The Poem

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In the ancient days of Scandinavia lives a king named Bele who has two sons, Helge and Halfdan. King Bele also has a daughter, Ingeborg, who is very beautiful. As King Bele grows old and near death, he calls to him his friend of former days Thorsten Vikingsson, who has been loyal to the king in peace and in battle for many years and who is also near the end of his days. The king tells his sons of the help that Thorsten Vikingsson gave him in past days and warns them to keep the friendship of Thorsten’s son, Frithiof.

Frithiof has grown up with the companionship of King Bele’s daughter Ingeborg and her brothers. After the deaths of King Bele and old Thorsten, who are both laid to rest in burial mounds overlooking a fjord, the sons of Bele forget the warning that their father gave them, and their friendship toward Frithiof cools. When Frithiof, who has long loved Ingeborg, asks her brothers for her hand in marriage, they refuse his request. Frithiof, angered and humiliated, vows that he will have his revenge and that he never will carry out his father’s request that he help the brother kings.

Not long thereafter, when King Hring makes war on the brothers, they send for Frithiof to help them. Frithiof, remembering his vow, continues to play at chess and ignores their summons. King Hring is successful in his campaign against the sons of Bele, and he makes them promise to give him Ingeborg as his wife. Meanwhile, Ingeborg has taken refuge in the temple of Balder. Frithiof, disdainful of the sanctity of the temple, visits her there, and they exchange rings, along with vows of love. Frithiof thus runs the risk of the god Balder’s wrath.

To punish Frithiof for violating the temple, the brother kings send him to collect tribute from the inhabitants of the Faroe Islands. Frithiof, with his foster brother, sets sail for the Faroes in Ellida, the best ship in the north country. It is said of Ellida that it can even understand human speech.

During the voyage, a violent storm comes up and the ship almost founders. Frithiof breaks the gold ring he received from Ingeborg and gives the shards to his men, so that none of the crew might enter the kingdom of the sea goddess without gold. When the storm subsides—after the men conquer a pair of sea spirits riding against them on the backs of whales—the ship reaches the Faroe Islands in safety. Yarl Angantyr,...

(The entire section is 986 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Brandes, Georg Morris Cohen, and Rasmus Bjorn Anderson. Creative Spirits of the Nineteenth Century. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1923. Pages 107-183 provide a somewhat dated but accessible discussion of Tegnér and his works. Places Frithiof’s Saga in its literary context.

Hilen, Andrew R. Longfellow and Scandinavia: A Study of the Poet’s Relationship. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1947. Explains the relationship of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Tegnér. Argues that Tegnér was influential in the development of Longfellow’s poetry.