The Science of Fairy Tales/Chapter 8
THE SUPERNATURAL LAPSE OF TIME IN FAIRYLAND (continued).
in the Tir na n'Og—The Island of Happiness—The Mermaid—Thomas of Erceldoune—Olger the Dane—The Sleeping Hero—King Arthur—Don Sebastian—The expected deliverer—British variants—German variants—Frederick Barbarossa—Nameless heroes—Slavonic variants.
The stories we have hitherto considered, relating to the supernatural lapse of time in fairyland, have attributed the mortal's detention there to various motives. Compulsion on the part of the superhuman powers, and pleasure, curiosity, greed, sheer folly, as also the performance of just and willing service on the part of the mortal, have been among the causes of his entrance thither and his sojourn amid its enchantments. Human nature could hardly have been what it is if the supreme passion of love had been absent from the list. Nor is it wanting, though not found in the same plenteous measure that will meet us when we come to deal with the Swan-maiden myth—that is to say, with the group of stories concerning the capture by men of maidens of superhuman birth.
We may take as typical the story of Oisin, or Ossian, as told in Ireland. In County Clare it is said that once when he was in the full vigour of youth Oisin lay down under a tree to rest and fell asleep. Awaking with a start, he saw a lady richly clad, and of more than mortal beauty, gazing on him. She was the Queen of Tir na n'Og, the Country of Perpetual Youth. She had fallen in love with Oisin, as the strange Italian lady is said to have done with a poet of whose existence we are somewhat better assured than of Oisin's; and she invited him to accompany her to her own realm and share her throne. Oisin was not long in making up his mind, and all the delights of Tir na n'Og were laid at his feet. In one part of the palace garden, however, was a broad flat stone, on which he was forbidden to stand, under penalty of the heaviest misfortune. Probably, as is usual in these cases, if he had not been forbidden, he would never have thought of standing on it. But one day finding himself near it, the temptation to transgress was irresistible. He yielded, and stepping on the stone he found himself in full view of his native land, the very existence of which he had forgotten till that moment. Even in the short space of time since he left it much had changed: it was suffering from oppression and violence. Overcome with grief, he hastened to the queen and prayed for leave to go back, that he might help his people. The queen tried to dissuade him, but in vain. She asked him how long he supposed he had been absent. Oisin told her: "Thrice seven days." She replied that three times thrice seven years had passed since he arrived in Tir na n'Og; and though Time could not enter that land, it would immediately assert its dominion over him if he left it. At length she persuaded him to promise that he would return to his country for one day only, and then come back to dwell with her for ever. She accordingly gave him a beautiful jet-black horse, from whose back he was on no account to alight, or at all events not to allow the bridle to fall from his hand; and in parting she gifted him with wisdom and knowledge far surpassing that of men. Mounting the steed, he soon found himself near his former home; and as he journeyed he met a man driving a horse, across whose back was thrown a sack of corn. The sack had fallen a little aside; and the man asked Oisin to assist him in balancing it properly. Oisin, good-naturedly stooping, caught it and gave it such a heave that it fell over on the other side. Annoyed at his ill-success, he forgot his bride's commands, and sprang from the horse to lift the sack from the ground, letting go the bridle at the same time. Forthwith the steed vanished; and Oisin instantly became a blind, feeble, helpless old man—everything lost but the wisdom and knowledge bestowed upon him by his immortal bride.
A variant adds some particulars, from which it appears that Oisin was not only husband of the queen, but also rightful monarch of Tir na n'Og. For in that land was a strange custom. The office of king was the prize of a race every seven years. Oisin's predecessor had consulted a Druid as to the length of his own tenure, and had been told that he might keep the crown for ever unless his son-in-law took it from him. Now the king's only daughter was the finest woman in Tir na n'Og, or indeed in the world; and the king naturally thought that if he could so deform his daughter that no one would wed her he would be safe. So he struck her with a rod of Druidic spells, which turned her head into a pig's head. This she was condemned to wear until she could marry one of Fin Mac Cumhail's sons in Erin. The young lady, therefore, went in search of Fin Mac Cumhail's sons; and having chosen Oisin she found an opportunity to tell him her tale, with the result that he wedded her without delay. The same moment her deformity was gone, and her beauty as perfect as before she was enchanted. Oisin returned to Tir na n'Og with her; and on the first race for the crown he won so easily that no man ever cared to dispute it with him afterwards. So he reigned for many a year, until one day the longing seized him to go to Erin and see his father and his men. His wife told him that if he set foot in Erin he would never come back to her, and he would become a blind old man; and she asked him how long he thought it was since he came to Tir na n'Og. "About three years," he replied. "It is three hundred years," she said. However, if he must go she would give him a white steed to bear him; but if he dismounted, or touched the soil of Erin with his foot, the steed would return that instant, and he would be left a poor old man. This inevitable catastrophe occurred in his eagerness to blow the great horn of the Fenians, in order to summon his friends around him. His subsequent adventures with Saint Patrick, interesting though they are, are unimportant for our present purpose.
Perhaps the nearest analogue to this is the Italian Swan-maiden märchen, of the Island of Happiness. There a youth sets out to seek Fortune, and finds her in the shape of a maiden bathing, whose clothes he steals, obtaining possession thereby of her book of command, and so compelling her to wed him. But in his absence his mother gives her the book again, which enables her to return to her home in the Island of Happiness. Thither her husband goes to seek her, and after a variety of adventures he is re-united to her. All goes smoothly until he desires to visit his mother, supposing that he had only been in the island for two months, whereas in fact he has been there two hundred years. Fortune, finding he was bent on going, was more prudent than the queen of Tir na n'Og, for she went with him on the magic horse. In their way they met with a lean woman who had worn out a carriage-load of shoes in travelling. She feigned to fall to the ground to see if Fortune's husband would lift her up. But Fortune cried out to him: "Beware! that is Death!" A little further on they met a devil in the guise of a great lord riding a horse whose legs were worn out with much running. He also fell from his horse. This was another trap for Fortune's husband; but again she cried out to him: "Beware!" Then, having reached his own neighbourhood and satisfied himself that no one knew him, and that none even of the oldest remembered his mother, he allowed his wife to lead him back to the Island of Happiness, where he still dwells with her.
In an Annamite saga a certain king wished to build a town on a site he had fixed upon. All at once a tree bearing an unknown foliage and strange flowers sprang up on the spot. It was determined to offer these flowers to the king; and sentinels were placed to see that no one plucked the blossoms. A rock still pointed out in the north of Annam was the home of a race of genii. A young and lovely maiden belonging to that race visited the tree, and was unlucky enough to touch one of the flowers and to cause it to drop. She was at once seized by the guards, but was released at the intercession of a certain mandarin. The mandarin's heart was susceptible: he fell in love with her, and, pursuing her, he was admitted into the abodes of the Immortals and received by the maiden of his dreams. His happiness continued until the day when it was his lady's turn to be in attendance on the queen of the Immortals. Ere she left him she warned him against opening the back door of the palace where they dwelt, otherwise he would be compelled to return home, and his present abode would be forbidden to him from that moment. He disobeyed her. On opening the door he beheld once more the outside world, and his family came to his remembrance. The Immortals who were within earshot drove him out, and forbade him to return. He thought he had only been there a few days, but he could no longer find his relatives. No one knew the name he asked for. At last an old man said: "There existed once, under the reign of I do not now remember what sovereign, an old mandarin of the name, but you would have some difficulty in finding him, for he has been dead three or four hundred years." An Esthonian tale represents a mermaid, the daughter of the Water-Mother, as falling in love with a loutish boy, the youngest son of a peasant, and taking him down to dwell with her as her husband in her palace beneath the waves. The form in which she appeared to him was a woman's; but she passed her Thursdays in seclusion, which she forbade him to break, enjoining him, moreover, never to call her Mermaid. After little more than a year, however, he grew curious and jealous, and yielded to the temptation of peeping through the curtain of her chamber, where he beheld her swimming about, half woman and half fish. He had broken the condition of his happiness, and might no longer stay with her. Wherefore he was cast up again on the shore where he had first met the mermaid. Rising and going into the village he inquired for his parents, but found that they had been dead for more than thirty years, and that his brothers were dead too. He himself was unconsciously changed into an old man. For a few days he wandered about the shore, and the charitable gave him bread. He ventured to tell his history to one kind friend; but the same night he disappeared, and in a few days the waves cast up his body on the beach.
The foregoing tales all combine with the characteristics of the group under discussion, either those of the Swan-maiden group or those of the Forbidden Chamber group. In the myth of the Swan-maidens, as in some types of the myth of the Forbidden Chamber, the human hero weds a supernatural bride; and a story containing such an incident seems to have a tendency to unite itself to one or other of these two groups. This tendency is not, however, always developed. The two ladies in the Chinese legend, cited in the last chapter, were neither Swan-maidens nor female Bluebeards; and this is not the only tale from the Flowery Land in which these superhuman beauties appear without promoting the development in question. Nor do I find any hint of it in the tradition of Bran Mac Fearbhall, King of Ireland, who was one day lulled asleep by a strain of fairy music. On awaking he found the silver branch of a tree by his side; and a strange lady appeared at his court and invited him to a land of happiness. He handed her the silver branch; and the next morning with a company of thirty persons he sailed out on the ocean. In a few days they landed on an island inhabited only by women, of whom the strange lady appeared to be the chieftainess. Here Bran Mac Fearbhall remained several ages before returning to his own palace near Lough Foyle. An Arab tale in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris shows us a king's son who in his wanderings lands on a strange island, where he marries the king's daughter and becomes his father-in-law's vizier. The country was watered by a river which flowed at certain seasons from a great mountain. Every year it was the vizier's duty to enter the cavern, having first received instructions from the king and a mysterious gift. At the end of an hour he reappeared, followed by the stream, which continued to flow during the time needful for the fertilization of the country. When the prince as vizier entered the cavern he found a negro, who led him to his mistress, the queen of a people of Amazons. In her hands was the management of the river; and she had caused the periodical drought in order to exact a tribute of date-stones which she had to pass on to an Ifrit, to purchase his forbearance towards her own subjects. The prince ingratiates himself with her: she suppresses the periodical droughts and marries him. After two centuries of wedded life she dies, leaving him ten daughters, whom he takes back, together with considerable wealth, to the city formerly governed by his father-in-law, and now by his great-great-grandson. The latter was a hundred years old, and venerable by the side of his great-great-grandfather, over whose head the years had passed in that enchanted realm without effect. He made himself known to his descendant and stayed ten years with him; but whether he succeeded in marrying off any of his daughters, of ages so very uncertain, the abstract of the story I have before me does not say. At last he returned to his native land, and reigned there for a long time.
In the hero of the Island of Happiness we found just now one who, having returned to earth for a season, had been taken back again by his supernatural spouse to a more lasting enjoyment. But he is not alone in his good fortune. Thomas of Erceldoune, a personage less shadowy than some of those commemorated in this chapter, is known to have lived in the thirteenth century. His reputation for prophetic powers has been wide and lasting. These powers were said to be, like Oisin's, a gift from the Fairy Queen. She met him under the Eildon Tree, which stood on the easternmost of the three Eildon Hills. Having got him into her power, she took him down with her into Fairyland, where he abode, as he deemed, for three days, but in reality for three years. At the end of that time the lady carries him back to Eildon Tree and bids him farewell. He asks her for some token whereby he may say that he had been with her; and she bestows on him a prophetic tongue that cannot lie, and leaves him with a promise to meet him again on Huntley Banks. Here both the old ballads and the older romance desert us; but if we may trust Sir Walter Scott's report of the tradition current in the neighbourhood, Thomas was under an obligation to return to Fairyland whenever he was summoned. "Accordingly, while Thomas was making merry with his friends in the tower of Ercildoune, a person came running in, and told, with marks of fear and astonishment, that a hart and hind had left the neighbouring forest, and were, composedly and slowly, parading the street of the village. The prophet instantly arose, left his habitation, and followed the wonderful animals to the forest, whence he was never seen to return. According to the popular belief, he still 'drees his weird' in Fairyland, and is one day expected to revisit earth. In the meanwhile his memory is held in the most profound respect."
In the romance of Ogier, or Olger, the Dane, one of the Paladins of Charlemagne, it is related that six fairies presided at his birth and bestowed various gifts upon him. Morgan the Fay, the last of the six, promised that after a long and glorious career he should never die, but dwell with her in her castle of Avalon. Wherefore, after he had lived and fought and loved for more than a hundred years, Morgan caused him to be shipwrecked. All men thought he had perished. In reality Morgan had taken this means of bringing him to Avalon, where she met him and put a ring on his finger, which restored him to youth, and a golden crown of myrtle and laurel on his brow—the crown of forgetfulness. His toils, his battles, even his loves were forgotten; and his heart was filled with a new devotion, namely, for the fairy queen Morgan. With her he dwelt in pleasures ever new for two hundred years, until there came a day when France and Christendom fell into trouble and danger, and the peoples cried out for a deliverer. Morgan heard them, and resolved that Olger must go to fight for them. She lifted the crown from his brow, and his memory came back. She bade him guard well his ring, and gave him a torch: if that torch were lighted his life would burn out with the last spark. He returned to France, fought the Paynim and conquered, freeing France and Christendom. The widowed queen of France then intrigued to marry him; but as she was on the point of attaining her purpose Morgan appeared and caught him away. In Avalon he still dreams in her arms; and some day when France is in her direst need, Olger will come back on his famous charger to smite and to deliver her.
Here we come upon another type, the story and the superstition of the expected deliverer, which is widely scattered through Europe. In this country the most noted example is that of King Arthur, who may fitly give his name to the type. King Arthur, according to the romances, is, like Olger, in the Island of Avalon, where indeed the romance of Olger declares that the two heroes met. Sir Thomas Malory tells us: "Some men yet say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesu Christ into another place; and men say that hee will come againe, and he shall winne the holy crosse. I will not say that it shall bee so, but rather I will say that heere in this world hee changed his life. But many men say that there is written upon his tombe this verse: His jacet Arthurus, rex quondam, rexque futurus." This is a belief dear to the heart of many an oppressed people. It was told of Harold that he was not slain at Senlac, and that he would yet come back to lead his countrymen against the hated Normans. Even of Roderick, the Last of the Goths, deeply stained as he was with crime, men were loth to believe that he was dead. In the latter part of the sixteenth century, after Don Sebastian had fallen in the ill-fated expedition to Morocco, Philip the Second of Spain took advantage of the failure of the male line on the death of the cardinal-king, Henry, to add Portugal to his dominions, already too large. His tyranny roused a popular party whose faith was that Don Sebastian was not really dead: he was reigning in the Island of the Seven Cities, and he would return by and by to drive out the Spaniards and their justly execrated king. Even in the year 1761 a monk was condemned by the Inquisition as a Sebastianist, a believer and a disseminator of false prophecies,—so long did the tradition linger. In the Spanish peninsula, indeed, the superstition has been by no means confined to Christians. The Moors who were left in the mountains of Valentia looked for the return of their hero Alfatimi upon a green horse, from his place of concealment in the Sierra de Aguar, to defend them and to put their Catholic tyrants to the sword.
Oppression nourishes beliefs of this kind. It was under the Roman dominion that the Jewish expectation of a Messiah grew to its utmost strength; and the manifestation of the Messiah was to be preceded by the reappearance of Elijah, a prophet who was not dead but translated to heaven. And strange sometimes are the gods from whom salvation is to come. Only a few years ago, if we may trust Bishop Melchisedech of Roumania, there was a Slavonic sect, the object of whose worship was Napoleon the First. He, said his worshippers, had not really died; he was only at Irkousk, in Siberia, where, at the head of a powerful, an invincible, army, he was ready once more to overrun the world.
But, however the belief in a deity, or hero, who is to return some day, may be strengthened by political causes, it is not dependent upon them. Many races having traditions of a Culture God—that is, of a superior being who has taught them agriculture and the arts of life, and led them to victory over their enemies—add that he has gone away from them for awhile, and that he will some day come back again. Quetzalcoatl and Viracocha, the culture gods of Mexico and Peru, are familiar instances of this. In the later Brahminism of India, Vishnu, having already accomplished nine avatars, or incarnations, for special emergencies in the past, was yet to have one more avatar for the final destruction of the wicked and the restoration of goodness at the end of the present age; he would then be revealed in the sky seated on a white horse and wielding a blazing sword. I need not specify others: it will be manifest that the traditions of modern Europe we have been considering contain the same thought. Nor is it unlikely that they have been influenced by the Christian doctrine of the Second Advent. Many of them have received the polish of literature. The stories of Olger and Arthur, for example, have descended, to us as romances written by cultivated men. Don Sebastian was the plaything of a political party, if not the symbol of religious heresy, for nearly two centuries. In all these stories we encounter the belief that the god or hero is in heaven, or in some remote land. Such a belief is the sign of a civilization comparatively advanced. The cruder and more archaic belief is that he sleeps within the hills.
This cruder belief is more familiar in the folklore of Europe than the other. King Arthur was believed to lie with his warriors beneath the Craig-y-Ddinas (Castle Rock) in the Vale of Neath. Iolo Morganwg, a well-known Welsh antiquary, used to relate a curious tradition concerning this rock. A Welshman, it was said, walking over London Bridge with a hazel staff in his hand, was met by an Englishman, who told him that the stick he carried grew on a spot under which were hidden vast treasures, and if the Welshman remembered the place and would show it to him he would put him in possession of those treasures. After some demur the Welshman consented, and took the Englishman (who was in fact a wizard) to the Craig-y-Ddinas and showed him the spot. They dug up the hazel tree on which the staff grew and found under it a broad flat stone. This covered the entrance to a cavern in which thousands of warriors lay in a circle sleeping on their arms. In the centre of the entrance hung a bell which the conjurer begged the Welshman to beware of touching. But if at any time he did touch it and any of the warriors should ask if it were day, he was to answer without hesitation: "No; sleep thou on." The warriors' arms were so brightly polished that they illumined the whole cavern; and one of them had arms that outshone the rest, and a crown of gold lay by his side. This was Arthur; and when the Welshman had taken as much as he could carry of the gold which lay in a heap amid the warriors, both men passed out; not, however, without the Welshman's accidentally touching the bell. It rang; but when the inquiry: "Is it day?" came from one of the warriors, he was prompt with the reply: "No; sleep thou on." The conjurer afterwards told him that the company he had seen lay asleep ready for the dawn of the day when the Black Eagle and the Golden Eagle should go to war, the clamour of which would make the earth tremble so much that the bell would ring loudly and the warriors would start up, seize their arms, and destroy the enemies of the Cymry, who should then repossess the island of Britain and be governed from Caerlleon with justice and peace so long as the world endured. When the Welshman's treasure was all spent he went back to the cavern and helped himself still more liberally than before. On his way out he touched the bell again: again it rang. But this time he was not so ready with his answer, and some of the warriors rose up, took the gold from him, beat him and cast him out of the cave. He never recovered the effects of that beating, but remained a cripple and a pauper to the end of his days; and he never could find the entrance to the cavern again. Merlin and the charm
"Of woven paces and of waving hands"
I need not do more than mention. A recess in the rock three miles eastward of Carmarthen, called Merlin's Cave, is generally accredited as the place where Vivien perpetrated her treachery. Merlin's county is possessed of another enchanted hero. On the northern side of Mynydd Mawr (the Great Mountain) near Llandilo, is a cave where Owen Lawgoch (Owen of the Red Hand), one of the last chieftains who fought against the English, lies with his men asleep. And there they will lie until awakened by the sound of a trumpet and the clang of arms on Rhywgoch, when they will arise and conquer their Saxon foes, driving them from the land. A more famous chieftain is the subject of a similar belief in the Vale of Gwent. Considerable obscurity overhangs the fate of Owen Glendower. What is certain about him is that he disappeared from history in the year 1415. What is believed in the Vale of Gwent is that he and his men still live and lie asleep on their arms in a cave there, called "Gogov y Ddinas," or Castle Cave, where they will continue until England become self-debased; but that then they will sally forth to reconquer their country, privileges, and crown for the Welsh, who shall be dispossessed of them no more until the Day of Judgment.
In other Celtic lands the same superstition occurs. There is a hole called the Devil's Den at the foot of a mountain in the Isle of Man where it was believed in the last century that a great prince who never knew death had been bound by spells for six hundred years; but none had ever had courage enough to explore the hole. In Sutherlandshire it is said that a man once entered a cave and there found many huge men all asleep on the floor. They rested on their elbows. In the centre of the hall was a stone table, and on it lay a bugle. The man put the bugle to his lips and blew once. They all stirred. He blew a second blast, and one of the giants, rubbing his eyes, said: "Do not do that again, or you will wake us!" The intruder fled in terror, and never found the mouth of the cavern again. Earl Gerald of Mullaghmast sleeps with his warriors in a cavern under the castle, or Rath, of Mullaghmast. A long table runs down the middle of the cave. The Earl sits at the head, and his troopers in complete armour on either side, their heads resting on the table. Their horses, saddled and bridled, stand behind their masters in stalls on either side. The Earl was a leader of the Irish; he was very skilful at weapons, and deep in the black art. He could change himself into any shape he pleased. His lady was always begging him to let her see him in some strange shape; but he always put her off, for he told her that if during his transformation she showed the least fright he would not recover his natural form till many generations of men were under the mould. Nothing, however, would do for the lady but an exhibition of his powers; so one evening he changed himself into a goldfinch. While he was playing with her in this form a hawk caught sight of him and pursued him. The hawk dashed itself against a table and was killed; but the lady had given a loud scream at seeing her husband's danger, and neither goldfinch nor Earl did she behold again. Once in seven years the Earl rides round the Curragh of Kildare on a horse whose silver shoes were half an inch thick when he disappeared. When they are worn as thin as a cat's ear, a miller's son, who is to be born with six fingers on each hand, will blow his trumpet, the troopers will awake and mount their horses and with the Earl go forth to battle against the English; and he will reign King of Ireland for twoscore years. A horse-dealer once found the lighted cavern open on the night the Earl was riding round the Curragh and went in. In his astonishment at what he saw he dropped a bridle on the ground. The sound of its fall echoing in the recesses of the cave aroused one of the warriors nearest to him; and he lifted up his head and asked: "Is it time yet?" The man had the wit to say: "Not yet, but soon will;" and the heavy helmet sank down once more upon the table, while the man made the best of his way out. On Rathlin Island there is a ruin called Bruce's Castle. In a cave beneath lie Bruce and his chief warriors in an enchanted sleep; but some day they will arise and unite the island to Scotland. Only once in seven years the entrance to the cave is visible. A man discovered it on one of these occasions, and went in. He found himself in the presence of these men in armour. A sabre was half-sheathed in the earth at his feet. He tried to draw it, but every one of the sleepers lifted his head and put his hand on his sword. The intruder fled; but ere the gate of the cavern clanged behind him he heard voices calling fiercely after him: "Why could we not be left to sleep?"
The population of the south and west of Yorkshire is largely Celtic. A tradition of Arthur seems to have been preserved among them to the effect that he and his knights sit spell-bound in the ruins of a castle, believed by the clergyman who communicated it to Mr. Alfred Nutt to be Richmond Castle. Wherever it was, a man named Potter Thompson penetrated by chance into the hall, and found them sitting around a table whereon lay a sword and a horn. The man did not venture, like the Sutherlandshire intruder, to blow the horn, but turned and fled at once. There, it seems, he made a mistake; for had he done so he would have released Arthur from the spell. And as he crossed the threshold again a voice sounded in his ears:—
"Potter Thompson, Potter Thompson, hadst thou blown the horn,
Thou hadst been the greatest man that ever was born."
He had missed his chance, and could not return into the enchanted hall. By the twelfth century the legend of Arthur had reached Sicily, perhaps with the Normans. Gervase of Tilbury tells us that a boy was in charge of the Bishop of Catania's palfrey, when it broke loose and ran away. He pursued it boldly into the dark recesses of Mount Etna, where, on a wide plain full of all delights, he found Arthur stretched on a royal couch in a palace built with wonderful skill. Having explained what brought him thither, the hero caused the horse to be given up to him, and added gifts which were afterwards beheld with astonishment by many. Arthur informed him, moreover, that he had been compelled to remain there on account of his wound, which broke out afresh every year.
In Teutonic lands the legends of the sleeping host and the sleeping monarch are very numerous. Grimm in his Mythology has collected many of them. I select for mention a few only, adding one or two not included by him. Karl the Great lies in the Unterberg, near Salzburg, and also in the Odenberg, where Woden himself, according to other legends, is said to be. Siegfried, the hero of the Nibelungen Lied, dwells in the mountain fastness of Geroldseck. Diedrich rests in the mountains of Alsace, his hand upon his sword, waiting till the Turk shall water his horses on the banks of the Rhine. On the Grütli, where once they met to swear the oath which freed their country, lie the three founders of the Swiss Federation in a cleft of the rock. The Danes have appropriated Olger, who, Grimm says, really belongs to the Ardennes; and in a vaulted chamber under the castle of Kronburg he sits, with a number of warriors clad in mail, about a stone table, into which his beard has grown. A slave who was condemned to death received pardon and freedom on condition of descending to ascertain what was beneath the castle; for at that time no one knew, and no one could explain the clashing of armour sometimes heard below. He passed through an iron doorway and found himself in the presence of Olger and his men. Their heads rested on their arms, which were crossed upon the table. When Olger lifted up his head the table burst asunder. "Reach me thy hand," he said to the slave; but the latter, not venturing to give his hand, held out an iron bar instead, which Olger squeezed so that the marks remained visible. At length letting it go, he exclaimed: "It gladdens me that there are still men in Denmark!"
But of all the great names appropriated by this myth, the one which has thus been made most famous is that of Frederick Barbarossa. When he was drowned in crossing the river Calycadmus in Asia Minor, the peasants of Germany refused to believe in his death, and constantly expected him to return. Poems which go back to the middle of the fourteenth century, or within a century and a half of Frederick's death, prove the existence of a tradition to this effect. More than this, they contain allusions to some of the details about to be mentioned, and foretell his recovery of the Holy Sepulchre. The Kyffhäuser in Thuringia is the mountain usually pointed out as his place of retreat, though other places also claim the honour. Within the cavern he sits at a stone table, and rests his head upon his hand. His beard grows round the table: twice already has it made the circuit; when it has grown round the third time the emperor will awake. He will then come forth, and will hang his shield on a withered tree which will break into leaf, and a better time will dawn. Gorgeous descriptions are given of the cavern. It is radiant with gold and jewels; and though it is a cavern deep in the earth, it shines within like the sunniest day. The most splendid trees and shrubs stand there, and through the midst of this Paradise flows a brook whose very mud is pure gold. Here the emperor's rest is not so profound as might have been expected. A strain of music easily seems to rouse him. A shepherd having once piped to him, Frederick asked: "Fly the ravens round the mountain still?" "Yes," replied the shepherd. "Then must I sleep another hundred years," murmured the emperor. The shepherd was taken into the armoury, and rewarded with the stand of a hand-basin, which turned out to be of pure gold. A party of musicians on their way home from a wedding passed that way, and played a tune "for the old Emperor Frederick." Thereupon a maiden stepped out, and brought them the emperor's thanks, presenting each of them with a horse's head by way of remembrance. All but one threw the gift away in contempt. One, however, kept his "to have a joke with his old woman," as he phrased it, and taking it home he put it under the pillow. In the morning, when his wife turned up the pillow to look at it, instead of a horse's head she brought forth a lump of gold. Other stories are told of persons who have penetrated into the emperor's presence and been enriched. A shepherd found the mountain open on St. John's Day, and entered. He was allowed to take some of the horse-meal, which when he reached home he found to be gold. Women have been given knots of flax, of the same metal. A swineherd, however, who went in, was less lucky. The emperor's lady-housekeeper made signs to him that he might take some of the treasure on the table before him; accordingly he stuffed his pockets full. As he turned to go out she called after him: "Forget not the best!" She meant a flower which lay on the table; but he heeded not, and the mountain, slamming behind him, cut off his heel, so that he died in great pain.
Such are a few of the legends relating to the Kyffhaüser; but it should be observed that Frederick Barbarossa's is not the only name given to the slumbering hero. We have already seen in the last chapter that one tradition calls him the Marquis John. Another dubs him the Emperor Otto; and yet in another Dame Holle is identified with his housekeeper. Now this difference in the traditions about names, while they agree in the substance of the superstition, indicates that the substance is older and more important than the names, and that well-known names have become affixed to the traditions as they happened from time to time to strike the popular imagination. This is confirmed by the fact that in many places where similar traditions are located, no personal name at all is given to the hero. In the Guckenberg, near Fränkischgemünden, an emperor disappeared a long time ago with his army. A boy selling rolls once met an old man, to whom he complained of bad trade. The old man said he could show him a place where he could bring his rolls every day; but he must tell no one thereof. So saying, he led the boy into the mountain, where there were many people. The emperor himself sat at a table, round which his beard had grown twice: when it has grown round it once more he will come forth again with all his men. The boy's rolls were bought; and he daily repeated his visit. After a while, however, he could not pass the ancient coin wherein he was paid. The people in the village, grown suspicious, made him confess all; and he could never find his way to the mountain again. In the "Auersperg Chronicle," under the year 1223, it is recorded that from a certain mountain which Grimm identifies with the Donnersberg (Thor's mountain), near Worms, a multitude of armed horsemen used daily to issue, and thither daily to return. A man, who armed himself with the sign of the cross, and questioned one of the host in the name of Our Lord, was told by him: "We are not, as you think, phantoms, nor, as we seem, a band of soldiers, but the souls of slain soldiers. The arms and clothing, and horses, because they once were the instruments of sin, are now to us the materials of our punishment; for what you behold upon us is really on fire, although you cannot perceive it with your bodily eyes." We saw in an earlier chapter that a story influenced by the Welsh Methodist revival represented the midwife whose sight was cleared by fairy ointment as beholding herself surrounded by flames, and the fairies about her in the guise of devils. In the same way here the wonders recorded by a pious ecclesiastic have taken, though possibly not in the first instance from him, a strictly orthodox form, and one calculated to point a pulpit moral.
Over against the last two legends we may place two from Upper Alsace. A body of the Emperor Karl the Great's warriors had become so puffed up by their successes that at last they pointed their guns and cannon against heaven itself. Scarcely had they discharged their pieces when the whole host sank into the earth. Every seventh year they may be seen by night on their horses, exercising. Concerning them it is said that a baker's daughter of Ruffach, in the Ochsenfeld valley, was carrying white bread to the next village, when she met a soldier on a white horse who offered to lead her to a place where she could sell the bread immediately for a good price. She accordingly followed him through a subterranean passage into a great camp quite full of long-bearded soldiers, who were all fast asleep. Here she sold all her bread, and was well paid; and for several years she continued daily to sell her bread there, so that her father became a rich man. One day she was ill and unable to go, whereupon she sent her brother, describing the place to him. He found it, but a door blocked up the passage, and he could not open it. The girl died soon after, and since then no one has entered the subterranean camp. From Bütow in Pomerania comes a saga similar to that of Olger at Kronburg. A mountain in the neighbourhood is held to be an enchanted castle, communicating by an underground passage with the castle of Bütow. A criminal was once offered his choice whether to die by the hangman, or to make his way by the passage in question to the enchanted castle, and bring back a written proof from the lord who sat enchanted within it. He succeeded in his mission; and the document he brought back is believed to be laid up among the archives of the town. According to another account a man once met two women who led him into the mountain, where he found a populous city. They brought him safely back after he had spent six hours within the mountain. A saga referred to by Grimm relates how a shepherd found in the cavern of the Willberg a little man sitting at a stone table through which his beard had grown; and in another three unnamed malefactors are spoken of. In Sweden there is a story that may remind us of the Sutherlandshire legend. In a large cleft of the mountain of Billingen, in West Gothland, called the Giant's Path, it is said there was formerly a way leading far into the mountain, into which a peasant once penetrated, and found a man lying asleep on a large stone. No one knows how he came there; but every time the bell tolls for prayers in Yglunda church, he turns round and sighs. So he will continue until Doomsday. In none of these stories is the hero identified with any known historical person.
Among the Slavonic peoples corresponding sagas are told. In Servia and Bulgaria King Marko is the enchanted hero. He is variously held to be in a palace on some mysterious island, or in a mountain not far from the Iron Gates. The traveller who crosses the mountain calls to him: "Marko, dost thou live?" and in the echo he believes that Marko gives him a reply. "Prince" Marko is also believed by the Serbs to be in the mountain Urvina with his horse Sharatz, asleep. His sword is rising slowly out of the mountain. When it is fully disclosed, Marko will awake and deliver his people. If other accounts may be trusted, however, he has retired to the Alps since the invention of gunpowder, and now lives as a hermit in a cave. So great pity was it
"This villainous saltpetre should be digg'd
Out of the bowels of the harmless earth."
The Carpathian hero is Dobocz, the robber chief. He is bespelled by a jealous mistress in a cavern on the Czornahora, where he perpetually counts the gold he has hidden. On certain days of the year he comes out with his followers; and then he has often been seen by the mountaineers. Sometimes he visits his wife in her rock-dwelling by Polansko, where she too is enchanted; and on such occasions the nightly festivities may be seen and heard. Bold are they who endeavour to penetrate the depths of the mountain where Dobocz dwells. They never return, but are caught by the robber and added to his band. Strengthened with these reinforcements his companions will be with him when the charm shall one day be broken, and he will issue forth to take vengeance on the men who betrayed him. Some of the stories of Blanik Mountain, where Wenzel, the king of Bohemia, lies, have been set before the reader. The horses of himself and his followers stand ever ready saddled; and at midnight the mountain opens, and the king and his knights ride forth to exercise upon the plain. But other heroes than Wenzel dispute with him the honour of being the enchanted inhabitant of the Blanik. One clear moonlight night of spring the burgesses of Jung-Wositz were aroused from their slumbers by the beating of drums, and the clang of armour, and the trampling of horses. Terrified at such a rout, and not knowing what it might mean, they seized their weapons and stood on the defensive. Nor were they a little surprised to see on the open meadows a troop of horsemen engaged in knightly play. By and by, at the sound of the kettle-drum, the troop formed into rank, and vanished into the mountain, which closed behind them with a crash. The burgesses offered a reward to whomsoever would explore the recesses of the mountain, and bring them sure tidings of the ghostly horsemen. Three years passed by ere the task was attempted. At last a clever man, Zdenko von Zasmuk, undertook the adventure. He was lucky enough to find the mountain open; and riding in, he came into a vast lighted hall where slept on stone benches the knights of the mountain, now changed into fine old men with long white beards. Their snow-white horses, ready saddled, stood fastened to the piers of the vault. Zdenko accidentally knocked down a spear; and the clangour, echoing round the hall, awakened the men. He explained to them why he had come, and politely offered, if they wished, to attempt their deliverance. Their leader informed him in reply that he was Ulrich von Rosenberg, that he with his companions had fallen gloriously against Chichka, in defence of the city of Litic, and that God, instead of admitting them into Paradise, had assigned them an abode in that place until Bohemia should be at its sorest need; then they would sally forth, and bring back peace and happiness to the land. And he enjoined Zdenko to make this known to the people. So saying, he sank again to sleep. It is said, moreover, that when the time of which Ulrich spoke shall come, a certain hazel-tree shall begin to blossom, though it will be winter. A quite different story alleges that it is the Knight Stoymir, who is under the spell at Blanik. His last struggle against the plundering hordes which overran the country took place there; and he with all his band perished. The next morning when the enemy had departed his friends searched the battlefield, but not a trace could be recovered of their bodies. It was first thought that the foes had carried them off to be ransomed. At night, however, the inhabitants of the neighbourhood were roused from slumber by the noise of a host; and they beheld the slain heroes exercising and afterwards watering their horses at the beck before they returned to the mountain. The herdsman who told the foregoing tale declared that he had been into the mountain, and had himself seen Stoymir and his companions in their sleep. There can be no doubt, therefore, of its truth.
Legends of buried armies occur also at Trzebnica, in Silesia, where the Poles encountered the Turks, and at Matwa in the Prussian province of Posen. In the former a girl who is admitted into the cavern is warned against touching a bell that, as in the Welsh tale, hangs in the entrance. She cannot resist the temptation to transgress this command, and is ignominiously ejected. In the latter, an old man buys corn for the troops. Again, in the Carpathians, as in one of the sagas concerning the Blanik, a smith is summoned to shoe the steeds. The Rev. W. S. Lach-Szyrma, in addition to these stories, gave the Folklore Society some years ago, from a chapbook of Posen, the following abstract of a legend I have not met with elsewhere: "Once upon a time, in Mazowia, there were seven victorious leaders. After having won a hundred battles, finding their beards had grown white, they ordered their soldiers to build in their honour a very high tower. The soldiers built and built, but every day part of the tower tumbled down. This lasted a whole year. The leaders, after supper, assembled at the ruins of the tower. Here, at the sound of lutes and songs, immediately a tower grew up from the earth to heaven, and on its seven pinnacles shone the seven helmets of the seven leaders. Higher and higher they rose, but brighter and brighter they shone till they appeared as the seven stars in heaven. The soldiers sank down into graves which had been dug round the tower and fell asleep. The tower has melted out of view, but on fine nights we still see the seven helmets of the leaders, and the soldiers are sleeping till they are wanted."
- "Choice Notes," p. 94.
- Curtin, p. 327. See also Kennedy, p. 240, and "F. L. Record," vol. ii. p. 15, where the late Mr. H. C. Coote quotes the "Transactions of the Ossianic Society."
- Comparetti, vol. i. p. 212. An English version is given by Mr. Coote, "F. L. Record," vol. ii. p. 12. Madame D'Aulnoy gives a similar story in her "Histoire d'Hypolite, Comte de Douglas," which seems to be the original of a tale in verse quoted by Mr. Baring-Gould from Dodsley's "Poetical Collection." See "F. L. Record," vol. ii. p. 8; Baring-Gould, p. 547.
- Des Michels, p. 38; Kreutzwald, p. 212. See also my article on "The Forbidden Chamber," "F. L. Journal," vol. iii. p. 193, where the relations of the Esthonian tale to the myth of the Forbidden Chamber are discussed.
- Dennys, p. 98, "Gent. Mag. Lib." (Eng. Trad. Lore), p. 22; "Revue des Trad. Pop." vol. iii. p. 566.
- "Thomas of Erceldoune," passim; Child, vol. i. p. 318; "Border Minstrelsy," vol. iii. p. 170.
- Malory, vol. iii. p. 339; Braga, vol. ii. p. 238; Liebrecht in a note to Gerv. Tilb., p. 95, quoting Aznar, "Expulsion de los Moriscos."
- "Athenæum," No. 2, 400, 25 Oct. 1873, giving an account of Bishop Melchisedech's book, entitled "Lipovenismulu," on the creed and customs of the Raskolnics, or Russian schismatics.
- "Trans. Aberd. Eistedd.," p. 227, quoting Waring's "Recollections of Iolo Morganwg"; Black's "Picturesque Guide to Wales" (1872), p. 279; Howells, p. 104; "Iolo MSS." (Llandovery, 1848), pp. 68, 454, quoting from papers attributed to the Rev. Evan Evans, and said to be, when copied by Iolo Morganwg, in the possession of Paul Panton, Esq., of Anglesea.
- Waldron, p. 68; "F. L. Journal," vol. vi. p. 164; Kennedy, p. 172, Lady Wilde, vol. i. p. 161.
- "F. L. Journal," vol. i. p. 193; Gerv. Tilb., Dec. ii. c. 12. See Mr. Nutt's remarks on these in his admirable "Studies on the Legend of the Holy Grail" (London, 1888), pp. 123, 196.
- Grimm, "Teut. Myth." pp. 953, 955, 961; Thorpe, vol. ii. p. 222, translating Thiele; Certeux et Carnoy, vol. i. p. 65.
- Grimm, "Teut. Myth.," p. 955; Kuhn und Schwartz, p. 217. See also Thorpe, vol. iii. p. 101, translating Kuhn und Schwartz, and Grimm.
- Kuhn und Schwartz, pp. 220, 222; Grimm, "Teut. Myth." PP- 953, 954.
- Meier, pp. 122, 123; Jahn, p. 248; Grimm, "Teut. Myth." p. 961; Thorpe, vol. ii. p. 91, from Afzelius. In an Austrian märchen the Sleeping Host is a host of serpents. The king slept on a crystal table in the centre. During the winter serpents are believed to sleep. In the spring the oldest serpent awakes and wakens the others, crying: "It is time" (Vernaleken, p. 113).
- Grohmann, p. 10. Marko was a shepherd, who for a service rendered to a Vila was gifted by her with heroism, beauty, and other good fortune (Krauss, "Volksgl." p. 103).
- Grohmann, pp. 11, 13, 15.
- "F. L. Record," vol. iv. p. 67. Mr. Lach-Szyrma conjectures that the seven stars are the stars of Ursa Major.