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Kolebrand: [weap:sword] [Danish ballad]

Coalbrand (Borrow tr.) [E.]
Kaalle-brantt, Kallebrand (ver. A ), Kolebrand, Kolebrand gode suerd, Kollebrands suerd,Kollebrand (ver. B), Kolebrand (ver. Bb [=Vedel, I, 26]), Koldbrand (meaning "gangrene"; Grundtvig, intro. to DgF 27);
English translations:

In the Danish ballad*1, a sword that "the gallant"*2 Sir Ribolt [Rambolt (Grundtvig); Ramboltt, Rambboltt (ver. A), Rimbolt (ver.B), Ribolt (ver. Bb)] won by defeating the dragon with the hoard of gold.

The opening phrase of the ballad runs: "Jeg ser saa mangt et Orlogskib" [I see so many man-of-wars (=warships)], announcing the arrival of the antagonist, Aller the Stalwart Aller hin stercke on a ship. He has come to see the King of Upsal (or Upsalla, Sweden; Konge aff Opsal [Dan.]) demanding the youngest daughter of the king in marriage — a typical formula employed in balladry. The monarch rather than to give a straight answer, suggests that they match their armies against each other in Vidrik's vold*3. This field of battle is supposedly on flat open ground. But after prolonged fighting, we are told that Aller has jumped aboard the King's snek (Snekke [Dan.], a swift ship), threatening him with peril. Fortunately, Ribolt was able to grab Aller and hurl him into the sea.

The king's fleet then encounter a "raving mad man", who complains that a dragon has taken possession of all his red gold. The man says that if anyone could defeat the dragon, the sword Coalbrand (Kolebrand) will be his reward. So Ribolt sets out to the land where the dragon is to be found, and demands from the dragon to hand over Coalbrand. Days of fighting ensue, and at last Ribolt is victorious, and is now the owner of the sword.

But when he returned to Vidrik's Vold, he is met with "worse tidings" (Tidende værre). The king of Upsalla has been slain and so too Ribolt's seven brothers. Ribolt is enraged: in his hand, the sword becomes "like burning fire and flame" brendende Ild oc Lue (st. 24). Ribolt fights with Aller for five days until at last slashed Aller's byrnie, and the point penetrated his heart. Ribolt's garments were in tatters and the courtiers give him a hemp shirt*5. But the princess recognizes the man and declares he must be accorded better honors and silken cloth must be stretched beneath his feet, for he has slain Aller thus avenging her father's death. She announces her father's land to hold shall be his when on the morrow she will wed the bold knight.

*1 Grundtvig ed. Rigen Rambolt og Aller jhin stærke (DgF 27); Only Eng. tr. listed in Syndergaard is Borrow tr., in Works Vol. 7, pp.79-83 "Ribolt's Fight with the Dragon and Aller"[loc] (from ver. B,b "Herr Ribolts Kamp med Dragen" recorded by Vedel)

*2 "gallant": The word rig in modern Danish means "rich" but its archaic sense is "mighty, strong, distinguished". (See Kallipe's Ordbog: rig

*3 Vidrichs Vold [Dan.], is a stock locality in the ballads, evidently named after Vidrik Verlandson (≈ Wittich, son of Wieland.) A "vold" is a field or plain, cog. ON völlr, Ger. wald.

*4 raving mad man -rysk galen Mand [Dan.] < rysk = "Russian?" gal = "crazy". The meaning here is a rather obscure. Text A has gaallind mand (st. 17) and text B has r&oslsah;de-galen mand (st. 12)

*5 hemp shirt (hampe-veff < væve "weave")

§ Grundtvig's commentary

Grundvig ventures a number of speculation in his DgF chapter 27. For instance, the "dragon" in the ballad may have been corrupted from "drow" (draugr [ON], barrow-wight, burial mound ghost) that appears in the saga of Hromund Gripsson*1.

For the standard spelling of this sword, Grundvig uses Koldbrand*2, and his speculation runs as follows*3:

Jeg kan ikke undlade at tilføje nogle Antydninger med Hensyn til vor Vises benævnte Sværd Koldbrand .… … Dette Navn minder unægtelig stærkt om Arthurs Sværd Caleburnus, som Gotfred af Monmouth kalder det paa latin, medens det i det keltiske Original-sprog (i Mabinogion) kaldes Caledvwlch. Herved kommer man let til at tænke paa det nordiske "brandr" og det tydske "dolch", og kunde da atter finde en saadan Forklaring bestyrket ved, at Rolands berømte Sværd i en norsk Vise (Landstad Nr. XIV).*4
I cannot forgo adding certain hypotheses and thoughts regarding the sword which the ballad calls Koldbrand.… … This name is obviously strongly reminescent of Arthur's sword Caleburnus, as Geoffrey of Monmouth called it in Latin*5, while the original Celtic source (The Mabinogion) called it Caledvwlch. From there one can easily think of Norse brandr "sword" or German dolch "dagger", and such an explanation is corroborated by Roland's famous sword [*Dvælje=Dvolg] in the Norwegian ballad (Landstad, No. XIV).

Let us try to make sense of what Gruntvig is trying to get at. The head part of the Welsh sword-name Caledvwlch is likely the adjective caled "hard" or the verb caledu "harden". So the ending word root should be properly -vhlch *6. Evidently Bugge postulates an alternative (erroneous) split into cale + -dvhlch*7. The second part could easily pass into the German dolch "dagger" or a cognate in some Germanic language (although such intemediate forms are unrecorded). And from there it can be substituted by various synonymous words meaning sword, such as the Old Norse brandr.

*1 See page on the sword Mistilteinn (of Hromund Gripsson).

*2 Koldbrand is not a form found in any of the variant texts; the name seems to mean "cold burn" or "gangrene", and I don't think Grundvig properly justifies this choice.

*3 DgF, vol.1, p.360.

*4 Magnus Brostrup Landstad (1802-1880) Norske Folkeviser, Nr . XIV

*5 Gruntvig failed to note the even closer similarity of Kolebrand to the Middle-English form of Arthur's sword, ⇒Colbrande in the Alliterative Morte Arthure.

*6 vwlch [W.] is glossed as "notch, gap".

*7 I have greatly simplified Gruntvig's analysis: he launches into a discussion about whether the d here is an inert meaningless root or not, and his arugument is cryptic. But one can surmise he is postulating a word-root -dvhlch which might easily be corrupted into → German dolch, and so forth.



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