Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar I – The First Lay of Helgi the Hunding

16. Early then | in wolf-wood asked
The mighty king | of the southern maid,
If with the hero | home would she
Come that night; | the weapons clashed.

17. Down from her horse | sprang Hogni’s daughter,–
The shields were still,– | and spake to the hero:
“Other tasks | are ours, methinks,
Than drinking beer | with the breaker of rings.

18. “My father has pledged | his daughter fair
As bride to Granmar’s | son so grim;
But, Helgi, I | once Hothbrodd called
As fine a king | as the son of a cat.

19. “Yet the hero will come | a few nights hence,
. . . . . . . . . .
Unless thou dost bid him | the battle-ground seek,
Or takest the maid | from the warrior mighty.”

Helgi spake:

20. “Fear him not, | though Isung he felled,
First must our courage | keen be tried,
Before unwilling | thou fare with the knave;
Weapons will clash, | if to death I come not.”


16. Wolf-wood: dark forest; the original word is not altogether clear. Southern: this variety of Valkyrie, like the swan maidens of the Völundarkvitha, was clearly regarded as of southern (i.e., German) origin. Here again there is a confusion of traditions; the Valkyries of the Voluspo were as essentially Norse as any part of the older mythology. I doubt if a poet much earlier than the author of the first Helgi Hundingsbane lay would have made his Sigrun, daughter of Hogni, a Valkyrie. It is to be noted that the same complication appears in the Sigurth story, where the undoubted Valkyrie, Brynhild-Sigrdrifa (the latter name is really only an epithet) is hopelessly mixed up with the quite human Brynhild, daughter of Buthli.

17. Breaker of rings: generous prince, because the breaking of rings was the customary form of distributing gold.

18. Granmar: the annotator gives an account of him and his family in the prose following stanza 12 of Helgakvitha Hundingsbana II.

19. No gap indicated in the manuscript; some editors combine the stanza with the fragmentary stanza 21, and others fill in with “And home will carry | Hogni’s daughter.”

20. The manuscript has only lines 1 and 4 with the word “first” of line 2, and does not indicate Helgi as the speaker. The Volsungasaga, which follows this poem pretty closely, expands Helgi’s speech, and lines 2-3 are conjectural versifications of the saga’s prose. Isung: nothing is known of him beyond the fact, here indicated, that Hothbrodd killed him.

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