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The Saga of Hervor and King Heidrek the Wise

Epilogue: The Descendents of Angantyr

15. The Ancestry of the Danish and Swedish Kings

Angantyr was king over Reidgotaland for many years. He was powerful and a great warrior, and from him are descended lines of kings. His son was Heidrek Wolfhide, who succeeded him and ruled long in Reidgotaland. He had a daughter called Hild. She was the mother of Halfdan Snjalli, father of Ivar the Wide-Grip.

Ivar the Wide-Grip came with his army to Sweden, as is told in the Sagas of the Kings. And King Ingjald the Bad of Sweden, Ingjald Illradi, took fright at the invaders and burnt himself with all his household inside his palace at Raening. Ivar the Wide-Grip then took control of the whole of Sweden. He also won Denmark, Kurland, Germany and Estonia and all the eastern lands as far as Russia. He also ruled western Germany and won part of England called Northumbria. Ivar then conquered all Denmark, and afterwards set Valdar over it as king and gave him his daughter Alfhild in marriage. Their sons were Harald Wartooth and Randver, who fell in England. When Valdar died in Denmark, Randver took Denmark and made himself king. And Harald Wartooth assumed the title of king in Gautland, and afterwards took control of all the aforenamed countries that Ivar the Wide-Grip had owned. King Randver got Asa, daughter of King Harald Redbeard, from Norway in the north. Their son was Sigurd Ring. King Randver died suddenly and Sigurd Ring took the kingship in Denmark. He fought with King Harald Wartooth at Bravellir Plains in eastern Gautland, and there fell King Harald and great host of warriors with him. This battle, along with the one Angantyr and his brother fought on Dun Heath, have come to be regarded as the most famous battles all in the old sagas, and the ones most renowned for loss of life. King Sigurd ruled Denmark till his death, and was succeeded by his son: Ragnar Lodbrok, Hairy-Trousers.

The son of Harald Wartooth was called Eystein the Bad. He took Sweden after his father and ruled it till the sons of Ragnar killed him, as is told in his saga. The sons of King Ragnar conquered Sweden, and after Ragnar's death, his son Bjorn Ironside took Sweden, and Sigurd got Denmark, Whiteshirt the Baltic states, and Ivar Boneless took England. The sons of Bjorn Ironside were Eirik and Refil. Refil was a warlord and a sea-king, and Eirik ruled Sweden after his father and lived but a little time. Then Refil's son Eirik took the throne. He was a great warrior and a mighty king. The sons of Eirik Bjorn's-son were called Uppsala Onund and King Bjorn. Then once again Sweden came to be divided between brothers. And Onund and Bjorn took the kingdom after the death of Eirik Refilsson. King Bjorn founded the town of Haug - he was called Bjorn of Haug. The poet Bragi was at his court. Onund was succeeded at Uppsala by his son Eirik - he was a powerful king. In his days, Harald Finehair rose to power in Norway, the first of his family to be sole ruler. Bjorn was the son of King Eirik at Uppsala. He took the throne after his father and ruled for many years. Bjorn's sons were Eirik the Victorious and Olaf. They took the country and the kingship after the death of Bjorn. Olaf was the father of Styrbjorn the Strong. In their day, King Harald Finehair died. Styrbjorn fought with King Eirik, his father's brother, at the Plains of Fyris, and there fell Styrbjorn. After that, Eirik ruled Sweden till his death. He married Sigrid the Proud. They had a son called Olaf who the Swedes made king after Eirik. He was still a child and the Swedes carried him along with them [on a blanket], so they called him King Blanket - and later Swedish Olaf. He was king a long time, and very powerful. He was the first of the Swedish kings to become a Christian, and in his day the Swedes were baptised. Onund was the son of King Olaf the Swede and took the kingship after him and died of illness. It was in his time that Saint Olaf fell at Stiklastadir. The second son of Swedish Olaf was Eymund, who took the kingship after his brother. In his day the Swedes relapsed from Christianity. Eymund was king for a short time.

16. Of King Ingi Steinkelsson

There was a powerful high-born man in Sweden called Steinkel. His mother was Astrid, the daughter of Njal Finnson the Squinter from Halogaland, and his father was Rognvald the Old. First Steinkel was a jarl in Sweden but after Eymund's death the Swedes made him king. So the kingship passed out of the ancient dynasty of the early Swedish kings. Steinkel was a great leader. He married the daughter of King Eymund. He died of sickness in Sweden around the same time that King Harald fell in England.

Steinkel's son was Ingi, who the Swedes made king next after Hakon. Ingi ruled long and was popular. He was a good Chistian. He banned sacrifices and ordered all the people to become Christian, but the Swedes had great faith in the heathen gods and held to the old ways. King Ingi took to wife a woman called Maer. Her brother was called Svein. King Ingi thought of no man as highly as Svein and he was the most powerful man in Sweden. To the Swedes it seemed that King Ingi had broken the law of the land, since he objected to those things which Steinkel had allowed. At one meeting which the Swedes had with King Ingi they gave him two choices: to hold to the old law, or to let go the kingship. Then King Ingi spoke and declared that he would not let them abandon the true religion. Then the Swedes roared and pelted him with stones and drove him from the law-thing.

Svein, the king's brother-in-law, was afterwards at the thing. He offered to perform a sacrifice for the Swedes if they gave him the kingship. To that they all agreed: Svein was accepted as king over all the Swedish nation. Then there was a horse led up to the thing and sliced up and shared out for eating, and the sacrifice-tree was reddened with the blood. All the Swedes cast off Christianity and took to sacrificing, and they drove King Ingi away and he went to West Gautland. Blot-Svein, Sacrifice Svein, as he was known, was king of the Swedes for three winters.

King Ingi travelled with his bodyguard and a small detachment of troops. He rode around through Smaland and into East Gautland and so to Sweden. He rode both day and night and took Svein by surprise early one morning. They took the house and set light to it, burning the troops inside. There was a land-owner called Thjof who was burnt in there; he had been a follower of Svein. Blot-Svein went out and was immediately killed. Thus Ingi took the kingship over the Swedes and re-established Christianity in Sweden and ruled the kingdom till his death, and he died of sickness.

Hallstein was the son of King Steinkel, brother of King Ingi, and was king alongside his brother. The sons of Hallstein were Philippus and Ingi, who took the kingship of Sweden after King Ingi the Old. Philippus married Ingigerd, daughter of King Harald Sigurdarson. He was king for a short time.

Appendix A: Starkad

Here is part of the Prologue from the U-version of Hervor's Saga (see Note on Translation). The story of Starkad comes right after the description of Gudmund, which can be found at the start of Chapter 6 of this translation. The H-version of Hervor's Saga, preserved in the Hauksbók manuscript, contains an abridged form of this prologue.

There was a man called Arngrim. He was a giant and a rock-dweller. He took Ama, Ymir's daughter from Ymisland, and made her his wife. Their son was Hergrim, who was called Half-Troll. He was sometimes with mountain-giants, and sometimes with men. He had the strength of a giant. He was all-knowing in the arcane arts and a great berserk. He went to Jotunheim and took Ogn Elfburst home with him, and made her his wife. Their son was called Grim. Before this, she had been promised to Starkad Ala-Warrior.

Now this man Starkad lived by the Alufoss Fall. He was descended from that race of giants called thurses, and was like them in strength and nature. He had eight arms. Storkvid was the name of his father. Ogn Elfburst was Starkad's betrothed, and Hergrim took her from him while Starkad was away, having gone north over the Elia Creeks, but when he came back, he challenged Hergrim to an island duel, to fight for the woman. They fought by Efsta Foss at Eid. Starkad had eight arms and wielded four swords at once. He had the victory there, and Hergrim fell. Ogn was watching their duel, and when Hergrim had fallen, Ogn stabbed herself with the sword. She did not want to marry Starkad. Starkad now seized all the wealth that Hergrim had owned and took his son, Grim, away with him too. He grew up with Starkad. Grim grew both big and strong, as he got older.

Alf was the king who ruled Alfheim. Alfhild was his daughter. Alfheim was between Gaut-Elfar and Raum-Elfar. One autumn a great disablot, or sacrifice to the goddesses, was made by King Alf, and Alfhild went to the sacrifices. She was fairer than any woman, and all the folk in Alfheim were more beautiful to see than other people at that time. But in the night, as she reddened the altar, Starkad Ala-Warrior took Alfhild away and brought her home with him. King Alf called on Thor then, to search after Alfhild, whereupon Thor killed Starkad, and let Alfhild go home to her father, and with her Grim, the son of Hergrim. And when Grim was twelve years old, he went raiding and became the greatest of warriors, and he married Bauggerd, the daughter of Alfhild and Starkad. Grim made a home for himself on the island of Bolm in Halogaland, and was afterwards called Ey-Grim "Island-Grim" Bolm. Their son was Arngrim Berserk, who later lived on Bolm and was the most excellent of warriors.

Appendix B: Odd's Duel

The Duel on Samsey as told in Arrow-Odd's Saga

The following must now be told of Odd. He and Hjalmar get two ships ready and have forty men in each ship. Now they put out to sea. It so happens that the weather drives them, and they put in at an island called Samsey. This is where the inlets of Munway are to be found.

They drop anchor in the bay and put up awnings on board. But after a day, the figurehead on Odd's ship has got broken. So when morning comes, they go up onto the land, Odd and Hjalmar, to cut themselves some timber. Hjalmar was in the habit of wearing his armour, as if he was fighting a battle. Odd had left his quiver back on the ship, but he kept his shirt on night and day. Their whole crew was asleep.

They hadn't been gone long when vikings arrived, and their leader was called Angantyr. There were twelve of them, and they were all brothers. They'd travelled far and wide, never more than just the twelve of them, and never met any resistance. Now they come to where Odd and Hjalmar had left their ships. They rush aboard and - what more is there to say? - kill every last man on the ships. Then they start talking amongst themselves, these brothers:

"It's got to be said, our father Arngrim never told a bigger lie than when he claimed these men were big hard vikings, and no shield could hold them back, but then when we get here, a very sorry show they made of themselves. They really were the worst fighters we've seen yet, and the most useless. Let's go home and kill the old shit, and he'll get that for his lie."

But some of them say, "It's one of two things. Either Odd and Hjalmar have got scared, or else they've gone up on land while the weather is good. Now we should go and look for them, rather than turning back from our business."

So this is what they do, the twelve brothers, and now as they walk along the berserk state comes on them, and they scream. Then the berserk state comes on Angantyr too, and that had never happened before.

Meanwhile Odd and Hjalmar are coming down from the wood. Suddenly, Odd stops. Hjalmar asks what's up. Odd said, "I can hear a strange noise. Sometimes it seems like a bull bellowing, and sometimes like a dog's bark, and sometimes it's like they're shrieking, or have you heard of any sort of men who make a noise like that?"

"Yes," said Hjalmar, "I know of these twelve brothers…"

"Do you know their names?"

A song came then to Hjalmar's lips:

"Hervard, Hjorvard,
Hrani, Angantyr,
Bild and Bui,
Barri and Toki,
Tind and Tyrfing,
the two Haddings.
Those brothers were born
in Bolm to the east,
sons of Arngrim
and Eyfura.

Of the meanest men
I heard mention,
the least inclined
to kindness.
They are berserks,
baleful folk,
stripped two ships
of stout soldiers."

Then Odd sees where the berserks were walking and a song came to his lips:

"I see men marching
from Munway Bays
itching for battle
in iron shirts.
Fresh from the fight
with fury they land.
On the shore empty
our ships now stand."

Then Odd spoke: "This is not much use," said he, "I've left my quiver and bow down on the ship, and all I've got is this little wood-axe."

"One time only
I felt frightened,
when from warships
they walked roaring
(and loud yowling
to the island climbed).
Fiendish fighters
I found that day,
crafty, quick
and hard to kill."

Odd now goes back into the woods and cuts himself a club, and Hjalmar calls to him. And as he comes back down, the berserks approach from below. Then Hjalmar spoke thus:

"Let's retreat
from terror of war
never, though panic
appeal to us;
we two will eat
with Odin tonight,
two foster-brothers
and those twelve live."

But Odd says this:

"No way, I say,
these words deny it:
tonight they'll all
be Odin's guests,
twelve berserks,
while we two live."

Then a verse came to Angantyr's lips:

"Here you've hurried,
hard warriors,
soldiers out the wave-wood,
we killed
all your comrades,
and now you're off to hell."

Then spoke Odd:

"Here have furious
fighters come,
twelve all together,
they'll get no honour.
Single combat
would seem fairer
for keen troopers
or does your courage droop?"

"Who are these men that we've met here?" said Odd.

"This man's called Anganyr," the berserks said, "he's the leader of the band. We are twelve brothers, the sons of Jarl Arngrim and Eyfura, from the east of Flanders."

"And who wants to know?" said Angantyr.

"Odd son of Grim Hairy-Cheek, and Hjalmar Greatheart."

"That's good," said Angantyr, "because we've come a long way looking for you."

"Have you been on our ships by any chance?" said Odd.

"We went there," said Angantyr, "and took the lot."

"Where are you off now?" asked Hjalmar, "to look for us?"

"I'm here," said Angantyr, "as you said before, to fight one on one, and I choose Odd for myself, because you've got that shirt on which no iron will bite, so it was foretold, and I have that sword called Tyrfing, which was made by dwarves who swore that every blow would find its mark, be it through iron or stone. We'll split our band in half: seven in one group, and me with the other four. That balances out, me in this lot and the Haddings with the other. Then they get one more, to make up for Tyrfing."

But Hjalmar spoke up: "I wish to fight with Angantyr, as I have this byrnie in which I've never been wounded. It's made of quadrupled rings."

"You're making a mistake," said Odd, "They'll give way if I fight Angantyr, otherwise nothing is certain."

"I will decide how it goes," said Hjalmar.

Then Angantyr spoke. "This is my wish," said Angantyr, "if any of us gets away from here, they leave the others' weapons. I want Tyrfing in my grave with me, if I die. Likewise, Odd will have his shirt and shot, and Hjalmar his byrnie." And they also agreed to this, that whoever survived would make a mound for the others.

The Haddings step forward first now, and Odd strikes each of them a blow with his club, and this is all it takes. Then the berserks rise, one after another, those who were meant to fight with Odd, and by the end he's killed the lot, all of those assigned to him. Now Odd takes a rest.

Then Hjalmar stands up and one of them comes at him. It isn't long before the berserk falls. Then the next one gets up, and the third and the fourth. Then Angantyr stands, and the fight between those two is hard and long, but in the end Angantyr falls to Hjalmar. Then Hjalmar went over to a some nearby knoll and sets himself down, and sinks to the ground. Odd goes to him and says a verse:

"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."

"And it's turned out just as I said: they wouldn't yield if you fought Angantyr."

"So what," said Hjalmar, "everyone dies in time," and he 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."

"Now I've suffered the greatest loss," said Odd, "It will never be healed as long as I live, and all because of your stubborness, because we would have had a great victory here if I'd had my way."

"Sit down," said Hjalmar, "and I'll give you some verses to take home to Sweden." He went on thus:

"Lasses won't say
I lacked mettle
before hard blows
on the field of battle.
She won't laugh,
won't learn of shirking,
wise-minded woman,
in Sweden tonight.

I turned away
from womens' song,
fair-sounding notes -
I feared no joy;
with Soti I sailed
to sea in no rush,
went off to war
one final time,
from dear friends.

She led me out,
the lord's daughter,
to Agnafit
on the ocean side;
all too true
what she told me then,
that never after
would I be back.

I turned from young
we soon figured that
on the fated day:
One grief will fix
fast in her mind,
that we're not going
to meet again.

Take as proof,
my testament this,
helm and hauberk
to the hall of the king.
It will move her to see
so many wounds,
king's fair daughter,
cover the breastplate.

I had five
farms to my name
but that was never
enough for me;
now I lie
with little might,
on Samsey Isle.

Wrench from my hand
the red-gold ring,
and bring it to young
that grief will fix
fast in her mind,
that nevermore
we'll meet again.

I see where they sit
at home in Sigtun,
the girls who begged
me not to go;
no joy for Hjalmar
in the hall after this,
with ale and men,
ever again.

"Now I also want you to take my verses to all our bench-mates, and I'm going to name them:

"We drank and deemed
many days together,
Alf and Atli,
Eyvind, Trani,
Gizur, Glama,
Gudvard, Starri,
Steinkel, Stikil,
Storolf, Vifil.

Hrafn and Helgi,
Hlodver, Igul,
Stein and Kari,
Styr and Ali,
Ossur, Agnarr,
Orm and Trandil,
Gylfri and Gauti,
Gjafar and Ragnar.

Fjolmund, Fjalar,
Frosti and Beinir,
Tind and Tyrfing,
the two Haddings,
Valbjorn, Vikar,
Vemund, Flosi,
Geirbrand, Goti,
Guttorm, Sneril.

Styr and Ari,
Stein and Kari,
Vott, Veseti,
Vemund, Hnefi.
We all of us were
on one bench then,
it was a laugh, my friends,
that's why I'm loath to fly.

Svarfandi, Sigvaldi,
Saebjorn and Kol,
Thrain and Thjostolf,
Thorolf and Sval,
Hrappi and Hadding,
Hunfast, Knui,
Ottar, Egil,
and Ingvari too.

"Now I want to ask you," said Hjalmar to Odd, "not to let me be laid in a grave beside these bastard berserks, because I reckon I'm a much better man than any of them."

"I'll grant you that," said Odd, "what you ask, as it seems to me your time is near."

"Glad the guests
of the good king drink
ale aplenty
at Uppsala;
much beer
makes the men sleepy
but me sword-tracks
on Samsey torment.

And from the south
flies the raven,
after him eagle
in its turn flies;
flesh I offer them,
to feed the eagle -
he leaves his branch.
He will lap my blood."

And after that Hjalmar died. Odd dragged the berserks together into a heap and bent branches over it. It was near the sea. He laid beside them their weapons and clothes, stealing nothing. Then he covered the outside with sods and sprinkled sand on top. Then he lifts Hjalmar on his back, goes down to the sea and lowers him onto the beach, and he goes out to the ship and carries back all the men who had fallen, and makes another mound for them. And it is said by people who have been there that the monument, which Odd made then, is visible to this day.

Next, Odd carries Hjalmar out to the ship and casts anchor. Then Odd practices the special skills that were granted him, hoists sail and heads home to Sweden with Hjalmar's body. He landed at a place of his choosing. He draws up his ship, puts Hjalmar on his back, and goes home to Uppsala with him and sets him down before the hall doors. He goes into the hall with Hjalmar's armour and helmet in his hands and lays them down on the floor of the hall and told the king tidings of what had happened.

Then he went to where Ingibjorg sat. She was sewing a shirt for Hjalmar.

"Here is the ring," said Odd, "that Hjalmar sent you on his dying day and his verses too."

She takes the ring and gazes at it, but makes no reply. She falls back on the carved chair-posts and dies right there. Odd bursts out laughing and said, "It's been a while since anything good happened. We ought to be celebrate. They'll find joy in death, those who couldn't in life."

Odd picks her up and carries her in his arms and lies her in Hjalmar's arms in front of the hall and sends men in to the king asking him to come and see what how he'd arranged them. After this the king welcomes him and sets him in the high-seat beside him. And as soon as Odd had taken a rest, the king said that he wishes to hold a memorial feast for Hjalmar and Ingibjorg and raise a mound to them. The king has everything done just as Odd had said. When the helm and byrnie that Hjalmar had owned were brought forward, everyone is filled with admiration for his achievements and for the greatness he'd shown in his final battle, and now they're lain both together in the same howe. Everyone went to see that great monument, and Odd had it all done with great respect.

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