Hjaðningavíg (the "battle of the Heodenings" [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0038-7134(196401)39%3A1%3C35%3AAAVOTH%3E2.0.CO%3B2-D Malone, Kemp. "An Anglo-Latin Version of the Hjadningavig". "Speculum", Vol. 39, No. 1 (Jan., 1964), pp. 35-44.] ] ), the "legend of Heðinn and Högni" or the "Saga of Hild" is a Scandinavian legend from Norse mythology about a never-ending battle which is documented in "Sörla þáttr", "Ragnarsdrápa", "Gesta Danorum", "Skíðaríma" and in "Skáldskaparmál". It is also held to appear on the image stone at Stora Hammar on Gotland [ [http://www.historiska.se/histvarld/artikel.asp?id=10497 The article "Hild" at the site of the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities, in Stockholm] , retrieved January 19, 2007.] (see illustration). Moreover, it is alluded to in the Old English poems "Deor" and "Widsið", [ [http://www.northvegr.org/lore/poems/02303.php "The Home of the Eddic Poems with Especial Reference to the Helgi-Lays"] , by Sophus Bugge in translation by William Henry Schofield, London 1899. p. 3.] and in the Old Norse "Háttalykill inn forni".

Like the names "Heðinn" (O.E. "Heoden") and "Högni" (O.E. "Hagena"), the legend is believed to have continental Germanic origins. [http://www.sofi.se/servlet/GetDoc?meta_id=1017 Peterson, Lena. (2002). "Nordiskt runnamnslexikon", at "Institutet för språk och folkminnen", Sweden.] ]

"Edda" and "Ragnarsdrápa"

In the "Skáldskaparmál" and in "Ragnarsdrápa", it is related that once when Högni was away, his daughter Hildr was kidnapped by a prince named Heðinn, the son of Hjarrandi (O.E. Heorrenda). When Högni came back, he immediately started to search for her. In the older poem "Ragnarsdrápa", Högni finally found her and the island where Heðinn waited with his army. This island is explained as the island of Hoy in the Orkneys by Snorri Sturluson in "Skáldskaparmál".

Hildr welcomed her father and offered him peace and a necklace on behalf of Heðinn. However, Högni had already unsheathed his sword Dáinsleif, which gave wounds that never healed and like Tyrfing always killed a man once it had been unsheathed. A battle ensued and they fought all day and many died. In the evening Heðinn and Högni returned to their camps, but Hildr stayed on the battle-field. She resurrected them with incantations and the fallen soldiers started to fight anew, and this went on until Ragnarök.

"Sörla þáttr"

Sörla þáttr is a short story in Flateyjarbok, a collection of tales about Norwegian kings written by two Christian priests in 15th century, owned by a family from Flatey island. Sörla þáttr is about King Olaf I of Norway (Olaf Tryggvason), who was the first to force Christianity into Norway and Iceland.

The story borrowed parts of "Heimskringla" (of how heathen deities are euhemerised), parts of the poem "Lokasenna" (of Gefjon sleeping with a boy for a necklace), parts of the "Húsdrápa" poem (of Loki stealing Brisingamen), and the eternal battle "Hjaðningavíg". In the end of the story, the arrival of Christianity dissolves the old curse that traditionally was to endure until Ragnarök.


In "Skíðaríma", the war threatens to destroy Valhalla itself, and so Odin sends Thor to fetch Skíði, a pathetic beggar, so that he can stop the war. Skíði manages to stop the fight by asking to marry Hildr and she consents.

"Gesta Danorum"

Saxo Grammaticus relates that Hedin was the prince of a Norwegian tribe and a small man. Hedin fell in love with Hilda, the daughter of Högni, a strongly built Jutish chieftain. Hedin and Hilda had in fact been so impressed with each other's reputation that they had fallen in love before meeting.

In spring, Hedin and Högni went pillaging together, and Högni betrothed his daughter to Hedin promising each other that they would avenge one another if anything happened.

However, evil tongues spread the rumour that Hedin had touched Hilda before the betrothal. Högni believed the false rumour and attacked Hedin, but Högni was beaten and returned to Jutland.

King Frodo of Denmark tried to mediate, but had to decide that the matter be settled in a holmgang. During the combat Hedin was seriously wounded, and started losing blood. Högni decided to have mercy on Hedin, because among the old Scandinavians it was consider shameful to kill someone who was weaker, and so Hedin was taken home by his men.

:"For of old it was accounted shameful to deprive of his life one who was ungrown or a weakling; so closely did the antique bravery of champions take heed of all that could incline them to modesty. So Hedin, with the help of his men, was taken back to his ship, saved by the kindness of his foe." [http://sunsite3.berkeley.edu/OMACL/DanishHistory/book5II.html Saxo book 5,2]

After seven years, the two men started to fight again but both died from their wounds. But, Hilda loved both so much, so that she used spells to conjure up the dead each night, and so the battle went on and on.


The battle is alluded to in the Old English 10th century poem "Deor". The poet explains that he served the Heodenings (people of Heðinn) until Heorrenda a more skilled poet replaced him:

The Heodenings and Heorrenda are probably mentioned in "Deor" to add a level of irony or humour. Being eternal, the tragedy of the Heodenings would not "go by".

Notes and references


* [http://sunsite3.berkeley.edu/OMACL/DanishHistory/book5II.html Online publication of Gesta Danorum]
*Henrikson, Alf: "Stora mytologiska uppslagsboken".
* [http://www.northvegr.org/lore/love/00401.php A translation of Sörla þáttr in English]
* [http://www.northvegr.org/lore/prose2/033.php A translation of the legend from Skáldskaparmál]

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