Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas
Thorsten and Belé
Every spring Thorsten and Belé set out together in their ships; and, upon one of these expeditions, they joined forces with Angantyr, a foe whose mettle they had duly tested, and proceeded to recover possession of a priceless treasure, a magic dragon ship named Ellida, which Ægir, 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.”
Tegnér, Frithiof Saga (Spalding’s tr.).
The next season, Thorsten, Belé, and Angantyr conquered the Orkney Islands, which were given as a kingdom to the latter, he voluntarily pledging himself to pay a yearly tribute to Belé. Next Thorsten and Belé went in quest of a magic ring, or armlet, once forged by Völund, the smith, and stolen by Soté, a famous pirate.
M. E. Winge
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, Belé, who waited outside, heard the sound of frightful blows given and returned, 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, but often would he say, as he showed it, “I trembled but once in my life, and ’twas when I seized it!”
Birth of Frithiof and Ingeborg
Thus owner of the three greatest treasures of the North, Thorsten returned home to Framnäs, where Ingeborg bore him a fine boy, Frithiof, while two sons, Halfdan and Helgé, were born to Belé. The lads played together, and were already well grown when Ingeborg, Belé’s little daughter, was born, and some time later the child was entrusted to the care of Hilding, who was already Frithiof’s foster father, as Thorsten’s frequent absences made it difficult for him to undertake the training of his boy.
“Jocund they grew, in guileless glee;
Young Frithiof was the sapling tree;
In budding beauty by his side,
Sweet Ingeborg, the garden’s pride.”
Tegnér, Frithiof Saga (Longfellow’s tr.).
Frithiof soon became hardy and fearless under his foster father’s training, and Ingeborg rapidly developed the sweetest traits of character and loveliness. Both 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 a subject of the king, and therefore no mate for his only daughter.
“To Odin, in his star-lit sky,
Ascends her titled ancestry;
But Thorsten’s son art thou; give way!
For ‘like thrives best with like,’ they say.”
Tegnér, Frithiof Saga (G. Stephens’s tr.).
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 more humble origin.
Shortly after this Belé 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 Helgé and Halfdan to the people as his chosen successors. The young heirs were very coldly received on this occasion, for Helgé was of a sombre and taciturn disposition, and inclined to the life of a priest, and Halfdan was of a weak, effeminate nature, and noted for his love of pleasure rather than of war and the chase. Frithiof, who was present, and stood beside them, was the object of many admiring glances from the throng.
“But close behind them Frithiof goes,
Wrapp’d in his mantle blue;
His height a whole head taller rose
Than that of both the two.
He stands between the brothers there—
As though the ripe day stood
Atween young morning rosy-fair,
And night within the wood.”
Tegnér, Frithiof Saga (G. Stephens’s tr.).
After giving his last instructions and counsel to his sons, and speaking kindly to Frithiof, for whom he entertained a warm regard, 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. Belé 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 over the waters of the narrow firth which would flow between them, that so they might not be sundered even in death.
Helgé and Halfdan