Guta Myth 2


The Guta  Myth 2

Below follows a summary (not a direct translation) of the Guta Myth according to Strelow in his book Cronica Guthilandorum:

The settlers

Fightinging pirates
Help from allies
The first church


Exploration   Top  of Page

According to old legend Tjälvar was the name of the man who first discovered Gotland. Together with a lot of people they had left their homes an set out on a voyage to search for new land and habitations, because at home the number of people had increased and it had become too crowded.

One day they let a raven fly out over the sea. However, he flew high up in the sky, but soon he returned the ship. After some days they let the raven once again fly, and this time he flew away an disappeared towards northeast. Tjelar ordered the mate to set course after the raven. Soon they sighted land, and at nightfall they found a place where they could disembark, make small huts and light a lot of fires, which purified the land from wichcraft.

The settlers    Top  of Page

When Tjälvar stood on the beach he saw the moon, which was in new. He lifted both his hands up towards the sky and thanked the gods for their lucky voyage and he told his follwers to offer to the moon, which had guided them on their voyage. They slaughtered oxen, sheep and other things and had a big feast where they drank from two oxhorns golden brims.

Tjelvar took one of the horns, which was filled with mead, and held it to his mouth. With some secret words he drank and thanked once more the gods for a lucky voyage and for the land they had discovered, and he whished himself, his relatives and his followers good luck and success. Then he turned the horn towards the earth and spilled some of the mead on it and gave it to his sun named Havde. Tjelvar then placed the other  horn to his mouth and drank all of it. The sun did the same, and everybody emtptied and filled up many times, and they contnued  until late in the night until they were drunk.

Little earlier Havde had married a very distinguished woman and she was so beautiful and nice that she was called Vitastjänne (White star). The first night she slept on Gotland she had a dream. Far away she saw a rich and good land with many tree and plants which had a good smell. When she went up on a high hill and cliffs she thougt that three snakes, which were were twisted, crawled out of her bosom at the same time  as sunbeam stroke her. She woke up and felt very sorry and afraid , so she went to Havde and told him the dream. He sent for his fortune tellers and asked them  to interpret it. They told her that she should not be afraid because through this dreem the gods had revealed so much good that they could not wish anything better for themselves. They interpreted the dream and said:

"The land you saw in your dream is the island at which we now have arrived. Allthough it now looks small and uncomfortable it will in the future become bigger, more useful and better to live on. The high hills on which you climbed means power, honour, dignity and everything good. The trees you saw will not only be used for fire but they will give material for ships and buildings which will be carried far out to other cuntries. And the plants will give plenty of  food and norishment to both cattle and humans. But since you became satisfied by the good smell from plants is not without significance because it means that other countries around us will benefit and find this country useful. The snakes means that you will have three suns who will stay together without separating just like the snakes were twisted and bent around each other. And the sunbeam that stroke you, what can we say other than it means that your suns will great courage an become really virile".

When Havde had listend to all of it he went to Tjelvar and told him about both the dream and its interpretation. Then he demanded that they should end their voyage here. Tjelvar was touched by the dream of his daughter-in-law and he let himself be convinced to promise by hand and mouth to settle down on the island. Therefore he called his ship commanders and told them to end the voyage and unload the ships and settle here, something they did  as fast as they could. They were all prepared to settle down in an empty and unsettled land where there was neither cattle, house nor home and they wished each other sucess according to old manners an customs. After his father Gute, Tjälvar named the land Guteland which later became Gotland.

Some time later Vitastjänne was put to bed and she gave birth to triplets as the fortune tellers had predicted. Tjälvar named them. The first one he called Gute, the second Graipar and third one Gunnfjaun.

The same year Tjelvar  died and Havde took over after his father. During his time he appreciated very much peace and tranquility and he let people clear land and cultivate it. After his death his suns divided up the country in three parts which were called "tredingar" (Thirds). Gute, the oldest sun, became the master of the northern Third, where he built his farmstead in the parish of Bäl". Graipar got the southern Third and he built in the parish of Garde where he is buried. Gunnfjaun got the middle Third  and settled in the parish of Ardre where his grave is found.

Fightinging pirates   Top  of Page

As time passed the Gotlanders multiplied and became powerful. They did good buisness with their neighbours and became rich in properties and gold. But neighbouring  people got jealous and annoyed. They began to rob and plunder and they occupied Fugelåiar west of Gotland, which are now called Kalsåiar (Karls-öarna).  There they lived in rockcaves which can still be seen.

Habling ruled Gotland. He had three brothers called Hangvar, Gierre and Boge. When they heard that pirates had taken Kalsåiar they prepared their ships to drive them away. Habling made Hangvar the person in command of the operation. Hangvar departed from Bogeväiki (Bogevik) with 18 ships and surprised the intruders, who had 80 ships. There was a violent fight, but Hangvar and his gotlanders wan the fight. They killed  all the pirates and burnt their ships. It was after such an achievment Kalsåiar (islands if virile men) was given its name .

Help from allies   Top  of Page

They landed with their ships at a place which lies three "uxfys" from Kalsåiar. There they cleaned their bloodstained swords in the white sand. The place was given the name  Gnisvärd (rub sword) which is still the name of the place.

When relatives of the pirates lerned about the disaster they wanted to retaliate and  take their revenge. They gathered and now became much more stronger than ever. Habling sent for help from a neighbouring people. He was friendly received by their judge whose name was Ingvar. Since they were also harassed by pirates they were willing to help the gotlanders. Ingvar sent his brother with boats, ships and powerful and forcefully armed worriers. They seeked out the Gotlander´s navy and together they attacked the pirates. They had luck and conqured them and killed them all. Thereafter they sailed to the harbour of Västergarn with triumpf, delight and joy.

Since winter was close Gunnar stayed with his people on Gotland where he lived in farm in the parish of Sanda. When Gunnar´s people lerned about all the clarity the Gotlanders showed them and see the good land, some of them asked if they could stay there. Therefore Habling and Hangvar gave them a piece of land. They were allowed to settle on the the southern part where they could live on fishing, which they were used to.

Now when everything was arranged in the best way and they had defeted all enemies and driven them away Gunnar went home with his people. But the pirates did not end with murder, fire and destruction. Therefore Ingvar  sent a message to Hangvar and asked him for help to drive away all pirates and marauders in the same way he had cleaned the sea around Gotland. Hangvar would willingly help them and he persueded his brothers to go with him. He said that it would give them much more honor and praise than sitting home. They agreed, and with all their ships a powerful fleet went out from Gotland and joined Ingvar´s  fleet which his brother Gunnar commanded.

When the pirates first heard about the enterprise they could not believe that Gotlanders had gone so far away from Gotland with their  fleet. Therefore they did not stop with their tyranny but continued to plunder defensless merchants. But when they saw the fleet their courage fell and they were terrified and frigtened, Now they saw not only a number of defensless seamen, instead they had to deal with an armed  and strong force. They fled and ran away. They landed in a bay and there they pepared themselves for defence.

Combat    Top  of Page

The wind was unsuitable, so Hangvar and Gunnar set off to row all they could towards the pirates. Gunnar steered towards the ship of the pirate leader. He ran up and met the leader. They cut violently at each other and they were so full of hatred so they killed each other before any of  the others had time to meet their enemy. It is still uncertain which one of them was first killed.

But Hangvar told his people that they should neither attack too fast nor too slowly. Because in the first way you could recognize rackess people who were too hasty, and in the other way you could see those who are too soft and coward. In Gunnar you could recognize the first case. The second case you could see in the enemy. With such words he encouraged his people so that they yearned to fling on their enemies.

Hanggvar ropäd an u lättäd väik flaggu säin äut. De var teckne till kräigsfålke att di nå skudd ga till anfall. Fäiendrar  blai nå så uppskrämd att di hailt tappäd mode. Mangg av dum gav si av skipi u ner äi smabåtar. Men me sin tynggsel yvarlastäd di dum så att di sinkäd. Andre manäd pa varandre till ga i döden me mod.

Hangvar called out and unfolded the flag. It was the signal to the fighters to attack. The enemies were so scared that they completly lost their hearts. Many of them jumped from the ships down into  small boats. But they overloaded them so they sank. Others exhorted each other and went courageusly into death.

In this way the pirates were abandoned by their own, defeated and killed and in many miserable ways they lost their lives. Afterwards many corpses were lying here and there and many empty boats were rippling in the  sea.

The worriers diveded in equal parts the property of the pirates. After this operation the Baltic became calm and silent.

Emigration   Top  of Page

As time passes the Gotlanders increasesd in numbers. There was people everywhere on Gotland so that one could not support himself because of his neihgbour. It did not help to endeavour to clear woods , cultivate land or to carry on with fishing or do business. Starvation and periods of high prices increased and it resulted in trouble, insurrection an all kinds of difficulties.

Therfore Hangvar summond the Lands-council and put forward how distress and destruction was going on for everybody, and he was of the opinion that they had to do something. They began to talk it over and discuss the matter, but many of them believed that things would sort themselves out. For six years they continued with this.

But everyhing only got worse and hunger and periods of high prices got the upper hand. The Lands-council therefore was summond to confer to find out what they could do to relieve all misery. It was decided that every third person to whom the lot fell must leave Gotland and  seek habitation elsewhere. They were of the opinion that it would be more honourable to die manly than to be struck by hunger and starvation.  Hangvar was commissioned to get skippers and ships, and the people would go with them together with all their personl property.

Hangvar quickly gatherd quite a number of people incluing huge fighters, wemen and children. He selected one of his best men to be head of the operation. His name was Tore. His father was living at Haideböi in the parish of Kräklingo.

Rebellion   Top  of Page

But like a dull native and influenced by the others Tore deluded himself into believing that it was better to wait for better times to come. He thougt that it was better to expose oneself to hardships at home rather than to go away to foreign countries to earn a living with a  great deal of trouble and wasted blood while others were sitting at home in peace and quiet.

He rose in rebellion and began to rob, plunder und kill wherever he went. He and his rabble occupied a holm, which lay one "uxfys" east of Gotland and the name is Austargansholm. There they heaved up a fortification which can still be seen. Some of his worriers died there which stones show.

After some time they decided to go back to the mainland. However, the Gotlanders had gatherd a military force there which waited for them in the bay, which now is called Herrvik. When Tore lerned this he and his boates set off to Ganthem where they landed and caused much damage. When the Gotlanders got to know this, they gathered again to meet Tore´s rabble. A  enormously violent battle began which lasted long into the night where non of them would give up. Finally Tore and his men had to withdraw. Many of his his men remained on the battlefield, which can seen from all the memory stones standing there.

In the night Tore ran through wood and moor together with them who had managed to slip away alive. In those days Lärbro and Rute were surrounded by water so that one could sail from Vägumevik through the country to Nordervik, which is now called Kappelshamnsvik. Tore drow away and killed the people in that part of the country. In Rute he built a fortification, or castle, which can  still  be seen.

When the Gotlanders got to know where the land-destroyer had his quarters they gathered  their worriers. Tore thougt that the water between them would protect  him. However, Hangvar gathered all oxskins he could get in the neigbourhood and made a bridge of the skins. Without beeing observed he and his men quietly went over the water and chased Tore away.

He managed to get home to Haideböi where he and his rabble occupied a high rock close to his father´s farm. There he built an extremely strong fortification. In those places where it was possible to climb up the mountain he built walls of stone with 9 gates so that you could enter in one place and get out through another one. He was caught and killed. He left behind him a name thtat will not be forgotten in a hurry because the rock and the fortification  still are called Torsburg in the parish of Kräklingbo.

Depature    Top  of Page

After the Gotlanders had ended the rebellion a capable man, whose name was Helge, was chosen to be the leader for those going away from Gotland. He gathered all the people and fighting men who were going away. After some time they sailed to Ösel  and Dagö, and there they remained in peace for many years. After the death of Helge his sun Dan, who was borne on Gotland, became ruler on the islands.

But on Gotland people continued to increase and multiply, so that the country could still not feed and support them, so hunger and misery continued. Therefore Dan adviced Hangvar on Gotland once again to summon people and send as many as he could spare. Dan promised that they would receive them as their  own compatriots, relatives and bloodfriends, and he would help them to feed and support themselves.

When this became known, the people on Gotland could make up their minds if they wanted to get better livlihood, property and richness or if they wanted a short and misary life.

Some time later a mighty fleet sailed from Gotland, Fårö and Dagö. It has been said that Dan had 300 ships with 15000 armed men and besides a great number of smaller boats and merchant ships. They set course towards Estonia. To  ensure that nobody would change his mind or flee from enemies and count on going back they set fire to all their ships and boats and burnet them. They went through Russia and down to the river Rubonem, now called Donau.

Christianity   Top  of Page

King Olof Haraldson had been driven away from Norway and came through Sweden into  the Baltic. In later days he was more known as Saint Olof or Olof the holy. Wen he learnt that the inhaitants of Gotland were heathens he alone sneaked  ashore at Henum. He put in at a place where nowadays there is dry land and later there were large woods of pine. Big rings of iron have been seen in the rocks where his ship had been made fast, but now they have been cut out. He ordered his ship commanders to remain in the open see and on an appointed date they were to meet him in the same place. He went around on Gotland and saw that the Gotlanders were many and well armed. When he understood that they well could defend themselves he thought it best to go back to his ships and sail away.

One evening he came back to Henum and he was accomodated for the night at Kyrkebys. A maid, who had shown him to bed, caught sight of his elegant underwear when she peeped through the keyhole, and she told her master that their guest was not a common begger. When the peasant talked with the stranger and understood who he was it made him happy, because he had been told many things about him. When Olof got to know that the peasant was a christian he told him were his ships were and that he had intended to christianize the Gotlanders to the blessed faith. The peasant roused him up and encouraged Olof and told him that he should start and do what he had intended, because there were many good christians on Gotland who certainly would not fight against him, since they gladly would see all heathens christianized. Olof returned to his ships and came back and landed with all his soldiers on Gotland.

The head of the North-gotlanders was Ducker and he lived in the parish of Rute. When he received the message about the attack he quickly prepared himself and  his fighters and both the armies met on Lekarheden in Lärbro. When Olof caught sight of the gotlandish army and saw how many they were he and his people kneeled down to pray to God in heaven that he may convert these people to his faith of his sun Jesus Christ. Their knees and elbows sank down in the rock and made holes, which still can be seen. Then he urged his people to keep up their courage and attack these heathens in the name of the crucified saviour without fear. There was a violent battle. Finally the gotlanders were driven away and most of them were killed. Olof started to burn around and did not spare anybody. Therefore the Gotlanders  promised that they were willing to convert and be christians, and they gave him a big firetax of silver and gold.

The head of the South-gotlanders was Ulmer and he lived in Mannegards in the parish of Lye. He was a good christian. When he got to know what had taken place up in the north he summed the people to arms. When they were gathered he told them what Olof had done and how God was with him. He said that there was no use fighting against him, something their own dead fellow-countrymen, the Noth-gotlanders and a lot of East-gotlanders, could bear witnes to. Therefore it was better to leave their wretched old idol-worship and instead christen themselves and start to believe in the only true and eternal god than to throw themselves with life and soul to hell. He offered himself to go to Olof to consent and agree with him in company with some other Gotlanders. Reluctently they accepted it.

It was now decided that Olof would stay over the winter on Gotland with his people. He hauled up his ships on land and built the church of Akegarn on a holm, which is now called Sankt Olofsholm. The church is now gone to ruin an only some of the walls can be seen.

Ormica from Henum came together with some other people to Olof. She gave him 12 oxen, 12 four-horned bocks, 12 barrels of weat and many other precious gifts. She was baptized and Olof went together with her to Kyrkebys where he had the big house of stone built and where it is said that his bed, chair and wash-basin in the wall could  be seen much later. Olof gave her an axe and a big bowl made of silver. In the spring 1029 he sailed to his brother-in-law Jaroslaw in Russia.

The first church   Top  of Page

There were some christian Gotlanders who were on voyage in foreign countries while Olof was on Gotland. When they heared how their country-men had received Christianty theiy were very happy and brought priests home to teach the Gotlanders more about the new faith. The first one who built churches on Gotland, after Ormica in Henum, was Botair from Akebäck, and he built a church in the parish of Vall.  That the remaining heathens could not allow, so they burnt the church. Therefore the place  i still called Kulstäde (place of charcoal).

The following year after the first church had been burnt, Botair build another church in Visby. When it was completed the heathens wanted to burn this one too. Then he climbed up and seated himself on top of the church and said: "If you burn my godshouse, then you must burn mi too!"

Then Tyssi from Stenkyrka came there. He was a powerful man and related to Botair through marriage. He did all he could to help Botaur. He told the heathens to burn neither the church nor the man. By that the first church remained unburnt, and it was the first one to remain standing on Gotland.

Some time later Tyssi let himsef be christianized together wih his wife, children and all his household. Then he had a chuch built on his own farmyard which was called Stenkyrka. It was the first church in the nortern"  Treding" (Third).

When the Gotlanders saw the customs of christian people and pious manners they benevolently he christian faith without being forced or compelled, and soon they let themselves being cristianized.

(Source:   Hans N. Strelow Cronica Gutilandorum, Copenhagen 1633.

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Last updated: 06/07/04.