Herr Mannelig

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Herr Mannelig (also known as Bergatrollets frieri "The Courting of the Mountain Troll"[1]) is a Swedish folk ballad (SMB 26; TSB A 59) that tells the story of a female mountain troll (bergatroll) who proposes marriage to a young human man. The troll is trying to convince "Sir Mannelig" (Herr Mannelig) to marry her. She offers him many great gifts but he refuses her.


The ballad was first published 1877 as a folk song of the Södermanland region (recorded in Lunda parish, Nyköping Municipality).[1] A variant from Näshulta parish, Eskilstuna Municipality, published in the same collection in 1882, had the title Skogsjungfruns frieri ("The Courting of the Wood-nymph", a skogsjungfru or skogsnufva being a female wood-nymph or fairy).[2] Other variants have been recorded in which the courted man is called "Herr Magnus" (Herr Magnus och Hafstrollet, Hertig Magnus och Hafsfrun, a hafstroll or hafsfru being a water-nymph, neck or mermaid).[2] Certain variants appear to identify the ballad's protagonist as Magnus, Duke of Östergötland, incorporating an alleged incident in which the duke, old and mentally impaired, threw himself into the water after seeing such a water spirit waving to him.[3] Hertig Magnus och sjöjungfrun ("Duke Magnus and the Mermaid") is an 1862 operetta by Ivar Hallström (libretto by Frans Hedberg).

The lyrics of the ballad published in 1877 are in seven verses, with a refrain in the troll's voice (Herr Mannelig trolofven I mig, "Sir Mannelig will you be betrothed to me?"). The first verse gives an exposition, saying of the troll "she had a false tongue" (Hon hade en falskeliger tunga), suggesting that the troll is trying to deceive the young man; this is in contrast to the Näshulta variant, which has hon sjong med så rörande tunga ("she sang with touching [emotionally affecting] tongue", which may or may not imply deception). Verses 2–5 are in the troll's voice, promising gifts of twelve steeds, twelve mills, a gilded sword and a silken shirt, respectively; verse 6 is in the man's voice, rejecting the proposal, calling the troll "of the tribe of the neck and the devil" (af Neckens och djävulens stämma, while in the Näshulta he declines because he swore not to marry a heathen). The final verse has the troll running away wailing ("Had I got the handsome young man / I would have avoided my torment" Hade jag fått den fager ungersven / Så hade jag mistat min plåga). The Näshulta variant is closely related, but has an additional five verses listing promised gifts, the list of promises being (verses 2–10): a castle, twelve horses, a stable, twelve mills, a gilded sword, a silken shirt, a cap of red damask, a blue mantle, and finally treasure of gold and diamonds.[2]

The theme is of the "Fairies' Hope for Christian Salvation" type (no. 5050) in the classification of Christansen (1958);[4] the same theme was notably adapted by Hans Christian Andersen in The Little Mermaid (Den Lille Havfrue, 1837), influenced by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué's Undine of 1811, and ultimately based on the theory by Paracelsus that there are certain nature spirits who lack a soul and are therefore "willing to surrender their carefee lives to marry a mortal, experience human suffering, and thereby win spiritual immortality".[5] In German folklore, the theme is expressed more typically by the water-nymph trying to draw the young man into perdition rather than trying to be saved by him (c.f. Der Fischer by Goethe 1779; Loreley by Clemens Brentano 1801). The sexes are reversed in the German ballad Es freit ein wilder Wassermann, recorded 1813 in Joachimsthal, Brandenburg, where a male water spirit woos a young woman.

The song in the 1877 version has become popular in the Neofolk, Folk rock or Neo-Medieval musical genres since the late 1990s, following its inclusion in the album Guds spelemän by Garmarna in 1996. Later performances include In Extremo, Verehrt und Angespielt (1999), Haggard, Eppur Si Muove (2004), Heimataerde, Dark Dance (2009), Midnattsol, The Aftermath (2018) among others.


1. Bittida en morgon innan solen upprann
Innan fåglarna började sjunga
Bergatrollet friade till fager ungersven
Hon hade en falskeliger tunga
(ref.) Herr Mannelig Herr Mannelig trolofven i mig
För det jag bjuder så gärna
I kunnen väl svara endast ja eller nej
Om i viljen eller ej:
2. Eder vill jag gifva de gångare tolf
Som gå uti rosendelunde
Aldrig har det varit någon sadel uppå dem
Ej heller betsel uti munnen
3. Eder vill jag gifva de qvarnarna tolf
Som stå mellan Tillö och Ternö
Stenarna de äro af rödaste gull
Och hjulen silfverbeslagna
4. Eder vill jag gifva ett förgyllande svärd
Som klingar utaf femton guldringar
Och strida huru i strida vill
Stridsplatsen skolen i väl vinna
5. Eder vill jag gifva en skjorta så ny
Den bästa i lysten att slita
Inte är hon sömnad av nål eller trå
Men virkat av silket det hvita
6. Sådana gåfvor jag toge väl emot
Om du vore en kristelig qvinna
Men nu så är du det värsta bergatroll
Af Neckens och djävulens stämma
7. Bergatrollet ut på dörren sprang
Hon rister och jämrar sig svåra
Hade jag fått den fager ungersven
Så hade jag mistat min plåga
1. Early one morning before the sun rose up
Before the birds began to sing
The mountain troll proposed to the handsome young man
She had a false tongue
(ref.) Herr Mannelig, herr Mannelig, will you be betrothed to me?
For that, I offer you gifts very gladly
Surely you can answer only yes or no
If you wish to or not
2. To you I wish to give the twelve horses [palfreys]
That go in the grove of roses
Never has there been a saddle upon them
Nor a bridle in their mouths
3. To you I wish to give the twelve mills
That are between Tillö and Ternö
The stones are made of the reddest gold
And the wheels are covered in silver
4. To you I wish to give a gilded sword
That chimes of fifteen gold rings
And fight however you fight [well or badly]
The battle site you would surely win
5. To you I wish to give a shirt so new
The best you will want to wear
It was not sewn with needle or thread
But crocheted of white silk
6. Such gifts I would surely accept
If thou[6] wert a Christian woman
However, thou art the worst mountain troll
The spawn of the Neck and the Devil
7. The mountain troll ran out the door
She shakes and wails hard
If I had got the handsome young man
I would have got rid of my plight.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Aminson, H., ed. (1877). "Bergatrollets frieri". Bidrag till Södermanlands äldre kulturhistoria [Contributions to Södermanland's older Cultural History] (PDF) (in Swedish). I. Södermanland's Forminnesförening. pp. 21–23.
  2. ^ a b c H. Aminson, Bidrag till Södermanlands äldre Kulturhistoria, på uppdrag af Södermanlands Fornminnesförening vol. 3 (1882), 34–36 [1]
  3. ^ Afzelius, Arvid August; Geijer, Erik Gustaf (1816). "96. Hertig Magnus och Hafsfrun". Svenska folk-visor från forntiden (in Swedish). Stockholm: Zacharias Hæggström. p. 178.
  4. ^ Reidar Thoralf Christiansen, The Migratory Legends: A Proposed List of Types with a Systematic Catalogue of the Norwegian Variants (1958); type 5050: "Fairies' Hope for Christian Salvation".
  5. ^ Jean-Charles Seigneuret, Dictionary of Literary Themes and Motifs, Volume 1 (1988), p. 170.
  6. ^ The mountain troll addresses Herr Mannelig with the plural (polite) form of the second person pronoun when she says "Eder" (for "to you"); Mannelig replies to her using the singular (familiar) form when he says "du" (for "you").