The First Nine Books of the Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus / Book V

After the death of Fridleif, his son 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. So a selection was made, and the brothers

Westmar and Koll were summoned to the charge of bringing up the king.

Isulf, also, and Agg and eight other men of mark were not only entrusted

with the guardianship of the king, but also granted authority to

administer the realm under him. These men were rich in strength and

courage, and endowed with ample gifts of mind as well as of body. Thus

the state of the Danes was governed with the aid of regents until the

time when the king should be a man.

The wife of Koll was Gotwar, who used to paralyse the most eloquent and

fluent men by her glib and extraordinary insolence; for she was potent

in wrangling, and full of resource in all kinds of disputation. Words

were her weapons; and she not only trusted in questions, but was armed

with stubborn answers. No man could subdue this woman, who could not

fight, but who found darts in her tongue instead. Some she would argue

down with a flood of impudent words, while others she seemed to

entangle in the meshes of her quibbles, and strangle in the noose of

her sophistries; so nimble a wit had the woman. Moreover, she was very

strong, either in making or cancelling a bargain, and the sting of

her tongue was the secret of her power in both. She was clever both at

making and at breaking leagues; thus she had two sides to her tongue,

and used it for either purpose.

Westmar had twelve sons, three of whom had the same name–Grep in

common. These three men were conceived at once and delivered at one

birth, and their common name declared their simultaneous origin. They

were exceedingly skillful swordsmen and boxers. Frode had also given the

supremacy of the sea to Odd; who was very closely related to the king.

Koll rejoiced in an offspring of three sons. At this time a certain

son of Frode’s brother held the chief command of naval affairs for the

protection of the country, Now the king had a sister, Gunwar, surnamed

the Fair because of her surpassing beauty. The sons of Westmar and Koll,

being ungrown in years and bold in spirit, let their courage become

recklessness and devoted their guilt-stained minds to foul and degraded


Their behaviour was so outrageous and uncontrollable that they ravished

other men’s brides and daughters, and seemed to have outlawed chastity

and banished it to the stews. Nay, they defiled the couches of matrons,

and did not even refrain from the bed of virgins. A man’s own chamber

was no safety to him: there was scarce a spot in the land but bore

traces of their lust. Husbands were vexed with fear, and wives with

insult to their persons: and to these wrongs folk bowed. No ties

were respected, and forced embraces became a common thing. Love was

prostituted, all reverence for marriage ties died out, and lust was

greedily run after. And the reason of all this was the peace; for men’s

bodies lacked exercise and were enervated in the ease so propitious to

vices. At last the eldest of those who shared the name of Grep, wishing

to regulate and steady his promiscuous wantonness, ventured to seek a

haven for his vagrant amours in the love of the king’s sister. Yet

he did amiss. For though it was right that his vagabond and straying

delights should be bridled by modesty, yet it was audacious for a man of

the people to covet the child of a king. She, much fearing the impudence

of her wooer, and wishing to be safer from outrage, went into a

fortified building. Thirty attendants were given to her, to keep guard

and constant watch over her person.

Now the comrades of Frode, sadly lacking the help of women in the matter

of the wear of their garments, inasmuch as they had no means of patching

or of repairing rents, advised and urged the king to marry. At first

he alleged his tender years as an excuse, but in the end yielded to the

persistent requests of his people. And when he carefully inquired of his

advisers who would be a fit wife for him, they all praised the daughter

of the King of the Huns beyond the rest. When the question was pushed,

what reason Frode had for objecting to her, he replied that he had heard

from his father that it was not expedient for kings to seek alliance far

afield, or to demand love save from neighbours. When Gotwar heard this

she knew that the king’s resistance to his friends was wily. Wishing

to establish his wavering spirit, and strengthen the courage of his

weakling soul, she said: “Bridals are for young men, but the tomb awaits

the old. The steps of youth go forward in desires and in fortune; but

old age declines helpless to the sepulchre. Hope attends youth; age is

bowed with hopeless decay. The fortune of young men increases; it will

never leave unfinished what it begins.” Respecting her words, he begged

her to undertake the management of the suit. But she refused, pleading

her age as her pretext, and declaring herself too stricken in years to

bear so difficult a commission. The king saw that a bribe was wanted,

and, proffering a golden necklace, promised it as the reward of her

embassy. For the necklace had links consisting of studs, and figures of

kings interspersed in bas-relief, which could be now separated and now

drawn together by pulling a thread inside; a gewgaw devised more for

luxury than use. Frode also ordered that Westmar and Koll, with their

sons, should be summoned to go on the same embassy, thinking that their

cunning would avoid the shame of a rebuff.

They went with Gotwar, and were entertained by the King of the Huns at a

three days’ banquet, ere they uttered the purpose of their embassy. For

it was customary of old thus to welcome guests. When the feast had been

prolonged three days, the princess came forth to make herself pleasant

to the envoys with a most courteous address, and her blithe presence

added not a little to the festal delights of the banqueters. And as the

drink went faster Westmar revealed his purpose in due course, in a very

merry declaration, wishing to sound the mind of the maiden in talk of

a friendly sort. And, in order not to inflict on himself a rebuff,

he spoke in a mirthful vein, and broke the ground of his mission,

by venturing to make up a sportive speech amid the applause of the

revellers. The princess said that she disdained Frode because he lacked

honour and glory. For in days of old no men were thought fit for the

hand of high-born women but those who had won some great prize of glory

by the lustre of their admirable deeds. Sloth was the worst of vices in

a suitor, and nothing was more of a reproach in one who sought marriage

than the lack of fame. A harvest of glory, and that alone, could bring

wealth in everything else. Maidens admired in their wooers not so much

good looks as deeds nobly done. So the envoys, flagging and despairing

of their wish, left the further conduct of the affair to the wisdom

of Gotwar, who tried to subdue the maiden not only with words but with

love-philtres, and began to declare that Frode used his left hand as

well as his right, and was a quick and skillful swimmer and fighter.

Also by the drink which she gave she changed the strictness of the

maiden to desire, and replaced her vanished anger with love and delight.

Then she bade Westmar, Koll, and their sons go to the king and urge

their mission afresh; and finally, should they find him froward, to

anticipate a rebuff by a challenge to fight.

So Westmar entered the palace with his men-at-arms, and said: “Now thou

must needs either consent to our entreaties, or meet in battle us who

entreat thee. We would rather die nobly than go back with our mission

unperformed; lest, foully repulsed and foiled of our purpose, we should

take home disgrace where we hoped to will honour. If thou refuse thy

daughter, consent to fight: thou must needs grant one thing or

the other. We wish either to die or to have our prayers heard.

Something–sorrow if not joy–we will get from thee. Frode will be

better pleased to hear of our slaughter than of our repulse.” Without

another word, he threatened to aim a blow at the king’s throat with his

sword. The king replied that it was unseemly for the royal majesty

to meet an inferior in rank in level combat, and unfit that those of

unequal station should fight as equals. But when Westmar persisted in

urging him to fight, he at last bade him find out what the real mind of

the maiden was; for in old time men gave women who were to marry, free

choice of a husband. For the king was embarrassed, and hung vacillating

betwixt shame and fear of battle. Thus Westmar, having been referred

to the thoughts of the girl’s heart, and knowing that every woman is as

changeable in purpose as she is fickle in soul, proceeded to fulfil his

task all the more confidently because he knew how mutable the wishes of

maidens were. His confidence in his charge was increased and his zeal

encouraged, because she had both a maiden’s simplicity, which was left

to its own counsels, and a woman’s freedom of choice, which must be

wheedled with the most delicate and mollifying flatteries; and thus she

would be not only easy to lead away, but even hasty in compliance. But

her father went after the envoys, that he might see more surely into his

daughter’s mind. She had already been drawn by the stealthy working of

the draught to love her suitor, and answered that the promise of Frode,

rather than his present renown, had made her expect much of his nature:

since he was sprung from so famous a father, and every nature commonly

answered to its origin. The youth therefore had pleased her by her

regard of his future, rather than his present, glory. These words amazed

the father; but neither could he bear to revoke the freedom he had

granted her, and he promised her in marriage to Frode. Then, having

laid in ample stores, he took her away with the most splendid pomp, and,

followed by the envoys, hastened to Denmark, knowing that a father was

the best person to give away a daughter in marriage. Frode welcomed

his bride most joyfully, and also bestowed the highest honours upon

his future royal father-in-law; and when the marriage rites were over,

dismissed him with a large gift of gold and silver.

And so with Hanund, the daughter of the King of the Huns, for his wife,

he passed three years in the most prosperous peace. But idleness brought

wantonness among his courtiers, and peace begot lewdness, which they

displayed in the most abominable crimes. For they would draw some men

up in the air on ropes, and torment them, pushing their bodies as they

hung, like a ball that is tossed; or they would put a kid’s hide under

the feet of others as they walked, and, by stealthily pulling a rope,

trip their unwary steps on the slippery skill in their path; others they

would strip of their clothes, and lash with sundry tortures of stripes;

others they fastened to pegs, as with a noose, and punished with

mock-hanging. They scorched off the beard and hair with tapers; of

others they burned the hair of the groin with a brand. Only those

maidens might marry whose chastity they had first deflowered. Strangers

they battered with bones; others they compelled to drunkenness with

immoderate draughts, and made them burst. No man might give his daughter

to wife unless he had first bought their favour and goodwill. None might

contract any marriage without first purchasing their consent with a

bribe. Moreover, they extended their abominable and abandoned lust not

only to virgins, but to the multitude of matrons indiscriminately. Thus

a twofold madness incited this mixture of wantonness and frenzy. Guests

and strangers were proffered not shelter but revilings. All these

maddening mockeries did this insolent and wanton crew devise, and thus

under a boy-king freedom fostered licence. For nothing prolongs reckless

sin like the procrastination of punishment and vengeance. This unbridled

impudence of the soldiers ended by making the king detested, not only by

foreigners, but even by his own people, for the Danes resented such an

arrogant and cruel rule. But Grep was contented with no humble loves;

he broke out so outrageously that he was guilty of intercourse with the

queen, and proved as false to the king as he was violent to all other

men. Then by degrees the scandal grew, and the suspicion of his guilt

crept on with silent step. The common people found it out before the

king. For Grep, by always punishing all who alluded in the least to this

circumstance, had made it dangerous to accuse him. But the rumour of his

crime, which at first was kept alive in whispers, was next passed on in

public reports; for it is hard for men to hide another’s guilt if they

are aware of it. Gunwar had many suitors; and accordingly Grep, trying

to take revenge for his rebuff by stealthy wiles, demanded the right

of judging the suitors, declaring that the princess ought to make the

choicest match. But he disguised his anger, lest he should seem to have

sought the office from hatred of the maiden. At his request the king

granted him leave to examine the merits of the young men. So he first

gathered all the wooers of Gunwar together on the pretence of a banquet,

and then lined the customary room of the princess with their heads–a

gruesome spectacle for all the rest. Yet he forfeited none of his favour

with Frode, nor abated his old intimacy with him. For he decided that

any opportunity of an interview with the king must be paid for, and gave

out that no one should have any conversation with him who brought no

presents. Access, he announced, to so great a general must be gained

by no stale or usual method, but by making interest most zealously.

He wished to lighten the scandal of his cruelty by the pretence

of affection to his king. The people, thus tormented, vented their

complaint of their trouble in silent groans. None had the spirit to lift

up his voice in public against this season of misery. No one had become

so bold as to complain openly of the affliction that was falling upon

them. Inward resentment vexed the hearts of men, secretly indeed, but

all the more bitterly.

When Gotar, the King of Norway, heard this, he assembled his soldiers,

and said that the Danes were disgusted with their own king, and longed

for another if they could get the opportunity; that he had himself

resolved to lead an army thither, and that Denmark would be easy to

seize if attacked. Frode’s government of his country was as covetous as

it was cruel. Then Erik rose up and gainsaid the project with contrary

reasons. “We remember,” he said, “how often coveters of other men’s

goods lose their own. He who snatches at both has oft lost both. It must

be a very strong bird that can wrest the prey from the claws of another.

It is idle for thee to be encouraged by the internal jealousies of the

country, for these are oft blown away by the approach of an enemy. For

though the Danes now seem divided in counsel, yet they will soon be of

one mind to meet the foe. The wolves have often made peace between

the quarrelling swine. Every man prefers a leader of his own land to a

foreigner, and every province is warmer in loyalty to a native than to a

stranger king. For Frode will not await thee at home, but will intercept

thee abroad as thou comest. Eagles claw each other with their talons,

and fowls fight fronting. Thou thyself knowest that the keen sight of

the wise man must leave no cause for repentance. Thou hast an ample

guard of nobles. Keep thou quiet as thou art; indeed thou wilt almost be

able to find out by means of others what are thy resources for war. Let

the soldiers first try the fortunes of their king. Provide in peace for

thine own safety, and risk others if thou dost undertake the enterprise:

better that the slave should perish than the master. Let thy servant

do for thee what the tongs do for the smith, who by the aid of his iron

tool guards his hand from scorching, and saves his fingers from burning.

Learn thou also, by using thy men, to spare and take thought for


So spake Erik, and Gotar, who had hitherto held him a man of no parts,

now marvelled that he had graced his answer with sentences so choice

and weighty, and gave him the name of Shrewd-spoken, thinking that his

admirable wisdom deserved some title. For the young man’s reputation

had been kept in the shade by the exceeding brilliancy of his brother

Roller. Erik begged that some substantial gift should be added to the

name, declaring that the bestowal of the title ought to be graced by

a present besides. The king gave him a ship, and the oarsmen called it

“Skroter.” Now Erik and Roller were the sons of Ragnar, the champion,

and children of one father by different mothers; Roller’s mother and

Erik’s stepmother was named Kraka.

And so, by leave of Gotar, the task of making a raid on the Danes

fell to one Hrafn. He was encountered by Odd, who had at that time the

greatest prestige among the Danes as a rover, for he was such a skilled

magician that he could range over the sea without a ship, and could

often raise tempests by his spells, and wreck the vessels of the enemy.

Accordingly, that he might not have to condescend to pit his sea-forces

against the rovers, he used to ruffle the waters by enchantment, and

cause them to shipwreck his foes. To traders this man was ruthless,

but to tillers of the soil he was merciful, for he thought less of

merchandise than of the plough-handle, but rated the clean business

of the country higher than the toil for filthy lucre. When he began to

fight with the Northmen he so dulled the sight of the enemy by the power

of his spells that they thought the drawn swords of the Danes cast their

beams from afar off, and sparkled as if aflame. Moreover, their vision

was so blunted that they could not so much as look upon the sword

when it was drawn from the sheath: the dazzle was too much for their

eyesight, which could not endure the glittering mirage. So Hrafn and

many of his men were slain, and only six vessels slipped back to Norway

to teach the king that it was not so easy to crush the Danes. The

survivors also spread the news that Frode trusted only in the help of

his champions, and reigned against the will of his people, for his rule

had become a tyranny.

In order to examine this rumour, Roller, who was a great traveller

abroad, and eager to visit unknown parts, made a vow that he would get

into the company of Frode. But Erik declared that, splendid as were his

bodily parts, he had been rash in pronouncing the vow. At last, seeing

him persisting stubbornly in his purpose, Erik bound himself under a

similar vow; and the king promised them that he would give them for

companions whomsoever they approved by their choice. The brethren,

therefore, first resolved to visit their father and beg for the stores

and the necessaries that were wanted for so long a journey. He welcomed

them paternally, and on the morrow took them to the forest to inspect

the herd, for the old man was wealthy in cattle. Also he revealed to

them treasures which had long lain hid in caverns of the earth; and they

were suffered to gather up whatsoever of these they would. The boon was

accepted as heartily as it was offered: so they took the riches out of

the ground, and bore away what pleased them.

Their rowers meanwhile were either refreshing themselves or exercising

their skill with casting weights. Some sped leaping, some running;

others tried their strength by sturdily hurling stones; others tested

their archery by drawing the bow. Thus they essayed to strengthen

themselves with divers exercises. Some again tried to drink themselves

into a drowse. Roller was sent by his father to find out what had passed

at home in the meanwhile. And when he saw smoke coming from his mother’s

hut he went up outside, and, stealthily applying his eye, saw through

the little chink and into the house, where he perceived his mother

stirring a cooked mess in an ugly-looking pot. Also he looked up at

three snakes hanging from above by a thin cord, from whose mouths flowed

a slaver which dribbled drops of moisture on the meal. Now two of these

were pitchy of hue, while the third seemed to have whitish scales, and

was hung somewhat higher than the others. This last had a fastening

on its tail, while the others were held by a cord round their bellies.

Roller thought the affair looked like magic, but was silent on what

he had seen, that he might not be thought to charge his mother with

sorcery. For he did not know that the snakes were naturally harmless, or

how much strength was being brewed for that meal. Then Ragnar and Erik

came up, and, when they saw the smoke issuing from the cottage, entered

and went to sit at meat. When they were at table, and Kraka’s son and

stepson were about to eat together, she put before them a small dish

containing a piebald mess, part looking pitchy, but spotted with specks

of yellow, while part was whitish: the pottage having taken a different

hue answering to the different appearance of the snakes. And when each

had tasted a single morsel, Erik, judging the feast not by the colours

but by the inward strengthening effected, turned the dish around

very quickly, and transferred to himself the part which was black but

compounded of stronger juices; and, putting over to Roller the whitish

part which had first been set before himself, throve more on his supper.

And, to avoid showing that the exchange was made on purpose, he said,

“Thus does prow become stern when the sea boils up.” The man had no

little shrewdness, thus to use the ways of a ship to dissemble his

cunning act.

So Erik, now refreshed by this lucky meal, attained by its inward

working to the highest pitch of human wisdom. For the potency of the

meal bred in him the fulness of all kinds of knowledge to an incredible

degree, so that he had cunning to interpret even the utterances of wild

beasts and cattle. For he was not only well versed in all the affairs

of men, but he could interpret the particular feelings which brutes

experienced from the sounds which expressed them. He was also gifted

with an eloquence so courteous and graceful, that he adorned whatsoever

he desired to expound with a flow of witty adages. But when Kraka came

up, and found that the dish had been turned round, and that Erik had

eaten the stronger share of the meal, she lamented that the good luck

she had bred for her son should have passed to her stepson. Soon she

began to sigh, and entreat Eric that he should never fail to help his

brother, whose mother had heaped on him fortune so rich and strange: for

by tasting a single savoury meal he had clearly attained sovereign wit

and eloquence, besides the promise of success in combat. She added also,

that Roller was almost as capable of good counsel, and that he should

not utterly miss the dainty that had been intended for him. She also

told him that in case of extreme and violent need, he could find speedy

help by calling on her name; declaring that she trusted partially in her

divine attributes, and that, consorting as she did in a manner with the

gods, she wielded an innate and heavenly power. Erik said that he was

naturally drawn to stand by his brother, and that the bird was

infamous which fouled its own nest. But Kraka was more vexed by her own

carelessness than weighed down by her son’s ill-fortune: for in old

time it made a craftsman bitterly ashamed to be outwitted by his own


Then Kraka, accompanied by her husband, took away the brothers on their

journey to the sea. They embarked in a single ship, but soon attached

two others. They had already reached the coast of Denmark, when,

reconnoitering, they learned that seven ships had come up at no great

distance. Then Erik bade two men who could speak the Danish tongue well,

to go to them unclothed, and, in order to spy better, to complain to Odd

of their nakedness, as if Erik had caused it, and to report when they

had made careful scrutiny. These men were received as friends by Odd,

and hunted for every plan of the general with their sharp ears. He

had determined to attack the enemy unawares at daybreak, that he might

massacre them the more speedily while they were swathed in their night

garments: for he said that men’s bodies were wont to be most dull and

heavy at that hour of dawn. He also told them, thereby hastening what

was to prove his own destruction, that his ships were laden with stones

fit for throwing. The spies slipped off in the first sleep of the night,

reported that Odd had filled all his vessels with pebbles, and also told

everything else they had heard. Erik now quite understood the case, and,

when he considered the smallness of his own fleet, thought that he must

call the waters to destroy the enemy, and win their aid for himself.

So he got into a boat and rowed, pulling silently, close up to the

keels of the enemy; and gradually, by screwing in an auger, he bored the

planks (a device practiced by Hadding and also by Frode), nearest to the

water, and soon made good his return, the oar-beat being scarce audible.

Now he bore himself so warily, that not one of the watchers noted his

approach or departure. As he rowed off, the water got in through

the chinks of Odd’s vessels, and sank them, so that they were seen

disappearing in the deep, as the water flooded them more and more

within. The weight of the stones inside helped them mightily to sink.

The billows were washing away the thwarts, and the sea was flush with

the decks, when Odd, seeing the vessels almost on a level with the

waves, ordered the heavy seas that had been shipped to be baled out with

pitchers. And so, while the crews were toiling on to protect the sinking

parts of the vessels from the flood of waters, the enemy hove close up.

Thus, as they fell to their arms, the flood came upon them harder, and

as they prepared to fight, they found they must swim for it. Waves, not

weapons, fought for Erik, and the sea, which he had himself Enabled to

approach and do harm, battled for him. Thus Erik made better use of the

billow than of the steel, and by the effectual aid of the waters seemed

to fight in his own absence, the ocean lending him defence. The victory

was given to his craft; for a flooded ship could not endure a battle.

Thus was Odd slain with all his crew; the look-outs were captured, and

it was found that no man escaped to tell the tale of the disaster.

Erik, when the massacre was accomplished, made a rapid retreat, and put

in at the isle Lesso. Finding nothing there to appease his hunger, he

sent the spoil homeward on two ships, which were to bring back supplies

for another year. He tried to go by himself to the king in a single

ship. So he put in to Zealand, and the sailors ran about over the shore,

and began to cut down the cattle: for they must either ease their hunger

or perish of famine. So they killed the herd, skinned the carcases, and

cast them on board. When the owners of the cattle found this out, they

hastily pursued the free-booters with a fleet. And when Erik found that

he was being attacked by the owners of the cattle, he took care that the

carcases of the slaughtered cows should be tied with marked ropes and

hidden under water. Then, when the Zealanders came up, he gave them

leave to look about and see if any of the carcases they were seeking

were in his hands; saying that a ship’s corners were too narrow to hide

things. Unable to find a carcase anywhere, they turned their suspicions

on others, and thought the real criminals were guiltless of the plunder.

Since no traces of free-booting were to be seen, they fancied that

others had injured them, and pardoned the culprits. As they sailed off,

Erik lifted the carcase out of the water and took it in.

Meantime Frode learnt that Odd and his men had gone down. For a

widespread rumour of the massacre had got wind, though the author of the

deed was unknown. There were men, however, who told how they had seen

three sails putting in to shore, and departing again northwards. Then

Erik went to the harbour, not far from which Frode was tarrying, and,

the moment that he stepped out of the ship, tripped inadvertently, and

came tumbling to the ground. He found in the slip a presage of a lucky

issue, and forecast better results from this mean beginning. When Grep

heard of his coming, he hastened down to the sea, intending to

assail with chosen and pointed phrases the man whom he had heard was

better-spoken than all other folk. Grep’s eloquence was not so much

excellent as impudent, for he surpassed all in stubbornness of speech.

So he began the dispute with reviling, and assailed Erik as follows:

Grep: “Fool, who art thou? What idle quest is thine? Tell me, whence or

whither dost thou journey? What is thy road? What thy desire? Who thy

father? What thy lineage? Those have strength beyond others who have

never left their own homes, and the Luck of kings is their houseluck.

For the things of a vile man are acceptable unto few, and seldom are the

deeds of the hated pleasing.”

Erik: “Ragnar is my father; eloquence clothes my tongue; I have ever

loved virtue only. Wisdom hath been my one desire; I have travelled many

ways over the world, and seen the different manners of men. The mind of

the fool can keep no bounds in aught: it is base and cannot control its

feelings. The use of sails is better than being drawn by the oar; the

gale troubles the waters, a drearier gust the land. For rowing goes

through the seas and lying the lands; and it is certain that the lands

are ruled with the lips, but the seas with the hand.”

Grep: “Thou art thought to be as full of quibbling as a cock of dirt.

Thou stinkest heavy with filth, and reekest of nought but sin. There is

no need to lengthen the plea against a buffoon, whose strength is in an

empty and voluble tongue.”

Erik: “By Hercules, if I mistake not, the coward word is wont to come

back to the utterer. The gods with righteous endeavour bring home to

the speaker words cast forth without knowledge. As soon as we espy the

sinister ears of the wolf, we believe that the wolf himself is near. Men

think no credit due to him that hath no credit, whom report accuses of


Grep: “Shameless boy, owl astray from the path, night-owl in the

darkness, thou shalt pay for thy reckless words. Thou shalt be sorry for

the words thou now belchest forth madly, and shalt pay with thy death

for thy unhallowed speech. Lifeless thou shalt pasture crows on thy

bloodless corpse, to be a morsel for beasts, a prey to the ravenous


Erik: “The boding of the coward, and the will that is trained to evil,

have never kept themselves within due measure. He who betrays his lord,

he who conceives foul devices, will be as great a snare to himself as

to his friends. Whoso fosters a wolf in his house is thought to feed a

thief and a pest for his own hearth.”

Grep: “I did not, as thou thinkest, beguile the queen, but I was the

guardian of her tender estate. She increased my fortunes, and her favour

first brought me gifts and strength, and wealth and counsel.”

Erik: “Lo, thy guilty disquiet lies heavy on thee; that man’s freedom is

safest whose mind remains untainted. Whoso asks a slave to be a friend,

is deceived; often the henchman hurts his master.”

At this Grep, shorn of his glibness of rejoinder, set spurs to his

horse and rode away. Now when he reached home, he filled the palace with

uproarious and vehement clamour; and shouting that he had been worsted

in words, roused all his soldiers to fight, as though he would avenge by

main force his luckless warfare of tongues. For he swore that he would

lay the host of the foreigners under the claws of eagles. But the king

warned him that he should give his frenzy pause for counsel, that blind

plans were commonly hurtful; that nothing could be done both cautiously

and quickly at once; that headstrong efforts were the worst obstacle;

and lastly, that it was unseemly to attack a handful with a host. Also,

said he, the sagacious man was he who could bridle a raging spirit, and

stop his frantic empetuosity in time. Thus the king forced the headlong

rage of the young man to yield to reflection. But he could not wholly

recall to self-control the frenzy of his heated mind, or prevent the

champion of wrangles, abashed by his hapless debate, and finding armed

vengeance refused him, from asking leave at least to try his sorceries

by way of revenge. He gained his request, and prepared to go back to

the shore with a chosen troop of wizards. So he first put on a pole

the severed head of a horse that had been sacrificed to the gods, and

setting sticks beneath displayed the jaws grinning agape; hoping that

he would foil the first efforts of Erik by the horror of this wild

spectacle. For he supposed that the silly souls of the barbarians would

give away at the bogey of a protruding neck.

Erik was already on his road to meet them, and saw the head from afar

off, and, understanding the whole foul contrivance, he bade his men keep

silent and behave warily; no man was to be rash or hasty of speech, lest

by some careless outburst they might give some opening to the sorceries;

adding that if talking happened to be needed, he would speak for all.

And they were now parted by a river; when the wizards, in order to

dislodge Erik from the approach to the bridge, set up close to the

river, on their own side, the pole on which they had fixed the horse’s

head. Nevertheless Erik made dauntlessly for the bridge, and said: “On

the bearer fall the ill-luck of what he bears! May a better issue attend

our steps! Evil befall the evil-workers! Let the weight of the ominous

burden crush the carrier! Let the better auguries bring us safety!” And

it happened according to his prayer. For straightway the head was shaken

off, the stick fell and crushed the bearer. And so all that array

of sorceries was baffled at the bidding of a single curse, and


Then, as Erik advanced a little, it came into his mind that strangers

ought to fix on gifts for the king. So he carefully wrapped up in his

robe a piece of ice which he happened to find, and managed to take it to

the king by way of a present. But when they reached the palace he sought

entrance first, and bade his brother follow close behind. Already the

slaves of the king, in order to receive him with mockery as he entered,

had laid a slippery hide on the threshold; and when Erik stepped upon

it, they suddenly jerked it away by dragging a rope, and would have

tripped him as he stood upon it, had not Roller, following behind,

caught his brother on his breast as he tottered. So Erik, having half

fallen, said that “bare was the back of the brotherless.” And when

Gunwar said that such a trick ought not to be permitted by a king,

the king condemned the folly of the messenger who took no heed against

treachery. And thus he excused his flout by the heedlessness of the man

he flouted.

Within the palace was blazing a fire, which the aspect of the season

required: for it was now gone midwinter. By it, in different groups, sat

the king on one side and the champions on the other. These latter, when

Erik joined them, uttered gruesome sounds like things howling. The king

stopped the clamour, telling them that the noises of wild beasts ought

not to be in the breasts of men. Erik added, that it was the way of

dogs, for all the others to set up barking when one started it; for all

folk by their bearing betrayed their birth and revealed their race. But

when Koll, who was the keeper of the gifts offered to the king, asked

him whether he had brought any presents with him, he produced the ice

which he had hidden in his breast. And when he had handed it to Koll

across the hearth, he purposely let it go into the fire, as though it

had slipped from the hand of the receiver. All present saw the shining

fragment, and it seemed as though molten metal had fallen into the fire.

Erik, maintaining that it had been jerked away by the carelessness of

him who took it, asked what punishment was due to the loser of the gift.

The king consulted the opinion of the queen, who advised him not to

relax the statute of the law which he had passed, whereby he gave

warning that all who lost presents that were transmitted to him should

be punished with death. Everyone else also said that the penalty by law

appointed ought not to be remitted. And so the king, being counselled to

allow the punishment as inevitable, gave leave for Koll to be hanged.

Then Frode began to accost Erik thus: “O thou, wantoning in insolent

phrase, in boastful and bedizened speech, whence dost thou say that thou

hast come hither, and why?”

Erik answered: “I came from Rennes Isle, and I took my seat by a stone.”

Frode rejoined: “I ask, whither thou wentest next?”

Erik answered. “I went off from the stone riding on a beam, and often

again took station by a stone.”

Frode replied: “I ask thee whither thou next didst bend thy course, or

where the evening found thee?”

Then said Erik: “Leaving a crag, I came to a rock, and likewise lay by a


Frode said: “The boulders lay thick in those parts.”

Erik answered: “Yet thicker lies the sand, plain to see.”

Frode said: “Tell what thy business was, and whither thou struckest off


Then said Erik: “Leaving the rock, as my ship ran on, I found a


Frode said: “Now thou hast said something fresh, though both these

things are common in the sea: but I would know what path took thee after


Erik answered: “After a dolphin I went to a dolphin.”

Frode said: “The herd of dolphins is somewhat common.”

Then said Erik: “It does swim somewhat commonly on the waters.”

Frode said: “I would fain blow whither thou wert borne on thy toilsome

journey after leaving the dolphins?”

Erik answered: “I soon came upon the trunk of a tree.”

Frode rejoined: “Whither didst thou next pass on thy journey?”

Then said Erik: “From a trunk I passed on to a log.”

Frode said: “That spot must be thick with trees, since thou art always

calling the abodes of thy hosts by the name of trunks.”

Erik replied: “There is a thicker place in the woods.”

Frode went on: “Relate whither thou next didst bear thy steps.”

Erik answered: “Oft again I made my way to the lopped timbers of the

woods; but, as I rested there, wolves that were sated on human carcases

licked the points of the spears. There a lance-head was shaken from the

shaft of the king, and it was the grandson of Fridleif.”

Frode said: “I am bewildered, and know not what to think about the

dispute: for thou hast beguiled my mind with very dark riddling.”

Erik answered: “Thou owest me the prize for this contest that is

finished: for under a veil I have declared to thee certain things thou

hast ill understood. For under the name I gave before of `spear-point’ I

signified Odd, whom my hand had slain.”

And when the queen also had awarded him the palm of eloquence and the

prize for flow of speech, the king straightway took a bracelet from his

arm, and gave it to him as the appointed reward, adding: “I would fain

learn from thyself thy debate with Grep, wherein he was not ashamed

openly to avow himself vanquished.”

Then said Erik: “He was smitten with shame for the adultery wherewith he

was taxed; for since he could bring no defence, he confessed that he had

committed it with thy wife.”

The king turned to Hanund and asked her in what spirit she received

the charge; and she not only confessed her guilt by a cry, but also put

forth in her face a blushing signal of her sin, and gave manifest token

of her fault. The king, observing not only her words, but also the signs

of her countenance, but doubting with what sentence he should punish the

criminal, let the queen settle by her own choice the punishment which

her crime deserved. When she learnt that the sentence committed to

her concerned her own guilt, she wavered awhile as she pondered how

to appraise her transgression; but Grep sprang up and ran forward to

transfix Erik with a spear, wishing to buy off his own death by slaying

the accuser. But Roller fell on him with drawn sword, and dealt him

first the doom he had himself purposed.

Erik said: “The service of kin is best for the helpless.”

And Roller said: “In sore needs good men should be dutifully summoned.”

Then Frode said: “I think it will happen to you according to the common

saying, `that the striker sometimes has short joy of his stroke’, and

`that the hand is seldom long glad of the smiting’.”

Erik answered: “The man must not be impeached whose deed justice

excuses. For my work is as far as from that of Grep, as an act of

self-defence is from an attack upon another.”

Then the brethren of Grep began to spring up and clamour and swear that

they would either bring avengers upon the whole fleet of Erik, or would

fight him and ten champions with him.

Erik said to them: “Sick men have to devise by craft some provision for

their journey. He whose sword-point is dull should only probe things

that are soft and tender. He who has a blunt knife must search out the

ways to cut joint by joint. Since, therefore, it is best for a man in

distress to delay the evil, and nothing is more fortunate in trouble

than to stave off hard necessity, I ask three days’ space to get ready,

provided that I may obtain from the king the skill of a freshly slain


Frode answered: “He who fell on a hide deserves a hide”; thus openly

taunting the asker with his previous fall. But Erik, when the hide was

given him, made some sandals, which he smeared with a mixture of tar and

sand, in order to plant his steps the more firmly, and fitted them on to

the feet of himself and his people. At last, having meditated what spot

he should choose for the fight–for he said that he was unskilled in

combat by land and in all warfare–he demanded it should be on the

frozen sea. To this both sides agreed. The king granted a truce for

preparations, and bade the sons of Westmar withdraw, saying that it was

amiss that a guest, even if he had deserved ill should be driven

from his lodging. Then he went back to examine into the manner of the

punishment, which he had left to the queen’s own choice to exact. For

she forebore to give judgment, and begged pardon for her slip. Erik

added, that woman’s errors must often be forgiven, and that punishment

ought not to be inflicted, unless amendment were unable to get rid of

her fault. So the king pardoned Hanund. As twilight drew near, Erik

said: “With Gotar, not only are rooms provided when the soldiers are

coming to feast at the banquet, but each is appointed a separate place

and seat where he is to lie.” Then the king gave up for their occupation

the places where his own champions had sat; and next the servants

brought the banquet. But Erik, knowing well the courtesy of the king,

which made him forbid them to use up any of the meal that was left,

cast away the piece of which he had tasted very little, calling whole

portions broken bits of food. And so, as the dishes dwindled, the

servants brought up fresh ones to the lacking and shamefaced guests,

thus spending on a little supper what might have served for a great


So the king said: “Are the soldiers of Gotar wont to squander the meat

after once touching it, as if it were so many pared-off crusts? And to

spurn the first dishes as if they were the last morsels?”

Erik said: “Uncouthness claims no place in the manners of Gotar, neither

does any disorderly habit feign there.”

But Frode said: “Then thy manners are not those of thy lord, and thou

hast proved that thou hast not taken all wisdom to heart. For he who

goes against the example of his elders shows himself a deserter and a


Then said Erik: “The wise man must be taught by the wiser. For knowledge

grows by learning, and instruction is advanced by doctrine.”

Frode rejoined: “This affectation of thine of superfluous words, what

exemplary lesson will it teach me?”

Erik said: “A loyal few are a safer defence for a king than many


Frode said to him: “Wilt thou then show us closer allegiance than the


Erik answered: “No man ties the unborn (horse) to the crib, or the

unbegotten to the stall. For thou hast not yet experienced all things.

Besides, with Gotar there is always a mixture of drinking with

feasting; liquor, over and above, and as well as meat, is the joy of the


Frode said: “Never have I found a more shameless beggar of meat and


Erik replied: “Few reckon the need of the silent, or measure the wants

of him who holds his peace.”

Then the king bade his sister bring forth the drink in a great goblet.

Erik caught hold of her right hand and of the goblet she offered at the

same time, and said: “Noblest of kings, hath thy benignity granted me

this present? Dost thou assure me that what I hold shall be mine as an

irrevocable gift?”

The king, thinking that he was only asking for the cup, declared it was

a gift. But Erik drew the maiden to him, as if she was given with the

cup. When the king saw it, he said: “A fool is shown by his deed; with

us freedom of maidens is ever held inviolate.”

Then Erik, feigning that he would cut off the girl’s hand with his

sword, as though it had been granted under the name of the cup, said:

“If I have taken more than thou gavest, or if I am rash to keep the

whole, let me at least get some.” The king saw his mistake in his

promise, and gave him the maiden, being loth to undo his heedlessness

by fickleness, and that the weight of his pledge might seem the greater;

though it is held an act more of ripe judgment than of unsteadfastness

to take back a foolish promise.

Then, taking from Erik security that he would return, he sent him to the

ships; for the time appointed for the battle was at hand. Erik and his

men went on to the sea, then covered near with ice; and, thanks to the

stability of their sandals, felled the enemy, whose footing was slippery

and unsteady. For Frode had decreed that no man should help either side

if it wavered or were distressed. Then he went back in triumph to the

king. So Gotwar, sorrowing at the destruction of her children who had

miserably perished, and eager to avenge them, announced that it would

please her to have a flyting with Erik, on condition that she should

gage a heavy necklace and he his life; so that if he conquered he should

win gold, but if he gave in, death. Erik agreed to the contest, and the

gage was deposited with Gunwar. So Gotwar began thus:

     “Quando tuam limas admissa cote bipennem,

     Nonne terit tremulas mentula quassa nates?”

Erik rejoined:

     “Ut cuivis natura pilos in corpore sevit,

     Omnis nempe suo barba ferenda loco est.

     Re Veneris homines artus agitare necesse est;

     Motus quippe suos nam labor omnis habet.

     Cum natis excipitur nate, vel cum subdita penem

     Vulva capit, quid ad haec addere mas renuit?”

Powerless to answer this, Gotwar had to give the gold to the man

whom she had meant to kill, and thus wasted a lordly gift instead of

punishing the slayer of her son. For her ill fate was crowned, instead

of her ill-will being avenged. First bereaved, and then silenced

by furious words, she lost at once her wealth and all reward of her

eloquence. She made the man blest who had taken away her children, and

enriched her bereaver with a present: and took away nothing to make up

the slaughter of her sons save the reproach of ignorance and the loss of

goods. Westmar, when he saw this, determined to attack the man by force,

since he was the stronger of tongue, and laid down the condition that

the reward of the conqueror should be the death of the conquered, so

that the life of both parties was plainly at stake. Erik, unwilling to

be thought quicker of tongue than of hand, did not refuse the terms.

Now the manner of combat was as follows. A ring, plaited of withy or

rope, used to be offered to the combatants for them to drag away by

wrenching it with a great effort of foot and hand; and the prize went to

the stronger, for if either of the combatants could wrench it from the

other, he was awarded the victory. Erik struggled in this manner, and,

grasping the rope sharply, wrested it out of the hands of his opponent.

When Erode saw this, he said: “I think it is hard to tug at a rope with

a strong man.”

And Erik said: “Hard, at any rate, when a tumour is in the body or a

hunch sits on the back.”

And straightway, thrusting his foot forth, he broke the infirm neck and

back of the old man, and crushed him. And so Westmar failed to compass

his revenge: zealous to retaliate, he fell into the portion of those who

need revenging; being smitten down even as those whose slaughter he had

desired to punish.

Now Frode intended to pierce Erik by throwing a dagger at him. But

Gunwar knew her brother’s purpose, and said, in order to warn

her betrothed of his peril, that no man could be wise who took no

forethought for himself. This speech warned Erik to ward off the

treachery, and he shrewdly understood the counsel of caution. For at

once he sprang up and said that the glory of the wise man would be

victorious, but that guile was its own punishment; thus censuring his

treacherous intent in very gentle terms. But the king suddenly flung his

knife at him, yet was too late to hit him; for he sprang aside, and the

steel missed its mark and ran into the wall opposite. Then said Erik:

“Gifts should be handed to friends, and not thrown; thou hadst made

the present acceptable if thou hadst given the sheath to keep the blade


On this request the king at once took the sheath from his girdle and

gave it to him, being forced to abate his hatred by the self-control of

his foe. Thus he was mollified by the prudent feigning of the other, and

with goodwill gave him for his own the weapon which he had cast with

ill will. And thus Erik, by taking the wrong done him in a dissembling

manner, turned it into a favour, accepting as a splendid gift the steel

which had been meant to slay him. For he put a generous complexion on

what Frode had done with intent to harm. Then they gave themselves up

to rest. In the night Gunwar awoke Erik silently, and pointed out to him

that they ought to fly, saying that it was very expedient to return with

safe chariot ere harm was done. He went with her to the shore, where he

happened to find the king’s fleet beached: so, cutting away part of

the sides, he made it unseaworthy, and by again replacing some laths he

patched it so that the damage might be unnoticed by those who looked at

it. Then he caused the vessel whither he and his company had retired to

put off a little from the shore.

The king prepared to give them chase with his mutilated ships, but soon

the waves broke through; and though he was very heavily laden with his

armour, he began to swim off among the rest, having become more anxious

to save his own life than to attack that of others. The bows plunged

over into the sea, the tide flooded in and swept the rowers from their

seats. When Erik and Roller saw this they instantly flung themselves

into the deep water, spurning danger, and by swimming picked up the

king, who was tossing about. Thrice the waves had poured over him and

borne him down when Erik caught him by the hair, and lifted him out of

the sea. The remaining crowd of the wrecked either sank in the waters,

or got with trouble to the land. The king was stripped of his dripping

attire and swathed round with dry garments, and the water poured in

floods from his chest as he kept belching it; his voice also seemed

to fail under the exhaustion of continual pantings. At last heat was

restored to his limbs, which were numbed with cold, and his breathing

became quicker. He had not fully got back his strength, and could sit

but not rise. Gradually his native force returned. But when he was asked

at last whether he sued for life and grace, he put his hand to his eyes,

and strove to lift up their downcast gaze. But as, little by little,

power came back to his body, and as his voice became more assured, he


“By this light, which I am loth to look on, by this heaven which I

behold and drink in with little joy, I beseech and conjure you not to

persuade me to use either any more. I wished to die; ye have saved me in

vain. I was not allowed to perish in the waters; at least I will die by

the sword. I was unconquered before; thine, Erik, was the first wit to

which I yielded: I was all the more unhappy, because I had never been

beaten by men of note, and now I let a low-born man defeat me. This

is great cause for a king to be ashamed. This is a good and sufficient

reason for a general to die; it is right that he should care for nothing

so much as glory. If he want that, then take it that he lacks all else.

For nothing about a king is more on men’s lips than his repute. I was

credited with the height of understanding and eloquence. But I have been

stripped of both the things wherein I was thought to excel, and am all

the more miserable because I, the conqueror of kings, am seen conquered

by a peasant. Why grant life to him whom thou hast robbed of honour? I

have lost sister, realm, treasure, household gear, and, what is greater

than them all, renown: I am luckless in all chances, and in all thy

good fortune is confessed. Why am I to be kept to live on for all this

ignominy? What freedom can be so happy for me that it can wipe out all

the shame of captivity? What will all the following time bring for me?

It can beget nothing but long remorse in my mind, and will savour only

of past woes. What will prolonging of life avail, if it only brings back

the memory of sorrow? To the stricken nought is pleasanter than death,

and that decease is happy which comes at a man’s wish, for it cuts not

short any sweetness of his days, but annihilates his disgust at all

things. Life in prosperity, but death in adversity, is best to seek.

No hope of better things tempts me to long for life. What hap can quite

repair my shattered fortunes? And by now, had ye not rescued me in my

peril, I should have forgotten even these. What though thou shouldst

give me back my realm, restore my sister, and renew my treasure? Thou

canst never repair my renown. Nothing that is patched up can have the

lustre of the unimpaired, and rumour will recount for ages that

Frode was taken captive. Moreover, if ye reckon the calamities I have

inflicted on you, I have deserved to die at your hands; if ye recall the

harms I have done, ye will repent your kindness. Ye will be ashamed of

having aided a foe, if ye consider how savagely he treated you. Why do

ye spare the guilty? Why do ye stay your hand from the throat of your

persecutor? It is fitting that the lot which I had prepared for you

should come home to myself. I own that if I had happened to have you in

my power as ye now have me, I should have paid no heed to compassion.

But if I am innocent before you in act, I am guilty at least in will. I

pray you, let my wrongful intention, which sometimes is counted to stand

for the deed, recoil upon me. If ye refuse me death by the sword I will

take care to kill myself with my own hand.”

Erik rejoined thus: “I pray that the gods may turn thee from the folly

of thy purpose; turn thee, I say, that thou mayst not try to end a most

glorious life abominably. Why, surely the gods themselves have forbidden

that a man who is kind to others should commit unnatural self-murder.

Fortune has tried thee to find out with what spirit thou wouldst meet

adversity. Destiny has proved thee, not brought thee low. No sorrow has

been inflicted on thee which a happier lot cannot efface. Thy prosperity

has not been changed; only a warning has been given thee. No man behaves

with self-control in prosperity who has not learnt to endure adversity.

Besides, the whole use of blessings is reaped after misfortunes have

been graciously acknowledged. Sweeter is the joy which follows on the

bitterness of fate. Wilt thou shun thy life because thou hast once had a

drenching, and the waters closed over thee? But if the waters can crush

thy spirit, when wilt thou with calm courage bear the sword? Who would

not reckon swimming away in his armour more to his glory than to his

shame? How many men would think themselves happy were they unhappy

with thy fortune? The sovereignty is still thine; thy courage is in its

prime; thy years are ripening; thou canst hope to compass more than thou

hast yet achieved. I would not find thee fickle enough to wish, not only

to shun hardships, but also to fling away thy life, because thou couldst

not bear them. None is so unmanly as he who from fear of adversity loses

heart to live. No wise man makes up for his calamities by dying. Wrath

against another is foolish, but against a man’s self it is foolhardy;

and it is a coward frenzy which dooms its owner. But if thou go

without need to thy death for some wrong suffered, or for some petty

perturbation of spirit, whom dost thou leave behind to avenge thee?

Who is so mad that he would wish to punish the fickleness of fortune by

destroying himself? What man has lived so prosperously but that ill

fate has sometimes stricken him? Hast thou enjoyed felicity unbroken

and passed thy days without a shock, and now, upon a slight cloud of

sadness, dost thou prepare to quit thy life, only to save thy anguish?

If thou bear trifles so ill, how shalt thou endure the heavier frowns

of fortune? Callow is the man who has never tasted of the cup of sorrow;

and no man who has not suffered hardships is temperate in enjoying ease.

Wilt thou, who shouldst have been a pillar of courage, show a sign of a

palsied spirit? Born of a brave sire, wilt thou display utter impotence?

Wilt thou fall so far from thy ancestors as to turn softer than women?

Hast thou not yet begun thy prime, and art thou already taken with

weariness of life? Whoever set such an example before? Shall the

grandson of a famous man, and the child of the unvanquished, be too weak

to endure a slight gust of adversity? Thy nature portrays the courage of

thy sires; none has conquered thee, only thine own heedlessness has hurt

thee. We snatched thee from peril, we did not subdue thee; wilt thou

give us hatred for love, and set our friendship down as wrongdoing? Our

service should have appeased thee, and not troubled thee. May the gods

never desire thee to go so far in frenzy, as to persist in branding

thy preserver as a traitor! Shall we be guilty before thee in a matter

wherein we do thee good? Shall we draw anger on us for our service? Wilt

thou account him thy foe whom thou hast to thank for thy life? For thou

wert not free when we took thee, but in distress, and we came in time to

help thee. And, behold, I restore thy treasure, thy wealth, thy goods.

If thou thinkest thy sister was betrothed to me over-hastily, let her

marry the man whom thou commandest; for her chastity remains inviolate.

Moreover, if thou wilt accept me, I wish to fight for thee. Beware lest

thou wrongfully steel thy mind in anger. No loss of power has shattered

thee, none of thy freedom has been forfeited. Thou shalt see that I

am obeying, not commanding thee. I agree to any sentence thou mayst

pronounce against my life. Be assured that thou art as strong here as-in

thy palace; thou hast the same power to rule here as in thy court. Enact

concerning us here whatsoever would have been thy will in the palace: we

are ready to obey.” Thus much said Erik.

Now this speech softened the king towards himself as much as towards his

foe. Then, everything being arranged and made friendly, they returned to

the shore. The king ordered that Erik and his sailors should be taken in

carriages. But when they reached the palace he had an assembly summoned,

to which he called Erik, and under the pledge of betrothal gave him

his sister and command over a hundred men. Then he added that the queen

would be a weariness to him, and that the daughter of Gotar had taken

his liking. He must, therefore, have a fresh embassy, and the business

could best be done by Erik, for whose efforts nothing seemed too hard.

He also said that he would stone Gotwar to death for her complicity in

concealing the crime; but Hanund he would restore to her father, that he

might not have a traitress against his life dwelling amongst the Danes.

Erik approved his plans, and promised his help to carry out his bidding;

except that he declared that it would be better to marry the queen, when

she had been put away, to Roller, of whom his sovereignty need have no

fears. This opinion Frode received reverentially, as though it were some

lesson vouchsafed from above. The queen also, that she might not seem

to be driven by compulsion, complied, as women will, and declared that

there was no natural necessity to grieve, and that all distress of

spirit was a creature of fancy: and, moreover, that one ought not to

bewail the punishment that befell one’s deserts. And so the brethren

celebrated their marriages together, one wedding the sister of the king,

and the other his divorced queen.

Then they sailed back to Norway, taking their wives with them. For

the women could not be torn from the side of their husbands, either by

distance of journey or by dread of peril, but declared that they would

stick to their lords like a feather to something shaggy. They found that

Ragnar was dead, and that Kraka had already married one Brak. Then they

remembered the father’s treasure, dug up the money, and bore it off.

But Erik’s fame had gone before him, and Gotar had learnt all his good

fortune. Now when Gotar learnt that he had come himself, he feared that

his immense self-confidence would lead him to plan the worst against the

Norwegians, and was anxious to take his wife from him and marry him to

his own daughter in her place: for his queen had just died, and he was

anxious to marry the sister of Frode more than anyone. Erik, when he

learnt of his purpose, called his men together, and told them that his

fortune had not yet got off from the reefs. Also he said that he saw,

that as a bundle that was not tied by a band fell to pieces, so likewise

the heaviest punishment that was not constrained on a man by his own

fault suddenly collapsed. They had experienced this of late with Frode;

for they saw how at the hardest pass their innocence had been protected

by the help of the gods; and if they continued to preserve it they

should hope for like aid in their adversity. Next, they must pretend

flight for a little while, if they were attacked by Gotar, for so they

would have a juster plea for fighting. For they had every right to

thrust out the hand in order to shield the head from peril. Seldom

could a man carry to a successful end a battle he had begun against the

innocent; so, to give them a better plea for assaulting the enemy, he

must be provoked to attack them first.

Erik then turned to Gunwar, and asked her, in order to test her

fidelity, whether she had any love for Gotar, telling her it was

unworthy that a maid of royal lineage should be bound to the bed of a

man of the people. Then she began to conjure him earnestly by the power

of heaven to tell her whether his purpose was true or reigned? He said

that he had spoken seriously, and she cried: “And so thou art prepared

to bring on me the worst of shame by leaving me a widow, whom thou

lovedst dearly as a maid! Common rumour often speaks false, but I have

been wrong in my opinion of thee. I thought I had married a steadfast

man; I hoped his loyalty was past question; but now I find him to be

more fickle than the winds.” Saying this, she wept abundantly.

Dear to Erik was his wife’s fears; presently he embraced her and said:

“I wished to know how loyal thou wert to me. Nought but death has the

right to sever us, but Gotar means to steal thee away, seeking thy love

by robbery. When he has committed the theft, pretend it is done with thy

goodwill; yet put off the wedding till he has given me his daughter in

thy place. When she has been granted, Gotar and I will hold our

marriage on the same day. And take care that thou prepare rooms for

our banqueting which have a common party-wall, yet are separate: lest

perchance, if I were before thine eyes, thou shouldst ruffle the king

with thy lukewarm looks at him. For this will be a most effective trick

to baffle the wish of the ravisher.” Then he bade Brak (one of his

men), to lie in ambush not far from the palace with a chosen band of his

quickest men, that he might help him at need.

Then he summoned Roller, and fled in his ship with his wife and all his

goods, in order to tempt the king out, pretending panic: So, when he saw

that the fleet of Gotar was pressing him hard, he said: “Behold how the

bow of guile shooteth the shaft of treachery;” and instantly rousing his

sailors with the war-shout, he steered the ship about. Gotar came close

up to him and asked who was the pilot of the ship, and he was told that

it was Erik. He also shouted a question whether he was the same man who

by his marvellous speaking could silence the eloquence of all other men.

Erik, when he heard this, replied that he had long since received the

surname of the “Shrewd-spoken”, and that he had not won the auspicious

title for nothing. Then both went back to the nearest shore, where

Gotar, when he learnt the mission of Erik, said that he wished for the

sister of Frode, but would rather offer his own daughter to Frode’s

envoy, that Erik might not repent the passing of his own wife to another

man. Thus it would not be unfitting for the fruit of the mission to fall

to the ambassador.

Erik, he said, was delightful to him as a son-in-law, if only he could

win alliance with Frode through Gunwar.

Erik lauded the kindness of the king and approved his judgment,

declaring he could not have expected a greater thing from the immortal

gods than what was now offered him unasked. Still, he said, the king

must first discover Gunwar’s own mind and choice. She accepted the

flatteries of the king with feigned goodwill, and seemed to consent

readily to his suit, but besought him to suffer Erik’s nuptials to

precede hers; because, if Erik’s were accomplished first, there would be

a better opportunity for the king’s; but chiefly on this account,

that, if she were to marry again, she might not be disgusted at her new

marriage troth by the memory of the old recurring. She also declared

it inexpedient for two sets of preparations to be confounded in one

ceremony. The king was prevailed upon by her answers, and highly

approved her requests.

Gotar’s constant talks with Erik furnished him with a store of most

fairshapen maxims, wherewith to rejoice and refresh his mind. So, not

satisfied with giving him his daughter in marriage he also made over to

him the district of Lither, thinking that their connection deserved some

kindness. Now Kraka, whom Erik, because of her cunning in witchcraft,

had brought with him on his travels, feigned weakness of the eyes, and

muffled up her face in her cloak, so that not a single particle of her

head was visible for recognition. When people asked her who she was,

she said that she was Gunwar’s sister, child of the same mother but a

different father.

Now when they came to the dwelling of Gotar, the wedding-feast of

Alfhild (this was his daughter’s name) was being held. Erik and the king

sat at meat in different rooms, with a party-wall in common, and also

entirely covered on the inside with hanging tapestries. Gunwar sat by

Gotar, but Erik sat close between Kraka on the one side and Alfhild on

the other. Amid the merrymaking, he gradually drew a lath out of the

wall, and made an opening large enough to allow the passage of a human

body; and thus, without the knowledge of the guests, he made a space

wide enough to go through. Then, in the course of the feast, he began to

question his betrothed closely whether she would rather marry himself or

Frode: especially since, if due heed were paid to matches, the daughter

of a king ought to go to the arms of one as noble as herself, so that

the lowliness of one of the pair might not impair the lordliness of the

other. She said that she would never marry against the permission of her

father; but he turned her aversion into compliance by promises that she

should be queen, and that she should be richer than all other women, for

she was captivated by the promise of wealth quite as much as of glory.

There is also a tradition that Kraka turned the maiden’s inclinations to

Frode by a drink which she mixed and gave to her.

Now Gotar, after the feast, in order to make the marriage-mirth go fast

and furious, went to the revel of Erik. As he passed out, Gunwar, as

she had been previously bidden, went through the hole in the party-wall

where the lath had been removed, and took the seat next to Erik. Gotar

marvelled that she was sitting there by his side, and began to ask

eagerly how and why she had come there. She said that she was Gunwar’s

sister, and that the king was deceived by the likeness of their looks.

And when the king, in order to look into the matter, hurried back to the

royal room, Gunwar returned through the back door by which she had come

and sat in her old place in the sight of all. Gotar, when he saw her,

could scarcely believe his eyes, and in the utmost doubt whether he had

recognized her aright, he retraced his steps to Erik; and there he saw

before him Gunwar, who had got back in her own fashion. And so, as often

as he changed to go from one hall to the other, he found her whom he

sought in either place. By this time the king was tormented by great

wonder at what was no mere likeness, but the very same face in both

places. For it seemed flatly impossible that different people should

look exactly and undistinguishably alike. At last, when the revel broke

up, he courteously escorted his daughter and Erik as far as their room,

as the manner is at weddings, and went back himself to bed elsewhere.

But Erik suffered Alfhild, who was destined for Frode, to lie apart, and

embraced Gunwar as usual, thus outwitting the king. So Gotar passed a

sleepless night, revolving how he had been apparently deluded with

a dazed and wandering mind: for it seemed to him no mere likeness of

looks, but sameness. Thus he was filled with such wavering and doubtful

judgment, that though he really discerned the truth he thought he must

have been mistaken. At last it flashed across his mind that the

wall might have been tampered with. He gave orders that it should be

carefully surveyed and examined, but found no traces of a breakage: in

fact, the entire room seemed to be whole and unimpaired. For Erik, early

in the night, had patched up the damage of the broken wall, that his

trick might not be detected. Then the king sent two men privily into

the bedroom of Erik to learn the truth, and bade them stand behind the

hangings and note all things carefully. They further received orders

to kill Erik if they found him with Gunwar. They went secretly into the

room, and, concealing themselves in the curtained corners, beheld

Erik and Gunwar in bed together with arms entwined. Thinking them only

drowsy, they waited for their deeper sleep, wishing to stay until a

heavier slumber gave them a chance to commit their crime. Erik snored

lustily, and they knew it was a sure sign that he slept soundly; so they

straightway came forth with drawn blades in order to butcher him. Erik

was awakened by their treacherous onset, and seeing their swords hanging

over his head, called out the name of his stepmother, (Kraka), to which

long ago he had been bidden to appeal when in peril, and he found a

speedy help in his need. For his shield, which hung aloft from the

rafter, instantly fell and covered his unarmed body, and, as if on

purpose, covered it from impalement by the cutthroats. He did not fail

to make use of his luck, but, snatching his sword, lopped off both feet

of the nearest of them. Gunwar, with equal energy, ran a spear through

the other: she had the body of a woman, but the spirit of a man.

Thus Erik escaped the trap; whereupon he went back to the sea and made

ready to sail off by night. But Roller sounded on his horn the signal

for those who had been bidden to watch close by, to break into the

palace. When the king heard this, he thought it meant that the enemy was

upon them, and made off hastily in a ship. Meanwhile Brak, and those who

had broken in with him, snatched up the goods of the king, and got them

on board Erik’s ships. Almost half the night was spent in pillaging.

In the morning, when the king found that they had fled, he prepared to

pursue them, but was advised by one of his friends not to plan anything

on a sudden or do it in haste. His friend, indeed, tried to convince him

that he needed a larger equipment, and that it was ill-advised to pursue

the fugitives to Denmark with a handful. But neither could this curb

the king’s impetuous spirit; it could not bear the loss; for nothing had

stung him more than this, that his preparations to slay another should

have recoiled on his own men. So he sailed to the harbour which is now

called Omi. Here the weather began to be bad, provision failed, and

they thought it better, since die they must, to die by the sword than

by famine. And so the sailors turned their hand against one another, and

hastened their end by mutual blows. The king with a few men took to the

cliffs and escaped. Lofty barrows still mark the scene of the slaughter.

Meanwhile Erik ended his voyage fairly, and the wedding of Alfhild and

Frode was kept.

Then came tidings of an inroad of the Sclavs, and Erik was commissioned

to suppress it with eight ships, since Frode as yet seemed inexperienced

in war. Erik, loth ever to flinch from any manly undertaking, gladly

undertook the business and did it bravely. Learning that the pirates had

seven ships, he sailed up to them with only one of his own, ordering

the rest to be girt with timber parapets, and covered over with pruned

boughs of trees. Then he advanced to observe the number of the enemy

more fully, but when the Sclavs pursued closely, he beat a quick retreat

to his men. But the enemy, blind to the trap, and as eager to take the

fugitives, rowed smiting the waters fast and incessantly. For the ships

of Erik could not be clearly distinguished, looking like a leafy

wood. The enemy, after venturing into a winding strait, suddenly saw

themselves surrounded by the fleet of Erik. First, confounded by the

strange sight, they thought that a wood was sailing; and then they saw

that guile lurked under the leaves. Therefore, tardily repenting their

rashness, they tried to retrace their incautious voyage: but while they

were trying to steer about, they saw the enemy boarding them; Erik,

however, put his ship ashore, and slung stones against the enemy

from afar. Thus most of the Sclavs were killed, and forty taken, who

afterwards under stress of bonds and famine, and in strait of divers

torments, gave up the ghost.

Meantime Frode, in order to cross on an expedition into Sclavia, had

mustered a mighty fleet from the Danes, as well as from neighbouring

peoples. The smallest boat of this fleet could carry twelve sailors, and

be rowed by as many oars. Then Erik, bidding his men await him patiently

went to tell Frode the tidings of the defeat he had inflicted. As he

sailed along he happened to see a pirate ship aground on some shallows;

and being wont to utter weighty words upon chance occurrences, he said,

“Obscure is the lot of the base-born, and mean is the fortune of the

lowly.” Then he brought his ship up close and destroyed the pirates, who

were trying to get off their own vessel with poles, and busily engrossed

in saving her. This accomplished, he made his way back to the king’s

fleet; and wishing to cheer Frode with a greeting that heralded his

victory, he said, “Hail to the maker of a most prosperous peace!” The

king prayed that his word might come true, and declared that the spirit

of the wise man was prophetic. Erik answered that he spoke truly, and

that the petty victory brought an omen of a greater one; declaring that

a presage of great matters could often be got from trifles. Then the

king counselled him to scatter his force, and ordered the horsemen of

Jutland to go by the land way, while the rest of the army went by

the short sea-passage. But the sea was covered with such a throng of

vessels, that there were not enough harbours to take them in, nor shores

for them to encamp on, nor money for their provisions; while the land

army is said to have been so great that, in order to shorten the way, it

levelled mountains, made marshes passable, filled up pits with material,

and the hugest chasms by casting in great boulders.

Meanwhile Strunik the King of the Sclavs sent envoys to ask for a truce;

but Frode refused him time to equip himself, saying that an enemy ought

not to be furnished with a truce. Moreover, he said, he had hitherto

passed his life without experience of war, and now he ought not to delay

its beginning by waiting in doubt; for the man that conducted his first

campaign successfully might hope for as good fortune in the rest. For

each side would take the augury afforded by the first engagements as a

presage of the combat; since the preliminary successes of war were

often a prophecy of the sequel. Erik commended the wisdom of the reply,

declaring that the game ought to be played abroad just as it had been

begun at home: meaning that the Danes had been challenged by the Sclavs.

After these words he fought a furious battle, slew Strunik with the

bravest of his race, and received the surrender of the rest. Then Frode

called the Sclavs together, and proclaimed by a herald that any man

among them who had been trained to theft or plunder should be speedily

given up; promising that he would reward the character of such men with

the highest honours. He also ordered that all of them, who were versed

in evil arts should come forth to have their reward. This offer pleased

the Sclavs: and some of them, tempted by their hopes of the gift,

betrayed themselves with more avarice than judgment, before the others

could make them known. These were misled by such great covetousness,

that they thought less of shame than lucre, and accounted as their glory

what was really their guilt. When these had given themselves up of their

own will, he said: “Sclavs! This is the pest from which you must clear

your land yourselves.” And straightway he ordered the executioners to

seize them, and had them fixed upon the highest gallows by the hand of

their own countrymen. The punishers looked fewer than the punished. And

thus the shrewd king, by refusing to those who owned their guilt the

pardon which he granted to the conquered foe, destroyed almost the

entire stock of the Sclavic race. Thus the longing for an undeserved

reward was visited with a deserved penalty, and the thirst for an

undue wage justly punished. I should think that these men were rightly

delivered to their doom, who brought the peril on their own heads by

speaking, when they could have saved their lives by the protection of


The king, exalted by the honours of his fresh victory, and loth to seem

less strong in justice than in battle, resolved to remodel his army by

some new laws, some of which are retained by present usage, while others

men have chosen to abolish for new ones. (a) For he decreed, when the

spoil was divided, that each of the vanguard should receive a greater

share than the rest of the soldiery: while he granted all gold that was

taken to the generals (before whom the standards were always borne in

battle) on account of their rank; wishing the common soldiers to

be content with silver. He ordered that the arms should go to the

champions, but the captured ships should pass to the common people, as

the due of those who had the right of building and equipping vessels.

(b) Also he forbade that anyone should venture to lock up his household

goods, as he would receive double the value of any losses from the

treasury of the king; but if anyone thought fit to keep it in locked

coffers, he must pay the king a gold mark. He also laid down that anyone

who spared a thief should be punished as a thief. (d) Further, that the

first man to flee in battle should forfeit all common rights. (e) But

when he had returned into Denmark he wished to amend by good measures

any corruption caused by the evil practices of Grep; and therefore

granted women free choice in marriage, so that there might be no

compulsory wedlock. And so he provided by law that women should be held

duly married to those whom they had wedded without consulting their

fathers. (f) But if a free woman agreed to marry a slave, she must fall

to his rank, lose the blessing of freedom, and adopt the standing of a

slave. (g) He also imposed on men the statute that they must marry any

woman whom they had seduced. (h) He ordained that adulterers should be

deprived of a member by the lawful husbands, so that continence might

not be destroyed by shameful sins. (I) Also he ordained that if a Dane

plundered another Dane, he should repay double, and be held guilty of

a breach of the peace. (k) And if any man were to take to the house of

another anything which he had got by thieving, his host, if he shut the

door of his house behind the man, should incur forfeiture of all his

goods, and should be beaten in full assembly, being regarded as having

made himself guilty of the same crime. (l) Also, whatsoever exile should

turn enemy to his country, or bear a shield against his countrymen,

should be punished with the loss of life and goods. (m) But if any man,

from a contumacious spirit, were slack in fulfilling the orders of the

king, he should be punished with exile. For, on all occasion of any

sudden and urgent war, an arrow of wood, looking like iron, used to be

passed on everywhere from man to man as a messenger. (n) But if any one

of the commons went in front of the vanguard in battle, he was to rise

from a slave into a freeman, and from a peasant into a nobleman; but if

he were nobly-born already, he should be created a governor. So great

a guerdon did valiant men earn of old; and thus did the ancients think

noble rank the due of bravery. For it was thought that the luck a man

had should be set down to his valour, and not his valour to his luck.

(o) He also enacted that no dispute should be entered on with a promise

made under oath and a gage deposited; but whosoever requested another

man to deposit a gage against him should pay that man half a gold mark,

on pain of severe bodily chastisement. For the king had foreseen that

the greatest occasions of strife might arise from the depositing of

gages. (p) But he decided that any quarrel whatsoever should be decided

by the sword, thinking a combat of weapons more honourable than one of

words. But if either of the combatants drew back his foot, and stepped

out of the ring of the circle previously marked, he was to consider

himself conquered, and suffer the loss of his case. But a man of the

people, if he attacked a champion on any score, should be armed to meet

him; but the champion should only fight with a truncheon an ell long.

(q) Further, he appointed that if an alien killed a Dane, his death

should be redressed by the slaying of two foreigners.

Meanwhile, Gotar, in order to punish Erik, equipped his army for war:

and Frode, on the other side, equipped a great fleet to go against

Norway. When both alike had put into Rennes-Isle, Gotar, terrified by

the greatness of Frode’s name, sent ambassadors to pray for peace. Erik

said to them, “Shameless is the robber who is the first to seek peace,

or ventures to offer it to the good. He who longs to win must struggle:

blow must counter blow, malice repel malice.”

Gotar listened attentively to this from a distance, and then said,

as loudly as he could: “Each man fights for valour according as he

remembers kindness.” Erik said to him: “I have requited thy kindness by

giving thee back counsel.” By this speech he meant that his excellent

advice was worth more than all manner of gifts. And, in order to show

that Gotar was ungrateful for the counsel he had received, he said:

“When thou desiredst to take my life and my wife, thou didst mar the

look of thy fair example. Only the sword has the right to decide between

us.” Then Gotar attacked the fleet of the Danes; he was unsuccessful in

the engagement, and slain.

Afterwards Roller received his realm from Frode as a gift; it stretched

over seven provinces. Erik likewise presented Roller with the province

which Gotar had once bestowed upon him. After these exploits Frode

passed three years in complete and tranquil peace.

Meanwhile the King of the Huns, when he heard that his daughter had been

put away, allied himself with Olmar, King of the Easterlings, and in two

years equipped an armament against the Danes. So Frode levied an army

not only of native Danes, but also of Norwegians and Sclavs. Erik, whom

he had sent to spy out the array of the enemy, found Olmar, who had

received the command of the fleet, not far from Russia; while the King

of the Huns led the land forces. He addressed Olmar thus:

“What means, prithee, this strong equipment of war? Or whither dost thou

speed, King Olmar, mighty in thy fleet?”

Olmar. “We are minded to attack the son of Fridleif. And who art thou,

whose bold lips ask such questions?”

Erik. “Vain hope of conquering the unconquered hath filled thy heart;

over Frode no man can prevail.”

Olmar. “Whatsoever befalls, must once happen for the first time; and

often enough the unexpected comes to pass.”

By this saying he let him know that no man must put too much trust in

fortune. Then Erik rode up to inspect the army of the Huns. As it passed

by him, and he in turn by it, it showed its vanguard to the rising and

its rear to the setting sun. So he asked those whom he met, who had the

command of all those thousands. Hun, the King of the Huns, happened to

see him, and heard that he had undertaken to reconnoitre, and asked

what was the name of the questioner. Erik said he was the man who came

everywhere and was found nowhere. Then the king, when an interpreter

was brought, asked what work Frode was about. Erik replied, “Frode never

waits at home for a hostile army, nor tarries in his house for his foe.

For he who covets the pinnacle of another’s power must watch and wake

all night. No man has ever won a victory by snoring, and no wolf has

ever found a carcase by lying asleep.”

The king, perceiving that he was a cunning speaker of choice maxims,

said: “Here, perchance, is that Erik who, as I have heard, accused my

daughter falsely.”

But Erik, when they were bidden to seize him instantly, said that it was

unseemly for one man to be dragged off by really; and by this saying

he not only appeased the mind of the king, but even inclined him to be

willing to pardon him. But it was clear that this impunity came more

from cunning than kindness; for the chief reason why he was let go was

that he might terrify Frode by the report of their vast numbers. When he

returned, Frode bad him relate what he had discovered, and he said that

he had seen six kings each with his fleet; and that each of these fleets

contained five thousand ships, each ship being known to hold three

hundred rowers. Each millenary of the whole total he said consisted of

four wings; now, since the full number of a wing is three hundred, he

meant that a millenary should be understood to contain twelve hundred

men. When Frode wavered in doubt what he could do against so many, and

looked eagerly round for reinforcements, Erik said: “Boldness helps the

righteous; a valiant dog must attack the bear; we want wolf-hounds, and

not little unwarlike birds.” This said, he advised Frode to muster his

fleet. When it was drawn up they sailed off against the enemy; and so

they fought and subdued the islands lying between Denmark and the East;

and as they advanced thence, met some ships of the Ruthenian fleet.

Frode thought it shameful to attack such a handful, but Erik said:

“We must seek food from the gaunt and lean. He who falls shall seldom

fatten, nor has that man the power to bite whom the huge sack has

devoured.” By this warning he cured the king of all shame about making

an assault, and presently induced him to attack a small number with a

throng; for he showed him that advantage must be counted before honour.

After this they went on to meet Olmar, who because of the slowness of

his multitude preferred awaiting the enemy to attacking it; for the

vessels of the Ruthenians seemed disorganized, and, owing to their size,

not so well able to row. But not even did the force of his multitudes

avail him. For the extraordinary masses of the Ruthenians were stronger

in numbers than in bravery, and yielded the victory to the stout handful

of the Danes.

When Frode tried to return home, his voyage encountered an unheard-of

difficulty. For the crowds of dead bodies, and likewise the fragments of

shields and spears, bestrewed the entire gulf of the sea, and tossed on

the tide, so that the harbours were not only straitened, but stank. The

vessels stuck, hampered amid the corpses. They could neither thrust off

with oars, nor drive away with poles, the rotting carcases that floated

around, or prevent, when they had put one away, another rolling up and

driving against the fleet. You would have thought that a war had arisen

with the dead, and there was a strange combat with the lifeless.

So Frode summoned the nations which he had conquered, and enacted (a)

that any father of a family who had fallen in that war should be

buried with his horse and all his arms and decorations. And if any

body-snatcher, in his abominable covetousness, made an attempt on him,

he was to suffer for it, not only with his life, but also with the loss

of burial for his own body; he should have no barrow and no funeral.

For he thought it just that he who despoiled another’s ashes should be

granted no burial, but should repeat in his own person the fate he

had inflicted on another. He appointed that the body of a centurion

or governor should receive funeral on a pyre built of his own ship. He

ordered that the bodies of every ten pilots should be burnt together

with a single ship, but that every earl or king that was killed should

be put on his own ship and burnt with it. He wished this nice attention

to be paid in conducting the funerals of the slain, because he wished

to prevent indiscriminate obsequies. By this time all the kings of the

Russians except Olmar and Dag had fallen in battle. (b) He also ordered

the Russians to conduct their warfare in imitation of the Danes,

and never to marry a wife without buying her. He thought that bought

marriages would have more security, believing that the troth which

was sealed with a price was the safest. (d) Moreover, anyone who durst

attempt the violation of a virgin was to be punished with the severance

of his bodily parts, or else to requite the wrong of his intercourse

with a thousand talents. (e) He also enacted that any man that applied

himself to war, who aspired to the title of tried soldier, should attack

a single man, should stand the attack of two, should only withdraw his

foot a little to avoid three, but should not blush to flee from four.

(f) He also proclaimed that a new custom concerning the pay of the

soldiers should be observed by the princes under his sway. He ordered

that each native soldier and housecarl should be presented in the winter

season with three marks of silver, a common or hired soldier with two, a

private soldier who had finished his service with only one. By this law

he did injustice to valour, reckoning the rank of the soldiers and not

their courage; and he was open to the charge of error in the matter,

because he set familiar acquaintance above desert.

After this the king asked Erik whether the army of the Huns was as large

as the forces of Olmar, and Erik answered in the following song:

“By Hercules, I came on a countless throng, a throng that neither earth

nor wave could hold. Thick flared all their camp-fires, and the whole

wood blazed up; the flame betokened a numberless array. The earth sank

under the fraying of the horse-hoofs; creaking waggons rattled swiftly.

The wheels rumbled, the driver rode upon the winds, so that the chariots

sounded like thunder. The earth hardly bore the throngs of men-at-arms,

speeding on confusedly; they trod it, but it could not bear their

weight. I thought that the air crashed and the earth was shaken, so

mighty was the motion of the stranger army. For I saw fifteen standards

flickering at once; each of them had a hundred lesser standards, and

after each of these could have been seen twenty; and the captains in

their order were equal in number to the standards.”

Now when Frode asked wherewithal he was to resist so many, Erik

instructed him that he must return home and suffer the enemy first to

perish of their own hugeness. His counsel was obeyed, the advice being

approved as heartily as it was uttered. But the Huns went on through

pathless deserts, and, finding provisions nowhere, began to run the

risk of general starvation; for it was a huge and swampy district, and

nothing could be found to relieve their want. At last, when the beasts

of burden had been cut down and eaten, they began to scatter, lacking

carriages as much as food. Now their straying from the road was as

perilous to them as their hunger. Neither horses nor asses were spared,

nor did they refrain from filthy garbage. At last they did not even

spare dogs: to dying men every abomination was lawful; for there is

nothing too hard for the bidding of extreme need. At last when they

were worn out with hunger, there came a general mortality. Bodies were

carried out for burial without end, for all feared to perish, and none

pitied the perishing. Fear indeed had cast out humanity. So first the

divisions deserted from the king little by little; and then the army

melted away by companies. He was also deserted by the prophet Ygg, a man

of unknown age, which was prolonged beyond the human span; this man

went as a deserter to Frode, and told him of all the preparations of the


Meanwhile Hedin, prince of a considerable tribe of the Norwegians,

approached the fleet of Frode with a hundred and fifty vessels. Choosing

twelve out of these, he proceeded to cruise nearer, signalling the

approach of friends by a shield raised on the mast. He thus greatly

augmented the forces of the king, and was received into his closest

friendship. A mutual love afterwards arose between this man and Hilda,

the daughter of Hogni, a chieftain of the Jutes, and a maiden of most

eminent renown. For, though they had not yet seen one another, each

had been kindled by the other’s glory. But when they had a chance of

beholding one another, neither could look away; so steadfast was the

love that made their eyes linger.

Meanwhile, Frode distributed his soldiers through the towns, and

carefully gathered in the materials needed for the winter supplies; but

even so he could not maintain his army, with its burden of expense: and

plague fell on him almost as great as the destruction that met the Huns.

Therefore, to prevent the influx of foreigners, he sent a fleet to the

Elbe to take care that nothing should cross; the admirals were Revil

and Mevil. When the winter broke up, Hedin and Hogni resolved to make

a roving-raid together; for Hogni did not know that his partner was in

love with his daughter. Now Hogni was of unusual stature, and stiff in

temper; while Hedin was very comely, but short. Also, when Frode saw

that the cost of keeping up his army grew daily harder to bear, he

sent Roller to Norway, Olmar to Sweden, King Onef and Glomer, a rover

captain, to the Orkneys for supplies, each with his own forces. Thirty

kings followed Frode, and were his friends or vassals. But when Hun

heard that Frode had sent away his forces he mustered another and a

fresh army. But Hogni betrothed his daughter to Hedin, after they had

sworn to one another that whichever of them should perish by the sword

should be avenged by the other.

In the autumn, the men in search of supplies came back, but they were

richer in trophies than in food. For Roller had made tributary the

provinces Sundmor and Nordmor, after slaying Arthor their king. But

Olmar conquered Thor the Long, the King of the Jemts and the Helsings,

with two other captains of no less power, and also took Esthonia and

Kurland, with Oland, and the isles that fringe Sweden; thus he was a

most renowned conqueror of savage lands. So he brought back 700 ships,

thus doubling the numbers of those previously taken out. Onef and

Glomer, Hedin and Hogni, won victories over the Orkneys, and returned

with 900 ships. And by this time revenues had been got in from far and

wide, and there were ample materials gathered by plunder to recruit

their resources. They had also added twenty kingdoms to the sway of

Frode, whose kings, added to the thirty named before, fought on the side

of the Danes.

Trusting in their strength, they engaged with the Huns. Such a carnage

broke out on the first day of this combat that the three chief rivers

of Russia were bestrewn with a kind of bridge of corpses, and could be

crossed and passed over. Also the traces of the massacre spread so wide

that for the space of three days’ ride the ground was to be seen covered

with human carcases. So, when the battle had been seven days prolonged,

King Hun fell; and his brother of the same name, when he saw the line of

the Huns giving way, without delay surrendered himself and his company.

In that war 170 kings, who were either Huns or fighting amongst the

Huns, surrendered to the king. This great number Erik had comprised in

his previous description of the standards, when he was giving an account

of the multitude of the Huns in answer to the questions of Frode. So

Frode summoned the kings to assembly, and imposed a rule upon them that

they should all live under one and the same law. Now he set Olmar

over Holmgard; Onef over Conogard; and he bestowed Saxony on Hun, his

prisoner, and gave Revil the Orkneys. To one Dimar he allotted the

management of the provinces of the Helsings, of the Jarnbers, and the

Jemts, as well as both Laplands; while on Dag he bestowed the government

of Esthonia. Each of these men he burdened with fixed conditions of

tribute, thus making allegiance a condition of his kindness. So the

realms of Frode embraced Russia on the east, and on the west were

bounded by the Rhine.

Meantime, certain slanderous tongues accused Hedin to Hogni of having

tempted and defiled his daughter before the rites of betrothal; which

was then accounted an enormous crime by all nations. So the credulous

ears of Hogni drank in this lying report, and with his fleet he attacked

Hedin, who was collecting the king’s dues among the Slavs; there was

an engagement, and Hogni was beaten, and went to Jutland. And thus the

peace instituted by Frode was disturbed by intestine war, and natives

were the first to disobey the king’s law. Frode, therefore, sent men to

summon them both at once, and inquired closely what was the reason of

their feud. When he had heard it, he gave judgment according to the

terms of the law he had enacted; but when he saw that even this could

not reconcile them (for the father obstinately demanded his daughter

back), he decreed that the quarrel should be settled by the sword–it

seemed the only remedy for ending the dispute. The fight began, and

Hedin was grievously wounded; but when he began to lose blood and bodily

strength, he received unexpected mercy from his enemy. For though Hogni

had an easy chance of killing him, yet, pitying youth and beauty, he

constrained his cruelty to give way to clemency. And so, loth to cut off

a stripling who was panting at his last gasp, he refrained his sword.

For of old it was accounted shameful to deprive of his life one who was

ungrown or a weakling; so closely did the antique bravery of champions

take heed of all that could incline them to modesty. So Hedin, with the

help of his men, was taken back to his ship, saved by the kindness of

his foe.

In the seventh year after, these same men began to fight on Hedin’s

isle, and wounded each other so that they died. Hogni would have been

lucky if he had shown severity rather than compassion to Hedin when he

had once conquered him. They say that Hilda longed so ardently for her

husband, that she is believed to have conjured up the spirits of the

combatants by her spells in the night in order to renew the war.

At the same time came to pass a savage war between Alrik, king of the

Swedes, and Gestiblind, king of the Goths. The latter, being the weaker,

approached Frode as a suppliant, willing, if he might get his aid, to

surrender his kingdom and himself. He soon received the aid of Skalk,

the Skanian, and Erik, and came back with reinforcements. He had

determined to let loose his attack on Alrik, but Erik thought that he

should first assail his son Gunthion, governor of the men of Wermland

and Solongs, declaring that the storm-weary mariner ought to make

for the nearest shore, and moreover that the rootless trunk seldom

burgeoned. So he made an attack, wherein perished Gunthion, whose tomb

records his name. Alrik, when he heard of the destruction of his

son, hastened to avenge him, and when he had observed his enemies, he

summoned Erik, and, in a secret interview, recounted the leagues of

their fathers, imploring him to refuse to fight for Gestiblind.

This Erik steadfastly declined, and Alrik then asked leave to fight

Gestiblind, thinking that a duel was better than a general engagement.

But Erik said that Gestiblind was unfit for arms by reason of old age,

pleading his bad health, and above all his years; but offered himself

to fight in his place, explaining that it would be shameful to decline a

duel on behalf of the man for whom he had come to make a war. Then

they fought without delay: Alrik was killed, and Erik was most severely

wounded; it was hard to find remedies, and he did not for long time

recover health. Now a false report had come to Frode that Erik had

fallen, and was tormenting the king’s mind with sore grief; but Erik

dispelled this sadness with his welcome return; indeed, he reported to

Frode that by his efforts Sweden, Wermland, Helsingland, and the islands

of the Sun (Soleyar) had been added to his realm. Frode straightway

made him king of the nations he had subdued, and also granted to him

Helsingland with the two Laplands, Finland and Esthonia, under a yearly

tribute. None of the Swedish kings before him was called by the name of

Erik, but the title passed from him to the rest.

At the same time Alf was king in Hethmark, and he had a son Asmund.

Biorn ruled in the province of Wik, and had a son Aswid. Asmund was

engaged on an unsuccessful hunt, and while he was proceeding either to

stalk the game with dogs or to catch it in nets, a mist happened to

come on. By this he was separated from his sharers on a lonely track,

wandered over the dreary ridges, and at last, destitute of horse and

clothing, ate fungi and mushrooms, and wandered on aimlessly till he

came to the dwelling of King Biorn. Moreover, the son of the king and

he, when they had lived together a short while, swore by every vow, in

order to ratify the friendship which they observed to one another, that

whichever of them lived longest should be buried with him who died. For

their fellowship and love were so strong, that each determined he would

not prolong his days when the other was cut off by death.

After this Frode gathered together a host of all his subject nations,

and attacked Norway with his fleet, Erik being bidden to lead the land

force. For, after the fashion of human greed, the more he gained the

more he wanted, and would not suffer even the dreariest and most rugged

region of the world to escape this kind of attack; so much is increase

of wealth wont to encourage covetousness. So the Norwegians, casting

away all hope of self-defence, and losing all confidence in their power

to revolt, began to flee for the most part to Halogaland. The maiden

Stikla also withdrew from her country to save her chastity, proferring

the occupations of war to those of wedlock.

Meanwhile Aswid died of an illness, and was consigned with his horse

and dog to a cavern in the earth. And Asmund, because of his oath of

friendship, had the courage to be buried with him, food being put in for

him to eat.

Now just at this time Erik, who had crossed the uplands with his army,

happened to draw near the barrow of Aswid; and the Swedes, thinking

that treasures were in it, broke the hill open with mattocks, and saw

disclosed a cave deeper than they had thought. To examine it, a man was

wanted, who would lower himself on a hanging rope tied around him. One

of the quickest of the youths was chosen by lot; and Asmund, when he saw

him let down in a basket following a rope, straightway cast him out and

climbed into the basket. Then he gave the signal to draw him up to those

above who were standing by and controlling the rope. They drew in the

basket in the hopes of great treasure; but when they saw the unknown

figure of the man they had taken out, they were scared by his

extraordinary look, and, thinking that the dead had come to life, flung

down the rope and fled all ways. For Asmund looked ghastly and seemed to

be covered as with the corruption of the charnel. He tried to recall the

fugitives, and began to clamour that they were wrongfully afraid of a

living man. And when Erik saw him, he marvelled most at the aspect of

his bloody face: the blood flowing forth and spurting over it. For

Aswid had come to life in the nights, and in his continual struggles had

wrenched off his left ear; and there was to be seen the horrid sight of

a raw and unhealed scar. And when the bystanders bade him tell how he

had got such a wound, he began to speak thus:–

“Why stand ye aghast, who see me colourless? Surely every live man fades

among the dead. Evil to the lonely man, and burdensome to the single,

remains every dwelling in the world. Hapless are they whom chance hath

bereft of human help. The listless night of the cavern, the darkness of

the ancient den, have taken all joy from my eyes and soul. The ghastly

ground, the crumbling barrow, and the heavy tide of filthy things have

marred the grace of my youthful countenance, and sapped my wonted pith

and force. Besides all this, I have fought with the dead, enduring the

heavy burden and grievous peril of the wrestle; Aswid rose again and

fell on me with rending nails, by hellish might renewing ghastly warfare

after he was ashes.

“Why stand ye aghast, who see me colourless? Surely every live man fades

among the dead.

“By some strange enterprise of the power of hell the spirit of Aswid

was sent up from the nether world, and with cruel tooth eats the

fleet-footed (horse), and has given his dog to his abominable jaws. Not

sated with devouring the horse or hound, he soon turned his swift nails

upon me, tearing my cheek and taking off my ear. Hence the hideous sight

of my slashed countenance, the blood-spurts in the ugly wound. Yet the

bringer of horrors did it not unscathed; for soon I cut off his head

with my steel, and impaled his guilty carcase with a stake.

“Why stand ye aghast who see me colourless? Surely every live man fades

among the dead.”

Frode had by this taken his fleet over to Halogaland; and here, in order

to learn the numbers of his host, which seemed to surpass all bounds

and measure that could be counted, he ordered his soldiers to pile up

a hill, one stone being cast upon the heap for each man. The enemy also

pursued the same method of numbering their host, and the hills are still

to be seen to convince the visitor. Here Frode joined battle with the

Norwegians, and the day was bloody. At nightfall both sides determined

to retreat. As daybreak drew near, Erik, who had come across the land,

came up and advised the king to renew the battle. In this war the Danes

suffered such slaughter that out of 3,000 ships only 170 are supposed to

have survived. The Northmen, however, were exterminated in such a mighty

massacre, that (so the story goes) there were not men left to till even

a fifth of their villages.

Frode, now triumphant, wished to renew peace among all nations, that

he might ensure each man’s property from the inroads of thieves and now

ensure peace to his realms after war. So he hung one bracelet on a crag

which is called Frode’s Rock, and another in the district of Wik,

after he had addressed the assembled Norwegians; threatening that these

necklaces should serve to test the honesty which he had decreed, and

threatening that if they were filched punishment should fall on all the

governors of the district. And thus, sorely imperilling the officers,

there was the gold unguarded, hanging up full in the parting of the

roads, and the booty, so easy to plunder, a temptation to all covetous

spirits. (a) Frode also enacted that seafarers should freely use oars

wherever they found them; while to those who wished to cross a river he

granted free use of the horse which they found nearest to the ford. He

decreed that they must dismount from this horse when its fore feet only

touched land and its hind feet were still washed by the waters. For he

thought that services such as these should rather be accounted kindness

than wrongdoing. Moreover, he ordained that whosoever durst try and

make further use of the horse after he had crossed the river should

be condemned to death. (b) He also ordered that no man should hold his

house or his coffer under lock and key, or should keep anything guarded

by bolts, promising that all losses should be made good threefold. Also,

he appointed that it was lawful to claim as much of another man’s food

for provision as would suffice for a single supper. If anyone exceeded

this measure in his takings, he was to be held guilty of theft. Now, a

thief (so he enacted) was to be hung up with a sword passed through his

sinews, with a wolf fastened by his side, so that the wicked man might

look like the savage beast, both being punished alike. He also had the

same penalty extended to accomplices in thefts. Here he passed seven

most happy years of peace, begetting a son Alf and a daughter Eyfura.

It chanced that in these days Arngrim, a champion of Sweden, who had

challenged, attacked, and slain Skalk the Skanian because he had once

robbed him of a vessel, came to Frode. Elated beyond measure with his

deed, he ventured to sue for Frode’s daughter; but, finding the king

deaf to him, he asked Erik, who was ruling Sweden, to help him. Erik

advised him to win Frode’s goodwill by some illustrious service, and

to fight against Egther, the King of Permland, and Thengil, the King of

Finmark, since they alone seemed to repudiate the Danish rule, while all

men else submitted. Without delay he led his army to that country.

Now, the Finns are the uttermost peoples of the North, who have taken a

portion of the world that is barely habitable to till and dwell in. They

are very keen spearmen, and no nation has a readier skill in throwing

the javelin. They fight with large, broad arrows; they are addicted to

the study of spells; they are skilled hunters. Their habitation is not

fixed, and their dwellings are migratory; they pitch and settle wherever

they have caught game. Riding on curved boards (skees or snow-skates),

they run over ridges thick with snow. These men Arngrim attacked, in

order to win renown, and he crushed them. They fought with ill success;

but, as they were scattering in flight, they cast three pebbles behind

them, which they caused to appear to the eyes of the enemy like three

mountains. Arngrim’s eyes were dazzled and deluded, and he called back

his men from the pursuit of the enemy, fancying that he was checked by a

barrier of mighty rocks. Again, when they engaged and were beaten on

the morrow, the Finns cast snow upon the ground and made it look like

a mighty river. So the Swedes, whose eyes were utterly deluded,

were deceived by their misjudgment, for it seemed the roaring of

an extraordinary mass of waters. Thus, the conqueror dreading the

unsubstantial phantom of the waters, the Finns managed to escape. They

renewed the war again on the third day; but there was no effective

means of escape left any longer, for when they saw that their lines were

falling back, they surrendered to the conqueror. Arngrim imposed on them

the following terms of tribute: that the number of the Finns should be

counted, and that, after the lapse of (every) three years, every ten of

them should pay a carriage-full of deer-skins by way of assessment. Then

he challenged and slew in single combat Egther, the captain of the men

of Permland, imposing on the men of Permland the condition that each of

them should pay one skin. Enriched with these spoils and trophies,

he returned to Erik, who went with him into Denmark, and poured loud

praises of the young warrior into the ear of Frode, declaring that he

who had added the ends of the world to his realms deserved his daughter.

Then Frode, considering his splendid deserts, thought it was not amiss

to take for a son-in-law a man who had won wide-resounding fame by such

a roll of noble deeds.

Arngrim had twelve sons by Eyfura, whose names I here subjoin: Brand,

Biarbe, Brodd, Hiarrande; Tand, Tyrfing, two Haddings; Hiortuar,

Hiartuar, Hrane, Anganty. These followed the business of sea-roving from

their youth up; and they chanced to sail all in one ship to the island

Samso, where they found lying off the coast two ships belonging to

Hialmar and Arvarodd (Arrow-Odd) the rovers. These ships they attacked

and cleared of rowers; but, not knowing whether they had cut down the

captains, they fitted the bodies of the slain to their several thwarts,

and found that those whom they sought were missing. At this they were

sad, knowing that the victory they had won was not worth a straw, and

that their safety would run much greater risk in the battle that was to

come. In fact, Hialmar and Arvarodd, whose ships had been damaged by

a storm, which had torn off their rudders, went into a wood to hew

another; and, going round the trunk with their axes, pared down the

shapeless timber until the huge stock assumed the form of a marine

implement. This they shouldered, and were bearing it down to the beach,

ignorant of the disaster of their friends, when the sons of Eyfura,

reeking with the fresh blood of the slain, attacked them, so that they

two had to fight many; the contest was not even equal, for it was a

band of twelve against two. But the victory did not go according to the

numbers. For all the sons of Eyfura were killed; Hialmar was slain

by them, but Arvarodd gained the honours of victory, being the only

survivor left by fate out of all that band of comrades. He, with an

incredible effort, poised the still shapeless hulk of the rudder, and

drove it so strongly against the bodies of his foes that, with a single

thrust of it, he battered and crushed all twelve. And, so, though they

were rid of the general storm of war, the band of rovers did not yet

quit the ocean.

This it was that chiefly led Frode to attack the West, for his one

desire was the spread of peace. So he summoned Erik, and mustered a

fleet of all the kingdoms that bid him allegiance, and sailed to Britain

with numberless ships. But the king of that island, perceiving that he

was unequal in force (for the ships seemed to cover the sea), went

to Frode, affecting to surrender, and not only began to flatter his

greatness, but also promised to the Danes, the conquerors of nations,

the submission of himself and of his country; proffering taxes,

assessment, tribute, what they would. Finally, he gave them a hospitable

invitation. Frode was pleased with the courtesy of the Briton, though

his suspicions of treachery were kept by so ready and unconstrained

a promise of everything, so speedy a surrender of the enemy before

fighting; such offers being seldom made in good faith. They were also

troubled with alarm about the banquet, fearing that as drunkenness came

on their sober wits might be entangled in it, and attacked by hidden

treachery. So few guests were bidden, moreover, that it seemed unsafe

for them to accept the invitation; and it was further thought foolish to

trust their lives to the good faith of an enemy whom they did not know.

When the king found their minds thus wavering he again approached Frode,

and invited him to the banquet with 2,400 men; having before bidden

him to come to the feast with 1,200 nobles. Frode was encouraged by the

increase in the number of guests, and was able to go to the banquet

with greater inward confidence; but he could not yet lay aside his

suspicions, and privily caused men to scour the interior and let him

know quickly of any treachery which they might espy. On this errand they

went into the forest, and, coming upon the array of an armed encampment

belonging to the forces of the Britons, they halted in doubt, but

hastily retraced their steps when the truth was apparent. For the tents

were dusky in colour, and muffled in a sort of pitchy coverings, that

they might not catch the eye of anyone who came near. When Frode learned

this, he arranged a counter-ambuscade with a strong force of nobles,

that he might not go heedlessly to the banquet, and be cheated of timely

aid. They went into hiding, and he warned them that the note of the

trumpet was the signal for them to bring assistance. Then with a select

band, lightly armed, he went to the banquet. The hall was decked with

regal splendour; it was covered all round with crimson hangings of

marvellous rich handiwork. A curtain of purple dye adorned the propelled

walls. The flooring was bestrewn with bright mantles, which a man

would fear to trample on. Up above was to be seen the twinkle of many

lanterns, the gleam of lamps lit with oil, and the censers poured forth

fragrance whose sweet vapour was laden with the choicest perfumes. The

whole way was blocked by the tables loaded with good things; and the

places for reclining were decked with gold-embroidered couches; the

seats were full of pillows. The majestic hall seemed to smile upon

the guests, and nothing could be noticed in all that pomp either

inharmonious to the eye or offensive to the smell. In the midst of the

hall stood a great butt ready for refilling the goblets, and holding an

enormous amount of liquor; enough could be drawn from it for the huge

revel to drink its fill. Servants, dressed in purple, bore golden cups,

and courteously did the office of serving the drink, pacing in ordered

ranks. Nor did they fail to offer the draught in the horns of the wild


The feast glittered with golden bowls, and was laden with shining

goblets, many of them studded with flashing jewels. The place was filled

with an immense luxury; the tables groaned with the dishes, and the

bowls brimmed over with divers liquors. Nor did they use wine pure and

simple, but, with juices sought far and wide, composed a nectar of many

flavours. The dishes glistened with delicious foods, being filled mostly

with the spoils of the chase; though the flesh of tame animals was not

lacking either. The natives took care to drink more sparingly than the

guests; for the latter felt safe, and were tempted to make an orgy;

while the others, meditating treachery, had lost all temptations to be

drunken. So the Danes, who, if I may say so with my country’s leave,

were seasoned to drain the bowl against each other, took quantities of

wine. The Britons, when they saw that the Danes were very drunk, began

gradually to slip away from the banquet, and, leaving their guests

within the hall, made immense efforts, first to block the doors of the

palace by applying bars and all kinds of obstacles, and then to set fire

to the house. The Danes were penned inside the hall, and when the fire

began to spread, battered vainly at the doors; but they could not get

out, and soon attempted to make a sally by assaulting the wall. And the

Angles, when they saw that it was tottering under the stout attack of

the Danes, began to shove against it on their side, and to prop the

staggering pile by the application of large blocks on the outside, to

prevent the wall being shattered and releasing the prisoners. But

at last it yielded to the stronger hand of the Danes, whose efforts

increased with their peril; and those pent within could sally out with

ease. Then Frode bade the trumpet strike in, to summon the band that

had been posted in ambush; and these, roused by the note of the clanging

bugle, caught the enemy in their own trap; for the King of the Britons,

with countless hosts of his men, was utterly destroyed. Thus the

band helped Frode doubly, being both the salvation of his men and the

destruction of his enemies.

Meantime the renown of the Danish bravery spread far, and moved the

Irish to strew iron calthrops on the ground, in order to make their land

harder to invade, and forbid access to their shores. Now the Irish use

armour which is light and easy to procure. They crop the hair close with

razors, and shave all the hair off the back of the head, that they may

not be seized by it when they run away. They also turn the points of

their spears towards the assailant, and deliberately point their sword

against the pursuer; and they generally fling their lances behind their

back, being more skilled at conquering by flight than by fighting.

Hence, when you fancy that the victory is yours, then is the moment of

danger. But Frode was wary and not rash in his pursuit of the foe who

fled so treacherously, and he routed Kerwil (Cearbal), the leader of

the nation, in battle. Kerwil’s brother survived, but lost heart

for resistance, and surrendered his country to the king (Frode), who

distributed among his soldiers the booty he had won, to show himself

free from all covetousness and excessive love of wealth, and only

ambitious to gain honour.

After the triumphs in Britain and the spoiling of the Irish they

went back to Denmark; and for thirty years there was a pause from all

warfare. At this time the Danish name became famous over the whole

world almost for its extraordinary valour. Frode, therefore, desired to

prolong and establish for ever the lustre of his empire, and made it

his first object to inflict severe treatment upon thefts and brigandage,

feeling these were domestic evils and intestine plagues, and that if the

nations were rid of them they would come to enjoy a more tranquil life;

so that no ill-will should mar and hinder the continual extention of

peace. He also took care that the land should not be devoured by any

plague at home when the enemy was at rest, and that intestine wickedness

should not encroach when there was peace abroad. At last he ordered that

in Jutland, the chief district of his realm, a golden bracelet, very

heavy, should be set up on the highways (as he had done before in the

district of Wik), wishing by this magnificent price to test the honesty

which he had enacted. Now, though the minds of the dishonest were vexed

with the provocation it furnished, and the souls of the evil tempted,

yet the unquestioned dread of danger prevailed. For so potent was the

majesty of Frode, that it guarded even gold that was thus exposed to

pillage, as though it were fast with bolts and bars. The strange

device brought great glory upon its inventor. After dealing destruction

everywhere, and gaining famous victories far and wide, he resolved

to bestow quiet on all men, that the cheer of peace should follow the

horrors of war, and the end of slaughter might be the beginning of

safety. He further thought that for the same reason all men’s property

should be secured to them by a protective decree, so that what had been

saved from a foreign enemy might not find a plunderer at home.

About the same time, the Author of our general salvation, coming to the

earth in order to save mortals, bore to put on the garb of mortality;

at which time the fires of war were quenched, and all the lands were

enjoying the calmest and most tranquil peace. It has been thought that

the peace then shed abroad so widely, so even and uninterrupted over the

whole world, attended not so much an earthly rule as that divine birth;

and that it was a heavenly provision that this extraordinary gift of

time should be a witness to the presence of Him who created all times.

Meantime a certain matron, skilled in sorcery, who trusted in her art

more than she feared the severity of the king, tempted the covetousness

of her son to make a secret effort for the prize; promising him

impunity, since Frode was almost at death’s door, his body failing, and

the remnant of his doting spirit feeble. To his mother’s counsels

he objected the greatness of the peril; but she bade him take hope,

declaring, that either a sea-cow should have a calf, or that the king’s

vengeance should be baulked by some other chance. By this speech she

banished her son’s fears, and made him obey her advice. When the deed

was done, Frode, stung by the affront, rushed with the utmost heat and

fury to raze the house of the matron, sending men on to arrest her and

bring her with her children. This the woman foreknew, and deluded her

enemies by a trick, changing from the shape of a woman into that of a

mare. When Frode came up she took the shape of a sea-cow, and seemed to

be straying and grazing about the shore; and she also made her sons

look like calves of smaller size. This portent amazed the king, and he

ordered that they should be surrounded and cut off from returning to

the waters. Then he left the carriage, which he used because of the

feebleness of his aged body, and sat on the ground marvelling. But the

mother, who had taken the shape of the larger beast, charged at the king

with outstretched tusk, and pierced one of his sides. The wound killed

him; and his end was unworthy of such majesty as his. His soldiers,

thirsting to avenge his death, threw their spears and transfixed the

monsters, and saw, when they were killed, that they were the corpses of

human beings with the heads of wild beasts: a circumstance which exposed

the trick more than anything.

So ended Frode, the most famous king in the whole world. The nobles,

when he had been disembowelled, had his body kept embalmed for three

years, for they feared the provinces would rise if the king’s end

were published. They wished his death to be concealed above all from

foreigners, so that by the pretence that he was alive they might

preserve the boundaries of the empire, which had been extended for

so long; and that, on the strength of the ancient authority of their

general, they might exact the usual tribute from their subjects. So, the

lifeless corpse was carried away by them in such a way that it seemed to

be taken, not in a funeral bier, but in a royal carriage, as if it were

a due and proper tribute from the soldiers to an infirm old man not in

full possession of his forces. Such splendour did his friends bestow

on him even in death. But when his limbs rotted, and were seized with

extreme decay, and when the corruption could not be arrested, they

buried his body with a royal funeral in a barrow near Waere, a bridge of

Zealand; declaring that Frode had desired to die and be buried in what

was thought the chief province of his kingdom.