1. Holger Danske

(Danish: "Holger the Dane")

European mythical figure, with special significance as national hero of Denmark. Like so many other national heroes, he is said to be sleeping in some secluded spot, waiting for the time when he will be needed once more, to defend his homeland.

Holger Danske puts in one of his earliest appearances in literature (apparently not based on any actual historical person) in the Chanson de Roland (c. 1060), as one of the paladins of Charlemagne. In this poem, he is a minor figure, whose only connection to Denmark is by name (Ogier le Danois, "Ogier the Dane").

In the epic La Chevalerie d'Ogier de Danemarche ("The Chivalry of Ogier of Denmark", c. 1200-1215), however, he is the protagonist, said to be the son of the semi-legendary Danish king Godfred (an actual historical person, who died in 810), an enemy of Charlemagne. Given to Charlemagne as a hostage, he is a noble figure, who carries out great deeds of knightly derring-do, and who returns to France to aid in a decisive battle with the Saracens. After this poem became popular, Holger Danske appeared in numerous European works of poetry and literature.

In Nordic sources, he is first seen in the Karlamagnússaga (from the latter half of the 13th century), a West-Norse prose retelling of various French poems about Charlemagne and his paladins. The third part of the Karlamagnússaga deals with "Oddgeir danski" and recaps the contents of La Chevalerie d'Ogier de Danemarche. The Karlamagnússaga was translated to Danish in the 15th century, where it became known as Karl Magnus' Krønike ("The Chronicle of Charlemagne"). In the Danish chronicle, the figure of Holger Danske is expanded, including material from the popular song, Holger Danske og Burmand ("Holger Danske and Burmand"), the lyrics of which had previously been composed, based on the saga version. The chronicle exists in manuscript from 1480, and was printed around 1509. In both versions, the hero is named "Udger", but when Christiern Pedersen issued a revised and corrected edition in 1534, the name was corrected to "Olger".

That same year, Christiern Pedersen issued Kong Olger Danskis Krønike ("King Olger the Dane's Chronicle"), which was a translation of a French prose novel about Ogier (earliest manuscript dating from 1496). Since Pedersen spoke no French, he first commissioned a translation into Latin (which he did understand). This version then became the basis of his Danish edition.

Retold as a folkebog (popular edition, compare German: Volksbuch), this version of Holger Danske's exploits was the one that set the tone for the popular understanding of this figure, well into the 19th century. This is the source of the many popular legends of Holger Danske as being not dead, but sleeping - ready to rise from his repose in defense of Denmark. His resting-place is variously given as Bulbjerg, Lovns, Nonnebakken in Odense, or beneath Kronborg Castle at Helsingør/Elsinore.

Holger Danske became a central figure in Danish literary and musical Romanticism, beginning with the opera Holger Danske (1789) by Jens Baggesen and F.L.A. Kunzen. Poul Martin Møller wrote the poem Holger Danske og Skrædderne ("Holger Danske and the Tailors", 1816), and Bernhard Severin Ingemann wrote the epic poetic cycle, Holger Danske (1837). In this, Ingemann utilised the bare-bones material of the chronicles to create some of the great works of Danish Romantic poetry, including I alle de Riger og Lande and Østerlide! Østerlide!. Some of these poems, set to music by Niels W. Gade, acquired great emotional impact during the Danish national crises of the 19th century (the First and Second Wars for Schleswig-Holstein), and again during the German occupation during World War II.

Inspired by Ingemann's poems, and by the legends (as retold in prose form by J.M. Thiele), Hans Christian Andersen wrote the fairy tale Holger Danske (1845), which tells of the slumbering hero sleeping below Kronborg Castle, his beard fused by time with the marble of the table by which he sits.

From 1943 to 1945, Holger Danske's name was used for one of the groups of the Danish Resistance (see 2, below), and later, Ebbe Kløvedal Reich tried to revive interest in Holger Danske, as a symbol of opposition to the European Economic Community (the later European Union), with the publication of Holger Danske, 12 tales of the hero (1970, second revised and extended version published in 1979).


2. Holger Danske

Copenhagen-based World War II resistance group named for Holger Danske (1, above), formed with the purpose of sabotage against the German occupation forces and collaborators, in the spring of 1943. Although many members of the group were arrested, and 64 members died in action, Holger Danske continued to operate (after several reconstructions), throughout the remainder of the war. In May 1945, the group counted c. 350 members, formed into three "companies", with many subgroups.

Originally associated with Dansk Samling, the Holger Danske group became part of Ringen in September 1944.

Throughout its existence, the Holger Danske group carried out approximately 100 sabotage operations, including the famous strike against the Forum in Copenhagen, on August 24, 1943. The group also assassinated approximately 200 informers, at the behest of Frihedsrådet, the "governing board" of the resistance movement.

During the final months of the war, the group developed into a veritable urban guerilla, striking against the German auxilliaries, HIPO and Sommerkorpset. During an assault on the Lundtofte air field in November 1944, 11 HIPO men were killed.

Among the leaders of the group were the founder Josef Søndergaard; Jørgen Staffeldt; Jørgen Kieler; Hans Edvard Teglers and Knud Larsen.


Related nodes:

Danish Myths and Legends - Monarchs of Denmark - Charlemagne

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