Sünterklås en de oger / Saint Nicholas and the Ogre

Sassisk

English

In disse düüstere, kolde tyden hebben lüde meyr warmte en licht nöydig. Dårüm givt et ouk souvölle festen in de tyd van slaktmånd töt de sprökkelmånd, lykas Kerst en Nyjår. Dat is in al val in Nedderland sou. Up de düütske kant givt et låter ouk noch et Beakebrennen up enkle steaden. Disse blog geit üm eyn van disse festen: Sünterklås.

Vöär wel of et neet kennen: Sünterklås is en fest, glad glyk an Kerst in de Vereinigde Ståten. Sünterklås is de olde bisskop van Myra, sint Nikolås, uut de 3. en 4. eyw nå Kristus. Hee hev al wat wunders verricht (eyn seen wy vandåg in disse blog), en wurdet as heilige in de katoliske kerk voreyrd. Låter, in Nedderland, kümt heel langs by kinder (neet as nålouper, mor in leavende gedånte) en givt an höär givten.

Now givt Sünterklås elkeneyn givten, mor vöär en heyle tyd was dat neet et gebruuk. Meskeen kümt et gebruuk uut en legende uut de Vita Per Michaelum, en tekst uut de 8. of 9. eyw. In disse tekst givt et drey mäkens, dee sik trouwen willlen. Eyn perbleam: höär va hevvet et neet breyd in de cinten, en kin dee oldmoudske brüüdskat neet betålen. Geyn perbleam doch as Sünterklås kümt: hee bringt nachtens drey groute golden ballen når de family hin, en now kin de brullovt döärgån.

Now düt Sünterklås en heyle bült meyr in dee legenden. Eyn vortelling, dee wy vanof de 11. eyw kinnen uut de Hildesheimmanuskripten en vanof de 12. eyw uut Wace syn La Vie de Saint Nicholas, geit üm drey jungkearls, dee döär en kwåde kearl slågen wurdet en up et solt setted wurden. Ouk givt et en Drentske versioon – sülvs twey! Hyr givt et den langeste:

“Het was ‘n tied van groot geweld. Roege kerels trökken overal rond. Zie plunderden en roofden of ‘t niks was. Hoezen braandden ze op en de mensken vermoordden zie of zie juegen heur vot. Zie kwammen ok bij Roobrugge, dat zie verbraandden. Wel er woonden, sluegen zie dood. Dree’j kinner ontkwammen en zwörven deur ‘t bosch. Zie wassen muui en hadden honger. Doe zie ‘n hoessien zagen gungen zie d’r hen en vruegen of zie d’r in meugen: ‘Wij zint zoo kaold en en hebt zun honger.’”

“De jager, die d’r woonde, dee heur de deur lös en doe hie heur zag en heurde zee hie: ‘Kinner toch, waor kom ij wal heer?’ ‘Wij komt van Roobrugge, dat hebt ze verbraand en oez’ volk is dood slagen.’ ‘Och ij aarme schaopen, wat zin ij ja verkleumd. Kom maor gaauw in hoes. IJ kunt met mij eten en in mien bedde ku’j slaopen. Kom maor gaauw an.’ Zie gungen d’r in en de jager dee de deur dicht.”

“Doe de kinner in de keuken wassen, greep hie heur an en slueg heur dood, want die jager dat was ‘n oeger (menscheneter). Hie hakte ze of krek as ‘n zwien en zette alles in ‘t zolt.”

“Zeuven jaor later kwam Sunnerklaos, die ‘n groote reis déé, ok in Drenth en zoo verzeilde hie in ‘t bosch waor de oeger woonde. Hie klopte d’r an en zee: ‘Ik heb ‘n groote reis achter mij en kreeg d’ hiele dag gien eten, kan ik hier wat rusten en ‘n maol kriegen?’”

“‘Kom d’r in heerschup’ zee de jager, ‘kom bij ‘t vuur en rust je oet. Ik heb soepenbrood met kruuderij, maor dat is gien kost veur zun meneer. Ik zal je ‘n paor eier in de pan doen.’ ‘Nee,’ zee Sunnerklaos, ‘ik kan gien braoden eier hebben.’ ‘Ik heb ok nog ‘n stukkien van ‘n hart; hoe liekt je dat?’ ‘Och’ zee de bisschop, ‘daor heb ik niet zo veul met op. Geef maor ‘n stukkien oet ‘t zolt, daor in dat vattien is nog wal wat, dat er al zeuven jaor in zeten hef.’”

“Doe de jager dat heurde, wuer ‘t hum gruun en geel veur d’ oogen. Hie keek aal kaanten oet um d’r vandeur te gaan, want hie begreep wal dat hie d’r slecht of kwam. Hie jammerde ‘t oet en was benaauwd dat de duvel hum te pakken zul kriegen. Sunnerklaos, die dat in de gaten kreeg, zee: ‘As ij berouw hebt, huuf ij zoo bang niet wezen, dan zal je veul vergeven worden.’”

“Hie legde dree’j vingers op de raand van ‘t vat en daor kwammen de kinner an, zoo frisch as ‘n neut. ‘Och’ zee de eerste, ‘wat heb ik lang slaopen.’ De twee’jde zee: ‘Het was ‘n lange naacht.’ En de daarde: ‘Ik miende dat ik zeuven jaor in d’ hemel was.’”

“De jager ging vot, hie gung hen Rome, waor hie laoter in ‘t klooster Bethlehem störf. De dree’j kinner gung ‘t goed, zie kwammen tot groot anzien. De eerste wuer drost van Drenth. De tweej’de wuer riek en machteg. Hie luet Roobrugge weer opbouwen en de daarde kreeg ‘n hoog ambt in de kerk en hie loofde God en daankte hum veur het wonder an heur verricht.”

J.H. Bergmans-Beins, Drentsche Volksoverleveringen (1945), s. 69-71

An disse vortelling sit en heyle geskydnis. Disse vortelling geit eyrstens torüch up de diktversioon van Albertus Steenbergen, med de nåm De Böse Jåger. Et is wel årdig, dee ouk to leasen:

“Reebroggens Borgt was ofëbrand;

Drij kinder dwêlden um deur ‘t land

Zij hadden honger, waern kold;

En zwörven kriitend um in ‘t wold.

“Zij klopten bij ‘n jaeger an;

‘Ontfarm! Ontfarm joe, beste man!

De viand kwaemp – stak ‘t huus in brand,

En lee oeze Olden neer in ‘t zand.

“O arme schoap’! wat bitter kruus!

Wat bê’joa kold! Koompt gauw in huus!

Warmpt oe bij ‘t vuur en vreest gien nood,

Slaept op miin stroo en eet miin brood.

“Maor doe zij waeren binnentreen

Greep eur dê Oeger een veur een,

Houwt mit ê biil eur leden fiin,

En kuupt ze in ‘t vat as zult van ‘t zwiin.

“Sunt Nicloas kwaëmp noa zeuven jaor

Van veere reizen ook ees doar;

Hij klöpte mee bij d’Oeger an,

En reup: ‘laet binnen mij, goë man!’

“‘Koompt binnen, heerschop’ zee de boas,

‘Zet an ê heerd joe, Suntercloas!’

De Sunt zee: ‘k dee ‘n wiiden tocht,

Vund nergens stee woar ‘k eten mocht.’

“‘k Heb zeunemelk met kruderien.’

‘Da’s kost, ‘n Sunt neet antebien.’

‘k Slae rempen ‘n ei twee, drij in’ pan.’

‘Da’s kost, dê’k neet verdraegen kan!’

“‘k Heb in ê spinde ‘n hartebolt.’

‘Gien hartebolt, moar wat uut ‘t zolt!

Uut ‘t kupien doar, maek mij wat kloar;

‘t is vleis, ezult veur zeuven joar.’

“Pas zee dat woord nog Suntercloas,

Of ‘t wörde griis en greun den boas;

Hij griinde luud, wol deur heruut,

En docht zuk kant al ‘s duvels buut.

“‘O jaeger! Jaeger! Neet ebeeft!

Want dê berouw teunt – God vergeeft!’

Sunt Nicloas lee nou op den rand

Van ‘t vat, drij vingers van ziin hand,

“En uut ê kuup op d’êgen stond,

Rees ‘t drijtal kinder Frisch en zond,

En ‘t eerste zee: ‘wat sleup ik zacht!’

Het tweede: ‘wat ‘n lange nacht!’

“Het darde: ‘‘k dreumde wisse en kloar –

‘k was in den hemel – zeuven joar!’

De jaeger trök noa Rome hen,

En störf in ‘t kloëster Bethlehem.

“De kinder raekten hoog in stand:

‘t Oldst wörde Drost van drentheland;

Het tweede – ook ‘n grootmachtig heer

Bouwde oop het huus Reebrogge weer;

Het darde wörde ‘n Vörst der Kark,

Looft God den Heer veur ‘t wonderwark.”

J.A. Leopold en L. Leopold, Van de Schelde tot de Weichsel, Deel 1: Frankrijk – Zuid-Nederland – Noord-Nederland (1882), s. 632-633.

Good, vöär my is et swår dudlik, dat Bermans-Beins höär versioon up dee van Steenbergen baseard is. Abel Darwinkel en Henk Nijkeuter meynt, dat Steenbergen syn versioon up dee van de franske dikter Gérard de Nerval baseard hev (Zul Oes Sunterklaos wel Kommen? Sinterklaasviering in Drenthe door de Eeuwen Heen (2019), s. 31).

Nåst dee direkte konnektsioon, givt et ouk wysen, wårdöär disse vortelling an andre, oldre Sünterklås-vortellings linked wurden kin. Sou givt et ouk dee vortelling üm drey wichter, dee höär en brüüdskat nöydig binnen. Eyrer, eyn van de eyrste Sünterklås-legenden, gav et en vortelling, wårin Sint Nikolås drey ünsküldige manslüde vrydum givt, dee anders doudhouwed wurden sullen. Neavens Karl Meisen syn book, dat noch altyd et meyste autorität hev in Sint Nikolås-vorsking, is de vortelling üm de drey ünsküldigen låter anderd når drey jungkearls dee in en soltvat kommen. Disse drey wurden låter wårlik kinder döärdat de drey ünsküldigen lüddiker avbilded wurden as Sint Nikolås up plåten van disse legende. Dår see lüddiker wassen, is et enkel, disse drey as kinder to seen (Nikolauskult und Nikolausbrauch im Abendlande (1931), s. 225). En seakers in kinderbökery anderen de drey oft in kinder (Rita Ghesquiere, Van Nicolaas van Myra tot Sinterklaas (1989), s. 112-118).

Good, vortellings rundüm Sünterklås andert sik düs al. Sou geit dat met traditsionen. Et givt teagensworig neet en bült lüde, dee disse vortelling kinnen. Dee religiöse elementen binnen neet länger wichtig nowdestyds. Nowdestyds in et up Nedderlanske grunden en natsionål fest, dårvöär swårder religiös, wat ouk good torüch to seen is in de vortellingen van ditmål. Sou geit de vortelling altyd wyder in tyd en vörm, nimmer weader etsülvde.

In these dark and cold times people need more warmth and light. That is why there are so many holidays in the period of November up to February, like Christmas and New Year’s Eve. At least in the Netherlands. Germany has some other celebrations later on as well in certain places, like Biikebrennen. This blog will be about one specific feast: Sünterklås.

For those who don’t know it: Sünterklås is a celebration quite alike Christmas in the United States. Sünterklås is the former bishop of Myra, saint Nicholas, of the 3rd and 4th century after Christ. He performed many miracles (one of which we will see today), and is venerated in the Catholic church as saint. Later in time, in the Netherlands, he starts to visit children (not as zombie, but in living form) and gives them gifts.

Now Sünterklås gives gifts to everyone, but that wasn’t the case for a long time. Perhaps the practice came forth from a legend found in the Vita Per Michaelum, a text from the 8th or 9th century. There are three girls who wish to marry. One problem: their dad don’t have no money, and cannot pay the old-fashioned dowry. No problem when Sünterklås gets involved: he brings three golden balls to the family at night, and now the wedding can go through.

Sünterklås actually quite a lot more in those legends. One story that we know since the 11th century from the Hildesheim manuscripts and from the 12th century onwards from Wace’s La Vie de Saint Nicholas is about three young men, who are killed by an evil man and are pickled. There is also a version of this story from Drenthe – even two! This is the longest one:

“It was a time with a lot of violence. Brutish men wandered all about. They plundered and robbed as if it was nothing. They burned down houses and killed their inhabitants or chased them away. They also arrived at Rheebruggen, which they torched to the ground. The people living there were beaten to death. Three children escaped and wandered the forest. They were exhausted and starving. When they saw a small cabin, they went up to it and asked to be given entrance: ‘We are so cold and so hungry.’”

“The hunter inhabiting it opened the door, and when he saw and heard them he said: ‘Poor children, where did you come from?’ ‘We come from Roobrugge, which is burned, and our family has been beaten to death.’ ‘Oh you poor sheep, you’ve become so numbed. Enter quickly. You can eat with me and sleep in my bed. Please hurry up inside.’ They entered and the hunter shut the door.”

“When the children went into the kitchen, the hunter grabbed them and killed them, because the hunter was an ogre (eater of humans). He chopped them up like a pig and pickled them.”

“After seven years Sünterklås, traveling widely, came to Drenthe, and ended up in the forest where the ogre lived. He knocked on the door and said: ‘I’ve been traveling far and wide and haven’t eaten all day. Could I rest and receive a meal here?’”

“‘Please enter, my lordship’ the hunter replied, ‘come sit near the fire and rest. I have bread and soup with spices, but that is not a meal for a distinguished person like yourself. I’ll fry you some eggs.’ ‘No,’ said Sünterklås, ‘I cannot stand fried eggs.’ ‘I also have a piece of heart; would you like that?’ ‘Ah’ said the bisshop, ‘That doesn’t do it for me. Give me something pickled, that barrel still has some, which has been in there for seven years.’”

“When the hunter heard that, he blanched out of fear. He looked all around for a way out of that situation, because he understand that it would go awry for him. He groaned and feared that the devil would get to him. Sünterklås, who noticed that, said: ‘If you are repentant, then you don’t need to be scared, then you will be forgiven.’”

Sünterklås laid three fingers on the edge of the barrel, and the three children emerged as fresh as a daisy. ‘Ah,’ the first one said, ‘I’ve slept so long.’ The second said: ‘It was a long night.’ And the third: ‘I thought I was for seven years in heaven.’”

“The hunter departed towards Rome, and later died in the monastery Bethlehem. The three children did well, and got to great status. The first became reeve of Drenthe. The second one became richt and powerful. He restored Rheebruggen and the third one got a high ecclesiastical office and he praised God and thanked Him for the miracle that transpired.”

J.H. Bergmans-Beins, Drentsche Volksoverleveringen (1945), p. 69-71

This narrative has a long history. First of all, it goes back on a poem by Albertus Steenbergen, titled The Evil Hunter. It is rather lovely, as you can read:

“The börg of Rheebruggen burned down;

Three children wandered from town to town

They were hungry, they were cold;

And wandered crying in forests old.

“They knocked on a hunter’s door;

‘Take pity! Take pity, we’re so poor!

The enemy came and burned our home,

And laid our parents in the loam.

“Oh poor sheep! What a bitter cross to carry!

Y’all so cold – enter, do not tarry!

Warm yourself by the fire and do not fear,

Eat my bread and sleep in my bed right here.

“But when they had entered inside

The ogre grabbed them side by side,

Hew their bodies with an axe into bits,

And stored them in a barrel, as it fits.

“After seven years Sünterklås came here

From afar he now was near;

He knocked on the door of the ogre,

And called out: ‘please, let me come over!’

“‘Please enter, my lord’ said the gent,

Sünterklås, seat yourself at the hearth’s end!’

The saint said: ‘I have traveled from far away,

And ne’er found a dining place to stay.’

“‘I’ve got buttermilk with spices.’

‘That dish won’t win any prices.’

‘I will break two eggs or three in a pan for you.’

‘For a saint, such a meal simply won’t do!’

“‘I’ve got a piece of heart from the vault.’

“‘No – give me something out of the salt!’

From the barrel there, prepare me some;

It is that meat, salted for seven years long.’

“Once that phrase came out of Sünterklås,

The ogre turned pale without a pause;

He wanted out, one heard him gasp,

He thought himself to be in the Devil’s grasp.

“Oh hunter! Hunter! Don’t you fear!

For those who repent, God’s grace is near!’

Sünterklås now laid three fingers of his hand

on the barrel’s edge, right at the end,

“And from the barrel immediately arose

Those three children fresh as a rose,

And the first said ‘I’ve slept so softly!’

The second: ‘That night was lofty!’

“The third: ‘I dreamt clear and bright –

For seven years heaven was my respite!’

The hunter then went to Rome,

And monastery Bethlehem became his eternal home.

“The children reached noble heights:

The first turned reeve of Drenthe’s plights;

The second – also a mighty lord

Rebuild the börg Rheebruggen to report;

The third became a lord ecclesiastical,

Praised the lord for this miracle.”

J.A. Leopold en L. Leopold, Van de Schelde tot de Weichsel, Deel 1: Frankrijk – Zuid-Nederland – Noord-Nederland (1882), p. 632-633.

Well, for me it is evident that Bergmans-Beins’ version is based on that of Steenbergen. Abel Darwinkel and Henk Nijkeuter have argued that Steenbergen’s version stems from the French poet Gérard de Nerval (Zul Oes Sunterklaos wel Kommen? Sinterklaasviering in Drenthe door de Eeuwen Heen (2019), p. 31).

Next to this direct connection, there are also ways in which this story can be linked to other, older Sünterklås legends. There is of course the story of the three girls who need a dowry. Before that, in one of the first Sünterklås legends, there was a story in which saint Nicholas provides freedom for three innocent men who were to be executed. According to Karl Meisen, whose book has still a lot of authority in research on saint Nicholas, this story about the three innocent men was later changed to three young men who ended up in a pickling barrel. Later on, these three truly became children, caused by images of this legend on which the three innocent men were depicted smaller than saint Nicholas. Since they were smaller, it made sense that people interpreted them as children seen (Nikolauskult und Nikolausbrauch im Abendlande (1931), p. 225). Especially in children’s books these three often transform into children (Rita Ghesquiere, Van Nicolaas van Myra tot Sinterklaas (1989), p. 112-118).

Always, stories about Sünterklås are changing. That is what traditions do. There are nowadays not a lot of people who are aware of this story. Those religious elements are not that important anymore nowadays. Nowadays, the celebration on Dutch territory is a national holiday, while in the past it was more religious, which we saw in the stories of this blog. In this way, the story keeps on travelling through time and form, never repeating itself.

‘Wij zint zoo kaold en en hebt zun honger.’ / ‘We are so cold and so hungry.’ Models: Nadia en Ilva (2x)

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