[[caption-width-right:330: [- First page of the 1514 print. -] ]]

''Gesta Danorum'' is a monumental medieval history of UsefulNotes/{{Denmark}}, written by a certain Saxo between c. 1185 and 1210 AD. The name that Saxo gave to his work is not known, and it has been referred to with a variety of names. In recent times, ''Gesta Danorum'' has emerged as the most frequently used title. This literally translates to ''Deeds of the Danes'', but may more idiomatically but more boring be rendered as ''Danish History''.

Saxo (c. 1150-1220) was, according to his own words, a descendant of a line of warriors and a secretary to Archbishop Absalon of Lund, who, having diagnosed that Denmark was in need of a big patriotic national history, convinced Saxo that he was the right man to write such a book. Not much else is certain about Saxo except that during his lifetime, he was nicknamed "the Long", but after his death became known with the epithet "Grammaticus" ("the Learned"). This byname he probably earned for what was his main qualification in Absolon's eyes: His ability to write a sophisticated Latin style, considered unusual to admirable in his time and stilted to [[{{Narm}} unintentionally funny]] today.

''Gesta Danorum'' consists of 16 books of which Nos. 1-9 are considered {{mythology}} and 10-16 history. Although Saxo did not suggest any such division, modern editions usually use a corresponding two-part structure.

* The mythological part starts with Dan, mythic progenitor of the Danish people, and goes through many generations of legendary kings and heroes. The plot is too massive for any short summary, but among the figures of this part that deserve some highlighting are prince Amleth, who hatches a plan of revenge against his brother-killing uncle while [[ObfuscatingStupidity playing a retard]]; King Harald Wartooth, who arranges the greatest battle ever fought in the Northlands to serve as a worthy end to his own life; and the cursed hero Starkad, a giant warrior who is fated to live three human lifespans and to commit one nefarious act of betrayal in each of them. Other chapters offer Saxo's take on heroic kings also known from Literature/{{the Icelandic Sagas}}, such as [[Literature/TheSagaOfHrolfKraki Hrolf Kraki]] and [[Literature/TheSagaOfRagnarLothbrok Ragnar Lothbrog]], as well as an account of the death of Baldur that is quite different from the one in ''Literature/ProseEdda''. Another high point are the adventures of Thorkill, a seafarer who sails to Jotunheim and to Utgard.

* The historical part covers the period from kings Harald Bluetooth (succeeded c. 958 AD) to Canute VI (died 1202), with a focus on the careers of Bishop Absalon and King Valdemar (1157-1182) and their campaigns of conquest against the pagans around the southern shores of the Baltic Sea, part of the series of Northern European wars also known as the [[UsefulNotes/TheCrusades Northern Crusades]].

As a source on Myth/NorseMythology, ''Gesta Danorum'' has been in the shadow of the Icelandic Literature/{{Edda}}s and Sagas since the 19th century, although before it, the opposite was the case. Thanks to its use of Latin rather than Old Norse, ''Gesta Danorum'' appealed to Renaissance scholars and was first printed in Paris in 1514, which is why the story of Amleth could find its way to Elizabethan England to serve as the basis of Creator/WilliamShakespeare's play ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}''.[[note]]Though Shakespeare got it via François de Belleforest's French ''Histoires Tragiques'' (1570).[[/note]]

You can find the [[http://wayback-01.kb.dk/wayback/20100504153427/http://www2.kb.dk/elib/lit/dan/saxo/lat/or.dsr/0/1/index.htm Latin original text]] and [[http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1150/1150-h/1150-h.htm the 1894 translation by Oliver Elton]] online.
!! This work provides examples of the following tropes:

* AcquittedTooLate: Ragnar has already been thrown into Ella's SnakePit when the realization that there are still sons of Ragnar alive makes Ella change his mind about killing Ragnar. He gives orders to release Ragnar from the pit, but the messenger finds Ragnar already dead.
%%* ActionGirl: Lathgertha %% Zero Context Example. Please write up a full example before uncommenting.
* AttendingYourOwnFuneral: After Fengo has sent Amleth to England to be killed with a PleaseShootTheMessenger plot, the Danes thinks that Amleth is dead. Just the day they hold a memorial feast for him, Amleth returns to the royal palace. Later in the same night, he finally executes his vengeance.
* BewareTheQuietOnes: The story of Uffe the Meek. People were very sceptical when the titular prince, know for his withdrawn and quiet manners and slender build, volunteers to defend Denmark's territory and honor in a duel against two Saxon nobles. Uffe, however, expertly slays them both and goes on to become an renowned king after his father's death.
* BreakingTheBonds: During his imprisonment for rebellion, Ubbe, son of Ragnar Lodbrok, tears his chains "by immense violence". He is then shackled with stronger chains which he is not able to break.
* CainAndAbel: After Dan's son Humble has been elected king by the Danes, he is attacked and captured by his brother Lother, who only leaves him the choice of giving him the kingship or being killed. Humble gives in and Lother assumes the royal title.
* CombatByChampion: Fighting against the Swedish usurper Sorli, Ragnar and his three sons Bjorn, Fridleif and Radbard take on a Swedish champion and his seven sons in a public single combat.
* CulturalTranslation: Writing in Latin, Saxo takes the trouble to describe Myth/NorseMythology and society with a [[Myth/ClassicalMythology Classical vocabulary]]. Thus, his mythic Scandinavia is filled with amazons (shieldmaidens), satyrs (dwarfs), nymphs (valkyries?), and fauns (?). People exlaim "by Hercules!", Asgard is Byzantium, jarls are satraps, the underworld is ruled by Proserpina (Hel), and there are references to the rivers Phlegethon and Styx. In one thing Saxo is adamant, though: Odin and Thor are not Mercury and Jupiter, because Odin is Thor's father while Mercury is Jupiter's son.
* DeathSeeker: Starkad, some 200 years old and half-blind, feels he is getting too old for combat and, wishing to die by the sword, travels the road searching for somebody worthy to kill him.
* DecoyGetaway: Under the influence of slanderers, King Gorm resolves to have Thorkill murdered in his bed. But Thorkill is forewarned, sneaks out of his bunk and leaves a log in his place. The assassins stab the log before realizing their mistake.
* DragonHoard:
** Book 2 relates how young King Frode, looking desperately for money to pay his troops, hears about a giant venom-breathing snake that occupies a hill-like island on which much treasure is buried. Frode goes there, kills the dragon, digs up the treasure and thus regains his solvency.
** A similar tale is told in book 6 about King Fridleif, who on a sea-journey is driven to an unknown island where a treasure is hidden in an underground chamber, guarded by a sea-dragon. Fridleif kills the dragon and salvages the hoard.
* DuelToTheDeath: Skiold duels and kills Skat, the "governor of Allemannia" and rival suitor for the hand of the Saxon princess Alfhild, "in the sight of the armies of the Teutons and Danes".
* DyingDealUpgrade: Sigurd, son of Ragnar Lodbrog, is severely wounded in the first battle he fights in, and it looks like he is going to die. A strange, very tall man who calls himself Rostar appears and promises Sigurd that he will cure him, if Sigurd in turn agrees to "consecrate unto him [Rostar] the souls of all whom he [Sigurd] should overcome in battle". When Sigurd agrees, Rostar instantly heals his wound by a touch of his hand, and at the same time makes little snakes appear in Sigurd's eyes. Sigurd, now called Sigurd Snake-Eye, later becomes a great warrior-king. We are expected to understand that "Rostar" was Odin.
* EvilUncle: Fengo murders his brother Horwendillus to seize the power in Jutland. Horwendillus' son Amleth has to pretend to be mentally retarded to stay alive.
* {{Fainting}}: When Odin makes snakes appear on the eyes of the boy Sigurd Ragnarsson, Sigurd's nurse faints in terror at the sight.
* FedToPigs: After killing his uncle's spying courtier that tried to eavesdrop on Amleth's conversation with his mother, Amleth cuts his body to pieces, boils it, and throws it into a sewer for pigs to eat.
* FoodChains: Passing through the realm of the giant Gudmund on their journey to Geirrodsgard, Thorkill warns his companions that any mortal who eats the food offered by Gudmund will lose his memory and can never leave Gudmund's realm again. Gudmund meanwhile invites them to a banquet and urges them to try the fruits in his orchard, forcing Thorkill to contrive excuses for not eating anything.
* GlowingGem: When Thorkill, on his voyage to Utgard-Loki, goes to explore an unknown shore in a region of eternal darkness, he fixes a gleaming jewel to the mast of his ship to mark the way back.
* GoodStepmother: Kraka the Sorceress cooks meals for her stepson Erik and her own son Roller, but prepares Roller's share with the slaver of a magical snake, which will make him smarter and luckier. When Erik and Roller swap plates, the spell is upon Erik instead, but rather than being angry at Erik, Kraka decides Erik should be the leader of the brothers. She promises her magic will aid Erik when he calls her name, and helps him outwit King Gotar of Norway. When Gotar's assassins attack him in bed, he calls out his stepmother's name, whereupon a shield falls from the rafters, covering his body and saving his life.
* HealingHands: Odin (in the shape of Rostar) offers to heal the wounds of Sigurd Ragnarsson if Sigurd will promise to dedicate all men he is going to kill in his life to Odin. When Sigurd agrees, Rostar touches him with his hand, causing the wound to close and scar over at once.
* HeroicAmbidexterity: Invoked: Young king Frode of Denmark (book 5) asks for the daughter of the king of the Huns in marriage, but the princess declines because Frode has not yet earned fame by heroic deeds. Frode's messenger goes on to praise Frode's physical qualities, one of them being that "he use[s] his left hand as well as his right". The intent of this is apparently to convince the princess that Frode has all the potential to become a famous warrior.
* HumanSacrifice: When King Wikar and his crew cannot get good weather for sailing, they resolve to sacrifice one of their own for fair winds.
* LotteryOfDoom: While Starkad goes sea-roving with king Wikar, they are stopped by permanent violent storms. They determine that the gods must be appeased by a human sacrifice and draw lots over which one of them is going to be killed as an offering.
* ALightInTheDistance: Looking for the way to Utgard-Loki, Thorkill and his crew are lost in a sea of eternal darkness, when they spot "a twinkle of a fire at no great distance". Thorkill goes after the fire and finds two freakishly ugly but helpful giants who eventually direct him to Utgard-Loki.
* ProudWarriorRaceGuy: In Book 6, Starkad agrees to help Helge in a single combat against nine brothers. On the appointed day, Helge oversleeps and Starkad is too proud to wake him, so he goes to the combat alone. His nine opponents offer Starkad to attack him one by one, but he rudely tells them to come at him all at once. Starkad kills all nine, but is severely wounded so he is forced to wait for random passersby to help him. One by one, a sheriff, a free man married to another man's slave, and a slave woman with a baby to feed offer to bandage his wounds, but are refused because Starkad considers it beneath him to get his life saved by any of them. Finally there comes a peasant laborer, son of a laborer, whom Starkad considers worthy to be his rescuer.
* PoisonIsCorrosive: As Thorkill and his companions sail away from Utgard in flight, flying demons rain poisonous slaver down on them. The voyagers take shelter under animal hides, but one man accidentally thrusts out his hand, and it withers from touch of the poison; a second man peeks out from under his cover, and goes blind; a third man [[TooDumbToLive sticks out his whole head]], which is taken clean off at the neck "as if it had been severed with a sword".
* ShootTheMessenger: King Gorm vows he will kill anyone who should ever bring him the message that his favourite son Knut is dead. When Knut is killed, nobody dares to tell Gorm. The queen then drops hints until Gorm understands by himself what has happened.
* SnakePit: Captured by King Ella, Ragnar Lothbrog is thrown into a snake pit to die.
* TakingYouWithMe: Holding out his neck for Hather to decapitate him, Starkad advises Hather that jumping between his severed head and the trunk before they can fall to the ground will protect him against being wounded in battle. Hather strikes Starkad's head off, but realizes at the last moment that Starkad intends to crush him with the weight of his falling body.
* UndignifiedDeath: King Harald Bluetooth is relieving himself in a bush when he is ambushed by Toke, the chieftain of Fyn. The King is then slain by Toke by getting ShotInTheAss with an arrow as he tries to flee.
* UnrequitedLoveSwitcheroo: When Ragnar woos Ladgerda, she is not interested and sets a bear and a dog on him to get rid of him. Ragnar kills the animals and gets his will. Years later, when Ladgerda has already born him three children, it suddenly occurs to Ragnar he cannot trust her because she sicced the beasts on him, so he divorces her and marries Thora. But Ladgerda still loves him and when Ragnar is hard-pressed by the usurper Harald, she comes to his aid with a fleet and once more saves him from defeat.
* TheWeirdSisters: In Book 6, King Fridleif consults "the oracles of the Fates" to ask for how the life of his newborn son Olvar will turn out. He goes to "the house of the gods" where he finds three maidens who are sisters, of which the first two grant beauty, popularity and generosity; but the third one is malicious and rules that Olvar will be considered a miser. The text leaves ambiguous whether the three women are three seers, or the Fates themselves.
* WilliamTelling: In Book 10, the archer Toke is forced by Harald Bluetooth to shoot an apple from his own son's head. This is the earliest known instance of this trope. Toke later uses his bow and arrow to kill Harald in vengeance.