Very few of the Fornaldar Sögur Northrlanda have hitherto been translated into English. The Völsungasaga is of course well known, but with this exception the ‘Stories of Icelanders,’ and the ‘Stories of the Kings of Norway’ are probably the only sagas familiar to the majority of English readers. Of the four sagas contained in this volume only one—the Tháttr of Sörli—has appeared in English before, though the poetry which they contain has frequently been translated, from the time of Hickes’s Thesaurus (1705). So far as I am aware no version of any of the Faroese ballads has appeared in English. Out of the great number which were collected during the 18th and 19th centuries I have chosen a few which deal with the same stories as the sagas translated here; and for purposes of comparison I have added a short extract from one of the Icelandic Rímur, as well as a Danish ballad and part of the Shetland Hildina.

In accordance with general custom in works of this kind I have discarded the use of accents, unfamiliar symbols, etc., except in a few Norse words which can hardly be anglicised.

My thanks are due to the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press for undertaking the publication of this book, and to the staff for their unfailing courtesy.

To Professor Thuren of Christiania I am indebted for kindly allowing me to print the melodies from his son’s Folkesangen paa Færøerne. I have also to thank many friends in St Andrews and Cambridge for help which they have kindly given to me in various ways, including Professor Lawson, Dr Maitland Anderson and the staffs of the two University Libraries, and Mr B. Dickins. Especially I wish to thank Professor Chadwick to whom I am indebted for constant help and advice throughout the book.

N. K.                      .

2 November, 1920.


Table of Contents

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The following stories are taken from the Fornaldarsögur Northrlanda, or ‘Stories of Ancient Times relating to the countries of the North’—a collection of Sagas edited by Rafn in 1829-30 and re-edited by Valdimar Ásmundarson in 1886-1891. The stories contained in this collection deal almost exclusively with times anterior to Harold the Fairhaired (c. 860-930) and the colonisation of Iceland, and stop therefore where the better known stories relating to Iceland and the historical kings of Norway begin. Some of them relate to persons and events of the ninth century, while others are concerned with times as remote as the fourth or fifth centuries. Their historical value is naturally far inferior to that of the Íslendinga Sögur, or ‘Stories of Icelanders’ and the Konunga Sögur, or ‘Stories of the Kings.’

From the literary point of view also the ‘Stories of Ancient Times’ are generally much inferior to the others. The ‘Stories of Icelanders’ are derived from oral tradition, which generally goes back in more or less fixed form to the time at which the characters in the stories lived, and they give us a vivid picture of the persons themselves and of the conditions of life in their time. In the ‘Stories of Ancient Times,’ on the other hand, though there is some element derived from tradition, often apparently of a local character, it is generally very meagre. More often perhaps the source of the stories is to be found in poems, notable instances of which will be found in Hervarar Saga and in Völsunga Saga. In many cases, however, the stories without doubt contain a large proportion of purely fictitious matter.

The texts of the ‘Stories of Ancient Times’ which have come down to us date as a rule from the thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth centuries though the actual mss. themselves are generally later. Most of the stories, however, were probably in existence before this time. The Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus (c. 1200) was familiar with many of them, including the story of Hethin and Högni1 and one of the scenes recorded in Hervarar Saga2. And we are told that a story which seems to have corresponded, in its main outlines at least, to the story of Hromund Greipsson was composed and recited at a wedding in Iceland in 11193. But in many cases the materials of our stories were far earlier than this, though they no doubt underwent considerable changes before they assumed their present form.

Indeed many stages in the literary history of the North are represented in the following translations. Of these probably the oldest is that section of the Hervarar Saga which deals with the battle between the Goths and the Huns “at Dylgia and on Dunheith and upon all the heights of Jösur.” The poetry here included in the saga dates even in its present form probably from the Viking Age, perhaps from the tenth century. But the verses themselves do not appear to be all of the same date. Some of them show a certain elaboration and a sense of conscious art, while others are comparatively bare and primitive in type and contain very early features4; and there is every probability that such poetry was ultimately derived from poetry composed at a time when the Goths were still remembered. This is not surprising in view of the fact that stories relating to the Goths were popular in English and German heroic poetry, as well as in the heroic lays of the North. Indeed we know from Jordanes5 and elsewhere that heroic poetry was common among the Goths themselves and that they were wont to celebrate the deeds of their ancestors in verse sung to the accompaniment of the harp.

This poem is no doubt much older than the saga. Originally it would seem to have been complete in itself; but many verses have probably been lost. Thus there can be little doubt that the prose passages in chs. XII-XV are often merely a paraphrase of lost verses, though it must not be assumed that all the prose in this portion of the saga originated in such a way6. “It is difficult to tell … where the prose of the manuscripts is to be taken as standing in the place of lost narrative verses, and where it fills a gap that was never intended to be filled with verse, but was always left to the reciter to be supplied in his own way7.” The difficulty, however, is greater in some cases than in others. The following picturesque passage from the opening of ch. 14 of the Hervarar Saga is a very probable instance of a paraphrase of lost verses:

It happened one morning at sunrise that as Hervör was standing on the summit of a tower over the gate of the fortress, she looked southwards towards the forest and saw clouds of dust, arising from a great body of horse, by which the sun was hidden for a long time. Next she saw a gleam beneath the dust, as though she were gazing on a mass of gold—fair shields overlaid with gold, gilded helmets and white corslets.

The motif of a chief or his lady standing on the pinnacle of a tower of the fort and looking out over the surrounding country for an approaching army is a very common one in ballads. The motif of the above passage from Hervarar Saga, including the armour of the foe and the shining shields, occurs in the opening stanzas of the Danish Ballad De vare syv og syvsindstyve8, which probably dates from the fourteenth century (though it may possibly be later9) and which derives its material ultimately from old heroic lays10.

To the same period approximately as the poem on the battle with the Huns belong the two pieces from the Older Edda contained in the Tháttr11 of Nornagest. The Reginsmál indeed, of which only about half is quoted, may be even earlier than the former (in the form in which it appears in Hervarar Saga), while the Hellride of Brynhild can hardly be later than the early part of the eleventh century.

A second stage in the literary history of the North is represented by the ‘episodic’ poems Hjalmar’s Death Song and the Waking of Angantyr, both of which are attributed to the twelfth century by Heusler and Ranisch12. Unlike the poem on the battle between the Goths and the Huns, neither of these forms a story complete in itself. They presuppose the existence of a saga in some form or other, presumably oral, dealing at least with the fight at Samsø; and the existence of such a saga in the twelfth century is confirmed by the account of the same event given by Saxo13.

A third stage in the literary development of the heroic legends is represented by the written saga itself, which has evidently been formed by the welding together, with more or less skill as the case may be, of several distinct stories, and of more than one literary form. A particularly striking instance of this is to be found in the Hervarar Saga with its stories of the Heroic and Viking Ages, the poems dealing with the fight on Samsø, the primitive Riddles of Gestumblindi and the early poem of the battle between the Goths and Huns14. Something of the same kind has also taken place in the composition of the Thættir of Nornagest and of Sörli respectively, though into the former has entered a considerable element of folk-tale which is introduced with a certain naïveté and no little skill alongside the old heroic legends. As has been already mentioned, these three sagas, like others of the same type, appear to have been written down in the late thirteenth or the early years of the fourteenth century. On the other hand most if not the whole of the Saga of Hromund Greipsson appears to have been composed early in the twelfth century, but we do not know when it was first written down.

A fourth stage is represented by the Icelandic Rímur which are for the most part rhyming metrical versions of the sagas and which date from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. As an illustration of this stage I have translated a few stanzas from the Gríplur, a Ríma based on an early form of the story of Hromund Greipsson15. The Rímur are, so far as we can judge, somewhat wearisome paraphrases of the prose stories, and while the metre and diction are elaborate in the extreme, the treatment of the story is often mechanical and puerile. Comparatively few of the Rímur have as yet been published and the Gríplur is the only one known to me which is primarily concerned with any of the sagas contained in this volume.

The ballads, both Faroese and Danish16, belong to a fifth stage in the life of heroic legend in the North; but their origin and history is by no means so clear as that of the Rímur, and it is at present impossible to assign even approximate dates to more than a few of them with any degree of certainty. I have touched on this question at somewhat greater length below17; and I would only add here that some Danish and Swedish ballads, e.g. Ung Sveidal18Thord af Haffsgaard19 and perhaps Her Aage20, appear to be derived more or less directly from poems of the Viking Age, such as FjölsvinsmálThrymskvitha and Helgakvitha Hundingsbana I—without any intermediate prose stage.

A careful study of the Faroese ballads as a whole might enable one to determine something more of the relation of ballads to ‘Literature’21 and of the various ballad forms to one another, such as that of the short and simple Ballad of Hjalmar and Angantyr to the longer and more complicated Ballad of Arngrims Sons. Simplification and confusion are among the chief characteristics of popular poetry22; but it is to be noted that in the case of the Hervarar Saga confusion set in long before the days of the ballad—as early as the saga itself, where there must surely be at least one case of repetition of character23. In reality, considering through how many stages the ballad material has passed, one is amazed at the vitality of the stories and the amount of original groundwork preserved. A careful comparison of the Völsunga Saga and the Faroese cycle of ballads generally classed together as Sjúrðar Kvæði—which, be it observed, were never written down at all till the nineteenth century—brings out to a degree literally amazing the conservatism of the ballads on the old heroic themes.

Readers who desire to make further acquaintance with the ‘Stories of Ancient Times’ as a whole will find a further account of the subject in Professor Craigie’s Icelandic Sagas (p. 92 ff.). More detailed accounts will be found in Finnur Jónsson’s Oldnorske og Oldislandske Litteraturs Historie24, Vol. ii, pp. 789-847, and in Mogk’s Geschichte der Altnordischen Literatur in Paul’s Grundriss der Germanischen Philologie, Ed. ii, 1904, Vol. II, pp. 830-857, while a discussion of the heroic stories will be found in Professor Chadwick’s Heroic Age, chs. i-viii. For a full bibliography of the texts, translations, and general literature dealing with the Fornaldarsögur collectively, see the annual Islandica, Vol. V, pp. 1-9, compiled by Halldór Hermannsson and issued by the Cornell University Library, 1912.

Footnote 1: Cf. Saxo Grammaticus, Dan. Hist., Book v, p. 160 (Elton’s translation, pp. 197, 198).

Footnote 2: Cf. Saxo, op. cit., Book v, p. 166 (Elton’s translation, p. 205).

Footnote 3: Cf. Introduction to the Saga of Hromund Greipsson, p. 58 below.

Footnote 4: Cf. Heusler and Ranisch, Eddica Minora (Dortmund, 1903) p. xii.

Footnote 5: De Origine Actibusque Getarum (transl. C.C. Mierow, Princeton, 1915), cap. 5.

Footnote 6: Cf. Heusler and Ranisch, op. cit., p. x ff.

Footnote 7: Ker, Epic and Romance (London, 1908, 2nd ed.), p. 112.

Footnote 8: S. Grundtvig, Danmarks Gamle Folkeviser (Copenhagen, 1853-1890), Bd I, no. 7.

Footnote 9: See General Introduction to Part ii, p. 166 below.

Footnote 10: Cf. Axel Olrik, Danske Folkeviser í Udvalg (Copenhagen and Christiania, 1913), pp. 81, 82.

Footnote 11: A. Tháttr (pl. Thættir) is a story within a story—an episode complete in itself but contained in a long saga.

Footnote 12: Eddica Minora, pp. xxi, xlii.

Footnote 13: Op. cit., Book v, p. 166 (Elton’s translation, pp. 204, 205).

Footnote 14: See Introduction to the Hervarar Saga, pp. 81-4 below.

Footnote 15: See Introduction to the Gríplur, p. 171 ff. below.

Footnote 16: Cf. p. 165 ff. below.

Footnote 17: Cf. General Introduction to Part ii, p. 166 below.

Footnote 18: Bugge’s edition of the Saemundar Edda, p. 352 ff.; also Ker, Epic and Romance, p. 114 etc.; Vigfússon and Powell, Corpus Poeticum Boreale (Oxford, 1883), Vol. i, p. 501 ff.

Footnote 19: C. P. B., Vol. i, pp. 175 and 501 ff.

Footnote 20: C. P. B., Vol. i, p. 502 ff.

Footnote 21: Always, however, with the proviso that, owing to the avowed literary origin of many of them, the Faroese ballads to some extent form a class by themselves; cf. General Introduction to Part ii, p. 166 below.

Footnote 22: Cf. Chadwick, The Heroic Age (Cambridge, 1912), p. 95.

Footnote 23: Cf. the Introduction to the Saga of Hervör and Heithrek, p. 81 f. below.

Footnote 24: Copenhagen, 1901.


The Saga of Hervör and Heithrek is found in two vellums, the Hauksbók (a.m. 544), dating from c. 1325, which for convenience is usually called H; and ms. 28451 in the Royal Library at Copenhagen, dating from the fifteenth century, and generally called R. Besides these there are a number of paper mss. (h) dating from the seventeenth century. According to Bugge2, these have no independent value and can contribute nothing to our knowledge of the text up to the point at which the vellums break off. They are useful however as continuing the Saga beyond this point. H comes to an end with Gestumblindi’s second riddle, while R breaks off just before the close of ch. 12. Beyond this point we are entirely dependent on the paper mss. One of these (a.m. 345 written in 1694) was adopted by Rafn3 as the text for his edition of the Saga, though he gives H in full as an Appendix.

The mss. differ considerably among themselves. For instance R omits the first chapter of the Saga, but contains Hjalmar’s Death Song. Here, too, many of the riddles are wanting, and the order of the rest is quite different from that of h. Finnur Jónsson4 is of the opinion that R is the best text throughout; but Heusler5, like Valdimar Ásmundarson, keeps the order of the riddles as in h. Petersen6 regards H as the best text and follows it so far as it goes; but when it breaks off he follows R mainly, although he considers the latter ms. to be defective in many places, “at the beginning, middle and end.” He has supplied the lacunae in it from Arn. Magn. 192, the paper ms. which comes nearest to it, and also from others but with greater reservation. Valdimar Ásmundarson, like Petersen, and no doubt influenced by him, has followed H very closely in his edition of the Saga7 till it breaks off, and after that the paper mss. (h) most closely related to it. He does not appear to have used R, and therefore omits the details of the fight on Samsø and Hjalmar’s Death Song. Ásmundarson’s version has been followed closely in the translation given below, but one or two interesting passages omitted by H have been translated separately (see Appendix on pp. 144-150) from the text printed from R in Wimmer’s Oldnordisk Læsebog8 and from some short excerpts from h printed at the close of Petersen’s edition of the Saga.

For a full bibliography of the texts, translations, and literature dealing with this saga the reader is referred to Islandica, Vol. v, pp. 22-26.

In this saga we have what appears to be the history of a certain family for more than four generations. From the point of view of construction, the story can hardly be regarded as a success. Yet it contains scenes at least equal to any others which can be found among sagas of this kind. It also embodies a considerable amount of poetry which is not found elsewhere. Some of this is of high merit, and one piece, dealing with the battle between the Huns and the Goths, is evidently of great antiquity.

The Saga opens in a purely mythical milieu—with Guthmund in Glasisvellir, to whom we have already had reference in the story of Nornagest. Next we have a typical story of the Viking Age—the adventures of the sons of Arngrim and their fight on Samsø. This story is known to us from other sources, the earliest being the poem Hyndluljóth (str. 24), which according to Finnur Jónsson9 cannot be later in date than the latter part of the tenth century, though Mogk10 is inclined to doubt this. Other references occur in the Saga of Örvar-Odd, Saxo’s Danish History, the later ballads translated below, etc.

We then pass on to the account of Hervör, the daughter of Angantyr (which is only found here and in the ballads), and the striking poem in which she is represented as visiting her father’s grave-mound to obtain his sword.

The next and longest section contains the life of Hervör’s son Heithrek, which is peculiar to this saga and which in its earlier part likewise seems to be a story of the Viking Age. Towards the end, however, it gradually dawns upon us that there has been an unconscious change of scene, and that Heithrek instead of being a Viking prince of the Northern coasts, is now represented as a King of the Goths, somewhere in the East of Europe—apparently in the neighbourhood of the Dnieper. In the last section of the story, dealing with the adventures of Angantyr and Hlöth, the sons of Heithrek, there is no longer any reminiscence of the Viking Age or the North of Europe. Here we are away back among the Goths and Huns in the fifth or the latter part of the fourth century.

Throughout this strange concatenation of scenes a connecting link is afforded by the magic flaming sword, which is handed on from generation to generation, and which can never be sheathed without having dealt a death wound.

It is abundantly clear that the latter part of the story is of a totally different origin from the first part, and in reality many centuries earlier. The prose here is for the most part little more than a paraphrase of the poem, which probably has its roots in poetry of the Gothic period. But how this story came to be joined on to a narrative of the Viking Age is far from clear.

It is also interesting to note that some of the characters in the saga are repetitions of one another. At all events what is said about Hervör the daughter of Heithrek in the latter part of the story bears a strong resemblance to the description of the more prominent Hervör, the daughter of Angantyr, in the first part.

Three poems of considerable length are preserved in the story. The Riddles of Gestumblindi, though somewhat tedious as a whole, afford a better specimen of this type of composition than is to be found elsewhere in early Norse literature. They cannot fail to be of considerable interest to anyone who studies the Anglo-Saxon Riddles, though unlike the latter they are wholly Teutonic in spirit and form. Direct Latin influence appears to be entirely absent.

Gestumblindi’s Riddles, while they belong essentially to popular literature, yet contain many arresting phrases which show a minute observation of nature. They illustrate the condensed, proverbial type of wisdom that prevails in a primitive state of society, as well as its keen interest and delight in the little things of life. They can hardly be called literature as we understand the term; they are rather the stuff of which literature is made. But though it is a far cry from these little nature verses to the more beautiful and more ambitious nature poems of Burns and Tennyson, yet Gestumblindi’s loving interest in “every creature of earth” surprised even King Heithrek into comment. The keen and whimsical observation that noted that even a spider is a “marvel” and that it “carries its knees higher than its body” is the same spirit that inspired a poem to the

Wee sleekit, cowrin’, tim’rous beastie.

The poet who noticed that water falling as hail on rock looks white by contrast, yet forms little black circles when it falls into the sand as rain, had much in common with one who noticed that rock and sand yield opposite sounds when struck by the same object—

Low on the sand and loud on the stone

The last wheel echoed away.

But though these things are pleasing in themselves, they are, of course, slight. Gestumblindi cannot rise to the heights of true poetry reached by Burns or Tennyson.

Besides the Riddles, this saga has preserved for us two far finer poems—in fact two of the finest Norse poems that we possess—the dialogue between Hervör and Angantyr at the Barrows of Samsø, and the narrative of the great battle between the Goths and the Huns, the Chevy Chase of the North. The ruthlessness and barbaric splendour of the Hunnish leaders, the cruelty and the poetry of warfare a thousand years ago, are here vividly depicted in Norse verse at its simplest and best.

We may notice too the little vignettes that appear from time to time both in the poetry itself and in the prose narrative, some of which is evidently derived from lost verses.—Hervör standing at sunrise on the summit of the tower and looking southward towards the forest; Angantyr marshalling his men for battle and remarking drily that there used to be more of them when mead drinking was in question; great clouds of dust rolling over the plain, through which glittered white corslet and golden helmet, as the Hunnish host came riding on.

The dialogue between Hervör and Angantyr, despite a certain melodramatic element in the setting, is treated with great delicacy and poetic feeling, and an atmosphere of terror and mystery pervades the whole poem. The midnight scene in the eerie and deserted burial-ground, the lurid flickering of the grave fires along the lonely beach, the tombs opening one by one as the corpses start to life—all these work on the imagination and create an atmosphere of dread. The poet understood the technique of presenting the supernatural, and he is deliberately vague and suggestive. Much more is implied than is stated, and much is left to the imagination.

The greatest charm of the poem, however, lies in the sympathetic treatment of Hervör. The Hervör of the prose narrative is perfectly consistent with the Hervör of the poem, but at the same time the poem—which is probably more than a century older than the saga—would lead us to conclude that her character was not correctly understood by the writer of the saga. Obviously unsympathetic, he denounces her with an indignation which would have made the writer of the poem smile.

“She grew up to be a beautiful girl … but as soon as she could do anything it was oftener harm than good; and when she had been checked she escaped to the woods…. And when the Earl heard of it he had her caught and brought home.”

The picture which the poem presents to us is that of a high-spirited girl, headstrong and impulsive, not unlike Brynhild in the Völsung story. When she goes to the barrows, every nerve is strung up to gain the treasure that has fired her imagination:

What care I though the death-fires blaze,

They sink and tremble before my gaze,

They quiver out and die!

But a reaction comes when she holds the sword in her hands at last:

Surely in terror I drew my breath

Between the worlds of life and death

When the grave fires girt me round.

Surveying the saga as a whole, perhaps the most striking feature is its extraordinary diversity of interest. It would be difficult to find elsewhere in Norse literature—or indeed perhaps in any literature—so great a variety of subjects and of literary forms brought together within such narrow limits.

Of the poems contained in the saga, the first is romantic, the second gnomic, the third heroic—and the prose narrative itself is not less varied in character. The conclusion of the saga appears to be purely historical; indeed it is generally regarded as one of the most important authorities for early Swedish history. Elsewhere also historical elements are probably not wanting, but they are interwoven in a network of romance and folklore. Thus whoever King Heithrek may have been, the part which he has come to play in the saga is chiefly that of linking together a number of folk-tales and illustrating popular saws. As regards chronology, the war described in ch. 12-15 must belong to a period nearly seven centuries before the incidents related at the close of the saga. Still more strange is the fact that the victor in this war, the younger Angantyr, would seem to have lived some four or five centuries before his great grandfather and namesake who perished at Samsø—if indeed the latter story rests on any genuine tradition. In spite of these and similar inconsistencies, however, the saga is on the whole perhaps the most attractive of all the Fornaldarsögur.

Footnote 1: This ms. is identical with the one referred to as A in the Introduction to the Tháttr of Nornagest (cf. p. 11 above).

Footnote 2: Quoted by Heusler, Eddica Minora (Dortmund, 1903), p. vii.

Footnote 3: Fornaldarsögur Northrlanda (Copenhagen, 1829), Vol. i; Antiquités russes etc. (Copenhagen, 1850-2), Vol. i.

Footnote 4: Oldnorske og Oldislandske Litteraturs Historie, Vol. ii, p. 839 f.

Footnote 5: Eddica Minora, pp. 106-120.

Footnote 6: Cf. Forord to N. M. Petersen’s edition of Hervarar Saga ok Heithreks Konungs (published by the ‘Nordiske Literatur-Samfund,’ Copenhagen, 1847).

Footnote 7: See Fornaldarsögur Northrlanda (Reykjavík, 1891), Vol. i, pp. 309-360.

Footnote 8: Copenhagen, 4th edition, 1889.

Footnote 9: Oldnorske og Oldislandske Litteraturs Historie, Vol. i, p. 201.

Footnote 10: Geschichte der Norwegisch-Isländischen Literatur (Strassburg, 1904), p. 605.]


With Notes in [Square Brackets] by Brian Howard Seibert

Here begins ‘The Saga of King Heithrek the Wise’:

I.  It is said that in the days of old the northern part of Finnmark was called Jötunheimar, and that there was a country called Ymisland to the south between it and Halogaland. These lands were then the home of many giants and half-giants; for there was a great intermixture of races at that time, because the giants took wives from among the people of Ymisland.

There was a king in Jötunheimar called Guthmund. He was a mighty man among the heathen. He dwelt at a place called Grund in the region of Glasisvellir. He was wise and mighty. He and his men lived for many generations, and so heathen men believed that the fields of immortality lay in his realm; and whoever went there cast off sickness or old age and became immortal.

After Guthmund’s death, people worshipped him and called him their god. His son’s name was Höfund. He had second sight and was wise of understanding, and was judge of all suits throughout the neighbouring kingdoms. He never gave an unjust judgment, and no-one dared violate his decision.

There was a man called Hergrim who was a giant dwelling in the rocks. He carried off from Ymisland Ama the daughter of Ymir, and afterwards married her. Their son Thorgrim Halftroll took from Jötunheimar Ögn Alfasprengi, and afterwards married her. Their son was called Grim. She had been betrothed to Starkath Aludreng, who had eight hands; but she was carried off while he was away to the north of Elivagar. When he came home he slew Hergrim in single combat; but Ögn ran herself through with a sword rather than marry Starkath. After that Starkath carried off Alfhild the daughter of King Alf from Alfheimar, but he was afterwards slain by Thor.

Then Alfhild went to her kinsfolk, and Grim was with her there till he went raiding and became a great warrior. He married Bauggerth the daughter of Starkath Aludreng and set up his dwelling on an island off Halogaland called Bolm. He was called Ey-grim Bolm. His son by Bauggerth was called Arngrim the Berserk, who afterwards lived in Bolm and was a very famous man.  [There is a Bolm in Gardariki as well?]

II.°  There was a King called Sigrlami [This is perhaps King Frodi of Saxo’s Book 5] who was said to be a son of Othin. His son Svafrlami [This is Prince Erik, his Kaga-Bek] succeeded to the kingdom after his father and was a very great warrior. One day as the King rode a-hunting he got separated from his men, and at sunset he came upon a big stone and two dwarfs beside it. The King banned them with his graven sword from entering the stone. The dwarfs begged him to spare their lives.

The King said: “What are your names?”

One of them said his name was Dvalin and the other Dulin.

The King said: “As you are the most cunning of all dwarfs you must make me a sword, the best you can. The hilt and the grip must be of gold, and it must cut iron as easily as if it were cloth and never rust; and it must bring victory to whoever uses it in battle and single combat.”

They agreed to this, and the King rode away home.

And when the appointed day came, the King rode to the stone. The dwarfs were outside, and they handed to the King a sword which was very beautiful.

But as Dvalin was standing in the doorway of the stone he said:

“Your sword, Svafrlami, will be the death of a man every time it is drawn; and moreover it will be the instrument of three pieces of villainy; and to you yourself also it shall bring death.”

Then the King struck at the dwarfs with the sword. But they sprang into the stone, and the sword came down on it—sinking so deep that both the ridges of the blade were hidden; for the door into the stone closed as they disappeared. The King called the sword ‘Tyrfing,’ and ever afterwards he carried it in battle and single combat, and was always victorious.

The King had a daughter who was called Eyfura [This is Princess Eyfura Frodisdottir], an exceedingly beautiful and clever girl.

At that time Arngrim [This is Jarl Arngrim who marries Eyfura in Book 5] was raiding among the Perms in the Baltic. He raided the Kingdom of King Svafrlami and fought against him. They met face to face, and King Svafrlami struck at Arngrim who parried the blow with his shield; but the lower part of the shield was cut away and the sword plunged into the earth. Then Arngrim struck off the King’s hand, so that he had to let Tyrfing fall. Arngrim caught up Tyrfing and cut down first the King, and then many others. He took great booty there, and carried off Eyfura, the King’s daughter and took her to his home in Bolm.

By her he had twelve sons [as related in Book 5]. The eldest was Angantyr, then Hervarth, then Hjörvarth, Sæming and Hrani, Brami, Barri, Reifnir, Tind and Bui, and the two Haddings who only did one man’s work between them, because they were twins and the youngest of the family; whereas Angantyr, who was a head taller than other men, did the work of two. They were all berserks, and were unequalled in strength and courage. Even when they went marauding there were never more than just the twelve brothers on one ship. They raided far and wide in many lands, and had much success and won great renown. Angantyr had Tyrfing, and Sæming Mistletoe, Hervarth had Hrotti, and each of the others possessed a sword famous in single combat. And it was their custom when they had only their own men with them, to land when they felt the berserks’ fury coming upon them, and wrestle with trees or great rocks; for they had been known to slay their own men and disable their ship. Great tales were told about them and they became very famous.

[Here we transition from Saxo’s Book 5 to the Saga of Arrow Odd where the twelve sons of Arngrim fight Jarl Hjalmar ‘the Brave’ and Prince Helgi (Oleg) ‘Arrow Odd’ Erikson on Samso Island.]

III.°  One Yule Eve at Bolm, Angantyr made a vow over the pledge cup, as the custom then was, that he would wed Ingibjörg the daughter of King Yngvi of Upsala—the cleverest and most beautiful maiden in all the Northlands—or perish in the attempt and marry no-one else. No more of their vows are recorded.

Tyrfing had this characteristic, that whenever it was unsheathed it shone like a sunbeam, even in the dark, and could only be sheathed with human blood still warm upon it. Never did he whose blood was shed by Tyrfing live to see another day. It is very famous in all stories of the olden days.

Next summer the brothers went to Upsala in Sweden, and when they had entered the hall, Angantyr told the King his vow and that he intended to wed his daughter.

Everybody in the hall listened. Angantyr asked the King to declare what was to be the result of their errand, whereupon Hjalmar the stout-hearted rose from the table, and addressed the King:

“Call to mind, Sire, how much honour I have won for you since I came into your kingdom, and how many times I have risked my life for you. In return for these my services I beg that you will give me your daughter in marriage. And moreover I consider myself more deserving a favourable answer than these berserks, who do harm to everyone.”

The King pondered over the matter, and found it difficult to decide the question in such a way as to give rise to as little trouble as possible; and he answered at last:

“My wish is that Ingibjörg should choose for herself the husband she prefers.”

She replied: “If you want to marry me to anyone, then I would rather have a man whose good qualities I know already than one of whom I have only known by hearsay, and nothing but evil at that.”

Angantyr said: “I will not bandy words with you; for I can see that you love Hjalmar. But as for you, Hjalmar, come south to Samsø and meet me in single combat. If you do not appear next midsummer you will be a coward in the eyes of all men.”

Hjalmar said that he would not fail to come and fight, and the sons of Arngrim went home to their father and told him what had happened. He replied that this was the first time he had ever felt any anxiety on their behalf.

They spent the winter at home, and in the spring made ready to start, going first to Earl Bjartmar, where a feast was made for them. And during the evening Angantyr asked the Earl for the hand of his daughter and in this as in the rest they got their wish. The wedding took place, and afterwards the sons of Arngrim prepared to set out. But the night before they left, Angantyr had a dream which he related to the Earl:

“I dreamed that I and my brothers were in Samsø. We found many birds there and killed all that we saw. Then I dreamed that as we were setting out again upon the island, two eagles flew towards us. I went against one and we had a stiff encounter; and at last we sank down and had no strength left in us. But the other eagle fought with my eleven brothers and overcame them all.”

The Earl said: “The death of mighty men has been revealed to you in this dream.”

Then Angantyr and his brothers went away and came to Samsø, and went ashore to look for Hjalmar; and the story of their adventures there is related in the Saga of Örvar-Odd. First they came to Munarvagar, where they slew all the men from the two ships of Hjalmar and Odd; and afterwards they went ashore and encountered Hjalmar and Odd themselves on the island. Odd slew Angantyr’s eleven brothers, and Hjalmar slew Angantyr, and afterwards died there himself of his wounds.

Then Odd had all the rest of them placed in great barrows with all their weapons; but Hjalmar’s body he took home to Sweden. And when Ingibjörg the King’s daughter saw Hjalmar’s body, she fell down dead and they were both laid together in one barrow at Upsala.

IV.°  The story goes on to say that a girl was born to the daughter of Earl Bjartmar. Everyone advised exposing the child, saying that if she resembled her father’s kinsmen she would not have a womanly disposition. The Earl, however, had her sprinkled with water; and he brought her up, and called her Hervör, saying that the line of Arngrim’s sons would not be extinguished if she were left alive.

[And in The Varangians Book 3 she is instrumental in the death of Arrow Odd and she does carry on the line of Arngrim and Queen Eyfura’s sons by giving birth to Prince Eyfur (Ivar/Igor) ‘the Boneless’ Erikson, aka, King Harde Knute ‘the First’ of Denmark, the first of the Knot Kings or Knytlings, or as Arhus U likes to call him, the first of the Stranger Kings.]

She grew up to be a beautiful girl. She was tall and strong, and trained herself in the use of bow, shield and sword. But as soon as she could do anything it was oftener harm than good; and when she had been checked she ran away to the woods and killed people to provide herself with money. And when the Earl heard of it, he had her caught and brought home, where she remained for a time.

One day she went to the Earl and said: “I want to go away because I am not happy here.”

A little while after she departed alone, dressed and armed like a man, and joined some vikings and stayed with them for a time, calling herself Hervarth. Shortly afterwards the chief of the vikings died, and Hervarth took command of the band.

One day when they sailed to Samsø, Hervarth landed; but her men would not follow her, saying that it was not safe for anyone to be out of doors there by night. Hervarth declared that there was likely to be much treasure in the barrows. She landed on the island towards sunset, but they lay off in Munarvagar. She met a shepherd boy and asked him for information.

He said: “You are a stranger to the island; but come home with me, for it is unsafe for anyone to be out of doors here after sunset; and I am in a hurry to get home.”

Hervarth replied: “Tell me where are ‘Hjörvarth’s Barrows,’ as they are called.”

“You must surely be mad,” replied the boy, “if you want to explore by night what no-one dare visit at mid-day. Burning flame plays over them as soon as the sun has set.”

But Hervarth insisted that she would visit the barrows—whereupon the shepherd said:

“I see that you are a brave man though not a wise one, so I will give you my necklace if you will come home with me.”

But Hervarth replied: “Even if you give me all you have you will not hold me back.”

And when the sun had set, loud rumblings were heard all over the island, and flames leapt out of the barrows. Then the shepherd grew frightened and took to his heels and ran to the wood as fast as he could, without once looking back. Here is a poem giving an account of his talk with Hervör:

Driving his flocks at the fall of day,

In Munarvagar along the bay,

A shepherd met a maid.—

“Who comes to our island here alone?

Haste to seek shelter, the day is done,

The light will quickly fade.”

“I will not seek for a resting place:

A stranger am I to the island race.—

But tell me quick I pray,

Ere thou goest hence, if I may descry

Where the tombs of the children of Arngrim lie:

O tell me, where are they?”

“Forbear from such questions utterly!

Foolish and rash must thou surely be,

And in a desperate plight!

Let us haste from these horrors as fast as we can,

For abroad it is ghastly for children of men

To wander about in the night.”

“My necklace of gold is the price I intend

To pay for thy guidance; for I am the friend

Of vikings, and will not be stayed.”

“No treasures so costly, nor rings of red gold

Shall take me their thrall, or my footsteps withhold,

That thereby my flight be gainsaid.

“Foolish is he who comes here alone

In the fearsome dark when the sun has gone

And the flames are mounting high;—

When earth and fen are alike ablaze,

And tombs burst open before thy gaze:

O faster let us hie!”

“Let us never heed for the snorting blaze,

Nor fear, though over the island ways

Dart tongues of living light.

Let us not lightly give way to fear

Of the noble warriors buried here,

But talk with them tonight.”

But the shepherd lad fled fast away,

Nor stayed to hear what the youth would say,

But into the forest sped;

While in Hervör’s breast rose proud and high

Her hard-knit heart, as she saw near by

The dwellings of the dead.

She could now see the fires of the barrows and the ghosts standing outside; and she approached the barrows fearlessly and passed through the fires as if they had been merely smoke, until she reached the barrow of the berserks. Then she cried:


°Awaken, Angantyr, hearken to me!

The only daughter of Tofa and thee

Is here and bids thee awake!

Give me from out the barrow’s shade

The keen-edged sword which the dwarfs once made

For Svafrlami’s sake.

Hervarth, Hjörvarth, Angantyr,

And Hrani, under the tree-roots here,

I bid you now appear;—

Clad in harness and coat of mail,

With shield and broadsword of biting steel,

Helmet and reddened spear!

The sons of Arngrim are changed indeed

To heaps of dust, and Eyfura’s seed

Has crumbled into mould.—

In Munarvagar will no one speak

To her who has come thus far to seek

Discourse with the men of old?

Hervarth, Hjörvarth, Angantyr

And Hrani, great be your torment here

If ye will not hear my words.

Give me the blade that Dvalin made;

It is ill becoming the ghostly dead

To keep such costly swords!

In your tortured ribs shall my curses bring

A maddening itch and a frenzied sting,

Till ye writhe in agonies,

As if ye were laid to your final rest

Where the ants are swarming within their nest,

And revelling in your thighs!

Then answered Angantyr:

O Hervör, daughter, why dost thou call

Words full of cursing upon us all?

Thou goest to meet thy doom!

Mad art thou grown, and thy wits are fled;

Thy mind is astray, that thou wak’st the dead

—The dwellers in the tomb.

No father buried me where I lie,

Nor other kinsman1 …

The only two who remained unslain

Laid hold on Tyrfing, but now again

One only possesses the sword.

She answered:

Nought save the truth shalt thou tell to me!

May the ancient gods deal ill with thee

If thou harbour Tyrfing there!

Thine only daughter am I, and yet

Unwilling thou art that I should get

That which belongs to thine heir!

It now seemed as if the barrows, which had opened, were surrounded with an unbroken ring of flame. Then Angantyr cried:

The barrows are opening! Before thy gaze

The round of the island is all ablaze,

And the gate of Hell stands wide.

There are spectres abroad that are ghastly to see.

Return, little maiden, right hastily

To thy ship that waits on the tide.

She replied:

No funeral fire that burns by night

Can make me tremble with affright,

Or fear of awful doom.

Thy daughter’s heart can know no fear,

Though a ghost before her should appear

In the doorway of the tomb.


O Hervör, Hervör, hearken to me!

Nought save the truth will I tell to thee

That will surely come about!

Believe me, maiden, Tyrfing will be

A curse upon all thy progeny

Till thy race be blotted out.

A son shalt thou bear, as I prophesy,

Who shall fight with Tyrfing mightily,

And trust to Tyrfing’s might.

I tell thee Heithrek shall be his name,

The noblest man and of greatest fame

Of all under Heaven’s light.


On all you dead this curse I cry:—

Mouldering and rotting shall ye lie

With the spirits in the tomb!

Out of the barrow, Angantyr,

Give me the keen-edged Tyrfing here,

The sword called ‘Hjalmar’s Doom’!


Surely unlike to a mortal thou

To wander about from howe to howe,

And stand in the doorway here!

In the horror of night-time, my little maid,

Thou comest with helmet and byrnie and blade,

And shakest thy graven spear!


A mortal maiden is she who comes,

Arousing the corpses within their tombs,

And will not be denied:—

Give me from out the barrow’s shade

The keen-edged sword that the dwarf-folk made,

Which it ill becomes thee to hide!


The sword that the death-stroke to Hjalmar gave

Lies under my shoulders within the grave,

And wrapped about with flame.

But that maiden lives not in any land

Who dare grasp the weapon within her hand

For any hope of fame.


There lives, O Angantyr, a maid

Who yearns to handle the keen-edged blade,

And such a maid am I!

And what care I though the tomb fires blaze!

They sink and tremble before my gaze,

They quiver out and die!


O Hervör, ’tis folly and madness dire

To rush wide-eyed through the flaming fire

With courage undismayed.

Rather by far will I give to thee

The accursed sword, though unwillingly,

My little, tender maid.


O son of the vikings, well hast thou done

In giving me Tyrfing from out the tomb;

And happier am I today

That I now grasp Tyrfing within my hands

Than if I were queen of the broad Northlands,

And conqueror of Noroway.


Vain is thy rapture, my luckless maid!

Thy hopes are false. All too soon will fade

The flush of joy from thy face.

Try, child, to listen; I am warning thee!—

This sword is the sword of destiny,

The destroyer of all thy race!


Away, away to my ‘ocean-steed’!

The daughter of princes is glad indeed,

O glad at heart today!

And what care I for the destiny

Of children as yet undreamed by me?—

Let them quarrel as they may!


Thou shalt have and enjoy without sorrow or pain

The blade which proved to be Hjalmar’s bane,

If thou draw it not from its sheath.

Worse than a plague is this cursed thing.

Touch not its edges, for poisons cling

Above it and beneath.

Farewell, yet fain would I give to thee

The life that has passed from my brothers and me,

O daughter, ’tis truth I say!

—The strength and vigour and hardihood,

—All that we had that was great and good,

That has vanished and passed away!


Farewell, farewell to all you dead!

Farewell! I would that I were sped!

Farewell all you in the mound!…

Surely in terror I drew my breath

Between the Worlds of Life and Death

When the grave fires girt me round!

Footnote 1: Two lines are missing from the ms. at this point.

Then she returned towards her ships; but when dawn came, she saw that they had departed. The vikings had been scared by the rumblings and the flames on the island. She got a ship to carry her away; but nothing is told of her voyage till she came to Guthmund in Glasisvellir, where she remained all through the winter, still calling herself Hervarth.

VI.°  One day Guthmund was playing chess, and when the game was almost up, he asked if anyone could advise him as to his moves. So Hervarth went up to him and began to direct his moves; and it was not long before Guthmund began to win. Then somebody took up Tyrfing and drew it. When Hervarth saw this, he snatched the sword out of his hands, and slew him, and then left the room. They wanted to rush out in pursuit, but Guthmund said:

“Don’t stir—you will not be avenged on the man so easily as you think, for you don’t know who he is. This woman-man will cost you dear before you take his life.”

After that Hervör spent a long time in piracy and had great success. And when she grew tired of that she went home to the Earl, her mother’s father. There she behaved like other girls, working at her embroidery and fine needlework.

Höfund, the son of Guthmund, heard of this and went and asked for the hand of Hervör, and was accepted; and he took her home.

Höfund was a very wise man and so just in his judgments that he never swerved from giving a correct decision, whether the persons involved were natives or foreigners. And it is from him that the ‘höfund’ or judge of law-suits takes his name in every realm.

He and Hervör had two sons. One was called Angantyr, the other Heithrek. They were both big strong men—sensible and handsome. Angantyr resembled his father in character and was kindly disposed towards everyone. Höfund loved him very much, as indeed did everybody. But however much good he did, Heithrek did still more evil. He was Hervör’s favourite. His foster-father was called Gizur.

One day Höfund held a feast and invited all the chief men in his kingdom except Heithrek. This greatly displeased him, but he put in an appearance all the same, declaring that he would do them some mischief. And when he entered the hall, Angantyr rose and went to meet him and invited him to sit beside him. Heithrek was not cheerful, but he sat till late in the evening after Angantyr had gone; and then he turned to the men who sat on either side of him and worked upon them by his conversation in such a way that they became infuriated with each other. But when Angantyr came back he told them to be quiet. And when Angantyr went out a second time, Heithrek reminded them of his words, and worked upon them to such an extent that one of them struck the other. Then Angantyr returned and persuaded them to keep the peace till morning. And the third time Angantyr went away, Heithrek asked the man who had been struck why he had not the courage to avenge himself. And so effective did his persuasion prove that he who had been struck sprang up and slew his companion. When Angantyr returned, he was displeased at what had taken place. And when Höfund heard of it, he told Heithrek that he must either leave his kingdom or forfeit his life.

So Heithrek went out, and his brother with him. Then his mother came up and gave him Tyrfing. And Heithrek said to her:

“I don’t know when I shall be able to show as much difference in my treatment of my father and mother as they do in their treatment of me. My father proclaims me an outlaw while my mother has given me Tyrfing, which is of more account to me than a great territory. But I shall do that very thing that will most distress my father.”

He then drew the sword, which gleamed and flashed brilliantly, and then he got into a great rage and showed the berserk’s fury coming upon him. The two brothers were alone. Now since Tyrfing had to be the death of a man every time it was drawn, Heithrek dealt his brother his death-blow. Höfund was told of it, and Heithrek escaped at once to the woods. Höfund had a funeral feast made for his son Angantyr, and he was lamented by everybody.

Heithrek got little joy of his deed and lived in the woods for a long time, shooting deer and bears for food. And when he came to think over his position, he reflected that there would be but a poor tale to tell if no-one was to know what had become of him; and it occurred to him that he could even yet become a man famous for deeds of prowess like his ancestors before him. So he went home and sought out his mother and begged her to ask his father to give him some sound advice before they parted. She went to Höfund and asked him to give their son sound advice. Höfund replied that he would give him a little, but added that it would turn out to his disadvantage nevertheless; he said however that he would not ignore his request:

“In the first place he must not aid a man who has slain his liege lord. Secondly, he must not protect a man who has slain one of his comrades. Thirdly, his wife ought not to be always leaving home to visit her relatives. Fourthly, he ought not to stay out late with his sweetheart. Fifthly, he should not ride his best horse when he is in a hurry. Sixthly, he ought not to bring up the child of a man in a better position than himself. Seventhly, let him always be cheerful towards one who comes for hospitality. Eighthly, he should never lay Tyrfing on the ground.—Yet he will not get any benefit from this advice.”

His mother repeated these maxims to him.

Heithrek replied: “This advice must have been given me in a spiteful spirit. It will not be of any use to me.”

His mother gave him a mark of gold at parting, and bade him always bear in mind how sharp his sword was, and how great renown had been won by everyone who had borne it—what great protection its sharp edges afforded to him who wielded it in battle or single combat, and what great success it always had.—Then they parted.

He went on his way; and when he had gone a short distance he came upon some men who were leading a man in bonds. Heithrek asked what the man had done, and they replied that he had betrayed his liege lord. He asked if they would accept money as his ransom, and they said that they were willing to do so. He ransomed the man for half his gold mark.

The man then offered to serve him, but Heithrek replied:

“You would not be faithful to a stranger like me, seeing that you betrayed your liege lord to whom you owed many benefits.”

Shortly after he again came upon some men, of whom one was in bonds. He asked what this man had done, and they replied that he had murdered one of his comrades. He freed him with the other half of his gold mark. This man also offered to serve him, but Heithrek declined.

After that he went on his way till he came to Reithgotaland, where he went to the King who ruled there. His name was Harold, and he was an old man at the time. Heithrek remained for a time with the King, who gave him a cordial welcome.

VII.°  There were two Earls who had plundered the kingdom of King Harold and made it subject to them, and because he was old he paid them tribute every year. Heithrek grew intimate with the King, and eventually it came about that he became the commander of his army and betook himself to raiding, and soon made himself famous for his victories. He proceeded to make war on the Earls who had subdued King Harold’s kingdom, and a stiff fight took place between them. Heithrek fought with Tyrfing and, as in the past, no-one could withstand it, for it cut through steel as easily as cloth; and the result was that he slew both the Earls and put all their army to flight. He then went throughout the kingdom and brought it under King Harold and took hostages, and then returned home. And as a mark of great honour, King Harold went himself to meet him, and he acquired great fame from this. The King gave him his daughter Helga in marriage and with her half his kingdom. Heithrek had the defence of the whole realm in his hands; and this arrangement lasted for a time.

King Harold had a son in his old age. Heithrek also had a son, who was called Angantyr. Presently a great famine began in Reithgotaland (which is now called Jutland) and it threatened to destroy all the inhabitants. So they tried divination, and the answer was that there would be no plenty in Reithgotaland until the noblest boy in the land had been sacrificed. Heithrek said that that was King Harold’s son, but the King declared that Heithrek’s son was the noblest; and there was no escape from this dilemma save by referring it to Höfund, whose decisions were always just.

Thereupon Heithrek went to visit his father, who made him welcome. He asked his father’s decision about this question. Höfund pronounced Heithrek’s son to be the noblest in that land.

“What compensation do you adjudge to me for my loss?” asked Heithrek.

“You shall claim for yourself in compensation every second man in the retinue of King Harold. Beyond that there is no need to give you advice, considering your character and the army that you have under you.”

Then Heithrek went back and summoned a meeting, and told them his father’s opinion:

“He decided that it was my son who must be sacrificed; and as compensation to me he adjudged to me every second man of those who are with King Harold, and I want you to swear an oath that this shall be done.”

And they did so. Then the people demanded that he should give up his son and get them a better harvest. Heithrek then talked with his men after the force had been divided, and demanded fresh oaths of allegiance from them. These they gave, swearing to follow him whether at home or abroad, for whatever purpose he wished.

Then said he: “It appears to me that Othin will have been well compensated for one boy if he gets in place of him King Harold and his son and all his host!”

He then bade his men raise his standard and make an attack on King Harold and slay him and all his host, declaring that he was giving this host to Othin instead of his own son. He caused the altars to be reddened with the blood of King Harold and his son Halfdan, while the Queen took her own life in the temple of the Dís.

Heithrek was now accepted as King throughout the realm. He made love to Sifka the daughter of Humli, a prince from the land of the Huns. Their son was called Hlöth [Hlod is King Frodi’s illegitimate son by Queen Hanund]. He was brought up with his mother’s father.

VIII.°  King Heithrek went out raiding and marched against the land of the Saxons with a great host. The King of the Saxons sent men to meet him and they made peace with one another, and the King invited Heithrek to a banquet. Heithrek accepted the invitation. The result of this banquet was that Heithrek sought the hand of the King’s daughter and married her, receiving much property and land as her dowry; and with that King Heithrek went home to his kingdom. She often used to ask to go to visit her father, and Heithrek was indulgent to her in this matter. Her stepson Angantyr used to go with her.

On one occasion when Heithrek was returning from a raid, he lay in hiding off the land of the Saxons. He landed during the night and entered the building in which his wife was sleeping. He had only one companion with him. All the sentries were asleep. He found a handsome man asleep beside his wife. He took his son Angantyr and carried him away with him, and returned to his ship, having first cut off a lock of the man’s hair.

Next morning he lay to in the King’s berth, and all the people went to greet him; and a feast was prepared in his honour. A little later he had a meeting called and asked if anything was known of his son. The Queen alleged that he had died suddenly. He asked her to guide him to his tomb, and when she said that that would only increase his grief, he replied that he did not mind that. A search was made accordingly, and a dog was found wrapped in a shroud. Heithrek remarked that his son had not changed for the better. Then the King caused the man whom he had found asleep to be brought forward, and he proved to be a bondman. Thereupon Heithrek put away his wife, and then went home to his kingdom.

One summer as Heithrek was away raiding, he went into the land of the Huns and harried there, and Humli his father-in-law fled before him. Heithrek there captured great booty and also Sifka, the daughter of King Humli, and then returned home to his kingdom. Their son was called Hlöth, as we said before. He sent her home shortly after. He also captured another woman called Sifka from Finland. She was the loveliest woman ever seen.

One summer he sent men east to Holmgarth to offer to bring up the child of King Hrollaug [This is perhaps King Roller from Saxo’s Book 5], the most powerful king of the time. This he did because he was anxious to act exactly contrary to the whole of his father’s advice. Messengers came to Holmgarth and told their errand to the King, who had a young son called Horlaug.

The King replied: “Is it likely that I shall send him my son to bring up, when he has betrayed King Harold his father-in-law and his other relatives and friends?”

But the Queen urged: “Do not be so hasty in refusing this, for if you do not accept his offer the result will certainly be war. I expect it will fare with you as with many another, and war with him will be no trifle. Moreover he has a sword which nothing can withstand, and the man who wields it will always be victorious.”

So the King resolved to send his son to Heithrek; and Heithrek was pleased with him and brought him up and loved him much.

Heithrek’s father had also counselled him not to tell secrets to his sweetheart.

IX.°  Every summer King Heithrek went raiding; he always went into the Baltic where he had King Hrollaug’s friendly country at hand. On one occasion King Hrollaug invited him to a feast, and Heithrek consulted his friends as to whether he should accept the invitation. They all tried to dissuade him, bidding him bear in mind his father’s maxims.

“All his maxims will I disregard,” he replied, and sent word to the King that he would be present at the feast.

He divided his host into three parts. One he ordered to guard the ships, the second accompanied him, while the third he ordered to go on shore and conceal themselves in a wood near the house in which the feast was to be held, and to be on the look out in case he should need help. Heithrek went to the feast, and the next day, when the Kings were seated, Heithrek asked where the King’s son, his foster-child, was. A search was made for him, but he could not be found. Heithrek was greatly distressed and retired to bed early; and when Sifka joined him she asked why he was distressed.

“That is a difficult matter to talk about,” replied he, “because my life is at stake if it becomes known.”

She promised to keep the secret, adding:

“Tell me for the sake of the love that is between us.”

So Heithrek began:

“As I was riding to the forest yesterday looking for sport, I caught sight of a wild boar and made a thrust at him with my spear; but I missed my aim and the shaft snapped. Then I leapt down from my horse and drew Tyrfing, which was effective as usual, and I slew the boar. But when I looked round there was no-one by except the King’s son. But it is a peculiarity of Tyrfing that it must be sheathed with human blood still warm upon it, so I slew the lad. Now this will be the end of me if King Hrollaug hears of it, because we have only a small force here.”

Next morning when Sifka came to the Queen, the Queen asked her why Heithrek had been depressed. She said that she did not dare to tell. But the Queen persuaded her to change her mind, so she told the Queen all that Heithrek had told her.

“These are terrible tidings,” cried the Queen, and went off in deep grief and told the King; but she added:

“Yet Heithrek has done this against his will.”

“Your advice has turned out as I expected,” said the King as he left the hall to give orders to his men to arm.

Heithrek had a shrewd notion as to what Sifka had said, and ordered his men to arm themselves secretly, and then to go out in small detachments and try to find out what was happening.

A little later King Hrollaug came in and asked Heithrek to come and have a private talk with him. And when they entered a garden, some men sprang at Heithrek and seized him and cast him into fetters and bound him securely; and he recognised the two men who bound him most tightly as the men whose lives he had saved. The King ordered him to be taken to the forest and hanged. There were two hundred and forty of them all told, and when they entered the forest, King Heithrek’s men sprang out at them with his weapons and standard and a trumpet which they blew as they attacked their foes. Their companions concealed in the woods heard the noise and came out to meet King Heithrek’s men. And when the natives saw that, they all took to their heels; but most of them were slain. The Goths took their King and released him. Heithrek went to his ships after that, taking with him the King’s son whom he had left with the men concealed in the wood.

King Hrollaug now summoned a very large force, and King Heithrek raided in his kingdom wherever he went.

Then said King Hrollaug to the Queen:

“Your advice has turned out badly for me. I find that our son is with Heithrek, and in his present state of anger he will think nothing of making an end of him in his criminal way, just as he slew his own innocent brother.”

“We have been far too easily convinced,” replied the Queen. “You saw how popular he was, when no-one would fetter him except two bad men; and our son is taken good care of. This has been a trick of his to make trial of you, and you offered him a poor return for bringing up your child. Send men to him now, and offer to make it up with him, and to give him so much of your territories as you may agree upon with him; and offer him your daughter too, if we can recover our son. That will be better than that you should part from him in enmity. And even if he already has wide territory, he has not a wife as beautiful as she.”

“I had not intended to offer her to anyone,” replied the King; “but as you are so wise, you shall decide.”

Messengers were sent accordingly to King Heithrek to bring about a reconciliation. A council was held and a reconciliation effected by Heithrek’s marrying Hergerth, the daughter of King Hrollaug; and she brought him as her dowry Wendland, the province which lies nearest to Reithgotaland.

On one occasion the King was riding his best horse as he was conducting Sifka home. It was late in the evening, and when the King came to a river his horse fell dead. Shortly afterwards, when Sifka attempted to embrace him, he threw her down and broke her leg. Afterwards King Heithrek settled down in his own kingdom and became a great sage.

X.° They had a daughter called Hervör who was brought up by a man called Ormar [This is perhaps King Olmar of Kiev]. She was a most beautiful girl, but as tall and strong as a man, and trained herself in the use of bow and arrows.

There was a great man in Reithgotaland called Gestumblindi, who was not on good terms with King Heithrek.

In the King’s retinue there were seven men whose duty it was to decide all the disputes that arose in that country.

King Heithrek worshipped Frey, and he used to give Frey the biggest boar he could find. They regarded it as so sacred that in all important cases they used to take the oath on its bristles. It was the custom to sacrifice this boar at the ‘sacrifice of the herd.’ On Yule Eve the ‘boar of the herd’ was led into the hall before the King. Then men laid their hands on his bristles and made solemn vows. King Heithrek himself made a vow that however deeply a man should have wronged him, if he came into his power he should not be deprived of the chance of receiving a trial by the King’s judges; but he should get off scot free if he could propound riddles which the King could not answer. But when people tried to ask the King riddles, not one was put to him which he could not solve.

The King sent a message to Gestumblindi bidding him come to him on an appointed day; otherwise the King said that he would send to fetch him. Neither alternative pleased Gestumblindi, because he knew himself to be no match for the King in a contest of words; neither did he think he had much to hope from a trial before the judges, for his offences were many. On the other hand, he knew that if the King had to send men to bring him it would cost him his life. Then he proceeded to sacrifice to Othin and to ask his help, promising him great offerings.

One evening a stranger visited Gestumblindi, and said that he also was called Gestumblindi. They were so much alike that neither could be distinguished from the other. They exchanged clothes, and the landowner went into hiding, and everyone thought the stranger was the landowner himself.

This man went to visit the King and greeted him. The King looked at him and was silent.

Gestumblindi said: “I am come, Sire, to make my peace with you.”

“Will you stand trial by the judges?” asked the King.

“Are there no other means of escape?” asked Gestumblindi.

“If,” replied the King, “you can ask me riddles which I cannot answer, you shall go free.”

“I am not likely to be able to do that,” replied Gestumblindi; “yet the alternative is severe.”

“Do you prefer the trial?” asked the King.

“Nay,” said he, “I would rather ask riddles.”

“That is quite in order,” said the King, “and much depends on the issue. If you can get the better of me you shall marry my daughter and none shall gainsay you. Yet I don’t imagine you are very clever, and it has never yet happened that I have been unable to solve the riddles that have been put to me.”

Then a chair was placed for Gestumblindi, and the people began to listen eagerly to the words of wisdom.

Gestumblindi began as follows:

XI.°  I would that I had that which I had yesterday. Guess O King, what that was:—Exhauster of men, retarder of words, yet originator of speech. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it.—Give him some ale. That is what confounds many people’s reason. Some are made garrulous by it, but some become confused in their speech.

Gestumblindi said:

I went from home, I made my way from home, I looked upon a road of roads. A road was beneath me, a road above and a road on every side. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. You went over a bridge, and the course of the river was beneath it, and birds were flying over your head and on either side of you; that was their road; you saw a salmon in the river, and that was his road.

Gestumblindi said:

What was the drink that I had yesterday? It was neither wine nor water, mead nor ale, nor any kind of food; and yet I went away with my thirst quenched. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. You lay in the shade and cooled your lips in dew. But if you are the Gestumblindi I took you for, you are a more intelligent man than I expected; for I had heard that your conversation showed no brains, yet now you are setting to work cleverly.

Gestumblindi said:

I expect that I shall soon come to grief; yet I should like you to listen a while longer.

Then he continued:

Who is that clanging one who traverses hard paths which he has trod before? He kisses very rapidly, has two mouths and walks on gold alone. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. That is the goldsmith’s hammer, with which gold is forged.

Gestumblindi said:

What is that huge one that passes over the earth, swallowing lakes and pools? He fears the wind, but he fears not man, and carries on hostilities against the sun. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. That is fog. One cannot see the sea because of it. Yet as soon as the wind blows, the fog lifts; but men can do nothing to it. Fog kills the sunshine. You have a cunning way of asking riddles and conundrums, whoever you are.

Gestumblindi said:

What is that huge one that controls many things and of which half faces towards Hell? It saves people’s lives and grapples with the earth, if it has a trusty friend. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. That is an anchor with its thick strong cable. It controls many a ship, and grips the earth with one of its flukes which is pointing towards Hell. It is a means of safety to many people. Greatly do I marvel at your readiness of speech and wisdom.

Gestumblindi said:

Ah, but I am now almost at the end of my riddles; yet everyone is eager to save his life.—What lives in high mountains? What falls in deep valleys? What lives without breathing? What is never silent? King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. A raven always lives in high mountains, and dew falls in deep valleys, a fish lives without breathing, and the booming waterfall is never silent.

Things are now becoming serious, said Gestumblindi, and I do not know what is going to happen.—What is the marvel which I have seen outside Delling’s doorway? It points its head towards Hell and turns its feet to the sun. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. That is a leek. Its head grows down into the ground, and its blades upward into the air.

Gestumblindi said:

What is the marvel which I have seen outside Delling’s doorway?—Two restless, lifeless things boiling a wound-leek. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. That is the smith’s bellows which have breath, yet not life.

Gestumblindi said:

What is the marvel which I have seen outside Delling’s doorway?—White fliers smiting the rock, and black fliers burying themselves in sand! King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. But now your riddles are growing trivial. That is hail and rain; for hail beats upon the street; whereas rain-drops fall into the sand and sink into the earth.

Gestumblindi said:

What is the marvel which I have seen outside Delling’s doorway? I saw a black hog wallowing in mud, yet no bristles were standing up on his back. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. That is a dung-beetle. But we have talked too long when dung-beetles come to exercise the wits of great men.

Gestumblindi said:

“It is best to put off misfortune”; and though there are some who overlook this truth, many will want to go on trying. I myself too see now that I shall have to look out for every possible way of escape. What is the marvel that I have seen outside Delling’s doorway? This creature has ten tongues, twenty eyes, forty feet, and walks with difficulty. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. That was a sow with nine little pigs.

Then the King had the sow killed and they found they had killed with her nine little pigs, as Gestumblindi had said.

Then the King said:

I am beginning to suspect that I have to deal with a cleverer man than myself in this business; but I don’t know who you can be.

Gestumblindi said:

I am such as you can see; and I am very anxious to save my life and be quit of this task.

You must go on asking riddles, replied the King, till you have exhausted your stock, or else till I fail to solve them.

Gestumblindi said:

What is the marvel which I have seen outside Delling’s doorway? It flies high, with a whistling sound like the whirring of an eagle. Hard it is to clutch, O King. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. That is an arrow, said the King.

Gestumblindi said:

What is the marvel which I have seen outside Delling’s doorway? It has eight feet and four eyes, and carries its knees higher than its body. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

I notice firstly that you have a long hood; and secondly that you look downwards more than most people, since you observe every creature of the earth.—That is a spider.

Gestumblindi said:

What is the marvel which I have seen outside Delling’s doorway? It shines upon men in every land; and yet wolves are always struggling for it. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. It is the sun. It gives light to every land and shines down on all men. But the wolves are called Skalli and Hatti. Those are the wolves who accompany the sun, one in front and one behind.

Gestumblindi said:

What is the marvel which I have seen outside Delling’s doorway? It was harder than horn, blacker than the raven, whiter than the membrane of an egg, straighter than a shaft. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. You saw an agate, and a sunbeam penetrated the house and shone upon it. But since you seem to be a learned man, can you not propound your riddles without always beginning them in the same way?

Then said Gestumblindi:

Two bond-women, fair-haired brides, were carrying ale to the store-room. The cask was not turned by hands, nor clinched by hammers; and he who made it strutted about outside the islands. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. These are eider duck laying their eggs. The eggs are not made with hammer or hands, and the hand-maidens put the ale into the egg-shell.

Gestumblindi said:

He who has got but a little sword and is very short of learning has to look out for help. I would like to talk still further.—Who are those ladies of the lofty mountain? A woman begets by a woman; a maid has a son by a maid; and these good-wives have no husbands. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. They are two Angelicas joined together, and a young angelica shoot is growing between them.

Gestumblindi said:

Who are the girls who fight without weapons around their lord? The dark red ones always protect him, and the fair ones seek to destroy him. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. That is a game of chess. The pieces smite one another without weapons around the king, and the red assist him.

Gestumblindi said:

Who are the merry-maids who glide over the land for their father’s pleasure? They bear a white shield in winter and a black one in summer. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. Those are ptarmigan.

Gestumblindi said:

Who are the damsels who go sorrowing for their father’s pleasure? These white-hooded ladies have shining hair, and are very wide awake in a gale. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. Those are the billows, which are called Ægir’s maidens.

Gestumblindi said:

Who are the maidens who go about many together for their father’s pleasure? They have brought trouble to many; and these good-wives have no husbands. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. Those are billows like the last.

Gestumblindi said:

Who are the brides who go about the reefs and trail along the firths? These white-hooded ladies have a hard bed and do not play much when the weather is calm. King Heithrek read me this riddle.

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. Those again are Ægir’s maidens; but your pleading has now become so weak that you will have to stand trial by the judges.

Gestumblindi said:

I am loath to do so; and yet I fear that it will very soon come to that. I saw a barrow-dweller pass by, a corpse sitting on a corpse, the blind riding on the blind towards the ocean-path. Lifeless was the steed. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. It is that you came to a river; and an ice-floe was floating along the stream, and on it a dead horse was lying, and on the horse was a dead snake; and thus the blind was carrying the blind when they were all three together.

Gestumblindi said:

What is that beast which slays people’s flocks and is girt around with iron? It has eight horns, yet no head, and it runs when it can. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. That is the Hunn in chess. It has the same name as a bear. It runs as soon as it is thrown.

Gestumblindi said:

What is that beast which protects the Danes? Its back is bloody, but it shields men, encounters spears and saves men’s lives. Man fits his hand to its body. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. That is a shield. It protects many people and often has a bloody back.

Gestumblindi said:

A ‘nose-goose’ (i.e. duck) in former days had grown very big when eager for young. She gathered together her building timber: ‘biters of straw’ sheltered her, and ‘drink’s echoing cavern’ was above her. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. There a duck was sitting on her eggs between the jaws of an ox, which you call ‘biters of straw.’ The ‘echoing cavern’ is the skull, and the ‘building timber,’ the nest.

Gestumblindi said:

Four walking, four hanging, two pointing the way, two warding off the dogs, one, generally dirty, dangling behind! King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. That is a cow. She has four feet and four udders, two horns and two eyes, and the tail dangles behind.

Gestumblindi said:

Who is that solitary one who sleeps in the grey ash and is made from stone only? This greedy one has neither father nor mother. There will he spend his life. King Heithrek, read me this riddle.

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. That is a spark struck by a flint and hidden in the hearth.

Gestumblindi said:

I saw a horse standing….

Then the King said:

My retinue shall read this riddle.

They made many guesses, but not particularly good ones. And when the King saw that they could do nothing he said:

What you call a ‘horse’ is a piece of linen, and his ‘mare’ is the weaver’s rod; and the linen is shaken up and down.

Gestumblindi said:

Who are the thanes who ride to the meeting, sixteen of them together? They send their men far and wide to make homes of their own. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. That is ‘King Itrek’s game.’

Gestumblindi said:

In summer time at sunset I saw the King’s body-guard awake and very joyful. The nobles were drinking their ale in silence, but the ale-butts stood screaming. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. That is a sow with her litter. When the little pigs are feeding, she squeals and they are silent.—But I can’t imagine who you are who can compose such things so deftly out of such unpromising materials!

The King then silently made a sign that the door of the hall was to be closed.

Gestumblindi said:

I saw maidens like dust. Rocks were their beds. They were black and swarthy in the sunshine, but the darker it grew, the fairer they appeared. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. They are pale embers on the hearth.

Gestumblindi said:

I sat on a sail, and saw dead men carrying a channel of blood in the bark of a tree. King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

Your riddle is a good one, Gestumblindi. I have guessed it. You sat on a wall, and watched a hawk flying and carrying an eider duck in its claws.

Gestumblindi said:

Who are those two who have ten feet, three eyes and one tail? King Heithrek, read me this riddle!

Heithrek replied:

You are hard up when you have to turn back to things of long ago to bring forward against me. That is Othin riding his horse Sleipnir. It had eight feet and Othin two, and they had three eyes—Sleipnir two and Othin one.

Gestumblindi said:

Tell me lastly, Heithrek, if you are wiser than any other prince, what did Othin whisper in Balder’s ear, before he was placed upon the pyre?

The King replied:

I am sure it was something scandalous and cowardly and thoroughly contemptible. You are the only person who knows the words which you spoke, you evil and wretched creature.

Then the King drew Tyrfing, and struck at Gestumblindi; but he changed himself into a falcon and flew out through the window of the hall. And the sword struck the tail of the falcon; and that is why it has had a short tail ever since, according to heathen superstition. But Othin had now become wroth with the King for striking at him; and that night he was slain.

XII.°  It is said that King Heithrek had some slaves, nine in all, whom he had taken in a freebooting expedition in the West. They came of noble families, and chafed against their captivity. One night, when King Heithrek lay in bed, attended by only a handful of men, the slaves armed themselves and went to the building in which he lay. They first slew the sentries, and then went and broke into the King’s chamber, and slew the King and all who were within. They took the sword Tyrfing, and all the treasure that they found there, and carried everything off with them.

For a while, no one knew who had done the deed or how vengeance was to be taken. Then Angantyr the son of King Heithrek had a meeting called, and by that assembly he was proclaimed King over all the territories that King Heithrek had held. And at the same meeting he swore a solemn oath that he would never sit on his father’s throne until he had avenged him.

[This Angantyr is King Frodi from Saxo’s Book 5, who was called ‘Hanging Tyr’ because he would sacrifice to Tyr, the god of justice, by hanging men with a live wolf, and Prince Hlod was laying claim to Kiev after he had conquered Gardariki. King Frodi is the Askold and Dir (Angantyr) rulers of Kiev in the Hraes’ Primary Chronicle. Askold could also be Alf ‘the Old’ of Kiev in Arrow Odd’s Saga.]

Shortly after the meeting, Angantyr went away by himself and travelled far and wide searching for these men. One evening he was walking down to the sea along a river called Graf. There he saw three men in a fishing-boat, and presently he saw one of the men catch a fish, and heard him call to one of his companions to hand him a bait-knife to cut off the fish’s head. The man replied that he could not spare it. Then the first man said:

“Take down the sword from over there by the rudder, and hand it to me.”

And he took it and unsheathed it, and cut off the fish’s head, and then spoke a verse:

This pike at the mouth of the river

Has paid the penalty

For the slaughter inflicted on Heithrek,

‘Neath the Mountains of Harvathi.

Angantyr immediately perceived that it was Tyrfing, and went off at once to the wood and waited there till it was dark. And the fishermen rowed to the land, and went to a tent which they had, and lay down and went to sleep. And when it was close on midnight, Angantyr went up to them and pulled down the tent on top of the slaves and slew all nine of them, and carried off the sword Tyrfing as a sign that he had avenged his father. He then went home and had a great funeral feast held to his father’s memory on the banks of the Dnieper, at a place called Arheimar. The kings who ruled at that time were as follows: Humli ruled the Huns, Gizur the Gautar, Angantyr the Goths, Valdar the Danes, Kjar the Gauls; Alrek the Bold ruled the English people.

Hlöth the son of King Heithrek was brought up at the court of King Humli, his grandfather. He was a very handsome and valiant man. There was an old saying at that time that a man was “born with weapons or horses.” And the explanation is that it referred to the weapons which were being forged at the time when the man was born; also to any sheep, beasts, oxen and horses that were born about the same time. These were all given to high-born men as an honour to them, as is here related about Hlöth the son of Heithrek:

In the land of the Huns was Hlöth born

In a holy forest glade,

With ring-bedizened helmet,

With dagger and keen-edged blade,

With byrnie and with broadsword,

And noble prancing steed.

Then Hlöth learnt of the death of his father, and also that his brother Angantyr had been made King over all the territory which their father had held. Then King Humli and Hlöth resolved that Hlöth should go and request his brother Angantyr to allow him a share of his father’s property, and that he should try first by fair words—as is said here:

Hlöth, the heir of Heithrek,

Came riding from the East,

To where Angantyr was holding

King Heithrek’s funeral feast.

He came to his court in Arheimar

Where the Gothic people dwell,

Demanding his share of the heritage left

By the King when he journeyed to Hell.

Hlöth now arrived in Arheimar with a great host as it says here:

He found a warrior hastening

Towards the lofty hall;

And unto this late traveller

Did Hlöth his greeting call:

O man, make haste to enter

This hall that towers so high!

Bid Angantyr speed,

For great is the need

We hold a colloquy.

The men entered and went up to Angantyr’s table and saluted the King, saying:

Hlöth, thy warlike brother,

King Heithrek’s valiant heir,

Has sent me hither to thee,

And bidden me declare

That he wishes to hold converse;

And though he be young indeed,

Yet he looks a mighty champion,

Seated high upon his steed.

And when the King heard that, he flung down his knife upon the table and arose from the feast; and he put on his corslet and took a white shield in one hand and the sword Tyrfing in the other. Then a great din arose in the hall, as is said in the poem:

Then a murmur arose from the warriors,

And all in the hall drew near,

As the warder reported the message of Hlöth:

—Everyone lent an ear;

And the men all awaited with quivering breath

The message of Angantyr.

Then Angantyr said: “Hail, brother! You are welcome! Come in and drink with us, and let us first drink mead in memory of our father, to the honour and glory of us all with full ceremony.”

Hlöth said: “We are come hither for a different purpose than to fill our stomachs.”

Then Hlöth cried:

Of all the possessions of Heithrek

The half do I now demand;

—His spear and blade and treasures,

His cattle and his land,

His handmaids and his bondmen,

And the children to them born,

And the murmuring mill that the bondwomen turn

As they wearily grind the corn.

And half of the far-famed Myrkvith,

And half of the holy grave

Far off mid the Gothic peoples,—

These also will I have.—

Half of the noble pillar

That stands on Danaper’s shore;

And of Heithrek’s castles, land and folk,

And half of his golden store!

Cried Angantyr:

The white-shining shield shall be cloven, brother,

And spear on spear shall ring;

And many a helmet be lowered, brother,

In battle for this thing,

Ere I give thee half my heritage,

Or half of the sword Tyrfing.

But Angantyr added:

I will offer thee wealth in plenty,

And all thy heart’s desire

In store of costly treasure,

And rings of golden fire;

Twelve hundred squires will I give thee,

Twelve hundred prancing steeds;

Twelve hundred men

To attend on them

And arm them for mighty deeds.

And every man whom I give thee

Shall receive a richer store

Of rings and costly treasures

Than ever he had before.—

To every man a maiden!

To every maid a ring!

I will clasp a necklace round her throat,

A necklace fit for a king!

I will case thee all in silver

As thou sittest on thy throne;

And a third of the Gothic peoples

Shall be thine to rule alone;

With gold shalt thou be covered

As thou farest through the land.—

Thou shalt dazzle the sight

As thou walk’st in the light

Like the flame of a fiery brand.

XIII.°  Gizur, a liegeman from the Grytingar, King Heithrek’s foster-father, was with King Angantyr. He was a very old man at that time. And when he heard King Angantyr’s suggestion, he thought that he was offering too much and said:

King Angantyr is generous,

And royal his offering!

For thy mother was merely a bondmaid

Though thou hadst for thy father a King.

And though thou art only an outcast,

Yet a seat of honour was thine,

When the Prince was dividing his treasure and land,

And his portion to each did assign.

Hlöth grew very angry at being called an outcast and the child of a bondwoman, if he accepted his brother’s offer; so he departed at once with all his men and returned home to King Humli, his mother’s father, in the land of the Huns. And he told Humli that Angantyr his brother had not granted him an equal share. King Humli enquired as to all that had passed between them, and was very angry that Hlöth, the son of his daughter, should be called the son of a bondmaid, and he cried:

We will stay in our homes for the winter,

And as princes are wont when they dine,

We will hold high converse together,

Quaffing the costly wine.

We will call on the Hunnish people

To arm them with spear and with shield.—

They shall march to the fight

Right royally dight,

And conquer their foes in the field.

Then he added:

We will summon a mighty host, Hlöth,

And shield on shield will clang,

As the warriors arm them from twelve years old,

And the wild colts gallop along.

And the Huns shall mass

Ere the winter pass,

And assemble a countless throng.

That winter, King Humli and Hlöth remained quiet, but the following spring they collected such a large army that the land of the Huns was swept bare of fighting men. All those of twelve years old and upwards, who were fit for military service and could carry arms, joined the army, and all the horses of two years old and upwards. The host was now so big that thousands and nothing less than thousands could be counted in the legions. And a commander was set over every ‘thousand,’ and a standard was set up over every legion. And there were five ‘thousand’ in each legion, each ‘thousand’ containing thirteen ‘hundreds’, and each ‘hundred’ four times forty men; and these legions were thirty three in number.

When these troops had assembled, they rode through the forest which was called Myrkvith, and which separated the land of the Huns from that of the Goths. And when they emerged from the forest, they came upon a thickly inhabited country with level fields; and on these plains there was a fine fortress. It was under the command of Hervör, the sister of Angantyr and Hlöth, and Ormar, her foster-father was with her. They had been appointed to defend the land against the Hunnish host, and they had a large army there.

XIV.°  It happened one morning at sunrise that as Hervör was standing on the summit of a tower over the gate of the fortress, she looked southwards towards the forest, and saw clouds of dust arising from a great body of horse, by which the sun was hidden for a long time. Next she saw a gleam beneath the dust, as though she were gazing on a mass of gold—fair shields overlaid with gold, gilded helmets and white corslets. Then she perceived that it was the Hunnish host coming on in vast numbers. She descended hastily and called her trumpeter, and bade him sound the assembly.

Then said Hervör: “Take your weapons and arm for battle; and do thou, Ormar, ride against the Huns and offer them battle before the Southern Gate.”

Ormar replied: “I will certainly take my shield and ride with the companies of the Goths. I will challenge the Huns and offer them battle before the Southern Gate.”

Then Ormar rode out of the fortress against the Huns. He called loudly bidding them ride up to the fort, saying:

“Outside the gate of the fortress, in the plains to the south—there will I offer you battle. Let those who arrive first await their foes!”

Then Ormar rode back to the fortress, and found Hervör and all her host armed and ready. They rode forthwith out of the fort with all their host against the Huns, and a great battle began between them. But the Hunnish host was far superior in numbers, so that Hervör’s troops began to suffer heavy losses; and in the end Hervör fell, and a great part of her army round about her. And when Ormar saw her fall, he fled with all those who still survived. Ormar rode day and night as fast as he could to King Angantyr in Arheimar. The Huns then proceeded to ravage and burn throughout the land.

And when Ormar came into the presence of King Angantyr, he cried:

From the south have I journeyed hither

To bear these tidings to thee:—

The whole of the forest of Myrkvith

Is burnt up utterly;

And the land of the Goths is drenched with blood

As our warriors fall and die.

Then he continued:

All of thy noblest warriors

On the field are lying dead.

King Heithrek’s daughter fell by the sword;

She drooped and bowed her head.

Thy sister Hervör is now no more.—

By the Huns was her life-blood shed.

O prouder and lighter the maiden’s step

As she wielded spear and sword

Than if she were sped to her trysting place,

Or her seat at the bridal-board!

When King Angantyr heard that, he drew back his lips, and it was some time before he spoke. Then he said:

“In no brotherly wise hast thou been treated, my noble sister!”

Then he surveyed his retinue, and his band of men was but small; then he cried:

The Gothic warriors were many,

As they sat and drank the mead;

But now when many are called for,

The array is poor indeed!

Not a man in the host will adventure—

Though I offer a rich reward—

To take his shield,

And ride to the field,

To seek out the Hunnish horde.

Then Gizur the Old cried:

I will crave no single farthing,

Nor ringing coin of gold;

I will take my shield

And ride to the field

To the Huns with their myriads untold.

And the message of war that you send to the host

Will I carry, and there unfold.

It was a rule with King Heithrek that if his army was invading a land, and the King of that land had set up hazel stakes to mark the spot on which the battle was to take place, then the vikings should not go raiding till the battle had been fought.

Gizur armed himself with good weapons and leapt on his horse as if he had been a young man. Then he cried to the King:

“Where shall I challenge the host of the Huns to battle?”

King Angantyr replied: “Challenge them to battle at Dylgia and on Dunheith, and upon all the heights of Jösur, where the Goths have often won renown by glorious victories!”

Then Gizur rode away until he came to the host of the Huns. He rode just within earshot, and then called loudly, crying:

Your host is panic stricken,

And your prince is doomed to fall;

Though your banners are waving high in the air,

Yet Othin is wroth with you all.

Come forth to the Jösur Mountains,

On Dylgia and Dunheith come fight;

For I make a sure boast,

In the heart of your host

The javelin of Othin will light!

When Hlöth heard Gizur’s words, he cried:

“Lay hold upon Gizur of the Grytingar, Angantyr’s man, who has come from Arheimar!”

King Humli said: “We must not injure heralds who travel about unattended.”

Gizur cried: “You Hunnish dogs are not going to overcome us with guile.”

Then Gizur struck spurs into his horse and rode back to King Angantyr, and went up to him and saluted him. The King asked him if he had parleyed with the Huns.

Gizur replied: “I spoke with them and I challenged them to meet us on the battle-field of Dunheith and in the valleys of Dylgia.”

Angantyr asked how big the army of the Huns was.

“Their host is very numerous,” replied Gizur. “There are six legions in all, and five ‘thousands’ in every legion, and each ‘thousand’ contains thirteen ‘hundreds,’ and in every ‘hundred’ there are a hundred and sixty men.”

Angantyr asked further questions about the host of the Huns.

He then sent men in all directions to summon every man who was willing to support him and could bear weapons. He then marched to Dunheith with his army, and it was a very great host. There the host of the Huns came against him with an army half as big again as his own.

XV.°  Next day they began their battle, and they fought together the whole day, and at evening they went to their quarters. They continued fighting for eight days, but the princes were then still all unwounded, though none could count the number of the slain. But both day and night troops came thronging round Angantyr’s banner from all quarters; and so it came about that his army never grew less.

The battle now became fiercer than ever. The Huns were desperate, for they now saw that their only chance of escaping annihilation lay in victory, and that sorry would be their lot if they had to ask for quarter from the Goths. The Goths on the other hand were defending their freedom and their native land against the Huns; so they stood fast and encouraged one another to fight on. Then towards the close of the day the Goths made so fierce an attack that the line of the Huns recoiled before it. And when Angantyr saw that, he pressed forward from behind the rampart of shields into the forefront of the battle and grasping Tyrfing in his hand, mowed down both men and horses. Then the ranks fell apart in front of the Kings of the Huns, and Hlöth exchanged blows with his brother. There fell Hlöth and King Humli, and then the Huns took to flight. The Goths cut them down and made such a great slaughter that the rivers were dammed with the bodies and diverted from their courses, and the valleys were full of dead men and horses. Angantyr then went to search among the slain, and found his brother Hlöth. Then he cried:

I offered thee wealth unstinted, brother,

And treasures manifold,—

Riches of cattle and land, brother,

Riches of glittering gold;

But now thou hast wagered and lost in the battle

Thy desires and glories untold.

A curse has fallen upon us, brother,

I have dealt destruction to thee;

And ne’er shall the deed be forgotten, brother;

Full ill is the norns’ decree!

XVI.°  Angantyr ruled Reithgotaland as King for a long time. He was powerful and generous and a great warrior, and lines of kings are sprung from him.

He had a son called Heithrek Wolfskin who ruled after him for a long time in Reithgotaland. Heithrek had a daughter called Hild, who was the mother of Halfdan the Valiant, the father of Ivar Vithfathmi. Ivar Vithfathmi went with his army into the Swedish kingdom, as is told in the Sagas of the Kings. And King Ingjald the Wicked was panic-stricken at the approach of his army, and burned the roof over himself and all his retinue at a place called Ræning. Ivar Vithfathmi then conquered all Sweden. He also subdued Denmark and Courland and the land of the Saxons and Esthonia, and all the eastern realms as far as Russia. He also ruled the land of the Saxons in the West and conquered the part of England which was called Northumbria.

Then he conquered all Denmark and set over it King Valdar, to whom he married his daughter Alfhild. Their sons were Harold Hilditönn and Randver who afterwards fell in England. And when Valdar died in Denmark, Randver got possession of the Danish kingdom and made himself King over it. And King Harold Hilditönn got himself proclaimed King of Gautland, and he afterwards conquered all the kingdoms already mentioned, which King Ivar Vithfathmi had held.

King Randver married Asa, the daughter of King Harold of the Red Moustache from Norway. Their son was Sigurth Hring. King Randver died suddenly, and Sigurth Hring succeeded to the Kingdom of Denmark. He fought against King Harold Hilditönn at the Battle of Bravöll in East Gautland, and there King Harold fell, and a great multitude of his army with him. This battle and the one which Angantyr and his brother Hlöth fought at Dunheith are the battles which have been most famous in stories of old. Never were any greater slaughters made.

King Sigurth Hring ruled the Kingdom of the Danes till the day of his death; and his son Ragnar Lothbrok succeeded him.

Harold Hilditönn had a son called Eystein the Wicked, who succeeded to the Swedish Realm after his father, and ruled it until he was slain by the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok, as is related in the Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok. The sons of Ragnar Lothbrok conquered all the Swedish Kingdom; and after the death of King Ragnar, his son, Björn Ironside, inherited Sweden, and Sigurth Denmark, Hvitserk the Eastern Realm, and Ivar the Boneless England.

The sons of Björn Ironside were Eric and Refil. The latter was a warrior-prince and sea-king. King Eric ruled the Swedish Realm after his father, and lived but a short time. Then Eric the son of Refil succeeded to the Kingdom. He was a great warrior and a very powerful King. The sons of Eric Björnsson were Önund of Upsala and King Björn. Then the Swedish Realm again came to be divided between brothers. They succeeded to the Kingdom on the death of Eric Refilsson. King Björn built a house called ‘Barrow,’ and he himself was called Björn of the Barrow. Bragi the poet was with him. King Önund had a son called Eric, and he succeeded to the throne at Upsala after his father. He was a mighty King. In his days Harold the Fair-haired made himself King of Norway. He was the first to unite the whole of that country under his sway.

Eric at Upsala had a son called Björn, who came to the throne after his father and ruled for a long time. The sons of Björn, Eric the Victorious, and Olaf succeeded to the kingdom after their father. Olaf was the father of Styrbjörn the Strong. In their days King Harold the Fair-haired died. Styrbjörn fought against King Eric his father’s brother at Fyrisvellir, and there Styrbjörn fell. Then Eric ruled Sweden till the day of his death. He married Sigrith the Ambitious. They had a son called Olaf who was accepted as King in Sweden after King Eric. He was only a child at the time and the Swedes carried him about with them, and for this reason they called him ‘Skirt-King,’ and then, later, Olaf the Swede. He ruled for a long time and was a powerful King. He was the first king of Sweden to be converted, and in his days, Sweden was nominally Christian.

King Olaf the Swede had a son called Önund who succeeded him. He died in his bed. In his day fell King Olaf the Saint at Stiklestad. Olaf the Swede had another son called Eymund, who came to the throne after his brother. In his day the Swedes neglected the Christian religion, but he was King for only a short time.

There was a great man of noble family in Sweden called Steinkel. His mother’s name was Astrith, the daughter of Njal the son of Fin the Squinter, from Halogaland; and his father was Rögnvald the Old. Steinkel was an Earl in Sweden at first, and then after the death of Eymund, the Swedes elected him their King. Then the throne passed out of the line of the ancient kings of Sweden. Steinkel was a mighty prince. He married the daughter of King Eymund. He died in his bed in Sweden about the time that King Harold fell in England.

Steinkel had a son called Ingi, who became King of Sweden after Haakon. Ingi was King of Sweden for a long time, and was popular and a good Christian. He tried to put an end to heathen sacrifices in Sweden and commanded all the people to accept Christianity; yet the Swedes held to their ancient faith. King Ingi married a woman called Mær who had a brother called Svein. King Ingi liked Svein better than any other man, and Svein became thereby the greatest man in Sweden. The Swedes considered that King Ingi was violating the ancient law of the land when he took exception to many things which Steinkel his father had permitted, and at an assembly held between the Swedes and King Ingi, they offered him two alternatives, either to follow the old order, or else to abdicate. Then King Ingi spoke up and said that he would not abandon the true faith; whereupon the Swedes raised a shout and pelted him with stones, and drove him from the assembly.

Svein, the King’s brother-in-law, remained behind in the assembly, and offered the Swedes to do sacrifices on their behalf if they would give him the Kingdom. They all agreed to accept Svein’s offer, and he was then recognised as King over all Sweden. A horse was then brought to the assembly and hewn in pieces and cut up for eating, and the sacred tree was smeared with blood. Then all the Swedes abandoned Christianity, and sacrifices were started again. They drove King Ingi away; and he went into Vestergötland. Svein the Sacrificer was King of Sweden for three years.

King Ingi set off with his retinue and some of his followers, though it was but a small force. He then rode eastwards by Småland and into Östergötland and then into Sweden. He rode both day and night, and came upon Svein suddenly in the early morning. They caught him in his house and set it on fire and burned the band of men who were within.

There was a baron called Thjof who was burnt inside. He had been previously in the retinue of Svein the Sacrificer. Svein himself left the house, but was slain immediately.

Thus Ingi once more received the Kingdom of Sweden; and he reestablished Christianity and ruled the Kingdom till the end of his life, when he died in his bed.

King Steinkel had, besides Ingi, another son Hallstein who reigned along with his brother. Hallstein’s sons were Philip and Ingi, and they succeeded to the Kingdom of Sweden after King Ingi the elder. Philip married Ingigerth, the daughter of King Harold the son of Sigurth. He reigned for only a short time.



The following passage is taken from an early text of the Saga of Hervör and Heithrek (ms. 2845 in the Royal Library at Copenhagen) where it occurs immediately after the earl’s speech (“The death of mighty men” etc.) on p. 921.

When the brothers came home they made ready to go to the combat, and their father accompanied them to the ship and gave the sword Tyrfing to Angantyr, saying:

“I think that you will have need of good weapons now.”

He then bade them farewell, and so they parted.

And when the brothers came to Samsø they saw two ships lying in a harbour which was called Munarvag. The ships were of the kind called ‘Ash.’ The brothers concluded that these must be the ships of Hjalmar and Odd the Far-travelling, who was called Örvar-Odd. The sons of Arngrim then drew their swords and gnawed the rims of their shields and worked themselves up into the berserks’ fury. Then they sallied forth, six against each ‘Ash,’ but so brave were the men whom they encountered on board that they all drew their weapons, and not one fled from his post, and not one spoke a word of fear. And the berserks made their way up one side of the ship and down the other and slew them all. Then they landed and began to howl.

Hjalmar and Odd had landed on the Island to find out if the berserks had come. And as they made their way from the forest to join their ships, the berserks were leaving the ships with bloody weapons and drawn swords. But by this time the berserk fury had passed away from them, and at such times their strength is reduced like that of people who are recovering from illness of some kind.

Then said Odd:

I never knew aught of terror

Till today when the berserks came.

They have sailed to this isle in their ashen ships,

All twelve devoid of shame,

And landed with many a whoop and yell,

Those wretches of evil fame.

Then said Hjalmar to Odd: “Do you see that all our men are fallen? It is my belief that we shall all be Othin’s guests tonight in Valhalla.”

—And it is said that that was the only word of fear ever uttered by Hjalmar.

Odd replied: “My advice would be that we should make off to the wood; for we shall never be able to put up a fight, being only two against twelve—and twelve too who have slain the twelve bravest men in Sweden.”

Then said Hjalmar: “We will never flee from our foes. Rather will we suffer the worst that their weapons can inflict. I am going to fight against the berserks.”

“Not so,” replied Odd; “I have no mind to visit Othin tonight. It is all these berserks who must perish before evening comes; but you and I will be left alive.”

An account of their dialogue is found in these verses which Hjalmar chanted:

Twelve berserks hasten onward,

Inglorious warriors;—

Leaving their warships on they come;

And when night’s shadow lowers

We two shall feast in Othin’s hall,

Leaving them conquerors.

But Odd replied:

This is the answer I give thee:—

In Othin’s hall tonight,

Twelve berserks shall feast,

Every one as a guest,

While we shall live on in the light.

Hjalmar and Odd saw that Angantyr had Tyrfing in his hand, for it flashed like a sunbeam.

Hjalmar said: “Will you fight against Angantyr alone, or against all his eleven brothers?”

“I will fight against Angantyr,” replied Odd; “He will give mighty strokes with Tyrfing; but I have more faith in the protection of my shirt than in that of your mail-coat.”

Then cried Hjalmar: “When did you and I ever go to battle and you took the lead of me? You want to fight Angantyr because you hold that to be the deed of greater prowess. I am the leader in this combat, however, and far other was the vow I made to the daughter of the King of the Swedes than to let you or anybody else come before me in the fight. It is I who am going to fight Angantyr.”

And with that he drew his sword and stepped forth to meet Angantyr and they commended one another to Valhalla2. Hjalmar and Angantyr then made ready for the combat, and mighty strokes fell thick and fast between them.

Odd called to the berserks, saying:

Man to man should a warrior fight

Who would win a well-fought day,—

Unless it be that his courage fail,

Or his valour has ebbed away.

Then Hjörvarth advanced, and he and Odd had a stiff encounter; but Odd’s silken shirt was so strong that no weapon could pierce it. And so good was his sword that it cut through iron as easily as cloth; and few strokes had he dealt ere Hjörvarth fell dead.

Then Hervarth came on and the same thing happened;—then Hrani, then each of the others in turn. And with such force did Odd encounter them all that he slew every one of the eleven brothers. As for the combat between Hjalmar and Angantyr, the upshot was that Hjalmar was wounded in sixteen places, and then Angantyr fell dead.

Then Odd went over to where Hjalmar lay and cried:

O Hjalmar! Why has thy face grown pale

As the face of men who die?

Wide gape the rents in byrnie and helm,

And I fear that the end draws nigh;

And the strength of manhood has gone from thine arm,

And the light of life from thine eye.

Hjalmar made answer3:

With sixteen wounds is my mailcoat rent,

And the world is fading fast.

Blindly I tread in the gathering gloom,

Pierced to the heart at the last

By Angantyr’s sword with its pitiless point

And its edges in poison cast.

*I have given no cause to Ingibjörg

To hold my prowess light;

It shall never be said by our maidens at home

That I gave one thought to flight.

They shall hear how the battle was fought and won.—

How I wielded my sword in the fight.

Five manors were mine, all nobly appointed,

Where I might have tarried and made good cheer.

Yet my heart was stirred by a restless longing

That urged me onward to Samsø here,

Where, pierced by the sword, with my life blood out pouring,

I shall linger and die on this island so drear.

In my mind I can see the henchmen

Drinking mead in my father’s hall.—

A circle of gold is round every throat,

And joy is among them all.

My merry companions are drinking their ale,

Till thought and care are no more,

While I, torn with wounds from a murderous sword,

Perish here on this island shore.

*The lofty halls of Sigtun,

I see them from far away;

And the maidens who sought to withhold us

As we hastened forth on our way.

I shall never again see those maidens,

Or talk with the warriors bold,

Or drink fair ale in the King’s high hall,

As I did in the days of old.

In my heart a voice still lingers,

The voice of a maiden fair,

Who rode with me forth to Agni’s meads,

And bade farewell to me there.

And true, too true, were the words she spake

From the depths of her despair,

That never again should I touch her lips,

Or tangle her golden hair.

In my ear a song is ringing,

An echo from out the East,—

I heard it from Soti’s cliffs on the night

When I left my friends at the feast.

How could I know that never again

Should I hear the maidens’ lay,

As I hastened forth with my heart aflame,

And my good ship sailed away?

*In token of what has befallen,

My helmet and corslet take,

And bear them forth to the King’s high hall.—

‘Tis the last request I make.

The prince’s daughter, fair Ingibjörg,

Will be stricken with grief and pain

When she looks on my good shield hacked and rent,

And knows that her love was vain.

Draw from my arm this token,

This ring of gleaming gold:

And bear it to Ingibjörg the fair,

Lest she deem my love grown cold.

Young is the maid to bear the sorrow

Her heart must then endure,

When I ride not home to greet her,

When I keep not my tryst as of yore

*I left the youthful Ingibjörg

Upon that fateful day,

When rashly we placed our fortunes

In the hands of Destiny.

O heavy will be the maiden’s grief,

The sorrow she must endure

When she knows I have fallen in battle,

And will enter her hall no more.

From the tree tops away to the Eastward

There gather a loathly brood:—

Raven and eagle are swooping

To wet their bills in my blood.

Full many a feast has the eagle had

Of carrion slain by me:

I have fought my last fight,

And I pass to the night;

And now he shall feast on me.

Then Hjalmar died4. Odd brought the tidings to Sweden; and the King’s daughter could not bear to live after Hjalmar, so she took her own life. Angantyr and his brothers were laid in a barrow in Samsø with all their weapons.

Footnote 1: Printed in Wimmer’s Oldnordisk Læsebog (4th ed.) p. 29 ff. The poetry is also found, though with many divergent readings, in Örvar-Odds Saga, ch. 14 (Fornaldarsögur, Vol. ii, p. 217 ff.).

Footnote 2: In late (paper) mss. the following passage is here added.—”Angantyr said: ‘It is my wish that if any of us escapes from here we should not rob one another of our weapons. If I die, I wish to have Tyrfing in the barrow with me. Odd likewise shall have his shirt and Hjalmar his weapons!’ And they agreed that those who were left alive were to raise a barrow for the others.”

Then follows a long description of the fighting.

Footnote 3: This poem is given more fully in Örvar-Odds Saga than in Hervarar Saga. The strophes which occur only in the former are marked with an asterisk. I have re-arranged the order of the stanzas, in regard to which there is considerable variation between the two texts.

Footnote 4: In paper mss. the following passage occurs here:

“Odd remained there all night. In the morning he brought together the bodies of all the berserks and then set about building barrows. The islanders built chambers of great oaks as Odd directed them, and then piled up stones and sand on the top. They were strongly constructed, and it was a great achievement. Odd was busy at this work for a fortnight. Then he placed the berserks in with their weapons and closed the barrows. After this Odd took Hjalmar’s body and carried it to a ship and conveyed it to Sweden.”



I. The ballads of the Faroe Islands aroused the interest of Ole Worm as early as 1639; but the five ballads which he took down are no longer extant, and we know of them only from a reference by Peder Syv1 towards the close of the seventeenth century. In 1673 Lucas Debes2 wrote a description of the islands which contained an account of their dances and songs; but unfortunately he did not transcribe any of the ballads. Indeed the balladry and songs attracted little general attention till the close of the eighteenth century, when Jens Kristjan Svabo devoted himself to a careful study of the language and a collection of the ballads of his native Islands.

In 1781-2, during a visit to the Faroes, Svabo turned his attention especially to Faroese folk-songs and made a ms. collection of fifty-two ballads, which were purchased by the Crown Prince and presented to the Royal Library at Copenhagen. It is interesting to note that Svabo, like his contemporary Bishop Percy3, thought it necessary to apologise in his preface for making the collection, and humbly claims for it an interest merely antiquarian. It is clear, however from his tone throughout the Preface, that Svabo had a far more scholarly appreciation of the value of his material than had Percy. Indeed it would be difficult to overestimate the debt which all succeeding students of Faroese ballads owe to him. Disappointed in his hopes of public recognition of his work done for the Civil Service, he retired to the Islands, where, in solitude and poverty, he devoted himself, till his death in 1829, to the collection and transcription of ballad material. His personal help and example inspired other Faroe-islanders to make collections for themselves, some of which, notably Klemmentsen’s Sandoyjarbók, are among our best authorities for the ballads today. His own ballad collection, still in ms. in the Royal Library at Copenhagen, has never been published; but Schrøter, Lyngbye and Hammershaimb all owed their incentive and inspiration to his work. To study the history of Faroese ballad collections without realising the force of Svabo’s personality is to leave Hamlet out of the play.

In 1817 the Danish botanist, Hans Kristjan Lyngbye visited the Faroes, where he became acquainted with “the learned Svabo” as he calls him, and also with Johan Henrik Schrøter, a clergyman on Suderø, himself a keenly interested ballad collector, and, incidentally, the first to make a collection of Faroese folk-tales in prose. Partly from these men, and partly from oral recitations and material supplied by Provost Hentze, Lyngbye was able to gather together a considerable body of Faroese ballads which, with the support and encouragement of Bishop P. E. Müller, he published at Copenhagen in 1822, under the title of Færöiske Kvæder om Sigurd Fofnersbane og hans Æt.

Unfortunately Lyngbye knew no Icelandic and very little Faroese, and his work necessarily suffers in consequence. Still more unfortunate was his unscientific handling of material and lack of literary conscience, which permitted his cutting out, adding and transposing stanzas—and again we are reminded of the Reliques—till the original form of a ballad is sometimes entirely lost. Fortunately, however, most of the material that he had at his command is still preserved. It is to be noted that the qualities which go to make an ideal collector of ballads do not always imply an ideal editor of the material collected. The great collector of Jutland ballads and folk-lore, Evald Tang Kristensen, has started a new and sounder tradition by a reverent in-gathering of all that formed part of the common stock of peasant lore in his day4. The sifting of material is wisely left to the trained scholar, and, one hopes, to a later and less intrepid generation5.

The tradition started by Svabo and Lyngbye was carried on by V. U. Hammershaimb, himself a native of the Islands and a great lover of Faroese folk-lore. During the years 1847-8, and again in 1853, he visited the Faroes expressly to study the dialects, and to collect the native ballads and folklore, which he published under the title of Færöiske Kvæder in the Nordiske Literatur-Samfund, the Antiquarisk Tidsskrift, etc.

Like Svabo, Hammershaimb eventually returned and settled on the Faroes; but unfortunately, owing to the pressure of his administrative duties, he was never able to spare time for a final revision of his collection, though urged repeatedly to the work by his friend Svend Grundtvig. Ultimately, however, when Grundtvig himself undertook to make an exhaustive critical edition of the Faroese ballads in all their variant forms, Hammershaimb placed all his material in his hands.

Svend Grundtvig and his colleague J. Bloch, of the Royal Library staff, completed in 1876 their great fifteen vol. ms. collection of Faroese ballads with all their known variants, Føroyja KvæðiCorpus Carminum FaeroensiumFærøernes Gamle Folkeviser. This was afterwards increased by Bloch to sixteen volumes by the addition of much new material, some of which was collected by Jakobsen in his journey to the Faroes in 18876. Before beginning the work Grundtvig had every available version, whether in public or private hands, at his disposal, so that he had a magnificent apparatus criticus. Unfortunately the work has never been published, so that owing to the difficulties of communication with Denmark (which have proved to be insuperable) it has been impossible for me to consult it. The first three volumes, however, which include all the Faroese ballads translated below, are based on Hammershaimb’s collections of 1851-1855. Hammershaimb was himself a genuine scholar with a sensitive literary conscience and a thorough knowledge of all the Faroese dialects, and his work is spoken of in the highest terms by Grundtvig in his article on the Corpus Carminum Faroensium7. Moreover Hammershaimb had consulted all the other available versions of these ballads before printing; so that it is improbable that when a comparison of the texts can be made much alteration will be required.

II. The Faroe Islands are probably the only place to be found in Western Europe where ballads are still sung to the accompaniment of the dance. The dance and song, it must be confessed, are gradually losing their original character, while the ballads are often long and unwieldy, sometimes, as in the Ballad of Ívint Herintsson, running to five divisions (Tættir) and over three hundred and fifty verses. The verses are frequently chanted in a solemn recitative, while the ballad tunes tend to be confined chiefly to the refrains. The method of supplying the melody, however, is subject to almost endless variation. Sometimes old native folk tunes are attached to special ballads, e.g. in the case of Vi hugged mid kaarde; sometimes native ballads are sung to Danish folk melodies and refrains as, e.g. Grindevisen, sung to the tune of the Danish Burmand holder i Fjældet ut. Sometimes in the Faroese repertoire, Norse ballads are found complete with their own melodies, e.g. Sømandsviserne, or sung to Danish folk-tunes, e.g. Zinklars Vise. Most curious of all is the method not infrequently resorted to in modern times of singing native ballads, often of modern origin, to the tunes of the Protestant Psalmody—a custom which may have had its origin in the common practice of singing both ballads and psalms on all momentous occasions, such as on the night of a wedding, or before starting on a big fishing expedition. The Islanders have little idea of tone or melody and do not sing well; and eye-witnesses of some of the ballad dances at Thorshaven aver that the tunes sound less like dance music than melancholy dirges. In Folkesangen paa Færøerne (Færøske Kvadmelodier), pp. 85-140, Thuren has published a large number of original ballad tunes. The characteristic motifs of folk tunes are traceable throughout, as well as their elusive qualities. Thus we find, side by side with airs based on the ordinary major and minor scales, others which, like mediaeval church music, are based on a ‘modal’ or ‘gapped’ tonal system. Indeed traces of the pentatonic scale are not infrequently met with, especially in the tunes attached to the earlier ballads. The majority of Faroese melodies, however, have only one gap and have more in common with the system of notation found in Gregorian music than with the pentatonic scale of many Hebridean lays. A further characteristic of folk music which appears in most Faroese airs is the curious form of close which rarely occurs on the tonic. Not infrequently the theme ends on the leading note or supertonic which strikes the ear with a perpetual surprise, the cadence leading one to anticipate a repetition rather than a conclusion of the air. The reason is that these tunes, like many folk songs from Somerset, the Appalachians and the Hebrides, were ‘circular,’ that is, formed for continuous repetition to suit the lengthy nature of the songs and ballads.

The ballad however is not a mere historical relic on the Faroes, but a living literary form. The simplicity of the life, and the absence of class distinction8, still constitute an atmosphere in some respects not unlike that of Mediaeval Denmark, and the ballad is the favourite form of artistic expression. A whale-hunt, a shipwreck, or the adventures of fishermen in the far north are still made the subject of a new ballad, composed by one or more of the community; and if the result finds general favour it is added to the ballad repertoire along with the ballads of Sir Tristram or Childe Sigurth9.

In his description of his travels on the Faroes 1847-8, V. U. Hammershaimb10 says that he took down the greater number of his ballads at Sumbø on Suderø, the most southerly village in the Islands. He describes the ballad dance as follows:

It is the custom here that the same ballad should not be sung more than once a year11 in the ‘dancing-chamber,’ so that the repertoire is obviously extensive, seeing that they dance at wedding feasts, generally for three days and nights without cessation. In the special dancing season from Yule till Lent, the ballads are danced not only on Sundays but also on the so-called ‘Feast Days.’ (They do not dance again from the beginning of Lent till the day after Christmas.) The dance at Sumbø has characteristics of its own which differ from those of the rest of the Faroes. The people here generally sing well and know how to put expression into the actual dance. Elsewhere on the Islands this is now for the most part reduced to a uniform stamp with the feet, marking the melody of the ballad. Moreover they still continue here in common use both the ‘Walking Verse’ (stigingar stev) and the more rapid measure ‘Tripping Verse’ (trókingar stev) of the Round Dance, in which, as a rule, the dancers hold one another by the hand, forming a circle, dancing backwards while the verse (örindi) is sung, and reversing the movement with considerable energy during the singing of the refrain (viðgangur, niðurlág, stev). This round dance is characteristic of Sumbø12.

For the most part the dance is now performed with the same speed in both verse and refrain13, and though little changed since Hammershaimb wrote, it tends more and more to become a solemn and joyless function; and there is a curious unanimity today among eyewitnesses as to the depressing effect it has on them. Hjalmar Thuren, writing in later times (1908), furnishes some additional information as to the manner of the ballad dance14. The ballads are danced with special zest on the 29th of July, the day of the anniversary of the death of Saint Olaf, when all the islanders who can leave their homes flock to Thorshaven and dance from sunset till sunrise. Sometimes the ballads are danced in the open air, and it has been the custom in certain districts from ancient times to hold assemblies for dancing out in the fields on certain fixed days. On the 12th Sunday after Trinity people meet in definite places on the Northern Islands. On the other hand the dance is often the spontaneous outcome of the desire of the moment, “as much to keep themselves warm as for the sake of entertainment.” Thus after a whale-hunt the men sometimes dance in their wet, bloody clothes, singing the popular ballad of the ca’ing whale with the refrain:

To us bold men great joy it is

To slay a whale!

The dance is always accompanied by song, but instrumental music has never been in use on the Faroes. The time and character of the dance are indicated at the beginning of the ballad by the precentor. This post of honour was originally much sought after and some precentors were famous over the islands for their special rendering of certain ballads, some of which were family possessions in the old days.

When a ballad is concluded, one of those who are taking part straightway begins on a new one, the dance frequently continuing uninterrupted, even when the song is ended. The precentor must have a strong voice and great powers of endurance as the ballads are often very long. He is generally of a lively disposition with some dramatic power, so that by imitating his gesticulations the dancers give character and individuality to the ballad. Thus in the refrain to the Death-Song of Ragnar Loðbrók:

We struck with the sword

the dancers stamp on the floor and clap hands together; but they are solemn and silent during the singing of a sorrowful ballad such as

Queen Dagmar lies sick, etc.

With the ballad dances of the Faroes it is interesting to compare the ballad dances of the Ukraine and also the choral dances of a community so far removed as the Torres Straits. Of these latter Dr Haddon writes15:

The dancing-ground was an oblong space…. The drummer with the singers generally struck up a song, but sometimes the dancers sang a refrain or called for a song by name. Each song seemed to be associated with its own particular dance and to be accompanied by some story or incident which was illustrated by the movements of the dancers.

A much closer parallel, however, is furnished by the Ҳороводъ or choral dance of Little Russia. The Ҳороводъ, according to the account of an eye witness16, is not only a song sung to the accompaniment of a dance; but the song is narrative in form and answers in all respects to the ballad of North Western Europe. The dancers join hands and dance in a circle from west to east, in a contrary direction to the sun’s movements—withershins as the Scots peasants have it. Then, because it is considered unlucky to do anything withershins, in the refrain the motion is reversed and the dancers pass from east to west, to counteract the baleful effects of the first direction. Here too, however, it is interesting to note, the dance is sometimes stationary.

III. Into the rise of the ballads on the Faroes and their exact relation of form and content to the Icelandic Fornkvæði17, and to the Viser of Norway18, Sweden19, and above all of Denmark20, it is impossible to enter here. Perhaps the relationship between the ballads of the various countries of the North will never be fully understood. The ramifications are too many and too complex, while too many links in the chain have already been lost in the “scrubby paper books” such as that with which Bishop Percy found the housemaid lighting the parlour fire. And those who would too hastily dogmatise on the ‘conveyance’, translation, and borrowing of the various versions receive a wholesome warning from Dr Axel Olrik’s analysis21 of the ancestry and parallel versions of the Scots, Icelandic, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish forms of the ballads of Earl Brand (Dan. Riboldsvisen). Moreover it is no easier to generalise about the sources of the Faroese ballad material than about the Danish. The motif of the Faroese Tristrams Táttur, also found in the Icelandic ballad of Tristram comes ultimately (through the Tristram’s Saga one would suppose) from a French romance; that of Nornagest, changed though it is in form, is surely founded on the Icelandic Saga; Olufu Kvæði comes no doubt from a Spanish story; and the motif of the Scots ballad of Binnorie is “found also among the people of Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and the Faroes22.”

It would be pleasant to develop a theory that the purveyors of ballad material were the sailors and merchants who plied up and down the great trade routes in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, or even earlier. It has been suggested by Professor Ker23 and others that Shetland may have been “the chief meeting-place or trading station between the ballads of Scotland and Norway.” The Shetland ballad of Sir Orfeo actually has a refrain in Norn, the Norse dialect spoken in Shetland and the small neighbouring islands till the eighteenth century; while the ballad of Hildina taken down by Low24 on the Island of Foula off Shetland (cf. p. 217 below) is entirely composed in Norn. Indeed we know from Low’s account25 that many ballads and songs must have perished with the language:

Nothing remains but a few names of things and two or three remnants of songs which one old man can repeat;

and further on he continues:

Most of the fragments they have are old historical ballads and romances…. William Henry, a farmer in Guttorm in Foula has the most knowledge of any I found; he spoke of three kinds of poetry used in Norn, and repeated or sung by the old men; the Ballad (or Romance, I suppose); the Vysie or vyse, now commonly sung to dancers26; and the simple song…. Most of all their tales are relative to the history of Norway; they seem to know little of the rest of Europe but by names; Norwegian transactions they have at their fingers’ ends.

One would like to have known more about Norn and its ‘Vysies,’ which might have formed an interesting and instructive link between some of the Northern ballads. On the other hand, the Scandinavian colonies in Ireland, and settlers in English ports such as Bristol, may have done not a little, through their trade with France and the Mediterranean countries, to spread the new rhyming four line verse and the romantic stories of southern and eastern Europe27.

While this obscurity remains as to the connection between the Faroese ballads and those of neighbouring countries, notably Denmark, the questions of the age and origin of many of the Faroese ballads in their present form are also frought with difficulty. Of the Danish ballads, which sometimes offer parallels so close as to suggest translation from one language to the other, the first MS. collection that can be dated with certainty was written down in 1550. But there is much evidence, both internal and external, for assigning a much earlier date to the historical ballads at least. It has been suggested by Olrik28, who supports his view by arguments which it would be extremely difficult to contest, that many of the historical ballads are practically contemporaneous with the events which they describe, and some of these took place in the thirteenth century, while others, e.g. Riboldsvisen, are possibly of the twelfth century.

Unfortunately we have fewer data, whether philological or historical, for assigning dates to the Faroese ballads than we have for the Danish. There can be little doubt, however, that the ballads translated below had their origin in the Fornaldar Sögur composed in Iceland during the thirteenth century or in some fourteenth century Rímur derived from the sagas. That many of the Faroese ballads were literary in origin29, and were based on either Sagas or Rímur, is conclusively established by the opening lines of many of the ballads themselves, notably that of the Olufu Ríma:

Ein er ríman ur Íslandi komin,

Skrívað í bók so breiða.

(“This story is come from Iceland, written in a book so broad.”)

And Tröllini í Hornalandum:

Verse 1.   Frøðíð er komið frá Íslandí

Skrívað í bók so víða etc.

Verse 2.   Frøðið er komið frá Íslandi

Skrívað í bók so breiða etc.

Verse 3.   Frøðið er komið frá Íslandi

Higar ið skald tað tók,

Havið tær hoyrt um kongin tann,

Íð skrívaður stendur í bók?

(“This poem has come from Iceland, brought hither by a skald. Have you heard of the king about whom this book is written?”)

The passages quoted above would seem to point to Rímur rather than Sagas as the sources of the ballads. Or had more than one “Book so broad” come from Iceland? One wonders. Heusler notices30 the tendency to divide up the longer ballads into sections or Tættir, each whole in itself and yet forming a part of the ballad, and suggests the Icelandic Rímur as the models for this particular form. It is even possible that the word Ríma is used advisedly in the first strophe of Olufu Kvæði, instead of the somewhat commoner Kvæði, with some reminiscence of its origin. One of the Sjurðar Kvæði (Dvörgamoy III) begins:

Eina veit eg rímuna,

Íð inni hevir ligið leingi.

(I know a rhyme (or Ríma?) etc.)

and Rísin í Holmgarð also begins:

Eg veit eina rímuna,

Íð gjörd er um Virgar sterka.

Many other instances might be quoted.

But it would be perilous to press too far what may, after all, be a mere verbal coincidence. And whatever gave rise to our poems as they now stand, it cannot be too strongly emphasised that they, like the rest of the Føroyja Kvæði, are first and last Ballads—rightly ballads. They have a form of their own, like other ballads, and are not a degenerate form of Rímur or a mere versification of some old Icelandic legends. Indeed what Professor Ker says of the Danish ballads31 may with equal truth be applied to the ballads of the Faroes:

The ballads are not rude, rustic travesties of older more dignified stories; though some, perhaps many, of the older stories may survive among the ballads. They are for Denmark in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries what the older heroic lays of the Poetic Edda had been before them in the Northern lands. They take the place of earlier heroic poetry.

Whatever the nature of their connection with the ballads of the surrounding lands, the Faroese ballads are no isolated growth. They exhibit all the main characteristics of the ballad type, especially of the Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic ballads. Crude and inartistic they often are compared with the best of the Danish and even the Scottish ballads. The Ballad of Hjalmar and Angantyr has little to recommend it beyond its simplicity and naïveté, the ‘quaintness’ of primitive literature; the Ballad of Arngrim’s Sons exhibits a curious lack of skill in the manipulation of the theme, and perhaps we are justified in assuming that two earlier ballads or perhaps tættir have been imperfectly welded. The Ballad of Nornagest is bald to a fault and lacks inspiration; and all alike show an imperfect artistry in diction.

Yet despite all these blemishes they are ballads as surely as Sir Patrick Spens or Ungen Sveidal are ballads. Nor is Professor Ker quite just to the ballads of the Faroes in saying32 that because of their length, and “because they were made out of books, nothing but the lyrical form and the dancing custom kept them from turning into ordinary romances.” Surely no material could be less promising than King Heithrek’s Riddles; yet in virtue of what has been forgotten and what has been selected—the telescoping of the riddles and the elaboration of the setting—the ballad spirit has entered in and shaped from the unwieldy mass an artistic whole.

Indeed whatever their faults one realises in all these ballads the truth of Sidgwick’s epigram33: “You never know what a ballad will say next, though you do know how it is going to say it!” For it is even less similarity of theme than similarity of form that links the ballads of the Faroes with those of Denmark and the North. The invariable accompaniment of the refrain; the fluctuation between assonance and rhyme, the disregard of alliteration, and the general verse form; the love of repetition and ballad formulae,—especially of repetition of whole phrases or verses with the alteration of merely the words that rhyme, or of repetition with inversion of word order; the balladist’s love of colour, of the material and the concrete, of glitter and shine; the large element of dialogue; the abrupt dramatic openings; the condensation and concentration of narrative and the strict exclusion of the irrelevant or superfluous; the infallible feeling for a ‘situation’; the atmosphere of the tragic or the critical; the “echo, without comment, of the clash of man and fate34.” All these are the elements that make the ballad a form of literature distinct from other lyric or epic forms; all these are the elements that go to make the Faroese ballads what they are—part of what Ker calls the “Platonic Idea, a Ballad in itself, unchangeable and one, of which the phenomenal multitude of ballads are ‘partakers35.'”

Footnote 1: Cf. S. Grundtvig, Meddelelse Angående Færøernes Litteratur og sprog, in Aarbøger for Nordisk Oldkyndighed, published by the Royal Norse Early Text Society (Copenhagen), 1882, p. 358.

Footnote 2: Færoa Reserata (Copenhagen, 1673), pp. 251 and 308 (tr. John Sterpin, London, 1676).

Footnote 3: Reliques, Vol. i, Epistle to the Countess of Northumberland.

Footnote 4: Cf. W. A. Craigie, Evald Tang Kristensen, A Danish Folk-lorist, in Folklore, Vol. ix, 1898, pp. 194-220.

Footnote 5: Cf. C. J. Sharp, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (London, 1917), p. xxii.

Footnote 6: Axel Olrik, Om Svend Grundtvigs og Jörgen Blochs Føroyjakvæði og færøske ordbog, in Arkiv för Nordisk Filologi (Lund, 1890), p. 249.

Footnote 7: Sv. Grundtvig, Færøernes Litteratur og Sprog, in Aarbøg for Nord. Oldk., 1882, p. 364.

Footnote 8: Cf. N. Annandale, The Faroes and Iceland (Oxford, 1905), p. 42.

Footnote 9: For interesting accounts of the composition of new ballads, cf. Lyngbye’s article in the Skandinavske Litteraturselskabs Skrifter, 12th and 13th Annual, p. 234 ff.; also P. E. Müller, Introduction to Lyngbye’s Fær. Kv., pp. 14, 15. The Trawlaravísur and other ballads, besides the dances and tunes of the Faroe Islands of today, have been investigated by Thuren who published several studies on this most interesting subject, e.g. Dans og Kvaddigtning paa Færøerne, med et Musikbilag, 1901. Folkesangen paa Færøerne, 1908, etc., (cf. especially Nyere Danseviser, pp. 273-282), etc.

Footnote 10: Antiq. Tidsk., 1846-1848, pp. 258-267.

Footnote 11: According to H. Thuren, Dansen paa Færøerne (Copenhagen, 1908), p. 9, a certain fixed number of songs are now sung on Suderø; a great many have been quite forgotten since Hammershaimb wrote.

Footnote 12: It is also occasionally danced in Andefjord, but only very rarely nowadays (cf. H. Thuren, Dansen paa Færøerne, p. 8).

Footnote 13: Ib. p. 8.

Footnote 14: Ib., pp. 4-10.

Footnote 15: Dances and Dance Paraphernalia, in Expedition to the Torres Straits (Cambridge, 1904), Vol. iv, p. 292.

Footnote 16: Miss Aline Brylinska, who has kindly supplied me with this information.

Footnote 17: S. Grundtvig and Jón Sigurðsson, Islenzk Fornkvæði, in Nordiske Oldskrifter (Copenhagen, 1854-85).

Footnote 18: Landstad, Norske Folkeviser (Christiania, 1853); S. Bugge, 1858.

Footnote 19: Geijer and Afzelius, 1814-1816, 1880; Arwidsson, 1834-1842.

Footnote 20: S. Grundtvig, Danmarks Gamle Folkeviser, 1853-1890. S. Grundtvig and A. Olrik, Danske Ridderviser, 1895-1919.

Footnote 21: Riboldsvisen (a review of von der Recke’s Nogle Folkeviseredaktioner) in Danske Studier, 1906, p. 175 ff.

Footnote 22: Landstad, Norske Folkeviser, note to Dei Tvo Systar, p. 867.

Footnote 23: On the Danish Ballads (Scottish Historical Review, Vol. i, No. 4, July, 1904), p. 362.

Footnote 24: A Tour through Orkney and Schetland in 1774, Kirkwall, 1879. Cf. also Preface to Sörla Tháttr, p. 39 ff. above.

Footnote 25: Ib., p. 105 ff.

Footnote 26: The Vyse, be it observed, is the Danish word most commonly used to denote a ballad. The Faroese use Kvæði, and less frequently Ríma.

Footnote 27: For an account of the Scandinavian settlements on the Bristol Channel, cf. A. Bugge, Contributions to the History of the Norsemen in Ireland, No. III, published in Videnskabsselskabet i Christiania, Historisk-filosofisk Klasse, 11, 1900.

Footnote28: Axel Olrik, Introduction to Danske Folkeviser í Udvalg, 3rd ed. (Copenhagen and Christiania, 1913), p. 40 ff. Cf. also Steenstrup, Vore Folkeviser (Copenhagen, 1891), ch. VII.

Footnote 29: On the literary sources of the Faroese ballads, cf. Steenstrup, op. cit. Introduction.

Footnote 30: Lied und Epos (Dortmund, 1915), p. 19.

Footnote 31: On the History of the Ballads, 1100-1500, published in Proceedings of the British Academy for 1902-1910, p. 202.

Footnote 32: On the History of the Ballads, etc., p. 202.

Footnote 33: Frank Sidgwick, The Ballad, London (Arts and Crafts of Letters Series), p. 61.

Footnote 34: Gummere, The Popular Ballad (London, 1907), p. 340.

Footnote 35: On the History of the Ballads, etc., p. 204.


The following ballad was taken down by Hammershaimb from oral recitation in Westmanhavn in 1846, and published at Copenhagen in 1855 in Færöiske Kvæder, Vol. ii. He took down a second version of the same ballad, but consisting of only nineteen stanzas, at Sumbø in 1847, which he published in the Antiquarisk Tidsskrift, 1849-50. This second version differs slightly from the one given in our text. In it Arngrim is said to have twelve sons of whom Angantyr was the youngest. Hjalmar is not expressly stated to have been a brother of Angantyr, as he is in our version and in the Danish ballad Angelfyr and Helmer the Warrior (cf. p. 188 ff.). Moreover Angantyr is the first to learn of the franklin’s daughter, and he forthwith builds a ship and sails away alone; and it is only later that Hjalmar also hears of her and sets sail, thus reaching the spot when Angantyr has already landed. More colour is given to the maiden’s choice in the second version by the additional detail that

Hjalmar leapt so lightly to land,

He made no footprint on the sand.

This, however, it is to be noted, is the regular formula by which the landing of the hero is described in the Faroese ballads. Cf. Lokka Táttur, v. 78.

It is the opinion of Hammershaimb that this ballad was the original from which the longer ballad of Arngrim’s Sons sprang. This would seem to be supported by Heusler’s contention that The Long Ballad of the Marsk Stig Cycle was composed by welding together several shorter ballads1; and certainly the Ballad of Arngrim’s Sons suggests that at least two distinct ballads have been run into one, especially when we compare the two varying versions of Svabo and Hammershaimb. Against this, however, we have to place the fact that something of the same invertebrate impression is given by the Saga of Hervör and Heithrek, on which these ballads are ultimately based. Even if we assume a composite origin for the Ballad of Arngrim’s Sons, there is no evidence that any portion of it was based on the short Ballad of Hjalmar and Angantyr, while the difference of metre diminishes the probability of a connection.

The air and refrain to this ballad are given on p. 124 of Thuren’s Folkesangen paa Færøerne.

The Ballad of Hjalmar and Angantyr



1. A man lived up in a high oak-tree,

Refrain:— Ye well-born men!

Eleven warlike sons had he.

Refrain:— Arngrim’s Sons from Africa,

They fought, they fought on Samsø.

2.° He had eleven sons so dear,—

The champions Hjalmar and Angantyr.

3. A ship, a ship did these warriors man,

And swift ‘fore the wind was the course she ran.

4.° They hoisted their sail to the mast so high:

They had faith in their strength and their valiancy.

5.° Their anchor they cast in the white, white sand.

Hjalmar hastily sprang to the land.

6.° Their anchor they cast in the white, white sand.

And Angantyr eagerly sprang on the strand.

7. Angantyr eagerly sprang on the strand.

Up to his knees he sank in the sand.

8. “I drew my hose from my legs so bare

To hide the sand from my lady fair!”

9. In the garden they busked them in cloaks of skin,

And so went up to the franklin sitting there within.

10.° “Here sittest thou, franklin, drinking thy wine:

I beg that thy daughter so fair may be mine!”

11. When Hjalmar stood before the board,

Angantyr straight took up the word.—

12. “Here sittest thou, franklin, drinking thy wine:

I beg that thy daughter so fair may be mine!”

13. In sorry plight was the franklin then,

For there at the board stood two mighty men.

14. “No choice so hard will I ever make;

The maiden herself must choose her mate.”

15. “No choice so hard shall be made by thee:

The warrior Hjalmar shall wed with me.

16. “With Hjalmar the Brave would I wedded be,

Who is so lovely and fair to see.”

17. “O franklin! Lend me a trusty blade,

We two must fight for the hand of the maid.”

18.° “O franklin! Lend me a sharp penknife:

Each of us surely must lose his life.”

19.° They fought their way forth of the hall.

They bellowed louder than any troll.

20. Till they reached a river they fought amain,

Down on their knees and then up again.

21. Down on their knees and then up again

Refrain:— Ye well-born men!

Till stiff and dead lay those champions twain.

Refrain:— Arngrim’s Sons from Africa,

They fought, they fought on Samsø.

Footnote 1: Lied und Epos (Dortmund, 1905), p. 41 ff.


Four different versions of the Danish ballad of Angelfyr and Helmer the Warrior are given by Grundtvig in Danmarks Gamle Folkeviser, Vol. i, number 19 (Copenhagen, 1853). Two of these, closely allied, are found in a ms. written in the sixteenth century1. The version which Grundtvig has called A is the one adopted for translation below.

An interesting study in ballad composition is afforded by a comparison of this Danish ballad with the Faroese ballads of the Sons of Arngrim. According to Axel Olrik2 the Danish ballad is founded on the Saga of Hervör and Heithrek. That the ultimate source of all the ballads of the Sons of Arngrim was the Saga there can be no doubt. But whether the Danish ballad is derived directly from the Saga or through some intermediate stage, Icelandic, Faroese or Danish, is problematical. A definite relationship between the Danish and the Faroese ballads would seem to be shown by several common features of the story which do not occur in the Saga itself, as well as by some striking verbal resemblances which have no foundation in the prose narrative.

Thus on the one hand both in the Danish and in the Faroese ballads translated above, Hjalmar and Angantyr are described as brothers3, whereas in the Saga they are not related. On the other hand the Danish and the two Faroese ballads are almost identical in their description of Angantyr and all his kin as “vile trolls,” though Version A given by Grundtvig describes him in accordance with the Saga as a “half-troll” (i.e. on his mother’s side).

Other close verbal parallels, surely indicative of cross-relationship or of a common source, are afforded by a comparison of certain passages of the Danish ballad and the Faroese Ballad of Arngrim’s Sons. Thus v. 5 of the Danish is practically identical with v. 74 of the Faroese, and we may compare v. 9 of the shorter Ballad of Hjalmar and Angantyr. May we also compare v. 6 of the Danish with v. 79 of the longer Faroese ballad; v. 8 with v. 81v. 10 with v. 84v. 14 with v. 79? Conventional as many of these phrases are, the identity can hardly be accidental in all cases.

The precise nature of the relationship between the two versions is not so clear. We may note, however, some of the features contained in the Danish version of the story which are not found in the Saga. In the first place neither Arngrim nor Samsø are mentioned, the names Offue and Uthiss-kier being substituted for them4; secondly, except in the refrain there is no mention of the sea or a voyage in the Danish ballad. Helmer bids them “saddle his steed,” and both he and Angelfyr ride to Upsala. Finally after v. 11 of our text, the Danish ballad differs entirely from the Faroese version of the story and also from that of the Saga of Hervör and Heithrek. Offue’s revenge is peculiar to the Danish, and here too no mention is made of Ingibjörg’s death.

From all these changes, and especially from the transference of names and places, it is obvious that the Danish version of the story is considerably more remote from the Saga than either of the two Faroese versions. At the same time, the absence of any reference to Samsø or any other Danish locality renders it highly improbable that its divergences are due to any (Danish) local tradition independent of the Saga.

On the whole it would seem that at an early date (fifteenth or early sixteenth century?) a ballad had been made from this portion of the Saga, either directly or through the intermediate stage of a lost rhymed version; and that it was composed in the Faroes themselves or in Iceland or some other region—the Orkneys and Shetlands are a possible suggestion—and acquired by the Danes not very long afterwards.

Footnote 1: Cf. Grundtvig, Danmarks Gamle Folkeviser, Vol. i, p. 252. Also Axel Olrik, Danske Folkeviser í Udvalg, Vol. i, p. 263.

Footnote 2: Cf. Olrik, op. cit., p. 78. For general information on the Danish ballads the reader is referred to Steenstrup, Vore Folkeviser (Copenhagen, 1891), translated by E. G. Cox (Boston, 1914).

Footnote 3: See, however, the Introduction to the Ballad of Hjalmar and Angantyr, p. 182 above.

Footnote 4: So ms. A; but cf. below v. 1 and note.


1. Offue he dwelt in Uthiss-kier,

Both rich and bold was he;

And when two sons were born to him,

He vowed they should warriors be.

Refrain: But the tempest from the North

Lashes dark and troubled billows

On the gleaming waste of sand.1

2. It was Young Helmer the Warrior;

He bade them saddle his steed:

“I Ride to Upsala this day,

The King’s daughter to wed.”

3. Then up and spake Young Angelfyr,

Where he stood in scarlet so red:

“O never shalt thou this eventide

To the lovely maid be wed!”

4. Then up and spake Young Angelfyr:

He bade them saddle his steed:

“I will gallop today to Upsala,

Till the earth is rent with my speed.”

5. Out of doors in the castle-court

They busked them in cloaks of skin,

And so went they to the hall gallery,

Where the King of Upsala sat within.

6. In came Young Helmer the Warrior,

And stood before the board;

“O King, I pray thee, give me thy daughter,—

I wait thy friendly word.”

7.° In there came Young Angelfyr,

And gold shone on his hand:

“O King, I pray thee, give me thy daughter

And quit thee from this thy land.”

8. Long and long stood the King of Upsala,

And pondered silently,

How those heroes who stood before him

He might answer fittingly.

9. It was the King of Upsala,

And he spake this word theretil:

“I give my daughter to that man only

Who has won him her goodwill.”

10. “I give thee thanks, my father dear,

That the choice thou lay’st on me;

I give myself to Young Helmer the Warrior,

For a noble man is he.

11.° “I will not wed me to Angelfyr:

For he is half a troll;—

So is his father, and so his mother,

And so are his kinsfolk all.”

12. Then up and spake Young Angelfyr

As he stood and pondered there:

“We both will take us forth to the courtyard,

And fight for the maiden fair.”

13. It was the King of Upsala,

And answered he forthright:

“O the swords they be keen, and the lads they be bold,

And may measure them well in a fight.”

14. Then up and rose Young Angelfyr

Where he his sword out drew;

And up rose Young Helmer the Warrior,

Whom he to the earth did hew.

15. Offue he stands in Uthiss-kier

And far and wide looks he:

“O somewhere is Helmer suffering pain,

For I feel such woe in the heart of me.”

16. Offue he stands in Uthiss-kier

And looks o’er the wide, wide heath:

“O what can be harming my two sons today,

And why are they both so wroth?”

17. It was Offue in Uthiss-kier;

He sprang on his red-roan steed.

And so came he to the King’s courtyard,

Ere Helmer was dead indeed.

18.° “O hearken, hearken, Young Helmer,

Beloved son of mine:

Thy noble sword from out thy hands

Why didst thou list to tine?”

19. “Eight are the mortal wounds I bear,

They are both deep and sore;

And had I only one of them

I could not live an hour.”

20. O it was Offue in Uthiss-kier,

And he his sword out drew;—

And O it was Young Angelfyr

Whom down to the earth he slew.

21. “Lie thou there, Young Angelfyr,

And bleed till thou art dead;

So woeful was I in my heart

When I saw how Helmer bled.

22. “Lie thou there, Young Angelfyr,

And lose thy life-blood all.

So woeful was I in my heart

When I saw Young Helmer fall.”

Refrain: But the tempest from the North

Lashes dark and troubled billows

On the gleaming waste of sand.

Footnote 1: The translation of the refrain is somewhat free; but cf. Olrik, D. F. í U., p. 78. Extreme condensation is a feature of all Faroese and Danish ballad refrains which makes a literal translation into English practically impossible.]

In ms. B of the Ballad of Angelfyr etc., vv. 1-11 correspond pretty closely to ms. A; but vv. 12-18 are different:

12. Alff he stood in Odderskier,

And listened over the field;

Then could he hear so far away

Where his sons their swords did wield.

13. Up then rose Alff in Odderskier;

He sprang on his red-roan steed;

And came he so to Upsala

Ere both the warriors were dead.

14. “O hearken, hearken, Young Helmer,

Beloved son of mine:

Why does the life blood from thy head

In streams come running down?”

15. It was Young Helmer the Warrior,

And his father answered he:

“My brother Angelfyr could not have the maid,

And therefore he wrought this ill to me.

16. “My body is pierced with fifteen wounds,

All tainted with poison full sore;

And had I only one of them

I could not live an hour.”

17. It was Alff in Odderskier,

And an oak he uprootéd;

He struck with the oak Young Angelfyr,

Till he lay on the earth stone dead.

18. Now both these warriors are lying dead,

And dead lie they in their grave;

And the King he is ready to give his daughter

To the man whom he himself will have.


The Ballad of Arngrim’s Sons was first taken down by Svabo towards the close of the eighteenth century. He never published it, but his ms. (iii. 9) is preserved in the Royal Library at Copenhagen. In 1848 V. U. Hammershaimb took the ballad down again from oral recitation on Sandø and published it in the Antiquarisk Tídsskrift, 1849-1851 (Copenhagen, 1852). He had, however, consulted Svabo’s version, for he says in the prefatory note to the ballad:

It is entirely confused in Svabo’s version in the Royal Library. I have therefore kept to the version which I got on Sandø, which in the main points agrees with the Saga. Only in the conclusion and two other passages have I followed Svabo’s version.

By 1855, however, it would seem that his view had changed. In his prefatory note to the Ballad of Arngrim’s Sons, published in Nordiske Oldskrifter, vols. 18-19, Part II (Copenhagen, 1855), he writes:

The version given by Svabo is at variance with the Saga and has many internal discrepancies arising mainly from the fact that Hjalmar and Angantyr are here taken to be brothers, as in the Danish ballad. In the Antiquarisk Tídsskrift for 1849-1851 I published another version which I took down in Sandø in 1848, and in which I made some use of Svabo’s version. My version corresponds exactly with the Harvarar Saga, but it is open to suspicion from the fact that it here forms the second part (tháttr) of Hjalmar’s Kvæði, of which the first part (The Tháttr of Örvar-Oddr) is clearly of later origin; as is shown not only by the language, but also by the fact that the whole falls in with Suhm’s story,—”The three friends, Hjalmar, Asbjörn and Örvarodd,” etc. Many verses of Arngrim’s Sons presuppose a first táttur to the ballad, for example that in which the sick Asbjörn complains that he cannot follow his companion to the fight on Samsø1. That the language in the second part is purer and older than in the first part is easily explained from the fact that the people of Sandø have utilised the older Faroese version which was taken down by Svabo. They only needed to transpose the verses and to make a very few changes to get the whole readjusted according to the Saga or Suhm’s story. The verses which the Sandø version has in common with Svabo’s could therefore be used for purposes of comparison. There are thus weighty reasons for giving preference to Svabo’s version, in spite of all its imperfections.

Of the first part of Hjalmar’s Kvæði I have unfortunately been unable to obtain a copy, though it is no doubt accessible at Copenhagen, as it is mentioned as number 60 (‘Hjalmar’s Kvæði, 2 tættir: a, Örvaroddur, b, Arngrim’s Sinir’) in a list of Faroese ballads taken down in the Faroes by Hammershaimb for the archaeological archives of the Royal Old Norse Text Society2. Hammershaimb says3, however, that the first part “deals with Hjalmar’s youth, the counsel given him by his father when he leaves home, how he is taken into the retinue (hirð) of the Swedish King, how he distinguishes himself by his bravery against the vikings, and how he and Asbjörn and Örvarodd swear to be foster-brothers.”

The translation which follows is made from Hammershaimb’s second edition of the ballad, published in Nordiske Oldskrifter, vols. 18 and 19, Part II4—which is in fact Svabo’s text; but the refrain of his first version has been adopted.

It will be noticed that the ballad differs in many points from the Saga of Hervör and Heithrek. In the first place, according to the ballad, it is Arngrim and not Angantyr who is buried with the sword Tyrfing5. Secondly, Hervik (the Hervör of the Saga) is described as a daughter of Arngrim and a sister of Angantyr. Hjalmar also is a brother of Hervik and of Angantyr according to the ballad, and actually accompanies Hervik on her quest of the sword Tyrfing, which according to the ballad took place before the fight on Samsø. Finally, Arngrim is said to have been killed by Örvarodd, and Hervik accordingly kills Örvarodd in retaliation. Another ‘Young Odd’ appears later as Hjalmar’s companion in the true place of Örvarodd.

Thus we see that, as commonly happens in popular poetry, complex situations have become simplified, and, where simplification has not taken place, the people and events have become confused6. Both in the shorter Faroese ballad of Hjalmar and Angantyr, and in the Danish ballad of Angelfyr and Helmer the Warrior, the simplification has proceeded even farther, and a still more striking instance of rigorous simplification is to be found in the Ballad of Nornagest.

No Rímur dealing with Arngrim’s Sons have been published, and I have not been able to ascertain whether any exist, though a passing mention is made of them in verse 74 of the satirical poem Skítharíma7, probably composed in the fifteenth century by Einar or Sigurður Fóstri. A priori it would seem probable that the ballads are derived from compositions of this kind rather than from the Saga direct. But it would be unwise to hazard even a guess as to the balance of probability without detailed knowledge of the relative circulation, distribution and popularity of the Sagas and the Rímur respectively.

The air to which the following ballad is sung on the Faroes has been transcribed and printed by Thuren in Folkesangen paa Færøerne, pp. 132, 133.

Footnote 1: Cf. also the introduction of Örvar-Odd in v. 29 of Hammershaimb’s version (Antiq. Tídss., 1849-51, pp. 61-74); also vv. 28, 33, 58.

Footnote 2: Cf. Antiq. Tídss., 1849-1851, p. 28.

Footnote 3: Ib., p. 58.

Footnote 4: Copenhagen, 1855.

Footnote 5: So Svabo’s version; the Sandø version of Hammershaimb’s first edition, however, preserves Angantyr here.

Footnote 6: A still more striking instance of the latter development will be found in the Gátu Ríma (see p. 213 f. below) especially v. 22.

Footnote 7: Carmina Scaldica (a selection of Norwegian and Icelandic Scaldic poetry) by Finnur Jónsson, Copenhagen, 1913.

The Ballad of Arngrim’s Sons


Variations of Refrain of The Ballad of Arngrim’s Sons



1. High on a lofty mountain

Does Arngrim his castle hold;

He has eleven noble sons,

And his twelfth is a champion bold.

Refrain: Noble men are sailing now from Norway,

And a fair breeze bears them o’er the wave.

2.° He has eleven noble sons,

Each skilled to wield his brand;

And mightiest of all is Angantyr

Who comes from Bjarnaland.

3.° He has eleven noble sons,

Beneath oak-trees live they;

And Angantyr lives with them there

And a warrior bold is he.

4.° Arngrim and the Earl’s lady,

Children so fine had they—

Their daughter was named Hervik,

Who governed land and fee.

5. This maiden was named Hervik,

‘Fore all men I declare,

She tilted in the tourney

When the lads were playing there.

6. She tilted in the tourney

Among the lads so strong.

Then blood was up and blood was shed

Ere she had played her long.

7.° Down then sat the lads there;

Angry were they each one.—

“Better than fighting us so fiercely

Go ‘venge thy father anon!”

8.° Water she cast on her armour;

She list no longer to fight,

But went and stood before her mother,

With cheeks all red and white.

9.° “O hearken, hearken my Mother dear,

The truth from thee would I know.—

Was my father slain in battle

Or did he die on straw?”

10.° “No truer tale can I tell to thee,

My daughter whom I love:

He fell before the bold Örvarodd

To the South in Isan’s Grove.

11. “I can tell thee no truer, my daughter dear

Than I tell as here I stand;—

He fell before the bold Örvarodd

To the South in Isan’s Land.”

12. She took her quickly to a chest

Which guarded gold and fee;

She drew a shirt from out the chest,

And flung it on Hervik’s knee.

13.° She drew a shirt from out the chest,

All bloodstained where it had lain.—

“Here may’st thou see the very same shirt

In which thy father was slain.”

14.° Up then rose Hervik the Earl’s daughter

And manned ship hastily;

Its cables were of shining gold,

All twisted cunningly.

15. Up then rose Hervik the Earl’s daughter,

And decked her ship so fine,

And bade them store within the hold

Both ale and costly wine.

16. Tarred were the masts,

And black was the ship in hue;

The masthead was of the red, red gold,

And the sun shone on it too.

17. Tarred were the masts;

The ship it was quite new;

The golden weather-cock spun aloft,

And shone amid Heaven’s own blue.

18. Tarred were the masts,

The beams scored wondrously;

Stem and stern were of red, red gold,

And so was the sail on high.

19. All in the middle of the ship’s deck

The colour shone so fair

Where Hervik, the Earl’s daughter,

Sat on the platform there.

20.° She hoists aloft her silken sail,

Striped gold on a scarlet ground,

Nor ever once does she strike it again

Till she comes to Isan’s Land.

21. She hoists aloft her silken sail,

(The like will scarce be found)

Nor ever once does she strike it again

Till she comes to Isan’s ground.

22. Forth when Hervik’s frigate

Touched the fair land,

Cast she forth her anchor

Into the white, white sand.

23.° Cast she down her anchor

Into the white, white sand;

And the first was Hervik the Earl’s daughter

To spring with her foot to land.

24. The first was Hervik the Earl’s daughter

To spring with her foot to land,

And with her Hjalmar her brother

Close at her right hand.

25.° There a huntsman met her;

He had hunted herd and fee:

“O why art thou so sorrowful,

As a troll had been hunting thee?”

26. Then up stood Hervik the Earl’s daughter,

Her good sword out she drew,

And with it she clove the huntsman

And him in sunder slew.

27. Three cross roads are bending,

And one can she descry;

Hervik has gone straight forth to the barrow

Wherein her father doth lie.

28.° Hervik has gone straight forth to the barrow

Where her father lies dead and cold.

Little recks she of fear or favour,

Though quake now fell and fold.

29. Then up and spake the voice of Arngrim,

And these words first spake he:—

“O where are my eleven sons gone,

Since daughters are visiting me?”

30. “I pass not for my eleven brothers,

Or where they share their fee.

No treasure have I, save only Hjalmar,

Hither brought with me.

31. “O haste thee, haste thee, my noble Father

The good brand to give me;

Or shall I set fire here to this barrow,

And burn it over thee?”

32. Full woe was the champion Arngrim

That she should wreck his grave.

He seizéd Tyrfing in both his hands

And to his daughter gave.

33. He gave to her the sword then

Was wonderfully made.—

The length of it was eighteen ells,

And poisoned was its blade.

34. He gave to her the sword then

Was wonderfully made.

No leechcraft could avail the man

Was wounded by its blade.

35.° All in the middle of the garden

She clad her in cloak of skin;

She busked her in a cloak of fur,

And entered the high hall within.

36.° She busked her in her cloak of fur

And entered the high hall belive,

Where Örvarodd sat before the board

With a hundred men and five.

37.° “O welcome, welcome, Hervik,

Hither now to me

Mead or wine shalt thou have to drink

As liefest is to thee.”

38. “O little to me is thy mead, Örvarodd,

And little to me thy wine.

Today I have come to thy high hall,

And a different errand is mine.

39. “O little to me is thy mead, Örvarodd,

And little to me thy beer;

For a different errand did I busk me

When I left my home to come here.

40. “I busked me and came from Sweden

To fight in this thy land.

Stand up! Stand up! Thou bold Örvarodd,

Stand up, and arm thy band!”

41. It fell full early on a morning tide,

Before the sun rose high,

Bold Örvarodd had a hundred men and twelve

Accoutred royally.

42. Bold Örvarodd had a hundred men and twelve

Accoutred royally.

Then up rose Hervik, the Earl’s daughter,

To meet them gallantly.

43. Up then rose Hervik, the Earl’s daughter,

So doughty in the fight.

She blew a blast on her golden horn,

And struck to left and right.

44. It was Hervik, the Earl’s daughter,

So gallantly she rode;—

She clove to the shoulders every knight

Who forth against her strode.

45. She clove to the shoulders every knight

Who forth against her strode,

Till only Örvarodd and his two companions

Survivors of the army stood.

46. Under the castle gateway

The King crept fearfully.—

“Now mercy, mercy, sweet Hervik,

I pray thou’lt give to me!”

47. “Just so much is the sweet mercy

Thou now shalt get of me

As thou gavest to my noble Father

When thou slew’st him felonly!”

48. “Just so much is the sweet mercy

Thou now shalt win of me

As thou gavest to my noble Father

When thou slew’st him cruelly!”

49. That was Hervik, the Earl’s daughter,

To draw her sword was fain.

She has slain the warrior Örvarodd

And cut him in pieces twain.

50. She has slain the warrior Örvarodd

And cut him in pieces twain,

And all his men so brave and true

She has heaped on his corse amain.

51. Up then rose Hervik, the Earl’s daughter;

Through the greenwood gan she ride;

But hawk or hound made never a cry

In the greenwood by her side.

52.° She hoists aloft her silken sail,

Striped gold on a scarlet ground;

Nor ever once does she strike it again

Till she reaches far Uppland.

53. Forth when Hervik’s frigate

Touched the fair land,

Cast she forth her anchor

Into the white, white sand.

54. Cast she forth her anchor

Into the white, white sand;

And forthwith her brother Angantyr

Came riding down the strand.

55. She gave to him the sword then

Was wonderfully made.—

The length of it was eighteen ells,

And poisoned was its blade.

56. She gave to him the sword then

Was wonderfully made.—

No leechcraft could avail the man

Was wounded by its blade.

57. Angantyr sits in his high seat,

And with his men spake he!—

“O where will I get a make to myself?

This thought has been long with me.”

58. One and all they hung their heads,

And never a word spake they,

Save Hjalmar his brother, and better were it

He had held his peace that day.

59. “I can no truer tell thee,

But and thou list to hear:

The King of Upsala has a daughter,

And she is passing fair.

60.° “The King of Upsala has a daughter

As lovely as the sun.

Her cheeks they are as red and white

As blood on driven snow.

61. “The King of Upsala has a daughter:

Of many is her fame the word.

Her throne it is of the red, red gold,

And stands at the King’s own board.”

62. “O gin the maiden be so fair,

And gin she be so fine,

I swear an oath, though ill betide,

To call that maiden mine.

63. “O long and long will the journey be

O’er breaker but and billow;

But I go forth to Upsala, Hjalmar,

And thou, my brother, must follow.”

64. Then up spake Hjalmar the warrior,

And straightway answered he:

“The bird feels joy when he spies a corpse,

And so do I follow thee!”

65. Up then rose him Angantyr,

And manned ship hastily.

Its cables were of shining gold

All twisted cunningly.

66. Up then rose him Angantyr,

And decked his ship so fine,

And bade them store within the hold

Both ale and costly wine.

67. He hoists aloft his silken sail,

Striped gold on a scarlet ground

Nor ever once does he strike it again

Till he comes to Uppsaland.

68.° Forth then when his frigate

Touched the fair land,

Cast he down his anchor

Into the white, white sand.

69.° Cast he down his anchor

Into the white, white sand.

And Angantyr was the first to light

With his foot to land.

70. Angantyr was the first to light

With his foot to land,

And by him Hjalmar his brother,

Close at his right hand.

71. By him Hjalmar his brother

Close at his right hand;

Truly is it told to me

He sank to his knees in sand.

72. Up they went from the sea-shore,

Those men of wealth and worth;

The rollers brake, and the earth it shook

As they set their ships in berth.

73. Up they went from the sea-shore,

In their clothes of scarlet so fair;

Their helmets were of burnished gold,

And no man did they fear.

74. All in the middle of the garden

They clad them in cloaks of skin;

They busked them in their cloaks of fur

And entered the high hall within.

75. They busked them in their cloaks of fur

And entered the high hall belive,

Where the King of Uppland sat at the board

With a hundred men and five.

76. Hjalmar went into the high hall

With silk embroidered hood.

His cheeks were red as lobster’s claws,

His eyes were like the dove.

77. Angantyr has do’en him to the high hall,

‘Twas the custom in days gone by;

And all in a word did he hail the King

And ask for the maid truly.

78. Angantyr stands on the hall floor,

Offers him greeting there;—

“Now hail be to thee, bold King of Uppsaland,

Give me thy daughter fair!”

79. Then up and spake the bold Hjalmar,

Before the broad board he stood:—

“O King, I pray thee, give me thy daughter

Who is so fair and good.”

80. Up then rose the bold Hjalmar,

Before the broad board sat he:—

“O King, I pray thee, give me thy daughter

Who is so wise and fair to see.”

81. Long in sorrow sat the King

And silently pondered.

What he should answer the two fierce warriors,

Who stood before the board.

82. Up then rose the King of Uppsaland;

Angry and wroth was he:

“My lady daughter shall come to the hall

And for herself reply.”

83. They have led his daughter to the hall,

Attended fittingly;

And Hjalmar’s face grew red and pale

As in the high-seat sat he.

84. “Now thanks and thanks to my noble father

Who gave this choice to me.

Hjalmar the champion from Uppland,

He shall my husband be.

85. “I will not wed me to Angantyr:

He is so vile a troll;

So is his father and so his mother,

And so are his kinsfolk all.”

86. “Come forth, come forth, thou bold Hjalmar

For ne’er so brief a tide.

To battle on an island make thee bowne;

She shall not be thy bride.”

87. Then up and answered Odd the Young:

“Once more we are fighting here.

You shall go against Arngrim’s Sons,

And I against Angantyr.”

88.° “We two, Angantyr and I,

Shall fight with mighty strife;

I would not that lady Ingibjörg hear

That I sought to flee for my life.

89. “We two, Angantyr and I,

Shall meet in a mighty gripe,

And long will lady Ingibjörg wait

Ere she hear that I shrank for my life.”

90. Out then spake the Young Odd,

And pondered heavily;

“O gin thou go’est against Angantyr,

Thou choosest thy death truly.”

91. All the sons of Arngrim

Rode up the river shore

A-tightening of their shield-straps

Till they could tighten them no more.

92. All the sons of Arngrim

Rode through the plain so green;

A league and a league you could hear on the stones

The clang of their spears so keen.

93. All the sons of Arngrim,

Angry were they in mood.

Little recked they for weapons,

But tore up clubs of stout oakwood.

94. All the sons of Arngrim

Rode up the river strand.

It is the young Odd will lose his life,

For Hjalmar is not at hand.

95. Odd rode against the Sons of Arngrim,

His noble weapons proved he so,

And he slew all the eleven brothers

Yet never dealt he a second blow.

96. Angantyr and the bold Hjalmar

On the island combated.

All their followers who manned the ship

Are lying now stone dead.

97.° Hjalmar then struck Angantyr,

So lay he at his feet.

“O Hjalmar, give me now a drink,

For it comforts the meanest wight.”

98. “A drink from out my drinking horn

I give thee willingly;

But hearken, Angantyr my brother,

Today have I surely conquered thee.”

99. O he held the horn before his lips,

—He the noble warrior,—

And O it was the heathen dog

Who stabbed him under the helmet there.

100. It was the warrior Hjalmar,

He drew his sword amain;

He has cleft his brother Angantyr

And cut him in pieces twain.

101. Odd came home at eventide

A-riding on the strand,

And saw where Hjalmar had sat him there,

Marred by the poisoned brand.

102. Odd came home at eventide,

Where Hjalmar leant his back on a stone;

“O why art thou so wondrous pale,

And what has brought thee to make such moan?”

103. “My corslet he has piercéd,

He has scathed my skin so white;

The poison smeared upon the blade

My heart will surely smite.”

104. “Thou didst put thy faith in thy corslet,

All made of shining steel;

But here stand I in my shirt only,

And yet no wound I feel.

105. “Thou didst put thy trust in thy corslet,

All made of silver bright;

But here stand I in my shirt only,

And got no wound in the fight.

106. “Thou did’st put thy trust in thy corslet,

All made of silver white;

But here stand I in my shirt only

Which sword could never bite.”

107. Then up and spake the Warrior Hjalmar.

The first word he did say

Was “Hearken and hearken now Young Odd,

And bear me hence away.”

108. Then up and answered the Young Odd,

He gazed on the rocky ravine:

“This fight, O Hjalmar, if thou list to hear

Has gone as I had foreseen.”

109. He drew the gold ring from his arm;

Speech could he utter still;

Bade carry it to the lady Ingibjörg,

And bade him fare him well

110. He drew the gold ring from his arm;

All floating was he in blood.

He sent it to the lady Ingibjörg,

That maid so fair and good.

111. She died of grief for Hjalmar—

She the noble maid;

I swear an oath upon my honour

There lives none of whom the like can be said.

Refrain: Noble men are sailing now from Norway,

And a fair breeze bears them o’er the wave.


I. Finnmark, i.e. the northernmost part of the Scandinavian Peninsula.

Jötunheimar, i.e. the homes of the jötnar or giants. This name occurs frequently in Norse stories, though it is not elsewhere connected with Finnmark.

Ymisland, i.e. the land of Ýmir; see below.

Halogaland, i.e. the northern part of Norway stretching from about lat. 65° as far as Finnmark.

Guthmund. Cf. the Tháttr of Nornagest, ch. 1 and note.

Glasisvellir. Cf. the Tháttr of Nornagest, ch. 1, and note.

Fields of immortality, i.e. lit. ‘Fields of the not dead’ (ódainsakr). Cf. the Saga of Eiríkr Víðförla, ch. 1, and the Saga of Hálfdan Eysteinsson, ch. 1. See also Saxo Grammaticus, Dan. Hist., p. 129.

Höfund. The name means lit. ‘Judge.’

Ymir, i.e. the old ‘Rime-giant,’ the first being created out of Chaos, from whom the giants sprang; cf. Völuspá, str. 3; Vafþrúþnismál, str. 21; Grímnismál, str. 40; Hyndluljóð, str. 33; Gylfaginning, chs. 5-8.

Starkath Aludreng. See Gautreks Saga, ch. 3, according to which this Starkath is the grandfather of his more famous namesake, for whom see the Tháttr of Nornagest, ch. 7 and note. See also Saxo Grammaticus, Dan. Hist., pp. 224, 225.

Elivagar. See Vafþrúþnismál, str. 31; Gylfaginning, ch. 5; Hymiskviða, str. 5.

Alfheimar, a name given to the region between the Gøtaelv and the River Glommen, in the south-east of Norway (now mainly in Sweden). The royal family of this region is frequently mentioned in the history of Harold the Fairhaired and his father, and also in the stories of Sigurth Hring. See the Tháttr of Nornagest, ch. 7 and note.

Ey-grim Bolm, i.e. ‘Grim of the Island of Bolm.’

Arngrim. See Saxo Grammaticus, Dan. Hist., p. 203 ff.

Berserk. See Ynglingasaga, ch. 6.

II.° Dwarfs. Cf. the story of Svegðir in Ynglingasaga, ch. 15.

Dvalin is the name of a dwarf in Völuspá, str. 11, 14; Hávamál, str. 143, and in other of the Edda poems. It is, in fact, the typical name for a dwarf. Cf. also Gylfaginning, ch. 14, and Skáldskaparmál, ch. 3, 57. Dulin does not occur elsewhere, though Durin is found in Völuspá, str. 10.

Standing in the doorway of the stone, etc. Cf. Völuspá, str. 48.

Your sword, etc. Cf. Skáldskaparmál, ch. 49. “Now I have drawn Dáinsleif, which the dwarfs made and which must cause a man’s death every time it is drawn, and never fails in its stroke.”

Tyrfing. It has been suggested that this name is derived from tyrfi, ‘resinous fir-tree,’ owing to its flaming like resinous fir-wood. In early times it was customary for swords to be called by names ending in -ing. Cf. the swords Hrunting in Beowulf, l. 1457, etc., Naglingibid., l. 2680, and Mimming in Waldhere, l. 3, etc., etc.

Perms. The text has um Bjarmaland ‘in the land of the Bjarmar,’ i.e. the Beormas of Ohthere’s Voyage in Alfred’s translation of Orosius. It is generally reached, not as here, apparently, by the Baltic, but by voyages round the North Cape. The name is generally supposed to be connected with Perm, and in early times may have comprehended the Zyrianians, as well as the Permians proper and the Votiaks. There is some evidence from place-names that this group of languages was once spoken as far west as the White Sea. Cf. Abercromby, The Pre- and Proto-historic Finns, p. 10 f.

Svafrlami. The text (H) followed by the Reykjavik edition here has Sigrlami—which can hardly be right. Rafn’s ed. reads Svafrlami.

Twelve sons. For Arngrim’s Sons, Cf. Hyndluljóth, str. 23, 24; Saxo Grammaticus, Dan. Hist., pp. 203-205; Saga of Örvar Odd, ch. 14.

Twins. See the Saga of Harold the Fairhaired (Heimskringla), ch. 18, where again we find twins both receiving the same name.

Mistletoe. A sword of the same name occurs in the Saga of Hromund Greipsson (see above).

Hrotti. Cf. Hrunting, the sword of Hunferth in Beowulf, l. 1457 etc. See also the note to Tyrfing, p. 235.

III.° Yule, a festival of heathen times, approximately at Christmas, but rather later.

Feast, lit. ‘At the Bragi-cup.’ The custom of making vows in connection with these toasts was carried on into Christian times, an interesting example being found in the Saga of Olaf Tryggvason (Heimskringla), ch. 39. See also the Saga of Haakon the Good (Heimskringla), ch. 16; and Helgakviða Hjörvarðssónar, str. 32.

Angantyr made a vow. In the Royal MS. (see p. 79) it is Hjörvarth who makes the vow and subsequently claims the bride.

Yngvi is the family name of the early Swedish kings. Collectively the early Swedish royal family were called Ynglingar. Cf. Ynglingasaga, ch. 20.

Never did he, etc. Compare what is said of Högni’s sword in Skáldskaparmál, ch. 49.

Samsø. The fight at Samsø is described in another ms. of this saga (which is translated in the appendix to Part I, p. 145 ff. above and which contains also the Death-song of Hjalmar), as well as in the Saga of Örvar Odd, ch. 14, and in Saxo Grammaticus, Dan. Hist., p. 205. The Island of Samsø is situated half way between Jutland and Sjælland.

IV.° Exposing the child, etc. For the custom of exposing infants, especially girls, at birth, so as to cause their death, see the Saga of Gunnlaug Ormstungu, ch. 3, the Saga of Finnbogi Rammi, etc. A similar custom prevailed in Ancient Greece. Cf. Plato, Rep. v, 461; Aristophanes, Clouds, l. 530 f.

Sprinkled with water. Sprinkling a child with water when a name was given to it appears to have been customary in heathen times. Cf. the Saga of Harold the Fairhaired (Heimskringla), ch. 40; the Saga of Haakon the Good, ch. 12; the Saga of Egil Skallagrimsson, ch. 31; Völsunga Saga, ch. 13.

She grew up, etc. Cf. the description of the later Hervör in ch. 10.

Here is a poem, etc. The poem is probably earlier than the Saga in its present form. Heusler (Eddica Minora, p. xxi) refers it to the early part of the twelfth century.

I will give you my necklace, etc. Note the discrepancy between the poem and the prose at this point. In the former it would seem to be Hervör who offers a necklace, and this is what we should expect.

Foolish is he who comes here alone, etc. Cf. J. M. Synge, The Aran Islands, iii: “We went up on the dun, where Michael said he had never been before after nightfall, though he lives within a stone’s throw…. These people make no distinction between the natural and the supernatural.”

V.° Ghosts, i.e. the animated corpses of the people buried there.

Nor other kinsman. There is a lacuna in the text of the ms. at this point.

VI.° Bring up the child, etc. It was customary for men in high station to send their children to be brought up and educated in the houses of relatives and friends.

Reithgotaland is here explained as Jutland; but in ch. 9, Heithrek’s subjects are described as Gotar, i.e. Goths; and in the latter part of the Saga, from ch. 12 onwards, the subject is clearly a war between the Goths and Huns. The earliest occurrence of the word (in the Swedish Inscription of Rök; cf. also Vafþrúþnismál, str. 12) gives not Reithgotaland, but Hraithgotaland, which suggests that the name may be connected in some way with Hrethgotan, a name applied to the Goths in Anglo-Saxon poetry.

VII.° Divination. The phrase means literally, ‘The casting of bits of wood at the sacrifice.’ Cf. Tacitus, Germania, ch. 10.

Every second man. annanhvárn, apparently for annanhvern.

Hall of the Dís. It is not clear who the dís was, as the word is used rather loosely for supernatural female beings. Another reference to the Hall of the Dís occurs in Ynglingasaga, ch. 33. One of the goddesses (Freyja?) may be meant; or it may be the guardian spirit of the family.

VIII.° Land of the Saxons. Cf. the Tháttr of Nornagest, ch. 10 and note.

Sifka and Hlöth. The names here mentioned, together with Heithrek and Angantyr, are believed by some scholars to recur in Widsiþ, l. 116, where we find

Heaðoric and Sifecan, Hliðe and Incgenðeow,

mentioned as being among the followers of Eormenric. These names clearly come from Gothic tradition, but the passage would seem to suggest that Sifeca was a man, the Sibich of the German poems. Cf. Chambers, Widsith, p. 32. For the name Lotherus in Saxo, see note to ch. 12, p. 242.

Holmgarth, i.e. Novgorod.

IX.° Wendland, i.e. the ‘Land of the Slavs’ (Anglo-Saxon Weonodland). After the expansion of the Slavs, from the fifth century onwards, this term came to denote an enormous expanse of country, including the coast of Eastern Germany, to which it is applied in the account of the voyage of Wulfstan in Alfred’s translation of Orosius. In earlier times, when the Goths still occupied Poland and Galicia, the Slavs were restricted to the regions east of these countries.

His horse fell dead. Here the point of the story seems to be missed, or at least not clearly expressed. According to Höfund’s fifth maxim (see ch. 6), Heithrek was not to ride his best horse when he was in a hurry.

X.° They had a daughter. From our text it would appear that Hervör was the daughter of Sifka; but the end of ch. 9 is probably a late addition to the text. In the text printed by Rafn, Hervör is expressly stated to be a daughter of Hergerth.

Ormar is presumably to be identified with the Wyrmhere mentioned in Widsiþ, l. 119, in connection with the war waged by the Goths against the Huns in defence of their ancient fatherland, round the forest of the Vistula.

Gestumblindi. For this curious name, cf. the Gestiblindus Gothorum rex mentioned by Saxo Grammaticus, Dan. Hist., p. 198 ff.

In the King’s retinue there were seven men, etc. In the text (a) of this saga printed in Rafn’s edition (Fornaldar Sögur, i, p. 462), there are said to be twelve men here. This is no doubt the right figure, twelve being the regular number in the judicial councils of the North, whether historical or legendary. Thus, e.g. in the Saga of Olaf the Holy (Heimskringla), ch. 96 we read of a council of twelve sages (spekingar), whose duty it was to advise the Swedish king, especially in the administration of justice. Similar councils existed in the Danish settlements in England. Thus Lincoln and Stamford had each a council of twelve (cf. Stubbs, Const. Hist., i, p. 106, and n. 4). We may compare the twelve priests who officiated in the sacrifices at Mæren (cf. the Saga of Olaf the Holy, Heimskr. ch. 115), and the story of the twelve gods who were appointed by Othin as temple priests (hof-goðar) to keep up the sacrifices and administer justice among men; cf. Ynglingasaga, ch. 2 (Hyndluljóð, str. 30; Gautrekssaga, ch. 7). In the Irish Lay of Magnus Barelegs, the Norwegians are referred to as Clann an dá ċoṁairleaċ déag (‘children or clan of the twelve councillors’). Cf. Laoiḋ Maġnius Moir (Reliques of Irish Poetry, by Charlotte Brooke, Dublin 1789, p. 274).

King Heithrek worshipped Frey. One text quoted by Rafn (Verelius) has Freyja for Frey. The boar appears in stories relating to both these deities, e.g. Gylfaginning, ch. 49; Skáldskaparmál, ch. 35; Hyndlulióð, str. 5, 7.

XI.° I would that I had that, etc. On these riddles see Heusler, Eddica Minora, p. xc ff.; ‘Diealtnordischen Rätsel’ in Zeitschrift des Vereins für Volkskunde, xi, p. 117 ff.; Tupper, Modern Language Notes, 18, p. 103; The Riddles of the Exeter Book, p. lii, etc. In the original the riddles are all in verse, while the King’s answers, except the refrain with which they begin (“Your riddle is a good one,” etc.) are in prose.

You went over a bridge, etc. The metrical text given by Rafn (Fornaldar Sögur, i, p. 466), has: “A bird flew above thee, a fish swam beneath thee, thou did’st go over a bridge.” The prose text given on the same page has: “Thou did’st go over a bridge, and the course of the river was beneath thee, but birds were flying over thy head and on both sides of thee, and that was their road.”

Delling’s doorway. Delling (perhaps from an obsolete word dallr, ‘bright, shining’) is mentioned in Vafþrúþnismál, str. 25, as the ‘father of Day.’ Possibly he may originally have been a personification of day itself. The expression “before Delling’s doorway” occurs also in Hávamál, str. 160, where it has been thought to mean ‘at sunrise.’ See also the genealogy in Hversu Noregr Bygðist, ch. i (Fornaldar Sögur, ii, p. 6), where a certain Svanhild is said to be the daughter of Day, the son of Delling, and of Sól (i.e. the sun), the daughter of Mundilfari (cf. Gylfaginning, ch. ii).

Wolves are always struggling for it. See Gylfaginning, ch. 12 (from Grímnismál, str. 39).

He who made it, etc. I have followed Heusler’s reading and read er for ker and þó or sjá for þá.

Laying their eggs. For verja read verpa.

Have no husbands. For eigu, read eigut, as on p. 121.

Game of chess. The text has hneftafl, i.e. a game having certain features in common with chess which was played in Iceland till the introduction of the latter, probably in the thirteenth century. Game-pieces have been discovered in Iceland which were probably used for this game. Some are plain and hemispherical in shape, others are shaped with a man’s head or a dog’s head. For a full and interesting description of hneftafl see H. J. R. Murray, A History of Chess, Oxford, 1913, Appendix I, ‘Chess in Iceland,’ pp. 443-446.

Ægis meyjar. Ægir or Hlér, the husband of Rann, is a personification of the sea; but the kennings ‘Ægir’s daughters,’ ‘Ægir’s steed,’ etc. for ‘billows’ are common in poetry. See Helgakviða Hundingsbana ii, str. 29, and Bragar-ræður, ch. 55 (included in Brodeur’s translation of the Prose Edda as Skáldskaparmál, ch. i).

Reefs. For brimserkum, read brimskerjum.

Ocean-path. For brim-reiðar, read brim-leiðar. The passage is possibly corrupt.

That is the hunn. This stanza is difficult to interpret as we have no clear information as to the character of the game. It would seem that like the game of the Welsh tawlbwrdd, it was played between sides composed, the one of sixteen ‘fair’ (white) men, the other of a King (called hnefa or hunn) and eight ‘dark’ (black) men. Cf. note to Game of Chess above. See also Murray, A History of Chess, Oxford 1913, Appendix I, ‘Chess in Iceland,’ pp. 443-446.

Four walking, etc. This riddle is found in a form almost identical with our text in Jakobsen’s Dialect and Place Names of Shetland (Lerwick, 1897), p. 53. The ‘sow’ is also found in the Exeter Book, while ‘the waves,’ ‘the anchor’ and ‘hailstones’ have certain affinities with the AS. riddles.

King Itrek’s Game. The reference here seems to be to a game something like chess. The text (R) given by Heusler in his edition of the Eddica Minora, p. 118, reads: “That is Itrek and Andath when they sit at their game.”

Dead men, etc. In this strophe there seems to be an elaborate play on words. The phrase ‘dead men’ (dauðar menn) seems to be a disguise for val which means ‘the slain’ as well as ‘hawk.’ So also ‘channel of blood’ seems to be a disguise for æði which means ‘vein’ as well as ‘eider-duck.’

Sleipnir. Othin’s eight-footed horse. Cf. especially Gylfaginning, ch. 42.

Tell me lastly, etc. In Vafþrúþnismál, str. 54, Othin makes himself known to Vafþrúþnir by the same question.

XII.° This pike, etc. This verse is generally supposed to come from a lost poem on Heithrek.

Mountains of Harvathi. It is thought that Harvathi may be the early Teutonic name for the Carpathians—a reminiscence of Gothic times.

Humli and Hlöth. These names may be compared with Humblus and Lotherus, two sons of Dan, the first kings mentioned in Saxo Grammaticus, Dan. Hist., p. 1. For the name Hlöð cf. also note to ch. 7, p. 238.

Poem. For this poem on the battle between the Goths and the Huns, see Heusler, Eddica Minora, p. vii ff., and notes. In part at least it appears to be very old.

Myrkvith. The forest Myrkvith is mentioned also in Atlakviða, str. 3, 5, and 13; and in Helgakviða Hundingsbana, i, str. 53.

Pillar, lit. ‘stone.’ I do not know what is meant. Possibly Guðrúnarkviða iii, str. 3 may be compared.

Danaper’s Shore. Danpr is treated as a personal name in Rígsþula, str. 49, but it is more likely to have been originally the name of the River Dnieper (mentioned by Jordanes, The Origins and Deeds of the Goths, ch. 5, 52, as Danaper), which was within the territories of the Goths in the fourth century.

XIII.° Gizur. There appear to be reminiscences of this story in Saxo, Book V, e.g. in regard to the numbering of the Hunnish forces. Gizur seems to correspond to Eric in Saxo p. 190 f. It has been suggested that he is Othin in disguise.

Hazle stakes. Cf. the Tháttr of Nornagest, ch. 7 (note).

XIV.° They rode forthwith … against the Huns. It has been suggested by Heinzel that this battle between the Goths and the Huns was the great battle fought on the Catalaunian Plain in 451 a.d.; but the passage in Widsið cited on p. 238 points rather to Poland.

Drew … lips, lit. ‘drew back his moustache.’

Dunheith and the other place names are unknown.

XV.° The Goths were defending, etc. Cf. Widsiþ, l. 121 ff.

XVI.° Ivar Vithfathmi. For Ivar Vithfathmi and his family, see Ynglingasaga, chs. 44, 45, and the first fragment of Skjöldunga Saga (printed in the Fornaldar Sögur, i, p. 285 ff.), chs. 1-3.

Harold Hilditönn. The fullest account of Harold Hilditönn is that given by Saxo Grammaticus, Dan. Hist., p. 296 ff. See also the fragments of the Skjöldunga Saga, ch. 4 ff.

Gautland, i.e. the Land of the Geatas in Beowulf, the modern Götaland (whether Vestergötland or Östergötland or both), comprising roughly speaking the southern portions of Sweden, exclusive of the Danish districts (Skaane etc).

Harold of the Red Moustache. He was King of Agthir. A daughter of his, also called Ása, was married to Guthröth, King of Vestfold—the Godefridus who fought against Charlemagne and died in 810. See Ynglingasaga, ch. 53. Their son was Hálfdan the Black, the father of Harold the Fairhaired.

Sigurth Hring. See the Tháttr of Nornagest, ch. 7 and note.

Battle of Brávöll. The chief accounts of this battle are to be found in the second fragment of the Skjöldunga Saga, ch. 8 f. (see above); and in Saxo Grammaticus, Dan. Hist., pp. 309 ff.

The Sons of King Ragnar. For Ragnar Lothbrók and his sons, see the Tháttr of Nornagest, ch. 9 and note.

A sea-king. Cf. the Saga of Olaf the Holy (Heimskringla), ch. 4.

The Sons of Eric Björnson were Önund and Björn. These are probably to be identified with the Swedish kings Bern and Anoundus mentioned in Rembertus’ Life of St. Ansgar, chs. 11 and 19, in connection with the saint’s missionary visits to Sweden (c. 830).

Bragi Skald was the great grandfather of Arinbjörn the friend of Egil Skallagrímsson. In the Saga of Egil Skallagrímsson, ch. 59, he is said to have saved his life by composing in one night a poem in honour of King Björn. Some fragments of his poems have been preserved—the earliest datable Norse poems which have come down to us.

King Harold the Fairhaired. See the Tháttr of Nornagest, ch. 10, and note.

Eric the Victorious. The battle won by Eric the Victorious over Styrbjörn at Fyrisvellir seems to have taken place between 980 and 985. Several Runic inscriptions contain references to it. The statement that Harold the Fairhaired died in Eric’s time can hardly be correct; for Harold is believed to have died in 933.

Fyrisvellir, on the banks of the Fyriså, close to the site of the modern town of Upsala.

Olaf the Swede. The traditional date of his conversion is 1008.

Olaf the Saint, ex-King of Norway, whence he had been expelled in 1028, was killed at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030 in an attempt to recover the throne.

He tried to put an end to, etc. An interesting account of the heathen ceremonies of the Swedes, dating from shortly after the middle of the eleventh century, is given by Adam of Bremen in his History of the Church of Hamburg, Book iv., ch. 26 f.

The sacred tree. The sacrificial tree in question is presumably that mentioned in schol. 134 to Adam of Bremen as standing beside the great temple of Upsala.

Eymundc. 1050-c. 1060.

Steinkel, 1060-1066.

Haakon the Red, 1066-1079?

Ingi I, d. c. 1110. He, Hallstein and Blótsvein were all reigning in 1081.

Philippus, d. 1118.

Ingi II, d. 1125.


1. In a high oak-tree. In the version of this ballad obtained by Hammershaimb at Sumbø the first line runs ‘A man there lived on (lit. ‘in’) an island high,’ whereas in the Ballad of Arngrim’s Sons, v. 3, we are told that Arngrim and his sons lived ‘under’ an oak. Possibly the first line of our text is a confusion of these two versions. The error is made more comprehensible by the fact that there are no trees on the Faroes, and so the phrase must have been a meaningless jingle of words to the singers.

Arngrim’s sons from Africa. The text has ‘Arngrim’s sons from Bláland,’ by which the Faroese ballads and the Fornaldar Sögur generally mean Africa. Here, however, we should more naturally have expected ‘Norway,’ and it is very probable that, as Hammershaimb suggests, we here have the refrain in a corrupt form as so often happens. Probably ‘from Bláland’ (af Blálandum) should be ‘from Bólmland’ (af Bólmlandi), i.e. from the Island of Bólm, but the Faroese may have substituted the more familiar name for that of the island with which they were unacquainted.

2.° The champions Hjalmar, etc. The Sumbø version has:

He has eleven sons so dear;

The twelfth is the warrior Angantyr,

and also inserts immediately following a verse giving reasons for the voyage:

News then came to Angantyr

That a man there was had a daughter fair.

4.° They hoisted their sail, etc. Cf. Sigmundar Kvæði, str. 13, 28, 48.

5.° Their anchor they cast, etc. Cf. Magna Dans (Icelandic Fornkvæði) v. 3, with which this is practically identical.

6.° Angantyr eagerly, etc. The lit. transl. of the text is ‘Angantyr was the first to step,’ etc.; but the following v. has ‘Hjalmar was the first to step!’ The Sumbø version, which is undoubtedly better here, has

Angantyr loypur so tungliga á land

Angantyr leapt so heavily to land,

instead of

Fyrstur steig Angantýr fótum á land

Angantyr was the first to step with his feet to land.

10.° Here sittest thou, etc. In the Sumbø version, Hjalmar’s request is not recorded. The repetition of Angantyr’s request in our text, if it has any significance at all, implies that both Hjalmar and Angantyr made the proposal.

18.° O franklin, lend me, etc. The Sumbø version here inserts an additional verse.

Angantyr is so vile a troll,

So are his kinsfolk and followers all.

19.° Forth of the hall. In the Sumbø version the fight took place outside the hall, and only Angantyr is credited with the troll-like bellowing. Indeed one feels throughout the Sumbø version a more clearly defined hostility to Angantyr on the part of the balladist, whereas the Westmanhavn version is more detached in its attitude.


1. Offue he dwelt in Uthiss-kier, so ms. A. ms. B has “Alff … Odderskier.” ms. C. has “Ulff … Oderskier.” ms. D has “Alff … Odderskiær.” Axel Olrik, however, in the version which he prints in Danske Folkeviser i Udvalg, p. 105 f. has “Alf … Odderskær.” He explains (Introduction, p. 78) Alf to be ‘a combination of Arngrim the father of the berserks and Hjalmar’s foster-brother Örvarodd.’

7.° Gold shone on his hand. The phrase is not quite clear. It may possibly refer to some personal ornament, but in view of the following line, would seem more probably to indicate that Angelfyr offered money to the King of Upsala.

11.° He is half a troll, So A, which is in accordance with Angelfyr’s ancestry as told in the Saga of Hervör and Heithrek, ch. i. B and D, however, like the Faroese, have ‘He is so vile a troll.’ A gives little sense, considering the second half of the verse, and the whole becomes a meaningless formula in all the versions in which Angantyr and Hjalmar are described as brothers.

18.° Whom he himself will have. Possibly han, ‘he,’ is a misprint for hón, ‘she,’ which is what we should expect. Cf. the Saga of Hervör and Heithrek, ch. 3. One hardly expects a cynical touch like this in an authentic ballad. But the whole of the latter part of B may be a later version than the original.


Refrain. I have adopted the refrain given in Hammershaimb’s version of the Ballad, taken down on Sandø in 1848 and published in the Antiq. Tídss., 1849-1851, rather than Svabo’s version which he afterwards adopted, but which is very obscure and possibly corrupt.

2.° Bjarnaland, so sing the Faroese according to both Svabo and Hammershaimb. By Bjarnaland they mean Norway. Contrast, however, the Saga of Hervör and Heithrek, ch. 2, where we are distinctly told that Angantyr’s mother was Eyfura who had been carried off by Arngrim from Bjarmaland (i.e. the land of the Perms) where her father was king. See also the note on this passage. The Faroese have no doubt confused the unfamiliar name with one more familiar to themselves.

3.° Beneath oak trees live they—a common ballad formula with no real significance. It is interesting, however, as a touch indicating the literary origin of this and other stories told in the Faroese ballads. As has been remarked (see p. 247 above) there are no trees on the Faroes. On the other hand farm houses in Scandinavian lands stand frequently beneath the shadow of a large oak. For a discussion of this subject, see Chadwick, Cult of Othin (Cambridge, 1899), p. 72 ff. Compare the Scottish Ballad of Rose the Red and White Lily, v. 38:

Then out and spak’ the King again,

Says, “Bonny boy, tell to me

Who lives into yon bigly bow’r,

Stands by yon green oak-tree?”

4.° Arngrim and the Earl’s lady, etc. So Svabo. In Hammershaimb’s version (Antiq. Tídss. 1849-1851) she is described as the daughter of Angantyr.

7.° Better than fighting, etc. The incident of a boy playing too roughly with his companions and being told by them to go and avenge his father instead of maltreating them is very widespread. Prof. Ker notes its occurrence (On the History of the Ballads 1100-1500, p. 194) in the Irish Romance of Maelduin, in four Norwegian, five Faroese, two or three Danish ballads, in a Literary History of the Arabs and in New Guinea.

8.° Water she cast, etc. The passage is obscure. It is not clear if Hervik had actually been fighting with the ‘lads,’ so that the cleansing of her armour was an actual necessity; or if she had only been playing rather roughly. Leika can mean both ‘to play’ and ‘to fight’; and leikvöllr may mean both a ‘playground’ and a ‘battlefield.’ If Hervik had only been playing, the throwing of the water on the armour was possibly a rite performed before undertaking vengeance.

9.° Die on straw. To ‘die on straw’ is the regular idiom in Faroese and Icelandic for to ‘die in one’s bed,’ of old age or sickness, as opposed to death by the sword.

10.° Isan’s Grove. Hammershaimb suggests that by Isan’s Land here and in vv. 20 and 21 below the Faroese mean Samsø. On the other hand there was a forest in Holstein in ancient times called Isarnho, and some such name may possibly be preserved here. There was a King Isung mentioned in the Danish Ballad De vare syv og syvsindstyve, as an opponent of King Didrik; but it is improbable that his land is here indicated.

13.° She drew a shirt from out the chest, etc.—a common ballad motif. A verse almost identical with this is to be found in the Kvæði of Regin the Smith, v. 47.

14.° Up then rose Hervik, etc. vv. 14, 15, 16 and 20 are identical with vv. 12-16 (inclusive) of Olufu Kvæði, the only change being that ‘Hugin the King’ takes the place of ‘Hervik the Earl’s daughter.’ They are practically identical too with the Kvæði of the Jómsvíkingar, vv. 6-8 (inclusive). Cf. also Sjurðar Kvæði (iii Högna Táttur, vv. 46-49), and Ragnarlikkja, vv. 40-48.

20.° Striped gold on a scarlet ground. The text has Gull við reyðan brand, which is probably a mishearing of the line Gull við reyðan rand (‘with a gold stripe on a red ground’). Verse 39 of Brúsajökils Kvæði (which is otherwise identical with the above) gives in the second line Gull við ráum brann (‘gold blazed on the yardarms’). In Hammershaimb’s version of our ballad, vv. 10, 72, the line is Gulli vovin við rand (‘woven with gold in stripes’), as also in v. 22 of the Kvæði of Ormar Torolvsson. The line also occurs in the form Gull við vágum rann (‘the margin of the ship was gold down to where it touched the waves’). This is no doubt corrupt, but it is difficult to conjecture as to which of all the variants was the original form of the line.

23.° Cast she down her anchor, etc. vv. 23, 24 are the almost invariable formula for the landing in the Faroese ballads. They are practically identical with v. 46 of Olufu Kvæði and vv. 24, 25 of the Kvæði of Ormar Torolvsson. Cf. also Sigmundar Kvæði, v. 32; Brúsajökils Kvæði, v. 41 and the Kvæði of Alvur Kongur, vv. 24-26 and Sjurðar Kvæði (Högna Táttur, vv. 71-73).

25.° Herd and fee. Either the word jæge or the word  seems to have an unusual sense here.

28.° Though quake now fell and fold. The original (kyk gekk jörð á fold) is not clear. I have merely adopted Grundtvig’s translation of Hammershaimb’s early text in the Antiq. Tídss. 1849-1851. The 1855 ed. substitutes hon for jörð which is better.

35.° All in the middle, etc. There is obviously a lacuna or transference of some kind here. For this and the following verses, cf. Olufu Kvæði, vv. 26, 27, which are identical except the names. Indeed it is a common formula in the Faroese and Danish Ballads, and occurs in the Kvæði of Ormar Torolvsson, v. 26; and the Kvæði of Alvur Kongur, v. 33.

36.° A hundred men and five—a stock number in the Faroese ballads. Cf. the Kvæði of Ormar Torolvsson, v. 27, where we are also told that the King sat at the board ‘with a hundred men and five.’ Cf. also Olufu Kvæði, v. 27.

37.° Mead or wine, etc. Cf. Sjurðar Kvæði (iii, Högna Táttur, v. 181).

52.° Perhaps we should here again assume a lacuna or transposition.

Uppland is the old name for the modern province of Upsala in Sweden.

60.° Her cheeks they are as red and white, etc. Cf. the Kvæði of Finnur hin Fríði, v. 18. Cf. also the old Celtic romance of the Fate of the Sons of Usna: “I should like,” said Deirdre, “that he who is to be my husband should have these three colours: his hair as black as the raven: his cheeks red as the blood: his skin like the snow” (Joyce’s translation). Cf. also Grimm’s story of Little Snowdrop.

68.° Forth then when his frigate, etc. vv. 68-84 are found in almost identical form in Olufu Kvæði, vv. 22-35.

69.° Angantyr was the first to light, etc. A common ballad formula, both Faroese and Danish.

88.° I would not that lady Ingibjörg hear, etc. Lit. “the lady Ingibjörg will learn that I fled.” There is a suppressed condition. “If I let you fight, the lady Ingibjörg would learn, etc.” Hammershaimb’s text (Antiq. Tídss.) v. 37, has a negative and no condition: “The lady Ingibjörg shall not learn,” etc.

97.° O Hjalmar, give me now a drink. This incident appears to be taken from Gunnlaugs Saga, ch. 12.



Fornaldar Sögur Norðrlanda, ed. by C. C. Rafn, published at Copenhagen, 1829.

Fornaldar Sögur Norðrlanda, ed. by Valdimar Ásmundarson, published by Sigurður Kristjánsson, Reykjavík, 1891-1911.

Die Prosaische Edda im Auszuge nebst Völsungasaga und Nornageststháttr, ed. with introduction and glossary by Ernst Wilken, Paderborn, 1877. 2nd ed., 1912.

Sagaen om Hervar ok Kong Heiðrek, ed. by N. N. Petersen and published (together with a Danish translation by G. Thorarensen), by the Norse Literature Society, Copenhagen, 1847.


Færöiske Kvæðer henhørende til Hervarar Saga, published by V. U. Hammershaimb in the Antiquarisk Tídsskrift, 1849-1851, Copenhagen, 1852.

Færöiske Kvæðer, published by V. U. Hammershaimb at Copenhagen, Part I, 1851; Part II, 1855.

Danmarks Gamle Folkeviser, Vol. I, collected and edited by Svend Grundtvig, 1853.

Gríplur, published in Rímnasafn, edited by Finnur Jónsson, Copenhagen, 1905-1912, p. 351 ff.


The following is a list of English translations of works referred to in the notes of the present volume. It is not in the nature of a bibliography; but for the convenience of English readers, reference has been given, whenever English translations are accessible, to the translations in preference to the original work.

Corpus Poeticum Boreale, ‘The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue from the earliest times to the Thirteenth Century,’ 2 Vols., Vigfússon and Powell, Oxford, 1883.

Five Pieces of Runic Poetry, including Hervör and Angantyr, translated into prose by Bishop Percy, 1763.

Hickes’s Thesaurus, including Hervör and Angantyr, translated into prose, Oxford, 1705.

The Elder or Poetic Edda, Part I, The Mythological Poems, translated and edited by Olive Bray; printed for the Viking Club, 1908.

The Edda of Sæmund, translated by B. Thorpe, published by Trübner and Co., London, 1866.

The Prose Edda, translated by A. G. Brodeur, New York, 1916.

Saxo Grammaticus, Danish History, Books I-IX, translated from the Latin by Professor Elton; published by D. Nutt, 1894 (the numbers in the notes refer to the pages of the translation, and not to the original Latin).

The Heimskringla, translated by W. Morris and E. Magnússon; published by B. Quaritch in The Saga Library, 1889.

The Saga of King Olaf Tryggwason, translated by J. Sephton and published by D. Nutt in The Northern Library, London 1895 (different from The Story of Olaf Tryggvison contained in the Heimskringla).

Islands Landnámabók—’The Book of the Settlement of Iceland,’ translated by T. Ellwood and published at Kendal, 1898.

The Story of Egill Skallagrímsson, translated by W. C. Green, published by Elliot Stock, 1893.

[pg 256]

Grettissaga—The Story of Grettir the Strong, translated by E. Magnússon and W. Morris, published by Longmans, Green and Co. (new edition), 1900. Also translated by G. A. Hight in Dent’s Everyman Series.

Brennu Njálssaga—The Story of Burnt Njal, translated by G. W. Dasent; published by Edmonston and Douglas, Edinburgh 1861; republished by Dent in the Everyman Series.

Three Northern Love Stories and other tales, translated by E. Magnússon and W. Morris. 2nd ed. 1901.

Völsunga Saga—The Story of Sigurth the Völsung, translated by W. Morris and E. Magnússon; published by the ‘Walter Scott’ Publishing Co. Ltd., London and Felling-on-Tyne.

The Nibelungenlied—The Lay of the Nibelung Men, translated into verse by Arthur S. Way; published at the Cambridge University Press, 1911. Also The Lay of the Nibelungs, translated into prose by Alice Horton, and edited by Edward Bell; published by George Bell and Sons, London, 1898. Also The Fall of the Nibelungs, translated by M. Armour in Dent’s Everyman Series.

A further list of English translations of sagas not referred to in this book will be found in Craigie’s Icelandic Sagas, ch. vii, p. 110. A list of foreign translations, especially translations into the various Teutonic languages, will be found in Islandica, issued by the Cornell University Library, Vol. v, compiled by Halldór Hermansson, 1912, pp. 3-7 (general) and passim.