Ogier the Dane
Ogier the Dane (French: Ogier le Danois, Ogier de Danemarche, Danish:
Holger Danske) is a legendary knight of
Charlemagne who appears in
Old French chansons de geste, in particular, as the chief
protagonist in La chevalerie Ogier (ca. 1220) which belongs to the
Doon de Mayence ("cycle of the rebellious vassals").
The first part of this epic, the enfance[s] (childhood exploits) of
Ogier, is marked by his single combats with a chivalric-minded Saracen
from whom he obtains the sword Corte ("Short"), followed by victory
Saracen opponent from whom he wins the horse Broiefort.
In subsequent parts, Ogier turns a rebel with cause, seeks refuge with
the king of Lombardy, and wars with
Charlemagne for many years. He is
eventually reconciled when dire need for him emerges in another
His character is a composite based on a historical Autcharius Francus
who was aligned with king
Lombardy against Charlemagne.
The legend of a certain Othgerius buried in
Meaux is also incorporated
into the Chevalerie.
In Scandinavia, he was first known as Oddgeir danski in the Old Norse
prose translation Karlamagnús saga, but later became more widely
known as Holger Danske, and given the pedigree of being Olaf son of
King Gøtrik, in a Danish translation published in the 16th century.
Holger Danske became a Danish folk hero, with a sleeping hero motif
attached to him.
1 Historical references
2 Sword Cortain
3 French sources
4 Chevalerie Ogier
5 Later reworkings
Legend at Meaux
8 In art
10 Popular culture
11 Explanatory notes
13 External links
See also: Siege of Pavia (773–74)
The Ogier character is generally believed to be based on Autcharius
Francus (or Otkerus),[a] a Frankish knight who had served Carloman and
escorted his widow and young children to Desiderius, king of Lombardy,
but eventually surrendered to Charlemagne.[b]
The Ogier character could also have been partly constructed from the
Adalgis (or Algisus), son of Desiderius, who played a
similar role.[c] The chanson de geste does parallel this, and
Ogier does seek refuge with the Lombardian king Didier or Désier (as
Desiderius is styled in French).
An unrelated Othgerius (Otgerius), a benefactor buried at the Abbey of
Saint Faro in
Meaux in France,[d] became connected with Ogier by a
work called Conversio Othgeri militis (ca 1070–1080) written by the
monks there. This tradition is reflected in the chanson of
Ogier, which states that the hero was buried at Meaux.
There is no Ogier of consequence in Danish history; at least no Ogier
as such appears in Saxo Grammaticus's Gesta Danorum. but the
Danish work Holger Danskes Krønike (1534) made Ogier into the son of
King Gøtrek of Denmark[e] (namely Olaf son of Gøtrek,
mentioned by Saxo).
"Olgerus, dux Daniæ" ("Olger, War-Leader of the Danes") had rebuilt
the St. Martin's monastery pillaged by the
Saxons in 778, Olger,
according to the chronicle of this monastery at
Cologne (ca. 1050),
but this is not a contemporary record and may just be poetic
Ogier the Dane
Ogier the Dane had a sword named Cortain (also spelled Courtain,
Cortana, Curtana, etc.) This name is the accusative case declension of
Old French corte, meaning "short".
The tradition that Ogier had a short sword is quite old. There is an
entry for "Oggero spata curta" ("Ogier of the short sword") in the
Nota Emilianense (es) (ca. 1065–1075), and this is taken as
nickname derived from his sword-name Cortain. The sword name does
not appear in the oldest copy of La chanson de
manuscript), only in versions postdating the Nota.
According to the first part (enfances) of Chevalerie Ogier, the sword,
which once belonged to Brumadant the Savage, was remade more than
twenty times; finally it was tested on a block of marble and broke
about a palm's length. It was reforged and named Corte or Cortain,
meaning "short". This became the weapon of a chivalric-minded
Saracen named Karaheut[f] who gives it to Ogier so he can single
The sword has appeared in chansons de geste somewhat predating
Chevalerie Ogier, or composed around the same time as it, such as
Aspremont (before 1190) and
Renaut de Montauban
Renaut de Montauban (c. 1200).
Prose Tristan (1230–1235, expanded in 1240) states that
Ogier inherited the sword of the Arthurian knight Tristan, shortening
it and thus naming it Cortaine.[g] The English monarchy also
laid claim to owning "Tristram's sword",[h] and this according to
Roger Sherman Loomis was the "Curtana" ("short") used in the
coronation of the British monarch.[i]
Ogier the Dane's first appearance in any work is in Chanson de Roland
(c. 1060), where he is not named as one of the douzepers (twelve
peers or paladins) of
Charlemagne (although he is usually one of the
twelve peers in other works.) In the poeticized Battle of
Ronceveaux, Ogier is assigned to be the vanguard, and commands the
Bavarian Army in the battle against
Baligant in the later
half. He plays only a minor part in this poem, and it is
unclear what becomes of him. But the
Pseudo-Turpin knows of a
tradition that Ogier was killed at Roncevaux.
A full career of Ogier from youth to death is treated in La Chevalerie
Ogier de Danemarche, a 13th-century assonanced poem of approximately
13,000 lines[j] attributed to Raimbert de Paris, relates Ogier's early
years, his rebellion against Charles and eventual reconciliation.
This is now considered a retelling.[k] Ogier in a lost original
"Chevalerie Ogier primitive"[l] is thought to have fought alongside
the Lombards because
Charlemagne attacked at the Pope's bidding, as
historically happened in the Siege of Pavia (773–74), that is,
there was no fighting with the Saracens as a prelude to this.
The legend that Ogier fought valiantly with some Saracens in his youth
is the chief material of the first branch (about 3000 lines[m]) of
Raimbert's Chevalerie Ogier. This is also recounted in Enfances
Ogier (c. 1270), a rhymed poem of 9,229 lines by Adenet le Roi. The
story of Ogier's youth develops with close similarity in these two
works starting at the beginning, but they diverge at a certain point
when Raimbert's version begins to be more economical with the
Ogier in versions of the
Renaissance travels to the
Avalon ruled by
King Arthur and eventually becomes Morgan le Fay's paramour. This is
how the story culminates in Roman d'Ogier, a reworking in Alexandrines
written in the 14th century, as well as its prose redaction retitled
Ogier le Danois (Ogyer le Danois) printed in a number of editions from
the late 15th century onwards.[n]
There are also several texts that might be classed as "histories"
which refer to Ogier. Girart d'Amiens (fr)'s
a variant of Ogier's enfances. Jean d'Outremeuse's Ly Myreur
des Histors writes of Ogier's combat with the capalus (chapalu).
Philippe Mouskes's 13th century Chronique rimée writes on Ogier's
Further information: Chevalerie Ogier
Ogier is the main character in the poem La Chevalerie Ogier de
Danemarche (written ca. 1200–15 AD). Here he is the son of Geoffroy
de Danemarche, given as a hostage to Charlemagne. Ogier's son is slain
by Charlot, son of Charlemagne. Ogier attacks Charlot, demands his
life in revenge, resulting in his banishment. Ogier wars with
Charlemagne for seven years, and survives prison another seven years.
They eventually make peace and Ogier goes to fight at Charlemagne's
side against the Saracens, in which battle he slays the giant Brehus.
The work consists of twelve parts (or "branches") of varying
Ogier, a condemned hostage, is initially an unarmed spectator when
Charles fights Saracens in Italy at the Pope's request. But when the
French suffer a setback, Ogier joins the fight, seizing flag and arms
from a fleeing standard-bearer, and is knighted by the king in
gratitude. Next, Ogier accepts the challenge of single combat from
Saracen Karaheut,[f] but enemies interrupt and abduct Ogier.
Karaheut protests for Ogier's release, to no avail, and loses his
engagement to the admiral's daughter. She has now wish to marry
the newcomer on battle, Brunamont of Maiolgre (Majorca), but her wish
will only be granted if a champion fights against Brunamont, and she
names Ogier. Ogier, armed with Karaheut's sword Cortain vanquishes
Brunamont and wins the horse Broiefort.
The 14th century Roman d'Ogier is a refacimento in
Alexandrines,[p] which runs to 29,000 verses.[q]
In this version, Ogier is fated to be eventually taken away by Morgan
le Fay to Avalon, and becoming her paramour. This fate is set in
motion while Ogier is still a newborn in his crib. Six fées visit the
baby, each with a gift, and Morgan's gift was longevity and life
living with her. Ogier has an enhanced career, even becoming king of
England,[r] and when he reaches the age of 100, he is shiprwrecked by
Morgan so he can be conveyed to Avalon. He returns after two hundred
years to save France, and is given a firebrand which must not be
allowed to be burnt down for him to remain alive.[s] Ogier tries to
forfeit his life after accomplishing his task but is save by
The romance states the Ogier and Morgan had a son named Meurvin, who
became the subject of a lengthy renaissance era romance.
Legend at Meaux
Mausoleum of the Abbey of St. Faro, Meaux
View entire right half / view entire illustration (from 1735 edition).
Othgerius/Ogier is one of two reclining tomb effigies on the
sarcophagus at center.
―Acta Sanctorum Ordinis S. Benedicti (1677 edition).
A legend of Conversio Othgeri militis was invented by the monks at the
Saint Faro at
Meaux around 1070–1080. It claimed Othgerius
Francus ("Frankish") to be the most illustrious member of
Charlemagne's court after the king himself, thus making him
identifiable with Ogier the Dane.[t] He was buried in the abbey, in a
mausoleum was built for him. His remains were placed in a sarcophagus
lidded with his recumbent tomb effigy lying next to Saint
Benedictus's, and the chamber was enshrined with erect statues of
various figures from the
This document was first commentated on by
Jean Mabillon in his Acta
Sanctorum Ordinis S. Benedicti, printed editions of which include
a detailed illsutration of the mausoleum at St. Faro.
This statues at the mausoleum even included la belle Aude, affianced
to Roland, one of the inscriptions there (according to Mabillon)
having claimed Aude to be Ogier's sister.Togeby (1969),
Ogier head at Meaux
It underwent restoration in 1535, done by the Italian Gabriele
That mausoleum is no longer is preserved, but an illustration of the
interior was printed in editions of Mabillon's Acta Sanctorum Ordinis
A stone head later found in
Meaux was determined to be Ogier's head
from comparisons with these incunabula etchings. This stone head
object can still be viewed today.
Ogier the Dane
Ogier the Dane (left) on a church mural from the 16th century in
The early form of the chanson de geste was translated in the 13th
Old Norse as Oddgeirs þáttr danska ("Story of Oddgeir
danski"), Branch III of the Karlamagnús saga. An Old Danish version
of it, Karl Magnus krønike was later created (some copies date to
The 16th century Olger Danskes krønike was a Danish translation of
the French prose romance Ogier le Danois by Kristiern Pedersen,
started while in Paris in 1514–1515, probably completed during his
second sojourn in 1627, printed 1534 in Malmö. Pedersen also
fused the romance with Danish genealogy, thus making Ogier the son of
a Danish king
"Holger ansk og Burmand" (DgF 30) recounts the fight between hero
Burmand, described as a just giant (without him being a Saracen,
There is also Swedish ballad tells the story of how
Holger Danske is
released from prison to fight against a troll by the name of
Like Frederick Barbarossa,
Saint Wenceslas and King Arthur, in Danish
legend Ogier becomes a king in the mountain; he is said to dwell in
the castle of Kronborg, his beard grown down to the floor. He will
sleep there until some day when the country of Denmark is in peril, at
which time he will rise up and save the nation. This is a common
folklore motif, classed as Type 1960.2, "The King Asleep in the
According to the tour guides of
Kronborg Castle, legend has it that
Holger sat down in his present location after walking all the way from
his complete battles in France.
The 1789 opera Holger Danske, composed by
F.L.Æ. Kunzen with a
libretto by Jens Baggesen, had a considerable impact on Danish
nationalism in the late 18th century. It spawned the literary "Holger
feud," which revealed the increasing dissatisfaction among the native
Danish population with the German influence on Danish society. Amongst
others, the Danish intellectual
Peter Andreas Heiberg
Peter Andreas Heiberg joined the feud
by writing a satirical version entitled Holger Tyske ("Holger the
German") ridiculing Baggesen's lyrics. During the German Occupation of
Denmark, presentation of the same opera in Copenhagen became a
manifestation of Danish national feeling and opposition to the
The hero's popularity led to him being depicted on 15th- and
16th-century paintings in two churches in Denmark and Sweden.
Holger Danske and Burman painted on the ceiling of Floda Church in
Sweden are attributed
Albertus Pictor around 1480. It also includes
the text Holger Dane won victory over Burman. This is the chorus line
from a ballad, but the painting predates other written texts for this
Hotel Marienlyst in
Helsingør commissioned a statue of Holger
Danske in 1907 from the sculptor Hans Peder Pedersen-Dan. The bronze
statue was outside the hotel until 2013, when it was sold and moved to
Skjern. The bronze statue was based on an original in plaster.
The plaster statue was placed in the vaults at
Kronborg castle, also
in Helsingør, where it became a popular attraction in its own
right. The plaster statue was replaced by a concrete copy in
World War II
World War II Danish resistance group, Holger Danske, was
named after the legend.
On Rönneberga slopes, outside Landskrona in south Sweden (formerly a
part of Denmark), there is a burial mound named
Holger Danske mound.
"The Land" (1916), poem by Rudyard Kipling- "Ogier the Dane" is the
archetypical name used to signify Danish invadors who have overran
Sussex over the years.
Three Hearts and Three Lions
Three Hearts and Three Lions (1961), Poul Anderson's fantasy novel –
Holger Carlsen (a Danish resistance fighter) time warps and learns he
is Ogier the Dane.
I Curse the River of Time (2001) by
Per Petterson – Ferry named
^ "Autcharius" is the spelling as occurs in the Vita Hadriani
Pope Adrian I
Pope Adrian I in the Liber Pontificalis, "Otkerus" in a
work by a monk of St. Gall (fl. 885).
^ Knud Togeby (de) objected to identifying with Autcharius, and
proposed Audacar who led Charlemagne's troops in Bavaria.
^ The exploits of "Algisus" is given full account in the Chronicon
^ Bédier's characterization was that this Othgerius had no
distinction besides having donated some parcels of land to the abbey
and being buried there (Voretzsch (1931), p. 209).
^ "Gøtrek" is the spelling in Hanssen (1842) edition of the text. But
there are various spellings: "Godfred", etc.
^ a b "Karaheut" in Ludlow (1865) and Voretzsch (1931), p. 209;
The courtois "Karaheu" in Togeby (1969), p. 51. Langlois,
table des noms, p. 132, lists "Caraheu, Craheut, Karaheu,
Karaheut, Karaheult, Kareeu". "Karahues" and "Karahuel" are also used.
^ This passage is not included in Curtis (1994)'s English translation.
^ King Johan received "duos enses scilicet ensem Tristrami.. (two
swords, namely Tristram's sword.. )",
Patent Rolls for 1207.
^ Loomis also argues that Curtana's origins as Tristram's sword was
known to the author of this passage in Prose Tristan, but the
tradition was forgotten in England.
^ More than 13,000 in the Barrois edition, less in Eusebi's edition.
^ Bédier called it a "remaniement (reworking)", but this term is
also used by Keller to refer to the Alexandrine version.
^ Bédier's term
^ 3102 lines in Barrois's edition.
Alexandrines version may contain some vestiges of the lost 12th
century Chevalerie Ogier.
^ Barrois edited the text divided into theses branches, and made the
determinations on where the divisions by the dropped capital letters
in one of the manuscripts (ms. B). (Togeby (1969), p. 46).
^ "refacimento" was the term employed by Pio Rajna (fr) as
well as by Paton. But this means "reworking", and the term has been
indiscriminately applied to other works, not necessarily the
^ For a list of excerpts and summary, see Paton (1903), p. 75
notes 2 and 7.
^ He does rescue and marry the daughter of the king of England in the
^ Ward notes the firebrand is a motif seen in the legend of Meleager.
^ Various references cite this document ("Conversion of Othger") as
being one (purportedly) about Ogier. Cerf even refers to the
document as Conversio Ogeri militis ("Conversion of Ogier").
^ Togeby (1966), p. 113 states it differently, that the
inscriptions agree with the chanson Girart de Vienne where Aude is
Oliver's sister. But Mabillon can be quoted thus: "..forsan ab Auda
matre, Otgerii nostri sorore, Rotlando nupta".
^ This is pointed out by Philipp August Becker (de), state by
^ Translated into English by Charlotte Barslund from the Norwegian.
The ferry sails between Norway and Denmark.
^ a b c d Keller, Hans-Erich (1995). Kibler, William; Zinn, Grover A.,
eds. Chevaleri Ogier. Medieval France: An Encyclopedia. Garland.
pp. 405–406. ISBN 978-0-8240-4444-2.
^ a b c d Voretzsch (1931), p. 209.
^ a b Dunlop & Wilson (1906), Wilson's note 1 (p. 330)
^ Togeby (1969), p. 19.
^ Emden (1988), p. 125.
^ a b Ludlow (1865), pp. 274ff, note.
^ Voretzsch (1931), p. 208.
^ Ludlow (1865), pp. 265–273.
^ a b c Shepard, W. P. (1921). Chansons de Geste and the Homeric
Problem. The American Journal of Philology. 42.
pp. 217–218. JSTOR 289581
^ Ludlow (1865), p. 301.
^ a b c d e f g "Holger Danske", Nordisk familjebok, 1909 (in
^ a b Jensen, Janus Møller (2007), Denmark and the Crusades,
1400–1650, BRILL, ISBN 9789047419846
^ Hanssen (1842), p. 4: "Saa lod han ham christne og kaldte ham
Oluf; men jeg vil kalde ham Olger (Then he was Baptized and christened
Oluf, but I shall call him Ogier)".
^ a b Togeby (1969), p. 17.
^ Sholod, Barton (1966).
Charlemagne in Spain: The Cultural Legacy of
Roncesvalles. Librairie Droz. p. 189.
^ Togeby (1966), p. 112.
^ Togeby (1966), p. 112 and Togeby (1969), p. 17
^ Ludlow (1865), p. 256.
^ Ludlow (1865), p. 260.
^ a b c van Dijk, Hans (2000). Gerritsen, Willem Pieter; Van Melle,
Anthony G., eds. Ogier the Dane. A Dictionary of Medieval Heroes.
Boydell & Brewer. pp. 186–188.
^ a b Togeby (1969), p. 52.
^ Curtis, Renée L. (trans.), ed. (1994), The Romance of Tristan,
Oxford, p. xvi ISBN 0-19-282792-8.
^ Löseth, Eilert (1890), Analyse critique du Roman de
prose française, Paris: Bouillon, p. 302 (in French)
^ Loomis, Roger Sherman (1922), "Tristram and the House of Anjou", The
Modern Language Review, 17 (1): 29
^ Cresswell, Julia (2014),
Charlemagne and the Paladins, Bloomsbury
Publishing, pp. 20–21
^ Baker, Julie A. (2002), The Childhood of the Epic Hero: A Study of
Old French Enfances Texts of Epic Cycles, Indiana University,
^ Togeby (1969), p. 28.
^ a b Bédier (1908), 2, pp. 184–185.
^ Barrois (1842), I, p. lxxv.
^ Henry (ed.) & Adenet (1956), p. 21.
^ Ludlow (1865), pp. 249–261.
^ Henry (ed.) & Adenet (1956), pp. 21, 24–25.
^ Taylor, Jane H. M. (2014). Rewriting Arthurian Romance in
Renaissance France: From Manuscript to Printed Book. Boydell &
Brewer Ltd. pp. 157–158.
^ Granzow (ed.) & Girart d'Amiens (1908), Charlemagne
^ Baker (2002), p. 64.
^ Togeby (1969), p. 112.
^ Togeby (1969), p. 46.
^ Ludlow (1865), pp. 249–252.
^ Ludlow (1865), pp. 252–259.
^ Ludlow (1865), pp. 259–261.
^ Rajna, Pio (1873), "Uggeri il Danese nella letteratura romanzesca
degi Italiani", Romania, 2: 156, note 1 (in French)
^ Paton (1903), p. 74.
^ Cite error: The named reference reiss&reiss&taylor was
invoked but never defined (see the help page).
^ Ward (1883), I, pp. 607–609.
^ Child, Francis James (1884), "37. Thomas Rymer", The English and
Scottish Popular Ballads, Houghton Mifflin, I, p. 319
^ Paton (1903), p. 77.
^ a b Cerf (1910), p. 2.
^ Cerf (1910).
^ d'Achery & Mabillon (1677), p. 661n.
^ Becker, Philipp August (1942), "Ogier Von Dänemark", Zeitschrift
für französische Sprache und Literatur, 64 (1): 75, note 4
JSTOR 40615765 (in German)
^ d'Achery & Mabillon (1677), p. 664.
^ d'Achery, Lucas; Mabillon, Jean (1677), Acta Sanctorum Ordinis S.
Benedicti: Pars Prima, IV, apud Ludovicum Billaine, in Palatio Regio,
p. 664 (in Latin)
^ Mabillon, Jean (1735), Acta Sanctorum Ordinis S. Benedicti: Pars
Prima, IV, Coletus & Bettinellus, p. 624 (in Latin)
^ Gassies, Georges (1905), "Note sur une tête de statue touvée à
Meaux", Bulletin archéologique du Comité des travaux historiques et
^ a b Layher (2004), p. 93.
^ Hanssen (1842), p. 1.
^ Layher (2004), p. 98.
^ The Faraway North, Scandinavian Folk Ballads, I. Cumpstey, 2016
^ Baughman, Ernest W. (1966), Type and Motif-Index of the Folktales of
England and North America, Walter de Gruyter, p. 122
^ Layher (2004), pp. 90–92.
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