HELGI HUNDINGSBANI IN HIS RELATION TO THE WOLFINGS, HUNDING, THE VÕLSUNGS, AND SIGRÚN - Page 2
In Wîd., 23 it is said that Mearchealf ruled over the Hundings. Can this Mearchealf be the same as Marculf? (17) Notker, of the monastery of St. Gallen, as early as the beginning of the eleventh century mentions Marcholfus as the opponent of Solomon in a word-combat, and Marcolf plays the same role later in Germany. This person was earlier thought of as an Oriental demon prince, and has his name from a Jewish idol Marcolis. In the AS poem Solomon and Saturn, of the ninth century, Saturn has taken his place as prince of the Chaldees. Among the lands in the East which this Saturn travelled through, Marculfes eard (II, 189), i.e. 'the home of Marculf,' (18) is mentioned as lying between Media and the kingdom of Saul.
If Mearchealf is the same as Marculf, then the author of Wîd. thought of the Hundings as a people far in the east. By the Hundingas were doubtless originally meant those who were unbelievers in Christianity; for 'a heathen hound' is an expression common among all Germanic peoples. Perhaps, then, we may conclude that a Frankish poem on Wolf-Theodoric mentioned as an opponent of that hero one Hunding, by which name the author designated a heathen king in the East.
Wolfdietrich has his historical prototype in the East-Gothic Theodoric. Theodoric, at the age of eighteen, overcame the Sarmatian King Babai. (19) Have we an echo of this battle in the statement of the ON poem that Helgi, when fifteen years old, killed Hunding?
The ON poem has, however, preserved no indication of the origin which I have suggested for Hunding. On the contrary, his home is placed in a land in or near Scandinavia. In the Irish saga, MacCon is a usurper in Ireland.
Saxo also states (Bk. II, p. 80), that Helgi killed Hunding, and that he got from this killing the surname Hundingsbani. This feature, therefore, seems to have been present in the common source of Saxo and the Eddic poems, which, in my opinion, was a Danish poem about Helgi composed in England. The connection of the Helgi stories with Hunding appears to be older than their connection with Sigmund, Sinfjötli, and Sigrún, of whom there is no trace in Saxo. The special form in which the fight with Hunding appears in Saxo seems to be very late. (20) But in making Hunding a king of the Saxons, Saxo seems to be relying on a story much older than his own time. His account of how Helgi, after capturing Jutland from the Saxons, appointed Eska, Ægir, and Ler to protect the land, certainly argues in favour of this view.
In one of the first sections of the Second Lay (II, 6, 8) the scene of Helgi's last fight with Hunding seems to be laid in the Jutish peninsula. But, in the present investigation, I shall not discuss further the first part of the Second Lay (Sts. 1-13). Such a discussion would necessarily include the stories of Helgi Haddingjaskati and Hrómundr Greipsson, and this would lead us too far away from the main questions before us. (21)
It was probably not long after Helgi had been identified with Wolf-Theodoric that Scandinavian poets in England brought him into connection with the story of the Völsungs; for, as I shall point out later, the stories of Wolfdietrich and Siegfried, as current among West-Germanic peoples, already had many points in common.
Helgi's men are called Völsungs, (24) so that the Lay of Helgi is called in the old MS. the Lay of the Völsungs. But Sigmund is a hero who belonged to West-Germanic saga in early times, and cannot originally have had anything to do with the historical Danish king Helgi. The Anglo-Saxons had associated Sinfjötli (AS Fitela) with Sigmund and given Sigmund the name Völsung (AS Wœlsing) even before the Sigmund story was united with that of Helgi. Neither the name Völsungs, nor, as we have seen, the character of Sinfjötli, had originally anything to do with an historical Danish king.
By making Helgi into a Völsung and a son of Sigmund, the old Norse poets succeeded in representing him as a king who already, by virtue of his race, was characterised as 'victorious'; for the Scandinavians believed that the Völsungs were loved above all others by Odin, the god of battle and victory. The members of this race bore names which suggest victory or superiority in battle. Their earliest ancestor was Odin's son Sigi or Siggi. The race culminated and ended in Sigurðr (Germ. Siegfried), who was regarded by the Norsemen as the greatest of all heroes. Sigmund was his father, and Sigmund's daughter was called Signý. The poet who made Helgi a son of Sigmund wished to suggest that he was comparable to the ideal hero Sigurth, though the latter is not mentioned in the poem.
The saga features which unite the stories of Helgi and Sigurth---the race name Wolfings, and Hunding---can all be best discussed when the Sigurth story is examined. Just as Helgi's feuds with the race of Hunding end with the fall of Hunding's sons, so also the father and grandfather of Sigurth Fáfnisbani are killed by Hunding's sons, whereupon Sigurth in revenge slays Hunding's son Lyngvi and his brothers. Nor shall I discuss here the saga features attached to Sigmund and Sinfjölti which we find in the Helgi lays and in the prose bit On Sinfjötle's Death; they will be treated later in a general investigation of the Scandinavian stories concerning these heroes.
Sigrún, who accompanies Helgi, was, in fact, no more associated with an historical Danish king Helgi than was Sigmund. She is represented by the author of the First Lay as Helgi's victory-genius, and is thus in our poem a Scandinavian Victoria. Just as Sigmund's name suggested 'victory,' so hers signified 'the victory-maiden,' and by bringing her into connection with Helgi, the poet had another means of characterising Helgi as the victorious king. Born of a foreign race and betrothed to a king hostile to Helgi, she nevertheless falls in love with the Danish king, whom she has never seen, hastens to his side, and protects him until he has conquered all his enemies and is in undisputed possession of the throne.
We have thus an example of an epic poem about an historical king which gradually gives up its historical character. In the process, its hero is brought into association with various historical persons, who came to be regarded as symbolical, and is finally idealised as the poetic representative of the Danish kings.
In the First Lay, Sigrún, with a company of maidens, rides through the air and over the sea, their birnies wet with blood and rays of light darting from their spears. In the storm she draws near from above and protects Helgi's ships. In the tumult of battle the maidens come from the heavens, whereupon Höthbrodd falls and Helgi is victor. Here Sigrún is half-divine. It is only her designation as 'daughter of Högni' that reminds us of her mortal birth. A cold, supernatural splendour surrounds the maiden whom Helgi wins by his victory.
The character of Sigrún as she appears in the First Helgi lay has been affected by various foreign influences. Let us first see what it owes to the Wolfdietrich story, to which, as we have seen, both Helgi lays (but especially the First) are indebted in several particulars. In German B, Wolfdietrich is married to Sigminne, who conveys him over the sea in a ship. She is transformed from the troll, Else the hairy, and corresponds to the mermaid in German A who rules over all which the sea covers. Something of this kind in the poem on Wolf-Theodoric which the Scandinavians learned to know in England, may have suggested Helgi's marriage to a supernatural woman, Sigrún, who rescues his ship in a storm and brings it into a safe harbour.
The name Sigminne is a compound like the MHG merminne, mermaid, waltminne, forest nymph. It means, therefore, 'a supernatural woman who brings victory.' The first part is identical with the first part of Sigrún, a name which means practically the same thing: 'a woman who possesses victory runes,' 'a woman who has wonderful powers of bringing victory in battle.' But the relations between Sigrún and Sigminne will appear more clearly when we discuss the story of Helgi, the son of Hjörvarth. I shall then try to explain why Sigrún, unlike Sigminne, is not transformed from a troll. Moreover, Sigrún has bonds of connection on many other sides. The Wolf-Theodoric story seems to have suggested little more than the indefinite motive that Helgi is helped by a supernatural woman who seeks and wins his love,---a woman who has power on the sea and influence over victory. We owe to other influences the definite presentation of Sigrún's character and the description of her surroundings.
We need not assume that the Sigrún of the First Lay was affected by the Roman Victoria, though the fundamental conception of the two is the same. Irish influence, however, is certain.
The Sigrún who comes to Helgi in the battle and wishes him good luck from Höthbrodd's death, declaring at the same time that he shall gain her as his wife, presupposes on the one hand the Sigrún of the Second Lay, who comes to her loved one, Helgi, on the battlefield, when Höthbrodd has got his death wound, and expresses her joy that she shall not become the latter's wife (II, 25). But, on the other hand, as I have pointed out above (p. 62), Sigrún and her maidens, who come from the heavens in the midst of the turmoil of battle, when spears are clashing and wolves rending the dead, have taken the place of the Irish battle goddesses (badba) who, according to the Irish story of the Destruction of Troy, hover about the heads of the warriors in the battle between the Greeks and the Trojans whilst spears whizz and warriors fall.
The appearance of the
beings called in the Irish stories, badb, pl. badba, betokened slaughter
in battle, or the death of a famous man. Lottner has already (25) compared the Celtic battle-goddesses and
the Scandinavian valkyries. He explains their resemblance as due not to
the fact that the Scandinavians and the Irish lived together in Ireland,
but to relations centuries before between the Celts and Germanic races
along the Rhine. I have, however, proved (chap. vi., above) that the presence
of these battle-goddesses in the Helgi lay shows the influence of Irish
literature on Scandinavian poetry.
17. After this was written, I saw the same suggestion in an article by Binz, in Sievers, Beit, XX, 221 f, who, however, rejects it on the ground, that the name Marculf (not Mearchealf) occurs in 'Solomon and Saturn.' But it is certainly not remarkable for a foreign name to be written in different ways (cf. Ger. Marolf, Morolf, alongside Marcolf). In Mid. Eng. there is a collection of proverbs which end with 'said Hendyng,' and in a prefatory strophe in one of the MSS. the latter is called Hendying, the son of Marcolf. Binz suggests that Hendyng possibly arose from Hunding. Back
18. See the Dialogue of Salomon and Saturnus, ed. J. M. Kemble, London, 1848; K. Hofmann in Sitzungberichte der Münchener Akad., 1871, pp. 418-433; Schaumberg in Paul-Braune, Beit., II, 52 ff; F. Vogt, Salman und Morolf: Einleitung. Back
19. Jordanes, Getica, chap. 55. Back
20. Olrik (Sakses Oldhist., II, 299 f) suggests that in Helgi's slaying Hunding at Stade (apud Stadium oppidum), i.e. Stade, just south of the Elbe, we have a feature which arose after 1201, when the border of the Danish kingdom was pushed forward to the Elbe, and when Strade is first named in the history of Denmark. Helgi's war with Hunding in Saxo belongs, according to Olrik, to a late type of stories of wars in which the Danish king goes over the Elbe and wins victories over the Saxons in their own land. To this type would belong the expeditions of Dan and of Frode, the son of Fridlef. It should be noted, however, that Stade is mentioned in the account of an expedition of Danish and Swedish Vikings into Saxony in 994, when the Saxons were defeated, Count Odo killed, and many Saxon princes captured. See urbem, quae littori vicina stabat STETHU nomine (Thietmar., Bk. IV, chap. 16; Pertz, III, 775); cf. Steenstrup, Normannerne, III, 224 f. Back
21. There are many other Danish saga heroes of the name Hunding. See Saxo, ed. Müller, pp. 59 ff, 68, 79, 350, 362; Olrik, Sakses Oldhist., II, 10 f; II, 250; cf. also Fornaldarsögur, III, 483, 486 ff. In Flaty., I, 22 = Fornaldss., II, 4, Norr kills two kings in that land which was later called Noregr. The names of these two kings, Hundingr and Hemingr, seem to be taken from the beginning of H. H., II. Back
22. H. H., I, 6; I, II; II, 12; II, 15; II, 50. Back
23. H. H., I, 8; cf. I, 33, and 37; also II, 23. Back
24. H. H., I, 52; prose bits in H. H., II. Back
25. Rev. Celt., I, 55-57; see I, 38 ff. Back