Regular readers know that I have recently become enamored of Holger Danske.
For latecomers: Holger Danske — a.k.a. Holger the Dane — was a semi-mythical Danish hero. He fought against Charles Martel in the early part of the 8th century, but overlooked his differences with the Franks in order to journey south and fight alongside Charles the Hammer in his successful battle against the Saracens.
The Islamic threat from al-Andalus meant more to Holger than his quarrels with his Frankish neighbors, and so he became a hero of the Western World at Poitiers in 732.
That part of his story is recorded in history, but now we come to the myth. According to legend, Holger retired to the old Kronborg castle and entered a twilight sleep in one of its cellars, to awaken only when he was needed by Denmark. Hans Christian Andersen tells the tale:
But the fairest sight of all is the old castle of Kronborg, and under it sits Holger Danske in the deep, dark cellar which no one enters; he is clad in iron and steel and rests his head on his stalwart arm; his long beard hangs down upon the marble table where it has become stuck fast; he sleeps and dreams, but in his dreams he sees everything that comes to pass in Denmark. Every Christmas Eve an angel of God comes to tell him that all he has dreamed is true, and that he may go to back to sleep again, for Denmark is not yet in any danger! but if it should ever come, then old Holger Danske will rouse himself, and the table will break apart as he pulls out his beard! Then he will come forth, and strike a blow that shall be heard throughout all the countries of the world.
As a non-Danish person who only recently learned about Holger’s story, I find him very inspiring, an apt symbol for the dire times ahead.
But not everyone agrees with me. A Danish reader recently sent me an email, part of which is excerpted below:
I apologize for not having replied to your latest email. I have some doubts about the use of nationalist imagery such as “Holger Danske,” I believe it causes great damage to the “cause,” which is making counterjihad a mainstream issue. I believe the approach of e.g. Robert Spencer and Lars Hedegaard is far more constructive and likely to gain results.
I wrote him back:
I understand your reservations, and I respect them.
The funny thing is, I don’t find Holger Danske to be a nationalist symbol (though, obviously, the Danes consider him to be one). To me, he is the spirit of the West, a spirit which is awakening in its hour of need, and anyone who cherishes the values of liberty and self-determination can claim Holger as their own.
He’s like the Statue of Liberty. Do you remember the demonstrators in Tinananmen Square in 1989, who built a replica of the Statue of Liberty? They didn’t consider it to be a nationalist symbol of the USA, but used it as an icon representing their struggle for freedom.
And so it is with Holger, who put aside his differences with Charles the Hammer to journey southwards and fight alongside his former enemy against the Saracens in 732.
Holger Danske is a worthy symbol for all of us, and I am happy to have learned about him.
But I don’t blame you for being nervous about him — the recent history of nationalism in Europe has not been pleasant.
One is certainly loath to rouse the ghost of European nationalism. We’ve seen enough of that particular shade to last us several lifetimes.
But why does Holger have to be an exclusively Danish symbol? Why can’t the West claim him as its own, the way the Tiananmen demostrators claimed Lady Liberty?
In researching the images for this post, I wandered into an archive of Tiananmen photos from 1989. It’s been almost eighteen years, but looking at those photographs made it feel like just the other day.
Remember all those inspiring photos on the front pages of the newspapers? The crowds of youthful demonstrators with their signs and their zeal for liberty — it seemed as though China would follow the Soviet Union along the path of reform and glasnost.
But it was not to be. The tanks came in, the movement was crushed, and the Western democracies could only express “grave concern” and then resume business as usual after the appropriate interval of diapproval.
– – – – – – – – – –
Watching Tinananmen Square in 1989 was like seeing the tanks stop before they rolled on to Baghdad in 1991, or being a spectator to those American soldiers who were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu in 1993. It was something one had to endure; it was necessary for the sake of Realpolitik; but it wasn’t right.
And remember how all those Tiananmen photos stopped after June 4th, 1989? A couple of long-distance views of tanks rolling into the square among the demonstrators, and then that was it. A little outrage here and there, some negative editorials in the Western media, and then down the memory hole with the whole affair. Commerce and diplomacy resumed shortly afterwards.
There were stories of hundreds or thousands of dead students, and of the survivors who were hauled off to the laogai, never to be seen again. But as far as the authoritative media were concerned, those were scarcely more than rumors. Uncorroborated and undocumented.
But they weren’t. That’s what I found out when I encountered the Tiananmen archives. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, all that information is available to anyone who wants to look for it.
None of the more disturbing photos are reproduced here, but the horrors of those few days in June of 1989 are well-documented, as is Auschwitz. They carry a similar impact — all those youngsters, filled with a zeal for liberty, and the horrific and bestial things that were done to them!
Follow the link at your own risk.
The demonstrators at Tiananmen Square took up Lady Liberty as their symbol. They didn’t think of her as an American nationalist symbol, an icon of United States imperialism. Why should they? She stood for what they didn’t have — the right to speak freely, to live their lives according to their own consciences, and not according to the whims of the Socialist State. They knew that America represented those rights, however imperfectly realized.
Why can’t Holger take on the same universality? Why should the Danes claim sole proprietary rights to such an inspiring figure?
Lady Liberty symbolized freedom to the doomed youth of Tiananmen.
To us, to the besieged people of Western Civilization, Holger Danske represents resistance, the newly awakened spirit that stirs in us when we are threatened by the Demonic Convergence of socialism, nihilistic postmodernism, and Islamic fascism.
Holger is not just the avatar of the Danes, or even of the Men of the North. He stands for the West. He is the defender of what we hold dear, of what we have all but forgotten how to fight for.
He is the equivalent of Aragorn at the Black Gate of Mordor shouting, “I bid you stand, Men of the West!”
He stands alongside Charles Martel in 732, and Jan III Sobieski, the savior of Europe at Vienna in 1683. Martel does not belong to the French, nor does Sobieski belong to the Poles. They belong to all of us.
And so does Holger Danske. He is Holger, Vestens Vogter: Holger, the Guardian of the West.
The Danes will just have to learn to share.
Thanks to the redoubtable Kepiblanc for Holger’s new title in Dansk.