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Title: History of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, Vol. II (of 2)
Author: Dunham, S. A. (Samuel Astley)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber’s note:

      Text that was in italics is enclosed by underscores

      On page 66 (beginning "seas, and streams, on the same
      principle" and ending "They also, to a certain extent,
      retain their distinction into white and") there are several
      words and phrases in Anglo-Saxon that were impossible to
      transcribe exactly as in the original. The characters are
      not available in the Unicode standard. However, those words
      were found in “The Student’s Dictionary of Anglo-Saxon” by
      Henry Sweet available on-line here:
      and transcribed as well as possible.

Printed by A. Spottiswoode,



Conducted by the
Rev. Dionysius Lardner, Ll.D., F.R.S. L. & E.
M.R.I.A. F.R.A.S. F.L.S. F.Z.S. Hon. F.C.P.S. &c. &c.

Assisted by
Eminent Literary and Scientific Men.





by the Author of
The “History of Spain and Portugal.”



Printed for
Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, & Longmans,
and John Taylor,
Upper Gower Street.





Author of “The History of Spain & Portugal.”


Printed for Longman, Orme, Brown, Green & Longmans, Paternoster-Row
and [**Illegible]


  Copenhagen.      E. Finden sc]

Printed for Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, & Longmans, Paternoster-Row
and John Taylor, Upper Gower Street.




                        TO THE SECOND VOLUME OF

                      THE HISTORY OF SCANDINAVIA.


                         CHAPTER IV.—continued.

                              PAGAN TIMES.

                              SECTION II.

                         AMERICA, RUSSIA, ETC.




         888.     Establishment of a Government in the          1
                    Orkneys by Harald Harfagre; Sigurd,
                    the first Jarl

       889–892.   Able Administration of Sigurd; he is          2
                    succeeded by Einar

       893–936.   Administration of Einar                       4

       936–943.   Of Arnkel and Erlend, the Sons of Einar       5

       946–980.   Succession of Jarls                           5

       980–1014.  Sigurd, the next Jarl, compelled to           6
                    embrace Christianity; Legend

                  Piratical Depredations on the                 8
                    neighbouring Islands

       861, &c.   Iceland Discovered by the Norwegian           9
                    Naddod, who is followed by other

         874.     Iceland first colonised by Ingulf; Fate      10
                    of Jorleif

         884.     Other Colonists, especially Thorolf, the     11
                    Priest of Thor; Manner in which he
                    established the new Colony

       874–936.   Progress of the new Colonies                 13

                  Formation of a Northern Code                 14

         930.     Internal Economy of this important           15
                    Island; the great Chief of the Law

                  Circumstances which led to the Discovery     16
                    of Greenland by Eric the Red

                  Christianity Introduced into Greenland       17
                    by Leif, the Son of Eric

         1001.    Alleged Discovery of North America by        17
                    Biarn, a Descendant of Ingulf

                  The newly-discovered Country visited by      18
                    Leif, the Son of Eric

                  Remarks on this Relation                     19

      1004–1008.  Voyage of Thorwald, who dies in the          19
                    Country called Vinland

         1009.    Thorfin, a Norwegian Chief, makes the        20
                    first Attempt at Colonisation

      1026–1121.  The Country visited by other People,         21
                    especially by the Missionaries

                  The Balance of Evidence decidedly in         22
                    favour of the alleged Discovery of the
                    American Continent many Ages before

         862.     A Scandinavian Dynasty founded in Russia     23
                    by Ruric

                  Circumstances connected with that            24
                    memorable Event; how far probable

       861, 862.  Novogrod the Seat of the new Dynasty         25

                  The Domination of the Strangers extended     26
                    to Kief; two Governments

         882.     Evils arising from the Creation of two       27
                    States; Kief subdued by the Regent of

                  Maritime Expeditions of the Northmen         27
                    into Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy,
                    Greece, &c.

                                CHAP. V.





            Religion of the Pagan Northmen an            30
            interesting Subject of Inquiry

            The Two Eddas                                30

            I. Sæmund, reputed Compiler of the           31
            Poetic Edda; its slow Publication

              Poems included in the Elder Edda           31
            divisible into four Classes

              1. The Mystic Class:—

                The Voluspa                              32

                The Grougaldor                           32

                The Magic of Odin similar in many        33
            Respects to that of Zoroaster

              2. The Mytho-didactic Class:—

                The Vafthrudnis-mâl                      34

                Grimnis-mâl                              34

                Other Pieces of this Class               36

                The Hava-mâl                             36

              3. The purely Mythologic Class:—

                The Hymis-guida                          37

                The Hamars-heimt                         37

                The Rafna-galdur Odins                   37

                The Skirnirs-for                         37

                The Vegtams-Quida                        38

                Undoubted Antiquity of the preceding     38

              4. The Mytho-historical Class              38

            II. The Prose or Younger Edda, usually       39
            ascribed to Snorro Sturleson

              Some Account of that celebrated Man        40

              Sources from which he drew                 42

                               SECTION I.




            Progress of Creation according to that       43
            venerable Authority, the Elder Edda

            The Waters of Nifleheim flow into the        43
            Abyss and freeze

            But they are thawed by the Fires of          44

            To the Operation of Cold and Heat on the     44
            Waters of Nifleheim must be ascribed the
            Origin of this visible Universe

            Generation of Ymer, the Patriarch of the     44
            Frost Giants

            Creation of the Cow Andumbla, which          45
            calls Burè into Existence

            From this new Being, half Deity, half        45
            Giant, arose Odin, Vilè, and Vè

            Ymer destroyed, and the Universe formed      45
            from his Body

            Affinities between the Scandinavian and      46
            other Systems of Mythology

            The Cow, as a Symbol, very generally         47

            Physical Interpretation of the Mythos        47

            Physical Interpretation of another           48
            Mythos, the Destruction of Ymer and his

            Notions concerning a Supreme, Eternal        49
            Being entertained by the Scandinavians

            Creation of other Beings, especially the     50

            Creation of Man                              51


                           THE NINE WORLDS.


            GIMLÈ AND MUSPELHEIM                         53

            MIDGARD AND UTGARD                           53

            ASGARD                                       55

            Divine Residences in Asgard:—

              1. Ydale                                   56

              2. Alfheim                                 57

              3. Valaskialf                              57

              4. Soequabeck                              58

              5. Gladsheim                               58

              6. Thrymheim                               58

              7. Breidablik                              59

              8. Himmelbierg                             60

              9. Folkvangur                              60

              10. Glitner                                61

              11. Noatun                                 61

              12. Landvide                               61

            Residences of Odin                           62

            Diversions of the Einheriar                  62

            Ascent of slain Heroes from Earth to         63

            Bloodthirsty Character of the Odinists       63

            SWARTALFAHEIM                                64

            Residences of the Alfs or Elves              64

            Their Nature according to Thorlacius         64

            Origin of the Word                           65

            Universality of the Word                     66

            Traditions still rife respecting them        67

            Scandinavian Dwarfs                          69

            Two Legends respecting them                  70

            Their wondrous Manufactures at the           70
            Instance of Loke

            Physical Interpretation                      72

            THORSTON AND THE DWARF                       73

            HELHEIM AND NIFLEHEIM                        74

            THE YGGDRASIL                                75

            Explanation of this Mythos                   77

            Races which inhabited the Scandinavian       78

            Were the Aser Gods, or Mortals only, or      79
            deified Mortals?

            Some Reasons for the Inference that Odin     80
            and his Followers really existed

            Hypothesis of two Odins, how far             81
            reconcileable with Facts

            Did Odin, in his own Case, inculcate the     82
            Doctrine of Metempsychosis?

            Conclusion that Odin and his Companions      82
            actually existed on Earth; but how
            account for the divine Attributes
            claimed by them? still more, how account
            for the extraordinary Diffusion of their

            Their Policy in the North                    83

            Two distinct Systems of Religion             84
            evidently prevalent in the North,—the
            Native and the Foreign,—that of Thor,
            and that of Odin

            And also two distinct Systems of Magic       85

            Another Argument for this Distinction        86

            Progress of Odin and his Companions          88
            towards Deification

            Geographical Position of the Aser and        89
            Vanir led to their celestial Location

            The Union of two Systems—the Native and      91
            the Foreign, the Finnish and the
            Gothic—every where discernible in the

                              SECTION II.



                           ODIN, THOR, LOKE.


            Wives and Sons of ODIN                       92

            His Functions, Abodes, and Ministers         93

            The three Valkyrs                            93

            Legend of Odin and Sterkodder                94

            This Legend furnishes another Proof of       95
            the Fact that Odin was a foreign Deity

            THOR, his Superiority over Odin in the       96
            more ancient System of the North, and
            his three Treasures

            Mythical Interpretation                      97

            Thor peculiarly worshipped in Norway         97

            The Giants, the everlasting Enemies of       98

            This Article of popular Belief               98
            essentially Celtic

            LOKE                                         99

            His Description                             100

            His Offspring three:—

              1. The Great Serpent                      101

              2. Hela, Queen of Death                   101

              3. The Wolf Fenris                        102

            Manner in which the last-named Demon was    102
            bound by the Gods

            Loke originally the same with               103
            Utgardelok, and the Personification of
            Evil in the Celtic Creed

            Mythological Fables in which Loke is        104

                             RAPE OF IDUNA.


            Odin, Hoenir, and Loke visit Utgard         105

            Loke compelled to promise that he will      105
            deliver Iduna into the Power of Thiasse

            He performs his Promise                     106

            Consequent Wrath of the Gods, who compel    106
            him to restore her

            Interpretation of this Mythos               107

                        THOR’S VISITS TO UTGARD.


            Loke, taken by the Giants, is compelled     108
            to promise that he will bring Thor
            without Belt or Hammer

            Thor accordingly undertakes the Journey;    109
            his Punishment of Geyruth, and the
            Daughters of that Giant

            Second Journey of Thor to Utgard,           110
            accompanied by Loke

            Adventure in the Cottage                    110

            Dreary Wastes through which the             111
            Travellers passed

            Adventure in the desert Heath               112

            Adventures in Utgard itself                 113

                       THOR AND THE GIANT HYMIR.


            Banquet of the Sea-god Ægir                 114

            Thor and Tyr proceed to Giant-land to       114
            steal a Caldron

            Adventures at the House of Hymir            115

            Physical Meaning of this Mythos             116

            The same Adventures paraphrased by the      117
            Danish Poet Ohlenschlager

                       THOR AND THE GIANT THRYM.


            Thor loses Miölner                          124

            Loke discovers the Thief, who is the        125
            Giant Thrym

            Thrym will not restore it, unless he        125
            have Freya to Wife

            When Freya refuses, Thor is persuaded to    126
            assume Female Apparel, and go to

            Adventures there                            127

            Metrical Version of this Legend             128

            Magnussen’s Interpretation                  129

            _Sif_, the Wife of Thor                     131

                          NIORD, FREYR, FREYA.


            _Niord_, Lord of the Vaner, and a God       132

            His second Wife is Skada, from whom he      133

            _Freyr_, the Son of Niord, in love with     133
            a Giant Maiden

            Skirnir, his Attendant, goes to             134
            Jotunheim and wins her

            Metrical Version of Skirnir’s Expedition    135

            _Freya_, the Daughter of Niord, and the     136
            Goddess of Love

            Her Functions and Authority in Asgard       140

                             ÆGIR AND RAN.


            _Ægir_, the God of the Deep, more           141
            clement than _Ran_, his Queen

            Another Feast given by the Sea-god, in      142
            which Loke is abusive

                             OTHER DEITIES.

            The Nornies                                 143
            Night and Day                               143
            The Giant of Winter                         144



            His Fate connected with that of the         145
            Universe; his Dreams, and consequent
            Anxiety of the Gods

            Interpretation of the Mythos                146

                          PUNISHMENT OF LOKE.


            He is bound, like Prometheus, to the        146
            Flinty Rock; Poison; Fidelity of his



            Account of that great Consummation          147
            extracted from the Prose Edda

            Corroborated by the Voluspa                 150


                              SECTION III.



         A. D.                                               Page

                  Early Efforts of the Anglo-Saxon            151
                    Missionaries to Christianise the
                    North; very little effected in the
                    Eighth Century

         822.     But in the Ninth there is more Success      152

       826–830.   _St. Anscar_, Monk of Corbey                153

                  He repairs first to Denmark, and next to    154

                  His Reception by the Swedish King, and      155
                    his Return to Germany

       830–852.   He is made Archbishop of Hamburg, with      155
                    the Primacy over the North

                  Difficulties of his Position                156

         852.     He goes Ambassador to the North;            157
                    Opposition to him in Sweden

       853–865.   But that Opposition he overcomes through    158
                    the royal Aid

       865–889.   _St. Rembert_, his Biographer and           160

                  _Adalgar_, his Coadjutor                    160

       889–936.   _Adalgar_ and _Hoger_, in succession        161
                    Archbishops of Bremen, have no great
                    Zeal for the Cause

                  But _Unnus_ has; his Success                161

       936–988.   Progress of Christianity in Denmark         162
                    under _Adalrag_; Erection of four
                    Episcopal Sees

       988–1026.  Pontificate of _Libentis_                   163

                                BOOK II.

                            THE MIDDLE AGE.

                               CHAPTER I.




                           CANUTE THE GREAT.



         1014.    _Canute the Great_ succeeds his Father      165
                    Sweyn in both Denmark and England

      1016–1028.  He conquers Norway                          167

      1028–1035.  Character of his Administration             167

                  His personal Character                      167

                  He divides his Dominions among his Sons     168




      1035–1040.  Loses Denmark by the Usurpation of his      171
                    Brother Harald, but recovers it on
                    that Prince’s Death

      1040–1042.  His Administration of England               171

      1035–1042.  And of Denmark                              171

                  His Compact with Magnus, King of Norway     172

                               MAGNUS I.



      1042–1044.  Succeeds in virtue of his Compact with      172
                    Harda-Canute, and is well received in

                  His Impolicy in regard to Sweyn, the        173
                    Nephew of Canute the Great, whom he
                    makes Viceroy of Denmark

                  The Viceroy rebels, and is vanquished       173

      1044, 1045. Magnus triumphs over the Pirates            173

         1045.    A new Enemy appears in Harald Hardrade;     174
                    his romantic Adventures

      1045, 1046. Harald allies with Sweyn, but Magnus        177
                    dissolves the Alliance by his Policy

         1047.    Magnus leaves the Danish Crown to Sweyn     178

                               SWEYN II.



      1048–1070.  Transactions with Norway, England, &c.      178

      1066–1070.  And with the Church, which his              179
                    Incontinence provokes

         1070.    He commits Murder also, and does Penance    180
                    for it

      1070–1076.  Character of this Monarch, and              181
                    Description of Denmark, by Adam, Canon
                    of Bremen

                              HARALD III.

                     SURNAMED HEIN, OR THE GENTLE.



         1076.    Harald, a Bastard Son of Sweyn II, is       183
                    elected by the States

      1076–1080.  His Reign affords no Materials for          183

                               CANUTE IV.

                          SURNAMED THE SAINT.


      1080–1085.  His foreign Preparations                    184
      1080–1086.  His vigorous Administration                 184
                  His impolitic Indulgence to the Church      185
                  His Enforcement of the Tithe                186
         1086.    His tragical End                            186
                  His Semi-deification                        187
                  He is succeeded by Olaf, Duke of Sleswic    187

                                OLAF II.




      1087–1095.  During his Reign, the Realm wasted by       187

                               ERIC III.

                           SURNAMED THE GOOD.



      1095, 1096. His vigorous Administration                 188

      1097–1103.  Lund erected into a Metropolis              189
                    independent of Bremen

                  His Pilgrimage to the Holy Land             189

         1103.    His Death and Character                     190




      1103–1105.  Interregnum of two Years, when Nicholas     190
                    is elected

      1105–1126.  His Jealousy of his Nephew Canute           191

      1126–1132.  Civil Wars                                  192

      1132–1134.  Civil Wars continued; Murder of Nicholas    193

                                ERIC IV.

                            SURNAMED EMUND.


      1131–1137.  His Reign has no Materials for History      193

                                ERIC V.

                           SURNAMED THE LAME.



      1137–1147.  Vanquishes a Competitor for the Throne,     194
                    and retires to the Cloister

                  Double Election                             195

                               CANUTE V.

                               SWEYN III.


      1147–1152.  Civil Wars                                  195

      1152–1156.  Continued; Actions of Prince Valdemar       196

      1156, 1157. After the Death of Canute, Sweyn            197
                    contends with Valdemar

                              VALDEMAR I.

                          SURNAMED THE GREAT.



      1157–1169.  Valdemar, Monarch of Denmark, destroys      198
                    the Pirates of Rugen

      1169–1175.  Other Transactions with the Pagans of       200

                  Archbishop Eskil, Primate                   202

      1175–1179.  Archbishop Absalom, the Successor of        203

      1176–1179.  Valdemar exacts the Tithe; Disturbances     205
                    in consequence

         1180.    His Transactions with the Empire            206

         1182.    His Character and Administration            207

                               CANUTE VI.



      1182–1189.  Prosperity of this Monarch                  208

      1183–1188.  He quarrels with the Emperor                209

      1191–1202.  His Troubles through Bishop Valdemar        209

                  Flourishing State of Denmark in his         211

                              VALDEMAR II.

                        SURNAMED THE VICTORIOUS.



      1202–1204.  His early Transactions with Holstein        212

      1204–1210.  His Expedition against the Livonians        212

      1205–1218.  His Disputes with the Empire                213

      1219–1223.  His Transactions with Esthonia              214

         1223.    He is made Prisoner by one of his           215

      1223–1226.  Negotiations for his Ransom, which is at    216
                    length effected

      1226–1238.  His unfortunate Projects                    216

      1238–1241.  His internal Administration                 217

         1240.    His Character as a Legislator               217

                                ERIC VI.




         1241.    Eric, prior to his Accession, had been      218
                    Duke of Sleswic

      1241–1248.  His unfortunate Dispute with his Brother    218
                    Abel, and its Results

         1249.    His Expedition into Livonia                 219

         1250.    His War with the Count of Holstein led      220
                    to his Murder by his Brother Abel




      1250–1252.  The royal Fratricide undertakes an          221
                    Expedition against the Frisians, and
                    is slain in a Morass

         1252.    In the popular Creed he becomes a           222

                             CHRISTOPHER I.



      1252–1258.  Troubled Reign of this Prince               223

      1256–1257.  His Disputes with the Church, especially    224
                    with Jacob Erlandsen, Bishop of

         1257.    Violent Measures of the King                225

      1258, 1259. To sustain the Vengeance of the Church,     226
                    he allies himself with his royal
                    Neighbours, but dies

         1259.    Was his Death natural?                      227

                               ERIC VII.

                           SURNAMED GLIPPING.



      1259–1263.  Troubles during the Minority of this        227

      1261–1264.  He and his Mother Prisoners, but both       229
                    eventually released

      1272–1275.  He is reconciled with the Church            230

      1280–1286.  But he is embroiled with other Enemies,     231
                    who deprive him of Life

                  His Reign disastrous                        231

                               ERIC VIII.

                           SURNAMED MOENVED.



      1286–1308.  Troubles of the Minority; Efforts to        232
                    recal the Murderers of the late King

      1292–1299.  The King embroiled with the Church          233

      1299–1319.  Other Troubles; Eric a Legislator;          234
                    before his Death (without Issue) he
                    advises the States not to elect his
                    turbulent Brother

         1310.    But that Brother procures the Crown         235

                            CHRISTOPHER II.



      1320–1323.  Prodigality of the new King to secure       236
                    himself on the Throne

      1324, 1325. He violates his Pledges                     236

         1325.    Dissatisfaction of his People, who expel    237

      1326–1328.  Rapacity of the Nobles during his Exile;    238
                    he returns

      1329–1331.  His ruinous Promises                        239

      1331, 1332. Proceedings in regard to Scania, which      240
                    becomes the Prize of Sweden

      1332, 1333. Last Days of Christopher                    241



      1333, 1334. State of the Country                        241

      1334–1340.  Rapacity of the Regents, especially         242
                    Count Gerard, who is murdered

         1340.    Election of a new King                      243

                              VALDEMAR IV.

                           SURNAMED ATTERDAG.



         1340.    State of the Kingdom on the Accession of    244

                  His vigilant Administration                 244

         1344.    He sells Scania, but redeems many other     245

      1345–1348.  He sells Esthenia, and makes good Use of    245
                    the Money

      1348–1350.  He obtains Money from another Quarter       246

      1351–1357.  His Rigour occasions Rebellion, which,      247
                    however, he suppresses

      1357–1360.  He recovers Scania                          247

      1360–1363.  By helping Magnus of Sweden, he offends     248
                    the Hanse Towns

      1362, 1363. His artful Policy in regard to the Union    250
                    of his Daughter with Hako of Norway

         1363.    Important Consequences of this Union        250

      1364, 1365. Valdemar abroad                             251

      1367–1370.  Again. Why?                                 251

      1370–1375.  Closing Years of his Reign                  252

                               OLAF III.



      1375, 1376. Olaf, Son of Hako, elected; his Mother      253

         1373.    Lavish Promises of Margaret                 254

                  Opinion respecting them                     255

      1376–1380.  She triumphs over all Competitors           255

      1380–1386.  Olaf becomes King of Norway; ambitious      256
                    Policy of the Queen-Mother

         1386.    Transactions with the House of Holstein     257

         1387.    Sudden Death of Olaf                        258

                               CHAP. II.





      1030–1035.  CANUTE THE GREAT.—SWEYN                     260

         1035.    The Norwegians look to Magnus, a bastard    261
                    Son of St. Olaf

      1035, 1036. MAGNUS I. enters into a Treaty with the     262
                    King of Denmark

      1038–1040.  His Mother and Stepmother                   262

      1042–1046.  He becomes King of Denmark                  262

         1047.    Last Days of this Monarch                   263

      1047–1064.  HARALD HARDRADE                             263

         1066.    He falls in England                         264

      1066–1069.  Two Kings in Norway                         264

      1069–1093.  Olaf alone                                  264

      1093–1095.  MAGNUS BAREFOOT                             265

      1096–1099.  His Expedition to the British Isles         265

      1099–1101.  His War with Sweden                         266

      1102–1103.  His second Expedition to these Islands,     266
                    and his Death in Ireland

         1103.    Partition of the Sovereignty between his    267
                    three Sons

      1103–1122.  Fate of two of them                         268

      1107–1111.  Romantic Adventures of the third Son,       268
                    Sigurd I.

      1111–1123.  His Severity against Idolaters              269

      1124–1130.  His strange Conduct                         270

         1130.    MAGNUS IV. compelled to share the           271
                    Kingdom with an Adventurer

      1130–1152.  HARALD IV.—SIGURD II., &c.                  272

         1152.    Arrival of a Papal Legate                   273

      1153–1161.  Internal Troubles                           274

      1161–1164.  Continued                                   275

      1164–1170.  Transactions with Denmark                   276

      1166–1169.  Troubles; Rival for the Throne              276

      1173–1177.  A second Rival                              277

      1174–1178.  A third, the celebrated Swerro              277

      1178–1186.  His romantic Adventures                     278

      1186–1194.  Swerro’s vigorous Rule                      280

      1194–1200.  His unscrupulous Conduct                    282

      1194–1202.  Internal Troubles                           283

         1202.    His Death and Character                     283

      1202–1204.  HAKO III.                                   284

      1204–1207.  GUTHRUM                                     284

         1207.    Ordeal to prove the Descent of Hako from    284
                    King Swerro

      1208–1241.  HAKO IV.; his troubled Minority             285

      1242–1260.  Internal Events of his Reign                286

         1263.    His Transactions with the Scots             287

                  His famous Expedition                       288

      1263–1266.  MAGNUS VI.                                  289

      1263–1280.  Internal Changes during this Reign          290

      1280–1289.  ERIC II.                                    291

      1289–1299.  Transactions with Scotland                  292

      1299–1319.  HAKO V.                                     292

         1319.    Under this Prince, Norway declines          293

      1319–1387.  Succeeding Kings                            294

                               CHAP. III.





                  Chronological Difficulties                  295

      1001–1026.  OLAF Skatkonung                             295

      1026–1051.  EMUND I.                                    296

      1051–1148.  EMUND II., and succeeding Kings             296

      1148–1154.  SWERKER I.; double Election                 298

      1155–1167.  ST. ERIC and CHARLES                        299

      1161–1167.  Charles the sole King                       300

      1167–1192.  CANUTE                                      301

      1192–1210.  SWERKER II.                                 301

      1210–1250.  Other Rulers                                302

         1250.    VALDEMAR I.                                 303

      1251–1266.  Regency of Birger                           303

      1266–1276.  Troubled Reign of Valdemar                  304

      1276–1279.  He is compelled to resign the Throne of     305

      1279, 1280. MAGNUS I.                                   305

      1281–1290.  His internal Administration                 306

      1290–1305.  BIRGER; his guilty Impudence                307

      1305–1319.  He is exiled                                308

      1319–1320.  And his Son Beheaded                        309

      1319–1354.  MAGNUS II.; his Minority, and subsequent    310

      1354–1357.  His Weakness                                311

      1357–1363.  His Unpopularity                            312

         1363.    Election of ALBERT                          313

      1364–1371.  Actions of this Prince                      313

      1371–1376.  He too is unpopular                         314

      1377–1387.  He quarrels with his Diet                   314

      1388, 1389. He is defeated and captured by Margaret     315
                    of Denmark


            ST. CANUTE, KING OF DENMARK                 317


                            TABLE OF KINGS.






            Odin arrived in the North                    70

                         II. DYNASTY OF SWEYN.

            Sweyn II. Estrithson                       1076
            Harald (Hein) Sweynson                     1080
            Canute IV. (the Saint)                     1086
            Olaf II. (Hunger)                          1095
            Eric (Eiegod) III.                         1103
            Nikolas Swendson                           1134
            Eric IV. (Emun)                            1137
            Eric V. (Lamm)                             1147
            Canute V.                                  1156
            Sweyn III. (Grathe) Emunsson               1157
            Valdemar I. (surnamed the Great)           1182
            Canute VI.                                 1202
            Valdemar II. (Sejer)                       1241
            Eric VI. (Plogpenning)                     1250
            Abel                                       1252
            Christopher I.                             1259
            Eric VII. (Glipping)                       1286
            Eric VIII.                                 1319
            Christopher II.                            1334
            Valdemar IV. (Atterdag)                    1375
            Olaf III.                                  1387

N.B. Little dependence is to be placed on the accuracy of this list
prior to Harald Blaatand. (See Vol. I. p. 66.)


                            KINGS OF SWEDEN.



            Odin arrived in the North                    70

            Niord died                                   20


            Freyr-Yngve                                  10

            Fiolner                                      14

            Swegdir                                      34

            Vanland or Valland                           48

            Visbur                                       98

            Domald                                      130

            Domar                                       162

            Dygve                                       190

            Dag-Spaka the Wise                          220

            Agne                                        260

            Alaric and Eric                             280

            Yngve and Alf                               300

            Hugleik                                     302

            Jorund and Eric                             312

            Aun hinn Gamle (the Old)                    448

            Egil Tunnaddgi                              456

            Ottar Vendilkraka                           460

            Adils                                       505

            Eystein                                     531

            Yngvar                                      545

            Braut-Onund                                 565

            Ingiald Illrada                             623

            Olaf Trætelia exiled about                  630



            Ivar Vidfadme                               647

            Harald Hildetand                            735

            Sigurd Ring                                 750

            Ragnar Lodbrok                              794

            Biorn Ironside                              804

            Eric Biornson                               808

            Eric Raefillson                             820

            Emund and Biorn                             859

            Eric Emundson                               873

            Biorn Ericson                               923

            Eric the Victorious                         993

            Eric Arsaell                               1001

            Olaf Skotkonung                            1026

            Emund Colbrenner                           1051

            Emund Slemme                               1056

            Stenkill                                   1066

            Halstan                                    1090

            Inge I. (the Good)                         1112

            Philip                                     1118

            Inge II.                                   1129

            Swerker I.                                 1155

            Saint Eric                                 1161

            Charles Swerkerson                         1167

            Knut Ericsson                              1199

            Swerker II.                                1210

            Eric II. (Knutsson)                        1216

            John Swerkerson                            1222

            Eric III. (the Stammerer)                  1250

            Birger Jarl (Regent)                       1266

            Valdemar I.                                1275

            Magnus I. (Ladislaes)                      1290

            Birger                                     1319

            Magnus II. (Smek) expelled                 1350

            Eric IV.                                   1359

            Magnus restored                            1363

            Hakon II. (VI. of Norway) deposed          1363

            Albert of Mecklenburg                      1389

N.B. On this list, prior to the eleventh century, as little dependence
is to be placed as on that of Denmark.


                            KINGS OF NORWAY.

                      I. DYNASTY OF THE YNGLINGS.


            Olaf Trætelia                               640

            Halfdan Huitben                             700

            Eystein                                     730

            Halfdan Milde                               784

            Gudrod Mikillati                            824

            Olaf Geirstada                              840

            Halfdan Swart                               863

            Harald Harfager                             934

            Eric Blodaexe                               940

            Hako the Good                               963

            Harald Graafeld                             977

            Hako Jarl                                   995

            Olaf Tyggveson                             1000

            Olaf the Saint                             1030

            Sweyn Canutson                             1035

            Magnus the Good                            1047

            Harald Hardrade                            1066

            Magnus II.                                 1069

            Olaf III. (Kyrre)                          1093

            Magnus (Barfoed)                           1103

            Olaf IV.                                   1116

            Eystein I.                                 1122

            Sigurd I.                                  1130

            Magnus IV.                                 1134

            Harald IV. (Gille)                         1136

            Sigurd II.                                 1155

            Eystein II.                                1157

            Inge I.                                    1161

            Hako III.                                  1162

            Magnus V.                                  1186

            Swerro                                     1202

            Hako III.                                  1204

            Gutborm                                    1205

            Inge II.                                   1207

            Hako IV.                                   1263

            Magnus VI. (Lagabaeter)                    1280

            Eric II. (the Priest-hater)                1299

            Hako V.                                    1319

            Magnus VII. (Smek), II. of Sweden          1343

            Hako VI.                                   1380

            Olaf III.                                  1387

N.B. This kingdom henceforth united with Denmark, and therefore subject
to the same monarchs.







                         CHAP. IV.—_continued._


                              SECTION II.




[Sidenote: 888.]

THE _Orkney Islands_ were probably visited by the northern pirates at a
period much earlier than is generally supposed. If, from their
barrenness and from their limited surface, they offered no inducement to
permanent occupancy, they were useful as strongholds,—as ports where the
northern ships might anchor in safety. From their position between
Scandinavia and Ireland, which we know was hostilely visited in the year
795, they must have been frequently subject to the ravages of the
strangers. The Pictish inhabitants, who were not warlike or numerous,
had the mortification to witness the frequent seizure of their cattle,
their fish, their corn, and such other stores as they had been able to
collect or to produce. Their only advantage was in their poverty, which
shortened the stay of these avaricious men. But after the battle of
Hafursfiord (885), these islands became the perpetual abode of the
sea-rovers, who were no longer tolerated in Norway[1]; here they fitted
out expeditions to ravage every coast from the south of Ireland to the
extremity of the Gulf of Finland. So frequent and so formidable were
those ravages that in 888—three years after his glorious victory—Harald
Harfagre, with a view of suppressing them, sailed with a powerful
armament into these seas. The isles of Shetland, of Orkney, of the
Hebrides, and Man, were subdued by him. But to conquer was little,
unless some measure were adopted to secure the conquest. The monarch
determined to place one of his most valiant and most respectable chiefs
over the islands, and cast his eyes on Rognevald, jarl of Moria, who, in
the present expedition, had lost one of his sons. But Rognevald,
attached to his hereditary domains in Norway, induced his royal master
to invest his brother Sigurd with the dignity. Sigurd, therefore, was
the first jarl, or earl, of the Orkneys.

[Sidenote: 889 to 892.]

This chief had qualities worthy of the post: he was valiant, liberal,
politic. But he was also ambitious: he longed to reduce a portion of the
neighbouring continent; and, as his own forces were unequal to an
attempt of such magnitude, he formed an alliance with Thorstein the Red,
son of Olaf the White, a chief famous in the annals of Norway. Having
effected a junction, the two jarls subdued Caithness and Sutherland, and
then extended their ravages into the counties of Ross and Moray. In the
latter, Sigurd, who was intent on durable conquest, is said to have
built a fortress. But he soon afterwards died,—whether in battle, or in
consequence of a wound, is not very clear; and all the advantages which
he had gained were lost. He was succeeded, indeed, by his son, Guthrum;
but the latter, alike feeble in mind and body, soon paid the debt of
nature. The depredations of the pirates were resumed; and Rognevald, who
had been the feudal superior of Sigurd, was required to nominate another
governor. His choice fell on Hallad, one of his sons. But it was less
fortunate than the preceding one. If Hallad had the wish, he certainly
had not the power, to contend with the frequent piratical bands who
infested the islands: he soon deserted his post, and returned to Norway.
The father lamented his unfortunate choice; still more did he lament the
stain which want of success had brought upon his name. His children, he
bitterly observed, were sadly degenerated from the ancient valour of
their line. He could not foresee that Einar, one of them, was about to
confer splendour on the family; still less that Rollo, another of them,
would become the head of a powerful race of sovereigns. Rollo proposed
to clear the islands from the piratical bands; but his proposal was
declined, probably from want of confidence in his powers. And when Einar
prayed the old jarl to send _him_ to the government, the chief reason of
his success was the little favour which he possessed in the eyes of his
father. He was an illegitimate son; his mother was of servile condition;
he had lost an eye; his countenance was in other respects repulsive; and
all these circumstances combined to render the paternal roof
disagreeable to him. The saga has preserved the words in which he made
the application to his father:—“Thou hast never shown _me_ much honour,
nor will my departure afflict thee: wherefore I will proceed to the
west, if thou wilt afford me the means. Do this, and I promise thee
never to revisit Norway!” The old man gave him a large vessel, manned
with good mariners; told him that he had no confidence in his valour or
prudence, and expressed a hope that he should see him no more. His
prayer was granted.

[Sidenote: 893 to 936.]

On the arrival of Einar, his conduct proved that he to had not overrated
his own powers. Over two pirate chiefs, who had, since the death of
Sigurd, held the dominion of the islands, he triumphed; he governed the
inhabitants by his wisdom, no less than protected them by his valour;
and joined with his firmness such moderation that he became exceedingly
popular with his people. His celebrity inspired with envy the sons of
king Harald, who equally hated his father: that father was burnt to
death, with many of his companions[2]; and a fate no less tragical was
reserved for Einar. In 894, Halfdan, one of his sons by the Finnish lady
(he had three of the name[3]), reached the Orkneys unexpected by Einar,
who, being wholly unprepared for defence, fled into Caithness. In his
turn, Halfdan was surprised by the jarl, and compelled to hide himself;
but he was discovered and put to death, in revenge alike for the
unprovoked aggression and for the murder of Rognevald. In this act of
retribution, as it might be considered by a pagan, there was much
temerity. The monarch armed to punish it, and, in 895, again appeared
off the coast with a powerful armament. Unable to resist, Einar again
fled into Caithness, a portion, if not the whole of which, was entirely
subject to the jarls of the Orkneys. He had certainly formidable means
of defence; so formidable, indeed, as to make Harald listen to overtures
of accommodation. Probably, too, as a pagan, he made considerable
allowance for the act of Einar, who, in avenging the death of a father,
had done what religion dictated. At length he professed his readiness
both to pardon the islanders, and to leave the jarl in the government,
if sixty golden merks were paid him. This sum, moderate as it may seem,
they were unable to raise; but Einar agreed to pay it for them, on the
condition that their lands should be considered his until they found the
means of redemption. Relieved from this formidable enemy, Einar resumed
with his usual success the duties of government. By posterity he was
called _Turf_-Einar, from his introducing, we are told, the use of that
article. It is, however, scarcely to be credited that the islanders
should, in his time, be ignorant of it. They had no wood; and sea-weed
alone could not have sufficed them through the long and dreary winter.
Probably he introduced some improvement into the manner of preparing it;
and thus earned a title to their gratitude.

[Sidenote: 936 to 946.]

On the death of Einar, the government of the Orkneys, and of the most
northern counties of Scotland, devolved on two of his sons, Arnkel and
Erlend. If they had the ambition they had not the wisdom of the father.
When Eric of the Bloody Axe was expelled from Norway by Hako the
Good[4], they received him with readiness, became his allies, and
accompanied him in his predatory expedition against the Scottish and
English coasts. For a time, indeed, fortune seemed to smile upon them.
Eric became the governor of Northumbria, as the vassal of king
Athelstane: they shared in his prosperity, and in the wealth which he
acquired in his piratical expeditions to the coasts of Scotland and
Ireland; but they also shared his tragical fate in the battle which the
royal Edred waged against the northmen, and which for ever united
Northumbria with the Anglo-Saxon crown.[5]

[Sidenote: 946 to 980.]

These princes were succeeded by another brother, Thorfin Hausak-liufurs,
whose administration, the result of his wisdom, was one of great
prosperity. Not so that of his sons. Of these he left five. The eldest,
Arnfin, married Ragnilda, the daughter of Eric Blodoxe and the infamous
Gunhilda, and quite worthy of her parentage. Through her Arnfin, the
victim of treachery, descended to an untimely grave. Havard, the next
brother, succeeded to the government; and his conduct was so wise and
prosperous, that he obtained the name of the Happy. But he had the folly
to marry the widowed Ragnilda; and he suffered the deserved penalty of
his weakness. She had transferred, we are told, her affection to Liot,
the next brother; and with the view of obtaining the gratification of
her wishes, had provoked a quarrel between Havard and a kinsman that
proved fatal to the former. But such a woman could have no affection;
and her motive to the deed was probably dislike of her husband’s
ascendency. However this be, she became the wife of the third brother,
who succeeded to the government. But Liot had little reason to
congratulate himself on his elevation. The readiness with which he had
become the instrument of a base and bloody woman roused the anger of
Skuli, the next brother, who, being no less ambitious, resolved to
dethrone him. Repairing to the court of the Scottish king, he offered to
hold the islands as a fief of the crown, if, through the royal aid, he
were raised to the dignity now held by Liot. The offer was accepted;
and, at the head of a considerable force, he returned into Caithness,
which declared for him. In the centre of that province the kinsmen met,
and victory declared for Liot,—Skuli being left dead on the field. But
the Scots now appeared in greater numbers; and though the jarl triumphed
in a second engagement, he received a wound which brought him to his end
in the year 980. The authority now passed into the hands of Laudver, the
fifth brother. Of him we know only that he was addicted to piratical
expeditions, that he married an Irish princess, and that he reigned
sixteen years.

[Sidenote: 980 to 1014.]

Sigurd, the son and successor of the last jarl, occupies more room in
fable than in history. Rejecting the former, we may observe, that he had
many great qualities; that he was valiant, generous, persevering; that
he freed his people from the obligation which they had contracted to the
jarls in the days of Turf-Einar, thus restoring the lands, which had
lately been feudal, to their original allodial state; and that in
addition to the Shetland Isles and the two Scottish counties, which had
for nearly a century been under the jurisdiction of his predecessors, he
held some fortresses, and, we are told, some extensive demesnes, in the
heart of Scotland. Yet these might be held as a vassal of the Sottish
monarch. But the most memorable event in his administration was the
introduction of Christianity into the Orkneys. To this event we have
before alluded[6], but it requires a more ample detail. Sigurd being
summoned on board the vessel which carried Olaf Trygveson from Ireland
to Norway, was told that if he did not immediately receive Christianity,
cause his people to receive it, and do homage to Olaf as the heir of
Harald Harfagre, he, and all who refused, should be put to death. At
this moment Olaf had not ascended the throne of Norway, which was
occupied by jarl Hako; and Sigurd might well hesitate to acknowledge
him. Again, though he must have frequently heard of the religion which
he was now required to embrace, he had been accustomed to despise it,
because it was professed by the peaceable—that is, the cowardly—portion
of mankind. He, therefore, began to make some excuse for his inability
to comply with the demand; but none would be admitted; and as he had to
choose between obedience and instant death, he naturally selected the
former. He and his people, with one accord, submitted to the rite; and
to secure his fidelity, he gave his son as hostage. On the death of that
son, however, he renounced his allegiance to the Norwegian crown, and
entered into a close connection with that of Scotland, by marrying a
daughter of king Malcolm. Probably this new alliance prevented him from
renouncing Christianity with as much facility as he had renounced his
dependence on Norway. It certainly increased his power, and the
consideration in which he was held by the chiefs of the age. He was one
of the leaders in the war against the Irish king Brian; and, with many
others, he was killed at the battle of Clontarf.[7] Such a man, in such
an age, could not, of course, be permitted to fall in the ordinary way.
If the scalds are to be credited, he had some presentiment of his fate
before he left the islands; and he confided the administration to his
three sons by the first wife, Einar, Sumerled, and Brusi. Connected with
his death are two legends, which deserve a momentary notice. One of his
friends, who wished to accompany him, he insisted on remaining, with the
assurance that he should be the first man to whom intelligence of the
battle should be communicated. One day the chief saw, as he thought,
jarl Sigurd approaching at the head of a troop of horse. He instantly
mounted, rode forward, met the jarl, embraced, and, in the view of
several followers, afterwards disappeared with the jarl behind an
eminence: neither, adds the legend, was again seen in this world. The
other story has called forth the splendid effusion of Grey:—Darrod, a
native of Caithness, saw twelve horsemen ride towards a hill, and
immediately enter it. Hastening to the place, and looking through a
small aperture, he perceived twelve gigantic women weaving and singing;
the woof and the song no less supernatural than the singers.[8] This
event, which is placed in the year 1014, illustrates the mental
condition of the people, who, if they had outwardly embraced
Christianity, were still pagans in superstition.

Of the Shetland Isles, during this period, we know nothing. They formed,
as we have observed, a portion of the government of the Orkney jarls;
and so did the Hebrides. But the connection between the governors and
the governed must have been lax, and subject to frequent interruption.
The Hebrides were frequently ravaged,—now by Norwegians, now by Danes,
now by fierce adventurers from all parts of the north. The condition of
Iona, the hallowed abode of St. Columba’s disciples, was mournful. In
793 the monastery was laid in ashes, and most of the inmates massacred;
again in 797 and 801. In 805 sixty-eight more of the monks suffered the
same fate. From that period to the year 875 the barbarian ravages were
frequent. To escape destruction, the monks fled; and when the pirates
were defeated, returned to the same hallowed spot, to quench the still
smoking ruins, and to rebuild the house of their saint. After 875 the
depredations of the northern rovers were much less frequent. We read,
indeed, of no massacre until 985, when the abbot and fifteen of his
monks obtained the martyr’s crown. This seems to have been the last
disaster of the kind. Christianity, in a degree far greater than the
governments of Norway and the Orkneys, was destroying the spirit of
piracy. In 1093, as we shall hereafter have occasion to relate, the
Western Isles, like Man and the Orkneys, were subdued by Magnus of
Norway, and annexed to his crown.[9]

5. _Iceland_ (861, &c.) was probably known to the Irish missionaries
before it was discovered by the Norwegians. At least some articles were
found there which missionaries only could have left; and these must have
come from Iona or Ireland. “Before Iceland was discovered by the
Norwegians,” says the Landnamabok, “men were there whom we call Papas,
who professed the Christian religion, and who were believed to have come
from the west.” The same authority also speaks of the books in the Irish
and the Anglo-Saxon languages; of the bells, staves, and other articles
left by preceding visitors. But if any colony had ever settled upon it,
it had long been uninhabited when it was accidentally discovered by
Naddod, in 861. That sea-rover left the Faroe Islands with the intention
of steering directly for the west of Norway; but a storm arising, drove
him far to the north-west, until he reached that largest of the European
isles. But he knew not it was an island: he saw that it was covered with
snow, and from that circumstance he denominated it _Snoeland_. Though he
ascended several high mountains, he could discern no trace of human
beings. On his return he acquainted his countrymen with the discovery.
The following year it was again accidentally visited by a Swede, Gardar
Swafarson, who sailed round it, and ascertaining it to be an island,
gave it the name of Gardarsholm. The season was too advanced for him to
return; and he passed the whole winter on the coast, living chiefly on
the fish which he caught in abundance. The third person that visited it
was the Norwegian Floki, surnamed _Rafna_, or the Raven, from the manner
in which, according to legend, he found the island. Sailing from the
Faroes, he proceeded towards the north-west; but as he was uncertain of
the exact direction in which Snoeland lay, he let fly three ravens,
which he had previously dedicated to the gods. One of these flew back to
the islands which he had left; another returned to the ship; the third
proceeded in a right line, and was followed by Floki, until he reached
the country which Naddod had discovered. Its name he changed from
Snoeland to Iceland. He admired its boiling fountains and its burning
lava; but the country was too barren for his subsistence: he was
troubled at the mysterious quaking of the earth; and he soon bade adieu
to a region which he had evidently designed to colonize, but which the
gods had doomed to everlasting desolation. His companions, however, did
not give so disheartening an account of the island. They praised its
fish, its climate, its soil; and above all, they praised it because “it
was a place where men might live in freedom, far away from kings and

[Sidenote: 874.]

The first attempt made to colonize the island was in the year 874.
Ingulf, the son of a Norwegian jarl, had slain his adversary; and to
escape the consequences of the act, he, with his brother-in-law Jorleif,
prepared to visit a region where neither the vengeance of the kindred
nor that of Harald Harfagre could pursue him. Deeply imbued with the
superstition of the ancient Norwegian worship, he offered due sacrifices
to the gods—for in these patriarchal times the privilege of sacrificing
descended with that of primogeniture; and when he sailed took with him
the ornamented doorposts of the apartment in which his household deities
were enshrined. These, as he approached the island, he cast into the
sea, and vowed that on the part of the coast to which the elements
should drive them, he would establish his colony. In the meantime a
promontory on the south-east, still called Ingulfshod, received him; but
the door-posts, watched by his slaves, proceeded to the south-west, and
entered a bay on which the modern Reykiavik stands. The place in which
he had fixed his temporary abode was comparatively fertile; the
neighbourhood of the bay for many leagues was unusually sterile; yet in
spite of all remonstrances Ingulf removed to the latter spot, which he
believed to be divinely ordained for him. His companion, Jorleif, chose
a more fertile locality to the south; but Jorleif had no reverence for
the gods, to whom he never deigned to sacrifice. In the estimation of
many, the latter was the wiser man; but in a short time he was murdered
by his own slaves, who fled with his substance to some distant islands.
They did not escape with impunity: pursued by Ingulf, they paid the
penalty of their crime. However much the regret of the chief for the
fate of his friend, he piously observed that it was the lot of all who
despised the national divinities.

[Sidenote: 884.]

Ingulf was followed by several Norwegian chiefs, and by a multitude of
simple freemen, who desired “to live far away from tyrannical kings and
jarls.” In general, each new community chose for itself some habitable
valley, fixed its boundaries, erected a rude temple to the gods, and
provided for the civil no less than the religious administration. Of the
jarls contemporary with Ingulf, Thorolf was the most celebrated.
Descended, in popular opinion, like many other chiefs, from the divine
race which had held the government of the country, Thorolf was at once
the head of his clan and the pontiff of his religion. Attached to the
great temple of Thor, on one of the islands close to the Norwegian
coast, furnished with a venerable beard, endowed with many vassals, many
flocks and herds, and a wide domain, Thorolf was one of the most
influential chiefs in the north of that kingdom. But he had the
misfortune to incur the wrath of Harald Harfagre, by giving an asylum to
Biorn, one of his kinsmen, who was persecuted by that monarch. From a
_Thing_, or public assembly of the province, Harald obtained a decree of
outlawry against Thorolf, if, within a given period, he failed to
surrender Biorn. To ascertain the will of the gods, whether he should
give himself up to the king or flee to Iceland, he sacrificed to Thor,
and the reply favoured the latter project. No less devout than Ingulf,
he took with him the statue of Thor, the earth on which the throne had
stood, and a portion of the temple. Approaching the island, he threw
into the sea the wooden columns which had supported the sanctuary; and,
as his predecessor had done ten years before him, settled on the spot to
which the elements carried them. Marking the boundaries of his new
domain by walking round it with a flaming brand and setting fire to the
grass, his next object was to build a large house, and then a large
temple, in which he was to officiate as the high-priest of Thor. There
were the same columns, the same throne, the same mystic ring, and the
same great altar. The other divinities were placed in the niches
prepared for them; and the worship was celebrated with less pomp indeed
than in the parent country, but with equal fervour. Close to the temple
was the spot where the _Thing_, or judicial assembly of the people, was
held, in the open air, in presence of “Freya, and Niord, and the
Almighty As,” by whom the witnesses in a suit always sware. The ground
of both was held to be holy; for the laws which the ancient divinities
had ordained were necessarily a part of religion. This was the ordinary
mode of proceeding when any new colony was formed. By degrees, as the
cabins of the slaves increased, and were spread over the domain, the
aspect of the country became more cheerful. The settlement of Thorolf
was soon a flourishing one; it was increased by many new arrivals from
Norway; and was at length divided into three populous districts, each of
which recognized him as chief pontiff, until human passion begun to
produce its inevitable result,—disunion and bloody feuds.

[Sidenote: 874 to 936.]

At this distance of time, we do not estimate as we ought the number of
emigrants from Norway to this newly-discovered island. Before the death
of Harald Harfagre, most of its habitable portions had their occupants.
What with the expulsion of the pirates, what with the voluntary exile of
the chiefs who disdained to acknowledge a superior, the mother country
must have lost no inconsiderable proportion of its inhabitants. It
promised indeed to be left half peopled, when that monarch, in
conjunction with the nobles who still remained, severely prohibited
these emigrations. But neither he nor they could always watch the ports;
still less could they control the motions of those who, while occupied
in traffic from coast to coast, seized the opportunity of sailing for a
land where there were no kings, no lords. Yet this was only true of the
earliest state of Icelandic civilization. Subsequently, as the chiefs
with their numerous slaves and their warlike dependants repaired to that
place, a system resembling the clanship of Norway, though less despotic,
was introduced. They, indeed, seized the land as their own, and
parcelled it out to their followers on certain conditions. Among these
conditions was always the payment of an annual rent in agricultural
produce, and of something for the support of religion; but frequently
was superadded some hereditary jurisdiction in the family of the chief.
As he was often a pontiff no less than a patriarch, and was a reputed
descendant from the divine family of the Ynglings, this union of the
sacerdotal, of the judicial, and of almost royal functions, invested him
with a consideration which he had scarcely enjoyed even in Norway. He
who filled this two-fold office of pontiff and civil magistrate, who
formed a sort of patriarchal aristocracy not uninteresting to
contemplate, was called _Godar_, or _Haf-godar_. But in half a century
after the colonization of the island, an evil arose for which the social
constitutions of the period afforded no remedy. The isolation of the
communities led to the formation of a separate rival spirit, which was
often destructive to the district. When two neighbouring communities or
their magistrates disputed, who was to act as the umpire? There was no
monarch, no hereditary chief of the province, no Al-Thing, to decide
between them. It became necessary, therefore, either to renounce the
advantages of a general confederation, and to live in scattered
independent tribes, whose hostilities must soon have led to the
depopulation of the island, or to establish a superior authority. Hence
the selection of a supreme judge, who was also empowered to collect
laws, which, however, could not be obligatory until they had been
accepted by the chiefs and the people of each community. The first
Icelander raised to this high dignity was Ulfliot (925), who, though
sixty years of age, proceeded to Norway to obtain a more intimate
acquaintance with the unwritten observances of that kingdom. Under the
direction of Thorleif the Wise, he obtained in three years the
information which he sought; and on his return to Iceland he promulgated
a code that for many generations regulated the decisions of the
deemsters, or local judges. Its provisions have unfortunately perished,
with the exception of some inconsiderable fragments. They were no doubt
nearly identical with those which governed the parent country; but of
the latter we have not one in the state in which it was originally
promulgated,—not one that has not been altered by succeeding
legislators. The spirit of the code which Thorleif himself compiled at
the instance of Hako the Good, can be inferred only from the general
character of Norwegian society, and from the legal provisions of later
times; provisions which are, in truth, but adaptations of ancient
penalties to an altered state of society. The laws designed for pagan
use would obviously require considerable modification before they could
be adopted by Christians.

[Sidenote: 930.]

To understand rightly the social condition of Iceland during the pagan
and indeed the succeeding ages, too much attention cannot be paid to the
political constitution and the civil administration of that interesting
colony. The island was divided into four great districts,—viertel; and
over each was a chief magistrate elected by the people. At certain
periods, there was an assembly of the freemen in each; all had a voice
in the deliberations; all could vote; and the magistrate whom they had
chosen was entrusted with the execution of such laws, such regulations,
as they adopted. But though comprising one fourth only of the habitable
portion of the island, each of these districts was too extensive to
render the meetings of the freemen so frequent as the interests of the
community required. Hence the sub-division of each into inferior
districts, which had their meetings for the transaction of such business
as was more peculiarly local. Affairs which concerned the whole
community could be discussed only in the _Al-Thing_, or great national
assembly, which was held once a year. The place of meeting was situated
on a level plain, on the shores of the lake of Thingvalle, and was
called _the Law Mount_. Justice, indeed, was generally administered on
an eminence among all the nations of Gothic origin; not because there
was any sanctity in a hill, but that the proceedings might be more
visible to the multitude. During eight centuries the Law Mount continued
to be the scene of the national assemblies; and it is only in our own
times that the place of meeting has been removed to a spot more
convenient indeed to the scattered population, but less hallowed by
time. The president was chosen for life,—an anomaly surely in a
community where the freemen would be thought equal; but the truth is
that among all the Germanic nations there was a wide difference between
the theory and practice of the constitution. The meanest freeman present
at the Thing might, for any thing we know, have a vote; he might even
have the right of speech; but still the real power lay in the hands of a
few noble chiefs. What made the authority of this president, this
logsogomadr, or promulgator of the law, the more formidable, is the
fact, that though he was not, as some writers have contended, a
legislator, no laws were made without his concurrence; and of these he
had the interpretation, no less than the administration. His office
therefore being more than executive, and conferred for so long a period,
made him irresponsible, except when the Thing was actually assembled. As
we have before observed, Ulfliot was the first who held this dignity.
The laws he enacted were, we are told, preserved for two centuries by
tradition only, before they were committed to writing. This is not
credible. The Runic art at least was understood many centuries before
his time; and so, we may infer, were the ordinary characters: at least
we read of communication by letter between the sovereigns and jarls of
the time. The more important of Ulfliot’s laws must have been invested
in a dress less perishable than oral tradition. For ages before his
time, every German tribe with which we are acquainted, had, besides its
common or unwritten, its statute or written, law; and we know not why
Scandinavia should in this respect be different from such barbarous
tribes as the Saxons, or Finns, or Suabians, during the same period. On
this subject, however, more in the proper place.[10]

6. _Greenland_ owed its discovery to the Icelandic colony. Towards the
close of the tenth century, Eric the Red, son of Torwald, a Norwegian
jarl, who had been compelled to forsake his country in consequence of a
feud, was, for the same reason, obliged to leave Iceland. Whither was he
to repair? To Norway he could not; for there were the deadly enemies of
his family whom old Torwald had made. To hide himself in Iceland was
hopeless; and in the Orkneys, which were far distant, he could scarcely
hope to escape the vengeance of those enemies. He therefore resolved to
seek a land of which some maritime adventurers had obtained a confused
knowledge. Sailing towards the west, he at length discovered a small
island in a strait, which he called Eric’s Sound, and on which he passed
the winter. The following spring, he examined the neighbouring
continent, which from its smiling verdure—smiling in comparison with the
bleak desolation of Iceland—he called _Greenland_. Filled with the
importance of this adventure, he soon returned to that island, and
succeeded in collecting a number of colonists, whom he established in
the newly-discovered land. Yet Greenland was not uninhabited: better for
the settlers had it been so; for the wild natives were not friendly to
men whom they regarded as intruders on their own domain. Some years
after the settlement of the colony, viz. in 999, Leif, the son of Eric,
repaired to Norway, where he was well received by the reigning monarch,
Olaf Trygveson: Olaf was soon interested in the description which Leif
gave of the country; and in his zeal for the conversion of all pagans,
he resolved to support the new colony. Whatever might be the faults of
the royal convert, he was the instrument of much good. He persuaded or
forced Leif to receive baptism, and caused a missionary to accompany him
to Greenland. Hence the introduction of that religion among the
Norwegian colonists; but it had little success amongst the natives, who,
whether from stupidity or vicious habits, have always been slow to
comprehend its truths. During more than three centuries this infant
colony flourished: the plague of 1348 lamentably thinned its numbers;
and early in the following century the rest were either exterminated by
the savage inhabitants, or compelled to leave the country. Not a vestige
remains of that colony; nor is it clearly ascertained in what part of
the coast it was located.

7. _North America_ (1001–1002). The most curious part of the present
subject is that which relates to the alleged discovery of North America
by a native of Iceland. Let us state the facts, as recorded by the
ancient sagas, and the authorities followed by Snorro Sturleson, before
we reason upon them.—Herjulf, a descendant of Ingulf, and his son Biarn,
subsisted by trading between Iceland and Norway, in the latter of which
countries they generally passed the winter. One season, their vessels
being as usual divided for the greater convenience of traffic, Biarn did
not find his father in Norway, who, he was informed, had proceeded to
Greenland, then just discovered. He had never visited that country; but
he steered westwards for many days, until a strong north wind bore him
considerably to the south. After a long interval, he arrived in sight of
a low, woody country, which, compared with the description he had
received of the other, and from the route he had taken, could not, he
was sure, be Greenland. Proceeding to the south-west, he reached the
latter country, and joined his father, who was located at Herjulfsnæ, a
promontory opposite to the western coast of Iceland.

[Sidenote: 1001.]

The information which Biarn gave of this discovery induced Leif, son of
Eric the Red, the discoverer of Greenland, to equip a vessel for the
unknown country. With thirty-five persons he sailed from Herjulfsnæs
towards the south, in the direction indicated by Biarn. Arriving at a
flat stony coast, with mountains, however, covered with snow, visible at
a great distance, they called it Hellu-land. Proceeding still
southwards, they came to a woody but still flat coast, which they called
Mark-land. A brisk north-east wind blowing for two days and two nights,
brought them to a finer coast, woody and undulating, and abounding with
natural productions. Towards the north this region was sheltered by an
island; but there was no port until they had proceeded farther to the
west. There they landed; and as there was abundance of fish in a river
which flowed into the bay, they ventured there to pass the winter. They
found the nights and days less unequal than in Iceland or Norway; on the
very shortest (Dec. 21.) the sun rising at half-past seven, and setting
at half-past four. From some wild grapes which they found a few miles
from the shore, they denominated the country Vinland, or Winland. The
following spring they returned to Greenland.

This description, as the reader will instantly recognize, can apply only
to North America. The first of the coasts which Leif and his navigators
saw must have been Newfoundland, or Labrador; the second was probably
the coast of New Brunswick; the third was Maine. The causes which led to
the voyage, the names, the incidents, are so natural and so connected as
to bear the impress of truth. And Snorro, the earliest historian of the
voyage, was not an inventor: he related events as he received them from
authorities which no longer exist, or from tradition. Neither he nor his
countrymen entertained the slightest doubt that a new and extensive
region had been discovered. The sequel will corroborate the belief that
they were right.

[Sidenote: 1004 to 1008.]

The next chief that visited Vinland was Thorwald, another son of Eric
the Red. With thirty companions he proceeded to the coast, and wintered
in the tent which had sheltered his brother Leif. The two following
summers were passed by him in examining the regions both to the west and
the east; and, from the description in the Icelandic sagas, we may infer
that he coasted the shore from Massachusetts to Labrador. Until the
second season no inhabitants appeared; but two who had ventured along
the shore in their frail canoes were taken, and most impolitically, as
well as most inhumanly, put to death. These were evidently Esquimaux,
whose short stature and features resembled those of the western
Greenlanders. To revenge the murder of their countrymen, a considerable
number of the inhabitants now appeared in their small boats; but their
arrows being unable to make any impression on the wooden defences, they
precipitately retired. In this short skirmish, however, Thorwald
received a mortal wound; and was buried on the next promontory with a
cross at his head and another at his feet, a proof that he had embraced
Christianity. Having passed another winter, his companions returned to
Greenland. The following year Thorstein, another son of Eric the Red,
embarked for the same place with his wife Gudrida and twenty-five
companions; but they were driven by the contending elements to the
remote western coast of Greenland, where they passed the winter in great
hardships. This adventure was fatal to Thorstein, whose corpse was taken
back to the colony by his widow.

[Sidenote: 1009.]

The first serious attempt at colonizing Vinland was made by a Norwegian
chief, Thorfin, who had removed to Greenland, and married the widowed
Gudrida. With sixty companions, some domestic animals, implements of
husbandry, and an abundance of dried provisions, he proceeded to the
coast where Thorwald had died. There he erected his tents, which he
surrounded by a strong palisade, to resist the assaults, whether open or
secret, whether daily or nocturnal, of the natives. They came in
considerable numbers to offer peltries and other productions for such
commodities as the strangers could spare. Above all, we are assured,
they wanted arms, which Thorfin would not permit to be sold; yet if an
anecdote be true, their knowledge of such weapons must have been limited
indeed. One of the savages took up an axe, ran with it into the woods,
and displayed it with much triumph to the rest. To try its virtues, he
struck one that stood near him; and the latter, to the horror of all
present, fell dead at his feet. A chief took it from him, regarded it
for some time with anger, and then cast it into the sea. Thorfin
remained three years in Vinland, where a son was born to him; and after
many voyages to different parts of the north, ended his days in Iceland.
His widow made the pilgrimage to Rome; and on her return to the island
retired to a convent which he had erected. Many, however, of the
colonists whom he had led to Vinland remained, and were ultimately
joined by another body under Helgi and Finnbogi, two brothers from
Greenland. But the latter had the misfortune to be accompanied by a
treacherous and evil woman, Freydisa, a daughter of Eric the Red, and
who in a short time excited a quarrel, which proved fatal to about
thirty of the colonists. Detested for her vices, she was constrained to
return to Greenland; but the odour of her evil name remained with her:
she lived despised, and died unlamented.

[Sidenote: 1026 to 1121.]

Towards the close of the reign of Olaf the Saint, an Icelander, named
Gudleif, embarked for Dublin. The vessel being driven by boisterous
winds far from its direct course, towards the south-west, approached an
unknown shore. He and the crew were soon seized by the natives, and
carried into the interior. Here, however, to their great surprise, they
were accosted by a venerable chief in their own language, who enquired
after some individuals of Iceland. He refused to tell his name; but, as
he sent a present to Thurida, the sister of Snorro Gode, and another for
her son, no doubt was entertained that he was the scald Biorn, who had
been her lover, and who had left Iceland thirty years before that time.
The natives were described of a red colour, and cruel to strangers;
indeed, it required all the influence of the friendly chief to rescue
Gudleif and his companions from destruction. From this period to 1050,
we hear no more of the northern colony established by Thorfin; but in
that year a priest went from Iceland to Vinland to preach Christianity.
His end was tragical,—a proof that if any of the original settlers had
been Christians, they had reverted to idolatry. In 1121, a bishop
embarked from Greenland for the same destination, and with the same
object; but of the result no record exists. We hear no more, indeed, of
the colony, or of Vinland, until the latter half of the fourteenth
century, when the two Venetians Zeni are said to have visited that part
of the world. From that time to the discovery of the New World by
Columbus, there was no communication—none at least that is known—between
it and the north of Europe.

This circumstance has induced many to doubt of the facts which have been
related. If, they contend, North America were really discovered and
repeatedly visited by the Icelanders, how came a country, so fertile in
comparison with that island, or with Greenland, or even Norway, to be so
suddenly abandoned? This is certainly a difficulty; but a greater one,
in our opinion, is involved in the rejection of all the evidence that
has been adduced. It is not Snorro merely who mentions Vinland: many
other sagas do the same; and even before Snorro, Adam of Bremen obtained
from the lips of Sweyn II., king of Denmark, a confirmation of the
alleged discovery. For relations so numerous and so uniform, for
circumstances so naturally and so graphically described, there must have
been some foundation. Even fiction does not invent, it only exaggerates.
There is nothing improbable in the alleged voyages. The Scandinavians
were the best navigators in the world. From authentic and indubitable
testimony we know that their vessels visited every sea from the
Mediterranean to the Baltic, from the extremity of the Finland Gulf to
the entrance at least of Davis’s Straits. Men thus familiar with distant
seas must have made a greater progress in the science of navigation than
we generally allow. The voyage from Reykiavik, in Iceland, to Cape
Farewell, is not longer than that from the south-western extremity of
Iceland—once well colonized—to the eastern coast of Labrador. But does
the latter country itself exhibit, in modern times, any vestiges of a
higher civilization than we should expect to find if no Europeans had
ever visited it? So at least the Jesuit missionaries inform us. They
found the cross, a knowledge of the stars, a superior kind of worship, a
more ingenious mind, among the inhabitants of the coast which is thought
to have been colonized from Greenland. They even assure us that many
Norwegian words are to be found in the dialect of the people. The causes
which led to the destruction of the settlement were probably similar to
those which produced the same effect in Greenland. A handful of
colonists, cut off from all communication with the mother country, and
consequently deprived of the means for repressing their savage
neighbours, could not be expected always to preserve their original
characteristics. They would either be exterminated by hostilities, or
driven to amalgamate with the natives: probably both causes led to this
unfortunate result. The only difficulty in this subject is that which we
have before mentioned, viz. the sudden and total cessation of all
intercourse with Iceland or Greenland; and even this must diminish when
we remember that in the fourteenth century the Norwegian colony in
Greenland disappeared in the same manner, after a residence in the
country of more than three hundred years. On weighing the preceding
circumstances, and the simple natural language in which they are
recorded, few men not born in Italy or Spain will deny to the
Scandinavians the claim of having been the original discoverers of the
New World. Even Robertson, imperfectly acquainted as he was with the
links in this chain of evidence, dared not wholly to reject it. Since
his day, the researches of the northern critics, and a more attentive
consideration of the subject, have caused most writers to mention it
with respect.[11]

8. _Russia_ (862). That the Scandinavian pirates founded a sovereignty
in Russia soon after the middle of the ninth century, is a fact which no
historian ventures to dispute. A body of the people under the
denomination of the Varangians,—a denomination which nobody can
explain,—subdued the Tshuder and other Slavonic tribes between the Gulf
of Finland and Novogrod. They were indeed masters of the maritime coasts
in this part of the Baltic. At this time Russia was split into many
separate states, which had never known a common head, and of which most,
though of kindred origin, were at war with one another. Of these states
the most considerable was Novogrod, a flourishing republic, which had an
extensive commerce, not merely with the nations surrounding the Baltic,
but with the Greek empire, with Persia, and perhaps with India. Its
wealth naturally raised the cupidity of the warlike tribes, who were on
the watch to intercept its merchandise, to harass its convoys, and, when
the opportunity was favourable, of assailing its outposts. Separately,
indeed, none of these tribes could have made any impression on that
powerful city; but leagues for a common object distinguished the
barbarian no less than the civilised times. By such a league were the
people of Novogrod menaced; and in accordance with a custom of the
times, solicited the aid of their neighbours, the Varangians. All the
Northmen, and the Varangians in particular, were ready to sell their
sword to the highest bidder. The offer of the republic, therefore, was
promptly accepted; and her enemies were speedily humbled.

[Sidenote: 861 to 862.]

About the fact which we have just related there is no difference of
opinion among historians; but there is much between native and foreign
writers, as to the circumstances which led to the establishment of the
Varangian dynasty in Russia. According to one of the former, four of the
great tribes, with the city of Novogrod, being struck with admiration at
the wisdom, the justice, no less than the valour of the Northmen, and
rendered miserable by their continual dissensions, sent an embassy over
the sea for princes that might govern and protect them! “The interests
of order and of domestic tranquillity,” says the historian already
quoted[12], “induced them to lay down their national pride: the Slavi,
says a tradition, influenced by the advice of an aged inhabitant of
Novogrod, demanded sovereigns from the Varangians. Our ancient annals do
not mention this sage; but if the tradition be true, his name is worthy
of immortality, and of a glorious rank in our fasti.” It seems that the
Novogrodians and the Krivitches were allies of the Finnish tribes on the
borders of the Finland Gulf, and like them tributaries of the
Varangians. Subject for some years to the same laws, they could easily
draw closer the bonds of the alliance which had formerly united them.
Thus, according to Nestor, they sent an embassy beyond the sea to the
Varangians, saying, “Our country is extensive and fertile, but we are
the prey of anarchy: come then to govern, to rule over us!” “Three
brothers, Ruric, Sineas, and Truvor, illustrious alike for birth and
valour, consented to assume the reins of government over a people who
did not know how to use the liberty which their own right hands had won.
Accompanied by a large body of Scandinavians, and prepared to defend by
force of arms their own sovereign rights, these ambitious brothers for
ever abandoned their own country. Ruric established himself at Novogrod;
Sineas at Bielo-Ozero, amongst the Vessians, or Finnish people; and
Truvor at Isborsk, a town of the Krivichians.” The internal
improbability of this relation, in connection with the total absence of
authority for it, must ensure its rejection by every critic.

The foreign historians of Russia, though relying on Russian authority,
have given the only rational history of this event. They assure us that,
after the three brothers had assisted Novogrod to humble her enemies,
they were in no hurry to leave the country. Near the confluence of the
Volkhof with the waters of the Ladoga Ruric built a town, which gave its
name to that lake; and having fortified it, determined to make it a
point of departure for his meditated conquests. His intention was but
too evident to the people of Novogrod, who began to adopt measures for
their defence. The Varangians were no less eager to profit by their
superiority in arms; and to secure their great object, they combined
their forces, and marched on the city. A mercantile people are seldom
warlike. The inhabitants loudly expressed their determination to bury
themselves amidst their houses rather than yield; but when the
formidable enemy appeared before their gates, they preferred the part of
submission, and from that moment received him as sovereign within their
walls. Thus was a republican exchanged for a monarchical government,
despotism for anarchy. Yet Ruric acted with much caution, and caused the
weight of his power to sit as lightly as possible on the people he had
subdued. He established a council of the chief inhabitants, whom he
consulted for some time in every act of importance; and though he
conferred most of the responsible offices on his own followers, his
sway, at once moderate and firm, was an advantage to the people. His
title of grand prince illustrates his wide ambition. His two brothers
were princes; so were some others whom he placed over the local
governments; but they were only his vassals, and their fiefs were
reversible to him as their sovereign. Soon after his elevation, indeed,
both the brothers died; and Ruric incorporated their states with his
own. Both he and they must have been conquerors; for in a few years his
authority extended from the northern extremity of the Ladoga lake to the
western Dwina, and eastward to the confines of Yaroslaf.

But before the death of Ruric the Norman domination extended even to
Kief. Two of his followers, Ascald and Dir, having apparently some
reason for dissatisfaction, left Novogrod with the intention of doing
what many other Scandinavians had done,—of offering their swords to the
Greek emperor. On their way they perceived a little town, built on an
eminence overlooking the Dnieper; and on inquiring to whom it belonged,
they were told that it had been founded by three brothers long before
dead, and that it was inhabited by a quiet inoffensive people, who paid
tribute to the Khozars. The chieftains had a military eye: they saw at
once the importance of such a position; that it might become the centre
of a sovereignty, great perhaps as that of Novogrod; and with the armed
force which they were leading they surprised the place. In a few years
they were joined by great numbers of their countrymen, both from that
city and from Scandinavia. This was the period, indeed, when Harald
Harfagre was consolidating his empire by the reduction of the Norwegian
chiefs, and securing tranquillity by the banishment of the more
licentious pirates. Thousands and tens of thousands must, at this
period, have left Norway in quest of new habitations. Hence Kief soon
became very populous, and so confident of its strength that it sent its
piratical sons to the very gates of Constantinople. Money induced them
to retreat. The domination of the Khozars over Kief was at an end. The
introduction of Christianity into that city did not much assuage the
ferocity of the Normans: many adopted the mass without forsaking their
warrior god.

[Sidenote: 882.]

The establishment of two empires in Russia was soon found to be
impolitic. After the death of Ruric, and during the minority of his son
Igor, Oleg, to whom he had confided the administration, resolved to
incorporate Kief with the northern principality. In his way, the regent
took Smolensko and Lubetch; but on reaching the banks of the Dnieper
beneath that city, he saw that it was too strong to be taken by force,
and he had recourse to stratagem. By a pretended embassy, he lured the
two princes into his power, and put them to death. The other conquests
of Oleg, and his successful efforts to consolidate no less than to
extend the infant empire, must be sought in the histories of that
empire. Sufficient for our purpose is the fact, that these enterprising
men established in Russia a sovereignty which still subsists. The family
of Ruric held the throne of that empire above seven centuries; down to
the accession of the present Romanoff dynasty.[13]

10. _Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Greece, &c._—During the Pagan age,
the Northmen were on the coasts of all these countries, which they
ravaged with success. Their visit to Italy, however, was but transient.
Hastings, their leader, did no more than surprise a town at the mouth of
the Tiber, and returned to Gaul, where a richer spoil invited him. In
Spain, the Scandinavians abode for many years. The important city of
Seville was in their power, and from it they made frequent and most
disastrous incursions into the neighbouring provinces. They were long
too powerful to be expelled by the monarch of Cordova, though that
monarch was no other than the great Abderahman. On the coast of Galicia
too, according to the ancient chroniclers of Castile, they abode for a
season, and caused much mischief to the subjects of Pelayo’s successors.
In Belgium and Spain their ravages were more frequent and more severe;
in fact, there was no cessation to them until the north became
Christianized. But though of their predatory expeditions a volume might
be composed, they would little interest the reader, both because the
description of one is the description of all, and because they left no
permanent or important results behind them. In the expeditions which we
have already contemplated, such results are to be found. In England they
led to the formation of an independent kingdom in Northumbria, compelled
even Alfred to retire into private life, and eventually placed Danish
sovereigns on the throne. In France they occasioned the dismemberment of
Normandy and Brittany from the crown. In Ireland they gave rise to many
principalities, and continued, for centuries, to influence in the
highest degree the fate of that country. In the Orkneys, they led to the
establishment of a powerful dynasty, and produced a hardy race of men
who still possess those islands. In Iceland there was the same result;
and Iceland too became, what to literature is more important,—the refuge
of the Norwegian language, religion, and learning. In Greenland, they
called into existence a colony which subsisted above three hundred
years. In Russia, they laid the foundation of the greatest empire which
the world has yet seen. Even in North America, transient or unknown as
were the results they produced, they exhibit a phenomenon as curious as
it is interesting,—a handful of warlike shepherds, or adventurous
mariners, traversing the wide Atlantic, and attempting to introduce
their own institutions among the savages of another world. But those
which were undertaken into the countries before us were not directed by
master minds, and their motive was only sordid gain. The circumstances,
therefore, which accompanied them may, for any thing we care, slumber in


                              CHAP. V.[15]




  THE religion of the ancient Northmen—which, though it has many points
  of affinity with other religions, has yet a sufficient number of its
  own peculiarities to constitute it a distinct system—has been always
  admitted to be a most interesting and most curious subject of inquiry,
  not merely in the north of Europe, but in England, in Germany, and in
  France. Yet until the last few years, the popular notions concerning
  it were vague and inaccurate; and for the best of all reasons—that, of
  the two sources from which alone a full knowledge of it could be
  acquired, the one had been carelessly, the other partially published.

  The two works to which we allude are the two Eddas, the Elder and the
  Younger; the former attributed to Sæmund, the other to Snorro, the son
  of Sturlo, both Icelanders and both Christians,—the one born in the
  eleventh, the other in the twelfth century.

  Sæmund, who, from his varied knowledge, is styled _hin Frode_, or the
  Learned, and by posterity at least was regarded as a wizard, had
  greater advantages of education than we should have expected in an
  Icelander of that remote period. He studied, we are told, both in
  France and Germany, and is supposed to have visited Rome. On his
  return he settled at Oddé, in the northern part of the island,
  embraced holy orders, and was entrusted with the cure of souls. Much
  of his time, however, was devoted to the education of youth, and to
  literary pursuits. Whether, as Christianity had not long been
  established in that remote island, he was still in some degree
  influenced by the lingering spirit of paganism, or whether (a more
  probable supposition) a taste superior to the age in which he lived
  led him to preserve, instead of destroying, the remaining monuments of
  paganism, we are indebted to him for one of the most curious books
  that has ever occupied the attention of the human mind. This was the
  Elder Edda, the first part of which was published for the first time
  in 1787. The second part did not issue from the press until 1818, nor
  the third until 1828. No writer, therefore, prior to these years,
  could have any just notice of this venerable collection of pieces, or,
  consequently, of the religion which they illustrate. To the advantage
  furnished to the modern student by their publication must be added the
  vast erudition of Finn Magnusen, editor of the third or last part,
  whose Mythological Lexicon and Critical Dissertations (especially the
  one elaborately devoted to “the Edda Doctrine and its Origin”) have
  not only exhausted the subject, but pointed out many of the affinities
  between the Scandinavian religion and that of the most celebrated
  nations both in ancient and modern times.

  The Elder, or Poetic Edda, consists of about forty poems,—all
  anonymous, all, with one exception, pagan compositions, though written
  at different periods, the most recent of them bearing the impress of
  considerable antiquity. They have been arranged, perhaps somewhat
  arbitrarily, into four different classes, according to the nature of
  the subjects. These are—1. the Mystical; 2. the Mythic-didactic; 3.
  the purely Mythological; and 4. the Mythic-historical.

  1. Of the Mystical class, the most prominent is the _Voluspa_
  (Voluspa), the oracle of Vala the prophetess. This contains a rapid,
  abrupt, and very dark account of the whole system, beginning with the
  creation, and ending with the destruction of the universe by fire. All
  things, however, are not to be destroyed: two individuals, a man and a
  woman, are to be saved, and made the progenitors of a new and fairer
  world. It should be observed, that in the Scandinavian as in the Greek
  and Roman superstition, superior sanctity is ascribed to the women.
  They alone knew the fates; even Odin had to consult them when he
  wished to look beyond the dark cloud that concealed the future from
  the gods no less than from mankind.

  The _Grougaldor_, or the magical song of Groa, is another of this
  class. It consists of terms and precepts, the use of which is to
  produce the most astounding supernatural effects. These “words of
  might” were not peculiar to the Odinic worship. They pervade still
  more thoroughly that which Zoroaster instituted, between whom and the
  northern prophet there are more points of resemblance than the learned
  have yet discerned. Both, for example, pretended to magical powers,
  because both found the pretension already in existence when they
  entered on their respective careers; and neither was willing to be
  thought inferior to the members of the priestly caste which he
  undertook to subvert. The magic of the Finns and Lets Odin stigmatized
  as _black_ magic—as inculcated by the powers of darkness for the
  injury of mankind; but _his_ was the white, the pure magic, the kingly
  art. He found a school already established in the north; and with all
  his power he could not wholly extirpate it. There seems, indeed,
  reason to infer that he connived at the union of many native rites
  with his own; or, at least, that if _he_ did not, his immediate
  successors did. Just so it was with the renowned Magian. In
  contemplating the origin of his religion, we may either smile, or be
  provoked, at the prodigies which every where meet us. It is a religion
  of magic; it boasts of supernatural powers; it openly owns not merely
  the possibility, but the necessity, of miraculous results, when the
  words of might which it prescribes are duly pronounced. And if
  miracles and prodigies constitute its peculiar character even at this
  day, in the comparatively civilised Hindostan, they were doubly
  necessary when Zoroaster first announced it to the world. To them he
  boldly appealed for the truth of his mission. The miracles which
  preceded, those which accompanied, his birth, may be seen in the
  elaborate account of him prefixed by Anquetil du Perron to his
  translation of the Zendavesta. Throughout his life, if any faith is to
  be placed in his biographers, he wrought, or pretended to work,
  miracles by his magical terms. Yet he exceeded even Odin in the zeal
  with which he inveighed against the magic of his rivals. Against the
  magicians his most terrible anathemas were hurled; against them he
  waged a war of extermination, and justified the hostility by alleging
  the express command of heaven. But they were the servants of Ahriman,
  the irreconcilable enemies of Ormuzd—of every thing that is good—of
  every thing that issues from the benevolent deity. In their hands,
  magic was sure to become an instrument of evil; but in those of
  himself and his disciples, it could not fail to be an instrument of
  happiness. In the former case it must be fatal, in the latter highly
  useful, to human nature: hence the necessity of destroying in the one
  case that which should be piously maintained in the other. Such, too,
  was the conduct of Odin. There was, however, this difference between
  the two legislators: while the Median regarded women as absolutely
  impure, and confided the celebration of all his rites, magical or
  religious, to the men; the Scythian paid peculiar honour to the sex:
  women were allowed, enjoined, to perform the most solemn, the most
  awful, ceremonies of the new faith. Yet the men were not excluded from
  the privilege. There were colleges or fraternities of wizards from the
  earliest known periods of Scandinavian history, down to the time of
  Harald Harfager, or even later still. Rognevald, a son of that
  monarch, was burned to death, with eighty of his associates, on the
  charge of exercising a magic condemned by Odin, and emanating from the
  evil powers.

  The _Solar Liod_, or Song of the Sun, is almost wholly the composition
  of Sæmund. But then he derived his materials from ancient pagan times.

  2. Of the mytho-didactic poems, the first place may well be assigned
  to the _Vafthrudnis-mâl_. It is, like many of the other Odinic pieces,
  in the form of a dialogue. Odin expresses his resolution to visit
  Vafthrudnir, a famous giant or genius, and of contending with him in
  science. Frigga, his queen, “to whom the future is known,” attempts to
  dissuade him from the journey, because “no one of the genii is to be
  compared with Vafthrudnir in wisdom and valour.” If Odin should be
  vanquished in the contest, he must perish, and with him all the gods
  who were dependent on him. But he persists, assumes the disguise of a
  weary traveller, and proceeds to the palace of the sage giant. On this
  poem, however, we shall not further dilate, as a translation of it may
  be found in a volume of the present collection.[16] This contest
  between the chief of the gods and the giant is derived from the same
  source as the war of the Titans with Jove.

  _Grimnis-mâl_, or Grimner’s Song, is another of the mytho-didactic
  class. Grimner is no other than Odin, who has assumed the disguise of
  an aged minstrel, for a purpose explained by the Icelandic
  introduction to the poem. King Rodung had two sons, the one eight, the
  other ten years of age. One day they embarked in a boat to pass some
  hours in fishing. A storm arising, they were driven into an unknown
  sea, and cast upon a strange coast. Approaching a hut, they were
  hospitably received by the master and mistress, who seemed to be a
  rustic pair, but who in reality were Odin and Frigga. Agner, the
  elder, was the favourite of the latter, Geirrod, the younger, of the
  former. In the hut they remained the whole winter; and when spring
  arrived, they were led to the sea-coast, and embarked in a new vessel
  which their hosts presented to them. When bidding adieu, the male
  rustic whispered something into Geirrod’s ear. The purport of this
  secret may be inferred from the conduct of the prince just as he
  reached land. As he leaped on shore, he pushed the boat away,
  exclaiming to his brother Agner, “Go, where the evil genii may seize
  thee!” Repairing to his father’s court, he found that father no more,
  and he was immediately proclaimed king of the country. On the other
  hand, Agner was among the giants or evil genii, and married to a woman
  of that hated race. Great, therefore, was the contrast between the
  fortunes of the two; and Odin one day, from the highest heaven,
  pointed it out in triumph to his goddess-queen. Frigga declared that
  Geirrod was undeserving of the good fortune; that he was a niggard who
  starved his dependents and guests. This the god refused to credit; and
  when she persisted in the charge, he assumed a mortal form to try the
  experiment. But what man can equal a woman, either god or goddess, in
  cunning? Frigga sent one of her confidential messengers to Geirrod,
  telling him to be on his guard against a wise magician then in his
  dominions, who had resolved to destroy him: that magician was to be
  known by this token—that no dog would bark at him. The royal command
  was therefore given that dogs should be set on all who approached the
  palace, and whomsoever they refused to assail should be brought before
  him. A man, covered with a blue peltz, was brought before him and
  questioned; but the stranger would return no other answer than that he
  was called Grimner. In great wrath, the king placed him between two
  great fires—an infallible way of discovering a wizard—and commanded
  that he should receive no food. There he remained eight days and eight
  nights, suffering from the heat and from thirst, when Agner, the son
  of Geirrod, a boy of ten years, took pity on him, and presented him
  with a full horn, observing that his father did wrong thus to punish a
  guiltless man. Here the piece opens: Odin exclaims that the fire is
  hot; and prophesies that the royal youth shall, for this service, soon
  hold the sceptre of the Goths. He then proceeds—somewhat oddly, only
  immortal beings may be privileged to say or do what they please—to
  describe in succession the twelve mansions of heaven. (To this
  description we shall afterwards advert, when we endeavour to explain
  the cosmogony of the Scandinavians.) He ended by declaring who he was;
  and that the death of Geirrod was at hand. In great fear, the king
  arose to release the divine speaker; but stumbling, the point of his
  sword entered his body, and Agner was immediately proclaimed.

  As many poems on the Edda will hereafter occupy our attention, we
  shall only observe that the _Alvis-mâl_, or song concerning the dwarf
  Alvis; the _Hyndlu-liod_, or song concerning Hyndla; and the
  _Fiolsvinns-mâl_, or story about Fiolsvinr, are of the same class, and
  equally conversant with mythological subjects. The second of these
  also mentions the names of some Norwegian jarls who traced their
  origin to a divine source. The _Hava-mâl_, or sublime discourse of
  Odin, concludes this class of poems. It consists partly of moral
  precepts, some of which are very good; while others are dictated by a
  mind more cunning than wise; and partly of the wonderful powers
  attached to certain runes. For the latter we have no taste; of the
  former, half a dozen specimens may be given.

  “Remain not long a guest in the house of another; for he who does so
  becomes a burden to his host.”

  “A secret can be kept by _one_ person only,—by him whom it concerns.
  If two know it, there is danger; if three know it, it is no longer a

  “Be thou the friend of thy friend’s friend, and in no wise the friend
  of thine enemy’s friend.”

  “If thou hast a true friend, and keepest nothing from him, join thy
  heart with his, exchange gifts with him, and visit him often. The path
  untrodden is soon overgrown.”

  “If thou hast a friend whom thou canst not trust, but yet wouldst
  obtain a benefit from him, speak fairly to him, but keep thine own
  secret: return him falsehood for falsehood.”

  “Trust not to a woman’s word: her heart is moveable as the wheel at
  which she spins, and deceit is cherished in her breast.”

  “The child of one’s old age is the most precious.”

  “Flocks and herds perish; so do friends and kindred; such will be our
  own lot. But one thing there is that will never perish,—the good man’s

  3. The poems purely mythological are of a more interesting class. The
  _Hymis-guida_, or song concerning Hymir, describes an entertainment
  given by Ægir, the sea-god, to the deities of the Scandinavian
  Olympus. Ægir, to his great dismay, has no cauldron large enough to
  brew mead in for such thirsty guests; and Thor goes to borrow or steal
  one from the great Hymir. This entertainment gave rise to another
  poem, the _Loka-glespa_, or quarrelling of Loka with the assembled
  guests. It is curious as showing the estimation in which the gods were
  held by one of their own number. A more imaginative production is the
  _Hamars-heimt_, or recovery of Thor’s mallet, which the guests had
  stolen, and which Thrym, one of the number, had buried eight miles
  below the surface of the ground. The _Rafna-galdur-Odins_, or raven
  song of Odin, describes the lamentations of the gods at their
  approaching annihilation. The _Skirnirs-for_, or journey of Skirnir to
  the region of the giants, in search of a wife for Freyr, one of the
  gods, is graphic, and strikingly illustrative of northern mythology.
  The _Vegtams-guida_, or Song of the Traveller, contains the descent of
  Odin to consult the charmed prophetess Vala concerning the fate of
  Baldur. This piece we have already translated.[17]

  That most of the preceding poems were composed at a period lost in the
  depths of antiquity, and in a region less remote than Scandinavia from
  the cradle of the human race, is exceedingly probable. Such are the
  Voluspa, Vafthrudnis-mâl, Grimnis-mâl, Alvis-mâl, Rafna-galdur-Odins,
  and Vegtams-guida. In regard to Hymis-guida, Hamars-heimt,
  Skirnirs-for, Hyndlu-liod, &c., they do not bear the impress of so
  high an antiquity: they are supposed to be the productions of the
  northern muse. They have their interest; but that interest is much
  stronger when we read the olden pieces. These have been compared by a
  living writer[18] “to the organic remains, the wrecks, of a more
  ancient world; or to the gigantic ruins of Egypt and Hindostan,
  speaking a more perfect civilisation, the glories of which have long
  since departed.” We see, however, no reason for assuming this “more
  perfect civilisation:” the nation or people who knew such doctrines
  might have been ignorant enough, while their priests were
  comparatively learned. The oriental impress which they bear cannot be
  mistaken; still less can we overlook the extreme antiquity which they
  may claim. Kindred with the most ancient superstitions of Rome, of
  Greece, of Persia, they must have been derived from the same common

  4. Of the mytho-historical poems, there are many. In them magic is so
  joined with the ordinary knowledge of life, the supernatural with the
  human, that we are inclined to reject even that which has a real
  historical foundation. In this respect, however, they are like the
  poems of all heroic ages, and not more censurable than those of Homer
  or of Hindostan. A more interesting fact is, that from these lays have
  sprung most of the great Teutonic fictions which adorn the
  Nibelungenlied, and many even of those which we denominate the
  romantic or the chivalric. Probably the incidents are perversions of
  real facts, which happened in a period approaching that of Attila and
  his Huns, whose exploits occupy the attention of the northern muse.
  Some of them, we know, were sung at the court of Olaf Trygveson, the
  Norwegian king. It would not, however, be difficult to trace others to
  a higher source than the age of Attila,—to the source whence the
  heroic classical lore of Greece was derived; and others again bear a
  marked affinity with the legends of the Arabian Nights.

  The prose or younger Edda, usually, but perhaps erroneously, ascribed
  to Snorro Sturleson, has also many of these chivalric or
  mytho-historical lays. Of this venerable monument of antiquity the
  world could form no just notion prior to the year 1818, when that
  admirable scholar professor Rask published his edition. The edition of
  Resenius—the only one previously known to Europe—is an imperfect work,
  derived from corrupted MSS. and the notes of the Scalds are often
  confounded with the text. It consists of several parts. The _Formali_,
  which is the introduction, has many legends and fables respecting the
  descent of nations, especially of the Scandinavian. They are evidently
  from both Asiatic and European sources. After the introduction, comes
  the _Gylfa-ginning_, or deception of Gylfa. This personage was a king
  of Swithiof (part of Sweden) and a famous magician,—the head of the
  native magical college which the Aser were endeavouring to subvert. To
  account for their superior power, the result of their superior wisdom,
  he determined to assume a disguise, and proceed at once to the cradle
  of the Aser in the east. Under the name of Gangler (the traveller), he
  reaches the celestial city, and finds an oracle capable of resolving
  all his doubts, of removing all his ignorance. To each of his
  questions the reply is in full, explaining the mythology of the elder
  Edda, illustrated by extracts from the Voluspa, the Hava-mâl, and the
  predictions of the Scalds. This part of the work is, in its design,
  and partly in its execution, so similar to the Vafthrudnis-mâl in the
  elder Edda, that it must have been derived from it, or from a source
  common to both. The _second_ part of the prose Edda, called
  _Braga-raedar_, contains the recitation of his best pieces by the
  divine Braga, at the banquet of the sea-god Ægir. The _Eptirmali_ is a
  kind of epilogue written by Icelandic poets immediately prior to
  Snorro, or possibly by Snorro himself. It is an attempt to explain
  many of the fables in the Edda, by the circumstances of the Trojan
  war. In addition to all these subjects, we have the _Skalda_, which is
  a kind of _ars poetica_, for the use of poetical students.

  While mentioning the prose Edda, we are naturally drawn to its reputed
  compiler Snorro, the son of Sturle, who was also the compiler of the
  Heimskringla, our only sure guide for northern history down to the
  13th century. This extraordinary man was born in 1178, near the bay of
  Hoams-fiord, on the domain of his family. He was, consequently, above
  a century later than Sæmund, whose birth was between 1050 and 1060.
  His descent was illustrious; it could be traced to the ancient
  Ynglings and to the jarls of Moria. In his fourth year he was sent to
  Oddé, which, as we have before related[19], had been the residence of
  that remarkable priest; and, strange to say, he was educated under the
  direction of Sæmund’s grandson, Jon Loptston. Here he remained until
  his twentieth year, and was instructed in Greek no less than in Roman
  literature. The MSS. collections made by Sæmund and Ari Frode, were
  his delight; and to them he was indebted for the ruling bias of his
  life. In 1197 he left Oddé, and by marrying the daughter of a rich
  priest, greatly increased his patrimonial inheritance. In every thing
  fortune smiled upon him; he became in a few years the richest man on
  the island; and when he appeared at the Al-thing, he was generally
  escorted by a body of some hundred horsemen. In 1202, he removed his
  residence from Borg, one of his patrimonial seats, to the estate of
  Reykholt, which he had also inherited. This place he fortified—a proof
  that deadly feuds were common—and adorned it with works that evinced
  alike his genius and his riches. In 1213, he was raised to the dignity
  of logsogomadr[20], or chief judge of the island. No man could be
  better qualified for duties, the nature and origin of which had
  occupied so much of his time. In 1218 he visited Norway, where he was
  well received by king and nobles. His fame, indeed, had travelled
  before him. Among his poetical compositions were some odes in honour
  of the great; and these, (for flattery has every where the same
  effect) procured him many valuable presents, not only in Norway, but
  in Sweden. His sojourn in West and East Gothland doubtless originated
  in his desire to collect all the information which tradition, and
  possibly MSS., could furnish him in regard to his ancestors, and the
  Yngling princes. But his patriotism seems to have been inferior to his
  genius. That he entered into a conspiracy for the complete subjection
  of his country to the Norwegian court is certain. In 1220, both
  enriched and honoured, he returned to Iceland; but we no longer
  perceive in him the great qualities which had led to his election in
  1213. Avaricious, haughty, revengeful, he made enemies on every side,
  and in 1237 was compelled to seek a refuge from their fury. Again he
  repaired to Norway, where he found one of his old patrons, Skule, the
  jarl, plotting for the crown of the realm. That plot he favoured; he
  even wrote a poem in support of that nobleman’s claims. Yet he also
  flattered the king, from whom he received the title of jarl. But he
  had designs deeper than either Skule or the king suspected; and in a
  short time some of his intrigues were known to that monarch. He was
  forbidden to sail for Iceland; and when he departed in defiance of
  that prohibition, secret instructions were sent to his son-in-law,
  Gissur Thorwaldson, to seize him and send him bound to Norway; or if
  this should be impossible, to put him to death. The extremities to
  which feuds in a barbarous age may be carried, are clearly illustrated
  by the conduct of Gissur. Though so nearly connected with the
  historian; though formerly the most intimate of his friends; he
  performed the more atrocious part of the proposal. The great wealth of
  Snorro, there can be no doubt, was one inducement to the deed of
  blood; but this must have been inferior to the feeling of vengeance.
  His measures required caution, for Snorro was powerful; and to be
  prepared, had only to be warned. His design was penetrated by one of
  Snorro’s friends, who in a Runic letter acquainted him with his
  danger. But this letter the poet could not understand;—we are told
  even that he could not read it; and that all to whom he showed it were
  equally unable to decipher it. However this be, Thorwaldson, marching
  at the head of a strong body of men belonging to a clan at deadly feud
  with his victim, hastened to Reykholt, where he surprised and murdered
  the noble owner, September 22., 1241.

  Snorro, as we have observed, is the reputed collector of the prose
  Edda, and of the Heimskringla. A collector merely he seems to have
  been; but he exhibited great judgment in selecting, arranging, and
  modernising the poetic compositions which he followed. For his
  history, no less than his mythology, the pagan Scalds were his

  So much for matter purely introductory. From the two Eddas, assisted
  by the commentaries of the best northern scholars, we proceed to lay
  before the reader the most striking features of the cosmogony and
  religion of the Scandinavians; and to accompany them by such
  reflections as may seem necessary to show their origin and nature.

                               SECTION I.



In the Voluspa, or Song of the Prophetess, the Vala, who is probably
Urda, the Norny of the past, being seated on a high throne, and
surrounded by the deities, acquaints them with the wonders of creation,
and of the destiny reserved for them all,—destruction. In the
Grimnis-mâl[21], Odin gives a similar account of the origin of all
things; and throughout the elder Edda, we have allusion to the same
doctrines. From them was derived the relation in the younger or prose
Edda, with the merit of being much clearer. According to both, there
existed in the beginning, on the site of the world, a vast abyss,
Ginnunga-gap, which contained nothing. But to the north of that abyss
there was another world, called Nifleheim, the cold and misty. It
contained nothing but a spring, Vergelmer, from which flowed eleven
great rivers into the abyss. They were called Elivagar (the cold
waters), and their streams were poisonous as they were cold. As they
flowed on, owing to the cold they became more sluggish in their course;
so that when they reached the centre of the abyss, they were converted
into ice. Still they flowed, and still the ice increased, until the
whole Ginnunga-gap was filled. Out of such materials what could be made?
It was necessary to create some other power before the visible universe
could be formed. This northern realm, Nifleheim, which contained nothing
except the fountain, which had no quality except that of coldness, which
was covered with darkness, could, of itself, produce nothing; it could
only send the sluggish poisonous waters into the centre of the abyss.
That these waters were eternal we may infer; but we cannot infer how
long the ice had accumulated when the real events of creation began. The
agent of that creation is placed in another region, or rather world,
Muspelheim, which lay far to the south of Ginnunga-gap, and which was
intolerably hot,—more hot than Nifleheim was cold. The origin of this
earth and its inhabitants, therefore, was the work of these two
agencies, heat and cold, operating on the poisonous waters which lay
between them. (Muspelheim, we suppose, with its numerous fiery
inhabitants, and their mighty chief Surtur, the dark, the
incomprehensible, the great evil principle, had no beginning; or if it
had, the Odinian theologians were unacquainted with it.) What was frozen
by the one influence was thawed by the other. It was probably some
centuries before the heat from Surtur’s fiery empire dissolved the
prodigious mass into a liquid element. From that element sprung the
giant Ymer, by a process of generation which the northern sages do not
deign to explain; and his vast bulk filled no inconsiderable portion of
the abyss, as will soon appear from the use made of his corpse. This
giant begat others. How? By a process no less odd than that which
brought him into being. While asleep, a male and a female sprung from
his left armpit; and he had the felicity too, by rubbing one foot
against another, to produce a son. Why there should be _three_ ancestors
to the Rimthurser, or frost-giants, when, in our humble notion, two
might have sufficed, is another mystery which we shall not attempt to
penetrate. How were all nourished, seeing that there was no alimentary
substance created? By the Supreme Being, the Great Alfadur, a cow with
four teats was created; and from these flowed four rivers of milk. The
cow herself was sustained by licking the salt-rocks, on which the hoar
frost still lay. But her destiny was not fulfilled by this service; she
was to call into existence a new race. When she had licked one day, the
hair appeared; when she had licked two, there was a head; when three,
there was a complete animal,—a man or giant, named Burè. This Burè, in
his turn, became the father (probably by marriage with a descendant of
Ymer) of Bur, or Bôrr, or Bore, who was more famous than any of his
predecessors. His son married a lady of the giant race, named Bestla,
and by her had three gods, Odin, Vilè, and Vè. Before these were long
born, they slew the old giant Ymer. His blood was sufficient to drown
all of the giant race, except Bergelmer and his wife, who sailed away to
the mountains, and became the progenitors of a new race of giants. The
corpse was now cast into the Ginnunga-gap; and from it heaven and earth
were created. Thus the Grimnis-mâl:—

                      From Ymer’s flesh
                      Was the earth formed;
                      The sea from his blood,
                      The hills from his bones,
                      Plants from his hair,
                      Heaven from his skull;
                      From his eye-brows
                      Formed the mild gods
                      Midgard for the sons of men.
                      But from his brain
                      Were the thick clouds
                      All created.

This heaven, made from the giant’s skull, was supported by four dwarfs,
East, West, North, South, and at one of the corners, a living pillar.
(What supports the earth, or the dwarfs themselves, we are not
informed). The globes of fire which ascended from Muspelheim, and spread
through all space, were now placed by the three gods in the firmament,
and made sun, moon, and stars, to enlighten heaven and earth.

That these notions are wild and extravagant will be asserted by most
readers; but do they not involve physical truths? Were they not invented
by the priests of old to cover their learning from the vulgar gaze? Let
us hear the interpretation of Finn Magnussen, the most learned, the most
acute, though, in too many instances, the most visionary, of northern
commentators. The giant Ymer, he observes, represents the chaotic
undigested state of the earth, produced by the combined effects of heat
and cold upon water. That water was the first existing matter, is
evident even from holy scripture. Many nations regarded it as the source
of all things. The opinions of the Greek philosopher on this subject are
well known; but we may mention the Orphic fragment preserved by
Athenagoras. The water produced mud; the mud produced a monster with
three heads,—the head of a god, of a lion, of an ox. This monster,
which, however, was a deity, laid an egg, the upper half of which formed
the heaven, the lower half the earth. From the union of heaven and
earth, the offspring were, first the three fates, and then the giants
and cyclops who rebelled, and were eventually cast into the Tartarean
gulf. The Greeks, like all other people, had seen the mud deposited by
water give birth to animals, after receiving for a time the solar heat.
The action, therefore, of fire on the slimy particles thus deposited,
was received as a generative principle; and assuredly there is nothing
more irrational in the system of Scandinavia than in that of Greece. The
Egyptian system was conformable with it. An original chaos; the
separation of the mud from the waters; the action of the sun, or of
heat, on the mud; the fermentation which followed; and the origin of
animal existence, are the great features: as a necessary result, the
sun, no less than the water, was deified. In the Scandinavian, as in the
other systems, some kinds of matter were eternal. Eternal were the mists
of Nifleheim, and the well Vergelmer; eternal perhaps the abode of
Surtur, Surtur himself, and his fiery spirits. From the beneficent
Alfadur nothing evil was to spring; he, therefore, we suppose, could not
create Muspelheim, or its inhabitants; nor could he give birth to the
giants of the frost, who are emphatically called wicked: hence their
origin from the poisonous waters of Nifleheim.

If, in respect to water and fire, the cosmogony of the Scandinavians was
kindred with that of other people, the resemblance furnished by the cow
was equally great. “We need not be surprised,” observes Magnussen, “that
men selected the ox, the most useful and widely-spread animal with which
they were acquainted, for a cosmic symbol in its various forms. The cow
was probably our first nurse; and the oldest nations, especially the
Hindoos and the Egyptians, regarded her with religious veneration, and
called her the mother of mankind. When men applied poetry to cosmogony,
they elevated a mythic cow to the place of earth’s mother, or nurse.
Such is our Audumbla. And if the cow was the mother, well may the bull
(as in India) be held the father: he propagated the race, drew the
plough, and in both cases might be said to rear or nurse mankind.” Among
the Persians, the cow was held in even greater veneration than among the
Scandinavians. The Abudad was the earth, which Jemsheed (the sun)
pierced with his dagger. The cow was the symbol of creation, the
instrument which Ormuzd employed for the production of the first human
being. A cow, too, received the soul of Zoroaster, and transmitted it in
the form of milk to the father of the prophet; but the notion was common
to most people. The Cimbri in Italy had their copper ox, on which they
swore, just as the Egyptians swore by Apis. It was the symbol of heaven,
just as the cow was that of earth; it was held to be the father, just as
the female was the mother, of all. The chariot of Hertha, or mother
earth, was, as Tacitus informs us, drawn by cows. The Io of the Greeks
was probably derived from the same widely-spread doctrine.

The cow, according to Finn Magnussen, is a purification of the
atmosphere in the Scandinavian mythos of the creation. This, however, is
not very clear; nor do we perceive more justice in the explanation given
of Burè’s origin,—that the licking of the salt-rocks betokens the
emersion of the solid earth from the deep waters. In another of his
analogies, he is whimsical—that which makes Bôrr, or Bors, to be the
Elbors, the Caucasus of the Persians. A correspondence of names is, in
most cases, purely accidental, and proves nothing. More rational,
perhaps, is our commentator, when he treats of Odin, Vilè, and Vè, which
he makes into air, light and fire. The three gods destroyed Ymer, that
is, the elements in question destroyed chaos. Whether, however, he is
equally successful in the derivation of the three words, may be
disputed; but there is much ingenuity, and some plausibility, in all.
The Greek ατμός, the Sanscrit _atma_, the Teutonic _athem_, all
signifying air or breath, are certainly cognate; and they are probably
the same with the Othem, or Odin, or Woden, of the Germans. But whether
Odin or Woden is derived from the Latin _vado_, to go through, to
pervade, is not so clear. If this etymology were established, we should
have no difficulty in conceiving Odin to be the air, the breath, the
soul of the world. Still the subject is worthy of consideration; and the
reader may adopt or reject it. He will be less inclined to admit the
derivation of Vilè, which seems far-fetched. Nor are we quite sure that
_Vè_, akin to _Vesta_, is to be taken for elemental _fire_, or
metaphorically for _life_. Yet on a subject so obscure, we are unwilling
to pronounce dogmatically.

The destruction of Ymer and his offspring, the wicked giants of the
frost, by the divine race, is evidently the same mythos as the defeat of
the Titans by Jove; of Ahriman and the evil genii, by Ormuzd and the
Amshaspands. Surtur is the Ahriman of Scandinavia. He is the author of
evil, viz., of the giants; and is destined one day to assist in the
destruction of the universe. We read of the great Alfadur,—another than
Odin who is sometimes called eternal. It is pleasing to read such
notions of a First Cause, in such an age. To this omnipotent, eternal,
and beneficent Being, who is far above all the worlds, inaccessible to
any thing created, there are more allusions than one in the Edda of
Sæmund. Thus the Hyndlu-mâl, after mentioning the destruction of Odin,
with all the gods:—

                          Yet there shall come
                          Another mightier,
                          Although him
                          I dare not name.
                          Farther onward
                          Few can see,
                          Than where Odin
                          Meets the Wolf.

Such notions may be regarded as traces of a purer religious
dispensation—of the patriarchal. As an eminent northern writer elegantly
observes[22]—“Thus sounds the voice of the northern prophetess, the
Vala, to us obscure and indistinct, through the darkness of ages. It
speaks of other times, other men and ideas; if fettered by the bonds of
superstition, it longs after eternal light, and, though imperfectly,
expresses that longing. We may also recognise some of those mighty minds
of which Pindar speaks, as wandering eternally over earth and sea. In
such sounds heaven and earth announce an Eternal Being, and at the same
time their own mortality,—truths which no paganism has expressed more
strongly than the Scandinavian. However darkly, still it does allude to
the Mighty One on high, who is above all the deities of nature,—to one
mightier than the mighty, whom it dares not name,—to that unknown God
whom the Athenians also worshipped.” We may, however, doubt whether this
notion of the One First Cause, dark as it is, was introduced by Odin
into the north. In most of the relics which the ancient pagans have left
us, we have traces of two religions, distinct from each other,—both from
Asia, but not at the same period, or from the same region. The worship
of Thor, for example, seems to be much more ancient than that of Odin;
and perhaps before either was known—before the light of patriarchal
truth was entirely departed from the north—the elementary form of
worship, the most ancient and least debasing of all superstitions,

The three gods, Odin, Vilè and Vè, were not the only created beings.
Besides Bergelmer and his wife, from whom sprung a new giant race, other
offspring than the three deities resulted from the union of Bôrr with

                       The maid so good and fair
                       Though born of giant race.

From these sprung all the good, benevolent beings,—gods, goddesses,
elves, Vanir, and spirits of air, of whom more in the proper place. All
these were created before man. So also were the Duergar, or dwarfs.

According to the prose Edda, they bred like maggots in Ymer’s dead body;
but the Voluspa tells us that they were created by the gods from the
blood and bones of that giant:

                       Then went the gods
                       To their exalted seats;
                       The high and holy
                       Then consulted
                       Of them which
                       Should form the dwarfs
                       From the sea-giant’s blood,
                       And his blue bones.
                       Thus Modsogner is
                       The chief become
                       Of all the dwarfs;
                       And after him Durin.

But the former account is preferable, because it accounts more
satisfactorily for the cruel, vindictive, yet often contemptible
character of the race,—a race with small deformed bodies, large heads,
flat noses, and still more despicable in mind. Probably, as Mr.
Magnussen conjectures, these beings, who could not bear the light of
day; who, if they accidentally saw it, were changed into rocks; whose
life was passed in the bowels of the earth, especially in the bowels of
the mountains, were intended to personify the subterraneous powers of
nature. Their names, when translated, favour the interpretation. Wind,
Blast, Gleam, Light, Fruit-giver, Iceberg, and others equally fantastic,
attest their elementary character. Of all beings they were the most
skilful, the most expert, the most industrious: they were unrivalled
smiths; they manufactured wondrous armour, and other enchanted things,
which were highly prized by the gods, who excelled them in power, but
were inferior in ingenuity.

The beings next created were mankind. “The sons of Bure,” says the prose
Edda, “went to the sea-shore, and found two trees, which they formed
into man and woman. Odin gave them breath and life; Vilè, understanding
and vigour; Vè, beauty of form, speech, hearing, sight.” But the Valuspa
says that it was Haenir who gave understanding, and Loder a fair
complexion. These, however, may be only different names for the same
beings. Askur was the name of the first man, and Embla of the woman; the
former signifying an ash tree, the latter, it is said, an elm. This is
evidently a vegetable mythos. It is not peculiar to the Goths. Hesiod
informs us that Zeus formed the third race of men from ash trees. The
ancient Medians had the same notion; the mythic Kaiamar died without
issue because without mate; but from his remains in forty years sprung a
tree with fifteen branches; and from it Ormuzd fashioned the first
progenitors of mankind.

Midgard, or the middle world, was made for the habitation of man; but
before we describe it, we must glance at the other worlds with which it
was connected. According to both the poetic and the prose Edda, there
were _nine_.

                            THE NINE WORLDS.

In the Valuspa, the prophetess says—

                          I tell of nine worlds
                          And of nine heavens.

The giant Vafthrudnis has the same boast; and Alvis, the dwarf, tells

                         All the nine worlds
                         Have I passed through
                         And every being known.

These worlds, which were all vertically arranged, except Utgard, which
was on the same plane with Midgard, are thus specified by Magnussen:—

1. _Gimlè_, the residence of the Supreme Being, the eternal Alfadur.
Connected with it was Liosalfaheim, the abode of the benevolent light
elves (of whom an account in the proper place). This region is to be the
everlasting abode of the good after the destruction of the universe.

2. _Muspelheim_, the world of Surtur and his fiery genii, which lay far
below Liosalfaheim. This world was _perhaps_ uncreated and _perhaps_
will not be destroyed.

3. _Asgard_ (Aser-yard), or _Godheim_, the residence of the Aser, or
gods; the starry firmament, which lay far below Muspelheim.

4. _Vanaheim_, the residence of the Vanir or spirits of air: it was also
called _Vindheim_, the home of the winds. Its position was the
atmosphere below Asgard.

5. _Midgard_ (mid-yard), so called because it was the middle world,
between Gimlè above, and Nifleheim below. It was also called _Manheim_,
from its being the home of men.

6. _Utgard_ (outer-yard), or _Jotunheim_, the home of the giants, lay
beyond the vast sea which, according to the Scandinavian cosmography,
encompasses Midgard. Midgard and Utgard are horizontal with each other.

7. _Swartalfaheim_, the home of the black elves or dwarfs, the spirits
of darkness, is situated in the bowels of the earth.

8. _Helheim_, the palace of Hela, the goddess of death, lower far than
Swartalfaheim, and the abode of all, however good, who die a natural

9. _Nifleheim_, the world of mist, the lowest of all the worlds. It
contains the poisonous fountain and rivers in which the bad are to be

Of these worlds six are to perish,—perhaps seven, for there is some
doubt as to Muspelheim. The virtuous are to enjoy an eternity of
happiness in Gimlè; the wicked an eternity of punishment in Nifleheim.

                          GIMLE AND MUSPELHEIM

Defy description. None of the Valas, none of the gods, none of the
giants or dwarfs who boasted of their having seen these nine worlds,
have left us any record of either. The former, indeed, must have been
inaccessible to all created intelligences; but Liosalfaheim was esteemed
less holy. Why Muspelheim was placed so near to Gimlè has not been
satisfactorily explained; but we may infer that Surtur and his subjects,
ministers of evil as they were, were only the instruments of the unknown
power. In one account, they are said to be placed there to forbid the
ascent of any hostile foot to the pure realms so far above them.

                          MIDGARD AND UTGARD.

The notion entertained of Midgard by the Scandinavians was, that it is
round; that it is entirely encompassed by a vast sea; and that at the
extremity of this sea begins Utgard, the abode of the giant race
descended from Bergelmer and his wife. No better description of Utgard
can be given than that which has been already given in the mysterious
voyages of Gorm and Thorkill.[23] We will, however, have frequent
occasion to revert to the same subject.

The notion in question was not different from that of the Greeks. In the
time of Homer, the earth was regarded as horizontal and circular, with
the Mediterranean in its centre; which by one or more channels
communicated with the ocean-stream that flowed round the land. On the
other side of that ocean-stream was the abode of the Cimmerians and also
of the damned,—a region dark and dismal as that to which the two Danish
navigators, Gorm and Thorkill, repaired. The heaven too was thought to
be solid, supported by four great pillars, which answer to the four
dwarfs of the Hindoos and Scandinavians. The latter had a bridge from
earth to heaven,—the _bifrost_, or rainbow, which though slender, was
strong as adamant; and in this they resembled the Magians, whose sacred
books speak of a similar bridge, most dangerous to pass, between the
earth and the mount of the good genii. The Magians, too, recognised a
dark country to the north, inhabited by evil genii, whose assaults are
continually dreaded by the deities of the stony firmament. But reverting
to the Greeks, the description which Ælian gives of the earth, is still
more kindred with that of the northern pagans. “Europe, Asia, and
Lybia,” says he, “are only islands, being surrounded by a great sea; but
encircling the world is a continent of vast magnitude. On it are to be
found huge animals: the men are double the size of us; and they live
twice as long. Some are martial, and always at war; others so
inoffensive and pious, as to be honoured sometimes by the conversation
of the gods. They have gold and silver in abundance; and they value gold
less than we do iron. A thousand myriads of them once crossed the ocean,
and came to the country of the Hyperboreans. Near the extremity of that
country there is a place called Avostos, resembling a large gulf or bay,
where it is neither perfectly light, nor perfectly dark, but where a
strong lurid sky hangs down to the earth.” The Arabians had the same
notion of the mysterious country to the north; and of the giant race
which inhabited it,—a race which is one day to destroy the world.


Asgard, the residence of the gods, deserves a more detailed description.
This vast city, as it is called by the Edda, was built by Odin and his
two brothers immediately after the death of Ymer. It was well fortified,
to defend it against the Vanir below, and the fiery sons of Muspelheim
above. In it were twelve palaces, for the twelve chief gods:—

                  1. Ydale, the abode of Uller

                  2. Alfheim, the abode  Freyr

                  3. Valaskialf, the     Vale (or
                  abode of               Vile)

                  4. Soequabeck, the     Saga
                  abode of

                  5. Gladsheim, the      Odin
                  abode of

                  6. Thrymheim, the      Skada
                  abode of

                  7. Breidablik, the     Baldur
                  abode of

                  8. Himmelbierg, the    Heimdal
                  abode of

                  9. Folkvangur, the     Freya
                  abode of

                  10. Glitner, the abode Forsete

                  11. Noatun, the abode  Niord

                  12. Landvide, the      Vidar.
                  abode of

                   With Thrudheim, the house of Thor.

At the first glance every reader must perceive that by these twelve
palaces are meant the twelve signs of the zodiac; and by Thrudheim the
region of the sun. It could scarcely be expected, indeed, that the
Scandinavians should be ignorant of a system which prevailed over the
whole earth. Like the Egyptians and Assyrians, and Persians and Hindoos,
they divided their year into twelve parts or months, and placed over
each a god.

The best description of these abodes is in the Edda, in the poem of
Grimnis-mâl. It is Odin himself, while between the two fires[24], that
describes them to Geirrod and Agner. The mere enumeration of these
palaces, and of the divine inhabitants, would be useless unaccompanied
by astronomical explanations. To the critical antiquaries of the north,
especially to Finn Magnussen, must be conceded the honour of having
first penetrated the hidden mysteries of their mythology. From him
chiefly we condense the following account.


Thrudheim, or Thrudvangur, the residence of Thor, the god of thunder, is
the atmosphere between Asgard and the earth. The palace in which the god
dwelt was called _Bilskirner_, which Ohlenschlager, the modern Danish
poet, thus justly describes:—

                   In wide Thrudvangur’s land
                     (So ancient Scalds indite),
                   A palace vast doth stand,
                     Unmatched in breadth and height.
                   Its halls with burnish’d gold
                     Are richly fretted o’er;
                   Their number rightly told,
                     Five hundred and two score.

                   Blue lakes and verdant fields
                     Smiling around are spread;
                   Studded with copper shields,
                     The palace glares in red.
                   From distant earth its walls
                     Some radiant meteor seem:
                   Far off the warrior halls
                     In purple splendour gleam.[25]

                               1. YDALE.

Uller’s month commenced the Scandinavian year with the entrance of the
sun into Sagittarius, November 22., and ended December 21. Uller
excelled as an _archer_, and he was unrivalled in the art of skating on
the ice and snow: hence he was the god of hunting. He was the son of the
goddess Sif, whose second husband was Thor; but the name of his father,
the first husband, does not appear. Ydale, his residence, signifies the
dewy valley.

                              2. ALFHEIM.

Freyr month commenced December 21., when the sun entered Capricorn. He
was the son of Niord, one of the Vanir, and produced at the same birth
with his sister Freya. He was the god of the sun,—doubtless because
during this month the days began to lengthen, that is, the sun to
return. In the same manner the Egyptians honoured their heroes; and from
them, perhaps, the Romans styled the winter solstice “natalitia invicti
solis.” Alfheim, the abode of the light elves, was given to him for a
residence by the gods, when he cut his first tooth. “He is to be
invoked,” says the Edda, “for peace and a good season: he is the
dispenser of blessings to mankind.”

                             3. VALASKIALF.

Liosberi, the light-bringer, which extended from January 21. to February
19., began when the sun entered Valaskialf, the residence of Valè, and
was sacred to that god. He was a son of Odin by Rinda (frost), a
personification of the frozen barren earth. He presided over mid-winter.
As the sun was now gaining power, his festival was celebrated by
illumination in the houses. In imitation of that pagan ceremony, the
Gothic christians had their Candlemas and the feast of torches. Valè too
was an archer, probably from the rays of the sun, which now shot
downwards with greater force. Valaskialf was said to be white, and
covered with silver,—an allusion to the snowy character of the month.
Valè (also called Bo[26]) slew Hoder the blind god, who had killed
Baldur. This mythos signifies that the day is beginning to triumph over
the night,—for Hoder is the symbol of darkness. Valentine’s day fell
within the dominion of Valè,—when half the month was run. Was it derived
from this pagan god?

                             4. SOEQUABECK.

The fourth month, sacred to Saga, commenced February 19. and ended March
19. Soequabeck signifies the deep brook; in allusion, no doubt, to the
abundant rains which fall, and to the snows which are thawed, at this
period, which, in some places, indeed, to this day retains the name of
Fillbrook. Mythologically, Odin and Saga are said to drink deeply this
month. Saga, the goddess of tradition and history, is here put for Urda,
the norny of the past. The name, however, of the month, or house, is
much more explicit than that of the goddess; for what has the deep brook
in common with history? The key to the difficulty may, we think, be
found in the fact, that at this period was held the great assembly of
Upsal, when all the freemen who were able to attend hastened to the
temple, and heard the pontiffs relate the past exploits of the gods;
then at the Al-thing, which was held immediately after the sacrifices,
listened to the explanation of the old laws, and to the promulgation of
new ones, by the judges. Upsal was the place of meeting for the Swedes:
the Danes and Norwegians had a different place, but at the same period
of the year. On these occasions, the people took care that the name of
the month, Soequabeck, should be appropriate; for, in imitation of Odin
and Saga, they made the cup pass merrily round.

                             5. GLADSHEIM.

Gladsheim, the joyful house, the month sacred to Odin, carries its own
signification with it. From the 20th of March to that of April, was
indeed a joyful season.

                             6. THRYMHEIM.

The next month, when the sun was in Thrymheim (April 21. to May 20.),
was called Harpa or Harpen, alluding probably to the music of the birds
at this season. This sixth house, Thrymheim, had been the residence of
the giant Thiasse, but is now of his daughter, Skada. On his death, by
the hands of Thor, she was given to Niord, and thus became a goddess.
This mythos may be easily explained. The ancient summer began with this
month. Thiasse, the genius of winter, is slain by Thor, the thunder
god,—for in the mountainous regions of the north the sound begins again
to be heard. Skada represents the clear, penetrating wind of spring.

                             7. BREIDABLIK.

The ninth solar house (May 21. to June 23.), Breidablik,—the
wide-shining, was named Baldur from the god who inhabited it. An
unclouded sun, warm breezes, and sudden fertility, caused the god to be
esteemed the most beautiful of all the deities; to be denominated the
fair, the bright, the gentle, the good. The mythos of his death by the
hands of Hoder[27], may be explained by the gradual yielding of the sun
to the encroachments of night; for Hoder is represented as blind, and is
employed as the symbol of darkness. The nights are beginning to
lengthen, the sun to leave the northern hemisphere: Hoder, or darkness,
is instigated by Loke, the personification of evil, to encroach on the
light. In all the ancient systems, especially in the Magian, which has
so many points of affinity with the Scandinavian, night is the
characteristic of the evil, just as light is of the good principle; and
the former is always at war with the latter. The tears of all nature for
the fate of Baldur more strongly illustrate the truth of the physical
interpretation. Even the mistletoe, the instrument of Baldur’s death,
was not chosen without a meaning; it flourishes when the tree decays; it
retains its verdure throughout the winter: hence it was the symbol of
immortality, while the physical god was created mortal. When heroes or
monarchs died, their bodies were burnt: the funeral fire was therefore a
rite necessary to the honour of the dead; and all who loved him or were
dependent on him, were present on this last solemn occasion. In the
mythos, Odin and all the gods were present: their worshippers,
corroborating the physical interpretation, honoured Baldur on mid-summer
eve by lighting fires on the high mountain tops. When the Northmen, and
we may add, Scotland and Ireland, received the Christian faith, they
still continued the custom; but now they paid the honour, not to Baldur,
but to St. John, whose festival happened at the same period.

                            8. HIMMELBIERG.

The eighth solar house, _Himmelbierg_, or the heavenly mountain, the
abode of Heimdal, was so called because the sun was now at its height.
Himmelbierg, being the highest of all the palaces, was well adapted for
watching; hence Heimdal was the watchman of the gods; and from his
elevated situation he looked out upon the whole universe. His golden
teeth, his golden-maned horse, his appellation “the whitest and
brightest of the Aser,” are but so many expressions for the unusual
splendour of the sun at this season (June 23. to July 23). Another of
his epithets, the _declining_, alluding to the declination of the sun in
the heavens, is equally explanatory of the mythos. Heimdall, says the
Edda, needs less sleep than a bird; an allusion to the extreme shortness
of the nights in northern countries at the summer solstice. He can see
as well, it adds, by night as by day,—meaning that, at this season,
there is no such thing as darkness, properly so called. His hearing,
too, is equally acute: not even the growth of the grass, or of wool on
the sheep’s back, escaped him. This may denote the silence of all nature
during the great heat, and especially during the night.

                             9. FOLKVANGUR.

The sun careered through Folkvangur, from July 23. to August 23. The
word means a meeting of people in the field, alluding most evidently to
the harvest labours during this season. Hence, Freya was considered the
goddess of fertility, and, figuratively, of love. An extension of the
same figure rendered her the goddess of the night,—of the moon,—of the
planet Venus.

                              10. GLITNER.

Glitner, the tenth house (August 23. to September 23.), was ruled by the
god Forsete, which means the _fore-sitter_, the president. Every year
this deity held a _Thing_ at the will of Urda, the norny of the past;
and there he decided all controversies so justly that every party was
satisfied. Forsete, therefore, was the god of justice. On earth, too, in
imitation of the mythical proceedings above, a great judicial assembly,
or Al-thing, was held at this season. During its continuance, and indeed
during the whole time of harvest, all feuds were suspended; hence the
satisfaction of all with his authority.

                              11. NOATUN.

Noatun was the abode of Niord, and the eleventh great solar house
(September 23. to October 23). Niord (of whom more hereafter) was a
prince of the Vanir, but was admitted among the gods. He was lord of the
winds, and consequently of the sea, which is governed by them. Noatun,
his residence, was said to lie near the sea-shore, but higher in the
clouds. He was the beneficent deity of the sea, while Ægir and Ram were
the terrible deities of the same element. The meaning is, that though in
this month the winds were high, they were not destructive to ships.

                             12. LANDVIDE.

Landvide, the twelfth solar house, means empty or barren land,—a term
descriptive enough of the earth at this season. As this is the last of
the months so Vidar, the presiding deity, is to outlive the rest of the
gods, and to revenge the death of his father Odin on the wolf Fenris.

Such were the divine palaces of Asgard. But that great world had other
parts, which require a moment’s notice. Three of them belonged to
Odin:—Gladsheim was the great palace or hall where he presided over the
twelve diar, or judges, who administered the affairs of Asgard.
Valaskialf, the palace of his son Valè, was also his own. The highest
part of this dwelling was called Lidskialf, where he had a throne, and
which was so elevated that he could see all the dwellers upon earth. But
more celebrated than these, or all his other abodes, was _Valhalla_.

                     Easily can they
                     Who come to Odin
                     Perceive and know Valhall.
                     The roof is decked with spears,
                     The walls covered with shields,
                     The benches with helmets.

This was the great hall in which Odin entertained the Einheriar, or
souls of the warriors slain in battle. Like the palace of Thor, it had
540 gates. Daintily were they fed on the boar Schrimner, which though
killed and eaten every day, was always alive again in the evening.
Andrimner, the best cook in the world, prepared the meal. As for the
mead, without which in profusion no northern feast would have been
esteemed, abundance of it was furnished by the goat Heidrun. Never had
guests a more liberal host. He treated them thus, that when the dreaded
twilight of the gods arrived, they might assist him in repelling the
giants and the spirits of fire. Nor would he allow them to forget their
martial exercises. Early each morning they are awakened by the crowing
of the cock with the golden comb,—that cock which is doomed also to warn
the gods when the last enemy approaches. Hastily assuming their vizors,
800 of them issued at each of the 540 gates, so that the god had nearly
half a million of boon companions. The whole of the time from sunrise to
the hour of dinner was passed in fighting; and with such hearty good
will, that multitudes were prostrated; but when the great hour arrived,
all rose, perfectly well, to contend over the cups as strenuously as
they had done in the field. They were served by the Valkyrs, viz., the
choosers of the slain,—goddesses who were the favourite messengers of
Odin, and the only females admitted into Valhalla.

The way in which a hero, who died in battle, or marked his bosom with
runes to Odin, left Midgard for Valhalla, is poetically described. Thus
shortly after his burial, king Hako, in his silent mound, first changed
his posture from the supine to the sitting. He grasped his sword in his
right hand; his shield with his left; while the celestial gold-hoofed
courser, which had been sent to convey him, pawed the ground outside
with manifest impatience. The mound opens; the monarch rises, mounts the
noble horse, gallops up Vifrost, and passes through Gladsheim into
Valhalla, where the gods came forward to meet him; while Braga, the
deity of song, sounds the celestial harp with his praises.

We have seen the pursuits of the Einheriar by day,—fighting and
drinking. Did they sleep? So we suppose. Sometimes, however, they
mounted their horses, galloped down Vifrost, and entered their
sepulchral mounds. Sometimes, too, they were present in battle; at other
times they communed with their mortal friends.

The blood-thirsty character of the Northmen, which could not enjoy peace
without cutting one another to pieces, has been justly exposed by
historians. Still, however valour might be esteemed, we would not assert
that it was the only virtue in the mind of the Scandinavians, or that
heaven was closed to every other. There is, indeed, room to infer that
this tenet was confined merely to a sect,—a caste,—the dominant one,—the
immediate followers of Odin.

As we shall have frequently to speak of these celestial residences in
the course of this chapter, we shall only add that Asgard had another
palace called Vingolf, where the Asyniar, or goddesses, met, just as the
gods met in Valhalla.


Was the abode of the Black Elves, (to distinguish them from the Light or
shining Elves, who dwelt in Loisalsfaheim,) and also of the Dwarfs.

But there were elves who dwelt in the air, in water, amongst the trees.
These could not be called underground people; and it is almost doubtful
whether they can be classed among the Black Elves. As the term, however,
has been adopted for the purpose we have indicated, viz., to distinguish
the elves of earth from those of the highest heaven,—both those who
dwell _on_, and those who dwell _below_, the earth’s surface—the well
and the ill disposed—may here be considered.

“Our heathen forefathers,” says Thorlacius[28], “believed, like the
Pythagoreans—and the farther back in antiquity the more firmly—that the
whole world was filled with spirits of various kinds, to whom they
ascribed in general the same nature and properties as the Greeks did to
their Dæmons. These were divided into the celestial and the terrestrial,
from their places of abode. The former were, according to the ideas of
those times, of a good and elevated nature, and of a friendly
disposition towards men, whence they also received the name of White or
Light Alfs, or spirits. The latter, on the contrary, who were classified
after their abodes in the air, sea, and earth, were not regarded in so
favourable a light. It was believed that they, particularly the _land
ones_, the _δαίμονες ἐπιχθόνιοι_ of the Greeks, constantly and on all
occasions sought to torment or injure mankind, and that they had their
dwelling partly on the earth in great and thick woods, whence came the
name Skovtrolde[29] (Wood-Trolds); or in other desert and lonely places,
partly in and under the ground, or in rocks and hills: these last were
called Bjerg-Trolde (Hill Trolds); to the first, on account of their
different nature, was given the name of Dverge (Dwarfs), and Alve,
whence the word Ellefolk, which is still in the Danish language. These
Dæmons, particularly the underground ones, were called Svartalfar, that
is, Black Spirits, and inasmuch as they did mischief, Trolls.”

The prose Edda draws a broad distinction between the light and the black
elves,—the former being whiter than the sun; the latter darker than

“Of the origin of the word Alf,” says Mr. Keightley, “nothing
satisfactory is to be found. Some think it is akin to the Latin _albus_,
white; others to _alpes_, Alps mountains. There is supposed to be some
mysterious connection between it and the word Elf or Elv, signifying
water in the northern languages; an analogy which has been thought to
correspond with that between the Latin Nympha and Lympha. Both relations
are perhaps rather fanciful than just. Of the derivation of Alf, as just
observed, we know nothing certain[30]; and the original meaning of
Nympha would appear to be, a new-married woman[31], and thence a
marriageable young woman; and it was applied to the supposed inhabitants
of the mountains, seas, and streams, on the same principle that the
northern nations gave them the appellation of men and women, that is,
from their imagined resemblance to the human form.

“Whatever its origin, the word Alf has continued till the present day in
all the Teutonic languages. The Danes and Swedes have their Ellen or
Elven Dan, and Elfvor Swed (Elvus), and the words Elf-dans and
Elf-blæst, together with Olof and other proper names, are derived from
it. The Germans call the nightmare _Alp_; and in their old poems we meet
_Elben_ and _Elbinnen_, male and female elves, and _Elbisch_ frequently
occurs in them in the bad sense of the “Elvish” of Chaucer and our old
romancers, and a number of proper names, such as Alprecht, Alpine,
Alpwin, &c., were formed from it; undoubtedly before it got its present
ill sense. In the Anglo-Saxon Ælf, with its feminine and plural,
frequently occurs. The Orcades, Naiades, and Hamodryades of the Greeks
and Romans are rendered in an Anglo-Saxon Glossary by munt-ælfenne,
fæ-ælfenne, and feld-ælfenne. Ælf is a component part of the proper
names Ælfred and Ælfric; and the author of the poem of ‘Judith’ says
that his heroine was Ælf-scīene (Elf-sheen), bright as an Elf. But of
the character and acts of the Elfs no traditions have been preserved in
Anglo-Saxon literature. In the English language, Elf, Elves, and their
derivatives, are to be found in every period, from its first formation
down to this present time.”[32]

The judicious and indefatigable writer whom we have followed in the
preceding extract, and who has treated the subject with a minuteness and
an accuracy unequalled in this country, continues:—

“The Alfar still live in the memory and traditions of the peasantry of
Scandinavia. They also, to a certain extent, retain their distinction
into white and black. The former, or the good elves, dwell in the air,
dance on the grass, or sit in the leaves of trees; the latter, or evil
elves, are regarded as an underground people, who frequently inflict
sickness or injury on mankind; for which there is a particular kind of
doctors, called Kloka, to be met in all parts of the country.

“The elves are believed to have their kings, to celebrate their weddings
and banquets, just the same as the dwellers above ground. There is an
interesting intermediate class of them in popular tradition, called the
Hill-people (Högfolk), who are believed to dwell in caves and small
hills: when they show themselves they have a handsome human form. The
common people seem to connect with them a deep feeling of melancholy, as
if bewailing a half-quenched hope of redemption.

“There are only a few old persons who now can tell any thing more about
them than of the sweet singing that may occasionally on summer nights be
heard out of their hills, when one stands still and listens, or, as it
is expressed in the ballads, _lays his ear to the Elve-hill_ (lägger
sitt öra till Elfvehögg): but no one must be so cruel as, by the
slightest word, to destroy their hopes of salvation, for then the
sprightly music will be turned into weeping and lamentation.

“The Norwegians called the Elves, Huldrafolk, and their music,
Huldraslaat: it is in the minor key, and of a dull and mournful sound.
The mountaineers sometimes play it, and pretend they have learned it by
listening to the underground people among the hills and rocks. There is
also a tune called the Elf-king’s tune, which several of the good
fiddlers know right well, but never venture to play; for as soon as it
begins, both old and young, and even inanimate objects, are impelled to
dance, and the player cannot stop unless he can play the air backwards,
or that some one comes behind him and cuts the strings of his fiddle.

“The little underground Elves, who are believed to dwell under the
houses of mankind, are described as sportive and mischievous, and as
imitating all the actions of men. They are said to love cleanliness
about the house and place, and to reward such servants as are neat and

“The Elves are extremely fond of dancing in the meadows, where they form
those circles of a livelier green which from them are called Elfdans
(Elfdance): when the country people see in the morning stripes along the
dewy grass in the woods and meadows, they say the Elves have been
dancing there. If any one should at midnight get within their circle,
they become visible to him, and they may then illude him. It is not
every one that can see the Elves; and one person may see them dancing,
while another perceives nothing. Sunday children, as they are called,
_i.e._, those born on Sunday, are remarkable for possessing this
property of seeing Elves and similar beings. The Elves, however, have
the power to bestow this gift on whomsoever they please. They also used
to speak of Elf-books, which they gave to those whom they loved, and
which enabled them to foretell future events.

“The Elves often sit in little stones that are of a circular form, and
are called Elf-mills (Elf-quärnor); the sound of their voice is said to
be sweet and soft, like the air.

“The Danish peasantry give the following account of their Ellefolk or

“The Elle-people live in the Elle-moors. The appearance of the man is
that of an old man, with a low-crowned hat on his head: the Elle-woman
is young, and of a fair and attractive countenance, but behind she is
hollow like a dough-trough. Young men should be especially on their
guard against her, for it is very difficult to resist her; and she has,
moreover, a stringed instrument, which, when she plays on it, quite
ravishes their hearts. The man may be often seen near the Elle-moors,
bathing himself in the sunbeams; but if any one comes too near him, he
opens his mouth wide and breathes upon them, and his breath produces
sickness and pestilence. But the women are most frequently to be seen by
moonshine; then they dance their rounds in the high grass so lightly and
so gracefully, that they seldom meet a denial when they offer their hand
to a rash young man. It is also necessary to watch cattle, that they may
not graze in any place where the Elle-people have been; for if any
animal come to a place where the Elle-people have spit, or done what is
worse, it is attacked by some grievous disease, which can only be cured
by giving it to eat a handful of St. John’s wort, which had been pulled
at twelve o’clock on St. John’s night. It might also happen that they
might sustain some injury by mixing with the Elle-people’s cattle, which
are very large, and of a blue colour, and which may sometimes be seen in
the fields licking up the dew on which they live. But the farmer has an
easy remedy against this evil; for he has only to go to the Elle-hill
when he is turning out his cattle, and to say, ‘Thou little Trold! may I
graze my cows on thy hill?’ And if he is not prohibited, he may set his
mind at rest.”[33]

Of the Scandinavian _Dwarfs_ much less is known by the general reader.

“These diminutive beings, dwelling in rocks and hills, and distinguished
for their skill in metallurgy, seem to be peculiar to the Gothic
mythology. Perhaps the most probable account of them is, that they are
personifications of the subterraneous powers of nature; for it may be
again observed, that all the parts of every ancient mythology are but
personified powers, attributes, and moral qualities. The Edda thus
describes their origin:—

“‘Then the gods sat on their seats, and held a council, and called to
mind how the Duergar had become animated in the clay below in the earth,
like maggots in flesh. The Duergar had been first created, and had taken
life in Ymer’s flesh, and were maggots in it, and by the will of the
gods they became partakers of human knowledge, and had the likeness of
men, and yet they abode in the ground and in stones. Modsogner was the
first of them, and then Dyrin.’

“The Duergar are described as being of low stature, with short legs and
long arms, reaching almost down to the ground when they stand erect.
They are skilful and expert workmen in gold, silver, iron, and other
metals. They form many wonderful and extraordinary things for the Æser,
and for mortal heroes, and the arms and armour that come from their
forges are not to be paralleled. Yet the gift must be spontaneously
bestowed, for misfortune attends those extorted from them by

Two narratives of undoubted antiquity will illustrate the cunning of
these subterraneous workmen. They are, however, somewhat out of place,
since they would better suit the following section.

The first is from the Edda:—

“Loke, the son of Laufeiar, had out of mischief cut off all the hair of
Sif. When Thor found this out, he seized Loke, and would have broken
every bone in his body, only that he swore to get the Suartalfar to make
for Sif hair of gold, which would grow like any other hair.

“Loke then went to the Dwarfs that are called the sons of Ivalldr. They
first made the hair, which as soon as it was put on the head grew like
natural hair; then the ship Skidbladnor[35], which always had the wind
with it, wherever it would sail; and, thirdly, the spear Gugner, which
always hit in battle.

“Then Loke laid his head against the Dwarf Brock, that his brother Eitri
could not forge three such valuable things as these were. They went to
the forge; Eitri set the swine-skin (bellows) to the fire, and bid his
brother Brock to blow, and not to quit the fire till he should have
taken out the things he had put into it.

“And when he was gone out of the forge, and that Brock was blowing,
there came a fly and settled upon his hand, and bit him; but he blew
without stopping till the smith took the work out of the fire; and it
was a boar, and its bristles were of gold.

“He then put gold into the fire, and bid him not to stop blowing till he
came back. He went away, and then the fly came and settled on his neck,
and bit him more severely than before; but he blew on till the smith
came back and took out of the fire the gold ring which is called

“Then he put iron into the fire, and bid him blow, and said that if he
stopped blowing all the work would be lost. The fly now settled between
his eyes, and bit so hard that the blood ran into his eyes, so that he
could not see; so when the bellows were down he caught at the fly in all
haste, and tore off its wings; but then came the smith, and said that
all that was in the fire had nearly been spoiled. He then took out of
the fire the hammer Miölner, and gave all the things to his brother
Brock, and bade him go with them to Asgard and settle the wager.

“Loke also produced his jewels, and they took Odin, Thor, and Freyr, for
judges. Then Loke gave to Odin the spear Gugner, and to Thor the hair
that Sif was to have, and to Freyr Skidbladnor, and told their virtues
as they have been already related. Brock took out his jewels, and gave
to Odin the ring, and said that every ninth night there would drop from
it eight other rings as valuable as itself. To Freyr he gave the boar,
and said that he would run through air and water, by night and by day,
better than any horse, and that never was there night so dark that the
way by which he went would not be light from his hide. He gave the
hammer to Thor, and said that it would never fail to hit a Troll, and
that at whatever he threw it, it would never miss it; and that he could
never fling it so far that it would not of itself return to his hand;
and when he chose, it would become so small that he might put it into
his pocket. But the fault of the hammer was, that its handle was too

“Their judgment was, that the hammer was the best, and that the Dwarf
had won the wager. Then Loke prayed hard not to lose his head; but the
Dwarf said that could not be. ‘Catch me, then,’ said Loke; and when he
went to catch him, he was far away; for Loke had shoes with which he
could run through air and water. Then the Dwarf prayed Thor to catch
him, and Thor did so. The Dwarf now went to cut off his head; but Loke
said he was to have the head only, and not the neck. Then the Dwarf took
a knife and a thong, and went to sew up his mouth; but the knife was
bad, so the Dwarf wished that his brother’s awl were there; and as soon
as he wished it, it was there, and he sewed his lips together.”[36]

The physical interpretation of this mythos is entitled to some
attention. Sif is a personification of the earth, “the wife of Thor, the
heaven or atmosphere: her hair is the trees, bushes, and plants, that
adorn the surface of the earth. Loke is the fire-god, that delights in
mischief, _bene servit, male imperat_. When by immoderate heat he has
burned off the hair of Sif, her husband compels him so by temperate heat
to warm the moisture of the earth, that its former products may spring
up more beautiful than ever. The boar is given to Freyr, to whom and his
sister Freya, as the gods of animal and vegetable fecundity, the
northern people offered that animal, as the Italian people did to the
earth. Loke’s bringing the gifts from the underground people, seems to
indicate a belief that metals were prepared by subterranean fire; and
perhaps the forging of Thor’s hammer, the mythic emblem of thunder, by a
terrestrial demon, on a subterranean anvil, may suggest that the natural
cause of thunder is to be sought in the earth.”

The next illustration is from the Heimskringla of Snorro:—

                        THORSTON AND THE DWARF.

“When spring came, Thorston made ready his ship, and put twenty-four men
on board of her. When they came to Vinland, they ran her into a harbour,
and every day he went on shore to amuse himself.

“He came one day to an open part of the wood, where he saw a great rock,
and out a little piece from it a Dwarf, who was horridly ugly, and was
looking up over his head, with his mouth wide open; and it appeared to
Thorston that it ran from ear to ear, and that the lower jaw came down
to his knees. Thorston asked him why he was acting so foolishly. ‘Do not
be surprised, my good lad,’ replied the Dwarf; ‘do you not see that
great dragon that is flying up there? He has taken off my son, and I
believe that it is Odin himself that has sent the monster to do it. But
I shall burst and die if I lose my son.’ Then Thorston shot at the
dragon, and hit him under one of the wings, so that he fell dead to the
earth; but Thorston caught the Dwarf’s child in the air, and brought him
to his father.

“The Dwarf was exceeding glad, and was more rejoiced than any one could
tell; and he said, ‘A great benefit have I to reward you for, who are
the deliverer of my son; and now choose your recompense in gold and
silver.’ ‘Cure your son,’ said Thorston, ‘but I am not used to take
rewards for my services.’ ‘It were not becoming,’ said the Dwarf, ‘if I
did not reward you; and let not my shirt of sheep’s-wool, which I will
give you, appear a contemptible gift, for you will never be tired when
swimming, or get a wound, if you wear it next your skin.’

“Thorston took the shirt and put it on, and it fitted him well, though
it had appeared too short for the Dwarf. The Dwarf now took a gold ring
out of his purse, and gave it to Thorston, and bid him to take good care
of it, telling him that he never should want for money while he kept
that ring. He next took a black stone, and gave it to Thorston, and
said, ‘If you hide this stone in the palm of your hand, no one will see
you. I have not many more things to offer you, or that would be of any
value to you; I will, however, give you a fire-stone for your

“He then took the stone out of his purse, and with it a steel point. The
stone was triangular, white on one side, and red on the other, and a
yellow border ran round it. The Dwarf then said, ‘If you prick the stone
with the point in the white side, there will come on such a hail-storm
that no one will be able to look at it; but if you want to stop this
shower, you have only to prick on the yellow part, and there will come
so much sunshine that the whole will melt away. But if you should like
to prick the red side, then there will come out of it such fire, with
sparks and crackling, that no one will be able to look at it. You may
also get whatever you will by means of this point and stone, and they
will come of themselves back to your hand when you call them. I can now
give you no more such gifts.’

“Thorston then thanked the Dwarf for his presents, and returned to his
men, and it was better for him to have made this voyage than to have
stayed at home.”

                         HELHEIM AND NIFLEHEIM.

The palace of Hela has been already described, on the occasion of
Hermod’s visit to his brother Balder.[37]

Of Nifleheim no more need be added to what has been already said. None
of the mythological beings whom Scandinavia recognised were ambitious of
exploring it.

Such were the worlds of the pagan Northmen. But before we dismiss this
part of our subject, we must advert for a moment to one of more
philosophical import,—

                             THE YGGDRASIL.

As this is to us at least a mysterious subject (we do not pretend to the
faculty of “looking through a millstone”), we shall present it to the
reader in the words of Magnussen, and an able critic of our own country.

“The principal and most holy place of the gods is at the ash Yggdrasil.
This ash is the largest and best of all trees. Its branches spread over
the whole world, and reach up over the heaven. The tree has two roots,
which extend widely; the one to the Aser, the other to the Frost-giants,
where before was Ginnunga-gap; the third stretches over Nifleheim, and
by it is Hvergelmer (the abyss), where (the Snake-king) Nidhug gnaws the
root beneath.

“By the other root, which extends to the Frost-giants, is Mimer’s well,
wherein Wisdom and Understanding lie concealed. Mimer, the owner of the
well, is full of wisdom; for every morning he drinks from the well out
of the Giallar horn. Once came All-Father (Odin) thither, and sought a
drink from the well, but attained not his wish, till he gave his eye as
a pledge. As it is said, in the Völuspá:

                      “‘All know I, Odin,
                      Where thou hiddest thine eye;
                      In the clear
                      Well of Mimer.
                      Mimer mead
                      Each morning drinks
                      From All-Father’s pledge.’

“By the third root of the ash, which extends to heaven, is the
Urdar-fount. By the fount stands a fair dwelling, out of which go the
three maids, Urda, Verande, and Skuld. These maids appoint the lifetime
of all men, and are called Nornir. Of them, saith the Vala:

                     “‘Thence come maids
                     Much knowing,—
                     Three,—from the lake (or hall)
                     Beneath the tree,’ &c.

“The Nornir, who dwell by the Urdar-fount, take each day water from the
well, and with it and the mud that is about the well, sprinkle the
ash-tree, that its branches may not rot or wither. This water is so
holy, that every thing that comes into the well becomes as white as the
membrane within an egg-shell. So it is said in the Völuspá,

                       “‘An ash know I standing,
                       Yggdrasil it hight,
                       A lofty tree besprinkled
                       With white water;
                       Thence cometh dew
                       Which in the dales falleth;
                       Ever green it standeth
                       Over Urda’s well.’

“The dew which comes from it is called Honey-dew, and is the food of the
bees. Two birds are fed in the Urdar-fount: they are called swans, and
from them is descended this species of birds.

“In the branches of the ash Yggdrasil sitteth an eagle, who knows many
things; between his eyes sitteth a hawk, called Vederlöfner
(Storm-damper). A squirrel, named Ratatösk, runs up and down in the
tree, and seeks to set strife between the eagle and the Snake-king
Nidhug. Four harts run about in the branches of the tree, and bite the
buds. In Hvergelmer, by the root of the tree, are so many snakes, that
no tongue can tell it. So, in Grimnis-mâl,

                      “Ratatösk hight the squirrel,
                      Who shall run
                      Through the Ash Yggdrasil:
                      The eagle’s words
                      He from above shall bear,
                      And tell to Nidhug below.

                      There are also four harts,
                      Who the branches’ buds
                      Wry-necked gnaw,
                      Dain and Dvalin,
                      Dunuir and Durathror.
                      More snakes lie
                      Beneath the ash Yggdrasil
                      Than any one can think.


                      The Ash Yggdrasil
                      Endureth toil
                      More than men know.
                      The hart gnaws it above:
                      In the side it rotteth;
                      Nidhug wastes it below.”

“The mythos of Yggdrasil is contained in the preceding passages; and
northern mythologists in general, and Magnussen in particular, have been
no where more fortunate than in their explanation of it. Yggdrasil, they
say, represents the universe (rather the world); its three roots lie in
the three portions into which, according to the system of the devisers
of Yggdrasil, the universe is divided. The central root is in Niflheim,
the dark and dismal abyss beneath the earth, and is watered by
Hvergelmer (the Ancient Cauldron), and its stem runs up through the
earth to the summit of heaven. The second root is by Mimer’s well, in
the north, the abode of the Frost-giants. The third root is by the
Urdar-fount, in the bright and warm south, whose waters the three Maids,
_i.e._ Time Past, Present, and Future, cast over its foliage to keep it
in perpetual verdure. The branches are the æther, their leaves the
clouds, the clusters of keys the constellations; the four harts are the
four winds, the eagle denotes the air, the hawk the still æther, the
squirrel the snow-flakes, hail-stones, and rain-drops. Urda’s fount,
_i.e._ the fount of Destiny, is the source of life, light, and warmth;
the snow-white swans, which swim on its waters, represent the sun and
moon. The mythos of Mimer’s well shows the descent of the sun (_Odin’s
eye_) into the sea each evening, where, during the night, he learns
wisdom from the owner of the well; the golden-hued mead which Mimer
drinks each morning, is the ruddy dawn that daily flows out over the sky
before the sun.”[38]

There can be no doubt that two distinct systems of creation are embraced
by these mythi. They could not have originated in the same people. The
Ymerian, there is strong reason to believe, was the _native_, the
Yggdrasil the _foreign_, system.

From the preceding sketch of the Scandinavian universe, we perceive that
it was inhabited by many distinct races of inhabitants. With one slight
alteration, they may be classified after the nine worlds:—

  1. The Shining Elves of Liosalfaheim.

  2. The fiery spirits of Muspelheim.

  3. The Aser, and Asyniar, gods and goddesses.

  4. The Vanir, or inhabitants of the windy Vanheim.

  5. Mankind.

  6. The Giants and Giantesses; the descendants of Bergelmer and his

  7. The Black Elves, or Dwarfs, male and female.

  8. The subjects of Hela.

  9. The nondescripts, that it would puzzle the best antiquaries to say
    what they are.

With most of these we have little acquaintance. A few of the Light Elves
are to be found in the palaces of the Asyniar; but none of Muspel’s sons
do we encounter. Of the Vanir in general, we know little; but half a
dozen of the race are venerated or esteemed in Asgard. Utgard and its
sons were well known, from their intercourse, whether hostile, or
friendly, with the Aser; and still better known is Asgard. The land of
the Black Elves was frequently visited by men and gods. The realms of
Hela were but once visited by living feet,—by those of Hermod.[39] Of
men we can mention such only as came into contact with beings of a
higher or lower nature. Most of these classes, therefore, may be
dismissed with a few general observations. Details respecting
_individuals_, in most of these classes, will be found under the names
of the chief Aser, or gods.

Whether the Aser were gods, or mortals only, or men who had been
deified, has been long and zealously disputed. Each party gives
elaborate reasons for its own hypothesis, and they have been convincing
to itself if not to others. On a subject which requires the aid of the
imagination to understand it, and to which speculation only can be
applied, this diversity was inevitable. Within the last twenty years,
however, a more careful examination of the pagan monuments of antiquity,
and a more extended acquaintance with the religious systems of other
people, have led to the conclusion that the Aser, like the Vaner, never
existed on earth, and that they are purely mythologic. There is
certainly much reason for the conclusion. The satisfactory way in which
functions of the deities have been resolved into physical qualities may
well fortify it. Still there are difficulties—we think insuperable
ones—to be removed. The account which, in the former volume of this
work[40], we have given of Odin, Niord, Freyr, and Baldur, will scarcely
countenance the hypothesis. The circumstances which attended Odin’s
progress; those which accompanied and followed his arrival in the north;
his temporal even more than his spiritual policy; his extraordinary
success; the thrones which he established; the sons whom he left; the
universal anxiety of the northern princes—even those of Saxony—to claim
him as their ancestor, and an ancestor too only a few generations
removed from them[41]; afford, we think, evidence enough of his mortal
career. Nor should we overlook the fact that both Saxo Grammaticus and
Snorro Sturleson,—the former well acquainted with the tradition and
history of his country; the latter most deeply versed in the religion
and literature of the Scythian conquerors—contended for the mortal
character of the Aser. In their days, this was not a new interpretation
of the subject: ascend the stream of time as far as we can, and still we
find that Odin and his pontiff-chiefs were regarded as men whom
credulity had deified. Such was the opinion of Adam of Bremen in the
eleventh century; of the biographer of St. Anscar in the ninth; of St.
Kentigern in the sixth. In one of his sermons to the pagans of
south-eastern Scotland, the last-named saint upbraided them with their
folly for worshipping one (Odin or Woden) whom they themselves
acknowledged to have lived on earth,—to have been a Saxon king,—to have
paid the common debt of nature,—one whose bones had long before been
confounded with the dust. Men of learning, who lived so much nearer to
the times when the pontiff-king reigned in the north—who, for any thing
we know to the contrary, had better evidence than tradition for his
actions, young as that tradition was, have thought the same. It has been
said, that even the least of those actions were of too superhuman a
character ever to have been attributed to a mortal; and that the being
concerning whom they were invented, must have been mythologic. But the
assertion would not have been made, had the memory been consulted: _it_
would have furnished personages, indisputably historic, concerning whom
wilder legends (if legends can be wilder) have been invented than
concerning the Asiatic conqueror. What have the ancient Romans or the
modern Persians to say of their kings? What has been said of Attila?
What of Arthur? What of Macbeth and of Don Sebastian? There are indeed
few eminent characters in the history of the middle ages concerning whom
supernatural tales have not been invented and believed. Perhaps,
however, the term _invented_ may be too severe a one; for in general the
actions or qualities of personages much more ancient have been
transferred to those of recent date.

These difficulties have appeared so formidable to most of the advocates
for the mythological system, that they have been induced to admit the
hypothesis of _two_ Odins, who appeared in the north at different
intervals;—the former a pontiff, whom superstition afterwards deified;
the other a king, yet the chief of religion, who, seeing the veneration
in which his predecessor was held, boldly declared himself an
incarnation of the same being. This hypothesis, which is purely
arbitrary, so far from diminishing the difficulty, greatly increases it,
and is not, in other respects, worth another moment’s consideration. A
second is more plausible, and not so arbitrary. It represents the
pontiff-warrior—the _second_ Odin—as assuming the name, and laying claim
to the attributes, of another Odin, long received as a god. In this
case, the god must have been incarnate in the person of this Scythian
warrior; yet we have not even the shadow of a proof that metempsychosis
was a doctrine ever received by the Scandinavians, or by any nation of
the Goths. The Celts had it[42]; yet this wide distinction between the
two races has not prevented them from being confounded. As well confound
the Caffre with the Cherokee. The Eddas assure us that, when a mortal
paid the debt of nature, or fell in battle, he went at once to Helheim
or Valhalla. Still there are two or three instances in which a
transmigration into other bodies was effected; and though they are
manifestly at variance with the religious creed of the north, and must
be regarded merely as extraordinary exceptions, we are not disposed to
reject the hypothesis that Odin assumed, or rather, after death, his
people conferred upon him, the name of the god whom they had so long
worshipped. It receives no little confirmation from the facts stated by
Snorro, that in Asia the pontiff-king was known by the name of _Sigoe_.
The truth is, that transmigration being an article of the Celtic creed,
Odin might so far avail himself of it as to pass for the incarnate god.
In either case, however, unless we reject Snorro and Saxo, and the Saxon
Chronicle, and Adam of Bremen, and a host of writers in the middle ages,
we adopt the conclusion that Odin lived, and reigned, and conquered, in
the north.

Advocating then, as we deliberately do, the historical interpretation,
we have yet to account for the extraordinary powers attributed to mere
mortals; for the extraordinary difference of their religion; for the
still more extraordinary doctrines of that religion, as contained in the
Eddas. The subject is not without its difficulties; but probably they
may be removed by a few natural reflections. That Odin and his twelve
pontiff-chiefs found, on their arrival in the north, some kind of
religious worship established, nobody will deny. What were the doctrines
of that religion? Here conjecture only can guide us: we have no written,
no traditionary, monuments of that antecedent worship. We read only that
the Aser—the Scythian bands from Asia—had to contend with the native
authorities; but that having in so great a degree the superiority of
wisdom, they compelled the natives to receive their spiritual, no less
than their temporal, yoke. Their arms, no doubt, effected more than
their arguments; but to suppose that they could extirpate the dominant
faith—if indeed there were not several established modes of worship in
different provinces of the north—would be very irrational in itself, and
irreconcilable with all the known facts of history. Pagan conquerors
have always been disposed to respect the gods of other people. Every
region was believed to have its own peculiar deities; and to honour
_them_ was necessary, if that region were to be either permanently or
prosperously held. On the other hand, the natives themselves would, in a
superstitious age, be sufficiently disposed to respect the gods of their
victors; for human prosperity was always regarded as the work of heaven.
If they still retained their own, they would not refuse homage to the
more powerful stranger gods whose shrines were now transported among
them, and whom they must, by degrees, consider as their own tutelary
divinities. Hence the union of the two religions; not indeed wholly, but
certainly in a very considerable degree. Their gods would be joined; so
would such dogmas as were not absolutely irreconcilable with one
another; and in a few, a very few, generations, both would be received
by priest and people as if they had always been identical and
indissoluble. That this _has_ been the case in other countries, we know
from authentic history. It was so with the Greeks; it was so with the
Romans; it has been so since their conquests with several Asiatic
nations. And reason tells us that this must always be the natural
progress of events.

But on this subject we have more than conjecture, or even reason; we
have facts. There are in the Eddas, and still more in the Scaldic
interpretations, principles too repugnant to each other ever completely
to harmonise. We know that Thor was more esteemed in Norway than Odin;
and that in Denmark, no less than in Sweden, Odin was more highly
venerated than Thor. The reason is, that the Goths, or, we should rather
say, the last swarm of them that arrived with Odin, had more influence
in these latter kingdoms than in the former. Thor, indeed, was almost
exclusively worshipped by the Norwegians, who invoked Odin only on the
eve of a battle. They held the former to be immeasurably the superior of
the other; and, in contradiction to the Swedes and Danes, contended that
Odin was the son of Thor. The elder Edda calls him the most powerful of
the gods; and in the Sagas, by the most ancient Scalds, he is
represented as frequently hostile to the other deity. Considering these
facts, and the universal homage still paid to Thor by the Finns and
Lapps—people of the same race with the Norwegians—we are of opinion that
Thor was the native, Odin the foreign, divinity. The giants, too, appear
to have been of native, perhaps of Celtic, origin, and to have been
adopted by the Scythian Goths, after their arrival; while the _black_
dwarfs, whose habitation was in the bowels of the earth, were introduced
by the latter, and soon made a portion of the native creed. The white,
or benevolent elves, were universally received by the Goths; but the
dark, the malignant elves, seem to have been brought from an eastern
region. It is in the highest degree absurd to suppose that if there had
been no foreign admixture with that creed, and a very large admixture,
we should have nine different worlds, with their complicated, often
dissonant relation to one another. Where this complexity, and, still
more, this evident dissonance between the elements, are found to exist,
we may safely conclude that they have been introduced at different
periods; that the mighty and irregular edifice has been reared by
different hands. But if there were no other argument to establish the
dissonance for which we contend, and the forcible union of opinions
never intended to harmonise, it would be sufficiently obvious from the
distinction between the two great systems of creation to which we have
already alluded—the Ymerian or animal, and Yggdrasil or vegetable.[43]
Beyond all doubt, they were as distinct in their origin as in their
nature; and were long held by the people essentially different. We are
strongly disposed to regard the Ymerian as the native, the Yggdrasil as
the foreign, system. Giants were more kindred with the Celtic than with
the Gothic creed. By the latter, indeed, they were hated even more than
feared. Whoever will peruse with attention those passages of the two
Eddas where giants are mentioned, will probably arrive at the same
conclusion with ourselves—that they were foreign to the genius of the
Scythians. We may adore what we _fear_; but we never adore what we
_hate_, still less what we _despise_. The same may be observed in regard
to the magical rites of the two people. Of _dark_ magic we read every
where amongst the people of the former race. We meet with it in
districts where the Scythian Goth never inhabited—in the more remote
districts of Lapland and Finland. The rites, the opinions, of the people
in these districts, were also, we believe, the rites, the opinions, of
all the people that inhabited Norway and Sweden. Some of them, we know,
were disliked by the followers of Odin. It was not Odinian, that is
Gothic, or _white_ (innocent) magic, that was professed by Raude of
Norway.[44] It was not Odinian, or Gothic, magic that caused Harald
Harfager to be captivated so long and so fatally by the daughter of the
Finnish Swaso.[45] In the latter case, nothing can be more evident than
that it was the native, black magic, which produced this effect. Hence
the detestation with which that monarch, pagan as he was, regarded the
art.[46] It was not Odin’s magic which Egill practised when he left
Norway, outlawed by Eric of the Bloody Axe. Before he finally left the
coast, he fixed the head of a horse on one of the oars of the vessel,
and raising it aloft, exclaimed, “Here I erect the rod of vengeance
against king Eric and queen Gunhilda!” Turning the horse’s head in
another direction, he exclaimed “I direct this curse also against the
tutelary deities of Norway, that they shall wander, in pain, and have no
rest for the soles of their feet, until they have expelled the king and
queen!” This strange imprecation he then carved in runic characters upon
the oar, and placed it in the cleft of a rock, where it was not likely
to be found, or the spell to be dissolved. It was native magic that
distinguished Gunhilda, wife of Eric with the Bloody Axe.[47] More than
one king who worshiped Odin punished with death the observers of these
rites. And in most of the Gothic writers, pagan or christian, the palm
of superiority in magic is awarded to native professors. The magic of
the latter might be darker, more inhuman, more diabolical, but it was
also admitted to be more profound and more potent. We agree with
Magnussen in the conclusion that there was a union, more or less
complete, of two schools of magic, as well as of two religions. But
there were tenets which could _not_ be reconciled, and the natives, by
adhering to their own, caused a system to be perpetuated essentially at
variance with that of the conquerors.

These facts, these arguments, will be admitted to have considerable
weight. We shall adduce another which, joined with the preceding, should
set the subject as to the fact of a religion having been dominant in the
north anterior to the Odinic, and essentially different from it. Rude
stones and rocks—so rude as scarcely to have a form—were lately, and
probably are now, worshipped by the more remote Finns and Lapps. This
idol they term the _Storjunkar_, or great ruler; they offer sacrifices
upon it (generally the rein-deer), and prostrate before it, in certain
mountainous districts, far from the usual habitations of men.[48] This
worship is a relic of the idolatry once common to the Norwegians, no
less than to the Finns and Laps, who are of the same origin. That it was
celebrated in Norway is certain; for we find it in Iceland as late as
the close of the tenth century. Indrid was the mortal enemy of
Thorstein; and one night he left his house to murder him. The latter
entered a temple where he was accustomed to worship, prostrated himself
before a stone, and prayed to know his fate. The stone replied, in a
kind of chant, that his feet were already in the grave; that his fatal
enemy was at hand, and that he would never see the rising of the next
morning’s sun. All such stones, all such gods, were foreign to the
Scythian Goths; and this relation, connected with others which might be
easily extracted, proves that the Norwegians, who had felt little of the
Asiatic yoke, had retained many of their gods, many of their religious
rites, in defiance of opposition.

To say more on this subject in the present place would be useless; as in
the course of the present chapter we shall have opportunities enough
both of adverting to the more ancient superstition, and of comparing the
two. It will, we believe, be found that much of the Eddaic cosmogony is
of native growth; that the majority of the worlds and of their
inhabitants were native; and that the Scythian warriors added little
more than their Midgard, their Asgard, especially their Valhalla; their
twelve gods (except Thor), with Odin at their head; their female deities
(scarcely a dozen in number); and such other points of the creed as were
necessary to connect and illustrate their cardinal articles.

The question of two distinct religions being conceded, it will not be
difficult to account for the progress which Odin and his companions made
towards deification. Most of the steps, indeed, have been indicated on a
former occasion[49], and need not be repeated here. Few were the regal
pontiffs of Asia who did not boast of their descent from some god—some
warrior king, whom after ages, admiring his success, had deified. Odin
was not likely to neglect so useful an instrument for his designs. Then
as he and the Vanir chiefs were unquestionably a much more civilised
people than the natives of the north; as his talents, beyond all doubt,
were of a commanding order; as the religious rites of which he was the
superior hereditary pontiff, were celebrated with more pomp; as success
attended all his measures, whether of war or of policy; as he himself,
and his followers for him, laid claim to something of a divine
character, the natives soon regarded him as a supernatural personage.
The feeling was no doubt shared by his own people, who had always been
taught to believe that a divine spirit might inhabit the bosom of a hero
or a king. As in former ages Rovstam and Jemsheed, so in later ages
Alaric and Attila, were beheld with equal reverence. With equal
reverence at this day do the Chinese, the Thibetians, the Tartars,
regard _their_ rulers. So did the Mexicans and the Peruvians. From
Snorro, however, we learn that the progress of Odin towards deification
was much slower than is generally supposed. He expressly intimates that
the king began to be peculiarly honoured _after_ his death: “From this
time men began to have more faith in Odin, and to offer him vows.” If
his pretensions to divinity were recognised, so must those of his chief
pontiffs; since the cause and the interests of the two were inseparable.

The original seat of that colony of the Goths which Odin led into the
north, has, with much appearance of reason, been placed east of the
Tanais or Don: probably it was considerably to the east of that river.
On this subject we can have no better guide than Snorro: “The orb of the
world, in which dwell the race of mankind, is, as we are informed,
intersected with bays and gulfs: great seas from the ocean penetrate the
firm land. It is well known that from the Straits of Gibraltar
(Njövasund) a great sea extends quite to Palestine (Jórsala-land). From
this sea there lies towards the north-east, a gulf called the Black Sea,
which separates the three parts of the world from each other: the land
to the east is called Europe, by others Enea. Northerly from the Black
Sea lies the greater or cold _Svithjód_ (Svecia or Scythia magna). Some
affirm that great Svithjód is not of less extent than Serkland (North
Africa): others even compare it with the great Blá-land Æthiopia magna).
The northern part of Svithjód is uncultivated on account of the frost
and cold, in the same manner as the southern part of Bláland lies waste,
on account of the burning heat. In great Svithjód are many provinces
peopled with various tribes of different tongues. There are giants and
dwarfs; there are black men, and dragons and other wild beasts of
prodigious size. Towards the north, in the mountains beyond the
habitable country, rises a river properly called the Tanais, but which
has obtained the name of the Tanasquisl, or Vanasquil, and which running
through Svithjód, falls into the Black Sea. The country encircled by the
branches of this river was in those days called Vanaland or Vanaheimr.
This stream separates the _three_ parts of the world from each other,
the part lying east being called Asia, and that to the west Europe. The
country to the east of Tanasquisl in Asia was called Asaland or
Asaheimr, and the capital of that country, Asgard. There ruled Odin, and
there too was a great place of sacrifice. Twelve pontiffs (hofgodar)
presided in the temples, who were at the same time the judges of the

Defective as was the geographical knowledge of Snorro, he has, no doubt,
correctly assigned the cradle of this people, and of the Vanir. They
were neighbours; they were consequently often at war, until the chiefs
of both agreed, not only to be for ever amicable, and to join in all
future conquests, but in some degree to amalgamate by a union of
government. Hence the junction of the Vanir to the Aser, and the
contiguity of their respective regions in the Scandinavian calendar. How
Asgard and Vanaheim came to be placed in heaven, as well as on earth,
has puzzled many writers. They may be equally puzzled, that the twelve
drothmen, or pontiff-chiefs, should be transfused into so many
divinities; and the temple of the earthly transferred to the celestial
Asgard. There are two ways of solving this problem. It is possible—it is
even exceedingly probable—that the Scythians, long prior to their
migration from Asia, called their country after the heavenly one which
they expected to inhabit after death. The government of the Aser was
essentially theocratic, and assimilated as much as possible to that
which they believed to exist above. Nor were they peculiar in this
economy: Athens and greater nations have done the same. The twelve great
priests of Egypt were named after the twelve gods who ruled the same
number of celestial signs. Such was the case in Assyria. In Persia, too,
the number of priests in the great temple corresponded with that of the
Amshaspands, or celestial genii, who governed the world as vicegerents
of Ormusd. Nothing, indeed, is more natural than the position, that men
devoted to the service of the gods would endeavour to form their
establishments after the model which the gods themselves were believed
to have adopted. “Thus, the Aser were the gods of the new religion
introduced by Odin, and at the same time his temporal companions and
followers,—the tribe of the Ases, or Aso-Goths, from the river Tanais.
Asgard, or Godheim, is their celestial abode, from which they descended
on earth (Manheim) to mingle with the children of men; and is, at the
same time, the original seat of Odin and his people on the river
Tanais.”[51] This we consider the more natural solution of the problem
in question. It may, however, be, that the disciples of the original
pontiff began after his death to invest both him and his companions with
the ensigns of divinity, and assimilated them, both in number and in
attributes, with the ancient divinities of Scythia; making, however,
some change. In either case there must have been a change. We have
before expressed our opinion that Thor was not a Scythian god: he,
therefore, (and the same may be said of one or two others,) must have
been subsequently admitted into the divine college, when the union for
which we have contended took place between the native and foreign
religion; or rather, when the foreign was engrafted on the native
system. That system, we repeat, was, in our opinion, the basis of the
one contained in the Eddas; and much more than the basis.

The union which we have endeavoured to establish, will account for the
elaborate, however heterogeneous, system of the Eddas. That system was,
assuredly, not the work of one people, or, we may add, of one age. It
was derived from people widely different in character, habits, opinions,
and manners; and it was probably the work of centuries. The successors
of the twelve original pontiffs effected, there is reason to think, much
more than _they_ did, or than their predecessors had done. The elements
were, indeed, strewed in Norway; but they could scarcely be fashioned
into a whole; still less could they have assumed that stately form which
they exhibited in the age of Sæmund and Snorro. They consisted of
detached portions, composed at different periods, and probably not
connected—not fashioned into a whole—until many centuries after Odin’s
death. Nay, there is some reason for concluding, that the two Icelanders
we have just mentioned were the first collectors of these scattered
fragments, no less than of the comments on each by the recent Scalds of
their own country, and the more ancient Scalds of Norway. Of the same
opinion the reader will probably be, before he closes the present

Having now given a general view both of the Scandinavian universe and of
its inhabitants, and shown the probable relation between its gods and
its mortals, we proceed, in the following section, to examine these gods
more in detail, and, where practicable, to explain their respective
attributes by the physical phenomena on which they were so frequently


                              SECTION II.



                           ODIN, THOR, LOKE.

The first two gods we place together, as well for the purpose of
comparison as that of contrast; the last, because his agency is
necessary to explain the other two.

According to the Eddas, ODIN had several wives; the first was _Frea_, or
_Frigga_, by whom he had five sons, Thor, Balder, Braga, Hermod, and
Tyr: the second was _Skada_, by whom he had Semming; the third was
_Grydur_, by whom he had Vidar; the fourth was _Rinda_, by whom he had
Balder, or Bo.[52]

In Valhalla he has a table separate from the Einheriar, but he lives
only on wine; and the meats set before him he distributes to two wolves
which stand by his side. These are _Geri_ the devouring, and _Freki_ the

He learns all that passes on earth, without the trouble of ascending
Lidskialf[53], by means of two ravens, which leave Asgard at daybreak,
and at dinner time return, to perch on his shoulders, and whisper into
his ear all that they have seen. These ravens are—Observation and
Memory; both presents from the enchantress Hulda. Hence he is called the
raven god.

These mythi are for the most part sufficiently obvious. Frigga is a
personification of the earth; while Odin himself, in his character of
chief god, may represent heaven. Heaven and earth give origin to—thunder
(Thor), the summer-sun (Balder), the swift messenger (Hermod), the
hospitable board (Braga), and the undaunted defender of nature (Tyr).
Skada, the daughter of the giant Thiasse, and a nymph of the mountains,
is a personification of the spring winds; but we cannot see the import
of the mythos—if, indeed, there were any intended—in regard to Semming.
Why Vidar should be the offspring of Grydur is equally dark; but there
is propriety enough in making the frost (Rinda) the mother of
barrenness. The two wolves at Odin’s side denote his ferocity as the god
of battles; and the two ravens, memory and observation, explain his
knowledge of the past and present. To that of the future this god had no
pretensions; this was reserved to the Norny Skulda, and to a few of the
Valas, or prophetesses.

Immediately dependent on Odin—the ministers of his will as the god of
war—were the three Valkyrs, or choosers of the slain. They also
administer to the slain at his banquet.

There are many legends respecting Odin, who often visited mankind. We
select one because it illustrates the observations we have made in
regard to the rivalry of him and Thor. Sterkodder, the celebrated
champion[54], when a child, was taken captive. He fell to the lot of one
named Granè, or Whiskers, who was named Horsehair Whiskers, and who
brought him up as a foster-son. This was no other than Odin in disguise,
whose attachment to one destined to become so unrivalled in arms may be
easily conceived. One night the destiny of the young man, unknown to
himself, was to be shown him. Horsehair Whiskers, of whose quality he
was ignorant, embarked with him in a small boat, and they proceeded to
an island, landed, and by midnight reached an open plain in the centre
of a forest. There he saw a large assemblage; and within the ring formed
by the assemblage were twelve seats, for so many judges. Eleven were
full, but one was empty, and Horsehair Whiskers immediately seated
himself in it. From the instantaneous salute of Odin by the judges, and
the mention of his name, the chieftain perceived that he was in the
awful presence of that deity, and of the other gods. Odin said that the
judges should now decree Sterkodder his destiny. Thor then spoke and
said, “Alfhild, the mother of Sterkodder’s father, chose for her
son’s-father (_husband_) a very wise Jötunn (_giant_) in preference to
Asathor; wherefore I appoint to Sterkodder that he shall have neither
son nor daughter, and thus be the last of his race.”

_Odin._ “I grant him to live three men’s age.”

_Thor._ “He shall do a vile act in each of them.”

_Odin._ “I give him that he shall own the best weapons and harness.”

_Thor._ “And I appoint him that he shall own neither land nor sand.”

_Odin._ “I give him that he shall be rich in money.”

_Thor._ “I lay on him that he shall never seem to have enough.”

_Odin._ “I give him victory and martial skill in every fight.”

_Thor._ “I lay on him that in every fight he shall lose a limb.”

_Odin._ “I give him the poet’s faculty, so that he shall produce poems
with as much ease as unmeasured language.”

_Thor._ “He shall never be able to remember the verses he makes.”

_Odin._ “I grant him that he shall be favoured by those of greatest rank
and name.”

_Thor_. “He shall be hated by all others.”

Then the judges ratified to Sterkodder all that had been said, and the
council broke up.

The Saga from which this incident has been derived was written by a
Norwegian, who certainly held Thor to be the equal, if not the superior,
of Odin. It is not unlike the magian scene at the creation of the world,
when to every good thing decreed by Ormusd, an evil one was joined by
Ahriman. That Odin and Thor were rival deities, and that they gave rise
to hostile sects, is evident. And there is another point from which this
hostility may be viewed. The warriors who went to Valhalla were all of
noble birth; they were jarls or herser, were rich and powerful. But what
became of meaner freemen and thralls (serfs) who fell in battle? They
went to Thrudheim to the palace of Thor, Bilskirner[55], which that the
owner might not be outdone, had the same number of gates as the palace
of Odin, viz. five hundred and forty. Does not this prove that Thor was
the native, Odin the foreign, god?—that the former belonged to the
vanquished, the latter to the victorious people? The very name of Thor
shows that he was a Celtic divinity. He is the _Taranis_ of Lucan, the
Toron of the Scottish Highlands, and the Tiermes of the Lapps.[56]

The visit of Odin to the giant Vafthrudnir, and his contest with
him[57], may also serve to illustrate his boasted knowledge, as well as
power. Frigga, his wife, was alarmed when she first heard of her
husband’s intention to visit “that learned giant.” He conquers, indeed,
in the strife, but not through any superiority of knowledge: it is
rather by an unworthy artifice.

_Frigga_, the wife of Odin, was a distinguished personage in the
northern Olympus. She is the queen and mother of the gods. Her palace,
called Fensale, was magnificent; and it was a sort of drawing-room for
all the goddesses. Her prescience was great; she could foresee the
future, and she was invoked by women in childbed.

According to the vulgar genealogy,—that which the Odinists, in
opposition to the Thorists, were anxious to establish,—THOR was the
eldest son of Odin and Frigga. Even in Sweden he was, after Odin, the
first in rank among the gods. We may even doubt whether by one sect of
the Odinists he was not esteemed the first; for his image at Upsal,
where he is represented seated on a throne, with the attributes of
divine majesty about him,—while Odin, the war god, is standing at his
right hand with a drawn sword, and Frigga, the goddess of production, on
his left, with the fruits of nature in her hands,—clearly establishes
his predominancy. His strength was unrivalled; and his structure so
large, that no horse could carry him: he always travelled in a chariot
drawn by two he-goats. He had three treasures, all unrivalled, all made
by the Dwarfs. Of these the most famous was his hammer, called _Miölner_
(the miller, the bruiser), which, when thrown by his powerful hand, was
irresistible; yet, however far it was thrown, it always returned to him.
Formidable as it was, it was so small that he could put it in his
pocket. No hands but his could touch it; nor even he without his
wonderful steel gloves, the second of his treasures. The third was a
belt,—_Melgingandur_, which doubled his strength whenever he girded it
on. Above all the gods, he was the enemy of the Rimthurser, or Frost
Giants, against whom, with his dreaded weapon, he waged unceasing war.
The very glare of his eyes was tremendous: it was lightning; and
lightning was emitted by his chariot wheels as he rolled along. Every
day did he make the circuit of Asgard, to drive away the giants.

Of this mythos an interpretation is scarcely necessary. Miölner is his
thunderbolt. His antipathy to the giants—the powers alike of darkness
and of cold, and his daily circuit round Asgard, sufficiently explain
themselves. His gloves and belt were an embellishment, which have no
necessary connection with his nature. The latter is to be found in many
oriental fictions, (the Arabian Nights, for instance,) and in many also
current throughout Europe. His wife, _Sif_, is another illustration of
the mythos. She is held to be a personification of the summer earth, and
is represented in the act of distributing fruits and flowers. She, like
her husband, was peculiarly worshipped in Norway. By a former husband
she had a son—Uller, the god of hunters, whose residence was Ydale, or
the Dewy Valley.[58] The most wonderful of her peculiarities was her
_hair_, which was unrivalled for its beauty, and to which we have before

The fact, that Sif was worshipped in Norway alone, of all the
Scandinavian regions, is another argument in favour of her husband’s
supreme worship, long before the arrival of the Aser. A still stronger
one is to be found in the fact, that Thrudheim, or Thrudvang, was the
name of a district in that kingdom, no less than of a palace in heaven:
and the strongest of all is, the peculiar affection with which he was
regarded by the Norwegians, who held him to be their native, their
tutelary god. He seems to have had some attributes of the Roman
thunderer: the same day (Thursday), and the same planet (Jupiter), were
sacred to him.

The giants of whom Thor was thus the natural, the everlasting enemy,
were, as we have frequently observed, the offspring of Bergelmer, the
old man of the mountains, and of his wife, who escaped the destruction
of their race by the blood of Ymer, only because they chanced to be at
sea, fishing, when the giant was slain. Repairing to the dark lower
region which lies within the polar seas, they soon peopled it. Darkness,
indeed, was the element of these beings: no sun enlightened or cheered
them. When they visited earth, it was during the night, for then their
power was the greatest. In magic they surpassed all other beings: they
possessed many secrets, relating to the origin and nature of things,
unknown to the wisest of the gods. With them the three Nornies, or
destinies,—with them Vala herself, the great prophetess of heaven, was
educated. They regarded the Aser with dislike,—as usurpers of a world
which rightly belonged to them; and towards the sons of Askur, the
creation of the gods, they bore equal dislike. This feeling, indeed, did
not prevent the Aser from occasionally intermarrying with them; but the
marriages were never well assorted. The king of this vast gloomy region
was Ugarthiloc, or, more correctly, Utgardelok, viz. the Loke of Utgard,
the monarch of the outer world. The notion entertained of this
personage, and of the whole race, by the Danes, we have shown on a
former occasion.[59] Wild as the legends there related may seem, they
have their meaning. The reader will not fail to observe, that these
original inhabitants of the earth—this people destroyed by the Aser, and
exiled into the dreary wastes of the North, were the original Finnish,
or rather Celtic race, whom the Goths expelled. The mythology of that
race was full of giants; the Druids boasted of an acquaintance with
nature denied to the rest of mankind; and the boast was probably a just
one. The testimony borne by Cæsar to the extensive character of their
knowledge, will abundantly illustrate this part of the historical
question. Again, the Celts pretended to mystical science: in proof of
it, look to Cæsar, to the traditions rife wherever the Celts have been
located, and, above all, to the fragments of the ancient Welsh bards
preserved in the Archæologia of the principality. The Eddas are filled
with Celtic mythological allusions. For example, Celtic were the dwarfs
or fairies of the benevolent class; while the malignant ones, who were a
kind of evil genii, came with the Aser from a seat where the two
principles of good and evil were a dominant article of the popular

A personage no less important than Odin or Thor in the Scandinavian
mythology, is LOKE, or, as he is sometimes called, Luptur. He was
important, not from his power, or his wisdom, or his dignity, but from
his cunning, his treachery, his ill-nature, and the influence which he
exercised alike over gods and men. He was the son of the giant Farbautè,
by the enchantress Laufeya. Though of giant race, he obtained admission
among the gods: indeed, as his manners were exceedingly pleasant, his
mirth constant, and his wit unbounded, whenever they were not mixed with
spite, he could not fail to be acceptable to so vulgar a race as the
Aser. But when, as indeed was often the case, there was malice in his
jokes, his laughter made the hearer shudder. Why the gods should
tolerate him, is not very clear; but destiny was probably the reason
which a devout Odinist would have assigned for it,—a very convenient
reason in most systems of mythology. His birth might be traced to the
origin of time; for, in some way or other, he was concerned with Odin in
the work of creation, though the connection is very obscurely hinted at.
He was a relation, we are told, of the Utgard Loke, or Ugarthiloc, the
monarch of the frosty giants. These two personages were no doubt
originally the same; but as the Celts and Aser had different notions of
the same being, it was found necessary to introduce the two into the
united creed. In virtue of his connection with them, Loke often visited
the giants, by whom he was as little trusted as by the Aser. But he was
sometimes useful to both; and, from the malice of his nature, no less
than from his dislike to the gods, whom he at once feared and hated, he
was frequently the ally of the giants in their efforts to recover their
lost dominion, and to destroy the usurpers. If he thus brought the
latter into danger, he alone could extricate them from it. In perfect
accordance with the Eddas, he is thus described by Ohlenschlager:—

                    Amongst bright Asgard’s lords
                    Is one, As-Luptur hight.
                    Like honey are his words;
                    His heart is filled with spite:
                    His form is passing fair,
                    And winning is his mien;
                    But still his guileful leer
                    Shows all is false within.

                    Though oft his traitorous wiles
                    The Aser’s wrath provoke,
                    His smooth tongue still beguiles,
                    And stops the impending stroke.
                    Oft cited to appear
                    He cowers the Ash before.[60]
                    At Odin’s table near
                    His place to Asa Thor.[61]

He was, indeed, as a god, the familiar companion of Thor; who, however,
had no great wish for his society. Like most of the gods, he was
married. His wife, _Signe_, was an amiable being, who loved him in spite
of his depravity. By her he had two sons, Nari and Vali, whose fate will
be mentioned in the proper place. But he had other and more mischievous
offspring by the giantess Augerbode,—_Fenris_ the wolf, _Jormungandur_
the great serpent, and _Hela_ the queen of death. This alleged affinity
will confirm the observation, that there was originally but one Loke,
the lord of Utgard, and consequently the everlasting foe of the gods.
How the Asgard Loke should become so wicked as to produce such
offspring, might surprise us, if we were not assured that he was not so
originally, and that he became so by eating the half-roasted heart of an

These three children of Loke were reared in Utgard by the mother. The
fatal influence which they were to exercise over the universe, was not
concealed from Vala, the mysterious prophetess of heaven, or from
Skulda, the Norny of the future. The gods being warned, sent to secure
them. Jormungandur, one of the most dreaded, was seized, and by Odin
cast into the great sea that separates the human from the giant world.
There so large did it become, that it surrounded the whole earth,—being
condemned to hold its tail in its mouth, and thus to form a circle.
There he lies, waiting for the time when destiny will unloose him—the
Ragnarok, or the twilight of the gods; when he will assist in the
destruction of the visible universe.

Hela, the next mythologic offspring, is hideous to behold,—her body
being half livid, half of natural colour. By Odin, or rather by destiny,
of which he was merely the instrument, she was placed in the upper
confines of Nifleheim,—in the region which, from her, is called Hell
(Helheim). She was invested with dominion over six, or perhaps seven, of
the nine worlds, (as we have before observed, there is some doubt
whether Muspelheim be eternal,)—over men, and dwarfs, and giants, and
gods. All who die a natural death proceed to her “drear abode:” hence
her title, queen of the dead. “Hela’s hall,” says the prose Edda, “is
affliction; her table is famine; her knife is hunger; her threshold, a
drawbridge; her bed, lingering sickness; her tent, cursing.” She too,
like Odin, had nornies, whose province it was to summon mortals to her
vast domain. But these were much inferior in loveliness and dignity to
the celestial nornies. They appeared to the fated victim by night only.
Hela herself was sometimes believed thus to appear. She had a dark red
cock, to signify, by its crowing, the approach of fate; and a spectre
horse, to carry the doomed to her gloomy abode.

The third demon offspring of Loke, the wolf Fenris, is no less wonderful
than his brother and sister. The one had been surprised and, thrown into
the sea; the other had been partly persuaded to submit, through the high
dignity offered to her; but Fenris, who was more powerful, was also more
troublesome. He was taken, indeed, and bound; but he snapped his
fetters, strong as they were, as if they had been nothing. A massive
chain was now made, and he was bid to try its strength: it snapped as if
it had been dried clay. Another was made double the strength of the
preceding,—the strongest that the gods could make; but with a very
slight effort it too gave way. What was to be done with this formidable
criminal,—one destined, if oracles were true, to endanger the world? The
gods had no fetter in which to bind him; the giants, who were skilful,
could not be expected to join in any design against one of their own
body,—one, too, that was naturally hostile to the Aser. In this, as in
many other dilemmas, recourse was had to the Dwarfs in the bowels of the
earth. At the instance of Skirnir, the messenger of Freyr, they
constructed a chain called Gleipner; which, though so slender as to
resemble a silken thread, was nevertheless not to be broken by gods, or
giants, or dwarfs. The Edda acquaints us with the materials of which it
was constructed. These were six, all curious enough to deserve
mentioning:—the sound made by the feet of a cat; the beard of a woman;
the roots of huge rocks; the fibres of trees; the breath of fishes; the
spittle of birds. But how bind by it the formidable monster? Deceit must
be used. Repairing with him to a solitary island, the gods desired him
to try his strength on this, as he had done on preceding things. “Little
honour,” replied the cunning demon, “can result from breaking a silken
thread; but probably it may be enchanted!” and he refused to try it. He
was next taunted and jeered; and in vexation he at length consented to
be bound; but then, to be assured that the gods were honest in their
proffer, he insisted that some one of them should put a hand in his
mouth. They were in utter dismay; but the undaunted Tyr[62], the
northern Mars, the defender of the gods, at length resolved to sacrifice
a member for the preservation of the universe. He therefore placed his
hand in the open jaw, and the wolf allowed himself to be fettered. The
chain was cunningly fastened round his body, passed through a rent rock,
carried downwards to the centre of the earth, and there made fast.
Fenris now tried as before; but so far from escaping, every effort that
he made only entangled him the more, and rivetted his bonds the more
firmly. He therefore desisted; but in his anger he bit off the hand of
Tyr. From that moment the god has been only left-handed; but as he uses
that hand with much effect, he is still to be dreaded. He alone had
courage to take food to an animal, the roaring of which was felt by all
nature, until the gods thrust a sword into his jaws, and thus gagged
him. There he lies until Ragnarok, when, like Midgard’s serpent, he will
break loose.

There is no personage in the whole system of a more mythic character
than Loke. He was evidently the personification of the active evil
principle. His name signifies _flame_; and he is a representative of the
demon of fire—the _destructive_, in opposition to the alimentary, aerial
fire, of which Balder may be considered the symbol. At this day the
devil is called Loke by the Norwegians. Still there is frequently some
obscurity in the mythi respecting him, and it is occasioned by his being
so often confounded with the demon king of Utgard. Though they were
originally _one_, the Edda has made him into two, in conformity no doubt
with the genius of two distinct systems of mythology. The mysterious
allusion to the assistance which he afforded Odin in the work of
creation, is one great proof of his identification with the powers of
evil: his relationship with the giants, on both sides, sufficiently
accounts for his hostility towards the gods, with whom he associated
that he might find an opportunity of triumphing over them. He is styled
a coward, because his deeds will not bear the light—the inventor of
deceit, of lies, of every thing base. The first of his offspring, the
great serpent, is evidently a relic of the Celtic creed. The Britons
acknowledged its existence; and there are two bold promontories on the
coast to which they have given the name of the Worm’s Head.[63] Of the
wolf Fenris the character is more obscure, though no less confirmatory
of the mythos. It is doubtless a symbol of destruction. In several
countries of the East, it is believed that a wolf will finally destroy,
if not the world, the sun and moon. Thus, in the Budhist system, a wolf,
Rakoo, is always on the watch to swallow both luminaries. This mythos,
we suspect, with a living writer[64], has given rise to the superstition
so common in the middle ages,—that of men-wolves; viz., the power
possessed by some men of assuming the form of that animal. Hela, or
death, the offspring of sin, or Satan (Loke), needs no explanation. We
may, however, observe, that there is some plausibility in the arguments
of Magnussen, when he attempts to show that Helheim is more ancient than
Valhalla; that it is the place of punishment acknowledged by the
original inhabitants, while the warrior’s heaven was introduced by the
Gothic conquerors.

The mythological fables in which Loke so prominently appears, will
illustrate his character better, and certainly more agreeably, than any
formal description. In most of them he was associated with Thor; but we
select one in which Odin and Hoenir were concerned with him. Hoenir, we
must observe, is but another name for Vile, the brother of Odin, who
assisted in the work of creation.[65]

                             RAPE OF IDUNA.

The three Aser one day left Asgard to see other worlds, especially
Utgard. Travelling over dreary wastes, they reached a mountainous
region, more hungry than they had for some time been. Entering a valley,
they found a herd of cattle, and killed one of the animals for supper.
Loke, who was to be the cook, made a fire, and proceeded to his task,
while the two nobler gods walked about. But notwithstanding the great
heat of the fire, the ox would not roast. A voice, from the tree above
him, told him that he would have no supper unless he promised to let the
speaker join. He looked up, and seeing an eagle only, gave his consent.
The bird now descended to the fire, and seized both shoulders, which he,
considering as somewhat too large a share, would not permit. Taking a
large billet of wood, he struck the unreasonable animal; when the eagle
instantly flew upwards, one end of the billet adhering to its beak. But
alas! the other end was no less tenacious of Loke’s hand; and away he
was dragged over mountain, wood, and stream, his arm ready to fall from
his body, and his feet sorely wounded by being trailed over the sharp
rocks and bushes. He lustily called for help to Odin and Thor. “Cry
away!” replied the eagle, who was no other than the giant Thiasse in
that shape[66]; “but never shalt thou be released from this situation,
unless thou promise by oath to bring Iduna and her apples from Asgard to

Iduna was the wife of Braga, the god of eloquence, and daughter to the
dwarf Ivalldr, one of the most scientific of his race. She was a
goddess, and the wife of a god: for both honours she was no doubt
indebted to the wonderful apples of which she was the guardian, and
which had been given her by her kindred. They had this virtue, that when
the gods felt the approach of age, they had only to eat of these apples
to be restored to all the bloom of youth. The giants, like the gods,
were subject to decay; and, like the gods, they wished for the means of
immortality,—to escape the dark empire of Hela.

As Loke was no friend to the Aser, he swore to comply with the giant’s
demand, within a given time. He was therefore released, and enabled to
return with the two gods to Asgard. When the covenanted time arrived, he
told Iduna, that in a neighbouring wood he had discovered some apples,
much finer, and much more valuable, than any she possessed. Her
curiosity being raised, she took some of her own apples with her, to
compare with the others, and was accompanied by Loke to the wood; but
scarcely had they passed the boundary of Asgard, than Thiasse arriving
in the eagle’s shape, bore her away to the dark mountains of Utgard.

Great was the consternation of the Aser at the disappearance of Iduna
and her apples. The effect was soon visible: they became weaker, less
supple, decrepit, and wrinkled. Though the season was spring, the
flowers withered, and the leaves became sear as at the close of autumn.
A council of the gods was convoked to learn how and whither Iduna had
disappeared. No one could give them any other information than
this,—that she had been last seen with Loke departing from Asgard. Loke
was examined; and when he showed a disposition to evade the questions
that were asked, Thor seized him, and threw him into the air so high
that his heels struck the moon, and then descended to the sea. All this
was nothing in comparison with what he would suffer if he did not
restore the goddess. He readily promised to do so, if Freya would lend
him her disguise, that of a hawk. Being furnished with it, he flew in
that disguise to Utgard, and reached the abode of Thiasse just as that
giant had left it to row for a short time on the neighbouring sea.
Changing Iduna into a swallow, he returned with her in his claws towards
Asgard. When Thiasse returned, and learned the departure of the goddess,
he resumed his eagle’s dress, and rapidly followed in the direction
which the hawk had taken. He obtained sight of the fugitives just as
they approached Asgard; and he would certainly have overtaken them but
for a stratagem of the Aser, who were anxiously watching the pursuit.
Forming a vast pile of faggots under the walls of the city, they set
fire to it; and the flames ascended so high as to burn the eagle’s
wings. Thiasse fell to the ground, and was immediately despatched by

This is one of the most interesting fables of the prose Edda. It has
doubtless a meaning, though we are by no means sure that Magnussen has
discovered the right one. According to him, Iduna is the spring, which
may be called the renewer of nature’s youth. Spring is always
accompanied by joy and harmony,—by the song of birds, by the cheerful
hum of men, by the gambols of animals, by the sportive winds: hence it
is personified in Iduna: she is the wife of Braga, the god of poetry, of
music, of song, of harmony. Thiasse, the giant, is the winter: Iduna
flies from him in the shape of the swallow, which is everywhere the bird
of spring. The destruction of the giant by the flames, denotes the
season of winter killed by the heat of the spring.—That this explanation
of the mythos is ingenious, as well as plausible, cannot be denied; but
we are not quite satisfied with it. Though a meaning is involved in
these fables, we doubt whether all the incidents are thus designed. Many
were invented through the love of invention, or rather to please the
multitude; and by such inventors physical principles would not always be
observed. For this obvious reason, much caution is requisite in
interpretations which have not positive authority for their base.

The next mythos in which Loke is exhibited, is in connection with Thor.

                        THOR’S VISITS TO UTGARD.

Geyruth, also called Geirrod, was one of the Aser’s most formidable
enemies. In the former volume we have given, from Saxo Grammaticus, a
description of his empire[67],—a description rivalling in power of
invention any to be found in Homer. To it we refer the reader, before he
proceeds any farther with this narrative, as nothing can be more curious
than to compare the account which Saxo derived from tradition (no Edda
had then been compiled), and, what is more, from Danish tradition, with
that given in the sacred books of the Scandinavians from Norwegian

Thor’s first journey was preceded by that of Loke. Loke, with all his
cunning, was frequently in trouble;—and how could the devil be
otherwise? Assuming a hawk’s disguise, (the hawk in more countries than
the North was the symbol of that personage,) he entered the dominions of
Geyruth, was caught, and, when he refused to answer the questions that
were put to him, was shut up in a chest during three months. His revenge
then gave way, and he confessed who he was. The giant then released him,
on his promise to bring Thor to Utgard, without belt or hammer. The
object of the giant’s policy may be easily guessed. Thor, the defender
of Asgard, the everlasting enemy of the giants, would be reduced to the
same level with themselves when deprived of those wonderful treasures.
Loke had no difficulty in prevailing on the stout-hearted god to visit
the dominions of the giant king. On the way to that region, within the
boundaries of Utgard, was a magic forest, of which the trees were all
iron. It was inhabited by certain enchantresses, who were the mothers of
male and female sorcerers, who could at any time assume the wolf’s
shape. These enchantresses were cruel: they often raised storms, and
enticed travellers into their power from the mere love of destruction.
Thor met one of these witches, who cautioned him against the arts of
Geyruth, and presented him with a pair of iron gloves, a girdle, and a

On reaching the river Vimur, the longest one in the world, he observed
Gialp, one of the giant’s daughters, standing astride the whole
river,—one foot on each bank; and making the water rise in a fearful
manner. He threw a rush at her, and forced her to retire. Wading across,
he proceeded to Geyruth’s palace, which he entered, and a separate
lodging was provided for him. In one corner of the cavern was a stool,
on which he sat down; but scarcely was he seated, when the stool began
to rise from the ground. With the staff which he held, he struck the
roof of the cave, and immediately heard a loud scream beneath him. On
looking, he discovered, with broken backs, three daughters of his host,
who had placed themselves on the roof with the design of crushing him to
death. Geyruth himself did not escape more easily. Inviting Thor to
drink with him, the two sat down in another part of the palace, one on
each side of a large fire. Having sat for some time, the giant seized a
red-hot iron wedge that was glowing in the fire, and threw it with all
his might at the god. The latter caught it with his gloved hand, and
returned it with such force, that though Geyruth had run behind a
pillar, it went through both pillar, himself, and the walls of the
palace. Still it remained in his breast; and in that position, attended
by his three maimed daughters, he has remained ever since.[68]

In the second journey, which is much more imaginative, Thor was
accompanied by Loke. The temple of Upsal had been visited by Utgardelok
(the demon king of Utgard)[69], who had not only extinguished the sacred
fire, but made a ruin of the edifice. Now Upsal was the palace which,
above all others in Midgard, Odin loved. In it Thor and Frigga too were
worshipped with great pomp; and the priestesses of the latter were of
royal blood,—the daughters of kings. Great was the wrath of the three
deities. Thor, in particular, was observed to knit his brows, and to
clench his fist at table: but he spoke not a word; for he was revolving
the means of vengeance. Formidable as he knew the demon king to be in
natural, and still more in supernatural power,—in a science unknown to
the gods,—he resolved to invade his dominions. Having emptied a full
horn presented to him by one of the Valkyrs, he called for his car, for
his goats, and for Loke, as the companion of his journey. Having
harnessed the animals, nailed on their golden shoes, wound the reins
round his waist, he entered with Loke; and grasping Miölner in his right
hand, proceeded at a rapid pace down the bridge Bifrost.

                   Adown the pointed way
                     As drove the impetuous god,
                   The red flames, lambent, play
                     Along the wheel-tracks broad.

                   Heimdal his horn blew loud,[70]
                     The god with sleepless eye;
                   Seven maids submissive bowed[71]
                     As the gold car flew by.

                   On earth some meteor dire
                     Men thought then to behold;
                   The heavens were fraught with fire;
                     In peals the thunder rolled.[72]

Reaching a cottage towards nightfall, they asked for hospitality, which
was readily granted. Humble was the cot; and it contained little for
gods to banquet on,—nothing but simple vegetables. But Thor was not
anxious on this account. With his hammer he slew his two goats, which
were skinned and roasted with considerable despatch. Ample was the
entertainment; not only was the flesh delicious, but the place teemed
with excellent mead; and some idea may be formed of a divine appetite,
when we add, that the two goats were entirely devoured,—all but the
bones, which Thor desired should be carefully thrown back into the skins
that were stretched before the hearth. But Thialf, a son of the rustic
host, and a mere stripling, broke a thigh-bone of one goat for the sake
of the marrow. The next morning, before daybreak, Thor arose, and swung
his hammer over the two skins, when suddenly the two goats rose up as if
nothing had happened. But one of them limped; and dreadful was the
countenance of the god. Supplication, however, disarmed him; he took the
youth and a sister into his service; and leaving the car and the goats
at the peasant’s cottage, all four proceeded on foot. The boy, who
immediately won the favour of his master, carried a wallet; and the
maiden, quite a beauty, tripped lightly along. Thor marched pensively;
his hammer flung over his shoulder; his dark locks escaping from his
silvery casque. They reached the sea, which was agitated by a dreadful
tempest; and Loke began to be afraid; but he was compelled to follow the
god, who rushed into the water, like some thundering rock. The mortals
too followed: but the storm continued to rage; and they required all the
help of the leader to reach the other side. A trackless desert was next
to be traversed; and on they went, in darkness, except that the moon now
and then gleamed,—weary, hungry, wet, and faint. Other trials were to be
encountered,—the storm, the lightning, the slippery ice, the deep mud;
the roaring wind, which the demon king excited by his magic power. Thor,
who had to support the maiden Roska, lost his temper; and he vowed
revenge on Utgardelok when he should meet him. What seemed to be a hut,
in the midst of the pitiless waste, presented itself; and three of them
entered it, Thor himself remaining at the entrance with his mallet in
his hand, to protect them while they slept. Vast, and of a strange form,
was the only apartment which the hut contained; but in a storm any port
is welcome. Towards morning, while Thor glanced in great anger over the
waste, he heard a strange noise, and felt a strange motion. Rising, he
beheld, by the faint glimmer of the moon, a vast giant—so vast as to
cover several acres—asleep and snoring. Grasping his mallet, he was
preparing to punish the intruder, when up started the giant. “Who are
you?” demanded Thor. “Skrymner, the servant of king Utgardelok, just
come from Jotunheim.” He addressed Thor by name, of whose feats he had
heard much; but common report, he thought, had been too favourable; for
after all, even _he_, who was of little esteem compared with his
fellows, could put this hero of the gods in the palm of his right hand.
“I have lost my gauntlet!” suddenly observed the giant, who groping for
it, took it up. What was it but the strange hut in which Loke and the
two mortals had passed the greater part of the night? All but Thor were
dismayed at this commencement of their acquaintance with the subjects of
Utgardelok; but Thor trusted in his hammer. “What brings you so far to
look at a desert?” was the natural question of Skrymner. Thor replied,
that he was determined to see, face to face, their boasted monarch,
whose magic and frozen mountains he only ridiculed. The giant thought he
might rue his boldness: however, if he was determined to proceed, let
him do so, and he (Skrymner) would be his guide. When evening came, and
the giant laid down to sleep under a great tree, until supper was ready,
there was more magic. Neither Thialf, nor Loke, nor Thor himself, could
open the wallet, or cut the strings. In great wrath the god seized his
hammer, and struck at the forehead of the sleeping giant. “Has a leaf
fallen on my face?” asked the giant, rubbing his face, and wondering why
they had not gone to sleep. Towards midnight, the snoring of Skrymner so
enraged Thor, that he arose, and aimed a hard and more vigorous blow at
the monster: the hammer seemed to enter his very brain. “Has an acorn
fallen?” was the cool observation of the other, as he rubbed his face. A
third blow, which seemed to send the very handle into the giant’s head,
had no better effect; so that Thor now began to have less confidence in
the weapon which had hitherto terrified all created things.

But we must not dwell on events which have been so frequently
described.[73] The adventures of the god and his companions at the
palace of Utgardelok were not such as to inspire him with more
confidence. Loke—fire itself, which consumes all things—was beat at
eating. Thialf—a mythologic personage too, though represented as a
peasant’s son, his name signifying _thought_—is exceeded in the race.
The mighty thunderer himself is vanquished in three successive trials.
Though he is the sun, the greatest drinker surely in all nature, he
cannot much lessen a large horn of liquor that is presented to him: he
cannot lift a huge tom-cat from the floor: he cannot, in wrestling,
throw a toothless old woman, who brings him on one knee. In much shame,
though in no consternation, the god returned with his companions. On
leaving the confines of the city, however, he was made acquainted with
the deceptions that had been practised on him. The three blows which he
had struck, were not at a head, but at a rocky mountain; and deep were
the dells which they had made in it. The horn was the ocean; yet he had
drunk so much of it as to leave in many places land instead of water.
The cat was Midgard’s great serpent, which he had almost lifted from the
sea. The old woman was Hela, the goddess of death, who with all her
strength could only bring him on one knee. In great anger, he was going
to exact revenge for such tricks, when the spectre and the city itself
vanished like mist.

This mythos in a great degree explains itself. The contest between Thor
and Utgard’s monarch is evidently one between the summer and the winter,
between heat and cold, between light and darkness. Many of the details,
we believe, in opposition to Magnussen, who sees in every thing a
physical meaning, to have been created without any other design than

_Hymis-quida_, a song about Hymir, is from the elder Edda, and is of
great antiquity.

                       THOR AND THE GIANT HYMIR.

The sea-god Ægir gave a banquet to the gods; but he was little prepared
for such drinkers, and his mead fell short. Thor called for more with
some anger; and that anger was not diminished when he found that no more
was forthcoming. The excuse was, that Ægir had not a cauldron large
enough to brew sufficient mead at a time. Tyr, who was present with the
rest, and who, though a god, is represented as the son of the giant
Hymir, observed that his father had one a mile deep, which might be
obtained by stratagem. On this business the two gods immediately
departed in the chariot of Thor towards Hymir’s abode, which lay on the
confines of the eastern sea. Here they found two ladies, the mother and
wife of the giant; the former a strange creature, with 900 heads; the
latter, who was the mother of Tyr, a fine woman, and kind as she was
comely. She told them both that she feared Hymir’s return; since he was
subject to dreadful passions; and she hid them behind some kettles.
Towards evening he returned, in no good humour. As he entered the house,
the icy mountains emitted a thundering noise. An old man he was to view,
and the hairs of his head, which resembled a forest, were frozen. His
wife, saluting him, told him that their son was arrived, in company with
the famous enemy of the giants and the friend of men, Veor.[74] “Look,”
she added, “where they sit, at the extremity of the house, to avoid thy
glance!” The giant looked; but they were concealed by the nine kettles.
At his glance, however, the tree or beam from which they were suspended,
burnt into two, and eight of them burst. The two gods now advanced; and
though Hymir was compelled to exercise some degree of hospitality, he
did so unwillingly. Three oxen (one for each, we suppose, unless the
lion’s share was to be Hymir’s,) were ordered to be roasted. But Thor
showed that he had more than a giant’s appetite; for, to the surprise of
his host, he ate two of the animals himself. This made the latter
observe, that the next evening the two visitors must eat what they could
take in hunting or fishing for themselves. The next day, therefore, Thor
proposed to fish, if the giant would give him bait. “Go amongst the
cattle, and seize one,” was the reply. “I suspect, however,” Hymir
added, “that thou wilt not easily catch such bait.” Without reply, Thor
went into the wood, and seizing the horns of a large black bull, pulled
off its head, and returned to the giant, who expressed some surprise at
such a feat in one so little. They now went out into the sea, and the
giant hauled two whales. But nobler was the prey of Thor: with the
bull’s head he caught the great serpent Jormungandur, the head of which
he drew out of the water, and which spewed venom upon him. The rocks
trembled; the desert places howled, and the ancient earth rolled itself
closer. He then struck the monster with his mallet, and it sank. Hymir
rowed back, sullen and silent; and the strength which had been exhibited
in bringing the two whales to his mountain home, gave him some reason
for thought. When returned, the two gods were desired to try their
strength in other things. A cup was put into the hands of Thor, and he
was defied to break it. In vain did he dash it against several pillars
in succession: he split _them_, but _it_ remained unbroken. The wife now
whispered him to throw it against the giant’s head, which was much
harder than the rock. He did so; the head was uninjured; but the cup was
broken, and the owner lamented its loss. The next trial of strength was
to carry the great cauldron out of the house. Tyr tried twice; but could
not so much as move it. But Thor placed it upon his head; and though the
edges descended to his heels, he walked away with it. He was now pursued
by a great number of giants whom he slew with his mallet.—From that time
the sea-god was able to treat the Aser men to their satisfaction.

Of this mythos the physical meaning is dark; and this darkness is
probably owing to the fondness with which the northern scalds added
extraneous circumstances for the sake of embellishment. Nothing, indeed,
is more hopeless than the attempt to restore these ancient pieces to the
original fragmentary state in which they were left by the priests of
Thor and of Odin. The scald has, by embellishing, concealed the priest;
the fabulist concealed the philosophic theologian. All that we can
safely assert is, that there is here a physical contest between heat and
cold, between evaporation and congelation; that the sun (Thor), having
drunk up all the streams of the earth, now invades the dominions of
frost and snow. The bursting of the vessels under the glance of Hymir,
is a notion universally diffused in the northern latitudes. Thus, the
two magicians the suitors of Gunhilda, could destroy every thing by
their glance.[75] The meaning doubtless is, that excessive frost makes
every thing brittle, and may therefore be said to split every thing.

If the scalds took such liberties with the ancient or poetic Edda, as
often to bury the sun, they were more licentious still in regard to the
younger or prose Edda. This work was evidently compiled to explain the
former. With _it_ a licence still more dangerous has been taken; so
that, in many instances, it bears little conformity with the preceding
work. We may add, that by modernising, paraphrasing, and embellishing
the prose Edda, Ohlenschlager has done no service to the ancient
mythology of his country: he cannot be followed by any one that would
form a correct notion of the subject. In the same manner as the
compilers of the second Edda deviated from the spirit of the first, so
has the celebrated Danish poet deviated from _them_.[76] For the sake of
illustrating this divergence, let us advert for a moment to the same
adventure in the prose Edda and in the version of Ohlenschlager: it will
be found to have lost its mythical character in proportion to the
improvement of its fable.

When Thor reflected on the gross impositions which Utgardelok had
practised on him, he was apprehensive, and not without reason, that gods
and men would take him for a fool. To vindicate his merits, he ventured
again to visit Utgard, and without Loke, whose honour he justly
suspected. This time he would, like them, change his form, and he
obtained from Odin, in the shape of ointment, power that would enable
him to do so. Leaving behind his car and his goats—

                    O’er Dovre’s ridge[77] he strode,
                    For cliff nor torrent slack’d;
                    The tall pines, where he trode,
                    Like field of stubble crack’d.

                    Sneehattan’s peak of snow,
                    And Jotunfieldt he past,
                    Then sought the plains below,
                    And the sea reach’d at last;
                    He mark’d in curling wreath
                    The dull wave roll away,
                    And saw where, far beneath,
                    The serpent, brooding, lay.

                    His heart with hope beat high,
                    His voice shook as he spake,
                    Turning to Heaven his eye,
                    “No more, accursed snake,”
                    Quoth he: “in giant bend
                    Earth prison’d shalt thou keep,
                    Nor struggling sea-man send
                    To fell Ran’s cavern deep.”

“But being now resolved to proceed with caution, he began by changing
his form. Throwing his ponderous helmet on the ground, it became a rock
covered with pines.

                      Next, from his cloven chin,
                      He tore the bushy beard;
                      Which, cast in the ravine,
                      A thorny copse appear’d.
                      A smooth-faced peasant boy
                      He stood, in wadmel[78] blue,
                      White Heimdall smiled for joy
                      The cunning wile to view.

                      Now straight to Hymir’s grot
                      He hies, a simple hind,
                      His flaxen ringlets float
                      Wild in the morning wind;
                      His belt, by magic cheat,
                      A woollen girdle seem’d,
                      Art with like art to meet,
                      No shame the Aser deem’d.

                      Miölner, as woodman’s axe,
                      Athwart his arm he bare,
                      His courage high ’gan wax
                      At thought of vengeance near.
                      In moss-lined cavern deep,
                      Lull’d by a torrent’s play,
                      Taking his morning sleep,
                      At length the giant lay.”

“The poet in describing Hymir’s residence gives a vivid picture of
Norwegian scenery, black rugged rocks crowned with pines, a waterfall, a
river white with foam dashing through thick brushwood down the ravine,
and hard by a verdant dell filled with cattle. On hearing a stranger’s
step, Hymir sprang up, and demanded of the stripling how he dared
unbidden to venture into his wood. Thor replied that he felt no

                     ‘My pulse beats steadily,’
                     The youth replied: ‘for ne’er
                     Hath Nornies’ stern decree
                     Been changed, I trow, by fear.
                     One of a form so good,
                     Of generous soul should be;
                     My little drop of blood,
                     What would it profit thee?’”

“He finishes a long speech by saying, that his object was to obtain the
giant’s permission to accompany him when he went out to fish.

                      The grisly giant grinn’d
                      So wide, that either ear
                      His mouth appear’d behind,
                      Ne’er yet was seen such leer;
                      The earth shook all around,
                      He laugh’d so heartily,
                      ‘One with a heart so sound
                      I’ll never harm,’ quoth he.”

“He then granted the request, and invited Thor to take shelter in his
cave from the keen morning wind, adding tauntingly,

                     ‘When many a league from shore
                     The kraken’s snort we hear,
                     And whirling Maelström’s roar,
                     ’Tis then we’ll talk of fear.’”

“Thor asked only to be put to the proof, and now begged to be allowed to
take with him what he might want for his fishing. Hymir assented,
telling him that for bait he would find a grub amongst the cows. Thor
went into the field, and a wild bull rushing towards him, he seized it
by the horns and brake off its head, and then throwing it over his
shoulders leaped the enclosure, and hastened to Hymir, who was getting
the boat ready.

                    When Hymir the bull’s head
                    On the youth’s shoulders saw,
                    He laugh’d, and own’d the deed
                    Was good for one so raw.

                    Then shoved the boat from shore,
                    Swift through the waves it flew.
                    Hymir plied well his oar,
                    And Thor row’d stoutly too.”

“The god now became elated at the near prospect of measuring himself
with the serpent, and gave full liberty to his thoughts. If he could
succeed in slaying it,

                   ‘By Yggdrasil[79], the feat
                   Would glad me more, by far,
                   In Valhall than to beat
                   Ten score Einheriar.

                   What fruitful seeds of ill
                   To mar man’s mortal state,
                   And earth with woes to fill,
                   From the worm emanate!
                   His pestilential breath
                   Fevers and plagues doth cause,
                   And each disease to death
                   Which man untimely draws.

                   When one in manhood’s prime
                   Feels his approaching end,
                   And ere yet lapsed his time,
                   To Hela’s power must bend;
                   When his heart-broken spouse
                   Sees hope’s last promise fail,
                   Then his fell might he’ll rouse
                   To mock the widow’s wail.

                   Her babe, which will not rest
                   When the pale mother clasps,
                   And gives in vain the breast,
                   Struggling for life it gasps.
                   Poor babe, as early rose
                   Late fresh—she sees its eye
                   In death for ever close—
                   Nor weeps for agony:

                   When one, who purely burns,
                   Absent for many a year,
                   To his true love returns
                   And finds her on her bier.
                   When from a mourning realm
                   Some virtuous prince is ta’en,
                   Or chief has bow’d his helm;
                   Then sure the foul snake’s seen

                   Writhing for joy. Their birth
                   All serpents, which infest
                   Man’s central spot of earth,
                   Draw from his nostril’s blast.
                   The great snake, whose wide jowl,
                   (To th’ southwards, far away)
                   Will gulp a raging bull,
                   Through him first saw the day.

                   Its tail wound round an oak
                   It watcheth long its prey,
                   Which from the affrighted flock
                   Struggling it drags away.
                   Others, with diamond eyes,
                   To Askur’s mortal race,
                   Death-doomed! though less in size,
                   Alas! not fatal less.

                   Fair sight their forms to view
                   Basking in new-donn’d sheen,
                   To their’s the violet’s blue
                   Must yield, or emerald’s green:
                   They know, by wizard gaze,
                   Coil’d ’neath some leafy bower,
                   Their prey with fear to glaze,
                   And charm him to their power.

                   Gaunt Fenris, Loptur’s son,
                   Who loves to prowl the night,
                   Bewilder’d travellers down
                   Hurling from rocky height:
                   When bloody treason’s rife,
                   When for some murder foul
                   The bandit whets his knife,
                   The wolf for joy doth howl.

                   All who delight in blood
                   From him beginning have;
                   From him the tiger brood,
                   The hyæna’s traitor laugh;
                   The like each robber beast,
                   Which from the fair light shrinks,
                   Fitchet of plunderers least,
                   Marten, and fox, and lynx.

                   For nought hath Fenris ruth,
                   When midnight winds blow hoarse,
                   His sacrilegious tooth
                   Tears from its grave the corse—
                   Still ’twere my chiefest joy
                   The foul worm and his brood
                   Of reptiles to destroy.
                   Grieves me that man the food

                   Of crawling worms should be:
                   This slain, his life should pass,
                   From loathsome sickness free,
                   In years of happiness.
                   And, when th’ o’erpeopled earth
                   No more her sons could feed,
                   The bravest should stand forth,
                   And like good warriors bleed.

                   Not hatred should unsheath
                   Their swords, nor lust of power,
                   But a soul-warming wrath,
                   Gone when the fight was o’er.
                   From some dark cloud the fray
                   I’d watch, my bolts in hand
                   The boldest on their way
                   To Odin’s hall to send.”

                   Thus mused the Aser Thor,
                   And pull’d with all his might,
                   Each time he struck his oar
                   The dark-green wave turn’d white.
                   The more his anger burn’d
                   The huge boat sped the more,
                   Seem’d as the waves it spurn’d
                   Skimming like Dolphin o’er—

                   So swiftly on it flew,
                   The sides began to split,
                   The sea so fast came through,
                   The twain in water sit.
                   Quick Hymir sprang to bale
                   It out, and loud to roar,
                   (His giant-heart ’gan fail)
                   ‘Avast there! back your oar.

                   ‘An you keep on this rate
                   We soon to Ran shall go’—
                   Quoth Thor: ‘Take heart, must yet
                   A score good leagues or so.’
                   ‘Score leagues!’ cried Hymir: ‘why,
                   Art mad! mark’st not the storm!
                   E’en now I can descry
                   Where lies fell Midgard’s worm.’

                   ‘And what care I for worm!’
                   Cried Thor, the fisher good:
                   ‘The bleak north’s bitterest storm
                   But fans my heated blood—
                   I love the tempest’s roar—
                   Ha! there the foul worm struck,
                   Now I’ll take in mine oar,
                   And try with line my luck.’

                   Then rising to full height,
                   The iron kedge he took,
                   Which, though it seem’d him light,
                   Must serve him for a hook.
                   The gory bullock’s head
                   He took him for a bait—
                   The giant, pale with dread,
                   In the stern, trembling, sate.

                   For line, he next made loose
                   His belt, and one end pass’d
                   Twice round his waist, with noose
                   Well bound to th’ other fast
                   The baited hook he tied,
                   And in the ocean threw:
                   O’er the boat’s yielding side
                   The girdle, hissing, flew.”

    “It must be confessed,” says the prose Edda, “that Thor here
    made quite as great a fool of Jormungandur as Utgard’s-Lok did
    of him, when the giant king caused him to lift up the worm,
    believing it was a cat. The worm gulped down the ox’s head so
    ravenously, that the hook stuck deep in his jaws. As soon as he
    perceived this, he plunged with such violence, that both Thor’s
    fists struck against the sides of the boat, on which the god’s
    anger got up and his strength at the same time, and he pulled so
    furiously against the snake, that both his legs went through the
    boat, and he remained standing on the bottom of the sea. He now
    pulled up the serpent to the edge of the boat, and, to say the
    truth, it was a terrible sight to see Thor look so grim at the
    serpent, and the serpent all the while gaping and spewing out
    poison against Thor. It is reported also that the giant Hymir
    changed colour, and became white with fear, when he saw the
    snake, and the dark blue sea breaking through the sides of the

    “In the same moment Thor seized hold of his hammer and swung it
    round in the air, but the giant fumbled about for his knife, and
    scored Thor’s knot over, by which means the snake got loose and
    sank down to the bottom of the sea. Thor threw his hammer after
    it, and it has been asserted that he thus knocked its head off
    against the breakers. But I think that it is pretty certain that
    the Midgard’s worm still lives and lies in the sea. Thor then
    lifted his arm and gave Hymir such a cuff on the side of the
    head that he fell overboard, and the soles of his feet were
    turned up in the air, but Thor waded to shore.”[80]

The contrast between the preceding version and the simple relation in
the venerable poetic Edda will, no doubt, appear striking to the reader,
and abundantly confirm all the observations we have made on the subject.

                       THOR AND THE GIANT THRYM.

The poem of _Thrym’s-guida_, or the song about Thrym, in the elder Edda,
has a physical meaning, though that meaning is dark. Awaking one
morning, Thor could not find his hammer. Like Jove he shook his head and
his beard, and groped about in every direction. Calling Loke to him, he
said, “Here is a mishap, never before known in earth or heaven,—I have
lost my hammer!” No doubt but it had been stolen during the night by one
of the giants, who were always on the alert to injure the Aser. Both
gods then went to Freya, to borrow her hawk’s-dress, as Loke had before
borrowed it to recover Iduna.[81] “And thou should’st have it,” replied
the goddess, “if it were gold, nay, if it were even silver.”[82] Loke
assumed the dress, and flew into the giant region of Utgard. There he
found Thrym, one of Utgard’s lords, making golden collars for his dogs,
dressing the manes of his horses, and singing all the time. Seeing Loke,
he inquired, “What news of the Aser? What of the elves? What brings thee
alone to Jotunheim?” “Neither Aser nor elves are very well, just
now:—hast thou hidden Thor’s hammer?” “That I have, eight miles below
the earth’s surface; and regain it shall you never, unless you bring me
the goddess Freya to wife!” The condition was a hard one. Freya was the
queen of love; she was the Venus of Asgard; and she was also the
moon,—two things much wanted in the cold dark region of Jotunheim. Away
flew Loke, his wings resounding, until he reached Asgard, where he was
anxiously met by Thor. “Hast thou been to Giant-land? And hast thou
succeeded in thine errand?” “I have been to Giant-land, and I have
succeeded in my errand. Thrym, the lord of the frost giants, has thy
mallet, and thy mallet he will not restore, unless he has Freya to
wife!” The loss of Freya would be a great loss, but that of the
thunderbolt was worse; for how without it could Asgard be defended
against the giants? Away went the two gods to Freya, and the Thunderer
most unceremoniously bade her to prepare herself for a husband, and for
a ride to Jotunheim:—

                      Angry was Freya,
                      And she trembled (with rage),
                      The whole palace of the gods
                      Was shaken.

The gods and goddesses were now assembled to deliberate on other means
of recovering the hammer.

Heimdall proposed that Thor himself should assume the bridal dress, with
the habit and ornaments of Freya, and proceed to Jotunheim:—

                        Let us make on him
                        The keys to jingle[83];
                        And a woman’s dress
                        To flow below his knees;
                        And on his breast
                        The jewell’d ornaments;
                        And let us put on him
                        The handsome head-gear.

Thor did not much relish the proposal, from a fear that the gods would
hereafter hold him to be degraded,—would regard him as really a woman.
Loke told him, however, that he had only to choose between the mode of
recovering his mallet, and of seeing Asgard in possession of the giants.
He then suffered himself to be conveyed in the manner proposed. Then
spake Loke, the son of Laufeya:—

                       “I as thy servant
                       With thee will go:
                       We together will ride
                       To the land of the giants.”

The chariot was brought out, the goats were yoked, and the two Aser
rapidly proceeded to their destination,—so rapidly, that the rocks
split, and the earth blazed under the shining wheels:—

                       Then spake Thrym,
                       Lord of the Thurser[84];
                       “Arise, ye giants,
                       And strew the benches.
                       Then bring unto me
                       Freya my bride,
                       The daughter of Niord
                       From Nocturn:
                       “Bring into the bower
                       The cows with golden horns,
                       And the coal-black oxen,
                       The giant’s delight.
                       Many jewels have I
                       And many treasures:
                       Of Freya alone
                       Have I need.”

The giants arrived, and the bridal feast was prepared. Great was the
surprise of Thrym to see his bride eat a whole ox, and eight salmon into
the bargain; and to send after all three barrels of mead:—

                          “Who ever saw a bride
                          Eat so greedily?
                          Never did I see one
                          Devour so much;
                          Nor any virgin
                          Swill so much mead!”

The reply of Loke, disguised as a handmaid, was ready:—

                     “Nothing has Freya tasted
                     These eight nights (days),[85]
                     So great was her desire
                     To be in Jotunheim.”

The giant in a gallant style wished to kiss his bride; but no sooner did
he lift the veil, and see her looks, than he started back in great

                       “Why so angry
                       The glance of Freya?
                       I see from her eyes
                       The very fire doth issue.”

The reply of Loke, the handmaid, was equally ready:—

                        “No sleep hath Freya had
                        These eight nights:
                        Such was her longing
                        To visit Jotunheim!”

The giant’s sister came for a bridal present, and one she was about to
get that she little expected. The mallet, by Thrym’s command, was now
brought forth, that the wedding might be solemnised over it. The god
laughed as he grasped his well-known bolt; and no sooner did he grasp it
than he killed Thrym, the sister, and all assembled.[86]

According to Magnussen, the physical meaning of the poem is this. During
the winter, Thor, the god of thunder, sleeps; and Thrym, the lord of
that season, hides the thunderbolt. Loke (_flame_, and by an extension
of the metaphor, _heat_) is sent in pursuit of it. The sun and moon were
very meet and very natural gifts for the inhabitants of the dark region
to solicit from the gods; and the world, on the present occasion, must
have been left in darkness, or rather perhaps in cold, but for the
interference of Thor. In the foundation of his theory, the critic is
doubtless correct; but in the explanation of the attendant
circumstances,—that in which the god assumes the female habit—he is
whimsical enough. The truth is, that the foundation only can be traced
in any of their myths: the circumstances are introduced purely for the
sake of the embellishment, or for ensuring greater probability to the

Before we dismiss Thor, we must advert to the goddess _Sif_, his wife.
The word means a conjunction, kindred, and probably she was one of his
family. By her he had two sons, Magne and Mode, and two daughters,
Thrude and Lora. He was not her first husband, whose name does not
appear; but she had a son named Uller by that husband.[92] She excelled
in chastity, and was much worshipped, not in Scandinavia only, but among
the Vends, and perhaps the Slavonians, as a personification of the
summer-earth. Her greatest pride is her fair hair, which, like the
hammer of Thor, and the magic ring possessed by Odin, was the work of
the dwarfs. She is thus described by Ohlenschlager:

              Sif, tall and fair with native grace,
              To none in beauty need give place
              Save her whom Odin called to light,
              To make the erst dull world more bright.
              Fair tho’ she be, to Freya ne’er
              Can stately Sif in form compare.
                Not her’s the clear eye’s speaking glance,
              Age-frozen blood might make to dance:
              Or heart which passion ne’er had felt
              Like snow ’neath mid-day sun to melt.

              *   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

              Sif seems some Amazon to be,
              Her look replete with dignity,
              Her eye beams no impassioned glance,
              But rests in cold indifference.
              Her round arms, form’d alike to prove
              The contests or of war or love;
              Her swan-like bosom’s faultless curve
              Would Bragi’s golden lyre deserve.
              Smaller though Freya’s hand, not snow
              Than Sifs, fresh fallen on mountain brow,
              More white, nor softer virgin down
              Of Eyder-fowl, nor breast of swan.
              Two pencill’d brows of darkest brown
              Meet on her front, and seem to frown:
              What gentler beauty would deface,
              To hers but adds another grace;
              Her pearly teeth, of dazzling white,
              With ruby lips form contrast bright;
              But her first charm, past all compare,
              Is her long, silken, amber hair.

                          NIORD, FREYR, FREYA.

Niord, a lord of the Vaner, obtained, as we have before related[93], a
share in the government of the Aser. He could not, indeed, do otherwise
after the junction of the two people. Mythologically, he is the lord of
Vindheim, the region of the winds, and consequently the ally of Ægir,
the god of the sea. His palace, Noatun, is represented as on the borders
of the ocean. Thus, Ohlenschlager, who may be followed where poetical
description merely is required:—

                    Niord who with ocean’s god
                    Full oft in league is found,
                    Loves o’er the raging flood
                    In swift career to bound.
                    Skimming each billow’s back,
                    Loud neighs his coal-black steed:
                    On the calm wave no track
                    He leaves—so great his speed.[94]

Niord was twice married. By his first wife, who was also his sister, and
we are distinctly informed that the union of such near relatives was
peculiar to the Vanir (the custom, however, was common to the Egyptians,
the Persians, and the royal family of Peru), he had two children,
Freyr[95] and Freya.[96] His second wife was Skada, daughter of the
giant Thiasse. The circumstances which led to his marriage were these.
No sooner did Skada hear that her father had been killed by Thor[97],
than she armed herself, and proceeded to Asgard to avenge his death. As
the condition of peace, the gods proposed that she should take a husband
from them, but that, while choosing, she should be blindfolded. She
groped about, and at length fixed on one whose feet were small and well
formed, whom she thought to be Balder. It was Niord; and the marriage
was celebrated. The pair, however, could not agree about their place of
residence. The bride could not bear the sea-shore; the waves, she
observed, would not let her sleep, and she longed for her native
mountains. He was no less hostile to her father’s abode. A compromise
was at length effected; the couple were to live nine days in Thrymheim,
and three days in Noatun; that is, nine days in the mountains, and three
on the sea-coast. But this compromise was of no long duration. The two
were so dissimilar in character that they could not agree; there was a
separation; and Skada became the wife of Odin.[98] Of Niord we shall
only add that though little is said of him in the Edda, he must have
been a primary deity from the terms of the oath solemnly taken by the
Scandinavians:—“So help me Freyr, and Niord, and the mighty Aser!”

Freyr, the son of Niord, has been mentioned as one of the twelve ruling
gods of Asgard—as god of sunshine, of rain, and consequently of
vegetation. Alfheim, his residence, the kingdom of the light elves, was
given him in the morning of time, when he had cut his first tooth. One
day he had the presumption to ascend Lidskialf, the awful seat of
Odin[99]; and he was punished for it by falling in love with Gerda,
daughter of the giant Gymer, whom he saw issue from her father’s palace
in the North. Surpassing, indeed, was the maiden’s beauty; it was so
bright as to enlighten the whole region. He gazed and loved; and after
the beautiful vision had departed, he descended, melancholy and
miserable, to his own palace. What hope was there of winning a giant
maiden? Would the gods themselves sanction such a connection? Sleep and
appetite forsook him. In much anxiety, Niord besought his confidential
messenger, Skirnir, to draw from Freyr the cause of his affliction. With
some persuasion, Skirnir consented, and by much entreaty obtained the

                    From Gymer’s house
                    I have seen a maiden issue
                    For whom I long.
                    Her fair arms shone
                    So as to enlighten air and sea.
                    Dearer is the maid to me
                    Than ever was maid to any youth.
                    But of gods or demigods
                    Not one will wish
                    That we should be united.

Skirnir loves the lord with whom he was reared; and he proposes, if
Freyr will give him the horse “regardless of flame,” and the sword, to
go and win the lady for him. Having mounted, he thus addressed the

                    “Dark is the night without;
                    Yet it is time for us to go
                    Through the misty hills,
                    Through the land of the Thurser.
                    We both must return,
                    Or both be seized
                    By the powerful giant.”

He rode to Jotunheim, and before the gate of Gymer saw fierce dogs. On a
hill close by was a herdsman, to whom he rode, and inquired by what
means he might pass the dogs so as to speak with Gymer’s daughter. The
herdsman replied, that he must either be dead already, or about to die,
to venture on such an errand; never could he speak to the lady. Skirnir
observed, that he could but die; that he feared not death; and he
dismounted. The noise attracted the attention of Gerda: she caused the
stranger to enter, and thus addressed him:—

                     “Who art thou?—of the elves?
                     Or of the Aser sons?
                     Or of the wiser Vaner?
                     Why comest thou hither, alone,
                     Through raging flames
                     To visit our hall?”

He replied that he was not an Elf, nor an Aser, nor a Vanir; and he
offered her eleven apples,—no doubt those of immortality, stolen from
the treasury of Iduna,[100]—if she would bestow her love on Freyr, the
most agreeable of all beings. She rejected the apples with scorn,
declaring that she would never live with Freyr. He then offered her the
ring—the very ring—which was laid on the funeral pyre with Balder, the
son of Odin—that ring which every ninth night produced eight other rings
of the same weight. It too she scorned; she had gold enough in her
father’s house. He then bade her look at the sword which he held in his
hand, and threatened to behead her unless she would love Freyr. Still
she refused; and said that if he and her father met, there would be
bloodshed. Other threats he employed, and commenced a charm which was
for ever to deprive her of beauty, of happiness, of worldly esteem, and
consign her to the most direful woes. In the midst of the charm, she
interrupted him; she could resist no longer; she offered him a cup of
mead; and at length named the very night on which she would meet Freyr
in the grove of Barre.—Skirnir now returned in great joy. He is met by
Freyr, who will not allow him to dismount until he has said what success
has attended him. The news, which ought to fill him with joy, makes him
impatient. One night seems long; nine seems an age. The giant-maiden
kept her promise; and for a reward, Skirnir received the sword of

Freya, the sister of Freyr, and the goddess of love, is thus described
by Ohlenschlager:—

                      ——Freya’s hall
                With precious gems o’erlaid,
                Stands in a lonely vale,
                Which rose-tree forests shade;
                Swans, white as virgin snow,
                There on the calm lakes sail,
                Lovers, who ne’er brake vow,
                Tell there their ardent tale.

                But in Folkvangur’s bower
                Nought like its matchless queen;
                Mid many a beauteous flower
                No flower like her, I ween.
                Her form so round and slight,
                Her look which love doth beam,
                Her step as Zephyr’s light,
                Exceeds e’en poet’s dream.

                Each small, white, taper hand,
                A blushing rose doth bear,
                Which through her faery land
                Breathe forth their fragrant air.
                Their sweets no guardian thorn
                From rude touch needs defend,
                ’Tis they to even and morn
                The roseate tints which lend.

                Like her no goddess kind,
                She saves from wounds and death,
                Her sigh—the sweet south wind
                O’er the wild flowers doth breathe.[110]
                Round tears for mortal woe
                Each morn her blue eyes fill,
                Which on the flowers below
                In purest dew distil.

                Her daughters Siofna[111] hight
                And Hnos, with amber hair,
                Not e’en the spirits of light
                Can boast of aught so fair.
                Whate’er is passing bright
                On earth, from Hnos we call:
                Siofna gives slumbers light,
                The morn on pure souls fall.[112]

Freya had an equal share with Odin in the souls of all slain in fight;
for is not love the cause of as much bloodshed as any other passion? All
maidens of birth also hastened to her palace of Vingolf. Her car was
drawn by two wild cats, or perhaps leopards; and next to Frigga, with
whom she has been often confounded; she was the most powerful of all the
goddesses. Her husband was Oddur, of whom little is known, except that
he travelled far and wide, and that her attachment to him induced her to
follow him, weeping tears of gold. Yet, if report be true, she was not
always distinguished for conjugal faith. She had two daughters by Oddur,
both exquisitely fair to behold; and she had four attendants, to each of
whom was intrusted some portion of her sovereignty. Thus Siofna was the
goddess of first love; Lofna removed all obstacles which impeded the
fruition of lovers’ wishes; Var presided over betrothals, and punished
false vows; Tir, the portress of Freya’s palace, refused admission to
all who were not qualified to enter; and she was the enemy of all
unfortunate lovers: she it was who prevented the fruition of their

This mythos explains itself more satisfactorily than any other.

                              ÆGIR AND RAN

Were of giant race, and deities of the deep. They had nine daughters,
personifications of the billows, the currents, and the storm.

Ægir might be propitiated; but Ran was always cruel, when the fates
would permit her: she occasioned shipwrecks in which she delighted, on
account of the spoil which they brought her. She had a wonderful net,
with which she caught such mariners as fell into the sea.

                    In crystal halls his head
                    Rears Ægir, Ran’s stern spouse;
                    A silver helmet red
                    With coral guards his brows;
                    His beard, of ocean weeds,
                    His spear with amber deck’d,
                    And pearls, but show he needs,
                    And the proud waves are check’d.

                    The emblem of his sway
                    When lifts the watery god—
                    Quick sinks the raging sea,
                    Obedient to his rod;
                    His pearly muscle throne,
                    In Hlesey may be seen;
                    Has daughters nine by Ran,
                    Three are the billows green.[113]

There was a brilliant feast held in the palace of Ægir, beneath the
waves. Gods, goddesses, and elves were present to honour it; and the
great cauldron which Thor had stolen[114] contained mead enough for all
the guests. This feast, therefore, was subsequent to the other, when the
want of that liquor was resented by Thor. On this occasion Thor was not
present, but Loke was; yet no welcome guest was he. The deities did not
like him; first, because he had a wicked tongue, and next, because he
had but too much reason for using it at their expense. Two of the
sea-gods, attendants, obtaining from all the praise of dexterity, Loke
killed one of them, merely because he could not bear to hear any one
commended. In great anger the gods excluded him from the festive hall;
but he, at length, returned, and asked for his place, not in a
penitential mood, but in the resolution of creating strife. All seemed
inclined to reject him, until he won upon Odin by reminding him of past

                   Rememberest thou, Odin,
                   How, in the morning of time,
                   We mixed blood together?[115]
                   To taste of liquor
                   Thou swarest never,
                   Unless it were brought to us both.

The sire of gods was moved by this appeal; and he cried—

                      Arise, Vidar,
                      And let the wolf’s father
                      Take his place at the board!

He did take his place; and as each of the guests remonstrated with him
on his ill-nature, he launched out into new abuse. He spared none; and
though his reproaches were bitter, they had foundation enough to render
them keenly felt. Neither the awful dignity of Odin, nor the thunderbolt
of Thor, who arrived about the midst of the festival, could shield them
from his attacks. We have not space for the alleged vices of the
dwellers in the Scandinavian Olympus; but his abuse made the gods
inwardly resolve to effect his destruction whenever the opportunity
occurred. His share in the death of Balder (to which we shall soon
advert) hastened the time.

                             OTHER DEITIES.

The three Nornies, Urda, Verdandi, and Skula, are celebrated in
Scandinavian mythology. Of them we have before spoken, and have little
to add here. Their origin was unknown. They appear to have sprung up
with the great tree Yggdrasil, and to have been dependent only on the
mysterious Al-fader. They were said to have more sympathy than destined
beings would be expected to have, and to have wept over the fall of
their favourites. Both Urda and Skula were frequently consulted by the
gods, who were ignorant of their own fate.

Besides these there were inferior Nornies among the elves and the

_Night_ and _Day_ (Nott and Dagr) were also deified; so was the horse
_Rimfaxi_ (frost-mane), which carried night, and the horse _Skinfaxi_
(bright mane), which drew the car of day. Dew is merely foam which falls
from the bits of the former horse. Night was the daughter of the great
Norvè; and being married to the god Delling (the dawn) the offspring was
Day. There is some poetry in the following description from the poetic

                     Delling’s son (_day_) forth
                     Drove his horse,
                     Richly beset
                     With shining stones.
                     O’er Manheim (_earth_) gleamed
                     The courser’s mane,
                     Who drew in his car
                     The baffler of Dualin (_day_).

                     Through earth’s great
                     Gates of the north,
                     Beneath the outer root
                     Of the ancient tree,
                     To rest now glided
                     Giantesses and giants,
                     Ghosts and dwarfs,
                     And dark-alfs.

                     Heroes arose,
                     Alf-beamer (_sun_) got up:
                     Northwards to Niflheim,
                     Night is flown.
                     On Argiöll (_rainbow_) stood
                     Ulfruna’s son (_Heimdall_),
                     The great horn-sounder
                     Of heaven’s hill.

The deity of winter was the giant _Hrsnelgar_, who dwelt in a cavern
towards the dreary pole, and from whose wings comes the bleak north
wind. Thus the Vafthrudnis-mal:—

                       The giant Hrsnelger
                       At Heaven’s extremity
                       Sits under an eagle’s form.
                       From his wings, ’tis said,
                       The cold winds sweep
                       Over all nations.

This is the giant whom Thorkil saw in the cave.[116] In two or three
places there is also allusion to a summer god, _Sfosoder_, the sweet,
the pleasant; a contrast with Hrsnelgar, the devourer of carrion.

The Valkyrs, the elves, and dwarfs, having been already described, all
that now remains is to relate the circumstances which will precede and
accompany the destruction of the world. Many of them have a connection
with the fate of


On this personage _historically_—if indeed there ever was one of this
name and character—we have already dwelt[117]; we have now to consider
him _mythologically_.

Balder had fearful dreams, and he believed that something dreadful was
impending over him. He consulted his mother Frigga, who, though a
prophetess, could not interpret his dreams, or foresee the kind of
danger that was at hand. The gods were assembled; and as from ancient
oracles they had learned how their fate was linked with his, they were
the more anxious for the result. But all was darkness. Odin cut Runes in
vain. Thrain and Dain, two dwarfs who excelled all beings in Runic
wisdom, could only say that the dream was heavy, and that it portended
evil. At this time Iduna was in the power of Thiasse[117], but she must
be consulted, for she was a great prophetess. Heimdall, Loke, and Braga
went to Jotunheim for that purpose. As she groaned for the joys of
Asgard, the gods out of pity had previously sent her a wolf’s skin, by
clothing herself in which she forgot the past. Why then should the three
Aser proceed on their monstrous horses to her abode? Her only reply was
by tears, which, though they proved that she dreaded, also proved that
she knew not the cause of that dread. Again were the Aser convoked; and
it was then resolved that Frigga should exact from every thing an oath
not to injure Balder. But how could destiny be averted? She overlooked
the Mistletoe.

At this crisis, when the future was impenetrable to the most prophetic
of gods and dwarfs, Odin descended to consult the awful Vala, whose tomb
lay on the confines of Helheim. His descent we have before related.[118]
He returned to Asgard with the certainty that nothing could avert the
fate of his beloved son, or that of the gods, of whose ruin it was the

In the work of destiny, Loke, as might be expected, was the most active
agent. He it was who drew from Frigga the secret of the Mistletoe; he it
was who directed the blind Hoder to cast it; he it was who after Hela
had consented to release Balder from her empire, if all creatures would
lament for him, either persuaded the giant-woman to refuse, or
personated one himself.

That this mythos of Balder—one of the most celebrated in the whole range
of Scandinavian lore—has a physical meaning, is evident: it denotes the
departure of the summer sun from the northern hemisphere. Some of the
circumstances, however, have not been happily explained; and for the
reason that we have more than once assigned,—that they never can be
explained, since they were invented, not on physical principles, but to
embellish the fable, and render it more interesting.

                          PUNISHMENT OF LOKE.

The crimes of Loke were now full; and the gods determined to suffer them
no longer. Their vengeance fell, first, on his two sons, Nari and Vali.
The latter being changed into a wolf, devoured his brother. With some
difficulty Loke himself was taken by Thor, and, like Prometheus, bound
to the flinty rocks. If he has not a vulture to feed on his entrails, he
has something quite as bad,—a serpent hung over his head, which every
moment drips its venom. More fortunate, however, than his prototype, he
has a wife, Signi, who perpetually watches by his side, and building a
large basin, catches the venom intended for him. But at intervals she is
obliged to empty the basin; and when she does so, his agony, owing to
the poison falling on his unprotected face, is the cause of earthquakes.
There, like his monstrous offspring, the serpent[119] and the wolf[120],
he must remain until Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods, when he and
they and the whole visible universe will be destroyed.


Of this consummation, so much dreaded by gods and elves and giants and
men, the prose Edda gives the following account:—

“There will first come a winter which shall be called Fimbulveter; snow
will fall from every quarter, and hard frost and cutting winds have
sway, so that the heat of the sun will have no influence. Three such
winters, unalleviated by any summer, will follow each other. Previously
to this the whole world will be scourged, during three winters also, by
wars and bloodshed. Brothers will kill each other through avarice, and
there will be no mercy even from parents to their children.

“And now, to the great affliction of mankind, one wolf will devour the
sun, another the moon, the stars will disappear from the firmament, the
earth quake violently, trees be torn up by their roots, mountains fall
together, all chains and bonds be burst asunder, and the wolf Fenris
will break loose. Then will the ocean rise above its shores, for the
great Midgard’s serpent will recover its giant strength, and struggle to
gain the land.

“At length he will succeed, the ship Nagelfare will be set afloat, and
the giant Hymir take the helm. Nagelfare is built of the nails of dead
men, and it should be remarked that when a person dies and his nails are
not cut, materials are furnished towards the building of a vessel, whose
completion both gods and men should seek to delay as long as possible.

“Fenris now rushes onward open-mouthed; fire streams from his eyes and
nostrils; his under jaw touches the earth, the upper heaven, and he
would open them still wider if there were space. Jormungandur vomits out
poison, which renders the air and the waters deadly. He is the most
terrible of all, and fights by the side of the wolf.

“In the midst of the confusion the heavens are rent asunder, and the
sons of Muspell (the genii of fire) ride forth, led on by Surtur, who is
clothed in flame, and whose unrivalled sword surpasses in brightness the
sun itself. The bridge Bifrost gives way beneath their weight. The sons
of Muspell press onwards to the plain Vigrid, which extends five hundred
miles every way, and where they meet Fenris and Jormungandur. Asa-Loke
also has repaired thither, and at the same time appears Hymir with the
Giants of the Frost. All the sons of Hela follow Loke.

“But now, on the other side, Heimdall rouses himself, and blowing with
all his might on his Gjallar-horn, wakes up the Aser who hold council as
to what is to be done. Odin rides to Mimer’s well to ascertain what is
best; the Ash Yggdrasil is shaken, and all earth and heaven are in

“The Aser and Einheirar march to the plain Vigrid, with Odin at their
head. Armed with his golden helm, his glittering mail and his spear,
Gungnir, he encounters Fenris who swallows him up.

                 ‘Then is accomplished
                 The goddess’ second-heart’s grief.[121]
                 Then falls the god
                 Best beloved of Frigga.’—_Voluspa_.

“At the same moment his son Vidar advances to avenge his father; he
presses down with his foot the wolf’s lower jaw, and raising the other
with his hand, rends him till he dies. Thor fights with the serpent, and
acquires great fame by slaying him, but overpowered by the poison which
he spews forth, recoils back nine paces, and falls dead to earth.

“Freyr is opposed to Surtur, but now misses his good sword which he had
given to Skirnir, and is slain. The dog, Garmer, who had hitherto been
bound in a cavern, escapes and rushes upon Asa-Tyr, and both fall. In
like manner Loke and Heimdall slay each other. After all this Surtur
pours out fire upon the earth, and the whole world is consumed. The
great Ash, however, outlives this general ruin.

                    ‘Yggdrasil’s Ash
                    Totters, but stands.’—_Voluspa_.

“Good and just men will now be transported to Gimlè, which is built of
red gold, and where there are various splendid and delightful
habitations. Bad men, perjurers, murderers, and the seducers of other
men’s wives, will go to Nastrond, a vast, hideous dwelling, whose gates
face northwards. It is built of adders, whose heads are turned inwards,
and are continually spewing out poisons which form a large lake or
river, where its inmates are to swim eternally, suffering horrible

“A new earth, fairer and more verdant than the other, will arise out of
the sea; from which the grain will shoot forth of itself. Vidar and Vale
will survive the general destruction, and dwell upon the plain Ida,
where Asgard lay before. Thither also will repair Magne and Mode, the
sons of Thor, taking Miölner with them. Balder and Hoder will return
from Hela, and these gods will sit together, and talk over the events of
past times.

                   ‘The Aser will meet
                   On Ida’s plain,
                   And talk of the mighty
                   There they will call to mind
                   Great deeds of olden-time,
                   And the lofty gods’
                   Ancient learning.’[124]—_Voluspa_.

“During the conflagration caused by Surtur, a man and a woman, Lif and
Livthraser, will lie concealed in a place called Homimer’s Holt, and
there nourish themselves with the morning-dew. From them is to spring
the second race of men.”[125]

The Voluspa also refers to the second and more blissful world:—

                      A hall I see
                      More brilliant than the sun,
                      Roofed with gold,
                      On the summit of Gimlè;
                      There shall dwell
                      A virtuous race,
                      And enjoy blessedness
                      To time eternal.

                      Thither cometh the mighty one
                      To the council of the gods,
                      In his strength from above;
                      He who thinketh for all.
                      He issueth judgments,
                      He causeth strife to cease,
                      And establisheth peace
                      To endure for ever.

This is to finish the visible universe, with its physical gods. But the
immortality of the human soul is a doctrine strongly inculcated by the
religion of the North. The souls of the gods, indeed, are, with two or
three exceptions, to perish; and for this reason,—that they are physical
gods merely,—mythologic creations to denote the powers and functions of
nature. In this circumstance there is something pleasing to contemplate.
The _physical_ Alfader (Odin) has passed into annihilation; but the
eternal Alfadur (Almighty God) remains to govern the world, and to
reward the good whom he has admitted to Gimlè. Thus even in the darkest
systems (and few are darker than the Scandinavian) sages have attempted
to vindicate the ways of Providence.


                           SECTION III.[126]



As the introduction of Christianity into Norway has been already
related, we have briefly to contemplate its origin and progress in the
two sister kingdoms.

Nothing can be more obscure than the origin of the Christian worship in
these regions. Probably it was much more ancient than is generally
supposed; but the number of Christians prior to the ninth century must
have been exceedingly small; and of these most were probably converts
only in name,—joining the adoration of Thor and Odin with that of
Christ. We know that in the seventh century Anglo-Saxon missionaries
endeavoured to obtain an entrance into Denmark, the contiguity of which
to Frisia, and especially Germany, could not fail to attract the pious
zeal of those excellent men. St. Wilfrid could do no more than
evangelise a few of the Frisians. His successor, St. Willibrod, who in
696 was consecrated archbishop of the Frisias, passed into Jutland.
Though the mission failed, the prelate brought away thirty young Danes,
whom he designed to send as missionaries into that barbarous region.
Wherever this venerable man preached, he attempted to demolish the
idols. Even in the sacred island of Heligoland, where a tempest had cast
him, he exhibited the same undaunted zeal; and on his death in 739, he
had impressed the neighbouring people with much respect for his
character. That he escaped martyrdom, which seems to have been his aim,
can be ascribed only to that Providence which suffers not a sparrow to
fall unheeded to the ground. But ages are required to extirpate an old
and to plant a new religion. If many converts were made, they bore
little proportion to the bulk of the population; nor could the salutary
effects be permanent when there was no church, no succession of
missionaries to continue the work. We need not be, therefore, surprised
at the martyrdom of St. Boniface, the apostle of Germany, in 755. When
the victories of Charlemagne had disposed the Saxons to receive the yoke
of Christ, there was a better opening for the gospel, not in Saxony
only, but in other parts of the North; for many of the Scandinavians,
especially of Denmark, were in the same great confederation. St. Sturm
contemplated the conversion of Denmark; but he was prevented by the
emperor, who was more anxious for the progress of the truth in his new
conquests than in more distant regions.

[Sidenote: 822 to 826.]

During the reign of Charlemagne, no serious effort was made to establish
a permanent mission in Denmark or Sweden. Louis le Debonnair had more
zeal or better opportunities; and he readily sanctioned the departure of
Ebbo, archbishop of Rheims. Ebbo was a Saxon, and more eager for the
conversion of the kindred Danes than any of the French prelates.
Encouraged by a papal bull, he ventured on the perilous enterprise in
822. Fortunately for him, Harald, surnamed _Klak_, who ruled over a
portion, at least, of Jutland, had need of imperial aid to secure
himself on the throne. As the condition of such aid, he agreed not only
to become a vassal of the empire, but to embrace Christianity, and do
all in his power to make his subjects embrace it. The court of Harald
was near the present city of Sleswic, in the duchy of that name. Ebbo,
accompanied by the monk Halitger, proceeded thither, and was permitted
by the royal consent to preach to the people. But the fortunes of Harald
were diversified; he was expelled three or four times, and as often
enabled to return, as much through foreign assistance as through the
efforts of his own partisans. That he was unpopular may easily be
inferred from these revolutions in his fortunes. Of this unpopularity
one cause was doubtless his profession of the new faith; another was the
homage which he had paid to the emperor. Yet the efforts made by the
kings who reigned in Zealand to create a monarchy, and consequently to
destroy the Reguli, who aimed at independence, was, doubtless, more
injurious to his interests, than the disaffection of the pagans. But
during his intervals of peace, his patronage of Christianity was
serviceable to the cause. Ebbo naturally left the country when the king
was expelled; and there was danger of the good seed being choked, when
another and more zealous missionary was raised by divine Providence both
to continue the work which he had begun, and to extend it to Sweden.

[Sidenote: 826 to 830.]

_Anscar_, a monk of Corbey in Westphalia, was from his youth an
enthusiastic churchman. He had dreams and visions, which to him seemed
prophetic of his future martyrdom. For that result he accordingly
prepared; and soon loved to contemplate it as an object of desire rather
than of fear. When, therefore, he heard that missionaries were required
to continue the labour which Ebbo had abandoned, and to return again
with Harald into Denmark, he readily offered himself, and was joyfully
accepted. The perils, indeed, of the enterprise had no charms for the
luxurious ecclesiastics of that age,—men whom the favours of succeeding
monarchs had enriched; and Anscar with another monk, Aubert, were the
only inmates of the great establishment at Corbey that could be induced
to go. Indeed the community were not a little amazed to witness the
self-devotion of these missionaries. Leaving Corbey, the latter repaired
into South Jutland. From Harald, however, they received less assistance
than they had been led to expect. Knowing his unpopularity, he remained
chiefly in a fortress which the emperor had given him. Of Louis, indeed,
he was the vassal, not for Jutland merely, which might never acknowledge
him, but for the extensive region on the sea-coast, from Holland to
Hamburg. Yet he showed little gratitude to his imperial master. He was
suspected,—probably with much justice—of favouring the piratical ravages
of the Danes on the Frisian coast. However, he outwardly conformed to
Christianity, and was the avowed patron of the missionaries, though he
left them to struggle with difficulties which he might have done more to
remove. But we must make some allowance for the situation in which he
was placed. He had been for many years—he was now—at war with other
pretenders to the throne; and as these pretenders (the sons of Gudred)
were supported by the influence of the pagan chiefs, he had cares which
he deemed more urgent than those of religion. In 828 he was signally
defeated, and compelled to seek refuge within the bounds of the fief
which he held of the emperor. Probably Anscar retreated with him; and
subsequently returned to his post. But the death of his coadjutor, and
the desperate state of Harald’s affairs, convinced him that the time for
the conversion of Jutland was not yet come; and he listened to a
proposal, made by some Swedish ambassadors to the emperor, of
introducing the gospel into that country.

According to the Swedish historians, who will not admit that the Danes
were converted before themselves, Christianity had been embraced by many
of the Goths many years antecedent to the arrival of St. Anscar. They
assert that in 813 a church was erected at Linkoping, through the holy
zeal of Herbert, a Saxon ecclesiastic. That the gospel was preached in
Gothia before it reached Sweden, is probable enough; but we very much
doubt whether the result was so great as the national writers would have
us believe. However this be, St. Anscar was the first apostle of the
Swiar. Reaching Birca, the capital—a place not far distant from the
modern Stockholm—he converted some of king Biorn’s council, and was
permitted to preach freely. This visit was auspicious; success appeared
to be inevitable; but in the midst of his labours, after a residence of
six months only, he and his companion returned to Germany. Why? To
report what had been effected, says his biographer, Rembert, and to
solicit further aid for prosecuting the great work. But it these objects
were necessary (which we are unable to perceive), surely _one_ of them
might have remained to confirm the new converts. Anscar was the bearer
of a letter from Biorn to the emperor, written in runic characters, and
bearing testimony to the success of the two monks.

[Sidenote: 830 to 852.]

The pope and the emperor were much gratified by the unexpected opening
in the North. To reward Anscar, and stimulate him to greater exertions,
he was made archbishop of Hamburg, with a jurisdiction over all the
Scandinavian kingdoms, when he should have converted them to
Christianity. In addition he was invested with the legatine authority
over these regions; but it was shared with Ebbo, who knew less of the
people, of their wants, and of their disposition, and who certainly had
not either the zeal or the prudence of the other. One of Ebbo’s first
acts was to consecrate a bishop, Gansbert, whom he dispatched into
Sweden, while Anscar sent a vicar. It was evidently not the saint’s
intention to return. He thought, and justly, that Denmark was a field
sufficiently wide for his own exertions, and that he might superintend
the Swedish mission from his new metropolis. That mission slowly but
surely gained ground; while his own exertions in the more southern
portion of his immense diocese corresponded, if not with his wishes,
probably with his hopes. Both he and Gansbert, however, had the fault of
all Roman catholic missionaries; they baptized before they had
sufficiently instructed. Hence they had the mortification to see many of
their converts join the worship of Odin and Thor with that of Christ;
and many to forsake their new profession with as much levity as they had
embraced it. Other misfortunes arrived. Hamburg was assailed by pirates:
the sacred buildings were consumed by fire; the same fate attended the
books which the saint had collected; and would, no doubt, have befallen
him and his clergy, had they not fled from the danger. These pirates
were headed by a king—Eric of Jutland and Frisia. For some time the work
was nearly at a stand. Another disappointment—the loss of a monastery,
which Anscar had held with the archbishopric, and from which the chief
support of the mission was derived—paralysed his exertions. A misfortune
no less serious was the expulsion of Gansbert from Sweden. This event is
wrapt in some obscurity. It could not be entirely caused by religious
persecution; for the king was still tolerant. Perhaps Nithard, the
companion of Gansbert, and the nephew of Anscar, abused the popular
deities and their worshippers. There was a great commotion; the
mission-house was plundered and destroyed; Nithard was killed; the
bishop with his clergy forced to leave the kingdom. All this, however,
was “non-jussu regis,” which the Swedish historians convert into “Berone
nesciente.” Yet Anscar did not despair. Though poor, he contrived still
to instruct some of the Danish children, whom he designed as
missionaries for both kingdoms. Being afterwards sent ambassador to
Eric—the very prince who had burned his cathedral, and who by
Harda-Canute’s death had become king of all Denmark—he so far softened
that monarch as to obtain permission to preach without hinderance. At
Sleswic he was allowed to build a new church; the number of converts
increased; and their ardour was increased by the extension of their
commerce with the Christian empire. Such converts, indeed, could do
little credit to religion; still toleration was an advantage which in
time might, he hoped, effect all that could be desired.

[Sidenote: 852.]

Unfortunate as had been the issue of the mission to Sweden, _Ardgar_, a
hermit of much sanctity, was persuaded to renew it. He was soon joined
by some Danish converts. By Herigar, one of the chief nobles of the
country, who had sincerely embraced Christianity at the first preaching
of Anscar, they were received with joy. Through his influence the infant
worship was again permitted at Birca; but it made little progress; and
Ardgar, whose heart yearned for his old anchoretical life, at length
resigned his missionary office, and left the country. Still Anscar was
not discouraged. The see of Bremen being united with that of Hamburg,
offered him more ample means to prosecute his meritorious enterprise. In
the same view, he prevailed on the German sovereign to send him
ambassador to both kingdoms. From Eric, the Danish king, he bore a
letter to Olaf[127] of Sweden, containing an honourable recommendation
of his character and conduct. Eric asserted that he had never known so
good a man as the archbishop; he had therefore allowed him to labour in
his own way for the good of the people. But on his arrival in Sweden he
found new obstacles. The Odinic priests were seriously alarmed at the
efforts which during above twenty years had been made to establish
Christianity in the North. The imposture to which they had recourse
affords a good illustration of the popular character, no less than of
their religious notions. Just as Anscar and his clergy arrived at the
capital, a man suddenly appeared there, who asserted that he was the
bearer of a communication from the gods to king Olaf and his people. The
substance of it was, that the ancient deities had conferred great
prosperity on Sweden; that hitherto they had no reason to complain of
ingratitude in their worshippers; that now, however, there was a sad
lack of zeal, their altars being comparatively deserted for those of a
new and hostile divinity; that if the people were anxious for another
god, why go out of their own country for one? “If,” added they, “you
really wish for another, we will readily admit your late king, Eric, to
the honours of deification!” Gross as the imposture was, it was
undisputed; the hearts of the Swedes began to warm towards the Aser, and
a temple was erected to Eric, when altars smoked with continued

[Sidenote: 853 to 865.]

The aspect of affairs was so unfavourable, that the companions of the
archbishop urged him to leave the country. But he would not a second
time abandon his post. He had been successful with Eric of Denmark, and
he endeavoured to be equally so with Olaf. Inviting that king to a
feast, he redoubled his attentions, which coming as they did not merely
from an archbishop, but from the ambassador of a powerful monarch, were
peculiarly grateful to Olaf. Yet Olaf was a limited sovereign; though he
readily promised to afford the missionaries all the liberty he could, he
was bound to consult the will of the people, and even that of the gods.
In the true pagan spirit, he believed that other countries might have
local deities as well as Scandinavia,—deities as powerful and as able to
protect their worshippers. He advised the archbishop to send a deputy to
the next Al-Thing, or general meeting of the freemen, promising that he
would use his influence to obtain the requisite licence for the
celebration of the new worship. “Olaf first mentioned the subject to his
chiefs; lots were cast; and the gods were declared—probably through some
intrigue of the king’s—not to be unfavourable to the preaching of
Christianity. When, according to the Germanic custom, the people were
assembled in their annual plaids, Olaf caused the subject of the French
embassy to be proclaimed by a herald. In the discussion which followed,
much murmuring was heard; one party condemning the innovation as
disrespectful to their ancient gods; another vindicating it as necessary
to the well-being of the kingdom. A venerable old man at length
spoke:—‘King and people, listen to me! The worship of this new god is
already known to us, and we also know that he often assists those who
call on him. This many of us have experienced amidst the perils of the
deep, as well as on other occasions: why then should we reject what we
know to be useful? Formerly many of our people went to Dorstadt, to
embrace this advantageous faith; now, as the passage thither is
dangerous, why should we reject a good which is brought to our own
doors?’—‘We have often found our own gods unpropitious: let us cultivate
the favour of this god, who is as willing as he is able always to aid
his servants.’ The shrewd barbarian succeeded, because he touched in the
hearts of his hearers a chord that responded to his own. Neither he nor
they had much notion of a religion which did not confer temporal
blessings; all had been disappointed at one time or other in their
invocations for them; all, therefore, were disposed to receive
favourably proposals from a god who promised them a constant succession
of such blessings. This was a poor foundation on which to build; but it
was better than none. A proclamation was now made that churches might be
built, and that whoever pleased was at liberty to embrace the faith of
Christ. While these things were passing in Sweden, a revolution in
Denmark was fatal to Eric, and, for a time, to the new religion, which
the next king prohibited. But this time was a brief one; for the
prudence of Anscar, who now returned from Sweden, fully repaired the
disaster. The ecclesiastics whom he sent to both countries he enjoined
to imitate the example of St. Paul,—to labour for their own maintenance,
so as to be chargeable to no one. It was probably this necessity of
manual labour that rebutted many, even more than the persecutions they
endured; for during the whole of his pontificate, he had great
difficulty in providing the infant churches with pastors.”[128]

[Sidenote: 865 to 889.]

The work which Anscar had so well commenced, was as well continued by
his disciple, his companion, his friend, his biographer, _St. Rembert_,
who immediately after his death succeeded him in the archiepiscopal
dignity, with the full approbation of the pope and the Germanic
sovereign. He had, indeed, indicated to the clergy the propriety of
electing his friend, to whose merits he had borne this splendid
testimony:—“Rembert is more fit to be archbishop than I am to be a
humble deacon.” To the success of this prelate’s labours, ample
testimony is borne by writers nearly contemporary. He founded several
churches, not in Sweden and Denmark only, but among the Slavi. His
virtues equalled his zeal. To redeem Christian captives from pagan
thraldom, he sold the very plate of the altar. One day, for the
redemption of a virgin, he gave the horse on which he was riding. His
time was always occupied; scarcely did he allow himself leisure for
eating or sleep. During the twenty-three years that he presided over the
united sees of Hamburg and Bremen, he was no less zealous than he had
been in company with his predecessor. Towards the close of his life he
chose as his coadjutor _Adalgar_, a monk of New Corbey, whom he wished
to succeed him.—Of this eminent ecclesiastic, as many miracles are
recorded as he himself had related of his predecessor, St. Anscar. That
he believed them is certain; that his biographers believed those
recorded of him, is equally so. We should have been glad to perceive
them wrought for nobler occasions. With all their zeal, Anscar and
Rembert left few native Christians in Sweden,—few, we mean, compared
with the population, and scarcely perhaps with the advantages they
possessed. But to them be due praise! If they did not effect all that we
could wish, probably they effected all that they could. Their sense of
responsibility was strong enough; but their diocese was too extensive,
their duties too numerous, to allow of their devoting as much time as
they would otherwise have done, to the Northern mission. Nor must we
omit the inveterate bigotry of some pagans, the indifference of others,
and (a still worse evil) the hardness of heart which a vicious system of
religion had engendered.

[Sidenote: 889 to 936.]

The successor of St. Rembert did not imitate the zeal of his
predecessors. To extend his authority was apparently a dearer object
than to extend religion. It is certain that he never visited Sweden: it
is probable that he sent no missionaries to that kingdom; nor do we read
that he showed any zeal in regard to Denmark. _Hoger_, his successor,
was not more active. Of him the canon of Bremen expressively says: “Unde
fuerit, aut qualiter vixerit, Deo cognitum est.” Yet Hoger was half a
saint; he prayed and read when he should have slept, and still more,
when he should have attended to urgent duties. Too many have been the
churchmen of this selfish character,—esteeming every moment lost that
was not devoted to their own salvation; and expressing only barren
wishes for that of others. It is, however, but justice both to Adalgar
and Hoger to observe that their pontificate was very brief; and that,
had their lives been prolonged, history might have left some record of
their zeal, if not of their success. _Unnus_, the next archbishop
(916–936), was of a different character. When the invasions of the Huns
and the pagan Northmen had been repressed by his imperial master, he
proceeded to the court of Gorm, king of Denmark, whom, however, he
vainly endeavoured to dispose in favour of the Christians. With Harald;
the son of Gorm, he was more successful. Though this prince did not
immediately embrace Christianity, he viewed it with a favourable eye;
and he protected, as far as he could, all who professed it, especially
the priests. From Denmark he proceeded into Sweden, which had not been
visited by any Hamburg archbishop, for above sixty years. No wonder then
that, as Adam of Bremen informs us, he found Christianity nearly
extinct. Still he did find Christians, whom he endeavoured to establish
in the faith. As Helmold asserts, whatever might be the persecution of
the Swedish kings towards their pagan subjects, from the first dawning
of the gospel, there was never an entire cessation of Christian worship.
This excellent prelate died in the vicinity of Birca. His best eulogium
is in the words of the canon Adam, who advises the idle, luxurious,
worldly-minded bishops of the time to follow his example: “Look, ye
bishops, who constantly remain at home, wholly given to pomp, lucre,
eating and sleep, and who have no delight in the most urgent duties of
your post—look, I say, at this ecclesiastic, poor in the world’s
estimation, but rich in the sight of God,—one whose end was so glorious,
and who has left an example to posterity that no disasters of the times,
no distance of place, can be an excuse for idleness.” But what except
idleness, except indifference could be expected at a period when the
popes themselves were so worthless?

[Sidenote: 936 to 988.]

During the pontificate of _Adalrag_, the successor of Unnus,
Christianity made greater progress in Denmark than it had ever yet made.
This ecclesiastic was a canon of Hildesheim; he was subsequently, we are
told, the chancellor of two, or even of three, Othos. But this is
incorrect. He was never at any time arch-chancellor, and was
vice-chancellor only during a short period of the first Otho’s reign.
Probably he was secretary to one or more of those emperors; he was
certainly high in their favour. Through his influence, three bishoprics
were established in Jutland,—Sleswic, Rypen, and Aarhus, and one in
Holstein, that of Altenburg,—all subject to the metropolis of Hamburg.
This result, as we have before related[129], must be attributed to the
victories of Otho I., who subdued the whole of Holstein and Jutland.
Harald would have had no peace had he not consented to reign as Otho’s
vassal for the southern part at least of Jutland; to pay an annual
tribute; to sanction the creation of these bishoprics; to embrace
Christianity with the whole of his family; and to aid in its diffusion
throughout his dominions. If, on this occasion, he was an unwilling
convert, subsequently he became a sincere believer in its doctrines,
which he openly and constantly professed. At the time he transferred his
government from Ledra, the ancient seat of the Odinic superstition, to
Roskild, he erected in the latter place a church to the most Holy
Trinity. It was attachment to Christianity, even more than ambition, in
his son, that led to his tragical death. The old pagan party were
resolved to have a king of their own creed: hence the accession of
Sweyn. Though Sweyn was an enemy of the new faith, he could not undo the
work of his father, and of the Christian missionaries: the converts were
too numerous to be exterminated. In a few years he himself became
conqueror of England, and found it convenient to embrace the Christian
faith, which from his death was the dominant faith of Denmark. Nor did
the archbishop, Adalrag, lose sight of Sweden, which his predecessor had
done so much to reclaim. At his instance, Liafdag, bishop of Rypen, and
a Dane, Odincar the elder, laboured in the kingdom, and probably in some
parts of Norway. Hako the Good was at this time the ruler of the latter
kingdom, and he naturally wished to confer on his subjects the blessings
which he had received.

[Sidenote: 988 to 1026.]

_Libentis_, the successor of Adalrag, was also an honour to his dignity.
Fit missionaries were despatched by him into both Denmark and Sweden;
and if their progress was slow, it was steady. Their efforts were much
assisted by Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastics, who inspired less jealousy than
those of Germany, and who had the happiness to baptize the Swedish king,
Eric _Arsael_. This monarch, it is said, was the victim of his zeal. Not
satisfied with encouraging the diffusion of Christianity throughout his
states, he laid violent hands on the holy temple of Upsal; and for this
last act fell in a tumult of the populace (1001). On the death of
Libentis, in 1013, his successor, archbishop _Unver_, trod in his steps.
In the time of this latter prelate, Denmark, which obeyed Canute the
Great, became decidedly Christian. The same blessing was in preparation
for Sweden. Olaf, surnamed Scot-Konung, or the Tributary, because he
sanctioned a yearly tribute to the pope, established three bishoprics,
and was enabled to ensure a preponderance to the religion which he had
embraced. From his death, in 1026, Sweden may therefore be regarded as a
Christian state. Thus all the three kingdoms forsook idolatry for the
truth about the same period, viz., the commencement of the eleventh
century. This revolution, as we have had many opportunities of
observing, was exceedingly progressive. In Norway it continued during
three quarters of a century; in Denmark, from the mission of St. Anscar
to the reign of Canute the Great; in Sweden, from the same event to the
reign of Olaf Skotkonung,—in both instances about a century and a half.
Yet we must not forget that paganism _lingered_ in all three, especially
Sweden, down to the twelfth, or even the thirteenth, century.


                                BOOK II.

                            THE MIDDLE AGE.


                               CHAPTER I.




                           CANUTE THE GREAT.


ON the death of Sweyn, his son Canute was proclaimed by the Danes. But
this was the signal for the revolt of the Anglo-Saxons against the
Danish yoke, and for the restoration of Ethelred. That rash and vicious
prince was accordingly invited from the court of his brother-in-law,
Richard duke of Normandy, on the condition of his governing better in
future. What excited his hope, and that of his people, was the abrupt
departure of Canute for Denmark. Harald, brother of the latter, who was
invested with the administration, was aiming at the sovereignty of that
kingdom; and prudence demanded that he should not suffer the loss of his
hereditary realm, when he must evidently have again to fight for
England. Released by the death of Harald from all apprehension in that
quarter, he returned, with all the forces he could raise, to the English
coast. Lord of Denmark, of a considerable portion of Norway[131], of
several English counties, and of a fine army in that kingdom, he thought
himself equal to any enterprise. What most favoured his views on England
was the detestation in which Ethelred was held. His labour would have
been easy, except for the valour of Edmund Ironside, who, but for the
treason which ruled his father’s councils, and for that father’s utter
worthlessness, would have resisted with success. Leaving to the
historians of England the task of detailing the battles and negotiations
which followed, we shall only observe that on Ethelred’s death (1016),
Edmund was acknowledged by London and some counties; and that both
parties being tired of the destructive warfare, agreed to a
compromise—the counties north of the Thames being ceded to the Dane,
those south of the Thames to the Saxon; and that on Edmund’s
assassination (probably at Canute’s instigation) the Danish monarch was
acknowledged by the whole kingdom. The two children of Edmund, indeed,
remained; and, if report be true, the conqueror endeavoured to remove
them by violence. But the Swedish prince to whom they were confided,
refused to be made the instrument of his purposes, and sent them for
greater safety to the court of the Hungarian king. In this relation
there is evidently much romance. We have no proof that the Swedish
prince of this period was the friend, or even the ally, of Canute.
Probably the children were sent by their own friends to a place of

[Sidenote: 1016 to 1028.]

The English administration of Canute must be sought in the histories of
that kingdom. In Denmark he endeavoured to give to Christianity a
predominancy which it had not yet attained. On his accession, full half
of the Danes were pagans. To reclaim them, churches were built, and
Anglo-Saxon missionaries appointed. This latter measure was hateful to
them; and it was not agreeable to his Christian subjects, who wished the
dignities of the church for themselves. Both were dissatisfied with his
almost continued absence in England. Availing himself of this universal
feeling, Ulfo the jarl, as we have before related[132], placed
Harda-Canute, an infant son of the king, on the Danish throne. We have
related, too, the issue of this rash step—the resignation of the boy,
and the murder of Ulfo by the royal order. From this time there was
continued tranquillity in both Denmark and England. Canute, indeed, was
too powerful and too vindictive to be resisted with impunity. The
acquisition of a third kingdom, which he conquered in 1028[133],
surrounded his throne with a splendour that no Saxon or Danish prince
had before possessed.

[Sidenote: 1029 to 1035.]

That Canute was sullied by many crimes is evident, even, from his most
partial historians. He put to death many, without the forms of law,
either because he would punish their past, or avert their future,
hostility. After his accession to the English throne he acted with great
cruelty to many Anglo-Saxon nobles, and with perfidy to more. Yet he had
great qualities. He must have been a good ruler, or he would not have
dismissed his Danish followers, with the exception of about 3000. That
he placed Danes and English on a footing of equality; that he
administered justice with strict impartiality; that he improved the laws
no less than the administration; that his yoke was felt to be tolerable
by the English and the Norwegians, no less than by his hereditary
subjects, are historical truths. “In fact, he was one of the best
princes that ever swayed the English sceptre. If in his earlier days he
was ferocious, after his establishment on the English throne he was
humanised by Christianity. Of his zeal for religion, no less than for
the temporal welfare of his people, we have evidence enough in his acts.
There was an air of barbaric grandeur about the monarch, not to be found
in any other sovereign of the times.”[134] Lord of three great kingdoms
as he was, we must look for his true elevation to his own mind; and (a
rare phenomenon) his moral qualities improved as he advanced in years.
Few are the instances, whether in history or in common life, of men so
completely reclaimed from evil to good. Much of this reformation has
been ascribed by Roman catholic historians to his pilgrimage to Rome.
They would be more logical if they called this pilgrimage the effect of
the reformation. The state of his mind, his motives, his principles, are
well described in the remarkable letter which he wrote from the eternal
city, and which exhibits his character in a truer light than the
comments of any historian.[135]

This monarch was liberal to his followers, as well as to the church.
How, considering the splendid retinue which generally accompanied him,
the magnificent presents which he made, the churches and monasteries
which he founded and endowed, he could still be surnamed the _Rich_, is
not easy to be conceived. His prudence was doubtless great; but his
moderation is the virtue on which his biographers dwell with most
satisfaction. There may be, and there probably is, no truth in the
well-known anecdote of his rebuking his flatterers on the sea-coast. But
another, which displays him in a light equally striking, is less known.
Many years before his pilgrimage he drew up a code of laws, and was one
of the first to violate them by killing, in a fit of anger, aggravated
perhaps by intoxication, one of his servants. His good sense told him
that this violation was a bad example for his ferocious nobles; and he
resolved that his punishment should be signal. Convoking his judges, he
appeared before them in the garb of a prisoner, accused himself of
homicide, and awaited their decision. The penalty, according to the
Germanic jurisprudence, which governed the greater part of Europe, was
forty silver marks for one in the condition of the victim.[136] But the
slavish administrators of the law deemed that in publicly confessing his
crime, he had made sufficient recompence. Seeing their fear of him, he
condemned himself to pay 360 silver marks, or nine times the amount of
the legal compensation. Of this large fine half went to the kindred of
the victim, half to the crown; but the king would not touch his portion,
which was distributed to the poor.

In his last testament, and near three years before his death, this
monarch divided his states between his sons. To Harda-Canute, whom he
had invested with the government of Denmark, he left England also,
because that prince was his offspring by Emma, the widow of Ethelred II.
To Sweyn, who, since the death of St. Olaf (1030–1035), governed Norway,
he bequeathed that kingdom. Whether any provision was made for Harald
Harefoot, the eldest of his sons, is not very clear; but Harald taking
advantage of his brother’s residence in Denmark, usurped the English
crown. He could not expect, and he probably did not wish, that all three
should rest on the same brow. Partition was the mania of the age.



[Sidenote: 1035 to 1040.]

By his father’s death, Harda-Canute, the heir of Denmark, was equally so
of England; and he was preparing to pass over into that kingdom when
intelligence reached him of Harald’s usurpation. But that usurpation was
not sudden, or complete; and had he hastened with a few thousand
followers to claim the crown, he would have triumphed. But he had little
energy of character; and while he remained irresolute, the period
favourable for his hopes passed away. Fortunately Harald’s reign was
short; and in 1040 he was called by the English themselves to ascend the
throne. On his arrival he committed an act of impotent vengeance against
the memory of his brother, whose bones he caused to be disinterred, and
cast into the Thames. They were, however, reburied.

[Sidenote: 1040 to 1042.]

In his government of England, Harda-Canute seems to have committed only
one reprehensible act, and for that he had provocation. A tax being
levied for the support of the Danish soldiery, was condemned by the
English, and at Worcester resisted, by the murder of the two collectors.
To vindicate his authority, he resorted to severe measures. The
ringleaders were executed, the city pillaged and partly burnt. In other
respects he was not unpopular. His kindness to the family of Ethelred
did him great honour. To Emma he confided a share in the administration;
and to prince Edward, the youngest son of Ethelred, afterwards named the
Confessor, whom he recalled from Normandy, he gave a splendid
establishment. As he died without issue (the result probably of his
intemperance), with him ended the Danish dynasty in England.

[Sidenote: 1035 to 1042.]

Of Harda-Canute’s government in Denmark we have few records. He was
negligent and intemperate; and his father’s memory, more than his own
qualities, secured him on the throne. His transactions with Norway
deserve especial consideration. On the death of Canute the Great, as we
have just related, the sceptre of that kingdom devolved on Sweyn, who
had for some years held the government. But his administration was
disliked; he and his mother were equally unpopular; and his father had
scarcely been dead a year, when both were expelled from the country by
the ascendancy of Magnus the Good, bastard son of St. Olaf.[137] Sweyn
took refuge with his nearest brother in Denmark, and died the same year
(1036). If the Danish king was feeble, he was not without ambition. He
knew that he should succeed to the English throne; and as, after that
event, he should be the sole heir of Canute’s extensive empire, he urged
his claim to the crown of Norway. Finding Magnus too powerful for him,
he met that prince, and concluded a treaty singular in its nature, and
in its results important. If either king died without issue, the other
was to inherit his dominions. This convention was guaranteed by the
chief nobles and prelates of the two countries. Harda-Canute, as we have
just related, did die without issue, and the throne of Denmark
accordingly fell to



[Sidenote: 1042 to 1044.]

On the arrival of this prince in Denmark, he was received with open
arms. He was the son of a saint, with whose miracles the North
resounded; and his own virtues (much less questionable than his
father’s) justified the expectation of a happy reign. To few princes,
indeed, can history accord more virtues than to Magnus; yet he was not
deficient in the active duties of his station. The Jomsberg pirates who
had revolted, and whose ferocity was the dread of the North, he speedily
reduced, and their capital he laid in ashes. This was a service both to
the Danes and the Norwegians for which they could not be too grateful.
But the former, influenced by fickleness or by attachment to their old
line of kings, or by mortification at receiving a sovereign from a
country which they had twice conquered, soon cast their eyes on Sweyn,
son of Jarl Ulfo and of Estrida, sister of Canute the Great. After his
father’s murder[138], this prince sought refuge at the court of the
Swedish king. As he approached man’s estate, he grew weary of
inactivity, and having something to hope from the generosity of Magnus,
he repaired to that monarch in Norway. He did not ask for any portion of
Canute’s vast possessions: he wanted employment merely under so generous
a monarch; and his request was immediately granted. His talents, his
lofty mien, his deportment, and, above all, his skilful flattery, won
the confidence of the Norwegian, who made him first minister, and next
his lieutenant in Denmark. There was much imprudence in confiding to one
so ambitious and so nearly connected with the throne a trust of this
nature; but judging of other men’s hearts by his own, Magnus thought
that such a trust would for ever bind Sweyn to his interests, and be
agreeable to the Danes. On the relics of St. Olaf the young prince swore
fidelity to the monarch, and was well received by the people. To deepen
this favourable sentiment was his constant care; and by his affability,
his attention to his duties, and his liberalities, he completely
succeeded. When secure of their affection, he openly revolted. Magnus
assembled an armament, proceeded to Denmark, defeated and expelled the
usurper, who again sought refuge at the Swedish court.

[Sidenote: 1044 to 1045.]

No sooner was this enemy vanquished, than another appeared in the pagan
bands, who occupied all the eastern shores of the Baltic, that are now
comprised in the Russian monarchy. These men, scarcely less ferocious
than their allies the Jomsberg pirates, invaded Sleswic, wasting every
thing with fire and sword. Magnus flew to oppose them, and, after a
severe struggle, triumphed. During his absence, Sweyn returned from
Sweden, reduced Scania, and passing into Zealand and Funen was again
acknowledged by the people. Victory, in two or three successive actions,
still declared for the monarch. Yet the cause of Sweyn was not
destroyed. In the assistance of the Swedish king, in the adventurers on
all the maritime coasts of the Baltic, and still more, in the attachment
of the Danes, he had resources which even the power of Magnus was not
wholly able to destroy.

[Sidenote: 1045.] A third enemy now appeared in Harald, surnamed
_Hardrade_, or the Stern, the son of Sigurd, and the half-brother of St.
Olaf. If there be any truth in the ancient sagas, his adventures were
most extraordinary. He was present at the last fatal scene of Olaf’s
life; and from Norway he fled to the court of the Russian duke Jaroslaf,
whose service he entered. With Elisif (Elizabeth), daughter of Jaroslaf,
he became deeply enamoured; but his suit being unsuccessful[139], he
repaired to Constantinople, and was admitted amongst the Varangians, or
Scythian guards of the emperors. By his valour, and his birth, he
obtained at length the command of that formidable, though small body,
and by his exploits invested his name with much lustre. Heading an
expedition against the pirates of the African coast, he was the victor
in several battles, and the owner of immense booty, a portion of which
he sent to his friends in Russia. He was afterwards employed in Sicily,
in Italy, and in a journey to the Holy Land. In all this, there is no
great improbability; but what follows is too romantic to be credited. As
the reward of his services, Harald had demanded the hand of a princess
of the imperial family, and had been refused. “Those Væringjar,” says
Snorro, “who were in Miklagard, and received rewards for their services
during the war, have said since their return home to the North, that
they were told in Greece by wise and grave men of that country, that
queen Zoe herself wished for Harald as her husband, and that this in
truth was the cause of her resentment, and of his wishing to leave
Miklagard, though other reports were spread among the people. For these
reasons the king Constantinus Monomachus, who ruled the empire jointly
with queen Zoe, ordered Harald to be cast into prison. On his way
thither, St. Olaf appeared to him, and promised him protection; and on
that same street, a chapel has been since erected, which is standing at
this day. Here was Harald imprisoned with Halldór and Ulfr his _men_.
The following night there came a noble lady, with two attendants, who
let down a cord into the dungeon, and drew up the prisoners. This lady
had been before healed by St. Olaf, the king, who revealed to her that
she should relieve his brother from captivity. This being done, Harald
immediately went to the Væringjar, who all rose up at his approach, and
received him with joy. They seized their arms, and went to the chamber
where the king slept, and put out his eyes. The same night, Harald went,
with his companions, to the chamber in which Maria slept, and carried
her away by force. They afterwards proceeded to the place where the
gallies of the Væringjar are kept, and, seizing two vessels, rowed into
the Bosphorus (Sævidar-sund). When they came to the iron chains which
are drawn across the sound, Harald ordered all his men who were not
employed in rowing, to crowd to the stern with their baggage, and when
the gallies struck upon the chains, to rush forward to the prow, so as
to impel the gallies over the chains. The galley in which Harald
embarked was carried quite over on to the other side, but the other
vessel struck upon the chains, and was lost. Some of her crew perished
in the water, but others were saved. In this manner, Harald escaped from
Miklagard, and entered the Black Sea, where he set the virgin on shore,
with some attendants, to accompany her back to Miklagard, requesting her
to tell her cousin, queen Zoe, how little her power could have availed
to prevent his carrying off the virgin, if he had been so minded.” The
anxiety of Harald was occasioned by the intelligence that his nephew
Magnus had ascended the thrones of Norway and Denmark. Proceeding
through Russia, he married the daughter of Jaroslaf; and with her
returned to Norway through Sweden.[140]

[Sidenote: 1045, 1046.]

On reaching Sweden, where the fame of his riches had preceded him, he
entered into a league with Sweyn. The objects of this league are not
very clearly defined; but we may infer that one of them was to place
Harald on the Norwegian, Sweyn on the Danish throne. The wealth of
Harald hired numerous adventurers; and by the two princes the coasts of
Denmark were ravaged. Again Magnus prepared an armament to oppose them;
but his surer recourse was policy. To detach the celebrated Varangian
chief from the cause of the Dane, he offered him half of the Norwegian
kingdom (and also no doubt the eventual succession), on the condition of
Harald’s allowing in like manner a division of his treasure. The latter
eagerly accepted the proposal; he forsook Sweyn, repaired to Norway,
divided the treasure, the amount of which is described as wonderfully
large, and was admitted to a share in the administration. Contrary to
the usual experience of rulers so placed in regard to each other, they
lived in harmony to the death of Magnus in the following year. By this
defection, or rather by this conversion of an ally into an enemy, Sweyn
was compelled to retire. But he had his partisans in Denmark, and
Magnus, at his death, had the generosity to declare him his successor in
that kingdom. To Harald was left the Norwegian throne. Thus the two
adventurers became kings, in little more than a year after the arrival
of Harald in the North.

The surname of Harald _the Good_, sufficiently establishes his
character. He was indeed an admirable king and a virtuous man. Much
praise is awarded to a code of laws which he compiled; but they no
longer exist in their original form.

                               SWEYN II.


[Sidenote: 1047.]

As with Harda-Canute had ended the ancient male line of Denmark—a line
that traced itself to Odin—Sweyn II. may be called the founder of a new
dynasty. That dynasty occupied the throne to the extinction of its male
line in Valdemar IV., when it was succeeded by the reigning house of

[Sidenote: 1048 to 1070.]

Scarcely was Sweyn invested with the dignity, when he found an enemy as
powerful as Magnus, and less generous, in Harald Hardrade, who claimed
the Danish crown. The assertion of this claim led to many years of
warfare, ruinous to both kingdoms, but especially to Denmark, the coasts
of which were often ravaged. In general the advantage rested with the
Norwegian monarch, who, in 1064, obtained a great victory over the
Danish fleet at the mouth of the Nissa. With great difficulty Sweyn
escaped into Zealand, and began to collect a new armament. Fortunately
the mind of Harald was now disposed to peace. Sixteen years of
hostilities had brought him little advantage; the fortune of war was
dubious; and the Danes, like their king, were averse from a foreign
yoke. The two monarchs met, and entered into a treaty, which left
affairs just as they had been at the death of Magnus. These were not the
only hostilities in which they were engaged. Both undertook predatory
expeditions to the English coast; but they could obtain no advantage
over the vigilant and intrepid monarch (William I.), who now swayed the
sceptre of that kingdom.[145] Sweyn too had the mortification to see his
own coasts ravaged (those of Holstein) by the Vandalic pirates, who had
renounced Christianity, and who laid both Sleswic and Hamburg in ashes.
Before he could reach them they retired. Subsequently he was persuaded
to march against the Saxons, then at war with the emperor; but his
troops having no inclination to exasperate a people with whom they had
long been on terms of amity, he desisted from the undertaking.

[Sidenote: 1066 to 1070.]

Sweyn showed much favour to the church. He built many places of worship,
which he endowed with liberality; and he founded four new bishoprics: of
these two were in Scania, viz. Lund and Dalby, which were subsequently
united; and two in Jutland, viz., Wiburg and Borglum. Yet this
liberality did not preserve him from quarrelling with it. His chief vice
was incontinence. Numerous were his mistresses, and numerous his
offspring: thirteen sons are mentioned, of whom five succeeded him[146];
but the number of his daughters was much inferior; two only appear by
history. For this vice he could not hope to escape the censure of holy
mother, and he married. He did not, however, marry with that mother’s
consent; but chose for his queen a Swedish princess within the
prohibited degrees of kindred. When Adalbert, archbishop of Bremen,
heard of the union, he angrily condemned it, and by his messengers
threatened the king with excommunication if he did not separate from the
princess. The king resisted, and even threatened to lay Bremen (the
legate’s residence) in ashes; but the power of the church was too great
even for him to resist, and in the end he dismissed his wife, who had
the misfortune to be his cousin. There is no reason to infer, with a
recent historian of Denmark[147], that he dismissed her to recal his
mistresses; for he was now arrived at an age when the empire of the
passions could not be omnipotent. But he was probably taught to believe
that a real was less sinful than an imaginary crime—fornication than
marriage within the fourth degree.[148]

[Sidenote: 1070.]

In another transaction we must admire, as much as we may here condemn,
the conduct of the church. Sweyn was a man of strong passions, and of
irritable temperament. In a festival which he gave to his chief nobles
in the city of Roskild, some of the guests, heated by wine, indulged
themselves in imprudent, though perhaps true, remarks on his conduct.
The following morning, some officious tale-bearers acquainted him with
the circumstance; and in the rage of the moment he ordered them to be
put to death, though they were then at mass in the cathedral—that very
cathedral which had been the scene of his own father’s murder.[149]
When, on the day following this tragical event, he proceeded to the
church, he was met by the bishop, who, elevating the crosier, commanded
him to retire, and not to pollute by his presence the house of God—that
house which he had already desecrated by blood. His attendants drew
their swords, but he forbade them to exercise any degree of violence
towards a man who in the discharge of his duty defied even kings.
Retiring mournfully to his palace, he assumed the garb of penance, wept
and prayed, and lamented his crime during three days. He then presented
himself, in the same mean apparel, before the gates of the cathedral.
The bishop was in the midst of the service; the _Kyrie Eleison_ had been
chaunted, and the _Gloria_ about to commence, when he was informed that
the royal penitent was outside the gates. Leaving the altar, he repaired
to the spot, raised the suppliant monarch, and greeted him with the kiss
of peace. Bringing him into the church, he heard his confession, removed
the excommunication, and allowed him to join in the service. Soon
afterwards, in the same cathedral, the king made a public confession of
his crime, asked pardon alike of God and man, was allowed to resume his
royal apparel, and solemnly absolved. But he had yet to make
satisfaction to the kindred of the deceased in conformity with the law;
and to mitigate the canonical penance, he presented one of his domains
to the church. The name of this prelate (no unworthy rival of St.
Ambrose) should be embalmed in history. He was an Anglo-Saxon
ecclesiastic, William, whom the archbishop of Bremen had nominated to
that dignity, and who had previously been the secretary of Canute the
Great. During the long period that he had governed the diocese of
Roskild, he had won the esteem of all men alike by his talents and his
virtues. For the latter he had the reputation of a saint (and he
deserved the distinction better than nine-tenths of the semi-deities
whose names disgrace the calendar), and for the former, that of a
wizard. It is no disparagement to the honour of this apostolic
churchman, that he had previously been the intimate friend of the
monarch; nor any to that of Sweyn, that after this event he honoured
this bishop more than he had done before.

[Sidenote: 1070 to 1076.]

From this time to his death, Sweyn practised with much zeal the
observances of the Roman catholic church. By his excessive liberalities
he injured his revenues; and by his austerities, perhaps, his health. A
faithful portrait is given of him and of his people by one who knew them
well, Adam of Bremen. This ecclesiastic, hearing so much in favour of
the royal Dane, proceeded to his court, and, like all other strangers,
was graciously received. “Sweyn,” says the canon, “is not only liberal
towards foreigners, but well versed in literature; and he directs with
much ability the missions which he has established in Sweden, Norway,
and the isles; from his own mouth have I received most of the facts
contained in this history.” In his reign the pagans of Bornholm were
first converted to Christianity, by bishop Egin. The image of Frigga,
which they had been so long accustomed to venerate, they demolished with
contempt. Another proof of their sincerity appeared from their offer of
their most valuable effects to the bishop. This, unlike most churchmen
of the age, he refused to accept; and advised them to expend it in two
noble ways—in the foundation of churches, and the redemption of
Christian captives. “The king,” proceeds Adam, “has no vice but
incontinence.” The canon speaks of Denmark as consisting almost wholly
of islands. “Of them Zealand is the largest and richest, and its
inhabitants are the most warlike. Ledra had been, but Roskild was then,
the capital. Next to Zealand in importance was Fionia, which was very
fertile, but its coasts were exposed to the ravages of the pirates. The
capital, Odinsey, was a large city. To cross from one island was
perilous, not only from the stormy sea that rolled between them, but
from the pirates. Jutland had a barren soil except on the banks of the
rivers, the only parts cultivated: the rest of the country consisted of
forests, marshes, and wastes, and was hardly passable. The chief towns
lay near the narrow bays on the coast. Scania, always geographically,
now politically included in Sweden, is represented as fertile, as very
populous, and full of churches. No where, indeed, had Denmark much lack
of these structures; Fionia, Adam assures us, had 100; Zealand, 150.
“Scania is almost an island, and separated from Gothland by large
forests and rugged mountains. Here is the city of Lund, where the
robbers of the deep laid their treasures. These robbers paid tribute to
the Danish king, on the condition of being allowed to exercise their
vocation against the barbarians.” Among the Danes, Adam perceives many
other things contrary to justice: he sees little indeed to praise beyond
the custom of selling into slavery such women as dishonoured themselves.
So proud were the men, that they preferred death to stripes; and they
marched to the place of execution, not only with an undaunted, but with
a triumphant air. Tears and groans they held to be unmanly; and they
mourned neither for their wives, nor for their dearest connections.

                              HARALD III.

                     SURNAMED HEIN, OR THE GENTLE.


[Sidenote: 1076.]

As Sweyn left no legitimate offspring, the only claim that could be made
was from his numerous bastards. Harald was the eldest; but then as he
was of a quiet, gentle nature, he was not very agreeable to a fierce
people. On the other hand, Canute, the next brother, had distinguished
himself greatly in the wars against the pagans of Livonia. There was,
accordingly, a dispute when the states assembled, most declaring for
Harald, but all Scania for Canute; and a civil war must have been the
result; but for the bribes of two chiefs, who prevailed on the electors
of that province to confirm the choice of Harald. After this decision,
Canute refused to remain in Denmark, and passed the rest of his
brother’s life in his old occupation.

[Sidenote: 1076 to 1080.]

The short reign of Harald affords no materials for history. Silent,
reserved, timid, averse to the shedding of blood, even for judicial
delinquencies, he was little esteemed. Yet few periods were more happy
than that which witnessed his administration. He made new laws, which
have been praised and condemned. According to Saxo, whose means of
information cannot be disputed, he abolished the judicial combat, and
substituted purgation by oath—a change which led to frequent perjury.
But if the testimony of Elnoth be admissible, he enacted other laws
which were long valued by the people—so valued, that they made every new
monarch swear to observe them.

                               CANUTE IV.

                          SURNAMED THE SAINT.


[Sidenote: 1080 to 1085.]

This prince, who had unsuccessfully contended for the crown with his
brother Harald, and who was now unanimously elected, was very unlike his
predecessor. Fond of martial glory, he prosecuted the war in Livonia,
until he had brought it to an advantageous issue. His next project was
one of greater magnitude—to subdue England, which the Danes had learned
to regard as a revolted province. It is, however, inconceivable how so
wild a project could enter the brain of the king, even though the
Norwegians engaged to join in its execution, and though he received aid
from his father-in-law, Robert, count of Flanders. Perhaps he only
aspired to the recovery of Northumbria. But though a large armament was
collected, it never sailed, owing to the intrigues of the English
monarch, or the revolt of the pagan Vandals, or probably to both causes
combined. To pacify the revolted pagans, he sent money and promises, and
detained the fleet on the Jutland coast until the result was known. In
the mean time, his warriors, ignorant what caused his delay, began to
mutiny: when he had punished some, others vainly conspired against his
life; while the rest quietly dispersed, and he was compelled to dismiss
the Norwegians with gifts. The armament, therefore, led to nothing but
disappointment and exasperation.

[Sidenote: 1080 to 1086.]

Internally the administration of this king was distinguished by great
vigour and great love of justice. Under the mild sway of his
predecessor, and indeed for the greater part of a century, the local
governors were so many tyrants, regardless alike of law, of religion, of
decency. Of them he made many severe examples; he punished capitally
offences which had become almost inveterate; he applied the law of
talion to all convicted of striking or mutilating others; he completely
reformed the administration, deposing corrupt judges, and replacing them
by others of greater integrity, and we may add of greater sternness.
Pecuniary fines—the basis of Germanic jurisprudence—were exerted with a
rigour never before experienced. In all these measures the king was
abundantly justified; but they gave not the less offence to men hardened
by long impunity. Open mutiny or smothered discontent, loud menaces, or
secret conspiracies, marked the greater part of his short reign. Even
the rigour with which he suppressed piracy made him enemies; if it was
agreeable to the great body of his people, it was hateful to the
licentious nobles who had so long profited by it.

[Sidenote: 1080 to 1086.]

The conduct of St. Canute in regard to the church was no less unpopular.
He exempted ecclesiastics from all dependence on the secular tribunals;
he placed bishops on the same level with dukes and princes; he brought
the clergy into his council, and endeavoured to give them a voice in the
assembly of the states. In this policy we see little to condemn. It may
be true, in the abstract, that churchmen should be restricted to their
peculiar province, the care of souls; but practically they have never
been so; and in giving them influence in public affairs,—in converting
the bishops into temporal barons, and the higher clergy into local
judges,—Canute acted merely in conformity with the spirit of the times.
And indeed he seems to have had good reason for that policy. Churchmen
were better informed, more regular in their lives, than laymen: he
therefore believed that they would make better administrators of the
law; and in that belief he increased their powers at the expense of the
feudal nobles. He could not foresee that by thus rendering them
independent of the crown and of the people, he was preparing a scourge
for his successors.

[Sidenote: 1080 to 1086.]

Though these measures raised him many enemies, his prodigality to
several churches, and still more, his attempt to make tithes an
obligatory impost, rendered three fourths of his people disaffected to
his sway. Yet here, too, he is not to be censured by impartial
posterity. He, doubtless, saw that if the church must subsist at all, it
must not depend solely on so precarious a source as voluntary
contributions. He saw that tithes were sanctioned by God’s word, and
obligatory in the rest of Christendom; and he thought the impost less
oppressive than any other that could be devised. But he did not proceed
to his object with sufficient caution; he was too precipitate: he
exasperated where he should have conciliated; and he was impatient of
the least contradiction to his will. In fact, he was a despot; in most
instances a well-meaning one; but his acts were more evident than his
motives; and while he had no credit for these, he was hated for those.
In another respect he was impolitic. Zealand he conferred, as a fief, on
his brother Eric, with the title of Jarl; Sleswic, on his brother Olaf,
with the title of Duke; and by so doing set a precedent for the
dismemberment of his kingdom.

[Sidenote: 1086.]

When so many causes of dislike existed, the end of Canute could scarcely
be one of peace. He could not carry the tithe question in the
states-general; but by his own authority he levied a capitation tax,
partly as a punishment for the resistance which had been shown to his
will, and partly for the use of the clergy. The rigour of the collectors
was no less offensive than the tax itself. The inhabitants of
Vend-syssel broke out into open revolt, and went in search of the king,
who, with his wife, his children, and two brothers, sought refuge in the
church of St. Alban in Odinsey. There he was soon invested; the sacred
building was forced; his attendants put to the sword, and Benedict, one
of his brothers, laid lifeless on the floor. Seeing that his own death
was inevitable, the king knelt before the altar, and in that posture,
according to one account, received the fatal stroke. Another says that
he was killed by a lance through the window. Both agree that he died
with resignation.

By the church, Canute was immediately placed in the glorious fellowship
of saints and martyrs. His claim to this distinction is rather dubious:
if he had been a private individual, or less liberal to the clergy, if
he had exhibited greater moral virtues, and founded fewer churches and
monasteries, assuredly he would have never been deified,—for
canonization may be well called so. His widow returned to her father’s
court, accompanied by one only of her sons, Charles. It is not a little
singular that the same destiny was reserved for this son as for the
father. Becoming count of Flanders, he was slain by his subjects in a
church, and, like his father, “inter divos relatus.”

[Sidenote: 1037.]

The people of Jutland, proud of having killed one king, would elect
another, and in conformity with the will of Sweyn II., which set aside
the children in favour of the brothers, they passed over the infant sons
of St. Canute, and chose Olaf, duke of Sleswic, the third son of Sweyn.
Olaf was at that time a kind of prisoner at the court of count Robert of
Flanders, whither he had been sent by his despotic brother, on the
suspicion of complicity in the mutiny of the fleet. But of that
complaint there is no evidence. A heavy ransom is said to have been
exacted by the count, before he was permitted to join his new

                                OLAF II.



During the reign of this prince, Denmark had one blessing,—that of
peace. But it had also one curse,—that of famine, which the clergy
declared to be a divine infliction for the murder of the sainted martyr,
Canute. The people, we are told, died by thousands and tens of
thousands, for lack of the mere necessaries of life; and to this cause,
if Saxo be correct, is to be attributed the tranquillity of the country.
Horses and even dogs were the ordinary nourishment of the people. In a
country where agriculture was despised, a barren season could not fail
to produce famine; our only surprise is that the visitation was not more
frequent. Prince Olaf bore all the blame; it was his fault, not want of
foresight in his subjects, that occasioned the evil. His personal
character does not seem to have been amiable. He is represented as
avaricious, despotic, unfeeling; as regardless of the laws and their
administration; hence tyranny in the great, and licentiousness in the
people. According to one account, he was found dead in his bed, after an
entertainment which he had given or intended to have given to his nobles
and clergy: according to another, he died of a natural disease,
regretted by nobody. If the prayer which Saxo puts into his mouth were
really his, he does not merit the severity with which he has been
treated. Afflicted at the continuance of the famine, he said:—“O Lord, I
can no longer endure the weight of thine hand! If thou art wroth with my
people, spare them, and let me alone suffer!”

                               ERIC III.

                           SURNAMED THE GOOD.


[Sidenote: 1095, 1096.]

Eric was the fourth son of Sweyn II., and from the jarldom of Jutland
was raised by the states to the throne of that kingdom. As the next
harvest was one of abundance, the people were again contented, and he
obtained credit for the abundance with the same injustice as his brother
had been condemned for the famine. More active than his predecessor, he
administered the laws with vigour; and he destroyed Jomsberg, the
stronghold of the pirates, who had again reared their heads during the
preceding reign. To keep them in continued subjection, he erected
fortresses in their country, and garrisoned them well.

[Sidenote: 1097 to 1103.]

The most remarkable event of this monarch’s reign is the erection of
Lund into an archbishoprick. Hitherto, Denmark had depended entirely on
the archbishop of Bremen, whose jurisdiction extended over the whole
North. The king disputed with the haughty prelate Liemar, who then
occupied the see, and by whom he was excommunicated. Instead of
submitting, Eric appealed to Rome, and even visited that city to plead
his cause in person. He gained it and returned triumphant to his own
kingdom. Subsequently (in 1103), on his way to the Holy Land, he again
visited the Eternal City, and prevailed on the pope to invest Lund with
the metropolitan privileges. The pope could refuse nothing to the
brother of a saint, who almost equalled that brother in devotion to the
church: besides, the immense authority held by the archbishops of Bremen
had rendered them dangerous when they had taken, as they had usually
done, the part of the German emperors against the Roman see. By the bull
issued on this occasion, Adgar, a descendant of the famous Palnatoko,
became primate of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the islands dependent on
those kingdoms.

[Sidenote: 1103.]

The cause of Eric’s pilgrimage, from which he was destined never to
return, is not well known; but it was probably to expiate an homicidal
act which he had perpetrated in a fit of anger or of drunkenness. The
idle fable of Saxo, that while under the influence of music he killed
four of his attendants (or soldiers of his guard), is characteristic
enough of that writer, but has obtained no credit in this country since
the authors of the Universal History adopted it. Whatever the cause, he
resolved to visit the Holy Land, and that too in opposition to the
prayers and tears of his people, by whom he was cherished. Passing
through Rome, where, as we have just related, he obtained the erection
of Lund into a metropolitan see, he repaired to Constantinople. By
Alexis Comnenus he was received with much distinction; though for some
time he was narrowly watched, lest, with all his piety, he should place
himself at the head of the Varangian guard, and become troublesome to
his host. His manners soon dispelled this diffidence, and he was
splendidly entertained. Being supplied not only with provisions and
vessels, but with a liberal store of gold, he sailed for Palestine; but,
landing in the isle of Cyprus, he fell a victim to a pestilential

[Sidenote: 1103.]

Eric III. was one of the best princes that ever swayed the Danish
sceptre. “With his people,” says an ancient writer, “he lived like a
father with his children; and no one left his presence dissatisfied.”
Hence his surname of _the Good_. He never undertook any important matter
without consulting his states. His chief fault was incontinence. If, as
we are assured, he refrained from the bed of his queen, it was only to
indulge himself the more freely with his concubines, of whom he had a
considerable number. Saxo assures us that, so far from being offended
with her royal lord for this frailty, she admitted the favoured ladies
into her own suite, and assisted to adorn them for his gratification.
Yet Eric was not far from canonization; and but for this frailty he
would probably have obtained the honour. His liberality to the church,
his pilgrimage, his settlement of the Cistercians in his dominions, and
his foundation at Lucca of a cloister for the accommodation of Danish
palmers, procured him the epithet of saint from more than one writer of
the times.



[Sidenote: 1103 to 1105.]

After Eric’s death there was an interregnum of two years. He had left
his son Harald governor of the realm during his absence; but the conduct
of that prince was so unpopular, that when the states assembled they
excluded both him and his brothers, and resolved to choose some one of
his uncles. The eldest, named Sweyn, died before he could be elected.
Ubbo, the next prince, refused the dignity; which then descended to
Nicholas, the next in age.

[Sidenote: 1105 to 1126.]

The long reign of this monarch was one of calamities, occasioned chiefly
by his jealousy of his nephew Canute, second son of the late king. Henry
king of the Obotrites, a Slavonic people who dwelt on the Baltic coast
from Mecklenburg to Pomerania, was nearly connected with the royal house
of Denmark, his mother being Sigritha, daughter of Sweyn II. As the
Obotrites had been subdued by at least two Danish kings, and forced to
embrace Christianity, they were regarded in the light of vassals. But
Henry, more powerful than any of his predecessors, since he had reduced
other Slavonic tribes to his yoke, would be no vassal to Denmark, though
he was certainly one to Germany. He first demanded his mother’s dowry,
which he asserted had never been paid; and when it was refused, invaded
the southern part of Jutland. Nicholas marched against him, and was
defeated. To arrest the career of the invader was reserved for Canute,
who had been invested by his father with the ducal fief of Sleswic. This
prince not only cleared the duchy of its invaders, but carried the war
into the country of the Obotrites. Henry now sued for peace, and was
thenceforth the friend of his nephew. Canute had saved Denmark from many
evils; and his conduct now showed that he was no less excellent a
governor than he had been a general. He exterminated the banditti,
restored the empire of the laws, and caused the arts of life to
flourish. His reputation gave much umbrage to the king; nor was that
feeling diminished when, after the death of Henry, he was presented by
the emperor Lothair with the vacant regal fief. With this augmented
power he maintained tranquillity the more easily, not in his ducal fief
only, but in the whole of Denmark. His eldest brother Harald, whose
vices had excluded him from the throne, made many hostile irruptions
into Jutland; but Eric, his next brother, was no less ready than he to
protect that kingdom.

[Sidenote: 1126 to 1132.]

The contrast between the conduct of Nicholas and of Canute made a deep
impression on the Danes. On two of them, the king and his son, it was no
less painful than it was deep. To hasten his destruction was the object
of both. The first attempt was to accuse him of some crime in the
assembly of the states; but he defended himself so powerfully, that he
was unanimously absolved. Disappointed in this view, Magnus requested an
interview with him, under the pretext of settling all differences
amicably; and, while unsuspicious of danger, assassinated him. All
Denmark was in instant commotion. The kindred of the victim hastened to
the meeting of the states, and displaying his bloody garments, called
for vengeance on the murderers. To escape the popular indignation,
Magnus fled into Sweden; but Nicholas, who relied on the support of a
party, endeavoured to brave the storm. He was, however, solemnly
deposed, and Eric, the brother of Canute, elected in his stead. But he
refused to comply with the decree. He collected troops, and took the
field against his rival, who exhibited no less activity in his own
behalf. In the civil war which followed, the bishops took part, and
fought like the temporal nobles. Canute had been the vassal of Lothair,
and had demanded the assistance of the empire; and that monarch
collecting a small army, marched into Jutland to co-operate with Eric in
avenging the death of Canute. Seeing that the junction of the emperor
and Eric must be fatal to his cause, Nicholas withdrew the former from
the alliance by the offer of a large sum of money, and by consenting to
hold Denmark as a fief of the empire. Lothair then returned, leaving the
fortune of war to decide between the two kings.

[Sidenote: 1132 to 1134.]

The retreat of the Germans was the signal for renewed and more fierce
hostilities between the rivals. With his usual perversity Harald forsook
the cause of his brother Eric, to fight for Nicholas; and Magnus, who
had powerful armies in Sweden, brought reinforcements to the war.
Success was varied: on the deep Magnus was defeated; on the land, Eric.
But some acts of more than usual barbarity perpetrated by Nicholas and
Harald at Roskild, diminished the number of their supporters. Still they
were enabled to make another stand on the coast near the gulf of Fodvig
in Scania. Victory declared for Eric: Magnus fell in the battle; and
Nicholas, with much difficulty, escaped into Jutland. Among the slain
were five bishops, and sixty priests. As Magnus was dead, Nicholas
declared Harald, the brother of Eric, his successor,—a declaration which
did no good to his own cause. To escape the pursuit of his rival, he
threw himself into Sleswic, which was better fortified than any city in
the North. But this was an imprudent act: in that city the memory of
Canute was idolized; and there he was massacred by some members of a
fraternity of which the deceased prince had been the head. Thus fell a
monarch who in the early part of his reign had afforded his subjects
reason to hope that he would prove a blessing to the realm, but whose
subsequent conduct had covered him with universal odium.

                                ERIC IV.

                            SURNAMED EMUND.


[Sidenote: 1135 to 1137.]

In the reign of Eric IV., who on the death of his rival succeeded to the
government of the whole kingdom, there is little for history. One of his
first exploits was to put to death his brother Harald, and eleven sons
of that prince. There was a twelfth, Olaf, who escaped into Sweden, and
became in the sequel king of Denmark. He next pursued the Vend pirates
into their stronghold of Arcona, which he took and destroyed. On his
return, he applied himself with zeal to the administration of justice;
and was assassinated by a Jutland chief, whose father or brother he had
judicially condemned to death. This tragedy took place in the midst, not
merely of his court, but of his people, while presiding over an assembly
of the Jutland states.

There were candidates for the crown,—1. Canute the son of Magnus, and
consequently grandson of Nicholas; 2. Sweyn, a natural son of Eric IV.;
3.Valdemar, the son of Canute king of the Obotrites, who had been
murdered by Magnus, and who in 1170 was canonized, like the martyr of
that name who had ruled over Denmark. The bias of the assembly was
evidently in favour of Valdemar; but as both he and the two other
candidates were of tender years, the choice fell on a grandson of Eric
the Good by a daughter.

                                ERIC V.

                           SURNAMED THE LAMB.


[Sidenote: 1137 to 1147.]

The surname of this king will sufficiently explain his character. He was
indeed one of the most pacific of men. Yet he was compelled to fight for
his crown; for Olaf, the only son of Harald that had escaped the bloody
proscriptions of Eric Emund, appeared at the head of a considerable
force, and claimed it. That if hereditary right only was to be
consulted, the claim was a valid one, is certain, for he was the only
representative of his father, the eldest son of Eric the Good. But the
Danish throne was elective; and though the claim was confined to one
family, little regard was paid to primogeniture. After many alternations
of fortune, Olaf was vanquished and slain (1143). But Eric himself was
conquered by the Slavonic pirates of the Baltic, who, though so
frequently humbled (if any credit is to be placed in the national
historians), soon re-appeared in numbers formidable enough to alarm the
kingdom. This check, and the consequent decline of his reputation in the
eyes of a warlike people, induced him soon afterwards to resign the
crown, and to profess as monk in the cloister of Odinsey.

[Sidenote: 1147.]

On the retirement of Eric the Lamb, the three princes who had before
been rejected on account of their youth were again candidates. Valdemar
being deemed still too young, the choice was restricted to the other
two. Unfortunately for the interests of order both were elected,—Sweyn
by the Lands Thing of Scania and Zealand, Canute by the people of

                       CANUTE V.      SWEYN III.
                      1147–1156.      1147–1157.

[Sidenote: 1147 to 1157.]

That the division of the sovereignty would inevitably lead to civil war
might have been foreseen by the blindest. It was a long and a bloody
one, which, though suspended for a time through the efforts of the pope,
who wished all Christendom to arm against the infidels, burst out with
renewed fury. Adzer, archbishop of Lund, led the Danish host against the
pagans of the Baltic; but the expedition was inglorious; and the remnant
which returned from it embraced one of the two parties. The fortunes of
both varied; but when Valdemar, the favourite of the nation, joined
Sweyn, the advantage was on the side of that king, who gained at least
three battles over his rival. At one time Canute was driven from the
realm, and forced to seek shelter at the court of the emperor Conrad
III. But tranquillity was not the result of his retirement. The Wendish
pirates, not satisfied with having defeated the archbishop, and incited
by the agitated state of the public mind, ravaged the coasts both of
Jutland and of the isles. Finding their king and nobles unable to
protect them, the people entered into armed fraternities, which were
consecrated by religion. They not only defended their own coasts, but
equipped vessels to cruise in the Baltic, and to surprise such of the
pagan ships as they might find detached from the rest. In a few years
twenty-two of these vessels took above eighty of the enemy’s. Still
these were partial, isolated effects, which had little influence over
the general mass of misery. When Canute returned as the vassal of the
empire, the civil war again raged. Frederic Barbarossa, as the lord
paramount, now interfered, and meeting the two parties, decreed that
while the title of king of Denmark should be left to the victorious
Sweyn, Canute should reign over Zealand as a fief of the Danish crown.
This award satisfied neither party, and least of all the nation, which
was indignant with both of them for sacrificing its independence to the
emperor. Sweyn refused to cede Zealand to his rival; and the civil war
was about to recommence, when Valdemar, to whose valour Sweyn owed every
thing, prevailed on the one to give and the other to accept, in lieu of
that island, certain domains in Jutland and Scania. Peace therefore was
procured for the moment; but it was a hollow peace, which the accident
of an hour might break.

[Sidenote: 1152 to 1156.]

The advantage which Sweyn had gained by the aid of Valdemar he lost by
his misconduct. He adopted the German costume; imitated the German
manners; expressed much contempt for every thing Danish as in the
highest degree barbarous; seldom appeared at the national Thing;
restored the old judicial ordeal of duel; became luxurious; and levied
high contributions on his people. A disastrous expedition into Sweden
made him despised as well as hated; and on his return into Scania, he
was assailed by the yellings of the infuriated populace. Something worse
than this result would have been experienced by him, had not a chief,
named Tycho, one of the most influential in the province, rescued him
from his position. When at liberty, he allowed his licentious followers
to plunder the inhabitants. Many he put to death; and among them was the
brave man who had saved him from their fury. This atrocious ingratitude
lost him the favour of Valdemar, who passed over to the side of Canute,
and cemented the alliance by marrying the sister of that prince. It was
now the object of Sweyn to seize both princes, either openly or by
stratagem; but they were on their guard; and each was always surrounded
by armed attendants. At length he was vanquished, and forced to seek a
temporary asylum in Saxony. But he obtained succour from the duke of
that province, and from the archbishop of Bremen, who could never
forgive the Danes for forcing the abolition of his jurisdiction over the
North, and allied himself with the Slavonic pirates, who were always
ready to join any party that offered them plunder. At the head of these
forces he returned, and compelled the people to receive him as their
king. Again Valdemar and Canute marched against him; but the former,
pitying the sufferings of the people, offered his mediation, and
tranquillity was for the moment reestablished. The chief condition of
this treaty was, that the kingdom should be divided into _three_
sovereignties; that Sweyn should have Scania, Canute the isles, and
Valdemar Jutland, in addition to his duchy of Sleswic. The whole people
abandoned themselves to joy, and Sweyn pretending to join in it, gave a
magnificent entertainment to his brother kings in the castle of
Roskilda. But at that very festival, he ordered both to be assassinated.
Canute fell; but Valdemar, who defended himself courageously, escaped
into Jutland.

[Sidenote: 1156 to 1157.]

The reputation of Valdemar, and above all his words, easily induced the
people to espouse his cause. Pursued by his active enemy, he was
constrained to fight before his preparations were completed. The result,
however, was indecisive. In a subsequent and more general action, near
Viburg, Sweyn was defeated and compelled to flee. He was eagerly pursued
by the victors, who overtook him in a morass, from which the weight of
his armour prevented him from emerging; and he was immediately beheaded.
Never did the Danes suffer more than under this unworthy prince.
Enfeebled at home, degraded abroad, without government or security for
either person or substance, they were sunk even in their own estimation.
But for these disasters they could only blame themselves; they were the
inevitable results of their own folly in dividing the monarchy.

                              VALDEMAR I.

                          SURNAMED THE GREAT.


[Sidenote: 1157 to 1169.]

Never was the joy of people greater than that of the Danes when
Valdemar, whose talents had been tried on so many occasions, succeeded
to the undivided throne. They had need of an enlightened, a patriotic,
an active, a firm governor to rescue them from anarchy at home, and
humiliation abroad. One of his most urgent objects was to secure his
coasts against the pagan rovers. In his first expedition, however, he
effected little; his armament was inadequate to the undertaking. In the
second, he subdued most of the isle of Rugen, and obtained great
plunder. In the third, he had for his ally Henry the Lion, duke of
Saxony; and both princes overran the maritime coasts of the Baltic,
dictating such terms as they pleased. But such expeditions had never any
permanent effect. If the pagans submitted, or fled, scarcely was their
victor beyond the confines of their territory, than they recommenced
their lawless career. It was so with Valdemar; it had been so with the
most valiant of his predecessors. Five or six armaments in succession
had only the temporary result we have mentioned. He saw that unless he
entirely destroyed their strongholds, cut in pieces their gods, and
converted them sincerely to Christianity, no peace was to be expected
from them. With these intentions, in 1169, he led another armament
against the isle of Rugen, and assailed Arcona. It was situated on the
northern extremity of the island, and so defended by nature and art as
to be thought impregnable. To the inhabitants Christianity had been
announced; but no sooner were the visitors departed, than they reverted
to their idolatry, and expelled the missionaries. To their gigantic
idol, Svantovit, they offered human sacrifices, and believed a Christian
to be the most acceptable of all. The high-priest had unbounded power
over them. He was the interpreter of the idol’s will; he was the great
augur; he prophesied; nobody but him could approach the deity. The
treasures laid at the idol’s feet from most parts of the Slavonic world
were immense. Then there was a fine white horse, which the high-priest
only could approach; and in it the spirit of the deity often resided.
The animal was believed to undertake immense journeys every night, while
sleep oppressed mortals. Three hundred chosen warriors formed a guard of
honour to the idol; they too brought all which they took in war to the
sanctuary. There was a prestige connected with the temple; it was
regarded as the palladium not of the island merely, but of Slavonic
freedom; and all approach to it was carefully guarded. Waldemar was not
dismayed. He pushed with vigour the siege of Arcona; and was about to
carry it by assault, when his two military churchmen, Absalom bishop of
Roskild, and Eskil archbishop of Lund, advised him to spare the
idolaters upon the following conditions: that they would deliver him
their idol with all the treasure; that they would release, without
ransom, all their Christian slaves; that all would embrace, and with
constancy, the gospel of Christ; that the lands now belonging to their
priests should be transferred to the support of Christian churches;
that, whenever required, they would serve in the armies of the king;
that they would pay him an annual tribute. Hostages being given for the
performance of these stipulations, the invaders entered the temple, and
proceeded to destroy Svantovit, under the eyes of a multitude of pagans,
who expected every moment to see a dreadful miracle. The idol was so
large, that they could not at once hurl it to the ground, lest it should
fall on some one, and the pagans be enabled to boast of its having
revenged itself. They broke it in pieces; and the wood was cut up into
logs for the fires of the camp. Great was the amazement of the
spectators to witness this tameness on the part of so potent a god; and
they could only account for it by inferring that Christ was still more
powerful. The temple was next burnt; and so were three others, all with
idols. The numerous garrisons of the island were made to capitulate; the
victors returned to Denmark in triumph; and missionaries were sent to
instruct the inhabitants in the doctrines and duties of Christianity. At
the instance of bishop Absalom, the island was annexed to the diocese of
Roskild. This was a glorious and it was an enduring conquest; a fierce
people were converted into harmonised subjects, and piracy lost its
great support.

[Sidenote: 1169 to 1175.]

But with this vigorous effort, piracy was not extirpated: on the
contrary, the Danish coasts were themselves ravaged the following year
by the Slavonians. This disaster was owing to the anger of Henry the
Lion, duke of Saxony, who had sent a contingent to the corps of
Valdemar. He had probably not expected the reduction of Rugen; he
certainly was jealous of his ally’s success; and, to provoke a breach,
he demanded half of the treasures, of the captives, of the hostages, and
of the tribute stipulated to be paid. There was probably some justice in
the demand; but the king refused to comply with it, and Henry, in great
anger, informed the Slavonians that they might consider themselves at
liberty to inflict whatever injuries they could on the Danes. How this
prince had acquired so great an ascendency over these people; how they
came to call themselves his vassals, is one of those problems which
history cannot solve. There must have been treaties, and marriages, and
conquests, which chroniclers have omitted. The fact of his ascendency is
indisputable. “He was the only prince on earth,” says Helmold, “that
could put a bridle into the mouth of that ferocious people, and direct
it at his pleasure.” The vast restless tribes, from Courland to
Mecklenburgh, wanted only this stimulus to rise; and they did rise, in
numbers too formidable to be resisted. Valdemar and his ministers
suffered the tide to roll on: they had the mortification to witness its
ravages on their shores; but when it had spent a portion of its fury,
they raised an armament, cleared their shores, passed into the Baltic,
and, after some advantages, carried the war into the Vandalic
territories.[151] But what salutary impression could be made on a people
who, at the approach of an enemy, plunged, with their substance, into
the impenetrable recesses of their forests, and returned the moment that
enemy retired? Jomsberg, indeed, one of the most flourishing maritime
cities in Europe, was taken, and its great treasures became the prize of
the victors; but the place had been taken before by Canute the Great in
1010, and Magnus the Good in 1044. No sooner was it demolished, than it
began to rise from its ruins. Valdemar therefore perceived that, as he
could not exterminate these numerous tribes, who often acted in a
general confederation, and were always ready to descend upon his coasts,
his only hope was in the friendly interference of the Saxon duke. He
therefore met that sovereign, conceded all his demands, and had the
satisfaction to see Henry issue his mandate, that the Danish coasts
should no longer be molested. For some years they were not; but a very
precarious surety was that which depended on the will of another
person—a person who might, at any moment, change his policy, or whose
influence might be destroyed by death.

The two prelates whose names we have mentioned, Eskil and Absalom, had
great influence over the king, and over all the affairs of the realm.
They were ministers of state as well as bishops, and able generals no
less than ministers. Eskil had been educated at Hildesheim, one of the
best schools in Germany at that period. His first preferment was a stall
in the cathedral of Lund; and he rose through the gradations of the
hierarchy to the see of Roskild, and lastly to the archbishopric of
Lund, with the primacy of the North. The Danish kings soon found that
the church had succeeded to more than the authority of the ancient
pontiffs. Under the old system there was not a distinct priesthood; any
chief of his clan—any at least who could trace his descent to the
deified heroes of the North—could sacrifice. But now all the offices of
religion were reserved to a body which, from its indissoluble unity, its
vast possessions, its exclusive privileges, its favour with the pope,
and its sanctity in the eyes of the people, was nearly irresistible.
Eskil, while bishop of Roskild, contended with Eric Emund for the rights
of his church—not with spiritual arms merely, but with the temporal
sword. Being defeated, he was condemned to pay a fine of twenty pounds
of gold. This hostility to the royal will did not prevent Eric’s
successor from procuring his elevation to the archiepiscopal throne of
Lund. In the civil wars between Eric the Lamb and Olaf the son of
Harald, he adhered to his lawful sovereign, and was consequently
expelled from his see; but on the restoration of the royal authority, he
also was restored. In those battles between Sweyn and Canute, the
predecessor of Valdemar, he for some time fought valiantly for the
former; but, like Valdemar, he turned to the latter, for whom he drew
the sword with equal valour. At one time he was a prisoner, but was
released through the interposition of his friends, and, above all,
through the sanctity of his character, which rendered him amenable only
to the pope. It was soon his lot to dispute with Valdemar, on the
question of the schism which divided the church. He declared for
Alexander, and in so doing acted in concert with the whole Christian
world, except Germany, or rather the German emperor, Frederic
Barbarossa, who espoused the cause of Victor. Valdemar, influenced by
the emperor, followed the same party, and so did Absalom, the friend of
the king. For this adhesion Absalom was excommunicated by his
metropolitan; but, aided by the king, he resisted: recourse was had to
arms, to try which pope had the better right to the tiara; and the
result being unfortunate to Eskil, he was compelled to retire into
Sweden. At length he sued for pardon, and obtained it, on the condition
of his returning into the royal hands some of the domains which the
prodigality of former kings had bestowed on the church of Lund. Some
time afterwards he resigned his dignity, and retired to the monastery of
Clairvaux, in France. To that retirement he gave the preference, from
his intimacy with St. Bernard. He had founded in Denmark five
monasteries of the same order (that of St. Benedict reformed); and,
notwithstanding his martial prowess, he was regarded by the inmates of
Clairvaux as half a saint, especially after his pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
He died in 1181.

[Sidenote: 1175 to 1179.]

The successor of Eskil in the primacy was bishop Absalom. This
churchman, a native of Zealand, and descended from one of the noblest
families in Denmark, was the most warlike prelate of the age. His
attachment to Roskild was such, that he at first refused the dignity,
notwithstanding the earnest entreaties of the electors, and the commands
of the king. He would not separate from a people with whom he had been
so long acquainted; and to hold both sees was contrary to the canons.
When entreaties and rewards were equally ineffectual, application was
made to the pope, who commanded him, under ecclesiastical penalties, to
assume the primacy, with the legatine authority, and at the same time to
hold the see of Roskild. He therefore submitted, and undertook the
multitude of affairs rendered necessary by so many posts—chief minister
of state, general, admiral, judge, bishop, archbishop, legate: how he
found time for all his duties may well surprise us. His military talents
were of a high order; and his arms were not suffered to rust after his
elevation. He had often assisted to subdue the Wend pirates; and against
them he would now defend his flock, on the more exposed coasts of his
diocese. For this purpose he caused rude huts to be erected on various
parts of the coast; and leaving his palace to his clergy, he resided in
one or the other of these, according to the exigencies of the occasion.
Day and night he was ready to repel any attack of the pirates on his
humble flock. Neither the wintry storm, nor the extreme cold, could
prevent him from cruising off the coast in search of the enemy. He was
even known to leave the altar when danger approached, and to wield the
sword with an arm which few lay nobles could equal. Thus, he was one
Palm Sunday informed that the pirates had disembarked, and were ravaging
the district. Throwing aside his mitre, his crosier, and his pontifical
vestments, he hastily assumed his armour, summoned his household
dependents, marched to the spot, and compelled them to retire with great
loss to their ships. But if he was thus martial, he was by no means
inattentive to the duties of his station. He was an active bishop, and a
generous patron of letters. By him Sweyn Aggesen and Saxo Grammaticus
were enabled to write their respective histories. He paid great
attention to the school which Eskil had founded; and, in the
distribution of church patronage (and his was immense), he always gave
the preference to the men, who, _cæteris paribus_, excelled in
literature. Hence he exercised a much greater influence than his
predecessor over the destinies of the kingdom. In the Thing his voice
was always heard with respect; he was a stout advocate for the national
independence; and his ascendency alike over the sovereign and nobles
frequently enabled him to restore peace when other means of
reconciliation were wanting. Nor must we omit to state, that to him the
city of Copenhagen owes its origin. In 1168 it was a mere fishing
village. The bishop erected a fortress on the spot as a defence against
the sea-rovers, and in it placed a strong garrison. The security
afforded by the place attracted many settlers to it; it rose into wealth
and population, and by Valdemar was annexed to the see of Roskild, to
remain dependent on an authority which had called it into existence. By
the successors of Absalom it was endowed with a municipal charter, and
its privileges confirmed by the crown.

[Sidenote: 1176 to 1179.]

There was but one circumstance to diminish the popularity of Valdemar
and his archbishop. The latter, a strenuous advocate of all
ecclesiastical privileges, persuaded the former to enforce the
collection of tithes even by the sword. The ascendency of their
characters, and the services which both had rendered to the country,
averted mischiefs, that would have followed had any other persons acted
with equal rigour in regard to that obnoxious impost. Both thought that
resistance to this impost was double guilt—rebellion and impiety,—and on
this belief they acted. But they had other reasons for severity. The
Scanians, who most distinguished themselves by their hostility to the
impost, were also unfriendly to bishops, and still more to clerical
celibacy. Nor were they satisfied with remonstrances; they flew to arms,
and the archbishop was compelled to retire. But he retired only to
collect an armed force; and being joined by the king, he returned to the
province. As both were lenient, they tried what could be effected by
negotiation. But the insurgents were impracticable: probably they
believed that both were afraid of them; and they persisted in their
rebellion, until they were routed with great loss. Their only resource
was to throw themselves on the king’s mercy, and they were readily
pardoned. Still they refused to pay the tithes; and as Valdemar dreaded
greater evils, he prevailed on the archbishop to suspend the collection
until the minds of his flock were more accessible to reason.

[Sidenote: 1166 to 1177.]

Long before the death of Valdemar, the states of the kingdom, grateful
for the services which he was every day rendering to his people, at the
perpetual risk of his own life, declared his son Canute his successor.
In 1177 the young prince was joined in the administration.

[Sidenote: 1180.]

The transactions of Valdemar with the sovereigns of Norway will be
noticed in the chapter devoted to the history of that kingdom. Those
with the empire were of a more complicated and not less interesting
character. It was the object of Conrad III. and of Frederic Barbarossa,
to make both him and his kingdom entirely dependent on the empire. To
the latter this object was of greater importance, since in his perpetual
disputes with the spiritual head of Christendom he wanted all the
support that could be obtained. As little could be effected by embassy,
he had at least two interviews with Valdemar, who was accompanied by
Absalom. On the first occasion Frederic rather forced than persuaded him
into an act of homage. There are writers who contend that this homage
was rendered only for the conquests which the king had made on the
Baltic coast, or at most for the duchy of Sleswic. The contrary,
however, is apparent from written instruments. On another occasion the
emperor had need of Valdemar’s aid against the duke of Saxony, Henry the
Lion; and the king conducted that aid in person. Arriving with his fleet
at Lubeck, his majestic presence won the admiration of the German
princes. From the emperor he received many favours, and the question of
homage for the kingdom of Denmark was this time waived. We are not told
why Valdemar so readily abandoned the Saxon duke (whose daughter was the
wife of his son Canute) for the emperor; but interest was probably the
chief motive. Flattered by the proposal of a two-fold matrimonial
alliance between his family and that of Hohenstauffen, he left the
unfortunate Henry to his fate. These alliances, however, were not
solemnised, owing to the youth of the parties, and still more to the
heavy sum demanded by Frederic as dowry.

[Sidenote: 1182.]

On his return to his own dominions, Valdemar was preparing for another
expedition against the Slavonians,—probably to reduce them under his
sceptre, and to obtain the same ascendency over them as Henry the Lion
had possessed—when death surprised him in Zealand, in the forty-eighth
year of his age. Never was monarch more lamented; he was indeed a great
and a good one. As a conqueror, and a conqueror over savage enemies,
whose humiliation was necessary to the repose of the kingdom, he was
celebrated throughout Europe. But he was also a legislator. Three
different codes emanated from his authority:—the law of Scania, which
was founded on the ancient customs of the inhabitants, was also
amplified by new provisions, rendered necessary by an improved state of
society. Such as were essentially pagan were rejected; others, pagan in
their origin, were easily made applicable to Christian times. This code
was published in two parts,—the ecclesiastical and the civil—the former
in 1162, the latter in the following year. 2. The Zealand law or code
was also founded on the unwritten observances of the inhabitants; which
observances were altered, modified, curtailed, or amplified, according
to the actual necessities of the period. They were published in 1171,
and were also divided into two portions—the civil and the
ecclesiastical. These codes, with the addition of the Jutland law, which
was added by Valdemar II. form the basis of the present law of Denmark.
From the reign of this able monarch, the rights of all classes in the
community were more clearly defined. But those of the agricultural class
were not improved by the change of circumstances. Prior to Valdemar’s
reign even the peasants attended the provincial Thing in arms. They
exercised the right of suffrage which they had derived from their pagan
ancestors, with as much freedom as the noble. But when feudality made
such progress in the kingdom; when compelled to exchange their allodial
for vassalitic lands, and to march at the bidding of their temporal or
ecclesiastical chief, they lost their noble independence. Yet from evil
comes good. Many of them had been unruly subjects; if unable to carry
any thing by clamour, they had used their arms with better effect, and
through their numerical superiority, they had too often prevailed on the
calm wisdom of the old chiefs. Now they were no longer allowed to appear
in arms, and the change was a blessing.

                               CANUTE VI.


[Sidenote: 1182.]

This prince had been crowned in his father’s lifetime and from his
fourteenth year had been admitted to a share in the government. His
accession therefore to the undivided sovereignty was expected to pass
without opposition. But the people of Scania elected another
sovereign—Harald, a grandson of prince Magnus. The contest, however, was
short lived; they were reduced, and their ruler compelled to flee into

[Sidenote: 1182 to 1189.]

The reign of this monarch was one of conquest and of prosperity. Soon
after his accession, Absalom the archbishop led an armament against
Bogislas duke of Pomerania, who exhibited ill-will to Denmark and her
vassals, and obtained a complete victory over the enemy. During the two
following years the warlike operations continued, and Bogislas at length
was compelled to throw himself on the royal mercy. Besides offering a
large quantity of gold, he did homage for all his possessions to Canute.
The two dukes of Mecklenburgh were also reduced, and acknowledged fealty
to him. The submission of two such provinces, which had been dependent
on Henry the Lion, and had subsequently acknowledged the superiority of
the empire, filled the king with so much pleasure, that he assumed the
title of king of the Vandals. To this title he had, in his opinion, a
two-fold claim: first, in virtue of the investiture of his ancestor,
Canute duke of Sleswic, with the royal fief of the Obotrites[152]; and,
secondly, in virtue of his present conquests.

[Sidenote: 1183 to 1188.]

To assume the feudal supremacy over these regions was a blow struck at
the authority of the emperor Frederic Barbarossa. Between these
potentates there was a misunderstanding from the very commencement of
Canute’s reign. Frederic invited him to his court under the pretext of
drawing more closely the amicable bonds which had been formed between
him and Valdemar; but as the king suspected that this was only a lure to
enforce the payment of homage, he evaded compliance. It soon appeared
that such was indeed the intention; for he was formally summoned to
visit the diet for that purpose. A second refusal to attend so
exasperated Frederic that he threatened to confer the fief of Denmark on
some other vassal. The king replied, that before he could give it, he
must first take it. All negotiation being useless, the emperor offered
the greatest insult to the majesty of Denmark, by sending back to her
own country the sister of Canute, who had been betrothed to his second
son, the duke of Swabia. From this moment the breach was irreparable;
and the king turned with more zeal to the cause of his father-in-law
Henry the Lion.

[Sidenote: 1191 to 1202.]

The next three years were years of tranquillity for the realm; but its
peace was now disturbed by a bishop and a member of the royal family.
Valdemar, a bastard son of Canute V., held the see of Sleswic. In
addition, the king had conferred on him the government of the duchy
until Valdemar, the king’s brother, for whom the fief was destined,
reached an age fit to govern. When that age arrived, the prince was
knighted, and at the same time invested with the duchy, of which he
hastened to take possession. The bishop had tasted the sweets of power,
and he was deeply hurt at its withdrawal: from that moment he became the
enemy of the king. Determined on revenge, he entered into alliance with
all whom he knew to be hostile to Canute; and, among others, with Adolf
of Schawenburg, count of Holstein. When his preparations were matured,
he threw off the mask, declaring that his right to the Danish throne was
as good as the king’s, and demanding a share of the sovereignty. Passing
into Norway, which at that time was not on friendly terms with Denmark,
he obtained supplies, returned to the latter kingdom, and assumed the
royal title. At the same period another army, led by the count of
Holstein, marched towards the Eyder to support his views. To Canute it
was evident that their operations could not be long sustained; that the
invaders would soon be in want of provisions, and disperse of
themselves. Instead therefore of risking an action, he quietly watched
the motions of the bishop. The result justified his policy; the
treasures of Valdemar were speedily exhausted; his mercenaries
disappeared; he threw himself on the royal mercy; but was conducted a
close prisoner to a strong fortress in Zealand (1194). Adolf yet
remained; the king marched against him, and forced him to sue for peace.
But that peace was of short duration. The count being required to do
homage to Canute for some of the domains which he had obtained by the
deposition of Henry the Lion, refused to acknowledge any other superior
than the emperor; and to fortify himself against the vengeance of the
king, he entered into an alliance with the margrave of Brandenburg,
whose territory adjoined the Vandalic dominions of the Dane, and who had
an interest in preventing any further augmentation in that quarter. To
assail both, Canute sent an armament to the northern coast of the
Baltic; and as the venerable Absalom was now too old and too infirm for
active warfare, the bishop of Roskild was invested with the command. The
result was not very favourable to the king. Two years afterwards,
however, he took the field in person, and forced Adolf to accept terms
of peace: the chief were, that Dithmarsh, with the strong fortress of
Ratzburg, should be ceded to Denmark (1200). But in this, as on the
former occasion, tranquillity was of short duration. Adolf again
quarrelled with his ally; and Valdemar, the king’s brother, invaded
Holstein. The result was favourable to the Danish arms: Adolf, who had
thrown himself into Hamburg, was compelled to leave it, and to witness
the fall of Lubeck, which was feudally subject to him. Most of Holstein
was now reduced; and the duke having, in the king’s name, received the
homage of the towns and nobles, returned to Sleswic. No sooner had he
left the province, than the count re-appeared; but it was only to be
made prisoner, and conveyed in triumph to one of the Danish fortresses.
The king himself soon appeared amidst his new subjects; and at Lubeck he
received the homage of the great vassals of Holstein, Dithmarsh,
Stormar, Ratzburg, Schwerin, and other lordships, which were now subject
to him, but which he could not incorporate with the monarchy, because
they were dependencies of the empire, and for them he must himself do
homage to the chief of that empire. This was a proud day for Denmark;
but that pride was much alloyed by the sudden death of Canute, in the
very flower of his age.

The flourishing state of Denmark under this prince is well described by
Arnold of Lubeck. He alludes to its vast commerce, to its ceaseless
activity, to its constantly increasing wealth, to its improvements in
the arts of life, to its military reputation, to its zeal for learning.
Many Danish youths, he informs us, were annually sent to study at Paris,
where they distinguished themselves in philosophy, law, and theology.
Many became admirable canonists; many subtle didacticians. The visits of
young Danes to the capital of France may be explained by the union of
Ingeberg, sister of Canute, with Philip Augustus. That union indeed was
for many years an unhappy one; she was dismissed to make way for a
concubine; until the monarch was compelled by the pope to receive her
back to his palace.

[Sidenote: 1201.]

Towards the close of Canute’s reign died archbishop Absalom, who had
held the see of Roskild since 1158, and the primacy since 1178.

                              VALDEMAR II.

                        SURNAMED THE VICTORIOUS.


[Sidenote: 1202.]

As Canute VI. died without heirs male, the choice of the states fell on
his brother Valdemar, duke of Sleswic, who, as we have just related, had
given some proofs of military talent.

[Sidenote: 1203, 1204.]

Like his predecessor, the new king repaired to Lubeck to receive the
homage of the conquered inhabitants; and there he assumed the titles,
“King of the Slavonians,” and “Lord of Nordalbingia.” In the midst of
his triumph he offered to release count Adolf, provided the latter would
for ever renounce all pretension to Holstein with his other domains
north of the Elbe, and engage not to make war, either personally, or
through his allies, on the king of Denmark. The conditions were
accepted; and hostages being given for their execution, the count was
enlarged. Imprisonment seemed to have sobered him; for he passed the
rest of his days in tranquillity.

[Sidenote: 1204 to 1210.]

Having fomented the troubles of Norway in revenge for the aid given to
bishop Valdemar, and exacted an annual tribute from Erling, whom he had
opposed to Guthrum[153], the Danish king departed on a more distant
expedition,—against the pagans of Livonia. It was attended, however,
with no great success: the best that can be said of it is, that it was
not disastrous. A subsequent expedition into Sweden was more
unfortunate: he was signally defeated; but peace was made on terms
sufficiently honourable. About the same time the national arms regained
their former lustre by the conquest of Eastern Pomerania, the duke of
which did homage to Valdemar.

[Sidenote: 1205 to 1218.]

From the prison to which he had been consigned by Canute VI. the bishop
of Sleswic was no inattentive spectator of events. He longed for
revenge; but he must first recover his liberty. In this view he applied
to the pope, to the archbishop of Lund, to many prelates of Denmark, and
even to the queen, and interested them so far in his behalf, that
Valdemar, at their intercession, agreed to release him, on the condition
of his never again entering Denmark, or any other place where he might
give umbrage to the state. Of these conditions the pope was a guarantee,
and he repaired to Bologna; but that city he soon left to urge his
interests with the chapter of Bremen, some members of which showed a
disposition to elect him. The king immediately complained to Innocent
III. that Bremen was, of all cities, that where the bishop, if elected,
would be most likely to injure him; and the pope, admitting the justice
of the plea, commanded the prelate to desist from aspiring to the vacant
dignity. That command he disregarded. Philip of Swabia, now head of the
empire, was hostile to the Danish king: from him the bishop readily
obtained troops, and with them hastened to Bremen, where he was soon
elected. But Burkard, the other candidate, being favoured by the chapter
of Hamburg, which had a voice in the election equal to that of Bremen,
also assumed the archiepiscopal dignity, and obtained troops from the
Danish king. What confirmed the triumph of the latter was the suspension
of bishop Valdemar by the pope, and the death of his patron Philip.
Otho, the new emperor, concurred with the pope and with Valdemar in
expelling the bishop from Bremen. But on the death of Burkard, bishop
Valdemar was introduced to the see, with the full concurrence of the
emperor. In revenge, the Danish king espoused the interests of Frederic
II. king of Naples, in opposition to those of Otho. For this service the
grateful Frederic ceded to the Danish crown the conquests which Valdemar
and his predecessor, Canute VI., had made in the empire and in Slavonia.
But the letters-patent containing this cession (dated from Metz in 1214)
could have no validity, since Otho was yet obeyed by a considerable
portion of the empire. Still the cession was a triumph. Not less so was
the excommunication of Otho and of archbishop Valdemar by the pope. The
first soon died; the latter, succeeded by the bishop of Osnaburg,
retired to a monastery, and was for ever dead to the world.

[Sidenote: 1219 to 1223.]

Freed from the cares which had so long distracted him, the king again
turned his eyes towards Livonia. His former successes in that region had
not corresponded with his preparations: the bishop of Riga was
persecuted alike by the pagan inhabitants and the Greek Christians: the
glory of vindicating the true faith was no slight one in his estimation;
but the ambition of reigning over the whole maritime coast of the
Baltic, from Holstein to Livonia, was a still greater inducement for
undertaking a new expedition. Never had Denmark equipped so great an
armament as that which now left her ports. The Esthonians, against whom
his attacks were chiefly directed, prepared to receive him, but they
were defeated; a new city, Revel, was built, to awe the province; and a
Christian bishop made it his metropolis. The advantages resulting from
this conquest were almost neutralised by the hostility of the bishop of
Riga, who regarded his new brother as an intruder on his own domain. He
claimed the greater part of Esthonia as a part of his jurisdiction, and
he sent his missionaries through it to reclaim it from idolatry. On the
other hand, the archbishop of Lund, in behalf of his royal master,
prohibited those missionaries from labouring in their vocation, and sent
those of his own country and his own church to oppose them. It will
scarcely be credited by modern readers—though the fact seems
indisputable—that the Danes actually hung an Esthonian prince for no
other crime than that he had received baptism at the hands of the bishop
of Riga’s dependents. What were the motives—shrewd though pagan—to infer
from this and similar facts other than this—that the god of the Danes
was not the god of the Germans? The pope and the emperor declared for
the Danish king, in opposition to the complaints, the remonstrances, of
the bishop. At length Valdemar, of his own accord, abated much of his
pretensions, and allowed a portion of the disputed territory to be ceded
to the bishop, and to the Christian knights whom that bishop had taken
into his service.

[Sidenote: 1223.]

At this period Denmark was at the summit of her glory. Her descent was
more rapid than her rise. There are few instances in all history where
that descent is so remarkable. The occasion of this change was a man
insignificant in himself, and in his influence. Among the vassals whom
Valdemar had acquired by his successes over the count of Holstein, was
Henry count of Schwerin. In granting to Henry the investiture of the
lordship, Valdemar had demanded the hand of the count’s sister for his
natural son Nicholas, whom he had created count of Upper Halland, and,
as a dowry, one half of the castle of Schwerin with the dependencies.
Whether this stipulation was sanctioned by the count, we know not; but
we know that Valdemar had forcibly occupied a portion of the lordship,
and conferred it on that son. This was an injustice, and deeply was it
revenged. Count Henry repaired to the Danish court, showed great
obsequiousness, won the confidence of the king, and one night while
encamped in the wood after a hard day’s hunting, he caused both Valdemar
and his eldest son to be surprised, carried on board a vessel, conveyed
to the Mecklenburg coast, and confined in the strong castle of Schwerin!
All Europe was in surprise at an event which resembled a tale of knight
errantry more than a fact—that the obscure, the powerless count Henry
should thus seize the greatest monarch of the North, and cast him like a
common felon into a dungeon.

[Sidenote: 1223 to 1226.]

That all Denmark did not rise as one man, and hasten to release its
monarch, may, to modern readers, seem extraordinary. But had it done so,
we know not what the result might have been. If those were days of
chivalry, they were also days of gross perfidy: as an army approached
Schwerin, he would have been transferred to some more distant fortress
until he had acceded to all the terms demanded from him. Many were the
princely nobles who were ready to share in the responsibility of the
act, provided they might also share in its advantages; even the emperor
Frederic was inclined to imitate the example of his predecessor in
regard to Richard Plantagenet. More ruinous to Denmark was the captivity
of Valdemar, than that of Richard to England. We shall not detail the
negotiations which, during three years, agitated the realm; but the
reverses experienced by the Danish arms may be noticed. The new
conquests north of the Elbe were lost. Livonia and Esthonia were freed
from dependence on the crown. The Slavonic provinces of Pomerania
asserted their independence. Lubeck and also Dithmarsh showed a
disposition to escape from the yoke. At length the menaces of the pope,
and still more the gifts distributed among the leading actors in this
strange proceeding, led to the monarch’s release. The conditions were
that 45,000 marks of fine silver should be paid for his ransom, with all
the gold and ornaments which the queen possessed, and complete
habiliments for 100 knights; that forty Danes, including two sons of the
king, should remain as hostages; that all the domains between the Elbe
and the Eyder should be ceded to the empire; that all the Slavonic
conquests should be renounced except the isle of Rugen; that Valdemar
should swear never to attempt the reconquest of the territories now

[Sidenote: 1226 to 1238.]

On his return to his own states, Valdemar applied to the pope to be
released from the oath he had taken, and for the restoration of his
hostages; promising that if the application were successful, he would
join the crusade. In vain did the pope interfere; beyond the release
from his oath, he obtained no advantage. There were too many interested
in the cause of count Henry to leave him thus exposed to regal or papal
vengeance. Adolf of Schawenburg, Albert duke of Saxony, the archbishop
of Bremen, the prince of Werle—all had profited by the spoil, and all
had troops ready to defend their usurpations. In great wrath Valdemar
took the field; but his good fortune had left him for ever; and after
many fruitless, however ruinous, efforts, he was compelled to make peace
with his enemies, and to pay money for the ransom of his hostages. The
loss of Lubeck and of all Dithmarsh grieved him more perhaps than the
rest; for Lubeck was already a rich and a populous city, the centre of a
large commerce. Equally fruitless were his endeavours to recover the
Slavonic provinces. They were in the power of the bishop of Riga, and of
the Teutonic knights, who could always depend on the favour of the pope
and that of the emperor. Revel and a small district of Livonia were at
length restored to him.

[Sidenote: 1238 to 1241.]

During the rest of his life, Valdemar applied himself to the internal
administration. He caused a survey to be made of the whole kingdom; and
of this important document the greater part still remains. There were
eight bishoprics, subdivided into parishes, and into Styreshavne or
maritime districts, each district to furnish a certain number of men,
and each see a certain number of ships, whenever required by the public
service. North Jutland had four of these sees—Rypen, Aarhus, Viborg,
Borglum, which together supplied 450 vessels. South Jutland, or Sleswic,
one see, was divided into 130 of these districts, each to furnish a
vessel. Fionia, Laland, and Langeland, forming the diocese of Odinsey,
were rated at 100. Zealand, Moen, Falster, and Rugen, which formed the
see of Roskild, were rated at 120; Scania, Holland, and Bleking, subject
to the archbishop of Lund, contributed 150.

[Sidenote: 1240.]

As a legislator, Valdemar ranks high in the Danish annals. In 1240, he
promulgated what is termed the Jutland law[154], but which he intended
for the whole kingdom. The attachment, however, of the Scanias and
Zealands to their unwritten customs, inclined them to receive this code
as supplementary only. To it we shall revert in the chapter appropriated
to northern jurisprudence.

                                ERIC VI.



[Sidenote: 1241.]

The late king had associated with him in the government his eldest son,
by the title of Valdemar III., and when that prince was killed in
hunting (1231), Eric, duke of Sleswic, the next son, supplied his room.
Eric therefore had been crowned, and had an active share in the
government, ten years before the death of his father. At the time he was
thus associated in the regal power, he had relinquished the duchy of
Sleswic in favour of his next brother, Abel, while Christopher and other
brothers had extensive domains conferred on them in different parts of
the kingdom. Nothing could be more unwise than such feudal concessions:
they were sure to engender quarrels, and eventually civil wars.

[Sidenote: 1241 to 1248.]

Scarcely was Eric on the throne, when he had a deadly quarrel with Abel,
duke of Sleswic, his next brother. He wished to recover some of the
territories which his father had been forced to cede, especially
Holstein: Abel, who was the guardian of the count of Holstein’s
children, resisted, on the specious plea that he was bound to defend
their interests; but his real motive, as we shall soon perceive, was a
very different one. The two brothers flew to arms; but an apparent
reconciliation was effected between them through the interference of
German and Danish friends: Abel resigned the tutorship, and ceased
therefore to be responsible for the result. But he evidently nursed a
vindictive feeling towards Eric, and he could not long refrain from
exhibiting it. He refused to do homage for Holstein, which he determined
to hold in full sovereignty. Again was the sword drawn; and though
returned for a time to the scabbard, the feeling of hatred rankled in
the duke’s heart. During this short suspension of hostilities, Eric
endeavoured to regain Lubeck, and he sent an armament into the river
Trave; but a fleet from Sweden, which had a great interest in the
protection of that city, compelled him to raise the siege. The coasts of
his kingdom were now ravaged by the combined Swedes and citizens; and at
the same time, through the influence of his perverse brother, the count
of Holstein and the archbishop of Bremen became his open enemies.
Allured by the successful example of Abel, the other brothers also
refused to do homage. Seeing that the very existence of the monarchy was
at stake, he took the field. Numerous as were his enemies, he created
more, and those more formidable than the rest,—his own bishops, who
naturally threw themselves into the party of Abel. The ravages committed
in the fraternal war were dreadful. At length the city of Sleswic being
taken by surprise, Abel fled to his allies; and when he could effect
nothing by arms, he had recourse to stratagem. He received with
eagerness the proposals of a pacification from the duke of Saxony and
the margrave of Brandenburg, who were connected with the regal family of
Denmark. The brothers met, swore friendship, and separated.

[Sidenote: 1249.]

Freed from that dreadful scourge, civil war, Eric now projected an
expedition into Livonia, to recover the territories which his father had
ceded. To defray the expenses, a tax of a silver penny was laid on every
plough in the kingdom. With much difficulty he obtained the sanction of
the states to this impost; with more difficulty still was it collected,
at least in Scania. The inhabitants of that province were fond of
rebellion: they rebelled on the present occasion; but as usual they were
subdued, punished, and made to contribute like the rest of the Danes.
The expedition arrived in Esthonia, but its details are very imperfectly
recorded in the national chronicles. They merely tell us that the
Teutonic knights acknowledged the king’s right to what he held, and to
what he might hereafter conquer from the pagans. Certainly he made no
conquests; and probably his troops were defeated by St. Alexander
Neusky, governor of Novogrod.[155]

[Sidenote: 1250.]

Eric, on his return, engaged in war with the count of Holstein, who,
conjointly, with the archbishop of Bremen and the bishop of Paderborn,
laid siege to Rendsburg. To relieve it, the king advanced at the head of
a considerable force. But his doom was at hand. Near Sleswic he was met
by Abel, who treated him with the utmost deference, with the most
obsequious respect; and so disarmed him, that in the joy of his heart he
accepted an invitation to one of the duke’s country palaces, in the
immediate vicinity of Sleswic. From that palace he was forcibly dragged
on board a boat in the Sley, taken to a solitary part of that river,
landed, allowed to make his confession, and beheaded. Heavy chains were
then fastened to his corpse, and it was thrown into the deepest part of
the river. The news was spread that he had perished by accident in the
river; but the monks who had administered to him the last offices of
religion, declared that he had been murdered,—by whose contrivance was
unknown. The body being afterwards found by some fishermen, confirmed
that declaration. It was buried in the church of the monastery. The
brethren even asserted that miracles were wrought at his tomb, and they
were believed: some years after his death he was canonized; and he is
the fifth Danish prince who has been thus deified.



[Sidenote: 1250 to 1252.]

To obtain the reward of this fratricide, Abel sent his creatures to the
assembly of the states, convoked for the election of a new king. As
there was only suspicion, he was permitted to purge himself by his own
oath, and by the oath of twenty-four nobles, that he was innocent of the
deed. How he could find that number of men to take such an oath, may
surprise us; but we must remember that the tenor of it was that “to the
best of their belief” the accused party was not guilty of the crime. He
was therefore elected and crowned by the archbishop. By lavish gifts to
the clergy, and to the nobles who adhered to him, and by confirming his
brethren (from whom he had the most to fear) in their respective fiefs,
he stifled all murmurs. To avert war, too, which he well knew would lead
to his ruin, he surrendered to the count of Holstein the domains which
his brother had occupied, and to the Teutonic knights most of what he
yet held in Livonia. These concessions did no harm to Denmark; and some
of his other measures were decidedly good. He restored the wisest parts
of the Danish constitution, especially the annual meeting of the states;
he improved the laws; and began to redeem the crown lands, which during
the late reigns had been pledged. In short, like all usurpers, he
sacrificed to popularity, and succeeded so well that he was enabled to
raise an extraordinary impost to complete his work of redemption. In the
western parts of Sleswic, however, the collectors met with opposition,
and Abel, to punish the disobedience, marched with a body of troops. He
penetrated into a country always marshy, and now rendered more so by the
rains. Surprised by a strong party of the inhabitants, he fled, and fell
into a morass, from which the weight of his armour prevented him from
emerging. In this helpless situation he was discovered and slain.

[Sidenote: 1252.]

The mutilated corpse of Abel was left in the marsh, where it remained
for some time, and, if tradition be true, to the great annoyance of the
whole country. Abel was too great a sinner to lie peacefully in his
grave. He became a wandering spirit. Supernatural voices had so
terrified the people that they were glad to deliver the corpse to the
canons of Bremen, who honoured it with the rites of sepulture. But they
too had soon reason to regret the contiguity of the vampire: he was
frequently seen out of his tomb; and at length the corpse was
disinterred, and buried in a solitary marsh a few leagues from Gottorp.
Still there was no respite; and the inhabitants nearest to the place
removed to a distance. To this day the superstition has been perpetuated
that the murderer on a dingy horse may sometimes be seen, followed by
demon hounds, amidst the echoing of the magic horn. Leaving these wild
fancies to vulgar admiration, the Christian will scarcely fail to
acknowledge that in the death of Abel there was retribution.

Abel left three sons, the eldest of whom, Valdemar, was designed for his
successor; but the young prince, returning from the university of Paris,
was seized by the archbishop of Cologne, and detained in prison until a
ransom of 6000 silver marks was paid. Probably this act was done at the
instigation of Christopher, brother of the late king, who knew that he
alone was to be dreaded, since he had been already recognised by the
states, and his brothers were too young for the duties of government.
Besides, the dislike to Abel’s posterity was general; and Christopher
might well aspire to a throne which, after their exclusion, became his
of right. Nor was he disappointed: by the states he was immediately

                             CHRISTOPHER I.


[Sidenote: 1252 to 1258.]

The reign of this prince was even more troubled than that of his
predecessors. Fearing a popular re-action in favour of Abel’s sons, who
were minors, he claimed the guardianship. The claim was resisted by the
house of Holstein; and to decide the contest both parties resorted to
arms. The king was defeated; and though he soon collected a larger
force, he found the number of his enemies increased. The people of
Lubeck, always hostile to Denmark, and for that same reason always the
allies of the counts of Holstein, ravaged the coasts, while those nobles
reduced Sleswic. The two margraves of Brandenburg also complained that
one of them had not received the dowry promised with his wife, Sophia,
daughter of Valdemar II.; and they joined the common league. Nor was
this all: during Abel’s reign, there had been some disputes with Sweden
and Denmark; and to allay them a conference had been covenanted between
the three kings. The death of Abel had prevented the pacification; and
Christopher, engrossed by other troubles, was unable to give them the
satisfaction required. In revenge the Norwegian arrived with a great
armament, while 5000 Swedes penetrated into the heart of the country.
Never had the situation of Denmark appeared so critical; but strange to
say, its safety lay in the number of its enemies, who became jealous of
each other, and of the advantages which each might secure. In this
disposition, the offer of mediators was accepted; and conditions of
peace between Christopher and his nephews were at length sanctioned. He
agreed to invest those nephews, on their reaching majority, with the
duchy of Sleswic; and they, in return, were to renounce all pretensions
to the crown. In conformity with this treaty, Valdemar, the eldest son
of Abel, was released from prison at Cologne, and invested with the
government of the duchy. The margrave of Brandenburg was appeased by the
pledge of two fortresses, until the dowry could be paid. Thus there
remained only Norway and Sweden to be pacified; and though hostilities
existed for some time, they were desultory, and were terminated by a
reconciliation. An interview with Birger, regent of Sweden, easily led
to that result; and when Hako of Norway, who had again arrived with a
formidable armament, saw that Christopher was sincerely desirous to
satisfy him, he now accepted the will for the deed, and became the
friend of the monarch.

[Sidenote: 1256, 1257.]

But the chief troubles of Christopher arose from his own prelates. Jacob
Erlandsen, bishop of Roskild, a personal friend of Innocent IV., had
imbibed the highest notions of clerical privileges. He condemned the
influence of the crown in the election of bishops, which was certainly
an evil, since royal favourites only were appointed to the rich sees.
Acting on his own principle, that bishops had no earthly superior except
the pope, he refused, when elected by the chapter of Lund to the
primacy, either to allow royal influence any weight in the election, or
to accept of confirmation at the royal hands. He next condemned some of
the provisions in the ecclesiastical law which Valdemar I. had
promulgated in Scania; and when opposed by the king, he intrigued with
the royal enemies. There can be no doubt that in his resistance to the
encroachments of the crown, not merely on the freedom of election, but
on the ecclesiastical revenues, he was abundantly justified; but the
_manner_ of his resistance was censurable; and still more so was his
league with the enemies of the king. If the primate was an archbishop,
he was also a temporal baron; nothing was more easy than to confound the
two characters; and while Christopher determined to punish him in the
latter, he chose to forget the privileges of the former. Erlandsen was
summoned before the states at Vyburg. In reply he convoked a national
council to be held at Vedel, a town in the diocese of Rypen in Jutland.
In that assembly it was decreed that if any Danish bishop were taken and
mutilated, or afflicted with any other atrocious injury, by the order,
or with the connivance of the king, or any noble, the kingdom should be
laid under an interdict, and the divine service suspended. If the same
violence were committed by any foreign prince or noble, and there were
reason to infer that it was done at the instigation of the king or any
of his council, in the diocese of that bishop there should be a
“cessatio à divinis,” and the king during a month should be bound to see
justice done: if he refused, the interdict was to be extended over the
whole kingdom. After it was laid, no ecclesiastic, under pain of
excommunication, was to celebrate any office of religion in the royal
presence. The decree was sent to Rome, and confirmed by pope Alexander
in October, 1257.

[Sidenote: 1257.]

The wrath of the king and of his nobles was roused by this bold, though
perhaps necessary, act. But the primate was of an intrepid temper, and
quite prepared to share, if necessary, the fate of our Thomas à Becket.
In the next diet a number of frivolous and two or three substantial
charges were made against him; and he begged time until the next meeting
of the states to prepare his answers. In the interim efforts were made
to reconcile the two; and they sometimes met. But Erlandsen, by
excommunicating a lady of Scania, a favourite of the king, again
rekindled the half-smothered wrath of Christopher. Repairing to Lund,
the latter held his tribunal, invited all who had any complaint against
the archbishop to appear before him, and summoned the archbishop himself
to appear and answer whatever might be urged against him. As
ecclesiastics were, by a regulation of some standing, amenable to their
own laws alone, the churchman denied the competency of the tribunal. In
revenge the king revoked the concessions of privileges, immunities, and
even of domains, made by his ancestors to the cathedral of Lund—a
strange and lawless measure, which, if sanctioned by the nation at
large, must have occasioned the entire ruin of the church. As well might
a private gentleman revoke his father’s will, and reclaim property of
which the bequest has been sanctioned by the laws of society. The
officer who served the act of revocation was excommunicated by the
primate, who had also the people on his side. Two or three of the
bishops were gained by the court; the rest adhered to their spiritual
head. Every day widened the breach between the two chief personages in
the nation. The states being convoked at Odinsey to swear allegiance to
Eric, eldest son of the king, Erlandsen refused to appear, and commanded
his suffragans also to refuse. The rage of the king was unbounded. From
the states which he now convoked at Copenhagen he obtained permission to
seize the primate with the other bishops, and imprison them. A brother
of the primate’s was the instrument of his apprehension, and he was
conveyed to a fortress in Fionia. The dean and archdeacon of Lund, with
the bishop of Rypen, were next secured; but the two spiritual peers of
Odinsey and Roskild had time to flee from the realm.

[Sidenote: 1258 to 1259.]

In his captivity the primate was treated with much rigour. What his
proud spirit could least bear was insult; if it be true, that he was
forced to wear a cap made from a fox’s skin, we may smile at what called
forth the bitter resentment of himself and the pope. The king was soon
made to repent his violence. In virtue of the ordinance of the national
council at Vedel, the fugitive bishops laid an interdict on the kingdom;
the pope espoused the cause of his church; and Jaromir, prince of Rugen,
to whose hospitality the bishop of Roskild had fled, was persuaded by
both to arm in behalf of the altar. Great was the wrath of Christopher
to see the interdict so well observed, and to hear the murmurs of his
people. How could he, alone, resist a power which had proved fatal to so
many emperors and so many kings, compared with which his was that of the
meanest vassal in his dominions? In the hope of obtaining what he called
justice, he appealed to Rome. Yet at the same time he endeavoured to
dispose his royal neighbours of Sweden and Norway in his favour. _They_,
too, had bishops, and the cause of one was the cause of all: it was a
struggle, he observed, between the rights of kings and the insolence of
their subjects. They promised to assist him in this war alike on the
pope and his own clergy, whom he was about to deprive of their
temporalities; and had already powerful armaments in motion when
intelligence reached them that he was no more.

[Sidenote: 1259.]

Whether this monarch died naturally, or through poison, is doubtful. The
suddenness of that death, and the peculiar circumstances in which he met
it, could not fail to create the suspicion, and with some minds
suspicion is truth. Even the monk whose fanaticism was said to have
occasioned the deed, has been indicated by name. In the letter, however,
which both his widow and his son addressed to the pope after this event,
no one is implicated, and the charge of poison, true or false, was
merely stated in general and indefinite terms. That he fell a victim to
poison has not been proved, still less that it was administered by a
churchman. The evidence, however, is rather indicative of a tragical
end, though the causes and the circumstances must for ever rest a

                               ERIC VII.

                           SURNAMED GLIPPING.


[Sidenote: 1259 to 1268.]

Eric, the eldest son of the king, was elected by the states; and as he
was only ten years of age at his father’s death, the regency devolved on
his mother, Margaret, daughter of Sambir, duke of Pomerania. That
princess had great courage and great prudence, and both were required in
the peculiarly difficult circumstances in which she was placed. Some of
the bishops were exiles, some in prison, but all protected by the pope,
and venerated by the people. Eric, the son of Abel, supported by the
counts of Holstein, by the prince of Rugen, and by the exiled prelates,
aspired to the throne. The interdict still remained, and consequently
the discontent of the people. And now Jaromir, prince of Rugen, and the
duke of Sleswic, accompanied by the bishop of Roskild, made a descent on
the coast of Zealand, with a formidable army. Margaret collected what
troops she was able, and hastened to meet the enemy. The battle was
disastrous to the royal party, 10,000 being left on the field. The
consequences were still more disastrous—the occupation of Zealand, and
the destruction of several towns, (among others Copenhagen, which had
recently been invested with municipal rights,) by the victors. Bornholm
was next reduced, then Scania, which remembered its primate with
gratitude; and the whole kingdom must have been subjugated by the
Slavonic prince, had not a tragical death arrested him in his career.
This was a heavy loss to the ecclesiastical party; but the bishop of
Roskild confirmed the censure, and denied Christian burial to the dead
of the royal party. Jutland only remained faithful to the latter. Yet
Margaret was not dismayed: notwithstanding the interdict and the
absolute prohibition issued alike by the primate and the bishop of
Roskild, she caused her son to be crowned. To soothe in some degree the
animosity of the former, she released him and all the churchmen; but he
would not compromise what he deemed his duty; he refused all overtures
from her, and retired into Sweden to await the decision of Rome. For
this conduct he has been much censured by modern historians. They
should, however, remember that he could not do otherwise: the decision
was no longer in his hands, but in those of the pope, to whom it had
been carried by the appeal of both parties. Alexander IV. was dead; and
Urban IV., who was raised to the dignity, took cognizance of the cause.
He condemned the primate, and ordered him to resign his archbishopric
into the hands of two ecclesiastical commissioners whom he nominated for
that purpose. Erlandsen obeyed; but, hearing that Clement IV. had
succeeded to Urban, he hastened to Rome to plead for himself. Clement
did not confirm the judgment of his predecessor; he took up the case _de
novo_, and sent a legate to examine on the spot into the circumstances
of the dispute, and to decide according to justice. Erecting his
tribunal at Sleswic, the papal functionary cited the king and the
queen-mother to appear before him; but they refused on the plea that
Sleswic was unfavourable to them. The plea was a frivolous one, and
devised only to cover their determination not to acknowledge the
competency of the judges. Apprehensive for their safety in a city which
depended on the king, the legate and the bishops repaired to Lubeck,
whence they excommunicated Eric, his mother, and all who had refused to
obey the citation. The primate retired to Rome, where he remained about
seven years; and during that period, the interdict remained in full

[Sidenote: 1261 to 1264.]

While these events were passing, others occurred of still greater moment
to the queen and her son. On the death of Valdemar (1257), eldest son of
Abel, who had been transferred from the dungeons of Cologne to the ducal
palace of Sleswic, and who left no issue, the succession was claimed by
Eric, the next brother. Abel, who then reigned, had refused to invest
him, and he had therefore thrown himself into the arms of his kinsmen,
the counts of Holstein, and by their aid had entered on the
administration of the duchy. Unable to dispossess him, Margaret proposed
to recognise him, provided he would acknowledge that he held the fief by
the pure favour of the crown, and not by any right of inheritance. But
in every European country except Scandinavia fiefs had long been
hereditary: they had become allodial property; and Eric refused to
sanction a condition which must have proved fatal to the hopes of his
family. To chastise him, the queen and her son marched towards the
south; but on the plains of Sleswic they were signally defeated. Flight
did not save them from the power of their enemies: they were overtaken
and consigned to imprisonment—the former at Hamburg, in the charge of
the counts of Holstein, the latter in the fortress of Norburg, subject
to duke Eric. There both might have remained to the close of life (for
the bishop and the people were equally disaffected), had not Albert of
Anhalt, who had married the princess Mechtilda, sister of the king,
interfered in their behalf. The queen was soon released (1263), and
enabled to resume the administration: the king was confided to the
guardianship of John, margrave of Brandenburg, also connected by the
ties of blood with the royal family. It was at length agreed that he
should be enlarged, on the condition of his marrying Agnes, daughter of
the margrave, whose dowry, 6000 marks, was to be placed against his
ransom. Returning to his capital (1264), he was now old enough to assume
the reins of government.

[Sidenote: 1272 to 1275.]

In 1272 died Eric, duke of Sleswic—an event which again disturbed the
tranquillity of the country. He left two sons, Valdemar and Eric, both
minors. To the guardianship a claim was put in by the king, and another
by the counts of Holstein. Both parties flew to arms, and at first the
counts had the advantage; but seeing the royal forces augmented, they
consented to resign the trust into the royal hands, on the condition of
his investing the eldest with the duchy when arrived at the due age.
Eric now celebrated his marriage with Agnes of Brandenburg; and he had
also the satisfaction to see the convocation of a general council, (that
of Lyons, 1274,) destined to remove the interdict from his kingdom. He
was, however, enjoined not merely to receive the primate into his
friendship, but to pay him 15,000 marks by way of indemnification. This
may appear a large sum, and it has been censured by historians. They
forget, however, to tell us that during the long absence of the
archbishop, he had been receiving the revenues of the see—an amount many
times greater than the indemnification. The following year (1275), a
national council held at Lund finished the work of reconciling the king
with the church.

[Sidenote: 1280 to 1286.]

But if Eric was thus at peace with his spiritual, he was often in
disputes with his temporal, barons, on whose rights he was always ready
to encroach. Notwithstanding his treaty with the counts of Holstein, he
endeavoured to evade the investiture of Sleswic in favour of Valdemar.
Both parties, however, were equally to blame; for when Valdemar was
invested, he claimed other domains in Frisia, on the plea that they
belonged to his paternal uncle. When this was refused, he leagued
himself with the enemies of Denmark: the plot was discovered, and he was
imprisoned while at Eric’s court. But his detention was of short
duration; and at the intercession of his allies, he was enlarged, after
subscribing some conditions which more clearly established the authority
of the crown over the fief. Still, if one enemy was vanquished, others
remained, and to some of them, or rather to his own vices, the king fell
a victim. To the count of Halland he had been oppressive: he had
deprived him of his domains, and if report were true, dishonoured the
wife during the husband’s absence. Revenge was sworn, and the oath was
kept. One night, after hunting, he was murdered asleep at a rural
village in Jutland. The king’s chamberlain was privy to the design: it
was he who guided the assassins (all in masks) to the bed. They
subsequently fled to Norway, by the king of which they were protected
against the vengeance of Eric’s family.

Thus ended a reign of troubles, most of which cannot with any justice be
imputed to the monarch. Yet his own vices added greatly to his
misfortunes. After his peace with the church, when moderation might have
been expected from him, he frequently seized the church tithes, and
applied to his own use the produce arising from the monastic domains.
With his nobles he was no less severe; and more than once (especially in
1262) he was in danger of being driven from the realm by their united
arms. Eric promulgated the code, called _Birkerett_, to the provisions
of which we shall allude on a future occasion.

                               ERIC VIII.

                         SURNAMED MŒNVED.[156]


[Sidenote: 1286 to 1308.]

At his father’s death Eric was only twelve years of age. A guardian and
regent was therefore necessary; and the post was demanded by Valdemar,
duke of Sleswic, the nearest male kinsman of Eric. The queen-mother,
Agnes of Brandenburg, willing but afraid to refuse, at length recognised
his claim. There could not have been a better choice: he forgot the
wrongs of his family in his new duties. In the first assembly which he
convoked, he called for vengeance on the murderers of the late king.
They were in alarm; and to escape the consequence, they entered into a
plot, the object of which was to seize the young king, and detain him as
a hostage, until their pardon should be declared by the states. That
plot did not escape the vigilance of the regent, who took measures to
disconcert it; and also, at the same time, caused a commission to be
appointed, with power to inquire into the circumstances of Eric
Glipping’s death. That commission consisted of Otho of Brandenburg,
brother of the queen-mother; of Vicislas, prince of Rugen; of the counts
of Holstein, and of twenty-seven Danish nobles. The result was a verdict
of wilful murder against James, count of Halland, Stig, marshal of the
court, and seven others. Condemned to perpetual banishment, they
repaired to the court of the Norwegian king, then at war with Denmark,
by whom they were hospitably received. Assisted by him they were enabled
to visit the northern parts of their fief, and to commit, during many
years, considerable depredations. That the Norwegian monarch should thus
become the ally of murderers—the murderers, too, of a brother king—might
surprise us, if we did not remember that he and his father had long
applied, but applied in vain, for satisfaction on points, the justice of
which had never been denied. One of them was, that the dowry of his
mother, Ingeburga, a Danish princess, had never been paid. At the head
of a considerable fleet, he himself soon followed the regicides, and
devastated the coasts. To no proposals of peace would he listen, unless
the regicides were pardoned—for such was his engagement with them. This
war raged until 1308, when peace was restored in the treaty of
Copenhagen. The chief condition was, that in compensation for his
mother’s dowry, the Norwegian monarch should hold northern Halland as a
fief from Eric of Denmark. In regard to the regicides, it was
stipulated, that some should be allowed to return and enjoy their
property, but that the more guilty should never revisit the realm. Yet,
even to them a permission during three years was given to dispose of
their lands and personal substance.

[Sidenote: 1292 to 1299.]

This long war was not the only trouble of Eric. Like his two
predecessors, he was embroiled with the church. To Grandt, a dignitary
of Roskild, he was hostile, for reasons apparently which had no
foundation. When that dignitary was elected to the see of Lund, he
refused, like Erlandsen, either to solicit or to accept the royal
confirmation; and he hastened to Rome to obtain that of the pope. On his
return, he was arrested by Christopher, the king’s brother, and treated
with remarkable severity. His property was seized; he was made to
exchange his pontifical robes for the meanest rags; he was fastened to
the back of a worn-out horse; and in this state led, amidst the jeers of
the royal dependants, to the fortress of Helsinburg. He was soon
transferred to the castle of Soeburg, where an unwholesome dungeon,
heavy fetters, and meagre fare awaited him. The same treatment was
inflicted on Lange, another dignitary of Lund; but he had the good
fortune to escape and to reach Boniface VIII. at Avignon (1295). Some
time afterwards, Grandt himself was so lucky as to escape, and repair to
Bornholm, where he was received as a martyr. He too arrived at Avignon,
and was welcomed by the pope, who observed, with much truth, that there
were many saints that had suffered less for the church than archbishop
Grandt. The dispute between the king and the church was examined at
Rome, by a commission of cardinals. The award was a severe one for the
king; it sentenced him to pay the archbishop, by way of indemnification,
49,000 silver marks; and until the money was paid, not only was his
kingdom to remain under an interdict (it had been subject to one ever
since the archbishop was seized), but he himself was to be
excommunicated, and also his brother Christopher, the instrument of that
arrest. When the king evinced no disposition to pay the money, the papal
legate who had been dispatched to Denmark for the occasion, sequestered
a portion of the royal revenues in Scania. This measure Eric could feel;
and he threw himself on the mercy of the pope. Boniface so far relaxed
from his severity as to allow the archbishop to resign his see of Lund,
and to abate the indemnification to 10,000 marks. Grandt subsequently
became archbishop of Bremen, while the papal legate succeeded to the
primacy of Denmark.

[Sidenote: 1299 to 1319.]

But the whole of Eric’s reign was not disastrous. Lubeck and the baron
of Rostock sued for his protection, and paid him for it: he obtained
from the latter some augmentation of his territory, and from other
German powers a large sum of money. Tranquillity, however, for any long
period, he was not to enjoy. One of his worst domestic enemies was his
brother Christopher, who leagued himself with the kings of Sweden,
Norway, and other enemies of the realm. As a punishment, seeing that
leniency had no result, Eric occupied his domains. He fled to Wratislas,
duke of Pomerania, who espoused his cause; so did the counts of Holstein
and some other princes. In 1317, peace was made, but Christopher was not
restored. Two years afterwards, the king paid the debt of nature,
leaving his kingdom plunged in debt, occasioned by his efforts to
contend with his misfortunes. He had more discernment than some of his
predecessors. He encouraged the rising municipalities, to some of which
he granted charters, analogous to those which existed in Germany. To
commerce he was a benefactor; and he was useful to the judicial
administration by the compilation of a code (in six books), called the
Law of Zealand. He did more; he made a collection of such public acts as
might throw light on the national history.[157] Of his offspring, none
survived him; one at least, on whom his hopes were placed, met a
tragical but accidental death; and grief led his queen to the cloister,
where she died a few months before him. There was nobody therefore to
succeed him but his turbulent brother Christopher, then in Sweden, whom
he advised the states to remove from the succession.

[Sidenote: 1319.]

But Christopher was not to be so easily deprived of what he regarded as
his birthright; and when he heard that he should have a rival in Eric
duke of Sleswic, he commenced his intrigues, and pushed his warlike
preparations with a vigour that showed his determination to attain his
object. The promises which he made to the nobles, the clergy, and the
municipalities, were exceedingly lavish, and must, if executed, have
changed the government into an aristocratic republic. Few of these had
he the slightest intention of fulfilling; and as most were never
fulfilled, we will not enumerate them. They answered his purpose, for he
was elected by the states, and at the same time his eldest son Eric was
joined with him in the government.

                            CHRISTOPHER II.


[Sidenote: 1320 to 1323.]

Though Christopher was thus placed on the throne, to be soon found that
to maintain himself on it, while an active rival was striving to unseat
him, was no easy matter. He therefore began to lavish grants on his
nobles so as to plunge the crown in new difficulties, and to threaten
the dismemberment of the monarchy. To the church he showed great
deference: he bore, without complaint, the postponement of his
coronation until it suited the convenience of the primate to return from
abroad; and he engaged never to violate the privileges which had been
usurped. But he had also need of foreign allies, and to procure them he
evinced the same disregard of the public interests. To Wratislas, duke
of Rugen, he confirmed the investiture of that fief, with some other
domains. To Henry of Mecklenburg, who held Rostock in pledge, in
consideration of money advanced to the late king, he granted that
territory in perpetuity, as a fief of the Danish crown. With Gerard,
count of Holstein (then count of Rendsburg), he entered into a closer
treaty, by which each engaged to assist the other, whenever required,
with all the disposable force at his command. The cession of so many
fiefs within and without Denmark Proper, could not but have fatal
consequences. Not less fatal was the custom of assigning, until payment
was made, whole islands and provinces, in return either for personal
services, or advances of money.

[Sidenote: 1324 to 1325.]

What all men might have foreseen soon arrived. Though Christopher was
never to impose any tax without consent of the nobles, and never, in any
circumstances, to require a tax from the church, his necessities were so
great that he soon laid a new and extraordinary impost on both orders of
the state. The nobles were to pay one tenth of their annual revenues;
the clergy in an equal proportion; the people still more. Suddenly one
universal cry of resistance arose from every part of the kingdom. The
archbishop boldly declared that he would resist to the last; that if the
king did not keep his promises made at his accession, no more would the
church or the nobles keep _theirs_; that they should consider themselves
absolved from their allegiance. Christopher bent to the influence which
he could not resist; but he had already exasperated his people, and his
relinquishment of the impost did not restore them to good humour. His
next measure was not only censurable, but in the highest degree unjust:
it was to recover by force of arms the islands, provinces, and domains,
which had been pledged, without paying any portion of the debt. In these
days it may appear almost incredible that the whole of Scania, nearly
one third of the kingdom, was thus held by one noble. The creditors,
thus deprived of their rights, naturally combined to obtain justice by
force. They were aided by all that were discontented, and by not a few
who had no cause for dissatisfaction, but who hoped to benefit by a
change. Scania and Zealand were laid waste by fire and sword. From two
of his enemies, viz. the archbishop of Lund, and Eric duke of Sleswic,
he was released by death; but the latter event, from which he expected
so much advantage, had baneful consequences. Eric left a young boy,
Valdemar. Who was to be the tutor? To obtain the post, Christopher
invaded Sleswic. But he found a competitor in the very ally on whom he
had so much relied, Gerard of Holstein, who has been styled the Great,
and who, as the maternal uncle of Valdemar, had equal right to the
trust. In the midst of his successes, after reducing most of the duchy,
he was defeated by this count, and compelled to retire.

[Sidenote: 1325.]

Many of Christopher’s disaffected subjects had been silent through fear:
now that he was vanquished, he was assailed by one universal complaint.
The nobles demanded their fiefs, the creditors their money, the people a
removal of taxation; and all bitterly complained of his breach of faith,
though that breach was the unavoidable result of his position. Revolt
became general; and when the states met he was solemnly deposed, the
reason assigned for this measure being “the intolerable abuse which he
had made of his authority.” When Christopher received this intelligence,
he was in Zealand with his son; at the same time he learned that count
Gerard was advancing. To repel the invader Eric marched with the
disposable troops; but he was defeated, betrayed into the hands of his
enemies, and consigned to a dungeon. With the loss of that son, his
colleague on the throne, he lost all hope of present resistance; and
with two younger sons he precipitately left the kingdom. At Rostock he
procured aid from Henry of Mecklenburg and some Vandalic princes, and
returned to struggle for his rights. He reduced a fortress, but this
success did not render the states more favourable; they persisted in
their resolution to elect another sovereign. Besieged and taken by
Gerard, he was allowed to retire into Germany. He made another attempt,
with equal want of success, was again taken, and again set free, on the
condition of his retiring to Rostock.

[Sidenote: 1326 to 1328.]

The states assembled at Nyburg to elect a king made choice of Valdemar,
duke of Sleswic, still a minor,—the chief cause, no doubt, of his
election, since there must be a regency, and the most powerful might
hope to participate in the public spoils. Gerard was the head of the
regency: half a dozen other nobles were joined with him, and all were
eager to derive the utmost advantage from a tenure of dignity which must
evidently be brief. Gerard obtained the duchy of Sleswic, in perpetuity.
Count John of Holstein was invested with the islands of Laland, Falster,
and Femeren. Canute Porse, who by Christopher had been created duke of
North Halland, and who yet had been one of the first to desert that
unfortunate king, was confirmed in the fief in addition to South
Halland: it was no longer to be revocable, but descend to his posterity.
The archbishop of Lunden obtained Bornholm; another noble had Colding
and Rypen; a third, Langeland and Arroe; in short, the whole country was
parcelled out into petty principalities, which, though feudally subject
to the crown, would be virtually so many sovereignties. These measures
could not fail to displease all who had any love for their country: a
dozen tyrants were more tyrannical, more rapacious than one; and pity
began to be felt for the absent Christopher. That prince was not
inactive in his retirement at Rostock. By the most lavish promises he
obtained succours of men and money from some of his allies; and many of
his own nobles, among whom were the primate and the bishops, engaged to
join him as soon as he landed in Denmark. He did land, and was joined by
the bishops of Aarhus and Rypen, by many nobles, and enabled to obtain
some advantages over the regents. But he had not learned wisdom by
adversity. One of his allies, count John of Holstein, he converted into
a deadly enemy; and he offended the church by arresting the bishop of
Borglum. The prelate escaped by corrupting his guard, and hastened to
Rome to add the pope to the other enemies of Christopher. The kingdom
was immediately placed under an interdict.

[Sidenote: 1329 to 1331.]

In this emergency, Christopher endeavoured to prevent his expulsion from
the realm by resorting to the same means of bribery that he had before
adopted. To pacify count John, he ceded to him Zealand and part of
Scania, in addition to Laland and Falster, which he still held. By
grants equally prodigal, and equally ruinous to the state, he
endeavoured to secure the aid of other nobles. So well did he succeed,
that Gerard, abandoned by many supporters, sued for peace. The articles
were signed at Rypen in 1330. Valdemar was sent back to Sleswic; but the
reversion to the duchy was secured to Gerard in the event of Valdemar’s
dying without heirs male. As this was merely a future and contingent
advantage, Fionia was placed in his hands until Sleswic should become
his by inheritance; and for that island he was to become the vassal of
the Danish crown. Nor was this all: he was to hold the whole of Jutland
by way of pledge until reimbursed for the expenses of the war, which he
estimated at forty thousand marks.

[Sidenote: 1331 to 1332.]

This tranquillity was of short duration. The two counts, Gerard and
John, quarrelled; and Christopher, instead of remaining neuter, espoused
the cause of the latter. He was defeated by Gerard; and the greater part
of Jutland withdrew from him to swell the cause of the victor. His only
resource was now to throw himself on the generosity of the other, who
professed his willingness to make peace in return for one hundred
thousand marks; and until that sum (immense for those days) were paid,
he was to hold Jutland. The two counts also treated with each other,
John surrendering to Gerard one half of the debt on Fionia; and they
agreed to guarantee each other in the acquisitions which they had made,
that is, in the dismemberment of the realm. At the same time Scania
escaped for a season from the sceptre of the Danish kings. That province
had passed into the hands of John, count of Holstein, through the
inability of the crown to discharge the loans which had been borrowed on
it. Holstein collectors therefore overran it to collect the revenues
claimed by the representative of the creditors. They were even more
unpopular than those of the king had been; and the natives not
unfrequently arose to massacre them. Three hundred were at one time put
to death in the cathedral of Lund. To escape chastisement the
inhabitants looked, not to Christopher, who was helpless as an infant,
and whom they distrusted, but to Magnus king of Sweden. Him they
proposed to recognise as their sovereign, on the condition of his
defending them against the counts of Holstein. It is almost needless to
add that Magnus joyfully availed himself of the opportunity of obtaining
a province which was geographically within the limits of his kingdom,
and which had always been an object of desire to his predecessors. He
received the homage of the whole country, and sent forces to defend it.
Instead of drawing the sword to recover it, John sold his interest in
it, and all claim to its government or revenues, for thirty-four
thousand marks—a sum which Magnus readily paid him. The latter had now a
double right to the province—that of voluntary submission, and that of

[Sidenote: 1332, 1333.]

In the last year of Christopher’s life, two of his nobles, in the view
of obtaining the favour of the Holstein family, entered into a plot for
his assassination. They set fire to his house, seized him as he was
escaping, and bore him to a fortress in the isle of Laland, which
belonged to count John. That nobleman, however, no longer feared a
prince who had fallen into universal contempt, and whose cause was
hopeless. He therefore ordered him to be released. The following year
Christopher died a natural death, after the most disastrous reign in the
annals of the kingdom.—By his wife Euphemia, daughter of Bogislas, duke
of Pomerania, he had three sons and three daughters. Eric, the eldest,
preceded him to the tomb; Otho ultimately became a knight of the
Teutonic order; Valdemar, after a short interregnum, succeeded him. Of
his daughters two died in youth; but the eldest, Margaret, was married
to Ludovic of Brandenburg, son of the emperor Ludovic of Bavaria.



[Sidenote: 1333, 1334.]

The two counts of Holstein, who had thus partitioned the kingdom between
them, consulted how they might perpetuate their usurpation. The best
mode was to delay as long as possible the election of a new monarch; to
exclude the two sons of the late king from the succession; and, when an
election could no longer be avoided, to procure the union of the
suffrages in favour of some prince whom they might control. In any case
as their sway might and probably must be brief, their interest lay in
deriving the utmost advantage in the shortest possible time from their
position. Hence their rapacity, which their armies enabled them to
exercise with impunity.

[Sidenote: 1334 to 1340.]

Under no circumstances would the domination of strangers have been long
borne without execration: that of rapacious strangers was doubly
galling. The murmurs which arose on every side emboldened the two sons
of Christopher to strive for his inheritance. But they entered the field
before their preparations were sufficiently matured. Otho, with a
handful of troops supplied by his brother-in-law the margrave of
Brandenburg, landed in Jutland. He evidently relied on the popular
indignation entertained towards the two usurpers; but he overlooked
their means, their military talents, and the ascendancy which years of
success had given. He was vanquished, and committed to close
confinement, from which he did not escape for many years. To avert
another invasion by excluding the sons from all hope to the succession,
Gerard turned towards Valdemar, duke of Sleswic, who had been placed on
the throne during Christopher’s exile. If the duke succeeded, the duchy
became the inheritance of count Gerard; but he would not wait for
probabilities. In return for his promised aid, Valdemar, in a solemn
treaty, agreed to surrender that province _immediately_; and if he did
not obtain the object of his ambition, he was to receive Jutland in lieu
of it. The rights of Gerard over that peninsula, in virtue of the one
hundred thousand marks which he claimed from the crown, have been
mentioned: these rights therefore he might transfer. In the midst of the
negotiation prince Valdemar prepared to return and conquer, or to share
the fate of his brother Otho. The people were almost universally
favourable to him; and his arrival was expected with impatience. When
the Jutlanders heard of the treaty which consigned them to Valdemar of
Sleswic, they no longer waited for their prince, but openly revolted.
Gerard was compelled to retreat, but only to return with ten thousand
German auxiliaries; and with these he laid waste the peninsula. His
fate, however, was at hand. A Jutland noble, with fifty accomplices
only, resolved to rid his country of a tyrant. Hastening to Randers,
where the count lay with four thousand men, at midnight, he disarmed the
guard, penetrated into the bedchamber of the regent, murdered him, and
escaped before the army was aware of the deed.

[Sidenote: 1340.]

Thus perished Gerard, surnamed the Great, a prince of great talents, and
of greater ambition. With him perished the grandeur of his house. His
sons had not his personal qualities, and they could not maintain
themselves in the position in which he left them. Emboldened by the
event, the states met, and declared the absent Valdemar, the third son
of Christopher (Otho was still in confinement), heir to the throne. The
act of election was sent to that prince in spite of the care taken by
the counts of Holstein to prevent all intercourse between the country
and the exile. Valdemar received it at the court of the emperor, Ludovic
of Bavaria; and that monarch immediately enjoined his son, the margrave,
to facilitate the return of his brother-in-law. Under the imperial
sanction, there was a conference at Spandau. It was there agreed that
Otho should receive his liberty on the condition of his resigning all
claims to the crown. The new king engaged to marry Hedwige, sister of
Valdemar, duke of Sleswic, whose dowry of 24,000 marks was to be
deducted from the 100,000 claimed by the sons of count Gerard. Until the
rest were paid, Fionia and a part of Jutland were to remain in the hands
of the counts. The king was not to protect the murderers of the late
count. There were some other conditions of much less moment—all dictated
by the necessity of sacrificing much to obtain a greater advantage. This
treaty having been solemnly ratified, Valdemar returned to Denmark, and
ascended the throne without opposition.

                             VALDEMAR III.

                           SURNAMED ATTERDAG.


[Sidenote: 1340.]

When this prince ascended the throne, the prospect before him was
gloomy: there was no monarchy; there were no revenues. Scania and
Holland were in the hands of the Swedes; Fionia and Jutland were
forcibly held by the counts of Holstein; Zealand and Laland obeyed
another chief; and the rest of the isles had each its ruler who regarded
it as his own estate to be inherited by his children. Even these were
not the worst evils. The anarchy of so many years had caused the laws to
be forgotten; the feeble were every where a prey to the strong; the poor
were at war with the rich, the native with the foreigner; and nobody
thought either of obedience to authority, or of paying the contributions
rendered necessary by the wants of society.

[Sidenote: 1340 to 1344.]

The two first objects of Valdemar were to make the laws respected, and
to recover, one by one, by conquest or treaty, the domains which had
been alienated. Without the former there could be no security; without
the latter there could be no prosperity. To make the judges respected,
he himself administered justice. Not for days only but for weeks and
months in succession, he thus presided in the tribunals, both in the
cities and in the rural towns. At the same time, he caused most of the
nobles in whose vicinity he happened to be, to produce their titles to
the domains which they held; and when these were not valid, he resumed
the fiefs. Against Ingeborga, widow of duke Albert Porse, to whose
rapacity we have already alluded, he instituted a suit, and recovered
two lordships from her; but in the very court of justice he had his
armed men—a proof that the judgment would be in his favour, and, in
spite of all opposition, enforced. The firm demeanour of the monarch had
a good effect on his people, who rose against their foreign oppressors,
while the latter defended themselves with their accustomed valour. This
desultory warfare raged for many years.

[Sidenote: 1344.]

The recovery of several domains by justice, or force of arms encouraged
the king to persevere in his efforts. But there were some parties
against whom neither would avail—who were too powerful for either, and
before them he could appear with money only. Where should he obtain it?
He looked to Magnus, king of Sweden, who did not feel quite secure in
the possession of Scania, and from whom he obtained 49,000 marks as the
condition of for ever ceding that province to the northern kingdom. That
one so patriotic as Valdemar should thus sanction the ruinous
dismemberment of the monarchy, may well surprise us. But probably he
reasoned thus:—“If the province _be_ lost, let that loss be
counterbalanced by other acquisitions: if it be not finally lost,—if
circumstances should arise favourable to my recovering it,—let the
fortune of war decide whether the purchase-money is to be returned or
not.” Of that money he made a good use: he redeemed from count John of
Holstein the isle of Falster, with many domains and castles in other
parts; soon too he redeemed Vordengburg and the whole isle of Laland. By
this means he increased his own power in the same degree that he
weakened that of his enemies. There must, however, have been some
concert between the two parties, since he received no molestation in his
financial proceedings, and especially since in 1345 he was able to leave
the kingdom to settle the affairs of Esthonia.

[Sidenote: 1345 to 1348.]

In that country there was a revolt of the whole servile population
against their lords, of whom most were Germans. The grand master of the
Teutonic knights being requested to succour the local feudatories,
consented to do so; but from his measures it was evident that he aimed
at supplanting the Danish monarch. Valdemar sailed to the coast; but on
his arrival he found that a truce had been signed between his own
governors and the other party. From thence he proceeded to the Holy
Land—probably in consequence of some vow—and this circumstance proves
that his kingdom must have been in a more secure state than the
chroniclers of the age would have us believe. By the pope he is said to
have been censured for presuming to visit the holy places without the
licence of the apostolic see. His absence, however, must have been
short; for in the following year (1346) he was again in Esthonia. His
motive for this second expedition may be inferred from the result; he
sold that province to the Teutonic knights for 19,000 marks. This act
has been much censured by historians; but to us it appears a wise one.
The expense of maintaining that distant possession was greater than it
was worth: troops could not be spared for it when every disposable man
was required at home; and the money was necessary to pay some
importunate demands, and to redeem another portion of the national
domains. Well was that money employed; it enabled him to recover all the
fortresses in Jutland and Zealand that had not been previously redeemed.
In exchange for other possessions, he received from the counts of
Holstein one half of Fionia and the town of Nyburg. This circumstance
confirms what we have just mentioned—that the intervals of war were
neither so frequent nor so long as those of peace; that he lived with
the counts and his other rivals on terms much less hostile than from the
strict language of the chroniclers we should be justified in believing.

[Sidenote: 1348 to 1350.]

Another opportunity of replenishing his empty treasury was opened to
Valdemar in the aid which he afforded to his brother-in-law the margrave
of Brandenburg, son of the emperor Ludovic of Bavaria. For that aid he
received the annual tribute which the city of Lubeck paid to the
margrave’s family for the protection (or advocacy, as it was called
during the middle ages) afforded by that family to the commerce of the

[Sidenote: 1351 to 1357.]

On his return to Denmark the king proceeded with as much zeal as before
in the reforms he had meditated. Rigour was required, and he employed
it; but it converted into enemies all whose evil deeds he chastised.
This was the most formidable of the obstacles which impeded his career
of improvement. A whole generation of anarchy had rendered the nobles
impatient of all restraint; they sighed for their former impunity; and
they hated a ruler who in the administration of the laws made no
distinction between them and the meanest artisan. To humble this tyrant
as they considered him, they renewed their alliance with the counts of
Holstein; but it led to nothing at this time: these nobles had yet no
need to renew the war with the king. Four years afterwards, however (in
1357), they joined the Jutland nobility, and the king, who marched to
repel them, was defeated. But the check was of short duration; for in a
few weeks he was the victor in his turn—Adolf, one of the counts, being
left dead on the field. This was a useful victory: it enabled Valdemar
to seize the other half of Fionia without payment of the mortgage. The
following year he subdued Langeland, Alfen, Femeren. The second of them,
which belonged to the duke of Sleswic he subsequently restored, security
being given that the inhabitants would remain neutral in the contest
between him and the house of Holstein. With that house, however, peace
was soon made; but these alternations of war and peace are perpetual at
this period.

[Sidenote: 1357 to 1360.]

If Valdemar had ceded to Sweden the important province of Scania, he had
done so either unwillingly, or with the resolution of recovering it
whenever the opportunity should occur. That opportunity at length
presented itself, and in a manner different from his anticipations. King
Magnus became so unpopular, that he was compelled to resign the throne
in favour of his son Eric. To regain it, he solicited aid from Valdemar;
but the latter would promise none unless Scania were restored. The
condition was a hard one; but the prize in view was of more importance;
and in a treaty (1359) Magnus conceded the demand. At the same time, to
draw closer the alliance between them, Margaret, daughter of Valdemar,
then only six years old, was affianced to Hako king of Norway, another
son of Magnus. In accordance with this treaty, Valdemar invaded Scania;
and in a short time reduced most of the fortresses. From this career of
conquest, however, he was recalled, for a moment, by an invasion of
Femeren. The invaders were the counts of Holstein, the duke of
Mecklenburg, and many nobles of Jutland, who were resolute in hastening
the downfall of a stern master. This was a diversion effected by the
counts to save Scania, in the preservation of which to the Swedish crown
they had an interest. They were the allies of Eric, who had rebelled
against his father Magnus; and their sister Elizabeth, in lieu of the
Danish princess, was intended for Hako. The advantage lay with the king,
who having forced his enemies to disband, returned to Scania, which he
wholly seized. This he did without much difficulty, owing to a
revolution in the internal state of Sweden. Eric, who had been
associated with Magnus in the government, who was hostile to every thing
Danish, who was the close ally of the counts of Holstein, fell a victim,
we are told, to his own mother’s ambition. Magnus therefore resumed the
sole direction of affairs, and the Danish interest again predominated.
He was indeed enjoined by the states to defend Scania; but though he
marched towards that province, he made no effort to arrest the progress
of the Danes. On the contrary, he entered into a new alliance with them,
and the projected union between Margaret and Hako was confirmed.

[Sidenote: 1360 to 1363.]

Magnus had again need of his ally’s assistance against his rebellious
subjects. The inhabitants of Wisby, capital of the isle of Gothland,
refused to pay the impost which he had laid upon them; and Valdemar, in
obedience to his wish, sailed to chastise them. Wisby was one of the
greatest ports in Europe; it was the magazine where the merchandise of
the Baltic was kept. Of this much belonged to the Hanse Towns,
especially to Lubeck. Immense was the booty which the Danish monarch
seized in that town; but why he should plunder the subjects of his ally
for his own benefit, is not easy to be explained. Whatever were his own
reasons, he soon repented of his violence. The Swedes, indignant with
their monarch whom they knew to have been the occasion of the disaster,
shut him up in a fortress, called Hako of Norway to aid them, and
declared war against Denmark. To obtain more assistance, they entered
into alliance with the enemies of Denmark,—with the counts of Holstein,
with the duke of Mecklenburg, and with the Hanse Towns, which were
justly exasperated at the plunder of Wisby. The confederated powers put
their armaments in motion, and soon reduced Copenhagen. Helsingburg in
Scania was besieged, but Valdemar raised the siege and defeated the
allied fleet with great loss. Vordingburg was next assailed, but with no
better success; and other disasters soon rendered the allies anxious for
peace, which was concluded at Lubeck in 1363. But it was of short
continuance. There was a general meeting of deputies from all the towns
of the Hanseatic League, above seventy in number; and the result of
their deliberations was a new war. It was indeed evident, that unless
that body secured the free transit of merchandise, there must be an end
to all mercantile enterprise, and the worst days of piracy must be
restored. Two armaments were soon equipped; and the number of assailants
was increased by the adhesion of Denmark’s hereditary enemies. Valdemar,
terrified, had recourse to negociations. Adolf, count of Holstein, he
detached from the league by investing him with the isle of Femeren. The
Hanse Towns he propitiated by commercial privileges. A truce was
accordingly made, and the king was left to resume his intrigues in the

[Sidenote: 1362 to 1363.]

After the imprisonment of Magnus, who, however, was soon allowed to
share in the government, Hako was the only hope of the Swedes: they
crowned him in 1362, and then urged him to marry the sister of the
counts of Holstein. But the breach of the contract between Margaret and
Hako could not be so easily dissolved: it had been written and sealed
with the necessary formalities, and under the sanction of an oath. Yet
the Swedish states, regardless of these circumstances, sent an
ambassador to Holstein to perform the marriage ceremony by proxy. It was
celebrated with much pomp; and, soon afterwards, the new queen of Norway
and Sweden embarked for her destination. The intelligence was a blow to
Valdemar; but fortune enabled him to recover from it. A tempest cast the
bride on the Danish coast; and she was conducted to the court, where the
most flattering reception awaited her. A succession of feasts and
entertainments blinded her for some time to the designs of Valdemar; but
at length she perceived that with all the humour so studiously paid her,
she was little better than a prisoner. But little did she suspect the
deep game that was playing. During her stay at the court, which was
protracted for many weeks, Hako was induced to visit the country and to
solemnize his marriage with the princess Margaret. Great was the joy of
the Danes at this event, and no less great the mortification of that
numerous party in Sweden, which had prosecuted the alliance with
Holstein. As Margaret was still very young, the marriage was not
consummated for three years afterwards. But the advantage was gained;
and Elizabeth, in despair, took the veil in a Swedish monastery.

[Sidenote: 1363.]

This marriage deserves especial consideration from one circumstance;—it
led to the union of the crowns between Denmark and Norway,—a union which
has continued unbroken to our own days. For a considerable period too it
occasioned a junction of the three kingdoms which constitute
Scandinavia. Many obstacles, however, intervened, before it could be
effected; and indeed there was no hope of such a result at the time of
its celebration. So indignant were the Swedes at it, that they declared
the throne vacant, and elected Albert of Mecklenburg to rule over them.
Hako, like his father, therefore, lost the crown; but these
circumstances can be detailed only in the chapter devoted to Swedish

[Sidenote: 1364, 1365.]

The next year was passed by Valdemar abroad, in Germany, Poland,
Hungary, Italy, and France. Why he should abandon the kingdom at so
critical a period has exercised the ingenuity of historians; but none of
their conjectures are satisfactory; and his motions must remain shrouded
in mystery. On his return, after an absence of ten months, he found his
own kingdom as tranquil as Sweden was stormy. In the latter there were
two parties—that which adhered to Magnus and Hako, and that which had
invited Albert to ascend the throne. The former, numerically inferior,
had obtained succour from Norway and Denmark, and, with this aid, had
made an irruption into the provinces which held for Albert. A battle
ensued, in which Magnus was made prisoner; but Hako, though desperately
wounded, contrived to escape. But Valdemar recruited his party; and by
his arms, no less than his intrigues, reduced Albert to such perplexity,
that he was compelled, whatever the price, to propitiate the formidable
Dane. Overtures were accordingly made to Valdemar by the kinsmen of
Albert; and he received them with eagerness. They were, however,
delusive; not one of the promises made was executed, or intended to be

[Sidenote: 1367 to 1370.]

The influence of Albert, and of his connections, proved more disastrous
to Valdemar than he could have expected. His own subjects, especially
those of Jutland, who were in league with the counts of Holstein, again
broke out into open rebellion. They were aided by the king of Sweden
(Albert), by the duke of Mecklenburg, by the Hanse Towns, and by other
enemies of Denmark. The most extraordinary circumstance is, that at this
very period, when the monarchy was menaced within and from without,
Valdemar again left the kingdom to pass several months abroad! Was his
intention to interest the emperor and the pope in his behalf? Such has
been the opinion of writers. Others, again, have attributed his
departure to a formidable conspiracy, the object of which was darkly
seen by him. The subject must remain in mystery. The hypothesis of a
conspiracy, however, derives some confirmation from the fact, that after
his departure the Hanseatic Towns, the counts of Holstein, and Albert of
Sweden, made simultaneous attacks on different parts of the kingdom, and
with some degree of success. In 1370, however, the minister to whom
Valdemar had confided the affairs of the realm made peace with all the
enemies of Denmark.

[Sidenote: 1370 to 1375.]

The same year Valdemar returned, and the same year too witnessed the
extinction of the ducal line of Sleswic, which, as we have before
related, originated in Abel, king of Denmark. To recover the duchy was
the object of Valdemar, long before duke Henry’s death; and when that
event arrived, his measures were so well taken, that in a few weeks most
of the fortresses were in his possession. But the counts of Holstein
urged their claim, in virtue of the agreement between their father,
Gerard, and the duke of that period. They did not, however, immediately
proceed to hostilities, nor was it their fortune to measure swords with
Valdemar, while busily occupied in the internal reforms which he had so
long contemplated, he saw that war was inevitable; and in this
apprehension he besought pope Gregory XI. to interfere in his behalf—to
teach his subjects obedience, and his enemies moderation. The pope, in
his reply, professed his willingness to espouse the royal cause; but
before his interference could be availing, Valdemar was no more. He died
through his confidence in a quack, whose medicines he took. By his
queen, Hedwige, he had six children, four of whom preceded him to the
tomb. The survivors were two daughters—Ingeburga, married to Henry duke
of Mecklenburg, and the celebrated Margaret, afterwards queen of the

[Sidenote: 1375.]

Valdemar was the first Danish monarch that styled himself king of the
_Goths_. The assumption was occasioned, either by the conquests which he
made in Gothland (they were very temporary), or by the diversions which
Albert, to preserve his alliance, proposed to make, and, in fact, did
make, in that province.

                               OLAF III.


[Sidenote: 1375, 1376.]

With Valdemar III. ended the male line of the dynasty founded by Sweyn,
the nephew of Canute the Great. Who was to succeed him? As we have
before related, he left two daughters only; viz. Ingeburga, wife of
Henry, duke of Mecklenburg, and Margaret, the consort of Hako, king of
Norway. As there was no example in the North of female succession, the
electors must turn either to some collateral branch of the family, or to
the sons of those princesses,—unless indeed they did what they might
easily have done, and what many indeed professed to do, viz. make choice
of a foreign house. The greater number, however, decided for preserving
the sceptre in the ancient house, and without regard to the collateral
branches. The choice therefore rested between the issue of Ingeburga and
that of Margaret; viz. between Albert of Mecklenburg, and Olaf of
Norway. The former was the eldest daughter, and Albert was much older
than Olaf, yet merely a child; but the feeling of the states seemed to
run in favour of the latter. In the first assembly nothing was effected;
in the interval between it and the convocation of the next, Margaret was
not inactive. Her intrigues, her presents, her promises, and above all
the fact that Olaf was the heir of the Norwegian throne, and
consequently that there would be a union of the two kingdoms, determined
the question in his favour. In this decision too, dislike of Sweden had
some share; for Albert was nearly connected with the king who had been
elected the successor of Magnus. On this occasion, there was no general
meeting of the states; and those of each province voted separately.
Jutland, with its three orders, viz. the nobles, the clergy, the
burghers and rich peasants, set the example. It was followed by Scania;
and the rest, constrained by their preponderating influence, joined with

[Sidenote: 1376.]

The promises of the queen to which we have alluded were not dissimilar
from those which Christopher II. had made. In the name of her son (he
was but five years of age), she guaranteed to the clergy all their
rights, immunities, and privileges. No benefice should be held by a
layman. No foreigner should become a dignitary. No bishop or any other
ecclesiastic should be arrested, exiled, or deprived of his revenues,
without the previous sentence of an ecclesiastical judge only. Abbots,
friars, and rectors, were to be dependent only on the bishop, their
lawful superior. The nobles and not the crown were to receive the fines
inflicted on the rural inhabitants within their respective districts by
any secular judge, when those fines fell below a certain amount,
according to the custom of the province: in some provinces the maximum
was three, in others nine marks; when it exceeded three or nine, it went
indisputably to the crown. The king was to undertake no war without the
consent of his senators, the prelates, and some nobles of the realm. No
man in holy orders should be invested with any temporal employment. No
man should be executed unless he had been judicially convicted, or
caught _flagrante delicto_ in some matter worthy of death. Even if he
had been sentenced by the tribunals, one month and a day should be
allowed him to flee from the kingdom! The peasants should not be
compelled to repair the royal palaces, without the sanction of the
senate. The king should not build on any other domain than his own,
without the consent of the owner. The property of no man should be
confiscated, even judicially, unless he were proved guilty of high
treason, or had borne arms against his country. Foreign merchants might
trade freely throughout the kingdom, and should be subject to no other
tax or impost than such as were already sanctioned by custom. The great
assizes should, according to ancient custom, be held annually on the
feast of St. John the Baptist. No officer of justice should cite any one
before a foreign tribunal—that of Norway, for instance—but every man
should be amenable to the local jurisdiction alone.

[Sidenote: 1376.]

Such were the chief provisions of the capitulation between Margaret and
the people. They have been severely condemned by the national
historians, as trenching on the just prerogatives of the crown. But
surely they do not all merit the censure. Some of them are in the
highest degree salutary. That indeed which allowed the nobles to enjoy
the fines levied on their vassals, or more correctly freemen (subject,
however, to many vassalitic obligations), was censurable; but it was
common in most other countries where feudal tribunals existed. Two or
three of those which concerned the clergy are also reprehensible; but
they were sanctioned by the canon law, and were as obligatory in other
places as in Denmark. The greatest defect of this capitulation is that
too much influence was left to the nobles. But how should Margaret be
condemned for sacrificing to the aristocracy, when aristocratic
privileges were predominant every where else?

[Sidenote: 1376 to 1380.]

The election of Olaf could not fail to exasperate the party of Albert.
The head of the house of Mecklenburg called in the emperor Charles IV.
to interfere in behalf of his grandson: he flew to arms, and persuaded
his son Albert, king of Sweden, to join him; and he brought the courts
of Holstein into the same league. These counts, in the event of Albert’s
succession, were to have Sleswic, Alfen, and Langeland. On her part,
Margaret was not idle. She too obtained allies, among whom were the
dukes of Pomerania, the hereditary enemies of the Mecklenburg family.
The result justified her policy. A formidable armament sailed against
the coasts, and she was prepared to meet it. The elements, however,
fought for her: the armament was dispersed or destroyed; and the enemy
consented that the great subjects of dispute should be laid before
arbitrators. This was to acknowledge Olaf _de facto_ sovereign of
Denmark, whatever the concessions expected from him in return. Whether
this arbitration ever took place is not very clear: there are no records
of it; yet there is some reason to suspect that it did, and that from
the period in question the house of Mecklenburg was excepted from all
homage for the lordship of Rostock. What confirms the inference is, that
for some years the realm was undisturbed by foreign enemies, and the
regent left at liberty to pursue her course of policy. That course was a
judicious one. She drew closer the connection between Denmark and the
Hanseatic Towns; she courted the clergy; she was gracious to the barons;
she endeavoured to remove all subjects of discord, and to bind all
orders of the people to her government.

[Sidenote: 1380 to 1386.]

In 1380, Hako, the husband of Margaret, who was greatly her senior, paid
the debt of nature. Olaf therefore, still a child, became king of
Norway. But Hako was also the rightful heir to the Swedish throne, and
these rights Margaret determined to secure in favour of their legitimate
heir, her son. This indeed was the great, the constant, object of her
policy: she had united two kingdoms, and she would now add a third. The
mortification of the Swedish king was great. He feared lest the strength
of the two hostile kingdoms should be consolidated, and become fatal to
himself. To avert this result, he had recourse to hostilities, during
the absence of Olaf and his mother in Norway (1381). Though he effected
some mischief, he made little impression on that country. Two years
afterwards, he made a second attempt, but was compelled to retreat. In
1385, both Olaf and his mother repaired thither to confirm the people in
their fidelity, and to gain their attachment by such marks of favour as
sovereigns can bestow.

[Sidenote: 1386.]

In regard to the counts of Holstein, Margaret had more trouble than with
Albert of Sweden, or the prince of Mecklenburg. These counts, as we have
often intimated, looked to Sleswic as their lawful inheritance; nor had
they relinquished their hope of succession after the reversion of the
fief to the crown through the default of issue in Henry the late duke.
To the surprise of many, count Gerard, grandson of the celebrated prince
of that name, was formally invested by Olaf with that important fief. In
dismembering (for the act was no better) so important a limb of the
Danish body, there was certainly much impolicy; but the act is neither
so surprising nor so censurable as some historians assert. In fact there
are strong reasons for it. Gerard, the representative of his house, had,
according to feudal law, a good claim to the succession. Its justice,
therefore, would have weight, not merely with the allies of his house,
but with all Germany. Policy, however, more than justice, influenced the
queen-mother in this important step. Was it nothing to separate the
interests of the Holstein count from those of the Mecklenburg dukes? She
well knew the efforts which Albert of Sweden had made, and was making,
to secure the active assistance of the former. Besides, most of her
subjects, and all her noble subjects, looked upon the count as hardly
used by his exclusion from his birthright; and they were not without
apprehension that, if left as a precedent, it might operate to their own
disadvantage. But the strongest of all reason is, that the count was
already _de facto_ duke of Sleswic. Soon after the death of Valdemar
III., he had, with the aid of his allies, occupied it by force; and as
the people were attached to his government, who was to dispossess him?
Certainly to do so was not in the power of the queen-mother, or of her
son. But though the standard—the ordinary symbol of infeudation—was
delivered by Olaf to the count, and homage done in return, no
letters-patent were expedited on the occasion. Why? Because there was a
dispute as to the conditions of the tenure by which the fief was to be
held. Gerard wished to hold it on the same footing as his celebrated
ancestor, viz. without the obligation of military service; but from that
wish Margaret dissented. The subject, therefore, was left undecided, and
it gave rise, as we shall perceive in the ensuing volume, to much
effusion of blood. Connected with this count Gerard is one circumstance
worthy of notice: his sister Hedwige married Theodric count of
Oldenburg; and from that union sprung Christian I., king of Denmark,
founder of the illustrious family which now sits on the throne.

[Sidenote: 1387.]

One year after this important investiture, Olaf, whose constitution had
always been feeble, paid the debt of nature. As he was only in his
seventeenth year, he left no issue, and indeed was never married. Again,
therefore, was the male line extinct; and Margaret only could rule,
unless (what nobody contemplated) a foreign house should be called to
the succession. The queen-mother had so obvious an interest in the
event, that by some people she was suspected of having quietly removed
her son to reign in his place. The suspicion, indeed, was an absurd one:
there was not the shadow of a foundation for it; but it suited popular
credulity; and it enabled, as we shall hereafter show, a false Olaf to
deceive a considerable portion of the multitude. The Franciscans contend
that the king, influenced by piety alone, relinquished his worldly
grandeur, and retired to a house of their order in Italy, where he died
in all the odour of sanctity.

By this monarch’s decease Margaret became sovereign of both Denmark and
Norway; and from this period down to the nineteenth century, both crowns
were united on the same brow. Henceforth the fortunes of both are
inseparable. Our next care must be to give a summary of Norwegian events
prior to this union.


                            CHAPTER II.[158]




[Sidenote: 1030 to 1035.]

AFTER the death of St. Olaf[159], CANUTE THE GREAT was the undisputed
sovereign of Norway. The care of three kingdoms being too great even for
his strength, he confided the government of Norway, with the regal
title, to his son SWEYN, to whom, in his last will, he bequeathed the
crown. But Sweyn was no favourite with his new subjects. Independently
of the mortifying reflection that he was not one of their own race, but
had been forced on them by conquest, his own conduct was not of a kind
to remove the prejudice against him. That in the distribution of fiefs
and honours he gave a preference to Danes, is probable enough; that he
had no affection for a people who detested him, is equally so; but had
his impartiality been strict, and his virtues undeniable, he never could
have founded a dynasty in that country. It was only fear of his father,
the greatest monarch of his times, that kept them in subjection; and no
sooner did they hear of that monarch’s death, than they looked towards
Magnus, son of St. Olaf, then an exile in Russia.[160]

[Sidenote: 1035.]

Magnus, as we before related[161], was a bastard son of that odd saint
by his concubine Alfhilda. He accompanied his father in the exile to
Holmgard, and there he remained during that father’s unfortunate
expedition to Norway. Left an orphan, he was well entertained by his
host, the grand prince of Russia. Here he received intelligence of
Canute’s death, of the unpopularity of Sweyn, and of the anxiety with
which his return was expected. Proceeding to Sweden, he was honourably
received by Emund, and by his step-mother Astrida[162], sister of that
monarch. Owing to her influence, a small but resolute band of armed men
accompanied him into Norway. As he passed the mountains into Drontheim,
the adherents of Sweyn fled in great alarm towards the southern
provinces; and Sweyn himself followed the example. In his progress,
Magnus received many evidences of the popular goodwill. At Nidaros, the
capital, his reception was enthusiastic. To the Thing assembled on the
occasion, flocked a multitude of men friendly to his cause; and there he
was solemnly elected king.

[Sidenote: 1035, 1036.]

The first care of MAGNUS I. was to reward his followers by conferring on
them the governments which had been held by Sweyn’s adherents. His next
was to collect troops and march against his rival. To assert his rights,
the latter, who was then in Hadaland, sent out the arrow of war in every
direction; and many hastened to his summons. In the midst of the
assembly, he asked whether they were ready to join him in resisting
Magnus. Some expressed their consent; some openly refused; the greater
number hesitated; but disaffection to his cause was so evident in the
great body, that he declared his resolution of seeking more faithful
defenders. Leaving Norway, he repaired to Denmark, where, that very
year, he died. Harda-Canute, as we have before related, claimed the
crown of Norway; but hostilities were closed by the singular compact,
that if either died without children, he should succeed to the states of
the other.

[Sidenote: 1038 to 1040.]

Astrida, the widow of St. Olaf, had accompanied Magnus into Norway; and
such had been the aid she had procured him, that he gratefully settled
her in his palace, showing her the utmost honour. But, at the same time,
he sent for his mother Alfhilda, whom he treated with more affection but
with less honour. Indignant at this distinction, she insisted on more
than an equality, which Astrida being unwilling to grant, the two ladies
could no longer reside in the same house. In his kingdom Magnus had more
influence than in his palace, he effectually restored tranquillity, and
became popular. Of his deceased father miracles were reported. The mere
report was enough: he pretended to believe it; he well knew what honour
would be his through his descent from a saint; and he caused the relics
of the royal martyr to be placed in a magnificent casket, and displayed
for the veneration of the faithful.

[Sidenote: 1042 to 1046.]

On the death of Harda-Canute, Magnus, in accordance with the compact
which had been made between them, proceeded to Denmark, to take
possession of the throne. His claim, as we have before observed, was
admitted by his new subjects. We have related his transaction with
Sweyn, son of Estrith, the sister of Canute, and the founder of the line
of kings who sat above three centuries on the Danish throne. Nor need we
again recur to his transactions with Harald, surnamed Hardrade, or the
Stern, whom he admitted to a participation in the kingdom. Few men in
his circumstances could have acted more wisely, yet, with all his
mildness, he was a firm supporter of his own rights; and more than once
he made his remarkable colleague feel that there was a distance between

[Sidenote: 1047.]

The demise of Magnus immediately followed his successful expedition in
Denmark to avenge the rebellion of Sweyn. The son of a saint could
scarcely leave the world without some manifestation of divine favour. In
a dream his father Olaf appeared to him, and ordered him to make his
choice between two proposals—either to die, and join the deceased king
in heaven, or to live the most powerful of monarchs, yet commit some
crime for which he could hardly expect the divine forgiveness. He
instantly chose the former alternative; and was immediately afflicted
with a disease the result of which, to the great sorrow of his people,
was fatal. He was a great and good prince; as much superior to his
father in intellect and moral worth as one man can be to another. To his
moderation in regard to Harald his colleague and Sweyn of Denmark we
have done justice; but if Snorro is to be credited, he showed no less
towards our Edward the Confessor. That he was not without ambition is
evident; and as the heir of the Danish throne, by his compact with
Harda-Canute, king of England and Denmark, he claimed, after that
monarch’s death, all the states of the great Canute. Edward returned a
spirited reply, the justice of which he acknowledged by his inactivity.

[Sidenote: 1047 to 1064.]

By the death of Magnus the Good, HARALD HARDRADE was the undisputed king
of Norway. He aspired also to the throne of Denmark, from which he
endeavoured to unseat his former ally Sweyn. His desultory operations
and his decisive victory over the Dane, in 1062, we have before related.
Two years afterwards peace was made, no permanent advantage having been
gained by either.

[Sidenote: 1066.]

On the death of Edward the Confessor, and the accession of Harald the
son of earl Godwin, the Norwegian monarch led an armament against that
usurper. The ambition which could prompt him to such an undertaking was
not very measured; but it was characteristic of this king, whose early
familiarity with danger, and whose wild adventures in the East and
North, had rendered him confident of success. If the English were not
favourable to earl Godwin’s son, they could scarcely be so to _him_; and
the hope of conquest, when so valiant a competitor as William of
Normandy was entering the field, would have appeared futile to any less
desperate man. The result is known to every reader of English history:
at Stamford-Bridge Harald found a grave.

[Sidenote: 1066 to 1069.]

From the fatal shores of England OLAF III., the son of Harald, returned
to Norway, and with his brother MAGNUS II. was elected to the
government. The former had the eastern, the latter the northern,
provinces of the kingdom. In three years Magnus paid the common debt,
and Olaf became monarch of the whole.

[Sidenote: 1069 to 1093.]

The reign of Olaf was pacific; and he applied his efforts to the
civilisation of his kingdom. He first introduced chimneys and glass
windows into houses: he established a commercial emporium at Bergen; and
to him we must ascribe the introduction of guilds or mercantile
fraternities, after the model of those existing in Germany and England.
He must be praised, too, for his humanity to the servile class: he
carried in the national Thing a law that in every district throughout
Norway a serf should be annually enfranchised. To the church he was a
munificent patron. At Nidaros, or Drontheim, he began to build a stone
cathedral, destined to receive the hallowed relics of his ancestor.
“This city,” says Adam of Bremen, the contemporary of Olaf the Pacific,
“is the capital of the Northmen. It is adorned with churches, and
frequented by a great concourse of people. Here lies the body of the
holy king and martyr Olaf, at whose tomb miracles are daily wrought:
here, from the most distant nations, pilgrims flock to his shrine to
share in his blessed merits. Hitherto there are no fixed limits to the
dioceses in Norway and Sweden. Any bishop, when desired by the king and
people, may build a church in any district, and govern those whom he
converts to the day of his death.” These regionary bishops, as they are
called, moved from place to place, baptising and preaching as they went
along; and assuredly this is a more useful, a more apostolic practice
than that which has since prevailed.

[Sidenote: 1093 to 1095.]

MAGNUS III., surnamed _Barfoet_, or the Barefoot, succeeded his father
Olaf III. At first, he was acknowledged by the southern provinces: in
the northern was opposed to him Hako, nephew of the late king. Though
death soon rid him of that rival, an army only could induce those
provinces to receive him.

[Sidenote: 1096 to 1099.]

This was the first Norwegian monarch after St. Olaf that visited the
Orkneys. He went to punish the jarls of those islands, which had thrown
off their allegiance to the yoke of Norway. These jarls were Erling and
Paul, whom he took and sent prisoners to his kingdom. Leaving his son
Sigurd in the government, with fit councillors, he laid waste
Sutherland, which was a portion of the jarldom, and feudally dependent
on the Scotch crown. Proceeding to the Hebrides, he reduced them also.
Very different was his conduct at Iona from that which had been pursued
by his pagan ancestors. He showed great veneration for the memory of S.
Columbe, and great affability to the inhabitants of all the islands that
submitted. Ilay was next reduced, then Cantyre. These successes were
followed by predatory depredations on both the Irish and Scottish
coasts. Most places offered little resistance, but the conquest of
Anglesey could not be effected without a battle. Two Welsh chieftains,
both named _Hugh_, fought stoutly for their independence. One, Hugh the
Magnanimous, was so encased in armour, that his two eyes only were
visible: Magnus shot an arrow into one eye, and a Norwegian warrior into
another; and after a valiant struggle victory declared for the Northmen.
The whole island, we are told, acknowledged the king; but this statement
will obtain little credit with any reader. The truth seems to be that he
made some of the chiefs do homage for their respective domains; but they
reasserted their independence the moment he had left the shores. There
is more probability in another statement of the northern chroniclers,
that he forced Malcolm of Scotland to cede to him the sovereignty over
all the islands, from the Orkneys to Man. From this expedition he
returned in 1099. Its results were valuable: the Hebrides and the
Orkneys were now his. The possession of the former indeed was
short-lived and precarious; but the latter were long subject to his

[Sidenote: 1099 to 1101.]

The next war of this restless prince was with his neighbour Inge, king
of Sweden. It arose from a dispute as to the boundary, and raged for two
years with varied success until, through the mediation of Eric king of
Denmark, peace was restored. On this occasion, Magnus married the
princess Margaret, daughter of Inge.

[Sidenote: 1102 to 1103.]

Within a year from this pacification, Magnus, whose enterprise was
excited by his late successes, again sailed for Ireland, with the design
of subjugating, if not the native kings, those who were of Scandinavian
origin. At this period, the island contained several of these
principalities. Landing on the coast of Connaught, the king of which,
Murdoch, was his acquaintance and ally, he effected a junction with that
chief, and subdued the kingdom of Dublin. The following winter he spent
in Connaught; and when spring arrived, he embarked to return. As he
slowly passed along the Ulster coast, he sent a party of his followers
in search of provisions, that is, of plunder. Their stay being much
longer than he had expected, he landed with a small body, and with
difficulty made his way through the marshes. Being at length joined by
the foragers, he was returning to his ships, when he fell into an ambush
prepared for him by the natives. He was easily known by his shining
helmet and breastplate, and by the golden lion on the red shield—the
device of the Norwegian kings. Ordering one of his chiefs with a body of
archers to clear the marsh, and from the other side to gall the enemy
with their arrows, so as to cover his passage also, he fought with
desperation. Unfortunately, the chief on whom he thus relied fled, and
was followed by the rest. Magnus, therefore, with a mere handful of men,
had to sustain the hostile assaults of a multitude. All that valour
could do was effected by him; but the contest was too unequal; and,
after receiving several wounds, he fell. His followers retreated,
leaving his corpse in the hands of the enemy. Thus perished a monarch
whose valour and constancy rendered him equal to the ancient heroes of
the North. By the warlike he was beloved; but with the people at large,
whom he taxed heavily to defray the expenses of his frequent
expeditions, he was no favourite. His character may be best conceived
from the reply which he gave to his courtiers, who expressed their
apprehension lest his continued wars should prove fatal to him:—“It is
better for a people to have a brave than an old king.”

[Sidenote: 1103.]

On the death of Magnus III., Norway was divided between his three sons.
SIGURD had the southern provinces, with the Scottish islands, which he
governed by his jarls. EYSTEIN I. reigned over the North. OLAF IV. had
the central and eastern provinces. All were children at their accession:
the eldest, Eystein, was but fifteen; and Olaf was so young that for
some years his portion of the monarchy was administered by his elder

[Sidenote: 1103 to 1122.]

Of these kings, two may be dismissed with little notice. Eystein was
distinguished for prudence, and for the useful structures with which he
adorned his portion of the kingdom. He erected stone churches and
palaces, which were novelties in the North. He was well versed in
history and the laws, and was the patron of literary men, especially of
the Scalds. Olaf was the best beloved of the three; but he died in 1116,
and his dominions were divided by his brothers. Eystein was never at
open war with Sigurd; but the two brothers could scarcely be warm
friends; and while we read of their disputes, we are surprised that
there should have existed so much tranquillity in the realm. In 1122 he
breathed his last, and Sigurd was monarch of Norway.

[Sidenote: 1107 to 1111.]

The name of Sigurd I. is celebrated in the annals of the North alike for
his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and his exploits during the voyage. To aid
in the recovery of the holy places from the hands of the infidels might
enrich an adventurous monarch, and would surely open to him the gates of
heaven. Influenced by this two-fold advantage, and by the hope of booty
on the passage, Sigurd, with sixty ships, sailed from the North. During
the first winter he remained in England, and was hospitably entertained
by our Henry I. The second winter, at least the greater part of it, he
passed near the shrine of Santiago in Gallicia: he was a pilgrim, no
less than a champion of the cross. On his way to Lisbon, he captured
some infidel privateers, and destroyed several Moorish settlements on
the coast, especially one at Cintra. All who refused baptism he put to
the sword. Lisbon, according to the Northern chroniclers, was divided
into two parts, one inhabited by the Moors, the other by the Christians.
The former he assailed, took it, and with much booty proceeded through
the straits of Gibraltar in quest of new adventures. Having passed these
straits, he conquered a whole fleet of the infidels, and this was the
fifth battle since he left Norway. In vain did the Mohammedan pirates on
the African coast resist him: his valour overcame every thing. Landing
in Sicily, he was magnificently entertained by Roger, sovereign of the
island, who had expelled the Saracens. Roger was of Norman descent: he
remembered the land of his sires; and so far did he carry his goodwill
as to insist on serving Sigurd at table. Continuing his voyage, he
landed at Acre, and proceeded to Jerusalem, where the offer of his sword
was most welcome to Baldwin. From that king he received what he thought
a valuable treasure—a fragment of the true cross, which he promised to
deposit in the shrine of St. Olaf. He promised too, at the instance of
his new friends, to establish an archiepiscopal see in Norway, to build
churches, and to enforce the payment of tithe. His last exploit in these
regions was to join in the siege of Sidon; and when that city was taken,
half the booty became his. On his return through Constantinople, his
reception by the Greek emperor was a noble one; but much of what the
Northern annalists relate bears the marks of invention. Such are, the
opening of the golden gate; the carpetting of the streets; the three
large presents made him by Alexis, with their immediate distribution
among the followers of Sigurd; and the gift by the latter of his sixty
ships to Alexis. Such fables may gratify a Northern imagination; but
history can only say that in 1111, the king arrived in Norway after an
absence of four years.

[Sidenote: 1111 to 1123.]

That this remarkable expedition redounded greatly to the honour of
Sigurd, is certain: he was thenceforth much venerated throughout the
North. He married, and attended to the duties of government, especially
to the extirpation of idolatry. His expedition (undertaken at the
request of the Danish king) against the inhabitants of the isle of
Smaland, was one congenial to his feelings. They had received
Christianity, but, like many other portions of the Scandinavian
population, had returned to idolatry. Even Sweden had its pagans and
apostates, some too of royal dignity.[164] Great was the punishment
inflicted by Sigurd and his ally Nicholas on the pagans whom they had
vanquished; but mercy to infidels, and still less to apostates, formed
no portion of their creed.

[Sidenote: 1124 to 1130.]

In his latter days, Sigurd seems to have occasionally lost the use of
his reason, or perhaps he was visited by some bodily infirmity which
gave him the appearance of insanity. But he never relinquished the
duties of royalty. One of his last cares was to fortify Konghella on the
river Gotha, to ornament it with a fine Gothic church, and to place in
that sacred edifice some of the pictures which he had brought from the
East. But with all his attachment to the church, he was not without his
delinquencies. Of these one of the most noted was his dismissal of his
queen to make room for a concubine, Cecilia by name, whom he resolved to
marry. A great entertainment was provided for the occasion, and many
were the guests assembled at Bergen. The bishop of the district, hearing
of the intention, hastened to the town, and expostulated with the king
on the guilt of dismissing one wife to take another, when there was no
charge against the former, and consequently no way of annulling the
marriage. Great was the wrath of Sigurd, who held a drawn sword in his
hand, and who, at one moment, seemed disposed to use it on the neck of
the prelate. If he so far restrained his passion as to walk away, he
persevered in his design, and the union was celebrated. The truth is,
that his heart was so fixed on the maiden, that no earthly consideration
could induce him to abandon her. Some time afterwards he was afflicted
with his last illness, which was regarded by many as the judgment of
Heaven on his crime. His courtiers urged him to dismiss her; and she,
out of regard for him—to save him from renewed guilt—really wished to
leave him. Such was the attachment he bore her, that he could not give
his consent to the separation. She departed, however, and with her
departed the only solace which had been left him. In a few days he was
no more. Previously to his death, he had caused his son Magnus to be
recognised as his successor, and had prevailed on the states to swear
that they would obey him.

[Sidenote: 1130.]

From the death of Sigurd I. to the union of Norway with Denmark, there
is little in the history of the former country to interest us. During
the whole of the twelfth century we perceive nothing but anarchy and
bloodshed occasioned by disputes for the throne. In a country where
illegitimacy was no bar to the succession, and where partition of the
sovereign power was frequent, there could not fail to be numerous
candidates. Sigurd I. was succeeded by his son MAGNUS IV., to whom, as
we have related, the states of the realm had sworn fealty before the
death of Sigurd. How little dependence could be placed on such a
guarantee soon appeared. In the reign of the preceding monarch, an
adventurer, Harald Gille, had asserted—probably with justice—that he was
a natural son of king Magnus Barefoot. As he could produce no
satisfactory proof of that connection, recourse was had to the decision
of Heaven, and he was made to pass over nine red-hot ploughshares. This
ordeal, merely to prove his parentage, was thought to be severe; but he
shrinked not from it; and led by two bishops, he sustained it unhurt. To
resist the divine pleasure was impossible, and Harald’s claim was
allowed even by Sigurd, on the condition that he would not insist on the
advantage to which his relationship entitled him, before the death of
his son Magnus IV. Scarcely, however, had this Magnus succeeded to the
throne, than Harald came forward to assert his right; and from the
number no less than the influence of those who espoused his interests
(among them were the kings of Denmark and Sweden), he had every thing to
hope from a civil war. In this emergency, Magnus consented to a division
of the kingdom, the very year of his accession.

[Sidenote: 1130 to 1152.]

[Sidenote: 1134.]

[Sidenote: 1136.]

HARALD IV. was very different in character and manners from his
colleague Magnus. He was mild as the latter was severe, and generous as
the latter was penurious. He therefore became the favourite of the
people. This circumstance probably roused the jealousy of Magnus, who at
the head of many followers marched against him, conquered him, and
compelled him to forsake the realm. Repairing to the court of Eric
Emund, king of Denmark, he was well received by that monarch, “because
they were brothers in arms.” With the supply of money and men furnished
him by his generous host, he returned to Denmark, and surprised rather
than defeated Magnus, whom he consigned to a monastery and deprived of
eye-sight. He was now therefore monarch of Norway. But his reign was of
short duration. The town of Konghella which Sigurd had fortified, and
adorned with so magnificent a church, was taken by the Slavonic pirates:
it was completely sacked, and the inhabitants led into captivity. For
this disaster, Harald was censured: he was accused of inactivity in
repelling the invaders; and was even forsaken by the great body of his
supporters. In this condition he was assassinated. A melancholy
illustration of the spirit of the times is afforded by the fact that the
assassin, Sigurd, also claimed Magnus Barefoot for his father. From this
deed of blood he derived no advantage. The nation would not admit _his_
claim, but proclaimed two sons of the murdered king, SIGURD II.
(1136–1155) and INGE I. (1136–1161). Both, however, were children; and
their inability to defend themselves led to civil war. Sigurd, their
reputed uncle, the assassin of their father, raised troops and laid
waste the country. To strengthen his party he formed an alliance with
Magnus the Blind, whom he drew from the monastery; but he was defeated
and compelled to flee. Both soon obtained the aid of the Danish king
Eric; but fortune was still unfavourable: in battle, Magnus lost his
life; and the restless Sigurd too was made prisoner, and subsequently
executed. Though two enemies were thus removed, the royal brothers,
Sigurd and Inge, were often at discord; and a third firebrand was soon
added in EYSTEIN II. (1142–1157), a younger brother, who, returning from
Scotland in 1142, was invested with a third portion of the realm. There
was not, nor could there be, any tranquillity in the country.
Complaints, recriminations, quarrels, treachery, bloodshed, succeeded
each other, when the arrival of a papal legate, the cardinal Albano,
suspended for a time the sanguinary proceedings of these princes.

[Sidenote: 1152.]

This legate was Nicholas Breakspear, our countryman, who subsequently
ascended the pontifical throne as Adrian IV. His mission was two-fold—to
restore peace between the unnatural brothers, and to establish an
archbishopric. The Norwegian monarchs had long demanded a primate of
their own, instead of being dependent on the archbishops of Lund. In
both objects he was successful. The three kings laid down their arms;
united in showing the highest deference to the legate; and beheld with
joy the creation of a metropolitan see at Trondheim, with a
jurisdiction, not over Norway merely, but Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe
islands, the Shetlands, the Orkneys, the Hebrides, and Man. In return,
the chiefs and people readily agreed to pay the tribute of Peter’s
Pence. Many were the reforms which this well-meaning dignitary
endeavoured to carry. He introduced more decorum into the public
worship; he enjoined the clergy to attend more to their proper
functions, and to interfere less in secular matters; and impressed on
the new archbishop the necessity of a rigorous control over the morals
of his flock. In attempting to enforce clerical celibacy, he did not
meet with so ready an acquiescence; but no one dared openly to resist
him. To another of his measures we must award a much higher meed of
praise. Seeing that bloodshed had for many reigns stained the
proceedings of the Lands-Thing, or provincial assembly, he prevailed on
the chiefs to promise that they would not in future attend with arms.
Even the king was only to be accompanied by twelve armed men—an
exception conceded less to his dignity than to the necessity under which
he lay of enforcing the judicial sentences. To an Englishman the conduct
of cardinal Albano on this mission is gratifying. It was no less
esteemed by the Norwegians. “In several other respects,” observes
Snorro, “he reformed the customs and manners of the people during his
stay; so that never did stranger come to the land more honoured or more
beloved by the princes and their subjects.”

[Sidenote: 1153 to 1161.]

If the ascendancy of the cardinal had restored peace, his departure was
immediately followed by new struggles between two of the brothers.
Eystein had no share in them, because he absented himself on a piratical
expedition. He is said to have ravaged the eastern coasts of our island,
from the Orkneys to the Humber. Soon after his return, he entered into a
plot with Sigurd to remove their brother Inge. In 1155, Sigurd and Inge
met in the Thing held at Bergen, and though they could not fight for
want of arms, both they and their followers regarded one another with
deadly hatred. Scarcely was the assembly dissolved, when Inge, who had
heard of the plot for removing him, determined to prevent it by
assailing Sigurd, and after a sharp contest the latter fell. The
following year Inge and Eystein, who were still hostile, met to agree on
conditions of peace; but it was a truce rather than a peace, and in a
few months it was broken by both parties. They marched towards each
other with the resolution of deciding their quarrel by the sword; but
Eystein, who was unpopular, was deserted by most of his followers, and
compelled to seek an asylum in the mountains of Vikia. Thither he was
pursued by Inge, was betrayed in a forest, and put to death by one of
his brother’s myrmidons. By this deed therefore Inge was the monarch of
the country. But he had soon a competitor in HAKO III., son of Sigurd
II., whom the party of Eystein proclaimed king (1157). The four
succeeding years were years of civil war. Hako, a mere child, was driven
into Gothland. The following season he returned and besieged Konghella;
but he was again defeated and forced to re-enter Sweden. Yet early in
1159 he arrived at Drontheim, where he found adherents. With thirty
vessels he laid waste the coasts which held for Inge; but in a great
naval battle he was defeated by that king, though not without
considerable loss to the victor. Repairing into Drontheim where he
passed the winter, he prepared for the next campaign. It was not
decisive; but, in 1161, Inge, betrayed by his own followers, fell in
battle with Hako.

[Sidenote: 1161 to 1164.]

By this event, Hako, it might be expected, would be left undisputed
sovereign of Norway. But the Norwegians at this period seem to have had
little wish for a monarchy; and MAGNUS V. (1162–1186) was raised by the
party of the deceased Inge to the throne of the North. Magnus was the
grandson of Sigurd I., and one of his duties in the opinion of the times
was to revenge the murder of his kindred. As, however, he was but a
child, the government was administered by his father Erling. Erling was,
by marriage, a kinsman of the Danish monarch, from whom he obtained aid
to resist the hostility of Hako. Through that aid he was victor; Hako
fell (1162), and consequently Magnus was the only king left. A rival
indeed, Sigurd, a son of Sigurd II., was opposed to him; but in little
more than a year that rival was crushed by the indefatigable Erling. To
confirm the authority of his son by religious sanction, Erling requested
the primate to crown him. The archbishop consented on the condition that
Norway should be regarded as a fief of St. Olaf; that on the death of
every monarch, the crown was to be formally offered to the saint in the
cathedral; that the saint’s representative, the archbishop of the time,
should receive it; that from each diocese the bishop, the abbots, and
twelve chiefs, should assemble to nominate a successor, and that the
sanction of the primate should be necessary before any one could be
lawful king of Norway. That a considerable reduction in the number of
electors was politic cannot be disputed; and probably this was one of
the reasons that induced the archbishop to introduce so extraordinary an
innovation. But a greater no doubt was the superiority which the church
would thereby acquire over the state. The proposal was accepted; and
Magnus, then only eight years of age, was solemnly crowned by Eystein in
presence of the papal legate.

[Sidenote: 1164 to 1170.]

The aid furnished by the Danish king was not gratuitous. In return for
it Erling had promised the province of Vikia (Vigen), and Valdemar (the
first of that name) now demanded the fulfilment of that pledge. His
position was a critical one. He had not power to transfer that province,
and if he attempted that transfer, his own destruction and that of his
son must be the result. Yet if he did nothing, he must expect an
encounter with that formidable monarch. To escape from this dilemma, he
convoked the states, and laid before them the proposition of Valdemar:
they indignantly refused to receive the Danish yoke. Open war followed,
but through the policy of Erling it was soon succeeded by peace. He
secretly engaged to hold Vikia with the title of jarl as a fief of
Denmark; and, in the event of a failure of issue in his son, to subject
the whole kingdom to the same crown.

[Sidenote: 1166 to 1169.]

Neither the sanction of the church, nor the vigour of his father, nor
even his own virtues, could except Magnus from the common lot of
Norwegian kings—open rebellion and rivalry for the throne. The next who
troubled his tranquillity was Olaf, a grandson of Eystein II. Proclaimed
king by the Uplanders, Olaf had the glory to defeat the regent; but in
his turn he was defeated, and compelled to flee into Denmark, where he
died the following year (1169).

[Sidenote: 1173 to 1177.]

The next was a more formidable rival, in the person of Eystein, a prince
of the same family. Placing himself at the head of the discontented, the
banished, the proscribed, this prince became a bandit chief, and laid
waste the provinces on the borders of Sweden. As the number of his
followers increased, so did his boldness, until with a small fleet he
sailed for Nidaros, which he subdued. Here he persuaded or forced the
people to elect him king (1176). The following year he penetrated into
the central provinces, which had the option of either doing homage, or
of experiencing all the evils of desolation. In 1177, four years after
the commencement of his adventurous career, he met Magnus in the field,
and was defeated. His followers hastened into Sweden, the eastern
provinces of which were still pagan, and but loosely connected with the
crown. He was less fortunate: he was slain in his flight.

[Sidenote: 1174 to 1178.]

Of a different character from either of the preceding, and more
successful in his object, was the next adventurer, Swerro, whose career
is one of romance. His mother, Alfhilda, had been the concubine of
Sigurd II.; and he was the issue of the connection. After Sigurd’s
death, she became the wife of a smith—a business of high repute in the
North—and removed, with her husband and son, to the Faroe isles. Young
Swerro was designed for the church, and on reaching the age of
twenty-five, he entered into holy orders. Now, for the first time, his
mother acquainted him with the secret of his birth. Far more wisely
would she have acted by keeping it in her own bosom; for no sooner did
the young priest know it, than he indulged in dreams of ambition. As our
sleeping are but the images of our waking thoughts, he had a dream which
seemed to prognosticate his future greatness. He mentioned it to a
friend, who promised him the archbishopric of Drontheim. But he had no
relish for the ecclesiastical state; and he mentally interpreted it in a
different way. Urged by ambition, he left the obscure isles in which he
had been so long imprisoned, and repaired to the court of Magnus. His
learning and his martial appearance made a favourable impression on the
regent Erling; and he too so admired the vigorous administration of that
chief, that in despair of effecting a revolution, he withdrew into the
Swedish province of Wermeland. Probably his design was to subsist by
plunder, in the service of one of those predatory bands, so frequent on
the confines of the two kingdoms. At first, however, his prospects were
gloomy; and in his restlessness, he had resolved to go on a pilgrimage
to Jerusalem, when the band which Eystein had commanded solicited him to
become their chief. After some hesitation he consented, was invested
with the royal title, and enabled to take the field.

[Sidenote: 1178 to 1186.]

The early efforts of this adventurer were bold but unsuccessful. In an
expedition through the southern provinces he was indeed joined by some
hundred of followers, mostly bandits; but when he proceeded towards the
north, where Magnus and Erling had their seat of government, he was
abandoned by most of his adherents: the enterprise was too desperate
even for them. With great difficulty did he save himself by penetrating
through the mountain passes into Wermeland. To escape the pursuits of
his enemies, no less than to recruit his numbers, the following spring
he plunged into the vast forests of the modern Delecarlia, then called
Jarnberaland, or the Iron-being land. The inhabitants knew little of
Swedish kings, or of the rest of the world, or of Christianity; but they
knew the value of freedom; and in the apprehension that he came to
deprive them of it, they prepared a stout resistance. He had no
difficulty, however, in persuading those sons of the forest, the
mountain, and the river, that he had no design against them—that he
wanted hospitality, guides, and troops. Of the last he seems to have
obtained none; but he was well entertained, and conducted into Jamtland,
where his little band was recruited. The hardships which he underwent in
this expedition,—cold, hunger, fatigue—made him resolve to attempt some
enterprise, the success of which would rescue him from this wretched
mode of life. Appearing suddenly before Drontheim, he hoped to surprise
the place; but he was repulsed, and again forced to seek a refuge in the
mountains. His next object was to increase the number of his followers;
and as he, or some about him, were well acquainted with the haunts of
the banditti in the trackless forest, and the inaccessible cavern, he
obtained a considerable accession. But a hardy band of peasant archers
from Tellmark was his most valuable acquisition. Reappearing before the
gates of the capital, he defeated the little army of Magnus, and
captured the banner of St. Olaf. As both king and regent were at Bergen,
their usual place of residence, he pushed his way into the city,
assembled the inhabitants of the province, and was proclaimed king! His
task, however, was not half accomplished. A numerous party, including
all the churchmen, adhered to Magnus; and he was soon expelled from
Drontheim, to seek a shelter in his mountain fastnesses. But with these
revolutions he was now familiar: he knew how to recruit his forces—to
advance when there was a prospect of victory—retreat when the danger was
evident. During two years the civil war raged with violence, and the
alternations of triumph and defeat succeeded each other with rapidity.
At length Swerro suddenly descended from the mountains, and defeated the
regent and his son, leaving the former dead on the field. Magnus fled,
but only to return with another army. The second battle, however, was
not more fortunate than the first; his army was annihilated or
dispersed; and he was glad to seek a refuge in Denmark, while the
archbishop fled to England. By the Danish monarch Magnus was supplied
with an armament, with which he again contended for the throne, but with
no better success. A second time he repaired to that country for aid,
and again he fought with the usurper. As on the two former occasions,
victory declared for Swerro: his rival fled, and perished in the waves.
He was not one of those savage chieftains in whom ancient Norway
rejoiced, and whom some of her modern sons would have us mention with
respect. If his soul had not been much improved by religion, it had been
humanised by education. To the followers of Magnus he exhibited great
clemency. He caused the fallen monarch to be magnificently interred in
the cathedral of Drontheim; and he himself, in conformity with ancient
custom, pronounced the funeral oration of the deceased, to whose
virtues, now that he had no reason to fear them, he paid the sincere
homage of praise.

[Sidenote: 1186 to 1194.]

SWERRO (1186–1202) thus obtained the object of his ambition; but he
could not expect to hold it in peace. In fact, the whole of his reign
was a struggle to preserve what he had so painfully gained. From England
archbishop Eystein hurled the thunders of the church at the head of the
apostate priest; but the promise of the king, that he would lay his case
before the pope, and submit to such penance as his holiness might
impose, induced the primate to return and resume his metropolitan
functions. Much of his attention was employed on the enlargement and
improvement of his cathedral, which he wished to vie with the most
splendid Gothic edifices in Europe. From the king he derived
considerable aid towards this end; but he lived only to finish the
choir. The rest was completed by archbishop Sigurd, in 1248. It was then
a very respectable structure. The high altar, which was adorned with a
costly silver shrine containing the relics of St. Olaf, and which was
visited by pilgrims from all parts of the North, had a splendid
appearance. Swerro no doubt expected that by his liberality on this
occasion he should win over to his government the great body of the
clergy; but he refused to hold the crown as a feudatory of St. Olaf,
that is, of the primate; and this rebellion cancelled all his other
merits. Aware of the influence which the primate exercised over the
people, he endeavoured, on the death of Eystein, to obtain the election
of a successor favourable to his views; but in defiance of his
influence, that successor was one of his enemies, Eric bishop of
Stavenger, who had been the warm friend of Erling and Magnus. From the
hands of the new primate he solicited the ceremony of the coronation;
but Eric refused, and for so doing he has been severely censured. It
should, however, be remembered, that he could not crown an
excommunicated prince. That penalty Swerro had incurred by various
crimes—by forsaking the altar without the leave of his diocesan, by the
shedding of blood at the head of banditti, by assuming the crown without
secularisation, and by taking a wife. No bishop, no metropolitan could
absolve him: the pope only was competent to dispense with the authority
of the canons. In revenge for this refusal, Swerro, a man of vigorous
mind, and without a particle of superstition, endeavoured to curtail the
revenues and patronage of the church. He insisted that its claim to the
pecuniary fine in case of homicide should be abolished, and that the
fine should revert to the crown. For this act he must command our
praise; but we cannot praise him for attempting to usurp the patronage
of the church. We have scarcely an instance in all history of a king
exercising the trust in an enlightened and a conscientious manner. Eric
supported with firmness the rights of the church, and by so doing
incurred the royal displeasure to such a degree that he was compelled to
flee into Denmark. From thence he appealed to the pope, who threatened
to place the kingdom under an interdict, unless satisfaction were made
to the church. In vain did Swerro endeavour to prove that the pope had
no right to interfere in such cases: the canons, he well knew, taught a
different doctrine. In vain did he attempt to make the multitude believe
that the blindness with which the archbishop was visited during the
dispute was owing to the wrath of heaven. The people had more confidence
in the primate and in the pope, than they had in a monarch whose early
career had not been the most edifying.

[Sidenote: 1194 to 1200.]

Convinced by experience how little was to be gained by struggling with
the formidable power which humbled the greatest monarchs, Swerro now
applied to the pope for absolution and pardon. He was directed, in the
first instance, to make his peace with the archbishop, who alone could
intercede for him. Incensed at the reply, and fearful lest the people
should desert him because he had not been crowned, he convoked his
bishops, and prevailed on one of them—a mere court tool—to perform the
ceremony. To anoint an apostate priest would not have been within the
bounds even of papal authority: penance and absolution were previously
indispensable; but neither were exacted, and if they had been, the
censure could only have been removed by the supreme pontiff. The bishop
who performed a ceremony in its very nature null was excommunicated; and
the king’s own excommunication was confirmed. In this emergency, Swerro
convoked an Al-Thing at Bergen, where a resolution was passed to send
deputies to Rome to procure his absolution. On their return they all
died in Denmark—no doubt through poison. They brought no absolution; but
a confirmation of the former sentence. For this instrument the king, who
was capable of any act, substituted another, which contained a plenary
remission, and which he declared was the one brought from the head of
the church. To account for the death of his messengers, he asserted that
they had been poisoned by his enemies lest the papal absolution should
reach him. The benefits of this deception he could not long hope to
enjoy. Alexander III. charged him with both the forgery and the murder,
and placed the whole kingdom under an interdict. Even the bishop,
Nicholas, who had crowned him now escaped into Denmark, to join the
metropolitan; and both were nobly entertained by archbishop Absalom,
primate and minister of that kingdom.

[Sidenote: 1194 to 1202.]

During these transactions with the church, Swerro was twice compelled to
enter the field against claimants for the crown. The first was Sigurd,
son of Magnus V., who had taken refuge in the Orkneys. Accompanied by a
band of adventurers, Sigurd landed in Norway, and was joined by many of
the peasantry. But Swerro had a body of men whose valour was unequalled,
and whose fidelity was above all suspicion—men whom he had commanded
before his accession, to whom he was indebted for the throne, and whom
he had transferred from robbers into good soldiers. With them he
triumphed over Sigurd, whose corpse rested on the field. The next
adventurer was supported by bishop Nicholas, who was anxious to
ingratiate himself with his metropolitan and the pope, by exhibiting
uncommon zeal in the destruction of the king. His name was Inge, and he
was represented by his patron as a son of that same Magnus. When he and
the bishop landed, they were joined by a considerable number of the
discontented; but the king, who had obtained archers from England, was
better prepared than even on the former occasion to defend his
authority. Still the struggle was a desperate one; several battles were
fought, and two or three victories were necessary to humble the hopes of
the assailants.

[Sidenote: 1202.]

In the midst of these struggles, after a whole life past in fomenting
rebellion or crushing it, Swerro breathed his last at the age of
fifty-one. That he was a man of great genius and of commanding character
is evident from his unparalleled success. Whether he was really the son
of a Norwegian king is extremely doubtful; but even if he were, he had
none of the advantages which the relationship generally ensures. His
fortune was the result of his own enterprising powers. Few indeed are
the characters in history who have risen from so obscure to so high a
station against obstacles so great; fewer still who, in the midst of
perpetual dangers, have been able to maintain themselves in that
station. In both respects he is almost unequalled. On the whole, he may
safely be pronounced one of the most extraordinary men of the middle

[Sidenote: 1202 to 1204.]

Before the death of his father, HAKO III. (1202–1204) had been saluted
as heir of the monarchy; and he ascended the throne without opposition.
One of his first acts was to recal the primate, the rest of the bishops,
and all whom his father had exiled. In return the interdict was removed
from the realm; and prosperity was returning to a country so long
harassed by civil wars when the young king died—not without suspicion of
poison from the hands of his stepmother, Margaret, a daughter of St.
Eric, king of Sweden. There seems, however, to be no foundation for the
suspicion; and indeed what could she gain by the crime?

[Sidenote: 1204 to 1207.]

GUTHRUM (1204–1205), a grandson of Swerro, was next raised to the
throne; but his reign was only a year, and there seems to be little
doubt that he was removed by poison, through the contrivance of a
faction which hoped to restore the ancient line of kings. In consequence
of this event, INGE II. (1205–1207), a grandson on the female side of
Sigurd II., acceded; but in two years he too descended to the
tomb—whether violently or in the order of nature is unknown. The death
of four princes in five years is a melancholy illustration of the times.

[Sidenote: 1207.]

There now remained only one male descendant of this dynasty—Hako, a
natural son of Swerro. After his father’s death, and during the
struggles between the old and the new dynasty for the supreme power,
this prince was secreted in the mountains. Fortunately for him, the
companions of his father, the devoted Birkibeinar, the bandit soldiers,
still remained: they espoused his cause, and procured his election to
the throne. Before the church, however, would ratify the election, the
mother, Inga, was required to undergo the ordeal of hot-iron, in proof
of her having truly sworn to the paternity of her son. She consented;
was shut up in a church to prepare by fasting and prayer for the trial;
was guarded night and day by twelve armed men; and the burning-iron left
no wound on her fair hand. Whoever doubted that the ordeal was a fair
one, that Hako was the offspring of Swerro, was menaced with

[Sidenote: 1208 to 1241.]

HAKO IV. was thus the recognised monarch of the country; but he had
still to sustain the hostility of the faction which adhered to the
former dynasty. The most inveterate as well as the most powerful of his
enemies was Skule the jarl, half-brother of Inge II. To pacify this
ambitious noble, he was admitted to a share in the government; and his
daughter became a wife of Hako. This union, in effecting which the
church had a great share, was expected to combine the hearts of both
factions. But the hope was vain: other pretenders to the legitimate or
illegitimate honour of royal descent appeared in succession to claim a
portion of their birthright. So distracted was the country by these
conflicting claims, that a great council of the nation was convoked at
Bergen. The decision was, that Hako was the only lawful king. Yet
through the advice of the primate, whose object was evidently to avert a
civil war, the northern provinces were confided to Skule; and by the
king he was soon adorned with the ducal title—a title which had been in
disuse ever since the ninth century. But this ambitious noble was not to
be silenced by benefits. On a memorable day (1240) he convoked the
states of his own government to assemble in the cathedral: his descent
from the martyr Olaf was then attested by oath on the relics of that
saint; and by his party, amidst the silence of the spectators, he was
declared the lawful heir to the crown, as the successor of Inge II.
Constrained by the example, the rest did homage to him after he had
sworn to administer the laws in righteousness, as his holy predecessor
had administered them. Thus the northern provinces were again dissevered
from the monarchy. But Hako was true to his own rights and the interests
of his people. Assembling his faithful Birkibeinar, and all who valued
the interests of his order, he marched towards Drontheim. At his
approach, the usurper fled into the interior, but only to collect new
forces, with which he obtained some advantages over those of Hako. When
spring returned, however, and the latter marched against the rebels,
fortune declared for him. Skule was signally defeated, compelled to
flee, overtaken, and killed.

[Sidenote: 1242 to 1260.]

Released from the scourge of civil war, Hako now applied his attention
to the internal government of his kingdom. He made new treaties of
commerce with the neighbouring powers: he fortified his sea-ports; he
improved the laws; he made salutary changes in the local administration.
But he was not yet fully at peace with the church; and he requested
Innocent IV. to mediate between him and them, and to cause the crown to
be placed on his brow. Innocent dispatched a legate, the cardinal bishop
of Sabina, for this purpose. At first the king was desired to comply
with the law of his predecessor Magnus V.—that Norway should hereafter
be regarded as a fief of St. Olaf: but he had the patriotism to refuse:
he would protect, he observed, the just rights of the church, but he
would never sanction this usurpation of the ecclesiastical over the
secular state. His firmness was respected, and at the cardinal’s
instance he was crowned without subscribing to the obnoxious compact. He
had gratified that churchman by promising to go on the crusade; but
though he made preparations circumstances prevented his departure. His
kingdom indeed could not safely be left at such a crisis. His frontiers
were still subject to ravage from the licentious bands who infested the
western provinces of Sweden, and who took refuge in either territory
when pursued by the injured inhabitants of the other. Without a cordial
union between the two governments, there could be no hope of extirpating
these predatory bands. Fortunately Birger, the regent of Sweden,
concurred with him in his object. To create a good understanding between
the two countries, a marriage was negotiated between the daughter of
Birger, whose son was on the throne of Sweden, and Magnus, the eldest
son of Hako. But this union was never effected: the subsequent conduct
of Birger was not agreeable to the monarch; and Magnus married the
daughter of Christopher, king of Denmark. The clemency of Hako led to
this connection. He had many causes of complaint against Denmark; and he
did not recur to hostilities until he had long and vainly sued for
redress. He soon reduced Christopher to long for peace; but with a
generosity of which there are few records among kings, he forgot his
wrongs in sympathy for his brother monarch, and became the friend of the
man whom he had left Norway to chastise.

[Sidenote: 1263.]

The last and by far the most memorable expedition of Hako was against
the Scots. The chief incentive to this war was the attempt of Alexander
III. to recover the Hebrides, which, as we have before observed[165],
had been subdued by Magnus Barefoot. Not that they were then subdued for
the first time. The truth is, that they had frequently been reduced to
the Norwegian yoke as far back as the ninth century, and from that time
had, at intervals, paid tribute to that power. More frequently, however,
they had asserted their independence. Colonies, too, from the
mother-countries, had assisted to people those islands, which Harald
Harfagre and his successors had regarded as no less a dependency than
the Shetlands or the Orkneys. In the time of Magnus the number of those
colonists increased; and there were not a few nobles of the isles who
could trace their pedigree to the royal line of Norway. But their
position drew them into the sphere of Scottish influence: to Scotland,
and not to the distant North, they must look for allies in their
frequent wars with one another; and the eagerness of the Scottish
monarchs to establish their feudal superiority over them brought the two
parties into continual communication. In 1244, two bishops arrived in
Norway to induce Hako to renounce all claim to the Hebrides. They told
him that he could have no just right to them, since Magnus Barefoot had
only gained possession of them by violence—by forcibly wresting them
from Malcolm Canmore. The king replied with more truth that Magnus had
not wrested them from the Scottish king, but from the Norwegian Gudred,
who had thrown off the allegiance due to the mother-country. Defeated in
their historical arguments, they had recourse to one which with a poor
monarch they hoped would be more convincing—the pecuniary argument. They
besought him to say what sum he would demand for their entire cession.
“I am not so poor that I will sell my birthright!” was the reply, and
the prelates returned. Alexander III., however, would not abandon the
hope of annexing these islands to his crown; and he commenced a series
of intrigues among the Highland chieftains. The vassals of Hako began to
complain of the vexatious hostilities to which they were subject,
especially from the thane of Ross, and to beg immediate aid. The
atrocities which they detailed, we should scarcely expect to find in a
Christian people, and in the thirteenth century: we should rather assign
them to the period when the pagan Northmen ravaged the coasts of these
islands. In great anger Hako convened a diet at Bergen, and it resolved
that the aid required should be immediately furnished.

[Sidenote: 1263.]

Leaving his son, prince Magnus, regent of the kingdom, Hako sailed for
the Hebrides. In the Orkneys he was joined by the jarls and by the king
of Man. On the western coast of Scotland, many of the Highland
chieftains submitted to his arms. But though he took Arran and Bute, and
laid waste many of the western districts of the continent with fire and
sword, his expedition was a disastrous one. At the mouth of the Clyde,
while landing his troops, a tempest arose and forced him from the shore;
and those who were landed were overpowered by the superior number of the
enemy. In vain did Hako endeavour to lead the rest of his forces with
the view of saving the brave men who were thus overwhelmed: the storm
was too powerful for him; some of his ships were lost; more were
dispersed; and in great anguish of mind he repaired to the Orkneys where
he intended to winter, and invade Scotland the ensuing spring. That
spring he was never to see. A fever, the result of anxiety no less than
of fatigue, laid him on the bed from which he was no more to rise. The
activity of his mind, however, was not arrested even by fatal disease:
he caused the Bible and the old Sagas to be read to him night and day.
When convinced that there was no hope of his recovery, he dictated his
last instructions to his son; made liberal presents to his followers;
confessed and received the sacrament; and “at midnight Almighty God
called him from this world, to the exceeding grief of all present and of
all who heard of his death.” His body was first interred in the
cathedral of St. Magnus, Kirkwall, but subsequently removed to Bergen,
and laid with those of his royal ancestors.

[Sidenote: 1263 to 1266.]

MAGNUS VI. (1263–1280), who had been crowned during his father’s life,
now ascended the throne. He had the wisdom to make peace with the Scots,
by ceding to them all the islands off their coast except the Orkneys,
but not in full sovereignty. For these he was to receive 4000 marks, and
an annual tribute of 100 marks. At the same time Margaret, the daughter
of Alexander, was betrothed to the son of Magnus. These islands had
never produced any benefit to the crown: to maintain them would have
entailed a ruinous expenditure of money and blood. But the Orkneys,
though frequently independent, had been so long connected with the
mother-country, and lay so much nearer, that though their preservation
might bring no great advantage, they were useful as nurseries for
seamen. In the reign of Magnus, too, Iceland became thoroughly dependent
on the Norwegian crown.

[Sidenote: 1263 to 1280.]

Internally, the reign of this prince exhibits considerable improvement.
One of his most serious objects, (which had also been his father’s) was
to establish, on fixed principles, the succession to the throne. As in
other European countries, that succession was now made to depend on the
law of primogeniture, in the male line only. To this regulation the
bishops gave their assent; and, in accordance with it, they not merely
recognised Eric as the successor of Magnus, but crowned that prince.
Hence they no longer insisted on the obnoxious compact between Magnus V.
and the primate of that day[166]—a proof that they do not merit all the
abuse which modern history has poured upon them. It is indeed true that
in return for their sanction of this new and fundamental law of
succession, they obtained some favours; but most of them related to
their own matters. They were excepted, for instance, from the secular
tribunals; but so they were in every other country in communion with
Rome. They refused laymen to exercise any influence over the election of
dignitaries, and they did right. But when each prelate claimed the right
of coining money, and of maintaining a body-guard of forty men-at-arms,
he surely forgot his spiritual character, and remembered only that he
was a temporal baron. This reign too witnessed some other changes. The
allodial proprietors became vassals: the old jarls and hersers were
replaced by dukes and barons and knights; feudal usages were introduced
in lieu of the ancient national customs. As a necessary consequence, the
small landed proprietors, equivalent to the English yeomen, began to
disappear, and to be replaced by farmers. Still in the national
character there was that which prevented the worse evils of feudality.
If the peasant had no longer a voice, or we should rather say a vote, in
the assembly of the states, except by representation, he yet continued
to be free, and to bear arms. In the cities and towns of the kingdom
there was also a modification of the old system. In proportion to the
increase of commerce, and to the prosperity of the great depôts, was
that of municipal rights. These rights were, as much as possible,
assimilated to those of the German towns. For the two important cities
of Bergen and Drontheim, Magnus himself drew up a code of regulations,
to define the rights of the guilds and of the different classes of
burghers. And for the defence of the coasts he revived the ancient act
of division of the maritime districts, each of which was to furnish a
certain number of ships, and to maintain its beacon fire, so that
intelligence of an invasion might speedily fly throughout the country.

But the fame of this monarch chiefly rests on his legislative talents:
hence his surname of _Lagabeter_, or law-mender. To the code which he
compiled from the centenary observances of the four Norwegian provinces,
and which he designed for general use throughout his dominions, we shall
allude in the proper place.

[Sidenote: 1280 to 1289.]

ERIC II., while yet a minor, succeeded his father without opposition;
but his reign was not one of peace. His first disputes were with the
church. At his coronation, he promised rather to amplify than to curtail
its privileges. In virtue of this promise, the archbishop of Drontheim
drew up a list of offences against the canon laws, and claimed for the
clerical tribunals the pecuniary mulcts demanded on such occasions.
These mulcts were considered the right of the crown, and as such were
claimed by royal councillors, on behalf of the king. So far the
conciliations were justifiable; but when they persuaded him to revoke
all the privileges which his father had conceded, they wantonly perilled
the tranquillity of the kingdom. They were excommunicated by the
primate, who in his turn was banished. Both parties appealed to Rome;
but the pope seems to have been a moderate man; and, though not disposed
to surrender any right which the church universal possessed, he
doubtless saw that the Norwegian branch of it had usurped some that were
inconsistent with civil government. The successor of the primate
consented to abandon one or two of the more obnoxious claims, and to
become the liege vassal of Eric. The king too was embroiled with
Denmark, through the protection which he afforded to the assassins of
Eric Glipping.[167] Long and disastrous was the war which raged between
the two countries. At length, both opened negotiations for peace; but it
was not signed during the life of Eric.

[Sidenote: 1289 to 1299.]

These disputes with the church and his royal neighbour prevented Eric
from engaging in another war, for which he might have urged a better
reason. In conformity with the treaty between his father and Alexander
III., he married Margaret of Scotland. The issue was a female, who, on
the death of her grandfather in 1289 (her mother was no more), was
undoubted heiress to the throne of that kingdom. The claims of the “Maid
of Norway” were urged by her father; but she had a rival in our Edward
I., who had determined to render the northern ruler his vassal. To unite
the two crowns on the same brow was an object still more desirable; and
in this view the English king proposed a marriage between his son and
the Maid of Norway. The proposal was readily accepted by Eric; but
before it could be carried into effect, the princess died in the
Orkneys. If Eric exposed himself to ridicule in claiming the Scottish
crown in her right, he had an indisputable claim to his queen’s dowry,
most of which had never been paid. For this cause he might have troubled
the kingdom; and he had another reason for interference. His second wife
was Isabel, daughter or sister of Robert Bruce, whose pretensions he
might have supported against those of Baliol. But he declared for
neither party—a degree of moderation, as we have intimated, attributable
rather to his disputes with the church and with Denmark, than to any
other cause.

[Sidenote: 1299 to 1319.]

As Eric the Priest-hater left no heirs male, he was succeeded by his
brother HAKO V. (1299–1319), whom he had created duke of Norway, and who
had been admitted to some share in the government. One of his first
objects was to resume the negotiations with Denmark; but through the
intrigues of the men who were implicated in the murder of Eric Glipping,
the signature of the treaty was delayed until 1308. His transactions
with Sweden are more important, since they led to a temporary union
between the two crowns. His daughter Ingeburga became the wife of Eric,
brother of Birger, king of Sweden. When Eric was barbarously murdered by
his own brother, Hako armed to revenge the death of his son-in-law.
After a war of some duration, Birger was compelled to abdicate, and
Magnus, the son of Ingeburga, was elected in his place. As Hako had no
heirs male, and females could not inherit, Magnus became the heir of the
Norwegian throne, to which he succeeded on the death of Hako.

[Sidenote: 1319.]

Under this prince, who died in 1319, Norway was not so powerful as it
had been under his father: just as in his father’s time it was not to be
compared with what it had been under the domination of Hako IV. With
this monarch indeed ended the greatness of the kingdom: from his time to
the union of the crown with that of Denmark, there was a continued
decline in the national prosperity. This decline cannot, as some
historians have asserted, be attributed to the cessation of piratical
expeditions; for in truth they had ceased long before the reign of Hako
IV., or even of Swerro. A better reason is to be found in the wars
between the kingdom and Denmark—wars which thinned the population,
diminished the national revenues, and aimed a fatal blow at the national
industry. A second is the monopoly of trade by the Hanseatic Towns. The
vessels of that league had long frequented the coasts of Norway; Swerro
had favoured them; Hako IV. in 1250 had conferred upon them exclusive
privileges; Magnus VI. had established the foreign merchants in his
dominions, especially at Bergen. Hako also exempted them from many of
the imposts to which they were subject in other countries. These
avaricious strangers did not benefit the country. Where two people
trade, _both_ cannot be gainers. The advantage was entirely in favour of
these foreigners, who absorbed a traffic which ought to have been
divided into many channels, and by their monopoly excluded the natives
from other markets. In this respect, we must condemn the short-sighted
policy of Hako, or rather perhaps the engrossing disposition of the
league. But another reason may also be assigned for the decline of the
national prosperity—the increase of luxury—the creation of artificial
wants. The cardinal bishop of Sabina[168] had expressed surprise at the
condition of the people: he had found, not merely the comforts, but the
luxuries of life. After the visit of that dignitary, the evil was not
mended. The monarchs were fond of displaying a splendour which richer
and more extensive kingdoms could not well support; and as the example
of the court is sure to be followed by all who visit it, we may form
some notion of the progress which luxury made amongst the people.

[Sidenote: 1319 to 1387.]

On the death of Hako, as we have already intimated, the throne of Norway
fell to his grandson MAGNUS VII. (1319–1343), king of Sweden. In 1343
Magnus resigned the Norwegian sceptre to his son HAKO VI. (1343–1380).
This prince, as we have before observed, married the daughter of
Valdemar IV., king of Denmark, and died in 1380. He was succeeded in
both thrones by his infant son OLAF (the _fifth_ of Norway, the _third_
of Denmark), on whose death both Denmark and Norway were ruled by queen

At this period the close connection between the three northern kingdoms
can be explained only by reverting to the history of Sweden.


                           CHAPTER III.[169]




IN Swedish history the chronological difficulties of which we had so
much reason to complain in the former volume, are scarcely fewer even
now that we are advanced into the eleventh century. Most writers give
different lists of kings down to the twelfth century. The reason of this
difference is two-fold: there were sometimes two kings reigning at the
same time, the one over the Goths, the other over the Swedes; and
sometimes each of these people had two, who divided the homage of the

[Sidenote: 1001 to 1026.]

All writers agree that at the opening of the eleventh century OLAF,
surnamed _Skotkonung_, or the Tribute-king, reigned over Sweden. He was
the ally of Denmark in the destruction of Olaf Trygvasen, king of
Norway[170]; and with Denmark he shared the possession of that
kingdom.[171] The enemy of St. Olaf, he would not, though commanded by
the states of his kingdom, give his daughter Ingigerda to that
king.[172] Contrary to his wish, however, his second daughter Astrida
was married to his royal neighbor.[173] Probably this was the first of
the Swedish princes that felt himself strong enough to contend with his
pagan subjects, who prior to his time had held the ascendancy. His
ardour, however, is said to have been mitigated by his diet, which at
length decided for liberty of conscience.

[Sidenote: 1026 to 1051.]

EMUND I. (or OMUND), surnamed _Colbrenner_, succeeded to his father.
Towards his unfortunate brother-in-law, St. Olaf of Norway, he acted
with severity[174]; and by all writers testimony is borne to his
virtues. Thus Adam of Bremen informs us that he excelled all his
predecessors in wisdom and piety, and was more beloved by his people. Of
his actions, except his hostilities in alliance with St. Olaf against
Canute the Great, we are ignorant. Shrouded in equal obscurity are the
actions of his immediate successors.

[Sidenote: 1051 to 1148.]

EMUND II. (1051–1056) was unpopular; first, because he had no zeal for
religion; and, secondly, because in a treaty of limits between Sweden
and the Danish province of Scania, he did not uphold the national
interests, but abandoned a considerable territory to that rival people.
To repair this disaster, and to prove that he was not afraid of the
enemy, he raised an army and invaded that province; but he was
vanquished and slain. On his death the Swedes and the Goths, who were
often hostile to each other, disagreed about the succession—the former
raising STENKILL (1056–1066), the latter _Hako the Red_, to the throne.
Thus there were two kingdoms, two courts—the one reigning over the
eastern, the other over the western and southern provinces. Similar
partitions, as we frequently observed in the former volume, had taken
place, so as to confound the chronological succession of the kings. The
Goths and the Swiar had never perfectly amalgamated, from the period
when Odin had led the latter into Sweden, and expelled the former from
the coast to the interior of the country. But, on the other hand,
experience had taught both of them the destructive effects of disunion;
and on the present occasion, now that Christianity had made so
considerable a progress among them (more however in Sweden than in
Gothland), they felt more sensibly the impolicy of their conduct. The
heads of the two people met together, and agreed that Hako should
continue to rule over the Goths, but that on his death his kingdom
should cease to have a separate existence, and be re-merged into that of
Sweden. We shall, however, see that the same moderation did not always
govern the two parties; and that double elections continued to agitate
the commonweal long after this period. But this circumstance does not
detract from the merit of the men who sanctioned the present agreement.
In thirteen years Hako paid the debt of nature, and in conformity with
the agreement his crown reverted to the prince of the Swedes. Of
Stenkill the national historians speak with praise. Of gigantic size,
unrivalled strength, and indomitable courage, he was yet one of the
mildest princes of his age. Over Sweyn II., king of Denmark, he is said
by the Swedish historians to have frequently triumphed; but of such
triumphs we have no record in the historians of the rival nation. Equal
honour is accorded to his successor INGE I., surnamed _the Good_. In his
wars this prince is said to have exhibited great valour; but he was more
distinguished for his attachment to Christianity, and for the zeal with
which he extirpated paganism. In this great work he probably evinced
more ardour than discretion, if it be true that he was murdered in bed
by his idolatrous subjects. HALSTAN, the brother and successor of Inge,
if indeed they did not reign conjointly over different parts of the
kingdom, had the same mild virtues. PHILIP and INGE II. were equally
worthy of the diadem. Distinguished alike for his piety and for the
rigour with which he punished the banditti who infested his western
provinces, and the pirates who ravaged his coasts, Inge, in particular,
reigned in the hearts of his people, except those whose ill deeds he
punished. To the hatred of a faction he became a victim. That faction
raised to the throne _Rognerald_, a chief of gigantic dimensions and of
fiercer qualities. _His_ yoke was soon felt to be intolerable: he was
removed by violence; and a double election followed,—the Swedes choosing
a chieftain named _Kol_; the Goths _Magnus_, son of Nicholas king of
Denmark. The former soon perished in battle; the latter, a great tyrant,
reigned seven years only (1148), when the suffrages of the people fell
on one who had neither birth nor connections to recommend him, but who
had the great qualities becoming the dignity. This was SWERKER I. It is
worthy of remark that Hako the Red and Rognerald, and Kol and Magnus,
are not usually classed amongst the Swedish kings—at least by modern

[Sidenote: 1148 to 1154.]

The reign of Swerker was pacific and admirably adapted to the interests
of the kingdom. He was a wise and patriotic monarch. But he had one
grievous fault—blindness to the vices of his son. Never, if contemporary
chroniclers are to be credited, did a youth so richly merit the curses
of the people. At the head of a licentious gang, he violated the persons
of the noblest virgins and matrons; he was addicted to every species of
riot; and the insolence of his manners gave a more odious shade to his
vices. In vain were remonstrances made to the father, whose first duty,
as the people thought, was to insist that his own family set the first
example of obedience to the laws. Indignant at this guilty toleration,
the people arose and murdered the prince. Swerker’s own end was
tragical; but whether he died through the influence of the same
conspirators, or through the avarice of a domestic, is doubtful. On his
death, the same ruinous division took place as in the preceding century:
the Goths elected CHARLES, another son of Swerker; the Swedes made
choice of ST. ERIC, who had married the daughter of Inge the Good—a name
dear to the people. As civil war was so much to be deprecated, the heads
of both parties met and agreed to this compromise—that Eric I. should
retain both crowns during his life, and on his death both should be
inherited by Charles. But what was to become of the rights of their
children? To prevent future disputes, the descendants of each were to
rule alternately, without prejudice, however, to the elective suffrage
of the people. It would have been impossible to devise any expedient
better adapted to produce the contrary of what was intended.

[Sidenote: 1155 to 1167.]

The reign of Eric was one of vigour. The Finns, who had declared
themselves independent, he reduced to subjection; and he also forced
them, we are told, to forsake idolatry for Christianity. We may,
however, doubt whether his efforts in this respect were so general as
the chroniclers would have us believe: certainly, they were not very
permanent; for there are pagans amongst them at this very day, and those
who pass for Christians worship other gods. Probably they did as most
barbarians do in similar circumstances—they submitted while the victor
was near them, but reverted to their ancient superstitions when he had
left. That he had idolaters nearer to him than Finland, and more
immediately subject to his sway, is evident from the distinction he was
accused of making between the worshippers of Odin and those of Christ.
The former he deprived of the rights which the law conferred upon them.
For this conduct he naturally incurred their indignation, and he also
made enemies of another party—the licentious, the disturbers of the
public tranquillity, who were scarcely less numerous. Both conspired
against him; and as their own strength was inadequate to the object,
they invoked the aid of the Danish king, offering, as it appears, the
crown of Sweden to the son of that monarch. A Danish army arrived, and
being joined by the malcontents, marched towards Upsal. They were soon
met by Eric who, though he performed prodigies of valour, was defeated
and slain. His tragical death was one of the causes that led to his
canonization. Another was the zeal which he showed in the extirpation of
idolaters, whom he pursued with fire and sword. Add that he was the
founder of monasteries and churches, and we have reasons enough for his
deification. By most readers he will be valued, less for his
unenlightened devotion, than for his compilation of a code of laws—“St.
Eric’s Lag.” Yet the provisions which it contains are deeply impressed
by his dominant characteristics. Against pagans they are sanguinary; and
they visit offences against the Christian religion and the Christian
worship with stern severity.

[Sidenote: 1161 to 1167.]

Charles, the son of Swerker, was now monarch of the whole country. But
he had some difficulty in expelling the invaders, who had proclaimed the
son of the Danish king. He, too, was much attached to the church, and to
which he was more generous than even his predecessor. If tradition be
true (there is no contemporary authority for the statement), he
embarrassed his affairs by his immoderate liberality. As he obtained
from the pope the erection of an archbishopric,—that of Upsal,—he was
expected to endow it. From his munificence in this respect, may have
originated the report in question. His reign was not exempt from
trouble. The adherents of the rival dynasty were his enemies, from a
suspicion (apparently ill-founded) that he had been one of the
conspirators against St. Eric. Though in conformity with the agreement
which we have mentioned, he nominated Canute, the son of Eric, his
successor, that prince would not remain in the kingdom, under the
pretence that his life was in danger. In a few years he returned into
Sweden, at the head of a considerable Norwegian force, was joined by the
partisans of his house, and enabled to triumph over his rival, whom he
captured and beheaded. This act he justified by appealing to the
untimely end of his father, which he represented as the work of Charles.

[Sidenote: 1167 to 1192.]

The reign of CANUTE was disturbed by two invasions. The first,
consisting of Danes, who had armed to revenge the death of the late
king, or rather under that plea to profit by the disasters of a rival
country. The Goths, who loved the memory of Charles, immediately joined
it; but the king was victorious. The second was an irruption of the
Esthonian pirates, who laid Sigtuna in ashes, slew the archbishop of
Upsal, and carried away many prisoners before the king could overtake

[Sidenote: 1192 to 1210.]

SWERKER II., the son of Charles, was the next king, in virtue of the
compact between the Goths and the Swedes. But every day more clearly
evinced the dangers resulting from that compact: it daily widened the
breach, not merely between the two royal families, but between the two
great tribes which constituted the nation. Blood had been openly or
treacherously spilt by both parties; and the deadly feud had descended
to the chiefs of both. It was, from the first, the object of Swerker to
exterminate the family of his rival; but one prince—Eric, the only son
of the late king—escaped into Norway. For some years he governed with
moderation; but becoming tyrannical, the people of Upland invited the
exile to return. Eric obeyed the call, was joined by most of the nobles,
and enabled to triumph over Swerker, though the latter was supported by
a Danish army. The king was expelled, and though he subsequently
returned twice to renew the contest, twice he was defeated, and on the
latter occasion his own corpse was among the slain.

[Sidenote: 1210 to 1250.]

The reign of ERIC II. commenced by more policy than could have been
anticipated from preceding events. To pacify the rival faction, he
declared prince John, the son of Swerker, his successor. To conciliate
the Danes, who had so warmly espoused the cause of his rivals, he
obtained the hand of a Danish princess, the sister of Valdemar II. His
reign was pacific, but too short for the interests of his people. JOHN
I. (1220–1222) ascended without opposition the united thrones of the
Swedes and the Goths; but his reign was still shorter—a misfortune the
more keenly felt from his admirable conduct. If he was less fortunate in
two or three military expeditions (so obscure, however, as scarcely to
deserve notice) than was hoped from the justice of his cause, his civil
government was one of great success. He was succeeded without opposition
by the son of his predecessor, Eric II., named after the father. ERIC
III., surnamed the Lisper (1222–1230), had a reign less peaceful than
those which immediately preceded it. There was a family in the realm too
powerful for obedience—that of the Folkungar—the chiefs of which, by
their wealth and their numerous connections, evidently aspired to the
throne. To bind them to his interests, he married two of his sisters to
nobles of that house, while he himself took to wife a lady of that
family. But these alliances, as might indeed have been expected, only
gave a new impulse to ambition. To wrest the crown from him, the whole
family or tribe, the chiefs of which must have been connected with the
royal line of either the Goths or the Swedes, broke out into
rebellion—one noble only, the jarl Birger, remaining faithful to him. In
the first battle Eric was defeated and compelled to flee; but he raised
an army in Denmark, returned to Sweden, vanquished the usurper Sweyn,
and was again acknowledged by the whole realm. In the last year of his
reign, he sent an expedition against the Finns, who had reverted to
idolatry. It was commanded by Birger Jarl, on whom he had conferred the
hand of his youngest sister. The cruelty of the general, who probably
acted in obedience to the royal orders, equalled that of the former
military apostle, St. Eric.

[Sidenote: 1250.]

The death of Eric the Stammerer was followed by a violation of the
compact which had established the alternate order of succession. The
Folkungar nobles no longer concealed their intention of aspiring to the
throne. Through the intrigues of a dependent, when the diet met for a
new election, the choice fell on VALDEMAR I., the son of Birger Jarl by
the sister of the late king. On the part of the electors, this was an
attempt to combine the interests of two great families. But Birger was
dissatisfied: he had expected the crown himself; and he objected to the
impolicy of choosing a child like his son. His design was to obtain the
regency, and he succeeded.

[Sidenote: 1251 to 1266.]

However censurable the means by which Birger arrived at power, he had
qualities worthy of the post. He founded Stockholm, which he also
fortified: he revised and greatly improved the Landslag, or written laws
of the kingdom; he conferred on the cities and towns privileges similar
to those contained in the charters of later ages; he improved the
internal administration in other respects; while he defended the coasts
against the ravages of the pirates. Such indeed was the prosperity which
he introduced, that the diet requested the king to confer on him the
ducal title—a title previously unknown in Sweden. But the success of his
administration, and the power held by his family, incurred first the
jealousy, and soon the hatred of a faction, or rather of several
factions who united to oppose him. Among the great Swedish families was
one that rivalled the Folkungar in riches, in the number of its armed
dependents, in its widely-spread connection. This was the Folkungar
family, which had beheld with the deepest mortification the elevation of
a rival house. A civil war followed, which was indecisive; and it was
ended by a pacification, but a pacification dictated by deceit. After
Birger had solemnly sworn to it, and the heads of the other party
repaired in unsuspecting confidence to his camp, he caused them to be
put to death. One noble only escaped, Charles, who fled to the Teutonic
knights, became a member of the order, and left an heroic name behind
him. This perfidious act is a sad stain on the glory of his regency.
Another was his excessive love of power, which induced him to retain the
reins of government long after his son had arrived at manhood, and even
after that son had married Sophia, daughter of Eric Plough-penny, king
of Denmark. Death only caused him to release his grasp.

[Sidenote: 1266 to 1276.]

The reign of Valdemar was one of trouble. Whether through the persuasion
of the diet, or through fraternal attachment, he tolerated, if he did
not himself establish, the independence of his brothers. Magnus duke of
Sudermania, Eric prince of Smaland, and Benvit duke of Finland, had
separate courts, and exercised a sovereign authority in their respective
jurisdictions. Magnus, the eldest, was formed for a monarch. He was
learned, courteous, generous, and highly accomplished in all military
sciences. So popular did he become, that his palace was more frequented
than the king’s. Of his popularity Valdemar soon became jealous; yet he
could do no other than leave the regency to Magnus during his pilgrimage
to Rome. The motive of this pilgrimage was to expiate a criminal
connection, of many years’ standing, with Judith, sister of his queen.
The severity of the penance was owing to the fact of Judith’s being a
nun, who had precipitately fled from the convent of Roskild. Nine
children were the result of this connection, which so scandalised the
church, that the pope would not give him absolution until he had visited
the Holy Land. Judith was condemned to perpetual seclusion. In 1276,
after an absence of nearly three years, the royal penitent returned, and
accused Magnus of intriguing for the throne. Whether there was any truth
in the charge, cannot well be ascertained; but that suspicion should
arise in his mind was inevitable. He was jealous, not of Eric only, but
of all his brothers. On this occasion, Benvit, the youngest, exhibited a
proof of magnanimity which may well obtain the praise of history: to
consolidate the royal power, he resigned his duchy, took holy orders,
and subsequently became bishop of Linkoping. The elder brothers, far
from imitating the example, united themselves closely with the Danes,
and a civil war followed. Valdemar was surprised, pursued, and captured.
To end these disorders, the diet met, and divided the kingdom between
the two brothers. To Valdemar was conceded the two Gothlands (East and
West) with Smaland and Dalia: the rest fell to Magnus.

[Sidenote: 1276 to 1279.]

This peace was of short continuance. Magnus did not pay his Danish
auxiliaries, by whose aid he had triumphed. In revenge the Danish king
ravaged the Swedish provinces, and entered into a treaty with Valdemar
to restore him to the undivided throne. At the head of a Danish army,
Valdemar marched against Magnus, but was defeated. To repair this
disaster, Eric of Denmark took the field with a large army—so large that
Magnus would not risk an action. But the Swedish prince obtained by
policy the advantage which arms could not give him. He drew the invaders
into the heart of the kingdom; cut off all supplies; and awaited the
approach of winter to effect their destruction. But through the
mediation of the chiefs on both sides, peace was restored. As Magnus had
not the money due to Eric, he pledged one of his maritime towns. In
return, he obtained not merely a friend, but his recognition as monarch
of Norway. Valdemar, thus sacrificed, was made to renounce his claim to
the whole country, and to pass the remainder of his days in Denmark, on
one of the domains which he had received with his queen.

[Sidenote: 1279, 1280.]

MAGNUS I. at his accession assumed the title of king of the Swedes and
the Goths, to denote his superiority over the whole kingdom. But the
title was more pompous than the power. He was soon accused of undue
partiality towards the people of Holstein, who in virtue of his marriage
with Hedwige, sister of the count Gerard[175], flocked to Sweden in
great numbers. The remonstrance did not weaken his attachment to these
foreigners, whom he loaded with honours. To the great families,
especially that of the Folkungar, this preference was gall; and a
conspiracy was formed to extirpate the odious strangers. An opportunity
for the execution of this plot soon arrived. Escorted by a considerable
number of Holsteiners, the queen proceeded to Scara, a town of Gothland,
to meet her father. The conspirators followed, and massacred the guard,
including even the brother-in-law of the king. Nor was this all: they
threw the count of Holstein into a dungeon; and they certainly would
have laid their hands on the queen, had she not contrived to escape into
a monastery. Knowing the power of the family which had instigated these
excesses, and fearing that they were supported by foreign alliances, the
king dissimulated, and made use of the most conciliating language, until
he had obtained the enlargement of the count. He then summoned a diet,
charged the unsuspicious Folkungar with high treason, sent them to
Stockholm, and beheaded all of them except one, who was allowed to be
ransomed. From this time that ambitious family ceased to have much
influence over the realm. To establish his throne still more solidly, he
entered into a double matrimonial alliance with Denmark. His son Birger,
still a child, was affianced to a daughter of the Danish king, and as
she too was a child, she was taken, in conformity with the custom of the
times, to the Swedish court to be educated. And soon afterwards
Ingeburga, daughter of Magnus, became the wife of Eric Plough-penny’s

[Sidenote: 1281 to 1290.]

The tranquillity obtained through these measures enabled Magnus to
devote his whole time to the internal administration. His name is
mentioned with great praise; and he appears to have deserved it. His
consolidated power and his firmness were indeed blessings to a realm so
long distracted by intestine commotions. It was feared, indeed, lest, in
his hands, the sceptre should become oppressive: but this too would have
been an advantage; for its weight would have fallen on the powerful and
the turbulent only. To the peasant he was a friend. Prior to his reign,
the local nobles had not hesitated to levy contributions on the despised
portion of the nation. He decreed that whoever took any thing from a
poor man’s hut without paying the value, should be visited with rigorous
penalties. From his brother Valdemar he sustained some trouble; but he
crushed the seeds of rebellion by imprisoning that restless prince. To
support, with greater magnificence, the regal state, he obtained, from
the gratitude of his people, a considerable augmentation of his
resources. This augmentation consisted in certain returns from the
mines, and from the great lakes of Sweden. Well did he merit this
liberality; for never had the country a greater king.

[Sidenote: 1290 to 1305.]

BIRGER, the son of Magnus, being only eleven years old at his father’s
death, the regency devolved on Thorkil, a noble Swede. Nothing can
better illustrate the merit of Magnus than this choice. At home and
abroad Thorkil evinced his talents and his patriotism. His expeditions
against the Finns, the Carelians, and the Ingrians, were crowned with
success. But his great object was to render the people happy. Having
reason to fear the interruption of the social tranquillity, he arrested
the sons of the late king Valdemar, who could not forget their claims to
the throne. But as Birger rose up to manhood, he had still more cause of
apprehension from Eric and Valdemar, brothers of his sovereign. Both
evidently aspired to distinct governments. To strengthen his interests,
the former married Ingeburga, daughter of Hako V., king of Norway.
Seeing that he and Valdemar were acting more openly in pursuit of their
treasonable object, yet unwilling to adopt extreme measures, Birger,
with the advice of his minister, obtained from them a written pledge
never to leave the kingdom, or approach the royal residence without
permission; never to conspire against the government; never to maintain
more than a given number of armed men; and always to obey the commands
of their sovereign. But what engagement could bind spirits so restless,
which were emboldened to attempt any thing by the success of preceding
rebels? The princes still continued to plot; and to escape imprisonment,
they fled into Denmark. The Danish king, however, being persuaded to
abandon them, they took refuge in Norway, were friendly received by
Hako, and enabled, from their new fiefs of Nydborg and Konghella, to lay
waste the neighbouring provinces with fire and sword. A body of troops
sent by Birger to repulse them, was defeated. A second army was raised;
and the king marched in person to chastise his brothers. They were,
however, at the head of a large force, not of their own partisans
merely, but of the Norwegians; and to avoid the effusion of blood, a
pacification was recommended. They were received into favour on the
condition of their swearing obedience to the king: in return he
conferred on duke Eric the fief of Varberg. The next feature of this
transaction was the sacrifice of the able and patriotic Thorkil. The
brothers could not forgive him for thwarting them in their rebellion;
and Birger was made to believe the vilest calumnies respecting him. The
aged minister was sent to Stockholm and beheaded. At the same time his
daughter, the wife of Valdemar, was repudiated. Thus was a long course
of public service rewarded!

[Sidenote: 1305 to 1319.]

By this criminal weakness, Birger was righteously left to the intrigues
of his brothers. By them he was surprised and made prisoner, together
with his wife and children, and forced to resign the crown in favour of
Eric. His eldest son, Magnus, escaped, and fled to Denmark, the king of
which armed for the restoration of his sister’s husband. From this
period to the close of Birger’s reign there was war, alternated by
hollow peace. In 1307, he obtained his liberty, on the condition of his
kingdom being dismembered in favour of his brother. To revoke this
dangerous act he renewed his alliance with Denmark, and again obtained
help; but his proceedings were not decisive, and a new pacification
followed, on conditions similar to the preceding, except that Birger was
now regarded as the liege superior of his brothers, who did homage to
him for their fiefs. Unable to reduce them by force, he had recourse to
the usual acts of the base. He pretended great affection for them, and
sent them many presents. At length alluring them to his court at
Nykoping, he arrested them in bed, and consigned them to dungeons with
expression of triumphant insult more galling than the perfidy itself.
One died of the wounds which he had received in the effort to escape:
the other was starved to death. But from this deed of blood the king
derived no advantage. The bodies of the murdered princes being exposed
to the public, roused the wrath of the very numerous party hostile to
his government. The civil war was now renewed by Matthias Kettlemundson
in behalf of duke Eric’s son. Since the death of Thorkil, the king had
become rapacious, tyrannical, and consequently unpopular. The people,
who lamented the fate of the murdered princes, favoured the cause which
Kettlemundson had espoused; the fortresses that still held for the king
were soon reduced: Magnus, his son, was made prisoner; and he himself
compelled to seek a refuge in Denmark, where he was coldly received.

[Sidenote: 1319, 1320.]

Fate had not yet done its worst for this exiled prince. A diet was
assembled to choose a successor. Such was the hatred borne towards him
and his line, that his son Magnus was beheaded for _his_ crimes. The
suffrages of the electors united in favour of duke Eric’s son, a child
three years old. Grief the following year (1320) brought Birger to the
tomb. Whatever good signalised his reign must be attributed to his able
and virtuous minister: his own conduct was dictated by odious vices.
Thorkil caused a law to be passed against the sale of slaves, on the
ground that it was in the highest degree criminal for Christians to sell
men whom Christ had redeemed by his blood. This noble truth is the best
testimony to the character of that minister: we may add that it is the
most deplorable illustration of the king’s, who could, without a cause,
sacrifice such a man. What better than fratricide could be expected from

[Sidenote: 1319 to 1354.]

During the long minority of MAGNUS II., the regency was exercised by
Kettlemundson, who had contributed so largely to the expulsion of
Birger, and the execution of the blameless Magnus, the son of Birger.
His administration, which continued eighteen years, is mentioned with
respect; but it was signalised by no great exploit deserving the
attention of history. Both his policy and that of his sovereign, in
respect to Scania, has been related.[176] In the administration of
justice and the maintenance of the public tranquillity, he was
successful. On his demise, Magnus assumed the reins of government; but
did not give so much satisfaction as his minister. He undertook an
expedition against the western provinces of Russia (then subject to
their own princes), influenced only by a wild ambition. The result was
not glorious. The taxes which he levied on the people for its support,
gave rise to complaint. The pope too complained that he had appropriated
to his own use the money, which, in virtue of Olaf Skotkonung’s act,
should have gone to the Roman treasury. Still his necessities increased:
the purchase of Scania was another channel of expenditure; and though he
pledged some of the royal domains, he had still to exact more from his
people, including the clergy, than their patience would support. For
this cause he was excommunicated by the pope. Regardless of murmurs, he
proceeded in his course: he was distinguished alike for rashness,
feebleness, and irresolution. Governed by young favourites, and still
more by his queen, who persuaded him that he might do whatever he
pleased with impunity, and anxious to place a third crown on his brow
(he had inherited Norway in right of his mother), he exhibited at once
his silly ambition and his incapacity by embroiling himself with
Denmark. So far from obtaining that crown, he lost his own. The diet
insisted that he should resign Norway to Hako, and Sweden to Eric, his
two sons. He fled into Scania; implored the aid of Valdemar; and in
return ceded that province to the Danish crown.[177] He was enabled by
this means and by the support of a party (for what king was ever without
one?) to carry on a war with Eric. Its ravages were deeply felt; its
issue was dubious; and a diet was convoked at Jenkoping to avert by a
pacification the ruin of the monarchy. Under the mediation of two
princes connected with the royal family, it was decreed that the country
should be divided between the father and the son: to the former were
assigned Upland, the two Gothias, Vermeland, Dalecarlia, with the
northern portion of Halland, and the isle of Oeland; to the latter,
Finland, Smaland, the southern portion of Halland, and Scania.

[Sidenote: 1354 to 1357.]

The indiscretions of Magnus had lost him the hearts of his people, which
turned with ardour to ERIC IV. This circumstance roused the jealousy of
him and his queen, who are said to have conspired against the life of
Eric. Whether he was removed by poison administered to him by his
mother, or by the violence of conspirators, or by lawless banditti, or,
finally, by natural causes, must for ever rest unknown, since ancient
annals say nothing on the subject. The majority of historians, native
and foreign, concur in fixing the guilt on queen Blanche; but until some
better evidence than any they have adduced be brought to establish so
unnatural a crime, the common feeling of mankind must compel them to
doubt it. The only fact that is certain is that Eric died, and that
Magnus profited by the event, since it restored him to the monarchy.

[Sidenote: 1357 to 1363.]

It was impossible for this weak and unscrupulous prince to win the
esteem of the Swedes. He hated them because they had deposed him; and to
be revenged on them, he entered into a close alliance with Valdemar of
Denmark. Valdemar, to whom he ceded Scania, became, as we have before
related, the willing instrument of that vengeance in the sack of Wisby
and in other depredations.[178] This was not the way to acquire
popularity: he and the whole Danish nation were soon detested; nor was
the feeling diminished when the secret transpired of a projected union
between the king’s son, Hako of Norway, and Margaret, the daughter of
Valdemar. To prevent this obnoxious alliance, the nobles arose,
imprisoned Magnus in the fortress of Calmar, called on Hako to assume
the administration, and made him promise not only that he would renounce
all connection with Denmark, but marry Elizabeth, sister of Henry count
of Holstein. Though HAKO II. (the sixth of Norway) engaged to fulfil the
wishes of the diet, neither he nor his father, who was soon enlarged,
had the least intention to do so. On the contrary, they renewed their
connection still more closely with the obnoxious Valdemar. The manner in
which Elizabeth was deluded by that monarch until the marriage of his
daughter with Hako was celebrated, has been already described.

[Sidenote: 1363.]

Nothing could exceed the anger of the Swedes, or rather of a
considerable faction (for the majority were passive) when they heard of
this marriage. Determined to exclude both father and son, they invited
Henry of Holstein, who was connected with the royal line, to ascend the
throne. But Henry was an old man; and he would not risk his tranquillity
for an object that he could not long enjoy. He recommended the electors
to make choice of Albert duke of Mecklenburg, whose mother was the
sister of Magnus. But the duke had no wish to rule a divided, turbulent
people; nor did he wish his eldest son to undertake the perilous charge.
He had, however, a second son, also named Albert, who had nothing to
lose, and whom he recommended to the suffrages of the electors.

[Sidenote: 1364 to 1371.]

ALBERT arrived at Stockholm early in 1364. That city was in the
interests of Magnus, and for a time it resisted; but he forced or
persuaded it to capitulate. There he was joined by most of the nobles
who were discontented with Magnus. Their first act was to renew the
deposition of the one; their next, to confirm the election of the other.
Hako, then in Norway, prepared to invade the kingdom; and Magnus, who
had still a party, effected a junction with him. Their army being
augmented by a considerable number of Danes, they penetrated into
Upland. But Albert, on his side, hastened to oppose them; and in a
battle of some magnitude, victory the most decisive inclined to his
standard: Magnus was taken prisoner; Hako was wounded and compelled to
retreat with expedition into his own kingdom. The fortresses which held
for the two princes were next reduced; two or three of them only made a
vigorous defence. But Valdemar of Denmark, whose interest lay in
disturbing the kingdom, sent, from time to time, supplies of troops,
which harassed the king. Peace with that formidable rival was felt to be
necessary for the repose of the realm, and it was purchased by the
cession of some domains. Among them was the isle of Gothland with Wisby
the capital. That these cessions were unwillingly made, may be easily
conceived; and to procure their restoration, Albert entered into a close
league with the enemies of Denmark. The war was consequently renewed.
While his allies assailed other parts of Denmark, he invaded Scania, a
portion of which he reduced. But little time was left him for
exultation. Hako of Norway invaded Sweden, defeated him, and compelled
him to throw himself into Stockholm, which was closely invested. In this
extremity he proposed an interview, in which the conditions of peace
were agreed on. Magnus was enlarged for a ransom of 12,000 marks; and in
return for his cession of the Swedish crown, he received as fiefs West
Gothland, Vermeland, and Dalia. He was, however, to have no share in the
administration of these provinces, but merely to receive the revenues
with the title of governor; and the rest of his days he was to pass in
Norway. Lest he should break this, with as much levity as he had broken
all his former engagements, sixty gentlemen of his party were to
surrender themselves prisoners to Albert, if he should again disturb the
peace of the realm. He did not disturb it, because he was soon
afterwards drowned in crossing a ford.

[Sidenote: 1371 to 1376.]

For some years after this pacification Albert enjoyed comparative
security. But he was not popular: he brought over many greedy Germans to
share in the spoils of the kingdom; and exhibited in their favour a
partiality so gross as much to indispose the nation against him. Like a
true German, indeed, he had little regard for any thing beyond his
immediate interests, and those of his family. Insecure as was his
possession of Sweden, he raised troops to support the claims of his
nephew, Albert of Mecklenburg, to the Danish throne, in opposition to
Olaf, the son of Margaret and Hako.[179] The enterprise failed: the
armament that was sent against the Danes was mostly destroyed by a
storm; and there was no disposition to renew the contest.

[Sidenote: 1377 to 1387.]

The gross partiality of Albert for his foreign mercenaries was not the
only fault he committed. Having a high notion of the kingly prerogative,
he endeavoured to rule without the control of the diet. For his attempt
to restrain the privileges of the nobles he would deserve our praise,
were not his motives of the most selfish character. The people had still
more reason to complain. Not only were they subject to a tyranny odious
as that of the nobles, but they were ground to the earth by new imposts,
and, what was still more mortifying, for the enrichment of avaricious
foreigners. In this state of the public mind, he convoked a diet at
Stockholm, and demanded an augmentation of his income. It was not, he
observed, adequate to the decent support of royalty; and he solicited
one third of the whole revenue, civil and ecclesiastical. Nothing could
equal the indignant surprise of the diet at this extraordinary demand.
They replied that former kings had found the usual revenues enough, not
merely for comfort but for splendour; and intimated that if he was
straitened, the cause lay in the number of foreigners whom he enriched.
This intimation might have been expected to produce some good effect;
but it had none on this imprudent king except to exasperate him, and to
make him resolve that he would wrest by force what had been refused to
his solicitations. In vain did both nobles and clergy cry aloud against
his arbitrary purpose: in vain did they call upon him to respect the
privileges which he had sworn to maintain; he persevered, and
consequently plunged the kingdom into a ruinous civil war.

[Sidenote: 1388 to 1389.]

At this time Margaret, who had succeeded to her son Olaf, was sovereign
of Denmark and Norway. To her the malcontents applied for aid, which she
would not afford them, unless they acknowledged her for their queen. The
condition was accepted: an army of Danes marched into Sweden, and was
immediately joined by many of the nobles and clergy. The lower classes
of the population—those who contributed little to the support of the
state—were indifferent to the result, or if they had any bias, it was in
favour of Albert—not from any attachment to him, but from dislike of the
nobles. At Falkoping, in West Gothland, however, a good stand was made
by his army, consisting not merely of Swedes but of Germans, and many
adventurers whom the offer of large pay and the hope of plunder had
drawn to his standard. But after a desperate conflict, he was defeated,
and captured, together with his son. Both were committed to a fortress,
where, notwithstanding the efforts of their German allies, and those of
their own party, they remained above six years; nor did they obtain
their enlargement without a solemn renunciation of the Swedish crown.

With MARGARET, sovereign of three kingdoms, begins a new era in Northern



                            (See page 184.)


              (_From Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints._)

                 ST. CANUTUS, KING OF DENMARK, M.[180]

From his life, faithfully written by Ælnoth, a monk of Canterbury, who
  had lived twenty-four years in Denmark, and wrote in 1105. It was
  printed at Copenhagen, in 1602. See also Saxo Grammaticus, the most
  elegant and judicious of the Danish historians.

                              A. D. 1086.

ST. CANUTUS, or KNUT, the fourth of that name, king of Denmark, was
natural son of Swein III. whose great uncle Canutus had reigned in
England. Swein, having no lawful issue, took care of the education of
Canutus, who being endowed with excellent qualities both of mind and
body, answered perfectly well the care of his preceptors and governors.
It is hard to say whether he excelled more in courage, or in conduct and
skill in war; but his singular piety perfectly eclipsed all his other
endowments. He scoured the seas of pirates, and subdued several
neighbouring provinces which infested Denmark with their incursions. The
kingdom of Denmark was elective till the year 1660; wherefore, when
Swein died, many pitched upon our saint, whose eminent virtues best
qualified him for the throne; but the majority, fearing his martial
spirit, preferred his eldest natural brother Harald, the seventh king of
that name, who, for his stupidity and vices, was commonly called the
Slothful. Canutus retired into Sweden to king Halstan, who received him
with the greatest marks of kindness and esteem; but the king could never
induce him to undertake any expedition against Denmark; on the contrary,
the Christian hero employed all his power and interest in the service of
his country. Harald dying after two years’ reign, Canutus was called to
succeed him.

Denmark had received the Christian faith long before, some say in 826,
but wanted a zealous hand at the helm, to put the finishing stroke to
that good work. St. Canutus seems to have been pitched upon by
Providence for this purpose. He began his reign by a successful war
against the troublesome barbarous enemies of the state, and by planting
the faith in the conquered provinces of Courland, Samogitia, and
Livonia. Amidst the glory of his victories, he humbly prostrated himself
at the foot of the crucifix, laying there his diadem, and offering
himself and his kingdom to the King of kings. After having provided for
its peace and safety, and enlarged its territories, he married Eltha, or
Alice, daughter of Robert earl of Flanders, by whom he had a pious son,
St. Charles, surnamed the Good, afterward also earl of Flanders. His
next concern was to reform abuses at home. For this purpose, he enacted
severe, but necessary laws, for the strict administration of justice,
and repressed the violence and tyranny of the great, without respect of
persons. He countenanced and honoured holy men, granted many privileges
and immunities to the clergy, to enhance the people’s esteem of them;
and omitted nothing to convince them of their obligation to provide for
their subsistence by the payment of tithes. His charity and tenderness
towards his subjects made him study by all possible ways to ease them of
their burdens, and make them a happy people. He showed a royal
magnificence in building and adorning churches, and gave the crown which
he wore, of exceeding great value, to the church of Roschild, in
Zealand, his capital city, and the place of his residence, where the
kings of Denmark are yet buried. He chastised his body with fasting,
discipline, and hair-cloths. Prayer was his assiduous exercise. When
William the Conqueror had made himself master of England, Canutus sent
forces to assist the vanquished: but these troops finding no one willing
to join them, were easily defeated in the year 1069. Some time after,
being invited by the conquered English, he raised an army to invade this
island, and expel the Normans; but through the treacherous practices of
his brother Olas, or Olaus, was obliged to wait so long on the coast
that his troops deserted him. The pious king, having always in view the
service of God, and judging this a proper occasion to induce the people
to pay tithes to their pastors, he proposed to them either to pay a
heavy fine, by way of punishment for their desertion, or submit to the
law of tithes for the pastors of the church. Their aversion to the
latter made them choose the tax, to the great mortification of the king,
who, hoping they would change their resolution, ordered it to be levied
with rigour. But they, being incensed at the severity of the collectors,
rebelled. St. Canutus retired for safety into the isle of Fionia, and
was hindered from joining his loyal troops, by the treachery of one
Blanco, an officer, who, to deceive him, assured his majesty that the
rebels were returned to their duty. The king went to the church of St.
Alban, the martyr, to perform his devotions, and return God thanks for
that happy event. This the rebels being informed of by Blanco, they
surrounded the church with him at their head. In the mean time the holy
king, perceiving the danger that threatened his life, confessed his sins
at the foot of the altar, with great tranquillity and resignation, and
received the holy communion. His guards defended the church doors, and
Blanco was slain by them. The rebels threw in bricks and stones, through
the windows, by which they beat down the shrines of certain relics of
St. Alban and St. Oswald, which St. Canutus had brought over from
England. The saint, stretching out his arms before the altar, fervently
recommended his soul into the hands of the Creator; in which posture he
was wounded with a javelin darted through the window, and fell a victim
to Christ. His brother Benedict, and seventeen others, were slain with
him, on the 10th of July, 1086, as Ælnoth, a contemporary author,
testifies, who has specified the date of all the events with the utmost
exactness. His wicked brother Olas succeeded him in the kingdom. God
punished the people during eight years and three months of his reign
with a dreadful famine, and other calamities; and attested the sanctity
of the martyr, by many miraculous cures of the sick at his tomb. For
which reason his relics were taken up out of their obscure sepulchre,
and honourably entombed towards the end of the reign of Olas. His
successor, Eric III., a most religious prince, restored piety and
religion, with equal courage and success, and sent ambassadors to Rome,
with proofs of the miracles performed, and obtained from the pope a
declaration, authorising the veneration of St. Canutus, the proto-martyr
of Denmark. Upon this occasion a most solemn translation of his relics,
which were put in a most costly shrine, was performed, at which Ælnoth,
our historian, was present. He adds, that the first preachers of the
faith in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, were English priests; that the
Danes then zealously embraced the Christian religion, but that the
Swedes still continued more obstinate, among whom Eschill, an
Englishman, received the crown of martyrdom, whilst he was preaching
Christ to certain savage tribes.

                       END OF THE SECOND VOLUME.




Footnote 1:

  Vol. I. p. 175.

Footnote 2:

  See Vol. I. p. 178.

Footnote 3:

  Ibid. 176, 178, 179.

Footnote 4:

  Vol. I. p. 187.

Footnote 5:

  Ibid. p. 188.

Footnote 6:

  See Vol. I. p. 216.

Footnote 7:

  Ibid. p. 320.

Footnote 8:

  See “The Fatal Sisters.”

Footnote 9:

  The materials for the preceding section are derived from the
  Orkneyinga Saga; Snorro, Heimskringla; Johnstone, Antiquitates

Footnote 10:

  The preceding section is derived from, 1. Torfœus, Islandia Antiqua;
  2. Ditto, Historia Rerum Norvegicarum; 3. Snorro, Heimskringla; 4. The
  Landnamabok, seu Origines Islandorum; 5. Schlegel, Comment. de Codice
  Gragas.; 6. Wharton, History of the Northmen.

Footnote 11:

  Snorro, Saga af Olafi Tryggva-Syni; Heimskringla (multis locis);
  Torfœus, Vinlandia Antiqua; Adamas Bremensis, De Situ Daniæ; Malte
  Brun, Géographie; Pontoppidan, Gesta et Ventigia Danorum extra Daniam.

Footnote 12:

  Karamzin, tom. i.

Footnote 13:

  Karamzin, Histoire de Russia; Levesque, Histoire; Pontoppidan, Gesta
  et Vestigia.

Footnote 14:

  Pontoppidan, Gesta et Vestigia Danorum extra Daniam. The best account
  of the piratical exploits of the Northmen in France is in the Roman de
  Rou of Wace, and, the Chronique of Benoit de St. Maur. Their exploits
  in Spain are mentioned both by the Mohammedan and Christian writers.
  Their exploits in Scotland, Iceland, Ireland, and the coast of
  Britain, are contained in the Sagas; but these abound so much in wild
  fiction that it is difficult to separate the true from the false.

Footnote 15:

  The authorities for the present chapter are,—1. Edda Sæmundar hins
    Froda; Edda Rythmica seu Antiquior vulgo Sæmundina dicta: pars i.
    1787, pars ii. 1818, pars iii. 1828. Havniæ.—2. Edda Snorronis à
    Rask. Coben. 1818.—3. Mallet, Introduction à l’Histoire de
    Dannemarc, tom. i. and ii.—4. Percy, Notes to the Northern
    Antiquities.—5. Wheaton, History of the Northmen.—6. Pigott, Manual
    of Scandinavian Mythology.—7. Foreign Quarterly Review, Nos. 3 and
    7.—8. Notes of Stephanius to his edition of Saxo Grammaticus.

Footnote 16:

    Europe during the Middle Ages, vol. ii., appendix.

Footnote 17:

    See Vol. I. p. 51.

Footnote 18:

    Mr. Wheaton.

Footnote 19:

    See before, page 31.

Footnote 20:

    See before, page 14.

Footnote 21:

  See before, page 34.

Footnote 22:

  Geijr, Svea Bikes Häfder, tom. i. p. 339.

Footnote 23:

  See Vol. I. p. 91–99.

Footnote 24:

  See before, page 35.

Footnote 25:

  Pigott’s translation, p. 95.

Footnote 26:

  See Vol. I. p. 54.

Footnote 27:

  See Vol. I. p. 46.

Footnote 28:

  Thorlacius Noget om Thor og hans Hammer, in the Skandinavisk Museum
  for 1803.

Footnote 29:

  Thorlacius ut supra, says the thundering Thor was regarded as
  particularly inimical to the Skovtrolds, against whom he continually
  employed his mighty weapon. He thinks the _Bidental_ of the Romans,
  and the rites connected with it, seem to suppose a similar
  superstition, and that in the well-known passage of Horace,

                      Tu parum castis inimica mittes
                            Fulmina lucis,

  the words _parum castis lucis_ may mean groves or parts of woods, the
  haunt of unclean spirits or Skovtrolds, _satyri lascivi et salaces_.

Footnote 30:

  The analogy of Deev, and other words of like import, might lead to the
  supposition of Spirit being the primary meaning of Alf.

Footnote 31:

  It is probably derived from an obsolete verb νύβω, the Latin _nubo_
  signifying to _veil_ or cover; hence _nubes_, clouds. In Homer (II.
  iii. 130.), Iris says to Helen,

                         _Δεῦρ’ ἵθι, νύμφα φίλη_.

  The preceding and following notes are also from Mr. Keightley.

Footnote 32:

  Keightley’s Fairy Mythology, vol. i.

Footnote 33:

  Keightley’s Fairy Mythology, vol. i.

Footnote 34:

  Keightley, vol. i.

Footnote 35:

  See Vol. I. p. 32.

Footnote 36:

  Keightley, vol. i.

Footnote 37:

  See Vol. I. p. 49.

Footnote 38:

  Foreign Quarterly Review, No. 3.

Footnote 39:

  See Vol. I. p. 48.

Footnote 40:

  See Vol. I. p. 31.

Footnote 41:

  See Vol. I. p. 35.

Footnote 42:

  Cæsar, de Bello Gallico, lib. i.

Footnote 43:

  See before, p. 78.

Footnote 44:

  See Vol. I. p. 229.

Footnote 45:

  See Vol. I. p. 176.

Footnote 46:

  See Vol. I. p. 180.

Footnote 47:

  See Vol. I. p. 181.

Footnote 48:

  Schefferi Historia Lapponica, cap. ix.

Footnote 49:

  See Vol. I. p. 30–42.

Footnote 50:

  Heimskringla, tom. i.

Footnote 51:

  Wheaton, p. 117.

Footnote 52:

  See Vol. I. p. 54.

Footnote 53:

  See before, p. 61.

Footnote 54:

  See Vol. I. p. 86.

Footnote 55:

  See before, p. 55.

Footnote 56:

  Schefferi Historia Lapponica.

Footnote 57:

  Europe during the Middle Ages, vol. ii. Appendix.

Footnote 58:

  See before, p. 56.

Footnote 59:

  See Vol. I. p. 91–99.

Footnote 60:

  The great, the mysterious Ash Yggrasid, under which Odin and the
  twelve Aser were accustomed to administer justice.

Footnote 61:

  Pigott’s translation.

Footnote 62:

  See before, p. 87.

Footnote 63:

  Great Ormshead in Denbighshire; _orm_ being the Danish, and, indeed,
  the old English, for a worm. Another, entering the Bristol Channel, is
  called “The Worm’s Head.”

Footnote 64:

  Mr. Pigott, p. 82.

Footnote 65:

  See before, p. 47.

Footnote 66:

  See Vol. I. p. 98.

Footnote 67:

  Page 91.

Footnote 68:

  See Vol. I. p. 95.

Footnote 69:

  Idem, p. 98.

Footnote 70:

  Heimdal, the wonder of the gods, whose station was at the summit of

Footnote 71:

  Alluding evidently to the seven colours of the rainbow, which was no
  other than Bifrost.

Footnote 72:

  Ohlenschlager, Pigott’s translation.

Footnote 73:

  Why does Mr. Pigott, in his excellent manual of Scandinavian
  mythology, follow Ohlenschlager so much, instead of the prose Edda?
  This latter work is but a modernised amplification, a paraphrastic
  explanation, of the poetic Edda. To follow a still more paraphrastic
  moderniser, the Danish poet, is to destroy the very spirit of the

Footnote 74:

  The meaning of this word is doubtful: it is another name for Thor.

Footnote 75:

  Vol. 1. p. 182.

Footnote 76:

  We must again express our regret that Mr. Pigott, in his otherwise
  excellent work, should have paid so little attention to the elder
  Edda, and so much to Ohlenschlager.

Footnote 77:

  The Dovre-fieldt is one of the loftiest parts of the great
  Scandinavian chain of mountains, and Sneehattan its highest peak.

Footnote 78:

  Wadmel is a kind of coarse cloth made in Iceland, and worn universally
  by the peasants in Norway and Denmark.

Footnote 79:

  The name of the great Ash.

Footnote 80:

  Pigott’s Manual of Scandinavian Mythology.

Footnote 81:

  See before, p. 105.

Footnote 82:

  This expression, we suppose, is for the sake of the metre.

Footnote 83:

  The keys hung from the girdle of a housewife. They were wanted, we
  suppose, in Giant-land, as well as on earth. However, they were a
  symbol of marriage; and none could be effected without them.

Footnote 84:

  Frost giants.

Footnote 85:

  The Scandinavians reckoned by _nights_ instead of days, and by
  _winters_ instead of years.

Footnote 86:

  This poem has been thus versified by the Hon. and Rev. W. Herbert, in
  his “Select Icelandic Poetry”:—

            Wroth waxed Thor, when his sleep was flown, And he found his
            trusty hammer gone; He smote his brow, his beard he shook,
            The son of earth ’gan round him look; And this, the first
            word that he spoke; “Now listen what I tell thee, Loke;
            Which neither on earth below is known, Nor in Heaven
            above—my hammer’s gone.” Their way to Freyia’s bower they
            took, And this, the first word that he spoke; “Thou, Freyia,
            must lend a winged robe, To seek my hammer round the globe.”

  FREYIA (_sung_).—“That shouldst thou have, though ’twere of gold, And
            that, though ’twere of silver, hold.”[87] Away flew Loke;
            the wing’d robe sounds, Ere he has left the Asgard grounds,
            And ere he has reach’d the Jotunheim bounds. High on a mound
            in haughty state Thrym the king of the Thursi sate; For his
            dogs he was twisting collars of gold, And trimming the manes
            of his coursers bold.

  THRYM (_sung_).—“How fare the Asi? the Alfi how? Why com’st thou alone
            to Jotunheim now?”

  LOKE (_sung_).—“Ill fare the Asi; the Alfi mourn; Thor’s hammer from
            him thou hast torn.”

  THRYM (_sung_).—“I have the Thunderer’s hammer bound, Fathoms eight
            beneath the ground; With it shall no one homeward tread,
            Till he bring me Freyia to share my bed.” Away flew Loke;
            the wing’d robe sounds, Ere he has left the Jotunheim
            bounds, And ere he has reach’d the Asgard grounds. At
            Midgard Thor met crafty Loke, And this the first word that
            he spoke; “Have you your errand and labour done? Tell from
            aloft the course you run. For setting oft the story fails,
            And lying oft the lie prevails.”

  LOKE (_sung_).—“My labour is past, mine errand I bring; Thrym has
            thine hammer, the giant king; With it shall no one homeward
            tread, Till he bear him Freyia to share his bed.” Their way
            to lovely Freyia they took, And this the first word that he
            spoke; “Now Freyia, busk as a blooming bride, Together, we
            must to Jotunheim ride.” Wroth waxed Freyia with ireful
            look; All Asgard’s hall with wonder shook; Her great bright
            necklace started wide. “Well may ye call me a wanton bride,
            If I with ye to Jotunheim ride.” The Asi did all to council
            crowd, The Asiniæ all talk’d fast and loud: This they
            debated, and this they sought, How the hammer of Thor should
            home be brought. Up then and spoke Heimdallar free, Like the
            Vani, wise was he; “Now busk[88] we Thor, as a bride so
            fair; Let him that great bright necklace wear; Round him let
            ring the spousal keys; And a maiden kirtle[89] hang to his
            knees, And on his bosom jewels rare; And high and quaintly
            braid his hair.” Wroth waxed Thor with godlike pride; “Well
            may the Asi me deride, If I let me dight[90], as a blooming
            bride.” Then up spoke Loke, Laufeyia’s son; “Now hush thee,
            Thor; this must be done: The giants will strait in Asgard
            reign, If thou thine hammer dost not regain.” Then busk’d
            they Thor, as a bride so fair, And the great bright necklace
            gave him to wear; Round him let ring the spousal keys, And a
            maiden kirtle hang to his knees, And on his bosom jewels
            rare; And high and quaintly braided his hair. Up then arose
            the crafty Loke, Laufeyia’s son, and thus he spoke; “A
            servant I thy steps will tend, Together we must to Jotunheim
            wend.” Now home the goats together hie; Yoked to the axle
            they swiftly fly. The mountains shook, the earth burn’d red,
            As Odin’s sons to Jotunheim sped. Then Thrym the king of the
            Thursi said; “Giants, stand up; let the seats be spread:
            Bring Freyia Niorder’s daughter down To share my bed from
            Noatun. With horns all gilt each coal-black beast Is led to
            deck the giant’s feast; Large wealth and jewels have I
            stored; I lack but Freyia to grace my board.” Betimes at
            evening they approach’d, And the mantling ale the giants
            broach’d. The spouse of Sifia ate alone Eight salmons, and
            an ox full-grown. And all the cates, on which women feed;
            And drank three firkins of sparkling mead. Then Thrym the
            king of the Thursi said; “Where have ye beheld such a hungry
            maid? Ne’er saw I a bride so keenly feed, Nor drink so deep
            of the sparkling mead.” Then forward leant the crafty Loke,
            And thus the giant he bespoke; “Nought has she eat for eight
            long nights, So did she long for the nuptial rites.” He
            stoop’d beneath her veil to kiss, But he started the length
            of the hall, I wiss. “Why are the looks of Freyia so dire?
            It seems as her eyeballs glistened with fire.” Then forward
            leant the crafty Loke, And thus the giant he bespoke;
            “Nought has she slept for eight long nights, So did she long
            for the nuptial rites.” Then in the giant’s sister came, Who
            dared a bridal gift to claim; “Those rings of gold from thee
            I crave, If thou wilt all my fondness have, All my love and
            fondness have.” Then Thrym the king of the Thursi said;
            “Bear in the hammer to plight the maid; Upon her lap the
            bruizer lay, And firmly plight our hands and fay.”[91] The
            Thunderer’s soul smiled in his breast, When the hammer hard
            on his lap was placed; Thrym first the king of the Thursi he
            slew, And slaughter’d all the giant crew. He slew that
            giant’s sister old, Who pray’d for bridal gifts so bold.
            Instead of money and rings, I wot, The hammer’s bruises were
            her lot. Thus Odin’s son his hammer got.

Footnote 87:

  Transcriber’s note: There was no footnote text for this marker.

Footnote 88:

  _Busk_, dress.

Footnote 89:

  _Kirtle_, a woman’s garment.

Footnote 90:

  _Dight_, dressed, adorned.

Footnote 91:

  _Fay_, faith.

Footnote 92:

  See before, p. 56.

Footnote 93:

  See Vol. I. p. 3.

Footnote 94:

  Pigott’s translation.

Footnote 95:

  See before, p. 57.

Footnote 96:

  Ibid. p. 61.

Footnote 97:

  Ibid. p. 107.

Footnote 98:

  See before, p. 86.

Footnote 99:

  How then could Jotunheim be so dark? The reason is afterwards given.
  Her supernatural beauty illumined the whole country.

Footnote 100:

  See before, p. 99.

Footnote 101:

  Mr. Herbert has thus versified the expedition of Skirnir:—

          “Skirnir, arise! and swiftly run,
          Where lonely sits our pensive son!
          Bid him to parley, and enquire,
          ’Gainst whom he teems with sullen ire.”

  SKIRNIR (_sung_).—“Ill words, I fear, my lot will prove,
          If I thy son attempt to move;
          If I bid parley, and enquire,
          Why teems his soul with savage ire.”

  SKIRNIR (_sung_).—“Prince of the gods, and first in fight,
          Speak, honoured Freyr, and tell me right!
          Why spends my lord the tedious day
          In his lone hall to grief a prey?”

  FREYR (_sung_).—“O how shall I, fond youth, disclose
          To thee my bosom’s heavy woes?
          The ruddy god shines every day,
          But dull to me his cheerful ray.”

  SKIRNIR (_sung_).—“Thy sorrows deem not I so great,
          That thou the tale shouldst not relate.
          Together sported we in youth,
          And well may trust each other’s truth.”

  FREYR (_sung_).—“In Gymer’s court I saw her move,
          The maid, who fires my breast with love.
          Her snow-white arms and bosom fair
          Shone lovely, kindling sea and air.
          Dear is she to my wishes more,
          Than ere was maid to youth before:
          But gods and elfs[102], I wot it well,
          Forbid that we together dwell.”

  SKIRNIR (_sung_).—“Give me that horse of wonderous breed
          To cross the nightly flame[103] with speed;
          And that self-brandish’d sword to smite
          The giant race with strange affright.”

  FREYR (_sung_).—“To thee I give this wond’rous steed,
          To pass the watchful fire with speed;
          And this, which borne by valiant wight,
          Self-brandished will his foemen smite.”

  SKIRNIR (_addressed to his horse_).—“Dark night is spread; ’tis time,
          I trow,
          To climb the mountains hoar with snow.
          Both shall return, or both remain
          In durance by the giant ta’en.”

  Skirnir rode into Jotunheim to the court of Gymer; furious dogs were
  tied there before the door of the wooden enclosure, which surrounded
  Gerda’s bower. He rode towards a shepherd, who was sitting on a mound,
  and addressed him:

          “Shepherd, who sittest on the mound,
          And turn’st thy watchful eyes around,
          How may I lull these bloodhounds, say!
          How speak unharm’d with Gymer’s may!”[104]

  THE SHEPHERD (_sung_).—“Whence, and what art thou? doomed to die,
          Or dead revisitest the sky?
          For ride by night, or ride by day,
          Thou ne’er shalt come to Gymer’s may.”

  SKIRNIR (_sung_).—“I grieve not, I; a better part
          Fits him, who boasts a ready heart.
          At hour of birth our lives were shaped;
          The doom of fate can ne’er be ’scaped.”

  GERDA (_sung_).—“What sounds unknown mine ears invade,
          Frighting this mansion’s peaceful shade?
          The earth’s foundation rocks withal,
          And trembling shakes all Gymer’s hall.”

  THE ATTENDANT (_sung_).—“Dismounted stands a warrior sheen;
          His courser crops the herbage green.”

  GERDA (_sung_).—“Haste, bid him to my bower with speed,
          To quaff unmix’d the pleasant mead:
          And good betide us![105] for I fear
          My brother’s murderer is near.—
          What art thou? Elf, or Asian son?
          Or from the wiser Vanians sung?
          Alone to visit our abode
          O’er bickering flames why hast thou rode?”

  SKIRNIR (_sung_).—“Nor Elf am I, nor Asian son;
          Nor from the wiser Vanians sprung:
          Yet o’er the bickering flames I rode
          Alone to visit your abode.
          Eleven apples here I hold,
          Gerda, for thee, of purest gold;
          Let this fair gift thy bosom move
          To grant young Freyr thy precious love.”

  GERDA (_sung_).—“Eleven apples take not I
          From man, as price of chastity!
          While life remains, no tongue shall tell,
          That Freyr and I together dwell.”

  SKIRNIR (_sung_).—“Gerda, for thee this wonderous ring
          Burnt on young Balder’s pile I bring;
          On each ninth night shall other eight
          Drop from it, all of equal weight.”

  GERDA (_sung_).—“I take not, I, that wonderous ring,
          Though it from Balder’s pile you bring.
          Gold lack not I in Gymer’s bower;
          Enough for me my father’s dower.”

  SKIRNIR (_sung_).—“Behold this bright and slender brand
          Unsheath’d and glittering in my hand;
          Deny not, maiden! lest thine head
          Be sever’d by the trenchant blade.”

  GERDA (_sung_).—“Gerda will ne’er by force be led
          To grace a conqueror’s hateful bed:
          But this, I trow, with main and might
          Gymer shall meet thy boast in fight.”

  SKIRNIR (_sung_).—“Behold this bright and slender brand
          Unsheath’d, and glittering in my hand!
          Slain by its edge thy sire shall lie;
          That giant old is doom’d to die.
          E’en as I list, the magic wand
          Shall tame thee! Lo, with charmed hand
          I touch thee, Maid! There shalt thou go,
          Where never man shall learn thy woe.
          On some high pointed rock forlorn
          Like eagle[106] shalt thou sit at morn;
          Turn from the world’s all-cheering light,
          And seek the deep abyss of night:
          Food shall to thee more loathly show,
          Than slimy serpent[107] creeping slow.
          When forth thou com’st, a hideous sight,
          Each wondering eye shall stare with fright.
          By all observ’d, yet sad and lone;
          ’Mongst shivering[108] Thursians wider known,
          Than him, who sits unmoved on high,
          The Guard of heaven with sleepless eye.
          ’Mid charms, and chains, and restless woe,
          Thy tears with double grief shall flow.
          Now seat thee, Maid, while I declare
          Thy tide of sorrow and despair.
          Thy bower shall be some Giant’s cell,
          Where phantoms pale shall with thee dwell.
          Each day to the cold Thursian’s hall
          Comfortless, wretched, shalt thou crawl;
          Instead of joy and pleasure gay,
          Sorrow and tears and sad dismay;
          With some three-headed Thursian wed,
          Or pine upon a lonely bed.
          From morn till morn love’s secret fire
          Shall gnaw thine heart With vain desire;
          Like barren root of thistle pent,
          In some high ruin’d battlement.
          O’er shady hill, through greenwood round,
          I sought this wand; the wand I found.
          Odin is wroth, and mighty Thor;
          E’en Freyr shall now thy name abhor.
          But ere o’er thine ill-fated head
          The last dread curse of heaven be spread,
          Giants and Thursians far and near,
          Suttungur’s[109] sons, and Asians, hear,
          How I forbid with fatal ban
          This maid the joys, the fruit of man!
          Cold Grimmer is that giant hight
          Who thee shall hold in realms of night;
          Where slaves in cups of twisted roots
          Shall bring foul beverage from the goats:
          Nor sweeter draught, nor blither fare,
          Shalt thou, sad virgin, ever share.
          ’Tis done! I wind the mystic charm;
          Thus, thus, I trace the giant form;
          And three fell characters below,
          Fury, and Lust, and restless Woe.
          E’en as I wound, I straight unwind
          This fatal spell, if thou art kind.”

  GERDA (_sung_).—“Now hail, now hail, thou warrior bold!
          Take, take this cup of crystal cold,
          And quaff the pure metheglin old!
          Yet deem’d I ne’er, that love could bind
          To Vanian youth my hostile mind.”

  SKIRNIR (_sung_).—“I turn not home to bower or hall,
          Till I have learnt mine errand all;
          Where thou wilt yield the night of joy
          To brave Niorder’s gallant boy.”

  GERDA (_sung_).—“Barri is hight the seat of love;
          Nine nights elapsed, in that known grove,
          Shall brave Niorder’s gallant boy
          From Gerda take the kiss of joy.”

  Then rode Skirnir home. Freyr stood forth and hailed him, and asked
  what tidings.

          “Speak; Skirnir, speak, and tell with speed!
          Take not the harness from thy steed,
          Nor stir thy foot, till thou hast said,
          How fares my love with Gymer’s maid!”

  SKIRNIR (_sung_).—“Barri is hight the seat of love;
          Nine nights elapsed, in that known grove,
          To brave Niorder’s gallant boy
          Will Gerda yield the kiss of joy.”

  FREYR (_sung_).—“Long is one night, and longer twain;
          But how for three endure my pain!
          A month of rapture sooner flies,
          Than half one night of wishful sighs.”

Footnote 102:

  Asi and Alfi.

Footnote 103:

  The bower of Gerda was surrounded with fire.

Footnote 104:

  _May_, maid.

Footnote 105:

  The duties of hospitality were held so sacred amongst the northern
  nations, that Gerda would not refuse admittance to Skirnir, though she
  imagined him to be her greatest enemy.

Footnote 106:

  Eagles are said to sit without moving for a long time upon some high
  eminence in the morning.

Footnote 107:

  Perhaps alluding to the serpent of Midgard in the Icelandic Mythology.

Footnote 108:

  _Hrim-thursar._ _Hrim_ (_Anglicè rime_) was spoken with a guttural
  aspiration; and probably _Crim-Tartary_, the former seat of the Asi,
  was so called from its cold.

Footnote 109:

  Suttungur, the son of Gilling, was a giant, and possessed the liquor
  of poetry, which he had gained from the dwarfs. It is related in the
  Edda, that the Asi and Vani, having been long at war, made peace, and
  spit into a vase. From this the gods formed Kuaser, a person of
  exceeding learning; and the dwarfs mixed his blood with honey, and so
  made the liquor of poetry. The Vani were a Grecian colony, and this
  fable seems to imply that both the learning and the poetry of the
  North was partly of Greek origin. Odin, under the feigned name of
  Bolverk, entered into the service of Bauge, brother of Suttungur, and
  drank up the liquor. A small quantity of it, which he spilt, was
  scattered amongst men. It is observable, that the name of _Suttungur_,
  from whom Odin gained this liquor, may denote that he derived his
  poetry from the _Southern tongues_.

Footnote 110:

              O, it came o’er mine ear like the sweet south,
              That breathes upon a bank of violets.

              _Twelfth Night_, Act i., Sc. 2.

Footnote 111:

  Freya’s daughters were Hnos and Gersime. Siofna was only one of her

Footnote 112:

  Ohlenschlager, Pigott’s translation.

Footnote 113:

  Ohlenschlager, Pigott’s translation.

Footnote 114:

  See before, p. 116.

Footnote 115:

  Alluding not to any degree of consanguinity, but to a sworn covenant
  of brotherhood.

Footnote 116:

  See Vol. I. p. 98.

Footnote 117:

  Vol I. p. 42.

Footnote 118:

  See Vol. I. p. 51.

Footnote 119:

  See before, p. 101.

Footnote 120:

  Transcriber’s Note: The text for this footnote marker is missing.

Footnote 121:

  The first was the death of Balder.

Footnote 122:

  In another place a ravenous wolf tormented the souls of the damned.

Footnote 123:

  The great serpent.

Footnote 124:


Footnote 125:

  Pigott’s translation.

Footnote 126:

  The authorities for this section are:—Vita S. Anscharié; Vita S.
  Remberti (both in Bollandus, Acta SS., and in Langebek, Scriptores
  Rerum Danicarum); Ornjolm, Historia Ecclesiastica Sueciæ.

Footnote 127:

  Who was he? Loccenius and most Swedish writers (who are followed by
  our Universal History), tell us that he was Olaf Trætelia. Yet that
  prince had been dead two centuries. Neither could it be Olaf
  Skotkonung, who did not reign until two centuries afterwards—always
  supposing that any dependence is to be placed on the chronology of the
  Scandinavians. Yet an Olaf did reign at this period; and this only
  illustrates what we observed in the first volume as to the confusion
  so evident in all the regal lists.

Footnote 128:

  Europe during the Middle Ages (Cab. Cyc.), vol. ii.

Footnote 129:

  See Vol. I. p. 108.

Footnote 130:

  The chief authorities for this chapter are:—Saxonis Grammatici
  Historia Dancia, lib. x. ad fin.; Suenonis Aggonis, cap. 4., &c.;
  Knytlinga Saga; many of the treatises in Langebek’s Scriptores Rerum
  Danicarum; Mallet, Histoire de Dannemarc, tom. iii. and iv.; Meursius,
  Historia Danica; Torfœus, Series Dynastarum et Regum Daniæ; Suhm,
  Historie af Dannemarc; Adamus Bremensis, Historia Ecclesiastica; with
  the historians of Germany.

Footnote 131:

  See Vol. I. p. 237.

Footnote 132:

  Vol. I. p. 267.

Footnote 133:

  Vol. I. p. 270.

Footnote 134:

  Europe during the Middle Ages (Cab. Cyc.), vol. iii.

Footnote 135:

  Canute, king of all Denmark, England, and Norway, and of part of
  Sweden, to Egelnoth the metropolitan, to archbishop Alfric, to all the
  bishops and chiefs, and to all the nation of the English, both nobles
  and commoners, greeting. I write to inform you that I have lately been
  at Rome, _to pray for the remission of my sins_, and for the safety of
  my kingdoms, and of the nations that are subject to my sceptre. It is
  long since I bound myself by vow to make this pilgrimage; but I had
  been hitherto prevented by affairs of state and other impediments.
  Now, however, I return humble thanks to the Almighty God, that he has
  allowed me to visit the tombs of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul,
  and every holy place within and without the city of Rome, and to
  honour and venerate them in person. And this I have done, because I
  had learned from my teachers that the apostle St. Peter received from
  the Lord the great power of binding and loosing, with the keys of the
  kingdom of heaven. _On this account, I thought it highly useful to
  solicit his patronage with God._ Be it moreover known to you, that
  there was, at the festival of Easter, a great assemblage of noble
  personages, with the lord the pope John, and the emperor Conrad,
  namely, all the chiefs of the nations from Mount Gargano to the
  nearest sea, who all received me honourably, and made me valuable
  presents; but particularly the emperor, who gave me many gold and
  silver vases, with rich mantles and garments. I therefore took the
  opportunity to treat with the pope, the emperor, and the princes, on
  the grievances of my people, both English and Danes; that they might
  enjoy more equal law, and more secure safeguard in their way to Rome,
  nor be detained at so many barriers, nor harassed by unjust exactions.
  My demands were granted both by the emperor and by king Rodulf, who
  rules most of the passages; and it was enacted by all the princes,
  that my _men_, whether pilgrims or merchants, should, for the future,
  go to Rome and return in full security, without detention at the
  barriers, or the payment of unlawful tolls. I next complained to the
  pope, and expressed my displeasure, that such immense sums should be
  extorted from my archbishops, when according to custom they visited
  the apostolic see to obtain the pallium. A decree was made that this
  grievance should cease. Whatever I demanded for the benefit of my
  people, either of the pope, or the emperor, or the princes, through
  whose dominions lies the road to Rome, was granted willingly, and
  confirmed by their oaths, in the presence of four archbishops, twenty
  bishops, and a multitude of dukes and nobles. Wherefore I return
  sincere thanks to God that I have successfully performed whatever I
  had intended, and have fully satisfied all my wishes. Now, therefore,
  be it known to you all, that I have dedicated my life to the service
  of God, to govern my kingdoms with equity, and to observe justice in
  all things. _If by the impetuosity or negligence of youth, I have
  violated justice heretofore, it is my intention, by the help of God,
  to make full compensation._ Therefore I beg and command those to whom
  I have confided the rule, as they wish to preserve my friendship or
  save their own souls, to do no injustice either to rich or poor. Let
  all persons, whether noble or ignoble, obtain their rights according
  to law, from which no deviation shall be allowed, either from fear of
  me, or through favour to the powerful, or for the purpose of supplying
  my treasury. I have no need of money raised by injustice. I am now on
  my road to Denmark, for the purpose of concluding peace with those
  nations, who, had it been in their power, would have deprived us both
  of our crown and our life. But God has destroyed their means: and
  will, I trust, of his goodness preserve us, and humble all our
  enemies. When I shall have concluded peace with the neighbouring
  nations, and settled the concerns of my eastern dominions, it is my
  intention to return to England as soon as the fine weather will permit
  me to sail. But I have sent you this letter beforehand, that all the
  people of my kingdom may rejoice at my prosperity. For you all know
  that I never spared, nor will spare myself, or my labour, when my
  object is the welfare of my subjects. Lastly, I entreat all my bishops
  and all my sheriffs, by the fidelity which they owe to me and to God,
  that the church-dues, according to the ancient laws, may be paid
  before my return; namely, the plough alms, the tithes of cattle of the
  present year, the Peter-pence, the tithes of fruit in the middle of
  August, and the kirk-shot at the feast of St. Martin, to the parish
  church. Should this be omitted, at my return I will punish the
  offender, by exacting the whole fine imposed by law. Fare ye well.

Footnote 136:

  See Europe during the Middle Ages, vol. iii. chap. i.; and, History of
  the Germanic Empire, vol. i.

Footnote 137:

  See Vol. I. p. 273.

Footnote 138:

  Vol. I. p. 267.

Footnote 139:

  Mr. Herbert says it was _successful_, and that the virgin was plighted
  to him. Certainly _his_ translation agrees better with the tenor of
  that piece than that of Dr. Bowring in Wheaton.

Footnote 140:

  Harald is said to have been a poet, and to have sung his own exploits.
  The piece (Harald’s song) has been thus translated by Bowring:—

               “Our ships[141] along Sicilia plied,
                In those our days of strength and pride,
                And Venger’s Stag[142] the warriors carried
                Still on and on—nor ever tarried.
                No craven coward, well I wis,
                E’er track’d a dangerous path like this.
                Yet Gardar’s Gerda—gold-ring’d maid![143]
                Flings scorn upon the hero’s head.

                           *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

               “We baled the ship—we, six and ten,
                As broke the mighty seas again—
                As rushed the billows at our feet,
                While toiling on the rowers’ seat
                No craven coward, well I wis,
                E’er track’d a dangerous way like this.
                Yet Gardar’s Gerda—gold-ring’d maid!
                Flings scorn upon the hero’s head.

               “Eight[144] virtues have I—I can pour
                Out Odin’s drink—and forge the ore—
                Upon the active horse can ride:
                And I can breast the ocean-tide,
                And I can glide on skates of snow,
                And I can shoot, and I can row.
                Yet Gardar’s Gerda—gold-ring’d maid!
                Flings scorn upon the hero’s head.

               “Can widow, or can maid gainsay,
                That we have clash’d our swords in fray,
                That we have sought the Southern land,
                And forced the city with our band?
                At break of day our foes were slain—
                And still the vestiges remain.
                Yet Gardar’s Gerda—gold-ring’d maid!
                Flings scorn upon the hero’s head.

               “And I was born in mountains where
                The highland heroes wield the spear.
                My war-ships, fear’d by men of flocks,
                I guide across the ocean-rocks,
                And long o’er ocean’s waves have bounded,
                And many an ocean-isle surrounded.
                Yet Gardar’s Gerda—gold-ring’d maid!
                Flings scorn upon the hero’s head.”

  It had before been translated by several writers, especially by Mr.
  Herbert, in a very different manner: that gentleman, however, had not
  seen the original Knytlinga Saga.

Footnote 141:

  In the original—the planks—the keel.

Footnote 142:

  Venger—a Vikingr of old times—the Stag, his battle-ship.

Footnote 143:

  The alliteration of the original line, and its peculiar poetic
  beauty, which consists in an allusion to one of the fables of the
  Northern mythology, is happily preserved in this translation.
  Gardar-rike—Russia, the Russian land. Gerda, a mythic poetic name
  for Harald’s mistress Elizabeth. Gerda was the beloved of Freyr, the
  god of the sun, whose love was so long resisted by Gerda. Freyr had
  also offered to Gerda a golden ring—hence the allusion.—_F.
  Magnussen_, Lex. Myt. Bor. 116. 439.

Footnote 144:

  Yet only seven are enumerated. Professor F. Magnussen supposes the
  original second line may have been

                         Oð fet ek lið, at smiða.

  Which may be rendered—I make verses—I arrange the battle—I forge (or
  smith) the ore.

                 (These notes are from Wheaton, p. 343.)

Footnote 145:

  We merely _allude_ to English occurrences, the detail of which must be
  sought in our own history.

Footnote 146:

  Harald, Canute, Olaf, Eric, Nicholas or Niels.

Footnote 147:

  Mallet, tom. iii.

Footnote 148:

  But was she not his step-daughter? Had he married the _mother_
  Gunhilda some years before, and lost her by death? We are not very
  clear as to the degree of affinity.

Footnote 149:

  See Vol. I. p. 268.

Footnote 150:

  For the way in which history is sometimes perverted to suit party
  purposes, we gave a good illustration in the Appendix to Vol. I. That
  of St. Canute (see the Appendix to the present volume) is scarcely
  better. It contains nearly as many inaccuracies as there are

Footnote 151:

  The Vandals were certainly of Slavonic stock. The name, however,
  though constantly used by the Danish historians, is not the best that
  might be used.

Footnote 152:

  See before, p. 185.

Footnote 153:

  See the chapter on that kingdom.

Footnote 154:

  See before, p. 201.

Footnote 155:

  For the exploits of this prince, see History of Russia, Vol. I. (_Cab.
  Cyc._), one of the most judicious historical compendiums we have ever

Footnote 156:

  So called from his frequent use of the word _mœn_—_certainly_.

Footnote 157:

  Known as the _Congesta Menvedi_.

Footnote 158:

  Authorities for the present chapter:—Snorronis Sturlonidis
  Heims-Kringla (in the Sagas of each reign). Torfœus, Historia Rerum
  Norvegicarum. Saxonis Grammatici Historia Danica. The Chronicles in
  Langebek, Scriptores Rerum Danicarum. Mallet, Histoire de Daunemarc.

Footnote 159:

  According to the chronology of Thorlak, and even Snorro himself,
  Magnus was invited to Norway _before_ the death of Canute, though in
  the same year (1035). This is too improbable to be received. Certainly
  the father of Norwegian history must have confounded dates.

Footnote 160:

  See Vol. I. p. 273.

Footnote 161:

  See Vol. I. p. 273.

Footnote 162:

  See Vol. I. p. 254.

Footnote 163:

  For these events, see the commencement of the last chapter.

Footnote 164:

  “Suecia enim,” says Snorro, “tunc temporis passim vel ethnica vel male
  Christiana: reges quinetiam quosdam habuit, qui, abjectâ Christi fide,
  sacrificia instaurabant.”

Footnote 165:

  See the reign of Magnus III.

Footnote 166:

  See his reign.

Footnote 167:

  See his reign.

Footnote 168:

  See before, reign of Hako.

Footnote 169:

  Authorities for the present chapter:—Torfœus, Historia Norvegica.
  Loccenius, Historia Suevica. Olaus Roskildensis, Chronicon. Johannes
  Magnus, Historia Gothorum. Pontanus, Historia.

Footnote 170:

  Vol I. p. 234.

Footnote 171:

  Vol I. p. 237.

Footnote 172:

  Ibid. p. 249–252.

Footnote 173:

  Ibid. p. 254.

Footnote 174:

  Ibid. p. 266–272.

Footnote 175:

  See the corresponding period in the history of Denmark.

Footnote 176:

  See the reigns of Eric VIII. and Christopher II. in the history of

Footnote 177:

  See the reign of Valdemar III. king of Denmark.

Footnote 178:

  For these events, we refer to the corresponding period in Danish

Footnote 179:

  See the corresponding period in Danish history.

Footnote 180:

  For the numerous inaccuracies (to give them the mildest term) in this
  article, the reader has only to consult the text.


                      Printed by A. SPOTTISWOODE,



                          CABINET CYCLOPÆDIA.

                            CONDUCTED BY THE

         M.R.I.A. F.R.A.S. F.L.S. F.Z.S. Hon. F.C.P.S. &c. &c.

                              ASSISTED BY





                      DENMARK, SWEDEN, AND NORWAY.

                            BY THE AUTHOR OF

                                VOL. II.


                              PRINTED FOR
                            AND JOHN TAYLOR,
                          UPPER GOWER STREET.



                      Printed by A. SPOTTISWOODE,


Transcriber’s note:

    ○ On page 128 there is a reference to footnote [86], which contains
      the line “And that, though ’twere silver, hold.” which ends with
      footnote marker [87], but there was no footnote text.

    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was silently corrected.

    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.

    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.

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