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Hildebrand warns the Burgundians Hundeshagenscher Kodex (de)

Hildebrand is a character from Germanic legend. Hildebrand is the modern German form of the name: in Old High German it is Hiltibrant and in Old Norse Hildibrandr. The word hild means "battle" and brand means "sword". The name itself is very likely of Langobard origin.[1]

He is associated with the cycle of legends about Theodoric the Great, called Dietrich in German, to whom he is a companion. Hildebrand figures in three famous songs: in the Old High German Hildebrandslied, the Middle High German Nibelungenlied, and in the Old Norse song "Hildebrand's Death" in Ásmundar saga kappabana (called Hildibrandr). He also appears as Hildiger in Gesta Danorum, and in the late medieval Jüngeres Hildebrandslied.

In the Nibelungenlied, he is the armourer, brother-in-arms, and fatherly friend of Dietrich von Bern. Hildebrand kills Kriemhild, after she orders her brother's death and then kills Hagen herself.

In the Hildebrandslied, which is older, Hildebrand fights his own son Hadubrand. In fact Hildebrand became Dietrich's armourer, because he had to leave his home, he left his wife and his son. 30 years later, Hildebrand returns. His son Hadubrand is now ruling over his land, he is leading his army against the supposed invasion. As is customary, the two leaders meet between the armies. They start to list their family tree, in order to prevent themselves from killing a relative. Hadubrand says that he is "Hadubrand Hildebrand's son", but he was told that Hildebrand died, and he thinks that the fighter before him is using Hildebrand's name to deceive him. In fact, the ending in the original text has been lost, but the legends and the third song tell the end of the story. Hildebrand has to kill his son otherwise he would be killed by him; he has pictures of all the warriors he killed on his red shield, and his son's picture is added to the others.

The Scandinavian song "Hildebrand's death" tell how Hildebrand fights against his half-brother. He is wounded fatally by him and the shield with the picture of his son falls near to his head on the ground. He begs his half-brother to cover his body, and to bury him properly.

Although associated with historical characters from the 5th and 6th centuries, Theodoric and Odoacer, Hildebrand himself has not been identified as a historical personage.[2]


  1. ^ Frederick Norman, "Hildebrand and Hadubrand", in Three Essays on the 'Hildebrandslied' , London 1973, p. 47.
  2. ^ J. Knight Bostock, A Handbook on Old High German Literature, 2nd edn, revised by K.C.King and D.R.McLintock, (Oxford 1976) ISBN 0-19-815392-9, pp. 64f.