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Viktor Rydberg's Investigations into Germanic Mythology Volume II  : Part 2: Germanic Mythology
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The Saga of Hrolf Kraki

11. Hrok Killed King Hroar

News came that Saevil, their sister's husband, had died, and his son Hrok succeeded him. He was a vicious man and very greedy.

His mother tells him all about the ring, which those brothers owned, "and it would seem to me," she said, "only fair, that those brothers remember us with some gift of lands, since we backed them in their vengeance for our father, and yet they've not remembered us, not for our father's sake, or for mine."

Hrok said, "It's plain as day, what you say, and quite disgraceful, so now I must go and see what favour they're willing to grant us."

Next, he goes to see King Helgi and demands a third of the Danish kingdom or else the good ring, because he didn't know that Hroar had it now.

The king said, "You talk big, and arrogantly too. We won this realm with our courage, by staking our lives, and with the support of your father and other good men who wanted to help. Now we certainly wish to reward you, for the sake of our kinship, if it will please you to accept that, but this kingdom has cost me so much that I won't give it up for anyone. Besides which, King Hroar has now got the ring, and I doubt it'll be coming your way."

With this, Hrok leaves and a foul mood he's in, and he sets out now to see King Hroar. He greets him nicely and respectfully, and stays a while with him.

And one day, as they go sailing out from land and lay in some firth, Hrok said, "It would seem to me, kinsman, that it would reflect well on you if you remembered our kinship and gave me that good ring."

The king said, "I gave up such a lot to get this ring, that I won't let it go for anything."

Hrok says, "But you'll let me see it, won't you? Because I'm very curious to know if it's such a great treasure as they all say."

"That's not much to ask," says Hroar, "I'll grant you that, sure," and handed him the ring.

Now Hrok considered the ring for a while and admitted that it really couldn't be overpraised, "and I've not seen a treasure like it, and it's all too clear why you think it's such a wonderful ring. The best thing now, would be for neither of you to enjoy it, and no-one else," he says, promptly hurling the ring as far out to sea as he can.

King Hroar said, "You are a very bad man."

He had Hrok's feet lopped off and sent him back home to his land like that. He soon recovered, to the point where his stumps healed over.

Then he gathered an army to avenge his shame. He goes with a big army and comes suddenly to Northumbria, where Hroar is feasting with just a few men. Hrok attacks at once, and a vicious battle ensued, and the difference in numbers between them is great. There King Hroar falls, and Hrok lays the whole land under his rule. He took the title of king. Afterwards, he asked for the hand of Ogn, king Nordri's daughter, who had previously been married to King Hroar, his kinsman.

King Nordri now found himself in a fix, because he was an old man by now and not much use for fighting. He told his daughter Ogn how things stood, but assured her that he wouldn't refuse to fight, even though he was old, if this marriage wasn't to her liking.

With great sorrow she said, "It certainly is against my will, and yet I see that your life is at stake, so I won't turn him down, on one condition: that a bit of time is granted, as I'm with child, and that needs to be sorted out first, and that's King Hroar's child, that he had with me."

So this message is brought to Hrok, and he agrees to grant a postponement, if that meant he could get the kingdom more easily, and the marriage. Hrok reckons he's done well for himself on this expedition, killing such a famous king and gaining a kingdom.

But at this very moment, Ogn is sending men to meet with King Helgi and she asked them to tell him that she would not end up in Hrok's bed, not willingly, if she had anything to say about it, "for this reason: I am carrying King Hroar's child."

The messengers went and said just what they were commanded.

King Helgi said, "This is wisely spoken on her part, as I want to avenge my brother Hroar."

But Hrok suspected nothing of this.

12. Helgi's Vengeance and Agnar

Queen Ogn has a son now, and he's called Agnar. He was soon big and strong.

And when King Helgi hears this, he gathers an army and goes to meet Hrok. There's a battle fought, and the result is that Hrok is taken captive.

Then King Helgi says, "You are a despicable lord, but I'm not going to kill you, because it'll demean you more to live on in agony."

So he had his arms and legs smashed and sent him back to his lands like that, good now for nothing.

But when Agnar Hroarsson was twelve years old, people thought they'd never seen his like, and in every respect he outshone other men. He became a warrior so great and famous that he's spoken of widely in all the old sagas, how he'd been the biggest champion, then or now. He asked about where that firth was where Hrok had tossed the ring overboard. Many had searched for it with all kinds of tricks, and no-one got it.

And the story goes that Agnar comes in his ship to this firth and said, "It would seem to me the smart thing to do, to have a look for that ring, if anyone's got a good bearing on it?"

They told him where it had been thrown in the sea. Agnar gets ready then and dives and comes up, and he doesn't have the ring. Down he went a second time, and he hasn't got it when he comes up.

So now he says, "We've not been looking very hard till now," and so down he goes a third time and then came up with the ring.

For this, he became widely famously, more famous than King Hroar his father even, and he stays over winter in his kingdom now, and goes raiding by summer and becomes a famous man, greater than his father.

King Helgi and Yrsa loved each other a lot and had a son who was called Hrolf, who afterwards became a man of note.

13. Yrsa's Family Revealed

Queen Olof hears that Helgi and Yrsa are so much in love and enjoying their life. She isn't too happy about that and goes to see them. And when she came to that land, she sends word to Queen Yrsa. And when they meet, Yrsa invites her home to the hall with her. Olof said she didn't want to come, said she didn't have any honour to repay King Helgi with.

Yrsa said, "You treated me wretchedly when I was with you. But anyway, can you tell me anything of my kin, who they are, or why I have this suspicion that I'm not who I think I am, a daughter of peasants?"

Olof said, "It's not unlikely that I might be able to tell you something about that. It was the main reason I came here, to tell you all about that - how's the marriage, by the way, are you happy?"

"Yes," she says, "and I've got cause to be happy, as I have the most respected king in the world, and the most famous."

"It's not as good cause as you think," says Olof, "because he's your father, and you are my daughter."

Yrsa said, "I think I have the worst and grimmest mother in the world, for this abomination will never be forgotten."

"You've paid for Helgi's sins here," says Olof, "and my wrath, but now I will invite you to live with me in all honour and respect and treat you as well as I know how in every way."

Yrsa says, "I don't know what would come of that, but I can't stay here, not now I know this abomination that rests on me."

She goes to meet King Helgi then and tells him this grave news.

The king said, "You've a cruel enough mother, but I'd say let's leave it like this."

She said it couldn't stay like that, living together after this. So Yrsa goes with Queen Olof now and stays in Saxland for a time. It bit King Helgi so much, this grief, that he lay in bed and lost all joy. No-one thought there was a better match than Yrsa, but the kings were slow to ask for her, and the main thing was, they could never be sure Helgi wouldn't come after her and show his displeasure, if she was given to another.

14. King Adils Married Yrsa

There was a king called Adils, mighty and full of greed. He ruled oven Sweden and his royal seat was the capital Uppsala. He heard of this woman Yrsa, and readied his ships. He goes to meet Olof and Yrsa. Olof prepares a feast for King Adils and receives him with every courtesy and courtly art. He asks for Queen Yrsa to be his wife.

Olof answered, "You must have heard how things stand with her, but we won't object so long as she agrees."

The news was brought to Yrsa. She spoke thus, saying it wouldn't go well, "for you are not a popular king."

It goes ahead though, whatever she said, and Adils went away with her, and nothing was said to King Helgi, for Adils thought himself the greater king. King Helgi didn't hear about that till they came home to Sweden. Then Adils made a worthy wedding feast for her.

And now King Helgi gets word of this and he feels twice as bad again as he did before. He slept alone in one of the outbuildings. Olof is now out of the saga. It went on like this for a while.

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