VIII. Dietrich's flight

Now the saga shifts its focus to Ermenrik’s court, where his counselor Sibich turns evil for understandable reasons.


Now Ermenrik was king in Rome, and all kings and dukes south of the mountains served him, and many other kings in the part of the earth called Europe. Because even the emperor himself ruled only Bolgerland and Griechenland, but king Ermenrik's realm stretched to the sea called Adria.

And one day king Ermenrik sent his counselor Sibich to Sarkastein in order to do the king's work there and dispense justice, and this was a very honourable journey. Sibich's wife, Odilia, stayed home, and when she was alone in her house, king Ermenrik came there alone and covertly, and demanded her favours, as he had wanted for a long time. She did not want him, but didn't dare to oppose his wishes, so he slept with her.


When Sibich came home she stood and cried. He asked her why she cried, and she explained: "It is because of king Ermenrik's evil. He came one day, while I was mending your silk shirt, and he did me such dishonour that you couldn't repay him with evil." and she explained everything. Sibich told her to pretend nothing had happened, but promised he would take revenge.

Then Sibich went to the king, as usual, and together they decided about everything as before.


One day, when Ermenrik and Sibich sat together, Sibich said that all kings of the world paid tribute to Ermenrik, except only Osantrix of Wilkinaland, and counseled him to send his son Fridrich and many men to Osantrix to demand tribute. Ermenrik liked this counsel, called Fridrich, and sent him out.

Thus Fridrich went to Wilkinenland, and came to the Wilkinenburg, where one of Osantrix's jarls lived. Sibich, however, had secretly sent out a messenger to this jarl, who was his relative. He invited the jarl to slay Fridrich. Thus, when Fridrich reached the castle the jarl and his men attacked him, and killed all seven of them See also 303. When king Ermenrik heard about this he assumed Osantrix had given the order because he didn't want to pay tribute.

After Fridrich, Ermenrik’s other two sons are also killed: Reginbald by drowning after Sibich convinced Ermenrik to send him to England to demand tribute, while Samson was trampled to death by Ermenrik on his horse after Sibich said the young man desired his daughter. Now Ermenrik’s sons are dead and it’s time for the rest of the family to be removed.

The Quedlinburger AnnalenMGH SSRG 72 p. 410 are aware of Fridrich and know he died before his father, although they state he was his only son. The cause of death is not mentioned, but it’s implied to be natural. Thus the writer knew at least this part of the saga, and we can suspect that Reginbald and Samson have been added to make Sibich even more evil.


One day Odilia, Sibich's wife, went to the queen, Ermenrik's wife, and they drank and were merry. But then she spoke of Egard and Ake Sons of the elder Ake and thus Ermenrik's nephews in Amelungenland, and how Egard wouldn't even spare the queen, and that she should be careful. And the queen became angry, and believed Egard had done her dishonour.

Then king Ermenrik came in, and drank with them. Odilia said: "Now we have west and south wind, and sunshine and warmth, and then light rain and it's clear in the east and north, what else would come but Egard and his brother Ake? No wild animal or forest bird will be safe from them." The king was silent and didn't reply.

Then the queen said: "They give peace to neither animal nor bird, and each time they come here the serving girls won't have peace, either." Still Ermenrik did not reply, though he thought about what the women were saying, and Fritila, Egard's and Ake's foster, was with him.

Then the queen said: "I myself should take care, and they would certainly do me dishonour if it were in their power."

Then the king spoke angrily: "If you are not safe from them, then they should not be safe from me. They'll hang so high no one will hang higher."

Then Fritila said that Egard and Ake would suffer because Witig Now their stepfather and protector has gone to king Diet­rich, and that if Witig would come home and find his stepsons hanged war would break out. And the king said they would hang even higher than he had planned. Fritila and his son fled.


King Ermenrik gathered his army. Meanwhile Fritila and his son came to the Rhine, and swam through the strong stream, and pulled their horses with them.

Trelinborg stands on the Rhine, and Egard saw them swimming, and he thought that Fritila was bringing word of trouble because he didn't want to wait for the ship.

Fritila told them Ermenrik was coming with his army, but Egard thought they would be reconciled, and he was not afraid of his uncle. Frtilia told them everything he had heard, and now the brothers sent for their own men.

King Ermenrik came to the castle, took his banner, rode to the dyke and shot the banner pole merkistöng, like Walther borrows from Attila in 129 across the dyke díki; maybe the moat, but I still find this sentence hard to interpret. Egard asked why he wanted to take their castle, and what they were guilty of. Ermenrik replied that whatever he blamed them for, they would hang from the highest tree he could find before the day was done. Ake said that they would defend themselves.

Now king Ermenrik had a throwing engine erected, and had fire flung into the castle so that it burned. Fritila said they should go out, so that they would die fighting instead of burning like mice. They went out with 60 men, and fought king Ermenrik, until Ermentik had lost 500 men. But the brothers were captured and hanged, and so they died, as Sibich had wanted. Then Ermenrik went home.

This is a weird passage. Why exactly do Ake’s sons have to die? Because they chase women? Or because the women of the clan turn against them? If the latter, why? Also, why does their tutor Fritila suddenly appear? And what’s the deal with Ermenrik’s banner pole?

It becomes even weirder when we find out that, again, the Quedlinburger AnnalenMGH SSRG 72 p. 410 know about the death by hanging of Ermenrik’s patrueles Embrica and Fritla — though the Latin word seems to mean cousin, not nephew. Thus a version of this story was known around the year 1000.

The name Frit(i)la is confusing. In this part of the saga it’s the name of the boys’ tutor, but in the Annalen it’s the name of one of the boys. In 123 their castle is called Fritila-Burg, though. Who or what is the real Frit(i)la? I don’t know.


Witig came home, and found his castle burned, and he found his wife in a village hut. Then Witig took all his men and his possessions, and went to king Diet­rich to ask for advice. Together with Witig King Diet­rich went to Ermenrik, and asked why all this happened, and whether Witig was to blame for anything. The king replied that Witig was blameless, and that he would not think less of him. And he gave Witig the castle named Rana, and Witig ruled that castle. King Diet­rich went home, but was perturbed about how Ermenrik treated his relatives.

I doubt Dietrich had anything to do with obtaining Witig’s compensation. Regardless, Ermenrik goes to some trouble to keep Witig loyal. This is important for the interpretation of the next few chapters.

Of king Samson’s three sons, Ermenrik’s and Ake’s branch have died out. It’s time for the final branch: Dietrich.


One day king Ermenrik and Sibich were talking, and Sibich said that Ermenrik should worry about his nephew Diet­rich, because Diet­rich was plotting high treason against him, and was a great hero besides. He has increased his kingdom by many cities, but refuses to pay tribute over the land your father took with his sword. While Diet­rich rules in Bern Ermenrik would get nothing.

The king agreed that his father had held the land, and that he was not of lesser birth than Diet­rich. Sibich counseled to send the knight Reinald to Amelungenland to demand tribute. The king took this counsel, and when the ambassadors reached Amelungenland they called all the men to a meeting þing, and Reinald told them about his errand.

The men said that they were already paying tribute to king Diet­rich, and that when he wanted to give Ermenrik some that was fine, but they would not give twice. And they send messengers to king Diet­rich, who came to the meeting and talked to them, and at the end he told Reinald to go home to tell Ermenrik he would never get tribute from Amelungenland as long as Diet­rich was king.

After Reinald told Ermenrik what had happened, Sibich said it was as he had feared: Diet­rich wanted to be equal to Ermenrik.

By calling a þing (meeting; sometimes almost: popular assembly) Ermenrik tries to get Dietrich’s followers on his side. From this chapter it’s not entirely clear if he succeeded, but Dietrich sure doesn’t get any help from his followers later on.


King Ermenrik replied that he now saw Diet­rich wanted to measure himself against him, and that he should hang before he could attain his goal, because everyone knew who was the most powerful.

Then Heime said that Ermenrik would pay for the evil he did to so many of his kinsmen, and that Sibich was the cause of it all. And Witig agreed that this was a great dishonour that would always be told as long as the world remained. And Witig jumped onto his horse and rode day and night as quickly as he could.

What’s Heime doing at Ermenrik’s court? The saga does not explain, but from the next chapters it becomes clear he doesn’t serve Ermenrik. Witig, on the other hand, does remain loyal to his new lord.

Now both Witig and Heime separately ride to Bern to warn Dietrich. Boer (add reference) already assumed this was a duplication, and originally only one of the two rode to Dietrich. From the fact that Witig is Ermenrik’s follower, and from what later happens to Heime, my money is on Heime.


But king Ermenrik had his war horns blown, gathered his army, rode away and gathered even more men as he moved.

By midnight Witig arrived at Bern, and all doors were closed. The gurds asked who came there, and Witig named himself and asked the doors to be opened. And they did so, and warned king Diet­rich. When the two met, king Diet­rich asked what news he had, and if Witig knew why king Ermenrik demanded tribute from his lands. Witig told him Ermemnrik's army was coming, and that he wanted to kill Diet­rich, like all his other relatives. King Diet­rich called together all his men, and said they could either stay, fight, and be defeated and killed, or leave the castle, and God knows when we will get it back. And he wanted to do the latter.


Then Hildebrand his best friend agreed, even though it was unseemly, and king Diet­rich should prepare himself, because there was no time for more talk.

And when Hildebrand has spoken the women and children began to wail for their men, sons, and brothers, and fathers, while the knights took their arms and horses. And in that night there were loud sounds from calls and horns, and when all had armed themselves they went into the king's hall, sat there for a while, and drank wine.

Then Heime came to Bern, and told them king Ermenrik was now close by and had 5,000 knights with him, while king Diet­rich only had 800. And Heime said that they would leave the castle with dishonour, but king Ermenrik would receive more harm than good from them.

Then Hildebrand took king Diet­rich's banner, and told all to follow him. And now they, Hildebrand in front, rode to Langobardenland and Munia, into Ermenrik's realm, and they burned castles, villages, and farms, before they went north over the mountains.


Now Witig and Heime went back to king Ermenrik. Heime angrily confronted Ermenrik, and said that he had done many evils to his relatives, his sons Fridrich, Reginbald, and Samson, and his brother-sons Egard and Ake, and now his nephews Diet­rich and Diether, and his sister-son Wolfhart, and that Sibich was guilty of all of this.

Then Sibich said that Ermenrik had done wrong by raising Heime so high, and that it would be better if he sent him to the same forest where his father is, and minds your Ermenrik's horses.

Then Heime said that if he had had his good sword Nagelring Why doesn't he have his sword? Because he's in the presence of Ermenrik?, he would slay Sibich like a dog. And he hit Sibich on the cheek with his fist, and Sibich fell at Ermenrik's feet, and lost five teeth and his consciousness.

Then Ermenrik ordered his men to hang Heime, but Heime hurried away to where his weapons were, armed himself, saddled his horse Rispa, and rode away with sixty men. But Witig came to the doors, Mimung in hand, and no one but Heime himself dared ride through the doors. Now Heime rode into the forest, and wherever he found a farmstead or other property of Ermenrik or Sibich he burned it. But Sibich didn't dare to ride out with fewer than 60 men, and they still feared Heime.

Exactly what does Witig do here? From long ago I can remember reading somewhere (find and add reference) that he helped cover Heime’s retreat, but from rereading the chapter it more seems he wants to stop Heime.

Covering Heime’s retreat would mean that Witig opposes Ermenrik’s plans, but it could be that his loyalty to Dietrich has been added just to save his good name.

According to 275 and 283 Witig is Ermenrik’s follower now, even though, as in 324, he will not personally fight against Dietrich. Heime is a quite different matter, though — Witig and Heime have never been friends. From this perspective, Witig could easily try to stop Heime from warning Dietrich. All in all I currently believe that this is the correct reading.


Diet­rich rode northwards over the mountains until he came to the castle named Balakar that stood on the Rhine, and the mighty margrave Rodinger ruled there. And when Rodinger heard Diet­rich was coming he rode out with all his men and his wife Gotelinde. Gotelinde gave Diet­rich a banner, half green, half red, and a golden lion on it, and also a purple cloak. Margrave Rodinger gave him a horse and good clothes. Then Diet­rich rode into the castle.


Then king Diet­rich, together with the count Now greifi instead of markgreifi, rode to Soest and king Attila. When king Attile heard king Diet­rich had come he rode to him with his men, and with him his wife Erka, and many minstrels. King Diet­rich rode into Soest with king Attila, and sat down to a wonderful feast. And Attila offered Diet­rich to stay as long as he wanted, and to serve himself of whatever was available. Diet­rich accepted, and thus he staid with Attila for a long time.

Now Dietrich has lost his lands because he has too few men to defend it. All those heroes he set over foreign lands don’t lift a finger to help him. Therefore — I think — these heroes had nothing to do with Dietrich any more.


The next chapter is The Wilkinen wars. How Dietrich fights in a few wars and earns the grstitude of both Attila and Erka.