Episode 34 drew some considerable amount of feedback in the form of email from our European listeners. Their responses were to the Siegfried story we featured and were mostly related to the fact that the myth we shared was from Denmark. Why would the myth being from Denmark draw so much response? Because Siegfried isn't Danish, he's from the Netherlands.

I'm going to let one of our listeners take over for a moment:

To make things clear, I'm from the Netherlands, which, as a country, many foreigners refer to as "Holland". To make things more complex, the people from the Netherlands are called "the Dutch" and they speak "Dutch" (which is not the same as "Danish", as you guys suggested in the show). Most importantly the Netherlands is not the same as Denmark. Neither is it part of Denmark, is Denmark part of the Netherlands or do the countries have a shared border.

A few days later we received this tweet:

Let's start by defining our terms

The Netherlands: The primary country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; also included are Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten.

Napoleon was defeated in 1813 and after his defeat the Netherlands regained its independence from France (hooray!). Before this, and hold on to your butts because this is super confusing, "The Netherlands" went through a lot of changes.  We'll start in 1581.

From 1581 to 1795 "The Netherlands" was "The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands" and included in this Republic was a swath of land we identify today as "The Netherlands" and Belgium. So this area:


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In 1795 the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands ceased being the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands and became the Batavian Republic; ruled over by Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Louis (guess how that happened). By 1806 the Batavian Republic was The Kingdom of Holland.


The Kingdom of Holland was just a fancy way of Napoleon controlling all of the Netherlands. The map remains largely the same but names change. Where you had Friesland you now had Leeuwarden, where you had Holland you now had Amsterdam, et cetera.

The point is, "The Netherlands" has been, at one point or another, all of this area:


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Scandinavia has a long history but has been, for the most part, largely unchanged as far as borders go. It also includes the non-Russian parts of Fennoscandia. Pretty much this picture (and a little bit of Russia if you go back far enough).


The Nordic Countries and the Norse

Nordic describes a region, Norse describes a culture.

Nordic countries include: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

Norse culture spread to:


So, is Scandinavian Mythology different than Norse Mythology?

There may be some subtle differences, but as far as I can tell these two mythologies should be mighty similar. The Scandinavians are Nordic and if you're Nordic you're Scandinavian; but it's possible to be living in a Norse-influenced culture outside of Scandinavia. For example: parts of northern German were at one point settled by the Norsemen. It only stands to reason then that Scandinavian Norsemen would bring their Norse culture to German lands (Wend lands) and those two cultures would mix in such a way that they'd be Norse but they wouldn't be Scandinavian.

Geeze, land-grabbing makes things really hard to sort out.

What about Siegfried? Why are the Danes telling stories Netherlands Princes as if they were their own?

This is a super good question and here's the answer: Siegfried isn't just a Netherlands Prince, he's also the King of the German Nibelung people. From the text:

Siegfried was a great and noble prince whose fame, by reason of his mighty deeds, hath endurance through the Ages. His sire was King Siegmund of the Netherlands and his mother was named Sigelinde.

and then

The Nibelung people acclaimed Siegfried as their king, but he tarried not long in their midst. He took with him twelve bold war-men, and set sail again for the Netherlands. His fame went speedily abroad, and his deeds were sung of by gleemen in many a hall.

And as a footnote

Siegfried is the hero of the Nibelungenlied, the great Upper German poetic romance (see Introduction). He is identical with the northern Sigurd of the Eddic poems and Volsunga saga. The various versions of the popular tale developed from an older legend. The Nibelungenlied is here introduced by a summary from Thidrek saga, a Norse poem composed about the middle of the thirteenth century, which was based on the Lower German version of the legend and the Dietrich poems.

What should we take away from this?

That Europe has a very long and confusing history and that sometimes Netherlands Princes are also German Kings and that sometimes you're Norse but not Scandinavian. Probably some other things too.

If I got any of this wrong, tell me in the comments below.


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