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.

The verse in Biarca-mal, where “Pluto weaves the dooms of the mighty and fills Phlegethon with noble shapes,” recalls Darrada-liod, and points to Woden as death-doomer of the warrior.

“Giants".—­These are stupid, mischievous, evil and cunning in Saxo’s eyes.  Oldest of beings, with chaotic force and exuberance, monstrous in extravagant vitality.

The giant nature of the older troll-kind is abhorrent to man and woman.  But a giantess is enamoured of a youth she had fostered, and giants carry off king’s daughters, and a three-bodied giant captures young children.

Giants live in caves by the sea, where they keep their treasure.  One giant, Unfoot (Ofoti), is a shepherd, like Polyphemus, and has a famous dog which passed into the charge of Biorn, and won a battle; a giantess is keeping goats in the wilds.  A giant’s fury is so great that it takes twelve champions to control him, when the rage is on him.  The troll (like our Puss-in-Boots Ogre) can take any shape.

Monstrous apparitions are mentioned, a giant hand (like that in one story of Finn) searching for its prey among the inmates of a booth in the wilds.  But this Grendel-like arm is torn off by a giantess, Hardgrip, daughter of Wainhead and niece possibly of Hafle.

The voice heard at night prophesying is that of some god or monster, possibly Woden himself.

“Dwarves".—­These Saxo calls Satyrs, and but rarely mentions.  The dwarf Miming, who lives in the desert, has a precious sword of sharpness (Mistletoe?) that could even pierce skin-hard Balder, and a ring (Draupnir) that multiplied itself for its possessor.  He is trapped by the hero and robbed of his treasures.


“Barrow-burials".—­The obsequies of great men (such as the classic funeral of “Beowulf’s Lay”, 3138-80) are much noticed by Saxo, and we might expect that he knew such a poem (one similar to Ynglingatal, but not it) which, like the Books of the Kings of Israel and Judah, recorded the deaths and burials, as well as the pedigrees and deeds, of the Danish kings.

The various stages of the “obsequy by fire” are noted; the byre sometimes formed out of a ship; the “sati”; the devoted bower-maidens choosing to die with their mistress, the dead man’s beloved (cf.  The Eddic funerals of Balder, Sigfred, and Brunhild, in the Long “Brunhild’s Lay”, Tregrof Gudrumar and the lost poem of Balder’s death paraphrased in the prose Edda); the last message given to the corpse on the pyre (Woden’s last words to Balder are famous); the riding round the pyre; the eulogium; the piling of the barrow, which sometimes took whole days, as the size of many existing grass mounds assure us; the funeral feast, where an immense vat of ale or mead is drunk in honor of the dead; the epitaph, like an ogham, set up on a stone over the barrow.

The inclusion of a live man with the dead in a barrow, with the live or fresh-slain beasts (horse and bound) of the dead man, seems to point to a time or district when burning was not used.  Apparently, at one time, judging from Frode’s law, only chiefs and warriors were burnt.

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