Hrolf Kraki Saga Explained
Genealogy: House of Halfdan-Hrolf
|Two brothers – Halfdan and Frodi – each ruling his own kingdom, were different in many ways. Halfdan was described as being mild-mannered and good-natured, but his brother was protrayed a greedy and treacherous. So treacherous that Frodi killed his brother, taking Denmark, Halfdan’s kingdom, by force. Although, some of Halfdan’s followers had survived and fled, those who were captured were forced to swear allegiance to Frodi.
Halfdan’s children survived. His daughter Signy was the eldest, and she married to Jarl Saevil. They have a son named Hrok. Halfdan also had two sons, Hroar and Helgi. His wife was named Sigrid. Regin was the boys’ foster-father. Among those who were forced to become Frodi’s subjects were Helgi’s wife, Signy and Saevil and Regin. Although, Frodi accepted them, he would have murdered the young princes, had he found his nephews.
Regin could not protect Halfdan’s sons so he had Vifil spirited the boys to his island, hiding Helgi and Hroar. Vifil was a crafty man; although he was a fisherman, he was master of old magic. Before the boys arrival on Vifil’s island, he lived alone with his dogs, Hopp and Ho.
Frodi tried searching for his nephews in every possible places, and had even search Vifil once before. No one knew where the boys were hiding. He had sent spies to find them, and later on soothsayers and seeresses, but none could reveal their location. Finally he sought the aid of sorcerer, who told them to search Vifil’s island again. The sorcerer suspected that Vifil was more powerful than he looked.
So Frodi sent his men back to Vifil’s island, but returned to the king, empty-handed. Frodi angrily told them to search again, but his men returned with similar result. Frodi realised that Vifil must be hiding them, so the king went to the island himself. Despite being threatened, Vifil denied keeping the boys in his care, and did not disclose the location of Hroar and Helgi.
When the king could not find his nephews and left his island, Vifil told the two boys he could no longer hide them, so he would send them to home of Jarl Saevil, the boys’ brother-in-law. To hide their identities, Hroar changed his name to Ham, and Helgi to Hrani. They also wore hoods over their heads, so their sister, Signy would not recognise them.
They stayed with Saevil and Signy for three winters, before their sister recognise them. Although Helgi was the youngest in Halfdan’s family (he was ten), he was smarter and braver than Hroar (twelve), but they were trouble-makers.
One day while riding to Frodi’s court, at the king’s invitation, Saevil had told the boys to remain behind, but the boys decided to come with them, borrowed a couple of horses from the Jarl’s stable. The boys had never rode horses before, and though Hrani (Helgi) rode the right way, his older brother rode, mounted backward. Because the horses had not being tamed and properly trained, the horses bucked frequently. Signy recognised Helgi immediately, when his hood feel back. Signy cried, and Saevil fearing the king’s discovery of these boys would lead to all of their deaths. He told his wife, to keep silent about the identities of the boys. At this point, from Signy’s lament, it is revealed that she and her brothers are descendants of Skioldungs or the Scyldings; the same dynasty of Hrothgar, in the epic Beowulf.
Saevil tried unsuccessfully to order them home, but Ham and Hrani continued to follow them to Frodi’s palace. They refused to listen to their sisters too, when she told them to enter Frodi’s feasting hall. With the boys within their enemy’s den, neither Saevil nor Signy could save them.
In Frodi’s hall, a seeress (or a sibyl), named Heid, was seated on the high platform, which was used when she goes into a trance and foretells future. Frodi’s wanted to discovered his elusive nephews, promising great rewards if she deliver. Heid revealed that they were hiding at first on Vifil’s island, but before she can continue, Signy threw a gold ring to Heid before she can continue further. Frodi threatened Heid with torture if she did not reveal more, so she pronounced that Frodi would die by his nephews’ hands.
At this time, Ham and Hrani became frightened and fled the hall into the woods, but not before Regin, their foster-father, had recognise them. The seeress Heid had also escaped. When Frodi ordered his warriors to capture them, Regin immediately extinguished the torches in the hall. Many within the hall, were loyal to Helgi’s sons despite having swore an oath of allegiance to the king, grappled with Frodi’s men in the dark. Frodi threatened those people who would conspire with the boys.
Regin and others began serving drinks to Frodi’s ale, until most of them passed out from drunken slumber. Regin then set about finding his foster-sons in the woods. They tried to hail Regin, but he deliberately refused to acknowledge their presence. Helgi then understood Regin’s silent message, that something must have happened back at their uncle’s palace.
So the boys returned to the palace, blocking all the exit except one. Those who were loyal to Halfdan’s sons were allowed to leave the palace, which included Saevil and Signy. Before Frodi’s death, the king heard Odin’s voice saying that ‘They had come home to Hel’. So Frodi and his warriors have no palace in heaven or in Valhalla. Frodi seeing the fire, tried to negiotate with his nephews, but they knew full well that the uncle was treacherous, rejected any compensation from Frodi. Frodi tried another exit, but Regin menacingly blocked his escape. Frodi returned to the hall, where he was burned to death, along with his followers, and Sigrid, the mother of Helgi and Hroar, who had refused to escape.
|For awhile, Hroar and Helgi shared the kingdoms that had belonged to their father and uncle, until King Nordri of Northumberland, in England, invited Hroar to marry his daughter Ogn. So Hroar ruled Northumberland with Nordri, leaving Denmark to his younger brother to rule alone. Hroar and Ogn had a son named Agnar. Jarl Saevil and Signy continued to live in their land with their son, Hrok.
Only Helgi remained single, and childless. So he sought a wife, and looked to Saxland (or Saxony) in northern Germany, where the kingdom was ruled by Olof. She was also single, but don’t want to marry. Olof like to dressed in armour, wore helmet and carrying sword and shield around. Olof knew immediately of his attention, when Helgi invited himself to her court. Had she known earlier, she would have gathered her force to prevent his entry into kingdom.
So Olof was forced to play a hostess to an unwanted guest. So a feast was prepared for Helgi and his companions. She got the king drunk, who had fallen into slumber before she struck him with sleep thorn. Olof then shaved off all of Helgi’s hair, and smeared his body in tar, before bundling him in a bag. She sent him back to his men waiting on his ship.
Helgi was outraged at his treatment, but was powerless to attack Olof’s kingdom, since she managed to gather her army. But he would not let the queen get away for the humiliation. He had hoped to marry her, but now he only wanted revenge.
Helgi returned to the island with a plan. The king disguised as a beggar, duped one of Olof’s thrall that there was hidden treasures in the woods. Olof was known for greed, so it was easy for Helgi to lure the queen into coming alone to the woods.
So Helgi captured her and brought to her to his ship. Olof pleaded with the offended king that he can marry her, and that she would make amend to him, but he flatly refused. She was raped for several days on Helgi’s ship, before she was freed to return to her island.
Olof carried Helgi’s child, named Yrsa, whom she did not love. The queen neglected her daughter, and she was brought up by old, poor farmer, and Yrsa grew up thinking that this farmer was her father. Yrsa grew into a lovely girl, but unlike her mother, she had sweet disposition and wise beyond her years.
Helgi returned to Saxland, some years later, to find out any news about Olof, but he didn’t know that he has a daughter. So he by chance came upon a farm, and fell in love with Yrsa. So Helgi took her back to his kingdom and married her. Yrsa was indeed in love with a much older man, not realising that she had committed incest with her father.
Olof found out what Helgi had done, she patiently abide her time when she could revealed her secret to Helgi and her daughter, to extract her own vengeance upon her rapist, and caused him the most grief.
The story then shifted its focus slightly away from Yrsa to Helgi’s most precious possession – a gold ring. This ring brought turmoil in Helgi’s family. Both Hroar and Helgi’s sister Signy had also desire the ring.
Hroar visited his brother and told him that he wanted the ring, and was willing to share his kingdom at Northumberland with Helgi. Helgi agreed with his brother’s offer, and didn’t hesitate to relinquish the ring to Hroar.
Jarl Saevil, Helgi’s brother-in-law, had died, so his son, Hrok, became a new jarl. Signy told her son about this ring that belonged to her brother, Helgi. She encouraged Hrok to gain the ring, since she had helped Hroar and Helgi, when Frodi was ruler of Denmark. So Jarl Hrok went to Denmark, but Helgi flatly rebuked his nephew he doesn’t have the ring, since he had given it to Hroar. The king also told Hrok that he and his brother had won it through their own courage, and not by Signy’s aid.
So Jarl Hrok went to Northumberland, to demand the ring from his other uncle. Hroar refused to give away the ring, but he did let his rash nephew to look at the ring. Since Hrok can’t have the ring, he vowed that Hroar can’t have it too. Hrok flung the ring out to sea.
Hroar angry at his nephew’s action, captured him, and have one of Hrok’s foot chopped off. Hroar then send him back home. When Hrok recovered, he massed an army and returned to Northumberland. Hrok’s men attacked Hroar while he was feasting with only a few men. Hroar died.
Hroar decided to rule Northumberland, so he wanted to forcibly marry his uncle’s widow, Ogn. But Ogn was already pregnant with Hroar’s child, and she didn’t want to marry someone who had killed her husband, so Ogn managed to persuade Hrok to dely a marriage, a delay long enough to call for aid her brother-in-law, King Helgi.
Shortly after the birth of her son, Agnar, Helgi arrived with his army and captured Hrok. Helgi didn’t kill his nephew, but he did return Hrok home, with broken arms and legs.
Hroar’s son, Agnar, grew very strong. At the age of twelve, Agnar went looking for the ring that Hrok had thrown into the sea. Agnar dived for the ring three times before he found his father’s ring. Agnar won fame for this achievement.
It was around this time that Yrsa finally gave birth to a healthy baby boy, who was named Hrolf. When Olof heard how happy Helgi and Yrsa were, she decided to spoil it for them. She came to visit, and told her daughter, that she was her mother, and Helgi, Yrsa’s husband was really her father. This shocking news upset Yrsa, and had no choice to leave her father-husband and returned to her mother’s kingdom. Helgi was still in love with his daughter-wife and asked her not to leave, but Yrsa believed that was not possible. Helgi was devastated that Yrsa had left but could not stop her, and felt even worse, when she heard that Olof had arrange Yrsa to marry another man – Adils, a king in Sweden. Yrsa was reluctant to marry Adils, because she knew of his reputation as being a cruel and unjust king. He was also known for performing sacrifice (perhaps human sacrifice) and sorcery.
Helgi was depressed at losing his wife, but one Yule, he heard someone’s outside of door, in a freezing cold weather. Helgi let him, but she wanted to sleep in the same bed with him. Helgi didn’t want to sleep in bed with this strange woman, because she was ugly, but didn’t refuse her request.
As the night rolled on, Helgi found her to be more and more attractive. So that night, Helgi slept with her. When they woke the next morning, he saw that she was beautiful. Apparently her stepmother had laid a terrible curse upon her that transformed her into an ugly hag; this spell could only lifted if someone was to sleep with her.
She was going to leave, but Helgi persuaded her to stay for only one more night, where he made love to her, and she knew she had become pregnant. She asked him to meet her, next Yule, at the ship’s landing, or else he would face the consequence.
Helgi was no longer depressed, but he forgot the rendezvous. Three winters later, three people came at night, with a young girl, saying that her name was Skuld. One of the three adults was the woman Helgi had slept with. This woman was apparently an elf or elfin woman. She left the Skuld with Helgi to care for. Skuld grew up into a wicked woman, with vicious temperament.
To forget his sorrow, Helgi spend much of his time, vikinging, which is raiding and plundering other kingdoms, let his son, Hrolf, to rule during his absence.
One day, Helgi decided to visit his daughter/ex-wife, and came to Uppsala. Adils invited Helgi to a feast, to test Yrsa’s affection for Helgi. Seeing that Helgi was still in love with his wife, Adils plotted to ambush Helgi after the feast, when the Danish king returns to his ship.
Adils had powerful a group of twelve berserker warriors, and told them to ambush them from one side, while Adils will attack with his men on the other side, in order to prevent Helgi’s escape. A battle ensued when Helgi became aware of the ambush. Despite of his skill as a warrior, he and his warriors were overwhelmed by a larger force. Some of Helgi’s warriors managed to escape and returned to Denmark.
When Adils returned to the palace, boasting of his victory, Yrsa showed her displeasure at the death of her father. Though, she was powerless to do anything, particularly against her husband, she was determined to bring about the downfall of Adils’ 12 berserkers.
With Helgi’s death, their son became king.
|Svipdag was a son of a farmer named Svip, who was apparently. They lived in a remote farmland near one of the mountains in Sweden, with his two brothers – Hvitserk and Beygad. Svipdag at eighteen, wanted a different lifestyle instead of as a farmer. He decided to become a warrior, he would serve under King Adils, but his father warned him that their king was a cruel king, unjust and ungenerous; and it was better to find someone to serve. Despite the warning, Svipdag was insistent that he didn’t want to live a farm for the rest of his life.
Svipdag arrived at Adils’ court, and the king’s berserkers had instant disliking towards the stranger. Adils also didn’t like the newcomer, when Svipdag broke through the gate, and rode his horse into the courtyard. To Adils, the stranger was arrogant. When the king heard who Svipdag’s father was, he recognise the name. The berserkers wanted to test Svipdag and the king agreed. The leader of the berserker challenged Svipdag to fight them, and the young hero agreed, but one at the time. Yrsa was the only one in her husband’s court to be pleased that someone was bold enough to confront her husband’s berserkers.
The next day, Svipdag killed the first berserker fell to his sword, and he proved that the berserkers were no match him in single combat. Another three berserkers died in quick succession. Adils was angry at the loss of his champions and ordered the other berserkers to attack them, but his wife intervened. Yrsa told Adils that since Svipdag had killed 4 berserkers then surely he is worth more to the king, as a new champion. Adils grudgingly agreed.
So he gave Svipdag a seat at his table as his warrior, but he secretly incite the other berserkers to attack Svipdag when the new champion is allowed. Svipdag knew that the berserkers were plotting his death, but he wasn’t afraid. Another fight erupted when he was alone, and another berserker died at his hand, before Adils intervened, and banished the rest of his berserkers from his kingdom.
The berserkers left humiliated by their exile, and their failure to kill a lone warrior. So the berserkers gathered a force, and continued to raid Adils’ kingdom. Adils promoted the reluctant Svipdag as leader of his army, in the hope to drive off the berserkers.
Another berserker was killed when Svipdag’s force repulsed the raiders. But this did not the berserkers from regrouping and raiding Adils’ land again. So the king sent Svipdag off again with the army. The army was smaller than before, but Adils promised that he would gather a larger army to join and support Svipdag’s force.
Svipdag’s men were outnumbered by the large berserkers’ forces. The battle was now going against Svipdag, but no help arrived from the king. Adils was hoping that either Svipdag crush the remaining rebellious berserkers or that Svipdag would die; for he didn’t care about Svipdag, and he was willing to accept the berserkers back at his table; such was Adils’ treacherous nature.
Back at the farm, Svip woke with foreboding that his son was in trouble because of Adils’ treachery, so he sent his other sons. Armed with good armours and weapons, Beygad and Hvitserk set out for the battlefield. Svipdag’s men hardpressed, and the hero had many wounds, including the loss of one eye. Howerver, Svipdag had killed three berserkers, so he accomplished many great deeds in this battle. When Svipdag’s brothers joined the battle, the course of the war had changed again, and many of rebels were killed, including the remaining three berserkers.
Due to Svipdag’s wounds, it was a while before he was healed and his strength returned, but he would remained one-eyed. It was the queen who nursed him back to health. The three brothers decided to leave Adils’ services since the king rewarded them poorly. Svipdag wanted to find another king, who would do him justice. They rejected Adils’ offer to compensate them.
First they returned home, to the farm. Svip could not persuade his sons to stay, so he advise them to become King Hrolf’s champions, since the Danish king was wise and generous, unlike their own king.
Although, Adils and Hrolf are enemies, Hrolf accepted Svipdag and his brothers into his household. Though, at first, Hrolf’s own berserkers had challenged Svipdag, the king refused to let them fight. So the leader of Hrolf’s beserkers became friend of Svipdag, and Svipdag as his equal.
Hrolf as king of Denmark, ruled from his royal seat in Hleidargard. Many great warriors from all part of the world came to join him, because they all knew of his bravery, wisdom and generosity. He has two daughters, Skur and Drifa, but the name of his wife was never given. Hrolf’s half sister, Skuld, was married to Hjorvard.
As wise as he is, he had uncanny skill of making enemies unnecessarily. When Hjorvard came to Hleidargard during a festivity, Hrolf tricked him into Hrolf’s swordbelt for a moment, like a servant. Although, Hjorvard was a powerful king, he grudgingly accepted Hrolf as his liege lord, and paid tributes to his brother-in-law annually. In his heart, Hjorvard would caused trouble later for Hrolf.
|In Uppdales, north of Norway, there was a king named Hring had a son, named Bjorn, but his wife (who is unnamed) died. So his advisers suggested that he should remarry. His counsellors went everywhere to find the king a new bride. In Lappland, they come across two women, mother and daughter, named Ingebjorg and Hvit. Hvit was a daughter of the King of the Lapps, and her mother was the king’s mistress. Her beauty was such that they thought she was best candidate for their king’s new queen, but they were unaware of the young woman’s skill in sorcery and her cruelty and treachery in demeanour.
So Hring married Hvit. Hvit, on the other hand, was more interest in her handsome stepson, when he became older. When her husband went to war in another kingdom, she one-day suggested that his son should help her rule in his absence, for she was hoped to seduce young Bjorn. Bjorn, however, was in love with his childhood friend, Bera, daughter of a wealthy freeman.
When Bjorn rejected her amorous advances, she angrily cursed Bjorn, transforming him into a bear. He would be aware of transformation, but could do nothing about it. As a bear, he fled his father’s palace, living in the woods, not far from the king’s farmlands.
No one knew of Bjorn being cursed by his stepmother, nor where he had disappeared to. No one could the young prince, but the king noticed that some sort of wild animal was killing his cattle and sheep. It was Bjorn killing his father’s animals.
One day, Bjorn came upon the farm of Bera’s father, and she immediately recognised the bear was really Bjorn. The bear didn’t harm her, so she followed the bear into the cave as the night fell. Bera found Bjorn in human form. Apparently, he resumed in his natural form by night, but during daytime, he was transformed into the bear.
Bera stayed with Bjorn for some times, and slept with Bjorn, until she became pregnant with triplets. Their short moment of happiness was interrupted, when Bjorn realised he would die in the next day. He left instruction to Bera, at his death she must ask from the king to have whatever is underneath the bear’s left shoulder. She must not at any circumstance the bear’s flesh, otherwise their sons would be born deformed. He also gave the names of their three future sons. Also, he instructed Bera that when each of their son had grown strong, each should receive their inheritances in that cave. In a chest were runes that would reveal, which gift would go to which son. These gifts were weapons imbedded into the stone. Their sons could only draw out the weapon that they are destined to receive.
By morning, Bjorn was transformed into bear and left the cave. Bera followed to witness her husband’s death. It was at Hvit’s urging that Hring should hunt for that bear ravaging his land. They tracked down the bear (Bjorn), and surrounded him. Bjorn killed all the dogs, and a number of the king’s hunters, before Bjorn fell exhausted and was killed.
Bera having witness her husband’s death, went immediately to the king as instructed, and secretly took the ring under Bjorn’s shoulder. Hring had bear’s corpse brought back to his palace, along with Bera. Hvit suspecting who Bera was tried to trick the young woman to eat the cooked bear’s flesh. Bera only reluctantly a bit of the meat, when the queen threatened to punished her. Bera ate only a tiny piece of Bjorn’s meat, but spat out the rest. Hvit just laughed as Bera stormed out of the palace.
Bera returned to her father’s farm, revealing everything to him. Her pregnancy was difficult, and as Bjorn had warned and predicted, her sons would be deformed if she was to eat her husband’s flesh.
The firstborn, Elk-Frodi; above his navel he was normal human being, but below it, the rest of his body was an elk. Thorir was her second son, and he was only deformed at his feet, for they were the feet of a hound; other than that he was quite handsome. Thorir was nicknamed as Thorir Hound’s Foot. The last son was Bodvar, and he had no deformity. Each son was extraordinary strong, but Elk-Frodi was the strongest.
Elk-Frodi was to first to leave home when he was old enough. So his mother instructed Frodi to get his inheritance in the bear-cave. Frodi wanted the longsword or the axe, but he could draw neither from the stone, so he was unhappy with the shortsword. Frodi chose to live in the mountain, where he would attack and robbed travellers.
Thorir decided some time later to leave, and he too went into the cave and took the axe; he too couldn’t pull out the longsword. Thorir went into the mountain to visit his brother, where Frodi treated him hospitably only when he recognise him. Frodi offered his wealth, but Thorir refused. So Frodi advised his brother to go to Gautland, because the king had recently died. The people would only accept a new king, he who can sit on the wide seat of the king’s throne. Thorir did as his brother instructed, and he became king of the Gauts. Thorir Hound’s Foot was a strong and brave king, alway victorius in battles.
Only, Bodvar remained with his mother longer than his brothers. When Bodvar was eighteen, he asked his mother who was his father, she told him the truth about what happened to Bjorn and to herself, and why Frodi and Thorir was born the way they were. Bodvar said that his father should be avenged, and he would do it for his brothers. Bera warned her son that Hvit must not be allowed to cast any spell.
So Bera and Bodvar went to visit the king, and reveal the truth about his son’s fate and the wickedness of his wife. Hring had already realised what had happened, but chose to kept silence about it, since he still loved Hvit. Hring offered Bodvar the title of jarl and make him heir upon his death, if he was to spare his wife. Since Hring refused to take action and banish his queen from the kingdom, Bodvar decided to act. Bodvar went into the queen’s chamber, covered Hvit’s head with a sack, then beat her and dragged her body through the street, until she died. Only Hring mourned for his wife’s death, but none of his subject ever did.
|Bera and Bodvar stayed in Hring’s palace, until the king died, and Bodvar succeeded his grandfather. He only ruled for a short time. But he decided to abdicate. He married his mother to a jarl, named Valsleyt, and left the kingdom to them. His mother told him to visit bear-cave, and received the last weapon in the cave, the longsword. This sword, however, can only be drawn three times, and each time, it must kill at least one man.
Then, Bodvar visited his brothers. At Frodi’s mountain, he wrestled with his brother until Frodi recognised him. Frodi not only offer him to stay with him, but to share in his wealth, but Bodvar politely want to find his own destiny. Frodi suggested that he should become Hrolf’s champion. But before Bodvar could leave, he wanted to test his brother’s strength. Being far stronger, Frodi can easily push Bodvar around. Frodi made his brother even stronger, by giving Bodvar drinking a sip of his blood from his elk’s calf.
Frodi then stamped foot into the rock. If Bodvar died from illness, the hoof-print was filled with earth, and from drowning if it is filled with water. If he is killed by weapon, then the hoof-print will be filled with blood; and in this case, he would find his killer to avenge him.
Bodvar then visited his other brother in Gautland, but Thorir was absence at the time. The people thought he was Thorir, because he resembled the king so much. So they escorted to Bodvar to the throne. Since Thorir was married, his subject brought him to the queen’s bed. Bodvar did not sleep under the cover with his sister-in-law, but he revealed his true identity to her. They kept this a secret from everyone, until the real Thorir returned. Thorir warmly offered him position in his kingdom, but Bodvar refused. Bodvar only stayed for short time, before he set out for Denmark.
Before Bodvar could reach Hleidargard, he stayed in the poor farmer’s house. When they found out his destination, they revealed that their son, Hott, had been mistreated by Hrolf’s retainers. Hott was of small stature compared to the warriors. They would throw bones at Hott when they were having their suppers, often injuring him. Because of their kind hospitality, Bodvar promised to help their son.
When Bodvar arrived at Hrolf’s palace at Hleidargard, and immediately went looking for Hott. The hero found the frightened man, hidden behind pile of bones. Hott used the bones to shield himself. He was dirty and his hand was badly damaged.
Bodvar carried Hott out of the hall, and washed him in the lake, before returning to the hall. Bodvar seated Hott next to him at one of the tables. When the hall began filling with Holf’s warriors, some of the more hostile warriors saw that Hott was sitting at the table. When one warrior threw a large knucklebone at Hott, Bodvar caught it in his hand and threw it back the one who threw the knucklebone in the first place, and was killed.
When Hrolf learned of this, he also found that the man who was killed was at fault, not the newcomer. After questioning Bodvar, Hrolf offered him to stay as one of his champions, but Bodvar was only willing to do so, if Hott can stay with him.
When it was Yuletime, Bodvar learned of the monster, possibly a troll would come out this day, to ravage the countryside, except that this troll seemed to have wings and could fly. No one was strong enough to confront this creature. The creature had been attacking the land for 2 autumns, and that Yule’s Eve, Hrolf ordered his warriors not to confront the creature.
Bodvar, however, sneaked out with Hott in tow. Hott was too frightened to resist, so he just laid there, cowering in terror. Bodvar immediately attacked the creature, and found that ordinary sword could not harm the troll, so he drew his father’s magic sword. He thrust the sword into beast’s body, and piercing the heart. The creature dropped dead.
The hero then forced Hott to drink the creature’s blood and eat the heart. Hott was remarkably transformed into a strong man, without fear. Bodvar tested his companion’s strength by fighting him for some hours.
In the morning, Bodvar then made it so that Hott had killed the creature in front witnesses, including the king. Hott borrowed the Hrolf’s sword, Golden Hilt. Hott attacked the already dead creature, but Hrolf suspected that was the true warrior that had slain the beast.
Nevertheless, Hroft made Hott as one of his champions, and changed his name to Hjalti.
The following year, Hrolf’s berserkers returned. The berserkers considered themselves to have no equal. The berserkers would ask each warrior, including the king, if he was their equal, except for the king, every other warriors would conceded that the berserker were greater than them.
Neither Bodvar nor Hjalti (Hott) would admit that the berserkers were superior to them, and fought with two of them. Hrolf put a stop to the fight, and persuaded his champions to reconcile.
Bodvar, with Hjalti sat on Hrolf’s right, while Svipdag and his brothers sat on the king’s left. Hrolf later had his daughter, Drifa, married to Bodvar.
These names were given in the later chapter (32). Snorri Sturluson also named Veseti as one of the champions in the Prose Edda, which is omitted from the above list.
The Hospitality of Hrani
One day, Bodvar persuaded Hrolf to reclaim his inheritance, which King Adils have denied Hrolf. Adils was Hrolf’s father-brother-in-law, and Hrolf knew that the king of Uppsala is a treacherous man, especially the way he treated Svipdag (see Svipdag). Even more concerning is that Adils was a powerful practitioner of dark magic, often using this power to overcome his enemy.
Hrolf brought his twelve champions, twelve berserkers, and hundred warriors with him. But before reaching Uppsala, a farmer, named Hrani, greeted the king and offered his hospitality, which Hrolf accepted.
Everyone enjoyed the meal that Hrani managed to provide everyone, but at night it was so freezing that everyone, except Hrolf’s champions, felt the chill.
Hrani counselled the king that he should sent half of his company back home before leaving his farm, since they didn’t endure the cold so well. If they can’t deal with cold night, then they can’t deal with Adils’ sorcery. Hrolf agreed, and sends half his retinue back to his kingdom, while he returned on his journey to Uppsala.
But before it night had fallen, Hrolf and his retinue come across another farm, but he immediately recognise it was the same farmer, Hrani. That night, all but the champions, suffered from unbearable thirst; those who couldn’t endure drank from Hrani’s vat of wine. Again in the morning, Hrani advised that half of this current company should be sent home.
Before they could leave, a storm kept them indoor, so Hrolf and his warriors stayed for another night. When a fire was lit, for warmth, everyone except Hrolf and his twelve champions, moved towards the fire. Hrani advised that no one should go Adils’ palace, except the king and his twelve champions. Hrolf admired Hrani’s wisdom, decided to follow Hrani’s instruction. When he left the next morning, the king only took his twelve champions.
Adils and Yrsa
Hrolf and his champions arrived at Adils’ palace. Suspecting treachery from his former king, Svipdag advised the king and his companions to not reveal the identity of Hrolf.
Adils’ idea of safe conduct was to have his ambush the small company. Adils’ men hid behind nooks, and attacked Hrolf’s company; but they were repulsed, with many falling to the champions’ weapons.
Seeing this ambush is not going well, he put a stop to it. And had the champions seated. Adils still couldn’t recognise who is the king. Adils decided to put the champions through a trial of fire, hoping that the heat would cause the king to reveal himself. Since the guests’ seat were closer to the fire, Adils’ men kept putting more fuel into the fire.
Bodvar and Svipdag decided to act, or they would all burn to death. Each hero grabbed Adils’ man who was feeding the fire with more fuel, and tossed them into the fire. Hjalti followed suit, as did the other champion, throwing attendants of the fire into the flame, where they died.
Hrolf and his champions then all jump over the fire, with the intention of seizing Adils. Adils in fear, fled to the tree, in the middle of his hall. The tree was hollow in the inside, and with his magic, he was able to escape.
Adils went to his wife, Yrsa, who rebuked him for not only her father-husband, Helgi, but for attempting to murder her son, when Hrolf was supposed to be under safe-conduct. Adils replied to his wife that he would no longer come into her presence, since he can no longer trust his wife.
Yrsa went to greet her son, and she called upon her most faithful servant, Vogg, to serve Hrolf as he had served her. Vogg’s comment about how thin and angular like “a ladder carved from a pole”, gave the king the nickname of Kraki, meaning pole ladder.
When Hrolf gave him his gold ring, for giving him a new name, Vogg made a solemn oath that he will avenge Hrolf’s death, if the king was killed by men before him. Vogg then warned the king that Adils will send a troll in the shape of a wild boar that he had conjured up, against the Danish king. This has been proven that will they rested the boar tried to attack them.
Hrolf had a hound, named Gram, which intercepted the troll-boar, defending its master. Bodvar attack the boar with his sword, but the blade would not cut the boar’s hide. The king’s hound, however, had managed to tear off the boar’s ears and cheeks, which caused the boar to withdraw.
Adils brought a company of armed men to the house Hrolf was staying in (Vogg’s house?), which they set fire to. Bodvar told the king that he would prefer to die fighting outside, then being burnt alive. So Hrolf’s champions broke through the wall of the house, and attack Adils’ warriors. Despite having superior number, Adils’ men were no match for Hrolf and his 12 champions. A large number died or were badly wounded, and the rest surrendered. Adils escaped again, when he saw that he was losing the battle.
Hrolf’s hawk had returned to him, and it was learned that his hawk had killed every single hawks belonging to Adils. The news is not good concerning Hrolf’s horses in Adils’ stable; each horse was maimed.
Hrolf returned to his mother, in the palace, and told Yrsa of his purpose of getting his inheritance, which Adils had stolen when he had Hrolf’s father, Helgi, murdered. Yrsa advised her son that he should leave, since her husband was gathering troops to confront him. The Queen gave his son a silver horn filled with Adils’ valuable rings; the Sviagris is Adils’ most prized ring. Ysra also gave her son some gold and silver, as well as 12 reddish horses, but a white horse for her son. She also provided whatever clothing, armour, shield or weapon Hrolf and his champions needed. She also gave whatever properties that were formerly owned by Yrsa’s former husband. Hrolf and his champions then left Adils’ palace.
As he rode away from Uppsala, Hrolf spotted a gold ring on the track. Hrolf wisely guess and informed his champions that the ring put there, hoping to delay him from leaving Adils’ kingdom. Hrolf heard and saw a large force was pursuing them. Hrolf delayed them by spilling horn filled with gold on the tracks. Adils’ army of warriors stopped their pursuit to pick up the gold, fighting among themselves out of greed.
Anger at the delay of his own men, Adils pursued the Hrolf with a smaller company. Seeing Adils coming towards him, Hrolf took off the ring Sviagris and threw it on the ground behind him. Adils being himself greedy, bend over to pick up his ring. Hrolf seeing this, rode at Adils, swung his sword and cut off a large part of Adils’ buttocks. Shamely wounded and bleeding copiously, Adils fled. Hrolf regained the ring Sviagris.
They continued on their journey home, and came upon a farm, and had once again met with the farmer Hrani. Hrani again offered them hospitality, and knew that Hrolf and his champions were successful in their venture in Adils’ kingdom. Hrani offered the king some gift – helmet, shield, coat of mail and a sword, but Hrolf unwisely rejected them, because he thought they were ugly weapons. This offended the farmer, and Hrani rebuked the king.
Hrolf and his champions rode away instead of staying at Hrani’s farm. But Bodvar and Hrolf realised the king’s mistake in offending the farmer. They realised only now that farmer had one eye, so this Hrani must be actually the god Odin. They rode back, perhaps to apologise to Hrani, but Hrani and the farm had vanished. This bode ill towards Hrolf, now that he had angered Odin (Hrani).
Upon their return to Hleidargard in Sjaeland, Denmark, Bodvar advised the king avoid battles for some time. Hrolf refused to change his lifestyle, just because he had offended the spirit of Odin. Odin was not only a god of war; he was also god who decides on who should be the victor in battle. Hrolf’s fortune had changed, and he would soon be facing his greatest challenge.
|Skuld, half-sister of Hrolf Kraki, had incited her husband, Hjorvard, into rebellion against her brother and attack Hrolf’s kingdom. Hjorvard was still sore from having being tricked into becoming Hrolf’s vassal king; therefore he had to pay tribute to Hrolf.
Skuld is a sorceress of great power; her power came from her birth, she being part elf. It was Skuld’s plan that Hjorvard went along. She secretly assembled an army, but she didn’t just relied on men. She had summoned elves, norns and other creatures to aid her in her cause. It was in Yule that she plans to attack her half-brother’s domain.
Denmark enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity after the incidence with King Adils. There was festivity in Hrolf’s capital, Hleidargard, where people were celebrating. Hrolf and his warriors were eating and drinking in Hrolf’s hall. Hrolf had his sister and brother-in-law to join in the holiday, but in Hjorvard’s camp, outside of Hrolf’s stronghold, there were no celebration.
Hjalti the Magnanimous (Hott) saw the sombre atmosphere in Hjorvard’s camp but paid no attention to this and he wasn’t in the least suspicious, because he was enjoying his mistress. It was only after he had enjoyment his liaison with the woman, did he notice armed men breaching the wall of Hrolf’s stronghold. Hjalti went to Hrolf and immediately warn the king of an attack.
Hrolf and his warriors began arming themselves for battles, including the twelve champions and the twelve berserkers. For the first time, the saga listed all twelve champions, which I have already listed (see Bodvar and Hott article (chapter 32 in the book)). Hrolf and his champions had one last drink of ale before going out to face the army of Skuld and Hjorvard.
Fierce battle took place outside of the palace, but Bodvar was nowhere to be seen. Hjalti admired Hrolf Kraki’s skill and courage in battle, who was leading the fight to his enemies, slaying anyone who got in his way with his sword Skofnung. Hrolf alone seemed to be worth as twelve warriors.
Not only that. A great bear appeared out of nowhere, fighting side by side with King Hrolf. The bear had killed more men with its claws and teeth than any 5 champions had killed. It was this bear that brought fear on the army of Skuld and Hjorvard.
Hjalti was upset that he couldn’t find his friend Bodvar in the forefront of the battle. The king reproached Hjalti for questioning Bodvar’s courage, but Hjalti would listen. He went in search of Bodvar and found him sitting in the empty hall of Hrolf.
Hjalti angrily accused his friend of being a coward, but didn’t realise that Bodvar was already fighting in battle. He is the bear that was fighting beside their king; he was not merely controlling the bear; Bodvar is the bear. Hjalti distracting Bodvar, caused the bear to disappear. Now Bodvar must head into battle as a man, instead of a bear. Hrolf would have won the battle with Bodvar as a bear.
When Bodvar and Hjalti left the building, the bear was indeed gone, and the battle was beginning to turn in favour of Skuld and Hjorvard. Skuld sat away from the battle, on top of the witch’s scaffold, where she was performing her sorcery. She couldn’t use her power previously, when the bear was present in battle, but with the bear gone, she was able to summon evil creatures to fight her battle.
Her main monster she had conjured up was a grey boar that was larger than a bull. The bristles shot out like arrows at Hrolf’s men. Also Skuld had used necromancy to raise the dead, so no matter how many warriors Hrolf’s forces had killed, there were no diminish in number in Skuld’s side. More and more of Hrolf’s warriors fell before the onslaught of Skuld’s magical creatures.
In battle, Bodvar had killed more warriors than any other, proving to Hjalti that he was no coward or weakling, but this was still not enough for them to gain victory.
Hrolf got separated from his main body of his army, including his twelve champions. He was surrounded by Skuld’s rabbles. Hrolf’s entire bodyguards had fallen, and most of his champions were mortally wounded. None of the champions, including Bodvar Bjarki, could aid their king. Hrolf, eventually fell dead from exhaustion, and all of his champions died with him. But Skuld’s victory was not without cost: her entire army was decimated. Her husband, Hjorvard had also fallen in battle.
Skuld became queen of Denmark as well as her husband’s kingdom, but she didn’t live long to enjoy her success. Bodvar’s brothers, Elk-Frodi and King Thorir Hound’s Foot, heard news of Bodvar’s death, as well as that of King Hrolf. Thorir assembled an army of Gauts to attack Skuld. Also, Queen Yrsa raised a strong Swedish army to support Thorir’s army. Ysra sent Vogg as commander of the Swedish contingents.
They had caught Skuld by surprise, because she had no time to organise the defence, and she was easily taken captive. As Vogg had promised to Hrolf Kraki, several years ago, he avenged the king’s death, by torturing her to death.
The kingdom was given to Hrolf’s daughters, Drifa and Skur, to rule, and the foreign armies left.
The saga ended the people raising a burial mound to King Hrolf Kraki, with his sword (Skofnung) at his side, and other mounds of the champions were raised next to his.