Summary of the Thidrekssaga

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Detlef the Dane


In Denmark in Skåne in the place called Tummelborg there lived a man named Biterolf. His wife was Oda, and she was the daughter of the jarl of Sachsenland, and they had a son named Detlef.

Detlef preferred to be in the kitchen instead of riding with his father, and therefore his father and mother didn't really like him, and believed he was a fool and a changeling. Still, he had learned to ride a horse, throw spears, swing swords, and throw stones. Everybody assumed he was not really interested in that, though, and he never combed his hair and never bathed either in the bathhouse or a pool, and preferred to lie in the ashes in the kitchen and run around with the kitchen boys.


Biterolf was invited to a feast with his wife and his followers, to a place called Vetlandsherad and a man called Ulf, Soti's son. Now Detlef thought he should ride with his father to this feast, stood up in the kitchen, shuffeld the ashes off him, cleaned his hands and head, went to his mother, and asked her if they were going to a feast. His mother said that was true, but what was that to him? And he told her that he'd like to come with them.

And she said: why would a changeling want to come to a feast? You're just laying around in the kitchen, and you don't want to become equal to our relatives, and we don't want any of that on our journey. And he said that she hated him more than he loved her, and if she gave him permission to go that would be good, but if not he'd go anyway.


Then he went to the hall where his father sat, and asked him for a horse and a sword, since he wanted to come to the feast. His father asked him what he would do there, since many sons of important men would come there, and they would do other things than roast chicken and geese, but that's the only thing you can do. And he doubted Detlef was his son.

Detlef replied he did not know whose son he was, but that everyone said he was Biterolf's, even though he hadn't become a good man. But if you doubt I'm your son, ask my mother for more details. I'm not willing to look for another father, because a poor farmer would not have treated me better than you did, until this day. And if you hadn't given me as good as a mother as you have, as other people say, or if she was of lower birth, then I would not like the truth, now that you yourself are suspecting her. Dificult sentence; I may have got it wrong And if she would have relatives on her side, they would not allow for such an accusation. But in the end it's my fault; if I had been a better man than I am, you would not have accused her.

Biterolf told him to be silent and go back to the kitchen and lay in the ashes. He would not hear anything against his wife, but they both believed that Detlef was a changeling.

Well, said Detlef, if my father and mother come to take me, you don't have to ask them for a large foster fee fóstrlaun, since until this day I won't have cost you much. But if you do not allow me to come with you I'll go there anyway.


Then Detlef took his father's best horse, with saddle and tack, and rode to a farmer nearby, whose weapons he borrowed. Then he went home again.

This took place in the middle of winter, and the entire Sont was frozen until deep in the south at Jutland, so that one could use sleds to go from one village to another. It is unclear why this passage was included; the frozen Sont is not mentioned again. Or is this a chronological note, 'the year the Sont was frozen solid'? If so it's nearly the only one.

When Detlef came home his father saw he would come anyway, he decided to see what would happen if Detlef came to other people, and he also didn't want him to look ridiculous, and gave his men orders to arm Detlef properly. His father gave him good weapons, and his mother good clothers, and he bathed and combed his hair, and now all people who saw him said that they had never seen such a good youth. Then he went to the feast with his father and mother.

And while they staid at the feast Detlef behaved well, And when the feast was over Oda and the men returned home, but Biterolf set out for another feast, and Detlef with him, and staid there for a while more.

And when they returned home the Falsterwald was on their road, and the road went straight through it.


When they went in, they encountered twelve men, Ingram and his companions. Biterolf said he wished Detlef was home with hsi mother, because he was afraid to lose him to the robbers, while if he was alone he'd have no trouble defeating them. Detlef said he was not afraid, and proposed they dismount and put their backs against each other's, and here it should become clear what Detlef's descent was. And both drew their swords.


That day Heime kept watch for Ingram and his companions, When he saw them, he reported back and said that their helmets were well-made, and that the robbers had their work laid out for them.

Ingram decided that they didn't all have to go, five men would be enough. But father and son fought mightily, and after a while all five lay dead on the ground. When Ingram saw that he ordered everyobody to attack, but Biterolf cleaved Ingram's helmet and head while Detlef killed two men. And they didn't stop until all robbers but Heime were dead. Now Heime hit Biterolf on the helmet so that he fell unconscious, but Detlef hit him on the helmet, and Heime sank to one knee. Quickly he recovered, sprang on his horse and rode as quickly as he could, all day long, and was glad he was still alive. He said, what many have proven, that the best piece of iron was the spur, since it saved him that day, and many others did the same.

But when Heime came to a river his stallion Rispa sprang so mightily that Heime flew off him. And it is said that there was a watermill there, and it was milling, but Heime heard the sounds as "hit, hit, strike, strike", and he rode day and night until he came back to Bern. Here he reconciled himself with Diet­rich, and became his follower again.

Biterolf and Detlef took all gear from the dead robbers, and took them home, and they had achieved great honour.


Now Detlef considered himself a man, and his father and mother also saw that he had honoured his parents by his good behaviour in battle. Then Detlef asked them for clothes, weapons, and gold because he wanted to travel to his grandfather in Sachsenland Oda's father to learn about other countries and customs, and get to know his relatives. His parents gave him what he wanted.

Then his father said that he should behave well while he was in Jutland, but if you go far into Sachsenland, as far as the place called Bern, and find Diet­rich, son of king Dietmar, then make sure never to fight with him or his heroes, because you can't withstand their strong strikes. And his helm is called Hildegrim, and his sword Eckensax, and his horse Falke. With him are many famous heroes, and make sure not to annoy them. But it might be better to stay with your grandfather in Sachsenland and come home afterwards. Detlef promised to do so.

And Biterolf went on: on the way to his grandfather Detlef would find the Burgwald, in which there was the place Marstein, and there lies a castle. You will find no one in the castle, but you will find a beautiful chair, and on the chair a horn. Blow that horn, and then he lord of that castle, my good friend Sigurd, will come. He is old, as white as a dove, and when you find him, tell him your father's name, so that he will receive you well. But even if you brought twelve men you could not fight against him. And Detlef promised to do so.

When Detlef left his parents gave him more good advice, and his mother gave him golden ring and her regards to her father. And Biterolf gave him twenty marks of gold, and then Detlef left.


Now Detlef rode on, and he found the castle, and in it the horn, and he blew on the horn. Then came a man who rode on an elephant alpandýr, and Detlef knew it was Sigurd. Sigurd asked him for his name, and Detlef said he was called Wildimarich. Sigurd said he must be the son of Biterolf, jarl of Tummathorp, but Detlef denied it.

Then they fought long and hard, and rested afterwards, because Sigurd was an old man. And again Sigurd said: if you're Biterolf's son, tell me, then we can stop fighting. Detlef again said he had no idea who that was, and they should fight on. And fight on they did, until the sun was in the west.

Then Sigurd invited Detlef to spend the night with him, and be his guest, but the next day they would fight on. Detlef agreed. And Sigurd proposed this because he had become wounded, and also because he realised he had left his Siegerstein sigrsteinn; a magical implement conducive to winning battles. See also 70. I suppose the English translation is 'victory stone'. at home.


They went to Sigurd's house, which was dug under the earth so the castle is not Sigurd's house?, and two women came to them, Sigurd's wife and daughter. Now Sigurd's daughter was so strong that few men could best her, and when she saw her father with another man she understood they had been fighting, and from her father's armour she saw he might lose. So when Detlef had dismounted she threw him to the ground, and hit him so hard on the neck that he thought his spine had broken.

And to Detlef it was a great shame that he had been bested by a woman. Therefore he took her by the arm and the neck, and water flew from her eyes, and he squeezed so firmly that blood sprang from all her nails. She begged for peace, and Detlef saw that slaying a woman would bring him no honour, so he loosened his grip, and they all went inside.

The house had wonderful tapestries, and they drank wine, and Sigurd's daughter served him, and she looked kindly on Detlef, and their fingers touched, and they liked each other. Then they went to bed, and Detlef slept immediately.


But around midnight Sigurd's daughter came to Detlef, and he made room in his bed for her. She came here for no other reason that that she tried to reconcile the two of them.

Those who hear this story the writer addresses his audience directly might think that she offered herself to him. But no! She came to him with parables and stories, and she was better at this than most young women. They had many discussions together Yeah, right, and she apologised for her earlier behaviour, and they reconciled.

When she understood he was Biterolf's son, she left the bed and went to her father's sleeping quarters and took his Siegerstein, which he had taken the night before. And the went back to Detlef's bed and gave him the stone, and they lay together until the next day.


The next day she We never learn her name left him, but soon after Sigurd came to him, showed him his treasure, and they had breakfast. Afterwards they rode back to the castle and resumed their fight. Eventually Sigurd was wounded three times, and yielded his sword. Detlef took it, and told Sigurd his name and family.

They went back to the underground house, and Sigurd begged Detlef to stay as long as he wished. It had long been a desire of him to have Biterolf's son in his house, though he assumed it was not Biterolf's counsel that Detlef kept his name secret. Detlef told him his father had prohibited him to fight with Sigurd, but he wanted to try anyway. Sigurd told him he was the first to ever win a duel against him, and therefore he wanted to give him his daughter in marriage, and gold and silver with her. Detlef thanked him, but said they had to discuss this with the young lady first.

Sigurd went to his daughter and asked her what she thought of Detlef as a husband. She replied that she wondered why he wanted to give her to the man who had wounded him so, but otherwise she agreed. Sigurd asked for her word, and in return she asked that they would keep their word as well unclear what they should keep their word about. Detlef was pleased, but first wanted to ride to his grandfather before returning and taking her in marriage.

Then Sigurd gave him ten marks of gold and Detlef rode on.


Detlef rode further south, and encountered a man who came from Amelungenland on the way to Hunnenland. Detlef asked him about Diet­rich, son of Dietmar, the king of Bern. The man praised Diet­rich, and told Detlef Diet­rich had ridden to his uncle Ermenrik for a feast. Detlef asked the man if he knew of a route that would bring him to Diet­rich before Diet­rich had reached Rome. The man told him to go via Trident Ritter does not appear to have identified Trident. Detlef gave him a gold ring from his arm as thanks, and rode on.


King Ermenrik had announced a great feast and had invited all manner of kings, princes, and jarls, dukes, counts, and barons, and also Diet­rich and his men.

Detlef knew Diet­rich was not at home, and when the road split he considered going to his grandfather, but in the end he decided he wanted to see Diet­rich and his heroes more, so he rode after Diet­rich.

He overtook Diet­rich in the town called Fritila-Burg in the home of Ake Harlungentrost, a brother of Ermenrik and Diether, and thus Diet­rich's uncle, but the saga doesn't mention that.


Detlef took residence in the same house as Diet­rich and his men, and Diet­rich asked him who he was. Detlef said he was Amelrich Soti's son from Denmark. Diet­rich asked him where he was going, and Detlef said he was looking for a worthy lord who would allow him to care for his arms and horse, and if that lord were Diet­rich von Bern, it would be all the better. And in return he asked Diet­rich who he was and who his lord was.

Witig spoke up, and informed Detlef that he was looking at Diet­rich von Bern himself, and Heime, and many others with him. Detlef greeted Diet­rich, and offered his services. Diet­rich accepted, and told him he was riding to the feast, and that Detlef should care for his horse and arms.

The next morning they rode on, and Ake came with them, and they arrived in Rome right when the feast started. The heroes and other lords went to the king's halls, but the squires and servants were lodged in inns, where the horses were also stabled.


Detlef didn't want to go into the king's hall for food and drink, but preferred to arrange things for himself. So when the feast started, Detlef went to the market with a few other boys servants? squires? and bought wine and mead, and bread so that even the king's dish wouldn't be better served with food and drink. And everything was brought to the inn, where Detlef gave a feast for the servants and squires, three days long.

And then all his 30 marks of gold were spent. Still, he didn't want to give up his feast while the king's went on, so again he went to the market and bought new food and drink, and he pawned Heime's horse Rispa and his sword Nagelring for ten marks of gold. And thus they ate and drank until everything was gone.

And Detlef went to the market again, and now he pawned Witig's horse Schimming and his sword Mimung for twenty marks of gold. Then he again invited his guests, and also he had the inn hung with tapestries.

And when everything was eaten and drunk the king's feast had gone on for seven days and would go on for two more. And again he went to the market, and when someone asked 12 pennies for something, he would bid 20. And he pawned Diet­rich's horse Falke, and his sword Eckisax and his helm Hildegrim for 30 marks of gold, and now he had no fewer than thirty hundreds of guests, servants and squires, fiddlers and minstrels. And on the day the feast ended, Detlef gave the golden ring his mother had given to him to the chief minstrel Isung It is important to treat your minstrels well! Said the minstrel, because Isung was the best of them all. And Detlef gave him purple clothes with golden seams, and those were the clothes of Diet­rich the king's son, and thus he rewarded Isung for his playing, and the other minstrels also got a mark or two of gold.


Now Diet­rich called Detlef and demanded his weapons and horse, and also those of his men. And Detlef said that he had to pay money first, since he had pawned them so that the servants and squires could also have a feast, and I didn't want to go to the king's dish to take food and drink, since the city is unknown to me Not entirely clear.

And Diet­rich said: Sure, but how much is it?

Well, Detlef said, not a lot, and the 30 marks I brought with me you don't have to pay, but I did pawn Heime's horse and arms, and Witig's, and your own, for 60 marks of gold. And I also gave your cloak to the chief minstrel, and also my golden ring. And when I came here the gate to the garden was locked, so that I jumped on the door with my left foot Detlef kicked the door open? and the door hit the man who was guarding it. And the men and kitchen boys who were there and offered me dishonour, so that I took one of them by the feet and killed two others with him, and I think that one is also angry at me. But I'm sure you'll understand and will talk to them on my behalf.

Now Heime thought he recognised this man from 116, but Detlef had recognised him immediately, and Heime said: Now it seems we have a servant who, even if he takes all our weapons and throws them in the latrine and then walks on them, we still have to endure.


Now Diet­rich went to the king Ermenrik, and asked him to pay the money his servants and horses had spent while he was here. Ermenrik agreed, and told him to see his treasurer Sibich, but how much is it? Diet­rich asked him to ask Detlef.

And the king did so, and Detlef said he had spent 30 marks of his own, and he didn't need that back, but that Diet­rich's horse and arms, and those of two of his companions, would cost 60 marks to get back.

The king became angry and asked him what kind of man he was to spend so much in nine days. Or what great deeds have you done to be worth such a sum? Are you a fool or a changeling? Von der Hagen translates this to refer back to 111 where Biterolf calls Detlef the same. But the Old-Norse words are quite different.

Detlef said that it was custom for noble men to invite a guest for food and drink if they hadn't eaten yet. And the king orderded to bring him food and drink, and Detlef ate as much as three other knights. And a golden beaker with wine was brought that was so big that one servent could barely carry it, and Detlef emptied it in one gulp. And the king and Diet­rich looked at what he did, but he barely acknowledged them.


Then a knight called Walther of the Waskastein spoke up, and he was the sister son of kings Ermenrik and Dietmar, and the best of all knights at court Ermenrik's court, I presume.. And he wondered what this man could do besides spending money and eating and drinking. Does he know anything about spear and stone throwing? Detlef said he did. Then Walther challenged him to a contest, and the wager was his head. And if Detlef refused, he would lose his life and honour, and thus he would never lose so much money or mock noble kings. And Detlef agreed, and said he would lose his life if he lost, but he didn't think that would happen.


Then they went to a field, took a stone that weighed no less than two ship's pounds skippund, and Walther threw it nine feet, but Detlef threw it ten feet. Then Walther threw it thirteen feet, but Detlef threw it eighteen feet. Then Walther acknolwedged Detlef had won, and everyone was amazed.

Now they took a banner pole merkistöng; like Ermenrik uses in 282 that belonged to king Attila, whom Ermenrik had also invited to his feast. This banner pole was the heaviest of them all, and Walther took it and threw it over the king's hall so that one end hit the further wall. And all who saw that thought it was a strong throw.

Then Detlef took the pole and threw it back across the hall, and as soon as he had thrown it he ran through the hall, which had two doors, and caught it in the air. And all said that Detlef had won the contest and had acquired Walther's head.

But king Ermenrik said, Good man, I'd like to ransom my nephew's head with gold, silver, and jewelry. And Detlef said, What should I do with his head? He is a good knight, and I'll gladly give you his head, and pay me whatever you think fitting. And the king agreed.

And then the king paid his as much money as he had spent, and bought back the horses and arms Detlef had pawned, and also the money Detlef had spent from his own pocket, and he knighted him.

Then Detlef revealed his name and ancestry, and Diet­rich made him one of his companions. And then Diet­rich went home with all his men, including Detlef, and the chief minstrel Isung went with them.

Status: summary of 19 chapters complete.

Other parts

  1. Samson (1-13)
  2. Hildebrand and Heime (14-20)
  3. Wieland the Smith (57-79)
  4. Witig (80-95)
  5. Journey to Osning (96-107)
  6. Witig and Heime (108-110,134-137,146-151)
  7. Detlef the Dane (111-129)
  8. Amelung, Wildeber, and Herbrand (130-133)
  9. Wildeber and Isung (138-145)
  10. Sigmund and Sisibe (152-161)
  11. Sigfrid's youth (162-168)
  12. Origins of the Niflungen (169-170)
  13. Dietrich's feast (171-191)
  14. The road to Bertangaland (192-199)
  15. The tournament (200-222)
  16. Dietrich's fellowship falls apart (223-226,240)
  17. Gunther and Brunhild (227-230)
  18. Walther and Hildegund (241-244)
  19. Ake and Iron (269-275)
  20. Dietrich's flight (276-290)
  21. The Wilkinen wars (291-315)
  22. The battle of Gransport (316-341)
  23. Sigfrid's death (342-348)
  24. Hertnit and Isung (349-355)
  25. Grimhild's revenge (356-394)