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21 Sep 2010

Heiti of the Gods

[This article by Siegfried Goodfellow is a companion to or amplification of “Forming a Mythic Response to the Deepwater Catastrophe,” an article by Siegfried featured in Issue 7, Winter 2010, of Hex Magazine – Ed.]

Heiti of the Gods: Fridlef as Njord, Amundus as Volund, Bjorn as Hodur, and Helgi as Halfdan

An explanation by Siegfried Goodfellow, with special research help from Carla O’Harris.

There are many in modern times who may not be familiar with these identifications known in ancient days, and candor requires bringing people to the sources from which they are derived so each may make up their own mind as to their solidity and validity. The explanations here may seem Byzantine, but such is the fate of tracing polynyms amongst the skalds, who loved labyrinthine foldings, and once you grasp the gestalt underlying these different variations, the logic becomes crystal clear.

Regarding Fridlef and Njord

Snorri tells us that Sonr Friðleifs hét Fróði. Hann tók konungdóm eftir föður, “The son of Fridlef was named Frodi. He took the kingdom after his father.” (Skaldskaparmal 43, where Snorri recites for us the Grottasong of Peace-Frodi). Fridlef is likewise the father of Frodi in Saxo, in Book Four and Five (and Saxo, drawing from variants, doubles this, as Fridlef II is the son of Frodi, and this Fridlef has a son named Frodi as well – so in fact we have two different attestations in Saxo that Frodi is the son of Fridlef).

Ynglingasaga 9 & 10 tell us that Njord ruled over the Swedes, and then Freyr tók þá ríki eftir Njörð, “Frey then took the rule after Njord;” moreover, Á hans dögum hófst Fróðafriður … Kenndu Svíar það Frey. “In his days began the peace of Frodi … The Swedes attributed that to Frey.”

It’s important to remember that Frey is called in Skirnismal, inn Frodi, “the Frodi.” which can be translated as “the wise” or “the fruitful,” although the former probably blossoms out of the latter, and there is good reason for believing that the tales told about King Frodi are in fact folktale retellings of the narratives of Frey. Two examples may suffice, the one just mentioned, that the Frodi-Frith commenced in Frey’s reign, and the second, that Frodi was associated with a magic mill, while Lokasenna brings forward a servant of Frey who operates a mill for him. For these reasons, where we see Frodi we may safely, in most cases, substitute Frey. Since Frodi’s father is Fridlef, Fridlef must therefore be one of the heiti of Njord. Just as Frey is said to succeed Njord to the kingdom in Ynglingasaga, Frodi is said to succeed Fridlef in the kingdom.

If Fridlef is Njord, we would expect there to be elements of his narrative that would match up with facts we know to be true of Njord. Njord began his life as the native of one homeland, Vanaheim, but ended up in another, Asgard; similarly, Fridlef was raised in Russia, but became king of Denmark. Njord is renowned for bringing peace, while Fridlef’s name literally means, “He Who Leaves Peace” (Wherever He Goes).

Njord is said to have broken down Odin’s gates, and this must have been when he led the Vanir in “storming the plain,” as it says in Voluspa, during the Van-As War. Odin, as the leader of the Aesir, is chieftain over twelve glorious champions renowned for fighting giants, and yet Njord and his kinsmen are able to overcome them. In Book Six of the Gesta Danorum, we find Fridlef confronting, and eventually defeating, through strategem, twelve kinsmen, who are champions over giants. The leader of these giant-killers has a horse characterized as “outstanding” or “the best,” “strong,” and able to fly with the swiftness of a bird (praepetem velocitate), just as Odin is said to have the “best” of horses on whom he is able to “ride over sky and sea.” The champions Fridlef confronts live in a fortress surrounded by a tremendous wall, a rushing river, and a marvelous gate connected to a bridgehead, while Odin’s champions live in a fortress surrounded by a tremendous wall, several rushing rivers (Grimnismal 27), and a marvelous gate (Fjolsvinnsmal 9 – 10). Fridlef’s opponents engage in many raids upon the surrounding areas, followed by Fridlef driving them back, just as Ynglingasaga tells us that when Odin fought against the Vanir that both sides made attacks on each other, doing great damage. In one of these raids, Fridlef gets a hold of the opposing chieftain’s horse, and is thus able to get across the rivers whose rushing waters hold back Fridlef’s army from storming the fortress, and dismounting from the horse, scales the walls and slips into the fortress. Fridlef then manages to open the gate and let down the drawbridge that will allow his men to storm the castle, and they do so, conquering, yet Fridlef spares the chieftain of his opponents. While we don’t know the full details of the Van-As War, we do know it ended in reconciliation, and that it was Njord who brought down Odin’s gate. Saxo’s tale appears to be a folklorization of the story alluded to in Voluspa of the Vanir storming the Aesir’s fortress. All of this strongly corroborates the idea that Fridlef is Njord.

Regarding Amundus and Volund

Fridlef I, in Book Four of Saxo, surnamed “The Swift,” is said to have fought a great naval battle with the Sons of Finn, in which a large portion of the fleets of both sides were wasted. One of the Sons of Finn is mentioned as a spell caster renowned for blunting the blades of enemies with his spells. In Volundarkvida, we learn, Bræðr váru þrír, synir Finnakonungs. Hét einn Slagfiðr, annarr Egill, þriði Völundr, “There were three brothers, sons of King Finn [or the King of the Finns]. One was called Slagfinn, another Egill, the third Volund.” Volund is referred to in that poem as an Elfin Prince, and one of the greatest of crafters, who made the greatest of swords. One of his alternate names is mentioned in the poem, Önund. Saxo mentions in Book Seven that King Halfdan fought a naval battle with two pirates named Toki and Anund. Saxo mentions a Toki in Book Ten who se sagittandi usu callere, “was extremely experienced in the skill of shooting arrows.” There Saxo tells a story of him that is more well-known as a tale of William Tell, shooting an apple off a young man’s head, a tale equivalent to that told of Egil, brother of Volund, in Thidreksaga. So on the one hand we have Toki the Archer shooting an apple off a boy’s head, and in another, Egil the Archer doing the same thing. Egil is the brother of Volund, while Toki is paired up by Saxo with Anund, which is clearly one of Volund’s bynames (Önund). The identification of Egil and Toki seems well-established.

Thus, in one variant of Saxo, we find Fridlef fighting on the sea the Sons of Finn, one of whom at least is renowned for magical prowess, amongst whom are named in an Eddic poem as Sons of Finn Egil and Volund, suggesting that Fridlef may have been fighting against these Elfin Princes. In another variant, we find Halfdan engaged in a naval battle with Volund, here named Anund, and his brother Egil, under the name of Toki. Volund seems consistently paired with an archer.

In yet another variant (Book Six), Fridlef, accompanied by Halfdan and Bjorn, fights a great naval battle against an Amund, who is paired up with Ano, cognomento Sagittarius, “Ano the Archer,” who is so skilled with arrows that he is able to shoot the bow out of the hands of a skilled opponent three times before the other can even manage to string his bow. So in one variant, we have an “Anund” (Anundus) paired with an archer, and opposing Halfdan, and on the other, we have an “Amund” (Amundus) paired with an archer, and opposing Halfdan. The identity of Anundus and Amundus immediately suggests itself, despite the difference in their names, and there are indeed some functional reasons beyond this to suggest their identity in Volund. Moreover, our edition of Saxo’s Gesta Danorum comes down to us from only one manuscript, and other fragments we have of Saxo’s work do not cover this section of Book Six. Saxo may very well have miscopied an “m” for an “n”, or a later copyist may have made a similar error. In the scribal history of manuscripts, Amundus for Anundus would neither be unusual nor anything of a stretch, particularly when we see that both figures were associated with renowned archers.

Frodi is said to have been fostered with Isulf, mentioned in Hyndluljod 21 as a kinsman and forebear of Ottar-Odr and a son of Olmod (Ale-Heart; and here we might remember that Saxo mentions a “Sumble,” King of the Finns, in Book One; it may very well be that one who is named after the foremost drinking ritual of the Teutons would have been said to have a Heart of Ale), and with Agg. Agg is mentioned as one of the sons of Gambara, along with Ebb or Ebbi, who leads the migrations during the times of famine in the reign of King Snow. Ebb is identified in other sources as Ybor (“wild boar”).  Ebbi is named in Book Seven as the father of Otharus, who wooed Syritha. Otharus is Odr who wooed Syr, Freya. Frodi is therefore named as being fostered with one of the brothers of Odr’s father, on the one hand (Agg), and a kinsman and forebear of Odr on the other. Now we know from Svipdagsmal that Freya-Menglad was wooed by Svipdag, who must be Odr. Svipdag’s mother is Groa, and Groa was married to Orvandil, a compatriot of Thor and by his name one of the foremost of archers. Yet Egil, Volund’s brother, is named in Thidreksaga as the foremost of archers: “He had one thing that distinguished him from other men: he could shoot better with a bow than any other man.” (Chapter 75, Edward R. Haymes, tr.). This suggests the identity of Orvandil and Egil, who would thus be equivalent to Ebbi, and perhaps as well, Isulf; his Ebbi’s brother, Agg, with whom Frodi was fostered, would therefore either be Egil’s brother Volund or Slagfinn. In this regard, it is important to remember both that Frey was given Alfheim as a toothgift, when he broke his first tooth, and that Volund and his brothers are Elf Princes. That Frey would be fostered with Elf Princes is immanently logical. The one who would have arranged Frey’s fostering would be his own father, Njord. It thus would seem that Njord arranged for Volund and his brothers to foster Frey. It ought to be mentioned that Saxo describes Fridlef as fostering one of his sons with Ano the Archer to establish peace, at the tender age of three years old. Thus, a consistent pattern runs throughout these threads.

Yet Frodi ends up in the power of berzerker giants named Grep, after Isulf and Agg appear to be drawn off into war by a delectu, a draft. For Frey to end up in the hands of giants after Njord had fostered him with the Elf Prince Volund and his brothers would make Volund one of Njord’s mortal enemies. Similarly, Amundus is said to be the acerrimo hoste, “bitterest enemy,”, of Fridlef. Amongst Fridlef’s exploits is the rescue of a young prince who had been carried off by a giant, after hearing of his whereabouts from three swan-maidens, who leave him with runes and a song leading the way. Fridlef dispatches the giant with great ferocity and mockery, suggesting he felt very protective towards the boy, and afterwards sings victory-songs that assail Amund in the same verse as celebrating the slaying of the giant, suggesting that Fridlef saw some connection between Amund and the capture of the young prince by the giant. The young prince has a name that means a “flogging” in Old Norse, Hýðin, suggesting his poor treatment at the hands of the giant. Once again we have Amund in a position that makes sense for Anund or Volund.

Nevertheless, before Fridlef is described as battling Amund, he makes several attempts to establish peace with him, suing for his daughter’s hand (marriages were ways of weaving peace between parties at feud, and thus women were sometimes called “frith-weavers”), and sending several envoys, who are killed. Naturally, Njord, being a peaceful type, upon learning of Volund’s breach with him, would wish to establish peace with him, not for the least of reasons to ensure the safety of his son Frey.

Additionally, in Forspjallsljod, we learn that some ill spirits, by their names (Regin and Rognir) once aligned with the holy powers (which the name “regin” means), have been spoiling the weather, creating the worst of all winters, with their awful spells and galdor. These spirits ride wolves to a region so cold that even Odin’s ravens cannot follow. In this same time, Idunn, whom we learn is a daughter of Ivaldi, leaves Asgard and ends up in “the wolf’s home.” In Volundarkvida, on the other hand, we find Volund and his brothers in the “wolf dales,” an immensely cold and snowy place full of beasts, where they are visited by three swan-maidens who attempt to woo them and then leave. Volund sorely misses his companion, named Hervor (Wary of War) the All-Wise, hoping for her return. The comparison of these two suggest the possibility that Volund and his brothers were the ill spirits once aligned with the Gods who wreck the weather with their spells and abandon their homelands for the wolfdales. If so, their magical powers must have been immense, to create the coldest of winters. Thiazi is said to have the power to keep fires from cooking. Thiazi is capable of appearing in eagle-guise ; Volund built a feathered flying contraption for himself. Thiazi’s daughter Skadi has elfin characteristics : hunting, skiing, and preferring the mountains, yet she ends up marrying Njord. Amundus/Anundus, the elf Volund, has a daughter who ends up marrying Fridlef. So there could be parallels here as well.

Our proofs are thus:

1. Fridlef is consistently said to be the father of Frodi. If Frodi is Frey, as many scholars argue and as the narratives themselves suggest, it follows that Frodi’s father Fridlef is Njord.

2. Njord is raised in one land and governs in another; Fridlef is raised in one land and governed in another.

3. Njord is mentioned as particularly connected with peace and with wealth; Fridlef’s name means “leavings of peace,” or even, “inheritance of peace.”

4. Njord leads the Van-As War against the 12 Aesir giant-champions, storming their fortress after Njord breaks Odin’s gate; Fridlef leads a war against twelve giant champions, after stealing their best horse who was capable of swift flight, subsequently, opening the gate and allowing his men to storm the fortress.

5. Njord’s son Frey was given Alfheim as a toothgift, yet his sister Freya was later said to have been given to the race of the giants for a time; Fridlef’s son Frodi was fostered as a young boy amongst leaders who have proven, upon detailed investigation and intricate connection, to be elfin princes, yet later abandoned to giants, who tormented his sister. Freya is rescued by Odr, the son of the Great Archer, while Fridlef battles against the very same archer who was to have fostered his son. Fridlef is thus positioned in the same position that Njord would be relative to the foster father of his child.

6. Njord rules over naval voyages and fishing, the ocean being his domain, while Fridlef is renowned as a great naval commander.

To which we may add a tentative seventh, which we needn’t include in our total:

7. Njord ends up with Thiazi’s daughter Skadi, who has many elven characteristics ; Fridlef ends up with Volund’s daughter.

These six very strong reasons together underline the identification of Njord and Fridlef, and moreover, in the midst of the investigation, establish the identity of Amund and Anund-Volund, the Elfin Prince said to be the Greatest of Smiths.

And what of Biorn?

Biorn as Hodur

First of all, Hodur’s name has several legitimate variations in which is may appear ; cf. Cleasby/Vigfusson, p. 306 :  “Höðr, m., gen. Haðar, dat. Heði, the name of the blind brother and ‘slayer’ of Baldr, the ‘fratricide’ or ‘Cain’ of the Edda, Vsp. 37, Vtkv. 9, Edda 17, 56: also the name of a mythol. king, whence Heðir, pl. a Norse people; and Haða-land, the county, Fb. iii. Haðar-lag, n. the metre of Höd, a kind of metre, Edda.”

In the heroic poems of the Poetic Edda, we find a euhemerist retelling of the tragedy of Baldur, Hodur, and Nanna in the Helgi Hjorvardson tale where Helgi, Hedin, and Svava stand in for the former three. The form Hedin is directly derived from Hodur, as we can see in the Cleasby Vigfusson passage. In Helgi Hjorvarson, Hedin is hunting in a forest and is bewitched by a troll-wife to swear to taking Helgi’s wife over Yule ale, just as Hodur, in Book Three of Saxo, comes across wood-wives in the forest and is goaded on against Baldur. Similarly, in Sorla Thattr, we find a Hedin, known for his raiding, strength, and prowess, who encounters a giant-woman in the forest while he is hunting, who gives him bewitched ale that makes him forget his frith with his own blood-brother. When he finally awakens from the effects of the ale, and remembers everything, he is filled with remorse, and retires from the company of men, as Hodur also retired from the company of men in Saxo’s telling. We are obviously dealing with variations of the same stories. Hedin, then, is a variation on the name Hodur.

We find, in the vocabulary of the North, a word Héðinn or héðni, related to haðna, meaning “a jacket of fur or skin,” particularly that worn by berserkers that effected their transformation. In Volusungasaga, where we find a confused genealogy of berserkers from a Son of Odin, Sigmund and Sinfiotli become wolves after donning wolf-skins or úlf-héðnar. A bjarn-héðinn, for example, is a bearskin. While Heðin and héðinn are not precisely the same word, their resemblance is striking, and they do indeed bear a closeness in meaning. Höð, wherever we find it, as in the Anglo-Saxon form heaðu, means “warlike” or “fierce,” while héðni refers to the skins of wild-beasts through which one is transformed into a fierce berserker. Berserkers had certain characteristics of temper which Hodur most certainly shares. He is said by Saxo to have infinitus animi calor, an “infinite fire of spirit” characterized by temeritas, “rashness.” and is a fortes, a “brave man” subject to impetum, “fury” and “violent urges.”  After telling of Hodur’s many battles with Baldur, Saxo tells us that Hodur meets up with the same silvestrium virginum, “wood-maidens” he had met before who claimed Saepe enim se nemini conspicuas proeliis interesse, clandestinisque subsidiis optatos amicis praebere successus, “that they often were secretly and invisibly present in the midst of battle and chose help for their friends, providing success.” Claiming to be valkyries, in other words, just as the giantess Hedin encountered in Sorla Thattr claimed to be the valkyrie Gondull, they had set him in strife with Baldur. However, in this second meeting, Saxo gives us a detail of the first encounter he had neglected before to mention: these maidens were the same ones who had veste quondam donaverant, “formerly given him a garment.” Veste may be “garment, robe, clothes.” This garment is not mentioned before nor after, but Hodur complains that they broke their word. Itaque fide earum damnata, gestarum infeliciter rerum fortunam tristesque casus deflere coepit, secus sibi cessisse questus quam ab ipsis promissum acceperit, “He therefore condemned their trustworthiness, and began to lament the unhappy turns of fate and sorrowful calamities he had borne, complaining that he had received concessions very different than they had promised,” which implies that they had suggested to him in his first encounter that the garment would have brought victory. But they correct him, and underline the true nature of the garment : At nymphae eum, quamquam raro victor exstiterit, aequam tamen hostibus cladem ingessisse dicebant nec minoris stragis auctorem fuisse quam complicem, “But the nymphs, ‘Although you seldom came forth the victor, nevertheless it is said that you inflicted disaster on the enemy and became the author of not a smaller amount of slaughter and carnage than your opponents.’” The veste or garment, in other words, inspired stragis, “massacre” or “slaughter” and cladem, “carnage.” It is obvious that they had given him a héðinn, a fur-coat of a wild animal that turned him into a berserk. It did not guarantee victory, but ferocity. Perhaps this is how Höðr received the name Hedin.

Volsungasaga 8 says that those who fóru í hamina og máttu eigi úr komast og fylgdi sú náttúra sem áður var. Létu og vargsröddu, “went into the skins were not able to come out and were then subject to their nature, and they let out wolf-howls.” Such skins bring ósköpum, “ill fate,” “misfortune,” literally “mis-shapen-ness.” Volsungasaga narrates for us the “nature” of these skins, for when one of the protagonists steps into one, finnur hann ellefu menn og berst við þá og fer svo að hann drepur þá alla, “he found eleven men and fought against them then and it turned out that he killed them all.” It imposes a kind of berserker-fury upon the wearer. In Volsungasaga it is said that Hið tíunda hvert dægur máttu þeir komast úr hömunum, “Every tenth day they were able to come out of the skins,” in other words that nine days out of ten, they were cursed within the ferocity of the animal-skins. Such appears to have been the misfortune of Hodur, and we may suspect the fundamental cause of his battles against his brother. It is not difficult to conclude that the woman who had claimed to be a valkyrie and who gave him this berserk, this bear-skin or wolf-skin, was none other than she who was infamous for vitti hon ganda, “bewitching wolves or monsters” and seið hon hugleikin, “enchanting people by toying with their minds,” the Austr sat in aldna í Járnviði ok fæddi þar Fenris kindir, “old one who sat in the East in the Ironwoods and raised Fenris’ kind,” i.e., supernatural wolves, evil lycanthropes. Since Hodr meets the maiden or maidens in the woods while hunting, he must have been on the outskirts of the Ironwoods at the time.

Odin was known to foster berserks himself, however, for his own purposes of fighting giants. Ynglingasaga 6 says, en hans menn fóru brynjulausir og voru galnir sem hundar eða vargar, bitu í skjöldu sína, voru sterkir sem birnir eða griðungar. Þeir drápu mannfólkið en hvorki eldur né járn orti á þá. Það er kallaður berserksgangur, “and his [Odin’s] men went forth without armor and howled like dogs or wolves, bit their shields, and were strong like bears or greedy-ones [wolves]. They smote menfolk and neither fire nor iron worked on them. That was called going berserk.”

Now as it turns out, Saxo supplies us with some of the names of the champions that Fridlef fought : Gerbiorn, Gunbiorn, Arinbiorn, Stenbiorn, Esbiorn, Thorbiorn et Biorn, “Spear-Bear, Battle-bear, Hearth-bear, Stone-bear, Aesir-bear, Thor-bear, and Bear.” These were obviously all berserkers, and it is clear therefore that Odin’s men could be so referred to. As the father of berserks, it would seem that Odin may have been called Bjorn or Bear, but his sons could also be so named. In a narrative, however, where we would most suspect the name would be in that son most known for his berserker qualities, which, we have shown above, applies foremost to Hodur.

It may be that later heroes known for their berserker qualities, such as Beowulf (“Bee-wolf,” i.e., a bear) and Ragnar Lodbrok (“hairy breeches,” indicating he wore bear-skins), may have had adventures or qualities alluding to those of Hodur.

When Saxo describes an adventure where Biorn challenges Ano the Archer, he refers to Biorn as sequestris ordinis viro, “a man in the class of intermediaries or mediators.” Such could refer to Baldur or Forseti, who are arbitrators who settle affairs between warring parties, but could also, interestingly, apply to Hodur as well. Saxo says of Hodur, Consueverat autem in editi montis vertice consulenti populo scita depromere, “He was in the habit of uttering decrees on the top of a huge rock when the people came to take counsel regarding ordinances and statutes.” In other words, he acted as a kind of judge or lawman advising juries regarding decisions. But since the Bjorn Fridlef has with him acts so rashly as to attack Ano the Archer, this characteristic does not fit Baldur or Forseti. Moreover, Bjorn is portrayed here as an archer himself, one of no mean quality, and amongst the Aesir, we know of two famous archers, Hodur and Ullr. But while Ullr once stood in for Odin as chieftain, nowhere is it stated that Ullr ever acted as a judge or mediator, nor is he particularly known for his berserker fury, while that is indeed a characteristic of Hodur.

Thus, we may safely say that in the Fridlef narratives, when Fridlef takes Bjorn with him, it is, amongst the Gods, Hodur who to whom he is referring.

On the Heiti of Halfdan

Since Halfdan is directly named in Saxo’s description of the naval battle, there is no problem with identification there; however, as I attribute his exploits to the Helgi Hundingsbani told of in the poem of the same name, some comments are apropo here.

Saxo tells us that the son of the patriarch Skiold was Gram, whose exploits match entirely that of King Halfdan of Old, as Snorri describes them in his Prose Edda. It is thus clear that Gram is but a heiti of King Halfdan. Saxo tells many tales of Halfdan, proclaiming that magni Thor filius existimatus, “he was considered the son of the great Thor.” Not only that, but he was held as especially holy by the folk for his deeds, divinis a populo honoribus donaretur ac publico dignus libamine censeretur, “the people bestowed divine or sacred honor upon him and considered him worthy of public libations.” The word for “holy” in Old Norse is helgi, and thus we might suppose that the corresponding heiti for Halfdan would be Helgi. We must remember that in Skaldskaparmal 80, Snorri tells us that Konungr er nefndr Hálfdan gamli, er allra konunga var ágætastr, “There was a king named Halfdan the Old, who was the most famous of all kings.” Hyndluljod 14 says that Halfdan fyrri hæstr Skiolldunga; fræg voru folkvig þau er framir gerdu, hvarfla þottu hans verk med himins skautum, “In yoredays Halfdan was the most glorious of the Skjoldungs ; famous were the folkwars which he advanced, and his deeds wandered to the outskirts of the heavens.” It would be strange indeed if a king held so holy, and whose fame was so widespread found no narrative at all in our Poetic Edda.

Yet Saxo gives us the necessary hint. He tells us that the great naval battle that Halfdan and Fridlef fought against Amundus took place at Freka-sound, and the Helgi Hundingsbani poems describe Helgi bringing an immense fleet to Freka-stein. The same mythic events are being described. Moreover, Fridlef is said to fight the Sons of Finn, one of whom is named Brodd, while Helgi fights opponents led by a Hodbrodd.

But are similar things told of Helgi as are told of Halfdan? Snorri and Hyndluljod tell us the latter was the most famous of all, whose fame stretched to the corners of heaven. Helgi Hundingsbani I, 2 says that when Helgi was born, Nótt varð í bæ, nornir kómu,þær er öðlingi aldr of skópu; þann báðu fylki frægstan verða ok buðlunga beztan þykkja, “(When) it was night on the estate, the Norns came, and they shaped the life of the atheling ; they bade that he would become the most famous king and would be thought the best of princes.” The Norns themselves come to his birth! And declare, as Hyndluljod says, that he shall be the most famous of kings. But moreover, the Norns engage in actions that literalize Hyndluljod‘s apparently metaphoric statement that his deeds stretched to the corners of the heavens : Sneru þær af afli örlögþáttu, þá er borgir braut í Bráluni; þær of greiddu gullin símu ok und mánasal miðjan festu. Þær austr ok vestr enda fálu, þar átti lofðungr land á milli; brá nift Nera á norðrvega einni festi, ey bað hon halda (3, 4), “They spun strong strands of orlog, there in the fortress on the way to Brow-Grove [which must refer to the forested hedge made from Ymir’s eyebrows that separates Midgard from Jotunheim]; they arranged golden cords and fastened them under the middle of the Moon’s Hall. They hid the ends east and west, that there in the middle the hero should have his land ; braided Neri’s kinswoman a single cord towards the North, and prayed she it would hold.” Here we see the strands of Helgi’s fate literally stretching east and west to the heavens beneath the moon. There could be no better confirmation of Helgi and Halfdan’s identity. Moreover, his birth is described thusly, Ár var alda, þat er arar gullu, hnigu heilög vötn af Himinfjöllum; þá hafði Helga inn hugumstóra Borghildr borit í Brálundi (1), “In yoredays, when the eagle sang, fell the holy waters from the heavenly mountains ; then was Helgi the Strong-hearted, son of Borghild, born in Brow-groves.” We are told in strophe 7 that Drótt þótti sá döglingr vera, kváðu með gumnum góð ár komin, “Drott (his mother, daughter of Danp : Ynglingasaga 17, Drótt, dóttir Danps ) thought he was a Dayling, said that good times had come to men.” Then sjalfr gekk vísi ór vígþrimu ungum færa ítrlauk grami, “the leader himself came out of the thunder of battle, bringing an herb beautiful to behold [or, garlic ; or a sword, growing straight up like a leek] to the young king [or Gram, as a name].” This vísi or leader may be his natural father, as he names him, but we may suspect that from the estates that he gives him, this leader who “came out of the thunder” might very well be Thor, of whom Halfdan was said to be his son. Gaf hann Helga nafn ok Hringstaði, Sólfjöll, Snæfjöll ok Sigarsvöllu,Hringstöð, Hátún ok Himinvanga (8), “He gave him the name Helgi and Ring-stead, Sol-Mountains, Snow-Mountains and the Meadows of Victory, Ring-stead, High-Town and Heaven’s Meadows.” These may be earthly names, but they sound like the sorts of divine estates a divine patron might give. Considering that at his birth there was a great storm with rain that seemed to pour from heaven’s mountains themselves, that the young Helgi shone like a son of the elf Dag, and therefore with a divine sheen, and that he was given heavenly estates from a leader who comes out of the thunder, it seems likely that Helgi was considered a son of Thor just as Halfdan was.

Thus Helgi of the Helgi Hundingsbani lays refers to King Halfdan of Old.

All translations, unless otherwise noted, by Siegfried Goodfellow

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