while the Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic literatures only throw out vague hints and allu-
sions. As we read Beowulf and the Traveller's Song, for instance, we meet at every
step references to mythological stories and mythical events which would be utterly unin-
telligible were it not for the full light thrown upon them by the Icelandic literature.

But it is not in mythology alone that the Icelandic affords us help and sheds
a flood of light on ways which would otherwise be obscure and darksome. From
the Sagas we learn literally how our ancestors lived and moved and had their being.
And here let us point out that there are Sagas of all kinds, There are the mythical
Sagas, which deal of heroes, half gods and half men, who lived in the times when the
belief in the preternatural prevailed, and when the human was eked out with the divine
whenever man fell short of the occasion. These, too, next to the Edclas, are valuable
helps by which to reconstruct that old mythological edifice, but they are not by any
means the most interesting histories of their kind. Then there are the so-called
historical Sagas, lives, for the most part, of the Kings of Denmark or of Norway,
which sometimes exist in several recensions, the most famous of all being the Heims-
kringla, ascribed to Snorri Sturluson, who seems to have aimed at a critical arrange-
ment of the whole series. Such Sagas as these, written at various periods by
scribes more or less fitted for the task they had undertaken, are evidently of very
varying authority, the most authentic of them being beyond doubt the Saga of
Swerrir, King of Norway, who flourished at the end of the I2th century. In its
way it is equal to Thucydides, and of it it may be said that the king was lucky in
finding such an historian, and the writer in finding such a king to chronicle. These
are still more valuable than the mythical Sagas, inasmuch as they are more full of
the blood and stronger with the bone and sinew of daily life. With the exception
of some incredible traits and occasional legends and superstitions inseparable from
the age which produced them, the Sagas of the Kings of Norway give a faithful
representation of the kings and earls of the time, as they ruled the Scandinavian
lands and lived as lords over their subjects, who, on their side, possessed rights
of which no king or noble could deprive them. These stories are filled with
adventures and expeditions, such as that of Harold Hardrada against England, or
of Magnus Barelegs against Scotland and Ireland, when they called out their levies
and. sailed with twenty or thirty thousand men at their back, to harry and plunder
in the regions of the West. Not unlike these expeditions were those undertaken
to the East as Crusaders by King Sigurd of Norway and Earl Rognvald of Orkney,
the accounts of which are full of daring deeds on sea and land. And yet, although
these Sagas are filled with the might and glory of kings and jarls, they are thickly
sown with the brave deeds and outspoken utterances of sturdy freemen, and of those
allodial owners of land which belonged to them in their own right, who did not scruple,
if the king wronged them, to resist him, and even to defy him to the death. Such
a man was Sveinki Steinarsson, who would only answer the messengers of King
Magnus Barelegs in biting proverbs when they came to demand his submission, and
at last made them fly home in deep disgrace.