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The Saga of Hervor and King Heidrek the Wise

4. Battle on Samsey

But when the brothers come home, they prepare themselves for the duelling place, and their father leads them to the ship and then gave the sword Tyrfing to Angantyr.

“I think,” he says, “that there will be a need of good weapons.”

He bids them farewell. After that, they leave.

And when the brothers come to Samsey, they see two ships lying in the cove, which is called Munway. Those ships were a kind of small warship called an 'ash'. They thought these ships must belong to Hjalmar and Odd. Then Arngrim's sons drew their swords and bit on their shield-rims, and the berserk-state came on them. Then six of them went onto each of the ashes. And there were such good warriors on board, that they all took up their weapons, and nobody fled from his post, and no one uttered a word of fear. And the berserks went up one side and down the other, and killed them all. Then they walked up onto the land roaring.

Hjalmar and Odd had gone up onto the island to see if the berserks had come. And as they walked out of the woods to their ships, the berserks came out of the ships with bloodied weapons, and then the berserk-state went off them. And they became weaker then that at other times, as after some kind of sickness. And Odd intoned:

“One time only
I was frightened,
when from warships
they walked roaring
(and loud yowling
to the island climbed)
twelve together,

Then Hjalmar said to Odd, “Do you see there that all our men have fallen, and it appears to me most likely now that we will all be Odin's guests in Valhall tonight.”

And that, men say, is the only word of fear that Hjalmar spoke.

Odd answers, “My advice would be this: that we get away from here to the wood, because the two of us will not be able to fight those twelve, who have killed the bravest men who were in Sweden.”

Then said Hjalmar, “We will never flee from our enemies, but rather endure their weapons. I will go to fight a berserk.”

Odd answered, “Well, I'm not in the mood to lodge with Odin tonight, so they will all be dead berserks before evening, and us two will live.”

That conversation of theirs is proved by this these lines which Hjalmar chanted:

“Bold fellows bound
brisk from warships,
twelve together,
we foster-brothers
must feast with Odin,
this very evening
while those twelve live.”

Odd says:

“To that an answer
I can give you:
This evening they
will eat with Odin,
twelve berserkers,
and the two of us live.”

Then Hjalmar saw that Angantyr had Tyrfing in his hand, because light shone from it like a sunbeam. Hjalmar spoke: “Which do you want to fight: Angantyr on his own, or his eleven brothers?”

Odd says, “I want to fight with Angantyr. He will give hard knocks with Tyrfing, but I believe my shirt is better protection than your byrnie.”

Hjalmar spoke: “Wherever did we come to a battle, where you go forward in front of me? That's why you want to fight with Angantyr, because you think that will get you more glory. Well, I'm the leader of this duelling expedition. In Sweden I promised the king's daughter not to let you or anyone else go into this duel in front of me. So I should fight Angantyr.” And he drew his sword then and stepped up towards Angantyr, and they dedicated each other to Valhall. And they didn't leave long between each heavy stroke.

Odd called to the berserks and said:

“One on one, lads,
unless you're scared;
single combat,
or where's your courage?”

Then Hjorvard went forward and he and Odd had a hard exchange of blows. And Odd's silk shirt was so firm that no weapon could grip on it, but he had a sword so good it bit mail like cloth. And he hadn't dealt many cuts before Hjorvard fell dead. Then Hervard stepped up and went the same way, then Hrani, then one after the other, and Odd dealt them such a fierce onslaught, that he laid low all eleven brothers. And of Hjalmar's match it is to be said that Hjalmar took sixteen wounds, and Angantyr fell dead.

Odd went up to where Hjalmar was, and said:

“What's up, Hjalmar?
Changed your hue, there?
I say, many wounds
do weary you.
Your helm is hewn,
and the hauberk on your side;
I say your life
has left you now.”

Hjalmar sang:

“I've sixteen wounds,
a slit byrnie,
there's clouds before my eyes--
can't see.
It entered my heart,
Angantyr's sword,
fell bloodspike,
forged in poison.”

And he sang again:

“I had five
farms in all,
but that was never
enough for me.
Now I must lie,
of life deprived,
on Samsey Isle.

Men are all drinking
mead in the hall,
there's fine jewels
at father's place;
much beer
makes the men sleepy,
but me sword-tracks
on Samsey torment.

I left the pale
bed-valkyrie of ribbons1
on Agnafit
to the ocean side;
all too true
what she told to me,
that never after
would I be back.

Wrench from my hand
the red-gold ring,
and bring it to young
that grief will fix
fast in her mind,
that I'll not come
to Uppsala.

I turned away
from womens' song,
fair-sounding notes--
I feared no joy;
slow with Soti
I sailed eastward;
to war I fared
– I would not hurry--
from dear friends
one final time.

But from the east
flies the raven,
after him eagle
in its turn flies;
my flesh I offer
to the last eagle;
he leaves his branch
he will lap my blood.”

After that Hjalmar dies. Odd brings this message home to Sweden, and the king's daughter could not live after him, and took her own life.

Angantyr and his brothers were laid in a mound on Samsey with all their weapons.


1. hlaðs beðgunnr, a kenning (poetic circumlocution) for ‘woman’. Literally: ‘the embroidered border’s bed-valkyrie’ (!), or ‘the valkyrie of the bed of embroidery (i.e. of the cloak)’.

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