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Yrsa learns of her true father's identity

In Scandinavian legendary tradition Yrsa is the illegitimate daughter of Helgi whom Helgi later unwittingly married and on whom he fathered his famous son Hrólf Kraki. Yrsa left Helgi on learning the truth and became the wife of King Adils of Sweden (or she returned to her former husband Adils in one account).

Not all variations between accounts are covered below.

Yrsa was an illegimate daughter of Helgi son of Halfdan whom Helgi fathered by force on a foreign queen. The girl was brought up without knowing who her father was. According to the Gesta Danorum (Book 2) and the Saga of Hrólf Kraki, Helgi came upon Yrsa in one of his raiding expeditions and carried her off and made her his wife. Then, after she had born Hrólf to Helgi, Yrsa's mother made Yrsa's parentage openly known. Yrsa fled from her husband who was also her father and eventually married King Adils (Eadgils), the nephew of Áli (Onela). But according to the lost Skjöldunga saga and the Ynglinga saga Yrsa was first captured in Saxony by Adils who made her his wife, then captured from Adils by Helgi in a raid who in turn made her his wife, and then when Yrsa's mother revealed that Yrsa's father was her husband Helgi, Yrsa returned to Adils.

Not long after Hrólf had become king, Adils requested his assistance in battle against his own uncle Áli. Hrólf sent his twelve champions, led by Bödvar Bjarki. Áli was defeated and Adils gained the kingdom.

But when Adils refuses to give Hrólf's men the tribute they demand, Hrólf Kraki sets off to Uppsala. After Hrólf had avoided Adils plots and Adils was gone gathering reinforcements, Yrsa met with Hrólf and gave him a silver horn filled with gold and jewels and a famous ring called Sviagris. Hrólf was also joined by one of Yrsa's servants, a young man named Vögg (the Wiglaf of Beowulf?) who gave him the nickname Kraki. With the treasure given them by Yrsa, Hrólf and his men try to escape over Fýrisvellir (the Fyris Wolds). As Hrólf was fleeing in desperation he spilled out the gold to occupy the pursuers with treasure collecting instead. King Adils, however, overtook Hrólf who desperately threw away Sviagris. When Adils stooped to pick it up with his spear Hrólf ungloriously cut him in the back screaming that he had bent the back of the most powerful man in Sweden, stole the ring once again and fled .

Saxo claims that it was Yrsa who enticed Hrólf to come to Adils' court, as she was tired of Adils' stinginess and she plotted to have Hrólf take her away and to take Adils' wealth with her. In this account Yrsa does flee with Hrólf along with wagons filled with treasure and it is by her council that the treasure is then flung away. Saxo also declares that some say that Yrsa had forseen that this stratagem might be necessary and had prepared for it, so that what was tossed was only copper gilt over with gold while she and her son escaped with the true wealth.

The name Yrsa appears in the form Yrse or Yrs in some editions and translations of the Old English poem Beowulf through conjectural emendation of a defective line. By this emendation Yrsa appears as the daughter of Healfdene who married a Heatho-Scylfing whose name ends in -ela and is therefore taken to be Onela. See Halfdan for more details.



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