The Wilde Jagd rides on

Queen Helvig

While the ghostly Wilde Jagd, or Wild Hunt, is common across Europe, there are local wild hunts as well, such as the Danish king Valdemar Atterdag who died in 1375.  This formed the basis for composer Arnold Schoenberg’s canticle “Gurre-Lieder” of 1910. This one is perhaps not as much fun as the others, but has the advantage of having been recorded by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the 2002 Proms, and comes complete with English subtitles.

In the first two sections, boy meets girl (Valdemar meets Tove, but it was probably really a different Valdemar), and boy loses girl (Tove dies in the bath).  One of the Valdemars’ wives, Helvig of Schleswig, is in there somewhere. Helvig has a Wikipedia article, Tove does not.

King Valdemar

The first two sections of the cantata were composed in 1900 in a Wagner-inspired late Romantic style.  In the third and last section, composed ten years later in a supposedly more pared-down Romantic style, a distraught Valdemar calls forth his deceased retainers out of their graves to ride across the sky, until the break of dawn in the last and perhaps overly dramatic finale, Seht die Sonne!  (Look, the sun).

Death by bathing

In Danish balladry, both Tove and Helvig are chewed up and spit out by The Patriarchy.  Helvig was the daughter of  Eric II, Duke of Schleswig, and one of the claimants to the Danish throne, who did quite well by giving up his claims to the throne several times in exchange for property.  Helvig married Valdemar IV in 1340, only to find Tove was already the royal favorite. Helvig brought dowry to the marriage which helped Valdemar with his politics, but she had her own castle and lived there with her court, or perhaps she was only imprisoned there — her daughter Queen Margaret I of Denmark was born at the prison of Søborg Castle.

Bain public de Russie
Russian bathhouse 1768

After bearing six children, including Queen Margaret I of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, Helvig retired to Esrum Abbey, but not before being blamed for killing Tove by overheating the bathhouse.  Now this sounds kind of weird to me.  Aren’t saunas supposed to be hot, and if it was too hot, wouldn’t you just go out and roll around in the snow?  But I have to admit I’m not really up on the medieval Danish bathhouse thing.

The final hex on Valdemar, compelling him to the wild hunt, may have been placed on him by the head of Esrum Abbey, which eventually benefited from Helvig’s royal endowments.  In those days, it didn’t pay to get on the wrong side of the clergy.

If you just want the last five minutes, Seht die Sonne is here, with subtitles:

Otherwise, the BBC production is here; you can never go wrong with the Beeb.  Scroll down for a list of songs. The orchestral prelude (Section 3, #8) starts around 1:41:00.


Part one

  1. Orchestral Prelude
  2. Nun dämpft die Dämm’rung (tenor = Waldemar)
  3. O, wenn des Mondes Strahlen (soprano = Tove)
  4. Ross! Mein Ross! (Waldemar)
  5. Sterne jubeln (Tove)
  6. So tanzen die Engel vor Gottes Thron nicht (Waldemar)
  7. Nun sag ich dir zum ersten Mal (Tove)
  8. Es ist Mitternachtszeit (Waldemar)
  9. Du sendest mir einen Liebesblick (Tove)
  10. Du wunderliche Tove! (Waldemar)
  11. Orchestral Interlude
  12. Tauben von Gurre! (mezzo-soprano = Wood Dove)

Part two

Herrgott, weißt du, was du tatest (Waldemar)

Part three

  1. Erwacht, König Waldemars Mannen wert! (Waldemar)
  2. Deckel des Sarges klappert (bass-baritone = Peasant, men’s chorus)
  3. Gegrüsst, o König (men’s chorus = Waldemar’s men)
  4. Mit Toves Stimme flüstert der Wald (Waldemar)
  5. Ein seltsamer Vogel ist so’n Aal (Klaus the Jester)
  6. Du strenger Richter droben (Waldemar)
  7. Der Hahn erhebt den Kopf zur Kraht (men’s chorus)

Des Sommerwindes wilde Jagd / The Summer Wind’s Wild Hunt

  1. Orchestral Prelude
  2. Herr Gänsefuss, Frau Gänsekraut (speaker)
  3. Seht die Sonne! (mixed chorus)

Waldemar_IV_Otherday_of_Denmark_c_1375 color Haelwig_of_Denmark_c_1375 color


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