feel no
annoyance from the heat. For the fire within mastered the fire
without, and the glow of her longing soul deadened the burn of
her scorched skin. At last Ottar bade her look to her hand.
Then, modestly lifting her eyes, she turned her calm gaze upon
him; and straightway, the pretended marriage being put away, went
up unto the bride-bed to be his wife. Siwald afterwards seized
Ottar, and thought that he ought to be hanged for defiling his

But Sigrid at once explained how she had happened to be carried
away, and not only brought Ottar back into the king's favour, but
also induced her father himself to marry Ottar's sister. After
this a battle was fought between Siwald and Ragnald in Zealand,
warriors of picked valour being chosen on both sides. For three
days they slaughtered one another; but so great was the bravery
of both sides, that it was doubtful how the victory would go.
Then Ottar, whether seized with weariness at the prolonged
battle, or with desire of glory, broke, despising death, through
the thickest of the foe, cut down Ragnald among the bravest of
his soldiers, and won the Danes a sudden victory. This battle
was notable for the cowardice of the greatest nobles. For the
whole mass fell into such a panic, that forty of the bravest of
the Swedes are said to have turned and fled. The chief of these,
Starkad, had been used to tremble at no fortune, however cruel,
and no danger, however great. But some strange terror stole upon
him, and he chose to follow the flight of his friends rather than
to despise it. I should think that he was filled with this alarm
by the power of heaven, that he might not think himself
courageous beyond the measure of human valour. Thus the
prosperity of mankind is wont ever to be incomplete. Then all
these warriors embraced the service of King Hakon, the mightiest
of the rovers, like remnants of the war drifting to him.

After this Siwald was succeeded by his son SIGAR, who had sons
Siwald, Alf, and Alger, and a daughter Signe. All excelled the
rest in spirit and beauty, and devoted himself to the business of
a rover. Such a grace was shed on his hair, which had a
wonderful dazzling glow, that his locks seemed to shine silvery.
At the same time Siward, the king of the Goths, is said to have
had two sons, Wemund and Osten, and a daughter Alfhild, who
showed almost from her cradle such faithfulness to modesty that
she continually kept her face muffled in her robe, lest she
should cause her beauty to provoke the passion of another. Her
father banished her into very close keeping, and gave her a viper
and a snake to rear, wishing to defend her chastity by the
protection of these reptiles when they came to grow up. For it
would have been hard to pry into her chamber when it was barred
by so dangerous a bolt. He also enacted that if any man tried to
enter it, and failed, he must straightway yield his head to be
taken off and impaled on a stake. The terror which was thus
attached to wantonness chastened the heated spirits of the young

Alf, the son of Sigar, thinking that peril of the attempt only
made it nobler, declared himself a wooer, and went to subdue the
beasts that kept watch beside the room of the maiden; inasmuch
as, according to the decree, the embraces of the maiden were the
prize of their subduer. Alf covered his body with a blood-
stained hide in order to make them more frantic against him.
Girt with this, as soon as he had entered the doors of the
enclosure, he took a piece of red-hot steel in the tongs, and
plunged it into the yawning throat of the viper, which he laid
dead. Then he flung his spear full into the gaping mouth of the
snake as it wound and writhed forward, and destroyed it. And
when he demanded the gage which was attached to victory by the
terms of the covenant, Siward answered that he would accept that
man only for his daughter's husband of whom she made a free and
decided choice. None but the girl's mother was stiff against the
wooer's suit; and she privately spoke to her daughter in order to
search her mind. The daughter warmly praised her suitor for his
valour; whereon the mother upbraided her sharply, that her
chastity should be unstrung, and she be captivated by charming
looks; and because, forgetting to judge his virtue, she cast the
gaze of a wanton mind upon the flattering lures of beauty. Thus
Alfhild was led to despise the young Dane; whereupon she
exchanged woman's for man's attire, and, no longer the most
modest of maidens, began the life of a warlike rover.

Enrolling in her service many maidens who were of the same mind,
she happened to come to a spot where a band of rovers were
lamenting the death of their captain, who had been lost in war;
they made her their rover captain for her beauty, and she did
deeds beyond the valour of woman. Alf made many toilsome voyages
in pursuit of her, and in winter happened to come on a fleet of
the Blacmen. The waters were at this time frozen hard, and the
ships were caught in such a mass of ice that they could not get
on by the most violent rowing. But the continued frost promised
the prisoners a safer way of advance; and Alf ordered his men to
try the frozen surface of the sea in their brogues, after they
had taken off their slippery shoes, so that they could run over
the level ice more steadily. The Blacmen supposed that they were
taking to flight with all the nimbleness of their heels, and
began to fight them, but their steps tottered exceedingly and
they gave back, the slippery surface under their soles making
their footing uncertain. But the Danes crossed the frozen sea
with safer steps, and foiled the feeble advance of the enemy,
whom they conquered, and then turned and sailed to Finland. Here
they chanced to enter a rather narrow gulf, and, on sending a few
men to reconnoitre, they learnt that the harbour was being held
by a few ships. For Alfhild had gone before them with her fleet
into the same narrows. And when she saw the strange ships afar
off, she rowed in swift haste forward to encounter them, thinking
it better to attack the foe than to await them. Alf's men were
against attacking so many ships with so few; but he replied that
it would be shameful if anyone should report to Alfhild that his
desire to advance could be checked by a few ships in the path;
for he said that their record of honours ought not to be
tarnished by such a trifle.

The Danes wondered whence their enemies got such grace of bodily
beauty and such supple limbs. So, when they began the sea-fight,
the young man Alf leapt on Alfhild's prow, and advanced towards
the stern, slaughtering all that withstood him. His comrade
Borgar struck off Alfhild's helmet, and, seeing the smoothness of
her chin, saw that he must fight with kisses and not with arms;
that the cruel spears must be put away, and the enemy handled
with gentler dealings. So Alf rejoiced that the woman whom he
had sought over land and sea in the face of so many dangers was
now beyond all expectation in his power; whereupon he took hold
of her eagerly, and made her change her man's apparel for a
woman's; and afterwards begot on her a daughter, Gurid. Also
Borgar wedded the attendant of Alfhild, Groa, and had by her a
son, Harald, to whom the following age gave the surname

And that no one may wonder that this sex laboured at warfare, I
will make a brief digression, in order to give a short account of
the estate and character of such women. There were once women
among the Danes who dressed themselves to look like men, and
devoted almost every instant of their lives to the pursuit of
war, that they might not suffer their valour to be unstrung or
dulled by the infection of luxury. For they abhorred all dainty
living, and used to harden their minds and bodies with toil and
endurance. They put away all the softness and lightmindedness of
women, and inured their womanish spirit to masculine
ruthlessness. They sought, moreover, so zealously to be skilled
in warfare, that they might have been thought to have unsexed
themselves. Those especially, who had either force of character
or tall and comely persons, used to enter on this kind of life.
These women, therefore (just as if they had forgotten their
natural estate, and preferred sternness to soft words), offered
war rather than kisses, and would rather taste blood than busses,
and went about the business of arms more than that of amours.
They devoted those hands to the lance which they should rather
have applied to the loom. They assailed men with their spears
whom they could have melted with their looks, they thought of
death and not of dalliance. Now I will cease to wander, and will
go back to my theme.

In the early spring, Alf and Alger, who had gone back to sea-
roving, were exploring the sea in various directions, when they
lighted with a hundred ships upon Helwin, Hagbard, and Hamund,
sons of the kinglet Hamund. These they attacked and only the
twilight stayed their blood-wearied hands; and in the night the
soldiers were ordered to keep truce. On the morrow this was
ratified for good by a mutual oath; for such loss had been
suffered on both sides in the battle of the day before that they
had no force left to fight again. Thus, exhausted bye quality of
valour, they were driven perforce to make peace. About the same
time Hildigisl, a Teuton Of noble birth, relying on his looks and
his rank, sued for Signe, the daughter of Sigar. But she scorned
him, chiefly for his insignificance, inasmuch as he was not
brave, but wished to adorn his fortunes with the courage of other
people. But this woman was inclined to love Hakon, chiefly for
the high renown of his great deeds. For she thought more of the
brave than the feeble; she admired notable deeds more than looks,
knowing that every allurement of beauty is mere dross when
reckoned against simple valour, and cannot weigh equal with it in
the balance. For there are maids that are more charmed by the
fame than by the face of their lovers; who go not by the looks,
but by the mind, and whom naught but regard for a man's spirit
can kindle to pledge their own troth. Now Hagbard, going to
Denmark with the sons of Sigar, gained speech of their sister
without their knowledge, and in the end induced her to pledge her
word to him that she would secretly become his mistress.
Afterwards, when the waiting-women happened to be comparing the
honourable deeds of the nobles, she preferred Hakon to Hildigisl,
declaring that the latter had nothing to praise but his looks,
while in the case of the other a wrinkled visage was outweighed
by a choice spirit. Not content with this plain kind of praise,
she is said to have sung as follows:

"This man lacks fairness, but shines with foremost courage,
measuring his features by his force.

"For the lofty soul redeems the shortcoming of harsh looks, and
conquers the body's blemish.

"His look flashes with spirit, his face, notable in its very
harshness, delights in fierceness.

"He who strictly judges character praises not the mind for the
fair hue, but rather the complexion for the mind.

"This man is not prized for beauty, but for brave daring and war-
won honour.

"While the other is commended by his comely head and radiant
countenance and crest of lustrous locks.

"Vile is the empty grace of beauty, self-confounded the deceptive
pride of comeliness.

"Valour and looks are swayed by different inclinations: one lasts
on, the other perishes.

"Empty red and white brings in vice, and is frittered away little
by little by the lightly gliding years;

"But courage plants firmer the hearts devoted to it, and does not
slip and straightway fall.

"The voice of the multitude is beguiled by outward good, and
forsakes the rule of right;

"But I praise virtue at a higher rate, and scorn the grace of

This utterance fell on the ears of the bystanders in such a way,
that they thought she praised Hagbard under the name of Hakon.
And Hildigisl, vexed that she preferred Hagbard to himself,
bribed a certain blind man, Bolwis, to bring the sons of Sigar
and the sons of Hamund to turn their friendship into hatred. For
King Sigar had been used to transact almost all affairs by the
advice of two old men, one of whom was Bolwis. The temper of
these two men was so different, that one used to reconcile folk
who were at feud, while the other loved to sunder in hatred those
who were bound by friendship, and by estranging folk to fan
pestilent quarrels.

So Bolwis began by reviling the sons of Hamund to the sons of
Sigar, in lying slanders, declaring that they never used to
preserve the bonds of fellowship loyally, and that they must be
restrained by war rather than by league. Thus the alliance of
the young men was broken through; and while Hagbard was far away,
the sons of Sigar, Alf and Alger, made an attack, and Helwin and
Hamund were destroyed by the harbour which is called Hamund's
Bay. Hagbard then came up with fresh forces to avenge his
brothers, and destroyed them in battle. Hildigisl slunk off with
a spear through both buttocks, which was the occasion for a jeer
at the Teutons, since the ugliness of the blow did not fail to
brand it with disgrace.

Afterwards Hagbard dressed himself in woman's attire, and, as
though he had not wronged Sigar's daughter by slaying her
brothers, went back to her alone, trusting in the promise he had
from her, and feeling more safe in her loyalty than alarmed by
reason of his own misdeed. Thus does lust despise peril. And,
not to lack a pretext for his journey, he gave himself out as a
fighting-maid of Hakon, saying that he took an embassy from him
to Sigar. And when he was taken to bed at night among the
handmaids, and the woman who washed his feet were wiping them,
they asked him why he had such hairy legs, and why his hands were
not at all soft to touch, he answered:

"What wonder that the soft hollow of my foot should harden, and
that long hairs should stay on my shaggy leg, when the sand has
so often smitten my soles beneath, and the briars have caught me
in mid-step?

"Now I scour the forest with leaping, now the waters with
running. Now the sea, now the earth, now the wave is my path.

"Nor could my breast, shut in bonds of steel, and wont to be
beaten with lance and missile, ever have been soft to the touch,
as with you who are covered by the mantle or the smooth gown.

"Not the distaff or the wool-frails, but spears dripping from the
slaughter, have served for our handling."

Signe did not hesitate to back up his words with like
dissembling, and replied that it was natural that hands which
dealt more in wounds than wools, and in battle than in tasks of
the house should show the hardness that befitted their service;
and that, unenfeebled with the pliable softness of women, they
should not feel smooth to the touch of others. For they were
hardened partly by the toils of war, partly by the habit of
seafaring. For, said she, the warlike handmaid of Hakon did not
deal in woman's business, but had been wont to bring her right
hand blood-stained with hurling spears and flinging missiles. It
was no wonder, therefore, if her soles were hardened by the
immense journeys she had gone; and that, when the shores she had
scoured so often had bruised them with their rough and broken
shingle, they should toughen in a horny stiffness, and should not
feel soft to the touch like theirs, whose steps never strayed,
but who were forever cooped within the confines of the palace.
Hagbard received her as his bedfellow, under plea that he was to
have the couch of honour; and, amid their converse of mutual
delight, he addressed her slowly in such words as these:

"If thy father takes me and gives me to bitter death, wilt thou
ever, when I am dead, forget so strong a troth, and again seek
the marriage-plight?

"For if the chance should fall that way, I can hope for no room
for pardon; nor will the father who is to avenge his sons spare
or have pity.

"For I stripped thy brothers of their power on the sea and slew
them; and now, unknown to thy father, as though I had done naught
before counter to his will, I hold thee in the couch we share.

"Say, then, my one love, what manner of wish wilt thou show when
thou lackest the accustomed embrace?"

Signe answered:

"Trust me, dear; I wish to die with thee, if fate brings thy turn
to perish first, and not to prolong my span of life at all, when
once dismal death has cast thee to the tomb.

"For if thou chance to close thy eyes for ever, a victim to the
maddened attack of the men-at-arms; -- by whatsoever doom thy
breath be cut off, by sword or disease, by sea or soil, I
forswear every wanton and corrupt flame, and vow myself to a
death like thine; that they who were bound by one marriage-union
may be embraced in one and the same punishment. Nor will I quit
this man, though I am to feel the pains of death; I have resolved
he is worthy of my love who gathered the first kisses of my
mouth, and had the first fruits of my delicate youth. I think
that no vow will be surer than this, if speech of woman have any
loyalty at all."

This speech so quickened the spirit of Hagbard, that he found
more pleasure in her promise than peril in his own going away (to
his death). The serving-women betrayed him; and when Sigar's
men-at-arms attacked him, he defended himself long and
stubbornly, and slew many of them in the doorway. But at last he
was taken, and brought before the assembly, and found the voices
of the people divided over him. For very many said that he
should be punished for so great an offence; but Bilwis, the
brother of Bolwis, and others, conceived a better judgment, and
advised that it would be better to use his stout service than to
deal with him too ruthlessly. Then Bolwis came forward and
declared that it was evil advice which urged the king to pardon
when he ought to take vengeance, and to soften with unworthy
compassion his righteous impulse to anger. For how could Sigar,
in the case of this man, feel any desire to spare or pity him,
when he had not only robbed him of the double comfort of his
sons, but had also bestained him with the insult of deflowering
his daughter? The greater part of the assembly voted for this
opinion; Hagbard was condemned, and a gallows-tree planted to
receive him. Hence it came about that he who at first had hardly
one sinister voice against him was punished with general
harshness. Soon after the queen handed him a cup, and, bidding
him assuage his thirst, vexed him with threats after this manner:

"Now, insolent Hagbard, whom the whole assembly has pronounced
worthy of death, now to quench thy thirst thou shalt give thy
lips liquor to drink in a cup of horn.

"Wherefore cast away fear, and, at this last hour of thy life,
taste with bold lips the deadly goblet;

"That, having drunk it, thou mayst presently land by the
dwellings of those below, passing into the sequestered palace of
stern Dis, giving thy body to the gibbet and thy spirit to

Then the young man took the cup offered him, and is said to have
made answer as follows:

"With this hand, wherewith I cut off thy twin sons, I will take
my last taste, yea the draught of the last drink.

"Now not unavenged shall I go to the Elysian regions, not
unchastising to the stern ghosts. For these men have first been
shut in the dens of Tartarus by a slaughter wrought by my
endeavours. This right hand was wet with blood that was yours,
this hand robbed thy children of the years of their youth,
children whom thy womb brought to light; but the deadly sword
spared it not then. Infamous woman, raving in spirit, hapless,
childless mother, no years shall restore to thee the lost, no
time and no day whatsoever shall save thy child from the
starkness of death, or redeem him!"

Thus he avenged the queen's threats of death by taunting her with
the youths whom he had slain; and, flinging back the cup at her,
drenched her face with the sprinkled wine.

Meantime Signe asked her weeping women whether they could endure
to bear her company in the things which she purposed. They
promised that they would carry out and perform themselves
whatsoever their mistress should come to wish, and their promise
was loyally kept. Then, drowned in tears, she said that she
wished to follow in death the only partner of her bed that she
had ever had; and ordered that, as soon as the signal had been
given from a place of watch, torches should be put to the room,
then that halters should be made out of their robes; and to these
they should proffer their throats to be strangled, thrusting away
the support to the feet. They agreed, and that they might blench
the less at death, she gave them a draught of wine. After this
Hagbard was led to the hill, which afterwards took its name from
him, to be hanged. Then, to test the loyalty of his true love,
he told the executioners to hang up his mantle, saying that it
would be a pleasure to him if he could see the likeness of his
approaching death rehearsed in some way. The request was
granted; and the watcher on the outlook, thinking that the thing
was being done to Hagbard, reported what she saw to the maidens
who were shut within the palace. They quickly fired the house,
and thrusting away the wooden support under their feet, gave
their necks to the noose to be writhen. So Hagbard, when he saw
the palace wrapped in fire, and the familiar chamber blazing,
said that he felt more joy from the loyalty of his mistress than
sorrow at his approaching death. He also charged the bystanders
to do him to death, witnessing how little he made of his doom by
a song like this:

"Swiftly, O warriors! Let me be caught and lifted into the air.
Sweet, O my bride! Is it for me to die when thou hast gone.

"I perceive the crackling and the house ruddy with flames; and
the love, long-promised, declares our troth.

"Behold, thy covenant is fulfilled with no doubtful vows, since
thou sharest my life and my destruction.

"We shall have one end, one bond after our troth, and somewhere
our first love will live on.

"Happy am I, that have deserved to have joy of such a consort,
and not to go basely alone to the gods of Tartarus!

"Then let the knot gripe the midst of the throat; nought but
pleasure the last doom shall bring,

"Since there remains a sure hope of the renewal of love, and a
death which will soon have joys of its own.

"Either country is sweet; in both worlds shall be held in honour
the repose of our souls together, our equal truth in love,

"For, see now, I welcome the doom before me; since not even among
the shades does very love suffer the embrace of its partner to
perish." And as he spoke the executioners strangled him. And,
that none may think that all traces of antiquity have utterly
disappeared, a proof of the aforesaid event is afforded by local
marks yet existing; for the killing of Hagbard gave his name to
the stead; and not far from the town of Sigar there is a place to
be seen, where a mound a little above the level, with the
appearance of a swelling in the ground, looks like an ancient
homestead. Moreover, a man told Absalon that he had seen a beam
found in the spot, which a countryman struck with his ploughshare
as he burrowed into the clods.

Hakon, the son of Hamund, heard of this; but when he was seen to
be on the point of turning his arms from the Irish against the
Danes in order to avenge his brother, Hakon the Zealander, the
son of Wigar, and Starkad deserted him. They had been his allies
from the death of Ragnald up to that hour: one, because he was
moved by regard for friendship, the other by regard for his
birth; so that different reasons made both desire the same thing.

Now patriotism diverted Hakon (of Zealand) from attacking his
country; for it was apparent that he was going to fight his own
people, while all the rest warred with foreigners. But Starkad
forbore to become the foe of the aged Sigar, whose hospitality he
had enjoyed, lest he should be thought to wrong one who deserved
well of him. For some men pay such respect to hospitality that,
if they can remember ever to have experienced kindly offices from
folk, they cannot be thought to inflict any annoyance on them.
But Hakon thought the death of his brother a worse loss than the
defection of his champions; and, gathering his fleet into the
haven called Herwig in Danish, and in Latin Hosts' Bight, he drew
up his men, and posted his line of foot-soldiers in the spot
where the town built by Esbern now defends with its
fortifications those who dwell hard by, and repels the approach
of barbarous savages. Then he divided his forces in three, and
sent on two-thirds of his ships, appointing a few men to row to
the river Susa. This force was to advance on a dangerous voyage
along its winding reaches, and to help those on foot if
necessary. He marched in person by land with the remainder,
advancing chiefly over wooded country to escape notice. Part of
this path, which was once closed up with thick woods, is now land
ready for the plough, and fringed with a scanty scrub. And, in
order that when they got out into the plain they might not lack
the shelter of trees, he told them to cut and carry branches.
Also, that nothing might burden their rapid march, he bade them
cast away some of their clothes, as well as their scabbards; and
carry their swords naked. In memory of this event he left the
mountain and the ford a perpetual name. Thus by his night march
he eluded two pickets of sentries; but when he came upon the
third, a scout, observing the marvellous event, went to the
sleeping-room of Sigar, saying that he brought news of a
portentous thing; for he saw leaves and shrubs like men walking.
Then the king asked him how far off was the advancing forest; and
when he heard that it was near, he added that this prodigy boded
his own death. Hence the marsh where the shrubs were cut down
was styled in common parlance Deadly Marsh. Therefore, fearing
the narrow passages, he left the town, and went to a level spot
which was more open, there to meet the enemy in battle. Sigar
fought unsuccessfully, and was crushed and slain at the spot that
is called in common speech Walbrunna, but in Latin the Spring of
Corpses or Carnage. Then Hakon used his conquest to cruel
purpose, and followed up his good fortune so wickedly, that he
lusted for an indiscriminate massacre, and thought no forbearance
should be shown to rank or sex. Nor did he yield to any regard
for compassion or shame, but stained his sword in the blood of
women, and attacked mothers and children in one general and
ruthless slaughter.

SIWALD, the son of Sigar, had thus far stayed under his father's
roof. But when he heard of this, he mustered an army in order to
have his vengeance. So Hakon, alarmed at the gathering of such
numbers, went back with a third of his army to his fleet at
Herwig, and planned to depart by sea. But his colleague, Hakon,
surnamed the Proud, thought that he ought himself to feel more
confidence at the late victory than fear at the absence of Hakon;
and, preferring death to flight, tried to defend the remainder of
the army. So he drew back his camp for a little, and for a long
time waited near the town of Axelsted, for the arrival of the
fleet, blaming his friends for their tardy coming. For the fleet
that had been sent into the river had not yet come to anchor in
the appointed harbour. Now the killing of Sigar and the love of
Siwald were stirring the temper of the people one and all, so
that both sexes devoted themselves to war, and you would have
thought that the battle did not lack the aid of women.

On the morrow Hakon and Siwald met in an encounter and fought two
whole days. The combat was most frightful; both generals fell;
and victory graced the remnants of the Danes. But, in the night
after the battle, the fleet, having penetrated the Susa, reached
the appointed haven. It was once possible to row along this
river; but its bed is now choked with solid substances, and is so
narrowed by its straits that few vessels can get in, being
prevented by its sluggishness and contractedness. At daybreak,
when the sailors saw the corpses of their friends, they heaped
up, in order to bury the general, a barrow of notable size, which
is famous to this day, and is commonly named Hakon's Howe.

But Borgar, with Skanian chivalry suddenly came up and
slaughtered a multitude of them. When the enemy were destroyed,
he manned their ships, which now lacked their rowers, and
hastily, with breathless speed, pursued the son of Hamund. He
encountered him, and ill-fortune befell Hakon, who fled in hasty
panic with three ships to the country of the Scots, where, after
two years had gone by, he died.

All these perilous wars and fortunes had so exhausted the royal
line among the Danes, that it was found to be reduced to GURID
alone, the daughter of Alf, and granddaughter of Sigar. And when
the Danes saw themselves deprived of their usual high-born
sovereigns, they committed the kingdom to men of the people, and
appointed rulers out of the commons, assigning to Ostmar the
regency of Skaane, and that of Zealand to Hunding; on Hane they
conferred the lordship of Funen; while in the hands of Rorik and
Hather they put the supreme power of Jutland, the authority being
divided. Therefore, that it may not be unknown from what father
sprang the succeeding line of kings, some matters come to my mind
which must be glanced at for a while in a needful digression.

They say that Gunnar, the bravest of the Swedes, was once at feud
with Norway for the most weighty reasons, and that he was granted
liberty to attack it, but that he turned this liberty into
licence by the greatest perils, and fell, in the first of the
raids he planned, upon the district of Jather, which he put
partly to the sword and partly to the flames. Forbearing to
plunder, he rejoiced only in passing through the paths that were
covered with corpses, and the blood-stained ways. Other men used
to abstain from bloodshed, and love pillage more than slaughter;
but he preferred bloodthirstiness to booty, and liked best to
wreak his deadly pleasure by slaughtering men. His cruelty drove
the islanders to forestall the impending danger by a public
submission. Moreover, Ragnald, the King of the Northmen, now in
extreme age, when he heard how the tyrant busied himself, had a
cave made and shut up in it his daughter Drota, giving her due
attendance, and providing her maintenance for a long time. Also
he committed to the cave some swords which had been adorned with
the choicest smith-craft, besides the royal household gear; so
that he might not leave the enemy to capture and use the sword,
which he saw that he could not wield himself. And, to prevent
the cave being noticed by its height, he levelled the hump down
to the firmer ground. Then he set out to war; but being unable
with his aged limbs to go down into battle, he leaned on the
shoulders of his escort and walked forth propped by the steps of
others. So he perished in the battle, where he fought with more
ardour than success, and left his country a sore matter for

For Gunnar, in order to punish the cowardice of the conquered
race by terms of extraordinary baseness, had a dog set over them
as a governor. What can we suppose to have been his object in
this action, unless it were to make a haughty nation feel that
their arrogance was being more signally punished when they bowed
their stubborn heads before a yapping hound? To let no insult be
lacking, he appointed governors to look after public and private
affairs in its name; and he appointed separate ranks of nobles to
keep continual and steadfast watch over it. He also enacted that
if any one of the courtiers thought it contemptible to do
allegiance to their chief, and omitted offering most respectful
homage to its various goings and comings as it ran hither and
thither, he should be punished with loss of his limbs. Also
Gunnar imposed on the nation a double tribute, one to be paid out
of the autumn harvest, the other in the spring. Thus he burst
the bubble conceit of the Norwegians, to make them feel clearly
how their pride was gone, when they saw it forced to do homage to
a dog.

When he heard that the king's daughter was shut up in some
distant hiding-place, Gunnar strained his wits in every nerve to
track her out. Hence, while he was himself conducting the search
with others, his doubtful ear caught the distant sound of a
subterranean hum. Then he went on slowly, and recognized a human
voice with greater certainty. He ordered the ground underfoot to
be dug down to the solid rock; and when the cave was suddenly
laid open, he saw the winding tunnels. The servants were slain
as they tried to guard the now uncovered entrance to the cave,
and the girl was dragged out of the hole, together with the booty
therein concealed. With great foresight, she had consigned at
any rate her father's swords to the protection of a more secret
place. Gunnar forced her to submit to his will, and she bore a
son Hildiger. This man was such a rival to his father in
cruelty, that he was ever thirsting to kill, and was bent on
nothing but the destruction of men, panting with a boundless lust
for bloodshed. Outlawed by his father on account of his
unbearable ruthlessness, and soon after presented by Alver with a
government, he spent his whole life in arms, visiting his
neighbours with wars and slaughters; nor did he, in his estate of
banishment, relax his accustomed savagery a whir, but would not
change his spirit with his habitation.

Meanwhile Borgar, finding that Gunnar had married Drota, the
daughter of Ragnald, by violence, took from him both life and
wife, and wedded Drota himself. She was not an unwilling bride;
she thought it right for her to embrace the avenger of her
parent. For the daughter mourned her father, and could never
bring herself to submit with any pleasure to his murderer. This
woman and Borgar had a son Halfdan, who through all his early
youth was believed to be stupid, but whose later years proved
illustrious for the most glorious deeds, and famous for the
highest qualities that can grace life. Once, when a stripling,
he mocked in boyish fashion at a champion of noble repute, who
smote him with a buffet; whereupon Halfdan attacked him with the
staff he was carrying and killed him. This deed was an omen of
his future honours; he had hitherto been held in scorn, but
henceforth throughout his life he had the highest honour and
glory. The affair, indeed, was a prophecy of the greatness of
his deeds in war.

At this period, Rothe, a Ruthenian rover, almost destroyed our
country with his rapine and cruelty. His harshness was so
notable that, while other men spared their prisoners utter
nakedness, he did not think it uncomely to strip of their
coverings even the privy parts of their bodies; wherefore we are
wont to this day to call all severe and monstrous acts of rapine
Rothe-Ran (Rothe's Robbery). He used also sometimes to inflict
the following kind of torture: Fastening the men's right feet
firmly to the earth, he tied the left feet to boughs for the
purpose that when these should spring back the body would be rent
asunder. Hane, Prince of Funen, wishing to win honour and glory,
tried to attack this man with his sea-forces, but took to flight
with one attendant. It was in reproach of him that the proverb
arose: "The cock (Hane) fights better on its own dunghill." Then
Borgar, who could not bear to see his countrymen perishing any
longer, encountered Rothe. Together they fought and together
they perished. It is said that in this battle Halfdan was sorely
stricken, and was for some time feeble with the wounds he had
received. One of these was inflicted conspicuously on his mouth,
and its scar was so manifest that it remained as an open blotch
when all the other wounds were healed; for the crushed portion of
the lip was so ulcerated by the swelling, that the flesh would
not grow out again and mend the noisome gash. This circumstance
fixed on him a most insulting nickname,.... although wounds in
the front of the body commonly bring praise and not ignominy. So
spiteful a colour does the belief of the vulgar sometimes put
upon men's virtues.

Meanwhile Gurid, the daughter of Alf, seeing that the royal line
was reduced to herself alone, and having no equal in birth whom
she could marry, proclaimed a vow imposing chastity on herself,
thinking it better to have no husband than to take one from the
commons. Moreover, to escape outrage, she guarded her room with
a chosen band of champions. Once Halfdan happened to come to see
her. The champions, whose brother he had himself slain in his
boyhood, were away. He told her that she ought to loose her
virgin zone, and exchange her austere chastity for deeds of love;
that she ought not to give in so much to her inclination for
modesty as to be too proud to make a match, and so by her service
repair the fallen monarchy. So he bade her look on himself, who
was of eminently illustrious birth, in the light of a husband,
since it appeared that she would only admit pleasure for the
reason he had named. Gurid answered that she could not bring her
mind to ally the remnants of the royal line to a man of meaner
rank. Not content with reproaching his obscure birth, she also
taunted his unsightly countenance. Halfdan rejoined that she
brought against him two faults: one that his blood was not
illustrious enough; another, that he was blemished with a cracked
lip whose scar had never healed. Therefore he would not come
back to ask for her before he had wiped away both marks of shame
by winning glory in war.

Halfdan entreated her to suffer no man to be privy to her bed
until she heard certain tidings either of his return or his
death. The champions, whom he had bereaved of their brother long
ago, were angry that he had spoken to Gurid, and tried to ride
after him as he went away. When he saw it, he told his comrades
to go into ambush, and said he would encounter the champions
alone. His followers lingered, and thought it shameful to obey
his orders, but he drove them off with threats, saying that Gurid
should not find that fear had made him refuse to fight.
Presently he cut down an oak-tree and fashioned it into a club,
fought the twelve single-handed, and killed them. After their
destruction, not content with the honours of so splendid an
action, and meaning to do one yet greater, he got from his mother
the swords of his grandfather, one of which was called
Lyusing.... and the other Hwyting, after the sheen of its well-
whetted point. But when he heard that war was raging between
Alver, the King of Sweden, and the Ruthenians (Russians), he
instantly went to Russia, offered help to the natives, and was
received by all with the utmost honour. Alver was not far off,
there being only a little ground to cross to cover the distance
between the two. Alver's soldier Hildiger, the son of Gunnar,
challenged the champions of the Ruthenians to fight him; but when
he saw that Halfdan was put up against him, though knowing well
that he was Halfdan's brother, he let natural feeling prevail
over courage, and said that he, who was famous for the
destruction of seventy champions, would not fight with an untried
man. Therefore he told him to measure himself in enterprises of
lesser moment, and thenceforth to follow pursuits fitted to his
strength. He made this announcement not from distrust in his own
courage, but in order to preserve his uprightness; for he was not
only very valiant, but also skilled at blunting the sword with
spells. For when he remembered that Halfdan's father had slain
his own, he was moved by two feelings -- the desire to avenge his
father, and his love for his brother. He therefore thought it
better to retire from the challenge than to be guilty of a very
great crime. Halfdan demanded another champion in his place,
slew him when he appeared, and was soon awarded the palm of
valour even by the voice of the enemy, being accounted by public
acclamation the bravest of all. On the next day he asked for two
men to fight with, and slew them both. On the third day he
subdued three; on the fourth he overcame four who met him; and on
the fifth he asked for five.

When Halfdan conquered these, and when the eighth day had been
reached with an equal increase in the combatants and in the
victory, he laid low eleven who attacked him at once. Hildiger,
seeing that his own record of honours was equalled by the
greatness of Halfdan's deeds could not bear to decline to meet
him any longer. And when he felt that Halfdan had dealt him a
deadly wound with a sword wrapped in rags, he threw away his
arms, and, lying on the earth, addressed his brother as follows:

"It is pleasing to pass an hour away in mutual talk; and, while
the sword rests, to sit a little on the ground and while away the
time by speaking in turn, and keep ourselves in good heart. Time
is left for our purpose; our two destinies have a different lot;
one is surely doomed to die by a fatal weird, while triumph and
glory and all the good of living await the other in better years.
Thus our omens differ, and our portions are distinguished. Thou
art a son of the Danish land, I of the country of Sweden. Once,
Drota thy mother had her breast swell for thee; she bore me, and
by her I am thy foster-brother. Lo now, there perishes a
righteous offspring, who had the heart to fight with savage
spears; brothers born of a shining race charge and bring death on
one another; while they long for the height of power, they lose
their days, and, having now received a fatal mischief in their
desire for a sceptre, they will go to Styx in a common death.
Fast by my head stands my Swedish shield, which is adorned with
(as) a fresh mirror of diverse chasing, and ringed with layers of
marvellous fretwork. There a picture of really hues shows slain
nobles and conquered champions, and the wars also and the notable
deed of my right hand. In the midst is to be seen, painted in
bright relief, the figure of my son, whom this hand bereft of his
span of life. He was our only heir, the only thought of his
father's mind, and given to his mother with comfort from above.
An evil lot, which heaps years of ill-fortune on the joyous,
chokes mirth in mourning, and troubles our destiny. For it is
lamentable and wretched to drag out a downcast life, to draw
breath through dismal days and to chafe at foreboding. But
whatsoever things are bound by the prophetic order of the fates,
whatsoever are shadowed in the secrets of the divine plan,
whatsoever are foreseen and fixed in the course of the destinies,
no change of what is transient shall cancel these things."

When he had thus spoken, Halfdan condemned Hildiger for sloth in
avowing so late their bond of brotherhood; he declared he had
kept silence that he might not be thought a coward for refusing
to fight, or a villain if he fought; and while intent on these
words of excuse, he died. But report had given out among the
Danes that Hildiger had overthrown Halfdan. After this, Siwar, a
Saxon of very high birth, began to be a suitor for Gurid, the
only survivor of the royal blood among the Danes. Secretly she
preferred Halfdan to him, and imposed on her wooer the condition
that he should not ask her in marriage till he had united into
one body the kingdom of the Danes, which was now torn limb from
limb, and restored by arms what had been wrongfully taken from
her. Siwar made a vain attempt to do this; but as he bribed all
the guardians, she was at last granted to him in betrothal.
Halfdan heard of this in Russia through traders, and voyaged so
hard that he arrived before the time of the wedding-rites. On
their first day, before he went to the palace, he gave orders
that his men should not stir from the watches appointed them till
their ears caught the clash of the steel in the distance.
Unknown to the guests, he came and stood before the maiden, and,
that he might not reveal his meaning to too many by bare and
common speech, he composed a dark and ambiguous song as follows:

"As I left my father's sceptre, I had no fear of the wiles of
woman's device nor of female subtlety.

"When I overthrew, one and two, three and four, and soon five,
and next six, then seven, and also eight, yea eleven single-
handed, triumphant in battle.

"But neither did I then think that I was to be shamed with the
taint of disgrace, with thy frailness to thy word and thy
beguiling pledges."

Gurid answered: "My soul wavered in suspense, with slender power
over events, and shifted about with restless fickleness. The
report of thee was so fleeting, so doubtful, borne on uncertain
stories, and parched by doubting heart. I feared that the years
of thy youth had perished by the sword. Could I withstand singly
my elders and governors, when they forbade me to refuse that
thing, and pressed me to become a wife? My love and my flame are
both yet unchanged, they shall be mate and match to thine; nor
has my troth been disturbed, but shall have faithful approach to

"For my promise has not yet beguiled thee at all, though I, being
alone, could not reject the counsel of such manifold persuasion,
nor oppose their stern bidding in the matter of my consent to the
marriage bond."

Before the maiden had finished her answer, Halfdan had already
run his sword through the bridegroom. Not content with having
killed one man, he massacred most of the guests. Staggering
tipsily backwards, the Saxons ran at him, but his servants came
up and slaughtered them. After this HALFDAN took Gurid to wife.
But finding in her the fault of barrenness, and desiring much to
have offspring, he went to Upsala in order to procure
fruitfulness for her; and being told in answer, that he must make
atonement to the shades of his brother if he would raise up
children, he obeyed the oracle, and was comforted by gaining his
desire. For he had a son by Gurid, to whom he gave the name of
Harald. Under his title Halfdan tried to restore the kingdom of
the Danes to its ancient estate, as it was torn asunder by the
injuries of the chiefs; but, while fighting in Zealand, he
attacked Wesete, a very famous champion, in battle, and was
slain. Gurid was at the battle in man's attire, from love for
her son. She saw the event; the young man fought hotly, but his
companions fled; and she took him on her shoulders to a
neighbouring wood. Weariness, more than anything else, kept the
enemy from pursuing him; but one of them shot him as he hung,
with an arrow, through the hinder parts, and Harald thought that
his mother's care brought him more shame than help.

HARALD, being of great beauty and unusual size, and surpassing
those of his age in strength and stature, received such favour
from Odin (whose oracle was thought to have been the cause of his
birth), that steel could not injure his perfect soundness. The
result was, that shafts which wounded others were disabled from
doing him any harm. Nor was the boon unrequited; for he is
reported to have promised to Odin all the souls which his sword
cast out of their bodies. He also had his father's deeds
recorded for a memorial by craftsmen on a rock in Bleking,
whereof I have made mention.

After this, hearing that Wesete was to hold his wedding in
Skaane, he went to the feast disguised as a beggar; and when all
were sunken in wine and sleep, he battered the bride-chamber with
a beam. But Wesete, without inflicting a wound, so beat his
mouth with a cudgel, that he took out two teeth; but two grinders
unexpectedly broke out afterwards and repaired their loss: an
event which earned him the name of Hyldetand, which some declare
he obtained on account of a prominent row of teeth. Here he slew
Wesete, and got the sovereignty of Skaane. Next he attacked and
killed Hather in Jutland; and his fall is marked by the lasting
name of the town. After this he overthrew Hunding and Rorik,
seized Leire, and reunited the dismembered realm of Denmark into
its original shape. Then he found that Asmund, the King of the
Wikars, had been deprived of his throne by his elder sister; and,
angered by such presumption on the part of a woman, went to
Norway with a single ship, while the war was still undecided, to
help him. The battle began; and, clothed in a purple cloak, with
a coif broidered with gold, and with his hair bound up, he went
against the enemy trusting not in arms, but in his silent
certainty of his luck, insomuch that he seemed dressed more for a
feast than a fray. But his spirit did not match his attire.
For, though unarmed and only adorned with his emblems of royalty,
he outstripped the rest who bore arms, and exposed himself,
lightly-armed as he was, to the hottest perils of the battle.
For the shafts aimed against him lost all power to hurt, as if
their points had been blunted. When the other side saw him
fighting unarmed, they made an attack, and were forced for very
shame into assailing him more hotly. But Harald, whole in body,
either put them to the sword, or made them take to flight; and
thus he overthrew the sister of Asmund, and restored him his
kingdom. When Asmund offered him the prizes of victory, he said
that the reward of glory was enough by itself; and demeaned
himself as greatly in refusing the gifts as he had in earning
them. By this he made all men admire his self-restraint as much
as his valour; and declared that the victory should give him a
harvest not of gold but glory.

Meantime Alver, the King of the Swedes, died leaving sons Olaf,
Ing, and Ingild. One of these, Ing, dissatisfied with the
honours his father bequeathed him, declared war with the Danes in
order to extend his empire. And when Harald wished to inquire of
oracles how this war would end, an old man of great height, but
lacking one eye, and clad also in a hairy mantle, appeared before
him, and declared that he was called Odin, and was versed in the
practice of warfare; and he gave him the most useful instruction
how to divide up his army in the field. Now he told him,
whenever he was going to make war with his land-forces, to divide
his whole army into three squadrons, each of which he was to pack
into twenty ranks; the centre squadron, however, he was to extend
further than the rest by the number of twenty men. This squadron
he was also to arrange in the form of the point of a cone or
pyramid, and to make the wings on either side slant off obliquely
from it. He was to compose the successive ranks of each squadron
in the following way: the front should begin with two men, and
the number in each succeeding rank should only increase by one;
he was, in fact, to post a rank of three in the second line, four
in the third, and so on behind. And thus, when the men mustered,
all the succeeding ranks were to be manned at the same rate of
proportion, until the end of (the edge that made) the junction of
men came down to the wings; each wing was to be drawn up in ten
lines from that point. Likewise after these squadrons he was to
put the young men, equipped with lances, and behind these to set
the company of aged men, who would support their comrades with
what one might call a veteran valour if they faltered; next, a
skilful reckoner should attach wings of slingers to stand behind
the ranks of their fellows and attack the enemy from a distance
with missiles. After these he was to enroll men of any age or
rank indiscriminately, without heed of their estate. Moreover,
he was to draw up the rear like the vanguard, in three separated
divisions, and arranged in ranks similarly proportioned. The
back of this, joining on to the body in front would protect it by
facing in the opposite direction. But if a sea-battle happened
to occur, he should withdraw a portion of his fleet, which when
he began the intended engagement, was to cruise round that of the
enemy, wheeling to and fro continually. Equipped with this
system of warfare, he forestalled matters in Sweden, and killed
Ing and Olaf as they were making ready to fight. Their brother
Ingild sent messengers to beg a truce, on pretence of his ill-
health. Harald granted his request, that his own valour, which
had learnt to spare distress, might not triumph over a man in the
hour of lowliness and dejection. When Ingild afterwards provoked
Harald by wrongfully ravishing his sister, Harald vexed him with
long and indecisive war, but then took him into his friendship,
thinking it better to have him for ally than for enemy.

After this he heard that Olaf, King of the Thronds, had to fight
with the maidens Stikla and Rusila for the kingdom. Much angered
at this arrogance on the part of women, he went to Olaf
unobserved, put on dress which concealed the length of his teeth,
and attacked the maidens. He overthrew them both, leaving to two
harbours a name akin to theirs. It was then that he gave a
notable exhibition of valour; for defended only by a shirt under
his shoulders, he fronted the spears with unarmed breast.

When Olaf offered Harald the prize of victory, he rejected the
gift, thus leaving it a question whether he had shown a greater
example of bravery or self-control. Then he attacked a champion
of the Frisian nation, named Ubbe, who was ravaging the borders
of Jutland and destroying numbers of the common people; and when
Harald could not subdue him to his arms, he charged his soldiers
to grip him with their hands, throw him on the ground, and to
bind him while thus overpowered. Thus he only overcame the man
and mastered him by a shameful kind of attack, though a little
before he thought he would inflict a heavy defeat on him. But
Harald gave him his sister in marriage, and thus gained him for
his soldier.

Harald made tributaries of the nations that lay along the Rhine,
levying troops from the bravest of that race. With these forces
he conquered Sclavonia in war, and caused its generals, Duk and
Dal, because of their bravery, to be captured, and not killed.
These men he took to serve with him, and, after overcoming
Aquitania, soon went to Britain, where he overthrew the King of
the Humbrians, and enrolled the smartest of the warriors he had
conquered, the chief of whom was esteemed to be Orm, surnamed the
Briton. The fame of these deeds brought champions from divers
parts of the world, whom he formed into a band of mercenaries.
Strengthened by their numbers, he kept down insurrections in all
kingdoms by the terror of his name, so that he took out of their
rulers all courage to fight with one another. Moreover, no man
durst assume any sovereignty on the sea without his consent; for
of old the state of the Danes had the joint lordship of land and

Meantime Ingild died in Sweden, leaving only a very little son,
Ring, whom he had by the sister of Harald. Harald gave the boy
guardians, and put him over his father's kingdom. Thus, when he
had overcome princes and provinces, he passed fifty years in
peace. To save the minds of his soldiers from being melted into
sloth by this inaction, he decreed that they should assiduously
learn from the champions the way of parrying and dealing blows.
Some of these were skilled in a remarkable manner of fighting,
and used to smite the eyebrow on the enemy's forehead with an
infallible stroke; but if any man, on receiving the blow, blinked
for fear, twitching his eyebrow, he was at once expelled the
court and dismissed the service.

At this time Ole, the son of Siward and of Harald's sister, came
to Denmark from the land of Norway in the desire to see his
uncle. Since it is known that he had the first place among the
followers of Harald, and that after the Swedish war he came to
the throne of Denmark, it bears somewhat on the subject to relate
the traditions of his deeds. Ole, then, when he had passed his
tenth to his fifteenth year with his father, showed incredible
proofs of his brilliant gifts both of mind and body. Moreover,
he was so savage of countenance that his eyes were like the arms
of other men against the enemy, and he terrified the bravest with
his stern and flashing glance. He heard the tidings that Gunn,
ruler of Tellemark, with his son Grim, was haunting as a robber
the forest of Etha-scog, which was thick with underbrush and full
of gloomy glens. The offence moved his anger; then he asked his
father for a horse, a dog, and such armour as could be got, and
cursed his youth, which was suffering the right season for valour
to slip sluggishly away. He got what he asked, and explored the
aforesaid wood very narrowly. He saw the footsteps of a man
printed deep on the snow; for the rime was blemished by the
steps, and betrayed the robber's progress. Thus guided, he went
over a hill, and came on a very great river. This effaced the
human tracks he had seen before, and he determined that he must
cross. But the mere mass of water, whose waves ran down in a
headlong torrent, seemed to forbid all crossing; for it was full
of hidden reefs, and the whole length of its channel was turbid
with a kind of whirl of foam. Yet all fear of danger was
banished from Ole's mind by his impatience to make haste. So
valour conquered fear, and rashness scorned peril; thinking
nothing hard to do if it were only to his mind, he crossed the
hissing eddies on horseback. When he had passed these, he came
upon defiles surrounded on all sides with swamps, the interior of
which was barred from easy approach by the pinnacle of a bank in
front. He took his horse over this, and saw an enclosure with a
number of stalls. Out of this he turned many horses, and was
minded to put in his own, when a certain Tok, a servant of Gunn,
angry that a stranger should wax so insolent, attacked him
fiercely; but Ole foiled his assailant by simply opposing his
shield. Thinking it a shame to slay the fellow with the sword,
he seized him, shattered him limb by limb, and flung him across
into the house whence he had issued in his haste. This insult
quickly aroused Gunn and Grim: they ran out by different side-
doors, and charged Ole both at once, despising his age and
strength. He wounded them fatally; and, when their bodily powers
were quite spent, Grim, who could scarce muster a final gasp, and
whose force was almost utterly gone, with his last pants composed
this song:

"Though we be weak in frame, and the loss of blood has drained
our strength; since the life-breath, now drawn out by my wound,
scarce quivers softly in my pierced breast:

"I counsel that we should make the battle of our last hour
glorious with dauntless deeds, that none may say that a combat
has anywhere been bravelier waged or harder fought;

"And that our wild strife while we bore arms may, when our weary
flesh has found rest in the tomb, win us the wage of immortal

"Let our first stroke crush the shoulder-blades of the foe, let
our steel cut off both his hands; so that, when Stygian Pluto has
taken us, a like doom may fall on Ole also, and a common death
tremble over three, and one urn cover the ashes of three."

Here Grim ended. But his father, rivalling his indomitable
spirit, and wishing to give some exhortation in answer to his
son's valiant speech, thus began:

"What though our veins be wholly bloodless, and in our frail body
the life be brief, yet our last fight be so strong and strenuous
that it suffer not the praise of us to be brief also.

"Therefore aim the javelin first at the shoulders and arms of the
foe, so that the work of his hands may be weakened; and thus when
we are gone three shall receive a common sepulchre, and one urn
alike for three shall cover our united dust."

When he had said this, both of them, resting on their knees (for
the approach of death had drained their strength), made a
desperate effort to fight Ole hand to hand, in order that, before
they perished, they might slay their enemy also; counting death
as nothing if only they might envelope their slayer in a common
fall. Ole slew one of them with his sword, the other with his
hound. But even he gained no bloodless victory; for though he
had been hitherto unscathed, now at last he received a wound in
front. His dog diligently licked him over, and he regained his
bodily strength: and soon, to publish sure news of his victory,
he hung the bodies of the robbers upon gibbets in wide view.
Moreover, he took the stronghold, and put in secret keeping all
the booty he found there, in reserve for future use.

At this time the arrogant wantonness of the brothers Skate and
Hiale waxed so high that they would take virgins of notable
beauty from their parents and ravish them. Hence it came about
that they formed the purpose of seizing Esa, the daughter of
Olaf, prince of the Werms; and bade her father, if he would not
have her serve the passion of a stranger, fight either in person,
or by some deputy, in defence of his child. When Ole had news of
this, he rejoiced in the chance of a battle, and borrowing the
attire of a peasant, went to the dwelling of Olaf. He received
one of the lowest places at table; and when he saw the household
of the king in sorrow, he called the king's son closer to him,
and asked why they all wore so lamentable a face. The other
answered, that unless someone quickly interposed to protect them,
his sister's chastity would soon be outraged by some ferocious
champions. Ole next asked him what reward would be received by
the man who devoted his life for the maiden. Olaf, on his son
asking him about this matter, said that his daughter should go to
the man who fought for her: and these words, more than anything,
made Ole long to encounter the danger.

Now the maiden was wont to go from one guest to another in order
to scan their faces narrowly, holding out a light that she might
have a surer view of the dress and character of those who were
entertained. It is also believed that she divined their lineage
from the lines and features of the face, and could discern any
man's birth by sheer shrewdness of vision. When she stood and
fixed the scrutiny of her gaze upon Olaf, she was stricken with
the strange awfulness of his eyes, and fell almost lifeless. But
when her strength came slowly back, and her breath went and came
more freely, she again tried to look at the young man, but
suddenly slipped and fell forward, as though distraught. A third
time also she strove to lift her closed and downcast gaze, but
suddenly tottered and fell, unable not only to move her eyes, but
even to control her feet; so much can strength be palsied by
amazement. When Olaf saw it, he asked her why she had fallen so
often. She averred that she was stricken by the savage gaze of
the guest; that he was born of kings; and she declared that if he
could baulk the will of the ravishers, he was well worthy of her
arms. Then all of them asked Ole, who was keeping his face
muffled in a hat, to fling off his covering, and let them see
something by which to learn his features. Then, bidding them all
lay aside their grief, and keep their heart far from sorrow, he
uncovered his brow; and he drew the eyes of all upon him in
marvel at his great beauty. For his locks were golden and the
hair of his head was radiant; but he kept the lids close over his
pupils, that they might not terrify the beholders.

All were heartened with the hope of better things; the guests
seemed to dance and the courtiers to leap for joy; the deepest
melancholy seemed to be scattered by an outburst of cheerfulness.
Thus hope relieved their fears; the banquet wore a new face, and
nothing was the same, or like what it had been before. So the
kindly promise of a single guest dispelled the universal terror.
Meanwhile Hiale and Skate came up with ten servants, meaning to
carry off the maiden then and there, and disturbed all the place
with their noisy shouts. They called on the king to give battle,
unless he produced his daughter instantly. Ole at once met their
frenzy with the promise to fight, adding the condition that no
one should stealthily attack an opponent in the rear, but should
only combat in the battle face to face. Then, with his sword
called Logthi, he felled them all, single-handed -- an
achievement beyond his years. The ground for the battle was
found on an isle in the middle of a swamp, not far from which is
a stead that serves to memorise this slaughter, bearing the names
of the brothers Hiale and Skate together.

So the girl was given him as prize of the combat, and bore him a
son Omund. Then he gained his father-in-law's leave to revisit
his father. But when he heard that his country was being
attacked by Thore, with the help of Toste Sacrificer, and Leotar,
surnamed.... he went to fight them, content with a single
servant, who was dressed as a woman. When he was near the house
of Thore, he concealed his own and his attendant's swords in
hollowed staves. And when he entered the palace, he disguised
his true countenance, and feigned to be a man broken with age.
He said that with Siward he had been king of the beggars, but
that he was now in exile, having been stubbornly driven forth by
the hatred of the king's son Ole. Presently many of the
courtiers greeted him with the name of king, and began to kneel
and offer him their hands in mockery. He told them to bear out
in deeds what they had done in jest; and, plucking out the swords
which he and his man kept shut in their staves, attacked the
king. So some aided Ole, taking it more as jest than earnest,
and would not be false to the loyalty which they mockingly
yielded him; but most of them, breaking their idle vow, took the
side of Thore. Thus arose an internecine and undecided fray. At
last Thore was overwhelmed and slain by the arms of his own folk,
as much as by these of his guests; and Leotar, wounded to the
death, and judging that his conqueror, Ole, was as keen in mind
as he was valorous in deeds, gave him the name of the Vigorous,
and prophesied that he should perish by the same kind of trick as
he had used with Thore; for, without question he should fall by
the treachery of his own house. And, as he spoke, he suddenly
passed away. Thus we can see that the last speech of the dying
man expressed by its shrewd divination the end that should come
upon his conqueror.

After these deeds Ole did not go back to his father till he had
restored peace to his house. His father gave him the command of
the sea, and he destroyed seventy sea-kings in a naval battle.
The most distinguished among these were Birwil and Hwirwil,
Thorwil, Nef and Onef, Redward (?), Rand and Erand (?). By the
honour and glory of this exploit he excited many champions, whose
whole heart's desire was for bravery, to join in alliance with
him. He also enrolled into a bodyguard the wild young warriors
who were kindled with a passion for glory. Among these he
received Starkad with the greatest honour, and cherished him with
more friendship than profit. Thus fortified, he checked, by the
greatness of his name, the wantonness of the neighbouring kings,
in that he took from them all their forces and all liking and
heart for mutual warfare.

After this he went to Harald, who made him commander of the sea;
and at last he was transferred to the service of Ring. At this
time one Brun was the sole partner and confidant of all Harald's
councils. To this man both Harald and Ring, whenever they needed
a secret messenger, used to entrust their commissions. This
degree of intimacy he obtained because he had been reared and
fostered with them. But Brun, amid the toils of his constant
journeys to and fro, was drowned in a certain river; and Odin,
disguised under his name and looks, shook the close union of the
kings by his treacherous embassage; and he sowed strife so
guilefully that he engendered in men, who were bound by
friendship and blood, a bitter mutual hate, which seemed
unappeasable except by war. Their dissensions first grew up
silently; at last both sides betrayed their leanings, and their
secret malice burst into the light of day. So they declared
their feuds, and seven years passed in collecting the materials
of war. Some say that Harald secretly sought occasions to
destroy himself, not being moved by malice or jealousy for the
crown, but by a deliberate and voluntary effort. His old age and
his cruelty made him a burden to his subjects; he preferred the
sword to the pangs of disease, and liked better to lay down his
life in the battle-field than in his bed, that he might have an
end in harmony with the deeds of his past life. Thus, to make
his death more illustrious, and go to the nether world in a
larger company, he longed to summon many men to share his end;
and he therefore of his own will prepared for war, in order to
make food for future slaughter. For these reasons, being seized
with as great a thirst to die himself as to kill others, and
wishing the massacre on both sides to be equal, he furnished both
sides with equal resources; but let Ring have a somewhat stronger
force, preferring he should conquer and survive him.

(1) A parallel is the Lionel-Lancelot story of children saved by
being turned into dogs.


STARKAD was the first to set in order in Danish speech the
history of the Swedish war, a conflict whereof he was himself a
mighty pillar; the said history being rather an oral than a
written tradition. He set forth and arranged the course of this
war in the mother tongue according to the fashion of our country;
but I purpose to put it into Latin, and will first recount the
most illustrious princes on either side. For I have felt no
desire to include the multitude, which are even past exact
numbering. And my pen shall relate first those on the side of
Harald, and presently those who served under Ring.

Now the most famous of the captains that mustered to Harald are
acknowledged to have been Sweyn and Sambar (Sam?), Ambar and
Elli; Rati of Funen, Salgard and Roe (Hrothgar), whom his long
beard distinguished by a nickname. Besides these, Skalk the
Scanian, and Alf the son of Agg; to whom are joined Olwir the
Broad, and Gnepie the Old. Besides these there was Gardh,
founder of the town Stang. To these are added the kinsfolk or
bound followers of Harald: Blend (Blaeng?), the dweller in
furthest Thule, (1) and Brand, whose surname was Crumb
(Bitling?). Allied with these were Thorguy, with Thorwig, Tatar
(Teit), and Hialte. These men voyaged to Leire with bodies armed
for war; but they were also mighty in excellence of wit, and
their trained courage matched their great stature; for they had
skill in discharging arrows both from bow and catapult, and at
fighting their foe as they commonly did, man to man; and also at
readily stringing together verse in the speech of their country:
so zealously had they trained mind and body alike. Now out of
Leire came Hortar (Hjort) and Borrhy (Borgar or Borgny), and also
Belgi and Beigad, to whom were added Bari and Toli. Now out of
the town of Sle, under the captains Hetha (Heid) and Wisna, with
Hakon Cut-cheek came Tummi the Sailmaker. On these captains, who
had the bodies of women, nature bestowed the souls of men.
Webiorg was also inspired with the same spirit, and was attended
by Bo (Bui) Bramason and Brat the Jute, thirsting for war. In
the same throng came Orm of England, Ubbe the Frisian, Ari the
One-eyed, and Alf Gotar. Next in the count came Dal the Fat and
Duk the Sclav; Wisna, a woman, filled with sternness, and a
skilled warrior, was guarded by a band of Sclavs: her chief
followers were Barri and Gnizli. But the rest of the same
company had their bodies covered by little shields, and used very
long swords and targets of skiey hue, which, in time of war, they
either cast behind their backs or gave over to the baggage-
bearers; while they cast away all protection to their breasts,
and exposed their bodies to every peril, offering battle with
drawn swords. The most illustrious of these were Tolkar and Ymi.
After these, Toki of the province of Wohin was conspicuous
together with Otrit surnamed the Young. Hetha, guarded by a
retinue of very active men, brought an armed company to the war,
the chiefs of whom were Grim and Grenzli; next to whom are named
Geir the Livonian, Hame also and Hunger, Humbli and Biari,
bravest of the princes. These men often fought duels
successfully, and won famous victories far and wide.

The maidens I have named, in fighting as well as courteous array,
led their land-forces to the battle-field. Thus the Danish army
mustered company by company. There were seven kings, equal in
spirit but differing in allegiance, some defending Harald, and
some Ring. Moreover, the following went to the side of Harald:
Homi and Hosathul (Eysothul?), Him...., Hastin and Hythin (Hedin)
the Slight, also Dahar (Dag), named Grenski, and Harald Olafsson
also. From the province of Aland came Har and Herlewar
(Herleif), with Hothbrodd, surnamed the Furious; these fought in
the Danish camp. But from Imisland arrived Humnehy (?) and
Harald. They were joined by Haki and by Sigmund and Serker the
sons of Bemon, all coming from the North. All these were
retainers of the king, who befriended them most generously; for
they were held in the highest distinction by him, receiving
swords adorned with gold, and the choicest spoils of war. There
came also.... the sons of Gandal the old, who were in the
intimate favour of Harald by reason of ancient allegiance. Thus
the sea was studded with the Danish fleet, and seemed to
interpose a bridge, uniting Zealand to Skaane. To those that
wished to pass between those provinces, the sea offered a short
road on foot over the dense mass of ships. But Harald would not
have the Swedes unprepared in their arrangements for war, and
sent men to Ring to carry his public declaration of hostilities,
and notify the rupture of the mediating peace. The same men were
directed to prescribe the place of combat. These then whom I
have named were the fighters for Harald.

Now, on the side of Ring were numbered Ulf, Aggi (Aki?), Windar
(Eywind?), Egil the One-eyed; Gotar, Hildi, Guti Alfsson; Styr
the Stout, and (Tolo-) Stein, who lived by the Wienic Mere. To
these were joined Gerd the Glad and Gromer (Glum?) from Wermland.
After these are reckoned the dwellers north on the Elbe, Saxo the
Splitter, Sali the Goth; Thord the Stumbler, Throndar Big-nose;
Grundi, Oddi, Grindir, Tovi; Koll, Biarki, Hogni the Clever,
Rokar the Swart. Now these scorned fellowship with the common
soldiers, and had formed themselves into a separate rank apart
from the rest of the company. Besides these are numbered Hrani
Hildisson and Lyuth Guthi (Hljot Godi), Svein the Topshorn,
(Soknarsoti?), Rethyr (Hreidar?) Hawk, and Rolf the Uxorious
(Woman-lover). Massed with these were Ring Adilsson and Harald
who came from Thotn district. Joined to these were Walstein of
Wick, Thorolf the Thick, Thengel the Tall, Hun, Solwe, Birwil the
Pale, Borgar and Skumbar (Skum). But from, Tellemark came the
bravest of all, who had most courage but least arrogance --
Thorleif the Stubborn, Thorkill the Gute (Gothlander), Grettir
the Wicked and the Lover of Invasions. Next to these came Hadd
the Hard and Rolder (Hroald) Toe-joint.

From Norway we have the names of Thrand of Throndhjem, Thoke
(Thore) of More, Hrafn the White, Haf (war), Biarni, Blihar
(Blig?) surnamed Snub-nosed; Biorn from the district of Sogni;
Findar (Finn) born in the Firth; Bersi born in the town F(I)alu;
Siward Boarhead, Erik the Story-teller, Holmstein the White, Hrut
Rawi (or Vafi, the Doubter), Erling surnamed Snake. Now from the
province of Jather came Odd the Englishman, Alf the Far-wanderer,
Enar the Paunched, and Ywar surnamed Thriug. Now from Thule
(Iceland) came Mar the Red, born and bred in the district called
Midfirth; Grombar the Aged, Gram Brundeluk (Bryndalk?) Grim from
the town of Skier (um) born in Skagafiord. Next came Berg the
Seer, accompanied by Bragi and Rafnkel.

Now the bravest of the Swedes were these: Arwakki, Keklu-Karl
(Kelke-Karl), Krok the Peasant, (from Akr), Gudfast and Gummi
from Gislamark. These were kindred of the god Frey, and most
faithful witnesses to the gods. Ingi (Yngwe) also, and Oly,
Alver, Folki, all sons of Elrik (Alrek), embraced the service of
Ring; they were men ready of hand, quick in counsel, and very
close friends of Ring. They likewise held the god Frey to be the
founder of their race. Amongst these from the town of Sigtun
also came Sigmund, a champion advocate, versed in making
contracts of sale and purchase; besides him Frosti surnamed Bowl:
allied with him was Alf the Lofty (Proud?) from the district of
Upsala; this man was a swift spear-thrower, and used to go in the
front of the battle.

Ole had a body-guard in which were seven kings, very ready of
hand and of counsel; namely, Holti, Hendil, Holmar, Lewy (Leif),
and Hame; with these was enrolled Regnald the Russian, the
grandson of Radbard; and Siwald also furrowed the sea with eleven
light ships. Lesy (Laesi), the conqueror of the Pannonians
(Huns), fitted with a sail his swift galley ringed with gold.
Thririkar (Erik Helsing) sailed in a ship whose prows were
twisted like a dragon. Also Thrygir (Tryggve) and Torwil sailed
and brought twelve ships jointly. In the entire fleet of Ring
there were 2,500 ships.

The fleet of Gotland was waiting for the Swedish fleet in the
harbour named Garnum. So Ring led the land-force, while Ole was
instructed to command the fleet. Now the Goths were appointed a
time and a place between Wik and Werund for the conflict with the
Swedes. Then was the sea to be seen furrowed up with prows, and
the canvas unfurled upon the masts cut off the view over the
ocean. The Danes had so far been distressed with bad weather;
but the Swedish fleet had a fair voyage, and had reached the
scene of battle earlier. Here Ring disembarked his forces from
his fleet, and then massed and prepared to draw up in line both
these and the army he had himself conducted overland. When these
forces were at first loosely drawn up over the open country, it
was found that one wing reached all the way to Werund. The
multitude was confused in its places and ranks; but the king rode
round it, and posted in the van all the smartest and most
excellently-armed men, led by Ole, Regnald, and Wivil; then he
massed the rest of the army on the two wings in a kind of curve.
Ung, with the sons of Alrek, and Trig, he ordered to protect the
right wing, while the left was put under the command of Laesi.
Moreover, the wings and the masses were composed mainly of a
close squadron of Kurlanders and of Esthonians. Last stood the
line of slingers.

Meantime the Danish fleet, favoured by kindly winds, sailed,
without stopping, for twelve days, and came to the town (stead)
of Kalmar. The wind-blown sails covering the waters were a
marvel; and the canvas stretched upon the yards blotted out the
sight of the heavens. For the fleet was augmented by the Sclavs
and the Livonians and 7,000 Saxons. But the Skanians, knowing
the country, were appointed as guides and scouts to those who
were going over the dry land. So when the Danish army came upon
the Swedes, who stood awaiting them, Ring told his men to stand
quietly until Harald had drawn up his line of battle; bidding
them not to sound the signal before they saw the king settled in
his chariot beside the standards; for he said he should hope that
an army would soon come to grief which trusted in the leading of
a blind man. Harald, moreover, he said, had been seized in
extreme age with the desire of foreign empire, and was as witless
as he was sightless; wealth could not satisfy a man who, if he
looked to his years, ought to be well-nigh contented with a
grave. The Swedes therefore were bound to fight for their
freedom, their country, and their children, while the enemy had
undertaken the war in rashness and arrogance. Moreover, on the
other side, there were very few Danes, but a mass of Saxons and
other unmanly peoples stood arrayed. Swedes and Norwegians
should therefore consider, how far the multitudes of the North
had always surpassed the Germans and the Sclavs. They should
therefore despise an army which seemed to be composed more of a
mass of fickle offscourings than of a firm and stout soldiery.

By this harangue of King Ring he kindled high the hearts of the
soldiers. Now Brun, being instructed to form the line on
Harald's behalf, made the front in a wedge, posting Hetha on the
right flank, putting Hakon in command of the left, and making
Wisna standard-bearer. Harald stood up in his chariot and
complained, in as loud a voice as he could, that Ring was
requiting his benefits with wrongs; that the man who had got his
kingdom. by Harald's own gift was now attacking him; so that Ring
neither pitied an old man nor spared an uncle, but set his own
ambitions before any regard for Harald's kinship or kindness. So
he bade the Danes remember how they had always won glory by
foreign conquest, and how they were more wont to command their
neighbours than to obey them. He adjured them not to let such
glory as theirs to be shaken by the insolence of a conquered
nation, nor to suffer the empire, which he had won in the flower
of his youth, to be taken from him in his outworn age.

Then the trumpets sounded, and both sides engaged in battle with
all their strength. The sky seemed to fall suddenly on the
earth, fields and woods to sink into the ground; all things were
confounded, and old Chaos come again; heaven and earth mingling
in one tempestuous turmoil, and the world rushing to universal
ruin. For, when the spear-throwing began, the intolerable clash
of arms filled the air with an incredible thunder. The steam of
the wounds suddenly hung a mist over the sky, the daylight was
hidden under the hail of spears. The help of the slingers was of
great use in the battle. But when the missiles had all been
flung from hand or engines, they fought with swords or iron-shod
maces; and it was now at close quarters that most blood was
spilt. Then the sweat streamed down their weary bodies, and the
clash of the swords could be heard afar.

Starkad, who was the first to set forth the history of this war
in the telling, fought foremost in the fray, and relates that he
overthrew the nobles of Harald, Hun and Elli, Hort and Burgha,
and cut off the right hand of Wisna. He also relates that one
Roa, with two others, Gnepie and Gardar, fell wounded by him in
the field. To these he adds the father of Skalk, whose name is
not given. He also declares that he cast Hakon, the bravest of
the Danes, to the earth, but received from him such a wound in
return that he had to leave the war with his lung protruding from
his chest, his neck cleft to the centre, and his hand deprived of
one finger; so that he long had a gaping wound, which seemed as
if it would never either scar over or be curable. The same man
witnesses that the maiden Weghbiorg (Webiorg) fought against the
enemy and felled Soth the champion. While she was threatening to
slay more champions, she was pierced through by an arrow from the
bowstring of Thorkill, a native of Tellemark. For the skilled
archers of the Gotlanders strung their bows so hard that the
shafts pierced through even the shields; nothing proved more
murderous; for the arrow-points made their way through hauberk
and helmet as if they were men's defenceless bodies.

Meanwhile Ubbe the Frisian, who was the readiest of Harald's
soldiers, and of notable bodily stature, slew twenty-five picked
champions, besides eleven whom he had wounded in the field. All
these were of Swedish or Gothic blood. Then he attacked the
vanguard and burst into the thickest of the enemy, driving the
Swedes struggling in a panic every way with spear and sword. It
had all but come to a flight, when Hagder (Hadd), Rolder
(Hroald), and Grettir attacked the champion, emulating his
valour, and resolving at their own risk to retrieve the general
ruin. But, fearing to assault him at close quarters, they
accomplished their end with arrows from afar; and thus Ubbe was
riddled by a shower of arrows, no one daring to fight him hand to
hand. A hundred and forty-four arrows had pierced the breast of
the warrior before his bodily strength failed and he bent his
knee to the earth. Then at last the Danes suffered a great
defeat, owing to the Thronds and the dwellers in the province of
Dala. For the battle began afresh by reason of the vast mass of
the archers, and nothing damaged our men more.

But when Harald, being now blind with age, heard the lamentable
murmur of his men, he perceived that fortune had smiled on his
enemies. So, as he was riding in a chariot armed with scythes,
he told Brun, who was treacherously acting as charioteer, to find
out in what manner Ring had his line drawn up. Brun's face
relaxed into something of a smile, and he answered that he was
fighting with a line in the form of a wedge. When the king heard
this he began to be alarmed, and to ask in great astonishment
from whom Ring could have learnt this method of disposing his
line, especially as Odin was the discoverer and imparter of this
teaching, and none but himself had ever learnt from him this new
pattern of warfare. At this Brun was silent, and it came into
the king's mind that here was Odin, and that the god whom he had
once known so well was now disguised in a changeful shape, in
order either to give help or withhold it. Presently he began to
beseech him earnestly to grant the final victory to the Danes,
since he had helped them so graciously before, and to fill up his
last kindness to the measure of the first; promising to dedicate
to him as a gift the spirits of all who fell. But Brun, utterly
unmoved by his entreaties, suddenly jerked the king out of the
chariot, battered him to the earth, plucked the club from him as
he fell, whirled it upon his head, and slew him with his own
weapon. Countless corpses lay round the king's chariot, and the
horrid heap overtopped the wheels; the pile of carcases rose as
high as the pole. For about 12,000 of the nobles of Ring fell
upon the field. But on the side of Harald about 30,000 nobles
fell, not to name the slaughter of the commons.

When Ring heard that Harald was dead, he gave the signal to his
men to break up their line and cease fighting. Then under cover
of truce he made treaty with the enemy, telling them that it was
vain to prolong the fray without their captain. Next he told the
Swedes to look everywhere among the confused piles of carcases
for the body of Harald, that the corpse of the king might not
wrongfully lack its due rights. So the populace set eagerly to
the task of turning over the bodies of the slain, and over this
work half the day was spent. At last the body was found with the
club, and he thought that propitiation should be made to the
shade of Harald. So he harnessed the horse on which he rode to
the chariot of the king, decked it honourably with a golden
saddle, and hallowed it in his honour. Then he proclaimed his
vows, and added his prayer that Harald would ride on this and
outstrip those who shared his death in their journey to Tartarus;
and that he would pray Pluto, the lord of Orcus, to grant a calm
abode there for friend and foe. Then he raised a pyre, and bade
the Danes fling on the gilded chariot of their king as fuel to
the fire. And while the flames were burning the body cast upon
them, he went round the mourning nobles and earnestly charged
them that they should freely give arms, gold, and every precious
thing to feed the pyre in honour of so great a king, who had
deserved so nobly of them all. He also ordered that the ashes of
his body, when it was quite burnt, should be transferred to an
urn, taken to Leire, and there, together with the horse and
armour, receive a royal funeral. By paying these due rites of
honour to his uncle's shade, he won the favour of the Danes, and
turned the hate of his enemies into goodwill. Then the Danes
besought him to appoint Hetha over the remainder of the realm;
but, that the fallen strength of the enemy might not suddenly
rally, he severed Skaane from the mass of Denmark, and put it
separately under the governorship of Ole, ordering that only
Zealand and the other lands of the realm should be subject to
Hetha. Thus the changes of fortune brought the empire of Denmark
under the Swedish rule. So ended the Bravic war.

But the Zealanders, who had had Harald for their captain, and
still had the picture of their former fortune hovering before
their minds, thought it shameful to obey the rule of a woman, and
appealed to OLE not to suffer men that had been used to serve
under a famous king to be kept under a woman's yoke. They also
promised to revolt to him if he would take up arms to remove
their ignominious lot. Ole, tempted as much by the memory of his
ancestral glory as by the homage of the soldiers, was not slow to
answer their entreaties. So he summoned Hetha, and forced her by
threats rather than by arms to quit every region under her
control except Jutland; and even Jutland he made a tributary
state, so as not to allow a woman the free control of a kingdom.
He also begot a son whom he named Omund. But he was given to
cruelty, and showed himself such an unrighteous king, that all
who had found it a shameful thing to be ruled by a queen now
repented of their former scorn.

Twelve generals, whether moved by the disasters of their country,
or hating Ole for some other reason, began to plot against his
life. Among these were Hlenni, Atyl, Thott, and Withne, the last
of whom was a Dane by birth, though he held a government among
the Sclavs. Moreover, not trusting in their strength and their
cunning to accomplish their deed, they bribed Starkad to join
them. He was prevailed to do the deed with the sword; he
undertook the bloody work, and resolved to attack the king while
at the bath. In he went while the king was washing, but was
straightway stricken by the keenness of his gaze and by the
restless and quivering glare of his eyes. His limbs were palsied
with sudden dread; he paused, stepped back, and stayed his hand
and his purpose. Thus he who had shattered the arms of so many
captains and champions could not bear the gaze of a single
unarmed man. But Ole, who well knew about his own countenance,
covered his face, and asked him to come closer and tell him what
his message was; for old fellowship and long-tried friendship
made him the last to suspect treachery. But Starkad drew his
sword, leapt forward, thrust the king through, and struck him in
the throat as he tried to rise. One hundred and twenty marks of
gold were kept for his reward. Soon afterwards he was smitten
with remorse and shame, and lamented his crime so bitterly, that
he could not refrain from tears if it happened to be named. Thus
his soul, when he came to his senses, blushed for his abominable
sin. Moreover, to atone for the crime he had committed, he slew
some of those who had inspired him to it, thus avenging the act
to which he had lent his hand.

Now the Danes made OMUND, the son of Ole, king, thinking that
more heed should be paid to his father's birth than to his
deserts. Omund, when he had grown up, fell in nowise behind the
exploits of his father; for he made it his aim to equal or
surpass the deeds of Ole.

At this time a considerable tribe of the Northmen (Norwegians)
was governed by Ring, and his daughter Esa's great fame commended
her to Omund, who was looking out for a wife.

But his hopes of wooing her were lessened by the peculiar
inclination of Ring, who desired no son-in-law but one of tried
valour; for he found as much honour in arms as others think lies
in wealth. Omund therefore, wishing to become famous in that
fashion, and to win the praise of valour, endeavoured to gain his
desire by force, and sailed to Norway with a fleet, to make an
attempt on the throne of Ring under plea of hereditary right.
Odd, the chief of Jather, who declared that Ring had assuredly
seized his inheritance, and lamented that he harried him with
continual wrongs, received Omund kindly. Ring, in the meantime,
was on a roving raid in Ireland, so that Omund attacked a
province without a defender. Sparing the goods of the common
people, he gave the private property of Ring over to be
plundered, and slew his kinsfolk; Odd also having joined his
forces to Omund. Now, among all his divers and manifold deeds,
he could never bring himself to attack an inferior force,
remembering that he was the son of a most valiant father, and
that he was bound to fight armed with courage, and not with

Meanwhile Ring had returned from roving; and when Omund heard he
was back, he set to and built a vast ship, whence, as from a
fortress, he could rain his missiles on the enemy. To manage
this ship he enlisted Homod and Thole the rowers, the soils of
Atyl the Skanian, one of whom was instructed to act as steersman,
while the other was to command at the prow. Ring lacked neither
skill nor. dexterity to encounter them. For he showed only a
small part of his forces, and caused the enemy to be attacked on
the rear. Omund, when told of his strategy by Odd, sent men to
overpower those posted in ambush, telling Atyl the Skanian to
encounter Ring. The order was executed with more rashness than
success; and Atyl, with his power defeated and shattered, fled
beaten to Skaane. Then Omund recruited his forces with the help
of Odd, and drew up his fleet to fight on the open sea.

Atyl at this time had true visions of the Norwegian war in his
dreams, and started on his voyage in order to make up for his
flight as quickly as possible, and delighted Omund by joining him
on the eve of battle. Trusting in his help, Omund began to fight
with equal confidence and success. For, by fighting himself, he
retrieved the victory which he had lost when his servants were
engaged. Ring, wounded to the death, gazed at him with faint
eyes, and, beckoning to him with his hand, as well as he could --
for his voice failed him -- he besought him to be his son-in-law,
saying that he would gladly meet his end if he left his daughter
to such a husband. Before he could receive an answer he died.
Omund wept for his death, and gave Homod, whose trusty help he
had received in the war, in marriage to one of the daughters of
Ring, taking the other himself.

At the same time the amazon Rusla, whose prowess in warfare
exceeded the spirit of a woman, had many fights in Norway with
her brother, Thrond, for the sovereignty. She could not endure
that Omund rule over the Norwegians, and she had declared war
against all the subjects of the Danes. Omund, when he heard of
this, commissioned his most active men to suppress the rising.
Rusla conquered them, and, waxing haughty on her triumph, was
seized with overweening hopes, and bent her mind upon actually
acquiring the sovereignty of Denmark. She began her attack on
the region of Halland, but was met by Homod and Thode, whom the
king had sent over. Beaten, she retreated to her fleet, of which
only thirty ships managed to escape, the rest being taken by the
enemy. Thrond encountered his sister as she was eluding the
Danes, but was conquered by her and stripped of his entire army;
he fled over the Dovrefjeld without a single companion. Thus
she, who had first yielded before the Danes, soon overcame her
brother, and turned her flight into a victory. When Omund heard
of this, he went back to Norway with a great fleet, first sending
Homod and Thole by a short and secret way to rouse the people of
Tellemark against the rule of Rusla. The end was that she was
driven out of her kingdom by the commons, fled to the isles for
safety, and turned her back, without a blow, upon the Danes as
they came up. The king pursued her hotly, caught up her fleet on
the sea, and utterly destroyed it, the enemy suffered mightily,
and he won a bloodless victory and splendid spoils. But Rusla
escaped with a very few ships, and rowed ploughing the waves
furiously; but, while she was avoiding the Danes, she met her
brother and was killed. So much more effectual for harm are
dangers unsurmised; and chance sometimes makes the less alarming
evil worse than that which threatens. The king gave Thrond a
governorship for slaying his sister, put the rest under tribute,
and returned home.

At this time Thorias (?) and Ber (Biorn), the most active of the
soldiers of Rusla, were roving in Ireland; but when they heard of
the death of their mistress, whom they had long ago sworn to
avenge, they hotly attacked Omund, and challenged him to a duel,
which it used to be accounted shameful for a king to refuse; for
the fame of princes of old was reckoned more by arms than by
riches. So Homod and Thole came forward, offering to meet in
battle the men who had challenged the king. Omund praised them
warmly, but at first declined for very shame to allow their help.
At last, hard besought by his people, he brought himself to try
his fortune by the hand of another. We are told that Ber fell in
this combat, while Thorias left the battle severely wounded. The
king, having first cured him of his wounds, took him into his
service, and made him prince (earl) over Norway. Then he sent
ambassadors to exact the usual tribute from the Sclavs; these
were killed, and he was even attacked in Jutland by a Sclavish
force; but he overcame seven kings in a single combat, and
ratified by conquest his accustomed right to tribute.

Meantime, Starkad, who was now worn out with extreme age, and who
seemed to be past military service and the calling of a champion,
was loth to lose his ancient glory through the fault of eld, and
thought it would be a noble thing if he could make a voluntary
end, and hasten his death by his own free will. Having so often
fought nobly, he thought it would be mean to die a bloodless
death; and, wishing to enhance the glory of his past life by the
lustre of his end, he preferred to be slain by some man of
gallant birth rather than await the tardy shaft of nature. So
shameful was it thought that men devoted to war should die by
disease. His body was weak, and his eyes could not see clearly,
so that he hated to linger any more in life. In order to buy
himself an executioner, he wore hanging on his neck the gold
which he had earned for the murder of Ole; thinking there was no
fitter way of atoning for the treason he had done than to make
the price of Ole's death that of his own also, and to spend on
the loss of his own life what he had earned by the slaying of
another. This, he thought, would be the noblest use he could
make of that shameful price. So he girded him with two swords,
and guided his powerless steps leaning on two staves.

One of the common people, seeing him, thinking two swords
superfluous for the use of an old man, mockingly asked him to
make him a present of one of them. Starkad, holding out hopes of
consent, bade him come nearer, drew the sword from his side, and
ran him through. This was seen by a certain Hather, whose father
Hlenne Starkad had once killed in repentance for his own impious
crime. Hatfier was hunting game with his dogs, but now gave over
the chase, and bade two of his companions spur their horses hard
and charge at the old man to frighten him. They galloped
forward, and tried to make off, but were stopped by the staves of
Starkad, and paid for it with their lives. Hather, terrified by
the sight, galloped up closer, and saw who the old man was, but
without being recognized by him in turn; and asked him if he
would like to exchange his sword for a carriage. Starkad replied
that he used in old days to chastise jeerers, and that the
insolent had never insulted him unpunished. But his sightless
eyes could not recognize the features of the youth; so he
composed a song, wherein he should declare the greatness of his
anger, as follows:

"As the unreturning waters sweep down the channel; so, as the
years run by, the life of man flows on never to come back; fast
gallops the cycle of doom, child of old age who shall make an end
of all. Old age smites alike the eyes and the steps of men, robs
the warrior of his speech and soul, tarnishes his fame by slow
degrees, and wipes out his deeds of honour. It seizes his
failing limbs, chokes his panting utterance, and numbs his nimble
wit. When a cough is taken, when the skin itches with the scab,
and the teeth are numb and hollow, and the stomach turns
squeamish, -- then old age banishes the grace of youth, covers
the complexion with decay, and sows many a wrinkle in the dusky
skin. Old age crushes noble arts, brings down the memorials of
men of old, and scorches ancient glories up; shatters wealth,
hungrily gnaws away the worth and good of virtue, turns athwart
and disorders all things.

"I myself have felt the hurtful power of injurious age, I,
dim-sighted, and hoarse in my tones and in my chest; and all
helpful things have turned to my hurt. Now my body is less
nimble, and I prop it up, leaning my faint limbs on the support
of staves. Sightless I guide my steps with two sticks, and
follow the short path which the rod shows me, trusting more in
the leading of a stock than in my eyes. None takes any charge of
me, and no man in the ranks brings comfort to the veteran,
unless, perchance, Hather is here, and succours his shattered
friend. Whomsoever Hather once thinks worthy of his duteous
love, that man he attends continually with even zeal, constant to
his purpose, and fearing to break his early ties. He also often
pays fit rewards to those that have deserved well in war, and
fosters their courage; he bestows dignities on the brave, and
honours his famous friends with gifts. Free with his wealth, he
is fain to increase with bounty the brightness of his name, and
to surpass many of the mighty. Nor is he less in war: his
strength is equal to his goodness; he is swift in the fray, slow
to waver, ready to give battle; and he cannot turn his back when
the foe bears him hard. But for me, if I remember right, fate
appointed at my birth that wars I should follow and in war I
should die, that I should mix in broils, watch in arms, and pass
a life of bloodshed. I was a man of camps, and rested not;
hating peace, I grew old under thy standard, O War-god, in utmost
peril; conquering fear, I thought it comely to fight, shameful to
loiter, and noble to kill and kill again, to be for ever
slaughtering! Oft have I seen the stern kings meet in war, seen
shield and helmet bruised, and the fields redden with blood, and
the cuirass broken by the spear-point, and the corselets all
around giving at the thrust of the steel, and the wild beasts
battening on the unburied soldier. Here, as it chanced, one that
attempted a mighty thing, a strong-handed warrior, fighting
against the press of the foe, smote through the mail that covered
my head, pierced my helmet, and plunged his blade into my crest.
This sword also hath often been driven by my right hand in war,
and, once unsheathed, hath cleft the skin and bitten into the

Hather, in answer, sang as follows:

"Whence comest thou, who art used to write the poems of thy land,
leaning thy wavering steps on a frail staff? Or whither dost
thou speed, who art the readiest bard of the Danish muse? All
the glory of thy great strength is faded and lost; the hue is
banished from thy face, the joy is gone out of thy soul; the
voice has left thy throat, and is hoarse and dull; thy body has
lost its former stature; the decay of death begins, and has
wasted thy features and thy force. As a ship wearies, buffeted
by continual billows, even so old age, gendered by a long course
of years, brings forth bitter death; and the life falls when its
strength is done, and suffers the loss of its ancient lot.
Famous old man, who has told thee that thou mayst not duly follow
the sports of youth, or fling balls, or bite and eat the nut? I
think it were better for thee now to sell thy sword, and buy a
carriage wherein to ride often, or a horse easy on the bit, or at
the same cost to purchase a light cart. It will be more fitting
for beasts of burden to carry weak old men, when their steps fail
them; the wheel, driving round and round, serves for him whose
foot totters feebly. But if perchance thou art loth to sell the
useless steel, thy sword, if it be not for sale, shall be taken
from thee and shall slay thee."

Starkad answered: "Wretch, thy glib lips scatter idle words,
unfit for the ears of the good. Why seek the gifts to reward
that guidance, which thou shouldst have offered for naught?
Surely I will walk afoot, and will not basely give up my sword
and buy the help of a stranger; nature has given me the right of
passage, and hath bidden me trust in my own feet. Why mock and
jeer with insolent speech at him whom thou shouldst have offered
to guide upon his way? Why give to dishonour my deeds of old,
which deserve the memorial of fame? Why requite my service with
reproach? Why pursue with jeers the old man mighty in battle,
and put to shame my unsurpassed honours and illustrious deeds,
belittling my glories and girding at my prowess? For what valour
of thine dost thou demand my sword, which thy strength does not
deserve? It befits not the right hand or the unwarlike side of a
herdsman, who is wont to make his peasant-music on the pipe, to
see to the flock, to keep the herds in the fields. Surely among
the henchmen, close to the greasy pot, thou dippest thy crust in
the bubbles of the foaming pan, drenching a meagre slice in the
rich, oily fat, and stealthily, with thirsty finger, licking the
warm juice; more skilled to spread thy accustomed cloak on the
ashes, to sleep on the hearth, and slumber all day long, and go
busily about the work of the reeking kitchen, than to make the
brave blood flow with thy shafts in war. Men think thee a hater
of the light and a lover of a filthy hole, a wretched slave of
thy belly, like a whelp who licks the coarse grain, husk and all.

"By heaven, thou didst not try to rob me of my sword when thrice
at great peril I fought (for?) the son of Ole. For truly, in
that array, my hand either broke the sword or shattered the
obstacle, so heavy was the blow of the smiter. What of the day
when I first taught them, to run with wood-shod feet over the
shore of the Kurlanders, and the path bestrewn with countless
points? For when I was going to the fields studded with
calthrops, I guarded their wounded feet with clogs below them.
After this I slew Hame, who fought me mightily; and soon, with
the captain Rin the son of Flebak, I crushed the Kurlanders, yea,
or all the tribes Esthonia breeds, and thy peoples, O Semgala!
Then I attacked the men of Tellemark, and took thence my head
bloody with bruises, shattered with mallets, and smitten with the
welded weapons. Here first I learnt how strong was the iron
wrought on the anvil, or what valour the common people had. Also
it was my doing that the Teutons were punished, when, in avenging
my lord, I laid low over their cups thy sons, O Swerting, who
were guilty of the wicked slaughter of Frode.

"Not less was the deed when, for the sake of a beloved maiden, I
slew nine brethren in one fray; -- witness the spot, which was
consumed by the bowels that left me, and brings not forth the
grain anew on its scorched sod. And soon, when Ker the captain
made ready a war by sea, with a noble army we beat his serried
ships. Then I put Waske to death, and punished the insolent
smith by slashing his hinder parts; and with the sword I slew
Wisin, who from the snowy rocks blunted the spears. Then I slew
the four sons of Ler, and the champions of Permland; and then
having taken the chief of the Irish race, I rifled the wealth of
Dublin; and our courage shall ever remain manifest by the
trophies of Bravalla. Why do I linger? Countless are the deeds
of my bravery, and when I review the works of my hands I fail to
number them to the full. The whole is greater than I can tell.
My work is too great for fame, and speech serves not for my

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