Atlakviða (The Lay of Atli) is one of the heroic poems of the Poetic Edda. One of the main characters is Atli who originates from Attila the Hun. It is one of the most archaic Eddic poems. It is preserved in the Codex Regius and the same story is related in the Völsunga saga. In the manuscript the poem is identified as Greenlandic but most scholars believe that this results from a confusion with Atlamál. The metre of the poem alternates irregularly between málaháttr and fornyrðislag. This may be an indication that two or more original poems have been merged or that the short and long lines were not felt as constituting two different metres at the time the poem was composed.
Atli, king of the Huns, sends a messenger to Gunnarr, king of the Burgundians, and his younger brother Högni. The messenger says that Atli is inviting the brothers to his court and offering them great riches. The brothers are skeptical of the offer since they already have an exceedingly great treasure of gold. Confirming their suspicions is a ring sent by their sister Guðrún, Atli's wife, with a wolf's hair wrapped onto it. Atli obviously plans treachery but Gunnarr still decides to take up the offer, vowing that if he doesn't return no-one will benefit from his riches.
As Gunnarr and Högni arrive at Atli's court they meet Guðrún who tells them that they should not have come. Gunnarr is seized by Atli's men while Högni fights and kills eight men before he is subdued. The Huns ask Gunnarr if he wants to ransom his life by telling them where he has hidden his gold. He tells them that he wants to see Högni's heart. They first cut out the heart of a cowardly man named Hjalli and bring it to Gunnarr but he sees from the cowardly trembling of the heart who its owner was. Then they cut out Högni's heart and he dies laughing. Gunnarr recognizes the heart of his brave brother but tells the Huns that now that he alone knows the location of the gold he can be certain that it will never be disclosed. The Huns then throw him into a snake pit where he dies playing a harp.
Guðrún prepares a banquet for Atli and his court. When the feast is well underway she tells Attila that he is actually eating the flesh of their two sons. Later she kills Attila in bed, frees his dogs and servants and burns his hall.
- Atlakviða hin Grœnlenzka Sophus Bugge's edition
- Atlakviða Guðni Jónsson's edition
- Atlakviða[permanent dead link] Guðni Jónsson's edition
- Atlakvitha en grönlenzka Henry Adams Bellows' translation and commentary
- Atlakviða: The Song of Atli Translated by William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson
- The Song of Atli[permanent dead link] Translated by William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson
- Atlakviða: The Lay of Atli Translated by William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson
- Atlakviða Benjamin Thorpe's translation