Site Map
Norse Mythology: Legends of Gods and Heroes
Section › 7   Set    Search  Previous Next


Reservations   Contents    

German Legends Dealing with Siegfried and the Nibelungs — The Development of the Legendary Cycle of the Volsungs — Hadding — Frodi the Peaceful and His Mill

German legends dealing with Siegfried and the Nibelungs

The Germans also knew the legends of the Volsungs and recorded them in various forms. The chief source is the well-known heroic poem, the Nibelungenlied. This poem is built on earlier popular ballads, no longer extant. It dates from about the year 1200, and the presentation has lost much of its antique character for the reason that the legends have been adapted to the requirements of medieval chivalry. Thus mention is made of feudal castles and of tournaments; the heroes have become Christian knights and are no longer pagan champions. Many of the individual events are likewise presented ill a form totally different from the form that is characteristic of Northern poesy. Several legends only lightly touched in the Northern sources are fully detailed in the German; such, for example, are the legends of king Thjodrek, the celebrated Theodoric of Verona, who in German legend bears the name Dietrich of Bern. The names have other forms and are in some cases wholly different. The following are the contents of the Nibelungenlied in brief.

Siegfried was the son of Sigmund, king of Xanten in the Netherlands, and of his queen Sigelind. From his earliest youth he distinguished himself in many a [193} dangerous enterprise. On one such occasion he killed a dragon and, having bathed himself in its blood, was by this means made immune to wounds, except in one spot where the leaf of a linden had clung to his body. He conquered king Nibelung and thus won for himself the immense treasure of the Nibelungs and the sword Balmung, and he took from the Dwarf Alberich his cap of invisibility ("Tarnkappe"). In the city of Worms, Gunther, king of the Burgundians, at that time held his court; his mother was Uote, and he had two brothers, Gernot and Giselher. The king's sister, Kriemhild, was famed far and wide for her beauty. Siegfried, learning of her renown, went to Worms to sue for her hand. Though he was received with the greatest kindness by the kings, he remained in the city an entire year without being permitted to see Kriemhild. A war now broke out, in which the Burgundians were victorious, thanks to the help of Siegfried; on his return the hero saw Kriemhild for the first time at a festival celebrating the success of their arms. He dared not hope to win her, and yet he let himself be persuaded to remain a while longer.

News presently reached Gunther of queen Brunhild of Iceland and her marvelous beauty; rumor related that it was her custom to put her suitors to proof in trials of strength and to have them put to death as soon as she had worsted them. Gunther determined to pay court to her; but, not being confident of his own prowess, he sought the aid of Siegfried. Siegfried promised to help him in return for the hand of Kriemhild. From her fastness of Isenstein Brunhild witnessed [194} the approach of the kings and their retinue; supposing that it was Siegfried, whose fame had reached her ears, that was coming to claim her hand, she was much disappointed on Gunther's making his own desires known. Siegfried acted as Gunther's vassal, stood at his side during the trial of strength, and helped him to win the victory. The two wedding festivals, that of Gunther and that of Siegfried, now took place in Worms; but Siegfried was called on once more, this time invisible, to assist Gunther in the final proof of puissance, and on this occasion he carried Brunhild's ring away with him. Siegfried now returned with his wife to his own kingdom. Brunhild still held him to be a vassal of her husband and so was surprised to learn that he fulfilled no feudal obligations; suspecting some secret and being determined to learn what it was, she persuaded Gunther to invite Siegfried and Kriemhild to pay them a visit in Worms. As queen of the Burgundians she insisted that they should recognize her greatness. Once while the company was on the way to church, a dispute arose between the two queens as to the right of precedence. Kriemhild taunted Brunhild, disclosed the deceit that had been practised, — that it was really Siegfried who had prevailed over her, and showed the ring in proof of what she said. Shamed and angered at the trickery that had been used against her, Brunhild at once began to nurse thoughts of vengeance. With this purpose she persuaded Hagen, a kinsman of the royal house and one of Gunther's chief vassals, to help her in bringing about the death of Siegfried. Gunther, believing that [195} his honour had been betrayed by Siegfried, unwillingly lent himself to the plot. Hagen, for his part, tricked Kriemhild into revealing what part of Siegfried's body was vulnerable, on the pretext that through this knowledge he would be better able to protect Siegfried in the course of an impending war. While a hunt was in progress in the forest of Odenwald, Siegfried was pierced by Hagen's spear as he bent down, unarmed, to drink from a fountain; and Gunther was a witness of the murder. Hagen caused the body to be laid during the night at Kriemhild's door, and the queen at once suspected the truth. Defiantly she accused her brother and Hagen of the crime, and from that day she lived at Worms in the deepest sorrow, never speaking another word to Gunther. The treasure of the Nibelungs, left to her by Siegfried, was carried to Worms, and Kriemhild made use of it to win friends through the giving of charitable gifts. Hagen, distrusting her intent, then caused the hoard to be sunk in the river Rhine.

For thirteen years Kriemhild cherished her plans for revenge, chiefly against Hagen. Emissaries presently came from Etzel, king of the Huns, to pay court to her on the king's behalf. Filled with grief for Siegfried, she at first refused their overtures; not even Giselher, her favorite brother, who had always proved himself a friend to Siegfried, was able to prevail on her to receive the king's suit with favor. But when she saw an opportunity to gratify her revenge, she gave consent. The wedding festival was held in Vienna, from where Etzel carried her to his own kingdom, the land of the [196} Huns (Hungary). Years passed by. At length she induced Etzel to invite her brothers and Hagen to pay them a visit. Hagen, thinking that he saw through her designs, advised against the proposed journey, but on Giselher's hinting at cowardice, Hagen forthwith determined to go; yet he persuaded Gunther to command all of his men to follow in their train. Kriemhild gave none but Giselher a welcome, and she let Hagen feel the brunt of her displeasure. Notwithstanding that Hagen had been warned by his old friend Dietrich of Bern, who was living in exile at Etzel's court, he nevertheless conducted himself in so defiant a manner as even to carry the sword Balmung before the very eyes of Kriemhild and to boast openly of the murder. The queen soon won to her cause Etzel's brother Blodel, who shortly declared open warfare against the Burgundians. Hagen countered by cutting off the head of Etzel's and Kriemhild's son Ortlieb, and by this act the Burgundians lost all chance of saving their lives. The queen, to be sure, made overtures of peace to her brothers on the condition that they would deliver Hagen into her hands; but even Giselher set his face against such treachery. A terrific battle ensued. Dietrich and his Goths finally put an end to the struggle. Gernot and Giselher fell, Gunther was taken prisoner and bound, and at length Dietrich disarmed Hagen himself and made him captive. Gunther at the command of Etzel was put to death; and Kriemhild herself thrust a sword into the breast of Hagen. At that Dietrich's old armorer Hildebrand sprang forward and, enraged at her cruelty, pierced her to [197} the heart. Another heroic poem, Die Klage, gives a brief account of the fate of those that survived. Uote died of grief. Brunhild, with her own and Gunther's son, was the last of the royal house of the Burgundians.

On German legends dealing with Siegfried and the Nibelungs

Page 197, line 5 — "Nibelungs" is at the beginning of the Nibelungenlied the name of the people of king Nibelung, whom Siegfried conquered; in the latter part of the poem, the term is used as another name for the Burgundians. It is derived from the German word Nebel (hence, "child of darkness") and no doubt originally designated the subterranean owners of the hoard. Its being used for the royal house of the Burgundians probably is due to an erroneous deduction from the poetic formula, "the hoard of the Nibelungs," by which term the last owners of the treasure were thought to be indicated. — Blödel or Blödelin is Attila's brother Bleda.

The legend of Siegfried is known also from the poem entitled [345} Hörnen Seyfrid. This is extant only in a very late redaction, printed in the 16th century, but it points none the less to a very ancient legendary original, so far as the youth of the hero is concerned. It has several details strikingly similar to those of the Northern legends. Siegfried is apprenticed to a smith, whose anvil he cleaves in twain. He kills a dragon and burns it on a bonfire with many other serpents. Their scales melt with the heat and flow away like a brook; he bathes in it, and his skin becomes hard as horn. This poem mentions king Gibich (Gjuki), who is not referred to in the Nibelungenlied. Siegfried wins Gibich's daughter Kriemhild on emerging the victor from an encounter with still another dragon, which had carried her off; but he is killed by his brothers-in-law, who envy him his fame. Their names are Gunther, Hagen, and Gernot. It is Hagen who commits the murder.

Finally, the German legend has been preserved in a Norse work, Dietrich of Bern's Saga (Þiðriks Saga). Written in Norway during the 13th century, it contains a series of loosely connected legends, taken down "as German men have told it." The story of Sigurd's youth is here narrated in fairly marked agreement with Hörnen Seyfrid and the Eddic lays; the story of his later life and the last battle of the Nibelungs, on the other hand, agrees more fully with the Nibelungenlied. The names have German forms; Sigurd is called both Sigurðr and Sigfrøðr (the latter is the equivalent of "Siegfried" and not of "Sigurd"); the mother of the king is named Oda, the daughter Grimhild; the brothers are Gunnar, Guttorm, Gernoz, and Gisler. Hogni is their half brother. The basis of the saga is to be found in Low German legends told by German merchants in Norway.

The development of the legendary cycle of the Volsungs

As already indicated, the legends of the Volsungs have been formed for the most part from events that happened among German peoples during historic times. The original home of the legends must have been Germany; the circumstance that they are to be found also in the North is not to be explained on the theory that the legends were the common property of Northern and German tribes before these tribes became distinct, but rather on the supposition that the legends migrated from Germany to the North. Just when this may have occurred is difficult to determine. Since the historical events have undergone considerable modifications in this heroic poetry, the German legends must have taken shape at a period measurably distant from the time of the death of Attila (453). On the other hand, the legends of the Volsungs were known in the Northern countries early in the Viking age; Eiríksmál, dating from about the year 950, mentions Sigmund and Sinfjotli,l and skaldic verses contain paraphrases based on the same legends. According to these evidences, the legends must have found their way [198} into the North at some time between the sixth and the eighth centuries. There was opportunity for an independent development of these legends during several hundreds of years among the various Germanic peoples; and herein lies the explanation of the great differences between the German and the Northern forms of the legends, as regards both their general scope and their details. To discover in just what shape the legends came to the North is well-nigh impossible, particularly inasmuch as the most circumstantial German version, the Nibelungenlied, dates from a comparatively late period, the twelfth century.

The Norse form of the story begins with Odin and his son Sigi, and follows the fate of the Volsungs down to the very days of the sons of Ragnar. The Nibelungenlied, on the contrary, deals only with the events from Siegfried's first appearance in Mainz to the fall of the Burgundians at Etzel's court. At the start, no doubt, the cycle did not embrace the huge mass of material which now is to be found embodied in the Norse versions. Both the German and the Norse redactions show a tendency toward combination of legends originally foreign to one another into a larger unified structure, and it is therefore necessary to try to determine by a process of comparison how much of the conglomerate belonged to the cycle at the beginning. When, for example, the Nibelungenlied permits the legends of Dietrich of Bern to crop up in the earlier part of the account of the destruction of the Burgundians, while the Eddic poems do not even admit Dietrich among the participating heroes, the probability [199} is that he was not known in the legends of the Volsungs at the time when these legends made their way into the North. [2] In a like manner it is possible to cull out from the Northern versions a heap of legends of later origin. First of all, it appears quite clearly that the legend of Aslaug has no proper place in the Volsung cycle. Aslaug is not mentioned at all in the Eddic poems; and the report that she was the daughter of Sigurd Fafnirsbane is directly contradicted by the account given in the Eddic poems of the relations between Sigurd and Brynhild. [3] The situation is much the same in the case of the legend of Jormunrek. Jordanes, the first writer to deal with it, makes no mention of Sunilda's being the daughter of Sigurd, and he gives quite a different reason for Ermanaric's putting her to death than the one contained in the Northern poems.

In the first divisions of the cycle as well there are similar, and even more accidental cases of attachment. The legend of Helgi Hundingsbane, for instance, is an exclusively Northern story, which has been attached to the Volsung cycle through the device of making Helgi an elder half brother of Sigurd. Still weaker is [200} the link binding together the Volsung legends and the legend of Helgi Hjorvardsson; this Helgi it was necessary to reincarnate as Helgi Hundingsbane. Even if all these additions be eliminated, the whole legendary series from Sigi down to Sigmund Volsungsson would still remain to identify the Northern redactions. How much of this material was ever a portion of legends other than the Northern is not easy to determine; but since the poem of Beowulf mentions Wæls, Sigmund, and Fitela, it is clear at any rate that Volsung, Sigmund, and Sinfjotli were once subject to poetic treatment among other Germanic peoples, so much the more since the remarkable name "Sinfjotli" is readily recognizable in the ancient Germanic man's name Sintarfizilo. Possibly the legend at first reached no farther back than to Volsung [4], in which case the stories of Sigi and Rerir must be regarded as Norse legends added at some later time. Signy's relation to her husband Siggeir and to her brother Sigmund supports this view; for these relations are to such a degree reminiscent, even in details, of Gudrun's relations to Atli and to the brothers Gunnar and Hogni that it appears certain that one of these legends is an imitation of the other; and since the version found in the Northern legend of Gudrun (as will be made manifest later) probably is older than the German account of the fate of the Burgundians, likelihood points out the story of Siggeir's death at the hands of brother and sister as an imitation of the other story.

In those phases of the legend which are common [201} to German and to Northern literature there are a number of differences in detail, as will be evident from the foregoing brief abstract of the contents of the Nibelungenlied.

In the Northern version considerable importance attaches to the hoard of Andvari; this hoard, like Tyrfing in the Hervarar Saga, serves as a means of connecting the several elements of the legend, through the curse that clings to it. In the Nibelungenlied, on the contrary, Siegfried's hoard is practically inessential to the course of the action; his death has no connection with the treasure, but is merely a result of his relations to Brynhild. This may indeed be the more primitive set of circumstances. For it is to be noted that not even in the Northern version is Sigurd's death an immediate consequence of his having acquired the fateful treasure; in this version as well it is in reality his relation to Brynhild that brings about his death. The importance attaching to the gold in the Northern story can therefore hardly be regarded as a very ancient trait of the Sigurd legend.

Another difference between the Northern legends and the German lies in the relation between Sigurd and Brynhild. The Nibelungenlied knows nothing of an earlier association of the two, while nearly all of the Northern versions mention, or at least presuppose, a betrothal between them before the marriage of Brynhild and Gunnar. Just how the Poetic Edda presented their first meeting we do not know definitely, since unfortunately there is at this point a considerable lacuna in the manuscript. From various hints in [202} other poems that have been preserved it is nevertheless evident that Sigurd had known Brynhild before the time when he visited her in Gunnar's stead. And the Volsunga Saga, which in great part is based on older poems, gives a circumstantial account of their meeting at the court of Heimir; this meeting must therefore have been described in some one of the lost poems. When, however, the Volsunga Saga also gives an account of a still earlier meeting between them, in that it identifies Sigrdrifa with Brynhild, this circumstance must be due to a later duplication of the original single legend. For the story of Sigrdrifa forms a finished episode in the Poetic Edda; Sigrdrifumál has nothing to say of a betrothal, and none of the other poems so much as suggests the identity of the Valkyrie and Brynhild, with the solitary exception of the Helreið Brynhildar; but this poem is so confused and apparently of so late an origin that no great value can be attached to it. It is possible, however, that the entire story of the betrothal between Sigurd and Brynhild had no proper place in the legend as first formed, but that it was wholly Northern in origin; for the Nibelungenlied makes no reference to it, and for that matter it is not necessary to an understanding of the fate of the hero. In the Northern version Brynhild determines on his death in desperation at learning that he of all men, her lover and the hero of heroes, had a part in the deception practised on her; it is jealousy toward Gudrun and bitter hatred of Sigurd that impels her to the deed. In the Nibelungenlied the motive for Brynhild's revenge is a feeling of indignation at being [203} duped; and her resentment at the imposture is increased by the thought that it was the impostor Siegfried who had prevailed over her, more especially since she had held the most eminent hero alone worthy of her love. The disposition of the narrative elements in both the Northern and the German stories is satisfactory; and it is hardly possible to determine priority of origin as between the two.

The last great difference between the Nibelungenlied and the Northern story is to be found in the narrative of the fall of the Burgundians. In the German poem, Kriemhild exacts vengeance for her husband; in the Eddic poems it is her brothers she avenges by the killing of Atli. In this particular the Northern account probably has the priority. It has already been mentioned that the story of the fate of the Burgundians rests on historical reminiscences, namely the defeat of the Burgundians at the hands of the Huns in the year 437; here then the Eddic poems have best preserved the historical situation in representing Atli as the foe of the brothers, while the Etzel of the Nibelungenlied bears them no grudge and is drawn into the conflict against his will. Besides, the Northern story has an antique, authentically Germanic coloring. Gudrun is the loving wife and the grieving widow but also the faithful sister; despite the great wrong done to her by her brothers, she proves herself in the final test to be true to the most sacred relationship known to the ancient Germanic peoples, namely the mutual love of brothers and sisters, fidelity to family ties. [204}

  1. See p 165.
  2. The mention of Thjodrek (Dietrich) in the prose induction to Guðrúnarkviða II as the person to whom Gudrun makes her lament is of no consequence, since he does not appear in the poem itself; this induction proves only that the one who brought the poems together knew the German legends. In a similar way Guðrúnarkviða III, which deals with the relations between Gudrun and Thjodrek, rests on earlier material which has found its way in from without. See G. Storm, Sagnkredsene om Karl den Store og Didrik of Bern, p 87; G. Neckel, Beiträge zur Eddaforschung, p 221.
  3. See note to p 184.
  4. See note to p 159. }

On the development of the legendary cycle of the Volsungs

Page 203, line 30 — Memories of the Volsung legends have furthermore been preserved in popular ballads in Norway, the Faroe Islands, and Denmark, and in pictorial records in Norway and Sweden. On the door of Hyllestad church in Setesdal are to be found carved inscriptions setting forth the contents of Reginsmál, Fáfnismál, and the narrative of Gunnar in the serpents' den. The contents of the two poems named are likewise depicted on the portals of the church of Vegusdal (Aust-Agder). From the [346} church at Lardal, Vestfold, no doubt came a door bearing pictorial representations of the following subjects: Oter's ransom, Regin forging the sword, and the slaying of Fafnir. On a plank from a church door at Austad (Setesdal) may be seen certain scenes from Atlakviða: the cutting out of Hogni's heart, and Gunnar in the den of serpents. A similar plank from the church at Opdal (Numedal) bears a representation of the death of Gunnar; the same subject appears on a chair from Hove in Telemark (originally belonging to the church at Hitterdal) and on a baptismal font from the church at Norum (Bohuslen). On another chair, in the church at Hitterdal, may be seen "Gunnar and Sigurd, bearing the ring of Andvari and riding to meet Brynhild through the wall of flame" (L. Dietrichson, De norske stavkirker, Christiania 1892, p. 75 f.; cf. K. Liestøl, Maal og Minne, 1917, p. 98). In Sweden pictures of Sigurd and of Regin are cut in stone on the runic monuments of Ramsundberget and Göks-stenen.

On the development of this legendary cycle, particularly in Germany, see Andreas Heusler, Nibelungensage and Nibelungenlied, Dortmund 1921.


Hadding is mentioned in various connections in the ancient legends. At first the name seems to have been used to designate an entire royal house or royal family. Thus we read in the genealogies of princes of the olden time that Madding, son of Raum, king of Haddingjadal (Hallingdal), had a son by the name of Hadding; his son in turn was called Hadding; his son again bore the name of Hogni the Red; and after him came three Haddings in succession: in the retinue of one of these appears Helgi Haddingjaskati.l It is not difficult to understand how the name Haddingr might come to be applied to a man of noble birth: haddr signifies "long and fair hair," and among several of the Germanic royal houses (particularly among the Franks) it was customary to permit the hair to grow long, while the commonalty wore the hair short. Concerning one of these Haddings Saxo tells the following story, which no doubt has a Norse origin:

King Gram of Denmark had been killed by the Norwegian king Svipdag, who thereupon brought both Denmark and Sweden under his sway. King Gram left two sons, Guttorm and Hadding; their foster father fled with the boys to Sweden, where he entrusted them to the care of the Giants Vagnhofdi and Haflidi. Guttorm afterward let himself be persuaded by Svipdag to become his vassal king in Denmark. Hadding meanwhile, under the care of Vagnhofdi and his daughter Hardgreip, had grown up to be a youth of [205} uncommon parts and skilled in the use of all manner of weapons; refusing to listen to any overtures of peace, he bent all his thoughts toward avenging his father. Hardgreip, loving him, prayed him to become her husband, and he yielded to her entreaties. When not long afterward he set forth in search of adventure, she went with him dressed as a man and kept watch over his safety with the utmost zeal. One night they found lodging in the house of a husbandman who had just died and who was still lying there in his shroud. Hardgreip declared her intention of summoning the dead man back to life for a space in order that he might foretell their future; she accordingly scratched magic runes on a chip of wood and got Hadding to lay it beneath the tongue of the corpse. The dead man, waking to life, foretold that she who had dared to disturb his repose was to suffer the punishment of falling into the power of unearthly beings. The next night they spent in a leafy lodge which they had raised over their heads in the midst of a forest. In the course of the night they were awakened by an immense hand fumbling about in the lodge. Hardgreip, who was able to make herself large or small at will, summoned her entire Giant strength, seized on the hand, and held it fast till Hadding succeeded in striking it off. From the wound flowed forth a liquor more like venom than like blood. Hardgreip, having in this way played the traitor to her own kindred, was promptly punished in a most pitiable manner by being torn limb from limb by Giantesses.

Hadding now found himself alone. Presently he [206} met an old one-eyed man (Odin), who persuaded him to enter into sworn brotherhood with the Viking Liser. Hadding and Liser then joined forces in making war against Loker, king of Kurland, but were defeated and put to flight. Once more Hadding met the old man, who placed him on his own horse, led him to his own house, and there refreshed him with a strengthening draught. He foretold that his guest would be taken prisoner by Loker and be cast before a wild beast which it was Loker's custom to permit to tear his captives asunder; yet if he would bravely grapple with the beast he would be able to conquer and kill it; whereupon he was to eat the heart of the beast and thus grow far stronger than he was before; during the night the old man would then cause a deep sleep to fall on the watchmen so that Hadding might make his escape unseen. He now set Hadding again on the horse, wrapped a cloak of his own about him, and led him once more to the place where he had found him. In the course of the journey Hadding, peering through the folds of the cloak, saw with astonishment that the horse was trotting over the surface of the sea.

All happened as the old man had foretold. Hadding was taken prisoner by Loker and thrown before the wild beast; but he slew it, ate its heart, and made his escape. Afterward he undertook many expeditions to the east. On one of these he fell in with Svipdag near Gotland, attacked him, and killed him. He now hurried to Denmark, where he ascended the throne as Gram's heir. But Asmund, son of Svipdag, mustered an army against Hadding for the purpose of avenging [207} his father's death. A fierce battle ensued between them. Asmund's son Henrik was the first to fall. Hereat Asmund became so enraged that he slung his shield on his back, rushed into the very midst of Hadding's ranks, and struck down men on every hand. Hadding now called on his foster father Vagnhofdi for aid. On Vagnhofdi's coming promptly to his support, Hadding succeeded in thrusting Asmund through the body with a hooked spear; but in the struggle he himself received a wound in the foot that lamed him for the rest of his life. Asmund's body was burned at Uppsala; his wife Gunnhild killed herself and was laid with him on the pyre.

Asmund's son Uffi now came forward to take vengeance for the death of his father and gave Hadding no respite whatever. Hadding bore arms against his new enemy in warfare lasting through five full years, in the course of which his army suffered such hardship that at length they were constrained to slaughter and eat their own horses; finally they even resorted to the eating of human flesh. Defeated in one of these battles, Hadding was driven to seek refuge in Helsingland. During his sojourn there a wild beast one day attacked him as he was bathing at the seaside; he slew it, but while he was carrying the carcass back to the camp as booty, he met a woman on the way who told him that he had slain one of the gods, who had assumed the guise of the animal, and that therefore misfortune would dog his steps till he had done penance for his sacrilege. Even as she had foretold it came to pass. He set sail for home, but a storm scattered his ships. Wherever [208} he sought shelter, destruction fell on the house. At last he had no other recourse than to offer up a solemn sacrifice of black animals to Frey; not till then did the curse lose its force. Thus he became the first to offer such a sacrifice, called the "Sacrifice of Frey."

Some time later, rumor told that a hideous Giant was attempting to force himself into the favor of the fair Norwegian princess Ragnhild. Hadding determined to defeat that purpose. Hastening to Norway, he slew the Giant but was himself severely wounded in the fray. Ragnhild herself healed him; but in order to be able to recognize him later, she inserted a ring into one of the wounds on his foot before it had closed. Soon the time came for her to wed. From her father she received permission to make her choice among a number of youths, one of whom was Hadding; but before she made her choice she insisted on feeling of their feet. In this way she identified Hadding and chose him for her husband. During Hadding's sojourn at that place a remarkable adventure befell him. One day, as he was sitting at meat, a woman rose up through the floor with her arms full of green herbs. On Hadding's expressing a desire to learn where such green herbs were to be had in the dead of winter, she wrapped her cloak about him, and together they sank down to the nether world. After wandering for a while through dense mists they came to a sunny meadow where they found the herbs in full growth. Before long they came to a river in which all kinds of weapons were floating; a bridge spanned the stream. On the other side they saw two hosts in combat; these were warriors who had [209} fallen in battle and who now after death were continuing the heroic actions of life. Their farther progress was stayed by an insurmountable wall. The woman, when she found that she could not climb over the barrier, wrung the head off a cock and threw his body over the wall, whereupon he at once came to life and began to crow. When Hadding had returned from this journey to the nether world, he went to Denmark, taking his queen with him.

In the meantime Uffi had published a proclamation that he would give his daughter in marriage to the man who should kill Hadding. This promise tempted Tuning, lord of Bjarmiland, to undertake the combat. Hadding sailed forth to meet him. On the coast of Norway, as he passed close by a headland, he saw an old man standing there and making signs with his cloak to indicate that he wished to be taken on board. Hadding took him into the ship; and by way of recompense the old man taught him a novel method of disposing troops for battle in the shape of a wedge. When battle was joined, the old man drew his bow and with it shot ten arrows at one time, each arrow bringing down its man. The men of Bjarmiland, being skilled in magic, raised a terrific shower of rain that beat into the eyes of Hadding's soldiery; but the aged man, who was none other than Nikar or Odin, [2] dispersed the storm, and Hadding won the victory. The old man then went on his way, with the prophecy that Hadding was not to fall at the hands of his enemies but that he was to take his own life. [210}

Hadding at length succeeded in defeating and slaying Uffi. He buried his enemy with great pomp beneath a cairn and made Uffi's brother Hunding a vassal king in Sweden, wishing through magnanimity to gain the good will of those whom he had conquered. For a long time he now lived in peace and quiet among the mountains in the house of his wife; but at last, having grown tired of inaction, he sang lays, like those which Njord sang to Skadi, expressing his weariness of the mountains and of the howling of the wolves. Ragnhild made her response, as did Skadi before her, declaring that the sea and the clamor of the gulls were no less distasteful to her. But soon the call of battle came to him once more. A lawless man named Tosti, who had made himself master of Jutland, began the conflict. Hadding suffered defeat but saved himself by flight in a boat after having bored holes in the other vessels lying along the shore. Tosti made an attempt to overtake him but was compelled to abandon the pursuit when water began pouring into his ship He nevertheless got hold of another. seaworthy ship, and soon was on the point of closing with Hadding; but Hadding had outdistanced his pursuer so far that he could safely overturn his own boat and save himself by swimming. Tosti, believing him to be drowned, put his vessel about. Meanwhile Hadding hastily summoned men to his aid; and while Tosti was busied with the booty, Hadding attacked him and put him to flight. Tosti fled to Bretland, made common cause with the Viking Kolli, and launched a new attack against Hadding, but was killed by him in single combat. [211} Not long thereafter Hadding's wife Ragnhild died; but after her death she appeared before him and warned him to beware of their daughter Utfhild. Ulfhild was married to a man named Guttorm, and him she sought to induce to betray Hadding. Guttorm let himself be prevailed on, and it was agreed that a retainer at a signal from him was to murder the king. Hadding, however, was warned anew in a dream, and in the nick of time the would-be traitor was struck down. Meanwhile the rumor had spread abroad that Hadding had been killed, and so Hunding in Sweden made ready a great funeral feast in his honour. A large quantity of mead was brewed and poured into a huge vat. As Hunding was about to see that all was as it should be, he stumbled into the vat and was drowned. When the news reached Hadding, he could think of only one fitting means of returning the honour Hunding had meant to show him; Hadding accordingly hanged himself in the sight of all the people.

  1. See p 164 f.
  2. See p 172

On Hadding

Page 211, line 19 — According to the investigations of Axel Olrik (Kilderne til Sakses old historie II, Copenhagen 1894, p. 1 ff.), the basis of Saxo's story was no doubt furnished by some Norse saga of antiquity (cf. p. 124), which again was probably embellished with certain legendary features (the journey to the nether world; the ride on Sleipnir in the company of Odin) but which clearly had for hero a Viking king. In all probability Hadding is to be: thought of (as was the case with Ragnar Lodbrok, p. 245) as an historical personage. By reason of the similarity in names it has been conjectured that he is to be identified with the great Viking chieftain Hasting, [1] who during the second half of the ninth century harried France. Olrik characterizes Hadding's saga as a "literary treatment of a religious problem (faith in Giants as against faith in the Æsir), like Orvarr-Odd's Saga and Fridthjof's Saga." "The crowing of the cock beyond Hell-Gate portends the victory of life over death; and it is this passage particularly that has borne the saga down through the Christian era."

[1] Hadding and Hasting cannot be the same name linguistically. Hasting is commonly identified with the Northern name Hásteinn. [347} Hadding's and Ragnhild's antiphonal chant is borrowed from a poem celebrating the deities Njord and Skadi (see p. 14). Vagnhofdi, Haflidi (Saxo's "Haphlius") and Hardgreip ("Harthgrepa") are mentioned in doggerel name-verses in Snorri's Edda.

The genealogical tables referring to the Haddings are those mentioned in the note to p. 165.

Frodi the Peaceful and his mill

King Frodi of Denmark was the son of Fridleif, who in turn was the son of Odin's son Skjold. During his minority the land was governed by twelve men of rank, with the brothers Koll and Vestmar at their head, but so badly governed that it sank into the utmost misery. The evil wife of Koll, Gautvor, abetted by his sons and Vestmar's sons, disturbed the peace of men's homes and of the court itself. Frodi was kept in a state of nonage; his own wife was tempted to unfaithfulness [212} by Vestmar's son Greip, who at the same time had the hardihood to pay court to the king's sister Gunnvor. Two brothers, Erik and Roll (Roller, Saxo's Rollerus) from Rennesey in Ryfylke), learning how badly things stood in Denmark, sought to use the occasion to gain power in the land. Sailing to Denmark in three ships, they first of all slew Odd, the captain of Frodi's fleet. Then Erik landed from one of the ships on the coast of Zealand, intending to spy on Frodi's court, and advanced inland with his brother Roll. Greip rode out to meet him and, as was his habit, overwhelmed him with terms of abuse; but Erik, being a wise man, gave him meet answer. When Greip realized that he was being worsted in the combat of words, he hastened home and erected a spite pole against Erik in order to keep him away. The pole, which was to be erected near a bridge, was surmounted by a horse's head. Erik, however, before leaving Norway had eaten of a magical dish, prepared by his stepmother Kraka, compounded of the venom of serpents; by this means he had become so sagacious as even to understand the language of beasts. Thus it was easy for him to conjure away the effect of Greip's witchcraft. He caused the horse's head to fall from the pole in such a manner as to bring about the death of the man who was carrying the pole. Erik now proceeded on his journey, even to the very court of Frodi, where he was received with all kinds of gross ribaldry, hootings, clamor, and insult; but he pretended to notice nothing at all. With him he carried a lump of ice, which he declared to be a present for the king; every [213} one supposed that it was a precious stone. He handed his gift across the fire to Koll; but as the king's man was about to take it, Erik craftily let it fall and then maintained that Koll had been careless enough to allow the gift to be lost in the flames. By way of punishment for his mistake, Koll was hanged. In ambiguous terms Erik now told the king all that had befallen him on the journey and ended his story by revealing the secret understanding between Greip and the queen. The queen confessed and begged for mercy. Greip attempted to thrust Erik through the body; Roll, however, anticipating his intent, killed Greip, who thus came to the end his evil deeds deserved. Greip's brothers challenged Erik to single combat, but by the aid of trickery he succeeded in killing them all; their mother Gautvor he defeated in a duel of words; and finally he laid Vestmar himself low in a wrestling match. When Erik through guile had induced Frodi to promise his sister's hand in marriage, Frodi came to the conclusion that matters were going too far, and so Erik found that there was nothing for him to do but to seek safety in flight; in advance, meanwhile, he had loosened certain planks in Frodi's ships. As the king set out in pursuit, his ships filled and sank; but Erik promptly came to the rescue and pulled him out of the water. Frodi at first felt so humbled by his misfortune and disgrace that he begged Erik to take his life; but Erik heartened him and, promising to devote all his wisdom to the service of the king, returned with him to the court. There Erik wedded Gunnvor; and Roll wedded the queen whom the king had put [214} away. Erik became the king's earl, cleansed the court of evil hangers-on, and restored order throughout the land. From this time forth, good fortune befell Frodi in all his undertakings: he became rich, mighty, and famous; he conquered the Slavs, the Russians, the Huns, the Britons, and the Irish, and subjugated the better part of Norway and Sweden. Advised by Erik, he made many excellent laws and saw that they were strictly enforced; above all, he rendered property inviolate, so that no man dared steal from another: on the heath of Jællinge in Jutland and on Frodi's Hill near Tunsberg hung gold rings that no one ventured to lay hands on. Being sated with strife, he proclaimed universal peace throughout his far-flung empire. This armistice, called the peace of Frodi, endured for thirty years. Our forefathers, who gave full credence to these legends, associated the Peace of Frodi with the Roman Peace of Augustus, and regarded it as a mark of divine providence that tranquility thus reigned both in the North and in the South at the birth of Christ.

Frodi was a good friend of king Fjolnir in Uppsala, the son of Frey. Once Frodi came as his friend's guest to a great banquet, where he bought two tall and strong bondwomen of Giant race, named Fenja and Menja; these he carried back with him to Denmark. Some time later Fjolnir visited Frodi and was received with the most lavish hospitality; but one night Fjolnir drank too much, fell into a huge tun of mead, and so met his death. Frodi set his bondwomen to grinding at a mill that had been given to him by a man named Hengikjopt. [215} The millstones were so heavy that no man in Denmark had the strength to turn them; but they had the capability of producing anything that might be required of them. Fenja and Menja alone were able to turn Grotti, for so the mill was called; they were therefore assigned the task of grinding out for the king gold, peace, and fair fortune. He allowed them to rest only so long as it took them to sing a song. When they had ground for a while, they sang the so-called Grotti Song, which still is preserved: in it they voiced the wish that Frodi might be set on and killed. And their wish was fulfilled. That selfsame night appeared the sea-king Mysing; he fell on Frodi, killed him, and so put an end to the Peace of Frodi. Mysing carried off with him Grotti and the two sisters. He at once put them to work at grinding salt, and they ground till the ships sank in Pentland Firth; ever since that time there has been a maelstrom where the sea rushes in and out through the hole in the millstone.

On Frodi the Peaceful and his mill

Page 215, line 19 — "In Northern legendary literature are two kings named Frodi, to each of whom the Peace of Frodi is indiscriminately referred. One of these holds a place at the head of the Scyldings and is distinguished particularly for his wealth; he grinds gold from a mill. The other comes later in the descent of the same royal family; the legends emphasize especially his legal codes and the wide extent of his realm. The Icelanders distinguish between them by calling the first Peace-Frodi, the second Frodi the Peaceable (in Danish he is known as Frode den fredgode: Frodi, friend of peace).

"In legendary tradition these two figures are constantly contending for the position of the true king of the Peace of Frodi. The Icelanders obviously choose the first, ascribing to him expressly the Peace of Frodi and as well the legend of lawful security; in accordance with this view Fróði hinn friðsami is assigned to a relatively low station. The sagas of the Norwegian littoral (as given by Saxo) have on the contrary declared just as expressly for the other king Frodi, and have made the first into a Viking king. Danish tradition, finally, has altogether obliterated the first king Frodi and knows only the second, hin frithgothœ.

"We can not do away with either of the kings Frodi; both are rulers of the golden age. It follows of necessity — there is but one golden age — that the two Frodis in reality are one and the same." (Axel Olrik, Danmarks heltedigtning I, p. 278 f.; the legend of Grotti is exhaustively treated in the same connection.)

It is in the aforesaid sagas of the Norwegian coast that we find the legend of Erik of Rennesey. From a saga of antiquity dealing with Erik (no doubt from the eleventh century) Saxo borrowed the circumstantial account which here is presented in an abbreviated form. In Norse sources Erik the Eloquent is mentioned in Flateyjarbók I, 25 and in Snorri's Edda I, 522; but these sources give no narrative account of him. Saxo tells that the [348} first Frodi strewed his food with finely ground gold. This detail clearly has some connection with the legend of Fenja and Menja, which is not to be found in Saxo.

The entire Grotti Song, one of the most superb lays of antiquity (doubtless dating from the tenth century), has come down to us in Snorri's Edda; the legend must have been well known, since gold is frequently referrgd to by the skalds as "Frodi's meal" or as the "Grist of Frodi's bondwomen."

The maelstrom in the Pentland Firth is in the old language called Svelgr (Orkneyinga Saga), a word still preserved in the form, "the Swelki ". In the Orkneys reminiscences still linger of the two bondwomen who turned the mill, there known as Grotti-Fenni and Grotti-Menni. The legend which explains how the sea became salt has borrowed motives from the widespread folk tale of the Wishing Mill (cf., for example, Asbjørnsen and Moe, Norske folkeeventyr, no. 50).


Many sources

Norse mythology, Norse stories, Peter Andreas Munch, Norse gods and heroes, P. A. Munch's Norse tales from the Eddas, etc, To top    Section     Set    Next

Norse mythology, Norse stories, Peter Andreas Munch, Norse gods and heroes, P. A. Munch's Norse tales from the Eddas, etc. User's Guide   ᴥ    Disclaimer 
© 2008–2019, Tormod Kinnes [Email]