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Thread: The Battle of the Goths and Huns (from the Saga of King Heidrek the Wise)

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    The Battle of the Goths and Huns (from the Saga of King Heidrek the Wise)

    It is the Battle of the Goths and Huns poem, extracted from The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise.

    Historically speaking, it is one of the most important pieces of literature that we have of the ancient Goths.



    The Battle Of The Goths And Huns

    Of old they said Humli
    of Huns was ruler,
    Gizur of the Gautar,
    of Goths Agantyr,
    Valdar the Danes ruled,
    and the Valir Kjar,
    Alrek the valiant
    the English people.

    Hlod, the son of King Heidrek, had been brought up in the halls
    of King Humli, his mother's father, and he was the most valiant of all
    men, and the most beautiful in appearance, There was an old saying
    at that time, that a man was born with weapons or horses; and the
    explanation of this is that it was said of those weapons which were
    being made at the time when the man was born, and so likewise with
    beasts. sheep, oxen, or horses, which were born at the same time: all
    this was gathered together in honour of men of noble birth, as is told
    here concerning Hlod, the son of Heidrek:

    In the Hun-kingdom
    was Hlod's birthplace,
    with sword and cutlass
    and corslet hanging,
    ring-adorned helmet
    and harsh-edged sword,
    horse well-broken
    in the holy forest.

    Now Hlod learnt of the death of his father, and learnt too that
    Agantyr his brother had been made king over all the realm which
    their father had held. Then Humli the king and Hlod resolved that
    Hlod should go and demand his inheritance from Agantyr his brother,
    using fair words at first, as is thus told:

    Hlod rode from the east,
    heir of Heidrek,
    he came to the court
    claiming his birhtright,
    to Arheimar,
    the homes of the Goths;
    there drank Agantyr
    arval for Heidrek.

    And so Hlod came to Arheimar with a great following, as is told in
    this verse:

    A man he found lingering
    late in the open
    by the high dwelling.
    and hailed him thereafter:
    Friend, now hasten
    to the high dwelling,
    demand of Agantyr
    that with me he speak!

    The man went in, up to the king's table, and hailed Agantyr with
    fair words, and then he said:

    Hlod is come here,
    Heidrek's offspring,
    your own brother,
    for battle eager;
    mighty this youth is
    mounted on horseback;
    king! he claims now
    converse with you.

    When the king heard that, he cast down his knife upon the board
    and rose from the table; he put on his coat of mail, and took his white
    shield in one hand and the sword Tyrfing in the other. Then there
    arose a great din within the hall, as is thus told:

    Clamour woke in the court,
    with the king rising
    each would hearken
    to Hlod's greeting
    and learn what answer
    Agantyr gave.

    'You are welcome, Hlod my brother! said Agantyr then. 'Come
    in and drink with us; and first let us drink in memory of our
    father, for concord between us, us for the honour of us all, with all
    the dignity we have!'
    But Hlod answered,'We have come here for something other than
    the filling of our bellies.' Then he said:

    Half will I have
    of Heidrek's riches,
    of cow and of calf,
    of creaking handmill,
    tools and weapons,
    treasure undivided,
    slave and bondmaid
    and thier sons and daughters;

    the renowned forest
    that is named Mirkwood,
    the hallowed grave
    in Gothland standing,
    the fair-wrought stone
    beside the Dneiper,
    half the armour
    owned by Heidrek,
    lands and leigemen
    and lustrous rings!

    Then Agantyr said,'You have no title to this land, and you are
    resolved to deal unjustly'; and then he said:

    The bright buckler
    shall break, kinsman,
    the cold lances
    clash together,
    grim men unnumbered
    in the grass sinking,
    ere the heritage I share
    with Humli's grandson
    or ever Tyrfing
    in twain sunder!

    Yet more Agantyr uttered:

    I will give you
    gleaming lances,
    wealth and cattle
    well to content you;
    thralls a thousand,
    a thousand horses,
    a thousand bondsmen
    bearing armour.

    Each shall get of me
    gifts in plenty,
    nobler than all that
    he now possess;
    to every man
    shall a maid be given,
    the neck of each
    by necklace clasped.

    I will measure you in silver
    as you sit in your chair,
    upon your departing
    I will pour down gold,
    rings shall go rolling
    round about you;
    a third of Gothland
    shall you govern over.

    Gizur Grytingalidi, the foster-father of King Heidrek, was at
    that time at the court of King Agantyr; he was now very aged.

    When he heard Agantyr's offer it seemed that he offered too
    much, and he said:

    A bountiful offer
    for a bondmaid's child-
    child of a bondmaid.
    though born to a king!
    The bastard son
    did sit on a mound
    while the prince was
    parting the heritage.

    Hlod became greatly enraged at being called a bastard and the son
    of a slave-girl, if he should accept his brother's offer, and immediately
    he went away with all his following, and returned home to the land of
    the Huns, to King Humli his mother's father, and told him that his
    brother Agantyr has refused him an equal division of the inheritance.

    Humli the king asked then concerning all that had passed, and he
    was very angry that Hlod, his daughters son, should be called the son
    of a bondmaid; and he said:

    In winter unstirring
    let us sit content,
    in converse drinking
    the costly wine;
    let us teach the Huns
    to tend their wargear,
    which bold-hearted
    we shall bear to war.

    We shall for you, Hlod,
    the host be armed,
    fearless-hearted
    shall we fight this war,
    with twelve year-old warriors
    and two-winter foals,
    so shall we muster
    the might of Hunland.

    All that winter Humli and Hlod remained quiet; but in the spring
    they gathered together an army so vast that afterwards the land of the
    Huns was utterly despoiled of all it's fighting- men. All men went,
    from twelve years old and upwards, who were able to bear weapons in
    war, and all their horses went, of two years old or more. So great was
    the multitude that the men of the phalanxes could be counted by their
    thousands only, and by nothing less than thousands; a captain was set
    over every thousand, and a standard over every phalanx. There were
    five thousands in every phalanx, each thousand containing thirteen
    hundreds, and in each hundred were four times forty men; these
    phalanxes were thirty-three in number.

    When this host had gaethered together they rode through the forest
    called Mirkwood, which divided the land of the Huns from the land of
    the Goths; and when they came out of the forest they were in a land
    of broad populous tracts and level plains. On the plains stood a fair
    stronghold, over which Hervor, the sister of Hlod and Agantyr, had
    command, together with Ormar her foster-father; they were set there
    to defend this land against the army of the Huns, and they had a strong garrison.

    One morning at sunrise Hervor stood on a watchtower above the
    fortress-gate, and she saw a great cloud of dust from horses' hooves
    rising southwards toward the forest, which for a long time hid the sun.
    Presently she saw a glittering beneath the dustcloud, as though she
    were gazing on a mass of gold, bright shields overlaid with gold,
    gilded helms and bright corslets; and then she saw that it was the
    army of the Huns, and a mighty host.

    Hervor went down swiftly and called her trumpeter, and ordered
    him to blow a summons to the host; and then she said,'Take your
    weapons and make ready for battle; but do you, ormar, ride to meet
    the Huns and challenge them to battle before the south gate of the
    stronghold.

    Ormar answered:

    Surely shall I ride,
    my shield holding,
    to give battle
    for the Gothic people!

    Then Ormar rode out of the fortress towards the Huns; he called
    out in a great voice and told them to ride on to the fortress--' and out-
    side the stronghold-gate, in the plains to the south, there I offer you
    battle; and let them await the others, those who first come there'

    Now Ormar rode back to the fortress, and Hervor was ready, and
    all her army. They rode out of the stronghold with alll the garrison to
    meet the Huns; and there a mighty battle arose. But since the
    Huns had by far the larger army the slaughter became heavier in
    Hervor's host; and at last Hervor fell, and a great compamy around
    her. When Ormar saw her fall he fled away, and all the rest, who were
    fainthearted. Day and night Ormar rode, as fast as he could, to reach
    King Agantyr in Arheimar; but the Huns began now to ravage and
    burn far and wide accross the land.

    When Ormar came before Agantyr the king, he said:

    From the south have I come
    to speak these tidings:
    fire in the marches
    of Mirkwood is raging,
    with the gore of men
    all Gothland's sprinkled!

    And more he spoke:

    I know that Hervor
    Heidrek's daughter,
    your own sister,
    has sunk to the earth;
    the Hun foemen
    felled the maiden
    and many more
    of your men by her--

    In war more happy
    than in wooer's converse,
    or at a bridal banquet
    on bench to seat her.

    When King Agantyr heard this, he drew back his lips, and was
    slow to speak; at last he said,' In no brotherly fashion have you been
    treated, my noble sister.' Then he cast his eye over his following,
    and no great company was there with him; and he said:

    Full many we were
    at the mead-drinking;
    when more are needed
    the number is smaller.

    I see not the man
    among my lieges, not though I begged him
    and bribed him with rings,
    who would surely ride,
    his shield bearing,
    to seek the host
    of the Hun people.

    Then Gizur the old spoke:

    No single ounce
    do I ask from you,
    no single coin
    of clinking gold;
    yet ride I shall,
    my shield bearing,
    and to the Hun army
    offer the war-staff.

    Now it was the law of King Heidrek that if an army were invading
    a land and the king of that country marked out a field with hazel-poles
    and ordained a place of battle, then the raiders should do no ravaging
    before the battle's issue was decided.

    Gizur now clad himself for war with good weapons. and leapt upon
    his horse as if he were a youth. Then he said to the king:

    Where shall the Huns be
    to war bidden?

    The kind answered:

    On the Danube-heath
    below the Hills of Ash
    shall you call them to fight,
    their foes meeting;
    there often Goths
    have given battle,
    renown gaining
    in noble victories.

    Now Gizur rode away until he came to the host of the Huns; but
    he rode no nearer than within earshot, and called out in a great voice:

    Daunted are your legions,
    doomed your leader,
    banners rise over you,
    Odin is wrathful!

    And then he said:

    On the Danube-heath
    below the Hills of Ash
    I call you to fight,
    your foes meeting;...
    may Odin let the dart fly
    as I prescribe it!

    When Hlod heard the words of Gizur, he cried:

    Seize you Gizur
    Gryntingalidi,
    Agantyr's man
    come from Arheimar!

    But Humli the king answered him, We must not harm heralds
    who ride alone.'

    Then Gizur said,' Neither the Huns nor their hornbows make us
    afraid!' Then he struck spurs to his horse and rode back to King
    Agantyr, and went before him, and greeted him with fair words.
    The king asked whether he had met with the king of the Huns, and
    Gizur answered, ' I spoke with them, and summoned them to the
    battlefield on the Danube-heath, in the dales of strife.'

    Agantyr asked how great was the host of the Huns, and Gizur
    replied, ' Huge is their multitude':

    Of soldiers have they
    six phalanxes,
    every phalanx
    has five thousands,
    every thousand
    thirteen hundreds,
    and a full hundred
    is four times counted.

    Agantyr learnt now of the strength of the Hunnish host, and then
    he sent out messengers to every quarter, summoning to him every man
    who could bear arms and would give him service. He marched then
    to the Danube Heath with his army, and it was very great; and the
    Hunnish host came against him, and it was as great again.

    On the next day they began the battle, and all that day they fought,
    and in the evening they went to their tents. They fought thus for
    eight days without the captains being wounded, but no-one could
    number the fallen. But both by day and night men thronged in to
    Agantyr from every quarter, and thus it was that he had no fewer
    men than at the beginning of the battle. And now the fighting grew
    yet more bitter than before; the Huns were ferocious. seeing their
    case, that only in victory lay hope of life, and that it would be of little
    avail to ask quarter of the Goths. But the Goths were defending their
    freedom and the land of their birth against the Huns, and for this they
    stood firm, and each man urged on his comrade. When the day was
    far spent the Goths pressed on so hard that the Hunnish legions gave
    way before them; and seeing this Agantyr strode out from behind
    the shield-wall and up into the foremost rank, and in his hand he held
    Tyrfing, and he cut down both men and horses; then the ranks fell
    apart before the kings of the Huns, and brother struck at brother.
    There Hlod fell and Humli the king, and the Huns took to flight; but
    the Goths slew them, and made such carnage that the rivers were
    choked and turned from their courses, and the valleys were filled with
    dead men and horses.

    Agantyr went to search among the slain, and finding his brother
    Hlod he said:

    Treasures uncounted,
    kinsman, I offered you,
    wealth and cattle
    well to content you;
    but for war's reward
    you have won neither
    realm more spacious
    nor rings glittering.

    And then he said:

    We are cursed, kinsman,
    your killer am I!
    It will never be forgotten;
    the Norns doom is evil.
    Mother is the name of God in the lips and hearts of children.

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    Re: The Battle Of The Goths And Huns

    Is this a part of the Hervarar Saga?

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    Re: The Battle Of The Goths And Huns

    Quote Originally Posted by Crownshelm
    Is this a part of the Hervarar Saga?
    Yes, Hervarar saga is only a different name for Heidrek's saga.
    Mother is the name of God in the lips and hearts of children.

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