The Northern Way

Grimm's Teutonic Mythology

Chapter 32

Chapter 32

(Page 1)


An idea specially characteristic of our mythology is that of Entrückung (removal), which, while extending to the subjects of the foregoing chapter, has a wider range besides.

Verwünschen (ill-wishing) is the uttering of a curse or ban, maledicere, diris devovere, Goth. fraquiþan, OHG. farwâzan, MHG. verwâzen; as I do not find verwünschen in our older speech, I explain it simply as the opposite of wünschen (fausta apprecari), and refrain from supposing in it a reference to the old 'wunsch,' the perfection of felicity. (1)

This banning differs from metamorphosis, inasmuch as it does not transform, but rather throws a spell upon things in their natural shape, only removing them into a new position; thoughcommon parlance calls whatever is transformed 'verwünscht' (banned). Further, what is metamorphosed remains, till the moment of its emancipation, in the new shape given it, visible to all eyes, e.g. the stone or tree into which a man has been changed; whereas, when a thing is banned, in the sense in which I use the word, it seems to me essential that it be withdrawn from our senses, and only re-appear from time to time, and then in the same shape as before. In other words: what is metamorphosed remains corporeal, what is banned becomes imperceptible, and can only on certain conditions become corporeal again, in the same way as invisible spirits can at will assume grosser material shapes. Vanishing (2) is therefore voluntary translation (to another sphere), a prerogative of gods (p. 325) and spirits, also of some heroes that are possessed of a magic mask (grîma) or concealing helmet; translated men are spirit-like, and another expression for it is: 'they sleep,' they only wake from time to time (3) (see Suppl.).

And not only persons, but things, are translatable. Persons that vanish and re-appear are precisely in the condition of the spectres dealt with in the last chapter: just as souls of dead men there got identified with heroes and gods, so here we come upon the same gods and heroes again. Vanished gods get confounded with enchanted spell-bound heroes.

With our people a favourite mode of representing translation is to shut up the enchanted inside a mountain, the earth, so to speak, letting herself be opened to receive them. (4) More than one idea may be at work here together: motherly earth hides the dead in her bosom, and the world of souls is an underground world; elves and dwarfs are imagined living inside mountains, not so much in the depths of the earth as in hills and rocks that rise above the level ground; but popular forms of cursing choose all manner of phrases to express the very lowest abyss. (5) The Swed. bergtagen (taken into mountain) means sunken, bergtagning translation, Sv. visor 1, 1. Afz. 1, 28. 33. In Asbiörnsen and Moe no. 38 'indtagen I bierget;' and Faye 35-6 quotes striking instances of this 'indtages I höie og fjelde,' being taken into height and fell. ON. gânga inn î fiallit, Nialss. cap. 14. 135 (see Suppl.).

We understand now, why frau Holda, frau Venus and their following dwell in mountains: they are sequestered there, till the time come for holding their progress among men. So live Wôdan and king Charles in the Odenberg.

Here and there a man has gained entrance into such mountains; Tanhäuser sojourned many years at the court of Venus. A blacksmith was looking in the underwood on the Odenberg for a hawthorn to make his hammer-helve, when suddenly he saw a gap he had never noticed before in the face of the cliff; he stept in, and stood in a new world of wonders. Strong men were bowling balls of iron, they challenged him to play, but he declined, the iron balls, he said, were too heavy for his hand. The men were not offended, they told him to choose what present he would have. He begged for one of their balls, took it home, and put it among his stock of iron. Afterwards, wanting to work it, he made it red hot, but it burst in pieces on the anvil, and every piece was sheer gold. (6) He never again found the opening in the Odenberg; he had happened that time to hit the day when it stands open to men, as it does on certain days of the year to Sunday children. They see an old man with a long beard, holding in his hand a metal goblet (as Charles in Romance epic always has the epithet 'a la barbe florie,' and Oðinn too was called Lângbarðr, Harbarðr, Sîðskeggr). Inside the mountain they have presents given them, as in the Kifhäuser.

In the Guckenberg (7) near Fränkischgemünden, a kaiser disappeared with all his army a long time ago; but when his beard has grown tree times round the table at which he sits, he will come out again with all his men. Once a poor boy, who went about the neighbourhood selling rolls, met an old man on the mountain, and complained that he could not sell much. 'I will shew thee a place,' said the man, 'where thou canst bring thy rolls every day, but thou must tell no man thereof.' He then led the boy into the mountain, where there was plenty of life and bustle, people buying and selling; the kaiser himself sat at a table, and his beard had grown twice round it. The lad now brought his rolls there every day, and was paid in ancient coin, which at last the people in his village would not take; they pressed him to tell how he came by it, then he confessed all that had taken place. Next day, when he wished to go into the mountain, he could not so much as see it, let alone find the entrace (Mone's Anz. 4. 409, and thence in Bechst. Fränk. sag. p. 103). So between Nürnberg and Fürt stands kaiser Carls berg, out of which a similar tale is told about carrying bread; in a vaulted chamber the baker's boy saw men in armour sitting (Mone's Anz. 5, 174).

In Westphalia, between Lübbecke and Holzhausen, above Mehnen village on the Weser, stands a hill called die Babilonie, (8) in which Wedekind (Weking) sits enchanted, waiting till his time come; favoured ones who find the entrance are dismissed with gifts (Redeker's Westf. sag. no. 21).

An older myth is preserved in the Chron. ursbergense (Auersperg) ad an. 1223 (Pertz 8, 261): In pago Wormaciensi videbantur per aliquot dies non modica et armata multitudo equitum euntium et redeuntium, et quasi ad placitum colloquium nunc hic nunc illic turbas facere, circa nonam vero horam cuidam monti, quo et exiisse videbantur, se reddere. Tandem quidam de incolis regionis illius, non sine magno timore hujusmodi tam prodigiosae concioni, crucis signaculo munitus appropinquat. Mox quandam ex illis occurrentem sibi personam per nomen omnipotentis Domini nostri, manifestare causam populi qui sic apparuerit, adjurat. Cui ille inter cetera 'Non sumus' inquit, 'ut putatis, fantasmata, nec militum, ut vobis cernimur, turba, sed animae militum interfectorum, arma vero et habitus et equi, quia nobis prius fuerant instrumenta peccandi, nunc nobis sunt materia tormenti, et vere totum ignitum est quod in nobis cernitis, quamvis id vos corporalibus oculis discernere non possitis.' In hujusmodi comitatu dicitur etiam Emicho comes ante paucos annos (an. 1117) occisus apparuisse, et ab hac poena orationibus et eleemosynis se posse redimi docuisse.' Donnersberg, Tonnerre (p. 170) was then in the Wormazfeld, it must therefore be the mountain in and out of which the ancient ghosts kept riding: souls of fallen and resuscitated heroes (p. 940), but by the christian eye seen here in hell-fire.

In the old mountain castle of Geroldseck Siegfried and other heroes are supposed to dwell, and thence they will appear to the German nation in its time of utmost need, Deut. sag. no. 21. A cleft in a rock by the L. of Lucerne, some say on the Grütli, holds in sleep the three founders of the Swiss Federation; they will wake when their country wants them, ibid. no. 297. At the Kifhäuser in Thuringia sleeps Frederic Barbarossa: he sits at a round stone table, resting his head on his hand, nodding, with blinking eyes; his beard grows round the table, it has already made the circuit twice, and when it has grown round the third time, the king will awake. On coming out he will hang his shield on a withered tree, which will break into leaf, and a better time will dawn. Yet some have seen him awake: a shepherd having piped a lay that pleased him well, Frederick asked him: 'fly the ravens round the mountain still?' the shepherd said yes: 'then I must sleep another 100 years.' (9) The shepherd was led into the king's armoury, and presented with the stand of a handbasin, which the goldsmith found to be sheer gold (ib. nos. 23. 296). (10) Others make Frederick sit in a cave of the rock near Kaiserslautern (ib. no. 295), or at Trifels by Anweiler, or else in the Unterberg near Salzburg (ib. no. 28), though some put Charles the Great here, or Charles V.; the growing of the beard round the table is related just the same. When the beard has for the third time reached the last corner of the table, the end of the world begins, a bloody battle is fought on the Walserfeld, Antichrist appears, the angel-trumpets peal, and the Last of Days has dawned. The Walserfeld has a withered tree, which has been cut down three times, but its root has always sprouted and grown into a perfect tree again. When next it begins to leaf, the terrible fight is near, and will open when the tree bears fruit. Then shall Frederick hang his shield on the tree, all men shall flock to it, and make such a slaughter that the blood will run into the warriors' shoes, and the wicked men be slain by the righteous (ib. nos. 24. 28). In this remarkable tradition may be recognised things old and very old.---A religious poem of the 16th cent. (Gräter's Odina p. 197) speaks of duke Frederick, who is to win back the H. Sepulchre, and hang his shield on a leafless tree; and Antechriste is brought in too.---A fragment of an older lay of the 14th cent. (Cod. Pal. 844) says of Emp. Frederick: 'An dem gejaid er verschwant (in the hunt he disappeared), das man den edeln keiser her sind gesach (saw) nyemer mer; also ward der hochgeporn keiser Friederich do verlorn. Wo er darnach ye hin kam, oder ob er den end da nam, das kund nyemand gesagen mir, oder ob yne die wilden tir (beasts) vressen habn oder zerissen (eaten or torn), es en kan die warheit nyemand wissen, oder ob er noch lebendig sy (be yet alive), (11) der gewiszen sin wir fry und der rechten warheit; iedoch ist uns geseit von pawren (yet we are told by peasants) solh mer, das er als ein waler (pilgrim) sich oft by yne hab lassen sehen (seen by them) und hab yne offenlich verjehen (declared), er süll noch gewaltig werden (he should yet become master) aller römischen erden, er süll noch die pfaffen storen, und er woll noch nicht uf horen, noch mit nichten lassen abe, nur er pring (nor rest till he bring) das heilige grabe und darzu das heilig lant wieder in der Christen hant, und wol sine schildes last hahen an den dorren ast (his shield's weight hang on the withered bough); das ich das für ein warheit sag, das die pauren haben geseit, das nym ich mich nicht an, wan ich sin nicht gesehen han, ich han es auch zu kein stunden noch nyndert geschribn funden, was das ichs gehort han van den alten pauren an wan.'---A poem of about 1350 (Aretin's Beitr. 9, 1134) says: 'So wirt das vrlewg also gross (war so great), nymand kan ez gestillen, so kumpt sich kayser Fridrich der her (high) vnd auch der milt, er vert dort her durch Gotes willen, an einen dürren pawm (withered tree) so henkt er seinen schilt, so wirt die vart hin uber mer ………er vert dort hin zum dürren pawm an alles widerhap, dar an so henkt er seinen schilt, er grunet unde pirt (bears): so wirt gewun daz heilig grap, daz nymmer swert darup gezogen wirt.'---Again, in Sibylle's prophecy, composed in German rhyme soon after the middle of the 14th cent.; 'Es kumet noch dar zuo wol, das Got ein keiser geben sol, den hat er behalten in siner gewalt und git (gives) im kraft manigvalt, er wirt genant Fridrich, der usserwelte fürste rich, vnd sament daz Christen volgan sich vnd gewinnet daz helge grap uber mer, do stat ein dor boum vnd ist gros, vnd sol so lange stan blos, bicz der keiser Fridrich dar an sinen schilt gehenken mag vnd kan, so wirt der boum wieder gruen gar, noch kument aber guete jar, vnd wirt in aller der welt wol stan, der Heiden glouben muos gar zergan' (Wackern. Basel MSS. p. 55). (12)

That the common people disbelieved the death of Emp. Frederick, and expected him to come back, is plain from the passages which expressly refer to 'old peasants'; it had most likely been the same in the preceding (13th ) cent., and was long after. Impostors took advantage of the general delusion; one chronicle (Böhmer 1, 14) relates: 'Ecce quidam truphator surrexit in medium, qui dixit se esse Fridericum quondam imperatorem, quod de se multis intersignis et quibusdam prestigiis scire volentibus comprobavit.' King Rudolf had him burnt on a pile in 1285. Yet Detmar has under the year 1287: 'By der tid quam to Lubeke en olt man, de sprak, he were keiser Vrederic, de vordrevene. Deme beghunden erst de boven (lads) und dat mene volk to horende sines tusches (fraud), unde deden eme ere (honour). He lovede en (promised them) grote gnade, oft he weder queme an sin rike; he wart up eneme schonen rosse voret de stat umme to beschowende....darna cortliken (shortly after) quam de man van steden, dat nenman wiste, wor he hennen vor (fared). Seder (later) quam de mer (news), dat bi deme Rine en troner (trickster) were, de in dersulven wise de lude bedroch, de ward dar brand in ener kopen.' A more exact account in Ottocar cap. 321-6, and the chron. in Pez 1, 1104. The legend may also confound the two Fredericks, I and II (see Suppl.). (13)

As Charle's white beard points to Wuotan, so does Frederick's red to Donar, and the like mythic meaning has been put on Olaf's red beard (p. 548) in Norway.

Frederick Redbeard in the Kifhäuser and Unterberg, Charles Longbeard in the Unterberg and Odenberg, Holda in the Horselberg, all express one mythic idea, but with a different story tacked to it in every case. Charles fights a stupendous battle, and is then gathered up in the Odenberg, whence he will issue one day to new war and victory. Frederick is coming out of the Unterberg to fight such a battle. In the 13-14-15th centuries the people associated with it the recovery of the H. Sepulchre: the heroes of Odenberg and Kifhäuser have no such purpose set before them. The older programme is, that upon their awakening comes the great world-battle, and the Day of Judgment dawns: of this the mention of Antichrist leaves no doubt. Here we see connexion with the myth of the world's destruction (p. 810-2). The suspended shield may signify the approaching Judge (RA. 851); even the sign of the tree turning green again looks to me more heathen than christian. It might indeed be referred to Matth. 24, 32. Mark 13, 28. Luke 21, 29-30 (Hel. 132, 14), where the omens of the Great Day are likened to the budding fig-tree as a sign of approaching summer; but to apply the simile to the Judgment-day would clearly be a confusion of thought. I prefer to think of the newly verdant earth after Muspilli (Sæm. 9b), or a withered and newly sprouting World-tree, the ash (p. 796-9); we might even find in this of the withered tree (14) some support to my interpretation of muspilli, mudspilli, as = arboris perditio (p. 809). And what if Frederick's asking after the flying ravens should be connected even with the eagle flying over the new world (Sæm. 9b), or the one sitting on the ash-tree? It might also suggest the cranes which at the time of the great overthrow come flying through the bread-stalls (Deut. sag. no. 317). In the same way Fischart (Garg. 266-7) couples the enchanted king's return with the coming of the cranes. (15)


1. Note the O. Fr. antithesis between souhait (wish) and dehait (verwünschung); both words are wanting in the other Romance tongues, they have their root in OHG. heiz, ON. heit (votum). [Back]

2. 'Frau Sælde verswant,' vanished, Etzel's hofh. 210. [Back]

3. See the famous legends of the Seven Sleepers (Greg. Tur. mirac. 1, 95. Paul Diac. 1, 3), and of Endymion, who lies in eternal sleep on Mt. Latmos. Conf. Pliny 7, 52: Puerum aestu et itinere fessum in specu septem et quinquaginta dormisse annis, rerum faciem mutationemque mirantem, velut postero experrectum die; hinc pari numero dierum senio ingruente, ut tamen in septimum et quinquagesimum atque centesimum vitae duraret annum;' and the German story of the three miners. Shepherds slept in caves 7 years, or 7 times 7 (Mone's Anz. 7, 54). [Back]

4. An impatient longing to disappear we express by the phrases 'I should like to creep into the earth,' and 'jump out of my skin,' the same thing that is called at the end of the Lament (Nib.): 'sich versliefen und ûz der hiute triefen in löcher der steinwende,' trickle away, so to speak. O. iv. 26, 43 has: 'ruafet thesên bergon, bittet sie thaz sie fallên ubar iuih, joh bittet ouh thie buhila thaz sie iuih thekên obana, ir biginnet thanne innan erda sliafan, joh suintet filu thrâto.' Hel. 166, 3: 'than gi sô gerna sind, that iu hier bihlidan hôha bergôs, diopo bidelban,' be-lid and deep be-delve you. Much of this language is Biblical (Isa. 2, 19; Hos. 10, 8; Luke 23, 30; Rev. 6, 15, 16), but the sentiment of many nations will run alike in such matters. Nib. 867,2 : 'mir troumte, wie obe dir ze tal vielen zwêne berge,' I dreamt, two mts fell on thee. That jumping out of one's skin, like a snake casting his slough, may also come of joy and anger, O.Fr. 'a poi n' ist de sa pel,' is well nigh out of his skin, Ogier 6688. Nethl. ''et is om uit zijn vel te springen.' So in our Elis. von Orleans, ed. Schütz p. 223; 'for joy,' Ettn.'s Unw. doctor 856. Not unlike is that jumping into stone spoken of on p. 552; as early as Alb. von Halb. 143b: 'at one leap he turned into stone.' [Back]

5. They wish you '100,000 fathom under ground;' 'as far down as a hare can run in two years' (p. 179); 'so low, that no cock crows after (or to) thee,' and the like. What does the last formula mean? that the cock's crow can no longer, even in the hush of night, reach the sunken man? or that those above ground cannot hear the cry of the fowl that has sunk with him to the subterranean dwelling? In Kinderm. 2, 32 it is said of the princesses: 'se versünken alle drei so deip unner de eere, dat kien haan mer danach krehete.' 'So kreet doch kein han nach mir,' and 'kein han fort da nach krehen thut,' H. Sachs iii. 2, 178b. 213c. [Back]

6. This skittle-playing sounds like rolling thunder (p. 167). They say in N. Germ. when it thunders, 'the angels are playing at bowls.' [Back]

7. Not Gouchsberg nor Kaukasus (p. 681); but rather the mt of the progenitor Guogo (guggäni, Z. f. d. a. 1, 23), or of the beetle (guegi, p. 183). Meichelb. 1182 ad Guoginhûsun; Trad. fuld. 2, 33 in Gougeleibu. [Back]

8. Several times in MHG. poems 'diu wüeste Babilône.' [Back]

9. Similar questions are put by the blind giant in a Swed. folktale, which I insert here from Bexell's Halland (Götheborg 1818) 2, p. 301: Några sjömän ifrån Getinge blefvo på hafvet af stormarne förde emot en okänd ö (seamen from G. driven by storms to an unknown isle), omgifne af mörker uppstiga de der (landed in the dark). De blefvo varse en på afstånd upptänd eld (saw a lighted fire), och skynda dit. Framför elden ligger en ovanligt lång man, som var blind; en annan af lika jättestorlek (another of like giant size), står bredvid honom och rör I elden med en iärnstång. Den gamle blinde mannen reser sig upp, och frågar de ankomne främlingarne, hvarifrån de voro. De svara, ifrån Halland och Getinge socken. Hvarpå den blinde frågar: 'lefver ennu den hvita gvinnan (lives the white woman still)?' De svarade ja, fast de ej vistu hvad han härmed menade. Ater sporde han: 'månne mitt gethus står ännu qvar (stands my goat-house yet)?' De svarade återigen ja, ehuru de äfven voro okunnige om hvad han menade. Då sade han: 'jag fick ej hafva mitt gethus I fred för den kyrkan som byggdes på den platsen. Viljen I komma lyckligt hem, välan, jag lemnar er dertill tvenne vilkor.' De lofva, och den gamle blinde fortfor: 'tagen detta sölfbälte, och när I kommen hem, så spännen det på den hvita qvinnan, och denne ask stätten den på altaret I mitt gethus.' Lyckligen återkomne till hembygden, rådfråga sig sjömännerne huru de skulle efterkomma den gamle blinde mannens begäran. Man beslöt at spänna bältet omkring en björk, och björken for I luften, och at sätta asken på en kulle (grave-mound), och straxt står kullen I Giusan låga. Men efter det kyrkan är bygd der den blinde mannen hade sitt gethus, har hon fått namnet Getinge. The 'blind giant' banished to the island is a spectral heathen god (conf. Orion, p.949), the 'white woman' a christian church or an image of Mary; had they fastened the silver belt round it, it would have shot up into the air as the birch did.---Another account makes the blind giant ask the sailors if the jingling-cow by the church (meaning the bell or belfry) were still alive? They answered yes, and he challenged one of them to hold out his hand, that he might see if the inhabitants had any strength left. They handed him a boat-bar made redhot, which he crushed together, saying there was no great strength there (Faye p. 17). A story in Ödman's Bahuslän 153-4 has similar variations: A ship's crew, driven out of their course to an out-of-the-way coast, see a fire burning at night, and go on shore. By the fire sits only one old man, who asks a sailor: 'whence be ye?' From Hisingen in Säfve pastorate. 'Ken ye Thorsby too?' Ay, that I do. 'Wot ye the whereabout of Ulfveberg?' Ay, it's many a time I've passed it, going from Götheborg to Marstrand by way of Hisingen. 'Stand the great stones and barrows there yet unremoved?' Ay, but one stone leans and is like to fall. 'Wot ye where Glosshed-altar is, and whether it be well kept up?' I know nothing about that. 'Say to the folk that dwelleth now at Thorsby and Thorsbracka, that they destroy not the stones and mounds on Ulfveberg, and that they keep in good condition Glosshed-altar, so shalt thou have fair weather for thy home-return.' The sailor promised, but asked the old man his name. 'My name is Thore Brack, and there dwelt I of yore, till I was made to flee: in the great mounds of Ulfveberg lies all my kin, at Glosshed-altar did we sacrifice and serve our gods.' [Back]

10. The kifhäuser legends now stand collected in Bechst. 4, 9-54. [Back]

11. At the end of the Lament for king Etzel; 'Des wunders wird ich nimmer vrî, weder er sich vergienge, oder in der luft enpfienge, oder lebende würde begraben, oder ze himele ûf erhaben, und ob er ûz der hiute trüffe oder sich verslüffe in löcher der steinwende, oder mit welhem ende er von dem lîbe quæme, oder waz in zuo zim næme, ob er füere in daz apgründe, oder ob in der tiuvel verslünde, oder ob er sus sî verswunden, daz en-hât niemen noh erfunden.' [Back]

12. In the MS. 'Historia trium regum' by Joh. von Hildesheim (d. 1375) is mentioned a temple of the Tartars. Behind walls, locks and bolts stands a withered tree, guarded by men at arms: whatever prince can manage to hang his shield on the tree, becomes lord of all the East; the Great Kahn did succeed, and is therefore irresistible (Goethe's Kunst u. alt. ii. 2, 174-5. Schwab's Account of the book p. 181-2). The tree stands at Tauris, form. Susa. On the other hand, Montevilla reports that 'in the vale of Mambre, as one journeys from Ebron to Bethlehem, stands the woful withered tree that they call Trip, but we name it tree of victory; 'tis an oaktree, and thought to have stood from the beginning of the world; and before Our Lord suffered, 'twas green and well-leaved, but when God died on the cross, it withered up.......'Tis found written in prophecies, Out of Netherland shall come a prince with many christians, he shall win these lands, and let sing themass under the dry tree, then shall it gather green leaves again, and be fruitful, and Jew and Heathen all turn Christian. Therefore do they shew it great honour, and over it keep good ward.' This is from the transl. by Otto von Diemeringen; the Nethl. edition names the tree Drip, the Latin one Dirp, and has nothing about the predicted singing of mass. Was this a German interpolation, and is the whole a Western legend transported to the East? Or are the German popular traditions due to reports of Eastern travel? In O. Fr. the tree is called le sec-arbre, l'arbre sech or supe; see passages quoted in Théâtre Fr. au moyen âge, p. 171. [Back]

13. There is a remarkable phrase: 'auf den alten kaiser hinein dahin leben,' to live in hope of the old k., Simplic. 3, 20. 4, 11; 'auf den alten kaiser hinein stehlen,' Springinsf. cap. 6; i.e. reckoning on a possible change in the nature of things. [Back]

14. In other cases too the withering or greening of a tree is bound up with the fate of a country. In Dietmarsen stood a marvellous tree, that flourished before the conquest, and withered on the loss of liberty. There goes a prophecy that 'when a magpie builds on it and hatches five white chickens, the country will be free again,' Neocorus 1, 237, conf. 562. [Back]

15. Other signs that the end of the world is at hand: when the swan drops the ring from his bill (p. 429); when the giant's rib, from which a drop falls once a year, has all trickled away (Deut. sag. no. 140); when the tongue of the balance stands in (ib. 294); when, says a Swed. song, the stone in the green valley falls; when the ship made of men's nails is built (p. 814). [Back]

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