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The Saga of Hervor and King Heidrek the Wise

Then the mound opened and it seemed to be all fire and flame. And Angantyr said:

“Hellgate gapes
and graves open
all is fire
on the island's rim;
it's grim outside
to gaze around,
shift yourself, girl,
if you can, to your ships.”

She answers:

“Oh, you can't burn
any bonfires by night,
no flames flaring
to frighten me;
your daughter's mind
does not tremble
though dead men there
in the door she see.”

Then said Angantyr:

“I say to you, Hervor,
have a listen
wise daughter now,
to what will be:
this sword Tyrfing
(try to believe it)
will, girl, your offspring
all destroy.

A lad you'll bear
who later shall own
the sword Tyrfing
and trust his own strength;
people will call
the boy Heidrek,
he will grow greatest
under heaven's tent.”

She declared:

“I cast this curse
on killed warriors,
that you shall all
eaten in tomb lie
undead with dead
in the dark rotten;
hand me Angantyr
out of your mound
that gnome-made blade,
it's no good to hide.”

He says:

“I say you aren't, girl,
like other mortals,
to walk among howes
up here by night,
with graven spear,
and with Gothic steel,
helm and fine mail
before my hall door.”

Then said Hervor:

“I did think I was mortal,
among the living,
till down I came
to your dead men's hall;
hand me from your howe, then,
what hates armour,
the hazard of shields
Hjalmar's bane.”

Then said Angantyr:

“Hjalmar's bane lies
below my shoulders,
the blade is wrapped,
right round in flame;
one girl only
on earth up there,
I guess would dare
take that glaive in hand.”

Hervor said:

“I will take care of
and take in hand
edge-sharp the blade,
if I could have it;
I'm not afraid
of fire burning,
the flame's soon out
that I look over.”

Then said Angantyr:

“You're foolish, Hervor,
but full of daring,
to rush at flames
before your eyes;
rather, young girl,
I think I'll give you
the cleaver from my cairn,
I can't refuse.”

Hervor said:

“You do well, sir,
warrior kinsman,
if from this grave
you give the sword;
I'd rather have that
regal lord
than all Norway
beneath my sway.”

Angantyr said:

“Wicked woman,
what would you know?
No need for glee
or glad words now;
this blade Tyrfing
(you'd better believe)
will, girl, your offspring
all destroy.”

She says:

“I will soon
to the sea-steeds go,
now the chief's daughter
is cheery enough;
what do I care,
cousin of nobles,
how later my sons
will settle this thing.”

He says:

“You shall own
and long enjoy,
but keep covered
what killed Hjalmar;
press not the edges,
there's poison in both,
a man's doom, that,
more dire than plague.

Fare well, daughter,
freely I'd have lent you
lives of twelve men,
could you believe,
strength and stoutness,
all the sturdy vigour
that Arngrim's lads
lost when they died.”

She said:

“Now rest you all
(I'm raring to go)
hale men in your mound;
for a moment there I almost
seemed to tread
between the worlds6
when round me then
those fires burned.”

Then she went to the ships. But when it got light she saw that the ships were gone. The vikings had taken fright at the thunders and fires on the island. She gets herself passage from there, but nothing is known of her journey, till she comes to Godmund in Glasisvellir, and she was there over winter and still called herself Hervard.

6. Of The Brothers Angantyr and Heidrek

It is said that in days of yore there was a country up north in Finnmark called Jotunheim, and to the south, between there and Halogaland, lay Ymisland. Giants were widespread in the northern part of the world then, but some were half-giants. A great blending of peoples came about at this time: giants married women from the world of men, and some gave their daughters to men. Godmund was the name of a king in Jotunheim. His home was called Grund, and his land Glasisvellir. He was a great worshiper of the old gods. He was a wise and powerful man, and so old--and all his men too--that they each lived many times the normal span. And because of this, heathens believe that it must be in his realm that The Deathless Acre is to be found, that place to which anyone who comes is so healed that sickness and old age vanish from them, and they cannot die. It is said that after Godmund's death, folk worshipped him with sacrifices and called him their god.

One day, as Godmund was playing chess and was on the verge of losing, he asked if anyone could help him. Then Hervard went up and advised for a little while until things were looking better for Godmund. Then a man picked up Tyrfing and drew it. Hervard saw that and snatched the sword off him and killed him, then went out. The men wanted to run after him. But Godmund said, “Settle down, there will not be as much vengeance in that person as you think, because you don't know who it is. This woman will cost you dear before you take her life.”

Then Hervor spent a long time in warfare and raiding, and had great success. And when she tired of that, she returned home to the jarl, her mother's father. From then on, she went along like other girls, weaving and doing embroidery.

Hofund, the son of Godmund, hears about her and he comes and asks for Hervor's hand in marriage, and that is agreed, and he takes her home. Hofund was the wisest of men for wits and foresight. He was set as judge over all the lands that lay around, so just and fair that he never gave a wrong verdict, nor showed any favouritism, neither at home nor abroad. And after him is named the 'hofund', or judge, who everywhere judges the law-suits of men. None dared, or needed, to break his ruling.


6. ...of the living and the dead.

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