Halfdan's Birth And The End Of The Age Of Peace The Family Names Ylfing Hilding Budlung

: Teutonic Mythology

The first strophes of the first song of Helge Hundingsbane distinguish

themselves in tone and character and broad treatment from the

continuation of the song, and have clearly belonged to a genuine old

mythic poem about Halfdan, and without much change the compiler of the

Helge Hundingsbane song has incorporated them into his poem. They

describe Halfdan's ("Helge Hundingsbane's") birth. The real mythic names

of his par
nts, Borgar and Drott, have been retained side by side with

the names given by the compiler, Sigmund and Borghild.

Ar var alda; It was time's morning,

that er arar gullo, eagles screeched,

hnigo heilog votn holy waters fell

af himinfjollum; from the heavenly mountains.

tha hafthi Helga Then was the mighty

inn hugom stora Helge born

Borghildr borit by Borghild

i Bralundi. in Bralund.

Nott varth i boe, It was night,

nornir qvomo, norns came,

ther er authlingi they who did shape

aldr urn scopo; the fate of the nobleman;

thann batho fylci they proclaimed him

fraegstan vertha best among Budlungs,

oc buthlunga and most famed

beztan ticcia. among princes.

Snero ther af afli With all their might the threads

aurlaugthatto, of fate they twisted,

tha er Borgarr braut when Borgar settled

i Bralundi; in Bralund;

ther um greiddo of gold they made

gullin simo the warp of the web,

oc und manasal and fastened it directly

mithian festo. 'neath the halls of the moon.

ther austr oc vestr In the east and west

enda falo: they hid the ends:

thar atti lofdungr there between

land a milli; the chief should rule;

bra nipt Nera Nere's[15] kinswoman

a nordrevega northward sent

einni festi one thread and bade it

ey bath hon halda. hold for ever.

Eitt var at angri One cause there was

Ylfinga nith of alarm to the Yngling (Borgar),

oc theirre meyio and also for her

er nunuth faeddi; who bore the loved one.

hrafn gvath at hrafni Hungry cawed

--sat a ham meithi raven to raven

andvanr ato:-- in the high tree:

"Ec veit noccoth! "Hear what I know!

"Stendr i brynio "In coat of mail

burr Sigmundar, stands Sigmund's son,

doegrs eins gamall, one day old,

nu er dagr kominn; now the day is come;

hversir augo sharp eyes of the Hildings

sem hildingar, has he, and the wolves'

sa er varga vinr, friend he becomes,

vith scolom teitir." We shall thrive."

Drott thotti sa Drott, it is said, saw

dauglingr vera In him a dayling,[16]

quado meth gumnom saying, "Now are good seasons

god-ar kominn; come among men;"

sialfr gecc visi to the young lord

or vig thrimo from thunder-strife

ungum faera came the chief himself

itrlauc grami. with a glorious flower.

Halfdan's ("Helge Hundingsbane's") birth occurs, according to the

contents of these strophes, when two epochs meet. His arrival announces

the close of the peaceful epoch and the beginning of an age of strife,

which ever since has reigned in the world. His significance in this

respect is distinctly manifest in the poem. The raven, to whom the

battle-field will soon be as a wellspread table, is yet suffering from

hunger (andvanr atu); but from the high tree in which it sits, it has

on the day after the birth of the child, presumably through the window,

seen the newcomer, and discovered that he possessed "the sharp eyes of

the Hildings," and with prophetic vision it has already seen him clad in

coat of mail. It proclaims its discovery to another raven in the same

tree, and foretells that theirs and the age of the wolves has come: "We

shall thrive."

The parents of the child heard and understood what the raven said.

Among the runes which Heimdal, Borgar's father, taught him, and which

the son of the latter in time learned, are the knowledge of bird-speech

(Konr ungr kloek nam fugla--Rigsthula, 43, 44). The raven's appearance

in the song of Helge Hundingsbane is to be compared with its relative

the crow in Rigsthula; the one foretells that the new-born one's path of

life lies over battle-fields, the other urges the grown man to turn away

from his peaceful amusements. Important in regard to a correct

understanding of the song, and characteristic of the original relation

of the strophes quoted to the myth concerning primeval time, is the

circumstance that Halfdan's ("Helge Hundingsbane's") parents are not

pleased with the prophecies of the raven; on the contrary they are

filled with alarm. Former interpreters have been surprised at this. It

has seemed to them that the prophecy of the lad's future heroic and

blood-stained career ought, in harmony with the general spirit pervading

the old Norse literature, to have awakened the parents' joy and pride.

But the matter is explained by the mythic connection which makes

Borgars' life constitute the transition period from a happy and peaceful

golden age to an age of warfare. With all their love of strife and

admiration for warlike deeds, the Teutons still were human, and shared

with all other people the opinion that peace and harmony is something

better and more desirable than war and bloodshed. Like their Aryan

kinsmen, they dreamed of primeval Saturnia regna, and looked forward

to a regeneration which is to restore the reign of peace. Borgar, in the

myth, established the community, was the legislator and judge. He was

the hero of peaceful deeds, who did not care to employ weapons except

against wild beasts and robbers. But the myth had also equipped him with

courage and strength, the necessary qualities for inspiring respect and

interest, and had given him abundant opportunity for exhibiting these

qualities in the promotion of culture and the maintenance of the

sacredness of the law. Borgar was the Hercules of the northern myth, who

fought with the gigantic beasts and robbers of the olden time. Saxo

(Hist., 23) has preserved the traditions which tell how he at one time

fought breast to breast with a giant bear, conquering him and bringing

him fettered into his own camp.

As is well known, the family names Ylfings, Hildings, Budlungs, &c.,

have in the poems of the Christian skalds lost their specific

application to certain families, and are applied to royal and princely

warriors in general. This is in perfect analogy with the Christian

Icelandic poetry, according to which it is proper to take the name of

any viking, giant, or dwarf, and apply it to any special viking, giant,

or dwarf, a poetic principle which scholars even of our time claim can

also be applied in the interpretation of the heathen poems. In regard to

the old Norse poets this method is, however, as impossible as it would

be in Greek poetry to call Odysseus a Peleid, or Achilleus a Laertiatid,

or Prometheus Hephaestos, or Hephaestos Daedalos. The poems concerning

Helge Hundingsbane are compiled in Christian times from old songs about

Borgar's son Halfdan, and we find that the patronymic appellations

Ylfing, Hilding, Budlung, and Lofdung are copiously strewn on "Helge

Hundingsbane." But, so far as the above-quoted strophes are concerned,

it can be shown that the appellations Ylfing, Hilding, and Budlung are

in fact old usage and have a mythic foundation. The German poem

"Wolfdieterich und Sabin" calls Berchtung (Borgar) Potelung--that is,

Budlung; the poem "Wolfdieterich" makes Berchtung the progenitor of the

Hildings, and adds: "From the same race the Ylfings have come to

us"--von dem selbe geslehte sint uns die wilfinge kumen (v. 223).

Saxo mentions the Hilding Hildeger as Halfdan's half-brother, and the

traditions on which the saga of Asmund Kaempebane is based has done the

same (compare No. 43). The agreement in this point between German,

Danish, and Icelandic statements points to an older source common to

them all, and furnishes an additional proof that the German Berchtung

occupied in the mythic genaelogies precisely the same place as the Norse


That Thor is one of Halfdan's fathers, just as Heimdal is one of

Borgar's, has already been pointed out above (see No. 25). To a divine

common fatherhood point the words: "Drott it is said, saw in him (the

lad just born) a dayling (son of a god of light), a son divine." Who the

divine partner-father is, is indicated by the fact that a storm has

broken out the night when Drott's son is born. There is a thunder-strife

vig thrimo, the eagles screech, and holy waters fall from the heavenly

mountains (from the clouds). The god of thunder is present, and casts

his shadow over the house where the child is born.

[Footnote 15: Urd, the chief goddess of fate. See the treatise "Mythen

om Under-jorden."]

[Footnote 16: Dayling = bright son of day or light.]