Danish Myths and Legends : Roar and Helge

(Also: Hroar and Helgi)

Danish legendary kings, sons of King Halvdan/Halfdan of the Skjoldunge dynasty, mentioned in Saxonis Grammatici Gesta Danorum (Saxo Grammaticus: "Acts of the Danes") and in the Icelandic saga about Rolf Krake/Hrolf Kraki.

The icelandic saga relates how Halvdan/Halfdan was murdered by his brother Frode/Froði, who thereafter seeks to eliminate Roar and Helge, too. The boys, however, escape, and later arrange for Frode/Froði to die in the fire of his burning home.

After the brothers are crowned kings, Roar is the peaceful king of Lejre (in Denmark), whereas Helge goes roaming as a viking, having many adventures (some of them of a highly erotic nature). Helge unwisely rapes the daughter of the King of Scotland (in Saxo, the victim is slightly different - the maiden Thora). Helge's victim gives birth to his daughter by rapine, Yrsa. When Yrsa is grown, her grandfather, in an act of revenge, sends her to Helge as a bride; Helge thus unwittingly marries his own daughter.

Helge and Yrsa have a son, the later so famous Rolf Krake. After his birth, Yrsa's grandfather reveals the truth of the incestuous union, retrieves Yrsa and marries her off to King Adils in Uppsala. Roar is is attacked and killed, while Helge is out on a sea raid. When Helge returns, he exacts grim vengeance on his brother's slayer, and the tale ends.

The Old English epics, Widsith and Beowulf, speak of Hroðgar (Roar) as a warlike king, and of Helge as his long-dead brother.

Saxo relates that the town of Roskilde in Denmark (not far from Lejre) was named for Roar (Danish: Roars kilde, "Roar's spring"), but this appears to be a later interpretation, based on eponymicity.

The tale of the two brothers and their strange fate has been the model for both Adam Oehlenschläger's poem Helge (1814) and his prose work Hroars saga (1817).