THE ACCOUNT OF HELGI HUNDINGSBANI IN ITS RELATION TO ANGLO-SAXON EPICS - Page 2
We may add that in Béow., 498 ff, we have also a word-combat (between Unferth and Béowulf); and that the situation in the Helgi lay, when Guthmund asks what king it is who comes with a fleet to his land, resembles closely the situation in Béow., 237 ff, where the Géats, who have come with their ships to Denmark, are questioned as to their nationality by the watchers on the strand.
Höthbrodd's appearance in the Helgi lay instead of the Heathobards is but one part of the transformation which the whole work underwent at the same time. It gave up its historical point of view and became a poem which dealt with a single ideal personality. This personality is Helgi, the ideal Danish king, who now stands alone, the other kings of Halfdan's race, named in the older English poem, having disappeared from the story.
I have already explained the designation of Höthbrodd as 'the slayer of Ísung' (H. H., I), as a poetic phrase indicating that Höthbrodd had led a devastating expedition into the Isefjord. This agrees, as we can now see, with the statement in Béowulf, that the Heathobards attacked the Danish royal seat.
We perceive also that Granmar, as a name for Höthbrodd's father, is not historical. Possibly Granmarr was invented by the poet to designate the old king, being formed from gránn, (11) 'grey.' Granmarr, 'the grey one,' may, indeed, be a translation of Frôda, which is the name in the AS poem of the old king of the Heathobards, the father of Ingeld; for AS frôd may mean 'old.'
The fact that, of all the Shieldings, it was Helgi, and not Hrólf (Hrôthulf) or Hroar (Hrôthgâr), who in the Scandinavian heroic story developed in England became the ideal representative of the Danish kings, may possibly be partly due to his name, which designates the man who, being consecrated to the gods, is inviolable.
King Starkaðr is mentioned in H. H., II, 27, among those who fall on the side of Granmar's sons; and from the prose bit between 13 and 14 we learn that he is Höthbrodd's brother. In the poem he is called 'the fiercest of kings, whose body fought after the head was off.' (12)
Svend Grundtvig (13) has already compared this feature with what Saxo tells of the giant Starkath, whose head bit the grass after having been hewn off. But the connection between the two Starkaths is closer than he supposed.
In Scandinavia the old warrior Starkath is represented as King Ingjald's foster-father, who induces Ingjald to repudiate his wife, a woman of a hostile race, and to revenge his father's death. But it was long ago pointed out that this Starkath of the Scandinavian Ingjald-story corresponds to the 'old (spear-armed) warrior' (æsc-wiga) who, in Béow., incites Ingeld, king of the Heathobards, to revenge his father's death on the Danes, whose king is his wife's father. (14) The king Ingjald, or Ingeld, to whom Starkath is attached as champion, was thus originally king of the Heathobards. If, now, we look at the Helgi lay, we find that Starkath is there called a brother of Höthbrodd, the representative of the Heathobards. Since both of these Starkaths are thus Heathobards, there can be no doubt that they are one and the same heroic personage. The fact that the Starkath of the Helgi lay is a king (a point in which particular the poem does not agree with the original story) is doubtless due to the introduction of the eponymous King Höthbrodd instead of the Heathobard people and historical kings.
It should be mentioned also that just as Starkath in the Helgi lay is called grimmúðgastr, 'the fiercest,' 'he who was most grim-minded,' so in Béow. the same quality is ascribed to the old warrior, the same adjective being used: him bið grim sefa, 2043, 'his mind is grim.' We may even detect a corresponding epithet in the ferocitas animi which Saxo ascribes to the old warrior Starkath. In using this epithet, then, the Helgi lay follows some older poem.
Since the old warrior who, in Béow., corresponds to Starkath in Scandinavian story induces the Heathobards to break the peace with the Danes, it is entirely in accordance with poetic justice that Starkath in the Second Lay should fall in the fight in which Helgi the representative of the Danish kings, vanquishes Höthbrodd, the representative of the Heathobards.
The name Starkaðr, Störkoðr, arose from *Starkhöðr. The last part of this name is the same as the first part of Höðbroddr, AS Heaðobeardan. Remembering that in Béow., alongside of the name of the people called Wedergéatas, occurs with the same meaning the shortened form gen. Wedera; that the Anglo-Saxons used gen. Hræda, Hrêða, synonymous with Hrædgotan, Hrêðgotan; and that in Latin works Visi, sing. Vesus, is used as synonymous with Wisigothae, we may conclude that *Stark-höðr was first intended to mean 'the strong Heathobard.'
Starkath is not, therefore, as Svend Grundtvig and Müllenhoff thought, an abstraction who arose at the close of heathen times. The story about him is not originally Swedish but Danish. Danish epic poetry invented Starkath in order to express in his person the qualities which the Danes ascribed to the veterans of their hereditary enemies, 'the warlike Bards,'---gigantic strength, love of fighting, grimness, faithlessness. From the very outset, therefore, Starkath was described as an old warrior who went about alone from land to land, waged war as a business, and was well known everywhere.
The origin of this figure in epic story goes back to a time when the Danes had not yet ceased to think of 'the warlike Bards' as a people different from themselves, ---to a time, indeed, when Danish epic poets regarded them as the people who long had been the most dangerous enemies of their land. At a later date Starkath, like Ingeld, was made over into a Dane, and new attributes were given to this saga-figure. Like Ragnar Lothbrók among the Norsemen, Ossian (Ossín) among the Scots, and other poets among other peoples, so Starkath has gained a reputation as a poet on the basis of the verses which later writers have put into his mouth. Even in Béowulf the old warrior is made to hold a discourse.
The ON story was the first to associate with him his grandfather, the giant Störkoðr Álodrengr, who arose under the influence of the Aloid Otus (Wtoj), brother of Ephialtes.
The name Heaðobeardan, 'the warlike Bards,' agrees with Bardi, which Helmold (a German chronicler of the second half of the twelfth century) gives as the name of a warlike nation who occupied the city Bardanwîc (Bardewic, near Lüneborg), and whose land was called Bardangâ.
It is the received opinion that these Bards (15) near Lüneborg where Langobards who had remained in their old settlements. The Langobards, who were akin to the Angles and Frisians, dwelt in the beginning of our era on the west side of the Elbe, south of the Chauks and east of the Angrivarians, so that, according to Zeuss, their land reached almost as far north as the present Hamburg, and in the south-east about to the borders of Altmark. (16) Even in the oldest times they are described as extremely warlike. (17) The Langobards are sometimes called Bardi in Latin poems.
Müllenhoff, (18) in opposition to the view accepted by most scholars, holds that the Heaðobeardan of Béow. cannot be identical with the Bards in Bardengau (since the latter could not as Vikings attack the Danes in their royal seat) or with the Langobards, for that people, as early as the end of the fifth century, had reached the Danube at a point midway in its course, and had soon after passed over into Pannonia. He makes the ingenious and attractive suggestion that the Heathobards are the same people as the Erulians. Jordanes (chap. 3) tells that the Danes, who came from Skaane, drove the Erulians from the dwellings which the latter had previously occupied. This expulsion must have taken place a good while before 513. Müllenhoff identifies it with the decisive victory of the Danes over the Heathobards, which appears to have taken place about the same time; and to this victory, he contends, the Danish kingdom owed its foundation.
Several important considerations, however, appear to show that Müllenhoff's idea cannot be accepted as correct throughout. In the first place, the name Heaðobeardan, or 'warlike Bards,' is in entire agreement with that of the Bards and Langobards, while there is nothing whatever to support the supposition that the Erulians were called by that name. This objection is fundamental; until it is overthrown, the Heaðobeardan cannot be explained as identical with the Erulians. Secondly, the Heathobards are not represented in Béow. as having previously dwelt in that land which the Danes later occupied, nor is the Danish kingdom represented as first established by the expulsion of the Heathobards. Thirdly, the story of Höthbrodd seems to make against Müllenhoff's theory. Höthbrodd, as I have tried to show, is a representative of the kings of the Heathobards. Now, the author of the First Helgi lay imagines Höthbrodd's royal seat as on the southwestern shore of the Baltic; and this idea does not seem (for reasons given above) to have originated in the poem composed about 1020-1035 by a Norse poet, who had sojourned at the court of the king of Dublin, but rather in a somewhat older poem, composed in England by a Dane.
I venture, then, to suggest another explanation. But I offer it as a conjecture merely; for I am well aware that while Béowulf is not strictly an historical source as regards events in and near Denmark about the year 500, the Helgi lays and Saxo are much less to be relied on for historical information as to that time.
The emigration of the Langobards appears to have begun in the third or fourth century. According to a tradition preserved among them, they set out as Vinils from Scadanau (Skaane), and came first to Scoringa, the coast-land south of the Baltic, where they fought with the Vandals, and then went on to Mauringa in the eastern part of Germania. (19) From Latin authorities we learn that they reached the Danube about midway in its course ca. 487, and that in the first half of the sixth century they crossed this river and marched into Pannonia. There is no mention of Slavs in our narratives of the Langobard emigration. From this account, in which I have followed Müllenhoff closely, we see that the Langobards, at any rate as late as in the end of the fourth century, lived on the coast of the Baltic west of the Oder. Since their own traditions speak of their connection with Skaane and the Ocean, we may feel certain that they were at that time a seafaring people. And since they are described as being more pugnacious and warlike than their neighbours, we may infer that the Langobards of the end of the fourth century acted exactly as the Heathobards of about the year 500 are said to have acted----making piratical expeditions against the Danes as well as other peoples. 'The warlike Bards' were doubtless, even at that time, dangerous enemies of the Danes.
In the fifth century the Erulians from the other side of the sea journeyed southwards. One section set out in 513 (after the Erulians were conquered by the Langobards) from 'the Sclavenians,' near the Carpathian Mountains, northwards, travelled through many desert regions, then to the Varns, who dwelt near the northern ocean, and still further on past the Danes to the Gauts.
Yet from all that is told us, we cannot, I believe, infer that no Langobards remained on the coast of the Baltic. From the information given us by Latin historians, we might equally well conclude that they deserted completely their old dwellings on the west side of the Elbe; but we find the Bards as a warlike people in those parts even in the Middle Ages. Why, then may not some of the Langobards have remained on the coast of the Baltic until the beginning of the sixth century? These lands doubtless did not become completely Slavic before the end of that century, and Müllenhoff himself thinks that the Slavs in their advance towards the west met with scattered Germanic races everywhere. Of course, we may suppose that about the year 500 there were remnants of other Germanic races left behind on the coast of the Baltic between the Elbe and the Oder. But, since the Bards were the most warlike of all, it is probable that they led the expeditions in which the other races on the coast of the Baltic took part, so that the Scandinavians, who were exposed to their Viking expeditions, could use Bards as a general term for all concerned in them. It may also be thought probable that the Erulians, who do not seem to have belonged to the North Germanic races, waged war occasionally, before they journeyed south, against the Danes in conjunction with the Bards living on the coast of the Baltic, and under their leadership. Thus the author of Béow. could unite under the name of 'warlike Bards' the enemies of the Danes, both south of the Baltic and further north, on the one hand the Langobards, on the other the Erulians. Müllenhoff's theory, then, that the Heathobards of Béow. are the Erulians, may be partly---but only partly---correct. In the time, however, of which the AS peom gives us information, the Erulians can hardly have been dwelling in Zealand. (20)
In both the First and Second Helgi lay, Sigrún, Högni's daughter, is called a 'southern' (suðrœn) maiden. Doubtless in ancient times the story placed the home of her father Högni south of Denmark. In the oldest reference to this saga-hero, in Wîdsîð, 21, we read: Hagena [wéold] Holmrygum, 'Hagena ruled over the Holmryge'; and these Holmryge are the Ulmerugi spoken of by Jordanes, i.e., the tribe called Ryge, on the 'Holms' (islets) at the mouth of the Weichsel.
Saxo makes Högni a Danish
king. It is the same personage whom Snorri mentions in the Ynglingasaga:
viz. Högni, Hild's father, king of East Gautland, whose daughter is married
to Granmar, king of Sødermanland; but the reference to Sweden is based
on an Old Norse combination of later origin.
11. The long á may have been shortened in Granmarr, as e.g. Icel. Runólfr from rún. Back
12. Þann sá ek gylfa / grimmúðgastan, / er barðisk bolr, / var á braut höfuð. Back
13. In Heroiske Digtning, p. 71. See Saxo, ed. Müller, Bk. VIII, p. 406. On Starkath's death, cf. Olrik, Sakses Oldhist., II, 226 ff. Back
14. See e.g. Müllenhoff, D. Alt., V, 316; Olrik, Sakses Oldhist., II, 222. Back
15. Kluge (Paul's Grundriss, I, 782), and Bruckner (Die Sprache der Langobarden, p. 32), compare the English place-names Beardanêg, Beardingaléah, Bardingaford. Back
16. Zeuss, Die Deutschen, pp. 109-112; Grimm, Gesch. d. d. Spr. 1, 682 ff. Back
17. Langobardi gens etiam Germana feritate ferocior, Velleius, II, 106. Langobardi......proeliis ac periclitando tuti sunt, Tacitus, Germania, chap. 40. Back
18. Béowulf, pp. 31 ff. Back
19. See Müllenhoff, Deut. Alt., II, 97 f. Munch disagrees; see Sievers's Beit., XVII, 124. Back
20. Binz in Sievers, Beit., XX, 174, says: 'die Heathobarden......werden, wie doch ihr name vermuten lässt, ein mit den Langobarden verwanter, ingväischer, auf den später dänischen inseln der Ostsee sesshafter stamm, also nachbarn der Angelsachsen gewesen sein.' L. Schmidt (Zur Gesch. der Langobarden, Leipzig, 1885, pp. 34 and 44, note) thinks that the similarity of names proves the identity of the Heathobards and the Langobards. Back