The Relation of the Hrolfs Saga Kraka and the Bjarkarimur to Beowulf
by Oscar Ludvig Olson
1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The University of Chicago.

The Relation of the Hrlfs Saga Kraka and the Bjarkarmur to Beowulf.

A Contribution to the History of Saga Development in England and the Scandinavian Countries.




A Private Edition

Distributed By The University of Chicago Libraries

A Trade Edition Is Published By The Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study.





It was at the suggestion of Professor John M. Manly that I took up the study which has resulted in the following dissertation, and from him I have received much encouragement and valuable assistance on numerous occasions. I have profited by suggestions received from Professor Tom Peete Cross and Professor James R. Hulbert; and Professor Chester N. Gould has been unstinting in his kindness in permitting me to draw on his knowledge of the Old Norse language and literature. In addition to the aid received from these gentlemen, professors in the University of Chicago, I have received bibliographical information and helpful suggestions from Professor Frederick Klaeber, of the University of Minnesota; I have been aided in various ways by Professor George T. Flom, of the University of Illinois, particularly in preparing the manuscript for the press; and from others I have had assistance in reading proof. To all these gentlemen I am very grateful, and I take this opportunity to extend to them my sincere thanks.


The following pages are the result of an investigation that has grown out of a study of Beowulf. The investigation has been prosecuted mainly with a view to ascertaining as definitely as possible the relationship between the Anglo-Saxon poem and the Hrlfs Saga Kraka, and has involved special consideration of two portions of the saga, namely, the Bọvarsttr, and the Frattr, and such portions of the early literature in England and the Scandinavian countries as seem to bear some relationship to the stories contained in these two portions of the saga. Some of the results achieved may seem to be outside the limits of the main theme. But they are not without value in this connection, for they throw light on the manner in which the Hrlfssaga and some of the other compositions in question came to assume the form in which we now find them. Thus these results assist us in determining the extent to which the saga and the Bjarkarmur are related to Beowulf.

As the field under consideration has been the object of investigation by a number of scholars, much that otherwise would need to be explained to prepare the way for what is to be presented lies ready at hand, and this is used as a foundation on which to build further.

In order to give the reader who is interested in the subject, but has not made a special study of it, an idea of the problems involved, and the solutions that have been offered, the discussion is preceded by a brief summary of the principal conclusions reached by various scholars.


Aarb.Aarbger for nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historie, 1894.

Ark.Arkiv fr Nordisk Filologi.


Ant. Tid.Antiquarisk Tidsskrift.

Beow.Beowulf. The line numbering used is that of A.J. Wyatt's edition.

Beow., Child—Beowulf and the Finnesburh Fragment, translated by C.G. Child, 1904.

Beow. Stud.Beowulf-Studien, by Gregor Sarrazin, 1888.

Beow. Unt.Beowulf, Untersuchungen, by Bernhard ten Brink, 1888.

Beow. Unt. Ang.Beowulf, Untersuchungen ber das angelschsische Epos und die lteste Geschichte der germanischen Seevlker, by Karl Mllenhoff, 1889.

Camb. Hist. Lit.The Cambridge History of English Literature.

Chron.Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, by Raphael Holinshed, edition of 1808.

Helt.Danmarks Heltedigtning, by Axel Otrik, vol. I, 1903; vol. II, 1910.

Dan. Nor. Rig.Danske og norske Riger paa de britiske er i Danevldens Tidsalder, by Johannes C.H. Steenstrup, 1882.

Eng. Nov.The Development of the English Novel, by Wilbur L. Cross, 1914.

Dictionary of National Biography.

Eng. Stud.Englische Studien.

Ext. Ch. Rol.Extraits de la Chanson de Roland, by Gaston Paris, 1912.

Gest. Dan.Gesta Danorum, by Saxo Grammaticus, edited by A. Holder, 1886.

Elton's SaxoThe First Nine Books of the Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus, translated by Oliver Elton, 1894.

Gesch. Alteng. Lit.Geschichte der altenglischen Litteratur, by Alois Brandl (Paul's Grundriss der germanischen Philologie, 1908).

Heimsk.Heimskringla, eller Norges Kongesagaer, by Snorre Sturlasson, edited by C.R. Unger, 1868.

Hist. Reg. Wald.Historia Regis Waldei, by Johannes Bramis, edited by R. Imelmann, 1912.

Hist. Mer.Historia Meriadoci, edited by J.D. Bruce, 1913.

Hrs. Bjark.Hrlfs Saga Kraka og Bjarkarmur, edited by Finnur Jnsson. 1904.

Icel. Leg.Icelandic Legends, collected by Jn Arnason, translated by George E. Powell and Eirkur Magnsson, 1864.

Mort. d'Arth.Morte d'Arthur, by Sir Thomas Malory, Globe edition, 1871.

Norroen Fornkvi, edited by Sophus Bugge, 1867.

Nor. TalesNorse Fairy Tales, selected and adapted from the translations of Sir George Webbe Dasent, 1910.

Folk. Huld. Even.Norske Folke-og Huldre-Eventyr i Udvalg, by P. Chr. Asbjrnsen, revised edition by Moltke Moe, 1910.

Event. SagnNorske Folkeeventyr og Sagn, by O.T. Olsen, 1912.

Nor. Hist.Det norske Folks Historie, by P.A. Munch, 1852.

Sagn—Norske Sagn, Christiania, 1902.

Notes, Beow.—Notes on Beowulf, by Thomas Arnold, 1898.

Oldn. Lit. Hist.—Den oldnorske og oldislandske Litteraturs Historie, by Finnur Jnsson.

Grundr.—Paul's Grundriss der germanischen Philologie.

P.B.B.—Paul and Braune's Beitrge zur Geschichte der deutschen Litteratur.

Pop. Tales—Popular Tales from the North, by George Webbe Dasent, 1859.

P.M.L.A.—Publications of the Modern Language Association of America.

Grettis.—The Saga of Grettir the Strong, Everyman's Library.

Sc. Folkl.—Scandinavian Folk-lore, by William A. Craigie, 1896.

Sc. Rer. Dan.—Scriptores Rerum Danicarum, edited by Jakob Langebek, 1772.

Macb.—Shakespeare's Tragedy of Macbeth, edited by William J. Rolfe, 1905.

Skjs.—Skjọldungasaga (Aarbger for nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historie, 1894).

Sn. Ed.—Snorri Sturluson, Edda, edited by Finnur Jnsson, 1900.

St. germ. Sag.—Studien zur germanischen Sagengeschichte; I Beowulf, by Friedrich Panzer, 1910.

St. Sag. Eng—Studien zur Sagengeschichte Englands; I Teil, Die Wikingersagen, by Max Deutschbein, 1906.

Vọlsungasaga (Fornaldarsogur Norrlanda, edited by Valdimar Asmundarson, vol. I, 1891).

Widsith (The Oldest English Epic—Beowulf, Widsith, etc.—translated by Francis B. Gummere, 1909).

Yel. Fair. Bk.—The Yellow Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang.


Preface I

Introductory 1

Bibliography and Abbreviations 3

The Relation of the Hrlfs Saga Kraka and the Bjarkarmur to Beowulf

I Bọvarsttr 7

II Frattr 61

III General Summary 98




The question whether Saxo Grammaticus' account of Biarco's fight with a bear or the account in the Hrlfssaga of Bjarki's fight with a winged monster is the earlier version of the story has been the subject of much discussion, as has also the possible identity of Bjarki's (Biarco's) exploit with one or both of Beowulf's exploits (his slaying of Grendel and the dragon). The latter problem is still further complicated by the introduction of two beasts in the Bjarkarmur where Saxo and the Hrlfssaga have only one, and the introduction in Beowulf of Grendel's mother, who makes her appearance in order to defend her offspring and also is slain.

In this dissertation an attempt will not be made to clear up the whole of this complicated matter. But an attempt will be made to solve some of the problems involved. It will be shown that the stories in the Bjarkarmur of the slaying of the wolf and the bear at the court of Hrolf Kraki[1] are based on the story in the Hrlfssaga of the slaying of the winged[2] monster. The explanation of the origin of the dragon and the interpretation of the whole dragon story in the Hrlfssaga, both of which have hitherto been wanting, will be given. From this it will be seen that this story in the Hrlfssaga is based on the story, related in the second book of Saxo's Gesta Danorum[3], of Bjarki's slaying the bear.

Earlier Opinions in Regard to the BỌVARSTTR, the BJARKARMUR, and Related Matters.

Gisli Brynjulfsson, the first writer, apparently, to call attention to the similarity between Beowulf's combat with Grendel and Bjarki's combat with the winged monster, identified the story in the Hrlfssaga of Bjarki's fight with the winged monster with the story in Beowulf of Beowulf's fight with Grendel. That it was a sea-monster (havjtte) that caused the trouble in Denmark, while it was a mountain-troll that caused the trouble in Norway, he thought was as characteristic as anything could be.[4]

Gregor Sarrazin would identify Bjarki with Beowulf. He calls attention to striking similarities between the stories about the two men and attempts to identify the word "Bọvar," etymologically, with the word "Beowulf." The translator, as he calls the author of Beowulf, may, through misconception, have regarded "var," the second part of the name "Bọvar," as "vargr" and translated it faithfully into AS. "wulf." This, combined with other changes, which he discusses and illustrates, that might have taken place in the name in its passage from very early Danish to Anglo-Saxon, could have caused the Scandinavian name "Bọvar" to be rendered "Bēowulf" in Anglo-Saxon.[5]

Sophus Bugge thought that saga-characteristics earlier ascribed to Beowulf had been transferred, in Danish tradition, to Bjarki. The story of Bjarki's fight with the winged monster he regarded as acquired from contact with the story of Beowulf's fight with the dragon. He showed that the words "Bọvar" and "Bēowulf" are not etymologically related, but that "Bọvar" is the genitive of "bọ," meaning "battle," so that "Bọvar Bjarki" means "Battle Bjarki." He called attention to the fact that Saxo regarded Bothvar's real name as Bjarki (Lat. Biarco), that the Bjarkaml was called after that name, and, furthermore, that Saxo ascribed to Bjarki the words "belligeri cepi cognomen".[6]

Sarrazin regards the story of Bjarki's journey from Sweden to Denmark and subsequent exploit there, with which he identifies the corresponding journey and exploit of Beowulf, as an embodiment of the Balder and Frey cult. He thinks it may be interpreted as the southward journey of the sun in the autumn and its contest with frost and mists when it reaches its southern limit (i.e., Denmark, according to the ancient conception of the people of the Scandinavian peninsula); or it may be interpreted as the introduction of the Balder-cult from Sweden into Denmark.[7]

Bernhard ten Brink agreed with Karl Mllenhoff,[8] that, on the one hand, there is really no similarity between the Beowulf story and Saxo's account of Bjarki, in which the blood-drinking episode is the main point, and, on the other, between Saxo's account and that in the Hrlfssaga, which has too much the nature of a fairy tale to be ancient tradition. He agreed with Bugge, that Bjarik's combat with the winged monster shows contact with the story of Beowulf's fight with the dragon.[9]

Sarrazin, replying to ten Brink, scouts the idea that a poem, such as Beowulf, which was completely unknown in England after the eleventh century, should, after this time, be well known in Scandinavian countries and exert a notable influence there.[10]

G. Binz does not think that Sarrazin's attempt to identify Bjarki with Beowulf is sufficiently substantiated and shows by a list of names,[11] dating from the twelfth century and found in the Northumbrian Liber Vitae, that the story about Bjarki was probably known at an early date in northern England.[12]

Sarrazin thinks that perhaps Beowulf married Freawaru, Hrothgar's daughter, as, similarly, Bjarki, according to the Hrlfssaga, married Drifa, the daughter of Hrothgar's nephew, Hrolf Kraki; that the troll which supports Hrolf Kraki's enemies in Hrolf's last battle is a reminiscence of the dragon in Beowulf; and that, owing to the change of taste and other causes that occurred in the course of time, the Beowulf story developed into the form in which it is found in the Bjarki story in the Hrlfssaga.[13]

Thomas Arnold concedes that there may be a faint connection between the Bjarki story and the Beowulf story, but he rejects Sarrazin's theory that the Anglo-Saxon poem is a translation from the Scandinavian (see p. 8).[14]

B. Symons takes the story of Bjarki's fight with the winged monster to be a fusion of the story of Beowulf's fight with Grendel and that of his fight with the dragon.[15]

R.C. Boer identifies Bjarki with Beaw. In the West-Saxon line of kings, Beaw succeeded Scyld; in the poem Beowulf, Beowulf, the Danish king, succeeded Scyld; in Saxo's account, Frothi I succeeded Scyld. Frothi is represented as having killed a dragon.

According to the Hrlfssaga, Bjarki killed a dragon. As Beaw in one account occupies the same position in the royal line as Frothi in another and Beowulf, the Dane, in a third, Boer thinks that Bjarki's exploit and Frothi's exploit are the same one and that to Beowulf, the Dane, the same exploit was also once attributed. In Saxo's account, Bjarki is a king's retainer; and Boer thinks his exploit has been differentiated from that of Frothi, who is a king. In Beowulf, he thinks, the exploit has been transferred from Beowulf, the Danish king, to Beowulf, the Geat, and that the differentiation of the deed into two exploits has been retained—Beowulf, as a king's retainer, slaying Grendel, and later, as a king, killing a dragon. This identifies Bjarki's slaying of the winged monster with Beowulf's slaying of Grendel. In Saxo's account of Bjarki, Boer thinks that the dragon has been stripped of its wings and changed to a bear.[16]

Finnur Jnsson regards the story in the Hrlfssaga of Bjarki's slaying the winged monster as a reflection, though a feeble one, of the Grendel story in Beowulf.[17]

Axel Olrik, who, more extensively than any other writer, has entered into the whole matter, of which the problems here under consideration form a part, does not think there is any connection between Beowulf and the Hrlfssaga.[18] He regards the stories in the Bjarkarmur of Bjarki's slaying the wolf and Hjalti's slaying the bear as earlier compositions than the corresponding story in the Hrlfssaga.[19] The addition of "Bothvar" to Bjarki's name he thinks was acquired among the Scandinavians in the north of England,[20] where the Bjarki story, by contact with the story of Siward, Earl of Northumberland, acquired the further addition of Bjarki's reputed bear-ancestry.[21] The stories in the Grettissaga, Flateyjarbk, and Egilssaga to which counterparts are found in Beowulf, he believes to have been acquired by contact either with the Beowulf legend or, perhaps, with the Anglo-Saxon epic itself.[22]

Finnur Jnsson thinks that the stories in the Bjarkarmur of Bjarki's slaying the wolf and Hjalti's slaying the bear are later compositions than the story in the Hrlfssaga of Bjarki's slaying the winged monster, and supports this opinion by maintaining that the monster in the saga is a reminiscence, though altered and faded, of Grendel in Beowulf.[23]

Sarrazin regards the cowardly, useless Hott, Bjarki's companion, as a personification of the sword Hrunting, which fails Beowulf in his fight with Grendel's mother. But Hjalti, as Hott is called after he has become brave and strong, he regards as a personification of the giant-sword with which Beowulf dispatches Grendel's mother. Sarrazin would also identify the giant-sword, which is said to have a golden hilt (gylden hilt), with the sword Gullinhjalti in the Hrlfssaga.[24]

Max Deutschbein sees a connection between the Bjarki story and the Gesta Herwardi that would tend to establish the story in the Bjarkarmur as earlier than the corresponding story in the Hrlfssaga.[25]

H. Munro Chadwick, basing his opinion on the similarity between the career of Bjarki and that of Beowulf, thinks there is good reason for believing that Beowulf was the same person as Bothvar Bjarki.[26]

Alois Brandl does not think that Beowulf and Bjarki were the same person. He calls attention to the difficulty involved in the fact, which, he says, Olrik has emphasized, that "Bjarki" is etymologically unrelated to "Bir"; and of troll fights, he says, there are many in Scandinavian literature.[27]

William Witherle Lawrence thinks that "we may have to do with late influence of Beowulf upon the Hrlfssaga".[28] He identifies "gylden hilt" with Gullinhjalti.[29] He regards the stories in the Bjarkarmur of Bjarki's slaying the wolf and Hjalti's slaying the bear as earlier compositions than the story in the Hrlfssaga of Bjarki's slaying the winged monster,[30] which, in agreement with Olrik, he regards as "a special late elaboration peculiar to the Hrlfssaga." He regards Saxo's story as earlier than the stories in the Bjarkarmur.[31] He refers to Mogk as believing that the Bjarki story in the saga is a werewolf myth into which the Grendel motive is woven.[32] He quotes a passage from Heusler, in which Heusler states that he regards the story in the Bjarkarmur of the fight with the bear as earlier than the story in the saga of the fight with the winged monster and that, furthermore, Beowulf's fight with Grendel has been transferred to Bjarki.[33] Lawrence also calls attention to the fact that Gering thinks there is unmistakable similarity between the Grendel story and the story of Bjarki's fight with the winged monster.[34]

Friedrich Panzer identifies Bjarki with Beowulf and regards the story in question in the Hrlfssaga as a later composition than the corresponding stories in the Bjarkarmur, which he identifies with the Grendel story.[35] "Gylden hilt" he identifies with Gullinhjalti;[36] and Hott-Hjalti, whom Sarrazin regards as a personification of swords in Beowulf, he identifies with Hondscio, Beowulf's companion who is devoured by Grendel.[37]

The Story in the HRLFSSAGA of Bjarki's Slaying the Winged Monster.

It appears to the writer that the key to the explanation of much that has been the subject of dispute, or has remained unexplained, in the story about Bothvar Bjarki in the Hrlfssaga is the influence of the fictitious (in part, also historical) life of Siward, Earl of Northumberland under Canute the Great and succeeding kings.

The life of Siward, briefly summarized from the Dictionary of National Biography,[38] is as follows.

Siward, Earl of Northumberland, called Digera, or the strong, a Dane, is said to have been the son of a Danish jarl named Birn. According to legend he was descended from a white bear and a lady, etc.[39] As a matter of fact, he probably came to England with Canute and received the earldom of Deira after the death of Eadwulf Cutel, the Earl of Northumbria, when the Northumbrian earldom appears to have been divided. He married lfld, daughter of Ealdred, Earl of Bernicia, the nephew of Eadwulf Cutel. In 1041 he was employed by Hardecanute, along with Earls Godwin and Leofric, to ravage Worcestershire. Later he became Earl of Northumberland and probably also of Huntingdon.

He upheld Edward the Confessor in his quarrels with Godwin in 1051. In pursuance of the king's command, Siward invaded Scotland both by sea and land with a large force in 1054. The King of Scotland was Macbeth, who had slain his predecessor, Duncan I, the husband of a sister or cousin of the earl, and Siward's invasion was evidently undertaken on behalf of Duncan's son Malcolm. A fierce battle took place on July 27th; the Scots were routed, Macbeth fled, and Malcolm appears to have been established as King of Cumbria in the district south of the Firths of Forth and Clyde. Siward died at York in 1055. Siward and his son Osbeorn, called by Shakespeare "Young Siward," appear in Macbeth.

The legendary life of Siward is found in two Latin versions in Langebek's Scriptores Rerum Danicarum, vol. III. These two versions Olrik designates as A (anonymous; p. 288) and B (Bromton; p. 300).[40] According to B, an earl of royal descent in the kingdom of the Danes had an only daughter, who went with her maidens for a walk in a neighboring wood. They met a bear, whereupon the maidens fled and the daughter was seized by the bear and carried off. In the course of time she gave birth to a son, whose name was Bern and who bore marks, in the shape of a bear's ears, of his paternity. Bern had a son, whose name was Siward. According to A, Siward is removed by three generations more from his bear-ancestor, the line of descent being Ursus (the bear), Spratlingus, Ulsius (should be Ulfius), Beorn (with the cognomen Beresun), Siward.

According to A, where the account is a little more detailed than in B, Siward, who was given the cognomen Diere (large), was a brave and powerful man, who, disdaining the succession to his father's earldom in Denmark, set sail with one vessel and fifty chosen companions, and arrived at the Orkney Islands. On one of the islands was a dragon that had done much damage by killing men and cattle. To show his strength and bravery, Siward entered into a combat with the dragon and drove it from the island. Thence he set sail for Northumberland, and there, he heard, there was another dragon. During the search for this dragon, he met an old man sitting on a hill. He inquired of the man as to the whereabouts of the dragon. But the man, calling him by name, told him that he sought the dragon in vain, and directed him to continue his journey and proceed till he came to a river called Thames, on whose bank was situated a city by the name of London. "And there," he said, "you will find the king of that region, who will enlist you in his service and in a short time bestow land upon you." As a token of the trustworthiness of his prediction, the old man drew from the folds of his garment a banner, called Ravenlandeye, and presented it to Siward.

Siward accepted the banner and proceeded to London, where he was summoned by King Edward to meet him at Westminster. Siward obeyed the summons and was enlisted in the service of the king, who promised him the first position of honor to become vacant in the kingdom. On this visit to the king, he slew Tosti in order to avenge an imagined insult and demanded and received Tosti's earldom of Huntingdon, which had thus become vacant. Some time after he also received the earldoms of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland.

Later the Norwegians made war on the king; but Siward defeated them and avenged many fold the insults and injuries sustained by the king, thus fulfilling the prophecy "that Divine Providence would permit to be born from the union of a rational with an irrational creature, i.e., from the union of a woman with a bear, a man who would wreak vengeance on the enemies of the illustrious and glorious King of England."

In the course of time, Dunewal, King of the Scots, was ejected from his kingdom. He sought the aid of Siward, who gathered an army and proceeded as far as Dundee, when news was brought him that his subjects in Northumberland had risen in insurrection and slain his son Osbertum (Osbernum) Bulax. Compelled to return he was roused to such anger that he sank his sword into a rock leaving a mark that could be seen, the author says, in his day. Siward restored to the king the territory seized by the rebels, and returned home and inflicted severe punishment on his enemies.

B has some variations from the account in A, but none of these variations are of present significance.

The transformation of Siward from an historical character, in regard to whom we have authentic information, into the hero of a saga the first part of which is of the "fornaldarsaga" type, the latter part of the "Islndingasaga" type,[41] is quite remarkable. He must have made a deep impression on the minds of his contemporaries and remained a hero in oral tradition long after the historical events of his life had been forgotten.

Olrik, who has done work of great importance in this field, offers a discussion of the legendary life of Siward in the Arkiv fr nordisk Filologi, vol. XIX, from which it seems desirable to quote some passages for the light they throw on the development of this saga in England.

"Tagen som helhed er Sivards saga den mrkelige forening af ventyrlig og historisk sagastil."

* * * * *

"I dragekampene og i Odinskikkelsen, er der nr tilslutning til norrn tradition; her m de i Nordengland bosatte Nordmnd have gjort sig gldende med et berigende og udviklende element. Dette glder da ikke blot for Sivards saga, men ogs for Ragnar Lodbroks historie, for s vidt den fra frst er bleven til i England. P den anden side m vi ikke alene regne med, at Nordengland er en aflgger af norsk sagakultur; den er tillige en banebryder for dens rigere udvikling. Vi har set det med dragekampen, der optages vsenlig fra engelske forestillinger, og som vistnok ad den vej finder ind i de norsk-islandske ventyrsagaer og historiske traditioner".[42]

With the situation thus before us—namely: 1. the numerical strength of the Danes and Norwegians in the north of England, which had become a second home of Norwegian saga-culture; 2. the fact that the Hrlfssaga was known in England, where Bjarki received the addition "Bothvar" to his name; and 3. the fact that the Siward saga as we find it in Langebek was developed in the same locality—it is evident that it was not only possible, but practically inevitable, that the Hrlfssaga and the Siward saga should come in contact with each other. And this was, indeed, the case. That a popular hero is said to have descended from a bear is a very widespread motive, not at all confined to the territory in which the Bjarki story was known; but the similarities in the genealogies of Siward, Bothvar Bjarki, and Ulf (Gest. Dan., tenth book) are so great that the casual reader immediately concludes that these genealogies must in some way be related. Olrik has unraveled the skein and shown that the bear-ancestry belonged originally to Siward and from him was transferred to Ulf and Bjarki.

Olrik dwells on the fact that, "Det sagn, der her optrder som knyttet til historiske eller rettere halvhistoriske personer, findes ogs rundt omkring i Europas ventyr som indledning til fortllingen om den strke kmpe, der hentede de bortfrte kongedtre tilbage fra troldene." Olrik says further: "Men ogs i den islandske saga-verden har vi tilknytning. Beorn Beresuns fdsel genfindes som Bdvar Bjarkes. Bdvars forldre er den til bjrn omskabte kongesn Bjrn og bondedatteren Bera. Foruden ved navnene rbes sammenhngen ved at bjrnen—ligesom i Sakses sagn—bliver jaget og drbt, og snnen senere tager hvn. Men samtidig er motivet udviklet langt rigere, idet omskabelse og stemoder er blandet ind, og arven efter vilddyret fordeles paa tre snner: dels bjrneagtigt ydre, dels styrke og 'hamram'-hed, Sledes er de danske og de (norsk-) islandske tilknytninger af forskellig art; de danske giver os de ventyragtige elementer, hvoraf sagnet opstr. Den islandske Hrlfssaga og Bjarkarmur viser os dets videre udvikling til ventyrsaga. Selve den nordengelske Sivardssaga str i midten som et mrkeligt mellemled i udviklingen".[43] Here we have the first indication of contact between the Siward saga and the story of Bjarki, in the Hrlfssaga.

There is much in the main features of the lives of Siward and Bjarki that is similar. Both were men of extraordinary prowess and bravery; both gave up a great heritage at home (Siward, an earldom; Bjarki, a kingdom); both left their native land to enter the service of a foreign monarch (Siward entering the service of Edward the Confessor; Bjarki, that of Hrolf Kraki); both slew a ferocious monster; both paused in another land (Siward, on the Orkney Islands; Bjarki, in Sweden) before reaching what was to be their destination; both displayed their warlike qualities by slaying a man of great prominence who was closely connected with the king (Siward slaying Tosti, and Bjarki slaying Agnar); both were the king's chief support in his wars against his enemies; and both invaded a foreign land (Siward making an expedition to Scotland, and Bjarki accompanying Hrolf on his expedition to Sweden).

Certain features of the life of Bjarki mentioned above, such as his bravery, strength, his being in the service of Hrolf Kraki, his killing a fierce beast, and slaying Agnar, the saga-man found ready to his hand; but not the renunciation of his kingdom. Earldoms and kingdoms are not renounced "for light and transient causes." As regards Siward, who renounced his earldom, he seemed to be destined for a greater career, as subsequent events show and as is indicated by the fact that Odin (for the old man on the hill whom Siward met was none other than Odin) took a hand in directing his course. But when Bjarki renounced his kingdom, it was altogether unmotivated. The saga says: "Soon afterwards [i.e., after Bjarki's revenge on his evil stepmother] King Hring fell sick and died, whereupon Bothvar succeeded to the throne and was for a time satisfied. Later, he called his subjects together to a 'ing' [i.e., assembly] and said he wished to leave the country, married his mother to a man named Valsleit, who had been an earl, celebrated their wedding, and departed".[44] He became Hrolf's most noted warrior, but neither sought nor attained to any other distinction. The renunciation of a kingdom for the fate of a man who appears among strangers and gets what his own right arm can win for him is a rare occurrence; and when the saga-man lets Bjarki become a king and then, without reason, renounce this highest of all earthly dignities, it can only be in servile imitation of the corresponding feature of the Siward saga.

Besides those already mentioned, the two stories have other features in common. It is said of Siward, that when he learned that his son Osbeorn had fallen in battle, he became so angry that he sank his sword into a rock. It is said of Elgfrothi, Bjarki's brother, that he swung his sword against a rock with such force that it sank in to the hilt. But Elgfrothi's feat was performed under such widely different circumstances that the author may, or may not, have had Siward's feat in mind in recording the incident. However, suggestions received from one story are often employed in another quite as the author sees fit, so that, although one is not inclined to attach much importance to this incident, it is, nevertheless, worth noting.

Somewhat more noteworthy than the incident just mentioned is the introduction of Odin in both stories in the disguise of an old man. In the Siward story he appears on a hill as Siward reaches Northumberland on his journey from the Orkney Islands, and tells Siward what course to pursue, presents him the banner Ravenlandeye, which is accepted, and predicts for him a brilliant future. In the Hrlfssaga Odin appears as a one-eyed old man living in a hut in Sweden. Hrolf and his men seek a night's entertainment of him while on their way to the Swedish court, and the old man tests their endurance and instructs Hrolf in regard to the measures he must take to accomplish his purpose. Odin also appears to the men as they return on their way to Denmark, when he offers Hrolf a sword, shield, and armor. Hrolf declines the preferred gift, whereupon Odin tells Hrolf that he is not as wise as he thinks he is, and Hrolf soon, but too late, realizes that the rejection of the gift augurs ill fortune. There is nothing unusual in the appearance of Odin as a one-eyed old man, for it is a common characteristic of saga literature. But though Hrolf's expedition to Sweden is mentioned in Snorri's Edda,[45] where the passage concerned is based on the old Skjọldumgasaga, the oldest authority in regard to the matter, but unfortunately now lost, no mention of Odin is made in this connection.[46] Furthermore, Odin again appears in the saga (at the close), where Bjarki vows that if he could get his eye on the god he would use him roughly for permitting the enemy to gain the victory in the battle that is being fought and that is going against Hrolf and his men. In the latter instance, Odin belongs originally to the story (Gest. Dan., second book, where Odin is represented as riding his steed Sleipnir and being invisibly present at the battle to take the dead to Valhalla). The two conceptions of Odin—on the one hand as appearing in the disguise of an old man; on the other, as riding his horse, Sleipnir, and taking those fallen in battle to Valhalla—are quite different, the former being distinctly Norwegian, one of the circumstances that Olrik uses to show that the Siward saga originated under strong Norwegian influence, while the latter was the conception of Odin current in Denmark and Sweden.[47] As already stated the introduction of Odin as an old man is a motive that occurs frequently in saga literature. It cannot, therefore, be stated definitely that his appearance in the Siward saga suggested the use of him in the Bjarki story. But the two stories were current in the same locality; they were formed under similar conceptions of saga literature; in both stories Odin directs the hero in question as to the most advisable course to pursue and offers him a present; the Bjarki story already contained an instance, of another mintage, of the Odin motive; as stated above, the oldest authority in regard to the matter says nothing about Odin's appearing to Hrolf on the expedition to Sweden; and, as we know, the one has acquired important features (Bjarki's bear-ancestry and his renunciation of his kingdom) from the other. These circumstances render it highly probable that this is another of the Bjarki story's acquisitions from contact with the Siward saga. Incidents of this kind need not necessarily be used in one story as they are in another; saga literature abounds in evidence of this fact, as, for instance, Saxo's and the Hrlfssaga's story of Hroar and Helgi, considered later.

A feature of the Hrlfssaga that is much more noteworthy in this connection and that has certainly been acquired from the Siward saga is that concerning the kind of monster slain by Bjarki at the court of Hrolf Kraki. When Siward's bear-ancestry had been transferred to Bothvar Bjarki, it followed as a matter of course that Bjarki must no longer be represented as killing a bear. Siward had driven a dragon, which had killed men and cattle in great numbers, from one of the Orkney Islands; and it is in imitation of this exploit that Bjarki is represented as having slain a winged monster (dragon). This would be only another instance, in addition to those already mentioned, of the influence exerted by the story of Siward on the Hrlfssaga. Ordinarily, there was nothing about Bjarki's person that revealed or suggested that his father was a bear; but he was able to assume the shape of a bear, which, according to the Hrlfssaga, he did with terrible effect in the last battle of Hrolf and his warriors. Since he sustained such near relationship to the bear-family, it would be inappropriate to represent him as showing his prowess by killing a bear, for his sentiments toward that animal would, as a result of his own ancestry and the treatment his father had received, be those of sympathy rather than antipathy. His mother had told him the whole story of his ancestry and the maltreatment of his father, and it had aroused him to take most dire revenge. Consequently, he must be represented as having killed some other kind of ferocious beast, or monster, than a bear, and this naturally became the same kind of monster that Siward had overcome, namely a dragon. The fact that it was not uncommon at the time the saga was composed for a popular hero to be represented as having slain a dragon made it all the easier for the author of the Hrlfssaga to imitate this feature of the Siward saga. It may be said that this is attributing too much consistency in one particular to a story that otherwise is a piece of patch-work. But the story of Bjarki's fight with the winged monster is not patch-work; it does not represent the poorest and latest form of the Bjarki legends, as Olrik says;[48] it is not an impossible story, as Panzer says;[49] nor is it "inconsequent and absurd," as Lawrence says.[50] Considering the time at which it was written, it is a well considered, well constructed narrative, in which the material at hand and the machinery that was regarded as permissible and appropriate in saga-writing at the time is employed with great skill to produce the intended effect. The story is as follows:—

"Ok sem lei at jlum, geruz menn ktir. Bọvarr spyrr Họtt, hverju etta stti; hann segir honum, at dr eitt hafi ar komit tv vetr samt, mikit og gurligt—'ok hefir vngi bakinu ok flgr at jafnan; tvau haust hefir at n hingat vitjat ok gert mikinn skaa; at bta ekki vpn, en kappar konungs koma ekki heim, eir sem at eru einna mestir.' Bọvarr mlti: 'ekki er họllin sv vel skipu, sem ek tlai, ef eitt dr skal hr eya rki og f konungsins.' Họttr sagi: 'at er ekki dr, heldr er at hit mesta trọll.' N kemr jlaaptann; , mlti konungr: 'n vil ek, at menn s kyrrir ok hljir ntt, ok banna ek ọllum mnum mọnnum at ganga nọkkurn hska vi drit, en f ferr eptir v sem aunar; menn mna vil ek ekki missa.' Allir heita hr gu um, at gera eptir v, sem konungr bau. Bọvarr leyndiz burt um nttina; hann ltr Họtt fara me sr, ok gerir hann at nauugr ok kallai hann sr strt til bana. Bọvarr segir, at betr mundi til takaz. eir ganga burt fr họllinni, ok verr Bọvarr at bera hann; sv er hann hrddr. N sj eir drit; ok v nst pir Họttr slkt, sem hann m, ok kva drit mundu gleypa hann. Bọvarr ba bikkjuna hans egja ok kastar honum nir mosann, ok ar liggr hann ok eigi me ọllu hrddr; eigi orir hann heim at fara heldr. N gengr Bọvarr mti drinu; at hfir honum, at sverit er fast umgjọrinni, er hann vildi brega v. Bọvarr eggjar n fast sverit ok bragar umgjọrinni, ok n fr hann brugit umgjọrinni, sv, at sverit gengr r slirunum, ok leggr egar undir bgi drsins ok sv fast, at st hjartanu, ok datt drit til jarar dautt nir. Eptir at ferr hann angat sem Họttr liggr. Bọvarr tekr hann upp ok berr angat, sem drit liggr dautt. Họttr skelfr kaft. Bọvarr mlti: 'n skaltu drekka bl drsins.' Hann er lengi tregr, en orir hann vst eigi annat. Bọvarr ltr hann drekka tv sopa stra; hann lt hann ok eta nọkkut af drshjartanu; eptir etta tekr Bọvarr til hans, ok ttuz eir vi lengi. Bọvarr mlti: 'helzt ertu n sterkr orinn, ok ekki vnti ek, at hriz n hirmenn Hrlfs konungs.' Họttr sagi: 'eigi mun ek hraz ok eigi ik upp fr, essu.' 'Vel er orit, Họttr flagi; fọru vit n til ok reisum upp drit ok bum sv um, at arir tli at kvikt muni vera.' eir gera n sv. Eptir at fara eir heim ok hafa kyrt um sik, ok veit engi mar, hvat eir hafa ijat. Konungr spyrr um morguninn, nvat eir viti til drsins, hvrt at hafi nọkkut angat vitjat um nttina; honum var sagt, at f alt vri heilt grindum ok sakat. Konungr ba menn forvitnaz, hvrt engi si lkindi til, at at hefi heim komit. Varmenn geru sv ok kmu skjtt aptr ok sogu konungi, at drit fri ar ok heldr geyst at borginni. Konungr ba hirmenn vera hrausta ok duga n hvern eptir v, sem hann hefi hug til, ok ra af vtt enna; ok sv var gert, sem konungr bau, at eir bjuggu sik til ess. Konungr horfi drit ok mlti san: 'enga s ek fọr drinu, en hverr vill n taka kaup einn ok ganga mti v?' Bọvarr mlti: 'at vri nsta hrausts manns forvitnisbt. Họttr flagi, rektu n af er illmlit at, at menn lta, sem engi krellr n dugr muni r vera; far n ok drep drit; mttu sj, at engi er allfss til annarra.' 'J, sagi Họttr, ek mun til essa raz.' Konungr mlti: 'ekki veit ek, hvaan essi hreysti er at r komin, Họttr, ok mikit hefir um ik skipaz , skammri stundu.' Họttr mlti: 'gef mr til sverit Gullinhjalta, er heldr , ok skal ek fella drit ea f bana.' Hrlfr konungr mlti: 'etta sver er ekki beranda nema eim manni, sem bi er gr drengr og hraustr.' Họttr sagi: 'sv skaltu til tla, at mr s sv httat.' Konungr mlti: 'hvat m vita, nema fleira hafi skipz um hagi na, en sj ykkir, en fstir menn ykkjaz ik kenna, at, sr enn sami mar; n tak vi sverinu ok njt manna bezt, ef etta er til unnit.' San gengr Họttr at drinu alldjarfliga ok hggr til ess, , er hann kemr họggfri, ok drit fellr nir dautt. Bọvarr mlti: 'sji n, herra, hvat hann hefir til unnit.' Konungr segir: 'vst hefir hann mikit skipaz, en ekki hefir Họttr einn drit drepit, heldr hefir at gert.' Bọvarr segir: 'vera m, at sv s.' Konungr segir: 'vissa ek, er komt hr, at fir mundu nir jafningjar vera, en at ykki mr itt verk frgiligast, at hefir gert hr annan kappa, ar er Họttr er, ok vnligr tti til mikillar giptu; ok n vil ek at hann heiti eigi Họttr lengr ok skal hann heita Hjalti upp fr essu; skaltu heita eptir sverinu Gullinhjalta'".[51]

The consistency observed in displacing the bear, as the animal killed by Bjarki has been noted, as has also the reason why the dragon was introduced as a substitute for the bear. It will be observed that the account of the dragon in the Siward story suggested the further development of the story in the Hrlfssaga. Olrik says: "I n henseende bar Sivard den digres kamp dog noget eget. De almindelige norrne dragekampe lige fra Sigurds drab p Fvne har stadig til ml at vinde dragens guld. For Sivard digre eksisterer dette motiv ikke; han vil frelse de hjemsgte mennesker. Af alle de islandske dragekampe har kun Bjrn Hitdlekmpes noget tilsvarende, og her er det nppe tilfldigt at ogs den er henlagt til de engelske farvande. Det er det engelske dragekamps-motiv".[52] Olrik further calls attention to the fact that in English tales the object is not to kill the dragon, but to drive it away, as Siward did. But to fit the dragon into the Bjarki story, it had to be killed in order that the blood-drinking episode might be introduced. This involved no difficulty, however; for the killing of the dragon was in harmony with Scandinavian saga-usage. But it should be observed how, in essence, the conception of the dragon in the Bjarki story harmonizes accurately with that in the Siward story. The king and his court are afflicted by the visitations of a dragon; and Bjarki puts an end to this affliction by killing the dragon, as Siward, in the corresponding situation, does by driving it away.

Not less terrible than dragons, but much more common, were trolls; and this fact led Brynjulfsson to remark that the introduction of a troll in this connection was as characteristic as anything could be.[53] The introduction of the troll is quite in harmony with the genius of Old Norse folk-lore. The saga-man did not, however, characterize the dragon as a troll merely because he would thus be employing good saga-material, but because the depredations ascribed to the dragon in the Siward story, which were quite foreign to the accounts of dragons in Scandinavian folk-lore, were very suggestive of the depredations ascribed to trolls, and because a troll story would enable him to work out his plot with admirable effect. The statement in the saga, "As the Yule-feast approached, the men grew depressed," is a characteristic beginning of a troll story; for, while trolls commit their depredations at all times of the year and under a multitude of circumstances, many of the stories about them begin with such expressions as: "Yule was approaching. On the eve the shepherd went with his sheep";[54] "In old days no one could stay over Christmas Eve";[55] "It happened once late on a Yule Eve";[56] "Formerly every Christmas Eve";[57] "I gamle dage var det en julenat";[58] "Juleaften gik Per Bakken til kvernhuset";[59] "Nogen av selskapet kom til at tale on Hammertrollet, som det nu kaltes, og de mente, at skulde de nogengang vente ulempe av det arrige troll, saa maatte det vel vasre saadan i julegryet".[60]

Thus, as we see, the statement that the winged monster appears late Christmas Eve,[61] is exactly in harmony with the belief, still current in some parts of Norway, that on Christmas Eve, after sunset, but never earlier in the day, an adventure with a troll is to be expected unless proper precaution be taken to avoid it. It is a part of the superstition, that if any one ventures into, or near, the stable or other outbuildings late in the evening, he is in the greatest danger of being attacked by one of these malignant beings; and people are in mortal terror of falling into the clutches of a troll. As a result, there is great haste to get the chores done up early on Christmas Eve. In fact, the fear that Hott shows before leaving the hall, when he knows he must go out, and the extreme fear that he shows later, can be duplicated from the tales that are told in connection with the superstition. There is no danger, however, so long as one remains in the house.[62]

A story, pertinent in this connection, is told to illustrate the difficulties that ministers in the rural districts in Norway have had to contend with on account of the superstitious belief in trolls. A minister had exerted himself to root out of the people in his parish the belief in trolls. Among those whom he had endeavored to enlighten was a boy. But so ingrained had this belief become in the boy that, when Christmas Eve arrived and he was requested to go to one of the outbuildings on an errand, he was seized with fright. He went on the errand, however, and performed it without seeing a troll; but on his return he was so overcome with the fear that a troll was pursuing him that he fell to the ground, and had to be met by people from the house and escorted back.[63] The story is supposed to be true, and there is no reason to doubt it. But whether it is true or not is immaterial in this connection; in any event, it shows what kind of story we are dealing with in the saga, and it shows to what admirable use the story enabled the saga-man to put the inordinate fear and cowardice of Hott. In view of the circumstances (Hott's cowardice and the common fear of the Christmas troll), Hott's actions, when he is forced to accompany Bjarki and when he sees the monster, are perfectly natural; and to see the matter in any other light is not to understand the story.

Another feature of the first part of the story that should be noticed is the dual nature of the monster. A dragon was as terrible a creature as one could imagine; a troll was also as terrible a creature as one could imagine. But the saga-man has introduced into his story a being that combines the characteristics of both. Hott knew that the monster possessed this dual nature, for it is from him that the author lets the statement proceed, "That is no beast, it is rather the greatest troll." This makes it still more natural for him to display ridiculous fear. It also explains the king's fear of the monster, and removes the odium that might seem to attach to the king and his warriors in withdrawing from a combat with such a creature and allowing it, unopposed, to perform its Yule-tide depredations and depart. The saga-man did not intend to be-little Hrolf Kraki; he intended to magnify Bjarki by introducing a monster for him to overcome that it was no shame for other mortals to avoid. Nor is it accidental that the reader is informed of the troll-nature of the dragon in a statement made by Hott to Bjarki. It serves to make it plain that Bjarki also knew what kind of monster the dragon was. This places in the strongest relief his courage in undertaking voluntarily, nay against the express command of the king, to attack the beast, and his prowess in felling it without difficulty. What single feat could he have performed, or in what manner could he have performed it, to reflect greater credit on himself? The cowardly Hott he had to have with him also, in order that the blood-drinking episode might be introduced; but Hott's childish actions encumbered him at a time when they would be very provoking and it might be necessary for Bjarki to have command of all his resources to gain a victory.

In the scene that follows the slaying of the dragon, it seems at first sight that an incongruous element has been introduced. That Hott is compelled to eat some of the dragon's heart is good saga-material, as is evident from the similar episode in the Volsungasaga (i.e., Sigurd's eating some of Favnir's heart); but the dragon is also a troll, and there is no sanction in saga-literature for eating a troll's heart and drinking a troll's blood to gain strength and courage. Trolls have always been regarded as detestable beings; and in drinking the blood of a troll, it might seem that one would acquire detestable qualities. But, on the one hand, the difficulty, if indeed story-tellers of the time regarded the matter as presenting a difficulty, was unavoidable without a reconstruction of the whole story; on the other hand, so far as the monster was a dragon, no difficulty would be involved, and so far as the monster had the nature of a troll, the heart-eating and blood-drinking would certainly be regarded as imparting strength. In such scenes as this it is never the intention that one who eats the heart of a dragon or drinks an animal's blood shall acquire all the characteristics of the animal; every scene of this kind would then be ridiculous from any point of view. The eating and drinking are done to gain strength and courage, as is the case here; and it is not proper to subject this scene to a more critical judgment than similar scenes in other sagas. The strength of a troll was certainly not to be despised; and we find this particular episode sanctioned in a way in the Bjarkarmur, where it is said that after Hjalti had drunk of the blood of the wolf, he became, not as strong as a wolf, but "as strong as a troll." In view of the fact that the troll is a troll-dragon, that the eating of its heart associates the episode very closely with the similar episode in the Volsungasaga, and that the rmur magnify Hjalti's strength by saying that it is equal to that of a troll, it is hypercritical to say that the saga here contains an incongruous element. And however insistent one may be in maintaining that the author has introduced an element that is not recognized saga-material, it must be admitted that he has so skillfully fused it with good saga-material that it is not probable, as the rmur show, that contemporary readers found any fault with the episode.

But does such a monster as a troll-dragon have any sanction in folk-lore? Yes, it does. It is characteristic of Norse folk-lore to ascribe troll-like qualities to beings about which there seems to be something supernatural, such as invulnerability. In one of Asbjrnsen's tales, there is a story about a troll-bird, told by a man named Per Sandaker, who "was supposed to be strong in stories about troll-birds." In the story referred to, there is a woodgrouse (tiur) which has become known as a fabulous animal (fabeldyr) throughout the whole neighborhood. "One might just as well shoot at a stone,' said Per, with the greatest conviction"; for he had shot at the bird and made the feathers fly, without being able to injure it. Later, on the hunting-trip on which Per was telling about the bird, he and a companion came across it. "Now he is out again, the old fellow," said Per; "there is no use in the wide world to shoot at him, one might just as well shoot at the clouds." The men maneuvered for a position; and Per's companion, who is telling the story, says, "My gun was raised, and the mighty bird tumbled down head first." Per picked it up and examined it and declared that it was the troll-bird; he could tell it by the beak. On the same trip stories were told about troll-hares that for a time had escaped uninjured but had finally been killed.[64]

Panzer[65] and others have called attention to the discrepancy between the statement that the monster in the saga is said to be invulnerable, and that it is nevertheless killed. In the story from Asbjrnsen's tales we have the explanation. The troll-animal seems to be invulnerable until some one appears who has the requisite skill or strength, or a combination of both, to dispatch it; and it might be observed that Bjarki paid no more attention to Hott's statement about the invulnerability of the troll-dragon than Per's companion paid to Per's statement about the invulnerability of the troll-bird.

Finnur Jnsson calls the dragon a hall-attacking monster;[66] but this appellation is hardly correct. The only thing in the saga might fairly suggest it is Bjarki's statement, "The hall isn't so well defended as I thought, if a beast can destroy the domain and property of the king." But Hott has not said that the monster had attached the hall; and if it be insisted that it is the author who has presented Bjarki as making the statement and has not paused to weigh nicely the dramatic proprieties, the reply may be made that Bjarki thinks of how weakly the king's hall is defended when a monster can regularly defy his men and come off without injury. He does not imply that the hall has been attacked; he refers to the destruction of "the domain and property of the king." In any event, the saga does not represent the monster as attacking the hall. To continue immediately after the statement just quoted: Hott answered, 'That is no beast, it is rather the greatest troll.' Now came the Yule-even; and the king said, 'Now I desire that all the men be still and quiet in the night, and I forbid them all to run any risk on account of the beast; let the cattle fare as fate wills; my men I do not wish to lose'. The king expects the cattle to fare ill, but wishes to run no risk of losing his men; however, if they remain in the hall in the night, there will be no risk of losing them, because (such is the necessary conclusion) the hall and the men in the hall will not be attacked. Hence, the monster cannot be called a hall-attacking monster; it is a cattle-attacking monster. Again, Bjarki did not expect the monster to attack the hall. If he had, he would probably have done as Beowulf did under similar circumstances—awaited its arrival. And the king's men did not expect the monster to attack the hall, for they seem to have gone to sleep; this is implied in the statement telling about Bjarki's and Hott's return to the hall, "Then they went in and were quiet; no one knew what they had done." If the men had been on guard for the monster, which was the only rational thing for them to do if they expected the hall to be attacked, the opportunity for Bjarki and Hott to sneak out, remain some length of time, and return, all unobserved, would have been cut off. Later, after Bjarki had crept out at night and killed the dragon, compelling Hott to go with him, etc., the saga continues, "The king asked in the morning whether they knew anything of the beast; whether it had showed itself anywhere in the night; they told him the cattle were all safe and sound in the folds." From this it follows that the dragon might have appeared and killed all the cattle, so far as the king knew; he had paid no attention to the matter in the night; he had apparently been asleep. The question was not whether the monster had attacked the hall; it was not expected to attack the hall; and the fact that it had not attacked the hall signified nothing as to whether it had made its appearance. The question was whether the cattle had suffered; and when the king asked if the beast "had showed itself anywhere in the night," the answer was that "the cattle were all safe and sound in the folds." The extreme danger to which the cattle were exposed, and the entire safety of the men if they remained in the hall during the night, show again that this was no hall-attacking monster, but "et kongsgrden hjemsgende uhyre," a troll that destroyed cattle and did not endanger the men unless they left the hall in the night and exposed themselves to attack.

Among the Icelandic legends collected by Jn Arnason is a story which, in certain important particulars, is very much like the story about Bjarki's fight with the troll-dragon. A portion of it is as follows:—

"A man named Gudmundur lived once upon a time at a farm called Silfrnarstadir, in the bay of Skagafjrdur. He was very rich in flocks, and looked upon by his neighbours as a man of high esteem and respectability. He was married, but had no children.

"It happened one Christmas Eve, at Silfrnarstadir, that the herdsman did not return home at night, and, as he was not found at the sheep-pens, the farmer caused a diligent search to be made for him all over the country, but quite in vain.

"Next spring Gudmundur hired another shepherd, named Grmur, who was tall and strong, and boasted of being able to resist anybody. But the farmer, in spite of the man's boldness and strength, warned him to be careful how he ran risks, and on Christmas Eve bade him drive the sheep early into the pens, and come home to the farm while it was still daylight. But in the evening Grmur did not come, and though search was made far and near for him, was never found. People made all sorts of guesses about the cause of his disappearance, but the farmer was full of grief, and after this could not get any one to act as shepherd for him.

"At this time there lived a poor widow at Sjvarborg, who had several children, of whom the eldest, aged fourteen years, was named Sigurdur.

"To this woman the farmer at last applied, and offered her a large sum of money if she would allow her son to act as shepherd for him. Sigurdur was very anxious that his mother should have all this money, and declared himself most willing to undertake the office; so he went with the farmer, and during the summer was most successful in his new situation, and never lost a sheep.

"At the end of a certain time the farmer gave Sigurdur a wether, a ewe, and a lamb as a present, with which the youth was much pleased.

"Gudmundur became much attached to him, and on Christmas Eve begged him to come home from his sheep before sunset.

"All day long the boy watched the sheep, and when evening approached, he heard the sound of heavy footsteps on the mountains Turning around he saw coming towards him a gigantic and terrible troll.

"She addressed him, saying, 'Good evening, my Sigurdur. I am come to put you into my bag.'

"Sigurdur answered, 'Are you cracked? Do you not see how thin I am? Surely I am not worth your notice. But I have a sheep and fat lamb here which I will give you for your pot this evening.'

"So he gave her the sheep and the lamb, which she threw on her shoulder, and carried off up the mountain again. Then Sigurdur went home, and right glad was the farmer to see him safe, and asked him whether he had seen anything.

"'Nothing whatever, out of the common,' replied the boy.

"After New Year's day the farmer visited the flock, and, on looking them over, missed the sheep and lamb which he had given the youth, and asked him what had become of them. The boy answered that a fox had killed the lamb, and that the wether had fallen into a bog; adding, 'I fancy I shall not be very lucky with my sheep.'

"When he heard this, the farmer gave him one ewe and two wethers, and asked him to remain another year in his service. Sigurdur consented to do so.

"Next Christmas Eve, Gudmundur begged Sigurdur to be cautious, and not run any risks, for he loved him as his own son.

"But the boy answered, 'You need not fear, there are no risks to run.'"

The troll appeared again, and Sigurdur gave her two old and two young sheep. When he returned to the farm he declared that he had seen nothing unusual. Next year the troll appeared as usual, and took four sheep, which Sigurdur offered her, and himself besides. When she arrived at her cave, she bade Sigurdur kill them, and then bade him sharpen an axe, for she was going kill him. He did so, but she spared him.

From this point, the story becomes more of a common fairy tale. By following the troll's advice, Sigurdur won Margaret, the dean's daughter.[67]

This is another story about a troll that comes on Christmas Eve and harms people only when they expose themselves after sunset. Particularly noteworthy are the statements: "Gudmundur became attached to him, and on Christmas Eve begged him to come home from his sheep before sunset";—"Next Christmas Eve, Gudmundur begged Sigurdur to be cautious, and not run any risks, for he loved him as his own son";—and, "The farmer ... asked him whether he had seen anything. 'Nothing whatever, out of the common,' replied the boy." They bear a striking resemblance to the corresponding statements in the Hrlfssaga: "The king said, 'Now I desire that all the men be still and quiet in the night, and I forbid them all to run any risk on account of the beast; let the cattle fare as fate wills; my men I do not wish to lose'";—and, "The king asked in the morning whether they knew anything of the beast; whether it had showed itself anywhere in the night; they told him the cattle were all safe and sound in the folds."

The purpose of calling attention to the story in Arnason's collection is that it may aid in showing what kind of story the dragon story in the saga really is. That the most terrible kind of troll attacks the cattle[68] of the famous King Hrolf Kraki and is dispatched by the noted hero Bothvar Bjarki does not alter the nature of the story.

A possible objection remains, which should be removed. When the warders in the morning saw the dead propped-up dragon, they said "that the beast was advancing rapidly to attack the town." And "the king bade his men be courageous, [and said] each one should help, according as he had courage for it, and proceed against the monster." But it is plain that, since the beast was apparently coming in the morning, in broad daylight, instead of at night, it seemed to have changed its tactics, and no one could tell what it intended to do. It was the part of wisdom to prepare for the worst. Besides, the men would have better prospects of success, or at least of avoiding injury, in an encounter with it in daylight when its maneuvers could be watched and guarded against. That the warders in a state of excitement said that "the beast was advancing rapidly to attack the town," is of no significance. They merely expressed the thought that came to their minds; and they were palpably wrong when they said that it "was advancing rapidly." But it is an exquisite touch on the part of the saga-man to have the warders utter these words. They got one view of the monster and hastened back. Of course, the beast was advancing and advancing rapidly; it would never occur to them, unless they had paused to take note of it, which they did not do, that the monster was standing still.

It may seem that too much attention is devoted to this feature of the story. But it is important to establish, if possible, the type of story we have before us in this much discussed tale about Bjarki and the troll-dragon. Regardless of where the author got the idea of the dragon, he has made use of the popular story about the troll that comes Christmas Eve and attacks those who venture out into the open after dark. And when the saga-man transformed the story into one of this type, he did it with the conscious purpose of providing a story that would enable him to let Bjarki take Hott out secretly at night, kill the dragon, compel Hott to eat of its heart and drink of its blood, put Hott's newly acquired strength to the test, prop the dead dragon up in a living posture, thus paving the way for further developments, and then return to the hall—all unseen and without arousing a breath of suspicion. The type of story is adapted precisely to the requirements of the author's plan. That the propping-up of an animal that has been slain is good saga-material, or has the sanction of earlier usage, is admitted, and need not be dwelt upon here.

The type to which the dragon story belongs has a bearing on its relationship to the Grendel story. Grendel is a hall-attacking monster; the troll-dragon is not a hall-attacking monster. If the dragon story in the saga is a modification of the Grendel story in Beowulf, or if it is a modification even of the story about the fire-spewing dragon, there has been a change, not only in the details of the story and the nature of the monster, but it has been transferred from one well-defined type of story to another. There is, indeed, a type of troll story in which the troll comes Christmas Eve and attacks the inmates of the house, not the cattle in the stable or in the folds. To this type belongs the story in the Grettissaga in which the troll-wife attacks the man of the house[69] and which is often compared with the Grendel story. Another story of the same type is that about Per Gynt, who, having been informed that a certain house is invaded by trolls every Christmas Eve so that the inmates must seek refuge elsewhere, decides to ask for lodging there overnight next Christmas Eve in order that he may put an end to the depredations of the trolls. The trolls make their appearance as usual, and with the aid of a tame polar bear Per Gynt puts them to flight.[70] But these stories must be sharply differentiated from the Bjarki story and others of its type; so that while the Grettir story and the Grendel story are essentially of the same type, the story about the winged monster in the Hrlfssaga and the Grendel story are not of the same type.

The last episode in the story about Bjarki and the winged monster has met with more criticism than any other portion of it. Olrik says that the story should have given us a real test of Hjalti's manhood;[71] Lawrence says, "The beast-propping episode spoils the courage-scene";[72] and Panzer says that this part of the story is impossible, because Hjalti is represented as killing a dead monster, and Hrolf, although he perceives the deception that has been practiced, nevertheless gives the swindler the heroic name Hjalti.[73] Panzer is also inclined to make much of Hjalti's asking for, and receiving, the king's sword, as he mentions the matter twice. Once he says, "Warum er des Knigs Schwert verlangt, gibt die Saga nicht an, er 'ttet' damit das (tote) Tier wie in den Rmur";[74] and again, "Man sieht nicht, warum und wozu Hjalti des Knigs Schwert zu seiner Scheintat erbittet und erhlt".[75] Furthermore, Kluge, Sarrazin, Holthausen, Lawrence, and Panzer[76] would identify "gylden hilt" in Beowulf with Gullinhjalti in the saga.

In considering this portion of the story it should be observed that the saga-man had a fourfold purpose in view. Bjarki must receive credit for his great achievement in killing the troll-dragon; he must receive credit for having made a brave man of the cow Hott; Hott must give proof of his newly acquired courage; his change of name must also be made, and, as is most appropriate, it must result, and result naturally, from the deed by which his courage is displayed. But before proceeding to an explanation of how the author manipulates the scene so as to accomplish his purpose, let us see how he has prepared for it.

The monster is dead. Hott has partaken of its strength-giving blood and heart. Bjarki and Hott have wrestled long, so that Bjarki has brought Hott to a thorough realization of the strength he now possesses, for that is the significance of the wrestling-match; and what better assurance could Hott have that he is now very strong than that he is not put to shame in wrestling with Bjarki who has overawed the king's warriors and slain the terrible dragon? Finally, the dragon is propped up and the two retire.

The morning comes and the monster is in view; but some of the terror that its expected arrival in the darkness had inspired has disappeared when it is seen in broad daylight. An effort ought really to be made to destroy it, but the king will not command any one to take the risk involved in attacking it. He calls for a volunteer, and the fact that no one volunteers shows what the men think of it. Bjarki sees an opportunity to continue what he has begun in the night, by having Hott do what will win him the reputation and place among the king's men to which, owing to the change that he has undergone, he is now entitled; and he calls on Hott to show his strength and courage by attacking the beast. Hott knows that the monster is dead, but this is not the reason why he accedes to Bjarki's request. He realizes now that Bjarki's friendship is beyond question and that everything that Bjarki has done with regard to him, and asked him to do, has been for the best; and though he feels that he is called upon to engage m a strange proceeding, loyalty to his friend, who probably is equal to this occasion, as he has been to every other, impels him to do as requested and assist in playing the game to the end. So he says to the king, "Give me your sword Gullinhjalti, which you are bearing, and I will kill the beast or die in the attempt."

Whether Hott has a sword of his own the saga does not tell, and it is quite immaterial. That such a coward as Hott has been has no business carrying a sword, would be sufficient justification for his being without one. But whether he has a weapon or no, if he is going to attack the monster he ought to be armed with the best sword available; and whose would that be but the king's sword? If the king expects any one to run the risk of attacking the beast, he ought to be willing to do what he can to assure success in the undertaking. He feels the force of the argument implied in Hott's request, and hands him his sword; but he says, "This sword can only be borne by a man who is both brave and daring." Hott answers, "You shall be convinced that I am such a man." He then goes up to the beast and knocks it over. But a beast that has shown itself to be so terrible on former occasions cannot be alive and yet stand stock still and allow itself to be killed and tumbled over in this manner. It must have been killed before, and now the king strongly suspects that the reason why Bjarki has urged Hott to attack it was that Bjarki, having killed the monster himself, knew that it was dead; and when he is charged with the deed he does not deny it. Thus Bjarki gets the credit for his achievement.

It is true, as Mllenhoff,[77] ten Brink,[78] and Olrik[79] have said, that the main object of the whole story of Bjarki and the dragon is to motivate Hott's newly acquired courage. Bjarki compels Hott to go with him when the dragon is to be attacked; he compels him to eat and drink what will give him strength and courage; he props up the dead dragon in order that, as the sequel shows, Hott may gain the reputation of being what he now really is, a brave man; and while, of the two achievements with which Bjarki is credited, the killing of the dragon is passed over lightly, his having made a brave man of Hott is strongly emphasized. But there can be no doubt that the saga-man planned that Bjarki should get credit for killing the dragon; for Bjarki does get such credit, and it must be presumed that, what the author permits to occur, he planned should occur. It is also natural that more emphasis is laid on his having made a hero of Hott than on his having slain the monster. Now that the beast is dead, the killing of it proved not to be an impossible feat, and Bjarki has shown before, that he possesses the qualities necessary for such a deed. But that he possesses the ability to make a hero out of the miserable, cowardly wretch, Hott, is a revelation of a new and uncommon power. He has not only dispatched the king's most dangerous foe, he has added another brave man to the number of the king's retainers. This naturally attracts the king's particular attention, and he gives Bjarki special credit for the achievement.

But when Bjarki is known to have killed the beast, what becomes of Hott's display of bravery, or even the appearance of bravery? His whole demeanor, from the moment he accedes to Bjarki's request to attack the beast, reveals the change in his nature. But the proof of this change consists, not in knocking over the dragon, but in his ability to wield the sword which the king himself says can "only be borne by a man who is both brave and daring." This must be conclusive proof to the king and to all present. It is not accidental that it is the king's sword that Hott uses and that it is the king himself who makes the remark about it which he does. The king, above all men, must be convinced of Hott's bravery, and in view of the manner in which Hott's bravery is displayed, the king must, indeed, be satisfied with the proof. Thus this purpose of the scene is also accomplished. Nor has the saga-man devised an artificial method of testing strength and courage. It is quite in harmony with folk-lore. That a strength-giving drink enables one to wield a sword that an ordinary mortal cannot handle, is a motive employed in a number of fairy tales. It occurs, for instance, in Soria Moria Castle, one of the best known Norse fairy tales. It is told that Halvor, a typical good-for-nothing fellow and groveler-in-the-ashes, has arrived at a castle inhabited by a princess and a three-headed troll. The princess warns Halvor to beware of the monster, but he decides to await the troll's arrival. Halvor is hungry and asks for meat to eat. "When Halvor had eaten his fill, the princess told him to try if he could brandish the sword that hung against the wall; no, he couldn't brandish it—he couldn't even lift it up. 'Oh,' said the princess, 'now you must go and take a pull of that flask that hangs by its side; that's what the troll does every time he goes out to use the sword.' So Halvor took a pull, and in a twinkling of an eye he could brandish the sword like anything".[80] It is apparent, therefore, that the saga-man intend Hott's ability to wield the king's sword to constitute the proof of his bravery. Thus the author's third purpose is accomplished, and the king rewards Hott, not in spite of the deception that been practiced and revealed, but on account of his bravery, which been proved.[81]

In Saxon, Hjalti has no other name than "Hialto." In the Hrlfssaga he first has the name "Hott" and this is changed to "Hjalti." The appropriate time for changing it is, as has been said, when his change of nature becomes apparent; and his new name is most fittingly derived from the deed by which he manifests that he has become a different man from what he was. "Hjalti" means "hilt"; hence, he must get his name from a hilt; but it should come from the hilt of a sword connected with his display of courage, and this is the king's sword. It is a fine conception that, as Hjalti gets his new name from his ability to wield the wonderful sword of the king, his name is a constant reminder of his bravery. But the name of the king's sword is Skofnung; hence, as the word has no suggestion of "hilt" in it, it is not available in this connection. The form "hjalti" must appear in some way to suggest the name; and since the name is to come from the king's sword the word "hjalti" must be used in connection with it. But what kind of hilt would the king's sword naturally have? A golden hilt, of course. So far as the words are concerned, "iron hilt," "brass hilt," or "silver hilt" would have served the purpose just as well, had it been appropriate to use any of these terms. But the king's sword must have a golden hilt. Hence, Hott says to the king, "Give me your sword Gullinhjalti, which you are bearing, and I will kill the beast." And after the king is convinced of Hott's bravery he says, "And now I wish him called Hott no longer, he shall from this day be named Hjalti,—thou shalt be called after the sword Gullinhjalti." Thus Hjalti gets his name from the king's sword; and this, again, is proof that it is by wielding the king's sword that Hjalti displays his courage. That "Gullinhjalti" is written as one word and capitalized may be a late development and signify no more than the modern treatment by some writers of "gylden hilt" (i.e., writing it "Gyldenhilt") in Beowulf. Even if we assume that the original author of the word intended "Gullinhjalti" as a proper noun and the name of the king's sword, it does not necessarily conflict with the idea that the name of the king's sword is Skofnung. "Gullinhjalti" would then be a by-name, a pet-name, for Skofnung, derived from its golden hilt. It can hardly be presumed that when the saga-man in this connection calls the king's sword "Gullinhjalti," he has for the moment forgotten that the name of Hrolf's famous sword is Skofnung. Nor is it in conflict with the description of Skofnung that Gullinhjalti is given a supernatural quality. Skofnung also has a supernatural quality. It is Skofnung's nature to utter a loud sound whenever it reaches the bone.[82]

That two swords in two widely separated compositions are identical requires more proof than that the term "golden hilt" is used in connection with both of them; and in the two compositions in question there is nothing else than this term, and the peculiarity of the one sword that it can be wielded only by a man of unusual strength, of the other that it can be wielded only by a brave man, on which to base an identity. The fact of the matter is that it is the requirement of the plot that has supplied both the name and the unusual quality of the sword Gullinhjalti in the Hrlfssaga. Other requirements would have produced other results.

But since such stress has been laid on the similarity between "gylden hilt" (Beowulf) and "Gullinhjalti" (Hrlfssaga) in the attempt to identify Bothvar Bjarki with Beowulf, let us turn our attention, before proceeding further, to the portion of Beowulf where the term "gylden hilt" occurs.

The text shows clearly that the author of Beowulf did not intend "gylden hilt" as a proper noun. He never uses the word "hilt" in connection with the weapon in question to designate the sword as a whole. "Hilt," both as a simple word and in compounds, is used only to designate the handle of the sword. The following terms are used for the sword as a whole: "bil,"[83] "sweord,"[84] "w[=]pen,"[85] "m[=]l,"[86] "īrena cyst."[87] The word "hilt" is used seven times. Sarrazin says, "Es ist bemerkenswert, dass bei jenem Schwert, auch als es noch vollstndig und unversehrt war, regelmssig die hilze, der griff (hilt), hervorgehoben wurde (ll. 1563, 1574, 1614, 1668, 1677, 1687, 1698)."[88] But the statements, "Hē gefēīng ā fetel-hilt,"[89] "W[=]pen hafenade heard be hiltum,"[90] contain the only two instances in which the hilt is mentioned before the blade melted. It is quite natural for the author to say, "He then seized the belted hilt," "The strong man raised the sword by the hilt"; for the hilt is the part of the weapon that is intended to be held in the hand when a sword is to be used. It is hardly correct to say that the hilt is here emphasized.

"Ne nōm hē īn [=]m wīcum, Weder-Gēata lēod, mām-[=]hta mā, ēh hē [=]r monige geseah, būton one hafelan ond ā hilt somod, since fāge; sweord [=]r gemealt."[91]

"Hilt" does not here mean "sword," because "sweord [=]r gemealt" and nothing but the hilt was left to be taken away. The same applies to "hilt" in the statement, "Ic t hilt anan fēondum tferede."[92]

"ā ws gylden hilt gamelum rince, hārum hild-fruman, on hand gyfen, enta [=]r-geweorc."[93]

In this passage, "hilt" cannot refer to the whole sword, because the blade had melted; only the hilt remained. To say that the hilt was given to the king, was proper, for (making allowance, of course, for the fictional nature of the whole story) it was literally true; but to say that "Gyldenhilt" (the sword) was given to the king, would not be proper, because the principal part of the sword had disappeared. The word "gylden" is used in this passage apparently for two reasons: 1. that the hilt is of gold renders it more appropriate as a gift, to the king; 2. "gylden" alliterates with "gamelum."

The hilt was remarkable for other qualities than that it was of gold.

"Hrogār maelode, hylt scēawode, ealde lāfe, on [=]m ws ōr writen fyrn-gewinnes, syan flōd ofslōh, gifen gēotende, gīganta cyn; frēcne gefērdon; t ws fremde ēod ēcean Dryhtne; him s ende-lēan urh wteres wylm Waldend sealde. Swā ws on [=]m scennum scīran goldes urh rūn-stafas rihte gemearcod, geseted ond gesd, hwām t sweord geworht, īrena cyst, [=]rest w[=]re, wreoen-hilt ond wyrm-fāh."[94]

"Hylt"[95] cannot mean the whole sword, since Hrothgar could look at only what was left of the sword. That was the "gylden hilt," which he held in his hand; and the expression "hylt scēawode" leaves no doubt that "gylden hilt" is not a designation of the whole sword. "Wreoen-hilt"[96] also obviously refers only to the hilt.

In no instance, therefore, in this connection, does the author of Beowulf use "hilt" to designate the whole sword; consequently, to write "gylden hilt" as one word and capitalize it is both arbitrary and illogical. There is, in fact, nothing in the poem to indicate that the sword had a name.

Furthermore, the author refers to other swords that were distinguished by being ornamented with gold. When Beowulf left the land of the Danes, it is said,

"Hē [=]m bāt-wearde bunden golde swurd gesealde."[97]

And when Beowulf returned to the land of the Geats and presented to Hygelac and Hygd the gifts he had received from Hrothgar,

"Hēt ā eorla hlēo in gefetian, heao-rōf cyning, Hrēles lāfe golde gegyrede; ns mid Gēatum ā sinc-māum sēlra on sweordes hād; t hē on Bīowulfes bearm ālegde."[98]

It is not said that either of these swords had a golden hilt; but it is plain that it was not unusual to represent a sword that possessed excellent qualities as being ornamented with gold, and the hilt is the part of the sword that naturally lends itself to ornamentation. Other examples of richly ornamented swords are King Arthur's sword, Excalibur, whose "pommel and haft were all of precious stones";[99] Roland's sword, Durendal, which had a golden hilt;[100] and the sword of Frothi II, which also had a golden hilt.[101]

The fact, therefore, that, both in regard to the giant-sword in Beowulf and King Hrolf's sword in the saga, the hilt is said to be golden proves nothing as to the identity of these two swords.

And when, both in the term "gylden hilt" and in the word "Gullinhjalti," the hilt of the sword is made prominent, it is due, in the one instance, to the fact that nothing but the hilt remains; in the other, to the fact that the word "hjalti" is just the word that the author must have in order to explain the origin of Hjalti's name.

A little more ought to be said about the propping-up of the dragon. That it served an excellent purpose is evident. It provided the occasion for Hjalti's asking for the king's sword, in the use of which he displayed his courage and from which he received his new name. Furthermore, Bjarki's interest in having Hott attack the beast and display his courage indicated that he knew that the beast was dead and that he had a special interest in having Hott recognized as a brave man. This, again, indicated that Bjarki had himself killed the beast and been the cause of the change in Hott's nature, for both of which he receives due credit. But it may be asked, when Bjarki propped the dead beast up, how could he know that events would take the turn they did? He could not know it. He relied on his resourcefulness to handle the situation, a resourcefulness on which he had drawn with success before. He was on hand in the morning to take note of developments, and we can imagine several possibilities that he might have had in mind. Had the king proposed that no risk should be taken with the beast, Bjarki could have requested and secured permission to attack it, taking Hott with him. Had the king himself proposed to attack the beast, or had he proposed that his warriors should attack it in a body, Bjarki could have said, "No, the king must not expose himself," or, "The king must not expose so many of his men at once; let me go." To which the king could have assented, whereupon Bjarki could have taken Hott with him and let Hott, at the last, proceed against the beast alone and knock it over. One can imagine other possibilities, which it is not necessary to enumerate here. To be sure, none of them would be so fortunate as the one represented as having occurred; but they would have enabled Hott to gain the reputation of being a brave man, and that is all Bjarki contemplated. That all turned out more fortunately than Bjarki had foreseen or even intended, enhances the interest of the story and illustrates the skill of the narrator, who chose to represent, as he had a right to do, that particular possibility as having actually occurred that produced the most satisfactory results. That Bjarki had no thought of credit for himself, redounds, in the estimation of the reader all the more to his credit; and it is a fitting reward that he gets full credit for all that he has done.

1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse