Hervor

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Hervor, daughter of Heidrek, dying in a painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo.

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. The second Hervor was the daughter of Heidrek, the son of the first Hervor.

Additionally, Hervor is the name of a valkyrie married by Völund in the Poetic Edda poem Völundarkviða, see Hervör alvitr.

Hervor daughter of Angantyr[edit]

Childhood[edit]

Hervor was born after her father Angantyr's death (he died during a duel against the Swedish hero Hjalmar), and she grew up as a slave. She dressed like a man, fought, killed and pillaged under her male surname Hjörvard. When she learned of her father's identity she decided to live as her father and to find Tyrfing, the magic sword.

Summoning the dead[edit]

One day, she arrived with her fleet to Munarvágr on Samsø (Samsey), but she was the only one who dared to embark on the haunted island. The remainder of her crew feared the nightly activities around the barrows on the island. As she approached the barrows she saw a fire shining above them, and she approached the largest one. She then talked with a loud voice summoning her father Angantyr to reveal himself. She said that as his daughter she was entitled to her rightful inheritance, Tyrfing. Then, she also summoned her eleven uncles and she did so with such a loud voice and such harsh words that finally, her father's voice was heard and he asked not to pursue her quest. She did not give in but continued to ask for her rightful inheritance.

Claiming her inheritance[edit]

Finally, the grave opened and in its centre a fire was shining. There she saw her father, and he warned her not to ask for the sword. It would bring death to their whole clan if she used it. Still, she persisted. Finally the sword was cast out of the grave, and she eagerly gripped it, bid farewell to her dead kinsmen and walked to the shore.

However, when she arrived at the shore, the ships were gone. Her crew had been scared away by the fires and the thunder from the barrows.

Career[edit]

Eventually, she managed to leave the island and arrived at the court of Gudmund of Glæsisvellir. She still dressed herself as a man and called herself Hjörvard. Cunningly, she helped the king to win playing tafl. However, she also slew a courtier who tried to unsheathe Tyrfing after she had left it on a chair. Then, she resumed her Viking activities, and travelled far and wide.

Settling down[edit]

After a while she grew tired of the adventures and returned to her foster-father Bjartmar. At Bjartmar's residence, she betook herself to sewing and embroidering like other girls, and was considered to be a beautiful and good-mannered girl.

King Gudmund's son Höfund, then arrived to ask for her hand, and she said yes. The old king Gudmund arranged a grand wedding, and entrusted the kingdom in the hands of the young couple. They lived happily and had two sons who were given the names Angantyr and Heidrek.

The sword Tyrfing would continue its ill work, and Heidrek slew his brother Angantyr with the sword. For the continued adventures of Tyrfing, see Heidrek.

Hervor, Daughter of Heidrek[edit]

Heidrek had a daughter who he named Hervor. She was a shieldmaiden and was the commander of a Gothic fort facing Myrkviðr, and she would fall in battle against the Huns (see Hlöd, Hlöðskviða). When Ormar reported Hervor's death to king Angantyr, he said:

Sunnan em ek kominn
at segja spjöll þessi:
sviðin er öll mörk
ok Myrkviðar heiðr,
drifin öll Goðþjóð
gumna blóði.
Mey veit ek Heiðreks,
systur þína,
svigna til jarðar;
hafa Húnar
hana fellda
ok marga aðra
yðra þegna,
léttari gerðist hún at böð
en við biðil ræða'
eða í bekk at fara
at brúðar gangi.
"From the south I've come
to say this news:
burnt is Mirkwood Heath
and the whole forest,
Goth-folk all blotched
with blood of men.
Down, I hear,
is Heidrek's lass;
heard your sister,
the Huns felled her —
and of your people
plenty more.
More cheery in battle
than chatting to suitors
or taking the bench
at a bridal feast."

When King Angantyr heard this, he grinned and was slow to speak, but at last he said:

Óbróðurliga vartu leikin, in ágæta systir.
"Unbrotherly the bloody game they played with you, excellent sister."

Sources[edit]

  • Herikson, Alf. (1998), Stora mytologiska uppslagsboken.

Logo för Nordisk familjeboks uggleupplaga.png This article contains content from the Owl Edition of Nordisk familjebok, a Swedish encyclopedia published between 1904 and 1926, now in the public domain.