Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
CHAPTER ZERO POINT ONE
0.1 PROLOGUE – THE BIRTH OF DENMARK (Circa 0 AD)
NOTE: The PROLOGUE CHAPTERS are Optional Reading, as they cover The Nine Books of Danish History up to King Ragnar ‘Lothbrok’ whose Saga starts in Book Nine. Please feel free to jump directly to Chapter One and the Start of the Saga if you are not interested in the Earlier History.
PROLOGUE (From The Nine Books of Danish History by Saxo Grammaticus):
0.1 PROLOGUE – THE BIRTH OF DENMARK (Circa 0 AD)
“This Book Series is based upon ‘The Nine Books of Danish History’ by Saxo Grammaticus, written in Denmark circa 1200 AD, under the auspices of his superior, Bishop Absalon of Lund, and as translated by Oliver Elton. The series shall attempt to put some order into Saxo’s nine books so that it corresponds with contemporary Chronicles and Sagas such as the Russian Primary Chronicle, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the Heimskringla Saga, among others. While attempting this, it has been discovered that there are certain corresponding likenesses between the early Princes of Kievan Rus’ and the Skioldung Kings of Denmark that have never been explored. The series does this and also pushes the envelope of everything Viking and explores the possibilities of Vikings in India and Vikings in Cathay and, of course, Vikings in the Newfoundland.”
Brian Howard Seibert
BASED UPON SAXO’S BOOK ONE:
(Circa 0 AD) The Danes began with King Humble and then his sons, Princes Dan and Angul, and these two men, through feats of bravery, earned the favour of their countrymen and gained the lordship of the realm. Of the two, King Angul, the fountain, the beginning of the Anglian race, caused his name to be applied to the district of Jutland which he lorded over. When the Angles of Jutland gained possession of Britain, they changed the original name of the island for a fresh title, Angleland, that of their own land. This was to later become England as witnessed by the venerable Bede, who was a native of England, and made it his duty to record the history of his country in his most hallowed chronicle pages.
But from King Dan came the pedigree of our Danish kings in glorious succession, like channels from some parent spring. Queen Grytha bore him two sons, Humble and Lother, and though King Humble was elected to rule upon his father’s death, fickle fate gave his younger brother, Lother, victory in war and Humble bought his life by yielding up his crown. Forced by the injustice of a brother to lay down his sovereignty, he furnished the lesson to mankind, that there is less safety, though more pomp, in the palace than in the cottage. But King Lother ruled with an iron fist and began to strip all his most eminent jarls of life or goods, and he, himself, was stripped of life in an insurrection of his countrymen.
THE SAGA OF KING SKIOLD LOTHERSON (TBA)
His son, King Skiold, inherited his nature, but not his iron fist, and managed to avoid all traces of his father’s foul taint. He became famous in his youth among huntsmen for his conquest of a monstrous beast, which augured well his future prowess. Coming upon him unarmed, a huge bear attacked, but by taking off his belt he managed to bind the beast and he gave it over to his escort to kill. Later, as he became skilled at arms, many experienced champions were vanquished by him in single combat; of these, Attal and Skat were renowned and famous. While just fifteen years of age, he was of such huge bodily size and prodigious physical strength, with so many exceptional examples of his power that the following kings of the Danes were all called after him by a common title, the Skioldungs, the ‘Old’ line of Danish kings.
(Circa Sept. 9 AD) So far and wide had the fame of King Skiold spread that when the Romans ventured to attack the southern Teutonic tribes of the Scandinavians, the Saxons and the Marcomanni and the Alemanni looked north to the Anglish Danes for assistance. The high spirited King of the Danes took his army south and he beheld the perfect beauty of Princess Alfhild, daughter of the King of the Saxons, and sued for her hand, and, for her sake alone, joined in the fight against three Roman legions in the Teutoburg Forest of Saxony. The Germanic tribes, under the experienced guidance of the Equestrian Prince Arminius of the Cherusci, crushed the legions of Augustus Caesar, near wiping them out to the man, before commander Publius Quinctilius Varus led the bedraggled survivors out of the forest and back into Gaul. The thick forest hills rang out with victory celebrations.
Back in the Saxon capital, when King Skiold took up the hand of Princess Alfhild, one King Skat of the Alemanni claimed parity with the Danes in the great victory and he took up her other hand. Gloves came off and faces were slapped and challenges were made and accepted. The next day, in the sight of the armies of the Teutons and the Danes, King Skiold fought with Skat, King of Alemannia, slaying him and crushing the whole nation of the Alemanni, and forcing them to pay tribute, which came to be called Skat-tax. And in the realm of glory, King Skiold took as the prize of combat, the beautiful maiden, Princess Alfhild, for the love of whom he had fought, and married this princess and made her his queen. The strong love between the Danish king and his Saxon queen spread throughout the two neighbouring lands, the northern Danes of Jutland and the Saxons on their southern border and with it came a commonality of language. Soon after, she gave him a son, Gram, whose attributes so strongly favoured his father’s virtues that he seemed to tread in his very footsteps.
The days of Prince Gram‘s youth were enriched with surpassing gifts of mind and body, and he raised them to the crest of renown. Posterity did such homage to his greatness that in the most ancient poems of the Danes royal dignity is implied in his very name. He practiced with the most zealous training whatsoever serves to sharpen and strengthen the bodily powers. Taught by the royal swordsmen, he trained daily in the parrying and dealing of blows. He took to wife the daughter of his foster, Roar, she being his foster-sister and of his own years, in order the better to show his gratefulness for his nursing. A little while after, Prince Gram, chancing to hear that Princess Groa, daughter of King Sigtryg of the Swedes, was forcibly plighted to a powerful giant, and, holding accursed a union so unworthy of royal blood, he entered on a Swedish war. He went into Gotland, and Princess Groa, seduced by his renowned splendor, came to him there and he offered her the gifts of love.
Having won over Princess Groa, he took his army into Sweden and slew both King Sigtryg and the evil giant who controlled him. Prince Gram desired to consolidate his empire, which he had won in war, and therefore, challenged Prince Swarin, the Governor of Gotland to combat, and slew him.
For his imperial success, Prince Gram was granted a share in the Danish sovereignty by his father, King Skiold, who was now in extreme age and thought it better to share the supremacy of the realm to assure the succession. King Gram then declared war against Sumble, King of the Finns; but when he set eyes upon the king’s daughter, Princess Signe, he laid down his arms and the foeman turned into the suitor, and he plighted troth with her and married a third wife. After this, King Swipdag of Thule (Norway), destroyed King Gram, who was attempting to avenge an outrage on his sister and an attempt on his daughter’s chastity.
Guthorm and Hadding, the sons of Gram (Groa being the mother of the first and Signe of the second), were sent over to Sweden in a ship by their foster-father, Brage, as King Swipdag was now the master of Zealand and Gothland, and they were placed in the care of the gentle giants Wagnhofde and Hafle, for safe keeping and training.
PARAGRAPH ON WITCHES and WARLOCKS:
There were in old times three kinds of magicians who by diverse sleights practiced extraordinary marvels. The first of these were men of monstrous stock, termed by antiquity giants; these by their exceeding great bodily stature surpassed the size natural to mankind. They freely wielded clubs that men could hardly lift and could blunt the blades of swords with but a glance and could raise winds by merely lifting their arms. The second of these magicians, most famous of whom were the warlocks of the Roman Vanir, gained skill in divination from entrails, and then attained the Pythonic art of witchcraft. They could foretell victory and forestall defeat and, further, gained the powers of the shape shifter and could alter their bodily condition. Constant wars for supremacy were waged between these warlocks and the giants; till at last the sorcerers prevailed, subdued the tribe of giants by arms, and acquired not merely the privilege of ruling, but also the repute of being divine. Both of these kinds had extreme skill in deluding the eyesight, knowing how to obscure their own faces and those of others with divers semblances, and to darken the true aspects of things with beguiling shapes. But the third kind, of both men and women, warlocks and witches, springing from the natural union of the first two, gained credit for divinity with trickery of both mind and body. Tempted by the prodigious miracles of these folk, the ancient pagan world fell to worshipping a false tripartite god religion, one branch of which beguiled the northern Germanic Scandinavians called Aesir, another which beguiled the eastern Persians called Aran, a third branch of which beguiled the even the shrewdness of the western Greeks and Latins and was called Vanir, and a fourth southern branch called Brahman.
King Swipdag, now that he had slain Gram, was enriched with the realms of Zealand and Gotland, but, because of the frequent importunities of his new wife, he brought back from banishment her brother Guthorm, upon his promising tribute, and made him ruler of the Goths and the Norse Danes. But Hadding preferred to remain in and rule Sweden, so he assailed Handwan, King of the Sclavic Hellespont, who was entrenched behind an impregnable defensive wall in his city Duna, and withstood him not in the field, but within his battlements. A siege ensued and Handwan was reduced to redeeming his life with gold for ransom.
After prevailing over the Sclavs, King Hadding returned to Sweden and attacked King Swipdag, who met him with a great fleet off Gotland; but Hadding attacked and destroyed him. Meanwhile Asmund, the son of Swipdag, fought with Hadding to avenge his father, but Hadding pierced him through with a spear. While his life flickered before him, Asmund wounded the foot of his slayer, punishing Hadding with an incurable limp. Asmund’s body was buried in solemn state at Uppsala and attended with royal obsequies and his wife, Queen Gunnhild, loth to outlive him, committed suttee and cut off her own life with a sword, choosing rather to follow her lord in death than to forsake him by living. Her friends, in consigning her body to burial, laid her with her husband’s dust, thinking her worthy to share the mound of the man, her love for whom she had set above life in order to share Suttee Heaven with him.
After this Hadding, now triumphant, attacked Thule. But Asmund’s son, named Uffe, shrinking from a conflict, transported his army into Zealand, thinking it better to assail the house of his enemy than to guard his own, and deeming it a timely method of repelling his wrongs to retaliate upon his foe what he was suffering at his hands. Thus the Danes had to return and defend their own, preferring the safety of their land to lordship of a foreign realm; and Uffe went back to his own country, now rid of an enemy’s arms.
Hadding retaliated and slew Uffe; but then, to win the hearts of the people he had subdued, he appointed Hunding, the brother of Uffe, over the realm, that the sovereignty might seem to be maintained in the house of Asmund, and not to have passed into the hand of a stranger.
(Circa 250 AD) King Hadding was succeeded by hi son, King Frode, whose fortunes were many and changeful. He approached in his fleet the region of the Kurlanders, whose King Dorn, soon fell to the Danes. Then he travelled and found King Trannon, the monarch of the eastern Sclavs and they were soon conquered and made tributaries, and Frode made his way back home.
Finding that some envoys, whom he had sent into Sclavia to levy tribute, had been horribly murdered through the treachery of the inhabitants, Frode was stung by the double wrong and besieged closely their town Rotel, which was on an island, protected by a swift river. King Frode diverted the river, and the town, which lacked natural defences, fell without resistance. Then he took his army to the walled city of Paltisca. Thinking no force could overcome it, he exchanged war for guile. He ordered a report of his death to be spread about, so as to inspire the enemy with less fear; his obsequies being also held, and a barrow raised, to give the tale credit. Even his soldiers bewailed his supposed death with a mourning which was in the secret of the trick. This rumour led Vespasins, the king of the city, to show so faint and feeble a defence, as though the victory was already his, that the Danes got a chance of breaking in, and slew him as he sported at his ease.
Frode, when he had taken this town, aspired to the Empire of the East, and attacked the city of King Handwan.
Handwan, seeing that the fortunes of his country were lost and overthrown, put all his royal wealth on shipboard and drowned it in the sea, so as to enrich the waves rather than his enemy. After this, Frode took the hand of his daughter instead.
Meantime one Ubbe, who had long since wedded Ulfhild, the sister of Frode, trusting in the high birth of his wife, seized the kingdom of Denmark, which he was managing carelessly as deputy. Frode was thus forced to quit the wars of the East and fought a great battle in Sweden to regain control of his lands in the West.
Meantime the design occurred to Frode of a campaign against Friesland; he was desirous to dazzle the eyes of the West with the glory he had won in conquering the East. He put out to ocean, and his first contest was with Witthe, a rover of the Frisians; and in this battle the Danes won. Then Frode explored the Rhine in his fleet, and laid hands on the farthest parts of Germany. Then he went back to the ocean, and attacked the Frisian fleet, which had struck on shoals; and thus he crowned shipwreck with slaughter. Nor was he content with the destruction of so great an army of his foes, but assailed Britain, defeated its king, and attacked and defeated Melbrik, the Governor of the Scottish district.
Then Frode attacked London, the most populous city of Britain; but the strength of its walls gave him no chance of capturing it. Therefore he feigned to be dead, and his guile strengthened him. For Daleman, the Governor of London, on hearing the false news of his death, accepted the surrender of the Danes, offered them a native general, and suffered them to enter the town, that they might choose him out of a great throng. They feigned to be making a careful choice, but beset Daleman in a night surprise and slew him.
While he was attacking Ragnar, King of Sweden, who had been falsely accused of treachery, he perished, not by the spears, but stifled in the weight of his arms and by the heat of his own body.
Frode left three sons, Halfdan, Ro, and Skat, who were equal in valour, and were seized with an equal desire for the throne. Halfdan, the eldest son, cruelly murdered his brothers and, though he devoted every instant of his life to the practice of cruel deeds, he died of old age and not by steel.
(Circa 350 AD) Halfdan’s sons were Ro and Helge. Ro is said to have founded Roskild, which later thrived under Sweyn, who was famous for the byname ‘Forkbeard’. Ro was short and spare, while Helge was rather tall of stature. Dividing the realm with his brother, Helge was allotted the domain of the sea; and attacking Skalk, the King of the Sclavs, with his naval force, he slew him. Having reduced Sclavia to a province, he scoured the various arms of the sea in a wandering voyage. Savage of temper as Helge was, his cruelty was not greater than his lust. For he was so immoderately prone to love, that it was doubtful whether the heat of his tyranny or of his concupiscence was the greater. In Thorey he ravished the maiden Thora, who bore a daughter, to whom she afterwards gave the name of Urse. Then he conquered in battle, before the town of Stad, the son of Syrik, King of Saxony, Hunding, whom he challenged, attacked, and slew in duel. For this he was called Hunding’s-Bane, and by that name gained glory in his victory. He took Jutland out of the power of the Saxons, and entrusted its management to his generals, Heske, Eyr, and Ler.
Years later Helge went freebooting, once more, to Thorey. But Thora yet lamented her lost virginity, and planned a shameful device in abominable vengeance for her rape, for she deliberately sent down to the beach her daughter, Urse, who had just become of marriageable age, knowing full well that her father would rape and deflower her. And though Urse, once captured, yielded up her body to the leader of the attackers, she had no idea that the Viking was her father. Insensate mother, who allowed the forfeiture of her child’s chastity in order to avenge her own; caring nought for the purity of her own blood, so she might stain with incest the man who had taken her own maidenhood first! A great crime, with but one atonement: the guilt of this intercourse was wiped away by a fortunate progeny, its fruits being as delightful as its deflowering evil.
THE SAGA OF KING HROLF KRAKI (TBA)
(Circa 450 AD) He was succeeded by his son, King Rolf, who was comely with every gift of mind and body, and graced his mighty stature with as high a courage. A youth named Wigg, scanning with attentive eye the bodily size of Rolf, and smitten with great wonder thereat, proceeded to inquire in jest who was that “Krage” whom Nature in her beauty had endowed with such towering stature? Meaning humorously to banter his uncommon tallness, for “Krage” in the Danish tongue means a tree-trunk, and Rolf accepted this random word as though it were a byname of honour and rewarded the wit of the youth with a gift of a heavy gold armring. Then Wigg, thrusting out his right arm decked with the bracelet, put his left behind his back in affected shame, and walked with a ludicrous gait, declaring that he, whose lot had so long been poor, was glad of so fine a gift. When King Rolf asked him why he was behaving so, he said that the arm which lacked ornament and had no splendour to boast of was mantling with the modest blush of poverty to behold the other. The ingenuity of this saying won him a second armring to match the first. For Rolf made him bring out to view, like the other, the hand which he was hiding. Nor was Wigg heedless to repay the kindness; for he promised, uttering a strict vow, that, if it befell Rolf to perish by the sword, he would himself take vengeance on his slayers. Nor should it be omitted that in old time nobles who were entering the court used to devote to their rulers the first fruits of their service by vowing some mighty exploit, thus bravely inaugurating their first campaign.
Soon after joining King Rolf’s entourage, Hearse Wigg led a detachment of troops in support of his king and when Rolf fell in battle the youth avenged his death at the cost of his own life and the armrings fell into Gothic hands.
PARAGRAPH ON WITCHES and WARLOCKS:
Later, there was a warlock called Oller, driven out from Byzantium by Odin, who retired into Sweden, and while he was trying, as if in a new world, to repair the records of his glory, the Danes slew him. The story goes that he was such a cunning wizard that he used a certain bone, which he had marked with awful spells, wherewith to cross the seas, instead of in a vessel; and that by this bone he passed over the waters that barred his way as quickly as by rowing. But it was the magic of the Finns and the waters had to be frozen. It was during a great cooling period and the Baltic had frozen over and he fled before the Danes and they could not catch him out upon the ice until it began to snow. Now, the Finns had boards as well as bones that one could strap to their feet to stay ahead of pursuers in that particular scenario, but Warlock Oller had just recently come north from Constantinople and the Finns had not had time to teach him in the magic of the boards, so the Danes caught him out upon the snowy ice and killed him for his evil witchcraft.