Heer Halewijn  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Folklore of the Low Countries, murder ballad

Heer Halewijn (also known as Van Here Halewijn and in English The Song of Lord Halewijn) is one of the oldest Dutch folk songs with ancient subject matter to be recorded. The song dates back to the 13th century while the story it tells and mythemes come from earlier Germanic pre-Christian legends.

In the song, Lord Halewijn is an evil man who lures one woman after the other to the forest with a musical song, and kills them. His power is in a magical song:

"Lord Halewijn sang a song,
all who heard it wanted to be with him."

The folk song begins with one princess who wants to see Lord Halewijn, she is lured into the forest, where she sees all the other murdered women's bodies. Lord Halewijn suggests since she is the prettiest she can pick her own death. The princess quickly kills him by chopping off his head.


This song contains elements (mythemes) of ancient Germanic legend, notably the idea that a magical song that can lure woman to death. This element compares to the song of the Scandinavian Nix (strömkarlen), a male water spirit who played enchanted songs, luring women and children to drown (Meijer 1971:35).

The song's subject matter is similar in many respects to several Germanic songs circulating in the Middle Ages Europe, notably close to the English ballad May Colvin or False Sir John and its variations, Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight. The legends may have been the prototype of the Legend of Bluebeard.


Several modern adaptations of the story have been produced:


  • Meijer, Reinder. Literature of the Low Countries: A Short History of Dutch Literature in the Netherlands and Belgium. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1971, page 35.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Heer Halewijn" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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