Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks

Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks (The Saga of Hervör and Heidrek) is a legendary saga from the 13th century combining matter from several older sagas. It is a valuable saga for several different reasons: it contains traditions of wars between the Goths and the Huns from the 4th century; the final part of the saga is used as a source for Swedish medieval history.

The saga may be most appreciated for its memorable imagery, as seen in a quote from one of its translators, Nora Kershaw Chadwick, on the invasion of the Horde:

Hervör standing at sunrise on the summit of the tower and looking southward towards the forest; Angantyr marshalling his men for battle and remarking dryly 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 text contains several poetic sections: the Hervararkviða, on Hervor's visit to her father's grave and retrieval of the sword Tyrfing; another, the Hlöðskviða, on the battle between Goths and Huns; and a third, containing the riddles of Gestumblindi.

It has inspired later writers and derivative works, such as J. R. R. Tolkien when shaping his legends of Middle-earth. His son, Christopher Tolkien translated the work into English, as The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise.


Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks (The Saga of Hervör and Heidrek) is a legendary saga known from 13th- and 14th-century parchment sources, plus additional 17th-century paper manuscripts that complete the story.[1]


Hjalmars avsked av Orvar Odd efter striden på Samsö
Orvar-Odd and Hjalmar bid each other farewell
Mårten Eskil Winge (1866).

There are two main manuscript sources for the text, dating to the 14th and 15th centuries, often referred to as H and R, respectively.[1]

H, the Hauksbók (AM 544) dates to c. 1325; R (MS 2845) dates to the 15th century and is held at the Danish Royal Library at Copenhagen.[1] H tells the story up to the end of Gestumblindi's second riddle, whereas R is truncated before the end of Ch. 12,[1] that is within the poem on the battle of Goths and Huns.[2]

There is a third version, often referred to as U, from 17th-century paper manuscript (R 715) held at the University Library in Uppsala. The version is very garbled, and includes corrections sourced from other sagas, including from the Rímur reworking of the same tale, the Hervarar Rímur.[3] An additional 17th-century manuscript (AM 203fol) held at the Copenhagen University Library contains a copy of R, but then continues with text from another unknown source, thought to share a common ancestor with U.[4]

There are also copied versions written down in the late 17th century; whereas the two early versions are on parchment, these later versions are on paper. These include AM 192, AM 193, AM 202 k, AM 354 4to, AM 355 4to, and AM 359 a 4to.[5] These the 17th century paper manuscripts are thought to add nothing to the texts already known from H and R, though they continue the story where the two older versions end, and fill in lacunas.[1][6] Two manuscripts, (AM 281 4to) and (AM 597b) help complete the 'H' (Hausbók) version, being copies.[7] (Rafn 1829) used the 1694 text (AM 345) in preparing his edition of the saga.[1]

There are significant differences between R and H: R misses the first chapter and some riddles, as well as having a different sequence from H.[8] Scholarly opinion differs as to which presents the best form of the text.[9] The least altered version is thought to be the 'R' text.[2][10]

A slightly different version of the stemma has been reconstructed by Alaric Hall, from that originally proposed by Helgason 1924 - both propose a (lost) version from which both parchment and the paper versions descend.[11]

Content and analysis

The saga tells the history of the family of Hervör and Heidrek over several generations. It begins with Guthmund, a mythic tale; then the story turns to the sons of Arngrim, a viking age tale also told in the Hyndluljóð; next, the tale tells of Hervor, daughter of Angantyr; then to Heithrik son of Hervor -at this point the setting of the tale changes from to the Kingdom of the Goths, somewhere in eastern Europe (c. 4th–5th century);[12] finally, the tale returns to the historically later date.[13] (Kershaw 1921) considers that the latter part of the tale, among the Huns and Goths, has a separate origin to the earlier parts, and, in actual chronological time, is actually taking place several centuries earlier.[14]

All the different manuscripts show a similar pattern, with (a maximum of) seven sections, four of which are poetry.[15] (Hall 2005) identifies seven key events: 1. introduction with the forging of the sword, Tyrfingr; 2. A holmganga (duel) between Örvar-Oddr and Hjálmarr, and Angantýr and his brothers, with Angantýr killed and buried with the sword; 3. (with the poem Hervarakviða) Hervör reviving her dead father Angantýr and retrieving the sword Tyrgingr; 4. the tale of Heiðrekr son of Hervör, new wielder of Tyrfingr; 5. and his killing following a riddle-contest (a gátur presented in poem form) with Óðinn; 6. war between Heiðrekr’s sons Angantýr and Hlöðr (including the poem Hlöðskviða); 7. an epilogue listing the kingly descendents of Angantýr.[16] The 6th and final parts are partially lost or absent in manuscripts 'H' and 'R', but are found in the 17th-century paper manuscripts.[11]

The common link through all the tales is the sword (Tyrfing) passed between generations - this magic sword shares a common trope with some other mythological weapons in that it cannot be sheathed once drawn until it has drawn blood.[14] (e.g., see also Dáinsleif, or Bodvar Bjarki's sword in Hrolf Kraki's Saga)

There are three poems in the text, one romantic, one gnomic, one heroic.[13] The gnomic The Riddles of Gestumblindi, is a good example of riddling from early Norse literature;[17] the other two poems are considered very good examples of the type: one concerns the dialogue between Hervor and Angantyr at the barrows at Samso; the other describes the battle between Huns and Goths.[18]

In addition to attempts to understand the relationship between the events in the saga and real world historical characters, events, and places (see § Historicity) the manuscripts and contents are also of interest in research into the attitudes and cultures of the periods in which they were composed or written down.[19] Hall thinks the text derives ultimately from oral tradition, not from the invention of an author.[20]

(Hall 2005) thinks the poem Hervararkviða (or 'The Waking of Angantyr') was composed specifically for a narrative closely akin to the tale told in Heiðreks saga, as it is consistent in style, and, forms a consistent narrative link between events in the tale.[21] (Tolkien 1960) considers it unequivocally older than the saga itself.[22] What exactly was the original underpinning narrative for the poem is a matter of scholarly debate.[23]

The section of the saga concerning Heidrek's disregard for his father's advice is common to a widely known family of tales (called by Knut Liestøl "The Good Counsels of the Father") - in general there are three counsels - and in the saga a set of three (1st, 2nd, and 6th) fit together.[24] Tolkien proposes that after the counsellings aspect of the tale was introduced into the work, further counsels were added, further extending that theme through the saga.[25]

The poem Hlöðskviða (or "Battle of the Goths and Huns") has numerous analogues that overlap in topical coverage - the oldest of these is thought to be the English Widsith.[20] Some parts of the poetry in 'Heiðreks saga' also appear in variant forms in Örvar-Odd's saga (lines 97-9, 103-6), and the outline story appears in books 5 and 6 of the Gesta Danorum.[20] There are also elemental plot similarities between the saga and Sturlaugs saga starfsama up to the point a protagonist receives the magic sword via a female figure - Hall surmises that the two may have shared a narrative origin.[26] (Tolkien 1960) considers that the poem, though seemingly considerably altered over time, once formed part of a continuous poetic narrative that gave a complete description of the Goth-Hun conflict, which existed as a separate work.[27]

Historicity of "The Battle of the Goths and Huns"

In the 17th century, when the Norse sagas became a subject of interest to scholars they were initially taken as reasonably accurate depictions of historical events. Later in the 19th and 20th century it was realized that they were not completely historically accurate.[19]

(Rafn 1850) considered that the battle between Goths and Huns was a legendary retelling of the battle between the Gothic king Ostrogotha and the Gepid king Fastida, which was described by Jordanes in Ch.17 of his history of the Goths.[28][29] (Heinzel 1887) in his analysis in Ueber die Hervararsaga suggested the battle described was the same as the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains (AD 451), identifying Angantyr as the Roman general Aetius and Hlothr as the Frankish Chlodio, with the incorporation of parts of the general Litorius, whereas the Vandal Geiseric is the prototype for Gizurr Grytingalithi.[30] (Much 1889) proposed alternative attributions for the battles - to one recorded by Paul the Deacon that took place between the Langobards and the Vulgares Bulgars: one in which Agelmundus (Agelmund) was killed, and his sister (conflated to Hervor) is taken prisoner, the other in which new Langobardian king Lamissio is victorious - this is conflated with the battle of the Goths and Huns by Much - Much also identifies the region of the battles to be north of the Carpathian/river Danube area, near modern Krakov.[31]

In the latter half of the 19th century Heinzel's theory was predominant and widely accepted.[32] Later Gustav Neckel and Gudmund Schütte further analysed the textual and historical information: Neckel placed the events after the death of Attila (d.453) during the later Gepid-Hun conflicts, whereas Schutte identified either Heithrekr or Heathoric as transformations of the name of the Gepid king Ardaric;[33]; in the early 1900s Henrik Schück and Richard Constant Boer both rejected Heinzel's attribution and a link with Attila - Schück split the legends of the strife between brothers and the Goth-Hun war, placing each separately, and identified the location of places to be in southern Russia, whereas Boer associated the Dunheithr with the Daugava River, but placed the battle further north in central European Russia, in the Valdai Hills.[34]

Further scholarship in the 20th century returned further name and place attributions, with Otto von Friesen and Arwid Johannson returning to the western end of the Carpathians; Hermann Schnedier proposing the Goths in the Black Sea area (Crimean Goths); and N. Lukman re-analysing the tale, not in the context of Jordanes' history, but from that of Ammianus Marcellinus - under this interpretation the date now shifted to 386, where a mass migration of peoples under Odotheus (conflated to Hlothr) was destroyed by the Romans on the Danube - in Lukman's reconstruction Heithrekr is the visigothic Athanaric.[35] In an analysis of parts of the tale, (Tolkien 1953) indentifies the place where Angantyr revenges his father's (Heithrekr) killing by slaves as being at the feet of the Carpathian Mountains, using linguistic analysis based on consonant shifts (see Grimm's law) on the term "Harvath Mountains"; the place Árheimar in Danparstathir mentioned in association is unidentified, though "Danpar-" has been assumed to be some form of the river Dneiper.[36] Similarities with the Battle of Nedao (AD 454) have also been noted.[37]

It is a testimony to its great age that names appear in genuinely Germanic forms and not in any form remotely influenced by Latin. Names for Goths appear that stopped being used after 390, such as Grýting (cf. the Latin form Greutungi) and Tyrfing (cf. the Latin form Tervingi). The events take place where the Goths lived during the wars with the Huns. The Gothic capital Árheimar is located on the Dniepr (...á Danparstöðum á þeim bæ, er Árheimar heita...), King Heidrek dies in the Horvatya (White Croatia) (...und Harvaða fjöllum) and the Battle with the Huns takes place on the plains of the Danube (...á vígvöll á Dúnheiði í Dylgjudölum). The mythical Myrkviðr [Mirkwood] which separates the Goths from the Huns appears to correspond to Maeotian marshes.


Peter Nicolai Arbo-Hervors død
Hervor's death
Peter Nicolai Arbo

The saga deals with the sword Tyrfing and how it was forged and cursed by the Dwarves Dvalinn and Durin for king Svafrlami. Later, he lost it to the berserker Arngrim from Bolmsö who gave it to his son Angantyr. Angantyr died during a fight on Samsø against the Swedish hero Hjalmar, whose friend Orvar-Odd buried the cursed sword in a barrow together with Angantyr. From the barrow it was retrieved by Angantyr's daughter, the shieldmaiden Hervor who summoned her dead father to claim her inheritance. Then the saga continues with her and her son Heidrek, the king of Reidgotaland. Heiðrekr is killed after a riddle contest with Óðinn. Between his sons Angantyr and Hlod, there is a great battle about their father's heritage and Hlod is aided by the Huns. However, Hlod is defeated and killed.

In the end, the saga relates that Angantyr had the son Heiðrekr Úlfhamr who was king of Reidgotaland for a long time. Heiðrekr's daughter was Hildr and she had the son Halfdan the Valiant, who was the father of Ivar Vidfamne. After Ivar Vidfamne follows a list of Swedish kings, both real and semi-legendary, ending with Philip Halstensson, but this was probably composed separately from the rest of the saga and integrated with it in later redactions.[38]

Influence, legacy, and adaptions

Örvar-Oddr informs Ingeborg about Hjalmar's death
August Malmström (1859)

A Faroese ballad, Gátu ríma ('riddle poem') was collected in the nineteenth century that is thought by some scholars to derive from the riddle-contest in the saga.[39]

Hickes' "The Waking of Angantyr"

At the beginning of the 18th century George Hickes published a translation of the Hervararkviða in his thesaurus (the Linguarum veterum septentrionalium thesaurus grammatico-criticus et archæologicus) - working from (Verelius 1671), with the aid of a Swedish scholar, he presented the entire poem in half line verse similar to that used in Old English poetry (see Old English metre) - it was the first full Icelandic poem translated to English, and contributed to interest within England in such works.[40][41] The work was reprinted in Dryden's Poetical Miscellanies (1716), and by Thomas Percy in amended form as "The Incantation of Hervor" in his Five Pieces of Runic Poetry (1763).[42][43]

Hicke's publication inspired various 'gothic' and 'runic odes' based on the poem, of varying quality and faithfullness to the original.[44] (Wawn 2002) states "[T]he cult of the ubiquitous eighteenth-century poem known as 'The Waking of Angantyr' can be traced directly to its door".[45]

Other adaptions

The Hervararkviða poem was translated fairly closely into verse by Beatrice Barmby and included in her Gísli Súrsson: a Drama (1900); and into a more 'olde english' style by (Smith-Dampier 1912) in The Norse King's Bridal.[44] Hjálmar's Death-Song was translated by W. Herbert in his Select Icelandic Poetry.[46][47]

The French poet Charles-Marie-René Leconte de Lisle adapted the Hervararkviða in the poem "L’Épée d’Angantyr" [Angantyr's sword] in his Poemes barbares.[48][49]

J. R. R. Tolkien

There is much in this saga that readers of J. R. R. Tolkien's work will recognize, most importantly the riddle contest. There are for instance warriors similar to the Rohirrim, brave shieldmaidens, Mirkwood, haunted barrows yielding enchanted swords (see Barrow-downs), a mithril mailcoat, an epic battle, and two Dwarves named Dwalin and Durin.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Kershaw 1921, p. 79.
  2. ^ a b Tolkien 1960, pp. xxx-xxxi.
  3. ^ Tolkien 1960, pp. xxix-xxx.
  4. ^ Tolkien 1960, p. xxx.
  5. ^ "Heiðreks saga: Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks ...", handrit.is
  6. ^ Heusler & Ranish 1903, p. vii.
  7. ^ Tolkien 1960, p. xxix.
  8. ^ Kershaw 1921, pp. 79-80.
  9. ^ Kershaw 1921, p. 80.
  10. ^ Hall 2005, pp-3-4; quote, p.4 : "The most conservative surviving version of Heiðreks saga is agreed to be R".
  11. ^ a b Hall 2005, p. 3.
  12. ^ Kershaw 1921, pp. 81-82.
  13. ^ a b Kershaw 1921, p. 86.
  14. ^ a b Kershaw 1921, p. 82.
  15. ^ Hall 2005, p. 2.
  16. ^ Hall 2005, pp. 2-3.
  17. ^ Kershaw 1921, p. 83.
  18. ^ Kershaw 1921, p. 84.
  19. ^ a b Hall 2005, p. 1.
  20. ^ a b c Hall 2005, p. 6.
  21. ^ Hall 2005, p. 7.
  22. ^ Tolkien 1960, p. xi.
  23. ^ Tolkien 1960, p. xii.
  24. ^ Tolkien 1960, p. xiv-xv.
  25. ^ Tolkien 1960, p. xv.
  26. ^ Hall 2005, p. 8.
  27. ^ Tolkien 1960, p. xxii.
  28. ^ Tolkien 1953, p. 146.
  29. ^ Rafn 1850, p. 111.
  30. ^ Tolkien 1953, pp. 146-7.
  31. ^ Tolkien 1953, pp. 147-8.
  32. ^ Tolkien 1953, p. 148.
  33. ^ Tolkien 1953, p. 149.
  34. ^ Tolkien 1953, pp. 150-1.
  35. ^ Tolkien 1953, pp. 151-2.
  36. ^ Tolkien 1953, pp. 142-3.
  37. ^ Mingarelli, Bernardo (2018), Collapse of the Hunnic Empire: Jordanes, Ardaric and the Battle of Nedao (thesis), University of Ottawa, doi:10.20381/ruor-21393
  38. ^ Hall 2005, p. 14.
  39. ^ Kershaw 1921, pp. 212–223.
  40. ^ O'Donoghue, Heather (2014), English Poetry and Old Norse Myth : A History, pp. 47, 51
  41. ^ Fell 1996.
  42. ^ Wawn 2002, pp. 21, 27.
  43. ^ Percy 1763.
  44. ^ a b Tolkien 1960, p. xxxiv.
  45. ^ Wawn 2002, p. 21.
  46. ^ Tolkien 1960, pp. xxxiv-xxxv.
  47. ^ Select Icelandic Poetry, Part 1, 1804, The combat of Hjalmar &c., pp.71-97
  48. ^ Ward, A.W.; Waller, A.R., eds. (1913), "The Age of Johnson", The Cambridge History of English Literature, X, p. 223
  49. ^ Leconte de Lisle 1862, p. 73.



Other languages
Poems and poetic adaption



Astrid Njalsdotter

Astrid Njalsdotter (or Ástríðr Njálsdóttir) of Skjalgaätten (also Aestrith) (11th century), was a Norwegian noblewoman who married Ragnvald the Old and became the ancestress of the Swedish Stenkil dynasty (c. 1060-c. 1125). She is sometimes assumed to have been a Swedish queen, though the evidence is inconclusive.

Ballad of Eric

The "Ballad of Eric" (Swedish: "Eriksvisan") is a ballad found in Latin and Swedish about the legendary Gothic king Erik. It was once seen as a valuable source for Migration Period history, but is now regarded as an inauthentic piece of fakelore created during the 16th century.The ballad was published for the first time in Latin by Johannes Magnus in his Historia de omnibus gothorum sueonumque regibus (1554). He states that the original was a song widely sung in Sweden at the time, but Johannes Magnus is not entirely reliable. The Latin text is composed of ten Sapphic stanzas. It tells the story of King Eric, whose career bears some similarities to a later king Berig whom Magnus claimed united the Swedes and Goths 400 years after Erik. Berig is also found in the Jordanes' 6th-century work Getica. According to the text Eric, the first king of the Goths, sent troops southwards to a country named Vetala, where no one had yet cultivated the land. In their company there was a wise man, a lawspeaker, who was to uphold the law. Finally, the Gothic king Humli set his son Dan to rule the settlers, and after Dan, Vetala was named Denmark. The first stanza:

Primus in regnis Geticis coronam

Regiam gessi, subiique Regis

Munus, & mores colui sereno

Principe dignos.The Swedish text is found in two different versions. One of them is found in Elaus Terserus' translation of Johannes Magnus' work, and this translation was done before 1611, but it was never published. The other one is found in Ericus Schroderus' translation of the same work, which was published in 1620. His version consists of ten five-line stanzas with the rhyme scheme ababC, where the refrain C says "His was Vetala's first harvest." There are also several later documentations of the song, which are not complete. One of them is found in Olof Verelius' work, in the annotations of the Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks, and the other one in Johan Hadorph's work (1690). Both the versions are closely similar to Schroderus' version. Hadorph relates that the Eric song was still widely sung among the peasantry of Västergötland and Dalsland in the late 17th century.

In 1825 Erik Gustaf Geijer of the Geatish Society reproduced parts of the song. He believed that this was an ancient traditional text, and Geijer was a person of immense authority in Swedish academia. In an analysis of this song's weirdly archaic language in his 1848 PhD thesis, Carl Säve believed that the use of i and u instead of e and o indicated that it was first written down with the runic script. In 1853, Gunnar Olof Hyltén-Cavallius and George Stephens followed Säve. They had missed or just ignored that in 1850 P. A. Munch had argued that the ballad was dependent on the Prosaic Chronicle and suggested that it was composed ca 1449 or 1450.

Henrik Schück initially accepted Munch's reasoning. However, he changed his mind, and argued in 1891 that everybody involved in presenting it lied about its wide currency and that it was composed by Johannes Magnus himself. After that, only Einar Nylén (1924) has tried to argue that a Swedish version existed before Johannes Magnus, but his opinion was rejected or ignored in subsequent scholarship.

Battle of Brávellir

The Battle of Brávellir or the Battle of Bråvalla was a legendary battle that is described in the sagas as taking place on the Brávellir between Sigurd Hring, king of Sweden and the Geats of Västergötland, and his uncle Harald Wartooth, king of Denmark and the Geats of Östergötland.


In Norse mythology, Dellingr (Old Norse possibly "the dayspring" or "shining one") is a god. Dellingr is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and in the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In both sources, Dellingr is described as the father of Dagr, the personified day. The Prose Edda adds that, depending on manuscript variation, he is either the third husband of Nótt, the personified night, or the husband of Jörð, the personified earth. Dellingr is also attested in the legendary saga Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks. Scholars have proposed that Dellingr is the personified dawn, and his name may appear both in an English surname and place name.


In Norse mythology, Durinn (or Durin) is a dwarf according to stanza 10 of the poem Völuspá from the Poetic Edda, and repeated in Gylfaginning from the Prose Edda. He was the second created after the first and foremost dwarf Mótsognir.He is also attested in Hervarar saga, where he forged the magic sword Tyrfing with the help of the dwarf Dvalin. In variant texts of the saga Durinn is known as Dulinn.

Erik Refilsson

Erik Refilsson was a semi-legendary king of Sweden of the House of Munsö, who would have lived in the early 9th century. One of the few surviving Scandinavian sources that deal with Swedish kings from this time is Hervarar saga. It says:

Apparently, he was such a successful king that Rimbert relates that at Ansgar's second visit in Birka it was suggested among the people that Erik (Erik who preceded Björn) was to be elevated to god instead of the new god.

Skáldatal mentions that he had a court skald named Álfr jarl inn litli.


Guðmundr (Old Norse, sometimes anglicised as Godmund) was a semi-legendary Norse king in Jotunheim, ruling over a land called Glæsisvellir, which was known as the warrior's paradise.Guðmundr appears in the following legendary sagas:

Bósa saga ok Herrauðs

Helga þáttr Þórissonar

Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks

Norna-Gests þáttr

Þorsteins þáttr bæjarmagnsHe also appears in Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum (Book VIII) and in Samsons saga fagra, one of the chivalric sagas.Guðmundr shared the same name with his father; Úlfhéðinn was added to the son's name to differentiate father from son. According to some sources, Guðmundr Úlfhéðinn's son was Heiðrekr Úlfhamr. However, in Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks Guðmundr's son was Höfund, who married Hervor, and their sons were Angantýr and Heiðrekr. Saxo Grammaticus, in Gesta Danorum (VIII), referred to Guðmundr Ulfheðinn as Guthmundus, calling him a giant and the brother of Geruthus (Geirröðr).

He is sometimes given the epithet faxi, 'the one with a mane', i.e., a horse. This suggests a connection with the army of the dead who roam Norway at Yule, the Oskorei. Otto Höfler, drawing on earlier theories of Nils Lid, argued that it was actually a word found in modern Norwegian dialect as both fax and faxe and referring to a kind of grass, and that it referred to the fertility symbol of the sheaf in Norwegian Yule celebrations. According to Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks, the Norwegians came to see Guðmundr as a god; Höfler argued that in both the wolf-form suggested by Úlfhéðinn and the horse-form suggested by faxi, Guðmundr was a death-demon and his death-horse the prototype of the death-horse Sleipnir portrayed on the Gotland picture stones.Ingemar Nordgren regards the first Guðmundr as "a cult-god" and his son, the Guðmundr of the sagas, as portraying him in theriomorphic form, and suggests that he is either an earlier fertility god who came to be identified with Óðinn and that Glæsisvellir was influenced by Valhalla, or that he is a local variant of a precursor of Óðinn.Guðmundr and the Lombards are said to have battled Helgi and Sinfjötli; it is Guðmundr who engages in the flyting with Sinfjötli from shore in Helgakviða Hundingsbana I. The latter are called the Ylfings, the 'wolf clan'. As Höfler noted, both armies are spoken of as animals, and Paulus Diaconus identifies the Lombards with mares with white bands around their legs symbolising fetters (they did in fact bind their legs with white bands). Since Óðinn is patron of the Lombards, this is another Odinic connection.

Einar Ólafur Sveinsson thought Guðmundr was Irish in origin while Geirröðr was native Scandinavian.


Hauksbók ('Book of Haukr'), Reykjavík, Stofnun Árna Magnússonar AM 371 4to, AM 544 4to and AM 675 4to, is an Icelandic manuscript, now in three parts but originally one, dating from the 14th century. It was created by the Icelander Haukr Erlendsson. It is now fragmentary, with significant portions being lost, but is the first surviving witness to many of the texts it contains (although in most cases Haukr is known to have been copying from earlier, lost manuscripts). Among these are the section on mathematics called Algorismus

and the text of Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks.


Hervararkviða, (published in English translation as The Waking of Angantyr, or The Incantation of Hervor) is an Old Norse poem from the Hervarar saga, and which is sometimes included in editions of the Poetic Edda.

The poem is about the shieldmaiden Hervor and her visiting her father Angantyr's ghost at his barrow. She does so in order to make him give her an heirloom, the cursed sword Tyrfing.

For a fuller analysis of the text as a whole, including manuscript sources, and stemmatics, see Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks.

Hjalmar and Ingeborg

Hjalmar (Swedish pronunciation: [²jalːmar]) and Ingeborg (Swedish: [²ɪŋːɛbɔrj]) were a legendary Swedish duo. The male protagonist Hjalmar and his duel for Ingeborg figures in the Hervarar saga and in Orvar-Odd's saga, as well as in Gesta Danorum, Lay of Hyndla and a number of Faroese ballads. Hjalmar never lost a battle until meeting a berserker wielding the cursed sword Tyrfing.


Hlöðskviða or The Battle of the Goths and Huns is an epic poem found in Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks.

The poem's historicity is uncertain or confused, with many attempts at reconstructing a historical setting or origin for the saga – most scholars place the tale sometime in the mid 5th century AD, with the battle taking place somewhere either in central Europe near the Carpathian Mountains, or further east in European Russia.


Miriquidi is a medieval name for a forest, perhaps in the vicinity of the Ore Mountains, between the Elbe and Saale rivers.

The name occurs in the Norse form Myrkviðr ('dark wood') in the Edda story Lokasenna, and in Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks it is the name of the forest separating the Ostrogoths from the Huns. A forest called Miriquido (silva que Miriquido dicitur) appears in a charter of Emperor Otto II of August 30, 974; in it he gives the forest to a church in Merseburg within certain limits between the rivers Saale and Mulde, but the exact location is not given. The name also appears in the Chronicle (1012-1018) of Thietmar of Merseburg (in silva, quae Miriquidui dicitur), but again without any details of location. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the term Miriquidi was supposed by some historians to have been used for the primeval forest covering the Ore Mountains, and it continues to be used in this sense in local history publications and chronicles. In 1874, the geologist Friedrich August Frenzel named a mineral miraquidite after this forest name (it is not clear which; it may be beudantite or corkite). More recently, it has been suggested that it is the Černý les ('black forest') of the Chernyakhov culture.


A shield-maiden (Old Norse: skjaldmær), in Scandinavian folklore and mythology was a female warrior. They are often mentioned in sagas such as Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks and in Gesta Danorum. Shield-maidens also appear in stories of other Germanic peoples: Goths, Cimbri, and Marcomanni. The mythical valkyries may have been based on the shield-maidens.


In Norse mythology, Sleipnir (Old Norse "slippy" or "the slipper") is an eight-legged horse ridden by Odin. Sleipnir is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In both sources, Sleipnir is Odin's steed, is the child of Loki and Svaðilfari, is described as the best of all horses, and is sometimes ridden to the location of Hel. The Prose Edda contains extended information regarding the circumstances of Sleipnir's birth, and details that he is grey in color.

Sleipnir is also mentioned in a riddle found in the 13th century legendary saga Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks, in the 13th-century legendary saga Völsunga saga as the ancestor of the horse Grani, and book I of Gesta Danorum, written in the 12th century by Saxo Grammaticus, contains an episode considered by many scholars to involve Sleipnir. Sleipnir is generally accepted as depicted on two 8th century Gotlandic image stones: the Tjängvide image stone and the Ardre VIII image stone.

Scholarly theories have been proposed regarding Sleipnir's potential connection to shamanic practices among the Norse pagans. In modern times, Sleipnir appears in Icelandic folklore as the creator of Ásbyrgi, in works of art, literature, software, and in the names of ships.


The sonargǫltr or sónargǫltr was the boar sacrificed as part of the celebration of Yule in Germanic paganism, on whose bristles solemn vows were made, a tradition known as heitstrenging.

Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks refers to the tradition of swearing oaths on Yule Eve by laying hands on the bristles of the boar, who was then sacrificed in the sonar-blót:

One of the prose segments in "Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar" adds that the oaths were sworn while drinking the bragarfull toast:

In Ynglinga saga the sonarblót is used for divination (til frettar).The association with the Yule blót and with the ceremonial bragarfull gives the vows great solemnity, so that they have the force of oaths. This becomes a recurring topos in later sagas, although we have only these two saga mentions attesting to the custom of making vows on the sacrificial animal.The choice of a boar indicates a connection with Freyr, whose mount is the gold-bristled boar Gullinbursti, and the continuing Swedish tradition of eating pig-shaped cakes at Christmas recalls the early custom. According to Olaus Verelius's notes in his 1672 edition of Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks, part of this jula-galt would then be saved for mixing with the seed-corn and giving to the plough-horses and ploughmen at spring planting. As Jacob Grimm pointed out, the serving of a boar's head at banquets and particularly at Queen's College, Oxford may also be a reminiscence of the Yule boar-blót. Gabriel Turville-Petre suggested that names for Freyr and his sister Freyja which equate them with a boar and a sow respectively implied that consumption of the sacrificed boar was believed to be consumption of the god's flesh and absorption of his power.It was formerly usual to spell the word sónargǫltr and to interpret it as "atonement-boar" (the rare element sónar- can also mean "sacrifice"). However, following Eduard Sievers, it is usually now spelled with a short o and taken as meaning "herd boar, leading boar", as Lombardic sonarþair is defined in the Edictus Rothari as the boar "which fights and beats all other boars in the herd".

Tofa (Poetic Edda)

Tófa (Tófu) is the wife of Angantyr and mother of Hervor in Norse mythology. She is mentioned only once the Poetic Edda, in Hervararkviða. The Poetic Edda is part of the Tyrfing Cycle of Old Norse legends.

Tófu is mentioned only once, in the legendary saga of Hervor's Waking of Angantyr:

The name is a shortened form of Thorfrithr, meaning "beautiful Thor" or "peace of Thor".


Tyrfing, Tirfing or Tyrving (The name is of uncertain origin, possibly connected to the Terwingi) was a magic sword in Norse mythology, which features in the Tyrfing Cycle, which includes a poem from the Poetic Edda called Hervararkviða, and the Hervarar saga. The name is also used in the saga to denote the Goths. The form Tervingi was actually recorded by Roman sources in the 4th century.

Svafrlami was the king of Gardariki, and Odin's grandson. He managed to trap the dwarves Dvalinn and Durin when they had left the rock where they dwelt. Then he forced them to forge a sword with a golden hilt that would never miss a stroke, would never rust and would cut through stone and iron as easily as through clothes.

The dwarves made the sword, and it shone and gleamed like fire. However, in revenge they cursed it so that it would kill a man every time it was drawn and that it would be the cause of three great evils. They finally cursed it so that it would also kill Svafrlami himself.

When Svafrlami heard the curses he tried to slay Dvalin, but the dwarf disappeared into the rock and the sword was driven deep into it, though missing its intended victim.

Svafrlami was killed by the berserker Arngrim, who took the sword in his turn. After Arngrim, it was worn by Angantyr and his eleven brothers. They were all slain at Samsø, by the Swedish champion Hjalmar, and his Norwegian sworn brother Orvar-Odd; but Hjalmar, being wounded by Tyrfing (its first evil deed), has only time to sing his death-song before he dies, and asks Orvar-Odd to bring his body to Ingeborg, daughter of Yngvi at Uppsala.

Angantyr's daughter, Hervor (by his wife Tófa) was brought up as a bond-servant and remained ignorant of her parentage. Upon learning it, she armed herself as a shieldmaiden, and travelled to Munarvoe in Samsø in an attempt to recover her father's weapon. She found it and married King Gudmund's son, Höfund. Together they had two sons, Heidrek and Angantyr (the second). Hervor gave Heidrek the sword Tyrfing in secret. While Angantyr and Heidrek walked, Heidrek showed Angantyr the sword. Since he had unsheathed it, the curse the dwarves had put on the sword made Heidrek kill his brother Angantyr. This was the second of Tyrfing's three evil deeds.

Heidrek became king of the Goths. During a voyage, Heidrek camped at the Carpathians (Harvaða fjöllum, cf. Grimm's law). He was accompanied by eight mounted thralls, who eventually entered his tent and slew him in his sleep, the third and final of Tyrfing's evil deeds. Heidrek's son, also named Angantyr (the third), caught and killed the thralls and reclaimed the magic sword, finally satisfying the dwarves' curse.

Angantyr was the next king of the Goths, but his illegitimate half-Hun brother Hlod (or Hlöd, Hlöðr) wanted half of the kingdom. Angantýr refused, and Gizur called Hlod a bastard and his mother a slave-girl. Hlod and 343,200 mounted Huns invaded the Goths (See The Battle of the Goths and Huns). The Huns greatly outnumbered the Goths. The Goths won because Angantyr used Tyrfing to kill his brother Hlod on the battleground. The bodies of the numerous warriors choked the rivers, causing a flood which filled the valleys with dead men and horses.

For links to source text in English translation and Old Norse and for general commentary see Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks.

Tyrfing Cycle

The Tyrfing Cycle is a collection of Norse legends, unified by the shared element of the magic sword Tyrfing. Two of the legends are found in the Poetic Edda, and the Hervarar saga can be seen as a compilation of these legends.

Connected by the sword
Deities and
other figures
See also

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.