Holger Danske: The Danes and ‘The War of the Fourteen Centuries’

Flickr Creative Commons / Guillaume Baviere
Flickr Creative Commons / Guillaume Baviere

The saga of which I sing today is the gathering tale of the twain of Odin, Allfather of the Gods, and Holger Danske, the once and future savior of the Danes.

Here in Valhalla, as we gaze out at the sun-glinted peaks of Asgard in the depths of snaery winter, we rarely bother to look across the Bifrost Bridge and study the matters of mere men as they scurry about.  Odin, also known as The Impassive, sits on his throne, untroubled by the mortals’ ways, and scorns the wee procession of their days.

Yet as I have explained in an earlier edda, sometimes the situation on Earth becomes so urgent that even the Gods must rouse themselves to save men from the perils of their own folly.  And so it is today, as the West is under threat dire from Radical Islam.

Yes, a war has been raging—the War of the Fourteen Centuries.  Indeed, the fight has lasted so long that the West has grown weary; some even have forgotten they’re in a war.  And yet, when the enemy is advancing—that’s no time for sleeping.  So the West must awaken.  And even the Immortals must help.

So Odin, also known as the War God, has been meeting with his chieftains, preparing a battle plan.  And I, Roland, a denizen of Valhalla since I lost my mortal life fighting the Muslim invaders in Spain in 778, am ever yearning to tell this tale.  Yes, I love my new mission as a skald, a recorder of feats and deeds.  And today, I savor my work more than ever, because epic events are at hand. “Of all that the sages will tell/ Of all that the skalds have chanted/ Nothing by heaven can excel/ The saga of a new path that’s canted.”

And so forbear me to sing, in particular, the praises of Holger Danske.  A great warrior for Denmark, he is.  Having fought the good fight against the Saracens and other infidels, he has gone to his rest in the Castle Kronborg.

But lo, even after these many centuries, Holger is not dead; he is simply resting.  Of Holger, it was written long ago, whenever Denmark truly needed him, he would return, with a sword in his hand—and blood-lust in his eye.

It is this destiny which is now coming to fulfillment.  It was after the terrible report from Copenhagen—of madness and mayhem and murder—that Odin, Thane of Valhalla, summoned Holger.

Now, together, Odin and Holger look down at the magical seeing-stones, the palantiri, to see the news reports.  But only Odin, also known as the God of Runes, reads—Holger was never a man of letters.  Quoth Odin: “I’m reading this in The Washington Post.  The headline: ‘Danes wary of more attacks as gangs turn to extremism.’”

Holger reflects on the moment:“My Danes are right to be wary.  The the question is, will they do anything?  Will they stand up and fight as men?  Or will they lie down and die like dogs?”

Odin reads further: “It seems that the killer in Copenhagen was named Omar Abdel Hamid el-Hussein—”

Holger interrupts: “That doesn’t sound Danish!”

Odin smiles his wry smile: “Ah, but The New York Times called him a ‘native son.’  But I guess the parallel is there, since in that 1940 novel, the ‘native son’ is also a murderer.”

“O, Odin, God of Thunder,” Holger said, “I am but a humble warrior, I know not of these fancy things of which you speak.”

Odin, also known as the Raven God, replied: “The silliness of the Western media is hardly worthy of our attention.  And you are correct, my ancient man of war. ‘Omar’ is not a Danish name at all.  Indeed, only the post-Christian churches and the bureaucrats looking for people to put on welfare would think it wise to bring Omar and all the rest to the North.” Odin paused.  “And it’s actually worse than that: This Omar was a member of a gang called the ‘Brothas.’

Holger snapped: “What do you mean ‘brothas’?  You mean ‘brothers,’ as in brodre?”

Odin, also known as the All-Seeing, answered, “No I mean ‘brotha” as an homage to what the Americans call ‘thug life,’ the ways of the common street criminal.”

Holger frowned.  I, Roland, could see the mighty Dane touching with his finger the blade of his heavy sword—and thinking.

Odin, also known as the Watcher, continued: “And yet in the minds of his fellow criminals, Omar was not only a good gangster, but also a good Muslim.  The Post article describes a small ceremony in Copenhagen to honor his memory, complete with shouts of ‘Allah Akbar’ and signs reading, ‘May Allah show you grace.’”

Holger frowned again, “So in the person of this Omar, we Danes have the worst of two bad worlds—zealot-radicalism plus vermin-hooliganism.  Hmm.  I can see the need to fight.  And so, will my Danes fight back?”

Odin, also known as the Strategist, kept reading from the Post: “Hours later, an estimated 30,000 Danes held torches to the freezing Baltic wind in their own Monday evening commemoration — this one for Hussein’s victims.  Swaying to the rhythm of John Lennon’s Imagine…”

“Stop!”  Holger shouted.  “I know who this John Lennon is—he was one of those four troubadours who named themselves after a bug.  And that song is weak-headed, a weak-kneed tribute to a world that never was and never can be.”

“Yes,” Odin said, “That message of ‘peace’ didn’t work out so well for Lennon, did it?  But even from the grave, it would appear that he still has his grip on the minds of the Danes.  Here’s what Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt had to say at the commemoration: “When violence and hatred hits Denmark, the answer is community and democracy.”

Holger muttered: “In my day, in my Denmark, the answer to violence was violence—more violence!  Stronger violence!”

Odin, also known as the Decisive, answered, “Yes, Holger, we must remind the Danes, and the West as a whole, that some things are worth fighting for.”

“Worth killing for!”  Holger snorted.  “My heart is troubled by the soft girly-men that the Danes have become, but I will always be true to my oath.  So when the situation seems most awful, when even the watchmen flee Kronberg Castle in fear, that’s when I will take up my sword and battle-hammer.”

Odin nodded.

This is the story of Holger Danske: “His dreams, they may wander/ His beard may grow longer/ But for foes at the gate/ He shall watch and wait/ When the trumpet shall ring/ His sharp blade will swing.”

But until then, on the North Sea coast, where the fog never lifts, the soul of Denmark drifts.


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