Cite as: Hannah Burrows (ed.) 2017, ‘Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks 25 (Hervǫr, Lausavísur 8)’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry in fornaldarsögur. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 8. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 386.
This group of stanzas constitutes a dialogue between Hervǫr and the ghost of her dead father, Angantýr. At the mound on Samsø where Angantýr and his brothers have been buried following their defeat in a duel, Hervǫr summons them to waken and give her the sword Tyrfingr (Herv Lv 8-11 (Heiðr 25-8)). Initially, Angantýr is reluctant and attempts to dissuade her, first by telling her he does not have the sword (Angantýr Lv 1-2 (Heiðr 29-30)), then by warning her against the dangers of being on the island (Angantýr Lv 3 (Heiðr 32)), and, when Hervǫr still persists (Herv Lv 12-13 (Heiðr 31, 33)), finally by foreboding that Tyrfingr mun spilla allri ætt þinni ‘will destroy all your family’ (Angantýr Lv 4 (Heiðr 34)). Hervǫr stands firm, however, and Angantýr agrees to yield up the sword to her (Angantýr Lv 7-8 (Heiðr 39, 41)), with a grudging admiration for her courage (Mey veit ek enga | moldar hvergi | at þann hjör þori | í hendr nema ‘I know no woman anywhere on the earth who would dare to take that sword in her hands’, Angantýr Lv 7/5-8 (Heiðr 39)), but not without some final words of warning: Takattu á eggjum, | eitr er í báðum ‘Do not touch the edges, poison is in both’ (Angantýr Lv 10/5-6 (Heiðr 45)). Hervǫr herself comes across as fearless and resolute throughout, allowing signs of trepidation to be revealed only in the final stanza (Herv Lv 19/2, 4 (Heiðr 47)): brótt fýsir mik … heðan vil ek skjótla ‘I long to be away … I wish to go from here quickly’. On other episodes in Old Norse literature involving revenants, burial mounds and treasure, see Chadwick (1946).
These dialogue stanzas have often been treated as part of an eddic-style long poem, sometimes together with the preceding seven stanzas describing the encounter between Hervǫr and the shepherd, which set the scene. This poem has been called Hervararkviða (apparently first recorded in the foreword and contents page of Dietrich 1864, vi-vii, although the stanzas appear in that work within their prose context) but is now well known to the English-speaking world as ‘The Waking of Angantýr’, a title which seems to have been used first by Ker (1896), following the edition and translation in CPB under the Anglicised title ‘The Waking of Angantheow’. Following Verelius’ 1672 edition of the saga, extracts of these stanzas (in Latin) were published in Bartholin (1689), and it first appeared as a poem in English translation (untitled) in 1705, based on Verelius’ edition, in George Hickes’s Linguarum Vett. Septentrionalium Thesaurus Grammatico-Criticus et Archaeologicus (Hickes 1703-5, II, I, 193-5). It became a popular subject for reworking, and appeared regularly from the eighteenth century onward under various titles and in various incarnations with varying fidelity to the original (see Burrows 2017), most extreme being M. G. Lewis’s ‘The Sword of Angantýr’ (Lewis 1801, 32-41), a melodramatic interpretation in rhyming tetrametric quatrains in which Hervǫr is devoured by flames at the end.
The presentation of these stanzas in Hb lends extra support to the possibility that they were intended as a long poem. Herv Lv 8 (Heiðr 25) begins on a new line, with the rubric vísur ‘verses’ written in red at the end of the preceding line. The first word of the stanza, Vaki ‘Waken’, is also given a large red initial <V>. The end of the poetry is not marked, however: a short passage of prose describing Hervǫr’s desertion by her terrified shipmates and later passage away follows on from the end of the final stanza.
Dating remains unresolved, although there has been some, if not complete, scholarly consensus on a date in the first half of the twelfth century (Edd. Min. xxi; Mundt 1990, 410). As the discussion above implies, most scholars have believed the stanzas to be ‘unquestionably older than the saga’ (Heiðr 1960, xi) and later set into the present narrative frame. Alaric Hall (2005, 7) has argued to the contrary, however (though not without reservation), that the poem ‘was specifically composed for a narrative very like the Heiðreks saga we know … and put into writing soon enough afterward that it was not substantially corrupted by oral transmission’.
The stanzas are extant in full or in part in all of the mss of Heiðr listed in the Introduction to the saga above, and separately in JS 112 8°ˣ. As well as their inclusion in the editions of the saga listed above, they have been edited by Finnur Jónsson (Skj) and Kock (Skald), by Heusler and Ranisch (Edd. Min., 13-20) and by Guðbrandur Vigfússon and York Powell (CPB I, 163-8), and appear in Ettmüller (1861, 32-3). All of these editions use Hb as the base text: it contains more stanzas of the dialogue than the other redactions and its readings are often preferable; consequently it has also been chosen as the main ms. here. The speaker of the verse is indicated in all mss every time there is a change of speaker, except once in Hb, which does not note that Herv Lv 12 (Heiðr 31) is Hervǫr’s (it does, however, note that the following stanza is spoken by Angantýr). The metre is fornyrðislag.
context: In all redactions of
the saga a prose passage narrates Hervǫr’s arrival at the mound of Angantýr
and his brothers.
notes: [3-4]: Cf. Vǫl 36/7-8 eingadóttir | yccor beggia (NK 123) ‘only daughter to you both’.
texts: ‹Heiðr 25 (23/8)›
editions: Skj Anonyme digte og vers [XIII]: E. 5. Vers af Fornaldarsagaer: Af Hervararsaga III 1 (AII, 245; BII, 265); Skald II, 138; Heiðr 1672, 91, FSN 1, 435, 519, Heiðr 1873, 214, 316, Heiðr 1924, 21, 107, FSGJ 2, 15, Heiðr 1960, 14; Edd. Min. 15.