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.
sagas of the way such persons were entrapped and put to death by the chiefs they served when they became too troublesome.  A favourite (and fictitious) episode in an “edited” Icelandic saga is for the hero to rescue a lady promised to such a champion (who has bullied her father into consent) by slaying the ruffian.  It is the same “motif” as Guy of Warwick and the Saracen lady, and one of the regular Giant and Knight stories.

Beside men-warriors there were “women-warriors” in the North, as Saxo explains.  He describes shield-maidens, as Alfhild, Sela, Rusila (the Ingean Ruadh, or Red Maid of the Irish Annals, as Steenstrup so ingeniously conjectures); and the three she-captains, Wigbiorg, who fell on the field, Hetha, who was made queen of Zealand, and Wisna, whose hand Starcad cut off, all three fighting manfully at Bravalla fight.


“Feasts".—­The hall-dinner was an important feature in the old Teutonic court-life.  Many a fine scene in a saga takes place in the hall while the king and his men are sitting over their ale.  The hall decked with hangings, with its fires, lights, plate and provisions, appears in Saxo just as in the Eddic Lays, especially Rigsmal, and the Lives of the Norwegian Kings and Orkney Earls.

The order of seats is a great point of archaic manners.  Behaviour at table was a matter of careful observance.  The service, especially that of the cup-bearer, was minutely regulated by etiquette.  An honoured guest was welcomed by the host rising to receive him and giving him a seat near himself, but less distinguished visitors were often victims to the rough horseplay of the baser sort, and of the wanton young gentleman at court.  The food was simple, boiled beef and pork, and mutton without sauce, ale served in horns from the butt.  Roast meat, game, sauces, mead, and flagons set on the table, are looked on by Starcad as foreign luxuries, and Germany was credited with luxurious cookery.

“Mimes and jugglers”, who went through the country or were attached to the lord’s court to amuse the company, were a despised race because of their ribaldry, obscenity, cowardice, and unabashed self-debasement; and their newfangled dances and piping were loathsome to the old court-poets, who accepted the harp alone as an instrument of music.

The story that once a king went to war with his jugglers and they ran away, would represent the point of view of the old house-carle, who was neglected, though “a first-class fighting man”, for these debauched foreign buffoons.


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