Starke Härm de (Anti?)held / Strong Härm the (Anti?)hero

Sassisk

“Starke Haarm was ‘n groote kerel, wal ‘n kop grooter as ‘n aner mensk en stark – o hie was zoo stark. Doe hie nog hen school gunk, dus er gien jong met hum vecht’n, want hie kun ze aalmaol an. Gienien kun ‘t teeg’n hum holl’n. Laoter doe kun hie zoo wark’n, dat hie in ‘n halv’ dag dee, wat ‘n gewoon mensk in ‘n dag of maokte. Hie sluep haost niet. ‘t Was maor ‘n kleinegheid veur hum, um ‘n naacht of wat achter ‘n kann’r te waok’n en dan was hie nog zoo frisch as ‘n neut.”

J.H. Bergmans-Beins, Drentsche Volksoverleveringen (1945), s. 50.

Starke lüde givt et oaveral, in al sorten wearldmytology en volksvortellingen. Oft würden see anduded as demigoden of halvgoden, lykas Herakles, mor ouk Pippi Längstrümp. Starke Härm is der ouk sou en eyne, stimmend uut de westfaalsk-sassiske ümråden.

Neavens de Enzyklopädie des Märchens is Starke Härm ouk een held (deyl 12, s. 1176), mor in de vortelling vöär vandåg sel dat neet swår düdlik worden: Starke Härm scoort neet höyg up Raglan’s ryge van heldenkenmerken (see in Raglan, The Hero (1936), s. 174-175). Et eynigste, wat al düdlik wurdet üm Starke Härm syn heldskop, is dat e sünderlik stark is (goh), en dat e etested wurdet (dat seen wy låter – leas wyder!). Disse sort prüven vöär helden binnen oft testen, dee en gewoun mensk neet good lösen kan. Süms geit et üm et douden van en monster, mor ouk oft vindet eyn agrariske uutdagings, lykas et plogen van al et borenland in eyn stund, of et temmen van en wild bist, dat geyn ander eyd eyrer temd hev.

Mor ouk in al dit is Starke Härm wat atypisk. Et givt en huus in syn ümråd wår of et spooket. Geynent düürt in dat huus to slåpen, en de eygender kin et geynent vormeten. Starke Härm is vöär de Düvel neet bange, düs ouk vöär spökery neet. Nå dit gepuust dågen syn kammeråden hum uut, in dat huus en nacht to blyven, dår see gyn glöyv hebben an syn gekreagel. Good, Starke Härm dat huus in, by kaerslicht wachtend in de huuskåmer, en al gauw slåpet hee en end vurd. Teagen twålven wåket hee, mor vöäl is der noch neet gangs:

“‘Och, och’, zee Haarm, ‘wat een prooties toch; now zit ik hier al van duust’r wodd’n of en ik hebb’ nog gien mensk zien, die op ‘n spoek lik. As dr dan toch wat is, dan muss’n zie mij niet zoo laank laot’n waacht’n.

“Met heurd’ hie wat gerommel in d’ schöstien en daor kwamm’n en hiele koppel bott’n umdeel vall’n. Haarm schrök er eem van, niet umdat hie zoo benauwd was, maor hie was dr hielndal niet op verdaacht, dat er wat oet d’ schostien zul komm’n … Eem laot’r doe vuel’n dr al weer bott’n umdeel en doe Haarm opkeek, doe zag hie dat er twee’j kerels stunn’n zunner kop elk in ‘n hoek van d’ heerd. ‘Bij ‘n kereld,’ zee Haarm, ‘daor heurt ‘n kop bij, aners is ‘t gien kerel.’ Hie hadd’ ‘t nog maor krek zegd, of daor rold’n twee’j doodsheufd’n omdeel. Haarm keek er naor en hoe zie dr kwamm’n dat kun hie niet zekg’n, maor zie zaat’n jandorie zoo maor op die kerels.

“Doe kwaamp er nog wat gerommel en dr vuel’n nog wat lange bott’n en ‘n paor doodsheufd’n op de vuurplaot. En doe stunn’n die kerels zoo maor an de leege wand en begund’n die bott’n op te zett’n krek as kegels. De ien kreeg ‘n doodskop en bekek hum van aal zied’n, rold’ hum is deur zien hand en doe begund’n zie te keegel’n … zie kunn’n ‘t niet best. Haarm daacht dat hie ‘t beter kun en dat zee hie. Doe kwaamp er ien naor hum toe en beduud’n hum, dat hie met doen zul. Haarm wol wal ‘maor,’ zee hie, ‘ik zal je wat zekgen, as ik ze aalmaol umgooi, dan beloof ij mij, dat ij hier nooit weer komt en as ik ‘t verspeul dan gao ik vot en dan zal ik an elk en ien zekgen dat ik now wal an spoek’n gleuv!’ Dat gunk an.

‘Zie gooiden elk zien beurt. Haarm was de leste en die gooid’ de miest’n um. Doe nog weer, dree’j maol stun er toe en Haarm gooide de leste maol aal kegels um. De kerels keek’n hum an en met kreijd’ er ‘n haon en zie wazz’n aalbeid vot. Haarm mus ‘s mörgens deur zien kammeraod’n wekt wodd’n, zoo vaast sluep hie. De kerels wazz’n weg, de flesch was leeg en ‘t vuur was oetgaon. Dr is nooit gien spoek meer zien. Haarm verteld’ er niet veul van, maor hie kreeg de belooning en laot’r wuer dr niet veul meer over proot.”

J.H. Bergmans-Beins, Drentsche Volksoverleveringen (1945), s. 54-55.

Ouk by dit leste pünkt, is disse vortelling van Starke Härm neet en wårlike heldenvortelling. Uutendlik geit Härm alles good of, en is der geyn kwåd end an syn leavent. En dat is et ouk jüüst: der wurdet neet vöäl meyr üm syn heldendåd pråted. Syn eywige rum, dee elke held tokümt, is neet länger, en allennig nå to leasen döär kneprige ougen in oldmoodske bökery. Et is neet genug, stark to weasen, üm en held to weasen.

English

“Strong Härm was a big dude, towering a head above other people, and strong – oh he was so strong. When he still went to school, no boy dared to fight him, since he could beat them all. Nobody could hold up against him. Later on, he could work so hard, that he did in half a day what other, normal people did in a day. He hardly ever slept. It did not matter much to him to stay awake one night or more, and even then, he would be as fresh as a daisy.”

J.H. Bergmans-Beins, Drentsche Volksoverleveringen (1945), p. 50.

There are strong people everywhere, in al kinds of world mythology and folklore. They are often identified as demigods or half gods, like Herakles, but also Pippi Longstockings. Strong Härm is one like them, stemming from the Westphalian Saxon areas.

According to the Enzyklopädie des Märchens Strong Härm is also a hero (volume 12, p. 1176), but that is not as apparent in the story under analysis today: Strong Härm doesn’t score high on Raglan’s list of hero characteristics (see in Raglan, The Hero (1936), p. 174-175). The only thing that we really know Strong Härm’s heroism is that he is extremely strong (wow), and that he will be tested (we’ll see that later – keep reading!). These kinds of tests for heroes are often tasks that cannot be accomplished by a normal human. Sometimes it is about killing a monster, but there are often also agrarian tasks, like plowing pasture within an hour, or taming a wild animal that won’t be tamed by anybody else.

But even in this Strong Härm is somewhat atypical. There is a house near where he lives which is haunted. No one dares to spend the night in that house, and the owner is unable to rent it out to anybody. Strong Härm isn’t scared of anybody, not even the Devil, nor for ghosts. After bragging like that, his friends challenge him to spend a night in that house, since they don’t believe his boasting. So, Strong Härm enters that house, waiting in the living room by candlelight, and soon he drifts off to sleep. Around twelve o’clock he wakes up, but there is not a lot going on yet:

“‘Oh, oh’, Härm says, ‘what a bunch of hogwash; I’ve been in here ever since it became dark and I haven’t seen any person who looks like a ghost. If there is even anything out there, then it shouldn’t keep me waiting for this long.”

“Immediately he heard something stumbling in the chimney, and a whole bunch of bones came tumbling down. Härm was startled for a bit, not because it frightened him, but because he never considered that something would come out of the chimney … A little while later some more bones fell down, and when Härm looked up he saw two men without heads standing each in a corner of the hearth. ‘A man needs a head, otherwise it’s not a man,’ Härm said. He barely said that and two skulls came rolling down. Härm looked on – he wouldn’t be able to tell how, but God dang, those heads did get on top of those two men.

“Then some more rumbling was heard while some more long bones and a couple of skulls fell down on the fireplace. And then suddenly those men stood near the low wall, building up these bones as pins. One got a skull and, examining it from all sides and rolling it through his hands, started to bowl with it … but they weren’t good at it. Härm thought he could do better, and even said so. One of the men approached him and gestured him to participate. Härm was eager to ‘but’, he said, ‘I’ll tell you something: when I hit a strike, then you’ll promise me to leave this place forever, but if I lose, then I’ll depart from here and tell everyone that I now do believe in ghosts!’ They agreed on that.

“Everyone had their turn. Härm went last, and he threw down most of the pins. Then he did that again, and even on the third try he hit a strike. The men looked at him and immediate a rooster started crowing, and both men were gone. Härm had to be woken up by his friends in the morning, as he was so fast asleep. The men were gone, the bottle was empty, and the fire extinguished. Never again a ghost was seen there. Härm didn’t speak a lot about this adventure, but he got his due, and no one really mentioned much of it afterwards.

J.H. Bergmans-Beins, Drentsche Volksoverleveringen (1945), p. 54-55.

Also with this final point, the story of Strong Härm is not a real heroic tale. In the end everything goes well for Härm, and there is no sorrowful end to his life. And that is really the point: nobody speaks about his heroic deed any longer. His eternal glory, which every hero has earned, has been dispelled, preserved only in ancient tomes for greedy eyes to read. It doesn’t suffice being merely strong to be a hero.

“Haarm was de leste en die gooid’ de miest’n um” / “Härm went last, and he threw down most of the pins” Model: Wokkel

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