Frithiof

Annie Klingensmith June 26, 2022
Nordic
10 min read
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In the Northland, among the mountains, lived Hilding, a vassal of King Bele. With him lived Ingeborg, the daughter of the king, and Frithiof, the son of Thorsten Vikingsson. Thorsten Vikingsson was King Bele’s best friend and bravest warrior. 

The people of the Northland had many enemies, who came in ships. They burned the houses and the harvests, slew the men, and carried the women and children away captive. 

King Bele and Thorsten Vikingsson were always fighting battles with them on the land or driving them across the sea to their own country. So Frithiof and Ingeborg were sent away into the mountains to live with old Hilding, where they would be safe. 

All day long the two children wandered through the forest. Frithiof held the little Ingeborg’s hand and led her along the rough paths. 

As they sat on the ground close beside the tiny brook, they heard the soft, sweet notes of the water-nixies’ wonderful music. In the waterfalls, the stromkarls sang; and sometimes, under ground, they could hear the hill-trolls praying Odin to give them souls. 

Sometimes they found beautiful grassy places where grew the fair white flower, called Balder’s brow in memory of the gentle god. 

So the days passed quickly. Frithiof grew straight and strong and tall in the mountain air. No maiden was so fair as Ingeborg. Even Sif’s magic golden hair was not more beautiful than Ingeborg’s as it fell over her rosy cheeks and soft white neck. So brave and strong was Frithiof that he slew a bear and laid the great beast at Ingeborg’s feet. 

On winter evenings they sat by the fire and heard the little elves of the hearthstone, who teach the wind how to sing in the chimney.

While Ingeborg embroidered with gold and silver thread, Frithiof read noble sagas of the gods and their chosen heroes. 

But King Bele and Thorsten Vikingsson grew old and feared to die of old age and not enter Valhalla. So Frithiof and the king’s two sons, Helge and Halfden, were called to the house of the king. 

There stood the two silver-haired heroes, King Bele and Thorsten Vikingsson, leaning upon their swords. Many words of wisdom they spoke to the young men who were to take their places. 

On a day when the sea shone in the sunlight, and the white-capped mountains glittered like gold, King Bele and Thorsten Vikingsson stood upon the deck of their dragon-ship and slew themselves with their swords, that they might enter Valhalla and feast with the gods. 

Then Frithiof and the king’s two sons buried the  ship close by the waves as the dead heroes had commanded. 

Helge and Half den became kings of the Northland and Frithiof went to his father’s house. There he found many treasures. 

One was a sword with a hilt of beaten gold. On the blade were magic runes. In time of peace the runes were dull, but in battle they glowed like fire. No man might meet this sword in fight and live. 

Another treasure was a golden arm-ring. The ring had once been stolen by a pirate. He carried it away to his own country. There, when he grew old, he had himself and his comrades buried alive with his dragon-ship in a great tomb. 

King Bele and Thorsten Vikingsson followed him and looked into the tomb. There they saw the dragon-ship with the sails set for sailing and the spirit of the dead pirate on the deck. Thorsten Vikingsson entered and fought with the spirit and took away the arm-ring. 

The greatest treasure of all was the dragon-ship Ellida. The prow was a dragon’s head with golden jaws, and the stern a dragon’s tail with silver scales. The dragon’s wings were the sails. 

The ship could sail so fast that the swiftest bird was left behind. 

A long time before one of Frithiof’s ancestors had befriended a sea-god. As he came in to shore, he saw the wreck of a ship. On it sat an old man with sea-green hair and foam-white beard. The viking took the old man home; but at bed-time, he set sail on the wreck, saying he had a hundred miles to sail that night.

Before he went he told the viking to look on the sea-shore next morning for a gift of thanks.

At dawn next day the viking stood upon the shore and looked seaward. There he beheld Ellida sailing straight toward land with not a man on board.

These three treasures had belonged to  Frithiof’s family longer than any man could remember, and they were famous throughout the land. 

Frithiof made a banquet for Helge and Halfden and Ingeborg. As he sat at the table beside Ingeborg, they spoke together of the time when they were children. Almost they forgot that Frithiof was a man a full head taller than King Helge, and that Ingeborg was no longer a little maiden. 

When the feast was over and Ingeborg went, she seemed to take the sunshine with her. Then Frithiof longed so much for his old playmate, that he went to King Helge and asked to have her for his wife. 

But King Helge forgot the wish of his father. He answered Frithiof in scorn, and said his sister would be given to no man but a king. 

Frithiof replied not a word. But he drew his magic sword with the flaming runes upon the blade. With one blow he cleft in twain King Helge’s golden shield where it hung upon a tree. Then he turned and went to his own house. 

After a time King Ring, the ruler of a country across the sea, sent messengers to ask for Ingeborg. The messengers brought gifts of gold. With them came many scalds with golden harps. 

But Helge and Halfden refused to send  Ingeborg Halfden sent a scornful message telling King Ring to come himself and ask. 

When King Ring heard the message he smote with his sword on his shield as it hung on a tree before the door. All his vassals were called together, and they set out in their dragon-ships to make war on Helge and Halfden. 

The two kings sent old Hilding to ask Frithiof to help them against King Ring. But Frithiof replied that they had dishonored him, and that he would not be their friend. 

Ingeborg was sent to live in Balder’s temple, so that she might be safe. There Frithiof found her and begged her to go away with him, saying that he would defend her with his sword until he fell dead in battle. But Ingeborg would not go. Then Frithiof went to King Helge and offered to be his friend, if he would allow Ingeborg to be his wife. A thousand warriors who heard him beat applause upon their shields with their swords. 

But Helge would not listen. He said that if Frithiof wished to be his vassal he must go away to a distant land and collect tribute from Jarl Argantyr, who had refused to pay. 

Frithiof hurried to Balder’s temple and again begged Ingeborg to go away with him. The dragon-ship Ellida waited with her red sails set, But Ingeborg would not go. She told Frithiof to be patient and go away and collect the tribute, as was his duty. 

Then Frithiof gave her the golden arm-ring left him by his father and went away alone in Ellida. 

But King Helge stood upon the shore and prayed the storm fiends to send a tempest. Soon the wind began to blow, and Ellida leaped from wave to wave like a living thing. 

Frithiof climbed upon a mast and looked out across the water. There he saw the storm fiends. One rode upon a whale and was like a white bear. The other was like an eagle. 

Frithiof called to Ellida, and she turned and smote the whale so that it died, and the white bear was drowned. With his magic sword, Frithiof slew the eagle and the storm was ended. 

Soon they came in sight of the island where Jarl Argantyr lived. His house stood upon the shore. A watchman paced up and down the sands. Jarl Argantyr and his vassals feasted within. 

When the watchman called that a ship was landing, Jarl Argantyr looked out. He knew Ellida at once and saw that Frithiof stood upon the deck. 

Atle, one of his vassals, seized his sword and shield and rushed down to the sea-shore. There he and Frithiof fought upon the sand. At the first blow both the shields were cleft from top to bottom, and Atle’s sword was broken. 

Frithiof threw down his sword and the two warriors wrestled together. Soon Atle was overcome and lay upon the sand with Frithiof’s knee upon his breast. 

Then Frithiof said, “If I had my sword, you should feel its sharp edge and die.” Atle replied that he would lie still while Frithiof went for his sword. 

When Frithiof returned, he found Atle lying upon the ground awaiting death. But he thought it a shame to kill so brave a man. So he gave Atle his hand, and they went into Jarl Argantyr’s house together. 

Jarl Argantyr sat in a silver chair high above the others. His robe was of purple trimmed with ermine. His golden armor hung on the wall behind him. 

On the table before him stood a deer roasted whole. The deer’s hoofs were gilded and raised as if to leap. Before the Jarl stood scalds and harpers, who sang of the deeds of heroes. 

Jarl Argantyr welcomed Frithiof and asked his errand. When Frithiof told why he had come the Jarl said he was not King Helge’s vassal, and he would not pay the tribute unless King Helge collected it with his sword. 

Frithiof stayed until spring. Then Jarl Argantyr gave him a purse of gold and he returned to his home. There he found his house and his forest burned. 

As he stood among the ruins, his falcon came and perched upon his shoulder. His dog leaped up to lick his hand, and his snow-white war-horse came and touched his cheek gently with its soft lips. 

Soon old Hilding came and told him that King Ring had overcome King Helge and wasted the land. 

To save his kingdom, King Helge had given Ingeborg to King Ring. At the wedding King Helge took Frithiof’s arm-ring from his sister and put it upon the statue of Balder. 

Frithiof hurried to the temple. There he saw the priests with the king among them. In a moment he stood before Helge and dashed the purse of gold into his face. The king fell to the floor. Frithiof tore the arm-ring from the statue. 

The statue fell into the fire on the altar, and in a moment the temple was burning. 

Frithiof sailed away in Ellida once more. Helge followed him with ten ships. But the ships sank. Frithiof ‘s friend had bored them full of holes. 

King Helge swam to the shore. He seized his bow to shoot an arrow at Frithiof, who stood upon the deck and laughed. Helge drew the bow with such strength that it snapped, and Frithiof sailed away. 

For three years he sailed the seas. Then he longed to live on land once more. As he sailed northward, he came in sight of King Ring’s country. 

It was just at Yuletide. King Ring sat in his hall feasting with his vassals. An old man wrapped in a bearskin entered softly and took a seat near the door. 

The guests whispered together and looked at the old man with a smile. At that he seized one of them and shook him until all were silent. 

King Ring demanded his name. Then the stranger sprang from his seat and threw off the bearskin. And there stood Frithiof dressed in velvet as blue as the sky, and with a silver belt around his waist. His long golden hair fell in waves over his broad shoulders. 

Then King Ring swore by the hammer of Thor to overcome Frithiof in fight. But Frithiof only laughed and threw his sword upon the table with a clang. Every warrior at the board sprang up and swore to protect the noble Frithiof’s life. 

King Ring could not help himself, so he invited Frithiof to stay and feast with them. Ingeborg brought him food with her own hands, and all night long they sang and feasted. So Frithiof stayed, and King Ring grew to love him as a son. 

Soon King Ring was slain, and his little son became king of the land. All the vassals begged Frithiof to stay and rule the kingdom until the boy grew older. 

But Frithiof went northward to his own land to make atonement for the burning of Balder’s temple. 

As he came near the place, he saw a phantom temple like the temple that had been burned. At the door stood Skuld pointing to a shadowy temple far more beautiful than the old one. 

Frithiof knew that the gods meant him to build another temple. This he did. The new temple was so beautiful that it was like the halls of Valhalla. When it was finished, Frithiof entered and heard the songs of the white-robed valas, and his heart grew soft. 

Then an old priest told him that the gods loved such gifts as he had given, but they loved better a forgiving spirit. And Frithiof heard with reverence the wise words of the aged man, and forgave King Helge, who was now dead. Then he went to Halfden and offered his hand in friendship, and the young king welcomed him as a brother. 

As they spoke together, Ingeborg entered. Frithiof asked once more to have her for his wife, and King Halfden gave her gladly. 

Frithiof built another house, where his old one had stood, and Ingeborg came into it bringing the sunshine with her. Then Frithiof was as happy with his old playmate as he had been in the days when he took the little maiden by the hand and led her over the rough places.

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