Another SMT4F mythology topic! Two more left and we can finally end this two year long journey. Yay!
Previous topic: Shesha and Dragon Gods around the World.
Translation under the cut!
Tales of heroes
- People have always loved heroes -> historically: among them charismatic country leaders (Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Cao Cao, Gengis Khan) or founders of religions (Jesus Christ, Buddha/Siddharta Gautama, Mahomed);
- Japan: Yamato Takeru, Shotoku Taishi, Oda Nobunaga, Sakamoto Ryouma);
- The definition of a hero depends on the views of a people, country or religion;
- Mythological heroes: most famous -> Greek heroes: Herakles, Perseus, Theseus, Achilles, Odysseus;
- Most have a prototypical hero image: strong physique, magical weapons and armour, fighting and killing monsters, saving princesses and making them queens + blood relations to Zeus => supernatural powers;
- Japan’s Susanoo and Yamato Takeru are close to this image;
- The protagonist of the oldest tale, Gilgamesh, can be called a hero too: he defeats the monster Humbaba together with his friend Enkidu and is said to have been ‘two thirds god’ -> it is strongly believed this tale was made to present a king that existed in reality as a god by exaggerating his qualities;
- The same happened with Alexander the Great -> said to be a descendant of Herakles and Achilles;
- Heroic characters from the Old Testament: King David, Samson.
Heroes of the Dark Ages
- Christianity introduced in the Roman Empire -> prototypical hero image changed -> since there is now only one God, the hero cannot have inherited his blood like Greek mythological heroes had -> another being with such powers would be assimilated to devils;
- However, Celtic, Norse etc polytheistic mythologies still existed in Europe -> some had heroes similar to Greek heroes (Cu Chulainn – topic two);
- Cu Chulainn -> son of sun god Lugh; demigod hero; childhood name: Setanta; received his weapon – the magic spear Gae Bolg – from his master, the Queen of the Underworld Scathach; forced to break his own geas (pledge) by thinking he wants to eat dog meat -> is pierced by his own spear and dies;
- Cu Chulainn’s legend is very old -> representations of him riding a Roman era chariot;
- Another famous Celtic hero -> Fionn mac Cumhaill -> several hundred years after Cu Chulainn -> represented not in a chariot, but riding a horse as a knight -> the story believed to have appeared after the spread of Christianity; however, some theories say he is related to the chief god Nuada or is Lugh himself -> his legend might have been altered due to Christianity;
- Fionn mac Cumhaill -> known for being the leader of the Fianna monster hunters, but also because his wife Grainne eloped with Diarmuid, one of his band leaders;
- Important factor: Diarmuid’s geas (cannot refuse Grainne’s desire for him to protect her) -> later found in the stories of knights and their vows of the Middle Ages + the theme of betrayal also encountered in King Arthur’s story;
- Between the fall of Rome and Renaissance -> so-called Dark Ages (term rarely used nowadays) -> culture suffered drastic changes -> old myths and legends were altered to fit in with Christian concepts;
Siegfried, the Hero of the Germanic Peoples
- Siegfried long known as a hero of the Germanic peoples -> known as Sigurd in Norse mythology (Snorri Sturluson’s 13th c. Edda or before that in Volsunga Saga -> details differ);
- Main points: Sigurd is Odin’s son or a blood relative, raised by a dwarf named Regin, had a sword named Gram, defeated the dragon Fafnir who protected his stolen gold;
- Later in Thidreksaga -> Sigurd smears dragon blood all over his body => no sword can harm him;
- It is believed that Sigurd’s story evolved into the Germanic Song of the Nibelungs -> 5th c. -> based on historical facts -> story generally starts after the slaying of the dragon;
- Siegfried visits the Kingdom of the Burgundians -> marries the princess Kriemhild -> disguises himself as the Burgundian king who wanted to marry the queen of Iceland Brunhild -> defeats her and starts a relationship with her -> is killed by the prince’s teacher Hagen;
- Kriemhild and Hagen -> protagonists of the story’s continuation; the Burgundian king is killed during the Hun invasion -> Kriemhild is forced to marry the Hun ruler; Hagen is killed in a fight with the Huns -> in the end Kriemhild exacts her revenge by herself;
- The love triangle between Siegfried, Kriemhild and Brunhild is the core of the story -> in Scandinavian mythology -> the focus is on Brunhild -> she is a Valkyrie -> Kriemhild has a negative role -> orchestrates from the shadows Siegfried’s infidelity and assassination;
- Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungs -> based on the Norse version + additions -> evil role goes from Kriemhild to Hagen.
The Epitome of the Hero Legend: The Tale of King Arthur
- Legends of Celtic heroes (especially Fionn mac Cumhaill) or Siegfried’s story -> centred around romance and betrayal -> popular in the Middle Ages -> common points with stories of chivalry -> representative: the tale of King Arthur;
- Legend of King Arthur: influenced by Celtic mythology -> druid magician Merlin, the Lady of the Lake Vivian who offered the magic sword Excalibur, Arthur’s half-sister, the enchantress Morgan le Fay + Christian influences -> the quest of the Holy Grail, the Crusades etc;
- Two possible historical models for King Arthur: Ambrosius Aurelianus who fought the Saxons + Riothamus who fought the Goths -> both in the 5th century -> contemporary with Siegfried -> probably influenced each other.