Hadding's Journey To The East Reconciliation Between The Asas And Vans

: Teutonic Mythology

Some time later there has been a change in Hadding's affairs. He is no

longer the exile wandering about in the forests, but appears once more

at the head of warlike hosts. But although he accomplishes various

exploits, it still appears from Saxo's narrative that it takes a long

time before he becomes strong enough to meet his enemies in a decisive

battle with hope of success. In the meanwhile he has succeeded in

ishing the revenge of his father and slaying Svipdag (Saxo

Hist., 42)--this under circumstances which I shall explain below (No.

106). The proof that the hero-saga has left a long space of time between

the great battle lost by Hadding and that in which he wins a decided

victory is that he, before this conflict is fought out, has slain a

young grandson (son's son) of Svipdag, that is, a son of Asmund, who was

Svipdag's son (Saxo, Hist., 46). Hadding was a mere boy when Svipdag

first tried to capture him. He is a man of years when he, through

decided successes on the battle-field, acquires and secures control of a

great part of the domain over which his father, the Teutonic patriarch,

reigned. Hence he must have spent considerable time in the place of

refuge which Odin opened for him, and under the protection of that

subject of Odin, called by Saxo Liserus.

In the time intervening important events have taken place in the world

of the gods. The two clans of gods, the Asas and Vans, have become

reconciled. Odin's exile lasted, according to Saxo, only ten years, and

there is no reason for doubting the mythical correctness of this

statement. The reconciliation must have been demanded by the dangers

which their enmity caused to the administration of the world. The

giants, whose purpose it is to destroy the world of man, became once

more dangerous to the earth on account of the war among the gods. During

this time they made a desperate effort to conquer Asgard occupied by the

Vans. The memory of this expedition was preserved during the Christian

centuries in the traditions concerning the great Hun war. Saxo (Hist.,

231 ff.) refers this to Frotho III.'s reign. What he relates about

this Frotho, son of Fridlevus (Njord), is for the greatest part a

historicised version of the myth about the Vana-god Frey (see No. 102);

and every doubt that his account of the war of the "Huns" against Frotho

has its foundation in mythology, and belongs to the chain of events here

discussed, vanishes when we learn that the attack of the Huns against

Frotho-Frey's power happened at a time when an old prophet, by name

Uggerus, "whose age was unknown, but exceeded every measure of human

life," lived in exile, and belonged to the number of Frotho's enemies.

Uggerus is a Latinised form of Odin's name Yggr, and is the same

mythic character as Saxo before introduced on the scene as "the old

one-eyed man," Hadding's protector. Although he had been Frotho's enemy,

the aged Yggr comes to him and informs him what the "Huns" are

plotting, and thus Frotho is enabled to resist their assault.[28]

When Odin, out of consideration for the common welfare of mankind and

the gods, renders the Vans, who had banished him, this service, and as

the latter are in the greatest need of the assistance of the mighty

Asa-father and his powerful sons in the conflict with the giant world,

then these facts explain sufficiently the reconciliation between the

Asas and the Vans. This reconciliation was also in order on account of

the bonds of kinship between them. The chief hero of the Asas, Thor, was

the stepfather of Ull, the chief warrior of the Vans (Younger Edda, i.

252). The record of a friendly settlement between Thor and Ull is

preserved in a paraphrase, by which Thor is described in Thorsdrapa as

"gulli Ullar," he who with persuasive words makes Ull friendly. Odin

was invited to occupy again the high-seat in Asgard, with all the

prerogatives of a paterfamilias and ruler (Saxo, Hist., 44). But the

dispute which caused the conflict between him and the Vans was at the

same time manifestly settled to the advantage of the Vans. They do not

assume in common the responsibility for the murder of Gulveig Angerboda.

She is banished to the Ironwood, but remains there unharmed until

Ragnarok, and when the destruction of the world approaches, then Njord

shall leave the Asas threatened with the ruin they have themselves

caused and return to the "wise Vans" (i aldar rauc hann mun aptr coma

heim med visom vaunom--Vafthr., 39).

The "Hun war" has supplied the answer to a question, which those

believing in the myths naturally would ask themselves. That question

was: How did it happen that Midgard was not in historical times exposed

to such attacks from the dwellers in Jotunheim as occurred in antiquity,

and at that time threatened Asgard itself with destruction? The "Hun

war" was in the myth characterized by the countless lives lost by the

enemy. This we learn from Saxo. The sea, he says, was so filled with the

bodies of the slain that boats could hardly be rowed through the waves.

In the rivers their bodies formed bridges, and on land a person could

make a three days' journey on horseback without seeing anything but dead

bodies of the slain (Hist., 234, 240). And so the answer to the

question was, that the "Hun war" of antiquity had so weakened the giants

in number and strength that they could not become so dangerous as they

had been to Asgard and Midgard formerly, that is, before the time

immediately preceding Ragnarok, when a new fimbul-winter is to set in,

and when the giant world shall rise again in all its ancient might. From

the time of the "Hun war" and until then, Thor's hammer is able to keep

the growth of the giants' race within certain limits, wherefore Thor in

Harbardsljod explains his attack on giants and giantesses with micil

mundi ett iotna, ef allir lifdi, vetr mundi manna undir Mithgarthi.

Hadding's rising star of success must be put in connection with the

reconciliation between the Asas and Vans. The reconciled gods must lay

aside that seed of new feuds between them which is contained in the war

between Hadding, the favourite of the Asas, and Gudhorm, the favourite

of the Vans. The great defeat once suffered by Hadding must be balanced

by a corresponding victory, and then the contending kinsmen must be

reconciled. And this happens. Hadding wins a great battle and enters

upon a secure reign in his part of Teutondom. Then are tied new bonds of

kinship and friendship between the hostile races, so that the Teutonic

dynasties of chiefs may trace their descent both from Yngve (Svipdag)

and from Borgar's son Halfdan. Hadding and a surviving grandson of

Svipdag are united in so tender a devotion to one another that the

latter, upon an unfounded report of the former's death, is unable to

survive him and takes his own life. And when Hadding learns this, he

does not care to live any longer either, but meets death voluntarily

(Saxo, Hist., 59, 60).

After the reconciliation between the Asas and Vans they succeed in

capturing Loke. Saxo relates this in connection with Odin's return from

Asgard, and here calls Loke Mitothin. In regard to this name, we may,

without entering upon difficult conjectures concerning the first part of

the word, be sure that it, too, is taken by Saxo from the heathen

records in which he has found his account of the first great war, and

that it, in accordance with the rule for forming such epithets, must

refer to a mythic person who has had a certain relation with Odin, and

at the same time been his antithesis. According to Saxo, Mitothin is a

thoroughly evil being, who, like Aurboda, strove to disseminate the

practice of witchcraft in the world and to displace Odin. He was

compelled to take flight and to conceal himself from the gods. He is

captured and slain, but from his dead body arises a pest, so that he

does no less harm after than before his death. It therefore became

necessary to open his grave, cut his head off, and pierce his breast

with a sharp stick (Hist., 43).

These statements in regard to Mitothin's death seem at first glance

not to correspond very well with the mythic accounts of Loke's exit, and

thus give room for doubt as to his identity with the latter. It is also

clear that Saxo's narrative has been influenced by the mediaeval stories

about vampires and evil ghosts, and about the manner of preventing these

from doing harm to the living. Nevertheless, all that he here tells, the

beheading included, is founded on the mythic accounts of Loke. The place

where Loke is fettered is situated in the extreme part of the hell of

the wicked dead (see No. 78). The fact that he is relegated to the realm

of the dead, and is there chained in a subterranean cavern until

Ragnarok, when all the dead in the lower world shall return, has been a

sufficient reason for Saxo to represent him as dead and buried. That he

after death causes a pest corresponds with Saxo's account of

Ugarthilocus, who has his prison in a cave under a rock situated in a

sea, over which darkness broods for ever (the island Lyngvi in

Amsvartner's sea, where Loke's prison is--see No. 78). The hardy

sea-captain, Thorkil, seeks and finds him in his cave of torture, pulls

a hair from the beard on his chin, and brings it with him to Denmark.

When this hair afterwards is exposed and exhibited, the awful exhalation

from it causes the death of several persons standing near (Hist., 432,

433). When a hair from the beard of the tortured Loke ("a hair from the

evil one") could produce this effect, then his whole body removed to the

kingdom of death must work even greater mischief, until measures were

taken to prevent it. In this connection it is to be remembered that

Loke, according to the Icelandic records, is the father of the feminine

demon of epidemics and diseases, of her who rules in Niflheim, the home

of the spirits of disease (see No. 60), and that it is Loke's daughter

who rides the three-footed steed, which appears when an epidemic breaks

out (see No. 67). Thus Loke is, according to the Icelandic mythic

fragments, the cause of epidemics. Lakasenna also states that he lies

with a pierced body, although the weapon there is a sword, or possibly a

spear (pic a hiorvi scola binda god--Lakas., 49). That Mitothin takes

flight and conceals himself from the gods corresponds with the myth

about Loke. But that which finally and conclusively confirms the

identity of Loke and Mitothin is that the latter, though a thoroughly

evil being and hostile to the gods, is said to have risen through the

enjoyment of divine favour (caelesti beneficio vegetatus). Among male

beings of his character this applies to Loke alone.

In regard to the statement that Loke after his removal to the kingdom of

death had his head separated from his body, Saxo here relates, though in

his own peculiar manner, what the myth contained about Loke's ruin,

which was a logical consequence of his acts and happened long after his

removal to the realm of death. Loke is slain in Ragnarok, to which he,

freed from his cave of torture in the kingdom of death, proceeds at the

head of the hosts of "the sons of destruction." In the midst of the

conflict he seeks or is sought by his constant foe, Heimdal. The shining

god, the protector of Asgard, the original patriarch and benefactor of

man, contends here for the last time with the Satan of the Teutonic

mythology, and Heimdal and Loke mutually slay each other (Loki a orustu

vid Heimdall, ok verdr hvarr annars bani--Younger Edda, 192). In this

duel we learn that Heimdal, who fells his foe, was himself pierced or

"struck through" to death by a head (sva er sagt, at hann var lostinn

manns hoefdi i goegnum--Younger Edda, 264; hann var lostinn i hel med

manns hoefdi--Younger Edda, 100, ed. Res). When Heimdal and Loke

mutually cause each other's death, this must mean that Loke's head is

that with which Heimdal is pierced after the latter has cut it off with

his sword and become the bane (death) of his foe. Light is thrown on

this episode by what Saxo tells about Loke's head. While the demon in

chains awaits Ragnarok, his hair and beard grow in such a manner that

"they in size and stiffness resemble horn-spears" (Ugarthilocus ...

cujus olentes pili tam magnitudine quam rigore corneas aequaverant

hastas--Hist., 431, 432). And thus it is explained how the myth could

make his head act the part of a weapon. That amputated limbs continue to

live and fight is a peculiarity mentioned in other mythic sagas, and

should not surprise us in regard to Loke, the dragon-demon, the father

of the Midgard-serpent (see further, No. 82).

[Footnote 28: Deseruit eum (Hun) quoque Uggerus vates, vir aetatis

incognitae et supra humanum terminum prolixae; qui Frothonem transfugae

titulo petens quidquid ab Hunis parabatur edocuit (Hist., 238).]