Hvor navnet Hettel stammer fra er en en usikker historie, der kan danne grundlag for spændende myter om eksotiske øer i en fremmed verden, men vore forfædre stammer bare fra Samsø & Sjælland. Det mest eksotiske er nok fra den gang en forfader gik fra Samsø til Røsnæs - det var før global opvarmning blev opfundet.
Maximilian I., Emperor of Germany, rendered a great service to posterity by ordering that copies of many of the ancient national manuscripts should be made. These copies were placed in the imperial library at Vienna, where, after several centuries of almost complete neglect, they were discovered by lovers of early literature, in a very satisfactory state of preservation. These manuscripts then excited the interest of learned men, who not only found therein a record of the past, but gems of literature which are only now beginning to receive the appreciation they deserve.
The poem „Gudrun,“ which is probably as old as the Nibelungenlied, and almost rivals it in interest, is one of the most valuable remains of ancient German literature. It consists of thirty-two songs, in which are related the adventures of three generations of the heroic family of the Hegelings. Hence it is often termed the „Hegeling Legend.“
"Young Hagen, loudly crying, was filled with dire dismay; The bird with mighty pinions soared high with him away." _Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).
The cries of the child, and the arrows of Sigeband's men at arms, were equally ineffectual in checking the griffin, which flew over land and sea, and finally deposited its prey in its nest on the top of a great cliff on a desert island. One of the little griffins, wishing to reserve this delicate morsel for its own delectation, caught the boy up in its talons and flew away to a neighboring tree. The branch upon which it perched was too weak to support a double load, however, and as it broke the frightened griffin dropped Hagen into a thicket. Undismayed by the sharp thorns, Hagen quickly crept out of the griffin's reach and took refuge in a cave, where he found three little girls who had escaped from the griffins in the same way.
Years passed by before Hagen found the corpse of an armed warrior, which had been washed ashore during a storm. To appropriate the armor and weapons for which he had so long and vainly sighed was the youth's first impulse; his second was to go forth and slay the griffins which had terrorized him and his little companions for so many years. The griffins being disposed of, the young people roamed about the island at will, keeping a sharp lookout for any passing vessel which might convey them home. At last a sail came in sight! Hagen, the first to see it, climbed up on a rock and shouted with all his young strength to attract the crew's attention.
"With might young Hagen shouted, and did not cease to shout, Howe'er the roaring tempest the wild waves tossed about." _Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).
The sailors reluctantly drew near, gazing fearfully upon the three maidens, who, clad in furs and moss, resembled mermaids or wood nymphs. But when they heard their story they gladly took them on board. It was only when the island was out of sight, and when they were in mid-ocean, that Hagen discovered that he had fallen into the hands of Count Garadie, his father's inveterate enemy, who now proposed to use his power to treat the young prince as a slave. But Hagen's rude fare, and the constant exposure of the past few years, had so developed his strength and courage that he now flew into a Berserker rage, flung thirty men one after another into the sea, and so terrified his would-be master that he promised to bear him and the three maidens in safety to his father's court. [Footnote 1: See Guerber's Myths of Northern Lands, p. 29.]
"On warlike enterprises into his enemies' land He spared the poor from ravage of fire with powerful hand; Whenever he encountered a warrior overbearing, He broke his burgs and slew him with dire revenge unsparing." _Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).
As Hagen was unusually tall and strong, as well as uncommonly brave, he was considered well-nigh invincible. The suitors, dismayed at this declaration, reluctantly withdrew, even though they were all valiant men. In those days Hettel (who corresponds to Hedin in the Edda story) was king of northern Germany and of the Hegelings. He too heard marvelous accounts of Hilde's beauty, and, as he was still unmarried, longed to secure her as wife. But knowing that Hagen, in his anger, was likely to slay any ambassador who came to his court with a proposal of marriage, Hettel vowed that he would rather forego the alliance than run the risk of losing any of his tried friends and faithful servants.
"Then said the royal Hetel: 'The people all relate That whosoe'er will woo her incurs her father's hate, And for the maid has perished full many a noble knight; My friends shall never suffer for me such woeful plight.'" _Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).
Attracted by the extraordinary bargains they offered, the people came in crowds, and soon all the inhabitants of Balian were busy talking about the strange peddlers and praising their wares. These stories soon came to the ears of both queen and princess, who, summoning the merchants into their presence, asked who they were and whence they came.
All three replied that they were warriors, and that, being banished from Hettel's court, they had been forced to take up their present occupation to make a living. To prove the truth of their assertions, Wat exhibited his skill in athletic sports, while Horant delighted all the ladies by his proficiency in the art of minstrelsy.
"When now the night was ended and there drew near the dawn, Horant began his singing, so that in grove and lawn The birds became all silent, because he sang so sweetly; The people who were sleeping sprang from their couches fleetly.
"The cattle in the forests forsook their pasture ground; The creeping creatures playing among the grass around, The fishes in the water,--all in their sports were ceasing. The minstrel might most truly rejoice in art so pleasing.
"Whate'er he might be singing, to no one seemed it long; Forgotten in the minster were priest and choral song, Church bells no longer sounded so sweetly as before, And every one who heard him longed for the minstrel sore." _Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).
These soft strains so pleased the younger Hilde that she soon sent for the minstrel again, and Horant, finding her alone, made use of this opportunity to tell her of Hettel's love and longing. She was so touched by this declaration of love that he easily won from her a promise to flee with him and his companions as soon as a suitable opportunity occurred.
The pretended merchants, having now achieved the real object of their journey, disposed of their remaining wares. They then invited the king and his family to visit their ship, and cleverly managing to separate the willing princess from her parents and train, they sailed rapidly away, leaving the angry father to hurl equally ineffectual spears, curses, and threats after them.
"King Hagen, full of anger, leaped forward in the sea. Unto the shore he waded; no braver knight than he! Full many pointed arrows against him were seen flying, Like flakes of snow, from warriors of Hetel's host defying." _Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).
The result of this battle was that Hettel was wounded by Hagen, who, in his turn, was injured by Wat, and that the distracted Hilde suddenly flung herself between the contending parties, and by her tears and prayers soon brought about a reconciliation. Hagen, who had tested the courage of his new son-in-law and had not found it wanting, now permitted his daughter to accompany her husband home to Matelan, where she became the mother of a son, Ortwine, and of a daughter, Gudrun, who was even fairer than herself.
Herwig, who was not ready to give the maiden up, then remembered that Hettel had won his own bride only after he had measured his strength with her father's; so he collected an army, invaded Matelan, and proved his courage by encountering Hettel himself in the fray. Gudrun, who stood watching the battle from the palace window, seeing them face to face, loudly implored them to spare each other, an entreaty to which they both lent a willing ear.
"Fair Gudrun saw the combat, and heard the martial sound. Like to a ball is fortune, and ever turns around.
"Then from the castle chamber the royal maid cried out: 'King Hetel, noble father, the blood flows all about Athwart the mighty hauberks. With gore from warlike labor The walls are sprinkled. Herwig is a most dreadful neighbor.'" _Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).
Herwig had in this encounter proved himself no despicable foe; so Hettel, preferring to have him as a friend, no longer opposed his betrothal, but even promised that the wedding festivities should be celebrated within a year. Herwig tarried in Matelan with his betrothed until he heard that Siegfried, King of Moorland, jealous of his successful wooing of Gudrun, had invaded his kingdom and was raiding his unprotected lands.
The bereaved Hilde, who had seen her beloved daughter thus carried away, promptly sent messengers to warn Hettel and Herwig of Gudrun's capture. These tidings put an immediate stop to their warfare with Siegfried, who, joining forces with them, sailed in pursuit of the Normans in the vessels of a party of pilgrims, for they had none of their own ready for instant departure.
It was useless to pursue them with so small an army; so the Hegelings sorrowfully returned home, bearing Hettel's lifeless body back to the disconsolate Hilde. Then they took counsel, and discovered that so many able fighting men had perished during the last war that they would be obliged to wait until the rising generation was able to bear arms before they could invade Normandy with any hope of success.
"Then spoke old Wat, the hero: 'It never can befall Before this country's children have grown to manhood all.'" _Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).
Gudrun, in the mean while, had arrived in Normandy, where she persisted in refusing to marry Hartmut. On her way thither the haughty princess had even ventured to remind King Ludwig that he had once been her father's vassal, and so roused his anger that he threw her overboard. But Hartmut immediately plunged into the water after her, rescued her from drowning, and when he had again seen her safe in the boat, angrily reproved his father for his hasty conduct.
"He said: 'Why would you drown her who is to be my wife, The fair and charming Gudrun? I love her as my life. Another than my father, if he had shown such daring, Would lose his life and honor from wrath of mine unsparing.'" _Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).
During three whole years Gudrun endured this cruelty in silence; but when Hartmut returned she was restored to her former state, although she still persisted in refusing his passionate suit. Discouraged by her obstinacy, the young man weakly consented to abandon her again to Gerlinda's tender mercies. The princess was now made to labor harder than ever, and she and Hildburg, her favorite companion and fellow captive, were daily sent down to the shore to wash the royal linen.
[Illustration: GUDRUN AND THE SWAN.–Kepler.]
It was winter, the snow lay thick on the ground, and Gudrun and her companion, barefooted and miserably clad, suffered untold agonies from the cold. Besides, they were nearly exhausted, and the hope of rescue, which had sustained them during the past twelve years, had almost forsaken them. Their deliverance was near, however, and while Gudrun was washing on the shore, a mermaid, in the guise of a swan, came gently near her and bade her be of good cheer, for her sufferings would soon be at an end.
"'Rejoice in hope,' then answered the messenger divine; 'Thou poor and homeless maiden, great joy shall yet be thine. If thou wilt ask for tidings from thy dear native land, To comfort thee, great Heaven has sent me to this strand.'" _Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).
The swan maiden then informed her that her brother Ortwine had grown up, and that he would soon come with brave old Wat and the longing Herwig to deliver her.
The next day, in spite of the increased cold, Gerlinda again roughly bade the maidens go down to the shore and wash, refusing to allow them any covering except one rough linen garment.
"They then took up the garments and went upon their way. 'May God let me,' said Gudrun, 'remind you of this day.' With naked feet they waded there through the ice and snow: The noble maids, all homeless, were filled with pain and woe." _Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).
"There spoke the royal Herwig: 'As long as lasts my life, I'll mourn for her; the maiden was to become my wife.'" _Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).
The lovers, who had been equally true, now fell into each other's arms. Ortwine was overjoyed at finding his sister and her companion, having long secretly loved the latter, so he poured out an avowal of his passion, and won from Hildburg a promise to be his wife. The first moments of joyful reunion over, Herwig would fain have carried Gudrun and Hildburg back to camp with him; but Ortwine proudly declared that he had come to claim them openly, and would bear them away from Normandy honorably, in the guise of princesses, rather than by stealth.
Promising to rescue them on the morrow, the young men took leave of the maidens. Hildburg conscientiously finished her task, but Gudrun proudly flung the linen into the sea and returned to the palace empty-handed, saying that it did not become her to do any more menial labor, since she had been kissed by two kings. Gerlinda, hearing her confess that she had flung the linen into the sea, ordered her to be scourged; but when Gudrun turned upon her and proudly announced that she would take her revenge on the morrow, when she would preside over the banquet hall as queen, Gerlinda concluded that she had decided to accept Hartmut.
The mother, therefore, flew to him to impart the joyful tidings. In his delight he would fain have embraced Gudrun, who, however, haughtily bade him refrain from saluting a mere washerwoman. Becoming aware only then of her sorry plight, the prince withdrew, sternly ordering that her maidens should again be restored to her, that her every command should be fulfilled as if she were already queen, and that all should treat her with the utmost respect. These orders were executed without delay, and while Hartmut was preparing for his wedding on the morrow, Gudrun, again clad in royal attire, with her maidens around her, whispered the tidings of their coming deliverance. Morning had barely dawned when Hildburg, gazing out of the window, saw the castle entirely surrounded by the Hegelings' forces; and at cockcrow old Wat's horn pealed forth a loud defiance, rousing the Normans from pleasant dreams, and calling them to battle instead of to the anticipated wedding.
"The morning star had risen upon the heavens high, When to the castle window a beauteous maid drew nigh, In order to espy there and watch the break of day, Whereby from royal Gudrun she would obtain rich pay.
"There looked the noble maiden and saw the morning glow. Reflected in the water, as it might well be so, Were seen the shining helmets and many bucklers beaming. The castle was surrounded; with arms the fields were gleaming." _Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).
The battle was very fierce, and the poem enumerates many of the cuts and thrusts given and received. Clashing swords and streams of gore now monopolize the reader's attention. In the fray Herwig slew King Ludwig. Gudrun was rescued by Hartmut from the hands of Gerlinda, who had just bidden her servants put her to death, so that her friends should not take her alive. Next the Norman prince met his rival and fought bravely. He was about to succumb, however, when his sister Ortrun, who throughout had been gentle and loving to Gudrun, implored her to save her brother's life. Gudrun, touched by this request, called out of the casement to Herwig, who, at a word from her, sheathed his sword, and contented himself with taking Hartmut prisoner.
When the massacre was over, the victors celebrated their triumph by a grand banquet, at which Gudrun, fulfilling her boast, actually presided as queen.
"Now from the bitter contest the warriors rested all. There came the royal Herwig into King Ludwig's hall, Together with his champions, their gear with blood yet streaming. Dame Gudrun well received him; her heart with love was teeming." _Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).
When the banquet was over, the Hegelings set sail, taking with them the recovered maidens, all the spoil they had won, and their captives, Hartmut and Ortrun; and on reaching Matelan they were warmly welcomed by Hilde, who was especially rejoiced to see her daughter once more.
"The queen drew near to Gudrun. Could any one outweigh The joy they felt together, with any wealth or treasure? When they had kissed each other their grief was changed to pleasure." _Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).
At the wedding banquet Horant, who, in spite of his advanced years, had lost none of his musical skill, played the wedding march with such success that the queens simultaneously flung their crowns at his feet,–an offering which he smilingly refused, telling them that crowns were perishable, but that the poet's song was immortal.
"The aged minstrel drew his harp still closer to his breast, Gazed at the jeweled coronets as this thought he expressed: 'Fair queens, I bid you wear them until your locks turn gray; Those crowns, alas! are fleeting, but song will live alway.'" NIENDORF (H.A.G.'s tr.).