Bósa saga ok Herrauðs

Bósa saga ok Herrauds or Saga of Bósi and Herraud is a legendary saga written around 1300, whose earliest copies are preserved in three 15th-century manuscripts, relating the fantastic adventures of the two companions Herraud (Old Norse Herrauðr) and Bósi.

The setup

The story begins with King Hring (Hringr) of Östergötland, who is said to be son of King Gauti son of King Odin of Sweden and half-brother to King Gautrekr the Generous, who appears as king of Västergötland in Gautreks saga. But chronology is flattened so that Hring is made a contemporary of Harald Wartooth, King of Denmark and Sweden. Hring's wife was Sylgja daughter of Jarl Sæfara ('Seafarer') of Småland. Sæfara also had two sons named Dagfari ("Dayfarer") and Náttfari ("Nightfarer") who served King Harald.

Herraud, the primary hero of the saga, was the son of Hring and his wife Sylgja. But Hring also had an illegitimate son named Sjód (Sjóðr) who served as Hring's treasurer and tax collector and from whose name, according to the saga, the word sjödr "purse" derives. Hring preferred Sjód to Herraud.

Herraud's best friend was Bósi, the younger son of a former viking named Thvari or Bryn-Thvari by Brynhild, a former shieldmaiden and a daughter of King Agnar of Nóatún. Thvari had formerly partially maimed Brynhild in a duel, whence she was known as Bögu-Brynhild "Stunt-Brynhild", for she never fully recovered. Thvari then married Brynhild who bore him two sons, Smid (Smiðr) and Bósi. Smid learned some magic from their foster mother Busla who was a powerful sorceress. Bósi was sometimes called Bögu-Bósi after his mother.

Bósi was a rough boy who was eventually outlawed for maiming some other folk in a ball-game. Herraud, discontented, gained permission from his father, over Sjód's objections, be allowed to set off on a Viking expedition with five ships. Herraud was eventually joined by the exiled Bósi and they successfully plundered for five years. Meanwhile, back in East Götaland, Herraud's half-brother Sjód forcibly extorted funds from Bósi's father Thvari under the pretence that this was legal compensation for those men whom Bósi had injured. Now it chanced that Bósi's ship was driven to Wendland where Sjód happened to be on a purchasing expedition for King Hring. The two quarreled over the matter and Bósi killed Sjód.

Herraud then returned to his father's court, offering to make compensation for Sjód's death. But King Hring refused all offers. Civil war broke out between father and son. Hring managed to capture Herraud and Bósi and prepared to execute them. But that night Busla, Bósi's foster-mother, called on her magic, appeared suddenly in King Hring's bedchamber, and threatened and harassed the king with charms and curses, until the helpless king agreed to make peace with Herraud and Bósi to the extent of sending them on a dangerous quest instead of executing them.

The quest

The following day Hring exiled both Herraud and Bósi, Herraud for life and Bósi the same unless Bósi could find and bring back a vulture's egg inscribed with golden letters.

The two headed off to Bjarmaland and had many adventures. An erotic encounter between Bósi and a farmer's daughter is told in amusingly explicit riddling dialogue. The two companions were able to kill a vulture that guarded the temple of Jomali in Bjarmaland, obtained its egg, slew the priestess who was Kolfrosta the mother of King Harek of Bjarmaland, and rescued Hleid (Hleið) the sister of King Godmund (Godmundr) of Glæsisvellir who had been magically brought there to be turned into the new priestess. Herraud took Hleid as his wife and they and Bósi returned to East Götaland where King Hring, on receiving the shell of the vulture's egg, agreed to be reconciled with Bósi and his son.

Further adventures

At that point Herraud and Bósi headed off to aid King Harald in the famous Battle of Bråvalla and were among the few survivors.

Meanwhile King Godmund of Glæsisvellir, who did not know what had become of his sister Hleid, promised Siggeir, son of King Harek of Bjarmaland, that Siggeir could have her as his wife if he could find her. Siggeir and his brother Hrærek learned about Hleid's abduction from Bjarmaland by Herraud and Bósi and their destruction of the temple, and they set out for Götaland. There they attacked King Hring who had small strength with him, most of his forces having gone to Bråvalla. Hring was killed in battle and Hleid was taken back to Glæsisvellir.

On their return from Bråvalla, Herraud and Bósi, accompanied by Bósi's brother Smid and Bosi's foster-moster Busla, set out to rescue Hleid. They accomplished their goal after many further adventures (and two further amusingly erotic encounters between Bósi and two maidens with riddling dialogues). Herraud regained Hleid and Bósi abducted King Harek's daughter Edda. Both Smid and Busla show their magical prowess. When King Harek of Bjarmaland attacked in the form of a giant boar, a giant bitch (apparently Busla) opposed him. Both fell into the sea and were never heard of again.

What happened after

Herraud became king of East Götaland as heir to his father while Bósi became king of Bjarmaland by his marriage to Edda. By one of his other erotic encounters Bósi became the father of Svidi the Bold the father of Vilmund the Absentminded.

Meanwhile Herraud and Hleid became the parents of a daughter, that same famous Þóra Town-Hart (Þóra Borgarhjörtr) who kept a serpent in her bower and only he who could slay it could gain her hand in marriage. The eventual slayer and husband was the famous Ragnar Lódbrok. The tale explains at the end that this serpent had sprung from the vulture's egg which Herraud and Bósi had obtained in their quest.

Other references to Herraud

This tale of Ragnar and the serpent also appears in Ragnars saga lodbrókar and Þáttr af Ragnars sonum, though in the former Herraud appears as Jarl Herrud (Herruðr) of Gautland and in the latter as Herraud, Jarl of West Götaland. But Herraud's father is also called Hring in this version. A variant with two serpents instead of one appears in Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum (Book 9) where Herraud appears as Herothus King of Sweden. None of these accounts explain the origin of the serpent or serpents and it would seem that the story of Herraud and Bósi was in part invented as a prequel to fill that gap.

Alternate forms of names


The saga influenced Sigrgarðs saga frœkna.[1]

Bibliography and external links


  1. Alaric Hall, Steven D. P. Richardson, and Haukur Þorgeirsson, 'Sigrgarðs saga frækna: A Normalised Text, Translation, and Introduction', Scandinavian-Canadian Studies/Études Scandinaves au Canada, 21 (2013), 80-155 (pp. 84-89), http://scancan.net/article.htm?id=hall_1_21.
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