Friday, April 17, 2015

O is for Ogier the Dane (Epics from A to Z)

I remember reading the story of Holger Danske in a picture book when I was little: The story said that he was a great knight who now sleeps under the castle of Kronborg in Denmark, waiting to wake up and return when he is needed.

Ogier the Dane (French), or Holger Danske (Danish) is a hero from medieval romances of chivalry. While the stories claim he was a Danish prince, most of the romances in which he is featured are French and Italian. I read a prose version of his story based on a French romance (Chevalerie d'Ogier de Denamarche) written in the early 13th century.

The Hero
Ogier is the firstborn son of the king of Denmark. At his birth he is visited by "six ladies of ravishing beauty" who each grant him a gift (and, surprisingly, none of them curses the child). The last of the six is none other than Morgana le Fay, who takes her chance to call dibs on the little hero (after he has been gifted bravery, strength, and handsomeness).
Ogier grows up as a hostage in Charlemagne's court and becomes one of his greatest paladins (and makes friends with legendary characters such as Roland and Olivier). If you like the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, definitely read more about this court as well!
Ogier is strong, brave, and honorable - the very image of chivalry. What is even more important, though, is the gift given to him by the fourth fairy: “Lest all these gifts serve only to betray, I give you sensibility to return the love you inspire.” That's a very good quality for a hero.

The Highlights
The legend of Ogier the Dane has pretty much everything you would expect from a medieval romance of chivalry: Epic battles, daring duels, enchanted love, magical voyages, and even a trip to the Holy Land.
One of my favorite parts is the duel between Ogier (merely a day after he has been knighted) and the King of Mauritania, the Saracen Carahue. The son of Charlemagne, Charlot (who is very Mordred in a lot of ways) is also scheduled to duel with Carahue's cousin, but he decides to plan an ambush instead and get rid of the enemy, as well as Ogier (because he is jealous of his father's love for the young knight). Seeing the ambush Ogier and Carahue stop their duel and fight side by side - for chivalry, and against treason. They end up saving each other's lives and becoming best friends. Carahue keeps showing up over the course of the romance to save Ogier or help Charlemagne against other Moorish armies. It is a remarkable moment in the legend where honor and friendship trumps cultural and religious differences.
Another favorite character of mine is Turpin, who "occasionally recalled to mind that he was an archbishop." He is a priest, but also a knight and a warrior, and a very clever man - Charlemagne's most trusted adviser. He saves Ogier's life when he is imprisoned: The king plans to starve him to death by only allowing a quarter loaf of bread and a quarter cup of wine a day. Turpin, keeping to the word of the law, starts making loaves from two bushels of flour, and makes a cup the size of a barrel, keeping Ogier well fed. He is a fun, clever, likable character, and I have loved him since I read a folktale about him saving Charlemagne from enchantment (Aix-la-Chapelle: The Magic Ring).
Ogier has a wife, and a hundred-year enchanted love affair with Morgana, but the most touching love story happens at the end of his tale: After missing almost two hundred years of French history, he returns from Avalon to find Hugh Capet on the throne. He is introduced to the young queen, who is very curious about Ogier's stories and the history he lived; he tells her all of his life, and they fall in love through long conversations. When Hugh Capet dies, Ogier proposes to the queen... But sadly, the marriage never comes to pass.


  1. Turpin sounds like an excellent character. "Oh yeah, I'm a priest." hehe. And falling in love through long conversations, how wonderful. :)

  2. Another very good epic, a sI see it.
    Charlemagne's stories sound a lot like King Arthur's stories, I'd say. I know many Arthurian stories, but I've never read any Charlemagne stories.

  3. Another very good epic, a sI see it.
    Charlemagne's stories sound a lot like King Arthur's stories, I'd say. I know many Arthurian stories, but I've never read any Charlemagne stories.

  4. Brilliant that you touch the more unknown Nordic material!

  5. Great stuff!

  6. I like the sound of him, and that fourth gift is something more heroes should have. So many of them seem to lack the sense they were born with.
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

  7. So many great characters with so many stories.
    Nobility, honor and strength, such a lost trait these days.

    2015 A to Z Challenge Ambassador

  8. That fourth fairy was one wise woman! It is sad that the love at the end does not find an ending, well not a traditional wedded one anyway :)
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles
    Wittegen Press

  9. It sounds like Ogier had everything going for him. No wonder Morgan snatched him up.

  10. The kind of stories I could just curl up in on a summer afternoon! Only trouble is reality seems so much less-appealing...;-)

  11. That Turpin sounds like a great character.

    I love Nordic mythology.

  12. Ogier, Carahue, Turpin - I love them all! What a wonderful story, especially when told by such a gifted storyteller!

  13. Finally a real lovable hero. I've heard the name, Ogier, before but I didn't know much about him.

  14. Those were some gifts that guy got. No one likes to be cursed as a baby, though I doubt they would be old enough to understand if they were. :)

  15. This sounds like a lovely epic... Might have to pick it up.

  16. This sounds like an interesting tale of chivalry. Cool statue by the way. :)