Fredus, Frithu and Wald

Among most modern heathens in our age, the concept of frith is one which has come to dominate the social dialogue for better or worse and each seemingly interpreting the thing in many disparate ways. It has been called a “mutual state of non-aggression” and “not quite peace, but somewhat like peace”, yet however one attempts to define frith, there will likely be disagreement.

For the purposes of TFA, let us discuss the Frankish iteration of frith which in Old Frankish was called *frithu. To limit any confusion between the modern usage of frith and this specific Frankish concept, we will utilize the Vulgar Latin term Fredus (peace price) as it is found in the Lex Salica.

Within the Lex Salica the Fredus was a fine for a breaking of the law in which the “King’s Peace” was disturbed. These acts could be (but not limited to):

  • Redeem one’s hand from an ordeal by hot water.
  • Restore justice to a lord having a slave who has committed a theft.
  • Restore an abducted slave girl to her lord who was held safe under the king’s protection.

Etc.

By law, a boy under the age of 12 years (maturity), if having committed a crime, was not to have a fine (Fredus) exacted of him. Presumably, if the boy was not free or under the care of his family, the lord or kin would have to pay the Fredus.

The mechanism of the Fredus fine was enacted when the local court needed to interfere in a legal case where some injury was caused to the person or property of another, which would have engendered some loss of utility of the item/slave/body part by the owner. To prevent the escalation of feuds between settled peoples and the incompatibility of various traditional or tribal customs, the royal courts were used to adjudicate and offer remedies.

The Fredus was the third part of the total fine, up to the amount of one’s wergild (OFrk Leodis “man price”) depending on the severity of the crime. The other two parts of the amount were known as the Faidus (composition). The Faidus went to the aggrieved and the Fredus went to the Count (Gravio) as compensation to his role in the judicial process. In reality, the amounts granted to the Gravio were secured for his role in “proclaiming” the decision on behalf of the King. It is unclear how much of the Fredus went to the Rachimburgi (judges) who deliberated and ruled on the matter. The Gravio’s part was one of legitimizing the claim/composition on behalf of the realm. In a post-tribal world, the establishment of legal codes and legal officials was necessary to ensure a greater degree of cohesion between factional tribal groups and less loss of good fighters due to blood feud. This cohesion was ultimately enforced by the King and his nobles (Graviones and Duces) who could levy forces to settle disputes which threatened the integrity of the territory. This exercising of direct “administered frithu” by way of wielded force “Wald” at the hands of the King (or Queen) is found in a few passages in the histories:

The Vase at Soisson:

“The king said: “I ask of you, brave warriors, not to refuse to grant me in addition to my share, yonder dish,” that is, he was speaking of the vase just mentioned. In answer to the speech of the king those of more sense replied: “Glorious king, all that we see is yours, and we ourselves are subject to your rule. Now do what seems well pleasing to you; for no one is able to resist your power.” When they said this a foolish, envious and excitable fellow lifted his battle-ax and struck the vase, and cried in a loud voice: ” You shall get nothing here except what the lot fairly bestows on you.” At this all were stupefied, but the king endured the insult with the gentleness of patience, and taking the vase he handed it over to the messenger of the church, nursing the wound deep in his heart. And at the end of the year he ordered the whole army to come with their equipment of armor, to show the brightness of their arms on the field of March. And when he was reviewing them all carefully, he came to the man who struck the vase, and said to him “No one has brought armor so carelessly kept as you; for neither your spear nor sword nor ax is in serviceable condition.” And seizing his ax he cast it to the earth, and when the other had bent over somewhat to pick it up, the king raised his hands and drove his own ax into the man’s head. “This,” said he, “‘is what you did at Soissons to the vase.” Upon the death of this man, he ordered the rest to depart, raising great dread of himself by this action. He made many wars and gained many victories In the tenth year of his reign he made war on the Thuringi and brought them under his dominion.”

Fredegunda tames a feud:

“Among the Franks of Tournai a great feud arose because the son of one often angrily rebuked the son of another who had married his sister, for leaving his wife and visiting a prostitute. And when reform on the part of the guilty man did not follow, the anger of the youth became so great that he rushed upon his brother­-in­-law and killed him and his men, and was himself killed by his opponents, and there was only one left from both parties who lacked a slayer. Upon this the kinsmen on both sides raged at one another, but were frequently urged by queen Fredegunda to give up their enmity and become friends lest their persistence in the quarrel might cause a greater disturbance. But when she failed to reconcile them with gentle words she tamed them on both sides with the ax. For she invited many to a feast and caused these three to sit on the same bench, and when the dinner had been prolonged until night covered the earth, the table was taken away according to the custom of the Franks and they sat on the bench in their places. Much wine had been drunk and they were so overcome by it that the slaves were intoxicated and were lying asleep in the corners of the house, each where he fell. Then by the woman’s order three men with axes stood behind these three and while they were talking together the hands of the men flashed in a single blow, so to speak, and they were struck down and the banquet ended. Their names were Charivald, Leodovald, and Valden. When this was told to their kinsmen they began to watch Fredegunda closely and sent messengers to king Childebert to seize her and put her to death. The people of Champagne were angry because of this matter, but while Childebert was interposing delay she was saved by the help of her people and hastened to another place.”

In each case here displayed, there was a threat to the stability of the people which necessitated the intervening of the regent by way of wielded force/power (Wald). The example of Fredegunda taming the quarrelers may be poetic or a parable communicating the means by which such peace was “made”, when a swift peace was needed. In fact, the three men involved in the quarrel for Fredegunda (her name meaning war-peace…) were suspiciously Charivald, Leodovald and Valden or “war-power, folk-power and wielded power” that seem to indicate that there was a mythic quality to the settling of or establishing of the “King’s Peace”, and as demonstrated the Kuning’s Wald was greater than the three subordinate to it..

Therefore the Fredus was a peace-fine paid to the King for the legitimization of a legal proclamation in a judicial matter to stay the threat of the King’s (or Queen’s) power to settle peace by violence. In such a way, the Frankish Frithu was a peace between people(s) maintained by the recollection of a one-time use of royal force to make the peace possible in the first place.

So what does this mean for Modern Franks and the Farbond in general?

Simply put: Frithu is the peace instituted unto the people and established by the Kuning in illo tempore and is maintained by the threat of Fredus (fine) which is in turn reinforced by the threat of the Kuning’s power (or agent) to settle matters through violence/Wald (physical or financial).

Whether one can share frith with someone beyond the “tribe” can be answered for the Frank as such: Frithu must be maintained within the Civitates and Farbond, by living lawfully among Walaleodi and fellow Frank. Whereas secular society imposes various fines and penalties through municipal, provincial/state and federal jurisdictions, the Frank has the added impetus of theological instruments of penalty through the Kuning’s power and will.