A Kings Counsel

A passage from the Sverris Saga in which the Eponymous King Sverrir gives brave counsel to his assembled men at arms by relating to them a story.

From this story we see here detailed our ancestors unshaking devotion to the implacability of their preordained fate and how it was used to justify an intensely martial ethos that echoes to words of Odin in the Havamal:

“A coward believes he will ever live
if he keep him safe from strife:
but old age leaves him not long in peace
though spears may spare his life.

“A farmer accompanied his son to the warships and gave him counsel, telling him to be valiant and hardy in perils. “How would you act if you were engaged in battle and knew beforehand that you were destined to be killed?”

The son answered, “Why then should I refrain from striking right and left?”

The farmer said, “Now suppose someone could tell you for certain that you would not be killed?”

The son answered, “Why then should I refrain from pushing forward to the utmost?”

The farmer said, “In every battle you fight, one of two things will happen: you will either fall or come away alive. Be bold, therefore, for everything is preordained. Nothing can bring a man to his death if his time has not come, and nothing can save one doomed to die. To die in flight is the worst death of all.””

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