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 mass of archaic incidents, beliefs, and practices recorded by the 12th-century writer seemed to need some other classification than a bare alphabetic index.  The present plan, a subject-index practically, has been adopted with a view to the needs of the anthropologist and folk-lorist.  Its details have been largely determined by the bulk and character of the entries themselves.  No attempt has been made to supply full parallels from any save the more striking and obvious old Scandinavian sources, the end being to classify material rather than to point out its significance of geographic distribution.  With regard to the first three heads, the reader who wishes to see how Saxo compares with the Old Northern poems may be referred to the Grimm Centenary papers, Oxford, 1886, and the Corpus Poeticurn Boreale, Oxford, 1883.


King—­As portrayed by Saxo, the ideal king should be (as in “Beowulf’s Lay”) generous, brave and just.  He should be a man of accomplishments, of unblemished body, presumably of royal kin (peasant-birth is considered a bar to the kingship), usually a son or a nephew, or brother of his foregoer (though no strict rule of succession seems to appear in Saxo), and duly chosen and acknowledged at the proper place of election.  In Denmark this was at a stone circle, and the stability of these stones was taken as an omen for the king’s reign.  There are exceptional instances noted, as the serf-king Eormenric (cf.  Guthred-Canute of Northumberland), whose noble birth washed out this blot of his captivity, and there is a curious tradition of a conqueror setting his hound as king over a conquered province in mockery.

The king was of age at twelve.  A king of seven years of age has twelve Regents chosen in the Moot, in one case by lot, to bring him up and rule for him till his majority.  Regents are all appointed in Denmark, in one case for lack of royal blood, one to Scania, one to Zealand, one to Funen, two to Jutland.  Underkings and Earls are appointed by kings, and though the Earl’s office is distinctly official, succession is sometimes given to the sons of faithful fathers.  The absence of a settled succession law leads (as in Muslim States) to rebellions and plots.

Kings sometimes abdicated, giving up the crown perforce to a rival, or in high age to a kinsman.  In heathen times, kings, as Thiodwulf tells us in the case of Domwald and Yngwere, were sometimes sacrificed for better seasons (African fashion), and Wicar of Norway perishes, like Iphigeneia, to procure fair winds.  Kings having to lead in war, and sometimes being willing to fight wagers of battle, are short-lived as a rule, and assassination is a continual peril, whether by fire at a time of feast, of which there are numerous examples, besides the classic one on which Biarea-mal

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