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The Saga of Hervor and King Heidrek the Wise

Hervor and Hofund had two sons. One was called Angantyr and the other Heidrek. They were both big men and strong, clever and promising. Angantyr was like his father in temperament and wished everyone well. Hofund loved him a lot and so did all the people. But as much good as he did, Heidrek did more ill. Hervor loved him a lot. Heidrek's foster father was called Gizur.

And once, when Hofund had a feast, all the chiefs in his land were invited except Heidrek. He didn't much like that and went all the same and said he would do them some harm. And when he came into the hall, Angantyr stood up to greet him and told him to sit at his side. Heidrek was not happy and sat long into the evening drinking. And when Angantyr, his brother, went out, Heidrek talked to the men who were next to him, and he wound them up with his words so that they got into quarrels and all said bad things about each other. Then Angantyr came back and told them to be quiet. And again, another time, when Angantyr had gone out, Heidrek reminded them about what they had said to each other, and in the end, one punched another. Then Angantyr came and told them to call it quits till morning. But the third time when Angantyr went away, Heidrek asked the one who had got hit, whether he dared to avenge himself. He talked on like this so that eventually the one who had been hit jumped up and killed his fellow guest, and then Angantyr arrived. And when Hofund became aware of all this, he ordered Heidrek to go away and make no more trouble that night.

After that, Heidrek went out with Angantyr, his brother, into the yard, and they parted there. When Heidrek had gone a little way from the house, he thought to himself that he hadn't done much harm there. He turned back towards the hall and picked up a big stone and threw it in the direction where he could hear some people talking in the darkness. He realised that the stone must have hit someone, and went there and found a man dead and recognised Angantyr, his brother. He ran straight to the forest.

Hofund held a funeral feast for his son, and all grieved at Angantyr's death. Heidrek regretted his deed and lived long in the woods shooting beasts and birds for his food. But when he pondered his case, it occurred to him that if he was never seen again, then nothing good would ever be said of him. It came into his head that he could still be a famous man with great deeds to his name like those of his forebears. He went home.

Heidrek went then into the hall, in front of his father, and tells him everything. Hofund declares that he should be off and never come into his sight and said that it would be more fitting if he was struck dead or hanged. Then Queen Hervor spoke and says that Heidrek deserves to suffer, but still it would be a harsh punishment if he could never come into his father's kingdom, and must go away with nothing to his name. But Hofund's word carried such weight that it was done as he commanded, and no one was so bold as to speak up against him, or to beg mercy for Heidrek. The queen asked Hofund to grant him some sound advice at their parting.

Hofund says that he would give him a few words of advice, but he says he doesn't think it would be much use to him. “And yet, since you ask this thing, queen, the first advice I advise him is this: that he never help a man who has killed his own liege lord. This advice I advise him second: that he never save the man who has murdered his own friend. This third: that he mustn't let his wife visit her family often, even if she asks. This fourth: that he be never be out late with his mistress. This fifth: that he never ride his best horse, though he has much need of speed. This sixth: that he never foster a nobler man's child. And it seems to me most likely you won't follow that.”

Heidrek said that he had advised out of ill will, and that he was not obliged to follow it. Then Heidrek goes out of the hall. His mother stands up and goes out with him and follows him out of the yard and said, “You've done it now, my son. The way you've fixed things, you can't expect to be back--so there's not much I can do to help you. Here is a mark of gold and a sword, which I want to give you. It is called Tyrfing and it belonged to Angantyr the berserk, your grandfather. No one is so ignorant they haven't heard tell of him. And if you come to where men trade blows, just remember how Tyrfing has often been victorious.” Now she bids him farewell, and with that they part.

7. Heidrek Got a Home in Reidgotaland

And when Heidrek has gone a little while, he meets some men with one tied up. They ask each other the news and Heidrek asks what this man had done to be bound like that. They say that he has betrayed his lord. Heidrek asks if they will take money for him and they say yes. He gives them half a mark of gold and they let him loose.

The man offers Heidrek his service, but Heidrek says, “Why would you be true to me, a stranger, when you betrayed your own liege lord. Get lost.”

A little later, Heidrek met some more men with one tied up. He asks what this one has done wrong. They say he has murdered his friend. He asks if they want gold for him. They say yes. He gave them the other half mark of gold. The man offers Heidrek his service and Heidrek refuses.

Then Heidrek travels a long way and comes to the place called Reidgotaland. There ruled the king Harald, very old, and had dominion over a great empire. He had no son. And his kingdom was diminishing, because certain jarls went against him with an army, and he had fought with them but always lost. And now they had made peace on such terms that the king paid them tribute every twelve months. Heidrek stopped there and stayed with the king over winter.

It so happened one time that a great amount of goods came to the king. Then Heidrek asks whether it is the king's taxes. The king says it is something quite different, “I must pay this wealth as tribute.”

Heidrek says it is not right for a king like this, who has had such a great empire, to pay tax to criminal jarls--it would be more resolute to stand in battle against them. The king says he'd tried that and lost.

Heidrek declared, “I would be better able to repay your good hospitality if I was captain of this expedition. And, I was thinking, if I had an army then it would seem no big deal to me to fight with nobler men than these are.”

The king says, “I will give you an army, if you want to fight with jarls. And you will certainly have it made, if you do well on this expedition. It's most likely, though, you'll find out your own mistake, if you are fooling yourself.”

After that, the king had a great army assembled, and the force was prepared for war. With Heidrek chief over the army, they went then against these jarls, harrying and plundering as soon as they come into their land. And when the jarls hear that, they went against them with a great army and when they met there was a big battle. Heidrek was there in the vanguard and had Tyrfing in his right hand, and nothing withstood that sword, neither helm nor byrnie, and he killed there all who stood near him. And then he rushed forward out ahead of his own ranks and hacked on both sides, and he drove so far into the enemy ranks that he slew both jarls, and after that some of their troops fled, but most were killed. Heidrek travelled then over the jarls' territory and brought the whole land under the rule of King Harald, as it had been before, demanding tribute, and going home when this had been done, with countless treasures and great victory. King Harald goes meet him with great honour and bids Heidrek stay with him and have for himself as much land and power as he wanted.

Then Heidrek asked for King Harald's daughter, who was called Helga, and she was given in marriage to him. Heidrek then took command of half King Harald's kingdom. Heidrek had a son with his wife. He was called Angantyr. King Harald had a son in his old age, but he is not named.

8. Heidrek Took the Whole Kingdom

At that time, a great famine fell upon Reidgotaland, so that it seemed to be turning into a wasteland. Now lots were cast by soothsayers, and the sacrifice chip was thrown, and in this way they learnt that prosperity would never come to Reidgotaland until the most noble boy in the land was sacrificed. King Harald says that Heidrek's son is positioned highest, and Heidrek says that Harald's son is noblest. And this could not be resolved except by going off to the man whose solutions could all be trusted: King Hofund.

Heidrek is chosen as the leader of this mission and with him go many other respected men. As Heidrek came to meet his father, he was well received. He explained the whole matter to his father and asks him to judge. And Hofund says this: that Heidrek's son was the highest in that land.

Heidrek says, “It looks to me like you are sentencing my son to death; and actually, why are you picking me to lose my son?”

Then said King Hofund, “You must request that every fourth man be under your command, of those present at the sacrifice, or else you will not let your own son be sacrificed. You don't need telling what to do then.”

So when Heidrek came home to Reidgotaland, a council was called. Heidrek begins like this: “It was the decision of King Hofund, my father, that my son is best in the land, and he is chosen for the sacrifice. And in exchange for this, I want to have authority over every fourth man who has come to this council, and I want you to grant me this.”

And so it was done--they were transferred to his forces. After that, he had his troops mustered and raises a standard, gives battle to King Harald, and there is a great struggle and King Harald falls there along with many of his men. Heidrek now takes over all the land which King Harald owned and made himself king over it. Heidrek says that all these soldiers who were killed would make good enough sacrifice in place of his son, and now he gave the dead to Odin.

His wife was so angry after the fall of her father that she hanged herself in the temple of the goddess.

One summer, King Heidrek went south with his army to Hunland and fought with a king called Humli, and got victory there and took his daughter, who was called Sifka, and brought her home with him. And the next summer, he sent her back and she was then with child, and the boy was called Hlod and he was a fine-looking lad, and Humli fostered him, his mother's father.

9. Of the Queen's Treachery

One summer, King Heidrek travelled with his army to Saxland. And when the king of the Saxons heard of that, he invited him to a feast and asked him to take whatever he wanted from his lands, and King Heidrek agreed to that. Then he saw his daughter, wise and fair of feature, and Heidrek asked for this girl and she was given to him in marriage. The feast was extended and afterwards he went home with his wife and took with her countless treasures. King Heidrek made a great warrior of himself and adds much to his kingdom in many directions. His wife often asked to go to her father and he let her, and with her went Angantyr, her stepson.

One summer, when King Heidrek was raiding, he comes to Saxland, to his father-in-law's kingdom. He puts into some hidden creek with his ships and goes on land with one man, and they come at night to the royal halls and they head for the building where the queen normally slept, and the guards did not notice their arrival. He goes in the room and sees that a man was sleeping beside her, and he had fair hair on his head. The man who was with the king says that he'd taken revenge for lesser cause.

He answers, “I will not do that now.”

The king took the boy Angantyr, who lay in the next bed, and he cut a big lock out of the hair of this man who lay in the arms of his wife, and carried them both off with him: the hair and the boy. He went then to his ships. In the morning, the king comes into the harbour and all the people go to meet him and a feast was prepared. Heidrek has a council called and then grave tidings were told to him, that his son Angantyr had died suddenly.

Heidrek said, “Show me the body.”

The queen says it would only worsen his grief. Nevertheless, he was taken to the place. There was a cloth there, wrapped up, and a dog inside it.

King Heidrek said, “There's a bad change come over my boy now, if he's turned into a dog...”

After that, the king had the boy brought to the council and said he had evidence of great treachery on the part of the queen and explained everything that had happened, ordering all men who could attend the council to be summoned thither.

And when most of the population have come, the king declared, “The golden haired man hasn't come yet.”

Then another search was made, and a man was found in the kitchen with a band round his head. Many wondered why he had to come to the council, some stupid thrall. And when he came to the council, King Heidrek said, “Here you can see who the princess wants instead of me.”

Now he took the lock and held it to the hair and they matched.

“But you, King,” says Heidrek, “have always been good to us, and so your land will remain at peace with us, but I don't want to have your daughter any more.”

Heidrek went home now to his kingdom with his son.

One summer, King Heidrek sends men to Gardariki with this mission: to invite home the son of the Garda King so that he could foster him, for now he wants to break all his father's sound counsels, to test them. The messengers go to meet the Garda King and explain the errand with words of friendship. The king said there wasn't much chance of that, of him giving his son into the hands of that man, who was accused of many bad things.

Then the queen said, “Don't speak like that, Lord. Have you not heard how great a man he is, and how victorious? And it is wiser to get into his favour, or your kingdom will not stay at peace.”

The king said, “You will have your way in this.”

Now the boy is given into the hands of the messengers and they journey home. King Heidrek received the boy well and gave him a good upbringing and loved him a lot.

Sifka, Humli's daughter, was back again with the king, but he had been advised not to tell her anything which was best kept secret.

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