The Northern Way

The Culture of the Teutons

370

Domar was placed on the pyre at Fyrir, when deathly illness had bitten that atheling of Fjolnir's race.

Came the time when Hel should choose a kingly hero, and Dyggvi, ruler of the Yngvifolk, fell before her grip.

Thirsting for fame, Dag followed the bidding of death, when he set out for Vorvi to avenge his sparrow.

Surely the deed of Skjalf did not please the warrior host when she, the queen, hoisted Agni, their rightful king, up in his own necklace and let him ride the cool horse of the gallows.

Comm.: Agni warred on Finland and led a princess captive; on the bridal night, when the king was in his cups, she tied a rope to his costly necklace and flung it over a bough overhead.

Alrek fell what time he and Eric, the brothers, bore arms one against the other; those two kinsmen of Dag struck each other with bits. Frey's children have never before been known to use horse gear in battle.

Yngvi fell; he was left lying when Alf, the guardian of the altar, envious reddened his sword; it was Bera who made two brothers each the other's bane.

Comm.: Bera, Alf's queen, preferred his brother Yngvi.

Jorund was reft of his life long ago in the Limfiord; the rope's horse carried high the king who had formerly taken Gudlaug's life.

Comm.: Jorund was killed by the Norwegian king Gylaug in revenge of his lather Gudlaug.

Aun longed for life, till he drank horn for milk as a child; with his sons' lives he bought life for himself.

Comm.: Aun sacrificed one of his sons every tenth year to prolong his own life.

Egil, Tyr's atheling, great of fame, fled the land, and the end of that atheling of the Scilfings' race was the ox that drove its head-sword into his heart.

Comm.: Egil, who had several times been driven from his land by a rebel, was at last killed when out hunting, by a savage bull.

Ottar fell beneath the claws of the eagles at Vendil before Frodi's Danes; the Swedes could tell of the island-kingdom's earls, who slew him when he offered battle.

Comm.: Ottar had dealings with Frodi, the king of Denmark.

371

Adils, Frey's atheling, fell from his horse, and there died, Ali's foe, when his brains were mingled with the dust at Upsala.

Adils is known by Snorri as the antagonist of King Ali of Norway and King Hrolf 0f Sealand.

The hall flamed to ruin about Eystein at Lofund, men of Jutiand burned him in the house.

The word went out that Ynguar had fallen before the folk-host of Esthonia; the Eastern Sea delights the Swedish king with its songs.

Onund, enemy of the Ests, fell before the hate of the leman's son; hard stones covered the slayer of Hogni.

The commentary does not know why Onund had killed Hogni, or who was the leman's son who avenged him.

Fire, the roaring house-thief, trod through Ingjald with hot feet at Ræning. His death was famous among the Swedes because the atheling of the gods living kindled his own pyre.

Comm.: Ingjald had dealings with the kings of Scania, and when he was taken unawares by Ivar the Widegrasping he buried himself and all his warriors under the blazing beams of his own hall.

The glowing fire loosened the war dress of the Swedish king Olaf, this scion of the Lofdungs disappeared from Upsala long ago.

Halfdan was sadly missed by the peace makers when he died on Thoten, and Skæreid in Skiringssal droops over the remains of the king.

Eystein went to Hel struck by the boom onboard the ship, the Gautland king rests under stones where Vadla's chilly stream meets the sea.

Halfdan who had his seat at Holtar, was buried by victorious men at Borro.

Godrod who lived long ago, was foully slain by Asa's thrall on the shore of Stiflusund.

Comm.: Godrod had killed Asa's father and married her against her will.

In ancient days Olaf ruled over Upsi and Vestmar and the kingdom of Grenland, a godlike prince; stricken by disease the brave leader of hosts lies in his barrow at Geirstad.

372

The best name of mark borne by king under the blue of heaven is Rognvald's who is called Heidumhærri.

The centre of the picture is occupied by Rognvald with the proud title of Heidumhærri whose meaning is unfortunately lost to us; he ruled at Geirstad in the south of Norway about 900. His father, Olaf Geirstadaalf, is well known from other fragments of the mythical lore of the clan; no doubt he is an historical king, but his humanity is half merged into divinity, as shown by his surname, Geirstadaalf, which means the god or patron of Geirstad. In other words, Olaf is the hero and father of the house; one line — the direct one upwards — of Rognvald comes to an end with him.

Above him there is a clearly marked circle in the line from Godrod to Olaf and Halfdan. This list of names that may or may not represent a direct succession of fathers and sons forms an important branch of Rognvald's hamingja, namely the branch by which the petty king of Geirstad was connected with the family which conquered Norway, through the person of Harald Fairhair. The unity of this circle is attested by the fact that the names Olaf, Halfdan and Godrod are perpetuated in Harald Fairhair's dynasty. The field of activity of this clan lies in the boundary lands between Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and taken together with the fragments of family legends which the author of the Ynglingasaga has happily unearthed, these verses give a picture of Westfold kings, who fought and befriended small princelings from the south, of Norway but also had dealings with the kings of adjacent East, to wit Gautland, which formed a region of its own in those days, half independent, between Norway and the ancient kingdom of Upsala. This connection is sealed by Ingjald, who by his name and through his queen Gauthild is intimately bound up with Gautland. Ingjald's place in the world is indicated by the tradition that he succumbs before Ivar the Widegrasping (Vidfadmi), a conqueror king of Scania in the south of modern Sweden.

Above this fundamental stock we can discern various groups, though it is not always possible to point out the exact spot

373

where they join. Through Adils and his father Ottar we are introduced to a world viewed from another angle in the Beowulf. According to Snorri and the Northern sources which are dependent mainly on the family legends of Norwegian princes, Adils fought with Hrolf Kraki of Sealand without gaining much honour, and won glory by defeating Ali from the Uplands or, in other versions, from Norway. In the Anglo-Saxon poem — descended from another family legend — a vista is opened into a little world where four princely clans meet in battle and carouse. Foremost in fame are the Scyldings or Spear-Danes of Leire in Sealand, Heorogar and Hrothgar, and in the younger generation Hrothulf, and rivalling these mighty -        spear-men the Heathobards come into prominence: Froda and his son Ingeld, who was unhappily married to a Scylding princess, the daughter of Hrothgar. On one side stand the Geats or Gautland-men — Hygelac foremost — and on the other side the “Swedes”, Ohthere and Eadgils and their kinsman Onela (Ali) who usurps the kingdom and is slain by his nephew Eadgils. It is a story of feuds and friendships between district kings in South Scandinavia before the time when the North had crystallised into three ethnographical and political groups, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. To the same circle as Adils belongs undoubtedly Aun the Old; though perhaps not identical with the Eanmund known to the Beowulf as Eadgils' brother, he bears witness in his name to kinship with the Swedes, for the family mark Ead is contained in Aun, though obscured by phonetical changes.

An entirely different circle is represented by Yngvar and Onund; they turn their faces to the East, to the Swedish viking lands of Esthonia, where Yngvar fell before the folk of the continent, and Onund, the foe of the Ests, avenged him.

Within the upper portion of the family register we can discern at least two clan circles.

One has for its centre the unlucky brothers Eric and Alrek, who slew each other while out hunting, and the sons Alf and Yngvi who quarrelled over a woman. They are connected by a family fate, and their history is foreshadowed in Vanlandi,

374

Visbur and Agni; this family is marked by all its men being vanquished by woman's counsel. We have here a race of kings whose aldr or hamingja had a peculiar taint, giving them into the hands of their women. Now these kings belong to another part of the world, as is proved by the fact that their expeditions are confined to Finland — there they harried, there they procured their wives, thence came the troll-born nightmare who trampled Vanlandi to death. In these men we are confronted with the renowned family of Ynglings whose seat was at Upsala.

Finally, in this group is interpolated another series: Domaldi, Domar, Dyggvi, Dag. Where they belong it is hard to say; Domar is called an Yngling, and is burned at Fyrir in Uppland; Dyggvi is also referred to the Yngvi clan, whereas Domaldi is hinted at as the enemy of the Jutes. But this much is certain, that with Dag we are suddenly back in Norway once more, or at least in regions comparatively near, for not only does he recur again and again in the family registers of the Norwegian kings, but his name crops up among the children of Harald Fairhair. Without doubt he is the mythical ancestor of a chiefly clan, the Daglings, in the southern parts of Norway or Sweden, and it is possibly through this family that Rognvald is connected with the Ynglings. There are also some hints in other pedigrees that Dyggvi and his mother Drot were recognised by the descendants of Harald Fairhair as belonging to their ancestors, and in their genealogical tables they are brought in as descending from Dag. This does not at all prove that Dyggvi is really descended from Dag, but merely that the Daglings possessed the hamingja of Dyggvi and transmitted it through some alliance to the kingly race of Norway.

In the Ynglingatal we catch a glimpse of a family tradition working on the same lines with the Hyndluljód. All this shows abundantly that to understand the clan feeling and clan system of ancient times we must revise our ideas of kinship altogether, and replace our genealogical tree by other images. Kinship was viewed from the standpoint of an individual family, the centre of a number of non-concentric rings, and thus the reckoning of relationship in one clan did not hold good for other

375

families as to persons who were common kinsmen to both. The circles were foreshortened in different ways, as we may express the fact in our mathematical language. We cannot get history in our sense by comparing related genealogies and synchronising their data into our chronological system. Rognvald Heidumhærri and Harald Fairhair had a paternal grandfather in common, and would according to our reckoning be actual cousins, but the Ynglingatal was not Harald's pedigree, neither could it be made to tally with his clan feeling, as we very well know through the genealogical lists of the royal family. Harald shares Godrod and Halfdan with his cousin Rognvald, but these ancestors do not in Harald's case lead up to the Ynglings, but to Norwegian origin; he touches the hamingja of his cousin through Dag and through Ingj aid and Frodi, all of whom reappear in the ancestry of the king, but these kinships do not extend eastward and connect him with the Swedes. To be sure, when Harald in his past has the sequence: Eric, Alrek, we are fully justified in recognising something of the fateful family will that rings so loudly through the Ynglingatal; this hamingja entered into the luck of Harald, but it was far less extensive. And at all other points the two families run each its own course, and that course is determined by a different tendency in the family luck. The Harald family shows its ambition by incorporating in its hamingja the luck of the Danish viking chieftains and conquerors, as is proved by the presence of Ivar the Widegrasping and the Ragnar athelings in its registers. And through these rising clans of the unruly times in the dawn of Northern history this Norwegian family reaches farther outward to the Scyldings and the Volsungs of the Franks. Among Harald's ancestors were Sigurd the dragon slayer and the Niblungs famous in Northern song. Consequently, in Harald's family the divine places are not occupied by Frey and Yngvi, but by Odin and Scyld, the hero-ancestor of the Scyldings.

It is always necessary to keep firm hold of the end personage in the list, the man from whom the race is viewed; if he be lost, and the table thus lose its family mark, we can never reconstruct its value, and where links drop out they can never

Index  |  Previous page  |  Next page