CHAPTER III
THE BIRTH OF THE VIKING NATIONS

IT may be that not all the royalties and nobles of Beowulf were historical personages, but it is certain that some of them at any rate really lived and Played the parts assigned to them in the poem. That this is so is proved not only by the record in Frankish history of Hygelac's raid, but by the mention of some of the Beowulf names, coupled with accounts of their doings resembling those chronicled in the poem, in the traditional Scandinavian history that is preserved in other works. Chief of these is the Ynglingatal, a Norse genealogical poem said to have been composed in the middle of the ninth century, but probably an altered version of an earlier Swedish poem.1 Another, but less important, document is Snorri Sturlason Ynglingasaga, incorporated in the Heimskringla, that was written in Iceland in the thirteenth century, and there is also the Historia Norwegiae that was written about the same time and was based on the older and lost Íslendingabók2 of Ari Thorgilsson that had been compiled at the beginning of the twelfth century.

Of the early Yngling kings of Svitjod there is little need to speak, for fancy alone can say whether they were real people or not.3 But the Ynglingatal and Ynglingasaga, after giving the names of fifteen rulers of the Swedes, make unquestionable allusions to some of the personalities and some of the events that are mentioned in Beowulf. The Yngling king Ottar is Ohthere of Beowulf, and king Adils (Eadgils of the poem) is his son who made war upon king Ali

EARLY KINGS OF SVITJOD

____________________
1
The poem was incorporated by Snorri Sturlason in the Ynglingasaga. In the prologue to the Heimskringla Snorri says that the Ynglingatal was composed by Thjodolf of Kvinesdal, the scald (court-poet) of Harald Fairhair. The genealogy is not, however, traced to Harald, but terminates with an early Vestfold (Norwegian) king Ragnvald Heidumhar, a cousin of Harald's according to Snorri. There is a good edition of the poem, with a critical commentary, by Adolf Noreen, K. Vitt. Ant. Akad. Handl., 28 : 2 ( 1925).
2
A recension of this by Ari, the Libellus Islandorum, is also known as Íslendingabók and has survived; but it deals only with Icelandic history.
3
But see Birger Nerman's brave struggle with this problem, Det svenska rikets uppkomst, Stockholm, 1925, p. 29 ff., 137 ff.

-78-

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A History of the Vikings
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • List of Abbreviations viii
  • Contents ix
  • Contents x
  • List of Illustrations in the Text xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - The Lands of the Vikings 41
  • Chapter II - The North Germans 62
  • Chapter III - The Birth of the Viking Nations 78
  • Chapter IV - Scandinavia and Denmark in Viking Times 117
  • Part II - The Vikings Abroad 143
  • Chapter VI - The South and East Baltic Coasts 179
  • Chapter VII - The Western Empire 193
  • Chapter VIII - England 227
  • Chapter IX - Ireland 274
  • Chapter X - Scotland and Man 300
  • Chapter XI - Wales 323
  • Chapter XII - The Faroe Islands 328
  • Chapter XIII - Iceland 336
  • Chapter XIV - Greenland 361
  • Chapter XV - America 370
  • Select Bibliographies 389
  • Index of Authors 393
  • General Index 396
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