The Icelandic Hǫgni: The Re-imagining of a Nibelung Hero in the Eddic Tradition

26 Sep 2017

The paper examines the characterization of Hǫgni across the poems of the Poetic Edda, assessing his depiction as a brother, as a husband and father, as a warrior, and as a king in order to build up an eddic-centric picture of his character and narrative function. The paper contends that, unlike the far more ambiguous Hagen in the German tradition, Hǫgni only ever appears as a foil to his brother Gunnarr and sister Guðrún and is used to throw their actions and decisions into relief. In the small cast of eddic characters he stands alone, untroubled by the conflicts of loyalty which affect his kin, working instead to give their struggles depth and audience. In this way Hǫgni is revealed as ideally suited to the intimate eddic aesthetic, with its penchant for duologues and a limited cast, most unlike the epic sprawl of the Nibelungenlied. The firm orientation of Hǫgni’s role around those of his siblings argues for Hǫgni to be an eddic creation, transformed by eddic poets from the vassal of the German tradition to the brother and king of the Icelandic in order to suit the demands of eddic poetry, and whose characterization may thus provide a rare insight into those anonymous poets’ creative processes.