Hadding's Defeat Loke In The Council And On The Battle-field

: Teutonic Mythology

The first great conflict in which the warriors of North and West

Teutondom fight with the East Teutons ends with the complete victory of

Groa's sons. Hadding's fylkings are so thoroughly beaten and defeated

that he, after the end of the conflict, is nothing but a defenceless

fugitive, wandering in deep forests with no other companion than

Vagnhofde's daughter, who survived the battle and accompanies her

beloved in his
anderings in the wildernesses. Saxo ascribes the victory

won over Hadding to Loke. It follows of itself that, in a war whose

deepest root must be sought in Loke's and Aurboda's intrigues, and in

which the clans of gods on both sides take part, Loke should not be

excluded by the skalds from influence upon the course of events. We have

already seen that he sought to ruin Hadding while the latter was still a

boy. He afterwards appears in various guises as evil counsellor, as an

evil intriguer, and as a skilful arranger of the fylkings on the field

of battle. His purpose is to frustrate every effort to bring about

reconciliation, and by means of persuasion and falsehoods to increase

the chances of enmity between Halfdan's descendants, in order that they

may mutually destroy each other (see below). His activity among the

heroes is the counterpart of his activity among the gods. The merry,

sly, cynical, blameworthy, and profoundly evil Mefisto of the Teutonic

mythology is bound to bring about the ruin of the Teutonic people like

that of the gods of the Teutons.

In the later Icelandic traditions he reveals himself as the evil

counsellor of princes in the forms of Blind ille, Blind boelvise (in Saxo

Bolvisus); Bikki; in the German and Old English traditions as Sibich,

Sifeca, Sifka. Bikki is a name-form borrowed from Germany. The

original Norse Loke-epithet is Bekki, which means "the foe," "the

opponent". A closer examination shows that everywhere where this

counsellor appears his enterprises have originally been connected with

persons who belong to Borgar's race. He has wormed himself into the

favour of both the contending parties--as Blind ille with King

Hadding--whereof Hromund Greipson's saga has preserved a distorted

record--as Bikke, Sibeke, with King Gudhorm (whose identity with

Jormunrek shall be established below). As Blind boelvise he lies in

waiting for and seeks to capture the young "Helge Hundingsbane," that is

to say, Halfdan, Hadding's father (Helge Hund., ii.). Under his own

name, Loke, he lies in waiting for and seeks to capture the young

Hadding, Halfdan's son. As a cunning general and cowardly warrior he

appears in the German saga-traditions, and there is every reason to

assume that it is his activity in the first great war as the planner of

Gudhorm's battle-line that in the Norse heathen records secured Loke the

epithets sagna hroerir and sagna sviptir, the leader of the warriors

forward and the leader of the warriors back--epithets which otherwise

would be both unfounded and incomprehensible, but they are found both in

Thjodolf's poem Haustlaung, and in Eilif Gudrunson's Thorsdrapa. It is

also a noticeable fact that while Loke in the first great battle which

ends with Hadding's defeat determines the array of the victorious

army--for only on this basis can the victory be attributed to him by

Saxo--it is in the other great battle in which Hadding is victorious

that Odin himself determines how the forces of his protege are to be

arranged, namely, in that wedge-form which after that time and for many

centuries following was the sacred and strictly preserved rule for the

battle-array of Teutonic forces. Thus the ancient Teutonic saga has

mentioned and compared with one another two different kinds of

battle-arrays--the one invented by Loke and the other invented by Odin.

During his wanderings in the forests of the East Hadding has had

wonderful adventures and passed through great trials. Saxo tells one of

these adventures. He and Hardgrep, Vagnhofde's daughter, came late one

evening to a dwelling where they got lodgings for the night. The husband

was dead, but not yet buried. For the purpose of learning Hadding's

destiny, Hardgrep engraved speech-runes (see No. 70) on a piece of wood,

and asked Hadding to place it under the tongue of the dead one. The

latter would in this wise recover the power of speech and prophecy. So

it came to pass. But what the dead one sang in an awe-inspiring voice

was a curse on Hardgrep, who had compelled him to return from life in

the lower world to life on earth, and a prediction that an avenging

Niflheim demon would inflict punishment on her for what she had done. A

following night, when Hadding and Hardgrep had sought shelter in a bower

of twigs and branches which they had gathered, there appeared a gigantic

hand groping under the ceiling of the bower. The frightened Hadding

waked Hardgrep. She then rose in all her giant strength, seized the

mysterious hand, and bade Hadding cut it off with his sword. He

attempted to do this, but from the wounds he inflicted on the ghost's

hand there issued matter or venom more than blood, and the hand seized

Hardgrep with its iron claws and tore her into pieces (Saxo, Hist., 36


When Hadding in this manner had lost his companion, he considered

himself abandoned by everybody; but the one-eyed old man had not

forgotten his favourite. He sent him a faithful helper, by name

Liserus (Saxo, Hist., 40). Who was Liserus in our mythology?

First, as to the name itself: in the very nature of the case it must be

the Latinising of some one of the mythological names or epithets that

Saxo found in the Norse records. But as no such root as lis or lis

is to be found in the old Norse language, and as Saxo interchanges the

vowels i and y,[27] we must regard Liserus as a Latinising of

Lysir, "the shining one," "the one giving light," "the bright one."

When Odin sent a helper thus described to Hadding, it must have been a

person belonging to Odin's circle and subject to him. Such a person and

described by a similar epithet is hinn hviti ass, hvitastr asa

(Heimdal). In Saxo's account, this shining messenger is particularly to

oppose Loke (Hist., 40). And in the myth it is the keen-sighted and

faithful Heimdal who always appears as the opposite of the cunning and

faithless Loke. Loke has to contend with Heimdal when the former tries

to get possession of Brisingamen, and in Ragnarok the two opponents kill

each other. Hadding's shining protector thus has the same part to act in

the heroic saga as the whitest of the Asas in the mythology. If we now

add that Heimdal is Hadding's progenitor, and on account of blood

kinship owes him special protection in a war in which all the gods have

taken part either for or against Halfdan's and Alveig's son, then we are

forced by every consideration to regard Liserus and Heimdal as

identical (see further, No. 82).

[Footnote 27: Compare the double forms Trigo, Thrygir; Ivarus,

Yvarus; Sibbo, Sybbo; Siritha, Syritha; Sivardus,

Syvardus; Hibernia, Hybernia; Isora, Ysora.]