Sleeping Kings of Abendland

For as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated by the European myth of the sleeping king, a beloved ruler, who does not die, but rather goes into a deep state of sleep, ready to wake up when his people truly need him. 

So much so, that I've even structured one vacation in Germany in 2008 to attend the United Metal Maniacs festival (!) with a stopover in Kyffhäuser mountains in order to pay homage to Frederick Barbarossa, my favorite example thereof. (Working 2-3 jobs as a grad student gave me the proverbial freedom to travel.) 

At that time, Germany was my destination of choice (now it is Japan). I selected unusual places to investigate, based on my background in the history of art, such as the town of Speyer with a magnificent late Romanesque cathedral, serving as the burial place of several German emperors.

"Meeting" Holger Danske in the chilly, dimly lit crypt of Kronborg yesterday couldn't help but remind me of my experience with the crusading emperor. The fire-bearded one sleeps atop his rock-hewn throne in a remote mountainous area in contrast to the popular maritime tourist spot in Denmark known as Hamlet's castle, which houses Holger beneath the earth. Yet as above, so below. Fear he, who dare awaken this Scandinavian warrior from his slumber, for his sword-bearing wrath shall terrify all.

Then I've reached a sudden moment of lucidity. You see, I've been reading and rereading a lot of Martin Heidegger as of late with a particular focus on the so-called "evening land," conceptually summarizing the entire philosophical history of Western Europe as one of the Evening--moving toward the darkest Night. (Heidegger's argument is that this is the case due to the originally incorrect conception of Being by the ancient Greeks during the establishment of philosophy, which has gotten progressively worse and further removed from the truth as Western European history progresses.) 

I'm not an expert on world mythology, but this led me to believe that the sleeping-king legend (not just Frederick and Holger, but also Arthur, Karl, and others) not only appears to be specific to Western Europe, but is also reflective of Heideggerian Abendland in a folkic-cultural context. (There certainly exist similar, but not identical stories in other cultures: eastern Slavs have Ilia of Murom, who is disabled until the age of 33, at which point he gains superhuman strength and proceeds to carry out a series of feats.)

And so the kings continue to sleep, as it is not yet morning. 

P.S. All images are mobile.