I came across a YouTube channel a little while ago that was fun to watch and presented me with tasty looking food from history: Tasting History with Max Miller. I hadn’t really doubled checked his history, mind, but I’ve been needing something light and fun to watch, and it’s interesting. But, his episode on Dragon Heart for a Viking King is in my research area. (He drinks some aged mead he made originally for his Making Medieval Mead like a Viking.)
Slight aside: I took a graduate-level course on the Vǫlsunga saga with Kaaren Grimstad and Ray Wakefield. It was fantastic, and one of my favorite courses I took. So ya, Matt Miller’s video is really something that perked me up from my lethargic slump due to its content.
Right off the bat, Matt Miller talks about consulting Daniel Serra (I have mentioned him and his and Hanna Tunberg’s lovely book before). I trust that source. And Matt Miller’s summary of Vǫlsunga saga and general presentation is good. Pronunciation of Sigurðʀ is a bit…German. But that’s minor overall.
Something that Miller didn’t cover was that the Germans had their own version of the story, which is preserved in the Middle High German, the Nibelungenleid (summary articles at Wikipedia, Britannica). This is the main source Wagner used for his Ring Cycle. The Nibelungenleid is quite high medieval in style, and so contrasts quite a bit with the style of the Vǫlsunga saga, and also has quite a few details that are different. And it’s there, the dragon-slayer is not Sigurðʀ Sigmundsson, but Siegfried son of Siegmund. There is also a reference to not Sigurðʀ or Siegfried, but Sigemund the dragon-slayer with his nephew Fitela, in Beowulf. (Fitela would be the Anglo-Saxon version of Sinfjǫtli, which is more obvious if you chop up the Norse name Sin-fjǫtli — that second element is cognate to the Anglo-Saxon name.) This Sigemund is the son of Wæls (the Anglo-Saxon version of Vǫlsungʀ. Again more obvious when you break up the Norse name: Vǫls-ungʀ — the first element is the cognate.)
Most likely, the Norse version was adopted from the German many centuries before and both developed orally over the years, until the Vǫlsunga saga and Nibelungenleid was written down. The difference in the character names is probably due to that fan fiction element that Matt Miller mentioned. People would grab a hero and use that hero in new tales and adventures, like a fanfic. Eventually, the hero’s story load would get too large, and then a child would be invented, and the child would get a few of the stories transferred to them. (This story-telling/myth/folklore tendency is talked about in Barber & Barber’s book, When They Severed Earth From Sky: How the Human Mind Shapes Myth, which I have mentioned before and recommend if you’re interested in reading more about it.) In this case, the Norse and German versions probably did this independently, considering how Siegfried and Sigurðʀ are not cognate names.
Anyway, Miller did a good job. And as a bard, I now want to do barding with some bacon… 😉
I also want to try this heart recipe at some point. I have only eaten roasted turkey and deer hearts, and I love them. I’m also looking forward to the upcoming Daniel Serra recipes that Matt Miller hinted at. 😋