Halfdan And Hamal Foster-brothers The Amalians Fight In Behalf Of Halfdan's Son Hadding

: Teutonic Mythology

The mythic progenitor of the Amalians, Hamall, has already been

mentioned above as the foster-brother of the Teutonic patriarch, Halfdan

(Helge Hundingsbane). According to Norse tradition, Hamal's father,

Hagall, had been Halfdan's foster-father (Helge Hund., ii.), and thus

the devoted friend of Borgar. There being so close a relation between

the progenitors of these great hero-families of Teutonic mythology, it

is hig
ly improbable that the Amalians did not also act an important

part in the first great world war, since all the Teutonic tribes, and

consequently surely their first families of mythic origin, took part in

it. In the ancient records of the North, we discover a trace which

indicates that the Amalians actually did fight on that side where we

should expect to find them, that is, on Hadding's, and that Hamal

himself was the field-commander of his foster-brother. The trace is

found in the phrase fylkja Hamalt, occurring in several places (Sig.

Faf., ii. 23; Har. Hardr., ch. 2; Fornalds. Saga, ii. 40; Fornm., xi.

304). The phrase can only be explained in one way, "arranged the

battle-array as Hamall first did it." To Hamal has also been ascribed

the origin of the custom of fastening the shields close together along

the ship's railing, which appears from the following lines in Harald

Hardrade's Saga, 63:

Hamalt syndiz mer hoemlur

hildings vinir skilda.

We also learn in our Norse records that fylkja Hamalt, "to draw up in

line of battle as Hamal did," means the same as svinfylkja, that is,

to arrange the battalions in the form of a wedge.[29] Now Saxo relates

(Hist., 52) that Hadding's army was the first to draw the forces up in

this manner, and that an old man (Odin) whom he has taken on board on a

sea-journey had taught and advised him to do this.[30] Several centuries

later Odin, according to Saxo, taught this art to Harald Hildetand. But

the mythology has not made Odin teach it twice. The repetition has its

reason in the fact that Harald Hildetand, in one of the records

accessible to Saxo, was a son of Halfdan Borgarson (Hist., 361;

according to other records a son of Borgar himself--Hist., 337), and

consequently a son of Hadding's father, the consequence of which is that

features of Hadding's saga have been incorporated into the saga produced

in a later time concerning the saga-hero Harald Hildetand. Thereby the

Bravalla battle has obtained so universal and gigantic a character.

It has been turned into an arbitrarily written version of the battle

which ended in Hadding's defeat. Swedes, Goths, Norsemen, Curians, and

Esthonians here fight on that side which, in the original model of the

battle, was represented by the hosts of Svipdag and Gudhorm; Danes (few

in number, according to Saxo), Saxons (according to Saxo, the main part

of the army), Livonians, and Slavs fight on the other side. The fleets

and armies are immense on both sides. Shield-maids (amazons) occupy the

position which in the original was held by the giantesses Hardgrep,

Fenja, and Menja. In the saga description produced in Christian times

the Bravalla battle is a ghost of the myth concerning the first great

war. Therefore the names of several of the heroes who take part in the

battle are an echo from the myth concerning the Teutonic patriarchs and

the great war. There appear Borgar and Behrgar the wise (Borgar),

Haddir (Hadding), Ruthar (Hrutr-Heimdal, see No. 28a), Od

(Odr, a surname of Freyja's, husband, Svipdag, see Nos. 96-98, 100,

101), Brahi (Brache, Asa-Bragr, see No. 102), Gram (Halfdan),

and Ingi (Yngve), all of which names we recognise from the patriarch

saga, but which, in the manner in which they are presented in the new

saga, show how arbitrarily the mythic records were treated at that time.

The myth has rightly described the wedge-shaped arrangement of the

troops as an ancient custom among the Teutons. Tacitus (Germ., 6) says

that the Teutons arranged their forces in the form of a wedge (acies

per cuneos componitur), and Caesar suggests the same (De Bell.

Gall., i. 52: Germani celeriter ex consuetudine sua phalange

facta...). Thus our knowledge of this custom as Teutonic extends back

to the time before the birth of Christ. Possibly it was then already

centuries old. The Aryan-Asiatic kinsmen of the Teutons had knowledge of

it, and the Hindooic law-book, called Manus', ascribes to it divine

sanctity and divine origin. On the geographical line which unites

Teutondom with Asia it was also in vogue. According to AElianus (De

instr. ac., 18), the wedge-shaped array of battle was known to the

Scythians and Thracians.

The statement that Harald Hildetand, son of Halfdan Borgarson, learned

this arrangement of the forces from Odin many centuries after he had

taught the art to Hadding, does not disprove, but on the contrary

confirms, the theory that Hadding, son of Halfdan Borgarson, was not

only the first but also the only one who received this instruction from

the Asa-father. And as we now have side by side the two statements, that

Odin gave Hadding this means of victory, and that Hamal was the first

one who arranged his forces in the shape of a wedge, then it is all the

more necessary to assume that these statements belong together, and that

Hamal was Hadding's general, especially as we have already seen that

Hadding's and Hamal's families were united by the sacred ties which

connect foster-father with foster-son and foster-brother with


[Footnote 29: Compare the passage, Eirikr konungr fylkti sva lidi sinu,

at rani (the swine-snout) var a framan a fylkinganni, ok lukt allt utan

med skjaldbjorg, (Fornm., xi. 304), with the passage quoted in this

connection: hildingr fylkti Hamalt lidi miklu.]

[Footnote 30: The saga of Sigurd Fafnersbane, which absorbed materials

from all older sagas, has also incorporated this episode. On a

sea-journey Sigurd takes on board a man who calls himself Hnikarr (a

name of Odin). He advises him to "fylkja Hamalt" (Sig. Fafn., ii.