Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 165

Slept, as calmly as the hero sleepeth after war’s alarms

On his shield, calm as an infant sleepeth in its mother’s arms.”

Tegnér, Frithiof Saga (Longfellow’s tr.).

Frithiof’s Loyalty

While the aged king was thus reposing, a bird sang to Frithiof from a tree near by, bidding him take advantage of his host’s powerlessness to slay him, and recover the bride of whom he had been unfairly deprived. But although Frithiof’s hot young heart clamoured for his beloved, he utterly refused to entertain the dastardly suggestion, but, fearing lest he should be overcome by temptation, despite his horror at the thought, he impulsively flung his sword far from him into a neighbouring thicket.

A few moments later Sigurd Ring opened his eyes, and informed Frithiof that he had only feigned sleep; he told him also that having recognised him from the first, he had tested him in many ways, and had found his honour equal to his courage. Old age had now overtaken him and he felt that death was drawing nigh. In but a short time, therefore, Frithiof might hope to realise his dearest hope, and Sigurd Ring told him that he would die happy if he would stay by him until the end.

A revulsion of feeling had, however, overtaken Frithiof, and he told the aged king that he felt that Ingeborg could never be his, because of the wrath of Balder. Too long had he stayed; he would now go once more upon the sea and would seek death in the fray, that so he might appease the offended gods.

Full of his resolve, he quickly made preparations to [324]depart, but when he returned to the court to bid farewell to his royal hosts he found that Sigurd Ring was at the point of death. The old warrior bethought him that “a straw death” would not win the favour of Odin, and in the presence of Frithiof and his court he slashed bravely the death runes on his arm and breast. Then clasping Ingeborg with one hand, he raised the other in blessing over Frithiof and his youthful son, and so passed in peace to the halls of the blessed.

“Gods all, I hail ye!

Sons of Valhalla!

Earth disappears; to the Asa’s high feast

Gjallar-horn bids me;

Blessedness, like a

Gold-helmet, circles their up-coming guest!”

Tegnér, Frithiof Saga (G. Stephens’s tr.).

Frithiof watches the sleeping King

Frithiof watches the sleeping King

Knut Ekwall

By Permission of F. Bruckmann, Munich

Betrothal of Frithiof and Ingeborg

The warriors of the nation now assembled in solemn Thing to choose a successor to the throne. Frithiof had won the people’s enthusiastic admiration, and they would fain have elected him king; but he raised Sigurd Ring’s little son high on his shield when he heard the shout which acclaimed his name, and presented the boy to the assembly as their future king, publicly swearing to uphold him until he was of age to defend the realm. The lad, weary of his cramped position, boldly sprang to the ground as soon as Frithiof’s speech was ended, and alighted upon his feet. This act of agile daring in one so young appealed to the rude Northmen, and a loud shout arose, “We choose thee, shield-borne child!”

“But thron’d king-like, the lad sat proud

On shield-floor high;

So the eaglet glad, from rock-hung cloud,

The Sun will eye!


At length this place his young blood found

Too dull to keep;

And, with one spring, he gains the ground—

A royal leap!”

Tegnér, Frithiof Saga (G. Stephens’s tr.).

According to some accounts, Frithiof now made war against Ingeborg’s brothers, and after conquering them, allowed them to retain their kingdom on condition that they paid 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.

Bishop Tegnér’s conclusion, however, differs very considerably, and if it appears less true to the rude temper of the rugged days of the sea-rovers, its superior spiritual qualities make it more attractive. According to Tegnér’s poem, Frithiof was urged by the people of Sigurd Ring to espouse Ingeborg and remain amongst them as guardian of the realm. But he answered that this might not be, since the wrath of Balder still burned against him, and none else could bestow his cherished bride. He told the people that he would fare over the seas and seek forgiveness of the god, and soon after, his farewells were spoken, and once more his vessel was speeding before the wind.

Frithiof’s first visit was paid to his father’s burial mound, where, plunged in melancholy at the desolation around, he poured out his soul to the outraged god. He reminded him that it was the custom of the Northmen to exact blood-fines for kinsmen slain, and surely the blessed gods would not be less forgiving than the earth-born. Passionately he adjured Balder to show him how he could make reparation for his [326]unpremeditated fault, and suddenly, an answer was vouchsafed, and Frithiof beheld in the clouds a vision of a new temple.

“Then sudden, o’er the western waters pendent,

An Image comes, with gold and flames resplendent,

O’er Balder’s grove it hovers, night’s clouds under,

Like gold crown resting on a bed of green.

At last to a temple settling, firm ’tis grounded—

Where Balder stood, another temple’s founded.”

Tegnér, Frithiof Saga (G. Stephens’s tr.).

The hero immediately understood that the gods had thus indicated a means of atonement, and he grudged neither wealth nor pains until a glorious temple and grove, which far exceeded the splendour of the old shrine, rose out of the ruins.

“Finish’d great Balder’s Temple stood!

Round it no palisade of wood

Ran now as erst;

A railing stronger, fairer than the first,

And all of hammer’d iron—each bar

Gold-tipp’d and regular—

Walls Balder’s sacred House. Like some long line

Of steel-clad champions, whose bright war-spears shine

And golden helms afar—so stood

This glitt’ring guard within the holy wood!

“Of granite blocks enormous, join’d with curious care