The Two Helgi Explained
The name, Helgi, means “Sacred One”, which is a name fitting in Norse mythology for a hero and a prince.
However, there are many characters in Norse myths and legends with the name Helgi, who were kings, princes or heroes, but only 2 of these characters stand out most in Norse mythology.
One is Helgi son of Sigmund (Helgi Sigmundarson, but also known as Helgi Hundingsbani, or the Bane of Hundings) and the other is Helgi son of Hiorvard (Helgi Hiorvardsson). According to the Poetic Edda, Helgi Sigmundsson is supposedly a reincarnation of Helgi Hiorvardsson. So Helgi Hiorvardsson is related to the Ring Cycle in the
Both heroes have poems from the Poetic Edda, but only Helgi Hundingsbani (or Helgi Sigmundarson) appeared briefly in the episode of the Volsunga Saga. For this reason, I have only briefly mentioned the Helgi in the Volsunga Saga page (see Death of Sigmund & Sinfjotli), and retold the whole episode in full in this new page, The Two Helgi.
There was another Helgi, a king from the famous Skjoldung line – a dynasty that ruled Denmark (in the Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf, the Skjoldungs were called Scyldings). Helgi was a son of Halfdan, king of Denmark. He was a brother of Hroar and Signy. He had raped the Olof, Queen of Saxland, and became father of Yrsa. Not knowing that Yrsa was his daughter, he married her and became father of Hrolf Kraki, one of the heroes in the saga that was named after him. When they found out they were father and daughter, Yrsa left her and married Adils, a king of Sweden. Helgi was also Skuld. Helgi was killed by the beserkers of Adlis; Adlis had planned the ambush. His son succeeded him to the throne of Denmark. See the saga of Hrolf Kraki for the full legend of Helgi and his family.
|Helgi Hundingsbani (Helgi Sigmundarson)|
|Helgi Hiorvardsson should not be confused with Helgi Hundingsbani, son of Sigmund and Borghild (Helgi Hundingsbani was also known as Helgi Sigmundarson).
This Helgi was a son of Hiorvard and Sigrlinn. Helgi was the hero of the 2nd heroic poem of the Poetic Edda, called poem of Helgi Hiorvardsson (Helgakvida Hiorvardssonar). The poem began with how his parents met.
Hiorvard ruled from his city, Glasilund, in Norway. Hiorvard had other wives and other sons. Alfhild was his first wife, and she was mother of Hedin. Hedin would later play a role in Helgi’s death in this poem.
Sigrlinn was Hiorvard’s fourth wife. Helgi had sent Atli son of the earl, Idmund, to the court of King Svafnir of Svavaland, father of Sigrlinn. Through the advice of Franmar, the foster father of Sigrlinn, Svafnir refused the match between his daughter and Helgi. Franmar himself was a father of daughter named Alof.
Atli was at a grave, when a bird wisely advised the earl’s son on how his king could win Sigrlinn as his bride, in return for temples, sanctuaries and fine cattle from the king.
Upon returning to his king with the news, Hiorvard decided to go with Atli, to personally court Svafnir’s daughter. But in their journey, they only got as far as the mountain, and they saw that Svavaland have been attacked, the countryside was in fire and dust in the air from the horses’ hooves. They made camp near a river, which Atli crossed alone, and found a huge bird sitting on top of the house. Atli killed this bird with his spear, and found both Sigrlinn and Alof inside the house. Note that this bird is not the same, which Atli encountered earlier, at the grave. This bird, however, was Franmar, Alof’s father; Franmar apparently could transform himself into a bird, and he was protecting his daughter and foster daughter from Hrodmar. Atli brought both women to Hiorvard.
Hrodmar was a suitor of Sigrlinn, and he was the one who invaded Svavaland, and killed Svafnir. With the king’s death, Hiorvard was free to marry Sigrlinn, and Atli married Alof.
Hiorvard and Sigrlinn had a son, who grew tall and strong, but for whatever reason, Helgi have never spoken a single word, and at that time, had no name.
Helgi was sitting on burial mound, when he encountered 9 Valkyries. It was one of these Valkyries gave the young prince his name. She told Helgi that she would have him as her husband, in return for naming him, and for the first time, seeking one of the swords from Sigarsholm.
Svava was the name of this Valkyrie, and she was a daughter to King Eylimi. She protected Helgi while he fought in battles. Eventually, Svava swayed Helgi to confront Hrodmar, and avenge his grandfather’s death. Hiorvard offered Helgi troops, and Atli was the hero’s second-in-command. The poem does not give any detail of how Helgi killed Hrodmar.
With ships moored at Hatafjord during the night, when Atli encountered a troll-woman (or giantess), by the name of Hrimgerd, daughter of the giant Hati, whom he trade insults with (known as flytings). Apparently, Helgi had killed Hati, so Hrimgerd was definitely hostile towards the young hero. Hrimgerd would consider she would be properly redressed, if Helgi were to sleep with her. In any case, the Valkyrie Svava was the one protecting Helgi’s fleet from troll-woman’s wrath. Eventually Hrimgerd had forgotten the time, and when the sun dawned on the horizon, the troll-woman was turned into stone.
Helgi eventually met Svava’s father, Eylimi, and they were pledged to one another, which involved exchanging of rings, before the sacrificed wild boar.
However, Hedin, Helgi’s half-brother lusted after Svava. Hedin was the son of Alfhild, Hiorvard’s first wife. At Yule, Hedin had met a troll-woman, who was riding a wolf, with serpents that served as her rein. She wanted Hedin to sleep with her, but he rejected her, so the troll-woman cursed him. The troll-woman was most likely to be Hedin’s fetch.
Hedin challenged Helgi to a duel, on the island, at Sigarvoll. Helgi believed that he was destined to lose. And in the duel, Helgi was mortally wounded. Sadly no detail about the duel was given.
Helgi sent for his bride, and the hero tried to persuade Svava that she must go the victor, and married Hedin, which she apparently refused.
The poem ended with that Helgi and Svava were later reincarnated. In the 2nd Eddaic poem of Helgakvida Hundingsbana, indicated that Helgi was reincarnated as Helgi son of Sigmund, and that Svava was reincarnated as Sigrun.
|This is the legend of Helgi Hundingsbani, which formed part of Volsunga Saga, the myth of the hero Sigurd and the Niflungs (German Nibelungs). Helgi was a half-brother of Sigurd; their father was Sigmund and grandfather was Volsung. The chapter in Volsunga Saga parallelled some parts of the 2 poems in the Poetic Edda (Helgakvida Hundingsbana I & II).
Helgi should be confused with another Helgi, son of Hiorvard (Hiorvardsson), who appeared in another Eddaic poem, titled Helgakvida Hiorvardssonar. In the second poem of Helgakvida Hundingsbana, it says that Helgi was named after this Helgi Hiorvardsson at birth. This poem also indicated that Helgi was reincarnated of Helgi Hiorvardsson.
Helgi’s story begins, after the death of Signy, sister of Sigmund, and mother of their son Sinfjotli; Sinfjotli is Helgi’s half-brother. Sigmund with Sinfjotli’s aid, return to his father’s land, and with warriors and ships took back the kingdom, by killing the king. Sigmund married Borghild. They had two sons, Helgi and Hamund. The Norns came at Helgi’s birth and said this child’s destiny would become the most famous of kings. Sigmund gave the Hringstead, Solfell (on the island of Zealand, Denmark) to Helgi.
At the age of fifteen, Helgi fought his war. Sigmund gave his son troops, and Sinfjotli was with Helgi in most wars. The first of his great wars was against a king, named Hunding. What kingdom Hunding ruled, the Volsunga Saga does not say. What we do know is that in battle, Helgi killed Hunding.
Hunding, however, had many sons; and this battle started more protracted conflicts between the Volsungs and the Hundings. Alf, Eyjolf, Hervard and Hagbard wanted to avenge their father’s death, so they raised an army, and engaged Helgi’s troops in battle at Logafell. (Logafell is not mentioned in the Volsunga Saga.) Helgi’s fame increased with this new battle with the Hundings. Helgi fought his way to the Hunding’s standards and killed all four brothers.
It was winning this battle that Helgi encountered women mounted on horses in the forest, waiting for him. One of the women, named Sigrun, invited Helgi to their home. Sigrun was a daughter of King Hogni (not to be confused with the Niflung Hogni), and her father wanted her to marry Hodbrodd, son of King Granmar; though later the saga referred to as being Hodbrodd’s brother. Sigrun told the young hero that she wanted to be his wife, not Hodbrodd’s, so she advised Helgi to win her in battle, which he readily agreed.
Helgi called upon warrior to join in Raudabjorg: 18,000 warriors from Hedinsey and 12,000 from Norvasund, with ships. They sailed towards Hodbrodd’s kingdom, in Svarinshaug, but storm and violent sea. Instead of reefing the sails, Helgi recklessly told the men to keep the sail. Sigrun seen the ships floundering, went to the coast and directed them to a safe harbour at Gnipalund. According to the Poetic Edda, Sigrun with 9 Valkyries had guided the ships away from the net of the sea goddess Ran.
As the ships were moored on the shore, Granmar asked for the reason of their trespass. Sinfjotli began a match in flyting with Granmar; they began insulting each other. It is here, the saga say that Granmar is Hodbrodd’s brother, instead of father. The Poetic Edda, on the other hand, named this person, Gudmund, who became embroiled in a flyting with Sinfjotli.
Granmar referred to Sinfjotli being a wolf and that he had killed his brothers and sucked blood from corpses; which seemed to be true, because Sinfjotli and his father had previously roamed the forest, wearing pelts of wolves, and acted like wolves. And because Sinfjotli did kill his half-brother (see Volsunga Saga, Sigmund Signy).
Sinfjotli called Granmar a woman, a witch, whom Sinfjotli as a wolf sired 9 wolf cubs upon Granmar. Which Granmar retaliated with Sinfjotli could not possibly father anything, considering that Sinfjotli is gelded. Sinfjotli immediately responded with Granmar being a mare. In the end, Helgi intervened, saying that it was better to fight in combat instead of quarrelling so shamefully with words.
Notice that in the Eddaic poems (Helgakvida Hundingsbana I and II), the dialogues between Sinfjotli and Granmar was longer and more colourful than those found in the Volsunga Saga.
Granmar returned to Hodbrodd with news of an enemy army commanded by Helgi. Hodbrodd called upon his allies to aid him for the coming battle, which included Hogni, Sigrun’s father; the other allies were Alf the Old, and the sons of Hring – Atli and Yngvi.
The battle took place in Frekastein. Casualties were heavy on both sides. Later Sigrun arrived with a band of shield-maidens, which means they were Valkyries. The unnamed author of Volsunga Saga referred to the shield-maidens like they were fire. Around this point, Helgi killed Hodbrodd, and Sigrun declared Helgi as the new king.
The saga ended very quickly from there, saying that Helgi married Sigrun and became a famous king, but Helgi played no more roles in the Volsunga Saga.
The 2nd poem of Helgi Hundingbani, however, didn’t end with Helgi’s victory over his rival the battle and his marriage to Sigrun. The 2nd Eddaic poem says that Helgi and Sigrun had some sons, but his reign didn’t last long.
Among those who had fallen in the last battle, was Sigrun’s father, Hogni. Hogni was an ally of Hodbrodd. Hogni had a son, named Dag. Dag wanted vengeance against Helgi, sacrificed to the Norse god Odin; and Dag’s prayer was answered. Odin lends his spear to Dag, which he used to kill Helgi in Fetter-grove.
Dag went to his sister in Sefafell, and told Sigrun of her husband’s death. Sigrun cursed her brother for being a traitor. Dag tried to appease his grieving sister; he offered red-gold rings as recompense. She answered that unless Helgi was alive, riding his horse, Vigblaer, she has lost all desire to live. Sigrun grieved day and night.
A large burial mound was made for Helgi. Odin offered Helgi a high place in Valhalla, to rule with him. Helgi say to Hunding that he must fetch foot-bath for each slain warrior, and given the duty to care for the horses and hounds, and feed the pigs. Hunding was once a powerful king that commanded army of warriors has been reduced to a lowly servant in Valhalla.
One of Sigrun’s maids had walked past Helgi’s mound and saw Helgi riding his horse with a band of warriors. Clearly to the maid, they were all dead. She thought that Ragnarok has come. The maid returned to the fortress (Sefafell), and informed Sigrun that her husband was out there, at the burial-mound.
Sigrun went out to her husband’s mound with mead in her hands. After a short exchange of words from one another, Sigrun prepared a bed inside the mound, where she will sleep with her dead prince as she has done when he was alive. Just before dawn, Helgi got up and rode away with his company of slain warriors, while Sigrun returned to home, and wait for her husband’s return at sunset and meet him again at the mound. But Helgi did not return.
Sigrun’s sorrow returned, and not long after this, she died with broken heart.
The 2nd Eddaic poem ended, with that Helgi and Sigrun would be reborn. Helgi as the Helgi Haddingia-damager; Sigrun was reincarnated as the heroine Kara. Kara was supposedly a Valkyrie, and supposedly there was a Book of Kara, though as far as I can see, there are no evidences of such a book to have existed.