Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hereward and Siegfried, Separated at Birth?

While I have been reading and not writing my paper on The Nibelungenlied, it occurred to me that Hereward's life story written by Richard of Ely(most likely) from an account written by Hereward's priest Leofric the Deacon, resembles that of Siegfried. Richard states in his introduction that "Huius enim memorati presbiteri erat studium omnes actus gygantum et bellatorum ex fabulis antiquorumaut ex fideli relatione ad edificationem audiencium congregare et ob memoriam Anglie litteris commendare. " Leofric liked to collect stories about giants and heroes from the old days, ostensibly for the edification of his audience, but probably because he liked them and he wrote them down. I think Leofric had been reading one of those early versions of Siegfried's story because Hereward shares many of his adventures.
The one thing Hereward does not do is kill a dragon but then, nobody had seen a dragon around Ely. It would be hard to make that one up. However, Hereward did fight a bear and a giant/ogre, goes on a bridal quest with an Irish prince to obtain a Cornish princess, and wins special items through his battles. He too had all the accouterments of Siegfried: the sword, cloak, corslet, helmet, and a horse. He is missing a ring but he does repudiate his first wife, with whom he has a daughter, and takes a second wife. His singing performances remind me of Volker. Who would not like Volker? Richard of Ely does not say he dies because of an act of treachery but Geoffrey Gaimar does.
Hereward was not felled by one warrior sneaking up from behind but four(mind you it may have taken four Normans to make one Hagen) but, with Hereward unable to reach his sword, he does take up a shield like Sigurd in Volsungsaga and kills a man with the edge of it. Siegfried only wounds Hagen with the shield instead of killing him like Sigurd kills Guttorm. Gaimar has nothing to do with the account in Gesta Herwardi; they are too different but one has to wonder if one of the stories that Leofric was reading while he was composing his history of Hereward was not one of those early versions of The Song of the Nibelungs. It is an intriguing thought.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Agony of the End of Term Paper

I don't want to leave the blog without an update for too long but my time has been taken up with research. I had no idea there were so many version of the Siegfried tale. I have been looking at so many variations on a theme that I am forgetting which Siegfried did what. Along with that, The Nibelungenlied, which is often and rightly compared to The Iliad, has many elements in common with the story of the siege of Troy which is told in even more variations.
One variant tells that Achilles fell in love with Polyxena, Priam and Hecuba's daughter, having seen her with her brother Troilus, and rather than ask for gold in exchange for Hector's body, he asked for her hand in marriage. In this version, it is she who finds out from the dazzled Achilles that he is vulnerable on his heel, tells her parents, and she lures Achilles to a temple of Apollo so that Paris can kill him. Polyxena is known in every version as the maiden who was sacrificed on Achilles' graves so that the Greeks could raise a wind to get home. Oh, well, the Trojan War got under way with the murder of Iphigenia and ends with the killing of Polyxena. Bad days to be a virgin. Look what happened to Cassandra.
I have not thought much of Theseus' story but he had a relationship in some of the myths with the queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta. They met when Theseus helped Heracles obtain the girdle of the queen as part of his twelve labors. Some versions say it was her sister that he was betrothed to. They had a son Hippolytus who lived with his father after Theseus cast his mother aside for the sister of Ariadne, Phaedra. Theseus was a dog. He was punished when his wife Phaedra fell in love with his son, Hippolytus, and killed herself when he would not return her love.
Many of these stories can be found in Ovid's Metamorphoses but some of the alternate versions can be found in the book of Apollodorus, or Pseudo-Apollodorus if you prefer, called the Bibliotheca or Library. Here is a link to a translation by James George Frazer who wrote The Golden Bough. Apollodorus disagrees with Homer in some of the details of the Trojan War and writes that Homer got it wrong. So many myths are crisscrossing and doubling back. I need to figure out what it all means so I can write an amazing paper about it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Now That Rosimund Is Dead

After they had been thus killed, the prefect Longinus sent Albsuinda with the treasure of the Langobards to Constantinople to the emperor . Some declare that Peredeo equally had come to Ravenna with Helmichis and Rosimund and from there he was sent to Constantinople with Albsuinda. And there, in a spectacle of the people, in the presence of the emperor, he killed a lion of great size. As it is reported, because he was a strong man, by order of the emperor, his eyes were torn out lest he set in motion anything of evil in the royal city. He, after some time had adapted two small knives to himself, which were hidden inside both of his sleeves. He went to the palace and promised to speak about a certain thing useful to the emperor if he was brought into his presence. To whom, the emperor sent two patricians, members of his own household, who would take up his words. When they came to Peredeo, he approached nearer to them as though he wanted to speak something to them more secretly, and he wounded them severely with the swords in both of his hands, which he had hidden. They immediately fell to the ground and died. He avenged his injuries like that very strong Samsom, being not dissimilar to him in other parts, and he killed two men, who were very useful to the emperor, for the loss of his two eyes.

Unfortunately nothing is known of the subsequent fate of Albsuinda so here ends the tale of Alboin.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Aftermath of Alboin's Death

Therefore, Helmichis, after he had killed Alboin, attempted to invade his kingdom. But he was not at all able, because the Langobards, sorrowing too greatly over the death of Alboin, set out to kill him. Immediately Rosimund sent to Longinus, prefect of Ravenna, that he would quickly send a ship with which he could save them. Longinus, having been made happy by this news, quickly sent a ship on which Helmichis and Rosimund, who was now his wife, boarded fleeing by night. They carried with them the daughter of the king, Albsuinda (not Rosimund's daughter), and all the treasure of the Langobards. They came to Ravenna with all speed. Then Longinus, the prefect, began to urge Rosimund that she kill Helmichis and marry him. She, as she was easily inclined to all wickedness, desired to become mistress of Ravenna, have herself over to thoughts of the deed which must be done. While Helmichis cleansed himself in a bath, she went in to him and brought a cup with poison to the tub. She affirmed it to be safe and he drank it. When he felt himself to have drank a cup of death, he drew his sword upon Rosemund so that he could compel her to drink the rest. And thus, by the judgement of allpowerful God, the most wicked killers perished at the same time.

tomorrow. the fate of Longinus since he has the treasure now.......

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Alboin, King of the Langobards, part 5

Chapter 28, the point at which Rosimund makes her move.

After he had ruled as king in Italy for three years and six months, he was slain by the plots of his wife. Moreover, this was the cause for his murder. When he was happily living near Verona, he stayed longer than was proper at a feast. He ordered the cup, that he had made from the head of his father in law, Cunimund, to be given to her and invited her to drink so that she could share a happy drink with her father. This did not seem impossible to him. I speak the truth in Christ. I myself have seen this cup on a certain feast day in the hand of Prince Ratchis who was showing it to his guests. When therefore, Rosimund considered the matter, deep sorrow was taking hold in her heart, which she was not able to restrain, so she burned to avenge the murder of her father in the death of her husband. Soon she entered into a plan with Helmichis, who was the king's squire, that is his shield-bearer, and had been Alboin's foster brother, so that he would kill the king. He persuaded the queen that Peredeo, who was a very strong man, would be included into this plan. Peredeo was unwilling to apply himself to this wicked accord with the queen's great urging. So she substituted herself one night in the bed of her maid, whom he was having this disgraceful habit with (sex); where Peredeo, coming to bed unaware of the change, had 'knowledge' of the queen. And when she succeeded at the wickedness she asked him whom he supposed her to be. And he named the name of his 'friend', whom he reckoned her to be. He was subdued by the queen who said, " I am not at all who you reckon, but I am Rosimund. Certainly now you have committed such a deed that either you kill Alboin or he will extinguish you with his sword." Then he, understanding the wrong he had committed, and he, who was unwilling, agreed to the murder of the king after he had been compelled in this way. Then, while Alboin gave himself over to a sleep in the middle of the day, Rosimund, after ordering a great silence in the palace and removing all arms, strongly bound his sword to the head of his bed so that he would not be able to draw it out. And, accordingly to Helmichis' plan, she, more cruel than all beasts, lead Peredeo, the killer, in.
Alboin, suddenly roused from his sleep, understanding the evil which threatened him, extended his hand quickly to his sword, which was so tightly bound that he was not able to draw it. However he took hold of a small footstool and defended himself with it for a while. But alas! What sorrow! This man who was very well suited to war and of the greatest daring was not prevailing against his enemy. He was killed as though he was of one lacking skill. He, who was very famous in war by the overthrow of so many enemies, perished by the conniving of his wife. His body was buried with the greatest of weeping and lamentation of the Langobards under a certain set of steps which was near the palace. For he was so great in stature and his body was well suited for the waging of war. This grave was opened in our days by Giselpert, who was the Duke of Vernona. He took the sword of Alboin and any other ornaments of his that had been found. Who, for this reason, was giving out to unlearned men with his usual vanity that he had seen Alboin.

tomorrow: the aftermath of the murder, ie what happens to Rosimund
image from Wiki commons

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Alboin, King of the Langobards, part 4

So Narses is dead and Alboin is continuing across Italy to solidify his position. He crossed the river Plavis and the Bishop Felix was able to get him to let the church keep all its stuff. Then Paul talks a little about Felix and Fortunatus before returning to Alboin. He took Vincentia, Verona, and the rest of the Venetian cities expect Padua, Monselice, and Mantua. Then Paul digresses a bit more on the Italian provinces before returning to Alboin again in Chapter 25. He entered the province of Liguria on the third day before the Nones of September and took all of their cities except the ones on the coast.
The city of Ticinum (Pavia) held out preferring a siege which lasted more than three years. The Langobard army was nearby on the west side, while Alboin continued on and invaded all the way to Tuscany, excluding Rome and Ravenna (a very difficult fortress to take) and some fortified towns that were along the coast. Following a famine and plague, there was not enough strength in the Romans to resist him. He brought many people with him into Italy.

"But after three years and several months of the city of Ticenum preferring to endure a siege, they then surrendered to Alboin and the Langobards, besieging them. When Alboin entered through that gate which is called Saint John from the eastern side of the city, his horse fell down in the middle of the gate and, although he urged it with spurs, although he cut it beating the horse with spears, it could not be raised up. Then one of those Langobards spoke to the king, in this way, saying: "Be mindful, Lord King, how you swore this oath. Break your harsh vow and you will enter the city. For truly, the people of this city are Christians." Indeed Alboin had vowed that , since they had been unwilling to surrender to him, that he would put the entire population to the sword. After he broke his vow by promising indulgence to the city, suddenly, with his horse getting up, he entered that city. Bearing them no harm, he kept his promise. Then all the people came running to him in the palace, which a certain king Theudericus had built. After such miseries, a spirit of hope began to lift confidence in the future.

tomorrow, Alboin gives Rosimund a reason to kill him, if she didn't have one already.

(picture from Wiki commons)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Alboin, King of the Langobards, part 3

Paul stops for an aside on the career of Narsis, Patrician of Rome, who seemed to be the leader trying to prevent the incursions of the Germanic tribes into Italy and sometimes the Gauls/Franks. Then the plague of Justinian sprang up and devastated the coastal regions of Italy as well as Constantinople. It sounds like Paul was reporting the Wild Hunt to have been heard throughout Italy at this time. Justinian dies and Justin becomes the emperor in the east. Since Narsis has become wealthy defending Italy, people start grumbling to Justin and his wife Sofia sends him a tool for weaving which is a big slap since only women weave and Narsis is a eunuch. Some trash talk follows and Narsis send to Alboin and the Langobards, who are his allies and still live in Pannonia, to come and live with him in Italy. Poor soil and cold winters or abundant fruit, grain, wine and sunshine. It was a no-brainer; they packed their things and headed for Italy. They also took their friends, the Saxons, along with them. There is a sign in the heavens of a fiery sword, gleaming with all the blood that is about to be spilt.
Alboin arrives at the borders of Italy where a mountain juts out which is later called the King's Mountain. There are some particularly large wild oxen or bison there which they feast on. Then they arrive at the borders of the Venetian lands which is the first Italian province west of Pannonia. He gives the rule of this land over to his nephew, Gisulf, and carries on. At this time, the king of the Franks, Chlotaire, dies and his kingdom is divided among his four sons. Benedict is the pope. The Huns attack Sigibert. After a snowy winter, there is a hot summer with a magnificent harvest. Sigibert marries Brunhilde. The Franks defeat the Huns. Narsis dies, leaving Italy wide open to Alboin. Then, Paul goes on to describe Italy and its city states. And tomorrow we will return to Alboin's rampage through Italy. :-)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Alboin, King of the Langobards, part 2

Paul then goes on about the glorious reign of Justinian, who built Hagia Sophia and the Codex Justinian, his general Belisarius, Senator Cassiodorus, and Priscianus. After some verses which I am ignoring, he resumes Alboin's story in chapter 27.

Thereupon Audoin, king of the Langobards, about whom I spoke before, married Rodelinda, who brought forth for him Alboin, a man suited to war and vigilant in all matters. Then Audoin died and Alboin was now the tenth king, after he succeeded to the rule of his homeland by the votes of all. When he achieved a very celebrated and bright name to men everywhere, he joined Chlothare, King of the Franks, to himself by marrying his daughter, Chlotsuinda. From whom, he received but one daughter Alpsuinda, by name. Meanwhile, Turisind, King of the Gepids, died, to whom Cunimund succeeded in rule. He, desiring to avenge the old injuries of the Gepids, broke the pact with the Langobards, choosing war over peace. But Alboin entered into an eternal pact with the Avars, who were first the Huns, afterwards were called by the name of Avars by their kings.
After this, having prepared for war with the Gepids, he set out. When they hastened to attack him by a different path, the Avars, who stood with Alboin, invaded their homeland. The sad messenger, coming to Cunimund, told how the Avars had moved against their borders. Cunimund, struck down in spirit, and placed in dire straits, urged his men to contend with the Langobards first. If they succeeded in overcoming them, then they could expel the army of the Huns from their land. Therefore, the battle being joined, it was fought by all of the men. The Langobards achieved the victory, raging with such great anger against the Gepids that they destroyed them to the point of extinction and from the great numbers, scarcely the one messenger remained. In this battle, Alboin killed Cunimund, taking the head of him and making a cup for the purpose of drinking from it. This type of cup is called a 'scala' by them, but in the Latin tongue it is called a drinking bowl. He took Cunimund's daughter, Rosimund by name, with a great number of either sex and differing ages into captivity. Since Chlotsuinda had died, he married Rosimund, from whom he would endure calamity.
Then, the Langobards had obtained so much booty that they now came into very great riches. Truly the people of the Gepids were thus diminished, so much that from this time they did not have a king, but everyone, who was able to survive the war, was made subject to either the Langobards or the Huns, who hold their homeland to this day. They groaned subjected to a harsh rule. But Alboin increased the fame of his name far and wide by this, such that, even to the Bavarian people and the Saxons and to other peoples of the same language, the generosity, fortune in war, bravery and glory of him was being sung in their songs. It is told by many to this day, that extraordinary arms were to have been made during his rule.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Real World Game of Thrones

George R.R. Martin has announced on his blog that his book will be published. Not that it is finished, just that it has a firm publishing date. Okay, then. For those of you who are tired of waiting, I have a chapter from Paul the Deacon's book called The History of the Long Beards (aka Langobards).
We take up the story of the Winnili, who became known as the Langobards because of some story about long beards, as they are on the verge of leaving Eastern Europe and heading for the Italian territories for their new kingdom. But first, a little back ground. Waccho became king after he attacked and killed his uncle Tato. Another son of Tato, Hildichis, attacked Waccho but was defeated and escaped to take refuge with the Gepids. This is the source of the later feud: the Gepids sheltered the true heir to the Langobards.
Waccho had a son, Waltari, who succeeded him and ruled for seven years but then he died and was replaced by Audoin. Audoin had a son, Alboin, and this is where I take up the tale. The feud with the Gepids heated up and Audoin took his son to the battle where Alboin distinguished himself so well the warriors of his clan thought that he should be able to eat at the table with his father. It was the custom of the Langobards that a man could not eat with the warriors or be properly considered a warrior until he received his arms from a foreign king.
Audoin that his son must first receive his arms, and although he killed King Turisind's son Turismod in the recent fighting, this is who Alboin decides to collect arms from. So, ........
Book I, Chapter 24.

After hearing these things from his father, Alboin, taking only 40 young men with him, set out for the kingdom of the Gepids, with whom he had fought a war before. He announced to Turisind the reason for which he had come. Who, receiving him kindly, invited him to his own dinner and what's more placed him at his own right side, where his own son Turismod had been accustomed to sit. Amidst the splendor of things, while they ate various foods, Turisind, before the dinner, turning over in his mind that it was the seat of his son before and restoring the funeral to his mind and the slayer of him sitting in his place in person, he was not able to contain himself. He drew deep sighs but such sorrow burst out in his voice. He said, "This place is dear to me but not the person who sits in it, the sight of whom is burdensome enough." Then the other son of the king, who was there, being moved by the speech of his father, began to provoke the Langobard with insults, declaring that they, because they were using white bandages on the lower part of their legs, from their shins down to their feet, they appeared as though they were mares, saying, "The mares have fetlocks, that you imitate." Then one of the Langobards responded thus to these words, "Go forth into the field of Asfeld, and there without a doubt you will be able to test, how well those who you call mares will have the superiority in kicking. Where the bones of your brother are scattered in the middle of the meadows like of a common beast." After hearing this, the Gepids, not wanting to bear the provocation, were vehemently moved to anger and were burning to avenge manifested injuries. They were ready for war against the Langobards. All had placed their hands on the hilt of their swords. Then the king, springing up from the table, threw himself into the middle and restrained them from war by his anger, threatening that the first of them, who might join the first fight, would be punished. He said such a victory is not pleasing to God, when a man slays his guest in his own home. After having restrained the quarrel in this way, the dinner party proceeded after with happy spirits. Turisind, taking up the arms of his son Thurismod, gave them to Alboin and sent him unharmed and in peace to the kingdom of his father.
Alboin, returned to his father from there after the dinner was over. He, when with his father, happily seized on the royal pleasures and reported all things as they happened, of which he had tasted while at the Gepids in Turisind's palace. They (Langobards) were amazed at those who were there and praised the daring of Alboin, not less than they bore praises to Turisind for his great honesty. be continued because you know this amazing life of this guy doesn't end here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Influence of Boethius on Other Writers.

I was reading an article called 'Notes on Fate and Fortune'* by F.P Pickering for an annotated bibliography assignment. One always gets a sinking of the heart when one has to read literary theory, although there are some gems out there. This, I thought, was one of them. Pickering started off stating that he sorts secular writing into categories: Augustinian or Boetian. Augustinian was reserved for Christian, hagiographic writing, and Christians writing on secular subjects tend to follow Boetian ideas. Boethius, unlike Augustus, was concerned about life on earth as well he should be. He wrote Consolations of Philosophy while imprisoned by Theodoric the Great and waiting to be executed. So it was written by a man who was waiting to die in a nasty manner.
One minute he was a great man, advisor to the king, wealthy, loved, and the next minute he was accused of treason, thrown in jail and executed. Was he guilty? Probably not. He invented the idea of the Wheel of Fortune that was so influential in the Middle Ages. He wrote about Providence and Fate as well as Fortune.
While reading Medieval texts, one comes across references to Boethius. He was loved and read by just about everyone. His book was an essential part of Medieval education; he influenced many writers. Pickering followed with examples of Boetian influence in some Germanic texts that have been called 'problematic' because they were clearly written by a Christian but are not overtly 'Christian' writing. They need to be understood with reference to Boethius. Just as reading Ovid and then rereading Shakespeare changes so much of how you look at a Shakespearean play, I think I need to put Boethius on my summer reading list and then go back and read Beowulf. You should too.

* Taken from Medieval German Studies for F. Norman, 1965