The Danish History, Books I-IX eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 572 pages of information about The Danish History, Books I-IX.

“Weapons".—­The sword is the weapon par excellence in Saxo’s narrative, and he names several by name, famous old blades like our royal Curtana, which some believed was once Tristrem’s, and that sword of Carlus, whose fortunes are recorded in Irish annals.  Such are “Snyrtir”, Bearce’s sword; “Hothing”, Agnar’s blade; “Lauf”, or “Leaf”, Bearce’s sword; “Screp”, Wermund’s sword, long buried and much rust-eaten, but sharp and trusty, and known by its whistle; Miming’s sword ("Mistletoe"), which slew Balder.  Wainhead’s curved blade seems to be a halbert; “Lyusing” and “Hwiting”, Ragnald of Norway’s swords; “Logthe”, the sword of Ole Siward’s son.

The “war-club” occurs pretty frequently.  But it is usually introduced as a special weapon of a special hero, who fashions a gold-headed club to slay one that steel cannot touch, or who tears up a tree, like the Spanish knight in the ballad, or who uses a club to counteract spells that blunt steel.  The bat-shapen archaic rudder of a ship is used as a club in the story of the Sons of Arngrim.

The “spear” plays no particular part in Saxo:  even Woden’s spear Gungne is not prominent.

“Bows and arrows” are not often spoken of, but archer heroes, such as Toki, Ane Bow-swayer, and Orwar-Odd, are known.  Slings and stones are used.

The shield, of all defensive armour, is far the most prominent.  They were often painted with devices, such as Hamlet’s shield, Hildiger’s Swedish shield.  Dr. Vigfusson has shown the importance of these painted shields in the poetic history of the Scandinavians.

A red shield is a signal of peace.  Shields are set round ramparts on land as round ships at sea.

“Mail-coats” are worn.  Frode has one charmed against steel.  Hother has another; a mail-coat of proof is mentioned and their iron meshes are spoken of.

“Helmets” are used, but not so carefully described as in “Beowulf’s Lay”; crested helmets and a gilded helmet occur in Bearca-mal and in another poem.

“Banners” serve as rallying points in the battle and on the march.  The Huns’ banners are spoken of in the classic passage for the description of a huge host invading a country.  Bearcamal talks of golden banners.

“Horns” (1) were blown pp at the beginning of the engagement and for signalling.  The gathering of the host was made by delivery of a wooden arrow painted to look like iron.

“Tactics".—­The hand-to-hand fight of the wager of battle with sword and shield, and the fighting in ranks and the wedge-column at close quarters, show that the close infantry combat was the main event of the battle.  The preliminary hurling of stones, and shooting of arrows, and slinging of pebbles, were harassing and annoying, but seldom sufficiently important to affect the result of the main engagement.

Men ride to battle, but fight on foot; occasionally an aged king is car-borne to the fray, and once the car, whether by Saxo’s adorning hand, or by tradition, is scythe-armed.

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The Danish History, Books I-IX from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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