The Northern Way

Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer


AS 'Kinship's Vengeance' follows the Northern tradition, so 'Grimild's Revenge' follows the German-is based, that is to say, on the popular songs which formed the foundation for the 'Niebelungen Lied.' That these were familiar in Denmark during, and doubtless long before, the life-time of Saxo Grammaticus, who wrote between 1170-1202, appears from his story ('Gesta Danorum,' Bk. XII) of Knud Lavard, to whom a minstrel conveyed warning of treachery by singing the 'well-known' song of Krimhild's vengeance on her brethren. (1) (Hungarian Ballads on the same theme are mentioned by a twelfth-century Hungarian historian.)

* The "A. S. Vedel's recension of two earlier MSS." appear to be "Den første Vise om Frue Grimild, oc Heldt Hogen[the first lay of dame Grimild and hero Hogen]" (43 verses) and "Den anden Vise om Frue Grimild, og hendis Brødre[the second lay of dame Grimild and her brothers]," (37 verses) to produce the translation (41 verses). Both poems are included in Vedel'sHundredevisebog["Book of Hundred Ballads](1591)

I have translated A. S. Vedel's recension of two earlier MSS., because, taken as a whole, it combines the best features of both; though it is difficult to imagine why he omits the Dream of Hogen's mother, whence, in Version A, she draws the significant moral 'Thy sister will betray thee.' (The warning in B is merely general, of 'scathe for many men.') In matters of restoration, however, Vedel, like Walter Scott and some others, had an elastic conscience; and, being apparently much intrigued by the 'Hvenske Chronicle'-a rifacimento of popular German legends-he al-

1. A twelfth-century Latin life of Knud gives a different version of the story, the warning being conveyed by allusion to a parricide (unnamed). v. 'Abhandlung der Königliche Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen; 1860,' Vol. VIII, Hiso, Phil. Klasse, p. 30.


tered hedenske to Hvenske throughout, and localized the story on the Island of Hveen. The detailed account of his methods, as of the 'Chronicle' itself, should be studied in Dg.F [*Danmarks Gamle Folkeviser], Vol. I.

Far from brilliant, poetically speaking, this Ballad affords much fine confused illustration of popular medieval dealing with Heroes; Folkvor Spillemand, for instance.

Far from brilliant, poetically speaking, this Ballad affords much fine confused illustration of popular medieval dealing with Heroes; Folkvor Spillemand, for instance.

Folkvor Spillemand (possibly Volkêr d'Alzei, a Burgundian court-minstrel, whose coat-of-arms bore a 'viol') (1) plays a conspicuous part both in the Didrik Cycle and in the Niebelungen Lied. Compare with v. 32:

" Volker the battle-eager from his place at the table sprang;
His viol-bow was his war-glaive, and loud in the hands it rang
Of that valiant minstrel of Gunther. . . . (2)


'Ha, how were the helmets cloven by the arm of Volker the Strong!
To the clash of that deadly music King Gunther turned him about:
Hear'st thou the tunes, oh Hagen, that Volker beateth out
On the heads of the Huns? . . .

Hogen in version A represents himself as having fought before Troy-a performance which shames

1. See, however, H. Lich, p. 78.
2. 'The Lay of the Niblung Men,' trans. by Arthur S. Way, D. Litt. (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1911), p. 269.


George IV's conviction that he had taken part in the battle of Waterloo. Yet, as Professor Arthur G. Brodeur has kindly pointed out, Ekkehard, in his 'Waltharius,' refers to Hogen as 'of Trojan seed'; while Holz thinks that the epithet 'Van Tronje,' applied to Hagen in N.L., is a confused reminiscence of a tradition associating him with Troy-or New Troy (Hirchheim). (1)

On the delicate question as to how far 'Grimild's Revenge' may be indebted to the Faroëse 'Høgni' Ballad, or vice versâ, each student can form his own opinion. Direct borrowing, on one side or the other, there may have been-must have been, in the case of the 'Mermaid' verses. But when we come to the Storm, so full in the Faroëse version of vivid sea-faring detail, so amateurish and commonplace in the Danish, let us remember that the Ballad convention was a ready-made garment; and that, given certain traditional incidents, together with the exigencies of metre and rhyme in two languages closely allied, a certain superficial resemblance is more easily accounted for than so marked a difference in workmanship. Each minstrel, I would submit, took his storm and worked it out independently.

1. op. cit., p. 274


IT was proud Dame Grimild,
Bade blend the foaming mead,
& she's sent to the knights of every land,
& bidden them come with speed.
She's bidden them come, & tarry not
For truce nor yet for strife;
& therefore young Hero Hogen
Must needs lay down his life.
It was Hero Hogen
Fared forth along the strand,
& there he met the Ferryman
All on the snow-white strand.
" All hail to thee, thou Ferryman!
Now row me o'er the sound,
& I will give thee this golden ring,
Weigheth full fifteen pound. "
" I will not ferry thee o'er the sound
For all thy gold so red,
For, an thou come to Hvenild's land,
Shalt thou be stricken dead. "
It was Hero Hogen
That drew his sword amain,
It was the caitiff Ferryman (1)
Whose neck he hewed in twain.

1. caitiff = cowardly and despicable person.


The golden ring from his arm he's given
Unto the weeping wife:
" Now take in friendship this gift from me
All for thy husband's life. "
It was Hero Hogen
Fared forth along the strand,
& there he met a Mermaiden
All on the snow-white sand.
" All hail, thou merry Mermaiden,
Well-learned in secret lore!
An I go forth to Hvenild' s land,
Shall I return once more? "
" Full many a castle fair hast thou,
& store of gold so red,
But, an thou go to Hvenild's land,
Shalt thou be stricken dead! "
It was Hero Hogen
That drew his sword amain,
It was the beldame Mermaid
Whose neck he hewed in twain.
The bloody head he's taken,
& hurled forth into the sound;
The corse he cast thereafter,
& both sank down to ground.
Sir Grimmer & Sir Germer
They push away from shore;
Wild the storm-wind waxes,
& loud the billows roar.


Wild the storm-wind waxes,
& loud the billows thunder;
The oars of iron in Hogen's hand
Were reft & riven asunder.
The oars were riven asunder
In Hero Hogen's hand,
But with their gilded shield-rims
They steered the ship to land.
Now when to shore 'they came once more
They scoured their brands so bright;
& there stood a stately maiden
That looked upon the sight.
O slim and small her body
As lily-wand to see,
And ever the gait of her going
Was a maiden's fair and free.
And when they came to Nørberg
They stood the hold before:
'Where is the courteous porter
Should ope for us the door? "
" Now here am I, the porter
Keeps watch & ward so true;
Fain would I do thine errand
An I thine errand knew. "
Oh we are come hither from Tyde-Iand
(Soothly I speak with thee),
Dame Grimild is our sister dear,
& brethren twain are we. "

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