The sound of a crying baby broke the silence in the fortress of Gram, the king of Denmark. His wife Signe, princess of Finland, had given birth to a healthy young Danish prince. Normally, a royal birth is a joyful event. However, this particular case had a dark edge since the child wasn’t exactly born from a loving union. Signe had been abducted by Gram from her initial husband Henry, the king of Saxony, on the day of her wedding. Since Gram had killed a few dozens of wedding guests, including the groom, these event must have overshadowed the birth of the new prince. Despite the lack of affection between his parents, Hadding would soon prove to become quite a legendary king.
A bloody wedding
By killing a considerable amount of the wedding guests, Gram had made some powerful enemies. Amongst them was Swipdag, the king of Norway and ally to Saxony and Finland. Led by the Norwegian king, an enormous army left for Denmark to seek revenge for the bloodbath during the wedding. Gram was quite a legend on the battlefield and not easily scared. He gathered his armies and marched to face his enemies, despite being heavily outnumbered. An epic battle commenced and the Danish fought bravely but their resistance proved to be futile. The Danish armies were destroyed and king Gram, fighting to the bitter end, was eventually impaled on a Norwegian spear.
After the defeat, Queen Signe knew that Hadding would not be safe from Swipdag’s hatred. After all, he was the rightful heir to the Danish throne. To prevent her son from being killed by the invaders, she asked a trusted handmaiden to take care of him. The handmaiden took Hadding into a boat and rowed the infant to the land of the giants in search of a suitable foster home. As a rule, giants do not tend to be very friendly creatures in mythological stories. Quite the opposite frankly. Therefore, it is unsure why Signe expected to find good foster parents amongst the giants. However, it is not too hard to imagine why Signe would not expect her enemies to follow her offspring into the lands of these fierce creatures.
A craving for power
Against all odds, the handmaiden found a friendly foster home when she arrived on the shores of the giants. Hadding found shelter in the house of the giant Wagnhofde and his daughter Hardgrep. Wagnhofde made a living for his family as a farmer and he taught Hadding how to grow crops and work the land. Peaceful years passed, and the young prince grew into a strong young man. Life was relatively pleasant and he built a strong loving relationship with both his foster father and his foster sister Hardgrep. The latter acted as both a sister and a mother for Hadding.
Hardgrep nurtured him as a baby and presented him with his first toys as a young boy. Despite this apparent family happiness, Hadding was never truly happy. A slumbering desire to take revenge for his father’s violent death started to consume him. One day, he spoke out to Hardgrep about the sorrow he felt and his desire to reclaim his birthright and avenge his father. His foster sister tried to convince him to seek satisfaction in his life as a farmer and as a part of her family. She told him that nothing good would come from violence and pointed out all the dangers. However, this was to no avail.
Size does matter
When Hardgrep realized that Hadding turned a deaf ear to her arguments, she tried to convince him in another way: “A man of your age should chase maidens rather than wars, my dear foster brother”. Hadding replied: “Maybe I would if there were any girls around of my own size”. Hardgrep was expecting this answer. However, she had a trick up her sleeve. In front of the dumbstruck Hadding, she started to shrink to the size of a ‘normal’ woman. A stunningly beautiful young woman that is. “Now would I be able to convince you to engage in love instead of war?”. Hadding must have felt conflicted. Hardgrep was his foster sister and fulfilled the role of a mother in his life. Moreover, she was the daughter of his foster father who protected him when he was in mortal danger.
What would Wagnhofde think of a relationship between them? But Hardgrep was exceptionally beautiful and he never had a woman before. So it may not come as a surprise that Hadding chose to indulge himself in certain.. physical activities with Hardgrep. As their romance progressed, he forgot about his initial plans to wage war on Swipag and reclaim the kingdom he had lost. The saga of Hadding could have ended here, with Hadding comfortably in the arms of his shrunken foster sister. However, after some time had passed, the thirst for revenge took control of Hadding again. After all, he was destined to become a legendary king. So after a while, he told Hardgrep that he would set off to conquer Denmark. Hardgrep, realizing she could not stop Hadding, accepted this reluctantly on one conduction; she would join him in his quest. And so, the couple set off.
A troubled journey
The journey to Denmark proved to be a long one and was not without danger and perils. The nights were cold and food was always in short supply. However, they could rely on each other and found comfort in their embrace during the darkest hours. One night, they came across a small village. Hadding and Hardgrep decided to seek shelter for the night and ask if the inhabitants could spare some food. Upon their arrival in the village, they stumbled upon a tragic scene; a funeral ritual for one of the villagers. Hadding and Hardgrep watched in silence how the rituals unfolded. At the end of the procedure, the body was laid out amidst fresh flowers to remain one last night above the ground. The next morning, the funeral rite would be completed by burying the corpse.
Hardgrep, being a powerful sorceress, saw an opportunity here. She desperately wanted to know how the gods looked upon Hadding’s efforts to conquer the Danish throne. Was their journey, really worth all of the dangers they encountered? Would they survive and succeed in slaying Swipdag? These questions had troubled her mind since their journey had started. Now, there was finally an opportunity to get some answers. And so, Hardgrep started to carve some powerful spells in a piece of bark. When she had completed her task, she urged Hadding to place the magical item under the tongue of the deceased villager. Hadding was, understandably, not very fond of disturbing the peace of the death and protested: “Why would we take the risk of meddling with the dead, my love?”
“Worry not, my love. The dead can tell us how the heavens look upon our quest, everything will be alright. Besides that, I value our lives more than his eternal rest”. And so, Hardgrep persuaded Hadding to place the engraved bark under the tongue of the dead man. The spell took immediate effect and the corpse started talking with a low monotonous voice. With the first words uttered by the lifeless body, he cursed Hardgrep for disturbing his eternal rest. The deceased man proclaimed that Hardgrep would be torn apart by demons during the journey ahead. Hadding however would survive this horrific event. In shock, Hadding tore the bark from the dead man’s mouth.
The prophecy unfolding
Hardgrep and Hadding tried to forget the curse as they left the village the next morning. They continued their journey and crossed streams and beaks and traversed open fields. One night, they came upon a grove where they made their camp for the night. After eating some of the little food they had, both went to sleep. During that night, Hadding was startled awake by the sound of breaking branches. In horror, he saw an enormous, hand lunging for him. He succeeds in evading the grasping fingers and yelled to wake Hardgrep. His surrogate mother, foster sister, and lover quickly rose and assessed the situation. Using her magic, she quickly started to grow into a fierce giantess. In this powerful form, she grabbed hold of the hand that had lunged for Hadding, allowing her lover to cut it off by the wrist.
Hardgrep then started to fight the roaring giant that had been attached to this hand. However, this proved not to be a lonely giant. The trembling earth and sound of breaking trees announced the approach of other giants. Hardgrep realized she would be heavily outnumbered in mere seconds. She urged Hadding to hide himself. From his hiding spot, Hadding watched the arrival of a dozen more furious giants. Hardgrep put up a fierce fight, but eventually, the other giants seized her arms and legs. In horror, Hadding watched how the love of his life was literally torn apart by her own kind.