Sagan af Frijfi

 

 

The Saga of Frijfr (Frith-thief) is very special since it is quite known because of its whale-riding shape-changers (no! : shape-jumpers or shape-dashers) witches. Some even believe that they changed themselves into whales, which is wrong as you shall see. It has two versions, a long and a short which carry exactly the same name and only the short version is web-accessible in Old Norse, only the long one is translated into English. I used Ben Waggoners recent translation of both versions (together with two related sagas it is largely worth the few bucks it costs!) and Susan Granquist digged out of the internet a Google pdf version of the Old Norse long version.

I transcribed some ON parts of this long version, and translated it. When I did not see any reason to criticize Waggonners scholarly canonical translation, I just copied it. Buy Waggoners version and you will see how much the choice of words can modify our understanding of the religious undercurrents of the story.

It happens that the same plot of two brothers opposing their sisters love by magical means, and marrying her to a powerful man, has been used in the more classical Vglundar saga. There, the magical part is only hinted at but Ill give it to you.

 

Frijfr Saga obviously belongs to a little spoken-of transition Christian type. I mean by that that it does not explicitly eulogize Christianity and deprecates Heathenry. It simply shows how brutish have been the relationships among people in Heathen times and that it was possible to offend a Heathen God with no punishment. Frijfr is fast in desecrating a temple of Baldr, interrupting a blt to the Dsir, putting (though not voluntarily) their temple to fire. Nevertheless, he will show a typical (for these times) Christian mild and hypocritical behavior, and he will become wealthy in a typical protestant good behavior, and finally get his reward by marrying his love without a fight.

 

Here is first a summary of what these sagas teach us about Heathen religion and magic.

The full translation with the ON original is also given below.

 

[In between [], my commentaries, (in between ( ) a few remarks on the meaning of the words.]

 

ON RELIGION

 

Sagan af Frijfi inum frkna (long version)

 

[The hero is named Frijfr, his lovely lady is Ingibjrg, his main opponents are two brothers, the worse one is named Helgi. Chapter one describes the sanctuary dedicated to Baldr and the Dsir.]

 

There the shore went somewhat above the western fjord. There was a large village. This village was called Baldrs pasture [I kept the proper meaning hagi which is not a meadow but precisely a pasture, a closed field for livestock]. There was a truce-place (a sanctuary) and a large temple and around a large wooden fence. There was a large quantity of *gods* [go in Old Norse], though Baldr was the most held (supported).

There were so much greedy zealousness from Heathen people that there should happen no hurt (or evil doing), nor to **cattle** [f in Old Norse] nor to humans. No dealings should here take place with women.

[* Note on go the word *go*, a plural, now masculine but anciently neuter, means God or Gods (before Christianism), it does not mean idol as translated by Waggoner. It indeed must mean idols for a Christian, but the text speaks as if the Heathen Gods had been here.]

[** Note on f : Cleasby-V. gives the only meaning of cattle for f but etymology leads to accept also property, money (de Vries).]

 

Helgi Belason (son of Beli, the former king) early achieved to be a great man of the blt (a worshipper). None of them brothers was friendbliss (happy with friends).

 

[Chapter 4 presents an example of Frijfrs lack of faith in the Gods. He meets his sweet-heart in the Gods dedicated village where this is forbidden note however that the detail of forbidding such dealings might have been a Christian addition. His lack of faith will be more obvious in the following.]

 

(Fridhthjof said, let us go) to Baldrs pasture and amuse self with Ingibjrg.

We will risk it, I more care for Ingibjrg favor than for Baldr (being) angry.

 

[Chapter 5 speaks of Baldr as being a free farmer.]

 

he said to the kings daughter: You have given us a fine and fair welcome, and *farmer Baldr* has not been bothered by us. But as soon as you find that the kings (her brothers) have come home, spread out your fine cloths on the hall of the Dsir, because it is the highest in the enclosure. We will see that from our estate.

 

[Chapter 9 shows both Frijfrs boldness toward the Gods and a relatively detailed description of the way they have been honored.]

 

spyrja eir at, at konnungar vri Baldrshaga at dsablti.

Sian gekk Frijfr inn ok s, at ftt flk var dsarsalnum. Vru konungar at *dsablti* ok stu at drykkju. Eldr var glfinu, ok stu konur eirra vi eldinn ok **bkuu goin**, en sumar smuru ok eru me dkum. (he sees) konu Helga, er hon bakai Baldr vi eldinn (he clutches her) Fell at goit t eldinn, sem hon hafi bakat. Lstr n eldinum bi goin, en vru r smur, sv at logai hsit.

 

There they heard that the kings were at Balders pasture at *honoring the Dsir by a blt* [dsablt in Old Norse]

Then Frijfr went inside and saw that some people were in the hall of the Dsir. The kings were at honoring the Dsir by a blt and sat drinking. A fire was on the floor and their wives sat by the fire, and with the fire they **adorned [bkuu in the text]** the God, and some anointed and wiped (them) with clothes (the fabric). (he sees) Helgis wife who baked (= warmed) Baldr by the fire [Frijfr clutches her] Fell then the God on the fire, the one she was baking. Now stroke the fire at both Gods but they were beforehand anointed thus the house took flame.

[*Note on the dsablt. You can see that the blt is here reduced to its sumbl component. Its spiritual component is not alluded to.]

[**Note on bkuu. Waggoner translates bkuu by were warming, using the context as if it were equivalent to bakau (and, as found before, goin, again translated by the idols). The word bkuu is obviously a third person plural, preterit of verb bka. This verb means either to swear on the book or to embroider. The first meaning looks so much like a Christian one that I prefer to adorn: the wives were adorning the God, it seems by smearing an oily mixture on him (Baldr).]

 

[As opposing to Chapter 9, Chapter 10 insists a on that that wicked Helgi is a Baldrs devotee.]

 

What worse pained king Helgi was that the Gods had been burned. It was very costly to rebuild Baldrs pasture as it was before.

 

Frijfi Saga ins frkna (short version)

 

[The heroes have the same names as in the long version though not exactly the same social role. This short version provides the same information as the long one, though less detailed.]

since there is a large temple and blt honoring the Gods and a wooden fence around the temple, and should there come together no women and men.

The kings daughter [Ingibjrg] said: Fast move you forward, Frijfr, you who wants to bring a host of fourteen in Baldrs pasture. He answered: I dont care of Baldr not of your blt. Equally good to me is your speech-exchange here or at home.

[Chapter 4 recalls that the kings were blt, now seemingly to Baldr.]

He the asked them where the kings were, and he was told that they were in Baldrs pasture and were performing a blt to their god.

 

Vglundar saga

It contains no religious detail.

 

ON MAGIC

 

Sagan af Frijfi inum frkna (long)

 

[The hero is named Frijfr, his lovely lady is Ingibjrg, his main opponents are two brothers, the worse one is named Helgi. Frijfrs ship is named Ellii. Magic starts at the end of chapter 5 and Chapter 6 expands this description.]

 

Then they (the brothers) they sent out for two seiwomen, Heidi and Hamglmu, and gave them property to send such a fierce weather at Frijlfr and his men that they should all be lost in sea. They worked seir and brought themselves on a platform and together with galdrar (songs/howling) and (actions of) sorcery

 

[In Chapter 6, a storm breaks out while Frijfr is sailing.]

 

Then Frijfr climbed up the mast and said to his fellows when he came back down: I saw a most wondrous sight. Big whales swim in rings around the ship, and I suspect that we must be approaching some land, and they want to prevent our landing.

 

I see two women on the back of the whales, and they must have caused this non-friendly- storm with their worst seir and galdrar. Now we must check which is greater my hamingja or else their troll-shape (= their trollness). You must steer as straight as possible and I shall thrash these un-witnesses with a cudgel. And he said a vsa:

I see troll-women

two on the waves;

them Helgi had

here sent.

Them shall slice

asunder by the middle

Ellidi keel,

as out of the sea we glide.

It is said, that they have added words (charms) to the ship Ellii in such a way that she took knowledge at understanding humans word Frijfr grasped a pole and leaped in the prow and spoke a vsa:

Hail Ellii!

Leaps on the wave

Breaks in the troll-women

Tusks and brow

Jaw-bones

In the difficult women,

Foot or both

In these demons!

At once, he struck with the pole at one of the *shape-(she)jumpers [hamhleypunni]*, and Elliis keel stroke the back of another and both (were) back-broken.

 

[*Note on the hamhleypunni [= hamr-hleypunni]. The usual way to speak of a shape-changer uses the verb verbe skipa (to divide, to change) while the verb here used hleypa (to jump, to dash forward, to send). The witches do not perform here a change of shape (or of skin : hamr means skin, shape) but as making their skin or shape jump somewhere else. Anyhow, the context says they are riding the whales in their own skin since Frijfr recognizes two women.]

 

[Chapter 8 draws a link between ordinary reality and what happens during chapter 6.]

 

The brothers had the farm at Framess completely burned. But as they were at their seir, they fell off the seir-platform, and both (were) back-broken.

 

[**Note on bkuu. Waggoner translates bkuu by were warming, using the context as if it were equivalent to bakau (and, as found before goin, again translated by the idols). The word bkuu is obviously a third person plural, preterit of verb bka. This verb means either to swear on the book or to embroider. The first meaning looks so much like a Christian one that I prefer to adorn: the wives were adorning the God, it seems by smearing an oily mixture on him (Baldr).]

 

 

Frijfi Saga ins frkna (short)

 

[The heroes have the same names as in the long version but not exactly the same social role. This short version provides the same information as the long one, though less detailed. Chapter 3 provide other details ont he way the witches work their magic.]

They [the brothers] then burned the farm at Framness. After that they bought very-knowledgeable (sorcerous) women so that they would call down a furious gale on Frijfr and his men.

Then Frijfr travelled up the mast and to the top and said: I now see a very strange sight. A whale swims in rings around us, and should be a land near us, and it wishes to prevent us to land: two women I see on the back of the whales, blocking our course. Now we will find which might be better, my good luck or their trollness, and we will steer right at them.

 

[Follows the same stanza as in the longuer version: S ek trllkonur etc]

 

At once he encouraged his men, and it happened that, by his valor, they broke spine and legs

of these riders shape-(she)jumpers. At once, the sea calmed down [The text no longer speaks of Frijfrs own magic.]

 

[Chaptee 4 reports the witches failure.]

Now there is to say that king Hringr [Ingibjrgs bridgegroom] came to the feast and went at his wedding feast, and it has been reported that these very-knowledgeable (sorcerous) women had fallen of their seirplatforms.

Vglundar saga

 

[Now the hero is Vglundr, his lovely lady is Ketilr, his main opponents are two brothers and their mother who is a friend of the witch Kjlvr. Magic takes place in chapter 12.]

 

 

A woman living at Hraunskarr was named Kjlvr. She was very very-knowledgeable (sorcerous) and totally fallen to evil, she was non-friendly for everyone.

Them, mother and sons all together, orbjrg, Jkull and Einar bought Kjlvr and gave her a hundred pieces of silver to destroy the brothers Vglundr and Trausti by any means that would please her

 

It happened in the autumn that both of his shipmen were sick by the galdr of Kjlvr

Kjlvr knew all this and climbed up on the house and waved her hood in easterly direction and all at once the weather turned bad.

 

Vglundr rowed so vigorously that they reached land [The text no longer alludes to Frijfrs own magic.]

 

 

ORIGINAL ON TEXT AND TRANSLATIONS

 

Sagan af Frijfi inum frkna (long version)

 

Chap 1.

 

ar gekk strnd nkkur fyrir verstan fjrin. a var br strr. S br var kallar Baldrshaga. a var griastar ok hof mikit ok skgarr mikill um. a vru mrg go, var af Baldr mest haldit. ar var sv mikit vandlti gert af heinum monnum, at ar skyldi engu grand gera, hvrtki f n monnum. Engi viskipti skyldu vi konur eiga ar.

 

There the shore went somewhat above the western fjord. There was a large village. This village was called Baldrs pasture. There was a truce-place (a sanctuary) and a large temple and around a large wooden fence. There was a large quantity of gods, though Baldr was the most held (supported).

There were so much greedy zealousness from Heathen people that there should happen no hurt (or evil doing), nor to cattle nor to humans. No dealings should here take place with women.

 

Helgi Belason geriz snemma bltmar mikill. Ekki vru eir brr vinslir.

 

Helgi Belason (son of Beli, the former king) early achieved to be a great man of the blt (a worshipper). None of them brothers were friendbliss (happy with friends).

 

Chap 4.

 

Til Baldrshaga ok skemta sr vi Ingibjrgu.

at skal n htta, enda viri ek meria hylli Ingibjargar en rei Baldrs

 

(Fridhthjof said, let us go) to Baldrs pasture and amuse self with Ingibjrg

We will risk it, I more care for Ingibjrg favor than for Baldrs angry.

 

Chap 5.

 

mlti hann [Frijfr] vi konungsdttur: Vel hafi r oss veitt ok fagrliga. Hefir Baldr bndi ekki vi oss fz. En near r vitu konunga heim komna, breii bljur yrar dsarsalinn, v hann er hstr hr garinum. Munum vr sj eta af b vrum.

 

he said to the kings daughter: You have given us a fine and fair welcome, and farmer Baldr has not been bothered by us. But as soon as you find that the kings (her brothers) have come home, spread out your fine cloths on the hall of the Dsir, because it is the highest in the enclosure. We will see that from our estate.

 

Sian sendu eir eptir seikonum tveim, Heidi ok Hamglmu, ok gfu eim f til, at r sendi ver sv strt at Frijlfi ok mnnun hans, at eir tndiz allir hafi. r efldu seiin ok fruz hjallinn me gldrum of gerningum.

 

Then they (the brothers) they sent out for two seiwomen, Heidi ok Hamglmu, and gave them property to send such a fierce weather at Frijlfr and his men that they should all be lost in sea. They worked seir and brought themselves on a platform and together with galdrar (songs/howling) and (actions of) sorcery

At once, he struck with the pole at one of the shape-(she)jumpers, and Elliis keel stroke the back of another and both (were) back-broken.

 

Chap. 6

 

fr Frijfr tr upp ok sagi flgum snum, er hann kom ofan : Ek leit mjk undarliga syn. Strhveli lagiz hring um skipit, ok er mr grunr, ar vr komnir nrri landi einhverju, ok mun hann vilja banna oss landit

Then Frijfr climbed up the mast and said to his fellows when he came back down: I saw a most wondrous sight. Big whales swim in rings around the ship, and I suspect that we must be approaching some land, and they want to prevent our landing.

 

Konur s ek II baki hvalnum, ok munu r valda essum friarstormi me snum versta sei ok gldrum. N skulu vr til reyna, hvrt meira m hamingja vr ea trollskapr eirra. Ok skulu it stra at sem beinast, en ek skal me lurkum lemja essa vtti. Ok kva vsu:

 

Women I see 2 on the back of the whales, and they must have caused this non-friendly- storm with their worst seir and galdrar. Now we must check which is greater my hamingja or else their troll-shape (= their trollness). You must steer as straight as possible and I shall thrash these un-witnesses with a cudgel. And he said a vsa:

 

S ek trollkonur
tvr baru ;
r hefir Helgi
hingat sendar.
eim skal sna
sundr miju
hrygg Ellii,
r af hafi skrr.

 

I see troll-women

two on the waves;

them Helgi had

here sent.

Them shall slice

asunder by the middle

Ellidi keel,

as out of the sea we glide.

 

Sv er sagt, at au atkvi hafi fylgt skipinu Ellia, at at hefi kunnat at skilja mannz ml Frijfr greip fork einn ok hljp framstafninn ok kva vsu:

 

It is said, that they have added words (charms) to the ship Ellii in such a way that she took knowledge at understanding humans word Frijfr grasped a pole and leaped in the prow and spoke a visa:

 

Heill Ellii!
Hlaup bru!
brjttu trollkonum
tennr ok enni,
kinnr ok kjlka
konu vndri,
ft ea ba
flagi essu!

Sian hann forkinum at annari hamhleypunni, en bar Ellia kom htygg annari ok brotnai hryggrinn bum.

 

Hail Ellii!

Leaps on the wave

Breaks in the troll-women

Tusks and brow

Jaw-bones

In the difficult women,

Foot or both

In these demons!

At once, he struck with the pole at one of the shape-(she)jumpers, and Elliis keel stroke the back of another and both (were) back-broken.

 

Chap. 8.

 

Ltu tteir brr brenna allan binn Framnesi. En er r vru at seinum, duttu r ofan af seihjallinum, ok brotnai hryggrinn bum.

 

The brothers had the farm at Framess completely burned. But as they were at their seir, they fell off the seir-platform, and both (were) back-broken.

 

Chap. 9

 

spyrja eir at, at konnungar vri Baldrshaga at dsablti.

Sian gekk Frijfr inn ok s, at ftt flk var dsarsalnum. Vru konungar at *dsablti* ok stu at drykkju. Eldr var glfinu, ok stu konur eirra vi eldinn ok **bkuu goin**, en sumar smuru ok eru me dkum. (he sees) konu Helga, er hon bakai Baldr vi eldinn (he clutches her) Fell at goit t eldinn, sem hon hafi bakat. Lstr n eldinum bi goin, en vru r smur, sv at logai hsit.

 

There they heard that the kings were at Balders pasture at honoring the Dsir by a blt

Then Frijfr went inside and saw that some people were in the hall of the Dsir. The kings were at honoring the Dsir by a blt and sat drinking. A fire was on the floor and their wives sat by the fire with the fire and they adorned the God, and some anointed and wiped with clothes (the fabric). (he sees) Helgis wife who baked (= warmed) Baldr by the fire (he clutches her) Fell then the God on the fire, the one she was baking. Now stroke the fire at both Gods but they were beforehand anointed thus the house took flame.

 

Chap. 10

 

at fell Helga konnungi verst, at goin vru upp brend. Var mikill kostnar, r Baldrshagi var upp byggrr til fulls jafnt ok r.

 

What worse pained king Helgi was that the Gods had been burned. It was very costly to rebuild Baldrs pasture as it was before.

 

Frijfi Saga ins frkna (short)

 

Chap. 2

v at ar var hof mikit ok goablt ok skgarr um hofit, ok skyldi ar ekki saman koma konur ok karlar.

since there is a large temple and blt honouring the Gods and a wooden fence around the temple, and should there come together no women and men.

Konungsdttir [Ingibjrg] mlti: "Fast skir , Frijfr, er vilt halda hr fjrtnmenning Baldrshaga." Hann [Frijfr] svarar: "Ekki hiri ek um Baldr ea blt yur. Jafngir eru mr nir mlsendar hr sem heima."

The kings daughter [Ingibjrg] said: Fast move you forward, Frijfr, you who wants to bring a host of fourteen in Baldrs pasture. He answered: I dont care of Baldr not of your blt. Equally good to me is your speech-exchange here or at home.

Chap 3.

 

San brenndu eir binn Framnesi. Eptir at keyptu eir at fjlkunnigum konum, at r geri iver at eim Frijfi ok mnnum hans.

 

They [the brothers] then burned the farm at Framness. After that they bought very-knowledgeable (sorcerous) women so that they would call down a furious gale on Frijfr and his men.

 

San fr Frijfr upp tr ok kom ofan aptr ok mlti: "S ek n mjk kynliga sn. Hvalr einn liggr hring um skip vrt, ok vr eigum landa vn nr oss, ok get ek hann vilji banna oss landit, . Tvr konur s ek baki hvalnum gera oss fararbann. N munu vr til htta, hvrt meira m gifta vr ea trlldmr eira, ok strum at eim." Ok kva hann vsu:

 

Then Frijfr travelled up the mast and to the top and said: I now see a very strange sight. A whale swims in rings around us, and should be a land near us, and it wishes to prevent us to land: two women I see on the back of the whales, blocking our course. Now we will find which might be better, my good luck or their trollness, and we will steer right at them.

 

(same stanza as in the longuer version:) S ek trllkonur etc.

San eggjai hann fast sna menn, ok km sv at me frkleik hans, at eir brutu hrygg ok leggi hvrritveggi hamhleypunni. San kyrri sjinn

 

At once he encouraged his men, and it happened that, by his valor, they broke spine and legs

of these riders shape-(she)jumpers. At once, the sea calmed down

 

Chap. 4

N er at segja fr v, at Hringr konungr kom til veizlunnar ok gekk at brhlaupi snu, en at hafi orit til tenda, at inar fjlkunnigu konur hfu fallit ofan at seihjalli snum.

Now there is to say that king Hringr [Ingibjrgs bridgegroom] came to the feast and went at his wedding feast, and it has been reported that these very-knowledgeable (sorcerous) women had fallen of their seirplatforms.

Hann spuri at, hvar konungarnir vru, en honum var sagt, at eir vri Baldrshaga ok bltuu go sn.

He the asked them where the kings were, and he was told that they were in Baldrs pasture and were performing a blt to their god.

Vglundar saga

 

Chap. 12

 

Kjlvr ht kona er bj Hraunskari. Hn var fjlkunnig mjg og a llu illa fallin, harla vinsl vi alu manna

au mgin ll saman, orbjrg, Jkull og Einar, keyptu a Kjlvru og gfu henni til hundra silfurs a hn skyldi fyrirkoma eim brrum Vglundi og Trausta me einhverjum gerningum eftir v sem hn si r

 

A woman living at Hraunskarr was named Kjlvr. She was very very-knowledgeable (sorcerous) and totally fallen to evil, she was non-friendly for everyone.

Them, mother and sons all together, orbjrg, Jkull and Einar bought Kjlvr and gave her a hundred pieces of silver to destroy the brothers Vglundr and Trausti by any means that would please her

 

a bar til a lismenn hans bir sktust um hausti af gldrum Kjlvarar Allt vissi Kjlvr etta og fr upp hs og veifi kofra snum austurtt og ykknai skjtt veri.

It happened in the autumn that both of his shipmen were sick by the galdr of Kjlvr

Kjlvr knew all this and climbed up on the house and waved her hood in easterly direction and all at once the weather turned bad.

 

Vglundr rr svo sterklega a hann nr landi

Vglundr rowed so vigorously that they reached land