Monday, 24 September 2012

Ravens II

When reading Poul Anderson's War Of The Gods, I noted that the sail of the Danish King Hadding's ship bore the emblem of a raven which is also the symbol of Odin. This is explained in Anderson's earlier work Hrolf Kraki's Saga (New York, 1973) where a later Danish king also has "...raven sail unfurled..." (p. 54) War... tells us that the Danish kings were Skjoldungs, but the Saga adds that their ancestor, Skjold, was believed to be a son of Odin.

War Of The Gods explains a phrase used in the Saga. The Danish kings' enemies have reason to fear not only "...a raven banner..." but also "...a host in the swine-array of battle..." (p. 62). The swine-array, taught by Gangleri/Odin to Hadding, is a wedge shaped formation so named because it rips through an unprepared host like a boar's tusks.

In Hrolf Kraki's Saga, Chapter II, "The Tale of Frodhi," the usurper Frodhi is overthrown by his nephews Hroar and Helgi. In Chapter III, "The Tale of the Brothers," Helgi, reigning jointly with his brother, begets Yrsa who, according to the family tree at the beginning of the book, will become the mother of the title character, Hrolf Kraki. Thus, although Hrolf is not yet on stage, Chapter II (of VIII) has brought him significantly closer. However, as Anderson says in the Foreword, the real hero of the saga is Skjold's line of descent, not any single Skjoldung.

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