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In olden times there ruled in Norway a King of great renown called Bele, whose wife died early, leaving him two sons and a daughter. When the latter had reached her sixth year, the King said to Thorsten, his brother-in-arms and lifelong friend, “My rosebud, Ingeborg, is the joy of my heart, but none the less I must send her away and entrust her to the guardianship of Hilding the Wise, so that, far from the turmoil and distractions of a court, the light of true knowledge shall be hers. But lest she should miss the companionship of her beloved playfellow, I pray thee permit thy son Frithiof to accompany her, that they may be reared together.”
“Gladly will I do so,” replied Thorsten; “not alone to honor thy request, but because I know thou hast my son’s welfare also at heart in sending him as the companion of thine own child to be taught by the wise Hilding. My King’s will shall be done.”
Hilding’s abode lay on the sea-coast, surrounded by gardens and wooded hills, and there Ingeborg and Frithiof spent the years of their childhood, faithfully taught and cared for by the good old man. Two rare blossoms of the Northland were these children, both richly endowed with gifts of mind and body: Ingeborg was like the swelling rosebud within whose heart the promise of the spring lies dreaming, while Frithiof grew up tall and strong as a young oak tree crowned with its crest of rustling leaves. So blessed by the gods were they with health and beauty that never had their like been seen in all the North. Now listening to the wondrous tales of their wise master, with clear eyes uplifted to his; now racing over the sunny meadows or dancing lightly under the dark boughs of the fir trees in the silvery moonlight, they were like the Light Fairies, whose appearance betokens blessing and fills the heart with anticipations of joy.
Frithiof was but little older than Ingeborg, and when he first learned from Hilding to read the Runic signs, it was his delight to teach them in turn to his beloved playmate. Ofttimes they would sail out upon the wind-tossed sea, and when the shifting of the sail sent foam and spray dashing into the boat, Ingeborg would clap her small hands in glee. No tree was too high for the bold lad when he wished to capture a nest of young birds for the King’s child; even the osprey’s eyrie, high among the rocky crags, was not safe from his daring quest. ’Twas he that found for her the first pale blossoms of the springtime, the first ripe strawberry, the summer’s first golden ear of corn. Joyously they wandered together in the forest, Frithiof armed to protect his playmate in case of need; for he early strove to train himself in all a hero’s duties.