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A Frisian Saga In Adam Of Bremen


Source: Teutonic Mythology

The series of traditions above narrated in regard to Odainsaker, the
Glittering Plains, and their ruler Gudmund, and also in regard to the
neighbouring domains as habitations of the souls of the dead, extends,
so far as the age of their recording in writing is concerned, through a
period of considerable length. The latest cannot be referred to an
earlier date than the fourteenth century; the oldest were put in writing
toward the close of the twelfth. Saxo began working on his history
between the years 1179 and 1186. Thus these literary evidences span
about two centuries, and stop near the threshold of heathendom. The
generation to which Saxo's father belonged witnessed the crusade which
Sigurd the Crusader made in Eastern Smaland, in whose forests the
Asa-doctrine until that time seems to have prevailed, and the Odinic
religion is believed to have flourished in the more remote parts of
Sweden even in Saxo's own time.

We must still add to this series of documents one which is to carry it
back another century, and even more. This document is a saga told by
Adam of Bremen in De Situ Daniae. Adam, or, perhaps, before him, his
authority Adalbert (appointed archbishop in the year 1043), has turned
the saga into history, and made it as credible as possible by excluding
all distinctly mythical elements. And as it, doubtless for this reason,
neither mentions a place which can be compared with Odainsaker or with
the Glittering Plains, I have omitted it among the literary evidences
above quoted. Nevertheless, it reminds us in its main features of Saxo's
account of Gorm's journey of discovery, and its relation both to it and
to the still older myth shall be shown later (see No. 94). In the form
in which Adam heard the saga, its point of departure has been located in
Friesland, not in Denmark. Frisian noblemen make a voyage past Norway up
to the farthest limits of the Arctic Ocean, get into a darkness which
the eyes scarcely can penetrate, are exposed to a maelstrom which
threatens to drag them down ad Chaos, but finally come quite
unexpectedly out of darkness and cold to an island which, surrounded as
by a wall of high rocks, contains subterranean caverns, wherein giants
lie concealed. At the entrances of the underground dwellings lay a great
number of tubs and vessels of gold and other metals which "to mortals
seem rare and valuable." As much as the adventurers could carry of
these treasures they took with them and hastened to their ships. But the
giants, represented by great dogs, rushed after them. One of the
Frisians was overtaken and torn into pieces before the eyes of the
others. The others succeeded, thanks to our Lord and to Saint Willehad,
in getting safely on board their ships.

Next: Analysis Of The Sagas Mentioned In Nos 44-48

Previous: Fjallerus And Hadingushadding In The Lower World

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