En 13i Along the Rhine

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    Ott 2023

    13i. Apollania’s Journey

    [108/28] Before a burgmaid takes up her post, she must travel through the land for a full year, accompanied by three elder burg lords and three old maidens. This, I, too, have done.

    [109] My journey was along the Rhine, the Eastern bank upstream and along the other side downstream. The further upstream I came, the poorer the people appeared to me. Jetties had been built out from the banks to catch sand, which was filtered on sheepskins to win gold. But the girls wore no crowns made of that gold. There were more people there in the past but, since we lost Skeanland (with its iron), they go to the mountains to delve ore, from which they produce iron.

    Above the Rhine, between the mountains, I saw ‘Marsata’ (lake-dwellers), which are people who live upon the lake. Their houses are built on pilings for protection against wild beasts and evil people. There are wolves, bears, and terrible black lions.[1] And they are the ‘Swetsar’ — or neighbors —[2] of the Near Greeklanders, the Kelta-Followers, and the savage Twiskers, all eager to rob and plunder. The Marsata make their livelihood by fishing and hunting. The skins are prepared by the women and tanned with birch bark. The small skins are soft like maidens’ felt. The burgmaid at New Fryasburg had told us that they were good and simple [110] people, though had I never heard her speak, I would not have thought they were Fryas at all but savages, so uncultured did they seem to me. Their pelts and herbs are traded by the Rhine-dwellers and exported by the navigators.

    All along the far side of the Rhine it was the same, down to Lydasburg. This burg had a great lake where people also lived in houses set upon pilings. Those were not Frya’s folk, but black and brown men who had served as rowers to help the sea voyagers come home. They were obliged to stay there until the next departure of the fleet.

    Finally, we arrived at the Aldergamouth.[3] At the southern head of the harbor stands the Treasureburg, a stone building where a variety of shells, horns, weapons, and clothes are kept, brought home from distant lands by the navigators. A quarter's distance from there is the Alderga,[4] a great lake surrounded by barns, houses, and gardens — all richly ornamented. In the lake, a great fleet lay ready, with flags of many colors. On Fryas Day, the shields were hung about the decks. Some shone like the sun. The shields of the ‘Witking’ — or sea king — and his watch-by-night were gilt-edged.

    Behind the lake, a canal had been dug, [111] which flowed past the burg Forana, and further through a narrow mouth into the sea.[5] This was the way out for the fleet, and the Flee was the way in. On both sides of the canal are beautiful houses, painted in bright colors. The gardens are surrounded by evergreen hedges. I saw women there wearing tunics of felt like writing felt. As in Staveren, the girls were adorned with golden crowns upon their heads, with rings around their arms and ankles.

    South of Forana lies Alkmarum. This is a ‘mere’ — or lake — wherein lies an island on which the black and brown men abide, like they do at Lydasburg. The burgmaid of Forana told me that the burg lords visit the island-dwellers daily, to teach them what true freedom is and how people ought to live amicably with one another in order to gain the blessings of Wralda’s spirit. If any of them were interested and able to understand, he would remain as a guest until he was fully educated. That was done to elevate the foreign folks and to win allies everywhere.

    I had once been in the Saxonmarks, at the burg [112] Mannagardaforda, though there I saw more poverty than the wealth I found here.

    (I asked the burgmaid of Forana to explain this difference.)[6] She answered: “When an eligible man in the Saxonmarks comes to court a girl, she asks him: ‘Can you protect your house against the banished Twisklanders? Have you not killed one yet? How many aurochs have you caught and how many bear and wolf skins have you brought to the market?’ From this it comes that among the Saxmen, who leave the farming to their wives, not even one in a hundred can read or write. The result is that no one has a motto written on his shield, but merely the distorted image of some beast he has slain. And the end result is that they have become very brave, but nearly as dumb as the animals they capture and as poor as the Twisklanders against whom they make war.

    Earth and sea were made for Frya’s folk. All of our rivers run to the sea. Lyda’s and Finda’s folk will wipe each other out, and it will be up to us to populate the empty lands. In exploring the seas [113] lies our prosperity.

    Thus, if you wish for the highlanders to take part in our wealth and wisdom, this advice I shall give: Make it custom for the girls to ask their suitors, before they say ‘yes’: ‘What have you seen of the world? What can you tell your children about foreign lands and distant peoples?’ If they do so, the boldest young men will come to us. They shall become wiser and richer, and we shall no longer have need of those useless types.”

    The youngest of the maidens who were with me on the journey hailed from the Saxonmarks. When we returned to our burg, she asked leave to go back to her home. There, she later became burgmaid, and that is why so many Saxmen now voyage with the navigators.


    1. ‘black lions’ (SWÁRTE LÁWA) — unclear what animal is meant; lions are unlikely to be found in high mountains and black lions are very rare, but other types of big cats, e.g., panthers, have black variants.
    2. ‘Swetsar’ — or: ‘neighbors’ (SWETSAR JEFTHA PÀLENGGAR) — implied etymology of ‘Switzerland’.
    3. The original says 'Alderga', but from the context it is clear that this must be 'Aldergamouth'.
    4. ‘quarter's distance’ (FJARDÉL) — lit.: ‘four(th)-part’; precise meaning uncertain.
    5. ‘narrow mouth’ (ÉGA.MVDA) — implied literal meaning of EGMVDA, Egmond; see ch. 19f, Failure [210/19].
    6. Apparently missing sentence, added by translator.

    Sandbach 1876

    [p.149 cont.] Before a Burgtmaagd can take office, she must travel through the country a whole year. Three grey-headed Burgtheeren and three old maidens must go with her. This was the way that I did. My journey was along the Rhine—on this side up, and on the other side down. The higher I went, the poorer the people seemed to be. Everywhere about the Rhine the people dug holes, and the sand that was got out was poured with water over fleeces to get the gold, but the girls did not wear golden crowns of it. Formerly they were [p.151] more numerous, but since we lost Schoonland they have gone up to the mountains. There they dig ore and make iron. Above the Rhine among the mountains I have seen Marsaten. The Marsaten are people who live on the lakes. Their houses are, built upon piles, for protection from the wild beasts and wicked people. There are wolves, bears, and horrible lions.[1] Then come the Swiss,[2] the nearest to the frontiers of the distant Italians, the followers of Kalta and the savage Twiskar, all greedy for robbery and booty. The Marsaten gain their livelihood by fishing and hunting. The skins are sewn together by the women, and prepared with birch bark. The small skins are as soft as a woman's skin. The Burgtmaagd at Fryasburgt (Freiburg) told us that they were good, simple people; but if I had not heard her speak of them first, I should have thought that they were not Frya's people, they looked so impudent. Their wool and herbs are bought by the Rhine people, and taken to foreign countries by the ship captains. Along the other side of the Rhine it was just the same as at Lydasburcht (Leiden). There was a great river or lake,[3] and upon this lake also there were people living upon piles. But they were not Frya's people; they were black and brown men who had been employed as rowers to bring home the men who had been making foreign voyages, and they had to stay there till the fleet went back.

    At last we came to Alderga. At the head of the south harbour lies the Waraburgt, built of stone, in which all kinds of clothes, weapons, shells, and horns are kept, which were brought by the sea-people from distant lands. A quarter of an hour's distance from there is Alderga, a great river surrounded by houses, sheds, and gardens, all richly decorated. In the river lay a great fleet ready, with banners of all sorts of colours. On Frya's day the shields were hung on board likewise. Some shone [p.153] like the sun. The shields of the sea-king and the admiral were bordered with gold. From the river a canal was dug going past the citadel. Forana (Vroonen), with a narrow outlet to the sea. This was the egress of the fleet; the Fly was the ingress.[4] On both sides of the river are fine houses built, painted in bright colours. The gardens are all surrounded by green hedges. I saw there women wearing felt tunics, as if it were writing felt.[5] Just as at Staveren, the girls wore golden crowns on their heads, and rings on their arms and ankles. To the south of Forana lies Alkmarum. Alkmarum is a lake or river in which there is an island. On this island the black and brown people must remain, the same as at Lydasburgt. The Burgtmaagd of Forana told me that the burgtheeren go every day to teach them what real freedom is, and how it behoves men to live in order to obtain the blessing of Wr-alda's spirit.[6] If there was any one who was willing to listen and could comprehend, he was kept there till he was fully taught. That was done in order to instruct the distant people, and to make friends everywhere. I had been before in the Saxenmarken, at the Mannagardaforda castle (Munster). There I saw more poverty than I could discover wealth here. She answered: So whenever at the Saxenmarken a young man courts a young girl, the girls ask : Can you keep your house free from the banished Twisklanders? Have you ever killed any of them ? How many cattle have you already caught, and how many bear and wolfskins have you brought to market ? And from this it comes that the Saxons have left the cultivation of the soil to the women, that not one in a hundred can read or write ; from this it comes, too, that no one has a motto on his shield, but only a misshapen form of some animal that he has killed; [p.155] and lastly, from this comes also that they are very warlike, but sometimes as stupid as the beasts that they catch, and as poor as the Twisklanders with whom they go to war. The earth and the sea were made for Frya's people. All our rivers run into the sea. The Lydas people and the Findas people will exterminate each other, and we must people the empty countries. In movement and sailing is our prosperity. If you wish the highlanders to share our riches and wisdom, I will give you a piece of advice. Let the girls, when they are asked to marry, before they say yes, ask their lovers: What parts of the world have you travelled in? What can you tell your children about distant lands and distant people? If they do this, then the young warriors will come to us; they will become wiser and richer, and we shall have no occasion to deal with those nasty people. The youngest of the maids who were with me came from the Saxenmarken. When we came back she asked leave to go home. Afterwards she became Burgtmaagd there, and that is the reason why in these days so many of our sailors are Saxons.

    Notes Sandbach

    1. Lions in Europe, see Herodotus, vii. 125.
    2. Swetsar are Swiss.
    3. Flyt, jeftha mâre, is a lake or sea.
    4. Engamuda is Egmond.
    5. Felt, very thin and compressed, with a smooth surface.
    6. Diodorus Siculus. v. 27, on the Gauls.

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