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11.12.2019

Helgi Hundingsbane

Helgi Hundingsbane is a hero in Norse sagas. Helgi appears in Volsunga saga and in two lays in the Poetic Edda named Helgakviða Hundingsbana I and Helgakviða Hundingsbana II. The Poetic Edda relates that Helgi and his mistress Sigrún were Helgi Hjörvarðsson and Sváva of the Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar reborn. They were once again reborn as Helgi Haddingjaskati and Kára whose story survives as a part of the Hrómundar saga Gripssonar.

Earning his name and meeting a Valkyrie

Helgi appears to be the son of Sigmund and Borghild, and only fifteen years old he avenges his father by slaying Hunding, the king of the Saxons. This gives him the cognomen Hunding's bane. He continues with his warlike feats and one day, as he stands aboard his longship, he is visited by a valkyrie named Sigrún, who can ride through the air and over the sea and who knows well about his feats. She embraces him and kisses him, and he immediately falls in love with her.

Battle

However, her father king Högne of Östergötland has promised her to Hothbrodd, the son of king Granmar of Södermanland. Helgi collects a force at Brandey (probably modern Brändholmen/Brändö, 58°36′N 16°50′E, at the estuary of the bay of Bråviken, until 1813 named Brandö, the modern Swedish form of Brandey) and goes to Granmarr's kingdom. It is retold in detail about the gathering of the forces and of how, in a great battle, Helgi and his brother Sinfjötli fight with Högne, his son Dag, Granmar and all of Granmar's sons Hothbrodd, Starkad and Gudmund. Everyone dies but Helgi, Sinfjötli and Högne's youngest son Dag. Sigrún bids an angry farewell to the dying Hothbrodd and cries with happiness when she learns that her whole family is dead but Dag, who swears allegiance to Helgi.

Death

Sigrún and Helgi marry and they have several sons. Dag is, however, tormented by the fact that honour demands that he avenge his father. Dag sacrifices to Odin in return for vengeance. Odin lends him a spear, and he dutifully pierces Helgi with it. Then he goes to Sigrún to give his condolences, which makes her curse him:

The wind would stop every time he entered a ship.

The fastest horse would not carry him if he is hunted.

His sword would wound no one but himself.

She tells Dag to flee into the woods and to thenceforth live on carrion. Then she buries Helgi in a barrow, but Helgi's soul is already in Valhalla, where Odin tells him to make himself comfortable. Helgi gladly obeys and orders Hunding to feed the pigs, to wash the einherjars' feet and to do other menial chores.

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