Ogier The Dane
Long, long ago, a baby lay asleep in a cot in a palace. It was a royal
baby, therefore it was never left alone for a moment, but always had two
or three ladies watching it, by day and by night, so that no serpent
should crawl into its cradle and bite it, nor any evil beast run off
with it, as sometimes happened in other countries.
But one evening, after a very hot day, all the ladies in waiting felt
strangely drowsy, and, though they tried their best to keep awake, one
by one they gradually dropped off to sleep in the high carved chairs on
which they sat. Then a gentle rustle might have been heard outside on
the staircase, and when the door opened a brilliant light streamed in,
though the ladies slept too soundly to be awakened by it. Wrapped round
by the light were six fairies, more beautiful than any fairies that ever
were seen, who glided noiselessly to the cradle of the baby.
'How fair he is!' whispered one; 'the true son of a king.'
'And how strong he is!' answered another; 'look at his arms and legs,'
and the whole six bent forward and looked at him.
'The world shall ring with his fame,' said the first, whose name was
Gloriande, 'and I will give him the best gift I have. He shall never
fear death, and no word of shame shall ever touch him.'
Then the second fairy leaned forward and lifted the baby out of his
cradle. She was tall, and on her head was a ruby crown, while a plate of
gold covered her breast.
'Through all your life,' she murmured, 'wherever war and strife may be,
you shall be found in the midst of it, even as your forefathers.'
'Yes,' said a third; 'but my gift is better than hers, for you shall
never be worsted in any fight, and every one shall add to your honour.'
'And though you are the first of knights,' exclaimed the fourth, 'you
shall win fame for your courtesy and gentlehood, no less than for your
'The hearts of all women shall turn to you, and they shall love you,'
said the fifth, who was clad in a robe of transparent green; 'but beware
how you give them back their love, for this love of mortals needs
proving'; and with that she slipped away from the cradle.
The sixth fairy looked silently at the child for a few moments, though
her thoughts seemed to be with something far away.
At length she spoke, and these were her words:
'When you are weary of travel and of strife and have won all the glory
and honour that may fall to men, then you shall come to me in my palace
of Avallon, and rest in the joys of fairyland with Morgane le Fay.'
After that the light began to fade, and the six fairies vanished none
could tell how or whither.
By-and-by the baby's attendants woke up, and never knew that during
their sleep the child's fate had been fixed as surely as if he had been
bitten by a serpent or carried off by a wolf. Everything _seemed_ the
same as it had done before, and so they took it for granted that it
Time passed on, and Ogier, for that was the name they gave him, was ten
years old. He was tall and strong and could send his arrows farther than
most boys many years older. He could handle a spear too, and his thrusts
went straight at the mark; while he could sing a song, or touch the lute
as delicately as a maiden. His father was proud of him, and it went sore
with him when Charlemagne the emperor, who had had a bitter quarrel
with the king of Denmark, demanded that Ogier should be sent as a
hostage to his court of Paris.
For four years the boy lived happily in Paris, daily making new friends,
and learning to be a skilled swordsman; but at the end of that time the
Danish king sank some of Charlemagne's ships, and the emperor vowed that
Ogier should pay for his father's deed. His life was spared, but the
youth was banished to St. Omer, a little town on the coast. Here he
spent some years, which would have been dull and very wearisome but for
the kindness of the governor, who not only allowed him to fish and hunt
on receiving his word that he would not try to escape, but gave him his
daughter, the fair Belissande, as his companion, and even consented to a
marriage between them. For, kind though he was, he did not forget that
the captive youth was after all heir to the Danish throne.
Ogier would have been quite content to stay where he was, when suddenly
the emperor summoned him to come to Paris and take part in a war which
had broken out between him and the Saracens, who had landed in Italy.
Unwilling though he was, of course Ogier was forced to obey, and he
speedily won such fame that in a little while Charlemagne declared that
from henceforth he should have in battle the place of honour on the
right hand of the emperor himself. This favour so excited the jealousy
of Charlot, the emperor's son, that he laid many snares for Ogier's
life, but, owing to the gift of the fairy Gloriande, the young man
contrived to escape them all.
On his return to France with the army, after the war was over and the
Saracens had been beaten, he found two pieces of news awaiting him. One
was that his father was dead, and that he was king of Denmark, and the
other was that during his absence a son had been born to him.
Taking leave of the emperor, he chose the swiftest horse he could find
in the stables and rode straight to St. Omer. The boy was by this time
three years old, and promised to be tall and strong like his father.
Already he could mount a pony and use a tiny bow and arrows that had
been made for him, and even could tell the names of some of the battles
his father had won.
But Ogier could not tarry long in the castle of St. Omer. Taking his
wife and son with him, he set out at once for Denmark, and spent several
years in the kingdom making laws and teaching his people many things
that he had learnt in his travels.
After ten years, however, he became weary of this peaceful life, and,
after Belissande died, he felt he could bear it no longer. So, leaving
the crown to his uncle, he returned to France with his son and fought
once more by the side of Charlemagne. This was the life he loved, and it
seemed as if it might have gone on for ever had it not been for the
prince Charlot, who, unhappily, only grew more quarrelsome and foolish
the older he got.
Charlot was one day playing chess with the son of Ogier, and, as he was
hasty and impatient, the game went against him. Like many others, he had
never learned how to take a beating like a man, and, raising his hand,
he struck the youth a blow on the temple which killed him. Charlemagne,
grieved though he really was, refused to punish Charlot, and after
saying bitter words Ogier left Paris, and took service with the king of
Lombardy, but was soon captured, while asleep, by Archbishop Turpin.
By this time Charlemagne had felt the loss of Ogier so greatly, and had
besides suffered so much from further ill-doings on the part of his son,
that he lent a ready ear to Ogier's offer of reconciliation, provided he
were allowed to avenge himself on the murderer. But just as Ogier was
about to strike off Charlot's head, and rid the world of a man who never
did any good in it, he was stopped by a mysterious voice which bade him
to spare the son of Charlemagne. So Charlot was left to work more
mischief throughout the land.
A second time a crown fell to Ogier in right of his wife, the princess
Claria of England, who had been delivered by Ogier out of the hands of
the Saracens. But the princess died not many months after, and the
fetters of the throne were no more to Ogier's taste in England than in
Denmark. So he assembled all his barons, and bade them choose themselves
a king from among them. This done, he set sail across the sea for the
life of adventure that he loved.
For some time Ogier fought in Palestine, where he gained great fame, for
no army and no city could stand before him. But his heart always turned
to France, and directly peace was made he said farewell to his
companions and took ship for Marseilles. At first the breeze was fair,
but when they had made half the voyage a tempest arose and the vessel
was driven on a rock, while all the crew except Ogier himself were
drowned. This happened early in the morning, but as soon as darkness
fell and Ogier was fearing that he might die of hunger, as no living
thing could be seen on the island, he suddenly beheld facing him a
castle of adamant. He rubbed his eyes and gazed at it in amazement,
thinking it was a vision, for he knew not that this castle was
enchanted, and, though unseen by day, shone by night from light of its
own. However, he did not hesitate at the strangeness of his adventure,
but taking his sword in his teeth he swam ashore, and mounted the flight
of steps that led to the open door.
Rich and beautiful things lay scattered everywhere, but not a sign was
there of any one to enjoy them. Room after room was empty, and Ogier was
fast losing hope and wondering whether he was to die of starvation in
the midst of all this splendour. He had searched every chamber of the
castle except one which lay before him at the end of a long gallery. He
would go into that too, but if it should prove as barren as the rest
then his case was indeed perilous.
With a beating heart he drew back the bolts and lifted the latch of the
great carved door. Before him a long table was spread with fruits and
food of the rarest sort, while in a large chair at the further end a
horse was seated enjoying a huge pasty. At the sight of Ogier he rose
politely and bowed, after which he presented him with a golden bowl full
of water and returned to his chair.
During his travels Ogier had beheld many strange things, but never
before had a horse been his host, and he was so startled that, hungry
though he was, he hardly touched the food which the horse heaped on his
plate, expecting every moment that a magician might appear or the whole
castle crumble away.
Quiet though Ogier was, the horse, who had been taught manners in the
court of the sultan of Babylon himself, took no notice of his guest's
behaviour but finished his own supper, which was a very hearty one. When
it was done he rose again, bowed a second time to Ogier, who had risen
also, and, signing with his fore hoof towards a curtain on one side of
the hall, passed through, followed by his guest. In the centre of a
magnificent chamber stood a soft bed, at which Ogier gazed longingly.
The horse saw the direction of his eyes, and with another bow he
In the morning Ogier awoke early and passed through the door into a
meadow bright with flowers. He looked round him, and saw a group of
ladies sitting under a tree plucking fruit from its branches, and
filling golden cups from a clear stream that ran at their feet. Not
having eaten since his scanty supper of the night before, he approached
the ladies, one of whom arose and spoke to him, saying:
'Welcome, Ogier of Denmark! I have waited for you long. A hundred years
have passed since I stood by your cradle--a hundred years of war and of
fighting. But you have tired of them at last and have come back to me!
And now you shall rest in the palace of Avallon. I am Morgane le Fay.'
She held out her hand, and Ogier placed his within it, and thus they
entered the castle. Then she went to her closet and drew a casket from
it, and from the casket she took a ring, which she slipped on Ogier's
finger. Afterwards she placed on his head a wreath of golden laurels
intertwined with bays, and his white hair became once more like
sunshine, and the wrinkles faded from his brow. And with the wrinkles
faded also the recollection of the battles he had fought, and of
Charlemagne himself, and even of Belissande, whom he had loved so well.
Soft sounds of singing floated through the palace, and fairies trailing
flowers glided in and out in the dance. While Ogier stood entranced and
dumb, there entered King Arthur, to whom spoke Morgane le Fay:
'Draw near, Arthur, my lord and brother, come and salute the flower of
chivalry, the boast of the court of France, he in whom courtesy,
loyalty, and all virtue are united.'
And Arthur drew near, and they embraced each other.
* * * * *
Two hundred years passed as a single day, till one morning when Ogier
was lying on a bank listening to the birds which sang like no birds
which mortal ears have ever heard, he took for an instant the crown from
off his head. In a moment the memories of his old life flashed across
him, and, starting up, he sought Morgane le Fay, and bade her give him
his sword, for he was going to fight for fair France again. In vain the
fairy besought him not to forsake her, but he would hear nothing, and
she was fain to do as he wished. So by her magic she conjured up a
little boat which bore Ogier to Marseilles, whence he hastened to the
war, which was being carried on in Normandy.
* * * * *
Great was the surprise of the warriors and ladies of the court at the
sight of the new-comer, whose face was as young and fresh as their own,
but whose arms and whose speech were of a time long gone by. At first
some were inclined to try him with jests, but they speedily found that,
strange though his manners might seem, it were wiser to accept them.
Indeed, it was not long before Ogier's presence had caused itself to be
so felt throughout the camp that he was given command of an army that
was about to march against the enemy who were invading France and
utterly routed them. In gratitude the king begged him to counsel him in
all things, and in a few months some of Ogier's strength and wisdom had
passed into the people.
Now night and day Ogier wore the ring which Morgane le Fay had placed on
his finger, and as long as it was there no youth about the court was
fairer and more splendid than he. The gift with which he had been
endowed in his cradle had lost none of its power, and as he passed
through the crowd, towering full a head over other men, the hearts of
the ladies went out towards him. _He_ could not help it, and _they_
could not help it. It had been so ordained by the fairy. Even age could
not preserve them; nay, it seemed to render them an easier prey.
Amongst the noble ladies whose pulses beat faster at the sight of
Ogier's golden hair was the Countess of Senlis. Old was she, and
withered of face, but she had never ceased to think that she was young,
and she mistook the kindliness and courtesy of Ogier's manner for the
love that man bears to woman.
One morning, in crossing the garden to attend upon her mistress the
queen, the countess came upon Ogier lying asleep under the trees. She
stopped and looked upon him tenderly; then her eyes fell upon the ring
on his finger, whose stone, of a strange green hue, was graven with
'If I could see them close, perchance I might guess who he is and whence
he came,' said she to herself, and, stooping, she drew lightly the ring
from his hand, not knowing that the queen had crept up and stood behind
her. But what an awful change came over him all at once! His limbs grew
shrivelled, his hair white, his eyes so shrunken that they seemed hardly
more than points; but when the queen turned with horror to ask her lady
what it meant, the change in her was hardly less wondrous, for, though
the old countess was ignorant of it, fifty years had been swept from
her, and she was straight and winsome as of yore.
They were still standing, dumb with surprise, when Ogier awoke and
glanced about him with feeble, uncertain gaze. Catching sight of the
ring, which the countess was still holding, he stretched his shaking
hand towards it. The action was more than the queen could bear.
'Give it back to him,' she said; and, unwilling though she was to part
with such a treasure, the countess was forced to obey.
Tremblingly Ogier restored the ring to its place, and in an instant his
youth and beauty returned to him.
Soon after this the king of France died, and when the time of mourning
was over the queen made known to Ogier that she wished to take him for
her second husband. Gentle was she and fair, and easy it was for Ogier
to love her, and his heart beat high at the thought of sitting on the
throne where Charlemagne had once sat. The people rejoiced greatly when
they heard of the marriage, for with Ogier for their king they were
safe, they thought, from invaders.
The wedding day had come, and scarce a man or woman in Paris had closed
their eyes the night before. Magnificent indeed would the procession be
that was to end in the new cathedral; gorgeous would be the trappings of
the horses, dazzling the dresses of the ladies that would ride, some in
litters and some on horses, through the streets that bordered the river.
Early was the queen astir, to be tired by her maidens, and if Ogier's
slumbers lasted longer--well, it was not the first time that he had been
crowned a king.
At length he was awakened by the sound of a voice calling his name:
'Ogier, Ogier!' and at the sound the present was forgotten, and the past
rushed back. 'Ogier, Ogier!' whispered the voice again, and, looking, he
saw standing by his bed not the queen, but Morgane le Fay.
'Rise quickly,' she said, 'and put on your wedding garments. Clothe
yourself in the mantle Charlemagne wore, and the crown that was placed
upon his brow. Set on your feet his shoes of gold, and let me see you
once as France would have seen you.'
He did her bidding, and she gazed at him awhile, then slowly drawing
nigh she lifted the crown from his hair, and in its stead she put on him
the wreath of laurel which brought peace and forgetfulness.
'Now come with me,' she said, holding out her hand, and together they
left the palace unseen, and entered a barge that was waiting in the
river, and in the sunrise they sailed away to the castle of Avallon.
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