The legend of Vise and Vätte

The legend of Vise and Vätte is really the legend of Visingsö. This story was published by Oscar Ljungström under the title  “Sagan om Visingsö”. The edition I got my hands on was printed by himself in1925, it was originally published in Göteborgs Handles- och Sjöfarts-Tidning (Gothenburg’s Commerce and Navigation paper) April the 25th, 1919. 

There is a stone monument placed on the northwest shore of Visingsö. On the monument count Brahe wrote something like this in the 17th centuary: “Here our ancestors once hade a castle, Borga castle”. If you look out from the shoreline you will se a large rock in the water, and this rock is said to once have been palced in the centre of Borga castle. Though there probably never has existed a castle in this place there are several folklores telling us stories about it. Ljungström gives us one that I have translated and summarized: 

Map of the northern part o Visingsö 

Map of the northern part of Visingsö. Circled to the left is Borga sten (the rock in the story below).

In ancient times Lake Vättern did not exist, instead there was a bountifully valley ruled by a good and wise king. This was long ago in an age when man lived in peace and everyone was happy. It is so far back that men still remembered when Heimdall walked among the people. The name of the king is long forgotten but we know of his two sons: Vise and Vätte. They inherited the land and they were to rule it together. Although Vise who was the oldest and wisest among the brothers should have the last say in matters. 

Vise built a castle on the on a long hill in the midst of the valley just beside a small lake and Vätte built his in another location, unknown where. Vises castle was a magnificent building and in the courtyard there was a great rock upon which Vise stood when he was to make a proclamation. King Vätte was not as wise as his brother but instead the greatest among warriors and his task was to defend the kingdom. He was also one of the most beautiful amongst men so all maidens in the Kingdom wanted his heart. Even the mermaid that lived in the small lake next to Vises castle was longing for him.      

All was well as long Vätte often visited his brother and took his advice. But within Vätte lured envy and delusiveness and even more so since his mind was clouded by the sighs of the mermaid. One day Vise brought home a fair maiden to be his queen, this turned Vättes envy into hatred. Wild with rage he decided to steal his brother’s crown, his wife and be the sole ruler of the kingdom.       

Some time later Vise was to go abroad on business, he gave the keys to the castle to a trusted servant called Bard and invited the mermaid to keep his wife company while he was away. This was the moment Vätte had awaited. He called upon his soldiers and they marched towards the castle. Bard had somehow anticipated this and when he got word of what was going on he saddled a horses for the queen and him to reach Vise. When Vätte came to the castle ha was able to march in without a fight. In the castle the mermaid waited transformed to appear to be the queen and doing so trick Vätte into making her his queen.      

When Vätte sat in his castle he soon realise that he should have destroyed the castle so that his brother didn’t have any shelter when he returned. He called forth his men and they marched to the castle. But no castle was to be seen; only the large rock that had stood in the middle of the courtyard. The castle had sunken to the underground claimed by Vanerna (normally connected to the religion of the Vikings).

King Vätte had taken rule of the land but the golden age was gone and there were trouble in the land. The mermaid who now was queen started to long for the water, her servants and friends living at the bottom of the lake. One day when her longings were greater than usual she begun to sing and the lake answered her longing and the water started to raise, soon it covered the entire valley. The valley is today called Lake Vättern and the only part that was not flooded is the long hill upon which king Vise built his castle and that is known as Visingsö.     

It is said that the mermaid and King Vätte still lives in the castle on the bottom on Lake Vättern. When the mermaids sing their songs the lake is clear and still. But king Vätte is still filled with rage as he didn’t manage to destroy his brother’s castle and then he sends his men as waves to battle the shoreline of Visingsö to tear the castle down. If you row a boat along the rocky northwest shore on a clear day it is said that you can glimpse part of the castle under the surface, a stair, a part of a wall etc. For a long time king Vätte has taken small parts of the castle down to his kingdom, even the great rock that once was on courtyard of the castle is now in part under the waves. 

This is but one of the legends connected with Borga castle. In the northwest part of the island there a few place names that keep the legend alive as well as the stone monument raised by count Brahe in the 17th centaury. Another story tells about the rune magician Kettil and the giant Gilbertil. But that is story for another time. 

Evan though there isn’t much archaeology in this there is always good to have a story to tell when visiting the island with friends or others.  

//Magnus Reuterdahl

 Visingös sigill

The seal of Visingsö.

About Magnus Reuterdahl

I am an archaeologist/Osteologist from Sweden. My main intrest lays in north Euorpean archaeology in, preferbly the prehistory of the late iron age and the neolithic periods. I've also got a strong intrest for Chinese archaeology, especially the neolithc Yangshao culture. I also write about cultural heritage and cultural history. Mitt namn är Magnus Reuterdahl, jag är arkeolog och osteolog och arbetar företrädesvis i Sverige även om jag gjort ett par vändor till Kina. På den här bloggen skriver jag om mitt yrke, om fornlämningar, kulturarv och kulturhistoria m m. View all posts by Magnus Reuterdahl

2 responses to “The legend of Vise and Vätte

  • lennart johansson

    hej jag har et sånt sigillm in vising är det gammalt är det värt något
    mvh lennart

    • Magnus Reuterdahl


      Det kan vara gammalt, men jag tror att man gjort kopior av detta – tyvärr har jag ingen koll på värden när det kommer till sigilstampar.


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