The statue of Holger the Dane (Holger Danske) can be found in the tunnels below Kronborg Castle at Helsingør, about 45 kilometres north of Copenhagen. Holger is a national symbol and a hero, although he doesn’t look like one, asleep below the castle.
However, legend has it he will wake up and defend his country, if Denmark is ever attacked. The legend, hundreds of years old and virtually impenetrable, tells of a Danish prince and great warrior who fought against the Muslims at Poitiers in AD 732. At one point in his life, Holger was supposedly captured and became a hostage of Charlemagne.
The legend is not even Danish but originated in France, taken from the old epic French poem, La Chanson de Roland, a principal work in French medieval literature. None of this has stopped the Danes from enthusiastically adopting the legend as their own, helped along by Hans Christian Andersen who mentions Holger in his fairy tales.
Despite these misgivings I took to Holger immediately and thought he made a great photography subject.
Kronborg Castle, which was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2000, was the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet and he called the castle Elsinore, which has become the English name for Helsingør. The similarly sounding Swedish city of Helsingborg lies just five kilometres across the Øresund strait.