15 million Ukrainian are displaced by Russia's war.
Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!

Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Lay of Hildebrand

LAY OF HILDEBRAND ( Das Hildebrandslied ), a unique example of Old German alliterative poetry, written about the year Boo on the first and last pages of a theological manuscript, by two monks of the monastery of Fulda. The fragment, or rather fragments, only extend to sixty-eight lines, and the conclusion of the poem is wanting. The theory propounded by Karl Lachmann, that the poem had been written in its present form from memory, has been discredited by later philological investigation; it is clearly a transcript of an older original, which the copyists - or more probably the writer to whom we owe the older version - imperfectly understood. The language of the poem shows a curious mixture of Low and High German forms; as the High German elements point to the dialect of Fulda, the inference is that the copyists were reproducing an originally Low German lay in the form in which it was sung in Franconia.

The fragment is mainly taken up with a dialogue between Hildebrand and his son Hadubrand. When Hildebrand followed his master, Theodoric the Great, who was fleeing eastwards before Odoacer, he left his young wife and an infant child behind him. At his return to his old home, after thirty years' absence among the Huns, he is met by a young warrior and challenged to single combat. Before the fight begins, Hildebrand asks for the name of his opponent, and discovering his own son in him, tries to avert the fight, but in vain; Hadubrand only regards the old man's words as the excuse of cowardice. "In sharp showers the ashen spears fall on the shields, and then the warriors seize their swords and hew vigorously at the white shields until these are beaten to pieces...." With these words the fragment breaks off abruptly, giving no clue as to the issue of the combat. There is little doubt, however, that, as in the Old Norse Asmundar saga, where the tale is alluded to, the fight must have been fatal to Hadubrand. But in the later traditions, both of the Old Norse Thidreks saga (13th century), and the so-called Jiingere Hildebrandslied - a German popular lay, preserved in several versions from the 15th to the 17th centuryHadubrand is simply represented as defeated, and obliged to recognize his father. The Old High German Hildebrandslied is dramatically conceived, and written in a terse, vigorous style; it is the only remnant that has come down from early Germanic times of an undoubtedly extensive ballad literature, dealing with the national sagas.

The MS. of the Hildebrandslied, originally in Fulda, is now preserved in the Landesbibliothek at Cassel. The literature on the poem will be found most conveniently in K. Miillenhoff and W. Scherer, Denkmdler deutscher Poesie and Prosa aus dem VIII. bis XI. Jahrh., 3rd ed. (1892), and in W. Braune, Althochdeutsches Lesebuch, 5th ed. (1902), to which authorities the reader is referred for a critical text. The poem was discovered and first printed (as prose) by J. G. von Eckhart, Commentarii de rebus Franciae orientalis (1729), i. 864 ff.; the first scholarly edition was that of the brothers Grimm (1812). Facsimile reproductions of the MS. have been published by W. Grimm (1830), E. Sievers (1872), G. Konnecke in his Bilderatlas (1887; 2nd ed., 1895) and M. Enneccerus (1897). See also K. Lachmann, Ober das Hildebrandslied (1833) in Kleine Schriften, i. 407 ff.; C. W. M. Grein, Das Hildebrandslied (1858; 2nd ed., 1880); O. Schroder, Bemerkungen zum Hildebrandslied (1880); H. Moller, Zur althochdeutschen Alliterationspoesie (1888); R. Heinzel, Ober die ostgotische Heldensage (1889); B. Busse, "Sagengeschichtliches zum Hildebrandslied," in Paul and Braune's Beitrdge, xxvi. (1901), pp. i ff.; R. Koegel, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters, i. (1894), pp. 210 ff.; and R. Koegel and W. Bruckner, in Paul's Grundriss der germanischen Philologie, 2nd ed., ii. (1901), pp. 71 ff. (J. G. R.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Lay of Hildebrand'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
Prev Entry
Next Entry