A folk-tale, very imperfectly narrated, is the “Clever King’s Daughter”, who evidently in the original story had to choose her suitor by his feet (as the giantess in the prose Edda chooses her husband), and was able to do so by the device she had practised of sewing up her ring in his leg sometime before, so that when she touched the flesh she could feel the hardness of the ring beneath the scar.
Bits of folk-tales are the “Device for escaping threatened death by putting a log in one’s bed” (as in our Jack the Giant-Killer). The device, as old as David’s wife, of dressing up a dummy (here a basket with a dog inside, covered outside with clothes), while the hero escapes, is told of Eormenric, the mighty Gothic King of Kings, who, like Walter of Aquitaine, Theodoric of Varona, Ecgherht, and Arminius, was an exile in his youth. This traditional escape of the two lads from the Scyths should be compared with the true story in Paul the Deacon of his little ancestor’s captivity and bold and successful stroke for freedom.
“Disguise” plays a great part in the folk-tales used by Saxo. Woden disguises himself in a cowl on his earthly travels, and heroes do the same; a king disguises himself as a slave at his rival’s court, to try and find occasion of slaying him; a hero wraps himself up in skins, like Alleleirah.
“Escaped recognition” is accordingly a feature in many of these simple but artistic plots. A son is not known by his mother in the story of Hrolf.
Other “Devices” are exemplified, such as the “booby-trap” loaded with a millstone, which slays a hateful and despised tyrant, imposed by a foreign conqueror; evasion by secret passages, and concealment in underground vaults or earth-houses. The feigning of madness to escape death occurs, as well as in the better-known Hamlet story. These stratagems are universal in folk-history.
To Eric, the clever and quick of speech, is ascribed an excellent sailor’s smuggling trick to hide slaughtered cattle, by sinking them till the search is over.
The “Hero’s Mighty Childhood” (like David’s) of course occurs when he binds a bear with his girdle. Sciold is full grown at fifteen, and Hadding is full grown in extreme youth. The hero in his boyhood slays a full-grown man and champion. The cinder-biting, lazy stage of a mighty youth is exemplified.
The “fierce eyes” of the hero or heroine, which can daunt an assassin as could the piercing glance of Marius, are the “falcon eyes” of the Eddic Lays.
The shining, effulgent, “illuminating hair” of the hero, which gives light in the darkness, is noticed here, as it obtains in Cuaran’s thirteenth century English legend.
The wide-spread tale of the “City founded on a site marked out by a hide cut into finest thongs”, occurs, told of Hella and Iwarus exactly as our Kentishmen told it of Hengist, and as it is also told of Dido.
The incidents of the “hero sleeping by a rill”, of the guarded king’s daughter, with her thirty attendants, the king’s son keeping sheep, are part of the regular stock incidents in European folk-tales. So are the Nausicaa incident of the “king’s daughter going a washing”, the hero disguising himself as a woman and winding wool (like a second Heracles).