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11.12.2019

Helgakvida Hjorvardssonar

Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar ("Lay of Helgi Hjörvarðsson") is a poem collected in the Poetic Edda, found in the Codex Regius manuscript where it follows Helgakviða Hundingsbana I and precedes Helgakviða Hundingsbana II. The portion of text which constitutes the poem is unnamed in the manuscript and may never have been intended to be viewed as a single poem, though scholars have assigned it a name for convenience. The text appears to be a patchwork of old poems, glued together with prose passages. The poem relates the story of Helgi Hjörvarðsson, loosely connected to the story of Helgi Hundingsbani.

How Helgi's father won Helgi's mother

The lay begins with a Norwegian king named Hjörvarðr. The king had four wives: Álfhildr with whom he had the son Heðinn, a second by the name Særeiðr with whom he had the son Humlungr and a third called Sinrjóð by whom he had the son Hymlingr. The fourth wife is not mentioned, but she may be the girl Sigrlinn with whom the plot of the story begins.

Hjörvarðr had made a vow to possess the most beautiful woman he knew. When he learnt that king Sváfnir of Sváfaland had the daughter Sigrlinn who was the most beautiful girl, Hjörvarðr sent Atli, the son of his jarl Iðmundr, to woo the girl on his behalf.

Atli Iðmundsson stayed with king Sváfnir for a winter but was told by Fránmarr, the king's jarl, that the king would not give away his daughter to king Hjörvarðr. On his return home, Atli had a conversation with a bird, which told him that Hjörvarðr would have Sigrlinn on condition that the bird was given gold-horned cattle and altars from the king's estate. Atli returned home to king Hjörvarðr and told him that his mission had failed.

The king resolved to go to king Sváfnir himself together with Atli. When they came up on a mountain they saw Sváfaland in flames and dust clouds rolling across the land coming from riding warriors. It was the army of king Hróðmarr who also desired princess Sigrlinn but had been denied and tried to take the girl by force of arms. At the moment, king Hróðmarr had killed king Sváfnir and was trying to find Sigrlinn.

During the night, king Hjörvarðr and Atli camped by a stream and Atli discovered a house on which was sitting a great bird. Atli did not know that the bird was king Sváfnir's jarl Fránmarr who was in the fetch of a bird in order to magically protect Sigrlinn and his own daughter Álof, who were inside the house. Atli killed the bird and discovered Sigrlinn and Álof inside the house. King Hjörvarðr returned home with Sigrlinn and Atli with Álof, the daughter of the jarl he had killed.

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