Hervarar saga

Hervarar saga

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Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks is a legendary saga
Legendary saga
A Legendary saga or Fornaldarsaga is a Norse saga that, unlike the Icelanders' sagas, takes place before the colonization of Iceland. There are some exceptions, such as Yngvars saga víðförla, which takes place in the 11th century...

 from the 13th century combining matter from several older sagas. It is a valuable saga for several different reasons beside its literary qualities. It contains traditions of wars between Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

 and Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

, from the 4th century, and the last part is used as a source for Swedish medieval history. Moreover, it was an important source of inspiration for Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College,...

 when shaping his legends of Middle-earth
Middle-earth
Middle-earth is the fictional setting of the majority of author J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy writings. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place entirely in Middle-earth, as does much of The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales....

. However, the saga may be most appreciated for its memorable imagery, or to quote Kershaw on the invasion of the Horde:

Synopsis



The saga deals with the sword Tyrfing
Tyrfing
Tyrfing or Tirfing was a magic sword in Norse mythology, which figures in a poem from the Poetic Edda called Hervararkviða, and in Hervarar saga...

 and how it was forged and cursed by the Dwarves Dvalinn and Durin
Durin (Norse mythology)
In Norse mythology, Durinn is the name of a dwarf attested in the Poetic Edda poem Völuspá and repeated in Gylfaginning from the Prose Edda. He was the second created after the first and foremost dwarf Mótsognir. He is also attested in Hervarar saga, where he forged the magic sword Tyrfing with the...

 for king Svafrlami
Svafrlami
Svafrlami was in the H and U version of the Hervarar saga the son of Sigrlami, who was the son of Odin. In the R version, Svafrlami is called Sigrlami and his parentage is not given. Svafrlami was the king of Gardariki and the first owner of the magic sword Tyrfing.One day, he was hunting on his...

. Later, he lost it to the berserker Arngrim
Arngrim
Arngrim was a berserker, who figures in Hervarar saga, Gesta Danorum, Lay of Hyndla, a number of Faroese ballads and Orvar-Odd's saga in Norse mythology.-Hervarar saga:...

 from Bolmsö
Bolmsö
Bolmsö is an island located in lake Bolmen near Växjö in Småland. It had 382 inhabitants in 1998.It presents 530 ancient remains, including dolmens and cobble-clad graves in various forms, especially large triangular ones. The dominating graves are large barrows from the Iron Age with the addition...

 who gave it to his son Angantyr
Angantyr
Angantyr was the name of three characters from the same line in Norse mythology, and who appear in Hervarar saga, in Gesta Danorum and Faroese ballads....

. Angantyr died during a fight on Samsø
Samsø
Samsø is a Danish island in the Kattegat off the Jutland Peninsula. Samsø is located in Samsø municipality. The community has 4,300 inhabitants called Samsingers and is 114 km² in area. Due to its central location, the island was used during the Viking Age as a meeting place...

 against the Swedish hero Hjalmar
Hjálmar
- Current :*Þorsteinn Einarsson - Guitar and vocals*Sigurður Halldór Guðmundsson - Keyboards and vocals*Guðmundur Kristinn Jónsson - Guitar* Valdimar Kolbeinn Sigurjónsson - Bass* Helgi Svavar Helgason - Percussion- Former :...

, whose friend Orvar-Odd
Orvar-Odd
Örvar-Oddr is a legendary hero about whom an anonymous Icelander wrote a fornaldarsaga in the latter part of the 13th century. Örvar-Odds saga, the Saga of Örvar-Odd, became very popular and contains old legends and songs...

 buried the cursed sword in a barrow
Tumulus
A tumulus is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as barrows, burial mounds, Hügelgrab or kurgans, and can be found throughout much of the world. A tumulus composed largely or entirely of stones is usually referred to as a cairn...

 together with Angantyr. From the barrow it was retrieved by Angantyr's daughter, the shieldmaiden
Shieldmaiden
A shieldmaiden was a woman who had chosen to fight as a warrior in Scandinavian folklore and mythology. They are often mentioned in sagas such as Hervarar saga and in Gesta Danorum. Shieldmaidens also appear in stories of other Germanic nations: Goths, Cimbri, and Marcomanni. The mythical Valkyries...

 Hervor
Hervor
Hervor is the name of two female characters in the cycle of the magic sword Tyrfing, presented in Hervarar saga with parts found in the Poetic Edda. The first Hervor was the daughter of Angantyr...

 who summoned her dead father to claim her inheritance. Then the saga continues with her and her son Heidrek
Heidrek
Heidrek or Heiðrekr was one of the main characters in the cycle about the magic sword Tyrfing. He appears in the Hervarar saga, and probably also in Widsith, line 115, as Heathoric together with his sons Angantyr and Hlöð , and Hlöð's mother Sifka...

, the king of Reidgotaland
Reidgotaland
Reidgotaland, Hreidgotaland or Hreiðgotaland was a land in Scandinavian sagas as well as in the pre-Viking English Widsith, which usually referred to the land of the Goths...

. Between his sons Angantyr and Hlod
Hlöd
Hlod or Hlöd was the illegitimate son of Heidrek, the king of the Goths.He appears in the Hervarar saga and probably also as Hlith in Widsith, line 115, together with his father Heiðrekr , half-brother Angantyr , and his mother Sifka .-Claiming his inheritance:Hlöd had grown up with his grandfather...

, there is a great battle about their father's heritage and Hlod is aided by the Huns. However, Hlod is defeated and killed.

In the end, the saga relates that Angantyr, had the son Heidhrekr Ulfhamr who was king of Reidgotaland
Reidgotaland
Reidgotaland, Hreidgotaland or Hreiðgotaland was a land in Scandinavian sagas as well as in the pre-Viking English Widsith, which usually referred to the land of the Goths...

 for a long time. Heidhrekr's daughter was Hildr and she had the son Halfdan the Valiant
Halfdan the Valiant
Halfdan the Valiant was the legendary father of Ivar Vidfamne according to Hervarar saga, the Ynglinga saga, Njal's Saga and Hversu Noregr byggdist. The genealogical work Hversu Noregr byggdist gives his father as Harald the Old, his grandfather as Valdar and his great-grandfather as Hróarr...

, who was the father of Ivar Vidfamne
Ivar Vidfamne
Ivar Vidfamne was a Danish and Swedish king hailing from Scania. He may have died c. 700. According to the Heimskringla and the Hervarar saga, Ivar was also the king of Norway, Denmark, Saxony and parts of England.- Ivar in the Sagas :He began as king of Scania and conquered Sweden by defeating...

. After Ivar Vidfamne follows a list of Swedish kings, both real and semi-legendary, ending with Philip Halstensson, but this was probably composed separately from the rest of the saga and integrated with it in later redactions.

Versions



The saga is found in many MSs, but there are three distinct versions called H, R and U, of which H and R are preserved in vellums. H is preserved in the Hauksbók
Hauksbók
The Hauksbók is one of the few medieval Norse manuscripts of which the author is known. His name was Haukr Erlendsson , and as long back as it is possible to trace the manuscript it has been called the Hauksbók after its author. It was partly written by Haukr himself, partly by assistants...

 (A.M. 544, 4to), by Haukr Erlendsson
Haukr Erlendsson
Haukr Erlendsson was the writer of the Hauksbók.In 1294, he became the lawspeaker of Iceland and in 1301 he arrived in Norway, where, according to a letter from 1311, he is called the lawspeaker and knight of the Gula Thing. He appears to have held this position until 1322....

 (d.1334), from ca 1325. R, or MS 2845, 4to, is stored in the Danish Royal Library
Danish Royal Library
The Royal Library in Copenhagen is the national library of Denmark and university library of University of Copenhagen. It is the largest library in the Nordic countries....

 of Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

 and it is dated to the 15th century. There is also a version called U which is partially preserved as R:715 of Carolina Rediviva
Carolina Rediviva
Carolina Rediviva is the main building of the Uppsala University Library in Uppsala, Sweden. The building was begun in 1820 and completed in 1841. The original architect was Carl Fredrik Sundvall. Later additions to the building have been designed by Axel Johan Anderberg and Peter Celsing...

, the University Library of Uppsala
Uppsala
- Economy :Today Uppsala is well established in medical research and recognized for its leading position in biotechnology.*Abbott Medical Optics *GE Healthcare*Pfizer *Phadia, an offshoot of Pharmacia*Fresenius*Q-Med...

, and as AM 203 fol. in the University Library of Copenhagen. This version is from the mid 17th century and was written by Síra Jón Erlendsson in Villingaholt (d. 1672).

However, these sources differ somewhat. For instance R is held to be closest to the original version and is more similar to U than to H, but lacks the first chapter and an ending. On the other hand it includes Hjalmar
Hjálmar
- Current :*Þorsteinn Einarsson - Guitar and vocals*Sigurður Halldór Guðmundsson - Keyboards and vocals*Guðmundur Kristinn Jónsson - Guitar* Valdimar Kolbeinn Sigurjónsson - Bass* Helgi Svavar Helgason - Percussion- Former :...

's death song. H ends with Gestumblindi
Gestumblindi
Gestumblindi is a character in Norse mythology who appears in Hervarar saga and in Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum as Gestiblindus. Later, he also appears in several Scandinavian folk tales as Gest Blinde.-Hervarar saga:...

 and R ends just before the end of ch. 12. However, there are two 17th century copies of H, AM 281, 4to (h1) and AM 597b, 4to (h2), and they preserve the riddles of Gestumblindi from the H version.

Age



The matter on the Gothic wars with the Huns is of considerable age, and is based on events from the early or mid-4th century that were transmitted for almost 1000 years.

It is a testimony to its great age that names appear in genuinely Germanic forms and not in any form remotely influenced by Latin. Names for Goths appear that stopped being used after 390, such as Grýting (Ostrogoth
Ostrogoth
The Ostrogoths were a branch of the Goths , a Germanic tribe who developed a vast empire north of the Black Sea in the 3rd century AD and, in the late 5th century, under Theodoric the Great, established a Kingdom in Italy....

, cf. the Latin form Greutungi) and Tyrfing (Visigoth
Visigoth
The Visigoths were one of two main branches of the Goths, the Ostrogoths being the other. These tribes were among the Germans who spread through the late Roman Empire during the Migration Period...

, cf. the Latin form Tervingi). The events take place where the Goths lived during the wars with the Huns. The Gothic capital Arheimar
Árheimar
Árheimar was a capital of the Goths, according to the Hervarar saga. The saga only states that it was located on the river Dnieper, which flows from Ukraine to the Black Sea.- Hervarar saga :...

 is located on the Dniepr (...á Danparstöðum á þeim bæ, er Árheimar heita...), King Heidrek
Heidrek
Heidrek or Heiðrekr was one of the main characters in the cycle about the magic sword Tyrfing. He appears in the Hervarar saga, and probably also in Widsith, line 115, as Heathoric together with his sons Angantyr and Hlöð , and Hlöð's mother Sifka...

 dies in the Horvatya
White Croatia
White Croatia is a vaguely defined area, said to lie somewhere in Central Europe, near Bavaria, beyond Hungary on south of Poland and west of Ukraine, and adjacent to the Frankish Empire from which the part of White Croats crossed the Carpathians and migrated in the 7th century into Dalmatia...

 (...und Harvaða fjöllum) and the Battle with the Huns takes place on the plains of the Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 (...á vígvöll á Dúnheiði í Dylgjudölum). The mythical Mirkwood
Myrkviðr
In Germanic mythology, Myrkviðr or, in anglicized form, Mirkwood, is the name of several forests....

 which separates the Goths from the Huns, appears to correspond to Maeotian marshes
Maeotian marshes
In the geography of Antiquity the Maeotian marshes lay where the Don River emptied into the Maeotian Lake near Tanais. The marshes served as a check to the westward migration of nomad peoples from the steppe of Central Asia.The area was named after the Maeotae who lived around the Maeotian Lake....

.

Although, the names testify to a historical basis, the events themselves have proved harder to align with other sources. Since the name Heidrek (Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 Heiðrekr) was quasi-synonymous with Ermanaric
Ermanaric
Ermanaric was a Greuthungian Gothic King who before the Hunnic invasion evidently ruled an enormous area north of the Black Sea. Contemporary historian Ammianus Marcellinus recounts him as a "most warlike man" who "ruled over extensively wide and fertile regions"...

 (heiðr meant "honour" and "glory", and Aírman-, Old Norse Jörmund meant "great"), a possible alignment is that Heidrek the Wise's grandson Heidrek Ulfham corresponded to Ermanaric
Ermanaric
Ermanaric was a Greuthungian Gothic King who before the Hunnic invasion evidently ruled an enormous area north of the Black Sea. Contemporary historian Ammianus Marcellinus recounts him as a "most warlike man" who "ruled over extensively wide and fertile regions"...

. Heidrek Ulfham was said to have ruled the Goths for a long time and Jordanes
Jordanes
Jordanes, also written Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, who turned his hand to history later in life....

 relates that Ermanaric lived 110 years. If so, the Hervarar saga could reflect a part of Goth history not covered by other sources.

Tolkien


There is much in this saga that readers of Tolkien's work will recognize. There are for instance Rohirrim, brave shieldmaiden
Shieldmaiden
A shieldmaiden was a woman who had chosen to fight as a warrior in Scandinavian folklore and mythology. They are often mentioned in sagas such as Hervarar saga and in Gesta Danorum. Shieldmaidens also appear in stories of other Germanic nations: Goths, Cimbri, and Marcomanni. The mythical Valkyries...

s, Mirkwood
Mirkwood
Mirkwood is a name used for two distinct fictional forests in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. In the First Age, the highlands of Dorthonion north of Beleriand were known as Mirkwood after falling under Morgoth's control. During the Third Age, the large forest in Rhovanion, east of the Anduin in ...

, haunted barrows yielding enchanted swords, a mithril mailcoat, an epic battle, a flaming sword and two Dwarves named Dwalin and Durin
Durin
Durin is the name of seven Kings of Dwarves in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. They were held by the Dwarves to be the reincarnations of the first one, Durin the Deathless, resembling him in appearance and said to have preserved memories of their 'earlier lives'.Tolkien took the name Durin, like...

. J. R. R. Tolkien's youngest son, Christopher
Christopher Tolkien
Christopher Reuel Tolkien is the third and youngest son of the author J. R. R. Tolkien , and is best known as the editor of much of his father's posthumously published work. He drew the original maps for his father's The Lord of the Rings, which he signed C. J. R. T. The J...

, translated the work in 1960, entitling his version The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise (see bibliography).

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