Legends of the Middle Ages
H.A. Guerber

Part 5 out of 8

Stunge one o' th' king's knightes on the knee.
Alacke! it was a woefulle chance,
As ever was in Christientie;
When the knighte founde him wounded sore,
And sawe the wild worme hanginge there,
His sworde he from the scabbarde drewe;
A piteous case, as ye shall heare;
For when the two hostes saw the sworde,
They joyned in battayle instantlye;
Till of so manye noble knightes,
On one side there was left but three."
_King Arthur's Death_.

[Sidenote: Arthur wounded.] On both sides the knights fought with the
utmost courage, and when nearly all were slain, Arthur encountered the
traitor Mordred. Summoning all his strength, the exhausted king finally
slew the usurper, who, in dying, dealt Arthur a mortal blow. This would
never have occurred, however, had not Morgana the fay, Arthur's sister,
purloined his magic scabbard and substituted another. All the enemy's host
had perished, and of Arthur's noble army only one man remained alive, Sir
Bedivere, a knight of the Round Table. He hastened to the side of his
fallen master, who in faltering accents now bade him take the brand
Excalibur, cast it far from him into the waters of the lake, and return to
report what he should see. The knight, thinking it a pity to throw away so
valuable a sword, concealed it twice; but the dying monarch detected the
fraud, and finally prevailed upon Bedivere to fulfill his wishes. As the
magic blade touched the waters Sir Bedivere saw a hand and arm rise up from
the depths to seize it, brandish it thrice, and disappear.

"'Sir King, I closed mine eyelids, lest the gems
Should blind my purpose; for I never saw,
Nor shall see, here or elsewhere, till I die,
Not tho' I live three lives of mortal men,
So great a miracle as yonder hilt.
Then with both hands I flung him, wheeling him;
But when I look'd again, behold an arm,
Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
That caught him by the hilt, and brandish'd him
Three times, and drew him under in the mere.'"
TENNYSON, _The Passing of Arthur_.

Arthur gave a sigh of relief when he heard this report; and after telling
his faithful squire that Merlin had declared that he should not die, he
bade the knight lay him in a barge, all hung with black, wherein he would
find Morgana the fay, the Queen of Northgallis, and the Queen of the

Sir Bedivere obeyed all these orders exactly; and then, seeing his beloved
king about to leave him, he implored permission to accompany him. This,
however, Arthur could not grant, for it had been decreed that he should go
alone to the island of Avalon, where he hoped to be cured of his grievous
wound, and some day to return to his sorrowing people.

"'But now farewell. I am going a long way
With these thou seest--if indeed I go
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)--
To the island-valley of Avilion;
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard lawns
And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea,
Where I will heal me of my grievous wound.'"
TENNYSON, _The Passing of Arthur_.

[Sidenote: Arthur in Avalon.] It was because Arthur thus disappeared and
was never seen again, according to one version of the myth, and because
none knew whether he were living or dead, that he was popularly supposed to
be enjoying perpetual youth and bliss in the fabled island of Avalon,
whence they averred he would return when his people needed him. This belief
was so deeply rooted in England that Philip of Spain, upon marrying Mary,
was compelled to take a solemn oath whereby he bound himself to relinquish
the crown in favor of Arthur should he appear to claim it.

"Still look the Britons for the day
Of Arthur's coming o'er the sea."
LAYAMON, _Brut_.

Other romances and poems relate that Arthur was borne in the sable-hung
barge to Glastonbury, where his remains were laid in the tomb, while
Guinevere retired into the nunnery at Almesbury. There she was once more
visited by the sorrowing Lancelot, who, in spite of all his haste, had come
upon the scene too late to save or be reconciled to the king, to whom he
was still devotedly attached. In his sorrow and remorse the knight withdrew
into a hermitage, where he spent six years in constant penance and prayer.
At last he was warned in a vision that Guinevere was no more. He hastened
to Almesbury, and found her really dead. After burying her by Arthur's
side, in the chapel of Glastonbury, Lancelot again withdrew to his cell.
Six weeks later, worn to a shadow by abstinence and night watches, he
peacefully passed away, and a priest watching near him said that he had
seen the angels receive and bear his ransomed spirit straight up to heaven.

Lancelot was buried either at Arthur's feet or at Joyeuse Garde. He was
deeply mourned by all his friends, and especially by his heir, Sir Ector de
Maris, who eulogized him in the following touching terms: "'Ah, Sir
Lancelot,' he said, 'thou were head of all Christian knights; and now I
dare say,' said Sir Ector, 'that, Sir Lancelot, there thou liest, thou were
never matched of none earthly knight's hands; and thou were the courtliest
knight that ever bare shield; and thou were the truest friend to thy lover
that ever bestrode horse; and thou were the truest lover of a sinful man
that ever loved woman; and thou were the kindest man that ever struck with
sword; and thou were the goodliest person that ever came among press of
knights; and thou were the meekest man, and the gentlest, that ever ate in
hall among ladies; and thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that
ever put spear in rest.'"



[Sidenote: Origin of the story.] The story of Tristan, which seems to have
been current from earliest times, refers, perhaps, to the adventures of a
knight, the contemporary of Arthur or of Cassivellaunus. The tale seems to
have already been known in the sixth century, and was soon seized upon by
the bards, who found it a rich theme for their metrical romances. It is
quite unknown whether it was first turned into Latin, French, or Welsh
verse; but an established fact is that it has been translated into every
European language, and was listened to with as much interest by the
inhabitants of Iceland as by those of the sunny plains of Greece.

We know that there are metrical versions, or remains of metrical versions,
attributed to Thomas of Ercildoune (the Rhymer), to Raoul de Beauvais,
Chrestien de Troyes, Rusticien de Pise, Luces de Cast, Robert and Helie de
Borron, and Gottfried von Strassburg, and that in our day it has been
retold by Matthew Arnold and Swinburne, and made the subject of an opera by
Wagner. These old metrical versions, recited with manifold variations by
the minstrels, were finally collected into a prose romance, like most of
the mediaeval poems of this kind.

The outline of the story, collected from many different sources, is as

Meliadus (Rivalin, or Roland Rise) was Lord of Lyonesse (Ermonie, or
Parmenia), and after warring for some time against Morgan, he entered into
a seven-years' truce. This time of respite was employed by Meliadus in
visiting Mark, King of Cornwall, who dwelt at Tintagel, where he was
holding a great tournament. Many knights of tried valor hurried thither to
win laurels, but none were able to unhorse Meliadus, who obtained every

His courage was such that he even won the heart of Blanchefleur, the sister
of the king. As the monarch refused to consent to their union, the young
people were secretly married, or eloped, if we are to believe another
version of the story.

[Sidenote: Birth of Tristan.] According to the first account, Blanchefleur
remained at court, where, hearing that her husband had died, she breathed
her last in giving birth to a son, whom she called Tristan (Tristrem),
because he had come into the world under such sad circumstances. The second
version relates that Blanchefleur died as Morgan entered the castle over
her husband's dead body, and that her faithful retainer, Kurvenal (Rohand,
Rual), in order to save her son, claimed him as his own.

The child Tristan grew up without knowing his real parentage, learned all
that a knight was expected to know, and became especially expert as a
hunter and as a harp player. One day he strolled on board of a Norwegian
vessel which had anchored in the harbor near his ancestral home, and
accepted the challenge of the Norsemen to play a game of chess for a
certain wager.

As Tristan played at chess as well as upon the harp, he soon won the game;
but the Northmen, rather than pay their forfeited wager, suddenly raised
the anchor and sailed away, intending to sell the kidnaped youth as a

"Ther com a ship of Norway,
To Sir Rohandes hold,
With haukes white and grey,
And panes fair y-fold:
Tristrem herd it say,
On his playing he wold
Tventi schilling to lay,
Sir Rohand him told,
And taught;
For hauke silver he gold;
The fairest men him raught."
SCOTT, _Sir Tristrem_.

They had not gone far, however, before a terrible tempest arose, which
threatened to sink the vessel and drown all on board. The mariners,
supposing in their terror that this peril had come upon them because they
had acted dishonorably, made a solemn vow to liberate the youth if they

The vow having been made, the wind ceased to blow; and anchoring in the
nearest bay, the Norsemen bade Tristan land, and paid him the sum he had
won at chess.

[Sidenote: Tristan in Cornwall.] Thus forsaken on an unknown shore, with
nothing but his harp and bow, Tristan wandered through an extensive forest,
where, coming across a party of huntsmen who had just slain a deer, he gave
them valuable and lengthy instructions in matters pertaining to the chase,
and taught them how to flay and divide their quarry according to the most
approved mediaeval style. Then, accompanying them to the court of their
master, King Mark, he charmed every one with his minstrelsy, and was
invited to tarry there as long as he pleased. His foster father, Kurvenal,
in the mean while, had set out to seek him; and in the course of his
wanderings he too came to Mark's court, where he was overjoyed to find
Tristan, whose parentage he revealed to the king.

Tristan now for the first time heard the story of his father's death, and
refused to rest until he had avenged him. He immediately set out, slew
Morgan, and recovered his father's estate of Lyonesse, which he intrusted
to Kurvenal's care, while he himself went back to Cornwall. On arriving at
Tintagel he was surprised to find all the court plunged in sorrow. Upon
inquiring the cause he was informed that Morold, brother of the King of
Ireland, had come to claim the usual tribute of three hundred pounds of
silver and tin and three hundred promising youths to be sold into slavery.

Indignant at this claim, which had been enforced ever since Mark had been
defeated in battle by the Irish king, Tristan boldly strode up to the
emissary, tore the treaty in two, flung the pieces in his face, and
challenged him to single combat. Morold, confident in his strength,--for he
was a giant,--and relying particularly upon his poisoned sword, immediately
accepted the challenge. When the usual preliminaries had been settled, the
battle began.

"Sir Morold rode upon his steed,
And flew against Tristan with speed
Still greater than is falcons' flight;
But warlike too was Tristan's might."

Terrible blows were given and received, and at last Tristan sank to the
ground on one knee, for his opponent's poisoned weapon had pierced his

Morold then called upon him to acknowledge himself beaten, promising to
obtain a balsam from his sister Iseult (Isolde, Ysolde), who knew a remedy
for such a dangerous wound. But Tristan, remembering that, if he
surrendered, three hundred innocent children would be sold as slaves, made
a last despairing effort, and slew Morold. Such was the force of the blow
he dealt that he cut through the helmet and pierced Morold's skull, which
was so hard that a fragment of his sword remained imbedded within the

The people of Cornwall were, of course, delighted; and while the Irish
heralds returned empty-handed to Dublin with Morold's remains, the King of
Cornwall loudly proclaimed that as he had no son, Tristan should be his

[Sidenote: Tristan's wound.] Tristan, however, was far from happy, for the
wound in his side refused to heal, and gradually became so offensive that
no one could bear his presence. As none of the court doctors could relieve
him, he remembered Morold's words, and resolved to go to Ireland, in hopes
that Iseult would cure him. Conscious, however, that she would never
consent to help him if she suspected his identity, he embarked alone, or
with Kurvenal, in a small vessel, taking only his harp, and drifted toward
Ireland, where he arrived at the end of fifteen days. When he appeared at
court, Tristan declared that he was a wandering minstrel called Tantris,
and bespoke the kind offices of the queen, Iseult. Charmed by his music,
she hastened to cure him of the grievous wound from which he had suffered
so much.

Tristan, still unknown, remained at the Irish court for some time, spending
many hours with Iseult, the daughter and namesake of the queen, whom he
instructed daily in the art of music. After some months passed thus in
pleasant intercourse, Tristan returned to Cornwall, where he related to
Mark the story of his cure, and so extolled the beauty of young Iseult that
the king finally expressed a desire to marry her. By the advice of the
courtiers, who were jealous of Tristan, and who hoped that this mission
would cost him his life, the young hero was sent to Ireland with an
imposing retinue, to sue for the maiden's hand and to escort her safely to

On landing in Dublin, Tristan immediately became aware that the people were
laboring under an unusual excitement. Upon questioning them he learned that
a terrible dragon had taken up its station near the city, that it was
devastating the country, and that the king had promised the hand of Iseult
to the man who would slay the monster. Tristan immediately concluded that
by killing the dragon he would have the best chance of successfully
carrying out his uncle's wishes, so he sallied forth alone to attack it.

"This dragon had two furious wings,
Each one upon each shoulder;
With a sting in his tayl as long as a flayl,
Which made him bolder and bolder.

"He had long claws, and in his jaws
Four and forty teeth of iron;
With a hide as tough as any buff
Which did him round environ."
_Dragon of Wantly_ (Old Ballad).

[Sidenote: Tristan and the dragon.] In spite of the fearful appearance of
this dragon, and of the volumes of fire and venom which it belched forth,
Tristan encountered it bravely, and finally slew it. Then, cutting out the
monster's tongue, he thrust it into his pocket, intending to produce it at
the right moment. He had gone only a few steps, however, when, exhausted by
his prolonged conflict, stunned by the poisonous fumes which he had
inhaled, and overcome by the close contact with the dragon's tongue, he
sank fainting to the ground. A few moments later the butler of the Irish
king rode up. He saw the dragon dead, with his conqueror lifeless beside
him, and quickly resolved to take advantage of this fortunate chance to
secure the hand of the fair princess. He therefore cut off the dragon's
head, and, going to court, boasted of having slain the monster just as it
had killed a strange knight. Iseult and her mother, well aware that the man
was a coward, refused to believe his story, and hastened off to the scene
of the conflict, where they found the fainting Tristan with the dragon's
tongue in his pocket.

To remove the poisonous substance, (which they, however, preserved,) convey
the knight to the palace, and restore him by tender care, was the next
impulse of these brave women. Then, while Iseult the younger sat beside her
patient, watching his slumbers, she idly drew his sword from the scabbard.
Suddenly her eye was caught by a dint in the blade, which she soon
discovered was of exactly the same shape and size as the fragment of steel
which she had found in her uncle's skull.

"Then all at once her heart grew cold
In thinking of that deed of old.
Her color changed through grief and ire
From deadly pale to glowing fire.
With sorrow she exclaimed: 'Alas!
Oh, woe! what has now come to pass?
Who carried here this weapon dread,
By which mine uncle was struck dead?
And he who slew him, Tristan hight.
Who gave it to this minstrel knight?'"

Morold's murderer lay helpless before her, and Iseult, animated by the
spirit of vengeance, which was considered a sacred duty among the people of
the time, was about to slay Tristan, when he opened his eyes and disarmed
her by a glance. Her mother further hindered her carrying out her hostile
intentions by telling her that Tristan had atoned for his crime by
delivering the people from the power of the dragon.

As soon as Tristan had quite recovered, he appeared at court, where he
offered to prove at the point of his sword that the butler had no claim to
the princess's hand. A duel was arranged, and the butler, disarmed by
Tristan, confessed his lie. Tristan then produced the dragon's tongue and
told his adventures; but, to the general surprise, instead of suing for
Iseult's hand for himself, he now asked it in the name of his uncle, King
Mark of Cornwall.

[Sidenote: The love potion.] The young princess was none too well pleased
at this unexpected turn of affairs; but, as princesses never had much to
say about the choice of a husband, she obediently prepared to accompany the
embassy to Tintagel. Her mother, wishing to preserve her from a loveless
marriage, now sought out all manner of herbs wherewith to brew one of those
magic love potions which were popularly supposed to have unlimited powers.

"Bethought her with her secret soul alone
To work some charm for marriage unison,
And strike the heart of Iseult to her lord
With power compulsive more than stroke of sword."
SWINBURNE, _Tristram of Lyonesse_.

This magic potion was put in a golden cup and intrusted to Brangwaine, the
attendant of Iseult, with strict injunctions to guard the secret well, and
to give the draught to her mistress and Mark to quaff together on their
wedding day.

"Therefore with marvelous herbs and spells she wrought
To win the very wonder of her thought,
And brewed it with her secret hands, and blest
And drew and gave out of her secret breast
To one her chosen and Iseult's handmaiden,
Brangwain, and bade her hide from sight of men
This marvel covered in a golden cup,
So covering in her heart the counsel up
As in the gold the wondrous wine lay close."
SWINBURNE, _Tristram of Lyonesse_.

Brangwaine carefully carried this potion on board the ship, and placed it
in a cupboard, whence she intended to produce it when the suitable moment
came. Iseult embarked with the escort sent from Cornwall, and Tristan, in
order to beguile the long, weary hours of the journey, entertained her with
all the songs and stories that he knew. One day, after singing for some
time, he asked his fair young mistress for a drink; and she, going to the
cupboard, drew out the magic potion, little guessing its power.

As was customary in those days in offering wine to an honored guest, she
first put it to her own lips and then handed it to the thirsty minstrel,
who drained it greedily. They had no sooner drunk, however, than the
draught, working with subtle power, suddenly kindled in their hearts a
passionate love, destined to last as long as they both lived.

"Now that the maiden and the man,
Fair Iseult and Tristan,
Both drank the drink, upon them pressed
What gives the world such sore unrest,--
Love, skilled in sly and prowling arts,--
And swiftly crept in both their hearts;
So, ere of him they were aware,
Stood his victorious banners there.
He drew them both into his power;
One and single were they that hour
That two and twofold were before."

After the first few hours of rapture had passed, the young people, who
honorably intended to keep their word and conquer the fatal passion which
had overwhelmed them, remained apart, and when Iseult landed in Cornwall
her marriage was celebrated with Mark. Brangwaine, who knew all that had
passed, tried to shield her mistress in every way, and blind the king, who
is depicted as a very unheroic monarch, but little fitted to secure the
affections of the proud young Iseult.

[Sidenote: Tristan and Iseult.] This story of a love potion whose magic
power none could resist, and of the undying love which it kindled in the
unsuspecting hearts of Tristan and Iseult, has been treated in many ways by
the different poets and prose writers who have handled it. In many of the
older versions we have lengthy descriptions of stolen interviews,
hairbreadth escapes, and tests of love, truth, and fidelity without number.

In many respects the story is a parallel of that of Lancelot and Guinevere,
although it contains some incidents which are duplicated in the
"Nibelungenlied" only. But throughout, the writers all aver that, owing to
the magic draught, the lovers, however good their intentions, could not
long exist without seeing each other.

By means of this boundless love Tristan is said to have had an intuitive
knowledge of Iseult's peril, for he hastened to rescue her from danger
whenever events took a turn which might prove fatal to her. There are in
some of these old romances pretty descriptions of scenery and of the
signals used by the lovers to communicate with each other when forced by
adverse circumstances to remain apart. One of the poems, for instance, says
that Tristan's love messages were written on chips of wood, which he
floated down the little stream which flowed past his sylvan lodge and
crossed the garden of the queen.

[Sidenote: Meliadus.] The inevitable villain of the tale is one of Mark's
squires, the spy Meliadus, also a very unheroic character, who told the
king of Tristan's love for Iseult. Mark, who all through the story seems
strangely indifferent to his beautiful wife, was not aware of the magic
draught and its powerful effect, but Meliadus roused him temporarily from
his apathy.

[Illustration: ISEULT SIGNALS TRISTAN.--Pixis.]

As the queen had been publicly accused, he compelled her to prove her
innocence by undergoing the ordeal of fire, or by taking a public oath that
she had shown favor to none but him. On her way to the place where this
ceremony was to take place, Iseult was carried across a stream by Tristan
disguised as a beggar, and, at his request, kissed him in reward for this

When called upon to take her oath before the judges and assembled court,
Iseult could truthfully swear that, with the exception of the beggar whom
she had just publicly kissed, no other man than the king could ever boast
of having received any special mark of her favor.

Thus made aware of their danger, the lovers again decided to part, and
Tristan, deprived for a time of the sight of Iseult, went mad, and
performed many extraordinary feats; for mediaeval poets generally drove
their heroes into a frenzy when they did not know what else to do with
them. Having recovered, and hoping to forget the fatal passion which had
already caused him so much sorrow, Tristan now wandered off to Arthur's
court, where he performed many deeds of valor. Thence he went on to various
strange lands, distinguishing himself greatly everywhere, until he received
from a poisoned arrow a wound which no doctor could heal.

[Sidenote: Iseult of Brittany.] Afraid to expose himself again to the
fascinations of Iseult of Cornwall, Tristan went to Brittany, where another
Iseult,--with the White Hands,--equally well skilled in medicine, tenderly
nursed him back to health. This maiden, as good and gentle as she was
beautiful, soon fell in love with the handsome knight, and hearing him sing
a passionate lay in honor of Iseult, she fancied that her affections were
returned, and that it was intended for her ear.

"I know her by her mildness rare,
Her snow-white hands, her golden hair;
I know her by her rich silk dress,
And her fragile loveliness,--
The sweetest Christian soul alive,
Iseult of Brittany."
MATTHEW ARNOLD, _Tristram and Iseult_.

The brother of this fair Iseult saw her love for Tristan, and offered him
her hand, which he accepted more out of gratitude than love, and in the
hope that he might at last overcome the effects of the fatal draught. But,
in spite of all his good resolutions, he could not forget Iseult of
Cornwall, and treated his wife with such polite coolness that her brother's
suspicions were finally roused.

Tristan, having conquered a neighboring giant and magician by the name of
Beliagog, had granted him his life only upon condition that he would build
a marvelous palace in the forest, and adorn it with paintings and
sculptures, true to life, and representing all the different stages of his
passion for Iseult of Cornwall. When his brother-in-law, therefore, asked
why he seemed to find no pleasure in the society of his young wife, Tristan
led him to the palace, showed him the works of art, and told him all.
Ganhardin, the brother-in-law, must evidently have considered the excuse a
good one, for he not only forgave Tristan, but implored him to take him to
Cornwall, for he had fallen in love with the picture of Brangwaine, and
hoped to win her for wife. On the way thither the young knights met with
sundry adventures, delivered Arthur from the power of the Lady of the Lake,
and carried off Iseult, whom the cowardly Mark was ill treating, to
Lancelot's castle of Joyeuse Garde. There she became acquainted with
Guinevere, and remained with her until Arthur brought about a general

Then Tristan once more returned to Brittany, resumed his wonted knightly
existence, and fought until he was wounded so sorely that Iseult of
Brittany could not cure him. His faithful steward Kurvenal, hoping yet to
save him, sailed for Cornwall to bring the other Iseult to the rescue; and
as he left he promised his master to change the black sails of the vessel
for white in case his quest were successful.

Tristan now watched impatiently for the returning sail, but just as it came
into view he breathed his last. Some ill-advised writers have ventured to
state that Iseult of Brittany, whose jealousy had been aroused, was guilty
of Tristan's death by falsely averring, in answer to his feverish inquiry,
that the long-expected vessel was wafted along by black sails; but,
according to other authorities, she remained gentle and lovable to the end.

[Sidenote: Miracle of the plants.] Iseult of Cornwall, speeding to the
rescue of her lover, whom nothing could make her forget, and finding him
dead, breathed her last upon his corpse. Both bodies were then carried to
Cornwall, where they were interred in separate graves by order of King
Mark. But from the tomb of the dead minstrel there soon sprang a creeper,
which, finding its way along the walls, descended into Iseult's grave.
Thrice cut down by Mark's orders, the plant persisted in growing, thus
emphasizing by a miracle the passionate love which made this couple
proverbial in the middle ages. There are in subsequent literature many
parallels of the miracle of the plant which sprang from Tristan's tomb, as
is seen by the Ballad of Lord Thomas and Fair Annet, and of Lord Lovel,
where, as in later versions of the Tristan legend, a rose and a vine grew
out of the respective graves and twined tenderly around each other.

"And out of her breast there grew a red rose,
And out of his breast a brier."
_Ballad of Lord Lovel_.



[Sidenote: Northern sagas.] Norse, Danish, and Swedish writers have
frequently called public attention to the vast literary treasures which are
contained in the old sagas or tales of their forefathers. The work of
northern scalds whose names in most cases are unknown to us, these stories
relate the lives and adventures of the gods and heroes of the North. Many
of these old sagas have been translated into various other European
languages; but Tegner, a Swedish writer of this century, has done most to
revive a taste for them by making one of them the basis of a poem which is
generally considered a masterpiece.

Tegner's "Frithiof Saga" has been translated once at least into every
European tongue, and more than eighteen times into English and German.
Goethe spoke of the work with the greatest enthusiasm, and the tale, which
gives a matchless picture of the life of our heathen ancestors in the
North, has been the source of inspiration for important works of art.

Although Tegner has chosen for his theme the Frithiof saga only, we find
that that tale is the sequel to the older but less interesting Thorsten
saga, of which we give here a very brief outline, merely to enable the
reader to understand clearly every allusion in the more modern poem.

As is so frequently the case with these ancient tales, the story begins
with Haloge (Loki), who came north with Odin, and began to reign over north
Norway, which from him was called Halogaland. According to northern
mythology, this god had two lovely daughters. They were carried off by bold
suitors, who, banished from the mainland by Haloge's curses and magic
spells, took refuge with their newly won wives upon neighboring islands.

[Sidenote: Birth of Viking.] Thus it happened that Haloge's grandson,
Viking, was born upon the island of Bornholm, in the Balitic Sea, where he
dwelt until he was fifteen, and where he became the largest and strongest
man of his time. Rumors of his valor finally reached Hunvor, a Swedish
princess; and, as she was oppressed by the attentions of a gigantic suitor
whom none dared drive away, she quickly sent for Viking to deliver her.

Thus summoned, the youth departed, after having received from his father a
magic sword named Angurvadel, whose blows would prove fatal even to the
giant suitor of Hunvor. A "holmgang," the northern name for a duel,
ensued, and Viking, having slain his antagonist, could have married the
princess had it not been considered disgraceful for a Northman to marry
before he was twenty.

To beguile the time of waiting, Viking set out in a well-manned dragon
ship; and, cruising about the northern and southern seas, he met with
countless adventures. During this time he was particularly persecuted by
the slain giant's kin, who were adepts in magic, and caused him to
encounter innumerable perils by land and by sea.

Aided and abetted by his bosom friend, Halfdan, Viking escaped every
danger, slew many of his foes, and, after recovering his promised bride,
Hunvor, whom the enemy had carried off to India, he settled down in Sweden.
His friend, faithful in peace as well as in war, settled near him, and
married also, choosing for his wife Ingeborg, Hunvor's attendant.

The saga now describes the long, peaceful winters, when the warriors
feasted and listened to the tales of the scalds, rousing themselves to
energetic efforts only when returning spring again permitted them to launch
their dragon ships and set out once more upon their favorite piratical
expeditions. In the olden story the bards relate with great gusto every
phase of attack and defense during cruise and raid, describe every blow
given and received, and spare us none of carnage, or lurid flames which
envelop both enemies and ships in common ruin. A fierce fight is often an
earnest of future friendship, however, for we are told that Halfdan and
Viking, having failed to conquer Njorfe, even after a most obstinate
struggle, sheathed their swords and accepted him as a third in their close
bond of friendship.

On returning home after one of these customary raids, Viking lost his
beloved wife; and, after intrusting her child, Ring, to the care of a
foster father, and undergoing a short period of mourning, the brave warrior
married again. This time his marital bliss was more lasting, for the saga
reports that his second wife bore him nine stalwart sons.

Njorfe, King of Uplands, in Norway, had, in the mean while, followed
Viking's example, and he too rejoiced in a large family, numbering also
nine brave sons. Now, although their fathers were united in bonds of the
closest friendship, having sworn blood brotherhood according to the true
northern rites, the young men were jealous of one another, and greatly
inclined to quarrel.

[Sidenote: Early ball games.] Notwithstanding this smoldering animosity,
these youths often met; and the saga relates that they used to play ball
together, and gives a description of the earliest ball game on record in
the northern annals. Viking's sons, as tall and strong as he, were inclined
to be rather reckless of their opponents' welfare, and, judging from the
following account, translated from the old saga, the players were often
left in as sorry a condition as after a modern game.

"The next morning the brothers went to the games, and generally had the
ball during the day; they pushed men and let them fall roughly, and beat
others. At night three men had their arms broken, and many were bruised or

The game between Njorfe's and Viking's sons culminated in a disagreement,
and one of the former nine struck one of the latter a dangerous and
treacherous blow. Prevented from taking his revenge then and there by the
interference of the spectators, the injured man made a trivial excuse to
return to the ball ground alone; and, meeting his assailant there, he
killed him.

When Viking heard that one of his sons had slain one of his friend's
children, he was very indignant, and, mindful of his oath to avenge all
Njorfe's wrongs, he banished the young murderer. The other brothers, on
hearing this sentence, all vowed that they would accompany the exile, and
so Viking sorrowfully bade them farewell, giving his sword Angurvadel to
Thorsten, the eldest, and cautioning him to remain quietly on an island in
Lake Wener until all danger of retaliation on the part of Njorfe's
remaining sons was over.

The young men obeyed; but Njorfe's sons, who had no boats to take them
across the lake, soon made use of a conjuror's art to bring about a great
frost, and, accompanied by many armed men, stole noiselessly over the ice
to attack Thorsten and his brothers. A terrible carnage ensued, and only
two of the attacking party managed to escape, leaving, as they fancied, all
their foes among the dead.

But when Viking came to bury his sons, he found that two of them, Thorsten
and Thorer, were still alive, and he secretly conveyed them to a cellar
beneath his dwelling, where they recovered from their wounds.

By magic arts Njorfe's two sons discovered that their opponents were not
dead, and soon made a second desperate but vain attempt to kill them.
Viking saw that the quarrel would be incessantly renewed if his sons
remained at home; so he now sent them to Halfdan, whose court they reached
after a series of adventures which in many points resemble those of Theseus
on his way to Athens.

When spring came Thorsten embarked on a piratical excursion, and
encountered Jokul, Njorfe's eldest son, who, in the mean while, had taken
forcible possession of the kingdom of Sogn, after killing the king,
banishing his heir, Bele, and changing his beautiful daughter, Ingeborg,
into the form of an old witch.

Throughout the story Jokul is represented as somewhat of a coward, for he
resorted by preference to magic when he wished to injure Viking's sons.
Thus he stirred up great tempests, and Thorsten, after twice suffering
shipwreck, was saved from the waves by the witch Ingeborg, whom he promised
to marry in gratitude for her good services.

Thorsten, advised by her, went in search of Bele, replaced him on his
hereditary throne, swore eternal friendship with him, and, the baleful
spell being removed, married the beautiful Ingeborg, who dwelt with him at

[Sidenote: Thorsten and Bele.] Every spring Thorsten and Bele now set out
together in their ships; and, joining forces with Angantyr, a foe whose
mettle they had duly tested, they proceeded to recover possession of a
priceless treasure, a magic dragon ship named Ellida, which Aegir, god of
the sea, had once given to Viking in reward for hospitable treatment, and
which had been stolen from him.

"A royal gift to behold, for the swelling planks of its framework
Were not fastened with nails, as is wont, but _grown_ in together.
Its shape was that of a dragon when swimming, but forward
Its head rose proudly on high, the throat with yellow gold flaming;
Its belly was spotted with red and yellow, but back by the rudder
Coiled out its mighty tail in circles, all scaly with silver;
Black wings with edges of red; when all were expanded
Ellida raced with the whistling storm, but outstript the eagle.
When filled to the edge with warriors, it sailed o'er the waters,
You'd deem it a floating fortress, or warlike abode of a monarch.
The ship was famed far and wide, and of ships was first in the North."
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.).

The next season, Thorsten, Bele, and Angantyr conquered the Orkney Islands,
which were given as kingdom to the latter, he voluntarily pledging himself
to pay a yearly tribute to Bele. Next Thorsten and Bele went in quest of a
magic ring, or armlet, once forged by Voelund, the smith, and stolen by
Sote, a famous pirate.

This bold robber was so afraid lest some one should gain possession of the
magic ring, that he had buried himself alive with it in a mound in
Bretland. Here his ghost was said to keep constant watch over it, and when
Thorsten entered his tomb, Bele heard the frightful blows given and
received, and saw lurid gleams of supernatural fire.

When Thorsten finally staggered out of the mound, pale and bloody, but
triumphant, he refused to speak of the horrors he had encountered to win
the coveted treasure, nor would he ever vouchsafe further information than

"'Dearly bought is the prize,' said he often,
'For I trembled but once in my life, and 'twas when I seized it!'"
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.).

[Sidenote: Birth of Frithiof and Ingeborg.] Thus owner of the three
greatest treasures in the North, Thorsten returned home to Framnaes, where
Ingeborg bore him a fine boy, Frithiof, the playmate of Halfdan and Helge,
Bele's sons. The three youths were already well grown when Ingeborg, Bele's
little daughter, was born, and as she was intrusted to the care of Hilding,
Frithiof's foster father, the children grew up in perfect amity.

"Jocund they grew, in guileless glee;
Young Frithiof was the sapling tree;
In budding beauty by his side,
Sweet Ingeborg, the garden's pride."
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Longfellow's tr.).

Frithiof soon became hardy and fearless under his foster father's training,
and Ingeborg rapidly developed all the sweetest traits of female
loveliness. Both, however, were happiest when together; and as they grew
older their childish affection daily became deeper and more intense, until
Hilding, perceiving this state of affairs, bade the youth remember that he
was only a subject, and therefore no mate for the king's only daughter.

"But Hilding said, 'O foster son,
Set not thy heart her love upon,
For Destiny thy wish gainsaid;
King Bele's daughter is the maid!

"'From Odin's self, in starry sky,
Descends her ancestry so high;
But thou art Thorsten's son, so yield,
And leave to mightier names the field.'"
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.)

[Sidenote: Frithiof's love for Ingeborg.] These wise admonitions came too
late, however, and Frithiof vehemently declared that he would win the fair
Ingeborg for his bride in spite of all obstacles and his comparatively
humble origin.

Shortly after this Bele and Thorsten met for the last time, near the
magnificent shrine of Balder, where the king, feeling that his end was
near, had convened a solemn assembly, or Thing, of all his principal
subjects, in order to present his sons Helge and Halfdan to the people as
his chosen successors. The young heirs were very coldly received on this
occasion, for Helge was of a somber and taciturn disposition, and inclined
to the life of a priest, and Halfdan was of a weak, effeminate nature, and
noted for his cowardice. Frithiof, who was present, and stood beside them,
cast them both in the shade, and won many admiring glances from the throng.

"But after them came Frithiof, in mantle blue--
He by a head was taller than th' other two.
He stood between the brethren, as day should light
Between the rosy morning and darksome night."
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.)

After giving his last instructions to his sons, and speaking kindly to
Frithiof, who was his favorite, the old king turned to his lifelong
companion, Thorsten, to take leave of him, but the old warrior declared
that they would not long be parted. Bele then spoke again to his sons, and
bade them erect his howe, or funeral mound, within sight of that of
Thorsten, that their spirits might commune, and not be sundered even in

"'But lay us gently, children, where the blue wave,
Beating harmonious cadence, the shore doth lave;
Its murmuring song is pleasant unto the soul,
And like a lamentation its ceaseless roll.

"'And when the moon's pale luster around us streams,
And midnight dim grows radiant with silver beams,
There will we sit, O Thorsten, upon our graves,
And talk of bygone battles by the dark waves.

"'And now, farewell, my children! Come here no more;
Our road lies to Allfather's far-distant shore,
E'en as the troubled river sweeps to the sea:
By Frey and Thor and Odin blessed may ye be.'"
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.).

[Sidenote: Helge and Halfdan.] These instructions were all piously obeyed
when the aged companions had breathed their last. Then the brothers, Helge
and Halfdan, began to rule their kingdom, while Frithiof, their former
playmate, withdrew to his own place at Framnaes, a very fertile homestead,
lying in a snug valley closed in by the towering mountains and the
ever-changing ocean.

"Three miles extended around the fields of the homestead; on
three sides
Valleys and mountains and hills, but on the fourth side was the
Birch-woods crowned the summits, but over the down-sloping
Flourished the golden corn, and man-high was waving the rye-
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Longfellow's tr.).

But although surrounded by faithful retainers, and blessed with much wealth
and the possession of the famous sword Angurvadel, the Voelund ring, and the
matchless dragon ship Ellida, Frithiof was unhappy, because he could no
longer see the fair Ingeborg daily. With the returning spring, however, all
his former spirits returned, for both kings came to visit him, accompanied
by their fair sister, with whom he lived over the happy childish years, and
spent long hours in cheerful companionship. As they were thus constantly
thrown together, Frithiof soon made known to Ingeborg his deep affection,
and received in return an avowal of her love.

"He sat by her side, and he pressed her soft hand,
And he felt a soft pressure responsive and bland;
Whilst his love-beaming gaze
Was returned as the sun's in the moon's placid rays."
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Longfellow's tr.).

[Sidenote: Frithiof's suit.] When the visit was over and the guests had
departed, Frithiof informed his confidant and chief companion, Bjoern, of
his determination to follow them and openly ask for Ingeborg's hand. His
ship was prepared, and after a swift sail touched the shore near Balder's
shrine. Discerning the royal brothers seated in state on Bele's tomb to
listen to the petitions of their subjects, Frithiof immediately presented
himself before them, and manfully made his request, adding that the old
king had always loved him and would surely have granted his prayer.

"They were seated on Bele's tomb, and o'er
The common folk administered law.
But Frithiof speaks,
And his voice re-echoes round valleys and peaks.

"'Ye kings, my love is Ingborg fair;
To ask her in marriage I here repair;
And what I require
I here maintain was King Bele's desire.

"'He let us grow in Hilding's care,
Like two young saplings, year by year;
And therefore, kings,
Unite the full-grown trees with golden rings.'"
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.).

But although he promised lifelong fealty and the service of his strong
right arm in exchange for the boon he craved, Helge contemptuously
dismissed him. Enraged at the insult thus publicly received, Frithiof
raised his invincible sword; but, remembering that he stood on a
consecrated spot, he spared the king, only cutting the royal shield in two
to show the strength of his blade, and striding back to his ship, he
embarked and sailed away in sullen silence.

"And lo! cloven in twain at a stroke
Fell King Helge's gold shield from its pillar of oak:
At the clang of the blow,
The live started above, the dead started below."
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Longfellow's tr.).

[Sidenote: Sigurd Ring a suitor.] Just after his departure came messengers
from Sigurd Ring, the aged King of Ringric, in Norway, who, having lost his
wife, sent to Helge and Halfdan to ask Ingeborg's hand in marriage. Before
answering this royal suitor, Helge consulted the Vala, or prophetess, and
the priests, and as they all declared that the omens were not in favor of
this marriage, he gave an insolent refusal to the messengers. This
impolitic conduct so offended the would-be suitor that he immediately
collected an army and prepared to march against the Kings of Sogn to avenge
the insult with his sword. When the rumor of his approach reached the
cowardly brothers they were terrified, and fearing to encounter the foe
alone, they sent Hilding to Frithiof to implore his aid.

Hilding gladly undertook the mission, although he had not much hope of its
success. He found Frithiof playing chess with a friend, Bjoern, and
immediately made known his errand.

"'From Bele's high heirs
I come with courteous words and prayers:
Disastrous tidings rouse the brave;
On thee a nation's hope relies.

* * * * *

In Balder's fane, grief's loveliest prey,
Sweet Ing'borg weeps the livelong day:
Say, can her tears unheeded fall,
Nor call her champion to her side?'"
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Longfellow's tr.).

But Frithiof was so deeply offended that even this appeal in the name of
his beloved could not move him. Quietly he continued his game of chess,
and, when it was ended, told Hilding that he had no answer to give. Rightly
concluding that Frithiof would lend the kings no aid, Hilding returned to
Helge and Halfdan, who, forced to fight without their bravest leader,
preferred to make a treaty with Sigurd Ring, promising to give him not only
their sister Ingeborg, but also a yearly tribute.

[Sidenote: At Balder's shrine.] While they were thus engaged at Sogn Sound,
Frithiof hastened to Balder's temple, where, as Hilding had declared, he
found Ingeborg a prey to grief. Now although it was considered a sacrilege
for man and woman to exchange a word in the sacred building, Frithiof could
not see his beloved in tears without attempting to console her; and,
forgetting all else, he spoke to her and comforted her. He repeated how
dearly he loved her, quieted all her apprehensions of the gods' anger by
assuring her that Balder, the good, must view their innocent passion with
approving eyes, said that love as pure as theirs could defile no sanctuary,
and plighted his troth to her before the shrine.

[Illustration: THE LOVERS AT BALDER'S SHRINE.--Kepler.]

"'What whisper you of Balder's ire?
The pious god--he is not wrath.
He loves himself, and doth inspire
Our love--the purest he calls forth.
The god with true and steadfast heart,
The sun upon his glittering form,
Is not his love for Nanna part
Of his own nature, pure and warm?

"'There is his image; he is near.
How mild he looks on me--how kind!
A sacrifice to him I'll bear,
The offer of a loving mind.
Kneel down with me; no better gift,
No fairer sure for Balder is,
Than two young hearts, whose love doth lift
Above the world almost like his.'"
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.).

Reassured by this reasoning, Ingeborg no longer refused to see and converse
with Frithiof; and during the kings' absence the young lovers met every
day, and plighted their troth with Volund's ring, which Ingeborg solemnly
promised to send back to her lover should she break her promise to live for
him alone. Frithiof lingered there until the kings' return, when, for love
of Ingeborg the fair, he again appeared before them, and pledged himself to
free them from their thraldom to Sigurd Ring if they would only reconsider
their decision and promise him their sister's hand.

"'War is abroad,
And strikes his echoing shield within our borders;
Thy crown and land, King Helge, are in danger;
Give me thy sister's hand, and I will use
Henceforth my warlike force in thy defense.
Let then the wrath between us be forgotten,
Unwillingly I strive 'gainst Ingborg's brother.
Secure, O king, by one fraternal act
Thy golden crown and save thy sister's heart.
Here is my hand. By Thor, I ne'er again
Present it here for reconciliation.'"
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.).

[Sidenote: Frithiof in disgrace.] But although this offer was hailed with
rapture by the assembled warriors, it was again scornfully rejected by
Helge, who declared that he would have granted it had not Frithiof proved
himself unworthy of all confidence by defiling the temple of the gods.
Frithiof tried to defend himself; but as he had to plead guilty to the
accusation of having conversed with Ingeborg at Balder's shrine, he was
convicted of having broken the law, and, in punishment therefor, condemned
to sail off to the Orkney Islands to claim tribute from the king, Angantyr.

Before he sailed, however, he once more sought Ingeborg, and vainly tried
to induce her to elope with him by promising her a home in the sunny south,
where her happiness should be his law, and where she should rule over his
subjects as his honored wife. Ingeborg sorrowfully refused to accompany
him, saying that, since her father was no more, she was in duty bound to
obey her brothers implicitly, and could not marry without their consent.

"'But Helge is my father,
Stands in my father's place; on his consent
Depends my hand, and Bele's daughter steals not
Her earthly happiness, how near it be.'"
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.).

After a heartrending parting scene, Frithiof embarked upon Ellida, and
sorrowfully sailed out of the harbor, while Ingeborg wept at his departure.
When the vessel was barely out of sight, Helge sent for two witches named
Heid and Ham, bidding them begin their incantations, and stir up such a
tempest at sea that it would be impossible for even the god-given vessel
Ellida to withstand its fury, and all on board would perish. The witches
immediately complied; and with Helge's aid they soon stirred up a storm
unparalleled in history.

"Helge on the strand
Chants his wizard-spell,
Potent to command
Fiends of earth or hell.
Gathering darkness shrouds the sky;
Hark, the thunder's distant roll!
Lurid lightnings, as they fly,
Streak with blood the sable pole.
Ocean, boiling to its base,
Scatters wide its wave of foam;
Screaming, as in fleetest chase,
Sea-birds seek their island home."
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Longfellow's tr.).

[Sidenote: The tempest.] In spite of tossing waves and whistling blasts,
Frithiof sang a cheery song to reassure his frightened crew; but when the
peril grew so great that his exhausted men gave themselves up for lost, he
bade Bjoern hold the rudder, and himself climbed up to the mast top to view
the horizon. While perched up there he descried a whale, upon which the two
witches were riding at ease. Speaking to his good ship, which was gifted
with the power of understanding and obeying his words, he now ran down both
witches and whale, and the sea was reddened with their blood. No sooner had
they sunk than the wind fell, the waves ceased to heave and toss as before,
and soon fair weather again smiled over the seas.

"Now the storm has flown,
The sea is calm awhile;
A gentle swell is blown
Against the neighboring isle.

"Then at once the sun arose,
Like a king who mounts his throne,
Vivifies the world and throws
His light on billow, field, and stone.
His new-born beams adorn awhile
A dark green grove on rocky top,
All recognize a sea-girt isle,
Amongst the distant Orkney's group."
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.).

Exhausted by their previous superhuman efforts and by the bailing of their
water-logged vessel, the men were too weak to land when they at last
reached the Orkney Islands, and had to be carried ashore by Bjoern and
Frithiof, who gently laid them down on the sand, bidding them rest and
refresh themselves after all the hardships they had endured.

"Tired indeed are all on board,
All the crew of Frithiofs men,
Scarce supported by a sword,
Can they raise themselves again.
Bjoern takes four of them ashore,
On his mighty shoulders wide,
Frithiof singly takes twice four,
Places them the fire beside.
'Blush not, ye pale ones,
The sea's a valiant viking;
'Tis hard indeed to fight
Against the rough sea waves.
Lo! there comes the mead horn
On golden feet descending,
To warm our frozen limbs.
Hail to Ingeborg!'"
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.).

The arrival of Frithiof and his men had been seen by the watchman of
Angantyr's castle, who immediately informed his master of all he had seen.
The jarl exclaimed that the ship which had weathered such a gale could be
none but Ellida, and that its captain was doubtless Frithiof, Thorsten's
gallant son. At these words one of his Berserkers, Atle, caught up his
weapons and strode out of the hall, vowing that he would challenge
Frithiof, and thus satisfy himself concerning the veracity of the tales he
had heard of the young hero's courage.

[Sidenote: Atle's challenge.] Although still greatly exhausted, Frithiof
immediately accepted Atle's challenge, and, after a sharp encounter, threw
his antagonist, whom he would have slain then and there had his sword been
within reach. Atle saw his intention, and bade him go in search of a
weapon, promising to remain motionless during his absence. Frithiof,
knowing that such a warrior's promise was inviolable, immediately obeyed;
but when he returned with his sword, and found his antagonist calmly
awaiting death, he relented, and bade Atle rise and live.

"With patience long not gifted,
Frithiof the foe would kill,
And Angurvadel lifted,
But Atle yet lay still.
This touched the hero's soul;
He stayed the sweeping brand
Before it reached its goal,
And took the fall'n one's hand."
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_(Spalding's tr.).

Together these doughty warriors then wended their way to Angantyr's halls,
where they found a festal board awaiting them, and there they ate and
drank, sang songs, and recounted stories of thrilling adventure by land and
by sea.

At last, however, Frithiof made known his errand. Angantyr said that he
owed no tribute to Helge, and would pay him none; but that he would give
the required sum as a free gift to his old friend Thorsten's son, leaving
him at liberty to dispose of it as he pleased. Then, since the season was
unpropitious, and storms continually swept over the sea, the king invited
Frithiof to tarry with him; and it was only when the gentle spring breezes
were blowing once more that he at last allowed him to depart.

After sailing over summer seas, wafted along by favorable winds for six
days, Frithiof came in sight of his home, Framnaes, which had been reduced
to a shapeless heap of ashes by Helge's orders. Sadly steering past the
ruins, he arrived at Baldershage, where Hilding met him and informed him
that Ingeborg was now the wife of Sigurd Ring. When Frithiof heard these
tidings he flew into a Berserker rage, and bade his men destroy all the
vessels in the harbor, while he strode up to the temple alone in search of
Helge. He found him there before the god's image, roughly flung Angantyr's
heavy purse of gold in his face, and when, as he was about to leave the
temple, he saw the ring he had given Ingeborg on the arm of Helge's wife,
he snatched it away from her. In trying to recover it she dropped the god's
image, which she had just been anointing, into the fire, where it was
rapidly consumed, and the rising flames soon set the temple roof in a

Frithiof, horror-stricken at the sacrilege which he had involuntarily
occasioned, after vainly trying to extinguish the flames and save the
costly sanctuary, escaped to his ship and waiting companions, to begin the
weary life of an outcast and exile.

"The temple soon in ashes lay,
Ashes the temple's bower;
Wofully Frithiof goes his way,
Weeps in the morning hour."
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.).

[Sidenote: Frithiof an exile.] Helge's men started in pursuit, hoping to
overtake and punish him; but when they reached the harbor they could not
find a single seaworthy craft, and were forced to stand on the shore in
helpless inactivity while Ellida's great sails slowly sank beneath the
horizon. It was thus that Frithiof sadly saw his native land vanish from
sight; and as it disappeared he breathed a tender farewell to the beloved
country which he never expected to see again.

"'World-circle's brow,
Thou mighty North!
I may not go
Upon thine earth;
But in no other
I love to dwell;
Now, hero-mother,
Farewell, farewell!

"'Farewell, thou high
And heavenly one,
Night's sleeping eye,
Midsummer sun.
Thou clear blue sky,
Like hero's soul,
Ye stars on high,
Farewell, farewell!

"'Farewell, ye mounts
Where Honour thrives,
And Thor recounts
Good warriors' lives.
Ye azure lakes,
I know so well,
Ye woods and brakes,
Farewell, farewell!

"'Farewell, ye tombs,
By billows blue,
The lime tree blooms
Its snow on you.
The Saga sets
In judgment-veil
What earth forgets;
Farewell, farewell!

"'Farewell the heath,
The forest hoar
I played beneath,
By streamlet's roar.
To childhood's friends
Who loved me well,
Remembrance sends
A fond farewell!

"'My love is foiled,
My rooftree rent,
Mine honour soiled,
In exile sent!
We turn from earth,
On ocean dwell,
But, joy and mirth,
Farewell, farewell!'"
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.).

After thus parting from his native land, Frithiof took up the life of a
pirate, rover, or viking, whose code was never to settle anywhere, to sleep
on his shield, to fight and neither give nor take quarter, to protect the
ships which paid him tribute and sack the others, and to distribute all the
booty to his men, reserving for himself nothing but the glory of the
enterprise. Sailing and fighting thus, Frithiof visited many lands, and
came to the sunny isles of Greece, whither he would fain have carried
Ingeborg as his bride; but wherever he went and whatever he did, he was
always haunted by the recollection of his beloved and of his native land.

[Sidenote: At the court of Sigurd Ring.] Overcome at last by homesickness,
Frithiof returned northward, determined to visit Sigurd Ring's court and
ascertain whether Ingeborg was really well and happy. Steering his vessel
up the Vik (the main part of the Christiania-Fiord), he intrusted it to
Bjoern's care, and alone, on foot, and enveloped in a tattered mantle, which
he used as disguise, he went to the court of Sigurd Ring, arriving there
just as the Yuletide festivities were being held. As if in reality nothing
more than the aged beggar he appeared, Frithiof sat down upon the bench
near the door, where he became the butt of the courtiers' rough jokes; but
when one of his tormentors approached too closely he caught him in his
powerful grasp and swung him high above his head.

Terrified by this proof of great strength, the courtiers silently withdrew,
while Sigurd Ring invited the old man to remove his mantle, take a seat
beside him, and share his good cheer. Frithiof accepted the invitation thus
cordially given, and when he had laid aside his squalid outward apparel all
started with surprise to see a handsome warrior, richly clad, and adorned
with a beautiful ring.

"Now from the old man's stooping head is loosed the sable hood,
When lo! a young man smiling stands, where erst the old one stood.
See! From his lofty forehead, round shoulders broad and strong,
The golden locks flow glistening, like sunlight waves along.

"He stood before them glorious in velvet mantle blue,
His baldrics broad, with silver worked, the artist's skill did shew;
For round about the hero's breast and round about his waist,
The beasts and birds of forest wild, embossed, each other chased.

"The armlet's yellow luster shone rich upon his arm;
His war sword by his side--in strife a thunderbolt alarm.
Serene the hero cast his glance around the men of war;
Bright stood he there as Balder, as tall as Asa Thor."
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.).

[Illustration: FRITHIOF AT THE COURT OF KING RING.--Kepler.]

But although his appearance was so unusual, none of the people present
recognized him save Ingeborg only; and when the king asked him who he was
he evasively replied that he was Thiolf (a thief), that he came from Ulf's
(the wolf's), and had been brought up in Anger (sorrow or grief).
Notwithstanding this unenticing account of himself, Sigurd Ring invited him
to remain; and Frithiof, accepting the proffered hospitality, became the
constant companion of the king and queen, whom he accompanied wherever they

One day, when the royal couple were seated in a sleigh and skimming along a
frozen stream, Frithiof sped on his skates before them, performing graceful
evolutions, and cutting Ingeborg's name deep in the ice. All at once the
ice broke and the sleigh disappeared; but Frithiof, springing forward,
caught the horse by the bridle, and by main force dragged them all out of
their perilous position.

When spring came, Sigurd Ring invited Frithiof to accompany him on a
hunting expedition. The king became separated from all the rest of his
suite, and saying that he was too weary to continue the chase, he lay down
to rest upon the cloak which Frithiof spread out for him, resting his head
upon his young guest's knee.

"Then threw Frithiof down his mantle, and upon the greensward
And the ancient king so trustful laid on Frithiof's knee his head;
Slept, as calmly as the hero sleepeth after war's alarms
On his shield, calm as an infant sleepeth in its mother's arms."
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Longfellow's tr.).

[Sidenote: Frithiof's loyalty.]While the aged king was thus reposing, the
birds and beasts of the forest softly drew near, bidding Frithiof take
advantage of his host's unconsciousness to slay him and recover the bride
of whom he had been unfairly deprived. But although Frithiof understood
the language of birds and beasts, and his hot young heart clamored for his
beloved, he utterly refused to listen to them; and, fearing lest he should
involuntarily harm his trusting host, he impulsively flung his sword far
from him into a neighboring thicket.

A few moments later Sigurd Ring awoke from his feigned sleep, and after
telling Frithiof that he had recognized him from the first, had tested him
in many ways, and had always found his honor fully equal to his vaunted
courage, he bade him be patient a little longer, for his end was very near,
and said that he would die happy if he could leave Ingeborg, his infant
heir, and his kingdom in such good hands. Then, taking the astonished
Frithiof's arm, Sigurd Ring returned home, where, feeling death draw near,
he dedicated himself anew to Odin by carving the Geirs-odd, or sacrificial
runes, deeply in his aged chest.

"Bravely he slashes
Odin's red letters,
Blood-runes of heroes, on arm and on breast.
Brightly the splashes
Of life's flowing fetters
Drip from the silver of hair-covered chest."
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.).

When this ceremony was finished, Sigurd Ring laid Ingeborg's hand in
Frithiof's, and, once more commending her to the young hero's loving care,
closed his eyes and breathed his last.

[Sidenote: Betrothal of Frithiof and Ingeborg.] All the nation assembled to
raise a mound for Sigurd Ring; and by his own request the funeral feast was
closed by a banquet to celebrate the betrothal of Ingeborg and Frithiof.
The latter had won the people's enthusiastic admiration; but when they
would fain have elected him king, Frithiof raised Sigurd Ring's little son
up on his shield and presented him to the assembled nobles as their future
king, publicly swearing to uphold him until he was of age to defend
himself. The child, weary of his cramped position on the shield, boldly
sprang to the ground as soon as Frithiof's speech was ended, and alighted
upon his feet. This act of daring in so small a child was enough to win the
affection and admiration of all his rude subjects.

According to some accounts, Frithiof now made war against Ingeborg's
brothers, and after conquering them, allowed them to retain their kingdom
only upon condition of their paying him a yearly tribute. Then he and
Ingeborg remained in Ringric until the young king was able to assume the
government, when they repaired to Hordaland, a kingdom Frithiof had
obtained by conquest, and which he left to his sons Gungthiof and Hunthiof.

[Sidenote: Frithiofs vision.] But according to Tegner's poem, Frithiof,
soon after his second betrothal to Ingeborg, made a pious pilgrimage to his
father's resting place, and while seated on the latter's funeral mound,
plunged in melancholy and remorse at the sight of the desolation about him,
he was favored by a vision of a new temple, more beautiful than the first,
within whose portals he beheld the three Norns.

"And lo! reclining on their runic shields
The mighty Nornas now the portal fill;
Three rosebuds fair which the same garden yields,
With aspect serious, but charming still.
Whilst Urda points upon the blackened fields,
The fairy temple Skulda doth reveal.
When Frithiof first his dazzled senses cleared,
Rejoiced, admired, the vision disappeared."
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.).

The hero immediately understood that the gods had thus pointed out to him a
means of atonement, and spared neither wealth nor pains to restore Balder's
temple and grove, which soon rose out of the ashes in more than their
former splendor.

When the temple was all finished, and duly consecrated to Balder's service,
Frithiof received Ingeborg at the altar from her brothers' hands, and ever
after lived on amicable terms with them.

"Now stepped Halfdan in
Over the brazen threshold, and with wistful look
Stood silent, at a distance from the dreaded one.
Then Frithiof loosed the Harness-hater from his thigh,
Against the altar placed the golden buckler round,
And forward came unarmed to meet his enemy:
'In such a strife,' thus he commenced, with friendly voice,
'The noblest he who first extends the hand of peace.'
Then blushed King Halfdan deep, and drew his gauntlet off,
And long-divided hands now firmly clasped each other,
A mighty pressure, steadfast as the mountain's base.
The old man then absolved him from the curse which lay
Upon the Varg i Veum,[1] on the outlawed man.
And as he spake the words, fair Ingeborg came in,
Arrayed in bridal dress, and followed by fair maids,
E'en as the stars escort the moon in heaven's vault.
Whilst tears suffused her soft and lovely eyes, she fell
Into her brother's arms, but deeply moved he led
His cherished sister unto Frithiof's faithful breast,
And o'er the altar of the god she gave her hand
Unto her childhood's friend, the darling of her heart."
TEGNER, _Frithiof Saga_ (Spalding's tr.).

[Footnote 1: Wolf in the sanctuaries.]



"Last from among the Heroes one came near,
No God, but of the hero troop the chief--
Regner, who swept the northern sea with fleets,
And ruled o'er Denmark and the heathy isles,
Living; but Ella captured him and slew;--
A king whose fame then fill'd the vast of Heaven,
Now time obscures it, and men's later deeds."
MATTHEW ARNOLD, _Balder Dead_.

[Sidenote: Ragnar Lodbrok saga.] Ragnar Lodbrok, who figures in history as
the contemporary of Charlemagne, is one of the great northern heroes, to
whom many mythical deeds of valor are ascribed. His story has given rise
not only to the celebrated Ragnar Lodbrok saga, so popular in the
thirteenth century, but also to many poems and songs by ancient scalds and
modern poets. The material of the Ragnar Lodbrok saga was probably largely
borrowed from the Volsunga saga and from the saga of Dietrich von Bern, the
chief aim of the ancient composers being to connect the Danish dynasty of
kings with the great hero Sigurd, the slayer of Fafnir, and thereby to
prove that their ancestor was no less a person than Odin.

The hero of this saga was Ragnar, the son of Sigurd Ring and his first
wife, Alfild. According to one version of the story, as we have seen,
Sigurd Ring married Ingeborg, and died, leaving Frithiof to protect his
young son. According to another, Sigurd Ring appointed Ragnar as his
successor, and had him recognized as future ruler by the Thing before he
set out upon his last military expedition.

This was a quest for a new wife named Alfsol, a princess of Jutland, with
whom, in spite of his advanced years, he had fallen passionately in love.
Her family, however, rudely refused Sigurd Ring's request. When he came to
win his bride by the force of arms, and they saw themselves defeated, they
poisoned Alfsol rather than have her fall alive into the viking's hands.

Sigurd Ring, finding a corpse where he had hoped to clasp a living and
loving woman, was so overcome with grief that he now resolved to die too.
By his orders Alfsol's body was laid in state on a funeral pyre on his best
ship. Then, when the fire had been kindled, and the ship cut adrift from
its moorings, Sigurd Ring sprang on board, and, stabbing himself, was
burned with the fair maiden he loved.

Ragnar was but fifteen years old when he found himself called upon to
reign; but just as he outshone all his companions in beauty and
intelligence, so he could match the bravest heroes in courage and daring,
and generally escaped uninjured from every battle, owing to a magic shirt
which his mother had woven for him.

"'I give thee the long shirt,
Nowhere sewn,
Woven with a loving mind,
Of hair----[obscure word].
Wounds will not bleed
Nor will edges bite thee
In the holy garment;
It was consecrated to the gods.'"
_Ragnar Lodbrok Saga_.

Of course the young hero led out his men every summer upon some exciting
viking expedition, to test their courage and supply them with plunder; for
all the northern heroes proudly boasted that the sword was their god and
gold was their goddess.

[Sidenote: Lodgerda.] On one occasion Ragnar landed in a remote part of
Norway, and having climbed one of the neighboring mountains, he looked down
upon a fruitful valley inhabited by Lodgerda, a warrior maiden who
delighted in the chase and all athletic exercises, and ruled over all that
part of the country. Ragnar immediately resolved to visit this fair maiden;
and, seeing her manifold attractions, he soon fell in love with her and
married her. She joined him in all his active pursuits; but in spite of all
his entreaties, she would not consent to leave her native land and
accompany him home.

After spending three years in Norway with Lodgerda, the young viking became
restless and unhappy; and learning that his kingdom had been raided during
his prolonged absence, he parted from his wife in hot haste. He pursued his
enemies to Whitaby and to Lym-Fiord, winning a signal victory over them in
both places, and then reentered his capital of Hledra in triumph, amid the
acclamations of his joyful people.

He had not been resting long upon his newly won laurels when a northern
seer came to his court, and showed him in a magic mirror the image of
Thora, the beautiful daughter of Jarl Herrand in East Gothland. Ragnar, who
evidently considered himself freed from all matrimonial bonds by his wife's
refusal to accompany him home, eagerly questioned the seer concerning the
radiant vision.

This man then revealed to him that Thora, having at her father's request
carefully brought up a dragon from an egg hatched by a swan, had at last
seen it assume such colossal proportions that it coiled itself all around
the house where she dwelt. Here it watched over her with jealous care,
allowing none to approach except the servant who brought the princess her
meals and who provided an ox daily for the monster's sustenance. Jarl
Herrand had offered Thora's hand in marriage, and immense sums of gold, to
any hero brave enough to slay this dragon; but none dared venture within
reach of its powerful jaws, whence came fire, venom, and noxious vapors.

Ragnar, who as usual thirsted for adventure, immediately made up his mind
to go and fight this dragon; and, after donning a peculiar leather and
woolen garment, all smeared over with pitch, he attacked and successfully
slew the monster.

"'Nor long before
In arms I reached the Gothic shore,
To work the loathly serpent's death.
I slew the reptile of the heath.'"
_Death Song of Regner Lodbrock_ (Herbert's tr.).

[Sidenote: Origin of name Lodbrok.] In commemoration of this victory,
Ragnar ever after bore also the name of Lodbrok (Leather Hose), although
he laid aside this garment as soon as possible, and appeared in royal
garb, to receive his prize, the beautiful maiden Thora, whom he had
delivered, and whom he now took to be his wife.

"'My prize was Thora; from that fight,
'Mongst warriors am I Lodbrock hight.
I pierced the monster's scaly side
With steel, the soldier's wealth and pride.'"
_Death Song of Regner Lodbrock_ (Herbert's tr.).

Thora gladly accompanied Ragnar back to Hledra, lived happily with him for
several years, and bore him two sturdy sons, Agnar and Erik, who soon gave
proof of uncommon courage. Such was Ragnar's devotion to his new wife that
he even forbore to take part in the usual viking expeditions, to linger by
her side. All his love could not long avail to keep her with him, however,
for she soon sickened and died, leaving him an inconsolable widower.

To divert him from his great sorrow, his subjects finally proposed that he
should resume his former adventurous career, and prevailed upon him to
launch his dragon ship once more and to set sail for foreign shores. Some
time during the cruise their bread supply failed, and Ragnar steered his
vessel into the port of Spangarhede, where he bade his men carry their
flour ashore and ask the people in a hut which he descried there to help
them knead and bake their bread. The sailors obeyed; but when they entered
the lowly hut and saw the filthy old woman who appeared to be its sole
occupant, they hesitated to bespeak her aid.

While they were deliberating what they should do, a beautiful girl, poorly
clad, but immaculately clean, entered the hut; and the old woman,
addressing her as Krake (Crow), bade her see what the strangers wanted.
They told her, and admiringly watched her as she deftly fashioned the dough
into loaves and slipped them into the hot oven. She bade the sailors watch
them closely, lest they should burn; but these men forgot all about their
loaves to gaze upon her as she flitted about the house, and the result was
that their bread was badly burned.

When they returned to the vessel, Ragnar Lodbrok reproved them severely for
their carelessness, until the men, to justify themselves, began describing
the maiden Krake in such glowing terms that the chief finally expressed a
desire to see her. With the view of testing her wit and intelligence, as
well as her beauty, Ragnar sent a message bidding her appear before him
neither naked nor clad, neither alone nor unaccompanied, neither fasting
nor yet having partaken of any food.

This singular message was punctually delivered, and Krake, who was as
clever as beautiful, soon presented herself, with a fish net wound several
times around her graceful form, her sheep dog beside her, and the odor of
the leek she had bitten into still hovering over her ruby lips.

Ragnar, charmed by her ingenuity no less than by her extreme beauty, then
and there proposed to marry her. But Krake, who was not to be so lightly
won, declared that he must first prove the depth of his affection by
remaining constant to her for one whole year, at the end of which time she
would marry him if he still cared to claim her hand.

[Sidenote: Marriage of Ragnar and Krake.] The year passed by; Ragnar
returned to renew his suit, and Krake, satisfied that she had inspired no
momentary passion, forsook the aged couple and accompanied the great viking
to Hledra, where she became queen of Denmark. She bore Ragnar four
sons--Ivar, Bjoern, Hvitserk, and Rogenwald,--who from earliest infancy
longed to emulate the prowess of their father, Ragnar, and of their
step-brothers, Erik and Agnar, who even in their youth were already great

The Danes, however, had never fully approved of Ragnar's last marriage, and
murmured frequently because they were obliged to obey a lowborn queen, and
one who bore the vulgar name of Krake. Little by little these murmurs grew
louder, and finally they came to Ragnar's ears while he was visiting
Eystein, King of Svithiod (Sweden). Craftily his courtiers went to work,
and finally prevailed upon him to sue for the princess's hand. He did so,
and left Sweden promising to divorce Krake when he reached home, and to
return as soon as possible to claim his bride.

As Ragnar entered the palace at Hledra, Krake came, as usual, to meet him.
His conscience smote him, and he answered all her tender inquiries so
roughly that she suddenly turned and asked him why he had made arrangements
to divorce her and take a new wife. Surprised at her knowledge, for he
fancied the matter still a secret, Ragnar Lodbrok asked who had told her.
Thereupon Krake explained that, feeling anxious about him, she had sent her
pet magpies after him, and that the birds had come home and revealed all.

[Sidenote: Aslaug.] This answer, which perhaps gave rise to the common
expression, "A little bird told me," greatly astonished Ragnar. He was
about to try to excuse himself when Krake, drawing herself up proudly,
declared that while she was perfectly ready to depart, it was but just that
he should now learn that her extraction was far less humble than he
thought. She then proceeded to tell him that her real name was Aslaug, and
that she was the daughter of Sigurd Fafnisbane (the slayer of Fafnir) and
the beautiful Valkyr Brunhild. Her grandfather, or her foster father,
Heimir, to protect her from the foes who would fain have taken her life,
had hidden her in his hollow harp when she was but a babe. He had tenderly
cared for her until he was treacherously murdered by peasants, who had
found her in the hollow harp instead of the treasure they sought there.

"Let be--as ancient stories tell--
Full knowledge upon Ragnar fell
In lapse of time, that this was she
Begot in the felicity
Swift-fleeting of the wondrous twain,
Who afterwards through change and pain
Must live apart to meet in death."
WILLIAM MORRIS, _The Fostering of Aslaug_.

In proof of her assertion, Aslaug then produced a ring and a letter which
had belonged to her illustrious mother, and foretold that her next child, a
son, would bear the image of a dragon in his right eye, as a sign that he
was a grandson of the Dragon Slayer, whose memory was honored by all.

Convinced of the truth of these statements, Ragnar no longer showed any
desire to repudiate his wife; but, on the contrary, he besought her to
remain with him, and bade his subjects call her Aslaug.

[Sidenote: Sigurd the Snake-eyed.] Shortly after this reconciliation the
queen gave birth to a fifth son, who, as she had predicted, came into the
world with a peculiar birthmark, to which he owed his name--Sigurd the
Snake-eyed. As it was customary for kings to intrust their sons to some
noted warrior to foster, this child was given to the celebrated Norman
pirate, Hastings, who, as soon as his charge had attained a suitable age,
taught him the art of viking warfare, and took him, with his four elder
brothers, to raid the coasts of all the southern countries.

Ivar, the eldest of Ragnar and Aslaug's sons, although crippled from birth,
and unable to walk a step, was always ready to join in the fray, into the
midst of which he was borne on a shield. From this point of vantage he shot
arrow after arrow, with fatal accuracy of aim. As he had employed much of
his leisure time in learning runes[1] and all kinds of magic arts, he was
often of great assistance to his brothers, who generally chose him leader
of their expeditions. [Footnote 1: See Guerber's Myths of Northern Lands,
p. 39.]

While Ragnar's five sons were engaged in fighting the English at Whitaby to
punish them for plundering and setting fire to some Danish ships, Rogenwald
fell to rise no more.

[Sidenote: The enchanted cow.] Eystein, the Swedish king, now assembled a
large army and declared war against the Danes, because their monarch had
failed to return at the appointed time and claim the bride for whom he had
sued. Ragnar would fain have gone forth to meet the enemy in person, but
Agnar and Erik, his two eldest sons, craved permission to go in his stead.
They met the Swedish king, but in spite of their valor they soon succumbed
to an attack made by an enchanted cow.

"'We smote with swords; at dawn of day
Hundred spearmen gasping lay,
Bent beneath the arrowy strife.
Egill reft my son of life;
Too soon my Agnar's youth was spent,
The scabbard thorn his bosom rent.'"
_Death Song of Regner Lodbrock_ (Herbert's tr.).

Ragnar was about to sally forth to avenge them, when Hastings and the other
sons returned. Then Aslaug prevailed upon her husband to linger by her side
and delegate the duty of revenge to his sons. In this battle Ivar made use
of his magic to slay Eystein's cow, which could make more havoc than an
army of warriors. His brothers, having slain Eystein and raided the
country, then sailed off to renew their depredations elsewhere.

This band of vikings visited the coasts of England, Ireland, France, Italy,
Greece, and the Greek isles, plundering, murdering, and burning wherever
they went. Assisted by Hastings, the brothers took Wiflisburg (probably the
Roman Aventicum), and even besieged Luna in Etruria.

[Illustration: STRATEGY OF HASTINGS--Keller.]

As this city was too strongly fortified and too well garrisoned to yield to
an assault, the Normans (as all the northern pirates were indiscriminately
called in the South) resolved to secure it by stratagem. They therefore
pretended that Hastings, their leader, was desperately ill, and induced a
bishop to come out of the town to baptize him, so that he might die in the
Christian faith. Three days later they again sent a herald to say that
Hastings had died, and that his last wish had been to be buried in a
Christian church. They therefore asked permission to enter the city
unarmed, and bear their leader to his last resting place, promising not
only to receive baptism, but also to endow with great wealth the church
where Hastings was buried.

[Sidenote: Hastings's stratagem.] The inhabitants of Luna, won by these
specious promises, immediately opened their gates, and the funeral
procession filed solemnly into the city. But, in the midst of the mass, the
coffin lid flew open, and Hastings sprang out, sword in hand, and killed
the officiating bishop and priests. This example was followed by his
soldiers, who produced the weapons they had concealed upon their persons,
and slew all the inhabitants of the town.

These lawless invaders were about to proceed to Romaburg (Rome), and sack
that city also, but were deterred by a pilgrim whom they met. He told them
that the city was so far away that he had worn out two pairs of iron-soled
shoes in coming from thence. The Normans, believing this tale, which was
only a stratagem devised by the quick-witted pilgrim, spared the Eternal
City, and, reembarking in their vessels, sailed home.

Ragnar Lodbrok, in the mean while, had not been inactive, but had continued
his adventurous career, winning numerous battles, and bringing home much
plunder to enrich his kingdom and subjects.

"'I have fought battles
Fifty and one
Which were famous;
I have wounded many men.'"
_Ragnar's Sons' Saga_.

The hero's last expedition was against Ella, King of Northumberland. From
the very outset the gods seemed to have decided that Ragnar should not
prove as successful as usual. The poets tell us that they even sent the
Valkyrs (battle maidens of northern mythology) to warn him of his coming
defeat, and to tell him of the bliss awaiting him in Valhalla.

"'Regner! tell thy fair-hair'd bride
She must slumber at thy side!
Tell the brother of thy breast
Even for him thy grave hath rest!
Tell the raven steed which bore thee
When the wild wolf fled before thee,
He too with his lord must fall,--
There is room in Odin's Hall!'"
MRS. HEMANS, _Valkyriur Song_.

[Sidenote: Death of Ragnar Lodbrok.] In spite of this warning, Ragnar went
on. Owing to the magic shirt he wore, he stood unharmed in the midst of the
slain long after all his brave followers had perished; and it was only
after a whole day's fighting that the enemy finally succeeded in making him
a prisoner. Then the followers of Ella vainly besought Ragnar to speak and
tell his name. As he remained obstinately silent they finally flung him
into a den of snakes, where the reptiles crawled all over him, vainly
trying to pierce the magic shirt with their venomous fangs. Ella perceived
at last that it was this garment which preserved his captive from death,
and had it forcibly removed. Ragnar was then thrust back amid the writhing,
hissing snakes, which bit him many times. Now that death was near, the
hero's tongue was loosened, not to give vent to weak complaints, but to
chant a triumphant death song, in which he recounted his manifold battles,
and foretold that his brave sons would avenge his cruel death.

"'Grim stings the adder's forked dart;
The vipers nestle in my heart.
But soon, I wot, shall Vider's wand,
Fixed in Ella's bosom stand.
My youthful sons with rage will swell,
Listening how their father fell;
Those gallant boys in peace unbroken
Will never rest, till I be wroken [avenged].'"
_Death Song of Regner Lodbrock_ (Herbert's tr.).

This heroic strain has been immortalized by ancient scalds and modern
poets. They have all felt the same admiration for the dauntless old viking,
who, even amid the pangs of death, gloried in his past achievements, and
looked ardently forward to his sojourn in Valhalla. There, he fancied, he
would still be able to indulge in warfare, his favorite pastime, and would
lead the einheriar (spirits of dead warriors) to their daily battles.

"'Cease, my strain! I hear a voice
From realms where martial souls rejoice;
I hear the maids of slaughter call,
Who bid me hence to Odin's hall:
High seated in their blest abodes
I soon shall quaff the drink of gods.
The hours of life have glided by;
I fall, but smiling shall I die.'"
_Death Song of Regner Lodbrock_ (Herbert's tr.).

[Sidenote: Founding of London.] Ragnar Lodbrok's sons had reached home, and
were peacefully occupied in playing chess, when a messenger came to
announce their father's sad end. In their impatience to avenge him they
started out without waiting to collect a large force, and in spite of many
inauspicious omens. Ella, who expected them, met them with a great host,
composed not only of all his own subjects but also of many allies, among
whom was King Alfred. In spite of their valor the Normans were completely
defeated by the superior forces of the enemy, and only a few of them
survived. Ivar and his remaining followers consented to surrender at last,
provided that Ella would atone for their losses by giving them as much land
as an oxhide would inclose. This seemingly trifling request was granted
without demur, nor could the king retract his promise when he saw that the
oxhide, cut into tiny strips, inclosed a vast space of land, upon which the
Normans now proceeded to construct an almost impregnable fortress, called
Lunduna Burg (London).

Here Ivar took up his permanent abode, while his brothers returned to
Hledra. Little by little he alienated the affections of Ella's subjects,
and won them over to him by rich gifts and artful flattery. When sure of
their allegiance, he incited them to revolt against the king; and as he had
solemnly sworn never to bear arms against Ella, he kept the letter of his
promise by sending for his brothers to act as their leaders.

[Sidenote: Death of Ella.] As a result of this revolution Ella was made
prisoner. Then the fierce vikings stretched him out upon one of those rude
stone altars which can still be seen in England, and ruthlessly avenged
their father's cruel death by cutting the bloody eagle upon him.[1] After
Ella's death, Ivar became even more powerful than before, while his younger
brothers continued their viking expeditions, took an active part in all the
piratical incursions of the time, and even, we are told, besieged Paris in
the reign of Louis the Fat. [Footnote 1: See Guerber's Myths of Northern
Lands, p. 85.]

Other Danish and Scandinavian vikings were equally venturesome and
successful, and many eventually settled in the lands which they had
conquered. Among these was the famous Rollo (Rolf Ganger), who, too
gigantic in stature to ride horseback, always went on foot. He settled with
his followers in a fertile province in northern France, which owes to them
its name of Normandy.

The rude independence of the Northmen is well illustrated by their behavior
when called to court to do homage for this new fief. Rollo was directed to
place both his hands between those of the king, and take his vow of
allegiance; so he submitted with indifferent grace. But when he was told
that he must conclude the ceremony by kissing the monarch's foot, he
obstinately refused to do so. A proxy was finally suggested, and Rollo,
calling one of his Berserkers, bade him take his place. The stalwart giant
strode forward, but instead of kneeling, he grasped the king's foot and
raised it to his lips. As the king did not expect such a jerk, he lost his
balance and fell heavily backward. All the Frenchmen present were, of
course, scandalized; but the barbarian refused to make any apology, and
strode haughtily out of the place, vowing he would never come to court

All the northern pirates were, as we have seen, called Normans. They did
not all settle in the North, however, for many of them found their way into
Italy, and even to Constantinople. There they formed the celebrated
Varangian Guard, and faithfully watched over the safety of the emperor. It
was probably one of these soldiers who traced the runes upon the stone lion
which was subsequently transferred to Venice, where it now adorns the
Piazza of St. Mark's.

"Rose the Norseman chief Hardrada, like a lion from his lair;
His the fearless soul to conquer, his the willing soul to dare.
Gathered Skald and wild Varingar, where the raven banner shone,
And the dread steeds of the ocean, left the Northland's frozen zone."
VAIL, _Marri's Vision_.



[Sidenote: Ballads of the Cid.] The ballads of the Cid, which number about
two hundred, and some of which are of undoubted antiquity, were not
committed to writing until the twelfth century, when a poem of about three
thousand lines was composed. This poem, descriptive of a national hero's
exploits, was probably written about half a century after his death. The
earliest manuscript of it now extant bears the date either 1245 or 1345.
The Cid was a real personage, named Rodrigo Diaz, or Ruy Diaz. He was born
in Burgos, in the eleventh century, and won the name of "Cid" (Conqueror)
by defeating five Moorish kings, when Spain had been in the hands of the
Arabs for more than three centuries.

"Mighty victor, never vanquish'd,
Bulwark of our native land,
Shield of Spain, her boast and glory,
Knight of the far-dreaded brand,
Venging scourge of Moors and traitors,
Mighty thunderbolt of war,
Mirror bright of chivalry,
Ruy, my Cid Campeador!"
_Ancient Spanish Ballads_ (Lockhart's tr.).

Rodrigo was still a young and untried warrior when his aged father, Diego
Laynez, was grossly and publicly insulted by Don Gomez, who gave him a blow
in the face. Diego was far too feeble to seek the usual redress, arms in
hand; but the insult rankled deep in his heart, preventing him from either
sleeping or eating, and imbittering every moment of his life.

"Sleep was banish'd from his eyelids;
Not a mouthful could he taste;
There he sat with downcast visage,--
Direly had he been disgrac'd.

"Never stirr'd he from his chamber;
With no friends would he converse,
Lest the breath of his dishonor
Should pollute them with its curse."
_Ancient Spanish Ballads_ (Lockhart's tr.).

[Sidenote: Don Gomez slain by Rodrigo.] At last, however, Diego confessed
his shame to his son Rodrigo, who impetuously vowed to avenge him. Armed
with his father's cross-hilted sword, and encouraged by his solemn
blessing, Rodrigo marched into the hall of Don Gomez, and challenged him to
fight. In spite of his youth, Rodrigo conducted himself so bravely in this
his first encounter that he slew his opponent, and by shedding his blood
washed out the stain upon his father's honor, according to the chivalric
creed of the time. Then, to convince Diego that he had been duly avenged,
the young hero cut off the head of Don Gomez, and triumphantly laid it
before him.

"'Ne'er again thy foe can harm thee;
All his pride is now laid low;
Vain his hand is now to smite thee,
And this tongue is silent now.'"
_Ancient Spanish Ballads_ (Lockhart's tr.).

[Sidenote: Defeat of the Moors.] Happy once more, old Diego again left
home, and went to King Ferdinand's court, where he bade Rodrigo do homage
to the king. The proud youth obeyed this command with indifferent grace,
and his bearing was so defiant that the frightened monarch banished him
from his presence. Rodrigo therefore departed with three hundred kindred
spirits. He soon encountered the Moors, who were invading Castile, defeated
them in battle, took five of their kings prisoners, and released them only
after they had promised to pay tribute and to refrain from further warfare.
They were so grateful for their liberty that they pledged themselves to do
his will, and departed, calling him "Cid," the name by which he was
thenceforth known.

As Rodrigo had delivered the land from a great danger, King Ferdinand now
restored him to favor and gave him an honorable place among his courtiers,
who, however, were all somewhat inclined to be jealous of the fame the
young man had won. Shortly after his triumphant return, Dona Ximena,
daughter of Don Gomez, also appeared in Burgos, and, falling at the king's
feet, demanded justice. Then, seeing the Cid among the courtiers, she
vehemently denounced him for having slain her father, and bade him take her
life also, as she had no wish to survive a parent whom she adored.

"'Thou hast slain the best and bravest
That e'er set a lance in rest;
Of our holy faith the bulwark,--
Terror of each Paynim breast.

"'Traitorous murderer, slay me also!
Though a woman, slaughter me!
Spare not--I'm Ximena Gomez,
Thine eternal enemy!

"'Here's my throat--smite, I beseech thee!
Smite, and fatal be thy blow!
Death is all I ask, thou caitiff,--
Grant this boon unto thy foe.'"
_Ancient Spanish Ballads_ (Lockhart's tr.).

As this denunciation and appeal remained without effect (for the king had
been too well served by the Cid to listen to any accusation against him),
the distressed damsel departed, only to return to court three times upon
the same fruitless errand. During this time the valor and services of the
Cid had been so frequently discussed in her presence that on her fifth
visit to Ferdinand she consented to forego all further thoughts of
vengeance, if the king would but order the young hero to marry her instead.

"'I am daughter of Don Gomez,
Count of Gormaz was he hight,
Him Rodrigo by his valor
Did o'erthrow in mortal fight.

"'King, I come to crave a favor--
This the boon for which I pray,
That thou give me this Rodrigo
For my wedded lord this day.'"
_Ancient Spanish Ballads_ (Lockhart's tr.).

[Sidenote: Marriage of the Cid.] The king, who had suspected for some time
past that the Cid had fallen in love with his fair foe, immediately sent
for him. Rodrigo entered the city with his suite of three hundred men,
proposed marriage to Ximena, and was accepted on the spot. His men then
proceeded to array him richly for his wedding, and bound on him his famous
sword Tizona, which he had won from the Moors. The marriage was celebrated
with much pomp and rejoicing, the king giving Rodrigo the cities of
Valduerna, Soldania, Belforado, and San Pedro de Cardena as a marriage
portion. When the marriage ceremony was finished, Rodrigo, wishing to show
his wife all honor, declared that he would not rest until he had won five
battles, and would only then really consider himself entitled, to claim her

"'A man I slew--a man I give thee--
Here I stand thy will to bide!
Thou, in place of a dead father,
Hast a husband at thy side.'"
_Ancient Spanish Ballads_ (Lockhart's tr.).

[Sidenote: The Cid's piety.] Before beginning this war, however, the Cid
remembered a vow he had made; and, accompanied by twenty brave young
hidalgos, he set out for a pious pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, the
shrine of the patron saint of Spain. On his way thither he frequently
distributed alms, paused to recite a prayer at every church and wayside
shrine, and, meeting a leper, ate, drank, and even slept with him in a
village inn. When Rodrigo awoke in the middle of the night, he found his
bedfellow gone, but was favored by a vision of St. Lazarus, who praised his
charity, and promised him great temporal prosperity and eternal life.

"'Life shall bring thee no dishonor--
Thou shalt ever conqueror be;
Death shall find thee still victorious,
For God's blessing rests on thee.'"
_Ancient Spanish Ballads_ (Lockhart's tr.).

When his pilgrimage was ended, Rodrigo further showed his piety by setting
aside a large sum of money for the establishment of a leper house, which,
in honor of the saint who visited him, was called "St. Lazarus." He then
hastened off to Calahorra, a frontier town of Castile and Aragon, which was
a bone of contention between two monarchs.

Just before the Cid's arrival, Don Ramiro of Aragon had arranged with
Ferdinand of Castile that their quarrel should be decided by a duel between
two knights. Don Ramiro therefore selected as his champion Martin Gonzalez,
while Ferdinand intrusted his cause to the Cid. The duel took place; and
when the two champions found themselves face to face, Martin Gonzalez began
to taunt Rodrigo, telling him that he would never again be able to mount
his favorite steed Babieca, or see his wife, as he was doomed to die.

"'Sore, Rodrigo, must thou tremble
Now to meet me in the fight,
Since thy head will soon be sever'd
For a trophy of my might.

"'Never more to thine own castle
Wilt thou turn Babieca's rein;
Never will thy lov'd Ximena
See thee at her side again.'"
_Ancient Spanish Ballads_ (Lockhart's tr.).

This boasting did not in the least dismay the Cid, who fought so bravely
that he defeated Martin Gonzalez, and won such plaudits that the jealousy
of the Castilian knights was further excited. In their envy they even
plotted with the Moors to slay Rodrigo by treachery. This plan did not
succeed, however, because the Moorish kings whom he had captured and
released gave him a timely warning of the threatening danger.


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