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.


The Plashing Vole said...

Genuinely fascinating.
Meanwhile, you need to watch this if you're planning to do a PhD. Having been through it, it's all true, but don't let it put you off.

The Red Witch said...

I saw that a few months ago. We were all having a laugh at it at the Medieval Centre. It won't stop me from pursuing it; I just wonder what I will do after because the academic life does not look appealing.
I am glad you find the comments about Hereward interesting. For sure some form of Siegfried story made it to Britain since his father is mentioned in Beowulf and some of the names are mentioned in Widsith and genealogies, but I don't think anyone has remarked on the similarities between the two stories.

Anachronist said...

Very fascinating! Nibelungs and Hereward have too much in common to claim it a coincidence!

Kristin said...

Fascinating! I'm sure you're right.

Tracy said...

Sounds like an intriguing theory to me.

The Red Witch said...

Too bad there is no way to really work it out, unless there are more clues in the old manuscripts around Peterborough. In Beowulf, Sigmund who is Siegfried's father is named as a dragon killer without mentioning Siegfried.