[…]The oldest documented myth about the origin of the Frisians can be found in the Hunsinger Codex of the early-fourteenth century. It says:

“Tha alle Fresa skipad weren, tha leweden hia, hoc hira sae rest thene londgong nome, thet hia ene pictunna bernde end tha otherum thermithe kethe, thet hia londgong nimen hede.”

The language is Old-Frisian and says: “When all the Frisians were shipped-in, then they promised that he who went ashore first, would light a barrel of pick to indicate to the others that they had gone ashore.” By the way, the whole barrel-lighting-thing is still being practiced by former (medieval) Frisian emigrants/colonists at the northwestern shores of the Wadden Sea in Germany. Known as biikin or biikebrennen. Read our blog post Beacons of Nordfriesland to learn about these bonfires.

In the second half of the fifteenth century, the so-called Gesta-group legend surfaces. Gestae meaning ‘deeds’ in Latin language. These gesta are different documents with a similar (fame) history of Frisia. It is assumed by smart people these all go back to a common -lost- source, probably written between 1300 and 1340 (Bremmer, 2004). Examples of these different documents are: Gesta Fresonum, Gesta Frisiorum and Olde Freesche Cronike. Although some have a title in Latin language, these were nevertheless written in Old-Frisian language. The closest document to the original source is Historia Frisae, which ends its history in the year 1248. The Historia Frisae probably is written around the middle of the fifteenth century.

The Gesta papers are quite militant and nationalistic pieces of work, and therefore thought not to have been written by clergy. Such nationalistic papers are quite, or even very, unique for Europe at that time. In the meantime we are flooded with the stuff worldwide, but this aside. Its purpose then was, to convince the people of Frisia of the fame and glory of their apparent noble history. In an effort to mobilize the people to fight against the Habsburg threat at that time, and to defend the much celebrated and mythical Frisian Freedom. Yes, the Gesta stories even draw parallels […] suggesting the Frisians too were a by-God-chosen people. Off topic: if we look back, chosen for what? Hardship and misery? Concerning the Frisian Freedom, read our post Magnus’ Choice: The Origins of the Frisian Freedom.[…]

We’ll drive our ships to new land — Frisia Coast Trail