En Kontinentåle Grendel? / A Continental Grendel?

Mangs givt et lüde, dår ik höär um myn interesse um sassiske såken vortel, dee glöövt, dat et um et angel-sassisk geit, dat meint: oldengelsk. Vansülv is dat ouk styv interessant, mor doch neet myn primäre interesse. Disse vorwarring is begryplik. En bült lüde weyt höär, dat et in 4.-6. eyw de groute volkswandering gav. Alderhande volker in Europa binnen höär når en ander stea gån. Uut de nourd-Düütske umråden sellen de anglen en de sassen med enkander de Britske eilanden to kolonisearen. Dår is düs dee link: de Sassen van de Angel-Sassen binnen desülvde småk Sassen, as de lüde up et Europäiske kontinent, dee höär språke now et sassisk nöömt. Der is in al val en historiske link.

In 19. eyw gav der en bült interesse vöär al såken dee med disse Angel-Sassen van doon haren. Lüde kreagen höär interesse vöär eygen history med en sünderlike readen: disse history güldt as basis vöär konstruktsioon der eygen natsioon. How sit dat now precys? In Romantyk, en artistyke en filosofiske beweging uut 19. eyw, gav et en bült artisten en filosofen, dee höär interesse krygen in eygen history, history van et eygen volk. Disse heyle fokus up et volk was dowdestyds en nymouds idea. Filosoof Herder kwam med dit idea: lüde heyle wearld oaver kinnen indeyld würden in vorskydene volker, al med höär eygen bruken, traditsionen, glöyven, leedkes, vortellingen, en al meyr. Dit heyle idea van et volk sel båsis weasen vöär de natsionen-ståt, en gav düs impüls at et natsionålismus.

Döär disse fokus up et eygen volk, kreagen en bült lüde ouk meyr interesse in de volksvortellingen van dit eygen volk. Men güng ouk vannys kyken når olde teksten, seakers as in disse teksten vortellingen to vinden waren dee van tydstyden haer waren. Et leevste vansülv uut vöärkristlike tyden, dår see noch beater de glöyvsidean van et volk weadergeaven sullen dan låtere teksten uut de kristentyd. In England krygen lüde meyr interesse in olde dichtwarken lykas de Beowulf. In et kört geit dit dichtwark um Beowulf, könink der Geaten, dee sik kamp hev med vorskydene monsters. Eyrst har hee kamp med Grendel, dan med Grendel syn moder, en up et end med en lellike dråk. Disse vortelling war vöär eyrsten mål in vruge 19. eyw publiklik publiceard, en wardt al vlut töt England höär natsionålen epyk uphimmeld.

Good, wat is et now med disse Beowulf? Neavens Tolkien (nåst skryver van Lord of the Rings ouk en undersöker van de angelsassiske of oldengelske språke) givt et noch en bült relikten uut de vöärkristlilke tyd in dit dichtwark. En as dat now sou is, dan kin et ouk weasen, dat en vörm van dit dichtwark al up et Europäiske kontinent by de Anglen en Sassen bekind was.

Dat sol doch wat weasen: dammea vinden wy olde idean in dissen angel-sassiske bornen, dee ouk vöär tydstyden haer up et kontinent bekind weasen! Kinst ju vöärstellen, how skyr et was, dow eyn, dee ouk en bült up sassisk doot, my dit seen låt in et Sleeswyk-Holsteiniske woordbook van Mensing:

“Grendel: im Sumpf hausender Unhold.”

Otto Mensing, Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wörterbuch (Volksausgabe), Zweiter Band: F bis J (1973), s. 476

Dit woordbook stelt düs, dat et wårlik en kontinentåle Grendel givt in Sleeswyk-Holstein. Hebben wy dårmed now en starke link in mythology tüsken de angel-sassen en kontinentåle sassen? Dårvöär moten wy doch eaven wat nåder kyken.

Disse kontinentåle Grendel is en monster uut et mour, in al val neavens et woordbook. Vöär Grendel in Beowulf sülv is dat wat undüdlik, dår Grendel eyglyks neet en bült beskreaven würded in de tekst. Mor good, Grendel syn moder is wel en ard monster uut et mour, dår höär huus under et water to vinden is (bron: link, vers 1494a-1602a). Med dee logika is ouk Grendel sülv en mourmonster. In andre bornen is et woord grendel of grindel ouk to vinden, vorbünden med water. Dit is in en bült ourkunden to vinden, en seakers in de 10. eyw (Walter de Gray Birch, Cartularium Saxonicum, 1. deyl (1885), s. 176 (n. 120); 2. deyl (1887), s. 363 (n. 677); 3. Deyl (1893), s. 189 (n. 994), s. 588 (n. 1282), s. 605 (n. 1290), s. 667 (n. 1331) – of, astu alles by enkander hebben wild, dan is disse link (n. 102) makliker).

Good, eyn kan en link indenken tüsken de kontinentål Grendel as en mourmonster, en de angel-sassiske Grendel as en monster med en nåm dee oft med wåter vorbünden wurdt. Neet stark, mor in al val wat. Eyglyks givt et en grouter perbleam: ik kan my neet en bült vortellingen vinden oaver disse kontinentåle Grendel. Et is neet to vinden in andre woordböker (in al val neet med desülvde bedüding), en ouk neet in meynste sassiske volksvortellingen-kolletsionen. Nee, eyglyks givt et mor eyn versioon van de Beowulf-vortelling in en born med ouk andre sassiske vortellingen. Skade, mor et is allennig up et Hougdüütsk to vinden, dår ik now en deyl to leasen geav:

“Da war täglich laut der Freude Betös, wenn der König und seine Helden beim Mahle saßen auf der Methbank [dee lykas meade gold waren]; da war Harfenklang. Doch nicht lange währte die Freude. Das fröhliche Leben erbitterte Grendel, einen Unhold, der im Sumpfe wohnte; allnächtlich, wenn der Edlinge Schaar forglos schlummerte, brach er in die Halle, und fieng und mordete Hrôdgârs Helden. Kein Eisen verwundete ihn, zwölf Jahre dauerte die Feindschaft, der herrliche Bau stand verödet, niemand wuste das Unheil zu wenden. Da hörte Hygelâks Degen [Beówulf] daheim Grendels Thaten. Sein Schiff hieß er rüsten und mit fünfzehn Genossen suchte er das Land der Dänen. Mit Ehren empfieng ihn Hrôdgâr, als einen nahen Verwandten; wohl waren ihm seine Tahten kund, doch sorgten alle um Degen, da er nicht von seinen Willen ließ und am Abend allein mit seinen Genossen in der Halle blieb, des Unholds wartend.

Da stieg Grendel aus dem Sumpfe herauf und der Riesensohn kam daher gegangen, rannte gegen die Thür und riß sie mit den Fäusten auf, obgleich sie wohl verriegelt war. Aus den Augen schoß ihm das helle Feuer. Da sah er in der Hallen schlafen der Helden Menge. In grimmer Hast ergriff er einen, schliß ihn auf, zerbiß die Gebeine, trank das Blut aus den Adern und verschlang ihn.

Doch einer wachte; und als jener weiter schritt und nach dem Helden die Hand ausstreckte, da fühlte er gleich, daß er noch keinen Mann auf dem Erdringe fand von härterem Griffe. Beówulf hatte, auf den Arm sich stüßend, behende an der Faust den Feind gefaßt, nun erhub er sich. Furcht ergriff den Bösewicht, er wollte entfliehn, aber konnte nicht; es dröhnte die Halle unter den Tritten der Rämpfer und drohte in Trümmer zu fallen, manch goldgeschmückte Bank ward zertreten. Grendel erhub ein grausiges Wehgeschrei, Schrecken befiel die Burgbewohner. Der Held hielt ihn fest in Todes Haft. Da sprangen dem Unhold die Sehnen an der Achsel und die Gelenke barsten, Grendel floh zum Tode wund, aber Beówulf behielt zum Siegeszeichen Arm und Achsel. Die Nägel an den Fingern waren starr und hart wie Stahl.”

Karl Müllenhoff, Sagen Märchen und Lieder der Herzogthümer Schleswig Holstein und Lauenburg (1845), s. 253-254

Et book med disse vortelling stamt uut 1845, en givt as born “Größtentheils nach H. Leos Auszug in seiner Schrift über das angel-sächsische Heldengedicht Beówulf,” upteykend in Halle in 1839. Düs: dit is neet en originaal kontinentåle sassiske vortelling. Nee, et is neet en bült meyr as en parafrasearing van alderhande oaversettingen van de angel-sassiske Beowulf uut de vrüge 19. eyw, up et engelsk, latynsk, en daansk. Dårby is et ouk neet sou en precyse parafrasearing, dår Grendel nimmer de söyn van en rys is in de angel-sassiske tekst.

Wat wy hyr seen, is düs wårlik andersümme: neet en migratsioon van en vortelling van kontinent når et eiland in de 4.-6. eyw, mor van et eiland når et kontinent in de 19. eyw. Et is en romantisearing van en vorleaden dat der eyglyks nimmer was.

Often, when I tell people about my interest in Saxon stuff, they believe me to be talking about the Anglo-Saxons, that is: Old English stuff. Of course that’s also interesting, but it is not my primary interest. This confusion is understandable. A lot of people know about the Migration Period in the 4th to 6th century. Several people in Europe moved to another area. In the North-German areas, the Angles and the Saxons banded together to colonize the British Isles. That is  the link: the Saxons of the Anglo-Saxons are the same flavour of Saxons as those people on the European continent who call their language ‘Saxon’. So there is in any case a historical link.

In the 19th century there was a lot of interest for all things having to do with these Anglo-Saxons. People became interested in their own history, for a special reason: this history became the basis for the construction of their own nation states. How does that work, exactly? In the Romantic era, an artistic and philosophical movement in the 19th century, there were a lot of artists and philosophers who became interested in their own history, the history of their own people. This focus upon the people as a nation was quite a novel idea at the time. The philosopher Herder started the idea: people all around the world can be categorized in different cultures, each with their own customs, traditions, beliefs, songs, stories, and what more. This idea of the Volk was the basis for the nation state, and gave an impuls to nationalism.

Through this focus on the own culture a lot of people became more interested in the folklore of their own nation. Old texts were examined as well, especially if these texts harboured ancient stories. Most preferably from pre-Christian times, since the idea was that these stories reflected folk belief way better than texts stemming from the Christian era. In England, people became more interested in old poems like the Beowulf. In short: this poems depicts the story of Beowulf, the king of the Geats, who battles several monsters. First he fights Grendel, then Grendel’s mother, and in the end with an ugly dragon. This story was first published in public, en quickly became the national epic of England.

Alright, but what’s the deal with this Beowulf poem? According to Tolkien (who, next to the author of Lord of the Rings, also was a scholar working on the Anglo-Saxon or Old English language) we can identify a lot of relics from the pre-Christian era in this poem. And, if this really is the case, then it might also be that this poem was already known by the Angles and Saxons on the European continent.

That would be really something: perhaps we’d be able to locate old ideas in these Anglo-Saxon sources, which were also known centuries ago on the continent! So you could imagine how great it was when someone, who is also occupied with Saxon studies, attended me upon the following lemma of Mensing’s dictionary of Schleswig-Holstein:

“Grendel: a monster residing in the swamp.”

Otto Mensing, Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wörterbuch (Volksausgabe), Zweiter Band: F bis J (1973), p. 476

This dictionary proclaims that there is actually a continental Grendel known in Schleswig-Holstein. Do we here have a strong connection in terms of mythology between the Anglo-Saxons and the continental Saxons? In order to evaluate that we need to take some other things into account.

This continental Grendel is a swamp monster, at least according to the dictionary. The Grendel in the Beowulf poem is more ambiguous, since Grendel is not described in a lot of detail in the text. Still, Grendel’s mother is a kind of swamp monster, since her house is found underneath a lake (source: link, verses 1494a-1602a). With that kind of logic, even Grendel himself is a swamp monster. In other sources the word grendel or grindel is connected to water. This can be found in a lot of charters, especially in the 10th century (Walter de Gray Birch, Cartularium Saxonicum, Volume 1 (1885), p. 176 (n. 120); Volume 2 (1887), p. 363 (n. 677); Volume 3 (1893), p. 189 (n. 994), p. 588 (n. 1282), p. 605 (n. 1290), p. 667 (n. 1331) – or if you want to have all of these together, then this  link (n. 102) is more useful).

Well, one can imagine a link between the continental Grendel as a swamp monster and the Anglo-Saxon Grendel as a monster with a name relating to water. Not strong, but at least something. In actuality, the problem is way bigger: I am unable to locate stories about this continental Grendel. The term cannot be located in other dictionaries (at least not with the same referent), and neither in most collections of Saxon folktales. No, the Beowulf-story can only be located in one of collection of folktales in the Saxon language. Unfortunately the story can only be found in High German, of which I will now cite a propotional part:

Daily, the mirth of Betö was heard, when the king and his heroes sat down for their meal on the mead banks (which were golden as mead): there there were the sweets sounds of the harp. But the mirth did not last for long. The merry live made Grendel, a monster living in the swamp, bitter: every night, when the army of nobles was asleep, he broke into the hall, and caught and murdered the heroes of Hroðgar. No iron could harm Grendel. Twelve long years the conflict persisted, the beautiful building lay abandoned, nobody knew how to repel the evil. Then Hygelac’s warrior (Beówulf) heard about Grendel’s atrocities. He prepared his ship and with fifteen comrades he looked for the Danish country. Hroðgar welcomed him with honour, as a close relative; his (Beówulf’s) acts were well known, but still everybody worried about the warrior. He would not relent from his plan, and he remained behind with his comrades in the hall at night, awaiting the monster.

Then Grendel arose from the swamp, and the son of a giant went to the hall, ran into the door, and ripped it open with his fists, even though it was already complete demolished. His eyes blazed like hellfire. Then he saw the heroes sleeping in the hall. In grim haste he grabbed one of them, ripped him open, crunched the bones, drank the blood from the arteries, and devoured him.

Yet one hero was awake; when Grendel reached out to another hero, he immediately felt that there was no other man on earth with a stronger grip. Beówulf, supporting himself on Grendel’s arm, had grabbed the enemy’s fist, and Beówulf now arose. The villain was caught by fear and wanted to flee, but he couldn’t: the hall shuddered under the fighter’s rampage and threathened to fall to ruins, while many gold-adorned benches were trampled underfoot. Grendel shrieked a gruesome wail of pain which caused the inhabitants of the castle to tremble. The hero held him in Death’s clutches. Then the sinews of the monster’s armpits and joints burst, and Grendel flew towards Death. Beówulf, however, kept the arm and armpit as a sign of victory. The nails on the fingers were rigid and hard as steel.”

Karl Müllenhoff, Sagen Märchen und Lieder der Herzogthümer Schleswig Holstein und Lauenburg (1845), p. 253-254

The book containing this story stems from 1845, and provides this source: “Mainly after H. Leo’s paraphrase in his notebook on the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf,’ written down in Halle in 1839. In short: this is not an originally continental Saxon story. No, it is not much more than a paraphrase of the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf, as known in the early 19th century in English, Latin, and Danish. It is not even an accurate paraphrase, since Grendel is never identified as the son of a giant in the Anglo-Saxon text.

What we see here is really a reversed situation: not the migration of a story from continent to the island in the 4th-6th centuries, but from the island to the continent in the 19th century. It is the Romantization of a past that never was actually there.

Da stieg Grendel aus dem Sumpfe herauf… / Then Grendel arose from the swamp… Model: Wim

Spoukplåtkepråt

Um et måken van de foto

Spooky Spectral Speculations

About creating the picture

Nå en pår stappen in et moor stuv by myn möln is et uns lükked, eyn skyre plåt to maken. Myn lydsåme model was ditmål myn kammeråd en medlid van fotogrup Wim. Sikkom per unglük sag ik et speigelbild in et wotter en direkt wüs ik, dat dit de wyse was dat ik de plåt maken sal. En hyr is hee den: eyn speigelbild, dreyd. Geyn Photoshop vöär nöydig!

After a stroll through the nearby marshlands near my beloved mill we managed to make this Beowulf-Grendel worthy picture. My patient model this time was my friend and fellow member of our photo group Wim. Almost by luck I saw his reflection in the water and immediately knew: this is how the picture is going to be taken. And here it is, a reflection, rotated. No Photoshop required!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s