The Legend of Woud and Freid

Franz Xaver von Schönwerth was a skilled collector of folklore in the Upper Palatinate, located in Bavaria. He worked from 1854 to 1880, later dying in 1886; he would correspond with Jacob Grimm during part of this time.

Below is one piece of particularly interesting folklore.

Die Mär von Woud und Freid The Legend of Woud and Freid
Es war einmal ein Herrscherpaar mit großem Gebiet, in der Zauberkunst wohl erfahren. Selbst die Elemente waren ihnen Untertan. Er hieß Woud, sie Freid. Der König war ein gewaltiger Mann mit langem wallenden Bart, sein Auge so feurig blitzend, daß Menschen, welche hineinblickten, darob erblindeten. Gewöhnlich ging er nackt, nur an der Hüfte bekleidet. Gehalten wurde das Hüftenkleid durch einen endlosen Gürtel, an diesen war die Herrschergewalt gebunden: So lang er ihn trägt, herrscht er. Doch kann er ihm nicht entwendet werden, denn Hüften und Schulter sind so breit, daß der Gürtel sich nicht abziehen läßt. So oft er zum Herrschen ging, hängte er einen Mantel um, der ihn ganz einhüllte. Once upon a time there was a royal couple who ruled over a large area; they were well-versed in magic; even the Elements were their subjects. His name was Woud, and hers was Freid. The king was a powerful man with a long, flowing beard, and his eyes were so fiery that the humans who looked into them turned blind. He usually walked naked, only his waist was clad; his waist garment was fastened with a cast belt buckle to which his ruling power was tied—as long as he wears it, he will rule. However, one cannot steal it from him, for his hips and shoulders are so broad that the belt cannot be pulled over them. Every time he went about the business of ruling, he put on a coat which covered him completely.
Seine Gemahlin war das schönste Frauenbild. Sie trug ein Hüftenkleid gleich ihrem Gatten, aber die Haare so reich und lang, daß sie sich darin ganz verhüllen konnte. Sie trank nur Wasser aus der Quelle, ihr Gatte eine Art Wein. Wenn sie sich bückte über der Quelle, um mit der hohlen Hand Wasser zu schöpfen, erglänzte ihr Haar im Sonnenglanz, und ihr Arm war wie Schnee. His queen consort was the most beautiful woman ever seen; like her husband, she wore a waist garment, but her hair was so rich and long that she could cover herself with it entirely. She drank only water from a well; her husband, some kind of wine. When she bent over the well to scoop water into her hand, her hair shone in the light of the sun and her arms [shone as white] as snow.
Doch wurde sie eifersüchtig, sie fürchtete, dem feurigen Gatten nicht zu genügen. In ihrer Leidenschaft ging sie zu kunstreichen Zwergen. Diese arbeiteten ihr einen Halsgürtel, der die Kraft hatte, daß, wer ihn trug, alle Herzen bezauberte und den Geliebten nie in seiner Treue wanken ließ. Doch mußte sie sich den Zwergen zum Lohne ergeben. However, she grew jealous; she feared that she no longer satisfied her fiery husband. In a fit of passion, she went to see the skilled dwarves. They fashioned a necklace for her which had the power to turn the hearts of all toward the bearer and made the [bearer’s] beloved never waver in his loyalty. However, as payment, she had to give herself to the dwarves.
Mit dem Schmuck angetan, fesselte sie den Gatten in Liebe. Doch erfuhr er, um welchen Preis sie den Schmuck erworben. Da entwich er von ihr. Als Freid am Morgen im Bett erwachte, streckte sie den Arm aus nach dem Gatten. Er war nicht da. Sie fuhr mit der Hand an den Hals, das Halsgeschmeide fehlte. Namenlos unglücklich machte sie der Verlust des Schmuckes erst recht in Liebe zu Woud entbrennen. Sie eilte dem Flüchtigen nach in viele Länder, lange Jahre. Wenn sie abends ermüdet von der Fahrt sich niedersetzte, weinte sie in ihren Schoß, und jede Träne ward zur kostbaren Perle. Adorned with the jewels, she captivated her husband’s love. He learned, however, at what price she had acquired the jewellery. Thereupon he fled from her. When Freid awoke in bed in the morning, she reached out her arms for her husband. He was not there; when she quickly reached to her neck, the necklace was gone. Sad beyond words, she began to burn with love for Woud more than ever. She rushed after the fugitive, travelling to many countries over the course of many years. When she sat down in the evening, weary from the journey, she cried into her lap, and each of the tears turned into a precious pearl.
Endlich, als die Zeit um war, traf sie ihn, klagte ihm ihr Leid und wies auf die Perlen, die sie um ihn geweint hatte. Und er zählte die Perlen. Sie waren gerade so viele als Sternchen im Halsgeschmeide. Da wurde er weich und reichte ihr zur Versöhnung den Schmuck. Weit sei er herumgewandert, aber keine habe er gefunden, ihr gleich an Schönheit. So habe er ihr die Treue bewahrt. At last, when the time came to an end, she encountered him and told him her woes and showed him the pearls that she had cried for him. And he counted the pearls and there were as many as there were jewels in the necklace. Thereupon he softened and gave her [back] the jewels in reconciliation. [He told her that] he had travelled far and wide, but had found no other equal to her in beauty, so he remained faithful to her.

The German text is from Project Gutenberg, while the English translation, albeit a marginally amended version on my part, is by Dr. M. Charlotte Wolf in Original Bavarian Folktales: A Schönwerth Selection, pp. 208-211.

A similar story appears in Sǫrla þáttr:

To the East of Vanakvísl in Asia was a country called Asialand or Asiaheim. Its inhabitants were called Æsir and the chief city they called Asgarth. Othin was the name of their King, and it was a great place for heathen sacrifices. Othin appointed Njörth and Frey as priests. Njörth had a daughter called Freyja who accompanied Othin and was his mistress.

There were four men in Asia called Álfrigg, Dvalinn, Berlingr and Grérr, who dwelt not far from the King’s hall, and who were so clever that they could turn their hands to anything. Men of this kind were called dwarfs. They dwelt in a rock, but at that time they mixed more with men than they do now.

Othin loved Freyja very much, and she was the fairest of all women in her day. She had a bower of her own which was beautiful and strong, and it was said that if the door was closed and bolted, no one could enter the bower against her will.

It chanced one day that Freyja went to the rock and found it open, and the dwarfs were forging a gold necklace, which was almost finished. Freyja was charmed with the necklace, and the dwarfs with Freyja. She asked them to sell it, offering gold and silver and other costly treasures in exchange for it. The dwarfs replied that they were not in need of money, but each one said that he would give up his share in the necklace…. [omitted: for nothing else except  for her to lie one night with each of them.] And at the end of four nights they handed it to Freyja. She went home to her bower and kept silence about it as if nothing had happened.

In the following chapter, Loki would steal the necklace on the order of Óðinn, who would not return it unless she caused a perpetual battle between two kings.

It is noteworthy that Freyja is married to Óðr1Vǫluspá 25 2Gylfaginning 35 3Skáldskaparmál 28 and 44 4Ynglinga saga 13, who left on long journeys and for whom she wept red gold. It is not known if Óðr and Óðinn are one and the same.5Rudolf Simek, Dictionary of Northern Mythology (2007) pg. 250 Óðinn is numerously said elsewhere to be married to Frigg. These comparisons are in part the basis for the Frigg–Freyja origin hypothesis.6This Wikipedia article is horribly lacking.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Vǫluspá 25
2. Gylfaginning 35
3. Skáldskaparmál 28 and 44
4. Ynglinga saga 13
5. Rudolf Simek, Dictionary of Northern Mythology (2007) pg. 250
6. This Wikipedia article is horribly lacking.

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