The Chronicle of Thietmar bishop of Merseburg
translated by Rafał T. Prinke, 2000


The following fragments cover everything Thietmar says on Scandinavia and England. The short note in Book VIII was added later in Thietmar's hand.


Book VII
36. [...] 
(26). I was quite often told that Angles, whose name comes from angelic or beautiful face, or maybe from the fact that they live in the angle of this earth, suffered unspeakable sorrows from the cruel king of the Danes, Harald's son Svein. That ruler made them, who had earlier been tributaries of Peter the prince of apostles and spiritual children of their holy father Gregory [986-1014], pay annual enforced tribute to those unclean dogs and give them against their will a large part of the country for their abodes, after they had killed or taken into captivity many its inhabitants. But as such was God's will and with the intention to punish the wickedness of some of the faithful he himself induced those enemies to do that and that is why the persecutor raged beyond measure, without sparing even his own men. When this, I would say, not ruler but destroyer had been taken captive by Norman rebels after the death of his father and then ransomed for an enormous sum of money by his subjects, he learned that for that reason certain people unfavourable towards him secretly call him a slave. Althought it would be proper to punish only a few people for that, he decided to take revange on everyone. Had he listened to the voice of reason, he would understand that in that way he did harm to himself. His rule thus fell a prey to his enemies and he changed the safe life in his fatherland to homeless wandering, peace to war, his own countries to foreign lands, God of heaven and earth to devil. And when he was devastating human settlements, he often boasted - what a shame! - that he was neither ransomed nor a good ruler, but a willful enemy of his own subjects, wherever he can get them.
37. This ungodly among the faithful lived long to the annoyance of his own and his contemporaries and, eventually, he who brought death to so many people himself fell a prey to it [1014] by God's decree. He was buried there and his companions dispersed immediately. When Ethelred, the king of Angles exiled by him many years earlier, learned about it, he thanked God and returned with joy to his fatherland. Having then gathered all his warriors, he decided to damage the corpse of the enemy. In order to prevent it, the deceased's confidents persuaded a certain woman who, even though a native, undug that guarded pledge and sent it on a ship towards the fatherland's bear stars, that is to the northern land. That land takes its name from two astral constellations, namely those of the Great and Small Bears which, according to astrologers, are both enclosed and devided by the Snake contellation.
(27). Part of that land is cold because it is far from the heat of the sun, and the hearts of its inhabitants are incapable of double love. There live Scythians who carry their abodes with themselves, eat wild animals and drink kumiss.
38. In that land there rules one king named Gutrig who, after having received spiritual education at the monastery in Werden at the time of bishop Erpon, illegaly obtained the position of deakon. However, after the death of the said bishop [994] Gutring escaped from the monastery and, as another Julian, rejected his dignity and status, thus in words only adhering to the Christian faith but in every other respect being an alien. His countrymen, when they found out who he was, raised him immediately to the throne of his ancestors. Let no one approve of that which is not dear to God and let no one immitate it! On the other hand, let everyone abandon earthly benefits in care for the future. That very king, the slave of his sin, does not rule, as he imagines, but falls down under the burden of everyday concern. To him refers the God's complaint put into the mouth of Isaiah: "I brought up my sons and raised them, and they despised me". Let the whole Christian community pray for conversion, for proper penance and virtue for both him and his companions, and let them beg God that nothing like that ever happens to any other of their members. Although I said all this about him alone, there are unfortunately also other people who deserve a similar judgement because they disregarded the words of St. Paul that "it is better not to know the way of truth than, knowing it, to diverge from it".
39 (28). Because nobody is able to comprehend either the curiosities of that northern land, which are unfolded in their prodigious form by nature herself, or the cruel deeds of its people, I will omit them and will only devote a few words to that lizard's brood, that is to the sons of the said Svein, the persecutor. They were born to him by a daughter of duke Mieszko and sister of his son and successor Boleslaw. Expelled by her husband [1014] for a long time, she had to bear many hardships together with others. Her sons took after their father in every respect. When the corpse of their beloved parent arrived, they received it with tears and buried him, and then armed ships and were getting ready to revange the dishonour which Angels intended to do to him. I will omit here, as I do not know the details, the numerous acts of violence they commited to the Angles, and will only shortly present what a certain man [Sewald] told me from a reliable source.
40. Ethelred king of the Angles died in the year 1016 after the incarnation of the Lord and in July of the same year the said brothers Harald and Canute arrived in England together with their leader Thurgut and three hundred and fourty ships. They immediately started the siege of the town called London where the queen stayed with her garrison, mourning after the death of her husband and defender, together with her sons Edelsthan and Edmund, two bishops and other lords of the state. Having drawn the ships, every one of which had eighty men on board, onto the river called Thames, they stormed the town for six months. Finally the queen, tired with the long lasting war, sent envoys who were to ask for peace and find out exactly what the enemies wanted from her. Those envoys were at once informed by the enemies, insatiable of their revange, that if the queen agreed to deliver her sons up to death, and give a ransome of fifteen thousand pounds of silver for herself and twenty thousand for the bishops, as well as all the cuirasses, the number of which was close to the incredible twenty four thousand, and if she delivered three hundred chosen hostages to assure all this, then she would be able to secure peace along with life for her and her companions. Otherwise - they called out three times - they will all died from one sword. The venerable queen, agitated very much by that proposal, as were her companions, after a long and full of uncertainty consideration promised that she will do that and confirmed it through the said knights. 
41. In the meantime both brothers escaped in the silence of the night in a small boat from the threat of danger and started secretly gather whomever they could find to defent their fatherland and save their mother. One day, however, the pirates' leader Thurgut landed with a large crowd, intending to plunder the immediate surrounings, and suddenly encountered his enemies. When he noticed them from afar, he encouraged his men to fight and chrged at them bravely. In that battle Edmund and Thurgut were killed on both sides, among a crowd of their comrades. Neither side won the expected victory, so both retreated willfuly, with great losses and lamenting loudly that it was caused by blind coincident. The Scripture, however, forbids us to believe in any coincidence or predestination. Meanwhile the Danes, even though weakened, found their ships but when they saw how from Edelsthan, who was still alive, and Britons coming from everywhere, relief for the town approached, they took to flight, having killed the hostages first. May God - the defender of those, who rest their hopes in him - destroy and kill them all, so that they could never again threaten in their usual way those or any other Christians. Let us rejoice at the salvation of the city but let us sorrow at the rest!
42 (29). I have also learned from the story of the above mentioned Sewald about one regrettable and therefore memorable event. Namely that a treacherous troop of Normans under the leadership of Thurkil kidnapped the venerable archibishop of the town of Canterbury, named Dunstant, together with his companions [1012] and tormented them in their usual way with prison, hunger and torture impossible to describe. The archbishop, giving in to human weakness, promised money to the Normans and set a period of time for collecting it, during which he intended to clean himself through intense penance, in case he was unable to pay the ransom, before being sacrificed to God as if a live host. When the set time passed, that greedy dragon summoned the servant of God and demanded, with threats, immediate payment of the promised ransom. And he, as gentle as a lamb, replied to him: "Here I am, ready for anything you intend to do to me and loving Christ I do not feel any fear today, having been honoured by this opportunity to become an example to his servants. It is not my will that I appear to be a liar before your eyes but it is caused by my grave poverty. I am giving unto you this my body, which I have loved too much on this earth, and I admit that everything you do to it is within your power, but my sinful soul, to which you have no right, I humbly entrust to the Creator of all things". 
43. While he was so speaking, a crowd of pagans surrounded him, bringing all sorts of arms in order to kill him. When their leader Thurkil saw that from a distance, he ran quickly to them and spoke thus: "I beg you, do not do that! I will gladly give you all gold and silver, and everything I have now or will get in any way, except only my ship, to stop you from commiting a crime on the Lord's anointed". But the rage of his comrades, harder than iron and rock, could not be softened by that human speech of his - it was satisfied only by innocently shed blood, at which all of them got with oxen skulls, clouds of stones and wooden shells. Among the attacks of the wild crowd the archbishop attained heavenly happiness, which was immediately confirmed by the signs of the following miracle. Namely one of the leaders was paralised and thus experienced on himself that he had sinned against God's elect, as it is written: "The revange is mine, I will repay - says the Lord". This triumph of the knight of Christ brought defeat to his wretched persecutors, as they lost both God's grace and the money offered to them by their leader, and eventually their souls if they do not come to their senses and do penance. And he with his stole, so far white for the innocence of body and soul, now however dipped in red blood, won the favour of God's glance. And let us, sinners, try through constant prayer to win his favours and let us believe that he has great importance before God's majesty. 
Book VIII
7. [... 1018]
The son of king Svein, and himself also the king of Angles, put to sword - thanks God - the crew of thirty ships of pirates and thus he, who had earlier been an invader together with his father, and a sworn destroyer of the country, now became its sole defender "like that rabbit in the sands of the Libyan Desert".
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