Monday, April 20, 2015

Q is for the Queen of the Mountains (Epics from A to Z)

The lineup got slightly wonky here: I'll have to introduce you to Dietrich's first quest before I introduce you to the awesomeness that is the Dietrich Cycle (which you will see under T in three days). But I was really hard pressed since the only epic that starts with a Q is not available in English. Therefore, I had to go with the Queen of the Mountains, and Dietrich's first Quest. It's a great story anyway.

Origins
The poem generally known as "Virginal, Queen of the Mountains" was written sometime before the 14th century, and it is German (Swabian-Alemanic) in origin. It survives in three different versions, two of which are fairly long, and none of which are translated. I read it in two, freely available short prose translations here and here.

The Hero
You'll hear enough of Dietrich later, so I'll talk about Virginal instead. She is introduced as the Queen of the Mountains (of Tyrol), and also as the Queen of the Dwarves. This in itself sent me into a righteous gloating mood over the "female dwarves are not authentic!" whiny part of the Tolkien fandom. 
Sadly, none of the story actually calls Virginal herself a dwarf, although it would be interesting to look at the German text. In English they call her an elf, and describe her as a beautiful maiden dressed in white and crowned with a magic jewel (sounds like an elf doesn't it). She also marries the (human) hero in the end, which means she's probably not a dwarf - although it has to be noted that the same legend cycle does mention a (happy!) marriage between a Dwarven king and a human princess. (The legend is called King Laurin's Rose Garden. I love that story so much, I even included it in my book!) 
Anyhow, dwarf or elf, Virginal (whose name, while it seems self-explanatory, probably derives from a Gothic word that means 'mountain') rules over the glaciers and snow-covered peaks of the mountains. According to the story she has a magic jewel in her crown that allows her to command all the creatures - dwarves, elves, giants - of the mountains (although, concerning the main story, it probably doesn't work very well).
While the idea of an elf queen over a dwarf kingdom bugs me, she is still a fairly interesting character.

The Highlights
The story itself is much like many other medieval romances: Virginal's kingdom is threatened by evil giants (the traditional enemies of dwarves) led by two evil magicians, and she asks help from the great hero Dietrich and his knights. Several adventures commence, giants are slain, maidens are saved, dragons are defeated, until finally Dietrich kills the last evil magician, and the war is over. As I said earlier, he marries Virginal in the end, and she gives up her kingdom (meh).
Some of the fun parts:
1. While fighting re-spawning giants and dragons all night (courtesy of black magic) Dietrich and his mentor Hildebrand rescue a knight from a dragon's mouth. Literally. That's a whole new level of "Look what the dragon dragged in!"
2. Much in the  vein of Hansel and Gretel, the maidens offered to the evil giants as sacrifice are kept in a chamber, being fattened for consumption. For some reason, I found this amusing. Especially since the wording said: "In the castle they found three of the queen's maidens, cooped up for fattening."
3. Virginal has an "undefeated champion," a dwarf called Bibung, who during the story turns out to be a tremendous coward.
4. There is a cosmic battle in the end with human heroes, magicians, dragons, giants, evil hounds, and all kinds of natural disasters. Very epic.

24 comments:

  1. Although I'll admit I have a soft spot for dwarves (yes, another Tolkien fan here ;-)) this story doesn't really resonate with me.
    Sounds less interesting then most others you've talked about.
    Just my impression.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Although I'll admit I have a soft spot for dwarves (yes, another Tolkien fan here ;-)) this story doesn't really resonate with me.
    Sounds less interesting then most others you've talked about.
    Just my impression.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Stopping by on the A to Z challenge. Love the concept of your blog - big reader myself :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Q is such a difficult letter to tackle but you've done it brilliantly. I loved this, and I'm looking forward to reading about the Dietrich Cycle. Your comment about the Tolkein cycle made me laugh :D

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nicely done... you chose your "Q" wisely.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree--maidens cooped up for fattening *does* sound highly amusing. I'm not sure what that says about us, really.

    And an undefeated champion who is a coward? Epic. :D

    ReplyDelete
  7. It's a shame she gave up her kingdom for a guy, even a hero! However, I like the bit about the dragon :)
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I think it's kind of a lame ending too.

      Delete
  8. I'm curious about why the dwarves got such a bad rap in some stories and are pictured as lovely little creatures in others. Trolls are at least treated pretty consistently as the bad guys. Loved the story today. It had a bit of everything.

    ReplyDelete
  9. What's up with all this virginal sacrifices? Lol!

    I'm all for cosmic battles in the end, as long as it's done well. Not easy to do. It'l like trying to orchestrate a symphony.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Sounds like a great adventure but by the tidal I was hoping the female lead would be the heroine instead of just being the virgin. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  11. Fattening the maidens. That is pretty funny.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Evil giants would have a field day now. So many of us maidens are cooped up for fattening, courtesy of cars, TVs, computers...;)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Cool epic. Can't wait to read about the rest in T.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Fattening up for consumption?!! I have heard that phrase back here- goats being fattened before consumption...!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I would love to know how you decided on your theme from A-Z - you have an incredibly broad knowledge!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you go waaaay back to my Theme Reveal, there is kind of a story to it :) I have a grant for working with telling epics this year, so this is kind of my work study...

      Delete
  16. Dwarf...elf... whatever... People really argue about that stuff don't they? I must be a total heathen
    Wendy at Wendy of The Rock

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have no idea. Throw in this question next time you hang out with Tolkien fans :D

      Delete
  17. Oh my, they were "cooped up for fattening." That is wickedly funny, lol.

    ReplyDelete