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Viktor Rydberg's Investigations into Germanic Mythology Volume II  : Part 2: Germanic Mythology
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The Saga of Hervor and King Heidrek the Wise

5. Hervor Got the Sword Tyrfing

Bjarmar's daughter was with child. That was an exceptionally fair lass. She was sprinkled with water2 and given a name and called Hervor, but it was the opinion of most that she should be left outside,3 and they said she wouldn't be too ladylike if she took after her father's kin. She was brought up with the Jarl and was as strong as the boys, and as soon as she could do anything for herself, she trained more with shot and shield and sword than sewing or embroidery. She did more bad than good too. And when these things were forbidden to her, she ran into the woods and killed men for their money. And when the Jarl hears of this highwayman, he went there with his troops and caught Hervor and brought her home, and then she stayed at home for a bit.

It happened one time, that Hervor was stood outside, near where some thralls were, and she was having a go at them, just as she treated everyone.

Then one of the thralls interrupted her, saying, “You, Hervor, you want to do something evil, but evil's to be expected of you. And the Jarl has forbidden anyone to tell you about your parents, because he thinks it is shameful for you to know about that, because the worst thrall lay with his daughter and you are their child.”

On hearing this, Hervor became furious and went straight before the Jarl and exclaimed:

“I needn't boast
of noble kin,
(though mother found
Frodmar's favour);
a great lineage
I liked to believe,
but here I'm told:
a herder of swine.”

The Jarl declared:

“You've heard a great lie,
little of substance;
noble among men
your father was known;
strewn all with soil
stands Angantyr's
hall on Samsey,
south side of the island.”

She said:

“Now I'm eager,
foster father,
to visit vanished
kin of mine;
they watch over
wealth in plenty,
unless I perish
I'd like to get it.

So let's hasten
my hair to tie
with linen cloth,
before I leave;
much depends
(upon my rising)
on the cutting of
both cloak and shirt.”

Then Hervor spoke with her mother and said:

“Prepare me now
with proper care,
truly wise woman,
as you would a son;
a certain truth
in sleep to me comes,
no joy would I have
here after this.”

Then she got ready to leave alone with a man's gear and weapons, and made her way to where some vikings were, and sailed with them for a while, and called herself Hervard.

A little later, the captain died and this 'Hervard' took command of the crew, and when they came to the island of Samsey, Hervard told them to stop there so she could go up onto the island, and said there would be a good chance of treasure in the mound. But all the crewmen speak against it and say that such terrible ghouls walk there night and day, that it is worse there in the daytime than most places at night. In the end, they agree to drop anchor, and Hervor climbed in the boat and rowed ashore and landed in Munway just as the sun was setting. And she met a man there watching his herd.

The young maiden
met at sunset
in Munway Firth
a man herding.

He said:

“Who among men
to the harbour is come?
Head home swiftly,
hurry to your lodging.”

She said:

“I will not march
to my lodging,
for I know none
of the island folk;
so inform me fast
before you leave:
Where are Hjorvard's
Howes4 meant to be?”

He said:

“Don't ask me that,
you don't seem too smart,
friend of vikings,
you're far from home;
now let's flee as fast
as feet can grasp;
it's all too much
for men out here.”

She said:

“Oh, let's not fear
such fizzing and sizzling,5
though the whole island
heave with fire;
don't let these old
dead men scare us
quite so quickly,
come let's talk further.

Here's a prize necklace
in payment for talk,
but dissuading me
won't be as easy--
you won't divert
the vikings' boss
with fair trinkets
or treasured arm-rings.”

He said:

“Silly would seem
someone to me
who heads on alone
from here by night;
fire is blazing,
barrows open,
burn field and fen,
let's go faster.”

Then the cowherd
quick to the wood
fled far from the words
of this wild maiden,
but Hervor's heart
hard-knit in her breast
swelled boldly now
about such matters.

And so he took off home to his village, and they parted company there. At that moment, she suddenly sees where the grave-fire burns over on the edge of the island, and she goes up there and is not afraid, though all the mounds were in her path and the dead standing outside. She waded through the flame as if through fog till she came to the barrow of the berserks.

Then she called:

“Awake, Angantyr,
Hervor wakes you,
only daughter
of you and Svafa;
from your crypt give me
that keenest blade,
the sword dwarves struck
for King Sigrlami.

Hervard, Hjorvard,
Hrani, Angantyr,
under forest roots
I rouse you all,
with buckler, with byrnie,
bright helm and harness,
a good sharp glaive,
and gold-reddened spear.

So much for you
sons of Arngrim,
mean men
to the mould adding,
when Eyfura's boy
won't even talk
to me tonight
in Munway Bay.

Hervard, Hjorvard,
Hrani, Angantyr,
may you all be racked
in your ribs rotten,
decay as though dwindling
deep in an anthill,
if you don't hand over
Dvalin's sword;
it does not suit
dead men to grip
a good weapon.”

Then said Angantyr:

“Hervor, daughter,
what drives you to call so?
Brimful of bale-runes,
you're bound for grief.
You're out of your mind,
mad have you gone,
lost your wits now,
waking up dead men.

A father did not
dig my grave,
no parent buried me,
nor other kinsmen;
they had Tyrfing,
the two who lived,
though the owner was
but one in the end.”

She said:

“That's a lie, sir--
may the god only let you
sit hale in your howe,
if you have not got it
laid in there with you;
reluctant you are
heirlooms to share
with your only child.”


2. A heathen custom similar to baptism.
3. In pre-Christian times, poor families might leave a baby out to die if they felt unable to look after it.
4. haugar, burial mounds.
5. According to folk belief, fire over grave mounds was as a sign of buried treasure.

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