The Elfin Woman and the Birth of Skuld
There was a king named Adils; he was powerful and greedy.
From his stronghold at Uppsala, he ruled over Sweden. King
Adils heard of Yrsa and readied his ships, setting out to
ask for an audience with Olof and Yrsa. Olof prepared a feast
in honor of King Adils, regaling him with all manner of refinement
and courtesy. King Adils asked for Queen Yrsa's hand in marriage.
Olof said, 'You must have heard about her situation. If
she agrees to marry you, I will not oppose your request.'
So Adils presented his suit to Yrsa. She responded, telling
him that his chance of success was not good 'because you are
an unpopular king.'
Nevertheless the suit went forward. Yrsa was uncommitted
either way, and it mattered little whether she said more or
less concerning the proposal. But finally she accompanied
King Adils when he sailed off. King Helgi was not notified,
because Adils thought himself the more prominent of the two
kings. King Helgi did not even know what had happened until
after the couple arrived in Sweden, where King Adils had a
splendid wedding feast prepared for Yrsa. It was news of this
celebration that finally reached Helgi, who became twice as
unhappy as before. King Helgi slept alone in a small detached
building. So matters continued for a while. Olof is now out
of the saga.
It is said that one Yule evening King Helgi was in bed. The
weather outside was foul, yet someone came to the door, tapping
weakly on it. It occurred to Helgi that it was unkingly for
him to allow any person, however wretched, to remain outside
when he could help. So the king got up and opened the door.
He saw someone or something, poor and tattered, standing outside.
After saying, 'You have done well, King,' it came into the
The king said, 'Take some straw and a bearskin for yourself
, so that you will not freeze.'
The visitor said, 'Let me into your bed, Sire. I want to
sleep next to you, for my life is at stake.'
The king replied, 'You repel me, but if it is as you say,
then lie down here along the side of the bed. Keep your clothes
on, and I will not come to any harm.'
She did as the king asked, and he turned away from her. A
light was burning in the house, and after a time, he glanced
over his shoulder at her. What he saw was a sleeping woman
so fair that he thought he had never seen anyone so beautiful.
She was dressed in a silken gown. Quickly and tenderly, he
turned toward her.
She said, 'Now I will leave. You have released me from a
terrible bondage, which was my stepmother's curse. I have
visited many kings, but none of them accepted me because of
my looks. I do not want to stay here any longer.'
'No,' said the king, 'there is no possibility that you may
leave so soon. We will not part that way. I will arrange a
quick wedding for us, because you please me well.'
She said, 'You are the one to make the decision, my lord.'
And so that night they slept together.
In the morning she spoke to him, saying 'We have slept together
because of your lust, and you will know that we will have
a child. Do now as I tell you, King. Visit our child next
winter at this same time down at your ships' landing. Unless
you do so, you will pay for it.' After this, she went away.
The king was now somewhat happier than before.
Time passed and Helgi forgot, giving no thought to the warning.
But after three winters, there is this to tell: At midnight
three people came riding up to the same house in which the
king was sleeping. They brought a girl-child with them and
put her down outside the house.
Then the woman, who was holding the child, said, 'You must
know, King, that your kinsmen will pay for your ignoring my
request. Nevertheless, you will reap a benefit from having
released me from the curse. Be aware that the girl is named
Skuld, and she is our daughter.' Then the people rode away.
Skuld's mother was an elfin woman, and the king never again
saw or heard of her. Skuld grew up with the king; from an
early age she showed a vicious temperament.
It is said that King Helgi prepared to set out on a voyage
to forget his sorrow. Hrolf, his son, stayed behind. King
Helgi raided far and wide, performing great deeds.