Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Old English Scylding (plural Scyldingas) and Old Norse Skj÷ldung (plural Skj÷ldungar), meaning in both languages Shielding, refers to members of a legendary royal family of Danes and sometimes to their people. The name is explained in many text by the descent of this family from an eponymous king Scyld/Skj÷ld. But the title is sometimes applied to rulers who purportedly reigned before Scyld/Skj÷ld and the supposed king Scyld/Skj÷ld may be an invention to explain the name.
From Skj÷ld to Halfdan
The number, names, and order of the Skj÷ldung kings vary greatly in different texts until one comes to Halfdan/Healfdene.
All Old English texts call Scyld's son and successor Beaw or some similar name. (The name was expanded to Beowulf in the poem Beowulf, probably in error by a scribe who thought it was an abbreviation for the name of the poem's hero, who is quite a different person). Halfdan/Healfdene seems to be the direct son of Beaw in the poem. But all Scandinavian sources that mention both Skj÷ld and Halfdan put Halfdan some generations after Skj÷ld and make no mention of King Beaw (save for a genealogy in the Prologue to Snorri Sturluson's Edda which is taken from English traditions).
According to Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum (Book 1), Skj÷ld was succeeded by a son named Gram. Since gram is also a simple adjective meaning "fierce" and a common kenning for "king", it might be that Saxo or a source has misunderstood some account referring to Beaw as being gram or a gram and wrongly taken it here as a personal name. Saxo has much to tell of this Gram who becomes the father of Hadding of whom he has even more to relate, Hadding in turn becomes the father of a king Frˇdi who is father of Halfdan.
Snorri Sturluson in his Edda, along with some other Old Norse texts, makes Skj÷ld to be father of Fridleif father of Frˇdi under whose reign the world was at peace. Snorri mentions this Frˇdi son of Fridleif in the Ynglinga saga also. But in this work Snorri also introduces a second, later Frˇdi, said to be son of certain Dan Mikillßti. The second Frˇdi is known both as Frˇdi Mikillßti and Frˇdi the Peace-lover and looks suspiciously like a duplicate of the other peaceful Frˇdi. Snorri makes this second Frˇdi the father of Halfdan and of another son named Fridleif.
Saxo in Books 4–5, long after the reign of Halfdan and the fall of the Skj÷ldung dynasty, also introduces a king named Dan, the third king with that name in his account, whose son is Fridleif whose son is Frˇdi under whose reign the world achieves peace. This Frˇdi is also the father of a son named Fridleif according to Saxo.
There are other differing accounts of Halfdan's ancestors. The names, number, and order of legendary Danish kings are very inconsistent in extant texts and it would appear that different writers and story tellers differently arranged what tales of legendary Danish kings they knew in whatever order seemed best to them.
Halfdan and his descendants
In all accounts Halfdan is father of Helgi (called Halga in Beowulf) and Hrˇar (called Hrothgar in Beowulf). Helgi is father of the famous Hrˇlf Kraki (called Hrothulf in Beowulf). In Beowulf, another son of Healfdene/Halfdan named Heorogar is father of Heoroweard who corresponds to Hj÷rvard in the Old Norse accounts where Hj÷rvard's parentage is not told. The Old Norse accounts make Hj÷rvard to be the husband of Hrˇlf's sister and tell how Hj÷rvard rebelled against King Hrˇlf and burned him in his hall. But Hj÷rvard was himself soon slain and with him the rule of the Skj÷ldung dynasty ended. See also Origins for Beowulf and Hrˇlf Kraki.
A later lineage said to be of Skj÷ldung descent:
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