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The Danish History, Books I-IX eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 487 pages of information about The Danish History, Books I-IX.

(d) A veteran, one of the Doughty, must be such a man as will attack one foe, will stand two, face three without withdrawing more than a little, and be content to retire only before four. (One of the traditional folk-sayings respecting the picked men, the Doughty or Old Guard, as distinguished from the Youth or Young Guard, the new-comers in the king’s Company of House-carles.  In Harald Hardrede’s Life the Norwegians dread those English house-carles, “each of whom is a match for four,” who formed the famous guard that won Stamford Bridge and fell about their lord, a sadly shrunken band, at Senlake.)

(f) The house-carles to have winter-pay.  The house-carle three pieces of silver, a hired soldier two pieces, a soldier who had finished his service one piece.

(The treatment of the house-carles gave Harald Harefoot a reputation long remembered for generosity, and several old Northern kings have won their nicknames by their good or ill feeding and rewarding their comitatus.)

D. Again a civil code, dealing chiefly with the rights of travellers.

(a) Seafarers may use what gear they find (the “remis” of the text may include boat or tackle).

(b) No house is to be locked, nor coffer, but all thefts to be compensated threefold. (This, like A, b, which it resembles, seems a popular tradition intended to show the absolute security of Frode’s reign of seven or three hundred years.  It is probably a gloss wrongly repeated.)

(c) A traveller may claim a single supper; if he take more he is a thief (the mark of a prae-tabernal era when hospitality was waxing cold through misuse).

(d) Thief and accomplices are to be punished alike, being hung up by a line through the sinews and a wolf fastened beside. (This, which contradicts A, i, k, and allots to theft the punishment proper for parricide, seems a mere distorted tradition.)

But beside just Frode, tradition spoke of the unjust Kinge Helge, whose laws represent ill-judged harshness.  They were made for conquered races, (a) the Saxons and (b) the Swedes.

(a) Noble and freedmen to have the same were-gild (the lower, of course, the intent being to degrade all the conquered to one level, and to allow only the lowest were-gild of a freedman, fifty pieces, probably, in the tradition).

(b) No remedy for wrong done to a Swede by a Dane to be legally recoverable. (This is the traditional interpretation of the conqueror’s haughty dealing; we may compare it with the Middle-English legends of the pride of the Dane towards the conquered English.  The Tradition sums up the position in such concrete forms as this Law of Helge’s.)

Two statutes of Ragnar are mentioned:—­

(a) That any householder should give up to his service in war the worst of his children, or the laziest of his slaves (a curious tradition, and used by Saxo as an opportunity for patriotic exaltation).

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