The Northern Way

Grimm's Teutonic Mythology

Chapter 15

(Page 2)

Now, what is the reason for this exaltation of human nature? Always in the first instance, as far as I can see, a relation of bodily kinship between a god and the race of man. The heroes are epigoni of the gods, their line is descended from the gods: ættir guma er frâ goðom kômo, Sæm. 114ª.

Greek mythology affords an abundance of proofs; it is by virtue of all heroes being directly or indirectly produced by gods and goddesses in conjuction with man, that the oldest kingly families connect themselves with heaven. But evidently most of these mixed births proceed from Zeus, who places himself at the head of gods and men, and to whom all the glories of ancestors are traced. Thus, by Leda he had Castor and Pollux, who were called after him Dios-curi, Hercules by Alcmena, Perseus by Danaë, Epaphus by Io, Pelasgus by Niobe, Minos and Sarpedon by Europa; other heroes touch him only through their forefathers: Agamemnon was the son of Atreus, he of Pelops, he of Tantalus, and he of Zeus; Ajax was sprung from Telamon, he from Aeacus, he from Zeus and Aegina. Next to Zeus, the most heroes seem to proceed from Ares, Hermes and Poseidon: Meleager, Diomedes and Cycnus were sons of Ares, Autolycus and Cephalus of Hermes, while Theseus was a son of Aegeus, and Nestor of Neleus, but both Aegeus and Neleus were Poseidon's children by Aethra and Tyro. Achilles was the son of Peleus and Thetis, Aeneas of Anchises and Venus. (9) These examples serve as a standard for the conditions of our own heroic legend (see Suppl.).

Tacitus, following ancient lays, places at the head of our race as its prime progenitor Tuisco, who is not a hero, but himself a god, as the author expressly names him 'deum terra editum'. Now, as Gaia of herself gave birth to Uranos and Pontos, that is to say, sky and sea sprang from the lap of earth, so Tuisco seems derivable from the word tiv, in which we found (pp. 193-4) the primary meaning to be sky; and Tuisco, i.e., Tvisco, could easily spring out of the fuller form Tivisco [as Tuesday from Tiwesdæg]. Tvisco may either mean coelestis, or the actual offspring of another divine being Tiv, whom we afterwards find appearing among the gods: Tiv and Tivisco to a certain degree are and signify one thing. Tvisco then is in sense and station Uranos, but in name Zeus, whom the Greek myth makes proceed from Uranos not directly, but through Kronos, pretty much as our Tiv or Zio is made a son of Wuotan, while another son Donar takes upon him the best part of the office that the Greeks assigned to Zeus. Donar too was son of Earth as well as Wuotan, even as Gaia brought forth the great mountain-ranges (ourea makra, Hes. theog. 129 = Goth. faírgunja mikila), and Donar himself was called mountain and faírguneis (pp. 169. 172), so that ouranoj sky stands connected with ouroj oroj mountain, the idea of deus with that of ans (pp. 25. 188). Gaia, Tellus, Terra come round again in our goddesses Fiörgyn, Iörð and Rindr (p. 251); so the names of gods and goddesses here cross one another, but in a similar direction.

This earth-born Tvisco's son was Mannus, and no name could sound more Teutonic, though Norse mythology has as little to say of him as of Tvisco (ON. Týski?). No doubt a deeper meaning once resided in the word; by the addition of the suffix -isk, as in Tiv Tivisco, there arose out of mann a mannisko = homo, the thinking self-conscious being (see p. 59); both forms, the simple and the derived, have (like tiv and tivisko) the same import, and may be set by the side of the Sanskr. Manus and manushya. Mannus however is the first hero, son of the god, and father of all men. Traditions of this forefather of the whole Teutonic race seem to have filtered down even to the latter end of the Mid. Ages: in a poem of meister Frauenlob (Ettm. p. 112), the same in which the mythical king Wippo is spoken of (see p. 300), we read:

Mennor der êrste was genant, Mennor the first man was named

dem diutische rede got tet to whom Dutch language God

bekant. made known.

This is not taken from Tacitus direct, as the proper name, though similar, is not the same (see Suppl.).

As all Teutons come of Tvisco and Mannus, so from the three (or by some accounts five) sons of Mannus are descended the three, five or seven main branches of the race. From the names of nations furnished by the Romans may be inferred those of their patriarchal progenitors.


The threefold division of all the Germani into Ingaevones, Iscaevones and Herminones (10) is based on the names of three heroes, Ingo, Isco, Hermino, each of whom admits of being fixed on yet surer authroity.

Ing, or Ingo, Inguio has kept his place longest in the memory of the Saxon and Scandinavian tribes. Runic alphabets in OHG. spell Inc, in AS. Ing, and an echo of his legend seems still to ring in the Lay of Runes:

Ing wæs ærest mid Eástdenum

gesewen secgum, oð he sîððan eást

ofer wæg gewât. wæn æfter ran.

þus Heardingas þone hæle nemdon.


9. In the Roman legend, Romulus and Remus were connected through Silvia with Mars, and through Amulius with Venus; and Romulus was taken up to heaven. The later apotheosis of the emperors differs from the genuine heroic, almost as canonization does from primitive sainthood; yet even Augustus, being deified, passed in legend for a son of Apollo, whom the god in the shape of a dragon had by Atia; Sueton. Octav. 94. Back

10. Proximi oceano Ingaevones, medii Herminones, ceteri Istaevones vocantur, Tac. Germ. 2. Back

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