Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
CHAPTER ZERO POINT TWO
0.2 PROLOGUE – PRINCE HRAERIK’S AMLETH (HAMLET) (Circa 500 AD)
NOTE: The PROLOGUE CHAPTERS are Optional Reading, as they cover The Nine Books of Danish History up to King Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’ whose Saga starts in Book Nine. Please feel free to jump directly to Chapter One and the Start of the Saga if you are not interested in the Earlier History.
PROLOGUE (From The Nine Books of Danish History by Saxo Grammaticus):
CHAPTER ZERO POINT TWO
0.2 PROLOGUE – PRINCE HRAERIK’S AMLETH (HAMLET) (Circa 500 AD)
“Saxo has placed the ‘Amleth’ tale here in Books 3 and 4 of his histories, perhaps thinking that his Erik Desertus (Bragi) character in his following Book 5 was the original writer of the tale of ‘Amleth, Prince of Denmark’. I suspect, however, that this Erik Bragi ‘the Old’ had learned of the Tale of Lucius Junius Brutus from the Romans of Constantinople and wrote Amleth based on that ancient tale from the founding of Rome.”
Brian Howard Seibert
BASED UPON SAXO’S BOOK THREE:
THE SAGA OF AMLETH, PRINCE OF DENMARK (TBA, ORIGINAL BELOW):
(Circa 500 AD) There were two princes called Horwendil and Feng, whose father Gerwendil had been governor of the Jutes in Aar, and they were appointed in his place by King Rorik of Denmark to defend Jutland. But Prince Horwendil held the monarchy for three years, and then, to win the height of glory, devoted himself to roving. Then Koller, King of Thule, roving in rivalry of his great deeds and renown, deemed it would be a handsome deed if by his greater strength in arms he could bedim the far-famed glory of the rover; and cruising about the sea, he watched for Horwendil’s fleet and came up upon it. There was an island lying near Jutland called Samso, which each of the rovers, bringing his ships up on either side, was holding. The captains were tempted by the pleasant look of the beach, and the comeliness of the shores led them to look through the interior of the springtide woods, to go through the glades, and roam over the sequestered forests. It was there that the advance of Koller and Horwendil brought them face to face without any witness. Prince Horwendil addressed the king first, “By what weapons would you prefer to duel?”
“Sword and buckler will do,” King Koller replied. “But since the issue remains in doubt, we must both agree to properly build a howe in the true Aesir fashion to house the bones of the one who is slain.”
“I fully concur with that,” Horwendil agreed.
After mutually pledging their words to this term, they began the battle. They fought back and forth, exchanging blows for a time, but Horwendil, in his great ardour, felt berserk rage overtake his body, and he knew no steel could bite him in that state, so he tossed his shield out into the woods and he grasped his sword with both hands and rained blows upon Koller’s shield and destroyed it, and then hewed off his foot as his shield still remained and, when Koller fell, he drove his sword through him and pinned him lifeless to the ground. Then, not to fail of his compact, he buried him royally, gave him a howe of lordly make and pompous obsequies that Samso became famous for. King Koller’s sister, Shield-Maiden Princess Sela, was a skilled warrior who had been roving in Denmark nearby. When she heard that her brother had fallen, she sailed straightaway to the Isle of Samso and attacked the prince with her fleet. They fought a sea battle just off the Isle and Prince Horwendil flew into another berserk rage and cleared her shieldship’s deck of all its men and he slew her just before the mast. He had his men erect a howe for her as well, right next to Koll’s, and the island became famous for holmgangers on both land and water.
Prince Horwendil passed three years in such valiant deeds of war; and, in order to win higher rank in King Rorik’s favour, he assigned to him the best trophies and the pick of the plunder. His friendship with Rorik enabled him to woo and win in marriage his daughter, Princess Gerutha, who bore him a son, Prince Amleth.
Such great good fortune stung his brother, Prince Feng, with jealousy, so that he resolved to treacherously waylay Horwendil in the Viking’s own house. When a chance came to murder him, his bloody hand sated the deadly passion of his soul. Then he took the wife of the brother he had just butchered, capping unnatural murder with incest. The murderer even managed to veil the monstrosity of his deed with such evil cunning, that he made it seem that he had saved Gerutha from her brother, whom he said had suddenly slipped into one of his famed berserk rages. Gerutha, he claimed, was so gentle that she would do no man the slightest hurt, he had been forced to snuff out her husband’s extreme rage. Nor did his smooth words fail in their intent; for he had paid courtiers to bear witness against his brother. He even made it seem that he had married the princess so that they could share the grief of their loss together.
Amleth beheld all this in dismay, but feared lest too shrewd a behaviour might make his uncle suspect him of harbour plans of vengeance . So he chose to feign dullness, and pretend an utter lack of wits. This cunning course concealed his intelligence to ensure his safety. Every day he remained in his mother’s house utterly listless and unclean, flinging himself on the ground and bespattering his person with foul and filthy dirt. His discoloured face and visage smutched with slime denoted foolish and grotesque madness. All he spoke sounded foolish and all he did savoured of utter lethargy. He used at times to sit over the fire, and, raking up the embers with his hands, to fashion wooden crooks, and harden them in the fire, shaping at their lips certain barbs, to make them hold more tightly to their fastenings. When asked what he was about, he said that he was preparing sharp javelins for his famous Viking father. This answer was not a little scoffed at, all men deriding his idle and ridiculous pursuit, but the thing helped his purpose afterwards. But now it was his craft in this matter that first awakened in the deeper observers a suspicion of his cunning, for his skill in a trifling art betokened the hidden talent of the craftsman, nor could they believe the spirit dull where the hand had crafted so cunning a workmanship. Lastly, he always watched with the most punctual care over his pile of crooked javelins that he had pointed in the fire. Some people, therefore, declared that his mind was quick enough, and fancied that he only played the simpleton in order to hide his understanding, and veiled some deep purpose under a cunning feint. His wiliness, said these, would be most readily detected, if a fair woman were put in his way in some secluded place, who should provoke his mind to the temptations of love; all men’s natural temper being too blindly amorous to be artfully dissembled, and this passion being also too impetuous to be checked by cunning. Therefore, if his lethargy were feigned, he would seize the opportunity, and yield straightway to violent and energetic delights. So men were commissioned to draw the young man in his rides into a remote part of the forest, and there assail him with a temptation of this nature. Among these chanced to be a foster-brother of Amleth, who had not ceased to have regard to their common nurture; and who esteemed his present orders less than the memory of their past fellowship. He attended Amleth among his appointed train, being anxious not to entrap, but to warn him; and was persuaded that he would suffer the worst if he showed the slightest glimpse of sound reason, and above all if he did the act of love openly. This was also plain enough to Amleth himself. For when he was bidden mount his horse, he deliberately set himself in such a fashion that he turned his back to the neck and faced about, fronting the tail; which he proceeded to encompass with the reins, just as if on that side he would check the horse in its furious pace. By this cunning thought he eluded the trick, and overcame the treachery of his uncle. The reinless steed galloping on, with rider directing its tail, was ludicrous enough to behold.
Amleth went on, and a wolf crossed his path amid the thicket. When his companions told him that a young colt had met him, he retorted, that in Feng’s stud there were too few of that kind fighting. This was a gentle but witty fashion of invoking a curse upon his uncle’s riches. When they averred that he had given a cunning answer, he answered that he had spoken deliberately; for he was loth, to be thought prone to lying about any matter, and wished to be held a stranger to falsehood; and accordingly he mingled craft and candour in such wise that, though his words did lack truth, yet there was nothing to betoken the truth and betray how far his keenness went.
Again, as he passed along the beach, his companions found the rudder of a ship, which had been wrecked, and said they had discovered a huge knife. “This,” said he, “was the right thing to carve such a huge ham;” by which he really meant the sea, to whose infinitude, he thought, this enormous rudder matched. Also, as they passed the sandhills, and bade him look at the meal, meaning the sand, he replied that it had been ground small by the hoary tempests of the sea. His companions praising his answer, he said that he had spoken it wittingly. Then they purposely left him, that he might pluck up more courage to practise wantonness. The woman whom his uncle had dispatched met him in a dark spot, as though she had crossed him by chance; and he took her and would have ravished her, had not his foster-brother previously given him an inkling of the trap. For this man, while pondering the fittest way to play privily the prompter’s part, and forestall the young man’s hazardous lewdness, found a straw on the ground and fastened it underneath the tail of a gadfly that was flying past; which he then drove towards the particular quarter where he knew Amleth to be: an act which served the unwary prince exceedingly well. The token was interpreted as shrewdly as it had been sent, for Amleth saw the gadfly, espied with curiosity the straw which it wore embedded in its tail, and perceived that it was a secret warning to beware of treachery. Alarmed, scenting a trap, and fain to possess his desire in greater safety, he caught up the woman in his arms and dragged her off to a distant and impenetrable fen. Moreover, when they had lain together, he conjured her earnestly to disclose the matter to none, and the promise of silence was accorded as heartily as it was asked. For both of them had been under the same fostering in their childhood, and this early rearing in common had brought Amleth and the girl into great secret intimacy before.
So, when he had returned home, they all jeeringly asked him whether he had given way to love, and he avowed that he had ravished the maid. When he was next asked where he did it, and what had been his pillow, he said that he had rested upon the hoof of a beast of burden, upon a cockscomb, and also upon a ceiling. For, when he was starting into temptation, he had gathered fragments of all these things, in order to avoid lying. And though his jest did not take aught of the truth out of the story, the answer was greeted with shouts of merriment from the bystanders. The maiden, too, when questioned on the matter, declared that he had done no such thing, and her denial was the more readily credited when it was found that the escort had not witnessed the deed. Then he who had marked the gadfly in order to give a hint, wishing to show Amleth that to his trick he owed his salvation, observed that latterly he had been singly devoted to Amleth. The young man’s reply was apt. Not to seem forgetful of his informant’s service, he said that he had seen a certain thing bearing a straw flit by suddenly, wearing a stalk of chaff fixed in its hinder parts. The cleverness of this speech, which made the rest split with laughter, rejoiced the heart of Amleth’s friend.
Thus all were worsted, and none could open the secret lock of the young man’s wisdom. But a friend of Feng, gifted more with assurance than judgment, declared that the unfathomable cunning of such a mind could not be detected by any vulgar plot, for the man’s obstinacy was so great that it ought not to be assailed with any mild measures; there were many sides to his wiliness, and it ought not to be entrapped by any one method. Accordingly, said he, his own profounder acuteness had hit on a more delicate way, which was well fitted to be put in practice, and would effectually discover what they desired to know. Feng was purposely to absent himself, pretending affairs of great import. Amleth should be closeted alone with his mother in her chamber; but a man should first be commissioned to place himself in a concealed part of the room and listen heedfully to what they talked about. For if the son had any wits at all he would not hesitate to speak out in the hearing of his mother, or fear to trust himself to the fidelity of her who bore him. The speaker, loth to seem readier to devise than to carry out the plot, zealously proffered himself as the agent of the eavesdropping. Feng rejoiced at the scheme, and departed on pretence of a long journey. Now he who had given this counsel repaired privily to the room where Amleth was shut up with his mother, and lay down skulking in the straw. But Amleth had his antidote for the treachery. Afraid of being overheard by some eavesdropper, he at first resorted to his usual imbecile ways, and crowed like a noisy cock, beating his arms together to mimic the flapping of wings. Then he mounted the straw and began to swing his body and jump again and again, wishing to try if aught lurked there in hiding. Feeling a lump beneath his feet, he drove his sword into the spot, and impaled him who lay hid. Then he dragged him from his concealment and slew him. Then, cutting his body into morsels, he seethed it in boiling water, and flung it through the mouth of an open sewer for the swine to eat, bestrewing the stinking mire with his hapless limbs. Having in this wise eluded the snare, he went back to the room. Then his mother set up a great wailing, and began to lament her son’s folly to his face; but he said: “Most infamous of women; dost thou seek with such lying lamentations to hide thy most heavy guilt? Wantoning like a harlot, thou hast entered a wicked and abominable state of wedlock, embracing with incestuous bosom thy husband’s slayer, and wheedling with filthy lures of blandishment him who had slain the father of thy son. This, forsooth, is the way that the mares couple with the vanquishers of their mates; for brute beasts are naturally incited to pair indiscriminately; and it would seem that thou, like them, hast clean forgot thy first husband. As for me, not idly do I wear the mask of folly; for I doubt not that he who destroyed his brother will riot as ruthlessly in the blood of his kindred. Therefore it is better to choose the garb of dullness than that of sense, and to borrow some protection from a show of utter frenzy. Yet the passion to avenge my father still burns in my heart; but I am watching the chances, I await the fitting hour. There is a place for all things; against so merciless and dark spirit must be used the deeper devices of the mind. And thou, who hadst been better employed in lamenting thine own disgrace, know it is superfluity to bewail my witlessness; thou shouldst weep for the blemish in thine own mind, not for that in another’s. On the rest see thou keep silence.” With such reproaches he rent the heart of his mother and redeemed her to walk in the ways of virtue; teaching her to set the fires of the past above the seductions of the present.
When Feng returned, nowhere could he find the man who had suggested the treacherous espial; he searched for him long and carefully, but none said they had seen him anywhere. Amleth, among others, was asked in jest if he had come on any trace of him, and replied that the man had gone to the sewer, but had fallen through its bottom and been stifled by the floods of filth, and that he had then been devoured by the swine that came up all about that place. This speech was flouted by those who heard; for it seemed senseless, though really it expressly avowed the truth.
Feng now suspected that his stepson was certainly full of guile, and desired to make away with him, but durst not do the deed for fear of the displeasure, not only of Amleth’s grandsire King Rorik, but also of his own wife. So he thought that the King of Britain should be employed to slay him, so that another could do the deed, and he be able to feign innocence. Thus, desirous to hide his cruelty, he chose rather to besmirch his friend than to bring disgrace on his own head. Amleth, on departing, gave secret orders to his mother to hang the hall with woven knots, and to perform pretended obsequies for him a year thence; promising that he would then return. Two retainers of Feng then accompanied him, bearing a letter graven on wood—a kind of writing material frequent in old times; this letter enjoined the king of the Britons to put to death the youth who was sent over to him. While they were reposing, Amleth searched their coffers, found the letter, and read the instructions therein. Whereupon he erased all the writing on the surface, substituted fresh characters, and so, changing the purport of the instructions, shifted his own doom upon his companions. Nor was he satisfied with removing from himself the sentence of death and passing the peril on to others, but added an entreaty that the King of Britain would grant his daughter in marriage to a youth of great judgment whom he was sending to him. Under this remained marked the signature of Feng.
Now when they had reached Britain, the envoys went to the king, and proffered him the letter which they supposed was an implement of destruction to another, but which really betokened death to themselves. The king dissembled the truth, and entreated them hospitably and kindly. Then Amleth scouted all the splendour of the royal banquet like vulgar viands, and abstaining very strangely, rejected that plenteous feast, refraining from the drink even as from the banquet. All marvelled that a youth and a foreigner should disdain the carefully cooked dainties of the royal board and the luxurious banquet provided, as if it were some peasant’s relish. So, when the revel broke up, and the king was dismissing his friends to rest, he had a man sent into the sleeping-room to listen secretly, in order that he might hear the midnight conversation of his guests. Now, when Amleth’s companions asked him why he had refrained from the feast of yestereve, as if it were poison, he answered that the bread was flecked with blood and tainted, that there was a tang of iron in the liquor, while the meats of the feast reeked of the stench of a human carcase, and were infected by a kind of smack of the odour of the charnel. He further said that the king had the eyes of a slave, and that the queen had in three ways shown the behaviour of a bondmaid. Thus he reviled with insulting invective not so much the feast as its givers. And presently his companions, taunting him with his old defect of wits, began to flout him with many saucy jeers, because he blamed and cavilled at seemly and worthy things, and because he attacked thus ignobly an illustrious king and a lady of so refined a behaviour, bespattering with the shame fullest abuse those who merited all praise.
All this the king heard from his retainer; and declared that he who could say such things had either more than mortal wisdom or more than mortal folly, in these few words fathoming the full depth of Amleth’s penetration. Then he summoned his steward and asked him whence he had procured the bread. The steward declared that it had been made by the king’s own baker. The king asked where the grain had grown of which it was made, and whether any sign was to be found there of human carnage? The other answered, that not far off was a field, covered with the ancient bones of slaughtered men, and still bearing plainly all the signs of ancient carnage; and that he had himself planted this field with grain in springtide, thinking it more fruitful than the rest, and hoping for plenteous abundance, and so, for aught he knew, the bread had caught some evil savour from this bloodshed. The king, on hearing this, surmised that Amleth had spoken truly, and took the pains to learn also what had been the source of the lard. The other declared that his hogs had, through negligence, strayed from keeping, and battened on the rotten carcase of a robber, and that perchance their pork had thus come to have something of a corrupt smack. The king, finding that Amleth’s judgment was right in this thing also, asked of what liquor the steward had mixed the drink? Hearing that it had been brewed of water and meal, he had the spot of the spring pointed out to him, and set to digging deep down; and there he found, rusted away, several swords, the tang whereof it was thought had tainted the waters. Others relate that Amleth blamed the drink because, while quaffing it, he had detected some bees that had fed in the paunch of a dead man; and that the taint, which had formerly been imparted to the combs, had reappeared in the taste. The king, seeing that Amleth had rightly given the causes of the taste he had found so faulty, and learning that the ignoble eyes wherewith Amleth had reproached him concerned some stain upon his birth, had a secret interview with his mother, and asked her who his father had really been. She said she had submitted to no man but the king. But when he threatened that he would have the truth out of her by a trial, he was told that he was the offspring of a slave. By the evidence of the avowal thus extorted he understood the whole mystery of the reproach upon his origin. Abashed as he was with shame for his low estate, he was so ravished with the young man’s cleverness, that he asked him why he had aspersed the queen with the reproach that she had demeaned herself like a slave? But while resenting that the courtliness of his wife had been accused in the midnight gossip of guest, he found that her mother had been a bondmaid. For Amleth said he had noted in her three blemishes showing the demeanor of a slave: first, she had muffled her head in her mantle as handmaids do, next, that she had gathered up her gown for walking, and thirdly, that she had first picked out with a splinter, and then chewed up, the remnant of food that stuck in the crevices between her teeth. Further, he mentioned that the king’s mother had been brought into slavery from captivity, lest she should seem servile only in her habits, yet not in her birth.
Then the king adored the wisdom of Amleth as though it were inspired, and gave him his daughter to wife; accepting his bare word as though it were a witness from the skies. Moreover, in order to fulfil the bidding of his friend, he hanged Amleth’s companions on the morrow. Amleth, feigning offence, treated this piece of kindness as a grievance, and received from the king, as wergild, some gold, which he afterwards melted in the fire, and secretly caused to be poured into some hollowed sticks.
When he had passed a whole year with the king he obtained leave to make a journey, and returned to his own land, carrying away of all his princely wealth inside the sticks which held the gold. On reaching Jutland, he exchanged his present attire for his ancient demeanour, which he had adopted for righteous ends, purposely assuming an aspect of absurdity. Covered with filth, he entered the banquet-room where his own obsequies were being held, and struck all men utterly aghast, rumour having falsely noised abroad his death. At last terror melted into mirth, and the guests jeered and taunted one another, that he whose last rites they were celebrating as through he were dead, should appear in the flesh. When he was asked concerning his comrades, he pointed to the sticks he was carrying, and said, “Here is both the one and the other.” This he observed with equal truth and pleasantry, for his speech, though most thought idle, departed not from the truth, for it pointed at the wergild of the slain as though it were themselves. Thereon, wishing to bring the company into a gayer mood, he jollied the cupbearers, and diligently did the office of plying the drink. Then, to prevent his loose dress hampering his walk, he girdled his sword upon his side, and purposely drawing it several times, pricked his fingers with its point. The bystanders accordingly had both sword and scabbard riveted across with an iron nail. Then, to smooth the way more safely to his plot, he went to the lords and plied them heavily with draught upon draught, and drenched them all so deep in wine, that their feet were made feeble with drunkenness, and they turned to rest within the palace, making their bed where they had revelled. Then he saw they were in a fit state for his plots, and thought that here was a chance offered to do his purpose. So he took out of his bosom the crooked javelins he had long ago prepared, and went into the building, where the floor lay covered with the bodies of the nobles wheezing off their sleep and their debauch. Then, cutting away its support, he brought down the hanging his mother had knitted, which covered the inner as well as the outer walls of the hall. This he flung upon the snorers, and then applying the crooked stakes, he knotted and bound them up in such insoluble intricacy, that not one of the men beneath, however hard he might struggle, could contrive to rise. After this he set fire to the palace. The flames spread, scattering the conflagration far and wide. It enveloped the whole dwelling, destroyed the palace, and burnt them all while they were either buried in deep sleep or vainly striving to arise. Then he went to the chamber of Feng, who had before this been conducted by his train into his pavilion, and he plucked up a sword that chanced to be hanging on the headboard of the bed, and planted his own in its place. Then, awakening his uncle, he told him that his nobles were perishing in the flames, and that Amleth was here, armed with his crooks to help him, and thirsting to exact the vengeance, now long overdue, for his father’s murder. Feng, on hearing this, leapt from his bed, but was cut down while deprived of his own sword, and as he strove in vain to draw the strange one. O valiant Amleth, and worthy of immortal fame, who being shrewdly armed with a feint of folly, covered a wisdom too high for human wit under a marvellous disguise of silliness! And not only found in his subtlety means to protect his own safety, but also by its guidance found opportunity to avenge his father. By this skilful defence of himself, and strenuous revenge for his parent, he has left it doubtful whether we are to think more of his wit or his bravery.
BASED UPON SAXO’S BOOK FOUR:
Amleth, when he had accomplished the slaughter of his stepfather, feared to expose his deed to the fickle judgment of his countrymen, and thought it well to lie in hiding till he had learnt what way the mob of the uncouth populace was tending. So the whole neighbourhood, who had watched the blaze during the night, and in the morning desired to know the cause of the fire they had seen, perceived the royal palace fallen in ashes; and, on searching through its ruins, which were yet warm, found only some shapeless remains of burnt corpses. For the devouring flame had consumed everything so utterly that not a single token was left to inform them of the cause of such a disaster. Also they saw the body of Feng lying pierced by the sword, amid his blood-stained raiment. Some were seized with open anger, others with grief, and some with secret delight. One party bewailed the death of their leader, the other gave thanks that the tyranny of the fratricide was now laid at rest. Thus the occurrence of the king’s slaughter was greeted by the beholders with diverse minds.
Amleth, finding the people so quiet, made bold to leave his hiding. Summoning those in whom he knew the memory of his father to be fast-rooted, he went to the assembly and there made a speech after this manner:
“Nobles! Danes! Countrymen! Lend me your ears. Whether tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take up arms against this sea of troubles is answered before you in the ashes of the usurper’s palace.”
Prince Amleth took back the province of Aar and led the people as their new ruler.
Meanwhile King Rorik had died, and his son, Prince Wiglek, had come to the throne, and had harassed Amleth’s mother with all manner of insolence and stripped her of her royal wealth, complaining that her son had usurped the kingdom of Jutland, and had defrauded the King of Leire, who had the sole privilege of giving and taking away the rights of high offices. This treatment Amleth took with such forbearance as apparently to return kindness for slander, for he presented Wiglek with the richest of his spoils. But afterwards he seized a chance of taking vengeance, attacked him, subdued him, and from a covert became an open foe. Fialler, the governor of Skane, he drove into exile; and the tale is that Fialler retired to a spot called Undensakre, which is unknown to our peoples. After this, Wiglek, recruited with the forces of Skane and Zealand, sent envoys to challenge Amleth to a war. Amleth, with his marvellous shrewdness, saw that he was tossed between two difficulties, one of which involved disgrace and the other danger. For he knew that if he took up the challenge he was threatened with peril of his life, while to shrink from it would disgrace his reputation as a soldier. Yet in that spirit ever fixed on deeds of prowess the desire to save his honour won the day. Dread of disaster was blunted by more vehement thirst for glory; he would not tarnish the unblemished lustre of his fame by timidly skulking from his fate. Also he saw that there is almost as wide a gap between a mean life and a noble death as that which is acknowledged between honour and disgrace themselves.
Amleth was slain by Wiglek in this battle for Jutland, and his wife yielded herself up unasked to be the conqueror’s spoil and bride. So ended Amleth. Had fortune been as kind to him as nature, he would have equalled the gods in glory, and surpassed the labours of Hercules by his deeds of prowess. A plain in Jutland is to be found, famous for his name and burial-place. King Wiglek’s administration of the kingdom was long and peaceful, and he died of a horrible disease.
King Wermund, his son, succeeded him. The long and leisurely tranquillity of a most prosperous and quiet time flowed by and Wermund in undisturbed security maintained a prolonged and steady peace at home.
He begat a son, King Uffe, who surpassed all of his age in stature, got him for a wife the daughter of Frowin, the Governor of Sleswik. Frowin had two sons, Ket and Wig, who were youths of most brilliant parts, and their excellence. At this time the King of Sweden was Athisl, a man of notable fame and energy. He carried his arms into Denmark, and challenged Frowin to battle near Sleswik. The armies fought one another with vast slaughter, and Athisl slew Frowin in personal combat. His sons, Ket and Wig, avenged his death by slaying the Swedish king in a duel, but gained notoriety when it took both of the young men’s sword strokes to overcome the older king’s defences. King Uffe offset this fault by dueling two Saxon princes simultaneously and defeating them.
Uffe was succeeded by his son, King Dan, who carried his arms against foreigners, and increased his sovereignty with many a trophy; but he tarnished the glory he had won by squandering his gains on excessive luxuries.
After this Hugleik was king, who is said to have defeated in battle at sea Homod and Hogrim, the despots of Sweden.
To him succeeded King Frode ‘the Vigorous’, who bore out his name by the strength of his body and mind. He destroyed in war ten captains of Norway, and then King Froger.
After him King Dan came to the throne. When he was in the twelfth year of his age, he was wearied by the insolence of the embassies, which commanded him either to fight the Saxons or to pay them tribute. Ashamed, he preferred fighting to payment and was moved to die stoutly rather than live a coward. So he elected to fight; and the warriors of the Danes filled the Elbe with such a throng of vessels, that the decks of the ships lashed together made it quite easy to cross, as though along a continuous bridge. The end was that the King of Saxony had to accept the very terms he was demanding from the Danes.
After Dan, King Fridleif, surnamed the Swift, assumed the sovereignty. Fridleif attacked Dublin and England and left them victorious and subject to him. During his reign, Huyrwil, the lord of Oland, made a league with the Danes and attacked Norway.
BASED UPON SAXO’S BOOK FIVE:
(Circa 0-800 AD1) After the death of Fridleif, his son King Frode, aged seven, was elected in his stead by the unanimous decision of the Danes. But they held an assembly first, and judged that the minority of the king should be taken in charge by guardians, lest the sovereignty should pass away owing to the boyishness of the ruler. For one and all paid such respect to the name and memory of Fridleif, that the royalty was bestowed on his son despite his tender years.
When Frode reached marriageable age, Princess Hanund, the daughter of the King of the Huns, became his wife and he passed three years in the most prosperous peace. But Hanund was unfaithful, so Frode returned her to King Hunn. The King of the Huns gathered up his forces and set out to attack his former son-in-law I Denmark. King Frode preferred to fight him in Scythia, so he gathered a host and set off east.
King Frode attacked Strunik the King of the Sclavs in northern Scythia and went on to conquer King Olmar of the Ruthenians in central Scythia as well. The host of the Huns was so huge that King Frode had his army withdraw before them and caused the Hunnish host to perish of its own large size. After this victory, the Eastern Romans called the Danes by the name ‘Dromitai’, meaning those who run fast, really meaning those who run fast from battle. Thus did Frode acquire a repute similar to his father, Fridleif, who was called ‘The Swift’ by the western Holy Romans because he, too, ran fast from battle. King Frode ruled an empire from Kiev in the east to Dublin in the west and his thirty year rule was called ‘the Peace of Frode’. He was treacherously slain using witchcraft by Prince Helgi (Oleg) ‘Arrow Odd’ in Kiev.
After the death of King Frodi, his son, King Alf ruled in Scythia and was later killed by this same ‘Arrow Odd’ in Kiev.
But before the death of Alf, King Frodi’s daughter, Princess Eyfura, had a son she named Prince Eyfur (Igor or Ivar) who lived in Scythia as Prince Fridleif.
Note 1: At the end of the Book 5 narrative, Saxo says that King Frode’s reign took place in the time of Christ’s birth (Circa 1 AD), but that cannot be true, as some of the players come from much later times (Huns, Arrow Odd, and there’s an insufficient number of kings in the list), so some scholars speculate 450 AD as a date to coincide with the time of Attila ‘the Hun’, while this author suspects it was an even later date of Circa 800 AD to coincide with the collision of Viking traders with the Khazar Trading Empire, of which the Huns were one of seven tribes, in the resurgence of trade in the global warming period of that time. Later, the Danish princes of Kievan Rus’ fought and eventually crushed the Khazars (and Huns) in southern Scythia, Circa 860-960 AD. BTW, Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg, Germany, in his contemporary chronicle of the period, called the defenders of Kiev ‘Swift Danes’ and their allies ‘Runaway Slavs’. It should be noted that these are Anglish Danish princes who likely spoke Anglish, so, when a hundred years later, the Rus’ Varangian Guard of Constantinople was taken over by English ex-pats, they likely spoke the same language.
BASED UPON SAXO’S BOOK SIX:
After the death of Frode (and King Alf), the Danes wrongly supposed that King Fridleif, who was being reared in Ruthenia, had perished; and, thinking that the sovereignty halted for lack of an heir, and that it could no longer be kept on in the hands of the royal line, they considered that the sceptre would be best deserved by the man who should affix to the yet fresh grave of King Frode a song of praise in his glorification, and commit the renown of the dead king to after ages by a splendid memorial. Then one HIARN, very skilled in writing Danish poetry, wishing to give the fame of the hero some notable record of words, and tempted by the enormous prize, composed, after his own fashion, a barbarous stave. When the composer of this song had uttered it, the Danes rewarded him with the Crown of Denmark.
King Fridleif, meanwhile, married the Norwegian King Amund’s daughter, Princess Frogertha, who bore him a son they named Frode in the west, but in the east he was also called Svein ‘the Old’, because he was of the ‘Old’ Frode-Fridleif line of Danish kings, by the Danes of Kiev, and he was called Prince Sviatoslav by the Slavs of Kievan Rus’. King Fridleif raised a host and killed King Hiarn and reclaimed Denmark for himself.
Frode was being raised in Kiev when King Fridleif fell fighting the Huns in the east of Scythia, so after King Frode had avenged his father by crushing the Khazar Empire, of which the Huns were a large part, he went on to attack the Eastern Romans. He failed in his war with Miklagard and left his son, Prince Ingild (Valdamar or Vladimir in Slav), to rule in Rus’ and he had to return to the west, for once again Denmark was being ruled by a usurper, King Harald. He took a force west and received aid from the Norwegians and defeated Harald’s forces in the fjord of Hjorungavagr near Trondheim. Frode went on to conquer England as King Sweyn ‘Forkbeard’, but died soon after the victory, likely by poisoning.
King Frode was succeeded by his son King Ingild, whose soul was perverted from honour. He forsook the examples of his forefathers, and utterly enthralled himself to the lures of the most wanton profligacy. Thus he had not a shadow of goodness and righteousness, but embraced vices instead of virtue; he cut the sinews of self-control, neglected the duties of his kingly station, and sank into a filthy slave of riot. Indeed, he fostered everything that was adverse or ill-fitted to an orderly life. He tainted the glories of his father and grandfather by practising the foulest lusts, and bedimmed the brightest honours of his ancestors by most shameful deeds. For he was so prone to gluttony, that he had no desire to avenge his father, or repel the aggressions of his foes; and so, could he but gratify his gullet, he thought that decency and self-control need be observed in nothing. By idleness and sloth he stained his glorious lineage, living a loose and sensual life; and his soul, so degenerate, so far perverted and astray from the steps of his fathers, he loved to plunge into most abominable gulfs of foulness. It is said that he had seven hundred wives in and around Kiev and had two in England.
BASED UPON SAXO’S BOOK SEVEN:
We are told by historians of old, that Ingild had four sons, of whom three perished in war, while King Olaf alone reigned after his father; but some say that Olaf was the son of Ingild’s sister, though this opinion is doubtful. Posterity has but an uncertain knowledge of his deeds, which are dim with the dust of antiquity; nothing but the last counsel of his wisdom has been rescued by tradition. For when he was in the last grip of death he took thought for his sons Kings Frode and Harald, and bade them have royal sway, one over the land and the other over the sea, and receive these several powers, not in prolonged possession, but in yearly rotation. Thus their share in the rule was made equal; but Frode, who was the first to have control of the affairs of the sea, earned disgrace from his continual defeats in roving. His calamity was due to his sailors being newly married, and preferring nuptial joys at home to the toils of foreign warfare. After a time Harald, the younger son, received the rule of the sea, and chose soldiers who were unmarried, fearing to be baffled like his brother. Fortune favoured his choice; for he was as glorious a rover as his brother was inglorious; and this earned him his brother’s hatred. Moreover, their queens, Signe and Ulfhild, one of whom was the daughter of Siward, King of Sweden, the other of Karl, the Governor of Gothland, were continually wrangling as to which was the nobler, and broke up the mutual fellowship of their husbands.
After Frode was killed, King Halfdan reigned over his country about three years, and then, handing over his sovereignty to his brother Harald as deputy, went roving, and attacked and ravaged Oland and the neighbouring isles, which are severed from contact with Sweden by a winding sound. Here in the winter he beached and entrenched his ships, and spent three years on the expedition.
He killed a suitor for Sigrid, the daughter of Yngwin, King of the Goths, and later bequeathed the royal wealth by will to Yngwin, and appointed him king. King Yngwin was afterwards overthrown in war by a rival named Ragnald, and he left a son King Siwald. 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, Siwald’s foremost man, desirous of glory, broke through the thickest of the foe and cut down Ragnald and won the Danes a sudden victory.
After this Siwald was succeeded by his son, King Sigar, who had sons Siwald, Alf, and Alger, and a daughter Signe. Alf excelled the rest in spirit and beauty, and devoted himself to the business of a rover. After Sigar, it was the eldest, King Siwald, who ruled Denmark. But Alf’s comrade, Borgar, wedded the attendant, Groa, and had by her a son, Harald, to whom the following age gave the surname Hyldeland.
Many perilous wars were fought and fortunes had so exhausted the royal line among the Danes, that it was found to be reduced to Princess 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 Skane, 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.
After this Halfdan took Gurid to wife. But finding in her the fault of barrenness, and desiring much to have offspring, he went to Uppsala 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.
King 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.
After this, hearing that Wesete was to hold his wedding in Skane, 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 Skane. 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.
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 sea.
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 battlefield 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.