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And this hero is identical with iSigurO". ^


The award of battle is one part of destiny ; not only norns, but
valkyrs also were imagined spinning and weaving. This is placed
in the clearest light by the fearfully exciting poem in cap. 158 of
the Nialssaga. Through a crevice in the rock DorruSr sees women
sit singing over a tech, at which human heads serve them for
weights, entrails for warp and weft, swords for spools, and arrows
for a comb : in their weird song they describe themselves as
valkyrjur, and their web as intended for the spectator DorruSr.^
At length they tear up their work, mount their steeds, and six of
them ride to the south, six to the north. Compare with this the
iveaving Wyrd of the AS. poet (p. 415). The parting of the
maidens into two bands that ride in opposite directions, is like
those nine in white and nine in black, who came riding up in suc-
cession (p. 421).

I have set norns and /xotpai, side by side ; with equal aptness a
comparison can be drawn between valkyrs and Krjpe<i (without any
verbal affinity, for no doubt the likeness is only an apparent one) :
the K7JP too might be seen on the battlefield in bloody garments,
tending the wounded, dragging away the dead. A Kijp is allotted
to the child as soon as it is born ; Achilles had two Krjp€<; between
whom he might choose, and Zeus put two in the balance, to decide
the death of Hector or Achilles.^ Hesiod (scut. 249 — 254) makes
the dingy white-toothed /C7}pe? contend over the fallen warriors,
each throws her talons round the wounded man, eager to drink his
blood, just as he ascribes talons and a thirst for blood to the moirai
(p. 414) : a fresh confirmation of the identity of norns and valkyrs.
The claws of the moirai and keres, the wings of the thriai, point to
their possession of a lird's shape. The later view [Hesiod'sJ brings
into prominence the sinister side of the keres.

5. Swan-maidens.

But we have now to make out a new aspect of the valkyrs.
We are told that they travel through air and water, ' riSa lopt ok
log,' Stem. 142^ 159^; theirs is the power to fly and to swim, in
other words, they can assume tlie body of a sivan, they love to

1 So at least we may understand ' vindiim, vindum vef Darra&ar,'' even if
the name and the whole story first arose out of a ' vef darraGar,' web of the
dart, conf. AS. deoreS (jaculum). We know that the Sturlungasaga contains a
very similar narrative.

- II. 8, 70. 9, 411. 18, 535—540. 22, 210. 23, 79. 24, 82.


linger on the sea-shore ; and the swan was considered a bird of
augury} Tlie VolundarqviSa relates : Tliree women sat on the
shore, spinning jiax, and had their dlptarhamir (swan-shifts) by
them, so that any moment they could fly away again as swans :
' meyjar Jingo' and ' settuz at hvilaz a ScEvarstroud ' ; one of them
has even tlie surname of svanhvit (swanwhite), and wears swan's
feathers (svanfiaSrar dro). In the Hromundarsaga (Fornald. sog.
2, 375-6), the same Kara, who the Edda says was a second birth
of Svava, appears as an enchantress in svxin-sMft, (fiolkyngiskoiia
i alftarham), and hovers above the hero, singing.^ By her assist-
ance Helgi had always conquered, but it happened in one fight,
that he swung his sword too high in the air, and hewed off liis
lover's foot, she fell to the ground, aud his luck was spent. In
Saxo Gram., p, 100, Fridlevus hears up in the air at niglit 'sonum
trium olorum superne clangentium,' who prophesy to him, and drop
a girdle with runes on it. Brynhildr is ' like the swan on the
wave ' (Fornald. sog. 1, 186) : the simile betrays at the same time,
that she had really the power of changing into the bird. Many
tales of swan-ivivcs still live among the Norse people. A young
man saw three swans alight on the shore, lay their white bird-shifts
in the grass, turn into beautiful maidens, and bathe in the water,
then take their shifts again, and fly away in the shape of swans.
He lay in wait for them another time, and abstracted the garment
of the youngest ; she fell on her knees before him, and begged for
it, but he took her home with him, and married her. When seven
years were gone by, he shewed her the shift he had kept concealed ;
she no sooner had it in her hand, than she Jleiv out as a simii
through the open window, and the sorrowing husband died soon
after. Afzelius 2, 143-5. On the other hand, the swan-hero
forsakes his wife the moment she asks the forbidden question. A.
peasant had a field, in which whatever he set was trampled down
every year on St. John's night. Two years in succession lie set his
two eldest sons to watch in the held ; at midnight they heard a
hurtling in the air, which sent them into a deep sleep. The next
year the third son watched, and he saw three maidens come flying,

1 Es schwant mir, it swans me — I liave a boding. The reference to the
Vjird seems undenialile, for we also .say In tlie same sense : es wachsen (there
grow) mir schwansfcdern' (so already in Zesen's Simson). Conf. the Eddie
' svanfiaSrar dro (wore) '.

^ Kat'n has chosen the reading Lara.


^vlio laid their wings asido, and then danced up and down the
field. He jumped up, fetched the wings away, and laid them under
the stone on whicli he sat. When the maidens had danced till
they were tired, they came to him, and asked for their wings ; he
declared, if one of them would stay and be his wife, the other two
should have their wings back. From this point the story takes a
turn, which is less within the province of the swan-wife myth ; but
it is worth noting, that one of the maidens offers her lover a drink
of water out of a golden 'pitcher, exactly as elfins and wish-wives do
elsewhere (pp. 420, 326). Molbech no. 49.

These lovely swan-maidens must have been long known to
German tradition. When they bathe in the cooling flood, they lay
down on the bank the swan-ring, the swan-shift ; who takes it from
them, has them in his power.^ Though we are not expressly told
so, yet the three prophetic merioomcn whose garments Hagene took
away, are precisely such ; it is said (Nib. 1476, 1) by way of simile

again :

sie swebten sam die vogele uf der fluot.

It is true, our epic names only two of them (the Danish story only
one), the 2visiu wip, Hadburc and Sigelint^ but one of them begins
to prophesy, and their garments are described as ' wnnderlich,'
1478, 3. The myth of Volundr we meet with again in an OHG.
poem, which puts doves in the place of swans : three doves fly to a
fountain, but when they touch the ground they turn into maidens,
Wielant removes their clothes, and will not give them up till one
of them consents to take him for her husband. In other tales as
widely diffused, young men throw the shift, ring or chain over
them, which turns them into siuans? When tlie resumption of
human shape cannot be effected completely, the hero retains a
sivan-wing ; evidence of the high antiquity of this detail lies in its
connexion with the heroic legend of Scoup or Sceaf (p. 370) ; and
it has found its way into modern pedigrees.* Especially impor-

1 Miisteus, Volksmarchen vol. 3 : The stolen veil.

2 There is a jilant named, I suppose, from this Sigelint ; Snmerl. 22, 28
(conf. 23, 19) has cigelinta fel draconis, and 53, 48 cigelinde ; Graff 6, 145 has
sigeline ; see Sigel, feiglander in Schni. 3, 214.

3 Kinderm. no. 49. Deutsche sagen 2, 292-5. Adalb. Kuhn p. 164, the

■* Conf. Deutsche sagen no. 540 : 'the Schwanrings of Plesse,' who carry a
sivan's wing and ring on their scutcheon. A doc. of 1441 (Wolf's Norten no.
48) names a Johannes Swaneflngel, decretorum doctor, decanus ecclesiae
majoris Hildesemensis. In a pamphlet of 1617 occurs the phrase: 'to tear
the ring and mask off this pseudonym '.


tant, as placing in a clear light the exact relation of these swan-
^vives to the walktireii, is a statement about them in Altd. bl. 1
128 : A nobleman hunting in a wild forest saw a maiden bathing
in the river, he crept up and took away the gold chain on her
hand, then she could not escape. There was peculiar virtue in this
chain : ' dor iininie (on account of it) werden sulche frowen
wilnschelwyhere genant'. He married her, and she had seven
children at a birth, they all had gold rings about their necks, i.e.,
like their mother, the power of assuming a swan-shape. Swan-
children then are ivish-children. In Gudrun, the prophetic angel
comes over the sea-wave in the shape of a wild bird singing, i.e., of
a sivan, and in Lohengrin a talking sivan escorts the hero in his
ship; in AS. poetry swanrdd (-road) passed current for the sea
itself, and alpiz, selfet, alpt (cygnus) is aldn to the name of the
ghostly alp, self (see SuppL). •

"We hear tell of a sivan that swims on the lake in a hollow
moimtain, holding a ring in his bill : if he lets it fall, the earth
comes to an end.^ On the UrSarbrunnr itself two swans are
maintained (Sn. 20); another story of a soothsaying swan is
communicated by Kuhn, p. 67, from the Mittelmark. A young
man metamorphosed into a swan is implied in the familiar West-
phalian nursery-rhyme :

swane, swane, pek up de nesen,
wannehr bistu krieger wesen (wast a warrior) ?
Another, of Achen, says :

krune krane, wisse schwane,
we wel met noh Engeland fahre ?
And the name Ssefugel in the AS. genealogies seems to indicate a

The spinner Eerhta, the goose-footed'^ queen, may fairly suggest
swan-maidens (p. 280).3 If those prophetic 'gallicenae ' were able

1 Gottschalk's Sagen, Halle 1814, p. 227.

- The pentagram was a Pythagorean synihol, but also a Druitlic ; as it goes
by the name of elfs foot, elf's cross, goblin-foot, and resembles a pair of goose-
feet or swan-feet, semi-divine and elvish beings are again brought together in
this emblem ; the valkyr ThruS is next door to a swan-maiden, and Staufen-
berger's lover likewise had such a foot.

3 The beautiful story of the Good Woman, publ. in Haupt s zeitschr. 2,
350, is very acceptable as shewing yet another way in which this fairy being
got linkedVith the hero-legend of\he Karlings. The two children born on
one day at paske llourie, and brought up in mutual love (77 — 87), are clearly
identical with Flore and Blanchejteur, lor these also are not real names, but


to assume what animal shapes they pleased, why, then the Celts
too seem to have known about swan-metamorphosis in very early
times, so that in French fay-legends we may supply the omissions ;
e.g., in Meon 3, 412 :

en la fontaine se baignoient

trois j)uccles preuz et senses,

qui de biaute sembloient fees :

lor robes a tout lor chemises

orent desoz une arbre mises

du bout de la fontaine en haut.
puceles senees 3, 419. bien eurees 418. la plus niestre 413-5.
The shifts were stolen, and the maidens detained. In the Lai du
Desire the knight espies in the forest a swan-maiden without her
wimple (sans guimple). The wimple of the white-robed fay
answers to the swan-shift.

6. Wood-Wives.
We have seen that the wish-wives appear on pools and lakes
in the depth of the forest : it is because they are likewise wood-wives,
and under this character they suggest further reflections. The old
sacred forest seems their favourite abode : as the gods sat throned
in the groves, on the trees, the wise-women of their train and
escort would seek the same haunts. Did not the Gothic aliorunas
dwell in the woodland among wood-sprites ? Was not Veleda's
tower placed on a rock, that is, in the woods ? The VolundarqviSa
opens with the words :

meyjar flugo sunnan Myrhvicf igognom,

invented in fairy-tale fashion, to suit the name of their daughter Berhta, the
bright, white. Berhta marries Pepin, and gives birth to Charlemagne ; in the
Garin le Loherain, Pepin's wife is said to be Blanchefleur of Moriane, but in the
story now in question she is the unnamed daughter of count Kuprecht of
Barria (Robert of Berry), spoken of simply as diu guote frouive (162. 1130), diu
guote (1575), la bone dame (3022), conf. bonadea, bonasocia, p. ii83 ; her
husband, who steps into the place of the childless last king (Merovingian), is
Karelman (3020), and the only name that can suit herself is Berte, already
contained in that of her father Iluodbert. The children of this pair are
' Pippin der kleine (little) ' and ' Kwrle der merre (greater) '. The events in the
middle part of the story are quite other (more fully unfolded, if not more
pleasing) than those told of Flore and Blanchefleur ; but we plainly perceive
how on the new Karling race in the freshness of its bloom were grafted older
heathen myths of the swan-wife, of the good wife (p. 253), of the mild woman
(p. 280), of the bona socia (p. 283\ and of the bonne dame (p. 287) ; Conf.
Sommer's pref. to Flore xxvi. xxvii. xxxii.


maids flew from south through murky wood to tlie seashore, there
they tarried seven years, till they grew homesick :

meyjar fystoz a myrkvan vicf,
they could resist no longer, and returned to the sombre wood.
Almost all swan-maidens are met with in the forest. The seven
years agree with those of the Swedish story on p. 427.^

As Sigriln, Sigrdrifa, Sigrlinn are names of valkyrs, and our
epic still calls one of the wise-women Sigelint, I believe that the
OHG. siguwip, AS. sigewif, ON. sigrvif, was a general designation
of all wise- women, for which I can produce an AS. spell com-
municated to me by Kemble :

sitte ge sigewif, sigaS to eorSan !

nsefre ge wilde (1. wille) tu unida fleogan !

beo ge swa gemyndige mines godes,

swa biS manna-gehwylc metes and eScles.^
Like norns, they are invited to the house with promise of gifts.

On this point we will consider a passage m Saxo, where he is
unmistakably speaking of valkyrs, though, as his manner is, he
avoids the vernacular term. In his account of Hother and Balder,
which altogether differs so much from that of the Edda, he says,
p. 39 : Hotherus inter venandum errore nebulae perductus in
quoddam silvcstrinm virginum conclave incidit, a quibus proprio
nomine salutatus, ' quaenam essent ' perquirit. Illae suis ductihis
aiospiciisque maxime hellorum fortunam gubernari testantur : saepe
enim se nemini consincxias proeliis intercsse, clandestinisquc subsidiis
optatos amicis praebere successus: quippe conciliare prospera, ad versa
infligere posse pro libitu memorabant. After bestowing their advice
on him, the maidens with their house (aedes, conclave) vanish
before Mother's eyes (see Suppl.). Further on, p. 42 : At Hotherus
extrema locorum devia j^ervagatus, insuetumque mortalibus nemvs
emensus, ignotis forte xirginibus habitatum reperit spccum : easdem
esse constabat, quae eum insecabili veste quondam donaverant.
They now give him more counsel, and are called ityinpliac?

1 In the Wallacliian marchen 201, three wood-wives bathing have tlieir
crowns taken from them.

- Sedete bellonae, descendite ad terram, nolite in silvam voLire ! Tain
memores estote i'ortnnae meae, ([uam est honiinum quililiet cibi atf^ne patriae.

3 Three otJier nymphs appear directly alter, and prepare enchanted food lor
Balder with the spittle of snakes, p. 43. A '■femina silvestris et immanis ' ia
also mentioned by Saxo p. 125.


This seems no modern distorted view, to imagine the maids of
war, that dwelt in OSin's heavenly company, that traversed air and
flood, as likewise haunting the woodlaiid cave ; therefore feaxo was
right to call them silvcstres, and to place their chamber, their cave,
in the forest.

The older stages of our language supply some similar expressions,
in which I recognise the idea of wise wood-iuives, not of mere elvish
wood-S]3rites. They are called ivildiu ivip, and the Trad, fuld.,
p. 544, speak of a place ' ad domum ivildero iviho '. Burcard of
Worms, p. 198*^, mentions ' agrestes feminas quas silvaticas vocant, et
quando voluerint ostendunt se suis amatoribus, et cum eis dicunt
se oblectasse, et item quando voluerint abscondunt se et evanescunt'.
This ' quando voluerint ' seems to express the notion of wish-life.
Meister Alexander, a poet of the 13th century, sings (str. 139,
p. 143^) : ' nu gent si viir in (go they before him) liber gras in
ivildcr ivihe wiete (weeds)'. So: 'von einem loilden wihe ist Wate
arzet,' is {i.e. has learnt to be) physician, Gudr. 2117; 'das wilde
frduivclinl Ecke 189. In the Gl. monst. 335, wildaz vAjJ stands
for lamia, and 333 ivildiu tvi2J for ululae, funereal birds, death-
boding wives, still called in later times klagcfrmtcn, klagemuttcr, and
resembling the prophetic Berhta (p. 280). In groves, on trees, there
appeared dorninac, niatronae, jpuellae clothed in white (pp. 287-8),
distinguishable from the more elvish tree-wife or dryad, whose life
is bound up with that of the tree. The Vicentina Germans worship
a wood-tvife, chiefly between Christmas and Twelfthday : the
women spin flax from the distaff, and throio it in the fire to pro-
pitiate her : ^ she is every bit like Holda and Berhta. As three
bunches of corn are left standing at harvest-time for Wuotan and
frau Gaue, so to this day in the Frankenwald they leave three
hcmdfuls of flax lying on the field for the hohiveihel (wood-wives,
Jul. Schmidt's lieichenfels, p. 147), a remnant of older higher wor-
ship. Between Leidhecken and Dauernheim in the Wetterau stands
the high mountain, and on it a stone, dcr ivelle fra gcstoil (the wild
woman's chairs) ; there is an impression on the rock, as of the
limbs of human sitters. The people say the loild folk lived there
' wei di schtan noch raell warn,' while the stones were still soft ;
afterwards, being persecuted, the man ran away, the wife and child
remained in custody at Dauernheim until they died. Folk-songs
1 Duiil-sche sacfcn no 150.


make the huntsman in the wood start a dark-brown maid, and hail
her: 'whither away, wild beast?' (Wunderhorn 2, 154), but his
mother did not take to the bride, just as iu the tale of the swan-
children. We find a more pleasing description in the Spanish
ballad De la infantina (Silva p. 259) : a huntsman stands under a
lofty oak :

En una rama mas alta viera estar una infantina,
cabellos de su cabeza todo aquel roble cobrian :
* siete facias (7 fays) me f adaron en brazos de una ama mia,
que andasse los siete anos sola en esta montina '.
But the knight wants first to take his mother's opinion, and she
refuses her consent. When Wolfdieterich sits by a fire in the
forest at night, rauhe Ms comes up, the shaggy woman, and carries
off the hero to her own country,^ where she is a queen and lives on
a high rock : at length, bathing in the jungbrunnen, she lays aside
her hairy covering, and is named Sigcminne, ' the fairest above aU
lands '.2 — Synonymous with 'wildaz wip' the glosses have holzmnoja
(lamia and ulula), she who wails or moos in the wood ; holzfroive
(lamia) AM. bl. 2, 195; holzruna (Gl. mons. 335. Doc. 219^)
meaning the same, but suggestive of that Gotliic aliorumna, AS.
burgrune, and the OK SigrUn (see Suppl.).^

7. Menni, Merimanni.

One general name for such beings must from very early times
have been menni, minni ; it is connected with man (homo), and
with the ON. man (virgo), but it occurs only in compounds : meri-
manni (neut), pi. merimanniu, translates sirena or scylla (Eeda umbe
diu tier, in Hoffm. fundgr. 19, 18), meriminni, GI. Doc. 225=^ mons.
333. In the 13th century poets, merminnc is equivalent to
meynvip, merfrouwe, yet also to wildez wip : ' diu wise merminne,'
Diut. 1, 38. ' gottinne oder merminnc, die sterben niht enmohten
(could nob die),' Eneit. 8860. In the Wigamur 112. 200. 227 seq.,

1 Called Troje, conf. Ecke 81 ; and Elsentroje, Deutsche heldensage 198.
211 (see Suppl.).

2 In t]je Wolfdietr. (Dresd. MS. 290—7), hoelve goddesses go to a mountain,
fetch the hero to them, and tend him ; the loveliest wants him for a husband.
These beings are more wise-women than elfins.

^ As the XaptTfs (Graces) and fays spin and weave, so do the wild women
also : 'mit wilder wtbe henden geworht,' Ulr. Lanz. 4826 ; ninXos ov xapim
KdfjLov avral, II. 5, 338 (see Suppl.).


there appears a wildez wip, who dwells in a hollow rock of the sea,
and is indifferently termed merivip 168. 338, mcrfrouiuc 134, and
merminne 350. AS. mereivif, Beow. 3037. M. Dutch maerminne.
Those three wism wip of the Nibelungen are also called merwip
1475, 1. 1479, 1 ; they foretell and forewarn ; their having indi-
vidual names would of itself put them on a par with the Norse
valkyrs : Hadhurc, Sigelint. The third, whose name the poem omits
(p. 428), is addressed by Hague as 'aller wiseste wip!' 1483, 4.
Wittich's ancestress (p. 376) is named frouwe Wdchilt, as if Wave-
Hilde, she is a merminne^ and says sooth to the hero, Eab. 964 — 974.
Murolt also has an aunt a merminne who lives in mount ElsaM and
rules over dwarfs ; her name is not given, but that of her son is
Madelger, and she likewise gives wise advice to Morolt; Mor. 40'' 41^
The merminne in Ulrich's Lanzelet (lines 196 seq.) is said to be wis
(5751. 6182), she has under her 10,000 %mmarried women (dern
keiniu bekande man noch mannes gezoc), they dwell on a mountain
by the sea, in an ever-blooming land. In the ApoUonius, a bene-
volent merminne is queen of the sea (lines 5160. 5294) ; here the
poet had in his mind a siren in the classical sense, but the Germans
must have had a merminne before they ever heard of sirens. The
Danish name is maremind (Danske viser 1, 118. 125). Norse legend
has preserved for us a precisely corresponding male being, the taciturn
prophetic marmennill (al. marmendill, marbendill), who is fished
lip out of the sea, and requires to be let go into it again ; Halfssaga
c. 7 (Fornald. scig. 2, 31—33), and Isl. sog. 1, 03 (Landn. 2, 5).i
From him coral is named marmennils smi&i, he cunningly wrought
it in the sea. At a later time the word merfei was used in Germany:
that lover of Staufenberger, whom he found in the forest, and the
Eair Melusina (possibly even a tradition of ancient Gaul), are
precisely the fairy being that had previously been called mcrimcnni?
— But, similar to the merminne, there was also a waltminne, which
word equally stands for lamia in old glosses (Diut. 3, 276).
Sigcminne, whether the baptized Eauch-els, Wolfdieterich's lover
(p. 433), or the wife of Hugdieterich,^ may with perfect right be

1 Marmennill is extremely like the Greek Proteus, who is also reluctant at
first to prophesy, Od. 4, 385 seq. There may have been Proteus-like stories
current of our Baklander and Vilander, p. 172 (see SuppL).

2 Yet merfeine occurs already in Diut. 1, 38; wazzerfeine (Oberl. sub v.),
and even merfetn, MS. 2, 63^

3 Deutsche heldensage pp. 185. 200-1.


regarded as a loaltminne or merminne} In the Vilk. saga cap. 17
I find scclcona used of the woman whom Vilkinns found in the wood,
and who bore him Vadi. Saxo Gram., p. 15, speaks of a tugurium
silvestris immanisque feminae (see Suppl.).

By this array of authorities it is proved to satisfaction, that the
wildaz wip or mcnni, minni was thought of as a higher, superhuman
being, such as can be placed at the side of the Scandinavian norn
and valhjr. But in the scanty remains of our tradition the names
stand wofuUy bare, finer distinctions are inevitably lost, and in
more than one place the boundary-lines between gods, demigods,
elves and giants cross one another. Equally with norns and valkyrs
(pp. 413-9. 425), we have goddesses spinning and weaving, as
Holda, Berhta, Freyja, and even giantesses, as we shall see by and

Among the figures in the Greek and Teutonic mythologies, we
have placed side by side the vv/x(f)at, and idist, the fiolpao and nornir,
the Kr]pe^ and valkyrior. But several isolated names might be
compared in the same way, as for instance, NUr} or Victoria with
some Sigrun or Sigrdrifa, "Ept<? and 'Evvdo or Bellona with a Hildr
and Gunnr. Eris, like Iris, is sent forth on an errand by Zeus
(II. 11, 3), as Skogul or Gondul by OSiun, I often find these
Grecian figures in attendance on individual gods : in II. 5, 333
iTToX.L'TTopOo'i ^Evvco gocs wltli Athene ; in 5, 592 ttotvl ^Euvco with

^ A Leyden parclim. IMS. of the 13th century contains the following legend
of Charles the Great : Aquisgrani dicitur Ays (Aix), et dicitur eo qnod Karolus
tenebat ibi quandam mulierem fatatam, sive quandam fatam, que alio nomine
nimpha vel dea vel adriades (1. dryas) appellutur, et ad banc consuetudineia
habebat et earn cognoscebat, et ita erat, quod ipso accedente ad earn vivebat
ipsa, ipso Karolo recedente moriebatur. Contigit, dum quadam vice ad ipsani

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