Handy stitch, how to feather singers
Narration and Hero: Recounting the Deeds of Heroes in Literature and Art of the Early Medieval Period 3110336138, 9783110336139, 9783110338157
Table of contents:
Roberta Frank / Conversational Skills for Heroes 19
Jennifer Neville / Redeeming Beowulf. The Heroic Idiom as Marker of Quality in Old English Poetry 45
Diana Whaley / The Fury of the Northmen and the Poetics of Violence 71
Heike Sahm / Fate and God, Gallows and Cross, Sword and Spear. The Variation of Counterconcepts as Part of the Poetic Diction in the Old Saxon "Heliand" 95
Hildegard L. C. Tristram / Negotiating Heroism and Humor in the "Cattle-Raid of Cooley" ("Táin Bó Cuailnge") 113
Matthias Teichert / The monstrous hero or When the monstrous hero becomes a monster. On the history of the reception of the character type "dragon fighter" in Old Norse and Old English literature 143
Udo Friedrich / hero and narrative. On the narrative function of the hero in medieval literature 175
Torfi Tulinius / Deconstructing Snorri. Narrative Structure and Heroism in "Eyrbyggja saga" 195
Hartmut Bleumer / Between Hildebrand and Hadubrand. Hero and time in the "Hildebrandslied" 209
Victor Millet / Deconstructing the Hero in Early Medieval Heroic Poetry 229
Marianne Ailes / Giving and Receiving. The Integrity of the Hero in the Earliest "Chansons de geste" 241
Anna Mühlherr / Heroes and Swords. Impact and "agency" in a heroic epic context 259
Wolfgang Haubrichs / The "Tale of the Hero" in narrative passages from the "Historia Langobardorum" of Paulus Deacon 277
Wilhelm Heizmann / The mythical prehistory of the Nibelungenhort 305
Ernst Hellgardt / Christ and other heroes. Notes on Some Old English Poems 339
Harald Haferland / Christ as Bringer of Light and Hero. Polarity in "Heliand" and in contemporary images 361
Bernd Bastert / Foreign heroes? Narrative transcoding and connection of the "Nibelungenlied" in the Central Dutch "Nevelingenlied" 385
Joseph Harris / "Svipdagsmál": Gender, Genre, and Reconstruction 403
Narration and Hero
Supplementary volumes to the Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde
Edited by Heinrich Beck · Sebastian Brather · Dieter Geuenich · Wilhelm Heizmann · Steffen Patzold · Heiko Steuer
Narration and Hero
Recounting the Deeds of Heroes in Literature and Art of the Early Medieval Period Edited by Victor Millet Heike Sahm
ISSN 1866-7678 ISBN 978-3-11-033613-9 e-ISBN 978-3-11-033815-7 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A CIP catalog record for this book has been applied for at the Library of Congress. Bibliographic information from the German National Library The German National Library lists this publication in the German National Bibliography; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at http://dnb.dnb.de. © 2014 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin / Boston Typesetting: Dörlemann Satz GmbH & Co. KG, Lemförde Printing and binding: Hubert & Co. GmbH & Co. KG, Göttingen ♾ Printed on acid-free paper Printed in Germany www.degruyter.com
Preface This volume presents contributions to the conference 'Narration and Heroes: Narrative Options Recounting the Deeds of Heroes in Literature and Art of the Early Medieval Period' which was held in Santiago de Compostela in September 2011. The conference was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft ( Germany) and the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (Spain). By the Early Middle Ages vernacular aristocratic traditions of heroic narration were firmly established in western and northern Europe. Although there are regional, linguistic and formal differences, one can observe a number of similarities. We are dealing with oral literature disseminating a range of themes that are shared by narratives in most parts of the continent. In all European regions, this tradition of heroic narration was influenced by contact with Christianity. Similar processes of adaptation and transformation can be found in most early European vernacular narrative. With increasing specialization of individual academic disciplines, interdisciplinary dialogue has become increasingly difficult, and our purpose was to renew this dialogue. At the conference in Santiago de Compostela, held in medieval surroundings, papers were presented on narratological as well as cultural and anthropological themes. Some papers dealt with rhetorical and stylistic aspects of heroic poetry, while others focused on more general poetic themes. All the major works of the period were discussed (Beowulf, the Hildebrandslied, Waltharius, Nibelungenlied), but also more marginal literary works like Svipdagsmál or others often not considered as belonging to this tradition, like Heliand. We are very grateful to the participants for submitting their papers, and we thank the editors of the supplementary volumes to the Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde for accepting this volume. Finally we are indebted to many individuals. We thank Selvi Demir (University of Siegen), Anne Hofmann (University of München) and Jeffrey Love (Arnamagnæan Institute Copenhagen) for their help in questions of translation. For his critical comments we are especially indebted to Thomas LaPresti (University of Siegen). We thank Diana Steegers and Julia Stiebritz for their help with reading the manuscripts. And we are grateful to Monika Traut for her skill and forbearance in preparing this book. Santiago and Siegen, June 2013
Victor Millet and Heike Sahm
Table of Contents Preface
Roberta Frank Conversational Skills for Heroes
Jennifer Neville Redeeming Beowulf. The Heroic Idiom as Marker of Quality in Old English Poetry 45 Diana Whaley The Fury of the Northmen and the Poetics of Violence
Heike Sahm Fate and God, Gallows and Cross, Sword and Spear. The Variation of Counterconcepts as Part of the Poetic Diction in the Old Saxon Heliand
Hildegard L. C. Tristram Negotiating Heroism and Humor in the Cattle-Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cuailnge) 113 Matthias Teichert The monstrous hero or When the monstrous hero becomes a monster. On the history of the reception of the character type 'dragon fighter' in Old Norse and Old English literature 143 Udo Friedrich Held und Narrativ. On the narrative function of the hero in medieval literature 175 Torfi Tulinius Deconstructing Snorri. Narrative Structure and Heroism in Eyrbyggja saga Hartmut Bleumer Between Hildebrand and Hadubrand. Held und Zeit im Hildebrandslied Victor Millet Deconstructing the Hero in Early Medieval Heroic Poetry
Table of Contents
Marianne Ailes Giving and Receiving. The Integrity of the Hero in the Earliest Chansons de geste 241 Anna Mühlherr Heroes and Swords. Impact and agency in a hero-epic context 259 Wolfgang Haubrich's The 'Tale of the Hero' in narrative passages from the Historia Langobardorum of Paulus Deacon 277 Wilhelm Heizmann The mythical prehistory of the Nibelungenhort
Ernst Hellgardt Christ and other heroes. Remarks on some old English poems 339 Harald Haferland Christ as a Bringer of Light and a Hero. Polarity in Heliand and in contemporary images 361 Bernd Bastert Foreign heroes? Narrative transcoding and connection of the Nibelungenlied in the Central Dutch Nevelingenlied 385 Joseph Harris Svipdagsmál: Gender, Genre, and Reconstruction Index
The European Heroic Epic The development of vernacular literatures in the European Early Middles Ages constitutes an outstanding cultural phenomenon. Although this process did not take place simultaneously in the different linguistic areas and political entities of central, Northern and Western Europe, comparable foundations and possible paths of evolution between them exist. There is little doubt that one of the most relevant characteristics of this development is the fact that in all areas a pre-Christian narrative tradition of heroic tales, supported primarily by the aristocracy, was transferred into literacy, which was in the hands of Christian clerics . The oral and traditional literature of older times, based on a common repertoire of stories and on an intensive cultural exchange between courts, soon came into contact with Christianity and with literary and artistic techniques, materials and practices of Roman late Antiquity transmitted primarily through monastic communities . Encounters between these two disparate cultural traditions, coupled with similar social situations throughout the various European kingdoms, resulted in transformations of those pre-literary traditions, and similar techniques of narrative adaptation can be identified among them. Comparative studies of heroic literary genres in Medieval Europe have diminished over the past decades. Apart from intense Viking-age studies, which embrace both Old English and Scandinavian literature, there has been little exchange between the disciplines. The progressive specialization of academic fields over the last halfcentury and the critique of older methodologies have hindered a continuous scientific dialogue beyond the borders of each individual area. The founding works of Joseph Bédier, Hector M. Chadwick, Ramón Menéndez Pidal and Andreas Heusler, among others, are still a matter of discussion, but they no longer enjoy a general following. Debates concerning the origins of vernacular heroic poetry in the Germanic and Romance literatures have little relation to one another, though there seem to be obvious correlations in origins, rhetorical and narrative techniques of réécriture, transmission and transformation of heroic topoi. For decades there has been little exchange between Old High German / Old Saxon and Old Norse studies about the beginnings of Early Medieval court literature, and, to take a more specific example, studies on the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf and the Old Saxon Heliand have until 2000 for many decades not taken each other into account, even though the two texts have much in common. The present volume joins other recent works of scholarship which have once again taken up an interdisciplinary approach to the study of European heroic epics of the Early Middle Ages (e.g. Bandle / Glauser / Gropper 2004; Heizmann 2009).
This volume represents the proceedings of a conference in which numerous contributors employed diverse methodologies to stimulate inquiry into the possibilities for heroic narration in Early Medieval Europe. Using narratological, literary-aesthetic and cultural-anthropological methodologies as starting points, participants debated the question of how the transmitted evidence for heroic poetry could be understood in the tension between genre-specific features and individual witnesses of vernacular (Germanic, Romance and Celtic) and Latin texts. The entire range of textual genres was discussed: skaldic poetry and epics, chronicles and verse. Well-known texts, with few exceptions, were also represented; beside ‘classics’ such as Beowulf, Chanson de Roland, Cú Chulainn, Heliand, the Edda and the Nibelungenlied were texts which have hitherto been less central for comparative studies, such as Eyrbyggja saga and Svipdagsmál. Some contributions investigated opportunities to increase our understanding and comprehension of the early heroic sagas through comparisons with iconographic evidence. This perspective was represented less strongly than anticipated due to last-minute cancellations. Naturally the avenues of inquiry within each literary tradition and within each discipline can only be discussed in general terms in the entries presented here. Nevertheless, the volume reflects the breadth of the topic and offers a series of opportunities for further discussion. Individual case studies demonstrate how genres have taken on different priorities within the conceptual triangle of myth, legend and history. However, in the case of sagas and historiography, they could lead in the same direction, namely the historisizing and rationalization of the heroic substrate (cf. Schultz-Balluff forthc.). Furthermore, we have no basis of comparison for vernacular poetics during the oral period. Contributions to this topic reveal that concurrences between narrative and presentation techniques reach far beyond a common pool of formulas and alliteration. Foremost among many questions of literary aesthetics is the usage of metaphor in epic and verse. Comparative investigations on how this device was pursued within each vernacular tradition would be particularly fruitful. The question of which systems of values were brought into the texts is discussed extensively in this volume. A plethora of strategies is revealed concerning the struggle between modernization and archaization: Contemporary concerns, such as reciprocity in gift-giving, or the relationships between characters, such as the hero and the collective, run through the majority of texts. The question of whether heroic standards are still valid, whether they should be ascribed to an archaic past and therefore left distant or whether they are exemplary and reflect current problems from the time in which they were written, is constantly reevaluated. Anglo-Saxon and Old Saxon religious texts confront us with the question of how to interpret the tension between Christian exposition and heroic diction: Was the heroic content marginalized or propagated? Finally, the question of the conception of a hero, its exemplarity or its excessiveness, is discussed in most of the contributions. They paint a picture of an heroic figure for whom the heroic features of solitude, furor and monstrousness were con-
stantly being rearranged and reassessed. In particular the death scene in the texts, as shown in the contributions here, is often reformulated in such a way that both narrators and characters reflect current norms.
The Contributions to this Volume The contributions collected in this volume are arranged according to five themes (Rhetoric and Poetics, Narrative, Myth and History, Accommodation and Reception), though they certainly intersect with one another at numerous points. Individual works which treat the question of vernacular Rhetoric and Poetics form the beginning of the volume. These contributions demonstrate that the comparatively small corpus of early medieval literature in Old High German, Old Saxon, Old English, Celtic and Old Norse still display a wealth of variety in association with the poetic heroic tradition. Heroic diction is selectively adapted, metaphorized, ironicized and integrated into a Christian vocabulary. It is worth noting that the analyzes collected here begin with ambiguous assertions in the texts which may only be interpreted through the media of florid language, manifold variation, indirect speech or the reservations in explicit commentaries of the described events and figures. By means of these techniques in vernacular poetry, the ubiquitous violence in heroic poems can be praised or criticized, played down or given aesthetic distance. Ultimately it is still too early to generate a nuanced explanation of early medieval poetics and rhetoric and its relationship to the Latinate tradition, but these articles indicate that comparative historical-philological investigations into vernacular texts remain necessary. Roberta Frank devotes her entry on Conversational Skills for Heroes to the analysis of litotic style in the relations between character dialogue and narrator commentary in Old Norse, Old English, Old Saxon and Old High German poetry. She observes that the heroes utilize unexpected communication principles. Narrators, such as the one in Beowulf, stress that only the best of the best is being reported. Meanwhile, the heroes are reserved in their self-appraisals. Through the use of litotes, negatio contrarii, silence concerning the circumstances and events or the formulation of dim indications, the hero proves himself to be an expert in clouded poetics. Within this context, Frank discusses the question of whether speech in Beowulf, (e.g. Hrothgar’s speeches), is formulated to ‘historicize’, approaching the Old Norse tradition, in order to designate some heroes as witnesses of an heroic past with their spoken words. Jennifer Neville counters the widely held supposition that heroism is criticized through the introduction of comic elements in the heroic diction of Anglo-Saxon texts in her article, Redeeming Beowulf. The Heroic Idiom as Marker of Quality in Old English Poetry. In her analysis of comical textual passages in Judith, Battle of Maldon, Riddle 51, Andreas and Beowulf, Neville comes to the conclusion that the critique embedded in the texts is aimed not at heroism itself, but rather those who do not live up to
heroic expectations. Interestingly, requirements and expectations are not formulated on the basis of Christian tenets, but rather through the precisely calculated usage of heroic diction. In her critique of the term ‘mock heroic’, Neville is able to identify at which level the heroic diction has been applied (ironic, metaphorical, affirmative, polyphonic) in order to judge the narrated events. Diana Whaley investigates the portrayal of war and warriors in skaldic poetry of the Viking Age (10th / 11th centuries) in her article The Fury of the Northmen and the Poetics of Violence. These texts serve to glorify violence. According to Whaley, however, one must not overlook that the specific poetics of violence only vaguely convey the experience of violence. Alliterative meter and diction, the colorful language of the heiti and kennings, as well as silence concerning certain content, lead to a stylized depiction of war which creates an aesthetic distance to the violence. With regards to the furor typical of heroes, the texts differentiate between right fury instigated by the experience of unrighteousness or injustice and rage as a stereotypical attribute ascribed to heroes.Within the context of skaldic poetry one can locate but few explicit criticisms of violence; affirmations of such behavior outweigh them by far. Heike Sahm takes up the discussion of 'Germanic' remnants in the Old Saxon Heliand and suggests that the so-called 'accommodation' was not founded on different concepts of reception (a quasi-pagan audience) or production (composers with a repertoire of formulas ). Instead, the poetics of the Heliand, where the heroic diction is embedded within a composite or varying framework, a confrontation of expressions at different registers occurs, from the biblical lexicon and the traditional poetic language, aimed at aesthetic effect. The Heliand author manipulates the content with imprecision: the variation of dragon ship and boat, a spear with the cross, et al. This imprecision seems secondary to the goal of intertwining various dictions. The discussion ties in with other articles in this section which discuss deliberate imprecision within vernacular poetic traditions. Hildegard L.C. Tristram places the Irish epic Táin Bó Cuailgne at the center of her model and concentrates on episodes in the epic where narrative scenes include comedy to put distance between heroism and violence. Tristram states that the scenes which depict Cú Chulainn’s outrageous excess move from ironic or scatological macabre, absurd or burlesque content, into the grotesque. In order to explain this unexpected comedy in vernacular epics, Tristram discusses three different possibilities. First she considers whether this comedy might be an attribute of the vernacular narrative tradition, whether it might follow a tradition of antique heroic parody, or, finally, whether the comedy acts as an intended distancing effect of heroic war propaganda. Matthias Teichert describes the ‘dragonslayer’ character type in Old Norse and Old English literature in his paper The monstrous hero or When the monstrous hero becomes a monster. On the history of the reception of the character type dragon fighter ’in old-fashioned and old English literature. He works from the premise that heroes are part culture and part nature and that they are situated equally within the world
of humans and within the wilderness, the world of dragons. Using the examples of Sigurðr, Sigmundr, Beowulf and Sigemund and Ragnar loðbrók, Teichert defines how properties and characteristics attributed to dragons are carried over to heroes and make them appear as monstrous beings. A similarity between literary depictions and kennings in the context of the fight between Sigurðr and Fáfnir on the one hand and Thor and the Midgard serpent on the other furnishes evidence of the heroes ’potential for physical (and mental?) Metamorphosis. Essays concerned with the formation of the heroic narrative form the second focus of this volume. From sample texts in vernacular and Latinate traditions emerges a series of possibilities for handling the basic structure of an heroic narrative: deconstruction, integration, transformation, satirization and negation of the heroic are discussed within the individual contributions. In part they deal with the distinctions from courtly romance, while others work to validate different heroic types in the Romance and Germanic, Latin and Celtic literatures of the early Middle Ages. They also outline how they differ from ancient and modern heroic narratives. The essays focused on individual case studies are prefaced by a more comprehensive article by Udo Friedrich in which he attempts to ascertain the general features of the heroic narrative. In connection with research on narratology, Friedrich delineates the boundaries for a discussion of the heroic narrative primarily through generic examples. The creation of meaning within the texts does not run first and foremost according to a generic pattern, but rather the experiences of the aristocratic warrior class are structured and made meaningful through the narrative formats of historiography and heroic epic. This means that their meaning also depends upon culturally specific values, which can always be revised through the resequencing and recombination of narrative cores. Friedrich falls back upon the examples of Wolfgang Müller-Funk for large (genealogy and conquest), middle (exile and return, betrayal and revenge, loyalty and sacrifice, the heroic death of the iuvenis) and small (duels in all possible substitutions and combinations ) narratives in the heroic epic. Torfi Tulinius begins the case studies with his article, Deconstructing Snorri: Narrative Structure and Heroism in ‘Eyrbyggja saga’. Through the relationship between saga and history in Eyrbyggja saga, he sees current events of the thirteenth century, when the saga was written, projected into the past. The question is how one can consolidate power as a chieftain, and this question is not developed solely through the depiction of the heroic life of the protagonist, Snorri, but rather through an expansion of the cast which can be described by using Greimas' theory of actants. The semantic element of fatherhood is brought in four times, and through the presence of his dead father, the hero is brought into a system which Freud would describe as an oedipal construct. The meandering structure of the saga, which often departs from retracing the life of the hero, has an impact on the presentation of heroism. The authority of the chieftain class is put into question for its "paternal inheritance". For Harmut Bleumer the specific form of time modeling is the key to meaning in the Old High German Hildebrandslied. As a witness to the conversion from orality to
written tradition, the text can be interpreted in terms of time configuration, wherein father and son belong to different time periods. No resolution other than war is possible, because a tension between narrative and non-narrative semantics has been constructed between father and son, and a mutual understanding of applied signs and symbols is therefore excluded. The paradoxical textual combination cannot be attributed to a confrontation between knowing and unknowing, but rather the ‘aporia of time’ which feeds into genealogical catastrophe. Victor Millet likewise considers the conditions surrounding the process of writing down heroic narratives during the early Middle Ages in his essay Deconstructing the Hero in Early Medieval Heroic Poetry. Millet agrees with the central tenet of Walter Haug’s theory that increasing reflection on the formerly oral schemata and their availability for new meanings was solidified during the transition from orality to writing. Drawing on Waltharius and its parodic elements, Millet shows how the narrator develops a rhetorical strategy advancing the deconstruction of his hero. Millet extends his observations to Beowulf and the Hildebrandslied and points toward the deconstruction of the hero as a typical marker of heroic poetry during the transition from orality to writing. In his book The Medieval Warrior Aristocracy. Gifts, Violence, Performance and the Sacred (2007), Andrew Cowell examines to what extent heroic society is organized around the fundamental principle of reciprocity. Does the hero operate autonomously, or is he bound within the framework of a gift economy to his liege, his tribe, his retinue and God? According to Cowell, one example is the Chanson de Roland, whose protagonist, Roland, values his own ‘integrity’, his autonomy as a hero, more than his duty toward his king and paladin. In her essay The Integrity of the Hero in the Earliest Chansons de Geste, Marianne Ailes elaborates on this idea by demonstrating that even apparent exceptions, such as Roland or Vivian, who initially refuse the acceptance of gifts, remain as heroes bound within the economy of reciprocity. Roland blows his horn in the Chanson de Roland when it is certain that he will meet his death, and so that he will have given his life for God and Charlemagne. By blowing his horn he obliges Charlemagne to give a gift in return: the vengeance of a leader for the death of his people. A similar scenario occurs in the case of the dying iuvenis, Vivian, in the Chanson de Guillaume: the reciprocal gift as revenge for his death. Even an ambiguous text such as Gormond et Isembart operates according to this principle. Anna Mühlherr also reaches back to Cowell’s theory in her article Heroes and Swords. Impact and agency in a heroic epic context. She furthers the discussion by applying narratological methods and expands the character configuration of king and vassal to include a new element: the sword of the hero. On the basis of Old French texts and their Middle High German counterparts, and with the assistance of Latour’s concept of ‘agency’, Mühlherr is able to demonstrate that the heroes Roland, Ganelon / Genelun and Guillaume / Willehalm are inseparable from their swords. In the parlance of Latour, they can be described as human-object hybrids.
Another focus of the volume, discussed continuously in the articles on heroic narrative in the previous section, constitutes essays engaging with the relationship between Myth, Legend and History in terms of Latin historical writing and the mythological prehistory. Wolfgang Haubrichs argues in his article The 'Erzählung des Helden' in narrative passages from the 'Historia Langobardorum' by Paulus Diaconus that early medieval narratives are always narratives about heroes, even in Latin historiography. In the Chronicle of Paulus Diaconus he distinguishes between various levels of epicheroic narrative. His ultimate aim was to rationalize and historicize myths, legends and the heroic oral transmission of the Langobards by integrating them into his chronicle. Wilhelm Heizmann explains why it is necessary to take into account non-written sources, in this case bracteates, when interpreting legendary knowledge in his article The mythical prehistory of the Nibelungenhorts. The pictorial evidence supports the conclusion that the mythical prehistory of the hoard was known throughout Scandinavia. An examination of the early medieval bracteates even suggests that knowledge of the myth was already developed in the sixth century during the Völkerwanderung. Written evidence cannot corroborate the early dating, but it can support the basic assumption that the Nordic transmission, unlike the German transmission, conveys the hoard’s mythical prehistory. One can find hints about the myth inside kennings within the texts of the Elder and Younger Edda (e.g. ‘Otter’s ransom’ as a kenning for ‘treasure’). Two further articles revolve around the concept of "accommodation". This term was coined by Johannes Rathofer in order to turn back the so-called Germanisierungsthese ("Germanicizing Theory") in the nineteenth century. Rathofer argued that a certain accommodation, an adaptation of transmitted content to each new audience, is an expected strategy which can already be demonstrated in the New Testament. The question of how much adaptation is included in Old English or Old Saxon religious texts for a quasi-pagan public through the absorption of heroic poetic tradition has been addressed by researchers in a variety of ways. The ongoing dissonance on the topic is also reflected in some of the essays collected here. While Sahm sees the creative handling of stylistic features of heroic diction for the purpose of glorification by the Heliand author, Hellgardt puts forth a critical view juxtaposed against the concept of accommodation with regards to the theme of fealty in Old English texts. The reinterpretation of the suffering, crucified Christ as the heroic, active Christ was already taken up in exegesis from late antiquity (and therefore not necessarily bound to missionary activities). Secondly, distinctions can be seen in the genre-specific epic-heroic terminology used in the Old English Guthlac texts. Whereas the verse in Guthlac B describes the death of the hero in epic-heroic style, the terminology of allegiance is absent from the Prose Guthlac. For Hellgardt this is an undeniable indication that the concept of Gefolgschaft ’(fealty) is a genuinely literary, or, more precisely, epic-heroic theme.
While ‘accommodation’ as a means for the transfer of epic-heroic content within religious texts is discussed in the essays by Hellgardt and Sahm, Haferland sees an accommodation through the integration of indigenous paradigms in Heliand and Christ and Satan. Since the Heliand poet more strongly portrays the contrast between the light of heaven and the torments of hell as a result of one's way of life than his sources, the Heliand poet could have relied on Paschasius Radpertus' commentary on Matthew, while he simultaneously encountered contradictory ideas which were circulating orally. Haferland seeks to validate this conclusion with iconographic sources in which a stronger polarization between light and darkness has been applied for the purpose of achieving a more powerful effect through the use of this binary schema within the context of the Christian missions. At the same time Haferland claims that the text wishes to thematize ‘the emotional involvement of the individual warrior among the retainers’ by portraying Christ as a hero while dying. A final emphasis lies on the question of the reception of epic-heroic texts during the late Middle Ages. Bernd Bastert investigates the Middle Dutch Nibelungen fragment from ca.1280 in his essay Foreign Heroes? Transcoding and connection of the Nibelungenlied. The various apparent methods of transcoding the Nibelungenlied into Middle Dutch resemble methods observed in research on the transmission of the Chansons de geste into Middle High German. By extension one can infer that the Middle Dutch fragment might be evidence for a transcoding event in which fundamental elements of heroic narrative, namely the legendary knowledge, is lacking. On the basis of these observations, Bastert puts forward a new comparative investigation on the spread and knowledge of the Nibelung legend. Joseph Harris engages with Svipdagsmál (Sv) in his article 'Svipdagsmál': Gender, Genre, and Reconstruction and demonstrates that a ballad widely distributed in the region of Scandinavia is not dependent on Sv but rather that Sv and the ballad were created from a common source: an orally transmitted fornaldarsaga from the fourteenth century. With this approach, Harris revises the "history of the hero" by incorporating gender and genre theories and ideas and intensive discussions from recent research. While researchers have hitherto viewed the recognizable mythological meanings of Sv as the ingredients of the Sv poet, Harris reaches a conclusion based on his considerations of the concept for fate, of the hero’s acquisition of a name and of the depiction of the hero’s initiation. He determines that the earlier model of * Svipdagssaga was already constructed on a (perhaps unconsciously transmitted) myth and that the Sv author could have worked from this mythological core. Heroic epic, so says Friedrich, is, in terms of the narrative schema, thoroughly more modern than courtly romance, because the collapse of contingency is recounted. Even though the works discussed here are presented as archaic, or as containing archaic features, in relation to courtly culture around 1200, an area of research has been made accessible in the present articles in which many questions remain open.
European heroic epic The emergence of vernacular literatures in the European early Middle Ages is an important cultural process, which takes place in the various linguistic areas and political areas with a slight chronological shift, but which is based on comparable preconditions and shows similar developments. Probably the most important characteristic is that everywhere pre-Christian, heroic narrative traditions of the aristocratic classes are transferred into the medium of writing, which is characterized by Christianity and clerical scholarship, but that at the same time Christian literature is also shaped by the peculiarities of heroic poetry. This vernacular, aristocratic tradition of heroic narratives, which was established in western and northern Europe by the early Middle Ages at the latest, naturally has regional, linguistic and formal differences, but as oral literature and the dissemination of the same material it has a number of similarities that are also comparable Reflect processes of adaptation and transformation. Although these common features make a comparative analysis worthwhile, there has been little interdisciplinary research into the heroic literature of the European early Middle Ages in recent decades. If one disregards studies on the literature of the Viking Age, which already include Old English and Scandinavian literature, the progressive specialization of the disciplines has obviously made such an exchange more difficult. The fundamental works of Joseph Bédier, Ramón Menéndez Pidal, Andreas Heusler or Hector M. Chadwick from the first half of the 20th century (cf. Bédier 1926–1929, Chadwick 1912, Heusler 1941, Menéndez Pidal 1910) hardly found a successor. This can be seen, for example, in the comparison of Heliand and Beowulf: The results of the studies on the conception of the Old English Beowulf are not sufficiently taken into account by research on the Old Saxon Heliand, although they have a number of similarities; conversely, the Heliand is hardly taken into account in the discussion of Old English poetry. The present volume is intended to help close this gap, and it takes up other attempts by recent research to resume interdisciplinary research into the European heroic epic of the early Middle Ages (see the anthologies Bandle / Glauser / Gropper 2004; Heizmann 2009).Following the conference that preceded it, the volume therefore brings together a spectrum of contributions that approach the question of the possibilities of telling the hero in early medieval Europe in very different ways. On the basis of narratological, literary aesthetic and cultural anthropological questions, the question of how the traditional testimonies of heroic poetry should be understood in the area of tension between type and individual testimony was discussed for vernacular (Germanic, Romance and Celtic) and Latin texts. The entire spectrum of genres is discussed: the dial seal
and the epic, the chronicle and the song. The well-known texts are also present almost without exception: In addition to 'classics' such as Beowulf, Chanson de Roland, Cú Chulainn, Heliand, Edda or Nibelungenlied, texts are also included that have so far not been central to comparative studies, such as the Eyrbyggja saga or the Svipdagsmál. Some contributions ask about the chances of deepening our knowledge and interpretation of the early heroic saga through the inclusion of pictorial monuments. This point of view is less strongly represented than hoped by short-term cancellations before the conference. It goes without saying that the current issues in the respective philologies and disciplines can only be dealt with by way of example in the articles presented here, nevertheless the volume reflects the breadth of the topic and offers a number of connection options for further discussion. The individual case studies show that in the reference triangle of myth, saga and history different priorities are made in the genres, which - for example in the case of saga or historiography - lead in the same direction, namely that of a historicization and rationalization of the heroic substratum can (see Schultz-Balluff i. Dr.). It can also be seen that the vernacular poetics has not yet been written on the horizon of vowels. Because the contributions on this topic show that similarities in questions of narrative and representation technique go far beyond a common reservoir of formulas and the all-round rhyme. In addition to all other questions of literary aesthetics, a comparative study of the use of metaphors in epic and song of the respective vernacular languages would appear here. In the volume, the question of the possible value horizon that has flowed into the texts is discussed intensively. A multitude of different relationships in the area of tension between actualization and archaization can be identified: In most of the texts, current topics such as the reciprocity of gift and counter-gift or figure constellations such as hero and collective are played out. So it is always renegotiated whether the heroic standards still apply, whether they are attributed to an archaic past and thus distanced, or whether they provide the basis for discussing the current problems at the time of writing. For spiritual ae. and as. Texts finally the question arises how the tension between Christian statements and heroic diction is to be explained: Are the heroic contents distanced or propagated? And finally, the question of the hero's conception, its exemplar or exorbitancy, is addressed in most of the contributions. Heroic characters emerge, for whom the heroic characteristics of loneliness, furor or monstrosity are each newly arranged and weighted. The dying scene in particular, as some of the contributions presented here show, is often designed in the texts as a situation in which the applicable norms are reflected by narrators and characters.
The contributions of this volume The contributions collected in this volume are assigned to five thematic priorities (rhetoric and poetics, narrative, myth and history, accommodation and reception), which of course often overlap with regard to the topics addressed. The beginning of the volume is made up of those works that essentially deal with questions of vernacular rhetoric and poetics. The contributions show that the relatively narrow corpus of early medieval literature in Old High German, Old Saxon, Old English, Celtic and Old Norse languages nonetheless shows a multitude of variations in dealing with the heroic tradition of poetry: The heroic diction is optionally adapted, metaphorized, ironicized or integrated into one Christian lexicon. It is noteworthy that the analyzes collected here emphasize the deliberate ambiguity of the textual statement, which comes about through the language rich in images, the multiple variations, the indirectness of the speeches or the reluctance to explicitly comment on the events or figures described. The omnipresent violence in heroic poetry can be praised or criticized, played down or aesthetically distanced by means of these techniques of vernacular poetics. It is certainly too early to come to a conclusion, but the articles show that comparative historical-philological studies on vernacular texts are also necessary in order to gain a differentiated picture of early medieval poetics and rhetoric in their relationship to the Latin tradition. In her article on Conversational Skills for Heroes, Roberta Frank devotes herself to the analysis of the litotic style in the area of tension between figure speech and narrator commentary in Old Norse, Old English, Old Saxon and Old High German poetry. It becomes clear that the heroes act according to unexpected communication principles: While the narrator, such as Beowulf, emphasizes that the best of the best is reported here, the heroes behave more cautiously in their self-assessment: in the use of litotes, the negatio contrarii, the Withholding circumstances and events or the formulation of gloomy hints, the hero proves to be a specialist in poetics of blurring. In this context, Frank also discusses the question of whether, in the Beowulf, Hrothgar's speech, for example, is deliberately 'historicized' in its phonetic form, i.e. approximated to Old Norse, in order to identify some heroes as witnesses of a heroic past through their spoken language. Jennifer Neville addresses with her contribution Redeeming Beowulf. The Heroic Idiom as Marker of Quality in Old English Poetry against the widespread assessment that the heroic is criticized through the use of comedy in the heroic diction of Old English texts. In analyzing comic passages of the Judith, Battle of Maldon, Riddle 51, Andreas and Beowulf, Neville comes to the conclusion that the criticism contained in the texts is not directed against the heroic itself, but against those who do not meet heroic expectations . Expectations
Interestingly, however, expectations are not formulated in the texts on the basis of Christian standards, but rather through the precisely calculated use of heroic diction. In his criticism of the catchphrase mock heroic, Neville can show the range in which heroic diction is used (ironic, metaphorical, affirmative, polyphonic) to evaluate the narrated event. In her contribution to The Fury of the Northmen and the Poetics of Violence, Diana Whaley examines the depiction of war and warriors in the scald poetry of the Viking Age (10th / 11th century). These texts serve to glorify violence. According to Whaley, however, it should not be overlooked that the specific poetics of violence reproduces the experience of violence only very imprecisely: the meter and diction of the alliteration, the pictorial language of the heiti and Kenningar as well as the concealment of certain contents lead to a stylization of war, which Violence in its aestheticization at the same time distanced. With regard to the heroic furor, the texts distinguish between justified anger that follows the experience of injustice or injustice, and that anger that is cited stereotypically as a characteristic of heroes. Only a few examples of an explicitly formulated criticism of violence can be found in the Scaldic context; the affirmative character by far predominates. In her contribution, Heike Sahm takes up the discussion about the 'Germanic' remains in the as. Heliand and suggests that the so-called accommodation should not be justified on the basis of aesthetic reception (quasi-pagan audience) or aesthetic production (singers with formula reservoirs), but with considerations the poetics of Heliand: Where heroic diction is used in the context of compound words or variations in Heliand, an aesthetic effect is aimed at by confronting expressions from different registers, from the biblical lexicon and the traditional poetic language. The fact that the Heliand author negotiates inaccuracies in content through the variation of the kite ship with the boat, the spear with the cross, etc., seems to be secondary to the goal of interlacing different diction, and indeed fits in with the other contributions in this section discussed feature of the deliberate conceptual fuzziness in the vernacular poetry tradition. Hildegard L.C. Tristram puts the Irish epic Táin Bó Cuailgne at the center of her remarks and dedicates himself in particular to those episodes of the epic which, in their narrative attitude, contain a distance from violence and heroism through comedy. For these episodes, Tristram notes an ironic or scatologically macabre, absurd or burlesque narrative attitude that turns into the grotesque in those passages that represent Cú Chulainn's self-surpassing exorbitance. In order to explain this surprising comedy in the folk-lingual heroic epic, Tristram discusses three different approaches. She first considers whether this comedy should be addressed as a peculiarity of a vernacular narrative tradition, furthermore whether it ties in with ancient traditions as a parody of the heroic or finally
Lich whether the comedy should be addressed as a deliberate distance from heroic war propaganda. Matthias Teichert goes in his paper The monstrous hero or When the monstrous hero becomes a monster. On the history of the reception of the character type 'dragon fighter' in Old Norse and Old English literature based on the assumption that the hero participates in culture and nature, i.e. is located in the world of humans as well as in the world of dragons, the wilderness. Using the example of Sigurd, Sigmundr, Beowulf and Sigemund and Ragnar lodbrok, Teichert illustrates how attributes and properties that are attributed to the dragon are transferred to the hero and make him appear as a monstrous being. A similarity of the names and Kenningar in the context of the struggle between Sigurd and Fafnir on the one hand and Thor and the Midgard serpent on the other hand confirms the hero's potential for physical (and psychological?) Metamorphosis. The second focus of this volume are those essays that deal with the development of a heroic narrative. Using vernacular and Latin sample texts, a number of different ways of dealing with the basic pattern of a heroic narrative are highlighted: Deconstruction, integration, transformation, comization and negation of the heroic are in the individual contributions partly differentiated from the courtly novel, partly in evidence Hero types are described in the Romance or Germanic, Latin or Celtic literature of the early Middle Ages, and finally, in some cases, also in differentiating from ancient and modern heroic narratives. The essays, which focus on individual case studies, are introduced by an overarching contribution by Udo Friedrich in which he tries to grasp the general characteristics of the heroic narrative. Following the narratological research, Friedrich clarifies the limits of a discussion of the heroic narrative primarily in terms of the genre. Because the meaning of the texts is not primarily based on the work on the pattern, but the experiences of the aristocratic warrior society are first structured and made meaningful through the narrative formatting in historiography and heroic epics. This means that the creation of meaning also depends on the discussion of culture-specific values, which can always be negotiated anew through the new arrangement and combination of narrative cores. Friedrich goes back to Wolfgang Müller-Funk examples of large (genealogy and conquest), medium (exile and return, betrayal and revenge, loyalty and sacrifice, the heroic death of iuvenis) and small (duel in all its substitution and combination possibilities) Narratives in the heroic epic. Torfi Tulinius introduces the series of case studies with his contribution Deconstructing Snorri. Narrative Structure and heroism in 'Eyrbyggja saga'. In this he sees the relationship between legend and history in the case of the Eyrbyggja saga determined by the fact that the discussion of values in the 13th century, i.e. the time of writing
the saga, projected onto the prehistoric times told here. The topic is the question of how one can consolidate power as a chieftain, and this question is not developed through the description of the heroic life of the protagonist Snorri alone, but through an expansion of the staff, which Greimas can be described as the distribution of actant roles. The semantic element of fatherhood is introduced four times, and through the presence of the dead fathers the hero is placed in a constellation that, with Freud, can be understood as an oedipal constellation. The meandering structure of the saga, which often enough leaves the trajectory of the hero's life, then affects the presentation of the heroism: the authority of the chieftain class is called into question by "paternal inheritance". For Hartmut Bleumer, the specific form of time modeling is the key to interpreting the old Hildebrand song. As a testimony to the transition from oral to written form, the text can be understood based on a time configuration in which father and son belong to different time stages. Any other solution than the fight is not possible, because in the relationship between father and son a tension between narrative and non-narrative semantics is built up and a mutual understanding of the symbols and signs used is excluded. The paradoxical constellation in the text is then not due to the confrontation of knowledge and not-knowing, but to the "aporia of time", which leads to the genealogical catastrophe. In his considerations on Deconstructing the Hero in Early Medieval Heroic Poetry, Victor Millet also begins with the question of the conditions for the writing of heroic narratives in the early Middle Ages. In doing so, Millet essentially endorses Walter Haug's considerations, who at the transition from orality to written form establishes the increasing reflection on formerly oral schemes and their availability for new foundations of meaning. Starting with Waltharius and his parodic elements, Millet shows how the narrator develops a narrative strategy for the progressive deconstruction of his hero. Millet extends his observations to the Beowulf and the Hildebrandslied and aims to show the deconstruction of the hero as a typical feature of heroic poetry in the transition from orality to written form. In his 2007 book The Medieval Warrior Aristocracy. Gifts, Violence, Performance and the Sacred, Andrew Cowell discusses the extent to which heroic society is organized according to the basic principle of reciprocity. Does the hero act autonomously, or is he obliged to act towards his liege lord, his clan, his companions and God within the framework of the current economy of gifts? One of his text examples is the Chanson de Roland, the protagonist of which, according to Cowell, Roland weighs his own “integrity”, his autonomy as a hero, higher than his obligations towards the king and paladins. Marianne Ailes draws on these considerations in her contribution The Integrity of the Hero in the earliest Chansons de Geste by showing that even in seemingly exceptional cases such as Roland or Vivian, who initially forbid the acceptance of gifts
refuse, the heroes remain integrated into the economy of reciprocity: Roland blows his horn in the Chanson de Roland when it is certain that he will find death, that he will have given his life for God or Karl. By now blowing the horn, he obliges Karl to give in return, the retainer's vengeance for the death of his people. In the case of the dying iuvenis Vivian in the Chanson de Guillaume, a similar constellation can be observed: the return as revenge for his death, and even an ambivalent text like Gormond et Isembart works according to this principle. Anna Mühlherr also uses heroes and swords in her contribution. Strength and agency in a heroic epic context can be traced back to Cowell's considerations, admittedly by starting from a narratological point of view and expanding his figure constellation of king and vassal by an additional actant: the hero's sword.Using old French texts and their Middle High German translations, Mühlherr can use Latour's concept of agency to show that the heroes Roland, Ganelon / Genelun, Guillaume / Willehalm and their swords cannot be divided, but rather described as a human-thing hybrid in the Latourian sense are. Another focus of the volume, which is discussed almost continuously in the previous section on the hero narrative, are those contributions that discuss the relationship between myth, saga and history on the basis of Latin historiography and mythical prehistory. Wolfgang Haubrichs argues in his contribution Die 'Erzählung des Helden' in narrative passages of the 'Historia Langobardorum' by Paul Diaconus that early medieval storytelling is always a storytelling of heroes, even in Latin historiography. In the Chronicle of Paulus Diaconus he identifies different levels of heroic epic narration, which ultimately aim to historicize and rationalize myths, legends and the oral heroic tradition of the Lombards by integrating them into his chronicle. Wilhelm Heizmann explains in his contribution The mythical prehistory of the Nibelungenhort, why it is necessary to include the non-written tradition - in this case bracteates - in the interpretation of legends. The pictorial evidence allows the remarkable conclusion that the mythical prehistory of the hoard was known to all Scandinavians, and the evaluation of early medieval bracteates even suggests that knowledge of the myth was developed as early as the 6th century, i.e. during the migration period was. The written tradition cannot support the early dating, but it can support the basic knowledge that the Nordic tradition, unlike the German one, tells a mythical prehistory of the hoard. Because in the texts of the older and younger Edda there are references to the myth in the Kenningar (e.g. otter penance as kenning for 'treasure'). Two further articles deal with the concept of accommodation. Johannes Rathofer coined this term in order to turn away from the so-called
Germanization thesis of the 19th century. Rathofer argued that a certain accommodation, i.e. adaptation of the conveyed content to the respective target audience, was an expected strategy that could already be demonstrated in the New Testament itself. The question of how much adaptation to a quasi-pagan audience by adopting the heroic tradition of poetry in ae. or as. spiritual texts are answered very differently in research, and this persistent dissent is also reflected in some of the contributions collected here. While Sahm sees the creative handling of the HeliandAutor with the stylistic features of the heroic diction in the service of the praising intent of the text, Hellgardt makes his critical examination of the concept of accommodation on the subject of allegiance in ae. Texts: On the one hand, the reinterpretation of the suffering crucified Christ as a heroically acting Christ was already made in late antique exegesis (and therefore not necessarily tied to the context of the mission), on the other hand it is evident from the difference between the ae. Guthlac texts the genre-bound heroic epic terminology. Where the verses of Guthlac B described the death of the hero in heroic epic style, there is no terminology of allegiance in Guthlac prose, for Hellgardt an unmistakable indication that the concept of 'allegiance' is a genuinely literary one, more precisely: heroic epic theme is. While in the explanations of Hellgardt and Sahm an 'accommodation' can at best be understood as the adoption of heroic epic means of representation for a spiritual text, Haferland sees such accommodation through the integration of indigenous thought patterns in Heliand and Christ and Satan. In that the Heliand poet Himmelslicht and Höllenzwang as contrasting results of the way of life emphasized more than his source, the Heliand poet was able to rely on the Matthew commentary of Paschasius Radpertus on the one hand, but on the other hand he also accommodates oral thinking in pairs of opposites. Haferland sees this result confirmed by image sources in which the stronger polarization of light and dark is also used for the purpose of achieving a stronger effect with this binary scheme in the context of the mission. And at the same time Haferland points out that the text wants to thematize the "emotional integration of the individual warrior in the follower association" by depicting Christ dying 'as a hero'. A final focus is on the question of the reception of heroic epic texts in the late Middle Ages. In his contribution, Bernd Bastert examines Strange Heroes? Transcoding and connection of the 'Nibelungenlied', the Central Dutch fragment of the Nibelungenlied from around 1280. The different methods of transcoding the Nibelungenlied into Middle Dutch, which can be seen on this, are similar to those methods that have been observed in research for the translation of Chansons de geste into Middle High German. So it could be with the mnl. Fragment of the testimony of a transcoding process
Acting in which the constitutive basis of heroic narration, namely the identical knowledge of legends, is missing. On the basis of these observations, Bastert calls for a new comparative investigation into the distribution and knowledge of the Nibelungen saga. In his contribution 'Svipdagsmál': Gender, Genre, and Reconstruction, Joseph Harris deals with the Svipdagsmál (Sv) and shows that a ballad richly handed down in Scandinavia does not depend on the Sv, but that Sv and ballad come from a common Draw source, an orally transmitted fornaldar saga of the 14th century. On this basis, Harris reconstructs the 'story of the hero' anew, which he then reinterprets from considerations of gender and genre theory and in intensive discussion of recent research. While research has so far considered the mythological interpretation recognizable in the Sv as an ingredient of the Sv poet, Harris comes to the conclusion, on the basis of considerations about the concept of fate, the acquisition of the name of the hero and the design of the hero's initiation, that the template * Svipdagssaga builds on a myth (albeit unconsciously handed down) and the Sv author was able to connect to this mythical core in his editing. Heroic epic, as Friedrich puts it, is by all means more modern in terms of the narrative scheme than the courtly novel, because the onset of contingency is told. Even if it appears archaic compared to court culture around 1200 or is presented in an archaic manner, the contributions presented here open up an area of research in which many questions are unanswered.
Bibliography / Bibliography Analecta septentrionalia: Contributions to North Germanic cultural and literary history. Ed. Heizmann, Wilhelm (2009) Berlin etc. (supplementary volumes to the Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde 65). Bédier, Joseph (1926–1929): Les legends épiques. Recherches sur la formation des chansons de geste, 3rd ed., Paris. Chadwick, Hector Munro (1912): The Heroic Age. Cambridge. Cowell, Andrew (2007): The Medieval Warrior Aristocracy. Gifts, Violence, Performance and the Sacred. Woodbridge. Heusler, Andreas (1941): The old Germanic poetry, 2., revised. and increased edition, Potsdam. Latour, Bruno (1994): We have never been modern. Attempt at a symmetrical anthropology. Berlin. Menéndez Pidal, Ramón (1910): L'Epopée castillane à travers la littérature espagnole, trad. De Henri Mérimée. Paris. Rathofer, Johannes (1962): The Heliand. Theological sense as a tectonic form. Preparation and foundation of an interpretation (Low German Studies 9). Cologne / Graz. Schultz-Balluff, Simone (2014, i.Dr.): heroic saga - heroic poetry - heroic epic. Theories of their creation and development. Frankfurt a.M. etc. (Documentation of German Research 8).
Intertwining of cultures: the exchange of languages and literature between Scandinavia and the German-speaking countries. For the 65th birthday of Hans-Peter Naumann. Ed. Bandle, Oskar / Glauser, Jürg / Gropper, Stefanie (2004). Tübingen (Contributions to Nordic Philology 37).
Conversational Skills for Heroes Abstract: The heroes of stick-rhyming poetry express themselves differently than the heroes of Homer. You will search in vain for clarity and accuracy, for emotional expressiveness and communicability of an Achilles or Hector, a Helena or Hecuba. The heroes of the north prefer to remain indefinite. For example, Sigeferth's warning to his young opponent that death is just around the corner: "Whichever [of two] you yourself desire to seek from me is decreed for you right here" is extremely cumbersome and, on top of that, insulting. This indirect expression is intended to show strength and self-confidence, certainly not despondency. When the heroes of the Nordic poetry talk to one another, their intention is usually cleverly camouflaged, almost hidden under a flood of compliments, negations, minimalism, restraint and politeness. Adhering to such principles seems more important than communicating facts. What we value as modern principles of conversation management: relevance, openness, honesty, logical completeness, sufficient clarity, the maxim of the informative has no validity in the all-round poetry of the early Middle Ages. This should be worked out on the texts under the following six key points: heroic restraint, superlatives and the courtesy of the north, negation and diminution, the "grinning gap", the poet as a ventriloquist and the speeches of oral poetry.
Introduction The heroes of early Germanic alliterative poetry do not speak as their Homeric counterparts do. The bright clarity and exactitude, the emotional expressiveness and expansiveness of an Achilles or Hector, a Helen or Hekabe, are absent. In their place, vagueness reigns, sentences softened and clogged with adjectival and adverbial emollients. Northern heroes seem allergic to boorish directness; they recoil from saying the obvious. Sigeferth’s way of warning his young opponent that death in battle will be his fate - “Whichever [of two] you yourself desire to seek from me is decreed for you right here” (Finn 26-27) ¹ - is a distinctly roundabout threat. Northern indirection tends to signal, as here, strength and awareness, not lily-livered trepidation.
1 With the exception of Klaeber’s Beowulf (Kl 4), (Fulk et al. 2008), which also includes the Hildebrandslied, Finnsburh Fragment, and Waldere, Old English citations, short titles, and systems of reference
Early medieval rhetorical treatises sorted verse narratives into kinds according to who gets to talk: the poet only, his characters only, or a 'mixed' type in which both poet and characters discourse in their own voices, as in the Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid , and, Bede adds, “in Holy Scripture, the story of the blessed job” .² About half the Iliad (697 speeches) and two-thirds of the Odyssey (672 speeches) consist of direct discourse, three-quarters of which assume the form of dialogue (Beck 2005, p. 1f.). Speeches occupy half the Aeneid (about the same proportion as in the western and crime novels of Elmore Leonard), but barely one-quarter of them elicit a reply (Highet 1972, p. 19; Laird 1999, p. 183) .³ ( Aeneas's account of the sack of Troy takes up two full books, one-sixth of the entire epic.) Of the forty separate speeches in Beowulf (1300 lines or almost 40% of the poem), two-thirds either elicit a response or are themselves responding to an earlier speech. The Battle of Maldon, Waldere, and the Finnsburh Fragment are dialogue-rich, as is the Waltharius. A strained conversation between father and son dominates the Hildebrandslied. Lawman’s alliterative Brut has far more speech than its Anglo-Norman source (Cannon 2004, p. 55f .; Le Saux 1989, p. 14–58). Skaldic poems in eddic meter such as Eiríksmál and Hákonarmál revel in dialogue, as do some of the heroic narratives in the Poetic Edda: between a third and a half of Hamðismál, Atlamál, and Atlakviða are in direct speech, as are almost all the stanzas of Helgakviða Hundingsbana II and Helgakviða Hjörvarðsson.⁵ Passages devoted to conversation are greatly amplified from their sources in Old English poetic saint's lives (more than 60% of Juliana takes the form of direct speech), but the ostentatious self-restraint and down-toners that are the hallmark of heroic style are largely if not completely absent. When heroes of northern legend converse, what they mean is sometimes cunningly camouflaged, half-hidden within a flow of compliments, negations, weasel words, and stray observations. Dignity, emotional minimalism, restraint, civility, even stealthy one-upmanship seem more important than communicating facts. The hero’s urban detachment and politeness signal good breeding, not effeteness or
rence are those used by the Dictionary of Old English and are available at. Old Norse editions and short titles are those listed in the Editors ’Manual prepared for the new edn of skaldic poetry at the website:. Skaldic verse is cited from this edn; eddic, from Kuhn / Neckel 1983. Heliand verses are from Behaghel / Taeger 1996, Waltharius from Strecker 1951. 2 De arte metrica, i. 25 (Kendall 1991). The display of classical learning in Byrhtferth’s prologue to his Life of St Oswald (Lapidge 2009, p. 2) and in his Enchiridion iii.3 (Baker and Lapidge 1995, p. 162) are drawn from this passage. The theory of the three kinds of narration in poetry ultimately goes back to Plato's Republic and Aristotle’s Poetics. 3 The proportion of direct speech to narrative in the Iliad is 7339: 8635, in the Odyssey, 8240: 3879, in the Aeneid, 4632.5 / 5263.5 (Kl 4, p. Lxxxvi, n. 4). 4 Bjork 1994, pp. 1017f .; Orchard 2003, pp. 206f. 5 For statistics on Old Norse heroic poetry, see Gunnell 1995, pp. 188f.
Conversational Skills for Heroes
weakness of intellect. Sometimes the information he provides seems supererogatory, stating what everyone already knows. At other times his communications are elliptical, warped in a way that suggests the pull of a hidden back story, a black hole distorting the shape of objects around it (Earl 2010). Relevancy, openness, frankness, logical fullness, staid clarity, the need to be informative: our cherished modern conversational principles are now here in sight.
Heroic Restraint The northern hero is attached to the litotic mood: a down-toner here, a negatio contrarii there, everywhere a refined fuzziness. This aristocratic verbal code was clear to anyone in the know. But in the absence of visual clues teasing meaning into existence, there is the ever-present possibility, as in a wiretap or audio clip, of serious misunderstanding. In the Old English poetic saint’s life Andreas, the apostle asks a conveniently stationed helmsman (Christ in disguise) for ship-passage, adding that he can repay this kindness with beaga lyt ‘few valuables’ (= no fare-money at all). The holy skipper, taking his apostle’s face-saving politesse too literally, begins - perhaps teasingly - to negotiate for the appropriate sum (And 271, 296-7). Even God, it seems, can get fed up with his servants ’peculiar indefiniteness. In classical epic poetry, heroes are by definition “the best” (Nagy 1979; Watkins 1995, p. 484). And, like certain figures in the world of sport today, they rarely hesitate to tell us so. When Achilles asks (we trust rhetorically) “Am I not big and beautiful, the son of a great man with a goddess for my mother”, the hapless Trojan within earshot knows better than to respond along the lines of Monty Python's “your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberry. " These Greek babbles like a brook. Our northern hero wears his excellence with more decorum. No trash-talk or hip-hop braggadocio for him. His wry understatements, laconism, and sententious one-liners were early collected as performance art.⁶ English polite conversation is still peculiarly rich in minimalizing indirections: “He has had a bit to drink” (= he’s soused); “I wouldn't mind a lift” (= please take me home). A learned Scotswoman, recalling the reluctance with which she and her sister undertook a trip to Cairo in 1896, writes: “and yet it had not been the least fruitful in results” (Hoffman / Cole 2011, p. 6). (True enough: the two uncovered a treasure trove of manuscripts.) In Hitchcock’s “Psycho”, Norman Bates notes apologetically his mother’s absence: “Mother - what’s the phrase? - isn’t quite herself today. " (Quite true: she is a corpse in the fruit cellar.) Pleasant expressions
6 For a list of early proverb collections, Harris (in progress):. Bartholin 1689 followed northern heroes on their smiling progress from battlefield to grave and Valhöll, producing a compilation of their fearless quips. The work was published a year before his own death from tuberculosis at the age of 31.
mask dire situations, rendering them more tolerable. Instead of telling the Athenians, in their greatest moment of peril, that they must abandon their city, Themistocles urged them to “commit her to the protection of heaven” (Quintilian, Institutio ix.2.12, ed. Butler 1921-22). In 1945 Emperor Hirohito informed his subjects of their country’s surrender (after the loss of three million people and with invasion looming): "The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage." Stoic circuitousness saves face. Heroic restraint is heard throughout the early medieval North. Icelandic skalds at the court of Cnut the Great (1016-35) were addicted to the terse, the ironic, the negatively put (Hollander 1938; Frank 2006). The poets of Óláfr Haraldsson were at least as sardonic: “There was no cause to reproach” = there was every reason to praise (Sigv Nesv 5); “I think that betrayal of the king did not appear becoming” = men thought it a heinous act (Sigv Nesv 13). Mythological narratives, too, brought out the skald’s inner ironist. Offstage, the gods burn to death a giant in eagle costume and the poet mildly observes: “There was a swerve in his course” = he was halted forever (Þjóð Haustl 13/4). A twelfth-century skald says, alluding to the actors in a famous everlasting battle: “They get reconciled late” = never (RvHbreiðm Hl 45). In Cynewulf’s poem, St Juliana refuses to marry her passionately pagan suitor “unless”, she says sardonically, “he more eagerly worships the God of hosts than he has yet done” (Jul 109f.). Wicked Herod in the Old Saxon Heliand, wishing to destroy baby Jesus, plots the Slaughter of the Innocents: “Now I can bring it about that he not become old on this earth” = he will be slain in childhood (Hel 725f.). In the Old English poem The Battle of Maldon, Byrhtnoth, ealdorman of Essex (956–991), announces to Viking invaders that he is a man unforcuð, 'un-disgraced' (51), literally 'un-wicked, un-despicable '(= of sterling, unblemished reputation). A dróttkvætt ('court meter') stanza on a runestone, carved at about the same time on the Baltic island of Öland, commemorates a war-leader discreetly: no one “more without blame or harm” (= more honorable) will rule land in Denmark (Frank 2011). “He was among men the most undastard’ (= admirable) ”, observe at least four other runic inscriptions from the same period (Page 1995, p. 86; Naumann 1994, p. 499–501). Churchmen had their own peculiar conversational strategies. Wulfstan, archbishop of York until his death in 1023, shows off his excruciatingly good manners (and sense of rhythm) by adding to the familiar words of the Lord's Prayer (“do not lead us into temptation”) the adverbial phrase “all too often ”(= Never). Are these words really necessary? Would it have been unseemly to command God and country more directly? Wulfstan rewrites Ælfric’s injunction - “don’t drink in a tavern, nor be drunk” - as “don’t drink in taverns all too often (= never drink), nor be too drunk (= at all)”. “Don’t anger God all too much”, he urges. Why this strange, hip looseness?
7 The phrase "saving (or losing) face" is Chinese in origin, borrowed by English in the nineteenth century (Carr 1992, 1993).
Conversational Skills for Heroes
Surely the archbishop is not commending the occasional pub crawl or adultery. Was he just being excruciatingly polite? ⁸ Phrases like these not only famously distinguish Wulfstan’s prose style from that of his contemporaries, but associate it with the oral tradition of vernacular verse (Orchard 1992, 2002). In his Anglo-Latin prose Life of St Oswald, Byrhtferth, monk at Ramsey Abbey (c. 970-1020) and Wulfstan's nearcontemporary, reports the hearsay that Oda, sometime archbishop of Canterbury (941-58), was the son of a Dane who came over with the great heathen army of 865/6. He concludes dryly: ideo pater non penitus Christo seruire studuit (for that reason, his father did not wholly seek to serve Christ; Lapidge 2009, p. 17). Centuries earlier, a Merovingian bishop, having received a spoiled grain shipment, observed that the Eucharistic wafers it produced were non bella ‘far from attractive (= totally inedible and disgusting)’ (Shanzer 2010, p. 397). The narrator in Beowulf says of Grendel: “In his eyes stood a light, not beautiful (= utterly horrible)” (Beo 727). Donatus, teacher of St Jerome, called such urbane politesse charientismos (Ars maior 3.6; Keil 1855–80, 4, p. 401); Puttenham (1589, p. 201), more colloquially, “the privy nippe” .⁹
Superlatives and Northern Politesse The narrators of northern heroic poetry, unlike their characters, use superlatives freely.¹⁰ The first-person speaker of Widsith adjudges Hwala the greatest (14), Alexander the most powerful (15), Offa the bravest and possessed of the largest kingdom (36, 39), and Ealhhild the best gold-adorned queen (101-2). Aelfwine has the readiest hand and the most generous (literally “most unstingy”) heart (72-3). Nor were Widia and Hama "the worst of retainers" (125). The narrator of Hyndluljóð similarly reports that Áli was the strongest of men (14 / 1–2), Hálfdan, the most glorious of the Scyldings
8 cf. Goethe’s Faust, II, 6770f .: (Mephistopheles) "You don’t know, my friend how rude you are." (Bacchalaureus) “In German one lies when one is polite” [In German one lies when one is polite]. 9 Many have written on direct discourse in early Germanic poetry: see, inter alia, Heusler 1902; Cook 1926; Schücking 1933; Wolf 1962; Levine 1963; McNally 1975; Pàroli 1975; Richman 1977; Cramer 1977; Shaw 1978; Perelman 1980; Polenz 1981; Dahlberg 1985; Bjork 1985, 1994; Baker 1988; Andersson 1992; Foley 1992; Shippey 1993, 1995, 2010; Classen 1995; Orchard 2003, p. 203-237; Buzzoni 2007; Sahm 2011. 10 One exception to this rule is Eddic Gunnarr who boasts: “My horse is the best, my sword, the sharpest, […] my helmet and shield, the brightest” (Akv 7 / 5–9); another is Helgi (HHund II 27). The Heliand allows its heroes, from Peter and John the Baptist to Christ, to use superlatives, including mêst 'greatest' and betst 'best': eg, craftigost 'most powerful' (973), brêdost 'broadest' (2595), egislîcost 'most terrifying' (2613), forhtlîcost 'most frightening' (2614). No hero or narrator in the secular heroic corpus uses superlative genitive phrases such as lord of lords ’or‘ king of kings ’(Fleming 2012).
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