Knýtlinga saga (The Saga of Cnut’s Descendants) is an Icelandic saga written in the 1250s, which covers a long period of Denmark’s history (from the early 10th century story of Harald Gormsson “Bluetooth” till the end of the 12th). The Cnut or Canute of the saga is probably the legendary Harthacnut (Cnut I or Canute I). (The alternative title might be the Lives of the Kings of the Danes – not to be confused with Saxo’s Gesta Danorum).
The story most likely came to Iceland by virtue of the efforts of Óláfr Þórðarson (the nephew of the famed Icelandic writer Snorri). Óláfr traveled to Norway and then Denmark where he stayed at the court of Valdemar II (the son of Valdemar I who had conquered Arkona). If Þórðarson is really the author of the Knýtlinga saga then the pagan references in the Knýtlinga saga (as the saga itself obviously) are younger than Saxo Grammaticus’ chapters in Gesta Danorum (Saxo died about 40 years before the assumed composition date of the Knýtlinga saga) which we presented here. Nevertheless, spending time at the Danish court may have given Óláfr an opportunity to access additional sources or hear more tales.
In the saga, Svantovit is represented as Svanteviz but five other Gods are also mentioned: the trio of Rinvit, Turupid and Puruvit – corresponding, presumably to Rugievit, Porenut and Porevit; but also Pizamar (in Jasmund) and Tjarnoglofi, the Rugian’s God of War (who “went” with them on military expeditions – recall Thietmar’s discussion (at 8, 64) of the Veletian campaign alongside the Germans where the Slavic Goddess had been “disrespected” by a German commanded and the Emperor had to figure out a way to placate his allies). Neither Pizamar nor Tjarnoglofi are mentioned elsewhere. Whether the latter had anything to do with Thietmar’s Cernobog or with the famous Pomeranian Triglaf (described, for example, here and here and here; other sources elsewhere on this site) or was (either as a result of a conscious decision of the local religious leaders or the confusion of the Danes in telling the stories) a combination of the two, we do not even begin to guess. Whether Boka (Böku) is another deity or just a sacred grove of some unspecified God, we likewise do not know.
The English translation of the saga is connected with another Canute – Canute IV (circa 1042 – 10 July 1086) who was king of Denmark and later got himself canonized and became the patron saint of Denmark. His path led, of course, via martyrdom. Specifically, Canute died during a peasant revolt which broke out on (appropriately) Vendsyssel. The King escaped to Saint Alban’s priory at Odense where the peasant rebels caught up with him and made him a martyr in 1086. The 900th anniversary of Canute’s death was celebrated in 1986 by the city of Odense (where he is buried at Odense Cathedral) as a major event. As part of the celebrations, the town notables convinced two professors, Hermann Pállsson (of Iceland) and Paul Edwards (a professor with varied interests at the University of Edinburgh – where the two professors probably met) to translate the Knýtlinga saga into English. Pálsson and Edwards translation is the only known English translation to date.
With all that in mind here is the invasion of Arkona as told in the Knýtlinga saga (as regards the Slavic Gods we follow the translators and give the Old Norse version below):
King Eirik in Wendland
“King Eirik the Unforgotten, once he felt secure in his kingdom, was harsh and severe with the people of Denmark. His own brother, Harald Kesja, and two of his sons Eirik had put to death along with many other friends of King Nikulas. It was one year after the death of King Nikulas that Harald Kresja was killed.”
“A year later, King Eirik took his army to Wendland, plundering far and wide and causing great havoc. He took a town called Arkona where the people were heathen, but by the time he left they had the whole population of the town baptized before he returned to Denmark. But immediately the king had gone they renounced the faith and returned to the offering and sacrifice and other heathen practices.”
Plundering in Wendland
“Towards the end of winter, Valdimar raised yet another levy for a seafaring expedition and sailed to Rugen. They went ashore at Strele to a certain sacred grove called Boka where they set fire to and burnt everything apart from the people and the cattle, which they drove to the ships. Then they went to another part of Valong and burnt the place down, then to Vik where they set everything ablaze all the way to the market place. From there they rowed over to Hiddensee and lay there at anchor for twenty days, resting.”
“After that, the king asked Absalon to sail on ahead , while he and the Jutes moved up to Strele. When dusk began to fall, the bishop rowed with his troops past the king over to Parez, then set up to a town called Gartz, where the Wends confronted them and at once began to attack the bishop by a certain lake. It was a great battle and many fell in it but the bishop won the victory. Eleven hundred men had been killed on the side of the Wends, but only one man on the bishop’s, though two of the bishop’s men died by drowning in a swimming match. Later the bishop rode out to his ships. As they were cantering aboard, King Valdimar came up to ask what they had been working at and the bishop told him. The king gave him generous thanks for this victory and then they all travelled together to Strele. The Isle-Danes had by now laid hands on a great deal of booty, and the Jutes were envious, saying that the Isle-Danes took everything while the Jutes lost everything but they did not risk saying this in the king’s hearing.”
“Afterwards the king went with an army to Jasmund and harried there, killing a chieftain called Dalemar and seizing all the people there and cattle. Next they went to Hiddensee where the Rugians came to the king begging for mercy: they handed over hostages, paid him all the tribute he asked for, and swore their allegiance. After that, the king went back to Denmark.”
Pagan Idols in Wendland
“King Valdimar gave his son Kristoforus authority in Jutland: he was a powerful man ad had a dukedom at Hedeby and associated districts.”
“While he ruled over the kingdom, King Valdimar was always a busy man, having led eight expeditions to Rugen [Rugia] before winning control of it.”
“One winter around the time of Lent, Duke Kristoforus and Bishop Absalon went to Svold River and set everything ablaze as far as Tribuzis so that the place lay desolate for many years after. They remained weather-bound for twenty days in the River Svold with a fearful gale but then they got a favourable wind and sailed back home.”
“After this, everything was quiet for three years until the Rugians once again broke the agreement made earlier. So King Valdimar had to make yet another levy for an expedition by sea, sailing to Rugen and arriving on Whit Sunday to take the town of Arkona, mentioned earlier. Then Tetizlaf, King of the Rugians, and his brother Jarmar, and all their leading men came to King Valdimar, surrendering themselves and their country into his power and telling he could do whatever he wished with them. Then the king told them to embrace Christianity, for the land had been heathen ever since they renounced the Christian faith they received when Eirik the Unforgotten had them baptized on the conquest of the town of Arkona, as described earlier. They said they would now do as the king and Bishop Absalon had asked.”
“Then the king ordered Soni Ebbason and others with him to go into the town of Arkona to the temple there, cut down the god called Svantaviz, drag it out of the town and plunder the temple of anything valuable. As the townspeople feared the angrier of the god they would not dare cut him down, but bishop Svein and Soni Ebbason came and cut down the god, then put a rope round his neck and forced the Rugians themselves to drag him outside. Once he was out, the heather were all amazed that he was unable to help himself and had less faith in him than before. After that, men came up and hacked him apart and burned him under their cauldrons; then the Rugians realised they had been deceived and no longer believed in him. Bishop Absalon and all the clergy converted the people to Christianity, baptizing thirteen hundred ain one day, and when they left, the people agreed to give their obedience to the king and the bishop.”
“Next morning the king went to the place called Gartz and had three idols cut down, called Rinvit, Turupid and Puruvit. These idols caused strange things to happen: if any man had intercourse with a woman inside the town the two were stuck together like dogs and were unable to go free until they left the town. On the day their idols were destroyed, nine hundred people converted to Christianity and eleven graveyards were consecrated. A great deal of wealth was taken from the gods, gold and silver, silks and furs and costly fabrics, helmets and swords, tailcoats and all kinds of weapons. The fifth god was called Pizamar from a place called Jasmund, and was destroyed by fire, There was also Tjarnaglofi, their god of victory who went with them on military campaigns. He had a moustache of silver and resisted longer than the others buyt they managed to get him there years later. Altogether, they christened five thousand on this expedition. King Valdimar, Bishop Absalon and all the troops now returned home.”
Herferð Eiríks konungs
Eiríkr eymuni var harðr ok stirðr við fólk alt í Danmörk, þegar hann þóttiz festaz í ríkinu; hann lét drepa Harald kesju, bróður sinn, ok sonu hans II ok marga aðra vini Níkuláss konungs. Þat var einum vetri eptir fall Níkuláss konungs, er Haraldr kesja var drepinn.
En vetri síðar fór Eiríkr konungr til Vinðlands með her sinn ok herjaði þar víða ok vann þar mikit hervirki; hann vann þar stað þann, er Arkún heitir; þat fólk var heiðit, er þann stað bygði. Eiríkr konungr fór svá þaðan, at þeir tóku áðr við kristni, er eigi váru drepnir af heiðnum mönnum, ok lét konungr kristna alt fólk í staðinum; fór hann síðan heim til Danmerkr. En þegar konungr var í brottu þaðan, þá köstuðu þeir aptr kristni ok efldu síðan blót ok heiðinn sið.
Frá Valdimar konungi
En er vetrinn leið af, bauð Valdimarr enn út leiðangri ok fór til Réinga ok lögðu upp á Strælu við blótlund einn, er heitir Böku, ok brendu þar alt ok bældu, en tóku fólk ok fé ok fóru til skipa með. Ok þá lögðu þeir upp á annan veg á Valung ok brendu þar ok fóru þaðan til Víkr ok brendu landit alt til torgs þeirra.Þaðan reru þeir til Heðinseyjar ok lágu þar II nætr ok hvílduz. Þá bað konungr Absalón biskup fyrri fara, en konungr ok Jótar lögðuz þá upp við Strælu;
en er røkkva tók, reri biskup upp með sínu liði fram um konunginn til Parez ok reið síðan upp til borgar þeirrar, er heitir Garðz, en þar kómu Vinðr í móti þeim ok réðu þegar til orrostu við biskup ok börðuz við vatn eitt; þar varð mikil orrosta ok mannfall mikit, ok hafði biskup sigr, en þar fell af Vinðum XI hundruð manna, en einn maðr af biskupi; en II menn fóruz á kafi af biskups mönnum, er reyndu sund með sér fyrir kapps sakir. Síðan reið biskup út til skipa sinna, en er þeir hleyptu hestunum út á skipin, þá kom Valdimarr konungr þar ok spurði, hvat þeir hefði sýslat, en biskup sagði honum. Konungr þakkaði fögrum orðum sigr þenna, ok fara síðan allir samt til Strælu. Eylendingar höfðu nú fengit hlutskipti mikit, en Jótar lögðu þar öfund á ok sögðu, at Eylendingar fengu alls, en Jótar misstu; en þeir þorðu þó eigi at mæla þetta, svá at konungr heyrði. Eptir þat fór konungr með herinn til Ásund ok herjaði þar; þar drápu þeir höfðingja þann, er Dalemarr hét, ok tóku þar fólk alt ok fé ok fóru síðan til Heðinseyjar. Þar kómu Réingar til móts við konung ok báðu sér miskunnar ok settu honum gísla ok gáfu honum skatta slíka, sem hann kvað á, ok játuðu konungi hlýðni. Fór konungr heim til Danmerkr eptir þetta.
Valdimarr konungr gaf Kristófóró syni sínum ríki á Jótlandi; hafði hann hertogadóm í Heiðabœ ok þat ríki, sem þar fylgir; hann var ríkr maðr. Valdimarr konungr hafði jafnan starfsamt, meðan hann réð ríkinu; hann hafði VIII leiðangra til Réinga, áðr hann vann landit. Einn vetr um föstu fór Kristófórús hertogi ok Absalón biskup til Svöldrs ok brendu þar alt upp til Tribuzis, svá at þar lá autt marga vetr síðan; þá lágu þeir XX nætr veðrfastir í ánni Svöldr í óveðrani miklu ok fengu síðan byr ok fóru heim. Eptir þetta stóð kyrrt III vetr, áðr* Réingar rufu enn þá sætt, sem fyrr var gör. Þá bauð Valdimarr konungr enn út leiðangri ok fór til Réinga ok kom þar at hvíta sunnudegi ok vann borgina Arkún, er fyrr var nefnd. Þá kom til Valdimars konungs Tétizláfr, er var konungr þeirra, ok Jarmarr, bróðir hans, ok allir enir beztu menn af Réingum ok gáfu þá landit ok sjálfa sik í vald Valdimars konungs ok báðu hann gera af slíkt, er hann vildi. Þá bauð konungr þeim at taka við kristni, þvíat þar var jafnan heiðit, síðan þeir köstuðu aptr kristni, þá er Eiríkr konungr eymuni lét skíra þá, þá er hann vann borgina Arkún, sem fyrr var sagt; þeir sögðuz nú gera vildu, sem konungr beiddi ok Absalón biskup.
Þá kvaddi konungr til Sóna Ebbason ok menn með honum at ganga í borgina Arkún ok til hofs þess, er þar var, ok bað hann höggva niðr goðit, er Svanraviz* [or Svaravist?] hét, ok draga þat út af borginni, en ræna hofit öllu, því er fémætt er; en þeir, er fyrir váru í borginni, þorðu eigi at draga hann út, ok hrædduz þeir mjök reiði hans. Þá gekk til Sveinn biskup ok Sóni Ebbason ok hjoggu niðr goðit; síðan lögðu þeir reip um háls honum ok neyddu Réinga sjálfa at draga hann út; en er hann kom út, undruðuz allir heiðingjar, er hann mátti þá ekki hjálpa sjálfum sér, ok trúðu minnr á hann en fyrr.
Þá gengu menn til ok klufu hann í sundr ok brendu hann undir kötlum sínum. Sá þá Réingar, at þeir váru sviknir, ok trúðu ekki á hann síðan. En Absalón biskup ok allir lærðir menn kristnuðu fólkit ok skírðu XIII hundruð einn dag, ok fóru svá þaðan, at þeir játuðu konungi hlýðni ok svá biskupi. En um morgininn eptir fóru þeir konungr til þess staðar, er Karenz heitir, ok lét hann þar höggva niðr þrjú skurðgoð, er svá hétu: Rinvit, Turupið ok Puruvit; en skurðgoð þessi gerðu svá mikil undr, at þegar, ef nökkurr maðr átti samlag við konu innan borgar, þá loddu þau saman sem hundar, ok eigi losnuðu þau, fyrr en þau kómu út af borginni. En þann dag, er þessi skurðgoð váru brend, þá kristnuðu þeir IX hundruð ok vígðu XI kirkjugarða. Þar tóku þeir mikit fé af goðunum, bæði gull og silfr, silki og pell ok guðvef, hjálma ok sverð, brynjur ok allskonar vápn. Et fimmta goð hét Pizamarr; hann var á Ásund, svá heitir einn staðr; hann var ok brendr.
Þá hét ok Tjarnaglófi, hann var sigrgoð þeirra, ok fór hann í herfarar með þeim; hann hafði kanpa af silfri; hann helz lengst við, en þó fengu þeir hann á þriðja vetri þar eptir; en þeir kristnuðu alls á landinu V þúsundir í þeirri ferð. Eptir þat fór Valdimarr konungr heim ok Absalón biskup ok allr herrinn.
Copyright ©2016 jassa.org All Rights Reserved