Monday, January 19, 2015

Did JRRT believe Sigurd / Siegfried was dabbling with some Satanic stuff?

Or, at least, did the thought cross his mind?

This hero has somewhat less good press with Tolkien than with CSL. Or so it seems to me. CSL was thankful that Nazis had abandoned Siegfried for Hagen as their favourite hero - because it gave him Siegfried back.

But what about Tolkien? I read somewhere he deliberately made Aragorn an opposite of Siegfried as thoughtful, humble and never deceptive where Siegfried was carefree to some would say careless, swaggering in a sense and once a deceiver - even if for loyalty. And of course, Aragorn was loyal to one single woman, while Sigurd (and Wagner's Siegfried) having drunk a "drink of oblivion" forgot about Brunhild and immediately fell in love with Gudrun/Kriemhild*. Sigurd wanted riches and fame (and so did Siegfried of the Nibelungen Nôt) - Aragorn was content with obedience under Denethor's banners and with poverty in the inn of Prancing Pony, even once in a while - with a notable exception - letting himself be humbled by Barliman Butterbur.

But I get another clue from Bilbo and LotR about what he thought.

Smaug has a pretty unusual death for a dragon. Leviathan is described as having impenetrable scales in the book of Job. Sigurd's dragon is killed from below (like crocodiles do not have same type of scales on stomach as elsewhere) and even there only with a magic sword. Not a usual one. St George and a few others can kill dragons because they are saints. Beowulf's dragon seems to recall Sigurd's.

Smaug's death recalls, not Fafner's, but Sigurd's/Siegfried's. He was vulnerable in exactly one spot. Like Siegfried / Sigurd (South German and Norse versions agreeing completely on this one), who had bathed in the dragon's blood, but who had been sweaty after the killing and on whose back a leaf had fallen, which stuck to his back during the "blood bath" (other more literal sense than usual, which is usually no worse than taking a footbath in blood) and where his skin did not become invulnerable. Which is also the spot where Hagen / Högni (again, both versions) killed him.

Could Tolkien have been making a point that invulnerability, except for in one spot, was more fitting to a dragon than to a hero?

Other thing with Siegfried (German, not Norse version) : he has a Tarn-Kappe - a cloak which renders the wearer invisible.

Which of course recalls that Ring ... in The Hobbit, it is not yet demonic, but in the Lord of the Rings three volume novel (and not trilogy, as he insisted!) it is demonic.**

Invisibility is perhaps also more fitting for a dragon than for a hero?

And if a hero wields it ... well, Elendil fared no better with invisibility than Sigurd / Siegfried with invulnerability.

So, was Sigurd dabbling with demonic things?

One clue is - in the Norse version - his genealogy. Odin, Sige (banished for killing a serf - and then won an Empire among Huns ... unless it was Franks), Rerir (who avenged his father who had been killed by jealousy), Reris son Volsung - early orphan, married daughter of a giant, Volsung's son Sigmund (who in Beowulf poem was the dragon killer, one and only before Beowulf), who married his own sister in order to get revenge on his father's killers. Then Sigurd - another very late born son, posthumous to his father, after his incestuously engendered son Sinfjötle (same name as Fitela, and the poet may have left that piece of genealogy out) had been poisoned - by a poison who could not kill his half giant father (another kind of invulnerability which betrayed if not self then kin).***

Rob Skiba II would have said "there is something going on here" ...

Another one would be the clues in parallels of Pagan type.

I believe Hercules and Theseus existed, that the Devil was not their physical father but got some kind of moral and adoptive fathership over each (as Zeus or as Poseidon ... why would he have wasted an opportunity to enhance errors of polytheism?) - and the Pagan surroundings accepted these as "sons of gods".

In non-epic Christian sources, Sigurd / Siegfried is not mentioned. He died among Burgundians (insofar as he lived at all and insofar as his widow married Attila) - but Burgundian "secular historians" - who where were usually Christian clerics - did not mention him. One reason which is a possibility was given by Tolkien in his preface : he was a fairy-tale addition to the legend, which also telescopes diverse parts of real history. Indeed, he was a double of the real dragon killer, "his father" Sigmund. Who had no connexion to Burgundians whatsoever.

I think there is another possibility. He lived. He was careless about the means he used and was nearly as touched by the devil's power as Theseus and Hercules. By his own half conscious fault - who would take a dip into the blood of a killed dragon? If this did not damn him (but perhaps it did so too), it tripped him up very seriously, so that his life was ruined by it (Theseus and Hercules both killed own children - one through asking it as a favour of a demonic stepfather, one in a fit of madness), and he was betrayed by his wife (like Theseus as to Hippolytus' guilt, like Hercules as to the shirt of Nessus - which also involved the blood of a monster).° He died a premature death. If he was saved, or at least saved from a worse damantion than what he got (there are degrees in Hell), then it was partly because the magic betrayed him rather than made him a success.

He became a man of renoun - in popular and chivalrous or courteous lore. But in a Christian world, at least Catholic and possibly also Arian clergy (whose version if any we have not got) gave him a damnatio memoriae. Even one version among Danes or Angles (whether originally Pagan or originally Christian) made his father Sigmund the dragon killer - so as to avoid mentioning Sigurd.

I looked up the German actors of Siegfried and Brunhilde and Kriemhild. Uwe Beyer (who did Siegfried) died from heart attack during tennis at age 48. Brunhild in the German version (Nibelungen Nôt) was never wife or paramour of Siegfried,°° and Karin Dor never could make it as international actress - her third husband has died and he had Alzheimer. Maybe she was best off, of the three. Maria Marlow who played Kriemhild was also into Erotica - and then disappeared. Gunther was played by Rolf Henniger, who is a widower. Siegfried (!) Wischnewski played Hagen (another pretty diabolical character, one eyed like Antichrist, cynically obedient to orders rather than to moral law, destroys a chance of peace by killing Etzel's - Attila's - son - CSL was right he was worse as a hero than Siegfried, though he might have still been OK back when he received to young hostages escaped from Etzel's court in the Latin poem Waltharius) - he divorced and remarried. Herbert Lom (Herbert Karel Angelo Kuchacevič ze Schluderpacheru, called Herbert Lom) who played Etzel is an interesting man, he may have been the model for Christopher Lee (he was a generation earlier) - and he wrote novels about two very creepy men, Christopher Marlowe (a rival of Shakespear who wrote of Tamerlan - a man who like Attila was voluneering for the role as "God's scourge") and the inventor of the guillotine, Dr Guillotin. Skip Martin: Alberich (the dwarf of whom Siegfried gets the hoard) - was pretty ok, he was poor enough to have to live as tobacconist, he died in 1984 as if not being able to stand Newspeak and at age 56, like so middle life expectancy of a man of the Middle Ages - but like Herbert Lom he was drawn to the macabre, artistically.

When we come to other characters, the actors are different. Some of them. Dieter Eppler: Rüdiger - died at old age after a long faithful marriage. Mario Girotti: Giselher. More known as Terence Hill. Fred Williams: Gernot - no problems. Hans von Borsody: Volker von Alzey (a court poet in the poem) - unfortunately married more than once, born in Vienna, like me. Already died. Christian Rode: Dietrich von Bern (loyal to Etzel, one of the survivors who condemn Kriemhild to death) - has more recently dubbed Kojak (the former Kojak dubber having deceased). Friedrich von Ledebur: Waffenmeister Hildebrand (Dietrich's man, other survivor) had a more chaotic life, but perhaps not out of the ordinary for a nobleman and an actor. He played a South Sea Islander ... oh, wait, that may explain it : played chief harpooneer Queequeg, a South Sea cannibal chief, in the film Moby Dick (1956). "Better a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian," Herman Melville's Ishmael famously says of Queequeg in the book and the film.. He shouldn't have!

I nearly forgot the director. Harald Reinl was preparing a new film with Attila - and ended up stabbed by a wife, like Attila by Hildicho.

So, bathing in dragon's blood or wielding magical swords or invisibility gadgets are not the best ways you can live your life on earth or get to Heaven.

Even if one is not as much of a graceless bore as Mime ... (in Wagner's version).

Hans Georg Lundahl
University Library of Nanterre
Sts Marius and Martha
and sons Audifax and Abachum

I used for the cast the German wikipedia here and on basically each actor enumerated:

Die Wikipädie : Die Nibelungen (1967)

But for Friedrich von Ledebur I took the English version too.


* In the German version Siegfried's wife is not Gudrun but Kriemhild and her mother Uote. In the Norse version it's the mother who is called Grimhild.

** I was looking up Völsunga saga and came across this : "The story of Andvaranaut is thought to have inspired J.R.R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings." Er ... no, he went out of his way to deny it. "Both rings are round". Andvaranaut can of course have inspired the Seven rings of the dwarf lords - which Sauron produced but also took back. There Andvaranaut like the seven is a ring of riches.

*** If Siegfried lived around the time of Attila's youth, it seems Odin his ancestor either cannot have been the Odin who ruled in Uppsala around the time of Caesar, or there are ancestors missing, or Sige was called "son of Odin" in a sense like self made men were called "sons of Zeus" in cases like Minos, Rhadamantys, like ancestors of Atreus and of Priam. And I suspect a line like "Woden - Casere (Julius Caesar or just barely possibly Caesar Augustus) - Tydda - ... " means East Anglia's royalty started with a self made man too.

° Achilles' was a Centaur killer / monster killer, but he was also invulnerable, his mother may have been, not a goddess, but a witch posing as such. And if he was effeminate in one moment and perhaps even bisexual as Oscar Wilde (whose exposure to demonic powers was through freemasonry), that witch mother may have been to blame. Idolatry makes for exchanging the natural desire for perverted ones. And, yes, his invulnerability (real or supposed) betrayed him.

°° The South German story chivalrously "amends" we would say mollify the story : instead of a drink of forgetfulness to become amourously faithless to Brynhilda, before falling in love with Gudrun, he gets a love potion to fall in love with Kriemhild. Instead of betraying Brynhilda amourously, he only makes her faithless to a vow she had made insofar as she takes not the best (him) but due to his machinations the second best (Gunter, his brother in law).

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