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The death of Hervǫr
English
Old Norse
Runes

ᚦᛁᚿᛆ ᚢᛁᛐᚱ ᛌᛆᛐᚢ ᚦᛆᛁᛧ ᚽᚢᛙᛚᛁ ᚢᚴ ᚽᛚᚭᚦᛧ ᚢᛙ ᚴᚢᚱᛐ᛬ ᚢᛙ ᚢᛆᚱᛁᛐ ᛐᚱᚢᚽᚢ ᚦᛆᛁᛧ ᚽᛁᚱ ᛌᚭᛙᚭᚿ ᛌᚢᛆ ᛙᛁᚴᛁᚿ᛫ ᛆᛐ ᛆᛚᚭᚢᚦᛆ ᚢᛆᛧ ᛁᚠᛐᛁᚱ ᛁ ᚽᚢᚿᛆᛚᚭᛐᛁ ᚢᛁᚽᛧᛆ ᛙᚭᚿᛆ᛬ ᛆᛚᛁᛧ ᛙᛁᚿ ᚠᚢᚱᚢ ᛐᚢᛚᚠ ᚢᛁᛐᚱᛆ ᚴᚭᛙᛚᛁᛧ ᚢᚴ ᛁᛚᛧᛁ᛫ ᚦᛆᛁᛧ ᛁᛧ ᚽᛁᚱᚠᚢᚱᛁᛧ ᚢᛆᛧᚢ ᛆᛐ ᚢᛆᛓᚿᚢᛙ᛫ ᚢᚴ ᚽᛁᛌᛐᛆᛧ ᚦᛆᛁᛧᛆ ᛆᛚᛁᚱ ᚠᚢᚱᚢ ᛐᚢᛆᚢᛁᛐᚱᛁᛧ ᚢᚴ ᛁᛚᛧᛁ᛫ ᚢᛆᚱᚦ ᚿᚢ ᛌᚢᛆ ᛙᛁᚴᛁᛚ ᚠᛁᚭᛚᛐᛁ ᛙᚭᚿᛆ ᚦᛆᛁᛧᛆ᛫ ᛆᛐ ᚦᚢᛌᚢᛐᚢᛙ ᛙᛆᛐᛁ ᛐᛁᛚᛁᚭ᛫ ᛁᚿ ᛆᛁᚽᛁ ᚠᛆᚱᛁ ᛁᚿ ᚦᚢᛌᚢᛐᛁᛧ ᛁ ᚠᚢᛚᚴᛁᚴᛆᛧ᛬ ᛁᚿ ᚽᚭᚠᚦᛁᚴᛁ ᚢᛆᛧ ᛌᛁᛐᛧ ᚢᚠᛁᚱ ᚦᚢᛌᚢᛐ ᚽᚢᛁᚱᛁᛆ᛫ ᛁᚿ ᛙᛁᚱᚴᛁ ᚢᚠᛁᚱ ᚽᚢᛁᚱᛁᛆ ᚠᚢᛚᚴᛁᚴ᛫ ᛁᚿ ᚠᛁᛙ ᚦᚢᛌᚢᛐᛁᛧ ᛁ ᚽᚢᛁᚱᛁ ᚠᚢᛚᚴᛁᚴ᛫ ᚦᛆᛁᛧᛆ ᛁᛧ ᚦᚱᛁᛐᚭᚿ ᚽᚢᛐᚱᚢᚦ ᚢᛆᛧᚢ ᛁ ᚽᚢᛁᚱᛁ᛫ ᛁᚿ ᛁ ᚽᚢᛁᚱᛐ ᚽᚢᛐᚱᛆᚦ ᚠᛁᚱᚿᛁᛧ ᚠᛁᚢᚱᛁᛧ ᛐᛁᚽᛁᛧ᛫ ᛁᚿ ᚦᛁᛌᛆᛧ ᚠᚢᛚᚴᛁᚴᛆᛧ ᚢᛆᛧᚢ ᚦᚱᛁᛆᛧ ᚢᚴ ᚦᚱᛁᛧ ᛐᛁᚽᛁᛧ᛬
Þenna vetr sátu þeir Humli ok Hlǫðr um kyrrt. Um várit drógu þeir her saman svá mikinn, at aleyða var eptir í Húnalandi vígra manna. Allir menn fóru tólf vetra gamlir ok ellri, þeir er herfœrir váru at vápnum, ok hestar þeira allir fóru tvævetrir ok ellri; varð nú svá mikill fjǫldi manna þeira, at þúsundum mátti telja, en eigi færi en þúsundir í fylkingar. En hǫfðingi var settr yfir þúsund hverja, en merki yfir hverja fylking, en fimm þúsundir í hverri fylking, þeira er þrettán hundruð váru í hverri, en í hvert hundrað fernir fjórir tigir, en þessar fylkingar váru þrjár ok þrír tigir.
All that winter Humli and Hlǫðr remained quiet; but in the spring they gathered together an army so vast that afterwards the land of the Huns was utterly despoiled of all its fighting-men. All men went, from twelve years old and upwards, who were able to bear weapons in war, and all their horses went, of two years old or more. So great was the multitude that the men of the phalanxes could be counted by their thousands only, and by nothing less than thousands; a captain was set over every thousand, and a standard over every phalanx. There were five thousands in every phalanx, each thousand containing thirteen hndreds, and in each hundred were four times forty men; these phalanxes were thirty three in number.
ᛌᛁᛙ ᚦᛁᛌᛁ ᚽᛁᚱ ᚴᚢᛙ ᛌᚭᛙᚭᚿ᛫ ᚱᛁᚦᚢ ᚦᛆᛁᛧ ᛌᚴᚢᚽ ᚦᚭᚿ᛫ ᛁᚱ ᛙᚢᚱᚴᚢᛁᚦᛧ ᚽᛆᛁᛐᛁᛧ᛫ ᛁᚱ ᛌᚴᛁᛚᛧ ᚽᚢᚿᛆᛚᚭᛐ ᚢᚴ ᚴᚢᛐᛆᛚᚭᛐ᛬ ᛁᚿ ᛌᛁᛙ ᚦᛆᛁᛧ ᚴᚢᛙᚢ ᛆᚠ ᛌᚴᚢᚽᛁᚿᚢᛙ᛫ ᚦᚭ ᚢᛆᛧᚢ ᛓᚢᚴᚦᛁᛧ ᛌᛐᚢᚱᛆᛧ ᚢᚴ ᚢᛁᛚᛁᛧ ᛌᛚᛁᛐᛁᛧ᛫ ᚢᚴ ᚭ ᚢᚭᛚᚢᚿᚢᛙ ᛌᛐᚢᚦ ᛓᚢᚱᚽ ᛆᛁᚿ ᚠᚭᚽᚱ᛫ ᚦᛆᚱ ᚱᛁᚦ ᚠᚢᚱᛁᚱ ᚽᛁᚱᚢᚭᚱ᛫ ᛌᚢᛌᛐᛁᚱ ᚭᚴᚭᛐᚢᛌ ᚢᚴ ᚽᛚᚭᚦᛌ᛫ ᚢᚴ ᛙᛁᚦ ᚽᛁᚿᛁ ᚢᚱᛙᛆᚱ ᚠᚢᛌᛐᚱᛁ ᚽᛁᚿᛆᛧ᛫ ᚢᛆᛧᚢ ᚦᚭᚢ ᛌᛁᛐ ᚦᛆᚱ ᛐᛁᛚ ᛚᚭᛐᚽᛆᛐᛌᛚᚢ ᚠᚢᚱᛁᚱ ᚽᛁᚱ ᚽᚢᚿᛆ᛫ ᚽᚭᚠᚦᚢ ᚦᚭᚢ ᚦᛆᚱ ᛙᛁᚴᛁᛐ ᛚᛁᚦ᛬
Sem þessi herr kom saman, riðu þeir skóg þann, er Myrkviðr heitir, er skilr Húnaland ok Gotaland. En sem þeir kómu af skóginum, þá váru byggðir stórar ok vellir sléttir, ok á vǫllunum stóð borg ein fǫgr; þar réð fyrir Hervǫr, systir Angantýs ok Hlǫðs, ok með henni Ormarr fóstri hennar; váru þau sett þar til landgæzlu fyrir her Húna; hǫfðu þau þar mikit lið.
When this host had gathered together they rode through the forest called Mirkwood, which divided the land of the Huns from the land of the Goths; and when they came out of the forest they were in a land of broad populous tracts and level plains. On the plains stood a fair stronghold, over which Hervǫr, the sister of Hlǫðr and Angantýr, had command, together with Ormarr her foster-father; they were set there to defend the land against the army of the Huns, and they had a strong garrison.
ᚦᛆᛐ ᚢᛆᛧ ᛆᛁᚿ ᛙᚢᚱᚽᚢᚿ ᛁ ᛌᚢᛚᛆᛧ ᚢᛓᚱᛆᛌ᛫ ᛆᛐ ᚽᛁᚱᚢᚭᚱ ᛌᛐᚢᚦ ᚢᛓ ᚭ ᚴᛆᛌᛐᛆᛚᛆ ᛆᛁᚿᚢᛙ ᚢᚠᛁᚱ ᛓᚢᚱᚽᛆᛧᚽᛚᛁᚦᛁ᛫ ᚽᚢᚿ ᛌᛆ ᛁᚢᚱᚭᚢᚴᛁ ᛌᛐᚢᚱᛆ ᛌᚢᚦᚱ ᛐᛁᛚ ᛌᚴᚢᚽᛆᛧᛁᚿᛌ᛫ ᛌᚢᛆ ᛆᛐ ᛚᚭᚴᚢᛙ ᚠᛆᛚ ᛌᚢᛚᛁᚿᛆ᛬ ᚦᚢᛁ ᚿᛆᛌᛐ ᛌᛆ ᚽᚢᚿ ᚴᛚᚢᚭ ᚢᛐᛁᚱ ᛁᚢᚱᚭᚢᚴᚿᚢᛙ᛫ ᛌᛁᛙ ᚭ ᚴᚢᛚ ᛆᛁᛐ ᛚᛁᛐᛁ᛫ ᚠᛆᚽᚱᛆ ᛌᚴᛁᚭᛚᛐᚢ ᚢᚴ ᚴᚢᛚᛁ ᛚᛆᚽᚦᛆ᛫ ᚴᚢᛚᛐᛆ ᚽᛁᛆᛚᛙᛆ ᚢᚴ ᚽᚢᛁᛐᛆᛧ ᛓᚱᚢᚿᛁᚢᛧ᛫ ᛌᛆ ᚽᚢᚿ ᚦᚭ ᛫ ᛆᛐ ᚦᛁᛐᛆ ᚢᛆᛧ ᚽᚢᚿᛆ ᚽᛁᚱ ᚢᚴ ᛙᛁᚴᛁᛚ ᛙᚭᚿᚠᛁᚭᛚᛐᛁ᛬
Þat var einn morgun í sólar upprás, at Hervǫr stóð upp á kastala einum yfir borgarhliði; hon sá jóreyki stóra suðr til skógarins, svá at lǫngum fal sólina. Því næst sá hon glóa undir jóreyknum, sem á gull eitt liti, fagra skjǫldu ok gulli lagða, gyllta hjálma ok hvítar brynjur; sá hon þá, at þetta var Húna herr ok mikill mannfjǫldi.
One morning at sunrise, Hervǫr stood on a watchtower above the fortress-gate, and she saw a great cloud of dust from horses’ hooves rising southwards towards the forest, which for a long time hid the sun. Presently she saw a glittering beneath the dustcloud, as though she were gazing on a mass of gold, bright shields overlaid with gold, gilded helms and bright corslets; and then she saw that it was the army of the Huns, and a mighty host.
ᚽᛁᚱᚢᚭᚱ ᚴᛁᚴ ᚢᚠᚭᚿ ᛌᚴᚢᛐᛁᛚᛁᚽᛆ ᚢᚴ ᚴᛆᛚᛆᛧ ᛚᚢᚦᚱᛌᚢᛆᛁᚿ ᚢᚴ ᛓᛆᚦ ᛓᛚᛆᛌᚭ ᛌᚭᛙᚭᚿ ᛚᛁᚦ᛫ ᚢᚴ ᛌᛁᚦᚭᚿ ᛙᛆᛚᛐᛁ ᚽᛁᚱᚢᚭᚱ᛬ ᛐᛆᚴᛁᚦ ᚢᛆᛓᚿ ᚢᚦᚢᚱ ᚢᚴ ᛓᚢᛁᛐᛌᚴ ᛐᛁᛚ ᚢᚱᚢᛌᛐᚢ᛫ ᛁᚿ ᚦᚢ᛫ ᚢᚱᛙᛆᚱ᛫ ᚱᛁᚦ ᛁ ᛙᚢᛐ ᚽᚢᚿᚢᛙ ᚢᚴ ᛓᛁᚢᚦ ᚦᛆᛁᛙ ᚢᚱᚢᛌᛐᚢ ᚠᚢᚱᛁᚱ ᛓᚢᚱᚽᛆᚱᚽᛚᛁᚦᛁ ᛁᚿᚢ ᛌᚢᚦᚱᛆ᛬
Hervǫr gekk ofan skyndiliga ok kallar lúðrsvein ok bað blása saman lið; ok síðan mælti Hervǫr: “Takið vápn yður ok búizk til orrostu, en þú, Ormarr, ríð í mót Húnum ok bjóð þeim orrostu fyrir borgarhliði inu syðra.”
Hervǫr went down swiftly and called her trumpeter, and ordered him to blow a summons to the host; and then said: “Take your weapons and make ready for battle; but do you, Ormarr, ride to meet the Huns, and challenge them to battle before the south gate of the stronghold.”
ᚢᚱᛙᛆᚱ ᚴᚢᛆᚦ᛬
Ormarr kvað:
Ormarr answered:
ᛌᚴᛆᛚ ᛁᚴ ᚢᛁᛌᛐ ᚱᛁᚦᚭ
ᚢᚴ ᚱᚭᛐ ᛓᛁᚱᚭ᛫
ᚴᚢᛐᛆ ᚦᛁᚢᚦᚢᛙ
ᚴᚢᚿᛁ ᛆᛐ ᚽᚭᚢᛁᚭ᛬
Skal ek víst ríða
ok rǫnd bera,
Gota þjóðum
gunni at heyja.
Surely I shall ride
my shield holding,
to give battle
for the Gothic people!
ᚦᚭ ᚱᛆᛁᚦ ᚢᚱᛙᛆᚱ ᛆᚠ ᛓᚢᚱᚽᛁᚿᛁ ᛙᚢᛐ ᚽᚢᚿᚢᛙ᛫ ᚽᚭᚿ ᚴᛆᛚᛆᚦᛁ ᚦᚭ ᚽᛆᛐ᛫ ᛓᛆᚦ ᚦᚭ ᚱᛁᚦᚭ ᛐᛁᛚ ᛓᚢᚱᚽᛆᛧᛁᚿᛆᛧ᛫ ᚢᚴ ᚢᛐᛁ ᚠᚢᚱᛁᚱ ᛓᚢᚱᚽᛆᛧᚽᛚᛁᚦᛁᚿᚢ ᛌᚢᚦᚱ ᚭ ᚢᚭᛚᚢᚿᚢᛙ ᚦᛆᚱ ᛓᚢᚦ ᛁᚴ ᚢᚦᛧ ᛐᛁᛚ ᚢᚱᚢᛌᛐᚢ᛫ ᛓᛁᚦᛁ ᚦᛆᛁᛧ ᚦᛆᚱ ᚭᚿᛆᚱᛆ᛫ ᛁᛧ ᚠᚢᚱ ᚴᚢᛙᚭ᛬
Þá reið Ormarr af borginni mót Húnnum; hann kallaði þá hátt, bað þá ríða til borgarinnar, — “ok úti fyrir borgarhliðinu suðr á vǫllunum þar býð ek yðr til orrostu; bíði þeir þar annarra, er fyrr koma.”
The Ormarr rode out of the fortress towards the Huns; he called out in a great voice and told them to ride on to the fortress — “and outside the stronghold-gate, in the plains to the south, there I offer you battle; and let them await the others, those who first come there.”
ᚿᚢ ᚱᛆᛁᚦ ᚢᚱᛙᛆᚱ ᛆᚠᛐᚱ ᛐᛁᛚ ᛓᚢᚱᚽᛆᛧᛁᚿᛆᛧ᛫ ᚢᚴ ᚢᛆᛧ ᚦᚭ ᚽᛁᚱᚢᚭᚱ ᛆᛚᛓᚢᛁᚿ ᚢᚴ ᛆᛚᛧ ᚽᛁᚿᛆᛧ ᚽᛁᚱ᛬ ᛌᛁᚦᚭᚿ ᚱᛁᚦᚢ ᚦᚭᚢ ᚢᛐ ᛆᚠ ᛓᚢᚱᚽᛁᚿᛁ ᛙᛁᚦ ᚽᛁᚱᛁᚿ ᛙᚢᛐᛁ ᚽᚢᚿᚢᛙ᛫ ᚽᚢᚠᛌᚴ ᚦᛆᚱ ᛆᛚᛙᛁᚴᛁᛚ ᚢᚱᚢᛌᛐᛆ᛬ ᛁᚿ ᛙᛁᚦ ᚦᚢᛁ ᛆᛐ ᚽᚢᚿᛆᛧ ᚽᛆᚠᚭ ᛚᛁᚦ ᛙᛁᚴᛚᚢ ᛙᛆᛁᛧᛆ᛫ ᛌᚿᛁᚱᛁ ᛙᚭᚿᚠᛆᛚᛁᚿᚢ ᛁ ᛚᛁᚦ ᚦᛆᛁᛧᛆ ᚽᛁᚱᚢᛆᚱᛆᛧ᛫ ᚢᚴ ᚢᛙ ᛌᛁᚦᛁᛧ ᚠᛁᛚ ᚽᛁᚱᚢᚭᚱ ᚢᚴ ᛙᛁᚴᛁᛐ ᛚᛁᚦ ᚢᛙᚽᚢᛁᚱᚠᛁᛌ ᚽᚭᚿᛆ᛬ ᛁᚿ ᛁᛧ ᚢᚱᛙᛆᚱ ᛌᛆ ᚠᛆᛚ ᚽᛁᚿᛆᛧ᛫ ᚦᛆ ᚠᛚᚢᚦᛁ ᚽᚭᚿ ᚢᚴ ᛆᛚᛁᛧ ᚦᛆᛁᛧ᛫ ᛁᚱ ᛚᛁᚠᛁᛐ ᛐᚢᚽᚦᚢ᛬ ᚢᚱᛙᛆᚱ ᚱᛆᛁᚦ ᛐᛆᚽ ᚢᚴ ᚿᚢᛐ᛫ ᛌᛁᛙ ᛙᛁᛌᛐ ᛙᛆᛐᛁ ᚽᚭᚿ᛫ ᛆ ᚠᚢᛐ ᚭᚴᚭᛐᚢᛌ ᚴᚢᚿᚢᚴᛌ ᛁ ᛆᚱᚽᛆᛁᛙᛆ᛬ ᚽᚢᚿᛆᛧ ᛐᛆᚴᚭ ᚿᚢ ᛆᛐ ᚽᛁᚱᛁᚭ ᚢᛙ ᛚᚭᛐᛁᛐ ᚢᛁᚦᛆ ᚢᚴ ᛓᚱᛁᚿᚭ᛬
Nú reið Ormarr aptr til borgarinnar, ok var þá Hervǫr albúin ok allr hennar herr. Síðan riðu þau út af borginni með herinn móti Húnum; hófsk þar allmikil orrosta. En með því at Húnar hafa lið miklu meira, sneri mannfallinu í lið þeira Hervarar, ok um síðir fell Hervǫr ok mikit lið umhverfis hana. En er Ormarr sá fall hennar, þá flýði hann ok allir þeir, er lífit dugðu. Ormarr reið dag ok nótt, sem mest mátti hann, á fund Angantýs konungs í Árheima. Húnar taka nú at herja um landit víða ok brenna.
Now Ormarr rode back to the fortress, and Hervǫr was ready, and all her army. They rode out of the stronghold with all the garrison to meet the Huns; and there a most mighty battle arose. But since the Huns had by far the larger army the slaughter became heavier in Hervǫr’s host; and at last Hervǫr fell, and a great company around her. When Ormarr saw her fall he fled away, and all the rest, who were fainthearted. Day and night Ormarr rode, as fast as he could, to reach King Angantýr in Árheimar; but the Huns began now to ravage and burn far and wide across the land.
ᚢᚴ ᛌᛁᛙ ᚢᚱᛙᛆᚱ ᚴᚢᛙ ᚠᚢᚱᛁᚱ ᚭᚴᚭᛐᚢ ᚴᚢᚿᚢᚴ᛫ ᚦᚭ ᚴᚢᛆᚦ ᚽᚭᚿ᛬
Ok sem Ormarr kom fyrir Angantý konung, þá kvað hann:
When Ormarr came before Angantýr the king, he said:
ᛌᚢᚿᚭᚿ ᛁᛙ ᛁᚴ ᚴᚢᛙᛁᚿ
ᛆᛐ ᛌᛁᚽᛁᚭ ᛌᛓᛁᚭᛚ ᚦᛁᛌᛁ᛬
ᛌᚢᛁᚦᛁᚿ ᛁᚱ ᛁᚿ ᛙᛆᚱᛆ
ᛙᚢᚱᚴᚢᛁᚦᛆᛧ ᚽᛆᛁᚦᛧ᛫
ᛐᚱᛁᚠᛁᚿ ᚭᛚ ᚴᚢᛐᚦᛁᚢᚦ
ᚴᚢᛙᚿᛆ ᛓᛚᚢᚦᛁ᛬
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at segja spjǫll þessi:
sviðin er in mæra
Myrkviðar heiðr,
drifin ǫll Gotþjóð
gumna blóði.
From the south have I come
to speak these tidings:
fire in the marches
of Mirkwood is raging,
with the gore of men
all Gothland’s sprinkled.
ᚢᚴ ᛁᚿ ᚴᚢᛆᚦ ᚽᚭᚿ᛬
Ok enn kvað hann:
And more he spoke:
ᛙᚭᚢ ᚢᛆᛁᛐ ᛁᚴ ᚽᛁᚱᚢᚭᚱᚢ᛫
ᚽᛆᛁᚦᚱᛁᚴᛌ ᛐᚢᛐᚢᚱ᛫
ᛌᚢᛌᛐᚢᚱ ᚦᛁᚿᛆ᛫
ᛌᚢᛁᚽᚿᛆ ᛐᛁᛚ ᛁᛆᚱᚦᛆᛧ᛫
ᚽᛆᚠᚭ ᚽᚢᚿᛆᛧ
ᚽᚭᚿᛆ ᚠᛁᛚᛐᛆ
ᚢᚴ ᛙᛆᚱᚽᛆ ᛆᚦᚱᛆ
ᚢᚦᛧᛆ ᚦᛁᚽᚿᛆ᛬
Mey veit ek Hervǫru,
Heiðreks dóttur,
systur þína,
svigna til jarðar;
hafa Húnar
hana fellda
ok marga aðra
yðra þegna.
I know that Hervǫr
Heiðrek’s daughter,
your own sister,
has sunk to the earth;
the Hun foemen
felled the maiden
and many more
of your men by her —
ᛚᛁᛐᛆᛧᛁ ᚴᛁᚱᚦᛁᛌᚴ ᚽᚢᚿ ᛆᛐ ᛓᚭᚦ
ᛁᚿ ᚢᛁᚦ ᛓᛁᚦᛁᛚ ᚱᚢᚦᚭ
ᛁᚦᛆ ᛁ ᛓᛁᚴ ᛆᛐ ᚠᛆᚱᚭ
ᛆᛐ ᛓᚱᚢᚦᛆᛧᚽᚭᚴᛁ᛬
Léttari gerðisk hon at bǫð
en við biðil rœða
eða í bekk at fara
at brúðargangi.
in war more happy
than in wooer’s converse,
or at bridal banquet
on bench to seat her.
ᚭᚴᚭᛐᚢᛧ ᚴᚢᚿᚢᚴᚱ᛫ ᚦᚭ ᛁᛧ ᚽᚭᚿ ᚽᚭᚢᛧᚦᛁ ᚦᛁᛐᛆ᛫ ᛓᚱᛆ ᚽᚭᚿ ᚴᚱᚭᚿᚢᛙ ᚢᚴ ᛐᚢᚴ ᛌᛆᛁᛐ ᛐᛁᛚ ᚢᚱᚦᛆ ᚢᚴ ᛙᛆᛚᛐᛁ ᚦᛁᛐᛆ ᚢᛙ ᛌᛁᚦᛁᛧ᛬
Angantýr konungr, þá er hann heyrði þetta, brá hann grǫnum ok tók seint til orða ok mælti þetta um síðir:
When King Angantýr heard this, he drew back his lips, and was slow to speak; at last he said:
ᚢᛓᚱᚢᚦᚢᚱᛚᛁᚽᛆ ᚢᛆᛧᛐᚢ ᛚᛆᛁᚴᛁᚿ᛫
ᛁᚿ ᛆᚽᛆᛐᛆ ᛌᚢᛌᛐᛁᚱ᛬
Óbróðurliga vartu leikin,
in ágæta systir.
In no brotherly fashion have you been treated,
my noble sister.

Commentary
The Saga of Hervǫr and King Heiðrekr (Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks konungs), dated from the 13th century, is somewhat of a hodgepodge assembled around a set of old poems, loosely bound together in a three-part story, with the magical sword Tyrfing as a unifying element and motif. It belongs to the category of legendary sagas, or sagas of ancient times (Old Norse fornaldarsǫgur), that deal with mythical events and heroes of the distant past and are often strongly infused with wonder.

The first part of the saga deals with the origin of the sword, forged under duress for the sake of the king Svafrlami of Garðaríki (Russia) by the dwarfs Dvalinn and Durinn. They made it so that it would shine like a sunray, never rust, cut through stone and iron and kill unfailingly at every stroke. But they also cursed it, so that it would not be unsheathed without causing the death of a man, and would also bring about three especially evil deeds. Svafrlami loses the sword to Arngrímr, a berserk warrior with twelve sons, all of them berserks too, notably Angantýr who inherits the sword. Angantýr and his brothers are ultimately slain in a fight on the island of Sámsey against the Swedish hero Hjálmarr and his sworn brother Ǫrvar-Oddr. The latter buries on the island Hjálmarr, who has perished by Tyrfing (its first evil deed), as well as the twelve brothers, and lets Tyrfing lie aside Angantýr. But Angantýr had begot a daughter, Hervǫr, who very early displays the disposition of a warrior. Disguised as a man under the name of Hjǫrvarðr, she joins a company of vikings and lives as a pillager. During a stay on Sámsey, she goes to her dead father’s barrow, invokes him in a magic song (Hervararkviða “Song of Hervǫr”) and forces him, despite his adjurations, to hand her over the sword Tyrfing. After various adventures, she eventually forsakes her life as a warrior, weds Hǫfundr son of Guðmundr of Glæsisvellir, and bears two sons, named Angantýr and Heiðrekr.

The second part focuses on the figure of Heiðrekr. He displays the same violent character than his mother and once perpetrates a murder at a feast held by his parents. For this his father banishes him, but not without providing him much wise advice, although the young man will later make a point in not following them. His mother hands him over Tyrfing, and his brother Angantýr goes with him. Both decision prove ill-fated: when Heiðrekr unsheathes the sword to have a look, the curse attached to it makes him kill his brother (second evil deed). Heiðrekr enters the service of Haraldr, king of the Goths in Hreiðgotaland, weds his daughter Helga and begets a son again named Angantýr. He ultimately seizes the kingdom and rules it brutally. He vanquishes Humli, king of the Huns, rapes the latter’s daughter Sifka, who bears him a son, Hlǫðr. After an adventure in Garðaríki at the court of king Rollaugr, he weds anew with his daughter Hergerðr. A daughter is born from this union, named Hervǫr after her grandmother, and like her a shieldmaiden (skjaldmey). There follows a long time of peace. King Heiðrekr clashes with a man called Gestumblindi, who in his disquiet sacrifices to the god Óðinn to get help. Óðinn visits Heiðrekr under the guise of Gestumblindi and both agree to settle their grievances in a game of riddles. Heiðrekr guesses everything, until Óðinn asks a question whose answer is known only by himself, and so wins an unfair victory. Heiðrekr is enraged and draws Tyrfing, but Óðinn escapes in the form of a falcon and warns him that he will suffer a lowly death. Indeed the curse of Tyrfing finally catches on with Heiðrekr, killed by his slaves when travelling in the Carpathian Mountains. His son Angantýr avenges him and gets back Tyrfing, the curse of which is now spent after its third evil deed.

The third part tells of the quarrel between the heirs of Heiðrekr. It incudes and paraphrases a poem’s fragment (Hlǫðskviða “Song of Hlǫðr”) based upon a historical tradiction that goes back to the Migration Period, when the invasion of the Huns in the 4th century destroyed the Gothic kingdoms established then in Eastern Europe. In the saga, Hlǫðr, supported by his mother’s father Humli and his Huns, claims half of the Gothic kingdom. Angantýr is prepared to grant him great wealth, but refuses to divide the kingdom, all the more so that Hlǫðr is an illegitimate son. The great Hunnic army invades Hreiðgotaland. Hervǫr first sees the horde coming, and opposes it in a hopeless fight in which she is slain. But Angantýr has been warned and musters the Gothic army. A huge battle of eight days follows, that is ultimately won by the Goths. Hlǫðr is slain and Angantýr rues the fate that made him murder his own brother. The saga ends with an epilogue that puts the origin of the first kings of Sweden in the descent of Angantýr.

J. R. R. Tolkien reused many elements and motifs of this saga in his legendarium. The Saga of Hervǫr and King Heiðrekr was edited and translated in 1960 by Christopher Tolkien under the title The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise (Saga Heiðreks Konungs ins Vitra). He identifies three main versions named H, R et U after the origin of their manuscripts. His restoration of the text is primarily based on the R-version, regarded as the nearest to the original, but the gaps are filled according to the U-version.

Here we give in this edition and translation the beginning of the third part of the saga, when war breaks out between the sons of Heiðrekr and leads to the death of their sister Hervǫr. Thanks to Anouck Faure for the record of Hervǫr’s words!

The text is transcribed in Gemanic runes or futhark, from the series called Younger Futhark, used in Scandinavia from the 9th to the 12th century. The runes are of the “short-twig” variety, also called “Rök runes” or (rather improperly) “Swedish” or “Norwegian runes”. We made use of Robert Pfeffer’s typeface Pfeffer Mediæval.

References
Saga Heiðreks konungs ins Vitra = The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise. Translated from the Icelandic with introduction, notes and appendices by Christopher Tolkien. Edinburgh, London, Melbourne, Johannesburg, Toronto, New York, Paris: Thomas Nelson and Sons, cop. 1960. XXXVIII-100 p. (Icelandic texts). ISBN 0-8047-1454-1. 🌍 Viking Society for Northern Research.
Shippey, Thomas Alan. The Road to Middle-earth: How J. R. R. Tolkien created a new mythology. London: Grafton, 1992. 337 p. ISBN 0-261-10275-3.

The works of John Ronald Reuel and Christopher Tolkien are under the copyright of their authors and/or rights holders, including their publishers and the Tolkien Estate.
Quotations from other authors, editors and translators mentioned in the bibliography are under the copyright of their publishers, except for those whose copyright term has ended.
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